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Title: Up the Orinoco and down the Magdalena
Author: Zahm, John Augustine
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                      FOLLOWING THE CONQUISTADORES
                 UP THE ORINOCO AND DOWN THE MAGDALENA

                                   BY
                       H. J. MOZANS, A.M., Ph.D.

                              ILLUSTRATED

                          NEW YORK AND LONDON
                        D. APPLETON AND COMPANY
                                  1910



                          Copyright, 1910, by
                        D. APPLETON AND COMPANY
                          Published May, 1910



                                   TO
                               MY GENIAL
                          COMPAGNON DE VOYAGE
                              BRAVE LOYAL
                                   C.



    Res ardua vetustis novitatem dare; novis auctoritatem; absoletis,
    nitorem; obscuris, lucem; fastiditis, gratiam; dubiis, fidem;
    omnibus vero naturam, et naturae sua omnia. Itaque etiam non
    assecutis, voluisse abunde pulchrum atque magnificum est. That is
    to say: It is a dyfficulte thynge to gyue newenes to owlde thynges,
    autoritie to newe thynges, bewtie to thynges owt of vse, fame to
    the obscure, fauoure to the hatefull, credite to the doubtefull,
    nature to all and all to nature. To such neuerthelesse as can not
    atayne to all these, it is greately commendable and magnificall
    to haue attempted the fame.

    From the preface, addressed to the Emperor Vespasian, of Pliny's
    Natural History.



FOREWORD


The following pages contain the record of a journey made to islands
and lands that border the Caribbean and to the less frequented
parts of Venezuela and Colombia. Thanks to our trade relations
with the Antilles, and the number of meritorious books that have
been written about them during the last few decades, our knowledge
of the West Indies is fairly complete and satisfactory. The same,
however, cannot be said of the two extensive republics just south of
us. Outside of their capitals and a few of their coast towns, they
are rarely visited, and as a consequence, the most erroneous ideas
prevail regarding them. Vast regions in both republics are now less
known than they were three centuries ago, while there are certain
sections about which our knowledge is as limited as it is regarding
the least explored portions of darkest Africa.

This is not the place to account for the prevailing ignorance regarding
the parts of the New Hemisphere that first claimed the attention of
discoverers and explorers. Suffice it to state that, paradoxical as
it may seem, it is, nevertheless, a fact.

When we recollect that the lands in question were not only the
first discovered but that they were also witnesses of the marvelous
achievements of some of the most renowned of the conquistadores,
our surprise becomes doubly great that our information respecting
them is so meager and confined almost exclusively to those who make
a special study of things South American.

Never, perhaps, in the history of our race was the spirit of
adventure so generally diffused as it was at the dawn of the sixteenth
century--just after the epoch-making discoveries of Columbus and his
hardy followers. It was like the spirit that animated the Crusaders
when they started on their long march to recover the Holy Sepulchre
from the possession of the Moslem. It was, indeed, in many of its
aspects, a revival of the age of chivalry. The Sea of Darkness had at
last been successfully crossed. That ocean of legend and mystery with
its enchanted islands inhabited by witches and gnomes and griffins
had been explored. And that strange island of Satanaxio, "the island
of the hand of Satan," where the Evil One was "supposed once a day to
thrust forth a gigantic hand from the ocean to grasp a number of the
inhabitants" was consigned to the limbo of mediæval superstitions. A
new world was revealed to the astonished Spaniards. Every animal,
tree, plant seemed new to them and often entirely different from
anything the Old World could show. There was, too, a new race of men,
with strange manners and customs--men who told them of a Fountain of
Youth, of regions of pearls and precious stones, of cities and palaces
of gold in the lofty plateau and in the heart of the wilderness.

Those who first came to the New World acted as if they were
in a land of enchantment and were prepared to believe any tale,
however preposterous, that appealed to their lust of gold or love of
adventure. No enterprise was too difficult for them, no hardship too
great. Neither trackless forests, nor miasmatic climates, nor ruthless
savages could deter them from their quest of treasure, or quench their
thirst for glory and emolument. Hence those extraordinary expeditions
in search of El Dorado,--that El Dorado which Quesada hoped to find in
Cundinamarca, his brother in Casanare, Orsua among the Omaguas on the
Amazon, Philipp von Hutten in the regions of the Meta and the Guaviare,
and Cesar and Belalcazar in the territories drained by the Cauca and
the Magdalena,--in which were combined the extravagant performances of
a Don Quixote with the feats of prowess of a Rodrigo Diaz. The spirit
of knight-errantry seemed to revive and to bring with it an age of
romance that for hardihood of enterprise and variety of incident
surpassed any period that had preceded it. The feats of individual
prowess were as brilliant as the success of Spanish arms was pronounced
and far-reaching. It was an age of epics, of poetry in action.

Lord Macaulay, in his essay on Lord Clive, writes, "We have always
thought it strange that, while the history of the Spanish empire in
America is familiarly known to all the nations of Europe, the great
actions of our countrymen in the East should, even among ourselves,
excite little interest."

One reason for the difference noted was the absence, in the English
conquest of India, of those romantic and picturesque elements that
so distinguished the achievements of the conquistadores in the New
World, and which so fascinated Leo X, that he sat up all night to
read the Decades of Peter Martyr. "The picturesque descriptions,"
declares Theodore Irving, in his Conquest of Florida, "of steel-clad
cavaliers with lance and helmet and prancing steed, glittering through
the wildernesses of Florida, Georgia, Alabama and the prairies of
the Far West, would seem to us fictions of romance, did they not
come to us recorded in matter-of-fact narratives of contemporaries,
and corroborated by minute and daily memoranda of eye-witnesses."

The same can be said with even more truth of the conquistadores of the
Spanish Main and of the daring adventurers who first penetrated the
trackless forests and scaled the lofty mountains of Venezuela and New
Granada. "Their minds," as Fiske well observes, "were in a state like
that of the heroes of the Arabian Nights who, if they only wander far
enough through the dark forest or across the burning desert, are sure
at length to come upon some enchanted palace whereof they may fairly
hope, with the aid of some gracious Jinni, to become masters." Thus
it was that Cortes, unaided, however, by a gracious Jinni, became the
master of the capital of the Aztecs, as Quesada and Pizarro became the
masters of the lands and the treasures of the Muiscas and the Incas.

It is impossible for the student of early American history to cruise
along the Spanish Main, or sail on the broad waters of the Orinoco,
the Meta and the Magdalena, without harking back at every turn to the
achievements of some of the early discoverers or conquistadores. Every
island, every promontory, every river has been visited by them and,
if endowed with speech, they could tell thrilling stories of daring
adventure and brilliant exploit unsurpassed in the annals of chivalry
and crusading valor. Every place he goes, he will find that he has been
preceded by the Spaniard by three or four centuries, for everywhere
he will find traces or traditions of his passage.

It matters not that the Spaniards were lured on by such ever-receding
chimeras as Manoa, El Dorado and Lake Parime, that many other
objects of their quest were as mythical as that of the Argonauts or as
unattainable as the golden apples of the Hesperides. Their expeditions
were not for these reasons wholly fruitless. Every one of them, whether
for the purpose of exploration or conquest or colonization, contributed
to our knowledge of the lands visited and of the tribes inhabiting
them, many of whom have long since disappeared. And everywhere one
finds towns founded by them, or places, mountains and rivers that still
bear the names that were given them at the time of their discovery.

It was always our pleasure, during our wanderings in the tropics, to
recall what the first explorers thought of the new lands visited by
them while they were still under the spell of the novel and marvelous
things that were ever claiming their rapt attention whithersoever
they went. We loved to look upon the countries we visited as their
first explorers had looked upon them. This we were able to do, for
thanks to the old chroniclers, the wonderment of the discovery of
the New World has been preserved, as in amber, in all its freshness,
and that, too, for all time to come.

Comparatively few people realize how extensive is the literature,
especially in Spanish, that relates to the period of the conquest and
that immediately following it. And still fewer are aware of its intense
interest and importance. In addition to the well-known classic works
of Peter Martyr, Las Casas, Herrera, Oviedo, Garcilaso de la Vega,
Cieza de Leon, Gomara, Acosta, and others scarcely less valuable,
there are scores of similar annals that have for centuries lain in
the archives of Spain and of the various countries of Latin-America
which have but recently been published. Many of these--beyond price
for the historian--were absolutely unknown until a few years ago,
and are still awaiting the artistic pen of a Prescott or an Irving
to transmute their contents in masterpieces of literature. It is safe
to say that nowhere else will the man of letters find a more fertile
and a less cultivated field to engage his talent.

Then there are the works, equally precious, of the early
missionaries. Many of them are veritable mines of information
respecting the manners and customs of the native inhabitants of
the tropics, while not a few of them are the only sources extant
of knowledge respecting many interesting Indian tribes that have
long since become extinct. Among these deserving of special notice
are the works of Simon, Gilli, Caulin, Rivero, Cassani, Gumilla
and Piedrahita--not to mention others of lesser note--that treat
specially of Venezuela and New Granada, and afford us the truest
picture of the condition of these countries during their existence
under Spanish domination. Humboldt frequently quotes them in his
instructive Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions
of America, and usually with the generous approval and commendation
which they so well deserve. To the humble and intelligent and often
erudite missionaries of the tropics the illustrious German savant
was indebted for much of the success that attended his explorations
in the basin of the Orinoco and along the plateau of the Cordilleras.

Worthy of mention, too, in traversing countries where the traveler has
not the benefit of a Murray or a Baedeker, are the numerous works of
those explorers--German, English, French, American--who have followed
in the footsteps of Humboldt and his compagnon de voyage, Bonpland,
and who have cast a flood of light upon the fauna and flora of the
countries visited, and supplemented the works of the early historians
and missionaries by describing the condition of their inhabitants as
it obtains to-day.

In the following pages the author has endeavored to give not
only his own impressions of the lands he has visited but also,
when the narrative permitted or required it, the impressions of
others--conquistadores, missionaries and men of science--who have gone
over the same grounds or discussed the same topics as constitute the
subject-matter of this volume. The rapidly increasing interest of our
people in all matters pertaining to South America, and the eagerness
now manifested to see closer trade-relations established between the
United States and the various republics of Latin America, seemed to
justify this course. For the student, as well as for the general
reader, it seemed to be desirable, if not necessary, to indicate,
at least cursorily, by citations and footnotes, the character and
extent of that large class of works, historical and scientific,
that occupy so important a position in the annals of discovery and
of material and intellectual progress.

In the words of Pliny, quoted on the title page, it has been the aim
of the author "to give newness to old things, authority to new things,
beauty to things out of use, fame to the obscure, favor to the hateful,
credit to the doubtful, nature to all and all to nature." A difficult
task truly; how difficult no one can more fully recognize than the
author himself. If he has failed in many of the things proposed,
he cherishes the hope that the reader's verdict will incline to
that contained in the last sentence of the paragraph cited: "To
such neverthelesse as can not attayne to all these, it is greatly
commendable and magnificall to have attempted the same."

The present book will be followed by a volume to be entitled: "Along
the Andes and Down the Amazon."


        The Author.



CONTENTS


    CHAPTER                                                PAGE

        I. Introductory                                       1
       II. Trinidad and the Orinoco                          54
      III. The Great River                                   82
       IV. In Mid-Orinoquia                                 112
        V. El Rio Meta                                      139
       VI. Approaching the Andes                            165
      VII. The Llanos of Colombia                           195
     VIII. The Cordillera of the Andes                      228
       IX. In Cloudland                                     255
        X. The Athens of South America                      285
       XI. The Muisca Trail                                 313
      XII. The Valley of the Magdalena                      346
     XIII. In the Track of Plate-Fleets and Buccaneers      377
      XIV. The Rich Coast                                   399
           BIBLIOGRAPHY                                     429
           INDEX                                            435



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                      FACING PAGE

    A cavalcade in the Andes                         Frontispiece
    On the Coast Range, Venezuela                              42
    Scene on the Orinoco                                       76
    An Indian home on the Orinoco                              94
    In the llanos of Venezuela                                122
    Indians of Mid-Orinoquia                                  122
    Our crew ashore for fuel                                  160
    La Niñita, our launch, on the Upper Meta                  176
    A traveler's lodge in the llanos of Colombia              204
    A shelter on the banks of the Ocoa                        220
    Our camp in the llanos                                    220
    Stopping for luncheon in the Lower Cordilleras            240
    Peons fording a river in the Andes                        262
    A valley in the Cordilleras                               286
    Road between Bogotá and Honda                             332
    Champan going up the Magdalena                            354
    A palm forest in the tropics                              372
    Method of transporting freight between Honda and Bogotá   414



UP THE ORINOCO AND DOWN THE MAGDALENA

CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTORY


EASTER LAND

On a dark, cold day toward the close of January, 1907, the writer
stood at a window in New York, observing some score of a mittened
army removing the avalanche of snow that cumbered the streets after
a half week of continuous storm. He was pondering a long vacation,
musing where rest and recreation might be found, at once wholesome
and instructive, amid scenes quite different from any afforded by his
previous journeys. He was familiar with every place of interest in
North America, from Canada to the Gulf, from Alaska to Yucatan. He
had spent many years in Europe, had visited Asia, Africa, and the
far-off isles of the Pacific. He cared not to revisit these, much
less to go where he must entertain or be entertained. He sought rest,
absolute rest and freedom, untrammeled by conventional life. For
the present he would shun the society of his fellows for the serene
solitude of the wilderness, or the companionship of mighty mountains
and rivers. Not that he was a misanthrope or that he wished to become
an anchoret. Far from it. Still less did he wish to spend his time in
idleness. This for him would have been almost tantamount to solitary
confinement. He dreamed of a land where he could spend most of the
time in the open air close to Nature and in communion with her--where
both mind and body could be always active and yet always free--free
as the bird that comes and goes as it lists.

Whilst thus absorbed in thought, and casting an occasional glance
at the laborers in the street battling against the Frost-King, whose
work continued without intermission, the writer was awakened from his
reverie by the dulcet notes evoked from a Steinway grand and the sweet,
sympathetic voice of one who had just intoned the opening words of
Goethe's matchless song as set to music by Liszt:--


        "Knowest thou the land where the pale citron grows,
        And the gold orange through dark foliage glows?
        A soft wind flutters through the deep blue sky,
        The myrtle blooms, and towers the laurel high,
        Knowest thou it well?
                              O there with thee!
        O that I might, my own beloved one, flee."


It was La Niña--the pet name of the young musician--that came as a
special providence to clear up a question that seemed to be growing
more difficult the longer it was pondered. The effect was magical,
and all doubt and hesitation disappeared forthwith. La Niña, as if
inspired, had, without in the least suspecting it, indicated the land
of the heart's desire. Yes, the writer would leave, and leave at once,
the region of cloud and frost and chilling blast, and seek the land
of flowers and sunshine, the land of "soft wind" and "blue sky," "the
land where the pale citron grows," where "the gold orange glows." It
would not, however, be the land of which Mignon sang and which she
so yearned to see again. Lovely, charming Italy, with its manifold
attractions of every kind, must for once yield to the sun-land of
another clime far away, and in another hemisphere.

A few days afterwards the writer, with a few friends, had taken his
place in a through Pullman car bound for the Land of Easter--the land
of Ponce de Leon. They found every berth in the car occupied by people
like themselves hastening away from the rigors of winter and betaking
themselves to where


    "Trees bloom throughout the year, soft breezes blow,
    And fragrant Flora wears a lasting smile."


Some were going for the rest and the amusement promised at several
noted winter resorts. Others were in search of health that had been
shattered by confinement or over-work. Some were going away for a few
weeks only; others for the entire winter. Some were going no farther
south than Florida, others purposed visiting some of the Antilles,
and even, mayhap, the Spanish Main.

As for the writer, he had no fixed plan, and for this reason he had
not even thought of making out an itinerary. He would go to Florida to
take up again a line of travel that had been interrupted some decades
before. He had always been interested in the lives and achievements
of the early Spanish discoverers and conquistadores, and had, in
days gone by, followed in the footsteps of Narvaez and de Soto,
of Cabeza de Vaca and Coronado, Fray Marcos de Niza, and Hernando
Cortes. And now that he had the opportunity, it occurred to him that
he could do nothing better or more profitable than make a reality what
had been a dream from boyhood. He would visit the islands and lands
discovered by the immortal "Admiral of the ocean sea" and follow in
the footsteps of the conquistadores in Tierra Firme. He would explore
the lands first made known by Balboa, and Quesada, and Belalcazar and
rendered famous by the prowess of the Almagros and the Pizarros. He
would visit the homes of the Musicas, the Incas, and the Ayamaras,
wander among the Cordilleras from the Caribbean Sea to Lake Titicaca
and beyond, and follow in the wake of Diego de Ordaz and Alonzo de
Herrera on the broad waters of the Orinoco and in that of Pedro de
Orsua and Francisco de Orellana in the mighty flood of the Amazon.

A great undertaking apparently, and, considered in the light of certain
reports published about tropical America, seemingly impossible. To
say the least, such a journey, it was averred, implied difficulties
and privations and dangers innumerable.

"Do you wish to spend the rest of your life in South America? It will
require a lifetime to visit the regions you have mentioned. I have
myself spent many years in traveling in tropical America, and knowing,
as I do, the lack of facilities for travel, the countless unforeseen
delays of every kind, and the mañana habit that obtains everywhere in
the countries you would visit, I have no hesitation in stating that
you are attempting the impossible, if you mean to accomplish all you
have spoken of in the limited time you have allotted to yourself."

Such were the words addressed to the writer on the eve of his departure
by a noted traveler and one who is considered an authority on all
things South American. Not very encouraging, truly, especially to
one who was seeking rest and recreation and who was anything but
inclined to court hardships and dangers in foreign lands and among
peoples that were reputed to be only half-civilized, where-ever they
chanced to be above the aboriginal savage that still roams over so
much of the territory on both sides of the equator.

But, as already stated, the writer had on leaving home no definite
programme mapped out. He left that to shape itself according to events
and circumstances. He departed on his journey with little more of a
plan than the vague indications of a life-long dream. Still, confiding
in Providence, he hoped that he would be able to realize this, as he
had, in years gone by, realized other dreams that seemed even less
likely ever to become actualities.



LA FLORIDA

Twenty-eight hours after leaving New York, with its snow and ice
and arctic blasts, our party found itself wandering among the orange
groves and promenading beneath the graceful palms of old, romantic
St. Augustine. We could scarcely credit our senses, so complete was the
change in our environment. A soft, balmy atmosphere, gentle zephyrs,
sweet, feathered songsters without number, all joining in a chorus
of welcome to the strangers from the North, made us think that we had
been transported to the Hesperides or to the delights of the Elysian
Fields. And when, after nightfall, we walked about the grounds and
the courts of the famous hostelries that have been recently erected
regardless of expense, and provided with every luxury that money
and art can command--all brilliantly illuminated by thousands of
electric lights of divers colors--it seemed as if we had, in very
deed, suddenly, we knew not how, become denizens of fairyland. To
find anything similar to the scene that here bursts upon the view of
the delighted visitor one must go to Monte Carlo during the season
when thousands are attracted thither from all parts of the world,
or betake oneself to the Place de la Concorde when the gay French
capital is en fête.

St. Augustine, with all its traditions and historic associations,
is one of the most restful and interesting of places, especially
in winter, and a place, too, where one might tarry for months with
pleasure. Nothing can be more delightful than the drives in the
pine-forests adjacent to the city,


       "Where west-winds with musky wing
        About the cedarn alleys fling
        Nard and cassias balmy smells."


We could now verify at our leisure what we had been wont to consider
as the exaggerated statements of the early explorers of Florida
regarding the beautiful forests--"trellised with vines and gay
with blossoms"--and the fragrant odors that were wafted from them
by the breeze even out to the ships passing along the coast, and
"in such abundance that the entire orient could not produce so
much." "We stretched forth our hands," writes Lescarbot, in his
Historie de la Nouvelle France, "as if to grasp them, so palpable
were they." All carried away with them the same impression about the
"douceur odoriferante de plusieurs bonnes choses"--the odoriferous
sweetness of many good things--that was everywhere observable.

Nor were their accounts of this grateful feature of the country
overdrawn. It is the same to-day as it was four centuries ago,
when the European had just landed on these shores and found so many
things--as novel as they were marvelous--to excite his delight and
enthusiasm. It is something that is denied to us whose homes are
in the North, and, to enjoy it in all its newness and freshness,
we must perforce immigrate to tropical and subtropical climes.

But the foregoing is only one of the delectable features of this
favored land. As we wander through the groves and gardens and sail on
the placid waters of the rivers and lakes through the silent everglades
or the dark and mysterious forests, we find at every turn something
to charm the ear or delight the eyes. Everywhere we meet with new
and beauteous form of animal and vegetable life and realize for the
first time, perhaps, how diverse and multitudinous are the forms of
animated nature.

If we are to credit Herrera, it was on account of its beautiful aspect,
as well as on the day on which it was discovered, that the locality
received the name it now bears. The historian says explicitly that
Ponce de Leon and his companions "named it Florida because it appeared
very delightful, having many pleasant groves, and it was all level;
as also because they discovered it at Easter, which, as has been said,
the Spaniards call Pascua de Flores or Florida." [1]

In view of this clear and positive statement of Herrera, one is
surprised to see that writers treating the subject ex professo have
fallen into error regarding the origin of the name Florida. Thus
Barnard Shipp writes: "The Peninsula of Florida was discovered by
Juan Ponce de Leon on Pascua Florida, Palm Sunday, in the year 1512,
[2] and because of the day on which he discovered it, he gave it the
name Florida." [3]

All doubt, however, about the real origin of the name, about which
there has been so much misunderstanding, is removed by the declaration
of Peter Martyr, the father of American history. In his delightfully
refreshing work, De Orbe Novo, which is not so well known as it
should be, he asserts in language that does not admit of ambiguity,
that Juan Ponce named the newly discovered territory Florida because
it was discovered the day of the Resurrection, for the Spaniards call
the day of the Resurrection Pascua de Flores." [4]

When the French Huguenots some decades later attempted to colonize
the country they called it "La Nouvelle France"--New France--a name
they also subsequently gave to Canada.

More interesting, however, is the fact that the Spaniards first thought
the peninsula to be an island and called it Isla Florida. Ponce de Leon
in writing to Charles V calls it an island, and it is figured as such
in the Turin map of the New World, circa 1523. But after they learned
that it was the mainland, Florida was made to embrace the whole of
North America except Mexico. Thus writes Herrera and Las Casas. The
latter make it extend from what we now know as Cape Sable to "the
land of Codfish" (Newfoundland), "otherwise known as Labrador, which
is not very far from the island of England." The present boundaries
of Florida, it may be remarked, were not determined until 1795,
when they were fixed by treaty with Spain.

But what in more interesting than names and boundaries, and what will,
perhaps, be more surprising to the readers of popular works on the
subject, is the fact that Ponce de Leon, in spite of all that has
been said to the contrary, was not the discoverer of Florida, the
fact that it was discovered nearly two decades before Ponce de Leon
reached its shores, and the further and more unexpected fact that it
was discovered by that much misrepresented and much abused navigator,
Americus Vespucius.

Thanks to the researches of Varnhagen, Harrisse and others, these facts
have been apparently demonstrated beyond doubt. In his work on the
voyages of the brothers Cortereal, Harrisse has clearly proven that,
between the end of the year 1500 and the summer of 1502, certain
navigators, whose names and nationality are unknown, but who were
presumably Spaniards, discovered, explored and named that part of the
coast-line of the United States which extends from Pensacola Bay,
along the Gulf of Mexico, to the Cape of Florida, and, turning it,
runs northward along the Atlantic coast to about the mouth of the
Chesapeake or the Hudson. [5] The maps of Juan de la Cosa--drawn
in 1500--and the one made for Alberto Cantino in 1502--maps which
have only recently received the attention due them--are overwhelming
evidence of the truth of these conclusions.

According to M. Varnhagen, the one who furnished the data for these
maps, if indeed, he did not construct the prototype from which they
were both executed, was no other than Americus Vespucius, who from now
on must receive different treatment from that which has hitherto been
accorded him. By marshalling a brilliant array of facts, presented with
masterly logic, Varnhagen, silences the detractors of the illustrious
Florentine navigator, and disarms those objectors who have been
unwilling to accept as true the statements contained in the celebrated
Soderini letter regarding his first voyage to the New World in 1497 and
1498. He leaves no doubt on the reader's mind, that Vespucius, after
visiting Honduras and Yucatan, sailed thence to and around Florida,
and that, if he did not himself actually construct the original of the
Cantino map, it was he that supplied the data from which both this
map and that of Juan de la Cosa were rendered possible. [6] If some
fortunate student of early Americana should eventually ferret out
the Quattro Giornate--Four Journeys--of which Vespucius frequently
makes mention, and in which he gives an account of all his voyages,
he would render an incalculable service to the cause of truth, and
would be able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of even the most
exacting critic the extent and importance of the services rendered by
the pilot major of Spain to the crown of Leon and Castile--services
only second to those which distinguish Columbus himself.



FONS JUVENTUTIS

But whatever may be said about the discovery of the country, Ponce
de Leon's name will always remain so closely linked with Florida
that it will never be possible to dissociate the two. One may forget
all about his enterprise as a navigator and may ignore his claims
as a discoverer, but one can never become oblivious of that strange
episode with which his name is inseparably connected--the romantic
search for the Fountain of Youth.

For the historian, as for the psychologist, the subject possesses
an abiding interest, and even the casual visitor to Florida finds
himself unconsciously dreaming about the days long gone by when
Spaniard and Indian were wandering through forest and everglade in
search of the life-giving fountain about which they had heard such
marvelous reports. And if his dreams do not consume all his time,
he also finds himself speculating on the origin of such reports, or
the basis of the legend which started Ponce de Leon and others on a
search for what proved to be an ignis fatuus as extraordinary as was
the mythical Eldorado a few years later.

The historian Gomara, referring to this episode in the life of Ponce de
Leon, writes as follows: "The gouernour of the Islande of Boriquena,
John Ponce de Leon, beinge discharged of his office and very ryche,
furnysshed and sente foorth two carvels to seeke the Ilandes of Boyuca
in the which the Indians affirmed to be a fontayne or spring whose
water is of vertue to make owlde men younge."

"Whyle he trauayled syxe monethes with owtragious desyre among many
Ilandes to fynde that he sought, and coulde fynde no token of any
such fountayne, he entered into Bimini and discouered the lande of
Florida in the yeare 1512 on Easter day which the Spanyardes caule the
florisshing day of Pascha, wherby they named that lande Florida." [7]

Antonio de Herrera speaks not only of this Fountain of Youth but
also of a river whose waters had likewise the marvelous property
of restoring youth to old age. This river was also supposed to be
in Florida. It was known as the Jordan and received quite as much
attention from both Spaniards and Indians as did the Fountain of Youth.

Fonteneda, who spent seventeen years in the wilds of Florida, as a
captive of the Indians, gives more explicit information about the
subject than either Gomara or Herrera. "Juan Ponce de Leon," he says,
"believing the reports of the Indians of Cuba and San Domingo to
be true, made an expedition into Florida to discover the river
Jordan. This he did, either because he wished to acquire renown,
or, perhaps, because he hoped to become young again by bathing in
its waters. Many years ago a number of Cuban Indians went in search
of this river, and entered the province of Carlos, but Sequene, the
father of Carlos, took them prisoners and settled them in a village,
where their descendants are still living. The news that these people
had left their own country to bathe in the river Jordan spread among
all the kings and chiefs of Florida, and, an they were an ignorant
people, they set out in search of this river, which was supposed
to possess the powers of rejuvenating old men and women. So eager
were they in their search, that they did not pass a river, a brook,
a lake, or even a swamp, without bathing in it, and even to this day
they have not ceased to look for it, but always without success. The
natives of Cuba, braving the dangers of the sea, became the victims
of their faith, and thus it happened that they came to Carlos,
where they built a village. They came in such great numbers that,
although many have died, there are still many living there, both old
and young. While I was a prisoner in those parts I bathed in a great
many rivers but never found the right one." [8]

The poet-historian, Juan de Castellanos, writing in mock heroic
style, says that so great were the virtues of the Fountain of
Youth, that by means of its waters old women were able to get rid
of their wrinkles and gray hairs. "A few draughts of the water and
a bath in the restoring fluid sufficed to restore strength to their
enfeebled members, give beauty to their features, and impart to a faded
complexion the glow of youth. And, considering the vanity of our times,
I wonder how many old women would drag themselves to this saving wave,
if the puerilities of which I speak were certainties. How rich and
puissant would not be the king who should own such a fountain! What
farms, jewels, and prized treasures would not men sell in order to
become young again! And what cries of joy would not proceed from
the women-folk--from the fair as well as from the homely! In what
a variety of costumes and liveries would not all go to seek such
favors! Certainly they would take greater pains than they would in
making a visit to the Holy Land." [9]

What Castellanos said might be repeated to-day. If the Fountain of
Youth or the river Jordan, such as Ponce de Leon, Ayllon and de Soto
sought, now existed, Florida would be the most frequented and most
thickly populated country on the face of the globe. Vichy, Homburg,
Karlsbad and other similar resorts would at once be abandoned, and
there would forthwith be a mad rush for the Land of Easter. The
Fountain of Youth would be worth more to its possessor than the
diamond mines of Kimberley, more than the combined interests of
Standard Oil, more than all the stocks and bonds of the United
States Steel Corporation. There would be countless numbers who,
like Faust, would be ready to sell their souls for a single draught
of the life-giving fountain, for a single plunge into the health-
and strength-restoring river.

That the simple and ignorant Indians of Cuba and Haiti and adjacent
islands should have credited the stories in circulation about
the marvelous waters said to exist somewhere in Florida we can
understand. The marvelous and the supernatural always appeal in a
special manner to the superstitious and untutored savage. We are,
however, disposed to smile at the credulity of the enlightened
Spaniard who did not hesitate to sacrifice fortune and life in the
quest of what could never be found outside of Utopia. But, viewing
things in our present state of knowledge, it is easy to judge them
rashly and do them a grave injustice. We must transport ourselves
back to the times in which they lived and acted, and consider
the strange and novel environment in which they suddenly found
themselves. A new world had just been discovered--a world in which
everything--plants, trees, animals, men--seemed different from what
they were familiar with in their own land. And for a people who from
their youth had eagerly listened to stories of knight-errantry, and
who, by long association with their Moorish neighbors, were ready
to accept as sober facts the wildest statements of oriental fable,
a special allowance must be made. They had heard of the adventures
of Marco Polo, and of the wonders of Cathay and Cipango, and their
minds were full of the oft-told tales about the Fortunate Isles, and
the Islands of the Blest--located somewhere in the broad Atlantic,
and presumably in the region of the setting sun--and what more natural
than that they should expect to find themselves some bright morning
in a land of enchantment? The marvelous stories current about the
voyages of St. Brendan and his companions, about the island in the
Western sea inhabited by Enoch and Elias, about the Garden of Eden
moved from the distant East to the more distant West, all contributed
to prepare their minds for a ready acceptance of the most extravagant
statements. Had not the great Admiral, Columbus, announced that he
had located the site of the Terrestrial Paradise, when he sailed by
the rushing water of the Orinoco, and had not his views been accepted
by thousands of his wondering contemporaries?

Such being the case, is it astonishing that the early explorers should
have seriously believed in what we are now so ready to denounce
as absurd? The romantic world of the sixteenth century, when Pliny
and the Physiologus and the Bestiaries, were accepted by students
of nature as unquestioned authorities; when learned men spent their
lives in search of the elixir of life and the philosopher's stone,
and believed in the transmutation of the baser metals into gold,
was quite different from our prosaic twentieth-century world, when
nothing is accepted that cannot pass the ordeal of exact science.

Again, we must not imagine, as is so often done, that a Fons
Juventutis, such as Ponce de Leon and his contemporaries sought for,
was something unheard of in the history of our race. Stories of
miraculously healing fountains have been current from early times
and in divers parts of the world--in India, in Ethiopia, and in the
isles of the Pacific.

The reader will recall what Sir John Mandeville says about a well
of youth he found during his travels in India. It was, he declares,
"a right faire and a clere well, that hath a full good and sweete
savoure, and it smelleth of all maner of sortes of spyces, and also
at eche houre of the daye it changeth his savor diversely, and whoso
drinketh thries on the daye of that well, he is made hole of all maner
of sickenesse that he hathe. I have sometime dronke of that well and me
thinketh yet that I fare the better; some call it the well of youth,
for they that drinke thereof seme to be yong alway, and live without
great sicknesse, and they saye this, cometh from Paradise terrestre,
for it is so vertuous." [10]

So writes Mandeville, but there is reason to believe that he cribbed
this account of the Fountain of Youth from a medieval legend of
Prester John, from which, on account of the interest that attaches
to the subject, I select the following paragraph:--

"Item aboute this passage is a fonteyne or a conduyte so who of this
watere drinked, IIJ. tymes he shall waxe yonge and also yf a man haue
had a sykenes, XXX. yere and drynked of thys same water he shall therof
be hole and sonde. And also as a man thereof drinked hym semeth that
he had occupyed the beste mete and drinke of the worlde, and this same
fonteyne is full of the grace of the holy goost, and who sowe in this
same water wasshed his body he shall become yonge of XXX. yere." [11]

Whether these stories had their origin in folklore or not, they
found their way into Europe at least two centuries before the voyage
of Ponce de Leon to Florida. Mandeville's work appeared in French,
Latin, and English, and such was its popularity, that Halliwell did
not hesitate to declare that "of no book, with the exception of the
Scriptures, can more MSS. be found at the end of the fourteenth and
the beginning of the fifteenth century."

Such being the case, it would be strange indeed if the Spaniards were
not familiar with stories so widely circulated, and stranger still
if, on arriving in the New World, and learning from the Indians of
the existence of a fountain of youth, and at no great distance away,
they should not seek to locate it and test its virtues. Given the
state of knowledge at the time, and the credence accorded to the
accounts of similar fountains in the Old World, the much ridiculed
expedition of Ponce de Leon followed as a natural consequence. It
would have been more surprising if the expedition had not been made
than that it was made.

The foregoing remarks on the Florida Fountain of Youth and river
Jordan would be incomplete without a few words about the probable
origin of the traditions concerning them. To attribute their origin
to folklore simply may be true, but it explains nothing.

M. E. Beauvois, in a series of interesting articles--very plausible
if not conclusive--on the subject, contends that all the traditions
regarding the Fountain of Youth and the river Jordan, which proved
so attractive to the Spaniards, are of Christian origin. He maintains
that the Gaels, as early as 1380, "had established relations with the
aborigines from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the tropical zone of North
America, and that it is very probable that missionaries accompanied
the merchants in their voyages to Florida and the Antilles." He argues
that these missionaries baptized the indigenes in some river which,
for that reason, they called the Jordan, or that they spoke to them
of a river in their country, on which a Christian mission had been
established, and that this fact gave rise to the formation of the
tradition of a Jordan situated somewhere at the north of the Antilles.

It remains to show how this tradition came to be confounded with
the story of the Fountain of Youth. This confusion was the more
natural that the same idea is at the foundation of the two parallel
traditions. The one has reference to the regeneration of the soul,
the other to the rejuvenation of the body, both being effected by
means of vivifying water. In the beginning, but one kind of water
was known, that "which saved by its own proper virtue, the water of
baptism, which is exclusively spiritual." Subsequently, however, the
simple and superstitious Indian attributed to the waters of baptism
properties which seemed to him preferable to those spoken of by the
missionary--the properties, namely, "of curing diseases of the body,
or of restoring youth to the decrepit and of indefinitely prolonging
life. From that time the Fountain of Youth had a proper existence
and began to play an important role in popular traditions."

How long the tradition of the beneficent waters of Florida
existed--and Florida, it must be remembered, meant to the Spaniards
of the sixteenth century all the Atlantic coast--M. Beauvois does
not determine. It may have been only a few generations, or it may
have been several centuries. It may even have dated back to about
the year 1008, when Thorfinn Karlsefni was baptized in "Vinland the
Good"--Massachusetts--the first Christian, so far as known, born on
the American continent. Or it may have originated as far north as New
Brunswick--"Great Ireland or Huitramannaland--which had been occupied
by a Gaelic colony from the year 1000, or from an earlier date,
until the end of the fourteenth century, and where, about the year
1000, the Papas, Columbite monks, the evangelizers of that region,
had baptized the Icelander, Aré Mârsson, who had left his native
island before his conversion to Christianity."

At all events, whatever conclusions may be reached as to the time when
and the place where the tradition originated, it is manifest that
"it could have been propagated in the New World only by Christians
and as it was in existence before the arrival of the Spaniards,
we must attribute its propagation to other Europeans, to those,
for example, whose crosses the indigenes of Tennessee and Georgia
had exhumed from their ancient burial places, or to those whom the
inhabitants of Haiti had known either de visu or by hearsay." [12]

What is here said of the Christian origin of the Florida Fountain of
Youth can likewise be predicated of the one mentioned in the legend
of Prester John--whence, as we have seen, Mandeville got his story,
for it is said, "this same fonteyne is full of the grace of the holy
goost," an obvious allusion to the regenerating waters of baptism.

But it is time to resume the thread of our narrative, interrupted by a
discussion unavoidably long, but pardonable, it is hoped, in view of
its abiding interest and intimate connection with the early history
of Florida. Besides, my purpose is not so much to give descriptions
of the countries through which we shall pass--something which has
in most instances been done before--as to give the impressions of
their earliest explorers and to dwell, as briefly as may be, on topics
relating to the various regions visited, that possess even for the most
casual reader a perennial fascination and importance. In countries like
those we shall visit, the impressions of the first explorers are often
more interesting and instructive than those of the latest tourist or
naturalist, for such impressions have about them a freshness and an
originality--often a quaintness and a simplicity--that are entirely
absent from modern works of travel. Another reason for so doing is that
much of the ground, over which we shall travel, is practically the
same to-day as when it first greeted the eyes of the conquistadores,
and many of the towns and cities we shall visit, no less than the
manners and customs of the people, differ but little from what they
were in the time of Charles V and Philip II. Thus, regarding many
things, the statements of the Spanish writers and missionaries of
four centuries ago are still as true as if they had been penned but
yesterday, and that, too, by the most accurate observer.

From St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States, the traveler
has the choice of two routes to Havana. One is by way of Tampa Bay,
called by De Soto the Bay of Espíritu Santo, and by some of the early
geographers designated as the Bay of Ponce de Leon. What, however,
is now known as Ponce de Leon Bay, is farther south and near the
southernmost point of the peninsula. The other route is along the
east coast of the state. At the time of our visit the railroad was in
operation only as far as Miami, but was being rapidly pushed towards
its terminus at Key West.

We chose the eastern route because we could in fancy follow more
closely in the footsteps of the conquistadores and picture to
ourselves, in the ocean, nearly always visible, that long procession
of barks and brigantines which four centuries ago plowed the main,
some moving northward, others southward--all manned by brawny,
hardy mariners in search of gold and glory. Spaniards, like Ponce
de Leon and Pedro Menendez; Italians, like Americus Vespucius and
Verrazano; Englishmen, like Hawkins and Raleigh; Frenchmen, like
Ribaut and Laudonniere, all passed along this coast--all bent on
achieving distinction or extending the possessions of their respective
sovereigns. Brave and gallant mariners these, men whose names are
writ large on the pages of story and who occupy a conspicuous place
in the records of the heroes of adventure.

From Miami we went by steamer to Key West, which will soon be
accessible by rail from St. Augustine. The sea was as placid as an
inland lakelet and the voyage to Havana was in every way ideal. We
skirted along the Florida Keys--those countless coral islets that
are to serve as piers for the railroad under construction, which is
to form so important a link between Cuba and the United States. When
completed the time consumed in going to the Pearl of the Antilles
will not only be greatly lessened, but the former discomforts and
terrors of the journey will be entirely eliminated. No longer will
the traveler be obliged to encounter the hurricanes of the Bahamas or
the heavy seas off Cape Hatteras. He will be able to take his seat
in a Pullman car in New York and go, without change, through to Key
West and thence to Havana and Santiago de Cuba.

How different was it when the small Spanish craft of four centuries
ago navigated these waters on their way from Panama and Vera Cruz to
the mother country! Then, as the reader will observe, by reference
to the old maps of Florida, the keys or coral reefs along the coast
were known as Los Mártires--the Martyrs--so named by Ponce de Leon on
account of the number of shipwrecks that occurred here, and because
of the number of lives that were lost on these treacherous shoals
and also, as Herrera informs us, because of certain rock-formations
in the vicinity that have the appearance of men in distress.

If we may credit the legends and traditions that have obtained in
those parts, many a Spanish treasure-ship has been lost in threading
its way through the uncharted shoals and islands of Los Mártires and
the Bahamas, and many futile attempts have been made to recover at
least a part of the treasure lost, but it was


        "Lost in a way that made search vain."


And of the adventurous divers, who braved the dangers of current and
wave, one can safely say in the words of Bret Harte


                                  "Never a sign,
        East or West, or under the line,
        They saw of the missing galleon;
        Never a sail or plank or chip,
        They found of the long-lost treasure-ship,
        Or enough to build a tale upon."



THE PEARL OF THE ANTILLES

Early the morning following our departure from Miami we were aroused
from our slumbers by the cry of a mariner, "Land ho! all hands
ahoy!" We were on deck without delay, and there before us, under a
sky of purest azure, we beheld the hills of Cuba, clad in a mantle
of undying verdure. Its resplendent shores were arrayed in hues of
glowing beauty and unimagined loveliness. Fragrant groves of orange
and pomegranate, luxuriant forests white with clouds of bloom, formed
a glorious setting to the refulgent waves that reflected the crimson
splendors of the rising sun. Delicious zephyrs, fanning their balmy
wings, bathed our brows with dewy freshness, sweet with perfume from
ambrosial fruits and tropic flowers. Yes, we were in the Pearl of
the Antilles, the "Sweet Isle of Flowers"; in Gan Eden--the Garden
of Delight--that in the legends of long ago was reckoned among the
Isles of the Blest.

The beautiful pictures before us, however, were but as a fleeting
panorama. We had but little time to feast our eyes on them before we
were in front of grim, frowning Morro Castle, that for three centuries
and more has stood sentinel of the fair city at its feet. Adjoining
the Castle are the Cabañas, a vast range of fortifications more than a
mile in length, and nearly a thousand feet in breadth. Just opposite,
on the other side of the harbor's entrance, is the Bateria de la
Punta, and some distance farther beyond is the star-shaped Castle
Atares. From a military standpoint Havana is well protected, and,
with Morro Castle properly equipped with modern artillery, would be
practically impregnable.

Few West Indian cities have greater historic interest than Havana. From
the time it was first visited by Ocampo, four hundred years ago, until
the raising of the flag of the Cuban Republic in 1904, it has been
the witness of many stirring events that have effected the destinies
of millions of people in various parts of the world. It was from
Havana's port that Cortes, in 1519, sailed on his memorable voyage to
Mexico. It was from this port that Pamphilio de Narvaez and Hernando
de Soto started on their ill-starred expeditions to Florida. Time
and again the city was harassed by Dutch, French and English pirates
and Buccaneers. Oftentimes, too, the daring sea-rovers, who so long
infested West Indian waters, levied tribute on the unfortunate
inhabitants who were unable to defend themselves. Indeed, it was
to defend the city from these marauders that the kings of Spain,
in the middle of the sixteenth century, began the erection of
those fortifications that, since their completion, have excited the
admiration of all who have visited them.

Cuba was one of the islands Columbus discovered during his first
voyage. But he thought he had discovered a continent--that he had
reached the eastern extremity of Asia. He had set out from Spain
to find a western route to the Indies, to offset the discoveries
of Bartholomew Diaz and Vasco da Gama. To him Cuba was the land
of the Great Khan, far-off Cathay, and Española, discovered shortly
afterwards, was Cipango, Japan. Indeed, there is reason to believe that
he died in the belief that Cuba, far from being an island, was a part
of China, as mapped by Toscanelli and described by Marco Polo. We have
no positive evidence that he was ever aware of the circumnavigation
of the island by Pinzón and Solís in 1497, and he was dead two years
before its insularity was again proved by Ocampo. He never dreamed
that he had discovered a new world, nor did any of his contemporaries
or immediate successors have any conclusive reason to infer that the
lands discovered by the great Admiral in his third and fourth voyages
were not a part of the Asiatic continent.

Balboa's discovery of the Pacific Ocean did not supply such reasons,
neither did the rounding of South America and the circumnavigation
of the globe by Magellan. Nor were the necessary proofs furnished by
the explorations of Drake or Frobisher, Davis or Hudson or Baffin.

The final demonstration of the complete separation of America from
Asia was a long process and was not given until the noted explorations
of Vitus Behring in 1728, more than two centuries after Balboa from
the summit of a peak in Darien first descried the placid waters of
the great South Sea. [13]

We had desired to visit the northern and southern coasts of Cuba,
and to feast our eyes on the beautiful scenes that had so captivated
Columbus; to view the hundred harbors that indent its tortuous
shores; to see the Queen's Gardens--now known as Los Cayos de
las Doce Leguas--which the great navigator fancied to be the seven
thousand spice islands of Marco Polo, but our time was too limited to
permit the long and slow coasting that would be required. Besides,
we preferred to study the interior of the country, and pass through
the sugar and tobacco plantations for which the island is so famous.

Fortunately for the comfort of the traveler, there is now a through
train from Havana to Santiago, so that one can make the entire five
hundred and forty miles in twenty-four hours, and that, too, if one
so elect, in a Pullman car.

Columbus, in writing of his first voyage to Rafael Sánchez and Luis
de Santangel, says that all the countries he had discovered, but
particularly Juana--the name he gave to Cuba--"are of surpassing
excellence," and "exceedingly fertile." "All these islands" he
continues, "are very beautiful and distinguished by a diversity of
scenery; they are filled with a great variety of trees of immense
height, and which I believe retain their foliage in all seasons; for
when I saw them"--in November--"they were as verdant and luxuriant
as they usually are in Spain in the month of May--some of them were
blossoming, some bearing fruit, and all flourishing in the greatest
perfection, according to their respective stages of growth, and the
nature and quality of each." Again he writes, "The nightingale and a
thousand other sorts of birds were singing in the month of November
wherever I went. There are palm trees in these countries of six
or eight sorts, which are surprising to see, on account of their
diversity from ours, but, indeed, this is the case with respect to
the other trees, as well as the fruits and weeds. Here are also honey,
and fruits of a thousand sorts, and birds of every variety." [14]

The Admiral's delight and enthusiasm at all he saw knew no bounds,
and in his diary he gives frequent expression to the pleasurable
emotions he experienced. All was new to him, and all beautiful beyond
words to describe. Trees and plants were as different from those in
Spain as day is from night, and the verdure and bloom in November
were as fresh and brilliant as in the month of May in Andalusia. [15]
The great navigator had a poet's love of nature, and artist's eye
for the beautiful. Indeed, it may be truthfully said that no one
since his time has more correctly and more succinctly portrayed the
salient features of these islands, and it may be questioned if any
one has more deeply appreciated their beauty and splendor.

That which frequently arrests the attention of the traveler, on the way
from Havana to Santiago, is the numerous sugar and tobacco plantations
everywhere visible. Sugar cane, as is known, was not found by the
Spaniards on their arrival in the New World, but was introduced there
a short time after, most probably from the Madeira or Canary Islands.

Tobacco, however, is an American plant, and one of the things that
most surprised the Europeans on first coming in contact with the
Indians of the newly discovered islands was to find them smoking the
dried leaves of this now favorite narcotic.

The first mention of tobacco is in Columbus' diary under date of
November 6, 1492. Referring to two messengers he had sent out among the
Indians, he writes, "The two Christians met on the road a great many
people going to their villages, men and women with brands in their
hands, made of herbs, for taking their customary smoke." [16] These,
then, were the first cigars of which we have any record. The use of
tobacco in pipes was apparently first observed in Florida by Captain
John Hawkins during his voyage to the peninsula in 1566. Among many
other interesting things he tells us about the inhabitants is that
of their use and love of the pipe.

"The Floridians when they trauel haue a kinde of herbe dryed, which
with a cane, and an earthen cup in the end, with fire, and the dried
herbs put together do sucke thoro the cane the smoke thereof, which
smoke satisfieth their hunger, and therewith they liue foure or five
days without meat or drinke, and this all the Frenchmen vsed for this
purpose; yet do they holde opinion withall, that it causeth water
and flame to void from their stomachs." [17]

The early Italian traveler, Girolamo Benzoni, evidently did not
share the views of the Floridians and Frenchmen regarding the
value of tobacco. To him it was nothing less than an invention of
Satan. Speaking of its evil effects, he says, "See what a pestiferous
and wicked poison from the devil this must be." [18]

But it is the good Old Dominican, Père Labat, who has the most to
say about the introduction and use of tobacco. His charming, gossipy
account of men and things and his vagabunda loquacitas, have lost
none of their fascination for the curious reader since they were
first written nearly two centuries ago.

Among other things he does not hesitate to affirm that the Indians,
"by introducing the use of tobacco among their pitiless conquerors,
succeeded, in great measure, in avenging themselves for the unjust
servitude to which they had been reduced." [19] According to the good
father, tobacco proved to be a veritable apple of discord, because it
gave rise to a protracted war of words among men of science. In this
war a large number of ignoramuses as well as savants participated. And
not the last to declare themselves in favor of or opposed to what
they understood no better than the serious affairs of the day, in
which they had been but too active, were the woman-folk.

Physicians discussed its properties, nature and virtues, as if it
had been known all over the habitable world from the times of Galen,
Hippocrates, and Æsculapius, and their opinions were as diverse, and
as opposed to one another as are to-day the opinions of allopaths
and homeopaths, osteopaths and psychopaths. They prescribed when
and how it was to be taken and in what doses. They and the chemists
of the time soon recognized in tobacco a valuable addition to their
pharmacopoea. Nay, more, it was not long before it was proclaimed as
a panacea for all the ills that poor suffering humanity is heir to.

Its ashes cured glanders; taken as a powder it cured rheumatism,
headache, dropsy, and paralysis. It was a specific against melancholy
and insanity; against the smallpox and the plague, against fever,
asthma and liver troubles. It strengthened the memory and excited
the imagination, and philosophers and men of science could be, it
was averred, no better prepared to grapple with the most difficult
of abstract problems than by having the nose primed with snuff.

The effects induced by chewing tobacco were said to be even more
marvelous, for among other things it was claimed that by thus using
it hunger and thirst were allayed or prevented. It removed bile,
cured toothache and freed an over-charged brain from all kinds of
deleterious humors. It strengthened and preserved the sight. Oil,
extracted from tobacco, cured deafness, gout, sciatica, improved the
circulation, and was a tonic for the nervous. In a word, it was the
great panacea of which physicians and alchemists had so long dreamed,
but had hitherto been unable to find.

Finally, however, a reaction came. Books were written against it,
and kings and princes forbade its use. On the 26th of March, 1699,
the question was seriously discussed before L'Ecole de Médecine
whether the frequent use of tobacco shortened life--An ex tabaci usu
frequenti vita summa brevior? And the conclusion was a demonstration
that the frequent use of tobacco did shorten life. Ergo ex frequenti
tabaci usu vita summa brevior. [20]

But notwithstanding the opinions of learned men and university
faculties regarding the alleged deleterious properties of tobacco,
and the denunciations hurled against the use of this invention of
the Evil One, the smoking of cigars and pipes soon became a general
habit the world over, and, it was at times difficult for the supply
to meet the demand. How little Las Casas dreamed that this "vicious
habit," as he called it, was soon to become universal, and that the
time would come when young and old would regard the "fragrant weed,"
prepared in one way or another, not only as an indispensable luxury,
but also as a prime necessity--for rich and poor alike, if life were
to be worth living.

And how far was Columbus from imagining, when he saw the Indians taking
"their customary smoke," that the leaves which they had so carefully
rolled together for this purpose, would eventually prove to be one
of the great staples of commerce, and one of the world's most valued
sources of revenue. He crossed "the Sea of Darkness" to discover a
direct route to the lands of spice and the Golden Chersonese in order
to fill the coffers of the land of his adoption. He and his companions
explored every island they met in their wanderings in quest of gold
and pearls and precious stones and here, in the narcotic plant, that
appeared to them as little more than a curiosity, there were treasures
greater than those of "Ormus and Ind." In this very island of Cuba,
of whose charms he has left us so glowing a picture, was in after
years to be developed from the humble plant--Nicotiana Tabacum--one
of Spain's most important industries--an industry that would, in the
course of time, contribute more to the nation's exchequer than the
combined output of the mines of Pasco and Potosí. Such was evidently
the thought of the Cuban poet, Zequeira, when, in his much praised
Horatian ode, A La Piña, he sings


        "¡Salve, suelo felíz, donde prodiga
        Madre naturaleza en abundancia
        La ordorifeva planta fumigable!
            ¡Salve, felíz Habana!" [21]


Santiago, like Havana, is a historic city, and, from its foundation,
nearly four centuries ago, until the memorable siege of 1898, it
experienced many reverses at the hands of privateers and pirates. We
lingered just long enough to see its chief attractions--there are
not many--outside of the Morro--and to get a view of the now famous
El Caney and San Juan Hill.

The sun was sinking below the horizon when we boarded the steamer
that was to take us to Haiti and Santo Domingo. As we passed under El
Morro, that has so long and faithfully guarded the entrance to the
placid harbor, and looked towards the setting sun where Cervera's
proud fleet was scattered, we could not but recall the prophetic
words of Las Casas penned in his last will and testament. Speaking of
the Indians, to whose care and protection he had devoted a long and
fruitful life, the holy bishop writes: "As God is my witness that I
never had earthly interest in view, I declare it to be my conviction
and my faith--I believe it to be in accordance with the faith of
the Holy Roman Catholic Church, which is our rule and guide--that
by all the thefts, all the deaths, and all the confiscations of
estates and other uncalculable riches, by the dethroning of rulers
with unspeakable cruelty, the perfect and immaculate law of Jesus
Christ and the natural law itself have been broken, the name of our
Lord and His holy religion have been outraged, the spreading of the
faith has been retarded, and irreparable harm done to these innocent
people. Hence I believe that, unless it atones with much penance for
these abominable and unspeakably wicked deeds, Spain will be visited
by the wrath of God, because the whole nation has shared, more or
less, in the bloody wealth that has been acquired by the slaughter and
extermination of those people. But I fear that it will repent too late,
or never. For God punishes with blindness the sins sometimes of the
lowly, but especially and more frequently the sins of those who think
themselves wise, and who presume to rule the world. We ourselves are
eyewitnesses of this darkening of the understanding. It is now seventy
years since we began to scandalize, to rob and to murder those peoples,
but to this day we have not come to realize that so many scandals, so
much injustice, so many thefts, so many massacres, so much slavery,
and the depopulation of so many provinces, which have disgraced our
holy religion, are sins or injustices at all." [22]

Were the tragic scenes enacted in these waters and in the harbor of
Manila the fulfillment of the prophecy? If we should be disposed to
think so, let us not forget, in contemplating the humiliation and
punishment of Spain, that we too have sinned as Spain sinned. And
let us pray that the blood of the millions of Indians that have been
exterminated in our own land may not call down the vengeance of Heaven
on our children and our children's children. Nations, like individuals,
are punished where they have sinned. [23]



HAITI AND SAN DOMINGO

A short sail eastwards and we found ourselves crossing the
Windward Passage. Not far from our port quarter was Cape Maisi,
which Columbus, on his first voyage, named Cape Alpha and Omega, as
being the easternmost extremity of Asia; Alpha, therefore, from his
own point of view, and Omega from that of his Portuguese rivals. On
his second voyage Columbus came down through this passage to satisfy
himself that he had actually reached Mangi, the land of the Great Khan,
and coasted along the island of Cuba, as he reckoned, for a thousand
miles. But as fate would have it, he stopped short in his westward
course within a few hours' sail of the present Cape San Antonio,
the westernmost promontory of the island. If he had only journeyed
on a few miles further, he would have detected the insularity of what
he considered a continent, and thus have anticipated the discoveries
of Vespucius and Ocampo. And he would have done more. He would have
reached the shores of Yucatan and Campeachy and had an opportunity of
exploring the famous ruins of Chichen Itza and Uxmal. How different,
too, it would have been, if, after discovering Guanahuani, he had
directed the prow of the Santa Maria slightly to the northwest, when
a short sail would have brought him to the coast of Florida! It is
interesting to speculate not only how much his own life, but also how
greatly the entire course of American history would have been affected
by these slight changes in his course on these momentous occasions.

But during his four voyages among these mysterious islands the great
navigator was as one groping his way in the Cretan labyrinth. On his
return eastward from the Cape of Good Hope--the name he gave to the
westernmost point of Cuba attained by him--he found, almost before
he was aware of it, that he had actually circumnavigated what he had
imagined to be Cipango, the great island of Japan. This surprised
and puzzled him beyond expression. Evidently, either he was mistaken
or the authorities on whom he had been relying were mistaken. If the
island--Española--was not Cipango, what was it? He soon learned that
gold mines existed in the interior of the country and that there was
evidence of excavations that had been long abandoned. [24] What more
natural, then, than his conclusion that this was the far-famed Ophir
whence King Solomon had obtained the gold used in the adornment of
the temple of Jerusalem!

Whatever may be said of the Admiral's theory, one thing is certain,
and that is that the discovery of gold in Española [25] was directly or
indirectly the cause of untold misery to the aborigines, and eventually
led up to the present unfortunate condition of this hapless island. It
was, as the reader knows, the work in the mines that was the chief
factor in the gradual decimation and the final extinction of the
Indians in Española. When there were no longer Indians to do the work,
negroes were imported from Africa, and thence dates that hideous period
of cruel traffic in human beings which, for more than three centuries,
was the blackest stain on the vaunted civilization of the Caucasian
race. But in this, as in other similar cases, an avenging Nemesis
has either already overtaken the offending nations or is giving them
grave concern regarding the future. In the black republics of Haiti and
Santo Domingo the slave has replaced the master, and there are already
indications that the day of reckoning is approaching for the powers
that are in control of the other islands of the West Indies. We saw
evidences of this during our visit in Cuba, and are convinced that,
if it were not for the strong arm of the United States, it would not
be long before we should have another black republic at our doors. And
what is said of Cuba may be said of all the islands of the Lesser
Antilles from Trinidad to Puerto Rico. The race question is one
that will have to be met sooner or later. The whites are decreasing
in numbers and the blacks are rapidly increasing and becoming more
insistent on what they claim to be their rights, especially to that
of a greater representation in government affairs, and to a larger
share of the emoluments of public office.

It was only a few years after the colonizing of Española when negro
slavery was introduced into the island. The motive was, in some
measure, a humane one--namely, to spare the Indians the arduous
labor in the mines for which they were physically incapacitated. The
African was much stronger and had much greater powers of endurance
than the native. According to Herrera, "the negroes flourished so
well in Española, that it was thought that if a negro was not hanged
he would never die, for no one had ever seen one die of disease. Thus
the negroes found, like the oranges, a soil in Española better suited
to them than their own country, Guinea." [26]

Monopolies of licenses were granted by the Spanish monarchs for the
importation of negro slaves to the West Indies, first to their own
subjects, and later on to certain Genoese and Germans, and finally,
by a special asiento, or contract, the Spanish government conveyed
to the English the "exclusive right to carry on the most nefarious
of all trades between Africa and Spanish America." The British
engaged to transport annually to the Spanish Indies during a term
of thirty years, four thousand and eight hundred of what, in trade
language, were called "Indian pieces," that is to say, negro slaves,
paying a duty per head of thirty-three escudos and one-third. [27]
So great was the number of negroes imported into America from 1517,
when Charles V first permitted the traffic, until 1807, when the slave
trade was abolished by an act of the English Parliament, that it has
been computed that their total number was not less than five or six
millions. In one single year, 1768, it is said that the number torn
from their homes and country and transported to Spain's new colonies
was no less than ninety-seven thousand. [28]

But the inevitable soon came to pass--much sooner than even the wisest
statesman could have foreseen. The great Cardinal Ximenes, it is true,
realized from the beginning the risk incurred by sending negroes to
the Indies. He contended that it was wrong to send beyond the ocean
people so "apt in war" as the blacks, who might at any time stir up
a servile war against Spanish rule. He insisted that "the negroes,
who were as malicious as they were strong, would no sooner perceive
themselves to be more numerous in the New World than the Spaniards,
than they would lay their heads together to put on their masters the
chains they now carried." [29]

The cardinal's prediction soon came true. In all parts of the
Indies--in the islands of the sea and on Tierra Firme--there
were massacres and uprisings and "servile wars," without number,
and both the colonies and the mother country had often occasion to
regret the introduction within their boundaries of so dangerous and
warlike subjects. But it was too late to rectify the mistake. It
was impossible to drive them out of the country, or to return them
to the land whence they had been brought against their will. So
rapidly had they increased in numbers that they now, in many places,
constituted a great majority of the population. Española, to-day
constituting the two republics of Haiti and Santo Domingo, was the
first island of which they got supreme control. Which will be the
next? The question is not an idle one. It is one frequently asked
in the West Indies. The unrest and agitation of the blacks are much
greater than we in the North imagine. Their ambition is greater and
their political aspirations higher than those who have not been among
them are prepared to admit. The situation is certainly not one that
justifies supine indifference on the part of the governments now in
control, nor is the difficulty one whose solution can be indefinitely
postponed. Every lover of law and order must hope that some modus
vivendi can be arrived at whereby, while all the legitimate claims
of the negro are conceded, the world will he spared another "decline
and fall" like that which has been witnessed in Española.

We called at several of the ports of Haiti and Santo Domingo but we
found little to interest us outside of the capital of the latter
republic. Santo Domingo is not only the oldest city in the New
World--the early abandoned settlement of Isabella never deserved the
name of city--but is, in many respects, the most interesting. Founded
by Bartholomew Columbus in 1496, and named Santo Domingo after the
patron saint of his father, Domenico, it was, for a while, the seat
of the vice-royalty. It was to this place that Don Diego Colon, the
son of the Admiral, brought his lovely bride, Doña Maria de Toledo,
a daughter of one of the oldest and proudest families of Spain. Here
he set up a vice-regal court that excited the envy of his enemies,
and was by them made the basis of charges preferred against him that
he meditated establishing a government independent of the mother
country. Of the viceroy's palace, Oviedo writes to Charles V, it
"seemeth unto me so magnificall and princelyke that yowr maiestie
maye bee as well lodged therin as in any of the mooste exquisite
builded houses of Spayne." [30]

From Santo Domingo radiated the lines of discovery and conquest that
culminated in the achievements of Cortes, Balboa and Pizarro. Here
Columbus was loaded with chains and imprisoned by Bobadilla. Here was
established the first university of the New World. Here, within the
walls of the Convent of San Domingo, prayed and labored that noble
"Protector of the Indians," Las Casas, and here he planned and began
work on his monumental Historia de las Indias. Until the last assault
by Drake in 1586, it was the centre of commercial activity in the
Indies, for it was the chief port of call to and from Spain and
the place where merchants, miners, and planters disposed of their
commodities and amassed fortunes.

But Santo Domingo's halcyon days were of short duration. Before the
end of the sixteenth century the city began to decline. The theatre of
activity, that had hitherto been confined to Española, was transferred
to Cuba and Mexico, Panama and Peru, and to-day the once gay and
prosperous capital exhibits but a shadow of its pristine glory.

Homenage Castle, the crumbling palace of Don Diego Columbus, and the
few churches and monasteries that still, even in their neglected
condition, attest the former importance of the place, present a
pathetic picture, and tell, in mute but elegant language, of the
reverses and evil days that have been the lot of America's first city.

Besides the buildings just named we were especially interested in the
Cathedral. It is a noble structure and its interior decorations compare
favorably with similar edifices in Spain and Mexico. But there was one
attraction there that had for us, as it must have for all Americans,
a special interest, and which alone would well repay a pilgrimage to
Santo Domingo--the last resting place of the one "who to Castile and
Leon gave a new world."

As the reader is aware, there has been a long and spirited controversy
as to the location of los restos--the remains--of the illustrious
discoverer. We have been shown his sepulchre in the Cathedral
of Havana, and in that of Seville, yet it has been demonstrated
beyond question that his ashes have never reposed in either of these
places. Without entering into details, it may now be stated, as facts
which no longer admit of any reasonable doubt, that after his death
in 1506, the remains of Columbus were interred in the Franciscan
monastery of Valladolid, whence, in 1508, they were transferred to
the monastery of Las Cuevas, at Seville. In 1541, at the request of
"Doña Maria of Toledo, Vicereine of the Indies, wife that was of the
Admiral Don Diego Columbus," Charles V, by a special cedula, granted
permission for the transfer of the remains of Christopher Columbus
to Española, to be interred in the capilla mayor of the Cathedral of
Santo Domingo. Here they have since reposed, with the exception of
the short time during which they were kept in the adjoining church,
when the Cathedral was undergoing certain necessary repairs in 1877
and 1878. The supposed remains of the first Admiral, that were taken
to Havana in 1795, and finally transferred to Seville in 1899, have
been shown to be those of his son, Don Diego, who, together with Don
Luis Columbus, the third Admiral, and the first Duke of Veragua, was
also buried in the capilla mayor of the Cathedral, where the remains
of Don Luis still lie near those of his illustrious grandfather. [31]

As our steamer moved out of the water of Santo Domingo our eyes
remained fixed on the Cathedral, whose Spanish tiled roof reflected
the vermilion rays of the setting sun, and afford shelter for one of
the world's greatest heroes and benefactors.


        "Hic locus abscondit præclari membra Coloni,"


This place hides the remains of the illustrious Columbus, of him who,
in the language of one of the many epitaphs devoted to his memory,


        "Dió riquezas immensas á la tierra,
        Innumerables almas al cielo." [32]


And then, as the last vestiges of this noble old temple vanished
from our vision, we thought of the words of Humboldt, than whom no
one was better qualified to pronounce a fitting eulogy on one of the
world's immortals.

"The majesty of great memories," he declares, "seems concentrated
in the name of Christopher Columbus. It is the originality of his
vast conceptions, the compass and fertility of his genius, and the
courage which bore out against the long series of misfortunes, which
have exalted the Admiral high above all his contemporaries." [33]

And we dreamed--or was it a telepathic intimation of a future
reality?--when the precious remains, that have so long been guarded
in this distant and rarely visited island, should be transferred for
a third and a last time, but this time where they might be visited
and venerated by millions instead of the few hundred that now find
their way hither, and where they might occupy a noble sarcophagus,
like that which beneath the dome of the Invalides, holds all that is
mortal of the great Corsican, and in a temple worthy alike of the
man and of the greatest nation in the world. There is one edifice
in which all the nations of the hemisphere discovered by Columbus
have a common interest, the splendid structure now being erected in
Washington, for the special use and benefit of the North and South
American Republics. Here in the capital of the nation, in the district
named after the discoverer, in sight of the tomb of the "Father of
his Country," should the remains of "The Admiral of the Ocean Sea,"
find an abiding place of sepulture commensurate with the magnitude of
his achievements. Alongside and in connection with this Pan-American
building, in the heart of what is to be "the City Beautiful," and
there alone, let there be erected a mausoleum that, as a monument of
art, shall rank, as did those of Hadrian and Mausolus, amongst the
world's wonders, and be a fitting culmination of the architectural
creations that have been planned for the great and growing capital
of the New World, the world of Columbus.



PUERTO RICO AND CURAÇAO

From Santo Domingo we went to Puerto Rico. As is well known,
this island was discovered by Columbus during his second voyage in
1493. Sixteen years later a settlement was founded here by Ponce de
Leon. It was from here that he set forth in quest of the "Fountain
of Youth," and it is in San Juan, in the Church of Santo Domingo,
that he was buried after a poisoned arrow from the bow of an Indian
brave had terminated his existence during his second expedition to
Florida. Over his tomb was inscribed the following epitaph:--


        "Mole sub hac fortis requiescunt ossa Leonis
        Qui vicit factis nomina magna suis." [34]


After sojourning a week in Puerto Rico, we called at the little Dutch
island Curaçao and spent the greater part of the day in the quaint
little town of Willemstad. The harbor is perfectly landlocked and was
at one time the favorite rendezvous for pirates and buccaneers. In
strolling through its streets, we could easily fancy ourselves in
some quiet section of Rotterdam or Amsterdam. The island is known for
its much prized liqueur, Curaçao, which, however, strange to say,
is not made here but in Holland. Curaçao supplies only the orange
rind with which the liqueur is flavored. Willemstad is a popular
resort for smugglers, who do an extensive business on the mainland,
and the temporary home of a colony of exiled Venezuelan generals and
colonels, who here eke out a precarious existence in the hope that
one of their periodical revolutions may soon give them the eagerly
desired opportunity of enjoying some of the spoils of office, that,
for the time being, are monopolized by their enemies.



ON THE SPANISH MAIN

We arrived in the roadstead of La Guayra early in the morning, after
our departure from Curaçao, and our vessel was soon moored alongside a
splendid breakwater, which extends out from the shore for more than
a half mile, and gives this port a fairly good harbor, which even
the largest ships may enter. We were now on the Spanish Main where
we had our first view of the great continent of South America.

As the phrase, "The Spanish Main," has been given many and different
significations since it was first introduced, I shall employ it,
in what was long its generally accepted meaning, as designating
the southern part of the Caribbean Sea, and the coast line of what,
on the early maps of South America, was known as Tierra Firme--the
Firm Land--namely, that part of the present republics of Venezuela
and Colombia on which the Spaniards effected their first settlements.

The first thing to attract our attention and that which impressed
us most, was the apparently stupendous height of the mountains in
the rear of the town. Before us were La Silla and Pico de Naiguata,
sheer and precipitous, rising almost from the water's edge and piercing
the clouds at an altitude of more than eight thousand and two hundred
feet. They are thus apparently higher than any of the peaks of the
Rocky Mountain chain. The summits of the latter are attained only
after traveling over a long and gradual incline, that is scarcely
perceptible, and after scaling numerous foothills that conceal and
dwarf the giants which tower behind and above them. Thus, while the
summit of Pike's Peak is more then fourteen thousand feet above sea
level, it is less than seven thousand feet above the charming town of
Manitou, that nestles at its feet. For this reason, and because the
sides of the Colorado peak are not so steep as those behind La Guayra,
La Silla and the Pico de Naiguata give an impression of height and
majesty that is not experienced even when contemplating the loftiest
monarchs of the Alps.

The distance from La Guayra to Caracas, in a straight line, is less
than six miles; by rail it is twenty-three. There has been talk
of connecting the capital and its port by a tunnel but under the
existing conditions of the country it will be a long time before such
an undertaking shall be realized.

From sea level to the summit of the range, the railroad is conspicuous
for its heavy grade--about four per cent.--its sharp curves, its cuts
and tunnels, but above all for the magnificent scenery everywhere
visible. From the car window one may look over precipitous cliffs
into yawning abysses far below the track on which the train slowly
and carefully winds its way. On the beetling rocks above, in the dark
and wild gorge below--what a wealth of vegetation, what luxuriance
of growth, what a gorgeous display of vari-colored fruit and flower,
of delicate fern and majestic palm!

As a feat of engineering the road is quite equal to any of the kind
that may be seen in Europe or the United States; but for scenic beauty
and splendor it is absolutely unrivaled. On the lofty flanks of the
Rockies, and in the deep cañons of the Fraser and Colorado rivers,
where the shrill whistle of the locomotive startles the falcon and
the eagle, one can have fully gratified one's sense of the grand and
the sublime in nature; but here it is beauty, grandeur, sublimity
all combined. And what marvelous perspectives, what delightful
exhibitions of color, what superb and ever-changing effects of light
and shade--scenes that would be the despair of Claude Lorrain and
Salvator Rosa, and as difficult to catch on canvas as the glories of
the setting sun.

No where else in the wide world can one find such another picture as
greets one's vision when, rising into cloudland, one gets one's last
view of the Caribbean circling the mountain thousands of feet beneath
the silent and awe-stricken spectator. It is matchless, unique--like
Raphael's Madonna di San Xysto, impossible to duplicate.

As we reached this point, the sea disclosed itself as a vast mirror
resplendent under the aureate glow of the quivering beams of the
departing lord of day. Fleecy clouds of every form and hue flitting
over sea and land, by a peculiar optical illusion, magnified both
objects and distances, and unfolded before the astonished beholder
a panorama of constantly varying magnitude and of surpassing
loveliness. On the foreground Nature shed her brightest green, and
imparted to flower and foliage the flush of the rainbow. Of a truth,


        "Never did Ariel's plume
        At golden sunset hover
        O'er scenes so full of bloom."


Away and beyond was the boundless, glimmering sea, ravishing in
its thousand tints, and in its harmonious dance of vanishing light
and color.

So occupied were we in observing the beauties of the everchanging
landscape, that, before we realized it, we were in Caracas. And so
momentary was the twilight-- a characteristic of the tropics--that the
transition from daylight to darkness was almost startling. We found an
unexpected compensation, however, in the friendly glow of the electric
lights which illumine the street and plazas of Venezuela's capital.

We spent a month in and about Caracas, finding every hour enjoyable. It
is, in many respects, a beautiful city and located near the base of
the mountains La Silla, the saddle--from its fancied resemblance to
an army saddle--and El Cerro de Avila, in a charming valley from one
to three miles wide and about ten miles long. The valley was at one
time, seemingly, the bed of a lake, and its soil is, consequently,
exceedingly fertile, and admirably adapted to cultivation of the farm
and garden produce of both tropical and temperate climates.

A friend, who had traveled much, once told us that he regarded
Taormina, in Sicily, as the best and most beautiful winter resort
in the world. We are familiar with both places, and can say, in all
candor, that we prefer Caracas. True, Taormina is one of the beauty
spots of the world, but one expects to find more than beauty in a
winter resort. Some years before our visit to Caracas we were in
Taormina, and during the same time of the winter as marked our visit
to Caracas, and we found it so cold that, during our entire stay, we
were obliged to have our rooms heated by steam. In the latter place we
could leave the doors and windows of our room open day and night, and
enjoyed, during all the time we tarried there, the name soft, balmy,
fragrant air, and the same equable temperature. The mean temperature
we found to be about 70° F., the thermometer seldom rising above 75°
F. and rarely falling below 65° F. The only place where we over had a
like experience was on the slope of a mountain in one of the Hawaiian
Islands, where the temperature is so constant that the native language
has no word to express the idea of weather--what we call "weather"
being always the same.

Considering the many natural beauties of the valley of Caracas,
its rich, tropical vegetation, its matchless climate, its soft,
balmy atmosphere, the rippling brooks and purling rivulets that
everywhere gladden the landscape, we can understand how an early
Spanish historian, Oviedo y Baños, [35] was in his enthusiasm led to
declare this location of the capital of Venezuela to be that of the
home of perpetual spring--nay, more, that of a terrestrial paradise. If
he could revisit these scenes to-day, he would find but little change
in their general physical aspect, but he would see at once that the
serpent's trailing has cast a blight over its former beauty, and that
the people, as a whole, have sadly degenerated since his time. Then,
as he tells us, the stranger that had spent two months in this Eden
would never wish to leave it. Alas, that one cannot say this now! [36]

After a month's sojourn in Caracas we felt the Spiritus movendi again
upon us, urging us onward, we knew not whither. We were under the
spell of what the Germans so aptly call the Wanderlust and it did
not make much difference what direction we took so long as the road
we traveled enabled us to enjoy new scenes and visit peoples whose
manners and customs were different from our own.

Having thoroughly rested and recuperated the strength we so much
needed, we felt that we should like to take a trip to the Orinoco,
in order that we might have an opportunity of studying the fauna and
flora of its wonderful valley and of meeting some of the many Indian
tribes that rove through its forests. In spite of all our efforts,
however, we could find no one who could give us any satisfactory
information about the best means of reaching the river or the time
that would be required to make the journey. We consulted government
officials and merchants that had business relations along the Orinoco,
but their information was vague and contradictory.

We purposed going first to San Fernando de Apure, on an affluent
of the Orinoco, and thence by water to Ciudad Bolivar and the
Port-of-Spain. We were told that there were steamers plying between San
Fernando and Ciudad Bolivar--the chief city on the Orinoco--during the
wet season, our summer, but not during the dry season, our winter. That
meant that if we went to San Fernando we should be obliged to use
a canoe to reach Ciudad Bolivar, and this implied a long, tiresome,
and somewhat dangerous voyage under a burning sun and in what we were
assured was a malarious region. The time necessary to reach the river
on horseback varied, according to our informants, from one to two
weeks. One well known general, it was stated, had by an extraordinary
tour de force made the trip the preceding year in four days. Some
assured us we could go by carriage the entire distance. Others were
equally positive that there was nothing more than a trail connecting
the points we wished to visit, and that mules would be better than
horses for such a journey. Outside of one or two small towns, there
were no hotels along the route. But this did not matter. We had our
camping outfit with us, and rather preferred to live in our tent to
risking our night's rest in such uninviting posadas--lodging houses--as
we should meet with in the way.

Finding that we could not get in Caracas the information we desired,
we resolved to go to Victoria, an interesting town southwest of the
capital, and accessible by rail in a few hours. But our success in
Victoria was no better than it had been in Caracas. In spite of all
our efforts we could elicit no information that would warrant us in
starting on so long a journey as that to the Orinoco, and one that
might involve many hardships and dangers without adequate compensation.

Yet, notwithstanding our ill success so far, we did not for a moment
think of abandoning our contemplated trip to the valley of the
Orinoco. Far from it. The more we thought of it the more fascinating
the project became. Now that we had gone so far, we were determined to
see the famous river at all hazards. If we could not reach it by one
route we would go by another. We accordingly concluded to continue
our journey by rail to Puerto Cabello, and thence go by steamer to
Trinidad. Once there, we felt reasonably sure we should find some
means of attaining our goal--the grassy plains and vast forests of
the Orinoco basin. As proved by subsequent events, it was for us
a most fortunate occurrence that we did not adhere to our original
plan of reaching the Orinoco by San Fernando de Apure, as our change
of programme enabled us to see far more of South America and under
more favorable auspices, than we had before deemed possible.

Instead of going directly to Puerto Cabello, we spent a week at
the quiet old city of Valencia, Nueva Valencia del Rey, as it was
originally called, and which, according to the Valencianos, should
be the capital of the republic. It was begun in 1555, by Alonzo Diaz
Moreno, twelve years before Santiago de Leon de Caracas--the original
name of the capital--was founded by Diego de Losada. As a matter
of fact, Valencia was designated as the capital of Venezuela at the
time of the revolt against Spain, and congress was actually in session
there at the time Caracas was destroyed by an earthquake in 1812. Five
years after its foundation, Valencia was captured by the infamous Lopez
de Aguirre and his sanguinary band, who treated its inhabitants with
the greatest atrocity. Near by, on the plains of Carabobo, was fought
the decisive victory which resulted in Venezuelan independence. [37]

As a port of entry, Puerto Cabello is incomparably superior to
La Guayra, and has one of the finest harbors on the Caribbean. The
climate, however, is far from salubrious. Situated, as it is, in low,
marshy ground, surrounded by countless pools of stagnant water,
it is not surprising to find that malarial fevers are prevalent
here, and that El vómito--yellow fever--is a frequent visitant. The
"nymphs that reign o'er sewers and sinks" can here count more fetid
effluvia and putrefactive ferments than in any place we had so far
seen in Venezuela.



THE PEARL COAST

A most delightful voyage was ours from Puerto Cabello to the
Port-of-Spain, the capital of Trinidad. The sea was as placid as an
inland lake on a windless day, and the air as balmy as in a morning
of June. The coast of the mainland was nearly always in sight,
and at times the peaks of the Coast Range rose far above the fleecy
clouds that encircled their lofty flanks. The days were beautiful
but the nights were glorious. All our youthful dreams about the
delights of sailing on southern seas, amid emerald isles, and under
bright starlit skies, where soft spice-scented zephyrs blow, were
here realized. The serenity and transparency of the azure vault of
heaven, with its countless shooting stars, had their counterpart in
the smooth, unruffled Caribbean, to whose water millions of Noctilucæ
imparted a phosphorescent glow which rivaled that of molten gold. We
were at last in the favored home of the chambered nautilus, happily,
dreamily gliding along on an even keel


        "In gulfs enchanted, where the siren sings,
          And coral reefs lie bare,
        Where the cold sea-maids rise from crystal springs
          To sun their streaming hair."


Yes, we were skirting along the Pearl Coast, [38] celebrated in legend
and story--darkened by deeds of barbarous cruelty and resplendent
in records of heroic achievement. I shall not tell of our second
visit to La Guayra and of the day we spent at Macuto or describe the
present conditions of the historic old towns of Barcelona, Cumana and
Carupano, which lay on our course. Much might be said of all these
places, distinguished, since their foundation, both in peace and war.

I cannot, however, pass this part of the Pearl Coast without recalling
the fact that it was near Cumana that the earliest settlements in
Venezuela were effected and that here it was that one of the first--if
not the first--permanent colonies on the mainland of the New World was
established. Columbus, during his fourth voyage, attempted to make a
settlement in Veragua, that might serve as a base of future operations,
but the attempt resulted in complete failure. Similar efforts had been
made by Alonso de Ojeda and others, but without lasting results. Panama
was not founded until 1516 or 1517. Nombre de Dios, it is true, was
founded somewhat earlier, but in the beginning was little more than
a blockhouse. But here, as early in 1514, on the Rio Manzanares,
then the River Cumana, only "a cross-bow-shot" from the shore, the
zealous Sons of St. Francis had erected a monastery, and a short time
subsequently the Dominicans established another monastery, not far
distant, at Santa Fe de Chiribichi. Here they gathered the simple
children of the forest around them, and soon had the beginnings
of flourishing missions. [39] The trusting and unspoiled Indians
welcomed these apostles of the gospel of peace and love, and soon
learned to regard them as friends and fathers. So peaceful did all
this land become under the influence of the benign teaching of the
gentle friars, that, according to Oviedo and Las Casas, a Christian
trader could go alone anywhere without ever being molested. [40]

It was to the Pearl Coast that Las Casas came, after he found, by
sad experience, that his efforts in behalf of the Indians in Cuba,
Española and Puerto Rico were frustrated by influences he was unable
to control. It was here, aided by Franciscans and Dominicans, who had
preceded him by only a few years, that he purposed laying the corner
stone of that vast Indian commonwealth, for which he had secured
letters patent from Charles V.

For this great experiment in colonization, the greatest the world
has ever known, he had received a grant of land extending from
Paria to Santa Marta, and from the Caribbean Sea to Peru. In his
colossal undertaking he planned to have the coöperation of an order
of knights--the Knights of the Golden Spur--specially created to
aid him in the work of civilizing and christianizing the Indians. It
was his dream to bring within the fold of the Church all the Indians
of Central and South America, and to establish for their behoof and
benefit an ideal Christian state such as a century and a half later
was realized in the fertile basins of the Parana and Paraguay. [41]

If the noble philanthropist had been properly supported by the rich and
the powerful, the entire course of subsequent events in South America
would have been altered, and the historian would have been spared the
task of penning those dark annals of injustice and iniquity which,
for long centuries, were such a foul blot on humanity. But from the
time he set foot on the Pearl Coast, in pursuance of his noble plan,
he found himself beset by untold difficulties, and his designs thwarted
at every turn, and that, too, by his own countrymen. Blinded by lust
of gold and pleasure, they left nothing undone to insure the failure
of his project, and in the end succeeded in their nefarious purpose.

Abandoned by those on whose coöperation he fully relied, he was, in its
very inception, forced to relinquish his heroic enterprise, and return
to Española. Discomfited and heartsick, but not crushed, he sought
an asylum in the monastery of Santo Domingo. There for eight years
he devoted himself to prayer and study, and, true Christian athlete
that he was, he was always preparing himself for a final struggle in
a new arena. When his enemies least expected it, he came forth from
his retirement, and, clad in the habit of a Dominican, proclaimed
himself again the champion of the downtrodden Indian. And from that
moment until the day of his death, at the advanced age of ninety-two,
whether as a simple monk or as the bishop of Chiapa, [42] his voice
was always raised in behalf of the children of the forest, and against
their enslavement by cruel, soulless seekers after fortune. [43]

He was, if not the first, the world's greatest abolitionist, and if
there are still many millions of red men in the New World to-day
who have escaped the bond of servitude, it is mainly due to their
illustrious protector, Bartolomé de Las Casas. [44]



THE PEARL ISLANDS

Within sight of the land where Las Casas went to lay the first
foundation-stone of his ideal commonwealth is a group of islands
which had a special claim on our attention--islands which, during
four centuries, have been the scene of many a romance and have been
stained, no one can tell how often, by the blood of tragedy.

These islands are Coche, Cubagua and Margarita. They were discovered
by Columbus during his third voyage, and the larger of the two was
called Margarita--pearl--from the number and beauty of the pearls
found in the waters that wash its shore. Even before he had left the
Gulf of Paria, between Trinidad and the mainland, he had observed
that the aborigines of Tierra Firme were decked with bracelets and
necklaces of pearl, and soon discovered, to his great satisfaction,
that these much-prized gems could be obtained in great abundance,
and that many of them were of extraordinary size and beauty. Peter
Martyr, as translated by Eden, tells us, "Many of these pearls were
as bygge as hasellnuttes, and oriente (as we caule it), that is lyke
unto them of the Easte partes." [45] During the first third of the
sixteenth century the value of the pearls sent to Europe was equal
to nearly one-half of the output of all the mines in America. [46]
In one year--1587--after the pearl fisheries of the Gulf of Panama
had been discovered, nearly seven hundred pounds weight of pearls
was sent to the markets of Europe, some of them rivaling in beauty
of sheen and perfection of form the rarest gems ever found in the
waters of Persia or Ceylon. It was from these fisheries of the New
World that Philip II obtained the famous pearl, weighing two hundred
and fifty carats, of the size and shape of a pigeon's egg, mentioned
by the early chroniclers.

So great was the commercial activity among these little islands,
especially in Cubagua, that the Spaniards built a town there, which
they called New Cadiz, although the site chosen was without water,
and so sterile that the Indians had never lived on it. Toward the end
of the sixteenth century the pearl fishery in these parts diminished
rapidly, and in the early part of the century following, the industry,
according to Laet, had died out altogether, and the islands of Coche
and Cubagua fell into oblivion. But while it lasted, sad to say,
it meant untold misery for the thousands of Indian and Negro slaves
who were forced, at the sacrifice of their health and often of their
lives, to enrich their cruel masters by work that was almost as fatal
as that in the mines of Española.

For more than two hundred years the pearl fisheries in the waters
around these islands were practically abandoned. Even during the last
century comparatively little work was done to develop an industry
that, during the sixteenth century, contributed so much to the
coffers of Spain. About the year 1900, however, a French company
secured a concession from Venezuela to fish in the neighborhood of
these islands. According to agreement, it is to pay the government
ten per cent. royalty, and to employ divers and diving apparatus so
as to select only the larger oysters and avoid the destruction of
those that are immature.

From the estimates available, about $600,000 worth of pearls are
annually sent to the Paris market from Margarita. While a large
proportion of them are cracked and of poor color, there are,
nevertheless, many of the finest orient, and these find ready
purchasers. As for ourselves, we saw few of large size, and none of
great value. Even in Caracas, where we made diligent inquiry about
them, we did not find a single one from these waters that would
attract attention for either size or lustre. [47]

The weather could not have been more delightful than it was during
our all too brief cruise among these islands around which at one time,
as has been truly remarked, "all the wonder, all the pity and all the
greed of the age had concentrated itself." They are now shorn of all
their former glory, and there is little to indicate their pristine
importance. They are practically deserted, with the exception of
Margarita, which, on account of the arid and unproductive soil,
is but sparsely inhabited. And yet, as they lay clustered there on
the calm bosom of the Caribbean, without a ripple to disturb its
mirror-like surface, they possessed a certain undefinable beauty
that defied analysis. Besides, there was still hovering over and
around them the glamour of days long past, when they were visited
for the first time by the great Admiral of the Ocean Sea, and later
on, by Cristobal Guerra and Alonzo Niño, and by Francisco Orellana,
after his memorable voyage down the Amazon.

The sun was sloping down to his ocean bed--the air was glimmering with
a mellow light, as we drifted from these waters over which Merlin
seemed to wave his enchanting wand. As the orb of day touched the
distant horizon, and sank into the crimson mist that floated above
the placid sea, it assumed strange oval and pear-shaped figures that
grew larger in their waning splendor. The rainbow hues that steeped
in molten lustre the receding shores seemed to float on clouds from
spirit-land.

A scene it was to swell the tamest bosom, a fairy realm where Fancy
would


        "Bid the blue Tritons sound their twisted shells,
          And call the Nereids from their pearly cells."


Below us, beneath the dark depths of the crystal sea, illumined by
the lamps of the sea-nymphs, were living flower beds of coral, the
blooms and the palms of the ocean recesses, where the pearl lies hid,
and caves where the gem is sleeping, the gardens, fair and bewildering
in their richness and beauty, of Nereus and Amphitrite. It was indeed
such a scene as the poet has painted for us in these charming verses:--


        "Wherever you wander the sea is in sight,
        With its changeable turquoise green and blue,
        And its strange transparence of limpid light.
        You can watch the work that the Nereids do
        Down, down, where their purple fans unfurl,
        Planting their coral and sowing their pearl."



CHAPTER II

TRINIDAD AND THE ORINOCO


                                            "The battle's rage
                Was like the strife which currents wage,
                Where Orinoco, in his pride,
                Rolls to the main no tribute tide,
                But 'gainst broad ocean urges far
                A rival sea of roaring war;
                While in ten thousand eddies driven,
                The billows fling their foam to heaven,
                And the pilot seeks in vain,
                Where rolls the river, where the main." [48]

                                                            --Scott.


THE ISLAND OF THE BLESSED TRINITY

The morning following our departure from the Pearl Islands we were
delighted to find our good ship anchored in the beautiful Gulf of
Paria. Thus, almost before we were aware of it, we found ourselves
reposing on the waters of the famed Orinoco which we had made such
futile efforts to reach from Caracas and Victoria. The Gulf of Paria,
as is known, is just north of several of the largest estuaries of the
Orinoco and the line of demarcation between the salt water of the
Atlantic and the fresh water of Venezuela's great river is usually
quite marked. As we entered the gulf, through the Dragon's Mouth,
we had the mainland on our starboard and the island of Trinidad on
our port quarter. Although the waters of the Orinoco now enter the
Atlantic through two channels--the Boca del Draco and the Boca de la
Sierpe--there is no doubt that Trinidad was in recent geological times
a part of the mainland of South America and that the Orinoco, instead
of reaching the ocean, as it now does, flowed almost directly across
the island through a depression which is still quite conspicuous. It
will thus be seen that during long geologic ages there has been an
intimate physical connection between Trinidad and the Orinoco as
there has been a close commercial connection between the two ever
since the Spanish conquest.

Owing to the shallow waters of the harbor of the Port-of-Spain,
the capital of Trinidad, our steamer had to anchor about a mile from
the quay. When we were prepared to go ashore--and we lost no time in
getting ready--we were surrounded by a motley crowd of sable, shouting,
importunate boatmen, all clamoring and gesticulating and sounding the
praises of their canoes, and calling attention to their fantastic
names, as if this were a guarantee of their safety and comfort. In
a few moments we were seated in one of these gayly decked craft,
with our baggage beside us, on our way to the customhouse. Here we
were delayed only a few minutes, for the English in their colonies,
as in the mother country, rarely subject the traveler to those
delays and annoyances that constitute so disagreeable a feature in
certain other countries. "What a contrast," we said to ourselves,
"between the conduct of the officials here and that of the officious
inquisitors at La Guayra!"

After we had been comfortably located in our hotel--there are several
good hotels in the city--our first thought was about our journey up
the Orinoco. To our great delight we learned that there would be a
steamer going to Ciudad Bolivar in about a week. This accorded with
our plans perfectly, as we thus had ample time to visit the chief
points of interest--and there are many--of the island, and enjoy at
least a passing view of the wonderful and varied floral display for
which Trinidad is so famous.

Trinidad, as the reader will recollect, was discovered by Columbus
during his third voyage, and given the name it still bears in honor
of the Blessed Trinity. In his letter to Ferdinand and Isabella,
describing this voyage, he says he started from San Lucar in the
name of the most Holy Trinity, and after two months at sea, during a
portion of which time all aboard suffered intensely from the heat,
[49] they saw to the westward three mountain peaks, united at the
base, rising up before them. Here, then, was to them the symbol of the
Triune God--the Three in One--in whose name all had left their native
land, and what more natural than that it should be named Trinidad--the
Trinity? "Upon this," writes the pious admiral, "we repeated the 'Salve
Regina,' and other prayers, and all of us gave thanks to our Lord."

What a grateful change it was from the extreme heat which they
had endured, to the delightful climate of the newly discovered
island. "When I reached the island of Trinidad," I again quote from
the Admiral's letter, "I found the temperature exceedingly mild;
the fields and the foliage were remarkably fresh and green, and as
beautiful as the gardens of Valencia in April." [50]

What so deeply impressed Columbus on his arrival at Trinidad was what
likewise most impresses the visitor to-day--its mild climate and the
beauty and luxuriance of its vegetation. Although the island is but
little more than 10° from the Equator the mean annual temperature
is not more than 77° F. In the mornings and evenings of the cooler
season the thermometer is about 10° lower. During our sojourn of some
weeks in Trinidad we never suffered from the heat. On the contrary,
during our morning and evening drives, especially in the mountains,
we found the ocean breeze delightfully refreshing.

Columbus was also much impressed by the natives of the island. They
had a whiter skin--he had expected to find them very black--than any
he had hitherto seen in the Indies and were very graceful in form,
tall and elegant in their movements.

With the exception of a few scattered families, of more or less mixed
descent, the visitor will find no evidence of the former existence
here of that splendid type of Indian of whom the great navigator
speaks so highly, and of whose race there were then on the island many
thousands of souls. Here, as on the other islands of the West Indies,
the aborigines have disappeared, never to return.

In their place we find the most cosmopolitan agglomeration of
people under the sun--English, Germans, Spaniards, French, Chinese,
Hindoos, and Negroes from the darkest Senegambian to the fairest
Octaroon. About one-half of the population is composed of Negroes,
one-third of Coolies, and one-sixth of whites of various nationalities
and shades of color. As we contemplated the motley crowds which always
throng the streets of the Port-of-Spain we could not but recall Lopez
de Gomara's curious reflections on the divers colors of the different
races of men. We give his remarks in Richard Eden's translation:

"One of the marueylous thynges that god ... vseth in the composition
of man, is coloure; whiche doubtlesse can not bee consydered withowte
great admiration in beholding one to be white and an other blacke,
beinge coloures vtterlye contrary. Sum lykewyse to be yelowe whiche
is betwene blacke and white; and other of other colours as it were
of dyuers liueres. And as these colours are to be marueyled at,
euen so is it to be considered howe they dyffer one from an other
as it were by degrees, forasmuche as sum men are whyte after dyuers
sortes of whytnesse: yelowe after dyuers maners of yelowe: blacke
after dyuers sortes of blacknesse: and howe from whyte they go to
yelowe by ... discolourygne to browne and redde: and to blacke by
asshe colour, and murrey sumwhat lyghter then blacke: and tawnye lyke
vnto the west Indian which are all togyther in general eyther purple,
or tawny lyke vnto sodde quynses, or of the colour of chestnuttes or
olyues: which colour is to them natural and not by theyr goynge naked
as many haue thought: albeit theyr nakednesse haue sumwhat helped
thereunto. Therfore in lyke maner and with suche diuersitie as men
are commonly whyte in Europe and blacke in Affrike, euen with like
varietie are they tawny in these Indies, with diuers degrees diuersly
inclynynge more or lesse to blacke or whyte." [51]

The Coolies interested us immensely, in whatever part of the island
we met them--and they are to be seen everywhere--and were for us the
subject-matter of constant study. They occupy an entire suburb of the
Port-of-Spain, and, for those who are interested in sociological and
economic questions, no place is more worthy of a visit. Day after day,
when the delicious evening breezes began to sweep in from the ocean,
we found ourselves directing our course towards the "Indian Quarter,"
as it is called, and we always found something new to arrest our
attention or excite our admiration. It required no effort whatever of
the imagination to fancy ourselves in the crowded streets and markets
of Benares or Madras.

Port-of-Spain, whose population is about 50,000, rejoices in quite
a number of large and handsome public buildings and churches. Among
the latter the Roman Catholic Cathedral is conspicuous. The homes
of the people in the better quarters of the city--surrounded by a
rich profusion of tropical flowers, and shrubs and trees covered with
blooming climbers--are frequently models of architectural excellence,
and betoken refinement, comfort and even affluence.

To us the most attractive part of the city was the Botanical Garden,
adjoining the residence of the governor. This spot is justly famous
not only in the West Indies, but the world over. Here have been
collected from every tropical clime all the plants and shrubs and
trees that are admired, for beauty of bloom, richness of fragrance,
or grace and majesty of form.

Here we see the hibiscus shrub, with large, flaming, crimson flowers;
the poinciana, aglow with a bloom of yellow and orange, scarlet
flowered balisiers, and the poui tree decked with a rich robe of
saffron. Alongside them are oranges and lemons, pineapples, guavas,
mongosteens, nutmegs, tamarinds, and scores of other kinds of tropical
fruits. A little further on we meet with tea shrubs, the clove and
the cinnamon tree, the rubber tree, and the Bertolettia excelsa, laden
with nuts, each of which contains from ten to twenty seeds. Then there
are the curious cannon-ball tree, stately samans, the leopardwood
tree, the trumpet tree and others equally attractive. Besides all
these there are those princes of the forest--the palms--from every
quarter of the tropics, with every variety of trunk and leaf--date,
fern, talipot, Palmyra, and groo-groo palms, the tall traveler's-tree
with its graceful plantain-like leaves, and the Oreodoxa speciosa,
"the glory of the mountains." On and among them are rare orchids,
and parasites of countless species, climbing ferns, and convolvuluses
of every hue.

And to complete this scene of beauty, we behold at almost every step,
fluttering across our path, brilliant heliconias and other butterflies
that contribute such life and charm to the forest glories of tropical
lands. And then the humming birds--those lovely animated gems that
flit from bush to bush, and flower to flower--flashing all the fire
of the opal, and emitting in rapid succession all the brilliant hues
of the topaz and the sapphire, the ruby and the emerald. They are
not as numerous now--more is the pity--as they were formerly, when
the aborigines gave the name Iere--humming bird--to this island on
account of their great numbers and when they protected and venerated
them as the souls of departed Indians. But one still meets them in
one's strolls through the gardens and the forest, and always with a
new sense of wonder and delight.

Here, of a truth, were realized, nay, eclipsed, all the marvels of
the garden of Alcinous, for here


                                        "There was still
        Fruit in his proper season all the year.
        Sweet Zephyr breath'd upon them blasts that were
        Of varied tempers. These he made to bear
        Ripe fruits, these blossoms. Time made never rape
        Of any dainty there." [52]


It is, indeed, worth a visit from afar to see and study these marvels
of plant and vine, and bush and tree of the Botanic Garden. But the
whole island is, at least for the stranger from the North, one vast
botanic garden. Go where we will, we are astonished and bewildered
by the novelty and the exuberance of the vegetation that surrounds us.

If we drive over the broad and well-kept roads along the western
coast, we pass under shady avenues of cocoa palms bending under
their burden of fruit. If we go to the cacao groves--and they are
large and numerous here--our eyes are gladdened by the vermilion
bloom that covers the protecting Erythrina umbrosa. [53] In a glen
hard by is a giant ceiba, transformed, by the countless number of
creepers and epiphytes to which it has given hospitality, into a
vast air-garden. Along the streams and mountain torrents are lovely
canopies formed by the plume-like foliage of bamboos--seventy to eighty
feet high--affording retreats of rarest sylvan beauty. Again it is in
the Rosa del Monte, with its crimson bloom, the purple dracona, the
yellow croton, the night-blooming cereus, the angelim, covered with
purple tassels, the carmine poinsettia, the sweet-scented vanilla,
festoons of purple flowered lianas, and gray candelabra of a giant
cereus. Beyond it all, as a felicitous background to this gorgeous
display and at the same time an adequate enclosure for Flora's fairy
palace, there is such a profusion of vegetable tracery and arabesques
"as would have stricken dumb with awe and delight him who ornamented
the Loggie of the Vatican."

Further on we have the comely bread-fruit tree, with its deeply-lobed
leaves and its massive fruit, the many-rooted and many-branched
mangrove, [54] and not far distant is a clump of royal palms, with
their smooth pearl-gray columns and coronals of verdure. Or there is a
group of kindred growth--jagua palms--whose crown of pinnated leaves,
each full twenty-five feet long, caused Humboldt to declare that
on this truly magnificent tree "Nature had lavished every beauty of
form." While standing by one of the pillar-stems of the jagua palm,
beneath its emerald ostrich plumes, we were quite prepared to share
Kingsley's enthusiasm for palm trees in general. "Like a Greek statue
in a luxurious drawing-room," he writes, "sharp-cut, cold, virginal;
shaming by the grandeur of mere form the voluptuousness of mere color,
however rich and harmonious; so stands the palm of the forest; to be
worshipped rather than to be loved." [55]

It would tire the reader to attempt a description of the many pictures
of interest of this charming island, of its delightful drives in
every direction, of its beauteous cascades and waterfalls, one of
which, Maracas Falls, three hundred feet in height, is a reproduction
of Bridal Falls in the Yosemite, with the added setting of tropical
verdure. No pen can picture the exquisite charm of the Caura or Maraval
valleys, of Blue Basin and Macaripe Bay, or of the Five Islands--real
gems of the ocean--with their cozy and inviting cottages. When in
Egypt years ago we fancied that we should like to spend the rest of
our days on the island of Philæ, ever in the presence of its matchless
ruins. When we spent a happy day--how fleeting it was--on one of these
five islands--it was the largest and fairest--we felt that we had at
length found that inland home--far away from noise and strife, from


        "Fever and fret and aimless stir"


of which we had so often dreamed, and in which we had so often longed
to dwell.

The people of Trinidad think their island the most beautiful of all
the West Indian group. Having visited, at one time or other, all the
chief islands comprising the Greater and Lesser Antilles, we should
hesitate to dispute their claim. It is certainly very beautiful,
and possesses many attractions that are either entirely absent from
the other islands or are found only in a lesser degree. Puerto Rico
and Jamaica equal it in many respects, and in others surpass it,
but in some important features the American possession is inferior
to those of the British.

I have said nothing of La Brea, the wonderful pitch lake for which
Trinidad has been celebrated since the time of Raleigh, [56] and
which for some decades past has supplied us with much of the asphalt
used in the United States. This curious phenomenon has been described
so often that there is no call for further comment. Suffice to say
that it, together with the sugar plantations and the cacao groves,
constitutes the chief source of the revenue of the island.

Like Curaçao, Trinidad is a favorite resort of Venezuelan
revolutionists, expatriated generals and colonels and their
sympathizers. As a rule, they are an impecunious set, and rarely
interesting. Crespo and Guzman Blanco both started from here on their
way to the presidential chair in Caracas. So did the unfortunate
Paredes, shortly before our arrival in Venezuela, but he had scarcely
set foot on the soil of his native country, which he had promised to
liberate from the evils of Castroism, before he, with his followers,
was shot down in cold blood.

On account of its proximity to the mainland and commanding,
as it does, the entire Orinoco basin, Trinidad should enjoy an
extensive trade with Venezuela. And this she would undoubtedly
have were it not that Venezuela imposes an extra ad valorem duty
of thirty per cent. on all merchandise that comes from or by way of
Trinidad. This is in retaliation for the island's harboring smugglers
and revolutionists. One of the results of this policy is smuggling
on a most extensive scale, at which many of the customs officials
connive. This means a great loss to the Venezuelan government, for
it is estimated that it thus loses a greater part of the duties that
should go to the national treasury.

Another temptation to smuggle arises from the excessively high tariff
on certain necessary articles of consumption. Thus salt, which is a
government monopoly, costs sixteen times as much in Ciudad Bolivar
as it does in Trinidad. The natural consequence is that there is a
large contraband traffic in this important commodity. In some cases
the smugglers elude the vigilance of the government officials and
pay nothing whatever in the way of duties. In others they have an
understanding with the officials, and pay por composicion--that is,
only a portion of the tax--the other portion being divided between
the official and the smuggler.

Contraband trade, however, is nothing new in this part of the world. It
dates back to the sixteenth century when, according to Fray Padre
Simon, the learned author of Noticias Historiales de las Conquistas de
Tierra Firme, religion and policy prohibited all commercial relations
between Spaniards and foreigners, especially the Dutch and the English.

As an obiter dictum, however, it may be remarked that it was this
restricted and short-sighted trade policy that, more than anything
else, led to the enormous losses that Spain suffered during so many
decades from corsairs and buccaneers, and that eventually resulted
in the wars of independence in the Spanish colonies of the New World.



THE DELTA OF THE ORINOCO

We were still reveling in the countless beauties of forest and
field--quite oblivious of the passage of time--when we were informed
that our steamer would, in a few hours, start for Ciudad Bolivar,
the chief city on the Orinoco, and distant about two days' sail from
the Port-of-Spain.

Eager as we were to explore the wonders of the famed and mysterious
Orinoco, it was with great reluctance that we tore ourselves away
from the cherished home of flowers and humming birds--sweet Iere. In
Trinidad, thanks to the kind and considerate hospitality of its
people, we had enjoyed all the comforts of home and the same freedom
of movement as if we had been given the keys of the city.

Our steamer was scheduled to leave at two o'clock in the afternoon,
but, as a matter of fact, did not weigh anchor until some hours
later. This, however, we did not regret, as it gave us an opportunity
to have "one last lingering look" at the island beautiful from the
upper deck of the vessel. Besides this, we could by means of our
field glasses take a survey of the Gulf of Paria--for it is famous
in history, this Gulf of Paria--and has been visited by men whose
names are writ large in the annals of the world's heroes.

Its waters were visited in 1805 by England's one-eyed, one-armed
sailor-man, while in pursuit of the French and Spanish warships which
he had chased from Gibraltar to the Caribbean Sea and thence back
to Trafalgar, where Spain lost its navy and England her greatest
admiral. "Had Nelson found the hostile squadron under the lee of
Trinidad, the delta of the Orinoco would now be as famous in naval
history as the delta of the Nile."

It is, however, the imposing figure of Spain's great admiral, Cristobal
Colon, that looms highest in these parts. He it was that gave the
chief promontories of island and mainland, and the channels that
separate the one from the other, many of the names they still bear.

Far down to the south is La Boca de la Sierpe--the Serpent's Mouth--the
channel that separates the southwesternmost point of Trinidad from
Venezuela. It was through this channel that Columbus passed when he
entered the gulf in which we now are, and from which he got his first
view of the mainland of the New World. But he did not realize at first
the magnitude of his discovery. Thinking the land he saw on his port
quarter was an island--for during his two preceding voyages he had
seen nothing but islands, outside of Cuba, which he fancied to be the
eastern part of Asia--he named it Isla Santa, or Holy Island. A short
distance to the northwest of us is La Boca del Draco, the Dragon's
Mouth, through which the great navigator


        "Push'd his prows into the setting sun,
        And made West East."


The names Serpent's Mouth and Dragon's Mouth were given to the two
straits mentioned on account of the strong currents found there and
on account of the danger Columbus experienced in taking his ships
through them. His letter to Ferdinand and Isabella contains a graphic
description of the dangers he encountered while passing through the
Serpent's Mouth. "In the dead of night," he writes, "while I was
on deck, I heard an awful roaring, that came from the south, toward
the ship; on the top of this rolling sea came a mighty wave roaring
with a frightful noise, and with all this terrific uproar were other
conflicting currents, producing, as I have already said, a sound as
of breakers upon rocks. To this day I have a vivid recollection of
the dread I then felt lest the ship might flounder under the force of
that tremendous sea; but it passed by, and reached the mouth of the
before-mentioned passage, where the uproar lasted for a considerable
time." [57] He had similar difficulty in making his exit through the
Dragon's Mouth.

No wonder that the frightened sailors of Columbus imagined that they
were the sport of the Evil One. "Being in the region of Paria," writes
Navarrete, "the Admiral asked the pilots what they made their position
to be; some said that they were in the sea of Spain, others that they
were in the sea of Scotland, and that all the seamen were in despair,
and said the Devil had brought them there." [58]

Columbus, as has been stated, at first considered the land on his
port side to be insular in character, but before he left the Gulf of
Paria he was evidently convinced by the raging surges of fresh water
that had nearly swamped his ships, that he had discovered a land of
continental dimensions. In his letter to the Spanish sovereigns he
writes, "This land, which your highnesses have sent me to explore,
is very extensive, and I think there are many other countries in the
south of which the world has never had any knowledge."

He had observed that a very large river debouched from the land of
Gracia and he at once "rightly conjectured that the currents and the
overwhelming mountains of water which rushed into these straits with
such an awful roaring, arose from the contest between the fresh water
and the sea. The fresh water struggled with the salt to oppose its
entrance and the salt water contended against the fresh in its efforts
to gain a passage outward. And I formed the conjecture, that at one
time there was a continuous neck of land from the island of Trinidad
and the land of Gracia, where the two straits now are." All these
conclusions have been confirmed by the observations of subsequent
explorers.

What, however, will most interest the curious reader are the
speculations into which Columbus was led by the various phenomena
observed in the Gulf of Paria. The most fantastic, from our modern
point of view, were his theories regarding the form of the earth and
the location of the Terrestrial Paradise.

Before his arrival in the Gulf of Paria, he had been a firm believer
in the sphericity of the earth, but in this part of the world he had
observed so many new and unexpected features--"so much irregularity,"
as he phrased it--that he came "to another conclusion respecting the
shape of the earth, namely: that it is not round, as they describe,
but of the form of a pear, which is very round except where the stalk
grows, at which part it is most prominent."

It is very easy for us, in the light of all the advance in
scientific knowledge since his time, to smile at his hypotheses,
and the reasonings by which he arrived at his conclusions. What
seemed plausible then appears preposterous now. But we must remember
that the proofs of the rotundity of the earth before his time were
quite empirical, and were far from having the demonstrative force
of those that are now adduced. All the epoch-making work in physics
and astronomy by such men as Galileo and Kepler, Newton and Laplace,
Huyghens and Foucault, and the French academicians, bearing on the form
of our globe, has been accomplished since his time. If we now know that
the earth has the form of an oblate spheroid and not that of a pear, it
is in consequence of the progress of physical astronomy during the four
centuries that have elapsed since Columbus sailed the western seas.

Before his time the learned had located the earthly paradise in
various parts of the eastern hemisphere. Some contended that it was
in Mesopotamia, others that it was in Ethiopia near the head waters
of the Nile, but all agreed that it was somewhere in the East. Now
Columbus, who imagined he had reached the eastern part of Asia, by
sailing westwards from Spain, thought he had incontrovertible evidence
for locating the Garden of Eden in the newly discovered land of Gracia.

"I do not suppose," he writes, "that the Earthly Paradise is in
the form of a rugged mountain, as the descriptions of it have made
it appear, but that it in on the summit of the spot which I have
described as being in the form of the stalk of a pear; the approach
of it from a distance must be by a constant and gradual ascent; but
I believe that, as I have already said, no one could ever reach the
top"--except "by God's permission," as he asserts elsewhere. "I think
also that the water I have described may proceed from it, though it
be far off, and that, stopping at the place which I have just left,
it forms this lake. There are great indications of this being the
Terrestrial Paradise, for its site coincides with the opinions of
the holy and wise theologians whom I have mentioned; and moreover,
the other evidences agree with the supposition, for I have never
either read or heard of fresh water coming in so large a quantity,
in closer conjunction with the sea. The idea is also corroborated by
the blandness of the temperature, and if the water of which I speak
does not proceed from the Earthly Paradise, it appears to be still
more marvelous, for I do not believe there is any river in the world
so large or so deep." [59]

Besides Nelson and Columbus, a third celebrated seaman visited this
part of the world. This was Sir Walter Raleigh, of whom we shall have
more to say as we proceed. [60]

Our parting view of the forest-clad mountains of Trinidad we shall
never forget. The sun was setting on the mainland--the land of Gracia
of Columbus--but before disappearing below the horizon he tinged
Iere's mountains with a parting smile and enveloped them in a


        "--soft and purple mist
        Like a vaporous amethyst;"


reminding one of the azure haze that veils Hymettus as the sun sinks
behind Parnassus in an evening in June--something that only the gifted
Greek poet has ever been able adequately to describe.

The shades of night had fallen long before we reached the Serpent's
Mouth, which we were obliged to pass before entering the Macareo, one
of the numerous channels of the Orinoco delta. We were thus deprived
of the opportunity of getting a good view of the huge billows that
are produced by the meeting of river and sea, of which Columbus has
given us so graphic a description.

Those of the passengers that were disposed to become seasick retired
to their staterooms before we arrived at the Macareo bar, where the sea
is roughest, and where the ground-swells are most unpleasant. For half
an hour or more the steamer tossed considerably, reminding one of the
English Channel in stormy weather. But the impact of surge against
surge, of which Columbus speaks, was much less than we had been
led to anticipate, and there was little indication of the forcible
eddies of the "violentlie swift Orinoco," which caused Raleigh so
much embarrassment.

This was easily accounted for, as the rainy season had not yet
set in, and the waters at the various estuaries were, therefore,
comparatively little agitated. Columbus, however, arrived here
towards the end of the rainy season, when the floods of the Orinoco
were at their height, while Raleigh came after the rainy season was
quite well advanced. Again, ours was a fairly good-sized steamer and
better adapted to stem wave and current than were the fragile barks
of Columbus, or the frail wherries and cock-boats of Raleigh. When the
floods of the Orinoco were at high-water mark, we can well understand
that the early navigators had reason to be deeply impressed by the
dangers that confronted them in these seething and roaring waters,
and that, to their exalted imaginations, the realities of their
surroundings were in nowise short of the fancies of the poet as
indicated in the verses at the head of this chapter. Indeed, so great
were the supposed difficulties, and so dangerous the climate in these
parts, that sailors were wont to say,


        "Quien se va al Orinoco,
        Si no se muere, se vuelve loco." [61]


When it comes to navigating the less known rivers and
caños--channels--which, like a network, intersect the delta in every
direction, the difficulty and danger are even now so great that the
most skilled Indian pilots often become bewildered. When this occurs
nothing remains but to follow the current until one reaches the gulf,
and then enter a branch with which one is familiar. Sir Walter gives
such a graphic account of the difficulties he experienced in reaching
"the great riuer Orenoque," that I reproduce in his own words a part
of a paragraph bearing on the subject.

After telling us how his Indian pilot had gotten lost in the maze
of caños through which he was trying to grope his way, he says:
"If God had not sent vs another helpe we might haue wandred a whole
yeere in that laborinth of riuers, ere we had found any way, either
out or in, especiallie after we were past the ebbing and flowing,
which was in fower daies: for I know all the earth doth not yeeld
the like confluence of streames and branches, the one crossing the
other as many times, and all as faire and large and so like one to
another, as no man can tell which to take: and if we went by the Sun
or compasse hoping thereby to go directly one way or other, yet that
waie we were also carried in a circle amongst multitudes of Islands,
and euery Island so bordered with high trees as no man could see any
further than the bredth of the riuer, or length of the breach." [62]

Exaggerated as this account seems, it does scant justice to the
reality. Raleigh had no opportunity to explore the delta, and to
acquire definite notions of its immensity, or he would have had
much more to add to the foregoing description of its extent and
marvels. Even to-day we have no map of this region, which is, in
many respects, as unknown as the least explored part of Central
Africa. As yet our knowledge of land and river is limited only to
its most salient features, but this is quite sufficient to excite our
wonder. Suffice it to say that the area of the delta is greater than
that of Sicily; that its base, from its main branch at the Boca de
Navios to the embouchure of the Manamo, is nearly two hundred miles
in length; that the Orinoco, at the bifurcation of its two principal
branches, is twelves miles in width; that there are no fewer than fifty
branches conveying the waters of the mighty river into the Atlantic;
that the lowlands of the delta are divided into thousands of islands,
and islets, by a network of rivers diverging in fan-shape towards the
sea, and by innumerable caños and bayous, some with stagnant water,
others with strong currents, ramifying in every direction in straight
lines and in curves, so that escape from their intricacies by any one,
except an experienced pilot, would be as impossible as would have
been an exit from the Cretan labyrinth without the clew of Ariadne.

When we arose the morning after leaving Trinidad, our steamer had
already advanced quite a distance on its way through the Macareo. This
brazo, or branch, is chosen not because it is the largest or the
deepest, but because it affords the shortest and most direct route
between the Port-of-Spain and Ciudad Bolivar. Although the distance to
this latter place from the mouth of the Macareo is only two hundred
and sixty miles, it usually required nearly two days, counting the
stops on the way, for the trip up the river, so strong is the current
The return trip, however, can be made in much less time.

We shall never forget our first view of the Orinoco and of the
impressions we then received. Was it that we were at last sailing in
the placid waters of the one river of all the world that we had from
our youth most yearned to behold, or was it that we had been dreaming
of the site and beauties of the Terrestrial Paradise, as fancied by
Columbus to exist in these parts, or was it because of both these
elements combined? We know not, but one thing is certain, and that
is that our first view of the Orinoco and its forest-shaded banks,
festooned with vines and flowers, recalled at once those musical
words of Dante,


        "Sweet hue of eastern sapphire, that was spread
        O'er the serene aspect of the pure air,
        High up as the first circle, to mine eyes
        Unwonted joy renewed." [63]


and brought vividly back to memory his inimitable description of
his entrance into the Garden of Eden, where he was to meet again his
long-lost Beatrice.

To emphasize the illusion, there suddenly appeared under a noble
moriche palm on the flower-enameled bank of the river and only a few
rods from where we were standing, two children of the forest--a young
man and a young woman--bride and groom, we loved to think--who were
as Columbus found the American, as Adam and Eve were after the fall,
when, in the words of Milton,


                                  "Those leaves
        They gathered, broad as Amazonian targe,
        And with what skill they had, together sewed
        To gird their waist."


Handsome was the youth and beautiful was the maiden, strong as
Hiawatha, fair as Minnehaha--both fit models for sculptor and painter,
and such as the poet dreams of when depicting his heroes and heroines
of the forest primeval.

Were they the king and queen of their tribe? Fancy said, "Yes." But
whether they were or not, one could say with truth that the tan-colored
maid was like the one Raleigh met along this very same river and who,
in his own words, "was as well fauored and as well shaped as euer I
saw anie in England." [64]

Near this interesting young couple, both in the heyday of youth,
lay a cluster of plantains, which was doubtless to contribute to
their morning repast. But what a coincidence that, even in this
trifling circumstance, we should find an additional reminder of the
Earthly Paradise! Have not men of science named the plantain Musa
Paradisaica, in allusion to the tradition, which has long obtained,
that it was the plantain, and not the apple, that was the forbidden
fruit in Eden? [65] It was there to fill out the picture as an artist
in the tropics would wish to see it painted.

But there was still something wanting. While we were yet under the
spell of our environment, and lost in the contemplation of the Edenic
beauties around us, we were awakened from our reverie by a plunge and a
splash before the prow of our vessel--and there, greatest surprise of
all in our series of coincidences, was a giant anaconda, full thirty
feet long, vigorously plowing its way to the opposite bank of the
river. It was like the water-snakes in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.


        "Blue, glossy, green and velvet black,
        It coiled and swam,
        And when it reared, the elfish light
        Fell off in hoary flakes."


So startling was this strange apparition that we could scarcely
credit our senses, and, had it not been for exclamations of surprise
by several of the passengers near by, we should have thought, for a
while, that it was all a dream.

The picture was now complete. There was the serpent in this paradise
of delights, as in the paradise of our first parents. And what added
to the strangeness--the uncanniness--of the appearance of the serpent
at this particular juncture was the extraordinary rarity of such an
occurrence. One of the officers of the steamer told us that he had
been sailing up and down the Orinoco for twenty years and had never
seen one of these boas before. And more wonderful still, it was the
first and last we ourselves saw, although we subsequently traveled
many thousands of miles on tropical rivers along which such serpents
have their habitat. [66]

All in all, our first view of the Orinoco fully met our fondest
expectations so far as they related to variety and exuberance of
vegetation and beauty of scenery. The entire delta of the Orinoco
may aptly be described as one of Nature's choicest conservatories,
in which Flora has collected together the fairest growths of garden
and forest, and where the charm of foliage and flower is enhanced by
the presence of countless species of the feathered tribe of richest
plumage and of dazzling hue.

A distinguished German traveler, Friedrich Gerstäcker, writing of his
impressions of the delta of the Orinoco, does not hesitate to declare
that "there is not in the world anything more glorious in vegetation
than is to be seen on the banks of the Orinoco," and that there is
no place more attractive to the tourist. [67]

To form some conception of the wonderful variety of vegetable life
to be seen in the delta, it will suffice to observe that a third of
a century ago botanists had counted in the forests of Guiana no fewer
than 132 families of plants, 772 genera and 2,450 distinct species. Of
the genera more than sixty were indigenous.

Although we saw many things in the delta of the Orinoco that
possessed intense interest for us, we saw none of the natives living
in houses built on the summits of trees, about which some recent
writers, following Raleigh, Humboldt and others, still entertain
their readers. To tell the truth, we did not expect to find such
dwellings, as it has been demonstrated beyond question that they do
not now exist, and probably never did exist in these parts outside
of the fertile imaginations of Raleigh and Gumilla. Humboldt never
visited the delta, and hence, what he says on the subject in Personal
Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions, is based on reports
received from others. [68]

Cardinal Bembo, writing in the first half of the sixteenth century,
speaks of them, and Benzoni, his contemporary, who spent fifteen years
in traveling in the New World, illustrates by an engraving what he
has to say about the Indian houses built on the tops of trees. [69]

Ferdinand Columbus, who, although a mere youth, had accompanied his
father on his fourth voyage, writes, that when in the Gulf of Uraba,
"We saw people living like birds in the tops of trees, laying sticks
across from bough to bough, and building their huts upon them; and
though we knew not the reason of the custom, we guessed that it was
done for fear of their enemies, or of the griffins that are in this
island." [70]

Peter Martyr, who most likely got his information about these strange
dwellings from Ferdinand Columbus, tells us that the trees on which
they were built were of "suche heighth, that the strength of no mane's
arme is able to hurle a stone to the houses buylded therein." He adds,
however, that the owners of the houses have "theyr wyne cellers in
the grounde and well replenysshed." And he vouchsafes the reason for
not keeping the wine, with "all other necessayre thinges they haue,
with theym in the trees. For albeit that the vehemencie of the wynde,
is not of poure to caste downe those houses, or to breeke the branches
of the trees, yet are they tossed therwith, and swaye sumwhat from
syde to syde, by reason therof, the wyne shulde be muche troubeled
with moouinge.... When the Kynge or any of the other noblemen, dyne or
suppe in these trees, theyr wynes are brought theym from the celleres
by theyr seruantes, whyche by meanes of exercise are accustomed with
noo lesse celeritie to runne vppe and downe the steares adherete to
the tree, then doo owre waytynge boyes vppon the playne grounde, fetche
vs what wee caule for from the cobbarde bysyde owr dynynge table."

As to the size of the trees the same writer avers, "Owr men measuringe
manye of these trees, founde them to bee of suche biggnes, that seuen
men, ye sumetymes eight, holdinge hande in hande with theyr armes
streached furthe, were scarcely able to fathame them aboute." [71]

Raleigh had evidently read some of these accounts about people living
on tree tops, but not satisfied with the Munchausen tales of his
predecessors, he proceeds to entertain his readers with stories as
marvelous as those of Sindbad the Sailor.

Writing of the Indians of the delta, he says: "In the winter they
dwell vpon the trees, where they build very artificiall towns, and
villages, ... for between May and September, the riuer Orenoke riseth
thirtie foote vpright, and then are those Ilands ouerflowen twentie
foote high aboue the leuell of the ground, sauing some few raised
grounds in the middle of them.... They neuer eate of anie thing that
is set or sowen, and as at home they vse neither planting nor other
manurance, so when they com abroad the refuse to feede of ought but
of that which nature without labor bringeth foorth." [72]

Of the Waraus, the Indians who inhabit the delta, the missionary, Padre
Gumilla, writes that when their islands are periodically inundated
by the rise of the Orinoco, they erect their huts on piles--not on
trees, as Raleigh states--above the water. Furthermore, he tells us
that these huts are made of the moriche palm, which grows abundantly
in these islands, and are covered with the leaves of it. From the
fibres of the leaf, they make their hammocks and their cords for
fishing and for bowstrings.

Around the pulpy shoot that ascends from the trunks is a web-like
integument that serves them for the slight covering they wear. On
the productions of this tree, also, they entirely subsist. The pulpy
shoot is eaten as cabbage, and the tree bears a fruit like the date,
but somewhat larger. When the inundation ceases, the tree is cut down,
and being perforated, a palatable juice exudes, from which they make
a drink. The interior substance of it is then taken out and thrown
into vessels of water and well washed and the ligneous fibres being
removed, a white sediment is deposited, which, dried in the sun,
is made into a very wholesome bread. [73]

Accepting the foregoing statements as true, Humboldt philosophizes as
follows: "It is curious to observe in the lowest degree of civilization
the existence of a whole tribe depending on a single species of palm
tree, similar to those insects which feed on one and the same flower,
or on one and the same part of a plant." [74]

Yet, notwithstanding all that has been written about the Indians of
the Orinoco delta living on the tops of trees, and depending on only
the moriche palm for food and raiment, it is certain that they do not
do so now, and it is almost equally certain that they have never done
so in the past. Truth to tell, these stories seem to repose on little
better foundation than those so long circulated and credited regarding
Lake Parime, and the great city of Manoa--the home of El Dorado.

Raleigh had no time or opportunity to explore the delta, and there is
reason to believe that in this, as in other matters, he gave free reign
to his fancy to satisfy his reader's desire for the marvelous. Gumilla,
apparently, got his information regarding these particular subjects
at secondhand. He spent many years on the middle Orinoco and some of
its affluents, but there is no evidence that he was ever in a position
to verify the stories so long current regarding the manner of living
of the inhabitants of the delta.

The fact is, no one, so far as known, ever made any attempt to explore
the interior of the delta until more than two centuries after Raleigh's
time and until nearly a half century after Humboldt's visit to the
valley of the Orinoco. As a consequence, all that had been reported by
earlier writers was exaggeration and guesswork, if not pure invention.

Sir Robert Schomburgk, who, as Her Majesty's commissioner to survey
the boundaries of British Guiana, explored the delta in 1841--and
some months of his sojourn there was during the rainy season--states
explicitly, that not in a single instance did he find Indians dwelling
on trees. "We can well suppose that the numerous fires which were
made in each hut, and the reflection of which was the stronger in
consequence of the stream of vapor around the summit of trees in
those moist regions, illuminated at night the adjacent trees; but
the fire itself was scarcely ever made on the top of a tree. The
inundation rises at the delta seldom higher than three or four feet
above the banks of the rivers;"--not twenty or thirty feet, as Raleigh
asserts--"and if the immediate neighborhood of the sea and the level
nature of the land be considered, this is an enormous rise." [75]

Herr Appun, who visited the delta some years subsequently to
Schomburgk's sojourn there, declares, "I have lived more than a year
and a half among the Waraus of the Orinoco delta, and those of the
east coast of South America, from Cape Sabinetta to Cape Nassau, at
the mouth of the Pomeroon river in British Guiana, both during the
dry and the rainy season, and never have I beheld any of the aerial
dwellings that have been described." [76]

The one, however, who has most thoroughly explored the interior
of the delta is Sr. Andres E. Level, who spent several years among
the Waraus, or Guaraunos, as they are called by the Spaniards. His
investigations have completely exploded the false notions so long
entertained regarding the delta and its inhabitants. The land is not
all an impassable swamp. Much of it is so elevated above the river
that it is never reached by the high floods of the Orinoco.

Its soil is even more fertile than that of the Nile valley and produces
every tropical fruit and tree in the greatest profusion. Game is
abundant, and the Indians have extensive rancherias--plantations--which
supply them grain, fruits and vegetables of all kinds. In the rivers
near by they have the greatest variety of fish, besides turtle that
would be the delight of the epicure.

As the Waraus of the interior are a timid people and have long since
learned to distrust the white man, they remain, as a rule, concealed in
the depths of forests that are impassable. They are, however, a quiet,
industrious, home-loving people, and are famous among the tribes in
this section of Guiana for their beautiful curiaras, or canoes--made
from a single log of the cedar, or of a tree called Bioci. Some of
these dugouts--the monoxyla of the Greeks--are full fifty feet long
and from five to six feet broad and find a ready sale as far south
as Demerara.

Far from being a dismal swamp, inhabited only by poor, starving
savages, condemned to live on tree tops, and to find food and clothing
in a single palm, Sr. Level [77] shows us that the delta is a garden
of exceeding richness and that the Indians, if the government did
its duty towards them by developing the marvelous resources of their
land and by giving its inhabitants, so long neglected, some measure of
attention and assistance, would eventually make efficient contributors
to the national revenue, and become desirable citizens of the republic.



CHAPTER III

THE GREAT RIVER


"What a wide river!" was the exclamation of a fellow-passenger as
our steamer passed out of the Macareo and turned the apex of the
delta. It was, indeed, very wide, and the bank of the Orinoco on our
port-quarter was almost invisible. Here, even during the dry season,
this mighty water course is no less than four leagues in width. We
now, for the first time, fully realized that we were sailing on the
broad waters of one of the world's master rivers. After the Parana
and the Amazon, it is the largest waterway in South America, and,
for the volume of water it carries into the ocean, it ranks with the
Mississippi, the Congo, Yang-tse-Kiang, and the Brahmaputra. Well have
the natives of the lands through which it flows named it the Great
River--for it is great in every way--great in the immense basin it
drains; great in the tribute it carries to the ocean, and great in
the number and magnitude of the rivers it counts among its affluents
from the distant Cordilleras.

As along the Macareo, so here along the Orinoco, one never tires of
gazing at the magnificent forest trees and the dense shrubbery with
which the banks are fringed. At one time it is the wide-branched ceiba,
covered with bright-blooming epiphytes; at another a clump of graceful
moriche palms, whose tremulous plumes are given an added beauty by the
presence of a bevy of multicolored parrots and macaws. The foliage of
tree and shrub is here ever fresh and luxuriant and retains always
that delicate hue so characteristic of the leafage of our northern
woodlands in the early days of spring.

Most of the trees, large and small, are literally weighed down with
parasites and epiphytes. Among the latter growths are orchids of
countless variety and rarest beauty, such as are seldom seen in our
northern floral conservatories. And the way in which the trees are held
together by those strange forms of vegetable life--so abundant in the
tropics--the bejucos or bush ropes! Sometimes they are as thick as a
man's arm, sometimes they are like a ship's cable, sometimes they may
be mistaken for telegraph wires--so long and fine are they. They extend
from the ground to the tops of the highest trees, or drop from the
summits of the loftiest monarchs of the forest to the earth beneath,
sometimes singly, sometimes by scores. Then again they cross one
another from tree to tree and form a trelliswork that at times is next
to impassable. And these bejucos, or lianas, as they are also called,
are, like the trees, burdened with air-plants of various species,
at one time large masses of leaves, at another long spikes of the
richest blossoms.

At almost every turn the vision is delighted by lovely arboreal
groups and charming natural bowers, all graced with the most gorgeous
combinations of emerald foliage and ruby bloom--interspersed with
delicate tufts of lilac, pink and canary--and illumined by gleams of
flitting sunshine which bring out a glorious play of color effects
with which the eye is never tired. "A dryad's home," we heard an
enthusiastic señorita exclaim, as we passed one of these flower-decked
bowers, on which glittered the checkered sunlight. And so well it
might be, it was so rare a gem of sylvan loveliness.

While passing up this majestic river and admiring the ever-varying
panorama of rarest floral beauty, we recalled a couple of paragraphs
in Darwin's Journal of Researches, in which he refers to the futility
of attempting to describe, for one who has never visited the tropics,
the wonders of the scenery there and above all the marvels of the
vegetable world. He expresses himself as follows:

"Such are the elements of the scenery, but it is a hopeless attempt to
paint the general effect. Learned naturalists describe these scenes
of the tropics by naming a multitude of objects, and mentioning some
characteristic feature of each. To a learned traveler this possibly
may communicate some definite ideas; but who else from seeing a plant
in an herbarium can imagine its appearance when growing in its native
soil? Who from seeing choice plants in a hothouse, can magnify some
into the dimensions of forest trees, and crowd others into an entangled
jungle? Who, when examining in the cabinet of the entomologist the
gay exotic butterflies, and singular cicadas, will associate with
these lifeless objects, the ceaseless harsh music of the latter, and
the lazy flight of the former--the sure accompaniments of the still,
glowing noonday of the tropics? It is when the sun has attained its
greatest height, that such scenes should be viewed; then the dense,
splendid foliage of the mango hides the ground with its darkest
shade, whilst the upper branches are rendered, from the profusion
of light, of the most brilliant green. In the temperate zones the
case is different--the vegetation there is not so dark or so rich,
and hence the rays of the declining sun, tinged of a red, purple,
or bright yellow color, add most to the beauties of those climes.

"When quietly walking along the shady pathways, and admiring each
successive view, I wished to find language to express my ideas. Epithet
after epithet was found too weak to convey to those who have not
visited the intertropical regions, the sensation of delight which the
mind experiences. I have said that the plants in a hothouse fail to
communicate a just idea of the vegetation, yet I must recur to it. The
land is one great wild, untidy, luxuriant hothouse, made by Nature
for herself, but taken possession of by man, who has studded it with
gay houses and formal gardens. How great would be the desire in every
admirer of Nature to behold, if such were possible, the scenery of
another planet! yet to every person in Europe, it may be truly said,
that at the distance of only a few degrees from his native soil, the
glories of another world are opened to him. In my last walk I stopped
again and again to gaze on these beauties, and endeavored to fix in
my mind for ever, an impression which at the time I knew sooner or
later must fail. The form of the orange tree, the cocoa-nut, the palm,
the mango, the tree-fern, the banana, will remain clear and separate;
but the thousand beauties which unite these into one perfect scene
must fade away; yet they will leave, like a tale heard in childhood,
a picture full of indistinct, but most beautiful figures." [78]

While the flora of the Orinoco, near the apex of the delta, is so
varied and exuberant, but little is seen of its fauna, notwithstanding
all that has been said and written to the contrary. In a recent work,
for instance, written by one who pretends to have made the trip from
Trinidad, is a sentence that will equal any of the extravagances of
Jules Verne's Le Superbe Orénoque.

"The jaguar," says the author, "will stop drinking, or the tapir look
up from browsing on the grass, and the monkey pause in swinging from
tree to tree, as the boats hurry noisily by, while the drowsy alligator
or manatee floats lazily on, his head half out of the water, until
perhaps a conical bullet from a Winchester rifle or from a revolver,
which everyone carries, rouses him to a knowledge that it is not good
to trust too much to mankind."

It is quite safe to say that neither the author of the work quoted
nor any one else has ever seen a jaguar, or a tapir or a manatee
under the circumstances mentioned. They are all timid animals and
are never seen from the deck of noisy steamers.

Although we saw no quadrupeds like those just mentioned, there were
countless birds, large and small. Those that were most conspicuous
were ibises, flamingoes and herons of various species. So numerous at
times were the flamingoes that, to borrow an idea from Trowbridge,
the sunrise flame of their reflected forms actually crimsoned "the
glassy wave and glistening sands." Of the herons, the largest species
is named by the natives soldado--a soldier--so called both from
its size and the stately attitude it assumes, which, at a distance,
gives it the appearance of a sentry on duty.

A flock of these tall, white birds, seen feeding in an everglade in
Cuba was, during the second voyage of Columbus, taken for a party of
men clad in white tunics, and led the Admiral to believe that they
were inhabitants of Mangon, a province just south of Cathay. Indeed,
so striking is their resemblance to men posted as sentinels that,
according to Humboldt, "the inhabitants of Angostura, soon after the
foundation of their city, were one day alarmed by the sudden appearance
of soldados and garzas, on a mountain towards the south. They believed
they were menaced with an attack of Indios monteros, wild Indians,
called mountaineers; and the people were not perfectly tranquilized
till they saw the birds soaring in the air and continuing their
migration towards the mouths of the Orinoco." [79]

Our first stopping place was Barrancas, a small and squalid village of
mud, palm-thatched huts. It is situated in the centre of one of the
finest grazing regions of Venezuela and under a wise and progressive
government, would soon become a place of considerable importance.

In the time of the Franciscan Missions here, suppressed nearly a
century ago, the herds that roamed the beautiful undulating prairies
on both sides of the Orinoco counted no fewer than one hundred and
fifty thousand cattle, and with the markets that could easily be had
for beef and hides, this number could, under favorable conditions,
be greatly increased. As it is, however, it is known rather as a
favorite rendezvous for that numerous class of revolutionists for
whom the country is so noted, that have been born insolvent, but who,
by grandiloquent pronunciamientos, and through the coöperation of
hungry spoil-seekers like themselves, hope one day to improve their
financial condition.

Near Barrancas we were shown the spot where General Antonio Paredes
and his confiding followers were shot in cold blood, a few days before
our arrival, in pursuance of an order, we were told, that President
Castro had issued from his sick bed in Macuto. This speedy, albeit
unconstitutional, disposition of the leaders of what was heralded as a
great popular reform movement was designed to put a quietus on other
revolutionists who were making or preparing to make pronunciamientos
in various parts of the republic. It did not, however, seem to have
the desired effect, as during our sojourn in the country two other
revolutions cropped out when least expected. For a while one of these
gave the government very grave concern but was finally suppressed;
not, however, until the country had suffered by anticipation many of
the miseries of internecine strife.

Before our departure from Caracas, we tried in vain to get some
information not only about the dates of sailing of the Orinoco
steamers but also about their character. After leaving the capital,
some of our friends tried to dissuade us from our projected trip to
Ciudad Bolivar, assuring us that the only craft plying up and down the
river were filthy cattle boats unfit for a white man to enter. Imagine
our surprise, then, when we found that our vessel, far from being
the unclean, poorly-provisioned boat that had been pictured to us,
was in every way fairly comfortable, and with a cuisine and service
that were far from bad. In construction and general arrangement,
it was not unlike the smaller double-decked steamers on the Hudson
river or on our northern lakes. Our cabins were spacious, with broad
berths, and clean bedding and furniture. Indeed, we have often had
cabins in our large transatlantic steamers in which there was less
of comfort and convenience than were afforded by our cabin in this
unpretending boat on the Orinoco.

As to the passengers, they were quite a cosmopolitan crowd. Among
them were some Europeans and several Americans, but the greater
number were Venezuelans--most of them bound for Ciudad Bolivar. Of
the Americans there were two men in quest of fortune in the celebrated
Yuruari mining district in southern Guiana.

The upper deck of the boat was reserved for the first-class passengers,
while the lower one was occupied by those of the second-class, and
by such freight as was carried up and down the river. On returning
to the Port-of-Spain, the steamer usually carried about two hundred
head of cattle for the Trinidad market. When these were taken on
board at night, as sometimes happened, sleep was impossible. What
with the tramping and bellowing of the affrighted brutes below us
and the shouting of the cattlemen and crew, there was a veritable
pandemonium which continued the greater part of the night.

Frequently there are not enough cabins for the passengers. But this
makes very little difference to the Venezuelan. He simply swings his
chinchorro--hammock--between two stanchions of the vessel and is soon
calmly reposing in slumberland. Indeed, many of the inhabitants of the
tropics prefer a hammock to a bed, and do not apply for a stateroom
when traveling on the rivers of equatorial America.

The second-class passengers sleep in their hammocks if they happen to
have them; if not, they lie down anywhere they can find room and are
soon fast asleep. Many of them have no beds at home, except a mat,
a rawhide, or the lap of Mother Earth, and the absence of a bed or
hammock is no appreciable privation to them.

There is no more curious sight than is presented at night on a crowded
river steamer in the tropics. One sees scores of hammocks swung in
every conceivable place. All davits and stanchions, all uprights
and crosspieces are provided with hooks and rings, so that hammocks,
when necessary, may be attached to them. In saloons and passageways,
on forward-deck and after-deck, wherever there is any available space,
there is stretched on the floor, or snugly ensconced in his chinchorro,
some quietly sleeping or loudly snoring specimen of humanity. Sometimes
one will see several persons stowed away in a single hammock. It is
not an unusual thing to see two persons in the same chinchorro, and
one may now and then see a mother and three children serenely reposing
in one of these aerial cots. How they do it, it is difficult to say,
but the fact is that they do it, and there is apparently not a budge
in the hammock's occupants until they are awakened in the morning by
the call of the birds--Nature's alarm clocks in the tropics.

A place of more than passing interest between Barrancas and Ciudad
Bolivar is Los Castillos, formerly Guayana la Vieja, founded by
Antonio de Berrio in 1591. It was here, in 1618, that young Walter
Raleigh, the son of the Admiral, lost his life in an encounter with
the Spaniards who had possession of this stronghold. It was near here,
also, that Bolivar, at a critical hour during the War of Independence,
saved his life by hiding in a swamp near the village.

About ten leagues further up the river, at the mouth of the Caroni,
and opposite the island of Fajardo, Diego de Ordaz--the officer under
Cortes who got sulphur out of the crater of Popocatepetl--found in 1531
a settlement called Carao during his exploration of the Orinoco. This
was afterwards named Santo Tomé de Guayana, and was for a short time a
missionary centre--the first on the Orinoco. It was, however, destroyed
in 1579 by the Dutch under Jansen. There is little now at this point
to interest the traveler except the beautiful Salto--cataract--of the
Caroni river, so celebrated for its picturesque scenery, and the wealth
of orchideous plants with which the adjacent trees are clothed. Raleigh
in describing these falls says that so great was the mass of vapor due
to the fury and rebound of the waters that "we tooke it at the first
for a smoke that had risen ouer some great towne," and Padre Caulin, in
his description of it, says the roar of the cataract is so great that
it can be heard at a distance of several leagues. Both these accounts
are quite exaggerated. The falls are very beautiful and romantic,
but by no means so grand or so imposing as they have been depicted.

Near the confluence of the Caroni and the Orinoco is the straggling
little town of San Felix. At this point our mining party left us
for their long journey of one hundred and fifty miles on mule-back
to Callao. They gave us a cordial invitation to accompany them, but
we had other plans, and, although we should have enjoyed exploring
this famous mining district of southern Guiana, we felt constrained
to continue our course westwards.

For a number of years the Yuruari mining district promised to equal, if
not surpass, the most famous gold fields of Nevada and California. One
of the mines, the Callao, rivaled the great Comstock mines of Virginia
City, and for "a considerable period," we are assured, "original shares
of 1,000 pesos produced dividends of 72,000 pesos yearly." In 1895,
however, the main lode was lost, and since that time, owing to lack of
funds, little has been done in any of the mines in the district. The
owners of the Callao mine still hope to find the lost lode, and it was
to investigate the condition of this mine, and of certain others in
the neighborhood, that our American friends undertook their long trip
southwards. If the outlook justifies it, they purpose improving the
present wretched cart-road, which connects the mines with San Felix,
and putting on suitable traction engines for the transportation of
freight, which has hitherto been carried on the backs of burros and
in carts of the most primitive type.

During the halcyon days of the Callao mine, when all eyes were directed
towards this quarter of the world, a certain syndicate tried to secure
from the government a concession for building a railroad from the
Orinoco to the Yuruari gold fields. The then president of Venezuela
was quite willing to grant the concession, but insisted, it is said, on
having by anticipation a much larger share of the prospective profits
of the road than the company was willing to give. Had the railway
been constructed, there is no doubt that many other valuable mines
would have been developed, and that southeastern Guiana would soon
have become one of the most productive regions of the republic. The
road would have benefited not only the mining interests but would have
led to a rapid development of the grazing and agricultural industries,
which, in this part of Venezuela, could, under favorable conditions,
be second only to those of the llanos of the Apure, and of the fertile
plains of the states of Bermudez and Bolivar.

Aside from the interest that attaches to this part of South America,
on account of its many scenic attractions and its varied natural
resources of forest and field and mine, it will always possess an added
interest by reason of its connection with Raleigh's ill-fated search
for El Dorado. When his purse became depleted, and he had fallen from
the favor of Queen Elizabeth--who for a while was so "much taken with
his elocution" that she "took him for a kind of oracle"--he bethought
him of retrieving fortune and favor by the discovery and conquest of
a second Incaic empire, and, with this end in view, he projected his
famous voyage to


                            "Yet unspoil'd
        Guiana, whose great city Geryon's sons
        Call El Dorado."


It is beside my purpose to comment on the "cruell and blood-thirsty
Amazones," and the race of people who "haue their eyes in their
shoulders, and their mouths in the middle of their breasts," [80]
about whom Raleigh writes in his remarkable book, so often quoted,
The Discoverie of Gviana, and which caused Hume to brand the work
as being a tissue of "the grossest and most palpable lies." We are
here interested only in what he says about the finding of gold in the
region bordering the Caroni and in his fantastic tales regarding El
Dorado. [81]

Whether Raleigh himself really believed in the existence of El Dorado,
such as he has described it, or whether he wished to work on the
imaginations of his countrymen, who were as credulous and as great
lovers of the marvelous as were their contemporaries on the continent
of Europe, cannot be affirmed with certainty. It is probable that he
possessed a full share of the credulity of his age, and that, if he
embellished his accounts of what he saw or exaggerated the reports
which he received from the aborigines, he really gave credence to the
leading features of the extraordinary stories that were then current
regarding the fabulous riches of the great city of Manoa.1

And he was most likely in earnest when he declared that "whatsoeuer
Prince shall possess it"--Guiana--"that Prince shal be Lorde of more
gold, and of a more beautifull Empire, and of more Cities and people,
then eyther the King of Spayne, or the great Turke," and was probably
honest in the belief that he who should "conquerere the same," would
"performe more than euer was done in Mexico by Cortez, or in Peru
by Pacaro."

The New World was, for the people of the Old, still a land of mystery
and enchantment, and the great majority of the adventurers in the
newly discovered lands were quite ready to credit the wildest tales,
and follow the most elusive phantoms, provided they gave indications,
however slight, of the possibility of satisfying that auri sacra
fames which consumed the poor and rich alike.

The remarkable thing about Raleigh is that he actually found gold and
gold-bearing quartz in the land watered by the Caroni, and located the
capital of El Dorado near where the great Callao mine was discovered
nearly three centuries later. And not only did he discover gold-bearing
quartz, but he found a variety of gold quartz essentially the same
as that which occurs in the Yuruari districts. It is interesting to
speculate what effect the actual discovery by him of the Callao mine
would have had on his subsequent career and on England's schemes of
expansion in the Western Hemisphere. One thing is certain. He would
have recouped his lost fortunes, and his head, in all probability,
would never have fallen on the block in Old Palace Yard. [82]

The following is Raleigh's résumé of the riches and marvels of Guiana
and the Orinoco valley, and at the same time a sample of the stories
then current regarding the land of El Dorado--stories which those
to whom the writer appealed, found little difficulty in accepting as
unquestioned expressions of unvarnished truth:

"For the rest, which my selfe haue seene I will promise these
things that follow and knowe to be true. Those that are desirous to
discouer and to see many nations, may be satisfied within this riuer,
which bringeth forth so many armes and branches leading to seuerall
countries, and prouinces, aboue 2000 miles east and west, and 800
miles south and north: and of these, the most eyther rich in Gold, or
in other merchandizes. The common soldier shal here fight for gold,
and pay himselfe, in steede of pence, with plates of halfe a foote
brode, wheras he breaketh his bones in other warres for prouant and
penury. Those commanders and Chieftaines, that shoote at honour,
and abundance, shal find there more rich and bewtifull cities, more
temples adorned with golden Images, more sepulchers filled with
treasure, than either Cortez found in Mexico, or Pazarro in Peru,
and the shining glorie of this conquest will eclipse all those so
farre extended beames of the Spanish nation. There is no countrey
which yeeldeth more pleasure to the inhabitants, either for these
common delights of hunting, hawking, fishing, fowling, and the rest,
then Guiana doth. It hath so many plaines, cleare riuers, abundance of
Phesants, Partridges, Quailes, Rayles, Cranes, Herons, and all other
fowls: Deare of all sortes, Porkes, Hares, Lyons, Tygers, Leopards,
and diuers other sortes of beastes, eyther for chace, or foode." [83]

Although we were intensely interested in the fauna and flora of
the Orinoco, and never tired of the magnificent prospects, which,
like an ever-changing panorama, were constantly presented to our
view, we found time to observe the native population, especially
the Indians, who are seen in considerable numbers along the entire
course of the river. In the Delta and in its immediate neighborhood,
they are represented chiefly by the Waraus, Aruacs, and Caribs.

The Waraus have a slightly darker complexion than either the Aruacs or
Caribs. Owing to their lack of personal cleanliness, and the amount
of oil with which they besmear their bodies, their hue becomes so
dark, that, were it not for their straight hair, it would at times be
difficult to distinguish them from negroes. In consequence of their
careless habits regarding their persons and places of abode, and the
way in which they neglect their children, they are despised by the
neighboring tribes. Their rude huts, often no more than a little
palm thatch supported by a few uprights, afford them but little
protection from sun and rain. With these, however, they seem to be
quite satisfied.

The Aruacs found here belong to that great group of Indians that, at
the time of the arrival of the Spaniards in the New World, inhabited
all the large islands of the Antilles. According to ethnologists,
their original home was probably on the eastern slopes of the
Bolivian Cordilleras. Thence they migrated towards the north and
east and constituted for a time one of the most powerful races in
the Western Hemisphere.

They are also one of the oldest of the great South American
tribes. They were the first Indians with whom the Spaniards came
in contact and are to-day, as they were in the time of Columbus, a
friendly, good-natured, peace-loving people, in spite of all the harsh
treatment their forefathers received from their cruel conquerors. They
are fairer than either the Waraus or the Caribs, and their women
are reputed the most beautiful of all the native Guianians. [84]
Their hair is occasionally so long that it reaches the ground, and,
although they sometimes do it up and in the most tasteful manner,
they usually allow it to fall over their shoulders. They anoint it
daily with Carapa nut oil, and seem to realize as fully as do their
white sisters in the north, that "a woman's glory is in her hair." [85]

The Caribs here referred to belong to that dread race of whom Columbus
heard such blood-curdling stories from the peaceful inhabitants of
Cuba and Española. They are, too, among the youngest of the great
migratory races of South America, and their original abode seems to
have been in the upper basins of the Xingu and Tapajos, two of the
great affluents of the Amazon.

Descending these rivers, they took possession of the greater part of
the continent bordering the Atlantic from the mouth of the Amazon to
the Caribbean sea, which is named from them. Subsequently, in large
fleets of canoes, in making which they excelled, they pushed their
way up the Orinoco and its principal tributaries, spreading death
and destruction wherever they went. And not satisfied with their
conquests on land, they eventually extended their dominion over the
islands of the Lesser Antilles as far as St. Thomas. Had it not been
for the timely arrival of the Spaniards, there is no doubt that they
would have driven the peaceful Waraus out of the Greater Antilles,
as they had forced them from their other homes in the islands to the
southeast and on the mainland of South America.

They were the terror of all the tribes with whom they came in
contact. They enslaved the women, and celebrated their victories
by devouring the men. They were the cannibals who so strenuously
opposed the Spaniards on many a bloody field, and who, it is alleged,
celebrated their victory over the white invader by serving up, at their
savage banquets, the captives taken in ambush or in battle. Indeed,
the word cannibal is but a corruption of the word Carib. [86] For
many generations they preyed on the peaceful Indians of the missions
of the Orinoco basin and elsewhere, and time and again the zealous
missionary saw the work of years undone in a few moments by the sudden
onslaught of these dread and ruthless visitants.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of the Spanish Franciscans, the Caribs
who inhabit the eastern part of Venezuela were eventually civilized
and Christianized, and converted from wild nomads into peaceful
and useful citizens, having their own towns and villages. They were
chiefly engaged in the breeding of cattle and in agriculture.

A century ago there were in the territory bounded by the Caroni,
the Cuyuni and the Orinoco no fewer than thirty-eight missions, with
sixteen thousand civilized Indians. But by decrees promulgated by the
Republic of Colombia in the years 1819 and 1821 these missions were
suppressed and to-day one sees scarcely a vestige of their former
existence. The Indians are not only much less numerous than formerly,
but most of them have returned to the mode of life they led before
the advent of the missionary.

They are, as a rule, peaceful and harmless, but as they have been so
long neglected by the government, their social status is but little
above that of their savage ancestors. More is the pity. The suppression
of the missions here was followed by the same consequences as resulted
from the suppression of the missions in Paraguay and elsewhere--the
relapse of the Indians into savagery and the loss to the state of
thousands of useful and worthy citizens. It is difficult to see the
wisdom of thus eliminating from the body politic elements so prolific
of good and so essential to the public weal.

Père Labat, referring to the language of the Caribs, writes as
follows:--"The Caribs have three kinds of language. The first, the
most ordinary, and that which every one speaks, is the one affected
by the men.

"The second is so proper to the women, that, although the men
understand it, they would consider themselves dishonored if they spoke
it, or if they answered their women in case they had the temerity
to address them in this language. They--the women--know the language
of their husbands, and must make use of it when they speak to them,
but they never use it when they talk among themselves, nor do they
employ any language but the one peculiar to themselves, which is
entirely different from that of the men.

"There is a third language, which is known only by the men who have
been in war, and particularly by the old men. It is rather a jargon
than a language. They use it in important assemblies of which they
desire to keep the resolutions secret. The women and young men are
ignorant of it." [87]

This statement was for a long time discredited, and classed among those
fables regarding the New World that were unworthy of the attention of
serious men. Later on it was discovered that the victoriosa loquacitas
of the charming monk was based on fact. But the next thing was to
explain the fact. On investigation it was found that something similar
exists among other Indian tribes of South America, as, for instance,
among the Guaranis, the Chiquitos, the Omaguas and the Quichuas.

In explanation of this strange phenomenon, it was then suggested
"that women, from their separate way of life, frame particular terms
which men do not adopt." Cicero observes that old forms of language
are best preserved by women, because, by their position in society,
they are less exposed to those vicissitudes of life, changes of place
and occupation, which tend to corrupt the primitive purity of language
among men. [88]

This suggestion, ingenious though it be, was far from satisfactory to
philologists and ethnologists. The quest, therefore, for a solution of
the strange problem, was continued with renewed interest, and with the
result that the mystery was at length completely solved. As has been
stated, it was the custom of the Caribs in their wars with other Indian
tribes to massacre the men and reduce the women to servitude. In some
instances many of the women and not infrequently the majority of them
became the wives of their conquerors. But even after this enforced
alliance, the women retained their own language. The consequence
was that, in families thus constituted, there were two languages
spoken--that of the conqueror and that of the conquered.

While, however, the general accuracy of Père Labat's statements were
thus put beyond further doubt, it was discovered, by a comparative
study of the languages of the Caribs and those of the tribes which
they had subjugated, that it was not strictly true to assert that
the language of the women was entirely different from that of the
men--totalement different de celui des hommes--as the good Dominican
had affirmed. They were entirely different in the words of daily use
and of most frequent occurrence, but the difference extended in reality
only to the minor part of the vocabulary actually employed. But the
difference was quite sufficient to justify the interest it had so
long excited among men of science, and to stimulate the researches
which have only in recent years been crowned with success. [89]

The night before arriving at Ciudad Bolivar, while dreamily reclining
in a steamer chair, I was awakened from my musings by a vivacious
senorita, of pronounced Castilian type, rushing up to her father,
near by, and exclaiming in an excited manner, "Mira, padre, mira,
la Cruz del Sur!" Look, father, look--the Southern Cross! And
sure enough, there, in the constellation Centauri, was the "Croce
Maravigliosa,"--the marvelous cross--of the early navigators, the
"Crucero" of incomparable beauty and brightness, the celestial clock
of the early missionaries in the tropical lands of the New World. The
cloud-veiled skies of the preceding nights had prevented us from
getting a view of these "luci sante"--holy lights--but now we were
privileged to behold them in all their heavenly splendor. At once we
recalled that well-known passage of Dante, which the lovers of the
great Florentine have applied to this constellation:--


        "To the right hand I turned, and fixed my mind,
        On the other pole attentive, where I saw
        Four stars ne'er seen before save by the ken
        Of our first parents. Heaven of their rays
        Seemed joyous. O, thou northern site! bereft
        Indeed, and widened, since of these deprived!" [90]


We never suspected it at the time, but as subsequent events proved,
the señorita's Cruz del Sur was to be our timepiece for many subsequent
months. During long wanderings over mountain and plain and in many
changing climes, it was the Southern Cross that served as our guide,
and marked the hours of night, in lieu of Polaris and Ursa Major,
which had disappeared below the horizon.

Toward noon, the second day after leaving the Port-of-Spain, we got
our first view of Ciudad Bolivar, founded in 1764 by Joaquin Moreno de
Mendoza, and since that time the capital of Guiana, now the great State
of Bolivar. Situated upon an eminence, on the right bank of the river,
it presents a very imposing appearance and seems much larger than it is
in reality. The white stone walls of the houses, and the brownish-red
tiles of the roofs, together with the delicate green crowns of lofty
palms that dot every part of the city, enhance in a marked degree the
beauty of the picture as seen under the brilliant light of the noonday
sun. The cathedral, and the government buildings around the plaza in
the higher part of the town, loom up with splendid effect. Indeed,
it would be difficult to find a more beautiful picture of a city,
when seen at a distance, than is that of Ciudad Bolivar.

As one approaches this metropolis of the Orinoco basin, the details of
the city come gradually into view. Parallel with the river bank is the
principal business street--La Calle del Coco--which is at the same time
the most delightful promenade in the place. Here is the custom-house,
the American and other consulates, and a number of large mercantile
establishments, controlled chiefly by Germans, Americans and Corsicans.

From a broad waterway, from two to three miles in width, the river
here contracts to a narrow channel which, at low water, is not
more than a half mile in width. According to Codazzi, [91] the mean
depth of the river at this point is sixty feet. Towards the end of
the rainy season, however, the water rises from forty to fifty feet
above low-water mark. Sometimes it rises considerably higher. In
1891 the flood was so high that the stores and dwellings of the part
of the city fronting the river were inundated to a height of several
feet. Then the inhabitants were obliged to have recourse to canoes in
passing from house to house. Then, too, stray alligators were seen
in the streets and it was possible to catch enough fish for a meal
in the patio--court-yard--of one's residence.

The original name of the city was Santo Tomé de la Nueva Guayana--the
third place on the river to bear this name. The first, it will be
remembered, was situated at the confluence of the Caroni and the
Orinoco and was destroyed by the Dutch in 1579. The second, now known
as Los Castillos--formerly Guayana la Vieja--was founded by Antonio de
Berrio in 1591, and is famous in the history of this part of Venezuela
for its vigorous resistance to Sir Walter Raleigh, whom Spanish writers
designate as the "great pirate Gualtero Reali." As the inhabitants
found the first name of their city inconveniently long they called
it Angostura--the Narrows--from the contraction of the river at this
point. The name was so appropriate that it is a pity it could not have
been retained. In 1819, however, Congress gave it the name of Ciudad
Bolivar, in honor of Simon Bolivar, the Liberator of South America.

As our steamer neared the steep bank in front of the city our
attention was arrested by a large, dark, granitic mass--La Piedra
del Medio--looming up in the middle of the river. Like the celebrated
Nileometer at Cairo, this rock, which may appropriately be called an
Orinocometer, serves as a gauge of the annual rise of the flood. As
we passed it, we could see distinctly the height to which the waters
had risen the preceding year.

If ever the long-talked-of railroad from Caracas to Ciudad Bolivar
shall be constructed, this rock, almost midway between the latter
city and Soledad, a small town on the opposite side of the river,
will serve as an invaluable pier for the bridge that is planned to
span the Orinoco at this point. Until, however, the country shall have
a more stable government than it has now, and until foreign capital
shall have more confidence in the future of the republic than it has
at present, it is quite safe to say that there will be neither bridge
nor railroad, although both are very much needed to develop the vast
resources of this section of Venezuela.

In its location and surroundings, Ciudad Bolivar possesses all the
essential elements of a beautiful and prosperous metropolis. It
controls the trade of the immense Orinoco basin, and the amount
of business transacted here should, under favorable conditions,
be many times what it is at present. But, at the time of our visit,
everything was in a state of abandonment that was sad to behold. The
streets, parks and public buildings, which could easily be made the
most attractive features of the city, were in a neglected condition,
and the number of vacant houses in certain sections, some crumbling
into ruins, showed the inevitable effects of protracted misrule and
periodic turmoil.

When I asked one of the prominent merchants of the city the
reason for the deplorable state referred to, he replied:--"No
hay dinero. Hay tantas revoluciones." ("There is no money. There
are so many revolutions.") And when I sought a reason for the
business lethargy everywhere manifested, a similar reply was
forthcoming. "Somos pobres, estamos arruinados. Hay tantas guerras
y el gobierno es malísimo."--("We are poor, ruined. There have been
so many wars and the government is very bad.") Merchants, tradesmen,
day-laborers, professional men--all, except government employees,
who were interested in retaining their positions as long as possible,
had the same pitiful story to relate.

Oppressive taxes, exorbitant prices for many of the necessaries
of life, intolerable monopolies, controlled by leading government
officials or their favorites, had reduced the majority of the
population to a condition bordering on despair. No encouragement
was given to foreign capital for the exploitation and development
of the immense natural resources of the country. On the contrary,
foreigners were looked upon with suspicion, while Castro and his
henchmen were openly antagonistic to them. Nor was it only in Ciudad
Bolivar and in other parts of the Orinoco valley that this lamentable
condition of things obtained. We found the same business depression,
the same hopeless outlook in Caracas, Valencia, Puerto Cabello,
and other commercial centres of the republic. Small wonder, then,
was it that the discouraged, downtrodden people were longing and
praying for a change in the administration.

The long desired change came at last, and in a way that no one
could have foreseen. The dramatic downfall of Castro suddenly and
unexpectedly opened the way to an amelioration of conditions that had
become intolerable, while the accession of Gomez to power has inspired
all patriotic and peace-loving Venezuelans with the hope that their
long distracted country is about to enter upon a new era--an era
of social progress and business prosperity--an era of amity with
other nations accompanied by a spirit of comity which was so long
conspicuous by its absence.

Notwithstanding the comparatively large number of vessels that come to
this place, there is no wharf, and people here say that the great rise
and fall of the river make it impossible to construct one. Fortunately,
it is not a prime necessity, as the water, even in the dry season,
is so deep that the largest vessels can approach so near the bank that
both freight and passengers can be discharged by an ordinary gangplank.

Our steamer, like all the others there, was moored head and stern by
cables leading to the venerable Ceiba trees that lined la Calle del
Coco high above us. The inclination of the bank, where merchandise
is landed, amounts in places to almost 45°, and yet no machinery of
any kind is used for transferring even the heaviest kinds of freight
from the vessel to the top of the acclivity. All is carried on the
shoulders of men, usually mestizos and negroes.

We spent a week in and around Ciudad Bolivar, and, during this
time, we had ample opportunities to study the manners and customs
of its people. The population of the city is not more than twelve
or thirteen thousand--a small number for the entrepot of the immense
Orinoco basin. Under less untoward conditions it would be many times
as great. [92]

To this place are brought the products of the forests and plains of the
upper Orinoco and its numerous tributaries. Among the most important
articles of export are hides, rubber--especially the coarser variety
known as balata--cacao, coffee, and tobacco from Zamora, pelts of
the jaguar and other wild animals, tonka beans, copaiba and feathers.

The last item is amazing, when one considers what a slaughter of
the feathered tribe it implies. We met a Frenchman here who was just
packing for shipment to Paris several hundred thousand egrets, the
result of a three-years' hunt in the forests and plains of the Orinoco
basin. But he was not the only one engaged in this wholesale slaughter
of birds. There were many others, and their work of despoiling the
tropics of their most attractive ornaments extends to all the vast
regions on both sides of the equator.

The small egret--Ardea candidissima--which supplies the most valuable
plumes, and the large egret--Ardea garzetta--which produces a coarser
feather, are the principal victims. As only a few drooping plumes from
the backs of the birds are taken, one can readily see what a terrific
slaughter is required to meet the demands of the markets of the world.

The worst feature about the business is that the birds are killed
during the mating and breeding season. Already the result is manifest
in the rapidly diminishing numbers of egrets that frequent the
garceros--the name given to the places where they nest and rear
their young.

"The beauty of a few feathers on their backs," writes one who, if not a
misogynist, is evidently in sympathy with the aims and purposes of our
Audubon society, "will be the cause of their extinction. The love of
adornment common to most animals is the source of their troubles. The
graceful plumes which they doubtless admire in each other have
appealed to the vanity of the most destructive of all animals. They
are doomed, because the women of civilized countries continue to have
the same fondness for feathers and ornaments characteristic of savage
tribes." [93]

The houses of Ciudad Bolivar, built on a hill of dark, almost
bare hornblende-schist, are in marked contrast with those of the
Port-of-Spain. In Trinidad's capital each residence--usually frame--is
provided with numerous doors, and jalousied windows, and surrounded by
gardens, with a profusion of the most beautiful tropical flowers and
trees. Here, on the contrary, the houses, generally only one story
high, have but one door, with all the external windows crossed by
heavy iron bars, not unlike those of our jails. [94]

This, however, is not peculiar to Ciudad Bolivar, but obtains
throughout Latin America, as it obtains in all the parts of Spain
formerly occupied by the Moors. Yet these windows, which are in
themselves so forbidding, are in the cool of the evening the most
attractive parts of the house. Here bevies of bright, well-dressed
señoritas, who, during the heat of the day remain secluded in their
rooms or some shady corner of the patio, congregate to enjoy the fresh
air that is wafted to them on the wings of the trade-winds, to listen
to the daily gossip and to exchange confidences with those of their
companions who may have called to spend the evening. Here and there
one will observe some philandering caballero, dressed as faultlessly
as Beau Brummel, exchanging vows with some languishing Dulcinea behind
the bars. So absorbed are they in each other that they are totally
oblivious of all else in the world, and utterly unconscious of the
attention they attract from the passers-by. For the time being they
themselves are the world and for them everything else is nonexistent.

We were sitting one evening in the beautiful plaza of Ciudad Bolivar,
listening to the music of the military band which plays here several
times a week. The élite of the city were there. Beautiful, dark-eyed
señoritas, adorned with their graceful mantillas, were promenading with
their fathers and mothers, and gay young cavaliers were following at a
discreet distance, á la Española. The tropical trees and flowers, which
gave to the plaza the aspect of a botanical garden, were beautifully
illuminated, and, without any effort of the imagination, one could
easily imagine one's self in fairyland. Hard by, a young lady from
Trinidad, on whose finger was a sparkling solitaire, was recounting,
in a more audible tone than she imagined, the pleasures of her voyage
up the Orinoco. In the glow of her enthusiasm she declared to her
confidant, "I am going to come to the Orinoco during my honeymoon. Don
Esteban"--evidently her fiancé--"will just have to bring me here. I
cannot imagine a more delightful trip anywhere."

This young lady, who had traveled extensively, in this inadvertent
publication of her secret but expresses the impression that would
be reiterated, I fancy, by the majority of her sex under the same
circumstances. The Orinoco is, indeed, beautiful, and a sail on its
placid waters, if not "the most delightful excursion one could take,"
as Miss Trinidad declared, is certainly one of the most delightful.

The day before we were to return to the Port-of-Spain, while chatting
with a friend on the upper deck of our steamer--which we had made our
hotel, because the lodging houses of the city were so poor--we saw a
small vessel coming down stream under a full head of steam. On inquiry
we found it to be a boat from Orocué, a small town in Colombia, on
the river Meta. We immediately called upon the captain of the craft,
and, as a result of our interview, determined to accompany him on
his return trip to this distant point.

When we left Trinidad, we had no intention of going further up the
river than Ciudad Bolivar, but we had enjoyed everything so much,
that now that an occasion thus so unexpectedly presented itself,
we rejoiced that we should have an opportunity of seeing more of the
great Orinoco, and of sailing on the waters of its great tributary,
the historic Meta.

Dreams of the past began at once to flit before us as possible
realities in the near future. If we once got to Orocué, what was to
prevent us from going further up the river--as far as its waters
were navigable? Then by crossing the llanos of eastern Colombia,
and the Cordilleras of the Andes we would be in far-famed Bogotá,
the Athens of South America.

We had had, it is true, visions of this trip, but rather as something
greatly to be desired than as even a remote possibility. And now,
in a few moments--after a brief conversation with the captain of the
boat that had just moored alongside our own, the journey was decided
on, and nothing remained but to make the necessary preparations.

As, however, the steamer would not be ready to go to Orocué for about
two weeks, we concluded to return to the Port-of-Spain and come back
the following week. This would give us an opportunity of studying
more in detail several interesting features of the lower Orinoco
that we had only gotten a glimpse of during the upward trip, and
of seeing by daylight parts of the river that we had before passed
during the night. We would also be able to spend a few more days in
the beautiful island of Trinidad, and feast our eyes on its thousand
beauties which greet one at every turn.

It was, indeed, providential for us that we returned to Trinidad
as we did, for while there--was it chance or was it our usual good
fortune?--we found, what above all else we needed in this juncture--a
good, brave, enthusiastic companion for the long and arduous trip
before us. Our compagnon de voyage, who would fondly affect the ways
and dress of a dapper young caballero, and whom, therefore, we shall
call C.--caballero--was a professor of languages. He had traveled
extensively, was interested in the Spanish language and literature and
the peoples we were about to visit. He was, like ourselves, fond of
adventure, and was not averse to its being accompanied by an element
of danger. This only gave additional zest to what were else rather
tame and prosaic. Our plans were soon made, and, before the steamer
was ready to return to Ciudad Bolivar, we were fully equipped with
everything necessary for our long trip across the continent.



CHAPTER IV

IN MID-ORINOQUIA


At last we were ready to start on our long journey up the Orinoco
and the Meta, and then across the llanos of Eastern Colombia, and
the Cordilleras to far-off Bogotá. For several days the swarthy
stevedores of Ciudad Bolivar had been busy in transferring to our
little steamer the freight that had here been accumulating for her
during the preceding six months.

For several days, too, our friends and acquaintances had been
endeavoring to dissuade us from what one and all pronounced a rash and
dangerous undertaking. All meant well, but all were prophets of ill. No
one, we were assured, had ever gone to Bogotá by the route we purposed
taking, [95] and we were solemnly warned time and again that we were
surely risking our health if not exposing our lives. Everything, it
was averred, was against the successful termination of our journey,
and it would be a miracle if we ever reached Bogotá alive.

First of all, there were the steaming, miasmatic exhalations in the
Orinoco and Meta valleys, from which they were never free, and the
ever present danger of yellow fever and other malignant diseases. Even
people who were thoroughly acclimated incurred the greatest risk in
traveling through this pestiferous, germ-laden atmosphere. How much
more then should we, who had so recently come from the chilly north,
be exposed, if we still persisted in our foolhardy venture? And then,
if we fell sick, as we surely must, we should be in a trackless
wilderness, among savages, and far away from medical aid of any kind.

Then there was the torrid climate to take into account. By reason
of the intense heat, it would be impossible to travel by day. We
should then perforce be obliged to travel by night. And this implied
new dangers--dangers of straying from a poorly defined trail,
or of falling into ravines, or quagmires, and dangers from wild
animals of all kinds, with which the forests and plains were always
infested. There was the jaguar, always prowling about, seeking whom
he might devour; the labairi and boaquira, serpents whose envenomed
fangs bring certain death to their victims, and the dread boa that
was pictured as hanging in untold numbers from the branches of the
trees in the forests through which we should pass.

A torrid climate, a reeky, malarial atmosphere, a region infested
with venomous serpents--all this was bad enough, but this was far
from being the sum total of the pests and plagues we should encounter.

There was that ever-present pest--whose name is not legion, but
billion--on which travelers in South America have exhausted their
supply of adjectives in the vain attempt adequately to express
their sentiments. I refer to what the Spaniard has so aptly called
the plaga--the plague--the cloud of mosquitoes of many species that
constantly torment the traveler, and give him no rest night or day. We
had read what various writers on the equinoctial regions had to say
of the murderous onslaughts of the mosquito from the time of the
early missionaries down to our own, and such reading was far from
calculated to reassure one who was about to form a more intimate
acquaintance of the plaga in question. [96]

In a work written on the Orinoco in 1822, Mr. J. H. Robertson,
referring to this matter, declares that "the biting, blistering,
and intolerable itching" which is produced by clouds of mosquitoes
is "indeed enough to make a man mad." He says that they made the
passengers--blacks as well as others, that were on the boat with him,
"almost roar with agony," and that in the morning the "whole body
exhibited one mass of small blisters from millions of bites we had
received during the night." [97]

In a more recent book, by another Englishman, it is stated
that the Orinoco is the "paradise of mosquitoes, and the hell
of travelers. There, insects of unusual size, and speckled in an
ominous and snake-like manner, issued from the bush in millions and
assailed every square inch of the exposed skin.... Moreover, they
stung through the boots, coat and waistcoat, and drew blood wherever
they penetrated." [98]

On looking over these works again, we found that the miseries referred
to were endured chiefly in the delta of the Orinoco, and not so much
in the river above. Yet, strange to say, our experience, so far at
least, was the very contrary of all this, although we had passed
through the delta three times. On none of these occasions had we
ever been molested by a single mosquito or had we ever thought of
using a mosquito net. As a matter of fact, nobody ever used such a
protection against insects, as there was no call for it. Our natural
inference was that the reports about this plaga of the Orinoco were
much exaggerated, and we had reason to suspect that the same was true
about the terrific heat against which we had so repeatedly been warned.

We had been twice in La Guaira, which Humboldt declared to be one
of the hottest places on earth, and had not suffered so much from
the elevated temperature there as we had frequently suffered from
the sweltering heat that so often oppresses one in New York and
Washington. We remembered, too, that another German writer had
characterized Ciudad Bolivar, on account of the intensity of the
heat prevailing there, as "the exit of hell, as La Guaira is its
entrance." And yet during our sojourn of nearly two weeks in the
Orinoco city, we never experienced the slightest discomfort from the
temperature, nor did the thermometer ever rise within ten degrees of
the temperature often registered in some of our North Atlantic coast
cities during the months of July and August.

The truth was, we were beginning to grow quite sceptical about the much
vaunted dangers of equatorial travel. From our experience in traveling
in other lands, we had learned how prone the majority of those who do
not travel are to exaggerate--unconsciously, perhaps--dangers with
which they have no personal acquaintance, and how inclined certain
travelers are to magnify slight discomforts and trifling occurrences
into dangerous and trying adventures, especially when their imaginary
deeds of prowess are performed in countries rarely visited, and,
therefore, beyond the control of a truthful recorder. [99]

The little heed we gave to all the dire predictions that had been so
freely volunteered and our persistence in going forward on our journey,
as we had planned it, evidently led one of our friends to suspect our
scepticism, and he accordingly resorted to what he honestly believed
to be conclusive evidence of the futility of our purpose and the
danger of our undertaking. This was an article that had recently
been published in an English magazine which had just reached Ciudad
Bolivar. The article was entitled, Adventures on the Orinoco, and
contained the following paragraph:--

"For many reasons the Orinoco is one of the most dangerous rivers
in the world. Not only are there countless physical dangers in
the shape of sunken rocks, wrecks and tree trunks, huge sand banks,
ever-changing channels and bewildering currents, but also many living,
though often hidden, perils in the form of man, beast or reptile. The
higher one ascends, and the farther one penetrates beyond the Maipures
rapids into the heart of the Alto Orinoco, the wilder the scene,
and the more perilous the river. Sparsely populated as is the vast
region above and immediately below the rapids, it is often the home
of anarchy and misrule, and always a domain where the passions of
men know not the restraints of law, and civilization is still a dream."

To clinch his argument, our friend assured us that the Meta
region--whither we were bound--was far worse than that of the Upper
Orinoco. The banks of the Meta were always infested by hordes of
savage Guahibos, the terror of eastern Colombia. Hiding in the dense
underbrush that skirts the river, the first indication of their
presence would be a shower of well-directed, poisoned arrows against
the daring intruder into their jealously guarded domains. Only a
few months before, a steamer like ours had been attacked near the
mouth of the Meta by several hundred Indians and outlaws, and we
were exposed to a similar assault from the same quarter, unless we
would listen to reason, and desist from our hazardous and reckless
enterprise. "Besides," he added finally, "it is by no means certain
that your boat will be permitted to reach its destination. As you
know, the government is now engaged in quelling the revolution led by
one Peñalosa. Only a few days ago a large steamer was dispatched to
San Fernando, laden with arms and ammunition, and orders have been
issued for your boat to call at Caicara and Urbana and be subject
to the orders of the army officers there awaiting instructions from
the scene of war. If the steamer shall be needed by the government,
as now seems more than probable, you will be left wherever the
boat happens to be commandeered, and then you will have no means of
returning hither except in a dugout, if you are fortunate enough to
find one. To continue your course up the river in an Indian canoe,
at this season of the year, at the beginning of the rainy season,
is, of course, impossible."

We were not frightened by the thought of meeting the Indians. We had
met them before in many places, and had never found them so dangerous
as depicted. The thought, however, of being put ashore, in case the
government should need our boat, and of being compelled to make our way
back to Ciudad Bolivar in an Indian dugout was something that caused
us to ponder, but not to hesitate. We had been in similar quandaries
before, and, relying on our good luck, which has never failed us in
our wanderings, we determined to take our chances. We had faith in our
star, and we instinctively felt, in spite of the untoward outlook,
that we should in due course arrive safe and sound at Orocué. We
recalled and were encouraged by Minerva's words to Ulysses:--


                       tharsaleos gar anêr en pasin ameinôn
    ergoisin telethei, ei kai pothen allothen elthoi. [100]


Finally, long after the hour scheduled for our departure from Ciudad
Bolivar, our boat slipped her moorings, and she was soon out in
mid-river with her prow directed toward the setting sun. It was the
last week in April and the rainy season had already set in--much
earlier than usual. The river had been rising rapidly for several
days, and we, therefore, had no reason to apprehend danger on the
score of shallow water. The usual time for the opening of navigation
to the Upper Meta was anticipated by more than a month. This was a
favorable omen to begin with. By starting thus in advance of the usual
time we should be able to reach the river Magdalena before its high
waters would begin to subside. This was of prime importance to us,
as it would enable us to escape those long and embarrassing delays
that are so frequently occasioned in this river during the dry season.

The word season has been frequently used in these pages, but, strictly
speaking, there are in the tropics no such things as seasons as we
know them in higher latitudes. In the equatorial regions it is always
summer and verdure and bloom are perennial. For the sake of convenience
the natives speak of two seasons, the rainy season, known as winter,
and the dry season which is called summer. The winter season in the
valleys of the Orinoco and the Meta begins about the first of May and
lasts until October. The remaining months, constituting the winter
and a part of the spring of regions farther north, is known as summer.

Sir Walter Raleigh's account of the seasons in these parts is so
pertinent and so accurate in the main that I give it in his own
words. "The winter and the summer," he writes, "as touching cold and
heate differ not, neither do the trees euer, senciblie lose the leaues,
but haue alwaies fruite either ripe or green at one time: But their
winter onelie consisteth of terrible raynes, and ouerflowings of the
riuers, with many great storms and gusts, thunder, and lightnings,
of which we had our fill, ere we returned." [101]

Our boat was a double-deck stern-wheeler of very light draft--about
two feet--and capable of carrying about fifty tons. Her chief cargo was
salt, groceries and dry-goods, most of which was destined for Orocué.

Outside of the crew there were but few passengers--not more than
eight or ten all told. Among the most congenial were a Colombian
from Bogotá, and a young German, who was traveling in the interest
of a large commercial house in Ciudad Bolivar. The crew was a motley
one. The majority of them were Venezuelan mestizos. Besides these,
there were three or four West Indian negroes, and six or seven
full-blooded Indians from the Upper Meta. The latter had come down
the river only a few days previously and were now returning with us
to their homes. They had been engaged to perform some menial services
aboard, for which they received a trifling compensation. They all
belonged to the ferocious tribe of Guahibos, about whom we had heard
such frightful stories, but these particular members of the tribe we
found to be very quiet and harmless. One of them spoke Spanish fairly
well, and through him we were able to learn much about the manners and
customs of his tribe. He was quite intelligent and took pleasure in
telling us about the mode of life and occupations of his people. Later
on, especially in Orocué, where we spent ten days, we were able to
verify his statements. All his companions aboard, although below the
average height, were broad-shouldered, well-formed, and possessed of
extraordinary strength and endurance. Judging from the work we saw them
do, we were not surprised to learn that they are considered among the
best warriors among the savage tribes in this part of South America.

The first place of any special interest on the Orinoco above Ciudad
Bolivar is what is known as La Puerta del Infierno--The Gate of
Hell. It is nothing more than a contraction of the river where the
current is unusually strong, and where, on account of the large rocks
in the river bed, there are numerous eddies and whirlpools. From
what we had been told, the passage at this point was more difficult
and dangerous than shooting the rapids of the St. Lawrence, and the
scenery was represented as grand beyond description. The scenery was
wild and interesting, but far from sublime or awe-inspiring. The
current, it is true, was quite rapid, and our little craft made
but slow progress through the surging, seething waters, but there
was never any danger. For small sloops or schooners, and especially
for curiaras, or dugouts, the passage would doubtless be difficult
and somewhat perilous. It is, however, important that the pilot and
helmsman should exercise considerable care so as to avoid striking the
massive rocks with which the bed of the river is so thickly studded.

Considering the fertility of the soil, and the splendid grazing lands
on the north bank of the Orinoco, one is surprised at the sparseness
of the population. It is only at long intervals that one sees any
signs of human habitations, and then they are of the most primitive
character. Mapire and Las Bonitas are two straggling villages whose
inhabitants are chiefly engaged in stock-raising. The latter place
was also at one time the centre of the tonka bean industry, but most
of this trade has been transferred to Ciudad Bolivar.

Of the people of Las Bonitas, the noted explorer Crevaux writes as
follows: "Every man here has a cabin, a mandolin, a hammock, a gun,
a wife and the fever. These constitute all his wants." [102]

Near the confluence of the Apure with the Orinoco is the town
of Caicara, with a population of six or seven hundred souls. It
is something of a distributing centre for this section of the
country. Besides stock-raising and agriculture, which receive
considerable attention here, there is quite a trade carried on with
the Indians of the interior, who bring into the town certain much
valued articles of commerce. Among these are hammocks, made from the
leaf of the moriche palm, and ropes made from the fibres of a palm
called by the natives chichique--attalea funifera--which are highly
prized for their strength, durability, and above all, on account
of their being less affected by water and moisture than ropes made
from other materials. Large quantities of sarrapia or tonka beans are
brought here from the neighboring forests. They are much esteemed as
an ingredient of certain perfumes and for flavoring tobacco.

The town has a splendid location, and under a stable and enterprising
government would be the centre of a large inland trade. Towering about
a hundred and fifty feet above the town is a hill of gneissic granite,
on the summit of which are the ruins of a Capuchin monastery, which
has been abandoned since the War of Independence.

Our party was here augmented by a Venezuelan hide and cattle
merchant. He was a sociable fellow, and reminded us very much of a
Colorado or New Mexican cowboy. He left us at Urbana, the last town
of any importance, between Caicara and Orocué.

We arrived at Urbana, a town of about the same size and importance as
Caicara, shortly after six o'clock in the evening, and were surprised
that there was no one at the landing place to meet us. At every other
place at which we had stopped, every man, woman and child was out to
see us. It is only five or six times a year that a steamer calls at
this place, and then only during the rainy season, when the river is
high. The place was as silent as the grave, and seemed absolutely
deserted. There was not even a dog bark to break the oppressive
stillness, and not a single light was to be seen in house or street. On
enquiry we were informed that everybody had retired for the night. The
sun had just set only a few minutes before, but like the domestic fowl
in the back yard, all the denizens of the town had sought rest with
the approach of darkness, and, under ordinary circumstances, would
not have been seen before dawn the next day. This custom impressed us
at first as being very extraordinary, but we afterwards learned that
it is not unusual in small interior South American towns. In fact,
we soon found ourselves imitating the example of the natives. Shortly
after sunset--there is scarcely any twilight in this latitude--we
sought our berth or our hammock, and rarely awoke before the caroling
of the birds announced the break of another day. Of course, we often
had a special reason for retiring as early as we did. A lighted lamp,
especially on the Orinoco and the Meta, became at once the centre
of attraction for a cloud of insects of all kinds--some of which
emitted a most offensive odor. But aside from this we soon became
quite accustomed to early slumbers. The ever warm climate seems to
predispose to sleep, and, even after a good night's rest, one would
welcome an hour's siesta after luncheon.

After the steamer whistle had blown several times, and set all the
dogs in town to barking, the male population was aroused and came
straggling one by one to where we were moored. We were in need of a
new supply of provisions, as what we had brought from Ciudad Bolivar
was almost exhausted. After making the round of the town, our steward
was able, but not without difficulty, to get some eggs, chickens, and
a novilla--heifer. This would last us a few days, at the expiration
of which we hoped to find a new supply further up the river.

Much, however, as we were concerned about our commissariat, our
interest was just then centered in the result of a confidential
interview in progress between the captain and an army officer, who was
to decide whether we should be permitted to proceed on our journey,
or whether our boat should be appropriated for use in the campaign
against the revolutionists, who were said to be heading towards the
llanos of the Apure. This contingency had, like the sword of Damocles,
been hanging over us ever since we left Ciudad Bolivar. Only a few
days before, we had met a steamer returning from San Fernando de
Apure, whither it had been dispatched with arms and ammunition,
and there were grave reasons, so we were informed, for believing
that we should be obliged to disembark at Urbana. If we could only
reach Orocué, we had every reasonable hope of making the remainder
of our transcontinental journey without any special difficulty or
danger. If, however, the steamer were now required for military
service, we should be obliged to remain in Urbana for an indefinite
period, and perhaps--the thought was almost maddening--be forced to
abandon entirely an enterprise on which we had so set our hearts.

The suspense, which did not last more than a half-hour--although it
seemed a whole day--was finally relieved by the joyful announcement
that we should be permitted to continue our journey to Orocué. No
one who lives in a country like ours can realize what good news
this was to all of us. In the United States, if we miss a train,
we can get another a few hours later. There, on the contrary, far
off in the wilderness, where the means of communication are so rare,
the permission to proceed was like the commutation of a sentence for
a long term of imprisonment into the granting of immediate liberty.

After this happy decision had been conveyed to us, we wished to start
without a moment's delay. Hitherto, thanks to the bright moonlight
with which we had been favored, we had been able to travel night
and day. Now, for the first time, the sky became clouded, and we
were obliged, as a precautionary measure, to remain where we were,
until the clouds disappeared. To attempt to navigate the river in
these parts, where the channel is ever changing, where there are so
many sand bars, and so many floating trees and obstructions of all
kinds, would be extremely dangerous, and might mean the wrecking of
our vessel when we least expected it. Fortunately, the clouds soon
passed by, and we were again on our way rejoicing, and rejoicing as
only those can realize who have been placed in circumstances similar
to ours at that critical juncture.

The scenery along the Orinoco between Ciudad Bolivar and Urbana is
quite different from that of the delta. There we have one of Nature's
hothouses on an immense scale, with a luxuriance of vegetation that
is not surpassed in any part of the known world. Further up the river
there is less variety and richness, and the trees are smaller and
fewer in number. One soon observes, also, a marked contrast between
the vegetation on the right as compared with that on the left bank. On
the right bank the forest land still continues, while on the left
bank, for the greater part of the distance, we have the llanos or
plains--for many reasons so celebrated in Venezuelan annals. On both
sides the land is comparatively low and flat, although here and there,
especially on the right bank, there are highlands, and occasionally,
when the forest fringing the river permits it, one can see hills and
mountains towards the south.

The part of Venezuela south of the Orinoco--known as Venezuelan
Guiana--is still practically an unknown land. Humboldt, Michelena y
Rojas, Schomburgk, and others, it is true, have explored portions of
the upper Orinoco and some of the tributaries, but the impenetrable
forest lands through which these rivers pass are still quite
unknown. [103] As to the territory north of the Orinoco and the
Arauca it has been quite well known since the times of the early
mission period of Venezuela. Much of it, indeed, was explored by
the conquistadores.

The llanos extend southward from the mountain range bordering the
Caribbean to the Orinoco and its great tributary, the Meta. They have
an area more than four times as great as that of the state of New
York and are, in many respects, the most valuable lands of this part
of tropical America. And strange as it may appear, they are the most
neglected and most undeveloped. Their population and products are less
than they were in the days of the early missionaries, and, from present
indications, there is little probability that there shall soon be any
change for the better. Everywhere are immense savannas, in which are
numerous clumps of trees and groves, swamps and lagoons, all teeming
with multitudinous forms of animal life. Here--especially along the
Apure--bird-life is particularly conspicuous. It is here that occur
the most extensive garceros in Venezuela, if not in South America,
and it is here that the annual slaughter of the egret is greatest.

Tens of thousands of square miles of the llanos are inundated during
the rainy season. Then certain parts of the country present the
appearance of immense inland seas. The rivers overflow their banks,
and the floods rise almost to the tree tops of the nearly submerged
forest. The landscape then is not unlike what it must have been during
the Carboniferous Period--immense stretches of dense, luxuriant
woodlands in a vast fresh-water sea. It is then that it seems "an
unfinished country, the mountains not yet having lent enough material
to the llanos to keep them out of water during the entire year."

For centuries past the llanos have been famous for their immense
herds of cattle and horses. It is said that Gen. Crespo, one of the
presidents of Venezuela, had no fewer than two hundred and fifty
thousand cattle [104] on his hatos--ranches--and we were told of an
old bachelor who now has a hato that counts a hundred thousand head
of cattle, not to speak of an immense number of horses.

During the War of Independence the wild horses and cattle were in some
parts "so numerous as literally to render it necessary for a party of
cavalry to precede an army on the march, for the purpose of clearing
the way for the infantry and guns." [105] And only a few decades ago,
we were assured, the number of cattle was so great that they were
slaughtered for their hides alone. During recent years, however,
owing to the number of revolutions, and the little encouragement
afforded by the government to stock raisers, the herds on the llanos
have greatly dwindled in size and number. [106]

Under favorable conditions they could with ease greatly be multiplied,
and be made to contribute materially to the world's beef supply. The
unlimited pampas, with their rich, succulent grasses, ten to twelve
feet high, are capable of supporting millions of cattle, and there
is no reason why they should not be made available for the European
and North American markets at much lower prices than the beef that is
shipped from Argentina and Australia. Specially constructed cattle
boats, of light draft, could be made to ply the Orinoco, the Apure,
the Arauca and the Meta at all seasons of the year. Under a settled
and progressive government the grazing industry should be the chief
source of revenue of the Venezuelan republic. But, as conditions
now are, cattle raising is in a most deplorable state. When we asked
the Llaneros--people of the plains--along the Orinoco and the Meta
why they did not have larger herds on their magnificent savannas,
they invariably replied: "What is the use? We get a large herd, and
then there is a revolution. The army comes along and appropriates
our cattle, and we never get a penny for them."

During our trip up the Orinoco we tried at a conuco--small farm--to
purchase some chickens, but were told by the proprietor that, although
he usually had large numbers for sale, he did not then have a single
one left. "I heard yesterday that the revolutionists were coming this
way"--he had heard of the Peñalosa outbreak--"and I at once killed all
my chickens and gave my family and friends a great chicken feast. If
the soldiers had come they would have taken all and would not have
given me anything for them."

There are no better horsemen in the world than the Llaneros of
Venezuela and Colombia. They have often been called the Cossacks of
South America, and the name is not undeserved. In daring feats of
horsemanship their only rivals are the cowboys of our western plains,
and the intrepid Gauchos of the pampas of Argentina.

And no one has a greater love for horses than has the Llanero. Like
the Arab, he would rather part with his most cherished possessions than
dispose of a favorite steed. For one who has met this modern Centaur,
or who is familiar with his mode of life, the reason is evident. As
the Llanero spends the greater part of his life on horseback, his
faithful charger is to him, as to the Arab, not only a companion,
but his dearest and most reliable friend. Hence one need not be
surprised to hear him exclaim in the words of a llano bard:--


        "Mi mujer y mi caballo
        Se murieron a un tiempo;
        Que mujer, ni que demonio,
        Mi caballo es lo que siento." [107]


"All his actions and exertions," declares Páez, "must be assisted by
his horse; for him the noblest effort of man is when, gliding swiftly
over the boundless plains and bending over his spirited charger,
he overturns an enemy or masters a wild bull."

Like the character described by Victor Hugo, "He would not fight
except on horseback. He forms but one person with his horse. He lives
on horseback; trades, buys and sells on horseback; eats, drinks,
sleeps and dreams on horseback."

Give the Llanero a horse, and the equipment of a lance and a gun, a
poncho and a hammock, and he is independent. With these he is at home
wherever the setting sun may happen to find him. The hammock serves
him for a bed, and the poncho for a protection against sun and rain,
while with his lance and gun he can easily secure the food he may
require. Having these things, he is happy, and although he may be
poor in all other worldly goods, he is ever ready merrily to sing


        "Con mi lanza y mi caballo
        No me import a la fortuna,
        Alumbre o no alumbre el sol
        Brille o no brille la luna." [108]


It was the Llaneros who during the war with Spain contributed so
much towards achieving the independence of both Venezuela and New
Granada. Under their leader, Páez, they allowed the Spanish army
no peace day or night. Armed with their long lances, they seemed to
be ubiquitous and pursued their enemies with unrelenting fury. And
the novelty of their methods of warfare--an anticipation of those
so successfully employed by the Boers in their recent war with
England--were such as quite to disconcert those who rigidly adhered to
the tactics in vogue in Europe. On one occasion Páez dislodged a large
detachment of Spaniards by driving wild cattle against them, and then,
burning the grass by which they were surrounded, utterly destroyed
all of them. How like De Wett's methods in the Transvaal! [109]

On another occasion it was necessary for Bolivar's army to cross
the Apure, near San Fernando, in order to engage Morillo, whose
headquarters were then at Calabozo. But Bolivar had no boats, and the
Apure at this point was wide and deep. Besides, the Spanish flotilla
was guarding the river at the point opposite to which the patriot
forces were marching. Bolivar was in despair. Turning to Páez, he said,
"I would give the world to have possession of the Spanish flotilla,
for without it I can never cross the river, and the troops are unable
to march." "It shall be yours in an hour," replied Páez. Selecting
three hundred of his Llanero lancers, all distinguished for strength
and bravery, he said, pointing to the gun-boats, "We must have these
flecheras or die. Let those follow Tio [110] who please." And at the
same moment, spurring his horse, he dashed into the river and swam
towards the flotilla. The guard followed him with their lances in their
hands, now encouraging their horses to bear up against the current
by swimming by their sides and patting their necks, and shouting to
scare away the crocodiles, of which there were hundreds in the river,
till they reached the boats, when mounting their horses, they sprang
from their backs on board them, headed by their leader, and to the
astonishment of those who beheld them from the shore, captured every
one of them. To English officers it may appear inconceivable that a
body of cavalry with no other arms than their lances, and no other
mode of conveyance across a rapid river than their horses, should
attack and take a fleet of gun-boats amidst shoals of alligators; but
strange as it may seem, it was actually accomplished, and there are
many officers now in England who can testify to the truth of it. [111]

The islands between Urbana and the cataracts of Atures have long
been famous for the number of turtles that annually congregate on
them. During the dry season they come to these islands by hundreds
of thousands, and deposit their eggs in the playas, or sand banks,
which are here quite extensive. So great is their number, says Padre
Gumilla, that "It would be as difficult to count the grains of sand
on the shores of the Orinoco as to count the immense numbers of
turtles that inhabit its margins and waters. Were it not for the vast
consumption of turtles and their eggs, the river Orinoco, despite its
great magnitude, would be unnavigable, for vessels would be impeded
by the enormous multitude of the turtles." [112]

Humboldt estimated the number which, in his time, annually deposited
their eggs on the banks of the middle Orinoco to be nearly a
million. Owing to the abandonment of the system of collecting the
eggs, that prevailed in the time of the missionaries, the number of
turtles is not now so great as formerly. The amount of oil, however,
that is still prepared from turtle eggs, is sufficient to constitute
quite an important article of commerce. The time of the Cosecha--egg
harvest--always brings together a large crowd of Indians of various
tribes, besides a number of pulperos--small traders--from Urbana and
Ciudad Bolivar.

To our great disappointment, we arrived a few days too late for the
harvest. We were able to see no more than a few belated turtles here
and there and the abandoned palm-leaf huts that served to protect
the Indians from the sun during their temporary residence on these
sand banks which have been the favorite resorts of countless turtles
from time immemorial. Our steward was fortunate enough to get a large
fine turtle, weighing fully fifty pounds, and we had turtle steak
and turtle soup that would delight the most confirmed epicure. Our
chef, we may add in this connection, took pride in his work, and his
skill and attention contributed not a little to the pleasure of our
fortnight's voyage on the little steamer which he served so well.

A matter of ever-increasing astonishment to us was the continued great
width of the Orinoco, after we had passed such immense tributaries
as the Caroni, the Caura, the Apure, and the Arauca. Near Urbana,
six hundred miles from its mouth, it has a breadth of more than three
miles. This peculiar feature of the great river has attracted the
attention of travelers from the earliest times.

Padre Gilli, a learned missionary, who spent more than eighteen years
in the Orinoco region, thus writes of the great river in his informing
Saggio de Storia Americana, "One cannot understand how the external
appearance of the Orinoco remains practically uniform, except near
its source, whether the waters of other rivers are or are not added
to it." [113] Depons tells us that the inhabitants attribute to the
waters of the Orinoco "many medical virtues, and affirm that they
possess the power of dispelling wens and such like tumors." [114] As
for ourselves, we made no experiments in this direction. We found the
water so muddy from the delta to the Meta, that if a tumbler full of it
were set aside for a while, the bottom of the glass became covered with
quite a thick layer of yellow sediment. We did not find it to possess
the offensive, disgusting odor, due to dead crocodiles, turtles and
manatees of which many travelers have complained, but we did take good
care never to drink any of it without having it carefully filtered.

On leaving Ciudad Bolivar we had a limited supply of ice in a small
refrigerator. This was a real luxury while it lasted. At first we
thought it would be difficult to become accustomed to drinking the warm
water of the river--it had a temperature of 82° F.--but we soon became
quite used to it, and rarely, if ever, thought of the absence of ice.

We had spent nearly two months in Venezuela and were about to enter
the neighboring republic of Colombia. During that period we had
visited most of the chief cities of the coast and of the interior,
and had come into contact with all classes of people. We had talked
with them about matters religious, educational, social, economic,
political, and only rarely did they manifest any disinclination to
express their honest opinions about men and things. Apart from a
certain class of professional revolutionists--who have everything to
gain and nothing to lose from internecine strife--we found that the
great majority of the population is, in spite of what has been said to
the contrary, peace-loving and thoroughly sick of the turmoil of which
they have so long been the helpless victims. The better element--old
Venezuelan families of Spanish descent--which should be the ruling
element, but which is too often kept in the background by ambitious
adventurers and unscrupulous spoilsmen, have lofty ideals for their
country, and long to see it become the home of peace and industry,
of progress and culture.

For few, if for any of the countries of South America, has Nature
done more than for Venezuela.

She has in the first place the dominating advantage of location. She
is nearer to Europe and the United States than any of the other South
American republics, and should, under a strong and stable government,
enjoy corresponding trade advantages. From her numerous ports on
the Caribbean sea, as well as from points on the Orinoco and its
affluents, freight can be transferred in a few days to our ports
on the Gulf and Atlantic coast, while from La Guaira to Cadiz the
distance is but little greater than it is from New York to London.

And what a great commercial future there is for this at present
hapless and neglected country when it shall be blessed by wise and
progressive rulers! It has soil of marvelous fertility and possesses
mineral deposits of all kinds and of untold value. It has tens of
thousands of square miles of the best grazing land in the world,
capable of supporting millions of cattle. In the lowlands all the
productions of the tropics are found and their annual yield could
be enormously increased. In the plateaus of the mountain chains
are produced the fruits and cereals of the temperate zone--of the
best quality and in surprising abundance. Then there are the rare
and beautiful woods of its interminable virgin forests; sources of
wealth yet untouched and all but unknown, except to the few who have
explored this land of marvelous natural resources.

Such are some of Nature's gifts to Venezuela. But the extent of her
bounty is as astonishing as its variety. How few are there who have
an adequate conception of the extent of this country? It is a land
that is scarcely known to the general reader except in connection
with one of its periodic revolutions. And yet it has an area almost
seven times as great as that of Great Britain and nearly ten times
as great as that of the whole of New England. In extent of territory
it equals France, Germany and Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands,
Ireland and Switzerland all combined.

And yet, incredible as it may appear, its total population, including
Indians--savage as well as civilized--is less than that of New
York City. If the population of Venezuela were as dense as that
of Belgium the country would count three hundred and fifty-eight
million inhabitants.

Sparse as is the population, it is rather a matter of surprise that
the number of inhabitants is so great rather than that it is so
small. During a period of seventy years there have been no fewer than
seventy-six revolutions. During sixty of these years the country has
seen two armies almost continually in the field. The poor soldiers,
mere puppets of soulless adventurers, rarely knew what they were
fighting for. Against their will, they were torn from their homes
and families to enable ambitious leaders to get control of the
government. The death-rate has been appalling--at times greater by far
than the birth-rate. Some of the revolutions, it is estimated, have
caused the loss of more than a hundred thousand lives. For this reason,
there has been a decrease in the population during the last fifty years
instead of an increase. Indeed, it may be questioned whether there
are as many inhabitants in the country to-day as there were before the
war with Spain, or even at the time it was first visited by Europeans.

It would be difficult to name another country, except possibly Haiti,
where, in proportion to the population, war has wrought greater
ravages and counted more victims. A country that should be a land of
peace and plenty has for generations been an armed camp of contending
factions, in which the worst elements have come to the front and in
which justice and innocence and respectability have been trampled under
foot. With all this were the usual concomitants of such a condition of
affairs--atrocities that the pen would fail to describe, deaths from
famine and pestilence, deaths from the machete and from imprisonment
in dark and foul dungeons.

Like northern Italy, after the death of Frederick II, Venezuela,
in the words of Dante, has been for nearly a century


                                              "Full
        Of tyrants, and the veriest peasant lad
        Becomes Marcellus in the strife of parties." [115]


And there was the consequent stagnation of business and paralysis of
industry of every kind, and the destruction of property on a scale
that seems incredible. Such has been the fate of Venezuela since
the time of Bolivar, whom its people hail as the Liberator, as the
Washington of South America.

But pitiful as has been the country's lot, unfortunate as it is to-day,
the future is not without hope. Only one thing is necessary to change
the present lamentable condition of affairs, and convert Venezuela into
a great and happy country. That one thing is a man--a ruler of strong
arm and stout heart, who is a patriot in deed as well as in name;
a president who, forgetful of self, will devote himself entirely to
the development of the country's resources and to the happiness of
his people; a statesman, who will be intelligent enough and forceful
enough to bring order out of chaos, and give to a long-suffering
people those blessings of civilization which, for generations past,
they have known only by name. [116]

The task is difficult, very difficult, but it is not impossible. It
is only a few decades ago since Mexico was as turbulent a country
and as noted for pronunciamentos and revolutions as Venezuela is
to-day. Lawlessness was rampant, credit was gone, commerce languished
and the only railroad was a short one extending from Vera Cruz to the
national capital. Within a single generation this has been all changed,
and through the efforts of one man--Porfirio Diaz. Under his wise and
beneficent guidance, Mexico has emerged from that state of confusion
and anarchy from which she had so long suffered, and now occupies
an honored position among the nations of the world. Give Venezuela
a statesman and a patriot of the stamp of Garcia Moreno or of Diaz,
or of our own Roosevelt, and she, too, from being a comparative waste,
will be made to bloom as the rose, and, from being a byword among the
peoples of the earth, will be enabled to attain to that commercial
and economic eminence which is hers by nature and manifest destiny.



CHAPTER V

EL RIO META


                            "Yendo de la manera que refiero
                            Habiendo muchos dias navegado,
                            Dieron en la gran boca del estero
                            De Meta sumamente deseado:
                            Alegrose cualquiera compañero,
                            Pensando ser concluso su cuidado,
                            Pues aunque de poblado no ven cosa,
                            La tierra se muestra mas lustrosa."

                                        --Juan de Castellanos. [117]


"Having traveled many days in the manner above described, we finally
reached the mouth of the much desired Meta. Every one rejoiced,
thinking their gravest solicitudes were at an end. And although no
human habitations were visible, nevertheless the land was of a bright
and cheerful aspect."

Thus, in sonorous octava rima, does the illustrious historiographer of
Tunja [118] give expression to the joy which Alonso de Herrera and his
companions experienced on their arrival at what they fondly hoped was
the goal of their long and daring expedition. It was now more than a
year since they had left the mouth of the Orinoco. Before starting on
their adventurous journey, they had to construct flat-bottomed boats
and make other preparations indispensable for a voyage so replete
with danger and of such uncertain duration.

Herrera was the second of the conquistadores to reach the Meta by
the Orinoco. He was drawn thither by the reports of vast amounts of
gold existing in the province of the Meta. But the reports proved
to be as misleading in his case as they had been in that of so many
other valiant leaders of expeditions in search of another Mexico or
Peru. He had scarcely reached what he was led to believe was the land
of gold and precious stones when, in a fight with Indians, his life
was cut short by a poisoned arrow.

Unlike Herrera, we were glad of our arrival at the Meta, not because we
were in hopes of finding treasure in its neighborhood, but because we
were at last sure that our boat would not be commandeered for military
purposes. True, we had been told at Urbana that there was nothing to
apprehend on this score, but we were not entirely satisfied with the
assurances given. When, however, we had entered the Meta, we were in
Colombian territory and away from Venezuelan telegraphs and dispatch
boats. After this we had no further anxiety, for we had every reason to
believe that we should arrive in due course at our destination--Orocué.

Although Herrera's voyage to the Meta took place as early as 1535, he
was not the first Spaniard to explore this part of South America. Diego
de Ordaz, a captain under Cortes in Mexico, had preceded him to this
region by four years. Instead of continuing his journey up the Meta,
as he had been advised by his Indian guides, who assured him that
toward the west he would find an abundance of gold, he endeavored
to go towards the south on the Orinoco. He found his plans thwarted
by the great rapids he encountered--probably those of Atures or
Maipures--and was compelled to return without having accomplished
anything more than making a general reconnoissance of the country
through which he had passed.

I refer especially to the expedition of Diego de Ordaz because it was
the first of those famous expeditions made on the great rivers of the
New World by the conquistadores. He anticipated Orellana's marvelous
voyage down the Amazon by nearly ten years.

I have also another reason--a personal one--for alluding to
it. Twenty-five years before my arrival at the juncture of the Orinoco
and the Meta I had made the ascent of Popocatepetl and explored the
same crater from which, more than three and a half centuries before,
Diego de Ordaz, to the great amazement of the Indians, had taken out
sulphur for the manufacture of gunpowder. When scaling this lofty
volcano, I had frequently thought of the courage and endurance of this
dauntless Spaniard in accomplishing a task which was then far more
difficult than it is now. According to Herrera it was then in action,
and the smoke and flames rendered the ascent next to impossible. To
the Indians the crater was the mouth of hell in which tyrants had to
be purified before they could enter the abode of the blest.

But difficult and hazardous as was the ascent of Popocatepetl, the
voyage up the Orinoco was, in the days of Ordaz, far more so. Not
so to-day, when the trip can be made in a steamer with comparative
ease and comfort. But it did seem strange--passing strange--that
we two should have visited two such unlikely places and so widely
separated from each other in time and space. It was almost like having
a rendezvous with an old friend. I confess that I not only thought
of Ordaz, but imagined that I felt his presence.

The great conquistador should have been permitted not only to wear
a burning volcano on his armorial bearings--as was allowed him
by Charles V--but he should also have been granted the privilege
of having depicted on his coat of arms one of the great rapids of
the Orinoco--La Puerta del Infierno--for instance, which he had so
successfully passed. His achievements have been eclipsed by many of
his contemporaries, but in enterprise and daring he is second to none.

As I have said, we were glad--very glad--to reach the Meta, but I
personally felt a pang of regret on leaving the Orinoco. Nothing would
have pleased me more than to have continued on the waters of this
great river until we should have reached the wonderful Cassiquiare,
which connects the Orinoco with the great Rio Negro and with the
still greater Amazon. I consoled myself with the thought that
possibly I might be able to make this journey later on, and then
probably extend it through the Madeira, Mamoré, Pilcomayo and Parana
to Buenos Ayres. This had long been a fond dream of mine. Will it
ever be realized? In the language of one of my Spanish companions,
Dios verá--God will see--for it is not impossible.

I say it is not impossible, because a part of the journey--from the
Orinoco to the Amazon--has often been made and is still frequently
made every year by traders, missionaries and others. And contrary to
what is often asserted, it is not an undertaking of any particular
difficulty or danger. The same may be said of the journey from the
Amazon to the Parana.

There is reason to believe that the first to make the journey between
the Amazon and the Orinoco, by way of the Cassiquiare, were Lópe de
Aguirre, the traitor, and his companions, who went from Peru to the
northern coast of Venezuela in 1561. The first white man to pass from
the Orinoco to the Rio Negro by the Cassiquiare was the missionary,
Padre Román. He made the round trip from his mission near the mouth
of the Meta to the Rio Negro in about eight months, and at a time
when some of his associates--Padre Gumilla among the number--were
endeavoring to prove that there was no connection between the Orinoco
and the Amazon, and that, consequently, a journey from one to the
other by boat was impossible. [119]

After Padre Román's time the journey between the Amazon, the Orinoco
and vice versa was a very ordinary occurrence for missionaries
and traders. It was made in 1756 by the Spanish commission sent to
settle the boundary line between Brazil and Venezuela, by Humboldt
and Bonpland, Michelena y Rojas and numerous other explorers who have
left us accounts of their travels.

Since the missions have been suppressed the Indian population between
Urbana and San Fernando de Atabapo has greatly diminished and, as
a result, the traveler at times finds great difficulty in securing
boats and rowers. In Humboldt's time the trip was comparatively
easy. There were flourishing missions along the entire course of his
travels--through New Andalusia and Barcelona, through the llanos of
Venezuela, along the Orinoco from Angostura to Urbana and from Urbana
to the Brazilian frontier on the Rio Negro.

Now all this is changed. If he could return to the scene of his
famous explorations he would not be able to locate even the site
of many of the missions where he was so kindly entertained and of
whose hospitality he writes in terms of such unstinted praise. From
Ciudad Bolivar to San Carlos on the Rio Negro--a distance of nearly a
thousand miles--he would not find more than one or two at most. Even
San Fernando de Atabapo, that in Humboldt's time was the capital of
a province and an important missionary centre, is to-day without a
pastor. A priest from Ciudad Bolivar goes to this distant place--more
than seven hundred miles away--once a year to look after the spiritual
welfare of the few inhabitants that still remain there. The other
missions, of which the illustrious savant gives us such interesting
accounts, have long since disappeared, and the places they occupied
are now covered with a dark, impenetrable forest growth. Most of these
were suppressed at the time of the War of Independence, or died out
during the countless revolutions that have since desolated the country.

In the kindly and hospitable padres in charge of these missions,
Humboldt always found counselors and friends, and in some of his
longest and most difficult journeys they also proved to be his best
and most intelligent guides. It was through them, too, that he was
able always to obtain food, boats and boatmen--three essentials that
the traveler of to-day often finds it extremely difficult to procure.

Shortly before entering the Meta we passed through the Raudal de
Cariben, a swift and foaming cataract, which rushes between immense
masses of black granite that stand like sentinels on both sides of
the river to warn the navigator against the perils of further advance.

The forms of the rocks are bizarre in the extreme. Some of them are
columnar in structure and resemble the sombre pillars of a Hindoo
temple. Others are more fantastic in shape and would easily pass
for a Sardinian noraghe in ruins. From one point of view the rocks
present the appearance of a dismantled fortress with its bastions,
parapets and embrasures; its glacis, scarps and counter-scarps.

But the most singular spectacle of all is a formation on the right
bank of the river that seemed, for all the world, to be a petrified
battleship--just such a man of war as might have been fashioned by the
hammer of Thor and used by a race of Titans. The celebrated Garden of
the Gods in Colorado does not exhibit more grotesque or diversified
rock formations than does the Raudal of Cariben and it is entirely
devoid of that wonderful setting given the Orinoco by the luxuriant
tropical forest and a cataract that resembles in many respects the
rapids above the Falls of Niagara.

One is not surprised to learn that the Indians have woven many legends
about this cataract, which is almost as picturesque as are those
of Atures and Maipures further up the river. And still less is one
surprised to read of the accounts given by the early missionaries
of the difficulties and perils attending the passage of these
rapids. For small craft, especially canoes, it is necessary to keep
them near the shore and punt them, or pull them along by ropes. With
our stern-wheeler we never felt that there was any danger, but our
progress was exceedingly slow. At times we were actually at a stand
still and once or twice it looked as if we were going to be carried
down stream, so great was the force of the current. But finally,
after a long and determined struggle, we passed the cataract in
safety. To be frank, we all experienced a feeling of relief when we
saw that all the reefs and remolinos--whirlpools--were behind us,
and that we were again once more in placid and safe water.

"Este raudal es muy maluco," [120]--this cataract is very bad--said
our pilot to us after the strain was over. "It is much more difficult
to steer a boat through it than through La Puerto del Infierno,
near Ciudad Bolivar." Fortunately for all concerned, he knew his
business well and was as conscientious as he was skillful. He had
been navigating the Orinoco and the Meta for nearly twenty years
and was thoroughly familiar with every feature and peculiarity of
both of them. He had never had an accident and was justly proud
of his record. He had the eye of a hawk and could judge of the
relative depths of the water by differences of color that were quite
imperceptible to the ordinary observer. Only once, during our entire
journey, did we graze a sandbar, and that was only for a moment. But
it was quite sufficient to make a young Ethiopian among our crew
think that his last day had arrived, and that we were surely going
to the bottom. Greatly frightened, he turned to us and remarked,
"It am very unwholesome to travel in dis ribber. Dat am certain."

It was at the mouth of the Meta, according to certain alarmists whom we
had met in Ciudad Bolivar, that we should be exposed to grave danger
from savages. A band of murderous Guahibos, led by a certain sambo
[121]--a refugee from the llanos of Venezuela--had for some time,
we were assured, been stationed at this point, where they attacked
every vessel that passed by, and where they had already robbed and
killed a large number of people who had ventured too near the outlaw's
lair. The first intimation of their presence, we were told, would be
a shower of poisoned arrows from the dense underbrush where the enemy
would be concealed. But this report, like so many others regarding
the dangers of our journey, proved to be unfounded. There was not
a Guahibo, much less a sambo leader to be seen anywhere. Everything
was as quiet as on the proverbial Potomac.

Speaking of the Meta, Padre Gilli says: "Its width is greater than that
of a dozen Tibers, and in the summer season, when the wind is high,
the waves become very large." [122] Far from being an exaggeration, as
might appear to the reader, this statement is rather an underestimate
of the reality, at least as regards its breadth. In places it is fully
two miles wide--almost as broad as the Orinoco near the delta. And
this is not because of the shallowness of the river. According to
Humboldt, its mean depth near its mouth is thirty-six feet, and it
sometimes attains to more than twice this depth.

One of the chief affluents of the Meta from the north is the river
Casanare. We were much interested in this on account of its historical
associations. It was down this river that Don Antonio Berrio, the
son-in-law of the famous adelantado, Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada,
came on his celebrated expedition from Bogotá to Trinidad. He was the
first white man to undertake this long journey, and, considering the
difficulties of travel at that time, through an unknown land, and often
through the territory of hostile savages, his finally attaining his
destination was, indeed, a wonderful achievement, comparable, in some
respects, with that of Orellana down the Amazon a few decades before.

For a long time the Casanare river was the favorite route of the
missionaries who went from Bogotá to evangelize the various tribes
who dwelt in the valley of the Meta and in the valleys of many of its
chief tributaries. Indeed, for a long time some of the most flourishing
missions in New Granada were in the country through which we are now
passing. But after the religious orders in charge of the missions were
withdrawn or suppressed, the Indians returned to their native wilds,
and gradually reverted to their original savage condition.

Much as we tried, we could not discover even a vestige of any of the
former missions on the Meta. And not only have the former villages and
towns disappeared, but even the Indian tribes who, at one time, were
so numerous on both sides of the river, seem to have vanished also. We
sailed an entire week on the Meta without seeing or hearing a single
human being. In some cases the Indians have, for greater security,
retired into the depths of the forest. In others, war and disease have
done their work and whole tribes, as in other parts of South America,
have been exterminated. The names of the mission villages and towns
along the Meta still figure on the maps, but the traveler is unable to
find the slightest trace of even the sites on which they were located.

About the least favorable place in the world for cultivating literature
would, one would think, be in a rude hut in an Indian village on the
Meta. And yet, strange as it may seem, one of the most interesting
and valuable works that have ever been written on the missions of
South America, on the manners, customs, and languages of the various
Indian tribes of the plains and forests of Colombia, was produced on
the banks of the Meta.

Its author was the zealous and scholarly Padre Juan Rivero, who
spent sixteen years as a missionary in this part of the New World. He
wrote many works on doctrinal subjects in their own language for the
benefit of the Indians. Besides this he gave to the world what are
probably the most useful grammars in existence of several of the more
important languages and dialects spoken by the various tribes among
whom he labored with such marked success.

The work, however, to which I specially refer, is his Historia de las
Misiones de los Llanos de Casanare y los Rios Orinoco y Meta. [123] It
has been the basis of many other works on the same subject--Gumilla's
El Orinoco Ilustrado for example--but, notwithstanding the numerous
books that have been written since then on the Indians of the
Orinoco and its tributaries, Rivero's is still facile princeps,
and must always be consulted by one who desires accurate knowledge
regarding the condition, character, rivalries and wars of the divers
savage tribes to whom he preached the gospel of peace and brotherly
love. Besides this, he gives us exact information concerning the
geography of the country through which he passed and affords us
entertaining accounts of its fauna and flora. He supplies us, too,
with rare and curious data of great scientific value to the historian
and ethnologist, and gives us the benefit of his unique experience as
to the best means of civilizing and Christianizing the savage hordes
that in his day--1720 to 1736--wandered over the plains and through
the woodlands of northern South America.

It was indeed in consequence of the recognized importance of his work,
as a contribution to the solution of certain social and economical
difficulties, that confronted the Colombian government some decades
ago, that it was finally published in 1883, after lying in the dust
in manuscript for nearly a hundred and fifty years.

For several years some of the Indians of eastern Colombia had given
great trouble to the whites in the more distant settlements. Robberies
and massacres and atrocities were becoming daily more frequent and
the numerous savage hordes threatened to extend their incursions
toward the villages and towns of the interior. The inhabitants were
in consternation and called upon the government to devise immediate
means for their safety and protection. The authorities were willing to
do anything in their power but did not know what steps to take. They
had to deal with a foe about whose character, numbers and home they
were almost entirely ignorant.

It was then that someone, by a happy inspiration, suggested calling
in as adviser one who knew more about the Indians than any of the
officials of the government, one who had long lived among them and had
won their confidence and affection, one, consequently, who would be
better able to counsel in the emergency that confronted the government
than any one else that could be named.

The adviser and expert was one who had been dead nearly a century
and a half--the sainted missionary Padre Juan Rivero. He could not
testify orally, but his great manuscript work on the Indians was in the
archives of Bogotá, and it was decided to print it at once, and in this
wise give the public the benefit of the great missionary's advice and
utilize his knowledge of a wild and untractable race that had already
become a serious menace to the peace and prosperity of the country.

When published, the book was found to be so modern in many of the views
expressed, so well adapted to supply information then sorely needed,
that it appeared to be written expressly to meet recent difficulties
and throw light on questions that modern legislators and political
economists had been discussing, but without sufficient knowledge or
the necessary data. Both the data and the knowledge were furnished
by Padre Rivero of happy memory.

In the preface to his work the author tells us of the difficulties
under which he labored in its production. "The banks of the Meta,"
he writes, "have been the workshop in which this work has been
forged. Here the inconvenience of the house in which I live, the
concourse of Indians with their importunate demands, the visits of
the heathen Chiricoas, who are the most noisy chatterers conceivable,
and various other disturbances, which would require time to recount,
have been the retirement which I have enjoyed, and the quiet which
has been allowed me for such an undertaking." [124]

Speaking of the Indians who inhabited the llanos and the banks of
such rivers as the Casanare and the Meta, he declares they were as
numerous as the sands of the seashore and the stars of heaven. During
more than three weeks spent in the valley of the Meta, we saw but one
small encampment of wild Indians--Indios bravos--about midway between
Cariben and Orocué. They greeted us in a friendly manner and seemed
to be a very harmless people. They were Guahibos, those merciless
savages who, we were assured, would be lying in ambush awaiting our
arrival, prepared to assail us with a shower of poisoned arrows,
preparatory to serving us up at one of their cannibalistic feasts.

As to the monkeys, skipping from tree to tree along the Meta, and
exciting the admiration of the traveler by their antics and grimaces,
he avers that their number is an embarrassment to the arrows directed
against them. Yet, although we were daily on the lookout for these
interesting animals, as well as for others popularly supposed to exist
in countless numbers along the rivers and in the forests of Venezuela
and Colombia, we never got a glimpse of even a single specimen of
any of the quadrumanous tribes. [125]

Padre Rivero was probably the first to give an account of that curious
custom--the Couvade--which prevailed among the Indian tribes with
whom he was acquainted. As is known, this extraordinary custom has,
at one time or another, obtained in all quarters of the globe--in
Asia, Africa, in Europe as well as in North and South America. Marco
Polo found evidence of it during his travels in the Orient. It is,
however, in South America that it is most prevalent and where the
prescriptions connected with it are most scrupulously observed. And
it was the early missionaries who have furnished us with the most
interesting data regarding this widespread custom, and which, according
to recent travelers, is still as prevalent in certain parts of South
America as it was generations ago.

"It is a ridiculous thing," says Rivero, "of which I am about to
speak, but it is nevertheless a reality. It is this. When a woman
gives birth to a child, it is the husband that is to receive the
care and attention given on such occasions and not the miserable
woman. Scarcely is the child born, when the husband, with the behavior
of one who has escaped from a grave mischance, goes to bed complaining
as if he were ill. The wife then bestows on him the most tender care,
as if on this the welfare of the home depended. As a reason for these
superstitious practices and ridiculous ceremonies, they assert that,
if during this time they should go walking, they would trample on
the head of the infant; if they should chop wood, they would cleave
the child's head; if they should shoot birds in the mountain, they
would infallibly shoot the newly born. And so is it with other foolish
things of a similar character which they firmly believe." [126]

The time during which the father must keep to his bed, or hammock,
varies from a few days to several weeks. In some tribes it is longer
than in others. During this season and even for months afterwards
some articles of food are quite tabooed. He must then abstain from
certain kinds of birds or fish, "firmly believing that this would
injure the child's stomach, and that it would participate in the
natural faults of the animals on which the father had fed. If, for
example, the father ate turtle, the child would be deaf and have
no brains, like this animal; if he ate manatee, the child would
have little round eyes like this creature." Again, if he eats the
flesh of a waterhaas--Capybara--a large rodent with very protruding
teeth--the teeth of the child will grow like those of this animal;
or if he eats the flesh of the spotted labba, the child's skin will
become spotted. Among some tribes the father is forbidden to bathe,
to smoke, or to use snuff, or even to scratch himself with his finger
nails. In their place he must employ "for this purpose a splinter,
specially provided, from the mid-rib of a cokerite palm."

Dobrizhoffer, a noted missionary in Paraguay, in his very interesting
History of the Abipones, is even more explicit about this superstitious
practice. "No sooner," he says, "do you hear that the wife has borne
a child, than you will see the Abipone husband lying in bed, huddled
up with mats and skins, lest some rude breath of air should touch
him, fasting, kept in private, and for a number of days abstaining
religiously from certain viands. You would swear it was he who had had
the child.... They are fully persuaded that the sobriety and quiet of
the father is effectual for the well-being of the new-born offspring
and even necessary.... And they believe, too, that the father's
carelessness influences the new-born offspring, from a natural bond and
sympathy between both. Hence if the child comes to a premature end,
its death is attributed by the women to the father's intemperance,
this or that cause being assigned. Among these would be that he did
not abstain from meat, that he had loaded his stomach with waterhog,
that he had swum across the river when the air was chilly, that he
had neglected to shave off his long eye-brows, that he had devoured
underground honey, stamping on the bees with his feet, that he had
ridden till he was tired and sweated. With ravings like this the crowd
of women accuse the father with impunity of causing the child's death
and are accustomed to pour curses on the unoffending husband." [127]

The whole subject of the couvade opens up many interesting questions
for the ethnologist, and its careful study may be productive of much
valuable information regarding the early races of mankind. For the
student of linguistics and folklore, there is still among the little
known tribes of Eastern Colombia a broad and rich field for research
concerning the languages, customs and traditions of these people,
and the works of the early missionaries are replete with the most
precious data respecting them. [128]

As we quietly sailed up the broad forest-clad Meta, we could not help
harking back to the distant past, when, ever and anon, along its banks
were to be seen the smiling homes and villages of happy Indians under
the watchful eye and protecting arm of their "father priest," and
comparing it with the present desolate and deserted land that for days
at a time does not exhibit the slightest trace of a human habitation.

Then, in the beautiful language of Colombia's great lyric poet,
D. José Joaquin Ortíz, "One clime and one region was not sufficient
for the ardor that inflamed the breasts of the holy disciples of
Christ. They will go to enkindle the pure flame of love in the breast
of the savage, at the same time teaching him the arts of peace in
the immense solitudes which are fertilized by the Arauca, and the
Meta and the Casanare and the torrential Upia. They will scale the
ever-precipitous throne of the deafening storm, and will finally hear
the canticle sounding in praise of the redeeming cross, in as many
tongues and by as many tribes as people my native land from the West
to the East."

And then, too, was to be seen one of those charming gatherings so
beautifully pictured by our own Longfellow in "The Children of the
Lord's Supper"--"Thus all the children of the Mission hasten, at the
sound of the bell, to gather about the cross, which is raised on high,
and to approach near the venerable man who with his silver locks towers
above so many infantile heads. Oh, neither Plato nor Socrates, famous
in the annals of knowledge, after long years of continuous vigils,
ever knew what these poor, ingenuous children learnt from the tremulous
lips of the old man at the foot of a tree-trunk in the forest." [129]

Much, however, as we were disposed to linger on the glories of the
past, and to regret the absence of what, in days gone by, possessed
such an intense human interest, we were not insensible to the marvelous
natural beauties of river and forest that defiled before our admiring
gaze from morning until night.

At one time it is a colossal Bombax ceiba [130] that claims our
attention. This tree is remarkable alike for the height it often
attains and for the wonderful expanse of its branches. To support
such a giant of the forest, Nature has made a special provision. It
is supplied by large buttresses, from six to twelve inches thick and
from ten to twenty feet above the ground, which project like rays
from all sides of its lofty trunk. Were it not for these peculiar
stays the tree would be uprooted by the first violent wind to which
it might be exposed.

At another time it is a huge fig tree that we admire, or a tall
and graceful Candelero, so named from its resemblance to an ornate
candlestick. In both cases we observe the same peculiar, buttressed
roots that are so characteristic of the ceiba and some other giants
of the forest.

But more wonderful far than the ceiba is a tree called by the natives
by the expressive name of Matapalo--Tree-Killer. It is a species
of fig tree, known to naturalists as the Ficus dendroica. It is at
first but a feeble, climbing shrub, sometimes resembling a vine, but
it soon spreads itself over the tree on which it has fastened itself
and eventually encloses it in a tubular mass. It is a veritable boa
constrictor of the vegetable world, for it sooner or later crushes
the life out of its victim.

"After the incarcerated trunk has been stifled and destroyed,
the grotesque form of the parasite, tubular, corkscrew-like, or
otherwise fantastically contorted, and frequently admitting the
light through interstices like loopholes in a turret, continues to
maintain an independent existence among the straight-stemmed trees
of the forest--the image of an eccentric genius in the midst of a
group of sedate citizens." [131]

Another remarkable tree seen in the tropics is the cow tree, the
palo de vaca, or arbol de leche--the milk tree of the natives. Its
sap resembles milk in taste and appearance, and is extensively used
as an aliment, especially by the negroes and mestizos. In referring
to this strange specimen of plant life, Humboldt remarks: "Amidst
the great number of curious phenomena which I have observed in the
course of my travels, I confess there are few that have made so
powerful an impression on me as the aspect of the cow tree.... It is
not here the solemn shades of forests, the majestic course of rivers,
the mountain wrapped in eternal snow, that excite our emotion. A few
drops of vegetable juice recall to our minds all the powerfulness and
the fecundity of nature. On the barren flank of a rock grows a tree
with coriaceous and dry leaves. Its large woody roots can scarcely
penetrate into the stone. For several months of the year not a single
shower moistens its foliage. Its branches appear dead and dried; but
when the trunk is pierced there flows from it a sweet and nourishing
milk. It is at the rising of the sun that this vegetable fountain is
most abundant. The negroes and natives are then seen hastening from
all quarters, furnished with large bowls to receive the milk, which
grows yellow and thickens at the surface. Some empty the bowls under
the tree itself, others carry the juice home to their children." [132]

After leaving the Orinoco we made no attempt to travel at night. The
ever-changing bed of the river, the sand banks, the large trunks
of trees that were hurried along by the current, eddies and rapids
and rocks and islands unnumerable, made sailing at night quite
impossible. For this reason, at nightfall we sometimes moored at the
river's bank, attaching our boat by a rope to the nearest tree, but,
more frequently, in order to escape mosquitoes and other insects,
we dropped anchor in mid-river.

The night was always tranquil, and we were never disturbed by any of
those noises--the howling of monkeys and the cries of jaguars--which,
in tropical forests, are usually supposed to be so pronounced a
feature. Nor were we ever troubled by mosquitoes during our entire trip
of two weeks from Ciudad Bolivar. And never did we deem it necessary to
take the precaution of putting up our mosquiteros--mosquito nets--to
protect ourselves from the plaga--plague--which we had been assured
would be a nightly visitant during our entire journey.

We had been told, too, that the intense heat of the atmosphere would
be another cause of continual suffering--day and night. But we did not
find it so. At no time did the thermometer rise higher than 86° F.,
and it frequently sank as low as 66° F., when we were glad to put on
wraps of some kind. We observed that a variation of a few degrees was
more appreciable than the same variation in our northern latitudes. A
drop of two or three degrees below 70° F. produced a greater sensation
of cold than a fall to 50° would produce in New York.

As a matter of fact, one need not remain long in the tropics before
he becomes affected by very slight changes of temperature. And another
fact is soon impressed on the observer, which is that the heat in the
tropics is not so much greater than that in more northern latitudes,
as measured by the thermometer. It is the almost uniform temperature,
day and night, the whole year through, that eventually becomes so
depressing and so difficult to endure.

At no time, either on the Orinoco or the Meta, did we ever
see the thermometer rise within fifteen degrees of the intense
heat one frequently experiences during the summer in New York and
Washington. The nights, although usually warm, were never unpleasant. A
sheet was generally sufficient covering, but we sometimes found it
necessary to use a blanket. Only once were we annoyed--and that for
but a short time--by insects, and that was because we moored near
the bank under large, overhanging trees, which seemed to be alive
with certain bugs of a very noxious odor.

Once or twice during each day it was necessary to stop to take on
wood, which was usually ready and piled up on the bank. Sometimes,
however, the owner would demand more than the captain was willing
to give, and that meant that the crew was then obliged to go into
the forest and cut fuel sufficient to take us to the next wood-pile
further up the river. Fortunately, we were not often obliged to cut
the wood ourselves. Each time we did so meant an extra delay of three
or four hours.

Besides stopping for wood, it was at times necessary to call
for provisions, fruits, chickens, eggs, and a certain queso á
mano--hand-made cheese--of which the Llaneros are very fond and which
we found very palatable.

On one occasion our supply of beef became exhausted, and it was
necessary to stop--about noon--at a hato along the river to get a
heifer for our next meal. Unfortunately, the owner of the ranch was
not at home. He was out among his herds several miles distant. Our
steward, nothing disconcerted, started in search of him, but before
he had found the proprietor of the herd, and had gotten the desired
novilla--heifer--on board, it was dark. There was then nothing to do
but tie our boat up near the house in which we had spent most of the
afternoon, and wait until the following morning before continuing
our journey.

At first, it would appear that such delays would prove very annoying,
but this was very far from being the case. On the contrary, it was
most interesting, as it gave us an opportunity of getting acquainted
with the people, and of familiarizing ourselves with their mode of life
and occupations, and enjoying many interesting conversations with them
about matters in which they were most concerned. We always found them
very hospitable and very entertaining. They always gave us a cordial
welcome to their humble home, and rarely allowed us to depart without
giving us something from their simple store. Sometimes it was a brace
of chickens, at other times a basket of fruit, a calabash of eggs,
or generous piece of queso á mano--which was made by the mistress of
the house herself.

Here we were among people who lived the simple life, and appeared all
the happier for it. We saw no evidences of suffering anywhere. The
only thing that seemed to concern them was the instability of the
government. True, Colombia had been in the enjoyment of peace for
several years past, but every now and then some gossip-monger would
circulate reports about another uprising in some part of the country,
and about the imminent danger to which the men were exposed of being
drafted into the army, and of being torn away from their families,
to whom they are devotedly attached.

Occasionally, while the crew was cutting wood, we were able to make
a collection of orchids, of which there are along the Meta many
wonderfully beautiful species. At one time our deck was a veritable
bower of all kinds of orchids of the most brilliant colors and of the
strangest imaginable forms. Some of them possessed a most delicate
fragrance, while others emitted a delightful perfume that spread over
the greater part of our deck.

Linnæus knew only about a dozen exotic orchids, and expressed it as
his opinion that when the world was fully explored by botanists,
it might probably yield a hundred species all told. How surprised
he would be if he could now return to the world and find that the
species of this curious plant are actually counted by thousands! To
English horticulturists alone some thousands of species are known. Even
some of the many genera of this extensive order contain hundreds of
species. Of odontoglossums there are more than a hundred species
catalogued. Of oncidiums more than two hundred and fifty species
have been described. Of dendrobiums between three and four hundred
species are known, while the genus Habenaria counts more than four
hundred species. Then there are the countless hybrids--and their
number is rapidly increasing--that, during the last few years, have
been produced in the conservatories of Europe and America.

Orchids are found in all parts of the world; in the marshes and groves
of the lowlands and in the lofty plateaus of mountain ranges. But it
is in the warm and humid regions of the equator that they occur in
the greatest variety and profusion. Twenty years ago the number of
species known in Venezuela alone exceeded six hundred. In Colombia the
number is probably greater. It is here, too, that some of the choicest
specimens have their habitat. From this country tens of thousands
of plants are shipped annually to the florists of Europe and the
United States. As an illustration of the extent of this industry it
suffices to state that a single firm has under cultivation no fewer
than one hundred thousand Odontoglossums, for of this species alone
hundreds of thousands of plants are marketed annually. Other species
are scarcely less popular. To supply the ever-increasing demand for
them, there is now a small army of men continually engaged in the
tropical forests in the work of collecting and preparing them for
shipment. We met several of them in both Venezuela and Colombia.

In the forests along the Meta we could within a small area easily
have collected more orchids than were known to Linnæus. They were
everywhere--in the forks of trees, on their branches, on decaying
trunks, on the lianas stretching from one tree to another, and, forming
with the flowering epiphytes [133] with which they were laden, the most
beautiful tapestry, beside which the most exquisite Gobelin masterpiece
would pale into insignificance. In other places they grew on bare,
precipitous rocks, where they were quite inaccessible, on prickly
cactus plants, near beautiful cascades, or clumps of arborescent
ferns. We found them flourishing near the ocean shore and near the
limits of perpetual snow on the crests of the Cordilleras.

Everywhere they were attractive and worthy of study--some on account
of their bizarre forms, mimicking insects and butterflies, others on
account of their delicate fragrance, and others still on account of
their gorgeous colors, which fairly rival those of the rainbow.

The odors of orchids are almost as diverse as their colors and
forms. While most of them have an agreeable scent, there are some
that have an unbearably fetid odor. Some emit a faint and delicate
perfume; others possess a fragrance which, although delicious, is
almost overpowering. In some the fragrance is perceptible only in the
morning, in others solely in the evening. Some have a scent like that
of violets, others like that of musk or noyeau, and others again like
that of angelica or cinnamon. More wonderful still, "some species,"
we are told, "give out different scents at different times, such as
Dendrobium nobile, which smells like grass in the evening, like honey
at noon, and has in the morning a faint odor of primroses." [134]

It was a fortnight, almost to the hour, since we had left Ciudad
Bolivar, when, one bright day, as the sun was approaching the zenith,
our captain, pointing to a tongue of land in the river ahead of us,
said, in a cheerful tone of voice, "A la vueltá esta Orocué." Orocué
is beyond that point.

And so it was. In a few minutes more we had the town in full
view. We had finished another stage of our journey and that, too,
without an untoward incident of any kind whatsoever. The entire
voyage had been made with comfort and pleasure, and we actually
regretted to leave the boat on which we had spent so many delightful
and happy hours. It was indeed an experience of a lifetime, one of
enchanting panoramas, such as can be witnessed only along the great
water courses of the equator. The flora, the fauna, the people, the
lands, so rich in romance and so celebrated for the achievements
of the conquistadores--those of the cross as well as those of the
world--all fascinated us and enchained our interest during every moment
of our wakeful hours. Yes, it was a memorable, never-to-be-forgotten
experience, one of those experiences that necessarily exalt the lover
of Nature and bring him near to Nature's God.

All the inhabitants in Orocué--men, women and children--were gathered
on the bank to witness the arrival of our little steamer. So rarely
does anything larger than a small sailboat come here that the
arrival of a steamboat is regarded as an event of paramount interest
and importance. Most grateful to us, for it was so unexpected,
was the welcome accorded us by a number of the leading citizens
of the town. They had been advised by telegraph of our coming,
and had prepared most comfortable quarters for our reception and
entertainment. Escorting us to our temporary home--which was not
only well furnished but a model of neatness--we were told, with true
Castilian politeness, accompanied by an air of simplicity and sincerity
that made us feel at home from the first moment, "Aquí están Uds. en
su casa. Estamos todos á sus órdenes." "Here you are in your own home
and we are all at your disposition." The keys of the house were then
handed us, and with them we were accorded the freedom and hospitality
of generous, never-to-be forgotten Orocué.



CHAPTER VI

APPROACHING THE ANDES


                            "Aqui la selva secular, ornada
                            De festones de variada enredadera
                            De bellos y vivísimos colores,
                            Y la extensa pradera
                            De fraganciosas flores alfombrada,
                            Forman el templo augusto que levanta
                            La creacion a Dios, á quien ofrece
                            Deliciosos perfumes por incienso,
                            Y por ofrenda el fruto delicado
                            Que el estival calor ha sazonado."


"Here the forest secular, decked with festoons of divers climbers,
of beautiful and brilliant colors, and the broad meads carpeted with
fragrant flowers, form an august temple, which creation raises to God,
to whom it offers delicious perfumes for incense, and, as an oblation,
brings the delicate fruit matured by the summer's sun."

In these words of the Bolivian poet, D. Manuel José Cortés, might
aptly be described the extensive forests and plains of which Orocué
is the centre. Everywhere is that same exuberance of vegetation and
profusion of vari-colored bloom that are so characteristic of the
basin of the Meta. While lost in silent admiration of the countless
floral beauties that on every side met our delightful gaze, we could
but compare the scene to a ruined Eden,


                  "Where the first sinful pair
        For consolation might have weeping trod,
        When banished from the garden of their God."


In the garden adjoining our house were citrus trees laden with
golden fruit, bananas of many varieties and a large mango tree, whose
branches were bending under the weight of its richly tinted, luscious
drupes. Near by was a noble old ceiba, while but a short distance away
was a tall Jacaranda--of the trumpet-flower family--literally enveloped
in a reddish-violet mantle of papilionaceous flowers, and filling the
air round about with perfume not unlike that of the orange blossom or
the jasmine. Everywhere we went some new floral display was awaiting
us. All along our path we found an unending variety of laurels and
myrtles; trees and shrubs and herbs of the Rubiaciæ family. There
were splendid representatives of the genera Cassia and Mimosa, and
clumps of the ever-present moriche, together with other species of
palm equally attractive and majestic. Frequently these were joined
by delicate festoons of liana, many of which were weighted down with
orchids and epiphytes of the rarest beauty and fragrance.

Orocué is the capital of the district of that name in the National
Territory of the Meta, and the seat of a prefecture. It is located on
the left bank of the Meta, on an eminence about thirty feet above the
surface of the river, and sufficiently high to guarantee it against
inundations during the rainy season. Being less than five degrees from
the equator, the climate is warm but, during our stay, it was never
uncomfortable, and at no time did the thermometer ever rise above
82° F. The population is about six hundred. The place is healthful,
and malignant fevers are rare. The streets are wide, and some of the
houses are well-built and comfortable. Most of them are constructed of
bamboo plastered over with clay. The roof is thatched with the broad
leaves of the moriche palm or preferably with those of the palma de
cobija, also known as the palma de sombrero--hat palm. This is what
scientists call Copernicia [135] tectorum, and is preferred to any
other leaf because it is not readily inflammable. Such a roof lasts
ten or twelve years, and is impervious to water. During our sojourn in
Orocué it rained regularly for several hours every day and, although
the downpour at times was very heavy, never once did we observe a
single drop of water to pass through the roof. Everything in our
rooms remained as dry as if the roofs had been made of tile or slate.

Many of these bamboo-palm houses are constructed without the use of
a single nail. Studs and cross beams, laths and rafters, are tied
together and held firmly in place by bejucos, those wonderful natural
cords and cables which are found in such profusion in every tropical
forest, and which, in the hands of the natives, serves such an endless
variety of purposes.

Some years ago the town possessed what the inhabitants considered a
large and beautiful church. It was constructed of the same materials as
the other buildings of the town and occupied a conspicuous position on
the plaza. In consequence of recent revolutions and other disturbances,
it had been greatly neglected, and, at the time of our visit, was
rapidly falling into ruins. The people had not had a pastor for some
years, but were hoping to have one soon. They, however, received every
few months the ministrations of a priest from a neighboring mission,
and longed for the time when they could have a resident pastor and
see their church restored to its pristine condition.

There was a small school for boys, attended by about twenty young
mestizos, but none for girls. There was a movement on foot to secure
the services of some nuns to teach the girls, and the mothers of
the children awaited their arrival with the greatest impatience. The
monjas--nuns--have a wonderful influence over the children, and young
and old are thoroughly devoted to them.

Orocué has an aduana, or customhouse, and is the centre of a
flourishing grazing district, in which there are numerous hatos and
fundaciones, [136] containing from two to twenty thousand head of
cattle. Cattle, hides and rubber, together with the coffee, which
is brought from the foothills of the Andes, constitute the principal
articles of export. [137]

The neighboring Indians manufacture large and beautiful hammocks from
the leaves of the Cumare and other palms and bring them here and
exchange them for anything that may strike their fancy. Although I
had brought a German hammock with me, I procured one of these Indian
chinchorros, and found it during the remainder of my journey in South
America the best investment I could have made. Nothing contributed
more to my comfort when I desired a siesta, and when I wished to
escape the filth and insect pests to which, in my wanderings, I was
so frequently exposed.

Of the many objects brought to Orocué for barter by the Indians few
had greater interest for us than the weapons employed by them in the
chase and in war. Among these the chief ones were their poisoned
arrows and blowguns. A friend made us a present of some of them,
but owing to the inconvenience of transporting them, we were unable,
much to our regret, to take them with us.

For a long time the mystery connected with the virulent poison,
known as curare, urari woorali, etc., with which the Indians poison
their arrows, remained unsolved, notwithstanding the efforts of
men of science to determine its source and composition. Early
travelers gave the most fantastic accounts of its composition and
manufacture. According to them it was a concoction more uncanny than
that prepared from


           "Eye of newt and toe of frog,
            Wool of bat and tongue of dog.
            Adder's fork and blind worm's sting,
            Lizard's leg and owlet's wing."


Indeed, so carefully did the Indians engaged in its manufacture
guard the secret of its preparation that it was not until a few
decades ago that the true character of this deadly compound was first
understood. Boussingault suspected but did not prove the existence of
strychnine in curare. [138] Humboldt was probably the first to suspect
its true nature. [139] It is now known that neither snake's teeth nor
stinging ants form its active principle, as was formerly supposed,
but that its venomous properties are due to the presence of curarine,
a bitter crystalline alkaloid obtained from the plant Strychnos
toxifera, or other plants of this genus, found throughout equatorial
America. Its virulence is manifested only when it is administered
through the skin. It then paralyzes the motor nerves, and, if the
poison be sufficiently strong, it produces death by suffocation.

The Indians in Orocué, as everywhere else along the Meta and Orinoco,
were a subject of never-ending study for us. Most of the inhabitants
of Orocué are Indians or mestizos, and it would be difficult to find
anywhere a gentler or more peaceful people. The town was founded by the
Salivas Indians, whose nasal language the early missionaries found so
difficult to master, but whose gentle nature and amiable disposition
were ever the subject of the highest eulogies. Remnants of this tribe
are still found in this territory, as are also representatives of
the Piapocas, Tunebos, Yaruros, Cuivas, and the once powerful yet
friendly Achaguas.

The tribe, however, that counts the greatest numbers, is the
Guahibos, whom certain imaginative travelers would have us believe
are as fierce as pumas or jaguars. The truth is, however, that,
although some of them are more or less nomadic in their habits, and
decline to live with the racionales--whites--they are, as a rule,
peaceful and industrious. Sr. Jorge Brisson, an engineer for the
Colombian government, who a few years ago thoroughly explored this
country--the Casanare--speaks of them as being muy agricultores y
muy trabajadores--hard-working tillers of the soil.

That they are peaceful and harmless is evidenced by the fact that the
owners of the scattered conucos along the Meta are rarely, if ever,
disturbed by these much maligned Indians. In many of the isolated
habitations, which we visited on our way up the river, we found only
women and children. The men were occupied elsewhere, and were sometimes
absent for weeks at a time. This, certainly, would not be the case
if the Guahibos were the cruel, relentless savages they are so often
represented to be. Not once in our journeyings up the Meta and its
affluents did we hear of any atrocities committed by these Indians,
or even of any complaints against them, although we took particular
pains to inform ourselves about the matter. All the reports about
their robberies and murders were confined to those we had heard a
thousand miles down the river and from people who probably never saw
a Guahibo in their lives, and who would not recognize one if they
were to see one.

It is true that now and then a cow or a calf may disappear from some
of the Conucos and fundaciones and that their disappearance is always
credited to the Indians. Even if this suspicion were verified, an
occasional theft of this kind--all the circumstances considered--should
not be so surprising. We do not need to go beyond the boundaries
of our own country to find cases of cattle stealing. And the poor
Indian, often cheated and wronged, may, without being a casuist,
easily persuade himself that he is justified in seeking occult
compensation. This is often his only safe method of making reprisals
for damage done him in person and property, and he would be more than
human, if he did not occasionally resort to it if he thought he could
do so with impunity.

"The fact is," says Brisson, "the poor creatures have heretofore been
very badly treated by those who claim to be civilized, and flee in
terror when they see a white man. The question now is not to civilize
them but to win their confidence. The problem would easily be solved
if this delicate task were confided to the missionary priests. They
would bring it to a successful issue much sooner than could government
officialdom." [140]

Contrary to what is often imagined, the Indians who visit the
settlements along the Meta and the Orinoco are always decently if
but scantily clad. In their forest homes, however, their raiment
usually consists of a simple lap-cloth. On occasions of feasting
or public rejoicing they make an addition to their toilet. This
consists in painting their bodies with various dyes, but chiefly
with the yellowish-red annatto, which is obtained from the pulp of
the fruit of the arnotto tree, Bixa Orellana. They frequently cover
their persons with the most fantastic designs. Indeed, it is only
when thus decorated that the true children of the forest consider
themselves properly dressed. They would be ashamed to appear before
strangers otherwise. [141]

"Tigers and serpents," observes Mr. Brisson, "are bug-bears of the
same family as Indios bravos"--savages. It is certain that the
tiger--jaguar--is fond of heifers and calves. But herdsmen will
tell you, that in order to get rid of one, it is at times necessary
to follow him for a fortnight before being able to find and kill
him. This is sufficient to prove that the tiger is never the first
to attack a man in the llanos of Casanare, where it has food in
abundance. "Serpents are met with only casually." [142]

I was glad to find one writer, who is so familiar with the country
as is Sr. Brisson, to speak thus of the wild beasts most dreaded and
of the still more dreaded Indios bravos, for it harmonized perfectly
with my own experience.

We were one day talking with our host in Orocué about the stories
told by travelers and writers regarding the jaguars of the South
American forests. He smiled, and said, "I have lived in this country
thirty-five years. I have several hatos in various parts of the
country, which I visit frequently. In doing this I am obliged to
travel much through the forests and plains. I have often journeyed
up and down the Orinoco, and the Meta from Trinidad to Bogotá, and,
believe me, during all these years, I have never seen but one jaguar
and that was in passing." How different his experience from that of
those who, after a short excursion into the interior of South America,
where they rarely leave the beaten track used for centuries, have,
nevertheless, such wonderful adventures to relate; such miraculous
escapes from savage beasts and more savage Indians!

Our host was a Venezuelan of Spanish descent, and a splendid type of
the old Spanish school. He had spent a part of his youth in Germany,
and was a man of education and refinement. He was untiring in his
delicate attentions to us during our sojourn in Orocué, and made
us quite forget that we were so far from home and what we so often
fancy are the indispensable necessities of civilization. He had
been eminently successful in business. Besides owning the largest
business house in Orocué--which is a distributing point for the great
Casanare territory--he is the proprietor of several of the largest
hatos in the country and counted his cattle by tens of thousands. In
addition to all this, he has various other interests that yield him
a handsome income. He enjoys the reputation of being a millionaire,
and the reputation is apparently justified.

How he could content himself to live in this isolated quarter of the
world--"six months from everywhere," as one of his clerks expressed
it--when he could enjoy all that money could command in the capitals
of the Old or the New World, was a mystery to us, and yet he seemed to
be perfectly happy here, and to have no desire to live elsewhere. Was
it the ever dominant feeling that "There is no place like home,"
that made him prefer Orocué to Paris or London? Quien sabe?

The only Europeans living here were three Germans. Two of them had
arrived but a few months before our visit, while the third had
been here for nearly twenty years. This latter was also as much
attached to Orocué as was our host. The year before he had visited
his family and friends in Hamburg and Berlin. "But," he said, "I had
heimweh--got homesick--for Orocué, and came back much sooner than I
intended. The noise and bustle and hurry and high-pressure of Europe
were quite unendurable, and I was more than delighted when I got back
to dear old Orocué." He, too, had realized that there is no place
like home. And he, also, like our host, was educated and cultured;
was interested in science and literature and passionately fond of
music. He had several musical instruments in his house--among others
a piano--on all of which he was a skillful performer.

"What wonderful men these Germans are!" I said to myself, when I saw
these three men in the prime of life burying themselves away off
here in the wilderness, so far away from friends and country. But
this is not an unique instance of young Germans going to distant
lands to engage in business and to contribute thereby towards that
wonderful development of trade and influence for which the Vaterland
is becoming so famous. In every part of Venezuela which we visited,
we found it the same. The greatest and most successful business houses
are in the hands of Germans.

In all parts of South America you will find Germans, and find them,
too, successful in their enterprises, and often getting more than
their share of the trade of this vast continent. But they deserve
success, for they have earned it, and know how to make sacrifices
when they are necessary to attain it, or to reach the goal for which
they are striving--to become the dominating commercial power of South
America. If the United States would display but a tithe of the energy
and enterprise exhibited by Germany, it would not now occupy in the
southern continent the humiliating position it does among the great
mercantile nations of the world, and among our friends of the great
Latin American republics. It is not too late to retrieve our loss,
but, to do so, we must change our policy and our methods of doing
business, and conduct them along the lines recommended by such alert
and far-seeing statesmen as Blaine, Root and Roosevelt.

After a delightful week spent in Orocué we were ready to start
for Barrigon or Puerto Nuevo on the Rio Humea, an affluent of the
Meta. To go there by a bongo [143] during the rapidly rising water,
would require from fifteen to twenty days. It would be necessary
to pole it--or pull it along by ropes in certain places--the entire
distance. Besides this, owing to its limited quarters, such a boat
would be extremely uncomfortable. Fortunately for us, and thanks
to the kind offices of our host, we were able to have the use of a
fine and commodious petroleum launch, which would convey us to our
destination in a week.

It was with genuine regret that we said Adios to the good people
of Orocué and to the kind friends who had made our sojourn there so
pleasant and profitable. They were all at the landing to see us off,
and speed the parting guests with the touching words, Vayan Uds. Con
Dios--May you go with God. To these fervent words of farewell came
from our little crew the cordial response, Y con la Virgen, and with
the Virgin Mother.

Our captain was a bright and courteous and most obliging young
Colombian from Bogotá. The pilot was a Venezuelan half-breed from the
town of Barcelona. This "son of Barcelona," as he described himself,
had fled from his native country, on account of the continued
revolutions, to seek peace in Orocué. The cook was also a mestizo,
while his assistant was a strong, broad-shouldered Guahibo, who,
far from being an unfeeling savage, was one of the kindest and most
thoughtful persons one could meet. He was ever ready to serve us
and was never more happy than when he observed that his delicate
attentions were fully appreciated.

The launch's commissariat consisted of a liberal supply of
tasajo--salt, dried beef--cassava bread, coffee, panela [144] and
various kinds of fruit. Anticipating our needs at this part of our
journey we had, before leaving the Port-of-Spain, laid in a supply of
claret and canned goods of various kinds. Aside from the butter and
condensed cream and some of the fruit preserves, the canned goods were
a disappointment. Although they were guaranteed to be fresh from the
factory, they were unfit for use. What we really enjoyed more than
anything else, and always found fresh and wholesome, was our supply
of coffee, sugar and crackers. For our café in the morning nothing
more was desired.

Coffee was always served on the launch, when we were
ready to start on the day's journey, which was usually at
sunrise. Desayuno--breakfast--we took at about ten o'clock. For this
we always landed, as it was more convenient and more agreeable to
do our cooking on shore than aboard. It was, indeed, quite romantic
to have one's breakfast served under a broad-spreading ceiba, or in
the midst of a clump of stately palms, or in the shade of a group of
graceful bamboos. And not the least picturesque feature about it was
Antonio--our ever-active and obliging Guahibo.

Whenever possible, we stopped for desayuno and comida--dinner--at a hut
or cottage on the river's bank. We ordinarily passed several of them in
the course of the day, for the banks of the upper Meta count many more
inhabitants than does the lower part of the river. Usually there was
only a single cottage, but occasionally we passed a caserio consisting
of five or six cottages. But whatever the number they were always of
the simplest construction possible. Sometimes the house was nothing
more than a palm-thatched shed, composed solely of a roof, with eaves
extending almost to the ground, resting on short supports. Sometimes
the owners of these humble habitations were Indians, sometimes
mestizos. But whether Indians or mestizos, we were cordially received
and invited to make ourselves comfortable in the best hammock in their
possession. With them the hamaca is the one indispensable article
of furniture in every dwelling, even the poorest. It takes the place
of our rocking-chair, sofa and bed. According to the Colombian poet,
Madrid, the hammock was invented by the Indians--


                            "Gente
            Dulce, benigna y mansa,"


--a race suave, gentle and benign--and even when all else fails them
they have their hammock to comfort them in misfortune, banishing
their trouble in its oblivious embrace. The poet, like many others,
evidently shares the Indian's fondness for the hammock, as the best
verses he ever wrote was his poem La Hamaca. [145]

There were several reasons for stopping at one of these native huts
when we could conveniently do so. We were thus enabled to get fresh
fruit, eggs and chickens, and have them cooked as well. We had no
complaint to make of our own cooks, but we soon discovered that the
Indian and mestizo women were far better. I shall never forget our
surprise and pleasure at the manner in which a young Indian woman
prepared for us roast chicken, and that, too, in a remarkably short
time. I never tasted a more tender or better flavored fowl in the
best restaurants of New York or Paris. And she had no stove or oven
in which to roast it. Her sole utensil was a wooden spit over a
few coals surrounded by three stones about seven or eight inches in
diameter. And all was as clean as it was enjoyable.

All the furniture of the house is as primitive as the fireplace on
which the meals are cooked. Often the only utensils of metal are a
pot, or kettle, and a machete, which takes the place of a knife in
cutting. When the hammock is not used one sits on the ground or on a
log that serves as a bench. Occasionally we were offered the carapace
of a large turtle in lieu of a chair. When the hammock is not used,
an ox hide, or a rush mat, or a large palm leaf serves as a bed. Often
the poor people sleep on the bare ground.

Aside from the single metal kettle above mentioned, all other
culinary utensils are made from the fruit of the calabash tree. It
is the species known to botanists as Crescentia Cujete and is
called by the natives totumo. The fruit is used at various stages
of its growth according as it is employed for making small or large
utensils. The younger and smaller fruits are fashioned into spoons,
those of medium size serve for drinking vessels, while the largest
full-grown fruits--often eight inches in diameter--are used for dishes
and platters. [146] They also furnish a kind of musical instrument
resembling the castanet. But marvelous to relate, they are also
employed for lanterns of a most original kind. After the shell is
pierced with a large number of small holes it is filled with those
wonderful Cocuios--fireflies--that are found in such numbers in the
tropics. Such a lantern seen at a distance is not unlike the familiar
Chinese lantern, and, considering the nature of the illuminant,
gives a surprising amount of light.

A house, such as the one just described, is the lodging place of
the dogs, and poultry, and not infrequently of the pigs also. The
poultry roost upon the crosspieces immediately under the roof. The
other animals occupy their own corner, and no one seems to be molested
by their presence. Benzoni, in speaking of the habits of the Indians
he saw, remarks in his quaint fashion: "They all sleep together like
fowls, some on the ground and some suspended in the air." [147]

Every house is surrounded by a number of fruit trees. Among these the
platano and the banana are the most conspicuous, and are never wanting,
for they supply a large part of the food of the inhabitants of the
tropics. Equally important are maize and yuca. [148] The latter is
used for making bread. In certain parts of the tropics no other kind
of bread is obtainable. To me it has a very insipid taste, somewhat
like that of bran or cellulose. Schomburgk considered that it had a
deleterious effect on the stomach, but there are few, I think, that
share his view. Certain it is, that its use as food is universal in
the tropics, and it is one of the three plants--yuca, maize and the
platano--that one is always sure to find in every conuco--even that of
the poorest Indian. These three articles are his staff of life. The
natives also eat fish and flesh of various kinds, it is true, but as
the three plant products named are quite sufficient to sustain life,
and as they require little care after they are once planted, many
people make little or no effort to secure other kinds of food. They
are content with little and seem to enjoy the living of the simple
life fully as much as some of our friends in the North enjoy talking
and writing about it.

Often, too, where one would least expect it, one will find beautiful
flower gardens around the most unpretentious habitations. Of the
flowers that we in the North are most familiar with--not to mention
countless peculiarly tropical species--those we most frequently
observed were roses, jasmines, dahlias, pinks, violets, dracenas,
gladioli and gardenias. The large rose bushes, or rather rose
trees--they are so huge--one sometimes sees in the hot, dry climate
of the tropics are truly remarkable. They sometimes attain a height of
twenty feet, and one may count on a single bush as many as a thousand
buds. From such a bush one may pluck a hundred beautiful roses every
day in the year without any apparent diminution in the number on the
parent stem.

While journeying up the Orinoco and Meta, we several times tried our
luck at fishing, but our efforts were always attended with the most
ignominious failures. Outside of a few minnows we caught absolutely
nothing. One of our crew once caught a fish about two feet long
resembling a pickerel and this was the only time that we ever tasted
fresh fish all the time we were on the river.

No sooner had the hook sunk into the water than the bait was
taken. There was a momentary nibble, and presto! the bait had
disappeared. On investigation we found that we had to deal with
the terrible Caribe--that voracious little fish about which so many
extraordinary stories are related. In crossing rivers the natives
dread the attacks of this serrasalmonine marauder more than they do the
gymnotus, the stingray or the cayman. They have very sharp, trenchant
teeth, usually swim in schools, and, when attracted by blood, will
attack men and the larger animals without hesitation. And so fierce
and rapid is their combined action that their attack usually means
death to the victim.

We had often heard and read of their snapping fishhooks in twain but
had classed this statement among the stories of the monkey-bridge
class--stories that entertained us during our early school days, and
which, I doubt not, still perform the same function for the rising
generation in certain parts of the world.

But, while pondering our ill success with rod and line, we discovered
one evening, after vainly trying for an hour to get at least one
specimen of the finny tribe--and exhausting all our bait in the
attempt--that our hook--a good-sized one, too--was snapped in two
as neatly as if it had been cut by a pair of pliers. We examined the
part of the hook that remained attached to the line and we found that
it was actually cut, not broken on account of defective material.

On further inquiry, I found that several men of science who had
visited these parts, and had, presumably, investigated the matter, had
positively stated that the Caribe was capable of severing fishhooks
with the greatest ease. Thus Mr. H. M. Myers does not hesitate to
affirm that the Caribe is "able to sever ordinary hooks as if they
were but slender threads," [149] and Dr. Carl Sachs declares that
"even thick steel fishhooks do not withstand their teeth." [150]

Both in the Orinoco and in the Meta we saw quite a number of
porpoises--toninas, the Spaniards call them--quite as large and as
playful as any we ever saw in the ocean. The natives say they are the
friends of man, and defend him from caymans when he happens to be in
the river. [151] One thing is certain and that is that caymans and
crocodiles both quickly make their escape when the porpoise appears. It
is probably, because the sluggish and indolent caymans, ferocious
as they are by nature, have an instinctive dread of the noisy and
impetuous evolutions of these delphinine cetaceans, especially when
they move in schools.

We were often surprised by the large flocks of ducks, of many
different species, which we saw along the Meta. They seemed to be
most numerous near sunset when, occasionally, they flew across the
river by thousands. So great, indeed, was their number at times that
we could compare them only with the immense flocks of pigeons that,
during our boyhood days, used to darken the sky during their season
of migration. Many of these ducks, as articles of food, compare
favorably with our mallard and canvasback. Truth to tell, the only
time we regretted not having a shotgun with us was when we saw these
clouds of edible birds passing over our heads within easy reach. This
was particularly the case when our food supply was running short, or
when we desired a change of diet, or something different from carne
frita--fried beef that has been salted and dried--and sancocho. [152]

Among the singing birds peculiar to the tropics are two that deserve
special mention. There are the campanero or bellbird, and the flautero
or flute bird.

Of the bellbird, Waterson writes as follows: "He is about the size of
a jay. His plumage is white as snow. On his forehead rises a spiral
tube nearly three inches long. It is jet black, dotted all over
with small white feathers. It has a communication with the palate,
and when filled with air, looks like a spire; when empty it becomes
pendulous. His note is loud and clear, like the sound of a bell.



"With many of the feathered race, he pays the common tribute of a
morning and an evening song; and even when the meridian sun has shut
in silence the mouths of the whole of animated nature, the campanero
still cheers the forest. You hear his toll, and then a pause for a
minute, then another toll, and then a pause again, and then a toll,
and again a pause. Then he is silent for six or eight minutes and
then another toll, and so on. Acteon would stop in mid-chase, Maria
would defer her evening song and Orpheus himself would drop his lute
and listen to him; so sweet, so novel, and romantic is the toll of
the pretty snow-white campanero." [153]

So closely indeed does the note of the campanero resemble the
sound of a bell that the traveler can easily fancy that there is a
chapel in the depths of the forest, and that the faithful are being
called to prayer. The bellbird has a near relative in the herrero,
or blacksmith bird, whose note is like that produced when an anvil
is struck by a hammer.

The flautero, or flute bird, is quite small and of a grayish color. Its
notes are surprisingly sweet and mellow, and closely resemble those
of a sweet-toned flute, whence its name. One who hears this feathered
songster for the first time would easily believe that he is listening
to a skillful flute player, and not to the song of a tiny bird. The
refrain of its song is fairly well expressed in the following notes:

Unfortunately for us, we were often obliged to listen to sounds that
were not so agreeable as those of the flautero or campanero. These
were the raucous, discordant, never-ending noises produced by frogs
and toads. In Orocué they always began their cacophonous serenade
at nightfall, and kept it up uninterruptedly until the following
morning. I could then realize that Padre Rivero had good cause for
regarding them as among the greatest nuisances with which he had
to contend. Their confused, strident notes--base, tenor, contralto,
soprano--kept up the entire night were, he assures us, enough to split
one's head. Some of these amphibians we heard at Orocué were on the
opposite side of the river from us, more than half a mile distant. They
were in very truth what Lowell has so well characterized as


        "Old croakers, deacons of the mire,
        That led the deep batrachian choir."


The wonderful depth and fertility of the dark, loamy soil in the valley
of the Meta was ever a source of wonder to us. Along the river banks
it usually formed a layer of four or five feet, and not infrequently
seven or eight feet. And the vegetation was everywhere an evidence of
this fertility. At Platanales, a conuco at which we spent a night, we
saw a grove of several acres of the largest and most prolific bananas
and plantains we had ever encountered anywhere. At another conuco,
farther up the river, where we stopped for breakfast, we saw several
acres of corn that was rapidly maturing. And what corn! Never did
I in Kansas or Nebraska see such ample stalks or so large ears and
grains. It was a revelation to us, and exhibited in a most striking
manner the wonderful, future possibilities of this marvelously fertile,
yet unknown land.

Near every dwelling, however humble, along the Meta, we observed
a large cross made of tastefully and often artistically plaited
palm leaves. The material was yet quite fresh and the crosses had
evidently been erected only a few days before we passed by. In design
and workmanship they reminded us of those seen in parts of Italy on
Palm Sunday. On inquiry, we found that they had been erected on the
third of May, the feast of the Invention of the Holy Cross.

"Why is this cross placed here?" I asked of an Indian woman, while she
was preparing our desayuno. "Para que no nos pegue el chubasco,"--in
order that the chubasco--wind squall--may not strike us, she replied
without hesitation. I asked many others at divers places the same
question and invariably received a similar reply.

These poor people were not able to erect the beautiful shrines one
so frequently sees in the Catholic countries of Europe, and so their
simple faith found expression in these palm-leaf crosses, on which
they had evidently put their best and most careful work, of which
they often seemed justly proud.

On passing by a particularly large and beautiful cross of this kind my
mind reverted to a shrine near the lighthouse of Savona, an ancient
town near Genoa. Here there is a statue of the Madonna, twelve feet
high, under which are inscribed two Sapphic verses, expressing in
rhythmic numbers the same idea that was uppermost in the mind of
the good Indian woman when she braided and placed in position this
symbol of redemption. The verses were composed by Gabriello Chiabrera,
"the prince of Italian lyric poets," who was a native of Savona. They
are remarkable in that they are both "good Latin and choice Italian,"
and have the same meaning in both languages. They read as follows:


        "In mare irato, in subita procella,
        Invoco te, nostra benigna stella." [154]


The only place of any importance between Orocué and Barrigón is
Cabuyaro, a small town of about two hundred inhabitants. It cherishes
the hope of becoming the eastern terminus of the long-projected
railroad from Bogotá to the Meta. This would no doubt be a good
terminal point, as the town is favorably located, and the river is
sufficiently deep to permit the passage of good-sized vessels. As at
the other towns we passed, the steamer may moor within a few feet of
the river's bank.

Cabuyaro, however, is not the only place ambitious to become the
terminus of the Bogotá Eastern railroad. It has several rivals,
some of which are little more at present than rude huts in the
wilderness. Among these is Barrigón, which also rejoices in the
high-sounding name of Puerto Nuevo. It has, certainly, an advantage
over Cabuyaro in that it is much nearer the capital. When this
railway, which has been in contemplation for many years, shall have
been completed, it will be possible to go from Bogotá to the Meta in
ten hours. At present it takes six days to make the trip, and a very
trying and tiresome one it is.

While our cooks were preparing comida--dinner--we visited the town. As
we were passing a neat-looking house on the plaza, next to the church,
a woman standing at the door, surrounded by her family, observing
that we were strangers, insisted on our partaking of the hospitality
of her home. She gave orders at once to have dinner prepared for us,
and was deeply disappointed when she learned that our captain had made
arrangements for us to dine elsewhere. She then said: "You must do us
the honor of taking at least a cup of coffee in our humble home. We
cannot let you depart without something." Before she had finished
speaking, one of her daughters, a bright, modest girl of about sixteen,
had started to boil the water, and in a short time we were served
with as good coffee as we had ever tasted anywhere during our journey.

The kindness and simplicity of these good people were admirable. They
were much interested in our journey, and could not understand what
could induce us to undertake such a long trip. They were most eager
to hear about our own country, and showed an intelligent interest
in persons and things that quite surprised us. Soon a number of
their neighbors called and each one was duly presented to the
viajeros--travelers--and served also with a cup of the aromatic
beverage which our hostess knew so well how to prepare. Although we
had become accustomed to the generous hospitality of the good people
we had everywhere met along the Meta, the cordial reception given us
by the people of Cabuyaro during our short stay among them impressed
us in a special manner, and made us feel that it is particularly
among primitive peoples, among those in the depth of the forest, or
in the solitude of the desert, that hospitality is not only regarded
as a duty but is also esteemed a pleasure.

How often, when partaking of the simple fare of our kindly hosts
in tropical America, were we forced to compare their never-failing
hospitality with that of the Greeks of Homeric times! Then nothing was
too good for the honored guest, for he might be a god in disguise,
or, if not a god, he was at least a friend of the gods. Like the
early Christians, who treated their guests as if they might be angels
who had come upon them unawares, our Meta hosts always gave us the
best at their disposition, and expressed their regret that they were
unable to do more. Their home was ours as long as we chose to remain,
and their every act showed that they were pleased to be honored--as
they expressed it--by the strangers' visit. [155]

Before leaving Orocué, we had telegraphed to Villavicencio to have
saddle and pack mules ready for us on our arrival in Barrigón, which,
as planned, was to be the morning after our arrival at Cabuyaro. As,
however, we had been delayed a day by trouble with the engine,
and loss of our anchor, we could not hope to reach our destination
without traveling all night. Fortunately, there was a full moon and
a cloudless night. And our crew, the captain notably, were ready and
willing, regardless of their own comfort, to do anything in their
power to enable us to reach Barrigón at the appointed time.

Never shall I forget our last night on the Meta. C. and I were
sitting on the prow of our launch, which was moving merrily along
the broad river--as broad as ever, apparently--which, under the
bright rays of the moon, shone like molten silver. There was no
murky vapor to obscure the fair face of the queen of night, or dim
her glowing form. Surrounded by the myriad stars of heaven, she
reigned supreme. Then, more truly than ever before in our lives,
could we say with Saint Augustine, that we saw "the moon and stars
solace the night." [156]

The air was balmy and impregnated with sweetest perfumes and rarest
balsamic odors, wafted from the dark, impervious forest walls that rose
in silent majesty on either shore. The sleeping mimosas that had folded
their leaves for the night, the ethereal jambos, figs, and laurels,
the dark crowns of the jaca and the manga, the slender shafts of bamboo
tufts, the dim crests of the palm, trellised vines and liana festoons,
defiled before us in rapid succession, and, in the shades of night,
assumed the most fantastic shapes and magic combinations.

As we glided along the glassy stretches of the river there was nothing
to mar the perfect stillness that pervaded the scene, except the
muffled pulsations of our engine, too feeble to wake an echo from the
neighboring banks. The time, the place, the freshness of earth and
the splendor of heaven lent themselves to reverie, and stirred the
fancy to unwonted activity. Frequently on the Orinoco we had amused
ourselves by watching the odd and whimsical shapes assumed by the
clouds, especially before or after a chubasco, or at the time the sun
was dropping below the horizon. Then the imagination, quickened to
action, would discover, in the rapidly changing clouds, animal forms
varying from the bear and the eagle to the griffin and the dragon.

And so it was now. At one time we could see, in a curiously arranged
clump of trees and vines, the ruins of a Rhenish castle, at another
the shattered towers and merloned walls of an enchanted palace. Now
it was a rustic chapel by the wayside, and a moment later, as we
peered into the darkness of the inner wold, and noted the huge dark
tree trunks, it was the massive pillars of a Hindoo shrine. Here it
was a Druid trysting-place, there a mermaid's grot and there again
a dryad's bower or the home of a fairy queen. That Titania was not
far distant was evidenced by the swarms of fairies--matter-of-fact
scientific men would doubtless call them Pyropheri--fireflies--that,
like a thousand stars, flitted through the bloom and the foliage,
illuming with their soft radiance the favorite haunt of fairyland.

How we enjoyed the mystery of these vast solitudes! How exquisite the
ever-changing chiaroscuro; the wondrous play of light and shade; the
warmth, depth and softness of the noble pictures that, at every turn,
ravished our delighted gaze! How it all elevated the soul and enjoined
recollection of spirit! The impression was in an eminent degree like
that experienced beneath the sombre arches of a Gothic cathedral. And
why not? Were we not beneath the starry vault of heaven, in the depth
of the dark, majestic tropical forest, in the most inspiring temple
of the Most High?

When in Orocué, we were told that, on a bright, clear day, the
Andes were visible from that place. But owing to the clouds and
the mists and the forests that had constantly obstructed our view,
we had not yet gotten even a glimpse of this world-famed chain of
mountains. Of course, we had seen one of its spurs in the coast
range of Venezuela. But this range was not the Cordillera of our
boyhood dreams. We longed to see that massive chain that extends in
unbroken continuity from Panama to Patagonia. And day by day, as we
moved westward, our wistful eyes were ever peering through broken
forest or over grass-covered glade, to catch the first view of La
Cordillera de los Andes.

While silently sitting on the prow of our launch admiring the
countless, ever-changing beauties of that marvelous moonlight
night--our last on the Meta,--giving free rein to our fancy, and
shifting our course as the meandering river demanded, behold! Suddenly
like a vision, the Andes stood before us in all their majesty and
glory, looming up to the very heavens. So instant was the apparition
that, for a while, we were quite speechless from admiration and
awe. "The Andes!" one of us ejaculated, and we were then completely
under their magic spell. So agreeable was our surprise and so great our
emotion that for a time it was impossible to find words to express our
feelings of delight and wonder. We realized, as probably never before,
what a feeble instrument language is for conveying one's innermost
thoughts, and how inadequate to express what deeply stirs the soul.

Our adjectives and exclamations were little more than the Indian's
grunt, and less devotional than the Moslem's phrase, "Allah is
great!" Coming from the cold and tame nature of the North to that of
the glorious and marvelous equator, we were like Plato's men, bred in
cavern twilight, and then suddenly exposed to the bright effulgence
of the noonday sun. We saw things wonderful and unspeakable, but all
our superlatives were inarticulate and feeble, matched with the scene
before us.

"But what are those lights on the mountain summit, a little to the
left?" inquired C., finally breaking the long-sustained silence. On
the very crest of the Cordilleras and extending for a considerable
distance, was a large number of brilliant lights, like so many electric
arcs. It was as if the long rows of arc lamps that illumine the Bay
of Naples, as one sees them from an incoming steamer, were raised
skyward far above the cone of Vesuvius; or as if the resplendent
"White Way" of New York were lifted into cloudland.

At first we thought it was a forest fire, but it was so different
from the unsteady, yellowish-red flame of burning trees and
vegetation. We had seen such fires along the Orinoco and Meta--as
well as elsewhere--and were quite familiar with their appearance. It
could not be due to volcanic action, for there were no volcanoes in
that direction, unless of extremely recent origin. Besides, the lights
before us were quite different from the fitful reflections that molten
lava produces from swirling masses of vapor. Might they not actually be
the electric lights of Bogotá or of some other city of the Sierras? No,
for Bogotá was on the west slope of the mountain range, and there was
no town of any size on the eastern declivity. Still less could the
lights be due to reflection from the sun, for it had set hours before.

What then was this "midnight gloom still blossoming into fire"? Our
curiosity was excited to a high degree, but the apparition seemed to
defy all attempts at explanation. We thought of the gleaming light
seen by Robert Bruce from the turrets of Brodick Castle, in the isle
of Arran, before his landing in Carrick.

We recalled a similar phenomenon, observed by Humboldt on the Cerro
del Cuchivano in Venezuela, in which he thought the luminous display
observed might be due to the burning of hydrogen and other inflammable
gases. [157]

The Indians who live among or near the mountains, relate many wonderful
stories about strange lights that are occasionally seen on or in the
vicinity of the loftier peaks. "It is a curious thing," writes Im
Thurn, regarding a phenomenon of this kind, seen in the mountains of
British Guiana, "that, as I have seen, there actually is an appearance,
as of fire, to be seen sometimes up in these mountains, nor was I
ever able to form any theory as to its cause." [158]

Sir Martin Conway records a more remarkable case of this
character. "Long after the sun had set and darkness had come on,
Illampu glowed red like fire, and all the people in town saw it. Such a
sight none had ever beheld. In great terror they ran to the church and
the bells were rung. They thought the end of the world had come." [159]

My own conclusion regarding the luminous phenomena, that occupied our
attention for at least an hour, during the night to which I refer, is
that they were of electric origin. The mountain in front of us seemed
to be a vast condenser from which the electricity was escaping by a
silent glow or brush-discharge on an immense scale. The color and the
steadiness of the lights, as well as their durability, were evidence
of this. They were probably of the same nature as the corposant of
St. Elmo's fire, sometimes seen on the spars or yards of a ship. [160]

We slept little that last night on the Meta. Earth and sky were so
beautiful, and there was so much to engage our attention that it was
a late hour before we sought repose.

Early in the morning we left the Meta and entered the Humea, passing
the Rio Negro on our left. In Europe or America these two affluents
of the Meta would be considered good-sized rivers. Both of them are
navigable for some distance, but like hundreds of other rivers in
South America, are practically unknown, except to those who live in
their immediate vicinity.

About nine o'clock our pilot blew a loud, prolonged blast on his
conch which served him for a horn or call-instrument, and, looking
ahead of us, we saw gathered on the banks the entire population
of Barrigón--a negro woman, her three daughters and a young man,
likewise a negro. We expected, of course, to see also our mules and
our arrieros--muleteers--but they were nowhere visible. They evidently
had not arrived. To describe our disappointment and dismay would be
impossible. We felt as if we were about to be marooned, or left in
a penal colony. What did it all mean?



CHAPTER VII

THE LLANOS OF COLOMBIA


No sooner had our launch reached the landing place, than we bounded
ashore, eager for information about our mules and their drivers. We
asked the sable matron who, with her equally sable daughters, waited at
the brink to greet us, if the mules had come. She replied laconically,
"No, Señor." "Have you heard anything about them?" "No, Señor." "Is
there anyone here," and I glanced at the swarthy youth hard by,
"that would be willing, if well rewarded, to go forward and hasten
the arrival of men and mules?" "No, Señor."

What was to be done? We could not continue our journey alone and
afoot, even if we were disposed to leave our baggage behind us. And
it soon became evident that it would not be safe to remain long at
Barrigón. There was but one rude hut there, and that was surrounded
by mud and pools of water covered by "Spawn, weeds and filth and
leprous-scum"--certainly not a very inviting place to abide any length
of time.

Besides, the family had nothing to eat, at least they said they had
not, except a few platanos, and these they required for their own
use. We had almost exhausted the supply we had brought from Trinidad,
and the little that was still left, we intended for our three-days
trip to Villavicencio. We were not sure that we could get anything
on the way, and we did not wish to run any risk of being without food
where it might be most needed.

Something had to be done, and that quickly, if we did not wish to
expose ourselves to the pangs of hunger and the danger of fever in
that filthy, miasmatic hole. In the dry season, we might return to
Cabuyaro, where we could secure horses or mules, and go thence to
our next objective point, Villavicencio. During the rainy season,
however, this was impossible. We had been told the night before, that
several of the caños and rivers between Cabuyaro and Villavicencio
were quite impassable, as there were neither bridges nor ferries,
and that the currents were so swift that it was quite out of the
question for man or beast to cross them by swimming.

We were certainly in a quandary, if not in a very serious
predicament. It was useless to go backwards, unless we wished to
return to Orocué, and thence to Trinidad. Even if we returned to
Orocué, we could not get a steamer down the river for several months,
and to make the long trip to Ciudad Bolivar in a bongo was not to be
thought of. We were confronted by the first really grave difficulty
of our journey, and when we considered all the circumstances, it was
enough to depress the stoutest heart.

"But why had not our men and mules arrived," we asked ourselves
time and again? Our telegram ordering them had been received and
satisfactorily answered. Just before leaving Orocué we had sent a
second telegram advising our vaqueano--guide--when he should meet
us but we had not awaited a reply, taking it for granted that there
would be no hitch in our plans. It now occurred that we had acted
unwisely in not waiting for a response to our second telegram, so as
to be sure that it had been received and was properly understood.

The telegraph line to Orocué had only recently been put up--just a few
weeks before our arrival there--and had never been in satisfactory
working order. In fact, owing to a break in the wire, which lasted
a fortnight, we had not been able to get into communication with
Villavicencio--the place whence our mules were to come--until a few
days before we started for Barrigón. Might there not have been another
interruption in the line after we sent our second message? And did
this message ever reach its destination? It is true that a week had
elapsed since our departure from Orocué, and, if the line had been
severed, it might have been repaired.

But then again this was far from certain. The wire passed through
dense and interminable forests--where there were no roads of any
kind--and it might require several days to reach the break after it was
located. And then after our vaqueano got our telegram it would require
three days for him to go from Villavicencio to Barrigón, supposing
that he had the mules and saddles in readiness. If they were not ready
there would be another delay in starting. Altogether the outlook was
far from reassuring. Our animals and men might arrive at any hour,
and then again we might be obliged to wait for them for weeks.

While occupied in these far from comforting reflections, we remembered
that the mail from Bogotá to Orocué was due. The men who would bring
it would also bring a certain amount of freight for various points on
the Meta. Here, then, was a ray of hope. If our own men and animals
should fail us, we might be able to prevail on the mail carriers
to give us the necessary means of transportation for ourselves and
baggage. This consideration tended to relieve somewhat the suspense
which was the most unpleasant feature of our hapless situation. We
resolved, accordingly, to take a more optimistic view of things,
and to trust to our star which, so far, had ever been in the ascendant.

What had greatly contributed to the gloominess of the outlook on
our arrival at Barrigón was the thought that we should be obliged
to leave our launch--where we were so comfortable--for the dismal,
steaming pest-hole on the river's bank. We did not for a moment think
of asking for shelter in the filthy shack occupied by the negro
family. That would be tantamount to courting paludismo--malarial
fever--in its worst form. Fortunately, we had a good tent with us,
and in this we could be shielded from sun and rain, and, at the same
time, escape some of the unsanitary features that rendered this spot
so forbidding and dangerous. It was really the first place that we
had yet visited from which we instinctively shrank and from which we
wished to depart at the earliest possible moment.

While thus preoccupied and devising ways and means for rendering our
enforced detention at this spot as endurable as circumstances would
permit, our captain, God bless him! observing our distress, came
to us, and with a kindness and courtesy we can never forget, said,
"No se preocupen, Señores, la lancha quedará aquí hasta que vengan
las bestias." Do not worry, gentlemen, the launch will remain here
until the arrival of your animals.

What a relief this kind and considerate act was--performed when
and where it counted for so much to us--only those can realize who
have been placed in similar situations. Everything was now as well
provided for as might be, except food. Where that was to come from
was a mystery, as we did not wish to draw on the very limited supply
we had brought with us.

Our first meal consisted of plátanos--some boiled and some fried--with
a cup of black coffee. I had never eaten a dozen bananas in any form
before coming to South America, but I gradually became accustomed to
them, although I never relished them. Here, however, there was nothing
else in sight, except two or three ducks that were quacking about the
green, miasmatic pools that surrounded the negro shanty. We endeavored
to purchase these, but, although we offered the old dame several times
what they were worth, she would not part with them. No African ever
held on more tenaciously to his fetish or rabbit-foot than did this
swart Ethiopian hag of Puerto Nuevo to her prized webfeet.

For our dinner we fared better. Fortunately and quite unexpectedly,
someone succeeded in landing a large and delicious fish, which was
quite sufficient to furnish a meal for ourselves and crew. A new
source of food-supply was now indicated, but try as we would, it was
impossible to catch another fish--large or small. The impetuous current
of the muddy river was decidedly adverse to our rising piscatorial
hopes. But we determined not to worry on account of our lack of success
as anglers. "Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof." Providence,
we were sure, would provide for the morrow. Probably our men and
mules would arrive. If not, the mail carriers would undoubtedly come,
and then no Deus ex machina would be necessary to extricate us from
our embarrassing situation.

A dreary day passed and a more dreary night. What with the suspense
and the lack of proper food, and the confinement to a disagreeable
spot in the impenetrable forest, our position was such as not to
encourage slumber by night or rapturous admiration of tropical flora
during the day. Nevertheless, we still instinctively felt that relief
would not be long in coming.

The second morning we had our usual desayuno of black coffee and
plátanos. And to our amazement, there was added to this simple fare
a fine roast chicken. Where did it come from? We had seen no chickens
anywhere about the premises, and could not have been more surprised if
it had dropped from the blue sky. I asked the captain, and he quietly
replied with a smile, "Un poco de diplomacia. Nada mas." A little
diplomacy. Nothing more. Ever considerate about our comfort and needs,
he had instituted a search for provisions, and learned that the la
vieja--the old woman, as he called her--had some chickens concealed
not far from the house, and, whether by persuasion or threats, he
would not say, he induced her to part with one of them, and intimated
that the same diplomacy he had employed in getting the first, would, if
necessary, avail in securing others. The outlook was still brightening,
and we now felt more than ever that our deliverance was near.

Shortly after midday, while we were taking our usual siesta in the
launch, we were suddenly startled by an unearthly noise. All the dogs
and whelps of the place and all the "curs of low degree"--and there
were many of them--began to bark at once. And then in the forest
near by there was such shouting and screaming on the part of men
and boys, accompanied by the neighing of horses and the braying of
mules, that it seemed that a troop of guerrillas was bearing down
upon us. Never before had we heard anything like it, except possibly
a Sioux or Navajo war whoop. They seemed to desire to frighten us
to death before attacking us vi et armis. But no music could have
been more grateful to our ears than were those discordant notes
emitted by man and beast. We knew at once what it all meant, and,
almost before we could reach the top of the bank, our animals and
men were all gathered in the small free space in front of the cabin,
and with them were the bearers of the Bogotá mail. There were about
thirty mules and horses, and more than a dozen men.

We had telegraphed for mules only, as we did not think we should be
able to get horses, but to our delight we found that we were to have
two good saddle horses for our personal use, besides the mules destined
for our baggage. As, however, both men and animals needed rest, after
their long tiresome trip from Villavicencio, it was deemed best to
defer our departure until the following morning. The animals were
then turned loose to browse on whatever they could find to appease
hunger, and their masters were soon ensconced in their hammocks,
slung wherever they could find a suitable place for them.

It was arranged with our vaqueano that we should all be ready
for our journey across the llanos de madrugada--at early dawn--the
following morning. We had a long day's ride before us, as the nearest
stopping place, where we could hope to find food and shelter, was
at a place called Barrancas, where was the house of the owner of a
large hato--cattle farm.

Bright and early, then, the next morning, our peons and vaqueano
were busy saddling our horses and packing our baggage on the backs
of the mules. The mail bongo from Orocué--which had left that place
ten days before we did--arrived a few hours before our departure,
and all mail matter was hurriedly put on the backs of other mules by
those in charge of the mail destined for Bogotá and intervening points.

It was not without a pang that we bade farewell to our devoted crew,
who had done so much to render our voyage on the Meta and Humea as
pleasant as it was memorable. From the ever-courteous and thoughtful
captain to our good-natured and obliging Guahibo, we were always the
recipients of delicate attentions of every kind. We might travel far
before again meeting with men so kind and so sympathetic as were those
four whom it was our good fortune to meet in an isolated village of
far-off Colombia. "God bless you all!" we said in parting. "Nothing
is too good for you."

During the first hour after starting we had to struggle through what
the natives call the montaña. It had nothing mountainous about it,
as the name would seem to indicate, but was a dark, nearly impervious
wood almost on a level with the waters of the Humea. In the dry season,
I doubt not, the path through this forest would present no difficulty,
but during the rainy season it was next to impassable. Everywhere there
was deep, sticky mud and deeper pools and dirty stagnant water. Often
our horses sank to the saddle-girths in the tenacious slime, and
it was only by the greatest effort that they were able to extricate
themselves. At times, where the mud and water were unusually deep,
we were forced, for short stretches, to make our way through the
pathless forest. Then every step was impeded by branches and lianas
and progress was next to impossible. Finally, with great difficulty
for the animals and not a little danger to ourselves, we succeeded in
effecting our exit from this terrible montaña, and, before we were
aware of it, we found ourselves on high and dry ground on the edge
of a beautiful, smiling prairie of apparently limitless extent.

What a relief it was to get once more into the open--into the broad
llanos of Colombia--where we could have an unimpeded view for miles
in every direction. We had been in the depths of the forest so long,
getting only occasional glimpses of the llanos on our way up the
river, that we felt like a prisoner given his liberty after a long
term of confinement. Not that we had not enjoyed the forests while
we were in them. Far from it. We had enjoyed every moment of the
time spent in studying their richness and beauty. But now that we
had reached the llanos, to which we had so long looked forward, and
were no longer confined to the limited quarters of our launch; now
that we were on our willing steeds and could move as we chose in any
direction and as far afield as fancy might suggest, we experienced a
sense of freedom and agility that surprised ourselves. We felt as if
we had suddenly been transferred to another world, so different was
our new environment from that in which we had spent so many weeks.

Never did the earth seem so green or the sky so blue, or the sun so
bright; never did the face of nature appear so ravishingly beautiful as
on that glorious May morning near the picturesque Humea. And away to
the west, partly veiled by haze and cloud, loomed up higher than ever
those vast mountains of majesty and mystery that seemed to overhang
the world. Yes, we were slowly but surely approaching the Andes,
and in a few days more, Deo volente, we should be scaling its dizzy
heights and exulting in the splendid panoramas that would be presented
to our enchanted gaze.

The landscape before us was indeed beautiful, entrancing as a vision,
fair as the Happy Valley of Rasselas. Exulting in a new sense of
freedom, and stirred by many overmastering emotions, we could but
exclaim with Byron,


                                      "Beautiful!
        How beautiful is all this beautiful world!
        How glorious in its action and itself!"


I have called the part of the llanos we were then entering a prairie,
but it was far more beautiful than any of our plains known by that
name. It was more like the palm-besprent delta of the Nile than the
tame and almost treeless reaches of land which characterize so much of
our western prairies. Here and there were coppices of graceful shrubs
made melodious by feathered songsters whose notes were new to us,
but everywhere, at no greater distance from one another, were our
old friends that had accompanied us all the way from the mouth of
the Orinoco--the ever-attractive moriche palms.

We saw also several other species of palm that excited our interest,
but none more so than the strange corneto palm. Like various
species of the Oenocarpus and Iriartea, it is remarkable for its
adventitious or secondary roots, which, springing from the trunk in
large numbers, lift it above the ground, and give it the appearance
of a large column supported on a cone of smaller columns inclined to
it obliquely. These roots vary from a fraction of an inch to several
inches in diameter. They have at times a length of from six to ten feet
and embrace a space of ground from five to eight feet in diameter. They
are frequently covered by vines and parasites so as to form a natural
bower which is used as a retreat by wild animals. Even the Indians
have recourse to these fantastic arbors as a place of refuge during
rain storms.

Here, as in the land of the Aruacs, the moriche palm is not only
a thing of beauty, but, for the Indians, a source of comfort and
joy. This and other palms, notably a kind of date palm, and the
Cumana, which bears a fruit similar to the wild olive, supply the
Indians, during certain months of the year, with all the food they
consume. Speaking of the palm, Padre Rivero declares it to be "the
earthly paradise of the Guahibos and Chiricoas. It is their delight,
their general larder, their all. It is the subject matter of their
thoughts and conversations. About it they dream, and without it life
would possess no joy for them." [161]

Like the cocoa palm, "By the Indian Sea, on the isles of balm,"
of which Whittier so sweetly sings, the palm on the Meta and its
affluents, as well as on the lower Orinoco, is for the child of
the forest


                          "A gift divine,
        Wherein all uses of man combine,--
        House and raiment and food and wine."


When contemplating the bountiful provisions of Nature in favor of
the inhabitants of the tropics, as evinced in various species of
food-producing palms, we are forcibly reminded of the statement
of Linnæus that the first home of our race was somewhere in the
tropics. "Man," says this illustrious botanist, "dwells naturally
within the tropics, and lives on food furnished by the palm tree;
he exists in other parts of the world and subsists on flesh and
cereals." [162]

The llanos in places are quite level, and intersected by numerous
caños and streams. Some of them are so large that they could easily
be converted into navigable canals for small craft. In other places
the plains are undulating and are ideal grazing lands during the
rainy season. There is always an abundance of water, even in the
dryest summer, and the numerous groves and clumps of trees suffice
to furnish shade at all times for the largest herds.

We had not proceeded far when we met a large herd of cattle in care
of herdsmen quietly reposing beneath some umbrageous moriche palm or
singing some favorite Llanero song. Contrary to what we expected,
the cattle were not so wild as those we had seen in Venezuela and,
although we passed within a few yards of them, they barely noticed
us. They were quite as tame as any one would find in the pasture
lands of an Illinois farm.

But what a fine breed of cattle they were and in what splendid
condition! They were as fat, sleek and large as any we had ever seen
on the plains of Texas or Nebraska, and would, I am sure, command as
high prices in the stockyards of Chicago.

We were deeply impressed with the future possibilities of the
Venezuelan grazing lands, but we are now convinced that even a greater
future awaits the llanos of Colombia when properly exploited. To
extend the Cucuta railway so as to place Casanare and Villavicencio
in connection with Lake Maracaibo would be a far less difficult and
costly undertaking than many other railroad enterprises in South
America that have been carried to a successful issue, and that, too,
when the traffic hoped for was far less than it would be in this
instance. Such an extension, which would not need to be more than two
or three hundred miles in length, would put the Colombian llanos in
direct communication with the chief ports of the United States and
Europe. By using fast steamers, freight could then be carried from the
heart of the llanos to Mobile or New York in a week. What an immense
development of the cattle industry this would at once effect is beyond
calculation. It would be a greater source of revenue to the Republic
of Colombia than all its mines combined.

At the first blush this project may appear Utopian to those who are
unfamiliar with the country or who have never given thought to the
feasibility of the enterprise. Colombia, to most people in the United
States, is little better known than the territory of the Congo. Even
to the Colombians themselves, the llanos--la parte oriental, as they
call it--is a terra incognita. Outside of the Llaneros--cattle men--who
have interests there, it is rarely visited by any one connected with
the administration of the government. To reach the llanos from Bogotá
means a long and tiresome journey across the eastern Cordilleras,
and few are willing to undertake such a trip out of curiosity or
for the purpose of informing themselves about the resources of this
distant and neglected part of their country.

And yet, far away as they may seem, the llanos are not half so distant
from the United States as England is, and, with the steamship and
railway facilities above indicated, they could be brought as near to
New York in time as is London at the present.

Probably a more economical way of reaching the llanos would be by the
Orinoco and the Meta. During the rainy season, as we have seen, boats
of light draft, but of considerable tonnage, can safely traverse these
rivers as far as Cabuyaro or Barrigón. A few hundred tons of dynamite
judiciously applied would effect a wonderful change for the better in
the beds of the two rivers named, and would render navigation quite
safe for the whole, or at least a greater part of the year.

When we note the magnitude of the beef trade between Australia and the
Argentine and the different ports of Europe, we are amazed to observe
that so little has been attempted towards developing a similar but
a more profitable trade with regions that are comparatively at our
doors. If these fertile and favored lands, instead of belonging to a
country long known, and looked at askance by capitalists and business
men, were a new discovery, there would be as great a rush towards them
on the part of colonists as there has frequently been to those Indian
lands that have, from time to time, been opened to white settlers in
Oklahoma and elsewhere in the West.

Now that our people are beginning to realize that the cattle in the
United States are not increasing in proportion to the demands of its
rapidly-growing population, they may be induced to turn their eyes
towards the vast plains of our two sister republics of Colombia and
Venezuela, where there is, all the year round, abundant pasturage
of the richest kind for millions of cattle. There are vast fortunes
awaiting those who are willing to venture into these long-neglected
fields.

According to the reports of our Bureau of Animal Industry, the
United States has been for some years past suffering from fever
ticks and other plagues an annual loss of more than sixty million
dollars. This fact, coupled with the increasing demand for beef,
renders it imperative to seek for an adequate supply elsewhere. The
cheapest and best place in which to secure this extra supply is,
me judice, in the marvelous llanos so near our own country, which
should, in the manner indicated above, be brought much nearer than
they are at present.

I know that people will hesitate about investing in countries whose
governments are as unstable as those of the two nations mentioned,
and where foreign investors have found so little encouragement
and sympathy. There is, however, reason to believe that the age
of revolutions is coming to an end, and that it will, in the
near future, be succeeded by the reign of law. Peace congresses,
arbitration agreements, the spread of education, and the construction
of railroads have produced splendid results in other parts of the
world, where progress had long been unsatisfactory, and who will say
that we may not hope to see the same beneficent results realized in
Venezuela and Colombia? If all else fail, it is quite certain that
our government will know how to safeguard the rights of those of
its citizens who may have interests in these countries about whose
validity there can be no question. Now that all are so desirous of
seeing improved commercial relations established between the United
States and the various countries of Latin America, it would seem to
be a matter of prime importance not any longer to ignore the golden
opportunities that in the regions bordering the Caribbean have so
long eluded American energy and enterprise.

It was about four o'clock in the afternoon when we arrived
at Barrancas. We found here a good-sized house with an open
shed--enramada--near by. This latter structure is used as a shelter
for farming implements, harness, saddles, etc., and as a place where
peons and herdsmen may swing their hammocks and sleep during the
night. The house, to our surprise, had a tile roof, the first we had
seen since leaving Ciudad Bolivar.

The proprietor of the hato, whose home and family were in Bogotá,
received us cordially and did everything in his power to make us
comfortable. He also gave us his own room, which had a board floor,
another novelty to us. We were soon provided with a frugal repast,
after which we were entertained by our host's experiences on the
llanos. He was one of eighteen children of the same mother. He and
his eleven brothers own a number of ranches and have many thousand
cattle in different parts of the republic.

"During the last war," he said, "the soldiers appropriated a
thousand of our steers." "Did you put in a claim to the government for
damages?" I asked. "Yes," he replied, "but it did no good. I never got
a centavo and never expect to. If I had been a foreigner, especially
if I had been an American, I should have received compensation for my
loss. The government always pays foreign claims when just, but the
citizens of the country must be satisfied with promises. It always
promises to reimburse us for any losses sustained during revolutions
but the fact is that we never get anything more substantial than
promises."

The labor problem was as serious with him as with a Kansas farmer
during harvest time. "Es muy dificil conseguir brazos aquí,"--it
is very difficult to secure laborers here--he told me in a tone of
sadness. "So many men lost their lives during the last war, that the
country is now suffering for a lack of working men."

And yet, notwithstanding his losses and his troubles, our host was a
thoroughly loyal Colombian. He loved to talk about his country, its
marvelous resources, and the great future in store for it. He spent
most of the year in the capital, coming to Barrancas only for a few
weeks at a time, and that only when business demanded his personal
supervision.

I was curious to learn from him, a Llanero, and therefore an expert
horseman, the shortest possible time in which the trip could be
made to Bogotá from Barrigón. Some books I had read stated that the
distance from the head of navigation on the Meta--and we had reached
that point--to Bogotá was only twenty miles, while certain Venezuelans
I had met had assured me that the trip could be made in two days. His
answer was conclusive. "The shortest possible time without a relay of
horses," he said, "is four days. To attempt to cover the distance in
less time would be fatal to the horse. I never try to reach Bogotá from
here in less than four days, and even this means hard riding." [163]

"But what brings you up the Orinoco and the Meta at this season of
the year," he enquired. "You are certainly the first Americans to come
here--rio arriba--up the river. Others may have come to the llanos from
the capital, but, if they did, I am not aware of it. And why did you
select the rainy season for your journey? Why did you not wait until
summer, when it is dry, and when the roads are in better condition?" We
then explained to him that no boats ascended the Meta during the summer
season and that we were thus forced to come during the winter. Strange
as it may appear, this had never occurred to him. And yet he was an
intelligent man and well informed about his country and presumably
about the means of communication with the countries adjacent.

The Colombian Llanero is a most interesting character. He is
absolutely unique among his countrymen. The only people with whom
he can be compared are the inhabitants of the Apure plains and the
Gauchos of the Argentine pampas. Like these he regards as "fortunate
the man who has received from heaven the means of safeguarding life
and property--a good horse and a good lance." [164] Having these two
essentials of defense and offense, he is happy and independent.

This is readily understood from his manner of life, which is quite
akin to that of the Arabian nomad. The desert in which he lives and
his eternal struggle against a physical environment that is as savage
as it is grandiose; his occupation as a herdsman and his roving life
in the boundless plain, have given the Llanero a character that is
as original as it is interesting.

As a son of the desert, he is a lover of music and poetry, and
will spend an entire night or several consecutive nights dancing,
playing his rude guitar, scarcely larger than the hand that twangs it,
or a huge banjo, and singing verses either of his own composition,
or those of some other poet of the plains. For strange as it may
appear, poets abound in the llanos as scarcely anywhere else. They
may be unable to read or write but they are nevertheless able to
produce songs--tonos or trovas llaneras--that are frequently marked
by rare beauty and depth of feeling. Considering their limitations,
their faculty for versification is often really remarkable, and it
is not unusual to find among them a singer that will improvise with
as much facility as an Italian improvisatore.

The Llaneros have a poetry of their own which they never abandon. They
compose what they sing and sing what they compose. And, although they
cannot as yet point to one of their poets who has had the advantages
of education and culture, they can, nevertheless, point with pride
to many of their number who have produced metrical compositions of
marked excellence and power of expression. The pity is that so far we
have no anthology of these poets of the plains. There is certainly
a rich field here for research awaiting some lover of the fresh and
the novel in literature and it is to be hoped that some one may soon
explore a domain that is so promising in results.

Their favorite compositions are ballads or rhymed romances, called
galerones, which are sung as recitatives. They closely resemble the
popular rhymed romances of Spain, and refer generally to deeds of
prowess performed by their own heroes in their constant struggles
with the wild and unsubdued nature in which their life is cast. In
these galerones valor and not love is the protagonist. Love, in the
metrical compositions of the plains, is always a secondary character.

Two stanzas from a poem entitled En Los Llanos--On the Plains--will
exhibit the character of these poems, and show, at the same time,
that the Llanero has a keen eye for the beautiful and sublime in
nature and that his heart is open to the sweetest sentiment and the
deepest piety and reverence.


       "Lejos, muy lejos del hogar querido
        Paréceme que estoy en un desierto,"


"Far, far away from my hearth," he laments, "meseems I am in a
desert." And he gives his reason.


       "Cuando entre vivo rosicler la aurora
        Muestra la fresca faz en el Oriente
        En vano busco a mi gentil señora,
        En vano á la hija que mi alma adora,
        Para besarlas ambas en la frente." [165]


For the Llanero a view of the beauty and grandeur of his surroundings
is a call to prayer, as is evinced by the following lines:


       "O que prodigios! que beldad! El hombre
        Debil se siente y pobre en su presencia.
        No hay nada aqui que el corazón no asombre,
        En todo escrito está de Dios el nombre,
        Todo pregona aquí su Omnipotencia." [166]


Before daylight next morning, the vaqueano knocked at our door,
announcing that it was time to rise, as we had another long ride before
us and must start early. Coffee was soon ready for us and also a roast
chicken. The latter, however, was prepared in such a way that we did
not relish it. Then it was, indeed, that we missed our Indian cooks
of the Meta. We asked for some milk for our coffee, but although
surrounded by large herds of cattle, there was not a drop of milk
in the house. When we expressed surprise at this, the cook replied:
"We never milk the cows here. We leave the milk for the calves."

I had often had a similar experience in the large ranches of the
trans-Missouri region and was not, therefore, specially surprised at
the answer. However, a little persuasion induced one of the peons
to secure us a calabash of milk, although his task was not an easy
one. The cows, unaccustomed to being milked, refuse to stand still,
and in this instance, the peon had to tie one of them to a tree. Even
then, he was obliged to call in the aid of an assistant before he
could get the milk we craved.

On the cattle farms of Venezuela, where the cows are quite wild, it
is necessary to throw a noose around the horns of the animal to be
milked, and for one of the dairymen to hold it secure by a long pole,
while another does the milking in the usual way. Our peon, fortunately,
was not obliged to resort to such a drastic, time-consuming method.

Although it had rained heavily the greater part of the night, there
was no indication that the downpour would soon cease. On the contrary,
it looked as if it were to continue raining all day. Fortunately,
we were provided with good waterproof ponchos, and were prepared for
any aguacero--heavy shower--that Jupiter Pluvius might choose to send
from the heavy, lowering clouds that, pall-like, overcast the sky.

Before we left Orocué, at the suggestion of the prefect of the place,
we had telegraphed to Villavicencio for a couple of bayetones--a
special kind of poncho--and these our vaqueano had delivered to us
at Barrigón.

To the inhabitants, especially the Indians of South America, and more
particularly those living in the Cordilleras, the poncho is what a
mantle was to an Irishman in the days of the poet Spenser. "When it
rayneth it is his pent howse; when it blowes it is his tent; when
it freezeth, it is his tabernacle. In sommer he can weare it loose,
in winter he can weare it close; at all times he can use it, never
heavy, never cumbersome." In a word, this "weede is theyr howse,
theyr bedd, and theyr garment." [167]

The poncho or bayeton, [168] usually made of wool, in fully
six feet square with a hole in the centre to admit the head. Our
bayetones--called "nabby-tonys" by C.--were really double ponchos,
made by sewing together two blankets, one red, the other blue. When the
weather is damp and cloudy, the blue side is exposed, whereas it is the
red that is kept outside when the sun is shining. The wearers of this
useful garment have learned by experience that these two colors are
differently acted upon by heat and light and they accordingly adjust
it so as to secure the maximum of comfort. The manta is a lighter
covering made of white linen and is sometimes highly embroidered. It
is used when the sun's rays are more intense, because it reflects
the solar rays better than the red woolen garment. It is, however,
rather an ornament than a necessity, and its use is confined almost
entirely to the better classes.

Provided with a poncho, a hammock and a many-pocketed saddle--which
are almost as indispensable as his horse--the Llanero is always at
home. The two former, he carries in a bundle behind his saddle, where
they are always ready for him at a moment's notice. In camping out
he slings his hammock in any convenient place, and, if it be in the
open, the poncho is, by means of a rope, held over it in such wise
that he can defy the most violent storm of the tropics, and sleep as
soundly and be as well protected from the rain as if he were under
his own roof-tree.

Our trail was one of the numerous cattle paths that intersect the
llanos in every direction. The one we followed was a narrow ditch
filled with from one to two feet of water. Our vaqueano, who was
in the lead, trotted along as if we were following a dry path, and
we had to keep up with him or be lost. It was then that we realized
the impossibility of traveling over these extensive plains without a
guide, especially on a cloudy day during the rainy season. As well
might one try to cross the ocean without a compass as attempt to
make one's way over the llanos without a vaqueano. There was so many
caños--those natural channels, like deep ditches, connecting streams
and rivers--and morasses to cross that were quite impassable except
in certain places known only to the Llaneros, who are thoroughly
familiar with the country, that a stranger traveling alone would soon
find progress quite impeded.

To attempt to reach one's destination by relying on the oral directions
of a Llanero would be quite hopeless. They would, probably, be worded
somewhat as follows:

"Continue your course over the savanna--arriba, arriba--up, up, until
you reach that bunch of cattle you see yonder. You see them, don't
you?" queries the Llanero. They are some cows and young bullocks,
lost in the distance. Not having an Indian's keenness of vision you
discern absolutely nothing, and yet, unwilling to admit the fact,
you declare that you distinguish them perfectly. Your informant
then vouchsafes further information which, if you carefully heed and
are able to follow, will without fail, conduct you to your desired
goal. "Then," he continues, "go to a clump of algarroba trees, but
leave that aside and veer towards a group of palms which you will see
from there. When you reach the palm group, coast along the foothills,
across the Caño del Cayman, for that is the name of the caño, until
you come to the Caño del Tigre. Next, you come to a copse of bamboos,
and then after that to the Caño de Chaparro Negro. Near it you will
find the Paso del Caño. Cross it and you will come to a morichal at
your left, but leave it behind, and continue a little to the right
for half an hour, and you will see the place you are looking for."

Years ago I had received similar directions from an old woman in the
mountains of Conamara, but there, all I had to do was to keep on the
road, and stop at the place I was seeking when I reached it. In the
llanos, where there are no roads, outside the hundreds of cattle paths
extending in every direction, it would be natural for the traveler,
depending on directions like the above, promptly to lose himself.

Fortunately, we had a good vaqueano, one who knew every cowpath and
caño and clump of trees between Barrigón and Villavicencio, and we
felt thoroughly at ease under his guidance. At times, it is true,
we found it somewhat difficult to keep up with him. He seemed to
have reserved the speediest animal for himself, or he knew better
how to keep up a sustained trot than we did. But, be that as it may,
we managed never to permit him to vanish from sight.

As we were riding over the plains we observed a large number
of vultures--Gallinazos--on a tree near our path. Hard by was
the carcass of an ox, that had just died, on which a single king
vulture--Sarcoramphus Papa--like the one we fancied that preyed on
the liver of Tityus--was making his morning repast. The Gallinazos
appear to stand in awe of the king vulture, and were patiently waiting
till he was satiated before making any attempt to appease their own
voracious appetites. The two species are never seen to feed on the
same carcass together. We saw several other such vulture banquets on
our way, but never did we see so many of these scavengers congregated
around the same carrion.

After six hours of hard riding, most of the time in a heavy rain, we
reached Los Pavitos. It consisted of a small bamboo hut and a number
of sheds. Here we dismounted for our midday meal, which consisted of
a few boiled eggs, and a cup of café à la llanera--that is, coffee
without milk or sweetening of any kind--sin dulce--as the natives
phrase it--and some crackers that we had in an improvised haversack.

The family living in the hut consisted of three persons--man, wife
and their little daughter, a sweet child of about four years of
age. Both mother and child were neatly dressed, and had a genteel
appearance that was in marked contrast with their surroundings. The
child wore a tidy pink dress, tastefully ornamented, and seemed as
if she had just come from the class-room of a convent school. The
family impressed us as having seen better days, and had evidently
not lived always so far away from their fellows.

Near the house stood a large calabash tree, bearing the largest fruit
of the kind we had yet observed. Some of the specimens of this tree
looked not unlike green pumpkins, and were fully from ten to twelve
inches in diameter. It is well named the crockery tree, because,
in the tropics, it supplies to a great extent the kitchen utensils
which are elsewhere made from clay.

Within a few steps of the tree mentioned was a broad, murmuring
stream--shaded on both sides by large, overhanging trees--of pure
crystal water. It was the first time in many weeks that we had seen
clear, flowing water, and then was brought home to us, as never before,
the truth of old Captain John Hawkins' expressive words that there
is nothing "so toothsome as running water." While on the Orinoco and
the Meta, we always had with us large earthenware filters, for it was
not safe to drink the muddy waters of these rivers, often containing
more or less decaying animal matter.

The last thing we did before leaving our launch was to fill our canteen
with filtered water. But more than a day had elapsed since then, and
our supply was exhausted. We accordingly proceeded to replenish our
canteen with water from the neighboring stream, but, as soon as the
lady of the house saw what we were about, she begged us to permit her
to render us this little service. "I know where the water is best,"
said she, and, taking the canteen, she waded out almost to the middle
of the stream and in a few moments returned with a new supply of
water fresh from the Andes.

As we prepared to leave, mother and child--the father was sick abed
with malaria--both expressed their regret that we could not remain
longer. "We feel greatly honored," the good woman said, "by your visit,
and, if you ever come this way again, you must be sure to come to
Los Pavitos. Dios guarde á VV. y feliz viaje." May God protect you
and may you have a happy journey.

Such were the parting words of this gentle soul in the wilderness,
words of tenderest charity and sweetest benediction. For hours
afterwards her touching accents seemed like music in our ears, and
the image of her lovely child, her darling niñita, nestling by her
side, with her little hands waving us a fond adieu, was before our
eyes long after we had left the llanos far behind us.

What was it in these gentle creatures, whom we saw for only a few
moments, that appealed to us so strongly? Was it that secret bond of
sympathy--highly intensified by circumstances and environment--that
makes all the world akin? Was it the same sentiment that touched the
artistic soul of Raphael, when, on passing through an Italian village,
he saw the mother and child whom he has immortalized in his Madonna
della Sedia. Or were we just then in the mood that impelled Goethe
to indite his soul-subduing ballad Der Wanderer? Perhaps. Let the
reader judge from the following stanza:--


       "Farewell!
        O Nature, guide me on my way!
        The wandering stranger guide,

       "To a sheltering place,
        From north winds safe!

       "And when I come
        Home to my cot
        At evening,
        Illumined by the setting sun,
        Let me a woman see like this,
        Her infant in her arms!"


After leaving Los Pavitos, we still had a three-hours ride ahead of
us before reaching Las Palmas, where we purposed stopping for the
night. Fortunately, it had ceased raining and our trail was now in
a much better condition than it had been since leaving Barrancas.

It contributed much to our comfort, too, that we were able to
complete our day's journey under sun-proof clouds. So far we had
not suffered the slightest inconvenience from the exaggerated heat
of the plains. Some of our Ciudad Bolivar friends had told us that
the heat of the llanos was so intense that it would be necessary,
if we would avoid sunstroke, to travel by night. As a matter of fact,
the temperature was never above 80° F. During the greater part of the
time it was several degrees below this figure. Besides, to attempt
to cross the llanos in the rainy season, during the pitch-dark nights
that usually prevail, would be like trying to find one's way through
a Cimmerian bog. Not even the most experienced vaqueano would venture
on such a foolhardy journey.

We arrived at Las Palmas just as the rays of the setting sun were
beginning to throw a veil of crimson and purple over the distant
summits of the Cordilleras. Here we met with the same cordial
reception as elsewhere on the llanos. As, however, there was not room
enough in the small choza and enramada for our entire party, we had
recourse to our portable tent, which we always had with us for such
emergencies. When we enquired of our host what he could offer us for
comida, he sadly replied he had nothing but bananas, which were at
our disposition. There were no eggs or chickens, and, although there
were herds of cattle all around us, it was quite impossible to get
a draught of milk. The cows would not permit anyone to milk them.

We then remembered that we yet had in our haversack a small tin box,
still unopened, of sliced Chicago bacon. This, with some crackers,
was all that was left of the little store of provisions that we had
brought with us. It was not without grave misgivings that we proceeded
to open this remnant of our food-supply. We had, on several former
occasions, found that our canned goods were unfit for use, and what
if the contents of this last box should be spoiled? It meant that we
should be reduced to extremely short rations until we should reach
Villavicencio, and there was no certainty when that would be. We had
still another montaña to pass, many rivers and caños to cross, and,
above all, the terrible Ocoa, which, on account of the floods that had
been overflowing its banks during the past week, our vaqueano said,
might delay us for several days.

But the good God, who takes care of the birds of the air and clothes
the lily of the field, had not forgotten us. We found the contents
of the box as fresh and wholesome as when first enclosed in the
far-off metropolis on Lake Michigan, and very pleasant was it, as the
reader can imagine, for us, who had so long fared on chicken, eggs
and bananas, to have a change in our aliment, in the form of sweet,
nutty, breakfast bacon and that, too, from the glorious land of the
Stars and Stripes.

Early the next morning we were again in the saddle. Before bidding
us adieu our kindly host expressed his regret that he was unable to
give us better entertainment. He wished us to understand that it was
through lack of means and not of good will. "Dispense la mala posada,"
excuse our poor lodging house, he said--and his wife and daughter,
a fair young girl just entering her teens, re-echoed his apologies
and in accents that left no doubt as to their sincerity.

During the latter part of the night at Las Palmas, there was a
genuine tropical aguacero--the heaviest downpour that we had yet
witnessed. When we started from there the next morning it was
still raining heavily, and with no indication that there was to
be a change until late in the day, if then. Now, more than ever,
we congratulated ourselves on having secured our bayetones just when
they were so much needed. They were all they had been represented to
be and more. Although we had already spent many hours in continuous
rainfalls, not a drop of moisture had yet reached our persons,
and we had remained as dry as if we had traveled under a cloudless
sky. The raincoats we had brought with us, although guaranteed to be
the best waterproofs made, would never have served the purpose that
our bayetones answered so admirably.

After about an hour's ride, we entered a montaña similar to the one
near Barrigón, but greater in extent. The mud was not so deep, but
there were more caños and streams to cross. Some of them were quite
deep, and in a few instances, the current was so strong that our
horses had difficulty in keeping themselves on their feet. Several
times we turned to our vaqueano to enquire if a particularly large
stream was the much-dreaded Ocoa. "No, Señores," he always replied;
"El Ocoa es más grande"--the Ocoa is larger.

We noticed that he was quite pensive and apparently as much preoccupied
about the Ocoa as we were ourselves. He then informed us that he
had learned at Las Palmas that the Ocoa had been impassable for
several days past, and he feared we should be detained there for some
time. Just then we came to the largest and widest torrent that we had
yet met. We effected the passage of this with the greatest difficulty,
and not without considerable risk to both mount and rider. After we
had safely gotten across I turned again to our guide and said: "That is
surely the Ocoa, is it not?" "No, Señor, el Ocoa es todavia más grande
y más bravo." No, Sir, the Ocoa is still larger and more turbulent.

Finally, after we had been about three hours in the montaña, the rain
continuing all the while without cessation; after we had narrowly
escaped being mired several times, or being carried away by several of
the impetuous water courses that obstructed our path--there were by
actual count more than thirty of them; after a long struggle against
the dread that was so greatly depressing our vaqueano, and trying to
take an optimistic view of our situation, we had our attention directed
to a loud roaring noise immediately in front of us. We knew at once
what that meant, and did not need the information then volunteered
by our guide, "He aquí el Ocoa, Señores." That is the Ocoa, Sir.

A few minutes more and we were on its banks. Swollen to an unusual
height by the recent heavy rainfalls in the Andes, it was now a
raging, roaring mountain torrent that had attained the magnitude of a
tumultuous river which swept everything before it. It must have been
such a torrent that the poet Schiller had before his mind's eye when
he wrote The Diver, of which the following stanza is a part:--


        "And it seethes and roars, it welters and boils,
        As when water is showered upon fire;
        And skyward the spray agonizingly toils
        And flood over flood sweeps higher and higher,
        Upheaving, downrolling, tumultuously,
        As though the abyss would bring forth a young sea."


C., who had never witnessed in Trinidad such exhibitions of storm and
flood, was in despair. Our peons, finding their worst forebodings an
actuality, were distressed and disconsolate. If they could but reach
the other side of the river, they would be almost in sight of their
homes from which they had been absent for more than a week.

"How long shall we be obliged to wait before we can cross?" someone
timorously inquired. "If it does not rain any more," the reply came,
"we may get over to-morrow evening. If there is another aguacero in
the mountains, Dios sabe,"--God knows--"how long we may be detained
here." Just then, one of the peons who claimed superior knowledge
about the behavior of such rios bravos as the one before us, gave
it as his candid opinion, that, even if there were no further rain,
it would be quite impossible to effect a passage inside of three days.

To one unfamiliar with the suddenness with which mountain streams
become raging torrents, [169] and the quickness with which they
subside, these declarations of opinion were depressing enough. I
had, however, spent many years among the Rocky and Sierra Madre
mountains, and had often had occasion to study the modus operandi of
the cloud-bursts that are there of so frequent occurrence. Besides
this, while our peons were disputing among themselves as to what was
best to be done in our embarrassing situation, I had been carefully
observing the height of the water line and found, to my great delight,
that it was gradually becoming lower. After making a few measurements,
I found that, if there were no further rainfall, we should be able
to cross to the other side before sundown.

As it was now long past noon, and we had had nothing to eat since
early morning, it was suggested that we take a little luncheon, while
waiting for the river to become fordable. Suiting the action to the
word, a fire was started, our kit of kitchen utensils was drawn from
its sack, and in a short time we had a large cup of fragrant, black
coffee, and the remnant of our breakfast bacon fried in a manner
to do credit to a New York chef. We still had a few soda crackers,
and these, together with the coffee and bacon, furnished us with a
repast that left nothing to be desired.

Having no doubt about our ability to reach Villavicencio before
nightfall, we gave all the remaining eatables to our vaqueano and
peons. They thankfully partook of the coffee and crackers, but a mere
taste of the bacon quite satisfied them. They had evidently never
eaten any before and, far from relishing it, found it positively
distasteful. They had yet to acquire a taste for bacon as others
acquire a taste for snails and frogs' legs. They still had with them
a few platanos--their staff of life--which they roasted, and with
these and the crackers and coffee we gave them they fared even better
than usual.

After luncheon was finished, it was found that the river had fallen
enough to justify an attempt to cross it. Great caution, however,
was necessary to prevent any possible mishap. First, the largest and
strongest mule in the drove was relieved of his burden and forced
to cross the river alone. He examined it very suspiciously and at
first hesitated about entering the water. But he was so belabored
with sticks and clubs that the poor beast had no alternative. After
he had started towards the other side the peons all kept up such an
unearthly yell that he was afraid to venture back. After a terrific
struggle he succeeded in reaching the opposite bank.

The current was evidently still too strong to warrant another
experiment of this kind. So we waited about a half an hour, when a
second mule--a smaller one--was driven into the water. He had barely
reached the middle of the river when he was lifted off his feet,
and carried some distance down stream. It looked, for a few moments,
as if he was going to be lost, but, by vigorous exertion, he got on
his feet again, and stood in mid-river breasting the full force of the
current and looking piteously towards his masters for assistance. But
they merely jeered at him vociferously and asked him if he wished to
return to Barrigón.

Seeing no help forthcoming, the terrified brute made a supreme
effort and succeeded in getting back to the bank from which he
had started. There he stood for a while panting heavily, after the
strenuous efforts he had made, but all the while looking wistfully
at his companion on the opposite bank of the Ocoa. After he was
somewhat rested, and before any one realized what he was about to do,
the mule was again in the water, making, of his own accord, a second
attempt to reach the other side of the river, where his companion
was awaiting him. After battling with the current for some minutes,
he was successful in his venture, for which he received the unstinted
applause of his masters. No sooner had he emerged from the water than
he gave a long, loud bray of victory which awoke the echoes in the
woods for miles around. The whole performance was so comical that it
provoked roars of laughter from our entire party. As an illustration
of mule-headedness in a good cause, in face of apparently insuperable
difficulties, it was superb.

Having proved the fordableness of the river by mules, the peons
determined to match their own strength against the still-impetuous
current. Accordingly, one of their number, a giant in strength, taking
the end of a hundred-foot lariat between his teeth, carefully entered
the water, and, after successfully buffeting the angry billows,
landed on the opposite bank, whence the two mules had watched his
struggles with apparent interest and sympathy.

Now that the lariat was firmly stretched between the two banks, and
that the river was still falling, it was a matter of only a short
time to transfer the remaining mules and the baggage to the other side.

The jurungos [170]--a Llanero epithet for strangers--were the last to
cross. Elevating our feet as much as possible, to avoid getting wet,
we were soon in mid-stream. The motion of the water in one direction
while our horses were struggling in the other, had a tendency to
induce vertigo, but as we had to be on the alert every instant, in
order to preclude all danger of miscarriage, we soon found ourselves
happily landed, with the dread Ocoa at last in our rear.

It was now only a short ride to Villavicencio, over comparatively
dry and slightly rising ground. Ere the sun had dropped behind the
Andes we had alighted before our lodging house near the plaza on the
main street of the town. Our host, who was awaiting us at the door,
gave us a most cordial greeting, but seemed to be much surprised
and embarrassed. He then explained that he had misunderstood the
telegram that he had received from Orocué announcing our arrival and
requesting him to have piezas--rooms--reserved for us. "I inferred
from the telegram," he said, "that you were Colombians and never,
for an instant, dreamed that I should have the honor of entertaining
foreigners. Had I known whom I was to have as my guests, I should
have made more elaborate preparations for your reception. As it is,
I can offer you only an unfurnished room. It is the best I have,
and I trust you will excuse my not making better provisions for your
comfort during your sojourn in our midst. We have no hotels here,
and our people, when traveling, are accustomed to lodge with their
friends, or take an apartment like the one reserved for you."

The good man's explanation was quite unnecessary, as we were more
than satisfied with our room. It was large and airy, and, although
devoid of furniture of every kind, it had a clean board floor, and
that was a great deal for travelers, who, like ourselves, had been
roughing it on the Meta and the llanos.

He was much relieved when he saw how easy it was to satisfy his guests,
and without more ado, he proceeded to order dinner for us without
delay. While dinner was preparing we had our dufflebags brought
into our apartment, and, in a very short time, our camp chairs were
unfolded and our cots and bedding arranged for the night. A table
was next brought in from an adjoining house, and soon a young Indian
maid arrived to make the necessary preparations for our evening
repast. Our meals, it had been arranged, were to be served from a
restaurant a few doors away. The señora in charge, and her daughter,
who belonged to an old Colombian family, now in reduced circumstances,
left nothing undone to insure the most satisfactory service possible.

A bountiful dinner, such as we had not had since leaving Orocué,
was soon on the table. There were meats, vegetables and various
kinds of fruits and, what we found specially agreeable, good wheaten
bread. Besides all these viands, there was an additional and unexpected
luxury in the form of a quart bottle of generous old Bordeaux. It
goes without saying that we showed due appreciation of the señora's
culinary skill. Never did the dishes of a Parisian restaurateur seem
more inviting. Now came to us with special force the old saying that
"appetite is the best sauce," and that for travelers like ourselves,
"Il vaut mieux découvrir un nouveau plat qu' un nouveau planète,"
it is better to discover a new dish than a new planet.

As we had resolved to remain a few days in Villavicencio before
essaying the trip across the Cordilleras, we felt a sense of relief,
by anticipation, in the thought that we should not, before daybreak
the following morning, be obliged to hearken, as hitherto, to the
usual announcement of our vaqueano, "Vamonos, Señores--Gentlemen,
it is time to start."

As we were both quite fatigued, we did not delay long in seeking
repose on our ever-restful cots. And it was but a very short time
before at least one of the travelers was in the land of dreams. And
one of the visions that appeared to him was that of a little child
in a pink frock, standing beside her mother under a totuma tree,
near a crystal stream in the llanos, waving her tiny hand and lisping
a sweet Adiosito to two strangers from beyond the sea, whose course
was towards the western sky, where the giant Andes stood to salute
the approaching lord of day.



CHAPTER VIII

THE CORDILLERA OF THE ANDES


       "To sit on rocks, to muse o'er flood and fall,
        To slowly trace the forest's shady scene,
        Where things that own not man's dominion dwell,
        And mortal feet hath ne'er, or rarely been;
        To climb the trackless mountain all unseen.

       "This is not solitude; 'tis but to hold
        Converse with Nature's charms, and see her stores unrolled."

                                                            --Byron.


Villavicencio, the capital of the National Territory of the Meta,
is situated at the very foot of the Andes, and is an attractive town
of about three thousand inhabitants, many of whom are Indians. Its
altitude above sea level, according to our barometer, is slightly less
than fifteen hundred feet. It is a little more than ninety-three miles
from Bogotá and has an average annual temperature of 83° F. During our
sojourn in the place the thermometer never rose above 76° F. in the
shade, and it was occasionally several degrees below this point. And,
although little more than seventy-five miles north of the equator,
it was so cool at night that we always used our blankets.

A handsome church is located on one side of the spacious green
plaza. Not far distant is a well-conducted convent school in charge
of nuns recently expatriated from France, in consequence of the laws
enacted against religious orders. The people are never tired sounding
the praises of these good sisters and telling the visitor of the
wonders they have accomplished in behalf of their children. Here,
as elsewhere, "The stone which the builders rejected; the same shall
become the head of the corner."

Villavicencio, like Cabuyaro, and other places in the llanos, is
eagerly looking forward to the day when it shall be connected by rail
with the national capital and the Meta. For nearly a century and a
half a commercial route connecting Bogotá with the Meta and the Orinoco
has been talked of but nothing has been done to make it a reality.

In 1783 the archbishop of Sante Fe, Monsignor Cabellero y Gongora,
then viceroy of New Granada, caused a map to be made of the course of
the Meta and the Orinoco to the Atlantic, with a view of developing
commerce by that route, but the all-powerful opposition of Santa Marta
and Cartagena nullified his efforts. Several times since that date
the project has been resumed but each time it had to be abandoned
in favor of the Magdalena, owing to the pressure brought to bear on
the government by the merchants of Cartagena and Santa Marta. There
is no doubt that the route via the Meta and the Orinoco would, in
some respects, possess many advantages over that of the Magdalena,
aside from developing much country now practically neglected.

Unlike Venezuela, Colombia favors free navigation of her rivers
by all nations, and would welcome foreign craft on the Meta as she
does on the Magdalena. Venezuela, however, favors monopolies, and,
claiming absolute control of the Orinoco, has closed the Meta and the
other affluents of the Orinoco to all steamers except those belonging
to the one company which has a monopoly of the trade of the Orinoco
and all its tributaries. How detrimental such a monopoly is, not only
to Colombia but to Venezuela as well, can be seen at a glance. Some
of the greatest resources of both countries are left undeveloped and
progress in any direction is quite impossible.

This matter was taken up at the International Congress of Mexico in
1901, in connection with a plan to render navigation possible through
the interior of the continent of South America from the Orinoco to
the River Plate, but so far nothing has been accomplished.

The greater part of the eastern portion of Colombia is still isolated
from the rest of the world, and will remain so until Venezuela shall
recognize the fatuity of its short-sighted policy, or until the great
commercial nations shall demand that the navigation of the Orinoco
and its tributaries, like that of the Amazon and its affluents, be
free to all vessels, no matter under what flag they may sail. And as
soon as commerce shall awaken to the fact that an immense field of
untold riches is closed to her activities in the forests and plains
of the Orinoco basin--and that must be ere long--a demand will be
made not only in the interests of South America but also in that of
the entire civilized world.

As an illustration of how Colombia has been made to suffer by the
arbitrary policy of Venezuela regarding waterways, of which both
the sister republics should be beneficiaries, a single instance
will suffice.

Shortly before our arrival in Villavicencio, a company was formed
to supply electricity to the city. As there are no roads between
Bogotá and Villavicencio, which would permit the transportation of
the necessary machinery, the only way available for the introduction
of such heavy freight was by the Orinoco and the Meta. It was
accordingly planned to have the dynamos and other requisites brought
by this route, but, when all was ready for shipment, the projectors
of the enterprise learned that the Venezuelan government--that is,
President Castro--would refuse to grant the necessary permission for
the transportation of the merchandise in question. The idea, then,
of lighting the city by electricity had to be abandoned, and the
capital of the Meta territory is, as a consequence, forced to remain
content with tallow candles and kerosene lamps.

The people of Villavicencio, as elsewhere in Colombia, we found
to be extremely courteous and hospitable. They were eager to hear
about America, and in turn were quite willing to afford all possible
information about their own country, and especially about the llanos
and Llaneros. We soon became acquainted with all the leading officials
and business men, and recall with pleasure the many delicate attentions
they showed us while in their midst. We were invited to visit their
country estates and to examine some new industries--yet in their
infancy--which gave promise of a bright future.

One of these was the rubber industry. Not content with the trees
that grow spontaneously in the forests in this part of the country,
a certain general--one of many we met here--conceived the idea of
cultivating the rubber tree and had, accordingly, during the preceding
year, set out no fewer than a half million small trees, and had it in
purpose to plant many times this number in the near future. He said
all that he had already planted were doing well, and he had no doubt
about the success of the enterprise. He was most sanguine about the
future of eastern Colombia, and expressed it as his belief that in
a few years Colombia would be as favorably known for her rubber as
she is now for her cacao, coffee and tobacco.

There is no reason why the scientific cultivation of the rubber tree
should not be attended with as good results in Colombia as have so
signalized its culture in Ceylon and the Malay Peninsula. In view of
the destructive system of treating the rubber trees in Brazil and other
parts of South America in collecting the latex, and the increasing
demand for rubber in our various rapidly expanding industries, it
would seem that the rubber plantations, like the one above mentioned,
are sure to yield their owners a handsome profit.

Nothing better illustrates what may be expected in this direction
than the experiment made a few decades ago in India with the cinchona
tree. Previously to the introduction of this tree into India, where
there are now many extensive plantations under cultivation, the sole
source of supply of Peruvian bark was from the tropical slopes of the
Andes. Now, in consequence of the vigorous competition with India,
the cinchona industry in the Andean regions is only a fraction of
what it formerly was, and, unless something can be done to arrest its
rapid decline, it will soon have lost its importance as an article
of export from the Cordilleras.

We spent three days in Villavicencio and enjoyed every hour of the
stay among its kindly people. We had thus an opportunity of securing
much needed repose, and of preparing ourselves for our arduous trip
across the cloud-reaching Andes. We might have continued, without
interruption, our journey from the plains to Bogotá, but it would have
been highly imprudent to make the attempt. A sudden change from the
lowlands to Andean heights, and from the heat of the llanos to the
frigid blasts of the paramos, is something of which the native has an
instinctive dread. He accordingly makes his journey by slow stages,
so as to become acclimated on the way. In driving cattle from the
llanos to Bogotá several weeks are deemed necessary, as otherwise
many of them would expire on the road. They appear to be much more
affected than man by rapid changes of altitude and temperature.

We had been warned time and again by well-meaning persons about the
risk we incurred by so soon attempting to cross the Cordilleras, after
spending so much time in the lowlands of the Orinoco and the Meta. "You
should," we were told, "spend several weeks on the road, stopping a
few days at each posada on the way. Only in this wise can you become
acclimated, and render your system proof against the certain dangers
of violent changes of temperature and altitude. As you approach the
summit of the Andes you will see the sides of the trail strewn with
the bleached bones of cattle and horses that have succumbed to the
cold and the rare atmosphere of this elevated region. More than this,
you will see hundreds of crosses by the wayside marking the spots
where over-venturesome travelers were emparamados--frozen--by the
arctic cold of the paramos, and where they found their last resting
place. And so strong is the wind on the cumbre--the summit--of the
mountain range that people are sometimes blown into the yawning chasm
that adjoins the dreadful pass."

To confirm their statements they reminded us of the fearful losses
in men and animals sustained by Bolivar when he led his army from
the plains of Varinas to the lofty plateau of Cundinamarca; how
hundreds of men and horses perished from the intense cold on the
elevated pass through which they vainly tried to force their way,
and how the entire army was exposed to extermination by the combined
action of arctic cold and hurricane blasts.

We made no reply to these well-meant warnings, but we could not help
recalling similar words of caution before we started on our journey
up the Orinoco and the Meta. Then the dangers to be apprehended were
from the climate--from intense heat and a pestiferous atmosphere;
from wild animals and wilder men. Now it was danger of an opposite
kind--danger from cold, of being frozen, or of contracting pneumonia,
which in those great altitudes is certain death.

Aside from a few uncomfortable nights--which, with a little care, might
have been obviated--caused by the active zancudo and the coloradito--we
had escaped all the predicted dangers of the lowlands, and we now felt
reasonably sure that we should be equally fortunate in eluding those
that were said to await us in the regions of everlasting snow. We
were better equipped for making the trip than the poor, ill-clad
natives from the llanos, and we could regulate our vesture to suit the
temperature. Snow and frost had then no terrors for us, and as we had
been accustomed to sudden changes of altitude, without experiencing
any evil effects, we felt we had nothing whatever to apprehend.

On the third morning after our arrival in Villavicencio we were
ready to start for Bogotá, and expected to make the journey of
ninety-three miles in three days. We had secured mules that were
used to mountain travel. Those that we had in crossing the llanos
would never have answered our purpose. Our vaqueano and peons were
serranos--mountaineers--thoroughly familiar with the route we were
to take. They all seemed to be good, reliable young men, and we felt
that the last stage of our journey, before reaching Bogotá, would be
quite as enjoyable as any that we had already completed.

After many cordial expressions of good wishes on the part of the
crowd assembled to witness our departure, and repeated exclamations
on all sides of "Felíz viaje!"--a happy journey--and "Dios les guarde
á VV!"--God protect you--we said our last adios to all and turned
toward the Andes. "Vamos con Dios," ejaculated our vaqueano. "Y con
la Virgen," was the response of the peons and the bystanders.

From the moment we left the door of our temporary lodging, our road was
up grade. As we passed along the street that terminates at the foot of
the mountain, it seemed that all the women and children of the place
were at the doors to get a last view of the jurungos--foreigners--whose
arrival from the eastern sea by the great river had been commented
on as a more than ordinary event.

As soon as we had passed the last house of the city, there was a sudden
marked increase in the grade of our trail, and we then felt, for the
first time, that we were in sober earnest beginning the actual ascent
of the Andes. In two hours we had reached Buena Vista, a lovely spot,
eleven hundred and forty feet above Villavicencio.

We had frequently been told in Orocué and elsewhere that we should
have a beautiful view of the llanos from Buena Vista, and that we
would do well to tarry there for a while to enjoy the panorama that
would be visible from this elevated spur of the mountain.

When a South American--especially one familiar with the
mountains--speaks in terms of praise of any particular bit of scenery,
one may be sure that he does not exaggerate. He is so accustomed to
splendid exhibitions of tropical beauty and mountain grandeur that
he passes unnoticed what we of the North should describe as superb,
magnificent, glorious. Such scenes are to him as common as the
gorgeousness of the setting sun and the sublimity of the starlit
heavens are to us and fail to move him for the same reason that
the splendors of sun and sky rarely affect us as they would if but
occasionally visible. They are everyday objects and the pleasure they
should afford palls accordingly.

We were not disappointed in our anticipations regarding the view
from Buena Vista. On the contrary, it far exceeded anything we had
imagined. The sky, with the exception of a few fleecy clouds flitting
athwart it, was clear and the sun was almost in the zenith. Far below
us, and extending away--north, east, south--towards the dim and distant
horizon, were the llanos, every feature of which was brought out in
bright relief by the brilliant noonday sun.

In the foreground was the montaña through which we had passed just
before reaching Villavicencio. Farther afield was a limitless sea
of verdure, interspersed with groups of trees, which offered their
grateful shade to the countless herds that reposed beneath their
wide-spreading branches. In every direction the green savannas
were intersected by caños and rivers which looked like streams of
molten silver. It was, indeed, a panorama of surpassing beauty and
loveliness--of its kind unique in the wide world. It was the boundless
plain in eternal converse with the heavens above. It was the abode
of liberty, and the trysting-place of life--life palpitating in the
sunshine and beneath the emerald borders of the sliver-like water
courses that were all hastening with their tribute from the Andes
to the Meta, which, far off in the southeast, seemed like a line of
union between earth and sky.

We have nothing in our country that can bear comparison with the
matchless picture seen from Buena Vista. The view of the delta of the
Nile--just before harvest time, with its numberless canals and water
courses--from the summit of Cheops, contains some of the elements of
soft tropical beauty so conspicuous in the Buena Vista landscape;
but it lacks the variety, the sweep, the coloring, the harmonious
effects of light and shade, the immensity, and above all the wondrous
setting afforded the latter prospect by the Titanic Cordilleras.

But the measureless expanse of grassy plain that lies before us is
but an insignificant fraction of the llanos. They extend from the
southern slopes of the Coast Range of Venezuela to the base of the
Parime uplands and the Rio Guaviare; from the Andes to the delta
of the Orinoco. They are thus almost conterminous with the Orinoco
basin. They, indeed, constitute one of the three immense districts
into which the whole of South America is divided. The other two are
the Selvas of Brazil and the Pampas of Argentina, separated from
each other and from the llanos of the north, by low transverse ridges
running east and west from the Atlantic to the Cordilleras.

To geologists these vast lowlands have a special interest, as they
were at one time the bed of an inland sea more extensive far than the
present Mediterranean. Even now, during the rainy season, certain parts
of this immense expanse are covered by fresh water lakes thousands
of square miles in extent. A subsidence of a few hundred feet would
again bring the whole of this illimitable territory down below sea
level and cause again the formation of the great tropical sea that
existed in prehistoric times.

To the student of history a special interest attaches to the llanos
of western Venezuela and eastern Colombia. It was across these plains
and swamps, under the most trying difficulties, that Bolivar led his
half-clad, half-famished army, during his memorable march across the
Cordilleras, before achieving the independence of New Granada in the
famous battle of Boyacá.

But great as was the feat accomplished by Bolivar in traversing
the llanos, great as were the difficulties he had to contend with,
they pale into insignificance when compared with the hardships and
achievements of the early descubridores--explorers--of these then
unknown wilds. Bolivar and his men traveled through a country that had
been long settled, and were among friends and compatriots. The early
explorers and conquistadores were, on the contrary, in an unknown land,
among murderous, relentless savages armed with poisoned arrows. They
were in a region where it was often impossible to procure food, and
where several times starvation was imminent. For months at a time
they wandered through dark, tangled forests, cutting a road as they
went, lured on by the hope of fame and fortune. Then they had to feel
their way through deep and treacherous morasses, in which they had
to confront even greater dangers than in the obscure woodlands. But
notwithstanding dangers and difficulties of every kind, they kept
moving forward through woods and swamps, across rivers and mountains,
ever in pursuit of gold and precious stones, and of the fabulous
riches of the Meta and the treasure city of Manoa.

Among these famous descubridores was the German, George Hohermuth,
whom the Spaniards called Jorge de Spira. Starting from Coró,
on the Caribbean, with three hundred and sixty-one men and eighty
horses, he directed his course southwards, where, he was assured,
were inexhaustible treasures of every kind. Crossing the llanos of
Venezuela and New Granada, he must have passed near the present site
of Buena Vista.

During our journey we certainly crossed his line of march, which in
this latitude was probably near the base of the Cordilleras. Spurred
on by an ever-receding ignis fatuus, he continued his march until
he reached the Japura, an affluent of the Amazon, and but a short
distance from the equator. During this frightful journey he crossed
the Arauca, the Apure, the Meta, the Guaviare and other broad and deep
rivers. Of the countless difficulties he encountered in his long and
painful march, no one who is unfamiliar with the character of forest
and plain in the tropics, particularly during the rainy season, can
have the faintest conception. They far transcend anything experienced
by Stanley, or Mungo Park, or any other African explorer. After more
than three years of unheard-of sufferings, he finally returned to
Coró with but a small fraction of the brave men that had originally
formed part of his expedition.

Hohermuth was followed by Philip von Hutten, in 1541, on a similar
expedition, who traveled over almost the same ground as his
predecessor. He, too, must have passed near where Buena Vista now
stands. His undertaking was quite as fruitless as that of Hohermuth
and his losses were greater. He spent more than four years in the
llanos and Cordilleras and, before he could return to his starting
point, he died at the hands of an assassin.

More remarkable still, in some respects, was the expedition of
Nicholas Federmann, who, like Hohermuth and Von Hutten, was in the
service of the Welsers, concessionaires of a large German colony
near Lake Maracaibo. Crossing the llanos, and the numerous rivers
that flow through them, he eventually found himself on the banks
of the Meta. Thence he proceeded west and crossed the Cordilleras,
not, however, without numerous victims--both men and horses--from the
intense cold on the mountain summits. He finally reached the fertile
plain of Bogotá, where occurred that famous and unexpected meeting
of Belalcazar, who had come with another expedition from Quito, and
Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada who, a short time previously, had arrived
with a third expedition from Santa Marta.

It would be interesting to know what was Federmann's itinerary after
leaving the banks of the Meta, and the exact spot where he crossed the
Cordilleras. This we can only conjecture, as there is no record of it,
but we loved to think, while crossing the Andes on our way to Bogotá,
that we were still following the conquistadores, and that ours was
the same route that had been taken by Federmann and his brave men
more than three and a half centuries before. [171]

After leaving Buena Vista, we were exposed to a heavy tropical downpour
that lasted the greater part of the day. Fortunately the rain did not
affect us in the slightest. Our bayetones and waterproof boots kept
us perfectly dry and, as the rain was not chilly, we rather enjoyed
the experience.

Our path during the greater part of the day lay through forests and
along rivers and over mountain torrents. At times it was high up on the
mountain side, thousands of feet above the water courses surging and
foaming at its base. Again it was along the edge of a dizzy precipice,
where a single false step of our mule would have meant instant death
to its rider.

What gave us grave concern at first was the fact that our mules always
persisted in keeping on the side of the track next to the ravine,
no matter how deep or threatening it might be. We tried, until we
were exhausted, to keep them on the opposite side of the trail, but
it was useless. They seemed bent on courting danger, and on seeing
how near they could keep to the verge of the chasm without plunging
into its abysmal depths.

Unfortunately for our peace of mind, we did not then know the Andean
mule as well as we do now. Had we understood him as well at the
beginning of our journey as we did at the end, we should have given him
a free rein, and thereby spared ourselves many nerve-racking moments
and many futile efforts to correct his persistent aberrations. Why
a mule prefers to walk on the brink of a precipice, whenever it has
an opportunity of doing so, rather than keep to what we humans should
consider the safer side of the path, is a mystery I do not profess to
fathom. I simply state the fact. I leave its explanation to experts
in mule psychology.

The country through which we passed was fairly well populated, and we
were never long out of sight of a habitation of some kind. Sometimes
the dwellings were of stone, but more frequently they were of bamboo
daubed with clay and thatched with palm leaf. The people, usually
Indians or half-breeds, were in humble circumstances but we never
saw any evidences of actual want or suffering. "Nunca se muere de
hambre aqui"--No one ever dies of hunger here--an Indian woman once
informed us, when we made inquiry about the subject. If one should
happen to have nothing to eat, his friends and neighbors supply him
with food. They are ever willing to assist one another, and we were
often surprised to see how ready they were to share their limited
store with others, whether in want or not.

A more friendly people we never met than the good people who dwell
on the eastern slopes of the Colombian Cordilleras. They always
have a kindly greeting for every one they meet. No one, not even the
youngest child, will pass you on the road without a cordial "Buenos
dias," "Buenas tardes," or "Buenas noches"--Good day, Good evening,
or Good night--as the case may be. These cheering salutations, that
were always forthcoming, whether we met one or a score, young or old,
made us forget that we were in a foreign land, far from home and
friends, and quite reconciled us to any little discomforts we might
experience along our steep and rugged path. Here among these simple,
unspoiled people the brotherhood of man is not an empty rhetorical
phrase, or a vain poetical figment, but a living, every-day reality.

How often during our journeyings in the savannas and highlands of
Colombia did we not recall the beautiful couplet of Castellanos
regarding the primitive inhabitants of New Granada!--


        "Gente llana, fiel, modesta, clara,
        Leal, humilde, sana y obediente." [172]


They are the same to-day, especially when removed from the baleful
influence of those who, instead of aiding them, would drag them down
to the lowest depths of degradation and servitude.

But obliging and honest as we always found these people to be,
they, nevertheless, invariably failed us in one particular. We could
never, except occasionally by accident, get from them a correct or
satisfactory answer about the distance from one place to another.

Never shall we forget our experience during our first day's journey
in the Cordilleras. Our objective point was San Miguel, where we were
told we should find a good lodging house--one of the best on the road,
we were assured--and, as the distance was great, it was necessary to
make extra good time in order to arrive there before nightfall. The
heavy, long-continued rains had made our trail extremely heavy, and
in places almost impassable. The hours passed and we found ourselves
advancing much more slowly than was desirable. The lowering clouds
were massing on the mountain slopes, and the rain began to fall in
torrents. It then began to dawn upon us that we might not be able
to reach our destination in the limited time yet remaining of the
fast-departing day.

Further progress along our dangerous path in the impenetrable gloom,
that would immediately follow sunset, we knew to be impossible. We
knew or thought we knew, about how far we were still from San Miguel,
but we wished to be certain about the distance.

It was now about four o'clock in the afternoon, and it was imperative
for us to reach our posada by six o'clock, if we were to arrive there
at all that day. We accordingly inquired of one of the many peons we
met, who were returning to their homes from their day's labor in the
fields, how far it was to San Miguel. "Tres leguas, Señores"--three
leagues, Sirs--was the answer to our question.

This was disheartening. Our mules were now exhausted, and could not
possibly make three leagues in two hours over the terrific track we
were traveling. But there was nothing to do but push on. At the end
of an hour we asked the same question of another peon. "Quatro leguas,
Señores"--four leagues, Sirs, was the reply. This answer was confirmed
by several other peons, whom we also questioned. Matters were becoming
serious, but we continued on in silence, hoping against hope.

About a half hour later we again renewed our query. "Una legua,
Señores"--one league, Sirs--said a bright boy, who was driving a
heavily-laden donkey. It was now dusk, and as dusk in the tropics
lasts but a few minutes, we knew that we should soon be enveloped in
total darkness.

A little further on, a woman, with a child in her arms, informed us
that San Miguel was "cerca"--near. This was too ambiguous for us, as it
might mean one league or several leagues. Asking her how near it was,
she replied muy cerca--very near. This was still unsatisfactory. She
then assured us that it was "cerquita," "cerquitita"--diminutives
of cerca-- [173] meaning that the place was extremely near, only a
few steps farther. "Dando la vuelta de la esquina"--around the corner
there--she said, "is San Miguel, the second house you come to." Peering
into the darkness before us, we could barely discern what appeared a
projection from the mountain side. We had to be satisfied with this
answer as, try as we would, we could elicit nothing more definite
from our informant.

The darkness was now so dense that we were unable to see even as far
as our mules' ears. There was then nothing to be done but to give our
animals the rein and trust them to carry us to our destination. As
if guided by a peculiar instinct, they carefully picked their way
through the mud, but we thought they should never get around that
corner towards which we had been directed.

We were now quite exhausted, as we had eaten nothing since morning, and
longed for a place of shelter, where we could find repose. Only once
before, in all my travels, did it seem to take so long to get around
a mountain spur. Years ago, in the mountains of the Peloponnesus,
I had a similar experience, but then the road was good and the moon
was shining. Here there was only a wretched, dangerous trail, and it
was pitch dark.

At the long last, we saw a light glimmering in a hut by the
roadside. This was something. The next house, which was said to be
bard by, should be the long-desired San Miguel.

To reassure ourselves, we asked a woman who was standing at the door
of the cot, where was San Miguel. She did not know. She had never
beard of such a place. It might be at the other side of the mountain,
or we might already have passed it; she could not tell.

"But is there not a posada near here," I queried, "or a place where
we can remain over night?" "Oh! yes," the woman replied, "there is a
very good posada just across the road--that large building right in
front of you. You are looking for la Señora Filomena's house. That is
what we call it here." And so it was. A few rods away was San Miguel,
at last. Only the tired, famished traveler in a strange land can
realize how glad we were that the day's journey was finally at an end.

We spent a very uncomfortable night at San Miguel, and were glad
when we found ourselves, early the following morning, again in the
saddle, bound for Caqueza, the capital of a district near the summit
of the Cordilleras. "We must make better time than yesterday," I
said, on starting, to our vaqueano. "Si, Señor." "We shall arrive
at Caqueza by four o'clock, shall we not?" "Es imposible, Señor. It
is impossible, Sir." "Well, then, we shall arrive by five, shall we
not?" "No se puede, Señor. It cannot be done, Sir." "At all events,
we must reach Caqueza before dark." "Tal vez, no--Probably not,"
was his final reply, and we had to let it go at that.

The scenery along our route between San Miguel and Caqueza was much
like that which we had so much admired during the preceding day. The
country was, however, much more thickly populated and we met many
more people on the way. There was always that same cordial greeting,
that had before touched us so deeply, and the same disposition to
oblige us in any way possible.

At one place on the roadside, we saw a young couple, neither more
than eighteen years of age, erecting a little bamboo cot. They were
evidently just entering upon house-keeping, and seemed to be very
happy. The labor involved in the construction of their future home
was little and the expense was nothing. All would be in readiness
for occupancy in a day or two after work begun. Then their little
plot of ground, planted with maize, yuca, plantains and bananas,
together with a few domestic animals, would supply them with all the
food required and enable them to enjoy an idyllic existence far away
from the maddening crowd, and quite removed from


   "The weariness, the fever, and the fret
    Here, where men sit and hear each other groan."


It was evidently some such Arcadian scene that was before Tennyson's
vision when he, in Locksley Hall, penned the beautiful lines,


   "Ah, for some retreat,"


where


    "Slides the bird o'er lustrous woodland, swings the trailer from
    the crag--"

    "Droops the heavy-blossomed bower, hangs the heavy-fruited tree--"


and where are


    "Breaths of tropic shade and palms in cluster, knots of Paradise."


Further on we met another young couple, radiant with the glow of
youth and present happiness, carrying all their household goods with
them. These were few and simple. The man carried a machete, and a few
rush mats; the woman a few simple culinary utensils consisting mainly
of a metal pot and a few calabash cups and dishes. They were evidently
looking for a site for a home, and probably, a few hours later had,
like the first couple we saw, their simple habitation well under way.

Of these good people one can repeat what Peter Martyr said of the
aborigines shortly after the discovery of America:

"A fewe thinges contente them, hauinge no delite in suche superfluites,
for the which in other places men take infinite paynes and commit
manie vnlawfull actes, yet are neuer satisfied, whereas many haue
to muche, and none inowgh. But emonge these simple sowles, a fewe
clothes serue the naked; weightes and measures are not needefull to
such as cannot kyll of crafte and deceyte and haue not the vse of
pestiferous monye, the seede of unnumerable myscheues. So that if we
shall not be ashamed to confesse the truthe, they seeme to lyue in that
goulden worlde of the whiche owlde wryters speak so much; wherin men
lyued simplye and innocentlye without inforcement of lawes, without
quarrellinge. Iudges and libelles, contente onely to satisfie nature,
without further vexation for knowledge of thinges to come." [174]

Later on in the day we came across more home-builders, but of
quite a different kind from those above mentioned. Toward noon, we
noticed some distance ahead of us, what appeared to be a greenish
black ribbon, extended along our path. It was about a foot wide and
several hundred feet long. We could not imagine what it could be
until we were within a few yards of it. It proved to be an army of
ants on a foraging expedition. There were millions, if not billions
of them. Those on one side were carrying pieces of leaves about
the size of a sixpence. They formed the green part of the ribbon
that we had seen from a distance. Those on the other side, moving
in an opposite direction, constituted the black part. They were all
engaged in getting material for thatching their curious dome-like
homes, which are often of extraordinary dimensions. Sometimes they
are fully thirty or forty feet in diameter.

We regretted that time did not permit us to examine the length of
their line of march, from their marvelous dwellings to the trees
they were stripping for roofing material. They have been known to go
a mile or more for material suited to their purpose and to deprive
scores of trees of all their leaves in a single day.

To one unfamiliar with the tropics, the depredations committed by
these destructive insects appear incredible. Of an unknown number of
species, they are among the greatest enemies of man in the equatorial
regions. They spare nothing. Gardens and orchards, coffee and sugar,
cassava and banana plantations disappear as quickly before them as
before blight or frost.

In the early part of the sixteenth century, according to Herrera,
[175] their numbers in Española and Puerto Rico were so great and
their devastations so extensive and irresistible, that they threatened
to depopulate the islands. Various parts of South America have also
at different times suffered from the same plague--rivaling the seven
plagues of Egypt in the distress and destruction which marked their
path. Had we not had here, and elsewhere in the tropics, ocular
evidence of their prodigious numbers, and been witnesses of the
magnitude of the works due to their united efforts, we should have
classed the accounts left us by the early chroniclers of the extent
of the ravages of the ant plague among works of fiction rather than
records of authentic history. [176]

The scenery along the mountain ascent was an ever-changing panorama
of rarest beauty and sublimity, such as no pen could describe or
brush portray. It exhibited all the tropical luxuriance of the
llanos together with the wild picturesqueness characteristic of
Alpine heights.

At times we wended our way along the banks of a noiseless river,
which, in solitary grandeur, was sweeping through verdant meads and
beneath arcades of sylvan green, carrying its vivifying waves to the
broad, expectant plains below. The placid scene, dotted with human
habitations, and variegated by bright pastures, the home of contented
flocks and herds, offered to the enchanted gaze, in a single picture,
all the fabled beauties of the glens of Tempe and the dales of Arcady.

As we mounted higher up on our way, our route was along the verge of
deep, headlong torrents mantled in the shade of overhanging bamboos, or
obscured by the jutting crags and huge beetling rocks of the earthquake
rift mountain. Ever and anon, our ears caught the muffled but incessant
roar of thunderous waterfalls, which plunged from dizzy precipices high
above our heads, both to the right and to the left of our upward path.

Scarcely had the deafening notes of these tumultuous floods, which
awakened a thousand echoes in the sombre caves and yawning gulfs of
the countless windings and abrupt breaks of the mountain ravines,
died away, before we found ourselves in presence of some murmuring
cascade that might well have adorned the grove around the grotto
of Calypso. In the gleaming crystal basin at its foot, embowered in
vernal bloom and eternal verdure, which diffused an aromatic breath
over the passer-by, was tremulously reflected the plumed crown of the
palm tree under which the weary traveler sought a moment's rest for his
weary frame. At every turn in our steep and devious path, our eyes were
delighted by some wild, struggling brook, that fretted its way through
a labyrinthine gorge, pranked with verdurous gloom, or charmed by some
wanton rivulet leaping over rocks or forming limpid pools, canopied
with foliage and flowers of rarest fragrance and brightest hue, that


       "Forever gaze on their own drooping eyes,
        Reflected in the crystal calm."


It is not an exaggeration to say, that in our journey from the
foot to the summit of the Andes, we passed in rapid review some
of earth's grandest and most entrancing prospects. Sometimes I was
reminded of the mountains and valleys of the Alps, at others of the
peaks and cañones of the Rocky Mountains. Some cataracts recalled the
waterfalls seen leaping from the lofty precipices of Alaska; others,
those that add such a charm to the manifold wonders of the Yosemite
and the Yellowstone.

But the Andean views can always claim a superiority over all northern
scenes of a similar character, in the marvelous setting afforded by
the ever-verdant and exuberant vegetation of the tropics. How often
did we not wish, during this memorable trip, that we could command
the brush of a Turner or a Poussin or a Claude Lorrain, in order to
bring home with us copies of some of those wonderful pictures that
Nature exhibited to our admiring gaze in her great art gallery of
the Oriental Cordilleras!

The higher we ascended above the lowlands the less dense became
the forests and the less luxuriant the vegetation. At times there
were extended reaches of land that were quite treeless; at others
the surface of the soil was covered with scrubby growths that were
in marked contrast with the splendid sylvan exhibitions to which we
had been so long accustomed. But although the giants of the forest
were no longer visible, there was little diminution of the splendor
of the floral display along our path. In one place, particularly,
we were surprised beyond measure to find the whole side of a mountain
spur covered with a glorious mantle of immaculately white lilies. The
scene was not unlike one of the large lily fields of Bermuda, that
supply our Easter altars with their choicest decorations.

We were greatly delighted to find in the tropics representatives of the
feathered tribe that we were familiar with in the far North. Large
flocks of them annually leave North America and Europe to spend
the winter season in South America and as regularly return to their
northern homes the following summer. Some of them come from far-off
Alaska and extend their flight as far south as Tierra del Fuego. Others
spend the summer in southeast Siberia and then, on the approach of
winter, migrate by way of North America to South Brazil. Among the
most numerous of these marvelous birds of passage are certain species
of sandpipers, plovers and lapwings. The bobolink, known along the
Chesapeake as the reedbird, and dreaded as the ricebird in the rice
fields of the South, extends its migrations as far into South America
as southeastern Brazil. Many of our familiar warblers and sparrows
are to be seen during the winter months in Venezuela and Colombia,
while certain cliff and barn swallows penetrate as far south as
Paraguay. On the Orinoco and the Meta, we recognized many species of
ducks that were familiar to us in the United States, among which were
the pin-tail, bald-pate, golden-eye and blue-winged teal.

"The plovers, sandpipers and kindred species," writes Knowlton, "take
migratory journeys often of extraordinary length. Thus the American
golden plover, Charadrius dominicus, breeds in arctic America, some
venturing a thousand miles north of the Arctic Circle, and migrates
through the entire length of North and South America to its winter
home in Patagonia, and, curiously, its spring and fall routes are
different. After feasting on the crowberry in Labrador, they seek the
coast of Nova Scotia, where they strike out to sea, taking a direct
course for the easternmost islands of the West Indies, and thence to
the northeastern coast of South America. In spring not one returns
by this route, but in March they appear in Guatemala and Texas. April
finds their long lines trailing the prairies of the Mississippi Valley;
the first of May sees them crossing our northern boundary, and by the
first week in June they appear in their breeding grounds in the frozen
north. The little sanderling, just mentioned, is almost cosmopolitan
in distribution, breeding in the arctic and sub-arctic regions and
migrating in the New World to Chile and Patagonia, a distance of
eight thousand miles, and in the Old World along the shore of Europe,
Asia and Africa. The Bartramian sandpiper, Bartramia longicauda, nests
from eastern North America to Nova Scotia and Alaska, and goes south
in winter to southern South America. The solitary sandpiper, Totanus
solitarius, breeds mainly to the north of the United States, and
winters as far south as Brazil and Peru. The buff-breasted sandpiper,
Tryngites subruficollis, rears its young in the Yukon district of
Alaska and from the interior of British Colombia to the Arctic coast,
and journeys in winter well into South America. The turnstone, Arenaria
interpres, a little shore bird, about the size of the song thrush of
Europe, is also cosmopolitan, breeding in high northern latitudes and
at other times of the year found along the coasts of Europe, Asia,
Africa, North America, South America to the Straits of Magellan,
Australia and the Atlantic and Pacific islands. It is one of the
species mentioned as making the wonderful flight from the islands in
Bering Sea to the Hawaiian Islands." [177]

By what miraculous instinct are they guided in these semi-annual
migrations across half the globe? Who bids them, asks Pope,


                                "Columbus-like, explore
        Heavens not their own, and worlds unknown before?
        Who calls the council, states the certain day.
        Who forms the phalanx, and who points the way?"


Have they a special "sense of direction," or is their "homing" faculty
or power of orientation, something that is tantamount to a sixth sense?

We now know far more about the migrations of birds than was known
only a few decades ago. We are able to locate many of them during the
various seasons of the year, and are quite certain that they never,
as an ingenious writer of the early seventeenth century maintained,
spend the winter in the moon, where they have no occasion for food;
but we have yet much to learn regarding the causes of their periodic
migrations, and the nature of that instinct that enables them to pass,
with unerring precision, from the arctic to the antarctic regions,
and from the Old World to the New. We are accumulating daily new
facts regarding the distant flights of the birds of passage, but,
notwithstanding the many theories, some of them more fantastic
than scientific, that have been advanced to explain the cause of
the migrations of birds; why such migrations were undertaken in the
beginning, why they are still continued, and how birds are able to
find their way, during their marvelous flights from the arctic to the
antarctic--we are still in the dark about many questions connected
with those mysterious migrations, which have excited the interest
of even the most casual observer since the prophet Jeremiah wrote:
"The stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed time; and the turtle and
the crane, and the swallows observe the time of their coming." [178]

Almost before we were aware of it, the sun had begun to paint the crest
of the Andes with bright vermeil and soft purple, and we were still
far from Caqueza--the goal of our day's journey. With the exception
of the half-hour we had tarried for luncheon at an attractive posada,
called Media Luna, we had been in the saddle all day, and had pushed
forwards as rapidly as the strength of our animals would permit. We
had left our vaqueano and peons in the rear early in the day, and it
was not at all likely that they would be able to reach Caqueza before
the following forenoon.

After a delightful, sunshiny day, the sky, towards sunset, suddenly
became overcast with dark, threatening clouds, and presently it
began to rain. One thing, however, was in our favor, and that was the
trail. It was in a far better condition than that of the preceding
day, but it lay along the breast of a precipitous mountain slope,
at the foot of which, within ear-shot, coursed an impetuous mountain
torrent. The greater part of the way was quite safe, and we could
trust our mules, even in the dark, to keep to the path. But here and
there were treacherous places--loose ground, and landslides caused
by recent rains--which rendered traveling, even in the daytime,
sufficiently difficult. In the darkness, that was every moment becoming
more dense, locomotion was positively dangerous. There was no house
on the way in which we could find shelter for the night. Our tent,
with our other baggage, was in the hands of our dilatory peons. The
only alternatives, then, were pressing on to Caqueza, despite darkness
and danger, or standing still in our trail, where there was not even
a shrub to temper the ever-increasing downpour. We elected to trust
our lives again to our mules, as we had done the previous night. This
seemed to be the lesser of the two evils that confronted us.

We then recalled the hesitating answer that our vaqueano had,
in the morning, given to our query about reaching Caqueza before
nightfall. His "Tal vez, no"--perhaps not, was a gentle prognostic
that it was impossible, at least for the baggage mules. As a matter
of fact, they did not arrive until towards noon the next day. Their
mules had given out, and the vaqueano and peons had to make shift to
spend the night as best they could under an inclement sky.

The last objects of interest that we descried in the deepening
gloom were a number of peasant cots perched high upon the mountain
sides--much like so many cottages in the higher Alps--and the junction
of two rivers--the Rio Blanco and the Rio Negro. The rivers specially
attracted our attention, as the color of the waters of the one, the
Blanco--white--was in such marked contrast with the waters of the
other, the Negro or black river. The one owed its color to the white
clay soil through which it passed. The other was rendered black--like
the well-known bog-tinctured, "black waters" of Ireland--by the
presence of organic material. Even long after the waters of the
two tributaries had entered their common channel, they kept quite
separate--the black flowing along one bank and the white along the
bank opposite.

It would take too long to enumerate the many difficulties we
encountered, during our long ride in the darkness, before we finally
arrived at Caqueza. Suffice to say that it was several long hours after
nightfall, and that we were both quite exhausted, both by hunger and
fatigue. We never felt time to pass so slowly, as during the last hour
of the day's journey, when there was danger in every step forward from
the ever-threatening ravine, along the edge of which our path lay,
and we were quite ready to exclaim with Shelley,


       "How like death-worms the wingless moments crawl."


In the posada where we purposed spending the night, which was
recommended as the best in town, we found sufficient to appease the
pangs of hunger, but we were soon made to realize that we had another
sleepless night before us. In San Miguel our quarters were damp and our
blankets wet, owing to some carelessness on the part of our peons. In
Caqueza the rooms assigned us--and particularly the beds--could best
be described by a single word--insectiferous. They were a veritable
insectarium that served no scientific or economic purpose. It is but
just, however, to record that this was our first experience of the kind
during our journey thus far in the tropics. Under the circumstances,
there was nothing left for us to do except resignedly to exclaim
with the pious native--Sea por Dios--may it be received by God in
atonement for sin.



CHAPTER IX

IN CLOUDLAND


        "Knowest thou the track that o'er the mountain goes,
        Where the mule threads its way through mist and snows,
        Where dwell in caves the dragon's ancient brood,
        Topples the crag, and o'er it roars the flood,
        Knowest thou it well?
                            O come with me!
        There lies our road--oh, father, let us flee."

                                                        --Mignon.


Our plan, on leaving Villavicencio, was to reach Bogotá in three
days. This we could easily have accomplished, had there not been a
mistake in the telegram ordering horses to be in readiness for us
on our arrival at Caqueza. The morning after arriving there, when we
inquired for our mounts, we were surprised to learn that we were not
expected until a day later, and that it would not be possible for us
to get animals until the following morning.

"Travelers usually take three days to make the trip from Villavicencio
to Caqueza," said Sr. N., who was to furnish the horses, "and I
did not think you would attempt to make such an arduous journey
in two days. However, everything will be ready early to-morrow
morning. Besides a day's rest here, preparatory to crossing the paramo,
will do you no harm. Most people coming up from the llanos consider
it necessary."

Not desiring to remain longer in the insectarium, in which we had spent
so wretched a night, we removed to an asistencia--boarding house--in
another part of the town. Here we found clean and comfortable quarters
and had reason to congratulate ourselves on our involuntary detention
in this interesting town. We were both quite jaded from the long ride
of the previous day, and really needed some repose more than we at
first realized.

"But why did we not," it may be asked, "continue our journey through to
Bogotá on our mules? Are they not the best and surest-footed animals
in the steep mountain trails?"

The reply is best given in the words of our host at Villavicencio,
Sr. N.: "It would never do for such distinguished travelers
as you are--personas tan amables y tan honorables--to enter the
national capital on such lowly animals as mules. Only common people
do this. Custom here makes it de rigueur for people of the better
classes to travel on horseback. More than this. Our people usually
send word ahead to have a carriage meet them in the suburbs of Bogotá,
as they do not care to enter the city even on horseback. Permit me
to order a carriage to meet you at Santa Cruz, some distance this
side of the capital."

We thanked him for his kind offer, but replied that, while we should
be glad to defer to the custom of the country, by exchanging our
mules for horses, we should forego the usual formality of entering
the city in a carriage. We were simple, plain travelers and wished
to remain such till the end of our journey.

Caqueza, fully twenty-five miles from Bogotá, is the capital of a
district of the same name and, in location, is not unlike that of
many of the higher mountain towns of Colombia or Switzerland. It is
surrounded on all sides by beautiful mountain ridges and is about
five thousand and six hundred feet above sea level. The temperature
at seven o'clock p. m., the day before our departure, was 72° F.,
but at no time during the day was it much higher. In temperature,
elevation and the beauty of the surrounding mountains it is much
like Caracas, and when the long-projected railroad from Bogotá to
the llanos shall have been completed, it will become a commercial
centre of considerable importance. The climate is salubrious and as
equable as that of Bermuda, and the town, counting about two thousand
inhabitants, is just such a place as the traveler from the lowlands
would delight to tarry in, if he were always master of his own time.

Early the second morning after our arrival in Caqueza, we had
bidden adieu to this interesting town and its hospitable people
and were on our way to the crest of the Andes. Just outside of the
town we crossed the Rio Caqueza, over what looked like the Devil's
Bridge in ruins. Fortunately, we had grown quite accustomed to
such shaky structures, although, in the beginning, we approached
them with the greatest misgivings. Near San Miguel, for instance,
we had to cross a raging torrent, in a dark, deep ravine, over what
was but the semblance of a bridge, that threatened every moment to
collapse. It was in reality nothing more than three logs laid side
by side and covered with loose twigs and earth. It had no railings
or balustrades at the sides, and the abutments at the two ends had
become so loosened by the heavy rains that it seemed every moment on
the verge of tottering into the abyss below. Even our mules balked
at the treacherous structure. However, after taking a good look at
the tumultuous Rio Negro, that was coursing through the wild gorge
beneath, and stretching their long ears toward the opposite bank,
as if to determine thereby what chance there was of a successful
passage, they finally ventured on the bridge, but it was with fear
and trembling. And how light was their step and how they actually
felt their way until they reached terra firma! From that moment the
much-abused mule rose high in our estimation. He may be obstinate, but
he instinctively avoids danger. And when he concludes to go forward,
you may be sure that the danger is more apparent then real. Subsequent
experience only confirmed us in the impression that we then formed
of him.

From the time we crossed the Rio Caqueza, our path was ever upward
towards cloudland. La cumbre--the summit--of the Andes, where we were
to cross it, is about midway between Caqueza and Bogotá, and is nearly
a mile higher than the makeshift of a bridge over the Rio Caqueza.

We had left Caqueza only a few miles behind us when we found a large
number of market women--young and old--on the road. They were mostly
Indians, all carrying heavy burdens from seventy-five to a hundred
pounds, and, to our surprise, they were all en route to Bogotá. I
do not think we met one going to Caqueza. They were loaded down
with chickens, eggs, fruits and all kinds of garden produce for the
Bogotá market.

But think of carrying such burdens more than twenty miles, and that,
too, over the lofty Cordilleras! And think, too, of the slight pittance
that was often to reward the expenditure of such energy! Nevertheless,
all of these poor people seemed to be quite happy. They were constantly
chatting and singing, as they trudged along the rough, stony path, and
rarely stopped to rest. They were clad in a rough, dark-colored tunic,
something like the peplum or chiton of the ancient Greeks. Most of them
were barefooted, although we saw some who wore alpargatas, a kind of
sandal made from the fibres of the aloe, which flourishes everywhere
in the uplands of Colombia. As in Mexico, so also here, this plant has
from time immemorial furnished the natives many articles of daily use.

What specially attracted our attention was the number of chickens
and eggs these humble folks carried with them to the market. When
we observed this and noted the number of cattle, horses and other
domestic animals we had seen along our route, and the variety of
fruits and vegetables that were under cultivation, we could not but
recall what Herrera has to say about the absence of these and other
things in pre-Colombian times.

"In the other hemisphere" (America), he writes, "there were no
dogs, asses, sheep, goats, swine, cats, horses, mules, camels, nor
elephants. They had no oranges, lemons, pomegranates, figs, quinces,
melons, vines, nor olives, nor sugar, wheat nor rice. They knew not
the use of iron, knew nothing of firearms, printing or learning. Their
navigation extended not beyond their sight; their government and
politics were barbarous. Their mountains and vast woods were not
habitable. An Indian of good natural parts being asked what was
the best they had got by the Spaniards, answered: The hen's eggs,
as being laid new every day; the hen herself must be either boiled or
roasted, and does not always prove tender, while the egg is good every
way. Then he added: The horse and artificial light, because the first
carries men with ease and bears his burdens, and by means of the latter
(the Indians having learned to make wax and tallow candles and oil),
they lived some part of the night! and this he thought to be the most
valuable acquisition from the white people." [179]

At the time of the arrival of the Spaniards in South America, there
were no domestic animals except the llama, the alpaca, the guinea
pig and the alco, and these were found only within the limits of the
empire of the Incas.

There was a time, however, long anterior to the advent of
Europeans--during the Pleistocene epoch--when horses [180] and the
larger members of the camel tribe roamed over the vast plains of South
America, notably in the parts now known as Argentina and Southern
Brazil. It was at this period, too, that flourished in the same
regions those gigantic creatures, now extinct, known as the mylodon,
the ground sloth, the glyptodont, the mastodon, the toxodont and
peculiar sabre-toothed tigers, vast quantities of whose remains have
been found and carefully stored away in our museums. Not far toward
the west of us, at the Campo de los Gigantes [181] in the Savanna of
Bogotá--not to speak of those found in the bluffs along the valley
of the Zulia--abundant fossil remains have been discovered of horses,
taxodonts, glyptodons, and megatheriums. It is, indeed, a remarkable
fact that the South American continent, which has enriched the Old
World with so many valuable medicinal and economic plants, has not
given to it a single useful animal.

After traveling some hours we reached Chipaque, an interesting mountain
town fully half a mile higher above sea level than Caqueza. Our
attention was attracted by an unusually large and beautiful stone
church, which was then undergoing repairs. A great bell, imported
from Europe, had just been put in one of the towers. It was the gift
of Gen. Reyes, then president of the republic, and the good people
were not only proud of their bell but were loud in their praises of
the generous donor.

But where did the money come from for the erection of such a noble
structure? The people all seemed very poor, and quite unable to
keep such an edifice in repair after its completion, not to speak of
supplying the means for building it. We frequently found ourselves
asking this same question in other parts of South America, when
contemplating the large and beautiful ecclesiastical structures that
are often met with where one should least expect to find them. The
builders of them evidently belonged to those ages of faith that have
bequeathed to us those marvels of architecture--the great cathedrals
of Europe.

Something that always afforded us great comfort, and that was rarely
far away, after we left Villavicencio, was the telegraph line. For
weeks we had been far away from it, and, in case of need, it could
not have been reached. It was then that we really felt that we were
indeed a long way off from home and friends. To communicate with
them by letter would then have required the best part of a year,
for there was no regular postal service to which we could have had
recourse. With the friendly and willing telegraph ever near, it
was quite different. By its means we could, in a few hours at most,
convey a message to the most distant parts of the world.

When leaving any given place in the morning our whole party--peons
with baggage, mules included--would be together. But it was not long
until we were far in advance of the vaqueano and peons, whom we would
not again see until evening or, as it sometimes happened, until the
following morning. There was rarely any danger of losing our path,
for the simple reason that there was, as a rule, only a single path
from one place to another. We had, therefore, nothing to do but to
keep to the trail. Occasionally, however, we would come to a point
where it was necessary to choose between two diverging trails. Then
it was that the telegraph line was an invaluable guide. We followed
the trail which it paralleled, and in so doing we never went astray.

It was now several months since we had received a letter from
home. We had not even seen a newspaper of any kind, and were,
consequently, in utter ignorance of what was occurring in the great
and busy world we had left behind us. But strange as it may seem,
the traveler in Nature's wilds seems soon to grow indifferent to
the world's doings. Even those who at home consider the morning and
evening papers indispensable necessities, seem to forget that there
are such things. Nay, they even experience a sense of relief that
they have gotten beyond the reach of post and telegraph, and that,
for once in their lives, they can call their time their own. Indeed,
the absence of the daily paper, with its countless dispatches, far
from being a privation, soon impressed us as a positive blessing.

We enjoyed a sense of freedom--the freedom of the child of the
forest--we had never known before. We were beginning to see how easy
it was to dispense with many things that are so often regarded as
essentials to pleasure and comfort. If we had been unavoidably detained
at some Indian encampment for a few months or found it necessary
to tarry a year or so in one of the little bamboo cottages on the
eastern slope of the Andes, we should not have regarded it as an
unmixed evil. Even as I pen these lines, I have a vivid recollection
of a score of tiny cots along the Rio Negro and the Rio Caqueza, near
a purling brook or a musical cascade, shaded by palms and surrounded
by smiling citrus trees, where it would be a delight to live and
commune with Nature at her best.

I can fully sympathize with Waterton's longing for the wild and
his love of tropical life. Every lover of nature, who has spent
some time in the heart of the equatorial forests, is affected in
the same way. The wanderlust and abenteuergeist--the love of travel
and adventure--grows on one, it seems, in the wilds of South America
more than elsewhere. Is it because the conquistadores and other early
explorers have impregnated the atmosphere with their spirit, or because
the environment of itself has the power of inoculating the visitor from
the north with the microbe of a life-long wanderleben? Dicant Paduani.

Recording his impressions of travel in Andean highlands a writer in the
early part of the last century says: "A sense of extreme loneliness
and remoteness from the world seizes on his," the traveler's mind,
"and is heightened by the dead silence that prevails; not a sound
being heard but the scream of the condor, and the monotonous murmur
of the distant waterfalls." [182]

This, undoubtedly, like many similar impressions, is a question
of temperament. As for ourselves we never, for a single moment,
experienced anything even approaching a feeling of loneliness or
remoteness from the world. Probably, like Scipio Africanus, we are
among those who never felt less alone than when alone. Far from
feeling lonely while crossing the Cordilleras, we congratulated
ourselves that we were far away from the beaten track of personally
conducted tourists.

We could not help comparing the splendid panoramas around us
with the noted show places of Switzerland. In the Andes it was the
forest primeval, or the humble cot, or the picturesque village of the
unspoiled and simple people of eastern Colombia, where a foreigner is
rarely seen, but where he is always sure of a cordial welcome. There
were here no tourist resorts, no palatial hotels or restaurants,
no sumptuous chalets or villas--seats of opulence and luxury--but
Nature alone in all her beauty and sublimity, as she came forth from
the hands of her Creator. We were far away from the land of inclined
railroads, leading to every peak, and from macadamized thoroughfares,
along which reckless drivers and wild chauffeurs are constantly
claiming the right of way, regardless of the safety or convenience
of the ordinary wayfarer.

The uplands of the Andes should be the last places in the world
where the thoughtful mind should experience a sense of loneliness,
or be oppressed with tedium or listlessness. There, if anywhere, such
a thing as ennui should be impossible. There is so much to excite the
imagination, and so much to gratify every sense, so much to exhilarate
the weary spirits and to elevate the mind, that one feels oneself
in a kind of mountain elysium, where every moment spent is one of
unalloyed delight.

Never shall we forget the morning preceding our first crossing of
the Cordilleras. The weather was ideal--neither hot nor cold--and
the scenery at every turn was magnificent beyond compare. While the
vegetation was quite different in character from that of the lowlands,
it was, nevertheless, equally attractive and fragrant. Our route at
times lay through a narrow defile with wild beetling steeps on both
sides of us. Ever and anon we passed by natural bowers, sculptured in
the solid rock and entwined with odorous plants and flowers, that might
well serve as trysting places of fays and elves, or be the favorite
resorts of Titania and Oberon. Farther on our way we descried a dark
and romantic chasm which we could fancy might, under a waning moon,
be haunted "by a woman waiting for her demon lover." And higher up
on a lofty peak, tinged with the roseate hues of quivering sunlight,
C.'s fancy told us was the home of that race of Oreads


       "That haunt the hill-tops nearest the sun."


"Small wonder," said C, "that the lively fancy of the Indian
should have peopled these romantic spots with the creatures of his
imagination, and that he should have woven legends about objects
and phenomena that had specially attracted his notice. Even we, who
see these things for the first time, find ourselves under the spell
of the genius loci. Considering the beautiful arbors here formed
by tree and vine and flower, the fantastic shapes assumed by rock
and mountain spur, the mysterious natural phenomena that frequently
obtrude themselves on his attention, and his proneness to refer to
supernatural agency everything that his untutored mind is unable to
explain, it would be a greater wonder if such legends did not exist,
and if the numerous physical features, that have so often excited
our interest, were left unpeopled by creatures of the Indian's fancy."

The Indian of Colombia may know nothing of our elves and fairies;
sylphs, undines and salamanders; gnomes, kobolds and hobgoblins,
but his fertile imagination has, nevertheless, found similar beings
to people plain and forest and mountain peak. Now, as in the days of
their pre-Colombian ancestors, the Indian loves to regard stones and
rocks and trees of peculiar form or extraordinary size as the abode of
certain spirits, or as being in some way identified with them. Like
the Scandinavians of old, they see their deceased ancestors in the
dense clouds that veil the neighboring hill tops. And like the peasant
in the Hartz mountains, who has a superstitious dread of the spectre
of the Brocken, they quail before a similar apparition frequently
seen in the summits of the Cordilleras. They venerate the rainbow,
and see in volcanoes the abode of beings of power and destruction.

To them, as to peoples of other parts of the world, the owl is a bird
of ill omen. One of them, called from its cry ya acabo, ya acabo--it is
finished, it is finished--is, when heard fluttering around the house,
regarded as a harbinger of death. Another, the pavita, is considered
as the spirit of some departed relative who, like the Irish banshee,
would warn his kindred against death or some imminent calamity.

The Llaneros, fearless as they are in most respects, entertain the
greatest dread of espantos, ghosts or apparitions. The bola de fuego,
or the light of Aguirre, the Tyrant, is one of these ghosts. It is
in reality nothing more than a kind of ignis fatuus, produced by
the decomposition of organic matter, but to their minds, ignorant
of the true nature of such gaseous exhalations, it is the soul of
the infamous traitor, Lope de Aguirre, who, in punishment for his
atrocities, has been condemned to wander through the broad forests
and savannas that were the witnesses of his blood-stained crimes.

In their duendes, if they have not the analogues of pucks and brownies,
they certainly possess a shrewd and knavish sprite, somewhat like
the English Robin Good-Fellow. Among the Llaneros he is noted for the
mischievous pranks he plays in the corrals, when occupied by horses
and cattle, and, if one is to credit the stories of those who live
on the plains, these particular duendes give the owners of live stock
a world of trouble.

The Serranos--mountaineers--have even more wonderful stories to tell
than the inhabitants of the llanos. The most remarkable of them are
connected with certain caves, which are so numerous in the Eastern
Andes, and certain lakes in which, the Serrano assures one, are
occasionally observed phenomena of an extraordinary character.

They are firmly convinced, for instance, of a certain witch or
malignant sorceress, called Mancarita, who carries away lonely
travelers, or those who may have lost their way in the mountains. And
they rehearse the tale of an Indian who concealed a bag of silver
under a certain water fall near a well-known lake. This is guarded by
a serpent or a dragon, but if one will, on St. John's day, travel in a
state of complete nudity, the paramo of Novagote from one end to the
other, he will be able to get possession of the hidden treasure. In
all these legends, and there are many of them, the Indian has as
much faith as have the children of the North in the fairy stories
they hear in the nursery.

Then there is that "strange, harrowing, long-drawn cry, human in
its tones," alleged sometimes to be audible in the depths of the
tropical forests, for which no satisfactory explanation has as yet
been given. The Indians say it is "The Cry of a Lost Soul." The poet
Whittier refers to it in the following verses:--


        "In that black forest where, when day is done,

        A cry as of the pained heart of the wood,
        The long, despairing moan of solitude
        And darkness and the absence of all good,
        Startles the traveller with a sound so drear,
        So full of hopeless agony and fear,
        His heart stands still, and listens with his ear.
        The guide, as if he heard a death-bell toll,
        Crosses himself, and whispers, 'A Lost Soul.'"


Some of their stories, however, seem to have some foundation in
fact. Almost every paramero--inhabitant of the paramo--has a story
to tell about seeing lightning or hearing thunder issue from certain
lakes or wells as he was passing by on a clear night when there was
not the slightest indication of rain or storm. At such times the
waters of the lake may become violently agitated without any apparent
cause. One's vaqueano, on being asked the reason of such a phenomenon,
simply replies, "Está brava la laguna," or "Truena la laguna--the
lake is disturbed, or thunders."

The Indian's answer explains nothing, but the phenomenon seems to lend
itself to an explanation which is as simple as it is natural. If we
suppose these lakes, as we well may, to be in the craters of extinct
volcanoes, in the bottoms of which, owing to slight earth tremors,
rents are made in the rocks that permit the escape of imprisoned
gases, the mystery is at least partially solved. The escape of gas,
in large quantity under great pressure, would account for the violent
agitation of the water. If these gases should become ignited by the
action of the electricity with which, as we have learned, the summits
of the mountains are often very highly charged, we should have in
the flash of the ignited gas what the Indian takes to be lightning,
and in the resulting explosion what he thinks is thunder.

I suggest this view merely as a tentative one, and hope that the
phenomena in question, like those referred to in chapter nine regarding
the luminous displays in the mountain summits, may eventually receive
an explanation that men of science will accept as conclusive. But
while awaiting the final word of empirical science regarding these,
and similar mysterious manifestations of nature, we may, with the
simple Indian, give free rein to our fancy and people the cascades
and lakes, caverns, forests and colossal rock masses with all kinds
of preternatural beings and invest them with the most extraordinary
powers.

To be frank, we were not sorry to get away from the atmosphere of
science, and find a land where the legends and traditions of the
people were akin to those that were the delight of our childhood. For,
much as we love science, we have never been willing to renounce the
pleasure of indulging our imagination, as we did in years long gone by,
when the fairy tale and the myth so captivated our youthful mind. We
confess it freely, we were glad to be among the simple, primitive
people of the Andes, and were deeply interested in their peculiar
folklore. It afforded us, in another form, the pleasure we derived
from our first acquaintance with the creations of Homer, Hesiod and
Ovid; and with such productions as the Niebelungen Lied, Sakuntala,
the Knights of the Round Table and Cid Campeador. All the science,
history and philosophy in the world could not diminish the pleasure
we still find in these creations of fancy. We cherish them as much,
if not more, to-day, as we did when they first became a part of
our intellectual life. For this reason, if for no other, the reader
will conceive our unalloyed delight in being beyond the reach of the
reports of physical and psychological laboratories, wherein nothing is
admitted that has not the imprimatur of Baconian science or Comtian
philosophy, both of which lay an absolute interdict on all the most
charming creations of poetry and romance.

The vista towards the east, as we finally drew near the cumbre--the
long desired summit of the Andes--was beautiful in the extreme. Below
us, to the right and to the left, were a succession of mountain ridges,
some still forest-covered, while others exhibited the smiling gardens,
verdant pastures and humble dwellings of the inhabitants. Here and
there was a picturesque little village of white-washed stone houses
in place of the bamboo dwellings of the llanos and foothills. On all
sides were multitudinous streams and torrents, that had their birth in
the snow fields and ice pinnacles of the highest points of Sumapaz,
and which were vying with one another in their long race for the
broad emerald plains of Casanare and San Martin.

Above was the clear sapphire-blue sky, save where it was flecked by
fantastic fleeces of glimmering clouds that floated voluptuously among
the lofty peaks of the Cordilleras, and mantled them, in passing, with
their quivering vapors. Then, as if by enchantment, all was changed
with a suddenness that was positively startling. We had reached the
limit of the alisios--trade winds--for the Andes form a rampart which
they never pass. Here they are forced to part with the last drop of
the moisture that they have brought from the distant Atlantic. But,
on the occasion of our passage, they seemed determined to make one last
desperate effort to cross the rock-ribbed barrier. As if marshaled by
Æolus himself, the bright, white, cumulous clouds, those fair flocks of
the west wind, were in a moment transformed into dark, ominous nimbi.

"Terrible, strange, sublime and beauteous shapes," which, gathering
their forces, dashed with the fury of the hurricane against the
adamantine crest of the Cordilleras. The tempest lasted but a few
minutes, and then all was as bright and serene as before, and, if
anything, more radiantly beautiful.

Here, in a region empyreal, far away from the noise and turmoil of
our marts of commerce, we breathed an air of purity, and experienced
a sense of freedom that are unknown in the dank, foul and malarial
atmosphere in which so many struggling millions pass the greater part
of their wretched lives. But above all, what most impresses one in
these ethereal heights is the sense of the proximity of God. We could
almost fancy some one breathing into our ear the words of Tennyson:--


    "Speak to Him thou, for He hears, and Spirit can meet--
    Closer is He than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet."


Traveling from the foothills to the summit of the Cordilleras is like
going from the equator to the arctic circle. One has every variety of
climate peculiar to the torrid, temperate and frigid zones, and the
fauna and flora vary with the altitude as they change with the climate.

The inhabitants of the Andean regions have long recognized three
distinct climates, known as those of the tierra caliente--hot land;
the tierra fría--cold land; and the paramo. Men of science have, for
the sake of convenience, added a third climate, that of the tierra
templada, or temperate land. The altitudes at which these climates
are found vary with the latitude and with certain meteorological
conditions, but in Colombia and near the equator they are quite fixed
and accepted as fair approximations to the truth.

Tierra caliente embraces a zone extending from sea level to a line
one thousand meters higher up. It is pre-eminently the land of palms,
ceibas and milk trees; of totumos and tamarinds, of the vanilla and
ipecacuanha; the algarroba and white cedar; the sarrapia--Dipteryx
odorata--and the poisonous curare--strychnos toxifera--from which
the Indians make the deadly compound that renders their arrows such
certain messengers of death. It is also the favorite zone for many
tropical fruits such as plantains, bananas, mameys, nisperos, mangos,
zapotes, oranges, lemons, pineapples, and scores of others found only
in the lowlands of the equinoctial regions.

The upper limits of the tierra caliente are indicated by the
disappearance of the cacao tree and certain plants that do not flourish
at an altitude beyond one thousand meters above sea level. The tierra
caliente and the tierra templada are connected by such well-known
plants and trees as sensitive mimosas, bamboos, cinchonas and tree
ferns, although these representatives of the vegetable world do not
attain their full importance until higher altitudes are reached.

The tierra templada comprises a zone extending from one thousand
to twenty-four hundred meters above sea level. It is in the lower
part of this zone that the bamboo, the most delicate and graceful
of tropical plants, attains its greatest development and gives its
greatest charm to the landscape.

The numerous plants, shrubs and trees of the bean and myrtle families
are seen at their best in the lower half of the tierra templada. It is
here, too, that one meets with the largest and most beautiful specimens
of tree ferns. So gigantic, indeed, are they that at a distance they
are easily mistaken for a moriche palm. Only in the islands of the
Pacific have I ever seen anything to compare with them in size and
luxuriant loveliness.

In this zone the cultivation of coffee replaces that of cacao in
the zone below. I have never seen larger or finer berries anywhere
than we found on the shrubs grown on the eastern declivity of the
Cordilleras near San Miguel. And yet, strange to relate, only a
short distance from this spot, we found it impossible to get a cup
of coffee, although we asked for it at several places. There was
chocolate and chicha in abundance, but no coffee, where it would be,
one would think, the most common beverage. Its absence here reminded
us of the difficulty we found in getting a calabash of milk on the
great cattle farms of the llanos.

At twelve hundred meters above sea level the palm family begins to
lose its importance, although graceful representatives continue to
charm the traveler until he reaches much higher altitudes. But one
is, in a measure, reconciled to the disappearance of palms, that
so delighted one in the lowlands, by the marvelous display made on
all sides by countless species of the convolvulus and gesnerwort
families. Nothing can exceed their exuberance, or their gay and
brilliant flowers, as they mantle the shrubbery by the wayside or
peep out from under the forest trees along one's path.

The flora comprehended in the zone extending from eighteen to
twenty-four hundred meters above the sea is in reality transitional in
its nature, and partakes of the character of both that of the tierra
templada and the tierra fría. The various species of cinchona render
this zone notable, for it is here and in the tierra fría that was
formerly obtained most of the quinine of commerce.

Tierra fría extends from twenty-four hundred to three thousand meters
above sea level. Its vegetation, as would be expected, is entirely
different from that of the hot plains and temperate valleys of the
lowlands. One no longer sees the elegant forms of the plantain and
the bamboo, nor the majestic palm and ceiba, nor the graceful and
flexible bejucos and creepers of hotter climes. But, notwithstanding
the absence of all these charming representatives of Flora, it cannot
be said of the vegetation of tierra fría that it is either poor or
devoid of importance. Its dark hardy foliage, may, if you will, give
it the impress of solemnity and melancholy, but the herbs, shrubs
and trees are remarkable, not only for the number of their species,
but also for the beauty of their inflorescence and the variety and
importance of their products. Here flourish the noble red cedar and
the white caoutchouc tree that supplies to commerce the highly valued
rubber known as the Virgen del Para.

The products of our northern lands, such as wheat, barley and potatoes,
and such fruits--all of foreign origin--as the peach, pear, cherry
and apple, together with a number of valuable garden vegetables,
are cultivated in this zone, and with marked success.

The most important, and in some respects the most remarkable plant of
the tropics is Indian corn--zea mais. It is cultivated in all the zones
from the hot plains of tierra caliente to the upper regions of tierra
fría and constitutes, in one form or another, the chief food-supply of
the inhabitants. There is, however, a striking difference in the time
required for the plant to reach maturity at the different altitudes. In
the hot climates it is often ready for the harvest in two months
after planting--when several crops a year are obtainable--whereas in
the cold uplands it requires nearly a year to mature.

All the land between the tierra fría and the region of perpetual snow
is called the paramo. It corresponds to the puna of Peru, Bolivia
and Northern Chili. In some parts of Colombia the paramos are bleak,
treeless plains, often enveloped in dark, cold fogs, or swept by keen
blasts of almost arctic severity. In other parts, they are covered
by a hardy Alpine vegetation, together with grasses and mosses of
different species. The most interesting growths are strange-looking
ferns and the woolly Frailejon--Espeletia grandiflora--which Sievers
well designates as the character-plant of the paramos. The name,
Frailejon, signifies a big monk, and was given the plant by the
inhabitants on account of the fancied resemblance of its felt-like
covering to a monk's hood. It is usually from six to eight feet high,
but it frequently attains a much greater altitude. It is one of those
odd forms of vegetation that once seen are never forgotten.

No mere account, however, of the wonderful changes witnessed in
passing from lower to higher altitudes can give any idea of the
effect produced on the traveler. Every hour--yea, every minute--on
his upward journey, he is greeted by new forms of vegetable life
and must needs at the same time bid farewell to others that may not
accompany him beyond their own proper zones. But, although Flora's
children are ever changing, they are always beautiful and it would
be difficult for the botanist to say where they challenge the most
admiration--in the hot plains of the Orinoco and the Meta or high up
on the cheerless and inhospitable paramo.

What we found most astonishing in our three-days journey from the
llanos to the crest of the Cordilleras was the extraordinary number and
diversity of forms of plant life. While we, in our northern woodlands,
do well if we can find a score of different species of trees in the
space of a square mile, we may, within the same limits in a tropical
forest, count species by the hundred. Every few rods, on our way from
Villavicencio to the cumbre of the Andes, we noted the appearance
of some new species of plant, shrub or tree; some strange vine or
epiphyte; some fruit or blossom which we had not observed before.

Great as were the physical and meteorological changes observable
between the tierra caliente and the paramo, those of the vegetable
world were still greater. At times, during our rapid ascent from
lower to higher altitudes, from llanos to paramo, the changes in
species were so rapid and kaleidoscopic, the transitions so sudden
and unexpected, that our brains were in a whirl and we had to give
up in despair the attempt to keep anything approaching a record of
the order of sequence of the countless vegetable forms encountered
along our path. Considering solely the successive changes in flora
and temperature, our experience in climbing the Cordilleras was like
that which would result from a three-days journey overland from the
sultry valley of the Amazon to the gold-bearing strands of the Yukon
or to the distant shores of the Arctic Ocean.

It was a little after midday when we finally reached the paramo of
Chipaque--that dread paramo of which we had so frequently heard so
many and so extraordinary tales. It was, we had been told, a place
of eternal frost and snow, and of blasts so tempestuous that both
men and animals were sometimes picked up bodily and hurled into a
yawning gorge near the dizzy height which we were obliged to pass. We
soon discovered, however, that most of the stories we had heard of
this and similar paramos, had but little foundation in fact, or were
greatly exaggerated. [183]

To begin with, we found neither frost nor snow. As a matter of
fact, snow rarely falls in this paramo. All about us there was an
abundance of vegetation that little comported with the region of
arctic temperature. We found there a number of peasants' huts and a
large drove of cattle, that were on their way from the llanos to the
Bogatá market. It took them more than two weeks to make a journey
that we had made in three days. But both the cattle and their
drivers--vaqueros--were more sensitive to cold than we were. For
this reason, they had to proceed slowly to accustom themselves to
the lower temperature and the higher altitude. The peasants living
on the paramo, although lightly clad, did not seem to be affected
by the cold. The vaqueros, however, who had come from the lowlands,
seemed to suffer greatly. But no wonder. They made no provision for so
great a change of climate. They wore the same light garments--probably
they had nothing else--in crossing the Cordilleras, that they had
used in the ever-heated llanos. It was not strange, then, that they
should give exaggerated accounts of the cold of the paramo or of the
suffering it induces. It would be surprising if it were otherwise.

It requires less than half an hour to cross the paramo--so limited is
it in area--and reach the Boquerón [184]--the name given the short
artificial cut, only a few rods in length--through the crest of the
Andes. At this highest point our thermometer registered 48° F., and
the aneroid, a fine compensated instrument, indicated an altitude of
ten thousand five hundred and sixty feet. This is but little higher
than Leadville, Colo., and considerably lower than some of the railway
passes over the Rocky Mountains. The temperature, owing to the light
atmosphere, was so mild, that we did not even think of throwing our
ponchos over our shoulders, as a protection from the cold that the
poor Llanero felt so keenly.

As we were passing through the Boquerón we were joined by a young
hacendado who had a cattle farm in the neighborhood. After a friendly
greeting he remarked, "Está sumamente fría"--It is extremely cold. And
then, thinking we were too lightly clad, he said almost pleadingly,
"Cubranse con sus bayetones, otramente se saca una pulmonia." Put on
your bayetones, otherwise you will get pneumonia. Then he related
how, the preceding year, he had crossed this pass in a snow storm,
contracted pneumonia, was confined to his bed for months, and barely
escaped a premature death.

While he was thus addressing us, a number of Llaneros passed by
on their way from Bogotá to their homes in the warm plains near
Villavicencio. In addition to the usual covering for the head they
had their ears and face protected by a kind of kerchief and seemed to
suffer more from the cold than our hardy northerners would in a Dakota
blizzard. Poor fellows! We pitied them. They were shivering, their
teeth were chattering and they were evidently in great distress. But
the reason was manifest at a glance. Aside from their head gear, they
had nothing on except a pair of short trousers of flimsy material and
a light poncho. They were barefooted, and, to judge from their wan and
pinched features, they were suffering from hunger as well as from cold.

We had now discovered the origin of the reports so generally accepted
as true in the llanos, regarding the intense cold of the paramos
and of the various Andean passes. Those poor, shivering, ill-clad,
half-famished peons explained all. The same causes evidently
operated in occasioning the great mortality suffered by Bolivar's
army when it passed, in 1819, from the llanos of the Apure to the
altiplanicies--high tablelands--of New Granada. [185]

The paramo of Pisva, through which the Republican army invaded the
enemy's country, is less than thirteen thousand [186] feet above sea
level, and the passage, therefore, of the Cordilleras, at this point,
was not in itself the difficult undertaking it is so often represented
to have been. The frightful loss of life, usually attributed to the
intense cold of Pisva Pass, was, in reality, due to the fact that
Bolivar's followers were not properly prepared for the campaign in
which they were engaged. They were half-naked and half-starved and
the wonder is that the hapless army did not suffer far greater losses
than those actually recorded.

"The army endured many sufferings in the passage of the paramo,"
writes Vergara y Velasco, "but it is a grave error to compare
them with those incurred in the passage of the Alps by Hannibal
and Napoleon or in the passage of the Chilean Andes by San Martin,
for in Pisva there is no snow, neither is the altitude so great as
that of many frequented places in our Cordilleras. The expedition,
without having the romance of the others, nevertheless equals them
in results and for the same reason--the ineptitude of the enemy." [187]

The first thing that attracted our attention, on reaching the western
end of the Boquerón, was the large number of flowers, of divers
species, that bedecked both sides of our path. They constituted a
carpet of the most brilliant hues that, with a lovely green boscage,
extended to the very summit of the mountain crest. In form and beauty
they were not unlike the charming blooms that gladden our forests
and meadows in May and June. There was this difference, however,
that the number of species in a given space was far greater than is
ever found in the same space in our northern climes. Does this close
juxtaposition of so many species in the tropics contribute to the
more rapid formation of varieties and new species than is possible in
higher latitudes, where species are fewer and more widely separated
from one another? It would seem so.

We shall never forget the panorama that burst upon our vision as we
made our exit from the Boquerón. It was in such marked contrast with
the view which we had so much admired on the eastern side. On the east
side all was verdure, bloom, and grateful shrubbery, with occasional
clumps of trees. On the western declivity, with the exception of a
narrow reach, already mentioned, near the mountain crest, all was as
treeless and as bare and arid as the sandy plains of Nevada or Arizona.

But the entire western slope and distant plateau was bathed in bright
sunshine. Not a single cloud flecked the azure canopy above us, and not
a single sound, except the muffled footsteps of our horses, disturbed
the quiet and serenity of our exalted outlook. We were standing on
the crest of the Eastern Cordillera--the range to which the people
of the country have long given the poetical name of Suma Paz--Supreme
Peace. [188] Owing to its proximity to the capital, where it is always
in view, it doubtless impressed the popular fancy more than did the
more distant, although loftier and more imposing, snow-capped masses of
Ruiz and Tolima. Seen from Bogotá, this beautiful range, when tinged
with the golden crimson rays of the setting sun, might well appear
as an Olympus, the abode of the gods in the enjoyment of eternal peace.

There are some geographers who contend that the Cordillera of Suma
Paz is the continuation of the principal chain of the Andes, but, as
it terminates in the adjoining Republic of Venezuela, it seems more
reasonable to maintain that the Western Cordillera is entitled to this
distinction. It is the western range, which, after passing through
the Isthmus of Panama, reappears as the Sierra Madre of Mexico and
as the Rocky Mountains of North America, and continues its course,
almost without interruption, to Bering's Strait.

It is, however, the Sierra de Suma Paz which separates the two great
hydrographic basins of the Orinoco and the Magdalena. We saw tiny
rivulets, almost at the instant of their birth, and only a few spans
from one another, beginning simultaneously their long journey to the
broad Magdalena to the west and to the mighty Orinoco in the distant
east. Some were to visit the lands which we had already traversed,
others were to pass through a country that still lay before us,
but which we hoped to explore in the very near future.

Although Suma Paz had long been one of the objective points of our
peregrinations, we could not leave it without mingled feelings of
regret and sadness. It stood between us and many delightful scenes
and marked the passing of many delightful days that could never
return. There was also, of course, a feeling of relief experienced, for
we had happily completed the most arduous part of our journey and that,
too, without encountering a single one of the many difficulties and
dangers that had been predicted when in Trinidad and Ciudad Bolivar
we announced our intention of going to Bogotá over the route whose
last lap we were completing.

From the spot where we halted to pluck a few flowers at the mouth
of the Boquerón, as a souvenir of our first passage of the Andes, we
could almost catch a glimpse towards the northwest, of the churches and
public edifices of Colombia's capital. There was one of the celebrated
camping-grounds of some of the most noted of the Conquistadores and
thither we would hasten with the minimum of delay. We loved to think
that Federmann had crossed the Cordilleras just where we did. It is
certain that, if he did not cross them at this point, it was not
far distant from it. [189] All the way from Villavicencio we felt
that we were following in his footsteps, as we had been following in
the footsteps of other conquistadores from the time we had trod the
romantic soil of Tierra Florida. We had, near the foothills of the
Cordilleras, in the neighborhood of Buena Vista, crossed the path of
Hernan Pérez de Quesada, who almost made the circuit of New Granada
in his memorable quest of El Dorado, and we were likely to cross it
again before reaching Bogotá, for on his return from his expedition,
he, as well as Federmann, must have entered the city near where we
did ourselves.

Before leaving our posada at Caqueza we asked a certain Colombian
general how long it took to make the trip to Bogotá. His reply was,
"Cinco horas sin mujeres"--Five hours without women. To our surprise
the women present made no protest against this unchivalrous reflection
on their horsemanship. Probably, not being accustomed to riding, they
felt that his statement was true, and that it was unwise to call it in
question. Had some of our dashing American horsewomen been present,
it is most likely that the implied challenge would have provoked a
spirited retort.

But whatever the women present may have thought, we subsequently had
reason to believe that the man was wrong, but for a reason different
from the one he had given. After leaving Caqueza we had pushed forward
towards the Boquerón as rapidly as our horses--and they were good
animals--could make their way over the terrible path up the mountain,
and it took us more than five hours to reach that point. Judging from
our experience it would have required an extraordinary strong and
spirited horse to carry a man, over such a road as we had to traverse,
to Bogatá in five hours even sin mujeres.

Our path, during the first few miles down the western declivity
of the Suma Paz, was quite as bad as it had been anywhere on the
eastern slope. After, however, we had reached the plateau, about
fifteen hundred feet below the Boquerón, the road became much
better and our mounts could make far better time than was before
possible. Notwithstanding the energy expended in crossing the crest of
the Andes, they were still in fine fettle, and it was only necessary to
give them a loose rein to have them break into a lively gallop, which
they seemed to be able to keep up indefinitely with but little effort.

There was not much of interest to note on this part of the way except,
perhaps, some remarkable effects of erosion near the road a short
distance from the capital. The hard, compact earth was here carved
by the action of rain and running water into the same fantastic
forms, often resembling dolmens and cromlechs, that characterize
the Badlands of South Dakota. We regretted that we were unable to
take some photographs of them, as a number of the formations were of
special geological importance.

The first indication of our near approach to Bogatá was a two-wheeled
cart, drawn by a yoke of oxen, which we passed near the suburbs of the
city. It was the first wheeled vehicle we had seen since leaving Ciudad
Bolivar. Further on we were startled--and, I may add, delighted--by
the piercing sound of a locomotive whistle. It came from an engine
on one of the short railroads that centre in Bogotá.

At last we were getting back--I will not say to civilization--but
to where the material evidences of civilisation were more numerous
than they had been anywhere on our journey since we had taken our
departure from the Port-of-Spain. As we got still nearer the city, we
met a cavalcade of horsemen who were out for their evening ride. It was
here that we saw, for the first time in Colombia, a thoroughfare worthy
of the name. Our bonny steeds, trusty and true, seemed to appreciate
the improvement in the road as much as we did ourselves. And, as if
put on their mettle by the curveting steeds we had just passed, they,
like the fleet mules of Nausicaa, "gathered up their nimble feet,"
and almost before we realized it we were in the streets of Bogotá.

It was then a matter of only a few minutes to our hotel, where we
found comforts and conveniences to which we had long been strangers. It
was just eight hours since we had left our modest posada in Caqueza,
with its simple fare and hard board cot, and now we suddenly found
ourselves installed in richly furnished apartments, with brilliant
electric lights and an excellent cuisine. The sudden change in our
environment seemed like an incident in the Arabian Nights rather than
a reality in which we were personally concerned.

"How were you ever able to make such a trip?" queried a German
traveler, shortly after our arrival. I had made all arrangements to go
with a friend from Bogotá to Ciudad Bolivar, but after all was ready,
I was dissuaded by my friends from undertaking a journey on which I
had so long set my heart. They assured me that the trip would be so
difficult and beset with so many dangers of all kinds that I would
run the risk of losing health, and even life, if I persisted in my
purpose. Only at the last moment, when they told me that the roads
were absolutely impassable at this season of the year, did I give up
a project that I had so long cherished. How I envy you. But it is too
late now for me to reconsider my plans, as I must return to Germany in
a few days, and with the knowledge that, against my better judgment,
I was forced to forego the most interesting part of my itinerary."

Yes, we had indeed been fortunate in our wanderings. In the expressive
language of a West Indian negro servant, whom we had for a while in
Venezuela, we had always been "good-lucky, never bad-lucky." We had
no adventures to record and never once felt that we were in presence
of danger. We never carried weapons of any kind and at no time was
there any need for them. During our entire journey, through plains
and among mountains, we felt quite as safe as if we had been taking a
promenade down Broadway or Fifth Avenue, New York. Roughing it agreed
with us perfectly and, far from suffering from exposure or fatigue,
we found ourselves in the enjoyment of better health at the completion
of our journey than at the beginning. Despite all predictions to the
contrary, we had escaped all


                        "The ministers of pain, and fear,
        And disappointment, and mistrust and hate,
        And clinging crime."


and had reached Colombia's capital, ready, after a few days' rest,
to enter upon even a longer and a more arduous journey than the one
that we had just so happily terminated.

"But did you not fear sickness on your way?" asked another German,
who had gone over some of the ground we had just traversed, and
who seemed to entertain anything but pleasant recollections of his
experience. "When I traveled in the interior, far away from doctors
and medical assistance of every kind, I was continually haunted
by the thought of contracting fever or some other dread tropical
disease. What would you have done if you had been stricken with
the vomito or berriberri or the bubonic plague?" Modesty forbade us
replying to this question by saying that "The Lord takes care of his
own," so we answered in the words of Lucan,


                                    "Capit omnia tellus
        Quae genuit; coelo tegitur qui non hubet urnam." [190]



CHAPTER X

THE ATHENS OF SOUTH AMERICA


In the beginning of August, 1538, Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada, the
conqueror of Cundinmarca, and his followers, after one of the most
remarkable campaigns ever conducted in the New World, assembled on
the present site of Bogatá. Here Quesada dismounted from his charger,
and plucking up some grass by the roots, he announced that he took
possession of that land in the name of the Emperor Charles V. Having
remounted his steed, he drew his sword, and challenged any one to
oppose this formal declaration, which, he declared, he was prepared
to defend at all hazards. As no one appeared to contest his action,
he sheathed his sword, and directed the army notary to make an official
record of what had just been accomplished.

Bogotá was then but a rude village, or, rather, a camp, of a dozen
hastily constructed huts which barely sufficed to shelter the intrepid
sons of Spain. Besides these twelve huts--erected in memory of the
twelve apostles--there had also been constructed a small wooden,
thatch-covered church, on the very site occupied by the present
imposing cathedral of Colombia's fair capital. The first mass was
said in this church the sixth day of August, a few days after the
ceremony of occupation just mentioned--and this is regarded as the
legal date of the foundation of Bogotá. It was then that the work
of the conquest was technically considered as finished. The work of
colonization was to follow without delay.

It was then that Quesada gave to the future city the name of Santa
Fé. [191] Being from Granada, he named the country he had discovered
and conquered Nuevo Reino de Granada--the New Kingdom of Granada--an
appellation it retained until after the War of Independence, when it
received the name it now bears.

There is, indeed, a striking similarity between the elevated plateau,
watered by the Funza, and the charming vega of Granada, fertilized by
the romantic Genil. To one looking towards the west, from a spur of
the mountain at the foot of which Bogotá is situated, as Granada is
located at the foot of its hills, the ridge of Suba is seen towards
the northwest, just as the sierra of Elvira is seen with respect to
the old Moorish capital. And so it is with the relative positions
of Santa Fé en la Vega and the pueblo of Fontibon. The illusion is
complete, and the similarity between these two famous places in Spain
and Colombia must have impressed themselves on the receptive mind of
the illustrious conquistador with peculiar force. Even the heights of
Suacha, in aspect and position, recall the famous hill which is known
as the Suspiro del Moro from the lament of Boabdil, the last king of
Granada, whose tears evoked from his mother, the intrepid Sultana,
Ayxa la Horra, the caustic words, "Bien hace en llorar como mujer lo
que como hombre no supo defender." [192]

Santa Fé, also known as Santa Fé de Bogotá, was for a long period
the capital of the Viceroyalty of New Granada. After the War of
Independence the name was changed to Bogotá--from Bacatá--the name
of the old Chibcha capital, where the zipa, the most powerful of the
Indian caciques, at the arrival of the Spaniards, had his official
residence. The city is nearly two miles in length and of varying
breadth. Its present population is nearly one hundred and twenty-five
thousand. It is situated on a western spur of the great Cordillera
of Suma Paz at an elevation, according to Reiss and Stübel, of eight
thousand six hundred and sixteen feet above sea level--more than half
a mile higher than the summit of Mt. Washington, the highest point
in New England.

The mean annual temperature is 60° F., but, owing to the rarity of the
atmosphere, and to its being shielded from the wind by the mountains
at whose base it is situated, it seems to be higher than this. During
certain seasons of the year one may experience a penetrating cold,
as long as one remains in the shade, but when one passes into the
sunshine it becomes almost uncomfortably warm. During the rainy season,
the newcomer feels the cold very keenly, but, after a short residence
in the city, one becomes acclimated and then fancies that he is in
the enjoyment of perpetual spring.

We were in Bogotá in the early part of June, during which time
it rained every day. Coming directly from the tierra caliente, we
suffered considerably, especially at night, from the low temperature
and the dampness that prevailed. We were, however, informed by the
natives that the season was unusually severe, and that such bad
weather as we encountered was quite unusual: Velasco y Vergara --a
Colombian--tells that it rains the greater part of the year, and that
the sky is almost always covered by clouds. [193] For this reason,
the houses suffer from humidity, and rheumatism and kindred complaints
are very prevalent. Otherwise the climate is considered salubrious.

Bogotá--called by the aborigines Bacatá--is a city in a state of
transition. It has lost, almost entirely, the mediæval, monastic,
mozarabic aspect that characterized it while it was the tranquil
court of the viceroys. But, great as has been the change that it
has undergone during the last few decades, it preserves much of the
quaintness of colonial times. Indeed, it is not difficult, in certain
parts of the city, to fancy oneself carried back to a typical Spanish
town of the time of Charles V or Philip II. As a whole, however,
the Bogotá of to-day does not differ materially in appearance from a
city of the same size in Spain or Mexico. All Latin-American cities
are similar in their leading features, and when you have seen one
you have seen all.

The city is adorned by a number of broad and beautiful streets and
several plazas and parks. Aside from a few government buildings,
the edifices that attract most attention are the monasteries and
churches. The cathedral is a noble building and compares favorably
with any similar structure in South America. The interior had just
been artistically painted and gilded, at the time of our visit, and
it reminded us somewhat of the exquisite finish of St. John Lateran,
in Rome. An object of interest to the traveler, within these sacred
precincts, is the tomb of the illustrious conquistador, Gonzalo
Jimenez de Quesada.

The residences of the people are usually two stories high, with a
balcony on the second story facing the street. All of the older houses,
as well as many of the modern ones, are of the well-known Moorish
style of architecture, with a single large entrance--porton--and a
patio--courtyard--or two, on which the rooms open. This style of
building is well adapted to tropical climates. It is comfortable
and secures the maximum of privacy. It is in reality, as well as in
fiction, the owner's castle.

We were surprised to see the number of foreign flowers grown in these
patios. One would naturally expect to find representatives of the
rich and beautiful Colombian flora, but the ladies of Bogotá seem
to prefer the exotic blooms of the temperate zone. We found roses,
camellias, pinks and geraniums in abundance, but rarely any of those
floral beauties that had so frequently excited our admiration on
the way from the llanos to the capital. Our hotel, however, was a
notable exception to this rule. Here we were delighted with a veritable
exhibition of orchids of many species and of the most wonderful forms
and colors. Among them were some truly splendid specimens of oncidiums,
cattleyas and odontoglossums. It was then we thought of some of our
orchid-loving friends of New York, who would have fairly reveled in
such marvels of Flora's kingdom.

As nearly all the streets are paved with cobblestones, driving is
anything but a pleasure. As a matter of fact, the only passable
drive in the city is the one that leads to the charming little
suburb of Chapinero. This is one of the show places of Bogotá, and
its houses are in marked contrast with those found in the older part
of the city. Most of them are entirely different in style from the
enclosed Moorish structures of which mention has been made. Here one
is introduced to cozy Swiss chalets in the midst of delightful flower
gardens and picturesque French chateaux, that carry one back to the
Seine and the Loire.

Aside from the churches and monasteries, many of which have been
converted into government offices, there were two buildings that
possessed a special interest for us. One of these was the old Colegio
del Rosario--now known as the School of Philosophy and Letters--founded
in 1553, nearly a hundred years before the University of Harvard. This
institution has long been fondly spoken of by the people of Bogotá
as the country's special glory--la gloria de la patria. The other
building was the astronomical observatory--the first intertropical
structure of the kind--erected in 1803. After the observatory of Quito,
it is said to be the highest in the world.

Some of the streets and houses have been recently lighted by
electricity, but as yet horses or mules are used as the motive power
for the few street cars that traverse the principal thoroughfares. It
were easy to count the number of private carriages in the city. The
only ones we saw were those of the archbishop and the president of
the republic. Indeed, so rough are the streets that most people prefer
walking to using cabs, except in cases of necessity.

The first two objects to arrest our attention, as we approached Bogotá
from the south, were the chapels of Guadalupe and Monserrate, the
former nearly twenty-two hundred feet above the city, and the latter
about two hundred feet lower. Perched high upon the flanks of two
picturesque mountain peaks, they are conspicuous objects from all parts
of the Savanna. Both of these sanctuaries are reached by a foot path,
but, as yet, no attempt has been made to connect them with the city by
a carriage road. Owing to the altitude above sea level of these places,
a pilgrimage to them is quite a task--especially to the newcomer,
who is unaccustomed to the rare atmosphere of the locality. But the
magnificent view afforded one from either of these elevated shrines
well repays all the effort required to reach them. It is, in some
respects, the most beautiful to be found in the whole of Colombia. And
then, there are besides certain historical features connected with
the panorama spread out before one that make it doubly interesting.

Standing in front of the church of Guadalupe, we have before us the
beautiful Savanna of Bogotá [194]--a fertile plain, nine hundred square
kilometers in area. Humboldt, whose opinion has been adopted by many
subsequent writers, regarded this level stretch of land as the bottom
of a lake that formerly existed here, but recent investigators have
called this view in question. Strangely enough, the Chibcha Indians,
at the time of the conquest, had a tradition that the Savanna was
at one time occupied by a lake, but that Bochica, child of the sun,
drained its waters by giving them an exit through the celebrated falls
of Tequendama. [195] The general appearance of the plain, as well as
certain geological features, seemed to confirm this tradition, and
it was not until quite recently that any one ventured to express a
doubt about the tradition, or the long-accepted opinion of the great
German savant.

In the morning, when the Savanna is covered by a mist, as often
happens, the observer from Monserrate or Guadalupe does indeed seem
to be looking down upon a vast lake. The hills, which here and there
rise above the fog, look like islands and strengthen the illusion. But
this effect is all dissipated as soon as the sun makes his appearance
above the crest of Suma Paz. One then has before him one of the
most lovely panoramas in the world. The wide verdant expanse is
intersected with rivers and streams, all tributaries of the Funza,
and dotted with towns and hamlets and haciendas, lakes and lakelets,
large herds of cattle, flocks of sheep, troops of horses, mules and
burros. All this is enclosed by lofty ramparts of gneiss and granite,
which shield the inhabitants of city and plain from the tempestuous
moisture-laden winds that would otherwise often sweep over the Savanna
with the fury of a Kansas cyclone.

Aside from the Eucalyptus and Humboldt oak--Quercus Humboldtii--there
are no large trees in the Savanna of Bogotá. The Eucalyptus, however,
is everywhere visible, in the streets and in the gardens of the
capital, along the thoroughfares of the country and around every house,
however humble, and quinta, as far as the eye can reach. These trees
were introduced from Australia only a few decades ago, and now one
finds them in all parts of the republic. We saw them all along our
route from the llanos to Bogatá. The people, especially those living
on the eastern slopes of the Oriental Andes, are firmly convinced that
their presence wards off paludismo--malaria--and, as a consequence,
they are considered as indispensable around the house as the plantain
or calabash tree. [196]

There is nothing more delightful than a stroll along the Rio San
Francisco, which flows between Monserrate and Guadalupe and thence
through the city of Bogotá. The scenery is thoroughly Alpine in
character and, at times, picturesque beyond description. As one
follows the narrow path, always near the musical, crystal waters of the
impetuous stream, one is delighted at every step by the appearance of
some new flower of brightest hue, or some strange shrub of richest
foliage. The ground is fairly carpeted with anemones, hepaticæ,
gentians, valerians, geraniums, campanulæ, lupines and buttercups. Like
similar plants on the Alps, and on the heights of our Rockies, their
stems are very short and they seem like so many rosettes attached to
the earth, or the rocks that rise up on both sides of our narrow path.

One sees well illustrated here the dividing line between the flora
of the paramo and that of the tierra fría. The plants of the latter
creep up timidly from the Savanna until a certain point, and then,
as if afraid to venture further into the region of frost, halt on
the lower edge of the paramo. In a similar manner the plants of the
higher altitudes cautiously descend to the upper belt of the tierra
fría and there come to a standstill. They meet on a common zone in
limited numbers, but this zone is often extremely narrow. One of
the agreeable surprises to the traveler in the Andes is to note the
sudden and extraordinary changes in the character of the vegetation
as he ascends or descends the mountain near the line of demarcation
between two zones.

The plateau of Guadalupe is the home of two remarkable tree ferns. One
of these is the Cyathea patens, from ten to twelve feet high, with a
beautiful, umbrella-shaped crown. The other is the Dicksonia gigantea,
which, according to the naturalist, Karsten, is probably the most
vigorous and luxuriant tree fern in South America. Its massive,
columnar trunk bears forty and more dark-green fronds, from three
to four feet wide and from six to seven in length. To get a close
view of even one of these noble cryptogams fully repays one for the
arduous climb up to its favorite habitat.

Any city in the United States or Europe, having in its immediate
vicinity such attractions as has Bogotá, would immediately put them
within easy reach of the public. Thus both Monserrate and Guadalupe
would, without delay, be connected with the city by a funicular
railway, and near by would be a number of restaurants and pleasure
resorts.

An electric railway would also be constructed to the great water
falls of Tequendama--the largest in Colombia and among the most
celebrated in South America. Although only thirty-six feet wide,
the main fall is three times the height of Niagara Falls. [197]
But the volume of water carried over the precipice of Tequendama is
incomparably less than that which plunges into the colossal whirlpool
of Niagara. In appearance it somewhat resembles Vernal Falls in the
Yosemite Valley, or the lower fall of the Yellowstone. What, however,
gives to the Colombian cataract a beauty all its own is its setting of
luxuriant tropical vegetation. In this respect our northern waterfalls,
however attractive they may be in other respects, cannot be compared
with Tequendama.

Incredible as it may seem, but few Colombians have ever seen the falls
of Tequendama. Although the people of Bogotá love to talk about them,
as among the greatest wonders of their country, it is rarely that one
is found who has actually visited them. And yet they are not more than
twelve miles from the capital. Even the peons living on the plains
only a few miles from the cataract can give the traveler little or
no information as to the best way to reach them. How different this
would all be if the place were easy of access, and if the visitor,
on arriving there, could find the creature comforts to be obtained
in similar places in the United States and Europe!

I have alluded to the interesting historical associations connected
with the city and plateau of Bogotá. It will suffice to speak of but
one of them; but this one is so remarkable that it is like a chapter
taken from the Arabian Nights. I refer to the meeting of the three
distinguished conquistadores, Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada, Nicholas
Federmann and Sebastian de Belalcazar.

Quesada had left Santa Marta in 1536, having under his command,
according to Oviedo, eight hundred men and one hundred horses. He
went part of the way by land and part by the Rio Grande, now known
as the Magdalena. After reaching the Opon, he followed that river as
far as it was navigable, and eventually made his way to the plateau
of Bogotá--the land of the Chibchas.

His march was, in some respects, the most difficult and remarkable
in the annals of the conquest. He had to contend against relentless
savages, dismal swamps and almost impenetrable forests, where he had
to cut his way through the tangled vines and bushes, and where it
was often impossible to make more than a league a day. His men were
decimated by disease and starvation. When he at last arrived at the
Valle de Alcazares, near the present site of Bogotá, he could count
but one hundred infantry and sixty cavalry. But with this handful
of men he had conquered the Chibcha nation, numbering, according to
the old chroniclers, one million people and having twenty thousand
soldiers in the field.

Scarcely, however, was his campaign against the aborigines successfully
terminated, when information was conveyed him of a new danger in the
person of a German competitor, who had just arrived from the llanos.

Five years previously, Federmann, in the service of the Welsers,
had left Coro in Venezuela, with four hundred well-armed and
well-provisioned men. After wandering over trackless plains and
through dark and almost impenetrable forests, enduring frightful
hardships of all kinds, he finally got word of the Chibchas and of
their treasures of gold and precious stones. He forthwith changed his
route and crossed the Eastern Cordilleras, where the traveler André
assures us it is now absolutely impossible to pass. [198]

Thus, almost before Quesada was aware that Federmann was in the
country, he was constrained by policy to receive him and his one
hundred ragged and famished followers--these were all that remained of
his gallant band--as his guests. The Spanish conquistador knew that
the German leader would put in a claim for a part of the territory
that they had both been exploring, and which, until then, each of them
had regarded as his own by right of conquest. He was then naturally
eager to effect a settlement with his competitor on the best terms
possible, and get him out of the country with the least possible
delay. Federmann agreed to renounce all his claims in consideration
of his receiving himself the sum of ten thousand pesos, and of having
his soldiers enjoy all the rights of discoverers and conquistadores
accorded to those of Quesada.

Scarcely, however, had these negotiations been happily terminated,
when another and a more formidable rival appeared on the scene,
on his way from the distant South. This was Sebastian de Belalcazar,
[199] the famous lieutenant of Francisco Pizarro. He was then governor
of Quito and the conqueror of much of the territory now included in
Ecuador and Southern Colombia. Hearing casually of El Dorado and of
the marvelous riches this ruler was reputed to possess, the Spanish
chieftain lost no time in organizing an expedition to the country of
gold and emeralds, of fertile plains and delightful valleys. Setting
out with the assurance of an early and easy victory, and of soon
becoming the possessors of untold wealth and all the enjoyment that
wealth could command, the soldiers, in quest of El Dorado, exclaimed
with unrestrained enthusiasm:


       "Nuestros sean su oro y sus placeres,
        Gocemos de ese campo y ese sol." [200]


But anticipation is not fruition. This the Spaniards soon learned
to their sorrow. Like Quesada and Federmann and their followers,
Belalcazar and his men had to endure frightful hardships during
the long and painful march of many months from Quito to the
plateau of Bogotá. According to Castellanos, who wrote while many
of these adventurers were still living, and who had received from
them directly an account of their privations and sufferings and the
countless obstacles that at times rendered progress almost impossible,
their journey was made through mountains and districts that were
inaccessible and uninhabitable, through gloomy forests and dense,
tangled underbrush; through inhospitable lands and dismal swamps,
where there was neither food nor shelter for man or beast. [201]

This extraordinary and accidental meeting of the three conquistadores,
coming from so great distances, from three different points of the
compass, is one of the most interesting episodes in the history of
the conquest. It was a critical moment for the Europeans. If they
had failed to agree, and had turned their arms against one another,
those who would have escaped alive would have been at the mercy of
the Indians, who would at once have rallied their forces to repel
the invaders. But, fortunately, wise councils prevailed and a clash
was averted.

"While the clergy and the religious," writes Acosta, "were going
to and from the different camps endeavoring to prevent a rupture,
the three parties of Spaniards, coming from points so distant, and
now occupying the three apices of a triangle, whose sides measured
three or four leagues, presented a singular spectacle. Those from
Peru were clad in scarlet cloth and silk, and wore steel helmets and
costly plumes. Those from Santa Marta had cloaks, linens and caps
made by the Indians. Those, however, from Venezuela, like refugees
from Robinson Crusoe's island, were covered with the skins of bears,
leopards, tigers and deer. Having journeyed more than thirteen hundred
leagues through uninhabited lands, they had experienced the most
cruel hardships. They arrived poor, naked, and reduced to one-fourth
of their original number.

"The three chiefs," continues Acosta, "were among the most
distinguished men who ever came to America. Belalcazar, son of
a woodman of Extremadura, attained by his talents and valor the
reputation of being one of the most celebrated conquistadores of
South America and was endowed in a degree far above the other two
with political tact and observing genius. As soon as he became
aware of the agreement entered into between Quesada and Federmann,
he nobly waived his rights, and declined to accept the sum which
Quesada offered him. He stipulated only that his soldiers should
not be prevented from returning to Peru, when they might desire to
do so, or when Pizarro should demand them, and that Captain Juan
Cabrera should return to found a town in Neiva, a territory which,
along with Timana, was to be under the government of Popayan, which
it was his intention to solicit from the Emperor. In the meantime he
agreed to accompany Quesada to Spain." [202]

The three went to Spain together, as had been arranged, each of them
confident of receiving from the Spanish monarch a reward commensurate
with his labors and services to the crown. Each one aspired to the
governorship of New Granada and used all his influence to secure the
coveted prize.

The net result of their efforts was a sad experience of the vanity
of human wishes. All were disappointed in their expectations. The
guerdon all so eagerly strove for was awarded to another, who had
taken no part in the conquest that had rendered the three aspirants
to royal favor so famous.

Only Belalcazar received any recognition whatever. He was made
adelantado of Popayan and the surrounding territory. As for Quesada
and Federmann, they fell into disfavor. The latter soon disappeared
from public view entirely, but long afterwards, Quesada was able
to return to the land where he had won so many laurels. And it was
fitting that, after his death, his remains should repose in the noble
cathedral that adorns the capital of which he was the founder. [203]

In adventure and achievement, the three conquistadores above mentioned
take rank with Cortes, Pizarro and Orellana. Given a Homer, their
wanderings and deeds would afford themes for three Odysseys of
intense and abiding interest. Given even an Ercilla, we should have
a literary monument, which, in romantic episode and dramatic effect,
would eclipse the Araucana, the nearest approach to an epic that
South America has yet produced.

The Bogotános have long claimed for their city the distinction of
being the Athens of South America. And considering its past and present
culture, and the attention which the arts, the sciences and literature
have always received there since the foundation of the capital, few,
I think, will be disposed to impugn the justness of this claim.

Bogotá's first man of letters was none other than the licentiate
Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada himself--a man who could wield the pen
with as much skill as the sword. Indeed, the detailed knowledge that
we have of many features of his memorable campaigns we owe to his
fertile pen. He is really the first and, in some respects, the most
important chronicler of the events in which he took so conspicuous a
part. How unlike, in this respect, is he not, to Pizarro and Almagro,
who were unable to sign their own names?

Among the other early writers of New Granada was Padre Juan de
Castellanos, the poet-historiographer, who has been so frequently
quoted in the preceding chapters. The extent of his work may be
gauged by the fact that it contains one hundred and fifty thousand
hendecasyllabic verses--more than ten times as many as are in the
Divina Commedia--and more than are found in any other metrical work,
except the Hindu epic known as the Mahabharata, which contains no
fewer than one hundred and ten thousand couplets.

It is interesting to note that in Colombia, as in Spain, Portugal
and Mexico, the nun in the cloister has found time to devote to
literature as well as to contemplation and works of charity. Among
these successful imitators of St. Theresa, whose works, both in prose
and verse, have long been the admiration of the literary world, may be
mentioned Sor Francisca Josefa de la Concepcion, of Tunga. Although
she wrote in prose, she, by her purity of language and delicacy of
sentiment, is entitled to rank with such distinguished ornaments of
the cloister as Sor Junana Ines de la Cruz, of Mexico; Sor Maria de
Ceo, of Portugal; Sor Gregoria de Santa Teresa, of Seville; and Sor
Ana de San Jeronimo, of Granada, Spain. [204]

The names of the poets and prose writers of Colombia, that have
achieved distinction, make a long list. Many of them enjoy an
international reputation, and their productions compare favorably with
the best efforts of the writers of the mother country--Spain. [205]

In science, too, Colombia counts many sons who have contributed
greatly to our knowledge of nature. It suffices to recall the names
of such savants as Francisco Antonio Zea, Francisco José de Caldas
and the illustrious Mutis, whom Humboldt called "the patriarch of the
botanists of the New World," and whose name Linnæeus declared to be
immortal--"nomen immortale quod nulla aetas unquam delebit."

There were at one time no fewer than twenty-three colleges in New
Granada. The first of these was founded in 1554, for the education of
the Indians. The following year another one was established for the
benefit of Spanish orphans and mestizos. In one of the colleges was
a special chair for the study of the Muisca language. The Royal and
Pontifical University began its existence in 1627, thirteen years
before the foundation of Harvard College. In 1653 the Archbishop
D. Fr. Cristobal de Torres founded the celebrated College del Rosario,
which, by reason of its munificent endowment, was able to render such
splendid service to the cause of education, and was long recognized
as the leading institution of learning in New Granada.

Although the Viceroyalty of Santa Fe was behind Mexico [206] and
Lima in the introduction of the printing press, it claims the honor
of establishing the first astronomical observatory in America, as
Mexico was the first to have a botanical garden, a school of mines,
and a school of medicine. It was also among the first, if not the
very first, of the capitals of the New World to open a public library.

The number of public and private libraries now existing in the city
of Bogotá contribute greatly towards justifying its claim to being
the chief centre of South American culture. Another evidence of the
intellectual atmosphere that obtains there is the number of secondhand
book stores. In browsing among these storehouses of old and precious
tomes I quite forgot, for the time being, that I was so far from the
busy world of action, and could easily fancy myself among the book
shops of Florence, Leipsic or Paris. Indeed, some of the most prized
volumes in my Latin-American library I picked up on the book stalls
of Bogotá.

Mr. R. B. Cunninghame Graham, in his preface to Sr. Triana's work,
Down the Orinoco in a Canoe, says the capital of Colombia "is in a
way a kind of Chibcha Athens. There all men write, and poets rave and
madden through the land, and only wholesome necessary revolutions
keep their number down." Again, he declares: "Bogotá to-day is,
without doubt, the greatest literary centre south of Panama. Putting
aside the flood of titubating verse which, like a mental dysentery,
afflicts all members of the Spanish-speaking race, in Bogotá more
serious literary work is done during a month than in the rest of the
republics in a year." [207]

Mr. W. L. Scruggs, sometime American minister to Bogotá, writes in
the same sense. "Most of the educated classes," he says, "have,
or think they have, the literary faculty. They are particularly
fond of writing what they call poetry, and of making post-prandial
speeches. The average collegian will write poetry [208] by the yard
or speak impromptu by the hour. He never shows the least embarrassment
before an audience, and is rarely at a loss for a word. The adjectives
and adverbs flow in sluices of unbroken rhythm, and the supply of
euphonious words and hyperbolic phrases seems inexhaustible. He always
gesticulates vehemently, and somehow it seems to become him well;
for no matter how little there may be in what he says, somebody is
sure to applaud and encourage him."

In Colombia there seem to be as many "doctors," that is, men who have
the degree of Doctor of Laws, as there are generals in Venezuela. Most
of them are politicians, or contributors to the various newspapers
of the country, or "professors"--there are no pedagogues--in the
numerous educational institutions of the Republic.

The number of newspapers published in Bogotá is surprising--more than
there are in Boston or Philadelphia. Of course, their circulation is
extremely limited. They are mostly partisan organs--an independent
paper being unknown--or literary journals remarkable, the majority
of them, for long poems, verbose editorials and translations of the
latest French novels.

On the way down from the chapel of Guadalupe, near the opening of the
gorge between the peaks of Monserrate and Guadalupe, one passes what
was once the Quinta Bolivar, a gift to the Liberator by one of his
wealthy admirers. It is now the property of a thrifty Antioquenian,
who has converted it into a tannery. As we pass along the north side
of San Carlos' palace, which contains the office of the ministry
of foreign affairs, we observe the historic window from which, as a
memorial tablet informs us, Bolivar escaped assassination, Sept. 25th,
1828. In the centre of the principal plaza, called the Plaza Bolivar,
is a bronze statue of the Liberator by Tenerani, a pupil of Canova.

Everywhere in Colombia, as in Venezuela, we are reminded of Bolivar
and find monuments to his memory. In Ciudad Bolivar and in Valencia
and elsewhere there are statues of him. In Caracas there are several,
among them a large equestrian statue which is a replica of one in Lima.

But the people, in their desire to honor their hero, have not been
satisfied with statues alone. Coins bear his name and image, towns and
states are named after him. More than this, his name has been given
to one of the South American republics--Bolivia--a republic, formerly
a part of Peru--Upper Peru--which owes its very existence to him.

But who was Simon Bolivar, one will ask, and what has he done to
achieve such distinction and to command recognition in such diverse
ways and in regions so widely separated?

His admirers say that he was the Washington of South America--the one
who secured the independence of the Spanish colonies, after three
centuries of misrule and oppression. According to them, he was one
of the world's greatest geniuses in military science, a genius in
state-craft, a genius in everything required to make a great and
successful leader of men.

Sr. Miguel Tejera does not hesitate to characterize him as one who was
"Bold and fortunate as Alexander, a patriot like Hannibal, brave and
clement like Cæsar, a great captain and a profound statesman like
Napoleon, honorable as Washington, a sublime poet and a versatile
orator, such was Bolivar, who united in his own mind all the vast
multiplicity of the elements of genius. His glory will shine in
the heaven of history, not as a meteor that passes, and is lost
in the bosom of space, but as a heavenly body, whose radiance is
ever-increasing." [209]

Even more extravagant are the claims made for his hero by Don Felipe
Larazabel in his bulky two-tome Vida de Bolivar.

"A noble and sublime spirit, humane, just, liberal, Bolivar was one of
the most gifted men the world has ever known; so perfect and unique
that in goodness he was like Titus, in his fortune and achievements
like Trapan, in urbanity like Marcus Aurelius, in valor like Cæsar,
in learning and eloquence like Augustus....

"He was a poet like Homer, a legislator like Plato, a soldier like
Bonaparte.... He taught Soublett and Heres diplomacy, Santander
administration, Gual politics, Marshal Sucre military art.

"Like Charlemagne, but in a higher degree, he possessed the
art of doing great things with ease and difficult things with
promptness. Whoever conceived plans so vast? Whoever carried them to a
more successful issue? A quick and unerring glance; a rapid intuition
of things and times; a prodigious spontaneity in improvising gigantic
plans; the science of war reduced to the calculation of minutes,
an extraordinary vigor of conception, and a creative spirit, fertile
and inexhaustible, ... such was Bolivar.

"'Deus ille fuit, Deus, inclyte Memmi.' He was a god, illustrious
Memmius, he was a god." [210]

Col. G. Hippisley, who served under Bolivar in the War of Independence,
does not give such a flattering estimate of the Liberator. "Bolivar,"
he writes, "would willingly ape the great man. He aspires to be
a second Bonaparte in South America, without possessing a single
talent for the duties of the field or the cabinet.... He has
neither talents nor abilities for a general, and especially for
a commander-in-chief.... Tactics, movements and manoeuvre are as
unknown to him as to the lowest of his troops. All idea of regularity,
system or the common routine of an army, or even a regiment, he is
totally unacquainted with. Hence arise all the disasters he meets, the
defeats he suffers and his constant obligations to retreat whenever
opposed to the foe. The victory, which he gains to-day, however
dearly purchased ... is lost to-morrow by some failure or palpable
neglect on his part. Thus it is that Paez was heard to tell Bolivar,
after the action at Villa del Cura, that he would move off his own
troops, and act no more with him in command; adding, 'I have never
lost a battle wherein I acted by myself, or in a separate command;
and I have always been defeated when acting in connection with you
or under your orders.'" [211]

Gen. Holstein, who was the Liberator's chief-of-staff and who was,
therefore, in a position to have intimate knowledge of the man, is
even more pronounced in his strictures on the character and capacity
of the commander-in-chief of the patriot forces.

"The dominant traits in the character of General Bolivar are
ambition, vanity, thirst for absolute, undivided power and profound
dissimulation.... Many of his generals have done far more than he has
to free the country from the Spaniards.... The brightest deeds of all
these generals were performed in the absence of Bolivar. Abroad they
were attributed to his military skill and heroism, while, in fact,
he was a fugitive a thousand miles from the scenes of their bravery,
and never dreaming of their success.... General Bolivar, moreover, has
never made a charge of cavalry nor with the bayonet; on the contrary,
he has ever been careful to keep himself out of danger." [212]

Elsewhere in his work, Holstein claims to "prove that Bolivar, the
Republic of Colombia and its chieftains, are indebted to strangers
and their powerful support for their existence, if not as a free,
at least as an independent people." There were, according to some
estimates, fully ten thousand European soldiers in the republican
army, and among the officers were Englishmen, Germans, Irishmen, Poles
and Frenchmen. It was, according to Holstein, the Irish legion that
gained the great battle of Carabobo, which secured the independence of
Venezuela. [213] It was the British legion, declares the same writer,
that won the decisive victory of Boyacá, which broke the power of
the Spaniards in New Granada. Sucre, the victorious general in the
battle of Pichincha, which liberated Ecuador, was also the victor
in the battles of Junin and Ayacucho--the Waterloo of colonial rule
in South America--which gave freedom to Peru. Bolivar had the honor
of gaining both victories, although he was ill during the battle of
Ayacucho, and a hundred miles from the field of action during the
struggle on the plateau of Junin.

In view of all this, Holstein does not hesitate to declare that Bolivar
rules "with more power and absoluteness than does the autocrat of
Russia or the Sultan of Constantinople," and that, compared with George
Washington, Simon Bolivar was but a Liliputian. Sr. Riva Aguero, the
first president of Peru, goes farther and assures us that the terrible
characterization, given by Apollocorus, of Philip of Macedon, father of
Alexander the Great, is but a true portrait of the Liberator Bolivar.

These estimates of Bolivar, so different from those of Tejera and
Larrazabel and many of Bolivar's other biographers--remind one of
what Montesquieu says about the contradictory accounts which partisan
writers have given us regarding certain potentates of antiquity. As
instances he cites Alexander, who is described as the veriest poltroon
by Herodian, and extolled as a paragon of valor by Lampridius; and
Gratian, who by his admirers is lauded to the skies and by Philostorgus
compared to Nero.

"But, how is it possible, the question naturally arises, that General
Bolivar should have liberated his country, and preserved to himself
the supreme power, without superior talent?"

"If by liberating his country," replies Gen. Holstein, in answer to
his own question, "it be meant that he has given his country a free
government, I answer that he has not done so. If it be meant that
he has driven out the Spaniards, I answer that he has done little
towards this; far less certainly than the meanest of his subordinate
chieftains. To the question, How can he have retained his power without
superior talent? I answer, in the first place, that the reputation
of superior talent goes a great way.... The stupid management of
the Spanish authorities has facilitated all the operations of the
patriots. The grievous faults of Bolivar and some of his generals
have been exceeded by those of his adversaries. It is not strange,
therefore, that Bolivar should have been able to do all he has done
with very limited talents." [214]

Such a marked divergence of views respecting the character of Bolivar
and the position he should occupy among the great chieftains of
history admits of an explanation, but such an explanation would of
itself require a volume. It is safe to say, however, that no reliable
biography of the Liberator has yet appeared, and that, when it does
appear, it is most likely that Bolivar will occupy a position much
below that claimed for him by some of his over-enthusiastic eulogists
and above that assigned to him by those who have manifested less
admiration for his policy and achievements.

To write a definitive biography of Bolivar will not be an easy
task. It will require a man of broad sympathies; one entirely free
from all national antipathy and religious bias; one with a judicial
mind, who can sift and weigh evidence without prejudice, and render
a verdict strictly in accordance with the facts in the case. Most,
if not all, who have hitherto written about Bolivar, have exhibited
a partisan spirit and allowed themselves to be swayed by political
and other considerations, which have so greatly detracted from the
value of their work that it cannot be accepted as authentic history.

To do full justice to the subject in all its bearings will require
impartial judgment, ripe and varied scholarship, and above all, a keen
and comprehensive historic sense. The writer will have to discuss
the relation of Spain to her colonies, and consider various social,
political, racial, economical and religious questions that are as
difficult as they are complicated and conflicting. He must have an
intimate and accurate knowledge of the character and aspirations of the
different peoples with whom Bolivar and his lieutenants had to deal. He
must be familiar with the history and traditions of the various South
American presidencies and viceroyalties and captaincies-general, and
take note of the passions and prejudices and jealousies that have been
the cause of so many sanguinary revolutions and have contributed so
much to retard intellectual progress and material advancement. Only
when such an one appears, and completes the colossal task, shall we
have a definitive life of Simon Bolivar, and an authentic record of
the War of Independence.

Before closing this chapter some reference seems necessary to what
cannot escape even the most casual student of South American history,
but what, to the observant traveler, seems to be a matter of special
moment. I refer to Bolivar's policy of dividing and weakening Peru,
and to his uniting under one flag the three northern countries of
the continent. The separation of Upper Peru--Bolivia--from Lower Peru
seems, in the light of events since the change, to have been a fatal
mistake and detrimental to the best interests of Bolivia as well as
to those of Peru.

I think, however, he exhibited unusual wisdom and foresight in
combining in one republic--Gran Colombia--the provinces of Quito,
New Granada and Venezuela. I know Gen. Mitre has denounced the idea
as an absurdity--como un absurdo-- [215] but, if this distinguished
writer had had an opportunity to study actual conditions, as they
present themselves to the traveler to-day, and to consult the wishes
and welfare of the large mass of the people at present dwelling
within the confines of Greater Colombia, I think he would have been
disposed to accept Bolivar's plan for a great nation, extending from
the Atlantic to the Pacific, as the best for all concerned.

Had the destiny of Colombia, after the union, been entrusted to the
direction of wise and unselfish patriots, as was the infant Republic
of the United States of North America, one may well believe that the
history of this part of South America, during the last three-quarters
of a century, would have been quite different from what it has been,
and that it would have been spared those countless internecine wars
that have deluged the country in blood and rendered civilization,
in its higher sense, impossible.

The geographical features of the country, and the diverse interests
of its different sections, were, pace Mitre, no more opposed to
the formation of a great and stable republic on the Caribbean than
they were in that vast commonwealth to the north of the Gulf of
Mexico, where the Stars and Stripes have so long been the symbol of
peace, prosperity and national greatness. The people in the southern
continent, were not, it is true, so well prepared for a democratic form
of government as were their brethren in the north, but if, instead
of being cursed with selfish and destructive militarism, they could
have enjoyed the blessings of competent and far-seeing statesmanship,
it is safe to affirm that the Great Colombia, as Bolivar conceived
it, would, ere this, have developed into a flourishing and powerful
republic--worthy of taking a place among the great nations of the
world. [216]

But, sad to relate, Bolivar's creation was short-lived. After a
precarious existence of only eleven years, disintegration took place,
and the Liberator, fallen into disfavor and condemned to exile,
was forced to be a witness of the collapse of the structure that had
cost him so much labor, and which he had fondly hoped would be his
greatest and most enduring monument.

Shortly before his death at the hacienda of San Pedro, near Santa
Marta, where he perished alone,

"Maligned and doubted and denied, a broken-hearted man," he wrote
to General Flores, of Ecuador, a letter in which occur the following
remarkable statements:--

"I have been in power--yo he mandado--for nearly twenty years, from
which I have gathered only a few definite results:--

"1. America for us is ungovernable.

"2. He who dedicates his services to a revolution plows the sea.

"3. The only thing that can be done in America is to emigrate.

"4. This country will inevitably fall into the hands of the unbridled
rabble, and little by little become a prey to petty tyrants of all
colors and races.

"5. Devoured as we shall be by all possible crimes and ruined by
our own ferociousness, Europeans will not deem it worth while to
conquer us.

"6. If it were possible for any part of the world to return to a
state of primitive chaos, that would be the last stage of Spanish
America." [217]

Was the Liberator gifted with a seer's vision when he penned these
prophetic words? It would seem so, for even if he had open before
him the scroll in which has been recorded the chief events of the
history of South America during the past three-quarters of a century,
he could scarcely have spoken with greater truth and precision. Certain
it is, as Mitre well observes, that none of his designs or ideals have
survived him. His political work died with him and all his fond dreams
of a vast Andean Empire vanished like mist before the rising sun.

This is not the place to account for the turmoil and anarchy
which have so long devastated one of the most fertile quarters of
the globe. Considering its immense natural resources and its many
advantages of climate and geographical position, it should be one of
the most prosperous regions of the earth, and its inhabitants among the
happiest and most advanced in culture and the arts of peace. Let it
suffice to reproduce the following paragraph from the work, already
cited, of Sr. Perez Triana:--

"As to the topsy-turviness of things Spanish and Spanish-American,
the story is told that Santiago, the patron saint of Spain, being
admitted into the presence of God, asked and obtained for the
land of Spain and for its people all sorts of blessings; marvelous
fertility for the soil, natural wealth of all kinds in the mountains
and the forests, abundance of fish in the rivers and of birds in the
air; courage, sobriety, and all the manly virtues for men; beauty,
grace and loveliness for the women. All this was granted, but on the
point of leaving, the saint, it is said, asked from God that he would
also grant Spain a good government. The request was denied, as then,
it is said, the Lord remarked, the angels would abandon heaven and
flock to Spain. The story has lost none of its point."



CHAPTER XI

THE MUISCA TRAIL


Our sojourn in Bogotá was much briefer than we could have wished it to
be. Its intellectual atmosphere impressed us deeply, and the culture
and refinement of its people charmed us beyond expression. During our
journey, we had visited many places in which we would have desired
to tarry longer, had it been possible, but so far no place had so
completely captivated us as Colombia's famous metropolis--no place
from which we were so loath to depart.

"What a pity," we said, "that Colombia and Colombians are not better
known in our own country! It would be better for them and better for
us." With special truth can one reiterate of the inhabitants of this
little-known republic what Senator Root has said of the people of
South America in general:--

"Two-thirds of the suspicion, the dislike, the distrust, with which our
country was regarded by the people of South America, was the result
of the arrogant and contemptuous bearing of Americans, of people of
the United States, for those gentle, polite, sensitive, imaginative,
delightful people."

The Senator, as President Roosevelt's representative, did much,
during his visit to our sister continent, to remove misunderstandings
and establish more cordial relations between the United States and
Latin America. And the Bureau of American Republics is contributing
much towards completing and extending his work. It is, therefore,
to be hoped, that soon "the suspicion, the dislike, the distrust"
will be eliminated forever and succeeded by an era of mutual respect
and indissoluble friendship.

Our luggage--small in amount, be it said--was conveyed from our
hotel to the depot, a few blocks distant, by a good-natured
Chibcha Indian. He asked for his service the sum of forty
dollars, which, to his great delight, was paid promptly and without
question. "Muchisimas gracias, mi amo. Que Vd vaya bien!" Many thanks,
my master. Farewell! were his parting words, as he passed out of the
station with his hat in his hand and a smile lighting up his face.

"Forty dollars for carrying a little luggage a few squares! Why,
that," one would say, "was down-right robbery." Not at all, when
you are accustomed to paying such prices, and we had become quite
accustomed to them, ever since we had entered Colombian territory. As
a matter of fact, we found the peon's bill very moderate.

In the beginning, however, it must be confessed that we were surprised
at some of the bills presented us for payment. The first one was for
the washing of some linen in a town on the Meta. The work was done
by an Indian woman, for which a charge was made of two hundred and
forty-five dollars. This bill, large as it was, did not frighten us
as much as one that Mark Twain tells of in his Innocents Abroad, when
during his visit to the Azores, one of his traveling companions was
charged some thousands of milreis for a modest repast. We should have
paid it without comment, but found that the articles in question had
been washed only and not ironed. When we remarked upon this apparent
forgetfulness or neglect, the tawny laundress informed us that it
was not the custom there for the same person to do both washing and
ironing, and referred us to a neighbor of hers as one quite competent
to complete the work she had begun. Unfortunately, as it had been
raining continuously for several days, and our laundress had no way
of drying the things she had washed, except in the sun--which had
obstinately refused to appear--and as we were obliged to take our
departure without delay, the wearing apparel aforesaid was neither
ironed nor dried.

But the washer-woman's bill, which seems exorbitant, requires an
explanation. It was all a mere matter of the rate of exchange, which,
in Colombia, during the time of our visit, was ten thousand. That
means that the peso--dollar--had a value of just one centavo--one
cent. Some years ago the rate of exchange was much higher. Now,
however, there is a well-founded hope, that the financial condition
of the country will soon be on a more satisfactory basis, and that
before many years elapse, it can be put on a gold basis. The present
legal tender of the country is paper currency and gold coin. Outside
of the large cities one never sees anything but paper money. I have
known the peons in several cases to refuse coin because they thought it
was counterfeit--so long is it since gold coin has been in circulation.

The present financial condition of the republic is a striking
commentary on the havoc wrought by the numerous revolutions that have
devastated the country and ruined its credit. One of the most difficult
of the many difficult tasks that confront the administration is that of
restoring the nation's credit, and of getting the rate of exchange back
to par. It is, however, making a noble effort, and all well-wishers
of Colombia trust its endeavors will be crowned with success.

As one may imagine, it is necessary for the traveler to carry with
him quite a bulky package of bills in order to live in even the
most modest fashion. A mule or a cart was not, however, required
to transport our funds, as Hazard, in his work on Haiti, says was
indispensable in that ill-fated land, where a hundred dollars in
gold was exchanged for several sacks of bills--huge bags--not unlike
bundles of rags or waste paper.

To us it was always interesting to hear the peons talk of their fortune
of hundreds or thousands of dollars. It seemed to give the poor
fellows special satisfaction to deal in large figures and to speak
of large sums, as if they were all rising millionaires. The monetary
crisis had this redeeming feature, if no other, that it afforded the
beggar in the street the pleasure of seeing dollars in his alms where,
before the revolution, he would have found only so many cents. The
sturdy market women we saw on the way from Caqueza to Bogotá talked
in a most happy way of their prospects of realizing forty dollars a
piece for their chickens and fifteen dollars a dozen for their eggs,
while their husbands were rejoicing in the thought that they would
receive a thousand dollars for a heifer and two thousand or more
for a milch-cow. They never used the words "cents"; it was always
"pesos"--dollars. Happy people, who find such delight in names and
appearances!

There are but few railroads in Colombia, and their total mileage
at the time of our visit was less than five hundred miles. Many
roads are projected and have been for decades past, but the numerous
revolutions have prevented their construction. The one from Bogotá to
Facatativá, our first objective point on the way to the Magdalena, is
only twenty-five miles in length. There is, however, a well-grounded
hope that this can at an early day be connected with the line that is
building from Girardot. [218] When this shall have been accomplished
it will be possible to reach Bogotá without the long overland ride on
horse- or mule-back that has been necessary since the time of Quesada.

But far from regretting the lack of a through train to the Magdalena,
we were rather glad that we were obliged to have recourse to a
less expeditious mode of locomotion. It required more time, it
is true, to make the trip, and was more fatiguing, but it gave us
an opportunity of seeing the country to greater advantage and of
getting better acquainted with its people. Indeed, the journey down
the Cordillera from Bogotá to Honda was but the proper complement of
that from the llanos up to the Sabana that lies at the foot of the
nation's capital. It gave us an opportunity of comparing conditions
on the eastern slope of the Oriental Andes with those prevailing on
the western, and we have always considered ourselves fortunate in
having been able to explore from the saddle the interesting country
that lies between the Meta and the Magdalena. As I now think, it was,
in many respects, the most delightful and instructive part of our
wanderings in South America.

The track and rolling-stock of the Sabana railway are, as might
be expected, of the most primitive kind. The roadbed has received
little attention, and the cars and engine are scarcely fit for
service. But all this can be condoned when one is familiar with the
untoward conditions that, for so many years, have militated against
improvements of all kinds. The transportation of the rails, cars and
locomotives from Cambao, on the Magdalena, to the plateau, when the
cart road between the two points was little better than a bridle-path,
was in itself a Herculean task, and as we journeyed to Honda, it never
ceased to excite our wonder. Great improvements, however, are promised
as soon as connection shall be made with the branch, now approaching
completion, from Girardot. Then the transportation of heavy freight
will be a trifling task in comparison with what it has been hitherto.

The Sabana of Bogotá resembles somewhat the plain of Caracas except
that it is far more extensive than the Venezuelan plateau. Both
have been regarded as the beds of lakes that have long since
disappeared. Whatever may be said about the existence of a lake in the
vale of Caracas, it seems now quite certain that there never was any
great body of water, such as has so long been imagined, occupying the
region now known as the Sabana de Bogotá. [219] Recent investigations
appear to have decided this much-debated question against Humboldt
and those who accepted his views regarding this matter.

We were much interested in the haciendas through which the
train passed, as well as in the homes of their owners and in
the picturesque villages along the road. There were broad acres
devoted to the cultivation of wheat, barley, maize and potatoes,
and extensive pastures, over which roamed large flocks of sheep
and herds of cattle. These cattle, so we fancied, were the lineal
descendants of those brought to Española by Columbus at the time of
his second voyage. And the swine we saw--there could be little doubt
about it--could claim, as their ancestors, those which Belalcazar had
brought with him from Quito, as the hens, that cackled and clucked as
we sped by, were the offspring of those carefully guarded by Federmann
during his famous expedition from Coro to Santa Fe de Bogotá. [220]

Aside from the Humboldt oak, with its majestic crown of ever-green
foliage, and the ubiquitous Eucalyptus, there are no trees of
any magnitude in the Sabana. Its flora, however, is particularly
rich in shrubs and plants. Among them were the beautiful passion
flower, Passiflora Antioquensis, blossoming the year round, and
a peculiar species of blackberry--Rubus Bogotensis--ever clothed
with a vari-colored mantle of snow-white bloom and ripening fruit,
realizing Shelley's idea of the millennium, where


       "Fruits are ever ripe, and flowers ever fair."


The meadows are carpeted with various species of clover and succulent
grasses, and, along the hedges and walls, one finds an endless variety
of fuchsias, verbenas, mallows, asters, buttercups, lupines, lilies,
lobelias, irises, morning-glories and passion flowers. The last two
plants and certain varieties of roses are great favorites in the
garden and around the house, as are also violets, pinks, jasmines and
heliotropes. We observed several habitations, some of them the humble
cots of poor Chibchas, that were almost concealed in magnificent
bowers of climbing clematis, passion flowers and morning-glories.

On the eastern slope of Suma Paz, we frequently had occasion to admire
the wealth and brilliancy of bloom around some of the homes which we
passed, or when we enjoyed the hospitality of their courteous inmates,
but nowhere did we see more beautiful floral exhibits than greeted
us on the Sabana de Bogotá.

Much, however, as we were interested in the fauna and flora of
this region, and the people who now inhabit it, we found our minds
constantly reverting to pre-Colombian times, and picturing to ourselves
the condition of this plain and its inhabitants at the period of the
arrival of the conquistadores.

When Quesada and his intrepid followers reached this beautiful
plateau, they found it inhabited by a tribe of Indians to whom they
gave the name Muiscas, because they frequently heard them pronounce
this word, or Moscas, a Spanish word, similar in sound, signifying
flies, because they said these Indians were as numerous as flies. [221]

They occupied the tablelands in the central part of New Granada. The
territory under the jurisdiction of their zipas--chiefs--was elliptical
in form and equaled in area the kingdom of the Netherlands. They
numbered about one million inhabitants, and, according to the early
chroniclers, they counted no fewer than a hundred and thirty thousand
warriors. The number of fighting men was doubtless far below this
figure. It seems certain, however, that at the date of the arrival
of the Spaniards they were in the apogee of their power, and were
making progress towards a condition of culture approaching that of
the Aztecs and Incas.

The dominions of the last zipas of Bacatá extended from Simijaca
to Pasca and from Zipacon to the llanos. Although united by ties
of language and beliefs, customs and laws, similar in character and
revealing a common origin, they formed an aggregation of small states,
generally independent, rather than a compact and well-organized
commonwealth.

The Chibchas, or Muiscas, were preëminently an agricultural
people. They had no domestic animals, except the dog--not even the
llama. Their chief articles of food were maize, potatoes [222] and
quinoa, which the natives of Colombia have long since discarded for
rice. Besides these staples they had many other vegetables peculiar to
the country and a great variety of luscious and wholesome fruits. They
also had game in abundance.

They cultivated cotton, from which they made their clothing, the
material of which often exhibited various colored designs. In this
respect they were far in advance of the surrounding tribes, who had
no more to cover them than have the wildest children of the tropical
forest to-day.

Their houses were of wood, with thatched roofs not unlike many
of those we saw along our route from the llanos to the Magdalena
valley. When the Spaniards arrived they had just begun to use stone
in the erection of a few of their buildings, presumably temples,
which apparently were never completed.

As might be surmised, their commerce was limited. They bartered to
some extent with the neighboring tribes, especially those west of
the Magdalena. From these they obtained gold in exchange for salt,
emeralds and textile fabrics. With the Chimus of Peru, they were the
first to use gold as a medium of exchange. Their currency consisted not
of stamped coins, but of disks of the precious metal without any kind
of marking. They had a limited intercourse with the people of Quito
and had some slight knowledge of the great Inca kingdom farther south.

Regarding the culture of the Chibchas, we can say what the Marquis de
Nadaillac says of the people in general--"We know very little." [223]
But we know enough to be warranted in affirming that many erroneous
notions have long prevailed concerning them, and that the claims
that have been made for them as a civilized people have been greatly
exaggerated.

According to Duquesne--to whose fanciful theories the great Humboldt
unfortunately gave his support--and to the school that for a century
made Duquesne's views their own, the Chibchas were acquainted with
the use of the quipus, and had a system of numbers and hieroglyphics
and a complicated calendar. Their priests were represented as the
depositaries of astrological and chronological science, and as experts
in astronomical and meteorological observations. The people were
lauded for their advanced knowledge of architecture and praised for
their courts of justice. In the temple of Sogamuxi, they would have
us believe, were preserved the national annals and the chronicles of
their civilization. Their general material progress and intellectual
status was commented on as something quite comparable with the best
that obtained in Mexico or Cuzco.

We have but two sources of information respecting the much-debated
question of Chibcha culture. These are a comparative study of the early
chronicles--no one or two of them will suffice--and an examination
of the few stone monuments the Chibchas have left us, together with
their pictographs, ceramic ware and objects of gold and copper found
in their places of sepulture. The chronicles that we must rely on are
those left us by Quesada, Castellanos, Padre Simon and Piedrahita,
all of which have already been quoted, together with those left us
by Padre Bernardo Lugo, Juan Rodriguez Fresle, a son of one of the
conquistadores, and Fray Alonso de Zamora, of Bogotá.

As a result of a critical study of these chronicles and monuments, the
distinguished Colombian writer, Don Vicente Restrepo, has demonstrated
that most of the claims that have been made for Chibcha culture are
utterly devoid of foundation in fact. His conclusions, which can be
given in a few words, are:--

"The Chibchas had no stone buildings and their knowledge of
architecture was therefore limited to the erection of the simplest
structures of wood.

"They had no quipus, like that of the Incas, no alphabet,
and no writing of any kind, either figurative, symbolic or
ideographic. Neither had they any chronology or archives.

"The petroglyphs and pictographs found in limited [224] numbers in
various parts of the country, far from recording the migrations and
hunts of the aborigines and the cataclysms which they are supposed to
have witnessed, are nothing more than rude geometrical designs and
fantastic figures which are repeated in the most confused manner,
according to the infantile caprice of the one who carved or painted
them."

Concluding his discussion of these meaningless figures, which certain
writers have so long insisted were true hieroglyphics, awaiting
some Champollion or Rawlinson to decipher, Sr. Restrepo does not
hesitate to assert that the rude "attempts at drawing these ill-formed
figures of animals, and these pothooks, similar to those traced by
an inexperienced child, can reveal nothing to historic science. They
never exhibit that order and sequence which are the certain index
of genuine writing. They never reproduce even the simplest scenes
of Indian life, such for example as a religious ceremony, the chase,
or warriors fighting.

"Mute by reason of their origin, and condemned to eternal silence by
the unconscious hand that traced them, the magic wand of science will
never be able to make them speak." [225]

If we accept the classification and definitions of the various grades
of culture, as given by Morgan in his great work on Ancient Society,
[226] as many profound thinkers do, we shall be forced to conclude
not only that the Chibchas were not civilized, but that they had not
even reached the upper status of barbarism.

Civilization implies the existence of a phonetic alphabet or, at least,
of hieroglyphics akin to those of the Egyptians, and the use of these
in the production of written records. The Chibchas, as we have seen,
had neither an alphabet nor written records of any kind.

Neither had they any knowledge of the process of smelting iron ore. As
the use of iron is the chief characteristic of the third, or upper,
period of barbarism, the Chibchas, according to Morgan, should be
considered as representatives of the middle status of barbarism,
like the Zuñis and the Mayas, or like the lake-dwellers of ancient
Switzerland, or the early Britons before they learned the use of iron
from their more advanced neighbors in Gaul. [227]

It took us two hours to make the run from Bogotá to Facatativá, the
western terminus of the Sabana railway. Here we took luncheon. For
a place that has so long been the centre of traffic between the
capital and the Magdalena, the town has no reason to boast of its
restaurants or hotels. They are about as poor in every way as could
well be imagined. A town in Italy or Switzerland, frequented by so
many travelers as Facatativá, would have not one but several hostelries
where its patrons would have every convenience and comfort. Let us hope
that Colombia will soon witness an improvement in this respect, not
only in this place but all along the chief lines of travel. It is much
needed, and along no route more than that connecting Bogotá with Honda.

At the time of the conquest, Facatativá was a Muisca stronghold,
and what are said to be the ruins of an old Indian fortress are still
shown to the curious visitor. One may also see some rocks on which are
carved certain figures long supposed to be Chibcha hieroglyphics. We
have already learned what value is to be ascribed to these and similar
inscriptions in other parts of the country.

After luncheon we prepared to start for Chimbe, where we intended to
pass the night. We had telegraphed the day before to our arriero to
have in readiness the necessary saddle and sumpter mules. They were
waiting for us on our arrival and we were much gratified to find
that both animals and peons were all that could be desired. Those
who have traveled in the Andes know how important it is to have good
mules and servants, and how much it adds to the comfort and pleasure
of one's journey.

From the time we had left our launch on the Meta, we had been
singularly fortunate in always having good animals and honest, reliable
men to take care of them and attend to our wants on the way. To our
devoted and watchful muleteers and their assistants we owed much of
the enjoyment that was ours during our wanderings over mountain and
plain, and we shall always hold their obliging disposition and prompt
service in grateful remembrance.

It affords me special pleasure to render them this tribute, as they
are often, I have reason to believe, much misunderstood, especially
by people who are not familiar with their language, and frequently
held responsible for delays and contretemps of which they are in no
wise responsible. Judging by our own experience, the arieros and
peons of South America are, as a class, far better than they are
usually represented and are deserving of more recognition and better
treatment than is usually accorded them by those who require their
humble but often too poorly recompensed services.

The saddle generally used in the mountains closely resembles the
McClellan saddle and is called a galápago. For obvious reasons an
English hunting saddle--silla--could not be used where the roads are
constantly leading up and down steep mountains--bergauf, bergab, as
a German traveler phrases it--and where even on a cavalry saddle it
is at times extremely difficult for one to retain one's position. [228]

The saddle is usually covered by a pellon or shabrack, made either
of sheepskin, or horsehair dyed black and neatly braided at the
ends. Attached to the saddle are several bags or pockets--bolsas. These
are of the greatest convenience for carrying many things necessary on
long journeys. In them the natives stow away cheese, cakes of maize,
papelon, and the never-forgotten supply of aguardiente, without which
a journey of any length is considered impossible.

The stirrups are curiosities. They are usually of brass or bronze in
the shape of a shoe, but frequently they are in the form of the basket
hilt of a claymore. The stirrups of one of the saddles I used were
curiously embossed, and as large as a good-sized bell. But whatever
their design, they are admirably adapted for service in the mountains
where the paths are so narrow that one is frequently exposed, without
such protection, to having one's feet crushed when his mule approaches
too near the rocky wall that flanks one side of the road. The danger
is especially great when one meets a herd of cattle or a caravan
of pack-mules. Then the rider suddenly finds his mule crushing him
against the steep rocks on one side of the path, to avoid being thrown
over a precipice which is yawning beneath him on the other side along
which the approaching animals pick their way with a skill that is
marvelous. We often had reason to be thankful that our feet were
protected by these fantastic and cumbersome estribos--stirrups--as
otherwise we should have suffered serious bodily injury. Like the
leather hoods of wooden stirrups, such estribos also keep the feet dry.

The riding equipment, however, of a Colombian horseman is not complete
without huge brass or bronze rowel-spurs--espuelas--and a pair of
zamoros--bag-trousers--often made of leather or goatskin. They are
not unlike the chaparejos [229] of a New Mexican cowboy, and serve
as a protection against rain and mud, and the thorns of the shrubs
and brush along the wayside.

From Facatativá to El Alto del Roble, some miles to the west, the
road slightly rises. At the latter point, nearly five hundred feet
above Bogotá, one has a glorious view of the Sabana, of the chain of
Suma Paz, and of the Central Cordillera away beyond the Magdalena.

From El Roble--the oak--so named from the number of ever-green oaks
seen there, the descent towards Chimbe is marked by quite a steep
grade. A good carretera, or carriage road, extends from Factativá to
Agua Larga, and this much-needed highway is to be prolonged as far
as the Magdalena. The present plan is to construct the road in such
wise that traction cars can be used on it for the transportation of
both freight and passengers, and at the time of our passage the road,
under the direction of English engineers, was being pushed forward
towards completion with a display of energy that augured well for
ultimate success.

Only a few minutes after we began our descent on the western declivity
of El Roble we observed a change in the temperature. We were passing
from the tierra fría to the tierra templada, and a thermometer was
scarcely necessary to indicate our rate of progress towards lower
altitudes. Aside from the marked change in the atmosphere, there was
a corresponding one in the flora.

Near the summit of El Roble we were gratified in finding large
patches of strawberries. They were sweet reminders of home, as they
were of the same species as our own fragrant Fragaria. These slender
mountain runners did not, however, bear the large fruits afforded
by our Illinois or Florida plants, but rather the small scarlet,
but richly flavored, berries one meets in an uncultivated state in
Italy and Russia.

Further on our way we came across another reminder of our own
country. This time it appeared in the form of long, dark-gray tufts
and festoons of that curious epiphyte--Tillandsia usneoides--popularly
known in the Gulf States as Spanish moss and in Jamaica as old man's
beard. The natives in Colombia call it barba de palo--tree-beard--a
much more picturesque epithet than any of those mentioned, and another
one of countless instances of the wonderful faculty the Indian has of
giving expressive names to the objects that specially strike his fancy.

As we reached a still lower level, our attention was arrested by
the beauty and luxuriance of the palms and tree ferns that graced
our path. The fern trees were as remarkable for their size as for
the delicacy of their plume-like fronds. The trunks of some of them
were twelve to fifteen feet high and the leaves of their wondrous
crowns--like veritable leaves of emerald gauze--were at times as long
as the trunk was high. Gazing at these bizarre forms of vegetable
life, with their dark, rough, leaf-scarred trunks, so unlike those of
surrounding trees, we could easily imagine ourselves in a forest of
those giant paleozoic Sigillariæ and Lepidodendrons that contributed
so largely towards the formation of the lower coal measures.

We never made any attempt to enumerate the divers species of palms that
were ever in view from the paramo to the ocean. But wherever we saw
them, whether on the elevated Andean plateau or in the humid valleys
of the Orinoco and the Magdalena, they were for us, as they were for
Linnæus, "the princes of the vegetable world." Decked with a mantle of
eternal youth, with smooth, straight trunks like the marble shafts of
Athens or Palmyra, they were not only the glory of forest and savanna,
but they were also for us, as for Martius, a symbol of immortality.

At Agua Larga our road bifurcated, the new and better branch veering
off to the right at a slight angle, and the old one continuing with
a similar turn to the left. Although a bright young señorita, who
happened to be near the parting of the ways, declared that the old
road was the one that led to Chimbe, our objective point, we chose the
new one, and for the first time since we had left the Meta, we went
astray. We did not discover our error until we had gone several miles,
when an old man, who was repairing his humble cot by the wayside,
corroborated the señorita's information.

There was then nothing left for us but to retrace our steps. The
mistake was quite a blow to the topographical instinct of one of our
party, who had, during our long trip, particularly prided himself on
the unerring indications of his organ of locality, which rendered,
he said, the assistance of a guide superfluous. At the same time,
it was quite trying to the patience of all of us, as we were tired,
hungry, and wished to arrive at Chimbe before sundown. It was now
quite evident that we could not possibly reach our destination before
nightfall. We then realized to our sorrow the truth of Balboa's words,
when writing to the King of Spain--"Llega el hombre hasta donde puede
y no hasta donde quiere"--One goes as far as one can and not as far
as one wishes to go. And, recalling what the señorita had told us,
we had likewise a forcible reminder of the verity of Sancho Panza's
saying: "Though a woman's counsel isn't worth much, he that despises
it is no wiser than he should be."

After getting back to the bifurcation of the road, we found that the
older branch, which we should have taken, was little better than a
rough, rocky stairway, the steps of which had been rendered extremely
slippery by a heavy rainfall a few hours before. C., our dashing
and debonair cavalier, was still suffering from the effects of this
downpour, for having lost his waterproof sombrero, specially designed
for travel in the tropics, he had nothing left but a light straw hat,
which afforded the head no more protection than a sieve.

Truth to tell, he was suspected of intentionally discarding his
waterproof headgear, as, in his estimation, it did not comport with
the dignity of a caballero who would trace his lineage back to one
of the noblest grandees of Spain, and who, during his journey from
Trinidad, had been the recipient of special attention from young
and old as well. He seemed to be the special favorite of well-to-do
matrons, particularly in the towns and cities in which our sojourn
was somewhat protracted. Was it that they would fain have seen in
the handsome young traveler a prospective son-in-law? Not being a
mind reader, I must leave the question unanswered. As a veracious
narrator of occurrences by the way I can only state facts and let
the reader draw his own conclusions.

But what a road it was, that now lay between us and Chimbe! To us, in
the declining rays of the setting sun, it appeared like a cobblestone
track after it had passed through a dozen earthquakes and had then been
set at an angle of forty-five degrees with the horizon. [230] Even
our mules, which were usually prepared for any kind of a path where
they could find a foothold, frequently balked at the more difficult
sections of this much-neglected highway. Comparing the part we were
now traversing with the more improved road we had left at Agua Larga,
we could not but recall the words of an Irish engineer, regarding
certain highland roads, as recorded in Scott's A Legend of Montrose:--


   "Had you but seen those roads before they were made,
    You would have held up your hands and blessed General Wade."


And yet this was the camino real, the royal highway from the Magdalena
to the national capital. President Reyes was doubtless right when he
publicly stated, some years ago, that it was now in a worse condition
than it was before the War of Independence.

But it was also, and this afforded us some compensation for our
discomfort, the Muisca trail--the same that the subjects of the
Zipa of Bacatá and those of the Caciques of Hunsa and Sugamuxi made
use of during their bartering expeditions to the tribes beyond the
Magdalena. Along this trail they, for generations, carried their stores
of salt, textile fabrics and emeralds, and brought back, in exchange
for them, from the placers of what is now known as Antioquia, those
treasures of gold that so excited the cupidity of the conquistadores,
and which, by many of them, were considered as an adequate reward
for all the hardships they had endured to secure their possession.

Finally, after a long, tiresome breakneck ride over that "royal"
but infinitely rugged road--


       "Arduus, obliquus, caligine densus opaca,--" [231]


We arrived at Chimbe where, fortunately, we found an appetizing repast,
and what we were then willing to consider clean and comfortable beds,
awaiting us.

Early the next morning, after a refreshing sleep, we were again in
the saddle and on our way to Guaduas, where we purposed spending
the night. After a brisk ride of a few hours through a picturesque
country, we reached the town of Villeta, situated in a charming and
fertile valley. Here we had a hasty breakfast and were then on our
way up the prolonged and precipitous slopes of Cune and Petaquero.

The Muisca trail, like the path we followed from the llanos to the
Sabana de Bogotá, was to us an interesting example of the manner in
which the Indians traced out their roads. Having neither blasting
powder nor dynamite, they were perforce obliged to go around the
rocks that were in their way. But in spite of this, owing to their
thorough familiarity with the country, they always succeeded in
finding the shortest routes from one point to another. They made
it a rule, however, never to get far away from a water supply, and,
for this reason, their roads nearly always kept close to the water
courses of the regions through which they passed. The conquistadores,
who had to be always on the alert against the Indians, and who took
every precaution against surprise and ambuscade, avoided swamps and
lowlands, and kept rather to the commanding ridges of the country
on their line of march. As a consequence, the best roads in Colombia
to-day are those traced out by the old Muisca traders and by Quesada in
the north and Robledo, Almaguer and Belalcazar in the west and south.

On our way to Guaduas from Chimbe, we observed a number of small
plantations of sugar cane, and near by there was usually a trapiche,
a primitive contrivance for extracting the juice from the cane. It
consisted of a thatched shed under which was a cumbersome, creaking
machine consisting essentially of three vertical cylinders of wood
which were kept in motion by a span of mules or a yoke of oxen driven
by a boy. The cane was fed into the machine by a couple of women,
and the juice was received into a wooden trough. From this it was
transferred into a boiler, if panela--crude sugar--was desired. More
frequently, however, it was conveyed to a still, in order to be
converted into aguardiente, a crude distillate, rich in alcohol,
of which the natives, the country over, consume large quantities.

But fond as the inhabitants are of aguardiente, and guarapo, the
fermented juice of the sugar cane, or a mixture of sugar and water
which has undergone fermentation, the most popular drink, especially
among the poorer classes, is chicha. This is to the greater part
of South America what pulque is to Mexico and beer to Germany--the
national beverage. It has been so from time immemorial. Chicha was as
much esteemed by the Muiscas, before the arrival of the Spaniards,
as it is to-day; for then, as now, no festivity or celebration was
considered complete without a liberal supply of this enlivening
potation.

Padre Rivero, referring to the love of drink, especially of chicha,
among the Indians, says, "Drink is their life, their glory, and the
acme of their happiness." The earlier historians have much to say
of the frightful orgies, as the result of over-indulgence in chicha,
that obtained among all classes on the occasions of national festivals,
or the celebration of a victory over an enemy. It is said to be used to
excess to-day, as much as in former times, but of this I cannot speak
from personal observation. All the way from Villavicencio to Honda,
we saw countless estancos and estanquitos--licensed bars--of the type
of our lowest dram shops, where chicha is the principal drink sold;
but, although we saw many people, men and women, congregated about
these places, we never saw a single case of drunkenness or any serious
disturbance of any kind. This was not because no one had been drinking
while we were present. All had been imbibing more or less freely, but
they seemed so accustomed to the use of their favorite beverages that
they were no more affected by them than are the people of France and
Italy by the drinking of the wines of their respective countries. [232]

From what, the reader will ask, and how, is chicha prepared? It is
made from Indian corn and by an extremely simple process. It is,
indeed, the same method as was employed before the conquest.

First of all, the grains of maize are moistened by water and allowed
to sprout, just as barley is treated in the manufacture of beer. After
this the product is dried and roasted in a large earthen jar. Then by
means of a piedra de molar--a kind of crude mortar--like the metate,
which the Mexican uses for reducing maize to meal, the grains are
ground, and then put into hot water and allowed to ferment. As a result
of germination and the action of hot water, the starch of the maize
is converted into sugar. This, by fermentation, is next changed into
alcohol, which gives to chicha its intoxicating property. This is less
noxious than that which is produced by boiling the maize and adding to
the chicha thus obtained a certain amount of panela, or molasses. [233]

When properly prepared, it is an agreeable and wholesome drink,
not unlike cider or light beer. I have frequently seen it used at
meals by the best families--people who would never think of serving
at their table a harmful or intoxicating beverage. Bürger, I know,
condemns it, because he asserts it is rich in fusel oil, and because,
he maintains, it has a brutalizing effect on those who use it as a
beverage. Not having seen a reliable chemical analysis of chicha,
I am not prepared to accept his view of the subject. The same writer,
it may be remarked, decries cassava bread, because, he will have it,
it is composed for the most part of cellulose.

On our way from Villeta to Guaduas, we were obliged to pass two
lofty mountain crests, El Alto del Trigo and El Alto del Raizal. It
was then again for the hundredth time that we admired the sagacity
of the mule, and the importance of having one that is familiar with
service in the mountains. If the camel deserves the epithet--"ship of
the desert," the mule is entitled to being considered the aeroplane
of the mountains. For the way he scales the highest peaks, almost
rivaling the condor in the altitudes he is capable of attaining,
and the manner in which he, with perfect security, glides along
the narrow, dizzy paths of the precipitous mountain slopes, is a
matter of ever-increasing wonder. We never, I confess, became quite
reconciled to the habit all mules have of keeping on the side of the
path next to the precipice--except when they meet animals coming from
the opposite direction, when they instinctively crowd closely to the
over-hanging mountain--but we soon learned that the mule had as much
care for his safety as we had for our own, and then the danger, we at
first so much dreaded, became more apparent than real. It is curious,
but a fact, that a mule left to himself will almost always follow in
the footsteps made by his predecessor, and no persuasion can induce
him to deviate from the beaten path. So regular and so constant is
his pace that one could almost determine in advance the number of
steps he will make from one point to another.

He rarely stumbles and still more rarely does he fall. And no matter
how deep may be the chasm along whose brink he carefully feels his
way, he never suffers from vertigo nor makes a false step. Certain
travelers tell us blood-curdling stories about their mules losing
their balance and plunging headlong into dark, deep ravines, but
during all my travels among the Andes, I never heard of such a thing
and, from what I know of the supreme carefulness of the mule when
in dangerous places, such an accident seems most unlikely. If he is
overloaded, he files a protest by lying down and refusing to rise until
relieved of a part of his burden. Occasionally, too, when he reaches
a suitable level spot, he may take it into his head to have a roll,
and he incontinently proceeds to gratify this inclination before his
rider is aware of his intention.

I recall particularly how disconcerted and disgusted C. was on one
occasion, when his mule, on arriving at a specially dusty place in
the road, lay down without giving the slightest notice of his purpose
and proceeded to take a roll, before his rider was able to extricate
himself from his uncomfortable position. For a proud caballero who,
when he happened to be the cynosure of a group of admiring señoritas
and faded dames of quality, would fain pose as a scion of Castilian
nobility, this was an indignity that merited condign punishment. The
consequence was that whenever, thereafter, C. noticed a suspicious
movement in his mount, he forthwith proceeded to ply him with a tough,
pliable rod from a coffee bush, which had the effect of distracting, at
least temporarily, the mule's attention to matters of greater moment.

Among the many objects that were to us a source of constant wonder
and delight in the tropics were the butterflies. We met them in
countless species in the most unexpected places, especially during
our journeyings in the lower altitudes. Here we found them of the most
brilliant hues and of every color of the spectrum. In some districts,
as for instance between the Nevada de Santa Marta and the sea, there
are at times clouds of them, and their number is then comparable only
with the millions of medusæ that people certain parts of the ocean. At
times owing to their prodigious numbers and their gorgeous colors,
one could, without a great stretch of the imagination, fancy one's
self gazing at fluttering bits of a shattered rainbow. The largest
and most beautiful is the Morpho Cypris, having an expanse of wing of
fully six inches, a bright cobalt-blue above, and ocellated underneath.

According to Hettner, [234] the people around Muso, where the
celebrated emerald mines are located, will have it that there is a
mysterious relationship between the mineral emeralds buried in the
earth and "animal emeralds" that flit through the air. How like the
fancy of the aborigines of Trinidad--that the glittering colibris
formerly occurring in such numbers in that island were the souls of
departed Indians!

Quite rivaling the butterflies in splendor and adornment are the
beauteous humming birds that are met with from ocean level to mountain
summit. Poets and naturalists have essayed in vain to portray their
marvelous richness of coloring and their magic evolutions as they dart
from flower to flower, or balance themselves above some bright fragrant
corolla while drawing from it its precious nectar. As well might the
painter try to transfer to canvas the glories of the setting sun as
to copy the iridescent hues of such glowing mites of the feathered
tribe as the Ruby Throat or the Fiery Topaz. Truly, they as well as
the noted paradiseines of New Guinea should come under the expressive
designation of birds of Paradise. [235]

After a hard day's ride we reached Guaduas just as the sun had dropped
behind the mountain to the west. Guaduas in Spanish signifies bamboos,
and the town was given this name on account of the large number of
these giant, tree-like grasses that formerly grew in and about the
place. Even now numerous clumps of bamboo may be seen here, especially
along the many water courses which intersect the delightful valley
in which the town is located.

It is really remarkable for how many purposes the bamboo is used in
the equatorial regions. It is employed in building houses, bridges,
rafts, fences, for making planks, beams, rafters, bedsteads, benches,
tables, buckets and small vessels for holding molasses, aguardiente
and other fluids, and for various other domestic utensils too numerous
to mention. Indeed, to the poorer classes of the Colombian Andes, it
is almost as useful as is the banana plant to the native of Uganda,
who contrives to get from it everything he uses except meat and iron.

In the plaza of the town there is a monument erected to the patriotic
heroine, Policarpa Salavarrieta, who was shot in Bogotá during
the War of Independence, by order of the viceroy, for the part
she took in assisting those who were fighting against the mother
country. Throughout Colombia her memory is held in benediction, and
the story of her tragic death has been a favorite theme for poet and
historian as well.

Our first view of Guaduas, in its charming setting of perennial
verdure, illumined by the crimson glow of the setting sun, was a
picture of surpassing charm. It bodied forth all the tranquillity,
verdancy and loveliness which Humboldt found in Ibague than which


       "Nil quietius, nil muscosius, nil amoenius."


The spell was broken, however, when we entered the town. We then
found to our regret that it was another of so many instances where


       "Distance lends enchantment to the view."


So favorably situated and with so agreeable a climate, it could
easily be made one of the most delightful places of residence in the
republic. Let us hope that this is what it shall be in the approaching
dawn of a new era.

Before leaving Bogotá, we had been told by a noted English traveler
to be on the lookout for a remarkable view towards the west, from the
summit of El Alto del Sargento. "Be sure not to miss it," he said, "for
from that point you will behold one of the most magnificent panoramas
in the world." We were at first inclined to regard this statement as
the usual exaggeration of the tourist, but were, nevertheless, eager
to contemplate a prospect so famed for beauty and sublimity. [236]

In order to reach the crest of the mountain, before the clouds
gathered about El Sargento, which usually occurs about midday, we
made an early start from our posada, where we had found commodious
and fairly comfortable quarters, and were soon on our way up the
last of the Serranias--mountain ridges--that separated us from the
Magdalena valley.

It was about eleven o'clock when we arrived at the summit of El
Sargento. We had just rounded a tree-covered eminence, that concealed
the view towards the west, when all of a sudden, there burst upon
our vision, what was, to me at least, the most superb spectacle I
had ever contemplated. C. and I instinctively stood still in silent
rapture. As the picture appeared to us, it surpassed by far all
that had been said in its praise. Not even half the truth had been
told. Our emotion was too great for words, and, as we paused in mute
admiration, one of us at least recalled a similar experience enjoyed
by three other travelers in the Guadarrama mountains of Spain. It is
thus recorded in Longfellow's The Spanish Student: [237]


       "Victorian. This is the highest point.
               Here let us rest.
        See, Preciosa, see how all about us,
        Kneeling, like hooded friars, the misty mountains
        Receive the benediction of the sun.
        O glorious sight!

        Preciosa. Most beautiful indeed!

        Hypolito. Most wonderful!"


In the foreground beneath our feet, was the wooded slope of
El Sargento. In the distance, near the mountain's base, were the
picturesque towns of San Juan and Ambalema. Further on, like an immense
opalescent band, was the meandering Magdalena. Beyond it were the
broad plains of Mariquita, which extended as far as the foothills of
the Central Cordillera. Over and above these, veiled in an azure haze,
and piercing the clouds, were the snow-crowned mass of Ruiz and the
Mesa de Herveo, and slightly to the left, but towering above all the
neighboring peaks, was Tolima, the giant of the Colombian Andes. [238]

But it was not merely the physical features just mentioned, that
produced the admirable picture that held us spellbound. It was the
marvelous combination of light and shade, the position of the sun in
the heavens, and the strange optical illusions caused by the bright and
fleecy clouds that constantly swept over the landscape. These factors
gave rise to an ever-changing perspective, and at times, exaggerated
distances and magnitudes in the most extraordinary manner. Each
change developed a new picture and each one was, if possible, more
beautiful than that which it replaced. It seemed as if the genius
of the Andes wished to give us, as we were leaving his domain,
a series of dissolving views on a stupendous scale. View succeeded
view with kaleidoscopic rapidity, all distinguished by color-schemes
of supreme delicacy and splendor. At one time we caught a glimpse
of a cloud-grouping that recalled Raphael's Disputa. Perhaps in his
Umbrian home Nature had gladdened the great artist's soul with a
similar view. Perhaps he had caught it from some lofty peak of the
Apennines while gazing at the apparition of the morning sun from
beneath the blue waters of the Adriatic.

Who can tell? What we do know is that he has reproduced in the
exquisite creations of his transcendent genius just such cloud-effects
as rejoiced our vision on that memorable day when we bade adieu to
the Eastern Cordilleras. Never before had mountain scenery occasioned
us keener delight. Only once before had it been my privilege to
contemplate a vista at all approaching the one that unfolded itself
before us in the picturesque valley of the Magdalena. That was long
years ago, as I stood on the summit of Mt. Parnassus. It was a balmy
morning in summer. "Rosy-fingered dawn" was just making her appearance
beyond the plain where Troy once stood, and was hastening to gladden
by her smile the islands of the Ægean and the one-time famous land
of Hellas. Then I beheld, spread out before me, the greater part of
Greece, together with the countless islands that engirdle it. It was
a panorama which I then thought was unequaled in the wide world. But
beautiful, sublime, glorious as it undoubtedly was, it has since
yielded the palm to the unrivaled vista that greeted us from the
summit of El Sargento.

"How Turner and Ruskin," we exclaimed, "would have reveled in
such scenic splendor! How it would have delighted the heart of
Claude Lorrain, the painter of idyllic scenes and the master of
aerial perspective! What ecstatic joy would not Gaspard and Nicholas
Poussin, Ruysdael and Corot, have experienced in the presence of such
exuberant vegetation, such sparkling streams and fleece-like clouds,
such grandiose mountains with their spotless mantles of eternal snow!"

And how such a spot as El Sargento would have appealed to the esthetic
soul of St. Benedict or to such lovers of wild nature as St. Bruno,
or St. Francis, the poverello of Assisi! Had they found such a place,
it would undoubtedly have been chosen as a site for a temple, like
our Lady of the Angels, or a monastic retreat like that of Monte
Casino or the Grande Chartreuse. [239]

We were still under the spell of the matchless pictures engraved on our
memories long after we had started on our way down the mountain. Before
we had realized it, we had passed from the tierra templada to the
tierra caliente. We were again in the dense and luxuriant forests of
the lowlands--in a region of perpetual summer, like unto that which
we had left behind us in the valleys of the Meta and the Orinoco. We
had left the habitat of the coffee plant and the oak and were now in
the territory of the cacao and the tolu tree, the vanilla vine and
the moriche palm. Far above and behind us, on lofty mountain peaks
where sunbeams "glide apace with shadows in their train," were the
favorite haunts of the fleet and sporting Oreades. Our path was now
through a dense, gloomy forest where Silence and Twilight,


                                  "Twin sisters keep
        Their noonday watch, and sail among the shades,
        Like vaporous shapes half seen." [240]


It was in such a sombre forest as this, we fancied, where, under
the influence of a fertile soil, perpetual warmth and humidity, the
teeming earth, in later geologic time, fed the countless monsters that
depended on her bounty. It was amid such surroundings that they were
wont to hold high carnival, or engage in that struggle for existence
which resulted in the survival of the fittest, until finally all were
swept away by some fatal agency of which we know so little. Had we
seen a megatherium or a mylodon or a megalonyx crossing our path,
or observed a mastodon pushing his bulky form through the dense
underbrush; had we seen a screaming pterodactyl passing over our heads,
or beheld a giant iguanodon floundering in the morass by the wayside,
or browsing on the succulent crowns of the Mauritia flexuosa, we
should have regarded it all as in perfect keeping with our environment.

Our reveries were suddenly disturbed by the soft, dulcet notes of the
tiple. Only a short distance ahead of us, reclining against a mango
tree, was an amorous young mestizo, who was fondly gazing on his dusky
querida, while thrumming his instrument. She, during the serenade [241]
of her ardent suitor, sat on the door-sill of a bamboo dwelling with
a palm-thatched roof, having seemingly no thought beyond satisfying
the cravings of two little nude, paunchy, bananniverous urchins,
apparently her brother and sister--Pablo and Julia by name--who, like
ebony statuettes, were standing at her knee and clamoring for another
banana from a bunch suspended from a rafter above the cabin door.

Farther on was another cabin, from which issued coarser notes of
shouts and laughter. It was a chicheria, and the chicha there served
was evidently the cause of the good nature and general merriment that
prevailed. We then discovered that we were on the outskirts of a small
pueblo, just across the river from the goal of our day's journey. Our
long, yet delightful ride across the oriental Andes was at an
end. Crossing a steel suspension bridge, the noblest structure of the
kind in the republic--which here spans Colombia's great waterway--we
were in Honda, the head of navigation for the lower Magdalena.



CHAPTER XII

THE VALLEY OF THE MAGDALENA


               "Salud, Salud, majestuoso rio!...
                Al contemplar tu frente coronada
                De los hijos mas viejos de la tierra,
                Lleno solo de ti, siento mi alma
                Arrastrada en la espuma de tus olas,
                Que entre profundos remolinos braman,
                De aquel gran ser que el infinito abraza." [242]

                                            --Manuel M. Madiedo.


While in Guaduas we met a Scotch engineer, who was superintendent
of a gold mine in the mountains west of Honda. Desiring to know the
truth about the excessive temperature of this place, about which we
had heard so many reports, we asked him if it was really true that
the heat in Honda was as intense as represented.

"You will," he said, "find it the hottest place you have ever
visited. It is certainly the most torrid place I know, and I have
been something of a globe-trotter in my time. Hades, if I have
caught the meaning of the word, as used in the Revised Version, is
quite temperate in comparison with it. Business frequently calls me
to Bogotá, and, on my way thither, I must necessarily pass through
Honda, but I never stop there longer than is absolutely necessary,
and I always try to avoid being there in the daytime. If I must stop
there for a few hours, I time my journey so as to arrive there at
night, and make it a point to leave before morning. Hot? I think it
is the hottest and most suffocating spot on earth. It has always been
a mystery to me how people can live there at all. I know of nothing
to compare it with except one of the burning pits of Dante's Inferno."

Had we not learned by long experience how to discount such statements,
the prospect of spending some days in a town with such a reputation
for grilling the stranger within its gates, would have been anything
but inviting. But we had heard similar reports about the llanos
and the valley of the Orinoco, and had found, on arriving in these
regions, that the temperature said to prevail there had been greatly
exaggerated. The same we found to be true of Honda. During our
sojourn there, our thermometer never registered more than 86° F. in
the shade. Of course, around midday it was uncomfortable in the sun,
but I have been in many places in the United States where I suffered
more from the heat than I did in Honda.

The town is about seven hundred feet above sea level and counts nearly
four thousand inhabitants. It is separated into two parts by the river
Guali, which here enters the Magdalena. Being the centre of traffic
for Bogotá, the upper Magdalena, and the mining district round about
Mariquita, it is a place of considerable importance. As soon, however,
as the Colombian National Railway, now nearing completion, shall
have connected Girardot with Bogotá, Honda will lose the commercial
supremacy it has maintained for nearly three centuries. There will
then be little reason for a town in this place, and it will lapse
into a straggling village similar to many others along the river.

And the Muisca Trail, over which we had so delightful a ride, will
be no longer needed, and will soon disappear in the dense and rank
vegetation through which it passes. Then, too, will disappear those
long and picturesque mule-trains, that so often crowded us to the
roadside on our way from Bogotá, and which have been almost the sole
means employed for the transportation of freight and passengers since
the capital was founded by Quesada nearly four centuries ago. We shall
always congratulate ourselves that we were able to make the trip
on mule-back rather than by a railway train. We can thus feel that
we have, to a great extent, seen the country as it was in colonial
times--before its character was modified by the innovations of modern
progress and the introduction of modern inventions.

In 1805 Honda was visited by a terrific earthquake, from the effects
of which it has never recovered. Everywhere are evidences of the
frightful cataclysm. Some of the largest and most important structures
are still in ruins. Nor has any attempt ever been made to restore
certain quarters of the town to their prior condition.

After a few days' halt at Honda, we were ready to continue our
journey towards the Caribbean. The rapids of the Magdalena make
it impracticable for steamers to ascend the river as far as the
town. For this reason, it is necessary to go by rail to La Dorada,
eighteen miles northwards. But, although the distance is so short,
it takes two hours for the train to make the run. The road, however,
passes through a picturesque country and time passes pleasantly
and quickly. Before one realizes it, one is at La Dorada, where the
transfer is made to the steamer bound for Barranquilla.

There are several lines of steamboats plying between La Dorada and
Barranquilla and intermediate points. But all the boats, which are
stern-wheelers, are quite small. The largest of them will not carry
more than four hundred tons. Usually the tonnage is much less--not more
than one or two hundred tons. [243] Our boat, which was recommended as
the best and the most comfortable on the river, was one of the largest
and newest, but, if it was the best, it is difficult to conceive what
the others must have been.

A glance was sufficient to convince us that the craft on the
Magdalena are in every way inferior to those on the Orinoco and its
affluents. The Venezuelan boats are larger, and with incomparably
better equipment and appointments. They are clean, well kept, and the
service is good. Their cabins are commodious and well ventilated. They
are, besides, provided with all necessary furniture and the berths
are as comfortable as could be desired.

But how different is it on the Magdalena boats! In the cabins, in
place of berths with neat bedding, there is a bare cot, usually of
questionable cleanliness. Each passenger is supposed to supply his
own bedding. As to lavatories and bathrooms, those that we saw were
filthy beyond description. Our stewards were half-dressed, barefooted,
slovenly, unwashed negro boys, who seemed to have been picked up on
the streets at random, just before the boat left its moorings. The
cuisine and service were in keeping with everything else, and left very
much room for improvement. The natives, having nothing better, seemed
to be satisfied with the conditions that obtained. The foreigners,
however, and there were representatives of several nationalities
aboard, could never become reconciled to the lack of so many things
essential to comfortable traveling, and were always glad when their
river experiences were at an end.

For ourselves, who had been roughing it so long, the trip down the
river was not so trying as it was for many others. We were, besides,
better prepared for such a journey than the other passengers. We had
our camping outfits with us, together with clean bedding, which had
received the attention of the laundress before we left Bogotá. We
had, besides, good cumare hammocks, and mosquito nets, so that we had
nothing to apprehend from filth, vermin or insects. Thus equipped,
we really enjoyed our voyage on the Magdalena, but we were probably
the only ones who did.

After we had gotten fairly started down stream, and could contemplate
at our leisure the rich tropical vegetation that fringed both
banks, our minds reverted to the first trip made down this river
by Europeans. The travelers were the celebrated conquistadores,
of whom mention has already been made, viz., Quesada, Belalcazar
and Federmann. They embarked with a number of soldiers at Guataqui,
a short distance above Honda. But they had scarcely started on their
downward course, before they encountered the rapids at the mouth of
the Guali. They were then obliged to unload their two brigantines and
canoes and transport their contents to the lower part of the cataract,
whence, after reloading, they were able to proceed again on their
long journey to Cartagena.

It was while passing this point that Quesada learned from his Indian
boatmen of the existence of gold in the valley of the Guali. In
consequence of this information, the town of Marquita was founded
without delay, and has ever since been a mining centre of considerable
importance. It was in this place that Quesada died after his return
from Spain. From here his remains were transferred to the Cathedral
of Bogotá, where they still repose.

According to Padre Simon, Quesada and his companions were frequently,
during their journey down the river, attacked by Indians, "who
came out to salute them and speed their way with a shower of
poisoned arrows." "With the help of God," he continues, "joined to
eternal vigilance, their own valor and a liberal supply of powder
and firearms with which the soldiers of Belalcazar were provided,
they were able finally to arrive at Cartagena, and give the first
information regarding the great campaign in which Quesada and his
followers had achieved such signal success." [244]

The Magdalena, like many other water courses in South America, was at
first known as the Rio Grande--the great river. It was subsequently
given the name it now bears in honor of St. Mary Magdalene. [245]
At times it is comparatively narrow and deep. Then navigation is easy
and without danger. At other times,


       "Shallow, disreputable, vast
        It spreads across the western plains."


Then progress is difficult, and the boat may run into a sand bar
at any moment. And if the river should then be falling, it may be
impossible to get the craft free until the water rises. Only a short
time before our trip one of the steamers had been held in a sand bank
for forty days. As it was not near any place where provisions could
be obtained, the passengers suffered greatly from hunger, not to
speak of the suspense and enforced detention on an uncomfortable boat.

Owing to the shallowness of the river, the boat was, during the first
part of the voyage, always tied up for the night at the first tree
or stump that might be found on the bank at sunset. The following
morning we were supposed to resume our journey at daybreak, but,
as the firemen did not begin to get up steam before that time,
it was usually an hour after sunrise before we were under way. We
stopped at every village and warehouse along the river, sometimes
to deliver the mail, often consisting of only a single letter or
package, or to take on a passenger. Two or three times a day, also,
we halted to take on wood to supply the furnace with fuel, for here,
as on the Meta, coal is not used. Fortunately, we were never obliged,
as on the Meta, to delay until the wood could be cut. Large wood piles
are found every few miles all along the river. They usually belong to
a negro, who has a hut or shed near by, together with a small garden
and a few domestic animals which supply him and his family with food
in their sequestered home.

We stopped at several large warehouses, many of them constructed
of corrugated iron from the United States. This seems strange
in a land where timber is so abundant. But there are no sawmills
in the Magdalena valley. South of Barranquilla--where but little
lumber is produced--imported lumber would be more expensive and less
durable than iron. At these places the chief articles of merchandise
are coffee, cacao, hides and vegetable ivory. This last product,
also called ivory nuts, is the fruit of a species of palm known
as Phytelephas macrocarpa, [246] and constitutes, in this part of
Colombia, an important article of commerce. For many things it is
a good substitute for elephant ivory, which it rivals in whiteness,
beauty and solidity, and collecting it for shipment gives occupation
to quite a number of the poor inhabitants of the Magdalena valley.

We usually went ashore at the different landing places to see the
people and familiarize ourselves with their mode of life. It was
generally as simple and primitive as possible--almost as primitive,
in some instances, as we conceive it to have been in the Quaternary
period or in the days of the Troglodytes. Often their dwellings were
little more than palm-thatched sheds--barely sufficient to shield their
occupants from sun and rain. A tulpa, consisting of three stones,
served them in lieu of a stove, and on this they broiled the fish
caught in the river, or prepared their arepas--corn cakes--or their
sancocho, a kind of ragout, as popular in some parts of Colombia as
it is in Venezuela.

We were surprised to see in the houses and shops along the Magdalena
valley--what we had often observed in various parts of Colombia and
Venezuela--the large number of illustrated circulars of Spanish,
English and French proprietary medicines. The insides of certain
houses were sometimes quite plastered over with them. But what was
more surprising was the number of lithographs we saw of the German
Emperor. Sometimes he was represented alone, at others he was depicted
as surrounded by the members of his family. In several places we saw
pictures not only of the emperor and his family, but also those of his
father and grandfather and Bismarck. And the remarkable thing about it
was that, in some cases, there were no Germans living within hundreds
of miles of where we came across these pictures. Had some enthusiastic
Teuton tried to start a propaganda in favor of the Vaterland by
distributing broadcast these engravings of the imperial family? I
know not, but, judging solely from the number of their pictures we
came across in Venezuela and Colombia, one would be led to suppose
that the Hohenzollern rulers are the most popular of potentates,
at least in this part of South America.

While stopping to take on some rubber at a certain small village, we
had a remarkable illustration of the rapidity with which the bed of
the river is sometimes changed, even when the water is comparatively
low. We had scarcely reached the landing place when there was a
terrific crash, occasioned by the falling in of a large section of the
bank on which the village was built. Soon afterwards another section
gave way, and then a third and a fourth. The whole bank seemed to be
undermined by the river, and, although the warehouse was fully fifty
feet away from the water when we arrived, so much of the bank had been
carried away in less than half an hour, that not only the contents of
the building, but also the building itself had to be hurriedly removed
in order that it and the merchandise stored within might not be borne
away by the resistless current. As the structure was of light bamboo,
and put together with a view to such an emergency, the transfer
was not a difficult task. When we started to continue our course,
it looked as if the eroding action of the river would necessitate
the changing of the site of the entire village before nightfall.

Such changes in the course of the river are not uncommon. They are
going on all the time in some part or other of the valley. One may
frequently see immense masses of earth suddenly detached, which are a
serious menace to the champans [247]--large covered flat-boats--and
other small craft that happen to pass by at the time. Sometimes the
giants of the forest are thus wrested from their footholds, and may be
seen drifting down stream together with masses of vegetation attached
to them. At times, too, masses of earth, like floating islets, are
visible, and may travel a long distance down stream before their
course is arrested by an island or a sand bar.

Ordinarily the changes in the river bed are gradual and occasion
little danger to life or property. Sometimes, however, during the
rainy season, and when the flood is unusually high, widespread
devastation is the result. Whole villages are swept away by the
deluge; and towns, that were before important commercial centres,
are suddenly isolated and left far from the navigable part of the
river. Places that before were favorably situated are, after the flood,
found to be in the midst of pestiferous morasses. Such has been the
fate of many places along the waterways of Colombia, but more notably
in the great island of Mompos, near the confluence of the Cauca and
the Magdalena. Here several places that were at one time centres of
industrial and agricultural activity, have long since either ceased
to exist or lost entirely their pristine importance.

The town of Mompos is probably the most remarkable example of this
kind. Founded in 1539 by Alonso de Heredia, it is one of the oldest
towns in the republic, and was for generations the most important
commercial centre between Cartagena and Honda. But owing to a
displacement of the main channel of the river, and the filling in
of the branch of the river on which the town was built, it is now
practically deprived of its former means of communication with the
rest of the country, and is rapidly verging towards extinction.

The Magdalena, as a commercial highway, has been much neglected. As
a consequence, no one can calculate when leaving Honda, how long it
will take him to reach Barranquilla. It may require five or six days,
or it may demand twice that much time. All depends on the shifting
bed of the river, or the blocking of the channel by sand bars and
accumulations of floating timber. By reason of these obstructions and
the ever-varying depth of the main channel, navigation is usually
impossible at night, except below the island of Mompos, where the
volume of water is swelled by the tribute of the mighty Cauca.

If the Magdalena were under the supervision of a corps of competent
engineers, having at their disposal the necessary dredges and other
appliances for keeping the main channel in prime condition, a properly
constructed boat would easily make the trip from Honda to the mouth
of the river in two days, and traverse the same course up stream in
three days at most. It is really a pity to see such a splendid water
course so neglected. If cared for as it should be, it could easily be
rendered an artery for inland commerce of the first importance. As it
is, transportation, as now carried on, is always slow and uncertain,
and never free from danger and disaster.

As a serviceable means of communication with the outside world we
were constantly contrasting the Magdalena with the Meta. From our
observations, we should consider the Meta, from its junction with the
Orinoco to Cabuyaro or even to the mouth of the Humea, as a safer
waterway than the Magdalena. Only twice did our boat graze a sand
bank in the Meta, but it continued its course without a moment's
stoppage. In the Magdalena, however, we frequently ran into sand
bars, or shallow water, and, on several occasions, had difficulty
in extricating and floating our craft. Once we were delayed for some
time, and began to fear that, owing to the falling water, we should
be stranded for weeks, as other boats had been not long before.

When peace shall have been firmly established in Colombia, and its
finances shall have been placed on a satisfactory basis, the patriotic
and far-seeing statesmen of the republic, will, I am convinced, see
the necessity of carrying out the plan of the former Archbishop and
Viceroy of New Granada--Don Antonio Caballero y Gongora--and connecting
Bogotá with Europe by means of the Meta and the Orinoco. It will not be
a difficult feat of engineering to build a railroad from the capital
to a suitable point on the Meta, and the length of such a road need
not exceed one hundred and fifty miles at most. This will bring Bogatá
within eight or ten hours of the head waters of navigation, and develop
the most valuable and most productive grazing section of the country.

The highest point the road need reach in crossing the Eastern
Cordilleras will be less than that of several passes in Colorado,
where the Rocky Mountains are scaled by the iron-horse with a long
train of cargo behind him. The pass of Chipaque, by which we entered
the altiplanicies of Bogotá, is several thousand feet lower than
the heights crossed by the railways leading from the waters of the
Pacific to Lake Titicaca, and to Argentina by way of Cumbre Pass,
and is nearly a mile lower than the point where the Galera tunnel
pierces the Cordillera on the way from Lima to Oroya. [248]

What Colombia really needs is the betterment of both its great
waterways--the Meta for the eastern and the Magdalena for the western
part of the republic. Until they shall both have been put in such
condition as to be navigable during the entire year, it will be
impossible fully to develop the marvelous resources of this extensive
country. River traffic will always remain cheaper than traffic by rail,
and, on account of many physical difficulties, it is highly improbable
that certain valuable sections of territory will ever be tapped by
railroads. When, however, these two main arteries of commerce shall
have received the attention they deserve and shall have been put in
communication with the rich grazing, mining and agricultural regions
by the various lines of railway that are contemplated or in course of
construction, Colombia will at once take a position among the richest
and most flourishing republics of South America. Only those who have
traveled through it can fully realize its wonderful natural riches,
or form an adequate conception of its vast extent. Sufficient to state
that its area is more than ten times as great as the state of New York,
or as great as that of France, Germany and the British Isles combined.

As to the great Pan-American line which has been projected to connect
New York with Buenos Ayres, that is talked of in Colombia as well
as in the United States. But when one contemplates the enormous
engineering difficulties to be encountered in the construction of
the section extending from Costa Rica to the frontier of Ecuador,
one is compelled to regard the project as a much more arduous
undertaking than some of its enthusiastic promoters would have us
believe. Railway communication will soon be complete from Buenos
Ayres to Central Peru, and, judging by work now being accomplished
in Ecuador, steel rails will soon span the country from the northern
to the southern boundaries of this republic. But with all this work
completed, the most difficult part of the colossal enterprise will
still remain untouched. Even should the road eventually be completed,
as is possible, it is still doubtful whether long stretches of it
would ever pay even a nominal interest on the investment.

The part of the Magdalena valley between Honda and the island of
Mompos is but sparsely inhabited. Most of the inhabitants are Indians,
mestizos, or negroes, the descendants of former slaves. [249] On
account of the heat and malaria that always prevail in the lowlands,
but few white men are found here, and their sojourn, as a rule, is only
temporary. But near the confluence of the Cauca and the Magdalena, and
thence to the Caribbean, there are rich and extensive esteros--grazing
lands--covered with succulent Para and Guinea grasses, several feet
high. In these broad plains, there are no fewer than half a million
cattle, not to speak of large numbers of horses, mules and other
domestic animals. Some of the cattle we saw reminded us of the fat,
sleek animals we had seen on the llanos watered by the Rio Negro and
the Humea. Under more favorable conditions the number could greatly
be increased.

The scenery along the Magdalena is much like that along the Meta
and the Orinoco, except that along the western river one sees more
of the mountains, especially in the southern part. The vegetation is
similar in character and quite as varied and exuberant. On both sides
of the river trees and bushes are so massed together as to form an
impenetrable wall. Everywhere there is a veritable maze of creeping
plants, of bromelias, bignonias, passifloras. And everywhere, too,
are lianas--aptly named monkey-ladders--which bind tree to tree and
branch to branch. Usually they are single, like ropes--whence their
name bush ropes--but often they are twined together like strands in a
cable. Frequently they are seen descending from the topmost part of a
tree to the ground, where they forthwith strike root and present the
appearance of the stays and shrouds of a ship's main mast. And where
there is air and sunshine, these lianas, which often form bights
like ropes, are loaded with epiphytes of all kinds, and decorated
with the rarest and most beautiful orchids. Indeed, the regions on
both sides of the Magdalena have long been favorite resorts for the
orchid hunters in the employ of the florists and merchant princes
of the United States and Europe. From here these bizarre vegetable
forms are shipped by thousands. One enthusiastic English collector
tells us how he secured, as the result of two months' work about ten
thousand plants of the highly prized Odontoglossum. But to obtain
these orchids he was obliged to fell some four thousand trees.

"The most magnificent sight," he writes, "for even the most stoical
observer, is the immense clumps of Cattleya Mendelii, each new bulb
bearing four or five of its gorgeous rose-colored flowers, many of them
growing in the full sun, or with very little shade, and possessing a
glowing color which is very difficult to get in the stuffy hothouses
where the plants are cultivated. Some of these plants, considering
their size and the slowness of growth, must have taken many years to
develop, for I have taken plants from the trees with five hundred
bulbs, and as many as one hundred spikes of flowers, which, to a
lover of orchids, is a sight worth traveling from Europe to see." [250]

It is when contemplating the marvelous variety and luxuriance of
intertropical flora--of which one in our northern climes can have no
adequate conception--that one is tempted to exclaim with Wordsworth:--


       "It is my faith, that every flower
        Enjoys the air it breathes." [251]


And if the extraordinary claims which Professors Wagner, France and
G. H. Darwin make for plants be true, viz., that they have minds
and are conscious of their existence, that they feel pain and have
memories, then, indeed, should we be disposed to regard the exuberant
and wondrously developed plants of the equatorial world as occupying
the highest plane in the evolutionary process of vegetable life.

Passing the embouchure of the Opon, on the right bank of the Magdalena,
evoked, in a special manner, memories of Quesada and his valiant
band. It was here they left the Magdalena during that memorable
expedition that made them the undisputed masters of the country
now known as Colombia. More than eight months had passed since
they had started from Santa Marta on their career of discovery and
conquest. The difficulties they had to encounter and the sufferings
they had to endure were extreme. Mosquitoes, wasps, ants and other
insects; reptiles and jaguars gave them no rest, day or night. Certain
kinds of worms, the old chroniclers tell us, buried themselves in the
flesh of the exhausted and half-famished men and caused them untold
agony. Indians everywhere laid ambush for them, and assailed them with
poisoned arrows from every point of vantage. Even the elements seemed
to conspire against them. There was a continual downpour of rain,
so that it was impossible to light a fire for any purpose. Their
arms were almost destroyed by rust, and they were left without a
single dry charge of powder. Their provisions became exhausted and
starvation stared them in the face. To preserve life they devoured
their sword scabbards and every article of leather they had with
them. There was incessant thunder, unchanging gloom, eternal horror,
and other features of the pit infernal. Their course was through dense
underbrush and pestiferous swamps and up precipitous acclivities,
whither they had to drag their weakened horses by long lianas that
served the purpose of ropes. [252]

Finally, after the most heroic efforts, they came to a place where
they found provisions--a veritable land of promise for the suffering
but intrepid Spaniards. They had left behind them the inhospitable
sierras of the Opon, and were on the verge of the fertile plateau
of Cundinamarca, that constituted the home of the Muiscas. Here
they found maize, potatoes, [253] yucas, beans, tomatoes and, as
Padre Simon phrases it, "a thousand other chucherias--titbits--of
the aborigines." Well could they, in the language of Castellanos,
exclaim, with thanksgiving:

"A good land! A good land! A land which puts an end to our suffering,
a land of gold, a land of plenty. A land for a home, a land of
benediction, bright and serene."

It was then that the enthusiastic soldiers, whose courage would often
have faltered, had it not been for the determination and perseverance
of their invincible leader, gathered around Quesada to congratulate
him on the successful issue of his great undertaking, and to assure
him of their undying loyalty in any future enterprise in which he
might require their services.

And well they might render the noble licentiate the meed of praise he
so well deserved, for had it not been for him, the expedition would
have been a failure, and they would undoubtedly have perished before
they could have returned to Santa Marta, as had so many of their
companions, who had turned back before the ascent of the Cordillera
was begun. To some of his officers who, in view of the unheard-of
difficulties they had to encounter, recommended that the expedition
be abandoned, he replied that he would regard as a personal enemy any
one who, in future, would make such a pusillanimous proposal and one
so foreign to Spanish valor.

All in all, he was one of the bravest and most humane of the
conquistadores, and successfully performed a task before which a less
valorous commander would have given up in despair. His achievements
obscure by their brilliancy and daring those of Amadis and Roldan and
are in no wise inferior to those of any of the conquistadores. They
may truthfully, in the words of Bacon, written anent a performance
of Sir Richard Grenville, be styled as "memorable beyond credit,
and to the height of some heroical fable."

Quesada has taken his place in Valhalla among the greatest of the
world's heroes, and his memory will endure as long as splendid deeds of
prowess shall stir the souls of men. Of him and his gallant companions
one can say what Peter Martyr wrote of their countrymen in general:--

"Wherefore, the Spanyardes in these owre dayes and theyr noble
enterpryses, doo not gyue place eyther to the factes of Saturnus,
or Hercules, or any other of the ancient princes of famous memorie,
which were canonized amonge the goddes cauled Heroes for theyr
searchinge of newe landes, and regions, and bringinge the same to
better culture and ciuilitie." [254]

Lower down the Magdalena, on the left bank of the river, we
approached the scene of the exploits of another of the distinguished
conquistadores--Pedro de Heredia, the founder of Cartagena. After he
had reduced to submission the Indians who had been victorious over
Ojeda, he started towards the Magdalena, where he collected such
immense treasures of gold that when it was divided, each soldier
received no less than 6,000 ducats. This was the equivalent of
$48,000 in gold at the present valuation of this metal, and was the
largest apportionment of spoil, at least, so far as private soldiers
were concerned, made during the conquest. [255] He afterwards made
a similar expedition to the territories drained by the San Jorge and
the Nechi, affluents of the Cauca, in search of the rich veins whence
the Indians extracted their gold. He did not find the objects of his
quest, but came across several rich cemeteries, in which the dead had
been interred with their jewels, and a sanctuary with idols adorned
with plates of gold. From these he secured treasures to the amount
of more than $3,000,000 of our money. [256]

Strange as it may seem, the method Heredia resorted to of securing
gold, the rifling of the huacas--burial places--of the aborigines,
has been continued until the present day. There are still men in
Colombia, notably in Antioquia--huaqueros, they are called--who gain
a livelihood by searching for huacas and extracting from them the
gold and emeralds they frequently contain.

The year before our trip there appeared in an English magazine,
the following paragraph in an article purporting to give a picture
of the Magdalena valley and its life:--

"Anchored in the forest at midnight, the traveler hears the deep
growl of the jaguar, the sharp squeal of the wild cat, the howl of
the howler monkey, the long moan of the sloth, and the last scream
of the wild pig, pierced by the claws of some patient but ferocious
animal ambushed during the past hour, with many other sounds of life,
terror and conflict that fall strangely on the European ear, and,
if he waits and watches until the dawn, he may see the alligator
dragging his ugly bulk out of the water, crowds of turtles trailing on
the sands, the deer and the tapir coming down to drink, thousands of
white cranes on the branches nearest to their prey, thousands of gray
ones already wading leg-deep, and many more thousands of other birds
clouding the dim horizon, all waiting for the light ere they begin
their work of life and slaughter.... With the alligators in shoals at
the bottom of the river, and the millions of birds above its surface,
one wonders how any fish are left, yet the river is always literally
teeming with fish, as though conscious of the demands it has to meet."

Although we were always on the alert, so as to miss nothing of
interest, especially anything that concerned the animal life of
the tropics, we must confess that in all our experience we never
heard growls, squeals, howls, moans, screams, or other sounds of
terror and conflict, either along the Magdalena or anywhere else in
South America. And we spent nearly a year in the country, and often
traveled weeks at a time in the wild virgin forest, far away from human
habitations of every kind. Nor did we ever perceive any of the animals
that certain tourists would lead one to believe can be seen in such
numbers everywhere, even from the deck of a passing steamer. Nowhere
along the Orinoco, the Meta, the Magdalena, or elsewhere, did we ever
catch even a glimpse of a jaguar or a puma, a manati or a sloth, a
wild cat or a wild pig. More than this, not once, during our entire
trip through Venezuela and Colombia, through forests and plains, did
we ever see a single monkey, except two or three that were kept as
pets by the natives. This may seem an incredible statement. I would
have believed such an experience as ours to be absolutely impossible,
especially in view of what writers and travelers in South America
have told us regarding the immense number of wild animals of all
kinds everywhere visible in equatorial wilds. But I am stating a fact
that I am quite unable to reconcile with the contrary experiences of
others who, according to their own admission, have seen but little,
compared with what we saw, of the lands through which we passed. I
have seen more large game on the plains of New Mexico and Wyoming,
from the window of a Pullman car, in a single trip to and from the
Pacific coast, than I ever saw in the wilds of South America during
nearly a twelvemonth.

Nor did we ever see along the Magdalena, or anywhere else, the
"thousands of white cranes on branches," nor the "thousands of gray
ones wading leg-deep," nor the "many more thousands clouding the
dim horizon," of which the writer of the above-mentioned article
professes to have been the fortunate spectator. We rarely saw more
than a few dozen cranes at a time--never a hundred, and I have reason
to believe we enjoyed very favorable opportunities, at least during
a portion of our long journey, for seeing what was to be seen. At no
time did we ever observe as many birds in the air at one time as I
have frequently seen in the United States. I feel safe in asserting
positively that the number of wild pigeons I have frequently noted
in a single flock in the United States, would more than equal that
of all the birds combined that we saw while in the tropics.

Mr. F. Lorraine Petre evidently had an experience somewhat similar to
ours. In his recent work on Colombia, he tells us frankly that one
sees little of animal life on the Magdalena, that "of the mammalia
one sees and hears little.... Of the jaguars, the pumas, the sloths,
the peccaries, the deer, the tapirs, and other animals, dangerous
or harmless, we saw or heard as little as we did of the bears which
inhabit the hills beyond. It is surprising that, tied up, as we often
were, right against the forest, we should not have heard the night
call of the carnivora, or the sharp bark of the frightened deer,
but truth compels us to admit that we did not, and, moreover, that
the cry of even the howling monkey did not salute us." [257]

The number of birds observed along the Magdalena was not greater
than I have frequently seen in the valleys of the Missouri or the
Columbia. Most of these were parrots and macaws. Always noisy and
restless, always flying and climbing about, except when eating fruit or
cracking nuts, one is at times tempted to describe them as feathered
relatives of the monkey. The parrots are sometimes seen in flocks,
and their piercing cries are at times almost deafening. They are a
sociable bird and are usually seen in considerable numbers. The macaws
are remarkable for always flying in pairs, and for their brilliant
colors. Their body is flaming scarlet, their wings are tinged with
various shades of red, yellow, green and blue, while their tail is
bright blue and scarlet. They, too, like parrots, are very vociferous,
and, although they may occasionally be found in large numbers, they
always fly two and two.

The large animals most frequently seen along the Magdalena, as along
other tropical rivers, are those horrid monsters, "ambiguous between
sea and land," the cayman and "the scaly crocodile." But even they
are not so numerous as certain travelers would have us believe. The
largest number we ever saw at one time was fifteen. They were sunning
themselves on a playa--sand bank--below the island of Mompos. On
the Orinoco and the Meta we never beheld more than eight at any one
time--unless we were to count a number of little ones, just hatched,
which Luisito, our colored boy, caught one day while we were taking
on wood on the lower Meta. [258]

The early Spaniards called all these saurians by the general name of
lagartos--lizards. The English afterwards spoke of a single animal as
a lagarto, whence the present name alligator. Modern writers speak
of them indiscriminately as alligators or crocodiles. As a matter
of fact, several species of both alligators and crocodiles are
found in the equatorial regions. But, notwithstanding all that has
hitherto been written about them, their distinction and definition,
their classification still remains a matter of difficulty. Some
specimens have been found whose classification is so perplexing that
naturalists are still undecided whether to regard them as crocodiles
or alligators. In this respect they are much like Shakespeare's two
lovers, "Two distincts, division none."

The name cayman is employed in Venezuela and Colombia to designate any
of these saurians. Following the classification adopted in the British
Museum the cayman is distinct from both alligator and crocodile. More
than this. According to the British system of classification, there
are no alligators at all in South America, while, in the waters of
Colombia and Venezuela, there are two species of crocodile and three
species of cayman.

Probably more fabulous accounts have obtained about crocodiles than
about any other animal. In spite of the old saying to the contrary,
they never shed tears. And notwithstanding the fact that the ancient
Egyptians gave the crocodile divine honors, because, being tongueless,
it was made in hieroglyphical writing, a symbol of the Divinity,
it is now known that the tongue of this erstwhile god is quite
large, except at the tip. Similarly, all the stories that have so
long been current about the impenetrability of the animal's hide,
are quite without foundation. How often have we not been told that
it is impossible to kill a crocodile, with even the best Winchester,
unless the ball enter the eye or strike under the soft, fleshy parts
of the front legs? Their plated skin is easily pierced by an ordinary
rifle or revolver, and a mortal wound ensues whenever a vital part
is penetrated.

Not less erroneous are the ideas that so widely prevail regarding the
ferocity of the crocodile and the cayman. On the contrary, they are,
in their native state, very timid animals, and rarely exhibit hostility
towards man, except when cornered. Then, like most other animals,
they will fight with great fierceness. They make for the water as
soon as they see one approach them, and it is often far from easy
to get near them. We often saw the natives enter rivers frequented
by crocodiles and caymans, something they surely would not have done
if the danger were as great as ordinarily imagined. In Venezuela the
Indian or mestizo has a much greater dread of the ray or carib fish
than of the cayman. [259]

Some attempts have been made, both on the Orinoco and the Magdalena,
to secure the hides of crocodiles and caymans for commercial purposes,
but the expense of preparing them for the market proved to be so
great that the work had to be abandoned. [260]

The early explorers of the New World had many stories to tell about
the cayman and the crocodile, and many of them have apparently
survived among the natives until the present day. But there were
many other animals that made even a greater impression on them. It
will suffice to reproduce Peter Martyr's quaint account of two of
these representatives of the American fauna. The first is the tapir,
of which he writes as follows:--

"But there is especially one beast engendered here, in which nature
hath endeuoured to shew her cunnyng. This beaste is as bygge as an oxe,
armed with a longe snoute lyke an elephant, and yet no elephant. Of
the colour of an oxe and yet noo oxe. With the houfe of a horse,
and yet noo horse. With eares also much lyke vnto an elephant, but
not soo open nor soo much hangying downe: yet much wyder then the
eares of any other beaste." [261]

The other animal that excited the wonder of Martyr and his
contemporaries was the sloth, of which he says:-- "Emonge these trees
is fownde that monstrous beaste with a snowte lyke a foxe, a tayle
lyke a marmasette, eares lyke a batte, handes lyke a man, and feete
lyke an ape, bearing her whelpes abowte with her in an owtwarde bellye
much lyke vnto a greate bagge or purse. The dead carkas of this beaste,
you sawe with me, and turned it ouer and ouer with yowre owne handes,
marueylynge at that newe belly and wonderful prouision of nature. They
say it is knownen by experience, that shee neuer letteth her whelpes
goo owte of that purse, except it be eyther to play, or to sucke,
vntyl suche tyme that they bee able to gette theyr lyuing by them
selues." [262]

The part of the valley below the confluence of the Cauca and the
Magdalena was quite different from that above. The country contained
more inhabitants, and the dense forests that had hitherto bordered
the river gave place to broad savannas, on which grazed thousands of
cattle, so buried in the Para and Guinea grasses, that frequently we
could discern only their horns. Along the river banks were the estates
of well-to-do haciendados--some of them foreigners--and the villages,
that before were extremely rare, became more numerous. The aspect of
the country was less wild than that through which we had just passed,
and betokened a certain measure of prosperity, at least so far as
the grazing interests were concerned.

We could now travel day and night, for the river was so deep that
sand bars were no longer to be apprehended. And then we had the most
delightful moonlight nights. The air was balmy and laden with an
exquisite fragrance,


       "Mild as when Zephyrus on Flora breathes,"


a constant invitation to repose and dolce far niente. The surpassing
loveliness of the scene, the magic stillness of the vast solitude
through which we were so peacefully gliding, the broad expanse of
one of the world's great rivers, the weird silhouettes cast by the
passing palms on the moonlit waters--all these things contributed
towards rendering our last night on the river a fitting finale to
the others--all of which were in the highest degree enjoyable. Seated
on the forward deck of our steamer, we could exclaim in the words of
the choric song of Tennyson's Lotos-Eaters:--


       "How sweet it were, hearing the downward stream,
        With half-shut eyes ever to seem
        Falling asleep in a half-dream!

        Resting weary limbs at last on beds of asphodel."


The following morning--our last day on the Magdalena--found us at
Calamar. Here some of our fellow-passengers disembarked to take the
train to Cartagena, sixty-five miles to the westward. From Calamar
to Barranquilla, the chief northern terminus of river navigation,
is sixty-six miles. This distance we expected to make in a few hours,
but for reasons presently to be given, we were unexpectedly delayed
within sight of Barranquilla, the goal that marked the completion of
another important stage in our journey.

Our last day on the Magdalena was a bright balmy one in June. We spent
the entire time on the forward part of the upper deck, fanned by the
delightful breezes that were wafted from the Caribbean. The river here
has about the same width as has the Mississippi at New Orleans, but
the scenery is far more attractive. It flows through a broad, level,
grass-covered savanna, which extends beyond the limits of vision, and
which is dotted here and there with small villages and flourishing
haciendas. Some of the houses near the river banks have a most cozy
appearance. They are almost embowered in a mass of flowers of every
hue, and surrounded by lofty palms whose lovely emerald coronals were
each a picture of rarest beauty.

"These princes of the vegetable world" always had a peculiar
fascination for us, no matter where we saw them. And during our long
journey from the delta of the Orinoco they were never absent from view
even for a single hour. When one species disappeared it was replaced
by another, and thus they followed us from the Atlantic wave to the
lofty crest of Suma Paz. The ocean-loving cocoa gave place to the
moriche, and this was in turn succeeded by the corneto of the llanos
and the wax palm of the Sierras. [263]

It is quite impossible for the inhabitants of our northern climes
to have anything approaching an adequate conception of the grace
and beauty and surpassing loveliness of the omnipresent palms of
the equatorial world. Away from heat and sunshine, they are quite
devoid of the luxuriance and stateliness that characterize them in the
tropics. In Europe, for instance, there is but a single palm that is
indigenous--the Chamærops humilis. The date palm was introduced from
the East. In the tropics, however, about eleven hundred species of
palms are known, and there is reason to believe that, when this part
of the world shall have been thoroughly explored, many new species
shall be discovered.

The habits as well as the habitats of palms were a source of unfailing
interest to us. Some are solitary and are rarely found forming groups
with other trees of their species. Others, like the date palm, are
quite gregarious and often form extensive clumps. Others still are
said to be "social," because they occupy extensive tracts almost to
the entire exclusion of other kinds of trees. Various species of
Mauritia, Attalea, Cocoa and Copernicia are social palms, and the
palmares--palm groves--formed by them constitute the most attractive
features of tropical landscapes.

We once saw near the river's bank a grove of this kind composed of
palms of unusual height and beauty. It had been selected as the last
resting place of the denizens of a neighboring village, and was,
to our mind, the most beautiful cemetery in the world. Could we have
our choice, we should prefer, by far, to repose under one of those
noble frond-bearing shafts to being shelved away in the costliest
marble vault of Père Lachaise.

Certain palms affect the open savanna, others seek the solitudes of the
forest, while still others are most frequently found midway between
these two--that is, on the belt of land that separates forest from
plain. Some palms, like the cocoa, seem to require an atmosphere that
is slightly saline, and thrive best near the ocean's shore. Others
apparently attain their greatest development in marshes and lowlands,
while others again demand the arid plain or the lofty mountain plateau.

In spite of their noble appearance and their aspect of perennial youth,
palms, as a rule, are short-lived. None of them ever attain the age of
the venerable patriarchs of our northern forests. According to Martius,
the span of a palm's life never exceeds that of a few generations
of men. The areca catechu runs its course in forty or fifty years,
the cocoa attains an age of one hundred or one hundred and twenty
years at most, while the date palm, which probably lives the longest,
usually rounds out its existence within the period of two centuries.

Some palms, like the Metroxylon, for instance, never survive
fructification. It fruits but once, and then, as Martius so graphically
expresses it, "nobilis arbor mox riget, perit et cadit"--the noble
tree presently withers, perishes and falls. But, continues the same
writer, "there is pleasure and solace in the thought that palms
never die without yielding fruit, thereby insuring the continuance
of the species." And then, as is his wont when opportunity offers,
he takes occasion from this circumstance to moralize as follows:
"To labor, to flourish, to fructify is granted not only to the palm
but to man also." [264]

In the foregoing pages I have mentioned some of the countless uses
made of palms, especially by the inhabitants of the tropics. It would,
however, require a large volume to enumerate all the purposes for
which they are employed. It can, however, safely be asserted that
no family in the great vegetable kingdom more completely meets the
necessities of millions of people than does that of the noble and
ever-beautiful Palmaceæ.

Like Martius, we always found in the contemplation of the palm a source
of special joy and peace. To him the palm was what literature was to
Cicero, a consolation in trial and affliction, and the delight and
inspiration of maturer years. In the palm we always found something
to elevate the mind, something that fascinated us and stirred our
emotions in a manner that often surprised us. For us, as for myriads
of others who have lived and struggled and attained the goal of the
heart's desire, the palm was the emblem of victory, of a higher and
better life beyond the tomb, of a happy, glorious immortality.

As we gazed in silent delight at the broad expanse of the
green-carpeted savanna, adorned with the graceful, columnar shafts and
feathery fronds of the ever-beautiful, ever-majestic palm, we could
easily fancy ourselves in the valley of the Euphrates or in the plains
of Babylon, as described by Herodotus and Xenophon. And, without any
effort of the imagination, we could descry, in a palm-shaded village
in the vista before us, Jericho, as Moses saw it, when the Land of
Promise was a land of palms, as well as a land of milk and honey, and
when Judea was so prolific in palms that one of its representatives
was chosen as the symbol of the country. [265] We dreamed of Zenobia's
fair capital, Palmyra--the city of Palms--of the land of the Nile,
where Isis and Osiris carried palms as the symbol of their fecund
power. We recalled the enthusiastic words of the ancient poets--Hebrew
and Greek--in praise of the gracefulness and magnificence of the palm,
and the plaintive elegy of Abdul Rhaman, first calif of Cordoba,
who, exiled from Damascus, his home, thus addresses the date palm,
that reminds him of the land of his birth: "Thou, also, beautiful
palm, art here a stranger. The sweet zephyr of Algaraba descends and
caresses thy beauty. Thou growest in this fertile soil and raisest
thy crown to the skies. What bitter tears thou would'st shed, if,
like me, thou hadst feeling!" [266]

While thus musing on the glories of the past and contemplating the
splendors of the present, which were passing in rapid succession
before our enchanted vision, we instinctively repeated the words of
the reverent poet-naturalist, Martius, who, contemplating the marvels
of the tropical palm-world, expressed the depth of his emotion by
the two words, Sursum corda--hearts heavenward!

Just then our reveries were suddenly and unexpectedly interrupted.

We had, early in the day, been congratulating ourselves on making
our voyage down the river without delay and without accident. We
were now within sight of Barranquilla and expected to land in
less than an hour. We were in the full enjoyment of one of those
delightful day-dreams that we always loved to indulge in, whenever
Flora displayed before us, as she did then, her choicest treasures,
when suddenly, without premonition of any kind, there was a violent
lurch of the boat, a creaking and a crushing noise abaft, a quick
stoppage of the engine, all of which indicated that something unusual,
if not serious, had befallen our ill-fated craft. A hasty examination
showed that the steamer had collided with a sunken tree, and that
several of the float-boards of the stern-wheel had been loosened,
or partially wrenched from their places. After considerable delay
the boatmen were able so to repair the damage that we were able to
continue on our journey, although at a reduced speed.

Very shortly afterwards there was a second and a much severer
crash. We had encountered another hidden tree. This time several
of the float-boards were carried away from the wheel entirely, and
the wheel itself was so racked that repair, while on the river,
was quite impossible. Fortunately, as we were going down stream,
we were able to float to the entrance of the canal that leads to the
docks of Barranquilla. Here a crowd of stevedores from the town soon
congregated. These men, mostly negroes, agreed, after some parleying,
to haul the boat to the landing place. They, accordingly, took hold
of a long rope, which was thrown ashore, and soon the disabled steamer
was being conveyed to her moorings in the same fashion as a canal boat
is drawn along by mules in tandem. We reached the wharf the fifth day
[267] after leaving Honda, just as the sun was setting, and when the
customs officers were about to close their office for the night. They,
however, kindly allowed us to disembark and we were soon on our way
to a hotel.

"How fortunate," C. exclaimed, "that this accident did not occur
midway up the river!" Such a mishap would have entailed much suffering
and might have delayed our arrival at Barranquilla, for days, if not
for weeks. And considering our happy escape from the detentions and
disasters from which so many others had suffered, and the peculiar
episode that characterized our last hours on the Magdalena, we were
forcibly reminded of the words of Dante:--


       "Let not the people be too swift to judge.

                                    For I have seen
        A bark, that all her way across the sea
        Ran straight and speedy, perish at the last
        E'en in the haven's mouth." [268]



CHAPTER XIII

IN THE TRACK OF PLATE-FLEETS AND BUCCANEERS


                "O'er the glad waters of the dark blue sea,
                Our thoughts are boundless and our souls as free,
                Far as the breeze can bear, the billows foam,
                Survey our empire and behold our home!
                These are our realms, no limits to their sway,
                Our flag the sceptre all who meet obey.
                Ours the wild life in tumult still to range
                From toil to rest, and joy in every change."

                                            --Byron, The Corsair.


Barranquilla, a city of about sixty-five thousand inhabitants,
is notable for being the chief port of entry of Colombia. It is
estimated that two-thirds of the commerce of the republic converges
at this point. To us, coming from the interior of the country, where
comparatively little business is transacted, the place seemed to be a
marvel of activity and business enterprise. It counts a large number
of important business houses, the chief of which are controlled
by foreigners. It is provided with tram-ways, electric lights,
telephones, a good water supply and, in many respects, reminds one
of our progressive cities on the Gulf Coast. Many of the private
residences, especially in the more elevated quarters of the city,
are models of comfort and good taste. The average annual temperature
is 80° F., but the refreshing breezes from the Caribbean make it seem
less. At no time during our sojourn of more than a week in the city,
had we reason to complain of the excessive heat of which so much has
been said and written.

Although Barranquilla was founded in 1629, it is only within the
last third of a century that it has come to the front as the leading
entrepot of the republic. Before this time, Cartagena and Santa Marta
were Colombia's principal ports and busiest marts. This change in
the relative importance of these three ports was effected by the
construction of a great pier at Savanilla and connecting it with
Barranquilla by rail. After this both Cartagena and Santa Marta
rapidly dwindled in importance as distributing centres, while the
growth of Barranquilla was correspondingly rapid. Were it not for the
banana industry, controlled by the United Fruit Company, an American
corporation, Santa Marta's trade would now be little more than nominal.

But why, it will be asked, do not ocean vessels dock at Barranquilla
instead of unloading so far away from the city? The usual answer given,
and in a way the correct one, is that the Magdalena is not deep enough
to permit the passage of so large vessels. We saw one venturesome
ocean liner stranded near the mouth of the river on a sand bar, where
it had been washed and pounded for nearly two years. Many attempts had
been made to float her but without success, and it seemed as if she
was destined to remain a captive of the treacherous shoal that had
so long held her in its unyielding grasp. The real reason, however,
for not having the landing place where it should be--in the city
itself--is the lack of the capital that would be required to dredge
the river, and enlarge the canal, and keep them both in a condition
that would insure the safe passage of vessels of heavy draft. Given
an engineer like James B. Eades, of Mississippi jetties fame, and
the necessary capital, the improvement would soon be effected.

Before leaving Bogotá we had planned to reach Barranquilla in time
to take an English steamer from Savanilla--Puerto Colombia--to
Colon. We then flattered ourselves that, after reaching the mouth of
the Magdalena, we should have no difficulty in making connection for
any part of the world, and that delay in continuing our journey was
the last thing to be apprehended.

But alas and alack! Where we least expected it, we were doomed to
disappointment. We had crossed the continent without a single failure
to connect, as we had anticipated, except at Barrigón, where we were
detained a day, and had not experienced a single disagreeable delay,
and now, when we had reached the world lines of travel, we were
informed that the steamer we had intended to take had been laid up
for repairs, and that we should be obliged to wait a week before
another would arrive.

There was nothing to do but resign ourselves to the
inevitable. Barranquilla is not a place where a traveler would
care to remain long as a matter of choice, but we managed to make
ourselves comfortable. The time passed more quickly and pleasantly
than we anticipated, but, just as we began to make preparations for our
departure, we found ourselves the victims of a new disappointment. The
steamer that we were to take was forbidden to land at Savanilla, in
consequence of having stopped at Trinidad, which was then reported
to be infected by the bubonic plague.

"Truly," we said, "we are getting into the region of mañana--delay and
disappointment--just at the moment when we thought we were leaving it."

We had been so fortunate thus far, and that too in lands where, we had
been assured, everything would be against us and where the best-laid
plans would be frustrated, that we were ill prepared for delay where
it was least expected. Happily for us, however, a steamer, having
a clean bill of health, but belonging to another line, was due in a
few days, and this we determined to take, for we did not know when we
should be able to get another one. When once the plague appears in the
West Indies, or on the mainland bordering the Caribbean, quarantine
regulations are strictly enforced, and the luckless traveler may find
himself a prisoner for weeks, and even months, in a place that is
practically destitute of the commonest comforts and conveniences of
life. Then, indeed, his lot--especially if he is not familiar with
the language of the country--is far from enviable. I have met with
many people who, under such untoward conditions, had to endure the
greatest privations and sufferings.

By the greatest good fortune, it seemed to us, we finally got aboard a
good, comfortable vessel. It was not, however, bound for our objective
point--Colon--but for Puerto Limon, in Costa Rica. This, although we
did not know it at the time, was a blessing in disguise. Had we gone
directly to Colon, we should have been obliged to spend some time in
quarantine. By going to Costa Rica, we escaped this and were able,
during a week, to combine utile dulci--study with pleasure--under
the most favorable and delightful circumstances.

From Puerto Colombia we went directly to Cartagena--a city that,
in some respects, possessed a greater interest for us than any we
had hitherto visited in South America. We entered this famous harbor,
large enough to hold all the navies of the world, early in the morning,
just as the sun was beginning to impart a subdued roseate glow to
the tiled roofs of the loftier buildings of the once flourishing
metropolis of New Granada.

The picture of Cartagena, as it first presented itself to our view,
was one of rarest loveliness. As we then saw it, it was not unlike
Venice as seen from Il Lido or from the deck of a steamer arriving
from Trieste. From another point as we advanced into the placid bay,
we discerned in it a resemblance to Alexandria, as viewed from the
Mediterranean. As Venice has been called the Queen of the Adriatic,
so also, and justly, did the beauteous city of Pedro de Heredia long
bear the proud title of Reina de las Indias y Reina de los Mares,
Queen of the Indies and Queen of the Seas.

One of the first cities built on Tierra Firme, it was also, for a
long period, one of the most important places in the New World. Its
fortifications and the massive walls that girdle it have long been
celebrated. Even now these are the features that have the greatest
attraction for the visitor. Stupendous is the only word that adequately
characterizes them. Their immensity impresses one like the pyramids of
Ghizeh, and this impression is fully confirmed when one learns their
cost and the number of men engaged in their construction. It is said
that from thirty to one hundred thousand men were employed on this
titanic undertaking, and that it cost no less than fifty-nine million
dollars--a fabulous sum for that period. This reminds one of what
historians relate regarding the building of the pyramid of Cheops,
the greatest and most enduring of human monuments, as the walls of
Cartagena are the grandest and most imposing evidence of Spanish power
in the western hemisphere. So great was the draft made on the royal
exchequer by the construction of these massive walls that Philip II,
so the story runs, one day seized a field glass and looking in the
direction of Cartagena, murmured with disenchanted irony: "Can one
see those walls? They must be very high, for the price paid?"

No wonder that Charles V was always in need of money, and that,
to secure it, he was forced to mortgage a large tract of land in
Venezuela to the Welsers, the German bankers of Augsburg. No wonder
that Philip II, despite the stream of gold and silver that flowed into
his coffers from his vast possessions beyond the sea, was, during the
second half of his reign, forced to see his royal signature dishonored
by bankers who refused him further credit!

Cartagena in Colombia was named after Cartagena in Spain, as the
Spanish city, founded by Hasdrubal as an outpost to serve in future
Punic campaigns, was named from the celebrated Tyrian emporium that
was so long the rival of Rome. And when the sons of the Caribbean
Carthage sailed up the Cauca to establish new colonies and extend the
sphere of Spanish influence and enterprise, they commemorated their
triumph, and exhibited their loyalty to the land of their birth,
by founding still another Carthage--the Cartago of the Upper Cauca.

And what an eventful story is that of the Caribbean Cartagena! What
changes has she not witnessed! What fortunes of war has she not
experienced! What disasters has she not suffered! Like her African
prototype, whose very strength caused her rival on the Tiber to
decree her downfall, Cartagena seemed to be singled out for attack
by all the enemies of Spain for long generations. Her cyclopean
walls, that seemed to render her impregnable, did not save her. Time
and again she was assaulted by pirates and buccaneers, who levied
heavy tributes and carried off booty of inestimable value. Drake,
Morgan, Pointis [269] and Vernon attacked and ravaged her in turn,
but unlike the Carthage of the hapless Dido, she still survives. And
notwithstanding the four long sieges she sustained and the vicissitudes
through which she passed during the protracted War of Independence,
when she was hailed as La Ciudad Heroica--The heroic city--her walls,
after three and a half centuries, are still in a marvelous state of
preservation and evoke the admiration of all who behold them.

Everywhere within the city, which during colonial times enjoyed
the monopoly of commerce with Spain, are evidences of departed
grandeur. Churches, and palaces and monastic institutions, beautiful
and grandiose, still retain much of the glamour of days long past. In
the charming plazas, shaded by graceful palms and adorned with
richest tropical verdure and bloom; along the narrow streets flanked
by spacious edifices and ornamented with multi-colored balconies
and curiously grated windows, one feels always under the spell of
a proud and romantic past, of an age of chivalry of which only the
memory remains. The architecture of many of the buildings, erstwhile
homes of wealth and culture and refinement, is Moorish in character
and carried us back to many happy days spent in fair Andalusia in
its once noble capitals, Granada and Seville.

Strolling along the grass-grown pavements of Cartagena, we note in the
former flourishing metropolis what Wordsworth observed in Bruge's town,


                    "Many a street
        Whence busy life has fled."


But we also discern unmistakable signs of an awakening to a new
life, and of the dawn of a new era of prosperity and mercantile
greatness. Notwithstanding the venerable years in which she is at
present arrayed, we can, without being horoscopists, safely presage
that the benignant stars are sure to bring


       "What fate denies to man,--a second spring."


To enjoy the best view of Cartagena, one must ascend an eminence to
the east of the city called La Popa, from its fancied resemblance to
the lofty stern of a fifteenth century ship. There, seated under an
umbrageous cocoa palm, fully five hundred feet above the beautiful
iris-blue bay that washes the walls that encircle the city, one has
before him one of the most charming panoramas in the world; one which
during more than three centuries, was the witness of some of the most
stirring events in history. In the broad, steep harbor, protected
on all sides by frowning fortresses, the Spanish plate-fleets long
found refuge from corsairs and sea rovers. It was here, when pirates
and buccaneers made it unsafe to transport treasure by the Pacific,
that gold and silver were brought from Bolivia to Peru, Ecuador and
New Granada by way of the Andean plateau and the Cauca and Magdalena
rivers.

One is stupefied when one considers what an expenditure of energy
this implied. Think of transporting gold and silver ingots a distance
of more than two thousand miles, over the arid deserts of Bolivia and
Peru, and across the chilly punas and paramos of the lofty Cordilleras;
of securing it against loss in passing along dizzy ravines, across
furious torrents, through the almost impenetrable forests of New
Granada, often infested by hostile Indians. And remember, that, for
a part of this long distance, these heavy burdens had to be carried
by human beings, for no other means of transportation were available.

And when one considers the amount of the treasure thus transported
from points as distant as the flanks of Potosi and the auriferous
deposits of the distant Pilcomayo, the wonder grows apace. According
to the estimates of reliable historians, the amount of gold and silver
imported into Spain from her American possessions from 1502 to 1775 was
no less than the colossal sum of ten billion dollars. [270] Nearly two
billions of this treasure were taken from the famous silver mines of
Potosi alone. The greater part of the bullion from Peru was shipped
by the South Sea to Panama and Nombre de Dios and thence carried to
Spain in carefully guarded plate-fleets. But after the pirates and
buccaneers became active along the western coast of South America,
the ingots of the precious metals, yielded by the mines between
Chile and the Caribbean were transported overland and deposited in
carefully guarded galleons awaiting them in the harbor of the Queen
of the Indies.

But even then the treasure was not safe. It was, indeed, much more
exposed on the way from Cartagena to Palos and Cadiz than it had
been from the time it had been dispatched from the smelter until its
arrival at the great stronghold on the Caribbean. For then, suddenly
and without warning, like a flock of vultures that had scented carrion
from afar, there gathered from all points of the compass English
buccaneers, French filibusters, and Dutch freebooters and harassed
the galleons until they succumbed. So successful did these daring sea
robbers eventually become that no galleon dared to venture alone on
the waters of the Indian seas, and only strongly guarded plate-fleets
could hope to escape capture by their alert and venturesome enemies,
who swarmed over the Caribbean from the Lesser Antilles to Yucatan,
and terrorized the coast of the Spanish Main from one end to the other.

One loves to conjecture what might have been if Charles V or Philip
II had been endowed with the genius of a Napoleon or a Cæsar. Masters
of the greater part of Europe, and undisputed sovereigns of the major
portion of the Western Hemisphere, with untold wealth continually
pouring into their treasury, then was the time--the only time,
probably, in the history of the modern world--to realize Dante's fond
dream of a universal monarchy. But neither Charles nor Philip had the
genius required, and the one opportunity, that ever presented itself,
of making Spanish possessions coextensive with the world's surface,
was lost and lost forever.

The sun was rapidly approaching the western horizon when we took our
departure from the beautiful and picturesque harbor of the Queen of
the Seas. In a short time the coast of what was once known as Castilla
del Oro--Golden Castile--had disappeared from our view and the prow of
our vessel was directed towards the historic land of Costa Rica--the
Rich Coast--discovered by Columbus during his fourth voyage.

The night following our visit to Cartagena was an ideal one, a
night for wakeful dreams and the sweet delights of reverie. There was
scarcely a ripple on the waters, and the stars of the firmament seemed
to shine with an unwonted effulgence. All was peace and tranquillity,
and everything seemed to proclaim the joy of living.

How different was old Benzoni's experience in these same waters and
during the same season of the year! "In consequence of contrary winds,"
he tells us, "we remained there seventy-two days, and in all this time
we did not see four hours of sunshine. Almost constantly and especially
at night, there was so much heavy rain, and thunder and lightning,
that it seemed as if both heaven and earth would be destroyed." [271]

The experience of Columbus was even more terrifying. In a letter to
Ferdinand and Isabella, giving an account of his fourth voyage, the
great navigator informs them that, so great was the force of wind
and current, he was able to advance only seventy leagues in sixty
days. During this time, there was no "cessation of the tempest,
which was one continuation of rain, thunder and lightning; indeed,
it seemed as if it were the end of the world.... Eighty-eight days
did this fearful tempest continue, during which I was at sea, and saw
neither sun nor stars." [272] The name Cape Gracias á Dios--Thanks
be to God--which he gave to the easternmost point of Nicaragua and
Honduras, still remains to attest his gratitude for his miraculous
escape from what for many long weeks seemed certain destruction.

It was our good fortune, during all our cruising in the Caribbean,
to enjoy the most delightful weather, but we never appreciated it
so much as we did during our voyage from Cartagena to Puerto Limon,
and more especially during the first night after our departure from
the Colombian coast. We were then sailing in waters that had been
rendered famous by the achievements of some of the most remarkable men
named in the annals of early American discovery and conquest, where
every green island and silent bay, every barren rock and sandy key,
has its legend, and where, at every turn, one breathes an atmosphere
of romance and wonderland.

At one time we were following in the wake of the illustrious Admiral
of the Ocean; at another we were in the track of Amerigo Vespucci
and Juan de la Cosa, that brave Biscayan pilot who was regarded by
his companions as an oracle of the sea. Rodrigo de Bastidas, Alonso
de Ojeda and Diego de Nicuesa passed this way, as did Vasco Nuñez de
Balboa, the discoverer of the Great South Sea, who, his countrymen
declared, never knew when he was beaten, and who, according to Fiske,
was "by far the most attractive figure among the Spanish adventurers
of that time." [273] The Pizarros and Almagro sailed these waters,
before embarking at Panama on that marvelous expedition which resulted
in the conquest of Peru. And so did Orellana, the discoverer of the
Amazon, and Belalcazar, the noted conquistador and rival of Quesada
and Federmann. And then, too, there was Gonzalez Davila, the explorer
of Nicaragua, and Hernando Cortes, the conqueror of Mexico.

And last, but the best and noblest of them all, was the gentle and
indefatigable Las Casas, the protector of the aborigines and the
Apostle of the Indies, whose memory is still held in benediction in all
Latin America. His voluminous writings, making more than ten thousand
pages octavo, much of which is devoted to the defense of the Indians,
constitute a monument which will endure as long as men shall love truth
and justice. But his greatest monument--one that is absolutely unique
in the history of civilization--is his former diocese of Chiapa, which
is just northwest of the land towards which we are sailing. When he
went to take possession of it, it was occupied by savage warriors who
had successfully resisted all attempts made by the Spaniards to subdue
them. It was considered tantamount to certain death to enter their
jealously-guarded territory. But Las Casas, armed only with the image
of the Crucified and the gospel of peace, soon had these wild children
of the forest prostrate at his feet, begging him to remain with them
as their father and friend. So successful was his work among them that
the land which, before his arrival, had been known as La Provincia
de Guerra--The Province of War--was thereafter called La Provincia de
Vera Paz--The Province of True Peace--a name it bears to the present
day. And more remarkable still, this particular part of Guatemala is
said to have a denser Indian population, in proportion to its area,
than any other part of Latin America. Truly, this is a monument worthy
of the name, and one that would have appealed most strongly to the
loving heart of the courageous protector of the Indians. [274]

But discoverers and explorers, conquistadores and apostles, were
not the only men who have rendered this part of the world forever
memorable. There were others, but many of them were of a vastly
different type. I refer to the pirates and Buccaneers, who so long
spread terror in these parts and ultimately destroyed the commercial
supremacy of Spain in the New World, and contributed so materially
to the final extinction of her sovereign power. Many of them have
written their names large on the scroll of history and often in
characters of blood. Many of them were pirates of the worst type,
who flew at every flag they saw, who recognized no right but might,
and whose sole object was indiscriminate robbery on both sea and
land. These outlaws, however, have no interest for us now.

Besides these unscrupulous and sanguinary pirates, there was another
class of men whom their friends and countrymen insist on grouping
in a class by themselves. The majority of these were Englishmen, of
whom the most distinguished representatives, along the Spanish Main,
were Raleigh, Hawkins and Drake. When these men did not act under
secret commissions from their government, they relied on its tacit
connivance in all the depredations for which they are so notorious. In
the light of international law, as we now understand it, they were
as much pirates as those who attacked the ships of all nations, and
as such they have always been regarded by Spanish writers. All three
of the men just mentioned made their raids on Spanish possessions
while England was at peace with Spain. Thus the two nations were at
peace when Drake sacked Panama in 1586, as they were at peace when
Raleigh attacked Trinidad in 1595. These sea rovers lived up to the
old forecastle phrase, "No peace beyond the line" [275] and recognized,
at least in the Spanish territory in the New World, no law of nations
except that


       "They should take who have the power,
        And they should keep who can."


"The case," as old Fuller quaintly puts it in his Holy and Profane
State, "was clear in sea-divinity; and few are such infidels as not
to believe doctrines which make for their own profit."

So far as England acquiesced in, or connived at what the Spaniards
always denounced as downright piracy, it was doubtless ever with
the view of weakening the menacing power of the dominant Spanish
empire. She was also actuated by "an aggressive determination
to break down the barriers with which Spanish policy sought to
enclose the New World and to shut out the way to the Indies." In this
determination England had the sympathy of France and often its active
coöperation. For a similar reason Dutch sea rovers swarmed over the
Caribbean Sea. All were aware of the magnitude of the struggle in
which they were engaged, and realized that their existence as nations
depended on their crippling their common enemy by striking at the
sources of his power in the Western Hemisphere.

Much might be said of the reckless audacity, brilliant achievements
and skillful seamanship of these privateers or pirates--whatever one
chooses to call them--that read more like fable or romance than sober
chronicles of authentic fact, but space does not permit. Besides,
we are more interested in another class of sea rovers of a later
date, whose names and exploits are inseparably connected with the
West Indies and the great South Sea. I refer to the Buccaneers, or,
as they called themselves, the Brethren of the Coast.

Our knowledge of these extraordinary adventurers is derived mainly from
themselves. Of English Buccaneers the most interesting narratives have
been left us by Sharp, Cowley, Ringrose and Dampier. The Frenchman,
Ravenau de Lussan, has also left us a record of value. The most popular
work, however, and the one that gives us the truest insight into
the manners and customs of the Brethren of the Coast, and recounts
with the greatest detail their deeds of daring and cruelty, is that
given to the world by the Dutchman Esquemeling. It was entitled De
Americaensche Zee Rovers and was, on its appearance, immediately
translated into the principal languages of Europe. The fact that
Esquemeling was with the Buccaneers for five years, and was with them,
too, on many of their most important expeditions, gave him unusual
opportunities for collecting facts at first hand and studying the
methods of procedure of his reckless and often brutal associates.

By the Spaniards, the Brethren of the Coast have always been regarded
as pirates--for the same reason as Raleigh, Drake and Hawkins and
their associates were regarded as pirates--because they conducted their
lawless operations when England and Spain were at peace. But there was
the same difference between Buccaneers and ordinary pirates as there
was between the corsairs just mentioned and ordinary pirates. The
latter attacked vessels of every nation, while the Buccaneers, like
Drake and his compatriots, confined themselves to preying on Spanish
shipping and sacking Spanish towns and strongholds.

Some became Buccaneers because they had a grievance, real or
imaginary, against the Spaniards, others because they chafed under
the monopolizing policy of the Spanish government, and wished to
secure a part of the ever-increasing trade with the New World, while
others still joined the ranks of the Brethren because they relished
the life of excitement and adventure it held forth, or because they
found it the easiest means of gaining a livelihood.

Esquemeling was among the last of these classes. After being twice
sold as a slave, he finally obtained his liberty when, to use his own
words, "Though like Adam when he was first created, that is, naked and
destitute of all human necessaries, not knowing how to get my living,
I determined to enter into the Order of the Pyrates or Robbers at
Sea." [276]

The cradle of the extraordinary "Order of Pyrates," of which
Esquemeling was to be the most distinguished chronicler, was Tortuga,
a small, rocky island off the northwest corner of Haiti. It was visited
by Columbus during his first voyage, and, from the number of turtles
found there, was called Tortuga--the Spanish for turtle--the name
it still retains. But small as it was, it was destined to become
"the common refuge of all sorts of wickedness, and the seminary,
as it were of pyrates and thieves." [277]

The name Buccaneer is derived from "bucan," a Carib word signifying a
wooden gridiron on which meat is smoked. Originally, the term Buccaneer
was applied to the French settlers of Española, whose chief occupation
was to hunt wild cattle and hogs, which roamed over the island in large
numbers, and cure their flesh by bucaning it, that is smoking it on a
bucan. [278] When they were driven from their business of bucaning by
the Spaniards, they took refuge in Tortuga, where they were soon joined
by many English adventurers. Here they combined to make war on Spain
in her American colonies, and for more than a half century they carried
terror and destruction to every part of the Caribbean archipelago.

But, notwithstanding their change of occupation, their old name
of Buccaneer clung to them, and, as such, they are still known
in history. Like the bold Vikings of the North, who were so long
the scourge of western and southern Europe, the Buccaneers were the
scourge of Spanish America from Tortuga to Panama and from California
to Patagonia. They warred against but one enemy--the one that had
harassed and driven them from their peaceful avocation of bucaning,
or had persecuted and oppressed their brethren in the peaceful pursuit
of commerce, when the lands of their birth, or the countries to which
they owed allegiance, were unable or unwilling to protect them.

Like the archpirate Drake, as the Spaniards called him, "They swept
the sea of every passing victualler, and added the captured cargoes
to the stores of game and fish it was their delight to catch. At
intervals along the coast and amongst the wilderness of islands,
magazines were hidden, and into these were poured the stores that had
been destined for the great plate-fleets. The shark-like pinnaces would
suddenly appear in the midst of the trade-route no one knew whence,
and laden with food, as suddenly disappear no one knew whither."

Compared with the Spaniards, they were usually in a small minority. But
in their case, as in so many similar ones, it was not numbers, but
their skill and courage, that gave them possession of rich galleons
and placed the well-guarded plate-fleets at their mercy. At times the
Buccaneers had only simple canoes--mere dugouts--but these, according
to Esquemeling, were so fleet that they might well be called "Neptune's
post-horses." In these they went out to sea for a distance of eighty
leagues and attacked heavily-armed men of war, and, before the Spanish
crew had time to realize what the daring sea rovers were after,
their vessel was in the possession of their irresistible foe. [279]

They were strangers to fear, and no undertaking was too arduous,
if the booty promised was sufficiently great. Danger and difficulty
seemed only to whet their appetite for gold and fan their passions
to a blaze. Their endurance of hunger and thirst and fatigue was as
remarkable as their hardihood was phenomenal. They were loyal to one
another and divided the spoils they secured in strict accordance with
the agreement they had entered into beforehand. "Locks and bolts were
prohibited, as such things were regarded as impeaching the honor of
their vocation."

They were religious after their own fashion. Thus it was forbidden
to hunt or cure meat on Sunday. Before going on a cruise, they
went to church to ask a blessing on their undertaking, and, after a
successful raid, they returned to the house of God to sing a hymn of
thanksgiving. We are told of a French captain who shot a filibuster
for irreverence in church during divine service, and we also read
of Captain Hawkins once throwing dice overboard when he found them
being used on the Lord's day. [280]

How all this reminds one of the conduct of that pitiless old slaver,
John Hawkins, who frequently enjoined on his crew to "serve God daily,"
and who, after escaping a heavy gale on his way from Africa to the West
Indies, whither he was bound with a shipload of kidnapped negroes,
sanctimoniously writes, "The Almighty God, who never suffereth His
elect to perish, sent us the ordinary breeze."

Although the Buccaneers frequently came into possession of immense
sums of money, they would forthwith proceed to squander it in all
kinds of dissipation and debauchery. "Such of these pyrates," writes
Esquemeling, "will spend two or three thousand pieces of eight in a
night, not leaving themselves a good shirt to wear in the morning."

At first, the Buccaneers confined themselves to depredations on
sea, but their unexpected successes on water soon emboldened them
to attack the largest and richest towns on the Spanish Main. When
these were once in their power, they exacted from their inhabitants
a heavy tribute, and if it was not paid without delay, the hapless
people, regardless of age or sex, were subjected to the most cruel
and unheard-of tortures. Puerto Principe, Maracaibo, Porto Bello,
Panama and other places were captured in turn, and some of them, when
sufficient ransom was not obtained, were burned to the ground. And so
great and so hideous were the atrocities committed in some of these
places that even Esquemeling has not the heart to do more than allude
to them. They equaled, if they did not surpass, anything recorded of
the pirates of Barbary or Malabar, and showed what fiends incarnate
men can become when carried away by insatiate greed or the spirit of
rapine and carnage.

The two Buccaneer leaders who most distinguished themselves for
their diabolical ferocity and viciousness were L'Olonnois and
Morgan. "L'Olonnois," says Burney, "was possessed with an ambition
to make himself renowned for being terrible. At one time, it is
said, he put the whole crew of a Spanish ship, ninety men, to death,
performing himself the office of executioner, by beheading them. He
caused the crews of four others vessels to be thrown into the sea;
and more than once, in his frenzies, he tore out the hearts of his
victims and devoured them." [281]

This "infernal wretch," as Esquemeling calls him, "full of horrid,
execrable and enormous deeds, and debtor to so much innocent blood,
died by cruel and butcherly hands," for the Indians of Darien, having
taken him prisoner, "tore him in pieces alive, throwing his body,
limb by limb, into the fire, and his ashes into the air, that no trace
or memory might remain of such an infamous, inhuman creature." [282]

Of Henry Morgan, who sacked Maracaibo and pillaged and burnt Panama,
the same authority declares he "may deservedly be called the second
L'Olonnois, not being unlike or inferior to him, either in achievements
against the Spaniards or robberies of many innocent people." [283]

He did not, however, share the fate of L'Olonnois. Having found favor
with King Charles II, he was knighted and made deputy governor of
Jamaica, when he turned against his former associates, many of whom he
hanged, while he delivered others up to their enemies, the Spaniards.

From the time the Buccaneers made Tortuga a base of operations until
the Peace of Ryswick, in 1697, when they were finally suppressed, was
more than half a century. From this little island they spread over
the entire Caribbean sea and had places of rendezvous in Jamaica,
Santa Catalina, the sequestered coves of the Gulf of Darien and in
many secret places along the Spanish Main. Their distinctive mark
during all this time, from which they never deviated, as it had been
the distinctive mark of pirates and privateers of England, France and
Holland during nearly a century and a half before, was their incessant
and relentless war against Spain; their determination to break her
power and destroy that trade monopoly which she was so determined
to retain.

So numerous and powerful did they eventually become that some of
their leaders, notably Mansvelt and Morgan, dreamed of establishing
an independent state. They had selected the small island of Santa
Catalina--now known as Old Providence--just a short distance north
of the course along which we are now sailing--as a starting point
and, had they undertaken this project while the French and English
Buccaneers were still united, they might have been successful. [284]

To us of the twentieth century, with our ideas of law and order,
it seems strange that the pirates and Buccaneers of the West India
islands and the Main should have been able to continue their nefarious
operations for so long a period, and that they were so numerous. But,
when we remember how they were countenanced and abetted by their
respective governments, how they were provided with letters of marque
and reprisal, how they were openly assisted by the English [285]
and French governors of the West Indies, how they were assisted
even by their own sovereigns, [286] the wonder ceases. Considering
the love of adventure that distinguished this period of the world's
history, and the princely fortunes that rewarded the successful raids
of the daring sea rovers, it is surprising that the number was not
greater. If the same conditions now obtained, it is safe to say that
the seas would swarm with similar adventurers. It is interesting to
surmise what would now be the condition of the Western Hemisphere if
the Buccaneers, instead of confining themselves to capturing treasure
ships and sacking towns, had, like the bold Vikings, their antitypes,
set out to conquer and colonize.

Whatever else may be said of the Buccaneers, there can be no doubt
that it is to them that England owes her proud title of Mistress
of the Seas. They gave birth to her great navy, and developed that
great merchant marine whose flags are to-day seen in every port of
the world. They distinguished themselves in the destruction of the
Spanish Armada, and closely followed Magellan in circumnavigating
the globe. They had a hand in the formation of the East India Company
and were "Britain's sword and shield for the defence of her nascent
colonies."

Of the occupation of the Buccaneers one can assert what James Jeffrey
Roche writes of that of the filibusters of the middle of the last
century--that it "is no longer open to private individuals. The
great powers have monopolized the business, conducting it as such and
stripping it of its last poor remnant of romance, without investing
it with a scrap of improved morality." [287]

And one can also say of them, what Byron writes of his Corsair,
that they left a


                            "Name to other climes
        Linked with one virtue and a thousand crimes."



CHAPTER XIV

THE RICH COAST


            "But oh! the free and wild magnificence
              Of Nature in her lavish hours doth steal,
            In admiration silent and intense,
              The soul of him who hath a soul to feel.

            "The river moving on its ceaseless way,
              The verdant reach of meadows fair and green,
              And the blue hills that bound the sylvan scene,--
            These speak of grandeur, that defies decay,--
            Proclaim the eternal architect on high,
            Who stamps on all his works his own eternity."

                                                    --Longfellow.


The afternoon preceding our arrival at Puerto Limon, the captain of
our steamer called our attention to a wonderful mirage due south of
us. High above the water--apparently midway between the sea and the
sky--was suspended one of the islands of the Caribbean that stand off
from the Panama coast. So far away was it from our course that, had
it not been for the peculiar atmospheric conditions then prevailing,
it would have been quite invisible, even with the aid of the most
powerful glass. A beautiful, fantastic shape it exhibited as, seen
through the trembling and shimmering air, it seemed to float in the
hazy atmosphere. At first it was of a pearly-gray tint, then of a
fustian-brown, and finally, as it became more distinct in outline,
it shaded into a dark olive green. The apparition lasted for nearly
an hour, when it gradually disappeared.

"The Vanishing Island of St. Brendan," exclaimed a young Celt who had
been admiring the scene. And then he read for us what John Sparke,
a companion of Hawkins in the voyage of 1564, writes:

"Certaine flitting ilands, which haue beene oftentimes seene, and when
men approched neere them they vanished, ... and therefore it should
seeme hee is not yet borne to whom God hath appoynted the finding of
them." [288]

The flitting islands that Sparke refers to were, it is true, supposed
by him to be in the neighborhood of the Azores. But their location
was uncertain, at least the one named after the seafaring Irish
monk, for divers positions have been assigned it by cosmographers
and mediæval writers. Among other peculiarities possessed by this
island was that it had an apparent motion towards the west--a motion
that was quite sufficient to have carried it at the beginning of the
twentieth century to the westernmost part of the Caribbean.

"In this motion westward," said C.--as our representative of classical
lore--"the Island of St. Brendan would have but followed the example
set by the Elysian Fields and the Isles of the Blessed. Pindar and
Hesiod placed them in the Western Ocean, but much farther west than
Homer had located his Elysium. As the years rolled by, the Fortunate
Islands and the Gardens of the Hesperides, for these were but synonyms
of the Isles of the Blessed, were also found, like St. Brendan's,
to have moved towards the region of the setting sun. Subsequently,
birth was given to legends respecting a Transatlantic Eden and a
Mexican Elysium somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico or among the beauteous
isles of the Caribbean Archipelago."

"Very true, very true," said one of our party, a good-natured German
privat-docent, who was perched hard by on what seemed to be the first
reclining chair ever devised. It was a cumbersome structure about
four feet high, apparently modeled after one of those lofty bedsteads
once the vogue in certain parts of the Vaterland, and vastly different
from the modern reclining chair so popular with ocean travelers, and
so rickety that it threatened every moment to collapse and deposit
its portly occupant--for he was a man of weight, physically as well as
intellectually--on the hard floor of the hurricane deck. "You are quite
right, Sr. C. The Isles of the Blessed, like the Island of St. Brendan,
are quite as ubiquitous and elusory as is the Terrestrial Paradise
described in Genesis. For learned men who have written about it have
located it, at one time or another, in almost every part of the earth's
surface. Some maintain it was somewhere in the valley of Mesopotamia,
others that it was east of the Ganges, or near the head waters of
the Nile. Columbus imagined it was nigh the source of the Orinoco,
while an American author--a Bostonian, I believe--some decades ago
published a work in which he endeavoured to prove that the seat of
Paradise was the North Pole. As for myself, I have never ventured
to formulate a theory on any of these interesting subjects. They are
out of my line. Davus sum non OEdipus."

Just then there was a crash. Like the "wonderful one-hoss shay,"
the tottering old chair had collapsed and the docent lay sprawling
under the ruins.

"Caramba, donnerwetter!" These two exclamations, so dear to the
Spaniard and the German, when they wish to express surprise and
disgust, were emitted with an explosive violence that left no one
present in doubt as to what thoughts were uppermost in the mind of our
friend as he was endeavoring to extricate himself from the entangling
frame. With the aid of some of the bystanders he finally regained
his feet, but he manifested no desire to continue the conversation
so suddenly interrupted.

"Carajo, donnerblitz!"--two expressions even more vigorous than
the preceding--constituted the finale to the performance that
afforded amusement to all except the leading character, who disliked
exceedingly the undignified position in which he had momentarily been
placed. Fortunately, the last call for dinner had been given just a
few moments previously, and we accordingly adjourned to the dining
saloon, where other matters absorbed the attention of the unlucky
docent as well as the spectators of his ungainly tumble.

The morning following the little episode just referred to, we were in
sight of Costa Rica [289]--that rich coast--discovered by Columbus
during his eventful fourth voyage. The wooded lowlands, bordering
the sea, are clothed in a mantle of rich tropical verdure. A short
distance behind them arise the escarpments of the Central American
Cordillera, that is the scene of the activity of such noted volcanoes
as Poas, Irazu and Turialba. Owing to the proximity of the Sierra
to the sea, it appears much higher than it really is, and, when the
weather is clear, it presents a picture of rare magnificence. This is
particularly the case when it is seen at sunrise, the time it first
met our view. Then we had before us the violet expanse of the summer
sea canopied by the splendid azure vault of heaven, while before us
stood up in all its majesty the gentian blue peak of the Cordillera
that gradually melted into crimson and then into gold.

Owing to the reports that had been received at Limon regarding the
plague at Trinidad, and the fear that it might already have reached the
Spanish Main, none of the passengers were allowed to land until they
had passed, on the part of the health officers, an examination of more
than usual strictness. Fortunately, we had provided ourselves with a
health certificate before leaving Barranquilla and were permitted to
land after but little delay. Those, however, who could not exhibit
such a document were at once ordered off to quarantine. Everyone,
however, had to be vaccinated, unless one could produce evidence
that he had been vaccinated only a short time before. As very few
could present such evidence, the great majority had to submit--many
of them much against their will--to being inoculated with the virus
that is supposed to render one immune against smallpox.

While these operations were going on, we had an opportunity of getting
a good view of the coast in front of us. It had a special interest
for us, for it was the favored land along which Columbus sailed in
his last voyage in 1502. Here, before us, there is reason to believe,
was the land of Cariari, and, just a stone's throw from our steamer
was the charming island of Quiribri, which, on account of its beauty
and the lovely trees with which it was adorned--palms and bananas and
platanos--the Admiral called El Huerto--the orchard. To-day it is known
as the island of Uvita, and is used for quarantine. As we gazed on
this exquisite spot, provided with cozy cottages nestling among clumps
of stately palms, and decked with beauteous flowers of every hue, we
almost regretted that we could not spend a few days there. Had we been
sent there with the others we should certainly not have complained.

So fascinating was this place that Columbus anchored here between the
island and the mainland to give his crew an opportunity to refresh
themselves after their arduous voyage. And so fragrant were the
groves on the mainland that their perfumes were wafted out to the
ships. This, we have noted, was also the experience of the early
explorers of Florida.

While here, Columbus held frequent converse with the Indians, whom he
found intelligent and well disposed. They brought him gifts of cotton,
cloth and gold and evidently were inclined to enter into friendly
relations with their strange visitors. In his letter to Ferdinand and
Isabella, referring to this land, he writes: "There I saw a tomb in
the mountain side as large as a house, and sculptured. [290] This is
remarkable as being the only passage in all the Admiral's writings
which could warrant us in concluding that he ever set foot on the
mainland of the New World.

Until the middle of the last century Port Limon was but a
small rancheria--it did not deserve the name of village--of poor
fishermen. Now it is the chief port of the republic and a flourishing
town of 6,000 inhabitants. Its present importance and prosperity
are due to the completion of the railroad from this point to the
capital, San José, and to the fact that it is the principal centre
of the rapidly-increasing banana industry controlled by the United
Fruit Company.

The place is quite modern in appearance, and were it not for its
exuberant tropical vegetation, might easily pass for one of our
enterprising Gulf Coast towns. It boasts of all modern improvements,
has good sanitation, broad streets, comfortable homes and a delightful
park that, for wealth and variety of tree and shrub and flower,
looks like a well-kept botanic garden. While the white race is
well represented, the majority of the population is made up of West
Indian negroes.

During our travels among the Antilles and on the Spanish Main, we
frequently had occasion to note the importance of the banana and
the platano as articles of food, but it was not until our arrival in
Limon that we had an opportunity of observing the extent to which the
cultivation and shipment of these fruits have been carried. Here are
two long iron piers at which one will occasionally find as many as
six or eight large steamers being freighted at the same time with
the golden fruit of Costa Rica, preparatory to distribution among
the leading ports along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.

The culture of the banana in Costa Rica on an extensive scale is of
recent date. In 1880 but three hundred and sixty bunches were sent to
the United States. Now the amount shipped from Limon alone averages
more than a million bunches a month. During the year 1908 the number
of bunches that left Port Limon aggregated more than thirteen million,
and the amount shipped is rapidly increasing. In addition to the daily
shipments made to the United States weekly cargoes are forwarded to
France and England.

But great as are the proportions which the banana trade has already
assumed, it is safe to say that it is as yet but in its infancy. What
in most parts of our country and Europe has hitherto been practically
unknown, or been regarded as a luxury beyond the reach of the poor,
is now rapidly finding its way among all classes and at such prices
that even those of the most limited means can have it on their tables.

That which first impresses the visitor from the North is the large
number of species of the Musa and the extraordinary number of uses made
of them. Already fully forty species have been described and nearly a
hundred varieties. Most of these bear fruit which is as agreeable as it
is nutritious, and which is often of a flavor of the utmost delicacy.

Reference has already been made in a previous chapter to the extensive
and varied use made of bananas and platanos by the peoples of tropical
climes, but even they have still much to learn regarding the food
value of their great staple. Recent investigations have revealed the
fact that the fruit of the Musa is henceforth to be regarded not only
as one of the most wholesome and nutritious of foods, but also as one
of the most important means of subsistence for the world's rapidly
increasing population. Even now it is felt that the supply of flesh
meat and cereals is rapidly becoming less than the demand, and too
expensive for the poor, and thoughtful men have already set to work
to devise ways and means to meet the emergency. And one of the means
suggested is a more extensive cultivation of platanos and bananas,
as well as a more general use of their manifold products.

Humboldt long ago pointed out the great economic value of the banana
and the platano as sources of food supply. [291] But he did not have
the data we now possess for arriving at just conclusions. As the
result of numerous experiments it is now known that bananas afford
per acre one and a third times as much food as maize produces, two
and a third times as much as oats, three times as much as buckwheat,
potatoes and wheat; and four times as much as rye. Then the labor
involved in the cultivation of the banana is far less than that
demanded for our northern crops. No skill is required, and unlike
many of our northern fruit-bearing trees, the banana and the platano
are entirely exempt from insect pests and diseases.

Chemical analysis discloses the curious fact that bananas and
potatoes are practically identical in composition. As compared with
the principal vegetables and fruits consumed in the United States and
Europe, the food value of the banana and the platano stands in the
ratio of five to four in favor of the latter. Comparing banana flour,
a new product of this remarkable fruit, with the flour made from sago,
wheat and maize, it is found that the nutritive value of all four is
about equal--the banana product being slightly in the lead.

As a consequence of recent researches the commercial products obtained
from the banana and platano have been greatly increased, while some
of them are vastly different from anything that people who have been
living on them for thousands of years have ever dreamed. Among these
are meal in the starchy state for making superior kinds of bread and
porridge, flakes and meal in a dextrinous condition for the preparation
of nourishing soups and puddings, sauces and fritters. [292] In dried
slices it is used in the manufacture of beer and alcohol. Bananas are
also employed in making marmalades, for the manufacture of glucose
and syrups for confectionery, and, dried entire without the peel,
they are put up in boxes like figs. Dried and roasted they afford
a nutritious beverage that is said to be a valuable substitute for
coffee and chocolate. Even the stems and leaves of the banana are
put to use, for from them are manufactured paper and cordage.

These facts open up a splendid vista as to the future food
possibilities of the tropics. They demonstrate also the wisdom of
giving more thought to this neglected part of the world, for it is
to tropical America that the teeming millions of coming generations
will be obliged to look for much of their sustenance. Our northern
climes will be unable to meet the demands that will eventually be
made on them.

Before we boarded the train at Limon for San José, the capital of
the little republic, a young German, who had visited the lowlands
through which the railway passes, said that we would there see the
most remarkable exhibition of vegetable growth in the world. "It is,"
he declared, "the Urwelt"--the primeval forest--"in all its luxuriance
and glory."

As he had never seen any tropical scenery outside of Costa Rica, and
very little of that, we, who had just come from the exuberant forest
regions of the Magdalena and the Orinoco, were disposed to give little
heed to his statement. Compared with Germany, the floral display of
Costa Rica was doubtless something really marvelous in the estimation
of our untraveled Teutonic friend, but it could not compare, we said
to ourselves, with the wonders of plant life on which we had been
feasting our eyes during our journey among the Antilles and through
the Northern part of South America.

Our conclusion, however, as we very soon discovered, was quite
unwarranted. The vegetation of the lowlands and of the foothills
of the Costa Rican Cordillera, as we noted on our way to San José,
was really something wonderful. It was the Urwelt in very truth, and
exhibited a wealth of plant and tree, foliage and bloom such as must
have characterized the foreworld during its richest period. For miles
upon miles along this picturesque railway, we reveled in the glories of
the virgin forest at its best--a dense, complicated mass of verdure,
a tousled, world-old jungle, surmounted by giants of the forest,
loaded down with festoons of countless creepers and bound together
by innumerable cable-like lianas, each of the richest hues. At one
time we were passing through valleys of enchantment, valleys pervaded
by a languorous haze of lilac and indigo, like the smoke of incense,
valleys rendered musical by scores of hidden streams and tumultuous
torrents bridged over by an entanglement of green fathoms in depth. At
another we were winding around rugged crags and inaccessible peaks,
not bald and barren, as in our temperate climes, but covered to their
very summits with a tapestry of leaf and flower of the most vivid
tropical tints, that at times resembled a cascade of palpitating
color, of emerald foliage and glowing bloom. Here it was the crimson
bouganvilla, there lovely aroides with spathes of delicate purple or
immaculate white, while hard by, fanned into motion by the trickery
of the shifting breeze, were the slender tufts of the bamboo or the
tenuous fronds of the ever-graceful fern tree. On all sides was a
parade of foliage and blossom, a bravery of color to be found only
in the tropics and then only in its most favored regions.

The astonishing variety and richness of the flora of Costa Rica is due
to the fact that it is the connecting link between the floras of the
two great continents of the North and the South. Besides exhibiting
species peculiar to itself, it presents an infinitude of others
found in North and South America. Those, however, of South America
predominate, the reason being that Costa Rica was connected with the
southern continent long before it was united with that to the north.

It is a hundred and three miles from Limon to San José by rail. The
road, a narrow-gauge one, was constructed by an American, Mr. Minor
C. Keith, and compares favorably with our narrow-gauge roads in
the Rocky Mountains. Many difficulties were encountered in laying
the track, some of which, especially those caused by landslides
and the overflowing rivers, seemed at times insuperable. The most
serious impediments, however, were due to the steaming, sweltering,
putrid, fever-laden swamps between the coast and the foothills of the
Cordillera. So great was the mortality among the workmen on account
of pernicious fevers that it is stated that this section of the line
cost a human life for every tie that was laid. Like the valley of
the lower Magdalena, this part of Costa Rica is habitable only by
negroes. The white men who are called there by business make their
sojourn as brief as possible.

It is along this route that are found the best and most extensive
platanales--banana plantations--of the country and, as a consequence,
there are many settlements and villages all along the railroad. And
what banana plants are seen here! In height they resemble trees
rather than plants. We saw some that were thirty-five feet high,
bending under golden clusters of fruit weighing at times nearly
a hundred pounds. While sailing along the Orinoco and the Meta we
thought that the platanales we saw on their banks were unrivaled
for magnitude of plants and wealth of fruitage, but they were fully
equaled if not surpassed by those of Costa Rica.

Most of the labor connected with the cultivation and shipment of
bananas is performed by negroes from Jamaica and other West Indian
islands. One sees their little frame houses, or shacks, scattered
all along the road in the banana region, and their occupants have the
same jovial, happy-go-lucky disposition that characterizes the negro
the world over. Crowds of them, old and young, are always assembled
at the station on the arrival of every train--attracted thither by
apparently the same reason that causes their brethren of the North
in the cotton belt to flock to the depot when they hear the whistle
of the locomotive--childlike curiosity and a desire to get the latest
news at the earliest possible moment.

Quite a number of the female portion had sliced piñas--pineapples--for
sale, but they asked as much for a single slice as a whole piña would
cost in our markets, while for an entire pineapple they expected four
or five times the price of this fruit in New York, and that in the land
of the piña. They demanded extravagant prices because, I suppose, they
took it for granted that those who were able to travel in a Pullman
car, as our party did, would not, if the fruit was really wanted,
begrudge paying the amount asked, however exorbitant. But high as
the price was, the fruit was worth it and far more. It was the most
luscious and fragrant fruit we had ever tasted, and incomparably
excelled the best that ever reaches our markets. It was so soft and
juicy that it could be eaten with a spoon, and contained all the
fabled virtues of nectar and ambrosia combined.

Incredible as it may seem, where there were train loads of bananas
at every siding, we were unable to get even a sample of edible fruit
anywhere between Limon and San José, although we asked for it at every
stopping place. All that was destined for shipment was unripe, and,
while there were several other kinds of fruits for sale, there was
not a single ripe banana.

The negroes we saw along the railroad, as well as those observed in
Limon, were a constant study for us, especially when congregated in
large numbers in halls or churches. Like the negroes of Martinique
they are, in the words of Lafcadio Hearn, "A population fantastic,
astonishing--a population of the Arabian Nights." [293] They exhibit
the whole gamut of skin tints from the milk-white of the albino to
the coal-black of the Nubian.

Some of the women are remarkable for beauty of form and delicacy
of features. Lissome, statuesque, and of graceful bearing, they are
Juliets in ebony, who exhibit the classic proportions of "ox-eyed"
Juno or of the Venus of Milo. As simple as children, they, like their
sisters in the Antilles, are as talkative as parrots and their laugh
is as hearty as it is spontaneous.

But it is the dress of the Costa Rican negress that arrests attention,
especially when she is seen in public gatherings of any kind. Then
the design and color of her attire is bizarre in the extreme. She
selects by preference the most flaunting and garish colors, and,
when she appears in her Sunday costume, one would declare that she
had tried to combine the hues of tropical birds, and to mimic the
gorgeousness of the blue-red-yellow macaw.

The description given by Sir F. Treves of the dress of the negress
of Martinique, sums up in a few words the salient features of the
Sunday costume of her sister in Costa Rica. "The headdress," he writes,
"is very picturesque. It consists of a 'madras,' an ample handkerchief
wound about the head turban fashion, and finished by a projecting end,
which stands up like the eagle's feather in an Indian's hair. The color
of the madras will be usually a canary yellow striped with black. The
hues of the dress are bewildering. Here are a skirt of roses and a
foulard of sky-blue, a gown of scarlet and yellow with a terra-cotta
scarf across the breast, a dress of white striped with orange below a
foulard of green, a frock of primrose spotted with red and completed
by a scarf of mazarine blue. Add to this the necklace of gold beads,
the heavy bracelets, the great earrings, and the 'trembling pins'
that fix the madras, and then realize over all, the white light of
a tropical moon." [294]

The two places along our route in which we were specially interested
were the village of Matina, in the fertile valley watered by the river
of that name, and Cartago, which was founded by the Spaniards in 1563,
and was, during colonial times, the capital of the country.

In the latter part of the eighteenth century Matina was a port of some
importance and the centre of the largest and best cacaotales--cacao
haciendas--in Costa Rica, but owing to the frequent incursions
of pirates and Mosquito Indians, this fertile territory had to be
evacuated. There was also another reason for abandoning it and that was
the hot, enervating, pernicious atmosphere, and the torrential rains,
which were the causes of malaria and malignant fevers from which the
district was never exempt. So bad was the reputation of the Matina
valley in this respect that people, as the Costa Rican writer, Don
Ricardo F. Guardia, informs us in his Cuentos Ticos, "used to confess
and make their wills when they went to Matina, to the famous Matina
which inspires fear in men and madness in mules, [295] as they used
to say in those days when men were braver and mules better."--

Cartago--how often this Carthaginian name recurs in this part of the
world!--is a delightful place nearly a mile above sea level, with
a population of about seven thousand souls. It was founded in 1562
by Juan Vazquez de Coronado, the real conqueror of Costa Rica. It
has a very salubrious climate with a mean annual temperature of 66°
F. In 1841 it was almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake caused
by a violent eruption of the volcano of Irazu, at the foot of which
the town is situated. It is noted as the seat of the Central American
Court of Justice, which was inaugurated here as one of the results
of the Peace Congress held in Washington in 1907. In consequence of
the establishment of this tribunal here, the town has been called
the "Hague of the New World." Mr. Andrew Carnegie has contributed
$100,000 for the erection of a suitable edifice in which to hold the
sessions of the court. The site selected for it is the most beautiful
in the city, and the structure, on which work was begun without delay,
promises to be the most attractive feature of Cartago.

Costa Rica is justly celebrated for its coffee. In the London market it
has long been a favorite brand and always commands a high price. It
has a delicious aroma scarcely inferior to that of the best Java
or Mocha berries. We preferred it to any we had found elsewhere in
our tropical wanderings. The haciendas devoted to the cultivation of
coffee--especially those in the vicinity of Cartago and San José--are
kept in splendid condition, and the trees are of exceptional vigor
and productiveness.

Next to bananas, coffee constitutes the most important export of
the republic. It was introduced from Havana about a century ago, and
one may yet see in Cartago the centenarian trees that supplied the
seeds for the plantations of Costa Rica and other parts of Central
America. The value of the coffee and bananas annually exported from
the republic is much greater than that of all the other commodities
combined. Indeed, these two staples are to the commerce of Costa
Rica what tobacco and sugar are to Cuba. Columbus and his followers
searched these countries for gold and spices, but they found but little
of either. If they could return now to these favored lands they would
discover that their real treasures, more precious far than gold mines
and groves of spice trees, lay in the indigenous banana and tobacco
plants, and in the two exotic growths, coffee and sugar cane.

The schedule time of the train from Limon to San José, although only
one hundred and three miles, is about seven hours. This is due to
the numerous stops made and to the heavy grades up the flanks of
the Cordillera.

Our arrival at the capital was signalized by a genuine tropical
downpour, such as we had not seen elsewhere during our journey. For
a while it seemed to justify the Spanish expression--llover á
cántaros--to rain bucketfuls. But the aguacero--the name given these
short, heavy rainfalls--was of short duration. It was but one of those
daily afternoon showers that characterize the plateau during the winter
season--invierno, our summer--which extends from the month of May
until the end of November. The dry or summer season--verano--lasts from
December until May and is distinguished by absence of rain. The verano
is the season of the northeast trade winds, which lose their humidity
in crossing the Atlantic Cordillera. The monsoon, which comes from the
southwest during the winter, does not encounter on the Pacific side
mountains of sufficient height to condense the vapor with which it is
charged. Thus it still contains, on its arrival at the central plateau,
enough moisture to produce the heavy precipitation just noted. [296]

But notwithstanding these daily aguaceros, one can always count
on sunshiny mornings, except during October, which is the wettest
month of the year. It scarcely ever rains before two o'clock P. M.,
and rarely after five o'clock in the evening.

We were quite charmed with San José and its hospitable and cultured
people. In many respects we thought it the most delightful city we had
seen in Latin America--especially for a protracted sojourn. Situated in
the smiling valley of the Abra, it is reputed to be the most beautiful
city in Central America, while it is the second in extent and the
third in population, having about thirty thousand souls. Its altitude
is nearly four thousand and seven hundred feet above the level of the
sea, and it has a mean annual temperature of 70° F. Foreign residents
declare that the climate during the dry season is ideal.

The city counts a number of beautiful churches and public buildings,
but the greatest surprise for us was its superb Teatro Nacional. In
some of its leading features it is modeled after the Grand Opera
House in Paris, and is really a gem of architecture. It cost nearly
$1,000,000 in gold, and was paid for by an extra tax on coffee. We have
nothing in the United States to compare with it in beauty and artistic
finish, especially in the decoration of its sumptuous foyer. In the
New World it is surpassed only by the Teatro Municipal of Rio de
Janeiro and the Teatro Colon of Buenos Aires.

There are many attractive parks adorned with tastefully arranged
flowers and trees and monuments that would be a credit to
any capital. The monument that appealed most strongly to us was
located in the Parque Nacional, and commemorates the campaign of
1856 against the Filibusters led by that daring adventurer from the
United States, William Walker. It is also dedicated to the fraternity
of the five Central American republics made one in defense of their
independence. Let us hope that this is a symbol of the birth in the
near future of a new federation of the Central American republics,
similar to the one that was established shortly after they had
achieved their independence under the name of the Republic of Central
America. Such a republic would have fifty per cent more territory than
the whole of Great Britain, and, considering all the natural resources
it possesses, it would, under a stable and progressive government,
soon take an honorable place among the nations of the world.

We visited a number of coffee plantations, as well as orchards and
gardens, in the vicinity of San José, and were surprised at the
variety and luxuriance of every species of vegetable growth.

But it is to the city market that one must go--especially on Sundays
and dies de fiesta--holidays--if one would have an adequate conception
of the floral and pomonic riches of this favored land.

Here we could easily imagine that we had before us every blossom that
blows. Exposed for sale at a nominal price are the most gorgeous of
flowers still fresh with the morning dew; roses of every size and
color; orchids of the most fantastic forms and of dazzling beauty,
to possess which a New York belle, would, if necessary, pawn a
favorite jewel.

And here one beholds in lavish abundance citrous fruits of every
species, bananas of untold varieties, and scores of other fruits
equally common here but scarcely known except by name in our northern
latitudes. At every turn we see booths filled with guavas, mameys and
mangoes; zapotes, avocados and chirimoyas; papayas, pomegranates and
sapodillas; anonas, bread-fruit, mangosteens, and others too numerous
to mention, that are prized by the natives for the preparation of
dulces--sweets--and preserves.

The avocado, also called avocado pear, on account of its shape,
is the fruit of the beautiful tree called by botanists Persea
gratissima, after Perseus, the son of Jupiter and Danæ. The English
in the Caribbean Islands name this delicious fruit alligator pear,
or midshipman's butter. It, indeed, somewhat resembles butter in
appearance, and, to a certain extent, replaces butter on the table
in the tropics, where real butter is difficult to procure and more
difficult to keep. Of late years it has been introduced into the
North as a salad, and promises, as soon as it becomes generally known,
to be one of the most popular of tropical fruits.

Speaking for myself, I prefer it to any other, except possibly the
piña--pineapple. But one must taste the fresh, ripe pineapple of the
tropics to know its full lusciousness. It is incomparably more juicy
and fragrant than anything our Northern markets offer. Old Benzoni
says of it, "It smells well and tastes better," and declares it to be
"one of the most relishing fruits in the world." Sir Walter Raleigh
was right when he called it "the prince of fruits." King James thought
so highly of it that he remarked that "it was a fruit too delicious
for a subject to taste of." The poet Thomson doubtless entertained
a similar view when he penned the following lines:


       "Witness, thou best Anana! thou the pride
        Of vegetable life, beyond whate'er
        The poets imagined in the golden age:
        Quick let me strip thee of thy tufty coat,
        Spread thy ambrosial stores and feast with Jove."


But delicious as is the pineapple it is, in the estimation of
many, surpassed by the chirimoya. This fruit is likened by Paez to
"lumps of flavored cream ready to be frozen, suspended from the
branches of some fairy tree amidst the most overpowering perfume
of its flowers." Clements R. Markham was so enthusiastic about it
that he declared that "He who has not tasted the chirimoya fruit
has yet to learn what fruit is." "The pineapple, the mangosteen,
and the chirimoya," Dr. Seeman writes, "are considered the finest
fruits in the world. I have tasted them in those localities in which
they are supposed to attain their highest perfection--the pineapple
in Guayaquil, the mangosteen in the Indian Archipelago, and the
chirimoya on the slope of the Andes, and if I were called upon to act
the part of Paris, I would, without hesitation, assign the apple to the
chirimoya. Its taste, indeed, surpasses that of every other fruit, and
Haenke was quite right when he called it the masterpiece of nature."

A fruit that always appealed to us was the papaya, or pawpaw. It grows
in clusters on a tree about twenty feet high. In taste and appearance
it closely resembles a good-sized muskmelon. It is surprising to see
such large fruits growing on so small a tree. It flowers and fruits
at the same time.

The fruits, however, that are the mainstay for the greatest number
of people in the tropics, are, as has already been stated, the banana
and the plantain. The former is known to botanists as Musa sapientum,
because sages have reposed beneath its shade and eaten its fruit. The
latter is called Musa paradisiaca, on account of a certain tradition
that it was the forbidden fruit in Paradise. [297] Both the banana
and the plantain number almost as many varieties as the apple. The
bananas are smaller than the plantains. The former range from one
to six inches in length, while some varieties of the latter attain a
length of fifteen inches. They are eaten raw, boiled and roasted and
as preserves. A few trees will supply a whole family with the means
of subsistence during the entire year.

The banana and plantain are just the kinds of plants that specially
appeal to the natives of the equatorial regions, for they give at
all seasons a never-failing abundance of nutritious food, and that,
too, without any more labor and care than are entailed by clearing
the ground and placing them in the ever-productive soil. [298]
Sir Charles Dilke, however, regards these food producers in quite a
different light. In his estimation, the banana is the curse of the
tropics. Their very abundance, and the little care they require,
constitute, according to him, a bar to progress and to civilization
of the highest kind in the tropics, for the reason that all true
civilization necessarily presupposes labor and effort. It is for this
reason that the highest faculties of man are most conspicuous in the
temperate zone, where there is a constant struggle for existence.

Before leaving Barranquilla we met a gentleman who had just completed
a tour of all Latin America and he declared that San José was the
most beautiful city he had seen in all his travels.

At the time we gave little credence to what seemed a very exaggerated
impression, but after we were able to judge for ourselves, we were
forced to admit that Costa Rica's fair capital is, indeed, a most
delightful place.

In a charming, secluded vale near the city, where stood the country
seat of a wealthy merchant of the capital, was a particularly romantic
spot. The only places I could recall that could fairly compare with it
were certain upland valleys in the larger islands of the equatorial
Pacific. Hidden away in the luxuriant tropical forest, alongside a
broad mountain torrent, where fruit and flower and foliage vied with
one another in delicacy of fragrance and richness of hue, it required
but little strain of fancy to imagine that we were gazing upon the
wonders of the enchanted isle of Armida and Rinaldo; for here,


       "Mild was the air, the skies were clear as glass,
        The trees no whirlwind felt nor tempest's smart,
        But ere the fruit drop off, the blossom comes;
        This springs that falls, that ripeneth and thus blooms." [299]


Whilst gazing in silent rapture at the incomparable beauty of the
scene before us, and carried away by the matchless exhibitions
of Flora and Pomona, we were suddenly transported on the wings of
memory back to the beautiful plaza of Ciudad Bolivar, where, some
months before, we had heard a happy, enthusiastic fiancée declare
that she considered the lower Orinoco, aboard a yacht or a steamer,
an ideal place to spend one's honeymoon. With no claim to the power
of mind-reading, or to the spirit of prophecy, we assert, without
fear of erring, that if she had the opportunity of choosing between
the Orinoco valley and this beauty spot near San José, as a place to
spend her honeymoon--her luna de miel, as the Spaniards phrase it--it
would not be to the Orinoco that Don Esteban would take his bride,
but to this Edenic spot on the charming Costa Rican plateau.

Costa Rica, despite what has often been said to the contrary, has, for
the past half century, been practically free from those fratricidal
revolutions that have so characterized the other Central American
republics. There have, it is true, been occasional pronunciamientos
and periods of excitement about the time of some of the presidential
elections, but none of those devastating insurrections that have so
long been the curse of her less-fortunate neighbors.

Costa Rica points with pride, and well she may, to the fact that she
has more school teachers than soldiers. Everywhere one finds schools
for both sexes, admirably appointed and conducted, and constant
efforts are being made to have them compare favorably with similar
institutions in other parts of the world.

The original Spanish inhabitants of the central plateau were of
sturdy Galician stock, and their descendants still exhibit the thrift,
industry and enterprise of their ancestors. One meets many families
of pure Spanish blood, but the majority are evidently mestizos--the
result of the intermarriage of Spaniards with the aborigines. The
number of pure-blooded Indians is comparatively small--only about three
thousand out of a total population of a third of a million. There are
few negroes seen outside of the low coast lands, where they constitute
the majority of the inhabitants. We were, indeed, greatly impressed
to note the sudden transition from the black to the white race as
we ascended the Cordillera. In San José the number of negroes is
astonishingly small, while the complexions of the whites, compared
with that of the majority of the people living in the Andean lands
we had recently visited, is unusually clear and ruddy.

"How fair and delicate are the features of the Josefinas!" [300]
exclaimed C., as we took our first promenade in the broad and well-kept
streets of San José. And with the eye of a connoisseur, he continued,
"How tastefully dressed they are!"

He was right. The number of beautiful, Madonna-like types one meets
with is surprising. This impression is probably enhanced in some
degree by the beautifully embroidered pañolones--large Chinese
silk shawls--which they know so well how to display to the best
advantage. When to the tasteful costume and delicate features one
adds the culture and refinement that often distinguish the Josefina,
one can easily realize that she but continues the best traditions for
beauty and grace of mind and heart that have so long distinguished
her sisters in the land of Isabella of Castile.

After a delightful week spent in San José we prepared to return to
Limon. We then experienced, probably more than at any other place in
our long journey,--what all travelers more or less dread in their
peregrinations--the pang of leaving places that have especially
appealed to one and of saying farewell to newly-formed friends
almost as soon as one has learned to know their goodness of heart
and nobility of character. To me, I confess, this has always been
the greatest drawback of traveling and is something I have never been
able to outgrow.

Armed with a certificate from our consul stating that we had spent
in San José the time required of passengers coming from quarantined
ports, by the health regulations of Panama, we took our place in a
comfortable parlor car, and were soon on our way towards the Caribbean
coast, but not before we had taken "a last, long, lingering look,"
at beautiful, hospitable, fascinating San José.

As the train slowly moved eastwards towards Cartago, our attention
was directed for the hundredth time to the rich cafetales--coffee
plantations--that covered the fertile acres on both sides of the
road. Here and there we noted one of those cumbersome ox-carts
with solid wooden wheels drawn by a yoke of oxen in charge of an
odd-looking boyero. These are rapidly giving way to more modern means
of transportation, but the lover of the bizarre and the picturesque
will regret their disappearance.

"Observe," said a Josefino, having some pretensions to physiognomy,
"the peculiar features of that boyero on his way to the market. I will
wager anything that that man is a firm believer in ceguas and cadejos
and lloronas; that he dreams of botijas, even in the daytime, and that
he has greater fear of hermanos than any of your countrymen have of
ghosts." He then proceeded to explain the meaning of these terms.

"A cegua," he continued, "is a monster somewhat like the sirens
of old, that assumes the form of a beautiful woman and leads men
astray. A cadejos is a fantastic animal, black and hairy, resembling
an enormous dog which has resounding hoofs instead of paws. A llorona
is a frightful phantom that is sometimes heard moaning in the mountains
in such wise as to strike terror into the passer-by. [301] Botija--the
Spanish for a large earthen jar--is the name given in Costa Rica to
a buried treasure. The country people believe that, if one having
buried money dies in debt, his ghost--hermano--will haunt the place
in great distress until the treasure is found and the debt is paid."

"I wish I could have the assistance of a few such hermanos," interposed
C. laughingly. "If I had, I should have several thousand dollars more
to my credit than I have now. Unfortunately, in my country we have
not such aids in bringing our debtors to book."

On our way down the Cordillera, while crossing one of the numerous
iron bridges that span the Reventazon and other mountain rivers and
torrents, our Josefino friend pointed to a pier of masonry standing
alone about forty feet to one side of the bridge. "That pier,"
he said, "was formerly under the bridge, but in consequence of a
peculiar landslide or earthquake, it was transported, together with
a part of the bed of the stream, to the spot where it now stands."

And then he told us of the opposition of the boyeros to the
construction of the railroad. They, like ill-advised people in other
parts of the world, feared that it would ruin their occupation and
reduce them and their families to starvation. The government and
railway company cleverly overcame this opposition by employing the
boyeros to haul the material used in the construction of the road.

Then, too, there were wiseacres in Costa Rica, as there were in our
Rocky Mountain region when there was question of undertaking some
of the remarkable engineering feats that characterize several of our
transcontinental railroads, who declared that the projectors of the
road from Limon to San José were essaying the impossible. "General
Guardia"--the dictator under whose rule the road was begun--they
declared "is trying to build a railroad to Port Limon, where the
birds themselves can scarcely go with wings."

And yet, aside from the landslides which occur in all mountainous
countries, and the miasmatic climate, there were but few great
difficulties encountered. From an engineering standpoint the
construction of the road offered far less difficult problems than
many of the railroads in Colorado, Peru and Ecuador. The curves are
not so sharp and the grades are less, while the altitude attained is
less than half of that reached by several Rocky Mountain roads and
less than one-third of the height of the celebrated Andean railway
which connects Oroya with Lima.

Our first care on arriving at Limon was to have the health officer
of that place countersign the certificate we had received from our
consul in San José. We then boarded our steamer and were ready to
start for Panama.

The weather was again in our favor, and we had a most delightful sail
to Colon, and needless to say, we enjoyed every moment of it. We
enjoyed it particularly on account of its interesting historical
associations, and the romantic legends that have been woven about
every isle and inlet and headland along the coast.

That, however, which appealed most strongly to us was the land of
Veragua, near the dividing line between Costa Rica and Panama. It
was here that Columbus imagined he had found the Golden Chersonese,
the land whence came the gold used in the construction of Solomon's
temple. In the letter to his sovereigns, dispatched from Jamaica,
he contends "that these mines of the Aurea are identical with those
of Veragua." [302]

It was here, too, near the mouth of the river Belen, that the first
settlement on the continent of the New World was located. Although
it had soon to be abandoned, it was begun with a view of permanent
occupancy, and as such is deserving of special notice. A suitable
memorial should indicate this spot, as one should also mark the site
of Isabella, the first settlement in the New World.

It was while on the coast of Veragua that Columbus heard of the
great ocean now known as the Pacific. [303] He was not, however,
permitted to add its discovery to the long list of his marvelous
achievements. That honor was reserved for Vasco Nuñez de Balboa.

About nine o'clock the morning following our departure from Limon we
dropped anchor in the harbor of Colon. The sea was so tranquil that
there was scarcely a ripple on its placid waters. It was certainly
in marked contrast with the condition in which Columbus once found
it in these parts; for he assures us, in the oft-quoted letter to
Ferdinand and Isabella, that "never was sea so high, so terrific,
and so covered with foam." It seemed like a "sea of blood, seething
like a cauldron on a mighty fire." So continual, indeed, were the
shifting winds, and so terrific were the storms, that the coast from
Veragua to Colon which we had found washed by so calm a sea was by
Columbus and his companions named La Costa de los Contrastes.

Immediately on our arrival our vessel was boarded by the health
officers of the port. Those who could not produce a satisfactory
health certificate--and many could not--were sent to quarantine. Many
of our party, however, did not require any, as they did not purpose
landing at Colon. Some of them were bound for Jamaica and for points
more distant. Among them was C., my brave and resolute companion
across the Andes, the loyal and generous young cavalier who, if
he had not been of superior mold, would more than once have lost
his heart during the course of our long journey. I would fain have
enjoyed his companionship longer while following the conquistadores
in lands farther south; but it was not to be. To him, and to other
friends, I had regretfully to pronounce the words of parting that
had so frequently been addressed to us by the kindly and hospitable
people we had met all along our route--Que Uds. vayan bien, y con la
Virgen!--A happy journey and with the Virgin Mother!

As I left our good ship and the friends it bore to divers destinations
and stepped ashore alone, a stranger in a strange land, I felt, I must
confess, not unlike Dante when he suddenly found himself deprived of
the companionship of Virgil, who had been his friend and guide during
his arduous journey down through the fearsome pits of Hell and up the
precipitous ledges of the mountain of Purgatory. But this impression,
strong though it was, could not long remain dominant. What had in
the beginning of my journey been but "a consummation devoutly to be
wished," had during our wanderings in tropical lands crystallized into
a determination to make the desire a reality. The happy termination
of our voyage up the Orinoco and down the Magdalena was conclusive
evidence that travel, even through the least frequented parts of
South America, was far from being as difficult as it has long been
depicted. The moment, then, that I stepped from the gang plank that
connected our steamer with Panaman soil, the Rubicon was crossed, and
I had resolved, coûte que coûte,--alone, if necessary,--to realize
the long-cherished dream of my youth,--to visit the famed lands of
the Incas and explore the fertile valleys under the equator. If my
experience in the llanos and among the Cordilleras had not made
me "fit to mount up to the stars," as Dante was when he left the
Terrestrial Paradise, it had at least renewed me "even as new trees
with new foliage," and I was ready to undertake a longer and more
difficult journey than the one just completed and eager to follow
the conquistadores along the Andes and down the Amazon.



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NOTES


[1] Dec. 1, Lib. IX, Cap. 10.

[2] 1513 is the date given by Garcilaso de la Vega, and Peschel, in
his Geschichte des Zeitalters der Entdeckungen, p. 521, has proved
that this is the date that should be accepted.

[3] The History of Hernando de Soto and Florida; or Record of the
Events of Fifty-six Years, from 1512 to 1568, p. 111, 78 and passim,
Philadelphia, 1881.

[4] "Floridamque appelaverat quia Resurectionis die eam insulam
repererint; vocat Hispanus pascha floridum resurectionis
diem." Dec. IV, Cap. 5.

[5] Les Cortereal et leur Voyage au Nouveau Monde, pp. 111, 151.

[6] Le Premier Voyage de Amerigo Vespucci, par F. A. de Varnhagan,
Vienne, 1869, p. 34.

[7] Historia General de las Indias, Tom. XXII de Autores Españoles,
Madrid, M. Rivadeneyra, Editor, 1877--I have reproduced the passage
in the quaint translation of Richard Eden, as given in The first three
books on America, p. 345, edited by Edward Arber, Westminster, 1895.

[8] Colección de documentos inéditos del archivo de Indias, Tom. V,
pp. 536, 537.

[9] Elegias de Varones Ilustres de Indias, in the Biblioteca de Autores
Españoles, Tom. IV, p. 69, Collection Rivadeneyra, Madrid, 1850.

In spite, however, of the scepticism of Martyr and of the ridicule
of Castellanos and the denunciation of Oviedo, the quest for the
Fountain of Youth was, according to Herrera, continued until the end
of the sixteenth century, and probably longer.

[10] The Voiage and Travayle of Sir John Maundeville Knight, chap. LII.

[11] Richard Eden, op, cit., p. 34.

[12] For an illuminating discussion of this subject, with citation
of authorities, see M. Beauvois' article, La Fontaine de Jouvence
et le Jourdain dans les Traditions des Antilles et de la Floride,
Le Muséon, Tom. III, No. 3.

[13] "By projecting our modern knowledge into the past," to employ
a favorite phrase of John Fiske, many, even among recent writers,
speak as if the early explorers knew for a certainty that the land
discovered by Columbus was actually distinct from Asia. None of them,
however, go to the extreme of Lope de Vega, who, in one of his dramas,
El Nuevo Mundo Descubierto, makes the Genoese mariner, in a talk with
his brother Bartholomew, ask why is it, that I, "a poor pilot, broken
in fortune, yearn to add to this world another and one so remote?"--


       "Un hombre pobre, y aun roto,
        Que casi lo puedo decir,
        Y que vive de piloto
        Quiere á éste mundo añadir
        Otro mundo tan remoto."


[14] Writings of Columbus, edited by P. L. Ford, New York, 1892.

[15] Relaciones y Cartas de Cristobal Colón in the Biblioteca Clásica,
Tom. CLXIV, Madrid, 1892.

[16] Relaciones y Cartas, ut sup., pp. 57, 58.

[17] Hakluyt's Early Voyage, Vol. III, p. 615, London, 1810. The
introduction of tobacco into England is by some attributed to
Hawkins rather than to Lord Raleigh, who is generally supposed to
have introduced it.

[18] "Vedete che pestifero e maluagio ueleno del diaulo e questo." La
Historia del Mondo Nuovo, p. 54, Venezia, 1555.

[19] Nouveau Voyage aux Isles de L'Amérique, Vol. II, p. 120, par
Jean Baptiste Labat, à la Haye, 1724.

[20] Even royalty took part in the controversy. In A Counterblaste
to Tobacco King James concludes his argument against the use of the
weed as follows:--

"A custome loathsome to the eye, hatefull to the nose, harmfull to
the braine, dangerous to the lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume
thereof, neerest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that
is bottomlesse." The Works of the Most High and Mightie Prince James,
by the Grace of God, King of Great Britaine, France and Ireland,
Defender of the Faith, etc., p. 222, London, 1616.

[21] "Hail, happy soil, whence Mother Nature lavishes in abundance
the odoriferous, smokable plant! Hail, happy Havana."

[22] Vida y Escritos de Don Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, Obispo de
Chiapa, por Don Antonio Maria Fabié, Tom. I, pp. 235, 236, Madrid,
1879.

[23] Fray Bartolemé de las Casas, Sus Tiempos y Su Apostolado, por
Carlos Gutierres, pp. 351, 352, 368, 369, Madrid, 1878.

[24] Étude sur les Rapports de L'Amérique et de L'Ancien Continent
avant Christophe Colomb, par Paul Gaffarel. p. 124 et seq., Paris,
1869.

[25] The diminutive of España, and signifying little Spain. Also known
by the Latinized name Hispaniola, and as Isabella, in honor of the
illustrious patron of the discoverer. Haiti is an Indian word meaning
"craggy land," or "land of mountains."

[26] Historia de las Indias, Dec. II, Lib. 3, Cap. 14.

[27] Southey's History of Brazil, Vol. III, Chap. XXXIII.

[28] Sir Clements R. Markham in his introduction to Hawkins' Voyages,
says, speaking of this subject, "It is not therefore John Hawkins alone
who can justly be blamed for the slave trade, but the whole English
people during 250 years, who must all divide the blame with him."

[29] The Spanish Conquest in America, by Sir Arthur Helps, Vol. I,
p. 350, London and New York, 1900. See also Girolamo Benzoni, Historia
del Mondo Nuovo, p. 65, Venezia, 1565, in which he says many Spaniards
of Española predicted that the island would surely, within a short
time, fall into the hands of the blacks. "Vi sono molti Spagnuoli que
tengono per cosa certa que quest' Isola in breue tempo sara posseduta
da questi Mori."

[30] Eden's First Three English Books on America, p. 240.

[31] For a complete discussion of this subject, see Christopher
Columbus, His Life, His Works, His Remains, pp. 507-613, by
J. B. Thatcher, New York, 1904. According to this author, very small
portions of the precious ashes of the great discoverer exist in the
Vatican, in the University of Pavia, where Columbus was a student,
in The Municipal Hall of Genoa, in the Lenox Library, New York, and
in the possession of four different private individuals whom he names.

[32] "To Earth he gave immense riches, to Heaven souls innumerable."

[33] Histoire de la Géographie du Nouveau Continent, par Alexander
de Humboldt, Vol. V, pp. 177, 178, Paris, 1839.

[34] "This narrow space is a sepulchre of the man who was a Lion in
name and much more one in deed."

[35] Historia de la Conquista y población de la Provincia de Venezuela,
Tom. II, p. 36, Madrid, 1885.

[36] The Romans declare that those who cast a coin into the fountain of
Trevi are sure to return to the Eternal City. The Caraquenians have a
similar saying, viz., that he who drinks of the water of the Catuche,
a stream flowing through the city, will return to Caracas. El que
bebe de Catuche vuelve á Caracas.

[37] Historia de las Indias, Dec. II, Lib. 3, Cap. 14.

[38] The Pearl Coast extends from Coro to the Gulf of Paria, a distance
of more than five hundred miles.

[39] Padre A. Caulin, Historia coro-grafica, natural y evangelica
de la Nueva Andalucia, Madrid, 1779, and Conversion en Piritu de
Indios Cumanogotos y Palenques, por el P. Fr. Matias Ruiz Blanco
O. S. F. seguido de Los Franciscanos en las Indias, por Fr. Francisco
Alvarez de Vilanueva, O. S. F., Madrid, 1892.

[40] Even Captain John Hawkins, "an atrocious slave dealer," is forced
to pay his tribute of praise to the gentle and peaceful character
of the Indians of this part of Venezuela, for of them he writes:
"The people bee surely gentle and tractable, and such as desire to
liue peaceablie, or else had it been vnpossible for the Spaniards to
haue conquered them as they did, and the more to liue now peaceable,
they being many in number, and the Spaniards of few." Op. cit.,
Vol. III, p. 28.

[41] F. A. MacNutt's Bartholomew de las Casas, His Life, His Apostolate
and His Writings, Chaps. VIII, XI, XII, New York, 1909.

[42] Antonio de Remesal, Historia de la Provincia de Son Vicente de
Chyapa, 1619.

[43] In his last will he writes "Inasmuch as the goodness and the
mercy of God, whose unworthy minister I am, called me to be the
protector of the inhabitants of the countries, which we call the
Indies, who were once the lords of those lands and kingdoms, ... I
have labored in the court of the Kings of Castile, going and coming
from the Indies to Castile and from Castile to the Indies many times
for about fifty years--i. e., from the year 1540, for the love of God
alone and through compassion seeing those great multitudes of rational
men perish, who originally were approachable, humble, meek and simple,
and well fitted to receive the Catholic faith and practice all manner
of Christian virtues." Fabié, op. cit., Tom. I, pp. 234, 235.

[44] "In contemplating such a life," writes Fiske, "as that of Las
Casas, all words of eulogy seem weak and frivolous. The historian can
only bow in reverent awe before a figure which is in some respects
the most beautiful and sublime in the annals of Christianity since
the Apostolic age. When now and then in the course of the centuries
God's providence brings such a life into this world, the memory of it
must be cherished by mankind as one of its most precious and sacred
possessions. For the thoughts, the words, the deeds of such a man,
there is no death. The sphere of their influence goes on widening
forever. They bud, they blossom, they bear fruit, from age to
age."--The Discovery of America, Vol. II, p. 482.

[45] Dec. 1, Book 8. The same writer informs us that the sailors
of Pedro Alonzo Niño, on leaving Curiana to return to Spain, "had
three score and XVI poundes weight (after VIII vnces to the pownde)
of perles, which they bought for exchange of owre thynges, amountinge
to the value of fyve shyllinges."

[46] Of these gems of the ocean, "tears by Naiads wept," one could then
repeat, as well as now, the words of Pliny, "The richest merchandise
of all, and the most soveraigne comoditie throughout the whole world,
are these perles."--Naturalis Historia, Lib. IX, Cap. 35.

[47] The Venezuelan pearl-oyster--Margaritifera Radiata--is related
to the Ceylon species, Margaritifera vulgaris, and ranges in color
from white to bronze and, sometimes, black. It is slightly larger
than the Ceylonese gem, and is occasionally of excellent quality.

About three hundred and fifty boats, each manned by five or six men,
are now engaged in the pearl fishery of Venezuela. Most of them are
from the ports of Cumana, Juan Griego and Carupano.

The reader who is interested in the pearls of Margarita and of the
Pearl Coast, may consult with profit the very elaborate work, The
Book of the Pearl, by George F. Kunz and Chas. H. Stevenson, New York,
1908, and The Pearl, by W. R. Castelle, Philadelphia and London, 1907.

[48] Rokeby, Canto I, 13.

[49] "The wind then failed me, and I entered a climate where the
intensity of the heat was such that I thought both ships and men would
have been burned up, and everything suddenly got into such a state of
confusion that no man dared go below deck to attend to the securing
of the water-cask and the provisions. This heat lasted eight days;
on the first day the weather was fine, but on the seven other days it
rained and was cloudy, yet we found no alleviation of our distress;
so that I certainly believe that if the sun had shone, as on the first
day, we should not have been able to escape in anyway."--Writings of
Christopher Columbus, ut sup., pp. 113, 114, and Irving's Life and
Voyages of Christopher Columbus, Chap. XXIX.

[50] Op. cit., p. 136.

[51] Eden's First Three English Books on America, p. 338.

[52] Chapman's Odyssey, Bk. VII.

[53] Called Bois immortelle by the French, and in Spanish bearing
the appropriate name of madre de cacao, mother of cacao.

[54] It was upon the "boughs and spraies" of these trees that Raleigh
found "great store of oisters, very salt and wel tasted." A species
of edible oyster is still found on this tree--the Rhizophora Mangle
of Linnæus--but, although served on the table in the West Indies, it
is far from being as luscious as our "Blue Points" or as large as our
"Lynn Havens."

[55] At Last, p. 79, London, 1905.

[56] "At this point called Tierra de Brea or Piche," writes Raleigh,
"there is that abondance of stone pitch, that all the ships of the
world may therewith loden from thence, and wee made triall of it in
trimming our ships to be most excellent good, and melteth not with the
sunne, as the pitch of Norway, and therefore for ships trading in the
south partes very profitable."--The Discovery of Guiana, pp. 3 and 4,
published for the Hakluyt Society, London, 1848.

[57] Writings of Columbus, op. cit., pp. 120, 121.

[58] Coleccion de los Viajes y descubrunientos que hiaeron por mar
los Españoles desde fines dil siglo XV. Tom. III, p. 583.

[59] See the aforementioned letter of Columbus to Ferdinand and
Isabella for the quotations above given. The whole letter will well
repay perusal. See also Relaciones y Cartas de Cristobal Colon,
Tom. CL, XIV, de la Biblioteca Clasica, Madrid, 1892, p. 268 et seq.

Americus Vespucius shared with Columbus the belief in the existence
of the Terrestrial Paradise in the newly-discovered lands near the
equator. Writing to his friend, Lorenzo de Medici, giving him an
account of his second voyage, he declares "In the fields flourish so
many sweet flowers and herbs, and the fruits are so delicious in their
fragrance, that I fancied myself near the terrestrial paradise," and
again, "If there is a terrestrial paradise in the world it cannot be
far from this region."--The Life and Voyages of Americus Vespucius,
pp. 197 and 214, by C. Edwards Lester and Andrew Foster, New York,
1846.

[60] The curious reader will be interested in learning that Sir
Walter Raleigh, as well as Columbus and Vespucius, speculated about
the probable site of Paradise. In his History of the World he devotes
a long chapter to the subject, and several pages to the discussion
"Of their Opinion which make paradise as high as the moon; and of
others which make it higher than the middle region of the air,"
Chap. III, Oxford, 1829.

[61] He who goes to the Orinoco dies or becomes crazy.

[62] The Discovery of the Large, Rich and Beautiful Empire of Guiana,
p. 46, edited by Sir Robert Schomburgk, printed for the Hakluyt
Society, London, 1848.

[63] Purgatorio, Canto 1, vv. 13-16.

[64] Sir Robert Schomburgk is no less enthusiastic in his praise
of the tawny beauties of this part of South America. Commenting on
Raleigh's opinion, just quoted, he writes as follows:--

"During our eight years' wandering among the tribes of Guiana,
who inhabit the vast regions from the coast of the Atlantic to the
interior, between the Cassiquiare and the upper Trombetas, we have met
with many an Indian female who in figure and comeliness might have
vied with some of our European beauties. Although they are rather
small in size, their feet and hands are generally exquisite, their
ankles well turned, and their waists, left to nature and not forced
into artificial shape by modern inventions, resemble the beau ideal
of classical sculpture."--The Discoverie of Guiana, ut sup., p. 41.

[65] The reader, I am sure, will be interested in the following
paragraph from Peter Martyr on the plantain.

Speaking of the fruit of the Cassia tree (as he calls the plantain),
he, in Michael Lok's translation, says,--

"The Egyptian common people babble that this is the apple of our first
created Father Adam, whereby hee ouerthrewe all mankinde. The straunge
and farraine Marchantes of vnprofitable Spices, perfumes, Arabian
Yseminating odours, and woorthlesse precious stones trading those
Countries for gaine, call those fruites the Muses. For mine owne part
I cannot call to minde, by what name I might call that tree or stalke
in Latine," p. 273. De Novo Orbe, the Historie of the West Indies,
comprised in eight Decades whereof three haue beene formerly translated
into English by R. Eden, whereunto the other fiue are newly added by
the industrie and painfull Trauaile of M. Lok, Gent., London, 1612.

[66] The Anaconda is called by the inhabitants of Guiana, La
Culebra de Agua, or Water Serpent. It is also named El Traga
Venado--Deer Swallower--while in British Guiana it is known as the
Camoudi. Mr. Waterton, speaking of it, says, "The Camoudi snake has
been killed from thirty to forty feet long; though not venomous, his
size renders him destructive to the passing animals. The Spaniards in
the Oroonoque positively affirm that he grows to the length of seventy
or eighty feet, and that he will destroy the strongest and largest
bull. His name seems to confirm this; there he is called 'matatoro,'
which literally means 'bull-killer.' Thus be may be ranked among
the deadly snakes; for it comes nearly to the same thing in the end,
whether the victim dies by poison from the fangs, which corrupts his
blood, and makes it stink horribly, or whether his body be crushed
to mummy, and swallowed by this hideous beast."--Wanderings in South
America, First Journey.

[67] Neue Reisen, p. 698, Berlin. Cf. Wandertage eines Deutschen
Touristen im Strom und Küstengebiet des Orinoko, Chap. XXXIII-XXXV,
von Eberhard Graf zu Erbach, Leipzig, 1892.

[68] "The navigator," writes the illustrious savant, "in proceeding
along the channels of the delta of the Orinoco at night, sees with
surprise the summit of the palm trees illumined by large fires. These
are the habitations of the Guarons (Titivitas and Waraweties of
Raleigh), which are suspended from the trunks of trees. These tribes
hang up mats in the air, which they fill with earth, and kindle,
on a layer of moist clay, the fire necessary for their household
wants. They had owed their liberty and their political independence
for ages to the quaking and swampy soil, which they pass over in
the time of drought, and on which they alone know how to walk in
security to their solitude in the delta of the Orinoco; to their
abode on the trees, where religious enthusiasm will probably never
lead any American stylites. Vol. III, Chap. XXV.

[69] History of the New World, printed for the Hakluyt Society,
pp. 237, 238.

[70] Historia del Almirante de las Indias, Don Cristobal Colón,
Escrita por Don Fernando Colón, p. 178, Madrid, 1892.

[71] Dec. II, Bk. IV. Eden's translation.

[72] Op. cit., pp. 50, 51.

[73] With reason does the pious missionary call the moriche
palm--Mauritia flexuosa--"nuevo arbol de la vida, y milagro del Supremo
Autor de la naturaleza"--a new tree of life, and a miracle of the
Author of Nature--for this tree alone furnishes the Indian with victum
et amictum--food and raiment.--Historia Natural Civil y Geografica de
las naciones situadas en las Riberas del Rio Orinoco, Vol. I, Cap. IX,
Barcelona, 1882. Compare the following lines of Thomson's Seasons:--


       "Wide o'er his isles, the branching Oronoque
        Rolls a brown deluge, and the native drives
        To dwell aloft on life-sufficing trees,
        At once his home, his robe, his food, his arms."


[74] Op. cit., Vol. III, p. 9.

[75] Discoverie of Gviana, p. 50.

[76] Unter den Tropen, Erster Band, p. 521, Jena, 1871.

[77] El Delta del Orinoco tomado de la esploracion al alto bajo Orinoco
y central en 1850, por Andres E. Level, Vol. III, de la Memoria de
la Dirección General de Estradistica al Presidente de los Estados
Unidos de Venezuela, en 1873.

[78] Chapter XXXI.

[79] Op. cit, Vol. II, pp. 255, 256.

[80] The Ewaipanomas, to whom Othello, in his address to the fair
Desdemona, refers in the following passage:--


       "... the cannibals that each other eat,
        The anthropophagi, and men whose heads
        Do grow beneath their shoulders."


Captain Keymis, who served under Raleigh, tells us, as we read in
Hakluyt, of people "who have eminent heads like dogs, and live all
the day-time in the sea, and they speak the Carib language."

[81] John Hagthorpe, a contemporary of Raleigh, writes about the matter
as follows: "Sir Walter Rawley knewe very well when he attempted
his Guayana businesse, who err'd in nothing so much,--if a free man
may speak freely,--as in too much confidence in the relations of
the countrie: For who knowes not the policy and cunning of the fat
Fryers, which is to stirre up and animate the Souldiers and Laytie
to the search and inquisition of new Countries, by devising tales
and coments in their Cloysters where they live at ease, that when
others have taken payne to bringe in the harvest, they may feed
upon the best and fattest of the croppe?"--England's Exchequer,
or A Discourse of the Sea and Navigation with Some Things Thereunto
Coincident Concerning Plantations, London, 1625.

[82] Kingsley in Westward Ho! speaks of Columbus and Raleigh as "the
two most gifted men, perhaps, with the exception of Humboldt, who ever
set foot in tropical America." Spanish writers, it is safe to say,
would strongly demur to this statement so far as Raleigh is concerned.

[83] Elsewhere he tells us of the thousands of "vglie serpents," which
he calls Lagartos, the Spanish word for lizards, that he saw everywhere
along the Orinoco. They were what are now known as crocodiles and
caymans, the former of which, according to Schomburgk, are seldom more
than six to eight feet long, while the latter are said sometimes to
attain a length of twenty-five feet. We saw several of them every day
but their number was far from being as great as is usually represented.

Of the armadillo, which is prized as a delicacy in Guiana, Raleigh says
"it seemeth to be barred ouer with small plates like to a Renocero with
a white horne growing in his hinder parts, as big as a great hunting
horne which they vse to winde in steed of a trumpet." Op. cit., p. 74.

[84] According to Sr. F. Michelenena y Rojas, Exploracion Oficial,
p. 54, the palm for physical superiority and intelligence is to be
awarded to the Caribs. He says the Carib race is without doubt ... the
most beautiful, the most robust and the most intelligent of all those
in Venezuela. Not only this; he seems inclined to consider them the
superiors of all the Indians in South America. Vespucci speaks, too,
of them as "magnae sapientiae viri"--men of superior intelligence--as
well as men of superior strength and valor.

[85] Raleigh gives the following graphic description of the wife of
an Indian chief whom he met during his voyage to this region:--

"In all my life I haue seldome seene a better fauored woman: She
was of good stature, with blacke eies, fat of body, of an excellent
countenance, hir haire almost as long as hir selfe, tied vp againe in
pretie knots, and it seemed she stood not in that aw of hir husband, as
the rest, for she spake and discourst, and dranke among the gentlemen
and captaines, and was very pleasant, knowing hir owne comelines,
and taking great pride therein. I haue seene a Lady in England so
like hir, as but for the difference of colour I would haue sworne
might haue beene the same." Op. cit., p. 66.

[86] Peter Martyr says of them:--"Edaces humanarum carnium novi
helluones anthropophagi, Caribes alias Canibales appellati."

Notwithstanding all that has been said on the subject since the
discovery of America, it is still a moot question with many serious
investigators whether the Caribs of Tierra Firme were ever cannibals,
as is so generally believed. That the Caribs of certain of the West
Indian islands were addicted to anthropophagy there can, it seems,
be little doubt. The concurrent testimony of the earlier writers,
including Peter Martyr and Cardinal Bembo and others, have apparently
placed the matter beyond controversy. It was the cruelties and
anthropophagous habits of the Caribs, as reported to Spain, that
provoked the law which was promulgated in 1504 in virtue of which every
Indian, who could be proved to be of Carib origin, might be enslaved
by the Spaniards. This law, however, although designed by its framers
to eliminate a practice that was a disgrace to humanity, opened the
door to evils almost as great--if not greater in some instances--as
those it was expected to suppress. Selfish, soulless colonists had but
to circulate the report that certain Indians, whom they coveted for
slaves, were cannibals, in order to justify themselves before the law
for tearing them from their homes and keeping them in servitude. Thus
it happened that, shortly after the promulgation of the law aforesaid,
the Caribs of the Mainland, as well as those of the West Indies,
were classed as cannibals. They were accordingly hunted like wild
beasts, and countless thousands of them--the same innocent, gentle,
inoffensive creatures that so strongly appealed to Columbus--were sold
into slavery and met with a cruel death in the mines of Española. So
successful were the atrocious slave-dealers of the time in fixing the
stigma of cannibal on the Indians of the Mainland that Herrera felt
authorized to declare that there was in every pueblo of Venezuela a
slaughter house in which human flesh could be obtained--en cada Pueblo
havia Caneceria publica de carne humana (Dec. VIII, Lib. II, Cap. XIX).

Direct and specific as is this charge, it is quite safe to assert
that it is utterly devoid of foundation in fact. The most charitable
construction we can put on Herrera's statements is that he was misled
by the false reports of those whose interest it was to have it believed
that the Caribs of Venezuela, as well as those of the West Indies,
indulged in the horrid practice of devouring their enemies. Humboldt
was among the first to raise his voice in defense of the Indians of the
Mainland and to assert that it was only the Caribs of the West Indies
that had "rendered the names cannibals, Caribbees and anthropophagi,
synonymous." (Personal Narrative, Vol. II, p. 414.)

A recent Venezuelan writer, Tavera-Acosta, declares that it is "an
incontrovertible fact that so far the anthropophagy of which they
have been accused by their ferocious and ignorant executioners has
never been proved" against the Caribs. Their sole crime was that
they took arms against their ruthless invaders in defense of their
homes, and relying on their numbers and conscious superiority over
other tribes endeavored by all possible means to preserve their
independence. (Anales de Guayana, p. 320, Ciudad Bolivar, 1905.)

There can be no doubt that the Indians, during the period
of the conquest and subsequently, were the victims of gross
misrepresentations and had in consequence to endure untold hardships
and miseries. Not content with denouncing them as cannibals, their
relentless persecutors--Dutch, Germans, English, French and Portuguese,
as well as Spaniards--insisted on regarding them as mere animals--like
a species of chimpanzee or orang-outang--that had no souls and no
rights any one was bound to respect. It required the bull--Sublimis
Deus--of Pope Paul III to define the status of the hapless Indians,
to make it clear that they are not "dumb brutes created for our
service," but that they "are truly men"; that "they are by no means
to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property";
that they are not "to be in any way enslaved"; and that "should the
contrary happen, it shall be null and of no effect."

What has been said of the cannibalism of the South American
Indian in times past may with even greater truth be iterated of it
to-day. In spite of what has been written to the contrary, even by so
distinguished an explorer as Rafael Reyes--ex-president of Colombia--it
may well be doubted if there is a single tribe in South America that
can justly be accused of cannibalism. Some of them, owing to their
miserable social condition, or because they have for generations
past been the victims of the injustice and cruelty of the whites,
may be ferocious and vindictive, but, that even the worst of them are
cannibals, is yet to be proved. Compare Oviedo y Baños, op. cit., II,
p. 377 et seq., and Across the South American Continent, Exploration
of the Brothers Reyes, Paper Read at the Pan-American Conference,
by General Rafael Reyes, the Delegate for Colombia, Dec. 30th, 1901,
Mexico and Barcelona, 1902.

[87] Nouveau Voyage aux Isles de l'Amérique, Vol. VI, pp. 127, 128,
Paris, 1743.

[88] "Facilius enim mulieres incorruptam antiquitatem conservant, quod
multorum sermonis expertes ea tenent semper, quæ prima didicerunt."--De
Orat., Lib. III, Cap. XII, 45.

[89] See, among other works on the subject, Du Parler des Hommes et
du Parler des Femmes dans la Langue Caraïbe, par Lucien Adam, Paris,
1879, in which the author makes the following statement:--

"Le double langage se réduit, au point de vue de la lexicologie,
à cette singularité que, pour exprimer environ 400 idées sur 2,000 à
3,000, les hommes invariablement, et les femmes seulment entre elles,
se servaient de mots différents."

See also Introduction à la grammaire Caraïbe, du P. R. Breton, and
the Dictionaire Caraïbe, of the same author.

[90] The Purgatorio, Canto I, vv. 22-27.

The poet is not to be taken too literally in this last verse. In
consequence of the precession of the equinoxes, the constellations
are ever changing their position with reference to any given point on
the earth's surface. There was a time, in the distant past, when the
Southern Cross was visible in the very land in which Dante penned his
immortal poem. "At the time of Claudius Ptolemæus," says Humboldt,
"the beautiful star at the base of the Southern Cross had still an
altitude of 6° 10' at its meridian passage at Alexandria, while at
the present day it culminates there several degrees below the horizon.

"In the fourth century, the Christian anchorites in the Thebaid
desert might have seen the Cross at an altitude of ten degrees." And
again, "The Southern Cross began to become invisible in 52° 30'
north latitude 2900 years before our era, since, according to Galle,
this constellation might previously have reached an altitude of more
than 10°. When it disappeared from the horizon of the countries on
the Baltic, the great pyramid of Cheops had already been erected more
than five hundred years. The pastoral tribe of the Hyksos made their
incursion seven hundred years earlier. The past seems to be visibly
nearer to us when we connect its measurement with great and memorable
events."--Cosmos, Vol. II, pp. 288-291, New York, 1850.

For an interesting discussion of Dante's "quattro stelle," four stars,
with references, see Vernon's Readings on the Purgatorio, Vol. I,
pp. 10, 11, third edition. Compare also Ramusio, Delle Navigazioni e
Viaggi, Vol. I, pp. 127 and 193, Venetia, 1550, and Oviedo, Historia
General y Natural de las Indias. Lib. II, Cap. 11, pp. 45 and 46,
Madrid, 1851.

[91] Geografia Statistica de Venezuela, p. 461, Firenze, 1864.

[92] It was here that the well-known brand of Angostura bitters
was first prepared by Dr. Siegert. The women of the city, however,
maintain that its discovery was due to a Venezolana, who was the
wife of the German doctor. Owing to the exactions of the Venezuelan
government, the manufacture of this widely used infusion was long
ago transferred to the Port-of-Spain, where it now constitutes one
of the city's chief industries.

[93] A Naturalist in the Guianas, p. 65, by Eugene André, New York,
1904.

[94] In the quasi-suburb, known as morichales, from the number of
moriche palms found there, the homes of the well-to-do people are
not unlike those we so much admired in Trinidad. Some of them are
delightful arbors, surrounded by gardens filled with the rarest shrubs
and blooms. Here truly, in the language of Pliny, flowers are the joy
of trees, and they vie with one another in the brilliance of their
colors, and in the exuberance of their growth.

[95] Sr. Pérez Triana, the son of a former president of Colombia,
was in 1893 obliged to flee from his country, and as the seaports
were watched he and his companions were forced to escape by way of the
Meta and the Orinoco. He tells us in his charming book, De Bogotá al
Atlantico, p. 3, of the dread inspired by the thought of "lo incierto
del viaje, que emprendiamos hacia regiones desconocidas, acaso nunca
holladas par la planta del hombre civilizado," "the uncertainty of
the journey we were undertaking to unknown regions, probably never
trod by the foot of civilized man."--Segunda Edición, Madrid, 1905.

Mr. Cunninghame Graham, in his introduction to this book, remarks
that "The voyage in itself was memorable because, since the first
conquerors went down the river with the faith that in their case,
if rightly used, might have smoothed out all the mountain ranges in
the world, no one, except a stray adventurer, or india-rubber trader,
has followed in their footsteps," p. 13, English edition, London, 1902.

Another Colombian, Sr. Modesto Garces, had made the same journey eight
years before, a record of which he has given us in his little work,
Un viaje á Venezuela, Bogotá, 1890. But neither he nor Sir Pérez
Triana saw the lower Meta, for they left this river a short distance
above Orocué, and voyaged to the Orinoco by way of the Vichada.

Three years subsequently to Pérez Triana's trip the same journey,
with slight modifications, was made by a German naturalist,
Dr. Otto Bürger. He has given us a record of it in his Reisen eines
Naturforschers im Tropischen America, Leipzig, 1900.

So far as I am aware, no writer has made the journey up the river
from Ciudad Bolivar to Bogotá. In a certain limited sense it was,
therefore, probably true that we were the first to undertake the
journey described in the following pages.

[96] The plaga, as understood by the natives, has special reference to
the insects known to them as mosquitoes, zancudos and jejenes. What
they call mosquitoes we call gnats. The zancudo is our mosquito. The
jejen is a small fly whose bite is quite as painful as that of the
zancudo. Sometimes the term zancudo is applied to all these pests
indiscriminately.

Besides these insects, that are often the cause of much suffering to
the traveler in low woodlands, there are others that are sometimes
included under the general designation of the plaga. These are
a very small red insect known as the coloradito, and the nigua,
or jigger--pulex penetrans--which, on account of the misery they
occasion, are often more dreaded than serpents or the wild beasts of
the forest. They usually bury themselves under the toe nails, where
they lay their eggs. If not immediately removed they cause painful and
often dangerous sores. It is related of Sir Robert Schomburgk that
a negress once extracted from his feet no fewer than eighty-three
jiggers at one sitting.

The coloradito, called by the French bête-rouge, and in some places
known as the red tick, is almost invisible to the naked eye. It is
found everywhere in the equatorial lowlands, especially during the
rainy season. Its bite causes an intolerable itching, and when one
has been exposed to the combined attacks of many of these microscopic
insects, the result is as painful as the burning produced by the
poisoned tunic of Nessus. Schomburgk, in describing his personal
experience, declares that "the bite of this insect drives by day
the perspiration of anguish from every pore, and at night makes
one's hammock resemble the gridiron on which St. Lawrence was
roasted." Simson informs us that the intense irritation produced by
the bites of the bête-rouge at times drove him almost to the verge of
madness. "Notwithstanding every effort of self-control," he writes,
"to bear the itching sensation, I have many times awoke in the
night to find myself sitting up in the bed, and literally tearing
the skin off my legs, where most of the insects collect, with my
nails." Mosquitoes and the zancudos are bad enough, but, as a pest,
the coloradito is far worse. Truth to tell, our greatest suffering
in the tropics came from the coloradito, but it was in great measure
due to our lack of precaution. Had we exercised more care we should
have avoided many painful hours. The best way to allay the pain is
to rub the part affected with rum or lemon juice.

Padre Gumilla assures us that leaving the Gulf of Paria and
entering the Orinoco, or any of the tropical rivers, is tantamount
to engaging in a fierce and continued warfare, day and night, with
countless insects of all kinds. Of certain mosquitoes, he tells us,
their sharp, uninterrupted noise is more to be dreaded than their
piercing proboscis.

So trying and difficult did Raleigh consider a voyage up the Orinoco
that he declared it a task "fitter for boies," than for men of mature
years, although, when he visited Guiana, he was nearly three lustra
younger than was the author of the present work when he made the
journey herein described.

[97] Journal of an Expedition 1400 miles up the Orinoco and 300 up
the Arauca, pp. 62 and 66, London, 1822.

[98] Adventures Amidst the Equatorial Forests and Rivers of South
America, p. 63, by Villiers Stuart, London, 1891.

Accepting as true these and similar exaggerated statements made by
travelers from the time of Gumilla to our own regarding the insect
pests of tropical America, the reader will no doubt be inclined to
agree with Sydney Smith that it is better for one to become reconciled
to the trials of our northern climate than to expose oneself to
the still greater trials in the lands bordering the equator. In
a characteristic article in the Edinburgh Review on Waterton's
Wanderings, the genial humorist has the following paragraph:--

"Insects are the curse of tropical climates. The bête-rouge lays the
foundation of a tremendous ulcer. In a moment you are covered with
ticks. Chigoes bury themselves in your flesh, and hatch a large colony
of young chigoes in a few hours. They will not live together, but every
chigoe sets up a separate ulcer, and has his own private portion of
pus. Flies get entry into your mouth, into your eyes, into your nose;
you eat flies, drink flies, and breathe flies. Lizards, cockroaches,
and snakes, get into the bed; ants eat up the books; scorpions sting
you on the foot. Everything bites, stings, or bruises; every second
of your existence you are wounded by some piece of animal life that
nobody has ever seen before, except Swammerdam and Meriam. An insect
with eleven legs is swimming in your teacup, a nondescript with nine
wings is struggling in the small beer, or a caterpillar with several
dozen eyes in his belly is hastening over your bread and butter! All
nature is alive, and seems to be gathering all her entomological hosts
to eat you up, as you are standing, out of your coat, waistcoat, and
breeches. Such are the tropics. All this reconciles us to our dews,
fogs, vapours, and drizzle--to our apothecaries rushing about with
gargles and tinctures--to our old, British, constitutional coughs,
sore throats, and swelled faces."

[99] "In a region," says Humboldt, "where travelling is so uncommon,
people seem to feel a pleasure in exaggerating to strangers the
difficulties arising from the climate, the wild animals and the
Indians." Op. cit., Vol. I, p. 361.

[100]  "More bold a man is, he prevails the more,
        Though man nor place he ever saw before."

                        --The Odyssey, Book VII, vv. 50, 51.

[101] Op. cit., p. 87.

[102] Voyages dans l'Amérique du Sud, p. 578, Paris, 1883.

Major Stanley Patterson, writing in the Royal Geographical Journal,
Vol. XIII, No. 1, p. 40, 1899, of the Venezuelans living on the
Orinoco, declares that "All are avaricious, thriftless, independent,
faithless, untruthful, lazy, capable of hard work, quick-tempered,
vindictive, changeful and full of laughter. If there are clouds
these children of the sun see them not; nothing is really serious to
them." Certain of his adjectives may apply to some of the inhabitants
but they surely cannot truthfully be applied to all of them. We found
many good people among them and retain the pleasantest recollections
of their kindness and hospitality.

[103] As to the flora of the forests of Venezuelan Guiana one can
truthfully say what Richard Schomburgk affirms of the flora of British
Guiana. In his Reisen in British Guiana, Vol. II, p. 216, speaking
of the plants in the country around Roraima, he writes as follows:
"Not only the orchids, but the shrubs and low trees were unknown to
me. Every shrub, herb and tree was new to me, if not as to the family,
yet as to the species. I stood on the border of an unknown plant-zone,
full of wondrous forms which lay as if by magic before me.... Every
step revealed something new."

As an evidence of the variety of plant life in this part of the world,
it suffices to state that Bonpland, the companion of Humboldt in
his memorable journey to South America, discovered no fewer than
six hundred species of new plants on his way to the Cassiquiare,
and that, too, in spite of the fact that his investigations were
necessarily confined entirely to the banks of the river along which
he passed. There are still many large tracts in Venezuela and Colombia
that have never been visited by the botanist.

[104] S. Pérez Triana, op. cit., p. 309.

[105] Campaigns and Cruises in Venezuela and New Granada from
1817-1830, Vol. I, p. 119, London.

[106] In his Travels and Adventures in South and Central America,
Don Ramon Paez, the son of the first president of Venezuela, writes
as follows of a certain cattle farm in the llanos: "Its area, would
measure at least eighty square leagues, or about one hundred and
fifty thousand acres of the richest land, but which under the present
backward and revolutionary state of the country is comparatively
valueless to the owner. The number of cattle dispersed throughout the
length and breadth of this wide extent of prairie land was computed
to be about a hundred thousand head, and at one time, ten thousand
horses; but what with the peste, revolutionary exactions, and skin
hunters, comparatively very few of the former and none of the latter
have been left." Pp. 202, 203, New York, 1864.

[107]  "My wife and my valued horse
          Died both at the same time.
        To the devil with my wife,
          For my horse do I repine."

[108] "With my lance and horse, I care not for fortune, and it matters
not whether the sun shines or the moon gives light."

[109] For valuable information regarding the llanos and their
inhabitants, the Llaneros, the reader may consult, besides Páez,
already quoted, Aus den Llanos, von Carl Sachs, Leipzig, 1879, and
Vom Tropischen Tieflande zum Ewigen Schnee, von Anton Goering, Leipzig.

[110] Uncle, a name by which Páez was frequently addressed by the
Llaneros.

[111] Recollections of a Service of Three Years during the War of
Extermination in the Republics of Venezuela and Colombia, pp. 176,
178, London, 1728.

[112] El Orinoco Ilustrado, Cap. XXII.

[113] Op. cit., Cap. VIII.

[114] Tom. I, p. 2.

[115] Purgatorio, VI, 124-126.

[116] The unstable and turbulent condition from which the country has
so long suffered cannot be attributed to a defective constitution or
to impracticable laws. The constitution of Venezuela is modeled after
that of the United States, and the laws are largely based on the best
legislation of other countries. But this is not sufficient. Of this
unhappy country, and especially of its rulers, one may exclaim in
the words of the great Florentine poet:--


                              "Laws indeed there are,
        But who is he observes them? None."


During our wanderings through this country, which Nature has so highly
favored, we often thought that the interests of the people and of
humanity would be subserved by adopting a method of government that,
for a while, was deemed necessary in Florence. To quell sedition
and dissension and break up the factions that had so long made law
and order impossible, rulers were brought in from outside--men who
had no affiliations with either the Bianchi or the Neri, Guelphs or
Ghibellines, and who could, therefore, be counted upon to execute
the laws with strict impartiality, regardless of family or party.

Unless those responsible for the government of the country shall soon
give evidence of being able to guarantee peace and tranquillity and
give the people an opportunity of developing the resources of the
country--something in which the whole civilized world is becoming
daily more interested--the time may come when the great powers will
find it necessary, in the interests of international expediency,
to appoint some one who may be counted upon to keep the peace, and
foster the commercial and social development that is so greatly needed
and is so essential to national progress and prosperity.

[117] Juan de Castellanos, Varones Ilustres de Indias, Primera Parte,
Elegia, XI, Canto II.

[118] Castellanos was for a while a soldier and afterwards
an ecclesiastic, enjoying a benefice in the town of Tunja, New
Granada. Like Pope, he had an extraordinary faculty for versification,
and, like him, "He spoke in numbers for the numbers came." This
does not, however, detract from his authority as a historian. Having
taken an active part in many of the campaigns, which he describes,
and, knowing intimately many of the earlier conquerors of that vast
territory now known as the Republic of Colombia, few writers were
better qualified than he to record the events so graphically depicted
in his Elegias, or to portray the characters of those conquistadores
who figure so prominently among his Varones Ilustres de Indias. The
first part of his work was published in 1589. The second and third
parts were published in 1850 by Rivadeneyra in the Biblioteca de
Autores Españoles. The fourth part, discovered only a few years
ago, was issued by D. Antonio Paz y Melia in 1887 under the title of
Historia del Nuevo Reino de Granada. In his introduction to this work,
Sr. Melia gives an able résumé of all that is known or conjectured
regarding Castellanos. For a critical estimate of the author of Las
Elegias de Varones Ilustres, consult Jimenez de la Espada, in his
study, Juan de Castellanos y su Historia del Nuevo Reino de Granada,
in the Rivista Contemporanea, Madrid, 1889.

[119] Padre Caulin, Historia Coro-Grafica, Natural y Evangelica,
Lib. I, Cap. X, p. 79, 1779.

[120] Maluco, a word frequently used in Venezuela for malo, bad.

[121] "A sambo," writes Depons, "is the offspring of a negress
with an Indian, or of a negro with an Indian woman. In color he
nearly resembles the child of a mulatto by a negress. The sambo is
well formed, muscular, and capable of supporting great fatigue;
but unfortunately, his mind has a strong bias to vice of every
kind. The word sambo signifies, in the language of the country,
everything despicable and worthless, a knave, a drone, a drunkard,
a cheat, a robber, and even an assassin. Of ten crimes committed in
this district, eight are chargeable on this villainous and accursed
race."--Travels in South America, p. 127, London, 1806.

[122] Op. cit., Vol. I, p. 43.

[123] Compare Cassani, J., Historia de la provincia de la compañia
des Jesus del Nuevo Reino de Granada en la America, descripción y
relación exacta de sus gloriosas missiones en el reino, llano, meta,
y rio Orinoco, etc. Con 1 mapa. Folio. Madrid, 1741.

[124] P. 14. How like the labors and cares of the bishops of the
early Church were those of the missionaries among the children of
the forest! Both were continually called upon to act as causarum
examinatores--arbitrators--and to settle difficulties that were ever
arising among the flocks entrusted to their care. St. Augustine, the
great bishop of Hippo, refers frequently to "the burdensome character
of this kind of work, and the distraction from higher activities which
it involved"--"Quantum attinet ad meum commodum," he writes in his
De Opere Monachorum, XXIX, 37, "multo mallem per singulos dies certis
horis, quantum in bene moderatis monasteriis constitutum est, aliquid
manibus operari, et ceteras horas habere ad legendum et orandum, aut
aliquid de divinis litteris agendum liberas, quam tumultuosissimas
perplexitates caussarum alienarum pati de negotiis secularibus vel
judicando dirimendis vel interveniendo præcidendis."

[125] Every reader is familiar with the story that has long been in
circulation regarding monkey bridges, and, in his youth, was, no doubt,
entertained by pictures of such imaginary bridges. It is quite safe to
say that no one ever saw such bridges in any part of South America or
elsewhere. And yet the tale regarding their existence has had currency
since the time of Acosta, who visited the New World in 1570. "Going
from Nombre de Dios to Panamá," he writes, "I did see in Capira one
of these monkies leape from one tree to an other, which was on the
other side of a river, making me much to wonder. They leape where they
list, winding their tailes about a braunch to shake it; and when they
will leape further than they can at once, they use a pretty devise,
tying themselves by the tailes one of another, and by this means make
as it were a chaine of many; then doe they launch themselves foorth,
and the first holpen by the force of the rest takes holde where hee
list, and so hangs to a bough and helps all the rest, till they be
gotten up." Historia Natural y Moral de las Indias, Bk. IV, Chap. 39,
Grimston's Translation, London, 1604.

The fable about the monkey bridge belongs to the same class as
those that obtain in certain parts of South America regarding the
"great devil," or "man of the woods," a near relative of Waterton's
"Nondescript."

Kingsley, in the following passage from Westward Ho!, referring to some
of the things seen and heard by Amyas Leigh and his companions during
their voyage up the Meta, paints a picture that is doubtless before
the mind's eye of most people when they think of the forest-fringed
banks of this river, but which is about as far from the reality as
could well be imagined. "The long processions of monkeys," he writes,
"who kept pace with them along the tree tops and proclaimed their
wonder in every imaginable whistle, and grunt and howl, had ceased
to move their laughter, as much as the roar of the jaguar and the
rustle of the boa had ceased to move their fear." Chap. XXIII.

[126] Op. cit., p. 347.

[127] Historia de Abiponibus, Vol. II, p. 231 et seq., Vienna,
1784. "Attention has recently been called to a group of peasant
superstitions that have made their appearance in Germany, which are
closely analogous in principle to the couvade, though relating not to
the actual parents of the child but to the god-parents. It is believed
that the habits and proceedings of the god-father and god-mother affect
the child's life and character. Particularly, the god-father at the
christening must not think of disease or madness lest this come upon
the child; he must not look round on the way to the church lest the
child should grow up an idle stare-about; nor must he carry a knife
about him for fear of making the child a suicide; the god-mother must
put on a clean shift to go to the baptism or the baby will grow up
untidy," etc., etc. See E. B. Tylor's Researches into the Early History
of Mankind and the Development of Civilization, p. 304, Boston, 1878.

For further information on La Couvade, the reader is referred to
Brett's Indian Tribes of Guiana, p. 355; Max Muller's Chips from a
German Workshop, Vol. II, p. 281; Spix and Martius's Travels in Brazil,
Vol. II, p. 247; Du Tertre's Histoire Générale des Antilles habitées
par les Francais, Vol. II, p. 371; Gilli's Saggio di Storia Americana,
Vol. II, p. 133; Tschudi's Peru, Vol. II, p. 235; Tylor's Researches
into the Early History of Mankind and the Development of Civilization,
p. 293, et seq; and Lafitau's Moeurs des Sauvages Americains, Vol. I,
p. 259.

[128] One of the peculiarities of some savages is the decided objection
they manifest to having their photographs or portraits taken. They
imagine that they lose somewhat of their own life by having their
likeness transferred to paper or other material. And the more
perfect their likeness the greater, they fancy, is the loss which
they personally sustain. Having had some experience with the Indians
of North America regarding this matter, I was not surprised to find
that there are in South America certain Indians who entertain similar
notions regarding the danger of having their pictures taken. Some, to
avoid having their photographs taken, will at once avert their faces;
others will run away to escape the impending danger. Cf. On the Origin
of Civilization and the Primitive Condition of Man, by Lord Avebury,
London, 1902, and The Indians of North America, Letter 15, by George
Catlin, Edinburgh, 1903.

[129] For the benefit of those who are familiar with Spanish I give
this touching quotation in the original. It is quite impossible
to reproduce in a translation the verse and rhythm of the sonorous
Castilian of the poet.


       "Así de la Mision todos los niños
        Corren en torno de la cruz que arranca
        Enhiesta al aire y cercan al anciano,
        Que entre tantas cabezas infantiles
        Descuella allí con su cabeza blanca.
        Oh! ni Platon, ni Socrates, famosos
        En los anales del saber, supieron
        Tras largos años de velar continuo
        Lo que estos pobres niños, candorosos,
        De los tremulos labios del anciano,
        Al pié del leño rústico aprendieron."

                         --From his ode Los Colonos.

[130] Known in the West Indies as the god-tree and greatly venerated
by the native negroes. The ceiba is one of the few tropical trees
that ever shed their foliage. The erythrina, when it exchanges its
leaves for flowers, is another.

[131] G. Hartwig, The Tropical World, p. 137, London, 1892.

[132] Op. cit., Vol. II, pp. 47 et seq.

As early as 1640 the Dutch writer Laet refers to a milk tree which
was evidently the same as the one that so impressed Humboldt. He
says: "Inter arbores quae sponte hic passim nascuntur, memorantur a
scriptoribus Hispanis quaedam quae lacteum quemdam liquorem fundunt,
qui durus admodum evadit instar gummi, et suavem odorem de se
fundit; aliae quae liquorem quemdam edunt, instar lactis coagulati,
qui in cibis ab ipsis usurpatur sine noxa."--Descriptio Indiarum
Occidentalium, Lib. XVIII.

[133] In Venezuela and Colombia the word parasita--parasite--is usually
employed to designate all orchids, no matter what may be the species
or genus. This is a mistake. Orchids are not parasites which, like the
dodder or mistletoe, obtain their nourishment from the plant or tree
on which they grow. They are epiphytes, that get their nourishment
from the surrounding atmosphere, and use the branches and trunks
of trees merely as supports or resting-places. The Old World genus
Aërides is especially remarkable in this respect. One of the species,
Aërides odoratum, "has this wonderful property, that, when brought
from the woods, where it grows, into a house, and suspended in the
air, it will grow, flourish and flower for many years without any
nourishment, either from the earth or from water." For this reason
the orchid is appropriately called Flos aëris, or Air Flower.

[134] Orchids: Their Culture and Management, p. 20, by W. Watson and
H. J. Chapman, London, 1903.

Peter Martyr must have had some of these orchids in mind when he
wrote the following sentence as translated by Michael Lok:--"Smooth
and pleasinge words might be spoken of the sweete odors and perfumes
of these countries, which we purposely omit because they make rather
for the effeminatinge of mens minds than for the maintanance of good
behavior." Dec. IV, Cap. 4, p. 161.

For colored figures and descriptions of the rare and beautiful
orchidaceous plants found in Venezuela and Colombia, the reader is
referred to The Orchid Album, 12 vols., conducted by Messrs. Warner,
Williams, Moore and Fitch, London.

[135] Named after the astronomer Copernicus.

[136] In eastern Colombia, if a cattle farm contains more than
a thousand head of cattle it is called a hato; if it counts less
than this number it is known as fundacion. A plantation in the hilly
country is called a hacienda, in the plains a conuco, and if it have
a sugar-mill, it is named a trapiche.

[137] The steamer on which we had come to Orocué, took, on her
return to Ciudad Bolivar, among other articles of freight, nearly
three tons of orchids, of many species, collected from divers parts
of Colombia. They were intended for certain New York florists, and
were shipped directly to their greenhouses in New Jersey. They were
gathered by one of the many orchid collectors that are constantly
engaged in tropical America in making collections for florists in
the United States and Europe.

Sometimes they come across new species of rarest beauty. This
means a treasure-trove for the lucky finder. Not long before our
visit to Colombia a truly magnificent specimen had been discovered
by one of these collectors. It was sold in London for a thousand
pounds sterling. And we heard of others that fetched prices quite
as extravagant as any that were ever paid for tulip-bulbs during
the period of the tulipomania in Holland in the early part of the
seventeenth century.

[138] Viajes Cientificos á los Andes Ecuatoriales, p. 29, Paris, 1849.

[139] Personal Narrative, up. sup., Vol. II, p. 438 et seq.

[140] Casanare, p. 11, Bogotá, 1896.

[141] Writing of the juice of the arnotto berries, "that die a most
perfect crimson and carnation," Sir Walter Raleigh declares, "And for
painting, al France, Italy or the east Indies yield none such. For
the more the skyn is washed, the fayer the cullour appeareth, and
with which euen those brown and tawnie women spot themselues and
cullour their cheekes." Op. cit., p. 113.

Peter Martyr, referring to certain painted Indian warriors, encountered
by the Spaniards in the West Indies, declares, "A man wold thinke
them to bee deuylles incarnate newly broke owte of hell, they are
soo lyke vnto hell-houndes." Op. cit., p. 91.

[142] Ibid.

[143] Bongo, falca, and curiara are names given in Colombia
and Venezuela to the dugouts or canoes fashioned from a single
tree-trunk. They are sometimes large enough to hold from twenty to
twenty five persons. Usually, however, their capacity is limited
to five or six persons. The curiara is smaller than the bongo or
falca. The bongo is generally provided with a covering in the centre
called a toldo or carroza. This is made of lattice-work with palm
leaves to shelter the traveler from the sun and rain. It is steered
and urged backwards and forwards by a man standing at the stern, who
uses a kind of oar--canalete--very much as a Venetian gondolier handles
his oar for steering and propelling his gondola. When the current does
not permit the use of oars those standing near the prow urge the boat
forward by poles called palancas. The boatmen are called bogas and the
ropes with which they sometimes pull their canoes forward are called
sogas. The bongo, especially when the river is high, is a very slow
means of locomotion. And owing to the very limited space of the toldo,
even in the largest canoes, traveling in a bongo is, at best, very
confining and uncomfortable. A journey any distance in one of these
long, narrow, crank dug-outs--more unstable than a shell--is a trying
experience, and one that all travelers in equatorial America avoid
whenever possible. The treacherous craft is liable to capsize when
one least expects it. Even a skilled Oxford or Harvard sculler would
at times have great difficulty in keeping his balance in one of them.

[144] Also called papelon--cane-syrup boiled down, without being
clarified, and cast into molds. The only kind of sugar obtainable here.

[145] A stanza from this poem will show what value the author placed
on the hammock. It expresses, at the same time, the opinion of it
entertained by all travelers in tropical countries.


       "Mi hamaca ea un tesoro,
        Es mi mejor alhaja;
        Á la ciudad, al campo,
        Siempre ella me acompaña.
        Oh prodigio de industria!
        Cuando no encuentro casa,
        La cuelgo de los troncos,
        Y allí esta mi posada.
        'Salud, salud doe veces
        Al que invento la hamaca!'"


Mention is made of hammocks by Vespucci and Alonso de Ojeda as early as
1498. They are made on hand-looms from the fibres of various species
of palm and bromelia or from cotton thread. In their manufacture
the Indian women often display considerable skill and taste. This is
particularly true of the hammocks made in the regions of the upper Rio
Negro, which are beautifully decorated with the feathers of parrots,
toucans and other birds of brilliant plumage.

"The hammock," as Schomburgk well observes, "is the most indispensable
article in the Indian's house, or for an Indian's journey. On his
travels it is carried folded up and slung round his neck; the greatest
precaution is used to prevent its getting wet. Where a halt is made,
be it of ever so short a duration, the first object sought for is a
convenient tree from which he can suspend it. It is a compliment paid
to the stranger, if the host takes the hammock from him on entering
the house and slings it for his guest, and it is the duty of the
wife to do this service for her husband. The common hammocks of the
Indians are generally open, that is, not closely woven, and colored
red with roucou or arnotto." Op. cit., p. 66.

[146] Peter Martyr, writing of the West Indies, informs us that "In
all these Ilandes is a certeyne kynde of trees as bygge as elmes,
whiche beare gourdes in the steade of fruites. These they vse only
for drinkynge pottes, and to fetch water in, but not for meate, for
the inner substance of them is sowrer then gaule, and the barke as
harde as any shelle." Eden, op. cit., p. 76.

[147] "Tutti dormono insieme come i polli, chi in terra, chi in aria
sospeso."--Historia del Mondo Novo, In Venetia, 1565.

[148] Often misspelled yucca, which is the name of a genus of plants
belonging to the lily family. The Spanish bayonet--Yucca albifolia--is
a familiar example.

[149] Life and Nature in the Tropics, p. 98, by H. M. and
P. V. M. Myers, New York, 1871.

[150] Aus den Llanos, p. 147, Leipzig, 1840.

[151] Of the tonina, as of the dolphin that befriended Arion, one
could say in the words of an ancient writer: "Of man, he is nothing
afraid, neither avoideth from him as a stranger; but of himselfe
meeteth their ships, plaieth and disporteth himselfe, and fetcheth a
thousand friskes, and gambols before them. He will swimme along by the
mariners, as it were for a wager, who should make way most speedily,
and alwaies outgoeth them, saile they with never so good a forewind."

[152] The national dish of Venezuela, also much esteemed in
Colombia. It is a kind of ragout composed of meat and vegetables,
or fish and vegetables, highly seasoned with aji, or red pepper.

[153] Wanderings in South America, Second Journey.

Referring to Waterton's account of the bellbird and the distance at
which it can be heard, Sydney Smith expresses his scepticism in the
following fashion:--

"The description of the birds is very animated and interesting; but
how far does the gentle reader imagine the campanero may be heard,
whose size is that of a jay? Perhaps 300 yards. Poor innocent,
ignorant reader! unconscious of what Nature has done in the forests
of Cayenne, and measuring the force of tropical intonation by the
sounds of a Scotch duck! The campanero may be heard three miles!--this
single little bird being more powerful than the belfry of a cathedral,
ringing for a new dean--just appointed on account of shabby politics,
small understanding, and good family!

"It is impossible to contradict a gentleman who has been in the
forests of Cayenne; but we are determined, as soon as a campanero is
brought to England, to make him toll in a public place, and have the
distance measured."

[154]  "In angry sea, in sudden storm,
        I thee invoke, our star benign."

[155] Compare the reception of Ulysses by Eumæus, in the fourteenth
book of the Odyssey, where the old servant of the wandering hero is
made to say to his unknown master:--


                            "Guest! If one much worse
        Arrived here than thyself, it were a curse
        To my poor means, to let a stranger taste
        Contempt for fit food. Poor men, and unplac'd
        In free seats of their own, are all from Jove
        Commended to our entertaining love,
        But poor is th' entertainment I can give,
        Yet free and loving."


Crevaux, op. cit., p. 556, remarks anent this subject: "On pratique
largement l'hospitalité dans les grandes solitudes."

[156] "Videmus lunam et stellas consolari noctem."--Confessionum,
Lib. XIII, Cap. XXXII.

[157] Codazzi also refers to this and other similar phenomena in his
Geografia Statistica di Venezuela, pp. 29 and 30, Firenze, 1864.

[158] Among the Indians of Guiana, p. 384, by Everard T. Im Thurn.

[159] The Bolivian Andes, p. 201, London and New York, 1901.

Padre Figueroa, in his Relaciones de las Misiones en el País de los
Maynas, writes of similar phenomena observed among the Andes near
the Amazon.

[160] Since writing the above I have discovered that both Antonio
Raimondi of Lima, Peru, and Col. Geo. E. Church had arrived
independently at a similar conclusion to my own. "The Andes," writes
Col. Church, "at least within the tropics, are at times a gigantic
electric battery, and so highly charged that they are very dangerous
to cross."--The Geographical Journal, pp. 341, 342, April, 1901.

[161] Op. cit., p. 4.

[162] "Homo habitat inter tropicos, vescitur palmis, lotophagus;
hospitatur extra tropicos sub novercante Cerere carnivorus."--Systema
Naturæ, Vol. I, p. 24.

Besides the fruit-yielding palms there are others, like the palmetto
or cabbage Palm, that also afford nutritious food. "The head of the
Palmito tree," says Hakluyt, "is very good meate, either raw or sodden;
it yeeldeth a head which waigheth about twenty pound, and is far
better than any cabbage."--Early Voyages, Vol. V, p. 557. Schomburgk
informs us that during his exploration of Guiana it was for weeks
his chief sustenance.

[163] It is surprising what erroneous notions have been and are
still entertained regarding the distance of Bogotá from the head of
navigation on the eastern side of the Andes. Many recent writers place
the distance at twenty miles. Michelena y Rojas, in his Exploración
Oficial, p. 293, makes it but four leagues. Schomburgk, in an article
in the Journal of the Geographical Society, Vol. X, p. 278, assures us
that by way of the Meta there is uninterrupted navigation to within
eight miles of Sante Fe de Bogotá! The fact is that the nearest
point to Bogotá to which vessels of even light draught may ascend
by the Meta is Barrigón, more than one hundred and fifty miles from
Colombia's capital. Small flat boats and canoes may, through some of
the affluents of the Meta, approach considerably nearer. During the
rainy season they may even reach the foothills of the Andes at the
base of which Villavicencio stands. But from here, the nearest point
to the capital which even the smallest craft can reach to Bogotá,
the distance is still ninety-three miles at the lowest estimate. To
navigate the Rio Negro, as Rojas and others imagine can be done,
from the llanos to Caquesa--thirty-seven hundred feet higher than the
plains--would be no more possible than it would be to row or sail
up an Alpine torrent. From Caquesa to Bogotá is not four leagues,
as Michelena estimates, but full twenty-five miles.

[164]  "Dichoso aquel que alcanza
        Como rico don del Cielo,
        Para defender su suelo
        Buen caballo y buena lanza."

[165] "When roseate Aurora shows her fresh face in the East, in vain I
seek my gentle spouse, in vain I look for the daughter my soul adores,
to imprint a kiss on their brows."

[166] "O what prodigies! What beauty! Man feels weak and poor in their
presence. There is nothing here that does not amaze the heart. In
everything is inscribed the name of God. Everything proclaims His
omnipotence."

[167] A View of the Present State of Ireland.

[168] Also called cobija and ruana.

[169] The Chagres river, it is said, occasionally rises twenty-five
feet in a few hours.

[170] The term Jurungo has much the same signification among the
Llaneros as has "tenderfoot" in Australia and the western part of
the United States. Guate, another word of similar import, frequently
heard in the Llanos, is employed to designate a Serrano--a highlander
or mountaineer--while jurungo refers more specifically to a stranger
from Europe or the United States. Like the word tenderfoot, these
two epithets are used in a certain depreciative sense.

[171] The reader who is interested in the famous expeditions of
Hohermuth, von Hutten and Federmann, about which there is little
in English that is satisfactory, is referred to Castellanos, Varones
Ilustres de Indias, Partes II and III; Herrera, Historia de las Indias,
Dec. VI; Oviedo y Baños, Conquista y Poblacion de Venezuela, Lib I
and III; Oviedo y Valdéz. Historia General y Natural de las Indias,
Tom. II, Lib. XXV; Ternaux--Compans, Voyages, Rélations et Memoires
Originaux pour servir à l'histoire de la découvarte de l'Amérique,
Tom. II, Paris, 1840; Klunzinger, Antheil der Deutschen an der
Andeckung von Süd-Amerika, Kap. VI, IX and XII, Stuttgart, 1857;
Schumacher, Die Unternehmungen der Augsburger Welser in Venezuela,
Kap. IV, IX and XII, in Tom. II, of a work published in Hamburg, 1892,
Zur Errinnerung an die Endeckung Amerikas; Topf, Deutsche Statthalter
und Konquistadoren in Venezuela, pp. 18, 19, 33-42, 48-55; Tom. VI, of
the Sammlung gemeinverständlicher wissenschaftlicher Vorträge, Hamburg,
1893; Humbert, L'Occupation Allemande du Venezuela au XVI Siècle,
Période dite des Welser, 1528-1556, Bordeaux, 1905. The last-named
work is illustrated by a valuable map. The subject possesses an added
interest from the fact that it refers to the only attempt at colonial
occupation ever made by Germans in South America. How different would
now be the condition of Venezuela and Colombia if the Welser colony
had been permanent and successful!

[172]  "Plain folk and faithful, modest and frank,
        Loyal, humble, sane and obedient."

This is particularly true of Indian children. Writing of them, a
Dominican missionary, who had lived among them, and knew them well,
expresses himself as follows:--

"Je ne sais rien d'aimable, de gracieux, de docile et d'intelligent
comme le jeune Indien"--"I know nothing so amiable, so kindly, so
docile and so intelligent as the young Indian."--Voyage d'Exploration
d' un Missionaire Dominicain chez les Tribus Sauvages de l'Equateur,
p. 310, Paris, 1889.

[173] The people of Venezuela and Colombia are very fond of using
diminutives, and one must confess that it often gives to their
conversation a peculiar charm and expressiveness. Thus from todo,
all or every, they form todito, toditico; from cerca, near, they
derive cerquita, cerquitita or cerquitica. Instead of Adios they will
say Adiosito, and instead of Yo voy passando bien, one hears Yo voy
passandito bien.

I once gave a young mother a medal for a child she was holding on her
lap, and she at once said, "Muchisimas gracias, hijito, yo pondre
la medallita lueguito al cuellito de la queridita que va andandito
asi, no mas." "Many thanks, little son"--I was old enough to be her
grandfather--"I shall immediately put the little medal on the little
neck of the little darling, which is in rather delicate health."

[174] Richard Eden, op. cit., p. 71.

[175] Historia de las Indias Occidentales, Dec. II, Lib. III, Cap. 14.

[176] The town of Santa Rosa, in Ecuador, had to be abandoned because
of the swarms of ants that invaded the place. It is now known as
Anagollacta--place of ants.

[177] Birds of the World, Chap. IV, New York, 1909.

[178] So fixed are the periods of migration, and so punctual is the
feathered tribe in starting on its semiannual flights, that "The Arabs
are said to have been helped in the compilation of their calendars,
by noting the times of the arrival and departure of migratory birds;
and the Redskin in the far Northwest has received much the same aid
from the birds of another continent."

All things considered, Professor Newton was probably right when he
declared that the migration of birds is "perhaps the greatest mystery
which the whole animal kingdom presents."

[179] Historia de las Indias, Dec. 1, Cap. V.

[180] "Certainly it is a marvelous fact in the history of the
Mammalia," says Charles Darwin, "that in South America a native
horse should have lived and disappeared, to be succeeded in after
ages by the countless herds descended from the few introduced with the
Spanish colonists!"--Journal of Researches into the Natural History and
Geology of the Countries Visited during the Voyage of H. M. S. "Beagle"
round the World, Chap. VII.

[181] According to the Chibchas, the fossil remains found here
were the bones of a race of giants, hence the name given the
locality. Humboldt and Cuvier, at the beginning of the last century,
showed that the larger bones found were the remains of the Mastodon
angustidens. Similar fossils found in other parts of South America
have given rise to like fables. Cieza de Leon devotes an interesting
chapter to a race of giants whose remains were found at Point Santa
Helena, near Guayaquil. And on the tradition of a race of giants,
that at one time landed at this place, a certain Mr. Ranking, in 1827,
published a fantastic book entitled Researches on the Conquest of
Peru and Mexico by the Mongols, accompanied with Elephants. See La
Cronica del Peru, Cap. LII, of Cieza de Leon.

[182] Campaigns and Cruises in Venezuela and New Granada from
1817-1830.

[183] "According to what the inhabitants told me," wrote Mollien, in
the early part of the last century, "when the paramo se pone bravo
is out of humor, then the greatest dangers threaten the traveler;
a wind laden with icy vapors blows with tremendous violence; thick
darkness covers the earth and conceals every trace of a road. The birds
which, on the appearance of a fine day, had attempted the passage,
fall motionless. The traveler seeks to shelter himself under the
stunted shrubs which here and there grow in these deserts; but their
wet foliage obliges him to find another covert. Worn out with fatigue
and hunger, in vain urging on his mules, benumbed with cold, he sits
down to recover his exhausted strength. Fatal repose! His stomach
soon becomes affected as when at sea, his blood freezes in his veins;
his muscles grow stiff, his lips open as if to smile, and he expires
with the expression of joy upon his features. The mules, no longer
hearing their master's voice, remain standing, till at length tired,
they lie down to die."--Travels in the Republic of Colombia, pp. 96,
97, London, 1824.

[184] Signifying a large hole, or a wide opening.

[185] The author of Campaigns and Cruises, already quoted, writing of
the pass where Bolivar's army crossed the Cordillera describes it as
"strewed with the bones of men and animals, that have perished in
attempting to cross the paramo in unfavorable weather. Multitudes
of small crosses are fixed in the rocks by pious hands, in memory of
former travelers, who have died here; and along the path are strewed
fragments of saddlery, trunks and various articles that have been
abandoned, and resemble the traces of a routed army." Vol. III, p. 165.

[186] The Guia de la Republica de Colombia, p. 301, por M. Zamora,
Bogotá, 1907, places the altitude at three thousand and nine hundred
metres.

[187] Nueva-Geografia de Colombia, Tom. I, p. 985.

[188] According to Vergara y Velasco, the name Suma Paz is of Indian,
and not of Spanish origin. If this be true, the name should be
written as one word--Sumapaz. Personally, I prefer to think the name
is Spanish. For this particular range it is a most appropriate epithet.

[189] Padre Simon says that Federmann, after crossing the Cordillera,
tarried for a while in the province of Pasca. Castellanos declares
it was in the pueblo of Pasca, a small town a short distance south
of our route. According to Vergara y Velasco, the adventurous
German conquistador entered "the Sabana of Bogatá by way of Pasca
and Usme." Usme is a village that is on the road along which we
passed. Col. Joaquin Acosta tells us the Cordillera was crossed in
the broadest and most rugged part, "where even to-day the most daring
hunters scarcely ever venture. Neither before nor since Federmann
have horses scaled the craggy crests of Pascote and crossed the
heights of Suma Paz and descended thence to Pasca in the valley of
Fusagasuga." Oviedo informs us that it required twenty-two days to
cross the paramos, which was so extremely cold that sixteen horses
were frozen to death. But whether Federmann crossed Suma Paz where we
did or, as some think, at a point farther south, it is reasonable to
suppose that his route from Villavicencio to Bogatá was practically
the same as our own.

[190]                       "Earth receives againe,
        Whatever she brought forth, and they obtaine
        Heaven's couverture, that have no urnes at all."

                --Lucan's Pharsalia, Lib. VII, vv. 319 et seq.

[191] It was made a city by Charles V in 1540 with the title of
"muy noble y muy leal," very noble and very loyal.

[192] "You do well to weep like a woman for what you failed to
defend like a man."--Irving's A Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada,
Chap. LIV.

[193] Op. cit., Appendice B., p. 10.

[194] Called by Colombians la Sabana, or la Sabana de Bogatá.

[195] "In the remotest times," writes Humboldt, following Quesada
and Piedrahita, "before the moon accompanied the earth, according to
the mythology of the Muysca or Mozca Indians, the inhabitants of the
plain of Bogatá lived like barbarians, naked, without agriculture,
without any form of laws or worship. Suddenly there appeared among
them an old man, who came from the plains situate on the east of
the Cordillera of Chingasa; and who appeared to be of a race unlike
that of the natives, having a long and bushy beard. He was known by
three distinct appellations, Bochica, Nemquetheba, and Zuhe. This
old man, like Manco-Capac, instructed men how to clothe themselves,
build huts, till the ground, and form themselves into communities. He
brought with him a woman, to whom also tradition gives three names,
Chia, Yubecayguaya, and Huythaca. This woman, extremely beautiful,
and no less malignant, thwarted every enterprise of her husband for
the happiness of mankind. By her skill in magic, she swelled the
river of Funza, and inundated the valley of Bogatá. The greater part
of the inhabitants perished in this deluge; a few only found refuge
on the summits of the neighbouring mountains. The old man, in anger
drove the beautiful Huythaca far from the Earth, and she became the
Moon, which began from that epoch to enlighten our planet during the
night. Bochica, moved with compassion for those who were dispersed over
the mountains, broke with his powerful arm the rocks that enclosed
the valley, on the side of Canoas and Tequendama. By this outlet he
drained the waters of the lake of Bogotá; he built towns, introduced
the worship of the Sun, named two chiefs, between whom he divided the
civil and ecclesiastical authority, and then withdrew himself, under
the name of Idacanzas, into the holy valley of Iraca, near Tunja,
where he lived in the exercise of the most austere penitence for
the space of two thousand years."--Vues de Cordillères et Monuments
des Peuples Indigènes de l'Amérique, par Al. de Humboldt, Paris,
1810. Compare Piedrahita's Historia General de las Conquistas del
Nuevo Reino de Granada, Cap. III, Bogotá, 1881. Piedrahita, following
other authors, was of the opinion that Bochica was no other than the
Apostle Bartholomew, who, according to a widespread legend, preached
the gospel in this part of the world.

[196] "Why do you plant these eucalyptus trees around your houses?" I
asked of a peon one day. "Para evitar la fiebre, Sumerced," to prevent
fever, your honor. The "Sumerced," in this reply, is only one of many
indications of deference on the part of the common people in their
intercourse with strangers, or with those whom they regard as their
superiors. It is an echo of the courtly language employed in the days
of the viceroyalty.

[197] The height of the falls, according to Humboldt's measurements,
is one hundred and seventy metres. Before his visit they were supposed
to be much higher. Piedrahita calls them one of the wonders of the
world and declares that their height is half a league. Around the top
of the falls are seen oak, elm and cinchona trees; at the bottom are
found palms, bananas and sugar-cane. Colombans always refer to these
facts when they wish to impress the stranger with the extraordinary
height of Tequendama, as compared with that of other great falls. By
a single plunge, they proudly tell us, its waters pass from tierra
fria to tierra caliente.

[198] Le Tour du Monde, Vol. XXXV, p. 194.

[199] Not Benalcazar, as is so often written. He took his name from his
native town, Belalcazar, on the confines of Andalusia and Estremadura.

[200]  "Ours be his gold and his pleasures,
        Let us enjoy that land, that sun."

[201] Op. cit., Parte III, Canto 4.

[202] Compendio Historico del Descubrimiento y Colonization de la
Nueva Granada, p. 168, Bogotá, 1901.

[203] Piedrahita, op. cit., Lib. VII, Cap. 4, Bogotá, 1881. See also
Noticias Historiales de las Conquistas de Tierra Firme en las Indias
Occidentales, por Fr. Pedro Simon, Tom. IV, p. 195, Bogotá, 1892.

[204] Antologia de Poetas Hispano-Americanos, publicada por la Real
Academia Española, Tom. III, Introduccion, Madrid, 1894.

[205] A peculiar phenomenon, which has been frequently commented on,
is that the early prose writers of Latin America exhibited more true
poetic feeling and enthusiasm in their productions than did those
who expressed themselves in verse. La Araucana, the so-called epic
poem of Ercilla, pronounced an Iliad by Voltaire and considered by
Sismondi a mere newspaper in rhyme, is a case in point. Nowhere,
in this long work of forty-two thousand verses, "has the aspect
of volcanoes covered with eternal snow, of torrid sylvan valleys,
and of arms of the sea extending far into the land, been productive
of any descriptions that may be regarded as graphical." It exhibits,
it is true, a certain animation in describing the heroic struggle of
the brave Araucanians for their homes and liberty, but, aside from
this, the higher elements of poetry--especially of epic poetry--are
entirely lacking.

The same observation can be made with still greater truth of the
Arauco Domado, of Padre Oña; of the Argentina, of Barco Centenera;
the Cortés Valeroso, and the Mejicana, of Laso de la Vega; and
the oft-quoted Elegias de Varones Ilustres de Indias, of Juan de
Castellanos. All of these, with the exception of the last-mentioned
work, have long since been buried in almost complete oblivion. The
influence of the Italian school is everywhere manifest in these
productions--an influence which, while it may have contributed to
purity, correctness and elegance of expression, was quite destructive
of the vigor, freshness and originality so characteristic of the great
masters of Spanish verse. Compare Humboldt's Cosmos, Vol. II, Part I;
and Historias Primitivas de Indias, por Don Enrique de Vedia, Tom. I,
p. 10, Madrid, 1877, in the Biblioteca de Autores Españoles desde la
Formacion del Lenguaje hasta Nuestros Dios.

Those who are interested in the literature of Colombia will find the
subject ably discussed in Historia de la Literatura en Nueva Granada,
by Don José Maria Vergara y Vergara Bogotá, 1867.

[206] The first printing press seen in the New World was brought
to the city of Mexico by its first bishop, the learned Franciscan,
Fray Juan de Zumarraga, shortly after the conquest by Cortes.

[207] The people of some of the other South American capitals would,
I am sure, take exception to the claims here made in favor of Bogotá. I
myself think them greatly exaggerated.

[208] The Colombian and Venezuela Republics, p. 101, Boston, 1905.

[209] Compendio de la Historia de Venezuela desde el Descubrimiento
de America hasta Nuestros Dias, p. 213, Paris, 1875.

[210] See especially introduction and Cap. I, Vol. I, Quinta Edicion,
New York, 1901.

[211] A Narrative of the Expedition to the Rivers Orinoco and Apure,
pp. 462-464, London, 1819.

[212] Memoirs of Simon Bolivar, Vol. II, pp. 3, 236, 257 and 258.

[213] After the battle was over the survivors of this decisive
conflict were saluted by Bolivar as Salvatores de mi Patria--Saviors
of my country.

[214] Op. cit., Vol. II, pp. 249, 250.

[215] "Colombia had been an efficient war machine in the hands of
Bolivar by which the independence of South America was secured, but
was an anachronism as a nation. The interests of the different sections
were antagonistic, and the military organization given to the country
only strengthened the germs of disorder. Venezuela and New Granada
were geographically marked out as independent nations. Quito, from
historical antecedents, aspired to autonomy. Had Bolivar abstained from
his dreams of conquest, and devoted his energies to the consolidation
of his own country, he might, perhaps, have organized it into one
nation under a federal form of government, but that was not suited
to his genius. When his own bayonets turned against him, he went so
far as to despair of the republican system altogether and sought the
protection of a foreign king for the last fragment of his shattered
monocracy."--History of San Martin, p. 467, by General Don Bartolome
Mitre, translated by W. Pilling, London, 1893.

[216] After writing the above paragraphs, I was glad to learn
from Mr. W. H. Fox, the American Minister to Ecuador, that General
Alfaro, the present chief executive of that republic, is, like many
distinguished patriots and statesmen of Colombia and Venezuela,
an ardent advocate of the restoration of Bolivar's great Republic of
Colombia. "I would," said he to Mr. Fox, who has given me permission to
publish this statement, "rather be governor of Ecuador, as one of the
states of such a great republic, than be its president, as I am now."

All friends of Greater Colombia, and their number among enlightened
and far-seeing statesmen is rapidly increasing, hope the day is not
far distant when Bolivar's plan can once more be put into effect,
but this time on so enduring a basis that it cannot again be affected
by the machinations of the jealous military rivals and self-seeking
politicians, by whom so many hapless countries in Latin America have
so long been cursed.

[217] Quoted by F. Hassaurek, formerly United States Minister to
Ecuador, in his Four Years Among Spanish Americans, p. 209, New
York, 1868.

[218] Since writing the above the connection has been made.

[219] Vergara y Velasco, Nueva Geografia de Colombia, p. 253.

[220] Castellanos, in his Historia del Nuevo Reino de Granada, Tom. II,
pp. 61, 62, in referring to the delicacies Don Alonso Luis de Lugo and
his half-famished companions found on their reaching the Sabana de
Bogotá, after their dreadful journey through the "pluvious, swampy,
impassable, dismal" sierras of the Opon, makes mention, among other
things, of well-cured hams and capons that were provided for their
entertainment.


       "Cuantidad de jamones bien curados,
        Porque tenian ya buenas manadas
        De puercos desque vino Benalcazar
        Que trajo los primeros de la tierra.
        Hubo tambien capones y gallinas,
        Que se multiplicaron desque vino
        Nicolao Fedriman de Venezuela,
        Que al Nuevo reino trajo las primeras."


[221] Fray Bernardo Lugo, in his Gramatica de la lengua Mosca,
published in 1619, and Padre Simon, in his Noticias Historiales,
written shortly after, were the first to state that the language
spoken was the Chibcha. Muisca is a Chibcha word signifying person.

[222] The Chibchas, like many people living on the Andean plateaus
to-day, derived their chief sustenance from potatoes and maize, both
of which are indigenous to South America. Oviedo speaks of the potato
as their principal aliment, as it was always served with whatever
else they ate. According to Castellanos, it was a favorite article
of diet with the conquistadores, as well as with the Indians.

Maize afforded them meat and drink, for out of it they made bread
and their highly-prized beverage, chicha, which is still so popular
among their descendants. Of the paramount importance of this article
of food among the aborigines of the New World, John Fiske, in his
valuable work, The Discovery of America, writes as follows:--

"Maize or Indian corn has played a most important part in the history
of the New World, as regards both the red men and the white men. It
could be planted without clearing or ploughing the soil. It was only
necessary to girdle the trees with a stone hatchet, so as to destroy
their leaves, and let in the sunshine. A few scratches and digs were
made in the ground with a stone digger, and the seed once dropped in
took care of itself. The ears could hang for weeks after ripening,
and could be picked off without meddling with the stalk; there was
no need of threshing or winnowing. None of the Old World cereals can
be cultivated without much more industry and intelligence." Vol. 1,
pp. 27, 28. M. Alphonse de Candolle, in his learned work, Origin of
Cultivated Plants, seems to regard Colombia as the original home of
maize, while he inclines to the opinion that Chile was the point of
departure of the potato--Solanum tuberosum.

[223] Prehistoric America, p. 460, London, 1885.

[224] It is saying more than the facts will warrant to assert, as
does Ameghino, that "En Nueva Granada las inscripciones geroglificas
se encuentran a cada paso"--that hieroglyphic inscriptions are found
everywhere. Cf. his La Antiguedad del Hombre, Vol. I, p. 92.

[225] Los Chibchas antes de la Conquista Española, p. 176, Bogotá,
1895. Cf. also El Dorado, Estudio Historico, Etnografico y arqueologico
de los Chibchas, Habitantes de la Antigua Cundinamarca y de Algunas
Otras Tribus, por el Doctor Liborio Zerda, Bogotá, 1883, and Nouvelle
Géographic Universelle, par Elisée Reclus, Tom. XVIII, pp. 292 et seq.,
Paris, 1893.

[226] Chap. I, New York, 1877.

[227] Compare Fiske, op. cit., Vol. I, Chap. I.

[228] Crossing a mountain range like the Oriental Cordilleras, is not,
as is so frequently imagined, a gradual and uninterrupted ascent to
the summit, and then a similar continuous descent to its base. Far from
it. It is literally an ever-recurring journey "up the hill and down the
dale," from the foothills on one side of the range to the foothills
on the other. The accompanying diagram from Karsten's Géologie de
l'Ancienne Colombie Bolivarienne, gives a good idea of the eastern
range of the Andes along our route from the Meta to the Magdalena.

[229] Commonly called "chaps."

[230] Notwithstanding the statements, frequently made by travelers,
about their mules climbing roads inclined at angles varying from
30° to 45°, it can safely be affirmed that the maximum angle is but
little, if any more than 20°, as actual measurement will show. When
the inclination becomes greater than this the mule will always take
a zigzag course, so as to reduce the grade as much as possible.

[231] "Heavy, tortuous and dark."--Ovid.

[232] I do not pretend to deny that drunkenness exists in
Colombia. Even Colombian writers would be the last to do this, for they
are fully aware of the extent of the ravages of the drink evil. They
will tell you frankly that the inhabitants of certain parts of the
country are addicted to intoxication, or, as one of them expresses it,
that they are "muy amigos de embriagarse"--fond of getting drunk. And
no one, I think, will deny that the prevalence of the drink habit
is one of the country's greatest curses. A good old padre, learned
and patriotic, wrote a book some decades ago, in which he contended
that Colombia, by reason of its favored geographical position and its
wonderful natural resources, should rank among the richest and most
prosperous countries of the New World. And it would be, he insisted,
were it not for three drawbacks. These, in his estimation, were
borracheria, holgozaneria and politiqueria, to-wit, drunkenness,
indolence, and the habit, so universally prevalent, of its people
dabbling in questionable politics. We have no equivalent in English for
the expressive word, politiqueria, although we should have frequent use
for it if it existed. It means, literally, the methods and occupation
of a politicaster--an individual who is as much of a drawback to the
best interests of our own country as is the politicastro to Colombia.

To the great amount of chicha sold in these estancos, usually kept
by women, is undoubtedly traceable the origin of the saying, Toda
chichera muere rica--Every chicha vender dies rich.

[233] According to Franz Keller and other travelers in South America,
the Indian women in certain parts of the continent prepare chicha by
masticating the maize, just as some of the Polynesians prepare kava and
certain other of their favorite beverages by mastication. They claim
that when thus prepared it has a far more agreeable flavor than when
prepared artificialmente, that is, by the method above described. See
The Amazon and Madeira Rivers, p. 164 et seq., London, 1874.

Spix and Martius' Travels in Brazil, Vol. II, p. 232, London, 1824,
say, "It is remarkable that this mode of preparing a fermented liquor
out of maize, mandioca flour or bananas, is found among the various
Indian tribes of America, and seems peculiar to this race."

Sir Robert Schomburgk, referring to the intoxicating drink, paiwori,
made from cassava bread, writes as follows:--

"The women, who prepare the beverage, assemble around a large jar or
other earthen vessel, and having moistened their mouths with fresh
water, they commence chewing the bread, collecting in the vessel the
moisture which accumulates in the mouth. This is afterwards put into
a trough, called canaua, or in large jars, in which a quantity of
the charred bread has been broken up, over which boiling water is
poured; and it is then kneaded, and portions which are not of an
even consistency are again carried to the mouth, ground with the
teeth, and returned into the earthen pot. The process is repeated
several times, from the idea that it conduces to the strength of
the beverage. The second day fermentation begins, and on the third
the liquor is considered fit for use. We have seen a whole village,
young and old, men and women, occupied in this disgusting process when
it was contemplated to celebrate our unexpected arrival among them;
otherwise, for common use, the females alone employ themselves ex
officio with the preparation. Their teeth suffer so much from this
occupation that a female has seldom a good tooth after she is thirty
years old.... The taste of the paiwori is very refreshing after
great fatigue, and not unpleasant to the taste; if offered as the
cup of welcome by the Indian, it would be a great offense to refuse
it."--The Discovery of Guiana, ut sup., pp. 64, 65.

[234] Reisen in den Columbianischen Anden, Leipzig, 1888.

[235] The usual name given the humming bird by the people of Venezuela
and Colombia is colibri. It is also known as the pajarito-mosca--little
bird fly--or pica-flor--flower-nibbler. But the most beautiful and
most picturesque names are those in use by the Indians, who seem
to have a particular faculty for inventing appropriate epithets
for whatever specially strikes their fancy. By them humming birds
are called "The rays of the sun," "The tresses of the day-star" and
"Living sunbeams." The poet Bailey has incorporated the last of these
names in the couplet,


       "Bright Humming-bird of gem-like plumeletage,
        By western Indians Living Sunbeam named,"


Audubon was but imitating the children of the forest when he called
humming birds "Glittering fragments of the rainbow."

[236] Even the Colombian writer, Vergara y Velasco, who, like South
Americans generally, is slow to grow enthusiastic over natural scenery,
refers to the view from El Sargento as a "Sitio pintoresco si los
hay"--a picturesque place if there be any.

[237] Act III, Scene VI.

[238] According to Karl Fauehaber, the explorer of the Quindio
Cordillera, Tolima has an altitude of 20,995 feet.

[239] "With Francis of Assisi and his Hymn to the Sun," we are
informed by a recent writer, "the love of wild nature became more
articulate." As an illustration of the effect of Nature-love on
sensitive souls, we are told that the poet Gay, after visiting the
Grande Chartreuse, declared that if he had lived in St. Bruno's day,
he would have been one of his disciples. "It was," he said, "one of
the most solemn, the most romantic and the most astonishing scenes
I ever beheld."

[240] Shelley's Alastor, or The Spirit of Solitude.

[241] The negroes of Colombia are often of a highly poetical nature,
and, like those of our Southern states, are passionately fond of
music, singing and dancing. Their voices are often marvelously elastic,
expansive and harmonious. Their favorite air and dance is the bambuco,
of African origin, to which Jorge Isaacs refers in his charming Caucan
novel, Maria, and of which Vergara y Vergara in his valuable Historia
de la Literatura en Nueva Granada (Parte primera, p. 513, Bogotá,
1867) gives us so glowing an account. It is the latter writer that
assures us that if a negro were to play a marimba in the forests of
the South Coast, he could be certain that wild beasts and serpents
would listen to him in silent ecstasy.

[242] "Hail, hail, majestic river!... Contemplating thee, adorned
by the eldest of Earth's sons; full only of thee, I feel my soul
carried on by the foam of thy waves, which in deep whirlpools roar,
absorbed in the giant works of that Being which embraces the infinite."

[243] The reader will be surprised to learn that the aggregate
capacity of all the boats--champans included--at present plying on
the Magdalena--proudly named by the people the Danube of Colombia--is
not more than eleven thousand tons, about half the tonnage of one of
our great transatlantic steamers.

[244] Op. cit., 3a Noticia, Cap. IX.

[245] The first mention, apparently, of the Magdalena, as distinguished
from the Rio Grande, occurs in Benzoni's work, already cited.

[246] Called by the natives Cabeza de Negro--Negro-head--from the
globular form of the spathe enclosing the nuts.

[247] The introduction of the steamboat on the Magdalena will soon
suppress the rude yet picturesque craft known as the champan. With it
will disappear that interesting type of negro known as the boga. The
boga is tall and robust, with the habits of a savage. He spends
the greater part of his time in the champan, and his life as a
punter is a strenuous one and full of danger. He speaks a barbarous
jargon--currulao--composed of Spanish and of certain African and
Indian dialects. His ideas of honor and honesty are not unlike
those of similar people in other parts of the world. One can safely
trust him with money and clothing, but, if the traveler have liquor
of any kind with him, the boga will be sure to purloin it at the
first opportunity. He is simple, frank, and brave. He sings during
good weather, even while struggling against the current or fighting
caymans, but he swears like a trooper during rain and thunder storms,
especially when the lightning strikes near him. For him death is
a very simple matter. A dead man to him is like a champan damaged
beyond repair--something to be carried away by the all-devouring river.

[248] The exact altitudes of the points named are as follows:--Cumbre
Pass, between Chile and Argentina, 12,505 feet; Crucero Alto, between
Arequipa and Lake Titicaca, 14,666 feet; Galera Tunnel, 15,665 feet. At
Urbina, on the recently-completed railroad between Guayaquil and Quito,
the height above sea level is 11,841 feet.

[249] In Colombia, the white race, composed of the descendants of the
conquistadores, most of whom have intermarried with the indigenous
tribes, constitutes fifty per cent of the population. The negroes
compose thirty-five and the Indians fifteen per cent. In Venezuela
the descendants of Europeans are in the minority, while in Ecuador,
Peru and Bolivia the indigenes make up nearly two-thirds of the
inhabitants. La Republique de Colombie, p. 44, par Ricardo Nuñez et
Henry Jalahay, Bruxelles, 1898.

[250] Albert Millican, Travels and Adventures of an Orchid Hunter,
p. 118, London, 1891.

[251] The noted English botanist, Spruce, expresses a similar idea
when he writes, "I like to look on plants as sentient beings, which
live and enjoy their lives--which beautify the earth during life,
and after death may adorn my herbarium."--Notes of a Botanist, and
the Amazon and Andes, Chap. XXXIX, by Richard Spruce, London, 1908.

[252] The route followed by Quesada from the Magdalena to the
plateau of Bogotá has remained impassable for horses since the time
of the conquest. To one familiar with the difficulties of the way,
it seems impossible that so small a body of soldiers should ever
have been able to take sixty horses with them and bring them all,
with a single exception, in safety to the plains above. It may be
safely doubted if such a feat could be accomplished now. But "there
were giants in those days."

[253] The fact that the Spaniards found potatoes here on their arrival,
and the further fact that there was never any communication, so far
as known, between New Granada and Chile before the conquest, would
seem to indicate that the Solanum tuberosum may have been, contrary
to the opinion of Humboldt and De Candolle, indigenous to Colombia.

[254] Op. cit., Dec. I, Book X.

[255] Quesada's infantry received as their share of the spoil, which
had been secured, the equivalent of about $1,000. The cavalry received
twice this amount.

[256] In the province of Sinu the amount of treasure in gold and jewels
secured in one day amounted to $300,000. Not without reason, then,
was this part of the New World designated by the early geographers,
Castilla del Oro--Golden Castile.

[257] The Republic of Colombia, p. 59, London, 1906.

Nothing is farther from my mind than to call in question the veracity
of distinguished naturalists and travelers regarding any statements
they may have made concerning the vast numbers of animals and birds
seen by them in the equinoctial regions of South America. But my
experience proves at least one thing and that is that one may travel
a long time in the very heart of the tropics, and see very little
of its fauna, even in those parts in which it is generally supposed
that there are always representatives of many kinds and that, too,
in great numbers.

[258] The following sentence affords an interesting commentary on
the occasional rarity of certain animals which are usually supposed
to be always visible in large numbers, especially in the Magdalena.

"I have read much of the number of alligators on the Magdalena, but
have not seen one."--The Journal of an Expedition Across Venezuela
and Colombia, p. 264, 1906-7, by Hiram Bingham, New Haven. 1909.

Raleigh says he saw in Guiana thousands of these "vglie serpants"
called Lagartos.

[259] Mr. R. L. Ditmars, Curator of Reptiles in the New York Zoological
Park, in his interesting work, The Reptile Book, writes as follows of
the crocodile: "The sight of a child will send a twelve-foot specimen
rushing from its basking place for the water, and a man may even
bathe in safety in rivers frequented by the species. The dangerous
'man-eating' crocodiles inhabit India and Africa." P. 91. Compare
Schomburgk, in Raleigh's Discovery of Guiana, p. 57.

[260] If the slaughter of the alligator in the Gulf States continues
for a few years longer, at the rate which has prevailed during the
past few decades, the reptile will be exterminated. According to
the Bulletin of the U. S. Fish Commission, XI, 1891, p. 343, it is
estimated that 2,500,000 were killed in Florida between 1880 and 1894.

[261] Dec. II, Book 9.

[262] Dec. I, Book 9.

[263] The Ceroxylon andicola and the Kunthia montana grow at altitudes
of from 6,000 to 9,000 feet, and, according to Humboldt, palms are
found in the Paramo de Guanucos, 13,000 feet above sea level.

[264] Historia Naturalis Palmarum, Tom. I, p. 156, Lipsiæ. 1850.

[265] The countries here mentioned, especially Palestine, are now
comparatively bare of palms.

[266] According to a legend, this was the first date-palm seen in
Spain, and was planted by the calif himself, in front of his palace,
as a souvenir of his early home.

[267] Quesada and his companions made their celebrated voyage
from Guatiqui to the mouth of the river, a distance of nearly
seven hundred miles, in twelve days. Considering that they had only
rudely-constructed brigantines and dugouts, their trip, compared with
ours made in a steamboat under the most favorable conditions in but
little less than half the time, was truly remarkable.

[268] Paradiso, Canto XIII, 130 et 136-138.

[269] The amount of loot and tribute obtained by de Pointis was,
according to some estimates, no less than forty million livres--an
enormous sum for that period.

[270] W. Robertson, The History of America, Vol. II, p. 514,
Philadelphia, 1812.

[271] History of the New World, pp. 124, 125, printed for the Hakluyt
Society, London, 1857.

[272] Writings of Christopher Columbus, p. 202, edited by P. L. Ford,
New York, 1892.

[273] The Discovery of America, Vol. II, p. 370.

[274] John Boyd Thacher declares that Las Casas was "the grandest
figure, next to Columbus, appearing in the Drama of the New
World. Against the purity of his life, no voice among all his enemies
ever whispered a suggestion. If the Apostle Peter was a much better
man, the story is told elsewhere than in his acts. If the Apostle Paul
was braver, more zealous, more consecrated to the cause of humanity,
which alone can ask for Apostleship, Las Casas was a consistent
imitator. The Church has never passed a saint through the degree of
canonization more worthy of this signal and everlasting honor than
Bartolomé de las Casas, the Apostle of the Indies."--Christopher
Columbus, His Life, His Work, His Remains, Vol. I, pp. 158 and 159,
New York, 1903.

[275] The line here referred to is not the equator, but the tropical
line. The phrase practically signified that European treaties did
not bind within the tropics; that, although Spain might be at peace
in the Old World, there could be no peace for her in the New.

[276] The History of the Buccaneers of America, Vol. I, p. 22, fourth
edition, London, 1741.

Esquemeling, as the reader will observe, does not apply to his
associates the euphemious term Buccaneers, but calls them "the Pyrates
of America, which sort of men are not authorized by any sovereign
prince. For the Kings of Spain having on several occasions sent
their ambassadors to the Kings of England and France to complain
of the molestations and troubles those pyrates often caused on the
coasts of America, even in the calm of peace, it hath always been
answered that such men did not commit those acts of hostility and
pyracy as subjects to their Majesties, and therefore his Catholick
Majesty might proceed against them as he should think fit. The King
of France added that he had no fortress nor castle upon Hispaniola,
neither did he receive a farthing of tribute from thence. And the
King of England adjoined that he had never given any commission to
those of Jamaica to commit hostilities against the subjects of his
Catholick Majesty." Op. cit., p. 58, Vol. I.

[277] Here, says Sir Frederick Treves, in his charming work. The Cradle
of the Deep, "In defiance of the ban of Spain, a strange company
began to collect.... They came across the seas in obedience to no
call; in ones and twos they came. Frenchmen, British, and Dutch,
and, led by some herding instinct, they foregathered at this wild
trysting-place. Some were mere dare-devil adventurers, others were wily
seekers after fortune; the few were in flight from the grip of justice,
the many had roamed away from the old sober world in search of freedom.

"There was a common tie that banded them together, the call of the
wild and the hate of Spain. They formed no colony, nor settlement, but
simply joined themselves together in a kind of jungle brotherhood. They
found a leader as a pack of wolves finds theirs, not by choosing one
to lead but by following the one who led." P. 250, London, 1908.

[278] For awhile the term Buccaneer was applied to the English,
who had nothing to do with the bucan, as well as to the French
adventurers. Subsequently the French sea-rovers became known as
flibustiers, the French sailors' pronunciation of the word freebooter,
while the English corsairs appropriated the name Buccaneers. As their
occupations were the same--making war on the Spaniard--the two terms
came eventually to be regarded as synonymous. All the freebooters,
whether English, French, or Dutch, as an indication of their being
banded against a common enemy, the Spaniards, assumed the name
Brethren of the Coast. The members of this brotherhood must not be
confounded with such cutthroats as Kidd, Bonnet, Avery and Thatch,
who was known as Blackbeard and, for a while, terrorized the Atlantic
Coast from the West Indies to New England.

[279] Thus, the French Flibustier, Pierre le Grand, with only a small
boat and a crew of but twenty-eight men, surprised and captured the
ship of the vice-admiral of the Spanish galleons as she was homeward
bound with a rich cargo.

[280] When John Watling, the successor of the deposed Captain Edmund
Cook, began his captaincy, he ordered all his crew to keep holy the
Sabbath day. "With Edmund Cook down on the ballust in irons," writes
Masefield, and William Cook talking of salvation in the galley, and
old John Watling expounding the Gospel in the cabin, the galleon,
'The most Holy Trinity,' must have seemed a foretaste of the New
Jerusalem. The fiddler ceased such prophane strophes as 'Abel Brown,'
'The Red-haired Man's Wife,' and 'Valentinian.' He tuned his devout
strings to songs of Zion. Nay, the very boatswain could not pipe
the cutter up but to a phrase of the Psalms." (On the Spanish Main,
p. 263, London, 1906.)

[281] History of the Buccaneers of America, Chap. V.

[282] Op. cit., Vol. I, p. 115.

[283] Ibid., p. 117.

[284] Referring to this matter, George W. Thornsburg writes:--

"Anomalous beings, hunters by land and sea, scaring whole fleets
with a few canoes, sacking cities with a few grenadiers, devastating
every coast from California to Cape Horn, they needed only a common
principle of union to have founded an aggressive republic as wealthy
as Venice and as warlike as Carthage. One great mind and the New World
had been their own."--The Monarchs of the Main, or Adventures of the
Buccaneers, preface, p. 10, London, 1855.

[285] Thus Esquemeling tells us that Morgan's fleet, before his raid on
Maracaibo, was, by order of the governor of Jamaica, strengthened by
the addition of an English vessel of thirty-six guns. This was done
to give the ruthless Buccaneer "greater courage to attempt mighty
things." Op. cit., p. 147.

[286] The Spaniards accused Queen Elizabeth of aiding Drake, and it is
known that she lent John Hawkins one of her ships. "The great Queen,"
as Mowbray Morris observes, "had a most convenient way of publically
deprecating the riotous acts of her subjects, when she found it
expedient to do so, and roundly encouraging them in private. She
was fond of money, too, and ... had found a share in these ventures
uncommonly remunerative. Unqueenly tricks, as they seem to us, and
apt to confuse the law of nations, they were, as things went then,
extremely useful to England."--Tales of the Spanish Main, p. 131,
London, 1901.

Père Labat cleverly hits off the policy of France and England
towards the Buccaneers in a single sentence, "On laissoit faire
des Avanturiers, qu on pouvoit toujours desavouer, mais dont les
succes pouvoient être utiles"--they connived at the actions of the
Adventurers, which could always be disavowed, but whose successes
might be of service.

[287] By-Ways of War, The Story of the Filibusters, p. 251, Boston,
1901.

[288] Hakluyt's Early Voyages, Vol. III, p. 594, London, 1810.

[289] The origin of the name Costa Rica is uncertain. It appears for
the first time in an account of an expedition made by Martin Estete to
the river San Juan in 1529, twenty-seven years after the discovery of
the country by Columbus. It occurs subsequently in a document signed
by the King of Spain, dated May 14, 1541. It is probable that the name
was given in consequence of the rich mines that had been discovered
near the town of Estrella, in Talamanca--from which it was inferred
that all the interior of the country was equally rich in the precious
metals--and not on account of the luxuriant vegetation that abounds,
as is sometimes supposed. Cf. Diccionario Geografico de Costa Rica,
p. 47, por Felix F. Noriega, San José, Costa Rica, 1904.

[290] "Alli vide una sepultura en el monte, grande como una casa y
labrada."--Relaciones y Cartas de Colon, p. 375, Madrid, 1892.

[291] In his Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain, Book IV,
Chap. IX, he asserts that for a given area of land "The produce
of bananas is to that of wheat as 133:1, and to that of potatoes
as 44:1." These proportions, however, refer to the weights and
not to the nutritive values of the products compared. The ratio of
the nutritive value of bananas and wheat is, according to Humboldt,
twenty-five to one in favor of bananas. Hence, he writes, "a European,
newly arrived in the torrid zone is struck with nothing so much as
the extreme smallness of the spots under cultivation round a cabin
which contains a numerous family of Indians."

[292] Stanley, in In Darkest Africa, writes: "If only the virtues
of banana flour were publicly known, it is not to be doubted but it
would be largely consumed in Europe. For infants, persons of delicate
digestion, dyspeptics, and those suffering from temporary derangement
of the stomach, the flour properly prepared would be of universal
demand. During my two attacks of gastritis a light gruel of this,
mixed with milk, was the only matter that could be digested." Vol. II,
pp. 261, 262, New York, 1890.

[293] Two Years in the French West Indies, p. 38, New York, 1890.

[294] Op. cit., pp. 140, 141.

[295]  "Al famoso Matina
        que a los hombres acoquina,
        Y a las mulas desatina."

[296] According to observations made with the pluviometer, the amount
of precipitation sometimes reaches nearly two and a half inches
an hour.

[297] "La Banane," says Père Labat, "que les Espagnols appelent
Plantain ... renferme une substance jaunatre de la consistence d'un
fromage bien gras, sans aucune graines, mais seulment quelques fibres
assez grosses qui semblent representer une espece de crucifix mal formé
quand le fruit est coupé par son transvers. Les Espagnols du moins
ceux a qui j'ai parlé, pretendent que c'est la le fruit defendu et
que le premier homme vit en le mangeant le mystère de sa réparation
par la croix. Il n'y a rien d'impossible la dedans; Adam pouvoit
avoir meilleure vue que nous, ou la croix de ces bananes etoit mieux
formée: quoiqu'il en soit il est certain que ce fruit ne se trouve
seulement dans l'Amérique, mais encore dans l'Afrique, dans l'Asie,
et sur tout aux environs de l'Eufrate ou on did qu'etoit le Paradis
terrestre." Op. cit., Tom. I, Part II, p. 219.

[298] Andres Bello, the Venezuelan poet, beautifully expresses these
facts in the following verses:--


       "Y para ti el banano,
        Desmaya el peso de su dulce carga.
        El banano, primero
        De cuantos concedio bellos presentes
        Providencia a las gentes
        Del Ecuador feliz con mano larga;
        No ya de humanas artes obligado
        El premio rinde opimo;
        No es á la podera, no al arado,
        Deudor de su racemo.
        Escasa industria bastale cual puede
        Robar á sus fatigas mano esclara;
        Crece veloz, y cuando exhausta acaba,
        Adulta prole en torno le sucede.
        Silva a la Agricultura en la Zona Torrida."


[299] Jerusalem Delivered, Canto XVI.

[300] Josefinos--feminine Josefinas--is the name given the denizens
of San José. In Central America, Costaricans generally are known as
Ticos, while the people of Nicaragua are called Nicos or Pinolios,
and those of Guatemala and Honduras Chopines and Guanacos respectively.

[301] Compare this with the peculiar belief of the South American
Indians, alluded to in Chap. IX, regarding the cry of a lost soul.

[302] Veragua has a special interest for Americans, as "the only
thread of glory still held in the hands of the family of Columbus"
leads back to this narrow strip of territory on the western shores
of the Caribbean. The present representative of this name in Spain
is Don Cristobal Colon, Duke of Veragua. His full title is Duke of
Veragua and Vega, Marquis of Jamaica, Admiral and High Steward of the
Indies. The grandson of the discoverer of America, Don Luis Colon,
was the third Admiral and Viceroy of the Indies, the last of which
titles he relinquished for that of first Duke of Veragua and Vega.

[303] "Whatever he may have thought, or said he thought, when he
was at Cuba, on the second voyage; whatever he thought, or said he
thought, when in a half-crazed condition in the island of Jamaica,
he now knew he really had discovered continental land, and that it
was separated from Catigara, or the land of the east, by a goodly
stretch of another sea."

"And it is pleasant to think that such a view is consistent with
the nautical, geographical and astronomical knowledge of the great
Discoverer."--Thatcher, Christopher Columbus, Vol. II. pp. 593 and 621.





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