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Title: Vagabonding down the Andes - Being the Narrative of a Journey, Chiefly Afoot, from Panama to Buenos Aires
Author: Franck, Harry Alverson
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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      Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_).



  In the _Monte Grande_, the “Great Wilderness” of Bolivia, the
    commander of the first garrison insisted on sending a boy soldier,
    with an ancient and rusted Winchester, to “protect” me from the


Being the Narrative of a Journey, Chiefly Afoot, from Panama to Buenos



Author of “A Vagabond Journey Around the World,” “Tramping Through
Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras,” “Four Months Afoot in Spain,” “Zone
Policeman 88,” etc.

Illustrated with 176 Unusual Photographs by the Author, with a Map
Showing the Route


New York
The Century Co.

Copyright, 1917, by
The Century Co.

Published September, 1917


                         A FOREWORD OF WARNING

A few years ago, when I began looking over the map of the world again, I
chanced to have just been reading Prescott’s “Conquest of Peru,” and it
was natural that my thoughts should turn to South America. My only plan,
at the outset, was to follow, if possible, the old military highway of
the Incas from Quito to Cuzco. Every traveler, however, knows the
tendency of a journey to grow under one’s feet. This one grew with such
tropical luxuriance that before it ended I had spent, not eight months,
but four full years, and had covered not merely the ancient Inca Empire,
but all the ten republics and three colonies of South America.

A considerable portion of this journey was made on foot. The reader may
be moved to ask why. First of all, I formed the habit of walking early
in life, developing an inability to depend on others in my movements.
Then, too, the route lay through many regions in which no other animal
than man can make his way for extended periods. Moreover, there was the
question of caste. It is one of the drawbacks of South America that a
white man cannot efface himself and be an unobserved observer, as on the
highways of Europe. Social lines are so sharply drawn that he who would
be received in frank equality by the peon, by the great mass of the
population, must live and travel much as they do. Merely to ride a horse
lifts him above the communality and sets a certain barrier, akin to race
prejudice, between him and the foot-going hordes among whom my chief
interest lay.

At best these lines of caste are a drag on observant travel in South
America. The “gringo” can never get completely out of his social
stratum. His very color betrays him. It is always “Goot mawning,
Meestear,” too often with a silly, patronizing smile, from the “gente
decente” class; among the rest his mere appearance makes him as
conspicuous as a white man among West Indians. Never can he be an
inconspicuous part of the crowd, as in Europe. To get in touch with the
“common people” requires actually living in their huts and tramping
their roads. The dilettante method of approaching them, “slumming,” will
not do. The disadvantages of the primitive means of locomotion in wild
regions, such as the Andes, are obvious. But the advantages of walking
over more ordinary methods of travel are no less decided. Though the
means be more laborious, the mind is far sharper for facts and
impressions while on foot than when lolling half asleep on a horse or in
a train. The mere pleasure of looking forward to his arrival,
subconsciously building up before his mind’s eye a picture of his goal
complete in every detail, not to mention that of looking back upon the
journey from the comfort of his own armchair, is ample reward to any
true victim of wanderlust. Thousands of men, supplied with all the
comforts money can buy, roam the earth from top to bottom—and are
supremely bored in the process. It is the struggle, the satisfaction of
physical action, the accomplishment of something greatly desired and for
a long time seemingly impossible, that brings real pleasure, that makes
every step forward a satisfaction, every little success in the advance
an enjoyment. For after all, real travel is real labor. He who journeys
only so far as he can without exertion, who shirks the difficulties,
will know no more of the real joy of travel than he who lives without
toil, seeking pleasure only and finding but the cold, dead body thereof,
without ever realizing the joy of life itself.

As in ancient times, so it is in the Andes to-day; distance cannot be
covered without fatigue. On the other hand there is the compensation of
knowing completely the country through which one passes, storing away in
the mind a picture of each long-anticipated spot, indelible as long as
life lasts. The Andean traveler will know the pleasures as well as the
drawbacks of the journeys of earlier, more primitive days, the joy of
evening hours, when suddenly, from the summit of the last toilsome
ascent, he discovers, spread out in its smiling valley below, the
peaceful village in which he is to take his night’s repose, or when he
perceives from afar, gilded by the rays of the setting sun, the towers
of the famous city so long sought,—hours of a vivid joy that few
experiences can equal.

Thanks again to the barriers of caste, he who would really know the
masses of Latin America should not only live with them, but should dress
as plainly as they do. It is hard at best to get into more than
superficial contact with the South American Indian, and to some extent
his traits, like his blood, run through all classes. The upper-caste
Latin American is by nature a masquerader; he treats a “distinguished
stranger” as a real estate agent pilots a prospective buyer about the
streets of some “New Berlin,” cleverly sidestepping the drawbacks; he
shows his real self only when he is not on parade, before he learns that
he is under observation, and claps on the mask he always has instantly
at hand when he wishes to show “himself”; and he rates every man’s
importance by the height of his collar and the color of his spats,
cloaking himself in pretense accordingly. He who does not wish to know
the truth about a Latin-American country should attire himself in a
frock-coat, a silk hat, and appear with letters of introduction to the
“people of importance.” His hosts will take him in regal style along two
or three of the best streets and into the show-places, will gild every
garbage-can that is likely to fall under his august eye, and will shield
him from all the unpleasantnesses of life as carefully as the guardians
of the princess in the fairy-tale. Hence the mere lack of ostentation,
the mere appearance of being one of the negligible masses, goes far
toward giving the unassigned wanderer a vast advantage in getting at the
unmasked truth, in avoiding false impressions, over men of more
brilliant mind and better powers of observation.

My purpose in journeying through South America was primarily to study
the ways of the common people. I am no more fond of the unsavory, either
in physical contact or on the printed page, than are the rest of my
fellow-countrymen. But every occupation has its drawbacks. No traveler
through interior South America with whom I have yet spoken has found
conditions better than herein indicated; though for some strange reason
it appears to be the custom to shield readers from this, to tell
intimate facts only privately and to falsify public utterances by
glossing over all the crudities. The fact is that the man who has spent
four years afield south of the Rio Grande, and has come back to tell the
tale, can only shake with laughter when an exponent of the “germ theory”
speaks. Explorers with millionaire fathers-in-law tell us that the
out-of-the-way traveler to such a country should take with him
numberless supplies, from sheets to after-dinner coffee. It is the best
plan, for those whose aim is to live in comfort—or a still better plan
is to remain at home. Far be it from me to censure the man who journeys
southward for other purposes for taking with him all the comforts he can
carry; but he who seeks to know the people intimately must not merely
tramp their trails; he must become, in so far as is possible, physically
one of them. We should care little about the impressions of a European
studying life in the United States who lived in his own tent and
subsisted on canned goods he brought with him, however much we might
admire his foresight.

It may be argued that by following the plan I have outlined I saw only
the lower class and do not report conditions among the more fortunate
inhabitants. Yet after all, the peon, the Indian, the masses, comprise
nine tenths of the population of South America. There are fewer persons
of pure European blood between our southern boundary and Cape Horn than
in the state of New York; and by no means all of these live in even
comparative comfort. The well-dressed minority of Latin America has
often had its spokesman; numerically, and on the whole, the condition of
these is of as little importance in the general scheme of things as are
the doings of our “Four Hundred” in the life of our hundred million. I
have, therefore, summed up briefly the ways of this small, if
conspicuous, class, and its ways are so monotonously alike throughout
the length and breadth of Latin America that this lumping together is
not difficult. The chief problem in any country is the status of the
great mass of population, the condition of the common people, and it is
to this that I have almost entirely confined myself in the ensuing

“Have you read ——’s book on Brazintine?” a noted French traveler once
asked me. “He says all the brazintinos are immoral and dishonest. You
and I, who have been there, know this is true. But those are things one
tells to a circle of friends, that one shares over a pipe at the club,
_mais, enfin, ça ne s’écrit pas_”!

It is due, I suppose, to a lack of Gallic finesse that I have never been
able to grasp this point of view. Why the plain truth should be reserved
for the fireside and personal friends, and should be kept from one’s
friends of the printed page, is beyond my fathoming. At any rate, I have
made no attempt to follow that plan. I tried not to expect everything in
South America to be exactly as it is in the United States—I should,
indeed, have considered that a misfortune. After all, I went south to
see the Latin American as he is, not with the hope of finding him
another American merely speaking another language. I have tried to judge
him by his own ideals and history, fully aware that in the latter he did
not have a “fair shake,” rather than by our own. Yet the traveler cannot
entirely lay aside his native point of view; that would imply that he
was not convinced of the wisdom of his own way of life, and the question
would arise, Why not change? Neither the Latin-American nor the American
point of view is all right or all wrong; they are simply different.
Because we criticize does not necessarily mean that we claim
superiority, though I am reminded of the American resident in South
America who asserted that were he not convinced of his superiority to
his neighbors, he would forthwith tie a mill-stone about his neck and
jump in where it was deep. But the traveler who does not express his own
honest opinions, “loses,” as the Brazilians say, “a splendid chance to
keep silent.” I have, therefore, set down my real, heartfelt
impressions. These may be false, even worthless; the reader has full
right to reject them in toto. But at least they have the virtue of

Moreover, South America has had its fair share of apologists. Virtually
every country publishes at intervals a luxurious volume of self-praise
that resembles in its point of view the year-book of a high school or
college class. Trade journals are constantly painting things South
American in the rosiest of colors. It has been the traditional policy of
certain branches of our government to cultivate Latin-American
friendship by a myopic disregard of all the shadows in the picture. In
our own capital there exists a criminally optimistic society for the
propagation of emasculated information concerning our neighbors to the
south. Among “distinguished strangers” from our own land who have
visited Latin America there seems to have been a conspiracy to whitewash
everything, an agreement to have all they see or experience bathed,
barbered, and manicured before permitting it to make its bow to our
public. The enormous majority of descriptions of South America resemble
the original about as much as a portrait resembles the sitter after a
professional photographer has finished with it.

I do not know what the Latin American may have been in other
years—perhaps he was the splendid fellow many make him out. I am merely
telling, as charitably as possible, how I found him. I am not interested
in winning or losing his friendship, in selling him goods, or in gaining
his “moral support” to our governmental activities. I am interested only
in giving as faithful a picture as possible of my experiences with him.
There are good things, praiseworthy things in South America; if, in the
telling, these have been overshadowed by the less laudable, it is
because the latter do so overshadow in point of fact.

Obviously, the experiences of four years, even in Latin America, cannot
be crowded within the covers of a volume or two. I have, therefore,
confined myself within certain limits. History, for instance, has been
almost completely eliminated. I have taken for granted in the reader a
certain basic knowledge of South America, though in the case of many
even well-educated Americans this seems to be taking much for granted. I
have passed as briefly as possible over those things which are already
to be found within the walls of our libraries, confining myself so far
as possible to that which I have personally seen or experienced. I have,
however, dipped as freely into the literature of each country as into
the life itself, and in the few cases where I have made use of facts so
acquired, I have not taken of my cramped space to acknowledge the debt
in words. For similar reasons, though it may seem ingratitude, I have
not taken the reader’s time to thank individuals by name for personal
kindnesses. They were many; but the doers know that their deeds were
appreciated, without thanks being detailed here; or if they do not, it
is the fate of those who lend passing assistance to world-roamers to
take their reward in inner satisfaction.

The modern reader is prone to tire quickly of mere description; but
nature is so important a factor in the Andes that it cannot be briefly
passed over. Personally I like an occasional sunset, like it so much
that I sometimes go to the unrequited toil of attempting to paint one.
The reader who prefers his stage bare, as in Shakespeare’s day, can
easily glide over those pages. If he does without stage-setting,
however, and relies only on his imagination, his picture is apt to be
false, for the imagination has very faulty materials from our
school-books and the tales of wandering Münchausens to work upon. Yet
after all, even with all one’s effort, it is sad how little of the
splendid scenery, the atmosphere, the charm of it all—for in spite of
its drawbacks, South America has charm—one can get down on paper.

This was not a voyage of discovery; or rather, if there was discovery,
it was only of a different stratum of life, and not of new lands. My
plan was not so much to find unexplored country in the ordinary sense,
as to go by hitherto unmentioned paths through inhabited and known
regions, the out-of-the-way corners of familiar cities and the
undescribed gathering-places of mankind. In that sense South America is
still chiefly “unexplored.”

Lastly, let me give fair warning that this is no tale of adventures. I
would gladly have had it otherwise. I sought eagerly for experiences
that would make the story more worth the telling; I tried my sincerest
to get into trouble; all in vain. In Mexico I marched peacefully about
between two falling empires. In Guatemala I strolled nonchalantly among
Estrada Cabrara’s band of hired assassins. In Honduras I chatted with
the leaders of the latest revolution. In Colombia I met many cripples of
the civil war but recently ended. In Ecuador I found only peace and
apathy in the very streets through which an ex-president and his
henchman had been dragged to death a few months before. In Peru all was
love and brotherhood—until after I left. In the Bolivian Chaco wild
Indians wiped out a company of soldiers not a hundred miles from where I
was passing in placid unconcern. In the Paraguayan capital I sat with
the man who not a year before had captained a particularly bloody coup
d’état. In Brazil I passed through two sections virtually in anarchy,
and in one of its state capitals watched a riot that came perilously
near being a revolution. In Venezuela I strolled serenely through the
very ranks of revolters mere days before the leader and many of his band
were killed. Yet hardly once did I knowingly come near personal
violence. The fact is that South America is atrociously safe. Dangers
are mostly those of popular novelists, from the pages of travelers who
succumb to the natural temptation to “draw the long bow,” after the
fashion of Marco Polo.

It may be that there was a better way to have told this story than as a
day-to-day narrative. But even at that, it could not honestly have
escaped a certain monotony; for monotony is ingrained in the fiber of
South America. Not to have reported the journey chronologically would
have made for succinctness, but at the expense, perhaps, of truth. It
may be wearisome to hear of virtually every night’s stopping-place; yet
as the traveler through the interior must stop at almost every hut along
the way, the sum total of these is a description of the whole country.
If the story appears sketchy and piecemeal, it is because I have denied
myself, erroneously perhaps, even the Barrovian privilege of transposing
or inventing enough to make a smoother and more interesting story. A
book of travel cannot have something always happening; that is the
privilege of fiction. The novelist can forge his materials to his
liking; the travel-writer is very limited, even in opportunity to
amalgamate, his material being very hard and nonplastic. Even to
transpose and combine incidents is often to falsify, for what is true in
one spot may never have been so a hundred miles further on.

The necessity of suddenly abandoning this task for other and more
important duties has made it impossible to give it final polish, to
eliminate much that should have been eliminated, and to improve much of
what remains.

                                                        HARRY A. FRANCK.

Plattsburg, New York, August 1, 1917.


 CHAPTER                                                            PAGE

       I UP TO BOGOTÁ                                                  3

      II THE CLOISTERED CITY                                          22

     III FROM BOGOTÁ OVER THE QUINDÍO                                 39

      IV ALONG THE CAUCA VALLEY                                       63

       V DOWN THE ANDES TO QUITO                                      85

      VI THE CITY OF THE EQUATOR                                     127

     VII DOWN VOLCANO AVENUE                                         167

    VIII THROUGH SOUTHERN ECUADOR                                    190

      IX THE WILDS OF NORTHERN PERU                                  209

       X APPROACHING INCA LAND                                       244

      XI DRAWBACKS OF THE TRAIL                                      270

     XII THE ROOF OF PERU                                            300

    XIII ROUND ABOUT THE PERUVIAN CAPITAL                            324

     XIV OVERLAND TOWARD CUZCO                                       342

      XV THE ROUTE OF THE CONQUISTADORES                             374

     XVI THE CITY OF THE SUN                                         405

    XVII A FORGOTTEN CITY OF THE ANDES                               454

   XVIII THE COLLASUYU, OR “UPPER” PERU                              480

     XIX ON FOOT ACROSS TROPICAL BOLIVIA                             517

      XX LIFE IN THE BOLIVIAN WILDERNESS                             543

     XXI SKIRTING THE GRAN CHACO                                     573

    XXII SOUTHWARD THROUGH GUARANI LAND                              600


                                                             FACING PAGE

 In the _Monte Grande_, the “Great Wilderness” of
   Bolivia, the commander of the garrison insisted on
   sending a boy soldier, with an ancient and rusted
   Winchester, to “protect” me from the savages           _Frontispiece_

 One of the wood-burning steamers of the lower Magdalena,
   on the route to Bogotá                                              4

 Along the Magdalena we halted several times each day for
   fuel                                                                4

 Hays catches his first glimpse of the jungles of
   Colombia                                                           13

 The stewards of the “Alicia” in full uniform                         13

 A village on the banks of the Magdalena                              17

 Jirardot; end of the steamer line and beginning of the
   railroad to Bogotá                                                 17

 A typical Indian hut on the outskirts of Bogotá                      20

 Indian girls and women are the chief dray-horses of the
   Colombian capital                                                  20

 Bogotá and its _sabana_ from the summit of Guadalupe                 28

 The central plaza of Bogotá from the window of our room              28

 A _chola_, or half-Indian girl, of Bogotá backed by an
   outcast of the “gente decente” class                               32

 A street of Bogotá. The line of flaggings in the center
   is for the use of Indians and four-footed burden
   bearers                                                            32

 Celebrating Colombia’s Independence Day (July 20th)                  37

 Meanwhile in another square the populace marvels at the
   feats of “maroma nacional” of an amateur circus                    37

 A section of the ancient highway, built by the Spaniards
   more than three centuries ago                                      44

 Fellow-travelers at the edge of the _sabana_ of Bogotá               44

 Approaching the Central Cordillera of the Andes                      49

 Hays, seated before the “Hotel Mi Casa” and behind one
   of his $5 cigars                                                   53

 A bit of the road by which we mounted to the Quindío
   pass over the central range, with forests of the
   slender palms peculiar to the region                               53

 The first days on the road; showing how I would have
   traveled by choice                                                 60

 On the western side of the Central Cordillera the trail
   drops quickly down into the tropics again                          60

 Like those of the days of Shakespeare, the theater of
   Cartago consists of a stage—of split bamboo, with a
   tile roof—inside the patio of the “hotel”                          64

 Cartago watching our departure                                       64

 Along the Cauca Valley                                               69

 In places the Cauca Valley swarmed with locusts                      69

 Worse than the locusts                                               72

 The market-place of Tuluá, with the cross that protects
   it against all sorts of calamities                                 72

 A view of the “sacred city” of Buga, with the new church
   erected in honor of the miraculous Virgin                          76

 A horseman of the Cauca in full regalia                              76

 The scene of “Maria,” most famous of South American
   novels, and once the residence of its author                       80

 The home of “Maria”; and a typical _hacendado_ family of
   the Cauca                                                          80

 The market-place of Cajibío, in the highlands of Popayán             96

 Crossing the Cauca River with a pack train by one of the
   typical “ferries” of the Andes                                    101

 A village of the mountainous region south of Popayán                101

 Hays, less considerable weight, and a fellow-roadster               108

 An Indian woman weaving _teque-teque_ or native cloth,
   by the same method used before the Conquest                       108

 Quito lies in a pocket of the Andes, at the foot of
   Pichincha, more than 10,000 feet above sea-level                  120

 A view of Quito, backed by the Panecillo that bottles it
   up on the south                                                   129

 A patio of the Monastery of San Francisco, one of the
   eighteen monasteries and convents of Quito, said to be
   the most extensive in the Western Hemisphere                      129

 The family of “Don Panchito” with whom I lived in Quito             133

 Girls of the “gente decente” class of Quito, in a school
   run by European nuns                                              133

 Quito does not put its faith in small locks and keys                140

 Ecuadorian soldiers before the national “palace”                    140

 A corner of Quito—looking through a garbage-hole into
   one of the many ravines by which the city is broken up            144

 After the bullfight a yearling is often turned into the
   ring for the amusement of the youthful male population
   of Quito                                                          149

 A group of the Indians that form so large a percentage
   of Quito’s population                                             149

 The undertaker’s delivery wagon                                     156

 Probably not his own in spite of the circumstantial
   evidence against him                                              156

 Almost everything that moves in Quito rides on the backs
   of Indians                                                        161

 An Indian family driving away dull care—and watching me
   take the picture of a dog down the street                         161

 The street by which one leaves Quito on the tramp to the
   south                                                             165

 Long before Edison thought of his poured-cement houses,
   the Indians of the Andes were building their fences in
   a similar manner                                                  165

 Typical huts of the _páramo_ of Tiopullo                            168

 Beyond the _páramo_ of Azuay the trail clambers over
   broken rock ledges into the town of Cañar                         168

 Indians carrying a grand piano across the plaza of Cañar
   on a journey to the interior                                      172

 The Indians of Ecuador draw their droves of cattle on
   after them by playing a weird, mournful “music” on the
   _bocina_, made of a section of bamboo                             172

 Ruins of the fortress of Ingapirca, near Cañar                      176

 A mild example of the “road” through southern Ecuador               176

 Cuenca, third city of Ecuador, lies in one of the most
   fertile and beautiful valleys of the Andes                        181

 A detail of the “Panama” hat market of the Azogues                  184

 Arrived at the wholesale establishments of Cuenca, the
   hats are finished                                                 184

 My home in Cuenca, with the Montesinos family                       188

 Students of the _Colegio_ of Cuenca                                 188

 The “English Language Club” of Cuenca in full session               193

 An hacienda-house of southern Ecuador, backed by its
   grove of eucalyptus-trees                                         193

 Plowing for wheat or corn on the hacienda of Cumbe                  200

 The church, and the dwelling of my host, the priest of
   Oña                                                               208

 Loja, southernmost city of Ecuador, backed by her
   endless labyrinth of mountains                                    208

 The guinea-pigs on which I feasted upon breaking out of
   the wilderness on the Peruvian frontier—and the cook              213

 The Indians of Zaraguro are different, both in type and
   costume, from the meeker types of Quito and vicinity              213

 In the semi-tropical Province of Jaen, in north Peru,
   sugarcane grows luxuriantly                                       220

 The sugar that is not turned into _aguardiente_, or
   native whiskey, is boiled down in the _trapiche_ into
   crude brown blocks, variously known as _panela_,
   _chancaca_, _rapadura_, _empanisado_, _papelón_, etc.,
   weighed and wrapped in banana-leaves, selling at about
   5 cents for 3 pounds                                              220

 The _teniente-gobernador_, or “lieutenant-governor,” of
   Jaen                                                              229

 The two of us                                                       229

 The main street of the great provincial capital of Jaen             236

 The government “ferry” across the Huancabamba                       236

 A woman of the jungles of Jaen preparing me the first
   meal in days at the typical Ecuadorian cook-stove                 248

 Peruvian prisoners earn their own livelihood by weaving
   hats, spinning yarn, and the like                                 248

 The ancient city of Cajamarca lies in one of the most
   magnificent highland valleys of the Andes                         257

 The only wheeled vehicle I saw in Peru during my first
   three months in that country                                      264

 One of the many unfinished churches of Cajamarca                    264

 One of the few remaining _simpichacas_, or suspension
   bridges, of the Andes                                             272

 A typical shop of the Andes                                         272

 Detail of the ruins of “Marca-Huamachuco,” high up on
   the mountain above the modern town of that name                   289

 Pallasca, to which I climbed from one of the mightiest
   _quebradas_ in the Andes                                          289

 Catalino Aguilar and his wife, Fermín Alva, my nurses in
   the hospital of Caráz                                             296

 An Indian of Cerro de Pasco region carrying a
   slaughtered sheep                                                 296

 Though within a few degrees of the equator, Huaráz,
   capital of the most populous department of Peru, has a
   veritable Swiss setting of snow-clad peaks and
   glaciers                                                          304

 Threshing wheat with the aid of the wind                            304

 Crossing the Central Cordillera of the Andes south of
   Huaráz, barely nine degrees below the equator                     308

 The fortress of the former Inca city of Huánaco el Viejo            317

 A typical residence of the Indians of the high _páramos_            317

 The _arrieros_ with whom I left Huallanga, and the
   family inhabiting the hut shown in the preceding
   picture                                                           321

 The immaculate staff of the Cerro de Pasco hospital                 321

 The semi-weekly lottery drawing in the main plaza of
   Lima                                                              328

 All aboard! A Sunday excursion that was not posed                   328

 The bleak mining town of Morococha, more than 16,000
   feet above sea-level                                              336

 The American miners of Morococha live in comfort for all
   the altitude and bleakness of their surroundings                  336

 A typical miner of the high Peruvian Andes                          340

 Miners of Morococha,—a Welch foreman and two of his gang            340

 A hint of what the second-class traveler on Peruvian
   railways must put up with                                         349

 The wide main street and a part of the immense market of
   Huancayo, said to be the largest in Peru                          349

 A detail of the market of Huancayo, with a bit of
   pottery like that of the days of the Incas                        356

 “Chusquito” descending one of the few remnants of the
   old Inca highway I found from Quito to Cuzco                      356

 Huancavelica, one of the most picturesque and
   least-visited provincial capitals of Peru                         365

 On the “road” to Ayacucho I overtook a lawyer who was
   importing a piano                                                 376

 Carrying the piano across one of the typical bridges of
   the Peruvian Andes                                                376

 The striking headdress of the women of Ayacucho                     385

 The friendly and ingratiating waiters of our hotel in
   Ayacucho                                                          385

 A religious procession in the main square of Ayacucho               392

 A gala Sunday in the improvised “bullring” of Ayacucho              392

 A familiar sight in the Andes—a recently butchered beef
   hung in sheets along the clothes-line to sun-dry into
   charqui                                                           400

 A typical “bed” in the guest-room provided for travelers
   by many Peruvian _hacendados_                                     400

 The fatherless urchin who fell in with me beyond
   Andahuaylas                                                       405

 My body-servant in Andahuaylas, and the sickle with
   which he was supposed to cut all the alfalfa
   “Chusquito” could eat                                             405

 A view of Quito, capital of Ecuador, from the summit of
   the Panecillo                                                     408

 View of Cuzco, the ancient Inca capital, from the summit
   of Sacsahuaman                                                    408

 Building a house in Peru                                            412

 The patio of the “Hotel Progreso” of Abancay                        412

 A religious procession in Abancay                                   417

 A _chola_ of Abancay, wearing the _dicclla_ which all
   put on at the age of puberty                                      432

 A chiefly-Indian woman of Abancay                                   432

 The first view of Cuzco                                             437

 An Indian of Cuzco, speaking only Quichua                           444

 Indian women of the market-place, wearing the “pancake”
   hat of Cuzco                                                      444

 An Indian required to pay for the day’s mass proudly
   clings to his staff of office                                     449

 Youth from a village near Cuzco, each with a coca cud in
   his cheek                                                         449

 Our party setting out for Machu Picchu across the high
   plains about Cuzco                                                453

 Ollantaytambo, the end of the first day’s journey, in
   the valley of the Urubamba                                        453

 Spring plowing in the Urubamba valley                               460

 As we rode eastward into the sunrise down the gorge of
   the Urubamba, glacier-clad Piri above threw off its
   night wraps of clouds                                             464

 The semicircular tower and some of the finest
   stone-cutting and fitting of Machu Picchu                         464

 We came out on the edge of things and Machu Picchu lay
   before us                                                         469

 The resounding gorge of the Urubamba, with terraces of
   the ancient inhabitants on the inaccessible left bank             472

 One of the many stairways of Machu Picchu                           472

 The temple of the three windows, an unusual feature of
   Inca architecture                                                 476

 “Rumiñaui” seated on the _intihuatana_, or sun-dial, at
   the top of the town                                               476

 The babies of Bolivia sit in a whole nest of finery on
   nurse’s back                                                      485

 Arequipa is built of stones light as wood, cut from a
   neighboring quarry                                                485

 Indians plowing on the shores of Titicaca                           492

 Sunrise at Copacabana, the sacred city of Bolivia on the
   shores of Titicaca                                                492

 One of the two huge figures facing the grass-grown plaza
   of modern Tiahuanaco at the entrance to the church                501

 The ancient god of Tiahuanaco before which the Indian
   woman, herding her pigs, bowed down in worship                    501

 Arequipa, second city of Peru, in its desert oasis,
   backed by misty volcano                                           504

 “Suddenly the bleak pampa falls away at one’s feet”                 504

 Llamas of La Paz patiently awaiting the return of their
   driver                                                            508

 Down the valley below La Paz the pink and yellow soil
   stands in fantastic, rain-gashed cliffs                           508

 _Cholas_ of La Paz, in their native garb                            513

 “Sandy” leading his train of carts loaded with
   construction material for the railroad to Cochabamba              528

 The “gringo bench” of Cochabamba,—left to right, “Old
   Man Simpson”; Tommy Cox; Sampson, the Cockney; Owen;
   and Scribner                                                      528

 The home and family of the alcalde who could not read               536

 Our impromptu celebration of Christmas Eve in Pampa
   Grande                                                            536

 A street of Santa Cruz de la Sierra after a shower                  545

 Conscripts of the Bolivian army practicing their first
   maneuvers in the central plaza of Santa Cruz                      545

 Manuel Abasto, a native of Santa Cruz de la Sierra                  552

 Through the open doors of Santa Cruz one often catches a
   glimpse of the patio, a garden gay with flowers                   552

 Konanz seated on our baggage in the _pelota de cuero_               560

 The force of one of the four _fortines_, or
   “fortresses,” with which the Bolivian government
   garrisons the Monte Grande against the savages                    560

 Jim and “Hughtie” Powell, Americans from Texas who have
   turned Bolivian peons                                             564

 A jungle hair-cut                                                   564

 The old stone and brick church and monastery of San José            573

 The fatherly old cura of San José standing before the
   Jesuit sun-dial                                                   573

 Henry Halsey, the American rancher, of tropical Bolivia,
   and his family                                                    577

 Saddle-steers take the place of horses and mules in the
   muddy parts of tropical Bolivia                                   577

 A German of tropical Bolivia and his “housekeeper”                  581

 Santiago de Chiquitos, above the gnat-line, backed by
   its reddish cliffs                                                581

 “Don Cupertino,” chief adornment of eastern Bolivia,
   with his family and dependents                                    589

 The _tipoy_, a single loose gown, constitutes the entire
   garb of most of the native women of tropical Bolivia              593

 A girl of Santiago de Chiquitos selling a chicken to the
   cook of “los americanos”                                          593

 The shoemaker who lived next door to “los americanos” in
   Santiago de Chiquitos, and his latest “wife”                      597

 A birthday dance in Santiago de Chiquitos, in honor of
   the German in the center background                               597

 A view from the promenade-deck of the steamer                       604

 A Paraguayan landscape, with native cart                            604

 The mixture of types in the Argentine                               608


 The author’s itinerary                                               40

                             DOWN THE ANDES

                               CHAPTER I
                              UP TO BOGOTÁ

When we had “made a stake” as Canal Zone policemen, Leo Hays and I
sailed from Panama to South America. On board the Royal Mail steamer the
waist of the ship, to which our tickets confined us, was a screaming
pandemonium of West Indian negroes, homeward bound from canal digging,
and a veritable chaos of their baggage and household goods—and
gods—ranging from tin trunks to pet monkeys, from battered phonographs
to plush-bound Bibles. We preëmpted deck space for our suitcases and sat
down upon them. It chanced to be the same day on which, eight years
before, I had set out on a “vagabond journey” around the world.

Twenty-four hours after our last Zone handshake we marched down the
gangplank among the little brown policemen of Cartagena, Colombia, and
fought our way through a mob of dock loafers to the toy railroad train
that eventually creaked away into the city. Our revolvers and cartridge
belts we wore out of sight; uniforms and nightsticks no longer figured
in our equipment. But the campaign costume we had chosen,—broad felt
hats, Norfolk jackets and breeches of olive drab, and the leather
leggings common to the Zone—were evidently more conspicuous here than we
had suspected. For about us wherever we moved sounded awe-struck stage

“Psst! Policía de la Zona!”

The ancient city and fortress of Cartagena—and for America it is old
indeed—squats on a sandy point jutting far out into the blue Caribbean,
with a beach curving inland on either hand. A sea-wall beside which that
of Panama seems a plaything, of massive weather-tarnished, ocean-lashed
stones, brown-gray with age, with stern, dignified old gateways,
encloses the city in irregular form. On its top is a promenade varying
in width from a carriage drive to a manoeuver field. Outside, down on
the languidly garrulous beach, little thatched huts have drifted
together under the cocoanut groves. Inside, the dust-deep streets have
long since lost most of the cobbled paving of their Spanish birthright;
the narrow, inadequate tile sidewalks are far from continuous, and the
rules of life are so lax that only the constant sweep of the sea air
accounts for old age amid conditions that should bring death early and

Long before we reached our hotel we regretted our penuriousness in
scorning cabs and carriers. Not only did the weight of our suitcases
double every few yards in the leaden tropical air, and the labyrinthian
way through the city elude us at every turn, but at least a score of
ragged boys trailed respectfully but hopefully in our rear with the
anticipatory manner of an opera understudy waiting in the edge of the
wings for the principal to break down at the next note. A generous
percentage of the population crowded the doorways and children raced
ahead to summon forth their families to behold what was apparently the
most exciting thing that had taken place in Cartagena in months.
Evidently a _caballero_ bearing his own material burdens was a strange
sight in South America. The populace stared fixedly, in as impersonal a
way as ruminating oxen, and every few yards half-naked children,
evidently abetted by their elders, swarmed out upon us with shrill cries
of “Wan sheeling!”

We were soon reminded that we had left behind our power as well as our
emoluments. The proprietress whose oily Hebrew smile greeted us at the
hotel door was none other than one long “wanted” on the Zone on the
charge of running a disorderly house. The room she assigned us was
enormous, but the furnishings were scant and thin, the beds mere strips
of canvas, as befits a country of perennial midsummer. While we unpacked
and shaved, a ragged brown urchin slipped in with the Barranquilla
newspaper. In a characteristic burst of generosity Hays tossed him
double the price demanded—only to discover just after the vendor was out
of reach that the pauperise little sheet was twenty days old. It was a
“bunco game” so aged it had grown new again. Maria, the chambermaid,
already in the sear and yellow leaf, shuffled in frequently, supremely
indifferent to our scantiness of attire. Now and then several younger
females of decidedly African ancestry strolled by as nonchalantly, one
by one, to inquire whether we had any soiled clothes to wash, and
loitered about in a manner to suggest that the question was meant to be
taken figuratively. This friendliness was the general attitude of all
the town. Outwardly at least we were shown no discourtesy, and there was
little confirmation of the reputed hatred of Americans. Yet almost from
the moment of our landing we noted that Colombians seemed to avoid
speaking to us beyond the requirements of business or the cut and dried
forms of their habitual politeness. Still, with only an anemic candle to
flicker its pale shadows on the enclosing wall of the droning tropical
night, we settled down to the conclusion that Colombia, alleged the
deadly enemy of all things American and “heretical,” was less black than
she had been painted.


  One of the wood-burning steamers of the lower Magdalena, on the route
    to Bogotá]


  Along the Magdalena we halted several times each day for fuel, the
    villagers looking idly on while the crew carried many a woodpile on
    board across a precarious gangplank]

We had reached the land of easy money. Merely to step into a bank with a
$5 bill was to emerge with a bulging roll of $500. We could not repress
a millionaire swagger when we tossed a hundred-dollar note on the
counter to pay for a pair of socks, though it quickly wilted when a few
nickel pieces were tendered in change. Hays dropped into a dingy little
hole-in-the-wall to buy a cigar, but though it was certainly the only $5
cigar he had ever strutted behind, he soon tossed it away in disgust.
The newcomer is apt to be startled when he hears a Colombian casually
mention paying $10,000 for a mule—until he realizes that the speaker is
really talking in cents. The Colombian notes, even those of the
intrinsic value of our copper coin, are elaborately engraved, and the
wonder grew how the Government could afford to print them.

For those who will exert themselves, even in the tropics, there is a
splendid view of all Cartagena from La Popa, a hill standing forth
Gibraltar-like above the inner harbor, on its nose a massive old church
and fortress combined. From it the cruder details of the town, the
startling pink and sky-blue of newer walls and balconies, fade to the
general inconspicuousness of the more age-mellowed houses. The ancient
red-tile roofs blend artistically into the patches of greensward and the
light pink of royal poinciana trees; the whole city, edged by the
landward-leaning cocoanut palms, is framed by a sea stretching away on
either hand to the world’s end.

The half-grown Colombian of forty in charge of La Popa and the telescope
and telephone by which incoming ships are reported, changed gradually
from canny distrust to garrulous curiosity and invited us to inspect his
entire domain. The purely academic dislike of Americans we soon found
was overcome with little effort by those who addressed men of his class
in their own tongue. Conversation at length drifted to sanitation in
Panama, Colombia’s “rebel province,” as he called it. The fort-keeper
listened to our tales in loose-jawed wonder and summed up his opinions
of such gringo superstitions with:

“But here we do none of those things, señores! The mosquitos prick us
every day, yet we are well.”

Our strange notion that disease could be carried by a mere insect was as
absurd to him as was to us his own habit of relying for health on the
plaster saint in the vaulted fortress church.

Even in Panama information on travel in Colombia had been almost as
lacking as trustworthy reports on the interior conditions of Mars. Only
once in my five months on the Canal Zone had I run across even an
ostensible source of knowledge. He was a native of Cali, and his answers
had been distinctly Latin-American.

“Does it rain much in your country?” I had asked him.

“Sí, señor, when it rains it is wet. When it doesn’t it is dry.”

“Is it cold?”

“Sí, señor, in the cold places it is cold, and in the hot places it is
hot. _No hay reglas fixas_—there are no fixed rules.”

“How far is it from Cali to Popayán?”

“Ah, it is not near, señor.”

“About a hundred miles, perhaps?”

“Sí, señor, just about that.”

“Isn’t it rather about three hundred?”

“Pués, sí, señor, perhaps just about that.”

There the matter had stood when we sailed.

Once arrived in Cartagena, however, we found that a toy train left next
day for Calamar on the Magdalena and that a second-class ticket to
Honda, wherever that was, cost $2000! We had barely crammed ourselves
into two seats of the little piano-box car next day when Hays started up
with a snort and thrust the morning newspaper across at me. Done into
English the item that had drawn his attention ran:

                               “SOME ONE

  who merits our entire confidence, informs us that yesterday there
  were in the city, taking photographic views of our forts and most
  important edifices, two foreign individuals who wore clothing of
  military cut of the cloth called _khaki_, and felt hats with wide
  brim. This costume, as it has been described to us, is that of the
  army of the United States! Can these really be American soldiers, or
  has a great outward similarity caused the suspicious imagination to
  see that which in reality did not exist? We cannot assure it!”

We had hardly aspired to be taken for a hostile invasion from the
dreaded “Colossus of the North.” It was characteristic of Latin-American
thinking processes for the paragrapher to fancy that spies—for such the
item covertly dubbed us—would appear in uniform. We had yet to learn,
however, that the makers of newspaper, and of public opinion, in so far
as it exists, in South America would often rank in our own land as
irresponsible and poorly trained school-boys.

The miniature train, ambling away in a morning unoppressive in spite of
the tropical sunshine, wound through a thin jungle, sometimes climbing,
more often stopping at languorous, staring, thatched villages, in a
region suffering from drought but of fertile appearance. By and by the
jungle gave way to what might almost have been called prairie, slightly
rolling and used only for grazing. Toward noon, beyond some swampy land,
we clattered into the carelessly whitewashed town of Calamar, drowsing
on the sandy bank of the Magdalena, here a half mile wide. Even before
we jolted to a halt, the car filled with a struggling mob of beggars,
shrill-voiced boys, and tattered men, eager, in their indolent tropical
way, for some easy errand. Such unwonted energy soon evaporated. The
population was of as mongrel a mixture as the yellow dogs that slunk
about in the shade of trees and house walls, and appeared to hold
identically the same attitude toward life.

At length, in the cool of the following evening, the “Alicia” began to
plow her way slowly upstream. She was a three-story craft with a huge
paddle-wheel at the stern, her lower deck crowded with unassorted
freight, domestic animals, engines and wood-piles, with deck hands,
native passengers, pots and pans and unattractive habits. Among the most
conspicuous of the latter were those of an open-air den that served as
general kitchen. Twice a day a small tub of rice, boiled plantains and
some meat mystery, all cooked in a single kettle, was carried out on one
of the barges alongside, where it was fallen upon not only by the
lower-deck passengers but by the even darker-skinned deck hands, dressed
in what had once been trousers and the wear-forever shirts so popular in
this region. A few owned spoons and others a piece of cocoanut shell,
but these were no handicap to the majority, armed only with the utensils
of nature. Little had we suspected the meaning of “second-class” on the

Luckily the English agent of the line had been so shocked at sight of
our tickets, particularly, perhaps, in the hands of Hays, who was in
appearance the hero of any of our modern romantic novels stepping bodily
forth from the cardboard of any of our popular illustrators, that he had
ordered the steward to overlook the color thereof and treat us as cabin
passengers. On the upper deck the steamer was open from stem to stern, a
dining table stretching along her center and the sides lined by frail,
box-like “staterooms.” The little canvas cots, narrow as the _charpoys_
of India, used alike by passengers and the unlaundered youths that
passed for stewards, were dragged to any part of the craft that suited
the whims of the sleeper. Our drinking water was the native Magdalena,
sometimes carelessly filtered through a porous stone. There was even a
shower-bath—when the paddle-wheel was elevating enough of the
chocolate-colored river water to permit it to “function”—but it
generally took most of the morning and all the stewards to find the
misplaced key.

Frequently for days at a time there were only the two of us to occupy
the cane rocking-chairs that embellished the upper foredeck. Here day
after day we watched the monotonous yellow bank unroll with infinite
slowness, like a film clogged in the machine. The country, flat,
considerably wooded, and characterless, stood only a few feet above the
river, its soil sandy, though not without fertility, with occasional
clearings and many immense spreading trees. Here and there on the
extreme edge of the stream hung a few scattered thatched villages, all
apparently engaged in the favorite occupation of doing nothing, living
on the few fruits and vegetables that grew themselves and drinking the
yellow Magdalena pure.

At such times there was nothing left but to while away the languid hours
in perfecting our plans for the journey ahead. For once I had chanced
upon a traveling companion who had actually started when the hour of
departure came, and who bade fair to pursue the expedition to the bitter
end. Leo Hays had first seen the light—such as it is in Missouri—six
months later than I, but had overcome that initial handicap by
deflecting the sun’s rays in many a varying clime. The schools had early
scowled upon him—or he upon them—and he had retaliated by gathering in
his own way much that schools have never hoarded away in their
impregnable warehouses. The gleaning had carried him far afield, in
social strata as well as physical distance, but it had left him
unburdened with the bric-a-brac of life so dear to the bourgeois soul.
Wasteful of money and the petty things of life, he was never wasteful of
life itself. He was of those who look at the world through a wide-angle
lens. There is a breadth of vision gained in an existence varying from
“hobo” printer and editor in our pulsating Southwest to sugar estate
overseer in the Guianas, from the forecastle to the Moro villages of the
Philippines, that makes a formal education seem cramped and restricted
by comparison. To those who did not know the Canal Zone in its halcyon
days a mere corporal of police demanding of himself the ability to
converse intelligently a half hour on any subject from astronomy to
Norse literature, from heraldry to Urdu philosophy, may seem a fantastic
figure. To the experienced “Zoner” it is commonplace.

On Sunday morning the entire village of Zambrano, headed by its curate
and dressed in every imaginable misfit of sun-bleached gaiety, swarmed
on board and subjected us to a leisurely detailed examination that gave
us the sensation of being museum exhibits. The “Alicia” was soon off
again and we came to the conclusion that the town was migrating en
masse. A few hundred yards beyond, however, we tied up to the bank once
more and waited a long hour while all Zambrano took leave of the priest.
Every inhabitant under fifteen kissed his hand, which each of the women
pressed fervently, some several times over, after which the men
approached him in procession, padre and layman throwing an arm about
each other’s neck and slapping each other some seven times each between
the shoulder-blades. It was only the customary Colombian _abrazo_ and
the formality of seeing the curate a little way on his journey.
Meanwhile our half-Indian boy captain stood smilingly by, twisting the
two tiny sprigs of mustache that gave him so striking a resemblance to a
Chinese mandarin turned river pirate. He was far too good a Catholic to
cut short the leave-taking even had he guessed that anyone on board
chaffed at the delay. The day was much older before we crawled out into
the middle of the stream again. But no man journeys up to Bogotá
hastily. The Land of Hurry was behind us.

When we addressed him, the priest answered us courteously enough, then
dropped the conversation in a manner to suggest that he did not care to
pursue it further. Like his fellow-countrymen in general he seemed to
have no hunger for knowledge, no notion that he might learn from others.
The attitude of all the upper-deck passengers was as if an edict had
gone forth to dislike Americans. Individually none had any grievance
against us, collectively they seemed banded together in a species of
intellectual boycott, which none of them vented to the extent of losing
his reputation for politeness. Their manner suggested pouting children,
unwilling to declare their fancied grievances and fight them out like

There were a half dozen of us at table that evening, with the priest in
the place of honor at the head. The meal passed without a spoken word,
at racehorse speed. It recalled a placard I had seen in a Texas
restaurant on my journey southward: “Eat first, THEN talk,” and amid the
opening chorus Hays’ memory harked back to a sign that once embellished
a Bowery institution: “Soup should be seen and not heard.” That we
paused for speech between mouthfuls seemed to fill our companions with a
mixture of disgust and amazement. It was perilous, too, for ragged,
barefooted waiters more numerous than the diners, hovered over us, quick
to snatch away the plate of anyone who dared raise his head. How unlike
the sociable meals of Spain was this silent wolfing!

Their own parents could not have distinguished one meal from another.
The soup was always of the general collection variety, the two
vegetables incessantly the same; the beef varied from the hopelessly
tough to the suspiciously tender; for the system on the river steamers
of the Magdalena is to slaughter a steer on the lower deck the first
morning of the voyage and serve it twice daily until passengers are
unanimous in leaving their plates untouched, then regretfully to lead
another gloomy, raw-boned animal forth to slaughter. Yet no one could
have complained on the score of quantity. We no longer wondered at the
sallow flabbiness of those about us in spite of their life in the open

The voracious engines of the “Alicia” required more halting than
movement. Barely had we left the faint lights of Calamar astern when we
tied up for hours before a woodpile in the edge of the jungle, and never
did a half day pass without a long halt to replenish the fuel. The sight
of a bamboo hut or a cluster of thatched shacks crouched in a little
semicircular space gouged out of the immense forest was sure to bring a
shrill scream from the whistle and in the soft air of evening we crawled
up to a tiny clearing where perhaps thirty cords of wood lay awaiting a
purchaser. They were heavy slabs some three feet long, the piles
separated by upright poles into divisions called _burros_, the
conventional load, perhaps, of one ass. On the utter edge of the bank
hung a miserable little hut swarming with dogs and equally unwashed
human beings. There were the usual endless manoeuvers to a mooring, then
the entire crew went ashore on the heels of the captain, armed with his
measuring stick. He and the woodsman, a sturdy, bashful fellow, gave
each other the customary greeting pat on the shoulder, then stood a long
time, each with a hand on the woodpile, discussing the details of the
imminent financial transaction.

But they could not come to terms, and at length the steamer population
returned on board and for ten minutes with much ringing of bells and
screeching of whistles the “Alicia” went through the pretence of getting
under way. The woodsman held his ground, though his wood looked as if he
had already held it several years. At length we returned to the same
mooring and a wash-basin of boiled beef and plantains was carried ashore
as a peace offering. This time we struck a bargain, and the two
populations exchanged places. The countrymen, of all ages and both
sexes, many with evidences of loathsome diseases, one limping on a foot
white with leprosy, swarmed into every corner of the craft, gazing
open-mouthed at her unbelievable magnificence, sitting cautiously down
in the deck chairs, thrusting their fingers into the saucers of dessert
that had been set out an hour or two before meal time to give the flies
fair play, passing from hand to hand anything that caught their fancy.
Their protruding bellies suggested that the hookworm was prevalent. The
men wore over one shoulder a satchel-like pouch called a _garniel_, for
their clothing was not such as might safely have been entrusted with
their minor possessions.

Meanwhile we had taken advantage of the opportunity to stretch our legs
ashore, for whatever their faults these jungle people are not addicted
to thievery. Under the edge of the forest, into the dense green depths
of which we could wander a little way amid a wealth of woodland aromas
and the fitful songs of birds, was planted a little field of corn, the
stalks a full ten feet high, even the ears in many cases well above our
heads, though the jungle was thick between the rows and there was no
sign of other labor than the planting. A bit of sugarcane grew as
luxuriantly, and behind the hut stood a crude _trapiche_, or cane
crusher, a mere stump and lever above a dug-out trough. Palm, gourd,
mango, and papaya trees, the females of the latter heavy with fruit and
the males gay with yellow blossoms, suggested that the spot might have
been one of the most flourishing gardens on earth had the inhabitants
any other industry or desire than to roll about on their earth floors.
From a corner of the patch the stewards cut long reeds and made trumpets
of exactly the sound of army bugles.

The houses of the region are very simply built. Four posts, some six
inches in diameter and rising as many feet above the ground, are set at
the corners of the house to be. Halfway between these are set four
smaller upright poles, giving each wall three supports. Along the tops
of these, saplings about four inches in diameter are tied with green
vines, after which pole rafters are raised. Across these, six to eight
inches apart, are laid strips of split bamboo, also tied with vines. The
roof is then thatched with dried banana leaves, laid lengthwise with the
slope of the roof, those underneath secured by being bent over the
bamboo strips, and layer after layer of them piled on until the thatch
is a foot or more thick. Two poles, tied some distance apart with green
vines, are then thrown over the peak of the roof to keep a sudden gust
of wind from lifting the shelter off the dwellers’ heads, and the
residence is ready for occupancy.

The deck hands, each wearing on his head a grain sack split up one side,
stood in file beside the diminishing woodpile. When his turn came, each
grasped the end of his sack in the right hand and held the arm at full
length while others heaped it high with cordwood. As soon as he had what
he considered a reasonable amount, the carrier threw a rope held in his
left hand over the load, caught it deftly in the already burdened right
and, pulling it taut, marched down some twenty feet of perpendicular
sandy bank and across a wobbly eight-inch plank without a quiver. We
envied them the exercise at every landing, but even to have carried a
stick on board would have been not only to lose our own caste but to
jeopardize that of all our fellow-countrymen.

Nothing would be more futile than to attempt to describe the tropical
sunset, exceeded in beauty, if at all, only by sunrise, as it spread
across this flat jungle and forest country, the curving river and
woodlands. On into the night the languid wood loading continued, lighted
up in irregular patches by the lamps of the steamer and flickering oil
torches ashore. Long after dark, as the last of the _burros_ was
disappearing, the jungle dweller came on board in person and fixed upon
me to figure up how much he had coming, openly putting his faith in a
foreigner in preference to a native. There were 119 burros, for which he
was to receive fourteen cents each. It totalled $16.66, or, as it
sounded to him, $1666, and by and by the purser, who would no doubt have
beaten him a few hundred dollars in the multiplication but for my
pencil, came out of his cabin with an Australian gold sovereign and an
immense handful of Colombian bills. I asked the recipient how long he
had worked to get the pile together and received the expected South
American answer:


  The stewards of the “Alicia” in full uniform]


  Hays catches his first glimpse of the jungles of Colombia]

“Ay! Muchos soles, señor,—many suns,” which of course was as exact as he
could be about it. Strangely enough he resisted the wheedling of the
ragged stewards to exchange his fortune for the cheap straw hats and
brass rings they carried for sale and got safely ashore with the entire
handful of what, in these wilds, could not have been of any great
practical value.

As we pushed off, the captain announced that we had wood enough to last
until the following noon. One would have fancied we had enough to last
to the seventh circle and back. Here we could still “march” all night,
for the river was deep in spite of its great width. As we sat in
solitary glory on the upper deck watching the blood-red moon come up out
of the jungle, Hays suddenly broke off a dissertation on the philosophy
of life of Marcus Aurelius to exclaim:

“We ought to swear off on this. If we’re going to walk along the top of
the Andes we’ll need all the chest expansion we’ve got,” and suiting the
action to the word, he chucked his half-smoked $5 cigar overboard. It
was not until late next morning that I saw him light the next one.

“But I thought you’d sworn off?” I reminded him.

“That’s the great value of resolutions,” he answered, “you make them to
break them and feel the genuine freedom of life. But to-morrow I’ll
swear off in earnest”—which he did, almost daily as long as the journey
lasted. Meanwhile, my birthday making a good date for it, I gave up the
habit definitely myself, none too sure of its effect in the lofty
altitudes before us.

We moved at about the speed of a log-raft towed by a sunfish. Whenever
there was danger of our making a reasonable Colombian distance the
whistle was sure to sound and we drifted inshore to tie up for hours
before another woodpile. Sometimes the flat, disappointing banks of the
river were sheer for miles, with unbroken stretches of swamp grass six
feet high so dense it did not seem that a snake could have wormed its
way through it. The cerulean blue skies were equal to any of Italy, the
light clouds wandering lazily across them sometimes forming in battle
array on the rim of the horizon. Here and there were considerable fields
of sugarcane about a thatched village; but the vast fertile territory
was almost entirely virgin and uncleared. One morning a cry of “Caimán!”
called attention to a point of sand on which lay a score of alligators,
most of which slid sluggishly off into the stream as we approached.
Thereafter we had only to glance along the banks to be almost sure of
seeing several.

For some days Hays and I had made up the deck passenger list unassisted,
sitting through our meals in dignified silence with some half-dozen
waiters to miswait on us—when we could get their attention—headed by the
chief steward, who never tired of boasting that he had once made cigars
in the shadow of Ancon police station. His underlings received six
dollars a month, such food as they could forage, and the right to wear
what the passage of years had left of misfit cotton uniforms, to be
turned in at the end of the trip. They were obliged to pay for all
breakages, and life was indeed slender with only two economical gringos
as passengers. The arrival of a new _pasajero_ was in consequence always
an exciting event. Five days up, in the region known as the Opón
country, there appeared on board a native trapper of wild animals, who
had been shot through the face by an arrow of the savage Opones, but had
performed the rare feat of making his escape. Colombia includes within
her confines several tribes of Indians not only uninfluenced by the
government, but without an inkling of its existence. The Opones live far
back along the tributaries of the Magdalena, descending them only in
certain seasons, and attacking any human beings they come upon. Armed
with a species of arch-bow, they shoot an enormous arrow with a point of
iron-hard black palm barbed both ways, that can neither be pushed
through nor pulled out of the body of the victim. The arrow the trapper
brought with him could barely be forced into his long trunk after being
broken in two, and five cruel barbs still remained after several others
had been cut off and left in the body of his former companion. A few
weeks before, he reported, a harmless fellow fishing somewhat back from
the main river had been made the veritable pincushion of thirty-two such
arrows. The trapper had it that the Opones were cannibals, asserting
that a recent expedition into the Opón country had found a Colombian
woman of good family who was being fattened in a cage of bamboo, but
whom the savages had not yet eaten because of a suspicious sore on her

Gradually low shadowy mountains began to appear in the far blue
distance, with suggestions of higher ones in the clouds behind them. On
the seventh day a long rugged chain, the Sierra de Peraja in the
Province of Santander, had grown so near that separate peaks and
suggestions of villages could be picked out of the sunlit distance. Next
morning we were half surrounded by deep blue ranges, and the banks were
broad natural meadows with hundreds of cattle knee-deep in rich green
grass. Magnificent spreading trees now stood out against the sky and
ranges. The nights had grown so cool that we took to sleeping in our
“stateroom”—with barely room enough left to sneeze when our cots had
been dragged in. Here we began to go aground frequently, for the
tendency of the Magdalena is to spread out more and more as her sandy
banks keep falling into the river. At our speed the experience was
hardly hair-raising, and generally in the course of a few hours the
“Alicia” worked herself loose again. There were almost no other water
craft, except an occasional _canoa_, a dug-out log crawling along the
extreme lower edge of the forest wall. Now and then we passed large
_balsas_, rafts of hundreds of immense cedar logs, with the Colombian
flag at the prow and the crew camped aft with mat beds, primitive
kitchens, and sometimes their women and a numerous progeny. Great trees,
which the captain called _ceibas_, rose slim and clear more than a
hundred feet, to end in a parasol tuft of branches. Frequently a flock
of parrakeets screamed noisily by overhead. In places we crawled along
between sheer sand banks, gigantic trees of the dense forest hanging on
the brink of miniature Culebra slides as the river washed under them.

Higher still the stream grew so shallow that we could “march” only by
day, anchoring at dark. One night we tied up to the bank on an inner
curve of the river, where the forest cut off the breeze completely and
left us to toss in our cots until dawn. Its first glimmer of light
showed that we had reached Pureto Berrío, where a little narrow-gage
starts—I use the word advisedly, for it never gets there—for Medellín,
second city of Colombia. The “port” itself suspended whatever it was in
the habit of doing to stare at us in long silent rows from the doorways.
Its male population not only wore no shirt but did not even trouble to
conceal that fact by buttoning its tattered sun-bleached jacket. All the
natives seemed obsessed with the notion that, as gringos, we could not
speak Spanish. As often as we addressed one, though our Castilian
vocabulary was as ample and our pronunciation far less slovenly than his
own, he refused to believe his senses until the sensation had been
several times repeated.

We were off again by noon. It had been raining in the highlands beyond
and the visibly rising river was half covered with patches of thick
scum. Now and then it bore by on its swift silent surface a fragment of
forest snatched from somewhere above. We were now some hundreds of feet
above sea-level, and the forest air was fragrant and unfevered. All day
long nothing but forest trailed by. We passed timber enough in a week to
supply the world for a century and rich soil enough to feed a large
section of it permanently. But only very rarely did a little bamboo hut,
roofed with leaves, dot the monotony of virgin nature. The river had
narrowed down to a placid powerful stream; the weather was peerless,
though an almost invisible gnat began to make life less motionless.

In the purple gloaming a forest-built village of some size stood out
more picturesquely than usual on the nose of a land billow jutting forth
and falling sheer into the river, only to have the interminable forest
swallow it up again. Yet there were signs that we were approaching
somewhere or other. Hays sat with his feet on the rail, discoursing on
the relative merits of Turgeniev and Galdós, the point of his “last”
cigar glowing in the darkness, when the captain passed with a package
wrapped in the customary inefficiency of Latin-America.

“Here, I used to be one,” said Hays, reaching for the bundle and
rearranging it.

“Used to be what?” I asked, as he handed it back.

“I was walking along the street of—of—well I don’t remember the stage
setting, but it must have been in the States and a long time ago,” he
began, lighting a second cigar from the butt of the first, “for I know I
hadn’t been to sea or in the army yet, when I saw a sign in a window,
‘Bundle Wrapper Wanted.’ I had to pass up a hundred per as outside man
for a medicine faker to take it, but it was something new and ...” and
he rambled off into one of those experience sketches which, jumping
erratically over the face of the globe, frequently enlivened the voyage.

In the last hours of June we bumped against the wharf of La Dorada,
several hundred yards of tinware building along a sloping river front
with a childish attempt at paving, its main street a forlorn pathway
near the water’s edge, dying away in the forest-jungle on either hand.
Here we took our leave of the “Alicia,” for cataracts make this the end
of the run for steamers plying the lower Magdalena. Next afternoon a
train even more diminutive than that to Calamar wound away in a half
circle into the forest, with now and then glimpses of hazy, far-off
Andean ranges, and three hours later set us down in Honda. To our
surprise we found it a city, the first since Cartagena, as aged and
intricate, as full of its own local color, including many blind and
leprous beggars, as any town of old Spain. Piled close along the
Magdalena, here a series of rocky rapids, it is divided by a gurgling
tributary across which three picturesque bridges fling themselves.
Scores of aged stone buildings, quaint walls, and steep streets of
century-old pavements give it an air reminiscent of Bruges or Nürnberg,
or of some of the ancient towns of Mexico. Its narrow streets are
crowded with laden mules and sunbrowned arrieros of both sexes; its
patios seem primeval forests, and mountain ranges cut its horizon close
off in every direction. A muleteer pointed out to us the ancient trail
to Bogotá where it crossed a high red bridge and climbed steeply away up
one of the natural walls of the town on the way to Facatativá on the
lofty plateau above. But for our baggage we should have struck out for
the capital on this route of centuries.


  A village on the banks of the Magdalena]


  Jirardot; end of the steamer line and beginning of the railroad to

We went on by rail in the morning. Every woman and girl in the car—not
to mention Hays—was smoking the jet-black cigars of the region. The
little engine with its topheavy smokestack consumed wood as gluttonously
as the “Alicia,” and halted even more often to replenish its supply.
Colombians fancy railroads will work the complete regeneration of their
torpid country, but such as we had seen were only miniature samples of
the real thing, of slight practical value even were they extended all
over the republic. The natives had no notion, however, that the word
train did not stand for the same tiny contraptions the world over as
that to which they applied it.

On all sides were enormous stadiums of mountains, not yet high but
already bulking and rock-strewn. Drought had left the country desert-dry
and fine sand drifted in and deposited itself upon us in shrouds, as in
crossing Nevada. The landscape suggested a cross between the tropics and
a western prairie choking for rain, as did even the towns with their
frontiersman disarray, their burros, mules and broken-down horses
drooping in any patch of shade. Tattered boys and diseased loafers
swarmed into the cars at every stop, drinking from the water jars,
washing in the bowls of the first-class coach, making themselves
completely at home without a suggestion of protest from the trainmen.
Even were there laws against such actions, the languid officials would
have lacked the moral courage to enforce them.

The railway ended at Beltrán, where we boarded the steamer “Caribe.” A
dreary, sun-baked collection of sheds and a few choking huts made up the
town, completely surrounded by desert, with plenty of bushy trees, but a
desert for all that. The wind that swept across the steamer at her
mooring was not the cool one of the lower Magdalena, but one laden with
red-hot sands that stung the cheeks like tiny insects. When the
passengers had gulped their _almuerzo_, the dishes were piled in the
alleyway, where beggars and gaunt boys from the shore came to claw
around in them, after which they were roughly half-washed. There is a
fetching democracy about the road to Bogotá. He who travels it, be he
vagrant or man of wealth, must go through the same uninviting
experiences. It speaks poorly of Colombians that they still endure this
medieval method of travel from the outside world to their capital.
Wealthy _bogotanos_ journey to Europe in luxurious style—once they are
on the ocean. It would seem wiser for them to return steerage and
gradually accustom themselves to what they must endure from the landing
in their own country to the arrival in Bogotá.

All day long we sat in the sand-burning winds of Beltrán while barefoot
and half-naked stevedores dribbled down the steep bank with all manner
of cargo. There was barbed wire from Massachusetts, corrugated iron from
Pittsburg, boxed street-car lines that clattered and crashed as they
fell, and finally, though by no means last, four pianos from Germany
that were rolled heels over head down the long stony bank. Although we
had real cabin tickets this time, neither of us had influence enough to
get a cabin. We dragged our cots out on the open deck and, indifferent
to social rules, marched through the multitude in our pajamas. This
turned out to be entirely comme il faut, for even the son of a recent
president of Colombia soon appeared similarly clad and strolled about
the deck chattering with his fellow-passengers of both sexes, as
nonchalantly as if in full dress.

We were not off until dawn, into which the volcano Ruiz, first of the
long row of snow-clad fire-vents of the Andes which we hoped in time to
see disappear over our shoulders, thrust its aged head. Rock cliffs
along the banks recalled the Lorelei. Fields of corn undulated like
wind-snatched hair on the summits of rounded hills, at the base of which
sweltered the banana groves of the tropics. As the sun was setting we
passed a _chorro_ at the foot of a low range around which the river had
swept in a half-circle so many centuries that its bank was a sheer rock
wall surely sixty feet high. The “Caribe,” with the nose of a washtub,
panted for life against the current, spitting showers of live coals from
her wood fires, seeming several times about to give up the attempt in
despair. But she gained the calmer water above at last and soon after
dark landed us in Jirardot.

We spent the Fourth of July in Jirardot. Not by choice, but because the
train to the capital leaves only three times a week. The town swelters
by day on the edge of the curving river, here hardly fifty yards wide,
where for more than a mile stretches a vista of donkeys laden with kegs
of water, bands of women, all more or less African in ancestry, bathing,
washing, and incessantly smoking immense misshapen cigars, as do even
the children of both sexes that paddle stark naked about the bank in
complete immunity to the blazing sun. The place seemed the headquarters
of contented poverty. At least half the inhabitants either had not
enough sun-bleached garments to completely conceal their dusky skins, or
had laid them away for more gala occasions. Beggars, halt, blind,
misformed and idiotic, were almost as numerous as in similar towns of
India. Even the less miserable inhabitants were dull, neurasthenic,
utterly devoid of energy, anemics with incessant smoking, bad food, and
worse habits, given to living entirely according to their appetites and
never according to will power and reason.

It was not without misgiving that we turned our faces toward Bogotá next
morning. The crowd which the train from the plateau had landed the night
before had been half hidden under the rugs, blankets, and overcoats they
carried, and not a native of Jirardot could speak of the capital without
visibly shivering, some even crossing themselves as often as they heard
it mentioned. The train left at sunrise. By the rules of the line—the
“Ferrocarril de Jirardot”—we were obliged to check our baggage
containing all extra clothing. For the first few hours we were
surrounded by mountains, though still on a slightly rising plain between
them. The land appeared fertile and there was considerable Indian corn,
yet it was surprising to find here in the capacious New World such
swarms of beggars as in Egypt or India. The population along the way,
increasingly Indian in blood, was extraordinarily slow-witted. In a
window near us sat a commercial traveler who tossed at every one he
caught sight of along the way a pictorial advertisement of an American
panacea. The tail of the train was always well past them before a single
one gathered his wits sufficiently to pick up the treasure.

Near noon we were ourselves picked out by a mountain-climbing engine,
made in Schenectady, its boiler well forward and flanked by the water
tanks, a small upright coalbin behind. As we began a series of
switchbacks, I caught a breath of virile white man’s air for the first
time in a half year, and the taste of it was so delicious that the
sensation reached to my tingling toes. Regularly the vista of gouged-out
valleys surrounded by rough-hewn, cool, blue ranges spread to greater
distances. Passengers began to turn red-nosed, to put on overcoats,
blankets, rugs, ponchos, gloves, to wrap towels about their necks. To me
the temperature was delightful, but Hays, who had been long years in the
tropics, took to applying other adjectives.

Now the landscape of meadows and grazing cattle backed by towering
mountains suggested Switzerland. Beyond the one tunnel of the line we
entered an immense valley walled by row upon row of blue ranges. Higher
still, the bleak, stony highlands resembled a more rugged Scotland in
late October, though cultivation was almost general and roads numerous.
It struck us as strange that human beings should shiver and toil for a
scant livelihood in such surroundings when a day’s walk would bring them
to perpetual summer and nature’s well filled larder. A plant must remain
where it chances to be born, but why should man also?

By four, the train had finished its task of lifting its breathless
passengers into the thin air of Facatativá, and scores of half-frozen
barefoot children and ragged adults dismally wandered the stony streets.
A policeman muffled to the ears assured us with what seemed a suggestion
of pride that Facatativá was even colder than Bogotá, for which Hays
gave fervent thanks. Evidently the heat of the tropics was yet in my
blood, for I still felt comfortable.

An hour later we were speeding across a broad plateau by the
“Ferrocarril de la Sabana,” a government railroad equipped with real
trains of American cars. All the languor and ragged indifference of the
tropics seemed to have been left forever behind. The conductor was as
business-like—and as light in color—as any in our own land. We stopped
briefly at towns boasting all the adjuncts of civilized life, somehow
dragged up to these lofty realms. Here was a country built from the
center outwardly; the nearer we came to its capital, the further we left
the world behind, the more modern and well furnished did it become. It
recalled fanciful tales of men who, toiling for weeks through unknown
wildernesses, suddenly burst forth upon an unknown valley filled with
all the splendors of an ancient kingdom.


  A typical Indian hut on the outskirts of Bogotá]


  Indian girls and women are the chief dray-horses of the Colombian

Yet we could not but wonder why, once they had reached this lofty
plateau, the discoverers had not halted and built their city, instead of
marching far back across it to the foot of the enclosing range. A full
thirty-five miles the train fled across the _sabana_, an immense plain
in appearance like one of our north in early April, intersected here and
there by barbed-wire fences. Broad yellow fields of mustard appeared,
spread, and disappeared behind us. Great droves of cattle frisked about
in the autumn air as if to keep warm. Well-built country dwellings
flashed by, stony and bare in setting, but embellished with huge
paintings of landscapes on the walls under the veranda roofs. The sun
had barely smiled upon us since noon. Now as the day declined I began to
grow cold, bitter cold, colder than I had been since descending from the
Mexican plateau seven months before, while Hays’ hat brim shook with his
shivering. Our fellow-passengers looked like summer excursionists
unexpectedly caught in straw hats by grim, relentless winter. Then as
evening descended the plain came abruptly to an end, and at the very
foot of a forbidding black mountain range spread a cold, smokeless city
of bulking domes and towers. We had reached at last, after eighteen days
of travel, the most isolated of South American capitals.

                               CHAPTER II
                          THE CLOISTERED CITY

Our entrance into Bogotá was not exactly what we had planned or
anticipated. The crowd that filled the station and its adjacent streets
in honor of the thrice-weekly linking with the outside world was dressed
like an American city in February, except that here black was more
general and choking high collars and foppish canes far more in evidence.
Wherefore, seeing two men of foreign aspect, visibly shivering in their
strange feather-weight uniforms, descending upon them, the pulsating
throng could be dispersed only with difficulty, and excited urchins
raced beside the horse car that set us down at last before a recommended
hotel. Hays, who was nothing if not self-conscious, as well as tropical
blooded, lost no time in putting on every wool garment his baggage
contained and dived under four blankets vowing never to be seen again in

We seemed to have reached the very center of this incongruous
civilization of the isolated fastnesses of the Andes. Our suite took up
an entire second-story corner of the hotel. There were carpets in which
our feet sank half out of sight, capacious upholstered chairs, divans in
every corner, tables that might have graced a French château, pier glass
mirrors, gleaming chandeliers, lamps with double burners, in addition to
electric lights. Our parlor, its huge windows resplendent with lace
curtains, opened on a balcony overhanging the street, as did also the
adjoining bedroom, as richly furnished and with two old-fashioned
colonial bedsteads heaped high with mattresses, their many blankets
covered with glossy vicuña hides. We were far indeed from the
frontiersman steamers of the Magdalena. When the hunger of the highlands
asserted itself, we sneaked down to a luxurious dining-room to find the
menu and service equal to that of some travelers’ palace on the Champs
Elysées. The sumptuous breakfast that a maid placed beside our beds next
morning was a humorous contrast to those we had endured on the “Alicia.”
Yet all these luxuries, borne to this lofty isolation by methods the
most primitive known to modern days, were ours at the paltry rate of
$1.50 a day. Truly, the cost of high living had not yet reached the
altitude of Bogotá.

It was evident, however, that if we were to live here as anything but
public curiosities we must patronize a clothing store. The Zone costume,
so splendidly adapted to our future plans, was, unfortunately, original
for _bogotanos_; and nowhere does originality of garb cause greater
furore than in the mountain-cloistered capital of Colombia. When we
summoned up courage to venture forth, Hays dodged into the first tailor
shop that crossed his path, and instantly agreed to take whatever
happened to be offered him, at any price the tailor chose to inflict—and
returned to remain in hiding for the ensuing twenty-four hours until the
articles were altered. Meanwhile I sallied forth from a ready-made
establishment, inconspicuous in a native shirt that came perilously near
being born a pajama and a heavy, temporarily black, suit of “cashmere”
with a misgiving tightness across the trousers.

On second thought it was not surprising that this far away city of the
Andes should be so exacting in dress. Virtually cut off from the world,
it was supremely eager to appear cosmopolitan. The result is a tailor’s
paradise. No one who aspires to be ranked among the _gente decente_ ever
dreams of permitting himself to be seen in public lacking any detail of
the equipment, from derby to patent leathers, that makes up the
_bogotano’s_ mental picture of a Parisian boulevardier. At first we took
this multitude of faultlessly dressed men to mean that the city rolled
in wealth. As time went on many a dandy of fashion we had fancied a bank
president, or the son of some prince of finance, turned out to be a
side-street barber, or the keeper of a four-by-six book-stall, if not
indeed without even so legitimate a source of income. It is due, no
doubt, to some misinterpretation of the European fashion sheets that the
main street corners were habitually blocked long before noon by men and
youths in Prince Alberts, who spent the greater part of the day leaning
with Parisian nonchalance on silver-headed canes.

The women of the better class, on the other hand, are never seen
disguised as Parisians except on rare gala occasions. At morning mass,
or in their circumspect tours of shopping, they appear swathed from head
to foot in the black _manto_, a shawl-like thing of thin texture wound
about head and body to the hips and leaving only a bit of the face and a
bare glimpse of their blue-black hair visible. To us the costume was
pleasing in its simplicity. Bogotanos, however, complain that it is
_triste_—sad, and in time we too came to have that impression, as if the
sex had gone perpetually into mourning for the ways of its male

The great underlying mass of the population has no requirements in the
matter of dress. In general the _gente del pueblo_—the “men of the
people”—wear shoddy trousers of indeterminate hue, _alpargatas_,—hemp
soles held in place by strips of canvas—without socks, a soiled “panama”
always very much out of place in this climate, and, covering all else, a
_ruana_, or native-woven blanket with a hole in the center through which
to thrust the head. Their women rarely wear black, but simple gowns of
some light color, at least on Sundays, after which its whiteness
decreases. They go commonly bareheaded, often barefooted, and always
stockingless. Every scene from street to Cathedral shrine is enlivened
by the bare legs of women and girls often decidedly attractive in
appearance—to those who have no great prejudice for the bath.

To be nearer the center of activities we had taken a room in the third
story of the municipal building, on the site of the palace of the
viceroys. Down below lay the main plaza of Colombia, Tenerani’s
celebrated statue of Bolívar in its center, the still unfinished capitol
building cutting it off on the right. Across the square we could look in
at the door of the ancient Cathedral—and shake our fists at its
constantly clanging bells. Beyond, much of the city spread out before
us, the thatched huts of misery spilling a little way up the foot of the
dismal black range that filled in the rest of the picture.

The altitude of Bogotá—it stands 8630 feet above the level of the
sea—seldom fails to impress itself upon the newcomer. Many travelers do
not risk the sudden ascent from Jirardot to the capital in a single day,
but stop over between trains at a halfway town. During the first days I
was content to march slowly a few blocks up and down her slightly
inclined streets, and even then found myself with the faint third cousin
of a headache, several mild attacks of nose bleed, and a soreness of all
the body as if from undue pressure of the blood. Until the first effects
wear away, energy is at its lowest ebb and time passes on leaden wings.
The change in mood is as marked as in the character of the permanent
inhabitants. From the moment of his arrival the traveler feels again
that foresighted, looking-to-the-future attitude toward life common to
the temperate zone. All the light, airy, gay and wasteful ways of Panama
and the tropics fade away like the memory of some former existence, and
it is easy to understand why the bogotano is quite different in
temperament from the languid inhabitants along the Magdalena. Unlike
many regions of high altitude, however, Bogotá is not a “nervous” city.
There are lower places in Mexico, for instance, where the nerves seem
always at a tension. Here we felt serene and unexcited all day long as
in the first hours of waking from long refreshing sleep.

Except in the actual sunshine, the air was raw even at noon. The wind
from off the backing range or across the sabana cut through our garments
as if they were of cheesecloth. The thermometer falls much lower in
other climes, but here artificial heat is unknown, and a more
penetrating cold is inconceivable. By night the bogotano wears an
overcoat of the greatest obtainable thickness, he dines and goes to the
theater in a temperature that would make outdoor New York in early
November seem cozy and hospitable. Well dressed men in gloves and
overcoats and women in furs walking briskly across the square below our
window on their way from the electric street cars to the theater or the
“Circo Keller,” gave the scene quite the appearance of a similar one in
an American town in the first days of winter. Yet this was July and we
were barely five degrees from the equator. Beside us lay the latest
newspapers from New York, half way to the north pole, bristling with
such items as: “Wanted—Cool rooms for the summer months.” “Four Dead of
Heat Prostration.” It is a peculiar climate. Flowers—of some Arctic
species—bloom perennially, and the poorer people, inured to it from
birth, seem to thrive in bare legs and summer garb. Frost is virtually
unknown, not because the temperature does not warrant it, but because
what would be frost elsewhere evaporates in the thin air. Once the sun
has set, nothing seems quite so attractive, whatever the plans made by
day, as to read for an hour huddled in all spare clothing, then to throw
open the windows and dive under as many blankets as a Minnesota farmer
in January. The bogotano does not, of course, believe in open windows.
Though he scorns a fire—or has never thought to build one—he has a
quaking fear of the night air, against which he charges a score of
diseases headed by the dreaded pneumonia of high altitudes. Those who
venture out at night habitually hold a handkerchief over mouth and
nostrils. Yet at least this can be said, that nowhere is sleep, if
properly tucked in, more sound and refreshing.

Within a week we found ourselves acclimated—or should I say
altitudinated—and took to exploring the city more thoroughly. The air
was still noticeably thin, but there was enough of it to furnish the
lung-fuel even for the five mile stroll up to the natural stone gateway
where the highway to the east clambers away through a notch and begins
the descent to Venezuela. Looking down upon it from here, the
misinformed traveler might easily fancy the broad sabana the sea-level
plains of some northern clime, never guessing that forty miles to the
west the world falls abruptly away into the torrid zone. For Bogotá is
chiefly remarkable for its location. Taken somewhere else it would be
like many another city of Spanish ancestry. Its streets are singularly
alike, wide, straight, a few paved in macadam, more in rough cobbles,
many grass-grown and all with a central line of flagstones worn smooth
by the feet of generations of carriers. The chiefly two-story houses toe
sidewalks so narrow that two can seldom pass abreast, and for those who
know Spain or her former colonies there is nothing unusual in the
architecture. The streets cross each other at solemn right angles, and
those which do not fade away on the plain fetch sharply up against the
rusty black range that backs the city. The system of street numbering is
excellent, that of the houses clumsy, and the former is marred by the
habit of the volatile government in changing familiar names as often as
some new or forgotten patriot is called to its attention. Thus the Plaza
San Augustín had been the Plaza Ayacucho up to a short time before our
arrival, yet before we left it had become the Plaza Sucre in honor of a
new statue of that general unveiled on Colombia’s Independence Day, July
twentieth. In like manner the Plaza de Egipto was transformed before our
very eyes into the Plaza de Maza. This weakness for honoring new heroes
is characteristic of the whole country. Not only are its provinces
frequently renamed, but in the short century since its independence, the
nation itself has basked under a half dozen titles,—to wit: “La Gran
Colombia”; “Nueva Granada”; “Confederación Granadina”; “Estados Unidos
de Nueva Granada”; “Estados Unidos de Colombia”; and, since 1885,
“República de Colombia”—and there are evidences that it is not yet
entirely satisfied.

It is less in its material aspects than in the ways of its population
that the traveler finds Bogotá interesting. About every inhabitant
hovers a glamour of romance. Either he has always lived in this
miniature world, or he has at least once made the laborious journey up
to it. The vast majority are born, live, and die here in their lofty
isolation. Shut away by weeks of wilderness from the outside world,
alone with its own little trials and triumphs, it seems something long
ago left behind up here under the chilly stars by a receding wave of
civilization. Small wonder its people consider their city the center of
the universe. Those who travel a little way out into the world see
nothing to compare with it; the scant minority that reach Paris are
credited with fervid imaginations, if indeed the picture of what they
have seen is not effaced during the long toilsome journey back to their
own beloved capital. Perhaps no other city of to-day is more nearly what
a newly discovered one must have been to the happy explorers of earlier
times. Now and then there comes upon the traveler the regret that it is
not entirely cut off instead of nine-tenths so. A region fitted for the
development of its own customs, had it been left to its aboriginal
Chibchas it might have evolved a civilization entirely its own,
altogether different, and not this rather crumpled copy of familiar
world capitals.

Bogotá is decidedly a white man’s city. Indeed there is hardly another
of its size south of the Canadian border in which the percentage of pure
white complexions is higher. On rare occasions a negro who had drifted
up from the hot lands below sat huddled in the main plaza in all the
blankets and ruanas he could borrow, but his face was sure soon to be
numbered among the missing. Brunettes predominate, of course, but blonds
are by no means rare. The bootblack who served us now and then was a
decided towhead. Red cheeks are almost the rule. Slight atmospheric
pressure, bringing the blood nearer the surface, no doubt largely
accounts for this, but there are many other evidences of general good
health. At this altitude the violation of most of the rules of
sanitation are lightly punished. The temperature, cold enough to be
invigorating yet not so cold as to require our health-menacing
artificial heat, combined with its simple, placid life, makes Bogotá a
town of plump, robust figures, particularly among the women, unmarked by
the dissipation common to the males. Many of the former may frankly be
termed beautiful, in spite of a wide-spread tendency of the sex to wear
distinctly noticeable black mustaches. Unfortunately the men of the
well-to-do class are not believers in exercise, or the systematic caring
for the body. Scorning every unnecessary physical exertion, letting
themselves grow up haphazard, they are noticeably round-shouldered and
hollow-chested. An American long resident in the city seriously advised
us to “get a hump into your shoulders so you won’t attract so much

Even the descendants of the Chibchas, that make up much of the
population of the outskirts and the surrounding country, have a tinge of
russet in their cheeks, and are by no means so dark as our
copper-skinned aborigines. Daily they swarm into the city that was once
theirs. Short, yet sturdy, muscular carriers and arrieros, as often
female as male, pass noiselessly through the streets with the produce of
their country patches. Girls barely ten, to old women, many of comely
features in spite of the encrusted dirt of years, more often so
brutalized by toil as to seem hardly human, dressed in matted rags,
their feet and legs bare almost to the knees, plod past under burdens an
American workman could not carry a hundred yards. Early in the wintry
plateau mornings they set out from their _chozas_, cobblestone or mud
hovels thatched with the tough yellow-brown grass of the uplands, that
are huddled in the mountain passes or strewn out along the wind-swept
sabana, driving a bull—rarely a steer, since the former animal loses
much of his belligerency at this altitude—on its back a load little
larger than that which the female driver, with a strap about her brow,
carries herself. They are all but indistinguishable from the men who
tramp beside them. A patchwork skirt instead of tattered trousers is
almost the only difference in dress, and their manner is utterly devoid
of any feminine touch. Brawny as the men, they march through all the
hardships of life as sturdily and uncomplainingly as our early pioneers,
asking sympathy neither by word nor look. It is a commonplace sight in
Bogotá to see a mere girl in years grasp the nose-ring rope of a bull
and throw him to his knees, or lay hold of a cinch-strap in her
calloused hands and, with one foot against the animal’s ribs, tighten
the girth with the skill of an experienced arriero. Girls and boys alike
are trained from their earliest years to this life of bovine toil, never
looking forward to any other. Of the existence of schools they have
hardly an inkling. To them life is bounded by their cheerless hovels and
the _chicherías_ of the city, numerous as the _pulquerías_ of Mexico. In
every corner of the capital these low drinking shops abound,
masquerading under such misnomers as “El Nido de Amor”—“The Love
Nest,”—and overrun by their besotted votaries of both sexes. Yet the
bogotano Indian drunk is quiet and peaceful compared with the Mexican,
for _chicha_ seems chiefly to bring drowsiness and contentment with life
as it is.


  Bogotá and its _sabana_ from the summit of Guadalupe]


  The central plaza of Bogotá from the window of our room. In the center
    is the famous statue of Bolívar by Tenarani; on the right, the new
    _capitolio_; in the middle foreground the Cathedral, backed by the
    peaks of Guadalupe and Monserrate]

Ever since our arrival Hays and I had been threatening to patronize one
of the two public bath houses with a first-class bogotano reputation
rumor had it existed in the capital. But in a land where the temperature
rarely reaches fifty, and the floors are tiled, it takes courage, and we
had been satisfying ourselves and our duty to humanity by bravely
splashing a basin of icy water over our manly forms each morning on
arising. By dint of strong resolutions often repeated to be up at six
and visit one of the _casas de baños_, we did finally manage one morning
to find ourselves wandering the streets by eight, with towel and soap
under our arms, and stared at by all we met. We discovered “La Violeta”
at last, next door to a blacksmith shop. The keeper we woke up told us
we might have a cold bath, but that the sign on the front wall: “Hot
Baths at all Hours,” was to be taken with a bogotano meaning.

A few mornings later we did actually find the other establishment open.
We entered a large patio, the most striking of several buildings within
which was a round, or, more exactly, an eight-sided house, and in time
succeeded in arousing the place to the extent of bringing down upon us a
youth hugely excited at the appearance of a crowd of two whole bathers
all at one time. It turned out that each of the eight sides of the
strange building was—theoretically—a bathroom of the shape of a slice of
cake, with a frigid tile floor and an aged porcelain tub in which a bath
cost only $10. At the back was a larger, though none the less dreary,
chamber with a _regadera_, or shower-bath. The youth assured us there
was plenty of hot water. I won the toss and was soon stripped. But the
shower was colder than the ice-fields bounding the pole. When I had
caught my breath I bawled my repertory of profane Spanish at the youth,
who could be seen through a hole above pottering with some sort of
upright boiler and firebox and now and then peering down upon me.
Suddenly the water grew warm, hot, boiling, then, just when I had soaped
myself from crown to toe in the steam, it turned as suddenly cold again,
and an instant later stopped entirely. My eyes tight closed, I shouted
at the youth above.

“Es que el agua caliente se acabó,” he droned. “It is that the hot water
has finished itself.”

There being no deadly weapon at hand, I turned on a tap of ice-cold
water and raced to the dressing-room still half soaped. Hays, scantily
clad, was gazing fiercely at the youth through a hole in the door.

“Then there isn’t any more hot water?” he demanded.

“Not now, señor, but there will be soon.”

“Good. How soon?”

“Early to-morrow morning, señor.”

“But I want to bathe now!”

“Ah, you want to bathe?” repeated the youth, with wide-open eyes.

“No, you cross-eyed Son of Spigdom,” exploded the ordinarily
even-tempered ex-corporal, “I came here and stripped to an undershirt
that I might dance in my bare feet on this tile floor in honor of José
María de la Santa Trinidad Simón Bolívar! Get up on that roof and fire
up or ...”

The youth was already feverishly stoking armsful of wood under the
upright boiler, and by the time I left for home Hays was shadow boxing
to keep warm, with a fair chance of getting a bath before the day was

As is to be expected from its isolation, the Colombian capital is a
deeply religious, not to say a fanatical, city. An infernal din of
church bells of the tone of suspended pans or broken boilers makes the
early morning hours hideous and continues at frequent intervals
throughout the day. Here, contrary to the custom in most centers of the
Latin race, the men as well as the women go to church. College
professors and literary lights of no mean ability seriously contend that
the shinbone of some saint in this shrine or that “temple” has
miraculous power; but the superstition of isolation hangs particularly
heavy over the uneducated masses. Of late years the Liberals and the
Masons have grown nearly as powerful as the Conservatives, and do not
hesitate to express themselves freely in public, knowing that in case of
attack any representative body of the population includes
fellow-Liberals who will come to their rescue. Every public gathering is
pregnant with possibilities of an outburst between the two divisions of
society. The very school-boys talk politics—here inextricably entangled
with religion—and the foreigner who wishes to hold the attention of a
Colombian for a conversation of any length must have some knowledge, or
at least a plausible pretense of knowledge, of interior political
questions. It was a bare three years since a Protestant missionary had
been stoned by the populace of Bogotá, though he now held his services
in peace in what, despite the lack of outward signs, was really a
church. Policemen armed with rifles liberally besprinkle every meeting
in theater, cathedral, or public square. Shortly before our arrival a
dozen officers and citizens had been killed in a religious riot in the

Were they less hump-shouldered, these policemen of Bogotá might easily
be taken for Irishmen, and an absent-minded American fancy himself back
in the New York of a decade ago. The uniform of the day force is a copy
of that of our own metropolis before the helmets were abolished. At
night the scene changes. In every street spring up officers in high caps
and long capes who might have stepped directly from the arrondissements
of Paris, with even the short sword in place of the daytime
“night-stick.” They are a well disciplined body of men, quite unlike the
childish, inefficient guardians of law and disorder so familiar from the
Rio Grande southward. The bogotano officer would no sooner be seen
sitting, lounging, or smoking on duty than would one in our own large
cities. As in all Latin-American countries, however, the chief drawback
to a really efficient service is the caste system. The policemen are of
necessity recruited from the gente del pueblo, and though they have no
hesitancy in arresting one of their own class, the sight of a white
collar paralyzes them with their ingrown deference to the more powerful
rank of society. The result is that a well-dressed person can commit
anything short of serious crime under the very eyes of the police. The
officer may keep the culprit under surveillance, but rarely summons up
courage actually to arrest him until he has definite orders from a
white-collared superior.

There are curious local customs in Bogotá. Her small shops, for example,
have a system of signs intelligible only to the initiated. A red flag
announces meat for sale; a red flag with a yellow star, meat and bones;
a white flag, milk; a green one, vegetables and grains. A cabbage or a
lettuce-head thrust forth on the end of a stick marks the entrance to a
cheap restaurant; a tuft of faded flowers, a chichería. The bogotano
sees nothing incongruous in a building that announces itself a “Primary
School” above and an “American Bar” below. On week days the pedestrian
slinks through many of the chief residential streets apparently unseen;
on a gala Sunday afternoon the same stroll is to run an unbroken
gauntlet of feminine eyes. For then the señoritas who are seen, if at
all, during the week, hurrying to mass all but concealed in their
mantos, don their most resplendent garb and, with cushions under their
plump elbows, lean in their window embrasures oggling and being oggled
through the iron _rejas_.

A native of Medellín, where envy of the capital and her self-seeking
politicians is rife, had assured us as far away as Panama:

“All they do in Bogotá is study and steal.”

We had only to glance out our windows to find basis for the first part
of the assertion. The plaza below was always alive with students from
the local institutions of higher learning for males marching slowly back
and forth conning the day’s lessons. The fireless houses are cold and
dungeon-like, particularly in the morning, and the city long ago formed
the habit of studying afoot. The racial dislike of solitude and the
eagerness to be seen and recognized by their fellows as devotees of
learning may also have some part in a practice that many a bogotano
continues through life. It is commonplace to pass in almost any street
men even past middle age strolling along with an open book in one hand
and the inevitable silver-headed cane in the other.

In colonial times Bogotá won the reputation, if not the actual position,
of “literary capital of South America.” Her speech is still the best
Castilian of America, with little of that slovenliness of pronunciation
so general from the Rio Grande southward. To this day the city has a
considerable intellectual life, wider perhaps than it is deep.
“Everyone” writes. He is a rare public man who has not published at
least a handful of “versos” in his youth. Poets, writers, painters, and
musical composers are more numerous than in many a far larger center of
civilization. The placid isolation of life in Bogotá, almost completely
severed from the feverish distractions of the modern world, makes this
natural. There is nothing else to do. Then, too, lack of opportunity to
compare their work with that of a wider world no doubt gives the
“literatos” of Bogotá a self-complacency that might otherwise be
slighter. The cheap local printing-presses pour out a constant flood of
five-cent volumes of the local “poets,” those same “cachacos” and
“filipichines” in frock-tailed coats who lean with such Parisian grace
on their canes at the principal street corners. The youth who sees his
smudged likeness appear on the tissue-paper cover of the weekly pamphlet
seethes with ill-suppressed joy at his entrance into the glorious, if
crowded, ranks of the “intelectuales.” It is chiefly a dilettante
literature, rarely of material reward and of no visible connection with
life. But a considerable stream of flowery verse, languidly melancholy
in its temperament and not overburdened with deep thought, flows
constantly, and the boiling down by time has left Bogotá credited with a
few works of genuine worth.


  A _chola_, or half-Indian girl of Bogotá, backed by an outcast of the
    “gente decente” class]


  A street of Bogotá. The line of flaggings in the center is for the use
    of Indians and four-footed burden-bearers]

A lecture was given one evening at the Jurisprudence Club on the
momentous subject of “The Necessity of a Legal Revolution in Colombia.”
Hays reneged at the last moment, but I accepted the invitation issued to
the “general public.” I was the only foreigner among the hundred
present, yet no American audience could have been more universally white
of complexion. Indeed, the gathering was strikingly like a similar one
in our own country—on a March evening when the furnace had broken down
or the janitor gone on strike. All wore overcoats and kept constantly
bundled up. The solemn whispering of the audience as it gathered, the
unattractiveness of the women, all of whom had long since left youth
behind, the staid mien of the men in their frock coats, gave the scene
the atmosphere of a meeting of “highbrows” in a corner of far-away New
England. But there was superimposed a pompous solemnity and a funereal
tone peculiar to the Latin-American, to a race that lays more stress on
the correctness of its manner than the weight of its matter. A
misstatement or a palpably erroneous fact or conclusion, one felt, might
pass muster, but not a slip in the “urbanities” of society or the
incorrect knotting of a cravat.

It was a “lecture” in the French sense. When the president had taken his
place and all was arranged in faultless Parisian order, the speaker
removed his neck-scarf and began solemnly to read from typewritten
manuscript. He was a man of forty, wearing glasses, with the
perpendicular wrinkles of close study on his brow. A score of countries
could have reproduced him ad libitum. He read drearily, monotonously,
with constant care never to spill over into the merely human. The
discourse based itself on the narrow national patriotism common to
Latin-America. Yet at times the speaker talked plainly, admitting that
Colombia is 88% illiterate and that half the remainder can barely read
and write. The Church he assailed bitterly for its shortcomings, yet
never mentioned it directly. In time, as is bound to happen sooner or
later in any public meeting in Colombia, he drifted into the great
national grievance and whined through several pages on “the wickedness
of taking the rebel province of Panama away from us, a weak and helpless
people”—here I caught several of the audience gazing fixedly at me, as
if they fancied I had taken some active part in that debateable action.
Through all the latter part of the lecture the church bells across the
way kept up a constant jangling that completely swallowed up whatever
conclusions he had gained from his laborious dissertation. It was
strangely as if the voice of religion and superstition were trying by
din and hubbub to drown out that of reason and reflection, as it has
since the first medicine-man danced howling into the circle of elders in
conference in the Stone Age.

On the “Panama question” the attitude of the Colombian man in the street
is not exactly that of the Government. A well-educated native holding a
small post, though clinging to the same convictions on the “taking” of
the “rebel province” as the bulk of his countrymen, expressed himself to
me as follows:

“We ordinary citizens feel that our country should be paid for the loss
of Panama, and the slight to our national honor. But we hope very much
that your United States will not pay our government a large sum of money
in cash, as contemplated by the proposed treaty. For almost all of it
would go into the pockets of the dozen politicians who hold the reins of
government. Give us _obras hechas_,—finished works,—a railway from the
coast to Bogotá, or a perfected harbor with docks and modern

One day soon after our arrival we strolled over to the _Biblioteca
Nacional_ to begin the Colombian reading we had planned. It was wasted
effort. We brought up against a heavy colonial door bearing the
announcement: “Suspended until further notice, by order of the Ministry
of Public Instruction.”

An American resident interpreted it to mean, “Oh, some of the readers
have been stealing books again”—and we recalled the cynical native of
Medellín. Days later, however, when we gained unofficial admission for a
few moments, we found that the 5000 volumes bequeathed by a Colombian
“literato” not unknown to a wider world—Rafael Pombo, who had recently
died in Paris—were being catalogued. Several frock-coated pedants were
smoking innumerable cigarettes and deceiving themselves into the notion
that they were at work arranging the books. But the National Library
remained hermetically sealed to the public as long as we remained in the
capital. It was by no means the first nor the last time we met a similar
disappointment in South America.

We had put it off a long while before we gathered courage and all our
woolen garments and hurried through the wintry night to Bogotá’s main
theater. As in other restricted societies, entertainments are frequently
“got up” here, chiefly with local talent. It is a long way to any other
talent in Bogotá. This one was a _velada_ in honor of that same Rafael
Pombo. Fortunately the audience was large enough to keep the place
moderately warm. Every detail, every movement, the very _toilettes_ of
the distinctly good looking, if mustached, ladies in boxes and stalls
were as exact a copy as was humanly possible of similar scenes at the
opera in Paris, a copy in miniature bearing the earmarks of having been
taken from some novel of the boulevards. Señora la bogotana used her
lorgnette exactly as she had read of her Parisian counterpart doing; the
men, in faultless evening dress down to the last white eyeglass ribbon
about the neck, strove to act precisely as they conceived men did on
like occasions in the wider world. Again all was burdened by the solemn
artificiality of the race. One after another six men burst genteelly
upon the stage and declaimed something or other in that painful,
flamboyant ranting so beloved of the Latin. All the cut and dried forms
of “cultured” society were solemnly carried out. Flowers, some one had
read, were always presented to the performers, and even the podgy,
pompous old fellow who forgot his “piece” several times had solemnly
thrust upon him by a stage lackey in gorgeous livery two immense wreaths
of blossoms.

In one matter at least these bogotanos were at an advantage over
amateurs of other lands. Natural declaimers and reciters from babyhood,
their tongues always eager for utterance, almost devoid of that
bashfulness that works the undoing of the less fluent but perhaps deeper
thinking races, they seemed seasoned actors in those points which called
for strictly histrionic ability. In another theater a few nights later
we saw several Spanish comedies presented by a company of local
amateurs, and were astonished at the excellence of the work. That of a
few of the principals would have won praise on any stage.

Three railways leave Bogotá, though none of them gets very far away.
First in importance, of course, is that to Facatativá, connecting with
Jirardot. Another runs through the flower-decked suburb of Chapinero,
past Caro, with its cream-colored castle on a hill above a cluster of
thatched mud huts, to Nemecón, a sooty adobe town of surface coal mines
where the sabana is cut off on the north. Back along it to Zapiquirá the
excursionist tramps ten miles in autumn coolness, hardly realizing he is
near the equator, between fields of half-grown maize, broad grassy
pastures dotted with white clover, with dandelions, daisies, cowslips,
and brilliant yellow “smart-weed.” Blackberry bushes here and there edge
a field in which scamper plump cattle and horses; others are confined by
fence posts of stone with four holes carefully drilled in each through
which to pass the _alambre de púas_,—barbed wire from our own land.
Zapiquirá is remarkable only for the bulking hill beside it, almost
solid rock salt. The mouths of a score of small tunnels lie in plain
sight somewhat up the slope. The salt rocks are beaten fine, dissolved
in water, evaporated, pressed, and packed into two-bushel bags that are
carried away by toil-stupefied women and girls with a band across their

But the excursion par excellence is that to the falls of Tequendama, the
theme of at least one poem by every bogotano writer. The unholy clatter
of church-bells helped me arouse Hays one morning in time to catch the
early train on the “Ferrocarril del Sur.” Some twenty miles out we
descended at the isolated little station of Tequendama and struck off
through a region wholly unwooded and almost desert dry. As the road
mounted a bit from the bare sabana a hardy vegetation appeared, here and
there a small grove of eucalypti, and a bushy natural growth thinly
covering the sides of the low mountains among which we were soon
winding. Before long we fell in with the narrow Bogotá river, idling
placidly along, little guessing what a tremendous tumble it was due to
get a bit later. Tradition has it that a god or an Inca, desiring to
drain the lake that once covered the sabana, opened the gap through
which the stream drops. By and by there appeared ahead a whirling mist
cloud which grew until we found ourselves completely enveloped in a
great fog out of which rose a dull, never-ending roar of indistinct
location. Directed by a peasant, we descended through a rustic gate and
for some yards down a field of heather and deep-green grass speckled
with white clover blossoms and scattered with massive protruding rocks.
The face of the one of these a Bogotá merchant had disfigured in
impertinent American fashion with an advertisement of his “superior
coffee.” We had reached the “Niagara of Colombia.”

Yet so far as seeing went we might as well have been in our cozy beds
back in the capital. An ordinary brown stream some forty feet wide
flowed down through bulging rocks, pitched over in a short fall on to a
stony ledge at our feet, then off into the mist-blinded unknown. A mere
country brook in which we could dip our fingers here, a foot beyond it
was forever gone. It was as if a whole world of mystery lay below and
about us, yet the curtain of swirling gray mist into which the river
plunged to be seen no more hid all from view.


  Celebrating Colombia’s Independence Day (July 20th) by unveiling a new
    statue of Sucre and renaming a plaza in his honor]


  Meanwhile in another square the populace marvels at the feats of
    “maroma nacional” of an amateur circus. Note the line of policemen
    in holiday attire]

We had shivered through our lunch, finding it difficult to believe that
we were five degrees from the equator in the month of July, when
suddenly the wind rose, and for a moment the mist thinned until we
caught a hint of an immense chasm untold depths below; then closed in
again. The excursion seemed to have been a failure. We strolled on down
the highway in the fog and loafed awhile on a bushy hillside. But as we
turned homeward, the mist was wiped away as suddenly as a curtain drawn
aside and all Tequendama lay before us. I slid down a steep bank to the
edge of the bottomless chasm and sat down where I could remain, as long
as I kept my feet braced in the sod, before one of the finest sights in
the world—or let them slip and drop to sudden death. From the upper
ledge the stream fell a sheer unbroken thousand feet in which the entire
river seemed to turn to spray and whatever was left when it struck was
beaten into mist which, rising like steam from the yawning gorge as from
some immense caldron, hid all the face of the adjacent country.
Immeasurably below, a much smaller stream could be seen picking itself
together again and winding its way dizzily off through a vast rock-faced
cañon on the perpendicular walls of which clung a few hardy plants; and
while we remained in the cold autumn world above, the river flowed away
into the tropics, into the coffee country, the land of bananas, and the
perpetual summer of the Magdalena, to help float Colombia down to the
outer world.

Of the many views of Bogotá the best is that we had at the end of our
stay, from the summit of Guadalupe. A bit of the backing range juts
forth in two peaks, each with a little white church on its top, that
seem almost sheer above the city. We climbed to the higher in something
more than an hour, massed clouds breaking away now and then to flood
with sunshine the ever widening sabana and the hazy, far-away mountains
that seemed to cut off the world completely, and came out at last on a
grassy platform where we could look down, like the astonished
Conquistadores, on all the vast plain, and, unlike them, on the city
they founded. North and south, as far as we could see, stretched the
bleak, treeless range on which we stood. At our feet this fell abruptly
away to the suburban huts of the city and her encircling Paséo de
Bolívar. Every plaza and patio, many green with a clump of eucalypti,
every window and roof-tile, was plainly visible. The people were so tiny
we had to look for them carefully, as for insects on a carpet, before we
could make them out by hundreds crawling along the light-brown streets
and specking the squares. Near the brick-walled cemetery the disk of the
bullring, filled now with the tents of the “Circo Keller,” seemed a
canvas cover on a small squat pail. Factories, as we understand the
word, being unknown, not a fleck of smoke smudged the dull-red expanse
of the stoveless city. Its noises came up to us very faintly, at times
borne wholly away on the wind, and from this height even the diabolic
din of church-bells sounded soft and almost musical.

A recent census sets the population at 122,000. Looking down upon the
City from Guadalupe, this seems at first an underestimation. But
gradually one realizes that not only are its houses low, often of a
single story, but largely taken up by interior patios. Then there are
more than a score of churches, innumerable chapels, eight large
monasteries, several seminaries, and many residences of the Church
authorities. Add to this the many government buildings, and bit by bit
the traveler grown skeptical from experience with Latin-American
figures, begins to wonder if these are not inflated. There is not a
wooden building in town. Treelessness governs the architecture, for the
surrounding country is above the timber line, though the imported
eucalyptus rises in groves here and there and flanks roads and railways.

A distinct line divides the city from the sabana, spread out like a rich
brown carpet, cut up into irregular fields by adobe wall-fences often
roofed, like the houses, with aged red tiles. In many places the sheen
of shallow lakes recalled that the Zipa of the Chibchas built his
Teusaquilla here on the lower skirts of the range to escape the winter
floods of the plain. Off across it were dimly seen several flat towns,
and here and there a farm-house or a cluster of them in a grove of the
slender Australian gum-trees which merely accentuated the treelessness
of the vast expanse of world. Six highways sally forth from the city, to
march waveringly across the plain, mere threads lost at last in the
enclosing range, broken, gnarled, pitched and tumbled into every manner
of shape, bright peaks and valleys standing sharply forth where the sun
strikes, great purple-black patches marking the shadows of the clouds.
Beyond all else, at times lost in clouds, at others plainly visible, lay
the central range of the Cordillera over which we must pass on our
journey southward. Though more than a hundred miles away, it bulked into
the sky like some vast supernatural wall, the broad snow-capped cone of
Tolima piercing the heavens in the center of the picture.

                              CHAPTER III
                      FROM BOGOTÁ OVER THE QUINDIO

The people of Bogotá refused to take seriously our plan of walking to
Quito. It was not merely that the Ecuadorian capital was far away; to
the inhabitants of this isolated little world it was only a name, like
Moscow or Lhassa. Those who had gone to school as far as the geography
lessons had a nebulous notion that it lay somewhere to the south, and
that no sea intervened; but their imaginations could not picture two
lone gringos arriving by land. To seek information was simply to waste
time. The nonexistent cannot be described. The best we could do was to
pore over a page map in a foreign atlas, whereon a match, according to
scale, was 300 miles long. Quito lay nearly three match-lengths distant
“as the crow flies,” without considering the very mountainous nature of
the country between. Yet the hardy Conquistadores had somehow journeyed
thither, and in other parts of the world we had both traveled routes
that the natives considered “impossible.”

As far away as Panama the horrors of this proposed tramp had been
impressed upon me. At dinner one evening a typical, stage Englishman,
accent and all, and an incurable monopolist of the conversation, proved
to be the owner of mines in Colombia, and I managed once to cut in with
a query about travel in that country.

“When the steamer lands you in ——,” he began, “you buy your mules, ten
or twelve, hire your mozos and carriers and....”

“But I plan to walk.”

“Walk!” exploded my fellow-guest, “Why on earth should a man wish to

“It keeps the girth reduced,” I might have replied.

“It cahn’t be done,” dogmatized the monopolist. “Absurd! Why—why—a man
cahn’t travel on foot in Colombia. His social standing depends on how
fine a mule he rides. If he walked, he’d be taken for a bally peon, lose
his caste entirely, y’ know, and all that sort of thing.”

“Horrible!” I gasped.

“Besides, you’ve got to have a mule-train to carry your tent and bed and
supplies and.... Why, what on earth would you eat?”

“Huts ...” I began.

“Eh? Of the natives? Of course, but they haven’t a blessed thing to eat,
y’ know. They live on corn cakes and beans, and bananas and bread, and
that sort of thing. Now and then a chicken perhaps, but you’d starve to
death. And if they saw a white man coming, they’d know he had a lot of
money and rob him. Bandits and that sort of thing, y’ know. And how are
you going to cross the rivers—?”

“Swim—” I tried to say, but the sentence was drowned in his cataract of

“And the mud! Why, bless me, one time a party was going along the road
in Colombia and they saw a hat, an English hat, lying in a mud-hole. One
of them started to kick it, when a man’s voice shouted:

“’Ere, stop it! That’s my bally ’ead!’

“‘What on earth are you doing down there?’ said the party.

“‘Sitting on my mule, to be sure,’ said the voice.

“Why, bless me, I wouldn’t go on foot in Colombia for all the gold in
the bank of England!”

It was the end of July when I tiptoed out of the American Legation of
Bogotá, bearing at last a letter from our magnificent chargé
d’affaires—a splendid representative of Harvard, but not, thank God, of
the United States—and carried it over to the government building
opposite. The Minister of Foreign Affairs to whom I made my way through
a line of typewriters on which cigarette-clouded officials were pounding
out great international matters with two fingers, was one of those rare
persons who know why a man should wish to walk, though, being a
Colombian, he had never dared do so himself, and was, moreover, certain
that Quito could not be reached by land. I was soon armed with a
gorgeous, if misspelled, document in which the Government of Colombia
permitted itself to recommend los señores americanos therein named to
the authorities along the way—should any such turn up.



The genuine traveler sets out on a journey by tossing a toothbrush into
a pocket and strolling out of town. But even Hays had suffered somewhat
from that softening of the vagabond’s moral fiber that is the penalty
for dallying with the bourgeois comforts of civilization. We both had
the American hobo’s disgust for the “blanket stiff” who “packs” his own
bed; yet the Andes offer no proper field for orthodox hoboing. The
journey of unknown duration and possibilities before us was sure to have
variations in climate making extra clothing indispensable; moreover, we
could not take the photographs along the way unless we carried with us
means for developing the negatives. Our first plan was to buy a donkey
and drive him between us down the crest of the Andes. Among the many
reasons why this fond dream could not be realized was the certainty that
we should have chased the animal off his feet within a week. Observation
and reflection suggested that we should do better to follow the ways of
the country and hire a human beast of burden. For one thing, if the
latter ran away or dropped dead we lost nothing, except perhaps our
tempers; if the donkey came to a like end, we would be out ten or twelve
dollars. Hays abandoned the plan with double regret, for with it went
the hope of some day reporting the journey under the arresting title,
“Three Uncurried Asses in the Andes.”

With hundreds of animated bundles of rags trotting about the city ready
to lug anything from a load of hay to a chest of drawers for a mere
five-cent piece, we were certain there would be scores of native
carriers eager to see the world and to substitute a dismal and
intermittent hand-to-mouth existence for a steady job. We quickly
discovered, however, that we were wrong in ascribing our own
temperaments to the Chibcha Indian. There was not a youth among the
swarming _cargadores_ of Bogotá who had the faintest desire to see the
world; the bare thought of getting out of sound of the clanging
cathedral bells filled them one and all with terror. For the first time
we had struck the basic economic fact that the South American aboriginal
prefers to starve at home rather than to live in comparative opulence
elsewhere. In prehistoric times the Indians worshipped the natural
phenomena about their place of birth; each village had its cave or tree,
its stone or hill, on which it depended for protection; and the dread of
getting out of reach of these still courses through their primitive

By dint of repeated packing and throwing away, we reduced our
fundamental necessities to little more than the contents of two swollen
suitcases. Word of our nefarious project to contract a carrier to bear
these to some far-off, unknown world reached the last hovels of the
suburbs. But the cargadores we approached quickly named an exorbitant
wage and fled at the first opportunity. It was not a question of load,
but of road. Hays inticed a sturdy fellow upstairs one day and pointed
out our baggage on top of an enormous chest. The Indian calmly picked up
chest and all, murmuring cheerfully:

“A little heavy, señores, but I can do it. Where to?”

When we suggested a long trip, however, horror crept into his eyes,
though his unemotional Indian face showed none of it, and naming an
impossible fee, he slowly and silently slid backward through the door.

To our surprise, a man captured late on the day before we planned to
start did not show this customary fear. He proved to be a native of the
_tierra caliente_, eager to get back to his tropical home, and asserted
his ability to carry four _arrobas_ (100 pounds) day after day. Our
baggage weighed far less than that.

“Why not take a contract to go with us by the month?” I suggested.

“Cómo qué pagarán los señores?” he queried reflectively.

“We’ll pay you,” I answered, setting the sum high so that Hays, to whom
money was always a minor detail, could not charge me with losing this
eleventh-hour opportunity, $1200 a month, and food.

We could see that he “fell for it” at once, and was merely
procrastinating in the hope of getting more. That dream vanished, he
announced that he must have a new hat and _ruana_ for “so important a
journey.” We agreed to supply these—when he turned up at six in the
morning ready to start.

He did not turn up. When we had shivered into our clothes and gone to
hang over our _reja_, cargadores male and female were already plentiful
in the wintry, mist-draped plaza below, squatted inside their ruanas or
wandering aimlessly about with a rope over one shoulder. Out of regard
for the proprieties we beckoned to none but the men. It was some time
before one—who, perhaps, had not yet heard our plans—appeared at the
door. We were careful to mention only the first town, a short day’s
journey away, and offered fifty cents, at least twice what he averaged
in daily earnings. Convinced we would give no more, he accepted. This
time we took good care he should not escape. When he had bound the load
with his rope—the cargador’s one indispensable possession—we put him
outside and went to breakfast.

On our return we found him waiting—naturally. He prepared for the
journey, not as we of the north would expect, by balancing the suitcases
on opposite sides, but by slinging them both on his back, the rope
cutting deeply into his shoulder, and set off bent so low, with the
weight chiefly on his hips, that he seemed some deformed creature
shuffling along behind us.

At last we were off, marching out of the main plaza of Bogotá at eight
on the morning of August first. In our flannel shirts, even with our
coats still on, we set all the capital staring as we passed. Hays
carried a kodak in one pocket and Ramsey’s Spanish Grammar in the other;
my own apparatus and the overflow from my suitcase swung from a shoulder
in a _mochila_, or woven hemp bag. Even our “One-Volume Library,”
consisting of a few favorite bits in a half-dozen languages bound into a
single book, we had been forced to pack away on the carrier’s back. We
had exchanged instructions to cover any unexpected outcome of the
journey, those which Hays had handed me consisting chiefly of the
command, “In the event of death with boots on, do not remove the boots!”
The morning paper that overtook us near the statues of Colombus and
Isabel announced that we had left for Quito the day before, but failed
to specify on foot. Readers would have taken it for a printer’s error,

Hays volunteered to shadow the carrier for the first day. Both
experienced enough to know that the pleasure of traveling together is
enhanced by traveling apart, we each set our own pace, letting our moods
take color from the landscape, drifting together now and then when
hungry for companionship, or often enough to assure ourselves of each
other’s welfare. Epictetus says, “As the bad singer cannot sing alone,
but only in chorus, so a poor traveler cannot travel alone, but only in
company.” Hays, having a mind of his own to feed on, was by virtue
thereof an excellent traveling companion.

At first the way was lined with houses of sun-baked mud, and peopled by
dull-eyed, respectful Indians and haughty horsemen. A bright sun,
frequently clouded over, made it just the day for tramping in full garb.
The Indian crawled along so slowly that I soon forged ahead. Beyond the
outskirts the broad upland plain was cut into irregular fields by adobe
walls or fences, often tile-roofed, with massive adobe gate pillars.
Fields dense with green Indian corn alternated with yellow stretches of
ripening grain. Here and there potatoes were being planted. Masses of
big red roses, of geraniums and daisies and unfamiliar flowers,
frequently beautified the scene. Two hours away I caught the last view
of Bogotá, backed by her black, mist-topped range; then the cloistered
city sank forever from our sight as the road dipped down from the
slightest of knolls on the all but floor-flat plain.

We had not set out to rival champion pedestrians. When appetite
suggested, I stretched out at the roadside with my pocket lunch, reading
Swinburne the while and scattering him page by page on the gusty winds
of the sabana. Hays and our baggage drifted languidly past. All the day
we followed a massive stone highway, built by the Spaniards of colonial
times, now raised well above the flanking dirt roads preferred by the
soft-footed travel of to-day. A large stone bridge of clumsy lines
lifted us over the little Funza river which waters the sabana, and not
far beyond we entered the ancient town of Mosquiera, on a main corner of
which stood a statue of the Virgin, unusual only for the fact that she
was jet-black of complexion as any African chief. To the South American
the color line is not sharp, even in his picture of the after world.
Some time later, having drifted together again, we met an ox-cart headed
for Bogotá. The half-Indian driver, struck suddenly wide-eyed at sight
of our strange garb and the burdened carrier behind us, cried out in

“Cómo! No hay más función en Bogotá?”

We appreciated the implied compliment. He had mistaken us for performers
in the “Keller Circus,” a little fourth-rate affair playing in the
capital. Having, no doubt, saved up his billetes for weeks and started
for town at last with the price of admission to this wonderful
“function,” he was quite naturally dismayed to meet what seemed to be
the show trekking southward before he arrived.

At three we strolled into Serrazuela, officially named Madrid. Hays’
pedometer registered seventeen miles. In the little one-story “hotel,”
gaping with astonishment at our appearance, we were assigned to a
mat-carpeted room opening on the patio, and furnished with two wooden
beds exactly five feet long, with very thin reed mattresses over the
board flooring that took the place of springs. In this climate there was
little gain in traveling leisurely and arriving early. Except for a few
hours near noon, it was too cold to lounge along the way; once arrived
we could only wander aimlessly about among stupid villagers,
uncommunicative as their baked-mud walls. By dark it had grown too
wintry to sit reading with comfort, even had there been any other light
than the pale flicker of a small candle. There was nothing left but to
go to bed, and that had little of the pleasure the phrase suggests to
American ears. When Hays set his feet against the footboard, his lips
nearly reached his miniature pillow. He complained of feeling like the
victim of a “trunk mystery.” Sometime in the night I awoke to hear him
growling, “No wonder these people are crooked!” My own was a folding
bed—in that I had to fold up to get into it.


  A section of the ancient highway, built by the Spaniards more than
    three centuries ago, leading from the _sabana_ of Bogotá down into
    the hot-lands of the Magdalena. It was not designed for wheeled
    traffic, hence is laid in steps, with a slope to carry off the rains]


  Fellow-travelers at the edge of the _sabana_ of Bogotá]

Though we were afoot at chilly six, at nine we were still seeking a
cargador. The one from Bogotá had fled during the darkest hours.
Moreover, he had evidently spread startling reports of our plans. In a
town swarming with gaunt and ragged out-of-works we were a long time
finding a man who admitted that he sometimes plied the vocation of
carrier. His attitude was that of an heir to unlimited wealth whiling
away the days until he came into his own by an occasional choice and
easy task. After an endless oration in which he assured us times without
number that he was “poor but honest,” just the man required for our
“very valuable baggage,” which the “expensive leather boxes” proved it,
and which in his hands would be perfectly safe among the robbers that
swarmed in the road ahead—providing we walked close beside him—he
admitted his willingness, as a special favor, to accompany us to La
Mesa, eighteen miles away, for the paltry sum of $200. We offered fifty,
and he left in well-feigned scorn.

At the alcalde’s office that official had been due only an hour or so,
and naturally had not yet arrived. We spread our resplendent document
before his hump-shouldered secretary, demanding a cargador at once.
That’s the way the haughty traveler always did in the accounts we had
read of journeys in the Andes. But Serrazuela was evidently ill-trained.
The secretary stepped to the door and beckoned a few haughty
rag-displays nearer, suggesting in a soft voice that perhaps, as a great
favor to him personally, one of them would go with los señores and carry
a “very light little bundlet.” One by one they replied in as solemn
tones as if they fancied we believed them, that they were already
engaged for the day, that they had a lame knee, or a sore back, or an
exacting spouse, or were in mourning for a mother’s third cousin, and
faded silently away. Among the last to go was our original “poor but
honest” applicant, who paused to ask whether the offer we had made was
$50 paper or $50 gold, because if we meant the latter he....

Just then the alcalde’s perfume gladdened our nostrils, and one of the
men, rounded up by a soldier, having accepted what was still an
exorbitant day’s wage, we were off at last. The day was bright and
sunny. Behind, across the sabana, masses of white clouds hung over
unseen Bogotá and her distant black range. I could keep pace with “Rain
in the Face,” as Hays had dubbed our new acquisition, only by holding
each foot a second or more before setting it down. If I paused to let
him get a bit ahead, he was sure to wait for me a few yards beyond. Ten
cents spent in a little wayside drunkery gave him new life, but only for
a short half-hour. Once he fell in with a friend driving an “empty”
donkey, and for a space we moved a little less slowly. Then the friend
turned off toward his village and with a groan “Rain in the Face” took
up his burden again and crawled snail-like behind me.

Soon after we came to the edge of the world. The sabana had ended
abruptly. Before us lay only a great swirling white mist into which
disappeared the old Spanish highway that led in broad, low steps down
and ever down into an unseen abyss. The carrier began to tremble
visibly. The year before, he confided in a choked whisper, he had been
held up here by bandits, who had killed and robbed his employer. Only
when one of us went close in front and the other at his heels could he
be induced to move forward and downward.

Now and then a group of Indians, men and women as heavily burdened as
their pack-animals, loomed forth from the clouds and toiled slowly
upward past us. An hour down we came upon a rock grotto into which
bareheaded arrieros were crawling with lighted candles.

“It is,” explained one of them, “that San Antonio once appeared here,
and all caminantes stop to pray, because he aids, protects, and betters

“Are you sure?” I asked, curious to hear his answer.

“Sure?” he cried, staring at me with startled eyes, “Señor, I have been
arriero on this road since I was a boy, always bringing a candle for San
Antonio; in all those years I have been robbed only three times—and then
I had no money.”

He crossed himself thrice in the intricate South American manner and
sped noiselessly away into the clouds after his animals.

It may have been our failure to offer tribute to the saint of the grotto
that all but brought our expedition to grief thus early. The mist had
thinned and the landscape that opened out became more and more tropical.
A single palm-tree, then clusters of them, grew up beside me. Banana
plants and clumps of bamboo, like gigantic ferns, nodded sluggishly; a
spreading tree pink with blossoms added the needed touch of color.
Suddenly I realized that my companions were not with me, and sat down to
wait. A half-hour passed. I strolled back along the road, then hurried
upward at sharper pace. Fully a mile up I sighted Hays, driving the
wabbly-kneed Indian before him. They had already tiptoed on the edge of
an adventure. Barely had I passed from view when there had fallen in
with them, one by one, four evil-faced fellows carrying sugarcane
staffs. As thirst came, each fell to peeling and munching his cane.
Hays, lost in some problem of Urdu philology, was suddenly recalled to
the material world by a throat gurgle from “Rain in the Face.” He looked
up to find the four wayfarers, long sheath-knives in hand, still
ostensibly engaged in peeling sugarcane, but closing in around him and
the shivering cargador. Hays had taken for fiction the stories of
dangers on the road, and his automatic was packed away on the carrier’s
back. But he had been too long a soldier to betray anxiety in the face
of danger. The quartet continued their innocent occupation, crowding
ever closer, but had not quite summoned up courage to try their fortunes
against so stern-featured a gringo when they fell in with another group
of travelers, and the four gradually faded away behind. Thenceforth we
took care to wear our weapons in plain sight.

“Rain in the Face” had with great difficulty been coaxed to his feet
again. When darkness fell, he was still wheezing slowly onward far from
the day’s goal. The abrupt, stony descent was broken now and then by
sharp rises, and we stumbled and sprawled over uncounted loose stones
and solid boulders. At length white huts began to stand dimly forth from
the night; the voices of unseen groups in the doorways under faintly
suggested thatch roofs fell silent with astonishment as we passed; and
in a climate in pleasant contrast to that of night-time Bogotá we
entered at last the little hotel of La Mesa. “Rain in the Face” set down
his load for the last time with a stage groan, grasped his fee after the
customary plea for more, and with the parting information that he was
“poor but honest,” raised his wreck of a straw hat and disappeared to be
seen no more.

Morning found us in a long town on a shelf-edge overhanging a great
tumbled valley, still a mile above sea-level, again facing the problem
of how to make our baggage get up and walk. When we had tramped a hot
and stony half-day without getting a yard further on our journey, we
returned to the hotel. Hays stretched out on—and over—his bed and drew
out his faithful Ramsey, bent on drowning his worldly troubles in study.
The first sentence that stepped forth from the page, inviting
translation into Spanish, asserted:

“In South America are many arid regions through which travel and the
transportation of baggage is difficult.”

Yet there are those who hold that text-books are not closely related to
practical life!

Well on in the day, however, we did get two feeble youths to agree to
carry a suitcase each to Jirardot for $180 and third-class fare back to
La Mesa. At this rate we could soon have better afforded to build a
railroad. Indeed, we had already reduced to an absurdity the experiment
of trying to mix the tramp and the gentleman. “A sahib,” said Kim, “is
always tied to his baggage.” It dominates every movement and is, after
all, of scant value in proportion to the burden it imposes. Hire a
carrier and he is always intruding upon your dreams and meditations, and
with all the expense and trouble no article of the pack can you lay
hands on during all the day’s tramp. Moreover, I am not of that kind
that can make a beast of burden of my fellow-man. I soon found that a
cargador toiling under my load behind me made me far more weary than to
carry it myself. We decided to revert to type at the next halt and play
the “sahib” no longer.

The road, now chiefly _deshecho_ (“unmade”), descended swiftly into the
genuine tropics and the next afternoon we sweated into Jirardot on the
Magdalena, a month from the day we had left it to ascend to Bogotá. For
all our resolutions, however, neither of us contemplated with pleasure
the prospect of turning ourselves into pack-animals. We set afoot word
that we would pay a high monthly wage to any lad with a stout back and
no particular grade of intelligence who would consent to leave home. But
the youths of Jirardot were even less ambitious than those of the
capital. We set a time limit, advanced it, and at last fell upon our
possessions with the rage of despair. What we did not succeed in
throwing away we made into two bundles of the maximum weight allowed by
parcel-post and sent them down the Magdalena to Panama and Quito. We
were forced to sacrifice even the “One-Volume Library,” which did not
matter, for we had found it more convenient to buy native novels and
toss them away leaf by leaf, thus daily reducing our load. Moreover, we
had resolved to read thenceforth only the literature of the country in
which we were traveling. Even then there swung from our shoulders some
fifteen pounds each, besides the awkward developing-tank filled with
films and chemicals with which we alternately burdened ourselves, when
we crossed the little toll-bridge over the Magdalena and, leaving the
department of Cundinamarca behind, struck off into that of Tolima.


  Approaching the Central Cordillera of the Andes. A typical Andean
    _camino real_, or “royal highway,” with a pack-train bound for the

An extensive plain, half desert with drought now, blazing hot and sandy,
spread far away before us. At first, mud huts were frequent, and many
country people passed driving drooping donkeys. Curs abounded. Here and
there a leper, squatted beside the trail, languidly held out his
supplicating stumps. Everywhere were the rock-hard hills of termite
“ants,” sharp-pointed as the volcanoes of Guatemala, while trains of
stinging red ones crossed the road at frequent intervals. Fields of
tobacco and corn stood shriveled beneath the unclouded sun; troops of
horses and mules laden with the narcotic weed, rolled into _cigarros de
Ambalema_ and wrapped in dry plantain-leaves, shuffled past in the dust
before their shrieking and whistling arrieros, bound for Jirardot and
modern transportation. The _camino real_, still a “royal highway” in
spite of its condition, passed now and then through clumsy swinging
gates that marked the limits of otherwise unbounded haciendas. We met
several haughty horsemen in ruanas and the conventional wealth of
accoutrement, and once a cavalcade of men and women, the latter lurching
uncomfortably back and forth on their high side-saddles. The half-Indian
peon dog-trotting behind them carried on his back a large chair with a
sheet over it, only the squalling that accompanied him suggesting what
it concealed. The caste system was noticeable even here on the broad
plain. When we had carriers behind us, natives afoot raised their hats
and horsemen gave us friendly greetings. Now, with our possessions on
our own backs, we received only frozen stares, except from an occasional
peon who grunted at us as equals. A few miles beyond the Magdalena we
came to the parting of the ways. One sandy trail led south to Neiva and
Popayán; the other, with which we swung to the right, struck off for
Ibagué and the Quindío pass over the Central Cordillera of the Andes. We
took this longer route to Quito that we might traverse the great Cauca

The pedometer registered a mere ten miles when we halted at an adobe hut
that to the natives was a “very fine posada.” A bedraggled old woman
pottered nearly two hours over a stick fire in the back yard before she
brought us two fried eggs and a small dish of fried plantains, as
succulent as wooden chips. Our “bed” she prepared by throwing a reed mat
on the hardest earth floor known to geography, and by no means as level
as the surrounding plain. My shoes and leggings did poor service as
pillow, and Hays charged Ramsey with lack of foresight in not binding
his grammar in upholstered plush. We were awakened from the first nap by
the hubbub of a group of fellow-travelers, nearly all women, who piled
their bundles in a corner and stretched themselves out on such
floor-space as we had left unoccupied. Yet the ethics of the road are
such in Spanish-America that we felt no misgiving in leaving our
unprotected possessions on a bench at the door.

With the first hint of dawn our fellow-lodgers stole silently away. Hays
was still abed when I struck off in a gorgeous morning across a sea of
light-brown bunch-grass, surrounded on all sides by far-off mountain
ranges. Behind, blue-purple with distance, the face of the plateau on
which sits Bogotá in its solitude, stretched wall-like across the
eastern horizon, high indeed, yet how slightly above the earth as a
whole. Ahead, the snow-clad rounded cone of Tolima stood sharply forth
above a nearer range that cut off its base, while a tumbled mountain
landscape beyond promised less monotonous if more laborious days to

A native carpenter working on the new toll bridge over the brawling
Collo river assured us he would much rather be on the road with us, but
that “unfortunately,” he was contracted. For a time broken ground and
rocky foothills cut down our progress. Soon we were back again on a
level plain of vast extent, a bit higher than the preceding, a garden
spot in fertility, though largely uncultivated, with mountains on every
hand and Tolima close on the west. As I had already found in Honduras,
these upland plains, perfectly level, covered with grass but for a
threading of faint paths all following the same general direction,
afford the finest walking in the world. Never hard, always high enough
to catch a cool breeze, often shaded, generally winding enough to avoid
the monotony of a straight road, they make the journey like strolling
across an endless lawn or through some vast orchard. Now and then we
passed a tinkling mule-train, a horseman, or an Indian short-distance
pedestrian, but never a vehicle to disturb the reflective peace of a
perfect tramp. Every hour or two we drifted together, generally at a hut
selling _guarapo_, a half-fermented beverage of crude sugar and water,
tasting mildly like cider and extremely thirst-quenching. Every species
of pack-animal appeared,—mules, horses, donkeys, steers, bulls, women,
children, and even men, all toiling eastward. Often a dozen horses
marched in a sort of lockstep, the halter of each tied to the tail of
the animal ahead. Many had one or both ears cropped short, not by some
accident or gratuitous cruelty, as we at first imagined, but as a system
of branding. Now and then a shifting load brought an arriero running to
throw his ruana over the animal’s eyes, blind-folding it until it was
prepared to go on again. One mule-train of more than forty animals was
loaded with large boxes marked “Ausfuhrgut; Antwerpen, Colon,
Buenaventura.” German goods consumed in Bogotá often make this
roundabout journey,—to Panama, by ship to Buenaventura, by train over
the western range, and more than half way across Colombia on pack
animals, all to avoid the exorbitant rates of English-owned steamers up
the Magdalena.

The haciendas of this region, producing chiefly tobacco, are owned by
absentee landlords and managed by _mayordomos_. The peon laborers are
paid twenty cents a day with food. Arrieros on the road average fifty
cents a day and “find” themselves. A few of the latter paused to inquire
our destination and otherwise satisfy a fathomless curiosity. Our usual
answer,—“Al Cauca,” always brought forth a startled,—“Cómo! Por tierra?”
(By land?). In the Andes the expression is used with no thought of the
sea as an alternative, but as the opposite of “A caballo” (On
horseback). Occasionally we purposely astounded an inquirer by telling
the whole truth. After a speechless moment in which his face clouded
over with an unspoken accusation, he usually answered that though we
might perhaps fancy we were walking to Quito, we were misinformed, and
hurried on after his animals without even the customary “Adios.”

Now and then we met a lone arriero, “singing his troubles to the
solitude,” as a Colombian poet has it, and once I was overtaken by a man
who cried breathlessly as soon as his voice could reach me:

“Ha visto, señor, un muchachito con un burro vacío,” to which I could
only reply:

“No, I regret to have to tell you that I have not seen a small boy with
an empty donkey,” and watch the distracted fellow race on over the

We early discovered the uselessness of asking countrymen of the Andes
that simple little question:

“How far is it to—?”

Ramsey himself could not have catalogued all the strange answers we
received, even in the first few days. A few of them ran:

“Perhaps an hour, señor.”

“Only an hour?”

“No more, señor, but because there is much cuesta (ascent or descent)
perhaps it is two or three hours.”

Or the reply came:

“How far? On foot or on horseback, señor?” Or, more often, “By sea or by
land?” Some, tossing their heads toward the sun, replied:

“At evening prayers you are there,” or shook their heads with: “No
alcanzan—you will not arrive, señores.”

“Todavía ’stá lejos—It is still far.”

“How far, more or less; an hour, or three days?”

“Between the two, señores.”

“Three leagues, then?”

“Ma-a-a-a-a-ás, señores,—Much more.”

“Sigue no más—Just keep on going; Al otro ladito—On the other little
side; A la vueltita no más—Around the little corner no more; Arribita—A
little above; No más bajita queda—Just down below it remains”—and so on
through all the gamut of misinformation; never a simple “So-many miles.”
Above all, it was fatal to ask a leading question. The misinformant was
sure to agree with us at all costs, evidently out of mere politeness.
One might fancy the ancient rulers of the Andes demanded an affirmative
answer from their subjects on penalty of death; and the supposition
would account for many of the stories of miraculous appearances, of
place names and the like, gathered by the Conquistadores. At best, we
were assured:

“No hay donde perderse—There is no place to lose yourselves”—and were
almost sure to strike, within ten minutes, a misleading fork in the

With fifteen miles behind us I slipped gratefully from under my awkward
thirty pounds before one of a cluster of thatched huts called “Hotel Mi
Casa,” on the earth floor of which two broken-legged cots were placed
for us. Water to drink was doled out grudgingly; washing was a luxury
none indulged in. Hays was busy consuming six home-made cigars, called
“tobacos comunes,” that had cost him a sum total of one cent. As we sat
before the hovel watching the sunset throw its reflections on the red
cliffs of the range behind us, the day went out like an extinguished
lamp and the stars came suddenly forth in striking brilliancy. The north
star of our home sky was now below the horizon, and many a long month
was due to pass before we should see it again.


  Hays, seated before the “Hotel Mi Casa” and behind one of his $5
    cigars, watching the reflection of the sunset on the dull-red,
    broken range we had climbed during a long, stiff day]


  A bit of the road by which we mounted to the Quindío pass over the
    central range, with forests of the slender palms peculiar to the
    region. The trail is more prone to pitch headlong up or down the
    mountainside than to follow a flank in this orderly manner]

The plateau ahead was even vaster than it seemed. I had walked hours
next morning by one of those easy haphazard upland trails, and still it
lay endless before me. Clumps of short, squat trees flecked it with
shadows here and there, but for the most part it was bare alike of the
planting of nature or man. Cattle grazed on every hand, and mule-trains
went and came frequently. In every direction stood row upon row of
jagged mountain ranges, fading away into the haziest distance. They
seemed of a world wholly cut off from the whispering stillness of the
broad brown plain. Turning, I could see untold mile upon mile behind me.
The blue Central Cordillera that shut off the valley of the Cauca lay
piled into the sky ahead. Like a hair on a colored glass, I could make
out our sharply ascending trail of the days to come crawling upward
toward the Quindío.

On the rim of the mountain lap that holds Ibagué, spread about a bulking
church at the base of the first great buttresses of the chain, I came
upon Hays in the shade of a leper’s hut. Before the marks of his ailment
came upon him the outcast had climbed with his mules for many years back
and forth over the great barrier, and something like a tear glistened in
his eye as we turned our faces toward the land of his youth. The “Hotel
Paris,” in the town below, looked a century old with its quaint wooden
rejas of colonial days to peer out through—and also in at, as a
half-intoxicated ibagueño demonstrated by thrusting his face in upon us
while we were battling with the stains of travel. When I took him to
task, he answered wonderingly, “Why, every one does it, señor,” and
refused to take any hint short of a basin of water.

Ibagué, capital of the province of Tolima, claims 2300 “souls.” The
count takes much for granted. It is a peaceful, roomy little town on a
gentle, grassy slope where every resident has ample space to put up his
chalky little straw-roofed cottage, yet all toe the street line, as if
fearful of missing anything that might unexpectedly pass.
Square-cornered, with almost wholly one-story buildings, its _calles_
are atrociously cobbled, the few sidewalks worn perilously slippery and
barely wide enough for two feet at once. A stream of crystal-clear water
gurgles down each street through cobbled gutters, lulling the
travel-weary to sleep—and furnishing a convenient means of washing
photographic films. We drank less often, however, after we had strolled
up to the edge of the mountain and found three none-too-handsome ladies
bathing in the reservoir.

On a corner of the grass-grown plaza the nephews of Jorge Isaacs,
greatest of Colombian novelists, run a clothing store. But it was our
misfortune to find them out of town. On another corner I made my way up
an aged stone stairway of one of the rare two-story buildings of Ibagué
to the alcalde’s office. It was lined with dog-eared documents, all
hand-written, each batch marked with a year, before which lounged clerks
incessantly rolling cigarettes. When he had read our government paper in
a stage whisper, the youthful mayor at once put the town entirely at our
disposal. I suggested schools.

“Señor Ministro de Instrucción Pública!” he called out, with long,
oratorical cadences.

Instantly there tiptoed into the room a long, tremulous man of fifty,
almost shabbily dressed, though of course with what had once been a
white collar, with a pedagogical cast of countenance and a chin barely
an inch below his upper lip. He bowed low at the alcalde’s orders and
answered that the matter would be attended to at once—mañana.

Toward ten next morning the Minister of Public Instruction, who had
evidently laundered his collar during the night, left a long line of
people waiting and set off with me.

“They are only teachers, waiting for their appointments or salaries,” he

We halted before a large building. The Minister knocked meekly with his
cane on the heavy _zaguan_, the door to the patio, and was finally
admitted by a square-faced, muscular, unshaven priest, who listened to
our request at some length and at last led us to an older churchman,
suave, slender, outwardly effusive, and of that perfectly polished
exterior that marks the Jesuit. He was also French. When time enough had
elapsed to give warning of our coming, he led the way into a room of
first-grade pupils,—all boys of six or seven, except two full-grown
Indian youths. An exceedingly young priest, giving an excellent
imitation of surprise at our appearance, snapped a sort of wooden
hand-clapper, and the entire class rose to their feet bowing profoundly.
Some other formality was imminent when I begged the teacher to go on
with the lesson just as if I were not there. He exchanged a glance with
his superior at this extraordinary gringo request, then lined the class
up in military ranks and set them to reading aloud. The theme was
strictly religious in nature and most of the words of four or five
syllables. As often as the clapper sounded, the boys changed to “next”
and read with such fluency that only the tailend of a phrase here and
there was intelligible. The priest made no corrections or criticisms
whatever, “taught,” indeed, as he might have turned a hurdy-gurdy
handle. I fancied the pupils extraordinarily well-trained—until I
strolled down the room, to the evident horror of the adults, and noted
that almost none of them had the book open at the page they were

In a higher-grade room I was asked to choose the lesson, and suggested
geography. A youth passed a pointer swiftly over a wall-map, spinning
off a description, learned by rote, of the principal cities, the
youthful priest lifting him back on the track whenever he forgot the
exact language of the original and came to a wordless halt. Little
helpful hints accompanied each question. A boy stood before the map of
Colombia, on which the capital was printed in enormous letters.

“What city did Quesada found in 1538?” asked the priest.

Blank silence from the boy.

The priest: “Bo—bogo—”

“Bogotá!” shouted the boy.

My fellow-visitors smiled complacently at his wisdom.

“And what place is this?” quizzed the teacher, pointing to a strip of
land that curved like a tail up into a corner of the map, “Pa—Pana—”

“Panamá” shrieked the boy, “A province of Colombia which is now in
rebellion. The....”

He was evidently going on with still more startling information when the
all but imperceptible twitching of an eye of the Jesuit superior turned
the pointer to other climes.

The teacher never lost an opportunity to give a religious twist to the
proceedings. A boy whose pointer hovered over the Mediterranean mumbled:

“And another of the cities is Nicea....”

“Ah,” cried the priest, “And what celebrated event in the history of
mankind took place in Nicea?”

“The great Council of the Church in which ...” began the youth, and
rattled on as glibly as if he had been there in person.

When we had turned out into the street, the shabby little Ministro
became confidential, explaining that the colegio toward which we were
headed had once held a large student body, “but now, señor, owing to
political changes....”

“Before the priests interfered I had an excellent experienced normal
graduate in charge of that first class,” he sighed as we parted, “and
now we have that boy in a cassock. Bah!”

We left Ibagué by taking the wrong road and had to crawl for miles along
the steep bank of a mountain stream almost back to town before we were
set right. Then began one of the greatest climbs of our joint careers.
Round and round, in intoxicated zigzags, went the trail, as if dizzy at
the task before it, down into several gullies until at last, finding no
other means of escape, it took to clambering laboriously upward. At
first the weather was hot, then gradually cooled as far-reaching views
of Ibagué and its surroundings spread out below us. The buttresses of
the range ahead were enormous, as if nature, planning to build here such
a mountain chain as never before, had started the outcropping supports
on her most gigantic scale. Toward nine I realized that I was out of the
sunshine and no longer sweating, despite the swiftness of the ascent; at
ten I paused to pick wild strawberries along the way. It did not seem
possible to mount much further, for there was nothing higher visible.
But like Jack of the Beanstalk, I climbed on entirely out of sight—into
the clouds that wholly shut off the world below. At noon, when I
stretched out on a swift slope to read a few pages of “María,” immense
reaches of mountains and cloud-stenciled valleys, half-hidden by masses
of snow-white mist, like drapery that concealed yet revealed their
plump, feminine forms, lay everywhere below and about me. Over all the
tumbled view were scattered little huts of mountaineers, each in a
setting it seemed possible to have reached only on wings.

The hovel where we planned to spend the night refused us posada, and, as
dusk fell, we faced an all but perpendicular mountain wall, up the
stony, half-wooded face of which the trail staggered. The few groups of
men we met carried ancient rifles loosely, as if constantly ready for
action. At dark I toiled to a summit to find Hays standing before a mud
_rancho_ arguing with the crude mountaineers who would have sent us on
into the night with the threadbare Spanish prevarication, “Only a little
further on there is another house all ready to receive you.” In its
utter lack of comfort the place resembled the mountain hamlets of
northwestern Spain. The people were shy, yet, once won over,
kind-hearted. “There is no bed,” they explained, “but there is perhaps a
leather you can sleep on.” By and by the woman called us into the
kitchen for a bowl of _caldo_, hot water with chunks of potato and an
egg dropped in it, served with coarse corn-bread. Then the man led the
way into a cell made entirely of mud, even to the bench along the wall,
on which he laid a hairy, sun-dried cowhide. Fortunately he returned a
little later with several aged gunny-sacks, a tiny girl lighting the way
with a rope-like native candle, or we should not have slept even the bit
we did.

Streaks of pale day were beginning to steal through the chinks in our
chamber when the woman appeared with black coffee and a stony corn
biscuit, and we were off for another day of stiff ups and downs.
Stalking down a knee-breaking descent, I heard a shout of astonishment
from Hays ahead. What looked like an ordinary mountain stream cut across
the trail at the bottom of a sharp little gully. But the water, coming
from the bowels of Tolima that stood somewhere above us in the mists of
morning, was almost hot. We had both been on the road in many a clime,
but never before where nature was kind enough to heat a morning bath for
us. We lost no time in stripping for a luxury rare to the traveler in

Not far beyond we came to the edge of the valley of the Toche. Away
below, like a miniature painting, reposed a peaceful little vale wholly
shut in by sheer mountain walls, a thread-like stream meandering the
length of it. It took us an hour to make the swift, stony descent. Not
all get down so safely, as the skeletons of a horse and a mule, their
shoes still on, testified. The valley floor, watered by the
rock-broiling stream, was a fertile patch of earth, and the steep
mountain flanks were planted far up with little perpendicular patches of
corn. All the scene seemed as far removed from the wide world as if on
another sphere.

A rocky trail climbed abruptly up out of the valley again from the
further end, higher than ever, past rare houses, built of the red boards
of a tree called _cedro_, from the doors of which stared shy,
half-friendly people in bedraggled tatters. The Quindío pass lies only
11,440 feet above the sea, but that by no means represents the climbing
necessary to surmount the Central Cordillera of the Andes. What is so
called is really a long series of ranges, and no sooner did the road
reach some lofty summit than it dived as swiftly and roughly down again.
It was not a planned road, like the highways of the Alps, but one grown
up of itself. A jaguar once wandered over the Cordillera, a man
followed, and to-day the route holds to the same course. Toiling like
draft-animals, gasping for breath in the rarefied air, we fancied a
score of times that we had reached the summit, only to see the trail
take another switchback and disclose the perfidious fact that it had
found another ridge to surmount.

A few hundred feet above the Toche began clumps, then entire forests of
a tall, slender wax-palm, a species named by Humboldt on his journey
over the Quindío. Having only a tuft of branches at the top, these were
often torn off by the winds that rage down through the gullies, leaving
a thing as unromantic as a telegraph-pole. The valley below opened out
until half a world, dull-brown with a tinge of green, lay below and
around us. Words are hopelessly inadequate to describe this bird’s eye
view of range upon range, climbing pell-mell one over the other, as if
in terror to escape some savage pursuer, and fading away into the
dimmest misty-blue distance.

The sun was low when we came out on as far-reaching a view ahead and saw
the morrow’s task laid out before us in the form of a thread-like road
twisting away out of sight over a great mountain barrier draped in
clouds, the “puro Quindío,” or chief range, at last. As night descended,
we entered “Volcancito,” an unusually large adobe building on a bleak
slope. The dining-room, which was also the back corredor, was overrun by
a large family, chiefly small girls, each in a single, thin, knee-high
cotton garment, despite the wintry mountain air. Chickens, dogs, and
gaunt, self-assertive pigs wandered everywhere without restraint. In a
corner slouched a woman sewing garments too small for the smallest child
in sight. Our plea for lodging she treated with scorn. “Volcancito” was
a posada, not a hotel, the difference between the two in Spanish-America
being that in a hotel the traveler is permitted to expect certain
conveniences while in a posada he accepts with smiling gratitude
whatever fortune chooses to furnish him.

“We have only two guest rooms,” snapped the woman, when we persisted, as
if the mere giving of the information was an unusual favor. “One this
señor has with his wife and baby. The other belongs to the arrieros.”

The successful guest was an actor on his way from the Cauca to Bogotá, a
handsome fellow much over-dressed for such a journey, with a strikingly
beautiful young wife, as we noted at a glance through the door.

“But there are five rooms on this side of the house,” I suggested.

“Family rooms,” shot back the woman.

“And this little room in the corner?”

“Belongs to the servant,” she mumbled, projecting her lips toward a
slatternly young female who was at that moment pursuing a thieving pig
from the dungeon-like kitchen.

“Anything will do,” sighed Hays, gazing abstractedly after the servant.

But the landlady was in no mood for crude jokes.

“There is a fine house with rooms and beds just four cuadros on,” she
lied, after a long silence. Fortunately this was by no means my first
experience with the favorite trick of Spanish-speaking races to be rid
of importunate guests, or we might have tramped all night on the
mountain top in a cold as penetrating as that of January in our own
land. I slipped surreptitiously from under my pack, assuming the
ingratiating manner that is the last resort with the apathetic people of
the Andes. We were resolved to spend the night there, though it be in
walking the floor. Nothing is more fatal than to appear anxious in such
situations, however, and we affected indifference and a pretense of
having accepted her verdict.

What fine, red-cheeked little girls she had, so pretty and healthy.
(Indeed, they looked like Irish children). Was she not from the Cauca?
She was. Ah, the magnificent Cauca, the most beautiful.... She was soon
lost in a panegyric of her native valley, as she shuffled from kitchen
to sewing-machine and back again.

“Magnificent, indeed,” I agreed, “and in only a day or two we shall be
there. So what matters a night of freezing in the mountains? By the way,
la señora can perhaps sell us a bit of coffee and a bite to eat before
we set out to tramp all night?”

She grunted assent and a half-hour later we were seated before a
plentiful, if not epicurean, meal. Before we had finished it, she
remarked casually that we might “arrange ourselves” in the room with the
arrieros. The mule-driver is seldom a pleasant bed-fellow, but compared
with a night out of doors, probably with rain, at more than two miles
above sea-level, any arrangement was welcome.

We fancied lodging had first been refused us because we were foreigners.
Soon after supper we were undeceived. Out of the darkness came the sound
of horse’s hoofs, and as it ceased there burst in upon us a handsome
young Colombian, of somewhat dissolute features, in the ruana, false
trouser-legs, ringing cartwheel spurs, and the other hundred and one
details of equipment the rules of society require of a Colombian of
“gente decente” rank who travels ahorse. He gave greeting in the
explosive speech of his class and requested lodging.

“_No hay_,” answered the woman, in the identical cold monotone she had
used toward us.

The newcomer began dancing on air, waving his ladylike hands, on which
gleamed several rings, above him. Eloquence worthy of a world congress
poured from his lips; his eyes seemed to spurt fire.

“_No hay_,” repeated the landlady, in the same dead voice.

“But señora, it is imperative. I have a lady with me! Anything will
do—such as these rooms.”

“Family rooms,” snapped the caucana, as if reciting a learned dialogue.

“But your guest rooms?”

“One this señor has with his wife and baby. The other belongs to the
arrieros—and also,” jerking her head slightly toward us, “to these two

“But what am I to do?” shrieked the Colombian, “and a lady with me?”

The woman muttered a “Quién sabe” with a careless shrug of the shoulders
and continued her sewing without looking up. After a last vain oration
the Colombian dashed off angrily, his horseback garments standing out at
excited angles, and rode away into the night the way we had come, toward
better luck perhaps among the huts at the bottom of the valley.

Bedtime comes at about seven in these wintry, fireless, lightless
regions. The landlady, now thoroughly mollified, broke off some story of
the wonders of the Cauca to say:

“Next to the room of the arrieros is a harness-room where you can sleep
alone. Many ingleses—all light-haired foreigners are “Englishmen” to the
rural Colombian—have slept in it.”

Why had she not offered us this upon our arrival? Lack of confidence,
probably, common to these simple people as is the good-heartedness that
can be unearthed by a few simple wiles and flatteries. The dungeon-like
room was narrow, but long and high, strewn with the _aparejo_ of mules
and the crude implements of husbandry, with harnesses, pack-saddles and
a chaos of trappings, but with space left to spread on the earth floor
several tar-cloth wrappings of mule-loads. Moreover, the woman sent us a
blanket. Later a boy entered carrying a candle and a little round hard
pillow which he delivered with a speech apologetic with diminutives,
after the fashion of the country people of the Andes, “Aquí tienen
u’te’es una almohadita para poner la cabecita.”


  On the western side of the Central Cordillera the trail drops quickly
    down into the tropics again, here and there through lanes of immense
    fern-like bamboos. Hays, in the middle distance, has his turn at
    carrying the developing-tank]


  The first days on the road; showing how I would have traveled by
    choice, in contrast to later illustrations of how I did travel by

For all these unexpected luxuries, I can hardly say we slept well.
Before an hour had passed, a polar winter began to creep up through the
earth floor, through the tar-cloth, through our flesh and bones, and
what with the aching of hips and other salient points that fitted the
uneven earth poorly, the night passed in an endless series of
dream-fights against death in the polar seas. As my legs grew cold
beyond endurance, I found a pair of _zamarras_, the false trouser-legs
of impervious cloth worn by horsemen of the region. But my glee quickly
evaporated, for they proved to be designed for a half-grown boy.
Humboldt spent ten days in passing the Quindío, we sincerely hoped he
had been better supplied with blankets, even though his journey was in
the summer season.

For once we felt no anger when a hoarse rooster at last greeted the
first graying of the darkness. The entire night had been a
half-conscious battle for the _cobija_ that had covered us alternately.
With creaking legs I stepped out into the icy dawn, and washed in a wind
that cut through me as a rapier through a man of straw. It was still
gray-black, and vast seas of half-seen mist lay in the bottomless chasms
roundabout. Far away to the east, where the dawn and the warmth come
from, was a triangular patch of sky, low down between two ranges and
roofed with black clouds, in which the brilliant sunshine of the _tierra
caliente_ was already blazing red. One of the bravest acts of my life
was the stripping and changing to road garb, after which we joined the
family and our fellow-guests, huddled under shawls and blankets, with
folds of woolen cloth about their throats and over their noses. The
landlady, still abed, issued orders from within to her bare-legged girls
and the servant. One of these threw into a pot of boiling water a
mud-ball of native chocolate, swirled the mess with a stick, and served
it to us with a dough-cake mixture of mashed corn and rice. It was no
homeopathic food, but none lasts long in this thin, exhilarating air,
while climbing swift mountain flanks. When we inquired for our bill, the
woman called out that we owed twenty cents each, and bade us Godspeed to
her beloved Cauca.

The road was heavy and slippery with the rain that had fallen during the
night; the air still sharp and penetrating. We had all but spent the
night on the summit of the Quindío, for the highest point was but three
miles beyond, though three miles of climbing without respite. Most of
the world was shut off by great cloud-banks, out of which came
frequently the bawling of arrieros cursing their weary animals upward.
Now and then we stopped on knolls above the trail to watch these Andean
freight-trains pass. Many of the pack-animals were bulls and steers, of
slight strength as such compared to the horse or mule, but the surest,
if slowest, cargo-beast in muddy going. The arrieros, almost without
exception, wore as ruanas what had once been United States mail-sacks,
the stripes and lettering still clear upon them.

There were several ridges so nearly alike in altitude that the exact
summit might easily have been in dispute; but at last we reached the
dividing line between the departments of Tolima and the Cauca, marked
with a weather-blackened post planted roundabout with scores of little
twig crosses set up by pious arrieros and travelers. We were so
completely surrounded by impenetrable swirling mist that we could see
nothing whatever but the patch of cold, wet ground underfoot, a few
dismal dripping bushes, and here and there a dishevelled shivering
flower of some hardy species. Not a glimpse was to be had of snow-clad
Tolima that must lie piled into the mist somewhere close at hand. It was
the highest either of us had ever been in the world. While we
appreciated the eminence, it was no place for men gifted with profane
vocabularies to linger, and we were soon legging it down the western
slope out of Cloudland.

                               CHAPTER IV
                         ALONG THE CAUCA VALLEY

On the Cauca side, like the French slope of the Pyrenees, the Central
Cordillera of the Andes descends almost abruptly to the valley. As we
emerged from the clouds, a brilliant sun lighted up vast landscapes of
labyrinthian hills and vales mottled with cloud shadows, bits of our
road ahead scratched here and there on salient, sun-polished knobs and
slopes far below. With noon appeared the first broad view of the rolling
Cauca valley, nestled between the central and the western ranges, a bare
thousand feet above sea-level, still deep-blue as some mountain-girdled
lake. The little town of Salento, in the lap of an undulating, bright
green plain, rose slowly up to meet us. We marched to the alcalde’s
office in a weak-kneed building of compacted clay, only to find the
alcalde, like beds for travelers, out of town. A stupid clerk in a room
full of musty papers of varying antiquity admitted it was too bad
Salento was so _atrasado_, but made no move to decrease that

“And strangers who arrive?” I asked.

“Generally bring their beds with them,” he replied, “or, if not, they do
the best they can.”

We took the hint and forcible possession of an empty room opening on the
plaza. When, after a basin bath, I strolled out into the town to mention
our strange exotic desire for sleeping accommodations, a dozen of the
most influential citizens also admitted it was too bad and—and where did
we come from and where were we going? Hays for once had better luck.
Having left the mention of beds to simmer in the mind of one Sanchez,
who amused himself at shopkeeping on a corner of the square, he was
called over at dark and offered the use of several woolly white blankets
that hung for sale from the blackened beams of the shop ceiling. Sanchez
was shocked beyond measure when we started to carry them across the
plaza ourselves. He called for a boy, nine responded, and the winner
expressed great gratitude when we rewarded him with a ragged paper cent.
We improvised seats and sat gazing out through the wooden reja. Far away
on a fuzzy hillside our road of the morning grew dim and faded out, like
an unfixed photograph, and a night lighted only by stars quickly settled
down. Out of its black immensity came, a little later, the jangling of
tiny bells. Across the plaza filed a half hundred boys in column of
twos, weirdly lighted by flickering torches, utterly silent in their
bare feet. From another direction came a similar half-seen procession of
girls; the two columns joined at the door of the little bamboo church,
the pagoda-like twin towers of which stood dimly forth against the
background of darkness, and passed within together. For an hour a weird
infantile chanting in chorus sounded almost unbrokenly, then the
congregation filed forth again and melted away into the humid summer
night. The faint silhouette of the priest showed him leaning over the
reja of his second-story _casa cural_, the fitful glow of his cigarette
the only light in town, until that, too, died out and left only the
brilliant tropical stars above.

Beyond Salento a rolling fertile land lay on every hand. In the great
forests spreading far up the range beside and behind us, the most
conspicuous of the flora was the _yarumo_, a white-leaved tree that
stood forth everywhere like blotches on the green landscape. The slender
wax-palm of the eastern slope had not passed the crest. The dense-green
uplands of the valley were still all but covered with virgin forests. It
set us reflecting what might have been had the “Mayflower” turned
southward and peopled this land of rich soil and unrivalled climate,
instead of that bleak and rigorous country we had left behind. Or would
this peerless climate have made us, too, salentinos?

At the hut where we paid two cents for great bowls of creamy milk, there
was a decision to make. One branch of the trail led to Pereira, the
other to Filandia. We tossed a coin. It fell “tails” and we struck off
to the left by a soft dirt road. Filandia was a quaint old place with a
wonderful gingerbread church, on a hilltop that rolled languidly away on
all sides to far-off mountain ridges. The town seemed never to have seen
a foreigner before. Perhaps travelers hitherto had all gone by way of
Pereira. When I attempted to take a picture, the entire population, men,
women, and the very babies, crowded so close around me that I could not
fight them back to a focal distance.


  Like those of the days of Shakespeare, the theater of Cartago consists
    of a stage—of split bamboo, with a tile roof—inside the patio of the
    “hotel.” The more expensive seats are chairs in the balcony of the
    second story; the populace stands in the barnyard]


  Cartago watching our departure. Two of the doors show no occupants
    only because these had dodged inside to call the rest of the family]

By the next afternoon we were in quite a different country,—down in the
tropics again, with coffee-trees, bananas, and endless lanes of bamboo,
that giant fern, as useful as it is beautiful, which nature so unkindly
denied the North. It was not a temperature for the preserving of
undeveloped films and I paused with the tank beside the first clear
stream. The sun gave out before I had more than hung the strips up to
dry, drops of rain began to fall, and night came on apace. I pushed on,
grasping a wet film in either hand. To my dismay the road turned to a
narrow path through thick weeds, thigh-high, and for a long five miles,
with eighteen already in my legs and thirty pounds straining from my
shoulders, I tramped swiftly forward, striving to hold the films out of
reach of the weeds. The natives, blacker and blacker as we descended,
stared with amazement from their little bamboo shelters along the train
to see a strange being scurry by, holding high above his head two black
strips, like Tibetan prayer-sheets. Small wonder they crossed themselves
in superstitious awe.

The night had grown completely in about me, when Hays hailed me from an
unseen doorway. He had already bespoken supper and engaged a room with a
bed of split bamboo and a quilted straw mattress. For me was brought
what a hard-earned candle proved to be a canvas cot, made of a U. S.
mail-sack. In the “dining-room” was a lounging chair of the same

“Where did you get it?” I asked the woolly-haired host.

“What, that fine, strong cloth? Oh, the government always has plenty of
that to sell,” he replied placidly.

The same damp, pulsating jungle fenced us in all the next morning. Far
ahead, across the heat-steaming spread of the Cauca valley, the jagged
blue line of the Western Cordillera, that cuts it off from the Pacific,
stretched to north and south as far as the eye could command, in some
places five ranges visible one behind the other. At noon, suddenly
topping a jungled knoll, we caught sight of the long-sought town of
Cartago, reddish with the hue of its roof-tiles in the center of town,
dying away in whitish and straw-colored lines of outskirt hovels. It was
hours later that we reached the level of the valley floor, and strolled
in heavy grass through a bamboo-built suburb into the weedy central

With a populous graveyard before the keel of the “Mayflower” was laid,
Cartago has not yet advanced to what any “mushroom” town of our West can
boast at the age of three months. Negroes were everywhere, though there
was no sharp “color-line,” and pure whites were rare. The Cauca is to
Colombia what our South is to the United States. In colonial times
slaves were imported in large numbers up the Atrato river, and to this
day the shiftless, happy-go-lucky African lolls in his ragged cabins,
speaking a Spanish it was hard to believe was not English, so exactly
did their slovenly, lazy-tongued drawl resemble that of our southern

The hotel advertised “Comodidad, prontitud y esmero”—“Comfort,
promptness, and specklessness,”—the three things above all others a
South American hotel is surest not to have. There is never an office in
these hotels of the Andes. A peanut vendor somewhere up the street is
manager, and all the town “assists” while the traveler makes his
bargain, if, indeed, it does not gather en masse to watch his ablutions.
The rooms are commonly stark empty, and are furnished to order, as one
selects a chicken on the hoof for the evening meal. We had to implore
each and every requisite, from cots to water, separately and
individually several times over before they were supplied. When we
insisted on two towels, the young but toothless landlady, muttering
something about the curious ways of _los gringos_, tore an aged sheet in
two, and as long as we remained made us feel that guests were an
unmitigated nuisance. Among the luxuries of the town was wheat bread.
When we demanded it with our meals, a six-foot “boy” of polished
jet-black skin—and little other covering—was sent wandering down to
market with a bushel basket on his arm, and in the course of the
afternoon came slouching back with three tiny buns lost in the bottom of

But for all the slovenliness of its habits, antiquarians would have
found Cartago’s hotel interesting. The barnyard patio into which we
flung our wash-water formed the parquet, or stalls, of the village
theater. At the back of it was an open, tile-roofed building of split
bamboo floor and sides, violently painted, forming a stage quite similar
to that of Shakespeare’s day. A score of bottles hung by the neck, like
corpses at some medieval wholesale hanging, fringed the outer edge of
the platform, the ends or drippings of what had been tallow candles
showing that they had served as proscenium footlights. The second-story
veranda, our dining-room, was marked with the numbers of “boxes” around
its three sides, from the unspeakable kitchen to the even more
unmentionable servants’ quarters. When plays were given, the masses
stood in the yard below and the well-to-do looked on from their chairs
along the veranda. Unfortunately, histrionic talent seemed to have
completely died out in Cartago. Only the languid tinkling of a _tiple_,
or native guitar, marked the long evenings in which we watched the
golden moon rise over the bit of mossy, old-red roof and the tops of two
lazily swaying palm-trees framed by our balcony window.

If my knowledge of Cartago is meager, it is because I spent most of my
days there in mailing a notebook. The post-office was the lower story of
a compressed-mud building cornering on the plaza. When I first made my
appearance, its heavy wooden doors, studded with immense spike-heads,
were securely bolted.

“Is the _correo_ closed to-day?” I asked a lounger-by.

“Sí, señor, the mails only came in yesterday. But you can knock and

Knocking brought no result. An hour or more later I tried again, with no
better luck. Early the next afternoon, however, I found my way in by an
inner door of the patio, though the place was still officially closed.

The two rooms looked much like a garret of long standing, but by no
means like a post-office. Scattered everywhere, over floor and baked-mud
window seats, on decrepit chairs and crippled tables, lay fat mail-bags,
all stout and new, from the chief countries of the globe. The outgoing
Colombian correspondence was already packed in aged grain-sacks. Pieces
of mail of all sizes lay tumbled and littered over the entire two rooms.
Fully half of it was from the United States, particularly pamphlets and
packages from patent medicine houses. Four middle-aged men, dressed in
great dignity and in Cartago’s most correct attire, with gloves and
canes on chairs beside them, were seated around a table, smoking
cigarettes. I handed one of them the wrapped notebook. It passed slowly
from hand to hand, each feeling it over, not so much out of curiosity,
though that was by no means lacking, as absent-mindedly striving to
bring his attention down to it. Then all four fell to perusing a Postal
Union rate-sheet, but found everything except the information needed.
Finally one rose and referred the matter respectfully to a man,
evidently a superior, seated in state at a corner table. The rate was
found to be one peso for each fifty grams. The official turned back and
wandered for some time at random about the two rooms, fingering the
parcel over and over and scratching his head in a vain effort to recall
what he had set out to find.

He discovered it at last,—an ancient postal-scales—tried it, found it
too small, tried another, and spent an ample five minutes juggling with
the odds and ends that served as weights before he computed the balance.
Then he drifted languidly back to his companions in inefficiency, opened
his mouth to speak, closed it again, and rambled once more across the
room to the scales. He had forgotten the weight! This time he took no
chances, but announced the figures aloud and wrote them on the
parcel,—“320 grams.” Those who do not know the South American will have
difficulty in believing that the division of this by fifty, without
troubling for fractions, presented a real problem. All four began
pencilling long lines of figures on as many sheets of paper. Several
minutes passed before one of them ventured to show his result. The
others compared, and amid a sage shaking of heads one announced
solemnly, “Seven cents, señor,” while the rest gazed dreamily at me out
of the tops of their eyes, as if wondering whether I should weather the
shock of so great an expense.

“And registered, seventeen cents?” I added; for I did not care to have
the parcel lie a month or two about the earth floor of Cartago’s
post-office, or find its final resting-place in the back yard. When the
suggestion had penetrated, one of the quartet sat down to enter the
grave transaction in a large ledger. I still needed a two-cent stamp.
The oldest of the four shuffled to the opposite side of the table, sat
down, adjusted his legs, and slowly pulled out a drawer stuffed with
every manner of rubbish,—tobacco, rolled cigarettes, half-empty phials
of patent medicine, everything that may come by mail,—and finally dug up
a battered pasteboard box that had once held No. 60 American thread.
From this he fished out a small sheet of two-peso stamps, carefully tore
one off at the perforation, first on one side, then on the other, put
the sheet back in the thread-box, the thread-box back in the drawer,
carefully closed the latter, and handed me the stamp. I tossed before
him a silver ten-cent piece. He opened the drawer again, clawed out of a
far corner a wad of those ragged, germ-infested one-cent bills
indigenous to Colombia, laid out eight of them, counted them a second
time, sat staring at them a long minute while his attention went on
furlough, asked one of his colleagues to count them, which the latter
did twice at the same vertiginous speed, and finally pushed them toward
me with a hesitative movement, as if he were sure he was losing
somewhere in the transaction, but could not exactly figure out where.

Meanwhile, he of the ledger rose from dotting the last “i” of an entry
that stretched in nicely shaded copybook letters entirely across the
double page, begged me to do him the honor to be seated, dipped the
clumsy steel pen into the dusty inkwell, and, with a wealth of
politenesses, requested me to sign. When I had done so, he gazed long
and dreamily at the signature, longer still at space in general, and
finally put the parcel carefully away in a drawer with neither stamp nor
mark of identification upon it.


  Along the Cauca Valley we met not only peasants bound to town with a
    load of wood and carrying their prize roosters, but now and then the
    corpse of a woman being brought in for Christian burial service,
    after which it would be carried back and buried in her native hills]


  In places the Cauca Valley so swarmed with locusts that they rose like
    an immense screen before us as we advanced, struck us in the face in
    scores, and made a sound like that of a distant waterfall]

“But,” I protested, “Do you give no receipt for registered mail?”

Great excitement arose among the officials and the half-dozen persons
waiting ostensibly to buy a one-cent stamp. A long conference ensued.

“It is, señor,” said the postmaster himself, rising and turning to me
with regal courtesy, “that no blank receipts have been sent from Bogotá
yet this year. However....”

He called aside the custodian of the precious ledger and gave him long
whispered instructions. The latter hunted up a sheet of foolscap,
stamped it carefully with the office seal, and wrote out with long legal
flourishes—for penmanship is still an art in Colombia—a receipt for the
parcel. This he tore off and carried across to the postmaster who,
carefully preparing another pen, signed it with his full name, not
forgetting the elaborate _rúbrica_ beneath it. Then he read it carefully
over once more, seemed dissatisfied with something, and finally called
the attention of the writer to the rough edge he had left in tearing off
the paper, instructing him to lay it under a ruler and trim it with a
sharp knife. The subordinate did so and at last delivered to me a
memento I still have in my possession.

To one unacquainted with Latin-American ways the episode may seem
overdrawn. I have told it, however, without exaggeration. From the
moment I handed over the parcel until I emerged, receipt in hand, there
had elapsed one hour and twenty minutes!

Nor is such a scene unusual. From the Rio Grande southward, government
offices are filled with just such human driftwood, and it is common
experience to see several staid and pompous men in frock-coats spend
more than an hour doing what an average American boy would accomplish in
two minutes.

Swinging due south next morning through the perpetual summer of the
flat, grass-carpeted Cauca valley, we fell in with a straggling band of
nearly a hundred youths. They were conscripts recruited under the new
military law of Colombia, _antioqueños_ chosen by lot to make up the
quota of the Province of Antioquia, bound south from Medellín for six
months compulsory service. The majority were crude-minded countrymen.
Some, dressed in the wrecks of “European” suits, were undeveloped boys
of the towns, hobbling painfully along on bruised and blistered feet,
bare except for their cloth alpargatas. Among the latter was one
Policarpo, a devil-may-care young fellow of high intelligence and
considerable education, who had a very clear notion of the weak spots in
his native land, though no inkling of a workable remedy. Another carried
a _tiple_, as well as a pleasing baritone voice, and struck up at every
opportunity the languidly mournful music of the region.

The highway now was a series of interwoven cross-country paths, fording
the smaller streams, crossing the larger on little bamboo bridges with
faded thatched roofs. It was hot, yet not of the oppressive heat our
most northern states know in mid-summer. All along the way were flowers
of many colors, and broad vistas of greenest grass stretched far across
slightly rolling plains wherever woods and jungle did not choke it out.
Bands of butterflies, often of the most gorgeous hues, flickered here
and there across the face of the landscape. Insects hummed contentedly
and lizards scuttled away through the fallen leaves. Singing birds of
many kinds abounded; flocks of little parrots, brilliant green in color,
flitted in and out of the bamboo groves, shrieking noisily at their
games. Here and there _quinchas_, fences of split bamboo of basket-like
weave, shut in a little cultivated patch; and all day long the
distance-blue Western Cordillera, with its wrinkled folds and
prominences, stretching endlessly north and south, seemed to cut off the
Cauca like a world apart.

Then for a space there were no habitations, except an abandoned hut or
two and the ruins of several razed ones. The recruits murmured something
about an epidemic, but none appeared to know anything definite
concerning it. At length we descended through a shallow valley, and from
then on, locusts called _chapul_ in the Cauca, rose in vast clouds as we
advanced, covering the ground before us and veiling all the landscape as
with a great screen, new myriads rising at every step, until they struck
us incessantly in the face and filled our ears with a sound as of some
great waterfall at a distance. In Bogotá we had wondered to find an
important government department entitled “Comisión para la Extinción de
la Langosta”; now it seemed small, indeed, to cope with the problem. At
intervals cactus hedges bounded the way, and the organ-cactus of desert
lands stretched forth its stiff arms into the brilliant sky. The Cauca
was suffering one of its periodical droughts and the accompanying
scourge of locusts, after which it would bloom again like a tropical

The recruits so monopolized accommodations at the village of
Naranjo—which had not the remnant of an orange-tree to explain its
name—that we had to share a room with three none-too-white natives who
permitted no ventilation whatever. At four they rose to light candles
and feed their mules, and sat vociferously discussing nothing at all
until daybreak. They spent more time harnessing themselves than their
animals; for the Colombian never dreams of riding in anything less than
the complete outfit demanded by local convention. A wide-brimmed
“Panama” hat—“sombrero de junco,” or the finer “jipijapa,” he calls
it—covers his head. Over his usual clothing, which must include coat,
vest, cravat, gloves, and white collar, no matter how far he may be from
civilization nor what the temperature, he wears a ruana, a garment
similar to the _sarape_ of Mexico, or the poncho. In the vicinity of
Bogotá this is of heavy wool and dark in color; in the Cauca it is the
_ruana de hilo_, of light-colored cotton, generally gay with stripes.
Beneath this the horseman wears _zamarras_, ample false trouser-legs
held together by strips front and back, and legging-like at the bottom.
Sometimes these are of sun-dried cowhide, or goat-skins shaggy with long
white hair, reminiscent of the “chaps” of our cowboys. Far more common
are those of _tela de caucho_, “rubber cloth,” consisting of two
thicknesses of canvas and rubber woven into an impenetrable yet flexible
material nearly an eighth of an inch thick. Then come his _chilenas_,
huge wheel-like spurs; his _rejo_, or lariat of twisted rawhide hanging
from his wrist; his _alforjas_, or leather saddlebags between his legs;
his _cuchugos_, a long soft-leather pouch arched over the cantel of his
saddle like a cavalryman’s blanket-roll; his long, shoe-shaped stirrups;
and usually a parasol or umbrella hanging at his side, if, indeed, it
does not shade him as he rides. No Colombian caballero who aspires to
retain his rank as such would venture to mount a horse while lacking any
item of this equipment. One trembles to think what might happen to a
_caucano_, needing to ride instantly for the doctor, who could not lay
hands on his _zamarras_, or who had mislaid his gloves.

The Cauca was now a broad, dry, treeless region without streams, though
little humped bridges lifted us across the waterless beds of what would
be such at other seasons, and which still retained the name of “river”
in local parlance. Arrieros of this section put red bands about the
brows of their horses and mules, perhaps only for the purpose of
identification, but giving the animals the coy appearance of coquettish
girls. As we advanced, the long drought grew more and more in evidence.
Across the sun-cracked valley floor lay scattered the bleached bones of
scores of cattle that had died of thirst. Policarpo and I, falling
behind, were in danger of suffering the same fate; for the band of
recruits, like another locust horde, drank the world ahead wholly dry.
The rare hovels and amateur shops along the way were prepared to feed
and minister to the thirst of only the customary few daily travelers;
not to the ninety-four of us that suddenly descended upon them out of
the north without warning. Hays and I were forced to stride on past the
sponge-like avalanche of humanity for self-preservation.

Here and there we got huge glasses of _chicha_, the favorite native
beverage, at a cent or two each. So many travelers have pictured the
making of this by toothless old women chewing yuca and spitting it into
a tub to ferment, that the impression should be corrected at the outset.
That custom does exist, but it is found only among the untamed tribes of
the upper reaches of the Amazon, scarcely trodden by one in ten thousand
South American travelers. All down the great Andean chain this nectar of
the Incas is made chiefly of maize, though also of other grains,
berries, and of almost any vegetable matter that will ferment, by just
as agreeable processes as any other cooking operation of the same
region. The notion of cleanliness is, at best, rudimentary among the
country people of South America, yet the brewing of chicha certainly
compares favorably with the ways of our average cider-mill. A well-made
chicha, indeed, resembles somewhat in taste the best cider, and is the
surest thirst-quencher I have yet encountered, distinctly superior in
this respect to beer. Many were the chicha recipes I gathered along the
Andes. For the interest of those who wish to temper a hot summer day
with an excellent heritage from the ancient Inca civilization, let me
translate the most common one.

“Chicha de morocho:

Take hard, ripe corn” (_morocho_ is one of the several excellent species
of maize that, like certain grades of the potato, has never been carried
from its original Andean habitat to the rest of the world) “shell, and
boil for two hours. Let it cool, then grind, or crush under a stone,
sprinkling from time to time with some of the water in which it has been
boiled. Keep this mass in a well-covered jar. As it is needed, mix with
water; one soupspoonful of the prepared mass to one liter of boiling
water; add cloves, a very little vanilla, and as much sugar or
_rapadura_ as is considered necessary. Mix with an equal amount of cold
water and place in jars to ferment. Once fermented, it is ready to


  Worse than the locusts was the flock of recruits that, until we
    outdistanced them, ate and drank up everything the amateur shops,
    tended by leprous old women, afforded along the way]


  The market-place of Tuluá, with the cross that protects it against all
    sorts of calamities—except those which befall it]

We reached Zarzal, beyond a blistered, red-hot plain, soon after noon,
with nineteen miles already behind us. It was thus we would always have
arrived; the day’s work done early in the afternoon, to wash, eat, and
loaf awhile on the canvas cots in our cell-bare room; then to loll in
the rawhide chairs on the broad tile-floored veranda before our door,
reading the literature of the country, languidly watching the afternoon
shower, and taking a stroll in the evening for exercise. In the Andes,
however, the itinerary is subjected to a haphazard arrangement of
stopping-places that make so ideal a plan impossible. We gave orders for
dinner and supper upon our arrival. The ignorant, good-hearted old
landlord literally hung over us as we ate, fingering our dishes and even
our food. The place might, with entire justice, have advertised
“personal services.” At two we finished a heavy dinner. At three-thirty
our host waddled in to announce that the “large supper” we had ordered
was ready! We managed to plead off until five, but for that concession
were obliged to eat the meal cold as an abandoned hope.

A heavy rain during the night—our coming seemed to have broken the long
drought—made the going lead-heavy for the first few hours, until the
blazing sun had dried up the “gumbo” mud. A richer region appeared as we
advanced. Once or twice it seemed as if the central and western ranges
were about to join hands and cut us off, but the “unmade” road always
found a way through with, at most, an occasional dip, or a slight
winding climb. During the hot afternoon we picked up a recruit
straggler, complaining of fever. The entire company was scattered for
miles along the valley, as often panting in a patch of shade as hobbling
forward on their blistered, light-shod feet. Magnificent trees stood out
here and there across the rich bottom lands. Often the way led through
dense _gaudales_, bamboo groves that waved their gigantic plumes lazily
in the summer air. Here and there the vegetation vaulted entirely over a
“river” into which filtered only a few rays of sun, as through the roof
of an abandoned ruin. Occasionally we came upon a _chacra_, a little
farm with a tiny thatched hut faded with age, its floor of trampled
earth, surrounded by coffee bushes, _papaya_, _chirimoya_, and other
fruit trees of the tropics, the sometimes recently white-washed dwelling
furnished only with a few crude leather stools, a wooden bench, a lame
table, and a few _cántaros_ and dishes of native pottery. Pigs and
chickens treated the family with perfect equality; under the trees
meditated old donkeys, broken down by a lifetime of toil under heartless
drivers. We were indeed approaching the scene of “María” in all its
photographic detail.

We prepared to leave Tuluá early, but we reckoned without our host, who
was a half-negro of nasty temper and stupid wit, and no faith in gold
coin. Hays offered him a $5 gold piece in payment of our bill, but he
demanded “paper of the country.” We had none left, and a mulatto boy was
sent out to change the scorned yellow metal. An hour elapsed without a
second sight of him. When another had drifted into the past, a search
party was organized. Investigation showed that the emissary had tried to
change the coin in a couple of shops, and had then faded away. It was
nearly noon when he reappeared, the coin still in his clenched hand. He
had fallen into a game with other boys and “forgotten” his errand.

We took the task upon ourselves. One after another drowsy, wondering
shopkeepers looked the coin over as a great curiosity and handed it
back, announcing that the changing would be “muy trabajoso”—“very
laborious”—for the speaker, but that we could get it changed “en to’as
partes”—“anywhere,” which, as usual, meant nowhere. At last a merchant
suggested that it would be changed wherever we bought anything. We
called his bluff by picking out a notebook on his shelves, and had
heaped up before us nearly $500 in ragged “billetes del país” of chiefly
one and five-peso values. The wad was burdensome, but to be caught on
the road in the Andes without small money is often to go hungry, if not,
indeed, thirsty. This particular shopkeeper prided himself on a
knowledge of geography and the affairs of the “exterior,” the outside
world, above the average of his fellow-townsmen. As we turned away, he
called after us:

“By the way, do los señores come from New York, or from the United

It was a subtle distinction we had not, to that moment, recognized.

The ancient city of Buga, one of the largest in the Cauca valley, was
already familiar to us from the pages of “María.” But seeing is too
often disillusionment in these “cities” of the Andes, particularly those
in which the imagination has already dwelt. To have seen one long,
cobbled, unswept street of Buga was to have seen them all. Checkerboard
in plan, the monotonous line of its continuous house-walls, all standing
close to the street in a strict “right dress,” broken here and there by
a massive _zaguan_, stretched away out of sight in both directions. At
first glimpse, it seemed unduly modest in claiming only ten thousand
inhabitants; when we found that every dwelling had a patio and a garden
of its own within, we realized that a one-story Andean town is by no
means so large as it looks. The place was stagnant as a frog-pond, its
main plaza a splendid study in “still life.” Yet Buga was old before
Boston was founded, and is favored with a soil and climate superior to
the best of New England. In a region where fruit should have been
unlimited, the only shop that offered any for sale was slightly stocked
with a few green samples. The old woman who kept it bestirred herself to
finger over several of her wares, and advised us to come back mañana or
the day after when they had had time to ripen. Perhaps it is unjust to
expect of Buga the energy and movement of a white man’s town. At least
it has unrivalled evenings in which, after the sun has set gloriously
over the western range, the traveler can lean over the parapet of the
massive old Spanish bridge of many arches—how the Spaniards built to
stay, yet stayed not—watching a half-moon rise and listening to the
chatter of the shallow, diamond-clear little Guadalajara de las Piedras
that flanks the town on the south.

Buga is a holy city. Far above all else bulks a modern Gothic church of
real bricks—and bricks transported from overseas are not cheap—called
“De los Milagros,” filled with more religious trophies than any Hindu
temple. We were accosted in the nave by a long-unshaven priest who
inquired our desires with a brusk “Qué se le ofrece?” that plainly
revealed his knowledge that we were not of the “faithful.” His
familiarity with the outside world was on a par with that of most
Colombians. When we answered his question of nationality by announcing
ourselves Americans, he replied complacently, “Ah, yes, Englishmen.”
Finding unheeded his strong hint to leave, he at length led the way up a
ladder to a cell above and back of the altar. Here he lighted a candle
and fell on his knees before the “miraculous” crucifix, the figure of
which was smeared with red paint to simulate blood. Pilgrims flock to
Buga from hundreds of miles around. To the _bugueños_ themselves,
however, their “miracle” seems to offer little more than a means of easy
income, through the hawking of crucifixes and holy lithographs to their
pious visitors.

Like Puree, Benares, or Lourdes, the holy city is more holy at a
distance, than to those who loll through life in its shadows, and it was
only at El Cerrito, a day’s march beyond, that we heard the story of the
Milagroso de Buga in all its details. In a faintly lighted corredor we
sat with three old women, the natural authorities on such subjects, who
told the tale in low, awed voices, their eyes glowing in the night with
the miracle of it, their tongues breaking in frequently with a “Qué le
parece!”—“What do you think of that!”—as the miraculous recital

Long years ago, more than two centuries, when Buga was nothing but a row
of thatched _casitas_ on the bank of the babbling Guadalajara de las
Piedras, a very poor and pious woman used to come every day to wash
clothes at the river brink. The clothes of others, that is, for you must
know that she had long been trying to get together sixty cents to buy a
crucifix to set up in her hut, where she had nothing whatever to pray
to. At last she economized the sixty cents and was toiling away on the
bank of the Guadalajara, dreaming of the joy of setting up the crucifix
in her _casita_ on the morrow, when a poor lame man of Buga came by and
told her he owed sixty cents to a rich caballero, and would be put in
prison for debt if he did not pay it that very night. The poor
washerwoman drew from within her garments the silver she had so
carefully hidden away and gave it to the lame man to pay his debt. The
next day—or three days later; here a great dispute arose among our
informants—as the poor woman was washing and praying that she might some
day gather together another sixty cents, there floated squarely into her
open hands and mixed itself up with the garments—of others—she was
washing, a _cajita_, a little box in which there was....


  A view of the “sacred city” of Buga, with the new church erected in
    honor of the miraculous Virgin]


  A horseman of the Cauca in full regalia. In addition to his town garb,
    coat and all, he would be a social outcast who did not wear a
    “Panama” hat; gloves; a _ruana_, or poncho light in color and
    weight; _zamarras_, or false trouser-legs of rubber-canvas, and
    _chilenas_, or huge wheel-like spurs. His other possessions he
    carries in his _cuchugos_, the long, soft-leather pouch on his
    cantel; and inserts his feet in heavy, fancily carved brass

Only a simple little cross, the spokeswoman said, but she, having at
that moment to step into the shop to sell two corn-and-cheese biscuits,
the others assured us in hoarse whispers that this version was entirely
erroneous; it was not a simple cross, but a crucifix with a Cristo
attached, just exactly the same that you see to-day in El Milagroso de
Buga, only very tiny, _chiquitito_, in fact. This momentous point in
Buga’s history I am forced to leave unsettled, reporting merely what I
heard half-whispered in the dark corredor of El Cerrito. The woman took
this cross—or crucifix—home and set it up on the wall of her _casita_.
To her surprise and alarm, the crucifix—or cross—began to grow. “Qué le
parece!” It grew even during the night! And the noises of its stretching
kept her awake. When it had grown to twice its original size, she became
so alarmed that she went and told the village curate. The padre scoffed
at her story, saying such things were not possible nowadays—O ye of
little faith!—for miracles were no longer done. But when she showed him
the thing, lo, it was even then growing! So the priest took it away with
him—as priests will—and still it grew. It grew until it reached the size
you see it to-day in El Milagroso de Buga. Then the padre had an
intimation from the Blessed Virgin that a church should be built on the
spot where the _cajita_ had been found, and he called all the people
together to build it. They put the miracle behind the altar, and there
it remained more than two hundred years, in the church which is to-day
the carpenter-shop beside El Milagroso. Then, in 1902, the great temple
of bricks was raised, for it had long been that those who would worship
and be cured by the Miraculous One could not get into the old church.
And the Milagroso was moved to the new temple as easily as if it were a
mere image of wood, though all the world well knows that it moves only
when it wishes, and if it does not, all the horses in the Cauca cannot
stir it.

“And is it true that El Milagroso has cured many invalids?” I asked.

All three exploded in the Colombian manner of expressing great
world-wide truths, such as, “Is Buga larger than Tuluá?” “Is it colder
in Zarzal than in El Cerrito?” Why....

But from an embarrassment of proofs of the miraculous power of the
Milagroso of Buga, I have space only for this:

A woman of Sonson had been bed-ridden with rheumatism for twenty years.
At last, when they had grown large enough, her sons carried her to Buga
and placed her in a chair before El Milagroso. As she prayed, she leaned
forward and touched the toe of the Miraculous One, whereupon she at once
rose up from her chair perfectly well and walked home to Sonson, many
miles away. That, every one in the Cauca valley knows, for it happened
only the other year.

“And also,” put in another of the old women, bent on rounding out the
story, “El Milagroso can turn a woman young and beautiful again, back to
the day of her marriage and the age of fifteen.”

“Eh!” began Hays, sitting up, “Then why ... But, no, the question would
be unkind. It is too personal.”

It was in El Cerrito that we first began inquiries about Jorge Isaacs.
Those who have sought information of Carlyle in Chelsea, or of Goethe in
Frankfurt will be surprised to know that the people of El Cerrito had
heard of the author of “María,” though the corner chicha-seller and his
neighbors spoke of him with something of the scorn active men of the
world always feel for mere men of letters, even though they were not
averse to basking in the sunshine of his fame. Some one led us to the
little bridge below which the village gossips and washes its scanty
clothes, and pointed away to the east. Far across the valley, on the
lower skirts of the central range, we could see plainly the “novela
casa”—“the story house,” a mere white speck on the distant mountain

There were few spots in Colombia to which I had looked forward with more
interest than this scene of South America’s greatest novel, and the
life-long home of its author. With the first graying of the night I was
astir, and we were off by sunrise along a grass-grown trail at right
angles to our route to Ecuador. Several times this seemed to lose its
way, and split up in hopeless indecision. But the “house of my fathers,”
gleaming steadily on the skirt-hem of the central range, piloted us
forward. The only building to be seen, except those on the floor of the
plain, it stood just high enough to gaze out across the great valley, a
single evergreen tree, slender as a church-spire, close beside it. The
sun shot down its rays as if bent on setting on fire all that the
foliage of the trees did not defend from its rage, when we came to the
edge of the plain, broken by ravines in which we separated in an attempt
to keep together. There was nothing left but to strike an unmarked
course for the goal. My own soon plunged down into a gully hundreds of
feet deep, thick in jungle, a stream, the Zabaletas of “María,”
monologuing at its bottom. I wandered long beside it before I could tear
my way across, and longer still before I found the suggestion of a path
by which to climb out again. Beyond were slightly sloping brown fields,
with grazing herds and immense black rocks protruding from the soil, and
behind, the indistinct, prairie-like valley, majestic and silent,
stretched mile upon mile to the deep-blue wall of the Western
Cordillera. Over the crest of the Andes above hung, like an immense
veil, dense masses of fog, from which the winds of the Sierra above
snatched rags of clouds that floated lazily away to the westward. Then,
all at once, the modest little white house appeared close at hand, in a
grove of evergreens backed by the _yarumo_-dotted mountain flank. I
climbed a stone wall and, mounting through another brown field, pushed
open a heavy rustic gate, to find myself at last at the home of “María.”

A woman of olive complexion, with streaming hair—for in this corner of
the Cauca, far from the “royal highway,” travelers, to say nothing of
foreigners, are rare, indeed—watched me in speechless amazement as,
dripping with twelve miles of struggle, I mounted the steps of the
house. On the veranda I was met by a veritable delegation of women and
children, headed by a man who announced himself as Camilo Durán,
hacendado, entirely at my service. The family was of the well-to-do
farmer class of the Cauca, a bit awkward, yet proud of their rank in
society, lightly clad in rural dress, and decidedly excited at the
extraordinary event of a visit by a foreigner from far-off Europe—or
America—who presented a document from the alcalde of Bogotá, signed by
none other than the nephew of that same “Don Jorge” for whom their home
was famous. A wide-eyed negro boy whom one might have taken for “Juan
Angel” in person, his woolly head protruding through the crown of what
had long since been a native straw hat, came running with a chair. As I
sat down in the cool corredor, surrounded by the admiring family, Durán
called for glasses and a bottle, and just then Hays’ head appeared above
the stone fence of the inner corral and his always leisurely legs
brought him up the steps to be introduced as that very “Lay-O-Ice” whom
the valued communication from Bogotá mentioned—when read by natives. The
aguardiente, which was “ardent water” indeed, arrived a moment later,
and when Durán had drunk our health and we his, we turned to look about
us. Would we see _la novela casa_? We would, indeed, and rising, entered

The “story house” was a more modest dwelling than the imagination
pictures during the reading of “María.” But then, all the Cauca and its
ways and people are simple and unassuming to the American point of view.
Typical of the hacienda houses of the region, it was of one story,
arranged with due regard for the natural resources and the needs of the
place and climate. Built of stone and adobe, it gave evidence of being
periodically disguised under a coating of whitewash. The long, deep
veranda was flanked by two corner rooms and, like them, floored with
what the French call _dalles_, dull-red tiles that remained cool even at
Cauca noonday. Its thick walls were shaded by a low, projecting tile
roof. Over the entrance—a genuine Latin-American touch—had been painted
in what Hays referred to as “box-car letters” the information:

         “Aquí Cantó y Lloró                 “Here Sang and Wept
            Jorge Isaacs”                      George Isaacs”

The main hall, or parlor, took up the entire depth of the house from the
front to the back veranda, the “corredor de la montaña” of the novel,
and was fitted with heavy hand-made furniture, of which an immense
dining table of rough-hewn construction formed the center. Flanking this
chief chamber were the half-dozen private rooms of the family. That at
the right-hand corner of the house, encroaching on the front corredor,
had been the room of “Efraín,” the hero, and of the novelist himself.
Back of it came the sewing-room, the writer’s picture of which was so
photographic that we were almost startled not to find “María” and “Emma”
and her mother busy with their sewing. At the back, across the main
hall, stood the _oratorio_, a small chapel with the same simple image of
the Virgin, perhaps, before which “María” had so often prayed in vain
for a happy life. Behind the back veranda stood a wing, barely connected
with the house proper, with a kitchen, hive-shaped clay bake-ovens, and
the staring white eyes of negro servants of all sizes that seemed
gargoyle-like ornaments of the smoke-streaked and blackened place. The
entire dwelling was as densely inhabited as a New York tenement. Besides
the dozen boys and girls of olive tint and several women of the Durán
family, servants and negroes swarmed, and piccaninnies peered from every
opening and corner.

The way led through the sewing-room across the now weedy garden to the
“pila de María,” a crystal-clear pool in the bed of the _arroyo_ that
sprang from rock to rock down the swift, light-wooded gorge at the foot
of which the “story house” is situated. “María” with her unbound
tresses, was no longer here; instead, several dark-skinned boys snatched
their garments as we approached and sought quick shelter. The “pila” was
a rock-walled basin of sandy bottom, some four feet deep and as many
times larger than the less romantic bathtub of civilization, constantly
renewed by the stream that wanders languidly away across the valley of
the Cauca. Because of the dip of the garden, the “pila” is out of sight
from the house, but from his corner room “Efraín” could, even as the
novelist has pictured, see the girls as they returned from their morning
dip, pausing to pick a flower here and there along the way. Durán gave
us leave to take a plunge. But though few things would have been more
welcome after our dripping climb from El Cerrito, it would have seemed
something verging on sacrilege, something like smoking a cigar with our
feet on Juliet’s balcony, to have profaned with our dusty, prosaic,
vagabond forms the pool about which seemed still to flit the spirit of
adorable “María.”


  The scene of “María,” most famous of South American novels, and once
    the residence of its author. It lies some distance back from the
    _camino real_ against the foothills of the Central Cordillera]


  The home of “María”; and a typical _hacendado_ family of the Cauca.
    The lettering over the door reads: “Here sang and wept Jorge Isaacs”]

According to the people of the region, Colombia’s chief novel is little
more than the autobiography of its author, polished into the ideal
love-story in vogue a half-century ago. Isaacs, like the hero “Efraín,”
was the son of an English Jew, born in Jamaica, who came to Colombia as
a young man, married, and embraced Christianity. Like “Efraín,” the
author had a sister Emma, in real life the recently-deceased wife of a
doctor of Popayán. “Carlos,” who first offered his hand to “María,”
still lived on his hacienda a few miles out across the valley. “Juan
Angel,” the slave-boy of “Efraín,” was said to be still living in Cali,
an old, old man. The bear and tiger hunting, the country weddings, the
simple and patriarchal household, the life and scenes of the Cauca, had
all been things of reality, deftly lifted into the realms of the
imagination by the hero-author. Even the evil stroke of fortune that had
befallen the family on that dismal night in the “hacienda of the valley”
was no story-book tale, but a stern fact that had left the novelist
without patrimony and brought into the hands of strangers “the house of
my fathers.”

We took our leave in the early afternoon, drifting down through sloping
meadows past the great black rock to which “María” used to climb to
watch for the return of “Efraín” from the valley, which here spreads out
in all its rich expanse, majestic and silent, to the dim Western
Cordillera. Hays, long lost in meditation, broke it at last to announce
that he had found the end of his wanderings; that he would return to the
Zone to earn a new “stake” and come back to end his days as the owner of
the “novela casa.” He was given to catching such enthusiasms—to have
them die during the succeeding night. It was, indeed, the most splendid
spot in all the magnificent Cauca valley, this simple dwelling set where
it could see and be seen from untold leagues away, from the very crest
of the western range, yet never standing forth boldly and conspicuously.
Framed modestly among its evergreens, just a little way up the first
easy slope of the Andean range that piles into the clouds behind it, it
seemed as unassuming and removed from the hubbub of the modern world as
gentle “María” herself. All the day through our eyes were drawn back to
it at frequent intervals, and as long as the light lasted it stood forth
plainly in this clear air, though it shrunk to a house in miniature,
then to a mere speck on the skirt-hem of the central range.

All the hot afternoon we plodded onward. Some miles after falling in
with the _camino real_ again, we passed “La Manuelita,” the “hacienda of
the valley” where Isaacs’ father had set up a sugar factory while the
son was still a student in Bogotá, and where took place, both in the
novel and real life, that pathetic scene that marked the ruin of the
family. To-day the estate is the property of Russian-Americans, and its
products are known throughout all Colombia. Beyond the little Amaime
river the way led through a forest of bamboo, then across a monotonous
and dusty _despoblado_. The great Cordillera Occidental, now like a
badly wrinkled garment of sepia-brown hue, drew ever nearer, as did a
line of bright-green trees marking the course of the Cauca river. The
central range all but faded away in the east, leaving a broad expanse of
fertile country longing for the plow. Further on, a broken bridge or two
adorned a waterless stream, and an occasional ox-cart, the first thing
on wheels we had seen since crossing the Magdalena, crawled by in the
sand. The after-curse of African slavery was everywhere in evidence. In
little cabins thrown together from jungle rubbish lounged swarms of
ragged humanity, black or half-black in color. Yet somehow they seemed
less lazy than in our own land, perhaps because the activity of their
few lighter neighbors gave less contrast. Swift tropical night was
spreading its cloak over all the Cauca when we sighted the sharp
church-spire of Palmira, where we were soon housed in the well-named
“Hotel Oasis.”

In mid-afternoon of the day following we broke out suddenly on the bank
of the Cauca river. A _barca_, or ferry, moored to wires that sagged
from shore to shore, set us across, and with sunset we plodded into
Cali. Our arrival was well timed. The chief commercial city of the Cauca
valley was en fête. From end to end, on the Sunday morrow of our
entrance, the place was crowded with happy, rather dusky, throngs, and
gay with the chiefly yellow flag of the nation and the bishop’s banner
and mitre. For on that day the ancient church of Cali became a
cathedral, and one of her “sons” a bishop; dividing a territory ruled
over for centuries by the chief ecclesiastic of Popayán. The name of the
“hijo de Cali” about to don the purple blazed forth from the façade of
the church in enormous electric letters, like that of some Broadway
star, and by sunset fully half the visible population was reeling drunk
in honor of the honor that had fallen upon their native town.

“What you don’t look for in Cali, you won’t find,” runs a local proverb;
which is a Colombian way of saying that its shops offer for sale
anything man may desire. In a small and Colombian sense this is true,
except on those frequent occasions when the stock is exhausted.
Connected with the Pacific port of Buenaventura by seven hours muleback
and four hours rail—it was hard to realize that we were again only four
days from a Zone police station—the place is in more or less constant
connection with the outside world. But the transportation facilities of
the country are so lax that the merchants of Cali are accustomed to
announce the receipt of a shipment from Europe or America with a
sarcastic placard:

            “POR FIN LLEGARON!” (At last they have arrived.)

The city’s rôle is chiefly that of distributing center for the vast
territory about and behind it, and on the heels of this first
announcement appears on the chief shop fronts the information, of
interest only to arrieros and the owners of mule-trains:

“HAY CARGA PARA—There is a load for” this or that town of the interior.

Life in Cali is largely governed by placards, as if she had but recently
discovered the art of printing and were making the most of it. Hardly an
establishment but is adorned with its set of rules. Among those of our
hotel were two of purely Latin-American tone:

“Correct dress is required of anyone presenting himself in the salons of
this establishment.

“All political or religious discussion is absolutely prohibited.”

Among the orders to the _sepultero_ of the local cemetery were several
that reflected the customs of the place:

“1. Receive no corpse without a ticket from a priest.

2. Keep three or four graves ready dug for bodies that may present

3. Make each adult grave 1½ meters deep and one wide. Relatives may,
upon request, have it dug deeper.

4. Remove no bodies without the permission of an inspector or a priest.”

Why was man, whose enjoyment surely would be so much greater, denied the
power of sailing freely out over the earth, as the birds circled away
across the great valley of the Cauca, tinged to sepia in the oblique
rays of the setting sun? When I reached the modest height that stands so
directly over Cali that I could count every dull-red tile of its roofs,
the little river racing over its rocks below was still alive with
bathers and laundresses. A breeze from off the mountains lifted the
drooping leaves of the palm-trees of the city; beyond, lay a view of the
entire Cauca valley, clear across to the now hazy central chain of the
Andes, the dot that to whoever has known “María” will ever remain “the
house of my fathers” plainly in sight, as were many of the scenes back
to Cartago and on over the range toward Bogotá that I should never again
see, except in imagination. If only this magnificent valley, climate and
all, were in our land! Or, no; it is better as it is. For then there
would be spread out here in the sunset a great colorless stretch of
plowed fields, factories sooting the peerless Cauca heavens with their
strident industry; there these velvety hillsides would be covered with
the gaudy villas of the more “successful” of an acquisitive race; a
great, ugly American city of broken and distressing sky-line, without a
single dull-red roof, would cover the most featureless, because the most
“practical,” part of the valley, utterly destroying the beauty of a
landscape which nature is still left to decorate in her own inimitable

                               CHAPTER V
                        DOWN THE ANDES TO QUITO

From Cali a broad “road,” still fresh with early morning, led forth to
the southeast, skirting some foothills of the Western Cordillera. Really
a meadow, bounded by two cactus hedges and interwoven with an intricate
network of paths, like the tracks of some great railway terminal, it was
excellent for tramping. Birds sang merrily in the branches of the
scattered trees; a telegraph wire sagged southward from bamboo pole to
pole. Groups of ragged women, balancing easily on their heads a
_machete_, a coiled rope, and a rolled straw mat, were already off to
gather Cali’s daily fire-wood. Others we met market-bound, bearing,
likewise on their heads, loads of a large leaf that serves as wrapping
paper in the shops of the town. Here passed a man leading two
pigs—except on those frequent occasions when the leadership was
reversed—there a haughty horseman, and beyond, mule after donkey laden
with everything from milk to alfalfa. We strode lightly forward this
time, for the developing-tank had been turned over to a “drummer” from
Chicago, bound to Ecuador by sea.

Before long the character of the country began to change, with a promise
of mountains to climb far ahead in the hazy day-after-to-morrow.
Mud-holes appeared; streams without bridges, though often with
stepping-stones or the trunk of a bamboo thrown across them, grew
frequent, and the sky took to muttering ominously far off to the
eastward. A strong young river, bright yellow in color and flecked with
spume, sped by beneath the first roofed bridge, with news of last
night’s storm somewhere up in the Cordillera. Before the day was done we
had several times to strip to the waist to ford torrents that had
decorated themselves with leaves and flowers and the branches of trees
snatched along the way.

Next morning the foothills began to crowd in upon the trail, now a
haphazard hunted thing scurrying in and out over _lomas_ and knolls and
ever higher hills, from the tops of which we several times caught what
we fancied was the last view of the great Cauca valley behind us. Slowly
the mountains themselves closed in. We waded a river, toiled up a long
slope, and came out far above a beautiful little vale completely boxed
in by perpendicular hillsides. Only two houses were to be seen on its
grassy floor, spotted with scores of grazing cattle. Over it, several
hundred feet above, hung a broad column of locusts, surely a mile long,
moving slowly northward with a humming whirr that we could plainly hear
far beyond, and shading the country beneath like some enormous veil.
Beyond, we descended again to the Cauca river. Here there was no ferry,
or rather, it was out of order. Tons of merchandise lay heaped along the
bank, while cursing arrieros chased their snorting mules into the
stream. The negro who set us across in a long dugout collected five
_billetes_ each for the service, but this was evidently exorbitant, for
the woman of his own color who went with us paid only four green
plantains for herself, a piccaninny, and her load.

Luckily we had a long draught of _chicha fuerte_ before facing the
notorious _subida de Aguache_ on the third day, for the stories we had
long heard of this fearsome climb had not been exaggerated. High above
anything we had seen since passing the Quindío, we came out suddenly on
a “platform” on the edge of one of those bottomless ravines that abound
in the Andes, a mighty hole in the earth, blue with the very depths of
it. Just across, at the same height, hung in plain sight the wavering
trail we could only reach by undoing all the climbing of days past and
doing it all over again in one single task. Hour after hour we descended
a mountainside so sheer that the struggle against gravity was like a
battle with some hardy wrestler, only to face at the bottom what seemed
the full unbroken wall of the Andes, the red trail zigzagging into the
very sky above. All the blazing afternoon we climbed incessantly, to
gain at evening a height equal to that of the morning, only a few miles
further south. A task that would have seemed impossible a month earlier
struck us now as amply rewarded by the indescribable panorama of
mountains that spread away from the summit in every direction.

For once the trail held for a time the advantage it had gained, passing
through Buenos Aires and Morales, two-row towns of thick adobe walls.
Though still in the tropics, we were now in the temperate zone. Oaks
abounded, and the weather was like that of our northern states in early
autumn. The population was still dark in color, but negroes had faded
away with the open-work architecture of the Cauca. For the first time
since descending from the plateau of Bogotá we met full-blooded Indians.
They were of the Guajiro tribe, dull-brown of color, sturdy,
thick-legged fellows in white pajama-like garments reaching only to the
knees. All, male or female, young or old, greeted us in a sing-song as
we passed.

On the last of August, four days from Cali, we pushed more swiftly
forward, for we were nearing the famous old city of Popayán. A forced
march, dipping down through a mighty gully and panting upward through
swirling dust, brought us at noon to the dry and wind-swept hilltop
village of Cajibío. The population was almost entirely Indian, and the
dusty central square swarmed with the Saturday market. Guajiros of both
sexes and all ages, flocked into town from scores of miles around, sat
with their bits of produce under woven-reed shelters, or in the open
glare of the equatorial sun. Some had already exchanged their wares for
the weekly chicha debauch, and staggered about maudlin and red-eyed, or
lay tumbled in noisome corners. The village priest, the only visible
resident of European blood, wandered in and out among the hawkers with a
_mochila_ on the end of a rod over one shoulder. Gazing away across the
sepia hills and distant blue ranges, as if his mind were utterly
detached from this world, the padre paused before each hawker, turned
his back, and punched him—or, more often, her—with the end of the stick
until a contribution to the parochial larder had been dropped into the

The sun set amid corn-fields, wrapping itself in grayish-purple clouds
in the crimsoning west, and still Popayán was leagues away. We plodded
on into the night. There is, however, a sort of reflected light in these
high altitudes, where the very mountains seem low hills, a sense of
being _on top_ of the world, with the sun just out of sight around the
curve of the earth. Fires, evidently of Indians burning off their
_chacras_, dotted the night on several sides of us. The road grew
broader and took on that atrocious cobbling which follows the Spaniard
everywhere, growing worse as it approaches a town. Now it stumbled down
to a river, across a long stone bridge of the massive type of long ago,
and into a two-row village. For a time we imagined we saw at last the
lights of the famous city. It was mere illusion. Not only did we tramp
another footsore hour, but when we did finally arrive, there were no
lights. The place had grown up about us in the dark before we realized
that we were no longer in the open country. The pedometer registered 35
miles, and our feet and appetites several times that, when we halted
undecided in what some sixth sense told us was the central plaza.

Most famous of all the cities from Bogotá to Quito, boasting itself a
“cradle of savants,” long the capital of a large section of Spain’s
American colonies and still that of the great department of the Cauca,
Popayán had seemed to promise at least the lesser comforts of
civilization. For days we had slept on tables and mud benches, wrapped
in the fond hope of making up here for the cold, hungry nights on the
trail. We had even feared there might be difficulty in choosing from a
plethora of accommodations, and had gravely set down, somewhere to the
north, the name of the “Hotel Colón” as of about the grade of luxury
fitted to our fortunes. It was to laugh. Though it was barely eight in
the evening, Popayán was as dead as a graveyard at midnight—and darker.
Later we learned that the famous city does have lights,—a few
street-corner kerosene lamps that burn out within an hour, unless a puff
of wind blows them out first. Having been a city, in the Spanish sense,
only 376 years, it was too much to expect the place to have learned
already of the existence of electricity.

We hobbled over slippery cobblestones along monotonous two-story streets
and in and out of dimly-seen thatched suburbs for what seemed hours
before we caught a man emerging from a candle-lighted barber-shop.

“Hotel?” he ruminated, as if striving to recall a word he had heard
somewhere long ago, “You want a hotel?”

“No, you Spiggoty dolt,” growled Hays in English, nursing his blistered
feet by standing on one at a time, “We only asked that because we wanted
to know who won the pennant this year.”

“Hotel,” went on the musing _popayanejo_, unheeding, “Ah-er-where do you
come from and where are you going? You will be italianos? Alemanes?”

“No, we’re Chinamen,” I snapped, “and looking for a hotel.”

“Pués, Señor Chino,” he replied, cleverly returning the sarcasm, “There
is no hotel in Popayán. But if you go down this street four _cuadras_ in
this direction and three in that and knock at the door of the second
house beyond the fountain, you may find them willing to give you

They were not, however; nor were those to whom they in turn directed us.
A long hour more we winced along the uneven, slippery streets of
Popayán, begging for a bite to eat and a plank to lie on as in any
Indian village, only to be turned away from some of the most distressing
holes ever man offered to sleep in on a wager. But the Spanish-speaking
races have a proverb that “_Perro que anda hueso encuentra_,” and we
stumbled finally upon a billiard-room in which several young bloods of
the town were upholding their reputation as night-hawks. One Señor
Fulano, cigarette-maker by profession—when he was sober enough—and
“dope-fiend” by habit, as were several of his companions, took us in
charge and led the way uncertainly to a cubby-hole of a room in his
barn-like ancestral home. There, my dreams of the comforts of Popayán
forever shattered, I resigned myself to sleep once more on a wooden
table posing as a bed. Hays was little more fortunate, for though he
drew an aged divan, he fell asleep quite literally several times before
he abandoned himself to the floor which fate seemed bent on forcing him
to occupy.

In the morning Fulano’s garrulous old mother made more formal
arrangements for our housing. She did not pretend to run a hotel—though
she had no hesitancy in charging hotel rates—but she served two greasy
meals a day to several clerks from the government offices and, “out of
charity,” seated us with them. But alas, however easily he may spend the
day, the Latin-American leads a hard life at night. In a huge and all
but empty front room was an enormous bedstead of viceregal days; but
this, too, was wooden floored, and the diaphanous straw-mat that did
duty as mattress had had all life crushed out of it years before. Nor
did the single blanket have much influence over the penetrating mountain
air of early morning. The deep window embrasures were built with steps
for the use of occupants who would engage in the favorite _popayanejo_
pastime of gazing out through the reja; but no provision whatever had
been made for another convenience essential to all well-regulated
households. In this respect the house was on a par with all the rest of
the famous city.

“Founded” by Benalcazar, in the Spanish sense of having a scribe record
under a name bristling with reference to the saints—which as usual
failed to stick—an Indian town ruled over by a warlike _cacique_ named
Payán, the capital of the Cauca has, according to its latest census,
4326 men and 5890 women, a disproportion that is reflected in its
customs. If its own assertion is to be taken at par, it is “notable for
its fine climate and its illustrious sons.” Of the climate there can be
little criticism. Just how illustrious its sons might have been in a
wider world no one who has come to see where and how they lived can be
blamed for wondering. Of them all, the town is evidently most proud of
Caldas—a statue of whom adorns the central plaza—the tobacco-chewing
savant who discovered how to determine altitude by boiling water—no one
who has cooked his eggs in the Andes is long in making the same
discovery—and who taught the revolted colonials how to make
gunpowder—only to be shot in Bogotá for his pains.

So aged is the town that it has not a red roof left; all are faded to a
time-dulled maroon. The place bristles with ancient religious edifices,
mementoes of its importance in colonial days. Hardly a block is there
without its huge church of cavernous and dilapidated interior. The
silent grass-grown little “Universidad del Cauca,” of the aspect of some
bent and toothless old man, is famous now only for its age, though in
its dotage it fondly fancies itself still one of the principal seats of
learning in the New World. Over its unadorned main door may still be
read a crumbled inscription:

                           “Initium Sapientae
                           Timor Domini”

Summer vacation had left it uninhabited, but there was evidence of
practical training in at least one respect,—the beds of its dormitory
were narrow wooden boxes some five feet long.

If Popayán is dead by night, little more can be said for it by day.
Languid shopkeeping is almost its only visible industry, and the
population seems to live on what they sell one another. The ways of its
merchants are typical of those in all the somnolent towns of the Andes.
With few exceptions they treat the prospective purchaser in a manner
that seems to say, “Buy at this price, or go away and let me alone. I
want to read last week’s newspaper, finish my cigarette, and day-dream,
and I don’t want you here in my store disturbing my meditations.” Too
often, in the shops, the mañana habit prevails,—in that it is always the
_next_ place that has what you are looking for. The mortality of white
ones being high on Andean trails, I entered a _tienda_ to ask:

“Do you sell blue handkerchiefs, señor?”

Shopkeeper, recovering from what was really a sleep, though ostensibly
awake: “Ah—er—buenos días, señor. Cómo está usté’? Cómo está la familia?
The señor wishes—er—ah—what was it the señor requested?”

The chances always are that he has heard the question in his dreams and,
if given time, will recall it:

“Handkerchiefs, is it not, señor?”

“Blue handkerchiefs, please.”

“Ah—er—cómo para qué cosa?” (What for, for instance?)

This question, which is seldom lacking, being ignored, the shopkeeper
turned to let his eyes wander dreamily over his shelves, striving in
vain to bring his attention down to the matter in hand. Finally he took
a stick from a corner and fished from an upper shelf a paper-wrapped
bundle. Opened, it disclosed a half-dozen pairs of faded red socks, made
in Germany.

“But I said....”

Shopkeeper, suddenly, but not unexpectedly, without a pause between the
questions: “Where do you come from where are you going?”

The traveler answers according to his character and mood. Meanwhile the
merchant had fished down a bundle of red handkerchiefs.

“I said blue, señor.”

“But this is blue, a beautiful ultramarine blue, mira usté’—just look,”
and he held it up to the reflected sunlight that streamed in at the only
opening to the shop,—the doorway.

“No, señor, I want blue.”

Shopkeeper, dreamily, “Ah, señor, _no hay_—there are none. But you can
find them _en to’as partes_—anywhere. You are French, perhaps, señor?”

“Perhaps.” Here I caught sight of a bundle of blue handkerchiefs in
plain view on a lower shelf, and pointed them out. “How much?”

Shopkeeper: “Te—Fifteen pesos, señor.”

“You must take me for a tourist, or a gringo. I’ll give you five.”

“Very well, señor, muchas gracias, buenos días, adiós pués.”

Or perhaps the stranger wishes to visit some local celebrity and pauses
in a shop-door to ask:

“Can you tell me where Dr. Medrano lives?”

“You mean Dr. Medrano de Pisco y Miel?”—That is the only Dr. Medrano in
town, as the merchant well knows, but the matter must be clothed in all
customary formality—“His house is the second door beyond that of Dr.
Enrique Castro y Pelayo, señor.”

“Yes, but I am a stranger in town and I don’t know where Don Enrique

“You don’t know? You don’t know where Dr. Enrique Castro y Pelayo lives!
Why—er—but everyone knows the house of Dr. Enrique. Why—er—just ask
anywhere. They can tell you _en to’as partes_—anyone can tell you.”

This happy-go-lucky way of life is not without its advantages. Having
occasion to cash a traveler’s check, I dropped in upon a native merchant
who played at being a banker. After the usual extended formalities, he
took the check and looked it over with a puzzled expression, for he knew
no English.

“As a banker you are, of course, familiar with the system of traveler’s
checks?” I put in.

“No, señor, I have never before seen one.”

“Well, it is just as good as money and....”

“Oh, of course,” he replied, hastily, “since the señor offers it. How
much do you want for it?”

“Only its face value; ten dollars in American money.”

“I shall be pleased to take it. How much is that in our money of the

“Only a thousand pesos, señor,” I replied, disdaining the temptation to
multiply by ten.

“Muy bién, señor,” he replied, and making out an order to his cashier
for that amount, tucked the check away in a drawer.

“It is not good unless I sign it,” I suggested.

“Ah, no?” he asked, producing it again for that purpose, “A thousand
thanks. Pués, adiós, señor. Until we meet again.”

So unlimited is the faith in “ingleses” in these regions that he had no
hesitancy in accepting from a stranger a check which he would not have
dreamed of cashing for one of his fellow townsmen without ample proof of
its value.

One evening three men in frock-coats and the manners of prime ministers
dropped in upon us and announced themselves editors of the newspaper
“Sursum.” They had only an hour or two to spare, however, and by the
time the introductory formalities were over they bowed themselves out
with the information that they would come and _tertuliar_ (interview)
us—mañana. Two days later I chanced to meet one of them again.

“Did you say ‘Sursum’ is published every week?” I asked, having had no
visual evidence of its existence since our arrival.

“Oh, yes, indeed!” cried the editor, rolling another cigarette. “Every
week. Ah—that is, last week it did not appear, it is true; and the week
before the editor-in-chief was _al campo_, and the week before that he
was very busy, as his sister was getting married. But it is sure to come
out next week, or if not, then the week after. And I am myself coming to
interview you—mañana.”

It was in Popayán that we found _coca_ leaves for sale for the first
time, and met Indians whose cheeks were disfigured by a cud of them.
Long before the white man appeared on his shores, the Indian of the
Andes, unacquainted with the tobacco of his North American brother, was
addicted to this habit. The leaves—from which is extracted the cocaine
of modern days—are plucked from a shrub not unlike the orange in
appearance, that grows down in the edge of the hot lands to the east of
the Andean chain. Once dried, they are packed in huge bales, or crude
baskets made on the spot, and sold in the marketplaces by old women who
weigh out the desired amount in clumsy home-made scales, or in handfuls
by eye measure. The Indians thrust the leaves one by one into their
mouths, and as they become moistened, add a bit of lime or ashes, dipped
with what looks like an enlarged toothpick from a tiny calabash which,
with a leather pouch for the leaves themselves, constitutes the most
indispensable article of the aboriginal equipment. How harmful the habit
may be, it is hard to gage. Its devotees are, it is true, languid of
manner and slow of intellect; but they show no great contrast in this
particular from the “gente decente,” their neighbors, who rarely indulge
in the leaves, except on some long and wearisome journey. So marked is
this languor in Popayán that, as in most Andean towns, brawls are rare,
despite the half-anarchy that reigns. Youths merry with liquor or its
equivalent raced their horses up and down the roughly cobbled streets,
forcing them to capriole until Hays took to cursing his loss of police
powers; street women may,—though few find it necessary—ply their
profession as openly as vegetable hawkers. Even when a dispute grows
noisy, there is no interference. A policeman may wander up in curiosity,
like any other bystander, but he is almost sure to find that the
contender is some “authority,” or the second cousin of the alcalde, or a
grandson of the bishop, or wears a white collar, and wanders away again,
lest he get himself into trouble.

So we remained in Popayán until it had dwindled from the romantic city
of the past our imaginations had pictured to the miserable
reality—though in after years, veiled by the haze of memory, its charm
and romance may return—and one evening asked to have our coffee served
at a reasonable hour in the morning.

“Siempre se van hoy?” cried our hostess, when we appeared in road garb
next morning, “You are really going to-day?” It was not so much that she
was striving to cover her failure to have the coffee ready; her
Latin-American mind could not conceive of so definite a resolution
outliving the night. “Why do you not remain until to-morrow and rest?”
she rambled on.

An hour later she stood staring after us from her doorway, an act in no
way conspicuous, since all that section of Popayán was similarly
engaged. The entire town had expressed its sympathy that we must go “all
alone and so laboriously—tan trabajoso” over the wild mountains and
valleys to—well, wherever we were bound; for not a single popayanejo
took seriously our assertion that we really hoped to reach Ecuador.

Pasto was said to be something like a week distant “by land,” and the
route “very dangerous,” though from what source was not clear. For the
first lazy hour a good road led gradually upward. But like an
incorrigible small boy getting out of sight of home, its good behavior
ceased at the hilltop where we caught the last view of the “cradle of
savants.” Ever more winding and broken, across ravines and streams with
bridges and without them, now and then seeming to drop completely out of
the world about us, only to gather its forces again far below and
scramble to even greater heights over a saddle of a mountain wall
beyond, from the summit of which the trail of twenty-four hours before
stood forth as clearly as across an alleyway between tenement houses, it
struggled uncertainly southward day after day. At the hamlet of Dolores,
amid rugged and tumbled mountains piled into the sky on every hand, we
came to a parting of the ways and had the choice of continuing by the
temperate or the torrid zone. One route went down into the Patía valley,
hotter than Panama, reputed the abode of raging fevers and the
breeding-place of those swarms of locusts that devastate the Cauca. The
other, by way of “los pueblos,” lay cool and high, with frequent towns,
though it was two days longer and much more broken and mountainous.

We chose the temperate zone. The way turned back for a time almost the
way we had come, then climbed until a whole new world opened out beyond,
towering peaks piercing the clouds and strangely shaped masses of earth
lying heaped up tumultuously on every hand. For once the trail showed
unusual intelligence in clinging to the top of the ridge, fighting its
own natural tendency to pitch down into the mighty valleys on either
side, and the constant struggle of the ridge to throw it off, like an
ill-tempered bronco its rider. We were following now what the Colombian
calls a _cuchillo_, a “knife,” treading the very edge of its blade.
Along it, miserable mud huts were numerous; and every Indian we met had
a cheek distorted and his teeth and lips discolored by a coca cud. It
struck us as strange that even bad habits have their local habitat and
that the magnificent mountain scenery gave the dwellers no inspiration
to better their conditions.

Evidently the region held foreigners in great fear. As often as we
paused to ask for lodging, some transparent excuse was trumped up to get
rid of us. The naïveté of the inhabitants was amusing. At one village
hut two women met our plea for posada with:

“No, señores, los maridos no están” (the husbands are out).

“We are not interested in the husbands, but in a place to sleep.”

“Yes, but the husbands will be out all night and they would make
themselves very ugly” (se pondrían muy bravos). Further on my companion
tried his luck again. Two plump girls, not unattractive in appearance,
bade him enter. Could they give us posada? They thought so; mother
usually did, but she was out just then.

“All right,” said Hays, sitting down, “I’ll wait for her.”

Some time had passed when it occurred to him to ask:

“When will mother be back?”

“Oh, perhaps in a week,” answered the innocent damsels, “She went to
Mojarras with a load of corn.”

It was as useless to try to get a meal without the loss of several hours
as to hope to eat it without the entire village squatted around us.
Either there was nothing to cook, or no pan to cook it in, until the
woman next door had baked to-morrow’s corn-bread, or the stick fire in
the back-yard refused to burn, or some other unsurmountable drawback
developed. Hays constantly labored under the delusion that money could
expedite matters, and was given to drawing forth his worldly wealth in
one wad to flourish it before the languorous cook and, incidentally, all
the gaping town. The result was often a doubled or trebled price, if not
an inducement for some of the village louts to lay in ambush for us
somewhere up the trail, but never an earlier meal. If they could stir up
their lethargy to serve us at all, it would be only at their own good
leisure, whatever the price. Many a time there occurred a scene similar
to that at San Miguel. Hays shook a $50 _billete_ in the face of a
bedraggled Indian woman who had, perhaps, never before seen so large a
sum at one time, offering it all if she would prepare a meal at once.
She would not, but after long argument served coffee, corn-cakes, and
eggs—which might easily rank as a meal in the Andes—and collected a bill
of seven cents.

For days at a time we tramped “aguas arriba.” The trails of the Andes
are fond of this means of crossing a mountain range. High above it we
caught the gorge of a river, and wound upstream in and out along the
towering wall that shut us in. It was no mountain-flanking road of easy
gradient, such as abound in the Alps, but one that had chiefly built
itself; so that all day long we climbed and descended stony buttresses
of the range, until they grew like the constant nagging of a querulous
old woman, the gorge of the brawling river ever far below. Here and
there a hut and clearing hung on the opposite mountain wall, or above
us, in places where plows were useless. The Indians cultivated their
“farms” by burning off a bit of the swift slope, threw a brush fence
about it, dropped their seeds into carelessly dug holes, and sat back to
wait for whatever nature chose to send them. At length, in the course of
days, the trail having kept the same general level, the diminished river
rose to meet it; for hours more the path jumped back and forth across
the ever smaller stream, until this had dwindled to a mere brook racing
down a rocky gorge from its birthplace up under the snows. Then, when
there was nothing else left for it, the trail girded up its loins and
scrambled alone up out of the valley and over the backing range.

Far above I could make out the rough-hewn wooden cross that marked the
summit, masses of clouds scurrying past it, as if pursued by some enemy
beyond. Once I passed a half-wild Indian girl with a baby on her back,
who ran away down an unmarked, break-neck place in a way to suggest that
she had taken me for the Fiend in person. No doubt the resemblance was
striking. Higher still, two or three groups of the same tribe came down
at a queer little dog-trot, the heavy loads on their backs supported by
a shawl knotted across their shoulders, the plump breasts of the women
undulating under their dirty, one-piece garments. In mid-morning we
stood at last on the summit of the famous Ahorcado—the Hanged Man—range,
so named from some episode of the Conquest, a “knife-edge” indeed, where
the god of the winds seemed to have his chief warehouse. For once the
view was entirely free from mist. To the east, the V-shaped valley up
which we had come lay far below, twisting away to the left, to be lost
at last between hazy mountain chains. There were many more farmers here
than in the rich and level Cauca valley, either because the government
is too far distant to drive them out by its exactions, or because the
Indian is in his element among these lofty ranges. On every hand the
steep mountain sides were flecked with little farms of all possible
shapes, colored by green or ripening grain or corn, a tiny hut in the
center of each patch, minute with distance, but as clearly visible as if
only a few yards away. To the west lay a pandemonium of mighty valleys,
pitched and tumbled peaks, gigantic saw-toothed ranges, seen and
suggested into the uttermost distance.


  The market-place of Cajibío, in the highlands of Popayán. In the
    right-center is the village priest, with a pole attached to a bag
    under his arm, demanding contributions of each hawker. Though the
    region is decidedly cold at night or in the shade, the unclouded sun
    burns the skin quickly, hence the woven-reed sunshades]

But one could not stand long in so icy a wind to admire even such a
scene. A few yards below, the road forked, one branch stumbling headlong
down into that chaotic jumble of wooded hills and valleys, the other
striking off through the forest along the flank of the range. A mistake
at that height might mean hours or even days of extra toil. We chose at
random and trusted to luck. The soft, almost level road plunged away
through a dense green forest, as truly “bearded with moss” as any in our
North, yet rich with parasites and ferns. Great oaks littered the ground
with acorns. I drew ahead and marched on through utter solitude, the
stillness broken only by the cold wind from the south, immense vistas of
dense-wooded Andes now and then opening out through a break in the
tree-tops. Where the forest began to give way, my misgivings were set at
rest by a group of dull-eyed Indians of both sexes, their mouths stained
with coca-leaves, plodding upward in single file, still maudlin with the
fire-water that marked the vicinity of a town. All wore heavy,
cream-colored felt hats, and bore varying burdens, the women carrying
the heavier loads and in addition a baby slung across their breasts by a
cloth knotted behind the neck.

Not far beyond, I burst out suddenly upon a full view of Almaguer,
almost directly below, perched astride a narrow ridge between two
mountains, serene in its precarious seat despite the raging wind that
seemed constantly threatening to blow it off into oblivion. Then, as
suddenly, it disappeared, and I was almost within the town before I
caught sight of it again.

Here we caught one Barbara Diaz red-handed in the act of feeding her
swarming family, and refused to be driven away. Lodging, however, seemed
unattainable. A woman seated on her earth floor before an American
sewing-machine run by hand carelessly admitted that she had a room to
rent before she thought to say “further on.” But on second thoughts she
decided that it would be “muy trabajoso” to prepare it for us—in other
words, very tiresome to get up from the floor and produce a key. The
alcalde was out of town; the one woman who owned a vacant little shop
asserted with an air of finality that her husband was not at home. I
turned to the court of last appeal, the village priest. He was a
long-unshaven but pleasant fellow of forty, educated in the seminary of
Popayán, occupying, with a discreet but attractive young “housekeeper,”
the second-best building in town—the best being the mud church
adjoining. His well-stocked library, in Latin and Spanish, with a few
volumes in French and English, was a feast for the eyes in these
bookless wilds. During our long chat the good padre asserted that all
the Indians for a hundred miles around were good and faithful Catholics,
and that almost all of them could read and write! He had long planned to
learn English, but had “such a fearful lot of work to do, so many masses
to say every day and confessions without rest.” He took down a book and
requested me to read some English aloud, “just to hear how it sounds.”
Casually, somewhere during the interview, I brought in a brief reference
to lodging, and the padre forthwith sent across the plaza a small boy
who soon returned and led us to the same woman who had last turned us
away. Now that the padre ordered, she had no hesitancy in overlooking
the absence of her husband. The lodging cost us nothing, which was
exactly what it was worth. It was the usual mud cavern, with a floor of
trodden earth, cold as a dungeon in contrast to the blazing sunshine
outside, and, having once been a shop, was all but filled with a
dust-carpeted counter and yawning shelves curtained and draped with
cobwebs. Hays drew the counter, but I found room to stow myself away on
one of the higher shelves, though with neither mattress nor covering and
a wind as off the antarctic ice sweeping at express speed across the
thin _cuchillo_ between two bottomless Andean gullies, we did not look
forward to darkness with pleasure.

The only water supply of Almaguer, attached to the world only by the
“royal highway” at either end, was a little wooden spout projecting
from the hillside. The _estanquillo_ had no lack of aguardiente,
however, and as to washing, Almaguer avoids what would otherwise be a
difficulty by never having formed the habit. The making of candles is
its chief industry. A bluish wax is gathered from a “laurel” tree
which abounds in the region, and even the acting alcalde spent the
evening making candles by dipping pieces of string again and again
into a bowl of molten wax. That worthy was also village school-master
and purveyor of patent medicines to Almaguer; a lank, ungainly man in
an habitual lack of shave, with a handkerchief knotted about his neck
like a Liverpool wharf-rat. Before the sun had set he had given us a
score of commissions, chiefly in the patent medicine line, to be
fulfilled when we returned to the “Europe.” Then he fell to talking of
a “Meestare Eddy Sone” and his inventions. For some time we fancied
the personage in question was some local celebrity, and not until the
patent-medicine-schoolmaster-alcalde had turned the conversation to a
“Meestare Frunk Lean,” who was also, it seemed, a great gringo
electrician, and answered to the surname of Benjamin, did we catch the
drift of his monologue. He had brought up the subject, it turned out,
because he had long been curious to know whether the Meestares Frunk
Lean and Eddy Sone often met to plan their work together, or whether,
as so often happened among the great men of Almaguer, they were
unfortunately rivals and enemies.

It is always a long time night in this Andean land of no lights and
little covering. The read-less evenings seem interminable. Small wonder
the inhabitants are ignorant and priest-ridden when they can only sit
and gossip after the sun goes down. The traveler eats supper—if it is to
be had—takes a walk, talks awhile with some one—if he is gifted with the
medieval art of conversation—comes “home,” sits around awhile on the
earth floor or an adobe block, thinks over his past history and future
plans—if any—wishes he smoked, and, finally deciding to go to bed, looks
at his tin watch to find it is almost seven! In Almaguer there were none
of these drawbacks. For, as I lay abed,—on my upper shelf—the “laurel”
candle gave sufficient flicker by which to make out the dimly printed
pages of a Bogotá masterpiece—so long as I kept wide enough awake to
balance the candlestick on my forehead.

It is not far from Almaguer to its twin city of Bolívar; yet they are
far apart. On the map one could stroll over in an hour or two, pausing
for a nap on the way. So could one in real life but for a single
drawback,—the lack of a bridge. Both towns, the largest between Popayán
and Pasto, lie at about the same 7500 feet above the level of the sea;
but between them is a gash in the earth which does not reach to the
infernal regions simply and only because these are not situated where
ancient—and some modern—theologians fancied them.

For days now there had been persistent rumors of _salteadores_, highway
robbers, reputed experts in the art of shooting travelers in the back
from any of the countless hiding-places along the trail. Every town, in
turn, asserted that its own region was eminently safe; the danger was
always in the next one. Each traveler we met—and they were never
alone—carried a rifle or a musket. Once, at an awkward defile, we
suddenly caught sight of an ugly-looking group of ruffians on a knoll
above, and our back muscles twitched reflexively until we had climbed
out of range. The fact that our own weapons hung in plain sight may have
been the cause of their inaction. Again, in San Lorenzo, of especially
evil repute, several shifty-eyed fellows showed great interest in our
movements. When we took the opportunity to oil our side-arms and
demonstrate their quick action, however, the group assured us that the
robbers never troubled foreigners, and faded gradually away.

The danger, if it existed, was multiplied by the fact that we were
forced to canvass the town until we had changed our money into silver.
We were about to enter the half-autonomous Department of Nariño,
southernmost of Colombia, where the paper bills of the central
government have never been accepted. Yet the department has no money of
its own. Silver coins of whatever origin have a fixed worth, according
to size rather than face value, those with holes in them losing nothing
thereby. Pieces of the weight of our silver dollar were known as
_fuertes_, and valued at 36 cents. Our quarter, or an English shilling,
was accepted as “dos reales,”—seven cents. Among the hodgepodge of coins
that came into my possession was a two-peseta piece of old Spain, dated
1794 under the profile of Charles IV. The shopkeeper with whom I spent
it valued it at two _reales_ because it was somewhat smaller than the
four-real piece, but after an argument accepted it as four. The twenty
dollars we each gathered made a sackful nearly as heavy as all the rest
of our baggage.

The landscape, too, had changed. Instead of the hot, dry, repulsive
ranges behind, we were again in deep-green woods and fields, the trail
climbing from bamboo-clad valleys where ran cold mountain streams so
clear we could not see the water, but only the bottom of the bed, to
wind-swept oaken heights. In places there were slight outcroppings of
coal. Then a lung-bursting road rick-racked for hours up a wall-like
mountainside, now and then, when we were ready to drop from exhaustion,
bringing us out on a little level space, like a landing on an endless
stairway, then scrambling on up still steeper heights. When at last we
stood on the blade-edge of the Cuchillo de Bateros, dividing autonomous
Nariño from the rest of Colombia, Bolívar, two days behind, lay as
plainly in sight as a house across the street, the immense peak beside
it sunk to an insignificant knoll. To the west we could look down into
the misty valley of the Patía—and wonder whether we would not have done
better to have taken its more level route, for all its fevers.


  Crossing the Cauca River with a pack-train by one of the typical
    “ferries” of the Andes]


  A village of the mountainous region south of Popayán]

At dusk we came out on a headland and saw, so directly below that a
false step would have pitched us, or rather our mangled remains, down
into its very plaza, the mathematically regular town of San Pablo, in
the floor-flat river bottom of the Rio Mayo, with rich meadows
stretching east and west to the rocky mountain walls that boxed them in.
The descent was so steep that we could only hold our own by wedging our
toes into the shale and keeping our thigh-muscles taut as brake-rods; so
swift that the trail often split to bits from its own momentum. In the
town we were startled to have the first boy we met admit that posada
could be had. His own mother had a room to rent. He laid aside the hat
he was weaving and, picking up a bunch of enormous keys, stepped toward
an adobe building across the street. But at that moment a patched and
barefoot man rushed down upon us, likewise offering us posada in a
startling burst of eloquence. For a time it looked as if, for once,
instead of having to fight for lodgings, lodgings were going to fight
for us. We settled the dispute by the simple expedient of asking each
his price.

“One real,” answered the boy, defiantly.

“In my _oficina de peluquería_,” said the man, haughtily, “it will cost
you nothing. Moreover, foreigners always lodge there.”

Behind his bravado he seemed so nearly on the point of weeping that we
should no doubt have chosen his “office of barbering,” even had there
been no such gulf between the rival prices. He thanked us for the favor
and, producing from somewhere about his person an enormous key, unlocked
one of those unruly shop-doors indigenous to rural South America, above
which projected a shingle bearing on one side the information that we
were about to enter the “Peluquería Cívica,” and on the other the name
of our host, Santiago Muñoz. The keyhole was of the shape of a swan;
others in the town, as throughout Nariño, had the form of a man, a
horse, a goose, and a dozen more as curious. These home-made doors of
Andean villages, be it said in passing, never fit easily; their huge
clumsy locks have always some idiosyncrasy of their own, so that by the
time the traveler learns to unlock the door of his lodging without
native assistance, he is ready to move on.

This one gave admittance to the usual white-washed mud den, with a tile
floor, furnished as a Colombian barber-shop, which means that it was
chiefly empty and by no means immaculate, with two wooden benches, three
tin basins and an empty water-pitcher, a home-made—or San
Pablo-made—chair, a lame table littered with newspapers from a year to
three months old, a scanty supply of open razors, strops, Florida water,
soap, and brushes scattered promiscuously, a couple of once-white gowns
of “Mother Hubbard” form for customers, and in one corner a heap of
human hair, black and coarse. Then there were the luxuries of a clumsy
candlestick with six inches of candle, and a lace curtain worked with
red and blue flowers to cut off the gaze of the curious, except those
bold enough frankly to push it aside and stare in upon us. Santiago gave
us full possession, key and all—we tossed a coin to decide which of us
should burden himself with the latter—and informed us that a woman next
door to the church sometimes supplied meals to travelers.

The benches were barely a foot wide, but they were of soft wood, and we
were so delighted to find accommodations plentiful that I was about to
make a similar suggestion when Hays yawned:

“Let’s hang over here to-morrow.”

Late next morning the barber wandered in upon us.

“Last year,” he began, “another meestare”—in the Andes the word is used
as a common noun to designate not only Americans, but Europeans and even
Spaniards—“stopped here. You perhaps know him. His name was Guiseppe.”

We doubted it.

“Surely you must know him,” persisted the barber, “he was a foreigner,

As he talked, Santiago kept fingering a crumpled letter. Bit by bit he
half betrayed, half admitted, that he gave free lodging to _estranjeros
_because he wished to keep on good terms with the “outside” world in
general, and in particular because he was seeking some means of sending
six dollars to that strange town beyond the national boundaries from
which all foreigners came. When he had explained himself at length, he
turned the letter over to us. It was in correct Spanish, mimeographed to
resemble a typewritten personal communication, and told in several pages
of flowery language what I can perhaps condense within reasonable


                               Inspiration Point,
                                   Echo Park,
                                     Los Angeles,
                                       Cal. U. S. A.

  Muy señor mío:

  With great pleasure we send you a pamphlet on “Secret Force,”
  because we know that it contains information which will be of vast
  importance to you, as a means of being able to obtain that secret
  knowledge of the human character and of personal influence
  permitting you in a moment to know and understand the life of all
  other persons, to know their desires and their intentions, their
  habits and deficiencies, their plans and all that can be prejudicial
  to you. Following our system, you can read the character of your
  neighbors as an open book; if you possess the system “Natajara,”
  there will be no one who can deceive you; by means of it you can
  know beforehand under all circumstances all that others intend to
  do, and can direct them to your own entire satisfaction. By means of
  the system “Natajara” you can know exactly how much progress, how
  much love, how much health, and how much happiness the future has in
  store for you; and if it does not reserve for you as much as you
  desire, you can change its course to suit your ambitions.

  Never, in the present century or those past, has a more potent
  knowledge been given to the world. It teaches precisely when and how
  to use the magic force by means of which one obtains the realization
  of all desires; it places those who possess it in a sphere superior
  to the generality of mankind, makes them masters of destiny.... I
  dare not tell you all the advantages of this knowledge, but I assure
  you it is what you need that your life convert itself into a true
  success. I beg you to read the “Secret Force,” letter by letter, and
  to send at once for the system “Natajara.” Remember that the sending
  to you of the system for a mere $6 is only a special offer that we
  make, and if you wish to have the privilege of being the first in
  your locality to possess these great secrets, you ought to send this
  very day.

  Without further particulars, etc., I take great pleasure in signing

              Your grateful and affectionate servant,
                              (Signed)     A. VICTOR SEGNO,
                                                    President per Sec.

  Dictated to No. 1 S.

There was no doubt that Santiago had followed the injunction to read the
pamphlet letter by letter. Thanks to his Colombian schooling, that was
the only way he could read it. But how was he to send the mere $6 to
Inspiration Point without his fellow-townsmen knowing it and perhaps
forestalling his opportunity to be the first in his locality to possess
the powerful secret? There is no postal-order system between Colombia
and the United States. He dared not send the cash, even if so large an
amount of Nariño silver could be enclosed in a parcel the post would
carry. So he had hidden the letter away and lain in wait for the rare
foreigners that drift into San Pablo. While we read it, he sat on one of
our “beds” nervously fingering his toes. When we had finished, he begged
us to find some way of sending the money, imploring us, on our hopes of
eternity, not to whisper a word of the secret to his fellow-townsmen. We
promised to think the matter over.

“When are you going to open the shop this morning?” asked Hays, as our
host turned toward the door.

“Oh, I shall not trouble to open to-day,” said the barber, in a weary
voice, and wandered away with the air of a man who sees no need of
common toil when he is on the point of becoming the dictator of fate in
all his locality.

We hatched a scheme against his return. If we fancied he might forget
the matter, we were deceived. Nothing else seemed to be weighing on his
mind when he turned up again in the evening, dejected and worried. To
have tried to explain the truth to him would have been only to convince
him that we were agents of some rival house, sent down here purposely to
ruin his chances of imposing his will upon San Pablo.

“If you feel you must have this system,” I began, “I’ll tell you what
I’ll do. I have some money in a bank in the Estados Unidos, and I will
give you a personal check for $6 that you can mail to the Chirological

“Magnífico!” cried the barber, instantly transformed from the depths of
gloom to the summits of glee, “A thousand thanks. That will be $600 in
billetes of Colombia. I will get it at once....”

“It will be simpler,” I suggested, “to wait until you hear the check has
arrived; then send it to me. Naturally I am running no risk in trusting
one of the chief men of San Pablo. Anyway, it would only be in payment
for our magnificent lodgings.”

The Colombian rarely needs much urging to accept a favor, and his formal
protests soon died away. I sat down to write the check:

                              The Fake Bank,
                          920 West 110th Street
                          New York, U. S. A.
                        Pay to the order of the
                        Chirological College of
                          Los Angeles, Cal.,
                    the sum of six dollars ($6).

                                  BARON MÜNCHAUSEN.

The barber carefully folded the valuable document and hid it away in his
garments, promising to send it at the first opportunity—in a plain
envelope, unregistered: “For,” he explained, confiding to us a
nation-wide secret, “the post-office officials always steal any letter
they think has money in it, and to register it makes them sure it has.”

The plan was cruel, but we could think of no other. No doubt Santiago
waited many anxious months for the arrival of the “system”; certainly no
longer than he would have if he had managed to send real money.
Meanwhile, as Latin-American enthusiasm shrinks rapidly, it may be that
he grew resigned to his failure to become the dictator of San Pablo and
took up again the shaving of its swarthy faces and the cutting of its
coarse, black hair.

Every house of San Pablo is a factory of “panama” hats. The “straw” is
furnished by the _toquilla_ plant, a reed somewhat resembling the
sugarcane in appearance, which grows in large quantities in the valley
of the Patía. If left to itself, the plant at length blossoms or
“leaves” out in the form of a fan-shaped fern. Once it has reached this
stage, it is no longer useful to the weaver of hats. For his purposes
the leaves must be nipped in the bud, so to speak,—gathered while still
in the stalk. The green layers that would, but for this premature end,
have expanded later into leaves, are spread out and cut into narrow
strips with a comb-shaped knife. The finer the cutting, the more
expensive the hat. Between the material of a $2 and a $50 “panama” there
is no difference whatever, except in the width of the strips. Boiled and
laid out in the sun and wind, these curl tightly together. They are then
bleached white in a sulphur oven and sold to the weaver in the form of
tufts not unlike the broom straw, or a bunch of prairie-grass. The Patía
produces also a much heavier leaf, called _mocora_, from which not only
coarse hats but hammocks are twisted.

The weaving of the “panama” begins at the crown, and the edge of the
brim is still unfinished, with protruding “straws,” when turned over to
the wholesale dealer. Packed one inside the other in bales a yard long,
they are carried on muleback to Pasto. There, more skillful workmen bind
in and trim the edges. They are then placed in large mud ovens of
beehive shape in which quantities of sulphur are burned. Next they are
laid out in the back yard of the establishment—with chickens, dogs, and
other fauna common to the dwellings of the Andes wandering over them, be
it said in passing—to bleach in the sun; they are rubbed with starch to
give them a false whiteness, and finally men and boys pound and pound
them on blocks with heavy wooden mallets, as if bent on their utter
destruction, tossing them aside at last, folded and beaten flat, in the
form in which they appear eventually in the show-windows of our own
land. The best can be woven only morning or evening, or when the moon is
full and bright, the humidity of the air being then just sufficient to
give the fiber the required flexibility.

The local names for the entire process are:

“_Tejar_”—the task of the weaver.

“_Azocar_”—the drawing together and trimming of the protruding “straws.”

“_Azufrar_”—the baking over burning sulphur.

“_Bañar en leche de azufre_”—washing in a sulphur bath.

“_Limpiar con trapo_”—scrubbing with rags dipped in starch.

“_Mazatear_”—beating with mallets.

“_Darle forma_”—pressing the hat tightly over a wooden form to give it
the final shape, after which it is folded and ready for shipment. The
complete process from buying to shipping costs the wholesale dealer
about a dollar a dozen.

Virtually every inhabitant of San Pablo is, from childhood, an
expert weaver of hats. We had only to glance in at a door to be
almost sure to find the entire family, large and small, so engaged.
They squatted on their earth floors, leaned in their doorways,
wandered the streets, incessantly weaving hats; they gossiped and
quarreled, they grew vociferous in political discussion, and still
they went on weaving. They shouted across the plaza to the two
“meestares” that were the guests of Santiago, the barber, a
in one single flow of words, without a pause for breath, but their
fingers continued to weave hats as steadily as if they were
automatic contrivances. We were told that in all the history of the
town only one boy had been too stupid to learn to weave. He was now
the priest of a neighboring hamlet. Some make a regular business of
it and weave several hats a week, as many as one “común” a day. Only
the rare victim of an artistic temperament prides himself on putting
his best efforts, and from two weeks to a month of work, into an
article of fine weave, to receive a small fortune of eight or ten
dollars in one windfall. It is in keeping with Latin-American
character that only a very few choose this extended effort, instead
of the short, ready-money task of weaving “comunes.” The government
telegraph operator of San Pablo—who probably averages a dozen
messages a week—had a record of one hat a day, six hats a week, the
year round. That was probably at least double the average output,
for very few worked with any such marked industry. The overwhelming
majority are amateur weavers, making one hat a week merely as an
avocation in the interstices of their more regular occupations of
cooking, planting, shopkeeping, school-teaching, and loafing. The
boy in need of spending money, the village sport who plans a
celebration, the Indian whose iron-lined stomach craves a draught of
the fiery _caña_, the pious old woman fearful of losing the goodwill
of her cura, all fall to and weave a hat in time for the Saturday
market. Had they not these desires, unimportant though they may be,
those in far-off lands who wear such head-dress would pay more
dearly for a scarcer article. The more thrifty and ambitious begin
to braid next week’s hat on the way home from market. By Sunday noon
the hut is rare in all the land around in which at least one
“panama” has not begun to come into being; by Monday even the
liquor-soaked have begun to see the necessity of getting busy, on
penalty of suffering a dry week-end. The result is that the traveler
can almost tell the day of the week by the stage of development of
the hats he meets along the route.

The center of the Nariño hat industry is Pasto. Not that its inhabitants
are weavers, but here orders are received from the outside world and
distributed among the towns of the province. Thus Jesús Diaz, local
agent of San Pablo, receives one morning a telegram worded:

“Suspend 12–15; start 11–13.”

The figures refer to centimeters of brim and crown, the only variation
of style being in the comparative width of these. “Castores” are made
for the American trade; “parejos”—“equals,” of which brim and crown are
of the same width,—go to Spain; the “ratonera,” of very narrow brim,
finds its market in Habana. The weavers of San Pablo can seldom be
induced to make the wide-brimmed hats for women, since these can be sold
only in the United States and the market is very uncertain, “because
there,” a woman confided to us, “the style is always changing, as if
they do not know their own minds.” Unless they can be sold in our own
land, these broad-brimmed hats are worthless, for the women of Nariño
wear only what we would consider “men’s styles.” Those worn in San Pablo
are of a square-topped, ugly form, roughly woven, as if each consigned
to his own head those so carelessly made that they cannot be sold.

His telegram received, Jesús sends his subagents out through the hamlets
with the new specifications, here and there to prepay something on the
new order. For so from hand to mouth do many of the weavers live that
they are frequently unable to buy the materials for the next hat without
the agent’s “advance.” The “straw” for one hat costs from one to forty
cents, depending on the fineness. The high price of the better grades is
chiefly due to the long labor involved in the weaving, with, of course,
the usual heavy middleman profits between maker and ultimate consumer.
The daily hat of the telegraph operator brought him from ninety cents to
a dollar; the final purchaser in the United States would pay $4 or $5
for it. The name “panama” is unknown in Nariño in connection with hats.
None were ever made on the Isthmus; they took the name by which we know
them because Panama was long the chief distributing center. To their
makers they are known simply as “hats,” or, if it is necessary to
specify, as _sombreros de paja_ (straw hats), or _sombreros de pieza_.
The best hats in all Colombia were said to be made in La Unión, a little
town lying in plain sight on a sloping hillside to the east; but in
spite of their patriotism, many admitted that the best on earth are
those of _jipijapa_, made in Manabí, Ecuador. An old woman of La Unión
had won many prizes and awards in national and even international
expositions, not merely for her hats, which sold for a hundred _fuertes_
here, and for $100 in Europe or the United States, but for aprons and
other garments woven of the same “straw.” The people of San Pablo
complained that the Japanese, especially of the Island of Formosa, were
capturing much of the world’s trade with a clever imitation of Colombian
hats, very fine and light, but of an inferior “straw” that has little

Dawn, the next morning, found us clattering away down the cobble-stones
of San Pablo, the gigantic key protruding from its swan-shaped hole
until Santiago, the barber, saw fit to awake from his dreams of future
glory. At the top of a range beyond we met the first _pastusos_,
solemn-faced horsemen in winter garments and heavy ruanas of army blue.
On the further slope and the rich uplands beyond there were many Indian
hamlets, each thatched house in a little field of its own. The
golden-brown grain of our homeland, the almost forgotten wheat, began to
appear in patches on the hillsides, with little fenced threshing-floors
of trodden earth, round and round which the peasants chased their
unharnessed horses. Every family had its patch of wheat, corn, or
potatoes, according to the altitude. Among the latter were many species
unfamiliar to us of the north, some with red, pink, or purple blossoms,
whole acres of one color; for we were nearing the original home of the
potato. In his own slow way the Andean Indian still cultivates as in the
days of the Incas many varieties unknown to the world at large, among
others one shaped like the “double-jointed” peanuts of baseball fame,
almost liquid inside.


  An Indian woman weaving _teque-teque_ or native cloth, by the same
    method used before the Conquest]


  Hays, less considerable weight, and a fellow-roadster]

Higher still grew quinoa, somewhat like our burdock in appearance, the
top full of seeds not unlike the lentil,—a palatable grain which for
some strange reason has never been carried to other parts of the world.
Under progressive farmers and modern methods, the region of Pasto could
be the richest agricultural section of Colombia. But the Indian clings
tenaciously to the ways of his ancestors, though in this autonomous
department he is a free or community owner and lives far more
comfortably than do the estate laborers to the north. An American farmer
would gasp at the laborious methods in vogue in a Colombian wheat-field.
At harvest time, the phases of the moon being propitious, the saints and
ancestral gods placated, men, women, and children wander out to the
fields to cut the grain stalk by stalk, tie it into bundles as leisurely
as if life were ten thousand years long, and, with a sheaf or two on
their backs, toil away over the hills to their huts. There it is
threshed by hand, or under the hoofs of animals; the chaff is separated
by tossing the grain into the air with wicker-woven shovels, after which
the wheat is spread out on a mat in the sun for days, turned over
frequently and carried into the house by night. Once dry, it is ground
by hand under a stone roller, beaten into flour, and baked over a fagot
fire in crude adobe ovens of beehive shape. Small wonder the two soggy
little loaves of bread a woman raked out of one of these, and which I
went on tossing from hand to hand, cost twice what a real loaf would in
the United States.

A valley with a decided tip to the south drew us swiftly on, as only
easy going can, after steep and toilsome trails, and the afternoon was
still young when we halted at San José, twenty-two miles from the
barber’s door. Here it “made much cold,” and we were warned that it
would make even more so in Pasto. But native information on this point
is seldom of much value to the traveler. In the Andes, climate varies
not by season but by location or altitude, and very few of the country
people have any notion why one town differs in temperature from another.
Accustomed all their lives to the fixed climate of their birthplace,
they consider “bitter cold,” or “de un calor atroz” (of atrocious heat),
a neighboring hamlet where the mercury really falls but a few degrees
lower or rises a bit higher. They accept the variation with the same
passive indifference that governs their lives from mother’s back to the
grave, their Catholic training stifling the query “why.” The fact
remains; the reason—“sabe Diós porqué.”

It was September thirteenth, the first anniversary of the beginning of
my Latin-American journey, when we swung on our packs again. In spite of
our resolutions, the proximity of a city had the usual effect of
increasing our ordinarily leisurely gait. Sunrise overtook us striding
down the great San Bernardo valley, a vast, well-inhabited gorge,
cultivated far up the mountain sides. Sugarcane mottled the landscape
here and there with its Nile-green. Every hut had its _trapiche_, a
crude crusher with wooden rollers operated by oxen, or a still cruder
one run by hand. Bananas were plentiful; oranges lay rotting in
thousands along the way. As the sun rose higher the pastuso arrieros and
horsemen threw the sides of their ruanas back over their shoulders,
disclosing the bright red linings. Once it had crossed the river at the
bottom of the valley, the road—and it was a real road now, speaking well
of the industry of Nariño province—swung round and round the toothlike
flanks of the mountain wall, rising ever higher for many miles, yet so
gradually that we were scarcely conscious of climbing. Here at last we
found ourselves in the Andes as the imagination had pictured them,—dry,
mammoth, treeless, repulsive, wholly infertile mountains piled
irregularly into the blue heavens on every hand. Under our feet the road
suddenly began a buck and wing shuffle, and leaving it to its vagaries
we scrambled and slid—particularly Hays in his smooth-bottomed
moccasins—down toward the Juanambú river, to the pass where General
Nariño fought one of the great battles of the war of independence. Two
hours beyond, we came out on the nose of a cliff with a sheer fall of
thousands of feet—which we took care not to take—affording a view of the
country we had crossed for days past, the trail of forty-eight hours
before climbing away into the sky at what seemed but a rifle shot away.

At Boesaco a woman agreed to prepare food if I would give her an
“advance” sufficient to buy the necessary ingredients. When Hays
arrived, we sat down to a dinner so plentiful that we rose again with
difficulty. Life is like that in the Andes. The traveler must feed to
bursting when the opportunity offers, and starve at times without
complaint. We had already done a reasonable day’s tramping, but the
nearness of Pasto overcame our better judgment. A few miles out, a group
of pastusos, of almost full Caucasian blood, rode by me with silent
disdain. Evidently they disapproved of our mode of travel. Just beyond,
the road broke up into many faint paths across a meadow, the stony old
trail of colonial days toiling up the face of the mountain to the right.
I drew an arrow in the sand lest Hays, lost in some reverie, should fail
to note the shod feet by which we tracked each other so easily in a
world where all who walk go barefoot. A mile or two across the meadow I
fell in with an excellent new highway, well engineered, that took to
scolloping in and out along the flank of an enormous range, with a
steady rise that never for an instant ceased as long as the day lasted.
Here and there a clear, cold stream trickled from the still unhealed
mountainside piled into the sky above me. The visible world was wholly
uninhabited now, with cold, bleak winds sweeping across the vast
panorama of ranges below and above; while ahead, great patches of mist
half-concealed the dense, bearded forests through which the road climbed
doggedly. In these solitary Berruecos ranges General Sucre was but one
of many who had been murdered by brigands or conspirators, and every
turn of the lonely road offered splendid ambush. Indeed, it seemed
strange that Colombia had proved so free from highway violence, with no
other policing outside the capital than, in the larger villages, an
occasional mild-eyed youth in one piece of uniform, carrying a
chain-twister or a home-made “night-stick.”

Toward nightfall a horseman overtook me. Six weeks on the road had left
me in excellent condition, and in spite of the miles in my legs his
animal could barely hold my pace. For a long time we mounted almost side
by side, a new stretch of solitary highway staring us in the face at
every turn, cold night settling down in utter solitude. It had grown
wholly dark when we reached the summit, damp with the breath of the
forest, an Arctic wind sweeping across it, with dense black night and a
suggestion of vast mountain depths on all sides. The silent, gloomy
pastuso was evidently suspicious of my intentions and refused to ride
ahead. Nor was I too sure of him. The dislike of having an unknown
traveler behind me had persisted since my tramp through Mexico, but
there was no other choice than to take the lead. On the further side the
road was poorer, with a sharp grade and hundreds of fine chances to
sprain an ankle. Colombians do not travel by night when they can avoid
it, and we met not a sign of life. The stony road descended so swiftly
that I had difficulty in judging its pitch and a constant struggle to
keep from falling on my face. Suddenly, at a chaos of paths, rocks, and
jagged holes, as of some earthquake, I cross an unseen but noisy stream
by a sagging log and, leaving the cautious horseman behind, saw him no

On and on the rough and broken world dropped before me, with never a
moment of respite for my aching thighs. I was concluding I had lost the
way entirely, when suddenly there burst upon me all the electric lights
of Pasto—actually electric lights, forty-two of them, as I could count
from my point of vantage, each of what would have been sixteen
candle-power had each had some fourteen candles to help out. I slipped
on my coat in anticipation of entering a hotbed of civilization, for was
not Pasto the largest city between Bogotá and Quito?

I have ever been over-hopeful. A city it was, to be sure, in the South
American sense, but travelers, other than those of the mule-driver
class, come rarely to Pasto, and those who do arrive decorously by day,
and seek the homes of friends. I had been given the name of the “Hotel
Central.” The first passerby directed me to it, but added the
information that they no longer “assisted,” that is, gave meals.

“But they have rooms?”

“No, they never did have rooms. They were only a hotel.”

Words have strange meanings in the far interior of South America.

All that was left me was the posada, an ancient, dark, and gloomy
one-story building around a patio, full of the scent and noises of mules
and horses, and of arrieros wrapped in their blankets. Even the corner
policeman advised me to keep the “room” offered me and be thankful. It
was fortunate that Hays had not arrived, for both of us could scarcely
have crowded into the damp, earthy-smelling dungeon, to say nothing of
occupying the plank “bed.” Evidently he had found lodging somewhere
along the way. During the day I had laid forty-two miles behind me, yet
so fresh had I arrived that I went out for a stroll before retiring to
pass a night almost as cold as in Bogotá, dressed in every rag I owned,
with two adobe bricks as pillow, and as covering against the bitter cold
that crept in even through the closed door—the privilege of hugging

I had taken my coffee and wandered the streets of Pasto for an hour next
morning when I suddenly sighted Hays, accompanied by a ruana-clad
native. Usually as immaculate as conditions permitted, he was now
unwashed, unshaven, bedraggled, drawn of features and generally
disreputable, with a sheepish look that turned to relief at sight of me.
He had a sad story to tell. Lost in some dream, he had overlooked my
arrow in the sand and taken the old stony road over the Berruecos range.
It was a shorter route in miles, and had the doubtful advantage of
leading him past the very spot at which Sucre was assassinated; but the
now abandoned trail of colonial days was in such a condition that he had
several times come near breaking a leg, if not his neck. Limping at last
into town, late at night, he had wandered the streets for some time in
vain, when two natives asked if he was looking for lodging.
Congratulating himself on his good fortune, he fell into step with them.
A square or two further on one of the pair disclosed a policeman’s
“night-stick” hanging from his arm. Hays excused himself and turned
away, only to be halted with the information that the law of Pasto
required that any stranger arriving after eight at night be taken to the
police station. The ex-corporal of the Zone, accustomed for years to
order his subordinates to lock up other men, was appalled at the notion
of being himself locked up. His affronted dignity favored the pair with
some of the most expressive Castilian to be found within the covers of
Ramsey. All in vain. At the station the lieutenant, who rose from a
troubled sleep with a towel around his head, was courtesy itself,
explaining that Pasto would not dream of subjecting so distinguished a
foreigner to arrest. But as the night was late and the streets cold,
they were doing him the favor of lodging him, not in jail, but in the
police barracks. Looked at in that light, and at that hour, the affair
assumed a new aspect. Hays voiced his thanks and slipped from under his
pack. A policeman led him to the squad room, gave him a reed mat to
spread on the floor beside the score already asleep, and covered him
with one of the red and blue ruanas of Pasto. On such terms I would
gladly have spent the night under arrest myself. At midnight there had
rushed into the room all the policemen on duty in town. Each dragged his
relief to his feet and at once dived into the vacated “bed,” leaving
Pasto for a half-hour at the mercy of the lawless. At dawn the order to
muster was sounded. The policemen each and all turned over for another
nap, and only rose when the querulous little chief of police came to
give the order in person, even then after considerable argument. Hays
had started to take his leave, but was called back to give his pedigree.
The government paper was in my hands. The chief apologized for the
necessity, but put him in charge of the ruana-clad detective until he
could examine the document in question.

We planned to spend several days in Pasto, but our efforts to get better
lodgings did not meet with rosy success. We were once even on the point
of renting a two-story house on a corner of the plaza—only to find that
though it had room enough to accommodate a score of persons, it was
furnished simply and exclusively with the wooden-floored bedsteads
indigenous to the Andes. Meanwhile, the bridal chamber of the posada was
vacated and we fell heirs to it—at nine cents a day each.

The capital of Colombia’s southernmost department, claiming a population
of 16,000, sits in the capacious lap of the extinct Pasto volcano,
seeming, in spite of its 14,000 feet elevation, a mere hill, for the
city itself is more lofty than Bogotá. By no means so backward and
fanatical a mountain town as described by its rivals to the north, it
proved the most lively and progressive place we chanced upon between the
Cauca and Ecuador. A highway links it with the outside world by way of
Tuquerres and Barbacoas, thence by boat to the island port of Tumaco on
the Pacific. Yet there remains much provincialism and a stout clinging
to the ways and the medieval faith of colonial days. With few exceptions
the entire population kneels in the street when any high churchman moves
abroad. In one of the many overgrown churches is a glorified letter-box
with a sign exhorting the “faithful” to write to San José, reputed to
have his dwelling-place near the town, requests for those favors they
wish granted, and enclosing something for José’s coin-box. Once a week
the letters are removed by a monk and, the worldly offering having been
extracted, are burned before the statue of the saint. Wheeled traffic,
of course, is unknown in Pasto; virtually everything of importance comes
up from the sea on muleback. The most ambitious native handicraft we
found was the making of _tiples_, crude guitars of red cedar and white

At first sight Pasto has the aspect of a mighty mart of trade. Every
street is lined from suburb to suburb by the wide-open doorways of
shallow shops crammed with wares incessantly duplicated. To all
appearances, there are more sellers than buyers. Pride in hidalgo blood,
however diluted, is evidently so widespread that no one works who can in
any way avoid it, all preferring to sit behind a counter in the hope of
selling ten cents’ worth of something a day to earning as many dollars
in some productive labor at the risk of soiling their fingers. Most
numerous are the food-shops, run chiefly by women, who find ample time
between clients to do their housekeeping in a Colombian way. An
inventory of one display, sloping from sidewalk to ceiling, is a
description of all. Large, irregular bricks of salt, pinkish in color,
and rectangular blocks of the muddy-brown first-product of the
sugar-cane, form the basis of every heap. Next in order are cones of
half-refined sugar, a variety of home-made sweets, long slabs of yellow
soap from which is cut whatever amount the purchaser desires; baskets of
small potatoes, of shelled corn, and _quinoa_. Then there are oranges
and bananas of several varieties, plantains, mangoes, strings of onions,
heaps of one, two, and four-cent loaves of wheat bread, or _pan de
queso_,—a mixture of flour and grated cheese—the largest of which barely
attains the size of a respectable American biscuit. An abundance of
canned goods, largely from the United States, invariably forms the top
of the pyramid. These imported wares seem to have little sale among the
natives, being kept in stock apparently in the fond hope of the arrival
of stray gringos exuding wealth at every pore. To the townsmen, indeed,
the prices are almost prohibitive. A can of “salmon,” filled with pale
and ancient carp and deteriorated coloring matter, cost 65 cents; a
five-cent box of American crackers was valued at 36 cents! “Tabacos,” as
the black stogie of local make and consumption is called, a few
iron-heavy cups and saucers, odds and ends of gaudy dishes, and small
edibles and trinkets, fill in the interstices of every display.

Almost as numerous are the hawkers of strong drink, likewise women, who
fall back upon their sewing between customers. Competition is livelier
in this line, and prices correspondingly lower. A bottle of Milwaukee
beer sold at 40 cents. Countless cloth-shops, with bolts of cheap grade
and of every color of the rainbow piled high in the doorways; _boticas_,
or dingy little drug-stores of breath-taking prices; and establishments
offering everything that can by any stretch of the imagination be rated
hardware, appear to be the chief male pastimes. Like so many towns of
the Andes, Pasto does not seem to indulge in any form of intellectual
recreation; unless the art of conversation, so diligently practiced, can
be rated such. There is not a bookstore in town. In a few shops are
piled, among other wares, stacks of religious volumes and Catholic
propaganda, including school-books dealing chiefly with the lives of the
saints; but nothing more. It is a “changeless” town. There were once
plenty of _medios_ and, earlier still, _cuartillos_, we were informed;
but these small pieces had all been given in alms to the Church. The
smallest coin still in circulation is the _real_—the word _centavo_
disappears at the department boundary. He who buys a lump of sugar or a
salt rock must take home a needle, an onion, or a banana in change. At
the post-office, where the _real_ is accepted at something less than in
the public markets, the purchaser may take his change in stamps, though
the pastuso custom seems to be to give it to the clerk as a “tip.”

High as it lies, Pasto is but two days muleback from the great
_montaña_, the hot lands and the beginning of the Amazon system. Just
out beyond the cold mountain lakes of La Laguna comes a quick descent to
Caquetá and the great jungles of eastern South America. Hence we saw in
the streets of Pasto not merely the now familiar “civilized” Indian of
the highlands, plodding behind his no more stolid bulls laden with the
produce of his chacras, but also no small number of “wild men” from the
wilderness. These have a free, happy, independent air, in marked
contrast to the manner of the dismal mountain Indian; none of the
cautious, laborious, canny attitude toward life of those subject to the
environment of high altitudes. They appear to hold the domesticated
Indian in great scorn, and mix far more freely with the other classes of
the population. Dressed in what could easily be mistaken for the running
pants of an athlete, their marvelously developed bronzed legs are bare
in any weather. A light ruana covers their shoulders. A few wear a gray
wool skullcap; most of them only their matted, thick, black hair, cut
short across the neck in “Dutch doll” fashion. There were always several
women in each group, but one must look sharply to make sure of the sex,
dressed identically like their male companions, bare legs, hair-cut, and

We took leave of Pasto four days after our arrival. That night—Hays
having his usual luck in winning the single wooden bench—I slept on a
hairy cowhide on the earth floor of an Indian hut beside the Ancasmayu,
or Blue River, about the northern limit of the Inca Empire at its
height; and all night long guinea-pigs kept running over me, squeaking
their incessant treble grunt, gnawing at anything that seemed edible.
Besides the llama, and, perhaps, the _allco_, a mute dog that is said to
have been exterminated by the hungry Conquistadores, the only domestic
animal of the Andes at the time of the Conquest were these lively little
rodents so absurdly misnamed in English, since they are neither of the
porcine family nor known in Guinea, being indigenous to South America.
The Spaniards more reasonably called them _conejos de India_—“rabbits of
India.” To the natives they were, and still are, known as _cui_ (kwee),
the origin of which term is evident to anyone who has listened to their
grunting squeak through an endless Andean night. In pre-Conquest
days—the llama being too valuable an animal to eat, even had the herds
not been the personal property of the Inca—the cui probably constituted
the only meat, except wild game, of the Indian’s scanty diet. To-day
every hut in the Andean highlands is overrun by them. The gente decente
facetiously assert that the Indians keep them for two purposes,—to eat,
and as a means of learning the art of multiplication.

Next day the road was all but impassable, or we should have reached
Ipiales on the frontier that evening. Not that it was a bad road, as
roads go in the Andes, but rain had fallen most of the night, and we
skated down each slope in constant expectation of a mud-bath, to claw
our way almost on hands and knees to the succeeding summit. Once we
tobogganed thousands of feet clear through a town in which we had
planned to eat, literally unable to stop until we brought up against a
luckily placed boulder on the edge of a stream in a roaring gorge far

At Iles, where Hays, hurrying on in quest of cigarettes which he
detested only next to smokelessness, for once arrived before me, I found
dinner already preparing and my companion burdened with the key to a
lodging. A tinsmith had left off work for the afternoon that we might
have undisputed possession of his shop, stocked with a few ordinary
articles of tinware, but given over chiefly to the fabrication of tin
saints. Strange to say, once they had been sanctified by the priest, the
results of his labors were as sacred to the tinsmith as to his
fellow-townsmen. Iles was just finishing a huge new church. The only
implements of the workmen were shovels, for the whole building was of
native mud, even to the roof-tiles. The entire Indian population, male
and female, impressed into service by the padre, trotted in constant
procession from the spot where the clay was mixed with mountain grass
and trampled with bare feet, carrying on their heads tiles filled with
the material, the women bearing also their babies slung on their backs.
The free labor system of the Incas, inherited by the Conquistadores, is
still in vogue in the isolated towns of the Andes, the taskmaster of
to-day being the village cura.

As we neared the frontier, population grew less and less frequent, and
there were long stretches without an inhabitant. In the afternoon we
turned aside from the “royal highway” to visit the “Virgen de las
Lajas,” the most famous shrine in Colombia. To it come pilgrims from all
the Republic, from Ecuador and even further afield, to be cured of their
ills. On the way down to it we fell in with an old man driving an ass,
and heard the simple story of the founding of the sacred city. Centuries
ago the Virgin had appeared here and given a small child a statue of
herself—“descended straight from heaven, because it has a real
flesh-and-blood face that bleeds if it is pricked, or if hair is pulled
out.” Then she had ordered the Bishop of Riobamba to build a chapel in
the living rock of the mountain on the site of the apparition. Our
informant was vociferous in his assertion that the Virgin daily cured
victims of lameness, blindness, barrenness, and a hundred other
ailments; but he offered no explanation of the fact that though he had
lived in Las Lajas all his life, he was almost sightless from

The village, stacked up the sheer wall of a gorge in the far depths of
which roared a small but powerful stream, had about it that something
peculiar to all “sacred” cities,—an intangible hint of unknown danger,
perhaps from fanaticism, of ignorance, something of the sadness that
comes upon the traveler at such evidences of the gullibility of mankind.
Several “posadas de peligrinos,” crude copies of the _hospices_ of
Jerusalem, and many little shops and stalls like those of Puree, town of
the Juggernaut, furnish pilgrims with lodgings, food, blessed trinkets,
and tons of English candles to burn before the miraculous image. Ragged
boys left off their top-spinning to beg “una limosnita—a little alms for
the Virgin,” as we descended through the town and went down by the
sharpest zigzags to the white, four-story temple with its twin towers,
hanging on the edge of the rocky gorge like encrusted foam of the
waterfall that pitched into it. Though they make long journeys to
implore her favor, the pilgrims have not reverence enough for their
Virgin to reform their unspeakable personal habits, and every story of
the holy edifice was an offence to eyes and nose. The worker of miracles
was the usual placid faced doll in rich vestments and gleaming jewels—or
more likely paste imitations of those which the monks keep safely locked
away in their vaults—behind a thick glass screen against which sad-eyed
Indians flattened their noses in supplication.

The rolling hills of Ecuador lay close before us when we strode into
Ipiales, the last town of Colombia and the coldest place we had known
since our last northern winter. At this rate the equator would prove
ice-bound. The place was said to have much commerce with the neighboring
Republic, but the only signs we saw of it were a few troops of shivering
donkeys. A mere five miles separates Ipiales from the frontier, and we
had soon left behind the land of “Liberty and Order” and entered that of
the equator. The road, crawling dizzily along the face of a
death-dealing precipice, descends to a collection of huts called
Rumichaca—Quichua for “rock bridge,” which it is, indeed, for the
boundary river, Carchi, races under a huge natural arch across which the
camino real passes without a tremor. To our surprise, there were no
frontier formalities whatever. Ecuador was not even represented; the two
Colombian customs officials, diffident, slow-witted, but kindly
pastusos, asserted that no duties were collected on goods passing
between the two countries, unless they were of foreign origin. Their
task was merely to keep account of whatever passed the boundary; for
what purpose was not apparent, unless it was to provide a sinecure for
political henchmen.

An hour later we were surprising the Ecuadorians lolling about the bare,
sanded plaza of Tulcán. Only a lone telegraph wire had followed us over
the frontier, yet the two countries blended into each other so
completely that an uninformed traveler would not have guessed that he
had crossed an international boundary. In the _cuartel_ were housed a
half-hundred soldiers, rather insolent fellows despite their Indian
blood, their gaily colored ruanas giving Tulcán a needed touch of color,
engaged in the rather passive occupation of protecting their little
wedge-shaped country from the pressure of the larger one above. By the
time I had lessened our burden of silver by changing it into bills of
the country, Hays had fallen in with the _jefe político_, the
commander-in-chief of all the canton, who bade us make our home in his
bachelor parlor as long as we chose to remain. The room was the most
magnificent we had seen since Bogotá, with long, solemn rows of
upholstered chairs, straight-backed and dignified, framed family
portraits that would not have gladdened an artist’s heart, and two long
but sadly narrow sofas covered with a horse-hair cloth that, after weeks
on the planks and trodden-earth floors of Colombia, seemed elusive
luxury personified. The jefe bade us keep our hats on, and left us with
the Quito newspapers of a week back, our first touch with the outside
world in some time.

I suspected that Tulcán’s chief dignitary had not treated us so regally
out of mere kindness of heart; and the suspicion was duly verified. We
had stretched out on our elusive couches, and Hays was already asleep—or
feigning it most successfully,—when the jefe arrived from a merry
evening with his aids and drew me into a conversation that promised to
have no end. Under the guise of giving me information, he set himself to
finding out, entirely by indirection, what might be our real motive in
entering Ecuador by the back door, unannounced. Though he never for a
moment suggested his suspicions openly, it was a late hour before he
gave any evidence of being convinced that there was nothing sinister and
perilous to the welfare of his country behind our simple story. Then he
grew confidential and announced that, as men who had, and might again
be, wandering in foreign parts, we were sure to run across two
miscreants on whom he would like to lay his hands. One was Deciderio
Vanquathem of Belgium, described as a ferrotype photographer and a
sleight-of-hand performer of no mean ability. He had married a cousin of
the jefe and borrowed a thousand sucres of our host to start a
magic-lantern show, only to disappear a week later leaving his wife, but
not the thousand sucres, behind. The impression left by the jefe’s
complaint was that if he had reversed the process, there would have been
no hard feeling. We were asked to keep an eye out also for one Francisco
Fabra, boasting himself a Frenchman, who had written from “Ashcord”
(Akron?), Ohio, proposing marriage to one of the jefe’s sisters, but who
had dropped out of sight upon receipt of her photograph. “No se debe
burlarse así de las mujeres—no man should play such jests on a woman,”
cried the jefe fiercely.

Had we not fallen in next morning with two Indians likewise bound, I am
not sure we should ever have reached San Gabriel. We were soon engaged
in an utterly unpeopled series of páramos, lofty mountain-tops swept by
icy winds, covered only with tufts of yellow bunch-grass and myriads of
“frailejones,” clumps of mullen-like leaves on a palm-like stem from six
inches to two feet high, that peered at us through the mist like
shivering, diffident mountain children. Our companions assured us that
the plant was thus known because of its resemblance to a priest in his
pulpit, and that the leaves were highly efficacious against headache.
There was also the _achupalla_, a kind of wild pineapple with sword-like
leaves that gave it the appearance of that form of cactus known as
“Spanish bayonet,” the heart of which, resembling a large onion or a
small cabbage, is sold as food in the markets of the region. Then, for a
long way, the trail led through a moss-grown forest reeking in mud,
which we could only pass by jumping from bog to bog and clinging to
trees along the way.

San Gabriel sits conspicuously, and apparently unashamed, on the summit
of an Andean knoll, its streets falling away into the valley on every
side. In the outskirts we came upon a game new to both of us. In the
irregular field that formed the plaza before a bulking mud church, a
half-hundred barefoot Indian men and boys, each in a ruana of
distinctive gay color reaching to the knees, were pursuing a sphere
about half the size of a football. Each player had bound on his right
hand, like the _cesta_ of the Spanish _pelota_ player, a large, round
instrument of rawhide, of the form of a flat snare-drum or a
double-headed banjo. The rules of the game were evidently similar to
handball or tennis. Hoping for some suggestion of aboriginal
originality, I asked a player what the game was called.

“Pelota (ball), señor,” he answered laconically.

I might almost have guessed as much.

“And that?” I persisted, pointing to the banjo-shaped instrument.

“Guante (glove),” he replied.


  Quito lies in a pocket of the Andes, at the foot of Pichincha, more
    than 10,000 feet above sea level]

A really bright man might have guessed that, also. Evidently the tongue
of the Incas had left little trace in San Gabriel. Suddenly the bell of
the whitewashed church whanged. The players piled their “gloves” hastily
in the form of a cross, and every living person in the plaza, male or
female, snatched off their hats and poured into the place of worship,
from which arose some weird species of music as we pushed on into the

A letter from the jefe of Tulcán gave us the entrée to the parlor of one
of his relatives. The fortnightly mail had just arrived, and Don Manuel
was dictating letters to his daughter, who wrote slowly and painfully in
a school-girl hand, dipping an ancient steel pen into a medieval inkwell
between each word. When we returned at dark from a dingy little shop in
which supper consisted chiefly of _quimbolos_,—a kind of corn pudding
wrapped in corn-husks—we found Don Manuel, his wife, and four daughters
all gathered in a family conference over the letter, each offering
suggestions, not as to its subject matter, but on the dotting of the
“i’s” and the crossing of the “t’s,” a controversy which raged long and
vociferously. Then there came marching into the room a huge mattress
under which, on close inspection, we made out the feet of an Indian boy,
and the family announced that they were going to visit a _pariente_—a
polite subterfuge to withdraw and leave us free to go to bed. The parlor
was typical of the “best room” of well-to-do rural South Americans. A
forest of chairs in shrouds and a chaos of gaudy bric-a-brac cluttered a
chamber musty with little use. On the walls were framed portraits of the
pudgy family ancestors back to the days of ruffles and powdered wigs,
all draped with mourning crêpe. The family library consisted of barely a
half dozen books, all of the general style of Tomás á Kempis’ “Imitación
de Cristo,” except for a copy of an agricultural journal in Spanish,
published in Buffalo.

There are three routes from San Gabriel to Ibarra. To our surprise, we
learned that all of them, far from following the high plateau, descended
again into the hot country, for the valley of the Chota cuts a mighty
slash entirely across Ecuador a bit north of the Imbabura volcano. The
Indians told us the road was _pedroso_. It was the most exact
information we ever had from men of their race. Anything more stony
would be difficult to imagine. During all the afternoon there was not a
moment in which we were not descending swiftly, our thigh muscles set
with the tautness of brake-rods, by an ever more stone-strewn road that
curved in and out along the flanks of a barren range, forming loops as
perfect as the written “m” of an expert in penmanship; on our left an
enormous gash in the earth, dreary, desert-brown, with no other
vegetation than the cactus—strangely enough called “méjico” in this
region,—on our right, so close it all but grazed our elbows, the tawny,
shale mountainside, seeming to rise and grow as we descended. Where the
cold winds of the highlands turned tepid, Indians disappeared. For a
long space there was no sign of man. With every turn of the road the
heat grew more tropical. A green spot appeared almost directly beneath
us, hazy as a crumpled green rag with an indistinct light shining behind
it. Then two negroes passed, the first we had seen since leaving the
Cauca. The road pitched headlong down a slope, donkeys and more negroes
appeared, and the green patch developed into fields of sugarcane. Beyond
them, by a wooden-roofed bridge, we crossed the Chota river and found
ourselves at sunset in the “Caserío de la Chota.”

Tropical huts of reeds and thatch, quite unlike the thick-walled adobe
dwellings of the highlands, even in form, lay scattered along the
further bank. The entire population was jet black in color; the life of
the place as different from the plateau above as if we had suddenly been
transported to another continent. Boisterous laughter broke often on the
thickening dusk; above the chattering tongues resounded frequently the
screams of an exploded jest or a sudden quarrel. A piccaninny bawled
lustily, startling us into the realization that we had never yet heard
an Indian baby cry. The insolence of these descendants of the slaves
once imported in large numbers for the sugar plantations of Ecuador, who
in the half century since the abolition of slavery had drifted into this
tropical valley to bask in the sun, was in striking contrast to the
obsequiousness of the Andean Indian.

Beside the two rows of straw and reed shacks of the negroes stood a
government building of stone and mud, one end of which was the telegraph
office. In it the operator, who had left two days before to “visit some
relatives for a few hours,” had locked two kids that bleated
incessantly. The open portion of the building was a shambles. Thirty-two
miles from the top to the bottom of the Andes had left our feet no fit
standing-place, even after soaking them in the Chota; yet we hesitated
long before attempting to clear a space to lie down. Luckily, I still
had a candle-end in my pack. In a far corner some energetic traveler had
built a cot of reeds laid across two sticks, but it had long since
rotted to uselessness. Rumor had it that the negroes of Chota were
skilled assassins, and the demeanor of the hamlet was by no means
reassuring. We laid our weapons beside us on the stone floor, but dared
not close the door for fear of drowning in our own sweat. All the night
through I woke frequently with the sensation of some one creeping in
upon us, but dawn broke without any definite proof that the peril had
been anything worse than the offspring of an overheated imagination.

It would be task enough to climb from Chota to Ibarra on the strength of
a hearty meal; to make it from a lazy negro village, where not even a
swallow of coffee was to be had, approached torture. Hour after hour we
toiled upward through a choking desert of sand and broken stone, pitched
at the angle of a steep stairway. There runs a story of the Chota,
suggestive of the barrier it presents to modern progress. Archer Harman,
the American who lifted the railway of Guayaquil to the plains of Quito,
strolling along the streets of the Ecuadorian capital one day, chanced
to meet M——, one of his American engineers.

“M——,” he said, shifting his cigar to the other cheek, “get out of here
to-morrow morning and see what the chances are for a railroad to

The engineer sallied forth next day on muleback, with such equipment or
lack thereof as can be had in Quito in a hurry. Three months later he
rode back into the city of the equator.

“Well, you’re back, eh?” said his chief. “What’d it cost us to run her
through the Chota valley?”

“About seventy miles of 6% grade in shale,” replied the engineer.

“Hum!” said Harman, “There won’t be any railroad to Bogotá.”

Which is one of the many reasons why the nebulous “Pan-American Railway”
still exists only in the minds of inexperienced dreamers.

Hours up, we began to pass groups of meek, well-built Indians, easily
distinguishable by their costume from the tribes to the north. They
spoke a guttural yet sibilant language that could be none other than
Quichua, the ancient tongue of the Incas, and I took occasion to test
the vocabulary we had gleaned, by putting an unnecessary question:

“_Maypi ñan Ibarrata?_”

To which the oldest of the group replied at once in fluent, though
accented Spanish, without the shadow of a smile:

“Sí, señor, this is the road to Ibarra; derechito—straight ahead.”

Before noon we were sharing a gallon of chicha at the top of the range,
several world-famous volcanoes thrusting their white heads through the
clouds about us. Ibarra and her fertile green slopes were plainly
visible; a dozen villages dotted the far-reaching landscape, and the two
roads to Quito wound away over the opposite flanks of cloud-capped
Imbabura, towering into the sky beyond and cutting off half the southern
horizon. Below us spread the famous Yaguarcocha, the “Lake of Blood.” At
the height of his power Huayna Ccápac, thirteenth Inca, had pushed his
conquests over the equator, when the Caranquis, a warlike tribe of the
valley before us, revolted. The army sent against them exterminated the
Caranqui warriors and threw their bodies into the lake, “turning its
waters blood-red,” according to the legend, and giving it the name it
bears to this day. Its shores were white with encrusted salt and, like
so many lakes of the Andean highlands, so completely surrounded by reedy
swamps that we were forced to abandon the swim we had promised ourselves
before entering the principal city of Ecuador north of the capital.

Ibarra is a still and dignified old town of some 12,000 inhabitants,
founded in 1606 under the Spanish viceroy from whom it took its name, as
a residence for the white men of the region between Pasto and Quito, on
the site of the old Indian village of Caranqui. In spite of the extreme
fertility of the surrounding valley and its peerless climate, many of
its houses stood empty, and several buildings of colonial days were
still the ruins the great earthquake of many years ago had left them.
The keeper of the little eating-house that actually and publicly
announced itself, abandoned to us her own quarters, densely furnished
with photographs, frail chairs, tables, sofas, cane lounge, and an
immense canopied bed, to say nothing of the extraordinary luxury of a
newspaper only two days old. To offset the pleasure of the first real
bed in weeks, however, the town kept us awake most of the night with a
local fiesta. We had been so lacking in foresight as to arrive on the
day sacred to the “Virgen de la Merced.” The celebration began early in
the afternoon. An endless train of Indians in a bedlam of colors trooped
across the town under great bundles of dry brush gathered far away in
the hills, a haughty chief on horseback riding up and down the line
giving his orders in sputtering Quichua. Men, women, and children
deposited their loads on the bare plaza before a weather-tarnished old
church, and ambled away for more. Five immense heaps had been laid out
in the form of a cross when a priest sallied forth to sprinkle them with
holy water. In the thickening dusk the entire town gathered amid a
deafening din of battered church bells, the explosion of thousands of
home-made fireworks and “cannon crackers,” the blare of a tireless band,
and the howling of the populace and its swarming curs. The brush cross
was lighted by a priest in rich vestments, and a pandemonium that may
have been pleasing to the sleepless Virgin raged the whole night

The driftwood of the festival, in the form of chicha victims sprawled on
their backs in streets and gutters, littered the town when we set out to
climb to the frozen equator at Cayambe. A wide highway strode up through
the Indian town of Caranqui, birthplace of Atahuallpa, best loved son of
Huayna Ccápac and of Paccha, daughter of the conquered Scyri who once
ruled the territory of the Quitus, and away due southward over the left
shoulder of Imbabura. For the first miles it was so crowded with Indians
in crude red blankets, heavy, gray felt hats, and bare legs, that it
seemed the migration of some tribe from another world. All sidestepped
like Hindu coolies and even the women touched their hats to us as they
passed, greeting us sometimes in Spanish, but more often in Quichua. To
the west rose the snow-topped peak of Cotacache, sharp as a dog’s tooth,
and the view of Ibarra and her fertile valley opened up below and behind
us like an unfolding map. Then a ridge wiped out town and jogging
Indians, and left us only the gaunt, spreading mountain world to look

Thirty miles lay behind us when we entered Cayambe, a drowsy,
tumble-down place of no great size, the chill of the blue ice-fields
capping the great volcano of the same name that bulks into the heavens
close beside it, sweeping through the dreary streets unhampered. Next
day a long and tiresome eight leagues led across a desolate and parched
country, fissured by enormous earthquake cracks. But for the discovery
of a new drink,—_guarango_, of unknown concoction—we might have stumbled
across the sand-blown equator in far worse state than those who first
pass it within the realms of Father Neptune. A drought had fallen upon
the region so long since that even the cactus had given up in despair.
All day long Cayambe stood forth clear and blue over our left shoulders,
and far off to the hazy southwest the horizon was walled by a vast
range, the highest point of which was evidently Pichincha, at the foot
of which lay the end of our present journey.

With our goal so near at hand, we found it difficult to hold ourselves
overnight in the semi-tropical oasis of Guayllabamba, the sandy streets
of which were half paved with the stones of alligator pears. By daylight
we had descended to the river and begun the unbroken climb of more than
5000 feet to the top of the succeeding range. A wide highway now led due
west between cactus hedges through a country so desert dry that both
stock and people seemed to be choking; and the fear came upon us that
Quito, too, would be suffering such a famine of thirst that our plan to
take up temporary residence there would turn to disappointment. Another
steep, tongue-parching climb brought to view all Pichincha and its
surrounding world, yet nowhere was there any sign of Quito. The highway
swung south, rising and falling gently here and there between dry fields
fenced with cactus or mud walls, a town tucked away in the wrinkle of
the range beside us. In a shelter at the roadside an Indian woman,
selling steaming soup with a bit of meat and tiny potatoes in it, served
us in a single earthenware plate with wooden spoons as impassively as
she did her own people. Further on, groups of aborigines were burning
off, over brush fires, the bristles of slaughtered pigs that lay in
batches of a half-dozen, split open, at the road edge. A carriage
passed, the first we had seen in weeks; then an automobile; a man in
“European” clothes, wearing shoes, yet actually walking; a _clean_ child
of well-to-do parents. A motley crowd, chiefly Indians in gaudy ponchos,
came and went; large buildings grew up on either side of us; the
highway, passing through green groves of eucalyptus pungent with the
smell of “Australian gum,” took on the name of “18th of
September,”—though it was really the 26th—and all at once Quito in its
May-like afternoon burst out before us in its mountain hollow, a great
grassy mound cutting off the horizon on the south. Fifty-seven days had
passed since we had walked out of the central plaza of Bogotá, during
fifteen of which we had done no walking. Our pedometer reported the
distance thence 844 miles, and we had each spent a dollar for each day
of the journey. Hays had set out weighing 180, and I, 160; we arrived
weighing 160 and 161, respectively. We may not have presented quite so
bedraggled an appearance as the remnant of Gonzalo Pizarro’s band on
their return from the wilderness of the Amazon, but we were certainly no
fit subjects for a drawing-room.

                               CHAPTER VI
                        THE CITY OF THE EQUATOR

I settled down for months in Quito. Not only were my Canal Zone
experiences to be written, but I had long since planned to become a bona
fide resident of a typical small South American capital. A letter of
introduction won me quarters in the home of Señor Don Francisco Ordoñez
V, in the calle Flores, while Hays hung up his hat in even more
sumptuous surroundings around the corner.

But not so fast! Not even whole-hearted “Don Panchito” would have
received me in the state of sartorial delapidation of our arrival. The
people of Quito are somewhat less rigid disciples of Beau Brummel than
those of Bogotá, but they are still far from negligent in dress. Most of
the clothes indispensable to our entrance into the ranks of the gente
decente had been mailed in Jirardot, the rest had been turned over to
the American “drummer” in Cali. The first shock Quito had in store for
us was the information that no parcel of any shape or description had
come from Colombia in months, the second was the discovery that the
traveling-man had not arrived. It was hard to realize that we had
outwalked all the established means of transportation in this equatorial

An unavoidable round of the shops wiped out the remnant of my savings as
a policeman, and brought me down again to the letter of credit that had
lain fallow more than a half year. Except for tailor-made suits, the
cost of replenishing a wardrobe was startling. Ready-made clothing for
men is rare in the cities of the Andes, and it is far more economical to
be fitted to order in one of the _sastrerías_ that abound in almost
every street,—dingy little rooms, their fronts all doorway, in which sit
anemic half-breed youths sewing languidly, yet incessantly, now and then
carrying the charcoal-filled “goose” out into the street to blow out the
ashes, and as dependent on the passing throng for inspiration as the
craftsmen of Damascus. As in the more northern capital, the chief line
of demarkation between the _gente_ and the _pueblo_ of Quito is the
white collar. Naturally, the tendency is to make it as wide and distinct
as possible. I had canvassed the entire city before I found my customary
brand of neckwear—at four times its American price—only to discover that
the lowest collar in stock was designed for some species of human

“You misunderstand me,” I protested, “I did not ask for a cuff.”

“This is a collar, señor,” cried the shopkeeper.

“Something lower, please.”

“But this is a very low collar! It is so low that no one in Quito will
wear it, and we are not importing any more of this brand.”

In the matter of shoes, I found at last a Massachusetts product that
might have served; but when I had beaten the dealer down to about twice
the American price, a seven was found to be the largest size in stock.
The merchant seemed on the verge of tears.

“Why, señor,” he gasped, gazing resentfully at the offending member,
“there is not a foot in Quito as large as that shoe.”

He did not mean exactly what he said, but it was natural that he should
have had in mind only the minority of quiteños who wear shoes. These
squeeze their feet into articles of effeminate, toothpick shape for
custom’s sake, as they force their necks into collars that come little
short of hanging, and have their trousers made sailor-fashion, that
their feet may look still more ladylike. One cannot, of course, pose as
an aristocrat on the broad hoofs of an Indian. In the end I was forced
to submit to _botas de hule_, an imitation patent-leather shoe made in

Hays concluded that with a general overhauling he could pass muster
until our bundles arrived. But on one point immediate renewal was
unavoidable. He paused in the doorway of one of the little sewing dens
to ask:

“Can you make me a pair of trousers by Saturday night?”

In spite of having pillowed for weeks on Ramsey, Hays never could
remember that Castilian trousers come singly.

“Un par, señor!” cried the tailor, “Ah, no, that is impossible so soon.
I can make you a trouser by then, but not two of them. Then, while you
are wearing the one, I can perhaps make the other, if the señor is in
such haste.”

“Oh, all right,” said Hays, suddenly recalling that trousers are—I mean
is—singular in Spanish, “go ahead. I’ll try to get along with one over

The error persisted, however. It was not three days later that he was
halted at the door of his lodgings by a whining beggar.

“Una caridad, caballero! Have you not perhaps some old clothes to give a
poor unfortunate?”


  A view of Quito, backed by the Panecillo that bottles it up on the
    south. There are six _conventos_ in sight]


  A patio of the Monastery of San Francisco, one of the eighteen
    monasteries and convents of Quito, said to be the most extensive in
    the Western Hemisphere]

“Sure,” said the generous ex-corporal of police. “I’ll bring you down a
pair of trousers.”

He did so, whereupon the beggar growled angrily:

“But you said a pair! Where is the other one?”

Few quiteño dwellings are equipped with bathrooms. I halted a passerby
to inquire for a public _casa de baños_, and was directed to the foot of
the calle Rocafuerte.

“Hot baths?” I queried, suspiciously.

“Certainly, señor,” he answered haughtily; “If you go there any morning
about ten, when the sun is shining, you will find them quite caliente.”

A crumbling old adobe gate, marked “Baños de Milagro,” gave entrance to
an aged two-story building of the same material. Passing through this, I
was astonished to find spread out before me what looked like an immense
outdoor swimming-pool. It was illusion. Nearer approach showed a broad
sheet of water barely six inches deep, a half-acre of it warming in the
sun. I suddenly recalled that the same word serves in Spanish for all
degrees of temperature from hot to luke-warm. About the basin were many
little adobe dens, in the center of each a stone basin some four feet
deep, with steps leading down into it. The fee was a mere _real_ (five
cents), for the streams that course down the face of Pichincha are
abundant. An Indian scrubbed out the pool with a broom fashioned from a
bundle of fagots, and turned it full of a water so clear that I could
have read a newspaper at the bottom. But the heating apparatus was not
particularly effective. When the icy mountain water had filled the stone
basin, cold as only a shaded spot at this altitude can be, the uninured
gringo could only grit his teeth, clutch desperately at his 60-cent bar
of imported English soap, and plunge in—and quickly out again. One such
experience was enough to explain why Quito shows so decided an aversion
to the bath.

My residence in the city was all but nipped in the bud by a mere matter
of red tape. Again the shock was administered at the post-office. When I
presented the registry slips for the package of notes on which my
proposed volume depended, they were all there, sure enough, the seals
still unbroken. But as I opened them for customs inspection, the
startled employees cried out in horrified chorus:

“Señor, it is against the law to send manuscript by mail in Ecuador!”

“These were mailed in the United States, where it is not against the

“No importa! It is illegal for them to ride in the Ecuadorian mails.
They will have to be confiscated by the government.”

“What can the government do with them?” I asked, innocently.

“Burn them, of course,” replied the clerk.

Luckily the laws of Ecuador are not so inexorable and incorruptible as
those of some other lands, but I passed a far from pleasant hour before
I discovered that saving fact. Just where the line is drawn between
“manuscrito” and mere letters, I was never able to learn. At any rate
the sender of the offending notes is still “wanted,” I believe, to serve
a year in the penitentiary of Quito.

I had not been three days in the city of the equator when I began to
feel the necessity for exercise. The “best families” lead a very
sedentary and physically idle existence, virtually spending their lives
at the bottom of a hole in the ground, for such the central plaza and
the few adjoining squares about which it is customary to stroll might be
called. Yet there are innumerable views and picturesque corners to
reward him who will climb out; and climb he must, for the city lies in a
fold of the skirts of Pichincha, out of which almost every street mounts
more or less steeply.

The main plaza is the heart of Ecuador. In its center, instead of the
“handsome brass fountain” of Stevenson’s day, rises a tall, showy
monument topped by a bronze Victory or Liberty, or some other exotic
bird, while at its base cringes an allegorical Spanish lion with a look
of pained disgust on his face and an arrow through his liver. Much of
the square is floored with cement, blinding to the eyes under the
equatorial sun and only mildly relieved by staid and too carefully
tended plots where violets, pansies, yellow poppies, and many a flower
known only to the region bloom perennially. Its diagonal walks see most
of Quito pass at least once a day. But neither Indians nor the ragged
classes pause to sit on its grass-green benches; nor may anyone carrying
a bundle pass its gates—unless the guard chances to be doing something
other than his appointed duty. On the east the square is flanked by the
two-story government “palace,” housing the presidency, the ministry,
both houses of congress, the custom-house, Ecuador’s main post-office,
and considerable else, yet still finding room for several cubby-hole
shops under its portico. To the south, siding on, rather than facing the
square, its towers barely rising above the roof, is the low cathedral,
in which are the tombs both of Sucre and his reputed assassin, Flores,
the “Washington of Ecuador.” The third and fourth sides are flanked by
the archbishop’s palace and the municipality, both with _portales_,
arcades beneath which are dozens of little den-like shops, and filled
from pillar to pillar with hawkers and their no less motley wares.

Every street of the city is roughly cobbled, with a row of flagstones
along its center for Indian carriers and four-footed beasts of burden,
and on either side a narrow, slanting slab-stone walk on which the
pedestrian whose appearance suggests the lower social standing is
expected to yield the passage. Rambling over a rolling, at times almost
hilly site, every street is due sooner or later to run off into the air
on a hillside, or to fade suddenly away into a noisome lane.

Quito has no residential section. Its chiefly two-story buildings are,
with rare exceptions, constructed of mud blocks on frames of
_chaguarquero_, the light, pithy stalk of the giant cactus, with roofs
of the familiar dull-red tiles. Whitewash and paint of many colors
strive in vain to conceal this plebeian material, and many a façade is
gay with ornamentation. Well-to-do people, who are commonly the owners
of the building they dwell in, occupy the second floor. The lower story
of the city is the business section. That portion of the house facing
the street is almost certain to be given over to from one to several
shops, the patio serving as a yard for the loading and unloading of
pack-animals, while the bare adobe cells opening on it house the family
servants and Indian retainers. To dwell almost anywhere in Quito is to
live in the upper air of a combination of slums and business houses, and
whatever the wealth or boasted aristocracy of a family, it is certain to
come into daily contact with the unwashed _gente del pueblo_ that
inhabits its lower regions and performs its menial tasks.

There are shops enough in Quito, to all appearances, to supply the
demands, if not the needs, of all the million and a half inhabitants of
Ecuador. These are, for the most part, small, one-room dungeons without
windows, flush with the sidewalk, with no other front than the doors
that stand wide open during business hours, and present at other times
their blank faces ornamented with several enormous padlocks. The quiteño
puts no trust in the small locks of modern days. Many a shop, the entire
stock of which is not worth a hundred dollars, is protected not only by
bolts and bars within, but by half a dozen of those huge and clumsy
contrivances that the rest of the world used in the Middle Ages. To
“shut up shop” is a real task in Quito, of which the lugging home of the
enormous keys is by no means the least burdensome. Naturally, if a real
burglar cared to take the trouble to journey to Quito, he would find far
less difficulty at his trade than in a city ostensibly less secure.

Besides the establishments of hundreds of men who would rather wear a
white collar than work, there are innumerable little holes in the wall,
run by “women of the people” in conjunction with their scanty household
duties, where chicha and stronger drinks, and the few foodstuffs of the
Indians and the poorer classes are displayed—and sometimes sold, though
there are barely customers enough to go round. Clothing stores, or more
exactly, cloth-shops, are perhaps most numerous, countless useless
duplications of the selfsame stock, with hundreds of bolts of as many
different weaves piled high in the open doorways. Every merchant,
however meager his supplies, announces himself an “importer and
exporter,” and after morning mass manto-wrapped women wander for hours
from shop to shop, haggling for a fancied difference of a half cent in
some purchase which, in the end, is more apt than not to be abandoned.
Business is petty at best; its ethics low, and the native quiteño is a
weak competitor of the foreigners that swarm in the city. Italians,
especially the wily Neapolitan, and “Turks,” as the ubiquitous Syrians
are called in all South America, capture much of the trade. A foreigner
remains a foreigner in Ecuador, for the country has but weak powers of

A unique note in the life of Quito are the “Propiedad” signs.
Revolution, with its accompanying looting, is ever imminent. The native
shopkeepers are frankly at the mercy of the looters, who only too often
are the Government itself. But the foreigner despoiled of his wares can
always lodge a complaint with his home Government; reparation may
follow, and even the punishment of the looters is conceivable. To warn
these of their peril, and to induce sober thought in times of anarchy,
the foreign merchant paints on his shop-front a huge flag of his
country, similar to that used by neutral steamers in wartime, with
surcharged words conveying the same information to those unacquainted
with the colors. Thus the German’s place of business is distinguished
with a:

                             │  (black)  │
                             │ PROPIEDAD │
                             │  (white)  │
                             │  ALEMANA  │
                             │   (red)   │


  The family of “Don Panchito” with whom I lived in Quito. In front
    stands little Mercedes, familiarly known as “Meech,” our house-maid
    and general servant]


  Girls of the “gente decente” class of Quito, in a school run by
    European nuns. The Mother Superior (right) is Belgian; the nun on
    the left is Irish]

Within a few blocks of the main plaza may be noted the following
“Propiedades”: “Española, Francesa, Alemana, Belga, Danesa, Inglesa,
Italiana, Holondesa, Sueca, Chilena, Colombiana, Peruana, Venezolana,
Turca,” and one or two more. The Stars and Stripes and the words
“Propiedad Americana” appear only once—on the door of a small export

Apparently every one is entitled to three guesses on the population of
Quito. The estimates range from fifty to a hundred thousand, with the
truth probably somewhere near the seventy-five thousand attributed to it
in Stevenson’s day. Its tendency of late years has been to overflow its
banks; the suburb of Guarico climbs a considerable way up the skirts of
Pichincha, and the huts of Indians have scrambled well up the flanks of
the other enclosing ridges. Though more in touch with the outside world
than Bogotá, it has much the same atmosphere of a world apart, a
peaceful, restful little sphere supplied with a few modern conveniences
of a crude, break-down-often sort, but with little of the complicated
life of twentieth-century cities. It is a splendid place to play at
life, to lie fallow and catch up with oneself, with nothing more
exciting to stir up existence than the semi-weekly concert in the plaza
mayor. A score of carriages rattle over its cobbled streets; the rails
of a tramway line had been laid years before our arrival, but the cars
had not yet been ordered. Somewhere there may be a finer climate, but it
would scarcely be worth while going far to look for it. Standing at a
height which, in the temperate zone, would be covered by eternal snows,
the city is sheltered by the surrounding ranges from the bitter chill
that descends so often upon less lofty Bogotá. In the Colombian capital
we were always suffering more or less from cold in our waking hours,
except at midday; in Quito it was possible to sit comfortably on a plaza
bench at midnight. With all the stages of nature, from planting through
blossoms, fruit, and harvest, existing side by side, its days are like
the best half-dozen culled from a northern May. There is a popular
saying that it rains thirteen months a year in Quito. But this is
slander. During my long stay, there were, to be sure, few days when it
did not rain; but the shower came almost always at a more or less fixed
hour of the afternoon, and the resident soon learned to make his plans
accordingly. The rain seemed heavier than it was in reality, for tin
spouts pour the water noisily out into the cobbled streets, the wide,
projecting eaves protecting the sidewalks. Now and then came a day heavy
with massed clouds; far more often all but an hour or so was brilliant
with sunshine.

Yet an American schoolma’am accustomed to tell her pupils that the
people of Quito all dress in white because it lies on the equator, would
be startled to see what attention even a woman in light-colored garb
attracts in its streets. On rare occasions a man in white cotton passed
through the overcoated plaza during the evening concert; but this meant
only that the tri-weekly train from Guayaquil had arrived. We met, too,
an American “drummer,” more noted for his ability as a “mixer” than for
his knowledge of geography, who had arrived with a carefully chosen
wardrobe of white linen suits—and proved a godsend to the local tailors.
Incidentally, he had come down to introduce American plumbing in
Ecuador; but that is another and still sadder story. The truth is that
moderate winter clothing is never out of place in the city of the
equator. Even at noon, with one’s shadow a round disk under foot and the
sun glaring to the eyes and burning the skin in this thin, upland air, a
leisurely climb up one of the longest streets brought no memories of the

As in all high altitudes, there is a marked difference between sunshine
and shade. The first greeting in a quiteño house is sure to be “Cúbrese
usted” (“Put on your hat”), and however impolite it may seem to the
newcomer, none but the unwise will disregard the suggestion. Only when
one has become acclimated to the room may one uncover with impunity, for
to catch cold in Quito is a serious matter, and the road from a cold to
pneumonia is short and swift in this thin air. Thanks to the altitude,
it is the common experience of newcomers to be either unduly exhilarated
or sunk in the depths of despondency.

There is not a chimney in Quito, and no breath of smoke is ever known to
smudge her transparent equatorial sky. Factories, in the modern sense,
are unknown; cooking is the same simple operation as in the rural
districts of the Andes. The quiteño knows artificial heat, if at all,
only by hearsay. I chanced to be in the reception-room of the Minister
of Foreign Affairs one afternoon when a newly appointed Argentine
ambassador dropped in for his first informal call. In the course of the
polished small-talk that ensued, the diplomat mentioned a new law in
Buenos Aires requiring the heating of public buildings during certain
months of the year. The Minister, an unusually well-educated man for
Ecuador, stared a moment with a puzzled expression, then leaning forward
with undiplomatic eagerness, replied:

“Why, I suppose you _would_ have to have some kind of artificial heat in
those cold countries!”

From the center of the city itself not one of the snow-clad volcanoes
that encircle it like the tents of a besieging army are visible; but a
climb to the rim of the basin in any direction leads to some point of
vantage overlooking all Quito and its surroundings. Of a score of
far-reaching views, that is perhaps most striking from the summit of the
Panecillo. The “Little Loaf” that bottles up the town on the south is
well-named; it resembles nothing so much as a fat biscuit, lush green in
its covering of perpetual spring. Antiquarians have never agreed whether
the Panecillo is a natural hill, or partly or wholly built by man.
Geologically it is out of place, for all the rest of the region is rocky
and broken, and nowhere else in the vicinity has nature constructed any
symmetrical thing. Some have it that an already existing hill was
rounded off before the Conquest, as a pedestal for the Temple of the Sun
which tradition asserts adorned the summit long before the coming of the
Incas. If it is entirely man-built, the construction of the pyramids was
an afternoon sport in comparison. Somehow the imagination likes to
picture thousands of Indians of both sexes and all ages jogging like
lines of tropical ants up and down the sacred mound, with baskets of
earth on their uncomplaining backs, as they still trot to-day through
the streets of Quito under loads of every description.

A road runs round and round the Panecillo, making two full revolutions
in so leisurely and dignified a manner that it would seem almost level
did not the city below open out more and more with each step forward. At
the summit, across which sweeps a never-failing wind from the south, is
a view worth many times such a climb. All Quito lies huddled in its
pocket below, like the body of a dull-red spider with its legs cut off
at varying lengths. The city is clearly visible in its every detail,
from the very roof-tiles of its houses to the gay-colored ponchos of the
Indians, crawling like minute specks across its squares and along its
ditch-like streets. Along the earth-wrinkle at the base of Pichincha’s
long ridge are glimpses of small villages, and countless little green
fields, standing edge-up on the flank of the range, seem so close at
hand as to be almost within touch. Here the early riser may watch the
birth of clouds. At sunrise the Andes stand out sharp and clear, as if
the sky had been carefully swept during the night. Then a tiny patch of
mist detaches itself here and there from the damp flanks of Pichincha,
streaks of steel-gray clouds begin to rise under the warming sun, like a
curtain drawn from the bottom; soon the entire ridge is steaming from
end to end, and before one’s very eyes come into being and float away
across the world those masses of clouds that greet the late riser

In the transparent air of the highlands the eye embraces far more than
the city. The surrounding world, being above the tree-line, is bare of
any vegetation other than the brown bunch-grass; as would be the city
and its environs, also, but for the thousands of eucalyptus trees
imported in the days of García Moreno. Swinging round the circle, one
catches sight of a dozen famous volcanoes, all more or less capped with
snow. Almost due north rises the glacier-clad bulk of Cayambe, squatted
squarely on the equator, perhaps forty miles away, yet seeming just over
the ridge beyond the city. Near it, jagged Cotacache pierces the blue
heavens. Further around comes Antisana, then Sincholagua, the giant that
not many years ago blew its head off in a fit of rage. To the east
stands Pasochoa, close followed by Rumiñaui, the “Stony-Eyed,” of the
same name as the Inca-quiteño general who continued the war against the
Spaniards after the capture of Atahuallpa. Over its shoulder peers the
tip of Cotapaxi; little Corazon comes next, with Iliniza striving in
vain to hide behind it, until finally the eye has swung back to the
broad flanks of Pichincha, up which clamber Indian huts, like captive
turtles striving to escape from their enclosing basin. Above them two
ragged rock and lava peaks, often streaked with snow, the Rucu and
Guagua (“Man” and “Baby”) Pichincha, invisible from the city itself,
stand forth close at hand against the chill steel-blue of the upland
sky. Pichincha is rated a dead volcano, having given no signs of life
since 1660; but the early history of Quito is strewn with its ashes and
destruction. Quiteños are much given to bewailing their “triste”
landscape; yet few of her canvases has Nature painted with so masterly a

Three weeks after our arrival Hays burst in upon me one morning with the
information that the bundles we had mailed in Jirardot had come. Well on
in the afternoon the post-office officials saw fit to lay them before
us. A ragged boy cut the strings and spread out the contents for customs
inspection. This over, we were preparing to carry them off, when we were
halted by the grunt of an official deep in some long arithmetical
process at a nearby desk. By and by he rose and pushed toward each of us
a long list of figures:

            Mercancías (Merchandise)—8500 grams.
            Derechos (Duty) thereon at $2 a kilogram $ 17.00
            Más 100% (Plus 100%)                       17.00
            Defensa Nacional                            1.70
            Aforro                                      1.57
            Muellaje (wharfage)                         2.23
            Bodega (storage).                            .93
            Brokerage                                   2.30
            Timbre (stamp)                               .15
            Total                                    $ 42.88

“These are personal belongings, chiefly clothing, all more or less
worn,” I began, scenting a long controversy.

“True, señor.”

“You surely do not ask us to pay duty on personal baggage? Travelers
arrive at Guayaquil every week with several trunks, and pay no duty.”

“Only that is baggage which the traveler personally brings in with him.
The charges are $42.88—for each, señores, since the parcels are of the
same weight.”

“But you can see for yourself that they are marked ‘Value $7.’”

“The law goes by weight only, señor.”

“Why the 100% addition?”

“The new law requires all duties to be levied twice.”

“And this third item?”

“For the up-keep of the national army and navy.”

“Well, what is this _aforro_?”

“That is the freight from Panamá.”

“But the postage was prepaid from Jirardot to Quito—one dollar. Doesn’t
Ecuador belong to the Postal Union?”

“Naturally, señor, but by a special treaty with the United States
parcel-post packages pay freight across the Isthmus, and from Panamá to

“And this muellaje—?”

“The landing charges in the port of Guayaquil. Bodega is for warehouse
storage charges—”

“But the bundles came through in a mail-bag, without so much as entering
a warehouse.”

“Those are fixed charges, irrespective of special conditions. The
brokerage covers _my_ fee here in the office, and the stamp is that
which you see on the document here. The total charges are $42.88.”

“Keep ’em,” growled Hays, turning away. “Make a present of them to your
president, or dress up one of your statues of Liberty.” Naturally, he
spoke in English, for we still planned to live some time in Quito.

As we reached the door, a word from the official caused us to turn back.
He was up to his ears in another set of figures.

“We can call it cotton instead of clothing,” he said, presenting a new
list; “then the charges will be only $12.25.”

“Make it _old_ clothing,” suggested Hays.

“The law mentions clothing, without qualifications,” replied the
official, with that patient courtesy that is the chief virtue of his

“The bundles do not weigh that, anyway,” I persisted. “Most of it is in
the wrappings.”

“The law specifies bulk, not net weight.”

“Keep them, with our compliments,” growled Hays, turning away.

“I’ll tell you what you can do, señores,” suggested the official; “Go
buy a stamped sheet of government paper at thirty cents and write the
Director of Posts—”

“Why can’t we write him on ordinary paper?”

“It would not be legal. Go buy a thirty-cent stamped paper and put a
ten-cent stamp on it—”

“What’s that for?”

“For the up-keep of the national army. Write the Director of Posts
reclaiming the duty you have paid—”

“_After_ we have paid it?” cried Hays. “Hardly! I have had too much
experience with Latin-American governments.”

In the end we bought the stamped paper and wrote the director, leaving
the letter with the official, who promised to forward it to his
chief—to-morrow. As the bundles contained some rather indispensable odds
and ends, and because I wished to investigate Ecuadorian government
processes to the bottom, I followed the matter up. Next day we called
twice at the post-office and finally, late in the afternoon, signed a
blank request to be given the packages duty free, without which, it
appeared, the matter could not be officially considered. Two days later
we were informed that a _junta_ had been ordered to meet and pass on the
case; there being no precedent for action. A week passed. The junta
showed no ability to get together. I took up the quest again—and spent
an afternoon in gaining admittance to the sanctum of the Director of
Posts. He was courtesy itself, but the gist of his remarks was:

“That is not baggage which comes in by mail. It is only legally so when
it crosses the frontier with its owner. However, if you wish, you might
call on the Minister of Public Instruction—who happens to be also at the
present time acting Minister of the Interior, to which department the
matter refers—and ask to have the bundles passed as baggage.”

I spent the better part of two days in the anteroom of the Ministry, a
sumptuous pink and blue adobe chamber with a score of bullet holes in
the walls—mementoes of the latest request of the populace for the
resignation of the president—only to learn:

“The law mentions no difference between old and new clothing; between
fresh and soiled linen. All clothing entering Ecuador—except as
baggage—pays the same duty; hence I see no way you can avoid it.”

I did not succeed in getting the matter before Congress—officially, at
least—though I only missed taking it up with the president through an
oversight of one of his aids. In the end I paid the $6.25 to which, by
some strange manipulation, the post-office official had reduced the
charges, and carried the object of controversy home to the calle Flores.

These small countries of tropical America remind one less of nations
than of groups of polite bandits who have taken possession of a few
mountains and valleys that they may levy tribute on whoever falls into
their hands. All of them have imitated larger powers by enacting a
“protective tariff,” without even the scant excuse that has been bloated
into a reason for it in other lands; for here there is no industry to
“protect.” Here it is not the lobbies of large financial interests that
are back of the movement, but the politicians who constitute the
“government”; the tariffs are “for revenue only”—largely for the pockets
of the politicians themselves. We of more powerful nations hardly
realize what it means to live in so small a country as Ecuador, until it
is brought home by some such incident as hearing the entire Congress
debating several hours on the question of whether two new electric-light
bulbs shall or shall not be placed in front of the government “palace.”

Religiously, Quito is still in the Middle Ages. Looked down upon from
any point of vantage, it has the aspect of an ecclesiastical capital. It
would scarcely be an exaggeration to say that half the city is taken up
by the Church. Besides its many bulking “temples” and innumerable
chapels, enormous sections of the town are swallowed up within the
confines of convents and monasteries. The largest is San Francisco,
reputed the most extensive in America. The Franciscans got in on the
ground floor in Quito. The ink with which the city was founded was
barely dry when three monks of that order arrived afoot and breathless
from Guayaquil; to be given an immense grant of land running far up the
flanks of Pichincha. The great stone cloisters were a century in
building; a veritable Chinese Wall of brick, backed by clustered hovels
of the poor, encloses what would have been six city blocks, and the
holdings of the order in haciendas and other rich properties spread far
and wide over Ecuador. During the irruption of Pichincha in 1575, the
Franciscans won the perennial worship of the masses by the simple method
of raising aloft the Hostia and commanding the flow of lava to cease—and
continuing to hold it aloft until the command was obeyed. To-day they
still loll under such withered laurels.

Two youths of Quito’s “best families” accompanied me to San Francisco. A
monk in brown greeted my companions as befitted their high rank and
potential power of beneficence; yet with an undercurrent of insincerity
and of dislike for these sons of “Liberals,” which he was unable wholly
to conceal. We passed through several flowery patios musical with
fountains and surrounded by pillared arcades, off which opened large,
vaulted chambers, to an Elysian orchard under the trees of which a score
of well-fed, well-slept monks strolled in pastoral contentment far from
the hubbub and cares of the modern world. Cigarette butts littered the
floor of a kiosk in the center; scarcely a face was to be seen in which
the signs of frequent debauch could not plainly be read. The walls and
ceiling of the adjoining church were so covered with gold that the
imagination harked back to the ransom of Atahuallpa. My companions
whispered that an American had recently offered $15,000 for the
privilege of removing what remained of the genuine metal, promising to
regild the church so expertly that the transaction would never be
detected. The offer had been considered, but declined when some
suspicion of the deal reached the public ear. The monks were still open
to similar propositions, however. Over a door of the monastery hung an
old painting of “María Dolorosa” by a famous Spanish artist. One of my
companions, himself a painter of some ability, offered a tempting sum
for permission to replace the “dusty old thing” with a brand new copy;
and the impression left by a deal of murmuring and pantomime was that
the offer would eventually be accepted.


  Ecuadorian soldiers before the national “palace”]


  Quito does not put its faith in small locks and keys. Many a shop
    containing hardly $100 worth of goods has a half-dozen padlocks and
    interior bolts]

When we asked permission to climb to the tower for a view of the town,
however, the monk gave us a quick, sidelong glance and regretted that
the Father Superior no longer permitted it. My companions exchanged
winks, but found no opportunity to enlighten me until we had taken our
ceremonious leave. Once outside I learned—to my astonishment—that not
merely foreigners resent having each night’s sleep broken up into a
series of detached naps by the unearthly din of Quito’s church-bells. A
few months before, several young men of the well-to-do class had formed
a conspiracy to taste the unknown luxury of one night of unbroken
slumber. Gaining admission on various pretexts to all the church-towers
of the city, the conspirators had stolen the _badajos_—clappers, I
believe we call them in English—and got rid of them so effectually that
few were ever discovered. The priests were distracted—until their
faithful henchmen of the masses had replaced the pilfered property with
pieces of railroad iron. Since then the church-towers had been closed to
the educated youth of the city.

Not far from San Francisco rises the florid façade of “La Compañía.” The
Jesuits reached the present capital of Ecuador a bit later than many of
their competitors, but they quickly overcame the handicap. They
established the first _boticas_, or drug-stores, and brooked no
competition. Besides enormous tracts of the most fertile land in the
colony, they were granted a monopoly of cattle-breeding and, being free
from taxes and the necessity of paying the King’s share, and holding the
Indians in virtual slavery at less than a nominal wage, most of which
returned to their coffers in the form of church tithes and levies, they
easily choked private competition and soon outdistanced in wealth even
the Franciscans. Their expulsion from Spanish soil greatly reduced their
power and holdings. To-day, what was once a part of their monastery is
occupied by the University and the National Library, but they are still
scarcely cramped for space. An Alsatian Jesuit, of an esthetical cast of
countenance in striking contrast to his Ecuadorian brothers, led me
fearlessly even into the belfry. He was a plainspoken man, for all his
astuteness—or perhaps by reason of it—and openly bewailed the immorality
of the native friars and what he called the “silly superstitions” of the
people. The dormitories of the boarding-school within the monastery were
divided into small cells by low wooden partitions covered with
chicken-wire, like the ten-cent lodging-houses of Chicago. Before I had
time to put a question, the Alsatian explained:

“In these countries we must keep the boys locked in their own rooms at
night, for morality’s sake.”

It is more than unusual in Latin-America, but at least one enterprising
pupil found it possible to “work his way” through the _colegio_ of the
Jesuit Fathers of Quito. His fame was still green among the gilded
youths of the city. By the rules of the institution each student is
required to go to confession once a week. The enterprising lad long
relieved his comrades of the unpleasant formality by impersonating each
in turn before the perforated disk—at the equivalent of fifty cents a

Merced, Corazon, Buen Pastor, San Augustín, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara,
Carmen Antigua, Carmen Moderno, San Juan ... to name all the orders that
occupy huge spaces within the city of Quito would be like writing an
ecclesiastical directory. Down at the end of the calle Flores the
Dominicans dwell in a monastery little less extensive than that of the
Franciscans. Their wealth may be surmised from the fact that in colonial
days they held the monopoly of supplying all liquor used in “divine
worship” throughout the colony. In the center of the Plaza Santo Domingo
is a statue of Sucre, companion of Bolívar in the wars of
Spanish-American independence,—a splendid bronze of an imaginary
Hercules that should be set up in some gymnasium as a model—concerning
which there runs a tale suggestive of local conditions. Soon after its
erection an Indian living far up the mountainside above the suburb of
Guarico lost his pig. He tried every known means of recovering the
animal,—prayed to every available saint with any reputation for
miracles, squandered his meager substance in burning candles before
every shrine in Quito, and purchased many a priestly prayer. All in
vain; the pig was not to be found. At length a quiteño—whether a wag or
a sincere believer is not reported—whispered to the distracted Indian
that the most powerful saint of all was the new one in the Plaza Santo
Domingo. The credulous fellow lost no time on his way to the square,
where he knelt with a lighted candle on either side of him before the
pedestal of the Hero of Ayacucho. When he looked up from his first
invocation he noted that the statue was pointing to the battlefield on
which its original defeated the Spaniards, far up the slope of
Pichincha, which chanced also to be the location of the Indian’s hut. He
hurried homeward and, sure enough, found the pig in a hollow not far
from his dwelling. Since then “Saint Sucre” has had a great vogue with
the Indian populace of Quito.

It would be out of place to enumerate the many proofs, from personal
experiences to matters of common knowledge, from national literature to
frequent notorious scandals, of the moral laxity of the quiteño
priesthood. Whatever they may be elsewhere, celibacy and the
confessional are undeniably ill-chosen institutions for a race of
Ecuadorian caliber. The non-Catholic would not dream of berating the
churchmen in any such terms as those which frequently fall from the lips
of educated men of Quito. More than once I have heard a devout quiteña
mother bewail the fact that she dare not send her daughter to
confession, though convinced that the ceremony was requisite to the
saving of her soul. One looks in vain for any connection whatever
between religion and morality in this typical Andean capital. The
sanctimonious old _beatas_, wrapped in their black mantos, who haunt the
churches and accompany every religious procession with tears of
hysterical ecstasy coursing down their cheeks are not infrequently
procurers and go-betweens of the human vultures that dwell in, as well
as out of, the monasteries. The street-walkers of Quito are almost all
fervent mass-goers. Scores of the same faces that peer invitingly out
upon the passerby at night may be seen next morning kneeling on the
pavement of the cathedral or walking on their knees around the entire
circle of plaster saints, reciting a prayer formula before each. Nor is
this hypocrisy. These victims see no incongruity between the evening’s
doings and the morning’s occupation. To the masses, religion is a
mixture of idol worship and the performance of fixed ceremonies, wholly
divorced from their personal actions. The sins of daily life are wiped
out by a quarter-hour in the confessional; absolution is granted for the
payment of a fee and the performance of a set devotion. The brain cells
where real morality might find a foothold are packed with absurd
catechisms that leave no room for it; and of religion there remains
nothing but unthinking _costumbre_ and unreasoning fanaticism.

Quito has been called the most fanatical town of South America. Among a
score like it, the present archbishop tells the following story in his
“History of Ecuador.” About two hundred years ago some one broke into
one of the churches and stole the sacred wafers, together with the gold
ciborium in which they were kept. A few days later the stolen property
was found lying in the refuse of a ditch. Amid great weeping, a
procession of the entire population bore the sacred emblem back to its
church. For weeks the whole town dressed in deepest mourning; the
_audiencia_ gave all its attention and the police force all its efforts
to running down those “vile traitors, bestial swine, and venial
sinners,” as the gentle archbishop calls them, leaving little
misdemeanors like robbery and murder to look after themselves. Not a
clue was uncovered. At length a famous Jesuit of the time preached a
sermon that lashed the populace into such fervor that the congregation
poured forth into the streets beating themselves with chains and
scourges, most of them, men and women, naked to the waist—I am quoting
the archbishop—in a procession and religious fury that lasted from eight
at night until two in the morning. A scapegoat was imperative. The
officers of the _audiencia_, in peril of being themselves forced to
assume that rôle, redoubled their efforts, and at length found, some
distance south of the city, three Indians and a half-caste who were
reputed to have confessed to the nefarious crime. The four miscreants
were brought back to the city, kicked about the streets by the populace,
trussed up in chains in the church while the priest preached a four-hour
sermon on “the most atrocious crime in the history of Quito,” and were
finally hanged, drawn, and quartered, and hung up, still dripping with
blood, in sixteen parts of the town. The priests and their followers dug
up a potful of earth where the holy wafers had been found, and deposited
it in a heavy vase of solid gold that is still one of the precious
relics of the cathedral. Then they caused to be erected over the spot
the chapel of Jerusalem, where it stands to this day. “And,” adds the
archbishop, “no _fiel_ [faithful one] will deny that they met their just
fate for so vile and unprecedented a sacrilege.”


  A corner of Quito—looking through a garbage-hole into one of the many
    ravines by which the city is broken up]

Ah, but that was two centuries ago. True, but permit me to bring the
fanaticism of Quito up to date. Less than a year before our arrival the
perennial struggle between the Liberals and the Conservatives, the
latter the church party, had broken out again in revolution. A
queer-looking little man, with a white goatee sprouting from a
mild-tempered chin, and wearing habitually a hat that would have been
the envy of a slap-stick comedian, had for years been president of
Ecuador. He had stolen unusually little for a Latin-American president,
and had not allowed his friends to steal more than the average.
Moreover, he had done the country much service, among other things
having induced an American to complete the railroad from the coast to
Quito. Also he had curtailed some of the unbridled graft of the church;
and strangely enough the church had resented that species of reform and
turned the power of the Conservatives against him. To be sure, the queer
little man had objected to surrendering his office to a newly elected
incumbent; but that is a common South American peccadillo. When the
populace rose and drove him out, he went down to the coast and gathered
an army of his fellow-_costeños_. But luck had deserted him. After a few
battles he was captured, together with several sons, nephews, and
henchmen. The Conservatives were triumphant. The Government ordered the
captives to be sent up to Quito. The general in command at Guayaquil
protested that such action was unsafe until the fury of the populace
evaporated. The Government assured him the danger was visionary, and
repeated the order. A special train was made up, and set out on the long
climb to the plateau. That was on a Saturday. Next morning a priest,
noted for his virulent eloquence, preached a sermon that lashed the
church-going masses into fury. At noon word came that the train had
arrived, and the prisoners hurried by automobile to the Panóptico, the
wheel-shaped penitentiary up on the lower flanks of Pichincha. The
populace quickly gathered. The bullet-holes through the false stone
walls of the dismal little mud cells, in the narrow corners of which the
prisoners crouched, were still fresh when we wandered through the place,
months later. Among the most fanatical of the mob were the police and
those whose duty it was to guard the prison. In the excitement some
twoscore prisoners escaped, and joined the rioters. The little
ex-president and his companions, dead or dying, were stripped naked,
ropes were tied to their ankles, and they were dragged for hours through
the cobbled streets of Quito, the frenzied populace raising the echoes
of the surrounding ranges with shouts of, “Long Live the Church!” “Viva
la Virgen María!”

I have two photographs taken by Don Jesús, nephew of my host, from the
window of what was later my own room, as the bodies of the former
president and his eldest son were passing. They show a throng made up
exclusively of cholos, those of mixed blood, who constitute the bulk of
Quito’s population. Not a white collar of the _gente decente_ or the
broad felt hat of an Indian is to be seen. On through the entire length
of the city the barbaric procession continued. Near the Plaza San Blas a
swarm of the lowest women in town descended with knives from their
hovels and carried off gruesome mementoes of the orgy. At length the mob
reached the Ejido, the broad, green playground of Quito, where they
hacked in pieces the bodies of the victims with machetes and whatever
implement came to hand. Some carried to their huts as souvenirs the
heads of the ex-president and his sons, from which they were recovered
with difficulty only after the frenzy had died down and been slept off.
The rest was piled in heaps and burned. Such were _los arrastres_ (“the
draggings”), to which the educated quiteño refers, if at all, in shamed

Quito is not so light of complexion as Bogotá. Not merely is her
percentage of Indian blood higher, but even those of unmixed European
ancestry have a sallow or olive tint, and little of the color in their
cheeks frequent in the more rigorous capital of Colombia. Negroes are
unknown as residents. There is a careful gradation in caste, yet chiefly
a void in place of what, in other lands, would be a middle class. The
population is divided rather sharply between those brutalized from
carrying ox-loads on their backs, and those who remain soft and
effeminate from careful avoidance of any muscular exertion. For even the
cholo is economically either Indian or white, depending on his wealth or
occupation. To carry even a small package through the streets is to
jeopardize one’s standing as a member of the upper class. “Don’t hurry,”
a frock-tailed quiteño told me in all seriousness one day. “People will
think you are _ocupado_,” busy, that is, with vulgar work. It is
customary to raise one’s hat to every male acquaintance “of your own
class or above,” to pause and shake hands with every one considered your
equal, to ask him how he has _amanecido_ (“dawned”), to inquire after
his family individually, and to shake hands again before parting; and
that as often as you meet him, though it be every half-hour during the
day. Americans who have lived long in South America have the
hand-shaking habit chronically. The greeting, or more exactly the
acknowledgment of the greeting, of one’s inferior varies from a
patronizing heartiness to the corner tailor to a half-audible grunt to
an Indian. The latter is always addressed in the “tu” form, “because,”
as one of my Beau Brummel acquaintances put it, “there is no reason
whatever to show any respect to the Indian.” During several months’
acquaintance I found no great reason to show any to the speaker; but
that, perhaps, is beside the point.

How wholly lacking the place is in genuine democracy is frequently
illustrated. I was strolling in the _plaza mayor_ one day, for instance,
with the grandson of the “Washington of Ecuador,” a youth of American
school training and of unusually high standards, when he stepped on the
flagging surrounding the central monument. The cholo policeman on guard
hesitated, but finally screwed up unusual courage and informed the youth
in a courteous, not to say humble, manner that he had been ordered not
to let any one walk on the flagging. The descendant of Ecuador’s founder
turned a brilliant red, as if his noble house had been vilely insulted,
then so white that his blond hair seemed to become dark brown. He strode
across to the officer, who was considerably larger than he, caught him
by the coat, and all but jerked him off his feet. The policeman abjectly
apologized. The “best people” of Quito do not realize that it is not the
individual policeman, their “inferior,” giving them orders, but lawful
and orderly society speaking through him.

As in the days of Stevenson’s travels, a century ago, “the principal
occupation of persons of rank is visiting their estates, particularly at
harvest-time.” By far the greater portion of the year they spend in
town, however, leaving their haciendas in charge of _mayordomos_ little
acquainted with modern agricultural methods. The city has so few
recreative attractions that it is hard for a man of education to avoid a
more or less studious life, be it only as a pastime. Yet Quito does not
even aspire to rival Bogotá as the “Athens of South America.” Ecuador is
not without her literature, but it has come from other towns more
frequently than from the capital. The game of politics, not without its
perils, engrosses the attention of many. Then, as in most Latin-American
countries, not a few dissipate their energies in the “pursuit of
pleasure” of a rather specific kind. So assiduously does the average
quiteño devote himself to this from early youth that it is not strange
that an old man of the _decente_ class is rarely seen. There is a
considerable provincialism, even among the best educated classes. I
heard often such questions as “What is a sleigh?” “When is summer?” The
story is well vouched for that a congressman asked a colleague just back
from abroad, “Can a man get to Europe in three weeks on a good mule?”

The women of the well-dressed class in Quito are less given to the
display of mustaches than those of Bogotá. Not a few are distinctly
attractive, particularly in early youth. In later life too many suggest
in their features some years of a rather harrowing existence. Outspoken
quiteños lay this condition at the door of the priests and friars, but
mere economic pressure probably plays at least as considerable a part.
The up-keep of so many enormous ecclesiastical institutions cannot but
drain the resources of so stagnant a city. Wealth does not abound, and
feminine opportunity to earn a livelihood is narrowly restricted. It is
not strange, then, if more than one family still rated in the gentle
decente class remains with no other barrier against starvation than the
youthful freshness of its daughters. In most parts of the world a glance
suffices to distinguish a woman of public life from her respected
sisters. In Quito it is not so easy. Indeed, there seems to be no hard
and fast line between the two classes. Certain undercurrents suggest a
tacit admission that some families have only one means of tiding over
their existence until a lucky turn of politics, or of the lottery wheel,
sets them on their feet again. Then, if the girl’s career has not been
too public, she may be bestowed on a husband of a somewhat lower social

Let me not leave the impression of a general laxity among the women of
Quito. The sheltered daughters of the most responsible classes are
models of modesty and domesticity. But he who dwells any length of time
in the city would be blind to overlook certain facts, be they the result
of an impoverished society or more directly fostered by those
ecclesiastical elements to whom the embittered men of higher rank charge

Thus far I have said little of the, if not most numerous, at least most
conspicuous class in Quito,—the Indians. Ignoring the very considerable
number in whose veins runs a greater or less percentage of aboriginal
blood, those in whom it is still without admixture make up perhaps forty
per cent. of the population, and give the city most of its color. There
is not a house in town, from the bright-yellow, three-story adobe
dwelling of the president down, without its Indians,—family servants and
burden-bearers huddled in the mud cells about the cobbled patio of the
lower story, or homeless wretches who lie by night in any unoccupied
corner and pick up a precarious existence by day in competition with
donkeys and pack-animals. Their earth-floored kennels form the
tassel-ends of almost every street; they scatter out along all the
highways, and dot the flanks of every range and mountain spur in the

If they have changed since the Conquest, it is for the worse. In habits
and condition they vary scarcely at all from those of the dreary Andean
villages through which we had passed. Theirs is a purely animal
existence. They have not the faintest notion of any line between filth
and cleanliness, avoiding only that which is obviously poison, by an
instinct common to the lower animals. I have seen them drink water I am
sure a thirsty horse would not touch, and that despite the fact that
fresh water was to be had a few yards away. They literally never wash so
much as a finger, except on some such occasion as a church fiesta, when
they may pause at a pool or mud-hole on the edge of town to scrub their
feet with a stone. They speak a debauched dialect of Quichua, the tongue
of the Incas, mixed with some words of the conquered Caras, though all
understand Spanish, or at least the Indian-Spanish spoken in Quito.


  After the bullfight a yearling is often turned into the ring for the
    amusement of the youthful male population of Quito]


  A group of the Indians that form so large a percentage of Quito’s
    population. The hats are light gray, the ponchos, skirts, and shawls
    each some crude, brilliant color]

Many consider the Andean Indian a debased Mongolian type, a theory not
without its basis in his features. In a curious old book of the National
Library of Ecuador—the “History of the Kingdom of Quito,” written in
1789, the Jesuit Padre Velasco takes up the question of the origin of
the Indian and settles it—at least to his own satisfaction. To begin
with, the Church has declared the inhabitants of the New World
“rational,” that is, descended from Adam and Eve. That point being
disposed of, it follows that “the men and animals who were found in
America must be descendants of those who emerged from Noah’s ark; for
does not the Bible say that _all_ the world was covered with water? Even
granted, for the sake of argument,” continues the razor-minded padre,
“that the mountains of South America protruded a bit above the surface
of those waters, is it conceivable that man could live for months on the
highest peaks, eating snow, drinking snow, and sleeping in snow? Could
he even have stood up for nearly a year on those pyramids of snow and
ice?” I give it up. Ask some polar explorer. What then remains of the
argument of those who still cling to the authoctonomous heresy?
Obviously there is no other recourse then to admit that the ancestors of
the race found their way to America by the Behring Strait, or across the
Pacific from the shores of Asia.

Whatever his origin, the Indian of the Andes is a distinct reality,
distinct, indeed, to all the five senses, and he varies little
throughout the length of the continent. In build he is stocky and short,
very muscular, with the strength of a mule for carrying loads on his
back, indefatigable on foot, but weak for other labor. His color is
between a tarnished copper and a more or less intense bronze. His head
is large; his neck thick and long, his eyes small, black, and
penetrating, yet at times strangely suggesting those of a dead fish; his
nose is bulky, and somewhat flattened and spread; his teeth are white,
even, and always in splendid condition; his long hair, worn sometimes
flying loose, sometimes in a single braid wound with red tape, is
jet-black, without luster, abundant, perfectly straight, strong and
coarse as that of a horse’s mane, without even a tendency to baldness.
His lips are thick and heavy, the lower one somewhat hanging, giving him
a suggestion of sulkiness. His forehead is low, his mouth large, and his
prominent cheek-bones and large ears give his face an appearance of
great width. He is broad-shouldered, with a chest like a barrel, but
slender of leg and small of foot. He grows no beard, and has almost no
hair on the body.

Men and women alike, except a rare male with a sole of home-tanned
leather secured by thongs, are bare-legged at least halfway to the
knees, their feet, like calloused hoofs, marked by stony trails and
years of barnyard wallowing. The male wears a broad, round, light-gray
hat of thick felt, a kind of pajama shirt or blouse of fancily colored
calico, or _lienzo_, a very roomy pair of “panties” of thinnest white
cotton that reach anywhere from his knees to halfway to his
undomesticated feet. Besides these garments, he is never seen without
his ruana, or poncho, which serves him as a cloak and carry-all by day,
and as a bed and covering by night. This is always of some startling,
crude color, deep red predominating, with such screaming combinations as
magenta and purple, carmine and yellow, though when sufficiently soiled
and sun-bleached, the old rose and velvety brown, the brick red or
turquoise blue, take on all the soft richness of Oriental rugs. It is
this commonly homespun garment, and the corresponding one of the women,
that make Quito such a color-splashed city.

The woman, too, copies the dress of her ancestors to remote generations.
She wears the same hat as the male—hat-pins are unknown to her, all down
the Andes—a beltless waist of coarse cloth, either open, or thin and
ragged; several strips of colored _bayeta_ (a woolish shoddy) wrapped
tightly around her draft-horse hips from waist to calves in guise of
skirt, always slit open on one side, showing an inner petticoat—once
white—though sometimes in striking solid colors, in marked contrast to
the outer skirt; and a blanket, smaller, but as audible in hue as the
poncho of the male, thrown round her shoulders like a shawl. She is fond
of gaudy earrings of colored glass or similar rubbish, ranging in size
from large to colossal; from one to a dozen strings of cheap red beads,
often the bean of a wild plant indigenous to the region, hang around her
neck; generally brass rings adorn every finger; and often many beads are
wound round and round her bare arms. She is completely devoid of
feminine charm. She needs none, for she is amply worth her keep as a
beast of burden.

As far as I know, there is no law in Quito requiring an Indian woman not
to be seen without a babe in arms, or, rather, in shawl; but if one
exists, it is seldom violated. In an hour I have seen, by actual count,
more than three hundred female aborigines pass my window in the calle
Flores, and not a score of them but bore on her back a child of from two
weeks to two years of age, to say nothing of several other bundles and
her whirling spindle. When the infant is tiny, it is carried lengthwise
at the bottom of the blanket-shawl knotted across the mother’s chest.
When it is older, it is tossed or climbs astride her broad back, lying
face down, with legs spread, while she throws her outer garment about
it, ties the knot on her chest—or on her forehead if the child is
heavy—and trots along at her work the day through, without the least
apparent notice of the offspring. The babe falls asleep, or gazes with
curious, yet rather dull, eyes at the world as it speeds by, peering
over the mother’s shoulder like an engineer from his cab, eats such food
or refuse as falls into its hands, or plays with the mother’s tape-wound
braid. The Indian woman never carries her offspring in any other manner
unless, in her rôle as a common carrier, she picks up a load too bulky
or heavy to place the infant atop, such as a bedstead, a bureau, or two
full-sized sacks of wheat—these are not exaggerations, but frequent
cargoes—when she hangs the child in front, in the concave of her figure,
like a baby kangaroo in the maternal pouch, knotting the supporting
garment across her shoulders.

The youngest baby is already inconceivably dirty, yet almost always
robustly healthy in appearance, though the infant mortality of the class
is appalling. It is an unusual experience to hear an Indian baby cry.
From its earliest years it seems to adopt that uncomplaining attitude
toward life that is so marked a characteristic of the adults. Though she
treats her offspring with no active unkindness—in all the years I spent
in South America I have never seen an Indian mother strike a child—the
aboriginal woman seems to endure it passively, like any other burden
thrust upon her from which there is no escape, carrying it where it will
be least troublesome, and never, at least openly, showing any caressing
fondness for it. The child old enough to toddle about the streets often
remains on the mother’s back, as if to hold the place for the next
comer. It is a common experience to hear an Indian child ask in a
perfectly fluent tongue for a serving at the maternal source of supply.

There is scant difference in appearance between the two sexes, and none
whatever in their labor, except that, if there is only one load, the
woman carries it, and the baby in addition. In both the half-breed and
Indian classes the women are more uncleanly than the men. Like the
latter, they work at all the coarser unskilled tasks, shoveling earth,
mixing and carrying mortar, cobbling streets; while in the matters of
loads there is nothing under two hundred pounds in weight which, once on
their backs, they cannot jog along under at a kind of limping gait that
seems tireless. Almost any day the furniture and entire possessions of
some moving household is displayed to public gaze as it jogs through
town on the backs of an Indian family. The chief water-supply of Quito
is a constant string of Indians from the fountain opposite the
government palace, with huge, red earthen jars sitting on their hips and
supported by a thong across the forehead. It is a commonplace to meet an
Indian carrying the gaudy image of some saint larger than himself. Cheap
coffins of half-rotten boards, painted sky-blue or pink and decorated
with strips of gilded paper, frequently mince past, secured by the
brilliant poncho of the carrier, knotted across his chest. I had
occasion one day to transport a typewriter a few blocks. The Indian
prepared to sling it on his back with a rope. When I objected to this
method, I found that the fellow not only could not carry it in his
hands, but that he could not lift it to his head. When I placed it
there, however, he ambled away as if he had nothing on his mind but his

Frequently an entire family takes a large job, such as carrying a
building from one end of town to another, adobe brick by brick. Such a
one passed my window for weeks. All day long they dog-trotted back and
forth in single file along the line of smooth-worn flagstones in the
middle of the street, their bare feet making absolutely no sound, never
a word or a sign of complaint finding outward expression. The man and
woman each bore the same number of mud bricks piled on their backs, and
the latter always carried the baby in her pouch, though they made a
hundred trips a day. Why the infant could not have been left at one end
or the other of the journey it was hard to guess. Two children, one a
little fellow of five with one brick on his back, his brother of seven
or eight with two, toiled all day long between father and mother, as if
they were being systematically trained for the only life before them.

The Andean Indian is even less like the tall and haughty redskin of our
country in manner than in appearance. Compared with him, the Mexican
Indian is self-assertive, bold, and ferocious. Silent and abstracted, he
takes no apparent heed of what goes on about him. Of phlegmatic
temperament, a truly wooden equanimity of temper, melancholy, taciturn,
and reserved, he is noted above all for a distrust that is perhaps
natural, but is more likely the result of centuries of privations since
the coming of the Spaniards. He has a blind submission to authority,
great attachment to the house in which he lives, and is so cowardly that
he lets himself be dominated by the most despicable members of other
races. A complete outsider in government and public affairs, he is
treated by the rest of the population like a domestic animal. The
merchant of Quito who requires a carrier to deliver some bundle does not
wait for one to offer himself. He steps into the street and snatches the
first Indian who passes, though he be on his way to a dying parent, or
preparing his child’s funeral; and the Indian performs the task as
uncomplainingly as some mechanical device, and returns to wait perhaps
an hour or two for the few cents the merchant chooses to give him. Only
when he is drunk does the aboriginal’s manner change. Then he is
garrulous and mildly disorderly. But even on a Saturday afternoon, when
the highways are lined with Indians of both sexes reeling homeward, the
gringo passes unnoticed, in marked contrast with the gantlet of
insolence, if not, indeed, of actual danger, which he must run under
like circumstances in the highlands of Mexico.

The newcomer’s sympathy for the Indian of Quito gradually evaporates
with the discovery that he is utterly devoid of ambition, as completely
indifferent to his own betterment as any four-footed animal. Pad out
this fact with all its details and ramifications, discarding entirely
the American’s ingrown tendency to imbue every human being with a
striving character, and the hopelessness of the Indian’s condition will
be more clearly realized. The Government of Ecuador gives scant
attention to the education of the aboriginals; even if it provided
schools and forced attendance, there would still remain the problem of
arousing in these people any interest in, or effort for,

A simple episode will go far toward visualizing the temperament of the
Indian of Quito, and perhaps make a bit clearer the ease with which
Pizarro and his handful of tramps overthrew the Empire of the Incas. I
had gone out for a stroll one afternoon along the road to Guallabamba.
Some three miles from town a light rain turned me back. There were no
houses near, but numbers of Indians were going and coming. A short
distance ahead was a group engaged in noisy contention. Suddenly a
handsome, muscular young Indian broke away and ran toward me, his long,
black hair streaming out behind him. At his heels, cursing, came three
cholos, in the dark hats, more sober blankets and trousers of their
caste, with shorn hair and straggling suggestions of mustaches. I was
not armed—one does not trouble to carry weapons about Quito—and in my
bespattered road garb I had certainly no appearance of protective
authority. When he reached me, however, the frightened Indian, instead
of running on, turned as sharply as about a corner, and pattered along
close at my heels, breathing quickly. I continued my stroll, while the
drunken half-breeds, far more muscular than I, hovered about ten steps
in the rear, crying:

“Ah, coward! You run to the señor for protection!”

Yet not a step nearer did they approach during the furlong or more that
the procession lasted. Then, as we passed the entrance to an hacienda,
the Indian suddenly sprinted away up its avenue of eucalyptus-trees
faster than the cholos could follow. When they overtook me again, one
protested in plaintive tones:

“Ah, señor, _ese sinvergüenza de Indio_ did not deserve your

Then they fell behind, while I, who had been an entirely passive actor
in all the scene, strolled on into the city. It would be hard to imagine
a similar incident in Mexico.

This Indian’s older daughter knocked at my door one day to say that, as
it was “Don Panchito’s” birthday, the celebration in the _sala_ next my
own room would probably keep me awake all night anyway, and had I not
better join the party. By eight the beating of the piano had begun. When
I appeared, “Don Panchito” took me on a tour of the guests, seated in
solemn quadrangle around the four walls of the room, the sexes
segregated. The South American has a custom which might well be imported
into our own land, to the relief of frequent embarrassment. As he was
introduced, each man rose, bowed profoundly, and announced his own name
in clear-cut tones,—“Enrique Burgos de Perez y Silva, servidor de
usted.” The women remained seated, but made their names similarly known.
A professional pianist, a patched, dishevelled, and hungry-looking young
man of some Indian blood, had already begun a very nearly continuous
performance at fast time, with barely two-minute intervals between the
half-hour dances. In a corner sat motionless all the evening two
professional chaperons—for “Don Panchito” was a widow—sour-faced,
sleepy-looking old women of none too immaculate habits, wrapped in black
mantos from which only nose and eyes protruded.

There were no dance cards. Each pair started in or stopped when they saw
fit, quite irrespective of the others. A man stepped across the room,
held out his gloved right hand to a girl, without a word, and she rose
to accept an invitation that apparently could not be refused—at least,
not one failed to accept it, though some of the more attractive were led
out upon the floor at least fifty times in the course of the evening.
Evidently it was “bad form” to carry on a conversation out of hearing of
the chaperon. Neither dancer visibly spoke a word until the girl wished
to stop, when she murmured “gracias” and was at once returned in silence
to her seat. As the evening wore on, several young fops dropped in,
alleging conflicting engagements as an excuse for their tardiness, and
joined the celebration without removing their lavender gloves, which,
indeed, the chilliness of the room pardoned. One of the newcomers, in
particular, stirred up the ladies to almost human expressions of
interest. He was son of the Minister of the Interior, just back from
Paris, and lost no opportunity to display the wisdom he had gleaned in
the “Capital of the World,”—a rather sharp-cornered French and an
authoritative knowledge of new and more complicated manners of hopping
about the floor to music. At frequent intervals our eight-year-old
Indian slavey, Mercedes, familiarly known as “Meech,” arrived with fiery
drinks in which we toasted “Don Panchito,” even the young girls tossing
it off without a tear. At midnight the festival raged at its height. At
one o’clock we sat down to dinner in a temperature far from agreeable to
those of us who did not dance. Then the celebration broke out anew,
though the chaperons and pianist, and even “Don Panchito,” had
disappeared. The young fops removed their gloves and took turns on the
stool. The clock was striking four when I retired, and little “Meech”
was still serving liquid gladness as uncomplainingly and
expressionlessly as ever. When I awoke at eight, she had just finished
tidying up the _sala_, and was beginning her regular daily labors.

Gradually we made the acquaintance of various celebrities. There was
“Chispa,” for instance, the little Spanish bull-fighter who gave a
benefit and “last final performance” in the plaza de toros each Sunday.
The royal sport of Spain is, at best, a gloomy pastime in
Spanish-America. Even when skilled toreadors from across the Atlantic
are to be had, the bulls raised in the Andean highlands are so _manso_
that the game degenerates into little more than public butchery. The
killing of horses is forbidden in the bull-ring of Quito, both by law
and because of the high price of those rare animals, and the toreador is
not permitted to stir up a sluggish bull by exploding _banderillos de
fuego_ on his flanks. “Chispa,” however, who was just such a “spark” as
his _apodo_ suggested, would have enlivened the most dreary
entertainment, though his companions were local amateurs, so clumsy that
he was called upon to save the life of each a dozen times during each
corrida. Each succeeding “despedida” had some new feature to draw
recreation-hungry Quito within the circular mud walls. One Sunday the
program announced the engagement of “Hombres de Yerba” and “Hombres
Gordos” (“Men of Hay” and “Fat Men”), and the inventive Spaniard was all
but forced to lock the gates against the tailend of the throng. One of
his amateurs was bound round and round with green alfalfa and set in the
center of the ring. The bull, however, either was not hungry or in no
mood for jests, and tossed the helpless fellow scornfully from his path.
The “Hombres Gordos” were made up with clown faces topped by silk hats,
their bodies padded to enormous size with excelsior. Still the
protection was not sufficient. One was thrown so savagely that the
audience agreed he had been killed—until the evening paper announced he
had merely broken a leg and several ribs. The fat man is no more beloved
in Quito than elsewhere, and the merriment went on unabated. It is
quiteño custom for the matador to _brindar_ (dedicate the death of each
bull) to some celebrity or person of means in the audience, tossing the
favored one his cap to hold during the killing, and expecting it to be
thrown back with a roll of bills in proportion to the skill of the _coup
de grace_. Toward the end of the “last final performances” the supply of
local “personages” grew so low that the eye of “Chispa,” roving around
the circle, fell upon Hays; but even as he opened his mouth for the
speech of dedication, the ex-corporal faded from public view.

Then there was Umberto Peyrounel, our first really and truly, flesh and
blood “andarín.” Derived from the Spanish word _andar_ (to walk), the
term is used in the Andes to designate a foreigner who travels on foot,
without any particular excuse for traveling at all; a peculiarly Latin
type of tramp, loving to attract attention and making his living by so
doing. We ourselves had often been styled “andarines” on the journey
from Bogotá, though this genuine article scornfully rated us
“excursionistas.” The distinction seems to be, not whether a man
“andars” on foot, but whether he makes his way without using his own
money, if such he possesses.


  Probably not his own in spite of the circumstantial evidence against


  The undertaker’s delivery wagon. The coffin is sky-blue with gilt

We saw Umberto first at a Sunday night concert, where he was
inconspicuously amusing himself by running races with several hundred
newsboys and bootblacks around the plaza mayor. A stocky fellow, tall as
Hays, of middle age, he was modestly dressed in a suit of sky-blue
corduroy, leather leggings, and a velvet cap of the Dutch fisherman or
Quartier Latin style. Across his chest hung a row of large medals; a
flaring, wax-ended mustache all but touched his ears, and his luxurious
black hair hung loose almost to his waist. When he called on us next
morning his coiffure was done up in a simple maidenly knot at the back
of his head. On closer examination the gleaming brass medals seemed to
be glorified tobacco tags. He announced himself the son of Italian
parents, born in the Argentine, of a sect corresponding to the Huguenots
of France, known as the “martyrs of Piedmont.” Leaving home three years
before, he had walked across his native land to Chile, thence to Quito,
where he was preparing to push on to Bogotá. To the people along the
way—and even to us, until he caught the gleam in our eyes—he announced
that two great dailies of Buenos Aires and New York had offered him a
prize of $100,000 to make the journey on foot from the door of one to
that of the other. On the road he was accompanied by a dog, wore
silver-plated spurs as a sign of his rank as a _caballero_, and carried,
in addition to a revolver and rifle, some forty pounds of baggage, most
of which consisted of bulky ledgers filled with hand-written statements
of his arrival and departure on foot, signed by every corregidor,
alcalde, or native official of whatever species, by merchants, lawyers,
and editors of every place, large or small, he had visited, each adorned
with its official seal. This collecting of signatures was no mere whim;
it was the customary excuse of his fellows for surreptitiously appealing
to charity. At every hamlet he opened the ledgers—ostensibly to give the
residents the pleasure of adding their names to the roll of honor—and at
the psychological moment slipped into their hands a printed card bearing
a subtle plea for assistance in winning his great “prize.” All genuine
“andarines,” Umberto assured us, did the same, and he berated us soundly
for not having adopted the custom.

“How can you prove to the public that you have made the journey on foot,
if you do not have the testimonials of distinguished persons along the
way?” he cried, scornfully.

“The public has its choice of believing it or jumping off the end of the
dock,” Hays answered for both of us.

In plain English, Peyrounel was a beggar, though he would have been
shocked beyond words to hear us say so. He called himself a “Champion of
God,” a bitter enemy of the priesthood, and in each town of importance
gave a lecture on his journey and, later on, “if the population showed
enough intelligence,” a sermon. The religious fanatic so often proves,
sooner or later, to be in a sexually neurotic state that we were not
surprised when, several days later, Peyrounel burst out, apropos of

“Why do girls always become enamored of strange travelers? No sooner do
I enter a town than several maidens fall desperately in love with me. I
can’t be expected to satisfy them all, can I? One has one’s work to do.”

“Wooden-headed ass that I am!” growled Hays. “If I’d only thought to
grow curls!”

“Between you and me, as men of the same profession,” went on the
collector of signatures, “I don’t mind telling you that I ride now and
then by train through a bad piece of country. What’s the use of walking
hundreds of hot desert miles, when the people will never know the
difference? For instance; here, under the seal of ——, it says that I
walked all the four hundred miles from ——. Well, I did—on a steamer most
of the way.”

In short the argentino’s mental equipment was somewhat out of repair.
One could not exactly put one’s finger on the loose screw, but it could
frequently be heard rattling. The following Sunday we attended his first
“lecture.” On the dismal daytime stage of Quito’s hitherto lifeless
Teatro Sucre sat Peyrounel, utterly alone but for the faithful dog at
his feet, thrown into silhouette by an uncurtained window at the back,
his sky-blue uniform looking more absurd than ever, his hair hanging in
long, wet, careful curls about his broad shoulders. Quito has so few
entertainments that it will endure almost anything particularly if no
admission is charged; and some three hundred men were scattered about in
the painfully upright seats, when the “andarín” rose. He read first some
incomprehensible rodomontade on the power of the will, then drew forth a
manuscript purporting to give an account of his journey, in reality
strictly confined to a list of the towns he had visited, with the height
of each above sea-level. The “lecture” was doubly unsuccessful, for when
the speaker ended with an appeal for funds to continue his statistical
journey, the gathering stampeded so effectively that all but a few had
escaped when he reached the door, and the reward of his labors was a
bare six dollars.

“Next Sunday,” he announced, when we met him in the plaza that evening,
“I am going to give the public of Quito the benefit of my conclusions on
suicide. Suicide, I shall prove, is always a prompting of the devil.
Therefore it cannot be the prompting of God. Ergo, a man should not
commit suicide, because he should never yield to the promptings of the

Truly a Solomon of pure reason had come to Quito. Yet somehow the
authorities, always backward in such matters, failed to take advantage
of this splendid opportunity to give the Teatro Sucre another free

Never since those days in Quito have I heard the oft-repeated word
“andarín,” than the picture of Peyrounel and his curls has not come to
mind. However, he had undoubtedly covered long distances on foot, and we
exchanged many a practical hint of roadway information. He planned to
visit all the important cities of the United States, and to reach New
York within three years. His letters of introduction already included
many to American officials; he carried, for instance, one to the mayor
of Seattle. Being an experienced traveler, all may have gone well with
him south of the Rio Grande. But beyond it lay dangers he did not
suspect; for some unromantic justice of the peace, unable to distinguish
between an “andarín” and a common “vag,” between the honorable
profession of gathering seals and signatures, and mere begging, may have
the cruelty to reward him with the notorious “year and a day.”

On October tenth there was an eclipse of the sun, total at the
Ecuador-Colombia boundary, and visible in all the southern hemisphere.
In the days of the Scyri and Incas such a phenomenon was taken as a
threat that the end of the world was at hand; a sign that an angry god
was abandoning his erring people. On this occasion many of the
less-educated classes remained in the streets all night, for an
earthquake had been prophesied. The local observatory had assigned a
scientist to “note the peculiar actions of the populace and the lower
animals during the eclipse.” It came toward seven in the morning.
Gradually the brilliant sun disappeared, until only the slightest
thread, of crescent shape, remained visible; the world grew dark as at
early dusk on a heavily clouded evening, then slowly lighted up again in
all its equatorial magnificence. Observers reported that a few fowls
returned to roost; the curs slinking about the plaza seemed for a time
undecided whether to seek their nightly lairs. But the actions of the
populace were confined to the incessant smoking of cigarettes and to
making the most of an excuse to put off their day’s task as long as
possible—neither of which was unusual enough to be worthy of note. The
majority, unsupplied with smoked glasses, found this no handicap, for
the reflected eclipse in the plaza pool served the same purpose. World
scientists had been sent to many of the larger South American cities
with elaborate photographic equipment, only to find their long journeys
wasted because of clouds. They would have done better to have come to
Quito, where two unscientific vagabonds caught excellent pictures of the
phenomenon in mere kodak snapshots.

It was on the morning of November eighteenth, five months from the day
we had sailed together from the Canal Zone, that Hays and I set out
along the muddy, cobbled highway to the railway station, carrying in
turn a bundle of the size of a suitcase. By 7:30 the former corporal of
police had taken his wooden seat in the dingy little second-class car,
and had stowed his belongings under it well out of sight of the
collector; for extravagant as are its fares, the Guayaquil-Quito Railway
allows a second-class passenger only fifteen pounds of baggage. At eight
the tri-weekly train let pass unnoticed its scheduled hour of departure.
Several stocky Americans of the type easily recognized as “railroad
men,” and as many English-speaking negroes could be seen shouldering
their way in and out of the motley throng. The engineers were
leathery-skinned Americans; the conductors fat, burly Americans; the
collectors gaunt, stringy, dense-looking young Englishmen, and the
brakemen West Indian negroes who spoke a more fluent Spanish that their
superiors, and were better “mixers” among the native passengers. After a
time they decided to repair the last coach, and lay for some time under
it, tinkering at a brake-shoe. Rumor had it that this was only a ruse;
that the engineer assigned to the run had been arrested the evening
before, and that the train could not leave until his trial was over.

Whatever the cause for delay, it ended at last, and with a great
snorting and straining and blowing of steam the little old “Baldwin”
began to drag its four _wagones_ out of the station compound. First came
a box-car, crowded inside and on top with gente del pueblo; then, behind
the baggage and mail car, the densely-packed second-class; and finally
the coach-de-luxe with a dozen passengers, most of whom would hasten to
take their lawful place in the car ahead as soon as they could escape
the eyes of their fellow-townsmen thronging the station platform. The
Indian of Ecuador still commonly walks, a fact easily explained by a
glance at the exorbitant rate-sheet. It was only by dint of much
struggle that the railroad, reaching Quito four years before, had
finally settled the point that even “prominent persons” shall pay fare;
now it has taken the offensive, and collects cartage even on the bundles
and fruit the passengers are accustomed to stack in the car about them.
The engine panted asthmatically to surmount a two-foot rise, scores of
Indians and cholos running alongside, screaming farewells to their
outward-bound friends, some visibly weeping for the quiteño of the
masses considers death itself little less dreadful than departure. Then
at length the train swung round the sandbank cutting and, catching a
down-grade, was off in earnest, and reluctantly I saw “Señor Lay-O-Ice”
disappear from my South American adventures.


  Almost everything that moves in Quito rides on the backs of Indians]


  An Indian family driving away dull care—and watching me take the
    picture of a dog down the street]

The attack of roaditis had seized him the day before. With no task to
hold him in Quito, he had been for a time content to spend his days at
his favorite occupation of sitting on a plaza bench. He had even paid
his rent well in advance, that he might have an anchor to windward. But
it had proved a rope of sand when the road lure came upon him, and he
had feverishly tossed together his indispensable junk and turned his
face toward other climes. From Guayaquil, “unless Yellow Jack or Bubonic
beat him to it,” he planned to push on to Cajamarca and Lima, chiefly by
sea, then to strike overland to Cuzco. Beyond South America lay various
nebulous projects,—a year around the Mediterranean, a journey through
Spain, or perhaps a return to the Zone to earn another “stake” with
which to journey to the Far East, there to adopt the yellow robe and
settle down to the tranquil life of studious inactivity he loved so

Thus life moved on, even in Quito. “Chispa” of the bullring had taken
the same train, feigning a first-class wealth until out of sight of his
quiteño admirers. Peyrounel, the “andarín,” too, was gone, dog, gun,
hair, medals, spurs and ledgers, to carry back to Bogotá the map that
had piloted us southward. Only one lone gringo descended to the city in
the folds of Pichincha, to renew the task that still forbade him to
listen to the siren that beckoned him on over the encircling horizon.

To pass over in silence its uncleanliness would be to give a false
picture of Quito. Only its altitude saves the city from sudden death.
Its personal habits are indescribable; I do not use the adjective to
avoid the labor of finding one less trite, but because no other could be
more exact. If I described in detail one fourth its daily insults to the
senses, no reputable publisher would print, and no self-respecting
reader would read it. The city is surrounded by an iron ring of smells
which the susceptible stranger, accustomed to the moderate decencies of
life, can pass only in haste and trepidation. The condition of the best
kitchen in Quito would arouse a vigorous protest from an American
“hobo.” However foppish a quiteño family may be outwardly, anybody is
considered fitted to the task of washing its dishes or waiting on its
tables. Among all the tramps of the United States I have never seen one
so filthy as the human creatures that hang around hotel dining-rooms,
or, in the one or two higher-priced establishments, are at least to be
found just behind the scenes, kicking about the earth floor the rolls
which the waiter a moment later religiously lays before the guest with
silver-plated pincers. Yet clients in frock-coats and outwardly
immaculate garb are never known to raise a voice in protest. There is
exactly one way to escape these conditions in Ecuador, and that is to
keep out of the country. A modern Crœsus would be forced to endure the
same, for though he brought his own servants and even his food-supplies
with him, the Ecuadorian would find some means of reducing him to an
equality of condition, if only by opening the supplies in customs and
running his unwashed hands through them.

Among our table companions were lawyers, university professors,
newspaper editors, commonly with several rings on their fingers; yet
rare was the man whose finger-nails were not in deepest mourning, or
whose manners were not befitting a trough. On the street the passing of
the women was usually marked by an all but overwhelming scent of the
cheap and pungent perfumes to which all the “decente” class, male or
female, is addicted, and though their faces were daubed a rosy
alabaster, it was rare to see one with clean hands, or without a
distinct dead-line showing at the neck. The city is gashed by several
deep gullies with trickling streams at their bottoms, which serve as
general dumping-grounds. Not even the carrion-crow mounts to these
heights, and the city is denied the doubtful services of this tropical
scavenger. Though the world hears little of it, the death-rate from
typhoid alone in the capital rivals that of “Yellow Jacket” in
Guayaquil; and no precautions whatever are taken against it. When he has
noted these customs and worse, the visitor will be startled into shrieks
of sardonic laughter when he runs across a large two-story building
bearing an elaborately painted shield announcing it the “Oficina de

Yet the quiteño is extremely jealous of any offer of other races to do
for him that which he gives no evidence of being able to do for himself.
Once out of Colombia, we had hoped for relief from the perpetual
growling at Americans, chiefly in fiery and ill-reasoned newspaper
editorials. Barely had we crossed the frontier, however, than we found
Ecuador raging with a new grievance. The Government had recently invited
the doctor in charge of the sanitation of Panama to inspect Guayaquil
and bring his recommendations to the capital. A strict censorship on
cable messages keeps the outside world largely in ignorance of the real
conditions in the “Pearl of the Pacific.” Inside the country, however,
the real state of affairs is more nearly common knowledge. One could
pick almost at random from the local newspapers such items as:

  Guayaquil, 22d. Yesterday forty cases of bubonic plague broke out in
  Public School No. 5. There are seven survivors.

The resident, too, soon learns the real motives that hamper the
sanitation of that pest-hole. Once it is “cleaned up,” argue its
short-sighted merchants, foreign competitors will flock in upon them. As
to themselves, they are, with rare exceptions, immune to the two plagues
for which the port is famous, having recovered from them at some earlier
period of life. Those who have not recovered have no voice in the
matter. There are even foreign residents who bend their energies to
upholding this barrier to competition.

These interests now, abetted by unseen European elements fostering the
discontent, and the eagerness of the opposing party to make political
capital out of any cloth, whole or otherwise, had stirred the noisy
little native papers into a furor, genuine or financed, against the
Government. The people, in their turn, had worked themselves into the
conviction that the invitation was only an opening wedge of the
“Colossus of the North” to gain a hand in the rule of the country, which
it is always the part of the opposition papers to paint as imminent. We
had not been long in Quito when the attitude of the populace grew so
serious that a joint meeting of both houses of congress was called to
explain the government view of the transaction. The diplomatic corps was
present in force, and as much of the public as could find standing-room
after the two houses had been seated in the largest chamber available in
the government palace. The diminutive old Minister of Foreign Affairs,
who had lived abroad long enough to acquire a point of view, explained
the exact truth of the situation as clearly as a disinterested foreigner
might have done. But neither congress nor the populace would hear his
reasoning. The latter hooted him vociferously, calling him “Yanqui!” and
accusing him of being in the pay of the United States. The congressmen
rose one after another to charge him with fostering a conspiracy to
surrender Ecuador to the Yankees, with many references to the “beegee
steekee,” and the meeting ended with the roar of a bull-necked senator:

“Undoubtedly, Señor, we want Guayaquil sanitated; but we want it
sanitated by Latin Americans.”

The _pesuña_ and other evidences of sanitary notions of the crowd that
hemmed us in gave the speech a ludicrousness that none but an enraged
partizan could have missed. But that night the little Minister of
Foreign Affairs resigned, and when morning broke he had disappeared.

For all the handicap of the complete absence of factories and
street-cars, Quito might easily lay claim to the world’s championship in
noise. The din from its church-towers alone would bring it one of the
first prizes. It is pleasant to sit out on a sunny hillside listening to
the music of ringing church-bells as it is borne by on the Sunday
morning breeze; but in Quito they are neither bells nor are they rung.
In tone they suggest suspended masses of scrap-iron, and there is not a
bell-rope, as we understand the word, in the length and breadth of the
Andes. Barely has midnight passed, when Indians, hired for the nefarious
purpose, and mobs of street urchins eager for the opportunity, climb
into the church-towers and, catching the enormous clappers by a
rope-end, beat and pound as if each was vying with the others in an
attempt to reproduce the primeval chaos of sound, ceasing only when they
drop from exhaustion. No corner of the city is free from the metallic
uproar. Santa Catalina tower was a bare hundred yards above my pillow,
and I know scarcely a block of the town over which does not rise at
least one such source of torture, hung with at least half a dozen
bells—to use the word loosely—of varying sizes and degrees of
discordance. Once awakened, the city is never permitted to fall asleep
again. By the time it has begun to doze off once more, the ringers have
recovered, and, taking up their joyful task with renewed vigor, repeat
the performance at five-minute intervals until sunrise, and often far
into the day.


  The street by which one leaves Quito on the tramp to the south. In the
    background the church and monastery of Santo Domingo]


  Long before Edison thought of his poured-cement houses, the Indians of
    the Andes were building their fences in a similar manner. In the
    regions where rain is frequent they are roofed with tiles or thatch;
    on the desert coast further south the tops afford a place of
    promenade sometimes miles in length]

This has disturbances of its own. The game-cocks, which no
self-respecting cholo would be without, challenge one another shrilly
from their respective patios; that moment is rare when a child is not
squalling at the top of its voice, the mother, after the passive way of
quiteños, making no effort to silence it; cholos whistle all day long at
their labors or pastimes; men and boys habitually call one another by
ear-splitting finger-whistles; ox-carts, mule-trains, or laden donkeys
refuse to move unless several arrieros trot behind them incessantly
screaming and whistling; droves of cattle are led through the streets by
an Indian blowing a _bocina_, a horn-like, six-foot length of bamboo;
unoccupied youths like nothing better than to kick an empty tin can up
or down the cobbled street; every school-boy on his way home or to
school twice a day takes a big copper coin, or in lieu thereof an iron
washer, and throws it at every cobblestone of his route in a local game
of “hit it”; the barking of dogs never ends; every Indian who loses a
distant relative, or who can concoct some other fancied cause for grief,
sits on the sidewalk just out of reach of the contents of one’s
slop-bucket, rocking back and forth, and burdening the air with a
mournful wail that rises and falls in cadenced volume; for unbroken
hours iron-tired coaches clatter over the uneven cobbles; every native
on horseback must show off to his admiring friends and the fair sex in
general by forcing his animal to canter and capriole up and down the
line of flagstones in the middle of the narrow street; three blind
newsboys, brothers indistinguishable one from another, appear in
succession, pausing every few yards to bellow in deepest bass a complete
summary of the day’s news, as if they were reading all the headlines of
the papers they carry for sale; and to it all the church-bells add their
never broken clanging. Apparently there is no law against disturbing the
peace; without the power to silence the church-towers it would be
useless, at best.

In those rare moments around midnight when the city threatens to fall
silent, it is the police themselves that tide it over. An officer’s
whistle screeches at a corner, to be answered down block after block,
until it all but dies out in the distance; then back it comes, and
continues unbrokenly until the church-bells drown it out. Not only that,
but he is a rare policeman who does not while away the night and keep up
his courage by playing discordant tunes on his whistle whenever it is
not in official use.

To add to its discordance, Quito’s voices, due perhaps to some climatic
condition, are often distressing, particularly the shrill, raspy ones of
the women of the masses, who have somewhere picked up the habit of
shrieking whenever they have anything to say—which is often. Unlike
Bogotá, Quito has a very faulty pronunciation. The sound “sh,” for
instance, is frequent in the Quichua dialect of the region, and though
not all quiteños speak the aboriginal tongue, the sound has crept into
their Spanish, and they tack it on at every opportunity—“A ver-sh,
Nicanor-sh.” “Le voy á llamar-sh.” As in all South America, the town has
the unpleasant habit of hissing at any one whose attention is desired,
and the word “pues” has been cut down to a mere “pss” to be hooked on
whenever possible:—“Si, pss! Va venir-sh mañana, pss.” The “ll” has
become a French “j,” as in Central America and Panama, so that a street
is not a _calle_ but a “caje,” a key is a “jave,” and the newcomer will
have difficulty in recognizing the place mentioned as “Beja-Coja,”
however familiar he may be with the Bella Colla. Many localisms and
Quichua words have found place in the general speech. A baby is always a
“guagua” (wawa), frequently corrupted with a Spanish diminutive to
“guaguita”; a boy is more often a “huambra” than a _muchacho_; and the
traveler who does not know the aboriginal term “huasi-cama” would have
difficulty in referring to the Indian house-guard and general servant of
the lower patio.

But when its noise grows overwhelming and its picturesqueness pales to
mere uncleanliness, the stout-legged visitor has only to climb over the
outer crust of Quito in almost any direction to revel in the stillness
and feast his eyes on vistas of rolling valleys and mountains, fresh
spring-green to the very snow-line. A path, for instance, zigzags up the
_falda_ of Pichincha, steeper than any Gothic roof, through the
scattering of red-tiled Indian huts called Guarico, and climbs until all
Quito in its Andean pocket sinks to a toy city far beneath. Another road
mounts doggedly round and round mountain-spurs and headlands until it is
lost in clouds, and only the immediate world underfoot remains visible.
The air grows almost wintry; oxen and Indian women, and now and then a
man of the same downcast race, come hobbling down out of the mist above,
with bundles of cut brush on their backs. Far up, the road swings around
on the brink of things, pauses a moment as if to gather courage, then
pitches headlong down out of sight into a light-gray void, as through a
curtain shutting off the “Oriente,” the hot lands and unbroken forests
of eastern Ecuador, a totally different world, where the Amazon begins
to weave its network, and “wild” Indians roam untrammeled.

                              CHAPTER VII
                          DOWN VOLCANO AVENUE

On the morning of February eighth, “Meech” called me at five. I had
already been some time awake, such was the excitement of so unusual an
event as going on a journey. The morning mists had only begun to clothe
the flanks of Pichincha when I broke the clinch of “Don Panchito’s” last
_abrazo_ and creaked away down the cobbles of Calle Flores and across
the Plaza Santo Domingo in the hob-nailed mining-boots suited to the
long, stony trail and the rainy season ahead. The remnant of my letter
of credit I had turned into gold sovereigns and sewed them in the band
of my trousers; on my back were my worldly—or at least my South
American—possessions, including the awkward bulk of the developing-tank
packed with films and chemicals. That day had passed when I dreamed of
driving an Indian carrier before me, and experience had taught me not to
risk the assistance of the mails. Thus the world roamer must leave
behind in turn each dwelling-place, after growing somewhat attached to
it, for all its faults, to go its way alone again as in the past,
glad—or merely sorry—when once in a while the cable brings him a whisper
of it, as from some former half-forgotten existence.

It was a familiar route for the first few miles. Now and again I
overtook Indians carrying enormous loads of _tinajas_, dull-red earthen
jars and pots of all sizes enclosed in a kind of fish-net, often topped
by a great roll of _esteras_, mats made of lake-reeds which serve the
carriers as beds. Men and women alike raised their hats to me and
mumbled some obsequious greeting. They were bound for Latacunga market,
several days distant from their villages; yet even on so long a journey,
rare was the woman from whose load did not peer the head of a baby.
Lower down, inhabited haycocks and huts of swamp-grass centered in
beautiful potato fields, red or purple with blossoms. A cherry-tree,
here called by the Quichua term _capulí_, producing a fruit larger but
not unlike our “choke-cherry,” alternated with what looked like the
Canadian thistle.

Three hours later, near the eucalyptus grove of the Flores estate that
marks Quito’s southern sky-line, I topped the ridge that marked my
hitherto furthest south. The long pile of Pichincha, its three peaks now
standing sharply forth, still lay close beside me, the rolling green
lower ridges subsiding into the mountain lap where Quito, like a tiny
ant’s city, still lay visible, the Panecillo that bulks so large from
the central plaza sunk to an insignificant mole-hill. Beyond, far across
it, hovered the hazy-blue ranges of the north; Cayambe resolutely
astride the equator, pointed Cotacache, streaked near the top with
new-fallen snow, piercing the transparent highland sky. For a long time
thereafter, as often as I topped a land-billow, I kept getting little
broken glimpses of the town from the ever-rising world, until at last,
toward noon, as a mighty mountain wave tossed me high on its crest, the
view of the city of the equator flashed forth a moment more; then Quito
and all its surroundings sank away into the irretrievable past.

Before me lay a new world. With the leisurely dignity of its builder,
García Moreno, the highway descended into a great distance-blue _hoya_,
one of those saucer-shaped valleys that abound all down Ecuador’s avenue
of volcanoes. Occasionally a horseman in shaggy goatskin trousers stared
curiously at me; now and then there passed a file of donkeys under
sheet-iron roofs,—a cargo of corrugated iron, the importer of which
still prefers this primitive transportation to the more hasty railroad
with its startling freight charges. Dandelions and white clover flecked
the evergreen fields; frogs sang their bass chorus in many a brook and
_pántano_. Here the way followed more or less the route of the great
military highway of the Incas. There were two of these; one of the
llanos, or lowlands of the coast, and this more famous one along the
crest of the cordillera, built during several reigns and finished under
Huayna Ccápac.


  Typical huts of the _páramo_ of Tiopullo, a bleak, bare mountain-top
    across which the highway to the south hurries on its way to the
    warmer valleys beyond]


  Beyond the _páramo_ of Azuay the trail clambers over broken rock
    ledges into the town of Cañar]

Near the village of Macachi, twenty-one miles from the capital, I turned
aside to the hacienda of a quiteño acquaintance. He was a boy of
eighteen, scion of one of the old “best families” of Ecuador, who have
kept their Spanish blood free from mixture, to whom had recently fallen
the ownership and management of an enormous tract of his little country.
Educated in our own land, he spoke a slow, pedantic English. Among his
equals, he was soft-spoken almost to the point of diffidence. But his
voice was commanding enough when he gave orders to his _mayordomo_ or
_escribante_, or to any of the hundred Indians who lived clustered about
the central hacienda house, all of whom addressed him as “Su Merced”
(Your Grace) and kowtowed as often as he looked at them, as their
ancestors might have done to the imperial Scyri. Before the sun set, we
had time to ride across a part of the estate. It lay somewhat too high
for wheat, distinctly so for corn. Except for the cattle that flecked
the upland fields far and wide, the potato was most at home. Fourteen
distinct varieties of this native tuber of the Andes, several of them
unknown in the North, grew on the hacienda. In one field women were
digging potatoes large as small muskmelons, though nearby were other
patches still red or purple with blossoms.

The average wage of the Indian peons was five cents a day, with
_huasi-pongo_,—space for their miserable _chozas_ in which the only
furniture consisted of a few odds and ends of home-made pottery and some
sheepskins which, spread on the earth floor by night, served the family,
its guinea-pigs and mangy curs, as bed. The women and children worked
for nothing, wages being reckoned by family rather than individually,
except that the women who milked the cows were each paid a dollar a
month. In reality, the Indians were serfs of the estate. When first
hired, they are _enganchados_, “hooked” by a labor agent, and having
spent their “advance” in a prolonged chicha debauch, must often be
arrested and forced to carry out their part of the contract, usually
remaining for years, if not a lifetime, in debt to the hacendado. It
would be an error, however, to look upon their condition from our
northern point of view. Any custom taken out of its native environment
has a far more serious aspect than the reality warrants. The Indian,
trained during many generations of Inca rule to avoid all personal
initiative or responsibility, accepts by choice this patriarchal
arrangement. The majority had been attached to the hacienda since birth;
giving the community the aspect of one immense family. Each household
had its little plot of ground for its own garden, and the privilege of
pasturing a small flock or herd. Yet the owners have the best of the
bargain. Nearer the capital were estates where _enganchados_ Indians
made adobe bricks at ten cents a day, with huasi-pongo and food, making
daily some three hundred each, which the owner sold at seventy-five
cents a hundred.

The snow-peak of Sincholagua and the rugged, ice-capped ridge of
Rumiñaui faced the hacienda. Though little higher, the place was
infinitely colder than Quito in its mountain pocket, for here we caught
the full sweep of the winds off the ice-fields. By dark, we were both
huddled in the hacienda dining-room, bleak and comfortless in spite of
its extravagant trinkets from the outer world. The peons, for all their
awe of their youthful lord, could not deny themselves the pleasure of
grouping noiselessly before the door as we ate, listening to the strange
tongue—not Quichua, stranger still, not even Spanish—which their erudite
master spoke with this traveler from unknown parts, who came on foot,
carrying his own load, like any Indian. The crack of the door grew ever
wider, the broad, expressionless faces ever more numerous, until a draft
of the bitter mountain night air caused “His Grace” to glance up in
annoyance. Both crack and faces disappeared silently and suddenly, but
came again many times before we each crawled early under four heavy

Next morning the highway, no longer cobbled, but wide and smooth,
without wheeled traffic, soon brought snow-clad Illinaza into full sight
before me. So skillfully did it bear me upward that by noon I was
crossing the great _páramo_ of the Nudo de Tiopullo, without the
consciousness of having climbed at all. The Andean _páramo_, for which
we have no exact English word, is not the sharp mountain peak my
imagination had pictured, but is used of any broad plain so lofty that
not even the hardy Indian will live upon it, where _quinua_, most
cold-blooded of domestic plants, refuses to grow, a drear treeless
upland covered only with a tough brown bunch-grass that gives it
somewhat the aspect of our virgin prairies. To a northerner in motion,
it was not uncomfortable by sunshiny day, but no one passes these lofty
plains at night by choice. Only a rare shepherd’s shelter of stones and
_ichu_ dots the cold-brown immensity. The shivering highway hurried due
south across it, bringing to view another sea-blue _hoyo_ and, barely
pausing for a last glance back at the faint peak of Cotacache and the
long bulk of Pichincha, grown mere parts of a broad, hazy, tilted
horizon, raced downward into the softer valley.

Some seventy-five miles south of Quito begins a veritable desert. From a
distance the ranges to right and left seem green, yet the ascending
valley grows so dry and arid that even the scanty scrub trees die of
thirst. At the top of a barren divide I met head-on, panting harder than
I, and moving no faster, the little tri-weekly train from the coast,
crowded with dust-laden, weary passengers. Almost sheer above me stood
forth the beautiful cone of snow-clad Cotopaxi, equalled in symmetry on
all the earth’s surface only by Fujiyama. To the left the hoary head of
Tungaragua, far away in the blue haze of the hot, tropical Oriente it
looks down upon, rose gradually higher into the sky. Then the highway
descended and went ever more swiftly downward into a half-arid hole in
the ground, and by three I was tramping the cobbled streets of Ambato,
the “winter” resort of wealthy quiteños, a mere 8000 feet above
sea-level. To one accustomed to loftier Quito, it had a tranquil,
half-languid air; its people were more friendly, lacking that suggestion
of belligerency common to quiteños. There was, indeed, something
pleasing about it that I had never yet seen in Ecuador. It reminded one
mildly of Egypt, in air and odor, and the dust sweeping across from the
barren, arid hills that wall it in. The market of this town, hung midway
between the tropics and the temperate zone, offers the fruits of
both—_aguacates_ and mangoes side by side with apples, pears, peaches,
and cherries—the native capulí, at five cents a peck—beside raspberries
and blackberries, and the perennial “fru-u-u-till-a-a-as!”
(strawberries) that are singsong daily through the streets of Quito. It
was from the market-place of Ambato that I caught my first glimpse of
Chimborazo, the giant of the Andes, just the crown of its long, saw-like
glacier ridge brilliant white against the steely highland sky, as it
stood on tiptoe peering over the barren ridges of Carhuairazo.

Barely had I entered the hotel when its dishevelled boy-servants crowded
around me to ask if I were an “andarín.” Peyrounel, it proved, had once
favored the establishment with his distinguished, if financially
disadvantageous, presence. I pleaded too colorless garments to merit the
title. To these Andean village youths the arrival of so romantic a being
was what that of the yearly circus is to our towns of the far interior.
Yet when I offered any of them double his present wage to accompany me
and carry a few pounds of my pack, they shook their heads and shrunk
fearfully away.

It is not, as I gradually learned to my growing astonishment, merely
because they know no better that the people of the Andes sleep on wooden
beds. In Quito I had found many who refused to use the imported springs,
and I know at least two doctors who prescribed wooden beds for kidney
trouble. Here in Ambato a perfectly respectable spring-bed had been
completely floored over, and the unsuspecting gringo, instead of landing
on a soft and yielding mattress, found himself on such a couch as a
thinly carpeted floor might be. Nor was this by any means the last bed
out of which I pulled the lumber and spread the woven-reed _estera_
above the barrel-hoop springs.

Ambato claims the title of “Athens of Ecuador”; and, indeed, four of the
country’s principal writers lived and died here, which is more than can
be said of the capital. The place of honor in the main plaza, gorgeous
with geraniums of every shade of red, is occupied by the statue of Juan
Montalvo, commonly rated the country’s chief literary light. In Ambato
Juan León Mera wrote his “Cumandá,” the accepted classic among Ecuador’s
novels; and one may still visit the family of Luis Martínez, whose “A la
Costa” is worthy a place in South American literature, if only for its
magnificent descriptions of tropical scenery.

I left Ambato on a morning so cold that gloves would have been welcome;
one of those mornings, frequent in Ecuador, when the sun rises like a
beauty of the harem pushing aside the soft, white curtains of her
alcove, when the mountains, at the bases of which dense masses of clouds
and mist have gathered, seem gigantic altars on pedestals of marble.
Soon the sun grew ardent and imperious, capriciously burning away the
mist-curtains of the night, blazing down unrestrained on the rolling
plains of Huachi, so arid and monotonous. The road lay deep in sand
across a half-desert, with no other adornment than the fences of
_cabuya_, of the cactus family, that replace the dividing ditches or mud
field-walls further north, to mark the limits of the poor heritages of
the Indians. The chief industry here is the weaving of a coarse cloth
from the fibers of the _cabuya blanca_. Here and there a capulí tree
persisted, and impenetrable, bushy clumps of the thorny _sigse_ bristled
aggressively. The few planted fields were sparse and drear, though near
the town, where the thirsty _arenales_ had been transformed by
irrigation into patches of green on which the desert-weary eyes rested
gratefully, grew the strawberry, large and fragrant.

Higher and higher rose the world, though so imperceptibly that the
ascent was noted only because the landscape opened out to ever greater
vistas. It was a day of climax in volcanoes. Around the circle of the
spreading horizon the white crests of no fewer than eight of the great
vent-holes of the earth grew up about me, until I paused on a high ridge
to study them. To the right, for a time looking like a single mass of
rock and snow, stretched long, saw-toothed Carhuairazo, with Chimborazo
rising behind it; then gradually the great, glacier-blue dome of this
Everest of America detached itself and stood forth in all its immensity.
Far behind, yet perfectly clear in spite of the blue haze of some forty
miles distance, cone-shaped Cotapaxi, once so savage in its destruction,
reared itself into the sky-line like an occidental twin sister of
Fujiyama. To the left, in military precision, three snow-clads stood
shoulder to shoulder—Sincholagua, Antisana, and one above which rose a
column of smoke that marked it as Sangai, most active of the western
world, but a few days before in destructive eruption. Then came the
glacier-clad, rounded cone of Tungarahua, keeping its eternal watch over
the tropical Oriente, and to the south, noblest of all, peering forth
first in the early mists, and growing in grandeur all the morning, stood
dreaded El Altar, its beauty now completely unveiled, a fantastic mass
of peaks and pinnacles, like some phantom city of ice.


  Indians carrying a grand piano across the plaza of Cañar on a journey
    to the interior]


  The Indians of Ecuador draw their droves of cattle on after them by
    playing a weird, mournful “music” on the _bocina_, made of a section
    of bamboo]

For hours the snow-peaked horizon continued. Across the sands of Huachi
travelers had been few; toward noon they grew plentiful. Around every
turn appeared Indians and their four-footed competitors, with such
monotonous persistency that I needed a cudgel to drive out of my way the
asses which, expressionless and impassive as their masters, were
inclined to march serenely on, irrespective of human obstacles. The rare
_chagras_, or tawny countrymen, who live in their _chozas_ along the
way, were interesting only as evidence of how clod-like man may become.
At Mocha, where I halted in the early afternoon, the deep-blue
ice-fields of Chimborazo lay piled into the sky overhead, a mountain
still, though the town stands more than two miles above the sea. All the
following morning its arctic dome towered close on my right as I plodded
along its gentle slope not far below the snow line, often waist-deep in
the ruts which generations of pack-animals and Indians had worn in the
brown, uninhabited páramo, dreary with long, slightly rolling stretches
of bunch-grass, across which I only now and then overtook a mule-train,
the drivers wrapped to their ears in their heavy ponchos. Behind, across
a hazy valley, now more than forty miles away, the symmetrical cone of
Cotapaxi gleamed faintly forth in a new dress of snow that had fallen
during the night. A cobbled highway ran along the bottom of a slight
hollow some distance off, but travelers had scorned it so long in favor
of the rutted páramo that grass was grown high between its cobbles; and
at length, as if it resented the abandonment, it swung off in the
direction of Cajabamba and was gone.

The dozen ruts across the páramo finally joined forces to form a kind of
road that, turning its back on Chimborazo, around whose white head a
storm was brewing, struck off toward a long, undulating, hazy valley
backed by blue heaps of ranges. Gradually I descended to almost a desert
again, by a road deep in sand, rising and falling over countless
sand-knolls, the peaked, grass-covered huts of Indians tossed like
abandoned old straw hats far up the flanks of the drear mountainsides on
either hand. At one of these I found the first use for my new revolver.
An enormous dog, plainly bent on destruction, bounded out upon me
without a sound, halted abruptly with a faint yelp as I pressed the
trigger, turned a complete somersault, and fell feet upward, like a
captive turtle, not two yards from me.

Ordinarily there is little to be feared from the sneaking curs of all
colors that swarm about every hut throughout the length of the Andes.
Before the Conquest, tradition has it, the Indians had only the mute
_allcu_, now exterminated—at least, it is certain that none of those
that remain are mute. These degenerate descendants of the animals
brought over by the Spaniards rival the original chaos of sound as they
rush out in cowardly packs upon any stranger—especially a non-Indian,
for as the white man’s dog abhors an Indian, so do these a white
man—while their masters gaze stolidly on, without so much as attempting
to call them off. The Indian of the Andes does not raise dogs; he has
them merely because he is too passive to get rid of them. The curs are
never treated as pets; the only caress they ever receive is a kick or a
prod from which they retreat sluggishly with a cowardly yelp, even if
the weapon misses its aim; they are never fed, but exist on such offal
as the Indian himself disdains. A mountaineer to whom I put the question
once briefly expressed the viewpoint of his race:

“How can we help having many dogs, patrón? They breed so often!”

From the village of San Andrés, picturesquely backed by the ice-palace
of El Altar, architecturally as diffuse as the Castle of Schwerin, a
spreading highway, bordered by endless cactus hedges, led toward a great
sandy plain far ahead, a small forest of eucalypti that marked the site
of Riobamba giving it center. Further on, for all the aridity, was
plenty of half-grown corn, with numberless peaked, thatched huts peering
above the vegetation on either hand. At the entrance to Riobamba I saw
the first llamas of my South American journey. Once an Indian passed
driving a llama and an ass hitched together; further on several of these
absurd “Peruvian sheep,” pasturing beyond the cactus hedge, craned their
long necks to gaze curiously after me. Times without number I had been
assured that not only was the llama never a draft or a milch animal, but
that it could never be ridden; that it would carry exactly a hundred
pounds and would irrevocably lie down if another ounce were added, and
that it could under no circumstances be urged beyond a slow, dignified
walk. Imagine my surprise, then, when suddenly I beheld a llama
bestridden by a full-grown Indian come down the road at a brisk trot,
and watched them fade away in the eucalyptus-lined distance beyond. In
the town beyond there was one llama for every two donkeys.

Riobamba, chief city between Quito and the coast, is commonly described
as “lying at the foot of Chimborazo.” The description must not be taken
too literally. I had imagined a cold, haughty little town snuggled
together in a lap of the high Andes; but if Riobamba lies at the foot of
Chimborazo, so, in only somewhat lesser degree, does Guayaquil. The
traveler turns his back on the glacier-clad giant of the Andes and
tramps a long half-day before he comes to what, in situation and general
appearance, might be a town on the sandy prairies of western Nebraska.
Its monotonously right-angled streets are unusually wide, painfully
cobbled, and swirling with sand; its architecture is drearily like that
of any other Andean city. It has been several times destroyed by
earthquake; were it not, like Quito, more than two miles aloft, it would
be even more often destroyed by its personal habits. At sunrise thrice a
week most of the town turns out to watch the trains that have
“overnighted” here leave for Quito and Guayaquil respectively; whence
its suggestion of some frontier village of railroad hotels in our
Western states. Unlike Quito, Riobamba has a street-car. It is a
platform on wheels with a flat roof supported by gas-pipes, under which
are some crosswise boards that are called seats with the same
Latin-American tolerance with which a place to lie on the floor is
called a bed, and a place the traveler may possibly be able to make his
way through is called a road. Like some Andean newspapers, it appears
“every now and then,” when a pair of blasé, world-weary mules drag it
across town to the station and back, usually only on train days. Many
ride, and the more poorly dressed seem to pay for the privilege; but the
Indians take good care not to be caught on any such risky, new-fangled

There is commonly not a “sight” to be seen in Riobamba, unless it be the
stern, white face of Chimborazo looking down upon the city from the
middle distance to the north. The traveler who chances upon the town of
a Saturday or Sunday, however, will find it a place of interest. Then
the Indian population of a thickly inhabited region comes from thirty or
more miles around to what is rated Ecuador’s greatest market. The sandy
plaza, larger than an American city block, is so densely packed with
stolid thick-set men and women in gray felt hats and crude-colored
blankets that only by constant struggle can a purchaser thread his way
across it. From my room on the corner above, not a foot of open ground
was visible. The scene was like a swarming of myriad ants of many
colors; like a great Oriental rug undulating in the sunshine. As one
crowds along between the rows of hawkers, all the products of the region
seem to pass in procession. Here were entire families who had jogged
many miles to town under the produce of their chacras; there, a man with
only a half-grown chicken or a gaunt pig for sale; beyond, a woman sat
all day long selling bit by bit, at a net total of perhaps ten cents,
the bushel of native cherries which, together with her babe, she has
carried at least twenty miles. Here was a pile of ugly native shoes—of
very limited demand—there, homespun blankets and ponchos in colors that
scream audibly, before they mellowed by sun and rain and the habits of
their wearers. Every domestic animal and fowl known to the Andes of
to-day was displayed; cheap knives, tin spoons, trinkets from foreign
lands, native plants and bulbs; herbs that still make up the aboriginal
pharmacopœia, as in pre-Conquest days; tiny packages of dyestuffs that
are doled out a penny-worth at a time; corn bread and barley bread, even
a few soggy wheat biscuits—though the price of the latter is all but
prohibitive—cherries, strawberries, oranges, _aguacates_, a hard native
taffy known as _alfeñique_, pears, apricots, peaches, a hard little
apple that never matures, pineapples, nearly all the grains and
vegetables known in our own land, and even a greater variety of corn and
potatoes; and a countless confusion of other products that sell for what
would seem far less than the cost of bringing them to town. Beyond, was
a _tercena_, an open-air butchershop, where Indian women hacked into
bits the cows and sheep that had succumbed to amateur butchers, at the
same time fighting off the fifteen dogs which, by actual count, prowled
about the stand. In one corner scores of tawny, bare-legged Indians
squatted beside heavy grass-wrapped loads of snowy ice, Riobamba’s only
means of cooling her beverages. If one knew enough of the bastard
Quichua of Ecuador to ask its origin, the stolid fellows threw an
expressionless glance toward the icy dome of Chimborazo. About them
hovered something akin to the glamour that surrounds the Arctic
explorer. All day long was an endless motley going and coming through
the adjacent streets and plazas, amid which the imagination could easily
drop back four centuries and fancy what this Andean world may have been
before the coming of the white man.


  Ruins of the fortress of Ingapirca, near Cañar, where the Inca Huayna
    Ccápac is said to have received the first news of the landing of
    white men on the coast of his Empire]


  A mild example of the “road” through southern Ecuador. The trail
    pitches and rolls over earthquake-gashed, utterly uninhabited
    regions, sinking far out of sight in the _quebrada_ in the middle
    distance, then climbs away across the world until the hill here seen
    sinks to a dot on the landscape]

It was so brilliant a Sunday that Chimborazo seemed to hang almost sheer
above the town, and the whole bulk of snow-clad Tungarahua loomed
clearly forth from its tropical home, when I set out after midday for
what I had been told was an easy half-day’s tramp. Within an hour—so
sudden are the changes in weather zones here—an icy rain was pouring
down upon my shoulders bowed with the weight of a hundred-pound pack. At
last I sprawled to a summit with an all-embracing view of the entire
district of Riobamba, the city itself a mere fleck far below in an
opaque-blue landscape roofed by purple-black clouds through which the
unseen sun cast a single faint shaft, as from a weak spotlight. The
rain, which in Ecuador falls in zones sharply cut off one from another,
ceased abruptly at the top of the barrier. Here were two roads from
which to choose, and for hours thereafter I could not know whether the
one that descended a sharp valley beside a tiny stream led anywhere near
where I wished to go. Well down the bone-dry vale were scattered hamlets
of grass and mud huts of a half-wild tribe of Indians, the men in white
goatskin trousers that gave them the appearance of shaggy-legged Greek
satyrs, the dwellings often hung far up the steep walls that enclosed
the growing stream. Many of the inhabitants ran away at my approach; the
rest stared at me from safe heights as I sped on down the valley. Ugly
white curs abounded; in the scanty trees a bird sang now and then; but
for the most part only the sound of the stream leaping from rock to rock
broke the mountain-walled silence.

Cold darkness fell, and still the broken trail descended swiftly. At
rare intervals a corner of the moon peered through the clouds. Then, in
the blackest of nights, the road forked again, giving me another random
choice. A wild, windy, uninhabited hour beyond, the path fell suddenly
away under my feet and I found myself involved in a labyrinth of
_quebradas_, holes and chasms large as two-story houses, as if the
region had been wrecked by a long series of earthquakes. A score of
times I climbed down hand over hand into immense ruts with walls high
above my head, certain I had lost my way, yet with no other choice than
to press on. Two hours, at least, this riot of the earth’s surface
continued before there appeared suddenly the lights of a considerable
town, dimly seen through the night across a wet, blurred valley backed
by an all but invisible mountainside. A trail picked itself together
again under my feet, pitched headlong down to a roaring little river
straddled by an aged stone bridge, ghostly white in the pallid
moonlight, and led me stumbling into the railroad village of Guamote,
still booming with the tomtoms of the Sunday fiesta that had left its
scattered débris of drunken Indians through all the length of the town.

From Guamote I followed the silent but well-kept Quito-Guayaquil Railway
through a landscape like that of southern Texas, winding in and out
between dreary hills peopled only by a rare weather-worn shepherd in
goatskin trousers; then across broad stretches of sear-brown, slightly
rolling desert scantily covered with bunch-grass, the sand sweeping over
it in clouds. From Palmira,—two dismal little station buildings at some
11,000 feet elevation—the railroad drops steadily for all the more than
a hundred miles to the coast. Some way down the descending valley, the
land turned almost suddenly from dreary brown to the green of another
rain-belt that gradually climbed the ever-higher mountain walls that
shut me in. Beyond Alausí next morning I made a swift descent, even
swifter by sliding down the face of the notorious “Devil’s Nose,” where
the track mounts in three sections, one above the other, and reached the
little town of Huigra in time for “breakfast.” Here, in a green valley
between high hills falling abruptly into a prattling stream, are the
main offices and hospitals of the railroad, and an American atmosphere,
tempered with whiffs of England and Ecuador, to which the fever and
bubonic of Guayaquil do not mount, nor the ills of Quito descend.

At Huigra my route was to turn southward over the enclosing mountain
wall. But I had no objection to coasting down into the tropics on a
side-trip to Guayaquil—except Guayaquil itself; and when the chief
engineer promised a screened refuge from sun to sun, I accepted the
invitation gladly. All that is necessary to travel from Huigra to
sea-level is to get something on wheels of the right gage and “let her
slide”—or rather, let her slide within very definite limits, lest one
reach the bottom far sooner and in poorer condition than was planned.
With a native employee behind, the two of us sat on the sheer front edge
of the track automobile, the experienced hand of the chief on the brake,
and roared in and out and ever down the mountain cañon, the towering
walls on either side rising higher above us with every yard forward, a
foaming river keeping us a not much slower company. Huigra is at
kilometer 117. At 110 we suddenly reached the tree-line. Forests in
striking contrast to the bare upland plateau of Ecuador grew up about us
as if by magic. Foaming mountain brooks dashed down from either towering
wall to join the river—and to save the company the expense of building
water-tanks. Swiftly the trees changed in species,—from hardy highland
shrubs to voluptuous tropical growths, till the airy bamboo, noblest of
ferns, bowed to us in graceful dignity from the crowded forest as we
screamed past.

Before noon we swung out of the gorge I had followed from Palmira, and
halted at Bucay. It had been like dropping in two hours from May to a
dense and heavy July, from a northern scene to one like that of Panama,
with the same sticky atmosphere, negroes, and outdoor life. Here we took
possession of the empty pay-car on the rear of the day’s passenger-train
and sat with our feet on the back railing, watching the dead-flat
tropical world run away and shrink up to nothingness behind us. The
track lay straight as a cannon-ball’s course through the tunnel of
forest and jungle. Indians and their gay garments had disappeared; here
were only the colors of nature. Along the way, thatched houses of split
bamboo slouched in languid attitudes, half-black and slightly dressed
families peering from their sort of hole-in-the-wall verandas behind
partly raised blinds hinged at the top. For all the lazy languor of the
scene, jungle products succeeded each other swiftly. Cacao, then
palm-trees gladdened the eyes; the air grew heavier; now and then a
great field of sugar-cane broke briefly the endless tunnel of forest;
beautiful bamboo groves alternated with immense tropical trees cutting
into the sky-line.

The natives, afoot or ahorse, used the track as a trail, for all else
was impenetrable wilderness. Here and there the jungle crowded so close
that it side-swiped the car, though along the way were many
section-gangs fighting it back with machetes, the favorite tool and
weapon of the _costeño_, who saluted us—or, more exactly, my
companion—as we sped past. Pineapple fields grew numerous; at stations
the fruit lay in piles at the feet of indifferent chocolate-colored
vendors. The brown castor-bean on its small green trees appeared;
splendid cocoanut palms, heavy with nuts, heralded the sea; maidenly
slender rubber-trees; broad fields of light-green rice, growing arm in
arm with Indian corn; the plebeian bread-fruit tree, with its broad
leaves fancily cut as with scissors in the hands of an inventive child;
and always gigantic tropical trees cut fantastically into the sky-line
of the light-gray day above. Behind, always, fixed as fate itself, the
dim and clouded range of the Andes, a giant wall, blue and unbroken,
shut off the world beyond. Here and there a hoary peak showed above the
clouds, so high one could not believe it possible. Far off in the
heavens like a great cloud, Chimborazo stood white and immovable. As in
the forest one sees only trees, so only down here, looking at the chain
as a whole, could one realize the loftiness of those realms where one
had been living for months more than two miles above the sea.

Naked brown babies, huts on ever longer legs, hammocks, grew numerous,
and languid loungers to fill them; here and there appeared a Chinaman;
some large towns, bamboo-built and all on stilts, like a thin-shanked
army; buzzards circling lazily overhead amid scents that whispered of
plague and sudden death. Then on either hand began to appear the low,
dense-wooded hills of Durán, more properly deep green islands in this
flood-time. Fluffy white flowers in myriads smiled bravely above the
black waters that would soon swallow them up. The vast mountain wall
across the world behind had grown a shade bluer when we drew into Durán
on the banks of the Guayas, and brushing both clear with housewifely
care of any lurking mosquito, dodged through the double screen-doors
into the railroad quarters. Here were shower-baths and phonographs, New
York papers, a frequent nasal twang, and only outside and seeming far
off as in some distant place, the scent of Ecuador.

Sudden death is reputed to fly chiefly by night along the Guayas. So
only when the sun was high did we venture across to Ecuador’s metropolis
and far-famed death-trap, Guayaquil. Outwardly, the low, heat-steaming
city looked far cleaner than Quito. But here filth grants no immunity.
During three hours we saw the black funeral street-car pass nine
times—and by no means all the population can afford so splendid an exit
from the world. Yet here were electric tramways for the first time since
Bogotá, larger shops and more ambitious displays than in Quito, and
signs of greater commercial activity. The houses were of wood or split
bamboo, low and earthquake-fearing, all the windows with wooden blinds
hinged at the top, from behind which peered half the female population,
seldom seen on the streets. Compared to Quito, it was a town of no color
at all. Among the foreign residents was a curious indifference to local
dangers, always seeming greater at a distance than on the spot.
Americans yawned at the mention of “Yellow Jack” and Bubonic and went
about their business with as little apparent worry as a New Yorker of
death by a street accident. Nothing in the attitude of the people
suggested an unusually precarious hold on life—except that ever
recurrent black funeral car, electrically operated, as if horses were
not fast enough for its incessant labors. Long before the sun had lost
its mastery of the situation, we had retreated again to Durán. The lone
traveler in far-off lands runs many perils, but if I must succumb to one
of them, let it be with a fighting chance, not this insidious, sneaking
death that flies on all but invisible wings.


  Cuenca, third city of Ecuador, lies in one of the most fertile and
    beautiful valleys of the Andes]

Next morning the passenger-train lifted us back to Huigra, where a new
experience awaited me. That evening I sat writing in the railroad
quarters. Two fellow-countrymen were parading the broad, second-story
veranda of the light wooden building. The only other sound was the
muffled chatter of the stream below. Suddenly the heavy table beneath my
arm began to move as at some spiritualist séance, the windows took to
rattling as if in some sudden terror to escape from their frames, the
wall decorations swung back and forth like pendulums, and for what
seemed a long minute the entire building shook as with a paludic fever.
I opened my mouth to protest against what I took for a moment to be
physical exuberance of the veranda paraders; but I closed it again as I
realized that I had passed through my first earthquake, and had gone on
writing for a line or more before I recognized the good fortune of being
in a wooden house. Outside, the strollers had not even interrupted their
chat, except to remark, “Pretty good one, eh?” and when the natives in
the town below had left off shouting, evidently in an attempt to scare
off the dreaded spirit within the bowels of the earth, life returned to
its customary languor, the silence broken only by the stream still
prattling on through the darkness. In the morning the telegraph wire
brought word that the instruments of Durán had registered seven quakes,
and that several houses and a church had fallen in the adobe interior.

On the morning of February 24th I crossed the little bridge over
Huigra’s garrulous stream and, trailing away up the mountain wall that
shuts off the railroad valley on the south, disappeared from the modern
world. All but twenty pounds of my baggage I had turned over to a native
_fletero_, proprietor of a mule-and-jackass express company that
operated as far south as Cuenca. It was in the nature of things,
however, that even under a light load I should pay for my descent to
Huigra by much sweating toil, before raising again its paltry 4000 feet
to the two miles or more of the Andean chain. In the valley a brilliant
sun set me dripping; above was driving mist to chill me through if I
dared to pause, and out of which now and then floated the gentle
exhortations of unseen arrieros to their toiling animals:

“Anda, macho! Mula, caramba! Vaya, sinvergüenza!”

An experienced gringo had assured me I was approaching the most
impassable region in Ecuador, a place where it rained steadily and
heavily a hundred and four weeks a year, where my mules would sink to
their ears in mud and be left to perish, where I myself would infallibly
die of exposure if my caravan were overtaken by night out on the lofty
páramo. I easily forestalled the peril to my mules, and the second I
resolved to avoid by not letting night overtake me.

It was not, certainly, an ideal road. There were places where the
writhing trail was for miles a series of earth ridges with deep ditches
of mud and water between, like an endless corduroy road, and these made
hard going indeed for laden animals. For as often as one of them set
foot on one of these _camelones_, as they are called in the Andes, it
slipped off into the muddy ditch between, as likely backward as forward,
giving a very exaggerated imitation of the gait of a camel. In fact, it
is this constant slipping and sliding of passing pack-trains that turns
certain wet regions of the Andes into camelones. In places the
mud-reeking slope climbed steep mountainsides through narrow trails worn
twenty feet deep, down or up which horses or cargo mules stumbled and
sprawled constantly, threatening to smash their packs against the side
walls or underfoot.

But it was a route far worse for horsemen than for a man afoot. I
stepped blithely from ridge to ridge, not only dry-shod but at my
regular pace, easily leaving all four-footed competitors behind; and
while there were germs of truth in the warning that a mule and his
cargo, slipping and falling upon me in one of the gullies, might bring
my journey to a halt, the very simple remedy for that possibility was
not to be found loitering beneath an animal when he fell. Donkey
carcasses and the rain-bleached skeletons of mules and horses were
frequent along the way; and always, now broken, now for a time
incessant, came out of the blind mist the raucous bawling of arrieros:
“Anda, mula, caramba!”

The dense, heavy fog turned to pouring rain. Indeed there were evidences
to verify the assertion that this was one of the zones of Ecuador where
the rainy season reigns perennially. In mid-afternoon I passed a few
Indian hovels. I had been warned to stop for the night in the last of
these rare habitations, if I would not end my wayward career out on the
arctic páramo of the Nudo de Azuay. But the stolid-featured native
assured me there were others a half-league on, and I had climbed twice
that distance across a dismal stretch of bunch-grass without a sign of
life, except a scanty herd of wild, shaggy, rain-drenched cattle, before
I realized that the Indian had told the old lie to be rid of an
importunate guest. Within me there grew the conviction that, in spite of
my best intentions, I should some day shoot a large, round, soft-nosed,
38-caliber hole through some Indian for sending me “further up” into the
uninhabited night.

However, there I was, exactly where, of all places in Ecuador, I had so
often been warned in several tongues not to let night overtake me. The
gray walls about me dimmed like a lamp turned out. These páramo trails
being, even by day, only a straggling of interwoven paths often effaced,
it was not in the order of things that I should keep the route long in
unmitigated night. For a time I stumbled along an irregular,
rock-littered ground, full of leg-breaking holes, picking every step
ahead with my stick, like a blind man, and even at that now and then
sprawling on all fours. As to direction, I could only trust to luck.
Then I felt water-soaked bunch-grass under foot, and all efforts to find
the trail again were wasted. Vaguely I felt that I had come out on the
nose of a mountain. Through the rain-drenched night there came faintly
to my ears the sound of a waterfall, and from somewhere far off the
dismal howling of a dog rode by on the raging wind. The ground under my
feet took on the angle of a steep roof; it required stick, hands, and
extreme vigilance to keep from pitching headlong down into the
bottomless unknown. I felt my way inch by inch several hundred feet
downward without finding a level space as large as my hand. In the end I
could only sit down on my bundle in the mud, brace my feet against a
tuft of bunch-grass and, piling my most perishable possessions in my
lap, button my llama-hair poncho over my head, sup on a three-inch butt
of bread, and settle down to keep my precarious seat until daylight.

He who fancies an Ecuadorian mountainside a pleasant night’s
lodging-place, merely because it is near the equator, has still
something of geography to learn. Strangely enough, it might have been
worse. The poncho was almost impervious to cold, entirely so to rain. As
the Scottish chieftain of earlier days soaked his tartan before lying
down for a night in the highland heather, so the wetness of all about me
seemed to add warmth. The rain redoubled, yet I should scarcely have
known it but for its pelting above my head. I dozed now and then into a
nap. After one of them I peered out into the wintry night, to find the
mist alive with hardy fireflies so large that those which started up
near me seemed to my dull fancy the lanterns of some prowling band.
Twice some animal, perhaps a wild mountain-horse, romped by me. When I
looked out again a bright moon was shining, yet I felt too comfortable
as I was to take advantage of it to push on, and fell asleep again, not
without a drowsy misgiving that some diligent hunter might try a shot at
my huddled, shaggy form standing out in the moonlight against the swift
mountainside; until I remembered that no native ever ventures out upon
an Andean páramo except in the full light of day.

Dawn showed the lost trail zigzagging in three branches down the face of
the mountain. The waterfall lay directly below me, yet so steep was the
slope on which I was perched that I had to crawl back again up the trail
on all fours and descend with it. Far away across a valley so deep I
could not see its bottom, lay in plain sight what I knew to be the town
of Cañar, a mere white speck halfway up the great mountainside beyond.
It is chiefly noted for its outlook upon the world. From a distance, it
seemed to hang upright on the vertical mountain flank; once arrived, I
found it occupied the flat top of one of the countless hills that pile
higher and higher into the sky, to culminate in a great Andean chain.
Here was a land of stone. Everywhere, in field and valley, rocks lay
more profusely and far larger in size than on any abandoned New England
farm. If the tumble-down old town of Cañar had any features at all
different from hundreds of others down the crest of the Andes, it was
its large proportion of stone buildings over those of sun-baked mud.

It is perhaps the existence of stone, rarer to the north, that accounts
for the presence near Cañar of the first ruins of unquestionably Inca
origin. Their victorious march to the north, too, was so quickly
followed by the arrival of the Spaniards, that the Children of the Sun
left no permanent works about Quito and beyond. The imperial highway
from Cuzco to what is to-day Ecuador, built by a race less fearful of
the lofty places and mighty cañons of the Andes, was more direct than
the modern haphazard route. Where it descended from the páramo of Azuay
and climbed out of the gorge beyond, there was built a fortress and a
_tambo_ for the housing of the imperial cortège that is known to-day as
Ingapirca, which some believe to be that same Tomebamba where Huayna
Ccápac, the Great, was born, and where the news of the landing on the
coast of a strange tribe cut short his journey southward in his old age.


  A detail of the “Panama”-hat market of Azogues. The hats are bought
    unfinished and the wholesalers pile one after another on their heads
    until their faces are all but concealed by the protruding “straw”


  Arrived at the wholesale establishments of Cuenca, the hats are
    finished,—the “straw”-ends tucked in and cut off, the hats beaten
    with wooden mallets on wooden blocks, given a sulphur bath and
    sun-bleached, then folded flat for shipment]

He who would visit Ingapirca must have either a guide or a working
mixture of Spanish and Quichua. I lost myself a dozen times in a
labyrinth of paths, each leading to an isolated Indian hovel. One might
have fancied the aboriginals had surrounded the sacred Inca relics with
a conspiracy of silence, for I was forced at last to drag an old man
forcibly out of a cluster of cobble-stone huts before he pointed out to
me a path that wound away upward and disappeared over the edge of the
world. Along it I came at last in sight of Ingapirca. The “Castle of the
Gentiles,” as it is locally known to-day, sits silent and grass-grown on
the summit of a rock-knoll from which the eye ranges in every direction
over a tumbled labyrinth of valleys and ridges. They built high, the
Incas, as men who preferred to see with their own eyes what was going on
about them, and they seem to have gloated over the unbroken sweep of the
cold, invigorating Andean wind. The chief ruin is that of a fortress, an
oval wall with a sheer rock face to the north, and symmetrical stone
steps leading up to the entrance on the south. Of large cut stones, and
with ornamental blind doors, or niches, it is so like the monuments of
Peru as to leave no doubt of its Inca origin. Even on the curves, the
stones are so nicely fitted, apparently without mortar—though Humboldt
reported the discovery of a kind of cement between them—that there are
few joints for which a modern contractor would berate his workmen. The
walls are double, with earth between them, the inner wall less carefully
constructed; and undisturbed centuries have filled the interior of the
fort to a grass-grown level. Above this rise the remnants of a building,
only adobe walls with some cut-stone doorways still standing; but the
many wrought stones to be found in fences and in the scattered heaps in
which dwell the modern inhabitants of the region, suggest that the adobe
walls had once a complete casing of cut stone. Slight as are the
remains, there is still sufficient setting for the fancy to picture
Huayna Ccápac striding back and forth upon his lofty promenade, looking
upon his “Four Corners of the Earth,” and halting in his meditations to
watch the imperial _chasquis_ racing toward him across the rugged
landscape with news of the landing in his imperial domains of a
pale-faced tribe with hair on their faces.

Hours of strenuous toil, piloted only by my pocket-compass, brought me
back to the main route. For a space it was a real highway, faced with
stone, but soon degenerated into a writhing chaos of ruts and rocky
_subidas_, like a road in the throes of an epileptic fit. The sun was
still high when I caught sight of Biblián, its famous sanctuary standing
out white and clear against the dull mountainside above the town. But it
was only in the thickening dusk that I finally climbed into it.

A youth replied to my first inquiry with a “cómo no!”—just as
unexcitedly as if strangers came to Biblián every year or two. In the
dingy little shop to which he led me, an old woman whose greedy face
warned me to prepare for exorbitant charges, even before I learned she
went to church four times a day, hunted up the enormous key to an
immense room above. In a corner of it stood a bed at least a century
old, covered with a marvelous lace counterpane, but harder than macadam.
While I sat at meat—or, more exactly, at vegetables, since Biblián kills
its weekly beef on Sunday and by Monday it is gone—the customary
delegation of citizens came to offer their respects. The town, it
proved, was oppressed with a great worry. The earthquake of a week
before had not merely tumbled down several mud church-towers of the
region, but had given new life to a prophesy that clanged deafeningly at
two-second intervals without a break, ex-Biblián could not sleep of
nights and the priests were reaping a rich harvest. All night long I lay
like a Hindu ascetic on his couch of nails, listening to the exquisite
torture of a broken-voiced church-bell that clanged deafeningly at
two-second intervals without a break, except for a frequent wild,
hellish jangling of several minutes’ duration. When dawn broke, the
entire population had already crowded into the church for early mass. A
bun was not to be had with my morning coffee, because my hostess had
locked up the shop to attend the second ceremony. I ordered “breakfast”
for eleven, and a boy came to inform me that I must eat it at nine,
since from that hour on señora la patrona would again be at church.

Biblián is a city of pilgrimage. By morning light it proved to be
surrounded on all sides by fields of corn, with countless capulí-trees
and masses of geraniums lending it even more color than the variegated
blankets of its inhabitants. The cup-shaped valley was scattered with
scores of tiled cottages of the half-Indian peasants, the hillsides a
network of paths and trails to their huts and tiny farms. The chief road
climbed to the _Capilla_ on a crag well above the town. It was a costly,
three-story structure richly decorated within, though a dismal mud hut
served Biblián as school. The Virgin of Biblián is noteworthy among a
host of her sisters in not having come personally to pick out a spot and
order the building of her shelter. Perhaps her history is still too
recent for the successful concoction of such traditions. In 1893 the
valley of Biblián was choking with drought. The local cura, alive to his
opportunity, set up an image in a grotto on the mountainside and,
consulting his barometer, implored rain. The drought was broken. In
honor of the feat the image was named the “Virgin of the Dew,” and
pilgrims began to flock to Biblián. In the volume which he has prepared
for their instruction the foresighted cura bewails the fact that “We
cannot tell in one book the countless cures, assistances, protections
and life-savings the Blessed Virgen del Rocío has done for the faithful
from all over Ecuador.” In the face of the appalling mass of proofs
before him he confines himself to none. But he does mention the
miraculous fact that the first chapel had been completed by August of
the following year, and that two years later the present “sumptuous,
rich, divine” sanctuary was sprinkled with holy water.

Barely was this dry when “the troops of the Liberal party, like the
barbarians at the gates of Rome, threatened the afflicted capital of the
Azuay, bringing inevitable ruin”—such, for example, as the curbing of
the power of the Church—“when the powerful Blessed Virgen del Rocío was
borne from Biblián to beleaguered Cuenca with fitting reverence and in
the midst of the most crowded and pompous procession in the annals of
that Catholic city” ..., whereupon the Liberal troops faded quickly
away, and redoubled the fame of the Virgin and the income of Biblián
parish. The Minister Plenipotentiary of the Vatican has seen fit to
grant a hundred days’ indulgence to whoever visits the sanctuary, “which
indulgence may be applied to souls in Purgatory.” The trip to Biblián is
worth at least that. Lovers of justice will rejoice to know that the
foresighted cura bids fair to enjoy for long years to come his
divine—knowledge of barometers.

It is only a league from Biblián to Azogues; an hour’s stroll along a
slight river through almost a forest of capulí-trees, the wild cherries
hanging in bunches something like the grape, though with only a few ripe
at a time. Then comes a sudden drop into summer; for the climate of
Azogues is soft and bland, with little rain. About the town were
hundreds of tile and thatch-roofed cottages among rich, green
cornfields, spreading far away up one valley and down another; and
beyond these were tawny mountain flanks mottled with every color from
sandy brown to sun-drenched green.

The town of Quicksilver is rather that of “panama” hats. As in San
Pablo, Colombia, men, women and children were braiding them everywhere;
shopkeepers and their clerks made hats in the intervals between
customers, and even while waiting on them; Indian and chola women wove
them as they tramped along the roads with a bundle, and perhaps a child,
on their backs, as European peasant women knit, or those of other parts
of Ecuador spin yarn on their crude spindles. I was assured that every
living person in Azogues knew how to _tejar sombreros_. The fops
themselves were so engaged somewhere out of sight.

The weekly hat-fair of Azogues began on the Friday evening of my
arrival. As the afternoon declined, there streamed in from every point
of the compass, from every hut among the surrounding corn-fields, men,
women, and children, each carrying a newly woven hat, bushy with its
uncut “straw” ends. A dozen agents from Cuenca bought these as they
arrived, never at the price demanded, but after a heated bargaining to
which, in the end, the weavers always meekly yielded. Each buyer seemed
to confine himself to some particular grade or style; this one to coarse
“comunes,” that to large sizes, another to small, and only two or three
to the finer weaves. As he bought them, each agent piled the hats on his
own head until his face was completely hidden behind the protruding
ends, from the depths of which the bargaining went on unabated.

Saturday, however, is the chief market day of Azogues. As I strode out
along the highway to Cuenca next morning, throngs were pouring into the
city from every direction. For a full two hours I passed an endless
stream of Indians as close together as an army in column of squads, the
women carrying on their backs every product known to southern Ecuador.
The men, for the most part, were burdened only by a half-dozen hats, one
atop the other, the untrimmed ends hiding their faces as under shaggy
straw-colored beards. The scene recalled the Great Trunk Road of India,
yet was of vastly less interest and variety. He who had once seen an
Ecuadorian Indian had seen all the procession. A few were weaving the
last strands of their weekly hat as they hurried by. Most “panama” hats
are completed on Friday night or in the gray of Saturday’s dawn; for the
maker, frequently overcome by indolence during the week, must bestir
himself to have his product ready in time for his weekly debauch. Before
he sallies forth to squander his week’s earnings, however, he carefully
lays away enough to purchase another tuft of “straw,” lest he have no
nest-egg from which to hatch next Saturday’s celebration. The procession
had thinned considerably before it occurred to me to count the
passersby, and even then 132 persons passed me in a minute, each and all
bearing something for the market of Azogues. During most of the two
hours the number had easily doubled that, and this was only one of the
many roads and trails leading to this little-known town far from modern


  My home in Cuenca, with the Montesinos family. The well-to-do classes
    of this city live in unusual comfort for Ecuador, and have the
    custom of decorating the walls under the projecting roofs, or those
    of the patio, with exotic scenes painted on the wall itself]


  Students of the _Colegio_ of Cuenca, which confers the bachelor degree
    at the end of a course somewhat similar to that of our high schools.
    Misbehavior is punished by confinement in the upright boxes in the

Every house of southern Ecuador has a cross in the center of its
ridgepole; here they were so elaborate, so covered with devices symbolic
of the religion they represent, that it was only by a stretch of the
imagination that one could make out the cross itself beneath. Late in
the morning I came again to the Azogues river, and a typical bridge of
the Andes,—opportunity to wade thigh-deep for all who travel afoot on
this main highway to southern Ecuador. Not far beyond, there cantered by
me several wholesale buyers from the Azogues market, the saddlebags of
each bulging with a hundred or more hats, stuffed one inside the other.
Mile after mile the broad river-valley of Cuenca is forested with
_capulí_, eucalyptus, and a Gothic-spired willow. Red, tile roofs stand
strikingly forth from deep-green corn-fields, and thousands of fertile,
cultivated acres are shut in by barren, sand-faced hills, though there
are no imposing peaks south of Cañar, and I had seen none snow-clad
since leaving Riobamba. With no census for twenty-five years, the
metropolis of southern Ecuador, third city of the republic, and capital
of the rich province of Azuay, estimates its population at 45,000. Some
have it that this great _cuenca_, six leagues long, gouged out of the
Andes, was the original Tomebamba, birthplace of Huayna Ccápac. Like
Riobamba, the city is flat, its wide, cobbled streets, crossing at right
angles, stretching their chiefly one-story length away in both
directions almost as far as the eye can see. The buildings are almost
all of the sun-baked adobe mud that everywhere dominates the
architecture of the Andes; though some of the “best families” have
striven to decorate their dwellings outwardly with huge mural paintings
on the eaves-protected walls of patio and veranda.

                              CHAPTER VIII
                        THROUGH SOUTHERN ECUADOR

As susceptible Don Giovanni falls under the succeeding spell of every
pretty face, each blotting out those that went before, so the traveler
down the backbone of South America frequently concludes that he has
found at last the climate copied from the Garden of Eden. Such a spot is
Cuenca, dimming by comparison its latest rival, Quito, and I find in my
notes of the exuberant first day there the assertion: “Of all the earth,
as far as I know it, Cuenca has the most perfect climate.” Always cool
enough to be mildly invigorating to mind and body, yet never cold, it is
unexcelled as a place for dreamy loafing. The sunshine vastly exceeds
the shadow, and its situation is peerless—not in the scenery of its
surrounding mountains, which are distant and low, but in the rich
fertility of this great vale of Paucarbamba (“Flowery Plain”), as the
Incas called it. Cuenca has no fitting excuse for not being one of the
richest agricultural cities on earth. Yet its only “hotels” are dirty
little Indian eating-houses without sleeping accommodations, and the
traveler must fall back on the prehistoric system of hunting up a
friend’s friend. For once this roundabout method brought handsome
results; at the home of the Montesinos brothers I found my most
home-like accommodations south of Quito, in a highly cultured family
with no scent of the public hostelry about it. My front door opened on a
vista across the patio and the long market plaza, usually shimmering
with Indians and clashing colors, to the blue hills and a strip of
Dresden-china sky to the west; and it is only fair to the Andes to
mention that this extraordinary family had erected in a back patio a
well-appointed lavatory, stoutly padlocked against the Indians of the

The Montesinos brothers, sons of a former governor of the Province of
Azuay, were lawyers, as well as professors in Cuenca’s colegio, leaders
in the intellectual life of the city, excellent examples of the best
grade of “interandino.” One was a teacher of French and English, which
did not seriously mean that he could speak either of those tongues. In
1899 this bookish, somewhat effeminate man had started a revolution
against the Alfaro government in the person of General Franco, a
bloodthirsty half-negro from Esmeraldas, who had been made governor of
Azuay. It proved unsuccessful, and the instigator had been forced to fly
to the jungled Oriente and live for months among the head-hunting
Jívaros Indians. I had hesitated to believe my own convictions on
certain conditions in Ecuador, but this frank and outspoken native
outdid anything I might have said. His attitude was in striking contrast
to that belligerent “pride” of Latin-American governments and their led
mobs and self-seeking politicians. To him the thrice-beloved
“patriotism” of his hot-tempered fellows was rubbish. What he wanted was
an efficient government and a chance to live a free life, whether he
remained a subject of the particular strip of territory known as
Ecuador, or of the gigantic “Yanqui-land” so many seemed to fancy
imminent. He asserted that the police of Cuenca were its worst
criminals; all thieves and ruffians who could not be openly convicted
were sentenced to serve as policemen. Except in the collecting of taxes
and as a place of reward for its henchmen, the central government leaves
Cuenca and the south of Ecuador virtually abandoned, and that tendency,
so general in Latin-American countries, for the more distant parts to
break away and form a free, or at least autonomous state is here marked.
The region labors under a thousand petty annoyances. For instance, Quito
has a parcel-post service with the outside world, but Cuenca has none,
nor any money-order system, and about one piece of mail in three ever
reaches an addressee in the capital of the Azuay. A package mailed from
abroad to a cuencano lies in Guayaquil until the addressee appears in
person, or appoints a lawyer, to lay claim to it, to pay the fees and
grease the wheels of the legal and illegal formalities necessary to set
it on its way to its destination.

To our modern notions Cuenca is not much of a city; yet here in the
almost untracked wilderness it seemed enormous. So rarely do strangers
visit it that, large as it is and in spite of my entirely conventional
appearance, I could barely pause in the street without all work in the
vicinity ceasing and a crowd gathering about me. Hungry to behold a new
face as the crew of a windjammer that has gazed only upon themselves
during long months at sea, their attitude seemed to say, “We can work
to-morrow, but there is no certainty that we can have the pleasure of
looking at a stranger.” It is hard for Americans, with their wide
outlook and accustomed to the complicated existence of our large cities,
to realize the narrowness of life in these placid old adobe towns hidden
away in the Andes. Virtually cut off from the outside world, the
cuencanos are a peculiarly bookish people. “We do not know,” said
Montesinos, “that there are places on the globe where men live in
freedom and decency, except from books.” Yet in spite of being rather
uncertain of their dignity, like all isolated peoples, the educated
classes were as well-meaning, as _simpáticos_, as any I met in
Latin-America. Two things only were necessary to join the upper caste,—a
white collar and visiting-cards. The former above a patched
“hand-me-down” was more effective than a new $100 suit worn with a
flannel shirt; and the man who has his name printed on bits of
cardboard, to exchange with regal courtesy and profound bows with every
upper-class acquaintance, is instantly accepted as of gente decente
origin. Indeed, visiting cards should be as fixed a part of every Andean
traveler’s equipment as heavy boots.

One could not but pity these ineffectually ambitious mortals, kept down
by leaden environment and isolation. He who does not deal in “panama”
hats has hardly an opening in Cuenca, except to study medicine, law, or
theology in the local colegio; hence there is a plethora of “doctors”
who can only wear their titles and live the life of enforced bookworms,
forbidden by the rigid rules of caste even the privilege of turning
their hands to some useful occupation. As in Bogotá, the very isolation
and lack of opportunity has driven many to their studies, and Cuenca
numbers many writers among her “sons,” producers chiefly of that
languid, half-melancholy, pretty poetry, full of the “fine writing” the
divorce from life and unlimited leisure to polish their gems of thought
gives. In all Cuenca there is only one mean little bookshop, selling
religious tracts and translations of American and English “penny
dreadfuls.” The _intelectuales_ can only, as it were, feed upon each
other and form mutual admiration societies, where admiration soon palls
from too constant familiarity and lack of new blood. Few, even of the
“best families,” have ever been out of the _cuenca_, or basin, in which
the city lies, and its isolation has given the place something of the
atmosphere the traveler is always seeking—commonly in vain—of a world
wholly removed from outside influence.

Their ineffective eagerness to learn was pathetic. The most nearly
educated young men of the town had rented a second-story hall near the
main plaza and decorated its façade with huge letters announcing it the
“English Language Club.” Here the score or so of more or less
English-speaking residents of the male sex gathered together several
evenings a week.


  The “English Language Club” of Cuenca in full session]


  An hacienda-house of southern Ecuador, backed by its grove of
    eucalyptus-trees. The owner or the _mayordomo_ occupies the
    two-story structure, while the rest of the household string out in
    regular caste gradations to the kitchen and outhouses]

For years, however, there had not been a genuine English-speaking person
living permanently anywhere near Cuenca. In their eagerness to capture
an authority the club drafted me at once, and whole delegations were
always ready to go about and show me the town and vicinity—provided it
was a not too distant vicinity, for they had as great a dread as the
quiteño of getting far from the central plaza. I was received kindly and
eagerly by the educated men anywhere, so long as it did not involve my
intrusion on the Moorish seclusion of their family life, and became a
sort of honored guest of the town, even if I was not presented with the
key to it, which by comparison with the door-keys would have been a
burden indeed. They were not “spenders”; money comes slowly and with too
great a strain in these parts, but they were ever on the lookout to do
me little kindnesses.

Barely was I settled, therefore, when I was hurried off to an evening at
the “English Language Club,” convoked in special session. For an hour I
sat like the chief buffoon in a comic-opera ensemble in the center of a
horseshoe circle that included a score of doctors—Cuenca swarms with
doctors, home-made and book-trained—the grandsons of presidents, sons of
ministers to Washington and the court of St. James, while the whole
gathering, like self-conscious school-boys, got off a sentence or two in
more or less English in regular rotation around the circle, until some
shining genius suggested that, as they had so illustrious a guest with
them, it was merely a “social evening” and not a regular meeting; hence
the rule demanding that only English be spoken was not in force. With a
veritable explosion of relief the entire club burst into Spanish, and
Alfonzo was himself again.

Later experience proved that the rule was largely a dead-letter even at
regular meetings, and only to be enforced when the arrival of an
illustrious stranger put the club on parade. The walls were hung with
several mottoes in English, and they had gathered together some belated
American magazines and a billiard table. There the members gathered
several evenings a week to play “pocar,” and to practice very
intermittently such English as they had learned from the printed page,
forming their sentences and—what was worse—their pronunciation from the
rules books had to offer, and mixing in with it a bit of a similar brand
of French, as if any foreign language answered more or less the purposes
of the club. The rules forbade the use within the club-room of any
tongue than our own, but after the first few set greetings of “goot
nig-ht, how do yô do?” the gathering settled down to an uproar of
Castilian, broken only by the few phrases of Cuenca-English which custom
had stereotyped. The majority came to play “pocar,” not so much because
of the opportunities that pastime offered for one of the
Latin-American’s chief failings—for pockets were seldom bulging—but
because it smacked of the United States, the stepmother of the “English
Language Club” of Cuenca. The son of a former Ecuadorian minister to
Washington, who had spent a year or two in “Yanqui-land,” shared with
“el Señor Doctor Montesinos, profesor de inglés en nuestro colegio,” the
position of final authority on the tongue, except on those rare
occasions when a traveler brought the real, dyed-in-the-wool article
with him. Even the authorities were not faultless. They said “díssiples”
for pupils, used habitually the expression “I can to go,” and clung
tenaciously to similar choice bits of their own convictions, and, what
was worse, drilled them into their fellow-members with that dogmatism
strongest in those who are wrong. But the minister’s son had made the
most of his American residence in learning “pocar” so thoroughly that he
was as real an authority on that art as he fancied himself in English.
Unfortunately, the combined efforts of the club had not unearthed among
all the dog-eared classics that had drifted together in generations of
Cuenca’s flirting with English the mention in print of that fascinating
pastime. Whence they had been forced to adopt their own spelling and
home-made phrases. On the wall appeared a warning placard, “Those which
play pocar are speaking English,” and each game was sprinkled with a
rapid-fire of Spanish, punctuated by fixed phrases of near-English. Thus
the expressions “You bid,” or “You open,” had been concocted by the
simple means of literal translation from the Castilian used in similar
pastimes, and became “You speak.” Amid the crack of billiard-balls and
the rattling of home-made chips the conversation ran on much as follows:

“Cordero, you are serveeng. Y hombre, ya le dije que la muchacha no
. . .”

“Fife cards; all ze workeengs, Carlos.”

“Lindísima, hombre, pero su mamá. . . . Enriquito, you speak.”

“No, señor, equivocado, _I_ am speakeeng.”

“Caramba! Es verdad. Eet ees true. And for how much are you speakeeng?”

“No, et ees meestake. Ze doctor is speakeeng, because he is sitteeng by
ze side of Juancito, which ees serveeng ze cards,”—and with deep
solemnity the doctor proceeded to “speak” by throwing two Cuenca-made
chips on the table, the game rattling on until Muñoz broke in upon an
oratorical description of the latest event of the _vida social_ of
Cuenca with a:

“And I am nameeng you now, Carlitos; with ze house full of ze whole
kettle,” and throwing down a “full house,” he scraped the entire pile of
chips to his corner of the table.

There were two dentists in Cuenca at the time of my visit. One of those
present was not there in person, because he had gone away on a week’s
journey two months before; the other had not yet arrived, though he
appeared nightly at the “English Language Club,” because his instruments
of torture and gold-plated diploma were still somewhere on the road from
Guayaquil. Had they both been unqualifiedly present in the flesh, the
wise man would have continued to endure any degree of toothache rather
than submit to their amateurish mercies. The chief raison d’être of the
city is its commerce in “panama” hats, though virtually none are made
there. The agent sent to Azogues or other neighboring towns pencils in
some cabalistic code on the inside of the hat the price paid the
weaver—or as near that price as his conscience makes necessary—and
delivers it to his employer. In the city are many “factories of
sombreros,” from behind the downcast mud fronts of which sounds all day
long the pounding of wooden mallets, and from which exudes the constant
smell of sulphur. At the establishment of a club-member we posed for a
local photographer in acres of hats, in various stages of the finishing
process, which ranged from the huge Gualaquiza products from the Jívaros
country on the east, to those of so fine a weave as to be inferior only
to the famous _jipijapa_ of Manabí.

It is just over the range from Cuenca that are to be found the Jívaros,
the widely renowned head-hunters of the upper Amazon. Montesinos had
lived long months among them at the time of his mishap, and knew their
ways well. A proud, untamed race engaged in almost constant warfare with
the neighboring tribes, they consider the white man an equal, and treat
him as a friend so long as he does not transgress their strict tribal
laws. The Andean Indian, with his slinking air and his heavy clothing,
they look down upon as a weakling and a very inferior being. Having
despatched an enemy, the Jívaros cut off the head well down on the
shoulders, extract the skull by a vertical cut at the back, sew up this
and the lips, and, by the insertion of hot stones and a process only
imperfectly understood by any other than the tribe itself, reduce the
head to the size of an orange, with the original features easily
recognizable. In this state it is said to be of little use to its
rightful owner, even if recovered. The desiccated head must, according
to tribal laws, be kept until after the yearly ceremony to appease the
spirit of the dead man, after which it is hung up as a trophy over the
entrance to the successful hunter’s house, or, what is far more usual of
late years, traded to some passing white man for a rifle or a supply of
cartridges. One traveler I met had been so eager to obtain one of the
dried heads that he offered a Jívaro chief two rifles. The chief replied
sadly that, though he would do anything possible to get a rifle,
unfortunately it happened that the tribe did not have a single dried
head on hand. “But,” he cried a moment later, his countenance
brightening visibly, “could you wait a month or so?”

A few years ago a tall, lanky German arrived in Cuenca and went down
among the Jívaros to study their customs, and especially to find out
exactly how they shrink heads. Month after month passed without a word
from him, but cuencanos knew the Teuton way of pursuing an investigation
step by step in all its details and ramifications, and thought nothing
of the prolonged absence. Then one day, more than a year later, there
was offered for sale in the market of Cuenca a splendid specimen of
shrunken head, with long, blond hair and beard and a scholarly cast of
countenance. The investigation had been thorough; but the outside world
still remains in darkness on the art of shrinking heads among the

To the stranger, perhaps the feature of Cuenca that will remain longest
in his memory is her street lights; certainly, if it happens to be his
lot to have to find his way home on a black night after a sad,
candle-lighted “comedy” in the local theater—the school-room of the
colegio. The laws of Cuenca require that every resident in the principal
streets set up a candle before his house. But as the two-cent _velas_
which are satisfactory to the law are short and not particularly
inflammable, and the wind is given to blowing its hardest during the
first hour after dusk, the city changes long before eight from long,
faintly-guessed lanes between unseen house-walls to a medieval inky
blackness. The inhabitant who stirs abroad carries a square glass box
containing a flickering candle, or is accompanied by a “link-boy,” in
true medieval fashion. The stranger who, being no smoker, chances not
even to have matches with him, feels his way homeward for an uncertain
number of blocks by counting them with his fingers, at last discovering
the plaza on which he lives by hugging the corner of it. Shivering with
uncertainty as to whether his lodging is the third or the fourth door
from the butchershop with the protruding hook, here and there stumbling
over a piece of sidewalk or into a puddle, he finally coaxes his
gigantic key to fit its lock with something far more potent than

Thus life runs its placid course in this far-off city of the Andes.
Those who come there after the railway from Huigra reaches Cuenca, if
long-pondered plans some day mature, will no doubt find it different,
more blasé and less likable, no longer one of the rewards of toiling
over the world’s byways. Even electric lights are threatened, and before
them will flee one of its most nearly unique characteristics.

The hope of securing an ass to stagger out of Cuenca under my
possessions had melted day by day during my week there. In what I had
been assured was the best donkey-market in Ecuador, those animals proved
both scarce and high in price. Toward the end of my stay the baggage I
had sent from Huigra had arrived, both developing tank and tray broken,
in spite of the vociferous promises of the _fletero_, though still
serviceable with elaborate manipulation. It was chiefly picture-taking
that forced me to turn packhorse; had I been able to abandon everything
connected with photography, I might have pranced along like a school-boy
under his knowledge. A pack of nearly fifty pounds remained, in spite of
a rigid reduction and a desperate throwing away which included even my
medicine case, bequeathed to Montesinos, for ever since crossing the Rio
Grande into Mexico seventeen months before I had been burdened with it,
without a single excuse to swallow one of its myriad pills. If only
Edison would take a day off to invent a baggage on legs that would trot,
dog-fashion, after its owner—just a modest little baggage of, say, fifty
pounds—it would revolutionize life.

Distinguished visitors to the cities of the Andes are, in all accounts
extant, met upon their arrival and sent on their way by a cavalcade of
horsemen including all the local celebrities. For the first time in my
Latin-American journey I was accompanied by a guard of honor as I
plodded heavily out of Cuenca on March tenth; that is, Montesinos, the
master of “English,” strolled with me across the ancient cobbled bridge
over the Matadero and a mile or more beyond, until he met the sun coming
up from the jungled montaña of the Jívaros and turned back with the
market-bound Indians to his scholastic duties. The broad highway was dry
and hard as a floor. Prepared in my heavy boots for the usual Andean
trail, I could have walked it in dancing-pumps. The great cuenca shrunk
to an ever-narrower, fertile valley, stretching southward along a little
stream called the Tarqui. A score of Indians were plowing a single field
with ox-drawn plows fashioned from forest trees. So scant is his
individual initiative that the Andean husbandman works well only in
company with his fellows, and the experienced mayordomo conducts his
farming in a succession of “bees” in which all the employees join
efforts, as in the days of the Inca.

The Andes grow higher and more mountainous to the south. Beyond the
hacienda and the hamlet of Cumbe next morning, the valley closed in and
forced the highway to scale, like an escaping prisoner his walls, the
great Andean “Knot” of Portete. Bit by bit it shrunk to a narrow road,
then to a rocky trail, like a man about to begin some mighty task, with
no longer time to consider his personal appearance, reducing himself to
the bare essentials. Through clumps of blackberries and frost-bitten
corn it climbed, then shook off even these, and split into faint,
diverging paths across another of those lofty, wind-swept, solitary
páramos of the Andes, broken here and there, only scantily covered with
the dreary dead-brown _ichu_ bunch-grass of the highlands, and low,
bushy _achupallas_.

It would have been more to the point if the sympathy the old woman of
the hacienda behind had taken the form of _fiambre_, a roadster’s lunch,
with which to follow up the coffee and diaphanous roll of an Ecuadorian
_desayuno_. By ten I was starving. By eleven I had eaten even the rose I
wore in a button-hole; during the next few hours I found three
blackberries, hard and green, and shook dice with sudden death by eating
a handful of a wholly unknown and even more tasteless páramo berry. The
one Indian I met during the afternoon misinformed me, before he sped on
out of reach, that Nabón was a bare two leagues beyond; and all the rest
of the day my imagination persisted in heaping up mighty banquets that
toppled over and faded away as I prepared to fall upon them.

Suddenly the páramo ended as if it had been hacked off with a dull
gigantic machete, and the way-worn, haggard trail stumbled blindly down
into a labyrinthian chaos of jagged white rocks, like an arctic sea in
upheaval, an earthquake section as split and smashed and broken as if
the world had come into collision at this point with another planet or a
celestial lamp-post. When at last I sighted Nabón, long after I had
entered it a score of times in imagination, it was still a mere speck on
a broken edge of the earth’s crust which I reached by dusk only by dint
of a herculean struggle.

It was a cornfield town of thatched mud huts, of universally Indian
blood. The alcalde was not at home, but the priest’s word was law, and I
was soon dropping my bundle from my grateful shoulders in the “best
room” of an Indian dwelling. My unwilling host removed the bedclothes
and piled them on the uneven earth floor in an adjoining room, for
himself, wife and child, and left me the wooden-floored bedstead. The
mud walls were embellished not merely with the gaudy colored chromos of
various “Virgins,” but with scores of the advertising pages of American
magazines, chiefly pictorial, for the family could not even read its own
tongue. I did not succeed in discovering how these exotic reminders of
home had found their way to this unknown village of the Andes. The
Indian and his wife kept me awake half the night with their alternating
prayers and responses before a candle-lighted lithograph in the
adjoining room, each prayer beginning, “Blessed Santa María, give us
this; Blessed Santa María, give us that.” One would have thought María
ran a department store.

It is only eighteen miles from Nabón to Oña, but no mere words can give
any suggestion of the labyrinthian toil that lies between them. Down in
the bottom of the mightiest chasm of this tortured section of the earth
sits an isolated peak shaped like an angular haycock. From the lowest
point of the day’s tramp I could not see its summit; when I looked back
hours later upon the immense stretch of gashed and tumbled world behind
me, the peak had sunk to a mere dot on the landscape. Yet in a way it
was an ideal tramp. A sun-flooded day in the exhilarating mountain air
passed in absolute silence without even the sight of a fellow mortal,
except very rarely a lone shepherd so far away on a bare brown
mountainside as to be merely a tiny detail of the scenery. There was one
drawback, also; for the spider-leg trails split and spread at random
across the world above at every opportunity, and for several hours at a
time I was not at all certain I was going to Peru.

At length I rounded a lofty spur, and another great valley opened out
before me. An hour later I prepared to present my note to the cura of
Oña. His two housekeepers, attractive chola girls, received me with the
customary coldness of their class toward strangers, and the information
that the padre “had gone to the mountain.” “Ya no más de venir—he should
be back at any moment”—murmured one of them; which might mean, of
course, that he would be back in an hour or a week. There was no one
else in this shelf-like hillside of mud huts around a dead plaza
surrounded by cornfields who would be likely to house me, and I could
only wait in hungry patience. Night was falling like a quick curtain at
the end of a dismal act, when one of the stupid damsels admitted
“probably he will not be back to-night,” but that they would serve “a
little something to eat,” if I could wait awhile. I was already
accustomed to that occupation. On a worktable of the earth-floored and
walled corredor, among the parrots that kept calling the cholas by name,
a chained monkey of homicidal tendencies, and other cural odds and ends,
a meal of several courses was at length set before me as rapidly as the
single tin plate could be washed and refilled. Oña does not eat bread,
but so large a helping of _mote_ was served that I succeeded in filling
a coat pocket with it, well knowing that no other provisions would be
forthcoming for the morrow’s uninhabited trail. As a food, this mess of
boiled kernels of ripe corn, chief sustenance of the Andean Indian on
his travels, is like those medicines that are worse than the ailment
they are designed to cure. Then there was a plate of black beans, a corn
tamale, and a tasteless preserved fruit, all stone-cold, but red-hot
with the _ají_, or green peppers, with which all food in the Andes is

Hours later a group of horsemen rode up out of the night and halted
before the casa cural. I rose from a cramped doze on a corredor bench to
find the priest dismounting. A brawny man of massive frame, more than
six feet tall, with well-cut features and a powerful Roman nose, dressed
in a black robe reaching to his spurs, and a huge “panama” hat of
exceedingly fine weave—a present, no doubt, from some fond member of his
flock among the surrounding hills—he towered far above his companions. A
cigarette smouldered between his lips, a week’s growth of dense black
beard half-covered a face that bore testimony to long and deep
experience in worldly matters, and his voice boomed like Quito’s largest
church-bell. Yet his manner was that syrupy courtesy, accompanied by a
whining speech, peculiar to the region. He fawned upon all who
approached him, addressing them with maudlin words of endearment,—“Ah,
compadrecito!” “Oh, my dearest of friends!” “Oh, Josecito cholito,
hijito mío!”—with a long-drawn, rising and falling inflection that made
his speech seem even more false and insincere than it was in reality. Me
he greeted in the same tone, like a long-lost “amiguito,” and assured me
the casa cural was henceforth my personal property, expressing his
deepest regret that he had just sent to Cuenca, where he was about to be
transferred, his two phonographs and “diez mil pesos” ($5000 worth) of
other toys. It was a typical cural residence of the Andes. The rough
adobe walls of his cluttered study, with mud benches in the form of
divans around them, were almost completely covered with large
lithographs advertising various brands of whiskey and cigarettes, more
than half of them showing nude female figures. Under his table was
spread out to dry a six-foot square patch of tobacco, and at frequent
intervals the padre reached under it for the “makings” of a cigarette,
without taking his eyes off his visitors nor ceasing the flow of his
cadenced endearments.


  Plowing for wheat or corn on the hacienda of Cumbe. The Indians work
    best in “bees,” as in the time of the Incas. The plows are mere
    crooked sticks without a vestige of iron, the yokes are fastened in
    front of the horns with rawhide thongs]

Two men, chiefly of Indian blood, soon joined us, one the jefe político,
and the other what might be called in English chairman of the town
council. The former carried a guitar, the latter a quart bottle of
aguardiente, and both a stimulated gaiety even greater than that of the
priest. During an affectionate three hours the trio toasted each other
alternately in large glasses of this double-voltage concoction, after
suffering two or three rounds of which I was forced to allege a sore
throat. The moving spirit of the feast was the priest, whose powerful
frame carried his liquor well, and the evening raged on amid a riot of
chatter and the savage thrumming of the guitar, little more than the
flushed faces visible in the dense-clouded atmosphere of cigarette smoke
within the tightly closed room. The cura spoke French readily, having
been in earlier years an inmate of the French monastery of Riobamba, and
affected it with me all the evening. The jefe político was childishly
eager to hear us speak that strange tongue; the town councilor roared
with anger as often as either of us uttered a word of it, charging that
we were abusing him under cover of “that cursed Castilian of the
gringos.” The cura maliciously added fuel to his wrath, unostentatiously
keeping the bottle moving meanwhile, sending a boy to replenish it as
often as it was emptied. The enraged councilor ended at last by
staggering out into the night and across the plaza, shouting drunkenly
that he was going for a gun or a machete. The other two followed him,
and for some time a maudlin bellowing, intermingled with the wheedling
of a velvety voice of rising and falling cadence, awoke the echoes of
the night, gradually subsiding until at length silence fell. The priest
at last came slowly back without a suggestion of intoxication, which he
seemed to lay aside as he might his long black robe, reached under the
table, rolled a cigarette, and explained apologetically that, as his
recent companions were the chief civil authorities, he must keep on good
terms with them “whatever his own tastes and desires.” Then he implored
me to spend the following day in Oña, promising that we should visit on
muleback the many historical spots in the vicinity, and launching into a
learned dissertation on the history of the region. Oña, he asserted, was
the oldest town in Southern Ecuador, and the treaty of peace had been
signed by Sucre in this very house after the battle of Tarqui. In spite
of the impression that the invitation was mere surface courtesy, I
finally promised to remain. He threw his arms about me in an
affectionate _abrazo_, showering upon me endearing terms, all ending in
the Spanish diminutive _ito_, and called upon the housekeepers to spread
a mattress for me on a mud divan in the study. Then the cura, who at
least had the virtue of living his life frankly, retired with the two
comely cholas to an adjoining room in which, it is true, there were two
beds, and silence settled down over the Andes.

In the morning I turned over for another nap. An hour later the priest
and his unofficial family marched in upon me, and it was some time
before I could get sufficient privacy and liquid mud to shave and dress.
From that hour until night I had little more than silent suffrance from
the cura and his household, and heard not a reference to those “many
points of historical importance” he had painted in such enticing terms
in his ardent condition of the night before. Tomás á Kempis says: “A sad
morning often follows a merry evening,” or words to that effect, but the
cura of Oña had evidently overlooked that particular quotation. An
almost constant stream of Indians and half-Indians came to inquire in
soft cadenced voices for “tayta curita,” who sat in his fly-swarming den
smoking countless cigarettes and whining unlimited endearments and
blessings on all comers, but resolutely squelching all applications for
coin of the realm or the material things of this world, and reaching at
frequent intervals for the replenished quart bottle. About eleven the
two of us, and a “carpenter” who had been pottering about the house all
the morning fitting together two boards that were destined never to fit,
sat down in a corner of the wide back corredor of the casa cural to a
substantial dinner at which cat, dog, parrot, and monkey helped
themselves to every dish as freely as we. The meal was adorned with a
jar of _pulque_, a drink which the cura had taught his cholas to make
after reading of it in an account of Mexico. The rest of the day drowsed
slothfully away amid the screaming of parrots, the barking of dogs, the
shrieks of the monkey rattling his chain in all but successful attempts
to rend and tear some unwary visitor, and a swarming of flies that
sounded like a distant waterfall,—a typical parish-priest life of rural
Ecuador, punctuated by the occasional chanting of the velvety, singsong
voice in the mud church next door, as my host hurried through a mass for
some departed soul. Toward sunset the household was augmented by a third
plump and youthful chola who had been home on a visit to her parental
mud hut among the hills. It seemed strange that the casa cural was so
ill-kept and slatternly with so generous a supply of housekeepers.

At the summit beyond the chaotic chasm into which the world falls away
below Oña, the nature of the country changed. From an endless vista of
barren and often soilless rocks, the entire landscape was transformed to
a heavily wooded region of hardy undergrowth, somewhat like small, bushy
oaks, at times almost approaching a forest, a shaggy world rolling away
as far as the eye could follow in every direction. Here and there was a
larger bush completely covered with pink blossoms. Then the
half-forested mountain-top took gradually to rocking, like a ship
approaching a tempestuous sea, until all at once it spilled itself, like
the cargo of an overturned freighter, into another enormous hole in the
earth, hazy with the very depths of it. The trail pitched over the edge
with the rest, like a bit of flotsam from a wreck, helplessly at the
mercy of the waves. Thousands of little green farms, chiefly of corn,
with an Indian hut set in a corner of each, hung at sharp angles about
the enclosing walls of the valley. I had reached the famous Vale of
Zaraguro, the Land of Corn,—_zara_ is Quichua for maize—to climb at last
into the scattered grass-grown village itself.

Ensconced in the great _hoyo_ of Jubones, dividing the Azuay from the
province of Loja, Zaraguro is a little world of its own. The great
majority of its population is Indian, but a new type of Indian, of
darker skin and more independent manner than those to the north, still
humble to the gente decente when facing them singly, but verging on
insolence when gathered in groups with chicha at hand. Here each owns a
little patch of land and refuses serfdom. His dress is somber, in marked
contrast to the gaudy colors of his quiteño cousin. In place of the
loose white panties, he clothes his legs to the knee with a
close-fitting coffee-hued woolen garment, and covers all the rest of the
body with a poncho of the same color. He wears an immensely thick,
almost white, felt hat of box-shaped crown, the brim drooping about his
face, and his long, jet-black hair, instead of being confined in a
tape-wound braid, is commonly flying about his head and shoulders. He
buys nothing from the outside world—except masses and indulgences—shears
his own sheep, the wool of which, usually black, his women spin and
weave into the heavy cloth that provides the somber garments of both
sexes. Besides supplying its own wants, the valley of Zaraguro exports
by way of Puerto Bolívar a bit of coarse cascarilla bark, basis of
quinine, at about five cents a pound.

Zaraguro assured me that the road to Loja was “todo plano”; but level
has strange meanings to a people accustomed from birth to the steepest
of mountains. One of the best engineered highways in Ecuador looped ever
higher to the “realms of eternal silence” of the Acayana-Guagra-uma
“Knot,” but from the dense-forested summit, where I had looked forward
to the corresponding pleasure of looping as leisurely down the opposite
flank, an atrocious trail stumbled headlong downward to the narrow
valley of a small river. From the hamlet of San Lucas a long day,
pouring incessantly with rain, followed the stream, the trail mounting
and descending rocky headlands with the monotonous regularity of a flat
car-wheel. Even where the landscape opened out again at last, the plain
was calf-deep in mud, and it was only by dint of a constant struggle
that I dragged myself, mud-caked and drenched, on the second evening
into the southernmost city of Ecuador.

Loja, 380 miles from Quito and capital of the province least in touch
with the central government, lies exactly on the fourth parallel south,
in the delta of the little Zamora and Malacatos rivers, insignificant
bits of the Amazon system. It is a low, flat, rather featureless town,
surrounded by a fertile, fruit-producing soil, and though 7000 feet
above sea-level, of a humid, semi-tropical climate that is kindly even
to bananas. Birds, among them one much like the robin, make the place
reminiscent of American summers. There are only rolling hills near at
hand, though not far off is that “labyrinth of mountains” of Prescott’s
fancy, blue-black now with the rainy season, high up among which,
according to local assertion, are still to be found remnants of the
great military highway of the Incas. Lojanos seemed a dull, torpid
people, laborious of mind, and the town has little of the picturesque,
even in costume. The pure Castilian type is well represented, but Indian
blood, chiefly in the mestizo form, is still supreme, though by no means
so general as to the north, and the population includes a few negroes
and more _zambos_,—mixtures of Indian and African blood. More than
eighty lawyers hover in their mud dens, ready to pick the bones of the
8000 inhabitants, largely poverty-stricken illiterates. There is some
weaving of “panama” hats, and in an attempt to stimulate that industry
“profesores” of the art have been imported from the Azuay to teach it,
particularly in the orphan asylums. But it remains at best a dilettante
occupation, foreign to the soil. The chief industry of the region round
about is the raising of mules and cattle that are shipped chiefly to
Peru. Lima subsists largely on Loja meat, which is, no doubt, the reason
she gets virtually none herself, even when it is not some Catholic day
sacred to starvation. Zaruma and Portovelo, two muleback days to the
west, boast the chief American mines of Ecuador, but gringos are seldom
seen in her streets.

In one matter the town is in advance of more populous Cuenca,—it has
electric lights. As long ago as 1897 Loja brought in, by way of Peru,
the first dynamo known to Ecuador, a sign of “progreso” of which her
inhabitants never tire of boasting. Scattered in sixteen-candle-power
bulbs here and there along the streets, the system did not reach as high
as the littered lumber-room in which I spent the nights on a platform on
legs, where the customary candle winked weakly through the humid
darkness. I was overjoyed, however, to come upon a placard announcing
that the municipal library was open to the public even at night! As it
promised to open first at one of the afternoon, I was not surprised to
find it still locked when I arrived at two. I waited a half hour,
peering greedily through the bars of the reja at the long shelves of
books and maps. Then I began inquiries. The adjoining shopkeeper
expressed unbounded surprise that there were persons so ignorant as not
to know “the government is so poor it cannot pay the librarian any
more,” and that the institution had been closed for months.

Loja was once the center of the commerce in _cascarilla_, the bark of a
tree not unlike the cherry in appearance, that abounds in the ravines of
the mountains to the eastward of the city. Nearly three centuries ago a
missionary to the region found the Indians grinding the bitter bark in
their stone mortars and swallowing it as a specific against intermittent
fevers, as they do to this day. When the wife of the Conde de Chinchón,
viceroy of Peru, lay ill of a fever in Lima, the corregidor of Loja sent
to her physician a parcel of the powdered bark. Upon her return to
Europe the condesa carried a quantity of the magic powder with her,
whence it was for a long time known as _chinchona_. Meanwhile Jesuit
missionaries of Brazil had sent parcels of it to Rome, whence it was
distributed among the brotherhood, nothing loathe to add to their
reputation for miraculous powers and to the income from their
drug-stores, and the name “Jesuits’ bark” became widespread. The tree,
however, has always been known to the Indians by the Quichua name of
“quinaquina,” and in time the refined product took on its modern name of
quinine. The tree in its original habitat has been ruthlessly treated,
being often felled merely to avoid the labor of barking it standing, and
to-day, with large _chinchona_ plantations in India, southern Ecuador
has but a fraction of the income it might have from one of its most
valuable indigenous products. It is typical of Latin-American conditions
that a capsule—or more commonly an _oblea_, like two saucers stuck
together—of quinine, reimported from Europe and paying heavy custom
duties, costs four times as much in the boticas of Loja as in the United

In one of the quaint two-story houses with an air of decayed gentility,
facing the main plaza and grazing ground of Loja, lives Augustin
Carrión, inventor of the “celífono,” by means of which a piano can be
played by electricity and given the soft, long-drawn notes of an organ.
He is the chief “sight” of the region, yet held in a certain
ill-concealed disdain by the mass of his fellow-townsmen, even while
they are basking in the sunshine of his fame; a striking example of
those rare mortals who struggle to raise themselves above the low level
of their deadening environment in these buried cities far from the
moving modern world.

I found him in his rambling parlor, of undusted efforts at grandeur, its
walls decorated with large maps of Paris and New York, both of which he
had once visited in an effort to patent and place his invention,
interspersed with the customary inartistic family portraits draped with
aged mourning crêpe. A member of one of Loja’s chief families, of pure
Spanish blood, speaking a cultured Castilian with the diction of a man
of books, he was in appearance a ludicrous mixture of the typical
inventor of the comic supplements and of the Latin-American stickler for
formal dress. Scraggly gray whiskers pursued themselves about his
unimpressive face; a hair-cut months overdue emphasized his narrow
shoulders and flat chest. His hands, thin almost to transparency,
suggested something weak and harmless in need of protection. His once
stiff white shirt was innocent of buttons, and with his energetic, or,
more exactly, nervous movements, frequently opened to disclose a flaccid
skin and a Catholic charm hanging low about his neck. A collar, buttoned
only at one end, was adorned with a cravat that was not a cravat, but
only a strip of black ribbon that floated here and there about his
throat. His frock-coat, sine qua non of Latin-American respectability,
was gray with dust, trousers unacquainted with the pressing-board were
spotted with the mementoes of laboratory accidents, and the slender
aristocratic shoes, possessing in common three buttons, had been worn
completely heelless. Here, in the bosom of his disdainful family, he
wore a greasy old cap; later in the day I met him promenading under the
portales of the plaza in the same costume, but for the added glory of a
“stove-pipe” hat of at least twenty years of harried existence.

His _taller_, or workshop, overlooking the main square, was a chaos of
odds and ends gathered by a man who had given his life chiefly to the
study of physics, and who was alternately tinkering at a score of
inventions. In the absence of a real source of supply his apparatus was
almost entirely home-made, or, as he himself put it, “Loja-made,” a
collection fashioned from cigar boxes, string, tin cans, and whatever
makeshifts fell in his way, resembling nothing so much as the playthings
of some isolated but inventive farmer’s boy. A shoemaker’s needle, on
the plan of a sewing-machine shuttle, that was designed to revolutionize
the making of footwear, had been constructed from the shell of a rifle
cartridge. Of as plebeian materials he had built a little transparent
box to place above the needle of a phonograph, to do away with the
metallic sound of that instrument—but in Latin-American fashion his
phonograph was out of order and did not “function.” Another crude
apparatus he pointed out as a proof that “a sphere _can_ revolve on two
axes at once,”—a ball of yarn representing the earth was twirled by a
tiny dynamo, and at the same time given a rotary motion by a string
belt—and so on through all the realms of physics, which he taught here
in his taller several times a week to the boys of the local colegio. The
Loja-made original of his most important invention was out of order, and
I was not favored with a test of the “celífono” on which he had tinkered
intermittently more than thirty years.

His inventiveness did not confine itself to merely physical matters.
Before I left, he pressed upon me a pamphlet of which he was the author.
It was entitled “The Virgin María in America before its Discovery by
Columbus,” wherein the writer “proved beyond question,” to use his own
words, “that the Blessed Virgin was not an unknown personage in America
when it was discovered by the Spaniards.” Beginning a visionary journey
in Canada, he descended step by step through all the western hemisphere,
“proving” by shaky tradition, by the doctored yarns of early
missionaries, and by personal lucubrations that “all the Indian tribes
had the tradition of Adam and Eve, of the serpent and the apple, of
‘original sin,’ and of a god born of a virgin.” The fact that the city
of Loja had published this masterpiece fully describes its mentality.

I had known him three or four days before the inventor took me into his
confidence and whispered that the invention of the “celífono” had been
merely a means to an end; that he had taken it to New York and Europe in
the hope of raising funds to pursue his “really important invention,”
which he had thought on for forty years and already perfected “in his
mind,” though he had not yet begun its construction. This was a “flying
machine that is neither balloon nor aeroplane, perfectly safe and
commercially practicable.” As nearly as my unmechanical faculties
grasped the situation from his elaborate explanation, it was a close
replica of that of “Darius Green,” whose fame has never reached this
corner of the Andes. Fortunately there is no building in Loja high
enough to bring the inventor to serious grief, should he ever succeed in
collecting the materials essential to the actual construction of this
perfected child of his imagination. But his hope was still youthful, and
he besought my advice as to how a poor inventor could get his
masterpiece before the world without being despoiled of the fruits of
his labors, as in the case of the “celífono,” by the “practical business
men” of that great universe beyond his mountain-bounded horizon. I
regretted my ignorance of any panacea for that condition.

Carrión is but a type of those “closet” geniuses who live, toil, and
fade away unknown in the dim recesses of the Andes, men in some cases
who might have ranked high among modern inventors, writers, or artists,
had their lot been cast in happier climes than in this leaden
environment of impracticability, burdened by enervating superstitions,
denied the simplest materials for their purposes in a land where even
twine and wrapping-paper are commonly unobtainable, and so lacking in
that grasping self-assertiveness so necessary to front modern society
successfully that even the scant fruits of their labors go to swell the
already swollen pockets of more “practical” men of the world, while they
dream on like this gray-haired boy pottering among his home-made toys.


  The church, and the dwelling of my host, the priest of Oña]


  Loja, southernmost city of Ecuador, backed by her endless labyrinth of

                               CHAPTER IX
                       THE WILDS OF NORTHERN PERU

I had been a full half-year in Ecuador when I turned my attention to the
problem of getting out of it. That disintegration, that tendency for
neighboring countries to hold no communication between each other, at
which the American cannot but marvel in South America, was here in full
evidence. Ecuador seemed as completely cut off from the country just
over her southern boundary as from Europe. The cura of Oña had assured
me that the one way to reach Peru from Loja would be to walk to Puerto
Bolívar on the coast, take a _costero_ to Guayaquil, then a “big
steamer” to Paita or Pacasmayo! Only he who knows South American
geography well can appreciate the unconscious humor of such advice. Even
the rare lojanos who admitted it might be possible to go to Peru “by
land” asserted that I must walk to Piura, which would have been to cross
a burning tropical desert far out of my way, to that well-traveled coast
I was purposely avoiding. The government map of the province of Loja was
as faulty and scanty of information as the American one I carried. It
showed a road leading south from the provincial capital into that
blue-black “labyrinth of mountains,” through the villages of Vilcabamba
and Valladolid; but all the town was agreed that no one could travel in
these modern days along the remnants of the great military highway of
the Incas, crawling along the crest of the Cordillera Oriental through
regions for days utterly uninhabited; and well I knew that Prescott’s
“hanging withe bridges over awful chasms” were sure to be out of repair
in these effeminate Latin-American times, even where they ever existed.

At length a few bold lojanos admitted that I might be able to push on to
the frontier by way of Gonzanamá, though they persisted in calling it a
“terrible undertaking,” even for a man who claimed to have walked from
Quito. That route led far west of a line drawn through Huancabamba to
Cajamarca, and there was nothing to show that it would connect with any
trail beyond the frontier. The best I could do was to hope I might be
able to struggle across to Ayavaca, in Peru, where I could perhaps get
Peruvian information. Then there came a complete division of opinion as
to the road to Gonzanamá, and Loja split into two irreconcilable
factions, the one contending that I should take the road due south from
the west side of the plaza, the other insisting on that due west from
the south side. In the end they all washed their hands of the matter.
The rainy season was nearing its height; sure death lurked along the
bandit-infested frontier; none but amphibious animals and crack-brained
gringos would stir forth from the cozy little city.

On the morning of April twentieth I finally took the south road. It
climbed leisurely over the low interandean _nudo_ shutting in Loja’s
concave valley and, falling in with a hurried mountain stream, raced
with it all day, crossing its branches sometimes by one-log bridges,
more often by knee-deep fords. The few arrieros I met carried rusty old
flint-locks, suggesting the dangers of the frontier; the huts along the
way grew more and more rare, and degenerated from thick adobe walls to
upright reeds carelessly stopped with mud. Beyond Malacatos, among its
banana groves, where I spent the night on a plank bench in the casa
cural of a young French priest who had already lost the habit of
speaking anything but Spanish, the trail climbed relentlessly up through
a scrub-wooded region as uninhabited as an undiscovered sphere. The
afternoon was middle-aged before the world opened out again and gave a
brief glimpse through the trees of Gonzanamá, set out in three rows on a
tiny plain untold depths below. Raging rains had torn and gullied the
further slope until the five miles downward was like descending the
ruins of a giant’s stairway.

Gonzanamá was in fiesta. Hundreds of near-Indians and mestizos, with
very little color in their garments, squatted about the church and casa
cural. They were a people as simple and unsophisticated as children. It
was Viernes Santo (Good Friday), and all the town gathered around to see
me eat the meat a pious old woman served me with a shrug of her
shoulders when I scorned her warning not to “anger the saints,” and
dispersed prophesying an early calamity to me on the road ahead when I
arose apparently uninjured. The son of the teniente político in whose
house I was the honored guest, in so far as their means made honoring
possible, proved to be an old acquaintance, a second-year medical
student of Quito, home on his vacation. He was already the chief
practicing physician of the region. On his journey from the capital he
had performed a score of operations, among them one with a butcher-knife
for abscess of the liver. The room I occupied, which was also his place
of consultation, the family parlor, the municipal offices, and his own
sleeping quarters, was invaded by a constant stream of uncomplaining
infirmities. Outside, the entire population marched in procession until
midnight, attended a two-hour service in the adobe church, and wandered
the three streets with throbbing tomtoms and the gaiety imbibed from
bottles until the eastern horizon paled to gray. The practicing medical
student did not take to his bed until four, and an hour later he arose
to set me on my way, forcing upon me, with regal eloquence, a can of
salmon from “Europe, your own land,” to be opened only on Easter Sunday.

Only those rare mortals who have jaunted cross-country in the Andes can
have any conception of the stone-quarry heights I scaled, the
dense-jungled, bottomless quebradas through which I tore my way, the
brush-tangled streams I forded, and the paths that faded out under my
feet during that day. One of these last had dragged me remorselessly
over every manner of ruggedness when, well on in the afternoon, it
disappeared at the door of a mud-plastered hut. The trails of the Andes
do not run merely from town to town, but from hovel to hovel, like
foraging soldiers, giving the traveler a zigzag course that at least
trebles the distance. I was prowling about this apparently unoccupied
human kennel, striving to pick up the scent again, when I was set upon
by three unusually large, aggressive curs. I did my best to drive them
off with sticks and stones, but when there remained no other alternative
I drew my weapon and sent the largest to his happy hunting-grounds.
Instantly a crashing of the bushes sounded high up in a jungled patch
above, and the angry voice of an unseen countryman screamed in the
dialect of the region: “Scoundrel, you’ll pay me for my dog, caramba!”
Crime is frequently immune so near an international boundary, and I
rounded the hillside cautiously, my cocked revolver in hand; but the
bellowing of the invisible native was soon swallowed up behind me, and
only the oppressive silence of the mountain solitude surrounded me once

It was evident that I should not reach the frontier, perhaps not even
shelter, before dark, when, at some distance off, in a setting of
primeval forest solitude I was astonished to catch sight of a large
hacienda house, a gaunt, rambling building that suggested some starving
creature lost in the wilderness. Almost as I reached it a thunder-storm
broke with a crash, and set a hundred brooks tearing their way down the
swift mountainside on which the building clung. The house was locked and
unoccupied. Two Indian boys of eight and twelve were huddled under the
projecting eaves of a half-ruined outbuilding across the cobbled yard.
For a full hour they answered my every question with “El patrón no
’stá,” uttered in the dull, monotonous voice of some mechanical
instrument. I cajoled them at last to start a fagot-fire on the earth
floor of the outbuilding, and to heat a pot of water into which I
dropped three eggs they were prevailed upon to produce from a
hiding-place in the thatch, and beat the mess up with a stick into a
“caldo de huevos.” The smaller boy finally accepted a bribe to crawl out
through a hole in the wall into the drenching downpour and snatch a
half-dozen _cholos_, ears of green corn, which I roasted, or, more
exactly, burned here and there over the scanty fire.

Prowling about the hacienda house when the storm slackened, I found in
one end a room that was “locked” with a piece of string. According to
the now less speechless boys, it was the hacienda “school,” in which at
certain seasons an employee of the “patrón” taught the male children of
those peons who paid $2 a year tuition. Like an old lumber-room or
garret in appearance, the place was furnished with an ancient desk and a
massive chair, as crude as if they had been carved out of tree-trunks
with dull machetes, and a dozen faded copy-books and medieval inkwells
hung about the walls. The school-master evidently made his home here
during the school season, for in the far end of the room stood a
log-hewn bedstead with a rough board flooring. Dusk was thickening into
wet night when the Indian boys crept up to where I sat on the broad
veranda overlooking a far-reaching, yet indistinct vista of wooded
mountains and valleys, to assure me I should be killed and robbed during
the night.

“We are all so poor here that when a rich man like your Grace passes
everyone tries to rob him,” asserted the older, with unusual eloquence
for his race. “Here all the people are robbers Hace pocos días—it is
only a few days since a traveler was killed down in the valley there.
Last month—”

I glanced over my travel-worn and bespattered form in vain for the
evidences of wealth so patent to other eyes, yet I could not but recall
the carcass of a dog a few miles back, and the golden weight of the band
of my trousers reminded me that several evil-eyed fellows had halted
awhile under the hacienda eaves during the height of the storm and
slipped away somewhere into the night. Moreover, the prophesied
destruction of all Ecuador by earthquake was at hand, for the morrow
would be—if it ever came—Easter Sunday. Plainly, all the signs pointed
to an exciting night.


  The guinea-pigs on which I feasted upon breaking out of the wilderness
    on the Peruvian frontier—and the cook. The _cui_ has furnished the
    principal meat of the Andean Indians since prehistoric days]


  The Indians of Zaraguro are different, both in type and costume, from
    the meeker types of Quito and vicinity]

My small faith in prophecy did not, however, hinder me from making sure
that my revolver was well-oiled and hung on a bed-post. The window of
the school-room, high above the ground, but only a few feet from the
roof of an old ruin, was heavily barred—with bars of wood! The massive
double-leaf plank doors had no lock. The log-like pupils’ bench, topped
by the old colonial teacher’s chair, piled against it, however, promised
racket enough to wake me in case of attempted intrusion. I found several
old sacks to serve as “mattress” and, stripping off my sweat-heavy day
garb, slipped into the woolen union-suit and socks that made up my
sleeping costume. However much I might reduce my load in my indifference
to outward appearance, I would not have been without this complete
change for the night if I had had to make two trips to fetch them. I had
no matches, and the boys had been unable to produce a candle. The rain
had died down and everywhere utter stillness reigned. I rolled up in my
poncho and fell asleep.

A suspicious noise woke me in what was probably a few minutes. Scores of
mice were scampering over the uneven floor, squeaking hilariously. By
the time I had grown accustomed to the sound, I had dozed off again.
From a chaotic dream of crowded and varied incidents I came gradually to
the consciousness of a rattling at the wooden window-bars. I sprang
across the floor and peered out into the unfathomable mountain night;
but I have never been certain whether the sound I heard was the hurrying
of bare feet in soft mud and the tail of a whisper, or the creature of a
startled imagination. With thirty half-perpendicular miles in my legs I
was in no mood to sit up waiting for trouble, and making sure once more
that my revolver was within easy reach, I set the bed-floor creaking
again. My next consciousness was of a dawn bright with the promise of an
unclouded day peering in upon me through the window-bars, and of the
Indian boys whispering through the barricaded door to know whether I was
still alive and ready for the two raw eggs they had collected.

An erratic mountain path that it was not easy to distinguish from the
beds of mountain brooks, and generally deep in mud, clambered without
apparent direction into dripping-wet wooden mountain ranges, sometimes
plunging headlong down through bottomless valleys, sometimes flanking
them in enormous horseshoe curves. How I pushed on all the morning
without getting lost I do not know, for certainly there were a score of
times when there was no plausible excuse for picking the right one of a
half-dozen paths. I sighted several miserable huts, and once a village,
but these were never near the trail; and when I decided to apply for
food at the next one, another of those sudden changes of climate left
the dripping forested mountains behind me, and underfoot was a
desert-dry world which even the hardy dwellers of two decrepit
knock-kneed huts had long since abandoned. In southern Ecuador and
northern Peru the Andes break up and all but disintegrate. There are
still plenty of mountains, but, true to their Latin-American
environment, they lack team-work, and do not stick together sufficiently
to give the traveler footing upon them. Directly before me Ecuador fell
unfathomably away to the Macará, like an auburn hair across a painted
landscape, while beyond, to appearances unattainable, Peru lay piled
pell-mell into the southern sky. It was as if the Carpenter of the
Universe had said: “Let here be the dividing line between two
distrusting nations,” and had smote the earth with His mightiest tool.
Over all the scene was a sun-baked, utterly uninhabited silence, as of
some valley of desolation from which all life had forever fled.

The trail down which I jolted had exploded into a score of barely
visible paths that spread in every direction over the drear, furnace-hot
hills. It seemed as if, once near the frontier, every traveler either
dashed blindly forward to get quickly across it unseen, or lost his
courage and fled back into the interior. I set a due course for the
thread-like river almost directly below. At high noon, my every joint
jarred loose, I stood at last on the extreme edge of Ecuador, the
reddish-brown waters of the Macará lapping at my blistered feet, and on
every hand a blazing, utterly unpeopled desert, with nowhere the vestige
of track or trail.

The river, nearly a quarter-mile wide, swollen by the rains above, raged
swiftly by, a barrier of unknown possibilities. Its surface, covered
everywhere with ripples, suggested that it was less deep than broad. I
piled my baggage on the shore and, stripping to the waist, waded in. The
powerful current all but swept me off my feet and the water quickly
reached my upper garments. I returned to strip entirely, strapped my
revolver about my chest and, picking a stout stick from the undergrowth,
fought my way inch by inch to the opposite shore. But I had to go back
to Ecuador for my possessions. It required five crossings, trusting only
a few of them at a time to the treacherous current, and more than an
hour of unremitting vigilance, before I had landed my bedraggled
belongings at last on the shores of Peru, more forlorn than at the
landing of Pizarro and his fellow-adventurers. By careful calculation,
checked by native record, I was 466 miles south of Quito and 630 from
the Colombian border.

Under some barbed bushes I picked a sand-burr spot as nearly shaded as
could be found along the desert bank, and, having shaved, that I might
enter the new republic in disguise, dipped up a can of coffee-colored
Macará and fell upon the lead-heavy _rapadura_ the Indian boys had sold
me, and the can of salmon which I had preserved for Easter Sunday only
by the exercise of sternest will-power. It was three fourths full of a
pale, watery, soup-like liquid in which floated dejectedly a few small
lumps of what had once long ago been carp or dog-fish. Luckily there was
a difference in the size of the cans, so that I could generally tell
whether I was drinking salmon or the Macará. Then, when I had written up
my notes, I proceeded to turn the meal into a banquet in comparison, by
reading that chapter of Prescott recounting what Pizarro and his
fellow-tramps did not find to eat on their first landing. Being far from
mortal ken in an uncharted crack of the earth, it may be fancied I
should have been eager to hurry on. Somehow, now I had reached Peru,
there came over me a languorous indifference to further advance. The sun
was low before I rose and turned my attention to the task of discovering
my whereabouts.

I found myself gazing along a dreary, sheer mountain-wall, grown only
with sparse, bristling cactus shrubs that refused a hand-hold, seeking a
place to insert my toes and start southward. Leisurely, but decidedly, I
grasped the first possibility, and for an hour or more might have been
seen—had there been eyes to see—playing goat along the face of calcined
hills that fell so abruptly into the racing Macará that they came a
score of times uncomfortably near taking me with them. During that hour
I advanced fully five hundred yards—in a direction I did not care to
go—gathering cactus thorns at every step, and ended down at the edge of
the river again, exactly as far into Peru as when I had begun the
struggle upward an hour before. Here were a few yards of level shore,
and when I had drunk the stream perceptibly lower, I made my way along
until I came upon a labyrinth of cow-paths. That one which most nearly
agreed with my compass turned due east and crawled off through the
bushes, as if fearful of being followed, and left me standing pathless
in a maze of barren, cactus-grown hills. Tearing my way over them by
dead reckoning, now struggling to a thorn-barricaded summit from which
stretched vistas of more thorny-jungled hills, now crashing with
lacerated skin down into another desert valley, where a few wild
jack-asses browsed on the scanty leaves of bristling bushes, I
surmounted again and again the same identical scene of dreary
nothingness as far as the eye could see beyond.

The region was waterless. Evidently I was doomed to suffer that hell of
the desert traveler, an all-night thirst; for dusk was already
thickening. The very leaves of the invariably thorny bushes were
shrivelled and brown. Even the air seemed wholly devoid of moisture.
Then suddenly, as I tore my way to another tangled summit, there sounded
faintly, far off to the right, the sweetest music known to the tropical
wanderer,—the babble of running water. I plunged down through the
militant vegetation to where a clear little river was hurrying down
along a bed several times too large for it to join the parent Macará.
Enormous boulders and tumbled rocks bordered the stream. In the tail of
the day I stumbled along up it, jealous of being separated from it as
from a beloved being; and when night called a halt I stacked my
belongings and spread my poncho on the stony bank with its prattle in my
ears, that it should not escape unheard during the night. The brigands
reputed to infest the frontier had faded away into the nebulous realms
of fiction. I would almost have invited robbery for an opportunity to
inquire my whereabouts. But the stream muffled my movements and the
munching of the lump of crude sugar, and when I had listened awhile to
the singing of the tropical night, and watched the fireflies coming with
their lanterns to look me over, I fell asleep, uncovered and but
slightly dressed, so warm was this sunken chasm of the Andes.

The fate of serving as banquet-board to platoons of tropical insects
robbed me of the sound sleep the lullaby of the stream should have
afforded. Dawn found me emerging from a dip, and when I had disciplined
a stomach that seemed sure to have its plaints unheeded for the rest of
the day at least by eating bit by bit the remaining lump of rapadura, I
took up the serious problem of how to get somewhere else. The ghost of a
path crossed the stream not far above, but soon played the stale joke of
fading to a goat trail, then into thin air, and left me to tear my way
back to the stream. This, I noted, came down more or less from the
south, and I set out along it, determined to push as far up country as
possible. For several hours I had explored my way more or less
southward, crossing the wandering stream every few yards by goat-like
jumps from rock to rock, when I was suddenly startled by the sight of
human beings. A sun-scorched Indian woman in some remnants of garments,
a child astride her back, a boy at her heels, appeared from nowhere in
the boulder-strewn river-bed. With a laconic greeting, she led the way
up-stream. Once she took to the jungled plain beside it, and sent the
boy up a tree to knock down some half-green oranges. Down in the
river-bed again the god of the Incas poured down his perpendicular rays
like molten lead. At length the woman mumbled a few words in a monotone,
pointed out a faint path up the face of the eastern sand cliff, in which
hundreds of screaming parrakeets had their nests, grasped the coin I
held out to her, and glided noiselessly away into the wilderness. The
path disappeared even sooner than I had expected. I clambered up several
more perpendicular miles, only to descend and lose myself in a
jungle-tangled quebrada. Inch by inch I tore my way through the densest
wilderness of briars and brambles, struggling to release the bundle on
my shoulders after I had myself escaped, ever on the watch for snakes
and wild animals. Without real food for days, burning with tropical
thirst, my hand to hand conflict with the jungle was near a dead-lock
when there appeared far above me three scattered Indian huts. A
precipitous ravine, armed to the teeth, lay between. I dived down into
it, to emerge almost an hour afterward, torn, bleeding, and smeared with
earth, at the edge of another and hitherto unseen jungled chasm, backed
by a nearly impassable patch of uncultivated sugar-cane. My legs were as
ropes of sand when I approached an Indian in his hut door, but I set up
a stern outward appearance to suggest what might happen if he refused me
food and drink.

Though expressionless as all his race, he proved unusually tractable,
and soon brought out to where I sat in the shade against the eastern
hut-wall a steaming gourdful of the ordinarily despised yuca, and what
seemed to be very young pork. I had half-emptied the dish before a bone
too tiny for such an origin caused me to look up inquiringly.

“Cui,” said the Indian laconically.

Though I had often heard them squeaking about the earth floors of
wayside huts, it was my first taste of guinea-pig, to this day the chief
meat of the Andean Indian. I think it was not entirely due to my
prolonged fast that I found it more palatable than pork; but small,
distressingly small, even after the Indian’s mate had added several
_choclo tandas_, steaming rolls of crushed green corn wrapped in husks.

The _camino real_ to Ayavaca lay in plain sight across the gully, and
the town, according to the Indian, was but two leagues off. But the
Andean traveler must learn not to let his hopes grow buoyant and
playful, and to remember that two leagues from the lips of an aboriginal
is as apt to mean a hard day’s travel as an hour’s stroll. Never once
did the “royal highway” pause in its climb into the lofty range ahead.
My spirits rose and fell with each opportunity to inquire the distance.
Within two hours I had been answered: “Two leagues,” “six leagues,”
“four hours,” “ya no ’stá lejos,” “Todavía ’stá retiradita,” “Ah, it is
far away, patrón,” and “More than two tambos”—a _tambo_, from the Inca
word for inn, or rest-house, seems to mean about a half day’s travel.
Sunset found me far up on a great bleak tableland, a rolling, broken
world, wherein was no suggestion of a town, stretching away on all sides
as far as the eye could reach even in the transparent air of these

Beyond, the trail passed close to a large tiled house where a barefoot
man of Indian type, though white of skin as myself, answered my request
for posada by silently spreading a small square of cloth on a log under
the projecting eaves, and went on with his task of mending with an adz
the crooked stick that served him as plow. An enamelled sign on the
house-wall, announcing it an “Estanco de Sal,” was the only outward
evidence that I had left Ecuador behind. In Peru, salt, like tobacco, is
a government monopoly, sold only in licensed shops. Near me several
thinly attired women were balling newly dyed yarn, and children were
sprawling about the ground with goats, chickens, and yellow curs. A
heavy rain was falling. Uncomfortable as was my position, I could do
nothing else than keep it. It was not that the family was indifferent or
hard-hearted, merely that I had reached what, to their apathetic way of
life, was a happy state,—sitting on a log under the eaves, and it would
hardly have been possible to explain to them that something else would
have been needed for perfect comfort. The man was plainly of kindly
temperament, with some education, of a sort, yet I was left to squat on
the log until black night had settled down, without even an opportunity
to remove the outer evidence of the gaunt and strenuous days behind.

Well after dark a half-Indian girl set before me a little wooden box,
covered it with a cloth, and served me an egg soup, followed by a hot
stew of yuca and beans. Gradually the family advanced from
self-conscious silence to Latin garrulousness. By the time I had been
invited inside and given one of several bare divans of reeds set into
the mud walls, the conversation I had sought in vain to set going during
the first hours ran on unchecked until long after I would have been

A dense fog enveloping the mountainside turned to rain as I waded away
in the morning. Only by waiting hours could I have gotten anything more
than the “aguita,” a cup of hot water with a bit of rapadura melted in
it, on which I set out for whatever the new day had in store. I had only
half-suspected the height of the world before me. For hours I strained
upward into ever cooler, green mountains, reeking mud underfoot, with
some travel, yet always a sense of solitude, even just over the next
knoll beyond a passing group. Once I met a blind traveler picking his
way quite swiftly with his stick along the slippery, descending mountain
road. By noon I was far up where the rivers are born, fog and clouds
hiding all but the immediate world about me. All the hunger of the past
days seemed to have accumulated, until I felt like some starving beast
of prey, ready to pounce pitilessly upon whatever fell in my way. Just
beyond the _abra_, the cold, fog-swept pass at the summit of the climb,
I came upon a house of considerable size. Half skating, half wading down
to the door, I found an old and a young woman of much Indian blood
squatting in the earth-floored kitchen near a large steaming kettle over
the familiar three-stone cooking-stove of the Andes.

“No hay absolutamente nada,” they replied unfeelingly.

I stepped in, swung off my load, and, showing Peruvian silver, announced
that I had come to stay until they had sold me food. The women sat
motionless, with that passiveness the Indian so often depends upon to
drive off importunate persons. I offered any reasonable price for one of
the chickens wandering about the room. The older woman mumbled that
clumsy, threadbare lie, “Son ajenos” (they belong to someone else). To
my suggestion of roasted plantains she answered that she was ill. When I
inquired the contents of the kettle, both took refuge in the
exasperating silence that is the last weapon of their race. A certain
amount of patience is a virtue; too much is an asininity. I picked the
kettle off the fire, raked from the ashes one of the roasting plantains,
found a tin plate and a wooden spoon stuck behind a sapling beam of the
mud wall, and retired again to the block of wood on which I had been
seated. The pair watched me in stolid silence. When I had filled the
plate the younger one rose to carry off the kettle. I requested her, in
the voice of an ill-tempered general commanding a widely scattered
regiment, to leave it where it was until I had had my fill, and the pair
fled precipitously from the room, flinging over their shoulders some
threat of calling the man of the house. I knew the Andean Indian too
well to fear trouble, but turned my face to the door and loosened my
revolver in its holster. The kettle contained a boiling-hot stew of
beans and corn, sufficient to have fed a dozen men. Six of them might
still have feasted on what was left when I tossed a _sol_, easily four
times the whole kettle’s worth, into the empty plate and marched on down
the reeking mountainside.

Had I but known it, however, I might have avoided resorting to force.
Barely a mile beyond appeared Ayavaca, a dismal and orderless collection
of gloomy adobe, tiled houses, sprawling on the edge of what evidently
would have been a great valley on a clear day, and literally running
with red mud. I skated down into the plaza and, marching into the open
office of the subprefect, sent the bedraggled soldier on guard to
announce my arrival. A gaping group of awkward, mud-bespattered
mountaineers quickly surrounded me, but with them arrived several white
men in modern garb, one of whom announced himself subprefect of the
province of Ayavaca, entirely at my service. I displayed my American and
Ecuadorian documents, requesting him to take official cognizance of my
entry into Peru, and expressed my august desire to rent for a day or two
a room with bed, table, chair and water supply—experience teaches the
Andean traveler to specify in detail—and to be handed the menu card.

“Here you are in your own house,” replied the subprefect, assuming the
attitude of a sovereign receiving credentials from an ambassador; “You
have only to ask.”

A cloth was soon spread on the official government desk and, less than
an hour after requisitioning rations in the mountain hut, I was sitting
with the provincial commander and his assistants before an abundance of
native viands that included even the luxury of wheat bread. For I had
chanced to arrive just in time for the “banquet” offered by the town to
its new ruler in honor of his inauguration.

But alas, I had gained nothing in comfort by coming to Peru. The
available chamber in “my own house” proved to be a den adjoining the
subprefect’s quarters, the provincial harness-and-lamp room. It was only
by much cajolery that I finally got it furnished with a narrow five-foot
plank bench and a pair of ragged horse-blankets. But at least I could
read by night such literature as I chanced to have with me—by depriving
the town of one of its few street-lamps when a soldier came to
distribute them in the evening.


  In the semi-tropical Province of Jaen, in north Peru, sugarcane grows
    luxuriantly. Lack of labor and transportation, however, renders it
    difficult to make full use of the fertility]


  The sugar that is not turned into _aguardiente_, or native whiskey, is
    boiled down in the _trapiche_ into crude brown blocks, variously
    known as _panela_, _chancaca_, _rapadura_, _empanisado_, _papelón_,
    etc., weighed and wrapped in banana-leaves, selling at about 5 cents
    for 3 pounds]

Life was dismal at best in Ayavaca. The cold and clammy downpour
continued unabated. While I developed my exposed films in water supplied
by an eavestrough, the population blocked the doorway of my “room,”
making every exit and entry like boarding a subway train in the rush
hour. There were no real shops in the dreary mountain town, but only
gloomy mud huts where a few products were unofficially sold. The one
sidewalk was taken up by drenched and downcast asses, forcing
pedestrians to splash through the unpaved street. The products of the
soil were not high priced: A guinea-pig—next to children the most
plentiful product of the town—cost five cents; a live chicken, fifteen;
but it was always easier to pay the price than to find the chicken for
sale. Commerce was on the friend-to-friend basis, and he who would
purchase must be well acquainted with the seller, or a protégé of the
all-powerful subprefect. Only liquor was to be had in abundance. The
provincial officials, from my host down to the village school-master,
were more or less intoxicated from mid-morning to midnight. In that
state, frankness protruded through their racial courtesy, and they were
divided in their assertions between the opinion that I was a spy sent
out by my government and the conviction that I had been offered some
colossal prize for covering the world on foot. It was with difficulty
that I avoided sinking into the general intoxication. Whenever two or
three are gathered together in Peru, it is the custom for one of the
group to fill a glass from the inevitable bottle—and Peruvian
aguardiente is no harmless nectar—then ask permission to drink the
health of Tal Fulano on his right. “Muchas gracias,” says Tal Fulano,
and proceeds to drink next—from the same glass—the health of his nearest
companion; and so on round and round the circle to infinity and complete
insobriety. The inexperienced gringo who fails in the etiquette of this
custom, whatever the number of rounds, is looked upon with much the same
contempt as the American who lets his saloon companions “set ’em up”
repeatedly without offering to do so himself; and runs the risk of
having an incensed subprefect, too far gone in frankness, turn upon him
and invite him to make his home elsewhere.

Every minute of the day following my arrival it rained, slackening
somewhat at rare intervals, only to begin again with a roar that sounded
like an avalanche down a nearby mountainside. Twenty-four hours later my
films were as wet as when first hung up. Water and mud invaded even our
minds. Rivers of liquid mud raced down every street and across the
broad, half-cobbled plaza. Not once during the day did the eye catch a
hint of the great valley on the edge of which Ayavaca is perched. The
few residents forced to go out of doors wore _suecos_, wooden clog
overshoes, something like the rainy-day footwear of the Japanese, that
increased the wearer’s height by a half-foot or more. The majority
huddled in their dreary mud houses, crowding into the low doorways to
stare after me when I passed, commenting aloud on my raison d’être.

The postmaster of Ayavaca was a comely young woman of considerable
Indian blood, her office scattered promiscuously about the baked
mud-dwelling of her parents. I had concluded to mail the films and
notebooks on hand, rather than risk their loss or destruction in what
promised to be difficult going ahead, and having ransacked the town for
the necessary wrapping paper, and tied the package with government tape,
I presented it for registry. It seemed better to make a clear breast of
the matter than to risk the Pandoric curiosity of the Ayavaca postal
system, and I explained that, while the contents was of vast value to me
and the future history of Peru, it was of none whatever to anyone else.
Stamps were at length found in the right-hand drawer of the hand
sewing-machine on the earth floor, a native ink was brewed over the
fagot-fire in the kitchen for the imprinting of the official seal, dug
out from a chest of stockings and feminine small-clothes, and after a
social call of more than an hour’s duration I shook hands with the
entire family, twice with the post-mistress herself, and left with her
repeated reassurance ringing in my ears:

“No tenga cuidado—lose no sleep over it, señor; it will go safely to
Europe and the United States without being lost.”

Some time after dark, the rain having at last left off with sullen
grace, I was limbering up my legs for an early start in the morning when
I chanced to pass the _correo_. The door was closed; but this was one of
the few houses of Ayavaca boasting a window—though without glass,
unknown to most towns of the Andes—barricaded with wooden bars. Inside,
gathered about an apathetic candle, sat the post-mistress and her entire
family, the open package in her lap—passing my films from hand to hand
and puzzling in vain over my notebooks, with a leisureliness that showed
they had settled down to make the most of a long evening’s
entertainment. My first impulse to snatch open the door was succeeded by
reflection. Knowing the extreme sensibility of these Andean townsmen, I
suspected that, were my discovery known to her, the post-mistress would
be more than apt, out of pique, to lose or destroy the cause of her
undoing before I could recover them from government possession. I
swallowed the impulse and splashed on through the night.

Months afterward I had word that the package reached the addressee in
perfect condition, though in disorder.

With little more information than that the next town I must hunt out of
the wilderness was Huancabamba, I slid down the red slopes from Ayavaca,
now and then glancing back to wonder what excuse even Spaniards could
have considered sufficient to found a town in such a location. The
subprefect, far from providing the Indian guide and carrier he had so
often promised in his cups, had bade me “adiós” from his bed, with the
cheering assurance that I was bound soon to lose my way and perish. My
load was several pounds heavier than on my arrival; for I had added to
it not only a block of rapadura and seventeen loaves of bread—Ayavaca
size—but a huge chunk of fresh beef. Even my money had become a burden
again, for instead of the bills of Ecuador my “road-change” must now be
carried in silver. The semi-monthly daily of Ayavaca had appeared the
evening before with an astonishing history of the town’s distinguished
guest, honoring me with the title of “that intrepid explorer,” a
designation which the subprefect made use of in his official orders to
his subordinates along the way, and which, copied from one document to
another, was destined to cling to me all the length of Peru. My eye
never fell upon it that I did not recall the native dishes I was so
often forced to delve into during the journey.

Gibbon asserts that the civilization of a country may best be gaged by
the number and condition of its roads. If so, northern Peru is sunk in
the depths of barbarism. The Incas swung bridges of withes along their
great military highways, the Spaniards built some of stone; the modern
inhabitants of this region merely let their roads grow up of themselves,
like brambles in an uncultivated field. At a mountain summit, beyond a
raging mountain current in which I all but lost my possessions, immense
gray curtains of fog left me only instinct and my compass by which to
choose between the faint sandy paths that split and forked at every
opportunity. The trail I happened to take zigzagged quickly down into
the bed of a snarling mountain stream between sheer rock walls, choked
with tough, thorny undergrowth, along which it sprang back and forth
from rock to rock, dragging me in pursuit through an endless tangle of
vegetation, often by vaulted tunnels through which I could only tear my
way by creeping on all fours. By dusk it had widened sufficiently to
give the path foothold along one bank, and when darkness brought me to a
halt, I found space under a scraggly tree to spread my poncho. In my
pack the seventeen loaves of bread had amalgamated with the crude sugar
and formed a coating about the boiled beef. I stowed away in my hat, for
safekeeping, the few more or less whole loaves, and fell upon the pulp
that remained. It was a dry meal, for all the rain. Though the stream
close below sounded tantalizingly in my ears all the night through, an
impenetrable jungle cut me off from it, and only the few wild lemons I
had picked along the way ministered to the after-thirst of a long day’s

The pleasure of dressing at dawn in garments still dripping wet was
enhanced by the discovery that a colony of red ants, appointing a
night-shift, had formed a bread-line from my hat to their neighboring
village and reduced me to a breakfast of river water where the trail
again touched the stream a mile beyond. Three solitary hours later I
came upon a miserable little shack of open-work reeds and upright poles
topped by thatch. On the ground beside it a slatternly female was
cooking for several horsemen. Two rivers ahead were reported greatly
swollen, and I accepted an invitation to wait and accompany a youth
bound for his employer’s hacienda. Wait I did, a full three hours, amid
the usual fauna of an Andean hut, while the travelers took final leave
of each other a score of times in as many rounds of _aguardiente de
caña_, a native concoction of distilled sugarcane, each swallow of which
is to an ordinary mortal not unlike a sudden blow on the head with a
spiked war-club. In the end, a calabash of yuca stew rewarded my
patience. The youth staggered aboard his shaggy horse at last and we
descended quickly into a dense, damp-hot valley with a broad, swift
river. I mounted the horse’s rump to cross two arms of the stream and a
stretch of swamp between, in constant peril of tobogganing down the
animal’s tail, my load dragging heavily from my shoulders. The moment I
slipped off on dry land, the youth, still distinctly under the influence
of concentrated sugar-cane, demanded a “peseta” for his services. Long,
hot hours we marched along thick-jungled river beds in narrow, fertile
valleys enclosed by sterile, though green-tinted mountainsides bristling
with cactus. The trail panted frequently over a steep desert hillock,
the crupper of the animal saving me much time in disrobing at a dozen
smaller brooks, between which my companion rode at my heels in gloomy
silence. At a larger stream he collected a _real_ and announced that the
fee for crossing a river ahead would be another “peseta.” As the effects
of permitting the unbridled drinking of his health wore off, he recalled
the _fiambre_ in his saddle-bags, and paused to offer me, with the
patronizing air befitting a horseman toward a man afoot, a handful of
parched corn and a rag of sun-dried beef. Gradually he became less
taciturn, then garrulous and gay. He was by no means a peon, being
assistant mayordomo of the estate toward which we were headed, and even
wore shoes. Yet when I photographed him, it required considerable
explanation to give him any clear conception of what the result would be
of “pointing the foolish little machine” at him.

“Y su aposento, donde está?” (Where is your lodging—_i.e._, native
land?) he inquired.

When I had answered, he rode fully ten minutes in puzzled silence. Then
he called out over his shoulder:

“Y ese país suyo, ese Esta’os Uni’os, es pueblo ó hacienda?” (That
country of yours, is it a village or a plantation?)

The world, as he knew it—and his knowledge was on a par with that of
thousands of dwellers in the Andes—was made up of those two divisions.

We left a curving river, labored over a divide, and descended to the
Aranza, a furlong wide, roaring angrily. At sight of it the youth
regretted the bargain he had made, fearing his horse could not breast
the swift current under the weight of both of us, and suggested that I
strip and swim, letting him carry my clothing and bundle. There seemed
to be no way to avoid risking the wealth in my trousers; but these
simple countrymen of the Andes are commonly more reliable in matters of
trust than appearances suggest, and a well-directed bullet would avert
any tendency to decamp. I strapped my revolver about my head and plunged
in for a ten-minute struggle with the current, but it was not without
relief that I landed beside the exhausted horse and regained my
possessions. We were already within the territory of the “Hacienda San
Pablo,” though still miles from the dwelling. On all sides, as far as
the eye could strain, the river valley and the mountains above were
unbroken wilderness, utterly uninhabited. Yet the region was rich in
produce. The _chirimoya_, that vegetable icecream of the tropics, hung
in car-loads from the trees; small, but compact and juicy wild lemons,
carpeted the trail. Parrots and screaming bands of parrakeets flitted in
and out of guayaba and sapote trees; here and there the dense-green dome
of a mango tree shouldered its way up through its punier fellows of the

It was nearing dusk, and I was near exhaustion under my load and the
pitiless tropical sun of seven unbroken hours of swift, rough tramping,
when my companion pointed out far ahead, where the wall of the Central
Cordillera shut off the horizon, a red dot in the green immensity,—the
hacienda house. Black night had fallen when we reached the
half-constructed building, and we stumbled on for some time more before
we came upon the rambling thatched ruin in which the owner still lived.
He was Eduardo Medina, once a law student in the University of San
Marcos of Lima, a sane, well-read, earnest man, contrasting strangely
with the uncouth countrymen about him. His wife, a handsome limeña, was
the first woman of education I had so far seen in rural South America.
This extraordinary Latin-American couple, noting the swarms of lawyers
that vegetate in provincial capitals, had renounced the uninspiring
fleshpots of the cities, and purchasing for a song some twenty-five
square leagues of semi-tropical solitude, had come to start life anew in
this wilderness with the shaggy world piled up on all sides, and set
their race a much needed example. Here was such a welcome as the
wilderness traveler often dreams, but seldom attains. Not merely did
they offer the accommodation Andean custom requires all hacendados to
furnish travelers, each according to his caste, but their hospitality
was genuine and active. The adobe lean-to into which I was led, for the
astonishing Andean purpose of “washing up before supper,” had not only a
real bed, mattress and all, on springs of split bamboo, but the first
sheets and pillows and suggestion of civilized comfort I had seen in
Peru. It did not require the reminder that the morrow was Sunday, and
Medina’s assertion that they were famished for civilized conversation,
to make me accept his invitation to prolong my stay. My companion of the
day never recovered from his astonishment at seeing the “patrón” seat at
his own table and treat as an equal a man who traveled on foot; and as
often as I caught his eye among the group that hovered about the door
all the evening, he gazed at me in a manner that seemed to implore me
not to mention the reals he had collected under the impression that I
was a mere man, and not a caballero.

Fertile tracts of valleys and mountains twenty-five miles square can be
bought in this section of Peru for $250. Yet this does not mean that
wealth awaits the purchaser. “Faltan brazos,” as the Peruvian puts it;
“arms” are lacking. The scanty population has no stimulus to exertion in
a region where nature supplies their simple wants almost without labor,
and to Medina life was a constant struggle for employees. In days of
fiesta, when money was needed to pay the priest or celebrate a festival,
many came to contract their services and accept an “advance,” but with
no representative of government at hand, there was no means of forcing
them to do the work for which they had been prepaid. Some labored
languidly and intermittently a few weeks a year, none more than half the
days that were not sacred to some festival and general drunkenness. On
the hacienda were a scattered score of _arrendatarios_, native families
who rent a patch of ground on which to build a hut and plant a bit of
yuca and corn, with the right to pasture a few cattle on the estate, all
for a yearly rental of $2, which was commonly as hard to collect as
labor. The almost total lack of transportation gave no market for any
excess of produce, and here was the extraordinary case of a
university-educated man and wife owning what would be with us an entire
county, living a hand-to-mouth existence very little above abject
poverty. Oranges, which the owner asserted he would be only too happy to
sell at five cents a hundred, rotted under the trees faster than the
hogs could eat them; mangoes lay where they fell, and the splendid
chirimoya was a mere worthless wild fruit no one took the trouble to
gather, except as personal appetite prompted. The sugarcane they
succeeded in raising they were glad to get any price for, after it had
been squeezed in _trapiches_, crude presses run by hand, and the
_guarapo_ boiled down into blocks of rapadura and wrapped in banana
leaves. Most of it was turned into aguardiente that could occasionally
be sent to town.

My postal experience in Ayavaca recalled to Medina one of his own.
Before they left Lima to take up their newly acquired residence, the
couple had found there were two post-offices, at Ayavaca and Pacaipampa,
about equal distance from it,—two days on muleback. It chanced that
Señora Medina had ordered her “Modas Femininas” sent to Ayavaca, while
her husband gave Pacaipampa as his address to the subscription
department of the daily “El Comercio.” After the first few numbers only
one or two copies of the newspaper adorned the weekly mail-bag of the
hacienda. La señora also noted that she was not receiving her fashion
journal regularly. The hacendado started an investigation. He found that
the comely post-mistress of Ayavaca had recently acquired a considerable
reputation as an authority on up-to-date fashions. In Pacaipampa he
discovered that the government mail service was in the hands of an old
man unusually well versed in the politics of the day. Husband and wife
wrote to Lima ordering “El Comercio” sent to Ayavaca and the “Modas
Femininas” by way of Pacaipampa. Since then both had received their
respective journals as regularly as transportation conditions in these
primitive regions made reasonable.

“You have no inconvenience in riding?” asked my host, as we set out on
horseback to visit the estate on Sunday.

“Not at all, señor.”

“Then I shall furnish you a mount to Huancabamba,” he announced.

I declined. It seemed foolish to besmirch my long, unbroken record
afoot. But he insisted on at least sending a peon to carry my baggage
and to serve as “guide,” and actually kept his promise!

“It dawned raining,” as they say in the Andes, but the peon assigned the
task, because his rent was in arrears, was already astride a good
saddle-horse when I stepped out into the storm. Another debtor had been
ordered to furnish a boiled chicken, the cook, a bag of rice. With few
respites we zigzagged all day up into the Cordillera Central, ever
vaster views of the valleys about San Pablo opening out, though
advancing little except upward. Relieved of my load I seemed to have
wings, and in the steeper places had often to wait for the horseman.
Barely a hut and not a traveler did we pass during a day which ended
with a perpendicular climb to a miserable mud hovel on a high and wintry
pampa. Alone, accommodation might have been refused me, but my companion
was distantly related to the two crabbed females who, with their tawny
flock of half-naked children, existed in this cheerless spot, and I was
passively suffered to remain. In their mud den, where the usual
fagot-fire was blazing under an ancient and enormous kettle set on three
stones, I sat down on a sort of short trough with six-inch legs, one of
the “chairs” of this region, when any exist, and some time later we were
served in bowls made of gourds a boiling-hot mixture of potatoes,
_habas_, and some mountain mystery. Still unsatisfied, I drew out my bag
of rice. Válgame Diós if that lazy cook of the “Hacienda San Pablo” had
not delivered it to me uncooked! I followed the custom of the place and
circumstances by presenting the women with enough of the grain to feed
her entire family for a day or two, then asked that a bowlful be cooked
for me.

“Now hay manteca—there is no lard,” mumbled one of the females.

“Eureka!” I cried, “Then for once I can have it cooked as it should be.”

“There is no other kettle,” said the woman in a faint monotone,
projecting her lips toward that containing the stew.


  The _teniente-gobernador_, or “lieutenant-governor,” of Jaen, whose
    duty it was, at sight of my official papers, to find me lodging,
    food, pasture, and make himself generally useful]


  The two of us. “Cleopatra” and I in the hungry jungles of Jaen some
    forty-eight hours after the last glimpse of a human being]

“I will wait until it is empty,” I replied cheerfully.

With no other excuse to offer, she took refuge in silence. An hour
passed before I broke it again.

“And the rice, señora,” I suggested.

“No hay manteca,” she repeated in the same dull monotone, and the
conversation went on again around the same vicious circle. For more than
an hour I coaxed and cajoled, for a single harsh or loud word to these
unwashed mountain-dwellers can undo a day’s careful pleading. As
constant dripping of water in time wears away even stone, so my
incessant return to the subject at length became even more painful than
the stirring from their customary lethargy. The younger female rose
languidly and took from the wall in a dark corner a perfectly sound
kettle just suited to the purpose and, after deftly stealing about half
of it, set to boiling what I had kept for myself.

The adjoining den had not only an earth floor, but the hillside had not
been levelled before building. The peon spread a saddle-blanket and one
of his own ponchos for me as solicitously as a valet preparing his
master’s quarters; yet in as impersonal a manner as he might have herded
his sheep into their corral for the night. With this protection, and my
own garments wrapped about my head, I passed a tolerable night,
virtually on the ridge of the central range of the Andes. My peon, the
two women, several children, two half-Indian youths who had arrived long
after dark, at least six dogs, and a score of guinea-pigs all slept in
the same room—all, that is, except the _cuis_, which spent most of it
squeaking about in the dark, and now and then running over my prostrate

On the bleak, rolling pampa of sear yellow bunch-grass, dotted by a few
shaggy wild cattle, across which howled wintry winds, I was not
uncomfortable afoot; but the peon from the “tierra caliente” of his
native valley was blue-lipped and chattering with cold, even with his
head through several heavy blankets and a scarf about his face. I was
passing back over the Cordillera Central for the first time since Hays
and I had traversed it by the Quindío pass. Not far below the arctic
summit we sighted the Huancabamba river, born a few leagues to the
north, its broad, swift-sloping valley-walls spotted with little green
_chacras_, and gradually dropped into summer again. Trees grew up about
us, birds began once more to sing, cultivated fields shut in by cactus
hedges bordered the trail. When at last we sighted the town of
Huancabamba from far off, the peon halted and asked to be allowed to
turn back. He seemed to fancy his services had been chiefly those of
“guide,” instead of baggage-carrier. I refused to take up my burden
again merely for what I took to be a whim to be back lolling in the
shade of his own mango tree. It was not until later that I realized
that, like most country youths of his class in Peru, he dreaded entering
the provincial capital, lest he be held and forced to serve in the army.

The swift Huancabamba river we crossed astride the peon’s horse, though
not both at a time. When I had dismounted on the further bank, my
companion called the animal back by a peculiar sound, half whistle, half
cluck, and not long afterward we clattered into the famous city of
Huancabamba. Once dismissed, the peon left town at once, though darkness
was already at hand. Medina had insisted that I pay him nothing, as he
owed the hacienda more than two years’ rent—namely, nearly four dollars.

On the map Huancabamba seems of about the size and importance of
Philadelphia; on the ground it is a moribund mud village in a
half-sterile hollow between barren, towering mountains. Historically it
is famous. Prescott assures us that “Guancabamba was large, populous and
well-built, many of its houses of solid stone. A river which passed
through the town had a bridge over which ran a fine Inca highroad.” How
times do change! Officially, to be sure, it is still a city; but a
“city” in this region is a place where bread is made, as those who wear
shoes are white, and those who wear bayeta are cholos or Indians.
Picturesqueness of costume there was none, this having disappeared near
Cuenca along with the Quichua tongue. Indians of pure race and
distinctive garb had been rare south of Zaraguro; here was still plenty
of Indian blood, but only in the veins of “civilized” mestizos. It is
not far from the watershed of the Andes. The town of Huarmaca, just up
on the ridge of the Cordillera above, has a church one side of the roof
of which sends its waters to the Pacific, and the other to the Atlantic.

There was no suggestion of hotel. The subprefect studied my papers in
great curiosity, with half the town looking over his shoulder, before he
answered my most important query with:

“Ah, it is impossible to-day, on such short notice. But to-morrow—”

“I need it to-day,” I protested, knowing it was only a question of
insisting, to overcome the racial apathy.

“Then I will give you _my_ bed and sleep on the floor!” cried the

In that pompous moment, with a large delegation of huancabambinos
looking on, no doubt he would, but such Andean self-sacrifice quickly
fades away, once the limelight is switched off.

“I prefer to rent a room of my own,” I persisted.

“Ah, _now_ that is impossible. But to-morrow—”

I bowed my way out, throwing over my shoulder the information that I
would go down to the bank of the river and sleep on the ground. It would
be softer, and there were bathing facilities. Horror spread over all
faces. A man, an estranjero who came with the recommendations of great
governments! Impossible! The city of Huancabamba could not permit it!
When word of it reached the outside world...! Soldiers were sent
scurrying in all directions—and two minutes later one of them found a
room for rent in the home of one of the “best families,” exactly across
the street from the subprefectura.

It can hardly be that I was the first stranger to enter Huancabamba
since Hernando de Soto was sent by Pizarro to reconnoiter the region
after the capture of the Inca. Yet one might have fancied so. Whether it
was due to some canine sense of smell we of less favored lands lack, I
never succeeded in getting within ten yards of a huancabambino before he
was staring at me with bulging eyes and hanging jaw, all work, movement,
and even conversation ceasing as I drew near. If I passed behind a group
on a street corner, their necks went round with one accord, like those
of owls, and they stared after me in unbroken silence as long as I
remained in sight. Men and women, well-dressed and outwardly
intelligent, dodged back into their house or shop as I appeared, to call
wife or children as they might for a passing circus parade. The few
sidewalks were really house verandas, sometimes roofed, and on all
ordinary occasions pedestrians strolled along the center of the street.
Now there was a stranger in town, virtually all took pains to cross to
my side of the way, and though it required a distinct exertion to climb
up to and down from this few yards of raised sidewalk, every inhabitant
seemed to find some excuse every few minutes to wander by my door at a
snail’s pace in his noiseless bare feet. If I began any species of
activity,—to write, load my kodak, read, or even to wash my hands, the
human stream was clogged like a log-raft against a snag and the
population stacked up about my door until a well-aimed anything broke
the keystone log, and gave me again for a moment light and air. It was
the hospitable huancabambino custom to give me greeting, even when I was
busy well inside the room, and to repeat the phrase in a louder and
louder voice until I acknowledged it. Those few who passed on the
further side of the street never failed to shout “Buenos días” across at
me, though they might have looked in upon me a bare two minutes before.
Now and then a more friendly member of society wandered complacently
into the room, to peer over my shoulder, or to handle with the innocence
of a three-year old child such of my possessions as took his fancy. Some
drifted in even at night, long after I had retired, for, there being no
other opening, to have closed the door would have been to smother.

In the far recesses of the Andes the simplest matter may become complex.
My flannel road-shirt had at last succumbed to its varied hardships.
Now, buying a shirt may seem too trivial an experience to be worthy of
mention; in the wilds of Peru it is a transaction of deep importance.
Huancabamba is overstocked with cloth-shops; but what Latin-American
shopkeepers honestly believe a “very heavy shirt” would fall to pieces
in three days under the exertions of a society darling. One garment
promising moderate endurance I did find, but the combined jangling of
all the bells of Quito was as nothing compared to its color scheme.
Beside it the good old American flag would have looked dull and
colorless. I set out to find a woman willing to make a new shirt on the
pattern of the old. Most of them did not wish to; most of the others
were too tired; two or three had less commonplace reasons, such as being
in mourning, or having a pan to wash before Sunday, or a son to be
married next week, or not having gone to confession recently. Toward
noon I caught a shoemaker’s wife unawares, and had her promise to
undertake the task before she could think of a plausible excuse. She
thought a just price, I to furnish the cloth, would be twenty cents!

I canvassed the shops for heavy khaki. The stoutest on sale was flimsy
as a chorus-girl’s bodice, its color plainly as evanescent as her
complexion. I chose at last from a bolt of cloth designed for afternoon
trousers, adding a spool of the strongest thread to be had. Experience
had long since taught me that the tailors of Latin America use a thread
so fine that a deep breath is almost sure to burst a seam or two. I
delivered the materials and retired for a belated almuerzo in the mud
hut where the daily cow sacrificed to Huancabamba’s appetite is sold in
half-_real_ nibbles. Now and then an urchin entered, clutching a nickel
in one besmeared fist, to say in the uninflected monotone of a “piece”
learned in school:

“Media carne, media vuelta,” (2 cents worth of meat, 2 cents change), to
which the answer was almost sure to be:

“No hay vuelta” (there is no change), whereupon the emissary wandered
homeward still clutching the coin, and the family evidently passed
another meatless day.

Barely had I returned to my room when a fever fell upon me. At the
height of the attack, when every movement was a mighty effort and every
motionless moment an hour of deep enjoyment, an urchin appeared with the
spool of thread I had provided, saying it was heavier than Huancabamba
was accustomed to use and that I must supply a spool of No. 60. I
reached for the brick that held back one of the leaves of the door, and
he disappeared from my field of vision. An hour later he came back to
report that the seamstress had broken a needle and refused to risk
another. I suspended him by as much of a garment as he wore long enough
to promise to cut off his ears, to have the subprefect put the
seamstress in prison, and to bring down another earthquake upon
Huancabamba unless the contract solemnly entered into was fulfilled
before sundown; and I was not sharp-eyed enough to distinguish his
little brown legs one from the other as he sped back to the zapatería.
At dusk the shirt was delivered, an exact copy of the original, which
was bequeathed to the miniature messenger.

A diet chiefly of quinine soon had me ready for the road again. My load
was more burdensome than ever. A long stretch of wilderness ahead
required the carrying of many pounds of food, and on down the valley of
the Huancabamba I wobbled like an octogenarian. Most of the day lay
across a desert of mighty broken chasms, leprous-dry under the blazing
sun, scarred, gashed, and split with scores of lines, almost any of
which might have been mistaken for the trail. Somehow I chanced to pick
the right one and brought up at dusk at the hut of Alexandro Bobbío, far
up the chasm of a small tributary.

Bobbío was a wiry man of fifty, son of an Italian, though officially a
Peruvian, speaking only Spanish, but well-read, and of infinitely more
industry and initiative than the natives. Unlike our own immigrants,
those to South America retain for generations a distinct evidence of
their origin; to the society about them they are still known as “hijos
de italiano, alemán, inglés,” and the like, and the traveler is almost
certain to find the man thus designated of far more worth than his
neighbors, though commonly inferior to the race of his fathers. Bobbío
was a government employee, stationed here in his thatched hut to check
the cargoes of leaf tobacco that “salen pa’ fuera,” or pass out of Jaen
province in large quantities for Huancabamba and the coast in
leather-wrapped bundles on horses, mules, and cattle. Like several of
Europe, the Peruvian government retains the monopoly of tobacco. For an
official load of 69 kilograms it pays $10, and in some remote districts
only $8.50. Each kilo produces twenty packages of cigarettes, selling
for thirty centavos each; in other words the 69 kilos bring the
government $208 gold. This system is directly inherited from Spain and
colonial days. Stevenson found that the King purchased tobacco at three
reals (three-eighths of a dollar), and sold it at $2, though much was
spent on _fiscales_. It remained for republican Peru to open a truly
enormous gulf between producer and consumer.

“I wish I could buy a burro, even a half-size one,” I sighed, half to
myself, as I was straightening up under my burden next morning. Had he
been an unalloyed Latin-American, Bobbío would have shrugged his
shoulders and murmured something about life being a sad matter at best.
Instead, he cried “Why didn’t you say so?” and, stepping out into the
sunshine flooding the arid world like a shower of gold, waved his arms
in some local code of wigwagging at a hut hung high up on the desert
hillside across the “river.” Not long after there drifted up before the
corredor where we sat in the shade a sun-scorched mestizo youth leading
a small donkey, shaggy as a bear just emerging from his winter’s den. It
proved to be a female of the species, about sweet sixteen as donkeys go,
and due in the years to come to double in size; moreover, she was
_chúcaro_, in other words had never yet contributed to the labor of the
world, and appeared to the youth to be worth twelve _soles_. There
ensued the usual verbal skirmish before we compromised at ten. Clipping
an effigy of the King of England from my waist-band, I held it out to
the mestizo. He shied at it like a colt at a flying newspaper. The
Incas, we are told, forbade the common people to possess gold. Whether
it is due to that prohibition, passed down by tradition to the present
day, or to mere contrariness, the countrymen of the Andes still insist
on doing their transactions in silver. Indeed, “plata” is the most
common word for money in all the region. Bobbío had no prejudice against
gold, however, and taking ten silver “cartwheels” from a hairy cowhide
chest in a far corner of his hut, he dropped them into the youth’s
outspread hands, and the latter sped away up the sun-flooded hillside to
his hovel, leaving me in possession of a No. 4 size donkey and the
ancient hawser with which it was moored to a post of Bobbío’s dwelling.

The first necessity was a name for the animal. Her startling beauty
against the background of the Egyptian landscape made “Cleopatra”
obvious. Then came the problem of the furniture without which no Andean
donkey will carry even a man’s load. Bobbío donated an old grain-sack.
Over this went my poncho. Thirty centavos seemed a just price for a
_corona_, a donkey “saddle” of wood of saw-buck shape. For another sol I
became the legal possessor of a large and stout, if rather aged, pair of
_alforjas_, or cloth saddle-bags, in which my forty pounds could be
evenly balanced. Around these, donkey and all, Bobbío wound with the
intricacy of long experience several yards of rope, and at blazing ten I
was off at last—to have my entire worldly possessions immediately dash
away up the hillside into a jungle.

When they had been recovered, a nephew of Bobbío volunteered to pilot my
new ship out of harbor. With the tow-rope and a cudgel in hand he got
the craft under way, then gradually the cudgel sufficed both as rudder
and throttle. A mile from home he turned the command over to me and away
we went alone up the narrowing valley into the Huazcaray range,
“Cleopatra” waltzing ahead of me up the slope like a school-girl on a
holiday. It seemed ridiculous that any traveler with a donkey should
ever have had difficulties—unless he expected a bag filled even in the
middle to lie contentedly on the animal’s back. With only a slight shift
to one side or the other every hour or two the alforjas rode like a

We zigzagged high over a range, coming out above what was evidently an
immense valley, heaped full of white clouds as the basket of a
plantation-picker with cotton, and began to go swiftly down through
reddish mud ruts deeper than “Cleopatra” was high. Then we picked up the
Tamborapo river near its source, and descended along a grassy valley
walled by bushy hillsides.

In this region of northern Peru, the Andes break down into great
sweltering gorges and tropical wildernesses instead of the unbroken high
pampas the range seems to promise. The traveler so foolish as to journey
through it catches the valley of a river as it tears its way across the
jungled mountain wilderness, follows it as far as possible, then fights
his way across a divide, to descend or ascend another stream. Neither
waterway is likely to run in anything like the direction he would go,
but by tacking like a ship against a head wind he advances bit by bit,
with an exertion out of all proportion to the actual progress, toward
the nebulous goal he has set himself. The distance between two hamlets a
hundred miles apart is often three hundred miles in this labyrinthian
province of Jaen, officially a province of Peru, but still disputed by
Ecuador, as the boundary was between Atahuallpa and Huascar at the
coming of the Spaniards. So low is the region that the local expression
for entering “la Provincia,” as Jaen is known locally, is “Va pa’
dentro—to go down inside,” as might be designated the entrance into the
realms of the unrighteous departed.

Perfection, alas, is not of this world. Now that I might have added a
plentiful supply of foodstuffs to my pack without increasing my
burdens—for “Cleopatra” had been sold under a guarantee to carry a
hundred pounds—I had reached a section of the world where food is under
no circumstances for sale. Furthermore, with a thousand miles of road
just suited to donkeys behind me, it must be my fortune the morning
after at last acquiring one to strike the worst possible road for them.
Strictly speaking, there was no road; but for certain spaces trees
enough had been felled to make passage through the forest possible, and
the rainy season and tobacco-trains had combined to turn these clearings
into unbroken miles of _camelones_, those corduroy-like ridges of hard
earth with a coating of slippery mud, alternating with ditches of liquid
mud from two to three feet deep. A pedestrian, even with forty pounds on
his back, may trip along the tops of these as blithely as a youthful
opera company counting the ties from Red Cloud to Chicago. But to
attempt to drive a half-grown jackass, laden with all the driver’s
earthly possessions in far from waterproof cloth sacks, through mile
after monotonous mile of them, under an endless tropical downpour, is an
experience to stir the most blazé and world-weary soul. Those steps at
which the uncomplaining little brute did not slip off into the ditch
behind the ridge on which she had set her feet were those in which she
fell with a still more far-reaching splash into the ditch ahead. Usually
each pair of feet was divided in its allegiance, and reduced the animal
to that artistic performance popularly known in pseudo-histrionic
circles as “splitting the splits.” More times than I could have counted,
“Cleopatra” fell down lengthwise, crosswise, front-wise, and hind-wise,
on her head, on the side of her neck, on her bedraggled tail, on every
part of a donkey known to anatomy, showering me with mud from the crown
of my hat to my inundated boots, soaking my possessions in seas of mud,
now and then frankly lying down in despair, as often attempting to shirk
her just portion of this world’s troubles by dashing into the
impenetrable dripping jungle and smashing my maltreated belongings
against the trees. From time to time she became hopelessly entangled
with a train of pack-animals “going outside,” forcing me to wade in and
lift her bodily, pack and all, out of some slough above which little
more than her drooping ears were visible. In short, when this “royal
highway” waded across the barnyard of the “Hacienda Charapé,” it did not
require a particularly sincere invitation to cause me to spend the rest
of the day there.


  The main street of the great provincial capital of Jaen, with the
    flagpole to which I tied “Cleopatra” before the official residence
    of the local governor]


  The government “ferry” across the Huancabamba, with the _balseros_
    imbibing the last Dutch courage before attempting to set the
    _chasqui_, or mail-man, and me, with our baggage, across the
    flood-swollen stream]

The hacendados of this region, owning whole ranges of mountains and
valleys, live scarcely better than the Indians in their hovels. Both
father and son in this case wore shoes and read the Lima newspapers—from
a month to six weeks old—yet their earth-floored and walled dining-room
swarmed with unspeakably dirty peon children, and pigs all but uprooted
the table as we ate. The slatternly female cooking over three stones in
an adjoining sty served us boiled rice mixed with cubes of pork in a
single bowl from which we all helped ourselves indifferently with spoon
or fingers. Father and son slept on a sort of home-made table covered
with a pair of ragged blankets in a mud den overrun by domestic animals
and littered with all the noisome odds and ends of a South American
harness-room. Yet their speech was as redundant with formalities as that
of a Spanish cavalier in the king’s court.

Though I knew there was a long, foodless, and uninhabited region ahead,
I could add but little to “Cleopatra’s” nominal load in preparation for
it, for to offer to _buy_ supplies would have been considered an insult
to my hosts equal to an attempt to pay for my accommodation.
_Costumbre_, inbred for long generations, forces these rural hacendados
of Peru to consider it beneath their dignity to sell anything, except
the rapadura and home-made fire-water they look upon as their legitimate
source of income, yet they are too miserly to give much. The best I
could do was to accept, with signs of deep gratitude, two small cotton
sackfuls of _chifles_ and _charol_; the former, bone-hard slices of
plantains warranted to keep forever in any climate and taste like oak
chips to any appetite; the latter, hard squares of fried fat pork of the
size of small dice. Then, of course, there was the inevitable slab of
crude sugar wrapped in banana leaves.

The “road” was worse than that of the day before. Times without number I
concluded the end of the journey had come for one of us, yet somehow the
maltreated little brute sprawled forward through the pouring rain.
Dense, dripping, unbroken forests, abounding with the red berries of
wild coffee, crowded close on either hand. Below, the swollen Tamborapo
roared incessantly close alongside, adding to the constant fear of
losing all my possessions the continual dread of reaching some
impassable stream. Toward the end of a day during which we had forded a
dozen difficult tributaries, we were halted by a raging branch, plainly
foolhardy to attempt. I chased “Cleopatra” up through the jungle
alongside it, until darkness came on and forced us to camp in a tiny
open space, my perishable possessions hung in the trees against
destruction by ants, and the donkey tied to the trunk that formed my
bed-post. All night long the animal walked round and round over me,
though without once stepping on my prostrate form or the heaped-up
baggage. In the morning we tore our way far on up the tributary before
we came in sight of a “bridge,” that is, two poles tied with vines to a
tree on either bank. I had piled my garments on top of the load and was
just dragging my reluctant baggage-car into the stream, when a
half-naked youth appeared on the opposite bank, making wild signs to me
across the uproar of waters. By the time I had regained the shore, he
arrived in abbreviated shirt by way of the “bridge,” carrying a stout
staff and a rope. With these he dragged the donkey, stripped stark
naked, into the stream and, fervently crossing himself twice, fought his
way with it into the torrent; while I made three trips monkey-fashion
along the tree-lashed poles with the baggage that would infallibly have
been washed away but for this experienced jungle-dweller. His particular
saint did not fail him and, having delivered the drenched and disgusted
animal to me on the further bank, he accepted a _real_ with a gratitude
that suggested he considered himself well-paid for risking his life.

Slowly, monotonously, day after day, we pushed on through the Amazonian
jungle—Amazonian not only in appearance, but because the Tamborapo, soon
to join the Marañón, forms a part of the great network of the Father of
Waters. The unpeopled forest, draped with vines that here and there,
like broken cables, dipped their ends in the stream, seemed to have no
end. The absolute solitude of the region, ever shut in by impenetrable
jungle, with never a view of the horizon, with no sign of the existence
of humanity and no other sounds than the occasional scream of a bird and
the constant roar of the stream, had a peculiar effect on the moods. One
felt abandoned by the world, and came to look upon all nature as a cruel
prison-warden determined that his prisoner should never again be
permitted to pick up the threads of his existence, nor even communicate
with the world that had abandoned him. The very silence added to the
gloom, until I felt like screaming, “Well, speak, burro!” It was a
relief not to sweat under my own load, but it was distinctly more
laborious to drive it before me. Day after day I beat up “Cleopatra’s”
rear from dawn to dusk without a pause, yet covered scarcely half the
distance I might have plodded alone. Even where the trail was level and
dry, the docile, yet headstrong brute could not exceed two miles an
hour; wherever a bit of slope, or stones and mud intervened, she picked
her way with the cautious deliberation of an old lady entering a
street-car. Insects swarmed. My unshaven face and all the expanse of
skin from crown to toes were blotched and swollen with their
visitations. The chifles and charol gave out and left only the
lead-heavy rapadura and river-water as hunger antidotes. On the third
day even the last chunk of crude sugar disappeared, and still the two of
us plodded on, equally gaunt and lacking in ambition and energy.

I had lived on river-water for more than twenty-four hours, and lost my
way several times on forking trails that climbed to nowhere far above,
or were swallowed up in the jungle, when I guessed again at a path that
climbed up out of the valley of the river. By and by it sweated up to a
hut of open-work poles, where lived a _vaquero_ in charge of the stock
of a vast hacienda of the wilderness. Only a little girl of eight was at
home, and she did not know that roads were meant to lead anywhere. Tying
“Cleopatra” in the shade of the eaves, I sat down to await adult
information. Starvation seemed to have danced its orgy for weeks before
my weary eyes when the child came out with a fat, ripe chirimoya, to
lisp in a shaky voice, “Le gu’ta e’ta fruta?” Hours later a gaunt,
tropic-scarred man appeared, and at sight of me shouted the stereotyped
greeting of all his class to any visitor ahorse or afoot:

“Apéase—dismount, señor.”

When I declined with the customary formalities, he opened preliminary
inquiries as to my biography. I broke in upon them to suggest food.

“Entra y descansa, señor,” he replied, “Sientese.”

The rural Peruvian would invite one to enter and take a seat—on a block
of wood—if he came to put out a fire. He produced a glass made from a
broken bottle and insisted on my partaking of his hospitality to the
extent of drinking his health in the aguardiente into which he turned
his sugar-cane in a little thatched distillery down in a hollow nearby.
But my every hint of a desire to buy food was diplomatically ignored,
except that he accepted readily enough a real, and sent the child
“upstairs”; that is, to crawl up to and along the reed ceiling, to fetch
me a leaf-wrapped chunk of rapadura.

The invisible trail he pointed out pitched down a leg-straining and
almost perpendicular _bajada_ of loose stones to another stream, then
struggled breathlessly upward through unbroken forest over the
Guaranguia “range,” a jungled mountain spur, from the crest of which
there spread out before me the vast panorama of an upper-Amazon _hoya_,
the Tamborapo far below squirming away through its steep dense-wooded
valley; and all about it half-barren hills of varying colors that gave
the landscape the appearance of a tempestuous sea turned to jungle
earth. Red cliffs, like our western _buttes_, flashed their faces in the
sunset, and as far as the eye could reach in any direction was no sign
that man had ever before entered this trackless wilderness.

It was nearing dusk when the world fell away before us into a great
wooded quebrada, its bottom unfathomable, but with a trail in plain
sight fighting its way up the opposite slope. The path underfoot melted
away, and where “Cleopatra” led, I followed, certain she knew the way as
well as I. The ghost of a trail she had chosen turned to a perpendicular
cow-path down which the animal sprawled and stumbled, bumping her load
against the trees, but unable to fall far through the dripping forest
that grew up impenetrably about us. Dense, black night found us at the
bottom of a V-shaped valley. I sought the corresponding path on the
opposite side of its small stream by feeling with both feet and hands,
but it was as intangible as the “straight and narrow path” of
theological phraseology. To cheer things on, it began to rain in
deluges. I made the most of a genuinely Peruvian situation by halting
for the night where there was at least drinkingwater. So sharp was the
valley that there was not even a flat space large enough to stretch out,
and I could only curl up in the muddy path that had brought us to this
sad pass, tumbling my soaked baggage somewhere beside me and tying the
exhausted animal to something in the dark, where there was neither a
leaf to eat nor a spot for the brute to lie down in.

By morning light I found that “Cleopatra’s” inexperience and asinine
judgment had led us to a place where wild cattle came to drink, and we
were forced to struggle back to the crest of the hill, and descend again
by another trail that linked up with the one we had seen the afternoon
before. At its foot was a field of swamp-grass, in which the starving
animal spent the rest of the morning in regaining strength for the climb
ahead. Above, a new style of landscape spread out before us. A vast,
bushy plain was passable only by following the windings of a sandy and
stony river-bed, and wading with monotonous frequency the stream that
swung back and forth across it, like a person utterly devoid of a sense
of direction or power of decision. Beyond, we tramped monotonously on
through endless chaparral, thorn-bristling, bushy woods where reigned an
utter solitude only enhanced by the mournful cry of some unseen bird.
The most constantly recurring form of vegetation was the _tusho_, a sort
of cottonwood tree with a trunk swollen as a gormand’s waist-line.
Endlessly this dismal wilderness stretched onward from dawn to dark,
until the traveler could fancy himself in solitary confinement for life,
and in danger of losing the mind for which he could find no employment.
The region would have been more endurable had I been able to stride
forward at my own pace; but “Cleopatra” sentenced me to a monotonous,
unchanging snail’s gait that gave sufficient exercise only to my right
arm and the cudgel it bore. Hundreds of red centipedes littered the
ground; the dead, dry silence was broken only by the rhythmic mournful
cry of a jungle bird. But here the going was smooth, and for long
distances our pace was so unbroken that there ran through my unoccupied
mind for hours at a time the paraphrase of an old refrain:

                   “Two jacks with but a single gait;
                   Six feet that walk as one.”

Next to the _tusho_, the tree that most often repeated itself was the
_guaba_, producing a fruit like large brown bean-pods filled with black
seeds, the white pulp of which had thirst-quenching qualities and a
taste mildly resembling the watermelon.

I had lost account of days entirely, but subsequent checking up proved
it was a Sunday afternoon when I halted at the “Hacienda Shumba” and,
spreading out my mouldy garments on the thatch roof of its only hut,
awaited the owner. He proved to be the teniente gobernador, the
lieutenant-governor of the region, in the sun-bleached remnants of two
garments and a hat. Having turned “Cleopatra” into a pasture, he settled
down to spell out the documents I presented. Strictly speaking, he was
not the hacienda owner, but only an “arrendatario.” Though I had not
suspected it, I had been traveling for days through estates which, as
_beneficencias_ or _cofardías_, belong to the bishopric of Trujillo, and
it is partly the heavy hand of the Church that keeps this region so
solitary and uninhabited. The so-called owners are really agents who
administer them for the tonsured landlords, collecting a rental from the
few families who raise a bit of rice, cacao, and cattle. The region is
far less rich than it is locally reputed. The soil of the river-valleys
is fertile, but the mountains are rocky and often arid and, especially
in this section, poorly served by the rains. A government official
himself, my host complained bitterly against the government tax on
tobacco, liquor, sugar, salt, and matches. The first, he asserted, was
no longer worth planting. All non-Peruvians were “gringos” to the
teniente gobernador. A fellow-countryman of mine, he asserted, had spent
a night with him recently—hardly two years before. He was—let’s see—an
Italian; no, a German. Though he could read and write, laboriously, and
had long been a government official—on compulsion and without
emoluments—the world, as he conceived it, consisted of Peru and another
very much smaller country, with several towns of more or less the same
size and conditions as the two villages of Jaen and Tocabamba he had
seen, named Germany, Italy, Estados Unidos, and so on, from which came
the various types of “gringos.”

Indeed, he wished to know, “Is Germany in the same country as the United

“What do you call a native of Jaen?” I chanced to ask him in the course
of our conversation.

“A Jaense, to be sure,” he replied. “Just as you call a native of Italy
an italiano, or a man from the town named France a francés.”

But if his knowledge was slight, it was no less tenacious, and he could
no more be talked out of his geographical conceptions than out of his
conviction that all the world lives in reed-and-mud huts with earth
floors, goes habitually barefoot, and considers its dwellings fit
breed-places for guinea-pigs. When I asked him if the road beyond Jaen
was good, I was startled to hear the assurance:

“Ah, yes, indeed. There are no bad roads in Peru!”

A divan of reeds, set into the mud wall of the single room and covered
with a hairy cowhide, was quite soft enough as a bed for one who had
long since left effeminate civilization behind. Until long after dark we
two men and a woman squatted in home-made chairs fitting to a doll’s
house, and fed ourselves over our knees. Yet the conventions of society
are quite as fixed in these hovels of the wilderness as in any palace of
aristocracy. It was quite à la mode, a sign of good breeding, in fact,
to ask for a second helping of the bean and yuca stew—which is
invariably served so boiling hot that even the experienced “gringo’s”
teeth suffer—but under no circumstances for a third. When they had been
emptied a second time, the gourd bowls were piled up on the floor in a
corner, to be washed when the spirit moved, and, as if at a signal that
there was no second course, the one glass in the house, tied together
with a string and evidently regarded as a great treasure and heirloom,
was filled with irrigating-ditchwater and passed around the circle,
beginning with the guest. The feeble imitation of a candle soon
flickered out, and by eight we were all scattered along the walls of the
hut on our reed divans, quarreling pigs shaking the house as they
jostled against it, and the rain that fell heavily all night long
dripping upon us here and there through the thatched roof.

“Cleopatra” was so nearly _rendido_—“bushed”—next morning that, even
under her slight load, she wabbled drunkenly and kept her footing
chiefly because the heavy, glue-like mud clung to our feet like
pedestals to a statue. For one considerable space the way led through a
swamp, where I was several times forced to wade knee-deep to carry out
the load and lift the bemired animal to her feet. Yet drinkable water
was not to be had, and the choking tropical humidity was the more
tantalizing as rain broke every few minutes, and everything in sight was
dripping wet, though the sandy soil swallowed each shower as it fell.
Toward noon the now considerable trail split, marking an important
parting of the way; for the branch to the left leads quickly down to
Bellavista on the bank of the Marañón, whence rafts descend to Iquitos
and the rubber country, and so by the Amazon to the Atlantic, while I,
bearing to the right, plodded on along the highlands of the Andes. In
the dead-silent woods a few decrepit and weather-blackened huts grew up,
several drowsy, half-naked beings in human form gazing languidly after
me from the doorways, and before I knew it I was treading the streets of
the provincial capital and “city” of Jaen.

                               CHAPTER X
                         APPROACHING INCA LAND

Small wonder that the traveler who has splashed and waded a long week
through the mournful wilderness, living chiefly on fond hopes salted
with the anticipations of an unschooled imagination, and washed down
with river water, should fetch up in Jaen with a decided shock.
Occupying a large and distinct place on the map, this provincial
“capital” proved to be a disordered cluster of a half-hundred wretched,
time-blackened, tumble-down, thatched huts, the roofs full of holes, the
gables often missing, scattered like abandoned junk among the weeds and
bushes of a half-hearted clearing in the selfsame gloomy forest and
spiny jungle that had so long shut me in. The barefoot, half-clothed,
fever-yellow inhabitants of mongrel breed stared curiously from their
mud doorways as I stalked past, smeared with dried mud from head to
foot, sunburned, shaggy with whiskers, and dragging behind me by main
force an emaciated donkey trembling with excitement at the unwonted
sights, or with fear at the unknown dangers of so vast a metropolis.
From one hut in no way different from its neighbors issued the city
school, the “teacher” with a ragged cap on his head and a drooping
cigarette smouldering between his lips, to stare after me with the rest.
Every building in town, the church included, consisted of a single mud
room with an unleveled earth floor, windowless, and with a small reed or
pole door giving entrance, exit, and such air and light as could force
admittance. The “government palace,” before which I tied “Cleopatra” to
the official bamboo flagpole in the geographical center of the capital,
was closed. With a flourish of my papers I summoned the “authorities” to
step forward and make themselves known; but the manoeuver brought only
the information that the subprefect was “away for a few days, but he’ll
soon be back, next week, no más, or the week after, at any rate. Entra y
descansa—come in and sit down.”

The gobernador was likewise among the indefinitely missing; whence the
mantle of power descended upon the shoulders of the alcalde. That worthy
was soon produced, somewhat the worse for concentrated cane-juice, but
remarkable for at least two features,—that he wore what might still with
some stretch of veracity be called shoes, and alone of all the town
could have passed for a white man, had he seen fit to remove a stringy
little Indian mustache. When he had read aloud to the congregated male
population all my credentials in Spanish—a task not unlike that of a
one-legged man walking without his crutches after spraining his ankle
and suffering a stone-bruise—he requested me to name my desires. They
were modest,—room, bed, table, chair, water, food for myself and pasture
for the other one of us until day after to-morrow. Slowly and bit by
bit, but none the less surely, my requirements were met. A key was found
that manipulated the creaking padlock of one of the thatched mud-caves
with sagging reed divans around its walls. A crippled table was dragged
in, and a squad of soldiers sent for old newspapers to cover it. In due
time, and with the assistance of the entire population in a house to
house canvass, a gourd wash-basin was discovered, then a gourd with a
hole in one end, from which one drank and into which the half-Indian boy
thrust a finger to carry it, after filling it at the chocolate-brown
stream at the edge of the town; a chair was unofficially subtracted from
the government palace and, last of all, a four-inch mirror was pinned to
the mud wall. I had barely removed the hirsute adornment of a week by
such light as Jaen, massed in and about the door, left me, when a
barefoot female glided noiselessly into my den and, announcing herself
the owner, carried off the glass as too precious a possession to be long
out of her sight.

The first stroll disclosed the hitherto unsuspected fact that several of
the mud-dens were shops. One of them posed as a restaurant, but its
restorative powers were at best anemic. Jaen is probably the hottest,
and certainly the hungriest, provincial capital in Peru. To retain its
rank as a “city,” it fulfilled nominally the test as a place where bread
is made,—a tiny, soggy bun selling for the price of an American loaf.
Milk and fruit, which might easily have been superabundant here, were
unknown luxuries, and the customary food of the populace included
nothing a well-bred dog would have touched in any but a ravenous state.
A dozen of us without families, including the alcalde, were dependent
upon the “restaurant,” and we agreed upon a fixed ration of bread and
eggs, the supply of which never approached even the normal demand. But
the alcalde quickly formed the habit of sneaking over before the hour
set and, by virtue of his official powers, consuming most of the
provender. To forestall him, the rest of us took to arriving earlier,
until it grew customary to appear for the noonday meal at about nine,
and to sit down to supper toward three, eyeing each other ravenously,
and jealously watching the cook’s every movement. He who is accustomed
to complain of the “high cost of living” should try the antidote of a
journey down the Andes, where the high cost reigns supreme, without the
living. In these languid corners of the world where life is reduced to
its lowest terms food and lodging assume the first place of importance,
and the mind is never free from these primitive apprehensions; no sooner
does one eat than the worry arises as to where the next meal will come
from, as each day’s pleasure on the road is tempered by wondering what
hardship the night will have in store.

There were some evidences of negro blood in Jaen, though that of the
aboriginal Indian tribe of the region was universal, in the percentage
of one half to a far smaller fraction in varying individuals. The men
wore home-made garments of the cheapest cotton, patched and sun-faded,
generally no shirt, with merely a kerchief knotted about the neck above
the undershirt, and _sombreros de junco_, hats woven of a species of
swamp-grass or reeds, which a few weeks of sun and rain gave the
appearance of a badly thatched roof. The women wore no hats, combed
their raven-black hair flat and smooth, without adornments, and let it
hang down their backs in a single braid. Like all the cholas and
half-castes of the sex in the Andes, they dragged their misshapen skirts
constantly in the mire of the streets and the “floors” of their huts,
and were habitually even less cleanly in their habits than the men. The
stage of education may be gaged from the fact that the government
telegraph operator assured me I could not reach Cerro de Pasco by land,
but must “cross the sea” to Lima and take the railroad from there.
Jaen’s chief pastime for speeding up the monotonous stretch between the
cradle and the grave is the consumption of the native “cañazo,” and only
those who rose early were likely to find a completely sober man. A sort
of harmless anarchy reigned. A man merry with cane-juice might sit
outside the mud school-house and keep school from “functioning” all day
long, without interference. An amorous youth, going on a drunken rampage
among the huts or the washerwomen on the banks of the irrigating ditch,
was avoided if possible, but was never forcibly restrained. As is
frequent in tropical towns, there was little evidence of religion,
pseudo or otherwise, which thrives best in the high, cold regions of the
mysterious páramos. The mud church, with its tower melted off unevenly
at the top, like a half-burned candle in a wind, had long since lost its
cura, and served now as provincial jail, by the simple addition of a few
poles set in adobe across the door and a few languid soldiers lolling in
the general vicinity whenever they had no particular desire to be
somewhere else.

On the afternoon of my arrival the rumor floated languidly over the town
that the weekly cow was to be butchered next morning, but it was denied
later in the evening. I made the most of my day of leisure by acquiring
a bar of native soap, of the appearance of a mud-pie and the scent of
boiling glue, and spending some two hours in the irrigating ditch,
stringing across the main street, from a telegraph pole to a rafter of
“my house,” all the garments that could be spared from use in an
unexacting society. Nothing was more certain than that I should start
again at daylight of the second morning—until news arrived that the
river eighteen miles south was impassable until the waters receded. It
was evident, too, that I must deny myself the companionship of
“Cleopatra.” She hung wilted and dejected in the town pasture, and at
best there was no hope that she would last many days further, even if
there were any means of getting her across the swollen river. I accepted
the alcalde’s offer of $3 for the animal and her “furniture,” and felt a
glow of satisfaction, tempered with regret at the loss of a good
companion, for all her faults, that I should no longer have to drag my
feet behind me at her snail’s pace, and be dependent on my right arm for

On the morning I should have started, the rumor again ran riot that the
town was going to _pelar un res_—“peel a beef.” This time matters went
so far as to lead the octogenarian victim out into the main street,
where the population gathered in an attitude of anticipation, a dozen or
more armed with home-made axes and knives, the rest with pots and
gourds. For a long time the languid hubbub of some discussion rose and
fell about the downcast animal. Then gradually the gathering
disintegrated and scattered to its huts, each pausing at sight of a
face, to drone in that singularly indifferent monotone of the tropics,
“No hay carne hoy”—(there is no meat to-day). Some misanthropist, an
agent of a neighboring hacienda, it turned out, had offered $9 for the
animal, and Jaen did not feel justified in squandering any such fortune
for mere food. My rosy dream of again tasting fresh meat and of carrying
supplies on my journey was once more rudely dissipated.

The east was blushing from the first kiss of the bold, tropical sun when
I sallied forth on the morning I had concluded to start, river or no
river, and went to wake up the “restaurant” keeper, sleeping on his
dining-table with the precious bread-box under his head. The alcalde
appeared almost at the same instant from the direction of the irrigation
ditch, his towel about his neck. He greeted me with forced courtesy. His
solemn promise to arrange to have my baggage transported to the river in
consideration for the low price at which he had acquired “Cleopatra” had
gone the way of most South American promises—into thin air. Now I
reminded him of it, he would order a soldier to accompany me at once.
The earth swung a long way eastward on its axis without any other sign
of activity. Then some one came to say that a soldier would not be sent,
because Anastasio Centurión, returning to his “Hacienda Algarrobo”
forthwith, would be delighted to carry my belongings on his mule. An
hour later he declined to carry them, then he was prevailed upon by his
_compadre_, the lieutenant-governor, to renew his offer; then he again
concluded the weight was too great, and finally sent an urchin for my
saddle-bags. Before they were loaded, however, a dispute broke out over
the ownership of a “silver” spur that had been picked up in the sand of
the main street, and the town followed the alcalde to the mud hut that
served as court of justice. It was also the city bakery, and the wife of
the justice, who had put off baking the morning before, and was not yet
mixing the dough, ceded a corner of the kitchen table to the court,
which in the course of an hour settled the case in the customary
Latin-American way—by deciding that the disputed property should remain
“in the hands of justice.”


  A woman of the jungles of Jaen preparing me the first meal in days at
    the typical Ecuadorian cook-stove. She declined to pose for her
    picture and is watching me dust the kodak]


  Peruvian prisoners earn their own livelihood by weaving hats, spinning
    yarn, and the like. As in the debtors’ prisons of Dickens’ day, the
    whole family may go to jail to live with the imprisoned head of the

A soldier was at length sent to round up one of the donkeys grazing in
the main plaza. Gradually the disgusted animal was fitted with my former
donkey-furniture, amid the contrary suggestions of the populace, and the
alcalde furnished me an order to the ferrymen at the river to set me
across in the name of the government—and to return donkey and _aparejo_.
A winding, narrow, stony path, that wet its feet at the very outset,
squirmed away through the desert-like forest. “Down there,” said
Anastasio, wrapped gloomily in his maroon poncho and viciously kicking
the spur on one bare heel into the side of his heavily-laden animal, “is
the camino real, pero da mucha vuelta.” How it could “give more turns”
than the one we were following, it was hard to imagine. My pack-animal
this time was a matron of forty, comparatively speaking, and
correspondingly set in her ways. Within the first mile “se me escapó,”
as the natives have it; that is, she suddenly bolted into the thorny
wilderness at the first suggestion of an opening, and left me dripping
with sweat and speckled with the blood of a dozen superficial
lacerations before I again laid hands on her in an impassable clump of
brambles and cactus. Anastasio tied her tow-rope to his saddle, and for
an hour or so she seemed completely resigned to her fate. But evidently
there is no trusting the sex at that age. No sooner was she paroled than
she bolted again, and led me a skin-gashing chase of several miles
through a wild and waterless solitude. Yet, after all, manipulating a
donkey is a splendid apprenticeship for dealing with Latin-Americans; no
better training could be suggested for the prospective salesman south of
the Rio Grande.

The going ranged from _quebradita_ to _muy quebrada_, now along the
stony bed of a meandering “river,” yesterday all but impassable,
to-day so bone dry there was only a bit of running mud to quench the
thirst; now over a sharp knoll bristling with jagged, loose stones. At
red-hot noon we reached the Huancabamba river, now grown to man’s
estate, where it swings around to join the Marañón and divides the
never-to-be-forgotten Province of Jaen from that of Cutervo. A
laborious two hours up it brought us to the long-heralded Puerto
Sauce, where the government maintains a “ferry,”—five small logs bound
together with vines and manned by three _balseros_ housed in two
reed-kennels. Here we squatted out the day, watching the
coffee-colored stream race by on its long journey to the Atlantic with
all the impetuosity of the rainy season. The government _chasqui_ had
been sitting here nearly a week, his mail-sacks stacked and his horse
tethered close at hand. Only out on the extreme edge of the bank,
where an occasional breath of tepid breeze tempered the lead-heavy
heat and thinned the swarms of stinging insects, was life endurable.
My skin was a patchwork of mementoes of all the minute fauna of the
past week, and an itching like the constant prick of myriad red-hot
needles was relieved only briefly by each dip in the stream. During
one of them I advanced well into the river, and it seemed I could have
crossed it; that even the Peruvians might have made the passage, had
they male blood in their veins. But then, had they been men they would
long since have built a bridge. All through the night there kept
running through my head, amid the sweep of the waters, that
illuminating remark of “Kim,” “A sahib is always tied to his baggage”;
and in my half-conscious condition I resolved when morning broke to
cast away all but a loin-cloth and a hat, and travel henceforth in
comfort _al uso del país_. But, alas, the least formal of us cannot
rid himself of all the adjuncts of civilization; and there was
photography, to say nothing of food and covering for the highlands
ahead, to be considered. When dawn turned its matter-of-fact light
upon the scene, the dream quickly faded and I settled down to watch
another day drag by into the past tense beside the racing brown waters
of the Huancabamba. The feeling was rampant that nature had played me
a scurvy trick. I had bargained on following the cool and pleasant
crest of the Andes, and they had crumbled away beneath me and forced
upon me this unsought experience of the tropics.

Not until the morning of the third day did the balseros conclude to
attempt to pass over the “government people,”—the mail-man and this
impatient gringo with the official order from the alcalde. The raft had
been dragged well up-stream, where we waded to it through bristling
jungle and knee-deep mud. The chasqui’s horse, long experienced in these
matters from years of carrying the mails over this route, was driven in
and forced to swim to a sand-bar well out in the stream. For a long time
the animal stood like a prisoner at bay against the shouting and stoning
and shaking of cudgels of those on the bank, but at length, seeing no
other escape, it set out to attempt the main branch. Its brute instinct
would have proved a better guide than the opinions of more rational
beings. Struggling until its snorting echoed back from the surrounding
jungle, it fought the brown, racing waters, gradually nearing the
further bank, yet swept even more swiftly along by the inexorable
stream, amid foam-caps from the rocky passes above, strained savagely to
reach the strip of beach that served as landing-place until, swept past
it without gaining a footing, it seemed suddenly to give up in despair,
and only its head, swinging slowly round and round with the current, was
seen a short minute more, tiny against the race of the yellower waters,
before it swept on out of sight down the jungle-walled torrent.

The chasqui gazed after the lost animal for a long moment, shrugged his
shoulders with the resigned “Vaya!” of a confirmed fatalist, and took
his seat beside me on our baggage, tied securely near the back of the
frail craft. The three brown balseros, naked but for palm-leaf hats and
a strip of rag between their legs, each crossed himself elaborately, and
took a deep draught at Anastasio’s quart bottle of cañazo. Then they
pointed the nose of the raft up-stream, pushed off, snatched up their
clumsy paddles with a hoarse imploration to the Virgin, and fought for
dear life and the sand-bar. This gained, we disembarked and manoeuvered
to the further side, then pushed off into the main stream. It snatched
at us like some greedy monster. The sand-bar raced away up-stream at
express speed, the further bank sped past like a blurred cinematograph
ribbon, the paddlers, urged on by their own and the mail-man’s raucous
shouts and imprecations, battled as with some mortal enemy, stabbing
their paddles in swift, breathless succession into the brown stream, and
following each dig with a savage jerk that tore the wound wide open and
brought out the lean muscles beneath their dingy skins like steel cables
under leather coverings. The rules of caste are more important than life
itself in South America, and both the mail-man and I had been refused
paddles. Relentlessly the further shore galloped by. The bit of clearing
required for landing approached, beckoned to us tantalizingly, flashed
on, and the raft sped swiftly after the lost horse. The balseros,
abetted by the chasqui, increased their efforts to a screaming uproar,
in which I caught here and there a fragmentary “’nta Virgen . . .
’yuda!” Fortunately they did not put all their trust in superhuman
assistance, and their paddles tore at the stream with a viciousness that
drenched us with its aftermath. Bit by bit we strained nearer the
hurrying wall of verdure. Every lunge seemed to lift the paddlers into
the air; the cords on their necks stood out like creepers on a forest
tree; their yells, hoarse and savage enough to have frightened off any
malignant spirit of the waters, came strained and broken now, from lack
of breath. Now we could all but touch the racing forest-wall. I snatched
in vain at a sapling bowing its head in the stream. With a last faint
gasp and a spent stroke, the balseros dropped their paddles on the raft,
and all five of us grasped at the vegetation that tore and lacerated us
in its struggle to escape our desperate embrace. When we had each
gathered an armful of it, we clung so stoutly to this last hold to earth
that the raft was all but swept from under us before we swung it up into
a bit of cove, where the balseros, falling at once into their racial
apathy, drooped like wilted rags at the bow, while one of them panted
weakly, “A little more, señores, and we were gone _sin noticias_.”

As lazily as they had been energetic in the crossing, the ferrymen
coaxed the raft up along the edge of the forest to the little clearing,
where I swung my saddle-bags over a shoulder, waded to dry land and
plodded on along the blazing hot bank of the Huancabamba. Slowly my
shadow crawled from under my feet. In this sweltering desert valley, now
staggering through hot sand and a dwarf vegetation savage with thorns,
now clambering constantly over steep headlands that broke into cliffs at
the river’s edge and stumbling down again through veritable quarries of
loose stones, my burden, augmented with _chancaca_, a sack of rice and a
roll of sun-dried beef, as well as the lead-heavy tropical sun that
seemed to lean physically on my shoulders, became unbearable. I resolved
to pitch camp in the first open space and wait, till doomsday if
necessary, for some pack-train susceptible to the glitter of silver
coins. Puerto Sauce was probably not more than seven miles behind me
when I found, between trail and river, a narrow sand-strip sloping down
to the racing brown waters and backed by a barren, stony cliff-face over
which the “road” promised to bring out in relief against the _turquí_
sky anyone who might pass my way.

Grass could not find sustenance on this sun-baked spot, but centipedes
and a score of other venomous things might exist. Scattered along the
bank were many sapling poles, the wreckage, evidently, of some hut that
had been swept here by the raging river. I gathered an armful of these
and laid their ends on two small logs, covered them with such brush and
branches as were without thorns, and had a far more comfortable couch
than the wealthiest hacendado of the region. Over me hung a wild
lemon-tree, the fruit of which made the yellow Huancabamba more nearly
drinkable. About its trunk, within instant reach, I strapped my
revolver, and lay down almost in the “royal highway,” fully prepared for
anything except a sudden burst of rain. Across the river in dense,
half-cultivated, greener jungle were the huts of several natives; but
they might as well have been in another world, for I could not have
heard a whisper above the roar of the Huancabamba had they stood on the
opposite bank screaming across at me. I possessed a maltreated copy of
Prescott, and there is great compensation for the hardships of the trail
in golden moments snatched like this; for nowhere does the mind grip the
printed page so firmly as at the end of a day on the road, after long
turning the leaves of no other page than nature’s.

The afternoon passed, faded to a violent sunset, and blackened into
night, without a human sight or sound. I took another swim, careful not
to lose my grasp on the shore, and turned my lounge into a bed. There
had been many rumors of bears and “tigers” in these parts. The real
peril was the incitement to suicide caused by the swarming insect life
whenever the breeze failed for an instant. In my dreams the roar of the
Huancabamba turned to that of New York, and I fancied I had suddenly
left off my journey down the Andes to run home for a single day, at the
end of which I should take up my task where I had left off.

When dawn awoke me I refused to rise. But hour after hour passed without
a break in the drear monotony of the arid landscape. In mid-morning
patience exploded and, throwing my load over a shoulder, I toiled on.
When, at the end of some fifteen miles, my legs refused to push me
further, I struggled through the jungle to the river-bank; but there was
not a cleared space sufficient to sit on, much less to lie down in. By
wading chest-deep I reached the breezy nose of an island in the
Huancabamba, and made my bed on the damp beach-sand. But I had chosen
poorly, if choice it might be called. Without even leaves to spread
under me, the night was one of unmitigated torture. Myriads of crawling,
stinging tropical life made my entire frame a pasture and playground,
and at best I got only a few half-conscious snatches of sleep, troubled
with the threatening rumble of the river. For safety’s sake I had hung
many of my belongings in the branches of trees; but not enough of them.
Daylight showed a populous colony of enormous black ants in possession
of all that lay on the ground. They had not only eaten to the last crumb
the chancaca I had lugged for two blazing days, and left me barely a
spoonful of rice for breakfast, but they had all but destroyed the
home-made cover of my kodak, had decorated my hat with a fringe, and had
bitten into a dozen pieces my auto-photographic bulb, scattering all the
vicinity with crumbs of red rubber.

Another lone day we struggled up-stream. I say we,—that is, myself and
I; for—a point for psychologists—since taking up my own load again I
could not rid myself of the fancy that I was two distinct persons, one
of whom was forcing the other to make the journey. In the night I often
started up fancying the other fellow—the one who did the walking and
carried the load—had escaped. Could he know the truth beforehand, no
sane man would sentence himself to tramp this route of the Andes, to
suffer almost incessant hardships, the monotony of the same experiences
over and over again, the dreary intercourse with a people so stupid, so
low of intelligence that long contact with their childish minds brings
with it the danger of one’s own faculties turning childish, like that of
a lifetime of school-teaching. Only the American habit of carrying out
to the bitter end a plan once made could force him on.

Late the next morning the most exciting event of several days
happened,—I met a human being. He was lolling before a slatternly hut of
reeds, inside which a half-caste woman squatted on the earth peeling
_camotes_. On such a journey the civilized traveler unconsciously builds
up a certain pity for himself which he feels should be shared by others.
But he is sure of a rude awakening among these clod-like inhabitants of
the wilderness. Should a living skeleton crawl into an Andean hut
announcing he had not tasted food for a fortnight, had seven species of
tropical fever, and had been bitten by a baker’s dozen of venomous
serpents, the greeting would be the same motionless, indifferent grunt
and drowsily mumbled “Vaya!” with which this female acknowledged my
presence. No offer of money would have brought her to her feet, much
less have induced her to cook one of the chickens—or even yellow
curs—that overran the place. As I picked up my burden in disgust,
however, she murmured through her half-closed lips, “Se irá usté’
almorzando?”—in other words that I might wait, if I chose, to partake of
the camote stew she was lazily concocting over the stick fire in the
center of the floor. On the surface this stereotyped invitation looks
like genuine hospitality. At bottom it is less so than a habit, tinged
with superstition and fear of malignant spirits, and above all the
impossibility of an uninitiative race daring to, or even thinking of
varying a custom of all their known world. It was no time to stand on my
dignity, however, even had the foodless days behind left me any such
support, and I sat down again. A ravenous two hours dragged by before
the mess of native roots and herbs met the approval of the
expressionless female, who tasted a wooden spoonful of it now and then
and tossed the residue back into the kettle. Several peons had drifted
in, genuine human clods, apparently as devoid of intelligence as the
hogs rooting about under their hoofed feet, and gathered about a flat
log raised a bit above the earth. With a steaming calabash of the
tasteless, red-hot stew before each of us, and a single bowl of _mote_
mixed with bits of pork rind into which all shovelled at once, we
finished the meal in utter silence. Then the first peon, wiping his
horny hand across his mouth with a disgusting sucking sound, mumbled
“Diós se lo pagará,” a formula repeated by each as we rose to our feet.
However much he may prefer to liquidate the matter himself, rather than
to leave it to so uncertain and unindebted a source, this “God will pay
you for it,” is the only return the traveler who sits in at their
tasteless repasts can force upon these mongrel people of the Andean

How far out of my course I had mounted the Huancabamba when I picked up
a rock-strewn tributary along the cliff-face, only a professional
geographer could say. Through the hot-lands of northern Peru direction
yields to the accidents of nature, and Jaen had been as far east of a
line due southward as Ayavaca had been to the west. When early sunset
fell in the bottom of the deep valley, I had mounted several hundred
feet above the level of the Huancabamba, and with a welcome coolness
came more human manners, heralding the highlands again. Both Fructuoso
Carrera and his far younger, though no less cheery wife, treated me more
like a prodigal son than as an importunate guest who had fallen upon
them out of the unknown. Amid the culinary operations suited to my case
they gave me in detail the recipe of the _choclo tandas_—Quichua bread,
probably used before the Conquest—that finally rounded off our repast
late in the evening. For the benefit of housewives permit me to pass on
the information:

Cut off the kernels of green corn while still small and fairly soft.
Crush them to a pulp—under a round stone on a broad flat one out beneath
the thatched eaves, if it is desired to keep the local color
intact—sprinkling water lightly on the mass from time to time. When the
whole has been reduced to a somewhat adhesive dough, wrap in corn-husks
rolls of the stuff about the size and shape of an ear of corn and tie
with strips of husk. Sit down on the earth floor in a corner of the
hut—driving off the persistent guinea-pigs with any weapon at hand—and
drop these packages one by one into a kettle of boiling water supported
by three stones. Let boil from twenty minutes to a half hour—depending
on the energy with which fagots have been gathered during the day—taking
care that none of the gaunt curs prowling about between the legs of the
cook and through other unexpected openings thrust their noses into the
kettle, as they would be sure to be burned. Those who succeed in
beginning the task while daylight still lingers should also beware any
of the family chickens climbing to a convenient shoulder and springing
into the pot, as this would result, not in choclo tanda, but in _choclo
tanda con gallina_, which is a far more expensive dish. Zest is added by
a successful attempt surreptitiously to get into one’s saddle-bags a
couple of the choclo tandas for the land of starvation that is expected

Several times during the night I descended to alleviate my insect-bitten
skin by a plunge in the clear, cold mountain stream that sounds in the
Carrera family ears 365 days a year. In the morning I was forced to
dress under my poncho, with far less convenience than in an upper
Pullman berth; for la señora was already grinding coffee for my desayuno
on the flat stone under the eaves beside me. To my diplomatically framed
question as to what I owed him, Don Fructuoso replied:

“For what should you owe us anything?”

All that day the trail, wandering back and forth across the rock-boiling
“river,” first by little thatched _pachachacas_, or earth-covered
pole-bridges, then, as the stream dwindled, by precarious
stepping-stones, climbed ever higher, at times through stretches of mud
where dense overhanging forests had retained the rainfall. Mankind grew
more frequent in this more habitable, rising world. Thatched cottages
were tucked away here and there in forty-five-degree patches of bananas
and coffee, and the pilfering of the tandas to weigh down my load proved
an entirely gratuitous felony.

The very air of Tablabamba, where I slept on dried cane-pulp in an
unwalled _trapiche_ hung well up the side of the new constricted valley,
as humid and green as Jaen Province had been desert-brown and arid,
teemed with stories of robbers and assassins among the mountain defiles
ahead. The only visible danger I encountered, however, was the notorious
“Sal-si-puedes—Climb it if you can,” the terrors of which had grown
daily more persistent for a fortnight past. This was one of those
endless zigzags by which Andean trails climb from one river system, when
near its source, to another, revealing its nefarious purpose only bit by
bit, and subtly enticing the traveler ever upward in an undertaking he
might not have the courage to face as a whole. A rut piled full of loose
rocks, down which trickled enough water to suggest what the climb might
have been on a rainy day, carried me into the very sky above and, taking
there new foothold, scaled doggedly on into the “realms of eternal
silence” where even birds were no longer heard and sturdy, squat trees,
sighing fitfully as if struggling for breath, at length gave up in
despair and abandoned the scene to huge, black rocks protruding from a
soil that gave sustenance only to the dead-brown ichu-grass of Andean
heights. “Hay mucho silencio y mucho matador,” my host of the night had
mumbled lugubriously, but I was aware only of the music of the wind and
the joyful realization that the broken mountains had gathered themselves
together again under my feet and raised me once more to my accustomed
temperate zone. By cold noonday a tumbled, blue world lay about and
below me, only an insignificant dent in it representing that overheated
hell locally known as the Province of Jaen. Like life itself, what had
seemed at its base a mighty climb proved here at the top to have been
only an insignificant little knoll down in the valley, and only when one
had reached the real summit, and could look back upon the region as a
whole after all was accomplished, did each little struggle and petty
suffering assume its correct proportion.


  The ancient city of Cajamarca, in which Pizarro took the Inca
    Atahuallpa captive and later executed him, lies in one of the most
    magnificent highland valleys of the Andes]

Another step forward, and before my glad eyes spread one of those broad,
green interandean valleys, backed by serrated black ranges, their brows
wrinkled and furrowed with age, the clouds trailing their purple shadows
across a panorama of little cultivated valleys, into which I descended
from the unconscionable summit by a natural stairway. The blue-gray
peaks turned to lilac in the last rays of the chill highland sun, then
faded away into the luminous sky of night as the mountain cold settled
down like an icy poncho, and with dusk I tramped through a long adobe
street into the central plaza of Cutervo.

My legs seemed to have pushed me again into the outskirts of
civilization. Not only did the subprefect drive off of his own
initiative the open-mouthed throng that gathered about his door, rather
than read my papers aloud to them, but here at last was a Peruvian town
that actually recognized the existence of strangers with appetites, and
a large adobe hut publicly admitted itself a _fonda_. Cutervo was, in
reality, monotonously like any other town of the Sierra. To one coming
upon it out of the trackless wilderness, however, it seemed at first
sight a place of mighty importance, and only gradually dwindled to its
true proportions. Like a man just returned from long months in the polar
ice, I had an all but irresistible desire to rush in and buy everything
in sight, as I wandered past its long line of open shop-doors. The
capital of a department recently cut off from the neighboring one of
Chota, it was the first place in Peru where any appreciable number of
the inhabitants could unreservedly be called white, and boasted the
first specimens of beauty among the fair sex. Even the Lima newspapers
were there, to give me a skeleton sketch of the activities of a
half-forgotten world.

There is a reserve of strength in the human body which few suspect until
they tax it in an emergency; but it is only after recovery that the
traveler through the rough places of the earth realizes how weak he has
gradually become from hardships and lack of real nourishment. The
invigorating air of the temperate zone and the meat of Cutervo’s fonda,
however, had soon given me new energy, and seemed to have reduced to
half the weight of my load. Hope, brutally felled to earth, ever crawls
dizzily to its feet again. I could no more rid myself of the fond dream
of some day ceasing to stagger under my own baggage than a leper can
shake off his affliction. Yet the solemn promise of the ruler of Cutervo
to furnish me a carrier resulted only in a lost day, and I struck off
across the rolling mountains and valleys beyond, convinced at last, so I
fancied, that I should dream no longer. So persistent had been the
promise of foul play on this day’s route that, despite a lifetime of
disappointments, I could not but peer hopefully into the many splendid
lurking-places of the wild, rock-strewn upland I followed in utter
solitude all the gorgeous day from Cutervo to Chota, the next provincial
capital. Only once did I catch sight of fellow-beings. A group of
arrieros with laden asses paused dubiously near the top of the range
where they caught the first glimpse of me, then ventured forward and
halted to ask anxiously:

“Are the robbers not attacking this morning?”

My answer they greeted with a fervent “Ave María Purísima!” and,
crossing themselves ostentatiously, that the saints should not by any
chance overlook their devotion, pushed hurriedly on toward Cutervo.

Early in the afternoon I came out on the upper edge of an enormous,
wide-spread valley just across which, in the lap of a rolling plain
sloping toward me and the hair-like winding river at its bottom, lay the
end of the day’s journey,—Chota; a tiny, dull-red patch in a green-brown
immensity of sun-flooded world, the two towers of its not too
conspicuous church pin-pricking the horizon. In the transparent air of
the highlands it seemed at most a short two hours away. In reality I had
not in that time picked my stony way to the bottom of the rock-scarred
valley, and it was long after night had cast its black poncho over all
the world that I stumbled at last into the elusive town.

Chota, “8000 feet, 4000 inhabitants, 3000 doors”—and no windows, nearly
as cold as Quito, is a provincial capital with well-cobbled streets and
a broad expanse of plaza, all tilting to the north, by far the largest
Peruvian city I had yet seen, almost the equal in size of Loja in
Ecuador. The stock of its many little shops comes in by way of Pacasmayo
and the railroad to Chilete, showing that I was “over the divide” and
approaching Cajamarca. On August 30, 1882, it was destroyed by the
Chilians—“los malditos chilenos,” as the inhabitants still call them—but
Andean building material being plentiful, it soon rose from its mud
ruins. The cura was even then superintending the cholos tramping
together with their bare feet the clay and chopped ichu-grass that was
to be a new church. There were numerous fondas, as befitted a great
capital; that is, mud dens with a reed shanty in the barnyard behind
serving as kitchen, kept by well-meaning but unprepossessing females who
wiped the inside of each plate religiously on their ample hips, those
same draft-horse hips on which they squatted on the earth floor to fill
the receptacles similarly placed, while driving off with the free hand
the curs and guinea-pigs and the chickens perching on the edge of the
kettles. There were even oil-lamps in a few of the more pretentious
shops and mansions, though almost all without chimneys, not easily
imported from the other side of the world by ship and muleback over
breakneck trails. Haughty, belligerent roosters stood tied by a leg
before half the doors in town, so that each street was a long vista of
pugnacious cocks frequently submitting to the anxious ministrations of
their proud owners. Even without them I should not have slept
unbrokenly. Official assistance had gained me lodging on the home-made
counter of an empty shop hung with cobwebs and perfumed with the
mustiness of several generations, the door of which, flush with the
narrow sidewalk, of course, was the only source of air. There, as often
as a night-hawk passed on his way home from the local “billar,” he
paused to beat me awake with the rapping of his cane and to sing-song in
that dulcet voice of the Latin-American, mellow with late hours, “Your
door is open, señor; I will close it for you.” And if, instead of
reaching under the counter for my revolver or a convenient adobe brick,
I did not summon a patient courtesy I do not possess and answer, “Mil
gracias, señor; no, thank you, leave it open, please,” and then rise and
open it again, because he fancied his ears had deceived him, I should
have lost the rating of “simpático,” and been branded a rude and
discourteous gringo.

Bambamarca, an atrociously stony half-day beyond Chota and its
surrounding bowl, like a mosaic of little farms where female shepherds,
bare to their weather-browned knees, incessantly turn the white, brown,
and black fleece of their flocks into yarn on their crude Incaic
spindles, reported the trail ahead “the worst road in Peru”—which is
indeed strong language. They were certain, too, that, though I
might—with the accent on the verb—have arrived from “La Provincia”
alive, the marauders beyond would see to it that I did not reach
Cajamarca in that condition. A cold rain fell incessantly from sullen
skies during a day of unbroken plodding, first up the cañon of a small
river, crossed now and then by thatched bridges, until it dwindled away
and left me to splash at random over a reeking mountain-top. I had been
lost for hours, and was dripping water at every pore, when I spied,
toward what would have been sunset, four little Indian boys huddled
under the ruin of a hut, and signed to them to give me information.
Instead, they took to their heels, as if all the evil spirits of the
Inca religion had suddenly crested the water-soaked range. I set after
them, but my best pace under my load being barely equal to theirs, I
drew my revolver and fired twice into the air; whereupon they halted and
awaited me in ashen fear. The one I chose as guide led me over a rolling
páramo deeply gashed by rain-swollen streams, and abandoned me within
sight of the imposing estate-house of what turned out to be the
“Hacienda Yanacancha.” In the corredor, just out of reach of the
drenching rain, stood a white man in khaki, monarch of half the visible
world, and so little like the uncouth illiterate I expected that he
replied in faultless Castilian to my remark about the absence of roads:

“Yes, unfortunately South America fell to the Spaniards, whereas it
should have been settled by Anglo-Saxons.”

Here, for the first time in Peru, was an hacendado who had trained his
dogs and servants to some understanding of their respective spheres, and
had even given the latter an inkling of that thin, gray line between
cleanliness and its opposite. A trivial incident will demonstrate to
what lowly point of view my recent experiences had brought me. When my
host showed me into a large guest-room, I caught sight, in the
semi-obscurity, of a reed mat on the floor, and through me flashed a
thrill of joy that I should have this to sleep on, instead of the cold,
dank tiles. Whereas, on closer view this proved to be the foot-mat
before a huge colonial bedstead, regally furnished with soft mattresses
and spotless woolen blankets. My host even apologized for the absence of
sheets. As if I should have recognized that forgotten flora, even in its
native habitat! Yet my misgivings of playing the rôle of Hugo’s
maltreated hero materialized. Whether it was due to the fever within me
struggling for existence, or to the all-too-sudden return to luxury, I
tossed sleeplessly well into the night, and it was rolled up on the mat
on the tile floor that the cold, steel-gray dawn creeping in at the
wooden-barred windows found me.

The “road” across soggy highland meadows and past those fantastic
heaped-up peaks and splintered ranges of black rocks that give the
“Hacienda Yanacancha” (“Black Rocks”) its name, was largely imaginary.
At first, within sprinting distance of the house, were a few inhabited
haycocks of shepherds, like Esquimaux dwellings of weather-blackened
_pajonal_ in place of snow and ice, with a hole to crawl in at on all
fours. Then the visible world, straining ever higher, spread out into a
rolling mountain-top, a totally uninhabited region where was heard only
the mournful sighing of the wind across a boundless, rolling,
yellow-brown sea of the dreary bunch-grass of the upper Andes. Across it
the often invisible way undulated with such regularity that I was
continually descending into or climbing out of hollows trodden to a mud
pudding about the cold streams that wandered down from the scarcely more
lofty heights. There were myriad hiding-places behind the jagged gray
rocks piled erratically along the way, from which evil-doers might have
picked me off. So notorious is this region for its mishaps to travelers
that natives rarely cross it except in large groups. But the wholesome
respect in which a “gringo,” especially one who carries a shooting-iron
prominently displayed, is held is the best protection in Latin-America,
far more so than an escort of native soldiers, the presence of which is
apt to imply to the lurking bandit an admission of inability to depend
on one’s gringo self, even if the soldiers do not prove confederates of
the outlaws or run away at sight of them.

On and ever on the cold, desolate, inhospitable despoblado rose and fell
in broad swells or billows, the barren, yellow, uninhabited world
sighing mournfully to itself. This long day is obligatory on all who
come to Cajamarca from the north, for there is no halting-place in all
the expanse of puna south of Yanacancha. I should have covered the
thirty-five miles before the day was done, had not a long dormant or
newly acquired fever suddenly broken out in mid-afternoon. Every setting
of one leg before the other was as great an effort as jumping over a
ferry-boat, yet I must prod myself pitilessly on, for to be overtaken by
night on this inhospitable, wind-swept puna would have been worse than
fever. With infinite struggle I came at last to where this broadest of
páramos began to fall away toward the north; then the slope contracted
to a gully that gathered together the score or more of separate but not
distinct paths that make up the “highway” across the lofty plain, and
brought me before sunset to the first of a scattered cluster of stone
and mud kennels. A leather-faced old Indian, speaking the first Quichua
I had heard since Cuenca, gave me a handful of ichu-grass to sit on
outside the smaller of his two huts, and left me to the company of his
prowling yellow curs. Night had fallen completely before a woman brought
me a gourd of boiling potato mush, but at length the chary old Indian,
overcoming his racial indifference and distrust, opened the door of the
hut against which I lay and let me into a sort of Incaic warehouse. In
it were heaps of the huge balls of yarn spun by the Indian women on
their prehistoric spindles, a supply of páramo grass I might spread on
the earth floor, and several large bolts of homespun cloth of coarse
texture and cruder colors with which I might feather my arctic nest,
once it was late enough to hope the owner would not catch me at it.

In the adjoining family hut a baby had been crying incessantly for an
hour or more. The after-chill of the fever was settling upon me when a
young Indian entered, bearing the infant, and a handful of twisted grass
as torch. Without preliminary he requested me, if I understood his
language, to spit in the child’s face.

“I don’t get you,” I replied, in my most colloquial if imperfect

“Do me the favor to spit in its face,” he repeated, and by way of
illustration spat swiftly and lightly, with the point of his tongue
between his lips, a fine spray in the face of the squalling infant.

“But why not do it yourself?” I protested.

“Manam, viracocha; it must be some one the guaguita does not know.”

When it had become evident that there was no other way of being left in
peace, I rose and sprayed the infant. To my astonishment it ceased its
wailing instantly, stared wide-eyed into my face until the father turned
away, and was not again heard during the night. Floor-walking benedicts
may adopt this bit of domestic science from the ancient civilization of
the Incas free of charge.

There were but nine miles left to do in the morning, but the mere
numeral gives little hint of the real task. Both road and bridges
continued strikingly conspicuous by their absence; for hours the
atrocious trail zigzagged unevenly, at times almost perpendicularly down
what was left of the mountainside. Then it forded waist-deep the
Cajamarca river, and joining a Sunday-morning procession of market-bound
Indians with a clashing of colors almost equal to those of Quito, picked
its way around stony foothills along a slowly widening valley gradually
checkered with the varying greens of cultivation. The cool summer air
and a more passable road drew me ever more swiftly on; the sound of
church-bells, musically distant, floating northward on the breeze,
located vaguely somewhere among the eucalyptus trees ahead the end of
the third stage of my Andean journey. Huts turned to houses, thicker and
thicker along the way, until they grew together into two unbroken rows.
The air grew heavy with the scent of the “Australian gum”; I passed
under an aged, whitewashed arch straddling the street, and on April 27,
at the hour of the return from mass, found myself creaking along the
canted, flagstone sidewalks of famous old Cajamarca, the first real
city, even in the South-American sense, I had come upon in Peru. Armed
and bedraggled, with an alforja hanging heavy over one shoulder, I
presented no conventional sight. Yet the cajamarquinos gave me
comparatively slight attention. No doubt they were accustomed to such
apparitions; Pizarro and his fellow-roughnecks could have been little
less way-worn and weather-bleached when they rode in upon Cajamarca over
these same hills. According to careful calculation I had walked 1773
miles from Bogotá, 929 from Quito. Of the 79 days from the Ecuadorian
capital I had spent thirty in the towns and hamlets along the way, and
the remainder in whole or part on the road.

As far back as Ayavaca I had begun to hear praises of the “magnificent
hotels” of Cajamarca. The disappointment was proportionately bitter. The
“Hotel Internacional” was a defunct lodging-house, the “Hotel Amazonas,”
further on, merely a row of rooms opening on the second-story balcony.
They were tolerable rooms, with flagstone floors and wooden bed-springs,
and had the extraordinary advantage of being in the second story, out of
reach of staring passersby; but they were furnished only with the bare
necessities and were covered everywhere with a half-inch, more or less,
of dust. This was hardly to be wondered at. Pizarro and his band of
tramps must have raised a deuce of a dust when they perpetrated the
Conquest of Peru and took Atahuallpa into their tender keeping in the
great plaza a short block away, on that Saturday evening, 381 years
before. Strangest of all, the hotel rates were posted in plain sight,
where even foreigners might see; forty cents a night, or thirty if the
room was occupied a month or more. Evidently another fussy gringo had
been here before me, for the printed rules contained the following

“The señor passenger who shall desire to use two mattresses on the same
bed will subject himself to the payment of ten cents above the ordinary

The original motive could not have been Hays; for the notice was yellow
with time, and the manager-chambermaid, though he gave me many details
of the doings of my erstwhile companion as he gradually got my
indispensable requirements together, with great care not to remove the
historic dust anywhere, did not mention any such gringo idiosyncrasy.
Every non-resident of Cajamarca, be he a tawny, soil-incrusted Indian
from up in the hills, or the representative of some ambitious European
house, eats in one of two Chinese _fondas_, or take-your-chances
restaurants, not far off the main plaza. The transient enters a
Celestial general-store, passes through it and a dingy room, crowded
with tables about which barefoot Indians, male and female, their aged
felt hats on their heads, are helping themselves with spoons or fingers,
and through another doorless door into a smaller chamber with a single
long table covered by an oilcloth of long and troubled history, where he
is sure to find a place because of the requirement of shoes. During the
process he will pass close by the open kitchen with its iron
cooking-range—the first I had seen in South America—manipulated by a
grizzled old Chinaman. The service is à la carte and, but for the shoes
and oilcloth, identical in both dining-rooms. Here one will find a
greasy strip of paper with a printed menu, easily comprehensible to
anyone with a Spanish and Quichua dictionary, a treatise on Peruvian
coast slang, and some smacking of Chinese in Spanish misspelling; or
which, in the very likely event of the client being unable to read, the
barefoot waiter will recite in Shakespearean cadence and breathless
continuity. Indeed, but for the language, one might fancy oneself back
on the lower Bowery as the waiter bawls to the kitchen:

“Un churrasco!”

“Un bisté fogoso!”

“Hasta cuando esos choclos?”

The high cost of living, like the railroad decreed by congress in 1864,
had not yet climbed over the range into Cajamarca. The dishes are 2½ or
five cents each. There are, to be sure, a few ten-cent ones, but these
are what terrapin would be with us, and their consumption is not
encouraged, being above the tone of Cajamarca. The first price covers a
dozen delicacies, such as “patitas con arroz—pigs’ feetlets with rice,”
fried brains, liver, or _chupe_, the Irish-stew of the Andes. At five
cents the epicure to whom money is no object may have a breaded “bisté”
with onions, rice, and potatoes, a “baefs teak paí,” “rosbif de
cordero—roast beef of mutton—” “a beefsteak of pork,” and a score of
even more endurable concoctions. Chocolate, which is native to the
region and excellently made, is 2½ cents; a cup of coffee, which no one
in Cajamarca knows how to make, costs twice that. Eggs “in any style”
are two cents each, and a loaf of bread, of the size of a biscuit, one
cent—for in Cajamarca the traveler first finds the huge copper one-cent
and half-cent pieces. The greatest gourmand sailing the high seas could
not spend more than fifteen, or possibly twenty cents, for a dinner in
Cajamarca—and a “tip” is unknown.


  The only wheeled vehicle I saw in Peru during my first three months in
    that country]


  One of the many unfinished churches of Cajamarca]

I had been duly warned that the table-manners would be on a par with
those of Colombia and Ecuador. Before I left Quito, Hays had written,
“In Peru soup is eaten with brilliancy, the high notes being sustained
with great verve.” The same table utensils reached both the shod
minority and the Indians under their hats; the table de luxe was
supplied, after that democratic South American manner, with one
drinking-glass, the only washing of which was what it inadvertently
received during its varied service.

Cajamarca, as everyone whose historical education was not criminally
neglected knows, was not founded; it was found; and like anything else
picked up by the Spaniards of those days, was never returned. It lay
already—but unprepared—spread out in the extreme northwest corner of its
long, fertile valley when Pizarro and his merry men came riding down
upon it across the same broad páramo, and they caught much the same view
of it as I, though in those days it was not half-hidden by the adorning
eucalyptus trees of to-day, nor distantly musical with church-bells. The
famous town, now capital of a department, which is to Peru what a state
is with us, is more or less oval in shape, some ten by twenty blocks at
its widest and longest, not counting the huts that straggle out at both
ends along its principal “highway” and dot the outskirts and the
widening plain. It is seven degrees below the equator and somewhat
warmer than Quito. It stands 2814 meters above the sea, with some
half-dozen inhabitants for every meter. In all but its history it is
tiresomely like any other city of the Andes. The streets, monotonously
right-angled, are rudely cobbled, with open sewers down the center, the
sidewalks narrow, smooth-worn flagstones on which he who would walk must
jostle Indians, donkeys, and stagnant groups of less useful residents.
The adobe houses, often two-story and always toeing the street-line, are
red-tile roofed and anciently whitewashed. Dingy little shops of odds
and ends below, the flower-decked patios of even the best-provided
families are surrounded on the ground floor by the dens of servants and
the ragged and more numerous population, as in Quito. It was the first
place in Peru where I had seen window-glass. By night its streets are
“lighted” with _faroles_, miniature kerosene lamps inside square,
glass-sided lanterns that are given to succumbing to the first strong
puff of breeze, even if those whose duty it is to light them do not have
more pressing engagements. The central plaza is enormous, square in
form, but coinciding more or less with the triangular one in which
Pizarro and the Inca collided on that dusty Saturday evening of an
earlier century. Flower-plots, tended with less monotonous formality
than those of Quito, bloom chiefly with geraniums, and among them the
historically informed inhabitants point out the stone on which
Atahuallpa succumbed to the _garrote_ amid the heaven-opening
ministrations of good old Father Greenvale. As in Quito, there remain
almost no monuments of pre-Conquest days, for the Incas seem to have
built here chiefly of adobe. The most intelligent of Cajamarca’s monks
doubted whether there was even a Temple of the Sun or a House of the
Virgins to transform into monastery or convent. Not far off the main
plaza, however, set cornerwise in the center of a modern block, is the
room that was to be filled with gold for Atahuallpa’s ransom, said to be
of massive dressed stone, like the palaces of Cuzco. Stevenson, who was
in Cajamarca just a hundred years before me, found still visible around
the wall the mark that was to measure the height of the treasure, and
the room, the residence of a cacique. To-day it is an orphanage, where a
German nun was teaching a score of female “orphans” to earn a livelihood
on American sewing-machines, and the treasure-mark, as well as all
evidence of stone structure, had been whitewashed out of existence, as
something of “los Gentiles” not worth preserving.

The unique characteristic of Cajamarca, and almost her only stone
buildings, are her half-dozen splendid old churches, soft-browned by
time as those of Salamanca, and having the appearance of being
half-ruined by earthquakes. The natives asserted, however, that they
were left incomplete because in colonial days every finished building
must pay tribute to the King of Spain. Whatever the cause, their
condition gives an unusual architectural effect that could not have been
equalled by any design of man, and all who find pleasure in the
“picturesque” must hope that Cajamarca will never grow wealthy enough to
finish them—a misfortune that is not imminent. The Chilians came in
August, 1882, and, taking a note from Pizarro’s note-book—or, more
exactly, from that of his secretary, since the swine-herder of
Estremadura was not fitted to keep his own—stole all the gold and jewels
of the churches, even the laboratory equipment of the schools, and
anything else that chanced to be lying around; though they found no one
worth holding for ransom. One of the principal churches bears an
inscription, now all but effaced by the ubiquitous whitewash, announcing
that “This santa eglesia was erected at the cost of one million pesos
and fifteen centavos,” the extra seven cents being the cost of
bell-ropes. In the great monastery of San Francisco, facing the main
plaza, some forty amiable but ignorant friars loll through life, chiefly
in the breezy “retiring kiosk,” carpeted, like that of Quito, with burnt
matches and cigarette butts. They knew nothing of the tomb of
Atahuallpa, but the Spanish organist, who looked like a ninth-inning
baseball “fan” on a hot day, led me to the church and played in my honor
on “the largest and best pipe-organ in Peru” not only our national air,
but several Spanish fandangos and a recent Broadway favorite that is
seldom admitted to ecclesiastical circles.

The Indians and gente del pueblo of Cajamarca have nearly as much color
of dress as those of Quito, and are even more ragged and abjectly
poverty-ridden. Filthy, maimed beggars adorn the façades of churches,
and the aboriginals speak a mushy, mouthful, dialect of Quichua, though
all know Spanish. None of the Chinese residents have families; yet every
now and then one passes a child with quaintly shaped eyes that testify
to the ingratiating manners of the Celestials. The “upper” classes
struggle to keep the theoretically white collars and the dandified shoes
that mark their caste, and dawdle through life as shopkeepers, lawyers
without clients, doctors whose degrees furnish them little but the
title, or at any makeshift occupation that will spare them from soiling
their tapering fingers with vulgar labor. Opportunity is a rare visitor,
yet in a century, perhaps, there has not been born in Cajamarca a boy
with the initiative and energy to tramp three days over the western
range and stow away for somewhere that he could make a man of himself.
As to personal habits: a drug clerk graduated in Lima pours out of their
bottles the pills he recommends, and plays them idly back and forth from
one unwashed hand to the other before returning them to the shelf. Yet
it was a relief to loll away several days in civilization, even
Peruvianly speaking. If the passing stranger was not entirely free from
the open mouth and vacant eye, he could pass a corner group without all
falling silent and craning their necks after him, and might even sit
down at the fonda table without all interrupting their noisy eating to
mumble over their mouthful, “Where do you come from and where are you
going?” But even a Peruvian department capital has not yet reached that
stage which makes photography easy, or the coarsest sarcasm effective.
As often as I opened my kodak, some “educated” member of society was
sure to crowd close to me, keeping persistently in front of the lens;
and when I had at length manoeuvered and tricked him out of the view,
more or less, I was seeking, he was certain to bleat with his blandest
smile, “Sacando una plancha, no, señor?” If I made answer, “No, my
esteemed friend of ancient and noble blood, I am building an aeroplane
on sleigh-runners to cross the icy stretches of the Amazon,” the
half-baked son of the wilderness might reflect solemnly a moment or two
before making some such inane reply as, “Yes, it _is_ a long way to the
Amazon.” Almost at the hour of my arrival an enamored youth of Cajamarca
committed suicide, leaving a letter in which he declared life was a
farce. Had he been with me through the Province of Jaen, he would have
found it more nearly a melodrama. Only those who have endured the
hardships of a long trail can know the compensating pleasure of a return
to even comparative comfort, like the burgeoning of spring after a hard
winter. But, after all, the joys of the trail in the Andes are chiefly
those of anticipation, and the sense of accomplishment, of
_exclusiveness_ in tramping where few men have tramped before. For there
can be slight pleasure of intercourse in towns where the youths of the
“best families” follow the foreigner with cries of “Goot neeght. Awe
right,” broken by snickers of silly laughter; and where dreams of long
hours in something resembling a bed are rudely dispelled by the din of
church-bells, the whistles of lonesome policemen, and all the thousand
and one noises with which the Latin-American can make life hideous. In
the matter of libraries and book-shops Peru is even less advanced than
the countries to the north. There was, to be sure, a department library
in Cajamarca, but “for the present” it was closed. In despair I
canvassed the town for a book. A clerk whom I asked why no printed
matter was to be had, replied:

“No hay aficionados á la lectura en estas partes, señor.”

“Amateurs of reading,” indeed! As one might say, aficionados of
billiards, “fans” of cock-fighting; merely an amusing game to pass the

“But what on earth do people do with their minds?” I gasped.

“They go to church, señor,” replied the clerk.

But the best of Cajamarca is her wonderful green and checkered valley,
as seen from the rocky hillock ten minutes above the main plaza, now
serving as a quarry of soft, whitish stone, but on which, if anywhere,
must have been the fortress historians tell us overlooked the Inca city.
There is, indeed, to-day the remnants of a cobble-stone and adobe
building on the summit, and cajamarquinos who climb there to enjoy the
widespread view asserted that Atahuallpa used to watch from this height
the rising and setting of the sun. Prescott might almost have sat on the
rocky hillock in person when he wrote:

“The valley of Cajamarca, enamelled with all the beauties of
cultivation, lay unrolled like a rich and variegated carpet of verdure,
in strong contrast with the dark forms of the Andes that rose up
everywhere about it. The vale is of oval shape, extending about five
leagues in length by three in breadth, and was inhabited by a superior
population to any the Spaniards had yet seen; with ten thousand houses
of clay hardened in the sun and some ambitious dwellings of hewn stone.”
The valley, stretching away south-southeast, is not so extensive as the
reading of Prescott leads the imagination to picture. Except in one
place, where it spreads out like the arms of a cross, it is surely not
more than a league in width. But the suave spring view across it, green
with the deep green of the cactus, and clumped now by the Australian
eucalyptus in contrast to the treeless days of the Incas, is in certain
moods and aspects the most beautiful of the Andes, though lacking the
surrounding snowclads that add so much to the vale of Quito. Here I came
often to sit above the murmur of the town, until the God of the Incas,
after his daily journey around the earth to see that all was well, sank
behind the broad páramo of Yanacancha, blotting out the valley
stretching away to the southward where the trail following the old Inca
highway down the backbone of the continent, was already beckoning me on.

                               CHAPTER XI
                         DRAWBACKS OF THE TRAIL

Tramping down the Andes is like walking on the ridge of a steep roof;
there is a constant tendency to slip off on one side or the other and
slide down to the Pacific or the Amazon. The Latin-American is only too
prone to follow the line of least resistance, and that line is _not_
along the crest of the Andes where the more manly Incas traveled. The
villager obliged to journey to another town of the Sierra a hundred
miles north or south will ride muleback something more than that to the
nearest port, take ship to another harbor, and ride another hundred
miles up into the interior to his destination. Hence the excellent
highway that might have been built down all the backbone of the
continent, or at least the Inca one that might have been kept up, does
not exist. Each community is confined to its own valley and cut off from
the rest by almost untrodden mountain ranges, or by trackless bare
ridges where only sheep and their hardy shepherds can live. Under the
beneficent rule of the Incas means of intercommunication were infinitely
better than to-day; then, roads and bridges were kept in constant
repair, and in all exposed parts, at intervals along the cold punas and
among the mountain gorges, were government _tambos_ with shelter and
food for both man and llamas.

To journey from Cajamarca to Lima would have been easy; I had only to
hire a mule to Pacasmayo and catch a passing steamer. But to reach there
by the route I had proposed to myself was another matter. Even
Raimondi’s famous map of Peru, in 25 folios, over which I spent a
morning in the prefect’s parlor, offered scanty information, a few faint
lines representing trails leading almost anywhere except where I would
go. The only route at all suited to my purpose seemed to be one through
Huamachuco and Huraraz, and along the valley of the Santa river. Near
the source of this it looked as if I must turn back almost due north and
climb over the uninhabited, snowclad Cordillera Central, whence it might
be possible to reach Cerro de Pasco. Local information was not even
equal to the assertion of Prescott—who had never been nearer South
America than the southern coast of Massachusetts—that “the messengers of
Pizarro from Caxamalca to Cuzco followed the elevated regions of the
Cordillera through many populous towns, of which the chief were
Guamachuco, Guánuco, and Xauxa.” At best I had to leave the scene of
Atahuallpa’s undoing with little knowledge of where I was going, except

Certain preparations were essential before I plunged again into the all
but unknown. The trip from Loja—the longest sustained hardship I had
ever undergone—had left me a sadly depleted wardrobe. Especially were my
walking-boots in the last stages. The shops of Cajamarca had no heavy
ones among their stock, but I had hoped, with the assistance of the
prefect, to buy a pair of the shoes manufactured for the use of the
garrison-police. The department chief, however, put off wiring the
president, or laying the matter before congress, until it was too late.
A friendly shoemaker advised me to apply privately to a soldier or

“But they have only one pair each,” I protested.

“True,” replied the zapatero, “pero se roban entre ellos—they steal from
each other.”

This hint also had been too long delayed, and I was forced to trust to
native patching to carry me over the indefinite region to the next
source of supply. As to socks, I had found that the best for tramping
the Andes were none at all; that is, a better substitute were the
“fusslappen” of the German soldier,—a square of cotton flannel on which
to set the foot diagonally, fold over the three corners, and thrust it
into the boot. The small silver pieces that came to me each time I threw
down a sovereign on the Chinaman’s counter, I had laid away for the road
ahead, spending the heavy coppers and the cartwheel _soles_. This petty
point is extremely important in the Andes, for even the man able and
willing to toss out gold for every banana he buys often finds villages
of the Sierra where the yellow metal will not be accepted; and those who
might otherwise be willing to change a large coin are frequently afraid
to show that they have so much money on hand. The rucksack style of
carrying had proved burdensome. For the load that remained I made a
leather harness, not unlike suspenders, with half my possessions
balanced against the rest. Then, having squandered 21 cents in the
greatest banquet known to the Chinaman’s back room, I climbed the
fortress hill to watch for the last time the interwoven colors of the
setting sun across the rich vale of Cajamarca.

It was the seventh of May when I struck southward again along the valley
floor. A wide highway sidestepped out of the city; but barely had the
scent of this been left behind than a shallow river took possession of
the entire width of the road. There is a sort of lawlessness both of man
and nature in the Andes, and many is the hacendado who thus calmly makes
use of the public highway as his irrigation ditch. When Hernando de Soto
was sent with fifteen horse to visit the Inca at his baths a few miles
south of the city, “they followed a fine causeway across the plain and
came to a small stream with a bridge, but, distrusting its strength,
dashed through the water.” An hour from town I, too, was dashing through
the water, boots in hand, not because I distrusted the bridge, but
because there was not the vestige of a bridge left to distrust.

Beyond the stream were the famous “Baños del Inca,” now owned by the
city of Cajamarca. In the barnyard of a stone and adobe hacienda a chola
woman sent an Indian boy to open for me an adjoining baked-mud room, in
the floor of which was a rough-stone swimming-pool nearly ten feet
square. Into this steaming sulphurous water was pouring. But as a group
of Indians were washing themselves and their rags in the source of
supply outside, I was forced to relinquish the rare pleasure of a hot
bath, even in so famous a setting. Historians report the existence of an
ancient stone bathtub that was used by the Incas, but the woman was
certain there had been none in the vicinity during her career as

The road she pointed out emerged from the back gate of the hacienda and
mounted the steaming brook. Higher up, where I thrust a hand in it, the
water was just hot enough to be bearable. The valley of Cajamarca,
stretching far southward, had promised level going for a day or two. But
though there was plenty of space for it on the valley floor, the camino
real, true to its Andean environment, preferred to clamber up and down
over stony, barren, broken ridges. Before noon it had raised me to a
páramo where several cold, blue lakes swarmed with wild ducks that were
not even gun-shy. An Indian I fell in with said they were never hunted,
“because when they fall there is no way to enter the water and get
them.” Evidently, like his forebears of centuries ago, he had never
heard of a strange invention called a boat.


  One of the few remaining _simpichacas_, or suspension bridges, of the
    Andes. In Inca days they abounded, often sagging from one
    mountain-top to another over appalling gorges. To-day steel cables
    take the place of the woven willow withes of pre-Colombian times,
    but the flooring is often missing and the swinging contraptions
    uninviting to man or beast]


  A typical shop of the Andes. On the right, eggs and _chancaca_, the
    brown blocks of crude sugar wrapped in banana-leaves; in the
    doorway, pancake-shaped corn biscuits; on the left, oranges, green
    in color though ripe, and the wheat-bread only too seldom to be had
    even in this form]

Two days of stony going, now between hedges of ripe tunas, now over high
ridges, gashed and tumbled, by a trail thirsty despite the frequent
fording of luke-warm streams gray with decomposed rock, brought me to
San Marcos in a tropical and fruitful valley withered by a long drought.
On the façade of the little drygoods shop and government salt-store of
the absent gobernador hung a huge sign beginning “SOCORRO PEONES,”
implying that the owner was also a “hooker” of workmen for a
German-owned sugar estate down on the coast. When I presented my order
from the prefect of the department, the wife of San Marcos’ chief
“authority” ordered her cholas to prepare me dinner at once.

“I did not come to the gobernador that he should personally furnish me
accommodations,” I protested. “I only want him to use his authority with
those who make a business of lodging strangers.”

“There is no such place in San Marcos,” replied the woman, locking up
shop and leading me into her parlor, musty with disuse, “but all
travelers are welcome here.”

Behind the divan to which she motioned me stood a life-size figure of
the Virgin, flanked by another of Saint Somebody. In honor of the
arrival of a stranger, perhaps, the matron soon reappeared with several
serving-women and, stripping the “Madre de Diós” to her
bamboo-structured nudity, reattired her in four gowns, each of which was
far more costly than those worn by any of the living beings present.
Then she set a newly polished crown on the head of the image and,
falling on her knees before it, began to rock back and forth imploring
her intercession in a monotonous singsong. With dusk appeared the
gobernador, accompanied by two traveling salesmen, and having ordered
the three mules picketed, he spent a long evening bewailing with them
the rising cost of commodities “of first necessity, even our very
aguardiente and pisco, señores.” In the act of looking over my papers,
his eye was caught by a typewritten document in English.

“Ah, los yanquis!” he cried. “They are so up-to-date they even avoid the
labor of writing by having their letters printed. But how can they
afford it?”

“Una máquina para escribir,” I explained.

“A writing-machine!” he gasped. “Is there such a thing? I must have one
at once, for I never _can_ spell things right.”

The village church having lost its roof, most of the old women in town
gathered with my hostess in the adjoining parlor and droned for hours
before her bamboo saints. For a long time the gobernador gave no heed to
the uproar, though it forced him to raise his voice almost to a shout.
Then suddenly he broke off an enumeration of prices with an angry:

“Hágame el favor!” (In the Andes the expression corresponds closely to
our colloquial “What do you know about that?”) “Por Diós, those beatas
would pray a man insane!” and dashing into the parlor, he broke up the
meeting forthwith, and sent the manto-wrapped women scurrying out
through the zaguan like startled crows.

For all her religious duties my hostess found time to set down in my
note-book the recipe of the most potent beverage that has come down from
the Inca civilization,—the _chicha de jora_, at the making of which that
served with the evening meal proved her an adept. In a laborious
school-girl hand, and with a wealth of misspelling that suggested that
she, too, could have used a “writing-machine” to advantage, she wrote:

“Take ripe, shelled corn, cover with water and leave a week or more
until the kernels have sprouted. Dry in the sun two or three days. Crush
to a mass, boil, and place, when cold, in jars three-fourths full,
adding sugar sufficient to cause fermentation.”

Despite her piety and attitude of Moorish seclusion, she entered into
the conversation with a frankness peculiar to the Latin race. Not the
least startling of her naïve questions was:

“How many children have you?”

“I am not married,” I answered.

“Of course you are not married,” she replied, “being a traveler all over
Peru and the outside world, but have you really no children at all?”

At daybreak the gobernador sent a boy and a horse to set me across—and
all but spill me into—a rock-strewn river below the town, “because it is
very dangerous to wet the feet in the morning.” Ichocán, two leagues
beyond San Marcos, sits high and cold on an eminence. Behind it the
trail sloped languidly upward, then pitched headlong down through a
stony, desert-dry wilderness, inhabited only by cactus and wild asses,
to the Condebamba river, its lower valley of densest-green a relieving
contrast to the dreary, arid mountain flanks. Across the roaring gorge a
bridge of steel cables, supported by railway rails, has taken the place
of the _chaca_ of woven willow withes of Inca days. But it still looked
frail and aërial enough, swaying high above the racing stream that would
quickly have swept a stumbling traveler through rock-walled hills to the
Marañón and the Amazon, and the few arrieros who follow this route have
no easy task in driving their donkeys across it.

A pole-and-mud hut on the dreary slope of the further bank housed the
guardian of the bridge, a fever-laden skeleton who was barely able to
crawl after an unbroken year of _paludismo_, the intermittent fever of
the Andes that lurks in all such sunken valleys as that of the
Condebamba. I might better have spent the night on the hillside beyond,
than to have tossed it through on the hut floor, swarming with some
species of shark-jawed insect. Luckily I was not offered the first bowl
of chicha before I found the guardian’s female companion concocting the
family supply, for her method was little less disillusioning than that
of the yuca-chewing Jívaros Indians. When it had been boiled in a huge
kettle that spent its days of disuse as a nesting-place for the family
curs, the liquid was poured off into a long, shallow tub, like a small
dug-out canoe, the same one that would serve another purpose on
wash-day. Squatted on the ground beside it, the woman was stirring it
slowly with a stick she had caught up at random. Bit by bit two gaunt
and mangy curs slunk nearer, until their noses all but touched the
steaming liquid, whereupon the woman left off her stirring long enough
to rap them over the head with the ladle. The dogs retreated a yard or
two with cowardly yelps, only to repeat the advance over and over again.
The chola’s vigilance, it turned out, was not due to any unwonted sense
of cleanliness; she was merely bent on saving the animals from burning
themselves. As soon as she judged the liquid cool enough, she gave a
sign, and the curs fell upon the tub and greedily lapped up the scum.
Thus saved the labor of skimming it, the female crawled to her feet and
set the stuff away in earthen jars to ferment.

One barren, stony ridge after another in pitiless succession carried me
much higher before the following noonday. My course now lay well east of
south, for I had caught the swing of the west coast of South America.
One last mighty surge and the world fell away before me, disclosing
almost within shouting distance the provincial capital of Cajabamba. But
it is a good rule in the Andes never to sit down in the plaza until you
reach the town. Between me and the day’s goal lay hidden one of those
mighty holes in the earth that mean the undoing and repetition of all
the toil that has gone before. The shadows were beginning to climb the
eastern wall of Cajabamba’s valley before I reached the century-polished
cobbles of the street that had swallowed up the converging trails.

The plump young subprefect, who was awaiting me in state upon my return
from the Chinese fonda to which a soldier had piloted me, would have
been rosy-cheeked had not some careless ancestor faintly clouded his
family tree and given a quaint kink to his hair. He returned my papers
with a regal bow and bade me make my home in his office as long as I
chose to honor Cajabamba with my presence. The “bed” was a blanket on
the yielding, earth-covered floor; but I had twenty soldiers at my beck
and call, and what mattered it if, each time I would make my toilet, I
must go to jail? Luckily the rust-hinged doors and chain-weighted gates
creaked with as pompous humility and dignified alacrity for my exit as
to admit me, though there were those within who had not passed them in
twenty years.

By the time I was city-dressed, the subprefect, pomaded and be-frocked
within an inch of his life, fluttered into my boudoir to ask, in
breathless oratorical periods, if, inasmuch as he had just been married
last week, or during the night, and mother down on the coast was dying
to know what the new acquisition looked like and there were no
photographers in Cajabamba and it was a pity Peru was so backward, would
I not have the fineza to take fifteen or twenty pictures of him and his
novia and deliver a few dozen finished and mounted prints for him and
her and their relatives and friends and compadres and associates within
an hour or two? As the carelessness of my American agent had left me
almost filmless, this was neither the first nor the last time I was put
to the unpleasant necessity of “faking” a picture. To have refused his
request, even with humble apologies and laborious explanations, would
have been to win the ill-will of Cajabamba’s ruler and all his
dependents, had it not resulted in the trumping up of some transparent
excuse to turn me out and refuse me official assistance in finding other
lodgings. A photographer speaking some Spanish could pick up much silver
down the crest of the Andes; it would have been a kindness if he had
made the trip a few days ahead of me. To be sure, these official
requests were always useful, in a way. While the powdered and perfumed
“authorities” were puffing themselves up to the requisite pomposity, the
town was sure to gather alongside, and as neither the fancied nor the
real subjects were well enough versed in mechanics to know whether a
kodak operates endwise or sidewise, I caught many a nonchalant pose of
some really worthwhile bystander that I might have begged for in vain.
On this occasion the novia, having spent a few hours in completely
disguising herself, as women will under the circumstances the world
over, appeared at last, deathly pale with rice powder, and the pair
assumed a score of fetching poses under my direction. True, it was dark
by that time. But the subprefect saw no reason why a photograph should
not be taken by the light of three sputtering candles. He preferred it,
indeed, to embracing his newly-won treasure in the public glare of day.
But the night had grown aged before he feigned to understand the
impossibility of immediate delivery, and he accepted only sulkily my
promise to send the finished portraits back from the next city, “if they
turned out well.”

During my morning stroll about town I was accosted in English from the
zaguan of a building of dilapidated adobe splendor. So often had I heard
a laborious “Goot mawnin, seer, how dō yō dō?” from some silly youth
whose knowledge of foreign tongues began and ended with that phrase,
that I nodded and passed on. I have too much affection for my mother
tongue to hear it gratuitously maltreated; moreover, it had lain so long
idle that to speak it had come to seem an affectation.

This time, however, the speaker continued with faultless fluency:

“I hear you are an American.”

“Just so.”

“I am Carlos Traverso, at your service; graduate of an American

“Which one?”


“Indeed! So am I.”

“Válgame Diós!” gasped the youth, betrayed by astonishment into his
native tongue for a moment. “Can’t you come around to my room, your own
house, as I should say in Peru. You probably haven’t seen the latest
copy of the ‘Alumnus’?”

“Nor the twenty latest ones. With the greatest of pleasure.”

In spite of myself I found my tongue translating the set Castilian
phrases I had so long been using, instead of falling into the
colloquialisms of my own land. When I was ensconced in an American
armchair battered with the evidence of a long journey and of the crude
unloading facilities of West Coast ports, surrounded by walls hidden
under banners and photographs that seemed to turn the adobe chamber into
a college dormitory transported to the wilds of the Andes, the youth
went on:

“The government of Peru gives four _betas_, that is, sends yearly an
honor student to each of four American universities, with an allowance
of a hundred dollars a month....”

“That is, you had $4800 for the course at Michigan?”

“Yes, with traveling expenses. You probably had about the same

“Fortunately not, or I should long since have been gracing some home for
inebriates. And is this just a present from the government?”

“No; on our return we must serve the government for three years at the
same salary. I am superintendent of schools in this and the neighboring
province of Huamachuco.”

The son of a Scandinavian father, Traverso had evidently overcome the
handicap of an allowance the spending of which would have consumed the
entire energies of a full-blooded Latin-American, and had brought back a
real education. His shelves were filled with the latest treatises on
pedagogy, in several languages, and a brief acquaintance was enough to
show that he was earnestly striving to instill some new life into the
moribund system of his native land.

“But what’s the use?” he concluded gloomily, casting aside a carefully
worked out plan of study. “A man’s wings are clipped before he can start
to fly. Theoretically I have full authority over school matters in my
two provinces; practically I can’t alter by a hair the benighted
medieval routine of studies, interwoven at every turn by the lives of
the saints, that Peru has stumbled along under for centuries. I can’t
fire a fifteen-dollar-a-month numskull up in one of the mountain
villages, even though he doesn’t know whether Chile is in New York or in
Europe. The priests have their wires attached to every government leg
and arm in the country, and I feel like a man lying by, bound hand and
foot, watching our children being criminally assaulted. The money the
government spends on us might as well be chucked into the Pacific.”

“To say nothing of squandering on one student what would easily suffice
for three,” I put in.

“Caramba, it is true! In Ann Arbor life is calm and quiet; but you ought
to see what some of the betados who are sent to Paris and Rome bring
back with them! Válgame Diós!”

The valley of Cajabamba leans decidedly to the west, whence the next day
was largely one of mounting. But the region is so high that climbing was
not laborious in the invigorating mountain air that cuts into the lungs
like strong wine; and even a man inclined to that frailty could not have
felt lonely with so much of the world spread out in plain sight about
him. There were few long spaces without houses or pack-trains. Once I
fell in with a government chasqui driving a horse and an ass laden with
sacks of mail, among which stood out one marked conspicuously: “U. S.
Mail Foreign.” The correspondence, he assured me, was not bound for the
“exterior,” but was merely local matter between towns of the route that
had been farmed out to him, a statement that was confirmed at the next

A mighty crack in the earth, into and out of which the trail zigzagged
like some badly wounded creature, marked my exit at last from the
department of Cajamarca into that of Libertad. The ancient Inca highway
is said to have followed this same route over these high, undulating
plains, but there were no certain vestiges of it. In the late afternoon
I burst suddenly out upon a broad view of the famous old city of
Huamachuco, much like Quito in setting, though more dreary, backed by a
ragged, black range, half cut off by a nearer slope, that might have
been Pichincha itself, the two peaks streaked with the first snow I had
seen since leaving central Ecuador.

Traverso had given me a note of introduction to his compadre, Dr. Alva,
the _médico titular_ of Huamachuco. As government doctor, the only
physician, indeed, within two hard days’ ride in any direction, he
drew—theoretically, at least—a salary of $150 a month, exceeding even
that of the haughty subprefect. The “son” of a hamlet far up in the
hills, he was a plain, earnest, little man with a heart several times
larger than the average of his fellow-countrymen. From his lips the
stereotyped “Here you are in your own house” had real meaning. His
library included Spanish editions of Taine, Nietzsche, Emerson—and
Roosevelt; his phonograph was of high grade and his records well chosen.
Edison was his ideal of manhood—indeed, a straw vote in the Andes would
certainly show the “wizard of Orange” the most popular American—and he
was wont to boast jokingly that his own name was the same as one of
those of the inventor, “showing that some of our ancestors were the
same.” Toward the end of my stay I discovered that the doctor, having
installed me in his well-furnished “guest-room,” was himself huddling
out the cold nights on a bag of straw and a wooden table in the mud den
behind his “office.”

It was not until we had grown rather well acquainted that Dr. Alva
confided to me the fact that he had “worked his way” through the medical
school of Lima, “even acting as waiter, señor, in a fonda, and working
in the summer like any peon. But don’t whisper a word of this to anyone
in Peru,” he implored, as if he suddenly regretted having taken me into
his confidence.

“Up in my country those of us who did that are inclined to boast of it,”
I laughed.

“Ah, sí, señor, I know,” he answered in an undertone, glancing
cautiously about him, “I know; even Tomás _Alva_ Edison was a newsboy.
But if Huamachuco ever hears of it I shall be a social outcast, ranked
with the Indians of the market-place.”

Huamachuco derives its name, if local authority is trustworthy, from the
Quichua words _huama_ (snow) and _chuco_ (cap), the peak behind the town
having in earlier centuries been completely snow-topped. It is the
“Guamachuco” of Prescott, to which Hernando Pizarro was sent soon after
the capture of Atahuallpa, to investigate the rumor that an army was
being raised to rescue the imperial prisoner. Even to-day its population
is largely Indian, among whom the chewing of coca leaves is general—the
first place south of Almaguer in Colombia of which this could be said.

But the Huamachuco of to-day does not exactly coincide with that of
Pizarro’s time. The effete descendants of a more hardy race have crawled
down into a sheltering valley, leaving uninhabited the ancient “city of
the Gentiles” on the mountain above. A local editor, apparently for no
better reason than the pleasure of basking in a gringo smile, offered to
serve me as guide. A stony road flanked ever higher along a
perpendicular rock-wall, then rose and fell over lofty undulations, and
at some six miles from the modern town brought us to the first ruins.
Far below, across a deep quebrada, lay, like a relief map, the great
rectangle of a ruined city, in perfect squares, the roofless stone
gables standing forth in fantastic array above a forest of low trees.
This was Viracochapampa, or “Plain of the Nobles,” the resident city at
the time of the Conquest. Through its broad central street passed the
great Inca highway from Quito to Cuzco.

But that was the least important part of ancient Huamachuco. Here on the
barren mountain-top stood in olden times Marca-Huamachuco, protecting
the dwelling-place on the stony plain below. Above the modern town are
still to be found remnants of the _cuchilla_, or stone trough by which
the ancient race brought water to this lofty summit by some system that
has been lost in the haze of time. About us, as we advanced, rose ruin
after stone ruin of what had evidently been an elaborate series of
fortresses. These spread mile upon mile across the rugged, undulating
tableland, some densely interwoven with brambles and impenetrable
thickets, all surrounded by the utter silence of a world long since
abandoned by man and brute. Indeed, the place was less remarkable for
its construction than for the vast extent of the ruins. Several large
edifices, square or triangular in shape, were built of huge blocks of
stone, still in the same form in which they might have been found as
mountain boulders, and, unlike the fortress of Ingapirca, nowhere nicely
fitted together. On the contrary, nearly every joint was filled in with
chips of stone, and in the thick interior walls had been used a sort of
crude concrete, now mere gravelly mud that could be picked out with the
fingers. Whether Marca-Huamachuco was built by an earlier people, or by
a more careless tribe of the race that left behind the cut-stone palaces
of Cuzco, their method of construction did not make for durability. The
ruins were all serrated and tooth-shaped, with only here and there a
jagged point suggesting the original height, the whole cutting the
far-off horizon with a fantastic, broken sky-line. An enormous wall had
evidently once surrounded the entire peak, and beyond, set close
together, was a series of almost round fortresses, each of three stone
walls, one inside the other. One more carefully constructed edifice gave
evidence of having been the chief palace, and from it stretched an
unobstructed view of all the surrounding landscape, in which an
advancing enemy might have been sighted league upon league away in any

It was in Huamachuco that the first hint of what later proved to be
amœbic dysentery overtook me, recalling to memory the medicine-case I
had abandoned in Cuenca as a useless burden. A disturbing lack of energy
settled upon me, my appetite failed—a startling symptom, indeed—and I
felt as if I had inadvertently swallowed one of the largest ruins of
Marca-Huamachuco. It was with no rousing pleasure, therefore, that I set
off, laden with hard-boiled eggs and a supply of the stony local bread,
on the lonely twelve-league tramp that intervenes between the residence
of Dr. Alva and the next town.

Four leagues south, the well-marked road swung to the right and, wading
the shallow Huamachuco river, I struck off for Trujillo and comparative
civilization on the coast. The faint path to the left bore me even
higher across an uninhabited world, dreary with its endless expanse of
dead-yellow ichu. Here were distinct remnants of the old Inca highway.
For several miles across the undulating páramo the way lay between two
rows of stones, set upright a considerable distance apart, and enclosing
a space wide enough for six or seven carriages, had they existed, to
pass abreast. If, as the inhabitants of the region assert, this is a
good example of that great military highway of the Incas, the
descriptions of chroniclers and historians have far outdone the reality.
Gomara reports it “twenty-five feet wide, cut in a straight line from
the living rock, or made of stone and lime, turning aside neither for
mountains nor lakes.” Prescott speaks of “highways carefully constructed
of cut slabs of freestone and porphyry,” which only proves how
incompetent to judge things South American is the most competent man who
has not been there in person. Those who have visited Spain know how
easily the title “camino” is granted, and the Conquistadores, like the
Peruvians of to-day, having in many cases probably never seen a real
road, had no means of comparison. Certainly this Inca highway had
nothing to justify the extravagant praise of those who compared it to
the old Roman roads. The most that had been done in the way of road
building was to clear the plain of loose rocks—in conspicuous contrast
to the modern Peruvians, who look upon a road as a convenient place to
toss the stones picked up in their fields. Stone-heaps here and there
along the Andes mark forever the routes of travel of Inca days, but they
are chiefly _achapetas_, piles thrown up by travelers, who tossed upon
them, as votary offering, a cud of coca. Of the _tambos_, rest-houses
maintained at frequent intervals by the imperial government, like the
_dak bungalows_ of India, not even the ruins of one in a hundred remain
standing, and the traveler of to-day is far more exposed to the elements
than in the times of the Incas.

The Andes rise ever higher from north to south and from west to east,
whence I was far above Huamachuco when I dragged myself into the
“Vaquería Angasmarca,” a cluster of cobblestone hovels barely four feet
high, home of an Indian cow-guard, in one of the most dreary, stony
settings in South America. Unable to get even hot water, I dared not eat
the heavy _fiambre_ I carried. I had huddled for hours on a stone under
the projecting roof when, after dark, the _vaquero_ himself rode in from
Huamachuco. Having been a soldier, trained to a bit less immobility of
temperament than his mate, he was partly cajoled, partly deceived, into
ordering her to serve me a gourdful of potato soup, prepared under
circumstances better imagined than described. For a long time he replied
with dogged, apathetic persistence that he “only gave posado in the
corredor,” but I succeeded at last in inducing him to furnish me a
ragged blanket in a corner of his own sty, on the earth floor of which
huddled the entire family and the customary menagerie of small animals.

The traveler who crawls out, blue with cold, after a night in one of
these cobble caves of the highland Indian, to squat against the eastern
wall until a gourd of warm water, savored with corn and the dung-fuel
over which it is slowly half-heated, is thrust out at him, no longer
wonders that the aboriginals of the Andes worshipped the sun. Every step
of that day of excruciating climbs and stony descents, across dreary
páramos on which I several times lost my way, was a bitter struggle; for
all the demands of the will, my legs could not push me forward two miles
an hour, and ever and anon they seemed to turn to straw and dropped me
suddenly to the ground. All the visible world lay high and treeless now,
with touches of snow on several black, shark-tooth peaks of the
Cordillera to the eastward. During the day I had passed several more
remnants of the old Inca highway, two continuous lines of
weather-blackened upright stones set far apart on either side of a space
a full half-block wide. Toward sunset the trail began to descend into a
stony river-valley, far down which I made out a tiled building among
eucalyptus trees. A passing horseman carelessly answered my question,
while more engrossed in my appearance, by assuring me it was the
hacienda house I was seeking; and I toiled a half-hour up the
mountainside to it, only to have the solitary Indian female who occupied
it point out far below, in the valley of the river, the “patrón’s” house
of the “Hacienda Angasmarca.”

It was the most imposing country dwelling I had yet seen in Peru; a
large village and two churches clustered about it, the entrance like
that to some rough old medieval palace, the swarms of dependents
carrying the mind back to feudal days. Around an immense flower and
shrub-grown patio, in which Indian hostlers were struggling to unload a
score of mules and horses, were some thirty rooms, each with a number
above the door. I did not learn whether it was the custom of the owner
to collect hotel charges, but the establishment was conducted in as
heartless and impersonal a manner as if he did. He was a snarly old
invalid who crawled about with a cane, growling orders to his cringing
Indians, and too much taken up with his own infirmities to waste
sympathy on others. With a grunt he thrust my letter of introduction
into a pocket, ordering an Indian to unlock one of the numbered rooms.
Stagnant with the atmosphere of a cheap hotel, it contained a bed with
leather springs, a billowy mattress, and a sack of ichu as pillow, and
only after a long struggle did I obtain a bowl of soup filled with tough
beef and half-cooked yuca and potatoes, a dish barely endurable to a
strong man in full health. It was late next morning before infinite
patience won me a bowl of hot milk, and I dragged myself away almost due
north. Across the world south of “Angasmarca” yawned a bottomless
valley, beyond which a rocky mountain-wall rose to the very heavens. The
road which should have followed in that direction was left to sneak out
like some hunted thing for a vast detour, even before it began to crawl
away eastward at right angles to the way I would have gone. At the
outset was a laborious, stony climb, from the summit of which the
“Hacienda Tulpo” lay in plain sight, but across one of those
heartbreaking gashes in the earth so frequent in the Andes. On the left
stood sharp, stark snow-peaks of the Cordillera, which seemed to grow
mightier with each day southward. Noon had long since passed, yet there
were barely eight miles behind me when I entered the general store of an
hacienda building forming a hollow square around a dreary barnyard. The
shopkeeper announced himself the owner of the estate—plainly by poetic
license. There is a careful graduation of caste in the Andes that makes
it easy for the experienced traveler to set any man’s place in the local
society. This fellow’s dress, color, his familiar yet commanding manner
toward the Indians who sneaked in all that Saturday afternoon to dawdle
about the counter and buy bits of trash, draughts of native “rot-gut,”
anything the place afforded except what might have been of some use to
them, generally on credit, thus lengthening their slavery to the estate,
all gave the lie to his assertion. But for all his posing, he turned out
a kindly fellow. He not only sold me a half-dozen eggs—in itself a great
kindness in the Andes—but dragged down from a shelf a sort of
chafing-dish and light-boiled them. When I had drunk these, surrounded
by a solid wall of stony-faced Indians who seemed to consider the feat
remarkable, I still could not bestir myself to push on. By and by my
eyes, wandering aimlessly over the stock that covered two walls to the
ceiling, caught sight of a familiar ten-cent can of American tomatoes. I
bought them at sixty cents. Long after an old woman had carried off the
precious empty can, the shopkeeper spent all the leisure left him by the
sluggish flow of now half-intoxicated Indians in thumbing over great
sheaves of foreign bills of lading, and at length handed me thirty
cents, with the announcement that he had inadvertently charged me for
the “whole shipment”—of two cans!

When the dreary afternoon had at last dragged its leaden way into the
past tense and chill sunset was creeping across this lofty world, I
mentioned to the shopkeeper that I needed a spot on which to spend the
night. The idea evidently had never occurred to him. The estate was
mine, and all the wonders thereof—but for all that two more endless
hours passed before a drink-saucy Indian led me to an icy harness-room
and pointed out two bare saddle-pads on the earth floor.

Certainly that man is a fool who sets out on a trip down the Andes for
pleasure; for after the first joys of roughing it have worn off, no more
monotonously pleasureless existence is conceivable. There is, to be
sure, a certain feeling of exclusiveness, a certain satisfaction in
living through hardships, of moving by one’s own efforts over those
parts of the earth where modern means of transportation are unknown; but
even this soon wears off, and with the dreary sameness of each day the
journey becomes chiefly a waste of time and effort, and a never-ending

In the morning I crawled away along a world growing ever higher, until
suddenly it fell abruptly into a chasm out-chasming anything I had yet
seen in my worst nightmares. Across it, so high even from this height
that it seemed not of our world, a town was pitched on the very tip of a
gashed and haggard range. Fortunately my route seemed to lead off down
the valley, and I was finding some grains of comfort in not having to
ascend to that heavenly dwelling-place of man, whatever it might be
called, when a passing horseman sapped my last drop of ambition by
telling me it was Pallasca—exactly the place in which I must spend the

A long time had passed before I coaxed myself to creep slowly on,
avoiding the view of the task before me as a criminal about to be
executed might shade his eyes from the scaffold. An unconscionable
distance down in the bottomless intervening valley, yet still high, I
met the first foreign tramp I had yet seen on the road in South America.
He was an Austrian of fifty, looking in his matted, lusterless hair and
beard, and his drooping rags, like a corpse that had arisen for a

“Gehen Sie nicht weiter—Go no further south,” he pleaded weakly. “There
everyone is dying of dysentery. Turn back with me to Trujillo and

His illness had reached that stage when the invalid sees the leering
head of disease rising on all sides, and fancies he may run away from
what he carries with him. I could not, naturally, abandon a plan of
years’ standing merely because of a temporary disability, and when we
had exchanged some bits of road information each crawled slowly on his

In the hamlet of Mollepata, near the bottom of the quebrada, an old
woman stirred herself to brew me some herb tea, into which she put a
branch of _ajenjo_ (wormwood) with the assurance that this was a quick
and certain cure for my ailment. The descent had been bad enough; the
climb out of that breathless gash in the earth was probably the most
dismal experience of my career; I had not, to that day, nor do I expect
again during this life, to accomplish a more bitter task than that
struggle in intermittent rain, under my leaden load and Turkish-bath
poncho, from the _tablachaca_, or earth-covered stick-bridge across the
gorge-cut river forming the northern boundary of the department of
Ancachs, to heaven-hung Pallasca. To make matters worse, the natives
were united in the assertion that the source of my trouble was my habit
of drinking at streams along the way; that at this altitude the water
was not only too cold, but held in solution many minerals that made it
unsafe. Long afterward I had reason to believe that this had little to
do with the matter. But ready at the time to grasp at any straw, I threw
away the film-tin that had served me as drinking vessel, resolved that
not another drop of “raw” water should pass my lips—or at least my
throat. The resolution called for every ounce of will-power. One of the
chief pleasures of a walking trip had always been to quench my thirst
whenever opportunity offered. Now the mountain rivulets that babbled
down across my trail were tantalizing beyond belief, and I would gladly
have given a gold sovereign—as long as they lasted—to have been able to
drink my fill at each with impunity. Worst of all, there were no
substitutes for water to be had, neither fruits, prepared drinks, nor
any other relief from torture. On the day we sailed from Panama a Zone
doctor had warned Hays and me, as the first and primary rule of the
journey before us, always to boil our water. He little guessed the
difficulty, not to say impossibility, of obeying that apparently simple
commandment in the Andes.

Black night had long since fallen when I dragged myself into the central
plaza of Pallasca, silent and dark except in the densely packed,
candle-lighted church. A dimly illuminated shop on a far corner proved
to be a tavern. My thirst had reached the point where drink was
imperative, though the sentence were sudden death. I ran my eye over the

“There is wheesky cuzqueños,” wheedled the wooden-brained keeper, “and
rhum jamaïca, or French absinthe, or ...”

“Have you anything non-alcoholic?” I croaked.

“Cómo no, señor! There is wine, and beer from Lima....”

In South America anything short of forty-percent alcohol does not count
as such; even the law does not rate beer and wine “alcoholic liquors.”
There being nothing better, I pointed out a bottle bearing the stamp of
a Lima brewery.

The sentence was not exactly sudden death, but that may be because I had
grown calloused to similar hardships. This Peruvian imitation of a
German “dark” beer was thick and black as crude molasses, bitter as
cascarilla bark, and more nauseating than old-fashioned medicine. With
only the edge of my thirst blunted, I forced the rest of the bottle upon
a bystander, not maliciously, but because I knew that a lifetime in the
Andes had hardened him to anything; and turned to the question of

“You come right along with me,” cried the grateful bystander, smacking
his all-enduring lips. “You will stop with the señor cura, like all
travelers of importance.”

But the señor cura was in no condition to receive guests. In his large,
over-furnished parlor around the corner the padre lay on a couch, the
slouch hat over his red-bandaged head and a two-weeks’ lack of shave
giving him a startling resemblance to the Spanish bandits of operatic

“No, compadre; I am sick, and I cannot give lodging,” he replied to
every plea of my officious sponsor.

The several persons in the room entered into a whispered conference.
Some time later I was aroused from my lethargy, and my cicerone and a
light-haired youth led the way across the black plaza and up a steep,
cobbled street which my legs all but refused to navigate under my heavy
load—for though he would not leave a man who had treated him to the
luxury of a glass of beer from the capital at a fabulous price until he
had seen him safely housed, neither the bystander nor his companion
could sink their baggy-kneed caste to the depth of carrying a bundle in
the public street, even on a dark night.

When morning dawned I found myself rolled up in a heap of blankets on
the earth floor of a long-disused parlor. Hours passed without a human
being appearing. I pulled myself together and shuffled out into the
patio of an immense, dilapidated house at the tiptop of the town,
overlooking half a world and swept by all the winds of heaven. Pallasca
has been likened to _alforjas_, so like a pair of saddlebags on the rump
of a pack-animal does it hang down the two sides of a lofty nose of the
range. Across the void, deep-blue in spite of the penetrating glare of
the Andean sunshine, the Cordillera had tumbled her mountains recklessly
in a tumultuous heap, as if the Builder of the world had left here his
surplus of materials. The Andes have little of the color and varied
charm of the Alps; but in awesome grandeur, and repulsive, savage
mightiness they dwarf the latter by comparison. In a room down on the
sunken street on which opened the patio zaguan, the light-haired youth
and his brother kept the town drug-store. They were the sons of a German
who had married in Peru, yet only their more robust frames and greater
physical virility distinguished them from the common run of natives; in
temperament they were as thoroughly what the Canal Zoner calls “Spig” as
the most enemic of their fellow-townsmen. The older was an amateur
doctor—with the accent on the adjective—the only one for scores of miles
around. He prepared me a half-dozen _obleas_,—those saucer-shaped
capsules of the Andean pharmacopœia—of bismuth, prescribed a diet of
_chochoca molida_—the Quichua-Spanish name for a thin cornmeal
gruel—which might be substituted by chuño inglés, a sickly-sweet liquid
starch—or wheat or rice soup, and assured me that I would be completely
recovered in the morning. All the articles of diet were contingent on
the possibility of getting the ingredients, which in the Andes is a
distinct contingency. For thirst I was advised to take only boiled water
with cinnamon or _cimarruba_ bark; but even to get the former cost a
constant struggle with the apathetic servants, and the necessity of
dragging myself down to the stream on a corner of the plaza to cool the
boiling pot.

Later in the day, while I lay contemplating the immense distance across
the room, a young rag-patch came to say that the cura wished to see me.
The mere novelty of a man of the cloth desiring my presence was so
astonishing that it lent a bit of stiffness to my legs. I rose and
wandered down across the main plaza, from the further side of which the
world falls precipitously away into unfathomable void.


  Detail of the ruins of “Marca-Huamachuco,” high up on the mountain
    above the modern town of that name. They are reputed to be at least
    1000 years old]


  Pallasca, to which I climbed from one of the mightiest _quebradas_ in
    the Andes, sits on the tiptop of the world and falls sheer away at a
    corner of its plaza into a fathomless void]

The unshaven papist still wore his slouch hat, and by day his
bandit-like aspect was increased by a complexion like unpolished
chamois-skin. He motioned me to a chair beneath the lithograph of a
ravishing nude figure advertising a foreign brand of cigarettes, and
trusted, with all the smoothness of which the Spanish tongue is capable,
that I had not misunderstood his inhospitality of the night before.
Gradually I turned the conversation to the history of his native region.
He had made a serious study of the pre-Conquest period, and was sure
that the Indians lived in just such unwashed misery under the Incas, as
to-day. Only, as each group of ten had its commander, who set its tasks
and carried his investigations into the very bosom of the family, they
were not then so unspeakably lazy. I had started to take my leave after
some desultory remarks on my journey, during which he desired to know if
I had walked all the way from Europe, when the priest remarked:

“Before going you will allow me to give you a little remembrance?”

“Cómo no! Gracias,” I answered, fancying the good-hearted old fellow was
about to favor me with a tin crucifix or a bottle of holy water.

He sat up slowly and, pulling open a drawer of his massive home-made
desk, took out five silver _soles_ ($2.50), and held them toward me.

“Mil gracias, no, señor,” I cried in astonishment.

“Tómaselos—take them as a memento,” he persisted, attempting to thrust
the coins into my pocket. Plainly he regarded my refusal a mere
preliminary formality to save my face. So ingrained is the
Latin-American notion that no man exerts himself physically, except
under compulsion, that, for all my explanations, he still cherished the
idea that I traveled on foot because I had not the means to travel
otherwise. Nor did I avoid his proposed charity without a great waste of
flowery Castilian, and for all that left him somewhat offended. Even the
sons of the misled German could not be made to understand why I had
refused the proposed benefaction. “Andarines” of the Peyrounel variety
have given these isolated towns of the Andes the impression that all
foreigners arriving on foot were “living on the country.” Tramps, in our
sense of the word, are unknown in the Andes. The few foreign
“beach-combers” who reach Peru rarely get beyond Lima, and the Indians
still cling to the Inca rule—though they may no longer know that an Inca
ever existed—of each man sticking pertinaciously to his own birthplace.
It is as impossible for the American to realize the absolute lack of
anything approaching wanderlust in the Andean, and his dread of moving
away from his native pueblo, as it is for the Indian to understand why
the American is so far from home. Even among the more or less educated
officials I could not shake off the title “andarín.” More than one rural
“authority” showed himself aggrieved because I did not ask for his
testimonial, seal, and signature, fancying himself slighted as of too
little importance. Many another assured the gaping bystanders:

“Ah, ganan un platal, esa gente—Those fellows win a wad of money! When
he gets back, his government will give him a great prize, at least
300,000 soles for the trip, señores.”

A prize, indeed! As if there were not a prize at every turn of the
winding trail, in every new vista of tumultuous nature under the clear
metallic blue of the highland sky!

I determined to push on next morning, for Pallasca was no nearer
recovery than my journey’s end. The diluted Germans had promised to have
an Indian carrier ready at dawn. But they were true Peruvians. The
morning was half gone when I gave up in disgust and set out alone. At
the zaguan, however, a fishy-eyed Indian rose to his feet to say that he
had been sent by the gobernador to “assist” me, and I piled my bundle
upon him forthwith.

Though Pallasca seems to perch on the very summit of the world, the
trail managed to find another range to climb. Scores of cold,
crystal-clear streams babbled tantalizingly across my path. A cosmic
wilderness of gaunt and haggard mountains, here throwing forward bare
and repulsive outliers, there weirdly decorated with shadow-pictures of
clouds and jutting headlands, lay tumbled on every hand as far as the
eye could range. The Indian chewed coca constantly, pausing frequently
to dip a bit of lime from the gourd he carried at his waist, and
appeared to have as little energy as I. When we had crawled some six
miles, and a scattered hamlet was visible about as far ahead, with a
deep gash of the earth between, he began to complain of pains, and
finally lay down in the trail. I did not regret the halt, but when I had
waited a half-hour and his groans still sounded, I sought to urge him
on. It was useless. Whether he was really ailing—and Sunday may have
left him with what is technically known in sporting circles as a
“hang-over”—or was merely taking this means of shirking an unwelcome
task, now we were far enough away so that I was not likely to return to
complain to the gobernador, arguments and threats moved him exactly as
they would have the rocks on which he writhed. Consigning him to the
nethermost regions, I struggled to my feet under my harness and
staggered on down the stony bajada.

Hours afterward, utterly exhausted by the short dozen miles, I entered
the mud hamlet of Huandoval, expecting a miserable night on the earth
floor of some icy dungeon hut. It was not quite so bad as that. At the
first doorway where I paused to inquire for the gobernador, a
half-Indian young woman of unusual Andean intelligence offered me
lodging where I stood. The baked-mud den was as dreary as usual, but in
a corner stood a bare slat bedstead, half-buried under an immense heap
of potatoes. Early as it was, I spread my poncho and lay down,
anticipating a welcome repose—only to discover that I was lodged in the
Huandoval telephone exchange! On the wall hung an aged Errickson
instrument, the strange vagaries of which brought the chola in upon me
as often as its jangle sounded. The place, too, like telephone exchanges
the world over, was exceedingly popular with the young men of the town,
and when my rest was not being broken by some mistaken call from another
exchange, it was disrupted by the labored wit of some rural Lothario.

It is but eight miles from Huandoval to Cabana, capital of the province;
yet it required nine hours of the most concentrated effort, both mental
and physical, to drive myself over the low, barren ridge that separates
the two towns. The story of the next few days, trivial in detail, I give
in no spirit of complaint, but merely because it sheds so direct a light
on the character of the Andean Peruvian. I had learned that there was a
hospital in Huaráz, the department capital, and requested the subprefect
of Cabana to use his authority to help me hire a horse, as he was in
duty bound to do by the official orders I carried.

“Pierda cuidado,” orated the thin, angular fellow, peering at me with
his short-sighted squint, “the government will furnish you a horse and
all that is needed.”

Nobody wanted the government to furnish me anything, but I did not stop
to argue the matter. My entire attention was taken up just then with
resisting the efforts of the “authorities” to throw me into a dank mud
den, under the allegation that it was a lodging. Fortunately there was
some one else than Peruvians in the town. It was through the village
priest that I won at last a second-story room above the prefectura, of
mud floor in spite of its elevation, supported on poles that yielded to
the tread. He was a tall, powerfully-built Basque of fifty, with a
massive Roman nose and, in memory of his mountain-land, a _boína_ set
awry on his head and matching his long, flowing gown only in color. He
had suffered from the same ailment during his first year in this foreign
land and was sure he knew an instant cure—and instead of merely talking
about it, like a native, he sent a man to prepare it. This was a
half-bottle of wine boiled with the bark of a mountain tree called the
_cimarruba_; but whatever effectiveness it might have possessed was
offset by the impossibility of keeping to a proper diet, or even of
getting boiled water to drink. There was no doctor in Cabana; yet all
Cabana posed as physicians. Now some fellow would drop in to say, “the
very best thing you can eat is pork-chops,” and he would scarcely be out
of sight before another paused to assure me that pork-chops would kill
me within an hour. “Eat the whites of eggs,” cried another. “You can eat
almost anything,” asserted the next comer, “except the whites of eggs.”
Again the room would be darkened by a shadow in the doorway, and a man
would step forward to say, “Now here is an old Indian woman from up in
the mountains whose grandfather’s nephew died of dysentery, and....”

All night the town boomed with fireworks, the howling of dogs, the
bawling of drunken citizens, and the atrocious uproar of a local “band,”
for it was the eve of something or other. Far from finding the promised
horse waiting for me at dawn, I did not see the shadow of a person until
after ten. Then a stupid, insolent soldier came to ask if I wanted
“breakfast.” At twelve he had not returned. I dragged myself down to the
plaza. The subprefect and all his henchmen were making merry in a
_pulpería_. I requested him to have some one prepare me food, at any
price. Price? They were horrified! Of course they could not think of
letting me _pay_ for anything. I was the guest of Cabana. They would
_obsequiar_ me a “magnificent meal” at once, cried the subprefect, tying
himself in several knots in his excess of courtesy. What would I like,
roast lamb with eggs, a fine steak with.... No, I would be completely
satisfied with a bowl of gruel. Ah, certainly, I should have it at once,
and a basket of fruit, and ... and there they dropped the matter, until
the priest, discovering my plight, well on in the afternoon, sent up a
dish of rice gruel.

Everything does not come to him who waits in the Andes, and I descended
again to mention the word “horse” to the now reeling subprefect.

“Have no care,” he hiccoughed, “the government will attend to all that.”

Knowing he was merely showing off before his fellow-townsmen, and that
he would really let me lie where I was, or at most furnish me some
crippled Rozinante to carry me to Tauca, three miles away, I refused his
putative charity. He turned to the crowd about us with a pretense of
being hurt to the quick, then sent a boy to summon the half-negro
gobernador, likewise maudlin with the celebration.

“Since this señor has declined my offer to furnish him all that is
needed,” stuttered the offended subprefect, “you will have a _paid_
horse, with saddle and bridle, ready for him—to-morrow.”

“But why not to-day?” I protested.

“Absurd, señor! To-day is the great Corpus Cristi procession and you
would not wish to miss that, even if you could get an Indian to go with

The procession, set for mid-morning, started soon after my return to my
room. From the altar of the church it encircled the plaza and returned
whence it had come. The route had been carefully scraped and
swept—evidently for the only time during the year—by ragged Indians,
forced to contribute this pious labor by the several grades of
labor-dodging “authorities” howling over them. Then it had been spread
with a long strip of carpet, after which came scores of barefoot women
to cover it with a fixed design of flower-petals of all colors. Then
forth from the mud church issued the Basque priest in cream-tinted
vestments, his boína and incessant cigarette gone, four Indians
protecting him from the dull, sunless day by a rich canopy. Proceeded,
followed, or surrounded by all the bareheaded, drink-maudlin piety of
Cabana, the distressing “band” blowing itself wobbly-kneed, he moved
slowly forward, only his own sacred feet touching the carpet, women and
children pouncing upon the flower petals behind as rapidly as they were
blessed by his number-eleven tread, and carrying them off as sacred
relics. Outwardly he seemed sunk in the profoundest depths of devotion,
yet twice, at a sign from me, he halted the procession, as by previous
understanding, until I had caught a picture. Over the door of the
towered mud-hovel into which the throng crowded after him were the
half-effaced words, “HAEC EST DOMUS DEI ET PORTA CIELI.” No doubt they
were right, but it would have been easy to have mistaken it for
something else.

Toward evening the subprefect’s secretary brought a wooden-minded Indian
and, introducing him as the owner of a horse, called upon me to pay 75
cents at once for the use of it. The moment I had done so he produced a
still dirtier Indian and, introducing him as my “guide,” demanded that
he be paid fifty cents. That over, the secretary mentioned that it was
customary to give a “gratification” to owner and “guide,” that they
might drink my good health for the coming voyage, at the end of which,
he further hinted, it was costumbre to grant the “guide” a _real_ for
alfalfa for the animal, and something for himself for chicha, and ...
but by that time I had withdrawn to my quarters.

At six in the morning I was dressed and ready; at seven the “guide” came
to know if he really should bring the horse; at eight I burst in upon
the sleeping subprefect to know what had become of his boisterous
promise to have food prepared for me at dawn. A soldier was sent to
investigate. In due time he came back with the information that the cook
was not up yet. At nine the “horse” arrived. It was a wild, hairy,
mountain colt, a bit larger than an ass, which had never been shod,
curried, or trimmed. The equipment it wore was wholly home-made,—a
bridle of braided rawhide, without bits, like that with which our
American Indian rides his mustang, a tiny, crude, wooden saddle with one
thickness of leather stretched over it, and huge wooden box-stirrups.

“Now let nothing worry you,” cried the subprefect, as I bade farewell to
the noble city of Cabana, the “guide” trotting on foot behind, “I’ll
telegraph the gobernador of Corongo and Huaylas and the subprefect of
the next province so that he can telegraph his governors and the prefect
in Huaráz. No se moleste, señor; everything will be arranged by the

Hours of unbroken climbing brought us to a freezing-cold páramo, where
flakes of snow actually fell and across the icy lagoons of which a wind
that penetrated to the marrow swept from off the surrounding snow-peaks.
So small was my animal that I expected him to drop under me at every
step, so tiny that his front knees constantly knocked the stirrups off
my feet, and so wobbly in his movements that it was like riding a
loose-jointed hobby-horse. At last we caught the valley of a descending
river, and racked and shaken in every bone, I rode into the plaza of
Corongo, the near-Indian population of which seemed to take a
bear-baiting pleasure in the predicaments of others. Evidently this was
no new characteristic, for Stevenson, writing a century ago, states,
“Corongo is certainly the most disagreeable Indian town I ever entered.”

The gobernador sat gossiping in the mud hut to which the telegraph wire
led. He had not, however, received any message from Cabana. As telegrams
cost “authorities” nothing, I had permitted myself to hope that at least
this promise would be kept. Having no other way of getting rid of me,
however, the town ruler led the way to his own hovel, where long after
dark his crude-mannered females prepared me a bowl of gruel with which
to break an all-day fast.

The language of Corongo is chiefly Quichua, little in evidence since
Ecuador, but due from now on to be more general than Spanish. The
gobernador ran no unnecessary risk of having me left on his hands, and
by six next morning the owner of a new “horse,” an even more striking
caricature of what he was supposed to represent than that of the day
before, had collected his fee and that of the new “guide.” These paid,
he began at once to complain that the animal could not travel far
without being shod, a luxury which, like his master, he had thus far
never enjoyed. On the advice of the gobernador I added a half-sol for
that purpose. Two hours later I raised so effective a protest against
further delay that the animal was dragged in, still unshod, as he would
be to the end of time, and made ready. The price, more or less
exorbitant in honor of my helpless situation and gringo blood, would not
have mattered had not each “authority” stood in cahoots with the owners
and wasted my time and energy with their clumsy grafts.

Under a brilliant sun we squirmed away out of town, and began a sharp
descent into one of the mightiest desert gorges in all the Andes, my
“guide,” a stone-headed fellow, speaking only Quichua, who had plodded
at a horse’s tail all his days, slapping along behind me in his leather
sandals, incessantly feeding himself lime and coca leaves. It would have
been difficult enough for a man in the best of health to sit such an
animal standing still on the level; let those who can imagine one with
barely the strength left to hold himself together riding him down shale
hillsides, often at a sharp angle, the stirrups knocked from his inert
feet every few yards. Now the entire range cutting off the world on the
east was capped with snow, making the scorched and thirsty valley the
more tantalizing by comparison. On through blazing noon I clung to that
diminutive brute with his murderous dog-trot, over blistered, waterless
hills, harsh and repulsive in their barrenness, to fetch up at sunset,
more dead than alive, in Yuramarca, a scattered village of far more
chicha-shops than respectable inhabitants. Here, instead of the
penetrating cold of Corongo, was to be feared the fever of the hot
lands. The gobernador was a ragged, barefoot Indian not over eighteen,
one of the few in town who spoke Spanish, and inclined to insolence in
consequence. He pointed out a mud cave on the plaza as the
stopping-place of all travelers. I protested against lying on the bare
earth. “No hay más,” growled the haughty official. Of course there was
nothing more; there never is at the first ten or twelve requests among
these pitiless aboriginals. An hour’s coaxing and threatening, nicely
interwoven, and the gobernador strolled across the plaza and came back
with just the thing,—a six by two-foot door, covered on one side with
zinc. I ordered the “guide” to place the saddle in the room, lest he
decamp during the night, gave him a _medio_ for chicha, a _real_ to buy
the tops of sugar-cane for the “horse”—for we were far below the alfalfa
line—and sent the gobernador with twice the necessary amount to find
wheat for a bowl of gruel. To the unspeakable old female he ordered to
prepare it. I paid a large day’s wages, yet the luke-warm “soup” she
delivered long after dark had only a spoonful of chaff in it. In the
Andes, cooks, workmen, and servants appropriate as much as they dare of
anything they have to do with, and soldier, peon, dog, or cat, each
expects to levy his toll on the traveler’s scanty rations. We of the
north do not look kindly upon this species of charity, feeling that each
should have his food regularly from a definite source; yet the means of
avoiding a system more deadening in its effect than the “tip” of more
advanced communities is yet to be found.


  An Indian of Cerro de Pasco region carrying a slaughtered sheep. The
    women go barefoot but the men wear woolen stockings and hairy
    cowhide sandals]


  Catalino Aguilar and his wife. Fermín Alva, my nurses in the hospital
    of Caráz]

Before daylight of a moonlit Sunday morning we were off again through
the same dreary desert. The sun, having first to climb the snow-capped
Cordillera, only overtook us as we were crossing the decrepit little
bridge high above the Santa river, racing through its resounding gorge
on its way to the Pacific. The endless climb beyond was by so narrow a
trail along the face of a yawning precipice that my saddlebags scraped
continually along the mountain wall, and here and there a jutting rock
thumped me sharply on the knee. At scorching high noon we caught sight,
between grim, austere mountain flanks, of a long, tilted valley lightly
covered in all its extent with tiled houses among scrub trees, which my
peon announced was Huaylas. I had heard such rosy reports of this “city”
that my oft-disappointed hopes grew buoyant again before a view
delightful to the eye weary with the savage solitudes behind. But it
turned out to be but another of those bowelless, stone-hearted mountain
towns whose ragged inhabitants remind one of buzzards hovering about a
moribund, each snatching what he can, as soon as he dares. “Don
Ricardo,” an anemic, fishy-handed dwarf of outwardly white skin, owner
of the chief shop of Huaylas, ran a sort of amateur hotel at
Ritz-Carlton prices. The open-air “dining-room” on the back veranda
overlooked—as guests likewise struggled to do—a jumble of ancient and
noisome structures and stable-yards, in the most distressing of which a
leprous old hag concocted the inedible messes that were poked through a
repulsive hole in the wall an unconscionable time after they were
ordered. The rheumatic and dismal den to which I was assigned was below
the street level, though I could see through the wooden-barred window
the brilliant, sunny day outside, and catch a glimpse of the serrated
line of snow peaks away to the east. But the good people of Huaylas,
informed in some way of my place of lodging, amused themselves by
pounding on the window bars, shouting amiable insults in upon me, and
now and then tossing in clods of earth and an occasional stone that did
not always fall short of their aim. As I had had no quarrel with the
priest, he could not have denounced me as a heretic. It must have been
simply their racial delight in producing or watching suffering, the same
trait that brings them joy during the sorriest moments of a bull-fight,
and causes them to gather in crowds to tease and jeer at an idiot or a
cripple. It was “Taco” who finally came to my rescue. “Taco” was a
Japanese, chief servant of Don Ricardo, and the only really intelligent
or humane person I had met since walking out of the doctor’s house in
Huamachuco. It was with deep regret that I paid his worthless master for
what the servant really furnished.

The peon who was to start with me at dawn next day was still wallowing
among the chicha-shops at blazing ten, and I was weakly urging a
start—for the journey was long—when an imposing personage of white skin,
wearing a leather cap and real shoes, pushed through the jeering throng
and announced himself the congressman for that district. Having heard my
tale of woe, he gave me a card ordering the _médico titular_ of Caráz to
admit me to the hospital there, and in due time prevailed upon the
besotted peon to be off. The order was addressed to one Dr. Luís A.
Phillips, and vastly buoyed up by the promise inherent in such a name, I
endured uncomplainingly the rib-jolting trot to which the delayed start
had sentenced me.

Town after town had proved such dismal disappointments that I did not
look forward to Caráz with any overwhelming glee. But my hopes rose high
when we surmounted one of the countless desert ridges and sighted at
last a vast, level, though somewhat tilted plain between the Santa river
and the brilliant white snow peaks of the ever higher Cordillera, with
hundreds upon hundreds of inviting houses specking with red its many
orchards and checkered green patches of cultivation. The Andes rise to
appalling heights in these parts, and take on a variety of color and
form almost comparable to the Alps in beauty, vastly outdoing them in a
certain wild, somber undomesticated grandeur. Under the declining sun
the bold and impressive range turned from tawny brown to deep purple,
then to tender violet and soft lilac as they receded, the snowy heads of
the peaks seeming to hang suspended in the evening sky. The bridge to
the north was in ruins, and I had to ride more than a mile beyond the
town to catch the road from the south that carried us at last into the
place as the shopkeepers were putting up their wooden shutters. It was
almost a city, with evidence of considerable commerce and civilization,
great glaciers gazing coldly down from the transparent sky of evening
into the neat little plaza.

A considerable percentage of the inhabitants were white in color, but
this was apparently only skin-deep. At the entrance to the doctor’s
patio I was met by his wife, a well-dressed, auburn-haired woman, to all
outward appearances educated and civilized. But environment is a
powerful factor. She differed not in the least from the Indians of
Corongo. Having informed me with an icy indifference that the doctor was
“somewhere in the town,” she refused even to permit me to enter the
patio to wait for him. There being nowhere else to go, I was forced to
remain more than an hour astride the animal I could scarcely cling to
after eight hours of racking trot. Not a drop of anything could I get
for my raging thirst. Instead, the woman’s saucy children joined a score
of other urchins of the town in crowding around me and concocting all
manner of annoyances, even to throwing stones and striking the horse
unawares on the legs, while a score of adults looked on from the street
corners or their doorways at the “amusement.”

At first sight of the doctor, long after dark, my hopes gushed up like a
spurting geyser, but they fell leadenly to the ground as he opened his
lips. The son of an Englishman stranded a half-century ago in this
corner of Peru, he looked as British as any stroller along Piccadilly;
yet in speech, manner, and mental processes he was “Spig” to the core.
With a Latin-American eagerness to be rid of anything suggesting labor
or annoyance, he asked a few superficial questions, grunted twice after
the manner of physicians, and led the way down the cobbled street. My
habit of picturing in detail every coming scene had only been increased
by my condition, and I braced myself to enter a dismal, barren mud room,
with a score of beds filled with foul-tongued Peruvian soldiers, in
which the pilfering of my possessions would be the least of the
annoyances awaiting me. I was most agreeably disillusioned. The hospital
at Caráz was a new, whitewashed, pleasant little building recently
erected by a society of well-to-do inhabitants. There were not a
half-dozen patients, and in painting my picture I had completely
overlooked the Andean rules of caste. However nastily he may treat him
otherwise, the meanest Peruvian would not so far forget his training as
to put a white man among Indians or negro-tainted soldiers. I was given
full possession of a long, tile-floored room, opening on the
flower-decked patio and with a large barred window on the street; the
best chamber in the building, indeed, except the director’s office.
True, the bed was board-floored, and I had to ask the caretaker to
remove his champion gamecock from the room—whereupon he tied him by a
leg just outside the door—but who could be so cruel as to ask a Peruvian
to keep his rooster where he cannot gloat over him as he works?

The doctor came for a minute and a half every morning. The hospital
being a public institution and he a government doctor, he scowled at my
offer to pay for treatment. The caretaker and especially his wife, with
a seared and weather-worn face like that of a good-hearted old German
peasant woman, were kindly if not experienced nurses. I could scarcely
have fallen upon a finer spot, as nature goes, to be “laid on the
shelf.” Caráz, 7,440 feet above sea-level, was at an ideal height as a
place of recuperation, its splendid climate tempered and clarified by
the snowclads above. An open stream made music by my window; the sun was
unbrokenly brilliant from the time it crawled over the snow-peaks to the
east till it dropped behind the western ranges. I needed no clock to
tell the time of day. It was 7:40 when the first golden streak fell upon
the whitewashed wall beneath the window; 12:14 when the golden rectangle
that marked the open door to the patio stood upright; 2:20 when the
window-bars cast their first shadow on the tiled floor; and 5:10 when
these, elongated to emaciated slenderness, faded away into the purple
darkness of evening. Two youths of the town dropped in on me one day and
brought an ancient book of tales; but it goes without saying that I had
no hint of what was going on in the wide world beyond the encircling
ranges. The unique feature of the hospital was that no provision
whatever was made for patients to wash, even face and hands. Bathing was
looked upon as highly dangerous to invalids, and it was only after
several days, and at the expense of much argument, that I finally caused
a washtub of tepid water to be dragged into the room.

                              CHAPTER XII
                            THE ROOF OF PERU

For a week I improved under the doctor’s care. I had already strolled
once or twice around the neat little plaza, down upon which the massive,
snowclad peaks gaze with paternal serenity. But my legs were still in
that woven-straw condition that made my feet lead ingots; and no
pleasure quite outdid that of lying abed watching the sunshine crawl
across the floor, and listening to the keeper’s rooster challenging the
world to combat. I should have regretted a controversy with that rooster
during those days; I am sure he would have worsted me.

On Sunday, the first of June, the doctor did not appear; nor the next
day, nor the next. Medicines and tonics ran out. I decided to push on
next morning, before what strength I had regained evaporated entirely.
But during the night there came upon me a pain under which I could only
writhe and stuff my throat with bedclothes. When I had enjoyed this an
hour or two, a brilliant thought struck me,—appendicitis! All the night
through—for only the rooster slept within shouting distance—I painted
fanciful pictures of a grave looked down upon by the paternal, serene
peaks through the ages to come. For it was easy to guess how effectively
the surgeons of the Andes would surge—with their butcher-knives,
sheep-shears and ditch-water. In the morning I sent the caretaker to
summon the doctor before he set out on his rounds. About nine he came
back to announce, in a manner suspiciously sheepish, that the señor
doctor médico titular was confined to his bed. As the day wore on the
fellow overcame his racial lack of initiative to the extent of bringing
me a potion from the chief _botica_, but it had little effect. Then all
at once “Taco,” the Japanese of Huaylas, grinned in on me through the
bars of my window, and a half-hour later the keeper of the drug-shop had
come in person.

“It is congestion of the bowels, señor,” he announced. “These pílduras
will relieve it. The doctor was to have changed the treatment on Sunday
to avoid this, but—”

“Is the doctor seriously ill?” I asked.

“Señor,” said the druggist, after a moment of hesitation, “on Saturday
night the médico titular took some liquor at a tertulia. It is fatal to
him. He cannot stop. It is now four days that he has lain mareado”
(seasick), “and he has not been able to visit one of his patients. Out
in the pueblos three have already died; for there is no other doctor.”

I had been ten days in Caráz when, in spite of a soreness within and an
annoying lack of vigor, I decided to push on afoot. A broad road led
south along the green and fertile valley of the Santa, shut in on either
hand by the yellow, terra-cotta flanks of barren mountains as between
unscalable walls. The way was well-peopled with broad-faced, stolid
Indians speaking no Spanish, and a felt hat of tobacco-color was now
taking the place of the dingy “panamas” that had been almost universal
since southern Ecuador. It was only a simple day’s walk; eight miles to
another provincial capital. But it seemed at least twenty, especially as
the “perfectly level” road kept mounting steadily, for Yungay is a
thousand feet higher than Caráz. The snow-and-glacier mass of Huascarán,
king of that magnificent snow-capped range that dwarfs the Alps, bulked
menacingly almost sheer above the bucolic old plaza, when I plodded
across it in the sleepy silence of noonday to the dwelling of an
unusually simple-hearted subprefect.

Next morning Yungay stretched for miles along the half-cobbled highway,
and had scarcely ended when Mancos began. This department of Ancachs and
the valley of the Santa is the most densely populated region of Peru.
The fifteen miles to Carhuáz was what the Peruvians call an excellent
road; to a people of wider outlook it would have been recognizable as a
broad expanse of loose stones undulating over barren ridges, relieved by
the bracing mountain air from off the blue-white bulk of Huascarán, here
seeming to hang suspended overhead. The water of all this valley is
reputed a source of several dread diseases, among them the warty
_verrugas_ indigenous to Peru. The bottle of boiled “tea-water” swinging
from my leather harness lasted but a few dry miles, and I could only
fall back, not without misgiving, on chicha, announced for sale by a
little red flag before an occasional hut along the way. The bridge that
once lifted the camino real across the swift, cold stream at the edge of
the green oasis that marked the end of the day’s tramp had gone the way
of most Peruvian bridges, and left me to wade waist-deep. Strangely
enough, my host of Yungay had kept his word to telegraph the gobernador
of Carhuáz, and I sat down almost upon arrival with the family at a
dinner served after the patriarchal manner of the Andes. To those of us
at table the wife at the head granted the full meal, from the hot,
peppery soup of Ancachs to the dessert of fried plantains in
“honey,”—melted crude sugar. To the dozen Indian servants squatted along
the wall she dished out frugally the coarser viands, to each according
to his station in life, the bedraggled scullion getting only a small
gourdful of boiled corn and yuca. During our Sunday stroll in the plaza
the gobernador introduced me in the same careful order to every town
celebrity, down to the last teniente; after which we of the élite
gathered round the town clerk in a corner of the square to hear read the
weekly “bulletin,” from the two-line cable of foreign news “via Lima” to
the last testimonial to the efficacy of the pills of Dr. Ross as a
panacea of all earthly misfortunes.

I was miles south before the first rays of Monday’s sun fell upon me,
and even after that was able to sneak along for hours in the shadow of
the Cordillera, so closely did it stand above me. Town rapidly succeeded
town, with miles of almost unbroken house-walls crowding a damnably
cobbled road to barely the width of a wheeled vehicle. Not even along an
English highway would more houses have been shops. The male population
spoke a more or less fluent Spanish, weedy with terms from their native
tongue; but the women either could not or would not use anything but
Quichua. The dialect of the region contained a labor-saving devise in
the phrase “A ’onde vueno?” serving for the more specific “Where do you
come from and where are you going?” of less inventive sections. Not a
few took me for a peddler, and called out from their doorways, “Qué
lleva de venta, señor?” and some sent children running after me with a
summons to return, lest they miss a precious opportunity for long-winded
and chiefly futile bargaining. Ripened corn was being husked in the
narrowing fields along the way. The repulsive, flanking ranges crowded
closer and closer together, squeezing the stony road ever higher, until
the hills closed in entirely, and a precipitous, barren ridge, cutting
off the world to the south, left it no choice but to contract to a
cobbled street of the department capital. The sun was setting when I
halted at a corner of Huaráz’ main plaza, my legs leaden with the
twenty-five undulating, stony miles behind me, to inquire for that
famous hotel rumor had pictured for weeks gone by.

The conviction came upon me that there would not be a hotel even in
Lima. A citizen of Huaráz did point out to me a building boasting itself
the “GRAN HOTEL,” but all it offered was a few rooms to let. To me fell
that of the zaguan, a prison-like chamber forming a front corner of the
building and opening on both the street and the entrance to the patio.
It had once been the oratorio of a private dwelling, and the altar and
its decorations were still intact, except that the Virgin had flown from
her niche. Across the way was a Chinese fonda with the same bill of
fare, worse cooked, worse served, and more expensive than that of
Cajamarca. This was the gathering-place of the élite among the homeless
transients. I had not the courage to investigate the dozen other Chinese
and native “restaurants” scattered about town.

Huaráz, capital of the most populous department of Peru and the largest
city I had yet seen since crossing the frontier, is really but another
mud village of the Andes, differing from the rest only in size. Its
adobe buildings seldom rise above a story and a half in height; its
rusticated inhabitants, in ragged, comic-opera costumes, the majority
speaking only Quichua, were for the most part ill-bred and disagreeable
in manner, especially to “gringos,” whose intelligence or cleanliness
they seemed to resent. Even the small percentage of whites—real whites,
that is, for there were many who no doubt mistakenly considered
themselves so—were gaping mountaineers. Window-glass, to be sure, was to
be found, and there were actually three or four clumsy, two-wheeled
carts, like the rural wagons of England, the arrival of which was no
doubt an event in the town history. Foreign residents were numerous,
especially Chinamen, who owned many of the shops of importance, leaving
the natives to squat in the street with their few cents’-worth of wares.
The town itself has nothing “picturesque” about it, neither in the color
and style of its houses nor the rags of its inhabitants; but this is far
more than made up for by the magnificent range of snowclad peaks that
climb up into the blue all about it, towering close above the town on
the east and stretching away into the north, to end in the enormous
blue-white mass of Huascarán. Its climate, colder than that of Quito and
with a perpetually brilliant sunshine and an invigorating crispness to
the air, was delightful. There was even a shelf of books for sale in one
of the larger establishments, though the nearest I came to finding
literature of the country for the road ahead was Björnson’s “Sendas de
Diós,” whatever it may be called in Norwegian.

Rumor had it that the tramp over the icy Cordillera Central that now lay
before me would be “impossible,” even to a man in the most sturdy
condition. To slip down to the coast and sail for Lima would have been
easy, but a racial obstinacy forced me to pursue to the bitter end the
task I had set myself, though it promised only the monotony of familiar
experience and further intercourse with a people that had grown utterly
antipathetic in habit, feature, and character. An American resident
furnished me a horse and a peon for the first day’s journey. The prefect
had favored me with the customary flowery document to his subordinates
along the way, ordering them to “lend me all classes of facilities.” It
would have been far more to the point had he commanded them more
specifically to assist me to acquire an occasional plate of beans. The
dusty road close along the diminishing river was well traveled, chiefly
by long donkey trains and plodding, expressionless Indians. Huts and
even small villages were frequent, the barren ranges crowding ever
closer and dwindling almost to foothills, or rather seeming so to
dwindle as we mounted ever higher. Beyond the bridge that carried us
back to the right bank of the Santa were scores of little wheat-fields,
often hanging far up the steep hillsides; and Indians were threshing the
grain by driving their animals round and round the circles of hard earth
in which it had been spread, and tossing it high in the air with wooden
shovels until the wind had carried away the chaff. The monotonous mud
town of Recuay, notorious for its horse-thieves, gazed stolidly upon us
as we trotted on to Ticapampa, headquarters of a French mining company,
the several tall chimneys of which were belching their smoke into the
brilliant sky, their ugliness offset by the first suggestion of industry
in Peru.

It cost me three days and several tramps back to Recuay to find a mount
for the journey ahead. Walking would have been far less laborious. But
there were sixteen leagues of bleak, foodless páramos and two
snow-topped ranges separating me from the first suggestion of habitation
on the further side of the great glacier-clad central chain of the
Andes, that stretched away to north and south further than the eye could
command, like an impassable barrier set by nature against the wilfulness
of puny man.


  Though within a few degrees of the equators, Huaráz, capital of the
    most populous department of Peru, has a veritable Swiss setting of
    snow-clad peaks and glaciers]


  Threshing wheat with the aid of the wind. In the few regions of the
    Andes that are neither too high nor too low for this grain, the
    methods of cultivation are the most primitive]

Fortunately the wife of an Indian of Recuay celebrated that Sunday so
effectually that she brought to bed her companions in a drunken brawl.
The gobernador fined her twenty soles. Her husband possessed only ten,
and her wails from the adobe cárcel were interfering with the bargaining
in the market-place. Summoned by the walking scarecrow who boasted
himself the lieutenant-governor, the head of the disrupted household
admitted, after a wealth of subterfuges, that he owned two mules in
condition for a journey, and the gobernador, pocketing “in the name of
justice” the sovereign I handed him, ordered the abject husband to be
ready at six in the morning to accompany me to Huallanga.

Some two leagues further up the contracted valley we crossed the now
tiny Santa by a bridge of sticks and, catching the gorge of a little
stream fed by the glaciers above, plunged due east into the mountains.
The sun had burned our faces in the river valley; an hour afterward it
was cold as late November. Rain began, but quickly turned to a mixture
of hail and snow. Dusk overtook us at the foot of a mighty glacier,
though not until we had sighted one of the rare shepherd’s huts that
huddled in an occasional stony hollow. These miserable Indian _chozas_
of the upper heights are built of cobble-stones heaped up to the height
of a dog-kennel and covered with brown ichu grass, hardly as large and
quite as crude as those the beaver fashions, defending their miserable
inmates neither from wind nor rain. A single room, which can only be
entered on hands and knees, houses the whole family, whom a sheepskin or
two serves as bed, and two or three earthen pots as utensils in which to
cook their scanty fare over an ichu or dried-dung fire in the center of
the windowless hovel. Totally indifferent to wealth or comfort, with
hardly fuel enough for cooking purposes, the stolid inhabitants slink
into their squalid dens as soon as the sun has withdrawn his genial
rays, and shiver through a night during which they get almost no
unbroken sleep. With scarcely enough food to keep themselves from
starvation, the house swarms of mangy curs that curl up among them by
night, and which, being never fed, dash greedily at any offal, like the
pigs of Central America. Here there was a second kennel, oval in shape,
which the woman permitted us to occupy, because she was asked in her own
tongue by one of her own people. Both she and her half-dozen children
were barefoot and in scanty garb, yet appeared completely indifferent to
the icy cold which, if less in degrees than in a Canadian mid-winter,
was more penetrating. We carried blankets sufficient to pass the night
comfortably, huddled close together, but as often as I stepped out into
the brilliant moonlight in which the ice-fields above us stood forth
like fissured and fantastic ghost-castles, the very marrow in my bones
seemed to congeal.

Hoar-frost covered the earth, and ice a half-inch thick lay on the
stagnant puddles when we set out in the bitter cold dawn across a region
drear in the extreme. Stiff, stony climbs carried us up to the very
edges of immense blue-white glaciers, and through patches of snow that
threw the sharp rays of the highland sun into our eyes and faces like a
spray of needles. The day was as laborious as any I had ever spent
afoot,—thirty-six miles over the wintry, rock-pitched double crest of
the Central Cordillera on a mule who jolted my unaccustomed frame to a
loose-jointed wreck before I finally slid gratefully to the ground in
the bleak mining-town of Huallanga. This was a slight oasis of imported
life in a wild, almost uninhabited region, the Peruvian mine-manager of
which was extraordinary from at least two points of view,—he was blond
as a Norseman, and so advanced in his customs that I dared even address
his wife directly at table.

Next day I joined—for a decided consideration—the caravan of a local
merchant whose arrieros were bound for Cerro de Pasco with a troop of
cargo-animals. A “civilized” Indian, that is, one who wore shoes and
spoke Spanish, called for me with a half-size horse, the crude native
saddle covered with a _pellón_, the hairy saddle-rug all high-caste
horsemen use in this region, and soon after noon we jogged away down a
stony little river. The merchant had duly and honestly warned me that,
being only pack-animals, his _chuscos_ were gifted with no gentle pace.
But he had not warned me that I was joining a way-freight. I drew on
ahead in spite of myself, and when, barely eight miles from Huallanga,
the shrieks and whistles of the drivers died out behind, I waited a
half-hour in vain, then went back some distance to find them lassoing
the animals one by one, piling their loads or pack-saddles in a hollow
square, and turning them loose with their front feet crudely hobbled.
There were nineteen animals, mostly in ballast, attended by four
arrieros. Too lazy apparently to unsling their pots and cook supper, the
patched and weather-faded quartet munched a bit of parched corn and a
sheet of sun-dried beef, and sat all night drinking and wailing maudlin
ballads. The “tent” stretched over the packs was so low that I had to
lie down on the ground and roll under it, and so thin that the rain
dripped in upon me almost in streams.

It was still black night when the water-soaked canvas was pulled off me,
and I found the arrieros already engaged in a riotous effort to round up
the animals. This was no simple task, in spite of the hobbles, and the
morning was well advanced before the last of the troop had been lassoed
and loaded. During the operation I suggested that we prepare at least a
pot of tea, but Valenzuela, the chief arriero, dismissed the matter with
a grimace and a “neither wood nor grass will burn after the rain,” and I
could only choke my hunger with a rock-hard lump of bread and shiver
under my poncho until I mounted, this time a mule, to spare the animal
of the day before.

We followed the river-gorge so long that it turned almost uncomfortably
warm. Then suddenly abandoning the highway to modern Huánuco and the
roundabout, but warm and well-populated, route to Cerro de Pasco, the
arrieros drove the animals pell-mell up a steep gorge between towering
mountain walls, by what looked like a spillway from a stone-crusher.
This was the very route I should have chosen, for while the longer one
would have been more comfortable, this followed very closely the ancient
Inca highway. Topping the horizon, we trotted on across an enormous,
brown-yellow plain of scanty ichu vegetation that stretched away to the
hazy foot of what looked from this height like low hills. Here was just
such a place as the Incas, requiring an unbroken outlook over the
surrounding world and grazing land for their llamas, chose for their
cities. I was not surprised, therefore, to find a long expanse of the
páramo covered with hundreds of stone ruins, only the walls still
standing, from one to eight feet high, in broken, fantastic disarray.
This was “Huánuco el Viejo,” which the Spaniards found an important city
at the time of the Conquest, but which the less hardy half-breed
descendants abandoned, as in so many cases, for a warmer valley,
eighteen leagues to the east. History does not reach back to the origin
of old Huánuco, the ruins of which still occupy almost a square mile of
the silent, utterly uninhabited plain. The road—a mere interweaving of
faint paths across the Andean prairie—passed within five hundreds yards
of the ruins, but the caravan pushed on without a halt, as if these
monuments of their ancestors were mere stone-heaps, unworthy a glance of
attention. I turned and trotted away across the plain, bathed in the
cold, glaring sunshine of the Andean plateau, toward the site.
Valenzuela, after a shout of protest, stuck close on my heels, whether
out of fear that I would decamp with the mule, or lay hands on some old
Inca treasure, or from some superstition connected with the “Gentiles,”
I do not know. There was really little to be seen. Every one of the
countless ruins of large and small buildings, arranged more or less in
squares, were sections of cobble-stone walls, mere stone-heaps without
sign of mortar, as crude as the _chozas_ of shepherds, now fallen until,
in many places, only their symmetrical arrangement suggested the hand of
man. To this there was only one exception. Some three hundred yards from
the rest of the ruins was a rectangular fortress of carefully cut and
nicely fitted stone blocks, with suggestions of cement, now mere walls,
some fifteen feet high, filled level full of earth on which the drear
ichu grew as thickly as on the surrounding plain. Except in extent, the
ruins were not to be compared with those of Marca-Huamachuco, though the
“castillo” closely resembled in construction and stone-fitting the
single monument of Ingapirca in southern Ecuador.

We trotted on after the pack-train, and rode for some hours over low
ridges, each of which brought to view a new expanse of dreary, yellowish
landscape. Occasionally an arriero broke forth in a mournful song that
rose and fell with the same monotony as the undulating páramo. Now and
then, as a pack worked loose, one of the muleteers dismounted and,
deftly slipping out of his poncho, threw it over the head of the animal
and readjusted the load. To my surprise, quickly followed by my disgust,
the train soon after noon swung into the cobble-fenced field of a low,
cobble-stone hut, similar to, but far more miserable and tiny than those
of the ancient city behind. Greeting the barefoot Indian woman who
emerged on all fours from the hut, the arrieros began to round up and
unload the animals. Though we had not made fifteen miles, we were to
stop here for the night. I swallowed my wrath, reflecting that he who
joins a freight-train must not expect express speed.

It was too cold to sit, and I took to promenading weakly about the
hillside. Down in a hollow beyond I came upon a family preparing their
crop of potatoes after the ancient Inca fashion still common to the
Andes. This _chuño_—_chuñu_, in Quichua—is the chief vegetable of Andean
marketplaces and the principal food of the Indians of the Sierra. The
newly dug potatoes are spread out on the ground at a high altitude,
preferably on the bank of a highland lake or stream, and left to freeze
by night. They are small potatoes, for the Indian’s mode of selection
has been to plant only the smallest, eating or selling the larger, until
the tubers indigenous to Peru have degenerated to the same low level as
their horses and dogs. When the sun has thawed the potatoes, the Indians
of the household tread out the juice with their bare feet, then spread
them in the sun to dry. This produces the _chuño negro_, or black chuño,
which in the time of the Incas was the only kind permitted the common
people, and which to-day forms the chief product of the process. Those
who prefer _chuño blanco_, the “twice frozen white chuño” which graced
only the tables of the Incas and nobles, put the tubers inside a well of
cobble-stones under the surface of a river or lake, and leave them from
two to eight days, after which they are dried in the sun. The result is
a food that will keep indefinitely, but which has very much the same
taste as so much fried sand. The most common method of preparing these
frozen potatoes is to grind them in a stone mortar and use the powdered
chuño to thicken soup.


  Crossing the Central Cordillera of the Andes south of Huaráz, barely
    nine degrees below the equator. In the foreground is my “guide” of
    the obstreperous wife]

When the head of the Indian household arrived, he opened with Valenzuela
a conversation in half-breed Quichua, of which I caught enough to learn
that we were to drive a league west in the morning to wait a day for
some species of cargo, stop to pick up another load a few leagues
beyond, and so on indefinitely. I called the arriero aside and protested
that, aside from the hardships and exposure of lying out on every
mountain-side, I was steadily growing worse for lack of treatment. To my
surprise he proposed that I ride on alone next day. As he would never
have dreamed of making such a proposal to a Peruvian stranger, it spoke
well of the opinion he had gathered of Americans from contact with them
in the mining town toward which we were headed. A bed of several
horse-blankets was spread for me beneath the flap of the canvas covering
our packs, out under the shivering stars that stood forth in the
luminous highland sky with the unnatural luster of electric bulbs.
During the later hours of the night, when I rolled out into the cold,
still air, a brilliant full moon was flooding with almost the light of
noonday the rolling mountainous world about us as far as the eye could

I knew only too well that a matter settled the night before would have
to be argued out anew in the morning. Dawn crept up over the eaves of
the east, and the god of the Incas flung his horizontal rays across the
empty plateau, but Valenzuela, assuming the customary air in such cases,
that we had neither of us meant what we had said the evening before,
made no move to prepare for my departure. When I reminded him of his
promise, he announced that he would, of course, keep it, if I really,
seriously desired it. Only, it would be utterly impossible for a man
unacquainted with the route to find his way across the often unmarked
punas and pampas ahead. Then, too, it was infested with bands of robbers
who at times attacked whole pack-trains, to say nothing of one lone,
helpless gringo. If only I would wait until to-morrow, he and I would
ride on alone at breakneck speed, and make up for all the delay. I had
long since learned the close resemblance of the South American mañana to
a greased pig; moreover, I had no desire to ride at breakneck speed. He
muttered under his breath at this gringo obstinacy, and ordered the
youngest arriero to saddle a horse and accompany me. The latter refused.
Valenzuela shrugged his shoulders with a gesture that meant, “You see it
is out of the question.” But the experienced Andean traveler can always
win his point, if he insists long and hard enough. The chief arriero
gave up at last and sent a man to lassoo and saddle, not the “stout
mule” he had promised the evening before, but one of the saddest
imitations of the genus horse in camp; and late in the morning I rode
down through the chuño-producing gully and away over the brown and
sterile world spread broad and high before me.

The arriero’s first prophecy came quickly true. I lost the road. A
stretch of what was evidently the old Inca highway, broad and
grass-grown and lined by two rows of stones, pushed straight on over all
obstacles in what seemed to be the right direction, but it did not fit
the descriptions that had been given me. The well-marked trail I
followed led me down into two gaping hamlets that had not been
mentioned, and doubled the miles to Baños, somnolent as an Italian
village at summer noonday, down in the throat of a gorge. The frowsy
chusco already gave signs of not being able to endure the journey. All I
demanded was a reasonable walking pace, yet it cost me far more labor
than to have made the trip afoot to keep the animal moving a scant two
miles an hour. It was evident that, for all my incessant labor, we
should not reach before nightfall the hacienda we were seeking, and when
it came on to rain and hail in a cold, bleak bowl of mountains, I turned
toward a collection of huts that stood out dimly as an animal of
protective coloring on the upper edge of the saucer-shaped hollow.

The Indian men, patronizing and arrogant in their clumsy way, as usual
in such situations, offered me the customary six-inch block of wood on
which to squat under the eaves of the “corredor.” I took weakly to
promenading the twenty-four miles in the saddle out of my legs, and
furtively inspected the six huts that made up the collection. All were
earth-floored dens, roofed with ichu, against several of which immense
quantities of dried cow-dung were stacked like cordwood. The women
squatting over the fire in the center of one of the huts handled fuel
and food at one and the same time. Though they were barefoot and
scantily clad, the men wore heavy, home-knit wool stockings to their
knees, and crude moccasins of a strip of hairy cowhide, drawn together
over the foot with a “puckering string” of rawhide. The males spoke
considerable Spanish, but the women knew, or pretended to know, only
Quichua. There were attached to the place at least a score of dogs, who
set up a head-splitting chorus as often as I stirred, and at few-minute
intervals even without that provocation. Across the shallow hollow the
long line of snow-clad peaks that had grown up along the entire eastern
horizon during the day stood forth in bold and impressive majesty in the
light of evening, a light that seemed strained through purple-tinted

When the mountain cold settled down like an icy sheet, I asked where I
might sleep.

“Why, there in the corredor, to be sure,” mumbled the Indian.

“We gente blanca have not the indifference to cold of los naturales,” I

“Well, then, here in the kitchen,” he grumbled.

“How about that casita?” I asked, pointing to a pampa-grass lean-to
against the largest hut.

“That is where the family sleeps.”

“And that?” I persisted, indicating a structure of beehive or
beaver-house shape, built entirely of ichu and with a rounded door not
three feet high, that stood forth on a knoll behind the others.

But that, it seemed, was where the watchman slept—though what he watched
was not apparent. After a long conference in Quichua, however, this was
assigned me with sullen grace; a boy was sent to drag out the
“watchman’s” bed of sheepskins, and I struggled up to the shelter with
saddle, pack, and equipment, and crawled inside on hands and knees. The
choza was constructed on the same plan as the wigwams of the American
“red men,”—a pole frame set up cone-shaped and covered with mountain
grass, through which the bitter wind that swept across this sterile
upland cut as a knife through cheesecloth, and so low that even in the
center I could barely stand upright on my knees. The chusco had been
turned over to a boy who was to watch it all night for a week’s wage. It
was not that I took much stock in the Indian’s assertion that there was
horse-stealing in these parts; but I hoped by this arrangement to
forestall any rascality he might himself set afoot. The “watching,”
however, was evidently by some species of aboriginal telepathy; for not
only was no sign of a guardian to be seen as often as I crawled out into
that interminable night, but when morning came the head of the household
greeted me with:

“El chusco se ha perdido—the animal has lost itself.”

“Lost!” I cried.

“Sí, señor, but it will be found again. The boy has already been sent to
search for it.”

How even my long-experienced instinct for guessing aright among a
hundred splendid chances to go astray saved me from getting hopelessly
lost during that day, I have never been able to fathom. Across the
utterly uninhabited and almost untraveled mountain-top the trail was at
best faintly marked, and finally, beyond the cold, blue lake of
Lauracocha, reputed the real source of the Amazon, it disappeared
altogether. For hours I prodded my wretched imitation of a horse forward
by compass over hill and dale, and by some stroke of luck fell upon the
trail again beyond. Soon the pampa gave way to green and tremulous sod,
and a swamp in which I all but mired the animal beyond recovery. Nor did
the route hold to the same direction, but frequently sidestepped
unexpectedly for no apparent reason, and it was only by the general lay
of the hills and the instinct of long practice that I picked it up
again. Once it split evenly, and the branch I chose led far up the face
of a thousand-foot cliff, the path hewn in the sheer wall growing ever
narrower, until the animal thumped my knee against the stone precipice
and all but pitched us headlong into the appalling ravine below. To
dismount was no simple task, and had the horse been a foot longer I
should not have succeeded in turning him around and leading the way back
to the fork. On the other side of the peak was a great natural stone
stairway, down which the animal slipped and dropped with a painful
succession of jolts. The gorge narrowed and deepened; then suddenly,
close at hand on the steep flank of the mountain, appeared the first
llamas I had seen in Peru, a whole flock of them. From then on they were
so frequent that within the next half-hour I had seen far more llamas
than in all the rest of my life. A new costume for men, at first sight
ludicrous, came into evidence almost at the same time. Instead of
trousers they wore very roomy, dark-colored breeches, cut off exactly at
the knee, so that the first glimpse of their wearers at a distance was
little short of startling, suggesting for a moment the astounding
incongruity of an Indian woman sporting the skirt of a ballet-dancer.
Below these garments they wore the long, knitted wool stockings, gray or
black, and the hairy cowhide moccasins that had first appeared a few
days before, and as they passed me they snatched off their heavy, brown
felt hats with some mumbled greeting in Quichua.

While enjoying a racking fever in the comparatively comfortable home of
the gobernador of Yanahuanca, I learned that there were two ways of
reaching Cerro de Pasco. One was to ride nine bitter-cold leagues across
a trackless puna, on which a lone gringo was sure to get lost and die of
exposure; the other was to travel about half that distance by a
well-marked road to Goyllarisquisca, where los americanos have their
coal mines and whence there ran a daily train. I could not believe that
fate would be so crude a practical joker as to let a man who had found
his way clear from Bogotá go astray on the last day of his journey, but
I could easily conceive of the wreck of a horse wilting between my
leaden legs somewhere out on the unmarked pampa; moreover, the sight of
a railroad would be a comparatively new experience. I decided on the
shorter route.

It necessitated the gobernador calling me at two in the morning, before
a raging fever had entirely burned itself out. An Indian in flowing
breeches, leading a “horse” that was to bring back some arrival by
train, and another astride a pitifully small pony, led the way out into
the luminous starlit night. A good road tacked gradually upward through
a sleeping village, hanging like some prehensile creature on the swift
hillside, where the dogs sang us a rousing chorus, and lifted us in some
three hours to the razor-backed summit of a ridge, down the further
slope of which sprawled headlong a still larger town, fantastic of
profile in the morning starlight. We labyrinthed through it, meeting
scores of panty-clad and moccasined Indians and barefoot women and girls
toiling marketward under atrocious burdens; for the day was Sunday.
Below the town we came out on a road paralleling a stupendous gorge; and
across it, so high above that I could scarcely believe it possible a
cluster of electric lights, suspended in the night between earth and
heaven, mingled with the stars and half blotted out at intervals by the
smoke of American industry, marked Goyllarisquisca, a city of the sky,
to see which we must crane our necks like countrymen at the foot of
man’s mightiest monument. The stars went out one by one, like gas-jets
turned off by hurrying street-lighters; the luminous night turned to
colorless opaque dawn, in which the jagged Sierra stood out flat and
featureless as if cut out of cardboard. We went down and ever down into
an unconscionable gorge, to cross—such is the ghastly futility of
Latin-America—an insignificant stream; then quickly began to climb
again. There was a path straight up the mountain-side to
Goyllarisquisca, a path which a man unsusceptible to dizziness, and
capable of climbing a steep stairway of a hundred thousand steps without
guard-rails or a landing on which to pause for breath, might cover in a
half-hour. Instead, we wound corkscrew-wise around the entire mountain,
through another town, fantastic in its perpendicular setting as the
last, yet reduced in the disillusioning light of day to its drab,
mud-built reality; and uncovering others pitched at queer places on
unattainable noses and gouged-out hollows of the range in which the
shadows still lurked like skulking bandits. The mountains beyond were
garbed from head to foot in white robes, and in the valleys lay seas of
mist from which emerged crags and peaks like uninhabited, rocky islands.
Less beautiful, perhaps, in its aspect than the more colorful Alps, the
scene vastly outdid these in its rugged, masculine grandeur. Little by
little we fell in with an almost unbroken procession of Indians; here
and there one clad in exotic overalls whispered the approach of American
influence, and at length our breathless animals staggered over the last
ridge into the village of the tongue-loosening name.

Before me lay a small Pittsburgh, not so small at that, with great
cranes swinging across the gorges, unsentimental stone buildings roaring
and matter-of-fact chimneys belching forth the sooty smoke of industry.
Long rows of decent living-quarters were interspersed with longer ones
of box and flat cars, and sprawling about the higher levels were native
shacks so tinged with the foreign influence that even a stove-pipe
protruded here and there from their roofs of wavy sheet-iron. Across the
scene floated the sweet music of a deep-voiced American train whistle,
and on every hand was the evidence of diligence, masculine toil, and
effective _doing_ that quickened my northern pulse like a deep draft of
wine. It was like coming back to my native world after a long absence.
Scores of half-forgotten things I had never before seen in South America
surged up about me, and upon me came drowsy contentment that my
struggles were behind me and that I had already virtually set foot in
the central plaza of Lima.

I slipped clumsily off the miserable chusco and turned him over,
trappings and all, to the Indian who was to deliver him to Valenzuela
when he passed through Yanahuanca. My legs obeyed me sullenly, as if
weighted with ball and chain, and my physical condition gave to my
movements a hesitating, deliberate dignity. At the station was a
restaurant run by a Chinaman with Peruvian assistance, where the
American influence by no means ceased at bacon and eggs, but had reached
the height of butter and sliced bread, and rosy bottles of catsup! In a
corner of the room a coal-stove blazed merrily, the first artificial
heat I had felt in a long two years. I wandered out upon the platform.
At the far end stood a man fondling a dog, a real dog, not an Andean
cur, and as I approached he protested affectionately and ineffectually:

“Now you get down; you’re dirtying my pants.”

There was no mistaking that vocabulary, even if the strangely nasal
accent that struck my unaccustomed ear rudely had not sufficed to betray
the speaker’s nationality. Peruvians do not fondle dogs; nor do they
refer to their nether garments in that abrupt and familiar fashion. I
was soon seated in a comfortable office-chair, a stack of New York
papers beside me. But I gave up in despair explaining how I had come to
Goyll—well, pronounce it yourself—without having ever been either in
Lima or “the Cerro”; and I fancy I had convinced my host of nothing,
except that I was a clumsy and unconscionable liar, before the giant
Baldwin rolled in, dragging behind it a half-dozen full-sized American
freight-cars, as if some branch of the railways of my own land had
pierced this lofty nook of the Andes.

The official business of the line is to transport coal to the mines at
Cerro de Pasco, and passengers are accepted only on suffrance. The
“first-class” coach was the familiar old American caboose, with a line
of leather cushions along the walls and a coal stove in the center. It
was empty when I entered, but had I not almost forgotten the ways of
Latin-American travelers, I should not have been so surprised when it at
length filled to overflowing with noisy, over-dressed native women, a
few men of the white-collar class, drummers for the most part, hideous
with rings, and every species of bundle and cumbersome baggage. Then two
robust American trainmen, genuine as if they had that moment been picked
off the top of a transcontinental freight-car, stamped in, climbed into
their cupola, and we were off.

It was the reaction, no doubt, from the straining months behind me that
brought on a paludismo that set me shaking even under my poncho. But the
unaccustomed artificial heat all but choked me, and when I had accepted
an orange, and gravely refused the whiskey, brandy, and black coffee my
sympathetic fellow-passengers would have forced upon me as sure cures, I
climbed into the cupola. The landscape would not have been joyful under
the best of conditions. A bare mountain-top, faintly rolling, its frosty
soil cherishing no vegetation except the dreary yellow-brown ichu of the
uplands, stretched monotonously away on every hand, its surface flooded
with the brilliant, thin sunshine of Andean plateaux and mottled here
and there with fleecy cloud shadows. Now and then a flock of llamas
lifted their absurd heads to gaze after us as we sped past. Once or
twice we stopped at a wind-threshed mud-town, standing out pitifully
unsheltered on the treeless waste, halted an hour at grimy,
smoke-belching La Fundición with its smelters, and drew up at dusk in
bare and dreary Cerro de Pasco. It was June 22, three months from the
Peruvian frontier and 2269 miles from Bogotá, of which I had covered 243
on horseback and twenty-five by rail.

On the train I had been the storm-center of a heated difference of
opinion. The Peruvian passengers contended that I should descend by the
morning express to Lima, where I would quickly recover under the care of
famous physicians of the capital; the train-crew that I should enter the
hospital of the American mining company on “the Hill.” There could be no
debate between entrusting myself again to the careless inefficiency of
native practitioners, and the happy opportunity of entering an
institution conducted by men of my own race. When I had found a boy to
carry my baggage, I set out with high hopes, if slow steps, for the
American hospital.

It was an imposing, one-story building, covering a space equal to a city
block and forming a hollow square around an extensive cement-floored
patio, on the far edge of the drear and colorless American mining town,
well removed from its smoke and swirling dust and disturbing noises. My
welcome was not, to be sure, exactly what a morbid imagination had led
me to picture, but that was no doubt due to the fact that both doctors
were at the moment absent. The head-nurse overcame in time her
inclination to refuse me admittance, and sent an Indian boy, closely
related in personal habits to the occupants of mountain-top chozas, to
show me into a ward. In appearance it was all that a hospital ward
should be, its ten imported cots all unoccupied. The boy jerked his head
sidewise toward a chair and disappeared. Two empty hours dragged
funereally by. Then another Indian youth, startlingly like a
personification of squalor and uncleanliness in a masque gotten up by
some stern disciple of the Zola school of realism, burst in upon my
feverish dreams, and before I could raise a hand in protest thrust a
thermometer into my mouth. Evidently it was his assigned duty to take
the temperature of anyone caught on the premises. Had I come into the
ward to recane the chairs, no doubt he would have forced a thermometer
down my throat, like some automatic machine worked by springs, removed
and shaken it, wiped it on the seat of his trousers, and pattered away
on his bare feet.


  The fortress of the former Inca city of Huánaco el Viejo, far up on
    the now uninhabited pampa above the sheltering valley in which
    cowers the modern city of the same name]


  A typical residence of the Indians of the high _páramos_, built of
    heaped-up stones and brown _ichu_-grass; so low one cannot stand
    upright in it. Here the family sleeps on the uneven earth floor, or
    on a hairy cowhide, with their yellow curs, guinea-pigs, and other
    domestic animals. Cooking is done outside over a fire of _ichu_ or

Long after dark the fresh and rosy assistant-doctor dashed into the
room. But he had no time to give attention to my symptoms and
explanations, for dinner was about to be served, and ordering me to get
into a bed, he dashed for the door again. I protested that I had brought
with me the unpleasant evidence of long Andean travel, and he jerked a
thumb over his shoulder with a parting mumble of “bathroom.” There was
one, even as he had indicated, with all modern appliances; but like most
new-fangled inventions transplanted to the Andes, it did not “function.”
Another example of the Peruvian abhorrence of soap was ordered to bring
a half-dozen pails of hot water, which in his haste to be done with the
task he translated into the Castilian for luke-warm; and I crawled at
last into one of the cots. Soon afterward the Indian boy came to climb
into another, in the same identical rags he wore by day. The dinner was
evidently a prolonged and engaging function, for neither the doctor nor
any other sign of human interest appeared again during a night in which
I tossed incessantly with fever, while the ward blazed with electric
lights and the ineffectual steam-pipes thumped and pounded like an
adjacent boiler-factory.

I am happy to be able to say that neither the two physicians, whom we
will disguise under the pseudonyms of Dr. F and Dr. D, nor the
head-nurse, of the American hospital were my fellow-countrymen; they
came from further north. Materially an establishment to boast of, its
condition in anything touched by the personal equation was incredible.
Homeopathic in creed, it put its trust in pills, and left the rest to
eight immature Indians, as devoid of human instincts as of supervision.
In a second cheerless, bare ward adjoining the one I occupied were a
score of injured or ailing Indian workmen; yet no precaution whatever
was taken to keep infection from passing from one room to the other. A
single thermometer served all alike. Twice a day the automatic youth of
the bare feet went the rounds in quest of temperatures, carrying a
bottle of antiseptic so low in stock that it did not reach a third as
far up the instrument as did the lips of patients; and too indolent to
go to the dispensary for cotton, he wiped it after each use on whatever
came within reach,—his sleeve, his trousers, or the noisome rag each
servant carried over a shoulder in guise of napkin. If the ten cots had
been full, instead of the four that represented the maximum of occupancy
during my stay, I do not know what habits we might have adopted; for
there were only three cups, three tablespoons, and one teaspoon attached
to the ward. The printed rules announced that meal-hours were 7; 10; and
5:30. In practice they averaged: Breakfast, 8:40 to 9, Dinner, 1 to
1:30, and Supper, about 8. The same stern placard called attention to
the fact that visitors were admitted only on Sunday afternoons. Yet
scarcely a night passed without a mob of Indians or cholos, male and
female, friends of the internes or of some inmate, stamping into the
ward as soon as darkness had settled down, and often keeping up an
uproar until long after midnight. Then it was the unexplainable custom,
on those days set for that ceremony, to drag out a fire-hose at four in
the morning and “wash down” the ward like the deck of a ship, flooding
the floor an inch or more deep in icy highland water, through which
patients put to that necessity might wade to and from their cots.

In the sumptuous quarters of physicians and nurses, occupying all the
front half of the building, the formal repasts were provided with every
obtainable delicacy, and enlivened with music and gaiety. In the wards
the ostensibly well-regulated diet monotonously reduced itself in
practice to the leathery “green” beefsteaks of the Andes and two or
three other articles sanctioned by prehistoric Andean _costumbre_. The
Latin-American racial lack of initiative is nowhere more in evidence
than in the kitchen. If doctor or nurse prescribed some special dish for
a patient, there came back in answer—after authority had disappeared
from the scene—that threadbare Peruvian prevarication, “No hay”; which
meant that the cook was giving vent to his temperamental grouchiness,
was too lazy to set another pot on the fire, or was keeping the delicacy
for himself or some “compadre.” The youthful assistant-physician,
trained in the far north, was supremely ignorant of tropical diseases,
and, what was worse, had no inclination to add to his professional
knowledge. His interests were confined to the contents of a row of
unhomeopathic bottles and the manipulation of fifty-two small cardboards
at the club-rooms a few blocks away, where he might be found—though not
easily called—at almost any hour, ensconced in one of the
leather-upholstered lounges before the blazing fireplace. The “gringa”
head-nurse chose to do duty by day, and arising every forenoon, came in
to smile at each of us about ten, and sometimes again in the early
afternoon, before it was time to dress for her daily “bridge” and tea.
In a loquacious moment she confided to me that she “just loved” to
travel and, having always longed to see “strange foreign countries like
Peru,” had been delighted to get an appointment to spend a year or two
in it. The assistant-nurse was the most disturbingly beautiful Peruvian
it had so far been my fortune to set eyes upon,—and she took the
customary advantage of that fact by making no effort to be anything
else. Being a subordinate, she was obliged to take the night-shift; but
being also a Peruvian, she did not often permit that misfortune to break
her night’s rest.

Five days I had studied its ceiling when the morning brought Dr. F,
physician in chief, who had been absent on a round of the company’s
hospitals, hurrying into the ward. He was a far more successful
practitioner than his youthful assistant—in that he made the daily round
in about five minutes less than the ten which Dr. D squandered. Two or
three mornings later he paused at my cot to grumble querulously:

“It’s —— funny you don’t get better. It must be you are not making up
your mind to. Mental attitude, you know. As soon as you had that purge,
these pills should have taken hold at once.”

“That what?” I murmured.

“Oh, don’t be stupid! The castor-oil Dr. D gave you a day after you
turned up here; the basis of our system of treatment.”

“I have had only pills.”

“Nonsense! Dr. D, what day did this man have his purge?”

“I prescribed it last Monday,” yawned the assistant.

“Of course. Now....”

“But I assure you I have yet to know the taste of castor-oil.”

“Who gave him the oil?” the doctor flung over a shoulder.

“Señorita ——,” replied the subordinate, naming the Peruvian nurse.

She chanced to pass the door in fetching street-garb a moment later, and
was called in to confirm the statement.

“Ah, es verdad!” she lisped, in her beautiful nonchalance, “Me olvidé—I
forgot,” and with a bewitching smile at the physicians she hurried away
to her daytime engagements.

Determined not to celebrate my nation’s birthday as I had my own, I
forced my leaden legs to carry me on an afternoon stroll through the
famous mining town. The steel-blue skies of Cerro de Pasco, three miles
aloft and boasting itself the highest city in the world, are clear
beyond any description in mere words. Not once during my sojourn there
was the penetrating brilliancy flecked by the slightest whiff of cloud.
The sun blazed down with an intensity that burned the cheeks as at the
open mouth of a puddling-furnace; yet even at blinding noon-time the
cold had a power of penetration unknown to a northern mid-winter day on
which the mercury falls far lower. Those who ascend “the Hill” from Lima
complain of a leaden inertia and pains varying in intensity and
duration, brought on by an altitude that is fatal to weak hearts and to
victims of pneumonia. Inured to the heights and scantiness of air almost
unbrokenly from far-off Bogotá, I had no consciousness of any such

Nearly a mile from the hospital, the American town, of stone buildings
and even less attractive structures, such as the “Tin Can,” an ugly,
red, sheet-iron barracks that houses the garden variety of gringo
employees, scattered among bare, protruding rocks of a landscape dreary
beyond conception, gives way to the old familiar Peruvian huts and
hovels. These, in turn, develop further on into two-story dwellings
above and shops below, often quaint and striking in architecture. If any
city of Peru may be called “unique” in appearance, it is “el Cerro.”
Even in the center of the town, roofs of ancient, weather-faded straw
alternate with those of wavy sheet-iron; instead of the monotonously
square blocks of other Andean cities, its older section is a tangle of
narrow streets and misshapen buildings, like a change from our Middle
West to Boston. Perched on the summit of the world, with scarcely a
knoll overtopping it, or the suggestion of a shrub to shelter it, “the
Cerro” is the unhampered playground of icy mountain winds laden with
coal-dust, stinging sand, and the soot and smoke and powdered ore from
its mines. Bronzed foreigners and miners in leather leggings and
hob-nailed boots, squeaking through the streets afoot, or astride
Texas-saddled mules, lend the place an air of modernity, for all its
swarms of bovine-mannered Indians. In contrast, droves of llamas, with
gaily colored ribbons in their ears, slip past in noiseless dignity, or
stand in patient groups before a chichería, awaiting their drivers. The
hardware and similar trades offer stocks unknown to those sections of
the Andes where the imports depend on transportation “en lomo de mula.”
Even the pulperías are well-supplied with foodstuffs, testifying to the
American influence. From a dust-swirling knoll rising a bit above the
rest the eye is gladdened by the glimpse of a cold-blue lake of
considerable size, strangely beautiful in its drear and dismal setting.
From this point of vantage, too, the stranger becomes aware that “el
Cerro” is much more of a city than he suspected, filling the great lap
of a repulsive, barren range, and stretching away in several directions
under belching smoke-stacks.


  The _arrieros_ with whom I left Huallanga, and the family inhabiting
    the hut shown in the preceding picture]


  The immaculate staff of the Cerro de Pasco hospital]

Twelve days I had tarried in Cerro de Pasco, and had advanced from my
original ailment to one distinctly more serious, when I concluded to
descend to Lima while I still had strength to do so. The company
physician-in-chief collected a fee that more than doubled my
expenditures since leaving Quito, and spared himself the annoyance of
penning a receipt, or of any other formality beyond that of dropping the
handful of gold sovereigns into his pocket on his breathless morning
round. The night sky was turning slightly more transparent along the
cold eastern horizon when I tottered out of the hospitable Cerro de
Pasco hospital on my way to the station. The second-class car was a
stoveless ice-box, densely packed with Indians and all the bath-fearing
aboriginal is accustomed to carry with him. A glance at it sufficed to
dissipate my resolution to save a sovereign from the wreck of my
fortune. The first-class coach was an American car scantily filled with
white-collar Peruvians and weather-, experience-, and liquor-marked
Americans under forty, “husky” in build and untrammelled in manners. The
wintry July dawn climbed up over the far edge of the bleak, treeless
world, and at Smelter, cheerless beyond words in the new-born daylight,
we were joined by more cold-faced Americans, wrapped, as were also many
of the natives, in huge neck-roll sweaters. Dressed even in all the
clothing I possessed, I kept my poncho close about me, for the
coal-stove in the front end of the car was no match for the frigidity of
the vast ichu-brown pampa de Junín across which we were soon speeding.
Only by frequently scratching a peep-hole in the frosted window could I
gaze out upon the drear yellow world, with its snow peaks rising
slightly above it in the distance and its great flocks of
cold-impervious llamas feeding along the way between ice-coated streams
and pools. Off in both directions stood scattered, stone huts with
pampa-grass roofs, before which barefoot (brr!) Indian women stood or
squatted, and scantily clad children gazed after the train with the
stolidity and indifference to the bitter cold of the adobe images they
somehow suggested. Here was the scene of the great battle of Junín in
which the soldiers of Bolívar defeated the Spanish host; but it is not
likely that either pursued or pursuers dripped with perspiration. A
dreary walk, indeed, this would have been across the icy, endless,
yellow pampa.

A brilliant sun popped up instantly in a faultless sky, like some
jack-in-the-box suddenly released; but though it flooded all the visible
world with golden light, it brought slight warmth. Beside each seat of
our car was an electric button, and beneath it a list of possibilities,
in English and Spanish. One had only to press it and presto! a big black
negro—no, my memories of other days deceive me; no big black negro would
get this high in the world, unless he were dragged there by main force—a
little, dapper, noiseless, inscrutable, white-jacketed Chinaman slipped
down upon one and lent an attentive, yet haughty ear into which one
whispered the desires of the inner man, tempered by a subconscious
regard for one’s purse; calling modestly for toast and coffee, if one
were a mere American vagabond who had recently fallen among thiev—beg
pardon, physicians; or for the “whole damn works,” which meant the same
coffee and toast plus a plate of bacon and eggs, if one were an American
miner homeward bound, to whom money is as water to the man whose pocket
holdeth a quart bottle of concentrated joyfulness. Across the aisle were
two such, from whom sounded now and then some pleasant anticipation of

“An’ when I get back to Pittsburgh I’m goin’ into the —— House bar and
tell Joe to mix me a real, honest-to-God gin-ricky. An’ when he says
‘Where t’ell you been these two years, Hank?’ I’ll jus’ say ‘Diggin’
coal down in Goyllaris—hic—quisca, Joe,’ an’ he’ll call the bouncer to
throw me out.”

A big, blue lake, Chinchaycocha, on the distant right drew the eyes
toward it; then came a brief halt at the town of Junín, an extensive
collection of cobble-stone huts and fences, with a two-tower church in
their midst and steam rising on the wintry air from the nostrils of
every living being. Then at last, after an extended, wandering search,
the train found the rocky bed of a small river, and wound and squirmed
with it through half-hidden openings in the hills until a long-drawn
masculine whistle caused us to scratch a new peep-hole in the frosted
window, to find Oroya rising up to meet us.

Here the American train and roadbed abandoned us to the tender mercies
of the Ferrocarril Central, theoretically under English management, but
in practice dismally Latin-American from cow-catcher to trailing
draw-bar. Packed into the far corner of a seat upholstered only in name,
I had frozen from toes to the bottom of my poncho for two mortal hours
before the Peruvian engineer came to an understanding with the Peruvian
conductor and station-master, and dragged us slowly out of town. From a
spot on the earth—and nothing more—called Ticlio, summit of the line, we
began the long coast down to the Pacific, through all the customary 65
tunnels, 67 bridges and 16 switchbacks, where for the brakes to lose
control would have been to land us in Hades instead of Lima. Hour after
hour the arid, savage scenery slid upward. Here the train glided
serenely along on the bottomless edge of things; now and again we came
out directly above, a thousand feet above, a dusty, rock-scattered town,
with rows of stones laid on the sheet-iron roofs to keep them from
escaping such dreary surroundings, and zigzagged an hour, often on six
tracks one above the other, down to it, only to continue the descent as
swiftly beyond. A score of places recalled the story of the young
graduate engineer who protested to the American whose name is forever
linked with this engineering feat, “Why, Meiggs, we can’t run a railroad
along there in that sliding shale!” “Can’t, eh?” the anecdote continues,
“Well, young man, that’s just where she’s got to go, and if you can’t
find room for her on the ground, we’ll hang her from balloons.”

Bit by bit the Andes began to take on slight touches of green. The
Rimac, chattering downward toward the sea, gave us more and more
elbow-room, the well-dressed town of Chosica flashed past us like an
oasis of civilization, and we sped in truly metropolitan fashion on down
the darkening valley, surrounded by whole mountains of broken rock,
tufts of cactus and a few hardy willows drinking their life from the
widening stream, on toward the glowing sunset and into the black night.
Electric lights, real lights in their full candle-power, began to dot
the darkness, then flashed past us, throwing their insolent glare into
our dust-veiled faces; the roar of a real city, with clanging
street-cars and rumbling wagons rose about us; a long station-platform
crowded with an urban throng came to a halt beside us, and I descended
in the thickness of the summer night in the City of Kings, three miles
below where I had stepped forth that morning into the wintry dawn.

                              CHAPTER XIII

It is due, I suppose, to some error in my make-up that my interest in
any given corner of the earth fades in proportion as it approaches
modern civilization and easy accessibility. To your incurable vagabond
may come a momentary thrill, if not of pleasure, at least of
contentment, with the feel of city pavements once more under his feet
after long hand to hand combat with the wilderness, and the knowledge
that to go a journey he has only to signal an electric street-car on the
nearest corner. But the attraction quickly palls. Visions of the winding
trail soon begin again to torture him with their solicitations, the
placid ways of urban man take on a drab and colorless artificiality, and
once more the realization comes that to him life offers genuine
satisfaction only when he is struggling onward toward some distant and
possibly unattainable goal.

Such a place is Lima. The former capital of Spanish America has, to be
sure, its points of interest; old colonial palaces where the shades of
cloaked viceroys seem still to linger, cloistered walls inclosing the
tonsured and cowled atmosphere of the Middle Ages, narrow streets with
long vistas of overhanging Moorish balconies wherein still lurks the
charm of other days. But these things are all but buried under the
stereotyped conveniences and commonplace manners of the modern world.
Upon the romance and air of antiquity of a Spanish city of long ago,
transplanted to this sandy coast, has intruded the aggressive urge of
commerce; from between the carved mahogany bars of quaint _miradores_
peers the face of trade; in and out of massive old wooden street-doors
studded with brass come bales of merchandise, often stacked high in the
beautiful patios and secluded retreats of former generations. Here, for
the first time in South America, were rumors of strikes and complaints
of the “servant problem.” Workmen and domestics, advanced already to a
scale of wages about half that of our own land, were coming more and
more to a knowledge of their worth and power, their striving
unfortunately taking that ultra-modern form of careless workmanship and
insolence. Here, for the first time, the militant “cost of living”
weighed down on the mass of mankind like a leaden blanket. Lima’s
thousand and one restaurants—why do none of them seek a virgin field in
the highlands?—serve their clients with the mechanical impersonality of
world capitals. Like the population, these show that absence of a
“middle class” characteristic of Latin-American society, the marked
contrast of the great bulk of sandaled poor rubbing shoulders with
faultless Parisian attire; either they are repulsive workingmen’s
“dumps,” or outwardly regal in manner and inwardly of purse-flattening
properties, where nothing national and unique is to be found, unless it
be some rare local delicacy, such as _asado de chivito_,—roast leg of
young goat. Whatever exclusive and characteristic remains on the surface
is grouped in and about the great covered market-place, where long rows
of strange indigenous and familiar foreign wares stretch in many-hued
and quaint juxtaposition, or hovers about a few surviving customs of
bygone days, such as the milkman—who is more often a woman—making his
morning round astride horse or mule, with his cans hanging like
saddle-bags from between his legs.

He who comes down upon them from above will find the people of the coast
more vivacious than those of the chilly upper Andes, where the perennial
gauntness of nature inclines to perpetual gloom. The limeño has been
likened to the Andalusian in his fondness for dress, variety, and
dissipation, in his gaiety and quickness of wit, his open frankness and
tendency to extravagance. Certainly his speech has the lisp of
Andalusia—“Do’ copita’ de pi’co, señore’”—and his Castilian has not the
purity of that of Bogotá. Yet his gaiety is only comparative. There is
an innate gloominess and passive pessimism everywhere in South American
society that cannot but strike the visitor who comes direct from more
favored lands. The morose Indian of the uplands forms a scarcely
noticeable part of the population of Lima. On those rare occasions when
he comes down, or more often is brought as a conscript to serve his time
as soldier in the capital, he often falls quick victim to the white
plague, which finds easy breeding-place in the disused cells of his
overdeveloped lungs, built for the scant, thin air of the Sierra. The
cholo or mestizo, commonly of a lesser percentage of aboriginal than of
Spanish blood, makes up the bulk of the population. Then there is the
_zambo_, bred of the intermingling of the Indian and negro, a robust,
stubborn, and revengeful fellow. Merchants from all the varying
nationalities of Europe keep shop side by side, with an intermingling of
“Turks” and even more distant races, and American engineers stride
through the streets at all hours of the day. Yet Lima is essentially a
Spanish-American city, for all that; where the pallid, waxy complexion
of the gente decente is much in evidence. The women of this caste are
often beautiful; so, for that matter, are the men. In a population that
may almost be termed cosmopolitan, the Chinaman holds a considerable
place. After the abolition of slavery in 1855, large numbers of coolies
were imported for the plantations of the Peruvian coast, and Celestials
of higher caste have since taken advantage of Peru’s open-door policy
and the Japanese steamship lines. So that to-day there are temples and
joss-houses and opium dens in Lima, and men in “European” dress, who are
not Europeans, lean in the doorways of old colonial mansions transformed
into Oriental shops. The Chinese of Lima occupy a wider field of
activity than almost anywhere else in the Western hemisphere. Not only
is a large percentage of the retail and restaurant business in their
hands, but scores of _herbolarios_, “herbists,” we might say, have
stretched their signs across the old-time façades and blinded miradores
of what were in viceregal days the residences of haughty families. Only
the old men still cling to the national dress, and the pigtail has
entirely disappeared. Here, too, the Chinaman sinks to depths not
familiar to us of the north, and not only does the race furnish many of
the street-sweepers of the capital, but it is no rare sight to see an
oval-eyed personification of poverty hobbling along the main
thoroughfares “shooting snipes” in the gutters.

The “masses” of Lima dwell in _vecindades_, which are none the less
tenements for being packed together on the ground floor along either
side of narrow _callejones_, blind alleys in which all the activities of
the household from baby’s bath to the worship of a tin Virgin
intermingle, instead of being piled one above the other. The better
houses are spacious and airy within, though outwardly monotonous, built
of mud and cane and plaster, their façades here resembling marble at a
distance, there painted pale blue, or pink, or yellow. In the
mud-and-bamboo Cathedral, the most imposing in appearance in Spanish
America, the mummified skeleton of Pizarro, the jaws wired like those of
some prehistoric creature in a museum, is made a peep-show, after the
crude Spanish fashion. The “Cine” has all but driven out the theater and
whatever of national or racial the latter brought with it. The visitor
who knows no Spanish could easily guess the business of a shop
announcing itself a “Plomería y Gasfitería.” The Lima barber, calling
his establishment a “Peluquería y Perfumería,” leaves no doubt as to
what effeminate fate may befall one who ventures into his den.

This mid-winter season of July and August, they say, is no time to see
Lima at its best. The traveler who has been a thousand times assured
that rain never falls on the coast of Peru will be astonished to find
the streets often slimy and soaking wet with _garúa_, the Scotch mist
that turns everything clammy and chill, yet never reaches the point
where the shops find it worth while to include umbrellas among their
stock. For days, and even weeks, the sun is invisible, and the capital
lies heavy under leaden skies and a muggy blanket of mist, cold, dank,
and gloomy. That is a rare day in this season when a brilliant sun makes
it worth while to climb San Cristobal hill, a bare, peaked,
rock-and-shale pyramid rising close above Lima on the north, from which
he who has chosen his time well may catch a view not only of Callao and
its island framed by the intense blue of the Pacific, but of the
snowclads of the Sierra. The city with its 160,000 inhabitants lies flat
in its arid setting, the disk of the bull-ring in the foreground, an
irregular triangle with its base resting on the babbling Rimac, without
chimneys, almost without smoke-stacks; for its industries are still
chiefly confined to handicraft. The red tiles that give the prevailing
color to the cities of the Andes are here unknown. The roofs, made of
sticks and mud, are flat, like those of Palestine, and are the family
promenades and garbage-grounds, and the abode of smaller live stock,
especially of roosters, whose raucous saluting of each new day is not to
be escaped by the most fortunate resident. Cock-fighting is still the
most popular sport of the cholo classes. It is impossible to appear in
public without being pestered by a constant procession of
_suerteros_—offering _suerte_, or luck—vendors of lottery-tickets who
fill the streets with their bawling from morning—late morning, for Lima
is no early riser—to midnight.

For all its modern aspect, Lima is still Latin-American in temperament.
Dawn brings to light personal habits little less reprehensible than
those of Quito. A package of films mailed from the United States cost me
two days of red-tape at the post-office, and the charges exceeded the
original cost. A dozen bags of mail from the north were lost in Callao
harbor through the inexcusable carelessness of the bargemen; the
government refused to make reparation to the addressees on the ground
that the law relieved it of responsibility for “unavoidable losses by
shipwreck!” An abortive revolution enlivened the last days of July.
Strolling into the plaza one evening, I was jostled by a group of
youthful roughs firing revolvers into the air as they went. That night
the mob assaulted the home of a former president, with casualties of
three killed and a dozen wounded, and the executive of a year before was
lodged in a cell at the penitentiary. Yet the films at a “Cine” a block
away ran on without a tremor, and but for the fact that the shops took
down their shutters somewhat later than usual, there was nothing left
next morning to recall the occurrence. A few days later the principal
newspaper announced solemnly that the ex-president had gone to Panama
“for motives of health.”

The national museum was officially open, though unofficially closed, on
the day of my visit. But the experienced traveler can always win his
point with the doorkeeper of a South American institution, and I was
soon treading the resounding halls between lines of a dead world’s
relics. Mummies from prehistoric days, their knees drawn up to their
chins, a look half of disgust, half of pain on their osseous features,
squatted along a wall. Some were still covered with many-colored
wrappings, enclosing in clumsy bundles not merely their bodies, but all
their possessions, their protruding heads still in fantastic masks and
wigs, just as they had been found in the burial caves of the Sierra.
Others, reputed Incas, were contained in huge bales in which they stood
erect, as befitted their high caste, their heads unmasked, the whole
covered with a well-preserved linen-like cloth. The floor of one large
room was completely covered with hundreds of skulls in careful rows.
Some showed prehistoric trepanning, irregular holes sawed out of them,
and the subsequent growth of the bone proving that the warrior had lived
long after his overthrow in battle. A drowsy cholo was breaking up
skeletons and clawing earth out of skulls with the expressionless
placidity with which he might have sorted potatoes.

The director deigned to show me in person through the gallery of
paintings. We paused first before an immense canvas depicting the
funeral of Atahuallpa.

“A modern work?” I remarked, merely to make conversation.

“No, no, señor,” replied the director vehemently, “that is antigua. It
was painted nearly forty years ago.”

“The fat priest is Valverde, I suppose, and this man with a beard must
be Pizarro?”

“Just so, señor, and the man behind is Pizarro’s brother, Almagro.”

“His brother?”


  The semi-weekly lottery drawing in the main plaza of Lima. Two of the
    men who turn the hollow spheres are blind, and the boys who thrust
    in a hand to draw out a number are supposedly below the age of


  All aboard! A Sunday excursion that was not posed, but was snapped
    just as it came along the road near Pachacámac on the Peruvian coast]

But the director persisted in the unhistorical relationship, in which he
was confirmed by an assistant, in spite of the fact that the figure in
question represented a man some fifteen years younger than the chief

“Why is the back of Almagro’s head missing?”

“Ah, señor,” sighed the director, with a shrug of the shoulders, “What
would you? The Chilians cut out this picture and carried it home. It
used to be several feet longer, and there were many other caballeros in
the group.”

Among whom was the real Almagro, no doubt. I made the circuit of the
gallery, then turned an inquiring eye on my companion.

“Ah—er—you are looking for the picture that used to be here?” he
stammered, quick to catch my expression.

“Yes, the famous portrait of Pizarro.”

“Well, it used to hang right here,” said the director, pointing to a
blank space on the wall, as at some object of extraordinary interest.
“But a few weeks ago the Señor Presidente de la República sent for it,
because he wants it in his own house.”

On my return I dropped in at the University of San Marcos, oldest in
America and antedating our most ancient by nearly a century. It was
pitifully like other Latin-American schools. The rector, having led me
through a dozen empty school-rooms grouped about several patios, and
having given the history in detail of a collection of silver cups
“graciously awarded the University” by the king of this and the emperor
of that, expressed unbounded surprise that I should wish to see a class
at work. When it became evident that he could not shake me off with
babbling courtesies, he pointed out the door of a class in law and
disappeared, as if he would not have it known who was responsible for
the unusual intrusion. Some twenty-five young men, not so young either,
being almost all adorned with mustaches, were lounging on benches of the
amphitheater. The professor, comfortably seated in a sort of pulpit, was
reading in a languid and utterly dispassionate voice—not a lecture he
had himself prepared, but from a book purchasable at a dollar or two,
and readable, I trust, by the students themselves. Meanwhile the
students napped, wrote letters, exchanged jokes, and discussed with
their neighbors the extraordinary advent of a stranger in their midst.
No doubt they had some other means and place of acquiring the knowledge
indispensable even to a South American lawyer; but what they gained by
attending classes was hard to guess. I had been the object of curiosity
for some time before the professor caught sight of me. He left off
reading at once, and sparred for time with a string of stale pedagogical
jokes until I saw fit to remove my annoying presence. Other class-rooms
demonstrated that famous old San Marcos is still in the world of long
ago, its methods of instruction as antiquated as its text-books,
heritages of a Jesuitical past, unavoidably so because of the rarity of
Spanish translations of modern works.

During all July my ambition remained at a low ebb, and my most extended
acquaintance was with the medical profession. “Yu Sui, Herbolario de
Pekin, physician extraordinary to his Excellency, the Chinese Minister,”
assured me I had dysentery, but no fever, and concocted the daily bottle
of herbs accordingly. The chief Italian specialist based his treatment
on the fact that I had fever, but no dysentery. Fortunately Lima has not
yet been invaded by that sect that would have robbed me of the gloomy
pleasure of having anything. Every gringo who had ever ventured a
hundred miles into the interior had his own individual “sure cure”; and
I had reached the point where I would have worn a tin charm about my
neck, had anyone asserted it efficacious. Yet when once I had discovered
a real physician, Anglo-Saxon in blood and of tropical experience, the
remedy—intermuscular injections of emetine—was quickly effective.

A no less potent factor in the recovery, however, was the hospitality of
mine own people in Bellavista (“Beyabi’ta,” locally) on the outskirts of
Callao. Genuine electric-cars sped across the cool, flat country in a
brief half-hour, from the capital to the edge of the Pacific I had not
seen since landing in Cartagena thirteen months before. Here it was
often brilliant summer, and from the housetop promenade spread out all
Callao harbor, jutting La Punta, and the island of San Lorenzo in their
intense blue setting, and perhaps even the snow-white line of the
Sierra, while over the capital, a bare eight miles away, hung the
opaque, mid-winter blanket of haze and gloom. The beach was near at
hand, the sea-breeze constant, and the soporific roar of the surf never
silent. The landscape, flat and arid, had a charm of its own, and a
network of mud fences, on the broad tops of which one might promenade
for miles.

One Sunday during convalescence I visited ancient Pachacámac. Swift
interurban cars bore us through morning-misty Miraflores and Barranco to
Chorillos, proudest watering-place of the rainless Peruvian coast, where
we mounted horses and rode away into the desert by a broad trail that
paralleled the shore within hearing of the dull roll of the surf. It was
a veritable Sahara, in which the sand, everywhere ankle-deep, lay in
wind-blown ridges. The horizon rose before us as at sea, and the mirage
of heat-waves seemed rivers flowing landward. The uncorrected
imagination is wont to picture the coast of Peru as utterly flat, as
well as sandy. It is so only in part. Hills of sand that were almost
mountains stretched down to the sea, like buttresses fashioned to
support the mammoth wall of the Andes that bounded the horizon on the
left. The summits of many were hidden in mists, the garúa from which had
given life to the brilliant green _lomas_ and patches where flocks feed
in certain seasons; and the smiling valley of Lurín, watered by a stream
smaller than the Rimac and still cold from the snows above, was as
inviting in its contrast to the repulsive, naked hills as any desert
oasis. Down on the floor of the valley this, too, seemed sandy and dry,
but the _acequias_ that still water it, as in the days of the Incas,
sustain a wilderness of scrubby trees, among which a chiefly negro
population lolls in open-work huts. Nature seems to have arranged her
seasons with foresight here; for when the garúa gives way to blazing
summer, the rainy season and the melting snows above swell the rivers to
a volume that affords widespread irrigation.

Pachacámac, the Animator of the Universe, not to be confused with the
Sun-god of the Incas, had his temple on the edge of this forbidding
waste of sand, overlooking the sea that chafes incessantly at its feet.
It was the Benares of the ancient Peruvians, not merely because it drew
pilgrims from all the surrounding world, but because here those who
could brought and disposed of their dead. Conquered by the Incas nearly
two centuries before the coming of the Spaniards, a Temple of the Sun
was added; but the sun-worshippers, like their conquerors in turn, were
too politic to suppress the earlier religion entirely, and merely merged
it with their own. “In a room closely shut and stinking,” says Estete,
the Spanish chronicler, “was an idol made of wood, very dirty, which
they called god, who creates and sustains us. It was held in great
veneration and at its feet were offerings.” Different, indeed, from many
an Andean place of worship to-day! It is a place of death in a double
sense. Scuttling lizards and sand-vipers are the only forms of life that
accentuate its silent, repulsive sterility. Human skulls kick about
underfoot through all the extent of the ruins, and disintegrated
skeletons lie everywhere. Only the earthen pots and _huacos_ are of
financial value to the looters; the heads of the men who made them are
not worth the gathering. The ruins are extensive, a few of the great
terraced temples still moderately well preserved. But being of clay or
adobe, dreary, yellow-brown, they offer no contrast in color to the
surrounding desert hills, and nothing to compare with the splendid
wrought-stone monuments of those wonderful architects, the ancient
Peruvians of the highlands.

The year had run over into September before I turned my face upward
again toward the Sierra, to pick up the broken thread of my journey.
Beyond Chosica the naked hills closed in, and the train climbed all day
between barren, echoing walls of rock, the exhilarating mountain air
cutting ever deeper into my lungs, as the glorious Italian skies of the
cloudless upper plateau spread their ever-broadening canopy above. Snow
appeared on far-off peaks, descended to meet us, and spread in patches
about and below us. As the air thinned, our faces flushed and tingled; a
tendency to sleepiness was succeeded by a feeling of exhilaration and an
inclination to grow talkative. My fellow-passengers began to show signs
of distress at the altitude, growing more and more red-faced, with
bloodshot eyes; then one by one they frankly succumbed to mountain
sickness as the train continued inexorably upward. As the experienced
sailor struts about among his seasick fellows, so I caught myself gazing
with haughty scorn upon the weaklings about me. Obviously a man who had
tramped the lofty páramos from far-off Bogotá, often under a heavy pack,
was immune to any effects of altitude.

But there is imbedded in ancient literature something to the effect that
pride is often closely attended by a downfall. At Ticlio, in the crisp,
cold afternoon, I noted that the mere exertion of lifting my baggage
from the main to the branch-line train set my heart in a strange
flutter. A more cautious person, too, would not have drunk three cups of
black coffee in the miserable little station lunch-room so soon after
weeks of rigid diet. Laboriously we climbed to the highest railroad
point in the world, flanked by an immense blue glacier, up again on the
bare, treeless, silent pampas, among cobble-stone hovels and ichu, the
stolid, expressionless Indians of the highlands, and drew up at dusk in
Morococha. The cheerless mining-camp, more than three miles above the
sea, lay scattered along a dreary, bowl-shaped valley, with a vista of
three cold, steel-blue lagoons, across which the enclosing snowclads
threw their violet evening shadows. In this breathless region my pulse
started savagely at every exertion, but being already arrived, I
supposed myself as safe from mountain sickness as a disembarking
passenger from mal de mer. In the manager’s cozy, stone-walled quarters
the blazing fireplace, with its unaccustomed artificial heat and its
clouds of tobacco-smoke, threatened suffocation and forced me to step
out frequently into the crisp, night air to catch my breath. But no
Indian of the highland could have boasted himself in finer physical
spirits when we wandered away toward ten, panting considerably, to be
sure, even at a very moderate pace, up the slope to the superintendent’s

Barely had I turned in, however, when I began gasping for breath. Within
an hour my host found that I had a respiration of 52 and a pulse of 125.
All night long I struggled open-mouthed, with the sound of an
accelerated steam-pump in bad repair, my heart engaged in what promised
to be a successful attempt to pound its way out through my back, until
my very shoulder-blades ached, and all the valley of Morococha seemed to
echo with its thumping. It was too much! To be scarcely recovered from
one long, laborious, Andean ailment, only to blow up of my own steam in
this absurd land!

In the morning the mine-doctor came with his stethescope, mumbled
“soroche” in a weary, unsympathetic voice, left some pills and
instructions, and was gone. All day long I lay fasting, the snowclads
gazing down upon me with icy, Andean indifference. Gradually the
pounding of my heart ceased to drown out all other sounds, and my lungs
resumed their accustomed action. On the following morning, though still
weak and wobbly-legged, aching from crown to toe, I was able to be
about, the day after, I strode slowly about the camp with something of
the old-time vigor. In the end the experience seemed to be advantageous,
for with every day thereafter I advanced to a faultless physical
condition that was to accompany me on all the rest of the journey.

There are a score of theories concerning this mountain-sickness, known
throughout Peru by the Quichua word _soroche_ and in the basin of the
Titicaca as _puna_. Who may be subject to it, what will prevent it,
whether or not previous experience will or will not give immunity, are
even greater mysteries than those surrounding its prototype, the bugbear
of ocean travel. No two persons are ever affected alike by it. Commonly
it is accompanied by a raging headache. All foreigners contracted for
mine employment in this region are subjected to a rigid physical
examination before they ascend “the Hill,” yet it is not unusual to make
up a special train and rush a victim down to the coast. Among horses,
with which it takes the form of blind-staggers and often renders the
animal unfit for further service, it is known as _veta_, from the
aboriginal superstition that it is caused by veins of ore (vetas) in the

Morococha, like its rival, Cerro de Pasco, is a little world of its own,
exclusively mining in its raison d’être and considerably marked by
Anglo-Saxon influence. Though many of the natives still huddle in dismal
huts, without windows and with dirt floors, the civilizing effect of the
gringo is in some evidence, at least in those superficial matters of
small habits, amusements, and clothing. American hob-nailed boots are
almost as frequently worn by the Indian men as the _llanqui_, or hairy
cowhide sandal. Bitter cold though it is, even at noonday, the Indians
of female persuasion go scantily clad and almost universally barefoot.

The miners work nine hours a day, seven days a week, and receive an
average of something more than a dollar a day—a high wage from the
Andean Indian point of view. The considerable efficiency of both Indian
and cholo workmen is curtailed by much coca-chewing and hard drinking.
Following each pay-day, and during the many fiestas, a majority of the
native miners go on an extended debauch, leaving the mines often so
short-handed that operations virtually cease. The effect of the
celebration does not wear off for several days, so that enterprise is
commonly paralyzed a week or more in every month. The company is
powerless to remedy this drawback, and the government—that scapegoat of
all imperfections throughout South America—shows no disposition to
better conditions, even were it possible. An Indian injured in the mine
is more apt to run away than to report at the hospital, and to appear
later as a litigant against the company, demanding—and with government
aid frequently winning—a sinecure for life. Even when the injured man is
attended by the mine-doctor, and his broken leg bound with splints or
his wound properly treated with antiseptic care, he is likely to be
found next morning with the bandages torn off, and with coca leaves, or
a chicken leg, or something as efficacious substituted.

It must be admitted that his gringo superiors do not set the native
miner a perfect example in his chief vice, the excessive consumption of
alcohol. In the social vacuum that must necessarily exist in such a
community, drinking and gambling are the favorite methods of putting to
rout dull care. The altitude soon gets on the nerves, seeming to call
for some such stimulant; at least, it is the custom to “lay to the
altitude” any species of misdemeanor, or the formation of habits unknown
to the subject before his arrival. Somehow it strikes the passing
observer as wicked to send these small-lunged, sea-level men of other
climes up here to gasp through life at a height fitted only to the
barrel-chested Indian and his fellow-beast of burden, the llama. Both
physically and temperamentally the effect of the altitude is curious.
Water boils at so low a temperature that a finger can almost be thrust
into it with impunity. Fireplaces are set in action by nonchalantly
throwing two or three beer-bottlesful of kerosene into the blaze. Those
accustomed to the heights for generations are far sturdier and less
vivacious than those of lower levels. Newcomers, on the other hand, are
easily excited and rattle-brained, dashing about like the proverbial
“hen with its head cut off,” futile in proportion to their striving. In
the gringo community it is a standing jest that the American or
Englishman most phlegmatic at sea-level will spend an hour trying to
shave, and grow so hen-minded over that simple task that he often gives
up in despair. The exhilaration is physical as well as mental. Baseball
players, far from losing their customary prowess in this thin air, are
given to running their legs off in their excitement, and must often be
restrained lest they burst their lungs.

It is half-jokingly asserted that after a few months in the mines it is
not safe to open a bottle or a “jack-pot” in the presence of a
minister’s son. Unfortunately the jest seems to have serious basis in
fact. The tighter the lines that bound their youth, the more completely
do the newcomers cast them off when removed from the influence of home
ties and neighborly opinion. Small wonder the Latin races accuse the
Anglo-Saxon of hypocrisy. The Americans who live and mine up and down
the Sierra have convinced Peruvians that every living American drinks
quarts of whiskey neat every day, and squanders his substance in
gambling, or if luck runs his way, in the “stews” of Lima. This is not
to say that all gringos in Morococha and Cerro de Pasco fall into an
evil manner of life, or that there are not many more who perform their
tasks fully and efficiently, in spite of an occasional debauch. Those
who bring with them very strong wills, or some equivalent for them,
retain the tautness of their moral fiber, for all the altitude. The
percentage of men who go astray is such, however, that it becomes almost
a subject for congratulation to see a well-kept frame and a wholesome,
unlined face in these Andean communities, where dissipated countenances
are rather the rule than the exception. Then, too, often arriving as
youths, with little experience of life except the half-cloistered one of
our colleges, the younger seem to feel it necessary to prove themselves
“men,” and to keep up the local reputation for what a missionary
referred to as “those rough mining fellows” by assuming a bold, gruff,
even vulgar exterior. All question of “morality” aside, the mere
materialistic problem of keeping up the efficiency of their force would
seem to make some curtailment of the prevailing customs worth the
trouble of the mine-owners. But even those sent down to assume charge
too often fall victims to that false philosophy of “a short life and a
merry one.”

Gringo employees of higher rank command generous salaries and are well
housed, with all the comforts that can conveniently be transported to
this lofty region. Coming, for the most part, directly from England or
the United States, they take naturally to the artificial heat which the
natives rarely adopt. Before the fireplace at the club the conversation
jumps from “bridge” to tetrahydrite ore, and back again to poker with,
to the layman, a vertiginous speed, amid the rattle of glasses and
bottles and the strains of a tireless phonograph. A considerable portion
of the talk might frankly be called gossip; for South America has this
in common with small towns, that every gringo up and down the continent
knows every other, at least by hearsay, his private character and his
domestic difficulties.

The traveler through South America is frequently struck by the fact that
large enterprises, even British in ownership, are more often than not
actually and practically in charge of Americans. The manager and most of
the office force may be English, but the actual motive power, the man
who makes the ore fly or sets the trains to running, is apt to be a
youthful superintendent or engineer but a few years out of one of our
technical colleges. This is no argument for or against the mentality or
ability of either nationality. These are their natural spheres of
action, purely the result of environment. The American, coming from a
land where precedent is given short shrift, and accustomed to furnish
his own initiative, is best fitted for pushing the pioneer work, for
attacking unprecedented problems and carrying the enterprise on to the
point where it is established and running smoothly. The Englishman,
product of an older and more settled society, is more easily content to
continue an established undertaking, to “stick on the job,” while the
American moves on to attack new and unfamiliar problems.


  The bleak mining town of Morococha, more than 16,000 feet above
    sea-level. Though but twelve degrees south of the equator, dawn
    often finds the place completely covered with snow, and ice forms on
    the edges of the chain of lakes, the outlet from which is to the


  The American miners of Morococha live in comfort for all the altitude
    and bleakness of their surroundings. In spite of their example,
    however, the natives still shiver through the day and huddle through
    the night without artificial heat]

I visited the chief mines of Morococha with the youthful American
superintendent. They presented nothing unusual to one acquainted with
those of Mexico, than which they were slightly more crude and
undeveloped in their methods. Some details of life were different; the
peons wore plenty of clothing, ragged and extremely bedraggled, hats,
and even footwear, for it was little less cold down in the mine
galleries than in the crisp, wintry mountain air and the brilliant yet
chill sunshine that flooded the glacier-draped valley and the
indigo-blue lakes above. We climbed and crawled and dragged ourselves by
elbows, knees, shoulders, hands and feet through ancient and modern
“stopes,” by slippery ladders, crude stairways, or slimy ropes, in an
eternal darkness made barely visible by our torches. The Indian miners,
some of them but half-grown boys, each and all had a cheek puffed out by
a quid of coca. They took a half-hour “coca-time” each afternoon, as
religiously as an Englishman does for his tea. Those who shoveled away
the mountain of ore in the sunshine outside earned seventy cents a day;
in the Natividad mine, where water poured incessantly and required
oilskins, the workmen nearly doubled this wage. The practical gringo
miners of to-day had somewhat different views of the ancient Peruvian
civilization than its historians, and considered the stories of Inca
wealth vastly exaggerated. Many a time, to be sure, a vein that promised
rich reward was soon found to have been “stoped out” by the Incas or
colonial Spaniards; but these neither knew enough about effective
mining, nor went deep enough to get any such quantity of gold as
tradition ascribes to them. Moreover, copper is the chief ore of Peru,
and even silver owes its importance here almost entirely to the fact
that the copper is highly argentiferous.

Beyond Oroya the railways of central Peru spread out in a Y, at the
right-hand end of which is Huancayo, something more than two hundred
miles from Lima, as is Cerro de Pasco on the other branch. Some time
after the hour set, an engine was found somewhere in or about the
junction, and toward noon we drifted away down a gorge into which
portly, dry hills thrust themselves alternately from either side.
Country women were washing their clothes in the scanty river; here and
there, at the base of amphitheatrical bluffs, wheat was being threshed
under the hoofs of circling horses. There were several dust-blown
stations, but no signs of towns, nor, indeed, a patch on which one might
have existed, except the one mud village of Llocllapampa in
mid-afternoon, familiar with its old Andean red-tile roofs. In the
first-class car was a crowd almost exclusively Peruvian, huge scarfs and
shawls about their throats, and many in overcoats; for not only had
Americans in their leather leggings disappeared, but even the outward
evidence of gringo influence; and I was once more swallowed up in the
purely native life of the Sierra. At length the gorge closed in,
squeezed us through three tunnels, and there opened out an interandean
valley, spreading far away north and south, cloud-shadows flecking its
surface, two snowclad peaks contemplating us with a lofty disdain from
over the crest of the enclosing wall. The train turned crab-wise toward
the nearer end of the valley, and set us down within walking distance of

The famous “Xauxa” of Prescott is rather colorless in its personality
and barren in its setting. The bells of llama trains, followed by their
as soft-footed, coca-chewing drivers, jangled by my window and died away
down the street. A considerable proportion of the population was
constantly struggling about the hydrant in the center of the plaza; the
rest were either simple Indians with coca- and pisco-brutalized faces,
or the haughty keepers of glorified peanut-stands. Smoke there was none,
of course, neither of industry nor of domestic comfort, and in contrast
to the bitter cold nights and the ice-box frigidity of every shade and
shadow, the uncovered sun was burning. Not even the murmur of open
sewers broke the languorous Andean silence, and in nothing but a few
slight details was the monotony of all towns of the Sierra broken. I was
back once more in the kingdom of candles, with its dreary, interminable,
read-less evenings.

The ancient Inca highway passed through “Sausa,” on the heights above
the present town, the beginnings of which Pizarro laid on his way to
Cuzco. The ruins were far more easily accessible than those of
Huamachuco, and neither so important nor so throttled with vegetation.
The surviving walls are chiefly of broken stone, some of lines of
square, some of round, rooms. The chief ruins appeared to have been a
double line of fortresses, which hung on the brow of the hill with a
truly Incaic view over the surrounding world. Strictly speaking, these
were not Inca monuments, but constructions of the Huancas, improved by
the Emperors of Cuzco. The tribe that once inhabited this broad valley
were conquered by the militant Incas, and forced to give tribute and
adopt the tongue of their conquerors, a dialect of which still persists
in the region. The plain was once a lake-bottom, stretching from beyond
Jauja to distant Huancayo. An hour’s walk from the town still brings one
to a cool and placid lagoon, surrounded by all but impenetrable marshes
and reeds, with numerous wild ducks winging their V-shaped course across
it. To-day the Mantaro river, like an unravelled cord, swings southward
past a few _pueblocitos_, among green groves that give relieving touches
of color to a scene at best bald and barren in aspect.

Long before train-time most of the population of Jauja, having no better
means of whiling away the afternoon, wandered out along the dusty road
to the station, isolated as some house of pestilence. That American
habit of racing breathlessly across the platform at the last moment is
not prevalent in Peru. For one thing, the _boletería_ ceases to
“function” long before the scheduled hour of departure, and he who
embarks without a ticket subjects himself to a fifty percent. increase
in fare—unless he has the fortune to be a compadre of some member of the
train-crew. In the second-class coach the travelers ranged from
broad-faced Indians to cholos in “civilized” garb and rubber collars,
the corresponding females wrapped from head to foot in crow-black
mantos. With the human deluge came corpulently stuffed alforjas, crude
implements of husbandry, distorted bundles of household effects, and, on
the backs of the Indian women, bulky in their heavy skirts unevenly
gathered about their draught-horse hips, loads of varying size from
which, with few exceptions, peered the face of a wide-eyed baby. All
these—the infants only excepted—my fellow-passengers proceeded to stuff
under the four lengthwise benches, into the racks above, or to hang from
the roof supports, until the car took on the aspect of an overstocked
pawnshop in which a multitude of tenement dwellers had taken sudden

Above the door was the information, “96 ASIENTOS,” all of which were all
more than fully occupied when the engineer embraced the station-master
for the last time and the massed population of Jauja began to recede
into the distance. Within the car the prevailing tongue was Quichua. The
native conductor “grafted” with a fetching frankness here and there in
his struggle through the welter of humanity; the brakemen spent most of
the journey drinking the health of a group of cholos in a corner of the
coach. Chicha flowed like water. At every station old women crowded
through the car selling that nectar of the Incas, all purchasers
drinking from the same cup, and generally several from the same filling,
while the scrawny hags, waiting for its return, idly rubbed their bony
talons about the spout of the _cántaro_ under their arms. Almost every
traveler had his own supply of a more potent native beverage. The pisco
bottle with its licorice smell passed constantly from hand to hand, eyes
grew more and more bloodshot, tongues thicker, yet more talkative—for
the Andean Indian is taciturn in exact proportion to his
sobriety—eyelids heavy, and limbs clumsy. The tippling knew no limits
either of sex or age. Infants barely two years old frequently took a
long drink at the fiery bottle, and cooed with delight at the taste. The
railway company not only permitted, but abetted Peru’s national vice. If
the universal pastime threatened to flag for a moment, it was
resuscitated by the fifty-year old dwarf of a train-boy, who waded
incessantly through our legs with a bottle under each arm and a single
opaque glass in hand, urging all, from the aged Indian dreaming over the
cud of coca in his cheek to the best-dressed chola, to drink and be
merry, for to-morrow—he would be bound in the other direction.

Not a few of the Indian and cholo girls were robustly pretty, their
cheeks rosy in spite of their coppery tint. At one station there entered
the car a white Peruvian baby, richly dressed as some little princess,
fingerless white gloves on her tiny hands, borne on the back of an
unbelievably dirty Indian girl of twelve, whose filthy felt hat the
regally clad infant alternately picked and thrust its fingers into its
mouth. Its parents were enjoying babyless freedom with their friends in
the first-class car, and incidentally saving the difference in the
servant’s fare. Thus the unwashed Indian intrudes everywhere, always,
from altar to kitchen, from nursemaid to grave-digger, and the fact
never strikes the most haughty Andean as incongruous. Had the old
Spanish chroniclers been of the realistic school, we should no doubt
have learned that the Inca’s bread was also dropped on a mud floor, and
picked up with unwashed fingers before it was presented to him on a
golden platter. In all the pages of Prescott there is no suggestion of
uncleanliness. His Indians are as spotless as if they had been scrubbed
and scoured with New England zeal before they were admitted to the
muslin-shaded twilight of his study. Yet he who has physically traveled
through what was once the Empire of the Incas cannot but suspect that
the Puritan-bred historian, for all his marvelously living and breathing
masterpiece, inadvertently—or puritanically—gave in this respect a false
picture of the ancient kingdom.


  Miners of Morococha,—a Welch foreman and two of his gang, whom I had
    brought to the surface from some 2000 feet underground. Note the
    mine lamps. This particular “Natividad” mine is so wet that oilskins
    are required]


  A typical miner of the high Peruvian Andes. The cloth around his head
    under his hat is pink; his poncho, red and black; his feet are
    covered with the hairy buskins worn by the men only]

It was nearing sunset when groves of eucalypti began to ride close by
the train-windows, then rows of mud huts alternating with little farms
of alfalfa, then larger adobe houses, and at length we drew up at
Huancayo, the end of railroading in central Peru. For many years there
have been plans to carry the railway on to Ayacucho, and even a wild
project of some day pushing it across to Cuzco, and of linking it up
with the railways of the south. Fortunately, nothing had yet come of the
scheme, and what lay before me depended thereafter on my own exertions,
with whatever of charm that remained to the ancient but now slightly
traveled route through the heart of Peru, as the reward.

Huancayo, boasting—as towns of the Sierra will—10,000 inhabitants, in a
rich and, in better seasons, well-watered valley, consists chiefly of
one long, broad street, perhaps the broadest in Peru, paved with small,
round stones, a ditch of water stagnating through its center. On either
side it is lined by wrought-iron rejas and open shop-doors; at either
end it dies out in sand and cactus-bordered paths between mud-huts. As
the main plaza of Riobamba is to Ecuador, this street forms the center
of what is reputed the greatest native market in Peru. Each Sunday it
offers a pulsating vista of Indians from a hundred miles around, in
every color known to an artist’s palette—and some which the boldest of
painters would not venture to use—an unbroken stretch of humanity,
shimmering in the glaring sunshine. An expert stenographer might wander
all day through the surging throng without being able to set down the
mere names of the wares displayed, to say nothing of the endless variety
of garments, types, faces, and customs. So packed with details is the
far-famed market, that only a cinematograph ribbon could give even a
faint notion of its activities; mere words are as powerless to paint its
motley variety as to catch the subtle charm of Huancayo itself, with its
perfect climate and crystalline sunshine.

                              CHAPTER XIV
                         OVERLAND TOWARD CUZCO

The truly romantic thing, of course, would have been to buy a llama to
bear my burdens to the capital of the ancient Inca Empire. But however
in keeping with the local color that prehistoric denizen of the Andes
might have been, there were at least a score of cold, practical, modern
reasons why he was not suited to my purpose. A few of them, such as
pace, disposition, slight powers of sustained endurance, and
uncompanionable temperament, experience had demonstrated native to a
donkey, also. A horse, as a famous traveler has remarked, is a delicate
and uncertain ally. A mule, in addition to several traits inherited from
his paternal forebear, had the drawback of unattainability; for the
house of Rothchild and I have this in common—that our wealth is not
unlimited. There remained, however, an animal unknown to mankind at
large that fitted my requirements exactly, as exactly at least as is
possible in this imperfect world,—the Peruvian imitation of a horse. In
a bare three centuries this descendent of our “fine lady among animals”
has adapted himself to Andean conditions. His small, compact hoofs are
almost as sure on precarious mountain-trails as those of the mule; he is
gifted with an uncomplaining endurance far beyond what his appearance
suggests; and he possesses an even, peaceful temper, and an absence of
ambition and personal initiative equal to his fellow-countryman, the
Indian. Moreover, he is capable of sustaining life and strength for an
indefinite period on the sparse and hardy vegetation of the uplands, and
is, at certain seasons, within reach of a modest purse.

“Foxy’s” mozo owned such a _chusco_ and, the feast of his patron saint
being near at hand, was induced to sell. I took to the animal at first
sight. Not that he was a thing of beauty, in his shaggy coat of shedding
reddish-brown; but it was this very air of unpretentious modesty and
unAndean sense of duty over mere personal appearance that won my instant
regard. Here, surely, was a companion who would keep his own counsel
under the most trying circumstances. Being no larger than a large
donkey, he was nicely fitted to the modest load of some sixty pounds
that was destined to represent his share of the world’s labor. Not
merely was he newly shod, but he had been enjoying the unbroken freedom
of a _potrero_ for several days, and should therefore be in condition to
hold his own for an indefinite period, provided I did not set too swift
a pace. The masculine gender was an asset not to be overlooked. Not
merely did my sense of chivalry forbid sentencing any member of the
other sex to the hardships that rumor insisted lay before us, but once
they had been surmounted, I would not have my glory smudged by the
possibility of a mere female boasting that she had also accomplished the
feat. Again, the animal had never been fifty miles east of Huancayo; and
I am of those who find no pleasure in a trip with a companion who has
already been over the route. The mere nine dollars at which we finally
came to terms seemed a slight equivalent for all these virtues, though I
took care not to hint that impression to the erstwhile owner. The matter
of a name was no problem at all. Even the Peruvians unconsciously tacked
on the diminutive _ito_ as often as they referred to my new
fellow-adventurer, and it was natural that I should have instantly
dubbed him Chusquito.

Relieved of the necessity of being my own packhorse, I could somewhat
increase my outfit. In Lima I had acquired a rum-burner, with
coffee-pot, frying-pan, and soup-boiling attachments that closed up into
a compact kitchenette about six inches in diameter. With this went a
bottle of alcohol, that could be filled at any town “muy provisto de
todo” along the way. “Foxy” himself, whose faults, as every gringo up
and down the Andes knows, do not include a lack of generosity, insisted
that he would be forced to throw away a somewhat worn, but still very
serviceable, rubber poncho, unless I carried it off; and this, with my
llama-hair poncho from Quito, was destined to shield me from many a
bitter night on lofty mountain-ranges. The clothing requisite for every
possible variation of altitude, and photographic supplies sufficient to
avoid the ill-will of local “authorities,” made up the bulk of my
alforjas. Then there was room for a native and a foreign book, for a
half-liter of pisco, with which to win the esteem of isolated Indians, a
bag of cocoa leaves and the accompanying burnt-banana lime, to sustain
such estimation, a candle for the endless Andean evenings, and a
sufficient supply of imperishable foodstuffs to relieve my mind of the
harassing daily preoccupation of finding hospitality before dark. Even
my coat and kodak could be hung on the pack, leaving me free to stride
lazily along, dressed in my shirt-sleeves and a cynical smile.

It was the tenth day of September when I creaked my hobnailed way out of
Huancayo’s interminable street, my only load the end of a clothes-line
that tempered Chusquito’s pace to my own. At the principal _pulpería_
his former owner drank my health in pisco, and, though he shed no tear,
it might easily have made a clean mark down his cheek. Of the road to
Cuzco I knew nothing, except that it led through four “cities,” and that
I should never reach, much less bring my four-footed companion to, the
end of a journey on which not even a “son of the country” would “venture
himself” without a guide and a _tropilla_ of mules and arrieros. For
myself I had no misgivings; as to Chusquito, I trusted to frequent halts
and a militant attitude that should win him an unaccustomed wealth of
fodder to confound the pessimists. All Huancayo gazed after me from
their doorways with a mixture of astonishment and incredulity as I set
out. Now is it not strange, when walking is the first and, indeed, the
only natural means of locomotion, that people who look with complacency
upon men on horseback, and upon trains, men who have heard of
automobiles and aëroplanes, should gasp with wonder to see a man
journeying afoot; and that _andarines_ may go about living on the
country and gathering certificates from every possible source to prove
they do walk; as if there were any virtue in that action, except the
purely personal pleasure of it, or nothing?

Even the burden of the tow-rope did not last long. Chusquito, being an
experienced pack-animal, I soon found could be left to his own devices.
In his own country, he knew fully as well as I how to climb up and down
rocky, mountain trails, and if he showed a tendency now and then to
wander off across the pampa, especially at sight of some of his own
kindred, it was natural that he should have been somewhat bored at
merely human companionship. Within two days we were strolling along like
lifelong friends, at an even gait that never called for cudgel
acceleration, and I journeyed as serenely as if I had found at last that
automatic baggage of which I had so long dreamed, only subconsciously
aware that my possessions were marching peacefully before me. The mind
ran unbidden over the many improvements that might be added,—a tent and
more supplies; or I might even become an itinerant photographer or
peddler, and earn my way as I went, instead of greeting with disdainful
silence the frequent question, “Qué lleva de venta?” But on one point I
was quickly disillusioned. Somehow I had pictured a pack-animal as
simply a perambulating chest of drawers, fancying that I had merely to
hang my possessions on the animal’s back, snatching up anything as I
chanced to need it. Whereas in real life I found that everything must be
made snug and tight, and secured by the intricate “diamond-hitch” that
made it as inaccessible on the march as if it had been left behind.

At Pucará, where the great valley of the Huancas narrows and begins to
squeeze the trail upward, the inhabitants were killing a cow and
stringing it up between two trees in the center of the grass-grown
plaza. All the beef that could not be disposed of on the spot was cut
into sheets a half-inch thick, and left to dry in the sun. By reason of
this treatment all meat in the Andes is hopelessly tough; either it is
“green,” direct from the hand of the butcher, or _charqui_ of
soleleather properties. Veal is unknown, for who would slaughter a calf
that would grow up into several times its weight in beef? Mutton is
scarce, or treated to the same charqui-ing process; and pork is of
Hebraic rarity. Besides, the traveler who longs for a rasher of crisp
bacon is more easily content to assuage his appetite in beef when
experience has taught him what the pigs of the Andes feed on.

There was no public eating-house in Pucará. A party of a dozen men and
women, however, all more or less gay with pisco, were glad of assistance
in making away with their share in the weekly killing. I tied Chusquito
before a bundle of wheat straw at a corner of the plaza, and we crowded
around a wabbly-legged table in a neighboring mud room, and dined amid
an uproar of maudlin hilarity and a series of stories often of a
distinctly “raw” nature, in which the females easily held their own.
Here _cancha_, or toasted, ripe, shelled corn did duty as bread, and
each helping of beef was flanked by boiled _chuño_, or small, frozen
potatoes. Then there were _camotes de la sierra_, one of the several
species of the potato family unknown in other lands, a soft, sweetish,
mushy tuber of the shape of a large peanut, which it was à la mode to
pick from the plate with the fingers, and dip before each bite into the
general bowl of _ají_, the Incaic peppers so beloved of the ancient
Peruvians. As in all Peru, it was the custom here to drink the health of
a companion and expect him to round the circle ad infinitum et
intoxicatum. Luckily, my companions were so far gone in liquor, even
before my arrival, that I managed to avoid most of the fiery “copitas”
without giving offense.

In the group was the cholo school-master of the baked-mud _Escuela
Fiscal de Varones_ across the plaza. He was a native of Carhuáz, and
grew so excited over the extraordinary fact that I had not only been in
his birthplace but had traveled thence “by land” that, irrespective of
the pisco, he was unable to begin the afternoon session when the boys
gathered at one o’clock. It didn’t matter anyway, he confided, since he
spoke no Quichua and the pupils almost no Spanish, and he would get his
salary—whenever the government had the money—whether he pretended to
teach or not. The school system of Peru being centralized, like that of
France, orders from Lima sometimes transfer a _maestro_ from one
province to another without any notion as to whether or not he is fitted
to his new assignment. The boys, all but one of whom were at least half
Indian, could mispronounce a few sentences from the “Lives of the
Saints,” but few could recognize one letter from another. Though he had
nothing to show in the way of teaching, the _maestro_ pointed with pride
to the school-name in huge red letters, all but covering the adobe
façade, as an example of his handiwork and “culture.” We spent an hour
or more in posing the school for a group in the act of saluting the
national flag, the “teacher” insisting on changing his brilliant red
poncho for a khaki coat before he would face the kodak, and of course he
grew enraged because I was so miserly as to refuse to deliver a dozen
copies of the picture on the spot. Another round of “copitas” restored
his amiability, however, and he insisted on giving me “something not to
forget him by,” and forced upon me one of the unvarnished lead-pencils
which the government supplied his pupils.

Travelers were frequent on the vast, rising world beyond, where the
great valley of the Huantas shrivelled and disappeared into the past.
Indian women trotted by, not only with a load and a baby on their backs,
but often suckling the infant as they went. _Ccoto_, as the Incas called
goitre, was common. Llama-trains, driven by fishy-eyed, noiseless
Indians with colored rags around their heads under their thick, gray
felt hats, passed frequently. There are few more interesting sights than
that afforded by two of these trains shuttling through each other on a
narrow mountain trail, each animal keeping its course as unerringly as a
homing-pigeon. At a rocky turn of the road one of the frail beasts lay
dying, an Indian boy slashing the gay ribbons out of its still quivering
ears with a crude cutlass. Chusquito strongly objected to passing a
scene so fraught with the dangers and cruelties of the trail. It was our
first real difference of opinion. From Inca days it seems to have been
the custom to decorate the ears of llamas with these bits of bright
cloth, less from artistic notions than as a means of designating the
ownership. To-day even the cows, bulls, goats, and sheep of certain
regions are thus embellished—often with ludicrous results. When, as
here, the matter is carried so far as to beribbon the donkeys, it seems
time to call a halt; for what can look more absurdly incongruous than a
plodding ass solemnly waving with the monotonous rhythm of his gait his
gaily bedecked ears.

Beyond Marcavalle, on the second day, the stony road was for a time even
more densely populated by llama, donkey, and mule-trains, by haughty,
white-collared gentry ahorse, and villagers afoot, all,—“gente,”
arrieros, Indians of both sexes, and, one could almost believe, the very
llamas—silly or stupid with drink. Even the women chewed coca, each
bulging cheek suggesting a cud of tobacco. Indian women, that is, for in
a land where every man rides it is the rarest sight to see a woman on
horseback; and even the chola who drags her skirts through the
accumulations of years in her native hamlet, would sooner break the
seventh commandment than ride astride. Then bit by bit the travel died
out; the single telegraph wire strode knock-kneed away over an
uninhabited world, and for an unbroken half day we tramped across a vast
brown pampa, with only an occasional flock of sheep, the stone and straw
kennels of shepherds at so great a distance off that I must trust as
usual to luck in guessing aright among many faint paths, and at times
even total absence thereof.

The adobe-and-thatch Indian hamlet of Nahuinpuquio was _en fiesta_,
celebrating some church holiday. The air pulsated with the harsh and
discordant noise of fife and drum, in the melancholy rhythm of all music
of the aboriginals, and the drear landscape was brightened here and
there by groups of dancers, Indians in fantastic costumes and ludicrous
masks, who danced in fixed spots without moving a yard an hour in any
direction. Over the valleyed and rocky face of the mountain beyond, a
bit of the road consisted of rough-stone steps that may have been part
of the old Inca highway. Then the trail pitched down into an ever warmer
valley, the enclosing hillsides and rocky ranges marked off in hundreds
of little stone-fenced patches, most of them newly plowed and waiting
for rain. Toward sunset we came out suddenly above a river brilliant
green with the patches of verdure stretching along it as far as the eye
could command,—the Mantaro, racing Amazonward through its rock-hewn
gorge, with villages tucked away here and there up the face of the great
cliffs that rose ever higher as we wound forever downward round and
round the headlands.

In the parlor of the “Hacienda Casma,” where shake-downs were prepared
for three travelers whom chance had brought together in the
half-tropical throat of the valley, lay piled the Huancayo-Huancavelica
mail,—in virtually new American mail-sacks. The unusually noiseless
sincerity of our host and the extraordinary order of his establishment
surprised me not a little, until I learned that he was Argentine born.
These rural haciendas take life easily. It was nearly eight next morning
before we drifted together for coffee, bread, and cheese, and some time
later that the mayordomo prevailed upon his Indian assistants to drive
from the hacienda pasture a score of mules and horses, from which we
each chose our animals. While I sat reading in the fresh, bird-singing,
June morning, awaiting my four-footed companion, a travel-stained Indian
slipped noiselessly into the yard with a letter which the wife of the
hacendado opened and began to read. Her suppressed laughter soon drew
the attention of her husband, who, having taken possession of the
epistle, began in his turn to shake with mirth. When he had finished, he
sent out of ear-shot the Indians who flocked in and about the corredor,
and read the note to his guests. It was from the parish priest high up
on the mighty range that shut in the river, and ran in part, all in a
solemn, almost sanctimonious tone:

“Yesterday, dear compadre, while on a round of confession among my
scattered flock, to whom God grant all blessings, I found in the house
of the widow —— a poor little orphan, newly born. Now I beg of you in
the name of charity and the Holy Church to do me the inestimable service
of acting as godfather to this unfortunate little innocent, that it may
not be in danger of dying in mortal sin for want of baptism. We will
ride there on Thursday.... Now I beg and pray you, dear compadre, to
grant me this favor, and above all to say nothing whatever of this
matter to anyone, since it is of no importance to any but ourselves, not
even to mention it to your good and pious wife, whom God....”

“But—” I began, somewhat at a loss to account for the roars of laughter
that increased with each phrase.


  A hint of what the second-class traveler on Peruvian railways must put
    up with—without the clashing of colors and the odors of _pisco_ and


  The wide main street and a part of the immense market of Huancayo,
    said to be the largest in Peru. The Indians, dressed in every shade
    of vivid colors and carrying every species of native product, trot
    in from a hundred miles around for this Sunday gathering]

“Why, it’s—you see it’s—well, the padre knows the widow well, very well
indeed,” explained my host, wiping his eyes with a corner of his poncho,
“and this is the fourth time since I became owner of Casma that he has
asked me to be godfather to some poor little orphan he has found in
different parts of his scattered parish. He is a man of force, is the
padre. But of course he doesn’t want the good and pious señoras of his
flock to know about his little amusements. We Argentinos, however—well,
who knows the secret of keeping a secret from a woman,” he concluded,
gazing after his wife as she hurried away, her shoulders still shaking.

At the ancient and graceful arched bridge across the Mantaro, a half-day
further down, I came to the parting of the ways. The direct trail to
Ayacucho continued along the stony, winding river-bank to Tablachaca
(Plank-bridge), but Huancavelica promised interest in proportion to its
isolation, and I prevailed upon Chusquito to undertake the long, stiff
climb up the face of the range under the vertical blazing sunshine.
Little patches, inhabited since time immemorial, stood out here and
there, their green trees, flowers, and fruit-odors, in as sharp contrast
to the grim mountain flanks as any oasis, of the Sahara. Somewhat above
the ancient town of Izcochaca, spilled up the hillside, rocks of a faint
red or purple hue are dug out of the mountainside and tied in pairs on
the backs of donkeys or llamas, scores of which we passed on their way
to the great market of Huancayo. Even the inexperienced Andean traveler
might easily have guessed what these stones were, from the habit of the
donkeys of licking the burdens of their fellows at every halt. Salt is a
government monopoly in Peru, and truly Peruvian in its condition. In the
rural districts he who asks for salt is handed a stone—and a hammer with
which to break it. Or in lieu of the latter he may beat two slabs of
this mountainside rock together, and sprinkle, the resultant gravel on
his food. It behooves the wise traveler to carry his own kodak-tin of
civilized salt, for even in the larger towns this is often unattainable.

All the afternoon we undulated across a lofty mountain-top, with a few
human kennels of shepherds stuck on rock-ledges along the way, passing
through one straw hamlet bright new in outward appearance, since
threshing-time had but recently passed. In Huando, one of those dismal,
rocky, comfortless, cold Indian towns that abound in the Sierra, I made
my first acquaintance with _alcaldes_ carrying silver-mounted staffs of
office. His bedraggled wife, who was much more at home in Quichua than
in Spanish, sent a messenger to announce my arrival to the gobernador.
The latter was a quaint little man in side-burns, wearing the only even
theoretically white collar in town, and a not too successful imitation
of “European” garb that did not exactly set off to advantage his bashful
rural dignity. There ensued that long, diplomatic parley by means of
which the traveler at length wins hospitality—in rural Peru the word
must be taken with a scanty meaning, since it commonly consists of
permission to spread one’s own trappings on the earth floor of the
corredor. He who would be successful even in this must never state his
wants abruptly, but only gradually drift toward them, without appearing
to care particularly whether he be granted the permission or not. Ramón
Lagos, however, for all his childlike simplicity, knew the duty of a
gobernador toward a distinguished traveler, even though he could not
fathom my reason for coming on foot. By the time cold night was settling
down he had sent an Indian to pile my possessions in the corredor, and
in due season the most soapless of Indian girls arrived with a
_puchero_, the Irish-stew of the Andes, containing the wing and
drumstick of a guinea-pig, and carrying carefully on the end of a
fork—no doubt after having stuck it there with her unmentionable
fingers—another fat leg of the same squeaky rodent. Then there was
ancient bread and weak willow-leaf tea, and _á la postre_ my hostess
came to share with me a delicacy she called “chicharrón,”—strips of
hard-fried pork.

Meanwhile, I had diplomatically put the gobernador in possession of ten
cents, with which to buy fodder for Chusquito. A messenger went forth,
and in due time an Indian _alguacil_ on the down-grade of life appeared,
bearing his _barajo_ with all the dignity of an English beadle. Behind
him came several youthful assistants, with less pretentious staffs of
office. Though they are appointed by compulsion, these aids to the ruler
of an Andean town are proud in their undemonstrative way of being thus
raised above the common rabble. None of them would permit even the wife
of the gobernador to take the black cane with silver bands out of his
hands, and I could only admire them at a distance. Not one of the
alguaciles spoke a word of Spanish. The gobernador in a Napoleonic voice
gave the old man an order for two nickel’s worth of straw. Apparently it
was not etiquette for the younger aids of government to understand the
command direct from the lips of the great gobernador himself. The chief
alcalde bowed faintly and turned to stride away with an authoritative,
if soft-footed tread. To carry out the order himself? No, indeed!
Instead, he passed it on to one of the youths, whose badge of office was
a much shorter staff, tied to his wrist, that it might not interfere
with the actual and physical carrying out of the command. Somewhat later
one of these returned, struggling under a great bundle of straw, the old
Indian strutting behind him, in all the dignity of his high authority
still firmly grasping his barajo. After them came a girl, evidently the
inferior of another of the authoritative youths, carrying at least a
peck of _cebada_, or barley. I sat late superintending the repast of my
companion, for only the inexperienced Andean traveler will trust to
native supervision of his animal’s requirements.

Not only do the Indian alcaldes and alguaciles hold office for the mere
“honor” of the position, but the gobernadores themselves are appointed
on compulsion and receive no reward, except from the traveler who, with
great care not to give offense, chooses to make up for this governmental
oversight. The news of my arrival had spread through the town, and in
the morning the alguaciles had increased to a half-dozen, who sat
motionless about the yard, staring like ruminating oxen and accepting
with leisurely avidity the crusts of my desayuno, handed them by the
gobernador. That official, certain I could not find my way alone, had
ordered a youth to accompany me. But as he was not overjoyed at the
appointment, it was no hard matter to lose him in the bleak and gloomy
labyrinthian town.

An all-day tramp across an often laborious upland, brilliant for all its
yellow-brown waste under the broad blue lift of the sky, raised a
glacier-topped range, at the foot of which lies Huancavelica. The
rolling uplands were alive now with llamas, alpacas, and sheep, grazing
together as one family. Here was the “home” of the llama—which, by the
way, is the Quichua term for domesticated animal—the only beast of
burden known to the inhabitants of Peru before the coming of the
Conquistadores, their only domestic animal, in fact, except the
guinea-pig, unless we count the now exterminated _allcu_. Relics of an
ancient civilization in which they held chief place, the llama and the
Indian of the Andes have much in common; they seem two branches of the
same race who have fallen on evil days together, to plod through modern
life like ghosts of a far-off past. Both endure only the high altitudes;
both are firmly wedded to their ancestral home; both suffer
uncomplainingly; both are temperamentally incapable of haste. The llama
will not travel alone, but only in company with its fellows; the Indian
is a moderately effective workman in “bees” or bands, but lacks the
self-reliance requisite to individual accomplishment. As the Indian
squanders half his time in fiestas and celebrations, and breaks his
labors frequently for a “coca-time,” so the llama can work but twelve or
fifteen days a month, spending the rest in feeding. The drivers—and only
an Indian can drive them—are as soft-footed as the animals themselves,
never shouting or urging them on with those cries common to all other

The llama, however, is more cleanly in his instincts than the Indian;
does not rival him as a drunkard; and, above all, retains a manly air,
even under adversity, in striking contrast to the slinking manner of his
human companion. He is the aristocrat among animals. Ever silent—if he
has a bleat or cry, I have never heard it—his gentle, liquid eyes seem
to look unseeing clear through one; he gazes upon the world about him
with an expression of timorous disdain and the indifference of convinced
superiority. His dignified attitude suggests a proud Inca set to
carrying fire-wood, or a “decayed gentlewoman” refusing to be outwardly
cast down by her misfortunes; his air is dreamy, as if he were looking
back to the time when he and the Incas reigned supreme over all the
Andean plateau. Like an aristocratic prisoner on parole, all the
security he requires is a rope laid across his neck, or a corral
bordered round with stones a foot high. If the figure may be carried
still further, there is yet another suggestion of the aristocrat in the
fact that, beneath his haughty exterior, he is apt to be stupid,
assuming his impressive dignity of manner to cover this interior paucity
of matter.

Had the llama been found in North America, he would have been
exterminated even more completely than was the Indian. He is far too
slow and ineffective a beast of burden to endure long against our
national impatience. He carries barely a hundred pounds, and covers at
best ten miles a day, grazing along the way, since he cannot feed by
night. But in the leisurely southern continent he still survives on the
high, cold plateaux that are his natural home, as the thin, hardy
vegetation of páramos and punas is his natural food; and in this day of
trains and automobiles, caravans of these frail, graceful creatures,
their ears gaily decorated with bright ribbons, still glide across the
frigid heights, as in the centuries when they represented the only
freighters of an immense empire.

Graceful when he walks, the llama runs with much the same awkward gait
as the kangaroo, throwing his neck, and looking at a distance like an
ostrich on four legs. In the region round about us were grazing, also,
many alpacas—here called _pacos_—a far uglier animal in its thick wool
of many colors, from black to gray, than the gracefully formed and
generally white llama. He is suggestive of a shaggy, spring bear, and
though he, too, occasionally serves as a beast of burden, his chief
value is in his wool. Two other members of the same Andean family, the
_guanaco_ and the _vicuña_, found chiefly in the wilder regions further
south, are never domesticated. The latter, graceful and delicate as a
fawn, produces the most valuable wool to be found in the Western

A native horseman, or, more exactly, muleman, had fallen in with us,
after striving for hours to overtake us. We rose and fell two or three
times more over rocky ridges, then came out suddenly on the brow of a
tremendous ravine above Huancavelica, in a situation extraordinary even
in comparison with the many striking ones throughout the Andes. Grim,
almost perpendicular mountains, their jagged summits of rock like
decaying fangs, lay piled into the sky on every hand, and completely
boxed in a _vega_, or little, flat plain, in the center of which, close
at hand, yet far below us, every patio of the city lay as plainly in
sight as the unroofed houses of Paris under the gaze of “Diable Boiteu.”
The trail pitched so steeply downward that the native was forced to
dismount and lead his mule.

“You see,” he boasted, pointing to several iron crosses on almost
inaccessible crags high above the city, “this is a Christian” (by which
he meant Catholic) “country.”

The retort suggested itself that there were other and even less pleasant
proofs of that fact, but there would have been no gain in talking
plainly to one of his low mental caliber. The Latin-American can always
build crosses along his roads, even if he cannot build the roads
themselves. Our thighs ached from the swift descent long before we
passed through the suburb of San Cristobal, separated from the town
proper by the crystal-clear little mountain river, Ichu, and we had all
but encircled the department capital before an ancient bridge of
_mampostería_, a mixture of mud, stones, and plaster, at last gave us

Rare is the traveler of to-day who passes through Huancavelica. As I
climbed the slippery, squeaky, small-cobbled streets toward the central
plaza, I was quickly reminded that I was far from the haunts of
civilized man, in an isolated world where even the sight of a strange
face is a rare treat, to say nothing of a foreigner in shirt-sleeves,
armed with a revolver and a sheath-knife, struggling to drag with him a
diminutive, shaggy mountain pony laden with miscellaneous junk. For
Chusquito, bewildered by the surroundings of an unknown city, displayed
an excitement and a waywardness of which I had not suspected him
capable. As I entered the cobbled and grassy plaza, across which the
towering western mountain-wall was already throwing its cold evening
shadow, the chiefly Indian soldiers on guard before the Prefectura
stared with bulging eyes, and rubbed their hands across their brows, as
if wondering whether they saw aright and whether they should do anything
about it. The adjoining streets were long lines of gaping faces, each
new group falling suddenly silent as they caught sight of the unexpected
apparition that had descended unheralded upon them, and the at best
slight industry and energy of Huancavelica came completely to a

I was supplied with no fewer than six letters of introduction. The
Prefectura was officially closed, which made one useless. I dragged
Chusquito into the patio of Dr. Durán next door, and announced myself
possessor of a recommendation to the lawyer from his best friend in
Lima. He acted like a Peruvian. Not merely did he decline to step out of
his office, but sent an Indian boy to demand the letter. When I
presented myself in the doorway instead, he read it with fear plainly
depicted on his features that he might be obliged to offer hospitality
to a man who could not be a caballero, since he came on foot, and as
plainly sought some loophole to avoid that necessity. He found one, too,
when he turned again to the envelope. The writer had carelessly written
the first name and, though he had explained the error, had not taken the
trouble to change it.

“Ah, but this letter is not for me,” cried the lawyer triumphantly, “it
is addressed to Felipe, and I am Enrique”—though he knew as well as I
that there was not another Dr. Durán in all Huancavelica.

The open-mouthed throng that had massed about the zaguán led me en masse
to a building that had once been a hotel on the further corner of the
plaza. It was too much to expect the inhabitants to know already that it
had ceased its ministrations to transients—the proprietor had been
barely four years dead. The whispering chorus about me swelled gradually
to the audible assertion that there was another establishment a few
squares away which “sometimes had given accommodations to estranjeros.”
At that moment a soldier, bearing a naked sword in one hand and a musket
in the other, came running to say that the ayudante wished to know who I
was, why, where, whence, and all the rest of it,—and that I was to
report to him at once. I commandeered the messenger to lead me to the
rumored hostelry. Before we reached it, however, a boy shouted to a
shopkeeper, leaning out over his half-door to watch the unwonted
excitement, that—a fact I had chanced to mention to some one, whereupon
it instantly became general knowledge—I had a letter for Solomón Atala.
The “Turk,” for such he was, dashed into the crowd and announced himself
the addressee.

“Very well; you will come and live at my house,” he cried, when he had
perused the note.

I protested that a public hostelry in the Andes was too rare a luxury to
be lightly given up, and that it was bad enough to intrude upon private
families when there was no other alternative. The “Turk” would not hear
any such argument. I had been recommended by his good friend, and I
belonged to him as long as I chose to remain in Huancavelica. Memories
of Palestine reminded me that to men of his race hospitality has none of
the hollow nothingness common to Peru. While we stood talking, a boy
surreptitiously led Chusquito off down a gaping side-street to the
“Turk’s” home, and I had perforce to follow. My possessions disappeared
through a narrow door within a door, once through which I found myself
in the littered patio of an ancient house of ample, rambling
proportions. A female voice bade me mount a century-worn stairway to a
sagging second-story balcony completely surrounding the yard. Barely had
I dubiously set foot upon it than there popped out several slatternly
women and the mightiest swarm of unassorted children I had ever yet seen
in captivity. My imagination began to picture what sleeping, and writing
notes, and getting the few days’ rest to which I was entitled, would be
in that swarming household, and unable to think of any ceremonial
excuse, I slipped down the aged stairs, untied Chusquito, and dragged
him away up the slippery cobbled street.

The worst of it was that I had to pass the “Turk’s” shop again to reach
the hotel. The good fellow was just locking up to come home and
entertain me, and he pounced upon me at once, quite literally, throwing
his arms about me and attempting to drag me off bodily, while
Huancavelica stared open-mouthed upon us from every doorway. But I had
set my heart on the repose of a room of my own. Beating off the
affectionate “Turk” with one hand, and struggling in vain to keep
Chusquito off the sidewalk and out of each succeeding shop with the
other, I gradually worked my way forward, leaving my would-be host on
the verge of tears, and gained at last the “Saenz-Peña Hotel.” It was a
dislocated little building of long, long, ago, wrapped like a carelessly
flung garment around a tiny patio, its most conspicuous feature the city
billiard-room in which a half-dozen youths of sporting proclivities were
gathered—at least, until they caught sight of us. Summoned from the
mysterious interior, the respectful and astonished poncho-clad
proprietor went in quest of a key, and unlocked the padlock of one of
three small doors tucked away in as many corners of the patio—doors made
of battered drygoods boxes with the lettering still upon them, so
precious is lumber in these treeless heights—explaining that the other
two rooms were “ocupados”—perhaps with empty bottles or guinea-pigs,
certainly not with guests.

The chamber assigned me awoke my gratitude. It was, to be sure, so small
that I could touch both walls at once, windowless and doorless, except
for the narrow opening by which I squeezed in, gloomy and chill, after
the fashion of adobe mountain rooms long closed; but it was furnished,
even to a bed with real springs. Barely had I carried my traps inside,
when there burst into the patio another “Turk,” who asserted in
gestureful Spanish that _he_ was the real Solomón Atala to whom I
belonged during my stay in Huancavelica, the other being merely his
brother, who had opened the letter in the brotherly way of Palestinians.
He, too, was a believer in forcible hospitality, and the hotel
proprietor looked on in helpless dismay at what promised to be a
successful attempt to carry off his only guest in—the patron saint of
hoteleros knows how long. A bed with springs, in a room by myself,
however, was not a luxury to be given up for the mere danger of making a
few Turkish enemies, and in the end the engaging Syrian, seeing no way
out of it, admitted with bad grace that, as I already had my possessions
scattered about the hotel room, it would be unfair to the proprietor not
to retain it. I should remain where I was until morning, when we would
talk the matter over. He agreed under protest, and at length gloomily
took his departure.

This “friend in town” is the bugbear of hotel-keepers, or would-be
keepers, in the Andes. The Arabian notion of hospitality, inherited from
the Moors and mixed perhaps with the traditions of Inca days, with their
free and public tambos along all the highways of the empire, still holds
sway, at least superficially. The Peruvian will all his life put up with
begging lodging, food, and fodder on his travels, often going without
them entirely, rather than help support a hotel, considering it a sign
of high rank to be housed by an outwardly delighted acquaintance, and
thus cheat the struggling hotelero out of a livelihood.


  “Chusquito” descending one of the few remnants of the old Inca highway
    I found from Quito to Cuzco]


  A detail of the market of Huancayo, with a bit of pottery like that of
    the days of the Incas]

Having led Chusquito to the river to drink and heaped before him half of
a five-cent bundle of _alcazer_—green barley, for grain does not ripen
at this altitude—and locked the rest inside my chamber, I stalked in
solitary grandeur through the gaping billiard-players to the
dining-room, and sat down at the end of a long oil-clothed table near a
small opening in the wall that looked like an enlarged rat-hole. The
poncho-clad proprietor proceeded with fitting gravity to serve me a
thoroughly Peruvian meal, of which the chief ingredient was a
_churrasco_, or steak, not of beef, as I at first fancied, but of llama,
a favorite Huancavelican dish which would not exactly win the unstinted
praise of an epicure. Between each course he repaired to the kitchen in
a corner of the barnyard to poke the various dishes through the hole in
the wall, and then reappeared within to serve them. It may have been a
long time since he had been honored with a guest, but he had not
forgotten the proper form of service. After each trip he balanced on
alternate legs, staring at me silently, until at last his tongue refused
longer to obey his will, when he burst out tremulously:

“Usté’—ah—señor, es andarín, no?”

“Not at all,” I replied, to his patent disappointment. “You see I
haven’t a single medal on my chest.”

“Ah, then you travel to sell something; jewelry perhaps, like all

Squier, traveling through the Andes a half-century ago, found that “in
the Sierra all foreigners are supposed to be French in nationality and
peddlers of jewelry by profession,” and conditions have changed little
to this day. The landlord-waiter was openly incredulous of my second
denial, but once the sluice-gates of his curiosity had been opened, the
flow of words swamped even the service, and the soup had long since
become a memory of the dim past before he poked the _pastre_ of melted
panela through to himself. I made my escape at last, and went to sit on
the wooden sofa in the billiard-room, as the only place in town with
light enough to see oneself by; but my distinguished presence was so
evidently the cause of bad shots that gradually turned the players
bitterly resentful, and the atmosphere was so decidedly wintry, that I
soon “hit the hay”—quite literally, for such proved to be the filling of
the outwardly luxurious-looking mattress.

I had barely ventured into the street next morning when I was dragged
into the shop of the two Palestinians. After a bitter and noisy struggle
we patched up a truce as follows: Since I was already enstalled there, I
was to keep my room at the hotel, but it was at their house that I must
take breakfast and dinner....

“And desayuno!” cried the “Turks” as one man, “You must also come and
take breakfast with us. If you like eggs, or steak, or pickled pigs’
feet, or.... Very well, even if you take only coffee and bread, like a

Though it was barely ten of a brilliant Sunday morning, the Andean
merchant’s richest hour, they shut up shop, in spite of the mild
protests of a dozen ponchoed shoppers, and led the way to their rambling
residence. A meal heavy with meat was enlivened with an excellent wine
that could have cost little less than a small fortune at this altitude.
The manners of the household recalled Palestine. We three men sat at
table with our hats on, in Arabic as well as Andean fashion, while the
women hovered more or less inconspicuously in the background. A dozen
small children of both sexes crawled and climbed and sprawled and
displayed their plump, unwashed nakedness on, around, and under the
table, drinking wine and swearing like arrieros in both Spanish and
Quichua. They were being brought up in the Palestinian, which is to some
extent the Latin-American, fashion that forbade coercion, and were
heartily laughed at and dubbed “cute” whenever they did anything
particularly naughty or disobedient.

The two Syrians, as we would call them, or “Turks,” as their
fellow-countrymen are known through all South America, had left
Bethlehem some eight years before. They announced themselves
“Christians,” which meant merely that they were not Mohammedans; though,
as behooves ambitious merchants, they diplomatically avoided any
religious controversy with their clients. For several years they had
peddled on foot over all the accessible portion of central Peru,
descending even into the montaña, or great hot lands to the east, the
abode of rubber, fever, and “wild” Indians. Bit by bit they had
established shops in various towns, until they had come to be among the
most important merchants of the region, with headquarters in
Huancavelica and branches in charge of more youthful fellow-countrymen
in the chief centers of population of the department. Their success was
typical of thousands of men of their race throughout the southern
continent. For the native, equally scanty of initiative, industry, and
the inclination to risk his capital, is at best an ineffective
competitor of this tireless race of born shopkeepers. Of productive
labor, great as is the call for it in this backward Andean land, the
“Turk” brings nothing. Nor is his example likely to better the personal
habits of the native population, though it may breed more effective
“business methods,” and even a higher grade of commercial honesty—to say
nothing of hospitality. It is not by such immigration, however, that the
dormant continent will be rejuvenated.

My irrepressible hosts cherished a hazy dream of some day returning to
Palestine with their fortune. Yet their children spoke not a word of the
Arabic that still served for most of the intercourse between the men and
their slatternly wives. The brothers themselves were fluent, not only in
Spanish, but in Quichua. The throaty dialect of the aboriginals has much
in common with the no less guttural Arabic; as the similarity of customs
and point of view makes the race particularly adaptable to Peruvian
surroundings. No other foreigner fits better into the life of the Andes,
and it is not strange that the Syrian has most effectively invaded
Andean commerce. Even the Chinaman, who quickly disappears as the
traveler turns his back on Lima, has found it impossible to compete with
these more western Orientals.

It is unfortunate that the traveler given to reporting his wanderings
cannot have his mind erased every little while, like a slate; for so
quickly do the sights and sounds of a strange country sink to the
commonplace that many things that might delight the stay-at-home pass
unnoticed. Thus an American untouched with the contempt of familiarity,
suddenly set down in Huancavelica, would no doubt find it abounding with
“local color.” Hays, who journeyed overland to Cuzco some months before
me, enthusiastically proclaimed it “the most picturesque town in South
America.” But to one who had followed the Andes step by step it was
rather monotonously like any other town of the Sierra, its customs
varying only in a few minor details from those that had long since grown
familiar. By night it lies silent and dead under its cold stars. Dawn
finds the fountain in its central “Plaza de la Independencia” bearded
with icicles, and no clock or sun-dial could give the hour more exactly
than the regularity with which these drip away to nothing in the late
morning. For the sun falls tardily on Huancavelica, having first to
climb the mountain rampart that shuts it in on the east. The town wisely
remains in bed until the god of the Incas has asserted his brilliant,
undisputed sway, and my road-habit of rising at daybreak gave me the
sensation of strolling through a city from which the entire populace had
fled. Indeed, the only really comfortable place in town was in bed. All
day long one shivered in the shade or burned in the sun. In my dank,
dungeon cell it was distinctly too dark, cold, and gloomy to read or
write; on the red benches of the plaza the glare of the molten disk
above was too brilliant to endure, even when some unsophisticated old
native did not join me and remain deaf to all hints that even a traveler
has his work to do. I soon formed the habit of taking daily possession
of the ancient band-stand facing the white “cathedral.” Here was a bench
on which I could, by constant manipulation, keep myself in the sun and
my note-book in the shade; and as it was apparently against the rules or
contrary to _costumbre_ for a native to occupy the structure, I sat here
hour after hour in solitary glory, flanked by the four staring sides of
the plaza. The activity of an Andean town can generally be gaged by its
plaza, and by that token Huancavelica was inactive indeed. Evidently no
industry more important than a soup-kettle could be run by natives, and
foreigners were rare. Charcoal braziers, or the three-stone, fagot-fires
at the backs of huts, where crouched old women almost too feeble to
drive off the curs that swarmed around the steaming earthen calabashes,
represented the ordinary cooking processes, the fires being now and then
given new life with a bamboo, or woven-weed fan. So bucolic was the
populace that every stroll through the streets brought a score of
inquiries as to what I was selling, many regarding even my kodak as a
sale-kit and inviting me to enter, while children and grown-ups alike
hastened to summon the rest of the family as often as I hove in sight.

In common with all Latins, the people are lovers of perpetual noise, and
have no conception of our Anglo-Saxon desire to be occasionally let
alone. Though the annoyances were always innocent, rather than
intentional, I could not pause for a moment that I did not have a
surrounding mob, and there was almost constantly a procession of boys,
and even those old enough to know better, at my heels. If I paused to
look at an old carved corner-stone or an ancient balcony, necks were
craned in wonder as to what on earth an _estranjero_ from the great
outside world could find of interest in the lifelong sights of their
drowsy capital. Yet there was a peculiar repose and quiet about the
place, as if it were literally shut off by its grim mountain-walls from
all the troubles of the great world. Shopkeepers locked up and went home
to play or sleep whenever the whim struck them. Though a department
capital, there was not a physician in town, nor any open evidence of a
drug-store; and while there was no doubt some advantage in this state of
affairs, the death-rate from dysentery and pneumonia was high. An
awkward, slow-minded, mountain people, they had not even the usual
mountaineer virtue of shyness, being as forward in their manner as
Hebrews. I was never out of sight of at least one “authority,” a ragged
Indian from some neighboring hamlet up among the higher ranges, clinging
jealously to his black silver-mounted cane of office. Pacos and llamas
could be made out, tiny as mice, feeding on the perpendicular crags
sheer above the town, among the abrupt splintered masses of rock that
cut all the surrounding sky-line sharply with their jagged crests.

As I was strolling about town the day after my arrival, a soldier again
came running after me to say that the prefect himself desired me to
report and explain myself. I handed the menial my card, and heard no
more of the matter. The printed name on a bit of cardboard is proof
sufficient of aristocracy in most of South America. Burglars and
highwaymen contemplating entrance into that field of activities would do
well to provide themselves with a plentiful supply of visiting cards,
the larger and more imposing the better. Later on, when I called on the
department ruler at my own volition and with the dignity befitting an
envoy from the outside world, a man was assigned to attend me on any
excursions I chose to make in or about the town.

The origin of the name of Huancavelica is curious. There was, it seems,
no town here at the time of the Conquest. To the Incas this flat
enclosed plain with its clear little river offered too fine an
opportunity for their enemies to roll rocks down upon them from the
towering heights above. Centuries ago there settled on the spot an
Indian of the Huanca tribe, inhabiting the great valley between Jauja
and Huancayo. He died young, and for long years his wife dwelt alone in
the only hut in this capacious mountain-pocket. Her name was Isabel,
which in South America becomes familiarly or affectionately, “Velica.”
Her hut was a sort of tambo, where a bit of corn or eggs might
occasionally be had, or at least pasture for pack-animals and shelter
from the páramo winds. Hence travelers through the region, asked where
they would spend the night, announced: “Voy llegar donde la Huanca

Then it was discovered that the grim, treeless mountains piled into the
sky about the little valley were rich in quicksilver, and a mining town
built itself up about the hut of Isabel, the Huanca. For centuries the
great Santa Barbara mine high above the town, and several smaller
workings in the vicinity, yielded the mercury used in Potosi and in all
the mines of Peru, High or Low, which was brought from Huancavelica on
the backs of llamas. Then, as more scientific methods came into vogue,
the miners turned to California for their supply, until to-day the
Mercury Queen is but an echo of her former greatness, and the open
shafts of her cinnabar mines, which rumor has it left several of the
surrounding ranges great hollow caverns, stand silent and deserted. It
is this failure to keep up with modern times that has left Huancavelica
one of the most “picturesque” department capitals, with poverty her
chief handmaid. Lack of transportation is her principal drawback. The
very town itself is said to sit on top of great deposits of quicksilver.
Workmen, digging for the foundation of a new building on a corner of the
plaza during my sojourn, found pure-liquid mercury bubbling up out of
the ground. Modern miners, however, refuse to operate where only the
slow and unreliable llama must be depended on for transportation, and
only when the long-promised railroad arrives, will Huancavelica come
into her own again.

The chief point of interest was the famous old mercury mine of Santa
Barbara. Strangely enough, the cicerone appeared within an hour of the
daylight time set, though without breakfast, and shared with me the
results of my own rum-burning handicraft. A roundabout, but exceedingly
steep road, on which we panted audibly in spite of frequent halts for
breath, brought us to our goal far above the town. Near a silent, cold,
Indian hamlet, with an aged Spanish church facing its dreary plaza, was
the ruin of a cut-stone smelting-works of colonial days, and behind it
the imposing arched entrance to the enormous caverns said to undermine
all the neighboring range. Above this was a large Spanish coat-of-arms
cut in stone, with the information that the arch had been constructed by
General Fulano in 1707; and the weather-defaced relief of a saint
holding a child. The silence of long abandonment brooded over all the
scene. We lighted the medieval oil-lamp borrowed from the hotel, and
disappeared within. The tunnel that led straight into the mountainside
was large enough, if not for a railway train, at least for a horseman to
have ridden in comfortably, its floor easily as good a road as the
average Peruvian one outside. Here and there we crawled over a heap of
stones and earth where a part of the wall had fallen, and at 382 paces
from the mouth were halted by a cave-in that had choked up the entire
tunnel. My companion had assured me that the spirits of ancient
Spaniards and their Indian victims, lying in wait for unwary moderns,
made our entrance perilous in the extreme, and, once permission was
given, lost no time in retreating.

From the exit we went _faldeando_ (skirting) the mountain to the ancient
mining village of Chaclatacana, about which, and scattered over all the
vicinity, were the evidences of little mines the Indians had dug on
their own account. The cinebrio deposits of the region were first
disclosed to the Spaniards in 1566, by the custom of the aboriginals of
painting their faces with it. My guide asserted that condors were
numerous, and often dangerous to the eyes of men wandering over these
lofty heights; but it was my luck not to catch sight of one of those
giant birds of the Andes. I was rewarded, however, for taking the
“short-cut” that proved longer and more laborious than the road, by a
bird’s eye view of Huancavelica, so directly below us that we could have
tossed our hats into the central plaza. Here, too, among the split and
jagged rock-crags we stumbled upon a colony of _viscachas_,—“biscachos”
my companion called them—almost the only quadruped, besides the
guinea-pig and the llama family, indigenous to the Peruvian highlands.
The creature is sometimes dubbed the “squirrel of the Andes,” but its
size was more nearly that of the rabbit, its prominent tail and means of
locomotion suggestive of some diminutive species of the kangaroo, its
color not unlike that of our prairie dog, which it resembled somewhat
also in its manner of dodging in and out among the rocks and crags, as
if inviting us to a game of “hide and seek.” According to my attendant,
the meat of the animal is even more succulent than llama-flesh,
providing the tail is cut off at the moment of killing.

But for the unkindness of fate there would have been a gala bull-fight
in Huancavelica on the Sunday of my stay. The one negro I had seen
shivering about town turned out to be a torero, imported—chiefly at his
own expense—from Lima for the occasion. The corral behind the rambling
dwelling of my hosts had been turned into a “ring,” a square one, to be
sure, laboriously fenced with poles tied with bark and cords to upright
stakes. But on Saturday afternoon, just as the town was rubbing its
hands together at the prospect of a half-forgotten entertainment, the
one bull that was to have furnished it sprang through the barrier and
over the low wall to the sunken street below, fifteen feet if it was an
inch, and instead of dying on the spot, was last seen making record time
for his mountain pasture.

The irrepressible “Turks” were wellnigh obnoxious in their hospitality.
The most baggage-abhorring of travelers acquires gradually and
unconsciously a new point of view with respect to his pack when he is no
longer forced to burden his own shoulders with it, and articles that
have hitherto seemed only useless weight take on the aspect of
necessities. But after they had “sold” me an enamel cup and a roll of
cotton-flannel for “Fusslappen,” the Syrians refused vociferously to
accept payment. When I caught sight of a mouth-organ that might have
served to while away the tramp across the lonely uninhabited world
ahead, my mere glance at it caused José to drop it into my pocket when I
was off my guard. A wordy battle ended with his acceptance of a _sol_,
which he swore was the wholesale price of an instrument marked to retail
for five times that amount; but it cost me eternal vigilance to keep now
one, now the other brother from surreptitiously returning the coin.
There was nothing left but to curtail my purchases. To choose from their
stock was to have charity thrust upon me; to buy off their rivals would
have been the height of insults, and would quickly have published to all
the town their lack of hospitality, or my ingratitude. My last day with
them the firm of Atala Hermanos spent in writing me letters of
introduction to all their countrymen from Huancavelica to Cape Horn, and
when I sneaked into their patio at dawn next morning, bent on abducting
Chusquito unseen, the entire household was already waiting to drag me in
to an extraordinary breakfast. Not satisfied with that, they forced upon
me a boiled leg-of-mutton and several other delicacies, among them a
dozen raw eggs which, tied in a handkerchief on Chusquito’s back, broke
one by one with his jolting gait and ran in yellow streams down the
rubber poncho that covered the pack.

All Huancavelica united in attempting to force a guide upon me,
asserting that even “hijos del lugar” frequently lost themselves on the
trackless puna beyond. I smiled indulgently at what had long since
become a threadbare prophesy, but had occasion to recall it before the
day was done. The way mounted steadily all the morning, uncovering a
vast yellow-brown world that stretched forever before me. In the early
hours it was scantily inhabited by wild, weather-faded shepherds
watching over flocks of llamas, pacos, or sheep, and leisurely busy
turning wool into yarn on their crude spindles, an occupation that gave
the men a curiously effeminate air, out of all keeping with their rough
exterior. These chary fellows took good care that we should not come
within shouting distance of them, and even the rare travelers and llama
drivers made wide circuits to avoid us, as if fearful of their
defenselessness on this bleak, shelterless top of the world. If taken
unaware in some fold of the earth, they muttered some stupidity in the
Quichua slang dialect of the region, and sped away like startled hares.
Unable to make inquiries, I could only trust to chance, compass, and the
instinct that develops with long Andean travel. For on these broad
mountain-tops the traveler is by no means master of the situation, and
to guess wrong between several at best faintly marked paths may be to go
hopelessly astray, and come out on the opposite side of the Andes from
that toward which one is headed. For long stretches the dreary páramo
showed no sign whatever of travel, though here and there the droppings
of llamas gave the route a more or less fixed direction. A jolly,
coca-chewing old Indian, whom I came upon in the afternoon plodding
patiently behind his haughty train, had seen enough of the world to have
lost some of his fear of white men and assured me I was still on the
right road. But he must have been mistaken, or else I guessed wrong at
the next opportunity, for the bit of trail that had grown up under my
feet split irreconcilably and left, at the hour when I should have come
upon an hacienda reputed hospitable to travelers, only the rolling,
trackless, yellow puna stretching away on every hand.


  Huancavelica, one of the most picturesque and least-visited provincial
    capitals of Peru, is completely boxed in by grim, rocky mountain
    walls noted for their deposits of mercury. The city itself is more
    than two miles above sea-level]

A raging thunder-storm of rain and hail, under which the vast land and
skyscape turned dark as night, soon broke upon us. I had struggled a
long distance through the storm, when I faintly made out a little
cluster of huts some distance to the right in a wrinkle of the pampa.
After I had overcome my own disinclination to go out of my way to seek
lodging, there was needed a laborious argument to bring my companion to
my way of thinking. For Chusquito would have none of your side trips.
The truth is I had been somewhat deceived and disappointed in the
disposition of my chosen fellow-adventurer. As long as the road lay
straight and undoubtedly before us, he was an ideal companion, never
breaking the thread of my reflections by calling attention to the
scenery, nor otherwise making himself humanly obnoxious. But in
temperament he might best be likened to a cat, accepting all favors and
friendly overtures with a complacent aloofness and matter-of-course
manner that resembled ingratitude, refusing to be won over, even by
caresses, to the faintest expression of a reciprocal affection.
Moreover, he had a will, not to say a wilfulness, of his own that is
inimical to all genuine companionship on the road, and a respect for
_costumbre_ that betrayed his Latin-American training. I felt no
compunction in having recourse to brute force in a dispute under such
circumstances as then faced us, however, and we soon gained the only
visible shelter.

On a cold, cheerless spot, almost devoid of even the vegetation of high
pampas, I found five miserable human kennels of loosely laid stones and
ichu grass, in charge of several gaunt, savage, yet cowardly curs, and
an Indian boy speaking only monosyllabic Quichua. All the huts, except a
beehive-shaped structure that served as kitchen, had huge native
padlocks on the doors. Choked with thirst, in tantalizing contrast to my
dripping garments and the raging storm, I called for water.

“Manam cancha,” murmured the boy dully, using the Quichua version of
that stereotyped Andean falsehood, “There is none.”

“Yacu!” I shouted, jokingly laying a hand on my revolver.

He slunk away, and picked up a battered cup behind one of the huts.
Wiping this on his lifelong sleeve, he scraped the bottom of a huge
earthen jar that leaned awry, in what would have needed only a fence to
be a barnyard, at an angle that enabled the dogs to help themselves at
the same source, and presented the half-filled vessel to me. There was
no second choice in the matter, for this region, untold miles above
sea-level, had no other supply of water than the rain that chanced to
drop into the leaning cántaros. Fortunately the taste bore little
evidence of what the appearance suggested. I made a round of the huts,
resolved to spend the night there, even if I had to break into one of
the buildings.

“Huasi-muñuy!” I cried, patching my Quichua together after my own
fashion, and pointing to one of the padlocks.

“Manam cancha,” repeated the _huarma_ in the same dull monotone. I held
out what would have seemed a fortune of small coins to a country boy of
other lands, but he shook his head doggedly, without a gleam of
interest, casting a half-frightened glance at my weapon. An older youth,
who had appeared noiselessly from somewhere, treated the offer of money
with the same indifference and settled down to a silent attempt to drive
me off, in spite of the storm and the night that was closing in. It was
then that I thought of the sack I had filled in the market of Huancayo.
At the magic word “coca” the pair awoke to a new interest in life. Each
snatched off his hat to receive a handful of leaves, mumbling a
“Gracias, tayta-tayta,” and the older youth ordered the other to clear
away a miscellaneous assortment of junk, bundles of old sheepskins, and
a heap of llama-droppings gathered for fuel, from one end of the hut
“porch” under the edge of which I was seated. As he worked, there fell
from somewhere under the projecting eaves the corpse of a tiny, black
pig that had quite evidently died a natural death, but which the family
just as evidently proposed to eat, for the boy carried it off to a safer
spot, plainly doubting my honesty. In a corner lay two bundles of ichu
grass. I tossed one to Chusquito, standing dejected and disgusted beside
me, and spread out the other as a mattress. The youth made no protest,
but shook his head at the _real_ I offered in payment. A howling wind
that even the stone hut failed to break made it useless to attempt to
set up my cooking outfit. As I drew cold food from my pack, the Indians
sat motionless as stone statues, but watched with keen eyes,
monkey-like, my every move. I shared the lunch with them, though I
should much have preferred paying them in money for their dubious
hospitality. It is one of the drawbacks of Andean journeying that the
traveler is expected to share his scanty supplies, not merely with his
human companions of the moment, but is invariably surrounded under such
circumstances by a ravenous swarm of begging and thieving dogs, pigs,
and fowls. Except for a score of llamas lying in patrician aloofness
beyond the huts, every living creature crowded round to appeal to my
generosity or to catch me off my guard. The Indians accepted each morsel
with a murmured “Gracias” that plainly proceeded from custom rather than
from any real thankfulness. Innumerable experiments, from the Rio Grande
southward, had demonstrated that the American aboriginal has not a trace
of gratitude in his make-up; indeed, the use of the Spanish term
suggests that the native language did not even include a word for

The thirst that follows an all-day tramp outlived the available supply
of water, and even the bottle of pisco I dared not bring to light until
darkness had concealed my movements from the Indians could not be shared
with Chusquito, no doubt choking within, in spite of his bedraggled,
dripping flanks. As the storm died down, the evening spread wonderful
colors across this bleak upper world, bringing out in lilac tints,
shading to purple and then to black, the saw-toothed range bounding the
horizon on the far south. The night would have been bitter cold even
inside one of the huts, to say nothing of lying on the earth floor of
the open, mud corredor. Yet the cold which my rubber poncho kept out was
no less surprising than the heat which the wooly llama-hair one kept in,
and my sleep might easily have been much more broken than it was.

During my first doze there arrived an old Indian, evidently the head of
the household that had hitherto kept itself successfully concealed. He
was somewhat the worse for fiery waters and, being apprized of his
visitor, set up a deal of howling and shouting in Quichua. Receiving no
answer, he ventured to take a mild poke at me with his stick. It would
have been heroic indeed to have gotten out of “bed.” Instead, I turned
loose a string of American and Spanish words of high voltage which
experience had shown to have a withering effect on his race. Though he
did not understand them individually, he evidently grasped their general
import, for he subsided at once, and retired to the beehive kitchen,
where for a long time he howled and yelped, as brave men will in the
midst of their trembling and admiring families. Bit by bit his women
pacified him, in the way women have, perhaps with more pisco and coca,
for I heard him laugh several times thereafter, with a sound like that
of a choking cow, before anything resembling silence settled down over
the lofty mountain-top world. Real silence is rare in these Indian huts
at night. Either the lack of comfort they are too lazy or uninitiative
to remedy, or the chewing of coca keeps the miserable inhabitants
half-awake, and periods of growling and grumbling are seldom far apart
from dark to dawn.

I fancy it was midnight, more or less, when I became drowsily aware that
Chusquito, tied within a foot of my head, was munching some fodder I
knew he did not possess; but I was too nearly asleep to rise and
investigate. The moon testified that it was some two hours later when I
was awakened to find the head of the household standing beside me, his
hand on a damaged roof and bellowing a guttural stream in which I caught
several times the words “Huasi micuni—eating my house.” This would be an
impoliteness in any land, and I bravely forced myself to slip into my
brogans and out into the icy moonlight. Chusquito had scalloped out the
bangs of the grass roof in a new style that, to my notion, was more
fetching than the original. If only the Indians of the Andes were not so
stonily conservative, my host would have thanked me for the improvement,
instead of sputtering with rage. I tied the innocent culprit to a
stone-wall nearby, which was also an unfortunate choice, for I heard him
knock down most of that in the hours that remained before daylight.
During the long uproar that ensued in the kitchen, no doubt the old
Indian told his family many times over that had _he_ been at home when I
arrived, I should not have remained; but in that he was mistaken, for it
would have taken a considerable band of South American Indians to have
denied me hospitality. I lay down again with my revolver and
cartridge-belt handy under the edge of the ponchos; not that there was
any danger, but because I do not care to be numbered among those who
take foolish chances.

The next I knew distinctly, it was dawning. I fed my mattress to
Chusquito and set up my kitchenette in the most sheltered corner of the
corredor, bent on concocting a hot broth with a lump of ice from the
bottom of a leaning cántaro. The directions on my magic can of
concentrated soup asserted that “one cube with hot water makes a
delicious bouillon.” But this, experience had demonstrated, should be
taken with a grain of salt—also four other cubes. Even under the lee of
my alforjas the rum-burner went out at the faintest breath of wind, but
by constant coaxing, and at the imminent risk of setting fire to my
possessions, I managed even to boil the two eggs that remained whole,
though so great was the altitude that with eight minutes of boiling they
were still soft. Gravelly bread of Huancavelica, and a native
“chocolate” that was really a pebbly brown sugar, topped off a meal I
might have longed for in vain at that hour in the best hotel of Peru.
Many an hour on the road, during the best part of the day for walking,
that simple little contrivance gave me, when I should otherwise have
been waiting on the sleepy natives for breakfast.

By the time I had eaten, the householder appeared in his slit panties
with white buttons down the sides, and a fancy upper garment evidently
intended to impress me with his importance. But when he noted by
daylight with whom he had to do, he gradually shrivelled up to a
half-friendly smile, and accepted with a pretence of gratitude a coin
for his forced hospitality and newly decorated roof. A silver-ringed,
black cane, leaning against what Chusquito had seen fit to leave of the
stone wall, proved him one of the “authorities” of the region. Above it
stood a crude cross decorated with dry grass, designed to keep evil
spirits—except those in bottles—away from the cluster of huts. Either my
host’s knowledge of the trail ahead, or his manner of imparting it, was
extremely hazy, and I dragged Chusquito away across the pampa in the
cutting cold, but invigorating mountain air, burdened with the task of
finding ourselves once more.

Within an hour we were so fortunate as to fall again upon a trail, where
I could relinquish the tiller and drift into those day-dreams that come
upon the solitary traveler across these vast Andean punas. Snow had
fallen during the night, and a great white immensity, slightly
undulating, spread out to infinity before us. We shared an all-night
thirst that set us both to munching snow at frequent intervals. By ten
the sun had burned away the whiteness and restored to the scene its
accustomed monk’s robe of faded yellow-brown. All morning I continued to
guess the way across a steadily rising world, in the utter silence that
makes more impressive the dreariness of these lofty regions, until at
noon we panted over a jagged rock-ridge from which all the kingdoms of
the earth lay spread out below us, tumbled, broken, and velvety brown as
far as the eye could command even in this transparent air. As we started
gradually downward, shepherds and their flocks appeared once more, then
little fenced patches and stone-heap hovels; then we dropped almost
suddenly into the blazing hot valley of a little river, along which
tiled huts and travelers were numerous. Several times I went astray and
waged pitched battle with Chusquito cross-country, past hovels swarming
like disturbed beehives with barking dogs, before I once more got
securely under our feet the trail that was to lead us upward again over
the next páramo. It is not merely that the stupid inhabitants of these
regions speak only Quichua, but they are incapable of giving intelligent
directions, even in that tongue. There is something exhilarating in the
air of Andean heights that breeds reflection and a peaceful serenity of
mind; but it is nature, rather than humanity, that awakens the marked
optimism of spirits. The traveler grows “inspired,” lifted up out of
himself by the magnificence of the scene, realizing for a moment how
marvelous is this world we inhabit; then suddenly an Indian, a human
being, intrudes, and snatches him back to earth again. Time after time I
caught sight of an approaching figure which the mind, from youthful
force of habit, imbued with human intelligence—and as many times it
turned out to be a shuffling Indian, stupid and glassy-eyed from the
quid of coca in his cheek and the chicha and pisco of the last hamlet in
his belly, who cringed like some degenerate animal as he passed,
mumbling some Quichua monosyllable. Incapable of intelligent reply, even
when they are not in a half-drunken stupor, these plodding creatures
have a very hazy notion of distance. The _acco_, or time of duration of
a quid of coca, which they throw on the _achepetas_, or symbolical
stone-heaps along the way, is at best but an uncertain term of length,
and their besotted intellects seldom retain the memory of any number
above three or four. So that, in spite of the frequent appearance of
fellow-travelers, I had perforce to be satisfied with the half-certainty
that I was on the right road, without any notion of whether the nearest
shelter was one, or ten leagues distant.

Clouds crawled into the evening sky again, where the daytime sunshine
had swept it clean; the purple shadows of the mountains, across the tops
of which the setting sun cast a crimson glow, spread and darkened, and I
had visions of shivering out another night in the corredor of an Indian
hut, or out on the bare, freezing pampa. I had suffered so many dreary
nights, twelve hours long, in South America, that it had become a habit
to lose my cheerful mood in the late afternoon and succumb to
apprehension, as of some impending misfortune. Under this I developed
unconsciously a pace so swift that Chusquito, like a small boy trying to
keep up with an inconsiderate father, took to trotting every little
while some distance ahead. We were now far up again on a cold puna
across which the bitter mountain wind swept unchecked, and even my
companion seemed to cast apprehensive glances at the angry, black clouds
overspreading the sky, and at the cold dusk descending upon us. We
hurried unbrokenly on, without a sign of town or hamlet, though the last
Indian stragglers still bore sufficient evidences of intoxication that
proved it could be no great distance off. Then, in the last rays of
daylight, we turned a wind-whipped boulder and caught sight of the
place, far off in the lap of a stony valley, well aware from long Andean
experience that the intervening distance was much greater than
appearance suggested.

Black night had long since settled down when I found myself surrounded
by indistinct, low structures that turned out to be Acobamba, home of
one Zambrano, for whom I bore a letter from the “Turks.” As often as I
inquired for him, however, there came back that Spanish-American-Indian
mumble of indifference and distrust, “Más arriba,”—higher up, until I
felt like a District Attorney on the trail of “graft.” When a
half-civilized youth in “store” clothes gave me the same identical,
lackadaisical answer for the tenth or twentieth time, I caught him by
the slack of the garments and jerked him into the street, with a polite
ultimatum to conduct me in person to that elusive upper region.

He led the interminable, cobbled way down one street and up another,
equally unlighted, and finally stopped before a zaguán with an “Aquí,
señor.” I cut off his proposed escape, and drove him into the patio to
summon the man of the house. He returned with the Indian mayordomo, and
the information that the Zambrano who lived there was not the one I
sought, and was, moreover, out of town. The youth proposed that he “go
look for” the right Zambrano.

“No, indeed, my friend,” I countered. “You will stay right with me while
_we_ look for him.”

“Sí, señor,” said the youth in a shivering voice. Then he turned back
across town and plaza by another route, and pointed out the Zambrano
household exactly two doors from the one out of which I had originally
snatched him. The flock of women who surged out upon me greeted me with
the threadbare “No ’stá ’cá!” He never was—when I bore a letter to him.
The wife spelled it out laboriously under the blinking light of a
home-made tallow candle, then invited me into the earth-floored
“parlor,” separated by a calico curtain from the little shop she kept.

“There is no one in Acobamba who prepares food for strangers,” she
replied to my roundabout hint, “but we shall serve you such as we can
here in our poor house.”

While the mystery to come was cooking, I managed to get inoffensively
into her possession the price of a peck of grain for Chusquito—and some
time later found the poor, misused animal munching about two cents’
worth of old, dry corn-husks in the corral.

“It is,” murmured the wife, in reply to my questioning gesture, “that
there is no grain in town—at these hours.” But though she would have
considered an insult any direct offer of a traveler consigned to her
husband by letter to pay for his accommodation, she carefully avoided
any further reference to the grain-money.

It would have been in the highest degree scandalous to have lodged a
stranger in her own dwelling during the absence of the head of the
household. But the delegation of females, having discovered, by dint of
turning the house wrong-side out, the massive key of a mud-flanked door
across the street, let me into an abandoned shop lumbered with the
accumulated odds and ends of many years, an immense, woven-straw
hogshead full of shelled corn bulking above the rest. A creaking board
counter, barely five feet long, was the only available sleeping space.
The only means of avoiding asphyxiation was to leave the door open to
any passing sneak-thief or congenital hater of gringos. But even had the
risk been great, the key would have proved an effective weapon.
Unfortunately it would have been anti-simpático to have felled with it
the solicitous night-hawks who called my frequent attention to the
perils of night air, not merely by rapping on the door, but by prodding
me in the ribs with their sticks.

It was butchering day in Acobamba when I awoke, and at the suggestion of
my hostess I sent a servant to buy ten cents’ worth of meat. She
returned with an entire basketful,—eight slabs of raw, red beef, each as
large as an honest sirloin steak “for two.” Virtually every shop in town
being a pulpería, it was easy to lay in supplies for the road ahead. But
though competition was brisk in all other wares, for some reason I was
never able to fathom, in all the region of the central Andes my favorite
food was always hedged round with refusals. As often as I stepped into a
shop where a basket of eggs was displayed, I was sure to be informed in
a dull, uninviting monotone, “No están de venta.” “Of course they are
not for sale,” the experienced Peruvian wayfarer soon learns to reply,
“No Andean lady who considers herself a lady would think of selling
eggs. But—er”—meanwhile picking out the largest specimens of the fruit
in question—“I have taken a dozen. How much?”

The answer was sure to be a meek, “Dos reales—ten cents, señor.”

Over the lofty, tumbled world ahead the way was often so steep and stony
and contorted that Chusquito more than once fell on his neck, and
threatened to twist himself permanently out of shape. It was a land so
dry and barren that only the half-liter of pisco kept my thirst
endurable. Whenever I paused for a sip, my companion glanced furtively
and anxiously back at me, as if he remembered other masters who had got
bad tempers out of bottles along the way. But his was none of your meek
and canine dispositions that permit abuse unprotestingly. On the level,
high pampas, with all the world spread out in full view about us, the
exhilaration of scene and air caused me unconsciously to set so swift a
pace that I was obliged frequently to kick the brute out from under my
feet—until he retaliated by suddenly projecting one small, shod hoof
against a shin that I was distinctly aware of for days afterward.

One afternoon, not fifty miles beyond Acobamba, I was threatened with
violence for the first time during my fifteen months in South America. I
sat beside a mountain pool, coaxing my cooking-outfit under shelter of
my alforjas, when two half-Indians, bleary-eyed with drink, appeared on
stout mules. They had nearly passed when they caught sight of me, and
charged forward in drunken insolence, all but trampling my possessions
under the hoofs of their animals. In the haste of the moment I made the
error of showing aggressiveness to the point of drawing my revolver—and
came perilously near having to use it for my mistake. When reflection
caused me to change my tactics and humor them like the witless children
they were, the danger was dissipated like a puff of smoke. Within ten
minutes the pair grew so maudlinly affectionate that they insisted on
shaking hands alternately a dozen times each, and at length rode slowly
away, casting frequent besotted, loving glances behind them.

Across a barren páramo ahead the mood struck me to cheer the long hours
with my mouth-organ. Even the Indian carries one of these, or a reed
flute on his journeys, and whiles away the sky-gazing solitudes with
monotonous ditties. But I was soon forced to forgo the pleasure. Not
merely did that plebian instrument in the hands of a gringo bring
glances of unconcealed contempt from the rare horsemen who passed, but I
could no sooner strike up than Chusquito, unhumanly frank and honest in
his criticisms, would lay back his ears and trot ahead well out of
hearing, with some peril to my pack, before he would consent to fall
again into a walk.

                               CHAPTER XV

It was in the scattered _caserío_ of Marcas that I overtook a traveling
piano. I had barely installed myself by force and strategy in a mud den,
and tied Chusquito to a _molle_ tree before a heap of straw in which he
alternately rolled and ate, when a party of _gente_ arrived, among them
an old woman of the well-to-do chola class, carried astride the
shoulders of an Indian. Their chief spokesman was a lawyer named
Anchorena, a white man of some education and even a slight inkling of
geography, who was importing an upright piano for his mansion in
Ayacucho. With the descending night came a score of Indians carrying a
large, crude harp, several fifes and guitars, and a drum, to install
themselves along the mud benches of the corredor of the building inside
which the more or less drink-maudlin gente had spread themselves. It is
never the Peruvian’s way to interfere with the celebrations of his
underlings, however disturbing these may be, and far into the night the
“musicians” kept up an unbroken, dismal, tuneless, indigenous wail that
forced whoever would be heard to shout. Anchorena, professionally
inclined to like the sound of his own voice best, bellowed the evening
through in an endless account of a fellow-townsman’s visit to New York a
bare ten years before. Of all the marvelous experience, what seemed to
astonish both the teller and his hearers most, all but choking the
Indian-riding old woman with incredulity as often as he repeated it, was
the alleged fact that in the best New York hotels guests were not
permitted to spit on the floor. Come to think of it, that probably would
astonish a Peruvian.

To my surprise the natives were off ahead of us in the morning, and
Chusquito had picked his way many hundred feet down a stair-like trail
before we sighted the boxed piano, lying on its back on a bit of level
ground far below, with some twenty-five motley-arrayed Indians squatted
about it. The lawyer shook hands effusively and, putting Chusquito in
charge of the barefoot squire who was leading his own cream-colored
coast horse, invited me to listen to his endless chatter while we
continued the swift descent together.

The piano, made in Germany, had been set down in Lima for $500. Freight
to Huancayo had added ten percent. to the cost. From the end of the
railway to Ayacucho, a scant two hundred miles, the exotic plaything
must be transported on men’s backs, as the Incas imported a thousand
things—if not pianos—in the days of their power. This stage of the
journey would, under ordinary circumstances, have nearly doubled the
cost of the instrument. But Anchorena had the advantage of owning a
large hacienda in the great hot valley toward which we were descending,
and was able to cut the expense in two by drawing upon his own peons for
the labor of transportation. Three distinct gangs had been sent from his
estate, each to bear the burden a third of the distance. They were paid
the extraordinary wage of twenty cents a day, and supplied food, chicha,
and coca. Each gang carried the piano for a week, and it was the second
party celebrating the arrival of the third that had made noisy the night
at Marcas.

Each morning, shortly after midnight, the Indians rose to munch _mote_,
or boiled corn, for an hour or more, after which a heavy soup of corn,
potatoes, beans, and charqui, was served. Then for another hour the men
poked coca leaves one by one into their cheeks, mixing them with lime
from their little gourds, and by dawn, the effect of the chewing having
made itself felt, they rose to their feet and were off. Some forty peons
set their shoulders to the several poles attached to the boxed piano, a
picket-line with shovels, axes, and ropes was thrown out in advance to
widen the trail and lend assistance in the steeper places, and an army
of servants, cooks, squires, and the numerous _capatazes_, or bosses,
required for any effective Indian labor, brought up the rear of the

From the punas of the day before, totally barren but for the dreary,
yellow ichu, we had descended through a zone of scrub bushes, lower
still through thirstless, sand-loving cactus, and were now dropping
swiftly through a dead, desert landscape by zigzag trails as painfully
steep and unpeopled as those of the Ecuador-Peruvian boundary.
Architecture changed with the altitude, so that the openwork huts became
little more than thatch roofs on poles, shading the languid, loafing
inhabitants of a place called Huarpo, hot as Panama, on the edge of a
river cutting off a broad, sandy valley I had seen from the sky the day
before. The surrounding region was a _cofardía_, that is, it belonged to
some wooden saint to whom it had been bequeathed by a _beata_, one of
the many pious old women who have thus left great tracts of the Andes
perpetually in morte main. Fo