On the Banks of the Amazon, by W.H.G. Kingston.
This is a quite long book, very well written, about a trip down the Amazon. There is rather a lot of "Natural History", but not too much, because it has all been made easy to follow, and is very interesting. All sorts of interesting things happen on this voyage.
The copy used for digitisation had a rather furry and small typeface. Not one of the clearest we have ever seen. Consequently it was rather heavy labour trying to iron out the misreads and typos, and it may well be that some remain, though nowhere near the prescribed limit of 99.95%.
There are 132,948 words in the book, so 1 in 2000 means that we must have less than 66 errors still remaining, which I am sure is the case.
It is a rather curious thing that one is reminded at times of Ballantyne's "Martin Rattler," written very much earlier, even down to to the presence of a "recluse". That doesn't mean you won't enjoy the book just as much as you might have enjoyed "Martin Rattler." Best, as always, as an audiobook.
ON THE BANKS OF THE AMAZON, BY W.H.G. KINGSTON.
MY SCHOOL-BOY DAYS AND FRIENDS.
I might find an excuse for being proud, if I were so,—not because my ancestors were of exalted rank or title, or celebrated for noble deeds or unbounded wealth, or, indeed, on account of any ordinary reasons,— but because I was born in one of the highest cities in the world. I saw the light in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, then forming the northern part of the Spanish province of Peru. The first objects I remember beyond the courtyard of our house in which I used to play, with its fountain and flower-bed in the centre, and surrounding arches of sun-burned bricks, were lofty mountains towering up into the sky. From one of them, called Pichincha, which looked quite close through the clear atmosphere of that region, I remember seeing flames of fire and dark masses of smoke, intermingled with dust and ashes, spouting forth. Now and then, when the wind blew from it, thick showers of dust fell down over us, causing great consternation; for many thought that stones and rocks might follow and overwhelm the city. All day long a lofty column of smoke rose up towards the sky, and at night a vast mass of fire was seen ascending from the summit; but no harm was done to the city, so that we could gaze calmly at the spectacle without apprehension. Pichincha is, indeed, only one of several mountains in the neighbourhood from the tops of which bonfires occasionally blaze forth. Further off, but rising still higher, is the glittering cone of Cotopaxi, which, like a tyrant, has made its power felt by the devastation it has often caused in the plains which surround its base: while near it rise the peaks of Corazon and Ruminagui. Far more dreaded than their fires is the quaking and heaving and tumbling about of the earth, shaking down as it does human habitations and mountain-tops, towers and steeples, and uprooting trees, and opening wide chasms, turning streams from their courses, and overwhelming towns and villages, and destroying in other ways the works of men's hands, and human beings themselves, in its wild commotion.
These burning mountains, in spite of their fire and smoke, appear but insignificant pigmies compared to that mighty mountain which rises in their neighbourhood—the majestic Chimborazo. We could see far off its snow-white dome, free of clouds, towering into the deep blue sky, many thousand feet above the ocean; while on the other side its brother, Tunguragua, shoots up above the surrounding heights, but, in spite of its ambitious efforts, has failed to reach the same altitude I might speak of Antisana, and many other lofty heights with hard names? but I fancy that a fair idea may be formed of that wonderful region of giant mountains from the description I have already given.
I used often to think that I should like to get to the top of Chimborazo, the way up looked so easy at a distance; but no one has ever reached its summit, though several valiant philosophers and others have made the attempt.
The mountain range I have described, of which Chimborazo was long considered the highest point, till Aconcagua in Chili was found to be higher, rises from the ocean in the far-off southern end of America, and runs up along its western shore, ever proud and grand, with snow-topped heights rising tens of thousands of feet above the ocean, till it sinks once more towards the northern extremity of the southern half of the continent, running along the Isthmus of Panama, through Mexico at a less elevation, again to rise in the almost unbroken range of the Rocky Mountains, not to sink till it reaches the snow-covered plains of the Arctic region.
But I am becoming too scientific and geographical; and I must confess that it was not till many years after the time of which I am speaking that I knew anything about the matter. My father, Don Martin Fiel, had been for some years settled in Quito as a merchant. His mother was Spanish, or partly so, born in Peru—I believe that she had some of the blood of the Incas in her veins, a matter of which she was not a little proud, I have been told—but his father was an Englishman, and our proper family name was Faithful. My father, having lived for many years in the Spanish South American provinces, had obtained the rights and privileges of a Spaniard. He had, however, been sent over to England for his education, and was a thorough Englishman at heart. He had made during his younger days several visits to England for mercantile purposes, and during one of them had married my mother. He was, though really a Protestant—I am sorry to have to make the confession— nominally a Roman Catholic; for he, being a Spanish subject, could not otherwise at that time have resided in any part of the territories of Spain and carried on his business with freedom: but I feel now that no person has a right to conceal their true faith, and to pretend to believe what is false, for the sake of any worldly advantage. My mother, however, had stipulated that all her children should be brought up as Protestants. To this he had agreed, though he found when he had sons that he was in consequence subjected to considerable annoyance from the priests, who threatened to denounce him as a heretic. To avoid this, he had to send his children to England at an early age for their education; indeed, had we remained at Quito we could only have obtained a very poor one at any public school or college. It will be understood from what I have said, that though we were really English, and I have always felt like an Englishman, we had both Spanish and native connections, which will account for some of the circumstances which afterwards occurred to us.
My father, though he himself resided at Quito, had also a house of business at Guayaquil, which imported European manufactured goods, and exported in return Peruvian bark and other articles, of which I shall by-and-by have to speak. He was greatly respected by his fellow-citizens, although they might have been somewhat jealous of him for succeeding in his business through his energy and perseverance, while they themselves, sitting idle all the day smoking their cigarettes without attempting to exert their minds, were left behind. My dear mother lived very much alone, for the society of the ladies of Quito, though they are very charming in manner, afforded her but little satisfaction, from their utter want of education.
I remember the joy which the arrival of my eldest sister, Fanny—or Dona Francisca, as the Spaniards called her—who had gone to school in England, and Aunt Martha, who brought her back, caused in the family. I had another sister, Ellen, much younger; a sweet, dear little girl, of whom I was very fond. She was indeed the pet of the family. My elder brother, John, was at school in England. I remember thinking Aunt Martha, who was my mother's elder sister, very stiff and formal; and I was not at all pleased when she expressed her intention of teaching me and keeping me in order. My mother's health had been delicate, and I had been left very much to the care of old Domingos, a negro servant of my father's, who had been with him since his boyhood, and with my grandfather before him. He was the butler, or major-domo, the head over all the other servants, and, I believe, deservedly trusted. Among them I remember best little Maria, a young negro slave girl who attended especially on Ellen; and Antonio, a Gallego from the north of Spain, a worthy, honest fellow, who had been in the family from his boyhood, and was much attached to us all. I soon learned to like Aunt Martha better than I had expected, for though I thought her looks very terrible at first—and she was certainly firm—she was really kind and gentle. Under her instruction I gained the first knowledge of the letters of the alphabet, of which I was before profoundly ignorant. Of course she was very gentle with Ellen, as everybody was, and Fanny seemed to be very fond of her. She was courageous, too, as I before long had evidence. I remember one night being suddenly lifted in her arms, and carried out by her into the patio of courtyard. There was a strange rumbling noise underneath our feet, and I could see the stout walls of our house rocking to and fro; and yet, though the earth was tumbling about, she did not tremble in the least, but I heard her telling the servants not to shriek out or to pray to the saints, who could not help them, but to put their trust in God, who made the world, and who would save them from danger if it was his good will. It was a very fearful night, however, and though I believe the earthquake did not last long, it tumbled down, during the few minutes of its duration, a number of buildings, and many of the inhabitants were buried beneath the ruins. Our house, however, which was on the outskirts of the city, and had no upper story, although some of the walls were cracked, escaped without further injury; and before morning we were in our beds again, and I, for my part, was sleeping soundly.
A short time after this I found that some great event was about to take place, and I saw trunks being packed; and my mother, who had been ill for some time, was very busy, and looked, I often thought, somewhat sad; and then I heard that she and Ellen and I were going to England, to be accompanied by Domingos and Maria, and that we were to remain there some time, and that I was to go to school, and then, if my father did not join us, that John and Ellen and I were to come back together with our mother, unless she returned before that time. Aunt Martha and Fanny were to stay and take care of my father. Of course I was highly delighted when I heard this, and began packing a box with my playthings, and all sorts of articles, and was very indignant when Maria told me that they were not to go. I do not remember much about the journey, except that my father came with us, and that the party rode on mules; that Domingos carried me before him; that we went up and down mountains and into deep valleys; and that sometimes it was very hot, and sometimes very cold; and that we stopped at very uncivilised-looking resting-places at night; and that at last we reached a large town, close to the sea, which was, I have since learned, Guayaquil. I remember seeing some magnificent fruits—pine-apples, oranges, lemons, limes, alligator-pears, melons, and many others—and eating some of them, or probably I should not have recollected the circumstance. The place was very busy, and far more people were moving about than I had been accustomed to see at Quito; and in the harbour were a number of vessels—large ships and small ones, and curious rafts, on which the natives were sailing or paddling about, called balsas. They were made of light balsa wood, which is very buoyant. They were of all sizes, and some had come in from a considerable distance along the coast. Then my father accompanied us on board a big ship, and took an affectionate leave of my mother and sister and me; and we all cried very much at parting, at least Ellen and I did, though I was so well pleased with all the sights I witnessed that I soon forgot my sorrow. Then the sails of the Pizarro—that was the name of our ship—were set, and we glided out of the harbour, while the boat containing my father returned to the shore. The Pizarro was, I should say, a Spanish ship, commanded by Captain Lopez, a very worthy man, in whom my father had great confidence, or he would not have committed our mother and us to his charge. At that time Spanish vessels alone were allowed by the Spaniards to trade to the ports of their colonies, which contributed with many other causes greatly to retard their progress. I, however, knew nothing about such matters at that time. I remember the compass in the binnacle placed before a big wheel, at which a man was always standing steering the ship, and I was told that we were sailing south. I thought the ocean, which was blue, and calm, and glittering in the sunshine, must be very wide, and wondered where it could end, or whether it had an end towards the west. On the east was the coast of Peru, and I could see the lofty snow-capped mountains rising up out of the plain, looking as if they were intended to bear up the sky should it come down towards the earth. Day after day we glided on. There they were as high as ever, apparently quite close to us, though I heard the captain tell my mother that they were fifty miles off or more. I scarcely believed him, though I did not think so big and grave a man could tell a story. I did not understand at that time to what a distance objects can be seen in that pure, clear atmosphere. We after that stood off the coast for many hours, and yet they appeared almost as high as ever. The mountains I saw were the Andes or the Cordilleras, among which I had lived so long without having a clear idea of their extent.
We were not idle during the voyage, for our mother set to work the second day we were at sea to give us our lessons. She had made a point of teaching us English as soon as we could utter a word; but though Ellen spoke it very well from being always with her, I spoke Spanish mixed with Quichua, the native Indian tongue, much more readily. We now, however, learned all our lessons in English, and read a great deal, so that I got on rapidly.
The weather at length began to grow unusually cold, and the sky was covered with clouds. We put on warm clothes, and kept much oftener than usual in the cabin. The ship too began to tumble about, and I thought sometimes would be sent right over. I remember inquiring seriously if a waterquake were taking place; for I had hitherto seen the ocean so calm, that I fancied it would always remain so, and that it was only the earth which was given to shaking and tumbling about. The wind whistled and roared, and the spray flew over the deck, and the sailors went out on the yards and reefed the sails; but no one seemed to mind what was happening, so I was soon content, and thought all was right; and when I looked on the waves, it struck me that they were not a quarter as high as the mountains I had been accustomed to see, and wondered how they were able to tumble the great big ship about in the way they did. Still on we went day after day, and I discovered that we were sailing in an opposite direction to that we had before steered. I could not make it out, till the captain showed me a chart, and gave me my first lesson in geography on a grand scale; and I then saw that we had come down the west coast of South America, and were now sailing northward along its eastern coast.
I was very glad when I could go on deck again without greatcoat, and the sun shone forth as brightly almost as it does at Quito. Then in a little time the weather got very hot again, and there was no wind, and the ship lay on the glassy sea, her white sails flapping against the masts. There we lay day after day, and I began to think that at that rate we should never get to England; but Captain Lopez told me that I need not trouble myself about the matter, as the wind was sure to come some day or other, and that then we should glide along as fast as ever. I found that he was right, though we were becalmed several times after that.
At length we saw the crew very busy in polishing up the ship, and ranging the cables along the deck, as getting them ready for anchoring in called; and men were aloft all day looking out ahead; and then came the shout of "Terra! terra!—Espana!" and I found that we were approaching the coast of Spain. The next morning when I went on deck the ship was at anchor, surrounded by land, with a large city on one side, and other towns or villages scattered about on the other. This was the beautiful Bay of Cadiz. Near us lay a large ship with the English flag flying at her peak. Captain Lopez went on board her, and then hurried on shore with certain papers in his hand; and when he returned, we all went on board the English ship. Soon after, the anchor was hove up, the sails let fall, and away we sailed out of the harbour. Thus we did not even set foot on Spanish soil. I asked my mother the reason of this: she replied, that finding the ship on the point of sailing, she did not like to lose the opportunity of going to England in her; that the ship was called the Inca, commanded by Captain Byles, with whom she and my father were acquainted.
I remember that Captain Byles was very kind and attentive, that the cabin was very neat and clean—a quality for which that of the Pizarro was not remarkable—while the English crew, many of whom were old men-of-war's-men, paid off at the end of the war, were far more orderly than the Spaniards. There was a black cook, Sam by name, and a white goat. With the former we soon struck up a friendship, for he was good-natured and kind to us, and a most intelligent fellow; the latter used to chase us round and round the deck, and several times tumbled me head over heels when I jumped before her to prevent her from butting at Ellen. Of Sam I shall have to speak more by-and-by. I do not remember many more incidents of the voyage till one day I saw the men heaving the lead, and I found that we were in the chops of the Channel; and then I heard the shout of "Land! land!" from one of the crew at the mast-head, and I was told that England was in sight; and after a time I saw a light-blue line away over the bow on the left side, and heard that it was the Lizard, which I explained to Ellen was not a creature, but a point of land at the west end of England. With a fine breeze, studdingsails on either side, the colours flying, the sky bright and the sea blue, the big ship, her canvas glittering in the sunlight glided proudly up Channel. Even the gruffest old seaman began to smile, and every one seemed in good spirits. At last a little one-masted vessel came dancing over the small waves towards us, our sails were brailed up, a boat put off from her, and a big man with huge whiskers, and rough greatcoat, and broad-brimmed hat climbed up the side, and shook hands with the captain; and I heard that the pilot had come on board, and that we were sailing into the Downs. I went below, and on returning on deck I looked up and saw, instead of the broad sheets of white canvas which had so long been spread, the long yards above my head with the sails closely furled. The ship was at anchor. In a short time the boat came alongside, and my mother and sister and I, with our attendants, were lowered into her. We rowed on shore, and went to a big house, where all the people were wonderfully polite. I asked if this was to be our future home, but my mother told me it was an inn—very unlike the resting-places we had stopped at on our journey from Quito.
The next day we were all seated inside a yellow carriage, with Domingos and Maria on the outside, and rolling away over the smooth road at a great rate. We went on and on, changing horses every now and then, through a country dotted about with houses which looked very large and grand, and green trees which looked very small after those I had been accustomed to see. At length the houses became thicker and thicker, and we were driving through long streets with numberless carriages dashing here and there, and carts, and vans, and vehicles of all sorts; and my mother told me we were in London. We drove on, and I thought we should soon be on the other side; but I found that we had not got nearly into the centre of it. I had thought Quito a large city, but this, I guessed, must be ten times larger. All the houses, too, looked wonderfully high, and I thought if an earthquake were to occur, how quickly they would all topple down. I asked my mother how people could venture to build such tall houses. She laughed, and said that happily in England there were no earthquakes; and that, in another city in the north, there were houses ten stories high.
We stopped at last before a house in a long, dull-looking street, and a gentleman came to the door and handed us all out, and kissed my mother and Ellen and me, and welcomed us to England; and I found that he was Uncle James, my mother's brother; and there was our aunt, his wife, and a number of cousins, boys and girls; and we were all soon quite at home and happy, though I did not exactly know what to do with myself.
A few days after that, Uncle James and my mother and I drove out in a carriage, and there was a box on the top of it full of my clothes, and several other things; and then I found that I was going to school. I was rather pleased than otherwise; not that I wished to leave my mother and Ellen, but I wanted to know what sort of a place school was. We went some distance away from London, and stopped before a house with an iron gate, and a huge stone lion on each side of it. We got out, and were shown into a drawing-room, and there we sat, till a tall gentleman dressed in black, with a very white head, made his appearance, and my mother and Uncle James talked to him for some time; then he called me up, patted me on the head, and told me he hoped that I should be a good boy, and learn my lessons well. I did not feel quite comfortable when my mother got up and kissed me again and again, and looked somewhat sad; and then Uncle James wished me good-bye; and out they went, while the tall gentleman kept me by the hand.
"Now, Harry Faithful," he said, "I will introduce you to your school-fellows;" and he conducted me through a passage, at the end of which was a door which opened out into a large open space covered with gravel, with high walls on either side. A big tree stood in the centre, and a vast number of boys of all ages were running about. Some had hoops, others were jumping over long ropes, and others, with reins fastened to their arms held by bigger boys, were scampering round and round, playing at horses. Some were leaping over each other's backs, and others were hopping about with their arms folded charging at each other. I thought it very good fun, and hoped that was the way they were always employed.
The tall gentleman, after waiting a minute or two, called out, "Antony Nyass, come here. Here is the son of an old friend of your father's. I expect you to look after him."
Then he turned round to me, and said, "When the bell rings, you will come in with the rest, and we will lose no time in placing you."
"And so you are the new boy," said my companion. "What is your name?" I told him. "Well, I am very glad you are come," he observed, "for I want a chum. We will have all sorts of fun together. Will you have a hoop? I have got a prime one which beats all those of the fellows in my class; or will you go shares in a pair of leather reins?" I told him that I should be very glad to do what he liked, and that I had plenty of money, though I could not say how much, as I was not accustomed to English coin, and could not remember what it was called. "Oh, I will soon put you up to that," he said, laughing; "but do not show it now. We will see by-and-by what you can do with it."
While we were speaking, a number of other boys collected round us, and began to ask me all sorts of questions—who I was, who my friends were, where I had come from, how old I was, and if I had ever been to another school.
"Do not tell them," whispered Nyass.
"What is that you are saying, Master Tony!" exclaimed one of the boys. "You are putting him up to some of your own tricks."
"I will tell you all by-and-by," I answered, taking my new friend's hint.
"Can you run?" asked Tony. "Tell them that you will race any one of them," he whispered.
"I do not know, but I will try," I replied.
"Who is for a race?" exclaimed Tony. "He will run you down to the bottom of the play-ground and back again, and if he does not beat all the fellows of his own size I shall be surprised."
I was light and active, and though I had never before run a race, having no companions to run with, I did my best to follow out Tony's suggestion. At the word, off I set as hard as I could tear; five or six other fellows besides Tony ran also. He kept up with me, though we distanced the rest. He touched the wall at the bottom, and I followed his example.
"Now, back again as hard as you can go! I am the best runner of my size in the school," he cried out, as he kept close to me; "if you beat me, your fame is established, and the fellows will treat you with respect after that."
I felt, however, very doubtful whether I could beat Tony; but I did my best, and as we neared the point we started from I found myself drawing ahead of him. "That is it!" he shouted; "keep on, and you will do it." I suspected that he was letting me get ahead of him on purpose, and I reached the starting-point four or five paces before him. I felt, however, that I could not have run another minute if my life had depended on it; while he came in without the slightest panting. The other fellows followed mostly together, a short distance behind.
It is curious how slight a thing gives a boy a position at once in a school. Thanks to Tony, I gained one at once, and ever afterwards kept it. I do not intend to give an account of my school-life and adventures, as I have more interesting matter to describe. I was placed in the lowest class, as might have been expected. Although I knew nothing of Latin, I was up to several things which my class-mates were not, and as I did my best to learn, I soon caught up a number of them. My friend Tony was in the class above me, and he was always ready to give me any help. Though not quarrelsome, I had several battles to fight, and got into scrapes now and then, but not often, and altogether I believed I was getting on pretty well. Tony, my first acquaintance, remained my firm friend. Although now and then we had quarrels, we quickly made them up again. He used to listen with eager ears to the accounts I gave him of my voyage, and the wonders of my native land. He never laughed at my foreign accent, though the other boys did; but I very soon got rid of it. I used to try to teach him Spanish, and the Indian language, which I had learned from the servants; but I soon forgot them myself, and had difficulty even in recalling a few words of the tongue which I once spoke with ease.
"I say, Harry, I should so like to go out with you to that country," said Tony to me one day. "When you go back I must try and get my father to let me accompany you."
I, of course, was well pleased at the proposal, and we talked for days together of what we should do when we got out there. At last we began to think that it was very hard we should have to wait till we had grown big fellows like those at the head of the school, and Tony proposed that we should start away by ourselves. We looked at the map, and considered how we could best accomplish our object. We observed the mighty river Amazon rising at no great distance—so it seemed on paper—from Quito itself, and running right across the continent into the Atlantic.
"Will it not be fun paddling up by ourselves in a canoe!" exclaimed Tony. "We will have guns to go on shore and shoot birds and beasts; and when we grow tired of paddling we will sail along before the wind; and we will have a tent, and sleep in it at night, and light a fire in front of it to cook our suppers and keep off the wild beasts; and then, when we arrive at the upper end of the river, we will sell our canoe to the Indians, and trudge away on foot with knapsacks on our backs up the mountains, till we reach your father's house; and will not he be astonished to see us!"
I agreed with him in his last idea certainly, but I was puzzled to think how we were to reach the mouth of the Amazon, and when we were there how we were to procure canoe. All the rest appeared pretty easy in the way Tony proposed it, and, after all, even on a big map, the river did not look so very long.
"Well, my idea is," said Tony, "that we should save up all our pocket-money, and then, some day when we have got very hard lessons to do, or anything disagreeable takes place, run off, and get aboard a ship sailing to South America. I should not mind being cabin-boy for a short time; and as you know Spanish and Indian, you could tell the captain you would interpret for him, and of course he would be very glad to have you; and then, you know, we should soon learn to be sailors; and it will be much pleasanter climbing about the rigging and up the masts and along the yards than sitting at our desks all day bothering our heads with Caesar and Ovid and sums and history and geography, and all that sort of thing."
"But I have not got Caesar and Ovid to do yet," I observed; "and I want to have a little more schooling; for Uncle James says I shall not be fit for anything until I do. Do not you think we had better wait till I get into your class, or rather higher still?"
Tony said he was much disappointed at my drawing back, which he argued I was doing when I made these remarks. However, I spoke in perfect sincerity, and fully believed that I should enjoy the adventure he proposed just as much as he would. I had my doubts, however, whether we should receive so favourable a reception at the end of our journey as he supposed. However, he continued talking and talking about the matter, till I agreed to consider what could be done during another half.
I spent my first holidays in London at Uncle James's, and my brother John came there, and I was surprised to find what a big fellow he was. We were very good friends, and he took me out to see a number of the sights of London. We went, among other places, to Exeter Change, where there were all sorts of wild beasts. I had no idea until then that there were so many in the world. I was highly interested, and learned the names of nearly all of them; and John told me where they had come from, and all about their habits. Then Uncle James gave me a book of natural history, which I read with great delight. I found by the book that the beasts I had seen at Exeter Change were only a very small number of those which exist in different parts of the world. I liked that book of natural history better than any I had ever read; except, perhaps, "Robinson Crusoe," which Tony had lent me, and which he said was the best book that ever was written. I thus gained a very considerable knowledge of the quadrupeds and the feathered tribes of the animal kingdom, and Uncle James said he thought some day I should become a first-rate naturalist, if I had opportunities of studying the creatures in their native wild. I resolved the next summer holidays, which were to be spent in the country, to catch as many of the creatures as I could, and form a menagerie of my own. I should say I had not told John of the plan Tony and I had in contemplation—of exploring the Amazon by ourselves. I thought, from some of his remarks, that he possibly might not approve of it.
I soon got tired of London, after I had seen the usual sights, though I was glad to be with my mother and Ellen and my cousins. John also was very kind, but he was such a big fellow that I stood in as much awe of him as I did of my uncle. I was not sorry, therefore, to find myself at school with companions of my own age. As the weather was very cold, Tony and I agreed that we would put off our expedition till the summer, and in the meantime we talked of the menagerie I proposed making, and other subjects of equal importance, which prevented us thinking about the former matter.
I had a good many friends among my school-fellows. Arthur Mallet, next to Tony, was my chief friend. He was by several months my junior—a delicate, gentle boy, amiable, sensible, and clever. He was liked by the masters as well as by the boys, and that is saying much in his favour. Poor fellow, notwithstanding this he was frequently out of spirits. I asked him one day why he looked so sad. He was silent for some minutes. "I will tell you, Harry," he said at length. "I am thinking of my mother. She is dying. I know it, for she told me so. She never deceived me. When she has gone I shall have no one to care for me—and—and—Harry, I shall have to depend on the charity of strangers for support. She urged me to work hard, that I might be independent; but it will be a long time before I can become so. For myself I do not so much mind, but it troubles my mother greatly; and then to have her die—though I know she is going to heaven—I cannot bear the thought." He said more in the same style. "And then, should my father come back—oh, what will he do!" he added.
"I thought from what you said that you had no father," I remarked. "Where is he then, Arthur?"
"That is what I do not know," he answered. "Do not speak about it to any one, Harry. He went away a long time ago, on account of something that had happened. He could not bear to stay in England. But he was not to blame. That is all I know. He could not take her with him; and my grandmother and aunts with whom she was left died, and their fortune was lost; and what she has now got is only for her life, and that troubles her also greatly."
I tried as well as I could to comfort Arthur, and after this felt more than ever anxious to stand by him an a friend. "I may some day be able to help him," I thought—but I did not tell him so. Our friendship had been disinterested, and thus I wished it to remain.
I said that I had many friends at school, but there were some few whom I looked upon in a contrary light; especially one big boy, Houlston, of whom all the little ones were dreadfully afraid. He used to make us do anything that seized his fancy, and if we ventured to refuse, often thrashed us. Poor Arthur Mallet frequently came in for his ill-treatment, and bore it, we all thought, with far too much patience. At last Tony and I and a few other fellows agreed that we would stand it no longer. One day Houlston and one of the upper form boys, who was younger than himself, had a dispute. We thought that he was going to thrash the other fellow; but the latter standing up in his own defence, Houlston walked off, not venturing, as we supposed, to encounter him. This, of course, gave us courage. A few day afterwards Tony was reading, when Houlston, coming by, seized his book, saying he wanted it. Tony watched his opportunity, and snatching it up, made off out of the school-room, through the play-ground into a yard on one side, which, not being overlooked by any of the windows from the house, was the usual place for pugilistic encounters. Houlston followed. I saw Arthur Mallet and several of those who had promised to side with us standing near. Arthur joined us, though somewhat unwillingly. We made chase. Tony, who had fled to the yard, was at length overtaken by his pursuer, who began hitting him over the head and shoulders. I signed to my companions, and making a spring, jumped on Houlston's back and began belabouring him with might and main. I shouted to the others to come on and attack him on either side. He was furious, and struck out right and left at them; but I, clinging pertinaciously to his back, prevented his blows having due effect. My companions on this closed in, and two of them seizing him by the legs, down he came, with me still clinging to his back. The rest now threw themselves upon him. Handkerchiefs were brought out, and in spite of his struggles they managed to tie his arms behind him, while I kept him down. Though he kicked out furiously, by jumping on his body we succeeded in securing his legs, and we thus had him in our power. It was in the evening of a half-holiday. On one side of the yard was a wood-shed. Into this we dragged him. Astonishment and the efforts he made to free himself had prevented him from shouting for help. Before he had uttered a cry, Rawlings, one of the biggest of our party, running up, shoved a handkerchief into his mouth, which completely gagged him. We then all ran away, leaving him without compunction in the dark and cold. Assembling again in the school-room, we agreed to leave him till somebody coming by might release him. Tea-time came, and Houlston did not make his appearance. I began to grow anxious, and communicated my fears to Arthur, who sat next to me. Still he did not come. Tea was over. At last Arthur entreated that we would go and ascertain what was the matter. It was now quite dark. I remember quite well the uncomfortable feeling I had, as, stealing out, we groped our way in the dark to the yard. On approaching the wood-house we heard a groan. Could it proceed from Houlston? My heart beat more tranquilly, though, for the groan showed that he was alive. We crept in. He was where we had left him; but his hands were icy cold. I bethought me first of withdrawing the handkerchief from his mouth. Some of the fellows proposed leaving him again.
"Oh no, no; pray don't do that!" exclaimed Arthur. "Perhaps he will promise to give up bullying if we agree to cast him loose."
"You hear that, Houlston?" said Tony. "Will you become a good fellow and treat the little chaps properly, or will you spend the night out here?"
Houlston only grumbled out some words which we could not understand. At last we heard him say, "What is it you want?" It was evident from his tone that he was greatly humbled. That is not surprising, for he must have been very cold and very hungry, and Tony repeated the question.
"He will not promise. We must put the gag in again," said two or three of the other fellows.
"Will you promise?" asked Tony again.
"Oh, do let him go!" again exclaimed Arthur, whose kind heart was moved by the pitiable condition of our captive. "He will promise—I know he will; and I do not mind if he bullies me ever so much. We should think any one very cruel who kept us out in the cold as we have kept him. I am sure that he will promise what we ask—won't you, Houlston?"
"No, he will not," said another boy. "He will have a couple of hours to wait till the names are called over, and perhaps somebody will then come and look for him. He will be much colder by that time."
"Oh yes, I will promise!" cried Houlston. "Let me go, and I will not bully you little fellows any more. Just try me. And I will remember what Mallet said—he has more feeling than any of you; I did not expect him to have spoken as he has, for I treated him always worse than any of you."
"You promise, on your word of honour," said Tony; "and you will not go and complain of us? You must promise that too."
Houlston was completely humbled. He promised all we demanded.
"We may trust to his word. I am sure we may!" exclaimed Arthur. "Oh, do let us loose him!"
"Thank you, Mallet. Thank you, Faithful. I am much obliged to you," whispered Houlston, as Arthur undid the handkerchief which bound his wrists. The others were in the meantime casting off those round his legs. We lifted him up, for he was so numbed and chilled that he could not walk. Arthur had brought a slice of bread and butter doubled up in his pocket. He offered it to Houlston, who took it gratefully. His clothes, I felt, were covered with chips of wood and dust. We brushed him with our hands as well as we could in the dark, and then led him back into the playroom, where the boys were collecting after tea. I watched him narrowly, fearing mat he might tell some of the big fellows what had happened; but he went to his box without speaking to any one, and then taking up his books, proceeded to the school-room to learn his lessons for the next day. We kept our counsel, and were convinced that Houlston wisely kept his, for not a word did he utter to any of his companions of what had occurred. From that day forward he was generally kind and good-natured, and especially so to Arthur Mallet. He helped him in his lessons, and was constantly making him presents of such things as boys prize, though older people may not set much value on them. Though he might lose his temper with others, he never did so with Arthur, and always seemed anxious to show his friendly feeling in a variety of ways. I have seldom seen a fellow so greatly changed for the better as Houlston became, owing, I believe, greatly to the way Arthur had pleaded his cause when the rest of us seemed inclined to revenge ourselves still further than we had already done.
I should not have mentioned the circumstance, except for the sake of the moral it taught me. There is an old saying, that when a bull runs at you the best way of escaping him is to seize him by the horns; and from the manner we overcame Houlston, I am convinced of the wisdom of the advice. Ever since, when a difficulty has occurred, I have seized it boldly, grappled with it as we grappled with Houlston, summoned up all my courage, resolution, and strength, just as Tony and I called our companions to our assistance, and dragged it, metaphorically speaking, to the ground, gagged it as we gagged the bully, and not let it loose again till I have been convinced that it would no longer trouble me. Again, when I have had any difficult thing to do, I have done it at once, or tried my best to do it. I have never put off a disagreeable thing which I may have had to do till another day. I have got it over as soon as possible, whatever it may have been. I have generally found that the anticipation is worse than the reality. I cannot understand what made Houlston take to bullying; and I must say after this he showed much good feeling, and became a firm friend both to Tony and me, not appearing to harbour any ill-feeling for the way we had treated him.
I must hurry over my school-boy days. I was not able to carry out my plan of the menagerie the next summer. My uncle, instead of going to his country house, took us all to the sea-side. I, however, on that occasion picked up a good deal of knowledge about vessels and boats, and fish, and marine animals; and instead of a menagerie we had an aquarium, into which we used to put the small fish and other creatures we caught in the pools on the rocks. I was making an important step in the study of natural history—gaining the custom of observing the habits of creatures. The following year I carried out my long-intended plan, having induced one of my cousins to join me in it. We made several cages and boxes; and among our captives we numbered a couple of rabbits, a weasel, hedgehog, ferret, and stoat, with a number of pigeons and other birds, and, I may add, three or four snakes. We caught a viper— or, as it is frequently called, an adder—the only venomous creature which exist in England; but my uncle objected to our keeping it alive, though he consented to its being turned into a bottle of spirits. We killed another, and cut off its head to observe its poisonous fangs. On dissecting the head, we found that the fangs exist on either side of the upper jaw, in which they lie down flat towards the throat. They are on hinges, the roots connected with little bags of poison. When the creature is irritated and about to bite, these fangs rise up. They are hollow, with small orifices at their points. When biting, the roots of the fangs are pressed against the bags of poison, which thus exudes through the orifices and enters the wound they make. All venomous serpents are provided with fangs, but in the jaws of some species the fangs, instead of lying down, are always erect, ready for action. The nature of the poison varies in different species. The poison of some produces paralysis; that of others causes the body when bitten to swell and become putrid. The venom of some is so powerful that it rapidly courses through the veins and destroys life in a few minutes; that of others makes much slower progress. The English viper, or adder, has but a small quantity of poison in its bag, and its bite rarely produces death. Some of the smallest snakes, in tropical climes, are the most venomous. However, I shall by-and-by have a good deal to say on the subject.
From what I have mentioned, it will be understood that I had already got a taste for and some insight into natural history, and when I returned to school I was able to discourse very learnedly on the subject. This made Tony more anxious to carry out our long-projected undertaking. Still, as we were very well treated at school, we had no excuse for running away, and put it off from day to day. At length, in truth, we began to grow wiser, and look at it in a different light. Tony, indeed, one day confided his plan to Houlston.
"Well, when you make up your mind to go, just tell me," said Houlston.
"What I would you go with us?" exclaimed Tony. "That would be capital. With a big fellow like you we should be able to make our way anywhere."
"Not exactly that," was the answer. "I'll tell you what I should do, Nyass. As soon as I found that you had started, I should make chase after you and bring you back. Depend upon it, it would be the best mark of friendship I could show you! Time enough by-and-by—when you have gone through school and been at college, and got a little more knowledge than you now possess in your heads—to start on such an expedition. I have a great notion that I should like to do something of the sort myself; so, if you ever start on an expedition to South America or any other part of the world, find me out if you can, and let me know, and then perhaps I shall be ready to accompany you."
These sensible remarks of Houlston put Tony completely off his purpose, and we finally agreed to follow the advice of our school-fellow, and wait patiently till we had finished our studies.
In the meantime I should say that my mother had rejoined my father at Quito. When I first came to England I thought that the time when I should leave school was a very long way off. It seemed like a dream when I found myself at last a big fellow of sixteen at the commencement of the summer holidays. There was Ellen, almost a grown-up young lady— in my eyes, at all events—and John, who had been in Uncle James's counting-house in London, a man with big whiskers.
"Well, Harry," said Uncle James, "would you like to go back to school, or accompany John and Ellen to South America? Your father wishes to have John's assistance, and perhaps you also can make yourself useful."
Although by this time I found school a far pleasanter place than when I was a little boy, yet, as may be supposed, I did not take long to decide.
"I will accompany John," I said without hesitation.
"We shall have to part with you soon, then, I am sorry to say," observed my uncle; "for Captain Byles, who still commands the Inca, is about to sail for Guayaquil. In consequence of the emancipation of the Spanish South American provinces from the iron yoke of the mother country, their ports are now free, and ships of all nations can trade to them, which was not the case when you came home. Captain Byles has twice before been to the Pacific, and we have resolved to send the Inca there again. He will be very glad to have you as passenger. You must lose no time, therefore, in getting ready."
I replied very honestly that I was sorry to leave him and aunt and cousins; but, at the same time, I could not help feeling delighted at the thought of again seeing my father and mother and Fanny, and revisiting the magnificent scenes which had made so deep an impression upon my mind, besides being able to indulge on a large scale in the study of the natural history of that wonderful region. I did not forget my friends, Tony and Arthur Mallet, and as soon as I had time I sat down and wrote to them both. At the end of a week I received the following reply from Tony:—
"Dear Harry,—Your letter threw me into a state of wild commotion. You to be actually starting for the country we have so often talked about, while, as far as I could see, I was destined to stick quietly at a desk in my father's counting-house. After thinking the matter over, however, and recollecting how kind and considerate he has always been, I determined to show him your letter, and tell him frankly of my long-cherished wish to go abroad. He talked to me a good deal to ascertain whether I was in earnest. 'I did not wish to send you from me,' he said at last; 'but I will now tell you that a few months ago I received a letter from a cousin of mine who has lately established a house of business at Para in Brazil, requesting me to send out two steady lads as clerks, adding that he should be very glad to receive a son of mine if I could spare him.' I jumped at the idea; for though I should have liked to have gone out with you, Harry, yet, as I have no means of doing that, I am delighted to go to Para, because, as it is at the mouth of the Amazon, it is the very place of all others I should have chosen. It is where we proposed going to when we used to talk of our expedition up the mighty river, and perhaps, after all, we may be able somehow or other to realise those wild fancies of our early days. To be sure, when I come to measure off the distance on the map, which we did not then think of doing, I find that Quito and Para are a tremendous long way apart. Still, perhaps some day or other we may be able to accomplish a meeting. At all events, I told my father that I was willing to accept our cousin's offer, and at the same time I put in a word for Houlston, from whom I had heard a few days before, telling me that he was looking about for something to do, and ready to do anything or go anywhere. He has no parents, or brothers or sisters, or any tie to keep him in England. I showed his letter to my father, and told him that he was a big, strong fellow, and that though I did not much like him when I was a little fellow, he was greatly improved. My father on this said he would send for him, and should he possess the necessary qualifications, he should be very glad to recommend him for the appointment. Houlston came, and as he writes well, and is a good hand at arithmetic, and has a fair amount of knowledge on other matters, my father told me that he would recommend him for the appointment. The long and short of the matter is, that Houlston and I are to go up to London with my father in a few days, to get our outfits, and to secure a passage by the first vessel sailing for Para or the nearest port to it in Brazil. We shall meet, Harry, and we will then talk matters over, and, I hope, strike out some plan by which we may be able to carry out our early designs, although perhaps not in the same way we formerly proposed. Houlston sends his kind regards to you, and says he shall be very happy to meet you again Adeos, meu amigo—that is, Good-bye, my friend. I have lost no time in beginning to learn Portuguese, which is the language the Brazilians speak, and I intend to work hard at it on the voyage, so as to be able to talk away in a fashion when I land.— Your sincere old friend, Antony Nyass."
I was very glad to get this letter, but was much disappointed at not hearing from Arthur. Another day's post, however, brought me a letter from him. I should have said that he had left school three months before, and that I had not since heard from him. His letter was a very sad one. I gathered from it that what he had dreaded had come to pass. His mother was dead, and he was left almost destitute, though he tried to hide from me as much as possible the fact of his poverty.
I at once made up my mind what to do. I took the letter to my uncle, told him all about Arthur, and entreated that he might be sent out with us in the Inca. "I will answer for it that he will amply repay all the kindness he may receive," I added. Uncle James said that he would consider the matter, and in the course of the day told me, to my great satisfaction, that I might write to Mallet and invite him to come up to town. Arthur lost no time in obeying the summons. My uncle was much pleased with him, and Arthur gratefully accepted the proposal that he should accompany us to Quito.
Two days afterwards Tony and Houlston arrived in London. A ship for Para was on the point of sailing. They had therefore to hurry on their preparations. They spent the evening with us at my uncle's, and John told me that he liked Houlston very well, and hoped some day to see him again. Tony he thought a capital fellow—so enthusiastic and warm-hearted, yet not wanting in sense; but Arthur, as I knew he would, he liked better than either. Tony brought with him a beautiful black cocker spaniel. "Here, Harry, I want you to accept this fellow as a keepsake from me," he said, leading the dog up to me. "Pat him on the head, call him True, and tell him you are going to be his master, and he will understand you. He can do everything but talk; but though he does not often give tongue, he is as brave as a lion."
I warmly thanked Tony for his gift as I patted True, who jumped up and licked my hand. "But you want a dog for yourself. I scarcely like to take him from you," I said.
"Set your mind at rest; I have his brother—whom I left at our lodgings—his equal in most respects, if not quite so great a beauty," he answered. "You will excuse me, I know. I have called my dog 'Faithful,' after you. As I cannot have you with me, I wanted something to remind me of you; and faithful I am sure he will prove to me, as yours will prove true to you."
I thanked Tony for his kind feeling for me, and assured him that I considered it a compliment that he had called his dog after me.
True was indeed a beauty—a Welsh cocker—somewhat larger than usual perhaps. He came up in his moral qualities to all Tony had said about him. He took to me at once, and a true friend he ever proved. We accompanied our friends aboard their ship, which was a Portuguese, called the Vasco da Gama. She was a fine large vessel. The crew were small and swarthy, but active-looking fellows, most of them wearing long red caps on their heads, and blue or pink-striped shirts, with knives stuck in their girdles. They jabbered and shouted tremendously as they got under weigh. Tony and Houlston stood on the poop bidding us farewell. "We shall meet, Harry! we shall meet!" Tony cried out. "Good-bye, Harry; good-bye, Arthur; good-bye, old fellows!"
"Perhaps we shall overtake you on the voyage!" shouted John.
"Not much fear of that," answered Houlston.
We were soon too far off to exchange further words, though we could hear the voices of the crew even when we had got to a considerable distance from the ship.
Nearly a week after this we were on board the Inca, silently gliding down the Thames, the only voices heard on board being that of the pilot or the officers who repeated his orders. We had a quick run down Channel, and Captain Byles said he should not be surprised if, after all, we should reach the Equator before the Portuguese ship. I found that several of the crew had been on board when I came to England, Sam the black cook among the number. He was the only one, however, who remembered Ellen and me. I inquired after my old friend the goat.
"What! you remember her, Massa Harry!" exclaimed Sam. "Dat good. Goat gone to live on shore; eat fresh grass instead of hay!"
He was well pleased to find that I had remembered the dumb animal, and still more so that I had not forgotten him. Sam told me that he had become a Christian since I had seen him. I told him I thought that he was so then.
"Berry different, Massa Harry, between what is called Christian and real Christian. One night I was on shore, and not knowing where I go, I turn into small chapel where a man talk to de people, and I heard him say, 'God lubs you!' He lubs bad man and bad woman, and black man, and brown man, and white man all de same. Him pure, holy God, and no bad, impure, unholy person dwell wid him; and all men ever born unholy, impure, and so dey must all be punished. But he say he let One be punished for de oders, and so him sent his Son into de world to suffer for dem, and dat ebery one who trust dat Son, and lub him, go free, and come and live wid him for ever and ever. You ask how dat is. Hear God's words: 'God so loved de world dat he gave his only-begotten Son, dat whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.' Oh, he is a kind, good, merciful God! Him hear de prayers of all who come unto him. Him no want any one to say prayers for dem; but dey may come boldly t'rough Jesus Christ, and he hear black man pray, and brown man pray, and leetle child pray, just as well as learned white man; and so when I hear dis I say, 'Dat just de God for me;' and so I go to de minister— dat is de man who was preaching—and he tell me a great deal more; and I go ebery day I was ashore, and now I bery happy, because I know dat when I die dere is One who has taken my sins upon himself, who was punished instead of me who paid de great debt I owed to God."
I have tried to give Sam's remarks as nearly as I can in his words. They made a great impression on me; for before I must own that I did not understand God's simple plan of salvation. Sam had a Bible, which he was constantly reading, and delighted to explain to the crew. He had gained considerable influence with them, and though many were careless, and did not listen to him, all treated him with respect. Captain Byles spoke in very high terms of Sam, who had, I found, been the means of bringing home the truth to him. He had prayers every day, when the weather permitted, in his cabin, and a service on the Sunday for the whale of the crew, while I never heard a harsh or wrong expression escape his lips.
"You t'ink, Massa Harry, perhaps, I go into dat chapel by chance," observed Sam to me one day; "now I t'ink dere is no such t'ing as chance. God orders everyt'ing. He sees us all day and all night long, and orders all for de best."
I agreed with Sam, and I may say that I never forgot the lessons I received from him. I found great pleasure in listening to him while he read the Bible and explained it in his own somewhat curious way, as far as language was concerned. I had before been accustomed to read the Bible as a task, but I now took to reading it with satisfaction and profit. From others of the crew I learned a good deal of seamanship, especially how to knot and splice,—an art which I found afterwards very useful.
We had been several weeks from England, and had thus far carried the fine weather with us, when clouds appeared in the horizon which soon began to rush in dense masses over the sky. The sea, hitherto so calm, tossed and foamed, and the wind howled and shrieked through the rigging. I asked the captain if he thought we were going to have a severe gale.
"It looks very like it," he answered, "but we must do our best and trust in God. Once I used to think that while I was doing my best, God was fighting against me, but now, Harry, I see it the other way. It is a great thing to feel that the All-Powerful who rules the world is with us. It makes a man far happier and more courageous."
The crew had gone aloft to furl the sails, and the ship was soon under her three closely-reefed topsails. Still the wind increased, and the seas rose up on either side as if they would overwhelm her. The night was coming on. The captain held a consultation with his mates. The first mate and one of the best hands went to the helm. The main and mizzen-topsails were furled, the helm was put up, and the ship was kept away before the wind. The huge seas followed close astern, roaring and hissing after us. Arthur and I had remained on deck.
"I must beg you to go below," said the captain; "for if one of these seas was to break on board, you might be swept off, and no one could save you." Still, I was very unwilling to obey. John, however, coming on deck, saw the danger we were in, and pulled us down the hatchway. We found Ellen in the cabin kneeling at the table with Maria at her side. She had the Bible open, though it was a difficult matter to read by the flickering light of the lamp, which swung backwards and forwards. Still, every now and then, by keeping her finger on a verse, she was able to catch a few words; while Maria, with her large eyes wide open fixed on her young mistress, was listening eagerly to what she said. So engaged were they, that neither of them observed our entrance. Now Ellen stopped, and I heard her lifting up her voice in prayer for the safety of the ship and all on board. John and I, making our way to the other side of the table, knelt down likewise. Though she saw us she did not stop. We remained thus for some time, when a shout from the deck reached us. I could not help rushing up again. John followed me. During the few minutes we had been below the darkness had increased, but at that instant a vivid flash of lightning bursting from the sky, showed a large ship ahead of us. We were running on towards her. Again all was darkness, and I expected to hear the fearful crash of the two ships meeting. Again another flash, followed by a fearful peal of thunder, lighted up the atmosphere. The ship was no longer there, but an object floating on the foaming waves. It was a boat full of people. It seemed impossible that she could live many moments in so fearful a sea. Presently I saw our crew running with ropes to the side. Already the stern of the boat was sinking beneath the waves. There was a thundering sound, as if a big gun had been fired. Our foresail had burst from the bolt-ropes. We rushed on close to the boat. John, Arthur, and I sprang to the side. Several persons were clinging to the ropes which had been thrown over to them. We assisted in hauling them up. A sea struck us at that moment, and two were washed away. Three others clung on, and were partly hauled and partly washed on board; while a dog which was swimming near them was lifted up by a wave and let directly down on the deck. We and they had to cling to the bulwarks to save ourselves from being carried off to leeward. One of our men, who had let go his hold while assisting the strangers, was carried off by the rush of water across the deck, and before any one could help him, he was seen struggling amid the foaming billows astern. On flew the Inca over the spot where the ship had just before been seen. We managed to drag the strangers to the companion hatch, and, with the assistance of Sam, carried them below, followed by the dog which had been so curiously saved with them. True, when he entered the cabin, instead of barking, ran up to him wagging his tail and showing every sign of pleasure. I observed how like the two animals were to each other. The mystery was soon solved. The officers and crew remained on deck to bend another sail. As the light of the lamp fell on the features of the first person we got into the cabin, what was my astonishment to recognise my old friend Tony Nyass. His surprise at seeing me was equally great.
"Is Houlston saved?" were the first words he uttered. "He was close to me!"
"Yes, all right!" exclaimed a young man, who, helped by Sam, tottered into the cabin. It was Houlston himself, though I should not have known him, so pale and scared did he look. The third was one of the mates of the Portuguese ship.
"And Faithful, too," cried Tony, kneeling down and embracing his dog. "My old fellow, I am indeed very glad you have escaped." Faithful seemed as well pleased as his master; and True knew him at once, and welcomed him by leaping up to lick his face, though as he did so the ship gave a tremendous roll, and over he tumbled to the other side of the cabin.
I need not say how thankful we were that the lives of our old school-fellows had been preserved. They were shivering with cold, so, taking them into our cabin, we got off their wet clothes and put them to bed. Tony then told me that after the commencement of the gale, the ship had sprung a leak, and that though the crew had behaved very well, and stood manfully to the pumps, the water could not be got under. When it was found that the ship must go down, the boats were prepared. He and Houlston, with the second mate and several of the crew, had got into one of them, and shoved clear of the ship just as she sank; but the other, he was afraid, had been immediately overwhelmed; indeed, it seemed scarcely possible that any boat could have lived many minutes in the heavy sea then running. It was wonderful that the boat he was in had remained long enough afloat to allow our ship to get near her.
During the whole of that night the hurricane blew as hard as ever, we continuing to run before it. Every moment I expected to hear that the ship had sprung a leak, and that we should have to share the fate of the unfortunate Vasco da Gama. We were dreadfully knocked about. Our bulwarks were stove in, and two of our boats carried away. We lost our topmasts, and received other damage; but the stout old ship still battled bravely with the seas. As the morning broke the wind began to abate. By noon the sun was shining brightly, and the sea had gone much down.
"Perhaps, after all," observed Tony, "we shall go round the Cape with you to Quito, and then have to find our way down the Amazon to Para, as I suppose that will then be the shortest road there."
"I am afraid, young gentleman, you would find that a very long road," observed Captain Byles. "As the ship requires repairs, I must run into Rio de Janeiro, and from thence you will more easily get to Para, though I should have been very happy to have had your company round Cape Horn."
Tony was much disappointed on hearing this. We had still a long run before us, and the prospect of Tony and Houlston's company on board for many days. The Portuguese mate, Mr Lima, had friends at Para, and he undertook to assist Houlston and Tony in getting there. He was a very well-mannered, amiable man, and as he spoke a little English, we were able to converse together. He gave me much information regarding the Brazils, which is by far the largest country in South America. Although a very small portion only is cultivated, it is also the richest both in vegetable and mineral wealth. He told me of its magnificent forests, its plantations of coffee and tobacco, and certain of its valleys, in some of which gold in abundance is found, and in others diamonds of extraordinary value.
"What do you say, Harry—shall we go and hunt for them?" exclaimed Tony when he heard this.
Mr Lima laughed. "The Government are too wide-awake to allow you to do that," he observed. "No one is allowed to go into that part of the country except those employed in collecting the diamonds; but I will tell you one thing, it is the poorest part of the Brazils. If the same number of people who are engaged in collecting the diamonds were employed in cultivating the waste ground, the country would, I believe, be far richer. However, perhaps my friends here may obtain permission to visit the mines, and if so, I dare say they will some day give you an account of them."
Of course Tony said he would do so. If he was fortunate enough to get there.
When the weather grew fine we passed our time very pleasantly, for we had a number of interesting books, especially of natural history, in which we old school-fellows fortunately took great delight. Houlston and Tony had agreed to make collections of objects of natural history when they were settled at Para, and as they had lost all their own books, I gave them some of mine, as there was little prospect of their getting any at Rio de Janeiro—so the captain told us. At length one morning, just at sunrise, when I went on deck to enjoy the cool air, I heard the shout of "Land!" and looking out, I saw a line of blue mountains rising out of the water. The breeze carried us quickly towards them, and in a short time we could distinguish a lofty height, shaped like a sugar-loaf, which stands at the south side of the entrance into the harbour of Rio. A little to the left rose three peaks, which Mr Lima, the Portuguese mate, called the Tres Irmaos, or the "Three Brothers," with the lofty peak of Corcovado a little further south. On the right of the entrance we could distinguish the white walls of the fortress of Santa Cruz, which commands it, with another range of mountains rising above it, and terminating in a bold, lofty promontory, known as Cape Frio, while far beyond towered up the blue outline of the distant Organ Mountains. We sailed on, passing between the lofty heights I have described, being hailed, as we glided under the frowning guns of Santa Cruz, by a stentorian voice, with various questions as to who we were, whence we came, our object in entering the port, to all of which Captain Byles replied through his speaking-trumpet. It would be difficult to describe the beautiful scene in which we now found ourselves,—curious-shaped canoes and boats of all rigs, manned by half-naked blacks, sailing about, and a number of vessels at anchor in the vast harbour; numerous white forts, backed by picturesque hills rising above them, covered with the richest verdure, and villages peeping forth here and there in beautiful little bays; while higher up the bay the vast city appeared, extending for miles along its irregular shore, and running back almost to the foot of the Tijuca Mountains, with hills and heights in every direction. In the midst of this scene we dropped our anchor under the frowning fortress of Villegagnon, the first castle erected by Europeans in that region.
I cannot hope to convey by words a correct idea of the beauty of the scenery or the magnificence of the harbour. All visitors agree that it is one of the finest in the world. We went on shore, and were very kindly received by an English merchant—the correspondent of the house to which the Inca belonged. John and I were anxious to help Tony and Houlston as far as we had the power, but our new friend undertook to supply their wants, and to enable them to reach Para by the first vessel sailing for that port.
I will not attempt to describe Rio fully. It is a large city, with heights rising about in various parts, covered with buildings. Most of the streets are very narrow, the architecture very unlike anything I had seen in England. Numbers of priests; gangs of slaves, carrying loads; ladies in black hoods reaching to the feet, called mantilhas; gentlemen in cloaks; soldiers on foot and on horseback, were moving about in all directions. We made a few interesting excursions in the neighbourhood of the city, and several expeditions about the bay.
Captain Byles was, of course, anxious to proceed on his voyage, and therefore used all expedition in getting the ship ready for sea. We, however, had time to make one long excursion with our new friend to the Organ Mountains, which we could see from the bay in the far distance. I was sorry that Ellen could not go, as it was considered that the trip would be too fatiguing for her. We sailed up to the head of the bay for many miles in a pleasure-vessel belonging to our friend, sleeping on board the first night. Early the next morning we started on mules towards the mountains. The air was most delicious, pure, though warm, and the scenery very beautiful, as we made our way among heights covered with a great variety of tropical trees and creepers bearing magnificent flowers. Among them were the tall, gently-curved palmetto, elegant tree ferns, unsurpassed by any of their neighbours in beauty, fuchsias in their native glory, passion-flowers, and wild vines, hanging in graceful festoons, and orchids with their brilliant red spikes. As we passed through the valley we saw directly before us the mountains we were about to visit, and from their shape we agreed that they were well called the Organ Mountains; for as we then saw them, the centre height especially wore the appearance of a huge organ. "A grand instrument that," said Tony, "such as I suppose an angel might choose to sound forth the music of the spheres."
We wound our way up amid the tame beautiful and wild scenery till we reached the summit, whence we enjoyed a magnificent view over the surrounding country, with Rio and the blue ocean in the far distance. We had not come without provisions, nor had the scenery taken away our appetites. We had also brought our guns, and led by our friend, we started off on foot in search of game. We had gone some distance, when, as we were approaching one of the numerous pools of dear water which are found even in the higher parts of the Organ Mountains, our friend stopped us and pointed towards a large tree, beneath the shade of whose wide-spreading boughs lay a creature apparently asleep. At first I thought he was a large horse or hornless cow, but as we crept closer to it, and could see the shape of its head, I discovered that it was a very different animal. "That is a tapir—the largest wild animal we have in South America," whispered our friend. As we approached the animal got up and looked about. We remained perfectly quiet, to examine it at leisure. It appeared to be nearly four feet in height, and perhaps six in length, the colour a deep brown, almost black. It had a stiff mane, and a very short stumpy tail, while its body appeared destitute of hair. It was not so, however, as I afterwards found; but the hair could not be perceived in consequence of being closely depressed to the surface. Its legs were short and thick, and its feet of great size. The head was unlike that of any other animal I had ever seen. It was very long, and the upper lip or snout was lengthened into a kind of proboscis, which looked as if it might grow up into the trunk of an elephant. We were to leeward of the animal, but it quickly discovered us, and began to move off, when Faithful and True rushed forward, barking vehemently. Houlston fired, but the shot bounded off the tapir's thick shield-like hide, and away it went dashing through the dense underwood with a force which broke down the shrubs opposing its progress. We had great difficulty in getting back our brave little dogs. They returned at length, panting with their exertions. Fortunately the tapir was frightened, or they would have found him more than a match for them. Our friend told us that it has four toes on its front feet, and three on the hinder ones, cased with horn. It manages with its flexible upper lip to tear away the leaves and to pick up the water-melons and gourds which it finds when it goes forth at night in search of food. However, it is in no way particular, being almost as omnivorous as the hog. Its senses of smell and hearing are very acute. Its eyes, though, are small and its ears short. Its voice is a shrill kind of whistle, such as one would not expect to proceed from an animal of such massive bulk. It is extremely fond of the water, and delights in floundering about in the mud. It can swim and dive also admirably, and will often remain underneath the surface for many minutes together, and then rising for a fresh supply of air, plunge down again. It indeed appears to be almost as amphibious as the hippopotamus, and has consequently been called Hippopotamus terrestris.
We all laughed at Houlston's ill success. It was the first attempt, I believe, he had ever made at shooting.
"The aim was not bad though," observed Tony, "and if the hide had been soft, the shot would have gone into it."
"It was a good large object, however, to aim at," said John. "A bullet would have been more effectual in bringing the creature to the ground."
"I am not quite so certain of that," observed our friend, "for its tough hide is almost bullet-proof."
Houlston stood our bantering very good-naturedly, and managed in the course of the day to bring down a couple of birds. "You see, I improve by practice," he observed; "and one of these days I may turn out a dead-shot."
I have described the tapir here as it was the first I met, but I afterwards had better opportunities of observing the animal. As soon as our mules had rested we commenced our return, as our friend could not be long absent from Rio. We were at length once more on board the Inca.
Tony and Houlston expected to start with the Portuguese mate for the north in the course of two or three days, and they promised to send me an account of their adventures as soon as possible on their arrival at Para. The Inca appeared once more in fit trim to encounter any storm we might meet with in our passage round Cape Horn. At first the weather was very lovely; but as we were running down the coast of Patagonia a heavy gale sprang up from the southward, which threatened to drive us back again. Fortunately a sheltering bay was near at hand. Running into it, the ship was brought to an anchor, and we there lay as calmly as if no storm was raging without. The country, however, was wild and desolate in appearance. I should have thought no human beings would have been found on it, but on looking through our glasses we observed a number moving about, some on horseback, others on foot, apparently watching us. "Are you inclined to go on bore, gentlemen?" said the captain to us. Of course we replied Yes. Ellen begged that she might go likewise. We objected, fearing that she might be exposed to danger. "She will be perfectly safe," answered Captain Byles; "for though the people on shore are not very prepossessing, I have always found them perfectly harmless. We will, however, carry our muskets, and the crew shall be armed likewise."
We were soon on shore, proceeding over the rough ground towards the natives. They seeing Ellen and Maria in our midst, advanced without fear. They halted, however, at a little distance from us, when we put out our hands and walked towards them. They were big, stout men of a brown complexion, with long black hair hanging down their necks. Their only dress consisted of skins fastened across their shoulders, leaving bare their enormous limbs. When we put out our hands they put out theirs.
"Good day, my friends," said Captain Byles.
"Good day," exclaimed the savages in almost the same tone.
"Hillo! what, do you speak English?" cried Arthur.
"Hillo! what, do you speak English?" echoed the Patagonians.
"Of course I do," answered Arthur.
"Of course I do," said the natives.
Indeed, whatever words we uttered they repeated. We on this burst into fits of laughter, our new acquaintances doing the same, as if we had uttered a capital joke. They beat us, however, at that, for though we stopped, they continued laughing—ay right heartily. At all events they knew what that meant. Friendship was thus speedily established. Pointing to their skin tents at no great distance, supported on poles, and in shape like those of gipsies, but rather larger, they seemed to invite us to them. We accordingly accompanied them. In front of the tents sat a number of women. They differed somewhat from the men, by having more ample robes of skin, and their hair bound by fillets round their heads. They were, however, very unprepossessing-looking ladies. They all seemed to regard Ellen with looks of astonishment now gazing at her, now at her black attendant, and were evidently discussing among themselves how it was that they were of such different colours. We saw a number of horses scattered about the plain, and several of the men were riding backwards and forwards armed with bows, and having at their backs large quivers full of arrows, and small round shields. The women were broiling meat at fires before the tents. They offered us some, and from the bones and feathers scattered about, we concluded that it was the flesh of the ostrich, which bird inhabits in large numbers the vast plains of Patagonia. Savage as they looked, they evidently wished to treat us civilly, for they spread some skins on the ground inside one of their tents, and signed to us to take our seats on them. To please them we ate a little of the food they set before us, although I must say their style of cookery was not attractive. After we had sat for some time, they continuing to imitate everything we said or did, we took a stroll round the encampment. We had not gone far when a large grey bird with a long neck and long legs, having three toes on its feet, stalked up to us, and putting out its head, grunted in our faces. Arthur and I took off our hats and made it a bow in return, greatly to the amusement of the Patagonians, who burst into loud fits of laughter at the joke. We recognised the bird at once as the Rhea Americana, or American ostrich. As we did not retreat, it uttered a sharp hiss, and then poised itself as if it was about to attack us, and so I think it would have done, had not the natives driven it away. It was about five feet high, the neck completely feathered, the back of a dark hue, with the plumes of the wings white. It is said that the male bird takes care of the eggs which several hens lay scattered about on the sand. He sweeps them together with his feet into a hollow, which serves as a nest, sits to hatch them, and accompanies the young till they are able to look after themselves. On such occasions he will attack a man on horseback who approaches his charges, and will leap up and try to kick him.
Captain Byles now told us it was time to return on board. We accordingly shook hands and made our way towards the boat. The people, however, began to assemble round us in considerable numbers. The captain therefore ordered us all to keep together and to hurry on, without, however, showing any signs of fear. I was very thankful, for Ellen's sake, when at last we reached the boat in safety. Whether the natives had thought of attempting to stop us or not, I do not know. Perhaps they only purposed to do us honour by thus accompanying us to the beach. We agreed that though the men at first looked gigantic, yet this was owing probably to their style of dress; and the captain was of opinion that very few of them were much above six feet. He told me that they live chiefly on flesh—that of horses, or emus, or guanacoes (a species of llama), and any other animal they can catch. We did not venture on shore again; and after waiting a few days, once more put to sea. I thought that these natives were about as savage in appearance as any people could be. I discovered, however, shortly afterwards, that there are other people sunk still lower in the scale of humanity.
Captain Byles purposed running through the Straits of Magellan. Just, however, as we were entering them, a strong south westerly gale sprang up, which prevented us from making the attempt. We accordingly stood into a sheltered bay in Terra del Fuego. The shore looked very inhospitable—dark rocks rose up at a little distance from the water and seemed to form a barrier between the sea and the interior. There were a few trees, all stunted and bending one way as if forced thus by the wind. Still, John and Arthur and I had a fancy for visiting the shore, in the hope of obtaining some wild fowl. Having landed with one of the mates and True, we took our way along the shores of the bay till we arrived at some high rocks. Over these we climbed. On descending, we found ourselves on the side of an inlet. We had reached the shore, when heavy showers of snow began to fall, driven against our faces by the sharp wind. We were about, therefore, to turn back, when we saw several figures moving at a little distance. Curious to see the natives, which we concluded these were, in spite of the snow we pushed on. We advanced cautiously, keeping a much as possible behind the rocks till we were at a short distance from them. We were thus able to observe them before we were discovered. They were wild-looking savages. Their colour was that of mahogany or rusty iron; their dresses, skins loosely wrapped round them and very scanty. One fellow was seated on the side of a canoe with a couple of dogs near him; while a woman, perhaps his wife, sat at a little distance, crouching on the ground, covered by her skin robe. As soon as they discovered us, instead of approaching as the Patagonians had done, they sat stupidly gazing at us, lost apparently in astonishment. They did not, however, exhibit any sign of alarm as we walked up to them. At length they got up, shouting out some words and patting their breasts, which we concluded was a sign of friendship. Their dogs snarled at True and he barked in return, and I had to hold him tight to prevent his flying at them. Perhaps they understood each other better than we did the ill-favoured curs' masters or their masters did us. Still the greeting did not sound amicable. The natives were small, thin, and dirty in the extreme. Their weapons were bows and arrows. The only habitations we could see were wretched lean-tos, just capable of sheltering them from the wind. Having an old clasp-knife in my pocket, I presented it to the chief, who received it with evident signs of satisfaction. As there was no inducement to hold further intercourse with him, we returned by the way we had come, without having seen a single bird near enough to shoot.
"Yet, Harry, those people have souls, destined to live for ever," said Arthur, in answer to a remark I made that they were little better than brutes. "Don't you think if the gospel were taken to them it would have its never-failing effect? I will speak to Captain Byles on the subject when we get on board."
He did so. Long since then several noble Christian missionaries visited that benighted region. Some perished, but others are still labouring to make known the glad tidings of salvation to the rude inhabitants of Patagonia and Terra del Fuego.
Finding it impossible to pass through the Straits, we had to go round Cape Horn. A couple of weeks, however, elapsed before we were clear into the Pacific. After this we had a quick run, and once more the lofty summits of the Cordilleras greeted our eyes. Though I was but a young child when I had last seen them, so deep was the impression they had made on me that I recognised them at once.
A JOURNEY ACROSS THE CORDILLERAS.
At length the Inca was at anchor off the city of Guayaquil. I had a faint recollection of its appearance, with Chimborazo's snow-capped dome towering up in the distance. Ellen, who had forgotten all about being there, was delighted with the scenery. Guayaquil is situated at the mouth of the river Guayas—the largest on the Pacific coast. On going on shore, however, we were somewhat disappointed, as the buildings, though grand at a distance, have a tumbledown appearance, partly owing to the earthquakes to which they are subjected, and partly to the carelessness of the inhabitants in repairing them. We had great hopes of meeting our father, but his correspondents in the city had not heard from him for some time. The country, we found, was in a very unsettled state, owing to which, probably, he had not come down from Quito. We bade farewell to our kind captain and the crew of the Inca.
Some time before, Peru, Chili, and the other Spanish provinces of South America had thrown off their allegiance to the mother country, forming themselves into republics. Their government, however, especially in the northern provinces, had been as yet far from well established. Disturbances were continually occurring, preventing the progress of the country. First one party took up arms to overthrow another in authority, and in a short time those who had been superseded played the same trick to those who had stepped into their places.
We lost no time in making preparations for our journey, the first part of which was to be performed on board a boat,—seventy miles up the river to Bodegas. We were there to engage mules to proceed over the mountains to Quito, of the difficulties of which journey I had some slight recollection.
We spent two days at Guayaquil. Had we not been anxious about our father and the rest of our family, we should have been well amused. From the balcony of our house we had a magnificent view of the towering range of the Andes seen from the east of us, and extending like a mighty wall north and south. Far away on the left, and fully a hundred miles off, appeared the mighty Chimborazo, whose snow-capped summit, rising far above its fellows, formed a superb background to the range of lesser mountains and grand forests which cover the intermediate space. I have before mentioned the delicious fruits that may be found in abundance in the city; and I described the curious balsas, on board of which the natives navigate the coasts and rivers. We all supplied ourselves with straw hats, such as are shipped in great numbers from this place under the name of Panama hats. They are made from the leaves of an arborescent plant about five feet high, resembling the palm called toquilla. The leaf grows on a three-cornered stalk, and is about a yard long. It is slit into shreds, and after being immersed in boiling water is bleached in the sun. The plaiting is very fine, and the hat is so flexible that it can be turned inside out, or rolled up and put into the pocket. It is impenetrable to rain and very durable. The chief export from the place are chinchona, tobacco, orchilla weed, hides, cotton, coffee, and cacao.
Our friends, we found, were anxious about the difficulties we might encounter on our journey, on account of the disturbed state of the country. They advised us, indeed, to postpone our departure till our father's arrival, or till we should hear from him. The thought, however, that he and our mother and sister might be exposed to danger made us the more desirous of proceeding; and at length our friends— against their better judgment, they assured us—concluded the arrangements for our journey. We were seated taking coffee the evening before we were to start, with the magnificent scene I have described before us, when a stranger was ushered into the room. He wore over his shoulders a gay-coloured poncho, and held a broad-brimmed hat in his hand. His breeches were of dark cloth, open at the knee, and he had on embroidered gaiters, and huge spurs, with rowels the size of a crown-piece. His jet-black hair, which hung over his shoulders, his reddish-olive complexion, dark eyes, and somewhat broad face, though his features were in other respects regular and handsome, told us at once that he was a native Peruvian. Our friends saluted him as Don Jose. He addressed us in a kind tone, and told us that, having heard we were about to proceed to Quito, as he was also going in that direction, and might be of service, he should be happy to accompany us. Our friends at once replied that we would thankfully accept his offer, and all arrangements were quickly made. We were glad to obtain so intelligent a companion. His kind and gentle manner at once gained our confidence, and though his dress and appearance were those of ordinary Indians of the upper class, he looked like one accustomed to receive the respect of his fellow-men. That he was no common person we were sure. Why he took the interest in us which he evinced we could not tell. John and I talked the matter over, and at length, recollecting that our father's mother was of Indian descent, we came to the conclusion that besides being a friend of our father, he was connected by the ties of blood with our family. Still, from the way our friend spoke, there appeared to be some mystery about him; but they did not offer to enlighten us, nor could we with propriety ask them, he also was evidently not inclined to be communicative about himself.
Next morning at daylight we went on board our boat. In the centre was an awning, or toldo, which served as a cabin. The crew, consisting of eight native Indians, urged her on with long broad-bladed oars when the wind was contrary, while their chief or captain stood astern and steered with another. When the wind was favourable a large sail was hoisted, and we glided rapidly up the river. The banks are beautifully green, and covered with an exuberant growth of many varieties of trees; indeed, the plains on either side vie in richness of vegetation with any other spot between the tropics. Several times we cut off bends of the river by narrow canals, the branches of the trees, interwoven by numberless creepers, which hung down in festoons covered with brilliant blossoms, forming a dense canopy over our heads. Although the stream is sluggish, we were unable to reach Bodegas that night. We stopped therefore at the house of a gentleman engaged in the cultivation of cacao. The tree on which it grows somewhat resembles a lilac in size and shape. The fruit is yellowish-red, and oblong in shape, and the seeds are enveloped in a mass of white pulp. It is from the seeds that chocolate is prepared. The flowers and fruits grow directly out of the trunk and branches. Cacao—or, as we call it, cocoa—was used by the Mexicans before the arrival of the Spaniards. It was called by them chocolatt, from whence we derive the name of the compound of which it is the chief ingredient—chocolate. So highly was it esteemed, that Linnaeus thought it worthy of the name of theobroma—"food for gods." The tree is raised from seed, and seldom rises higher than from twenty to thirty feet; the leaves are large, oblong, and pointed. It is an evergreen, and bears fruits and blossoms all the year round. The fruits are pointed oval pods, six inches long, and contain in five compartments from twenty-five to thirty seeds or kernels, enveloped in a white pithy pulp with a sweet taste. These seeds when dried form the cocoa of commerce, from which the beverage is made and chocolate is manufactured. There are three harvests in the year, when the pods are pulled from the trees and gathered into baskets. They are then thrown into pits and covered with sand, where they remain three or four days to get rid of, by fermentation, a strong bitter flavour they possess. They are then carefully cleaned and dried in large flat trays in the sun. After this they are packed in sacks for the market. Our friend in the morning showed us some blossoms which had burst forth from the roots during the night, which happened to be somewhat damp and warm—an example of the expansive powers of vegetable life in that region. An oil is extracted from another species of cacao, the nut of which is small and white. It is called cacao-butter, and is used by the natives for burns and sores and cutaneous diseases. A large quantity of cacao for the manufacture of chocolate is exported to Spain. Among the trees were numbers of the broad-leaved plantain and banana, which had been planted to protect the young cacao trees from the heat of the sun. The fruit of the banana, one of the most useful productions of the Tropics, is eaten raw, roasted, boiled, and fried. It grows in large bunches, weighing from sixty to seventy pounds each.
Continuing our voyage the next day, we passed amid groves of oranges and lemons, whose rich perfume was wafted across the water to us. Here also the mango, bearing a golden fruit, spread around its splendid foliage; while, above all, the beautiful cocoanut palm lifted its superb head. Now and then we saw monkeys gambolling among the trees, as well as many birds of brilliant plumage. Among others, a beautiful bird got up from a bed of reeds we were passing, spreading wide its wings and broad tail directly before us. John shot it, and the small canoe we sent to pick it up. It was about the size of a partridge, with a crane-like bill, a slender neck, and shorter legs than ordinary waders, though a wader it was. The plumage was shaded curiously in bands and lines with brown, fawn-colour, red, grey, and black, which Ellen said reminded her of a superb moth she had seen. It was the caurale, or sun-bird (Scolopax Helios), our books told us, found also in Demerara. Less attractive in appearance were the gallinazos, or vultures, the scavengers of those regions; while frequently on the mud banks we caught sight of alligators basking in the hot sun, often fast asleep, with their mouths wide open.