Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Brought Forward
Author: Cunninghame Graham, R. B. (Robert Bontine)
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Brought Forward" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



_BY THE SAME AUTHOR_


  FAITH.

  HOPE.

  CHARITY.

  SUCCESS.

  PROGRESS.

  HIS PEOPLE.

  A HATCHMENT.

  THIRTEEN STORIES.

                                * * * * *

MOGREB EL ACKSA: A Journey in Morocco.

  (_New Edition in Preparation_.)

                                * * * * *



                             BROUGHT FORWARD


                                * * * * *

                                    BY
                         R. B. CUNNINGHAME GRAHAM

                                * * * * *

                                  LONDON
                             DUCKWORTH & CO.
                   3 HENRIETTA ST., COVENT GARDEN, W.C.

                                * * * * *

                         _First Published_ 1916.
                        _Second Impression_ 1917.

                                * * * * *

                          _All rights reserved_.

                                * * * * *

                                    TO
                                COMMANDER
                     CHARLES E. F. CUNNINGHAME GRAHAM
                                   R.N.

                                * * * * *



PREFACE


LUCKILY the war has made eggs too expensive for me to fear the public
will pelt me off the stage with them.

Still after years of writing one naturally dreads the cold potato and the
orange-peel.

I once in talking said to a celebrated dancer who was about to bid
farewell to her admirers and retire to private life, “Perhaps you will
take a benefit when you come back from finishing your last tour.”  She
answered, “Yes . . .”; and then added, “or perhaps two.”

That is not my way, for all my life I have loved bread, bread, and wine,
wine, not caring for half-measures, like your true Scot, of whom it has
been said, “If he believes in Christianity he has no doubts, and if he is
a disbeliever he has none either.”

Once in the Sierra Madre, either near the Santa Rosa Mountains or in the
Bolson de Mápimi, I disremember which, out after horses that had strayed,
we came upon a little shelter made of withies, and covered with one of
those striped blankets woven by the Navajos.

A Texan who was with the party pointed to it, and said, “That is a
wickey-up, I guess.”

The little wigwam, shaped like a gipsy tent, stood close to a thicket of
huisaché trees in flower.  Their round and ball-like blossoms filled the
air with a sweet scent.  A stream ran gently tinkling over its pebbly
bed, and the tall prairie grasses flowed up to the lost little hut as if
they would engulf it like a sea.

On every side of the deep valley—for I forgot to say the hut stood in a
valley—towered hills with great, flat, rocky sides.  On some of them the
Indian tribes had scratched rude pictures, records of their race.

In one of them—I remember it just as if now it was before my eyes—an
Indian chief, surrounded by his friends, was setting free his favourite
horse upon the prairies, either before his death or in reward of faithful
services.  The little group of men cut in the stone, most probably with
an obsidian arrow-head, was life-like, though drawn without perspective,
which gave those figures of a vanished race an air of standing in the
clouds.

The chief stood with his bridle in his hand, his feather war-bonnet upon
his head, naked except the breech-clout.  His bow was slung across his
shoulders and his quiver hung below his arm, and with the other hand he
kept the sun off from his face as he gazed upon his horse.  All kinds of
hunting scenes were there displayed, and others, such as the burial of a
chief, a dance, and other ceremonials, no doubt as dear to those who drew
them as are the rites in a cathedral to other faithful.  The flat rock
bore one more inscription, stating that Eusebio Leal passed by bearing
despatches, and the date, June the fifteenth, of the year 1687.  But to
return again to the lone wickey-up.

We all sat looking at it: Eustaquio Gomez, Polibio Medina, Exaltacion
Garcia, the Texan, two Pueblo Indians, and I who write these lines.

Somehow it had an eerie look about it, standing so desolate, out in those
flowery wilds.

Inside it lay the body of a man, with the skin dry as parchment, and his
arms beside him, a Winchester, a bow and arrows, and a lance.  Eustaquio,
taking up an arrow, after looking at it, said that the dead man was an
Apache of the Mescalero band, and then, looking upon the ground and
pointing out some marks, said, “He had let loose his horse before he
died, just as the chief did in the picture-writing.”

That was his epitaph, for how death overtook him none of us could
conjecture; but I liked the manner of his going off the stage.

’Tis meet and fitting to set free the horse or pen before death overtakes
you, or before the gentle public turns its thumbs down and yells, “Away
with him.”

Charles Lamb, when some one asked him something of his works, answered
that they were to be found in the South Sea House, and that they numbered
forty volumes, for he had laboured many years there, making his bricks
with the least possible modicum of straw,—just like the rest of us.

Mine, if you ask me, are to be found but in the trails I left in all the
years I galloped both on the prairies and the pampas of America.

Hold it not up to me for egotism, O gentle reader, for I would have you
know that hardly any of the horses that I rode had shoes on them, and
thus the tracks are faint.

      _Vale_.

                        R. B. CUNNINGHAME GRAHAM.



CONTENTS

                                                PAGE
       I.  BROUGHT FORWARD                         1
      II.  LOS PINGOS                             11
     III.  FIDELITY                               30
      IV.  “UNO DEI MILLE”                        40
       V.  WITH THE NORTH-EAST WIND               51
      VI.  ELYSIUM                                60
     VII.  HEREDITY                               66
    VIII.  EL TANGO ARGENTINO                     81
      IX.  IN A BACKWATER                         97
       X.  HIPPOMORPHOUS                         106
      XI.  MUDEJAR                               120
     XII.  A MINOR PROPHET                       130
    XIII.  EL MASGAD                             146
     XIV.  FEAST DAY IN SANTA MARIA MAYOR        164
      XV.  BOPICUÁ                               185



I
BROUGHT FORWARD


THE workshop in Parkhead was not inspiriting.  From one week’s end to
another, all throughout the year, life was the same, almost without an
incident.  In the long days of the Scotch summer the men walked cheerily
to work, carrying their dinner in a little tin.  In the dark winter
mornings they tramped in the black fog, coughing and spitting, through
the black mud of Glasgow streets, each with a woollen comforter, looking
like a stocking, round his neck.

Outside the dreary quarter of the town, its rows of dingy, smoke-grimed
streets and the mean houses, the one outstanding feature was Parkhead
Forge, with its tall chimneys belching smoke into the air all day, and
flames by night.  Its glowing furnaces, its giant hammers, its little
railway trucks in which men ran the blocks of white-hot iron which poured
in streams out of the furnaces, flamed like the mouth of hell.

Inside the workshop the dusty atmosphere made a stranger cough on
entering the door.  The benches with the rows of aproned men all bending
at their work, not standing upright, with their bare, hairy chests
exposed, after the fashion of the Vulcans at the neighbouring forge, gave
a half-air of domesticity to the close, stuffy room.

A semi-sedentary life quickened their intellect; for where men work
together they are bound to talk about the topics of the day, especially
in Scotland, where every man is a born politician and a controversialist.
At meal-times, when they ate their “piece” and drank their tea that they
had carried with them in tin flasks, each one was certain to draw out a
newspaper from the pocket of his coat, and, after studying it from the
Births, Deaths, and Marriages, down to the editor’s address on the last
page, fall a-disputing upon politics.  “Man, a gran’ speech by Bonar Law
aboot Home Rule.  They Irish, set them up, what do they make siccan a din
aboot?  Ca’ ye it Home Rule?  I juist ca’ it Rome Rule.  A miserable,
priest-ridden crew, the hale rick-ma-tick o’ them.”

The reader then would pause and, looking round the shop, wait for the
answer that he was sure would not be long in coming from amongst such a
thrawn lot of commentators.  Usually one or other of his mates would fold
his paper up, or perhaps point with an oil-stained finger to an article,
and with the head-break in the voice, characteristic of the Scot about to
plunge into an argument, ejaculate: “Bonar Law, ou aye, I kent him when
he was leader of the South Side Parliament.  He always was a dreary body,
sort o’ dreich like; no that I’m saying the man is pairfectly illiterate,
as some are on his side o’ the Hoose there in Westminister.  I read his
speech—the body is na blate, sort o’ quick at figures, but does na take
the pains to verify.  Verification is the soul of mathematics.  Bonar
Law, eh!  Did ye see how Maister Asquith trippit him handily in his
tabulated figures on the jute business under Free Trade, showing that all
he had advanced about protective tariffs and the drawback system was fair
redeeklous . . . as well as several errors in the total sum?”

Then others would cut in and words be bandied to and fro, impugning the
good faith and honour of every section of the House of Commons, who, by
the showing of their own speeches, were held to be dishonourable rogues
aiming at power and place, without a thought for anything but their own
ends.

This charitable view of men and of affairs did not prevent any of the
disputants from firing up if his own party was impugned; for in their
heart of hearts the general denunciation was but a covert from which to
attack the other side.

In such an ambient the war was sure to be discussed; some held the German
Emperor was mad—“a daft-like thing to challenge the whole world, ye see;
maist inconsiderate, and shows that the man’s intellect is no weel
balanced . . . philosophy is whiles sort of unsettlin’ . . . the felly’s
mad, ye ken.”

Others saw method in his madness, and alleged that it was envy, “naething
but sheer envy that had brought on this tramplin’ upon natural rights,
but for all that he may be thought to get his own again, with they
indemnities.”

Those who had studied economics “were of opinion that his reasoning was
wrong, built on false premises, for there can never be a royal road to
wealth.  Labour, ye see, is the sole creative element of riches.”  At
once a Tory would rejoin, “And brains.  Man, what an awfu’ thing to leave
out brains.  Think of the marvellous creations of the human genius.”  The
first would answer with, “I saw ye coming, man.  I’ll no deny that brains
have their due place in the economic state; but build me one of your
Zeppelins and stick it in the middle of George Square without a crew to
manage it, and how far will it fly?  I do not say that brains did not
devise it; but, after all, labour had to carry out the first design.”
This was a subject that opened up enormous vistas for discussion, and for
a time kept them from talking of the war.

Jimmy and Geordie, hammering away in one end of the room, took little
part in the debate.  Good workmen both of them, and friends, perhaps
because of the difference of their temperaments, for Jimmy was the type
of red-haired, blue-eyed, tall, lithe Scot, he of the _perfervidum
ingenium_, and Geordie was a thick-set, black-haired, dour and silent
man.

Both of them read the war news, and Jimmy, when he read, commented
loudly, bringing down his fist upon the paper, exclaiming, “Weel done,
Gordons!” or “That was a richt gude charge upon the trenches by the
Sutherlands.”  Geordie would answer shortly, “Aye, no sae bad,” and go on
hammering.

One morning, after a reverse, Jimmy did not appear, and Geordie sat alone
working away as usual, but if possible more dourly and more silently.
Towards midday it began to be whispered in the shop that Jimmy had
enlisted, and men turned to Geordie to ask if he knew anything about it,
and the silent workman, brushing the sweat off his brow with his
coat-sleeve, rejoined: “Aye, ou aye, I went wi’ him yestreen to the
headquarters o’ the Camerons; he’s joined the kilties richt eneugh.  Ye
mind he was a sergeant in South Africa.”  Then he bent over to his work
and did not join in the general conversation that ensued.

Days passed, and weeks, and his fellow-workmen, in the way men will,
occasionally bantered Geordie, asking him if he was going to enlist, and
whether he did not think shame to let his friend go off alone to fight.
Geordie was silent under abuse and banter, as he had always been under
the injustices of life, and by degrees withdrew into himself, and when he
read his newspaper during the dinner-hour made no remark, but folded it
and put it quietly into the pocket of his coat.

Weeks passed, weeks of suspense, of flaring headlines in the Press, of
noise of regiments passing down the streets, of newsboys yelling
hypothetic victories, and of the tension of the nerves of men who know
their country’s destiny is hanging in the scales.  Rumours of losses, of
defeats, of victories, of checks and of advances, of naval battles, with
hints of dreadful slaughter filled the air.  Women in black were seen
about, pale and with eyelids swollen with weeping, and people scanned the
reports of killed and wounded with dry throats and hearts constricted as
if they had been wrapped in whipcord, only relaxing when after a second
look they had assured themselves the name they feared to see was absent
from the list.

Long strings of Clydesdale horses ridden by men in ragged clothes, who
sat them uneasily, as if they felt their situation keenly, perched up in
the public view, passed through the streets.  The massive caulkers on
their shoes struck fire occasionally upon the stones, and the great
beasts, taught to rely on man as on a god from the time they gambolled in
the fields, went to their doom unconsciously, the only mitigation of
their fate.  Regiments of young recruits, some in plain clothes and some
in hastily-made uniforms, marched with as martial an air as three weeks’
training gave them, to the stations to entrain.  Pale clerks, the elbows
of their jackets shiny with the slavery of the desk, strode beside men
whose hands were bent and scarred with gripping on the handles of the
plough in February gales or wielding sledges at the forge.

All of them were young and resolute, and each was confident that he at
least would come back safe to tell the tale.  Men stopped and waved their
hats, cheering their passage, and girls and women stood with flushed
cheeks and straining eyes as they passed on for the first stage that took
them towards the front.  Boys ran beside them, hatless and barefooted,
shouting out words that they had caught up on the drill-ground to the
men, who whistled as they marched a slow and grinding tune that sounded
like a hymn.

Traffic was drawn up close to the kerbstone, and from the top of
tram-cars and from carts men cheered, bringing a flush of pride to many a
pale cheek in the ranks.  They passed on; men resumed the business of
their lives, few understanding that the half-trained, pale-faced regiment
that had vanished through the great station gates had gone to make that
business possible and safe.

Then came a time of waiting for the news, of contradictory paragraphs in
newspapers, and then a telegram, the “enemy is giving ground on the left
wing”; and instantly a feeling of relief that lightened every heart, as
if its owner had been fighting and had stopped to wipe his brow before he
started to pursue the flying enemy.

The workmen in the brassfitters’ shop came to their work as usual on the
day of the good news, and at the dinner-hour read out the accounts of the
great battle, clustering upon each other’s shoulders in their eagerness.
At last one turned to scan the list of casualties.  Cameron, Campbell,
M’Alister, Jardine, they read, as they ran down the list, checking the
names off with a match.  The reader stopped, and looked towards the
corner where Geordie still sat working silently.

All eyes were turned towards him, for the rest seemed to divine even
before they heard the name.  “Geordie man, Jimmy’s killed,” the reader
said, and as he spoke Geordie laid down his hammer, and, reaching for his
coat, said, “Jimmy’s killed, is he?  Well, some one’s got to account for
it.”

Then, opening the door, he walked out dourly, as if already he felt the
knapsack on his back and the avenging rifle in his hand.



II
LOS PINGOS


THE amphitheatre of wood enclosed a bay that ran so far into the land it
seemed a lake.  The Uruguay flowed past, but the bay was so land-locked
and so well defended by an island lying at its mouth that the illusion
was complete, and the bay appeared to be cut off from all the world.

Upon the river twice a day passed steamboats, which at night-time gave an
air as of a section of a town that floated past the wilderness.  Streams
of electric light from every cabin lit up the yellow, turgid river, and
the notes of a band occasionally floated across the water as the vessel
passed.  Sometimes a searchlight falling on a herd of cattle, standing as
is their custom after nightfall upon a little hill, made them stampede
into the darkness, dashing through brushwood or floundering through a
marsh, till they had placed themselves in safety from this new terror of
the night.

Above the bay the ruins of a great building stood.  Built scarcely fifty
years ago, and now deserted, the ruins had taken on an air as of a
castle, and from the walls sprang plants, whilst in the deserted
courtyard a tree had grown, amongst whose branches oven-birds had built
their hanging nests of mud.  Cypresses towered above the primeval
hard-wood, which grew all gnarled and horny-looking, and nearly all had
kept their Indian names, as ñandubay, chañar, tala and sarandi, molle,
and many another name as crabbed as the trunks which, twisted and
distorted, looked like the limbs of giants growing from the ground.

Orange trees had run wild and shot up all unpruned, and apple trees had
reverted back to crabs.  The trunks of all the fruit-trees in the
deserted garden round the ruined factory were rubbed shiny by the cattle,
for all the fences had long been destroyed or fallen into decay.

A group of roofless workmen’s cottages gave an air of desolation to the
valley in which the factory and its dependencies had stood.  They too had
been invaded by the powerful sub-tropical plant life, and creepers
covered with bunches of bright flowers climbed up their walls.  A
sluggish stream ran through the valley and joined the Uruguay, making a
little natural harbour.  In it basked cat-fish, and now and then from off
the banks a tortoise dropped into the water like a stone.  Right in the
middle of what once had been the square grew a ceiba tree, covered with
lilac flowers, hanging in clusters like gigantic grapes.  Here and there
stood some old ombús, their dark metallic leaves affording an
impenetrable shade.  Their gnarled and twisted roots, left half-exposed
by the fierce rains, gave an unearthly, prehistoric look to them that
chimed in well with the deserted air of the whole place.  It seemed that
man for once had been subdued, and that victorious nature had resumed her
sway over a region wherein he had endeavoured to intrude, and had been
worsted in the fight.

Nature had so resumed her sway that buildings, planted trees, and paths
long overgrown with grass, seemed to have been decayed for centuries,
although scarce twenty years had passed since they had been deserted and
had fallen into decay.

They seemed to show the power of the recuperative force of the primeval
forest, and to call attention to the fact that man had suffered a defeat.
Only the grass in the deserted square was still triumphant, and grew
short and green, like an oasis in the rough natural grasses that flowed
nearly up to it, in the clearings of the woods.

The triumph of the older forces of the world had been so final and
complete that on the ruins there had grown no moss, but plants and bushes
with great tufts of grass had sprung from them, leaving the stones still
fresh as when the houses were first built.  Nature in that part of the
New World enters into no compact with mankind, as she does over here in
Europe to touch his work kindly and almost with a reverent hand, and
blend it into something half compounded of herself.  There bread is bread
and wine is wine, with no half-tints to make one body of the whole.  The
one remaining evidence of the aggression of mankind, which still refused
to bow the knee to the overwhelming genius of the place, was a round
bunch of eucalyptus trees that stood up stark and unblushing, the colour
of the trunks and leaves so harshly different from all around them that
they looked almost vulgar, if such an epithet can be properly applied to
anything but man.  Under their exiguous shade were spread saddles and
bridles, and on the ground sat men smoking and talking, whilst their
staked-out horses fed, fastened to picket-pins by raw-hide ropes.  So far
away from everything the place appeared that the group of men looked like
a band of pioneers upon some frontier, to which the ruins only gave an
air of melancholy, but did nothing to dispel the loneliness.

As they sat idly talking, trying to pass, or, as they would have said,
trying to make time, suddenly in the distance the whistle of an
approaching steamer brought the outside world into the little, lonely
paradise.  Oddly enough it sounded, in the hot, early morning air,
already heavy with the scent of the mimosas in full bloom.  Butterflies
flitted to and fro or soared above the scrub, and now and then a wild
mare whinnied from the thickets, breaking the silence of the lone valley
through which the yellow, little stream ran to the Uruguay.

Catching their horses and rolling up the ropes, the men, who had been
sitting underneath the trees, mounted, and following a little cattle
trail, rode to a high bluff looking down the stream.

Panting and puffing, as she belched out a column of black smoke, some
half a mile away, a tug towing two lighters strove with the yellow flood.
The horsemen stood like statues with their horses’ heads stretched out
above the water thirty feet below.

Although the feet of several of the horses were but an inch or two from
the sheer limit, the men sat, some of them with one leg on their horses’
necks; others lit cigarettes, and one, with his horse sideways to the
cliff, leaned sideways, so that one of his feet was in the air.  He
pointed to the advancing tug with a brown finger, and exclaimed, “These
are the lighters with the horses that must have started yesterday from
Gualeguaychú, and ought to have been here last night.”  We had indeed
been waiting all the night for them, sleeping round a fire under the
eucalyptus grove, and rising often in the night to smoke and talk, to see
our horses did not get entangled in their stake ropes, and to listen for
the whistle of the tug.

The tug came on but slowly, fighting her way against the rapid current,
with the lighters towing behind her at some distance, looking like
portions of a pier that had somehow or another got adrift.

From where we sat upon our horses we could see the surface of the Uruguay
for miles, with its innumerable flat islands buried in vegetation,
cutting the river into channels; for the islands, having been formed
originally by masses of water-weeds and drift-wood, were but a foot or
two above the water, and all were elongated, forming great ribbons in the
stream.

Upon the right bank stretched the green prairies of the State of
Entre-Rios, bounded on either side by the Uruguay and Paraná.  Much
flatter than the land upon the Uruguayan bank, it still was not a sea of
level grass as is the State of Buenos Aires, but undulating, and dotted
here and there with white estancia houses, all buried in great groves of
peach trees and of figs.  On the left bank on which we stood, and three
leagues off, we could just see Fray Bentos, its houses dazzlingly white,
buried in vegetation, and in the distance like a thousand little towns in
Southern Italy and Spain, or even in Morocco, for the tower of the church
might in the distance just as well have been a minaret.

The tug-boat slowed a little, and a canoe was slowly paddled out to pilot
her into the little haven made by the brook that flowed down through the
valley to the Uruguay.

Sticking out like a fishing-rod, over the stem of the canoe was a long
cane, to sound with if it was required.

The group of horsemen on the bluff rode slowly down towards the river’s
edge to watch the evolutions of the tug, and to hold back the horses when
they should be disembarked.  By this time she had got so near that we
could see the horses’ heads looking out wildly from the sparred sides of
the great decked lighters, and hear the thunderous noise their feet made
tramping on the decks.  Passing the bay, into which ran the stream, by
about three hundred yards, the tug cast off one of the lighters she was
towing, in a backwater.  There it remained, the current slowly bearing it
backwards, turning round upon itself.  In the wild landscape, with
ourselves upon our horses forming the only human element, the gigantic
lighter with its freight of horses looked like the ark, as set forth in
some old-fashioned book on Palestine.  Slowly the tug crept in, the
Indian-looking pilot squatted in his canoe sounding assiduously with his
long cane.  As the tug drew about six feet of water and the lighter not
much more than three, the problem was to get the lighter near enough to
the bank, so that when the hawser was cast off she would come in by her
own way.  Twice did the tug ground, and with furious shoutings and with
all the crew staving on poles, was she got off again.  At last the pilot
found a little deeper channel, and coming to about some fifty feet away,
lying a length or two above the spot where the stream entered the great
river, she paid her hawser out, and as the lighter drifted shorewards,
cast it off, and the great ark, with all its freight, grounded quite
gently on the little sandy beach.  The Italian captain of the tug, a
Genoese, with his grey hair as curly as the wool on a sheep’s back,
wearing a pale pink shirt, neatly set off with yellow horseshoes, and a
blue gauze necktie tied in a flowing bow, pushed off his dirty little
boat, rowed by a negro sailor and a Neapolitan, who dipped their oars
into the water without regard to one another, either as to time or
stroke.

The captain stepped ashore, mopping his face with a yellow
pocket-handkerchief, and in the jargon between Spanish and Italian that
men of his sort all affect out in the River Plate, saluted us, and cursed
the river for its sandbanks and its turns, and then having left it as
accursed as the Styx or Periphlegethon, he doubly cursed the Custom
House, which, as he said, was all composed of thieves, the sons of
thieves, who would be certainly begetters of the same.  Then he calmed
down a little, and drawing out a long Virginia cigar, took out the straw
with seriousness and great dexterity, and then allowed about a quarter of
an inch of it to smoulder in a match, lighted it, and sending out a cloud
of smoke, sat down upon the grass, and fell a-cursing, with all the
ingenuity of his profession and his race, the country, the hot weather,
and the saints.

This done, and having seen the current was slowly bearing down the other
lighter past the sandy beach, with a last hearty curse upon God’s mother
and her Son, whose birth he hinted not obscurely was of the nature of a
mystery, in which he placed no credence, got back into his boat, and went
back to his tug, leaving us all amazed, both at his fluency and faith.

When he had gone and grappled with the other lighter which was slowly
drifting down the stream, two or three men came forward in the lighter
that was already in the little river’s mouth, about a yard or so distant
from the edge, and calling to us to be ready, for the horses had not
eaten for sixteen hours at least, slowly let down the wooden
landing-flap.  At first the horses craned their necks and looked out on
the grass, but did not venture to go down the wooden landing-stage; then
a big roan, stepping out gingerly and snorting as he went, adventured,
and when he stood upon the grass, neighed shrilly and then rolled.  In a
long string the others followed, the clattering of their unshod feet upon
the wood sounding like distant thunder.

Byrne, the Porteño, stout and high-coloured, dressed in great thigh boots
and baggy breeches, a black silk handkerchief tied loosely round his
neck, a black felt hat upon his head, and a great silver watch-chain,
with a snaffle-bridle in the middle of it, contrasting oddly with his
broad pistol belt, with its old silver dollars for a fastening, came
ashore, carrying his saddle on his back.  Then followed Doherty, whose
name, quite unpronounceable to men of Latin race, was softened in their
speech to Duarte, making a good Castilian patronymic of it.  He too was a
Porteño, {22} although of Irish stock.  Tall, dark, and dressed in
semi-native clothes, he yet, like Byrne, always spoke Spanish when no
foreigners were present, and in his English that softening of the
consonants and broadening of the vowels was discernible that makes the
speech of men such as himself have in it something, as it were,
caressing, strangely at variance with their character.  Two or three
peons of the usual Gaucho type came after them, all carrying saddles, and
walking much as an alligator waddles on the sand, or as the Medes whom
Xenophon describes, mincing upon their toes, in order not to blunt the
rowels of their spurs.

Our men, Garcia the innkeeper of Fray Bentos, with Pablo Suarez, whose
negro blood and crispy hair gave him a look as of a Roman emperor of the
degenerate times, with Pancho Arrellano and Miguel Paralelo, the Gaucho
dandy, swaying upon his horse with his toes just touching his heavy
silver stirrups with a crown underneath them, Velez and El Pampita, an
Indian who had been captured young on the south Pampa, were mounted ready
to round the horses up.

They did not want much care, for they were eating ravenously, and all we
had to do was to drive them a few hundred yards away to let the others
land.

By this time the Italian captain in his tug had gently brought the other
lighter to the beach, and from its side another string of horses came out
on to the grass.  They too all rolled, and, seeing the other band, by
degrees mixed with it, so that four hundred horses soon were feeding
ravenously on the sweet grass just at the little river’s mouth that lay
between its banks and the thick belt of wood.

Though it was early, still the sun was hot, and for an hour we held the
horses back, keeping them from the water till they had eaten well.

The Italian tugmaster, having produced a bottle of trade gin (the Anchor
brand), and having drank our health, solemnly wiped the neck of the
bottle with his grimy hand and passed it round to us.  We also drank to
his good health and voyage to the port, that he pronounced as if it were
written “Bono Airi,” adding, as it was war-time, “Avanti Savoia” to the
toast.  He grinned, and with a gesture of his thick dirty hand, adorned
with two or three coppery-looking rings, as it were, embedded in the
flesh, pronounced an all-embracing curse on the Tedeschi, and went aboard
the tug.

When he had made the lighters fast, he turned down stream, saluting us
with three shrill blasts upon the whistle, and left us and our horses
thousands of miles away from steam and smoke, blaspheming skippers, and
the noise and push of modern life.

Humming-birds poised themselves before the purple bunches of the ceiba
{25} flowers, their tongues thrust into the calyx and their iridescent
wings whirring so rapidly, you could see the motion, but not mark the
movement, and from the yellow balls of the mimosas came a scent, heady
and comforting.

Flocks of green parroquets flew shrieking over the clearing in which the
horses fed, to their great nests, in which ten or a dozen seemed to
harbour, and hung suspended from them by their claws, or crawled into the
holes.  Now and then a few locusts, wafted by the breeze, passed by upon
their way to spread destruction in the plantations of young poplars and
of orange trees in the green islands in the stream.

An air of peace gave a strange interest to this little corner of a world
plunged into strife and woe.  The herders nodded on their horses, who for
their part hung down their heads, and now and then shifted their quarters
so as to bring their heads into the shade.  The innkeeper, Garcia, in his
town clothes, and perched upon a tall grey horse, to use his own words,
“sweated blood and water like our Lord” in the fierce glare of the
ascending sun.  Suarez and Paralelo pushed the ends of the red silk
handkerchiefs they wore tied loosely round their necks, with two points
like the wings of a great butterfly hanging upon their shoulders, under
their hats, and smoked innumerable cigarettes, the frontiersman’s
specific against heat or cold.  Of all the little company only the Pampa
Indian showed no sign of being incommoded by the heat.  When horses
strayed he galloped up to turn them, now striking at the passing
butterflies with his heavy-handled whip, or, letting himself fall down
from the saddle almost to the ground, drew his brown finger on the dust
for a few yards, and with a wriggle like a snake got back into his saddle
with a yell.

The hours passed slowly, till at last the horses, having filled
themselves with grass, stopped eating and looked towards the river, so we
allowed them slowly to stream along towards a shallow inlet on the beach.
There they stood drinking greedily, up to their knees, until at last
three or four of the outermost began to swim.

Only their heads appeared above the water, and occasionally their backs
emerging just as a porpoise comes to the surface in a tideway, gave them
an amphibious air, that linked them somehow or another with the classics
in that unclassic land.

Long did they swim and play, and then, coming out into the shallow water,
drink again, stamping their feet and swishing their long tails, rise up
and strike at one another with their feet.

As I sat on my horse upon a little knoll, coiling my lazo, which had got
uncoiled by catching in a bush, I heard a voice in the soft, drawling
accents of the inhabitants of Corrientes, say, “Pucha, Pingos.” {27}

Turning, I saw the speaker, a Gaucho of about thirty years of age,
dressed all in black in the old style of thirty years ago.  His silver
knife, two feet or more in length, stuck in his sash, stuck out on both
sides of his body like a lateen.

Where he had come from I had no idea, for he appeared to have risen from
the scrub behind me.  “Yes,” he said, “Puta, Pingos,” giving the phrase
in the more classic, if more unregenerate style, “how well they look,
just like the garden in the plaza at Fray Bentos in the sun.”

All shades were there, with every variegation and variety of colour,
white, and fern noses, chestnuts with a stocking on one leg up to the
stifle joint, horses with a ring of white right round their throats, or
with a star as clear as if it had been painted on the hip, and
“tuvianos,” that is, brown, black, and white, a colour justly prized in
Uruguay.

Turning half round and offering me a cigarette, the Correntino spoke
again.  “It is a paradise for all those pingos here in this rincón: {28}
grass, water, everything that they can want, shade, and shelter from the
wind and sun.”

So it appeared to me—the swiftly flowing river with its green islands;
the Pampas grass along the stream; the ruined buildings, half-buried in
the orange trees run wild; grass, shade, and water: “Pucha, no . . .
Puta, Pingos, where are they now?”



III
FIDELITY


MY tall host knocked the ashes from his pipe, and crossing one leg over
the other looked into the fire.

Outside, the wind howled in the trees, and the rain beat upon the
window-panes.  The firelight flickered on the grate, falling upon the
polished furniture of the low-roofed, old-fashioned library, with its
high Georgian overmantel, where in a deep recess there stood a clock,
shaped like a cross, with eighteenth-century cupids carved in ivory
fluttering round the base, and Time with a long scythe standing upon one
side.

In the room hung the scent of an old country-house, compounded of so many
samples that it is difficult to enumerate them all.  Beeswax and
potpourri of roses, damp, and the scent of foreign woods in the old
cabinets, tobacco and wood smoke, with the all-pervading smell of age,
were some of them.  The result was not unpleasant, and seemed the
complement of the well-bound Georgian books standing demure upon their
shelves, the blackening family portraits, and the skins of red deer and
of roe scattered about the room.

The conversation languished, and we both sat listening to the storm that
seemed to fill the world with noises strange and unearthly, for the house
was far from railways, and the avenues that lead to it were long and
dark.  The solitude and the wild night seemed to have recreated the old
world, long lost, and changed, but still remembered in that district just
where the Highlands and the Lowlands meet.

At such times and in such houses the country really seems country once
again, and not the gardened, game-keepered mixture of shooting ground and
of fat fields tilled by machinery to which men now and then resort for
sport, or to gather in their rents, with which the whole world is
familiar to-day.

My host seemed to be struggling with himself to tell me something, and as
I looked at him, tall, strong, and upright, his face all mottled by the
weather, his homespun coat, patched on the shoulders with buckskin that
once had been white, but now was fawn-coloured with wet and from the
chafing of his gun, I felt the parturition of his speech would probably
cost him a shrewd throe.  So I said nothing, and he, after having filled
his pipe, ramming the tobacco down with an old silver Indian seal, made
as he told me in Kurachi, and brought home by a great-uncle fifty years
ago, slowly began to speak, not looking at me, but as it were delivering
his thoughts aloud, almost unconsciously, looking now and then at me as
if he felt, rather than knew, that I was there.  As he spoke, the tall,
stuffed hen-harrier; the little Neapolitan shrine in tortoiseshell and
coral, set thick with saints; the flying dragons from Ceylon, spread out
like butterflies in a glazed case; the “poor’s-box” on the shelf above
the books with its four silver sides adorned with texts; the rows of blue
books, and of Scott’s Novels (the Roxburgh edition), together with the
scent exuding from the Kingwood cabinet; the sprays of white Scotch rose,
outlined against the window blinds; and the sporting prints and family
tree, all neatly framed in oak, created the impression of being in a
world remote, besquired and cut off from the century in which we live by
more than fifty years.  Upon the rug before the fire the sleeping spaniel
whined uneasily, as if, though sleeping, it still scented game, and all
the time the storm roared in the trees and whistled down the passages of
the lone country house.  One saw in fancy, deep in the recesses of the
woods, the roe stand sheltering, and the capercailzie sitting on the
branches of the firs, wet and dejected, like chickens on a roost, and
little birds sent fluttering along, battling for life against the storm.
Upon such nights, in districts such as that in which the gaunt old house
was situated, there is a feeling of compassion for the wild things in the
woods that, stealing over one, bridges the gulf between them and
ourselves in a mysterious way.  Their lot and sufferings, joys, loves,
and the epitome of their brief lives, come home to us with something
irresistible, making us feel that our superiority is an unreal thing, and
that in essentials we are one.

My host went on: “Some time ago I walked up to the little moor that
overlooks the Clyde, from which you see ships far off lying at the Tail
of the Bank, the smoke of Greenock and Port Glasgow, the estuary itself,
though miles away, looking like a sheet of frosted silver or dark-grey
steel, according to the season, and in the distance the range of hills
called Argyle’s Bowling Green, with the deep gap that marks the entrance
to the Holy Loch.  Autumn had just begun to tinge the trees, birches were
golden, and rowans red, the bents were brown and dry.  A few bog
asphodels still showed amongst the heather, and bilberries, dark as black
currants, grew here and there amongst the carpet of green sphagnum and
the stag’s-head moss.  The heather was all rusty brown, but still there
was, as it were, a recollection of the summer in the air.  Just the kind
of day you feel inclined to sit down on the lee side of a dry-stone dyke,
and smoke and look at some familiar self-sown birch that marks the flight
of time, as you remember that it was but a year or two ago that it had
first shot up above the grass.

“I remember two or three plants of tall hemp-agrimony still had their
flower heads withered on the stalk, giving them a look of wearing wigs,
and clumps of ragwort still had a few bees buzzing about them, rather
faintly, with a belated air.  I saw all this—not that I am a botanist,
for you know I can hardly tell the difference between the Cruciferæ and
the Umbelliferæ, but because when you live in the country some of the
common plants seem to obtrude themselves upon you, and you have got to
notice them in spite of you.  So I walked on till I came to a wrecked
plantation of spruce and of Scotch fir.  A hurricane had struck it,
turning it over almost in rows, as it was planted.  The trees had
withered in most cases, and in the open spaces round their upturned roots
hundreds of rabbits burrowed, and had marked the adjoining field with
little paths, just like the lines outside a railway-station.

“I saw all this, not because I looked at it, for if you look with the
idea of seeing everything, commonly everything escapes you, but because
the lovely afternoon induced a feeling of well-being and contentment, and
everything seemed to fall into its right proportion, so that you saw
first the harmonious whole, and then the salient points most worth the
looking at.

“I walked along feeling exhilarated with the autumn air and the fresh
breeze that blew up from the Clyde.  I remember thinking I had hardly
ever felt greater content, and as I walked it seemed impossible the world
could be so full of rank injustice, or that the lot of three-fourths of
its population could really be so hard.  A pack of grouse flew past,
skimming above the heather, as a shoal of flying-fish skims just above
the waves.  I heard their quacking cries as they alighted on some stooks
of oats, and noticed that the last bird to settle was an old hen, and
that, even when all were down, I still could see her head, looking out
warily above the yellow grain.  Beyond the ruined wood there came the
barking of a shepherd’s dog, faint and subdued, and almost musical.

“I sat so long, smoking and looking at the view, that when I turned to go
the sun was sinking and our long, northern twilight almost setting in.

“You know it,” said my host, and I, who often had read by its light in
summer and the early autumn, nodded assent, wondering to myself what he
was going to tell me, and he went on.

“It has the property of making all things look a little ghostly,
deepening the shadows and altering their values, so that all that you see
seems to acquire an extra significance, not so much to the eye as to the
mind.  Slowly I retraced my steps, walking under the high wall of rough
piled stones till it ends, at the copse of willows, on the north side of
the little moor to which I had seen the pack of grouse fly after it had
left the stooks.  I crossed into it, and began to walk towards home,
knee-deep in bent grass and dwarf willows, with here and there a patch of
heather and a patch of bilberries.  The softness of the ground so dulled
my footsteps that I appeared to walk as lightly as a roe upon the spongy
surface of the moor.  As I passed through a slight depression in which
the grass grew rankly, I heard a wild cry coming, as it seemed, from just
beneath my feet.  Then came a rustling in the grass, and a large,
dark-grey bird sprang out, repeating the wild cry, and ran off swiftly,
trailing a broken wing.

“It paused upon a little hillock fifty yards away, repeating its strange
note, and looking round as if it sought for something that it was certain
was at hand.  High in the air the cry, wilder and shriller, was repeated,
and a great grey bird that I saw was a whaup slowly descended in
decreasing circles, and settled down beside its mate.

“They seemed to talk, and then the wounded bird set off at a swift run,
its fellow circling above its head and uttering its cry as if it guided
it.  I watched them disappear, feeling as if an iron belt was drawn tight
round my heart, their cries growing fainter as the deepening shadows
slowly closed upon the moor.”

My host stopped, knocked the ashes from his pipe, and turning to me,
said:—

“I watched them go to what of course must have been certain death for one
of them, furious, with the feelings of a murderer towards the man whose
thoughtless folly had been the cause of so much misery.  Curse him!  I
watched them, impotent to help, for as you know the curlew is perhaps the
wildest of our native birds; and even had I caught the wounded one to set
its wing, it would have pined and died.  One thing I could have done, had
I but had a gun and had the light been better, I might have shot them
both, and had I done so I would have buried them beside each other.

“That’s what I had upon my mind to tell you.  I think the storm and the
wild noises of the struggling trees outside have brought it back to me,
although it happened years ago.  Sometimes, when people talk about
fidelity, saying it is not to be found upon the earth, I smile, for I
have seen it with my own eyes, and manifest, out on that little moor.”

He filled his pipe, and sitting down in an old leather chair, much worn
and rather greasy, silently gazed into the fire.

I, too, was silent, thinking upon the tragedy; then feeling that
something was expected of me, looked up and murmured, “Yes.”



IV
“UNO DEI MILLE”


A VEIL of mist, the colour of a spider’s web, rose from the oily river.
It met the mist that wrapped the palm-trees and the unsubstantial-looking
houses painted in light blue and yellow ochre, as it descended from the
hills.  Now and then, through the pall of damp, as a light air was wafted
up the river from the sea, the bright red earth upon the hills showed
like a stain of blood; canoes, paddled by men who stood up, balancing
themselves with a slight movement of the hips, slipped in and out of
sight, now crossing just before the steamer’s bows and then appearing
underneath her stern in a mysterious way.  From the long line of
tin-roofed sheds a ceaseless stream of snuff-and-butter-coloured men
trotted continuously, carrying bags of coffee to an elevator, which shot
them headlong down the steamer’s hold.  Their naked feet pattered upon
the warm, wet concrete of the dock side, as it were stealthily, with a
sound almost alarming, so like their footfall seemed to that of a wild
animal.

The flat-roofed city, buried in sheets of rain, that spouted from the
eaves of the low houses on the unwary passers-by, was stirred unwontedly.
Men, who as a general rule lounged at the corners of the streets,
pressing their shoulders up against the houses as if they thought that
only by their own self-sacrifice the walls were kept from falling, now
walked up and down, regardless of the rain.

In the great oblong square, planted with cocoa-palms, in which the statue
of Cabrál stands up in cheap Carrara marble, looking as if he felt
ashamed of his discovery, a sea of wet umbrellas surged to and fro,
forging towards the Italian Consulate.  Squat Genoese and swarthy
Neapolitans, with sinewy Piedmontese, and men from every province of the
peninsula, all had left their work.  They all discoursed in the same tone
of voice in which no doubt their ancestors talked in the Forum, even when
Cicero was speaking, until the lictors forced them to keep silence, for
their own eloquence is that which in all ages has had most charm for
them.  The reedy voices of the Brazilian coloured men sounded a mere
twittering compared to their full-bodied tones.  “Viva l’Italia” pealed
out from thousands of strong throats as the crowd streamed from the
square and filled the narrow streets; fireworks that fizzled miserably
were shot off in the mist, the sticks falling upon the umbrellas of the
crowd.  A shift of wind cleared the mist off the river for a moment,
leaving an Italian liner full in view.  From all her spars floated the
red and white and green, and on her decks and in the rigging, on bridges
and on the rail, men, all with bundles in their hands, clustered like
ants, and cheered incessantly.  An answering cheer rose from the crowd
ashore of “Long live the Reservists!  Viva l’Italia,” as the vessel
slowly swung into the stream.  From every house excited men rushed out
and flung themselves and their belongings into boats, and scrambled up
the vessel’s sides as she began to move.  Brown hands were stretched down
to them as they climbed on board.  From every doorstep in the town women
with handkerchiefs about their heads came out, and with the tears falling
from their great, black eyes and running down their olive cheeks, waved
and called out, “Addio Giuseppe; addio Gian Battista, abbasso gli
Tedeschi,” and then turned back into their homes to weep.  On every side
Italians stood and shouted, and still, from railway station and from the
river-side, hundreds poured out and gazed at the departing steamer with
its teeming freight of men.

Italians from the coffee plantations of São Paulo, from the mines of Ouro
Preto, from Goyaz, and from the far interior, all young and sun-burnt,
the flower of those Italian workmen who have built the railways of
Brazil, and by whose work the strong foundations of the prosperity of the
Republic have been laid, were out, to turn their backs upon the land in
which, for the first time, most of them had eaten a full meal.  Factories
stood idle, the coasting schooners all were left unmanned, and had the
coffee harvest not been gathered in, it would have rotted on the hills.
The Consulate was unapproachable, and round it throngs of men struggled
to enter, all demanding to get home.  No rain could damp their spirits,
and those who, after waiting hours, came out with tickets, had a look in
their eyes as if they just had won the chief prize in the lottery.

Their friends surrounded them, and strained them to their hearts, the
water from the umbrellas of the crowd trickling in rivulets upon the
embracer and the embraced.

Mulatto policemen cleared the path for carriages to pass, and, as they
came, the gap filled up again as if by magic, till the next carriage
passed.  Suddenly a tremor ran through the crowd, moving it with a shiver
like the body of a snake.  All the umbrellas which had seemed to move by
their own will, covering the crowd and hiding it from view, were shut
down suddenly.  A mist-dimmed sun shone out, watery, but potent, and in
an instant gaining strength, it dried the streets and made a hot steam
rise up from the crowd.  Slouched hats were raised up on one side, and
pocket handkerchiefs wrapped up in paper were unfolded and knotted
loosely round men’s necks, giving them a look as of domestic bandits as
they broke out into a patriotic song, which ceased with a long drawn-out
“Viva,” as the strains of an approaching band were heard and the
footsteps of men marching through the streets in military array.

The coloured policemen rode their horses through the throng, and the
streets, which till then had seemed impassable, were suddenly left clear.
Jangling and crashing out the Garibaldian hymn, the band debouched into
the square, dressed in a uniform half-German, half-Brazilian, with
truncated pickel-hauben on their heads, in which were stuck a plume of
gaudy feathers, apparently at the discretion of the wearer, making them
look like something in a comic opera; a tall mulatto, playing on a drum
with all the seriousness that only one of his colour and his race is able
to impart to futile actions, swaggered along beside a jet-black negro
playing on the flute.  All the executants wore brass-handled swords of a
kind never seen in Europe for a hundred years.  Those who played the
trombone and the ophicleide blew till their thick lips swelled, and
seemed to cover up the mouthpieces.  Still they blew on, the perspiration
rolling down their cheeks, and a black boy or two brought up the rear,
clashing the cymbals when it seemed good to them, quite irrespective of
the rest.  The noise was terrifying, and had it not been for the
enthusiasm of the crowd, the motley band of coloured men, arrayed like
popinjays, would have been ridiculous; but the dense ranks of hot,
perspiring men, all in the flower of youth, and every one of whom had
given up his work to cross the ocean at his country’s call, had something
in them that turned laughter into tears.  The sons of peasants, who had
left their homes, driven out from Apulean plains or Lombard rice-fields
by the pinch of poverty, they now were going back to shed their blood for
the land that had denied them bread in their own homes.  Twice did the
band march round the town whilst the procession was getting ready for a
start, and each time that it passed before the Consulate, the Consul came
out on the steps, bare-headed, and saluted with the flag.

Dressed in white drill, tall, grey-haired, and with the washed-out look
of one who has spent many years in a hot country, the Consul evidently
had been a soldier in his youth.  He stood and watched the people
critically, with the appraising look of the old officer, so like to that
a grazier puts on at a cattle market as he surveys the beasts.  “Good
stuff,” he muttered to himself, and then drawing his hand across his
eyes, as if he felt where most of the “good stuff” would lie in a few
months, he went back to the house.

A cheer at the far corner of the square showed that the ranks were
formed.  A policeman on a scraggy horse, with a great rusty sabre banging
at its side, rode slowly down the streets to clear the way, and once
again the parti-coloured band passed by, playing the Garibaldian hymn.
Rank upon rank of men tramped after it, their friends running beside them
for a last embrace, and women rushing up with children for a farewell
kiss.  Their merry faces set with determination, and their shoulders well
thrown back, three or four hundred men briskly stepped along, trying to
imitate the way the Bersaglieri march in Italy.  A shout went up of “Long
live the Reservists,” as a contingent, drawn from every class of the
Italian colony, passed along the street.  Dock-labourers and pale-faced
clerks in well-cut clothes and unsubstantial boots walked side by side.
Men burnt the colour of a brick by working at the harvest rubbed
shoulders with Sicilian emigrants landed a month or two ago, but who now
were going off to fight, as poor as when they left their native land, and
dressed in the same clothes.  Neapolitans, gesticulating as they marched,
and putting out their tongues at the Brazilian negroes, chattered and
joked.  To them life was a farce, no matter that the setting of the stage
on which they moved was narrow, the fare hard, and the remuneration
small.  If things were adverse they still laughed on, and if the world
was kind they jeered at it and at themselves, disarming both the slings
of fortune and her more dangerous smiles with a grimace.

As they marched on, they now and then sketched out in pantomime the fate
of any German who might fall into their hands, so vividly that shouts of
laughter greeted them, which they acknowledged by putting out their
tongues.  Square-shouldered Liguresi succeeded them, with Lombards,
Sicilians, and men of the strange negroid-looking race from the
Basilicata, almost as dark-skinned as the Brazilian loungers at the
corners of the streets.

They all passed on, laughing, and quite oblivious of what was in store
for most of them—laughing and smoking, and, for the first time in their
lives, the centre of a show.  After them came another band; but this time
of Italians, well-dressed, and playing on well-cared-for instruments.
Behind them walked a little group of men, on whose appearance a hush fell
on the crowd.  Two of them wore uniforms, and between them, supported by
silk handkerchiefs wrapped round his arms, there walked a man who was
welcomed with a scream of joy.  Frail, and with trembling footsteps,
dressed in a faded old red shirt and knotted handkerchief, his parchment
cheeks lit up with a faint flush as the Veteran of Marsala passed like a
phantom of a glorious past.  With him appeared to march the rest of his
companions who set sail from Genoa to call into existence that Italy for
which the young men all around him were prepared to sacrifice their
lives.

To the excited crowd he typified all that their fathers had endured to
drive the stranger from their land.  The two Cairoli, Nino Bixio, and the
heroic figure, wrapped in his poncho, who rides in glory on the
Janiculum, visible from every point of Rome, seemed to march by the old
man’s side in the imagination of the crowd.  Women rushed forward,
carrying flowers, and strewed them on the scant grey locks of the old
soldier; and children danced in front of him, like little Bacchanals.
All hats were off as the old man was borne along, a phantom of himself, a
symbol of a heroic past, and still a beacon, flickering but alight, to
show the way towards the goal which in his youth had seemed impossible to
reach.

Slowly the procession rolled along, surging against the houses as an
incoming tide swirls up a river, till it reached the Consulate.  It
halted, and the old Garibaldian, drawing himself up, saluted the Italian
colours.  The Consul, bare-headed and with tears running down his cheeks,
stood for a moment, the centre of all eyes, and then, advancing, tore the
flag from off its staff, and, after kissing it, wrapped it round the
frail shoulders of the veteran.



V
WITH THE NORTH-EAST WIND


A NORTH-EAST haar had hung the city with a pall of grey.  It gave an air
of hardness to the stone-built houses, blending them with the stone-paved
streets, till you could scarce see where the houses ended and the street
began.  A thin grey dust hung in the air.  It coloured everything, and
people’s faces all looked pinched with the first touch of autumn cold.
The wind, boisterous and gusty, whisked the soot-grimed city leaves about
in the high suburb at the foot of a long range of hills, making one think
it would be easy to have done with life on such an uncongenial day.
Tramways were packed with people of the working class, all of them of the
alert, quick-witted type only to be seen in the great city on the Clyde,
in all our Empire, and comparable alone to the dwellers in Chicago for
dry vivacity.

By the air they wore of chastened pleasure, all those who knew them saw
that they were intent upon a funeral.  To serious-minded men such as are
they, for all their quickness, nothing is so soul-filling, for it is of
the nature of a fact that no one can deny.  A wedding has its
possibilities, for it may lead to children, or divorce, but funerals are
in another category.  At them the Scottish people is at its best, for
never more than then does the deep underlying tenderness peep through the
hardness of the rind.  On foot and in the tramways, but most especially
on foot, converged long lines of men and women, though fewer women, for
the national prejudice that in years gone by thought it not decent for a
wife to follow to the grave her husband’s coffin, still holds a little in
the north.  Yet there was something in the crowd that showed it was to
attend no common funeral, that they were “stepping west.”  No one wore
black, except a minister or two, who looked a little like the belated
rook you sometimes see amongst a flock of seagulls, in that vast ocean of
grey tweed.

They tramped along, the whistling north-east wind pinching their
features, making their eyes run, and as they went, almost unconsciously
they fell into procession, for beyond the tramway line, a country lane
that had not quite put on the graces of a street, though straggling
houses were dotted here and there along it, received the crowd and
marshalled it, as it were mechanically, without volition of its own.
Kept in between the walls, and blocked in front by the hearse and long
procession of the mourning-coaches, the people slowly surged along.  The
greater portion of the crowd were townsmen, but there were miners washed
and in their Sunday best.  Their faces showed the blue marks of healed-up
scars into which coal dust or gunpowder had become tattooed, scars gained
in the battle of their lives down in the pits, remembrances of falls of
rock or of occasions when the mine had “fired upon them.”

Many had known Keir Hardie in his youth, had “wrocht wi’ him out-by,” at
Blantyre, at Hamilton, in Ayrshire, and all of them had heard him speak a
hundred times.  Even to those who had not heard him, his name was as a
household word.  Miners predominated, but men of every trade were there.
Many were members of that black-coated proletariat, whose narrow
circumstances and daily struggle for appearances make their life harder
to them than is the life of any working man before he has had to dye his
hair.  Women tramped, too, for the dead leader had been a champion of
their sex.  They all respected him, loving him with that
half-contemptuous gratitude that women often show to men who make the
“woman question” the object of their lives.

After the Scottish fashion at a funeral, greetings were freely passed,
and Reid, who hadna’ seen his friend Mackinder since the time of the
Mid-Lanark fight, greeted him with “Ye mind when first Keir Hardie was
puttin’ up for Parliament,” and wrung his hand, hardened in the mine,
with one as hardened, and instantly began to recall elections of the
past.

“Ye mind yon Wishaw meeting?”

“Aye, ou aye; ye mean when a’ they Irish wouldna’ hear John Ferguson.
Man, he almost grat after the meeting aboot it.”

“Aye, but they gied Hardie himself a maist respectful hearing . . . aye,
ou aye.”

Others remembered him a boy, and others in his home at Cumnock, but all
spoke of him with affection, holding him as something of their own, apart
from other politicians, almost apart from men.

Old comrades who had been with him either at this election or that
meeting, had helped or had intended to have helped at the crises of his
life, fought their old battles over, as they tramped along, all shivering
in the wind.

The procession reached a long dip in the road, and the head of it, full
half a mile away, could be seen gathered round the hearse, outside the
chapel of the crematorium, whose ominous tall chimney, through which the
ashes, and perchance the souls of thousands have escaped towards some
empyrean or another, towered up starkly.  At last all had arrived, and
the small open space was crowded, the hearse and carriages appearing
stuck amongst the people, like raisins in a cake, so thick they pressed
upon them.  The chapel, differing from the ordinary chapel of the faiths
as much as does a motor driver from a cabman, had an air as of modernity
about it, which contrasted strangely with the ordinary looking crowd, the
adjacent hills, the decent mourning coaches and the black-coated
undertakers who bore the coffin up the steps.  Outside, the wind whistled
and swayed the soot-stained trees about; but inside the chapel the heat
was stifling.

When all was duly done, and long exordiums passed upon the man who in his
life had been the target for the abuse of press and pulpit, the coffin
slid away to its appointed place.  One thought one heard the roaring of
the flames, and somehow missed the familiar lowering of the body . . .
earth to earth . . . to which the centuries of use and wont have made us
all familiar, though dust to dust in this case was the more appropriate.

In either case, the book is closed for ever, and the familiar face is
seen no more.

So, standing just outside the chapel in the cold, waiting till all the
usual greetings had been exchanged, I fell a-musing on the man whom I had
known so well.  I saw him as he was thirty years ago, outlined against a
bing or standing in a quarry in some mining village, and heard his once
familiar address of “Men.”  He used no other in those days, to the
immense disgust of legislators and other worthy but unimaginative men
whom he might chance to meet.  About him seemed to stand a shadowy band,
most of whom now are dead or lost to view, or have gone under in the
fight.

John Ferguson was there, the old-time Irish leader, the friend of Davitt
and of Butt.  Tall and erect he stood, dressed in his long frock-coat,
his roll of papers in one hand, and with the other stuck into his breast,
with all the air of being the last Roman left alive.  Tom Mann, with his
black hair, his flashing eyes, and his tumultuous speech peppered with
expletives.  Beside him, Sandy Haddow, of Parkhead, massive and Doric in
his speech, with a grey woollen comforter rolled round his neck, and
hands like panels of a door.  Champion, pale, slight, and interesting,
still the artillery officer, in spite of Socialism.  John Burns; and
Small, the miners’ agent, with his close brown beard and taste for
literature.  Smillie stood near, he of the seven elections, and then
check-weigher at a pit, either at Cadzow or Larkhall.  There, too, was
silver-tongued Shaw Maxwell and Chisholm Robertson, looking out darkly on
the world through tinted spectacles; with him Bruce Glasier, girt with a
red sash and with an aureole of fair curly hair around his head, half
poet and half revolutionary.

They were all young and ardent, and as I mused upon them and their fate,
and upon those of them who have gone down into the oblivion that waits
for those who live before their time, I shivered in the wind.

Had he, too, lived in vain, he whose scant ashes were no doubt by this
time all collected in an urn, and did they really represent all that
remained of him?

Standing amongst the band of shadowy comrades I had known, I saw him,
simple and yet with something of the prophet in his air, and something of
the seer.  Effective and yet ineffectual, something there was about him
that attracted little children to him, and I should think lost dogs.  He
made mistakes, but then those who make no mistakes seldom make anything.
His life was one long battle, so it seemed to me that it was fitting that
at his funeral the north-east wind should howl amongst the trees, tossing
and twisting them as he himself was twisted and storm-tossed in his
tempestuous passage through the world.

As the crowd moved away, and in the hearse and mourning-coaches the
spavined horses limped slowly down the road, a gleam of sunshine, such as
had shone too little in his life, lighted up everything.

The swaying trees and dark, grey houses of the ugly suburb of the town
were all transfigured for a moment.  The chapel door was closed, and from
the chimney of the crematorium a faint blue smoke was issuing, which, by
degrees, faded into the atmosphere, just as the soul, for all I know, may
melt into the air.

When the last stragglers had gone, and bits of paper scurried uneasily
along before the wind, the world seemed empty, with nothing friendly in
it, but the shoulder of Ben Lomond peeping out shyly over the Kilpatrick
Hills.



VI
ELYSIUM


THE Triad came into my life as I walked underneath the arch by which the
sentinels sit in Olympian state upon their rather long-legged chargers,
receiving, as is their due, the silent homage of the passing
nurserymaids. The soldier in the middle was straight back from the front.
The mud of Flanders clung to his boots and clothes.  It was “deeched”
into his skin, and round his eyes had left a stain so dark, it looked as
if he had been painted for a theatrical make-up.  Upon his puttees it had
dried so thickly that you could scarcely see the folds.  He bore upon his
back his knapsack, carried his rifle in his hand all done up in a case,
which gave it, as it seemed to me, a look of hidden power, making it more
terrible to think of than if it had shone brightly in the sun.  His
water-bottle and a pack of some kind hung at his sides, and as he walked
kept time to every step.  Under his elbow protruded the shaft of
something, perhaps an entrenching tool of some sort, or perhaps some
weapon strange to civilians accustomed to the use of stick or umbrella as
their only arm.  In himself he seemed a walking arsenal, carrying his
weapons and his baggage on his back, after the fashion of a Roman
legionary.  The man himself, before the hand of discipline had fashioned
him to number something or another, must have looked fresh and youthful,
not very different from a thousand others that in time of peace one sees
in early morning going to fulfil one of those avocations without which no
State can possibly endure, and yet are practically unknown to those who
live in the vast stucco hives either of Belgravia or Mayfair.

He may have been some five-and-twenty, and was a Londoner or a man from
the home counties lying round about.  His sunburnt face was yet not
sunburnt as is the face of one accustomed to the weather all his life.
Recent exposure had made his skin all feverish, and his blue eyes were
fixed, as often are the eyes of sailors or frontiersmen after a long
watch.

The girls on either side of him clung to his arm with pride, and with an
air of evident affection, that left them quite unconscious of everything
but having got the beloved object of their care safe home again.  Upon
the right side, holding fast to the warrior’s arm, and now and then
nestling close to his side, walked his sweetheart, a dark-haired girl,
dressed in the miserable cheap finery our poorer countrywomen wear,
instead of well-made plainer clothes that certainly would cost them less
and set them off a hundredfold the more.  Now and again she pointed out
some feature of the town with pride, as when they climbed the steps under
the column on which stands the statue of the Duke of York.  The soldier,
without looking, answered, “I know, Ethel, Dook of York,” and hitched his
pack a little higher on his back.

His sister, hanging on his left arm, never said anything, but walked
along as in a dream; and he, knowing that she was there and understood,
spoke little to her, except to murmur “Good old Gladys” now and then, and
press her to his side.  As they passed by the stunted monument, on which
the crowd of little figures standing round a sledge commemorates the
Franklin Expedition, in a chill Arctic way, the girl upon the right
jerked her head towards it and said, “That’s Sir John Franklin, George,
he as laid down his life to find the North-West Passage, one of our
’eroes, you remember ’im.”  To which he answered, “Oh yes, Frenklin”;
then looking over at the statue of Commander Scott, added, “’ee done his
bit too,” with an appreciative air.  They gazed upon the Athenæum and the
other clubs with that air of detachment that all Englishmen affect when
they behold a building or a monument—taking it, as it seems to me, as
something they have no concern with, just as if it stood in Petrograd or
in Johannesburg.

The homing triad passed into Pall Mall, oblivious of the world, so lost
in happiness that they appeared the only living people in the street.
The sister, who had said so little, when she saw her brother shift his
knapsack, asked him to let her carry it.  He smiled, and knowing what she
felt, handed his rifle to her, remarking, “’Old it the right side up, old
girl, or else it will go off.”

And so they took their way through the enchanted streets, not feeling
either the penetrating wind or the fine rain, for these are but material
things, and they were wrapped apart from the whole world.  Officers of
all ranks passed by them, some young and smart, and others paunchy and
middle-aged; but they were non-existent to the soldier, who saw nothing
but the girls.  Most of the officers looked straight before them, with an
indulgent air; but two young men with red bands round their caps were
scandalised, and muttering something as to the discipline of the New
Army, drew themselves up stiffly and strutted off, like angry game-cocks
when they eye each other in the ring.

The triad passed the Rag, and on the steps stood two old colonels, their
faces burnt the colour of a brick, and their moustaches stiff as the
bristles of a brush.  They eyed the passing little show, and looking at
each other broke into a smile.  They knew that they would never walk
oblivious of mankind, linked to a woman’s arm; but perhaps memories of
what they had done stirred in their hearts, for both of them at the same
moment ejaculated a modulated “Ha!” of sympathy.  All this time I had
walked behind the three young people, unconsciously, as I was going the
same road, catching half phrases now and then, which I was half ashamed
to hear.

They reached the corner of St. James’s Square, and our paths separated.
Mine took me to the London Library to change a book, and theirs led
straight to Elysium, for five long days.



VII
HEREDITY


RIGHT along the frontier between Uruguay and Rio Grande, the southern
province of Brazil, the Spanish and the Portuguese sit face to face, as
they have sat for ages, looking at, but never understanding, one another,
both in the Old and the New World.

In Tuy and Valenza, Monzon and Salvatierra, at Poncho Verde and Don
Pedrito, Rivera and Santa Ana do Libramento, and far away above Cruz
Alta, where the two clumps of wood that mark old camps of the two people
are called O Matto Castelhano and O Matto Portuguez, the rivalry of
centuries is either actual or at least commemorated on the map.

The border-line that once made different peoples of the dwellers at
Floriston and Gretna, still prevails in the little castellated towns,
which snarl at one another across the Minho, just as they did of old.

“Those people in Valenza would steal the sacrament,” says the street
urchin playing on the steps of the half fortalice, half church that is
the cathedral of Tuy on the Spanish side.

His fellow in Valenza spits towards Tuy and remarks, “From Spain come
neither good marriages nor the wholesome winds.”

So on to Salvatierra and Monzon, or any other of the villages or towns
upon the river, and in the current of the native speech there still
remains some saying of the kind, with its sharp edges still unworn after
six centuries of use.  Great is the power of artificial barriers to
restrain mankind.  No proverb ever penned is more profound than that
which sets out, “Fear guards the vineyard, not the fence around it.”

So Portuguese and Spaniards in their peninsula have fought and hated and
fought and ridiculed each other after the fashion of children that have
quarrelled over a broken toy.  Blood and an almost common speech, for
both speak one Romance when all is said, have both been impotent against
the custom-house, the flag, the foolish dynasty, for few countries in the
world have had more foolish kings than Spain and Portugal.

That this should be so in the Old World is natural enough, for the dead
hand still rules, and custom and tradition have more strength than race
and creed; but that the hatred should have been transplanted to America,
and still continue, is a proof that folly never dies.

In the old towns on either side of the Minho the exterior life of the two
peoples is the same.

In the stone-built, arcaded plazas women still gather round the fountain
and fill their iron-hooped water-barrels through long tin pipes, shaped
like the tin valences used in wine-stores.  Donkeys stand at the doors,
carrying charcoal in esparto baskets, whether in Portugal or Spain, and
goats parade the streets driven by goatherds, wearing shapeless,
thickly-napped felt hats and leather overalls.

The water-carrier in both countries calls out “agua-a-a,” making it sound
like Arabic, and long trains of mules bring brushwood for the baker’s
furnace (even as in Morocco), or great nets of close-chopped straw for
horses’ fodder.

At eventide the girls walk on the plaza, their mothers, aunts, or
servants following them as closely as their shadows on a sunny afternoon.
In quiet streets lovers on both sides of the river talk from a
first-floor balcony to the street, or whisper through the window-bars on
the ground floor.  The little shops under the low arches of the arcaded
streets have yellow flannel drawers for men and petticoats of many
colours hanging close outside their doors, on whose steps sleep yellow
dogs.

The jangling bells in the decaying lichen-grown old towers of the
churches jangle and clang in the same key, and as appears without a touch
of _odium theologicum_.  The full bass voices boom from the choirs, in
which the self-same organs in their walnut cases have the same rows of
golden trumpets sticking out into the aisle.

One faith, one speech, one mode of daily life, the same sharp “green”
wine, the same bread made of maize and rye, and the same heaps of red
tomatoes and green peppers glistening in the sun in the same
market-places, and yet a rivalry and a difference as far apart as east
from west still separates them.

In both their countries the axles of the bullock-carts, with solid wheels
and wattled hurdle sides, like those upon a Roman coin, still creak and
whine to keep away the wolves.

In the soft landscape the maize fields wave in the rich hollows on both
sides of the Minho.

The pine woods mantle the rocky hills that overhang the deep-sea lochs
that burrow in both countries deep into the entrails of the land.

The women, with their many-coloured petticoats and handkerchiefs, chaffer
at the same fairs to which their husbands ride their ponies in their
straw cloaks.

At “romerias” the peasantry dance to the bagpipe and the drum the
self-same dances, and both climb the self-same steep grey steps through
the dark lanes, all overhung with gorse and broom, up to the Calvaries,
where the three crosses take on the self-same growth of lichen and of
moss.  Yet the “boyero” who walks before the placid oxen, with their
cream-coloured flanks and liquid eyes of onyx, feels he is different,
right down to the last molecule of his being, from the man upon the other
side.

So was it once, and perhaps is to-day, with those who dwell in Liddes or
Bewcastle dales.  Spaniard and Portuguese, as Scot and Englishman in
older times, can never see one matter from the same point of view.  The
Portuguese will say that the Castilian is a rogue, and the Castilian
returns the compliment.  Neither have any reason to support their view,
for who wants reason to support that which he feels is true.

It may be that the Spaniard is a little rougher and the Portuguese more
cunning; but if it is the case or not, the antipathy remains, and has
been taken to America.

From the Laguna de Merin to the Cuareim, that is to say, along a frontier
of two hundred leagues, the self-same feeling rules upon both sides of
the line.  There, as in Portugal and Spain, although the country, whether
in Uruguay or in Brazil, is little different, yet it has suffered
something indefinable by being occupied by members of the two races so
near and yet so different from one another.

Great rolling seas of waving grass, broken by a few stony hills, are the
chief features of the landscape of the frontiers in both republics.
Estancia houses, dazzlingly white, buried in peach and fig groves, dot
the plains, looking like islands in the sea of grass.  Great herds of
cattle roam about, and men on horseback, galloping like clockwork, sail
across the plains like ships upon a sea.  Along the river-banks grow
strips of thorny trees, and as the frontier line trends northward
palm-trees appear, and monkeys chatter in the woods.  Herds of wild
asses, shyer than antelopes, gaze at the passing horsemen, scour off when
he approaches, and are lost into the haze.  Stretches of purple borage,
known as La Flor Morada, carpet the ground in spring and early summer,
giving place later on to red verbena; and on the edges of the streams the
tufts of the tall Pampa grass recall the feathers on a Pampa Indian’s
spear.

Bands of grave ostriches feed quietly upon the tops of hills, and stride
away when frightened, down the wind, with wings stretched out to catch
the breeze.

Clothes are identical, or almost so; the poncho and the loose trousers
stuffed into high patent-leather boots, the hat kept in its place by a
black ribbon with two tassels, are to be seen on both sides of the
frontier.  Only in Brazil a sword stuck through the girth replaces the
long knife of Uruguay.  Perhaps in that one item all the differences
between the races manifests itself, for the sword is, as it were, a
symbol, for no one ever saw one drawn or used in any way but as an
ornament.  It is, in fact, but a survival of old customs, which are
cherished both by the Portuguese and the Brazilians as the apple of the
eye.

The vast extent of the territory of Brazil, its inaccessibility, and the
enormous distances to be travelled from the interior to the coast, and
the sense of remoteness from the outer world, have kept alive a type of
man not to be found in any other country where the Christian faith
prevails.  Risings of fanatics still are frequent; one is going on to-day
in Paraná, and that of the celebrated Antonio Concelheiro, twenty years
ago, shook the whole country to its core.  Slavery existed in the memory
of people still alive.  Women in the remoter towns are still secluded
almost as with the Moors.  The men still retain something of the Middle
Ages in their love of show.  All in the province of Rio Grande are great
horsemen, and all use silver trappings on a black horse, and all have
horses bitted so as to turn round in the air, just as a hawk turns on the
wing.

The sons of men who have been slaves abound in all the little frontier
towns, and old grey-headed negroes, who have been slaves themselves,
still hang about the great estates.  Upon the other side, in Uruguay, the
negro question was solved once and for all in the Independence Wars, for
then the negroes were all formed into battalions by themselves and set in
the forefront of the battle, to die for liberty in a country where they
all were slaves the month before.  War turned them into heroes, and sent
them out to die.

When once their independence was assured, the Uruguayans fell into line
like magic with the modern trend of thought.  Liberty to them meant
absolute equality, for throughout the land no snob is found to leave a
slug’s trail on the face of man by his subserviency.

Women were held free, that is, as free as it is possible for them to be
in any Latin-peopled land.  Across the line, even to-day, a man may stay
a week in a Brazilian country house and never see a woman but a mulata
girl or an old negro crone.  Still he feels he is watched by eyes he
never sees, listens to voices singing or laughing, and a sense of mystery
prevails.

Spaniards and Portuguese in the New World have blended just as little as
they have done at home.  Upon the frontier all the wilder spirits of
Brazil and Uruguay have congregated.  There they pursue the life, but
little altered, that their fathers led full fifty years ago.  All carry
arms, and use them on small provocation, for if an accident takes place
the frontier shields the slayer, for to pursue him usually entails a
national quarrel, and so the game goes on.

So Jango Chaves, feeling inclined for sport, or, as he might have said,
to “brincar un bocadinho,” saddled up his horse.  He mounted, and, as his
friends were looking on, ran it across the plaza of the town, and,
turning like a seagull in its flight, came back to where his friends were
standing, and stopped it with a jerk.

His silver harness jingled, and his heavy spurs, hanging loosely on his
high-heeled boots, clanked like fetters, as his active little horse
bounded into the air and threw the sand up in a shower.

The rider, sitting him like a statue, with the far-off look horsemen of
every land assume when riding a good horse and when they know they are
observed, slackened his hand and let him fall into a little measured
trot, arching his neck and playing with the bit, under which hung a
silver eagle on a hinge.  Waving his hand towards his friends, Jango rode
slowly through the town.  He passed through sandy streets of flat-roofed,
whitewashed houses, before whose doors stood hobbled horses nodding in
the sun.

He rode past orange gardens, surrounded by brown walls of sun-baked
bricks with the straw sticking in them, just as it had dried.  In the
waste the castor-oil bushes formed little jungles, out of which peered
cats, exactly as a tiger peers out of a real jungle in the woods.

The sun poured down, and was reverberated back from the white houses, and
on the great gaunt building, where the captain-general lived, floated the
green-and-yellow flag of the republic, looking like a bandana
handkerchief.  He passed the negro rancheria, without which no such town
as Santa Anna do Libramento is complete, and might have marked, had he
not been too much used to see them, the naked negro children playing in
the sand.  Possibly, if he marked them, he referred to them as
“cachorrinhos pretos,” for the old leaven of the days of slavery is
strongly rooted in Brazil.  So he rode on, a slight and graceful figure,
bending to each movement of his horse, his mobile, olive-coloured
features looking like a bronze masque in the fierce downpour of the sun.

As he rode on, his whip, held by a thong and dangling from his fingers,
swung against his horse’s flanks, keeping time rhythmically to its pace.
He crossed the rivulet that flows between the towns and came out on the
little open plain that separates them.  From habit, or because he felt
himself amongst unfriendly or uncomprehended people, he touched his knife
and his revolvers, hidden beneath his summer poncho, with his right hand,
and with his bridle arm held high, ready for all eventualities, passed
into just such another sandy street as he had left behind.

Save that all looked a little newer, and that the stores were better
supplied with goods, and that there were no negro huts, the difference
was slight between the towns.  True that the green-and-yellow flag had
given place to the barred blue-and-white of Uruguay.  An armed policeman
stood at the corners of the main thoroughfares, and water-carts went up
and down at intervals.  The garden in the plaza had a well-tended
flower-garden.

A band was playing in the middle of it, and Jango could not fail to
notice that Rivera was more prosperous than was his native town.

Whether that influenced him, or whether it was the glass of caña which he
had at the first pulperia, is a moot point, or whether the old antipathy
between the races brought by his ancestors from the peninsula; anyhow, he
left his horse untied, and with the reins thrown down before it as he got
off to have his drink.  When he came out, a policeman called to him to
hobble it or tie it up.

Without a word he gathered up his reins, sprang at a bound upon his
horse, and, drawing his mother-of-pearl-handled pistol, fired at the
policeman almost as he sprang.  The shot threw up a shower of sand just
in the policeman’s face, and probably saved Jango’s life.  Drawing his
pistol, the man fired back, but Jango, with a shout and pressure of his
heels, was off like lightning, firing as he rode, and zig-zagging across
the street.  The policeman’s shot went wide, and Jango, turning in the
saddle, fired again and missed.

By this time men with pistols in their hands stood at the doors of all
the houses; but the Brazilian passed so rapidly, throwing himself
alternately now on the near side, now on the off side of his horse,
hanging by one foot across the croup and holding with the other to the
mane, that he presented no mark for them to hit.

As he passed by the “jefatura” where the alcalde and his friends were
sitting smoking just before the door, he fired with such good aim that a
large piece of plaster just above their heads fell, covering them with
dust.

Drawing his second pistol and still firing as he went, he dashed out of
the town, in spite of shots from every side, his horse bounding like
lightning as his great silver spurs ploughed deep into its sides.  When
he had crossed the little bit of neutral ground, and just as a patrol of
cavalry appeared, ready to gallop after him, a band of men from his own
town came out to meet him.

He stopped, and shouting out defiance to the Uruguayans, drew up his
horse, and lit a cigarette.  Then, safe beyond the frontier, trotted on
gently to meet his friends, his horse shaking white foam from off its
bit, and little rivulets of blood dripping down from its sides into the
sand.



VIII
EL TANGO ARGENTINO


MOTOR-CARS swept up to the covered passage of the front door of the
hotel, one of those international caravansaries that pass their clients
through a sort of vulgarising process that blots out every type.  It
makes the Argentine, the French, the Englishman, and the American all
alike before the power of wealth.

The cars surged up as silently as snow falls from a fir-tree in a thaw,
and with the same soft swishing noise.  Tall, liveried porters opened the
doors (although, of course, each car was duly furnished with a footman)
so nobly that any one of them would have graced any situation in the
State.

The ladies stepped down delicately, showing a fleeting vision of a leg in
a transparent stocking, just for an instant, through the slashing of
their skirts.  They knew that every man, their footman, driver, the giant
watchers at the gate, and all who at the time were going into the hotel,
saw and were moved by what they saw just for a moment; but the fact did
not trouble them at all.  It rather pleased them, for the most virtuous
feel a pleasurable emotion when they know that they excite.  So it will
be for ever, for thus and not by votes alone they show that they are to
the full men’s equals, let the law do its worst.

Inside the hotel, heated by steam, and with an atmosphere of scent and
flesh that went straight to the head just as the fumes of whisky set a
drinker’s nerves agog, were seated all the finest flowers of the
cosmopolitan society of the French capital.

Lesbos had sent its legions, and women looked at one another
appreciatively, scanning each item of their neighbours’ clothes, and with
their colour heightening when by chance their eyes met those of another
priestess of their sect.

Rich rastaquaoures, their hats too shiny, and their boots too tight,
their coats fitting too closely, their sticks mounted with great gold
knobs, walked about or sat at little tables, all talking strange
varieties of French.

Americans, the men apparently all run out of the same mould, the women
apt as monkeys to imitate all that they saw in dress, in fashion and in
style, and more adaptable than any other women in the world from lack of
all traditions, conversed in their high nasal tones.  Spanish-Americans
from every one of the Republics were well represented, all talking about
money: of how Doña Fulana Perez had given fifteen hundred francs for her
new hat, or Don Fulano had just scored a million on the Bourse.

Jews and more Jews, and Jewesses and still more Jewesses, were there,
some of them married to Christians and turned Catholic, but betrayed by
their Semitic type, although they talked of Lourdes and of the Holy
Father with the best.

After the “five-o’clock,” turned to a heavy meal of toast and buns, of
Hugel loaf, of sandwiches, and of hot cake, the scented throng, restored
by the refection after the day’s hard work of shopping, of driving here
and there like souls in purgatory to call on people that they detested,
and other labours of a like nature, slowly adjourned to a great hall in
which a band was playing.  As they walked through the passages, men
pressed close up to women and murmured in their ears, telling them
anecdotes that made them flush and giggle as they protested in an
unprotesting style.  Those were the days of the first advent of the Tango
Argentino, the dance that since has circled the whole world, as it were,
in a movement of the hips.  Ladies pronounced it charming as they half
closed their eyes and let a little shiver run across their lips.  Men
said it was the only dance that was worth dancing.  It was so Spanish, so
unconventional, and combined all the æsthetic movements of the figures on
an Etruscan vase with the strange grace of the Hungarian gipsies . . . it
was so, as one may say, so . . . as you may say . . . you know.

When all were seated, the band, Hungarians, of course,—oh, those dear
gipsies!—struck out into a rhythm, half rag-time, half habañera,
canaille, but sensuous, and hands involuntarily, even the most
aristocratic hands—of ladies whose immediate progenitors had been
pork-packers in Chicago, or gambusinos who had struck it rich in
Zacatecas,—tapped delicately, but usually a little out of time, upon the
backs of chairs.

A tall young man, looking as if he had got a holiday from a tailor’s
fashion plate, his hair sleek, black, and stuck down to his head with a
cosmetic, his trousers so immaculately creased they seemed cut out of
cardboard, led out a girl dressed in a skirt so tight that she could not
have moved in it had it not been cut open to the knee.

Standing so close that one well-creased trouser leg disappeared in the
tight skirt, he clasped her round the waist, holding her hand almost
before her face.  They twirled about, now bending low, now throwing out a
leg, and then again revolving, all with a movement of the hips that
seemed to blend the well-creased trouser and the half-open skirt into one
inharmonious whole.  The music grew more furious and the steps
multiplied, till with a bound the girl threw herself for an instant into
the male dancer’s arms, who put her back again upon the ground with as
much care as if she had been a new-laid egg, and the pair bowed and
disappeared.

Discreet applause broke forth, and exclamations such as “wonderful,”
“what grace,” “Vivent les Espagnoles,” for the discriminating audience
took no heed of independence days, of mere political changes and the
like, and seemed to think that Buenos Aires was a part of Spain, never
having heard of San Martin, Bolivar, Paez, and their fellow-liberators.

Paris, London, and New York were to that fashionable crowd the world, and
anything outside—except, of course, the Hungarian gipsies and the Tango
dancers—barbarous and beyond the pale.

After the Tango came “La Maxixe Brésilienne,” rather more languorous and
more befitting to the dwellers in the tropics than was its cousin from
the plains.  Again the discreet applause broke out, the audience
murmuring “charming,” that universal adjective that gives an air of being
in a perpetual pastrycook’s when ladies signify delight.  Smiles and sly
glances at their friends showed that the dancers’ efforts at indecency
had been appreciated.

Slowly the hall and tea-rooms of the great hotel emptied themselves, and
in the corridors and passages the smell of scent still lingered, just as
stale incense lingers in a church.

Motor-cars took away the ladies and their friends, and drivers, who had
shivered in the cold whilst the crowd inside sweated in the central
heating, exchanged the time of day with the liveried doorkeepers, one of
them asking anxiously, “Dis, Anatole, as-tu vu mes vaches?”

With the soft closing of a well-hung door the last car took its perfumed
freight away, leaving upon the steps a group of men, who remained talking
over, or, as they would say, undressing, all the ladies who had gone.

“Argentine Tango, eh?” I thought, after my friends had left me all alone.
Well, well, it has changed devilishly upon its passage overseas, even
discounting the difference of the setting of the place where first I saw
it danced so many years ago.  So, sauntering down, I took a chair far
back upon the terrace of the Café de la Paix, so that the sellers of _La
Patrie_, and the men who have some strange new toy, or views of Paris in
a long album like a broken concertina, should not tread upon my toes.

Over a Porto Blanc and a Brazilian cigarette, lulled by the noise of
Paris and the raucous cries of the street-vendors, I fell into a doze.

Gradually the smell of petrol and of horse-dung, the two most potent
perfumes in our modern life, seemed to be blown away.  Dyed heads and
faces scraped till they looked blue as a baboon’s; young men who looked
like girls, with painted faces and with mincing airs; the raddled women,
ragged men, and hags huddled in knitted shawls, lame horses, and taxi-cab
drivers sitting nodding on their boxes—all faded into space, and from the
nothing that is the past arose another scene.

I saw myself with Witham and his brother, whose name I have forgotten,
Eduardo Peña, Congreve, and Eustaquio Medina, on a small rancho in an
elbow of the great River Yi.  The rancho stood upon a little hill.  A
quarter of a mile or so away the dense and thorny monté of hard-wood
trees that fringed the river seemed to roll up towards it like a sea.
The house was built of yellow pine sent from the United States.  The roof
was shingled, and the rancho stood planked down upon the plain, looking
exactly like a box.  Some fifty yards away stood a thatched hut that
served as kitchen, and on its floor the cattle herders used to sleep upon
their horse-gear with their feet towards the fire.

The corrals for horses and for sheep were just a little farther off, and
underneath a shed a horse stood saddled day in, day out, and perhaps does
so yet, if the old rancho still resists the winds.

Four or five horses, saddled and bridled, stood tied to a great post, for
we were just about to mount to ride a league or two to a Baile, at the
house of Frutos Barragán.  Just after sunset we set out, as the sweet
scent that the grasses of the plains send forth after a long day of heat
perfumed the evening air.

The night was clear and starry, and above our heads was hung the Southern
Cross.  So bright the stars shone out that one could see almost a mile
away; but yet all the perspective of the plains and woods was altered.
Hillocks were sometimes undistinguishable, at other times loomed up like
houses.  Woods seemed to sway and heave, and by the sides of streams
bunches of Pampa grass stood stark as sentinels, their feathery tufts
looking like plumes upon an Indian’s lance.

The horses shook their bridles with a clear, ringing sound as they
stepped double, and their riders, swaying lightly in their seats, seemed
to form part and parcel of the animals they rode.

Now and then little owls flew noiselessly beside us, circling above our
heads, and then dropped noiselessly upon a bush.  Eustaquio Medina, who
knew the district as a sailor knows the seas where he was born, rode in
the front of us.  As his horse shied at a shadow on the grass or at the
bones of some dead animal, he swung his whip round ceaselessly, until the
moonlight playing on the silver-mounted stock seemed to transform it to
an aureole that flickered about his head.  Now and then somebody
dismounted to tighten up his girth, his horse twisting and turning round
uneasily the while, and, when he raised his foot towards the stirrup,
starting off with a bound.

Time seemed to disappear and space be swallowed in the intoxicating
gallop, so that when Eustaquio Medina paused for an instant to strike the
crossing of a stream, we felt annoyed with him, although no hound that
follows a hot scent could have gone truer on his line.

Dogs barking close at hand warned us our ride was almost over, and as we
galloped up a rise Eustaquio Medina pulled up and turned to us.

“There is the house,” he said, “just at the bottom of the hollow, only
five squares away,” and as we saw the flicker of the lights, he struck
his palm upon his mouth after the Indian fashion, and raised a piercing
cry.  Easing his hand, he drove his spurs into his horse, who started
with a bound into full speed, and as he galloped down the hill we
followed him, all yelling furiously.

Just at the hitching-post we drew up with a jerk, our horses snorting as
they edged off sideways from the black shadow that it cast upon the
ground.  Horses stood about everywhere, some tied and others hobbled, and
from the house there came the strains of an accordion and the tinkling of
guitars.

Asking permission to dismount, we hailed the owner of the house, a tall,
old Gaucho, Frutos Barragán, as he stood waiting by the door, holding a
maté in his hand.  He bade us welcome, telling us to tie our horses up,
not too far out of sight, for, as he said, “It is not good to give
facilities to rogues, if they should chance to be about.”

In the low, straw-thatched rancho, with its eaves blackened by the smoke,
three or four iron bowls, filled with mare’s fat, and with a cotton wick
that needed constant trimming, stuck upon iron cattle-brands, were
burning fitfully.

They cast deep shadows in the corners of the room, and when they
flickered up occasionally the light fell on the dark and sun-tanned faces
of the tall, wiry Gauchos and the light cotton dresses of the women as
they sat with their chairs tilted up against the wall.  Some thick-set
Basques, an Englishman or two in riding breeches, and one or two Italians
made up the company.  The floor was earth, stamped hard till it shone
like cement, and as the Gauchos walked upon it, their heavy spurs clinked
with a noise like fetters as they trailed them on the ground.

An old, blind Paraguayan played on the guitar, and a huge negro
accompanied him on an accordion.  Their united efforts produced a music
which certainly was vigorous enough, and now and then, one or the other
of them broke into a song, high-pitched and melancholy, which, if you
listened to it long enough, forced you to try to imitate its wailing
melody and its strange intervals.

Fumes of tobacco and rum hung in the air, and of a strong and heady wine
from Catalonia, much favoured by the ladies, which they drank from a
tumbler, passing it to one another, after the fashion of a grace-cup at a
City dinner, with great gravity.  At last the singing ceased, and the
orchestra struck up a Tango, slow, marked, and rhythmical.

Men rose, and, taking off their spurs, walked gravely to the corner of
the room where sat the women huddled together as if they sought
protection from each other, and with a compliment led them out upon the
floor.  The flowing poncho and the loose chiripá, which served as
trousers, swung about just as the tartans of a Highlander swing as he
dances, giving an air of ease to all the movements of the Gauchos as they
revolved, their partners’ heads peeping above their shoulders, and their
hips moving to and fro.

At times they parted, and set to one another gravely, and then the man,
advancing, clasped his partner round the waist and seemed to push her
backwards, with her eyes half-closed and an expression of beatitude.
Gravity was the keynote of the scene, and though the movements of the
dance were as significant as it was possible for the dancers to achieve,
the effect was graceful, and the soft, gliding motion and the waving of
the parti-coloured clothes, wild and original, in the dim, flickering
light.

Rum flowed during the intervals.  The dancers wiped the perspiration from
their brows, the men with the silk handkerchiefs they wore about their
necks, the women with their sleeves.  Tangos, cielitos, and pericones
succeeded one another, and still the atmosphere grew thicker, and the
lights seemed to flicker through a haze, as the dust rose from the mud
floor.  Still the old Paraguayan and the negro kept on playing with the
sweat running down their faces, smoking and drinking rum in their brief
intervals of rest, and when the music ceased for a moment, the wild
neighing of a horse tied in the moonlight to a post, sounded as if he
called his master to come out and gallop home again.

The night wore on, and still the negro and the Paraguayan stuck at their
instruments.  Skirts swung and ponchos waved, whilst maté circulated
amongst the older men as they stood grouped about the door.

Then came a lull, and as men whispered in their partners’ ears, telling
them, after the fashion of the Gauchos, that they were lovely, their hair
like jet, their eyes bright as “las tres Marias,” and all the compliments
which in their case were stereotyped and handed down for generations,
loud voices rose, and in an instant two Gauchos bounded out upon the
floor.

Long silver-handled knives were in their hands, their ponchos wrapped
round their left arms served them as bucklers, and as they crouched, like
cats about to spring, they poured out blasphemies.

“Stop this!” cried Frutos Barragán; but even as he spoke, a knife-thrust
planted in the stomach stretched one upon the floor.  Blood gushed out
from his mouth, his belly fell like a pricked bladder, and a dark stream
of blood trickled upon the ground as he lay writhing in his death agony.

The iron bowls were overturned, and in the dark girls screamed and the
men crowded to the door.  When they emerged into the moonlight, leaving
the dying man upon the floor, the murderer was gone; and as they looked
at one another there came a voice shouting out, “Adios, Barragán.  Thus
does Vicente Castro pay his debts when a man tries to steal his girl,”
and the faint footfalls of an unshod horse galloping far out upon the
plain.

I started, and the waiter standing by my side said, “Eighty centimes”;
and down the boulevard echoed the harsh cry, “_La Patrie_, achetez _La
Patrie_,” and the rolling of the cabs.



IX
IN A BACKWATER


“THIS ’ere war, now,” said the farmer, in the slow voice that tells of
life passed amongst comfortable surroundings into which haste has never
once intruded, “is a ’orrid business.”

He leaned upon a half-opened gate, keeping it swaying to and fro a little
with his foot.  His waistcoat was unbuttoned, showing his greasy braces
and his checked blue shirt.  His box-cloth gaiters, falling low down upon
his high-lows, left a gap between them and his baggy riding-breeches,
just below the knee.  His flat-topped bowler hat was pushed back over the
fringe of straggling grey hair upon his neck.  His face was burned a
brick-dust colour with the August sun, and now and then he mopped his
forehead with a red handkerchief.

His little holding, an oasis in the waste of modern scientific farming,
was run in the old-fashioned way, often to be seen in the home counties,
as if old methods linger longest where they are least expected, just as a
hunted fox sometimes takes refuge in a rectory.

His ideas seemed to have become unsettled with constant reading of
newspapers filled with accounts of horrors, and his speech, not fluent at
the best of times, was slower and more halting than his wont.

He told how he had just lost his wife, and felt more than a little put
about to get his dairy work done properly without her help.

“When a man’s lost his wife it leaves him, somehow, as if he were like a
’orse hitched on one side of the wagon-pole, a-pullin’ by hisself.  Now
this ’ere war, comin’ as it does right on the top of my ’ome loss, sets
me a-thinkin’, especially when I’m alone in the ’ouse of night.”

The park-like English landscape, with its hedgerow trees and its lush
fields, that does not look like as if it really were the country, but
seems a series of pleasure-grounds cut off into convenient squares, was
at its time of greatest beauty and its greatest artificiality.  Cows
swollen with grass till they looked like balloons lay in the fields and
chewed the cud.  Geese cackled as they strayed upon the common, just as
they appear to cackle in a thousand water-colours.  The hum of bees was
in the limes.  Dragon-flies hawked swiftly over the oily waters of the
two slow-flowing rivers that made the farm almost an island in a suburban
Mesopotamia, scarce twenty miles away from Charing Cross.  An air of
peace and of contentment, of long well-being and security, was evident in
everything.  Trees flourished, though stag-headed, under which the
Roundhead troopers may have camped, or at the least, veterans from
Marlborough’s wars might have sat underneath their shade, and smoked as
they retold their fights.

A one-armed signboard, weathered, and with the lettering almost
illegible, pointed out the bridle-path to Ditchley, now little used,
except by lovers on a Sunday afternoon, but where the feet of horses for
generations in the past had trampled it, still showing clearly as it
wound through the fields.

In the standing corn the horses yoked to the reaping machine stood
resting, now and again shaking the tassels on their little netted
ear-covers.  They, too, came of a breed long used to peace and plenty,
good food and treatment, and short hours of work.  The kindly landscape
and the settled life of centuries had formed the kind of man of which the
farmer was a prototype,—slow-footed and slow-tongued, and with his mind
as bowed as were his shoulders with hard work, by the continual pressure
of the hierarchy of wealth and station, that had left him as much
adscript to them as any of his ancestors had been bound to their glebes.
He held the _Daily Mail_, his gospel and his _vade mecum_, crumpled in
his hand as if he feared to open it again to read more details of the
war.  A simple soul, most likely just as oppressive to his labourers as
his superiors had always showed themselves to him, he could not bear to
read of violence, as all the tyranny that he had bent under had been
imposed so subtly that he could never see more than the shadow of the
hand that had oppressed him.

It pained him, above all things, to read about the wounded and dead
horses lying in the corn, especially as he had “’eard the ’arvest over
there in Belgium was going to be good.”  The whirr of the machines
reaping the wheatfield sounded like the hum of some gigantic insect, and
as the binder ranged the sheaves in rows it seemed as if the golden age
had come upon the earth again, bringing with it peace and plenty, with
perhaps slightly stouter nymphs than those who once followed the
sickle-men in Arcady.

A man sat fishing in a punt just where the river broadened into a
backwater edged with willow trees.  At times he threw out ground-bait,
and at times raised a stone bottle to his lips, keeping one eye the while
watchfully turned upon his float.  School children strayed along the
road, as rosy and as flaxen-haired as those that Gregory the Great
thought fitting to be angels, though they had never been baptized.

Now and again the farmer stepped into his field to watch the harvesting,
and cast an eye of pride and of affection on his horses, and then, coming
back to the gate, he drew the paper from his pocket and read its columns,
much in the way an Arab reads a letter, murmuring the words aloud until
their meaning penetrated to his brain.

Chewing a straw, and slowly rubbing off the grains of an ear of wheat
into his hand, he gazed over his fields as if he feared to see in them
some of the horrors that he read.  Again he muttered, with a puzzled air,
“’Orrible! ’undreds of men and ’orses lying in the corn.  It seems a sad
thing to believe, doesn’t it now?” he said; and as he spoke soldiers on
motorcycles hurtled down the road, leaving a trail of dust that perhaps
looked like smoke to him after his reading in the _Daily Mail_.

“They tell me,” he remarked, after a vigorous application of his blue
handkerchief to his streaming face, “that these ’ere motorcycles ’ave a
gun fastened to them, over there in Belgium, where they are a-goin’ on at
it in such a way.  The paper says, ‘Ranks upon ranks of ’em is just mowed
down like wheat.’ . . .  ’Orrid, I call it, if it’s true, for now and
then I think those chaps only puts that kind of thing into their papers
to ’ave a sale for them.”  He looked about him as if, like Pilate, he was
looking for an elusive truth not to be found on earth, and then walked
down the road till he came to the backwater where the man was fishing in
his punt.  They looked at one another over a yard or two of muddy water,
and asked for news about the war, in the way that people do from others
who they must know are quite as ignorant as they are themselves.  The
fisherman “’ad given up readin’ the war noos; it’s all a pack of lies,”
and pointing to the water, said in a cautious voice, “Some people says
they ’ears.  I ain’t so sure about it; but, anyhow, it’s always best to
be on the safe side.”  Then he addressed himself once more to the
business of the day, and in the contemplation of his float no doubt
became as much absorbed into the universal principle of nature as is an
Indian sitting continually with his eyes turned on his diaphragm.

Men passing down the road, each with a paper in his hand, looked up and
threw the farmer scraps of news, uncensored and spiced high with details
which had never happened, so that in after years their children will most
likely treasure as facts, which they have received from long-lost
parents, the wildest fairy tales.

The slanting sun and lengthening shadows brought the farmer no relief of
mind; and still men, coming home from work on shaky bicycles, plied him
with horrors as they passed by the gate, their knee-joints stiff with the
labours of the day, seeming in want of oil.  A thin, white mist began to
creep along the backwater.  Unmooring his punt, the fisherman came
unwillingly to shore, and as he threw the fragments of his lunch into the
water and gathered up his tackle, looked back upon the scene of his
unfruitful labours with an air as of a man who has been overthrown by
circumstances, but has preserved his honour and his faith inviolate.

Slinging his basket on his back, he trudged off homewards, and instantly
the fish began to rise.  A line of cows was driven towards the farm,
their udders all so full of milk that they swayed to and fro, just as a
man sways wrapped in a Spanish cloak, and as majestically.  The
dragon-flies had gone, and in their place ghost-moths flew here and there
across the meadows, and from the fields sounded the corncrake’s harsh,
metallic note.

The whirring of the reaper ceased, and when the horses were unyoked the
driver led them slowly from the field.  As they passed by the farmer he
looked lovingly towards them, and muttered to himself, “Dead ’orses and
dead soldiers lying by ’undreds in the standing corn. . . .  I wonder ’ow
the folks out there in Belgium will ’ave a relish for their bread next
year.  This ’ere war’s a ’orrid business, coming as it does, too, on the
top of my own loss . . . dead ’orses in the corn. . . .”

He took the straw out of his mouth, and walking up to one of his own
sleek-sided carthorses, patted it lovingly, as if he wanted to make sure
that it was still alive.



X
HIPPOMORPHOUS


ON the 12th of October 1524, Cortes left Mexico on his celebrated
expedition to Honduras.  The start from Mexico was made to the sound of
music, and all the population of the newly conquered city turned out to
escort him for a few miles upon his way.

The cavalcade must have been a curious spectacle enough.  Cortes himself
and his chief officers rode partly dressed in armour, after the fashion
of the time.  Then came the Spanish soldiers, mostly on foot and armed
with lances, swords, and bucklers, though there was a troop of
crossbowmen and harquebusiers to whom “after God” we owed the Conquest,
as an old chronicler has said when speaking of the Conquest of Peru.  In
Mexico they did good service also, although it was the horsemen that in
that conquest played the greater part.  Then came a force of three
thousand friendly Indians from Tlascala, and last of all a herd of swine
was driven slowly in the rear, for at that time neither sheep nor cattle
were known in the New World.

Guatimozin, the captive King of Mexico, graced his conquerors’ triumphal
march; and with the army went two falconers, Garci Caro and Alvaro
Montañes, together with a band of music, some acrobats, a juggler, and a
man “who vaulted well and played the Moorish pipe.”

Cortes rode the black horse which he had ridden at the siege of Mexico.
Fortune appeared to smile upon him.  He had just added an enormous empire
to the Spanish crown, and proved himself one of the most consummate
generals of his age.  Yet he was on the verge of the great misfortune of
his life, which at the same time was to prove him still a finer leader
than he had been, even in Mexico.

His black horse also was about to play the most extraordinary _rôle_ that
ever horse has played in the whole history of the world.

With varying fortunes, now climbing mountains, now floundering in swamps,
and again passing rivers over which they had to throw bridges, the
expedition came to an open country, well watered, and the home of
countless herds of deer.  Villagutierre, in his _History of the Conquest
of the Province of Itza_ (Madrid, 1701), calls it the country of the
Maçotecas, which name Bernal Diaz del Castillo says means “deer” in the
language of those infidels.  Fresh meat was scarce, and all the Spanish
horsemen of those days were experts with the lance.  Instantly Cortes and
all his mounted officers set out to chase the deer.  The weather was
extraordinarily hot, hotter, so Diaz says, than they had had it since
they left Mexico.  The deer were all so tame that the horsemen speared
them as they chose (_los alancearon muy á su placer_), and soon the plain
was strewed with dying animals just as it used to be when the Indians
hunted buffalo thirty or forty years ago.

Diaz says that the reason for the tameness of the deer was that the
Maçotecas (here he applies the word to the Indians themselves) worshipped
them as gods.  It appears that their Chief God had once appeared in the
image of a stag, and told the Indians not to hunt his fellow-gods, or
even frighten them.  Little enough the Spaniards cared for any gods not
strong enough to defend themselves, for the deity that they adored was
the same God of Battles whom we adore to-day.

So they continued spearing the god-like beasts, regardless of the heat
and that their horses were in poor condition owing to their long march.
The horse of one Palacios Rubio, a relation of Cortes, fell dead,
overcome with the great heat; the grease inside him melted, Villagutierre
says.  The black horse that was ridden by Cortes also was very ill,
although he did not die—though it perhaps had been better that he should
have died, for Villagutierre thinks “far less harm would have been done
than happened afterwards, as will be seen by those who read the tale.”
After the hunting all was over, the line of march led over stony hills,
and through a pass that Villagutierre calls “el Paso del Alabastro,” and
Diaz “La Sierra de los Pedernales” (flints).  Here the horse that had
been ill, staked itself in a forefoot, and this, as Villagutierre says,
was the real reason that Cortes left him behind.  He adds, “It does not
matter either way, whether he was left because his grease was melted with
the sun, or that his foot was staked.”  This, of course, is true, and
anyhow the horse was reserved for a greater destiny than ever fell to any
of his race.

Cortes, in his fifth letter to the Emperor Charles V., says simply, “I
was obliged to leave my black horse (_mi caballo morzillo_) with a
splinter in his foot.”  He takes no notice of the melting of the grease.
“The Chief promised to take care of him, but I do not know that he will
succeed or what he will do with him.”

He told the Chief that he would send to fetch the horse, for he was very
fond of him, and prized him very much.  The Chief, no doubt, received the
strange and terrible animal with due respect, and Cortes went on upon his
way.  That is all that Cortes says about the matter, and the mist of
history closed upon him and on his horse.  Cortes died, worn-out and
broken-hearted, at the white little town of Castilleja de la Cuesta, not
far from Seville; but El Morzillo had a greater destiny in store.  This
happened in the year 1525, and nothing more was heard of either the
Maçotecas or the horse, after that passage in the fifth letter of Cortes,
till 1697.  In that year the Franciscans set out upon the gospel trail to
convert the Indians of Itza, attached to the expedition that Ursua led,
for the interior of Yucatan had never been subdued.  They reached Itza,
having come down the River Tipu in canoes.

This river, Villagutierre informs us, is as large as any river in all
Spain.  Moreover, it is endowed with certain properties, its water being
good and clear, so that in some respects it is superior to the water even
of the Tagus.  It is separated into one hundred and ninety channels
(neither more nor less), and every one of these has its right Indian
name, that every Indian knows.  Upon its banks grows much sarsaparilla,
and in its sand is gold.

Beyond all this it has a hidden virtue, which is that taken (fasting) it
cures the dropsy, and makes both sick and sound people eat heartily.
Besides this, after eating, when you have drunk its water you are
inclined to eat again.

At midday it is cold, and warm at night, so warm that a steam rises from
it, just as it does when a kettle boils on the fire.  Other
particularities it has, which though they are not so remarkable, yet are
noteworthy.

Down this amazing river Ursua’s expedition navigated for twelve days in
their canoes till they came to a lake called Peten-Itza, in which there
was an island known as Tayasal.  All unknown to themselves, they had
arrived close to the place where long ago Cortes had left his horse.  Of
this they were in ignorance; the circumstance had been long forgotten,
and Cortes himself had become almost a hero of a bygone age even in
Mexico.

Fathers Orbieta and Fuensalida, monks of the Franciscan order, chosen
both for their zeal and for their knowledge of the Maya language, were
all agog to mark new sheep.  The Indians amongst whom they found
themselves were “ignorant even of the knowledge of the true faith.”
Moreover, since the conquest they had had no dealings with Europeans, and
were as primitive as they were at the time when Cortes had passed, more
than a hundred years ago.

One of the Chiefs, a man known as Isquin, when he first saw a horse,
“almost ran mad with joy and with astonishment.  Especially the
evolutions and the leaps it made into the air moved him to admiration,
and going down upon all fours he leaped about and neighed.”  Then, tired
with this practical manifestation of his joy and his astonishment, he
asked the Spanish name of the mysterious animal.  When he learned that it
was caballo, he forthwith renounced his name, and from that day this
silly infidel was known as Caballito.  Then when the soul-cleansing water
had been poured upon his head, he took the name of Pedro, and to his
dying day all the world called him “Don Pedro Caballito, for he was born
a Chief.”

This curious and pathetic little circumstance, by means of which a brand
was snatched red-hot from the eternal flames, lighted for those who have
deserved hell-fire by never having heard of it, might, one would think,
have shown the missionaries that the poor Indians were but children,
easier to lead than drive.

It only fired their zeal, and yet all their solicitude to save the
Indians’ souls was unavailing, and the hard-hearted savages, dead to the
advantages that baptism has ever brought with it, clave to their images.

The good Franciscans made several more attempts to move the people’s
hearts by preaching ceaselessly.  All failed, and then they went to
several islands in the lake, in one of which Father Orbieta hardly had
begun to preach, when, as Lopez Cogulludo {114a} tells us, an Indian
seized him by the throat and nearly strangled him, leaving him senseless
on the ground.

At times, seated in church listening to what the Elizabethans called “a
painful preacher,” even the elect have felt an impulse to seize him by
the throat.  Still, it is usually restrained; but these poor savages,
undisciplined in body and in mind, were perhaps to be excused, for the
full flavour of a sermon had never reached them in their Eden by the
lake.  Moreover, after he was thus rudely cast from the pulpit to the
ground, Father Fuensalida, nothing daunted by his fate, stepped forward
and took up his parable.  He preached to them this time in their own
language, in which he was expert, with fervid eloquence and great
knowledge of the Scriptures, {114b} explaining to them the holy mystery
of the incarnation of the eternal Word. {115}  The subject was well
chosen for a first attempt upon their hearts; but it, too, proved
unfruitful, and the two friars were forced to re-embark.

As the canoe in which they sat moved from the island and launched out
into the lake, the infidels who stood and watched them paddling were
moved to fury, and, rushing to the edge, stoned them whole-heartedly till
they were out of reach.

It is a wise precaution, and one that the “conquistadores” usually
observed, to have the spiritual well supported by the secular arm when
missionaries, instinct with zeal and not weighed down with too much
common sense, preach for the first time to the infidel.

This first reverse was but an incident, and by degrees the friars, this
time accompanied by soldiers, explored more of the islands in the lake.
At last they came to one called Tayasal, which was so full of idols that
they took twelve hours to burn and to destroy them all.

One island still remained to be explored, and in it was a temple with an
idol much reverenced by the Indians.  At last they entered it, and on a
platform about the height of a tall man they saw the figure of a horse
rudely carved out of stone.

The horse was seated on the ground resting upon his quarters, his hind
legs bent and his front feet stretched out.  The barbarous infidels
{116a} adored the abominable and monstrous beast under the name of
Tziunchan, God of the Thunder and the Lightning, and paid it reverence.
Even the Spaniards, who, as a rule, were not much given to inquiring into
the history of idols, but broke them instantly, _ad majorem Dei gloriam_,
were interested and amazed.  Little by little they learned the history of
the hippomorphous god, which had been carefully preserved.  It appeared
that when Cortes had left his horse, so many years ago, the Indians,
seeing he was ill, took him into a temple to take care of him.  Thinking
he was a reasoning animal, {116b} they placed before him fruit and
chickens, with the result that the poor beast—who, of course, was
reasonable enough in his own way—eventually died.

The Indians, terrified and fearful that Cortes would take revenge upon
them for the death of the horse that he had left for them to care for and
to minister to all his wants, before they buried him, carved a rude
statue in his likeness and placed it in a temple in the lake.

The devil, who, as Villagutierre observes, is never slack to take
advantage when he can, seeing the blindness and the superstition (which
was great) of those abominable idolaters, induced them by degrees to make
a God of the graven image they had made.  Their veneration grew with
time, just as bad weeds grow up in corn, as Holy Writ sets forth for our
example, and that abominable statue became the chiefest of their gods,
though they had many others equally horrible.

As the first horses that they saw were ridden by the Spaniards in the
chase of the tame deer, and many shots were fired, the Indians not
unnaturally connected the explosions and the flames less with the rider
than the horse.  Thus in the course of years the evolution of the great
god Tziunchan took place, and, as the missionaries said, these heathen
steeped in ignorance adored the work of their own hands.

Father Orbieta, not stopping to reflect that all of us adore what we have
made, but “filled with the spirit of the Lord and carried off with
furious zeal for the honour of our God,” {118} seized a great stone and
in an instant cast the idol down, then with a hammer he broke it into
bits.

When Father Orbieta had finished his work and thus destroyed one of the
most curious monuments of the New World, which ought to have been
preserved as carefully as if it had been carved by Praxiteles, “with the
ineffable and holy joy that filled him, his face shone with a light so
spiritual that it was something to praise God for and to view with
delight.”  Most foolish actions usually inspire their perpetrators with
delight, although their faces do not shine with spiritual joy when they
have done them; so when one reads the folly of this muddle-headed friar,
it sets one hoping that several of the stones went home upon his back as
he sat paddling the canoe.

The Indians broke into lamentations, exclaiming, “Death to him, he has
killed our God”; but were prevented from avenging his demise by the
Spanish soldiers who prudently had accompanied the friar.

Thus was the mystery of the eternal Word made manifest amongst the
Maçotecas, and a deity destroyed who for a hundred years and more had
done no harm to any one on earth . . . a thing unusual amongst Gods.



XI
MUDEJAR


BROWN, severe, and wall-girt, the stubborn city still held out.

Its proud traditions made it impossible for Zaragoza to capitulate
without a siege.  As in the days of Soult, when the heroic maid, the
_artillera_, as her countrymen call her with pride, when Palafox held up
the blood and orange banner in which float the lions and the castles of
Castille, the city answered shot for shot.

Fire spurted from the Moorish walls, built by the Beni Hud, who reigned
in Zaragoza, when still Sohail poured its protecting rays upon the land.
The bluish wreaths of smoke curled on the Ebro, running along the water
and enveloping the Coso as if in a mist.

A dropping rifle-fire crackled out from the ramparts, and above the
castle the red flag of the Intransigent-Republic shivered and fluttered
in the breeze.

The Torre-Nueva sprang from the middle of the town, just as a palm tree
rises from the desert sands.  It was built at the time when Moorish
artisans, infidel dogs who yet preserved the secrets of the East amongst
the Christians (may dogs defile their graves), had spent their science
and their love upon it.

Octagonal, and looking as if blown into the air by the magician’s art, it
leaned a little to one side, and, as the admiring inhabitants averred,
drawing their right hands open over their left arms, laughed at its rival
of Bologna and at every other tower on earth.

No finer specimen of the art known as Mudejar existed in all Spain.
Galleries cut it here and there; and ajimeces, the little horseshoe
windows divided by a marble pillar, loved of the Moors, which tradition
says they took from the rude openings in their tents of camel’s hair,
gave light to the inside.  Stages of inclined planes led to the top, so
gradual in their ascent that once a Queen of Spain had ridden up them to
admire the view over the Sierras upon her palfrey, or her donkey, for all
is one when treating of a queen, who of a certainty ennobles the animal
she deigns to ride upon.  Bold ajaracas, the patterns proper to the style
of architecture, stood up in high relief upon its sides, and near the
balustrade upon the top a band of bluish tiles relieved the brownness of
the brickwork and sparkled in the sun.  Sieges and time and storms, rain,
wind, and snow had spared it; even the neglect of centuries had left it
unimpaired—erect and elegant as a young Arab maiden carrying water from
the well.  Architects said that it inclined a little more each year, and
talked about subsidences; but they were foreigners, unused to the things
of Spain, and no one marked them; and the tower continued to be loved and
prized and to fall into disrepair.  On this occasion riflemen lined the
galleries, pouring a hot fire upon the attacking forces of the
Government.

Encamped upon the heights above Torero, the Governmental army held the
banks of the canal that gives an air of Holland to that part of the adust
and calcined landscape of Aragon.

The General’s quarters overlooked the town, and from them he could see
Santa Engracia, in whose crypt repose the bodies of the martyrs in an
atmosphere of ice, standing alone upon its little plaza, fringed by a
belt of stunted and ill-grown acacia trees.  The great cathedral, with
its domes, in which the shrine of the tutelary Virgin of the Pilar, the
Pilarica of the country folk, glittering with jewels and with silver
plate, is venerated as befits the abiding place on earth of the
miraculous figure sent direct from heaven, towered into the sky.

Churches and towers and convents, old castellated houses with their
overhanging eaves and coats-of-arms upon the doors, jewels of
architecture, memorials of the past, formed as it were a jungle wrought
in a warm brown stone.  Beyond the city towered the mountains that hang
over Huesca of the Bell.  Through them the Aragon has cut its roaring
passages towards Sobrarbe to the south.  Northwards they circle Jaca, the
virgin little city that beat off the Moors a thousand years ago, and
still once every year commemorates her prowess outside the walls, where
Moors and Christians fight again the unequal contest, into which St.
James, mounted upon his milk-white charger, had plunged and thrown the
weight of his right arm.  The light was so intense and African that on
the mountain sides each rock was visible, outlined as in a camera-lucida,
and as the artillery played upon the tower the effects of every salvo
showed up distinctly on the crumbling walls.  All round the Government’s
encampment stood groups of peasantry who had been impressed together with
their animals to bring provisions.  Wrapped in their brown and white
checked blankets, dressed in tight knee-breeches, short jackets, and grey
stockings, and shod with alpargatas—the canvas, hemp-soled sandals that
are fastened round the ankles with blue cords—they stood and smoked,
stolid as Moors, and as unfathomable as the deep mysterious corries of
their hills.

When the artillery thundered and the breaches in the walls grew daily
more apparent and more ominous, the country people merely smiled, for
they were sure the Pilarica would preserve the city; and even if she did
not, all Governments, republican or clerical, were the same to them.

All their ambition was to live quietly, each in his village, which to him
was the hub round which the world revolved.

So one would say, as they stood watching the progress of the siege:
“Chiquio, the sciences advance a bestiality, the Government in the
Madrids can hear each cannon-shot.  The sound goes on those wires that
stretch upon the posts we tie our donkeys to when we come into town. . . .”

Little by little the forces of the Government advanced, crossing the Ebro
at the bridge which spans it in the middle of the great double promenade
called the Coso, and by degrees drew near the walls.

The stubborn guerrilleros in the town contested every point of vantage,
fighting like wolves, throwing themselves with knives and scythes stuck
upright on long poles upon the troops.

So fought their grandfathers against the French, and so Strabo describes
their ancestors, adding, “The Spaniard is a taciturn, dark man, usually
dressed in black; he fights with a short sword, and always tries to come
to close grips with our legionaries.”

As happens in all civil wars, when brother finds himself opposed to
brother, the strife was mortal, and he who fell received no mercy from
the conqueror.

The riflemen upon the Torre Nueva poured in their fire, especially upon
the Regiment of Pavia, whose Colonel, Don Luis Montoro, on several
occasions gave orders to the artillerymen at any cost to spare the tower.

Officer after officer fell by his side, and soldiers in the ranks cursed
audibly, covering the saints with filth, as runs the phrase in Spanish,
and wondering why their Colonel did not dislodge the riflemen who made
such havoc in their files.  Discipline told at last, and all the
Intransigents were forced inside the walls, leaving the moat with but a
single plank to cross it by which to reach the town.  Upon the plank the
fire was concentrated from the walls, and the besiegers stood for a space
appalled, sheltering themselves as best they could behind the trees and
inequalities of the ground.

Montoro called for volunteers, and one by one three grizzled soldiers,
who had grown grey in wars against the Moors, stepped forward and fell
pierced with a dozen wounds.

After a pause there was a movement in the ranks, and with a sword in his
right hand, and in his left the colours of Castille, his brown stuff gown
tucked up showing his hairy knees knotted and muscular, out stepped a
friar, and strode towards the plank.  Taking the sword between his teeth
he crossed himself, and beckoning on the men, rushed forward in the
thickest of the fire.

He crossed in safety, and then the regiment, with a hoarse shout of “Long
live God,” dashed on behind him, some carrying planks and others crossing
upon bales of straw, which they had thrown into the moat.  Under the
walls they formed and rushed into the town, only to find each house a
fortress and each street blocked by a barricade.  From every window dark
faces peered, and a continual fusillade was poured upon them, whilst from
the house-tops the women showered down tiles.

Smoke filled the narrow streets, and from dark archways groups of
desperate men came rushing, armed with knives, only to fall in heaps
before the troops who, with fixed bayonets, steadily pushed on.

A shift of wind cleared off the smoke and showed the crimson flag still
floating from the citadel, ragged and torn by shots.  Beyond the town
appeared the mountains peeping out shyly through the smoke, as if they
looked down on the follies of mankind with a contemptuous air.

Dead bodies strewed the streets, in attitudes half tragical, half
ludicrous, some looking like mere bundles of old clothes, and some
distorted with a stiff arm still pointing to the sky.

Right in the middle of a little square the friar lay shot through the
forehead, his sword beside him, and with the flag clasped tightly to his
breast.

His great brown eyes stared upwards, and as the soldiers passed him some
of them crossed themselves, and an old sergeant spoke his epitaph: “This
friar,” he said, “was not of those fit only for the Lord; he would have
made a soldier, and a good one; may God have pardoned him.”

Driven into the middle plaza of the town, the Intransigents fought till
the last, selling their lives for more than they were worth, and dying
silently.

The citadel was taken with a rush, and the red flag hauled down.

Bugles rang out from the other angle of the plaza; the General and his
staff rode slowly forward to meet the Regiment of Pavia as it debouched
into the square.

Colonel Montoro halted, and then, saluting, advanced towards his chief.
His General, turning to him, angrily exclaimed, “Tell me, why did you let
those fellows in the tower do so much damage, when a few shots from the
field guns would have soon finished them?”

Montoro hesitated, and recovering his sword once more saluted as his
horse fretted on the curb, snorting and sidling from the dead bodies that
were strewed upon the ground.

“My General,” he said, “not for all Spain and half the Indies would I
have trained the cannon on the tower; it is Mudejar of the purest
architecture.”

His General smiled at him a little grimly, and saying, “Well, after all,
this is no time to ask accounts from any man,” touched his horse with the
spur and, followed by his staff, he disappeared into the town.



XII
A MINOR PROPHET


THE city sweltered in the August heat.  No breath of air lifted the pall
of haze that wrapped the streets, the houses, and the dark group of
Græco-Roman buildings that stands up like a rock in the dull tide-way of
the brick-built tenements that compose the town.

Bells pealed at intervals, summoning the fractioned faithful to their
various centres of belief.

When they had ceased and all the congregations were assembled listening
to the exhortations of their spiritual advisers, and were employed
fumbling inside their purses, as they listened, for the destined
“threepenny,” that obolus which gives respectability to alms, the silence
was complete.  Whitey-brown paper bags, dropped overnight, just stirred
occasionally as the air swelled their bellies, making them seem alive, or
as alive as is a jelly-fish left stranded by the tide.

Just as the faithful were assembled in their conventicles adoring the
same Deity, all filled with rancour against one another because their
methods of interpretation of the Creator’s will were different, so did
the politicians and the cranks of every sort and sect turn out to push
their methods of salvation for mankind.  In groups they gathered round
the various speakers who discoursed from chairs and carts and points of
vantage on the streets.

Above the speakers’ heads, banners, held up between two poles, called on
the audiences to vote for Liberal or for Tory, for Poor Law Reform, for
Social Purity, and for Temperance.  Orators, varying from well-dressed
and glibly-educated hacks from party centres, to red-faced working-men,
held forth perspiring, and occasionally bedewing those who listened to
them with saliva, after an emphatic burst.

It seemed so easy after listening to them to redress all wrongs, smooth
out all wrinkles, and instate each citizen in his own shop where he could
sell his sweated goods, with the best advantage to himself and with the
greatest modicum of disadvantage to his neighbour, that one was left
amazed at the dense apathy of those who did not fall in with the nostrums
they had heard.  Again, at other platforms, sleek men in broadcloth, who
had never seen a plough except at Agricultural Exhibitions, nor had got
on closer terms of friendship with a horse than to be bitten by him as
they passed along a street, discoursed upon the land.

“My friends, I say, the land is a fixed quantity, you can’t increase it,
and without it, it’s impossible to live.  ’Ow is it, then, that all the
land of England is in so few hands?”  He paused and mopped his face, and
looking round, began again: “Friends—you’ll allow me to style you
Friends, I know, Friends in the sycred cause of Liberty—the landed
aristocracy is our enemy.

“I am not out for confiscation, why should I?  I ’ave my ’ome purchased
with the fruits of my own hhonest toil . . .”

Before he could conclude his sentence, a dock labourer, dressed in his
Sunday suit of shoddy serge, check shirt, and black silk handkerchief
knotted loosely round his neck, looked up, and interjected: “’Ard work,
too, mate, that ’ere talkin’ in the sun is, that built your ’ome.  Beats
coal whippin’.”

Just for an instant the orator was disconcerted as a laugh ran through
the audience; but habit, joined to a natural gift of public speaking,
came to his aid, and he rejoined: “Brother working-men, I say ditto to
what has fallen from our friend ’ere upon my right.  We all are
working-men.  Some of us, like our friend, work with their ’ands, and
others with their ’eds.  In either case, the Land is what we ’ave to get
at as an article of prime necessity.”

Rapidly he sketched a state of things in which a happy population, drawn
from the slums, but all instinct with agricultural knowledge, would be
settled on the land, each on his little farm, and all devoted to
intensive culture in the most modern form.  Trees would be all cut down,
because they only “’arbour” birds that eat the corn.  Hedges would all be
extirpated, for it is known to every one that mice and rats and animals
of every kind live under them, and that they only serve to shelter game.
Each man would own a gun and be at liberty to kill a “rabbut” or a
“’are”—“animals, as we say at college, _feery naturrey_, and placed by
Providence upon the land.”

These noble sentiments evoked applause, which was a little mitigated by
an interjection from a man in gaiters, with a sunburnt face, of: “Mister,
if every one is to have a gun and shoot, ’ow long will these ’ere ’ares
and rabbuts last?”

A little farther on, as thinly covered by his indecently transparent veil
of reciprocity as a bare-footed dancer in her Grecian clothes, or a tall
ostrich under an inch of sand, and yet as confident as either of them
that the essential is concealed, a staunch Protectionist discoursed.
With copious notes, to which he turned at intervals, when he appealed to
those statistics which can be made in any question to fit every side, he
talked of loss of trade.  “Friends, we must tax the foreigner.  It is
this way, you see, our working classes have to compete with other
nations, all of which enjoy protective duties.  I ask you, is it
reasonable that we should let a foreign article come into England?”

Here a dour-looking Scotsman almost spat out the words: “Man, can ye no
juist say Great Britain?” and received a bow and “Certainly, my friend, I
am not here to wound the sentiments of any man . . . as I was saying, is
it reasonable that goods should come to England . . . I mean Great
Britain, duty free, and yet articles we manufacture have to pay heavy
duties in any foreign port?”

“’Ow about bread?” came from a voice upon the outskirts of the crowd.

The speaker reddened, and resumed: “My friend, man doth not live by bread
alone; still, I understand the point.  A little dooty upon corn, say five
shillings in the quarter, would not hurt any one.  We’ve got to do it.
The foreigner is the enemy.  I am a Christian; but yet, readin’ as I
often do the Sermon on the Mount, I never saw we had to lie down in the
dust and let ourselves be trampled on.

“Who are to be the inheritors of the earth?  Our Lord says, ‘Blessed are
the meek; they shall inherit it.’”

He paused, and was about to clinch his argument, when a tall Irishman,
after expectorating judiciously upon a vacant space between two
listeners, shot in: “Shure, then, the English are the meekest of the lot,
for they have got the greater part of it.”

At other gatherings Socialists held forth under the red flag.  “That
banner, comrades, which ’as braved a ’undred fights, and the mere sight
of which makes the Capitalistic bloodsucker tremble as he feels the time
approach when Lybor shall come into its inheritance and the Proletariat
shyke off its chaine and join ’ands all the world over, despizin’ ryce
and creed and all the artificial obstructions that a designin’
Priest-’ood and a blood-stained Plutocracy ’ave placed between them to
distract their attention from the great cause of Socialism, the great
cause that mykes us comrades . . . ’ere, keep off my ’oof, you blighter,
with your ammunition wagons. . . .”

Religionists of various sects, all with long hair and dressed in shabby
black, the Book either before them on a campaigning lectern or tucked
beneath one arm, called upon Christian men to dip their hands into the
precious blood and drink from the eternal fountain of pure water that is
to be found in the Apocalypse.  “Come to ’Im, come to ’Im, I say, my
friends, come straight; oh, it is joyful to belong to Jesus.  Don’t stop
for anything, come to ’Im now like little children. . . .  Let us sing a
’ymn.  You know it, most of you; but brother ’ere,” and as he spoke he
turned towards a pale-faced youth who held a bag to take the offertory,
that sacrament that makes the whole world kin, “will lead it for you.”

The acolyte cleared his throat raucously, and to a popular air struck up
the refrain of “Let us jump joyful on the road.”  Flat-breasted girls and
pale-faced boys took up the strain, and as it floated through the heavy
air, reverberating from the pile of public buildings, gradually all the
crowd joined in; shyly at first and then whole-heartedly, and by degrees
the vulgar tune and doggerel verses took on an air of power and dignity,
and when the hymn was finished, the tears stood in the eyes of
grimy-looking women and of red-faced men.  Then, with his bag, the
pale-faced hymn-leader went through the crowd, reaping a plenteous
harvest, all in copper, from those whose hearts had felt, but for a
moment, the full force of sympathy.

Suffragist ladies discussed upon “the Question,” shocking their hearers
as they touched on prostitution and divorce, and making even stolid
policemen, who stood sweating in their thick blue uniforms, turn their
eyes upon the ground.

After them, Suffragette girls bounded upon the cart, consigning fathers,
brothers, and the whole male section of mankind straight to perdition as
they held forth upon the Vote, that all-heal of the female politician,
who thinks by means of it to wipe out all those disabilities imposed upon
her by an unreasonable Nature and a male Deity, who must have worked
alone up in the Empyrean without the humanising influence of a wife.

Little by little the various groups dissolved, the speakers and their
friends forcing their “literatoor” upon the passers-by, who generally
appeared to look into the air a foot or two above their heads, as they
went homewards through the streets.

The Anarchists were the last to leave, a faithful few still congregating
around a youth in a red necktie who denounced the other speakers with
impartiality, averring that they were “humbugs every one of them,” and,
for his part, he believed only in dynamite, by means of which he hoped
some day to be able to devote “all the blood-suckers to destruction, and
thus to bring about the reign of brotherhood.”

The little knot of the elect applauded loudly, and the youth, catching
the policeman’s eye fixed on him, descended hurriedly from off the chair
on which he had been perorating, remarking that “it was time to be going
home to have a bit of dinner, as he was due to speak at Salford in the
evening.”

Slowly the square was emptied, the last group or two of people
disappearing into the mouths of the incoming streets just as a Roman
crowd must have been swallowed up in the vomitoria of an amphitheatre,
after a show of gladiators.

Torn newspapers and ends of cigarettes were the sole result of all the
rhetoric that had been poured out so liberally upon the assembled
thousands in the square.

Two or three street boys in their shirt-sleeves, bare-footed and
bare-headed, their trousers held up by a piece of string, played about
listlessly, after the fashion of their kind on Sunday in a manufacturing
town, when the life of the streets is dead, and when men’s minds are
fixed either upon the mysteries of the faith or upon beer, things in
which children have but little share.

The usual Sabbath gloom was creeping on the town and dinner-time
approaching, when from a corner of the square appeared a man advancing
rapidly.  He glanced about inquiringly, and for a moment a look of
disappointment crossed his face.  Mounting the steps that lead up to the
smoke-coated Areopagus, he stopped just for an instant, as if to draw his
breath and gather his ideas.  Decently dressed in shabby black, his
trousers frayed a little above the heels of his elastic-sided boots, his
soft felt hat that covered long but scanty hair just touched with grey,
he had an air as of a plaster figure set in the middle of a pond, as he
stood silhouetted against the background of the buildings, forlorn yet
resolute.

The urchins, who had gathered round him, had a look upon their faces as
of experienced critics at a play; that look of expectation and
subconscious irony which characterises all their kind at public
spectacles.

Their appearance, although calculated to appal a speaker broken to the
platform business, did not influence the man who stood upon the steps.
Taking off his battered hat, he placed it and his umbrella carefully upon
the ground.  A light, as of the interior fire that burned in the frail
tenement of flesh so fiercely that it illuminated his whole being, shone
in his mild blue eyes.  Clearing his throat, and after running his
nervous hands through his thin hair, he pitched his voice well forward,
as if the deserted square had been packed full of people prepared to hang
upon his words.  His voice, a little hoarse and broken during his first
sentences, gradually grew clearer, developing a strength quite
incommensurate with the source from which it came.

“My friends,” he said, causing the boys to grin and waking up the dozing
policeman, “I have a doctrine to proclaim.  Love only rules the world.
The Greek word _caritas_ in the New Testament should have been rendered
love.  Love suffereth long.  Love is not puffed up; love beareth all
things.  That is what the Apostle really meant to say.  Often within this
very square I have stood listening to the speeches, and have weighed them
in my mind.  It is not for me to criticise, only to advocate my own
belief.  Friends . . .”

As his voice had gathered strength, two or three working-men, attracted
by the sight of a man speaking to the air, surrounded but by the street
boys and the nodding policeman on his beat, had gathered round about.
Dressed in their Sunday clothes; well washed, and with the look as of
restraint that freedom from their accustomed toil often imparts to them
on Sunday, they listened stolidly, with that toleration that accepts all
doctrines, from that of highest Toryism down to Anarchy, and acts on none
of them.  The speaker, spurred on by the unwonted sight of listeners, for
several draggled women had drawn near, and an ice-cream seller had
brought his donkey-cart up to the nearest curb-stone, once more launched
into his discourse.

“Friends, when I hear the acerbity of the address of some; when I hear
doctrines setting forth the rights but leaving out the duties of the
working class; when I hear men defend the sweater and run down the
sweated, calling them thriftless, idle, and intemperate, when often they
are but unfortunate, I ask myself, what has become of Love?  Who sees
more clearly than I do myself what the poor have to suffer?  Do I not
live amongst them and share their difficulties?  Who can divine better
than one who has imagination—and in that respect I thank my stars I have
not been left quite unendowed—what are the difficulties of those high
placed by fortune, who yet have got to strive to keep their place?

“Sweaters and sweated, the poor, the rich, men, women, children, all
mankind, suffer from want of Love.  I am not here to say that natural
laws will ever cease to operate, or that there will not be great
inequalities, if not of fortune, yet of endowments, to the end of Time.
What the Great Power who sent us here intended, only He can tell.  One
thing He placed within the grasp of every one, capacity to love.  Think,
friends, what England might become under the reign of universal love.
The murky fumes that now defile the landscape, the manufactories in which
our thousands toil for others, the rivers vile with refuse, the knotted
bodies and the faces scarcely human in their abject struggle for their
daily bread, would disappear.  Bradford and Halifax and Leeds would once
again be fair and clean.  The ferns would grow once more in Shipley Glen,
and in the valleys about Sheffield the scissor-grinders would ply their
trade upon streams bright and sparkling, as they were of yore.  In
Halifax, the Roman road, now black with coal-dust and with mud, would
shine as well-defined as it does where now and then it crops out from the
ling upon the moors, just as the Romans left it polished by their
caligulæ.  Why, do you ask me?  Because all sordid motives would be gone,
and of their superfluity the rich would give to those less blessed by
Providence.  The poor would grudge no one the gifts of fortune, and thus
the need for grinding toil would disappear, as the struggle and the
strain for daily bread would fade into the past.

“Picture to yourselves, my friends, an England once more green and merry,
with the air fresh and not polluted by the smoke of foetid towns.

“’Tis pleasant, friends, on a spring morning to hear the village bells
calling to church, even although they do not call you to attend.  It
heals the soul to see the honeysuckle and the eglantine and smell the
new-mown hay. . . .

“Then comes a chill when on your vision rises the England of the
manufacturing town, dark, dreary, and befouled with smoke.  How different
it might be in the perpetual May morning I have sketched for you.

“Love suffereth all things, endureth all things, createth all things. . . .”

He paused, and, looking round, saw he was all alone.  The boys had stolen
away, and the last workman’s sturdy back could be just seen as it was
vanishing towards the public-house.

The speaker sighed, and wiped the perspiration from his forehead with a
soiled handkerchief.

Then, picking up his hat and his umbrella, a far-off look came into his
blue eyes as he walked homewards almost jauntily, conscious that the
inner fire had got the better of the fleshly tenement, and that his work
was done.



XIII
EL MASGAD


THE camp was pitched upon the north bank of the Wad Nefis, not far from
Tamoshlacht.  Above it towered the Atlas, looking like a wall, with
scarce a peak to break its grim monotony.  A fringe of garden lands
enclosed the sanctuary, in which the great Sherif lived in patriarchal
style; half saint, half warrior, but wholly a merchant at the bottom, as
are so many Arabs; all his surroundings enjoyed peculiar sanctity.

In the long avenue of cypresses the birds lived safely, for no one dared
to frighten them, much less to fire a shot.  His baraka, that is the
grace abounding, that distils from out the clothes, the person and each
action of men such as the Sherif, who claim descent in apostolic
continuity from the Blessed One, Mohammed, Allah’s own messenger,
protected everything.  Of a mean presence, like the man who stood upon
the Areopagus and beckoned with his hand, before he cast the spell of his
keen, humoristic speech upon the Greeks, the holy one was of a middle
stature.  His face was marked with smallpox.  His clothes were dirty, and
his haik he sometimes mended with a thorn, doubling it, and thrusting one
end through a slit to form a safety-pin.  His shoes were never new, his
turban like an old bath towel; yet in his belt he wore a dagger with a
gold hilt, for he was placed so far above the law, by virtue of his
blood, that though the Koran especially enjoins the faithful not to wear
gold, all that he did was good.

Though he drank nothing but pure water, or, for that matter, lapped it
like a camel, clearing the scum off with his fingers if on a journey, he
might have drank champagne or brandy, or mixed the two of them, for the
Arabs are the most logical of men, and to them such a man as the Sherif
is holy, not from anything he does, but because Allah has ordained it.
An attitude of mind as good as any other, and one that, after all, makes
a man tolerant of human frailties.

Allah gives courage, virtue, eloquence, or skill in horsemanship.  He
gives or he withholds them for his good pleasure; what he has written he
has written, and therefore he who is without these gifts is not held
blamable.  If he should chance to be a saint, that is a true descendant,
in the male line, from him who answered nobly when his foolish followers
asked him if his young wife, Ayesha, should sit at his right hand in
paradise, “By Allah, not she; but old Kadijah, she who when all men
mocked me, cherished and loved, she shall sit at my right hand,” that is
enough for them.

So the Sherif was honoured, partly because he had great jars stuffed with
gold coin, the produce of his olive yards, and also of the tribute that
the faithful brought him; partly because of his descent; and perhaps,
more than all, on account of his great store of Arab lore on every
subject upon earth.  His fame was great, extending right through the Sus,
the Draa, and down to Tazaûelt, where it met the opposing current of the
grace of Bashir-el-Biruk, Sherif of the Wad-Nun.  He liked to talk to
Europeans, partly to show his learning, and partly to hear about the
devilries they had invented to complicate their lives.

So when the evening prayer was called, and all was silent in his house,
the faithful duly prostrate on their faces before Allah, who seems to
take as little heed of them as he does of the other warring sects, each
with its doctrine of damnation for their brethren outside the pale, the
Sherif, who seldom prayed, knowing that even if he did so he could
neither make nor yet unmake himself in Allah’s sight, called for his
mule, and with two Arabs running by his side set out towards the
unbeliever’s camp.

Though the Sherif paid no attention to it, the scene he rode through was
like fairyland.  The moonbeams falling on the domes of house and mosque
and sanctuary lit up the green and yellow tiles, making them sparkle like
enamels.  Long shadows of the cypresses cast great bands of darkness upon
the red sand of the avenue.  The croaking of the frogs sounded metallic,
and by degrees resolved itself into a continuous tinkle, soothing and
musical, in the Atlas night.  Camels lay ruminating, their monstrous
packs upon their backs.  As the Sherif passed by them on his mule they
snarled and bubbled, and a faint odour as of a menagerie, mingled with
that of tar, with which the Arabs cure their girth and saddle galls,
floated towards him, although no doubt custom had made it so familiar
that he never heeded it.

From the Arab huts that gather around every sanctuary, their owners
living on the baraka, a high-pitched voice to the accompaniment of a
two-stringed guitar played with a piece of stiff palmetto leaf, and the
monotonous Arab drum, that if you listen to it long enough invades the
soul, blots from the mind the memory of towns, and makes the hearer long
to cast his hat into the sea and join the dwellers in the tents, blended
so inextricably with the shrill cricket’s note and the vast orchestra of
the insects that were praising Allah on that night, each after his own
fashion, that it was difficult to say where the voice ended and the
insects’ hum began.

Still, in despite of all, the singing Arab, croaking of the frogs, and
the shrill pæans of the insects, the night seemed calm and silent, for
all the voices were attuned so well to the surroundings that the serenity
of the whole scene was unimpaired.

The tents lay in the moonlight like gigantic mushrooms; the rows of
bottles cut in blue cloth with which the Arabs ornament them stood out
upon the canvas as if in high relief.  The first light dew was falling,
frosting the canvas as a piece of ice condenses air upon a glass.  In a
long line before the tents stood the pack animals munching their corn
placed on a cloth upon the ground.

A dark-grey horse, still with his saddle on for fear of the night air,
was tied near to the door of the chief tent, well in his owner’s eye.
Now and again he pawed the ground, looked up, and neighed, straining upon
the hobbles that confined his feet fast to the picket line.

On a camp chair his owner sat and smoked, and now and then half got up
from his seat when the horse plunged or any of the mules stepped on their
shackles and nearly fell upon the ground.

As the Sherif approached he rose to welcome him, listening to all the
reiterated compliments and inquiries that no self-respecting Arab ever
omits when he may chance to meet a friend.

A good address, like mercy, is twice blest, both in the giver and in the
recipient of it; but chiefly it is beneficial to the giver, for in
addition to the pleasure that he gives, he earns his own respect.  Well
did both understand this aspect of the question, and so the compliments
stretched out into perspectives quite unknown in Europe, until the host,
taking his visitor by the hand, led him inside the tent.  “Ambassador,”
said the Sherif, although he knew his friend was but a Consul, “my heart
yearned towards thee, so I have come to talk with thee of many things,
because I know that thou art wise, not only in the learning of thy
people, but in that of our own.”

The Consul, not knowing what the real import of the visit might portend,
so to speak felt his adversary’s blade, telling him he was welcome, and
that at all times his tent and house were at the disposition of his
friend.  Clapping his hands he called for tea, and when it came, the
little flowered and gold-rimmed glasses, set neatly in a row, the red tin
box with two compartments, one for the tea and one for the blocks of
sugar, the whole surrounding the small dome-shaped pewter teapot, all
placed in order on the heavy copper tray, he waved the equipage towards
the Sherif, tacitly recognising his superiority in the art of tea-making.
Seated beside each other on a mattress they drank the sacramental three
cups of tea, and then, after the Consul had lit his cigarette, the Sherif
having refused one with a gesture of his hand and a half-murmured
“Haram”—that is, “It is prohibited”—they then began to talk.

Much had they got to say about the price of barley and the drought; of
tribal fights; of where our Lord the Sultan was, and if he had reduced
the rebels in the hills,—matters that constitute the small talk of the
tents, just as the weather and the fashionable divorce figure in
drawing-rooms.  Knowing what was expected of him, the Consul touched on
European politics, upon inventions, the progress that the French had made
upon the southern frontier of Algeria; and as he thus unpacked his news
with due prolixity, the Sherif now and again interjected one or another
of those pious phrases, such as “Allah is merciful,” or “God’s ways are
wonderful,” which at the same time show the interjector’s piety, and give
the man who is discoursing time to collect himself, and to prepare
another phrase.

After a little conversation languished, and the two men who knew each
other well sat listlessly, the Consul smoking and the Sherif passing the
beads of a cheap wooden rosary between the fingers of his right hand,
whilst with his left he waved a cotton pocket handkerchief to keep away
the flies.

Looking up at his companion, “Consul,” he said, for he had now dropped
the Ambassador with which he first had greeted him, “you know us well,
you speak our tongue; even you know Shillah, the language of the accursed
Berbers, and have translated Sidi Hammo into the speech of Nazarenes-I
beg your pardon—of the Rumi,” for he had seen a flush rise on the
Consul’s cheek.

“You like our country, and have lived in it for more than twenty years.
I do not speak to you about our law, for every man cleaves to his own,
but of our daily life.  Tell me now, which of the two makes a man
happier, the law of Sidna Aissa, or that of our Prophet, God’s own
Messenger?”

He stopped and waited courteously, playing with his naked toes, just as a
European plays with his fingers in the intervals of speech.

The Consul sent a veritable solfatara of tobacco smoke out of his mouth
and nostrils, and laying down his cigarette returned no answer for a
little while.

Perchance his thoughts were wandering towards the cities brilliant with
light—the homes of science and of art.  Cities of vain endeavour in which
men pass their lives thinking of the condition of their poorer brethren,
but never making any move to get down off their backs.  He thought of
London and of Paris and New York, the dwelling-places both of law and
order, and the abodes of noise.  He pondered on their material
advancement: their tubes that burrow underneath the ground, in which run
railways carrying their thousands all the day and far into the night;
upon their hospitals, their charitable institutions, their legislative
assemblies, and their museums, with their picture-galleries, their
theatres—on the vast sums bestowed to forward arts and sciences, and on
the poor who shiver in their streets and cower under railway arches in
the dark winter nights.

As he sat with his cigarette smouldering beside him in a little brazen
pan, the night breeze brought the heavy scent of orange blossoms, for it
was spring, and all the gardens of the sanctuary each had its orange
grove.  Never had they smelt sweeter, and never had the croaking of the
frogs seemed more melodious, or the cricket’s chirp more soothing to the
soul.

A death’s-head moth whirred through the tent, poising itself, just as a
humming-bird hangs stationary probing the petals of a flower.  The gentle
murmur of its wings brought back the Consul’s mind from its excursus in
the regions of reality, or unreality, for all is one according to the
point of view.

“Sherif,” he said, “what you have asked me I will answer to the best of
my ability.

“Man’s destiny is so precarious that neither your law nor our own appear
to me to influence it, or at the best but slightly.

“One of your learned Talebs, or our men of science, as they call
themselves, with the due modesty of conscious worth, is passing down a
street, and from a house-top slips a tile and falls upon his head.  There
he lies huddled up, an ugly bundle of old clothes, inert and shapeless,
whilst his immortal soul leaves his poor mortal body, without which all
its divinity is incomplete; then perhaps after an hour comes back again,
and the man staggering to his feet begins to talk about God’s attributes,
or about carrying a line of railroad along a precipice.”

The Sherif, who had been listening with the respect that every well-bred
Arab gives to the man who has possession of the word, said, “It was so
written.  The man could not have died or never could have come to life
again had it not been Allah’s will.”

His friend smiled grimly and rejoined, “That is so; but as Allah never
manifests his will, except in action, just as we act towards a swarm of
ants, annihilating some and sparing others as we pass, it does not matter
very much what Allah thinks about, as it regards ourselves.”

“When I was young,” slowly said the Sherif, “whilst in the slave trade
far away beyond the desert, I met the pagan tribes.

“They had no God . . . like Christians. . .  Pardon me, I know you know
our phrase: nothing but images of wood.

“Those infidels, who, by the way, were just as apt at a good bargain as
if their fathers all had bowed themselves in Christian temple or in
mosque, when they received no answer to their prayers, would pull their
accursed images down from their shrines, paint them jet black, and hang
them from a nail.

“Heathens they were, ignorant even of the name of God, finding their
heaven and their hell here upon earth, just like the animals, but . . .
sometimes I have thought not quite bereft of reason, for they had not the
difficulties you have about the will of Allah and the way in which he
works.

“They made their gods themselves, just as we do,” and as he spoke he
lowered his voice and peered out of the tent door; “but wiser than
ourselves they kept a tight hand on them, and made their will, as far as
possible, coincide with their own.

“It is the hour of prayer. . . .

“How pleasantly the time passes away conversing with one’s friends”; and
as he spoke he stood erect, turning towards Mecca, as mechanically as the
needle turns towards the pole.

His whole appearance altered and his mean presence suffered a subtle
change.  With eyes fixed upon space, and hands uplifted, he testified to
the existence of the one God, the Compassionate, the Merciful, the
Bounteous, the Generous One, who alone giveth victory.

Then, sinking down, he laid his forehead on the ground, bringing his
palms together.  Three times he bowed himself, and then rising again upon
his feet recited the confession of his faith.

The instant he had done he sat him down again; but gravely and with the
air of one who has performed an action, half courteous, half obligatory,
but refreshing to the soul.

The Consul, who well knew his ways, and knew that probably he seldom
prayed at home, and that the prayers he had just seen most likely were a
sort of affirmation of his neutral attitude before a stranger, yet was
interested.

Then, when the conversation was renewed, he said to him, “Prayer seems to
me, Sherif, to be the one great difference between the animals and man.

“As to the rest, we live and die, drink, eat, and propagate our species,
just as they do; but no one ever heard of any animal who had addressed
himself to God.”

A smile flitted across the pock-marked features of the descendant of the
Prophet, and looking gravely at his friend,—

“Consul,” he said, “Allah to you has given many things.  He has endowed
you with your fertile brains, that have searched into forces which had
remained unknown in nature since the sons of Adam first trod the surface
of the earth.  All that you touch you turn to gold, and as our saying
goes, ‘Gold builds a bridge across the sea.’

“Ships, aeroplanes, cannons of monstrous size, and little instruments by
which you see minutest specks as if they were great rocks; all these you
have and yet you doubt His power.

“To us, the Arabs, we who came from the lands of fire in the Hejaz and
Hadramut.  We who for centuries have remained unchanged, driving our
camels as our fathers drove them, eating and drinking as our fathers ate
and drank, and living face to face with God. . . .  Consu’, you should
not smile, for do we not live closer to Him than you do, under the stars
at night, out in the sun by day, our lives almost as simple as the lives
of animals?  To us He has vouchsafed gifts that He either has withheld
from you, or that you have neglected in your pride.

“Thus we still keep our faith. . . .  Faith in the God who set the
planets in their courses, bridled the tides, and caused the palm to grow
beside the river so that the traveller may rest beneath its shade, and
resting, praise His name.

“You ask me, who ever heard of any animal that addressed himself to God.
He in His infinite power . . . be sure of it . . . is He not merciful and
compassionate, wonderful in His ways, harder to follow than the track
that a gazelle leaves in the desert sands; it cannot be that He could
have denied them access to His ear?

“Did not the lizard, Consul . . ., Hamed el Angri, the runner, the man
who never can rest long in any place, but must be ever tightening his
belt and pulling up his slippers at the heel to make ready for the road
. . ., did he not tell you of El Hokaitsallah, the little lizard who, being
late upon the day when Allah took away speech from all the animals, ran
on the beam in the great mosque at Mecca, and dumbly scratched his
prayer?”

The Consul nodded.  “Hamed el Angri,” he said, “no doubt is still upon
the road, by whose side he will die one day of hunger or of thirst. . . .
Yes; he told me of it, and I wrote it in a book. . . .”

“Write this, then,” the Sherif went on, “Allah in his compassion, and in
case the animals, bereft of speech, that is in Arabic, for each has his
own tongue, should not be certain of the direction of the Kiblah, has
given the power to a poor insect which we call El Masgad to pray for all
of them.  With its head turned to Mecca, as certainly as if he had the
needle of the mariners, he prays at El Magreb.

“All day he sits erect and watches for his prey.  At eventide, just at
the hour of El Magreb, when from the ‘alminares’ of the Mosques the
muezzin calls upon the faithful for their prayers, he adds his testimony.

“Consu’, Allah rejects no prayer, however humble, and that the little
creature knows.  He knows that Allah does not answer every prayer; but
yet the prayer remains; it is not blotted out, and perhaps some day it
may fructify, for it is written in the book.

“Therefore El Masgad prays each night for all the animals, yet being but
a little thing and simple, it has not strength to testify at all the
hours laid down in Mecca by our Lord Mohammed, he of the even teeth, the
curling hair, and the grave smile, that never left his face after he had
communed with Allah in the cave.”

The Consul dropped his smoked-out cigarette, and, stretching over to his
friend, held out his hand to him.

“Sherif,” he said, “maybe El Masgad prays for you and me, as well as for
its kind?”

The answer came: “Consu’, doubt not; it is a little animal of God, . . .
we too are in His hand. . . .”



XIV
FEAST DAY IN SANTA MARIA MAYOR


THE great Capilla, the largest in the Jesuit Reductions of Paraguay, was
built round a huge square, almost a quarter of a mile across.

Upon three sides ran the low, continuous line of houses, like a “row” in
a Scotch mining village or a phalanstery designed by Prudhon or St. Simon
in their treatises; but by the grace of a kind providence never carried
out, either in bricks or stone.

Each dwelling-place was of the same design and size as all the rest.
Rough tiles made in the Jesuit times, but now weathered and broken,
showing the rafters tied with raw hide in many places, formed the long
roof, that looked a little like the pent-house of a tennis court.

A deep verandah ran in front, stretching from one end to the other of the
square, supported on great balks of wood, which, after more than two
hundred years and the assaults of weather and the all-devouring ants,
still showed the adze marks where they had been dressed.  The timber was
so hard that you could scarcely drive a nail into it, despite the flight
of time since it was first set up.  Rings fixed about six feet from the
ground were screwed into the pillars of the verandah, before every door,
to fasten horses to, exactly as they are in an old Spanish town.

Against the wall of almost every house, just by the door, was set a chair
or two of heavy wood, with the seat formed by strips of hide, on which
the hair had formerly been left, but long ago rubbed off by use, or eaten
by the ants.

The owner of the house sat with the back of the strong chair tilted
against the wall, dressed in a loose and pleated shirt, with a high
turned-down collar open at the throat, and spotless white duck trousers,
that looked the whiter by their contrast with his brown, naked feet.

His home-made palm-tree hat was placed upon the ground beside him, and
his cloak of coarse red baize was thrown back from his shoulders, as he
sat smoking a cigarette rolled in a maize leaf, for in the Jesuit
capillas only women smoked cigars.

At every angle of the square a sandy trail led out, either to the river
or the woods, the little patches planted with mandioca, or to the maze of
paths that, like the points outside a junction, eventually joined in one
main trail, that ran from Itapua on the Paraná, up to Asuncion.

The church, built of wood cut in the neighbouring forest, had two tall
towers, and followed in its plan the pattern of all the churches in the
New World built by the Jesuits, from California down to the smallest
mission in the south.  It filled the fourth side of the square, and on
each side of it there rose two feathery palms, known as the tallest in
the Missions, which served as landmarks for travellers coming to the
place, if they had missed their road.  So large and well-proportioned was
the church, it seemed impossible that it had been constructed solely by
the Indians themselves, under the direction of the missionaries.

The overhanging porch and flight of steps that ran down to the grassy
sward in the middle of the town gave it an air as of a cathedral reared
to nature in the wilds, for the thick jungle flowed up behind it and
almost touched its walls.

Bells of great size, either cast upon the spot or brought at vast expense
from Spain, hung in the towers.  On this, the feast day of the Blessed
Virgin, the special patron of the settlement, they jangled ceaselessly,
the Indians taking turns to haul upon the dried lianas that served
instead of ropes.  Though they pulled vigorously, the bells sounded a
little muffled, as if they strove in vain against the vigorous nature
that rendered any work of man puny and insignificant in the Paraguayan
wilds.

Inside, the fane was dark, the images of saints were dusty, their paint
was cracked, their gilding tarnished, making them look a little like the
figures in a New Zealand pah, as they loomed through the darkness of the
aisle.  On the neglected altar, for at that time priests were a rarity in
the Reductions, the Indians had placed great bunches of red flowers, and
now and then a humming-bird flitted in through the glassless windows and
hung poised above them; then darted out again, with a soft, whirring
sound.  Over the whole capilla, in which at one time several thousand
Indians had lived, but now reduced to seventy or eighty at the most,
there hung an air of desolation.  It seemed as if man, in his long
protracted struggle with the forces of the woods, had been defeated, and
had accepted his defeat, content to vegetate, forgotten by the world, in
the vast sea of green.

On this particular day, the annual festival of the Blessed Virgin, there
was an air of animation, for from far and near, from Jesuit capilla, from
straw-thatched huts lost in the clearings of the primeval forest, from
the few cattle ranches that then existed, and from the little town of
Itapua, fifty miles away, the scanty population had turned out to attend
the festival.

Upon the forest tracks, from earliest dawn, long lines of white-clad
women, barefooted, with their black hair cut square across the forehead
and hanging down their backs, had marched as silently as ghosts.  All of
them smoked great, green cigars, and as they marched along, their leader
carrying a torch, till the sun rose and jaguars went back to their lairs,
they never talked; but if a woman in the rear of the long line wished to
converse with any comrade in the front she trotted forward till she
reached her friend and whispered in her ear.  When they arrived at the
crossing of the little river they bathed, or, at the least, washed
carefully, and gathering a bunch of flowers, stuck them into their hair.
They crossed the stream, and on arriving at the plaza they set the
baskets, which they had carried on their heads, upon the ground, and
sitting down beside them on the grass, spread out their merchandise.
Oranges and bread, called “chipa,” made from mandioca flour and cheese,
with vegetables and various homely sweetmeats, ground nuts, rolls of
sugar done up in plaintain leaves, and known as “rapadura,” were the
chief staples of their trade.  Those who had asses let them loose to
feed; and if upon the forest trails the women had been silent, once in
the safety of the town no flight of parrots in a maize field could have
chattered louder than they did as they sat waiting by their wares.  Soon
the square filled, and men arriving tied their horses in the shade,
slackening their broad hide girths, and piling up before them heaps of
the leaves of the palm called “Pindó” in Guarani, till they were cool
enough to eat their corn.  Bands of boys, for in those days most of the
men had been killed off in the past war, came trooping in, accompanied by
crowds of women and of girls, who carried all their belongings, for there
were thirteen women to a man, and the youngest boy was at a premium
amongst the Indian women, who in the villages, where hardly any men were
left, fought for male stragglers like unchained tigresses.  A few old men
came riding in on some of the few native horses left, for almost all the
active, little, undersized breed of Paraguay had been exhausted in the
war.  They, too, had bands of women trotting by their sides, all of them
anxious to unsaddle, to take the horses down to bathe, or to perform any
small office that the men required of them.  All of them smoked
continuously, and each of them was ready with a fresh cigarette as soon
as the old man or boy whom they accompanied finished the stump he held
between his lips.  The women all were dressed in the long Indian shirt
called a “tupoi,” cut rather low upon the breast, and edged with coarse
black cotton lace, which every Paraguayan woman wore.  Their hair was as
black as a crow’s back, and quite as shiny, and their white teeth so
strong that they could tear the ears of corn out of a maize cob like a
horse munching at his corn.

Then a few Correntino gauchos next appeared, dressed in their national
costume of loose black merino trousers, stuffed into long boots, whose
fronts were all embroidered in red silk.  Their silver spurs, whose
rowels were as large as saucers, just dangled off their heels, only
retained in place by a flat chain, that met upon the instep, clasped with
a lion’s head.  Long hair and brown vicuna ponchos, soft black felt hats,
and red silk handkerchiefs tied loosely round their necks marked them as
strangers, though they spoke Guarani.

They sat upon their silver-mounted saddles, with their toes resting in
their bell-shaped stirrups, swaying so easily with every movement that
the word riding somehow or other seemed inapplicable to men who, like the
centaurs, formed one body with the horse.

As they drew near the plaza they raised their hands and touched their
horses with the spur, and, rushing like a whirlwind right to the middle
of the square, drew up so suddenly that their horses seemed to have
turned to statues for a moment, and then at a slow trot, that made their
silver trappings jingle as they went, slowly rode off into the shade.

The plaza filled up imperceptibly, and the short grass was covered by a
white-clad throng of Indians.  The heat increased, and all the time the
bells rang out, pulled vigorously by relays of Indians, and at a given
signal the people turned and trooped towards the church, all carrying
flowers in their hands.

As there was no one to sing Mass, and as the organ long had been
neglected, the congregation listened to some prayers, read from a book of
Hours by an old Indian, who pronounced the Latin, of which most likely he
did not understand a word, as if it had been Guarani.  They sang “Las
Flores á Maria” all in unison, but keeping such good time that at a
little distance from the church it sounded like waves breaking on a beach
after a summer storm.

In the neglected church, where no priest ministered or clergy prayed,
where all the stoops of holy water had for years been dry, and where the
Mass had been well-nigh forgotten as a whole, the spirit lingered, and if
it quickeneth upon that feast day in the Paraguayan missions, that simple
congregation were as uplifted by it as if the sacrifice had duly been
fulfilled with candles, incense, and the pomp and ceremony of Holy Mother
Church upon the Seven Hills.

As every one except the Correntinos went barefooted, the exit of the
congregation made no noise except the sound of naked feet, slapping a
little on the wooden steps, and so the people silently once again filled
the plaza, where a high wooden arch had been erected in the middle, for
the sport of running at the ring.

The vegetable sellers had now removed from the middle of the square,
taking all their wares under the long verandah, and several pedlars had
set up their booths and retailed cheap European trifles such as no one in
the world but a Paraguayan Indian could possibly require.  Razors that
would not cut, and little looking-glasses in pewter frames made in
Thuringia, cheap clocks that human ingenuity was powerless to repair when
they had run their course of six months’ intermittent ticking, and gaudy
pictures representing saints who had ascended to the empyrean, as it
appeared, with the clothes that they had worn in life, and all
bald-headed, as befits a saint, were set out side by side with
handkerchiefs of the best China silk.  Sales were concluded after
long-continued chaffering—that higgling of the market dear to old-time
economists, for no one would have bought the smallest article, even below
cost price, had it been offered to him at the price the seller originally
asked.

Enrique Clerici, from Itapua, had transported all his pulperia bodily for
the occasion of the feast.  It had not wanted more than a small wagon to
contain his stock-in-trade.  Two or three dozen bottles of square-faced
gin of the Anchor brand, a dozen of heady red wine from Catalonia, a pile
of sardine boxes, sweet biscuits, raisins from Malaga, esparto baskets
full of figs, and sundry pecks of apricots dried in the sun and cut into
the shape of ears, and hence called “orejones,” completed all his store.
He himself, tall and sunburnt, stood dressed in riding-boots and a broad
hat, with his revolver in his belt, beside a pile of empty bottles, which
he had always ready, to hurl at customers if there should be any attempt
either at cheating or to rush his wares.  He spoke the curious lingo,
half-Spanish, half-Italian, that so many of his countrymen use in the
River Plate; and all his conversation ran upon Garibaldi, with whom he
had campaigned in youth, upon Italia Irredenta, and on the time when
anarchy should sanctify mankind by blood, as he said, and bring about the
reign of universal brotherhood.

He did a roaring trade, despite the competition of a native Paraguayan,
who had brought three demi-johns of Caña, for men prefer the imported
article the whole world over, though it is vile, to native manufactures,
even when cheap and good.

Just about twelve o’clock, when the sun almost burned a hole into one’s
head, the band got ready in the church porch, playing upon old
instruments, some of which may have survived from Jesuit times, or, at
the least, been copied in the place, as the originals decayed.

Sackbuts and psalteries and shawms were there, with serpents, gigantic
clarionets, and curiously twisted oboes, and drums, whose canvas all hung
slack and gave a muffled sound when they were beaten, and little fifes,
ear-piercing and devilish, were represented in that band.  It banged and
crashed “La Palomita,” that tune of evil-sounding omen, for to its
strains prisoners were always ushered out to execution in the times of
Lopez, and as it played the players slowly walked down the steps.

Behind them followed the alcalde, an aged Indian, dressed in long cotton
drawers, that at the knees were split into a fringe that hung down to his
ankles, a spotless shirt much pleated, and a red cloak of fine merino
cloth.  In his right hand he carried a long cane with a silver head—his
badge of office.  Walking up to the door of his own house, by which was
set a table covered with glasses and with homemade cakes, he gave the
signal for the running at the ring.

The Correntino gauchos, two or three Paraguayans, and a German married to
a Paraguayan wife, were all who entered for the sport.  The band struck
up, and a young Paraguayan started the first course.  Gripping his
stirrups tightly between his naked toes, and seated on an old “recao,”
surmounted by a sheepskin, he spurred his horse, a wall-eyed skewbald,
with his great iron spurs, tied to his bare insteps with thin strips of
hide.  The skewbald, only half-tamed, reared once or twice and bounded
off, switching its ragged tail, which had been half-eaten off by cows.
The people yelled, a “mosqueador!”—that is, a “fly-flapper,” a grave
fault in a horse in the eyes of Spanish Americans—as the Paraguayan
steered the skewbald with the reins held high in his left hand, carrying
the other just above the level of his eyes, armed with a piece of cane
about a foot in length.

As he approached the arch, in which the ring dangled from a string, his
horse, either frightened by the shouting of the crowd or by the arch
itself, swerved and plunged violently, carrying its rider through the
thickest of the people, who separated like a flock of sheep when a dog
runs through it, cursing him volubly.  The German came the next, dressed
in his Sunday clothes, a slop-made suit of shoddy cloth, riding a horse
that all his spurring could not get into full speed.  The rider’s round,
fair face was burned a brick-dust colour, and as he spurred and plied his
whip, made out of solid tapir hide, the sweat ran down in streams upon
his coat.  So intent was he on flogging, that as he neared the ring he
dropped his piece of cane, and his horse, stopping suddenly just
underneath the arch, would have unseated him had he not clasped it round
the neck.  Shouts of delight greeted this feat of horsemanship, and one
tall Correntino, taking his cigarette out of his mouth, said to his
fellow sitting next to him upon his horse, “The very animals themselves
despise the gringos.  See how that little white-nosed brute that he was
riding knew that he was a ‘maturango,’ and nearly had him off.”

Next came Hijinio Rojas, a Paraguayan of the better classes, sallow and
Indian looking, dressed in clothes bought in Asuncion, his trousers
tucked into his riding-boots.  His small black hat, with the brim
flattened up against his head by the wind caused by the fury of the
gallop of his active little roan with four white feet, was kept upon his
head by a black ribbon knotted underneath his chin.  As he neared the
arch his horse stepped double several times and fly jumped; but that did
not disturb him in the least, and, aiming well he touched the ring,
making it fly into the air.  A shout went up, partly in Spanish, partly
in Guarani, from the assembled people, and Rojas, reining in his horse,
stopped him in a few bounds, so sharply, that his unshod feet cut up the
turf of the green plaza as a skate cuts the ice.  He turned and trotted
gently to the arch, and then, putting his horse to its top speed, stopped
it again beside the other riders, amid the “Vivas” of the crowd.  Then
came the turn of the four Correntinos, who rode good horses from their
native province, had silver horse-gear and huge silver spurs, that
dangled from their heels.  They were all gauchos, born, as the saying
goes, “amongst the animals.”  A dun with fiery eyes and a black stripe
right down his back, and with black markings on both hocks, a chestnut
skewbald, a “doradillo,” and a horse of that strange mealy bay with a
fern-coloured muzzle, that the gauchos call a “Pangaré,” carried them
just as if their will and that of those who rode them were identical.
Without a signal, visible at least to any but themselves, their horses
started at full speed, reaching occasionally at the bit, then dropping it
again and bridling so easy that one could ride them with a thread drawn
from a spider’s web.  Their riders sat up easily, not riding as a
European rides, with his eyes fixed upon each movement of his horse, but,
as it were, divining them as soon as they were made.  Each of them took
the ring, and all of them checked their horses, as it were, by their
volition, rather than the bit, making the silver horse-gear rattle and
their great silver spurs jingle upon their feet.  Each waited for the
other at the far side of the arch, and then turning in a line they
started with a shout, and as they passed right through the middle of the
square at a wild gallop, they swung down sideways from their saddles and
dragged their hands upon the ground.  Swinging up, apparently without an
effort, back into their seats, when they arrived at the point from where
they had first started, they reined up suddenly, making their horses
plunge and rear, and then by a light signal on the reins stand quietly in
line, tossing the foam into the air.  Hijinio Rojas and the four centaurs
all received a prize, and the alcalde, pouring out wineglasses full of
gin, handed them to the riders, who, with a compliment or two as to the
order of their drinking, emptied them solemnly.

No other runners having come forward to compete, for in those days horses
were scarce throughout the Paraguayan Missions, the sports were over, and
the perspiring crowd went off to breakfast at tables spread under the
long verandahs, and silence fell upon the square.

The long, hot hours during the middle of the day were passed in sleeping.
Some lay face downwards in the shade.  Others swung in white cotton
hammocks, keeping them in perpetual motion, till they fell asleep, by
pushing with a naked toe upon the ground.  At last the sun, the enemy, as
the Arabs call him, slowly declined, and white-robed women, with their
“tupois” slipping half off their necks, began to come out into the
verandahs, slack and perspiring after the midday struggle with the heat.

Then bands of girls sauntered down to the river, from whence soon came
the sound of merry laughter as they splashed about and bathed.

The Correntinos rode down to a pool and washed their horses, throwing the
water on them with their two hands, as the animals stood nervously
shrinking from each splash, until they were quite wet through and running
down, when they stood quietly, with their tails tucked in between their
legs.

Night came on, as it does in those latitudes, no twilight intervening,
and from the rows of houses came the faint lights of wicks burning in
bowls of grease, whilst from beneath the orange trees was heard the
tinkling of guitars.

Enormous bats soared about noiselessly, and white-dressed couples
lingered about the corners of the streets, and men stood talking, pressed
closely up against the wooden gratings of the windows, to women hidden
inside the room.  The air was heavy with the languorous murmur of the
tropic night, and gradually the lights one by one were extinguished, and
the tinkling of the guitars was stilled.  The moon came out, serene and
glorious, showing each stone upon the sandy trails as clearly as at
midday.  Saddling their horses, the four Correntinos silently struck the
trail to Itapua, and bands of women moved off along the forest tracks
towards their homes, walking in Indian file.  Hijinio Rojas, who had
saddled up to put the Correntinos on the right road, emerged into the
moonlit plaza, his shadow outlined so sharply on the grass it seemed it
had been drawn, and then, entering a side street, disappeared into the
night.  The shrill neighing of his horse appeared as if it bade farewell
to its companions, now far away upon the Itapua trail.  Noises that rise
at night from forests in the tropics sound mysteriously, deep in the
woods.  It seemed as if a population silent by day was active and on
foot, and from the underwood a thick white mist arose, shrouding the
sleeping town.

Little by little, just as a rising tide covers a reef of rocks, it
submerged everything in its white, clinging folds.  The houses
disappeared, leaving the plaza seething like a lake, and then the church
was swallowed up, the towers struggling, as it were, a little, just as a
wreath of seaweed on a rock appears to fight against the tide.  Then they
too disappeared, and the conquering mist enveloped everything.  All that
was left above the sea of billowing white were the two topmost tufts of
the tall, feathery palms.



XV
BOPICUÁ


THE great corral at Bopicuá was full of horses.  Greys, browns, bays,
blacks, duns, chestnuts, roans (both blue and red), skewbalds and
piebalds, with claybanks, calicos, buckskins, and a hundred shades and
markings, unknown in Europe, but each with its proper name in Uruguay and
Argentina, jostled each other, forming a kaleidoscopic mass.

A thick dust rose from the corral and hung above their heads.  Sometimes
the horses stood all huddled up, gazing with wide distended eyes and
nostrils towards a group of men that lounged about the gate.  At other
times that panic fear that seizes upon horses when they are crushed
together in large numbers, set them a-galloping.  Through the dust-cloud
their footfalls sounded muffled, and they themselves appeared like
phantoms in a mist.  When they had circled round a little they stopped,
and those outside the throng, craning their heads down nearly to the
ground, snorted, and then ran back, arching their necks and carrying
their tails like flags.  Outside the great corral was set Parodi’s camp,
below some China trees, and formed of corrugated iron and hides, stuck on
short uprights, so that the hides and iron almost came down upon the
ground, in gipsy fashion.  Upon the branches of the trees were hung
saddles, bridles, halters, hobbles, lazos, and boleadoras, and underneath
were spread out saddle-cloths to dry.  Pieces of meat swung from the low
gables of the hut, and under the low eaves was placed a “catre,” the
canvas scissor-bedstead of Spain and of her colonies in the New World.
Upon the catre was a heap of ponchos, airing in the sun, their bright and
startling colours looking almost dingy in the fierce light of a March
afternoon in Uruguay.  Close to the camp stood several bullock-carts,
their poles supported on a crutch, and their reed-covered tilts giving
them an air of huts on wheels.  Men sat about on bullocks’ skulls, around
a smouldering fire, whilst the “maté” circulated round from man to man,
after the fashion of a loving-cup.  Parodi, the stiff-jointed son of
Italian parents, a gaucho as to clothes and speech, but still
half-European in his lack of comprehension of the ways of a wild horse.
Arena, the capataz from Entre-Rios, thin, slight, and nervous, a man who
had, as he said, in his youth known how to read and even guide the pen;
but now “things of this world had turned him quite unlettered, and made
him more familiar with the lazo and the spurs.”  The mulatto Pablo
Suarez, active and cat-like, a great race-rider and horse-tamer, short
and deep-chested, with eyes like those of a black cat, and toes,
prehensile as a monkey’s, that clutched the stirrup when a wild colt
began to buck, so that it could not touch its flanks.  They and Miguel
Paralelo, tall, dark, and handsome, the owner of some property, but drawn
by the excitement of a cowboy’s life to work for wages, so that he could
enjoy the risk of venturing his neck each day on a “baguál,” {187} with
other peons as El Correntino and Venancio Baez, were grouped around the
fire.  With them were seated Martin el Madrileño, a Spanish horse-coper,
who had experienced the charm of gaucho life, together with Silvestre
Ayres, a Brazilian, slight and olive-coloured, well-educated, but better
known as a dead pistol-shot than as man of books.  They waited for their
turn at maté, or ate great chunks of meat from a roast cooked upon a
spit, over a fire of bones.  Most of the men were tall and sinewy, with
that air of taciturnity and self-equilibrium that their isolated lives
and Indian blood so often stamp upon the faces of those centaurs of the
plains.  The camp, set on a little hill, dominated the country for miles
on every side.  Just underneath it, horses and more horses grazed.
Towards the west it stretched out to the woods that fringe the Uruguay,
which, with its countless islands, flowed between great tracks of forest,
and formed the frontier with the Argentine.

Between the camp and the corrals smouldered a fire of bones and ñandubay,
and by it, leaning up against a rail, were set the branding-irons that
had turned the horses in the corral into the property of the British
Government.  All round the herd enclosed, ran horses neighing, seeking
their companions, who were to graze no more at Bopicuá, but be sent off
by train and ship to the battlefields of Europe to die and suffer, for
they knew not what, leaving their pastures and their innocent comradeship
with one another till the judgment day.  Then, I am sure, for God must
have some human feeling after all, things will be explained to them,
light come into their semi-darkness, and they will feed in prairies where
the grass fades not, and springs are never dry, freed from the saddle,
and with no cruel spur to urge them on they know not where or why.

For weeks we had been choosing out the doomed five hundred.  Riding,
inspecting, and examining from dawn till evening, till it appeared that
not a single equine imperfection could have escaped our eyes.  The
gauchos, who all think that they alone know anything about a horse, were
all struck dumb with sheer amazement.  It seemed to them astonishing to
take such pains to select horses that for the most part would be killed
in a few months.  “These men,” they said, “certainly all are doctors at
the job.  They know even the least defect, can tell what a horse thinks
about and why.  Still, none of them can ride a horse if he but shakes his
ears.  In their bag surely there is a cat shut up of some kind or
another.  If not, why do they bother so much in the matter, when all that
is required is something that can carry one into the thickest of the
fight?”

The sun began to slant a little, and we had still three leagues to drive
the horses to the pasture where they had to pass the night for the last
time in freedom, before they were entrained.  Our horses stood outside of
the corral, tied to the posts, some saddled with the “recado,” {190} its
heads adorned with silver, some with the English saddle, that out of
England has such a strange, unserviceable look, much like a saucepan on a
horse’s back.  Just as we were about to mount, a man appeared, driving a
point of horses, which, he said, “to leave would be a crime against the
sacrament.”  “These are all pingos,” he exclaimed, “fit for the saddle of
the Lord on High, all of them are bitted in the Brazilian style, can turn
upon a spread-out saddle-cloth, and all of them can gallop round a
bullock’s head upon the ground, so that the rider can keep his hand upon
it all the time.”  The speaker by his accent was a Brazilian.  His face
was olive-coloured, his hair had the suspicion of a kink.  His horse, a
cream-colour, with black tail and mane, was evidently only half-tamed,
and snorted loudly as it bounded here and there, making its silver
harness jingle and the rider’s poncho flutter in the air.  Although time
pressed, the man’s address was so persuasive, his appearance so much in
character with his great silver spurs just hanging from his heel, his
jacket turned up underneath his elbow by the handle of his knife, and, to
speak truth, the horses looked so good and in such high condition that we
determined to examine them, and told their owner to drive them into a
corral.

Once again we commenced the work that we had done so many times of
mounting and examining.  Once more we fought, trying to explain the
mysteries of red tape to unsophisticated minds, and once again our
“domadores” sprang lightly, barebacked, upon the horses they had never
seen before, with varying results.  Some of the Brazilian’s horses bucked
like antelopes, El Correntino and the others of our men sitting them
barebacked as easily as an ordinary man rides over a small fence.  To all
our queries why they did not saddle up we got one answer, “To ride with
the recado is but a pastime only fit for boys.”  So they went on, pulling
the horses up in three short bounds, nostrils aflame and tails and manes
tossed wildly in the air, only a yard or two from the corral.  Then,
slipping off, gave their opinion that the particular “bayo,” “zaino,” or
“gateao” was just the thing to mount a lancer on, and that the speaker
thought he could account for a good tale of Boches if he were over there
in the Great War.  This same great war, which they called “barbarous,”
taking a secret pleasure in the fact that it showed Europeans not a whit
more civilised than they themselves, appeared to them something in the
way of a great pastime from which they were debarred.

Most of them, when they sold a horse, looked at him and remarked,
“Pobrecito, you will go to the Great War,” just as a man looks at his son
who is about to go, with feelings of mixed admiration and regret.

After we had examined all the Brazilian’s “Tropilla” so carefully that he
said, “By Satan’s death, your graces know far more about my horses than I
myself, and all I wonder is that you do not ask me if all of them have
not complied with all the duties of the Church,” we found that about
twenty of them were fit for the Great War.  Calling upon Parodi and the
capataz of Bopicuá, who all the time had remained seated round the
smouldering fire and drinking maté, to prepare the branding-irons, the
peons led them off, our head man calling out “Artilleria” or
“Caballeria,” according to their size.  After the branding, either on the
hip for cavalry and on the neck for the artillery, a peon cut their manes
off, making them as ugly as a mule, as their late owner said, and we were
once more ready for the road, after the payment had been made.  This took
a little time, either because the Brazilian could not count, or perhaps
because of his great caution, for he would not take payment except horse
by horse.  So, driving out the horses one by one, we placed a roll of
dollars in his hand as each one passed the gate.  Even then each roll of
dollars had to be counted separately, for time is what men have the most
at their disposal in places such as Bopicuá.

Two hours of sunset still remained, with three long leagues to cover, for
in those latitudes there is no twilight, night succeeding day, just as
films follow one another in a cinematograph.  At last it all was over,
and we were free to mount.  Such sort of drives are of the nature of a
sport in South America, and so the Brazilian drove off the horses that we
had rejected, half a mile away, leaving them with a negro boy to herd,
remarking that the rejected were as good or better than those that we had
bought, and after cinching up his horse, prepared to ride with us.
Before we started, a young man rode up, dressed like an exaggerated
gaucho, in loose black trousers, poncho, and a “golilla” {194a} round his
neck, a lazo hanging from the saddle, a pair of boleadoras peeping
beneath his “cojinillo,” {194b} and a long silver knife stuck in his
belt.  It seemed he was the son of an estanciero who was studying law in
Buenos Aires, but had returned for his vacation, and hearing of our drive
had come to ride with us and help us in our task.  No one on such
occasions is to be despised, so, thanking him for his good intentions, to
which he answered that he was a “partizan of the Allies, lover of liberty
and truth, and was well on in all his studies, especially in
International Law,” we mounted, the gauchos floating almost
imperceptibly, without an effort, to their seats, the European with that
air of escalading a ship’s side that differentiates us from man less
civilised.

During the operations with the Brazilian, the horses had been let out of
the corral to feed, and now were being held back _en pastoreo_, as it is
called in Uruguay, that is to say, watched at a little distance by
mounted men.  Nothing remained but to drive out of the corral the horses
bought from the Brazilian, and let them join the larger herd.  Out they
came like a string of wild geese, neighing and looking round, and then
instinctively made towards the others that were feeding, and were
swallowed up amongst them.  Slowly we rode towards the herd, sending on
several well-mounted men upon its flanks, and with precaution—for of all
living animals tame horses most easily take fright upon the march and
separate—we got them into motion, on a well-marked trail that led towards
the gate of Bopicuá.

At first they moved a little sullenly, and as if surprised.  Then the
contagion of emotion that spreads so rapidly amongst animals upon the
march seemed to inspire them, and the whole herd broke into a light trot.
That is the moment that a stampede may happen, and accordingly we pulled
our horses to a walk, whilst the men riding on the flanks forged slowly
to the front, ready for anything that might occur.  Gradually the trot
slowed down, and we saw as it were a sea of manes and tails in front of
us, emerging from a cloud of dust, from which shrill neighings and loud
snortings rose.  They reached a hollow, in which were several pools, and
stopped to drink, all crowding into the shallow water, where they stood
pawing up the mud and drinking greedily.  Time pressed, and as we knew
that there was water in the pasture where they were to sleep, we drove
them back upon the trail, the water dripping from their muzzles and their
tails, and the black mud clinging to the hair upon their fetlocks, and in
drops upon their backs.  Again they broke into a trot, but this time, as
they had got into control, we did not check them, for there was still a
mile to reach the gate.

Passing some smaller mud-holes, the body of a horse lay near to one of
them, horribly swollen, and with its stiff legs hoisted a little in the
air by the distension of its flanks.  The passing horses edged away from
it in terror, and a young roan snorted and darted like an arrow from the
herd.  Quick as was the dart he made, quicker still El Correntino wheeled
his horse on its hind legs and rushed to turn him back.  With his whip
whirling round his head he rode to head the truant, who, with tail
floating in the air, had got a start of him of about fifty yards.  We
pressed instinctively upon the horses; but not so closely as to frighten
them, though still enough to be able to stop another of them from cutting
out.  The Correntino on a half-tamed grey, which he rode with a raw-hide
thong bound round its lower jaw, for it was still unbitted, swaying with
every movement in his saddle, which he hardly seemed to grip, so perfect
was his balance, rode at a slight angle to the runaway and gained at
every stride.  His hat blew back and kept in place by a black ribbon
underneath his chin, framed his head like an aureole.  The red silk
handkerchief tied loosely round his neck fluttered beneath it, and as he
dashed along, his lazo coiled upon his horse’s croup, rising and falling
with each bound, his eyes fixed on the flying roan, he might have served
a sculptor as the model for a centaur, so much did he and the wild colt
he rode seem indivisible.

In a few seconds, which to us seemed minutes, for we feared the infection
might have spread to the whole “caballada,” the Correntino headed and
turned the roan, who came back at three-quarter speed, craning his neck
out first to one side, then to the other, as if he still thought that a
way lay open for escape.

By this time we had reached the gates of Bopicuá, and still seven miles
lay between us and our camping-ground, with a fast-declining sun.  As the
horses passed the gate we counted them, an operation of some difficulty
when time presses and the count is large.  Nothing is easier than to miss
animals, that is to say, for Europeans, however practised, but the
lynx-eyed gauchos never are at fault.  “Where is the little brown horse
with a white face, and a bit broken out of his near forefoot?” they will
say, and ten to one that horse is missing, for what they do not know
about the appearance of a horse would not fill many books.  Only a drove
road lay between Bopicuá and the great pasture, at whose faraway
extremity the horses were to sleep.  When the last animal had passed and
the great gates swung to, the young law student rode up to my side, and,
looking at the “great tropilla,” as he called it, said, “_Morituri te
salutant_.  This is the last time they will feed in Bopicuá.”  We turned
a moment, and the falling sun lit up the undulating plain, gilding the
cottony tufts of the long grasses, falling upon the dark-green leaves of
the low trees around Parodi’s camp, glinting across the belt of wood that
fringed the Uruguay, and striking full upon a white estancia house in
Entre-Rios, making it appear quite close at hand, although four leagues
away.

Two or three hundred yards from the great gateway stood a little native
hut, as unsophisticated, but for a telephone, as were the gaucho’s huts
in Uruguay, as I remember them full thirty years ago.  A wooden barrel on
a sledge for bringing water had been left close to the door, at which the
occupant sat drinking maté, tapping with a long knife upon his boot.
Under a straw-thatched shelter stood a saddled horse, and a small boy
upon a pony slowly drove up a flock of sheep.  A blue, fine smoke that
rose from a few smouldering logs and bones, blended so completely with
the air that one was not quite sure if it was really smoke or the
reflection of the distant Uruguay against the atmosphere.

Not far off lay the bones of a dead horse, with bits of hide adhering to
them, shrivelled into mere parchment by the sun.  All this I saw as in a
camera-lucida, seated a little sideways on my horse, and thinking sadly
that I, too, had looked my last on Bopicuá.  It is not given to all men
after a break of years to come back to the scenes of youth, and still
find in them the same zest as of old.  To return again to all the cares
of life called civilised, with all its littlenesses, its newspapers all
full of nothing, its sordid aims disguised under high-sounding nicknames,
its hideous riches and its sordid poverty, its want of human sympathy,
and, above all, its barbarous war brought on it by the folly of its
rulers, was not just at that moment an alluring thought, as I felt the
little “malacara” {201} that I rode twitching his bridle, striving to be
off.  When I had touched him with the spur he bounded forward and soon
overtook the caballada, and the place which for so many months’ had been
part of my life sank out of sight, just as an island in the Tropics fades
from view as the ship leaves it, as it were, hull down.

When we had passed into the great enclosure of La Pileta, and still four
or five miles remained to go, we pressed the caballada into a long trot,
certain that the danger of a stampede was past.  Wonderful and sad it was
to ride behind so many horses, trampling knee-high through the wild
grasses of the Camp, snorting and biting at each other, and all
unconscious that they would never more career across the plains.  Strange
and affecting, too, to see how those who had known each other all kept
together in the midst of the great herd, resenting all attempts of their
companions to separate them.

A “tropilla” {202} that we had bought from a Frenchman called Leon,
composed of five brown horses, had ranged itself around its bell mare, a
fine chestnut, like a bodyguard.  They fought off any of the other horses
who came near her, and seemed to look at her both with affection and with
pride.

Two little bright bay horses, with white legs and noses, that were
brothers, and what in Uruguay are known as “seguidores,” that is, one
followed the other wherever it might go, ran on the outskirts of the
herd.  When either of them stopped to eat, its companion turned its head
and neighed to it, when it came galloping up.  Arena, our head man,
riding beside me on a skewbald, looked at them, and, after dashing
forward to turn a runaway, wheeled round his horse almost in the air and
stopped it in a bound, so suddenly that for an instant they stood poised
like an equestrian statue, looked at the “seguidores,” and remarked,
“Patron, I hope one shell will kill them both in the Great War if they
have got to die.”  I did not answer, except to curse the Boches with all
the intensity the Spanish tongue commands.  The young law-student added
his testimony, and we rode on in silence.

A passing sleeve of locusts almost obscured the declining sun.  Some flew
against our faces, reminding me of the fight Cortes had with the Indians
not far from Vera Cruz, which, Bernal Diaz says, was obstructed for a
moment by a flight of locusts that came so thickly that many lost their
lives by the neglect to raise their bucklers against what they thought
were locusts, and in reality were arrows that the Indians shot.  The
effect was curious as the insects flew against the horses, some clinging
to their manes, and others making them bob up and down their heads, just
as a man does in a driving shower of hail.  We reached a narrow causeway
that formed the passage through a marsh.  On it the horses crowded,
making us hold our breath for fear that they would push each other off
into the mud, which had no bottom, upon either side.  When we emerged and
cantered up a little hill, a lake lay at the bottom of it, and beyond it
was a wood, close to a railway siding.  The evening now was closing in,
but there was still a good half-hour of light.  As often happens in South
America just before sundown, the wind dropped to a dead calm, and passing
little clouds of locusts, feeling the night approach, dropped into the
long grass just as a flying-fish drops into the waves, with a harsh
whirring of their gauzy wings.

The horses smelt the water at the bottom of the hill, and the whole five
hundred broke into a gallop, manes flying, tails raised high, and we,
feeling somehow the gallop was the last, raced madly by their side until
within a hundred yards or so of the great lake.  They rushed into the
water and all drank greedily, the setting sun falling upon their
many-coloured backs, and giving the whole herd the look of a vast tulip
field.  We kept away so as to let them drink their fill, and then,
leading our horses to the margin of the lake, dismounted, and, taking out
their bits, let them drink, with the air of one accomplishing a rite, no
matter if they raised their heads a dozen times and then began again.

Slowly Arena, El Correntino, Paralelo, Suarez, and the rest drove out the
herd to pasture in the deep lush grass.  The rest of us rode up some
rising ground towards the wood.  There we drew up, and looking back
towards the plain on which the horses seemed to have dwindled to the size
of sheep in the half-light, some one, I think it was Arena, or perhaps
Pablo Suarez, spoke their elegy: “Eat well,” he said; “there is no grass
like that of La Pileta, to where you go across the sea.  The grass in
Europe all must smell of blood.”

                                * * * * *

                                 THE END

                                * * * * *

            _Printed by_ R. & R. CLARK, LIMITED, _Edinburgh_.



NOTES.


{22}  _Porteño_, literally a man born in the port of Buenos Aires, but is
also applied to any one born in the province of Buenos Aires.

{25}  _Benbax ceiba_, a large tree with spongy, light wood, that has
immense bunches of purple flowers.

{27}  Pingo in Argentina is a good horse.  Pucha is a euphemism for
another word.

{28}  Elbow of a river.

{114a}  Lopez Cogulludo, _Historia de Yucatan_.

{114b}  Era gran Escriturario.

{115}  El sagrado misterio de la encarnacion de el eterno Verbo.

{116a}  Los barbaros infideles.

{116b}  Entendiendo que era animal de razon.

{118}  Arrebatado de un furioso selo de la honra de Dios.

{187}  Wild horse.

{190}  Argentine saddle.

{194a}  _Golilla_, which originally meant a ruff, is now used for a
handkerchief round the neck.

{194b}  _Cojinillo_, part of the recado.

{201}  _Malacara_, literally Badface, is the name used for a white-faced
horse.  In old days in England such a horse was called Baldfaced.

{202}  Little troop.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Brought Forward" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

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



Home