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Title: Vasco, Our Little Panama Cousin
Author: Pike, H. Lee M. (Henry Lee Mitchell)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Our Little Panama Cousin


Little Cousin Series


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



(unless otherwise indicated)

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

    New England Building,      Boston, Mass.

[Illustration: VASCO BARRETAS]


Our Little Panama Cousin

By H. Lee M. Pike

    _Author of "Our Little Korean Cousin," etc._

    _Illustrated by_
    L. J. Bridgman


    L. C. Page & Company

    _Copyright, 1906_

    _All rights reserved_

    Fourth Impression, June, 1909
    Fifth Impression, June, 1910

    To My Mother


BOTH old and young are interested in the work that the United States
is doing on the narrow strip of land connecting North and South
America,--digging the Panama Canal, a highway for the nations. The
country is small, but the work is a great one, and that little spot on
the map is of vastly greater interest to-day than many a land of larger

The history of the country is a romantic one. The names of Balboa,
Pizarro, and other famous Spanish discoverers are closely linked to
Panama, and readers of history as well as lovers of adventure are not
likely to forget the part the notorious Morgan and his men played on
the Isthmus.

There has been much of bloodshed, cruelty, and oppression in Panama's
history, but let us hope that is all over. The example of industry and
persistent perseverance set by Americans, as they cut away mountains
and turn great rivers into new channels, ought to be a source of
inspiration to the leisure-loving native. And such seems to be the fact
to-day. Not only a canal, but a nation, is being built. New schools,
new docks, new water-works, new streets, new sanitary measures, give
evidence of a better era for Panama.

This all means new possibilities for our little Panama cousin. As
his young American and English friends read about him, they may well
believe that in the days to come they may all stand shoulder to
shoulder in the onward march of civilization and progress.


    CHAPTER                            PAGE
       I. HAPPY DAYS                      1
      II. ABOUT THE CITY                 19
     III. A TRIP TO OLD PANAMA           26
       V. AN EARTHQUAKE                  60
      VI. A JOURNEY                      71
     VII. CULEBRA                        81
    VIII. BALBOA                         90
      IX. COLON                          96
       X. UP THE CHAGRES RIVER          102
      XI. NEW AMBITION                  115

List of Illustrations

  VASCO BARRETAS                                  _Frontispiece_
  LIEUTENANT AMADEO BARRETAS                                 4
  A STREET IN PANAMA                                        22
  THE TOWER OF THE OLD CATHEDRAL                            55
      OF EARTH AT A TIME'"                                  80
  A NATIVE VILLAGE                                         110


Our Little Panama Cousin



IN young Vasco Barretas, who had both Spanish and Indian blood in
his veins, there had been born a natural desire for excitement and

Just one thing equalled this desire. That was his dislike for work.

However, we must not blame him for that. His laziness was the result
of training, or rather the lack of it. Necessities were few and easily
obtained, and he had not learned to care for the luxuries of life.

On account of Vasco's fondness for bustle and excitement the time this
story begins was most glorious for him. As his American cousin would
say, "something was doing."

A successful revolution had just taken place in Panama.

A revolution was no new thing in the little strip of country that
separates the Atlantic from the Pacific. Vasco's father had been
through many such affairs. They had been nearly as regular as the rainy

Vasco did not understand all about it, yet even the boys in the streets
knew that this revolution was different from any other.

There had been no bloodshed, but the results seemed likely to be very
important to the country.

Do you want to know why?

Then listen to a little bit of history.

The State or Province of Panama, on the narrow bit of land connecting
North and South America, had been a part of the country called the
United States of Colombia.

The great republic to the north, the United States of America, wanted
to dig a canal across Panama, but had been unable to get permission
from Colombia. And so it looked as if there might be no canal--at least
not in Panama.

The citizens of Panama were disappointed, for the digging of a canal
through their country would bring to them many people and much wealth.

For this reason the leading men concluded that it was best to separate
from Colombia, organize a government of their own, and come to an
agreement with the United States. At the time this story opens the new
government had just been set up, and its authority proclaimed.

But, it may be asked, what has all this to do with Vasco?

To begin with, Vasco's father, in private life a very ordinary
citizen, who sometimes had been a waiter in a hotel and at other
times the servant of an American engineer, was deeply interested in
this latest revolution; for was he not an officer in the new National
Guard,--Lieutenant Amadeo Barretas?


His position did not require much work, either of mind or body, but
little Lieutenant Barretas could assume as much dignity as a seven-foot
member of Napoleon's "Old Guard"--and more pomposity. When on parade he
would strut about in his gaudy uniform with all the airs possible, and
appear very serious--though to you he would have looked more silly than

There was to be a grand review of the Panama "army." The soldiers were
to parade through the streets of the city and be inspected by the
commander-in-chief. Several officers of the United States army were to
be guests of the Panama officials, and occupy a place on the reviewing

Young Vasco meant to have a good sight of the parade. Surely he, the
son of a lieutenant in the army, ought to have a place where he might
see his father march by, and be able to add his voice to the thousands
who would shout huzzas! But, for some reason, the officers in charge
had neglected to invite him.

Vasco's home was on a side street in the poorer section of the city, so
the soldiers would not pass by that place. How, then, could he get a
good view of the parade?

Of course he could stand at the side of the street; but what chance
would a small boy have in such a place as that?

Now Vasco was a boy of many resources, and it seemed to him that he
might make use of the good nature of a young American friend.

Harlan Webster was the son of an American engineer who was in charge of
work on the canal.

Mr. Webster had been for some time upon the Isthmus, and, unlike most
of the Americans at work on the canal, he had brought his family,
consisting of wife and son, to the city of Panama. They had now lived
here over a year. During that time Harlan had learned a good deal
about the country. He had also acquired some knowledge of Spanish, the
language of the natives. In fact, it was said of him by his Panama
friends that he could talk with the people more freely than many older
foreigners who had been longer in the country.

The American boy knew many Panama lads, among them Vasco. "Lieutenant"
Barretas, as he insisted on being called, had been in Mr. Webster's
service at various times, and the two boys had thus become quite
intimate and had taken many pleasure trips together.

Harlan was able to tell Vasco a good deal about Panama history. The
stories about the buccaneers of old times, about the raid on the city
of Panama, about Balboa and his adventures and discoveries, were more
familiar to the American lad than they were to the Panama boy.

On the other hand, Vasco could give his friend much information about
the every-day habits and customs of the people, and was able to take
him to many points of interest. When it came to excursions by water or
by land, Vasco was in his element. He could handle a boat with skill,
he could swim like a fish, and he knew the windings and curvings of all
the highways and byways of the city.

Straight to the hotel where the Webster family lived went Vasco this
morning. This hotel was in the better part of the city, not far from
the plaza, or great square.

"Hello, Harlan," said Vasco, after he had found his friend.

"Hello, Vasco."

"How would you like to see the great army parade this morning?"

"Fine," was the reply. "Where can we go to get a good view?"

"That's what I'd like to know. I don't want to stand in the crowd on
the street, for I could never see anything that way."

"Let's see what my father can do to help us," said Harlan.

Mr. Webster, who was in an adjoining room, greeted his son's friend
with a pleasant "Good morning" when the boys appeared before him.
Seeing the eager, inquiring look on their faces, he asked what he could
do for them.

"The Panama soldiers are going to parade to-day," said Harlan, "and
Vasco is anxious to find a place where he can see them."

Mr. Webster smiled. He had an idea that Harlan was as anxious to get a
view of the parade as was Vasco.

"Why don't you go into the cathedral and watch from the tower or from
one of the upper windows?" asked Mr. Webster.

"None but officials and their families or others holding tickets can
enter the cathedral till after the parade," replied Vasco, "and all
entrances are guarded."

"If I tell you of a way to get into the cathedral, do you think you can
remain within till the soldiers go by?" asked Mr. Webster.

"I'm sure we can," replied Vasco.

Mr. Webster, during his stay in Panama, had been able to pick up
information about the place that even Vasco did not know, and he said
to the boys, "You know where the old sea-battery is, on the other side
of the plaza from the cathedral?"

"Yes," said the two boys together.

"Well, from that battery to the cathedral is an underground passage,
built centuries ago to afford escape from the building. In times of
revolution there was often danger even within its sacred walls."

Mr. Webster told the boys how they might find the entrance to the
tunnel, and at once they were off to see for themselves. It took only a
few moments to make their way from the hotel, down the street, across
the plaza, and through a narrow alley to the old battery. Quickly they
passed inside. Here Vasco was entirely at home, for many times he had
wandered about the place, and with his friends had played hide-and-seek
and other boyish games.

Notwithstanding this, it was hard for Vasco and Harlan to find the
entrance to the underground passage. They opened many doors and
wandered into several blind corridors. Vasco was almost ready to give
up the search, but his American friend insisted on continuing. At last,
behind a heap of old rubbish, they found the entrance they had so
eagerly sought.

With a brave front the boys went into the dark passage. After going a
few yards, they found themselves in complete darkness.

"I hope we shall not have to go far in this dark place," said Vasco.

Harlan pretended to give a careless reply, but, after he had stubbed
his toes and scraped his shins on various obstacles in the path, he
agreed that the adventure had its drawbacks.

Just then it occurred to Vasco that he had a supply of matches in his
pocket. He scratched them one by one, thus faintly lighting the path.
Then the boys were able to move forward more rapidly, and soon they
came to what was evidently the foundation wall of the cathedral.

Through this wall was a low archway, which was blocked by what seemed
to be a wooden barricade. There was no sign of a door.

"Well, we are really in trouble now," said Harlan.

"There's no doubt about that," replied Vasco as he put his shoulder to
the partition. It did not budge, and the Panama lad was again inclined
to give up the attempt to get into the cathedral.

"We may as well give up trying to get in this way," he said.

"Not yet," was Harlan's reply as they stood in the dark. "Strike
another match, and let's see what this looks like, anyway."

Vasco scratched another match, and the two boys hastily looked over the
stout planking. Not a crack nor a loose joint was to be seen.

Just before the match went out, Harlan glanced backward and spied upon
the ground a stick of timber eight or ten feet long.

"Light another match," he shouted, darting toward the stick.

Lifting one end of it, he directed Vasco to take up the other end. It
was not very easy for Vasco to do this and keep his match burning at
the same time, but he managed to do so, though the light went out just
as they reached the archway again.

"Let's batter down these old planks," said Harlan.

Together the boys began to pound at the barricade. Though Vasco was a
small lad, compared with Harlan, his well-trained muscles, hardened and
toughened by out-door life, came well into play.

Under such hammering as the boys were able to give, the planks began to
loosen, and soon they made a hole large enough to crawl through.

Fortunately, this was in a remote part of the basement, and none heard
the noise the boys had made. No one dreamed of putting a guard at this
point. The entrance had been so long closed that nearly everybody had
forgotten it.

Passing through, the boys found themselves in a small room which had
been used as a storeroom.

"See the relics here," said Harlan.

"Mostly old rubbish, I guess," was Vasco's reply.

Whether relics or rubbish, the lads had no time to stop and examine the
stuff. They made their way to a steep stairway, down which a ray of
light came from a crack in the trap-door overhead.

Without a moment's delay Vasco and his friend mounted the stairs. With
a strong push they put their shoulders to the heavy timbers of which
the door was made. But the door had been too long settled in its place
to yield at once to their pushing. By persistent effort, however, the
door was moved. Slowly the boys raised it, looking carefully about as
their eyes became accustomed to the light which flooded the room into
which it opened.

It proved to be an anteroom on the main floor of the cathedral
into which the boys had come. Vasco immediately recognized their
surroundings. No one else was about, and the boys were able to make
their way without challenge to the portico facing the plaza. Once
mingled with the throng, there was no danger of any one interfering
with their movements. It was taken for granted by the soldiers that
Vasco and his friend had a right to be in the cathedral.

In truth, several of the guards were members of Lieutenant Barretas's
company, and they knew Vasco, who had often visited their camp. They
supposed, however, that the son of one of their officers had a right
within the space reserved for guests. Vasco, in turn, knew who these
particular soldiers were, and was not long making friends with them.

While waiting for the marching soldiers, Vasco told Harlan something of
the history of the cathedral, which is built of yellow stone, with high
Moorish towers.

As the boys looked up to the great dome, Harlan asked:

"What makes the dome sparkle so in the sunshine?"

"That's because of the hundreds of pearl shells that are stuck into the
cement covering," replied Vasco.

"Do you know," continued Vasco, "that this great building was put up
nearly one hundred and fifty years ago?"

"Yes," replied Harlan, "and I have heard that its builder was the first
coloured bishop of this city."

"That is true," said Vasco, "and he was the son of a poor man who
burned charcoal and then sold it from his back through the streets of
Panama. The son was very kind to the poor people, and was noted for his

"Yes," added one of Vasco's soldier acquaintances who stood near and
overheard the talk, "and this cathedral is really a monument to the
useful life of the bishop."

Further conversation was interrupted by the music of a brass band in
the distance. The boys looked down the street by which the soldiers
were to come to the plaza. In the distance they soon saw the uniforms
of the officers followed by the long white lines of the soldiers.

Vasco's enthusiasm knew no bounds as the battalion wheeled into the
plaza and passed by the cathedral with salutes for the onlookers. When
he finally spied his father, Lieutenant Barretas, marching at the head
of his company, Vasco was delirious with joy. To his mind, not even the
general in command looked finer than did the little lieutenant--his

What cared Vasco if the lines of soldiers were not precisely straight?
Even less did he mind Harlan's criticism and lack of admiration for the
parade. Were not these soldiers enlisted in the service of his country,
and were they not ready to lay down their lives in its defence?

Vasco's only wish was that he were old enough to join them and wear the
uniform which to him seemed so glorious.

But, like all spectacles, grand as it seemed to Vasco, this one at last
came to an end. The last flag had dipped before the reviewing stand,
the last soldier had disappeared from the plaza, the last beat of drum
was lost in the distance.

Meantime, the sun had risen high, and with its hot rays was driving to
cover all the people of Panama. As was their usual custom, shopkeepers
and market-men closed their doors at eleven o'clock and betook
themselves to their homes to enjoy their noonday _siesta_.

Even the throngs of boys forsook their sports and disappeared from
the streets, and Vasco and Harlan took their departure from the
cathedral,--the latter to his cool room in the hotel, the former to his
more humble home.



PERHAPS you would like to know more about Vasco Barretas--who he is,
his home, his surroundings, his occupations, his ambitions. Of the two
latter there is little to be said. Like many of the boys of Panama,
he had no occupation--not even going to school--and no particular
ambition. If any thought of the future ever did come into his mind, it
was quickly forgotten for some pleasure of the moment.

It is fair to Vasco to say that it was not his fault that he did not
attend school. Under the Colombian government there had been no public
schools. There had been a few private schools under the care of the
priests, but their equipment was very poor, and accommodations were

Under the new government there was destined to be an improvement in
this respect, and the year after the Panama Republic declared its
independence, there were more than three thousand children in the
schools, though previous to that there had been less than five hundred.

Vasco's home was a humble one, though it does not follow that it was
unhappy. The contrary was the fact.

There were two children younger than Vasco,--Inez, his eight-year-old
sister, and the little baby brother Carlos. The parents loved their
children as fathers and mothers do everywhere, and were willing to
sacrifice much for their welfare.

Both Lieutenant Barretas and his wife boasted of their Spanish
ancestry, though they were of mixed descent, and there was evidence
of Jamaica negro blood in their features. Perhaps this accounted for
Vasco's aversion to hard labour, though the strict truth of history
does not reveal that the early Spanish discoverers were specially fond
of manual toil.

Though Vasco's home could boast no luxuries, he had never seen the
time when there was lack of food, and for clothing all he required was
a pair of trousers and a shirt, both made of cheap linen cloth. Boy
readers will realize the glorious possibilities in such a scanty attire.

Much of his time Vasco spent about the streets of the city, indulging
in sports and games with boys of his own age. Often he went to the
water-front and watched the loading and unloading of vessels. He
specially liked to watch the fishermen as they came in with their
little vessels, and brought their finny harvest ashore.

Fish are very abundant in Panama waters. The name of the city means
"abounding in fish." Years ago many whales were caught off the coast,
and whaling vessels were a common sight in the harbour.

[Illustration: A STREET IN PANAMA]

At present, in addition to the edible fish, sharks are numerous in the
Pacific near Panama. On one occasion Vasco had gone on a short fishing
trip in one of the larger boats with the father of a boy friend. A
shark was seen following the boat, and in consequence other fish were
scared away.

To rid themselves of the unwelcome intruder the fishermen attached a
piece of pork to a large fish-hook held by a small chain. To this was
fastened a stout rope. No sooner was the baited hook cast overboard
than the shark made a rush for it and swallowed it whole. When he found
he was caught, there was a terrible lashing of the water, the shark
leaping bodily into the air and vainly snapping his teeth again and
again upon the chain.

After the fish had become pretty well exhausted, the men drew him on
board the boat, but not without a fierce struggle. Soon he was killed,
though not without much unnecessary torture.

Often Vasco wandered into the market district of the city. Many of
the vendors of vegetables, fruits, and provisions occupied the narrow
sidewalks, displaying their wares in full view of the passers-by.

At other times Vasco would spend hours under the shady palms in
the great plaza watching the passing to and fro of all classes of
people,--some on foot, some in carriages, some mounted on donkeys, and
occasionally a military officer on horseback. When one of the latter
came in sight, Vasco, with scores of other boys, would run a long
distance to keep watch of the fine figure in such an abundance of gold

The water-sellers, with their little carts drawn by wobegone-looking
donkeys, were always an object of interest to Vasco. He felt that it
would be almost as much fun to ride about on a water-cart all day as to
be a soldier.

Among the buildings within Vasco's vision as he sat in the plaza was
the Cabildo, or town hall, which is the Independence Hall of Panama,
for here was signed the Declaration of Independence from Spain.
Naturally the place is an object of much reverence to the natives. Near
by is the Bishop's Palace, an imposing structure where much important
Panama history has been made. At the present time the street floor is
occupied by the great Panama Lottery Company. Let us hope that some day
the people of that country will be delivered from this national shame,
and the lottery banished.

Sunday evenings there was always a band concert in the plaza, and Vasco
never failed to be present. Generally he took with him his sister
Inez, and sometimes his mother, with little Carlos, would accompany
them. This was always a joyful occasion, for Vasco liked nothing better
than to hear the music and to watch the continual passing of the



THOUGH Vasco had explored nearly every nook and corner of the city in
which he had lived, he had never visited what was called Old Panama.

You must understand that the Panama of to-day is not on the site of the
original city. The present city was built after the former one had been
destroyed by the buccaneers. Of them you may learn something further on.

The so-called "modern" Panama was founded in 1673. As protection from
pirates and buccaneers a high stone wall was built around the city,
which cost over eleven million dollars. That seems to us an enormous
sum, and to the people of those days it was fabulous. It gives some
idea of the vast wealth that must have been stored in the city to admit
of such an outlay for its protection. Few traces of this wall now
remain. As civilization has advanced, and life and property have become
safer, it has gradually been torn down.

One day, not long after the great military review, Vasco was down at
the water-front watching the fishermen unloading their boats. As it
happened, he fell in with Enrique Mendoza, in whose father's boat he
had witnessed the capture of the shark.

Enrique, as well as Vasco, was always looking for some new adventure.
At this time he hailed his friend with a glad shout, and asked:

"What do you say, Vasco, to a trip over to Old Panama to-morrow? Father
will let us take a small boat he is not using, and we can go part of
the way in that."

Vasco was much pleased at the invitation, but was in doubt as to
whether it were perfectly safe for them to go without some one for
protector and guide, as he had heard many disquieting stories about the
old city.

"Have you ever been over there?" he asked Enrique.

"Many times."

"Do you know the way about?"

"Of course I do. I have often been there with father. Besides, there's
an old friend of his who lives in a hut near the ruins, and he will be
glad to show us about."

When Vasco heard the last statement, he hesitated no longer. "I'll go,
then," he said. "I have never been there, and I should like to see what
the place looks like. What do you say to asking my American friend
Harlan to go with us?"

"That will be fine. The boat will carry three all right, and we will
have all the jollier time."

Enrique had never seen Harlan Webster, but he had heard Vasco talk
about him, and was greatly pleased at the thought of having him along
on this trip. He had seen and heard enough of the Americans about the
city to know that they were very active and enthusiastic. So he felt
certain that this American boy would add to the fun of the excursion.

"All right, then," said Vasco. "We'll start early to-morrow morning.
What time do you say?"

"Six o'clock won't be too early. It will take at least three hours to
get over there. That will give us a little time to look around before
the middle of the day, when it will be too hot to move about. Then in
the afternoon we can search among the old ruins awhile, starting for
home in season to get here before dark."

This plan suited Vasco, and he took leave of Enrique, saying that he
would see Harlan sometime during the day. He had little doubt that the
young American would go with them.

As the day was now well advanced, though, Vasco first made his way
home, when for several hours he remained within doors. He told his
mother of his plans for the next day, to which she made no objection.
She rarely interfered with his movements, except that sometimes she
asked him to do some chores about the house, and occasionally required
him to look after Inez and his baby brother while she was away on an

In the latter part of the afternoon Vasco went to see if Harlan could
go with him the next day. It didn't take long to give the invitation,
and it took Harlan even less time to accept it, so far as he was

"Wait a moment, though," he said to Vasco. "I must ask my mother if she
is willing for me to go with you."

To Vasco this seemed unnecessary. He never thought of having to ask
his mother about such things. But he had known Harlan long enough to
learn that American ways, especially so far as boys were concerned,
were different from Panama customs.

The American boy immediately went to his mother and told her what
he wanted. At first she was inclined to object to his making this
trip with only two other boys for companions, but his arguments and
persuasions finally overcame her scruples, if not her fears, and he
secured her consent.

Back to Vasco he hurried and told him the welcome news.

"Remember, now," said Vasco as he took his leave, "and be at the beach
near the Panama Railroad pier at six o'clock sharp."

"I surely will. Good night," was Harlan's reply.

Both boys retired in good season that evening, to get well rested for
their early start.

At dawn next day Vasco sprang out of bed. He was not concerned about
the weather, for this was the dry season of the year, when for months
no water falls, and there was no danger of rain preventing the day's

Quickly he ate the breakfast his mother provided, and many minutes
before the appointed time was on his way to the meeting-place. Though
the first on the scene, he did not have to wait long for the other two
boys. Enrique was the second to arrive, and shortly afterward Harlan
made his appearance.

Harlan was glad to meet Enrique, and felt sure that if his mother could
have seen the sturdy brown fisher-lad getting the boat ready she would
have had no concern for their safety. All three boys were familiar with
boats, though of course Harlan's acquaintance was with less rudely
built craft than the one in which they were to cross the bay.

Each boy had brought along fruit for lunch. In addition, Vasco had
some hard-boiled eggs, wrapped in corn-husks, as sold in the market.
Eggs are not bought by the dozen in Panama, but by the pair. The boys
expected either to catch fish or to get some from Juan, Enrique's
friend who lived in the hut near the old city.

Soon they got under way in the little boat, with its sail spread wide
to catch the light morning breeze. Enrique was at the rudder and Vasco
acted as lookout at the bow, while Harlan made himself as comfortable
as possible midway. All of them hugely enjoyed the sail across the bay.

Old Panama is only about four miles northeast of the present city in
a straight line, but as the boys went, partly by water and partly on
foot, they had to cover a much longer distance. That did not trouble
them, however, especially while in the boat.

After sailing about an hour, a landing was made at Point Paitillo,
which forms the protection for the upper side of the Bay of Panama. The
boat was safely drawn up to shore and made fast to a huge boulder by a
long line.

As the tide was high when they landed, they knew there was no danger of
the boat's going adrift later in the day. In fact, as the tide receded
it left the craft high and dry upon the shore. At Panama the tide has a
rise and fall of about twenty feet.

The boat secured in its position, the boys took up their way afoot.
They passed along the rocky shore, through some swampy lowland and over
broad green fields, crossing many little brooks and rivulets.

To Harlan especially this walk was delightful. He greatly admired the
park-like trees and shrubs, the luxuriant tropical vegetation, the
beautiful scenery, fleeting glimpses of city and sea, and over all the
clear blue southern sky.

After awhile the boys came to Algarrobo River, which empties into the
sea close beside the ruins. The stream was spanned by an old stone
bridge, built over 350 years ago. Across this they made their way and
came in sight of the old city--or what was visible in the bewildering
mass of tropical vegetation.

They did not immediately go into its depths, however, but, led by
Enrique, sought out the hut of Juan, who lived a hermit life on the
border of this city, where years ago there had been a great tide
of humanity, and where ambition, avarice, gaiety, luxury, once had
full sway, but now was only a memory. Where once thousands of people
had thronged, now the only living things were serpents, alligators,
iguanas, pumas, and such.

The boys were fortunate in finding Juan at home, and as it was now well
toward the middle of the day, they were glad to get into the shelter of
his little thatch-roofed hut, and rest their weary limbs after the long



ENRIQUE'S friend Juan was a fine specimen of the Panama Indian. He
was straight, clean-limbed, big-boned, well-shaped. His long, coarse,
straight black hair hung loosely upon his shoulders. He was not very
tall, but out-door life had made him nimble and active and strong, and
Harlan especially admired his athletic appearance.

Indians of unmixed blood are a rarity in Panama now, and Juan was
exceedingly proud of the fact that no Spanish or negro blood flowed
in his veins. This, too, probably accounted for his living alone. He
was a member of the Tule or San Blas tribe of Indians, which not many
years ago lived on the Atlantic coast of Panama, peaceably pursuing an
honest, industrious life, occupied in fishing, hunting, farming, and
sometimes trading.

Juan knew well what his ancestors had suffered from the Spaniards
centuries ago, and how much it had cost to resist successfully their
attacks. In consequence, he had no love for the white man. His hatred,
however, did not include everybody, and he was on terms of close
friendship with Enrique's father, who often marketed the fish Juan

The Indian met Enrique and his companions with a smile, his even white
teeth gleaming between his thin lips. He gave them a warm welcome, and
invited them into the shelter of his hut, and the boys were very glad
to accept his hearty hospitality.

"We have come to visit the old city," said Vasco, "and Enrique said you
would be glad to show us about and tell something of its history."

"Yes, yes, but not now. Sun too hot. Go in and lie down. By and by we
go to see the ruins."

Within the hut swung a hammock, which was generously given up to
Harlan, while Vasco and Enrique made themselves comfortable on a rude
grass couch covered with skins.

Meanwhile Juan set about, in his deliberate way, to prepare a meal for
his visitors.

"Doesn't it seem strange," said Harlan to his companions, "that this
place where there were once so many people should now be deserted?"

The American boy, though as full of fun as any lad, had a poetic
nature, and in quiet moments was either building air-castles or
dreaming over past events. The historic associations of this place
brought to his mind much that he had read of the early visits of the
Spaniards and of the bold buccaneers who followed in their trail.

Harlan's question had not much meaning either to Enrique or to Vasco,
for in fact they knew much less about the history of the country and
of their ancestors than did their American friend. But Vasco had enough
curiosity to be interested in Harlan's question and the thought that
might be behind it.

"Were there, then, very many people living here?" he asked.

"Yes, indeed, thousands and thousands. After his discovery of the
Pacific Ocean Balboa founded the city, and thousands of Spanish
countrymen flocked to the place in search of gold."

Harlan came very near saying something about their treatment of the
native Indians, but he happened to think that Vasco and Enrique were
both descendants of these same conquerors, and he was wise enough to
hold his tongue.

"Many of the Spaniards," he continued, "succeeded way beyond their
wildest dreams, and right here where you see these old ruins they were
able to pile up a big lot of gold."

"If they became so rich," asked Vasco, "how did it happen that the city
was deserted and fell to ruin?"

"Oh, that is a long story, and I am not sure that I could tell it very
well, either," replied Harlan.

"There's plenty of time before Juan will have dinner ready," broke in
Enrique, "and I am sure we would both like to hear how Old Panama was
destroyed. You may be certain that not many boys in this country know
the story, and it will give us something to brag about."

"Well, then," began Harlan, "you must know that for many years your
ancestors and mine quarrelled, particularly over the control of the
sea and its commerce. It was a long fight between the English and the
Spanish, and it was a bitter one, too. Millions of dollars were spent,
and blood--well, that flowed in rivers.

"In the search after wealth in the new world, the old rivalry between
Spanish and English continued, and I guess that when it came to a fight
neither side stopped to ask which was right or wrong. The men who
sailed the ships on both sides were nothing but a set of pirates, and
the governments at home didn't much care what the sailors did to their

"Thus it came about that a fierce and strong band of buccaneers, under
Henry Morgan, was allowed to attack the Spanish vessels even at times
when the nations were supposed to be at peace, though of course with no
direct authority. It was this Morgan and his blood-thirsty cutthroats
who destroyed the old city of Panama."

"How did you learn all this?" interrupted Vasco. "I have lived here
all my life and never heard about this Morgan, though I have heard my
father say that some of his ancestors were among those who lost life
and property when the city was destroyed."

"Oh," said Harlan, "some things I learned in history at school, but
a great deal I got from books of adventure that father has given me.
If you only could read English I would lend you some of them, and you
would find out much more than I can possibly tell you.

"But let me tell you about Morgan and his men. The old pirate chief
himself was a Welshman, and if I remember correctly his father was a
respectable farmer.

"The son didn't love the quiet life of a Welsh farmer, and so he left
home when quite young. He joined the crew of a merchant vessel, and
sailed for Barbados.

"Here he had very bad luck, which no doubt was partly the cause of his
awful cruelty to his enemies in later years. He fell into the hands of
the Spaniards and was sold into slavery."

"I'm mighty glad there are no slaves now," broke in Enrique. "I've
heard my father tell some things about the way they lived, and it must
have been terrible."

"It surely was," replied Harlan, "and yet the conditions of slavery
with which your father is familiar were as nothing compared with the
sufferings of slaves in Morgan's time. Probably his case was no better
than others, but, as matters turned out, he succeeded after a time in
getting his freedom. I can't tell you just how this was brought about,
though I am sure his great strength and daring must have had much to do
with it.

"Morgan next went to Jamaica, where he joined a band of pirates--mostly
English and French--who attacked the Spanish treasure-ships in these
waters. You can easily imagine that Morgan's part in this business
wasn't small. He never thought of such a thing as mercy. The crews of
captured ships who weren't killed in the battles had to walk the plank.

"Fortune favoured Morgan, and, unlike most of his companions, he saved
his booty, and in a little while was able to buy a ship. In this vessel
he had as villainous a body of men as ever walked the deck.

"With his ship he joined other pirate captains, and it was not long
before he was in command of a fleet of fifteen vessels, with over five
hundred men,--men who were not afraid of anything, and who did dreadful
things wherever they went.

"With the constant additions to their force, the buccaneers began to
spread out. They were not satisfied with capturing ships and killing
their crews, but began to go upon the land, and a good many native
and Spanish settlements in the West Indies and on the shore of South
or Central America suffered. Wherever the pirates suspected Spanish
treasure might be stored, they were sure to make their appearance,
sooner or later. Town after town was captured and destroyed, and
everything of value carried away."

"But what has all this to do with Panama?" asked Vasco, who, though
interested in Morgan's history, was anxious to learn about the
destruction of the city.

"I'm coming to that very soon," replied Harlan. "After a time Morgan
and his men began to wonder if they could not capture Panama, which
was then the chief city of all this region, and was famous everywhere
for its vast wealth. And, as so often happens, the stories about its
wonders far exceeded the reality.

"The inhabitants did not dream that the buccaneers would ever dare to
attack Panama, fortified as it was, and defended by Spanish soldiers.
But they didn't know much about the spirit which was in Morgan and his
men, and they didn't realize to what the greed for gold would lead.

"To make a long story short, Morgan decided to attack Panama. By
this time he had twelve hundred followers. Landing about forty miles
from the city, with only a small supply of provisions, they took up
their long march through forests and over the mountains and across
the streams. They could not move very fast, and the men were nearly
starved. I remember reading in some book, that at nightfall often
the happiest man in the company was the one who had saved from his
breakfast a small piece of rawhide on which to make his supper."

Vasco, who could make good use of anything eatable at any time, and
who even now was wondering if Juan had dinner nearly ready, could not
restrain an exclamation at this statement. "How could they live on that
sort of stuff?" he asked.

"I don't know, myself," replied Harlan, "but we are told that the
skins were first sliced, then dipped in water, and afterward beaten
between stones. The morsel would then be broiled, cut into bits, and
deliberately chewed, with plenty of cold water to wash it down.

"In addition to the danger of starvation, the pirates were in constant
fear of ambuscades. The Spaniards, who knew of their approach, sent
out parties of soldiers to meet them and hinder their march, though
the defenders of Panama knew very well that they would lose a pitched
battle. Consequently they confined themselves to attacks from the cover
of the dense forests, and in this way many a buccaneer was killed."

"Weren't the Englishmen able to find anything to eat while on the way?"
asked Enrique.

"Very little indeed," replied Harlan, "until the ninth day, when they
came to the outskirts of this city. What they saw there was very
pleasing to these hungry men. On the broad, level land the other side
of that bridge we just crossed were great herds of cattle."

"I'll wager they made a rush for them," said Vasco.

"They did, you may be sure," continued Harlan, "and so hungry were the
men that they would hardly stop even to cook the meat.

"Their hunger satisfied, Morgan and his men moved on, and very soon
caught a glimpse of the roofs and towers of the city. Then what a
shout went up! The pirates, tired as they were, tossed their caps in
the air and rushed forward with cheers. Drums were also beaten, and
the invaders acted like crazy men at the thought of securing the rich
treasure that lay in the city before them.

"Many of them wished to charge on the city and capture it at once, but
their leader gave wiser counsel, and the pirates went into camp for the
night, intending to move forward early in the morning."

"I should think the pirates would have been afraid to attack the city,"
said Vasco, "for there must have been many Spanish soldiers on guard

Probably Vasco had a higher opinion of Spanish bravery than did Harlan,
but the young American gave no hint of his real thought. He simply
said: "The pirates were the most desperate men on earth, and in their
position it was win or die, for they could expect no quarter, and could
not retreat over the path by which they had come.

"It is true," continued Harlan, "that the Spaniards greatly outnumbered
the buccaneers, and they tried all sorts of schemes to defend the city.
Among other things, they collected a great herd of bulls and drove
them into the pirates' ranks with the hope that such disorder would be
created as to make easy the enemy's destruction.

"But all that could be done in defence was useless against the
villains who were greedy for gold. No mercy was shown, and death was
the lot of all on either side who fell into the hands of their foes.

"After fierce fighting, which continued several days, Morgan and his
men got into the city. Immediately the search for treasure was begun.
Every house and building was ransacked, and if any inhabitant dared
to resist, his life was immediately taken. Even helpless women and
children were not spared."

"I don't see why they killed those who were unable to resist them,"
said Vasco.

"One reason why the pirates were so merciless was because of their
disappointment. Though they did find vast stores of silver and gold,
in many houses they were unable to find anything of value. This was
because some of the people who lived in the city had hidden their
treasure--in many cases burying it deep in the ground."

"That is so," interrupted Enrique, "and I have heard my father tell of
seeing people come here to dig for buried gold. I never heard, though,
that any one found much."

"Let Harlan go on with his story," said Vasco, sharply. "I want to hear
how Morgan succeeded. Besides, I'm beginning to get hungry."

"There isn't much more to tell," said the young American. "When the
pirates had finished their hunt they set fire to the city. At the same
time they went on killing the people. Special vengeance was visited on
the priests, for the robbers had been unable to find the great store of
plate which the Church was supposed to possess.

"Morgan stayed here four weeks, taking everything of value, both on
land and in the harbour. It is said that when he finally left the place
it took one hundred and seventy-five mules to carry the plunder."

"What became of Morgan finally?" asked Vasco.

"Soon after his capture of Panama, I believe," replied Harlan, "he was
appointed by King Charles the Second of England as deputy governor of
Jamaica. Afterward King James the Second removed him and threw him into
prison for his crimes."

"And good enough for him!" was Vasco's comment.

Just at this time Juan appeared in the doorway of the hut. "Come, boys,
let's have something to eat," he said.

That was an invitation none of them cared to refuse, and they responded
as only three hungry boys could.

Outside on a rude bench was spread the fresh fish that Juan knew so
well how to cook over his camp-fire, together with Vasco's boiled eggs,
potatoes, plaintains, and all sorts of vegetables and fruit. The sail
and the long walk had added zest to appetites always splendid, and the
good things on the bench disappeared as if by magic.

"I must say," said Harlan, "that that's about the best tasting fish I
ever ate. And I have eaten a good many kinds, too."

Juan, silent like most of his race, said nothing in reply to the
compliment, but a significant look and a grunt of satisfaction showed
that he appreciated the American boy's remark.

The boys finished their meal with generous mugs of hot cocoa. Juan
was an expert in its preparation, but to his own particular draught
he added a seasoning of chili pepper. This he drank boiling hot,--a
process which would have terribly scalded the mouths and throats of his
visitors, but the Indian swallowed the hot mixture without any trouble
and with much satisfaction.

Vasco and his friends looked on in amazement, and were all the more
surprised when Juan told them that in years gone by it was the fashion
of his forefathers to sit upon the ground with open mouths while their
squaws poured the boiling mixture down their throats.


Their generous dinner disposed of, Vasco suggested that they
immediately begin the exploration of the old city. This was agreed to
by the others, and under Juan's guidance they at once made their way
into the dense jungle which had grown up about the ruins.

Neither of the Panama boys was very romantic in disposition, but Vasco
could not help thinking of the pirates of whom Harlan had told,--how
they had trod this very ground, and how back and forth Spaniards and
buccaneers had swept in bloody battle. All the military ardour which
had been born in his breast was aroused, and he even caught himself
wishing that he had been there to help defend the city. Little did he
realize how much less enchanting was the experience than the story.

It is not possible to describe all that the boys saw. As they wandered
back and forth they imagined that here was a market-place, and there
was the residence of some rich old Spanish trader. Over yonder was
all that remained of a bishop's palace, and near by may have been the
governor's abode.

The old cathedral was easily identified by the tower which still
stands. Within its walls the boys went and gazed with awe upon the
ancient altar on which Pizarro, the adventurous explorer and conqueror,
had left an offering to the Holy Virgin before starting on his voyage
to Peru.

Time passed swiftly, however, and it was Enrique who discovered that
the sun was fast setting.

"We must soon be starting," he said to Vasco, "if we are to get home
before dark."

Harlan, who overheard what Enrique said, was anxious to start
immediately, for he knew his mother would be worried if he were late.

So bidding Juan good-bye and thanking him profusely for his kindness
to them, the boys took up their homeward march across the old bridge
and along the coast. Not so much time was spent on the way as in the
morning, for now they were intent only on getting home.

The boat was found safely fast where they had left it, and, quickly
spreading the sail, they were soon speeding across the blue waters of
the bay. The sail was a delightful one, the cool breeze fanning their
cheeks while the slanting rays of the sun cast a glory over the scene
which subdued their boyish spirits and filled them with awe as they
gazed about them.

Before long, however, they arrived at the water-front of the city.
Here was a busy, bustling scene. A great steamer from San Francisco
had arrived during the day, and a gang of negro labourers was busily
transferring the freight from its capacious hold to the cars which
stood alongside on the dock. On the other side of the Isthmus the
process would have to be repeated in a reverse manner. The freight
would be unloaded from the cars and shipped to New York, New Orleans,
Liverpool, and other ports of the United States and Europe.

At the same time numerous small boats were drawn up near the beach,
discharging fish, poultry, fruit, and various cargoes. Here the boys
saw a sight which was new even to Vasco, though he had seen about
everything that went on in Panama. A small schooner from up the coast
had brought in a cargo of live pigs for the Panama market. The vessel
was not made fast to a wharf and the pigs taken out over a gangplank,
but it was moored as near the beach as safety would allow. Then the
pigs were dumped overboard and compelled to swim for land, where
they were caught. Later they would be slaughtered and their carcasses
exposed for sale in the market-place.

The sight of the squealing, swimming pigs was very amusing to Vasco and
Harlan, and they watched with glee the unloading of the whole boat-load
before they went ashore.

"What queer-looking pigs those are!" said Harlan.

"Why?" Vasco asked.

"See how lean they are, and what long snouts they have!"

"Well, isn't that the way all pigs look?"

"Not up in my country," replied Harlan. "Those that I have seen were so
fat that they could hardly move. These pigs are not at all like them;
though I have heard that in the Southern States many of the wild hogs
are thin and long-legged."

Soon the boys bade each other good night, and Vasco went to his
home ready for the supper his mother had prepared for him. Not long
afterward he went to bed, thoroughly tired, but very much pleased with
his day's outing. If he dreamed at all that night there must have
appeared a strange mixture of Spaniards and pirates and Indians and
ruins and--pigs!



"VASCO," called his mother to him early one morning a few days later,
"I want you to get up and go to market for me."

"Oh, dear, I don't want to get up now," said Vasco.

"No matter," replied his mother, "you'll want something to eat by and
by, so hurry up."

Vasco knew it was no use to protest further, and, as the process of
dressing was a very short one with him, he soon was ready to do his
mother's errand.

"What do you want me to get this morning?" he asked.

"I want you to get some potatoes and peas and rice and half a yard of
beef," his mother replied, as she handed him a basket.

It sounds strange to hear about a yard of beef, doesn't it? Vasco did
not think so, though, for in Panama beef, instead of being sold by the
pound, is often cut into long strips and sold by the yard.

By the time Vasco was all ready to start his sister Inez was up.

"May I go with you?" she asked.

"Of course, if you want to. Come on."

So together they trotted out of the house and off to market.

Inez looked about her with wide-open eyes, for her visits to the
market, especially in the early morning, had been very rare.

"See what a lot of donkeys standing over there," said the little girl,
pointing across the street.

"Yes; they belong to the fruit-sellers you see here. The animals stand
there all day long, and at night, when their masters and mistresses
have sold all their stock, they ride home on the backs of the donkeys.
Some of them go many miles into the country, too."

But other sights soon attracted Inez's attention, and the donkeys were

Many of the buyers were women cooks dressed in red and yellow and
green and bright colours of all sorts. They made the place look very

Soon, however, Vasco had done his errands and with Inez hurried home
for breakfast.

Sometimes, in the evening, Vasco would go out with his mother and Inez
and little Carlos.

On Sunday evenings, as you have already learned, they went to the plaza
and listened with rapt attention to the band concert.

Quite often, on these occasions, Vasco's father, the lieutenant, would
have a leave of absence from his military duties, and would go with his
family. Then Vasco was supremely happy, for he was extremely proud of
the gorgeous uniform which his father wore, and felt as if some of the
military glory were reflected upon him.

Since Panama had become an independent nation, much patriotic music
had been played at these concerts, and the large crowds were always

On one Sunday evening, soon after the boy's visit to Old Panama, all
the members of the family except little Carlos were listening to
Vasco's tales of the sights he had seen in the old city. He also was
repeating the story of the buccaneers that Harlan had told him.

Lieutenant Barretas was especially interested in what Vasco said about
the treasure buried amid the ancient ruins.

"Our ancestors," he said to his son, "were not the only ones who
left their wealth buried in the ground about here. The pirates who
so cruelly robbed the early settlers of the country often hid their
ill-gotten gains in caves in the sand on the shore or upon some barren
island. Then they sailed away, and sometimes never returned to secure
their treasure. If the stories were to be believed, all we need to do
to obtain untold wealth is to take picks and spades and turn up the
earth along the coast of our country or on the islands near its shores.

"Years ago a good many people actually spent much time searching for
hidden gold. I remember hearing my grandfather tell of a neighbour who
formed one of a party that went to Cocos Island for such a purpose.

"It seems that many years before a dying pirate had confided to an old
countryman, a carpenter by trade, that a vast store of gold was buried
on Cocos Island."

"I have heard of that place," interrupted Vasco. "Some of the sailors
whom Enrique and I know have mentioned it. The island is several
hundred miles from Panama, and there are no people living on it."

"That is true," said the lieutenant. "Well, this carpenter was nearly
mad with joy at the information the dying pirate gave him. He thought
surely that his fortune was made. No more hard work for him! All he
needed to do was to dig up the treasure, and for the rest of his life
enjoy ease and freedom from care."

"I don't much blame him, father, do you?" asked Vasco.

"I can't say that I do," was the reply. "I'll admit I wouldn't mind
digging up a pot or two of gold myself, though I don't believe that we
take so much stock in the stories of hidden wealth as our fathers and
grandfathers did.

"With this carpenter, however, it was a pretty serious question how he
was going to get to Cocos Island and secure the treasure. He knew the
island was a desert place and far from shore. It would be necessary
to have a ship, a good store of provisions, and tools with which to
do the digging, to say nothing of a company of men to help him. All
this required much money, and our poor carpenter had none. But he was
possessed of a large amount of courage and perseverance, and he managed
after a time to enlist the help of men of means, who furnished the
capital for the expedition.

"Many hardships were endured by the little band of men who made up the
carpenter's company, but they finally arrived at the island.

"The pirate had not made very clear the exact location of the hidden
gold, and as the island was covered with a dense growth of trees and
vines, the search was a heartless task from the beginning. The men,
however, got to work, and with picks and spades and gunpowder managed
to uncover a large part of the island."

"And did they find the gold?" asked Vasco, his face now aglow with

"Not any," replied his father. "Several months they dug and blasted,
but all in vain. No sign of chest, box, silver, or gold was found.
Day after day the search continued. Finally the provisions became
exhausted, the men grew disheartened, and a weary, disappointed company
of men returned to Panama."

Just as Vasco's father finished his story a strange rumbling noise was
heard. You would have wondered what it was, and perhaps have been a
little frightened. The Barretas family, however, knew in a moment what
had happened.

"An earthquake!" cried Vasco.

Even as he spoke two or three tiles fell from the roof into the street.
A startling clatter breaking the stillness of the evening proved that
the tiles had been shaken loose from neighbouring houses, also.

"We'd better get out quick," cried the lieutenant, and he made a dash
for the door.

Vasco and his mother were more thoughtful about the younger children,
and, while the mother rushed into the bedroom after Carlos, Vasco took
Inez by the arm and followed closely on his father's heels.

In a moment the whole family was in the street.

"Get away from the house!" shouted Vasco's father. "The tiles are
likely to fall upon you if you don't."

To the middle of the street they all dashed, where they were quickly
surrounded by a noisy, chattering mob of men, women, and children.

Again the earth seemed to shake and to shiver, and the shrieks and
moans of frightened women and children were accompanied by the sound
of more falling tiles and cracking timbers.

The experience was truly fearful, even to the older and wiser ones.
The terror of the young children was something to excite pity in the
most hardened breast. It was only by the utmost efforts and constant
reassurance that no harm would come to her that Vasco was able to quiet
his sister Inez. Even after her cries had become stilled she trembled
like a leaf.

Fortunately the shock was a light one and the shaking and trembling of
the earth were soon over. Lieutenant Barretas and his family returned
within their house none the worse for the adventure, and went to bed,
but many of their neighbours lingered in the street for hours--some
even until daylight, when the terror of the night was dissipated by the
cheerful rays of the rising sun.

The earthquake had been a mild one compared with some instances of
previous years. In September, 1882, the city had been visited in
the night by a terrible shock. The darkness always adds intensely
to the terror of the people. On this occasion men and women of all
classes--high and low--had rushed to the street. Great hotels were
emptied in a few moments, many guests not stopping even to put on

The great plaza was one vast mass of shouting, crying people, while the
earth heaved and the air quivered as it had never done in the memory of
the inhabitants. Many houses were ruined, much property destroyed, and
it is said that some even died from fright.

At daybreak new courage revived the hearts of the people, but for
several nights the plaza was occupied by tents and all sorts of rude
shelters for thousands who dared not sleep in their houses.



A FEW days after the earthquake, early in the forenoon, there came a
rap at the door of Vasco's home. Inez, always alert, ran to the door,
and, throwing it open, saw Harlan Andrews standing there.

"Good morning, Inez," said the young American.

Inez had become quite well acquainted with Harlan because of his many
visits to Vasco, and was always glad to see him. So she gave a cheerful
smile and hearty response to his greeting, and invited him to enter.

"Is Vasco at home?" asked Harlan, as he came into the living-room.

"Yes, he is out in the courtyard. If you will sit down I will call

Harlan thought he was quite fortunate to find Vasco. Generally at this
time of day he was out upon the streets with other boys of his age.

In a moment Vasco came into the house, and, boylike, Harlan stated his
errand without any preliminary conversation.

"Father is going to make a trip to Colon in connection with his canal
work, and will spend some time on the way, particularly at the Culebra
cut. Perhaps, too, he will go up the Chagres River to the place where
it is proposed to build the big dam. He is going to take me with him,
and says I may invite you to go along."

"Oh, that will be fine!" exclaimed Vasco, and he fairly jumped up
and down with glee. In fact, he was so overwhelmed by the thought of
the proposed journey that he nearly forgot to thank Harlan for the
invitation. When he did come to his senses, his gratitude was profuse,
and his tongue could not begin to express his thoughts.

Then again, after a few moments, he remembered that this trip was
for more than a day, perhaps for more than a week, and it might be
necessary to consult his parents before accepting the invitation. At
once he turned to his mother, who had overheard all the conversation.

"Are you willing I should go with Harlan?" Vasco inquired.

For a moment his mother did not reply, and the boy was very anxious for
fear that when she did give her answer it might not be favourable.

Finally the señora said, "If your father has no objection, I think I am
willing to let you go."

"Then I'll go now to ask him. Come on, Harlan," said Vasco.

The lieutenant was stationed in the city at this time, so the boys had
not far to go. Vasco did not anticipate any great difficulty in gaining
his father's consent to the journey. As the result proved, his hopes
were well founded, for Lieutenant Barretas was quite willing his son
should go anywhere, provided he was in Mr. Andrews's care.

"It's all right, then," said Harlan when the matter was decided. "Meet
me at the railway station next Monday morning at eight o'clock." This
was Friday.

For Vasco, the two days between Friday and Monday passed--oh, so
slowly! It seemed as if they would never go by!

Meanwhile, his mother gave him a bit of information which later turned
out to be of value. "You say you may go up the Chagres River?" she
asked her son.

"Yes, so Harlan told me," was Vasco's reply.

"I have never told you that I have a brother living in that part of
the country--your Uncle Francisco Herreras. The last I knew of him
he had a plantation not far from Palo Grande. I hope, if you go near
there, you may be able to call upon him. I am sure he will be very
hospitable to you all."

At last Monday morning came. Very early Vasco awoke, ate the breakfast
his mother made ready for him, and long before the hour appointed was
ready to start for the railway station. He was so impatient to be on
his way that he left home a full hour earlier than was necessary.
Consequently, he had to wait a long time at the depot.

But time flies, even for the most impatient lads, and in due time
Harlan and his father made their appearance.

"What do you think, Vasco?" said Harlan. "We are going to have a
special train!"

"Where is it?" asked Vasco, who saw no sign of anything of that sort in
the depot.

"Oh, it's not in here. It's outside in the train-yard. We are going out
there to get aboard."

Vasco thought this a little strange, but felt that he could ask no
questions. In a moment Mr. Andrews called to the boys to follow him,
and led the way outside the station.

Directly they came in sight of an engine, to which was attached a box
car and a flat car such as are ordinarily used for freight. On the
flat car were fixed several seats, and an awning had been erected
as protection from the fierce rays of the sun. In the box car were
well-equipped bunks, where the members of the party might sleep at
night when better accommodations were wanting.

"This is our special private car," said Harlan. "What do you think of

"I think it will suit me all right," said Vasco.

Mr. Andrews explained to the boys that he was on a tour of inspection
in connection with the canal work, and this train had been placed at
his disposal. He was glad, in connection with his work, to give a
pleasure trip to the boys. He hoped it might also prove an instructive
and beneficial one to them.

While Mr. Andrews had been talking to the boys they all had climbed
upon the flat car and taken seats. Then, with a wave of the hand to
the engineer, the signal was given, the throttle opened, and the train
began its journey.

Slowly it moved until away from the city, but when it had passed out
upon the beautiful broad savannahs, or grassy plains, which lie near
Panama it moved with greater speed. To Vasco it seemed very fast
indeed, though it was far otherwise to Harlan, who had ridden on the
rapid express trains in his own country.

As the train drew farther from Panama they came to a more hilly region.
In turn they passed through Corozal, Rio Grande, Miraflores, Pedro
Miguel, and Paraiso. Most of these places were small settlements. Near
the little railway stations would be seen a few wretched houses. What
few inhabitants were in sight appeared to be of native Indian descent
and wandered about in scanty clothing, with no apparent occupation.

At Paraiso the train was run on to a side-track.

"We shall have to wait here awhile for the regular passenger-train for
Panama City to pass us," said Mr. Andrews.

"How long shall we have to wait?" asked Harlan.

"Oh, I'm sure I don't know. The trains on this road come when they
please and go when they get ready. You may as well take it easy till we
can go on again."

"How long does it take to run across the Isthmus?" asked Vasco.

"Generally about three hours for the forty-mile trip, but as I just
told Harlan, you can't be sure of anything on this road. They ought to
give better service, for they carry nearly one hundred thousand people
a year."

Fortunately our friends did not have to wait very long, and when they
again had a clear track they proceeded on their way.

"It must have been a big job to build this road," said Vasco, as they
rode on.

"Yes," replied Mr. Andrews, "it was a great triumph of American genius.
During its construction multitudes of men were killed by the deadly
fever, but finally Chinese labourers were imported and successfully
completed the work, though even many of these Oriental coolies died."

The train whirled on through rocky hills and valleys luxuriant with
tropical foliage. As it approached Culebra Mountain Vasco's eyes opened
wide at the sights he saw. From the main track various spurs were
laid, on which stood giant steam-shovels.


Pointing to one of them, Mr. Andrews said: "That scoop will dig out
of the mountain a ton of earth at a time. Then it is swung around and
its load emptied into a gravel-car. In this manner train-load after
train-load is taken from the sides of the mountain each day and hauled
away and dumped either into a valley or into the sea at Colon."

Vasco also saw large gangs of men at work on the side of the mountain.
Most of them were negroes from Jamaica. As the boys watched them at
their labour Harlan said to his friend: "Well, those fellows can't be
accused of trying to work themselves out of a job. I reckon they would
move livelier than that if they were at work on some of our American



AT the Culebra station Mr. Andrews's train stopped. "Now, boys," he
said, "it is nearly noon. We will see what we can get for dinner, and
then I shall have to leave you to yourselves for the rest of the day.
I have considerable business to which I must attend. All I ask is that
you keep out of danger and show up at supper-time. We shall sleep in
the car to-night and to-morrow go on our way to Colon."

"That will give us the whole afternoon to look about this place, and I
think we can manage to see a lot in that time," said Harlan.

"I'm glad we're going to have some dinner first," said Vasco, "for I'm

"Come on, then," said Mr. Andrews, and he led the way to a large wooden
shanty a few rods from the station. The building was dignified with the
title of a "hotel," and served as a boarding-place for the American
overseers of the gangs of men at work in the Culebra cut. Here the
three sat down to a generous meal. There was not much style about it,
but Mr. Andrews cared little for that, and certainly the boys were not

Dinner over, the boys were left to their own devices.

"I tell you what let's do," said Vasco. "We'll climb to the top of
Culebra Hill this afternoon. We can get a splendid view of the country,
and we can certainly get back in time for supper."

"That suits me," said Harlan.

At once they started. From the level of the railway tracks, the climb
at first was up the steep and slippery banks that had been made by
the steam-shovels. Many times the boys lost their foothold and slid
backward, only to renew the struggle and clamber upward once more.

As they got higher up their progress was hindered by the dense
undergrowth of shrubs and vines, so that they were obliged to make
many a turn and twist in their path. In some places they could not get
through the bushes, and had to tramp a long way around to gain a few
yards toward the summit.

Finally their perseverance was rewarded, and they stood upon the top
of the great hill. Such a scene was spread before them as is seldom
witnessed. In the immediate foreground far below them they could see
the hundreds of men at work. They looked hardly larger than ants
and not half so active. Here also they saw the labourers' camp,--a
collection of rude shanties closely huddled together.

Looking farther out, the scene was more attractive. Down through the
valleys the rich-looking tropical foliage made a picture no artist
could reproduce, and even boyish spirits were subdued as Vasco and
Harlan gazed about them. In the distance ridge upon ridge of hills
arose, adding grandeur to the magnificent view.

Awe-inspiring as was the handiwork of nature spread before them, to
these boys the great work which man was here undertaking seemed even
more wonderful. The scores of steam-shovels in sight were scooping
up tons upon tons of earth every hour. Vasco could hardly believe it
when Harlan told him that it would take years to complete the work of
cutting through the mountain. The great valleys in the locality would
be entirely filled with the earth, and thousands of car-loads were to
be hauled to Colon and dumped into the Atlantic.

Little did those early Spanish explorers and English buccaneers who
travelled over this country imagine that great ships--many times larger
than any they ever dreamed of--would be sailing through this mountain.

Vasco could hardly fancy such a thing now, but Harlan, with sublime
confidence in American skill and force, had perfect faith in the early
completion of the Panama canal. Certainly here before him was splendid
evidence of American purpose.

When the boys had become thoroughly rested after their hard climb,
and had concluded that there were no more worlds to conquer in this
direction, they began to think of returning to the camp. The declining
sun also reminded them that it was time to be on the move. Possibly,
also, a vigorous appetite added to Vasco's zeal for the return journey.
At any rate, he said to Harlan: "What do you say to a race to the
railway station?"

This suggestion suited the American boy, and in a trice they were
off,--running, jumping, sliding, tumbling, dodging, twisting, and
turning in the race for the foot of the hill. There was just enough
danger in it to add interest to the contest.

In the end Vasco won, though Harlan pressed him closely all the way.
Several times, indeed, he seemed to gain the lead, his shrewdness and
good judgment proving nearly a match for the sturdy limbs and deep
breath of his opponent.

The race over, the boys wandered about watching the shifting
gravel-trains, the giant steam-shovels in operation, the hundreds of
men at work, and toward the close of the day returned to the car.

Here they found Mr. Andrews, and with him went to supper. At an early
hour thereafter they turned into their bunks in the "sleeping-car,"
where, with nets protecting them from hungry mosquitos and other
insects, they soundly slumbered through the night.

Early in the morning the three travellers were again on their way,
for Mr. Andrews was anxious to get to Colon. They did not even go to
the "hotel" for breakfast, but ate some canned food which had been
brought along in the "sleeper." Taking his meals on a railway train
was a novelty for Vasco,--more so than a dinner in the finest Pullman
dining-car would have been to Harlan. None the less, Harlan enjoyed the
novelty of the situation as much as his Panama friend.

Breakfast eaten, the boys devoted themselves to watching the scenery
along the route. The forests through which they passed abounded in all
sorts of bird and animal life.

As the train whirled along, the boys caught glimpses of wild turkeys,
bright-coloured macaws and parrots, as well as of innumerable smaller
birds. Monkeys were seen darting about amidst the foliage. Once also
a drove of peccaries was seen scuttling away through the undergrowth.
These little animals resemble the Virginia wild hog in shape, and are
black in colour. The natives of Panama kill them for food.

The trees were innumerable in variety. Besides the ordinary oak, cedar,
beech, and ash, were seen teak, rosewood, mahogany, and ebony in
abundance. When they become more accessible, these will bring fortunes
to their possessors.

Vasco called particular attention to the macaw-trees. He said they
bore a very palatable fruit about the size of a pear, with a stringy
covering and a stone in the centre. In old times the Indians were
very fond of it, and recklessly cut down thousands of trees for the
sake of the fruit alone. They used the black and very hard wood for

As the train rolled into Obispo, the travellers got their first glimpse
of the Chagres River, which forms such an important link in the
construction of the canal.



ALONG the river's bank the train sped. As it approached Matachin Mr.
Andrews pointed to a high hill not far away.

"Do you know what hill that is?" he asked Vasco.

"No, sir."

"Well, you ought to, for it is the spot of greatest historic interest
in your country. Cerro Gigante, or Big Hill, is its name, and from its
summit was gained the first sight of the Pacific Ocean. Do you know who
the discoverer of that ocean was?"

"Yes, sir, it was Balboa, who also helped to build the city of Panama.
I have heard my father speak of him."

"Balboa's life was full of adventures," said Mr. Andrews, "and
included many dramatic incidents, but none equalled in intensity the
moment when he first sighted the broad blue Pacific, which he called
the 'Sea of the South.' At the head of a little band of tired Spaniards
he toiled up that hill. The vision that met his eyes amply repaid him
for all the hardships and privations he had suffered--and they had not
been few."

Vasco's interest was now thoroughly aroused, and he asked Mr. Andrews
to tell him more about Balboa and his adventures.

"Perhaps I do not know very much about Balboa, but I am very glad to
tell you what I can.

"If I remember correctly, he was born about 1475 in Spain. So you see
he was just coming to young manhood when the wonderful discovery of a
new world by Columbus thrilled every Spanish heart.

"Balboa was of noble parentage, though his family had become poor. A
few years after the discovery of America he sailed with Bastides and
coasted up and down this country.

"At first he was very successful in his ventures, but on account of the
sinking of his ship he settled in Santo Domingo, and undertook to make
his living by farming. In this he failed. Soon his savings were spent,
and he found himself in debt. This was a serious matter for Balboa, as
under Spanish law debtors were shown very slight consideration."

"Why didn't he run away?" asked Vasco.

"That is just what he wanted to do," replied Mr. Andrews, "but it was
almost impossible to get away from the island unobserved. Finally,
however, he made a desperate effort. He placed himself in a cask and
caused it to be carried from his farm on board a ship that was ready to
sail for South America.

"When well out to sea, he appeared to the captain, who at first was
exceedingly angry. The captain relented, however, after he had heard
Balboa's story, and allowed the fugitive to remain with him.

"Later, a wealthy friend supplied funds for an expedition of which
Balboa was the head. At first he was unsuccessful and results were not
promising, but on a visit to the Isthmus much wealth was secured, and
Balboa's great success--the discovery of the Pacific--was attained.

"The building of the city of Panama soon followed. It was from that
place that Pizarro, one of Balboa's companions, a few years later,
sailed for Peru, whence such fabulous wealth was carried back to Spain.
You saw in the ruins of the old cathedral the altar where Pizarro
offered sacrifice to the Holy Virgin."

Here Mr. Andrews concluded his story, and Harlan added:

"You did not tell Vasco that Balboa made friends with an Indian chief
on the Isthmus, and married his daughter. More than that, unlike a
lot of Spanish explorers, he really loved his Indian wife and remained
true to her--so true, in fact, that he afterward lost his life on her

"And was Balboa finally killed, then?" asked Vasco.

"Yes; he was executed by order of a jealous governor of the Isthmus,"
replied Mr. Andrews.

"That seems strange, after all he had done for his country," said Vasco.

"I know it does," was Mr. Andrews's answer; "but that was the way Spain
often dealt with her adventurous explorers. Many of them deserved their
fate much more than Balboa, though."

While Mr. Andrews had been telling the story of Balboa, the train
continued to roll on. Gorgona, San Pablo, and Tavernilla were passed in
succession. Bohio was a special point of interest, for here, as Mr.
Andrews told the boys, the canal is to enter the artificial lake to be
formed by a great dam. When complete, there will be a broad, deep body
of water seven miles in length, affording room for anchorage as well as
for navigation.

Gatun was the next place of importance, and not long after the train
passed through Monkey Hill, a suburb of Colon, and finally into the
city of Colon itself.



ARRIVING in Colon, as they did about midday, the boys had little
desire to go sightseeing immediately. The weather was too hot and
uncomfortable. They ate dinner at a hotel with Mr. Andrews, but it was
decided to sleep on board their car every night. It was as comfortable
as any place they were likely to find.

As the car was side-tracked upon the railway dock, they had the full
benefit of the sea breezes, and during the remainder of that day Vasco
stayed upon the car with Harlan, watching the waves roll in from the
broad Atlantic.

Colon is situated on the extreme point of land between Limon and
Manzanillo Bays. There is really little harbour, and in case of severe
storm little protection for shipping.

"Sometimes there are terrible storms here," said Harlan, "when the
waves come in with tremendous force."

"I can see along the shore," said Vasco, "where much damage has been

"That is not the worst, either," continued Harlan. "During these storms
many lives have been lost. It was only a little while ago that one of
the most severe of these 'northers' attacked this coast. Father was
telling me about it, as he happened to be in Colon at the time.

"Three steamships put to sea for safety and remained away three days.
The gunboat _Dixie_ also ran out as quickly as it could to escape the
danger. Not a vessel of any kind remained in the harbour except two
schooners in the slips close by this station. They were tied by a
number of cables at a sufficient distance from the piers to prevent
damage from the pitching and rolling. They couldn't get away, and rode
out the gale.

"Great waves rolled directly into the harbour, breaking over the
water-front, and even the streets were filled with water. From a number
of houses the people had to get out."

"It doesn't look now as if the sea ever could do such harm, does it?"
said Vasco.

"Indeed it does not. It is very calm and gentle this afternoon. Father
told me that one of the plans in connection with digging the canal is
the building of a big breakwater here."

"If that is done the harbour will be much safer, won't it?" asked Vasco.

"Yes, and the entrance to the canal will be less likely to suffer
damage in a storm," said Harlan.

"It looks as if a number of old wrecks were strewn along the shore
now," said Vasco, indicating at the time numerous hulks that appeared
just above the surface of the water along the shore.

"Those are relics of the French effort to dig a canal here. Scores of
scows were built by the De Lesseps company, and when work was given up
they were left to decay and sink."

"Why didn't some one take care of them?" asked Vasco. "They must have
cost a lot of money."

"That's one of the questions no one can answer, any more than one can
tell why so many costly engines and steam-shovels and dredges were left
to rust and grow useless by exposure."

"I remember we saw some of them near the railway. A good many were more
than half-buried in the sand, too," said Vasco.

Thus the boys whiled away the afternoon, and at night, with Mr.
Andrews, turned into their berths in the "sleeper."

In the morning, after an early breakfast, the boys started to explore
the town. They found that most of the buildings were mere wooden

"This city makes me think of some of the beach resorts in my country,"
said Harlan. "The houses are just such flimsy affairs."

There were no cellars, and the houses were set up on stakes. The
streets hardly deserved the name, and were littered with all kinds of
dirt and filth.

Even Vasco, who could not be accused of being particular, said that he
much preferred to live in his own city of Panama.

After dinner, during the hottest part of the day, the boys indulged in
a _siesta_, and later took a walk to Coconut Point, where the French
had built a number of fine houses, and cleared and drained the land to
make healthful surroundings for the officers of the canal company.

One specially elegant house was built for the sole use of De
Lesseps--and he occupied it less than one hour. The whole situation and
surroundings were ideal and a splendid reminder of the extravagance of
the French canal company.

At night, when the boys returned to their car, Mr. Andrews told them
that he had completed his business in Colon, and that they would start
on the return trip in the morning.



AFTER another night on the "sleeper" in Colon, Mr. Andrews and the boys
started on their return journey. The trip was made as far as Obispo
without special incident. Here a halt was made and the train shifted to
a side-track. Mr. Andrews was obliged to inspect the site of a proposed
dam near Alhajuela. This was about ten miles northwest of Obispo, and
the journey would have to be made by a boat and on foot.

It was too far to go that day, so Vasco suggested that they go to Palo
Grande and hunt up his uncle, Francisco Herreras. "I am sure," said the
boy, "that he will give us all a hearty welcome and be glad to provide
shelter and food for us."

"Let's go there," said Harlan to his father. "It will be lots more fun
than staying here to-night. It will give us more chance to see the
country, too."

Vasco's suggestion was favourably received by Mr. Andrews, who
proceeded at once to carry the plan into effect.

On going to the nearest river landing-place to see if he could find
a boat and men to row them up-stream, he met with unexpected good
fortune. Two natives, who had come down to Obispo with a boat-load of
bananas, were just ready to return, and were glad to earn an extra sum
by taking along three passengers.

The boat in which passage was secured was a large flat-bottomed affair,
suitable for navigation of the shallow stream. On the way up many
similar boats were seen, also rude canoes propelled by single persons.

Vasco and Harlan, full of curiosity as boys always are, were soon on
familiar terms with the boatmen, who told them that in former times
many of the canoes were hollowed out of the trunks of cottonwood-trees.

The boys learned, too, that the Panama native Indian is a natural
sportsman. Parrots, monkeys, pigeons, and small deer are his favourite
game. His life is a very simple one. Nature provides him with bread in
the shape of bananas and plantains. He makes his own pottery from the
clay beneath his feet, and in place of knives and spoons uses gourds
cut into proper shape.

He sleeps in a hammock or on a couch of bamboo with hides thrown over
it. The hammocks are woven by the women.

All the time the boat was making good progress, and about four o'clock
in the afternoon arrived at Palo Grande. On inquiry, it was learned
that Señor Herreras lived about two miles west of the river, and after
securing definite directions as to the route our friends started to
walk to the plantation.

To Vasco, as well as to Harlan, the sights along the way were of
special interest, for he knew nothing of country life. The growing
corn, tobacco, indigo, coffee, vanilla beans, and other products of the
country were a source of wonder to him. Even Mr. Andrews could well
believe, with a former visitor to Panama, that "here it would puzzle a
healthy man to die of hunger."

In less than an hour Señor Herreras's plantation was reached. It was
now Vasco's turn to serve as guide and leader of the party. Finding his
uncle at home, he introduced him to his friends, and told him of their
desire for food and lodging.

"It is with great pleasure I welcome you all to my humble home," said
the señor. "Will you kindly follow me within that you may rest after
your long walk, and I will see that food is served to you at once. It
is about our supper-hour, any way.

"And how is my sister, your mother?" Señor Herreras continued,
addressing Vasco. "It has been many a long year since I have seen her."

"She is very well indeed, uncle, and it is because she told me of you
that I am here with these friends. She said you would be sure to give
us a royal welcome."

"And glad I am you took her advice. I only wish she were with you.
Sometime I hope I may get down to the great city to see her."

Meanwhile, all had stepped within the house. The visitors were given an
opportunity to remove the travel-stains, and by the time this had been
done they were ready for the food which was set before them.

Vasco was specially glad to find that here were two cousins of about
his own age, Jago and Alfeo, and before long the four boys were very
well acquainted with each other.

The meal ended, Vasco's uncle inquired of Mr. Andrews as to his plans
for the next day.

"I intend to go on up the river to Alhajuela, where I have some
business in connection with the canal work."

"Did you expect to take the boys with you?"

"That was my plan."

"Well, why not let them stay here until you return. I will agree to
take good care of them, and my boys will show them all about this
place. I am sure they would all have a fine time--perhaps better than
if they went with you, for boys love boy company."

"You may be right," said Mr. Andrews, "and I think I will accept your
generous invitation on behalf of the boys. This is Wednesday, and I
shall probably get back here Friday."

"Very well, then, we will consider that settled," said the host.

Early the next morning Mr. Andrews resumed his journey, Vasco's uncle
providing a horse and accompanying him as far as the river.

Thus the four lads were left to their own devices.

"Let's take the boys down to the sugar-mill first," said Alfeo to his

"That's a good idea," was Jago's reply, and Vasco and Harlan readily
fell in with the suggestion.

Vasco's uncle raised much sugar-cane on his plantation, and in this
mill he also did grinding for neighbours who were less fortunate and
were unable to possess mills of their own.

Harlan found that the "mill" was not at all like what he imagined,
and he regarded it as rather a small affair, but Vasco was immensely
impressed with the wonderful work it performed.

It consisted of three upright cylinders of very hard wood, two of them
about five feet long and one in the centre two feet higher. They were
set close to each other, and a crude cog-wheel made the three revolve

An arm from the top of the central cylinder extended outward about
fifteen feet. To this oxen were attached. Round and round in a circle
the animals walked, and as they did so the machinery revolved. The
stalks of cane were fed between the cylinders, and the heavy pressure
squeezed out the juice, which fell into a large tub below.

Near by the boys saw the juice boiled. A great iron kettle was set in
rough stone masonry, and dried cane was used for fuel. The boiling
process was watched by an old woman, who was constantly dipping up the
syrup with a long-handled gourd dipper.

[Illustration: A NATIVE VILLAGE]

Vasco and Harlan were each given a drink of the partially boiled
cane-juice, which they found very pleasant to the taste.

"After the boiling is completed," the old woman told them, "the sugar
is run into wooden moulds and then wrapped in plantain leaves, when it
is ready for the market."

Harlan and Vasco were next taken to visit an aged woman who in years
gone by had been a cook in Señor Herreras's father's household. This
woman was said to be nearly a century old, and could tell the boys much
of the ancient customs and habits of Panama.

The house in which she lived was like many of the native huts. It was
very simply built. Four trees about six inches in diameter had been cut
down, the branches lopped off, and a Y-shaped fork left at the tops.
These four trees were set deep into the earth as corner posts. Side
pieces were lashed on top with withes. The roof was made of small
saplings thatched with native grasses, bunches of which overlapped each
other like shingles.

In this particular hut there were two rooms, and an attic overhead,
though many houses have no upper room. The sides of the hut were made
of plaited split bamboo, and the chinks were filled with mud.

The old woman always welcomed the visits of Jago and Alfeo, and she was
also glad to see the two young strangers. They found it easy to enter
into conversation with her. She told how the Indians in her youthful
days used to adorn their bodies with figures of birds, beasts, and
trees. The women did the painting and took great delight in it. The men
also wore a crescent-shaped metal plate over the lip, attached to the
nose, and the women wore a ring in the same manner.

"What were the rings made of?" asked Vasco.

"Sometimes of gold, but more often of silver or of some cheaper metal,"
replied the woman. "Chains of animals' teeth and shell were also common.

"You would have laughed to see how the men used to smoke tobacco,"
continued the old woman. "Instead of a cigar, or even a pipe, long
strips of tobacco leaf were wound into a roll two or three feet long
and as large as your wrist.

"A boy would light one end of the roll and burn it to a coal, wetting
the leaf next the fire to keep it from wasting too fast. The lighted
end he put in his mouth and blew smoke through the roll into the face
of each man in the company, no matter how many of them. Then they,
sitting down as usual, with their hands made a kind of funnel around
their mouths and noses. Into this they received the smoke as it was
blown upon them, snuffing it greedily and strongly as long as they
could hold their breath. It seemed to give them great pleasure."

"I don't think I should have liked the boy's task," said Vasco.

"Did the boys go hunting when you were young?" asked Alfeo.

"Oh, yes. They did not have guns for weapons, but used bows and arrows.
They could shoot very straight with them, too. Just wait a moment and I
will prove that to you."

The old woman hobbled to a chest in the corner of the room and took
therefrom an old bamboo cane.

"Do you see the cleft in the end of that cane?" she asked.

"Yes, I do," answered Alfeo.

"Well, that was split by an arrow shot at twenty paces by my oldest
brother when he was only eight years old."

The boys now took leave of the old woman, and the rest of the day
they spent visiting various points of interest in the vicinity of the
plantation. They also fished and went in swimming in a small stream
which flowed near by and emptied into the Chagres.

At nightfall, four tired but happy boys were glad to get an early
supper and seek the rest which a day of unusual activity demanded.

The next day, according to his plan, Mr. Andrews returned and remained
overnight with Vasco's hospitable uncle.

Early Saturday morning, amid profuse expressions of regret at their
departure and with invitations to come again, the travellers took up
their journey homeward. This was made without special incident and was
completed in safety.



"DID you have a good time on your trip with Harlan and his father?"
asked Lieutenant Barretas of Vasco.

"To be sure I did," was the answer. "I am not likely ever to forget the
sights I have seen in this journey through our country."

"I hope you thanked your American friends for the pleasure you have

"I did, father."

"Our people are much indebted to the Americans for the prosperity into
which we have come. I have some more good news to tell you now."

"What is it?" asked Vasco, his face aglow with eager anticipation.

"To-morrow a public school is to be opened, and I have decided that you
shall attend."

This conversation occurred on Sunday, the day after Vasco's arrival
home. The lieutenant was making his usual Sunday visit with his family,
though he had come a little late on account of army affairs that had
called him to the Blue House--the President's mansion. It was there
that he had learned about the school.

Vasco received the information with a doubtful smile. A few weeks
before he would have been sad to hear such a suggestion. But his
acquaintance with Harlan, and especially the close companionship of the
past week, had wrought certain changes in his spirit, and a dawning
ambition had begun to arise within him.

He had come to see that there was a world different from that in which
he had lived,--that his friend Harlan was of that world,--and that
the key to that world was knowledge. And knowledge, he knew, could be
obtained only by hard labour. Was it worth the effort?

That was the question Vasco asked himself as he stood before his father.

To his credit be it said that his answer was the right one.

"I am glad of the chance," at last he told his father. "You may be sure
that I shall try to make the best of it."

Let it be said here that this opportunity to go to school was a result
of the formation of the new republic of Panama. One of the provisions
of its constitution is: "Primary instruction shall be compulsory, and,
when public, shall be free. There shall also be schools of arts and

Monday morning Vasco and his sister Inez together started for school.
To them, thus far, the institution was but a name, vague in its
meaning, but full of great possibilities.

May we not well leave our little Panama cousin right here, as he stands
on the threshold of a new life, under the folds of a new flag, with
a new ambition and an earnest purpose spurring him on to attain to a
higher and better life than he has ever known?



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