1. Las Sierras De Mal Abrigo
The clock of the "Cathedral de la Matrix" was striking ten on a lovely morning in October, when our signal gun was fired, and the anchor of the S.S. "Copernicus" let go to find bottom in the muddy waters of La Plata.
On the right the town of Monte Video, with its whitewashed "azotea," or flat-roofed houses, glistened in the bright sunshine; to the left the broad estuary stretched away towards the open sea; while in front of us the famous Cerro, a gently sloping hill, looked green and fresh and pleasant after our long sea voyage. The tug which brought off the Medical Officer of Health did not delay long before coming alongside, when permission was given to the passengers to land, and I soon found myself standing with my baggage on the Custom House wharf, and having duly passed it, made my way to the "Hotel Oriental."
Here I enquired when a diligence would leave for the interior, which would take me within reasonable distance of my friend's estancia, whom I had come out to visit, which I believed to be situate about thirty-three leagues, or one hundred miles, up country. I was informed that it was to leave the next morning, but that, as it started from a "fonda," or inn, outside the town at 5 a.m., it would be necessary to sleep there, otherwise I should certainly miss it. At this time the diligence was the only public conveyance traversing the country, a railway being as yet unthought of. So I ordered some dinner at the "Hotel Oriental," and occupied the interval by having a look round the city. I was much pleased with the straight, wide streets, running at right angles, by the size and importance of the public buildings, and by many of the private houses, often opening on to a "plaza," or square, prettily planted with trees and flowering shrubs. But I was most impressed by the variety and beauty of the excellent shops, which I could hardly have expected to find in a South American town at that time, so remote from Europe. I also saw more than one of the famous "quintas," or villas, with large grounds, where semi-tropical flowers can be seen in all their beauty, and palms and magnolias everywhere flourish.
I arrived at the inn whence the diligence started at 9 p.m. The proprietor received me with courtesy, and shewed me my bedroom, which was small and not very clean; but it had a window opening on the street, so I could get plenty of air. Some natives were making a noise in the bar below, where they had doubtless been drinking, and seemed inclined to quarrel. I gave instructions to be called, and the last thing I heard as I dropped off to sleep was the cry of the "sereno," or night-watchman, whose business it was, during the night, to call the time and state of the weather every half hour. A loud rapping at my door awoke me in time to look up my baggage and drink some hot coffee, before a start was made. Dawn was fast breaking in the East as five horses and three mules were being harnessed up, four abreast, to the old wooden diligence, which carried the mails and baggage piled on its top, the passengers sitting facing each other on hard wooden seats inside. In front, beneath a wooden shelter, sat the driver, with room for one passenger beside him. The diligence was heavily built, with large broad wooden wheels, and there were no springs. In front rode a native on horseback, with his lasso made fast to the leading horses, so that he was able to guide the course of the diligence. His was an office of importance, and he was called the "quartia dor." The team was evidently well accustomed to the streets, so we rumbled heavily along, passed suburb and quinta, until houses became less frequent, and by the end of the first stage had ceased to appear; and we then saw before us the rolling plains of Uruguay. A word as to my fellow-passengers. Four were apparently business men, probably buyers of produce, one of whom spoke French, and kindly gave me information as we went along. The fifth was an officer, in a lieutenant's uniform. Reaching the end of our first stage, we found another team shut up in a yard, waiting. This time they were all horses, diverse in colour, wilder, and more spirited than the others. But they were soon harnessed up, and we quickly got under weigh, the driver now increasing our speed. As we descended a decline we went mostly at full gallop, to get across the mud in the stream at the bottom, and so have a good impetus for the rise on the other side, the old diligence, which had seen much service, swaying and rolling like a ship in a sea-way. By eleven o'clock we reached Santa Lucia, then only a village, with one so-called hotel, and a straggling street of native huts. Here we waited for an hour for breakfast: meat, boiled and roast, with vegetables; bread, cheese, and coffee, which we much appreciated. Then, with four new passengers and a fresh team of horses, we made a start for the town of San José, where we were to stop for the night. As we proceeded, the country opened out before us on every side, the rolling plain, with here and there a clump of trees to mark some native estancia, where a flock of sheep, and also cattle, could be seen feeding in absolute freedom, for there were no fences or divisions of any kind, neither was there anything in the way of cultivation. Occasionally a native came into view, galloping after a troop of horses, his poncho fluttering in the wind, and then, as he passed over a roll of the plain, like some phantom, would seem to disappear. The afternoon was drawing to a close when we saw far in front of us the golden rays of the now fast-declining sun reflected on the cupola of the large church, flanking the principal square of the country town of San José. Gradually the houses rise up on the horizon, and half an hour later we drive up with the usual flourish in front of the "Hotel Oriental." It was apparently an old house, situate in the main street. We dined in a long low room, with the addition of soup and a sweet, much as we had breakfasted. Within its walls more than one murder had been planned, and many a political "cabale" concocted; indeed, I was told that at the very table where I sat an officer was dining with some boon companions. When sipping their coffee he turned to them and said, "Tengo rabia voy à matar un Gringo," "I feel in a rage, I am going to kill a foreigner." He went straight out, and turning up the street, met an Italian stonemason returning home from work. He pierced him through with his sword, and, walking off to where he had left his horse, mounted, and rode away. The poor man died, but the matter was hushed up, and nothing more was heard about it. I soon went to bed, feeling tired, and my limbs ached from the bumping and confinement of the diligence for so many hours.
In the morning we started early. The sun was just rising above the horizon as we left the outskirts of San José, and made for the open plain, unbroken, save by the dull grey line which alone seemed to mark the "camino real," or Government road. At eleven o'clock we stopped at a pulperia, or store, for some breakfast, and for fresh horses, which were ready waiting for us. They were a wilder lot this time, and a chestnut and a piebald especially gave trouble, at first refusing to be harnessed. Once started, however, they had nothing for it but to settle down, aided by a free application of the driver's whip. Just before two o'clock we reached Guaycoru, where my journey by diligence ended; this being the nearest point to my friend's estancia. Gathering together my saddle, bridle and light baggage, I entered the pulperia, or store, to enquire in what direction my friend's estancia lay, and how far off it was. The pulpero, or storekeeper, fortunately could speak a little French, which was a great help. He was very polite, pointed out the direction, saying it was only between five and six miles distant, and was situate at the far end of some rocky country which stretched out before us. He offered to supply me with a couple of horses, one for myself and another for my baggage, and to send a rather ruffianly-looking mulatto, half Spanish and half negro, his face badly pitted with small pox, to act as guide, and also to bring back the horses. He soon appeared with a bay, a grey, and a piebald, and I at once occupied myself fitting my saddle and bridle on the former, and not apparently to his satisfaction. The headstall of the bridle was too long, the girths of the saddle too short; but at last I got them to meet, and, slinging my belongings over the back of the piebald and mounting his grey, my attendant made a start, and I followed a few paces behind. Our departure being watched with great interest by the pulpero and his family. We had not gone far when we got in among the rocks, or "sierras," as they were called, lying in long large masses, not very high except in places; although, often rising well above one's head as you rode along through the breaks between. Owing to the shelter thus afforded, this district was noted as being the resort of robbers. The lay of the land favoured these gentlemen, as they could easily hide both their horses and themselves among the rocks during the day, and then go out with the moon at night to kill a young cow, or steal a horse, as their fancy took them. They were not a pleasant lot to have to do with, and I could see that my not understanding Spanish alone prevented my dark-skinned guide from duly expatiating upon the dangers of the road. Meanwhile, the sun was declining, and there was no wind. You could hardly hear a sound, and a weird creepy kind of feeling came over me as we entered a passage between two large rocks, higher and steeper than hitherto, which seemed to twist and turn so that I could not help wondering when and where we were going to come out. Every now and then we came across a few cattle, which made off hurriedly as we approached, and when we happened to see a horse or two they instantly got out of sight round some turn of the rocks, evidently well-known to them, but which seemed to me an all but impossible path. And so we kept jogging along, until the rocks got smaller and fewer, and at length we came out into a piece of open country, where a large flock of sheep were quietly grazing, their faces apparently set, as their custom is at eventide, towards home. About half a mile in front of us was the estancia whither we were bound, quiet and peaceful as I first saw it in the rays of the now setting sun. An azotea, or flat-roofed house, whitewashed outside; near it two large "ombus," a tree much valued for its shade; to the left three or four "ranchos," or huts, the walls of mud, the roofs of a reed called "paja"; on one side a yard for sheep, and on the other a large corral, in which to shut in horses and cattle; it did not look imposing, but I saw it all with interest as being for me a resting place, and with pleasure, for I had now reached the end of my long journey. My friend, Robert Royd, saw me riding up, and came out to welcome me. He had a fall from his horse, and sprained his knee, so was prevented coming in to Monte Video to meet me, as he had hoped to do. I was glad to see him again. I had known him in England when life held out a different prospect for him, and we had neither of us heard of Uruguay. How he came to be located at Las Sierras de Mal Abrigo he could hardly have told you himself. He went out for a voyage to Monte Video, took a fancy to the country and its climate, and to the open-air life, made up his mind to set up as an estanciero in a small way, and here he was. I had now to make the acquaintance of another person, Mr. Henry Marsh, called by the natives Henriquez. He had exchanged life in a merchant's office in London for a similar position in Mexico, where he had met with misfortune. He had drifted down the coast, first to Pernambuco, and afterwards to Monte Video, where he at length found himself without money or friends. Royd happened to come across him, and taking a fancy to him, brought him up country to look after a flock of sheep. He was a pleasant little man, a regular cockney through and through. He became somewhat plaintive whenever he talked of the past, and was apt to be nervous and over-anxious; but he was willing and obliging, and always glad to help in any way he could. He professed to understand and rather to like Spaniards, but he was really in mortal fear of a native, and he never went out far without a large revolver, and also a big knife stuck in his belt behind, neither of which formidable weapons would he have been at all willing to use. When I arrived, a Frenchman, whom we called Pedro, was acting as cook. He was not at all fond of soap and water, nor did he take much pride in the culinary art, for he apparently gave us an endless succession of mutton chops. But however early you wanted to make a start in the morning, he was always ready with hot coffee, and would get you some food at almost any hour of the day. So as our movements were often erratic, there were compensations. A native "peon," or servant, and a boy to get up horses, completed the establishment. As regards the stock, there were the flock of sheep before mentioned, about nine hundred in number, and another larger one of about fifteen hundred, towards the other end of the estancia, at a "puesto," as it was called in the direction, but to the West of the pulperia of Guaycoru, where I had first arrived in the diligence. The country was open there, being outside the "sierras," and a young Englishman called Charles Bent had arranged to take charge of this flock not long before I came upon the scene. He was a nice young fellow, with fair hair and blue eyes. He had a quick temper, but a kind heart. Having learnt farming in England in the usual kind of way, he came out to Uruguay. He had some capital, which he invested in sheep, and renting land up towards the Rio Negro, started on his own account. But he was without South American experience, and he had also bad luck: many of his sheep were stolen, others died of disease, and after about three years his money had vanished, and he was compelled, like others, to earn his living; so he took to the usual occupation of looking after a flock of sheep. He was always tidy and neat in appearance, and had a nice sheep dog, called "Bob," which he had brought with him from England, then little more than a puppy, of which he was very fond. There were seven hundred head of cattle on the place, which fed in a semi-wild state among the rocks, on a stretch of country some three and a half miles long, and half to three-quarters of a mile broad, known as the estancia; as also did a troop of mares and colts, mostly pretty wild. These latter were often difficult to come across, and to run them up into the stone enclosure, or "manga," near the house was no easy matter. We had seventeen riding horses of varied quality, mostly brought up into the wooden corral near the house every morning, so that we might each catch up a horse for the needs of the day. The cattle were very apt to stray outside the boundary of the estancia, and so get mixed up with those belonging to neighbours, often causing annoyance. This was much more the case on the Eastern than on the Western boundary, which was fortunate, as the natives living on that side were not only more friendly, but had better places themselves, and were therefore able to give us more help in keeping the cattle apart. On the Western side the rocks became ever a greater feature of the landscape, with but little open land between, thus forming a suitable resort for "matreros," i.e., people in hiding, of doubtful reputation, with no character whatever to lose. Here was where we had reason to apprehend trouble, should a revolution break out. We each took a turn to "repuntar," or drive in the cattle, which fed together in groups, and the same thing took place with the mares and colts. They also had to be continually turned inwards, and gathered up every now and again into the "manga," or stone enclosure to be looked over. When you had been some time at this work, it was wonderful how keen your eyesight became, and how it adapted itself to your needs. For instance, you could make out cattle and horses at a distance, when the ordinary observer would hardly know they were animals at all. Moreover, your eye became accustomed to tell you whether they were your own or your neighbour's, by their manner of feeding when grouped, their apparent number, and their behaviour when disturbed. Early morning and late afternoon was the time for this work, especially in warm weather, as both horses and cattle were glad to take advantage of the shelter of the high rocks during the heat of the day. We had three dogs, which helped us greatly, as they yelped and barked and chased the cattle to their heart's content. I rather took to this work; there was a kind of excitement about it, as you never quite knew whom you were likely to come across, or what was likely to happen before you got home. At evening, too, if you chanced to be late, there was a certain weirdness about it all: the huge masses of rock casting their grey shadows as the sun fell towards the horizon, and then when it had fully set, a great silence seemed to fall upon everything. Scarcely a sound could be heard in any direction. The "pteru-pteru," or wild plover, ceased his shrill cry, and both bird and beast, active during daylight, quietly sought their rest. Not so, however, those of the night, for when the short twilight was over, and darkness had fairly set in you could hear strange sounds and noises, as if something or other was at work, never seen nor heard during the day, and the short bark of the wild fox would sound out sharp and clear as he sallied forth in search of his prey. Then, indeed, you feel truly glad when the welcome light of the estancia house tells you that you are nearly home. Your horse, too, knows that he is near, that his work for that day at any rate, is done, and he looks joyfully forward to joining his companions, and to a peaceful time till morning. It was usual, once a week, to gather up all the cattle together upon a spot selected for that purpose, where a high post is fixed in the ground, around which when collected the cattle revolve. Upon such an occasion, those who had furthest to go were on horseback soon after dawn, each taking an appointed route, and as he returned driving the cattle in front of him. On this estancia there were special difficulties to contend with, as the high masses of rock enabled here and there a point of cattle to break back unseen, or if you did see them, probably it was at a place where it was difficult to follow them. But the horses were truly wonderful, as they carried you at a gallop over the rocky and uneven ground. They seldom made a mistake; bred among the sierras, they were quite at home there, and you soon learnt to give them their head, and to trust that all would be well. With us this weekly gathering together of the cattle never seemed entirely satisfactory. They never came up together all at one time. One portion or another seemed always to be missing. The long, narrow position of the estancia, and its rough and rocky character probably accounted for this. Moreover, we were always short-handed, and we could not keep any consecutive line as is done in more open country. This was therefore a day of disappointment, and we could not help fearing some of the cattle had been stolen; certainly we did not know where to find them. Royd took this a good deal to heart, for when he bought the herd this trouble had not been anticipated. The fact was the cattle had got rather out of hand, and we also feared animals were being killed on the camp, by "matreros," or fugitive soldiers, of whose existence in the district we were at the time unaware, but who afterwards proved themselves dangerous neighbours. Our sheep never seemed to suffer; on the contrary, they did well; nor was Charles Bent troubled in any way. For this we were thankful, and kept up our spirits accordingly. As to the troop of mares and colts, they had things pretty much their own way. They could gallop like the wind, and go faster over the rough ground than we could, and we were obliged to try and run them up to the manga, or stone enclosure, just as we happened most easily to come across them. The summer, with its long hot afternoons, was now passing, and the early autumn, perhaps the most pleasant time of the southern year, was close upon us. As the weather got cooler, I was continually out among the sierras looking after cattle, and I almost always went alone. I had happened to fasten over a black bowler hat a white "pugaree," with its ends hanging down behind to protect the back of my neck from the sun, and late one afternoon when following a path among the rocks with which I was well acquainted, my horse took a wrong turn. In a few moments, passing from beneath the shadow of a large grey rock to my right, I suddenly found myself in a small open space, about one hundred yards long by thirty wide, where the grass grew green and long, and a tiny stream trickled; quite an oasis in a small way. Here, seated on the ground, their horses saddled and feeding near them, were five men, apparently soldiers, for each had a broad red band round his black felt hat, and a lance stuck in the ground, from which hung the red banner. A fire was already lighted, over which was a large roast, part of a young cow they had lately killed. A kettle was almost on the boil, and they were evidently about to enjoy a meal. Their "arms" and "ponchos" were piled in a heap, but each held either a knife or a short dagger in his hand, and I noticed that two at least carried revolvers in their belts. They were a rough-looking lot, as much surprised to see me as I was to see them. For the moment I hardly knew what best to do. I was quite unarmed, but did not wish to appear nervous or frightened; nor could I make a satisfactory retreat. So I sat on my horse, perfectly still, and then they all got up and surrounded me, gesticulating violently, and pointing to the white covering of my hat, which seemed to be the cause of the annoyance. My feigned composure somewhat calmed their excitement. They told me to hand over my hat and, placing it on a point of rock about fifteen paces distant, succeeded in putting a bullet through it with a revolver, to their great amusement and satisfaction. Meanwhile those who were not shooting tried to frighten me; making signs with their knives that it was all over with me, but seeing I was an Englishman they fortunately had no real motive to hurt me; had they wished to do so, I was completely at their mercy. Being "colorados," soldiers belonging to the Red Party, they chose to assume that the white covering on my hat was a Blanco device; but of course, they knew this was not so. Finally, they allowed me to depart unharmed, returning to me my hat, minus its white covering which they tore in pieces, but still with the bullet hole in it as a proof of what happened. The matter was not much in itself, but it shewed that mischief was brewing, and that it was becoming unsafe to ride about in the rocks alone, more especially if unarmed. From that day forth I also started a revolver, to the proper loading of which I saw carefully before going any distance away. When I got home and related what happened, it did not tend to reassure poor Royd, who was rather in low spirits about things in general. He had moreover heard that afternoon from a passing traveller there was a rumour a revolution had actually broken out. However, a week passed, and we heard no more of it, so we followed our usual occupations, leaving matters to declare themselves. A few days later, when running up a point of mares, we managed to include three colts which hitherto had always eluded us. They were all chestnuts, very wild, very fast, with long flowing manes and tails. Two of them had a broad white blaze, each with two white hind feet. The third was larger than the others, with long, sloping quarters; rather a light chestnut, with a white star on his forehead and nothing more. He had good shoulders and a smooth easy way of slipping along which greatly took my fancy. So I bought him for a nominal sum and handed him over to a decent little native named Severo to break in for me. When he returned the horse to me I found he quite justified my expectations, and although still a bit raw he was easy and pleasant to ride; and I called him Carnival. I also took rather an interest in Severo, who was a beautiful rider, with a good seat and light hands. He could speak a few words of English; where he had learned them I did not know, but he seemed anxious to be communicative, and to teach me a few words of Spanish when I went to see how my horse was getting on. He had lately married, and lived in a rancho, or native hut, only a short distance from our Southern boundary. When I arrived I was invited to sit down on their only chair, placed in the centre of the room, Severo himself sitting on a little wooden stool, while the bride served Matè, a liquid made by pouring boiling water on a couple of spoonfuls of "yerba," a kind of tea grown in Brazil; a favourite beverage among the Spaniards. The Matè is really the gourd in which the tea is served. You suck it into your mouth through a bombilla, or silver tube, which latter, if you are not careful, is apt to get so hot as often to burn your lips. This beverage and the offer of a cigarette is the orthodox form of native hospitality.
One morning a party of soldiers showing Red colours galloped up unexpectedly and took Severo prisoner, with a view to making him serve in the Government forces. Remonstrance was in vain! He had to saddle up his best horse and to start at once. His poor young wife was in despair, and she rode up in tears to tell Royd of her trouble. It was useless to attempt to get him back, so we comforted her as best we could, with the hope that her husband would manage to make his escape at the first convenient opportunity. If he belonged to any political party it was to the "Blancos," with whom his wife's people had always been mixed up. This made the enforced separation a greater trial to both of them. It was fortunate for me that "Carnival" had already been returned to me, or he also would probably have fallen into their hands. That same afternoon a party of "Colorados" called at the estancia to take our "peon," or native servant, for a soldier, but he saw them coming in time, and got away among the rocks and hid himself before they arrived, so they were obliged to go away without him. It was evident the Reds were taking up men not only for the ordinary strengthening of the Government forces, but for some special purpose. This, and the persistent rumour we were constantly hearing of a revolution having broken out in the direction of the "Rio Negro," put us upon our guard, and we took such measures as we could to look sharply after our stock, more especially our horses, and to avoid being taken unawares. We also looked up our arms and ammunition, and considered what we could do for the best in case of any serious and sudden trouble. The position of Uruguay was at this time probably unique in the usual stormy history of a South American republic. Torn by faction and internal strife, peace alone seemed wanting to ensure its progress and prosperity. The many natural advantages, such as a good climate, abundant water, grassy plains, and the beautiful woods which bordered the rivers, rendered it especially suitable for pastoral purposes. Agriculture was as yet almost unknown, except in the immediate neighbourhood of the towns, and was then of the most primitive description. But the land itself was fertile in many districts, consisting of a rich black loam, where crops of wheat and maize would give excellent results, and an abundant yield could be anticipated in suitable situations from a virgin and not easily exhausted soil. The Flores war, which had lasted for three years, had ended in the temporary subjugation of the Blanco, or White Party, and the placing in power of a "Colorado," or Red government. This was not in sympathy with the majority of the people, more especially those engaged in pastoral pursuits, such as the raising of sheep and cattle, headed by the large native land owners, mostly "Blancos," and therefore bitterly opposed to the "Colorados," or "Reds." These latter often had a majority in and near the provincial towns, and especially in Monte Video, the capital. They were led by what may be termed professional politicians, their soldiers being partly made up of paid foreigners, forming fairly efficient infantry, together with a large number of natives, whom they pressed in their service when in power. Some of these, too, received payment, so long as their party possessed sufficient funds, while a great number got very little except their food and arms. Their bands of irregular horse comprised anyone and everyone who had nothing to do, together with what might be termed the scum of the townsmen, who had nothing whatever to lose; least of all their reputation. Moreover, there were certain families, Reds by tradition, whose heads occupied the government posts when the "Colorados" were in power, and whose minor members and hangers-on swarmed in the Public Offices. There were also certain "estancieros" throughout the country, especially up towards the Brazilian frontier, many of them influential and wealthy, whose politics had always been Red, and who were supporters of the "Colorado Party." But they were not nearly so united either in heart or sympathy as were the Blancos, nor did they cultivate the same enthusiasm. The Blancos included the descendants of most of the old Castilian families, who had been the original Spanish Colonists, and they possessed, therefore, a certain aristocratic element, if you could justly so term it, as being part of the inner life of the republic. Their importance and influence, and comparative wealth, accrued mainly from landed property and the countless herds of sheep and cattle which spread themselves far and wide, finding good and abundant pasturage on the rolling and grass-covered plains. While therefore the "Reds" were enabled to maintain themselves in power by means of an ample supply of money, so long as they could control the resources of the republic, popular sympathy in general was with the White Party; indeed, so great was the disaffection and discontent at this particular time, it needed but a spark, as it were, applied to gunpowder to set the whole country in a flame. It only required a real leader, who commanded the full confidence of the native population, to come upon the scene, and to raise high the standard of revolt, for the people to flock to his banner far and wide throughout the country. Thus, as it were in a moment, in a South American republic, is a revolution born and made. Nor can this be wondered at when you consider that intrigue and revolution is but a natural attribute of all populations of purely Spanish descent, and when you come to mingle an Indian and Italian and foreign element, and then try to purify the whole by an admixture of the unruly blood of Spain, the result means a state of general unrest, and a condition of affairs in which the seeds of revolution are for ever present. Another incentive is that during a revolution, horses are looked upon as munitions of war, and may be taken from their owners as required, to be returned and paid for as Providence may permit. Sheep and cattle, too, required for food, may be commandeered by armed troops as necessity requires, a nominal receipt for their value being usually given by the officer in charge, which in all probability will never be paid. All this naturally gives an opportunity to the less honest and self-respecting classes of the community to live a free, roving, careless kind of life at other people's expense. Although natives will tell you they hate the law of conscription which obliges them to serve for a time in the army, this is by no means always really true. Moreover, many of those who are poor are apt to look upon time of war as a means of relief from the necessity for honest toil, always distasteful to the Spaniard of South America. They, moreover, manage to console themselves fairly well for a temporary absence from their home, with a dim and ill-defined hope that if only they have good luck they may possibly come out of it all considerably better off than they went in. One afternoon, a "tropero," or buyer of cattle, rode up to the house to enquire if we had any fat bullocks to sell. He told us he was making up a large troop round about the neighbourhood to take in to Monte Video. Of course, he was full of news about the revolution, and he should not be surprised if war were to break out at any time. As he offered Royd fifteen dollars each for any bullocks which were fat, the latter thought it best to turn anything he could into cash. So it was arranged we should have a gathering together of the cattle on the following day, so as to allow the purchaser to part out what he wished, and he also arranged to stay the night with us. He was a pleasant man, well-dressed, and the silver fittings of his native saddle and bridle were quite magnificent. A little before dawn next morning found us all on the move. The cook had already got hot coffee. Our horses had been tied up the night before, and we saddled up just as day was breaking, and one after another slipped quietly away, each of us taking his appointed line in the general drive up of the herd. The tropero himself did not go, but his two young men lent a hand, we, of course, finding them horses. This morning things went better with us than usual, and twice when the wildest of the bullocks made a rush and tried to break back they were effectively stopped and disappointed. Altogether we had a very good "para rodeo," but few of our cattle apparently remaining behind. Next followed the parting out of the fat animals. A short distance away from the general herd, which kept revolving round a large post placed in the centre of the "rodeo," about a dozen tame animals were stationed, guarded by a couple of young natives. Each fat bullock, as it was selected by the "tropero," was then run out of the herd into this little group, the tropero and his head man commencing operations by running them out himself. It was all very neatly done. They rode quietly in among the cattle, which we kept rounded up on every side. Fixing their attention upon a fat bullock, they placed their horses close up to it, one on either side, and so ran it out with a sudden rush in the direction of the tame animals. Sometimes it refused to be so dealt with, and persistently broke back at all costs. Then the lasso was brought into play, and after it had been lassoed and bullied about it generally thought better of it and did what was required. For this particular work the rider must possess not only skill, but he must be well mounted. His horse must be fast and active on his legs; he must be intelligent, so as to enter thoroughly into the spirit of the work, and he must also have plenty of courage. At the same time he must exercise caution, and thoroughly know his business, otherwise either he or his rider, probably both, may get caught on the horns of the bullock and so come to serious grief. But it is wonderful to see how a good horse will himself enjoy it, and with what marvellous perfection and accuracy he will perform his part. The rider, too, must have good nerves, and above all a firm seat, and an accurate eye for judging distance. As a rule, however, if he is really well mounted, the more he trusts to his horse and the less he worries him the better. Meanwhile, to Royd's gratification, the tropero parted out fifty fat bullocks; quite a good parting for our comparatively small herd, but, as a matter of fact, our cattle did wonderfully well among the rocks if only they were left quiet. They had plenty of clear water, and the grasses which grew there were sweet and nourishing, while in summer time they greatly enjoyed both the shade and shelter. On the following day, Friday, I rode over to the pulperia, or store, at Guaycoru and, as several things were wanted, I took the boy with me, mounted on an old grey horse, across the saddle of which a pair of large saddle bags were slung, in which to carry them. We had not long arrived at the pulperia when a native rode up, mounted on a fine "oscuro," or dark brown horse, with a long flowing mane and tail, his reins, breastplate, and stirrups all mounted in solid silver. He was a good-looking man, something over thirty years of age; a slight but firmly knit figure as he sat on his horse, with the easy, graceful seat of one born almost in the saddle. His wide black "bombachos," or loose trousers, tucked inside high boots, ornamented with silver spurs. The broad-brimmed felt hat, the long "facon," a two-edged dagger, stuck in his belt, and a white silk handkerchief tied loosely round his neck, all betokened the "Spanish caballero," the free, independent life of the horseman on the open plain. Quickly dismounting, he carelessly strolled into the "pulperia," with the usual "Buenos tardes Señores," "Good afternoon, gentlemen." But as he passed me I noticed that he was fully armed, and had also an alert watchful look about him, and the thought passed through my mind that here at any rate was no ordinary man. He talked a few moments to the pulpero, somewhat earnestly, and then came forward, raising his hat, and offered me a cigarette, remarking something about the heat of the afternoon. Soon after, I and the boy, having collected our purchases, mounted our horses to return. Just as we rode round the edge of the outbuildings a dark-skinned individual in somewhat tattered garments rose from a low seat where he had been sitting smoking, and came hurriedly forward. "Did you speak to the Señor with the 'oscuro,'" he asked. "Yes!" I replied, "what about him?" The mulatto smiled and showed his white teeth, and then said, almost in a whisper, "You do not know him! Mamerto Godez! Cuidado! (Beware)."
One afternoon just about three o'clock, I was sitting in the dining room writing a letter. It was quite warm, and both door and windows stood wide open. Royd and Henriquez had gone off to a pulperia owned by a man called Saballa, on the other side of the River Rosario, to buy some necessaries. I heard the dogs barking, but paid no attention, when suddenly half a dozen soldiers with the white device round their hats, and carrying the white banner on their lances, rode up from behind the house and halted at the front door. I went out and stood right in front of them. One who seemed superior to the others accosted me in Spanish, and I understood him to say that war had broken out, and that their business was to take up men and horses. Pedro the cook, so soon as he saw them, had gone to hide among the rocks, fearing, I suppose, lest he should be taken off for a soldier, Frenchman though he was! However, I explained as well as my scanty knowledge of Spanish would permit exactly who were employed, and I also told him about our horses. The result of it all was that they rode off more or less satisfied, saying that as "Don Roberto" was away they would call about them another time. About five o'clock Royd and Henriquez returned, having obtained all they wanted, and also bringing news. A revolution had broken out far and wide throughout the country, and a Colonel Aparicio, who had distinguished himself in a previous war, when General Flores and the Colorados were victorious, had apparently taken temporary command of the Blanco forces, which were increasing enormously day by day. That evening we held a consultation as to how we could act for the best. Royd was naturally rather despondent, for the rocky nature of the estancia obviously increased our difficulty in protecting and guarding the stock, besides affording a safe refuge for thieves and bad characters of every kind. This was always a drawback in time of peace, and, of course, the danger would be infinitely greater in time of war. However, there seemed nothing for it but to await events, and meanwhile do our best to keep our cattle and horses together as well as we could. The flock of sheep near the house fed where the land was open, and Henriquez looked after them. Should he be away, then either I or the boy did so for him. The other flock up towards Guaycoru fed also in open country, and Charles Bent was careful and reliable, and could be trusted to look well after them. He seldom went away from his "puesto," or hut, where he lived alone, his sole companion being his sheep-dog, "Bob," which he had brought out with him, when little more than a puppy, from England. He had one or two neighbours on his further side, who were friendly, and he also was no great distance from the pulperia where I had first arrived in the diligence; so up to now he had not found it quite so lonely as might have been expected. The stone manga, where we could shut in horses, and also a fair number of cattle, was in a broken and bad condition, and Royd decided that he would get an Italian stonemason and his son, who lived not very far away, towards the Rosario, to come over and build up all the gaps and so put it in good order. Meanwhile, we had to get the stone from where it lay among the big rocks; no easy job! It then had to be put upon a wooden truck to which a pair of bullocks were yoked, who slowly conveyed it to the corral. Fortunately, for a few days the weather was fine and cool. We all took our share of this work, which was tedious and tiring. We got a good supply by the time the stonemason and his son arrived. The father was a thin, rather careworn-looking man, beyond middle age, with hair fast turning grey; the son, a wiry-looking youth of about sixteen, with black hair and a sallow complexion. With them came a sandy-yellow coloured dog, eleven months old, very thin and lanky-looking, but with muscular limbs, a long, straight back, a broad forehead, small ears, and a pair of very intelligent eyes. For some reason or other he took a fancy to me, and I saw he was well fed, for which he seemed very grateful. He had the look of a lurcher, and was, of course, a mongrel. He was the son's dog, from whom I bought him for a couple of dollars. He was called "Napoleon," and I never altered his name. We saw no more of the soldiers, so we contented ourselves with keeping a constant eye on the horses, leaving the cattle for the time being to look after themselves, nor did we attempt to gather them up to the "rodeo," while the stonemason and his son were with us. Having finished their work they bid us adieu, received payment, and with many thanks, took their departure. "Napoleon" did not evince the least desire to go back with them, for when they mounted their horses he came and lay down by me, showing no sorrow at his change of owners. Following on all this, I resumed my work of riding out among the rocks to look up the cattle again, and the dog seemed very glad to go with me. I had not been at this more than a couple of days when I thought I missed a point of animals I had always been accustomed to find feeding more or less in the same locality. I reported this to Royd, who had not been very well. I think he had overdone himself, when we were all so busy collecting the stone. He decided we should have a "para rodeo," or gathering together of the herd, so as to form a better idea whether any of our cattle had been stolen. So on Saturday morning we all sallied forth just after daybreak, our horses having been tied up the night before. The gathering up, however, was not a successful one, for although we did not let any we saw break back, when we got them upon the rodeo they certainly seemed fewer than usual. From the way they came up we hardly thought any had stayed behind among the rocks. The next day Royd and I took a turn round to visit our neighbours, to enquire if any of our cattle had been seen by them. They welcomed us in a friendly manner, and were all apparently anxious to talk about the war, and to relate all they had heard regarding it. But we could hear nothing about our missing cattle. All, therefore, we could do was to arrange for another gathering up within a week, and two of our neighbours kindly offered to help us. They arranged to meet us at the far end of the estancia, just after sunrise, and a couple of native boys came with them. However, when we got the herd collected on the "rodeo," they again seemed to be fewer than usual, so we shut part of them up in the stone manga, for it would not hold them all, and first counted those outside and then those inside, and we were sadly compelled to conclude that quite fifty animals were missing. Where to find them we did not know, and we could only hope they would turn up again at the next para-rodeo.
A few days later, Henriquez started off early in the afternoon to Saballa's pulperia, with the large saddle-bags slung over his saddle to bring back his purchases. He returned just before sunset, and we at once saw by his manner that something unusual had happened. He told us the people at the pulperia were much upset because on the previous day a little over a mile away, down near the wood which bordered the river Rosario, a poor Italian musician had been found lying with his throat cut from ear to ear. Whoever had done the deed appeared to have tied a poor little monkey to the ankle of the dead man, and so to have left them by the side of his small barrel-organ, which was also much broken. The body was lying at the pulperia when Henriquez arrived, waiting permission for burial; and he also saw the monkey, which was being taken care of. It certainly shewed there were some very wicked people about, as from the footprints round the place where the body was found, it would seem that whoever did it was not alone. The Italian had been playing two nights before at the house of a native, where there had been a small dance, when several girls and young men were present, all of whom, however, were well-known. In the morning he had some coffee given to him, and left the house quite well, en route for the pulperia, and late that afternoon his body was found by a casual passer-by, who at once gave notice of what had happened. Poor Henriquez was greatly affected during the evening, and kept repeating over and over again, "Pobre Italiano" (poor Italian). "There he lay with his throat cut from ear to ear. Oh! it's 'orrid, 'orrid, 'orrid!" For in his distress the cockney accent became more pronounced than ever.
When, however, he had somewhat recovered his composure, he told us the Whites were assembling in large force up towards Paysandu, and that many Blancos from our neighbourhood had already gone outside to join them. Meanwhile, the Reds were assembling in the province of San José, as also in the Department of Colonia, and he seemed to think at present we had more to fear from the Government forces so far as our horses and cattle were concerned than we had from the revolutionists. As "Carnival" was rather a good-looking horse, I caught him up most days, although I only rode him occasionally. I let him out to feed late in the afternoon, when so far as we knew all seemed to be quiet. Royd had an "ovaro," or piebald, he thought a lot of, and also a grey he often rode, and Henriquez took all the care he could of a nice little chestnut he was very proud of, and always rode on special occasions. Things now went on much as usual, and we had no visit from the Red soldiers, for which we were thankful. I was out pretty regularly looking up the cattle, and I kept on fancying from time to time that some were missing; nor, when we had the para rodeo did I ever think as many came up as used to do. We had some of the small fallow deer of the pampas about among the rocks, and they could often be seen coming out towards late afternoon into the open glades to feed. I managed to shoot four of them with my rifle, and took off their skins which, when dried in the sun, soften easily. I also shot a couple of "carpinchos," a kind of water-pig, which could often be seen about sunset on the bank of the stream running along the western side of the camp. They are hard to get near, and easily frightened. Their skins are much thought of by the natives, who get them tanned, and put them across the top of their "recados," or saddles. A few days later we were all sitting at breakfast when Charles Bent arrived. He had someone staying with him at the puesto for a few days, so was able to get away. He told us he had not been troubled by soldiers, and that the sheep were all right. But he said it was rumoured cattle had been stolen from a small native estancia, beyond where he lived, which belonged to a "Blanco," and it was supposed they had been taken by some "Colorado" soldiers, who wished to escape service, and whose chief hiding place was said to be among the large sierras on our camp. Royd did not like the look of this at all, as if true it would prove a great danger to our cattle, and might easily account for the number we thought missing. Bent stayed the night, and did not go back until next afternoon. He told me privately he believed there were some bad characters hiding among the rocks, but that he did not wish to say more than he could help to Royd, as he was apt to take things so much to heart, and it might cause him needless worry. But he begged me to be careful, and take every precaution when riding about among the sierras alone, looking up the cattle, and he advised me to have "Napoleon" with me, and to see that I was well armed. He also said he did not feel very happy himself, living alone at the "puesto," but as it was well outside the rocks, surrounded by open country, he intended to keep a sharp look-out and if possible to avoid being taken unawares.
Fortunately, he had a placid, easy-going temperament, and was not at all nervous, nor was he inclined to meet trouble half-way. The following Friday, a little before eleven, a Blanco officer arrived, and with him about fifty soldiers. They were passing from the town of Colla, towards Guaycoru, and going on to join the White army. They had several extra horses with them, so they did not trouble much about ours, except a saino, or brown, which was feeding not far from the house, and this they asked to take along with them. I had "Carnival" tied up and saddled, as also was Royd's piebald, and Henriquez happened to be riding his chestnut down with the sheep. The other horses were among the rocks, so they did not see them. We invited the officer in to breakfast, which, after the Spanish fashion, we were accustomed to have at eleven o'clock, and dinner at sundown. He was quite young, having served but a short time in the army. He asked if his men might have something to eat, which meant they would like to kill a couple of sheep, and roast the meat over two fires made in the open. They also had some "farenha," a kind of meal, which they eat raw, with roast meat, and cooked into a sort of pudding with boiled. We also gave them "yerba" and sugar to make their matè, or native tea, and they were quite happy. They were all more or less armed with either lances or guns, and many carried both. Many had a revolver, and often a facon, or double-edged knife, stuck in their belts behind; but taking them all round, they were quite orderly, and the young officer seemed to have them under good control. He told us that the revolution was extremely popular. Men were flocking far and wide to the White banner, and up towards Paysandu had already joined in very large numbers. He asked us if any of the "Colorados" had come to the estancia, and if we knew of any being about in our neighbourhood. As they departed they looked quite picturesque, with the Blanco device round their hats, and the white banner flying from their lances, many leading their spare horses. They all rode off at a trotte-cito, or jog-trot, the young officer following alone in solitary grandeur behind. But their visit, although it passed off quite well, seemed unduly to depress poor Royd, whom we found it difficult to persuade into taking anything like a cheerful view of the situation.
Towards the end of the next week, Henriquez said he should like to ride over and visit a friend who lived at a small native place on the other side of Guaycoru. So it was arranged he should go on Saturday morning, returning home on the Monday, and that I should keep an eye on the flock of sheep. They did not feed far distant from the house, and when once turned early in the afternoon, usually fed quietly on their way home. So on Saturday morning after coffee, Henriquez caught and saddled up his chestnut, putting on his best gear, and wearing a clean white shirt, a black jacket and waistcoat, and a pair of black "merino bombachos," or wide trousers, tucked inside a pair of carefully polished long boots. On these he buckled a pair of silver spurs, of which he was very proud, as also of the handsome silver buttons fastening the wide belt of carpincho skin he wore round his waist. Finally he put on his summer poncho, a very nice one, and a soft broad-brimmed felt hat completed his appearance, which seemed to give him every satisfaction. Just before mounting his horse he examined his revolver, which he carefully fixed in its proper place inside his belt. I rode with him for about half a mile, and the last I saw of him was as he turned round the corner of a large grey mass of rock which bordered the track, and so disappeared from view. He did not return on the Monday as expected, and on the Tuesday morning when the boy drove up the riding horses to the corral, much to our surprise his chestnut was among them, with a bit of broken hide hanging loosely down from where it was fastened round the horse's neck. We supposed, however, it had been collared to a mare where Henriquez was staying, as was a usual custom, and had broken away during the early part of the previous night, and so found its way home. However, both Tuesday and Wednesday passed and he did not return, as we felt quite sure he would do, on a horse borrowed from his friends. So on Thursday morning I started to ride over to the place where Henriquez had gone, and during my absence the boy was to watch the sheep. Arriving there, as I did, about nine o'clock, my surprise may be imagined when I was told that Henriquez had left them about two o'clock on the Monday afternoon, quite well, mounted on his own horse, and that he seemed anxious to reach home with as little delay as possible. I stayed about half an hour discussing the situation, and then started to ride to the pulperia at Guaycoru, to make further enquiries. When I got there the owner knew nothing, nor had he heard anything regarding Henriquez from anyone who had come to his pulperia. He was a kind little man, and much concerned at my news, and he promised to enquire from anyone who called at his house if perchance they might have seen Henriquez, or heard any news of him. I stayed a little while and got some coffee and two or three biscuits, and then remounted a big brown horse I was riding, somewhat loosely put together, but sure-footed all the same, and well-accustomed to stony country. He had a head quite half of it white, and two wall eyes, known to the natives as a "pampa," by which name he usually went. Horses of this type and colour were said to have belonged to the original Indians of the "Pampas," at the time of the Spanish colonisation. After again talking things over with the pulpero, we agreed my best plan would be to ride round by Bent's puesto, in case he should have heard anything, and if not, I could let him know what had happened, so that he too might make enquiries. I arrived a little before one o'clock, and saw Bent walking close to his house as I rode up. "Bob" ran out barking, but immediately knew me and gave me a friendly greeting. Bent, of course, had known Henriquez well, and was much perturbed by what I had to tell him. He had neither seen nor heard anything. All he could tell me was that it was rumoured there were a party of thieves supposed to be fugitives from the Reds, who were said to have taken up their quarters in the rocks, and were stealing small points of cattle and sheep as opportunity offered. These they were supposed to drive off at night if there was any moon, or else immediately after daybreak, to a place some considerable distance away, where they were said to collect them, and where doubtless they had friends ready to receive them. All this, however, was not very comforting, but I asked Bent to be sure and let us know at once if he heard any news of Henriquez, and also to make his disappearance known to anyone he might happen to come across, for he lived not very far from the "camino real," or Government road. I then mounted my horse, determined to lose no time in getting back to the estancia as soon as might be. I knocked the "pampa" along at about his best pace, considering the broken ground over which I had to pass. I always had a queer feeling passing through the rocks. You could see so little in front of you, and were so easily apt to miss your way. However, it was barely half past two when I rode up. Royd was at home, and at once came out of the house. He was much shocked and greatly upset by what I had to tell him, saying again and again he felt quite sure the worst had happened, and that we should none of us ever see or hear of poor Henriquez again. On Friday Royd and I spent the day searching the tracks which ran through the rocky part of the estancia; first those over which a horseman returning direct to the house was most likely to pass, and then the ones which ran out on either side, which it was not usual for a traveller to follow. We came across various signs that men with horses had recently been passing in and out of the sierras, for twice we came across places where apparently a young cow had been killed and a fire made near, where part of it at any rate had evidently been roasted, and that quite recently. On Saturday we carefully searched over another portion of the estancia, but all without result. Not a sign could we see of the missing man. Henriquez "had simply vanished!" On Monday morning we sent the boy over to the pulperia at Guaycoru with a letter to the pulpero, asking if he could give us any news. But all in vain; no one had seen or heard anything of him since he started from his friends' house on his chestnut horse to return home on that Monday afternoon, now exactly a week ago. Tuesday passed and nothing came to relieve our suspense. But on Wednesday morning Bent turned up about eleven o'clock, and I saw at once by his face that something had happened. Having his friend with him, he started on his horse to come down to the estancia, and not wishing to be away longer than he could help, he chose a track which ran through the centre of the rocks in a diagonal direction, not usually followed, which came out not more than three-quarters of a mile from the estancia house itself. Contrary to his custom, "Bob" followed his master, instead of staying at the puesto, where the sheep were, until his return. Bent was riding carefully along this track when "Bob" suddenly began to whine and bark, and turning off on one side disappeared round a big rock.
Bent whistled and called, but the dog did not return. So he got off his horse and tied him up to a low bush which happened to be near. He then took out his revolver and followed on foot in the direction the dog had gone. He only went about fifty yards just round the edge of the large rock already mentioned when he found himself in a small open glade, some thirty yards long, and perhaps fifteen wide, at the far end of which stood "Bob," close by an object which lay stretched on the ground. Here was all that remained of poor Henriquez. He was lying slightly on one side, face downwards; his hat and poncho, and his long boots and silver spurs, his jacket and waistcoat, belt and revolver all gone! How he ever came there goodness only knew. Nothing was left but his white shirt, his black bombachos, and his stockings. It seemed as if the body must have been either carried or dragged to the place where it lay. His face looked peaceful, and the only thing to be noticed were signs of a wound where a bullet had entered just between the shoulders, apparently fired from behind. There were no signs of bruised or broken grass or horses' footprints, if indeed a horse could have got round the very narrow space beside the big rock. Bent covered the face with his pocket handkerchief, leaving the body lying exactly as it was when he found it, and then returning to where he had left his horse came on straight to the estancia. Royd was greatly affected by the sad news which Bent brought us, as well he might be. However, he said that he and I had better go back with Bent to the place, taking the native peon and a spade and pick with us, so that we might dig a grave, and so give the body a decent burial. Fortunately, we found a spot close by, where the stones and rock underneath the surface soil were more or less loose and detached. When we had finished digging the grave, Bent read a portion of the burial service, as we lowered all that remained of poor Henriquez into his last resting-place. We then filled in the earth again, placing the loose pieces of rock we had got out so that they covered and protected the top, our intention being later on to fix a wooden cross, suitably inscribed at the head of the grave, permanently to mark the place where our poor friend lay. It was late afternoon as Royd and I slowly and sorrowfully wended our way home, closely followed by the native peon, for Bent had returned to his puesto so soon as the interment was finally completed. Nothing much happened during the next few days. We had a gathering together of the cattle, but we were short-handed, and when we got them up to the rodeo we were compelled to conclude that a good many of them were missing. One morning, about nine o'clock, a dozen Government soldiers rode up, each with a red band round his hat and the red banner flying from their lances. They were not too civil, and merely said they were taking up horses and men. Our native peon was away among the rocks, looking for two of our riding horses, which were missing. Pedro, the cook, had retired to a dark corner of the kitchen. Our other horses were feeding at some distance from the house, but they asked for them to be brought up into the corral, so that they might take what they required. So we sent off the native boy to bring them in. Fortunately, "Carnival" and Royd's two horses happened to be feeding alone much further away, so they did not come up with the others, and the soldiers never saw them. They ended by taking five, including the pampa, previously mentioned, and they left us two in very poor condition. It was rather a trial to see them go off, but the soldiers gave us no choice in the matter, so we could not do otherwise than let them go. They also asked for some meat, and taking with them the greater part of a sheep which was hanging in the galpon, they rode off in the direction of Guaycoru, and we were pleased to see them depart without causing us further trouble.
On the Monday following, Royd rode over to stay until the end of the week with some friends who had an estancia a few miles on our side of the town of San José. Nothing happened during his absence until Friday, when Bent rode up about eight o'clock in the morning, looking much perturbed. Fortunately, his friend had been staying with him at the puesto as he so often did, for he told me that during the night not only had about two-thirds of his flock been driven off and could not be found anywhere in the morning, but that the puesto itself had been attacked just after midnight by four men, all apparently fully armed. They had doubtless expected Bent to be alone, but his dog "Bob" was sleeping at the foot of his bed, and woke him up from sleep by his growling, and so gave the alarm.
The puesto was a long, narrow building, built mostly of wood, thickly plastered inside and out with mud, the inside being well whitewashed throughout. The roof was thatched with a reed called "paja," much used for the purpose, for it kept the house both warm in winter, and cool in summer, and was an excellent protection against heavy rain. The front door stood close up towards one end of the building, facing West. Inside were two rooms, each with a window facing East, divided by a wall, so as to make a living-room, into which you entered, with a sleeping-room beyond. This latter had also an extra piece built on to it at right angles, so as to give more sleeping accommodation, one of the walls of which overlooked the front door. In the middle of this wall, about four feet from the ground was a small wooden frame about eighteen inches square which had been put in the wall for the purpose of ventilation, and inside this was a moveable shutter which slid easily sideways, secured by a small iron hook to keep it in its place. Both frame and shutter were somewhat discoloured, so they were not easily noticed, appearing more or less the same as the mud wall outside. The moon was almost full, every now and again shaded over by light cloud, which came slowly sailing up from the south, although there was really but little wind.
The flock had gone quietly to rest on the large bare open space, where they usually passed the night, perhaps one hundred and fifty yards distant from the front door of the building. Bent had taken a look at them between nine and ten o'clock, before retiring to rest, when they appeared quite still, and everything quiet. It would be about two o'clock in the morning, when "Bob" began to growl in low but savage tones, which awoke Bent and his friend, who soon got into their clothes and had hold of their revolvers, which were always kept loaded. Meanwhile, Bent thought he could hear low voices outside the front door, so with great presence of mind he pushed the table which stood in the middle of the sitting-room up against it, and the chairs also, thus forming a sort of barricade. Leaving his friend to press the table inside against the front door as hard as he could, and also "Bob," who was then barking violently. Bent hurried round to the wooden shutter in his friend's bedroom wall, already mentioned, and drew it quietly back without making any noise. Looking through it he saw four men fully armed trying to force open the front door. He could also see their horses standing saddled near the outside kitchen only a few yards away. He promptly fired full at the nearest man, who forthwith uttered a loud cry, apparently wounded. He then fired two more shots in quick succession, but after the first shot the men made for their horses in great confusion, mounted them, and hurriedly rode away.
The two horses which were missing a week ago had not yet turned up, so I sent out the boy to have a good look round among the rocks, and if possible to find them, for I feared lest they had been stolen, which ultimately proved to be the case, for we never saw them again. Leaving the native peon at the house to look after the sheep, I started with Bent to go to the puesto, so that we might try if we could hear anything of all the sheep he told me were missing. His friend appeared glad to see us, for he had received rather a shock, and did not much like, after all that had happened, being there by himself. When we came to count up the sheep we found the number remaining to be barely six hundred some nine hundred having disappeared, which was indeed a heavy loss. Poor Bent seemed very sad about it, and well he might be! We could only conclude that the four men who attacked the puesto must have had accomplices, who drove off the sheep earlier in the night without causing much disturbance, by first turning them off the bare place where the flock was resting across the ground where they were accustomed to feed, before finally driving them off, as they appeared to have done. In so doing the strongest and best sheep would naturally go in front, while those which were weaker and less valuable would be the ones to stay behind. Seeing that four armed men had attacked the puesto, it seemed probable that at least an equal number had carried off the sheep. The fact that there was so much rocky and broken country in the neighbourhood of the estancia, and not very far away, made it all the more difficult to obtain any clue as to the route the thieves might have taken. The ground was hard, and we could find no trace of where the stolen sheep had passed.
Having done all we could in this direction, Bent and I separated, each of us riding round to two or three of the neighbours whom we knew, to make them aware of what had happened. Late in the afternoon I called at the pulperia at Guaycoru, hoping I might perhaps hear something there--but all the owner could tell me was he had heard a rumour that Mamerto Gomez, the man I had once spoken to at his house, had been seen three days previously with half a dozen other men entering the rocks, fully armed, from the opposite side, but for what purpose or whether they were in any way connected with the carrying off of the sheep, it was impossible to say! It was easy to surmise they were up to no good, but this was of course merely conjecture, and I completely failed to learn anything which might lead to the recovery of the large number of sheep which were missing. Royd was to come home the next afternoon, and I knew what a blow this would be to him, when he came to hear of his loss. I had "Carnival" tied up that night, and sunrise saw me in the saddle on my way to the puesto, to consult with Bent as to what we could do further, with a view to obtaining some reliable information if possible by the time Royd would return. When I got there Bent had heard nothing, although he had communicated with more than one traveller riding towards the road along which the diligence passed. We arranged the direction in which Bent should search during the day, and I took the opposite one, and made a long round, calling up anywhere I thought it possible I might hear anything. By mid-day, I found myself not very far from the pulperia at Guaycoru, so stopped there, and arranged with the owner to send over a messenger at once to the estancia should he hear anything which would help us. I then rode back to the puesto to consult once more with Bent, who by this time--it was now two o'clock--had returned from his search, without having obtained any information, although he had questioned at least a dozen people since I left him in the morning. It was all very trying and disappointing. There seemed nothing for it but to return to the estancia to meet Royd when he got home, and tell him what had happened.
It was nearly four o'clock when I arrived, and about half an hour later Royd turned up, having much enjoyed his little outing. He brought a young English boy, about fifteen, with him, tall for his age, with broad shoulders, and an upright figure. His name was Frank Tryon, but he was generally known as "Francisco." He was an excellent rider, and fond of horses and dogs, especially of the pretty "alazan," or chestnut pony he was riding when he arrived, with its flowing mane and tail, of which it was easy to see he was really very proud.
I helped them to unsaddle, and told the cook to get some coffee ready, as they told me they had breakfast as they came along. Royd then sat down in an easy chair and began to smoke. "Well, Royd," I said, "I am very glad to see you back. I have just come down from Bent's puesto. It was attacked by thieves on Thursday night, and two-thirds of the sheep were stolen. Bent and I have searched in every direction both yesterday and to-day, and we can learn nothing whatever about them." "Goodness gracious! that is indeed bad luck," replied Royd, "but I am glad poor Bent got off all right; it must have given him a great shock. I hope his friend was with him so that he would not be alone." I then told him all that had happened, and also what I had heard about Mamerto Gomez and his men having been seen entering the sierras. "It is not unlikely he may be the real cause of it all," said Royd. "I fully expect that fellow had a hand in it, for I believe him to be a regular scoundrel, in spite of his suave manner and grand appearance." Certainly Royd bore his misfortune with more fortitude than I expected, for the loss was indeed a heavy one. The late afternoon was now drawing on, and I sent the native boy to bring up the "tropilla," which happened to be feeding not far away, up into the corral, so that we might collar Francisco's pony to the tropilla mare, and we then let them all out again to feed for the night. After dinner we talked the whole affair over before going to bed, without, however, coming to any conclusion as to what prospect there was of our ever again hearing of the missing sheep. Early on Monday morning, leaving Francisco at the house, who said he would keep an eye on the sheep, Royd and I rode over to the puesto, where Bent had nothing whatever to report. He had managed to interview during Sunday some half dozen horsemen who were riding along within reach of him, but could obtain nothing in the way of information. Royd and I both took a long turn round in opposite directions, each returning to the puesto about three o'clock; but it was all in vain: we could learn nothing which would help us from anybody. We again held a consultation, and Royd determined that for the present Bent should stay on at the puesto and have his friend with him, maintaining as strict a watch as possible over the sheep which remained. Later, if we failed to hear anything of the ones that had been stolen, the only thing to do would be for Bent to come down with his sheep to the estancia, and join them on to those which were there. As by leaving the puesto he would not only be safer and more secure himself, but he could then look after all the sheep remaining on the estancia by keeping them together in one flock.
The autumn of the Southern year was now well advanced, and there was still plenty of grass within reasonable reach of the estancia house--but meanwhile we only thought of this plan as being one suitable for the near future. Royd and I then rode home, having had a fairly long day. Everything seemed quiet as we followed along the narrow track which wound itself like a snake among the big masses of grey rock. Suddenly Napoleon, who was with us, started off as if in pursuit of something, and I took out my revolver and followed him up. Reaching an open space quite hidden from the track, I came upon the remains of a young cow, the best joints of the meat having evidently been cut up and taken away with the hide on them, while the animal was still warm; indeed, it was plain the cow had only been recently killed. I called to Royd who was only a little way behind me to come and look. It certainly looked as if thieves were not very far off, and in view of recent events it did not tend to make either of us feel very comfortable. Probably one of the grey foxes often to be seen as evening approached had been visiting the remains, and Napoleon had caught scent of it, which attracted his attention. When we got home we found Francisco quite happy, and he and I took a turn round and brought up the riding horses, shutting them up for the night in the stone "manga," instead of leaving them out to feed as usual. We also saw to our guns and ammunition. All this gave us food for reflection, and we sat up talking and smoking until quite late.
Towards the end of the week we made up our minds to have another gathering together of the cattle. Francisco looked forward to this with much pleasure, as he was anxious to see how his chestnut would acquit himself among the rocks, which were quite new to him. We tied up horses over night, and were on the move just after dawn. It was a beautiful morning, the sun rose in a clear sky, the herald of a fine day. I and the native peon went together to quite the far end of the camp. Royd and Francisco taking a position a little nearer home The cattle appeared to be coming up well, nor did any so far as we knew succeed in breaking back. When, however, we got them up to the rodeo and made a count, at least two hundred and fifty animals seemed missing. The native peon and boy with the aid of Francisco, kept them there, not allowing them to go back to their feeding ground until twelve o'clock. Meanwhile, Royd and I went back over the ground again to try and discover if any, and if so how many, might have escaped us. However, we failed to find them in any direction. That being so the only conclusion we could come to was that a large number of the herd, certainly more than two hundred had disappeared, and in all probability been stolen. This was by no means a pleasant conclusion. Poor Royd was very depressed, and as we sat by the fire that evening, turned to me and said, "If this sort of thing goes on it will be about time for me to clear out." I tried to comfort him as well as I could, although I did not feel at all happy in my own mind; far from it. "Suppose we have another gathering up in a week's time, we can see what happens then," I said. Meanwhile I will be about on horseback as much as I can among the rocks, and I will see if I can find a clue to the mystery. "Thank you!" replied Royd, "we will wait and see if more of them come up to the rodeo in a week's time." But before the day came I could see the matter was constantly weighing on his mind, nor did I at all wonder, and I really felt very sorry for him. Next morning we were up betimes, and all went to the corral to catch up horses for the day. There was a very pretty "dorodilla," or bay filly in the tropilla, with a black mane and tail, about two years old. This Royd proposed to give as a present to Francisco, as he said it would make a nice companion for his chestnut. This pleased him greatly, and he soon began to talk of catching it up and leading it about with a halter and rein if only it was sufficiently tame to allow this to be done. The following days I spent among the sierras, and I could not disguise from myself that the various groups of cattle when I saw them feeding, and I recollected what they used to look like seemed certainly smaller; indeed, several animals I knew and therefore quite expected to see I never managed to see at all. All seemed quiet, however, nor did they show any evidence of having been recently disturbed. I was riding home on Friday evening later than usual for it was close upon sunset, when I thought I heard voices. I immediately stopped and listened carefully. A light breeze rustling from where the sound came seemed to bring it nearer, and I judged it could not be more than one hundred and fifty yards distant. There happened to be an open space close to where I was, some twenty paces long by ten wide. It had a narrow entrance, and was quite surrounded and shut in by the high rocks. I knew well where it was, having been there before. So I dismounted and led my horse through this narrow entrance into the open space, where he was completely hidden from view, and hobbled him and tied him up. I then came out, and carefully concealing myself, stole along on foot in the direction from which I had heard the voices. I easily obtained sufficient cover, and had not advanced at all far when I saw four men, all armed, about sixty paces from me. One of them was Mamerto Gomez, the man I had seen at the pulperia; I recognised him at once, and he seemed to be directing the others, as if they were arranging some plan or other. I listened attentively, hoping I might perhaps hear some mention of the stolen sheep, but what with the subdued tone in which they conversed and the fact that I did not know much Spanish, I failed to make out what they were saying. Their horses stood saddled near them, and I noticed they wore the red device round their black felt hats. I remained perfectly still for quite ten minutes, well sheltered from their view by a large piece of rock, where I could see but could not be seen. At the end of that time they suddenly mounted their horses and rode away in the opposite direction to where I was hid, and I must allow I did not feel very sorry to see them depart. I then went back to my horse, and at once rode home. Royd also had just returned, and was unsaddling near the front door. He had been round to ask three or four of our neighbours to help us to gather up our cattle on the Monday morning following. He thought, perhaps, if we had more horsemen we might make a more successful "para rodeo" than we had done before.
I told him my little adventure, and what I had seen, and he shook his head. "That fellow Mamerto is at the bottom of all this trouble, I do believe," he said, "and I do wish you had been able to hear distinctly what those thieves were planning and talking about."
Only the first sign of dawn was appearing on Monday morning when we saddled up our horses and rode silently in among the grey rocks. Francisco did not go with us, but he joined us later at the rodeo. I had the furthest to go, quite to the end of the estancia, near Guaycoru. Bent came from his side, and four of our neighbours each fell into line at the place appointed. So this time we mustered a fairly strong force, and none of the cattle had any chance of breaking back. But by the time we had got them outside the sierras, and even before I could see them gathered together at close quarters, I felt sure in my own mind that quite a third of the herd was missing. Thanks to our neighbours' assistance we were able to make a correct count, and this we did twice over, so as to be sure we were correct. There were only four hundred and sixty-five animals, not counting a dozen very small calves, whereas there ought to have been over seven hundred at least. Anyway, making every possible allowance, there were certainly more than two hundred missing; not far different from what we had made them out to be ten days ago. There was no accounting in any way where the missing animals could be, so we had to accept the inevitable and conclude they must have been driven off, probably during the night, and stolen. They seemed just to have vanished in the same way as did the sheep. One misfortune so quickly following the other caused Royd to feel his loss very acutely, and it naturally made him despondent and down-hearted. I tried my best to cheer him up, but with little success. One day we succeeded in running the troop of mares and colts up into the stone enclosure. They were swift of foot, knew every turn and twist of the rocks, and so long as they kept inside the sierras it was difficult for anyone to get hold of them. When once in the corral it was a different matter. A chestnut colt, with a white star on his forehead, smaller and younger than "Carnival" was easily lassoed, and afterwards tied up to a post, from which to no purpose he made strenuous efforts to get loose. He had to remain where he was during the night, and next morning we collared him to a tame mare, so that he could easily be got hold of when wanted. A couple of mornings later, when the riding horses were brought up to the corral, Francisco's bay filly was missing, and, after a long search, was found, minus its skin, which was but of small value. Why it had been killed was a mystery, until some time afterwards it became known that a near neighbour was making a set of horse-gear of raw cowhide and mares hide; and as this set was a very particular one it required all the hide to be of the same colour. So the maker, having run out of mare's hide, searched round in the neighbourhood until he found an animal to suit him, which happened to be Francisco's filly. The latter was greatly distressed by his potrilla coming to so premature an end, but there it lay dead, so there was nothing more to be done. This shews the small amount of respect there was for property in those days in the country districts of the Republic. Immediately following this little event, Colonel Pinto Mallada who held an important position in the Department, arrived with two hundred and fifty soldiers and encamped near the estancia for a couple of days. He sent his adjutant up to say he would require a supply of meat for his men to eat, but that orders had been given them not to take any horses. Consequently, those we wanted to save were brought up to feed within easy distance of the house, as Mallada's orders were generally obeyed.
Francisco happened to be left alone at the estancia with Pedro the cook, and when he went out to see if the horses were all right, he noticed that his chestnut pony was missing. So he went down on an old brown horse he was riding to the Colonel's tent, situate under a tree, but he was not allowed to see him, as he was taking his "siesta." However, his sergeant, whom he interviewed, said he was to come later. The Colonel, who was a stern half Indian, was much feared; he spoke little, and had but little mercy for his enemies. So Francisco returned to the house and went down again to see him later on. He found him sitting sucking "matè," while the sergeant stood beside him combing carefully for him his long hair, which hung down almost to his shoulders. Francisco told the Colonel his pony had gone, whereupon the latter directed his sergeant to take him round the encampment, as the soldiers were scattered in different places in lots of eight or ten together. No pony could be found, so Francisco and the sergeant returned to see the Colonel, who then said if the pony was not in the encampment some men he had sent away must have taken it, but that Francisco need not fear, as he should have his pony back again.
Thereupon Francisco once again returned to the house very sorry not to have found his pony--but still hoping for the best. Sure enough in three days a soldier rode up with the chestnut pony, apparently none the worse for his enforced absence.
This shews the Colonel had a certain kind of feeling about him, although at the same time he had little regard for the lives of those who happened to oppose his wishes. I believe in the end, a long time afterwards, he was shot in Rosario, during some political trouble. Early in the next week I rode over to what was known as the "Swiss Colony," some fourteen miles distant from us in more or less a Southerly direction. There was a pulperia there where the diligence which came out from Monte Video stopped, and often brought us letters--which usually came to hand sooner or later, as opportunity offered. However, just now Royd was expecting some, and as a few small purchases were also required I saddled up poor Henriquez's chestnut, and taking a pair of saddle-bags with me, made a start. He was a good little horse, the morning was bright and fine, and I enjoyed my ride as I galloped along over the rolling country in front of me. I just pulled up at Saballa's pulperia as I passed to hear if there was any news. But everything was quiet, and no soldiers seemed to be about. Just about a mile distant from the pass over the river Rosario, leading to the Swiss Colony, I overtook Mr. Frederick Dampier, owner of the Estancia del Pichinango. He also was on his way to Quincke's pulperia, so we rode on together. He asked me a good deal about Royd, and how he was getting on, etc, and he looked very serious when I related to him all that had happened. "I doubt if you will ever see either those sheep or cattle again," he said. "I expect there is a regular gang of thieves located inside the sierras, with Mamerto Gomez as their leader."
"I hope they won't take it into their heads to come our way; it would not be the first time such a thing has happened; although, fortunately, there is no secure hiding place for them in the day-time here, like there is inside the sierras."
When we got to the pulperia I found three letters, two for Royd and one for me. I soon completed my small purchases, and half an hour later was ready to start on my return journey. Mr. Dampier was also returning by the same way we had come, so we rode on together. When we had got through the pass, he turned to me and said, "I wonder if you would care to go and take charge up at the Cerro. It is where my partner lived before he returned to England, a little more than a year ago. You might find yourself fairly comfortable there; anyway, you would have plenty of room, and you could assist me in the management of the estancia." This proposal certainly took me somewhat by surprise, for I had only been about nine months in the country, but I thanked him, and said I would see what Royd thought about it when I got back, and let him know without unnecessary delay. We then parted company, just about in the same place where we had met in the morning. The chestnut was going well, the sun, now past the meridian, was shining brightly, the air was fresh and cool, and my ride was a pleasant one. I thought a good deal as I rode along about what Mr. Dampier had said to me, and the more I thought of it the better I liked the idea of what he had proposed. The only difficulty was that if Royd was going to have continued trouble at the rocks, I did not wish to leave him, as it were, in the lurch.
Now that the war had definitely broken out, it seemed to me that if I went to the "Cerro," it would certainly be an experience, and there would probably prove to be a fair amount of excitement as well. It was just after two o'clock when I reached the estancia. Royd had ridden out, and did not return until towards sunset. I unsaddled the chestnut and let him go. He at once trotted off to find his friends and enjoy a quiet feed. He knew they would not be very far away. Meanwhile Pedro got me some food and coffee, and I sat down and read my letter, which had come from England, over again, and smoked a quiet pipe. When Royd returned I handed him his letters and showed him my purchases, which he found satisfactory. He had been out among the sierras, and had taken a turn round to see a native neighbour, where doubtless he had discussed the situation, and why so many cattle were missing when we got them up to the rodeo. Perhaps his native friend had given him comfort, for he seemed in better spirits than usual. I said nothing to him until we had finished dinner and were sitting smoking by the fire in the dining room; for winter was coming on, and the evenings began to be chilly. Then I told him how I had met Mr. Dampier, and what he had said to me. He looked up rather amused. "I think if I were you I should go," he said. "Mr. Dampier is an exceedingly nice man, and I feel sure you will get on very well with him; and you will be sure to gain a lot of experience at a large estancia like the Pichinango." "But what about the trouble in the rocks," I replied. "I should not like to leave you without seeing you through; that is if I can be of any help to you." "Well," said Royd, "I have been thinking things over this afternoon. I can bring Bent and the remaining sheep down, and join them on to the flock we already have here. He can then look after them all together. Curiously enough, one of the letters you brought me is from my friends, with whom I stayed the other day, who have their estancia on this side of San Josè. They propose, if things get worse over here, I should take what cattle and sheep I may have to their camp, and join up with them. They have more land, you know, than they really want, and it could carry comfortably more stock than I am likely to have remaining here. At any rate, the idea seems worth considering, for if this war continues, it might perhaps turn out to be the best thing to do." "Well," I said, "we will sleep over it all, and then if you are still in the same mind I will see about accepting Mr. Dampier's offer." Next morning, we had just finished our coffee and were walking down to the corral to catch our horses as usual. "Well, Royd, what do you think about it this morning?" I said. "Are you still of the same opinion about my going to the 'Cerro'?" "Yes, I am," he said. "I think it would be a great pity for you to refuse the offer. I have got some letters to write, and as the diligence will be passing Quincke's in a couple of days on its way back to San Josè, I will send the native peon over with them early to-morrow morning. I will finish the letters first, and then you and I can ride over to the puesto and see Bent."
"That being so," I replied, "I think I cannot do better than write a letter to Mr. Dampier, accepting his proposal, and tell him I will go over to the 'Cerro' on Wednesday in next week. The peon could leave my letter at Mr. Dampier's house as he passes by."
"So be it," said Royd, "and I sincerely wish you all luck and prosperity in the new departure." So I wrote my letter while I was waiting for Royd, thanking Mr. Dampier for what he had said to me, accepting his offer, and saying I would go over to the "Cerro" on Wednesday morning in the following week. All appeared quiet as Royd and I rode among the rocks to the puesto. Here and there we passed a few cattle, a silver fox we disturbed ran in front of us for a hundred yards or so, and then dodged round the corner of a rock, where he probably had his lair. We noticed the smell of a skunk a little further along. He, too, had been out and about for his morning exercise. Silence reigned everywhere, broken only by the shrill cry of the "pteru-pteru," or plover, a cry we were so accustomed to hear that we hardly noticed it. When we arrived we found Bent all right, having just come to his house to see about some breakfast. The sheep were quietly feeding a little distance away. There was no news. He had heard nothing; nor had he seen anyone just lately. His friend had gone away for a few hours to see a native he knew up towards Guaycoru.
Royd told Bent he thought he had better come down with the sheep to the estancia, leaving the puesto for the time being unoccupied. This seemed to please him rather than otherwise, and it was settled he should come down with his belongings on the following Monday, and Royd promised to send up the native peon to help him to drive the sheep. Anything he had to leave behind could remain in the house, which he could lock up, bringing the key away with him, and whatever there was could be sent for later. I also told Bent about Mr. Dampier's offer to me, at which he seemed somewhat amused, although his good manners prevented him saying all that was perhaps passing through his mind. Royd and I then rode round by the pulperia at Guaycoru to see if by chance we could hear anything which might afford us a clue as to what had become of our missing cattle; or indeed, of the stolen sheep. Early next morning the native peon rode off with Royd's letters for the Swiss Colony, and I gave him mine to deliver at Mr. Dampier's house as he passed. On the Monday following he and Francisco made an early start to go and help to bring down the sheep from the puesto. The latter rode his chestnut pony and hoped to enjoy the ride.
The sheep travelled down well. Bent brought his two horses with him, riding one and leading the other as a pack-horse with his things. "Bob," of course, followed, greatly interested, behind the sheep; indeed, he seemed to enjoy the excitement of making the move. "Napoleon" gave him an affectionate welcome, for they had always been friends. On the Tuesday I put together my things. Royd kindly said he would send the native peon with me, who could lead the extra horse which was to carry them, and then bring him back afterwards. Anything I could not take was put into a big box, which was to be sent to Saballa's pulperia by the first cart which might pass, whence I could easily get it brought on to the "Cerro." I took my Colts revolver and all my cartridges with me, also my "Service" rifle, which I had given to me just as I was leaving England, and I found I could pack all I was likely to need for the present quite easily in two large bundles, which could be fixed on either side of the "recado," on the led horse. The peon took a large pair of saddle-bags for me on the horse he rode, and I had a smaller pair on mine. Wednesday morning, June 15th, proved fine, the sun shining in a clear sky. So I bid adieu to Royd and Bent and Francisco, and with many good wishes from them all, mounted "Carnival," accompanied by Napoleon, and duly followed the native peon who, with the pack-horse behind him, had already made a start. And so I bid adieu not without regret to "Las Sierras de Mal Abrigo," for I had been very happy there, and as I passed along my way it seemed to me, at any rate for the time being, a step into the great unknown. When we arrived at the "Cerro del Pichinango" I was received by an Englishman called Robinson, who acted as cook and general caretaker inside the house. He soon got me some food and coffee ready, and he also found something to eat for the man who had come with me. There were three peones, or out-door servants about; an uncle, and two of his nephews. They were natives of Uruguay, but by parentage were Indians of the Pampas, which also showed very clearly in their countenances. I wrote a message to Royd on a piece of paper, which I gave to the peon for him, just to say I had arrived all right. Meantime I had unsaddled "Carnival," and tied him up in a grass-covered court or enclosure, surrounded by a high stone wall, where there were also several trees and two large iron gates at the bottom, which were usually kept locked. The house itself certainly looked imposing. It was built the whole width of the upper end of the court, and was divided into two parts by a high stone archway, the front of which stood level with the court, while the back led direct into the large "galpon," or wool-shed, which was joined to the house its full length behind, with two large openings on its outer side, closed by wide wooden doors, both ends being quite shut in. The house had nine rooms, large and small; four on one side of the open archway, which was shut off from the galpon by a door in the centre, and five on the other. Each had a large window overlooking the court, protected outside by thick iron bars. First came the kitchen, with a door leading direct into the open, and a bedroom above, for the cook; then, the dining room, with two large windows opening on the court; next, a small room, with a little iron stove called the gun-room, and next again a bedroom; each having a window looking on the court. This bedroom had also a door opening into the stone archway. On the other side of this were five rooms, all leading one into another; but the fourth had a door opening on the court; while the fifth room was called the visitors' room, and had a large high window in the middle of the end of the house, which gave abundance of light, although it, too, was heavily barred. This room was comfortably furnished, while from the others on this side of the archway the furniture had been mostly removed, one of them being at this time used as a storeroom.
The whole house was an "azotea," having one long flat roof throughout, all round which was a low battlemented parapet with open spaces, between where you could place firearms for self-defence in the event of a siege or an attack from outside. Out of the dining room was an inside passage and ladder leading to the roof, which was removable, having a small shelter or covering built over it at the top. The roof itself was carefully tiled and cemented, collecting all the rain-water which fell upon it, and carrying it through pipes into the large Alhibi, or reservoir, carefully tiled, which stood in the middle of the court. Here the water remained quite cool in summer, an ample supply being collected during the rainy weather, sufficient to last the whole year.
There were no wells or springs, for the house stood high on an eminence overlooking the surrounding country, the ground all round being of a rocky nature, the surface soil in places having scarcely any depth at all; indeed, nowhere near the house was it at all suitable for either crops or cultivation.
During the afternoon I had one of the tropillas of horses brought up into the corral, and we collared "Carnival" to a nice little grey mare, so that he could go out to feed with the other horses. But he could not escape back again to the rocks, as he certainly would have done had he been left loose. The mare, however, seemed very considerate and good to him, and he afterwards became quite fond of her. Napoleon, too, seemed to settle down easily into his new surroundings, and it was not long before he obtained control over the three or four mongrels who barked at him on his arrival. I took a little walk round the establishment during the afternoon, and had a look over a small flock of "southdowns" which fed near the house, and were shut up into their sheep yard at night, surrounded by a stone wall. They were now feeding with their faces towards home, and were generally looked after by one of the Indian boys.
As I walked along through the long grass, a brace of partridges got up close to me, and flew away straight in front of me. Had I taken a gun with me they would have been an easy shot. Behind the "Cerro" the country seemed to roll away into distance, like the waves of the sea, so characteristic of the Pampas of South America.
As I returned I climbed up to the top of the group of rocks just behind the house itself, enclosed by a stone wall not by any means in good condition. From there the country on one side appeared rocky and broken, with a valley running down at right angles, where apparently stone had been got out of a kind of quarry, near which I could see two or three stone erections, which might be either huts or temporary shelters. Far in the distance were woods which seemed to border a river. This I found to be the river Pichinango, which was the boundary of the estate on that side.
I had some dinner at sundown, and then enjoyed a quiet pipe, and thought over the events of the day. Later, I fixed up my things in the bedroom joining the archway, in the corner of which latter I placed an old wool-bag I found lying about, for Napoleon to sleep on, and I too went to bed, asking the cook to be sure and call me in good time in the morning. I slept soundly, and the air felt fresh and keen when I went out into the courtyard not long after sunrise, where I was affectionately greeted by Napoleon, who seemed very pleased to see me again. The Indians were already sitting round their fire in the galpon, sucking Matè, and Robinson was busy in his kitchen, preparing the early coffee. The first thing I did was to have the horses belonging to the "Cerro" brought up into the corral, so that I might look them over. They were a mixed lot, some seventy in all, and varied greatly in colour and appearance. But this was only to be expected, and there were some useful horses among them.
A little before eleven, Don Frederico Dampier rode up from his house, "La Concordia," situate at the other end of the estancia. I saw him coming so went out a little way to meet him. His well-knit but spare figure looked remarkably well on horseback. We first took a turn outside, and Don Frederico pointed out certain things which needed attention. We then went inside, and he gave me the keys of two large cupboards which contained linen and household necessaries. He also gave me a book called the "log-book," in which I was to write down anything which happened, and also the work which was done each day, as it passed. By this time, Robinson had got ready some breakfast for us, after which we mounted our horses and rode round a troop of cattle called the "tamberos," or tame animals; supposed to come up to their "rodeo" every day before sundown. However, as a matter of fact, they were quite as wild as the larger herd, and it was some little time before I got them well under control. We then went on to two of the puestos, each in charge of a puestero, or shepherd, who looked after his flock of something under three thousand sheep. The first puesto we came to was in charge of a "basco" named Laborde, who had emigrated, while yet young, to Uruguay, from the Spanish shores of the Bay of Biscay. He was a fresh-coloured, good-tempered looking man, still in middle life, and he seemed cheerful and comfortable with his wife and three children round him. He gave us many particulars about his flock; how they were getting on, etc. He had been with them most of the morning; had just ridden home to get something to eat, and was going out to give them a turn towards home a little later on. He said he had not been troubled by soldiers, although he had noticed small detachments passing towards the Sierras, but they had not come near either the flock or his puesto. We then rode on to the second, kept also by a basco, called Martin, the number of sheep being more or less the same as the one previously visited. Martin was a fine, robust, good-looking man, in the prime of life; very alert and intelligent, and apparently well-versed in the ways of estancia life. We passed alongside his flock as they were quietly feeding; and we looked over three large points of cattle, and also some mares and colts as I accompanied Don Frederico a little further on his way home.
I then bid him farewell and rode back direct to the Cerro, and with one of the Indians got the tamberos, before-mentioned, up to their rodeo in the afternoon, keeping them there about three-quarters of an hour as a matter of discipline, and then as the sun fell towards the horizon on the late autumn afternoon the little flock of Southdown sheep drew towards home, to be shut in their sheepyard for the night. So I took the opportunity of looking them carefully over, and making a correct count of them; they were just over three hundred, so that I might the more easily become aware, if by ill-luck any should be missing.
The old cook, Robinson, had gone through some exciting experiences in his earlier life. When little more than a boy he sailed for the Southern seas in one of "Green's" whaling ships, fitted out for a three years' cruise beyond Cape Horn, in pursuit of the sperm whale. This was then a very profitable occupation. From captain to cabin-boy, everyone had a share in the results of the voyage, and when the good ship returned, fully loaded with her valuable cargo of sperm oil, she had a great welcome from her owner, who often went down to greet her arrival in Plymouth Sound. Eventually he rose to be a first-class hand aboard; indeed, it was his office to throw the harpoon, as he stood upright in the bow of the boat, into the whale, an act requiring not only courage, but also great judgment and skill. It was only upon rare occasions that the old man could be induced to talk of his sea-faring days. A kind of gloom always seemed to lie behind them all, and it was but by a mere chance that I happened later to find out what it meant. Like so many of the sea-faring class with him drink was the trouble, and after a bout of it he would sometimes fall into a kind of delirium, talking incessantly to himself, yet hardly aware of what he was saying. It seems he had been wrecked on the northern coast of New Zealand in the days of long ago, and there he had lived with a Maori tribe, and had wedded a Maori spouse. Then came a war with a neighbouring tribe, who proved victorious, and he saw his wife tomahawked before his eyes, while he himself was unable to render her any assistance.
Following this, he fled into the bush, where he subsisted on fern-root, and anything else he could obtain, until by great good fortune he managed to signal and attract the attention of a passing vessel, who lowered a boat and took him off.
He then worked his way back to England, and afterwards went out to the Falkland Islands Company, at Port Stanley.
Finally, he came over to Uruguay, drifted to the "Cerro del Pichinango" during the war of "Oribé," where he had remained ever since. So long as all went well, he was attentive to duty inside the house; clean and tidy in preparing the meals; indeed, never happier than when fully employed with his scrubbing brush and an ample supply of soap and water. One of his great pleasures was to hoist the Union Jack on the small standard on the top of the azotea on feast-days and holidays, when he would again lower it at sunset, the same as he would have done on board ship. His failing compelled me to keep all Caña, or white rum, under lock and key, although I was instructed to deal him out his daily allowance twice during the day; when the sun got over the fore-yard, as he was wont to express it, and at sundown. Outside he chiefly employed himself in chopping and splitting up wood for the stove in the kitchen, with his two axes, of which he took great care, and of which he was apparently very proud.
We happened to have a spell of fine weather during the first few days after I arrived at the "Cerro," so I was enabled to see things generally better than I could otherwise have done.