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Title: The Enchanted Burro

Author: Charles Fletcher Lummis

Release date: February 24, 2019 [eBook #58954]

Language: English

Credits: E-text prepared by the Online Distributed Proofreading Team ( from page images generously made available by Internet Archive (



E-text prepared by
the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
from page images generously made available by
Internet Archive


Note: Images of the original pages are available through Internet Archive. See





The Enchanted Burro



And Other Stories as I Have Known Them
From Maine to Chile and California


Strange Corners of Our Country, A Tramp Across the Continent,
Mexico Today, The Spanish Pioneers of America, My
Friend Will, The Gold Fish of Gran Chimú,
The Land of Poco Tiempo, Pueblo
Indian Folkstories,
etc., etc.



Copyright, 1897, by Way & Williams


Published September, 1912

M. F. Hall Printing Company


The name that stood for such a friend is tall enough for two—
My oldest on the old frontier, my newest on the new.
Nor is it on my heart to pray my baby’s feet be spared
So rugged paths (companioned so) as once his father fared.


The Enchanted Burro (New Mexico) 1
The Mummy-Miner (Peru) 25
A Boy of the Andes (Peru) 43
A Daughter of the Misti (Peru) 65
The Witch Deer (New Mexico) 85
Felipe’s Sugaring-Off (Peru) 99
Andrés, the Arriero (Bolivia) 111
Our Yellow Slave 141
The Peak of Gold (New Mexico) 161
Pablo’s Deer Hunt (New Mexico) 179
Candelária’s Curse (New Mexico) 203
The Habit of the Fraile (Peru) 219
The Great Magician 241
The Silver Omelet (Mexico) 257
A Duel in the Desert (California) 275
A ’Rastle with a Wildcat (New England) 285
A Tame Deer (California) 299
The Rebel Double Runner (New England) 315
The Balsa Boy of Lake Titi-Caca (Bolivia) 333


The enchanted burro Frontispiece
Lelo 17
The home of the Soroche 55
In Ta-bi-rá 179
The bones of Ta-bi-rá 186
The patio process at Guanajuato 257
Wildcat and owl in death-struggle 280


The Truly Clever know enough to make books of a country by a few days of Pullman and hotel—or even by skimming the public library at home, without the bother and expense of travel at all.

But the few Dullards now left can arrive in Knowledge only by plodding; not “as on wings of eagles” and Inspiration, but by the drudgery of learning.

It has taken more than twenty-five arduous years to beat into me what little I hope I know about the Frontiers of the Three Americas. To learn several new languages and digest innumerable old chronicles was but one side of the task: everywhere, and among many peoples, I had to win slow adoption from Stranger to Friend; to travel footsore or saddleweary; to share their beds, their feasts, their famine, their speech, their ideas, their pleasures and their hardships—in fact, to live their life. And it was Life—Human and warm, even at its rudest.

Part of these stories, under this same title, were published in 1897 by an amateur firm which very presently succumbed—post hoc, indeed, but I trust not propter. So the book has been out of print for a dozen years. It was very gently entreated by critics and public while its young godfathers lasted.

I now add five stories and 4,000 miles of geography—clear back to my venerable boyhood. Born and bred a Yankee, I Escaped In Time (at 23), and have become a much better Indian, New Mexican, Mexican, Peruvian, Californian and composite Paisano of the Frontier. It may be that other graduate New Englanders will find here some echo to memory of what they and I used to think we knew of the Stern and Rockbound, so long ago; and that the Unremoved will pardon my lapses, in view of my enduring Alibi.

As to anything this side of New England, I won’t “either apologize or fight.” This part is not remote and precarious memory of the only true Golden Age—the Age when we Haven’t Any—but the indelible autograph of thirty older years, scarred and wrinkled upon me inside and out. It can take care of itself.

Most of these stories, in both instances, are of episodes in which I had some part. Not all are “True Stories,” but all are truthful. I hope that makes them no duller than if they had been guessed out of whole cloth and innocence.

C. F. L.

Los Angeles, Cal.


The Enchanted Burro.

The Enchanted Burro.

Lelo dropped the point of his heavy irrigating hoe and stood with chin dented upon the rude handle, looking intently to the east. Around his bare ankles the rill from the acéquia[1] eddied a moment and then sucked through the gap in the little ridge of earth which bounded the irrigating bed. The early sun was yellow as gold upon the crags of the mesa[2]—that league-long front of ragged cliffs whose sandstones, black-capped by the lava of the immemorial Year of Fire, here wall the valley of the Rio Grande on the west. Where a spur of the frowning Kú-mai runs out is a little bay in the cliffs; and here the outermost fields of Isleta were turning green with spring. The young wheat swayed and whispered to the water, whose scouts stole about amid the stalks, and came back and called their fellows forward, and spread hither and yon,[2] till every green blade was drinking and the tide began to creep up the low boundaries at either side. Up at the sluice gate a small but eager stream was tumbling from the big, placid ditch, and on it came till it struck the tiny dam which closed the furrow just beyond Lelo, and, turning, stole past him again to join the rest amid the wheat. The irrigating bed, twenty feet square, filled and filled, and suddenly the gathered puddle broke down a barrier and came romping into the next bed without so much as saying “By your leave.” And here it was not so friendly; for, forgetting that it had come only to bring a drink, it went stampeding about, knocking down the tender blades and half covering them with mud. At sound of this, Lelo seemed suddenly to waken, and lifting with his hoe the few clods which dammed the furrow, he dropped them into the first gap, and jumping into the second bed repaired its barrier also with a few strokes. Then he let in a gentler stream from the furrow.

Poco, and I should have lost a bed,” he said to himself, goodnaturedly. Blas always took things easy, and I presume that is the reason no one ever called him anything but Lelo[3]—“Slow-poke”—for Indian boys are[3] as given to nicknames as are any others, and the mote had stuck to him ever since its invention. He was rather slow—this big, powerful boy, with a round, heavy chin and a face less clear-cut than was common in the pueblo. Old ’Lipe had taken to wife a Navajo captive, and all could see that the boy carried upon his father’s strong frame the flatter, more stolid features of his mother’s nomad people.

But now the face seemed not quite so heavy; for again he was looking toward the pueblo and bending his head as one who listens for a far whisper. There it came again—a faint, faint air which not one of us could have heard, but to this Indian boy it told of shouts and mingled wails.

“What will be?” cried Lelo, stamping his hoe upon the barrier, and with unwonted fire in his eyes. “For surely I hear the voice of women lamenting, and there are men’s shouts as in anger. Something heavy it will be—and perhaps I am needed.” Splashing up to the ditch, he shut the gate and threw down his hoe, and a moment later was running toward Isleta with the long, heavy, tireless stride that was the jest of the other boys in the rabbit hunt, but left Lelo not so very far behind them after all.


In the pueblo was, indeed, excitement enough. Little knots of the swart people stood here and there, talking earnestly but low; in the broad, flat plaza were many hurrying to and fro; and in the street beyond was a great crowd about a house whence arose the long, wild wails of mourners.

“What is, tio Diego?” asked Lelo, stopping where a number of men stood in gloomy silence. “What has befallen? For even in the milpa[4] I heard the cries, and came running to see.”

“It is ill,” answered the old man he had addressed as uncle. “It seems that Those Above are angry with us! For this morning the captain of war finds himself dead in bed—and scalped! And no tracks of man were about his door.”

“Ay, all is ill!” groaned a short, heavy-set man, in a frayed blanket. “For yesterday, coming from the llano[5] with my burro,[6] I met a stranger—a bárbaro. And, blowing upon Paloma, he bewitched the poor beast so that it sprang off the trail and was killed at the bottom of the cliff. It lacked only that! Last month it was the raid of the Cumanche; and, though we followed[5] and slew many of the robbers and got back many animals, yet mine were not found, and this was the very last that remained to me.”

Pero, Don ’Colás!” cried Lelo, “your burro I saw this very morning as I went to the field before the sun. Paloma it was, with the white face and the white hind foot—for do I not know him well? He was passing through the bushes under the cliffs at the point, and turned to look at me as I crossed the fields below.”

Vaya!” cried Nicolás, angrily. “Did I not see him, with these my eyes, jump the cliff of two hundred feet yesterday, and with these my hands feel him at the foot that he was dead? Go, with your stories of a stupid, for——”

But here the alguazil, who was one of the group, interrupted: “Lelo has no fool’s eyes, and this thing I shall look into. Since this morning, many things look suspicious. Come, show me where fell thy burro—for to me all these doings are cousins one to another.”

Nicolás, with angry confidence, accompanied the broad-shouldered Indian sheriff, and their companions followed silently. Across the adobe-walled gardens they trudged, and into the sandy “draw,” whose[6] trail led along the cliff and up among the jumble of fallen crags at one side.

“Yonder he jumped off,” said ’Colás, “and fell——” But even then he rubbed his eyes and turned pale. For where he had left the limp, bleeding carcass of poor Paloma only twenty-four hours before, there was now nothing to be seen. Only, upon a rock, were a few red blotches.

“What is this!” demanded the alguazil, sternly. “Hast thou hidden him away? Claro that something fell here—for there is blood and a tuft of hair upon yon stone. But where is the burro?”

“How should I hide him, since he was dead as the rocks? It is witchcraft, I tell you—for see! There are no tracks of him going away, even where the earth is soft. And for the coyotes and wildcats—they would have left his bones. The Gentile I met—he is the witch. First he gave the evil eye to my poor beast, that it killed itself; and now he has flown away in its shape to do other ills.”

“It can be so,” mused the sheriff, gravely; “but in the meantime there is no remedy—I have to answer to the Fathers of Medicine for you who bring such stories of dead burros, but cannot show them. For, I tell you, this has something to say for the deed[7] that was done in the pueblo this morning. Al calaboz!

Half an hour later, poor Nicolás was squatted disconsolately upon the bare floor of the adobe jail—that simple prison from which no one of the simple prisoners ever thinks to dig out. It is not so much the clay wall that holds them, as the authority of law, which no Pueblo ever yet questioned.

“’Colás’s burro” was soon in every mouth. The strange story of its death and its reappearance to Lelo were not to be mocked at. So it used to be, that the animals were as people; and every one knew that there were witches still who took the forms of brutes and flew by night to work mischief. Perhaps it was some wizard of the Cumanche who thus, by the aid of the evil ones, was avenging the long-haired horse-thieves who had fallen at Tajique.[7] And now Pascual, returning from a ranch across the river, made known that, sitting upon his roof all night to think of the year, he had been aware of a burro that passed down the street even to the house of the war captain; after which he had noticed it no more. Clearly, then!

Some even thought that Lelo should be imprisoned, since he had seen the burro in[8] the morning. And when, searching anew, they found in a splinter of the captain’s door a long, coarse, gray hair, every man looked about him suspiciously. But there was no other clew—save that Francisco, the cleverest of hunters, called the officials to a little corner of the street, where the people had not crowded, and pointed to some dim marks in the sand.

Que importa?” said the gray haired governor, shrugging his shoulders, as he leaned on his staff of office and looked closely. “In Isleta there are two thousand burros, and their paths are everywhere.”

“But see!” persisted the trailer. “Are they like this? For this brute was lame in all the legs, so that his feet fell over to the inside a little, instead of coming flatly down. It will be the Enchanted Burro!”

Ahu!” cried Lelo, who stood by. “And this morning when I passed the burro of Don ’Colás in the bushes, I saw that it was laming along as if its legs were stiff.”

By now no one doubted that there was witchcraft afoot, and the officials whose place it is were taking active measures to preserve the pueblo. The cacique sat in his closed house fasting and praying, with ashes upon his head. The Cum-pa-huit-la-wen were running here and there with their[9] sacred bows and arrows, prying into every corner, if haply they might find a witch. In the house of mourning the Shamans were blinding the eyes of the ghosts, that none might follow the trail of the dead captain and do him harm before he should reach the safe other world. And in the medicine house the Father of All Medicine was blowing the slow smoke across the sacred bowl, to read in that magic mirror the secrets of the whole world.

But in spite of everything, a curse seemed to have fallen upon the peaceful town. Lucero, the third assistant war captain, did not return with his flock, and when searchers went to the llano, they found him lying by a chapparo bush dead, and his sheep gone. But worst of all, he was scalped, and all the wisdom of that cunning head had been carried away to enrich the mysterious foe—for the soul and talents of an Indian go with his hair, according to Indian belief. And in a day or two came running Antonio Peralta to the pueblo, gray as the dead and without his blanket. Herding his father’s horses back of the Accursed Hill, he sat upon a block of lava to watch them. As they grazed, a lame burro came around the hill grazing toward them. And when it was among them, they suddenly raised their[10] heads in fear and snorted and turned to run; but the burro, rising like a mountain lion, sprang upon one of them and fastened on its neck, and all the herd stampeded to the west, the accursed burro still perched upon its victim and tearing it. Ay! a gray burro, jovero,[8] and with a white foot behind. Antonio had his musket, but he dared not fire after this witch beast. And here were twelve more good horses gone of what the Cumanche robbers had left.

By now the whole pueblo was wrought to the highest tension. That frightful doubt which seizes a people oppressed by supernatural fears brooded everywhere. No man but was sure that the man he hated was mixed up in the witchcraft; no man who was disliked by any one but felt the finger of suspicion pointing at him. People grew dumb and moody, and looked at each other from the corner of the eye as they passed without even a kindly “Hina-kú-p’wiu, neighbor.” As for work, that was almost forgotten, though the fields cried out for care. No one dared take a flock to the llano, and few went even to their gardens. There were medicine makings every night to exorcise the evil spirits, and the Shamans worked wonders, and the medicine guards[11] prowled high and low for witches. The cacique sat always in his house, seeing no one, nor eating, but torturing his flesh for the safety of his people.

And still there was no salvation. Not a night went by but some new outrage befell. Now it was a swooping away of herds, now some man of the wisest and bravest was slain and scalped in his bed. And always there were no more tracks than those of a burro, stiff-kneed, whose hoofs did not strike squarely upon the ground. Many, also, caught glimpses of the Enchanted Burro as they peered at midnight from their dark windows. Sometimes he plodded mournfully along the uncertain streets, as burros do; but some vowed that he came down suddenly from the sky, as alighting from a long flight. Without a doubt, old Melo had seen the brute walk up the ladder of Ambrósio’s house the very night Ambrósio was found dead in the little lookout room upon his own roof. And a burro which could climb a ladder could certainly fly.

On the fourth day Lelo could stand it no longer. “I am going to the field,” he said, “before the wheat dies. For it is as well to be eaten by the witches now as that we[12] should starve to death next winter, when there will be nothing to eat.”

“What folly is this?” cried the neighbors. “Does Lelo think he is stronger than the ghosts? Let him stay behind those who are more men.”

But Lelo had another trait, quite as marked as his slowness and good nature. When his deliberate mind was made up there was no turning him; and, though he was as terrified as anyone by the awful happenings of the week, he had decided to attend to his field. So he only answered the taunts with a stolid, respectful: “No, I do not put myself against the ghosts. But perhaps they will let me alone, knowing that my mother has now no one else to feed her.”

The flat-faced mother brought him two tortillas[9] for lunch; and putting her hands upon his shoulders, looked at him a moment from wet eyes, saying not a word. And slinging over his shoulder the bow-case and quiver, Lelo trudged away.

He plodded along the crooked meadow road, white-patched here and there with crystals of alkali; jumped the main irrigating ditch with a great bound, and took “across lots” over the adobe fences and[13] through the vineyards and the orchards of apple, peach and apricot.

In the farther edge of the last orchard stood a tiny adobe house, where old Reyes had lived in the summer-time to guard her ripening fruits. Since her death it had been abandoned, with the garden, and next summer the Indian congress could allot it to any one who asked, since it would have been left untilled for five years. The house was half hidden from sight—overshadowed on one side by ancient pear trees and on the other by the black cliffs of an advance guard of the lava flow.

As he passed the ruined hut Lelo suddenly stooped and began looking anxiously at a footprint in the soft earth. “That was from no moccasin of the Tee-wahn,” he muttered to himself, “for the sole is flatter than ours. And it comes out of the house, where no one ever goes, now that Grandmother Reyes is dead. But this! For in three steps it is no more the foot of a man, but of a beast—going even to the bushes where I saw the Enchanted Burro that morning”—and all of a tremble, Lelo leaned up against the wall of the house. It was all he could do to keep from turning and bolting for home—and you need not laugh at him. The bow-case at his side[14] was from the tawny mountain lion Lelo had slain with his own hands in the cañons of the Tetilla; and when Refúgio, the youngest medicine-man, fell wounded in the fore-front of the fight at Tajique, it was Lelo who had lumbered forward and brought him away in his arms, saving his life and hair from the Cumanche knife. But it takes a braver man to stand against his own superstitions than to face wild beast or wilder savage; and now, though Lelo did not flee, his knees smote together and the blood seemed to have left his head dry and over-light. He sat down, so weak was he; and, with back against the wall, he tried to gather his scattered thoughts.

At that very moment, if Lelo had turned his head a very little more to the left and looked at one particular rift in the thorny greasewoods that choked the foot of the cliff, he might have seen two dark, hungry eyes fixed upon him; but Lelo was not looking that way so much as to the corner of the cliff. There he would have to pass to the field; and it was just around that corner that he had seen the Enchanted Burro. “And there also I have seen the mouth of a cave, where they say the ogres used to live and where no one dares to enter”—and he shivered again, like one half frozen.[15] Then he did look back to the left, but saw nothing, for the eyes were no longer there. Only, a few rods farther to the left, and where Lelo could not see for the wall at his back, the tall, white ears of a burro were moving quietly along in the bushes, which hid the rest of its body. Now and then the animal stopped and cocked up its ears, as if to listen; and its eyes rose over the bush, shining with a deep, strange light. Just beyond was the low adobe wall which separated Reyes’s garden from the next—running from the foot of the cliff down past the old house.

To go on to the field needed even more courage than to keep from fleeing for home; and stubborn as he was, Lelo was trying to muster up legs and heart to proceed. He even rose to his feet and drew back his elbows fiercely, straining the muscles of his chest, where there seemed to be such a weight. Just around the corner of the house, at that same moment, a burro’s head, with white ears and a blazed face, rose noiselessly above the adobe fence, and seeing nothing, a pair of black hoofs came up, and in a swift bound the animal was over the wall—so lightly that even the sharp Indian ears not fifteen feet away heard nothing of it.


But if Lelo did not notice, a sharper watcher did. “Kay-eé-w’yoo!” cried a complaining voice, and a brown bird with broad wings and a big, round head went fluttering from its perch on the roof. Lelo started violently, and then smiled at himself. “It is only tecolóte,” he muttered, “the little owl that lives with the túsas,[10] and they say he is very wise. To see where he went.”

The boy stole around the corner of the house, but the owl was nowhere to be seen, and he started back.

As he turned the angle again, he caught sight of a burro’s head just peeping from around the other corner; and Lelo felt the blood sinking from his face. The beast gave a little start and then dropped its head to a bunch of alfalfa that was green at the corner. But this did not relieve Lelo’s terror. It was Paloma—dead Paloma—now the Witch Burro. There was no mistaking that jovero face. And plain it was, too, that this was no longer burro-true, but one of the accursed spirits in burro shape. Those eyes! They seemed, in that swift flash in which they had met Lelo’s, to be sunk far, far into the skull; and he was sure that deep in them he saw a dull gleam[17] of red. And the ears and head—they were touched with death, too! Their skin seemed hard and ridgy as a rawhide, instead of fitting as the skin does in life. So, also, was the neck; but no more was to be seen for the angle of the wall.


There are men who die at seventy without having lived so long or suffered so much as Lelo lived and suffered in those few seconds. His breath refused to come, and his muscles seemed paralyzed. This, then, was the Enchanted Burro—the witch that had slain the captain of war, and his lieutenants, and many more. And now he was come for Lelo—for though he nosed the alfalfa, one grim eye was always on the boy. So, no doubt, he had watched his other victims—but from behind, for not one of them had ever moved. And with that thought a sudden rush of blood came pricking like needles in Lelo’s head.

“No one of them saw him, else they had surely fought! And shall I give myself to him like a sheep? Not if he were ten witches!” And with the one swift motion of all his life, the lad dropped on one knee, even as hand and hand clapped notch to bowstring, and, in a mighty tug, drew the arrow to the head.


Lightning-like as was his move, the burro understood, and hastily reared back—but a hair too late. The agate-tipped shaft struck midway of its neck with a loud tap as upon a drum, and bored through and through till the feathers touched the skin. The animal sprang high in air, with so wild and hideous a scream as never came from burro’s throat before, and fell back amid the alfalfa, floundering and pawing at its neck.

But Lelo had waited for no more. Already he was over the wall and running like a scared mustang, the bow gripped in his left hand, his right clutching the bow-case, whose tawny tail leaped and fluttered behind him. One-Eyed Quico could have made it to the pueblo no faster than the town slow-poke, who burst into the plaza and the porch of the governor’s house, gasping:

“The Enchanted Burro! I have—killed—him!”

Fifteen minutes later the new war captain, the medicine men, the governor, and half the rest of the men of the pueblo were entering Reyes’s garden, and Lelo was allowed to walk with the principales. All were very grave, and some a little pale—for it was no laughing matter to meddle with the[19] fiend, even after he was dead. There lay the burro, motionless. No pool of blood was around; but the white feathers of the arrow had turned red. Cautiously they approached till suddenly Francisco, the sharpest eyed of trailers, dashed forward and caught up the two hind legs from amid the alfalfa, crying:

“Said I not that he tipped the hoofs? With reason!”

For from each ankle five dark, naked toes projected through a slit in the hide.

“Ay, well bewitched!” exclaimed the war captain. “Pull me the other side!” And at their tug the belly of the burro parted lengthwise, showing only a stiff, dried skin, and inside the cavity a swart body stripped to the breech-clout. Alongside lay arrows and a strong bow of buffalo horn, with a light copper hatchet and a keen scalping knife.

Sácalo!” ordered the war captain; but it was easier said than done. They bent the stubborn rawhide well apart; but not until one had run his knife up the neck of the skin and cut both ends of Lelo’s arrow could they haul out the masquerader. The shaft had passed through his throat from side to side, pinning it to the rawhide, and there he had died.


When the slippery form was at last dragged forth, and they saw its face, there was a startled murmur through the crowd; for even without the long scalp lock and the vermilion face-paint, there were many there who would have known the Cumanche medicine man, whose brother was the chief that fell at Tajique. He, too, had been taken prisoner, and had taunted his captors and promised to pay them, and in the night had escaped, leaving one sentinel dead and another wounded.

The Enchanted Burro was all very plain now. The plains conjurer, knowing well by habit how to play on superstitious fears, had used poor Paloma as the instrument of his revenge—hiding the carcass and drying the skin quickly on a frame with hot ashes, so that it stood perfectly in shape by itself. The bones of the fore legs he had left in, to be managed with his hands; and in the dark or amid grass, no one would have noticed the peculiarity of the hind legs. He had only to pry open the slit in the belly and crawl in, and the stiff hide closed after him. Thus he had wreaked the vengeance for which, uncompanioned, he had followed the Pueblos back to their village. In the cave behind the greasewoods were the scalps of his victims, drying on[21] little willow hoops; but instead of going to deck a Cumanche lodge in the great plains, they were tenderly buried in the old church-yard, restored to their proper owners.

After all these years there still are in the pueblo many tales of the Enchanted Burro, nothing lost by the re-telling. As for the skin itself, it lies moth-eaten in the dark storeroom of the man who has been first assistant war captain for twenty years, beginning his novitiate the very day he finished a witch and a Cumanche with a single arrow.



The Mummy Miner.



The Mummy Miner.

There was certainly nothing suggestive of antiquity about Faquito’s appearance. His droll, brown face, his thickset boyish figure and the alarming tatters of his scant apparel were all undignified as his name—which had got to the most disrespectful distance possible from the stately Francisco of the baptismal font. There could be no worthier name for a boy of Peru than that worn by the great conquistador Pizarro. But it is hard to live up to the dignity of the christening, and Francisco degenerates into Francisquito, which is fond; and then to Franco, which is familiar; and finally to Faquito, which is positively rude. Probably it never occurred to the lad to be comforted with thinking that the greatest conqueror of the Americas was called Faquito, too, when he was herding his pigs in Truxillo; and that if one Faquo could grow up to be Don Francisco, so[26] might another. These consolations of philosophy never do come to us until we are too old to need them so much.

But perhaps you are thinking: “Well, why should a twelve-year-old cholo boy look antiquated? Are lads of that age in Peru expected to be ancient, any more than in New York or Boston?”

N-no, not exactly that—though in the quick tropics a boy is older at twelve than is one of the same years in the temperate zone; bigger and more mature. But it was Faquito’s occupation rather than his age which made me think of him as rather paradoxical. You will admit that to find this irresponsible, twinkling face set in one of the most century-worn frames on earth might well seem incongruous, not to say startling. The sight of this half Spanish, half Indian[11] boy of to-day, playing with lives and thoughts that were forgotten five hundred years ago—aye, and some of them, perhaps, that long before the Old World dreamed there was a New—was enough to make any explorer rub his eyes.

Doubtless we shall understand each other better by a little translation. Huaco is a word not found in the Spanish dictionaries, for it belongs only to Peru. It is from the[27] Quichua, or speech of the Incas, of whom you have heard so many remarkable (and not very accurate) stories; and as adopted into the Spanish of Peru means specifically a relic of the ancient Indian “civilizations” which occupied this strange land before the coming of Europeans. Huaquero is the Spanish derivative to mean a digger of these antiquities—in other words, a mummy miner. This is a regular profession in Peru, just as much as gold mining. A competent huaquero commands as good wages as a skilled laborer in the marvelous silver mountain of Cerro de Pasco; and, if he works “on his own hook,” may earn much more. Peru is dotted everywhere with the ruins of large towns of the Incas and other tribes—some of them that we have so long been taught to regard as “kings” and the like, while in fact they were tribes very much like the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico; remarkably advanced in some things, but still entirely Indians socially, politically and mentally. Some of these ruins have been deserted for uncounted centuries, and no man can say who built them nor when they were abandoned. In fact, Peru is the American Egypt in antiquity; and a more than Egypt in richness. It was in its time the richest[28] country in the world. Even before Europeans came to tap its peaks of silver and valleys of gold, the ancient Peruvians had discovered a way to treat the precious metals, and used them to adorn themselves and their temples. Like the Indians they were, they had the invariable Indian idea of the next world; and always buried with their dead the best clothing and other property, to give the wanderer a handsome start beyond the grave—precisely as our aborigines do still. And as the dryness of the Peruvian desert preserves mummies indefinitely through the ages, you will begin to see how mummy mining has become one of the important industries of Peru. There are mummies everywhere; and each mummy has still what was its wealth in life. The gold and silver trinkets, the exquisite cloths and potteries of these strange folk of old, and all the other relics of their handiwork, fetch high prices from museums and collectors.

So that was Faquo’s business—and a very hard and unpleasant business it is. Taita[12] Pedro should have provided for his family; but taita Pedro much preferred to lie around the great sugar plantation in the next valley beyond the arm of desert, and[29] keep his swarthy hide full of the cheap rum which is the last and worst gift of the sugar cane. He never came home to the little cabin at Lurin—a hut of quincha, or wattled bamboos plastered with adobe—except to get money. Poor, fat Maria would have had a very rough time caring for her fat brood, if it had not been for Faquito. She worked in the cane fields of the nearer hacienda, and washed for the priest; but the few reales she could earn would not have been enough to put a cotton shirt on half the backs she was responsible for, after feeding all the mouths. Mariquita was a perfect little woman for ten years old; but she could only attend to the babies—which was indeed contract enough for a much older nurse. So it had been a great relief when Faquo got big enough to be a producer—with the equal good fortune that the sandy headland only two miles away was crowned by the mighty ruins of Pachacámac.

Every day, except Sundays and fiestas, Faquito was early trudging the dusty road to the ruins, his spade over his shoulder, his fat face screwed up sometimes to whistle a doleful yaraví (the only air he knew), or as often equally twisted with munching sugar cane. It was very convenient to[30] have one’s candy growing by the roadside—particularly as there were no stores. All a boy had to do was to clamber over the adobe wall, cut a stalk of the caña dulce from amid its dense bristle of sword leaves, and clamber back to chew upon this pithy molasses candy at leisure. There was generally a culm in Faquito’s hand as he trudged across; and when he got tired of chewing the obstinate fiber, he would rest his jaws with whistling.

When he had crossed the flat, and waded the shallow brook of Lurin, there was a great scramble up the precipitous bluff which is the jumping-off place of the desert; and even Faquo was always puffing hard by the time he came to the top. An ancient wall was there; and under the long, morning shadow of this he used to sit down a moment—partly for a bit of a rest, and partly because he liked to gaze upon that strange vista in the hot, level light. Behind was the lovely valley, dense green with tropic cane-fields and bananas and palms; but in front was the great, gray desert, unspotted by one living blade. On the rolling sand hills close before him was a wild, mysterious huddle of mighty walls, tall and broken and gray in the sunlight, with black shadows lurking in their angles—walls and[31] walls in a bewildering labyrinth. At his left was the huge castle on its tall headland, boxed about with tier after tier of walls thirty feet high; and in front of him the central hill, crowned with an enormous building. In a hollow at the foot of the castle, fifty acres were thick-dotted with dark, irregular holes, around which thousands of white specks gleamed in the sun. Momently, too, little puffs of dust flew up here and there. Castro and Juan and Pancho, the grown-up huaqueros from Lima, were already at work down there amid the bleaching skulls, each at the bottom of his dusty shaft, hoping at any moment to find a rich tomb—perhaps even the “Big Fish” of Peruvian folk lore. That is what Faquito was dreaming about, too. How many times he had heard of the hundreds of man-loads of gold that the Yuncas buried in Pachacámac when Hernando Pizarro came pricking down from the mountains, every horse of his cavalcade shod with silver!

If he could only find the Pez Grande! Or even the tail of it! He got up from under the wall with a sigh and started down the dusty trail toward where the men were at work. His “mine” was there too—where he had dug a week without finding any but the poorest graves.


Just then an owl—the little brown owl of the desert—flew up almost at his very feet and alighted upon a wall a few rods away. How Mariquita would like it for a pet! Faquo crept up behind the wall; but just as he was about to clap his hat over the bird it fluttered off a few rods farther.

It was so stupid with the sun that Faquo felt sure he would get it this time, and again he crept up. But stupid as the owl was, it was just too smart for Faquo. A dozen times it was almost in his hands; but a dozen times, too, it fluttered away again—until it had led him up the central hill, through the great ruined building there, and down the other side.

At the foot of an adobe wall sixty feet high it settled upon the edge of some deep-sunken rooms. Faquo scrambled down a gap and stole out along the parapet; and suddenly reaching up from this shelter caught the astonished bird by the wing. But he had forgotten the beak and claws, which the very field-mice know. As they hooked savagely into his brown fist he drew back sharply—and just too far. The ledge was very narrow; and overbalanced by his recoil, he fell sprawling twenty feet into the great cell below.


Luckily there was at the bottom nothing harder than the universal in-blown sand; and though sadly shaken up by the fall Faquo was not seriously hurt. For a few moments he lay there half stunned; then slowly gathered himself up and looked about in a dazed way.

The owl was still in his hand—less by his grasp than by the obstinate clenching of its own curved claws, which now began to hurt again. He unhooked them painfully, one by one, tore a tatter from his shirt and tied it about those mischievous feet. A rather stubborn boy, Faquo. It was very hard to turn his attention from anything upon which he had once started, until it was finished.

At last, when his prize was safely anchored to a clod of adobe, he was free to think of more important matters. Pues! He had walked into a bad trap. There were no doors nor windows down here—clearly the ancients had descended into these cellar-like rooms by ladders, which had long ago disappeared. And how was he to get up that twenty feet? In this adobe he could cut steps to the top; or even, in time, burrow through the base of that eight-foot wall—but his spade stood away[34] up there on the ledge, leaning against the parapet where he had left it.

“Castro! Cas-tro-o!” he screamed at the top of his lungs—but it seemed that his voice did not rise at all out of the sunken chamber. How buried and pent it was! He shouted until he was hoarse; but knew as well that the huaqueros did not hear him, as if he could have seen them still digging stolidly away, far down the other side of the hill.

The place grew terrible to him. In such a maze of ruins they might not find him until too late. Maria would come to look, surely, if he were not home by dark; but how could she expect to find him so far from where he always worked?

He knew well, this boy of the edge of the desert, that one does not last long on such a gridiron of the tropics. Without food one may do for several days; but without water, under that sun——! Already his mouth was parched.

And that maldito owl—that was to blame for it all! He started up angrily with a clod of adobe to throw at it. But his arm dropped suddenly. “No! Nana says always that the birds, too, are children of Taita Diós, and that He loves best those who are good to them. So perhaps I am[35] punished for catching it. Pobrecito! For now we both are caught.”

The owl did not seem to mind so much. It sat bunched upon its tethered feet, blinking back at Faquo. It looked so very grave, so very wise! Quiza it knew very much about the ruins; for here it had lived, and its people, very long now. Perhaps it even knew where was the Big Fish!

Even as Faquo looked at it with these thoughts, the owl turned its head down on one side, and looked at him soberly along its shoulder. Some might have laughed at this proceeding, but not so Faquito. He was too good an Indian to despise the wisdom of them that talk not; and suddenly he asked with great earnestness: “In truth that thou dost know, friend owl! No?”

At this direct question the owl turned its head down upon the other shoulder, and looked wiser than ever. Surely, he knew!

“But where?” cried the boy. “Tell me, owl friend!”

But the bird said not a word. Only it gazed at Faquo very seriously; and then, turning its head as upon a pivot, began to spruce up the feathers upon its back, as much as to say: “Oh, that you must find out for yourself, as I did.”

Such a wise bird, but so unspoken! Really, how convenient it must be to be able[36] to turn one’s head square around that way, and look straight back! It must be that he can even see that spot on the wall just behind him and above his head—that round place where the adobe is yellower than the rest. Probably the plaster was broken there, and they patched it.

Faquo got up idly, and set the owl carefully to one side, and passed his hand over the spot. It was somewhat larger than his head—just a round patch of adobe plaster, centuries old, yet evidently newer than the rest of the wall.

He picked aimlessly at its edge. A pebble came out under his fingers, and showed, behind, a small crevice—as if a deep hole had been filled up, instead of a little break in the wall plaster. Instantly the boy’s eyes waked up, and a queer, professional look settled upon his face.

“It will be a wall niche,” he said gravely. “And sometimes they filled them up to change the wall; but why did the owl sit by this one, if that was all?”

He pried and pulled until his fingers were sore, and pounded with his fist upon the yellow patch; but the adobe was very stubborn. How aggravating to have the spade perched away up there, when he wanted to open this niche! For by now he[37] had quite forgotten about getting out of his prison. The strange fascination that all miners know was upon him.

Plague take the spade! He picked up again the strong lump of adobe which had fallen with him from the upper wall, and flung it at the offending spade. It struck the sandy shelf, and a little stream of sand fell down with the missile. That gave him a thought; and he picked up his clod and threw it again and again and again.

Each time it fell back a little smaller, but each time a little more sand sifted down. Then the sand, thus started, began frittering down of its own accord, and the undermined shovel began to creep, stopped, slid a little, and at last pitched down and fell at Faquo’s feet.

He jabbed at the adobe with the corner of his spade, and the hard lumps showered down upon his bare toes. In a few moments a smooth-rimmed opening was revealed, and he thrust in his arm.

It was not like any of the niches he knew—the ones that have never been closed, but remain as they were 500 years ago, when the people of Pachacámac kept on these odd shelves their ornaments and trinkets. This one was like a nest of the “God-give-you” bird—with a small opening, but large[38] inside. In the big hollow was something soft; and Faquo drew out his hand full of beautiful yellow floss.

“The wool of the vicuña, only,” he mumbled, disappointedly, but with the expert’s air. “But why should they ceil that up? Perhaps there is also cloth.”

In went the brown fist again; and rummaging down through the silken fleece, his fingers met something firmer. In a moment he had it out—a long bundle of that matchless weaving of old Peru; of cloth as soft and strong as silk, woven with strange figures of men and gods and beasts; such fabrics as never unthinking loom has woven, nor any machine less wondrous than the fingers of a man.

“Ay! It will be worth twenty soles!” cried Faquo softly. “But it is so heavy! Perhaps they have wound it on a stone.”

Very tenderly he unrolled it, that none of those bright threads—stronger than all the centuries, but brittle to a careless touch—might be broken. But when the last fold came off, this very stupid Indian boy fell down on his knees in the sand, and cried and cried. For it was not a stone at all.

If you will go to the Exposicion in Lima, among the bewildering collections of Peruvian[39] antiquities, you can see two priceless idols, each big as a large doll. They are like human figures, excellently sculptured; and the strangest thing about them is that they are made of alternate zones of gold and silver from feet to head, so that they remind one of that great image we read of in Revelations.

That is the nearest Faquito ever came to finding the Pez Grande—and quite near enough for one poor boy. And that is what took my breath away when I had wakened and hauled up with my reata the little, ragged cholo I accidentally spied in the trap where he had cried himself to sleep over something hugged in his arms.

When he had laid the precious images and the spade on the broad top of the wall, and told me all about it, he insisted on being lowered again on the rope to get the owl, which he loosed and let go, saying, in the tone of an old man:

Taita Diós—God our Father—sends us friends we know not. For the owl brought me here and showed me the place, so that now we are very rich. And even so, I could have died there without the help of you. So I think your grace may be even as wise as the owl, which knows where is the Pez Grande.”



A Boy of the Andes.



A Boy of the Andes.

Probably they would not have seen Ramon Ynga at all, but for the llamas. There was enough else to look at. The overpowering walls of the mountains on both sides seemed to turn the eyes, even as they turned the foaming Rimac, into a channel from which there was no escape. Up at the end of the cleft was such a sight as no man can long hold his eyes from—the black peak of Chin-chán, bent down with its load of eternal winter. There is something awful about the snow that never melts—the great blank fields, the wrinkled glaciers, the savage ice cornices, the black rocks that peer out hopelessly here and there. It is so different from the friendly white we know and welcome for its sleigh rides and coastings, its snow men and snow-ballings.

It was far up the summit of the Peruvian cordillera, at the very foot of the last wild peaks that stand 18,000 feet in the sky.[44] Where the panting mules trudged, 3,000 feet below the peaks, was low, green herbage; and 500 feet lower yet the little torrent, white as its mother snows, roared and chuckled alternately to the uneven wind. But up yonder all was so white and still; their eyes kept lifting up to it, forgetful of the dangerous trail—the mules could take care of that. They, poor brutes, seemed ill at ease. They breathed in short, loud gasps; and every forty feet or so they stopped and rested for a few moments, unmindful of the spur. Then, when they were ready, they started up again of their own accord, sighing heavily. They would not last much longer, at this rate.

“I think I’ll get off and walk awhile,” said the younger of the two, a bronzed, sinewy man of twenty-five. “It spoils even this scenery for me, to see the suffering of the mules. One wouldn’t think they’d play out so, on such a good trail.”

“It is not the grade,” remarked the Professor, quietly, “as perhaps you will learn. I am sorry for the mules, too; but it is better to risk them than something more important.”

“Why, you speak as though there were some danger about it!” said the younger man, who was now striding sturdily along,[45] leaving his animal to follow. Many a time he had climbed Pike’s Peak and its brother giants of Colorado, and once had stood on the cone of Popocatépetl. A peak was nothing to him; and as for this excellent path—pooh! It was mere child’s play.

The Professor watched him without a word, but with an expression half quizzical, half grave. After a hundred yards he spoke:

“You don’t seem quite so springy, Barton. I never saw you heavy-footed before.”

“Well, the truth is, Professor,” gasped Barton, rather shamefacedly, “I feel most remarkably queer. My knees ache as they never did before—though I wouldn’t mind that so much. But I cannot seem to breathe well. Here my heart and lungs are pounding away, as if I’d been sprinting for the 220-yard record! It’s enough to make a man ashamed of himself.”

“No cause at all for shame, my dear boy; you are simply learning what everyone has to learn who tempts great altitudes. Now get on your mule.”

“No, I’ll wear this thing off!” cried the athlete, impatiently. “I’m no puny boy, to give up just because I feel a little wrong. I’ll just keep at it, and beat it yet!”


“Barton,” said the older man, in a tone his companion had never heard him use before, “you get on that mule, and let us have no more nonsense. I like your pluck; and it is because you have more real ‘sand’ (as they say in our West) than any young man I know, that I picked you out for this journey. But courage is a dangerous thing unless you mix it with brains. You must learn that there are some things pluck cannot overcome—and this is one of them. Mount, then!”

Barton obeyed with rather an ill grace, and promptly got angrier with himself at realizing what a relief it was to be perched again in the ridiculously comfortable Peruvian saddle. He could not get over a feeling of shame that the muscles which had borne the cruelest tests of the frontier should now have “played the baby,” as he put it; and he rode on somewhat sulkily.

It was here that Ramon Ynga stumbled into their lives; and, as I have said, all by the doing of the llamas. As the travelers rounded a sharp turn in the trail the mules stopped suddenly almost face to face with the two strangest animals that Barton had ever seen. Shabby, grotesque figures they were, with splay feet, long, awkward legs, and bodies looking like long tussocks of dry[47] grass. But their necks were the worst—tall and ungainly as stovepipes covered with hair. Their backs were hardly so high as those of the under-sized mules; but on these unspeakable necks their heads were quite on a level with Barton’s. And such heads! They were disproportionately small and ludicrously narrow, with pointed ears, malignant little faces, and lips wickedly drawn back.

“Why, I never saw anything, except a rattlesnake, look so vindictive!” cried Barton. “What on earth are they?”

“That is the national bird of Peru,” replied the Professor roguishly. “We are apt to see many up here. In fact, if we had had any daylight in Casapalca you would have noticed many hundreds of them; for they bring all the ore to the stamp mills, and do most of the freighting besides. Lower than 10,000 feet you will hardly ever find them; the llama[13] is a mountain animal, and soon dies if taken to the coast.”

“So that is the llama! But I thought that was called the ‘Peruvian sheep;’ and these look no more like sheep than my mule does.”

“It got that foolish name from the closet naturalists. No one who ever saw a llama[48] could fail to recognize it for a camel—smaller and longer-haired than the Eastern beast, and without a hump; but a true camel.”

“It’s a funny-looking brute,” laughed Barton. “It seems to put in its time thinking what a grudge it has against everybody. Hi! Get out of the way, you standing grievances!”

The Professor and the young frontiersman had thus far enjoyed the pause of the mules; but now the need of pushing on recurred to their minds, and Barton’s exclamation was meant as a signal for advance. But the llamas stood stolidly, blocking the trail. He drummed his spurs against his mule; whereat the animal took two steps forward and stopped, bracing back, unmindful of the rowels. The llamas did not take a step. Only they seemed to drop their bodies a little, upon those long legs.

“Why, they’re not such fools as they look!” cried Barton, whose sharp eye understood the trifling motion. “See! They are going to give us the edge!”

The trail was two feet wide—an endless thread of a shelf hewn along the mountain wall. On the right, the great, dark slope ran up to the very clouds; on the left, one[49] could snap a pebble into the white torrent, 500 feet below.

“I have heard that they always take the wall,” the Professor rejoined, “and that when two llama trains meet on one of these trails it is almost impossible to make a passing. Sometimes they even shove each other off the cliff.”

“I guess we’d better not force the right of way—a tumble into the Rimac there is more than I care for!” And Barton jumped from his mule and advanced upon the blockaders, waving his arms threateningly.

“Look out!” cried the Professor; but before the words were fairly off his tongue, the foremost llama opened its ugly mouth and spat at Barton in fury. At this unpleasant salutation he retreated hastily.

“That is their weapon of defense,” said the Professor. “And their saliva is wonderfully acrid. It’s as well you didn’t get it in the face. But I wish they would get out of the way—we have no time to spare.”

Just then there was another surprise. A figure hardly less remarkable than the camels slid down from the overhanging hillside, and stood in the path, looking at the startled travelers. It was a dwarfish creature, not four feet tall, with a large, round head, a broad, strong body, and very[50] short legs, peculiarly bundled up in unfamiliar clothes. A boy—what in the world was he doing on that impossible slope? What a goat he must be!

“Hulloa!” cried Barton, as soon as he could find a voice.

“God give you good day, sirs,” answered the lad gravely, in thick Spanish. “Wait me so-little, and I will get you by.”

With this he called “U-pa!” to the llamas, lifting his finger as if to point them up the trail. Ordinarily they would have obeyed; but the aggressive manner of Barton had roused their obstinacy, and they did not budge. The boy put his shoulder to the ribs of one, and heaved hard, but the brute stood its ground.

“Well, it is to wait!” said he; and ran about the path, gathering up very small pebbles until his shabby hat was full. Then he sat down on a boulder that jutted from the bank, settling himself as if for a long rest, and threw a mild and measured pebble at each llama. They turned their heads a little and wrinkled their disagreeable noses. He waited a moment and then pitched two more pebbles—which had the same effect. So he sat, slowly and mechanically tossing his harmless missiles upon the dense hair of his charges. Evidently he[51] was in no hurry; and the two travelers, impatient as they were, had too much wisdom of experience to try to push him. They sat quietly in their saddles, watching the droll scene. It was very ridiculous to need deliverance from two stupid beasts, and to get it from such an owlish little tatterdemalion. His ragged clothing was of very thick, coarse cloth; and upon his feet were the clumsy yanquis, or rawhide sandals of mountain Peru, and he wore thick stockings rising to his knees. Over his trousers was a curious garment, half apron and half leggings; and oversleeves of the same material, hung with a cord about his neck, came up over the elbows of his coat. These two garments were knit in very strange patterns, amid which were square, brown llamas wandering up and down a gray background. Around his waist was a woven belt, now very old, but of beautiful colors and workmanship. And his face—what a brown, round riddle!

“How do you call yourself, friend?” asked the Professor in Spanish. “And have you ten years or a hundred?”

“Ramon Ynga, señor. And the other I do not know. I have been here a long time—ever since they built the mill at Casapalca.”


“You must be about fifteen, then. And where do you live?”

“There, above,” answered Ramon, tossing another pebble.

“A curious habit of the mountaineers,” said the Professor. “These Indians, instead of living in the valleys, climb to the very tops of these peaks, and build there their squalid stone hovels. They seem to think nothing of the eternal clambering up and down.”

An hour crawled by, and the stones in Ramon’s hat were running low. Suddenly the brown llama turned with a snort of disgust, and strode off up the trail. The white one hesitated a moment, snorted, and followed. “That way they get tired, sirs,” said the boy, emptying his hat and pulling it down upon his thatch of black hair.

“I’d take a good club to them!” growled Barton, who had great confidence in the Saxon way of forcing things.

“No, the boy is quite right. It is another case wherein you must not try to be smarter than nature. The llama is the stubbornest brute alive—a mule is vacillating compared to him. If you put a pound too much on his load, he will lie down, and you might beat him to death or build a fire beside him, but he would not get up. Nobody but a Peruvian[53] Indian can do anything with a Peruvian camel, and Ramon has just shown us the proper tactics. Hurt the animal, and he only grows more sullen; but the pebbles merely tease him until he can bear it no longer. And really he repays patience; for he is the only animal that can work effectively at these altitudes, where horses and mules are practically useless. But adelante! (forward!)”

“Is your Excellency going to Cerro de Pasco?” asked the little Peruvian, running alongside the mule and looking up at the Professor with unusual animation in his non-committal face. He had never spoken with “Yankees” before, and indeed for any stranger to notice him kindly was a new experience. He liked these pale men; and a dim little wish to please them warmed in his heart. That big young man—why, he was taller than any Serrano in the cordillera!—was good. Ramon had seen money a few times; but that round, shiny sol,[14] which the stranger had tossed him when the llamas moved, was the first he had ever held in his hand; and it was almost a worry to be so rich! But the other man, with a little gray above his ears, who only looked at him so, and spoke as if he knew[54] him—he, surely, was very great; and it was to him that the ragged boy had said “Exceléncia.” His face was kindly; and there were little smiles at the edges of his mouth, though he did not laugh.

“No, hijito (little son),” he answered, “we are not bound to the mines. We are going to climb the Chin-chán, to look at the ice cornices and to measure them.”

Even Ramon looked astonished at this. If a Serrano had said it, every one would know he was crazy. Or if it were the young man—well, what could you expect of one who would give away a whole sol? But this one—whatever he did, it must be right. He certainly was not crazy. Still——

“But the Soroche, your Excellency,” ventured the boy. “For all strangers have it; and many die, even in crossing the slope. Only we who were born here can go so high.”

“We have to go, my boy; for I must look at the snow fields and the cliffs of ice, and measure them,” said the Professor, kindly. “I know well of the mountain sickness, and we will be very careful. Besides, we are both very strong.”


“It is not always of the strong,” persisted Ramon. “Sometimes the sick cross in safety, and those who are very large and[55] red—even larger than your Excellency’s friend—fall suddenly and never rise again; for the Soroche is stronger than any.”

“You are quite right, my wise friend. It is terrible. But all do not fall victims, and we must brave it.”

“At the least, Excellency, let me go also! For I know these hills very well, and perhaps I could help. As for the llamas, my brother Sancho comes even yonder, and he will herd them.”

“You won’t really take the little rat up there, will you, Professor?” broke in Barton. “It would be the death of him.”

“M-m! I only hope we may be as safe as I know he will be! Está bien, my boy! Vamos![15]

At nine the next morning the three were entering the edge of the snow fields. They had camped for the night in a deserted hovel at the head of the valley; and there the mules could be seen grazing, pulling as far down bill as their ropes would allow. The hut was not a mile behind; but the travelers had been ever since daylight coming thus far. The Professor looked old; and Barton’s big chest was heaving violently. As for Ramon, he clambered along[56] steadily and soberly, stopping only when he saw the others had stopped.

By noon they were at the foot of the last ridge, in a great rounding bay flanked by two spurs of the upper peak. The curving rim far overhead was a savage cliff of eternal ice—a cliff of 1,500 feet sheer. At the top a great white brow projected many yards, overhanging the bluish precipice.

“It is—a—noble—cornice,” gasped the Professor, as they sank upon the snow to rest for the hundredth time since morning. “But I fear—we—made—a mistake. We—should—not have—tried this—without—waiting a—few weeks—in Casa—palca—to get—acclimated.”

“It’s awful!” groaned Barton. “My head—feels—as if—it would—burst. But I’ll be hanged—if I—give up!” And the resolute young man fairly snatched himself to erectness, and started toward the spur. But with the third step his tall form swung half around, and swayed an instant, and fell as a dead pine falls in the wind, and lay heavily upon the snow. His face was black; and a bright red stream trickled from each nostril as the Professor sank on his knees beside him, crying huskily, “My—poor boy! I have—killed—you!”


The Professor’s face had a strange look, too. His eyes were very red and swollen—but that was from the merciless glare of the snow—and in his cheeks a gray shadow seemed to be struggling with the unnatural purple. And he was so unlike the Professor of yesterday. He seemed so dull; even stupid!

“Come, Excellency!” Ramon was shouting in his ear. “It is the Soroche, the mountain sickness, and none can fight it. We must be gone from here, else very soon you are both dead. Come!” The small brown fist was tugging at the old man’s shoulder, and in the quaint, boyish voice was a strange thrill. The Professor understood. Dazed as he was, the way in which Ramon said that one word “Come” roused and cheered him like the far bugle call which tells of reinforcements to the besieged. He was not alone. Here was help—the help of a dwarfed Indian boy of fifteen! But that is often the very sort we need—not muscle so much as the elbow-touch of a staunch heart.

“But—Barton?” said the Professor. He could no longer think clearly; and instinctively he turned to Ramon as superior. “Barton? We—cannot—leave—Barton!”[58] The Serrano lad looked at the prostrate figure and then at the Professor.

But even in those bloodshot eyes Ramon read something that decided him. It was very hard, and it was more dangerous so; but the Friend-man loved the other. The other must be tried for too!

Ramon unwound his long woven belt and passed it under Barton’s back. The ends he drew up under the armpits and crossed them at the back of the neck, giving one end to the Professor and keeping one himself. Then, when they pulled apart, the crossing of the belt supported Barton’s head. “Now!” cried Ramon; and pulling strongly the two dragged the heavy form along the snow to the edge of the steep slope. The Professor’s face was purple, and drops of blood beaded his finger tips.

“Let me, señor!” said the boy; and taking both ends of the belt over his shoulder, he went plunging down the declivity, Barton’s limp head bumping against his legs, and Barton’s body and heels dragging in the soft snow just enough to act as a brake. As for the Professor, he stumbled after as best he could, with vague eyes and bursting veins and treacherous legs. Sometimes he fell forward and plowed a rod in the snow, and once he was beginning to[59] roll, but Ramon leaped and stopped him just in time.

And so at last they came to the end of the snow. The boy laid his burden upon the matted grass, with head up-hill, and piled a little drift of snow about the head. “Put it so, also, to your head,” said he, “and I will bring the mules.”

With that he was racing off down the hill in knowing zigzags, though it looked too steep for a goat.

In half an hour a very tired boy was getting two helpless men upon two almost helpless mules. Perhaps if the latter had been able to object, he could not have succeeded. But by the help of the slope, and hauling with his belt over the saddle from the down-hill side, he presently had both up. Barton’s feet he tied together under the mule, and Barton’s hands around its neck. The Professor could sit up, in a stupid way, and Ramon tied only his feet. “Hold well!” he cried loudly and sternly, but with the same little quiver in his voice; and taking both bridle reins in one hand, he plunged down the hill, his weight thrown forward upon the hard bits, so that the reluctant mules had no choice but to follow.

The only one who remembers much of that grim journey is Ramon, and as he is[60] not much given to talking, no one knows just what he does think of it. The Professor’s clear recollection begins with finding himself on board the train at Casapalca—a train of that most wonderful railroad in the world, the railroad above the clouds, that clambers up and burrows through the cordillera of Peru. Before that are only hazy memories of a vast mountain wall leaning over to crush him; a winding path in the air; a queer, boy’s voice, coming from nowhere, with little Spanish words of cheer. And now a round, brown face from the opposite seat was watching him seriously—even tenderly, the Professor fancied—while the burly conductor was saying:

“I never seen it come any closer! How ever the boy got you in, beats my time. And I saw he hated to leave you, so I says to him, says I, ‘Just get in, sonny, ’n’ go down to Lima with us, ’n’ I’ll fetch you back if I lose my job!’ He’s the right sort, he is! An’ you’ll be all right, as soon as you get down there—that’s the only medicine for the S’rochy.”

All right they were next day in the capital. Even Barton was able to sit up; and he nodded weakly as the Professor said to Ramon:


“My boy, I would like you to go with us. We have to travel much in Peru; and if you will accompany us you will earn good wages. And you shall be as my son. For neither of us would be alive now if we had not had a little hero with us. Will you come?”

Joy flashed over Ramon’s face. But then it faded, and tears started in his eyes as he said simply:

“You are good, Excellency! I would go anywhere with you. But in the Chin-chán is my mother, with the babies; and since father died, I must be the man, for Sancho is too young. Adios!

And he ran out, so that they should not see him crying.



A Daughter of the Misti.



A Daughter of the Misti.

Not the elder daughter, whom all the world knows where she sits, white upon her little green patch against the hopeless desert, looking up with now and then a shiver at the white-headed giant, her father. No, the one I mean now is something like three hundred and fifty years younger than the Misti’s first born and favorite, and not white at all, nor over-dignified, nor even given to much thought as to when taita[16] shall shrug again those mighty shoulders and rattle the walls about her ears. In fact, to look at the two—the fat, brown, clumsy cholo girl and the shining city—I dare say you would never take Tránsita and Arequipa[17] for sisters at all. But as both are daughters of the Misti, I see no other way out of it.

What! You don’t know either of them? Hm! Of course it could hardly be expected that you should be acquainted with Tránsita,[66] for she lives on a back street on the other side of the river and comes very seldom to the plaza. And probably you could not talk with her, anyhow, since her speech is only Spanish and Quichua. But not to know Arequipa—why that is to count out the prettiest city in Peru, and one of the oldest in America. And if you do not know the daughter you have missed the father, too, which is an even greater pity—for he is one of the handsomest giants on earth, though a baby in his own family. Well, well—the sooner I give you an introduction the better, then.

The Misti is an inactive but living volcano, a hundred miles from the sea, in southern Peru. As I have said, it ranks small at home, being only 19,300 feet tall, while some of its brother Andes tower to 26,000 feet. But few of them are so handsome. It stands alone and erect, with head up and shoulders squared, while some of them look as if the nurse had dropped them in their babyhood and they had never got their spines straight again. It is a huge and very perfect cone, symmetrical as the sacred peak of Japan, but vastly higher. So steep is it that the thick blanket of volcanic cinders would surely slip down from its shoulders, except for the long brooches[67] of dead lava that pin it up. As for its head, that is old with eternal snow.

For time unknown—since long before history—the Misti has been the best known mountain in Peru; and I do not much wonder. It has a nobility of its own, such as its mightier brethren do not all possess. Just to its right vast Charchani climbs 20,000 feet into the sky, and a most majestic peak it is. Just to its left towers the grand wall of Pichu-pichu, itself taller than the greatest mountain in the United States. But it is always the lone, solemn Misti, to which every one looks, of which every one speaks—with a strange mixture of love and awe. Meeting an Arequipeño abroad, you might very likely fancy there were no other mountains in sight of his home; but you will not be left long in ignorance that there is a Misti. Even before Europeans knew of America, the remarkable Indians of Peru half worshiped the Misti; and so Arequipa gets its name, an Aymará word which means “with the peak behind it.” Far up its deadly sides they toiled to make their sacrifices to Those Above; and even in the elder crater I have counted the ruins of aboriginal shrines. It is so isolated, so individual, so majestic in its awful stature; and above all, while its neighbor brothers[68] are just mountains, it has a soul—the wondrous fire-soul of the volcano.

A stern father is the Misti. His daughter is surely not undutiful, but many a time he has punished her sorely. Many a time he has sent her sprawling in the dust, and turned her smiling whiteness to a generation of mourning. So, even as late as 1868 over half the buildings of Arequipa went down in a mortal chaos of stone, killing as many people as fall in an ordinary battle.

One might fancy that such a parent would get himself disliked; but his severity does not seem to be laid up against him. Arequipa loves the Misti—and as for Tránsita, she loved him even more than she did Arequipa. Their house faced south, but the first thing in the morning Tránsita used to climb to the stone-arched roof to look at the peak black against the rising sun; and the last thing at evening to watch the rosy west-glow upon that venerable head. And always she wondered the more, for now as she grew taller, and the untaught soul had room to swell, she saw more and more in that great dark one with his elephant-wrinkled hide and the lava scars on his white head, and now and then, of a hushed dawn, the ghost of a cloud floating plume-like from his brow. Perhaps it was because he is so[69] incomprehensible a giant that she comprehended him—in that child way which is more at home in some mysteries than we older stupids are. At all events, she turned to him for companionship and confidences, and had a way of talking with him ever so softly, that no one else should hear.

“Now, taita,” she was whispering this morning, “hast thou heard what is to be? For they say that the Tuerto, the cross-eyed, who oppressed us before, is to make new revolution, that he may be president again and rob himself still richer. And it has always been in Arequipa that they begin. Dost thou think it? And would they kill Eugénio? For he is very loyal, and is one of importance, being a corporal. Do not let them hurt my brother—wilt thou, taita?”

To all these questions and the adjuration the giant answered never a word. His face was grave with the morning shadows. To look at him no one but Tránsita would have dreamed he knew anything about it.

Nor do I really know that he did, though he had the best of opportunities. From that lookout in the sky, so overtopping the town, he could see right into the high-walled court of Don Telesfor’s mansion. It was a flat old courtyard, paved with tipsy blocks of[70] stone and framed four-square with long shadowy verandas of the white sillar.[18] In the center was a long-forgotten fountain, and at the middle of each side a quaint staircase of the same white tufa ran up to the cracked and precarious sillar roof. No one was to be seen about the court. Only, along the eastern portal[19] was a long ridge of fresh earth.

Don Telesfor was making repairs. A great many people in Arequipa had long been free to say that he ought to mend his ways, and the old place might certainly count as a way that should be mended. His career as prefect, years before, had been by no means free from charges of extortion and thievery, and it was notorious that he would be glad to see again in the presidential chair the unscrupulous usurper who had grown from pauper soldier to many-times millionaire in one term. For this reason Don Telesfor was as little beloved as his old patron; and poor cholos, with better love than understanding of freedom, took malicious pleasure in laying the scourge to their two backs jointly. “Look at the Cacerist!” they would growl audibly[71] when Don Telesfor thundered down the reeling cobblestones on his silver trapped horse. As for his house, I fancy not one of them ever passed it after nightfall, with a bit of chalk in his pocket (and chalk is the last thing to be without in Peru during a campaign), but he stopped and scrawled in elastic Spanish upon the outer wall: “Death to the tyrant and his leeches! Down with the cross-eyed!”

But though he was unpopular in person and politics, no one thought of taking Don Telesfor very seriously. Like his patron, he had turned tail when the Chilean wolves came down on the fold; and unlike him, his caution was greater than his greed. Every one knew him for timorous. The unhappy republic was torn and pale with fear of a new usurpation; but in all the whisperings and the glances over the shoulder, Don Telesfor was quite forgotten. Since the downfall of the pretender he had been quietly cultivating his pretty chacra at Yura, and now even thought to patch up the old mansion in Arequipa, long tousled and neglected since the terrible temblor of ’68. This was praiseworthy and reassuring, too. In those troublous times to think rather of beautifying and restoring the home was clearly a pledge of peace.


Sober burros, each laden with two big white blocks of sillar, had been trudging down from the lofty quarries, and the tottering arches of the courtyard had been rebuilt. Now, Don Telesfor was hauling rich soil all the way from his plantation to make flower beds in the patio.[20] Some felt that the soil of Arequipa ought to be good enough for any flower; but if he chose to haul dirt twelve miles instead of one, that was his lookout. So the crazy wagons creaked across the ancient stone bridge every afternoon and bumped into the courtyard, and were relieved of their mules. Don Telesfor was always on hand in person to attend to the unloading—he and his nephew, Don Beltran, and two old peons—while the drivers took their animals to the acéquia. One would have thought that loam sacred, by the care he took of it.

Just now the big gates were shut. The wagons would not be in from Yura for some time yet. Along the east side of the patio was the long mound of soil, paling in the hot sun; aside from that, one might have thought the place abandoned.

But if one could have peered through the heavy doors of the middle room of the north portal one would have seen Don Telesfor[73] and Don Beltran and half a dozen strangers talking low and earnestly. The windows and even the skylight were shuttered, and the one candle sent strange shadows sprawling over a formidable row of long, shallow, iron-bound boxes stained with fresh earth.

“To-morrow night, then,” said one of the strangers, laying his hand on Don Telesfor’s shoulder. “Even so it will begin in Lima on the eve of the new congress, and all is set that the revolution burst in the same hour in Truxillo, Cuzco, here and all Peru. And carrying it off well here in the south, who knows but Don Telesfor shall earn a place in the new cabinet?”

“Ójala!” sighed Don Telesfor, his mouth twitching greedily. “At all events, this end is safe. I promise you no one so much as suspects us, and with the two hundred men that will sleep here to-night hidden, we can easily put down any resistance. The guárdias are the only danger; for, being cholos[21] they all worship Piérola, and it avails not the trying to buy them. The only argument with such stupids is to rap them the back of the head—and for that, thirty secure men are appointed to hide upon the beat and silence each his policeman.[74] By midnight that should all be settled without noise, and then we will fall upon the barracks. A hundred soldiers, asleep, have nothing to say with us; and in the morning Arequipa will waken to find herself in our ranks.”

“Nothing lacks, then?”

“Nothing. All is understood. Forty rifles are still to come, but they will be here in an hour, or maybe two, for the carts move slowly.”

“And then the flower beds will be done, no?” chuckled the other with a wink.

“Aye, and ready to bloom,” answered Don Telesfor, smiling grimly at the jest.

“And, methinks, with enough thorns—ay diós! What?”

For a deep, far roar crept through the closed shutters; a Babel of howling curs and crowing cocks and the jangle of church bells. Before one could fairly turn to look at his neighbor it was as if that whole room of stone had suddenly been dropped twenty feet, as one might drop a bird cage to the floor. The heavy boxes and the standing men and the massive furniture were tossed as feathers in a gust of air. The wide stone vault overhead yawned and let in a foot of sky, and shivered as if to fall, and then as swiftly clapped its ragged teeth[75] shut again, while a great dust filled the room to choking. Then all was still as the grave, and for a few seconds nothing moved. At last the men scrambled to their feet, pale and hushed, and stood looking blankly at one another.

Ea! But I like not your Arequipa temperament,” faltered the tallest of the strangers. “It is too impulsive. Not if you gave me three Arequipas would I dwell here!”

Pues, it is nothing,” answered Don Telesfor, coolly. “Only in the being accustomed. These temblores are fearsome, but we think little of them. To the street, when the shock comes, lest the walls thump us on the heads; and then back into the house, as if there had been nothing. As for this one, it is a good omen. El Misti gives us the hand that he is with us for an overturning.”

Tránsita, sitting upon the stone coping of her own roof, had a clearer view of the earthquake, and her opinion certainly did not coincide with that of Don Telesfor. It was a perfect day, as most days in Arequipa are, but something in the air made her nervous and ill at ease, and all the morning she had been perched up there[76] confiding her fears to the great peak. Below, the street was still echoing the rumble of clumsy carts high heaped with earth. She had paid little attention to them or their clamor. Her thoughts were for Eugénio, and her anxiety about him seemed to grow. So groundlessly, too. The national unrest was everywhere, but vague and undefined. No one knew any specific cause for alarm, and she least of all. Now, if her ears had been sharp enough to hark across to that barred room a mile away, where Don Telesfor was at that very moment saying: “The only argument with such stupids is to rap them the back of the head.” And “such stupids” meant precisely Eugénio and his fellow-soldiers, the military police of the city.

Six wagons had already turned the corner toward the bridge and were out of sight. As the straggling seventh and last trundled past the house the teamster, seeing that squat figure up there, tossed at it a pebble from his load. Tránsita only shrugged her shoulder at the tap. She was too busy with her thoughts to so much as turn around. “Much care of Eugénio,” she murmured. “And if truly there be of these Cacerists here, confound them, taita!”


As she raised her eyes to the great peak a swift chill ran through her. She was sure the Misti nodded, as if he had heard her words. Surely the giant moved! Far spurts of dust rose from his shoulders, and dark masses came leaping down, and the great profile seemed to lose its sharpness. She winked hard to be sure of her eyes, and now the Misti moved no more. But from the corrals roundabout rose a bedlam; and Chopo ran out, barking frantically, and the ancient cottonwoods up by the mill suddenly bowed their heads as to a hurricane. The acéquia bank split and the stream came panicking out. The tall wall back of Eusébio’s house was rent from top to bottom, and two-foot blocks of sillar flew all about. The very roof on which she sat—a massive arch of stone, as are nearly all the roofs of Arequipa—went up and down as if a heavy wave had passed under it. The coping spilled into the street; and Tránsita was left clinging on the broken edge, her face hanging over. There were wild screams, and every one stood, as by magic, in the middle of the street, looking up at the tottering walls. And in the self-same breath it was all done, and no sign was left save the shattered blocks of stone, the truant acéquia[78] and a tall cloud of yellow dust that went bellying off toward Charchani.

Yes, one thing more. Tránsita lay bewildered a moment, and then began to look about, still without moving. Every one was going back into the houses, laughing nervously, a few children crying. In another moment the street was deserted. It was as if that thousand people had been a return-ball, to pop one instant into sight, and in another back with the recoil of the elastic. But down by the empty hovels over the way was a cart, broken across in halves. Two dazed mules were trying clumsily to right themselves with the forward end of the wreck, while the rear half was tossed up on the narrow sidewalk against the ruined walls. The load of earth had been unceremoniously dumped into the gutter, and the cholo driver, half overwhelmed by it, lay motionless along the curb.

At that, Tránsita was upon her feet at once, nor paused until she was tugging at the teamster’s arms. The dirt was heaped upon his legs, and he had fainted with the pain, and such a dead weight she could not budge. She dropped the limp shoulders and began to claw the loose earth away. In a moment the left foot was free; but as she dragged it out, the dirt slipped down and[79] revealed the corner of an iron-bound box resting upon the other leg. A sudden impulse led her to sweep back the soil until the end of the case was uncovered. The funny black marks there meant nothing to Tránsita—indeed, if any one had spelled out for her the “M-a-double-n-l-i-c-h-e-r,” I seriously doubt if that grewsome German name would have made her any the wiser. But if she did not know letters from ten-penny nails, and was equally ignorant of the inventions and the existence of Germany, Tránsita was no fool. For a moment her brown face looked more than usually dull. Then a slow grayness crept into it, and there was a hitch in her breath.

She looked up at the Misti appealingly, and then down at the box, staring as if fascinated. Presently the rather heavy jaw set stubbornly. She lifted the corner of the box an inch, by a violent effort, pried her shin against the sharp edge to hold it, and laboriously dragged out the imprisoned foot. Then she scraped the earth over until the box was well hidden again, and leaving the liberated but unconscious teamster where he lay, went racing down the street like one gone daft.

“This is a pretty story to bring to the cuartel, daughterling,” said Captain Yrribarri,[80] fifteen minutes later. Corporal Eugénio had no sooner heard his sister’s breathless message than he brought her before the commanding officer, and there she had rehearsed it all, unshaken by questionings and banter. “It has to be true,” she declared, over and over, “else mi taita Misti never would have showed me.”

“A girl’s nonsense,” the grave officer repeated. “And still—what do any boxes, thus hidden in loads of earth, and in these times? I mind me, now, that Don Telesfor has been hauling earth all the way from Yura these many weeks, when there is better at Carmen Alto. It is fit to be looked into, and by the saints, if thy guess is true, little one, thou shalt be corporal, or thy brother sergeant! Oyez, Eugénio! With a squad of thirty men surround Don Telesfor’s house and hold it tight that it leak not, while Pedro goes with five to verify the cart and the box. If that is nothing, they will report to you and you will return to quarters with the tongue behind the teeth; but if they shall find arms in the cart, keep the house and warn me.”

For my own part, I do not overly love the soldier-police of Arequipa, and have sometimes been angry enough to want to choke them for murdering my sleep with their[81] abominable midnight whistles. But after all, I am glad that they were not all knocked on the head the night after the earthquake; for in spite of their ignorance and their skin and their ear-piercing way of announcing “All’s well,” they are a kindly, honest, well meaning set, who could be much better utilized than by clubbing. And particularly Eugénio, who is a very good boy and likes to talk with me, calling me “your grace.” He has told me many interesting things, and often sent a cholo to “tote” my heavy camera around. Sergeant Eugénio now, please—for Tránsita declined to be a corporal when the search revealed not only the one case of Mannlicher rifles in the dirt under the wrecked cart, but thirty cases more in Don Telesfor’s house, along with papers which left no doubt of his treason. Some fellow-conspirator must have warned him in time of the wayside accident, for though Eugénio and his men kept the house fully surrounded until a report came from the cart, when they broke in there was not a soul to be found.

None of the other plotters were known, and Don Telesfor eluded pursuit. It may or may not be true, as, I have been told, that he took asylum in Bolivia and was afterward drowned in trying to ford the Choqueyapu[82] during a freshet; but, at all events, he never came back to revive his nipped revolution.

As for Tránsita, you might just as well try to tell her that the Misti is not there at all as that “He” did not specially and intentionally interpose to save the peace of his daughters and the head of Eugénio. I half believe her brother is secretly of the same opinion, for the superstition of the peak is very strong in Arequipa; though he shrugs his shoulders in a deprecatory way when put the direct question, and says evasively:

Pues, who knows? So the women declare. For me it is enough that he did it, and in time, the same as if he knew.”



The Witch Deer.


The Witch Deer.

“Tchu! ’stá-te!” cried Josefa,[22] straightening up from her work and looking severely at a small brown rogue who had climbed up to the little shelf over the corner fireplace. The adobe floor was spattered with big drops of water, to lay the dust; and Josefa, bent half double to reach it with the short wisp of broom corn which serves in New Mexican homes, was sweeping toward the door the fine gray powder that works up daily from the compact clay.

“Give me that little stone, nana,” begged the boy. “The one tata carries in his pouch when he goes to hunt.”

“Get away, quick, for that is the charm of the Magic Deer! Much care! For if ever thou touch that, thy grandfather will see to thee!”

Anastácio clambered down reluctantly from the old chair, and went outside to play with the burro. But the stone weighed on[86] his mind. It was a very ordinary-looking pebble, gray, light, porous, and without any particular shape—looking, in fact, like one of the pieces of pumice which were so common in the mountains. But somehow it had a fascination for Anastácio. And that evening, when we all sat by the crackling fire, he climbed on his grandfather’s knee and said:

“Go, tata, tell me what is this stone of the Magic Deer, that I may not play with it.”

“To play with that?” exclaimed Don José, in a tone of horror. “Child! That little stone is very precious. For no other hunter in New Mexico has the like; and if it were lost or broken, we should be ruined, since only with it is it possible to kill the deer which are enchanted, as are many. And to get that stone I passed a sad time.”

“How? Where? When? With the Enchanted Deer? Tell me, tatita!”

“Yes, with the Venado Encantado, and in many ways.” And Don José, the luckiest hunter in Rio Arriba, a gray-headed but sharp-eyed Mexican—whom I count a staunch friend and a brave man, even if he does believe some things I do not—nodded to me, as if for permission to tell the story. I had often heard of the Witch Deer, and[87] knew that a very large proportion of the natives of New Mexico believe firmly in this and in many other forms of witchcraft. I knew, too, that Don José was a scrupulously truthful man. The years of our acquaintance had proved that beyond doubt. Whatever in his story might be supernatural would have to be charged to his faith, and not to any intention of deceiving.

“You must know, Don Carlos,” said he, “that while there are many witches here, there is one kind that delights most to vex hunters. Without doubt you also will have seen the Enchanted Deer, as much as you hunt.”

“No,” I answered. “I have never seen one, but I have heard of them all over New Mexico these five years.”

“Sure! For there are many; and many have lost their lives thereby, for the Witch Deer is more dangerous than bear or mountain lion. Only when one has the stone which they wear in the first fork of their horns is it possible to conquer them, for that makes one not to be seen.”

“But I can see you, Don José,” I interrupted, smiling, as he held up the magic stone.

“But, friend, that is different! For it is only in its use. Now I want you to see me;[88] but when I carry this no deer in the sierra has eyes for me, and I could walk even up to them, taking care only that they scented me not.”

It is worse than useless to argue against these beliefs. Don José would never be convinced, and the incredulity of a friend could only hurt his feelings, and, besides being ill-mannered, further caviling would lose me a story, so I said, simply:

“All right, compadre, tell us all about it.”

“Well, then, thus it was, and you shall see I am right. It makes many years now, for it was long before I married me with Josefa, in the year of ’67. Her father was Alcalde of Abiquiu[23]; and there lived my parents also. When I was a young man, already grown, strong—as you may yet see—and well taught in the ways of hunting, I came often to these mountains for game; and our house was never without dried meat in plenty. There was one that hunted with me, and they always called him Cabezudo, because of his strong head; but in truth he was Luís Delgado, a cousin of me. In heart we were as brothers, and either would give his life for the other. Often the old men of Abiquiu told us of the Witch Deer, which could never be killed unless by[89] a hunter unseen; and Luís answered always: ‘Aha! When there is a deer too strong for this rifle, let him eat me.’ For, you see, he believed not in witches. This was the only thing we ever quarreled about—that he was without faith.

“It came that in October of the year ’60 we were together camped in the Valles, and with much care, since the Navajos were bad. We had a house of logs, very strong, and in it already was a wonder of dried meat of deer and bear. We went forth always together, for fear of the Indians, but by good luck they molested us not. As for game, I think there was never such a year.

“One day, when the first snow was three hours old, we came to a round mesa that stood on the plateau, and near the foot of it were tracks of a deer. But alas! I knew then that it was no true deer, for its footprints were great as those of a horse. ‘It will be the Venado Encantado,’ said I to Luís. ‘Let us go the other way!’ But he said: ‘What Enchanted Deer, nor yet what mouse-traps? Get out! I thought thee a man! Thou that only yesterday didst kill, with dagger alone, the great she-bear, and now wouldst run from a deer track!’ And it was true; for since the bear, well[90] wounded, was upon us before there was room to reload, I had the luck to compose her with my hunting-knife.

“Wrong of me it was, but I had shame at the words of Luís, and followed him. ‘Truly this is grandfather of all the deer!’ he cried. ‘For never have I seen such tracks. And his horns we will take to Abiquiu, though they shall weigh like a tree. Come on!’

“With that we pursued the tracks, wondering always at their greatness. They went a little around the foot of the mesa, and then up a steep way to its top. When we came to the top, where was a cleft in the rocks, so that one could get up, we found a large level place, round, and with a rim of cliffs below, so that nowhere else was it possible to reach the summit. The trail went away among the junipers, and we followed it cautiously, knowing that the deer must be here, since no tracks led down. And of a sudden, crawling around a clump of trees, we stood before him. Ay, señor! How great he was! Great as a tall horse, and upon his head the keys [horns] were as the branches of a blasted cedar. There he stood, a thing of fifty yards away, looking at us with his head high, as if mocking. My heart forgot its count; for truly he was[91] no thing of this earth—that beast with a look so cunning and so terrible.

“‘What a beast!’ Luís whispered. ‘At the throat, to break his neck. But save thou thy fire, for in case’—and putting his rifle firm as a rock, he fired. But as the smoke blew by, there stood the deer, wagging himself the head scornfully, for the bullet had rebounded from him. So it is with these beasts that are witches, for when they see you, no ball will enter their hide. And then, putting down his head till that the horns lacked but a foot from the ground, he came like a large rock leaping down the mountain.

“Now I knew well that he was no mortal thing, and that I had no right to shoot. But for sake of Luís, who was pouring new powder in his rifle, I cared not even if I should be accursed; and when the beast was very close I sprang to one side and gave him the ball, of an ounce weight, squarely upon the side. But it could not enter him. Luís jumped, too, and the brute passed between us like a strong wind. In a moment he turned and charged us again, and I am sure I saw smoke come from his nose. As for his eyes, they were pure fire. ‘Run for yourself!’ cried Luís, and he made for the tree, while I took the other way. Turning[92] a juniper, I ran for the edge of the cliff; but just as I came there, there was a scream, and looking across my shoulder, I saw the deer making with his horns as one does with his spade upon hard ground.

“After that I could go no more to our camp, but came straightway to Abiquiu. When they heard what had been, all the town mourned—for Luís was well beloved. But none were surprised, for they said: ‘Always we told him of the Venado Encantado, but he would not believe. And now it has come true. Poor headstrong Luís!’

“As for me, I sickened, and was much time in bed. And always I saw the deer leaping upon Luís and tearing him, until it was not to be borne. When at last I was cured, I could think only to kill the Witch Deer, and avenge my poor compañero. I asked of all the old men if there was how to do it; but all said, ‘Beware, lest he trample thee also!’ And Josefa prayed me to think no more of it, for she would never marry one who put himself against the witches. I know not how, Don Carlos, for I too feared, but Luís would not let me rest.

“Twice I went alone to the mesa, for no one would companion me. There was always the deer; but I kept under the rocks, where he could not reach me, and[93] waited my turn. Once, when my aim was true upon his heart, the rifle only snapped; and when I went to prime with double care, the flint was all in cracks, so that it would not strike a spark. And again, when I shot him between the very eyes, from near, it did him nothing. So I saw it was useless.

“From then all went ill. Even the wild turkeys had no fear of me, for I could shoot nothing. And in Abiquiu I was mocked, for the young men had been jealous that formerly I had killed more game than any, and now they taunted me for ‘the starved hunter.’

“At the last I thought me of one who lived in the cañon of Juan Tafoya—a witch, they say, very wise in such things—and to him I went. When he had heard my story, he said: ‘But, man! knowest thou not that this is the Venado Encantado? How dost thou think to kill him? For he has in his horns a stone of great power, having the which he cannot be harmed. There is only one way in which it could be done, and that is to shoot him when he sees thee not. But that, even the best hunter cannot do, for the animal is very wise and of sharp sight. Only having an invisible stone could one do it.’


“‘And have other deer this stone?’ I asked; and he replied: ‘There are some, for this is not the only Witch Deer. But none of them canst thou kill if they see thee.’

“After that they saw me little in Abiquiu, for I was always hunting. For many months I pursued the trail of every buck deer, killing many. And at last, shooting from ambush one that passed me unsuspecting, I found in the first fork of its horns a stone like this, but not the half of it in size. This I proved in many ways, and clear it was that now my luck had changed.

“Being satisfied of this, then, I loaded my rifle with great pains, and went one evening in search of the Venado Encantado. Coming to the mesa by night, I camped among the rocks, without a fire, and in the morning, before the sun, climbed up without a little noise. In my pouch was the stone, and my rifle was well ready. When I came through the cleft at the top, there stood the deer, looking straight at me, not twenty yards distant, and I threw my rifle to my shoulder, giving myself up for lost. But he moved not, and watching him, I perceived that he did not see me at all—the which is proof that the stone makes one to be invisible. At this I took heart, and with a true aim on[95] his throat, fired. He leaped thus high in the air and fell dead; and coming to him, I found that the ball had broken his neck.

“His meat I did not touch, for besides being accursed, he had killed my Luís, whose bones I brought away to Christian ground in Abiquiu. But in the first fork of the horns, which were taller than my head, I found this stone which you see. Since I have that, I kill whatsoever deer with ease, because they cannot see me. What think you, then?”

We sat for a few moments silent, watching the flames that licked and twisted about the cedar sticks in the fireplace. Anastácio was voiceless, with an awe too strong even for his boyish excitement; and as for me, the story of Luís’s death had brought back some vivid and uncanny memories. But Don José, who really cared enough for me to wish to lead me out of the darkness of error, followed the matter up.

“Do you not see, Don Carlos, that there are Witch Deer? For look at his fierceness, and that he could not be hurt until I had a charm-stone like his own. And you know that I tell you truth.”

“Yes, old fellow, I know you tell me the truth as you see it. But it is nothing strange for a buck to be bravo in the fall—that[96] I myself have suffered by. And I fancy you could have killed him before, if you had not felt so sure that you couldn’t.” Then I was rather ashamed to have said even so much, and as gently as it could be said, for I do not admire the always-superior person. But the old man understood, and was not offended; only he shook his head with real sadness, and said:

“Ah, that way was Luís. God keep you from being taught as he was!”


Felipe’s Sugaring-off.



Felipe’s Sugaring-off.

The great water-wheel was trundling as fast as ever the white impulse from the old stone aqueduct could kick it along. The wheel, indeed, grumbled at so much hard work; but the water only laughed and danced as the big iron jaws of the trapiche[24] chewed up the yellow culms of sugar cane and spat to one side the useless pith, while the sweet, dark sap crept sluggishly down the iron conduit toward the sugar-house. In front was a very mountain of cane brought from the fields by bullock carts; and half a dozen sinewy negroes were feeding it, an armful at a time, between the rolls of the mill. Behind it others with wooden forks were spreading the crushed cane to dry for a day, after which it would be used as fuel to boil its own plundered juice. Off beyond the sugar building gleamed the white Moorish walls of the tile-roofed chapel and manor house, built three hundred years ago, when Peru was the richest crown jewel[100] of Spain. Everywhere else stretched the great fields of cane—to the very foot of the sandhills of the encroaching desert, to the very rim of the blue Pacific. What an immensity of sugar it all meant!

The same thought struck the grizzled administrador[25] this morning as he stood on a pier of the aqueduct—just where its stream pounced upon the lazy wheel—and swept the scene with those watchful old eyes. “Of a truth,” he was saying to himself, “the world must be very large, as they say, and many must eat nothing else, for here we make every day forty thousand pounds of sugar, three hundred days of the year, and there are many other sugar haciendas in Peru, though maybe none so big as Villa. Truly, I know not where it all goes. Hola! Always that fellow!” and, springing to the ground as lightly as a boy, in two bounds he was at the mill.

There four of the negro laborers were in sudden struggle with a newcomer from the quarters—a huge black fellow, whose brutish face was now distorted by drunken rage. He was naked to the waist, and his dark hide bulged with tremendous muscles, as he swayed his four grapplers to and fro, trying to free his right hand, which clasped[101] a heavy machete. This murderous combination of sword and cleaver, which lopped the stubborn cane at a blow, had found worse employment now, for a red stain ran down its broad blade, and on the ground lay a man clenching a stump of arm. Old Melito paused for no questions, but, plucking up a heavy bar of algarroba, smote so strongly upon the desperado’s woolly pate that the ironwood broke. The black giant reeled and fell, and one of the men wrenched away the machete and flung it into the pool below the wheel.

“He came very drunk, and only because Roque brushed against him with an armful of cane he wanted to kill him,” said the men as they knotted their grimy handkerchiefs upon the wrists and ankles of the stunned black.

“You did well to hold him,” replied the admimistrador. “Bring now the irons and we will put him in the calaboz till to-morrow. Then he shall go to Lima to the prison, for we can have no fighting here, nor men of trouble.”

A slender, big-eyed Spanish boy coming out a few moments later from the great castle arch of the manor house saw four peons lugging away between them the long[102] bulk of the prisoner, and stopped to ask the trouble.

“Ah! That bad Coco. That he may never come back from Lima,” said the young Spaniard earnestly. “He is a terror to all, and now I fear he will kill Don Melito, for Coco never forgets. I shall ask my father to see the prefect, that they keep him away. And the sugar?”

Felipe never tired of following all the processes with a grave air, as if it all rested upon his small shoulders. A boy who never felt that he was “helping”—if such a very helpless boy ever existed—has lost one of the best things in all boyhood, and Felipe could not have understood such a boy at all. He went on now and joined Don Melito, and the two stood together watching the vat with professional eyes while two negroes plied their plashing hoes. It was very hot work even to watch it, but a good administrador would never trust this to the laborers.

“Now you watch it a little,” said Don Melito suddenly, with roguish gravity, looking at the boy’s preoccupied face. “As for me, I must see how are the pailas,” and he climbed the steps to the platform where the caldrons were hissing with their new supply of sap.


Felipe, thus left alone with the heaviest responsibility he had ever borne, knit his smooth brows very hard and peered into the vat as if the fate of nations hung on his eyes. For the first time he began to doubt them. He wondered if it were not worked enough—if he had not better stop the hoes and get the molders to work. If only Don Melito would come back and decide for him!

But Don Melito was not here, and there were no signs of his coming. Perhaps he was leaving Felipe to find out the difference between knowing how some one else does a thing and how to do it one’s self. The boy fidgeted up and down and looked at the vat first from one end and then from the other, and grew more doubtful the more he looked.

“I don’t know, and I don’t know,” he cried to himself. “But sure it is that I must do something, for he left me in charge and perhaps is busy with other matters, thinking I would not let it be spoiled. Put it in the molds!”

The men leaned their candied hoes against the wall. The molders began ladling their buckets full, and, in turn, filling the shallow molds. The color there darkened again as sudden crystallization set in; but Felipe[104] felt a great load lifted off his shoulders. He was very sure now that it was a good color—not a hint of the hateful underdone black, but a soft, rich brown, shading to gold at the thin edges.

Now he was free—the laborers could attend to the rest, as usual—and he would go and hunt for Don Melito. He ran up the steps and along the platform—and half way stopped short, as if he had run against a wall.

The rusty irons should never have been trusted with that giant’s strength! They might do for common men, but for Coco—as soon as consciousness came back to him, and with it the old rage, he had snapped them, and, wrenching out the iron bars from the window of the calaboz, had come for his revenge. Even now he was shaking his wrists, one still hooped with the iron band, before the old administrador’s face, and hissing: “You! You did me this! And now I will boil you!”

Don Melito stood still and gray as a stone, looking up into Coco’s eyes. His hat was in his hand on account of the heat; but now he put it on as if scorning to stand uncovered before the fellow—put it steadily upon the curling gray hair that reached barely to the level of those great naked chest muscles.


“I did strike you down and ordered you to be ironed, Coco,” he said quietly, “and I would do so again. Now I am going to send you to Lima. There is no place at Villa for people like you.”

But Coco leaped upon him like the black jaguar, and clutched him with those long, knotted arms. Melito was sinewy and lithe as a cat, but he was no match for this huge foe. He fought for life, but Coco with the equal desperation of hate. Struggle as he would, he was borne back and back until his legs cringed from the glow of the paila. At this he made so wild a lunge that it bore them back a few feet; but it was only for a moment. Inch by inch the negro urged him toward that bubbling roar which seemed to drown all other sounds. And even now, with a wild chuckle, the giant doubled him backward against the edge of the paila, with a black, resistless palm under his chin.

Only an instant had Felipe stopped, frozen, at sight of Coco; in another he had sprung to the rail, shrieking to the men below: “Juan! Sancho! Quico! Come!” And then, rushing at the struggle, he flung himself as ferociously upon Coco as Coco had attacked Don Melito. But it seemed as if he were back in some dreadful dream. He hammered with futile fists upon that bare[106] and mighty back, and caught a fierce hold about one of those gnarled legs and tugged to trip it, and kicked it with crazy feet. But it was all with the nightmare sense that he was doing nothing by all his efforts. Indeed, it is half doubtful if the infuriated Coco knew at all of this attack in the rear. What to him were the peckings of a twelve-year-old boy?

Would the men never come? Felipe redoubled his kicks and blows, but with a sickening fear. Don Melito was weakening—already his head was thrust back over the steam of the paila. Only for his arms locked about the giant’s waist, he would go in. And now Coco’s huge hand came behind him and wrenched at the old man’s slender ones, tearing open finger by finger resistlessly. In another moment it would be too late to think.

Aha, Mr. Coco! The boy sprang to the second paila and snatched the long-handled skimmer that leaned against it, and, dipping it full from the caldron, flung the molten sugar squarely upon Coco’s back. Howling, the negro whirled about, dropping the half-senseless administrador from him, and sprang at Felipe. But the boy stood stiff and very white, holding the ladle back aloft. “This time in the eyes!” he cried,[107] hoarsely. “If you touch Don Melito again, or me, I will throw it in your face!”

Even Coco hesitated at this. He was not too drunk with rage to know what boiling sugar meant. Plainly, this little fool had the advantage. He must be tricked—and then——. But just then a wan smile flitted across Felipe’s face, and, as Coco half turned his head to see what pleasing thing could be behind him, he got a glimpse of Pancho, the horse-breaker, and something dark and wavy in the air. He ducked forward, but a rope settled upon his broad shoulders, tightening like iron, and he was jerked backward to the ground, and a dozen men were upon him.

Coco made no more trouble on the hacienda of Villa. At Lima he found the prompt justice which sometimes happens in Peru. Don Melito was in bed several days, for he had been roughly handled in body and in nerves. The first day on which he could sit up a little, Felipe brought him a cake of chancaca.

“Thank you,” said the old man, laying it on the coverlet. Sugar was an old story to him.

“But you must taste this, my administrador, and see if it is all right.”


“It is good,” answered Melito, munching submissively. And then, with a sudden light: “It is very good—as good as I could have made myself. Quite right. And I think you sent it to the molds at just the right time!”


Andrés, the Arriero.



Andrés, the Arriero.[26]


Hupa mula! Que família!

The command was right enough, for the beast barely moved, and any one who ever had to do with mules may very likely have cried out, with Andrés, “What a family!” But no one but Andrés, I am sure, would have said it here. By the time you get up to 16,000 feet in the Andes, if you are not dead altogether, you certainly have no breath to spare—not even so much as to say, “This mouth is mine.” As for exhorting a pack-mule to “get up” or trying to make it ashamed of its blood relations, why, you couldn’t if you would. If some one were to stand at the head of the pass offering you a dollar a word for remarks, the chances are a hundred to one that you would find yourself without either the ambition or the lungs to earn a nickel. It is a very strange thing, as well as a very frightful one, how these great altitudes clutch you[112] by the windpipe, and turn your heart’s strong beat to the last flutter of a wounded bird, and fill your eyes with strange red threads and your ears with a dull tap! tap! tap! so that you can count your pulse simply by listening. Worse still, how there seems to have been turned somewhere a sly faucet which has let the last drop of strength drip away before you knew it. But very lucky indeed are you if that is all. Many more than escape with these unpleasant symptoms have worse. There is a horrible nausea, as much beyond seasickness as that is beyond a plain stomach-ache, and nearly every one gets it above a certain height. Then come sudden hemorrhages from nose, mouth, ears, eyes, finger-tips, and so on to the last. These symptoms and any of them mean, “Get down stairs instanter.” If you cannot get down fast enough you will be carried down—too late to do you any good. I have seen great, powerful men fall there as an ox falls when the ax is laid to its head, and never rise again nor again be conscious. At less elevations I have seen robust men go dead in twenty-four hours with no disease on earth but the altitude. Only recently an acquaintance of mine visiting a town but 12,500 feet above the sea went to bed in perfect health[113] and—“woke up dead in the morning,” as a Celtic mutual friend related in all sincerity.

Still, the only certain thing about it is that if you go high enough you will pay the penalty; but no one can tell you how high that is, nor can you yourself learn finally, even by experiment. You may start out with a party from one of the inland towns of Peru, say at an elevation of 7,000 to 8,000 feet—and even there many are greatly affected by the altitude. One of the party, and perhaps the most robust looking, may become so dangerously sick at 10,000 feet that he will have to be sent back at once. The rest may go on safely to 12,000 feet, and there another succumb, and so on. And you may (though it is very unlikely) toil on even up to 17,000 or 18,000 feet without serious symptoms, and then a few days later be so terribly affected at 10,000 feet that only the most rapid removal to lower levels will save your life. Myself, I have never felt the mountain sickness. But then, my constitution is a most extraordinarily pig-headed one, which seems to butt against almost any wall with impunity. I have climbed and worked hard at considerably over 19,000 feet, and for a long time lived from 12,000 to 15,000 feet above the sea, and never felt anything worse than room for an[114] extra pair of lungs, there where is really precious little air to breathe. But warning was all around, so that I never felt quite sure my turn would not come next.

There is much in habit, of course. You all remember the Irishman’s horse which learned to live on shavings—though unfortunately it died just as it was becoming accustomed to this economical diet. And lungs, too, can get used to living on such shavings as the upper air—that is, if there are lungs enough and you give them long enough. Many die in the learning, but in centuries a type is fixed. So with Andrés. His fathers for a thousand years had breathed no heavier air than that of the great Bolivian plateau. He had been born on one of the “little hills” beside Lake Titi-caca, and brought up there. Leadville is the highest considerable town in North America, and it is too elevated for a great many people; but Andrés had never in his life got so low as 11,000 feet. If he were suddenly set down in New York his lungs would be almost as much embarrassed as would yours if you were so suddenly snatched up to his skyward home. He might almost call for an ax to break that thick air up into breathing chunks! And you, sitting with bloodshot eyes and open[115] mouth, would be wondering what skim-milk atmosphere was this, that in ten minutes’ gasping you could not get as fair a fill to your lungs as you now get with every breath you draw.

The mule was a well-seasoned mule, born in Puno and never any nearer sea level than that 12,500-foot town. True, it was now some 4,000 feet nearer the sky, and barely crawling up the pass. At every half-dozen or dozen paces it paused to groan despairingly, panting full five minutes before it could go another step. But that was a good mule. If you wished to see what an ordinary mule did in the pass, you had only to look at either side of the trail almost anywhere. There were hundreds of bleached skeletons lying just where they had fallen, but white as the snows upon the peaks above. Here and there were even the bones of the llama[27]—the highest-dwelling quadruped on earth. As for horses, their usefulness ceases long before reaching such altitudes as that of the Quimca-chata. I have seen people who had an air of feeling that the mule ought always to be begging pardon for being alive, and that nature was in pretty small business when she made him.[116] But that, of course, is a notion of very uninformed folk. In fact, as all know who have stirred out a little, the mule is the most broadly useful animal in the service of man. The horse can run faster, the elephant carry heavier loads, the llama climb higher above the clouds; but no other beast can carry so much so far, so fast, so low and so high as this unpretentious and maligned big-ears; and wherever civilized man has had to conquer the wilderness this has been his best friend.

Something of this was in the thought of the traveler sprawled beside the apacheta at the head of the pass—watching now the gasping saddle-mule near him, and now the rest of his small caravan as it crept upward. He was breathing with open mouth, but otherwise showed no traces of the hour’s climb since he left Andrés and the pack-beast, and tramped on, driving his own mule ahead rather than ride the distressed beast.

“Yes,” he was saying (but to himself, which called for no expenditure of breath), “old Tom Moore, Crook’s chief packer, was right when he used to say, ‘God made mules a-purpose!’ How they have been the right hand of the pioneer in both Americas. Bien, Andrés—so you got him up at last.”


Andrés took off his frowsy hat, leaving upon his head the long-peaked knit cap of vicuña[28] wool, removed from his mouth the quid of coca leaves he had been chewing, and flung the wad against the rough, upright stone, which was already pimpled all over with similar offerings. No mountain Indian of Bolivia would any more think of passing such a monument at the crest of a pass without making this sacrifice than you would think of going into church with your hat on.

Si, viracocha,” he answered, with a slow, good-natured smile; and went on in his stumbling mixture of Spanish and Aymará. “You ought to bite the coca, ps, viracocha, that the sorojchi catch you not. For so do we of the mountains, and by it we get our strength. Take”—and he drew from his left-hand pouch a pinch of the dried leaves and a bit of lime.

The American shook his head, with a smile, as much as to say: “Thanks, but I need it not.” Then he rose, with a significant glance at the clouds, and made a gesture of haste, pointing to the trail which from their feet dipped far downward to the east.


Andrés cinched up the sagging chipas on the pack-mule, setting his bare foot against its ribs and hauling at the hair rope with main strength. The traveler likewise tightened his saddle-girth and swung up. Half an hour more, and they were some miles down the slope, descending at a gait which was decidedly smart compared with the snail’s pace of the last few hours. Through gaps in the foothills ahead came now and then wondrous outlooks across the upper Bolivian plateau. Off to the left was the glorious blue of Titi-caca, highest great lake in the world; behind it, and stretching far to the right, the still more glorious white of the great Andes of Bolivia.

“There, mps, is Mururata, the Beheaded,” said the arriero, pointing to a flat-topped peak far lower than the rest, but still tall enough to wear eternal snow. “The gods cut off its head long ago, to punish pride, and set it over yonder, where you will soon see it smoke—for now it is a fire mountain.” Andrés trotted along, pointing, chattering, smiling, as if breath were quite the cheapest thing on earth.

Just then the traveler found a little, too—but not for the lost head of Mururata. He was staring across a saddle in the hills with very much such a face of incredulity and[119] bewilderment as one might wear at sight of a ghost.

“Seest thou?” he demanded of the arriero. “Confuse me, but I thought there was no such thing as a wheel in the country, except the Chililaya stage.”

“Oh, si, viracocha—in La Paz are five or six carriages! And yonder will be the Jaúregui going to their chacra.”[29]

A top buggy of most ancient pattern was creeping up around the turn at the heels of four tired mules. In a few moments the travelers were not far apart; and now Andrés’s employer broke out afresh, but in a lower tone:

Oyez! But where is the feast to which these maromeros go?”

They did look clown-like enough, to be sure. The driver was clearly an Aymará Indian, and showed nothing more peculiar than the quaint garb of his people. But at his left sat two tall and surprising figures in long linen dusters and white peaked caps. The latter were shaped something like fools’ caps; but instead of ending at the ears came down upon the shoulders, over the whole head. Eye and mouth holes and a woven nose gave them a finish as uncanny as it was strange.


Á Diós, caballero!” cried a muffled voice in clearly well-bred Spanish; and the Indian driver pulled the willing mules to a halt. One of the masks leaned from the carriage, and from behind the white yarn a pair of keen, black eyes stared first at the pack-mule and then at the American.

“Pardon the molesting, but you carry a machine of the photograph, is it not?”

The tripod stretching along the pack-beast from ears to tail, and the square, leather boxes in the chipas were clear enough, and the traveler replied politely:

“As you see, sir.”

“Good! And how much is worth a picture? Come, we will occupy you.”

“Infinite thanks, cavaliers, but I do not sell. And pardon, for I am in haste.”

“How not?” There was an incredulous flash in the ambushed eyes, and the voice had lost the edge of its courtesy. “We have money in hand, and we wish to take out our pictures.”

“I lament it, sirs; but you ask the impossible. The government of Bolivia has entered my materials free of duty, seeing that I come on a scientific mission; and in return, that your native artists shall not have whereof to complain, I am pledged to sell no pictures. It often pains me, knowing[121] how one feels for a picture here where artists are few. But in any event, I make vistas only for the one purpose, and need all the plates we brought.”

The maskers evidently did not credit any such absurd story. The gringo—he was a gringo, of course, in spite of his comfortable Spanish—pues, he knew them for rich and was holding off for a big offer.

“Well, we will give fifty bolivianos.[30] Get in and we will carry you to the chacra. There is your home. You shall stay so much as you will; and there is much hunting and such views of Illimani as you have not seen. Also, there are strange monuments of the ancients. Eh? Then one hundred bolivianos!”

“I give you the most expressive thanks, gentlemen, and would willingly see your chacra. But I am bound for Tiahuanaco. And, in any event, you must know that I talk not lumber, but truth. I cannot make your pictures.”

“Listen, then,” muttered the Bolivian angrily, turning to his fellow-mask, “how hard-headed are these gringos! Come,” addressing the traveler again, “you are too dear. But we will say two hundred[122] bolivianos,” and he held up a huge roll of small red bank bills.

By now there was a considerable wrinkle in the traveler’s brow. “God give you good evening, cavaliers,” he said, curtly. “I am of one yes and one no. If you want retratos I know no place nearer than La Paz where you can get them. Adios.

He set spurs to his mule and rode off down hill. The two maskers looked blankly at one another a moment, and then their mules began to plod up the slope amid a volley of Spanish expletives. Andrés had prodded the pack-beast to a lurching trot, and ran easily at its heels.

Mps, viracocha,” he said, in a loud whisper, taking off his hat again as he drew alongside the traveler. “But those are the Jaúregui, and it would be better to please them. They are most powerful, and very hard-headed, too.”

“Then let them butt against a harder head. I can’t—hola! Vicuñas, no?”

The frown had smoothed out, and he was snatching the rifle from its holster strapped along the saddle. Away over on an opposite slope a little brown cloud was drifting.

Si! But they go!” cried Andrés.


The cloud was, indeed, breaking up in a score of wee brown dots that scudded like so many shadows.

“Too far! And I wanted some pelts for a little girl I know. To try, anyhow!” The traveler jerked the rifle to his shoulder and fired. “Nothing,” he sighed. “Of course not—it was a shot thrown away.” But Andrés cried: “You touched! See yonder, how he makes lame!”

“Your eyes for it—mine don’t reach so far. But one does look to have fallen behind. Too bad! Now it is to run him down—a man even in a hurry can’t leave the poor wounded brute to be gouged piecemeal by the condors. Go on thy best with the pack-beast, Andrés, and I’ll catch thee at the tambo, or sooner.”

The arriero ambled on, with now and then a reminding cudgel to his charge. A funny man, this—no? But then, no doubt all gringos were a little wrong in the head. To refuse two hundred bolivianos for a picture, and then go ramping off to kill a wounded vicuña! Smart are the Yanquis, yes—but of reason, not much. As if the condors were to blame if they could catch a thing injured! And it can be that they will have mule as well as vicuña for supper. The viracocha evidently forgets that he is[124] on the ground of the mountain sickness. Pity if it should catch him—since he is very good, unbrained though he be.

But at a turn in the trail Andrés found other matters to be thought of than the general follies and occasional virtues of the Yanquis. Other ears than his had heard the rifle, and other eyes noted the traveler’s tangent; and now the young Indian gave a start very like one of fear at the rattle of wheels behind him and an imperious call of “Alto!


Andrés glanced over his shoulder and faced about in his tracks. It was only for an instant that he thought of running. He might make a break down the rough hillside, where the carriage could not follow, yes. But the pack-mule, sagging under those boxes, of which the viracocha was so tender! The boy’s thick lips drew tight across his large, white teeth. He would stay. The instant he ceased to beset its heels the fagged beast stopped too, and there they stood like two shabby statues, while the carriage drew alongside.

“So the gringo hunts, eh?” spoke one of the maskers, briskly, stepping down from the buggy. “But he is very high[125] priced, it seems—as much as unamiable. Come, tell us how much he does get—for in truth I thought we offered enough.”

“Who knows, your excellency?” stammered Andrés. “It is a month that I am with him as arriero, and until now he pictures only the monuments. And even of those I have not yet seen the retratos, for he says he is to finish them when we shall reach La Paz. Of people he always refuses—as your excellency saw. Except that once, in Copacabana, he pictured an ancient beggar at the gate, taking no money.”

“Ay, but these gringos are many sorts of fools—and this one all sorts. Come, then, these vistas he has made, they will be in the chipas. To see them!”

The speaker’s air and tone were plainly those of one who has no dream of not being obeyed, and he fairly stiffened with astonishment when the arriero, rather pale and very much embarrassed, stammered:

P-pero, excellency, I—I—cannot!”

Mira! Another who ‘cannot!’ It is contagious, then, this ‘no puedo!Oyez!” and now the command was sharp and stern, “Open me those boxes!”

Andrés backed off a step. His brown cheeks were unmistakably gray, and his voice faltered as he replied, humbly, but[126] stolidly: “Do not shame me, Excellency. This viracocha hires me, treating me kindly. For arriero, yes—but even more, he has me to guard the machine when he is not beside it. For so many wish to peep in, and he has things in little flat boxes which he opens only at night in a room without candles, and not even smoking his cigarro. He says that to let in a so-little of light would destroy all. For that I am promised, that no one shall open them nor touch them. Do not ask me, then, excellency.”

Ask thee, cannibal! A Jaúregui asking thee? Vaya! I order thee. And between winks, too, lest thou taste the quirt!” He snatched from his driver the short, leaden-butted bull whip.

Andrés backed away still farther, till he ran up against the pack of his dejected mule, which stood as if petrified there.

No puedo, taita!” he repeated, with an appealing glance. Then, as the man reached forth to pluck the knot of the cinch rope, Andrés extended his arm as a barrier, crying, “Haniwa! Your excellency must not!”

At this actual obstruction the personage in the white hood clearly lost an already ruffled temper. He drew the quirt whistling[127] around those sturdy, bare calves, and a blue welt stood up there. Another cut, and another. The stolid face changed little, but the legs shifted uneasily.

Haniwa, is it?” The ambushed eyes seemed fairly outside the mask now, so angrily they shone. “Then we will see! To beat a little more manners into that thick skull.” He shifted the quirt in his hand, clubbing the loaded end over Andrés’s head. The arriero flung up his hands. He was a sinewy young man, very probably much more powerful than his tall assailant. Nor was he thinking of the odds of those two more in the carriage. It was tradition, not cowardice, that stayed his hands—how could this arriero and son of arrieros think to strike a don? For he was born and bred in a country where there is still such a thing as respect—sometimes misapplied, as now; but broadly so honorable that I wish some reciprocity treaty might enable us to import some of it for northern use.

The leaden butt fell across his guard, and one hand dropped to his side. The other he drew before his eyes.

“Come! Will thou open, or shall I crack that foolish squash-head?”


Andrés did not move. “Haniwa!” he muttered in the same slow, stupid way, shutting his eyes as the club rose again. But just then a voice called from the carriage:

“To what use, brother? They are no more than clods. Beat one to death, and you shall not change him. Let Pepe tie him and then we can verify the boxes.”

The one with the quirt hesitated a moment. His blood was hot, and the brute in him ached to beat away at this maddening stupid. His hand dropped reluctantly, and he growled:

“As thou wilt. Rope him then, Pepe.”

But if the arriero had stood dumb under the lash of his superior, it was another page in the almanac when a brown fellow of his own blood and station caught him by the arms and started to pass a reata around him. Andrés doubled forward at the waist, clumsily but resistlessly. His tousled head struck Pepe on the mouth, and that too-ready henchman rolled heavily in the road. Andrés sprang upon him and flung fistfuls of dust in his face, shaking him as a terrier does a rat.

“Pig! Who lent thee a candle in this funeral? Thy master I could not fight. But thou, barbarian——”


Socorro!” bawled Pepe, quite helpless in the clutch of his exasperated rider. “Take him off!”

“I’ll take him off!” growled the master, and he ran forward, swinging the club about his head. Woe is me for thy skull, Andresito, if that ounce of lead befall it squarely from behind!


When the “gringo” and his laboring mule pitched down the side of a very considerable barranca, their quarry was plainly visible four or five hundred yards up the opposite hill. The rest of the flock had long ago disappeared, and by now was miles away—for they run almost like antelope, these airy beauties of the Andes, the tiniest camels in the world, and the only graceful ones. But when mule and rider struggled up the farther bank, the wounded vicuña was nowhere to be seen.

“Plague! But I must not kill thee, in trying to be merciful to him,” muttered the rider, and he sprang to the ground. It was high time. The mule stood gasping in his tracks, head down, chin hanging and knees quaking violently. The traveler looked up and down him, remorsefully but critically.

“With a rest, thou’rt all right. But I ought to beg thy pardon for giving thee a[130] fool for a rider! Now, my legs for it—and rest thou here.”

The involuntary object of all this trouble was certainly inconsiderate. Having been so foolish as to go and get wounded, he should have waited at least for the Samaritan to come up and give him the blow of mercy. But, instead, he hobbled bleating on in pursuit of his fellows, even long after they had vanished. It was astonishing how this delicate, fawn-like creature could run so far with a broken leg, and his well-meaning pursuer began to find it more than astonishing. Plague take the little imbecile—he was bound to make it as hard as possible to do him a good turn! It is odd how our minds can contradict themselves—how we sometimes start out on a thoroughly praiseworthy errand, and fall into very unamiable moods by the way.

The pursuer was by now decidedly angry—which is a very unwise luxury to be indulged in, at least among the Andes. His temper was by no means calculated to soothe the stampeding gallop of his heart; and to see him gasping up yonder cumbre, with a purpling face and protruding tongue, and a scowl on his brow, probably no stranger would have dreamed that he was really on a generous errand.


“Belike the condors will have to have thee!” he groaned inwardly—since not for his life, now, could he have articulated the words: “I’m done up! This one more ridge and it must end.”

But as he reached the top of that last ridge, there was a tremendous swoosh of wings past him, and then, from the hollow beyond, a scream almost human in its agony. At that he plucked new vigor, and went racing down the slope in a surprising spurt. The truth was that, once started, he had no longer the strength to stop on that stiff pitch, and must keep on till he should fall or fetch up against some obstacle. His sight was blurred, his head roaring, his legs numb, and where his heart should be, a strange, suffocating emptiness seemed to have come—and still he spun on. Then, in a reeling way, he swung the six-shooter thrice, firing as fast as finger could pull the trigger; in the same second, sprawling headlong in a confusion of bleats and silken fur and beating wings. A tremendous blow from one of the latter cut his scalp clear across the occiput. The revolver blazed again, and, after a wild thrashing, all was still.

It was some minutes before the hunter sat up, gazing about him in a dazed way.[132] The rest and the chilly air and the loss of blood were beginning to counteract the effects of his imprudent chase.

“Well! The next time I shoot before I think, I won’t shoot!” he informed himself without expense of breath, and with the ghost of a smile. “Wonder I hadn’t killed myself with such a race, up here. But if you start, finish!” and he looked complacently down at the little dead vicuña against which he leaned; and not a rod away the huge vulture sprawled upon its back, its wings outstretched a full dozen feet, its feet clenched in the empty air.

“He got only one swipe at thee, it seems. It’s all right, so that I came in time to give thee a more merciful death. So we won’t grudge the breath it cost me. But the least thanks thou canst give me is that precious pelt.” Drawing his knife, the hunter soon removed that very softest and most exquisite of all furs. Then with an uneasy glance at the clouds he turned away, walking as briskly as his protesting lungs would allow.

Good! There was the mule all right. It had not budged a foot; and now, though still in an attitude of utter dejection, was clearly out of danger. Directly, master and mule were jogging off toward the trail at a most[133] doleful gait—which doubtless would have been mended, if they could have seen through the rounded hill just ahead. But the hill was opaque, as hills and circumstances ahead are so prone to be; and they pottered along lazily, until, at a turn over the ridge, the spurs went drumming such an unexpected tattoo upon his echoing ribs that the mule quite forgot himself, and went pitching down the hill at a pace he had not taken in a month.


Away down yonder, a superannuated buggy and its team stood in the trail. A few rods ahead of it, and just at the heels of a wilted pack-mule, two men were scuffling in the dust; and over them a hooded figure was bringing down a heavy club. At that instant the pack beast wakened enough to turn his head interrogatively, cocking one ear forward and the other back. Even as he did so, his nigh hind leg could be seen to gather itself and suddenly lunge out behind. A long, linen-shrouded form, white capped at one end, thereupon doubled in half, and rose in the air and went whirling like a boomerang. It fell a full rod away and did not rise. Then a similar figure sprang from the buggy and rushed[134] at the wrestlers; but midway went down all at once in a loose heap, as if struck by a bullet. No wonder the stranger up yonder drummed with his heels, and jockeyed, and whooped; and, finding his charger still too slow, leaped from its back and came bounding down the hillside like a loosened rock.

Andrés was sitting placidly astride his prostrate foe, breathing rather hard, but looking stupidly good-natured as ever. One of his fingers was broken, and blood from a gash on his forehead trickled down his nose.

Mps, viracocha,” he answered to the breathless traveler’s glance of inquiry, “the caballeros were set to see the inside of your boxes, and because I refused they went to beat me. But when this cannibal here came upon me, then it was to fight. The blows of a gentleman, yes—but not of a chuncho.[31] So I measured him, thus. And when the gentleman went to crack me the squash with his quirt, then did Big-Ears here, forgetting respect to the powerful, set heel to his stomach and lift him until over yonder.”

“And this? I saw him fall as he ran at you,” the viracocha mustered breath to say.


“He? Mps, but it will be the sorojchi—see you not how the blood falls from his mouth? And you see, viracocha, how strong is the coca! Because I sacrificed at the apacheta, as one should, to the spirits of the high places, it has all come as the mouth would ask. Without that, then, the gentlemen would have left me here, of no more use to your grace, and the magic boxes would be emptied in the light.”

When night came down on the Quimca-chata, a gusty snowstorm, with howling intervals of hail, beset the pass. It roared at the hills, it swooped down the cañons as if in search of some living thing it might turn to ice before morning. But inside the low, dirty tambo, they only laughed at its rage. The bald stone hut in a little nook under the shoulder of a hill had neither window nor chimney; and a heavy poncho of llama hair was the temporary door. It was a fair type of the tambos of the Andes—those tenantless, cheerless wayside shelters that save the traveler in those bleak lands from perishing. On the sooty hearth a faint blaze of taqui wavered, and the smoke wandered out as best it could or made itself at home in the bare room. Upon the rough stone bench along the walls sat five men,[136] and in the farther corner six mules nosed wistfully in a rubbish heap for casual straws. Of the men two were Indians, and both wore bandaged heads. The third guest of this inn without a landlord appeared to be an American, and he also had a handkerchief bound about his skull. The two others were handsome, swarthy men in costly vicuña ponchos. They sat on linen dusters, from the pockets of which peeped the tasseled ends of two white caps.

One member of the party cast now and then a sly glance at these. So, instead of clowns going to some feast, these were two wealthy Bolivians. And those astonishing head masks which had so mystified him were merely to save their faces from that trying mountain air—so Andrés had informed him, with an evident effort not to pity his ignorance. And looking at those coffee complexions he had serious work to keep from smiling at the thought of trying to keep them from sunburn.

Pues, it is as well the tambo was near, for none of us were in shape to go much farther to-night, even forgetting the storm. Ea! But how it howls, as if disappointed!”

It was the American who broke the silence, though he spoke, of course, in Spanish—the[137] only common possession of the five tongues.

“You have reason, caballero,” answered the taller of the two dons, courteously. “And even more am I glad that we make ourselves pardoned. Of a truth, we were most ignorant that to open your cases would spoil all; nor could we have thought to take the liberty, but that we believed you a—a seller baiting us for higher pay. But we were well answered. Your so obstinate arriero made me forget myself, and I give you a caballero’s apology. But that mule—ay de mi! I thought Illampu itself had tumbled upon me!”

“Verily, señor! I saw it from the hill, and it was so prettily done as I never could have believed. Why, señor, he shut you at the waist like a knife with a strong spring!”

The cavalier smiled a trifle weakly at the description, but he said frankly:

“He did but justice. I have shame to think how I lost a gentleman’s temper. And so little more and I could have broken your man’s head. But since you have the fineness to hold no malice, it is well.”

“Oh, I know curiosity and temper both. Only that it is Andrés’s head and not mine. But his need not be too sore—for you have caused me to double his wages from to-day.[138] An arriero that will stand a broken head to guard the amo’s load—well, I haven’t found him very abundant in Bolivia, nor anywhere else.”

“You have reason always. And—er—understood that—pues, you know that Don Juan de Jaúregui cannot say to an arriero, ‘pardon’! But in purity of truth, he is faithful, and I would be glad to give him a well paid position on the chacra.”

“Eh, Andrés? The cavalier offers justly. What sayest thou?”

Andrés’s face beamed simply, and he twisted his skull cap as he rose with a clumsy bow.

“I shall be glad,” he stammered. “But only if—until—when that the viracocha shall have no more need of an arriero. For while the magic boxes have to ride on the ribs of a mule, it is safer that I be driver—since the viracocha has shown me, and I know how they must be treated. ‘Gently! Gently! And for the life of you, let no light come into them!’”


Our Yellow Slave.



Our Yellow Slave.

The only metal in the world that is yellow is the most precious of them all—gold. Brass is not a metal, but an alloy, a compound. And the color which gold shares with the sun has a great deal to do with its value. I do not suppose it would be possible that we should ever have come to love and admire any metal so much as to choose it for our highest currency and our ornaments, no matter how rare or ductile it might be, if it were of a dark, dull, gloomy color. The human eye never gets too old to be pleased with very much the same things which pleased it in childhood; and no eye is insensible to that precious yellow.

I like sometimes to think back to the first man of all men that ever held that rock of the sun in his savage hand, and to imagine how he found it, and how it made his sharp eyes twinkle, and how he wondered at its weight, and pounded it with one smooth rock upon another and found he could flatten[142] it. All these things come by accident, and gold was an accident that befell when the world was very young. No doubt there had been a great rain, that washed the heavy lump from its nest in some gravelly stream bank, and the prehistoric man, in his tunic of skins, chanced that way and found it. Mayhap it was the very rain of the Flood itself, and the poor barbarian who picked up the yellow nugget sank with it still in his swarthy fist.

We do not even know the name of the man who first discovered gold, nor where he lived, nor when. But it was very, very long ago. Before the time of Joseph and the coat of many colors, gold had already become not only a discovered fact, but a part of the world. The early Egyptians got their gold from Nubia, so very likely the discovery was first made in Africa. At all events, it dates back to the very childhood of the race; and before Cadmus had found those more important nuggets of the alphabet, mankind had achieved the prettiest plaything it ever found.

In the very first chapter of the first and noblest of poems, Homer tells of the priest who came with a golden ransom to the camp of the Greeks before Troy, to buy his daughter free; and the sunny metal figures[143] everywhere in the oldest mythology we know. You have all read—and I hope in Hawthorne’s “Tanglewood Tales,” where the story is more beautifully told than it was ever elsewhere—of Jason and the Argonauts and of how they sailed to find the Golden Fleece. That was a fabulous ram-skin, whose locks were of pure gold. No wonder the deadly dragon in the dark groves of the Colchian king guarded it so jealously. Of course the myth is only a poetic form—as stories generally assume in the folk-lore of an undeveloped race—of saying that Jason and his bold fellow-sailors of the Argo sailed to the gold fields of Asia, and found them. The mines whose fabled richness tempted them to that adventurous voyage in their overgrown row-boat of fifty oars, were in the Caucasus mountains, and produced a great deal of the gold which was used by the ancients. They were doubtless among the first gold mines in the world, and their product gilded the splendor of many of the first great monarchs of history. As late as 1875 an attempt was made by Europeans to work these mines, but nothing came of it.

“Rich as Crœsus” has been for more than two thousand years a proverb which is not yet supplanted; and that last king of Lydia—and[144] richest king of all time, according to the ancient myths—got his wealth from placer mines in the river Pactolus, whose name has been as synonymous with gold as Crœsus’s own. One of the strangest and wisest of the folk-stories of ancient Greece tells how that little river in Asia Minor first gained its golden sands. Some seven hundred years before Christ, there was a king of Phrygia who had more gold than Crœsus ever dreamed of—so much gold that it made him the poorest man in the world! It was King Midas, son of Gordius, who earned this strange distinction. He had done a favor to Dionysus, and the god said gratefully: “Wish one wish, whatever thou wilt, and I will grant it.” Now Midas had already caught the most dangerous of all “yellow fevers”—the fever for gold—and he replied: “Then let it be that all things which I shall touch shall be turned into gold.”

Dionysus promptly granted this foolish prayer; and Midas was very happy for a little time. He picked up stones from the ground, and instantly they changed to great lumps of gold. His staff was gold, and his very clothing became yellow and so heavy that he could barely stagger under its weight. This was very fine indeed! He touched the[145] corner of his palace—and lo! the whole building became a house of pure gold. Splendid! He entered, and touched what took his fancy; and furniture, and clothing, and all, underwent the same magic change. Better and better! “I’m the luckiest king alive,” chuckled Midas, still looking about for something new to transmute.

But even kings who have the golden touch must sometimes eat, and presently Midas grew hungry with so much wealth-making. He clapped his hands, and the servants spread the royal table. A touch of the royal finger, and table and cloth and dishes were yellow gold. This was something like! The exhilarated king sat down and broke a piece of bread—but as he lifted it, it was strangely heavy, and he saw that it, too, was of the precious metal! A doubt ran through his foolish head whether even the golden touch might not have its drawbacks; but he was very hungry, and did not wait to weigh the question. If his fingers turned the bread to gold, he would take something from a spoon—and he lifted a ladle of broth to his mouth. But the instant it touched his lips, the broth turned to a great yellow button, which dropped ringing back upon the golden board.


The disquieted king rose and walked out of the palace. At the door he met his fair-faced little daughter, who held up a bright flower to him. Midas laid his hand gently upon her head, for he loved the child, foolish as he was. And lo! his daughter stood motionless before him—a pitiful little statue of shining gold!

How much longer this accursed power tormented the miserable monarch the myth does not tell us; but he was cured at last by bathing in the river Pactolus, and the washing away of his magic power filled the sands of the stream with golden grains.

The Midases are not dead yet—for the one of ancient fable there are thousands to-day, at whose very touch all turns to gold. Their food does not become metal between their lips—but often it might as well, for all the joy they have of it. And the little Phrygian princess was not the only child to be changed and hardened forever by the “Golden Touch.”

Gold figures largely through all the quaint history-fables of the ancients; and history itself is full of tales hardly less remarkable. The early history of America was made by gold—or rather, by golden hopes which achieved wonders for civilization, but very little for the pockets of the most wonderful[147] explorers the world has ever seen. Had it not been for the presence of gold here—and the supposed presence of even more than has yet been dug—the western hemisphere would be very much of a wilderness still. It was the chase of the golden myths which led to the astounding achievements that opened the New World; and since then, almost to this day, civilization has followed with deliberate march only in the hasty footprints of the gold seekers. No tale was too wild to find credence with the early adventurers.

The fabled ransom of Montezuma is all a fable; but it is a fact that Atahualpa, the head Inca of Peru, did pay to that marvelous soldier Pizarro a ransom of golden vessels sufficient to fill a room twenty-two by seventeen feet to a height of nearly six feet above the floor! While gold was not much in use in Mexico, there was a great deal of it employed in Peru for sacred utensils and idols and for personal ornaments; and to this day the “mummy miners” are taking it out there. The early Spanish discoveries of gold in North America were unimportant, despite the gilded myths which have surrounded them. In Columbus’s time the gold fields of the known world were so “worked out” that[148] their product was barely enough to meet the “wear and tear” of the precious metal in use; so there was crying need of new finds. But they came slowly.

By 1580 there were vague rumors of gold in what is now California. Loyola Casallo, a visiting priest, saw placer gold there, and tells of it in his book written in 1690. In the last century Antonio Alcedo speaks of lumps of California gold, weighing from five to eight pounds. But though its presence was known, and though the rocky ribs of the Golden State hid far more millions than were dreamed of—and perhaps than are dreamed of yet—there was little mining, and that little with scant success.

The first gold discovery in the American colonies was in Cabarrus county, North Carolina, in 1799; and up to 1827 that state was the only gold-producer in the Union. In 1824 Cabarrus county sent the first American gold to the mint in Philadelphia. The Appalachian gold field, which embraces part of Virginia, and stretches across North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, touching also parts of Tennessee and Alabama, was once looked to for great things; but it long ago dropped from all importance.

In 1828 the New Placers were discovered in New Mexico, some fifty miles south of[149] Santa Fé, and for a great many years produced richly. Even to this day they are far from unproductive. Gold had been found in New Mexico many generations before, but never in quantities to come anywhere near paying. A decade later, placer gold was discovered in Santa Barbara county, California, in the vast rancho of that gallant old hidalgo whose home was described by Mrs. Jackson as the home of “Ramona.” These placers have been worked steadily though clumsily by Mexicans ever since; and I have a waxy nugget which was washed out in Piru creek in 1838.

Within half a century the world’s supply of gold had long been inadequate to the growing demand. Russia was the chief producer; and her mines—discovered about 1745—kept the nations from a “famine” which would be most disastrous. There were old mines in China, but little worked; and though Japan’s gold output was large, it was but a drop in the cosmopolitan bucket. Russia at present, by the way, produces an average of twenty millions of gold a year.

The wonderful gold fields of Australia were discovered in 1839 by Count Strzelcki; but the priceless find was concealed, for a curious reason. Australia was already[150] England’s out-door prison; and it was feared that if the golden news were known the 45,000 desperate convicts there would rise in rebellion and annihilate their keepers—as they could well have done. So for a dozen years the mighty secret was jealously guarded; and thousands walked unsuspecting over the dumb gravel that held a million fortunes. In 1848 Rev. W. B. Clark again stumbled upon the dangerous secret, but again the discovery was suppressed; and it was not until California had set the whole world on fire with excitement which nothing could bottle up, that Australia threw off her politic mask. In 1851 E. H. Hargreaves, who had just come from the new mines of California, saw that Australia was geologically a gold country; and his prospecting proved his surmises correct. The news spread in spite of cautious officials; and the wild epidemic of fortune seekers pitted the face of the island-continent, and watered its thirsty sands with blood. Even yet, Australia is producing over $45,000,000 gold a year.

The rich gold fields of New Zealand were first found in 1842, but were not extensively worked until 1856, when the swarming gold hunters had overrun the Australian fields, and the restless sought still easier wealth.


As I have told you, gold was mined spasmodically in California much more than two centuries ago, and steadily mined for more than a decade before the “great discovery” which was to change the face of an empire and bring about what was in many ways the most remarkable migration in the whole history of the human race. But these early diggings of the precious metal made little stir. The swarthy miners delved away quietly, exchanged their glittering “dust” for rough food and other rude necessaries, and made no noise. They were very much out of the world. The telegraph, the railroad and the printing press were far from touch with them. There were a few “Americans” in California, and even one or two newspapers, but neither paid attention to the occasional rumors of gold, save to ridicule them.

But on the ninth day of February, 1848, a little girl held in her unknowing hand the key of the West—the wee yellow seed which was to spring into one of the most wondrous plants in history. On the American fork of the Sacramento river, in what is now El Dorado county, Cal., stood a shabby little mill, owned by an American named Sutter. (Californians, by the way, pronounce the name “Soo´-ter.”) The mill race[152] became broken, and three men were hired to repair it. Two were Mormons, and the third, the overseer, was named Marshall. As the men worked, Marshall’s little daughter played about them—dreaming as little as did her elders that she was to upset a continent.

A yellow pebble in an angle of the sluice caught her eye, and picking the pretty trifle from the wet sand, she ran to her father with, “Papa! see the pitty stone.” It was indeed a pretty stone, and Marshall at once suspected its value. Tests proved that he was right, and gold was really found. The discovery made some little noise among the few Americans in that lonely, far land, but nothing was known of it to the world until Rev. C. S. Lyman, who saw some of the nuggets which further search yielded, wrote a letter to the American Journal of Science, in March, 1848. As soon as the news was in type, it spread swiftly to the four ends of the earth, and already by August of the same year four thousand excited men were tearing up the sands of the American Fork, and coaxing them to yield their golden secrets. And well they succeeded, for every day saw from $30,000 to $50,000 worth of gold washed out and transferred to rude safes of bottles or buckskin sacks.[153] How long and high that gold fever raged; how it patted the fearful intervening desert with the weary footprints of tens of thousands of modern Jasons; how it brought around the Horn a thousand heavy ships for every one that sailed before; how it overturned and created anew the money markets of the world; how it turned a vast wilderness into the garden of the world, and pulled the Union a thousand miles over to the West, and caused the building of such enormous railway lines as mankind had never faintly dreamed of, and did a thousand other wonders, you already know—for it has made literature as well as history. Our national history is crowded with great achievements, but its chief romance was—

“The days of old,
The days of gold,
The days of ’49.”

California produced $5,000,000 gold in 1848, and crazed the civilized world. The output grew to $60,000,000 by 1852. To-day the state yields between eleven and twelve million dollars’ worth of gold a year, and it creates no excitement whatever; for its people are more occupied with mining the safer gold of agriculture.

Of late years South Africa has entered the field as one of the great gold countries.[154] Its annual “crop” is over forty millions. There is a possibility that hereafter Alaska will have to be added to the list. This summer of 1897 between $3,000,000 and $4,000,000 in “dust” and small nuggets came out of the region generally and loosely called “The Klondike.” I saw in the San Francisco mint 152,000 ounces the returning miners poured out from their buckskin bags. Over 3,000 people left California under the excitement caused by the exhibition of these treasures, in a “gold-rush” which recalled the old days, by its fever and its follies; but the Klondike rush will probably be remembered, whatever its results in gold, as the most disastrous in history. Instead of the mild climates of California, Australia and South Africa (and thousands lost health and life even there) the gold seekers upon the Klondike will have to do with the cruel winters and inhospitable wildernesses of a land almost under the Arctic Circle.

Of the various methods of liberating our Yellow Slave from the hard clutches of the earth it would be too long to speak in detail here; but they are broadly divided into two classes, according to the surroundings of the gold itself. Free or “placer” gold—which[155] was for centuries the first known to mankind, and which was the sort that started the great “fever” in California and Australia—is found in beds of sand and gravel, generally the present or former bed of a stream. It is extracted—this precious needle from an enormous and worthless haystack—by means of its own weight; water being applied in various manners to give that weight a chance to assert itself. The mixed gravel is given up to the mercies of running water, which wets it through, and causes its heaviest parts to sink to the bottom, where they are held by artificial obstacles, while the lighter particles of sand are swept away by the natural or artificial current. In this manner the vast mass of soil is water-sifted until but little is left; and from that little it is easy to hunt out the coy yellow grains.

The placer gold was not formed in the gravel banks where it is found, but came there by the death of its mother rock. All gold began in “veins” in the earth’s rocky ribs; but Time, with his patient hammers of wind and rain and frost, has pounded vast areas of these rocks to sand; and the gold, broken from great bands to lumps, has drifted with the bones of the mountains into the later heaps of gravel.


The processes of mining gold which still remains in its original home in the rocks are far more complicated. There is a vast amount of boring to be done into the flinty hearts of the mountains, with diamond-pointed drills and with blasting; and then the rock, which is dotted with the precious yellow flakes, has to be crushed between the steel jaws of great mills. Much of the gold that is mined, too, is so chemically changed that it does not look like gold at all, and requires special chemical processes to coax it out. In gold (and silver) mining mercury is one of the most important factors. It is the mineral sheriff, and swift to arrest any fugitive fleck of gold that may come in its way. The sluice boxes in extensive placer mines, and the “sheets” in stamp mills are all charged with quicksilver, which saves a vast amount of the finer gold dust that would be otherwise swept away by the current of water—for water is equally essential in both kinds of mining.

There is no such thing as pure gold, often as we hear the phrase. Nature’s own “virgin gold” is always alloyed with silver; and the very purest is but 98 or 97 per cent gold. California gold averages about the fineness of our American coin—90 per cent pure. As a general rule, the lighter the[157] color the purer the gold. The beautiful red gold gets its color from a large alloy of copper.

It is an odd fact that the sea is full of gold. No doubt at the bottom of that stupendous basin which has received for all time the washings of all the world, there is an incalculable wealth of golden dust; but the strange ocean mine is not all so deep down as that. The sea water itself carries gold in solution—a grain of gold to every ton of water, as a famous chemist has shown.

Among the historical big nuggets found in various parts of the world, there have been some wonderful yellow lumps. In Cabarrus county, N. C., one was found in 1810 which weighed thirty-seven pounds Troy. In 1842 the gold fields of Zlatoust, in the Ural, gave a nugget of ninety-six pounds Troy. The Victoria (Australia) nugget weighed one hundred and forty-six pounds and three pennyweights, of which only six ounces was foreign rock; and the Ballarat (Australia) nugget was thirty-nine pounds heavier yet. The largest nugget ever found was also dug in Australia—the “Sarah Sands,” named for a far-off loved one. It reached the astonishing weight of two hundred and thirty-three pounds and[158] four ounces Troy! I wonder what Miner Sands felt when he stuck his pick into that fortune in one lump!

The quality which makes gold commercially the most valuable of the metals is its docility. The cunning hammer of the smith can “teach” it almost anything. The more stubborn metals crumble after a certain point; but gold can be hammered into a sheet so infinitely fine that 282,000 of them, piled one upon the other, would be but an inch thick! And a flake of gold tiny as a pin-head can be drawn out, a finer thread than ever man spun, to a length of five hundred feet!

There is no end to the uses of gold. They broaden every day. In some one of its many forms our Yellow Slave helps us in almost every art and walk of life. It has become as indispensable as its red fellow-slave, fire—and like fire can be as bad a master as it should be a good servant.


The Peak of Gold.



The Peak of Gold.

The most remarkable myths that appear in American history are those which were so eagerly listened to by the early Spanish conquerors, who overran two-thirds of the two Americas long before the Saxons so much as attempted a foot-hold in the New World. There was the famous myth of El Dorado in South America—a living man covered from head to foot with pure gold dust and nuggets. In Mexico was the fable of Montezuma’s untold tons of gold and bushels of precious stones, and many other impossible things. Ponce de Leon, the gallant conqueror of Puerto Rico, paid with his life for the credulity which led him to the first of our states ever entered by a European, in quest of an alleged fountain of perpetual youth—a butterfly which some of the world’s learned doctors are still chasing under another form. And all across the arid Southwest the hot winds have scattered the dust of brave but too-believing men who fell in the desert through which they pursued some[162] glittering shape of the American golden fleece. When Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, the first American traveler, walked across this continent from ocean to ocean, over three hundred and fifty years ago, he heard from the Indians many gilded myths, and chief of them were those concerning the famous Seven Cities of Cíbola. So enormously abundant was gold said to be in these Indian cities, that it was put to the meanest uses. When Vaca got to the Spanish settlements in Mexico and told this wonderful report it made a great commotion, and soon afterward that great explorer, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, came to the Seven Cities of Cíbola—which surrounded the site of the present Pueblo Indian town of Zuñi in the extreme west of New Mexico. But instead of the dazzling cities he expected, Coronado found only seven adobe towns, without an ounce of gold (or any other metal, for that matter)—towns which were wonderfully curious, but which sorely disheartened the brave Spanish pioneers. A little later Coronado heard equally astounding tales of a still more golden aboriginal city—the fabulous Gran Quivira—and set out to find it. After a marvelous march which took him almost to where Kansas City now is, he found the Quivira—but no[163] gold, of course. And it has been the same ever since. Coronado’s footsore men ran down their fables in 1541. Certainly not a decade, and very likely not a year, has passed since then in which some equally preposterous story of incalculable treasures has not been born and found followers in the Southwest.

I know of but one thing in the world more remarkable than that the Spaniards should have believed such self-evident myths; and that one thing is that so many, many Americans believe them to-day. Not long ago I visited the most remote and inaccessible ruins in the Southwest, and found there the work of these sanguine dupes, who had actually dug through solid rock in search of buried treasure. And even while I write a party is digging, a hundred miles to the west, for a treasure as mythical, and as palpably so, as that at the end of the rainbow. The stories of golden mountains, of buried millions and of mysterious “lost mines”—far richer, of course, than those which any one can find—in New Mexico alone would fill a volume.

I had once the good fortune to run across some old and fragmentary Spanish manuscripts of the last century and the beginning of this, which are extremely interesting.[164] It is not often that we get so much documentary evidence concerning the golden will-o’-the-wisps which have lured so many to disappointment and death. The writings all bear the stamp of implicit belief, and the old soldier, in particular, who is the hero of the fragmentary story, is often unconsciously eloquent and sometimes pathetic in his recital. I translate all the documents literally.

The first manuscript is a certified copy (certified in the City of Mexico, March 5, 1803), of the “relation” and petition of Bernardo de Castro, a copy for which the Spanish governor of New Mexico had sent. Bernardo’s story and appeal are as follows, rendering as closely as possible the quaint language of the day:

Most Excellent Sir: Bernardo de Castro, retired sergeant of the company of San Carlos [St. Charles] of the government of the City of Chihuahua, in the Provinces of the Interior, admitted to citizenship in the City of Santa Fé, capital of the kingdom of New Mexico, and resident of this capital, goes on and before Your Excellency says: That having served our Royal Monarch for the space of nine years and eight months as sergeant of the said company in the countless combats at which I assisted against the[165] nations of the ynfidels [Indians], I came out with a lance-thrust in one leg, of the which it resulted that I was placed in the Ynvalid corps by the Sir Commander Don Juan de Ugalde. But considering that with time and medicines I recovered and gained strength to seek my subsistence free from the hardships to which the frontier troop is exposed from the Mecos [probably the Apaches], I gave up for the benefit of the royal exchequer my pay as invalid sergeant, and have followed working in the same kingdom of New Mexico. There I have suffered various fights—as it befell in the past year of 1798, that while I was conducting a multitude of large cattle and other effects, the whole valued at more than $14,000, from New Mexico to El Paso del Norte, the barbarous Mecos assailed me, and after a long battle, in which flowed much human blood, they carried off all I had in the world. And we gave to God thanks for having saved us even the life.

“This continual contact with the savages has contracted me a friendship with the Cumanche nation, which is at peace with the Spaniards, and understanding their idiom facilitates me in trading with them to gain my livelihood.


“In the past year, 1798, I arrived in Santa Fé and presented myself to the Sir Governor Don Fernando Chacon. His Lordship informed me that there had come a Frenchman and had shown him a piece of metal of fine gold, assuring him he knew the spot where it was produced, and that it was a peak which the ynfidel nations called Peak of the Gold, where there was such an abundant breeding-place of this precious metal that all the peak and even its surroundings could with propriety be said to be pure gold. That he offered to show the spot if his Lordship would guard him with three hundred men of troops, and this he was bound to grant for the benefit of our monarch. That the distance, he considered, would be a matter of eight or nine days’ journey. The faithful love to our Sovereign animated the Sir Governor, and he supplied the escort which had marched two days before, and his said Lordship informed me that if he had found me in the city he would have made me one of the commanders. This offer inspired me, and I offered to follow after the expedition, and the love with which I have always served my lord, the King, enabled me by the utmost exertion to overtake the expedition,[167] with which I incorporated myself on the third day.

“And journeying on our course, on the ninth day the French guide slipped away from us, leaving us in the plains without knowledge of the road to our desired peak. At the which it was resolved by the leaders of the expedition to return to Santa Fé. But I, not suffering from the short march, separated from the expedition and went on alone to verify the report. And in the rancherias [villages] of the Cumanches, where I was entertained, when I told them the trick and the mockery that the Frenchman had put upon us, they assured me with one accord that the said Frenchman did not know the location of the peak at all, and that he had never been there, for the gold which he took to New Mexico they themselves had given him in exchange for various trinkets of coral, belts and other trifles. But that they knew the peak of gold, that was indeed with an abundance never seen before, and if I would go with them they would show me it, and I could pick up all I wished, and if we met any other nation [of Indians] I should not be harmed if with them, for they were all friends.

“Indeed, most illustrious Sir, only by my fidelity and obedience to my superior could[168] I contain myself not to march to the peak without delay; and I told my friends the Mecos Cumanches, that I was going to seek permission of that Sir Governor of the New Mexico, and with it would return. I arrived in Santa Fé and sought that permission, but it was denied me. But continuing my visits to the Mequeria [I find that] so strong a desire have they formed for the granting of that permission and the development of this treasure, and the facility there is that the Spaniards enjoy it and that their Sovereign make heavy his royal coffers, that I resolved to make a walk of more than seven hundred leagues to seek the aid and encouragement of Your Excellency. [The brave sergeant so fully believed in his Peak of Gold that he actually walked nearly 2,200 miles alone through a most dangerous country to lay the matter before the Viceroy in Mexico.]

“My plan being approved, it is undeniable that the Royal treasury will be swelled by the tithes and dues to the Royal crown; new interest will animate men to follow up the discovery, and there will be civilized (with time and the friendship which is contracted with the nations of the Cumanches, Yutas and Navajosos) more than three hundred leagues of virgin and[169] powerful lands—that being reckoned the distance from the city of Santa Fé to the Peak of Gold. The inhabitants of the internal provinces, who now live under the yoke of the assaults of the hostile Indians, will revive; it will be easier for the Sovereign to guard the frontiers of these his vast dominions. Settlements will be made, and insensibly will follow the conquest and pacification of the ynfidels, who will easily embrace the holy Gospel and come under the faith of Jesus Christ. What results to religion, to the monarch and to his vassals are presented, even by this clumsy narration!

“I do not intend to burden the Royal treasury with the slightest expense, nor do I think to involve the Royal arms in actions which might imperil the troops. My person is declared past its usefulness for the Royal service, and I count myself as a dead man for entering matters of importance. But my military spirit does not falter, and I only desire to manifest, even at the foot of the tomb, my love to my Sovereign. With only one faithful companion I intend to go among my friends, the Cumanches, and, with the protection and guidance of them, to enter and explore the land, silently, without noise or preparation, to force a passage.[170] Quietness, the gray shadows of the night and our own courage are the only preparations I make for the difficult undertaking, and, above all, the divine aid. Having found the desired Peak of Gold, charted the roads to it, made the due surveys, and gathered so much of the precious metal as we can transport without making danger (and under the divine favor), I will present myself again to Your Excellency, and by your Superiority will be taken such steps as the state of the case demands.

“Under which considerations, and the solid arguments which I have expressed, of which Your Excellency can receive full confirmation from the most excellent Señor Don Pedro de Nava, commander-in-chief of the interior provinces, and Don Joseph Casiano Feaomil y Garay, lieutenant-captain of dragoons of San Luís Potosí, I humbly beg of Your Excellency that in use of your Viceroyal powers, you deign to grant me your superior permission to go in search of the Peak of Gold; being kind enough to send to the Señor Don Fernando Chacon, actual Governor of the New Mexico, that he put no difficulty in my path, and giving orders to the captains and chiefs of the friendly nations—Cumanches, Yutas and Navajosos—that[171] they accompany and guide me in this expedition.

“And I respectfully say that my delay in getting to this Capital [the City of Mexico] was because I had to come nearly all the way on foot, my horse having given out in that great distance, and that now I am supported here by alms, such is my great anxiety for the benefit of the monarch, and beg that I be excused for this paper. [He was too poor to buy the stamped and taxed paper on which petitions to the Viceroy must be addressed.]

“For so much I pray Your Excellency’s favor.

Bernardo Castro.

He had the real spirit of the Argonauts, this crippled old soldier, to whom poverty and danger and 2,000-mile walks were trifles when they stood between him and his Peak of Gold.

The Viceroy evidently gave the desired permission—without which, under the strict Spanish laws, no such venture was to be thought of—and there were one or more expeditions, but unfortunately we have left no account of them. It is clear that the Viceroy ordered Governor Chacon, of New Mexico, to assist Castro in his undertaking, and that the matter aroused a good deal of interest throughout the provinces of New[172] Spain. Don Nemecio Salcedo, military commandant at Chihuahua, seems to have interested himself in the matter, for the next document in this fragmentary series is a draft of a reply to him from Governor Chacon, as follows:

“According to that which Your Lordship advises me in communication of the 16th of September of the current year, I repeat that as to the expedition of Bernardo Castro to the discovery of the Peak of Gold, I will help him and the others who accompany him, that they may have no difficulty with the General of the Cumanches, whom, however, I have not yet seen, since he has not yet returned with the ransom he offered me when he was last in this capital.

“God, etc. Santa Fee, 25th of Fber, 1803.

“To Señor Don Nemo. Salcedo.”

There was other correspondence between these two on the same matter, for now we come to an original letter from Commandant Salcedo to Governor Chacon, replying to a late one of his. It says:

“The communication of Your Lordship, No. 36, of the 18th of last November, leaves me informed of all the assistances you gave Bernardo Castro, that he might undertake the second journey [so he had already made one] from that city, with the object to discover[173] the Peak of Gold, which he has described in the territory of that province. And of the results I hope Your Lordship will give me account.

“God guard Your Lordship many years.

Chihuahua, January 5, 1804.

Nemecio Salcedo.

“To the Sir Governor of New Mexico.”

Poor brave, misguided Bernardo de Castro! I wish we might have more of the documents about his venturesome wanderings in quest of the Peak of Gold. He must have gone far out into the wastes of Texas; and at last he, too, yielded up his life, as did countless of his countrymen before him, to that deadliest of yellow fevers. We lose all track of him until Governor Chaves writes from Santa Fé, in 1829, to his superior in the City of Mexico, who had written to ask him about these and other matters. His letter says:

Most Excellent Sir: In compliance with that which Your Excellency requests in your official letter of the 19th of August last, that I make the necessary verifications upon the mineral reported by the Rev. Father Custodian of these missions, Fray Sevastian Alvares, to be found among the gentile Comanches, I have investigated the matter, and place in the knowledge of Your[174] Excellency that which various of the citizens of this capital—and all of them most veracious—say. They all agree in that it is a fact that Don Bernardo de Castro [the old soldier had evidently won honorable recognition, else a Governor of New Mexico would not speak of him by the respectful title of “Don”] entered this territory with the object of seeking the said mineral; that he made various expeditions with this object, until in one of them he was slain by the heathen Apaches.

“Passing to information received from the travelers to that nation, all agree in the statement that the Comanches offer to sell them pouches filled with a metal which appears fine and of great weight, which they say they get from the neighborhood of the Ash peaks (which are very well known to our people, but not explored or charted, because they are distant from the trails).

“The citizen Pablo Martin has been he who expressed himself most fully. He, knowing that the said Don Bernardo de Castro sought a mineral in the Comanche nation, has procured them to look for the said mineral. The only result was that one Comanche named Paño de Lienso [‘Cloth of Linen’], who made himself his companion, gave him information that beyond[175] the Ash peaks, in some round hills, were stones with much silver, whereof the said Comanche had carried some to the province of San Antonio de Bejar [Texas], where they made buttons for him. He who made the buttons charged the Comanche to bring him a load [of that metal], but he did not do so, because in that time came the war of his people with that province. Other Comanches also have told him [Pablo Martin] that in said spot were stones with silver.

“This is all I have been able to find out as the results of my investigations, the which I place in the knowledge of Your Excellency, that you may put it to the use which you deem best.

Santa Fee, 30 of 8ber of 1829.


And there, so far as we know it now, is the story of the Peak of Gold.



Pablo’s Deer Hunt.




Pablo’s Deer Hunt.

The yellow cottonwoods above the Rio Grande shivered in the fresh October morning as the sun peeped over the Eagle Feather mountain into the valley of his people. Above the flat, gray pueblo of Shee-eh-huíb-bak the bluish breath of five hundred slender chimneys melted skyward in tall spirals. Upon here and there a level housetop a blanket-swathed figure stared solemnly at the great, round, blinding house of T’hoor-íd-deh, the Sun Father.

Then a burro, heavy eared and slow of pace, rattled the gravel on the high bluff, gazed mournfully on the muddy eddies, and broke out in stentorian brays. Apparently Flojo[32] felt downcast. Across these treacherous quicksands the grass was still tall in the vega—why did not Pablo take him over too? And mustering up his ears, he trotted almost briskly down the slope to the water’s edge, where a swart young Apollo was just stepping into the swift current. Tall, sinewy, lithe as Keem-eé-deh, the mountain[180] lion that lent its tawny hide for the bow-case in his hand; his six feet of glowing bronze broken only by a modest clout of white at the supple waist, his dense black hair falling straight upon broad, bare shoulders, and his dark eyes watchful of the swirling waters, the young Pueblo strode sturdily in, paying no heed to the forlorn watcher upon the shore. In a moment he was in the channel swimming easily, one hand holding the bow-case above the red bundle upon his jet crown. Sush-sh! sush-sh! splosh! splash! splash! and Flojo heaved a great sigh as his master went spattering across the farther shoals, and at last climbed the sandy eastern bank.

Pablo unrolled the bundle from his head, wriggled, wet-skinned, into the red print shirt and snowy calzoncillos, wrapped their flapping folds about his calf with the buckskin leggings of rich maroon; belted these at either knee with a wee, gay sash from the looms of Moqui, fastened the moccasins with their silver buttons, and, with the tawny sheath of bow and arrows slung across his back, started at a swift walk. Once only he stopped, after a scramble up the gravel hills that scalloped the plateau, to look back a moment. The long ribbon[181] of the valley, now faded from its summer green, banded the bare brown world from north to south, threaded with the errant silver of the river, whose farthest shimmer flashed back from under the purple mass of the Mountain of the Thieves. Midway lay the pueblo, dozing amid its orchards below the black cone of the Kú-mai, and Pablo shook his head sadly, as he turned again and strode across the broad, high llano.

“It is not well in the village,” he muttered, “for it is full of them that have the evil road. The Cum-pah-huít-lah-wen have told me that the half of those of Shee-eh-huíb-bak are witches; but not all can be punished. But it is in ill times for us. Tio Lorenzo is twisted by the Bads so that he cannot walk; and many die; and did not Ámparo and José Diego marry the prettiest maidens of the Tee-wahn, only to find them witches? How shall one take a wife when so many are accursed? It is better to hunt and forget the women, as do the warriors; for we know not who are True Believers, and who have to do with the ghosts.”

Across the wide, sandy plateau the young Indian walked with undiminished pace; and as the house of the Sun Father stood in the middle of the sky, he entered a rocky cañon of the Eagle Feather mountain and began[182] to climb a spur of the great peak. The huddled dry leaves under a live oak caught his eye, and he turned them with deft foot. “Here Pee-íd-deh, the deer, slept last night,” he exclaimed, “for the fresh earth clings to their under side. And here is a hair, and here the footmark. If only Keem-eé-deh will help me.”

Kneeling by the tree, he broke off a twig and stuck it in the earth in front of the footprint, the fork pointing backward, that Pee-íd-deh might trip and fall as it ran. Then, drawing the Left-Hand Pouch from his side, he opened it and reverently took out a tiny parcel in buckskin, whose folds soon disclosed a little image of the Mountain Lion, chief of hunters, carved from adamantine quartz. Its eyes were of the sacred turquoise; and in the center of the belly was inlaid a turquoise heart over the hollow which held a pinch of the holy corn meal. On the right side was lashed a tiny arrow-head of moss agate—one of the precious “thunder knives” which the Horned Toad had made and had left for Pablo on the plains of the Hollow Peak of Winds. Putting the fetich to his mouth and inhaling from the stone lips, the hunter prayed aloud to Keem-eé-deh to give him true eyes and ears, and swift feet to overtake; and[183] rising, gave a low, far roar to terrify the heart and loosen the knees of his prey. Then, restoring the image to its pouch, with bow in hand and three arrows held ready, he pushed rapidly up hill, with keen eyes to the dim trail. Here a trampled grass blade, there a cut leaf or overturned pebble, and again a faint scratch on the rocks, led him on. At last, just where the flat top of the mountain had been wrought to a vast arrow-point by the Giant of the Caves, he saw a sleek doe standing under a shabby aspen. Down on his belly went Pablo, and with a new breath-taking from the stone lips of the prey-god, crawled snake-like forward. The deer moved not, and within fifty yards Pablo tugged an arrow to its agate head and drove it whirring through Pee-íd-deh’s heart. The doe turned her great, soft eyes toward him, sniffed the air and went bounding up the rocky ledges as if unhurt. Yet on the left side the grey feathers of the shaft touched the skin; and once on the right Pablo caught the sparkle of the gem tip.

There was a curious ashen tint in the bronze of his cheeks, as the hunter sprang to his feet and began running in pursuit. “Truly, that was to the life,” he whispered to himself. “And why does she not fall?[184] Will it be that they of the evil road have given me the eye?” And stopping short, he fished out a bit of corn husk and a pinch of the sweet pee-én-hleh and rolled a cigarette, lighting it from his flint and steel. The first puff he blew slowly to the east, and then one to the north, and one to the west, and one south, one overhead, and one downward, all about, that the evil spirits of the Six Ways might be blinded and not see his tracks. When the sacred weer was smoked, he rose and took up the trail again. It was easy to be followed, now, in the soft wood soil of the mountain top; and in the very edge of the farther grove of aspens he saw the doe again, grazing in unconcern. Worming from tree to tree, Pablo came close, and again sent a stone-tipped shaft. It struck by the very side of the first, and drank as deep; but the doe, pricking up her ears as if she had but heard the whizz of the arrow, trotted easily away and disappeared over the eastern brow of the mountain, amid the somber pines.

Pablo was very pale now, but not yet daunted. He smoked again to the Six Ways and prayed to all the Trues to help him, and with another arrow on the string, pushed forward.


Where the tall pines dwindled to scrubby cedars he came again to his quarry. But now the doe was more alert and would not let him within bowshot. Only she looked back at him with big, sad eyes and trotted just away from range. And soon Night rolled down the mountain from behind him and filled the whispering forest and drowned the great, still plains beyond, and he lost her altogether.

“This is no deer,” said Pablo, gloomily, as he stretched himself under a twisted savino for the night, “but one who has wahr, the Power. And her eyes, how they are as those of women sorrowing, large and wet! But I will see the end, even though I die.” And weary with the rugged forty miles of the day, he was soon asleep.

As the blue flower of dawn bloomed from the eastern gray, Pablo rose, and smoked again the sacred smoke and inhaled the strengthful breath of Keem-eé-deh, and started anew on his awesome hunt. Soon he found the trail marked with dark blotches, and all day long he followed it. Just as the sun-house stood on the dark western ridges he came to the foot of a high swell, on whose summit gleamed the gray of strange, giant walls.


“It will be the bones of Ta-bi-rá,” thought Pablo aloud, “for my father often told me of the great city of the Pi-ro that was beyond Cuaray in the First Times, before the lakes of the plain were accursed to be salt, before Those-of-the-Old came to dwell on the river that runs from the Dark Lake of Tears. But how shall a deer come thus into the plains, which are only of the prong-horns?[33] Yet I have walked in her road all day, and here are her marks, going”—and he stopped, for his sharp ear caught a faint, far-off chant. It seemed to come from the ruins that crowned the hill; and, dropping to the earth, Pablo began to crawl from cedar to cedar, from rock to rock toward it. At the very crest of the rounded ridge was a long line of jumbled stone—the mound of fallen fortress houses—and beyond, from the gathering dusk, loomed the ragged, lofty walls of a vast temple. Under the shadows of the mound he crawled far around to the rear end of the gray wall, and then along the wall itself toward the huge buttresses that proclaimed its front. The chant was close at hand now—the singer was evidently within the ruined temple. But the tongue Pablo did not know. It was not so musical as his soft Tee-wahn, nor[187] was it like the guttural of the Quéres—for that he knew also—and yet it was some voice of the Children of the Sun, and not the outlandish babble of the Americanoodeh, nor of the Spanish Wet-Head. It was not, then, some new tonto come to dig for the fabled gold of Ta-bi-rá—whose shafts yawned black in the gray bedrock and here and there through the very base of the great wall—but some Indian, and probably a medicine man, for the song was not as those of the careless. Pablo crouched in the darkness against the eastern end of the wall, listening, forgetful of the bewitched deer and of all else. Once in a wild swell of the song he thought he discerned a familiar word.


“Hoo-máh-no?” he kept repeating to himself. “Surely, the grandfather Desidério said me that word when he told of Them-of-the-Old, when They-with-Striped-Faces dwelt on yonder mesa. But they are all dead these many years.”

A swift, short flash split the darkness, and a growl of far thunder rolled across the ruins. Pablo glanced at the heaven. It was sown thick with the bright sky-seeds that flew up when the Coyote disobeyed the Trues and opened the sacred bag. From horizon to horizon there was not a[188] cloud; but again the flash came, and again the mighty drum-beat of Those Above. Pablo crept to a breach in the wall, and peeped into the gloomy interior of the temple. Even as he looked, the zig-zag arrow of the Trues leaped again from ghostly wall to wall; and its blinding flight showed him that at which he caught his breath. For squat by a corner in the wall was a white-headed Indian waving his bare arms; and facing him and Pablo a dusky maiden, with drooping head. But her face was burned into his heart.

“Surely, such are precious to the Trues! For she is as the Evening Star, good to see!” and Pablo craned forward eagerly. “The viejo will be a Shaman,” he added, mentally, “for so our own Fathers make the lightning come at the medicine dance.[34] But she! If there were such in Shee-eh-huíb-bak, then one might take a wife—for her face is no face of a witch!”

Just then there came another flash; and then a soft, girlish cry. The magic lightning of the conjurer had betrayed Pablo; and before he could spring away a heavy hand was upon his shoulder.


Hi-ma-tu-kú-eh?” demanded a deep voice in an unknown tongue.

Nah Tee-wah,” said the abashed hunter, trying in vain to shake off that strong grasp.

“Tee-wah?” said the stranger, speaking in Pablo’s own language. “I, too, have the tongue of Shee-eh-huíb-bak, for my wife was of there. But now she has gone to Shee-p’ah-poón, and there lives for me only my child, and she is hurt. But what hast thou here, peeping at our medicine?”

“It is by chance, Kah-báy-deh,” answered Pablo. “For yesterday when the sun was so, I wounded a deer, and unto here I have followed it in vain. For, perhaps, it has the Power, and I could not kill it. And when I heard thy song I came, not knowing what it was.”

“Since yesterday when the sun was so, thou hast followed the road of a wounded deer? And how wounded?”

“In truth, I gave it two arrows through the life, but it minded them not.”

“Come, then, and thou shalt see thy hunting,” and he drew Pablo into the temple. In a moment a dry arm of the entraña (which the Trues gave for the first candles) was burning; and by its smoky, flaring light Pablo could see his strange surroundings.[190] Beside him, that breakless hand still on his shoulder, stood an aged Indian. His hair was white as the snows of Shoo-p’ah-toó-eh, and his undimmed eyes shone from deep under snowy brows. He was naked but for the breech-clout, and upon his left arm was a great gauntlet from the forepaw of Ku-aí-deh, the bear, with all its claws. But at his wrinkled face Pablo stared in affright, for all across it ran long, savage knife-stripes, so old that they, too, were cut with wrinkles. “Rayado!” flashed through the young hunter’s mind, “even as were They-of-the-Old who dwelt in the mesa of the Hoo-máh-no! But they are all dead since long ago.”

But even his superstitious terror could not keep his eyes from that modest figure crouched in the angle of the strange wall. Truly, she was good to look at. In the soft olive of the cheeks a sweet, deep red was spreading. Under the downcast eyes the lashes drew dark lines across the translucent skin. A flood of hair poured into her lap, and from under its heavy waves peeped a slender hand. It was plain from her dress that she was none of the bárbaros, but a Pueblo. There was the same modest black manta of his people, the same fat, boot-like leg-wraps of snowy buckskin, the same[191] dainty brown moccasins. Even the heavy silver rosary was about her neck, and from her ears hung strands of precious turquoise beads from the white, blue-veined heart of Mount Chalchihuitl. But even the white silver, and the stone that stole its color from the sky were not precious beside that sweet young face from which Pablo could not turn away.

And as he gazed with a strange warm tickling at his heart strings, the long lashes lifted timidly toward the handsome stranger, and on a sudden the bright face turned ashen, and the girl sank back upon a heap of fallen stones. Pablo stared with wide eyes, and a dizziness ran from head to knee, for there were dark drops upon the rocks, and amid the flowing hair he saw the notched ends of two arrows—his very own, feathered from the gray quills of Koor-níd-deh, the crane. He reeled, to fall, but the strong hand held him up and the strong voice said:

“Take the heart of a man, for it is not yet too late. Thou hast done this, unknowing; for the witches filled thine eyes with smoke, to fool thee. But we will yet make medicine to heal my daughter—for I am the wizard T’bó-deh, the last of the Hoo-máh-no, and precious to Those Above, who will help us. But thou hast still arrows in the quiver—go,[192] then, till thou come to the first cliff on the west, and shoot three arrows strongly into the sky. And bring to me that which falls—for it needs that thou who hast shed her blood shouldst bring it again. Nay, tremble not, for the Trues will help thee; and with this amulet of the striped stone the witches cannot come nigh. Take the heart of a man, and go!”

Pablo looked at the pitiful little heap in the corner, and turning, manfully strode out through the broad portal and went stumbling westward in the darkness, over mounds and hollows and fallen walls. Down the long, steep ridge, across the undulant plain, knee-deep in dry and whispering grass, and up the western slope of the valley he trudged; and at last in the darkness ran up against a smooth, straight face of rock. “It is the cliff,” he shivered—for he feared greatly. But plucking up his soul, he backed away a few paces from the rock and notched a shaft and drew it to the head and sent it hurtling to the sky, and another and another. For a long time he waited, and then there was a soft whish! and an arrow stood in the earth at his feet. He groped and found it and drew back his hand quickly, for shaft and feathers were wet—with that soft, warm, ticklish wetness that[193] never came from water yet. Another arrow fell and it was so, and so also was the third.

Shaken as are the leaves of the shivering tree,[35] Pablo put to his lips the amulet of the wizard and drew a long breath from it. Then, gingerly plucking the standing arrows one by one, he started running from the haunted spot, not resting in his stumbling flight until he found himself at the foot of the hill of Ta-bi-rá. In a few moments he was groping along the great wall, and at last stood again within the roofless temple.

Now there was a tiny fire there, and the old man was squatted by it chanting and snapping two long feathers together in rhythm with his wild refrain. And in the corner was the same dark, limp heap, which seemed to drift near or farther away on the waves of the firelight.

“It is well!” said the old man, rising; “for already I have blown away the evil ones, that we be alone. And I see that thou hast brought blood from above to pay for that which is lost.”

Taking from Pablo’s hand the arrows, still red-wet, he broke one over the fire and one he thrust upright in the hard earth at the maiden’s feet. Then he rubbed his[194] hands with ashes and laid them upon her breast, chanting:

“Blood, water of life,
Come back in the brooks of the heart!
Blood, water of life,
Give it to drink again—
For the red field is dry
And nothing grows.”

As he rubbed and sang the maiden stirred and moved and sat up. And taking the third arrow he put the notch to his lips and the barb to her side and drew with a strong breath, and the buried shaft grew long and longer from her side, until it fell upon the ground. So he drew the second shaft, and it, too, came away and left her.[36] Then he laid the arrow of power against her side and the wounds were no more there; and she rose and took the hand of Pablo to her little mouth and breathed on it, and looked up at him with timid eyes, but Pablo sank down and knew nothing, for his strength was done.

When he woke, the Sun-Father was high over the gray ruins. Pablo found himself upon a bed of dry grass, in the shadow of the wall; and near him sat the old man who was last of the Hoo-máh-no, watching him with clear eyes. A low, sweet voice was[195] crooning a sleep-song in his own tongue; and from behind a jutting wall peeped forth a little moccasined foot.

“Sleep! Sleep! It is good!
Sleep the Moon-Mother gave—
She that bought us the night,
Paying her sight to buy!
Sleep! For so She is glad!”

Pablo sat up, bending forward if he might see the singer; but there was only a gleam of soft eyes around the wall, and then they were gone. The old man eyed him kindly. He was dressed now like Pablo, with the garments of the Pueblos; and the stern, quiet face, with its strange scar-stripes, seemed after all very good.

“Thou hast slept well, son,” he said at last, “for we have been here many hours. But it is hard to fight them of the evil road, and for that thou wast tired. But rise now, eat and be strong, for other days come.”

As he spoke the maiden came bringing a steaming earthen bowl and set it down timidly before the stranger, at whom she dared not look, and disappeared again in her nook. The hot broth revived the young hunter, and a new heart came in him and he was strong. When he had eaten, the old man said:


“Now thou art a man again. Tell me how goes with the village of the Tee-wahn? For in fifty winters I have not seen Shee-eh-huíb-bak—since my wife had come from there to P’ah-que-toó-ai, where I loved her. Is it well with the town? Do they keep the ways of the Old?”

“There are many True Believers,” answered Pablo slowly, “but many have forgotten the ways of the Old and taken the evil road, so that it is hard to know who are good, there are so many witches. For that, the young men that believe in the Olds are afraid to make nests, lest they find feathers of the accursed birds therein—for many that look to be snowbirds are inwardly owls and woodpeckers.”

“And thou hast no nest?” asked the old man with a keen glance.

In-dáh-ah!” replied Pablo emphatically—and from the corner he caught a bright gleam of eyes.

“It is well! For if the nest be bad, how shall the young birds grow up clean? And thy parents?”

“My father was War Captain of the Tee-wahn,” said Pablo proudly, “and he taught me the ways of men, and the sacred stories of the Old. But one gave him the evil eye, and he was slain by the Cumanche in war.[197] My mother was a True Believer, and soon she went after him, to make his house good in Shee-p’ah-poón. So there is left only my grandfather, who is cacique, and my uncle. And with my uncle I live, for we are both of the Eagle clan.”

“It is well! But now it is to stay here for a time; for in this place is mighty power of the Olds. But if thou wilt hunt for us, that Deer-Maiden may eat well while I fast and talk with Those Above, then we will go with thee to Shee-eh-huíb-bak; for my people are no more and my child is lonely to be with the people of her mother. But show me the wahr with which thou huntest, for perhaps the witches have blinded it.”

Pablo fished out the little stone image, which he had never shown to man before, and T’bó-deh inhaled from its lips.

“It is so!” he said angrily; and prying out the turquoise heart he showed the hunter that from beneath it the sacred meal was gone, and in its place a tiny black feather. “It is no wonder that thy hunting was ill,” he cried, “for the witches have changed the heart of Keem-eé-deh! But I will give thee a strong wahr that none can kill,” and breaking the polluted image with a rock, he covered the fragments with a cloth and chanted a sacred song. In a moment[198] the cloth moved, and the wizard drew from under it a bright new Keem-eé-deh, carved from the sunlight-stone, the yellow topaz, and bound to its side was an arrow-head of transparent emerald. Its heart was turquoise and its eyes red garnets.

“Take it, son, and fear not,” said the aged conjurer, “for it is stronger than the ghosts. But now go and hunt, for there is no more meat.”

When Pablo toiled up the hill of ruins at sundown a noble antelope was balanced upon his shoulders and a fat wild turkey dangled from his belt. He threw them down proudly, and was paid with a shy glance from the eyes that now lived in his heart, and the old man said:

“The new wahr is good! And thou art a hunter like Keem-eé-deh himself. Verily there will be no lack of meat in thy house.” But at this the maiden ran away with a red face, and Pablo’s heart was glad.

For three days they were there while the old man made medicine; and every day Pablo brought back much game. And every day his eyes grew deeper and those of the maiden drooped lower. On the fourth day they started, the three, to the northeast; and with three journeys they came to Shee-eh-huíb-bak. There Pablo brought the[199] strangers to his grandfather, the cacique; and when old Desidério knew that this was the great wizard, the last of the Hoo-máh-no, he was very glad, and gave him of the common lands, that his home should be always there.

When the people of Shee-eh-huíb-bak were making clean for the Noche Buena, Pablo came to the cacique, and said: “Tata, there is another year, and I am tired to be alone.”

“But canst thou keep a wife?”

“Thou knowest, tata, that none kill more game. As for my fields, they are good, and the careless-weed never grows there.”

“It is truth, my son. And who is good in thine eyes?”

“There is only one, tatita, and that is Deer-Maiden, the child of the Hoo-máh-no. She is very good.”

“I like her,” answered the withered cacique, slowly, “for her father has given her a good heart, and they are both precious to Those Above. It is well.”

In four days the cacique and the Hoo-máh-no brought Pablo and the Deer-Maiden to the cacique’s house and gave them to eat two ears of raw corn—to him a blue ear, but to her a white one, for a woman’s heart is always whiter. Pablo looked at her as[200] he ate, but she could not look. And when both had proved themselves by eating the last grain, the elders took them out to the sacred running-place and put them side by side, and marked the course, and gave them the road. Then Pablo went running like a strong antelope, but the girl like a scared fawn; and up the sacred hill they flew, and turned at the Stone of the Bell, and came flying back. But now Pablo was slower, for it is not well to surpass one’s bride in the marrying race, as if one would rob her of respect; and if they come in equal, there is no marriage. So she was first; and all the people blessed them, and they were one. No witch could ever harm their house, for He-that-Was-Striped gave them strong wahr, and they were happy.


Candelária’s Curse.



Candelária’s Curse.

What a snip-click! snip-click! snip-click! of the big steel shears, till the corral rang like an exaggerated telegraph office! Hoarse voices kept calling out “Numer’ uno!” “dieziseis!” “veintetres!” and tall, handsome Lorenzo, standing in a corner with the tally card in his hand, penciled a mark opposite No. 1, No. 16, No. 23, and so on as each man called out the number by which he was known. The calls came fast, and for each one a shabby gray shadow, looking like the ghost of a boy with a home hair-cut, “only more so,” went scurrying into the ranks of his yet unshorn fellows. The big corral was full as it could hold. Fifteen hundred sheep were there, so tightly packed that a mouse tossed upon their backs could hardly have found its way to the ground between them. Only in the triangular corners of the fence (which was built of logs laid up in zigzags) was there a trifle of room; and it was from these that all the noise came. In each was a fast-swelling[204] heap of dirty, gray wool, and just in front of it the shearer. Each, as he turned a victim loose, yelled out his number, to be tallied one, and running upon the huddled mass of sheep, caught one by the fleece with each hand, dragged it to his corner, flopped it upon its side, knotted its four sharp feet together with a dextrous movement, and, snatching the shears from his belt, fell instantly to work. It was a scene to bewilder an Eastern sheep-grower. There were no shearing tables. Each man bent over, as though there were a hinge in his waist, until his hands were within six inches of the ground, and thus worked all day long. Holding and turning the sheep with the left hand, with the right he drove the sharp blades snipping through the wool with startling rapidity—till, almost before one knew it, the whole fleece rolled off to one side, very much as if it had been an unbroken pelt. As quick a motion freed the feet again and the shorn creature scrambled up and ran to hide his confusion, while the shearer was already playing barber to the “next gentleman.”

So it was no sleepy work, tallying for the thirty-seven swart fellows who were doing Don Roman’s fall shearing, and any one less practiced than Lorenzo might have lost[205] count now and then. Every one seemed to be working his best, but the two cries that came oftenest of any were “trece” and “diezisiete.” Number thirteen was a short, thickset Mexican from Los Lunas, known (because of his unusually dark complexion) as Black Juan, and number seventeen was that two-fisted Pedro of Cubero. They had been for several years the two best shearers in Valencia county, and therefore, very naturally, rivals—though in some way they had never come together before. But now finding themselves, on the eve of the fall clip of 50,000 sheep, face to face each with a man he had never seen, but had disliked for ten years, neither could refrain from a slight curl of the lip. That fellow such a guapo? Huh! He might make a noise among the slowpokes down in the valley, but beside a real shearer there wouldn’t be enough of him to make a shadow! It was not long before their thoughts came to speech, and soon they had made a wager for a sheep-shearing race on the morrow. The ponies upon which they had come, their tattered blankets and a large proportion of their prospective wages were staked on which should shear the more fleeces between sunrise and sunset.


For eleven hours, now, the race had been in progress. Lorenzo had given the word when the first rim of sun peered above the yellow mesas. At noon the other shearers had taken the usual half hour to swallow the rude meal of tortillas and roasted sheep-ribs, but Juan and Pedro had worked doggedly on. The crunch of their shears seemed never to stop, and against the numbers thirteen and seventeen the little slanting marks (each fourth one crossed) had crept clear across the tally card and Lorenzo had to start a new line for each of them.

Five o’clock—five-thirty—six—and suddenly the timekeeper shouted “Ya ’stá!” The noise redoubled for a moment as each man hurried to finish his present sheep, and then stopped. Bent backs straightened slowly amid a general sigh of relief. A hard day, truly. Not a man in the corral, even down to young Blea, who had not sheared his sixty or seventy sheep. But the rivals? All crowded around Lorenzo as he began to count up.

“M—m—m—twenty-four, twenty-five—twenty-five tallies and three. Pedro has one hundred and twenty-eight sheep!” And Juan? “M—m—m—twenty-seven tallies and one—one hundred and thirty-six![207] Bravo! Que guapo!” And the evening air rang with shouts.

“Thou couldst not have done it fairly!” growled Pedro, with rage in every line of his dusty face.

“How, fairly, sleepyhead? Have I not worked openly before all?”

But Pedro went over the fence sullenly and walked away, muttering to himself. Only when a couple of other shearers joined him at his camp-fire did he give further vent to his feelings.

“Thrice fool that I was,” he snarled, “to make a bet against that! For clearly to-day my shears were bewitched and would not cut well. And you know well the why—it is that old bruja of a Candelária who has given them the evil eye! For yesterday, as she passed, my dog ran at her, whereat I laughed, and in the act she turned and cursed me.”

“Thou didst ill,” said one of his companions. “All know that she is a witch, and works all manner of evil to them that offend her. Why, there was Marcelino, who refused to give her meat when he killed a sheep, and straightway she made a mouse to steal into his stomach, so that it was near to kill him.”


“But I am not Marcelino, then, to go pay a horse to another witch to cure me. No, I will have-me-them with her. She shall pay me for this loss and for the laughter they have put upon me.”

“What is that, Pedro?” said young Alonzo, coming up just then and squatting by the fire. “You wouldn’t hurt the poor old woman?”

“Who gave you a candle in this funeral?” snapped the defeated shearer. “That is what I will do. There are too many of these brujas putting spells on innocent folks, and there’s only one way to cure them—the way they did in San Mateo last year. We’ll stone her for a witch. And much care thou, that thou get not hurt also!”

The two others made no serious opposition to Pedro’s plan. They had nothing against the old woman themselves, but every one knew that such witches were a great pest to the community—perhaps it would be a public service to put her out of the way. Besides, they were rather used to being led around by the nose by Pedro, who, in addition to his prowess as a shearer, was so powerful and reckless that he had become the acknowledged leader of a certain class.


Pues, understood! We will go over presently and give the old hag a shower of St. Peter’s tears! And thou”—turning to Alonzo, who was rising to go—“the less tongue, the less sore bones, eh?”

Candelária lived across the arroyo in a miserable little jacal of piñon[37] trunks chinked with mud, right up against the side of the great lava flow. She was a sorry-looking hag; and, on seeing her, the first thought of much better educated people than Pedro would very likely have been: “What an old witch!” She was tall and gaunt and incredibly wrinkled, but with such keen black eyes that almost every one shrank at her gaze.

Alonzo himself was certainly not fond of her, and probably it would not be too much to say that he was secretly a bit afraid of this grim, dark figure in greasy tatters, despite his year of school in the little mission at San Rafael. But at thought of her being stoned to death he felt a sudden revulsion.

“But what to do?” he muttered to himself as he slouched away from the camp-fire. “Pedro is bad to meddle with, and no one here will help me; even Don Roman is afraid of the witches, and hates them. Ea! I will[210] go warn her, so she can hide till the shearers have gone.”

It was already very dark as he stumbled over the rocky ground and turned west along the bank of the arroyo. This was a deep ravine plowed through the meadow by the intermittent brook from the snows of the Zuñi mountains. In summer there was no stream, but here and there were pools enough for the thirsty sheep and cattle. Now there had been rains, and a narrow rill connected the brimming pools. He found the white, peeled log which served as a footbridge from bank to bank, and started to walk cautiously across it. Midway he stopped suddenly with an audible chuckle, turned, came back and shambled toward the corrals. Something seemed to amuse him mightily, for at every few steps he paused to laugh softly. Camp-fires burned all about the corral, and even far up the rocky mesa, where the sheep were being herded for the night; but Alonzo had eyes for but one. Near an angle of the enclosure stood a stout post, and not far from its foot was a bed of embers surrounded with sooty kettles and frying pans. It was Telango’s slaughter house and kitchen, where that greasy gentleman turned twenty[211] sheep a day into soups and joints for the shearers.

Telango was at the moment absent, and when he returned to his post a kettle of mutton tallow that had been trying out over the embers was missing. That should have made a pretty row, for the cook was a touchy autocrat; but, supper being over, Telango was so sleepy that he would scarce have noticed it had his whole kitchen been carried off.

“Well, are we ready?” asked Pedro in a low tone of his allies a little after 8 o’clock. Every one else was asleep, apparently. The camp-fires had all died down and no one was moving. Pedro rose quietly and stole off into the darkness, followed by Pepe and ’Lipe. “Close behind me,” he whispered, “and with care, for if she hears us she can hide in the malpaís, where no one could find her.”

“But perhaps she would not run,” broke out ’Lipe uneasily, as they neared the arroyo. “Since she is a witch she might rather throw a spell on us.”

“Quiet you the mouth, stupid! We have only to take care that she does not hear us.”

“But I have heard that they need not the ears, for the evil spirits tell them.”


“Let the evil one tell her, if he will!” growled Pedro. “I would like to see him keep this from her,” and he picked up a jagged lava fragment over which he had stumbled. “Be not sheep! Close behind me, now.”

Pedro stepped out upon the log whose white length stretching into the gloom seemed to rest upon nothing. His teguas made no noise upon the wood, and he was midway across when suddenly there came a stifled oath. His feet flew right and left and he dropped astride the log with a violence that shook the breath out of him, and in the same instant began to slip to one side. In vain he clutched at the log. It gave no hold, and lurching over he dropped twenty feet. There was a tremendous splash; and then another and another. Pepe and ’Lipe had followed their leader downward without even stopping to sit down first.

The shores here were steep and rocky, cut deep in a lava flow millenniums older than that whose jet black miles lay along the pretty meadow. In the middle was a long, deep pool wherein the few boys of Alamitos were wont to swim in summer. Just now it was not particularly attractive. During the shearing several thousand sheep[213] were watered daily at the head of this pool and at the shallower one above, and at such times no one thought of bathing in the odorous mess.

Any one listening might have heard for some seconds after the splashes nothing but a faint gurgle, as of bubbles breaking. Then there were curious snorts and plashings, as if that invisible black abyss had suddenly become the home of a hippopotamus family, and then a laborious thrashing about. Presently there was a rattle of pebbles, mingled with coughs and angry mutterings, as if some one were trying to scale the banks.

“Why didn’t you come this side, stupids?” Pedro whispered across when he had done choking and sputtering. “The bruja lives over here—not yonder. Vamos!

“But man! We are not crazy! Seest thou not that she has the power and so easily has bewitched us? If we go further we shall find worse.”

“Four times fools! It was only that I slipped, and you, being scared, fell also. Come on!”

“Thanks,” answered Pepe and ’Lipe in a breath. “But even fools know better than to defy the evil one.”


“Come over or you answer to me!” snorted Pedro, forgetting his caution. “Cowards that you are, I’ll show you,” and he started back across the log to get in arguing reach of the deserters.

But four steps from the bank his feet again suddenly leaped out from under him and the log smote him in the back with a loud thump, and a wild splash flung a dirty rain in the faces of his terrified companions.

“Uh, uh!” he gasped, coming to the surface at last. “Kff! Tchoo!” for he had swallowed a most unsavory pint.

“Ah, ha-ha!” rang a weird, shrill laugh from the southern bank. Pepe and ’Lipe crossed themselves and took to their heels, without thought of waiting for their leader. It struck a chill through Pedro, too, as he floundered to the shore and clambered up the jagged rocks frantically, cutting his hands and knees. But he hardly noticed that—all he could think of was the mocking laugh. Candelária’s laugh! After all, she was too strong! There was no use fighting against these witches—just see how easily she had undone his strength and wit! No more witch hunts for him—and he scrambled up the bank in utter rout. Just then a dark form reached out overhead. Pedro[215] did not see it; but in an instant came a warm, suffocating avalanche which choked his cry of terror and half blinded him.

“Murder!” he managed to sputter at last. “So-cor-r-r-ro!” and he fled to the camp like one chased by wolves.

“So, thief! Shameless! It was thou that stole my tallow, then!” roared Telango, who had discovered his loss just now. “To anoint that dirty head, eh? Then take this!” and with a stout cudgel he belabored the luckless Pedro till the latter broke away and fled into further darkness. No wonder Telango had found him out—his great shock of hair and beard were matted in a gray, greasy mask, like the runnings of a cheap candle.

Pedro did not finish the shearing season. Next morning he was missing from Alamitos, and a few days later news came that he was in Cubero. His accomplices had no explanations to offer for his disappearance or for their wet clothing, and as for Alonzo, he “told nothing to nobody.” Only at times he was observed to drop his shears and double up as though he had a pain in his stomach, while his face would become suspiciously red. Furthermore, he came carelessly up to Telango at noon with:


“Oh, here’s your lard bucket—I picked it up by the arroyo. And say—if you want to make candles, you’d better go scrape the foot-log. Somebody has greased the whole middle of it!”

“What thing?” grumbled Telango. “Of the witches, no doubt. And quizas the same who anointed Pedro.”

Quizas,” answered Alonzo solemnly, and he walked off without cracking a smile.


The Habit of the Fraile.



The Habit of the Fraile.


The end drew near of the longest siege that was ever in any of the three Americas. More than a year ago the red field of Ayacucho had crowned the triumph of the rebel colonies. The mother-nation that found the New World, and tamed it and gave it to her sons, no longer had sons there, for the very last had disowned her. Mexico, the first great Spanish kingdom in America, had turned republic; and so had the neighbor provinces. South America had followed suit; for the cry of “Independence,” premature as it was among these peoples, then and still so unripe for self-government, carried contagion, and Peru itself, the gem of the conquest, the land of riches and romance, had thrown off the merciful “yoke” of home to stagger for generations under the ten-fold worse yoke of her own corrupt sons. Of all the Americas that had been Spain’s by discovery, by conquest and by settlement, there now remained to her on the continent only the[220] space boxed by the four walls of Callao[38]—a space a mile and a half square. There the red-yellow-and-red flag still flaunted defiance to the victorious insurgents; for there Rodil,[39] “the second Leonidas,” was making the last heroic stand for Spain.

It was hopeless odds—this fiery loyalist against all rebel South America. There was no possibility of reinforcements from anywhere; no chance of retreat. Cooped up in what was then the largest fort in the New World, he saw the land fenced with the flushed armies of Bolívar,[40] the bay blocked by the allied fleets. For twenty-one months he had repulsed their almost daily attacks and outwitted their ceaseless stratagems; and for twenty-one months, too, had baffled the still more dangerous foes within his walls. Of the two thousand eight hundred men at his hand when the siege began, March 1, 1824, over seven hundred had been killed and more than twice as many had died of the pestilence. Of the eight thousand citizens first within the fort—for all Callao was included by those huge ramparts—two thousand four hundred had been sent out to avoid famine, and over five[221] thousand had fallen by the plague. The survivors had no heart left. Almost daily some new plot to betray the fort was discovered, and almost daily the “iron general” gave a row of conspirators to the musketeers. To war, disease and treachery, famine added its terrors. Horse meat and rats were already delicacies; and only yesterday, a noble invalid had given a plate heaped up with gold for three lemons.

It was New Year’s eve. That, down here, twelve degrees below the equator, meant high summer. All day long the tropic heat had beaten mercilessly upon Callao, and now the wan defenders lay sprawled along the ramparts beside their guns, drinking the grateful dusk. Here and there sounded the uneven tramp of the patrol down the cobble-paved streets, and their sharp challenge, “Alto! Quien vive?” to every one they met. It rang out now, and the soldiers crossed their muskets before a tall, gray-robed figure.

“It is I, my children,” was the quiet answer. “Delay me not, for I go to the sick.”

“Pass, father,” said the sargento, and all lifted their caps, stepping from the narrow sidewalk to make room for the priest.


“But what is this?” cried the officer, suddenly thrusting out his long arm and clutching something which was about to fly right between them. It was a thin, pale girl of ten, hooded in the black manta of her people.

Que es esto?” repeated the sargento more gently. “Dost thou not know the orders that none shall move upon the street after dark, since so many drop letters over the walls to the rebels? Get thee in, for even children are not exempt,” and he pushed her back into the doorway from which she had just burst.

But the child made no motion to obey. “The padre!” she panted. “The padre! For my brother is very sick.”

Si, pues? Well, go thou and catch the fraile, then. But much eye that thou come not near the walls.” And the kindly old Spaniard led his men off down the street.

By this time the priest had turned the corner; and when the child came flying to that street, lo! he was far ahead. But she kept running breathlessly and at last, where the dark bulk of the castle of San Felipe overhung them, she plucked the gray robe from behind. Her bare feet had drawn no noise from the stones, and the priest started[223] violently, choking back what sounded like the beginning of a cry.

He wheeled sharply about with a stern “What is this?”—but his voice was pinched.

“My brother—very sick—padre! Please, your grace, come!” she panted.

“To the devils with your brother!” he growled, flinging her off. “Váyate!” and he was gone before the dumbfounded child could speak again. She stood a moment looking stupidly after him, and then, sobbing, limped wearily homeward.


The house, like most of Callao in those ill days, was little better than a wreck after twenty-one months of the rebel cannonading. The dark stairway teetered and groaned dismally as she scrambled up, and overhead the Southern Cross blinked hazily at her through a tattered frame—the insurgent shells had left little of the flimsy roofs of the city where it never rains. Long, ragged strips of bamboo lathing dangled here and there, and at her childish tread dribbles of the gravel covering came pattering about her like uncanny footfalls. She was trembling all over when she pushed open a broken door and entered the room,[224] the rude Moorish balcony of which overhung the street. There was a hole in the roof here, too, and the doors of the balcony had been splintered by a cannon ball. A twisted rag flared smokily in an iron plate of grease on a broken chair, and where the vagrant shadows began to stand their ground against its feeble rays, some one was bending over a tattered mattress upon the floor.

No hay cuidado,” said a strange voice as she stopped short, in alarm. “The sargento bade me bring a cup of caldo for thy brother, seeing thee so much a woman. For now that there is nothing to eat, he said, perhaps that would be the best medicine.”

“God pay you!” cried the child nervously. “And my brother?”

“He drank the broth as one greedy, and in a moment fell asleep. How many days makes it that he is sick?”

“Two, señor. Since four days there was nothing to eat but two crusts of bread, and those he made me eat.”

Pobrecito! He has no more than hunger. To-morrow I will bring another caldo—for even broth of horse gives strength—that ye may not starve. But have ye no fathers?”


“Papa fell in San Felipe; and our mother was sent from the city with many. But us she hid in the house, saying that the enemy had no mercy even to the weak. And so it was; for the women that tried to pass to Lima the insurjentes fired upon. And she never came back.”

“Dogs of rebels! But now I go, little one. Have heart, for I will look to you. Hásta luego.

When he was gone the child crouched down by her brother and slipped her trembling hand into his. The shadows were so crawly! They seemed to draw back and then come stealing at her. And it was so still—only the hail of the sentries, breaking across such a silence as if they stood guard over a city of the dead.

Que hay, little sister?” said the boy, starting up wide awake with the suddenness of those that are fevered. “The father? Couldst not find one? But it is all the same, for God sent us a friend with food.”

“And he comes to-morrow also,” she added eagerly. Then she told how she had followed the priest, but he had shaken her off with rough words.


Ea? How is that? For the fathers do not so. And how is it thou followedst him even to the castillo?”

Pues, for that he went very fast and I could not catch him. He was at the corner even when the sargento let me pass; but when I came running there he was almost at the next cuadra, as if he too had run.”

Vicente suddenly sat up on the squalid mattress. The smoky wick flung deep shadows in his hollow cheeks, and he looked so pale and wild that Lina almost cried out at him.

“I tell thee, ’manita,” he whispered earnestly, “I believe not in that priest! Running so, and so rough to thee! And thou sayest that at touch of thy hand to his robe he started and was to call out? There is a danger, I tell thee!” he repeated vehemently, striking his thin fist upon the floor till the impish shadows danced again. “All is crooked now, when they say the very captains wait to sell our general. And if the priests be traitors too——”

“But what to do?” asked the girl, in awe of this fierce young brother.

“Ay! What to do? For we know nothing. But something there is, my heart tells me. Oyez! Wouldst thou know the padre again, seeing him?”


Como no? For it was near the farol, and I saw under the hood his eyes, how shining they were.”

“And his voice, too—no? Come, then, and we will see who is this father that curses his children!” And the boy rose eagerly, though his legs shook under him.

“But how canst thou go out, hermano, being so sick?”

No hay cuidado. For now it is for our king against the rebels, and strength I shall have for that. The caldo also gives me new life. Vamos!


Weak as he was, he drew her down the tottering stairs and into the dark street; and there they stood a moment, not knowing whither to turn. “Claro!” exclaimed Vicente, “we will follow as he went—perchance we may meet him returning.”

But at the very corner some one turning in hastily from the next street stumbled fairly over them; and Vicente and Lina and the stranger went down in a heap.

“Little animals!” snarled an angry voice. “Are you blind? For a so-little I would break your bones. Eh? He is who?” he hissed, catching them by the arms—for he had heard Lina’s excited whisper, “Es él.”


“She says you are the priest that would not go to her sick brother,” answered Vicente in a steady voice, “and I believe it, for you are rough to the weak. But we will find a padre who is not so.”

Márchanse, brats!” said the stranger in a tone of relief. “But,” he added, turning and shaking his finger at them, “no more running after me, or I throw you over the wall.”

“Have no care, señor padre,” said Vicente, with sarcastic politeness; and taking Lina by the hand he hurried around the corner. In a moment he turned his head and caught a glimpse of some dark object peering past the wall. “Es!” he whispered, squeezing the slender fingers, and a few rods farther on drew Lina into a recess of the wall. He was trembling all over.

Es!” he repeated. “Canst thou not see that he is no fraile, though he wears the habit? It is the voice of a soldier and not of the church. And here! This fell to my very hand when we all went to the ground together”—and he held up a crumpled paper. “But first it is to see whither goes this father of rebels. Come so far as the house and there wait me, for it is better that I go alone.”


“But, Vicente—I—I’m afraid of the duéndes!”

Epa! Fear not, sisterling, for the goblins touch not those that are true. Remember, it is for Spain!” And pushing her gently inside their own doorway, and stooping to kiss her, he hurried down the street.

Lina dared not climb the noisy stairs to the deserted rooms. She crouched in the hall, shivering, drawing the manta about her shoulders as if with cold, but shutting her teeth bravely. The shuffle of Vicente’s broken shoes had already died away; and it seemed as if the whole world had slipped past with him. Ages and ages she waited, till she was ready to scream with fear; and then she sprang nervously to the door at a sound in the street. It was only a patrol shambling over the crazy cobblestones, but as it drew nigh she was seized with a sudden access of fear. Between them stumbled Vicente, a heavy hand on either shoulder.

“Let him go!” she cried, rushing upon the soldiers as if to strike them down. “He is my little brother, and has done nothing. Only we found the——”

Cállete, Lina!” spoke up Vicente sharply. “If only the señor official will be[230] so good as to take her with me to the general—for she is quite alone, señor.”

“It is well—come on, little Amazon!” said the officer, from whom war and starvation had not dried up all Andalusian humor. “Snails! But I thought she was to capture us! March!”


General Rodil pushed back his chair from the table, and his grave face took on a puzzled look as the officer and his odd prisoners were ushered into the room. “The general who never sleeps,” they called him—for at whatever hour of day or night, he was always appearing suddenly here, there, everywhere. Well masked was the faint heart into whose depths those gray eyes did not bore; tiny indeed the slackness that escaped them. Well might the ignorant invest him with a superstitious terror—this man who was really the garrison of Callao.

Que cosa?” he demanded in a low, clear voice.

Pues, señor generál,” said the officer, still standing at “salute.” “This boy we found in the Street of the Pelicans, as if waiting for some one. And when we searched him this was in his shirt.”


Rodil uncrumpled the paper and bent to read it by the flickering candle. Suddenly his haggard face turned even paler, and then a dark flush rose as he sprang to his feet and took two steps forward. As suddenly he stopped, and threw at the children a glance that seemed fairly to burn them.

“Are there none but traitors?” he cried, with a choke. “Even to the babies! And now, my Ponce de Leon!” for the smuggled note read:

Todo listo. No mas se espera al comandante rúbio. Arregla todo de San Rafael.

[All ready. Only waiting the blonde commander. Fix everything in the castle of San Rafael.]

The “blonde commander” could be none other than Rodil’s dear friend and trusted officer, in charge of one of the twin castles—a man whom he had “made” in rank and fortune. The general’s face seemed of stone as he demanded:

“Boy! From where is this letter?”

Vueséncia, I picked it up from a fraile who fell over us in the street; and because he had been rough to my little sister, I followed to see where he would go.”

“Carefully! For when it is between the king’s honor and traitors, even youth counts[232] not! What should a fraile be doing with letters of the insurgents?”

“For that, I think he was no fraile,” answered Vicente sturdily, holding his head erect, though his knees wavered; and he told all the happenings of the evening, while Lina nodded an earnest corroboration. Before he was done, something of the hardness had faded from Rodil’s face.

“Your cuenta runs well,” he said at last. “Give me proof and I will fill your hat with gold. But if not—if you are old enough to be a traitor, you are old enough to die one!”

Vicente’s ragged shoulders squared still straighter. “When I ask you for money, señor generál!” he replied proudly. “We are of Spain, and for that I do it. He that made as priest went not to the convento, but into the house 74, Street of the Viceroy.”

Hola! Señor teniente, take twenty men in the instant and round-up that house, bringing hither all that are in it; and that everything be searched. And send the teniente Ochoa with another file to bring hither prisoner the Comandante Ponce de Leon. Corriendo!

For twenty minutes “the sleepless general” walked the room—sometimes apparently unconscious of the children, and suddenly flinging at them some question,[233] sharp and searching as a javelin. Then there were reluctant feet upon the stairs.

“It has to report, your Excellency,” said Lieutenant Ochoa, “that the Señor Comandante Ponce de Leon is not to be found. Since the first dusk no one has seen him.”

Rodil struck his forehead; but before he seemed able to command his voice, there was another commotion outside, and a group of officers bustled into the room.

“What is this, mi generál?” cried one of them angrily. “Here we are dragged from the house like criminals! What means this rat-catcher of a lieutenant?”

“Little by little, gentlemen mine!” answered Rodil in a suspiciously quiet tone. “You will excuse the molestation for my sake, since I ordered it. And now, I beg you, have the goodness to tell me of a fraile who entered your house half an hour ago.”

Fraile, señor generál? No priest has entered the house,” answered the first speaker, sharply. He was a tall, handsome officer, upon whom even the shabbiness of a uniform that had seen twenty-one months’ fighting sat becomingly. “I think your Excellency might have asked the question with less violence to us.”

“Ill it fits me to show discourtesy to such loyal gentlemen,” Rodil replied, with[234] an added dryness. “And I am glad to learn that no priest has been among you—for I fancied, my Señor Captain Baca, that he might be converting you to the brotherhood. You would half pass for a fraile yourself, now that I see”—and in spite of himself the general’s voice rose ever so little—“the moustache which was the pride of the company is shorn off since midday.”

Pues—your Excellency,” stammered the tall captain. “For the heat—and—and—since time hangs heavily on our hands, I shaved for a joke.”

“Well edged is thy humor, captain mine!” The ironic respect had given place to the contemptuous tu. “Ójala we had earlier guessed thy wit, to ease the weariness of the siege. Tell me, boy—is this thy fraile?” The question came like a bullet.

“I know not, Excellency,” said Vicente, hesitatingly. “Of that size he was, but his face I saw not well.”

“But it is his voice!” cried Lina impetuously. “And had he the hood, I would know if it is his face—for the capucho covered him well.”

“Little animals!” growled the captain, starting as if to spring at them. But then, commanding himself, he said sullenly: “Until[235] what will your Excellency carry this farce? Am I to be burlado by lying brats of the street? With these gentlemen I have passed the time since I came off duty.”

“It is true, señor generál,” declared the others, who had nervously watched their spokesman, the ranking officer among them. “We have all been together since——”

Alto!” interrupted Rodil sternly. “You must bring me better witnesses than your tongues. For by my faith, I would see this joke of the moustache played through. Sargento, search this captain of the wits.”

“For pity, mi generál! Shame me not thus!” And the officer fell on his knees.

For answer, Rodil only stretched his lean finger grimly. The sergeant, awkward at disrespectful approach to his superior, laid his hand upon the arm of the risen captain, and in another moment lay sprawling upon the floor. Baca was a young and muscular man; and almost in the same motion with the blow he sprang at the window.

The dumbfounded privates had no time to reach him; but Vicente, in a flash of rage, flung himself at his legs, and the tall officer crashed upon the floor. Before he could rise a dozen soldiers were upon him, and[236] Rodil, his slender sword quivering at half-arm, faced the four other officers.

“There is nothing in his pockets, Excellency,” announced the sergeant.

Claro! For he who changes his face so soon can as well change his clothing. In his shoes, then.”

There was a renewed scuffle; but in a moment a cry of exultation—and the sergeant dragged a thin, soiled paper from Baca’s stocking.

“Still given to jests, capitan mio—that you walk on the mines which are to blow the rebels up at the next assault. It is a clever diagram, and Salom would have paid thee well for it, I warrant. Hola!

For the door let in four soldiers and their petty officer; and over the arm of the latter hung the long gray-brown habit of a Franciscan friar.

“It was between the mattresses of the señor capitan Baca,” announced the sergeant. “And as for these little ones, I am their witness—for to my patrol passed first a tall fraile, and soon came running this womanling after him for her brother, who was very sick.”

“And the boy is he to whom I carried a cup of broth—and I found him well fevered,” spoke up one of the soldiers, scared[237] at his own thick voice before the grim general.

“It is enough,” interrupted Rodil. “I give thanks to God that there are patriots yet—and eyes in them, too. These children stay with me. For the Señor Captain Baca, and for these gentlemen who ‘were with him all the time,’” he continued with grim terseness, “sunrise against the wall of San Felipe. Until then, your heads answer for theirs!”

That is all there is to tell of the habit of the fraile—except that it served for a shroud to the traitor who had masqueraded in it.

But already was the beginning of the end. The desertion of the Comandante Ponce de Leon, who had dropped over the wall and fled to the enemy, gave to the insurgents plans and information of fatal importance. Then Riera, the other comandante, turned traitor too, and delivered to the foe the castle of San Rafael.

Resistance was no longer possible, even to “the Spartan of Peru.” On the 11th of January he entered into correspondence which ended with the honorable and advantageous capitulation of Callao, January 23, 1826. Of the original 2,800 soldiers only[238] three hundred and seventy-six remained, and a scant seven hundred citizens of all the former thousands. There was little left save glory—but of that so proud a share as was earned by no other man of either side in the war of the colonial rebellion. For that matter, history has few pages like the resistance of Spain’s last fort in America.

When Rodil, in full uniform, boarded the English frigate “Briton” to sail away to the long years and high honors that awaited him in Spain, he carried with the banners of his favorite regiments a boy and girl who seemed less embarrassed by their fine new dress than by the attention which everywhere greeted “the little orphans of Callao.”


The Great Magician.



The Great Magician.

Really know one? Well, I should say so—better than I know any one else alive. No, it was not Herrmann, nor Signor Blitz before him; though each in turn seemed to my young eyes the most marvelous conjurer possible, and the latter remained for years a haunting wonder. But I was already getting acquainted with a magician to whom both of these put together were a fool. For that matter, we had always been neighbors; but for years I never really knew him well, nor was even aware that he was in the conjuring business at all. Had we boys realized that we were growing up next door to the greatest living prestidigitator, he doubtless would have got a little more attention from us; but he was very quiet, and not at all given to “showing off;” and, to tell the truth, we left him pretty much to himself. Even in our games he was hardly ever asked to take part; though I can see now where he could[242] have given us a good many points on three-old-cat and follow-my-leader, or any of our other sports. It makes one feel cheap to find that one has been living so long next door to such a genius without ever getting on intimate terms with him, or fairly discovering who he is. It was not his fault, either, for there was never anything stuck up about him, despite his wonderful gifts. With some people, it is true, he never was known to associate; but that was merely because he did not push himself. To any one who gave him to understand that his company was agreeable he was always cordial. That I call downright obliging in one who has got so high up in the world—for he is known and respected everywhere, and has been invited to appear before kings and queens when even their prime ministers were shut out. You see, he has been a great traveler. Perhaps there is not a place in the whole world that he does not know. But, then, it’s easy to travel when one has plenty of means and leisure, and a free pass everywhere. Possibly he would not get around quite so much if he had to pay fare.

Though it took us so long to get acquainted, we rather “cottoned to” one another after the ice was broken, and for the[243] last twenty years have been great chums. In that time we have knocked about the world a good bit together. Really, I mean, not like our first travel. In the younger days he used to drop in on me every now and then with a serious air, and remark:

“Say, want to go to Shanghai this evening? Well, shut your eyes. Presto! change! here we are! Now, come around, and we’ll see the sights.”

And there we were in Shanghai, using our eyes and holding our noses. But all that, you understand, was one of his sleight-of-hand tricks. It was very pleasant and inexpensive travel, and I learned a good deal from it; but the grind of it was that I could not bring back any of the wonderful things we saw in the bazars. I’d just about as soon not travel as to be unable to collect trophies from the country I am visiting. It was really not his fault, of course. He is the most accommodating fellow in the world; but even jugglery has its limits; and after a friend has given you a trip to any part of the world you choose, and brought you back safe and sound, and paid all your expenses out of his own pocket, no well bred guest could have the face to ask him to bring also a cargo of all sorts of truck. When I used to groan at coming[244] away empty-handed, he would say frankly: “Sorry my boy, but it really can’t be helped. I’m glad to take you anywhere, and make it as pleasant for you as I can; but my pass is for passengers only, and the baggage business is strictly prohibited. It is too bulky; and then think what trouble I should get into with the customs officers if we went to bringing in such cargoes outside the regular channels.”

In later years we have pretty thoroughly made up for that aggravation; for nowadays I am the host, and wouldn’t think of starting on a journey without inviting him to come along; and we bring back all sorts of interesting plunder from everywhere, until the house we occupy together looks more like a museum than anything else. He himself admits that it’s a good deal ahead of the old way; but even the delight of collecting—and no boy or man half knows what life is until he “collects” something, and earnestly—even that pleasure would not compensate me for the loss of his company. He is the very best traveling companion I ever found; so ready to do whatever you wish, so full of information, so helpful in emergencies of any sort. Some people who have traveled with him have tried to tell me that he cowardly deserted[245] them in time of danger; but there must be two sides to this story, for I have seen him in a great many tight pinches, and he was clear-headed and quick as a wink to do the right thing. To tell the truth, he has saved my life a score of times, all by his dexterity; so you may be sure that when people talk of his running away and leaving them in the lurch, I resent the imputation, and conclude they were the ones really to blame. In knocking about the frontiers I have found a good many men, of several different colors, who make you feel, “Well, if it came to a fight for life, with my back against a rock, that would be a good fellow to have beside me.” But among all those brave men—all of whom I admire, and some of whom I love—I would rather have him by me, in a pinch, than any other one.

You must not think from this that my friend is a desperado, or a professional fighter, or anything of the sort. On the contrary, his disposition is as peaceful as his habits are quiet, and he hates any sort of a row. It is only in the crises which any man may meet, and every man must sometimes meet who travels outside the beaten tracks, when it is necessary and manful to fight, that he suddenly turns combative and[246] pitches in. Ordinarily, he is a plain, practical business man, who, for his own part, might have retired long ago, but remains in the firm for the sake of the junior partners. He works harder than any of them—and then, when business hours are over, diverts himself and his friends by little exhibitions of his matchless skill as a conjurer. At such times he likes to forget work and worry altogether, and to be jolly and free of care and full of pranks as a boy. I have seen people so inconsiderate as to insist on boring him by “talking shop” out of office hours, but he always resents it. He is rather nervous and very impressionable, apt to fall into the mood of those who are with him; and he sometimes gets so tired and confused as to show very little of his usual wisdom. Indeed, I have seen him, when very weary, make a flat failure of some trick at magic, which ordinarily he could do with astounding cleverness.

Undoubtedly his greatest claim to public respect is in the quiet, every-day wisdom of his practical career; but his gifts as a magician are so brilliant and so fascinating that one naturally thinks of them first. And, in spite of his long business training, there isn’t a mercenary streak in him. Some of his most wonderful performances[247] are given gratis, and he even seems to prefer an audience of one to what the managers would call “a paying house.”

Eh? You would like to know what he can do that is so much bigger than the tricks of the wizards that get their $200 a night? Well, if I were to tell you all I’ve seen him do, we wouldn’t be done this side of 1900; but here are some few things, and if you do not admit that Herrmann and all the rest are mere greenhorns to him, I’ll agree never to go near another of his performances.

I never knew him to fry eggs in a stove-pipe hat, nor to pick twenty-dollar gold pieces out of people’s eyes, nor to chop off a man’s head and then stick it on again, nor any of those threadbare sensations, though he sometimes practices simple illusions like making things appear where they are not, or causing them to seem not to be where you really know they are. But those are trifles, just to keep his hand in; his claim as champion conjurer of the world rests on very different accomplishments. For instance, one of his favorite tricks is to take a careless fly-away boy and turn him into a strong, wise man—turn him “for keeps,” too. I’ve seen him do that a hundred times, and you will agree that that is[248] a very useful trick, as well as a very difficult one. When one sees how smoothly he does it, one is doubly sorry that he doesn’t get all the boys up on the stage and experiment on them; but, of course, a complete change of personality is a serious thing, and he would not be justified in taking any such liberties without the full consent of the subject.

An almost equally remarkable trick, and one he is equally fond of, is to take a thoroughly homely girl and put a brand-new face on her. Not exactly a beautiful face, for he says that is none of his business, but a face that every one likes to look at. Yet I know girls so foolish as to decline treatment by this great specialist, and to think cosmetics better.

My friend’s hobby for experimenting upon young people, and his innate fondness for them, as shown by his patience with their frequently slighting treatment of him, made me remark one evening: “How is it you are so good-natured with these rattleheads? Nobody else would have the patience. Even when a fellow has snubbed you in the most discourteous way you seem to bear no grudge, but to be always ready to do him a good turn if there is a chance.”

“Well,” said my friend, slowly, dropping[249] a new sleight-of-hand he was practicing, “you see, I was once young and a fool myself, and had to grow and develop; and the process was so tedious that I’m not apt to forget. And, somehow, I feel as if I should always keep young in spite of the years. There is always something to interest me, and that keeps me from growing old.”

“By the way,” I put in, “when did you begin conjuring? Such marvelous proficiency as yours can have been attained only by lifelong practice. Did you take it up deliberately, or drift into it by chance?”

My friend gazed soberly for a moment at the crackling cedar sticks in my adobe fireplace—he had come out to visit me in New Mexico—before replying.

“Do you know, this reminds me very strongly of my own early life. These Indians who are your neighbors, this simple way of life, recall old times. You might not believe it, but my own folks were nomad savages, and my infancy was passed among scenes compared to which your surroundings here are highly civilized. Yes, I don’t wonder you are astonished; in sober earnest, you cannot imagine how brutal and squalid were the surroundings. Nothing to wear, very little to eat, and that little always raw; in fact, not one of the conveniences[250] which even an Indian now deems necessary to his existence. Why, we hadn’t even a way to warm ourselves; and as for houses or clothing, they were quite unknown. Education? Not a bit more than the monkeys have. I was nearly a grown man before I learned to read and write.”

“Why, you have risen even further than from rail splitter to president!”

“Ah, Lincoln got as high as man can get. We were very dear friends, and I believe I helped him materially in the great crises through which he was called upon to lead the nation. At any rate, he always consulted me before taking any important step.”

Now in any one else, this would have seemed the end of impudence and mendacity, if not half blasphemy. But when my friend the magician said it, I knew it must be true. He went on in his quiet way:

“But we were talking of my youth. You asked how and when I first took up conjuring. To tell the truth, I can hardly remember. I was certainly very young, and the discovery of my powers was quite accidental. One of my first tricks was very simple; but perhaps it was most important of all. It lifted my people from a lower plane than any savage now occupies, to high[251] civilization. Every person every day uses that little invention of mine—and 99 per cent of them without stopping to thank the inventor. By simply taking two sticks and rubbing them together—this way—I produced a substance which had never been seen on earth before, but which is now the first absolute necessity in every household. If it were abolished, the world’s progress would stop. It’s a very curious substance. The materials of which it is composed are invisible and intangible; but it can be seen further and felt more than anything else in the world. You can’t touch it; and yet, here, if you could not sometimes almost touch it you would perish. You have to feed it as carefully as you would a horse, and much oftener; and, unlike any other laborer I know of, it will never work between meals. But while it eats, it will work like mad. Another queer thing about it is that it would live forever if you fed it forever; but it dies as soon as it stops eating. But you can bring it to life again in a minute, strong and active as ever. It is terribly mischievous, too; if you give it proper attention, it cuts up no pranks; but if you are careless, it sometimes sneaks off and does more damage in one short romp than a hundred men could replace by a lifetime’s earnings. Then it’s[252] curious what a hatred it has for a still commoner substance which I didn’t invent. Bring the two together and there is a noisy and desperate fight, and one or other of the combatants is annihilated. Yet if you place them just near enough to each other, but so confined that they cannot grapple, they work together with an energy which I saw move a hundred buildings once—each building over thirty feet long. Ah, you wonder more at some of my other tricks, probably because you are less familiar with them; but I tell you that is just about the biggest single thing I ever did. There would have been neither geography nor history; we should never have heard of Cæsar or Napoleon or Washington or much of anybody else, if I hadn’t stumbled on that little secret of rubbing the sticks, while I was still what you might well call a green, awkward boy.”

“Yes,” I admitted, “I guess, after all, your fire trick is about the greatest thing of all—though I hadn’t just looked at it in that light before. Really, about every single thing we depend on depends on that. And that was about your first turn in magic?”

“Ye-es, perhaps the first important one. It was a great start, too, for after that I advanced[253] pretty rapidly in proficiency, until I became, as you know, able to do pretty nearly whatever I try.”

That is not putting it too strongly—he can do almost anything he seriously turns his hand to. After what I have seen him accomplish, there are few things I would deem it hopeless for him to attempt. Our stage magicians are at their wits’ end to devise some new trick; but he invents a thousand a day—the poorest more wonderful than their masterpiece. Now there’s his own life preserver, for instance—a ridiculous little affair in something like thirty pieces; the simplest thing, yet of almost infinite uses. It is, among many other remarkable qualities, the greatest preservative known. An article so ephemeral that a breath of air would whisk it away, so perishable that not all the Arctic ice could save it, can by this means be kept a thousand years—aye, or ten thousand, for that matter—as good as new. Yes, a man’s very speech may become visible and eternal—all because my friend once did a little conjuring for a Greek, who raised most remarkable harvests from seed our florists never handle. I don’t know just where it does come from nowadays—for we still see that sort of crop once in a while. Perhaps[254] Cadmus himself was a politician, and the dragon’s teeth are an heirloom in the family.

Those early conjurings are not more astounding than the new ones he is constantly devising. Nowadays he can sit down in Washington or London or Berlin, and, by a few taps on a table, turn a million men into a machine for destruction. He will take your ear in New York and hold it to the lips of your friend in Chicago, and then make it as easy for the Chicagoan to hear what you say in reply. Your voice, which, so far as any ability of yours goes, is lost forever as soon as spilled, he can bottle up so perfectly that your great-grandchildren’s great-grandchildren shall listen to what you said two hundred years before they were born, and hear it in your very tones. You see, my friend is making life a good deal larger, and death a good deal smaller—and he is not done yet!

But I should be. There is simply no use trying to enumerate his magic, for it has no end. Besides, you can get a much better notion of his powers by watching him than thus at second hand from me. But how are you going to find him, when he doesn’t advertise? Why, of course! How stupid of me to have forgotten to tell you that his name is—Thought.



The Silver Omelet.



The Silver Omelet.

Doubtless you should not be blamed for a sniff of incredulity when I come to mention the size of it, though you certainly have not made as many omelets as I did in the years of keeping house on the frontier “all by my lonesome,” and though you probably could not turn one now by flapping it to within six inches of the ceiling and catching it, t’other side up, in the frying pan, as every fit frontiersman should. But blink as you will, it is a solemn truth that we are now sitting down to an omelet two feet and a half thick and a little matter of one hundred and ten feet across! And worth more than all the food your whole household could eat in a generation.

The worst of it was that the chef was away. Don Ygnacio, who had served up these gigantic dishes for thirty years, and had the knack of them, was to-day in Dolores; and in charge of the range was a[258] fuzzy-faced lad of eighteen who had never turned a Guanajuato omelet in his life.

Guanajuato, you must know, is one of the oldest and richest silver-mining districts in the world. Founded over three hundred and fifty years ago, this picturesque Mexican city has produced more than a billion dollars in bullion, and not tired yet. In 1527 a Spanish miner invented in Mexico the cheapest and simplest method yet known for reducing silver ores—the so called “patio process”—by which the great bulk of the silver of Mexico and Peru has been extracted for so many centuries. To this day the haciendas for patio reduction are among the most interesting features of the great silver camps of Spanish America. Each hacienda is a little walled city—with its strong ramparts, and corner towers loop-holed for muskets; its huge sheds for the primitive ore-grinding; its pleasant offices and home for the administrador; its quarters for employes; its stables for hundreds of mules; and its enormous stone skillets wherein the hugest omelets in the world are “cooked.”

Torta in Spanish America is the usual word for omelet. It is literally a “cake,” and “of eggs” is implied. But the miners use it specifically for the omelet of wet-ground ore seasoned with the necessary[259] chemicals to assemble the silver. In looks it is simply a stupendous mud pie.

In the hacienda of the Cypresses one of these omelets was even now cooking. Patient burro caravans had packed down from the wonderful old bonanza mine of the Valenciana enough cargas of that broken gray rock to make forty-six “heaps” of 3200 pounds each. The ore had been fed to the great trundling molina, whose ponderous, upright, iron-bound wheel grudgingly followed the straining mules round and round its pivot, crunching the rock finer and finer, till the particles sifted through the screen to the bins below. Thence it had been shoveled into the wet-grinding arrastras—thirty big stone tubs, around which the mules circled with their “whims,” dragging granite blocks which scrubbed the wet gravel into fine paste. Then the mud went to the great cajete (tank), where the surplus water was “wept away,” as they say; and finally to the stone-walled, stone-paved patio, to become a torta.

Almost anyone with eyes could crush rock, dry or wet; but when it came to sampling that precious mud, deciding precisely how much silver it carried to the ton and how refractory it was, and therefore just how much salt and just how much[260] mercury must be put in for seasoning, why, then was no time for a greenhorn. Fifty thousand dollars is no joke, any way you look at it; and when you come to hunting for $50,000 by the invisible atom in a hundred and fifty tons of mud, it is as serious as anything well can be.

But Don Ygnacio had had to go, and with four of the trustiest servants, all armed; for in those days, a generation ago, the brigands were a fear on every highway of Mexico. And there was no one to leave in charge except Alberto, his nephew.

Luckily there had been time to set a recipe for the torta just turned into the pan. “So much salt and so much azogue,”[41] said Don Ygnacio; “that, I think, will suit. But watch it well; and if not, season it by the formula. Care, then, and much luck!”

Every day of the seventeen since then, Alberto had paced the flagging by the patio, and the passages of the great sheds where dry mill and wet mill were chewing their noisy mouthfuls for a new torta, now and again turning his eye covertly to the last room on the administrador’s porch, behind whose heavy door he had heaped the forty-pound bars of massy silver from the last omelet. The washing and concentration[261] and smelting he had superintended without much difficulty, and had seen that $49,000 worth of metal safely stored.

So far as the present torta went, his assays indicated that Don Ygnacio’s hasty estimate had been precisely right. But he certainly hoped the old manager would be back in time to decide if the usual eighteen days had been enough “cooking”—and, doubly, to fix the seasoning for the next omelet. And in all, it was a heavy responsibility for a boy who had studied a hundred tortas, but never been charged with one before; and it was to be noticed that his shoulders were not quite so miraculously square as on the first day, nor his chest so thick, now that he came down from the arrastras to the patio.

In this quarter-acre mud omelet the beating and the cooking went on together. A score of barelegged men and grown boys waded thigh-deep in the mess, driving their mules (blindfolded, poor beasts, to protect their eyes), and holding down the drag-boards, to mix the mercury and its prey.

It was close to noon. In five minutes the wading mules would be done with their exhausting day’s work of six hours. Alberto walked down toward the well-tower beside the patio, and something drew his eyes to[262] an overgrown lad slouching behind one white mule at the edge of the mud. Poor dullard! It was one thing to wade in mud at eighteen cents a day, and quite another to manage mud which was worth a comfortable year’s salary per ton.


Alberto started. Surely it could not be! Well, it was! This perambulating mudlark was actually “s-s-t”-ing to him!

“Care!” whispered the Indian lad, as Alberto came alongside the stone curb. He looked only at his mule, hauling at the tired beast and scolding it for some imaginary offence, and between his objurgations dropping whispered “asides.”

Arre, ill-said brute! (Young Excellency, the bandits!) For how long must I enshow thee to walk well? (And some of those in the hacienda!) Miserable! For what is the rein? (They are making to rob—to-night!) Arre, lazy-bones!”

The stolid face had not once changed; and now that another driver approached, he went sus-ushing off through the mud with never a sidelong glance.

Alberto felt himself grown suddenly pale; but he was no fool. He glanced at the intruder. It was a new man from the country—a tall, powerful fellow with a huge scar[263] on his cheek, shifty eyes, and a beak which had already earned him the nickname of Narigudo—“Big Nose.” He in turn sent a sly, sharp look first at the young Indian ahead, then at the young manager. The latter was already walking quietly toward the well-house.

The silver bell in the old belfry clanged noon. The waders, of two legs and four, clambered out from the mud. In a moment blindfolds and harness lay on the flagging, and the mules, suddenly optimistic, went braying and scampering out through the great gate to bathe and drink by the highway in the little stream which has carried more precious burdens, doubtless, than any other brook on earth.[42] A moment later there was a more deafening clatter, as the hundred mules from the mills came gallopading down the flags in a very avalanche. They would have to work six hours more; but they knew the noon hour. Resistless as a charge of cavalry, they swept around the corners and out of the gate in a jam which seemed sure to kill some of them.

Alberto had laughed a thousand times at this daily avalanche; but now he saw it with far-off eyes. He dipped his hand in a[264] bucket of the pump-wheel and bathed his head, wherein a thousand or more little prickles snapped. It was enough to make anyone’s brain crackle—robbers all about, accomplices in the hacienda itself, nearly fifty thousand dollars in the room at the head of the corridor, and he alone!

This boy had been carefully reared. He was unused to danger and to responsibility; and now he was fearfully scared. And yet—well, he had inherited something from the men who conquered that wilderness so many centuries ago.

In five minutes the young administrador was making his rounds as usual, now and then stopping to pick up a sample of ore and examine it with great apparent interest. Among the groups of laborers he passed at lunch he felt, with a little shiver, that some eyes were on him even more sharply than they are always on the administrador’s back; but outwardly he gave no sign, as he figured away at very much the toughest problem he had ever dreamed of.

Suddenly he struck his head, and turned and walked down to the patio. In full view of the men he took a careful sample from the mud omelet here and there, scrutinized it critically, and carried it off to the assay-room. In ten minutes he was out again;[265] and walking up among the laborers, he said: “A holiday for all, this afternoon. For to me the torta looks to be cooked, and Don Ygnacio should be here to-night, who will know. Go, then; but at dawn again.”

That was an end of lunch, of course. The men sprang up with “Infinite thanks, sir!” and were already making for the gate, except Narigudo and four others, who mumbled over their last enchilada, instead of throwing it away, and looked first at their mates and then at one another.

“Señor, I do not think it done,” broke out “Big Nose,” sullenly.

“Who gave thee a candle in this funeral?” Alberto retorted, coolly. “Answerest thou to the owner whether there be loss or gain?”

Narigudo said no more, but rose to follow his comrades as Alberto disappeared in the office. When the boy emerged, five minutes later, the place was deserted.

Rather simple, after all! Only five traitors, apparently; and for the present they were gone. Now, just to lock and bar the big gate, and think what next.

In much more comfortable mind after bolting the only entrance to the walled hacienda, Alberto strolled up to the great shed, and halted a moment by the big trundle-mill,[266] pondering. So far, so good; and now what? Leave the place locked, and ride up to the city to warn the authorities?

A sound that you might hardly call a sound, so faint was it, startled his tense nerves; and as he wheeled the blood went from his face. Fifteen feet away, barefoot, Narigudo stood in the door of the ore-shed, with an ugly smile.

“Young Excellency,” he drawled, insolently, “you have locked me in. Give me the keys to go!”

At this Alberto found his voice. “In this hacienda,” said he, steadily, “it is accustomed to obey the administrador, and not to command him. I will let you out when I go to the gate.”

“Ah, it’s the administrador, is it? Then give me the keys before I eat an administrador!” The tone had changed from insolence to rage, and the angry fellow sprang forward.

Alberto wavered in his tracks, and then straightened with a snap. The key of the bullion-room? Never!

He plucked the heavy keys from his belt and flung them fiercely, just as that big hand clutched his shoulder. Narigudo hurled him against the wheel-post with a curse, and sprawled forward in a desperate[267] effort. But the keys, just eluding his fingers, clanked down into the deep drain.

“Only wait!” he roared. “I shall have it just the same, and you shall pay the trouble!”

He plunged into the opening with a backward glare that made Alberto’s heart stand still. It was no use to run—he was locked in, too. Just to wait to be murdered!

But then the boy leaped forward with a new light in his eyes. A big wooden trough stood there—uptilted upon one face. There was a muffled bellow; but he hunched his shoulder to the mass, and inched it forward, and sank upon it with a queer, sobbing laugh. A fine trap for the big rat!

But he had forgotten the difference between a strong boy’s strength and a powerful man’s. His seat heaved under him; clearly, if his weight were removed, Narigudo could lift it. The fellow had all his mighty back in play, and seemed like to overturn his prison door, jailer and all.

Alberto could not even groan. It was impossible to stay here, as great dangers were to be guarded against elsewhere. But he saw plainly that he could not get far before Narigudo would be out, and——! There was no weight nearer than the ore-sacks, and he dared not desert the trough long enough to[268] go half-way to them. In a nightmare of terror he crouched on the trough, trying to make himself heavy, and praying to all the saints.

Suddenly he gave a wild shout. The whim! There stood the great vertical wheel; its pole, ten feet away, was two feet from the ground. If—! Thank God, there was no ore in its path!

Alberto leaped up, dancing noisily on the trough. He sprang to the floor and back, ran off two strides, and rushed upon the trough again. Now his head was clear as a bell.

In another dash he seized the ponderous pole and wrenched at it with all his force. The mill creaked and gave an inch or two. Back he pounced noisily upon the trough, and back again to the pole for another mighty tug; and again, and a dozen times again. Each time the reluctant wheel groaned a few inches forward upon its circle, and now the end of the pole barely overlapped the end of the trough.

All was quiet below. The prisoner, puzzled by these crazy antics overhead, was waiting for a clew to what it all meant. Now, indeed, he began to heave again; but Alberto, braced backward on the trough, was slowly, surely dragging the pole in.[269] Another fierce jerk, and his task was done. The great horizontal stick overhung the very middle of the trough.

The boy rose with an effort and leaned against the wheel. A wan smile came on his lips as the trough rose with a jerk—just three inches. Then it thumped against the pole and went down with a bang. The trap was locked, and Alberto never stopped till he sank breathless on the office steps.

It was already turning dusk; there was no time to lose. Muskets plenty were in the armory, but Narigudo had the key. However, there was one gun in the office, and Alberto loaded it with nervous fingers. Then he climbed into the loop-holed turret which overhung the gate, and crouched, waiting. But another thought seemed to come, for he chuckled and ran down the court. When he came back to the tower, twenty minutes later, the stables were empty, and so was the office drawer from which Don Ygnacio distributed cohetes on the eve of a feast-day. On the other hand, a hundred sleepy mules were huddled in the entrance, with a rope stretched taut behind them, and back of the rope a great many little heaps of small, red cylinders.

At nine o’clock there was a faint tap at the gate. “Narigudo!” someone whispered;[270] and in a moment, louder and impatiently, “Narigudo! Art thou asleep? Open!”

Alberto almost laughed. Then he drew back his shoulders and said, sharply: “Not a shot till I say the word! As for you, stupids, you see the gate! And your Narigudo—he is well boxed up!”

There was a quick scuffling below. Evidently the bandits had run back under the bottom of the tower, puzzled by this turn of affairs. For half an hour there was a trying silence; then a sudden rush, and something smote the gate with a tremendous crash.

“Not yet!” cried Alberto. “Wait for the word!”

But the robbers were not to be fooled. If there were really defenders, they would have fired before now; and again the battering-ram made the great gate tremble.

Alberto’s finger itched on the trigger. Should he shoot? Before he could reload, they might have the gate down. And then——?

He leaned the long musket against the wall and crept down into the courtyard just as the thunderous crash came again. Evidently the gate was beginning to give.

Another smash, and a leaf of the gate began to creak with that ominous, growing[271] creak that goes before a fall. Just then there was a little flash in the courtyard, and a queer s-s-sizz-sizz, pop! bang! Bang! B-b-b-b-ang! The gate reeled and fell outward, and with the roar of a landslide a hundred terrified mules burst through the gap, trampling and scattering like chaff the knot of bandits gathered to burst in.

And then from far up the cobble-paved highway came a stentorian yell, and pistol shots, and a new clamor of iron hoofs. Two minutes later Don Ygnacio and his men swept into the courtyard, where a collapsed young hero lay beside a vast litter of bursted firecrackers.



A Duel in the Desert.



A Duel in the Desert.

Of the innumerable tragedies of the wilderness—the grim procession of life and death, the irreconcilable conflict of the animals as bounden as we are to appetite and passion and self-preservation—probably every hunter of considerable experience has seen the eloquent tokens; and every reader has heard at least of the sensational cases. The wonder is, perhaps, that these latter are so few; that only one death out of a million is so far outside the vast inclusive rule as to be of interest to us dull-eyed observers. For the law of conflict is inexorable. Outside of man and his protected servitors, only a tiny fraction of a per cent. of the animals die “a natural death”—that is, without violence. Of teeming sea and teeming forest, a vast majority of the denizens perish “with their boots on”—overwhelmingly a prey to that insatiate “hollow feeling” which Nature has put for warder[276] of the feral population, lest it overwhelm the earth. The “defensive” animals fall, as a rule, to the appetite of their predatory neighbors; the predatory beasts, in turn, have a reasonable expectation of death at the “hands” of their rivals in the tribe, their foes outside, or the only unnatural killer, Man. Every acre of field and forest has had its myriad tragedies of the humble wild-folk—though we are too unobservant to note the fact. A few bleaching bones, a wisp of fur or feathers, a dim scurry in the dust—this and no more is the chronicle of the snuffing out of a life as gladly lived, as hardly parted with as our own. Many authors have become famous by their skillful dissection of the Beastliness of Man; but we too seldom remember (unless while reading the Jungle Stories or Wahb) the Humanity of the Beasts, which is quite as true a part of natural history. This is mostly because in our civilized cushioning we know nothing real about the beasts. They are very little more to us than so many forms of speech, raw material for perfunctory literature or for “hunting,” whose only serious penetration is put up in brass cylinders by the U.M.C. Co. It is nothing short of astounding how little the average “hunter” knows of the game he[277] kills, except so much of its habit as shall enable him to kill it. Indeed, the very name “Game” is perhaps significant of this blindness. It is a game, and a great game, if shrewdly played; but pity the man who can see in it nothing but the killing! He is as far from being what I would soberly call a hunter as the fellow whose only notion of whist is to play trumps at every lead is far from being a whist player. One who knows as well as anyone, and as well loves, the wild thrill of the chase, who has hunted and been hunted, and found the keenest “sport” when the “game” turned the tables and he had to fight hand-to-hand for his own life, is not apt to be foolishly sentimental. But he is very apt to pity those who have never learned the higher side of hunting. To watch a beaver colony at work; or a vixen with her pups; or a bear family at play; or the wild stallion herding his flirtatious manada and falling like a thunderbolt upon some mustang Lothario; or partridge or wild turkey at mating time—experto credite, it is quite as much “fun” and rather more woodcraft than trapping or killing or “creasing.” Which is saying a great deal. And to such as mix the game with brains, these things become more and more the refinement and expertness[278] of it. As a matter of fact, a fox is a much smarter hunter than any man who hunts only to kill. His eyes and ears are far better, his nose is a genius of which no human has so much as an inkling, his foot-fall is infinitely softer, his strategy far more competent. For that matter, more foxes escape the allied force and wit of a score of men and a half-score of hounds than partridges or quail escape the unaided campaign of one fox. As to that, in the average foxhunt, at least (and leaving out of the count the trapper and real wilderness hunter), one hound is worth in effectiveness half a hundred people. Without a single dog to lead them, the whole chase could as soon stay at home.

More picturesque, perhaps, than the every-day sacrifice of a life to an appetite is the animal duel to the death; and particularly when both parties fall. Feral combats—mostly deriving from sexual jealousy, for it is comparatively rare that predatory beasts shall fight outside their kind—are innumerable, though in a small minority of cases fatal to either combatant; perhaps fifty times as rarely to both. Even in the extreme event, there is generally little visible record left, and that of a sort that shamefully few of our hunters can identify.[279] The best known—because the most unmistakable—is the entanglement of buck deer by their horns in such inextricable fashion that the duellists starve to death. This is not so extremely rare. I have found such grappled skulls thrice—in Maine, in the Sierra Madre of Mexico, and in Colorado so noble a duo of elk heads locked in this Chinese puzzle of death that the inaccessibility of the range and the impossibility of bringing out these ponderous relics have given me a standing grievance these seventeen years. The swordfish pinned by his beak to starve beside the pierced hull; the rat in the fatal nip of a big clam; the buffalo and the cinnamon bear fallen together dead—all these I believe to be authentic; and of the mutual Pyrrhic victory of two rattlesnakes I have seen the proof.

But beyond reasonable comparison, the most extraordinary “document” I have ever seen or heard of in this sort is the absolutely unique relic found in 1900 by Edwin R. Graham in the desert county of Inyo, Cal., near Coalingo, and now in the museum of the Leland Stanford Jr. University. There is no possible question of its authenticity. All the ingenuity of man could not make a tolerable counterfeit of it. Nor do I believe there is any reasonable doubt that[280] it is the most remarkable record ever found of a fight to the death.

It is unflattering but typical of our civilized observation that thousands of people—including a great many “hunters”—identified these mummied protagonists as “a coyote and an eagle.” Even the photograph shows what they are, as well as the vindictiveness of their death-struggle.

A prowling wildcat (evidently too hungry to be fanciful) finds a great horned owl blinking upon the brink of a cliff, and pounces upon it, catching a wing hold. The owl, somewhat armored, even against those terrible teeth and claws, by its quilting of feathers, flings itself upon its back; pounding fiercely with its free wing, tearing with its hooked beak, and clenching its talons into the flesh with that peculiar mechanical lock-grip of its kind—a grip which death does not loosen, as more than one hunter who picked an owl up unripe has learned to his sorrow. That even this large owl could not kill a full-grown wildcat in any ordinary combat, probably every hunter knows. But this owl chanced to get a clutch on the wildcat’s open fore paw, one of his claws clinched behind a tendon—and there it still is, traceable even in the photograph. Perhaps he could not have withdrawn it himself,[281] had he been the survivor of the struggle. The cat’s jaws are still locked upon the broken bone of the owl’s left wing. Neither is otherwise very badly mangled; and doubtless the cat would have torn to shreds “the body of this death” and gone about his business with no more handicap than that ineradicable talon in his paw.


But in their wild and blind mêlée they overstepped the verge of the cliff, and down they went together. The 40-foot fall does not seem to have broken their clinch at all. If it did, they renewed it. But, though no fractures were sustained, the stumble doubtless stunned the cat; and there, irretrievably grappled in immortal hate, they died together of thirst and loss of blood. There at the foot of the cliff they were found; desiccated by the furnace airs of the desert, light as mummies, but unbroken; their very eyeballs dried in their sockets; the plumage of the owl practically complete, and enough fur of the wildcat’s muzzle and paws left by the moths to identify it even to those who could not recognize its unequivocal anatomy.



A ’Rastle with a Wildcat.



A ’Rastle with a Wildcat.

One of my very first experiences in the West was a midnight tussle with a fifty-four pound wildcat in a lonely cabin in the Greenhorn Mountains of Colorado. I shall never forget my horror at the sight of that huge puss on a beam over my head; for I had had a serious experience with the wildcat of the Northeast, and supposed that this fellow, who was twice as big, was likewise twice as much to be dreaded.

I did not know that the Rocky Mountain wildcat is not nearly so fierce, and that he never attacks man as does sometimes his cousin of the Maine and New Hampshire forests; and I had very slight hopes for the outcome of a struggle twice as severe as that which a furry freebooter in the Pemigewassett wilderness gave me a good many years ago. I need not have worried. The Colorado Cat was easy game; and when the[286] last charge in my six-shooter had brought him to the floor, his life was soon ended.

That first encounter, in New Hampshire, was more than thirty years ago—years filled with roving adventure and many other things which are apt to crowd the past back into forgetfulness. But I remember it as though it had been yesterday. Small, white “exclamation-points” on my chest, with several other scars, occasionally call it to mind.

I had grown from a consumptive boy to a small but thoroughly athletic young man. Wrestling, boxing, canoeing, hunting and fishing had brought me into good condition, and every muscle was hard as wire. But for that fact, I should not be writing this; for the fight took my utmost ounce of strength. Had it come a year earlier, my grave would be in the wilderness to-day.

Of the yearly thousands who visit the great summer hotels of the White and Franconia Mountains, extremely few ever penetrate the Pemigewassett wilderness. The wild ranges wall its sides, and between them is a huge and virgin forest, full of game, dotted and seamed by lakes and brooks that swarm with trout. In this almost untrodden wild rises the east branch of the Pemigewassett, the beautiful little river which later becomes the Merrimac.


I was hunting and fishing that spring on the head waters of the east branch. My canoe swam a lovely but nameless lakelet, and my camp, roofed with birch-bark, was near the shore. There were three brooks running into the lake noisily; and at the south end the clear young river slipped silently out through the dark trees.

It was the last day of May, and still cold in that mountain bowl. I had a fat deer hung high beside my shelter; so there was meat for some time. In a little while the fishing would be very tame, for there the trout have not fully learned what a deceiver man is, and there is little sport in standing almost astride a rill, and with a five-foot willow pulling a dozen or twenty fish out of one pool. But now I knew the big fish were around, and I determined to spend the day with my rod.

By ten o’clock I was well over toward Mount Lafayette, on the largest of the brooks which came into my lake from the west; and, descending the steep banks to the bed of the stream, prepared to fish down toward camp.

The brook fell very rapidly here, in a series of short falls, at the bottom of each of which was a deep, lovely pool of water, so clear that it seemed only air with a light[288] tinge of green. I could see pebbles ten feet below the surface, and the brown flashes of the sportive trout.

In five minutes I was landing my first fish, a game half-pounder, and others bit as fast as I could attend to them.

There was no need of covering much ground. I could have caught in fifty yards all I could eat in a week. But I kept moving homeward, taking only one or two of the largest fish from a pool and throwing back any accidental small ones.

In this way I had gone down, perhaps, half a mile, when I came to the largest pool I had found on that brook. Here it seemed likely that there might be some particularly large trout. In fact, the first one I struck seemed to be much larger than any on my string; but he snapped the hook and was gone with a splash.

I had drawn an extra hook from my box and was “ganging” it upon the line, when some impulse caused me to look up. As I did so, the tin box fell clattering upon the rocks and my rod at my feet.

The brook here had cut a narrow gorge through a ridge, and the pool at whose head I stood touched on each side the very foot of a rocky wall nearly forty feet high. I was standing on a ledge whence the brook[289] dropped, perhaps, ten feet into the pool, and the banks were not nearly so high there. Still, I presume the tops were fifteen feet above my head.

A giant pine had fallen across the gorge from bank to bank, making a knotty bridge, which was almost over me, but a little in front; and upon that great log was the Something which had brought my heart up into my mouth with such a bump.

On the dark side of the tree, behind the stump of a huge limb, flat and motionless as you could press your hand upon the table, lay almost the last thing in the world that I desired to see there—a wildcat.

Whether it was crouching there when I came, or, as is more likely, had crawled out from the bank to surprise me, I never knew; but there it was confronting me.

I could just see the fierce glints in its eyes; and when its gaze met mine, the tip of the ears, outlined on a patch of sky, seemed to flatten. My rifle was in camp, for it was too long a walk to bring it when I wished to fish. I had not even a revolver—nothing but a keen-edged, clip-point hunting-knife, which hung in its sheath on my left hip.

I hardly dared move, but that knife I must have. Slipping my right hand cautiously[290] behind my back, I reached far around, till at last it touched the welcome hilt, and I began to slip the sheath slowly around my belt to the right side, where the knife could be drawn less ostentatiously.

All this time I had never taken my eyes from those of the unwelcome intruder, and I kept scowling at him with a savage expression which was meant to alarm him, but which sadly flattered my real feelings.

How long we stood eyeing each other thus, I do not know. It seemed an age and must have been several minutes. Neither of us moved. He lay crouched and menacing; I stood outwardly defiant, with my hand on that precious buckhorn handle. And then my wet feet, chilled with the icy water of the brook, betrayed me. I felt a sneeze working toward the surface.

Now, when I sneeze, it is no gentle tschoo! but half a dozen or more wild and uncontrollable explosions, which never fail to bring tears to my own eyes, if they are lucky enough not to scare some unsuspecting stranger.

I struggled to choke that sneeze, to hold it back; but I might as well have tried to hold the foaming brook.

Ker-cheooo! Ker-cheooo! Ker-cheooo-oo! With each eruption my head flew down and[291] my body shook; and as I straightened up after the fifth burst, I saw—through the mist that filled my eyes—something dark descending upon me like a great, hazy bird.

I had not once changed my position since first seeing the wildcat. He was a trifle to my left, and my left foot and shoulder were pointed up-stream. Our lives hang on such trifles as that! Now, with the trained instinct of the boxer—who has first to learn to act without stopping to think how to act—I threw my left hand up and out! Half-way to arms-length it met that furry avalanche, and broke its force. The cat landed full against my side.

Its sharp hind claws sank into my thigh, and the sharper fore claws clutched me in the pectoral muscles in front and between the shoulder-blades behind. The pain was cruel, but I had no time even to cry out. At the instant I expected to feel those merciless jaws on my neck, and that would be the last.

The wildcat knows where the jugular vein is as well as the best surgeon of them all; and it is for that that he invariably jumps. Animals killed by these cruel ambuscaders are sometimes left whole and unmangled, save for that wicked little gap at the side of the throat.


But my boxing lessons had saved me. As my left hand went out in that “straight counter,” it struck full in the throat of the cat; and with the swift inspiration of desperate men, I clutched the folds of fur there with all my might.

The cat strained hard to pull-in to me—and that was a cruel leverage it had in my own flesh. But my arm, never a weak one, was doubly strong now; and, though I could not force him from his hold, I kept his head well away from mine, which I “ducked” to increase the still unsatisfactory distance.

Then, drawing the keen six-inch blade, I drove it against his side. His left side was, of course, the one exposed to me; but we were so “mixed up” that I could take no accurate aim at his heart, and just thrust blindly and madly at that stretch of mottled fur.

Nothing will ever dim my recollection of that desperate struggle; and yet I seemed in a sort of trance. You have had nightmares, wherein some savage beast pursued you, and you slammed vain doors on him which he brushed open, and fired ineffective rifles at him whose diminished pop did not affect him in the least; and, do what you would, nothing availed against that implacable[293] danger. So it was with me. I seemed under a spell.

Those awful claws were tearing me everywhere; that fatal head was struggling to break down my tiring arm; and the desperate thrusts of the knife with all the force of my right arm seemed not even to penetrate the tough hide. They went deep enough, as I found later, but at the moment I was sure they hardly scratched him.

Since that day I have been through a great many of the things of whose suspense we say, “They seemed eternities,” but never one, I think, that seemed so endless as that. And yet it could hardly have lasted a minute. I was growing very weak. Blood was running down in my boots, and my weary left arm was no longer rigid. My right was no longer fully under control, and once, when the knife glanced a rib, it nearly flew from my hand.

Once, too, I struck high, and the cat caught my right wrist between his savage teeth and tore out a piece. Was he invulnerable? I began actually to believe so—to fancy that, after all, it must be a hideous dream.

You may imagine from that into what a state my mind had come. But still I plied the knife, and still with cramped and trembling arm held off the creature’s jaws.


And then, on a sudden, a great wave of joy swept over me, and I yelled madly. The curving claws, set deep in my back and breast, relaxed. It was only the least bit in the world, but I could feel the exquisite pain of that slight withdrawal; and in another instant they came out altogether, and my foe fell limp upon the rocks beside me, where he never moved again.

I looked at him once; my eyes grew dim, and I fell across him.

When I recovered consciousness, we were lying in a heap, wet with our common blood. I crawled a couple of feet to the brook, and the icy water revived me, so that at last I could rise and limp about the field of our strange battle.

The cat was a mass of wounds; and as I counted the eleven fatal thrusts, I marvelled at his vitality and pluck—and very heartily respected them, too. Any one of ten of them would have finally killed him, but he had kept his hold to the very last, which had sunk deep into his heart.

And such a small beast to attack the lord of creation! I do not think he weighed over thirty pounds; but what a model of compact strength and agility! His skin was so slashed as to be absolutely unsavable;[295] but I kept his scalp a long time, till the moths destroyed it.

As for myself, I was in little more attractive shape than he. Of my stout duck coat and trousers only the right half remained. My duck vest and heavy flannel shirt boasted little but a few shreds two-thirds of the way around my body. I was half-naked, and my breast, back, left side and left thigh were laced with deep, bleeding gashes.

There is only one thing about that day which I do not remember; and that is, how I got back that ten miles to camp. But somehow I got there; for when I awoke next morning, very weak and stiff—for of all wounds I know of none so painful as those inflicted by a cat—I was under my roof of birch bark, and a spotted scalp lay on the sand beside me.



A Tame Deer.



A Tame Deer.

Buck deer, at certain seasons, or when wounded, may be very ugly customers; and in hunting East and West, I have had several unpleasant experiences with them. The very first deer I ever killed, up in the New Hampshire mountains, came wonderfully close to killing me—after his hind leg was broken at the hip and I thought it was quite safe to close in to finish him. How he literally “wiped the ground” with me!

Others of his kind have given me trouble and danger in varying degrees, and in a variety of ways; and I have known several persons killed by them. But the “closest call” a deer ever gave me, and one of the most terrible struggles in all my hunting and wandering, befell me in the heart of the city of Los Angeles; and the hero was a “tame” buck.

It was many years ago, at a time when my passion for pets, always strong, had unusual opportunities for gratification in[300] one of the moss-gathering intervals of a usually rolling stone. Behind the house (where a half-million dollar block stands to-day) was a good-sized yard, for a city lot, well shaded with eucalyptus trees, and with a substantial shed. Here was plenty of room for pets, and we acquired a variety of them.

First in our affection was my precious old cat Beauty, which had come with the family from Ohio. There was also a horse, which boarded at the livery stable; and a fine Danish hound that had adopted us. This did very well for a while. But during a vacation run over New Mexico, I wounded a young eagle; and, seeing that his wing would soon heal under proper care, I brought him home and kept him in a leash on the back porch, where he throve admirably.

Then someone presented me with a barn-owl, and he kept the eagle company. Rabbits have always pleased me; and presently I made some hutches, and in time had them peopled with a dozen rabbits and guinea-pigs. In a cage in my study lived a couple of handsome rattlesnakes; and one day I brought home in a slatted box a tiny wildcat—at which a patient wife cried:

“Don’t get anything more, Charlie! We can’t move now without stepping on a pet;[301] and they are too much care for me, with you gone at the office all day and almost all night!”

But in spite of herself she grew very fond of the wildcat baby, which would lie in her lap and purr with the most ridiculously disproportionate voice. It could hardly have been a month old; and had I been the hunter who found it in the Sierra Madre, it should never have been taken from its fierce mother at such an age—for it had not been weaned, evidently.

Its body was not as large as that of a lean house-cat, but its legs were quite one-half longer, so that it had rather the appearance of being on stilts—and very uncertain, wobbly ones, too. Its feet were twice the size of Beauty’s, and its voice, in growling, was so heavy and so savage that one could scarce believe it issued from that ungainly little frame.

It was very gentle with its mistress, purred sonorously whenever she petted it, and went stumbling all over the house at her heels. Nor was it hostile to the young lady who completed our family, not half so afraid of Beauty as Beauty was of this wild cousin. But with me it would have nothing to do. As I was then city editor of the morning newspaper, and was very little at[302] home, it evidently looked upon me as an interloper, and at a glance of me would snarl and show fight as sincerely as a grown lynx. And it was an enemy not altogether to be laughed at, as there are still scars to testify.

Once it climbed up and hid among the springs of my bed, and the heavy buck gloves I put on for the task of dislodging it did not save me from ugly tastes of those keen teeth and claws. Perhaps it is quite as well that Tiger did not survive his infancy, but died of congestion at four or five months old. Had he grown up, without a change of heart, he might have become troublesome.

With this much of a household on our hands, we might very reasonably have been content; and so probably should have been but for one of those “chances of a lifetime” which are always befalling the enthusiast. A fellow down in the Mexican quarter of the city had a pet deer, and, learning of my hobby, pestered me to buy—“dirt cheap, Sir!”

“No, I don’t want any deer. Couldn’t take care of him.”

“Oh, but he is such a beauty, Sir, and tame as a sheep, and $10 is nothing. Just come and look at him!”


Well, it could do no harm to go and look at a pretty animal; so I went—with a virtuous resolve not to acquire another single pet.

The result was what might have been expected. He was a beauty. There is almost nothing handsomer than a perfect Black-tail, and this was an excellent specimen—full grown, though young, with one fork on his dagger-sharp antlers, and gentle as a kitten. The first look of those liquid eyes made my resolution tremble; and when the lovely creature came and nestled his face into my vest with perfect confidence, I was lost.

I could not even wait to send an express-man for him. “Here is your $10,” said I; “and now give me a rope to lead him home.”

The rope was put around that graceful neck, and I started off in high glee. He followed me like a lamb through the back streets, paying little attention to people or wagons—for he had passed most of his life in the city—and much less abashed than his new master by the sensation we created. Once safely at home, I gave him a strong leather collar and a long steel chain, the other end of which hooked into a staple in the side of the shed.

Bonito, as we named him, seemed very content in his new home. At night he had[304] a comfortable bed in the shed, and by day his place outside. There was plenty of alfalfa and young wheat, which we had cut for him from the rabbits’ patch, and bread and sugar from the house; and every morning my habit was to loose his chain and let him wander about the yard with me.

He had a great curiosity about the rabbits and the owl, a fair understanding with Giallo, the dog, a supreme contempt for the little wildcat—which had been transferred to a big cage in the yard and roared at us whenever we approached. As for the three human members of the family, he was hail-fellow-well-met with us all. He kept putting himself forward to be petted, delighted to be scratched behind the ears, and would rather eat from our hands than from his trough.

For five or six months Bonito was the pride of the family. He had grown very fat, and was sleek and handsome as one could wish. But with the advance of summer he turned misanthrope. He began to paw a considerable hollow by his post, and now and again stamped his hoof on the ground with that peculiarly audible rap which with wild deer is an alarm-signal sufficient to stampede a quietly grazing herd. Then he began to show some contempt[305] for being petted, and several times pushed us away in a manner nothing short of rude.

At last I came home one night to find my wife much worked up. She had gone out that afternoon to feed Bonito and was giving him an apple, when suddenly he lowered his head and sprang at her. Luckily the sharp horns passed either side the slender waist, pinning her against the shed, but not hurting her; and with much presence of mind, instead of fainting or screaming or struggling, she scratched beneath his ears soothingly, and he at last let her escape unharmed.

“H’m! Well, don’t you go near him again,” said I. “I’ll attend to him myself, if that’s his temper;” and I forthwith procured a new chain.

Several times in the next few weeks he made lunges at me, but again would seem gentle and would enjoy a petting. Against my wife, however, he appeared to have taken a sudden grudge, and would tug on his chain at sight of her.

One Saturday she went to visit friends at the beach, and I was to follow on the half-past eight train next morning. It was four o’clock in the morning when I saw the paper to press and came home, and at[306] seven o’clock got up to care for the pets before leaving.

When I went out to the yard, the deer was not there. The staple was torn out, and the drag of the chain enabled me to find where Bonito had jumped the fence and made off. I trailed him several blocks, and at last found him impudently grazing on a handsome lawn on Hill Street.

He did not attempt to elude me, and when I took the end of the chain he followed as meekly as you please, only stopping now and then to nibble a bit of grass by the sidewalk.

Unluckily just then I pulled out my watch. Seven-fifty! Time to hurry up—and when Don Bonito stooped to graze, I leaned back on the chain and brought him along. Five or six times this happened, and I fancied he was not quite so meek. Hungry he could not be—it was just his stupid notion to take a bite by the wayside; and my train would not wait for that. So each time that he halted, a steady but resistless pull brought him sliding forward, brace his feet as he would.

The last time I pulled there was a surprise. For an instant he held back with all his strength, and then, suddenly hunching his body like a panther, he gave a great[307] bound at me. Losing balance at this sudden yielding of the weight, I sprawled on the sidewalk, and Bonito pounced upon me like a cat, cutting my leg with his sharp hoofs, and aiming his sharper horns at my ribs. It was as well that he had to do with no novice at catch-as-can wrestling, for without those years of keen practice I never should have come out from the next fifteen minutes—if, indeed, from the first onslaught. As it was, I clutched a horn at the first pass, within six inches of my side; and then, capturing the other, readily got my feet.

This head-lock counter-balanced his 20 pounds’ superiority in weight, but the very fact of being overpowered made him beside himself. He began to fight with inconceivable fury, twisting till he seemed like to break his neck in the effort to free his horns or get at me with his feet.

It began to appear that he had me in something like a “box.” It was equally out of the question to let him go or try to lead him farther. Every motion or snort of the infuriated animal showed that his one thought now was not escape, but revenge.

Still, confident in my muscles—like steel yet from a thirty-five-hundred-mile walk across the continent—I had no apprehensions. The only thing necessary was to[308] take him home in such fashion that he could not hurt me; and once there, the chain would take care of him.

So I got my left arm locked in a chancery hold around his neck, my right hand still firmly holding his right horn, which worked uncomfortably close to my stomach, and thus, lifting him so that his fore feet were off the ground, I started homeward.

But there had been a reckoning without the host. The first two blocks went fairly, though in an unceasing violent struggle—rather to the scandal of the two or three passers we met, so early for Sunday morning in that quiet part of the town. But when I came with my prisoner to Fifth Street, it was with the consciousness that I was pretty well worn out, and that he, in spite of the strangle-lock, seemed to be growing fresher.

Each moment he fought with new rage and vigor, sometimes driving me against the fence, sometimes over the curb; lunging fiercely with those sinewy hind-legs, and striking wildly with the pointed fore-hoofs, whose dangerous effectiveness every hunter knows.

The way we wrestled and fought over the next six or seven hundred feet might have been amusing to bystanders, but became[309] terrible to me. It was not for the bruises and gashes I got, nor for the breathless thumps against fences and trees, nor for the being violently thrown several times. I kept his head in chancery, and these small hurts were not much more than one expects to get in a good bout of catch-as-can with a human adversary.

As long as I could keep that deadlock on his neck I was perfectly safe from any serious injury, but the grim certainty confronted me that I could not keep it much longer. My arm began to give at his fiercest lunges, my breath and heart were alike stampeding, and I felt creeping over me the dizzy faintness of utter exhaustion. Never had wrestler given me such tussle before—though I have worked two hours “on the carpet” at a bout.

Down we went again at the last corner, and again a glancing hoof cut me as I fought back to my feet. I dropped the horn and clasped the left wrist with my right hand, drawing the arm tighter under the brute’s throat, at once to hold him surer and cut off his wind. But the broad leather collar seemed to save him. A burly fellow passed. “Help me with this deer!” I panted; but he looked at the savage struggles of Bonito and hurried on.


At the very gate the beast bore me down once more; but once more I struggled up and dragged him in. We swayed and fought along, tearing up the gravel-walks and flower-beds, and at last came to the shed. I could barely stand, and Bonito dragged me hither and yon. My eyes were hazy, and the cramped arms began to slip. Would Virginia never come? I yelled again, and just then she came running out.

“Fasten—his chains—around the post!” I had just breath to gasp; and, like the brave girl she was, she did it—in what seemed to me forever, while the deer and I fought the last bout.

“Run!” I cried, when the chain was at last secured; and when she was in the back door, I dragged Bonito to the end of his chain, loosed my hold and fell backward. I am positive that I could not have held him twenty seconds longer to save my life.

He slacked back on the tether and hurled himself forward till the steel links cracked again, and his eyes fairly started with the pressure on his throat. But the chain held, and his frantic efforts, which continued as long as I was in sight, were in vain. Had a link parted then, he would have had an easy victim. A few minutes’ breathing-spell made me over, and by a bit of good fortune[311] I caught the next train, and reached Long Beach not far behind time—though with various large rents and blood stains on my clothing.

The next day a butcher was summoned to rid us of so dangerous a pet. He dealt Bonito a fearful blow on the forehead with a hatchet. The deer dropped as if shot, and lay motionless; and the butcher stepped forward with his knife. But like a flash the brute was on his feet again—and on his assailant, whose coat was pierced front and back by the sharp antlers. It was a remarkable chance that they had not entered his abdomen.

The butcher’s fat, rosy face turned a sickly gray. He kept his distance after that, and with a long-handled ax made thrice sure of the game before he would venture again within the radius of that chain.

Bonito dressed one hundred and fifty-six pounds—so you see he was no feather-weight for a wrestler. He was fat, and they said very good venison. At home we could not think of eating the meat of a former pet; but after his exploits, our sentiment did not go so far as to make us sorry that someone else could.

And since then I have never had an ambition to get another “tame deer.”



The Rebel Double Runner.



The Rebel Double Runner.

When I was a lad in a lonely New Hampshire village, in the memorable year of 1863, a great many fathers and uncles and older brothers were off at some fearful and dimly-comprehended distance, dressed in blue, and, as we reckoned it, fighting battles daily.

How brave they had looked one morning, as they left town, marching with fife and drum along the crazy sidewalk, and off down the “Depot Hill!”

After that, the games at school and after school took a decidedly warlike tinge. Wooden swords and muskets largely usurped the place of top and ball; and proud was the small boy whose grand-dad would lend him a real sword of 1812, or an ancient militia shako.

When the stern New Hampshire winter came on, with its sleighing and coasting and skating, military evolutions were somewhat curtailed—but not altogether. There[316] were snow forts and snow battles; white-blocked Sumters that defied the assault of the enemy.

Patriotic feeling ran riot; and when one young school-fellow, named Tip, espoused the Southern cause for fun, and began to press our ramparts sore, gaining recruits every day by his sheer audacity, there came to be snow-balls slightly thawed and then left out over night to turn to ice—and, as a result, some dangerous casualties on the battle-field.

The very opposite of Tip in many ways was Mat Marks. Tip was restless, sometimes reckless, always full of mischief, but one of the squarest and least self-conscious of boys. His sudden “turning Rebel,” when he could hardly draft rebels enough to make the holding of our forts against them half-way interesting, was from no lack of as good patriotism as ours.

But Tip liked excitement, and was less vain than most of us; and without a second thought of any prejudice that he might excite because of this boyish enterprise, he abandoned the fort and took command of the enemy—“just to make it interesting.”

And, though he was always overwhelmingly outnumbered, interesting enough he made it for “Us Unions” before he finished.


Mat, on the other hand, while in a way as active and enterprising as Tip, was much bound to the traditions—not from any principle or understanding of them, but because he liked to be on the popular side, and at the head of it, too; for he had a remarkably good opinion of himself.

Thanks to his diplomacy, he counted more followers than any other lad in town, and was fully satisfied of the justice of his preëminence. He liked to deem himself “a born leader of men,” such as he read of; and I have often wondered, since, that we so long and so unquestioningly obeyed his smooth dictatorship. He was always “organizing”—the snow-ball battles were the outcome of his genius—and we carried out his orders with remarkable fidelity.

With the twentieth of December came a three-foot fall of snow, and in a few days it was hard packed on every highway, like a squeaky, white pavement. No more skating now—the sled was to be king for the next two months. For a few days everybody coasted, hit or miss; and the long slide swarmed like an ant-hill going crazy. But then the administrative mind of Mat began to work. Everyone sliding down hill on his own hook and straggling back at will—this was altogether too puerile and unorganized!


So Mat called a council of war.

“Say, boys,” he said, “I’ll tell you what let’s do! Instead of going higgledy-piggledy at it, like a lot of girls, let’s organize the coasting in good shape. We’ll have our rules and signals and right of way, just like a railroad, and a switch at the tannery corner so the small boys can go on to the toll-bridge, carrying supplies for the army, and the express-trains can turn off to the depot and take troops to the front.

“Then, too, I think father’ll let me have old Nell, and we can make her haul back all the sleds in a string, and let fellows have turns riding her down to meet us again. So that’ll get rid of the meanest part of it—the pulling our sleds up hill. Besides, we’re all the time having trouble with teams now; but if they all knew we were coming down in a steady string, they’d keep out of the way, and do their sledding only when the coast was clear. What do you fellows think?”

“Good enough!” “That’s the way!” “All right!” cried the crowd, in various voices, but with one mind. But when the exclamations were over, Tip tilted his sharp face a bit and said:

“Well, what are you going to do while Nell is getting down hill? Sit in the snow-drift[319] there at the depot and rub your ears? Strikes me it’s better to turn around and climb back, and keep warm, ’stead of waiting there half an hour to freeze. And s’posing some team that didn’t know about our all comin’ down together was to get in the way? Then we’d be apt to get tangled up with each other and go to smash.”

“Huh!” retorted Mat, sharply; “I guess you’re scared. But you don’t have to join us. If the rest say to go in, I guess we can get along without you. What do you say, fellows? Shall we do it?”

“’Course we will!” was the chorus; and Mat looked triumphantly at his rival—for there was no denying that Mat reckoned as a rival, and therefore a foe, anyone who didn’t agree with him, as Tip generally did not. Tip returned the glance coolly and answered:

“Why, you fellows do as you like, of course—I ain’t bossing you. But you can count me out from any such goose-tag as that.”

“We wouldn’t have you anyhow!” cried Mat, nettled at this comparing them to a flock of geese waddling one after the other. “We don’t care to have any traitors in our crowd.”

“Yah, you old Rebel!” piped little Bill Burpee, taking his clew as usual; and several[320] others echoed what was then the most dreadful word in our vocabulary.

“I ain’t a Rebel, and you know it!” Tip answered, warmly. “I guess my father’s fighting as hard as any of yours—and he ain’t staying home to tend grocery stores, like Mat’s!” with which parting shot he walked off scornfully and quite alone.

I can hardly understand now why we were so unjust to Tip. He had more in him than any other boy among us, was less selfish, more trustworthy and a better friend than ten Mats, and had done each of us no end of boy-kindnesses, instead of using us as cat’s-paws for his own ambition.

But just because he had “played Rebel” for a few days solely to put a little life into the war, the boys were “down on” him. His followers in that campaign we made no note of and harbored no grudge against.

Perhaps there was wounded vanity in the recollection how nearly his superior generalship had routed our superior forces. So unreasoning are early prejudices that I presume a few of us never did quite get the last grain of grudge out of our heads—unless, perhaps, fifteen years later, when Mat was clerking in his father’s store, and word came of the death of Capt. Tip in Arizona. He was slain by the Apaches[321] after an heroic fight which saved an immigrant party till the arrival of troops enough to scatter the red fiends.

Well, Mat’s plan progressed famously. A small army of us, with brooms and shovels, worked over that mile and a half of road till the coast was in such good shape as no one ever dreamed of before.

The weather stayed obstinately cold; so, under Mat’s direction, we brought water by the bucketful and wet down the safer parts of the slide. There was some friction about this, for the older people objected to so much glare ice; but Mat compromised by not wetting the street crossings, and only a narrow track at the side of the road, so that sleighs had plenty of room without encroaching on our slide.

At the tannery corner we made a crescent of hard-packed snow, with sloping concavity, which rendered it rather easier to turn that dangerous angle. It was like the raised rail on the outside of the railway curve, or the “saucer-edge” of an automobile race-track.

And then came the marshalling of the clans. Our embryo Napoleon, of course, was commander-in-chief, and his pride, the double-runner “Avalanche,” led the line. There were in those days but half a dozen[322] other double-runners in town. These were owned by young men. Mat’s was the only one in “our crowd.” It was a very fancy affair for then and there.

Right-hand-man Hunt was privileged to manage the rear, and the coveted remaining seats were occupied by guests of passing invitation.

It was no small social power to control a double-runner, and Mat made the most of it, giving rides to all his friends with great princeliness. But I remember that we never saw on Mat’s “traverse” any of the urchins from the lower end of the village—they had no “influence.”

Behind the “Avalanche” came sleds of all sorts and sizes. As for Tip, no one had seen him for several days. He lived up on the other hill—a hill even steeper than Dolloff’s, but coming in with such an ugly turn at the engine-house that no one coasted there since big Ned Green broke his neck on a wood-pile around the bend.

The great Saturday came for the formal inauguration of the Cannonball Railroad. Sixty-odd boys were gathered at the top of Dolloff’s Hill. Some girls were there, too, with their high, flat-runnered sleds, upon which we looked with supreme scorn. Kitty White and Annie Waters and May[323] Thurston were comfortably tucked up on the cushioned seat behind Mat on his double-runner; and Hunt was holding back on the tail-board till the signal.

“All ready—go!” yelled Mat. Hunt sprang to his seat, and the sled slipped away, gaining momentum swiftly. Charlie White flung himself on his long cutter and was at its heels; and one after another, in continuous line, the whole array of boys on their sleds went sweeping down the hill.

Just as the last of us were whizzing by the engine-house, there was a shrill yell, and a dark flash from the other arm of the “Y” of the roads shot alongside in a swirl of snow-flower, and was past almost before anyone could crack a wink.

All we were sure of was that Tip and a party had gone by us, but how, or on what, no one knew. Anyhow, it was just like him. No one but Tip could have turned that lopsided corner in that way, and grazed safely within two feet of us. And one after another of the brown line ahead, we could see this astounding meteor picking up and passing them all.

Mat was right on the town bridge, steering his grandest to cut a fine curve through the square, when he caught that odd singing of tempered runners. Before he could[324] turn his head, Tip streaked by without a glance, doubled the corner with a beautiful swing, and was out of sight on the next pitch when the “Avalanche” turned into the square.

Tip on a double-runner! and one with wings, too, to judge by its speed! And Lou Berry and Kate Morris and Amy Belle and that pauper Okey boy with him, and that big Brown behind—it was altogether too much! When we got to the bottom of Depot Hill, Tip and his party were starting back, dragging the new craft. It was a very heavy double-runner, with a long, springy plank of ash, set rather low. There was no paint on runners or deck, but everything about the sandpapered wood had a clipper look, and the runners were shod with steel rods of an odd spring.

“Where’d ye get it, Tip?” “Ain’t it a whaler?” “Lemme go down once with you, Tip!” cried such of the boys as could catch up—which was not so difficult, as old Nell was dragging our sleds. Tip trudged on, answering composedly:

“Oh, Mr. Brown and I got it fixed up. ’Course you can go, one at a time—we’ve got room for just one more.”

But just then Mat—whose heavy sled went farther than our light ones—overtook[325] us. No doubt he felt pretty sore over being so egregiously beaten at his own game; and his look was anything but amiable as he observed, loudly and in his most scornful tone: “Huh! We feel pretty smart with a Rebel double-runner, don’t we?”

Kate and Lou flushed up, and Brown stuck out his lip contemptuously, but Tip only answered, drily:

“No-o, not so awful smart—just smart enough for what we need.”

This was fuel to the fire. Mat, who was much the heavier of the two, stepped forward; and very likely there would have been a scene, except that the good old minister just then stopped his sleigh for a chat with some friends, the boys. But Mat had clinched a nickname, and Tip’s turnout became in every mouth “The Rebel Double-runner.”

Nor did it stop there. An organized movement—in which Mat was far too shrewd to let himself be seen, leaving it to his younger followers—was made to cut (boycott, as we would say nowadays) everyone who had anything to do with Tip.

Brown evidently didn’t borrow much trouble about the scorn of boys so much younger than himself; and whatever Tip may have felt, he said nothing.


But Kate and Lou felt it keenly, for even the sisters of the camp were enlisted to make things unpleasant for “all who gave aid and comfort to Rebels.” But, as they were loyal and plucky girls, they stuck to their friend in a fashion that was rather heroic, considering the heat and the meanness of youthful partisanship. I trust that for the many shabby turns done them they found some recompense in the regularity with which, day after day and many times a day, they whizzed past their envious persecutors. For Tip had left no gap in his plans. The Rebel double-runner was safe to win every time—thanks partly to its superior construction, partly to the dangerous hill on which it got its headway, and partly to the tremendous send-off given it by that hatefully muscular Brown.

Besides, Tip had a perfect genius as a steerer—the genius of effort and fixity, which counts oftener than any other kind. He seemed afraid of nothing, because he really “saw his way through.” He had studied that slide in every inch, and knew how to give his sled every advantage of it.

It was an aggravation almost beyond endurance to have them flash by us so easily every time; but for all Mat’s efforts and schemes and our wild jockeying, they continued to do[327] it. If the continued triumph of the Rebel double-runner was aggravating to us, it was gall and wormwood to Mat. The thing became a town joke; and older folks, who did not share our grudge against Tip nor our awe of our “Napoleon,” poked all manner of fun.

Suave, self-satisfied, Mat grew glum and snappish. Those of us who ventured to ride with Tip—and it must be confessed that our patriotism was not always proof against the temptation—were made to feel the weight of Mat’s displeasure. Our “leader of men” had not quite learned to lead himself.

As we trudged up with our sleds from the depot one afternoon, we caught sight of Tip’s outfit whisking around the tannery corner and bearing down like a streak of dark lightning.

Mat was ahead, talking hard to young Burpee, who had a long red-bark switch in his hand. Just as the flying traverse was close, the young imp flung his stick down across the road.

Quick as thought we saw the act—and that Tip saw it, too. He slid back, with feet braced hard on the crosspiece, and swung the sled a trifle to the right.

He was pale—but not half so white as Mat, who stood glaring at him like one fascinated.[328] It was right on the last bridge, over the big fall—that old wooden bridge with its crazy railing!

We were too horror-struck even to cry out, and there was no sound from the white faces on the sled. I can remember yet how the great falls roared, as out of a dead hush; how Tip’s teeth showed, and that the steering-rope was sunk deep in his wrists. How many things made themselves seen and felt in that instant!

The sled struck the slender switch exactly square. We looked to see its occupants fly off into space; but, though Tip was snapped forward until his knees bruised his face, those wiry legs saved him and the rest, who were half piled upon him.

The flying ends of the switch told the story. Tip had steered upon the slenderer end, and the swift, high-tempered runners had chopped it in two, as was his hope, and without too great a shock.

Had the switch resisted never so little! It seemed to us—and does to me yet—almost a miracle of escape. But for Tip’s instant wit, the whole party would have broken their necks on the hill, or crashed through the rail to the falls.

That day broke the back of the Cannonball Railroad. No one would so much as[329] look at Burpee; but we felt that the responsibility rested further back.

Of course, Mat had not told him to throw the switch, and doubtless made himself believe that he had no blame in the matter. But the rest of us—well, even boys sometimes know how to read between the lines.

Tip never opened his month about the matter, and promptly stopped any attempted reference to it. He had plenty of companions now, and treated them in his square-toed boy way, as though nothing had ever happened.

A week after the switch episode, the crowd, including Tip, was straggling up the hill as Mat and his few remaining satellites came down on the “Avalanche.” Just as they reached the grist-mill, a loaded wood-sledge stalled at the tannery corner—the snow was soft that day. The sled was, for the same reason, not going half so fast as usual, but quite fast enough. Seeing the dangerous passage thus blockaded, Mat began to get panicky, and the sled wobbled.

“He’s going to jump!” exclaimed someone. “Don’t!”

Tip flung his sled-rope to me. “Hold to her, Mat!” he yelled, standing at the very edge of the slide and balanced, catlike. But Mat did not hold on. The “Avalanche”[330] slewed to one side, and he leaped and went plowing and rolling fifty feet in the slush. Almost as he struck the road, Tip had flung himself headlong upon the steering-seat and caught the lines.

He was just in time to “snub” the front sled before it could “turn cross” and make a wreck; and, steering through the narrow space between the wood-sledge and the bridge-rail, he fetched up safely with the traverse and its four frightened boys on the grade that climbs to Water Street.

That settled the business. From that day out, I think no one was ever heard to mention anything that sounded like “Rebel double-runner.” It was “Tip’s Tornado,” and there wasn’t a boy in town, except one, but was glad to ride on it—or to follow Tip in anything. It was the quietest of victories, but complete.


The Balsa Boy of Lake Titi-Caca.



The Balsa Boy of Lake Titi-Caca.


“But, hombrote, thou art a mouthful, and the lake is brave. Of me it counts not, but much eye to this box. That is the far-looker that makes the pictures, and if it went to the bogas or were even wet, how couldst thou answer?”

“There is no care, Excellency. More than that I am small, in this lake I was born, and now I am made to it. I will not drown your Excellency, nor more wet ye than must be when the lake is so. Trust me, viracocha, to put you to the island safely. And if not then name me Bobo.”

Well, I had to get across, and that was all there was to it. The island was there, I here, the miles of angry water between, and for bridge, only this twelve-year-old Aymará boy with his water-logged balsa. I looked out at the whitecaps, then at the unlikely craft, then in Pablo’s eyes.

Ba-le, it is well. Thou hast the heart of a man. Hold her level for the box.”


I waded out through the mud and rushes, waist-deep in the icy water, holding the precious camera box on my head, and between us we got it safely stowed abaft the beanpole mast. Then I scrambled aboard as best might be, with Pablo’s helpful hand in my collar, for the mud had a trap-like clutch on my legs. Bidding me squat forward, the boy settled back on his knees and began to ply his pole. The loftiest great lake in the world has no timber on its shores, and with the mighty forests of the Yungas five days off no one is going to think of paddles. Plain contorted poles of the iron cupi are far more easily brought over the Andean passes, and they have to suffice.

Slowly, with Pablo poling into the mud behind, the clumsy balsa slid through the totora, whispering as it went with its brother rushes—for itself was simply a great bundle of totora, totora bound, with totora sail and sheets. There was no other thing about it; no nail nor cord nor wood, save only the cupi mast. The mossy tangle of yachu, which feeds the cattle of Titi-caca that graze all day shoulder deep in the lake, hampered the soggy prow and fastened upon Pablo’s stick. Sometimes, with that and the grasping mud, I looked to see him dragged back overboard. But he wagged[335] the pole sharply and held fast with his knees, and always shook free. Decidedly his eyes were right—the boy was no mouse.

In ten minutes we pushed our nose through the last totoral, and were in the open. The wind butted the harder in our face; the waves—no longer tamed by the rushen breakwater of the inshore—came running at us like a stampede. The slow prow kicked them and stumbled on them and pounded them into a coarse rain that pelted hard and icy. I wriggled out of my coat of oiled horsehide and bound it over the camera box to protect that from the spray—for it had been well strained by a fall of the pack mule in crossing the pass of Sorata, and was no longer so waterproof as might be wished. Pablo could now no more touch bottom; and kneeling a little higher and a little farther astern he kept his pole ish-ishing through the water, paddle fashion.

“Give me,” I said, after watching awhile the play of the round boy-chest. “Thou art too light.”

But Pablo sent down his stick the harder—so forcibly, indeed, that the effort pulled that corner of his mouth awry—and grunted:


“No, viracocha; leave me. Your Excellency knows the paddle—that I can see by the way you sit. But this is different. Only we of the lake know its ways, which are tricky. See, pues!” he sputtered, as a bucketful of water slapped us in the face and left both gasping. “For here all the winds quarrel from every way at once—as if pushed by him who was once alcalde of Paucarcolla.” Pablo crossed himself, thereby “dropping a stitch” in his paddling.

“What? The—er—him that the Inquisition pursued?”

Si, viracocha, that same. And yonder headland is where he disappeared in the lake, for the which none care to tarry there, since it is well known that he was the devil in person,” and Pablo crossed himself again.

As we cleared the Punta del Diablo the wind smote us with renewed force, and with every dip a fresh deluge drenched us to the bone. But for a few moments I did not think much of that. With the recession of the headland the long line of the Bolivian Andes came marching into view, and I suppose that just so wondrous a sight is nowhere else. Captained by the peak that overhangs Sorata, the giant file stood marshaled seemingly upon the very beach of[337] the vast blue lake, itself white with that unspeakable whiteness such as befalls no other thing on earth than a far peak of eternal snow high up a clear sky. Such a rank of Titans—from incalculable Illampu and his 25,000 feet, off to where his rival, Illimani, seemed soaring out of the lake a hundred miles away! It was enough to make one forget a wet skin—and even the possibility of a wet camera box. How they possessed the firmament, these sublimated presences! And how the cumuli, puffing up from the tropic forests of the Beni, tangled about their feet and wreathed upward and dulled when their snow-whiteness lapped the whiter snow of those proud crests!

A sharp “Umpss!” from Pablo recalled me to shiver and to look back. A sudden flaw in the wind had caught his stroke with the full weight of the balsa, and the ironwood pole had snapped under the cross strain. Pablo looked anxious, but said very evenly:

Pss! We must break it off, viracocha, and use each an end; for in this wind if we keep not our head, even a balsa will not last. Being angry, the lake pounds as one with his fist.”

Indeed, it was more like that than anything[338] else—and a most reiterant fist, too. Nowhere else is there such a “chop” as on Lake Titi-caca when the winds awake; and I have seen those who have weathered every sea and who laughed at the English channel turned deathly seasick on one of the wallowing little steamers that run from Puno to Chililaya. Now we were kicked about with battering thumps that seemed like to pound our bundle of rushes asunder. Pablo was straining and twisting at the broken pole, to part the wiry fibers. I chopped at it with my heavy, keen bowie, and at last the stubborn strands yielded; and so each had a stick some five feet long. I knelt up and drove mine fiercely down the side while Pablo, astern, kept stroke. We were at it none too soon. At one time I half fancied that we never would get her head to the wind, for the soggy craft answered slowly to our efforts with these pitiful paddles.

For some minutes we tugged in silence. At an altitude of 12,500 feet in Peru one needs all one’s breath for work—even the Serrano lad did. I glanced over my shoulder at him now and then. His lips were shut square, his serious dark eyes seemed to be taking note of everything, and the slender muscles of his arms and chest—clear drawn on the drenched shirt—played[339] smoothly. An athlete myself, and particularly taught in the paddle, I began to feel a respect which was half awe for this manful stripling who toiled so soberly and shrewdly where only the best foreign lungs can endure any exertion whatever. And, at last, little as there was breath to spare, I could not help grunting, “Estás lo mas hombrote!

Pablo’s big white teeth shone for an instant in a sober smile.

“So must we,” he answered calmly. “For here is much to do, nor room for lazies—for small though they be. When I was the half of this, my father had me to help on the balsa; and once, even then, I took it to Puno, he being sick.”

Then silence fell upon us again for a time, and we poled away doggedly. But presently there seemed to me something wrong in Pablo’s quiet, and I twisted my head to look. His stick was going steadily as a machine, but in his face was what made me call out sharply, “What thing?”

He thrust out his chin toward Illampu. I looked thither, and then back at him, uncertain.

“More wind,” he said, concisely. “Either to get to the island before it, or”—and the Spanish shrug said the rest for him.

We did not get to the island before it.[340] Two hundred yards away the gale struck us and flattened the balsa into the waves and the waves into the level, and was like to strip us bodily from our soaked craft. After that nothing was very clear, for the winds and waves washed us fore and aft, and it was hard to say which was the colder and more pitiless; and one saw ill for that bitter pelting in the face, and the heart reeled with overwork to feed the leaping lungs. Bent forward till our heads almost touched the balsa, our knees wedged hard on the tiny roll which served for gunwale, we dug away mechanically with those nightmares of paddles that would carry us nowhere. Once, when my heart would work no more, I turned idly to Pablo. His face was gray with effort, but so sweet and composed that I shouted out, half petulantly:

“Ea! Hast thou not fear, hijito?”

“How not?” he screamed back up the wind. “Am I a fool, not to fear? We shall never come there, perhaps. Only if the saints will! Promise a silver candlestick, señor!”

But in my eyes were a blue eyed baby and her mother, five thousand miles away, and for that, my temper was more to fight, with shut teeth, than to be vowing candlesticks.[341] And just then it struck me to think, in that silly maundering of the mind in stress, how peaceful Pablo would look when they should pick us up, and how they would add: “Umpss! But these gringos are of ill temper, no?”

For half an hour, perhaps, we doubled to our sticks, and still the gale smote us, and still our marrow ached with the chill of the spray. There was no complaint of Pablo. He accepted fate, but still worked like a man—poised and steady in the face of death. If we were to end there, he would be found with the little chapped fists still clenching the stick. Once a motion swept on me to spring back and hug him and say:

“Son, it counts not. Let us meet it in peace. Thou’rt fit to die with!”

But then again the blue eyes came up in the mist, and my fingers cracked on the paddle and my teeth grated. And Pablo, as if he understood, gave me a grave, sweet nod. Further I noted that he drew some small object from his pouch and seemed to breathe on it.

It was so near! In a little eddy of the wind I shook the water from my eyes and peered ahead. The northern point of the island was not fifty yards away—and we were drifting past. It slipped and slipped,[342] for all I dug savagely at the paddle and Pablo quickened his stroke with the first groan I had heard from him. Our tired arms forgot their cramps, our lungs their “stitches” in a wild strain—and still that dark shore kept drawing to our right. Ah, for the old paddle that used to spin the birch canoe! These accursed sticks—why, one might as well paddle with a poker!

Viracocha!” The boy’s shrill voice split the wind like a fife. “The sail!”

I stared at him stupidly an instant. “Thou hast the power,” he cried. “Break it! Break it!”

Then I knew, and leaped upon the ironwood mast as a wolf at the throat of a fawn, and clenched it and wrenched and beat, and shoved and twisted and tugged, and with arms and knees tore it loose from its stepping in the balsa. It well nigh racked the rushen raft in twain, and we noticed that the impact of the waves no longer shook the balsa as a unit, but wabbled and see-sawed it.

I caught the cupi under my left arm and clinched tight the “sheets” of braided totora around the totora sail, till that was bound in shape something like a closed umbrella, and springing forward to my station stood and plied this new paddle with frantic[343] energy. It was unwieldy and floppy, but it had more resistance than the pole, and slowly—so slowly that at first we dared not believe it—the sullen craft began to answer. New hope came in us, and we shouted “Arre! Drive!” and bent till the muscles creaked. Now, even in Pablo’s face, was the fierce light of combat.

And so we made the shore. In the lee of the point the water was so still that it seemed a yard lower than its surrounding level. A lone tuft of totora grew near the shore, and when we came to it I fell on my face along the balsa and clutched the pithy stalks; and there we lay at that frail anchorage till heart and lungs came back in me. Then, poling nearer, I stepped over the side and landed the camera; and came back and gathered in my arms a limp bundle, whose head drooped upon my shoulder, and so waded heavily up the beach of Sicuya.


There was nothing on the island for a good fire—indeed, in all that vast plateau, so lofty and so cold, one learns the art of shivering to perfection, for fuel is enormously scarce. After an hour’s work I had assembled a tiny heap of dry rushes from the beach, and bunch grass and a few[344] straggling bushlets. The tinder, in its oil-cloth pouch, with the flint and steel, was dry, and presently we had a swift, ephemeral blaze. It was nothing to dry us, but served briefly to toast our hands and feet and take off a little of that ghastly chill. The camera was all right, and I resumed the horsehide coat, buttoning it to my chin to pay for the woolen shirt which I had lent Pablo. As the darkness came on our poor little fire died away. We scraped a trough in the gravel and lay down in it spoon fashion, my arms around Pablo’s chest, and so wore out the night.

We were chilled and stiff and half inanimate when the sluggard sun peeped over the far peaks of Apolobamba, and got up like old men. But even the light was cheering; and presently a soft glow began to tame the bitter air and we ran clumsily and danced about and swung our arms till the blood went free again in its forgotten channels. Pablo was all right now—a boy is a hard thing to kill, and particularly an outdoors boy—and chatted leisurely and calmly, as was his way.

“But to eat!” I broke in on one of his stories, when we were fairly limbered up in body and mind. “Is there gente on the island?”


“Nobody. I think the Ancients were here once, for up yonder I have seen a strong wall. But none come here now—not even seeking treasure, which must be here.”

“Bother the treasure! What we want now is food, even if it were only llama meat; for in purity of truth I’m falling with hunger. Let us hunt.”

“There will be ducks, pues, over in the cove. Vamos!

Ducks there were, by the hundred; and mudhens, and dippers, and flamingoes, and almost every other aquatic fowl, among the rushes in the eastern cove. With the shotgun we could have mowed down a bushel of them—but the shotgun was lying with my sleeping bag and rawhide muleback trunks over in a hut on the mainland. Well, with the six-shooter we could count on one bird, anyhow; and I drew it and began to rub off last night’s rust.

“But wait me,” said the little balsero. “It is better not to frighten them, for we may need more than one. With this there is no noise.”

As he spoke he unwound the braided sling which bound his long black hair. It was the immemorial weapon of his people—even so I had taken it from the skulls of[346] mummies of his ancestors far antedating the Conquest. Pablo gathered some smooth pebbles from the beach and began creeping toward the cove, sheltering himself whenever a bunch of totora offered. The water-fowl began to edge out, and a few nervous ducks rose. But the boy knew his business and kept on at the same gait. Suddenly straightening up, he whirled his right arm thrice around, and even from where I was I could hear a twang, and then the sh-oo-oo of the hurtling pebble.

There was a commotion among the birds, and a great white swan stretched and half rose from the water and dropped back in a shower of spray. Pablo was already in the water, keeping out of sight all but his head, and in a couple of rods that also disappeared. The swan suddenly redoubled its struggles, beating one wing till the water foamed, but without progress. Then it began to drift shoreward, still fighting; and in a moment I saw a dark object rise just in front of it. The swan saw, too, and aimed a stunning blow with its wing. But the head had already vanished and the screaming bird kept moving shoreward despite his struggles. Then I waited so long that it seemed impossible that one should so endure under water, when the swan’s violent[347] pecking at his breast relieved me. Pablo, to keep out of the way of that heavy wing and beak, was holding the great bird firmly down upon the crown of his head, and when it was needful to take a breath he could thus get his nose out of water without seriously exposing himself. It was when he should come where the water was but a couple of feet deep that trouble would begin, and already I judged that he was lying upon his back and kicking along the mud. Time after time a dark fist came up to grapple that snake-like neck, but the bird was too smart and the captor got only savage bites for his pains. I ran out to help, and the swan met me with a peck that took a morsel off my hand; but a back sweep of the bowie sent the head flying twenty feet, and after a little more flopping the great fowl fell limp. The missile from the sling had shattered his left wing.

Well, when Pablo had warmed himself in the scorching sun, and we had gathered another bunch of dry weeds and more or less plucked the bird and half toasted thin strips of it in the embers, and devoured each a wolf’s share, we felt better. Perhaps we swallowed quite as much ashes as meat, and salt would have helped it—but it was a wonderful banquet, anyhow. We washed[348] it down with drafts from the ill-tasting lake, and I dried a brown-paper cigarette on a sunny rock until it was smokable, and for a while we wallowed in the hot sun and watched the drift of shadows on Illampu, which had snared all the clouds from the sky.

Pues, the pictures. And then, to get back to shore,” I said at last, getting up reluctantly. Pablo was greatly interested in that wonderful glass in its shining tube, and marveled at the unkinking of the tripod and how the whole artful box opened and swelled at a touch. We carried it to the top of the hill, and I made my pictures and showed him the inverted gem of color on the ground glass and explained it all to him in the formula I learned long ago for Indian friends, to whom one has to adapt one’s own point of view. Then he took me to the ruin—some fallen houses and a strong wall of great rocks wonderfully squared and carved, and we made a picture there, with tattered Pablo standing beside the noble handiwork of his fathers. Unhappily, the plate fell a victim to the abominable dampness of Lima.

“If we had but a spade,” sighed Pablo, who went scuffing his toes in the rubbish of the forgotten rooms. “What says the viracocha?[349] Shall we come back one day and dig here? For surely there will be treasure. Over yonder, toward that island, is where they say the Incas sunk the chain of Huascar, that the Spaniards might not find it. And many have looked for it, and some even talk to drain the lake.”

“I can see them draining Titi-caca! But come, what was this chain of Huascar?” I asked, as seriously as if this were all news to me.

Mppss! It was of gold, then—pure gold. For when Huascar Inca was born his father, Huayna Capac, ordered made this chain of gold, three hundred paces long and the fatness of my thumb, that the people might dance holding it. Ay, if one might find it! Sometimes, looking over the balsa, I have thought to see that shining on the bottom, but then it was only a boga turning to the sun.”

“Ea, and what wouldst thou, hijito, finding this chain of Huascar?”

“Yo? Mpps, Vueséncia, I would—mppss—I would buy the balsa of Jeraldo, which is very good; and three pigs and a cow for my mother, and a net; and—and—and—boots like those of your Excellency——”

“Good! And I hope thou’lt find it. I mind me that an Inca, Don Garcilaso de la[350] Vega, who wrote a book two hundred and ninety years ago—sabes book? Well, it is much paper tied together—much spoiled paper, with words on it. And this Inca said that the chain of Huascar was thrown into the little lake in the valley of Orcos, which the Spaniards did indeed try to drain. But Garcilaso said many things—particularly in December when the days are long—and I fancy thou’rt as like to find the chain in this lake as in any other.”

“But the paper, se’or, how can it tell these things?”

Pues, because we make paper that talks—not out loud, but telling you things without a sound. And sometimes it knows how to lie, just like people.”

“Perhaps it was not Don Garcilaso’s fault, then—it can be that he got that kind of paper. For I know the chain is in this lake here, of Titi-caca, since my grandfather told me, and he knew from very long ago. He was taught in all the stories of our fathers, and he gave me this auqui of old for a charm. Perhaps for that we were not swallowed by the lake.”

So saying, Pablo drew from his left-hand pouch a precious little fetich of silver, ages old, for there is no mistaking the prehistoric handiwork of Peru. It was in rude human[351] form, and not cast, but hollow, beaten out and cupped and soldered so cleverly that one could scarce find the joint.

Hola! He was an abuelo worth having. Come, I’ll give thee ten soles for it, for I shall need an auqui myself if I am to stay in these lands of ill luck.”

But Pablo shook his head, though I am positive he never had seen so much money in one pile before as the ten silver dollars in my hand.

Ha-ni-wa!” he said. “For it is ill to sell these things, which are sacred.” He breathed on the image and tucked it carefully back in his chuspa.

The balsa, still nodding at the rushen cable, was soon repaired by Pablo’s apt hands with a few withes of totora. We stepped the mast again, as well as might be, in its torn socket, hoisted the rush sail, and drew slowly out in a light breeze. It was a very different passage from that of yesterday, and we sprawled lazily along the balsa, looking back now to the vast white peaks, and now to the weedy shore ahead. We crept through the outer fringe of totora, passing far to the left of a little stone hut that seemed built upon the very water a mile from shore. A few sad cattle lay about it, only their heads out of water; and nearer[352] us, on a submerged bar, a gristly pig seemed undecided whether he had better root or swim. It was Pablo’s home, he told me—a fair type of the pitiful swamp ranches of the lake dwellers. In the shoals they build their squalid huts and raise the unkempt cattle which know no other pasturage—as their owners no other world.

When we came to the head of the bay and had waded ashore with the camera, we stood a long time in the mud looking back at the blue lake and the dark island. I was sore and hungry, and with much to do; but, somehow, it was hard to turn away. Pablo stood screwing his bare toes into the ooze, in as little haste to be off.

“And will your Excellency come again?” he said at last, catching my eye and then turning away.

“Who knows, hijito? To-morrow I take mule for the Desaguadero. Perhaps some day. But much eye that thou have a new balsa ready against then, for this is too old. And here is wherewith to buy Jeraldo’s, without waiting to find the chain of Huascar. Adios, then, and—un abrazo!

He reached up to my shoulders and laid his head against me with a little tug, and suddenly broke away and started for the[353] balsa. Midway he stopped and turned and came splashing back.

“Hear, viracocha,” he said, with a little uncertainty in his voice. “I could not sell the auqui, for it is not honest to take money for sacred things. But one who goes so far as your Excellency, and in many dangers, ought indeed to have one to keep harm from him. And for that you—that—that we were brothered in danger and you did not despise me, now I give you.” And flinging the precious figure at my feet, before I could gather my wits he was spattering out to the balsa. Nor would he return. Ten minutes later, when I looked back from the hut where my things were stored, the drab patch of his sail had quite faded in the totoral.


[1] Ah-say-kee-ah. Irrigating ditch.

[2] May-sah. Table land.

[3] Lay-lo.

[4] Meel-pah. Field.

[5] L’yah-no. Plain.

[6] The quaint little Spanish-American donkey. Pronounced Boo-ro.

[7] Ta-hee-ke.

[8] Ho-vay-ro. Blaze-face.

[9] Tor-teel-yaz. Unleavened cakes of corn meal.

[10] Prairie dogs.

[11] For that is what cholo means.

[12] Papa.

[13] Pronounced ll-yah-mah.

[14] The Peruvian silver dollar. Pronounced soul.

[15] “All right. Come.”

[16] The Aymará and Quichua Indian word for father.

[17] Ah-re-kee-pa.

[18] Seel-yar. A very light volcanic stone quarried on the side of the volcano. All Arequipa is built of it.

[19] Por-tal. The Spanish veranda.

[20] Pah-tee-o; courtyard.

[21] Indian half-breeds.

[22] Ho-say-fa.

[23] Pronounced Abby-kew.

[24] Tra-pee-che.

[25] Administrah-dore; overseer.

[26] Pronounced, An-drayce; and Arriero (arry-ay-ro), man in charge of a pack train.

[27] Ll-yah-ma. Double l in Spanish always has the sound that it has in our word “million.”

[28] Vee-coon-ya. The Spanish letter ñ has always the sound of ny in “lanyard.”

[29] Chacra—a farm.

[30] The Bolivian dollar.

[31] Choon-cho: literally, a “cannibal”—the word used specifically of the man-eating tribes of the upper Amazon, and in general as a term of reproach.

[32] Flo-ho.

[33] Antelopes.

[34] These artificial storms are a favorite illusion of the Indian wizards of the Southwest.

[35] Aspen.

[36] This “drawing” of objects from the patient is another stock trick of Pueblo “medicine-making.”

[37] Peen-yone.

[38] The proper pronunciation is Cal-yah-o.

[39] Ro-deel.

[40] This is properly pronounced not Bóllivar, but Bo-lee-var.

[41] Quicksilver.

[42] It is estimated that five hundred million dollars’ worth of silver and mercury have gone down it.