The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Guide of the Desert, by Gustave Aimard, Edited by Percy B. St. John, Translated by Lascelles Wraxall

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Title: The Guide of the Desert

Author: Gustave Aimard

Editor: Percy B. St. John

Release Date: April 15, 2014 [eBook #45401]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1



E-text prepared by Camille Bernard and Marc D'Hooghe
from page images generously made available by
HathiTrust Digital Library


Note: Images of the original pages are available through Internet Archive. See;seq=9













(From the Collected Works 1863-1885)



Gustave Aimard was the adopted son of one of the most powerful Indian tribes, with whom he lived for more than fifteen years in the heart of the Prairies, sharing their dangers and their combats, and accompanying them everywhere, rifle in one hand and tomahawk in the other. In turn squatter, hunter, trapper, warrior, and miner, Gustave Aimard has traversed America from the highest peaks of the Cordilleras to the ocean shores, living from hand to mouth, happy for the day, careless of the morrow. Hence it is that Gustave Aimard only describes his own life. The Indians of whom he speaks he has known—the manners he depicts are his own.



Loading in the environs of Barbara Bay, Cape Horn, I was surprised, with two companions, by the Patagonians, and made prisoner. I had the pain of witnessing from the cliffs the departure of the whaler on board of which I had entered at Havre as harpooner.

It was with a deep pang of grief, and eyes bathed in tears, I saw the white sails of my ship disappear on the horizon, and the sea become solitary once more.

I little suspected that the vessel I then saw for the last time was doomed to some terrible fate. Nothing was ever heard of her again.

Two hours later, stripped of our clothes and tied by the wrists to the tails of Patagonian horses, we were carried off into the interior of the country.

The Patagonians, with regard to whom travellers relate so many fables, are neither so gigantic nor so evil as generally represented.

They are sturdily independent. The least yoke galls them, and rather than submit to the will of a chief, they rush off into exile, and submit to the most terrible privations.

We were not ill-used by our captors, but I was at length alone. One of my companions went raving mad, the other committed suicide. I was kept alive, I believe, by the spirit of hope.

I was twenty years of age, and had a constitution of iron, as well as a buoyancy of spirits, a boldness and firmness, which saved me from myself, by permitting me to look upon my position in its true light. Cruel as it was, it was far from being desperate.

My first care was, by invariable complaisance, to secure the goodwill of the savages, in which I succeeded pretty well, more easily, indeed, than I should have dared to hope.

However, when in the evening after a whole day's journey in the interminable steppes of Patagonia, I threw myself, overcome with fatigue, before the bivouac fire, while the savages laughed and sang among themselves, I often felt my heart on the point of bursting by reason of the efforts I made to suppress my sighs.

How many times have I felt my courage fail! How many times has the thought of suicide burst upon my mind! But, always at the most critical moment, the hope of deliverance arose to put new life into my heart; my sufferings were calmed little by little, my frame ceased to be agitated, and I slept, murmuring in a gentle voice one of those national refrains which are, for the exile, a sweet and far-off echo of the absent country.

Fourteen months thus passed away, hour by hour, second by second, in an incessant and frightful torture.

Always on the watch to seize an opportunity of escaping, but not wishing to leave anything to the risk of failure, I had had the greatest care not to awaken the drowsy mistrust of the Patagonians. I always affected, on the contrary, not to wander too far from the tribe; so the Indians had at last come to allow me to enjoy comparative liberty amongst them; and instead of compelling me to follow them on foot, they decided of their own accord to allow me to mount on horseback.

It was only on horseback that I could dream of escaping.

The Patagonians are some of the first horsemen in the world. In their school I made rapid progress; and, however wild and vicious might be the horse that they gave me, in a few minutes I subdued him, and made myself completely his master.

Our wandering and purposeless journeys conducted us at last to about ten leagues from the Carmen of Patagonia, the most advanced fort constructed by the Spaniards on the Río Negro, at the extreme frontier of their former possessions.

The troop camped for the night at a little distance from the river, near an abandoned farm.

The opportunity for which I had waited so long had come at last. I prepared to profit by it, convinced that if I did not escape now, I should die a slave.

I will not fatigue the reader with the details of my flight; I will content myself with simply saying that after a devious journey, which lasted seven hours, and during which I constantly felt the smoking nostrils of the horses on my track, on the croup of the one I rode; after having escaped twenty times by a miracle from the bolas which the Patagonians threw at me, and from the sharpened points of their long lances, I came unexpectedly upon a patrol of Buenos Airean horsemen, in the midst of whom I fell fainting, overcome by fatigue and excitement.

The Patagonians, suddenly taken aback by the appearance of white men, whom the high grass had hidden from them till that time, turned tail with fright, and fled away, howling with fury.

I was saved!

By my singular equipment—all the clothing I had on was a frazada (blanket) in rags, fastened round the body by a leather strap—the soldiers at first took me for an Indian, a mistake which was rendered more natural by my complexion, bronzed by the severity of the seasons to which I had been so long exposed and which had assumed nearly the colour of copper. As soon as I regained consciousness, I hastened to disabuse them as well as I could, for at that time I could only speak the Spanish language very imperfectly.

The brave Buenos Aireans listened with signs of the liveliest sympathy to the recital of my sufferings, and lavished on me the kindest attentions.

My entry into Carmen, in the midst of my preservers, was a veritable triumph.

It required nearly a month to enable me to recover from the long sufferings which I had endured, and from the privations of all kinds to which I had, during so long a period, been condemned; but, thanks to the attention by which I was surrounded, and especially thanks to my youth and the vigour of my constitution, I at last regained my health.

The governor of Carmen, who had become much interested in me, agreed at my request to give me a passage on board a little Buenos Airean brig, then anchored before the port, and I left for Buenos Aires, with the firm intention of returning to France as soon as possible—so much had the rude apprenticeship I had had to American life disgusted me with travel.

But it was not to be so, and before again reaching France—I was to wander for twenty years an adventurer in all the countries of the world—from Cape Horn to Hudson's Bay, from China to Oceania, and from India to Spitzburg.

On my arrival in Buenos Aires, my first care was to present myself to the French consul, to ask of him the means of returning to Europe.

I was well received by the consul, who, on proofs of my identity, immediately informed me that there was no French ship in the harbour, but that need not disquiet me, since my family not receiving news of me, and fearing that I might find myself in a difficult position from the want of money, if any misfortune had happened to me during my voyage, had written to all our agents in foreign countries, so that anyone to whom I might present myself might give me, on my demand, a sum adequate to supply my wants, and put me in a position, if I wished it, to try my fortune where chance should have conducted me. He concluded by adding that he held at my disposal the sum of 25,000f., and that he was ready to give it me immediately.

I thanked him, and only accepted three hundred piastres.

Some months passed, during which I made several agreeable acquaintances, and perfected myself in the study of the Spanish language.

On several occasions the consul had done me the kindness to inform me that if I wished to leave for France, it would entirely depend upon my own will; but each time, under some pretext or other. I declined his offer, not being able to resolve to leave forever that land where I had suffered so much, and to which, for that very reason, I was attached.

It is not with impunity that one has once tasted the wild pleasures of independent, nomadic life, and breathed in liberty the embalmed atmosphere of the high savannahs! I felt arising within me the passion of an adventurer, and suffered a secret horror at the thought of recommencing the colourless, circumscribed, and mean existence to which European civilisation would have bound me.

And then I had bound myself in friendship with the gauchos. I made excursions with them into the pampas, slept in their ranches, hunted wild oxen and horses; all the poetry of the desert had taken possession of me, and I only wished to return into the savannahs and virgin forests, whatever might be the consequences to me of such a determination.

In a word, one day, instead of embarking, as I had almost promised the consul, I went to him, and explained my intentions.

The consul neither blamed me, nor gave me his approbation, but contented himself with shaking his head with the melancholy smile of a man in whom experience had killed all the illusions of youth, counted out to me the sum I asked of him, shook my hand with a sigh of regret and of pity, and, my business being at an end, I never saw him again.

Four days later, mounted on an excellent wild horse, and accompanied by an Indian Guaranis, whom I had engaged to serve me as a guide, I left Buenos Aires with the intention of proceeding by land to Brazil.

What business had I at Brazil?

I myself did not know.

But it is neither my history, nor that of my sensations, that I relate here; all which precedes has no other design but that of preparing for the recital, unhappily too true, that I now undertake, and which, without that prelude, would not perhaps have been so clearly explained as is necessary to its being clearly understood. Leaping, then, at a single bound, over some hunting adventures of too little importance to mention, I will transport myself to the banks of the Uruguay, a little above the Salto, four months after my departure from Buenos Aires, and I will enter immediately on the narrative.

After a rather fatiguing day, I stopped for the night in a pagonal, half-inundated by reason of the sudden overflowing of the river, and where it was necessary to go into the water nearly up to the horse's belly, in order to gain a dry spot. For some days the Guaranis, whom I had engaged at Buenos Aires, appeared to obey me with repugnance; he was sad, morose, and answered only in monosyllables the questions I was sometimes obliged to put to him. This turn of mind in my guide disquieted me, as, knowing very well the character of the Indians, I feared he might plot some treason against me; therefore, feigning not to perceive his change of humour, I kept myself on my guard, resolved to blow his brains out at the least hostile demonstration on his part.

As soon as we were encamped, the guide, notwithstanding the suspicions I had conceived of him, manifested great activity in gathering dry wood to light the fire for the evening, and to prepare our modest repast.

The supper over, each enveloped himself in his blanket, and gave himself up to repose.

In the middle of the night I was suddenly awakened by a strange noise; my first movement was to seize my gun, and to look around me.

I was alone; my guide had disappeared.

The night was dark, the fire extinguished; to complete my discomfiture, my bivouac was about to be invaded by the waters of the river, the overflowing of which continued with extreme rapidity.

I had not a moment to lose. I rose in haste, and leaping into the saddle, I darted, with a loose rein, in the direction of a neighbouring hill, the black outline of which was clearly marked on the sombre background of the sky.

Here I was in comparative security. I passed the rest of the night awake, as well to watch for the wild beasts, the howlings of which I heard about the place where I had sought a refuge, as because my present position had become critical—alone, abandoned in a desert country, and completely ignorant of the route it was necessary to take.

On the rising of the sun, I examined the horizon around. As far as my view could reach, reigned the most complete solitude; nothing gave me ground for hope, so wild and desolate appeared the landscape.

This uncertainty, however, from a singular disposition of mind, did not seriously affect me; my position, without being pleasant, had nothing in it positively sad in itself. I possessed a good horse, arms, supplies in abundance—what more could I desire? I, who for so long a time had aspired to the adventurous life of the gaucho and of the trapper?

Accordingly I took in good part the desertion of my guide, and prepared myself, half laughing, half railing against the ingratitude of the Guaranis, to commence my apprenticeship to the life of the desert.

My first care was to light a fire. I prepared a maté cimarron, that is to say, without sugar; and, refreshed by this warm drink, I mounted my horse, with the design of seeking my breakfast by killing a head or two of game, an easy thing in the locality in which I found myself; then I carelessly resumed my adventurous route.

Some days thus passed. One morning, at the moment when I was preparing to light, or rather to rekindle, my bivouac fire to cook my breakfast, I suddenly saw several venados rise from the midst of the high grass, and, after having sniffed the wind, scamper away with extreme rapidity, passing at a pistol shot from the thicket where I had established myself for the night; at the same instant a flight of vultures passed above my head, uttering discordant cries.

Novice as I still was in my new occupation, I instinctively understood that something extraordinary was passing not far from me.

I made my horse lie down, tied my girdle round his nostrils to prevent him neighing, and stretching myself on the ground, I waited with my finger on the trigger of my gun, my heart palpitating, and eye and ear on the watch. Carefully scanning the undulations of the high grass of the plain stretched out before me, I was ready for every event.

I was crouching in the middle of a nearly impenetrable thicket. On the outskirts of a wood which formed a kind of oasis in this desolate wilderness, I found myself in an excellent ambuscade, and perfectly sheltered from the danger I felt was approaching.

I did not deceive myself. Scarcely a quarter of an hour had passed since the venados and the urubus had given me the first hint, than the noise of a precipitate flight distinctly reached my ear. I soon perceived a horseman lying on the neck of his horse, flying with wild rapidity, and coming in a straight line towards the wood in which I was concealed.

The horseman, when he had come within twenty paces, suddenly pulled up his horse, leaped to the ground, and making a shelter of a rocky projection, shrouded by a cluster of trees, loaded his gun, and, leaning his body forward, appeared to listen to the sounds of the desert.

This man, as far as it was possible for me to assure myself of it by a hasty glance at him, appeared to belong to the white race; he was about thirty-five or forty years of age; his energetic features, animated by his rapid journey, and by emotion, were handsome, regular, stamped with a certain nobility, and uncommon boldness; his figure was rather below the middle height, but well made; his large shoulders denoted great vigour; he wore the costume of the gauchos of the Banda Oriental, a costume that I had myself adopted—a maroon jacket, a white waistcoat, a sky blue chirapa, white calzoncillos with fringe, under blue cloth trousers, a poncho thrown over the left shoulder, a knife sheathed in the girdle of the chirapa behind his back, a red Phrygian bonnet, slouched over the forehead, and allowing to escape ringlets of thick black hair, which fell in disorder on his shoulders.

Suddenly the man threw himself backward, put his knee to the ground, and shouldered his gun.

Ten horsemen started up, as if by enchantment, emerging with extreme rapidity from the grass which, up to that time, had concealed them from my view, and precipitated themselves, brandishing their long lances, flourishing their terrible bolas above their heads, and howling with fury, as they looked towards the spot where the gaucho was in ambush.

These horsemen were Indiæ bravos.



The Indians stopped within gunshot of the spot where the gaucho and I were concealed; they appeared to be consulting amongst themselves before commencing the attack.

These Indians, thus grouped, formed in the midst of the arid desert, of which they were the veritable kings, a most singular and at the same time a most picturesque tableau, with their noble and animated gestures, their tall and elegant figures, their well-proportioned limbs, and their ferocious appearance.

Half-clothed with ponchos in rags, and with pieces of frazada, fastened by leathern strings round their bodies, they brandished their long lances, garnished with iron blades, and ornamented near the points with tufts of ostrich feathers.

Their chief, still young, had great black eyes veiled by long black eyelashes; his high cheekbones, surrounded by a mass of sleek and flowing hair, fastened on the forehead by a narrow band of red wool; his mouth, large and furnished with brilliant white teeth, which contrasted with the red hue of his skin, impressed on his physiognomy the stamp of remarkable vigour and intelligence. Although he knew that he was but a little distance from the spot where the gaucho was in ambuscade, and that consequently he was exposed to the danger of being struck by a ball, nevertheless, openly exposing himself to the attack of his enemy, he affected a carelessness and a contempt for the peril by which he was threatened, which was not wanting in grandeur.

After a tolerably long discussion, the chief urged his horse forward, and advanced without hesitation towards the rock.

Arrived at about ten paces from it, he stopped, and supporting himself carelessly on the long lance which he held in his hand:

"Why does the white huntsman earth himself like a timid viscacha?" said he, elevating his voice and addressing the gaucho; "The Aucas warriors are before him: let him come out from his ambuscade, and let him show that he is not a frightened and babbling old woman, but a brave man."

The chief waited an instant; then he resumed in a mocking voice:

"Come, my warriors are deceived, they thought to have unearthed a bold jaguar, and it is but a dog returning from the pampa that they are about to attack."

The eye of the gaucho flashed at the insult; he applied his finger to the trigger, and the charge flew.

But, sudden and unexpected as had been his movement, the wily Indian had foreseen it, or rather had guessed it; he threw himself rapidly on one side, there bounding in advance with the elasticity and certainty of a wild beast, he alighted in front of the gaucho, with whom he closed.

The two men rolled on the ground, grappling each other with fury.

Meanwhile, at the sound of the shot, the Indians had uttered their war cry, and had darted forward with the design of supporting their chief.

The gaucho seemed, therefore, doomed. If even he could have succeeded in overcoming the chief against whom he was fighting, he would evidently have had to succumb to the attack of ten Indians.

At that moment I do not know what revulsion of feeling seized me. I forgot the danger to which I exposed myself in discovering my retreat, and instinctively putting the gun to my shoulder I fired my two shots, followed immediately by the explosion of two pistols and darting from my retreat, my two other pistols in hand, I discharged them close to the breasts of the horsemen, who came down upon me like a thunderbolt.

The Indians, surprised and frightened by this fusillade, which they could not foresee, since they believed they had but a single adversary to fight, turned about and escaped in every direction, uttering cries of fright, abandoning not only their chief, who was occupied with defending himself against the gaucho, but also the corpses of four of their companions, struck by my balls. While I was loading my gun, I saw two other Indians fall from their horses.

Certain of not having anything more to fear in that direction, I ran towards the gaucho in order to render him assistance, if it were necessary, but at the moment I reached him the blade of his knife entirely disappeared in the throat of the Indian chief.

The latter expired, his eye fixed on his enemy, without trying even to ward off the blow.

The gaucho withdrew his knife from the wound, plunged its blade several times in the earth, to cleanse it from the blood with which it was soiled, then quietly replacing his knife in his chirapa, he rose and turned towards me.

His countenance had not changed; he still preserved that expression of cold impassability and of implacable courage that I had at first seen in him; only his face was more pale, and some drops of perspiration stood like pearls on his temples.

"Thank you, caballero," said he to me, holding out his hand; "to the revenging charge! ¡Vive Dios! It was time that you came. Without your brave assistance I avow I should have been a dead man."

These words had been uttered in Spanish, but with an accent which denoted a foreign origin.

"I had arrived before you," I answered, "or rather had passed the night at a few paces only from the spot where chance so fortunately led me."

"Chance," he replied, gently shaking his head, "chance is a word invented by the strong minds of towns. We of the desert ignore it. It is God only, who desiring to save me, led me to you."

I bowed affirmatively. This man appeared to me still greater at that moment, with his simple faith and genuine humility, than when he was preparing to fight singly against ten men.

"Besides," added he, speaking to himself, "I knew that God would not allow me to fall today. Every man in this world has a task to accomplish. I have not yet fulfilled mine. But pardon," said he to me, changing his tone, and trying to smile, "I am saying to you now words which must appear, without doubt, very strange, especially at this moment, when we have to think of things more important than to commence a philosophic discussion. Let us see what has become of our enemies? Although we may be two resolute men now, if the desire of returning seizes them we should be hard put to it to rid ourselves of them."

And without waiting for any answer, he left the wood, taking at the same time the precaution to reload his gun as he walked.

I followed him in silence, not knowing what to think of the strange companion whom I had so singularly found, and asking myself who this man could be who, by his manner, his language, and the turn of his mind, appeared so much above the position which the clothes he wore, and the place where he was, appeared to assign to him.

The gaucho, after assuring himself that the Indians remaining on the battlefield were dead, ascended a tolerably elevated hill, scanned the horizon on all sides for a considerable time, and then returned towards me, holding a cigarette between his fingers.

"We have nothing to fear at present," said he to me. "However, I think we shall act prudently in not remaining here any longer. Which way are you going?"

"Upon my word," I answered him frankly, "I avow that I do not know." Notwithstanding his apparent coolness, he allowed a gesture of surprise to escape him.

"What!" said he, "You do not know?"

"No! Strange as it may appear to you, it is so. I know not where I am, nor where I am going."

"Come, come; that's a joke, is it not? For some motive or other you do not wish—which shows your prudence—to acquaint me with the object of your travel; but it is impossible that you do not really know in what spot you are, and the place to which you are going."

"I repeat to you, caballero, that what I tell you is true. I have no motive for concealing the object of my travel; I am merely wandering on account of the unfaithfulness of a guide whom I had engaged, and who abandoned me some days ago."

He reflected an instant, then taking me cordially by the hand:

"Pardon me the absurd suspicions of which I am ashamed," said he, "but the situation in which I find myself must be my excuse; let us mount our horses, and get away from here. While we are on the road, we can talk; I hope soon you will know me better."

"I need not know you more," I replied; "from the first moment I felt myself attached to you."

"Thank you," said he, smiling. "To horse, to horse! We have a long journey to make."

Five minutes later we were galloping away, leaving to the vultures that already wheeled in large circles above our heads with harsh and discordant cries, the corpses of the Indians killed during the combat.

While we were proceeding, I related to the gaucho my life and adventures, as far as I thought necessary he should know. This recital pleased him by its singularity.

It was easy to perceive that, notwithstanding the brusque and sometimes even harsh manner he affected, this man possessed a profound knowledge of the human heart, and great practical knowledge of life; and that he had for a long time frequented not only the best American society, but also visited Europe with advantage, and seen the world under its most varied phases. His elevated thoughts, always characterised by nobility of mind, his good sense, his lively, vigorous, and attractive conversation, interested me in him more and more; and although he kept the most complete silence as regards his personal circumstances, and had not even told me his name, I nevertheless felt the sentiment of sympathy with which he had at first inspired me continually increasing.

We passed the whole day laughing and talking, at the same time rapidly advancing towards the rancho where we were to pass the night.

"Look," said the gaucho to me, pointing out a slight column of smoke, which was ascending spirally towards the sky; "that is where we are going, and in a quarter of an hour we shall be there."

"Thank God," I answered, "for I begin to feel fatigued."

"Yes," said he to me, "you have not yet become used to long journeys; but patience, in a few days you will think nothing of it."

"I hope so."

"By-the-bye," said he, as if the thought suddenly occurred to him, "you have not yet told me the name of the pícaro who abandoned you."

"Robbing me of a gun, a sabre, and a horse—things for which I have ceased to grieve."

"How is that?"

"Why, because it is probable that the bribón will not bring them back to me."

"You are wrong to think that; although the desert may be large, a rascal cannot so easily conceal himself there as you think."

"What good would it do to find him?"

"You do not know what may happen; perhaps someday I shall come across him."

"That is true; they call him, in Buenos Aires, Pigacha, but his real name among his own people is the Venado; he is blind of the right eye. I hope that is sufficient description," I added.

"I believe so," answered he; "and I promise you if I meet him I shall recognise him. But here we are."

In fact, at twenty paces before me appeared a rancho, the complete outline of which the first shades of night prevented me from making out, but the sight of which, after a fatiguing day, and especially after the wild life to which I had been so long condemned, rejoiced my heart in giving rise to the hope of that frank and cordial hospitality which is never refused in the pampa.

Already the dogs hailed our arrival with their deafening bark, and leaped furiously around our horses. We were obliged to give them a taste of the whip, and soon our horses stopped before the entrance to the rancho, where a man was standing with a lighted torch in one hand, and a gun in the other. This man was tall, with bold features, and a bronzed complexion lit up by the ruddy reflection of the torch which he held above his head gave me a good idea, with his athletic form and wild appearance, of the true gaucho of the pampas. On perceiving my companion, he bowed deferentially.

"I hail you, most pure Mary," he said.

"Conceived without sin."

"Can we enter, Don Torribio?"

"Enter, Señor Don Zeno Cabral; this house and all it contains belongs to you."

We dismounted without asking anything further, and after a young man of eighteen or twenty, half-naked, who had run out at the call of his master or father—I did not get to know which—had taken the bridle of our horses and had led them away, we entered, followed by the dogs who had so noisily announced our arrival, and who, instead of being hostile to us, leaped around us with signs of pleasure.

This habitation, like all those of the gauchos, was a hut of earth intermingled with reeds, covered with straw; constructed, in fact, with all the primitive simplicity of the desert.

A bed formed of four stakes driven into the earth, supporting a hurdle of reed or strip of leather interlaced, on which was placed, like a European mattress, the untanned skin of an ox; some other hides laid on the floor near the wall for the children's beds, some bolas, some lazos, the indispensable arms of the gauchos, some horses' harness hung from stakes of wood pierced in the wall of the rancho, formed the only furniture of the inner room.

As to the first room, its furniture was simpler still, if possible; it was composed of a hurdle of reeds, supported by six stakes, and serving for a sofa, the heads of two oxen in the place of an armchair, a little barrel of water, a brass kettle, some gourds serving for drinking vessels, a wooden bowl, and an iron spit stuck vertically before the fireplace, which was in the very middle of the apartment.

We have described this rancho thus minutely, because all resemble one another in the pampa, and are, so to speak, constructed on the same model.

Only, as this one belonged to a comparatively rich man, apart from the main building, and at about twenty yards' distance, there was another used as a magazine for the hides and the meats that were to be dried, and surrounded by a tolerably extensive hedge about three yards high, forming the corral, behind which the horses were sheltered.

The honours of the rancho were done for us by two ladies, whom the gaucho introduced to us as his wife and daughter.

The latter, about fifteen years of age, was tall, well made, and endowed with a rather uncommon beauty; she was named Eva, as I afterwards learned; her mother, though still young—she was at the most thirty years of age—had now only the fugitive remains of a beauty which had been very remarkable once.

My companion appeared to be an intimate friend of the ranchero and his family, by whom he was received with signs of the utmost pleasure, moderated by a cloud of respect and almost fear.

On his side, don Zeno Cabral—for I at last knew his name—acted towards them with patronising unceremoniousness.

The reception was what it ought to be, that is to say, most frank and cordial. These honest people only studied to be agreeable to us; the least thanks on our part filled them with joy.

Our repast, which we ate with a good appetite, was composed as usual of the asado, or roast beef, of goya cheese, and of harina, or the flour of mandioca the whole moistened by some libations of caña or sugar brandy, which, under the name of traguitos, little draughts, circulated freely, and finished by putting us in good humour.

As a compliment to this repast, much more comfortable than doubtless the European reader will suppose, when our cigarettes were lighted, doña Eva took down a guitar, and after having presented it to her father, who, smoking all the while, commenced to prelude with his four fingers united, she danced before us with that grace and that elasticity which only belong to the women of South America, a cielito, followed immediately by a montonera. Then the young man, of whom I have already had occasion to speak, and who was not the servant but the son of the ranchero, sang with a fresh, full, musical voice, and with an expression which went to our hearts.

A strange incident then occurred, the meaning of which I could not understand. Don Quino, the young man, sang with inexpressible passion these charming verses of Quintana:—

Feliz aquel que junto a tí suspira,
Que el dulce nectar de tu risa bebe.
Que a demandarte compasión se atreve,
Y blandamente palpitar te mira.[1]

Suddenly don Zeno became pale as death, a nervous trembling agitated his whole body, and two burning tears burst from his eyes; however, he kept the most profound silence, but the young man perceiving the effect produced upon their guest by the verses which he was singing, immediately struck up a joyous jarana, which soon brought back the smile on the pale lips of the gaucho.

[1] Happy he who sighs near thee, who drinks the sweet nectar of thy smile, who dares to ask pity of thee, and sees thee gently agitated.



On the morrow, at the rising of the sun I was up, but early as I had been, my companion was before me: his place near me was empty.

I went out hoping to meet him, but could not see him.

The country around me was deserted and calm as on the day of the creation; the dogs, vigilant sentinels, who during the night had watched over our repose, rose and came to caress me with joyful growls. The aspect of the pampa[1] is the most picturesque at the rising of the sun. A profound silence reigns over the desert; it would seem that nature gathers and resumes her powers at the dawn of the day which is commencing. The fresh morning breeze flutters gently through the tall grass, which it bends by its light and cadenced movements. Here and there the venados raise their timid heads, and throw around them frightened glances. The birds, crouched for warmth under the foliage, prelude with some timorous notes their morning hymn. On the little heaps of sand formed by the holes of the viscachas, little belated owls, stationary as sentinels, and half-asleep, winked their eyes in the rays of the morning star, sinking their round heads in the feathers of their necks; whilst, high up in the air the urubus and the caracaras wheel in large circles, balancing themselves carelessly at their ease on their wings, and seeking the prey on which they will fall with the rapidity of a thunderbolt.

The pampa at this moment resembles a sea with its green and calm waters, the shores of which are hidden behind the horizon.

I sat down on a green mound; while smoking a cigarette I fell into reflection, and was soon completely absorbed by my thoughts.

I was suddenly aroused, however, by a voice which burst upon me in a tone of good humour. I turned round sharply.

Don Torribio was near me.

"Hola, caballero!" he said, "The pampa is beautiful at the rising of the sun, is it not?"

"It is indeed," I answered, without knowing exactly what I said.

"Have you passed a good night?"

"Excellent; thanks to your generous hospitality."

"Do not let us speak of that. I have done what I could; unfortunately, the reception has been poor enough. Times are hard. Only four or five years ago it would have been different; but from him who does all he can, people cannot ask more."

"I am far from complaining—on the contrary. But you are returning from a walk, it seems to me?"

"Yes, I have been to give an eye to my oxen which are at pasture. But," added he, raising his eyes to the sky and mentally calculating the height of the sun, "it is time to breakfast. Will you return with me?"

"I do not ask anything better; only I do not see my companion. It appears to me that it would ill become me not to wait breakfast for him."

"If that is all that hinders you," said the gaucho, laughing, "you can eat without fear."

"He is about to return?" I asked.

"On the contrary, he will not return."

"How is that?" I cried with surprise, mingled with uneasiness; "He is gone away?"

"Already more than three hours ago. But," he added, "we shall see him again soon; he wished to speak to you about it before mounting his horse; but, on reflecting on it, you appeared so fatigued yesterday evening that he preferred to allow you to sleep—sleep is so good."

"He will return without doubt, soon?"

"I cannot say so exactly. In any case he will not long delay; we shall see him again this evening or tomorrow."

"The devil! What am I to do, I who reckoned on him?"

"How is that?"

"Why, to tell me the route I ought to take."

"If that is all, there is no reason why you should torment yourself; he has requested me to beg you not to quit the rancho before his return."

"But I fear to discommode you. You are not rich, as you yourself have told me."

"Señor," answered the gaucho, with dignity, "strangers are envoys from God. Even if it might please you to live a month in my humble rancho, I should be happy and proud of your presence in my family. Do not say any more, I beg you."

What more could I object? Nothing. I resigned myself, therefore, to wait until the return of don Zeno.

The breakfast was pleasant enough; the ladies exerted themselves to bring out my good humour, by loading me with cares and attentions.

Immediately after the meal, as don Torribio prepared to mount his horse, I asked to accompany him. He agreed; I saddled my horse and we set out at a gallop across the pampa.

My design in accompanying the gaucho was not to have an agreeable ride, but to take advantage of our being together alone, to lead the conversation to my companion, whom he appeared to know very well, so as to obtain certain information which would enable me to form an opinion on that singular man.

But all my efforts were vain, all my finesse absolutely lost; the gaucho knew nothing, or, which is more probable, did not wish to tell me anything. The man who was so communicative, and so inclined to relate, often in a too prolix fashion, his own affairs, preserved a discretion proof against everything, and a reticence which made me despair when I turned the conversation to don Zeno Cabral.

He answered me only by monosyllables, or by the exclamation, "¿Quién sabe?" (Who knows?).

Wearied with my efforts, I gave up pressing him any more, and resigned myself to speaking only of his flocks.

Towards three o'clock in the afternoon don Torribio informed me that our journey was at an end, and that we were about to return to the rancho, from which we were then distant four or five leagues.

A ride of five leagues, after a day passed in an adventurous gallop, is but a trifle for gauchos mounted on the untiring horses of the pampa.

Our horses brought us in less than two hours in sight of the rancho, without a hair being moistened.

A horseman advanced at full speed to meet us.

This horseman—I recognised him immediately with feelings of joy—was don Zeno Cabral.

"There you are, then," said he, riding up by the side of us, "I have been waiting for you for an hour." Then, addressing me, he added, "I bring you a surprise, which I think will be agreeable to you."

"A surprise," I cried, "what is it?"

"You shall see; I am convinced you will thank me."

"I thank you in advance," I answered, "without seeking to guess of what character this surprise is."

"Look," answered he, stretching out his arm in the direction of the rancho.

"My guide," I cried; recognising my rascal of an Indian, firmly tied to a tree.

"Himself! What do you think of that?"

"Upon my word, it appears to be a marvel; I cannot understand how you have been able to meet with him."

"Oh! That is not so difficult as you suppose, especially with the information you gave me. All these vagabonds are of the family of wild beasts; they have hiding places from which they never go far. For a man habituated to the pampa, nothing is more easy than to put his hand upon them; this one, especially, trusting to your ignorance of the desert, did not take the trouble to conceal himself. He travelled openly and quietly, persuaded that you would not dream of pursuing him. This confidence, however, has ruined him, and I leave you to guess his fright when I surprised him unawares."

"All that is very well," I answered; "but what do you wish that I should do with this pícaro?"

"What!" he cried with astonishment, "What do I wish you to do? I wish that you should first correct him, in a style he will remember; then, as you have engaged him to serve as guide as far as Brazil, and as he has received in advance a part of the price agreed on, he must fulfil his engagement."

"I confess I have no great confidence in his future faithfulness."

"You are in error; you do not know the Manso Indians. This man, when once he has been corrected, will serve you faithfully; you may safely trust me for that."

"I will do so willingly, but this punishment, whatever it may be, I confess I feel incapable of administering it to him."

"Oh, don't let that disturb you; here is our friend, Don Torribio, who has not so tender a heart as you."

"I ask nothing more than to be agreeable to you," said don Torribio, in confirmation.

We arrived at that moment close to the prisoner; the poor fellow who doubtless knew what awaited him, had a very disconsolate air, and was very ill at ease.

Don Zeno approached the prisoner, while with an imperturbable coolness. Don Torribio occupied himself by doubling up his laço several times in his right hand.

"Listen, pícaro," said don Zeno, to the attentive Indian; "this caballero engaged you at Buenos Aires; not only have you basely abandoned him in the pampa, but you have robbed him; you merit punishment, and that punishment you are about to receive. Don Torribio, my dear sir, will you, I beg, apply fifty strokes of the laço on the shoulders of this bribón."

The Indian did not answer a word; the gaucho then approached, and with the conscientiousness with which he did everything, he raised his laço, which fell whizzing on the shoulders of the poor fellow, on which it made a bluish stripe.

The Indian did not make a movement; he did not utter a cry.

As to me, I suffered inwardly, but I did not dare to interfere.

Don Zeno Cabral reckoned without emotion the strokes as they fell, one by one.

At the eleventh the blood started out.

The gaucho did not stop.

The Indian, although his flesh quivered under the blows which came more and more rapidly, preserved his stony impassibility.

The fifty blows to which the guide had been condemned by the implacable don Zeno were administered by the gaucho without one being missed. At the thirty-second, notwithstanding all his courage, the Indian had lost consciousness, but that, notwithstanding my entreaty, did not interrupt the chastisement.

"Stop," at last, said don Zeno, when the number was complete, "unbind him."

The ties were cut and the body of the poor fellow fell helplessly on the sand.

The son of the gaucho then approached, rubbed with beef fat, water, and vinegar the bleeding wounds of the Indian—threw his poncho over his shoulders and then left him.

"But that man has fainted," I cried.

"Bah," said don Zeno, "do not trouble yourself about that. Those fellows have a tough hide. Let us go and dine."

This cold cruelty disgusted me; however, I refrained from any remark, and I entered into the rancho. I was still a novice; but I was to witness, at a later period, scenes compared with which this was but child's play.

After dinner, which, contrary to custom, was prolonged for a considerable time, don Zeno ordered the son of the gaucho to bring in the guide.

He entered in a minute. Don Zeno looked at him for some seconds with attention, and then said—

"Do you admit you have merited the punishment I have inflicted?"

"I admit it," answered the Indian, in a sulky voice.

"You are aware that I know where to find you?"

"I know it."

"If at my request this caballero agrees to pardon you, will you be faithful to him?"

"Yes, but on one condition."

"I do not wish for conditions on your part, bribón," replied don Zeno. "You deserve the garotte. Now answer my question."

"What question?"

"Will you be faithful?"


"I shall know it; chastisement or reward I shall charge with giving you; you understand?"

"I understand."

"Now listen to me; your master and you will leave here tomorrow, at sunrise; nine days hence he must be at the fazenda do Rio d'Ouro."

"He shall be there."

"No equivocation between us; you understand."

"I have promised," coldly answered the Indian.

"Good; drink this trago de caña to revive you from the blows you have received, and go to sleep."

The guide seized the gourd don Zeno offered him, emptied it in a draught with evident satisfaction, and withdrew without uttering a word.

When he had gone out, I addressed myself to don Zeno with the most indifferent air I could affect.

"All that is very good," I said; "but I vow, Señor, that notwithstanding his promises, I have not the least confidence in that fellow."

"You are wrong, Señor," he answered me; "he will serve you faithfully; not from affection, but from fear. He knows very well that if anything happens to you he will have a sharp reckoning with me."

"Hum," murmured I, "that only half assures me; but why, if, as you have allowed me to guess, you are again going towards the Brazilian frontiers, do you not permit me to accompany you?"

"That was my intention, but unhappily certain reasons, with which it would be useless to acquaint you, render the execution of this project impossible. However, I reckon on seeing you at the fazenda do Rio d'Ouro, where probably I shall arrive before you. In any case, will you remain there till I have seen you, and then perhaps it will be permitted to me to acknowledge, as I have an earnest desire to do, the great service you have rendered me."

"I will wait for you, since you desire it, Señor," I answered, boldly accepting these new circumstances, "not to remind you of the event to which you allude, but because I should be happy to become more intimately acquainted with you."

On the next day, at sunrise, I rose, and after having affectionately taken leave of the people who had so well received me, and whom I thought I should never see again, I left the rancho without being able to bid adieu to don Zeno Cabral.

[1] The word pampa belongs to the Quechua language, language of the Incas. It signifies flat country, savannah, or great plain.



My journey was continued thus under rather singular circumstances—at the mercy of an Indian whose perfidy had been already abundantly proved, and from whom I could expect no good.

However, I was well armed, vigorous, resolute, and set out in pretty good spirits, convinced that my guide would never attack me to my face.

I beg to state that I was wrong in attributing bad intentions to the poor Indian, and that my precautions were unnecessary. Don Torribio and don Zeno Cabral had said the truth; the rude correction inflicted on my Guaranis had had the most salutary influence on him, and had entirely modified his intentions towards me.

He became more lively, more amiable, and especially more of a talker; I took advantage of this change in his disposition to sound him with regard to don Zeno Cabral.

This time also I completely failed, not because the Indian refused to answer me, but on account of his ignorance. In a few words, this is all I succeeded in learning.

Don Zeno Cabral was well known, and especially much feared by all the Indians who live on the desert, and who unceasingly traverse it in every direction. He was to them a strange, mysterious, incomprehensible being, whose power was very great. No one knew his regular abode; he almost possessed the attribute of ubiquity, for he had been seen at distances far removed from each other almost at the same time; the Indians had often laid traps to kill him without ever having succeeded in inflicting on him the slightest wound.

He often disappeared for months together without their knowing what had become of him, then they saw him suddenly camped in their midst without their knowing how he had arrived there.

On the whole, the Indians, apart from the respectful fear he had inspired in them, for the most part were much indebted to him; no one better than he knew how to cure those maladies supposed to be incurable by their sorcerers.

This information, if I can so call the timid and superstitious ramblings of my guide, left me more perplexed than I was before with regard to this man, whom everything tended to surround in my eyes with a mysterious halo.

A word uttered, perhaps, by chance by the Indian aroused still more my insatiable curiosity.

"He is a Paulista," he said to me, in a subdued voice, looking cautiously around him, as if he feared that this word might fall upon an indiscreet ear.

On several occasions during my stay at Buenos Aires, I had heard of the Paulistas: the information which had been given me with regard to them, although for the most part very incomplete and erroneous, had, however, greatly excited my curiosity.

The Paulistas, or Vicentistas, for these two names are indifferently applied to the early historians, first settled in the vast and magnificent plains of Piratininga. There was then organised under the intelligent and paternal direction of the two Jesuits, Antieta and Nobrega, a colony within a colony—a sort of half barbarous metropolis, which owes to its courage a continually increasing prosperity and influence, and the exploits of which if some day they are related, will form, I am convinced, a most interesting chapter in the history of Brazil.

Thanks to the intervention of the Jesuits in Brazil, the Europeans did not disdain to ally themselves with those strong and bellicose Indian races who so long held the Portuguese in check, and sometimes drove back the conquerors.

From these alliances there arose a warlike race—brave, inured to all kinds of fatigue, and remarkably daring, who, well governed, produced the Paulistas.

Several serious charges are laid at their door; they have been accused from the very foundation of their colony of having shown an indomitable and independent disposition, an affected disdain for the laws of the mother city, and an unheard-of pride towards the other colonists.

To these accusations the Paulistas have given the most complete denial.

The province of St. Paul, peopled by them alone, is now the most civilised, the most industrious, and the richest in Brazil.

I urged my journey as much as possible, the rather because my guide had informed me that the fazenda do Rio d'Ouro, where don Zeno Cabral had given me a rendezvous, was situated on the frontier of the province of St. Paul, of which it was one of the richest and most vast achievements.

In order the more quickly to reach the end of our long journey, my guide, notwithstanding the difficulties of the way, had led us along the inundated banks of the Rio Uruguai.

On the fourth day after our departure from the rancho, we reached the Aldea of Santa Anna, the first Brazilian station in ascending the river.

The excessive rise of the river had caused terrible ravages in this miserable village, composed of scarcely a dozen ranchos. Several had been carried away by the waters, the remainder were threatened with speedy inundation; the poor inhabitants, reduced to the most frightful distress, were camped on a little hill, awaiting the withdrawal of the waters.

Nevertheless, these poor people, spite of their misery, received us in the most hospitable way, placing at our disposal everything they could furnish us with.

It was with an unspeakable pang of the heart and profound gratitude that on the next day at sunrise I left these good people, who overwhelmed us at our departure with wishes for the success of our journey.

I continued to advance through a charming and varied landscape. Three days after my halt at Santa Anna, about two o'clock in the afternoon, at an angle of the route, I suddenly turned my head, and in spite of myself I stopped, uttering a cry of admiration at the unexpected sight of the most delicious country I had ever contemplated.

My Guaranis smiled with joy. It was to him that I owed this splendid surprise, which he had been preparing for me for some hours by inducing me to take, under pretext of shortening the journey, concealed paths through almost impenetrable woods.

Before me, almost at my feet, for I had stopped on the summit of an elevated hill, extended—enclosed in a horizon of verdure, formed by a belt of virgin forest—a landscape of about ten leagues in circumference, of which, thanks to my position, my eye took in the minutest details. About the centre of this landscape, over an extent of two leagues, was a lake, the transparent waters of which were an emerald green in colour—the wooded and beautiful picturesque mountains which surrounded it were covered in some places with plantations.

We were on the spot where the Curitiba or Guazu, a rather important river, an affluent of the Parana, that we had reached, after having traversed the Paso de los Infieles, enters the lake.

At the entry of the Guazu I perceived an isle which my guide assured me had formerly floated, but which had by degrees approached the bank, where it had become fixed. At first formed by aquatic plants, the vegetable earth had been heaped up there, and now it is covered with pretty thick wood. Then, in the distance, in the midst of a ravine between two hills covered with wood, I perceived a considerable number of buildings raised like an amphitheatre, and surmounted by a tall steeple.

Below the rugged steep, on the summit of which these buildings were situated, the Guazu rushed along, struggling over the obstacles that abrupt rocks, covered with a verdant lichen, opposed to its course; then, dividing into several arms, it lost itself, after innumerable meanderings, in the sombre valleys which stretched right and left. I could not take my eyes from the spectacle of nature in this grand, wild, and really imposing form. I remained there as though fascinated, not caring either to advance or recede, so great was the emotion that I experienced, and, forgetting everything, still looking without being satiated at this splendid view, to which nothing can be compared.

"How beautiful!" I cried.

"Is it not?" replied the guide.

"What is this magnificent country called?"

"Do you not know, mi amo?" said the Indian.

"How should I know, when I come here today for the first time?"

"Why, because this country is well known, mi amo," replied he; "people come from long distances to see it."

"I doubt it not, but I should like to know its name."

"You see before you the fazenda do Rio d'Ouro; in former days all these mountains that you see were filled with gold and precious stones."

"And now?" I asked, interested in spite of myself.

"Oh, now they do not work the mines; they are exhausted or inundated with water. The master pretends that it is much better to work the earth."

"He is not wrong. What is the name of the good man who reasons so judiciously?"

"I do not know, mi amo; they pretend that the fazenda, and all the lands appertaining to it, belong to don Zeno Cabral, but I should not dare to assert it; but, for that matter, it would not astonish me, for singular things are related as to what passes in the caldeiras that you see down there," added he, pointing with his finger to three round holes in the form of a funnel, pierced in the rocks.

"What do they relate, then, that is so extraordinary?"

"Oh, frightful things, mi amo, and things which I, a poor Indian, should never dare to repeat."

It was in vain I pressed my guide to explain himself; I could only draw from him ejaculations of fright, accompanied by innumerable signs of the cross. Wearied of doing so, I gave up asking any farther about a subject which appeared to displease him so much.

"In what time will we arrive at the fazenda?" I asked.

"In four hours, mi amo."

"Do you think that don Zeno will already have arrived, and that we shall meet him?"

"Who knows, mi amo? If the señor don Zeno wishes to have arrived there, he will be there."

Beaten on this point as on the first, I finally gave up asking my guide questions, to which, according to his pleasure, he made such ridiculous answers, and I confined myself to giving him the order to proceed.

By degrees, as we ascended the valley, the landscape changed, and assumed aspects of a striking character. I thus traversed, without perceiving it, the pretty considerable space which separated me from the fazenda.

At the moment when we began to ascend a rather wide and well-kept path that conducted to the first buildings, I perceived a horseman who was galloping towards me at full speed.

My guide touched me lightly on the arm with a quiver of fear.

"Do you not recognise him? It is the seigneur don Zeno Cabral."

"Impossible!" I cried.

The Indian shook his head several times.

"Nothing is impossible to señor Zeno," murmured he, in an undertone.

I looked more attentively; I recognised, indeed, don Zeno Cabral, my old companion of the pampa. He wore the same costume as at our first meeting.

In a minute he was near me.

"Welcome to the fazenda do Rio d'Ouro," said he to me joyfully, holding out his right hand, which I grasped cordially; "have you had a good journey?"

"Excellent, I thank you, although very fatiguing. But," added I, noticing a slight smile on his lips, "although I do not yet rank myself with a traveller of your calibre, I begin to be perfectly accustomed to it; moreover, the aspect of your beautiful country has completely made me forget my fatigue."

"Is it not beautiful?" said he with pride; "And does it not merit to be seen and appreciated?"


"You have been satisfied with this bribón, I suppose," said he, turning towards the guide, who kept himself modestly and timidly in the background.

"Quite satisfied; he has completely redeemed his fault."

"I knew it already, but I am happy to hear you say so, that puts me on good terms with him."

"Go on ahead, pícaro, and announce our arrival."

The Indian did not wait for a repetition of the order.

"These Indians are singular characters," said don Zeno, looking after him "you can only subdue them by threatening them with harshness; but, on the whole, they are not bad."

"You except without doubt," I answered, smiling, "those who wished to do you so bad a turn when I had the pleasure of meeting you."

"Why should I do that? The poor devils acted with good intentions, from the point of view produced by their narrow ideas."

"Do you not fear to become one day the victim of their perfidy?"

"It will be as it shall please God; as to me, I shall accomplish the mission that I have imposed upon myself; but never mind that, you will remain some time with us, will you not, Don Gustavio?"

"Two or three days only," I answered.

"You are in a great hurry," said my host.

"By no means; I am absolutely master of my time."

"Then, why do you wish to leave us so quickly?"

"Why," I replied, not knowing exactly what to say, "I am afraid of discommoding you."

"Don Gustavio," said don Zeno Cabral, "abandon once for all those European fashions, which are out of place here; you cannot discommode a man like me, whose fortune amounts to millions of piastres, who is master, under God, of a territory of more than thirty square leagues, and who commands more than two thousand white, red, and black people. In accepting frankly the hospitality that such a man freely offers you, as to a friend and a brother, you do him honour."

"Upon my word," I answered, "my dear host, you have a style of doing things which makes a refusal absolutely impossible, so do with me as you like."

"Well and good, that's speaking plainly, without circumlocution or reticence. But make yourself easy; perhaps even if your vagabond notions still possess your heart, I shall make, some days hence, a proposition which will make you smile."

"What?" I eagerly exclaimed.

"I will tell you, but hush! Here we are arrived."

Five minutes later, indeed, we entered the fazenda, between a double row of servants.

I shall not dilate on the style in which hospitality was offered me in this truly princely abode.

Some days passed, during which my host endeavoured in every way to amuse me.

However, notwithstanding all his efforts to appear cheerful, I remarked that something weighed on his mind. I did not dare to ask him about it, fearing to appear impertinent, but I waited with impatience till he afforded me an opportunity to satisfy my curiosity, by asking him some questions which I had continually on my lips, and which I with great difficulty repressed.

At last, one evening, he entered my room. A servant, who accompanied him, carried several bundles of papers.

After telling the servant to put these papers on the table, and sending him away, don Zeno seated himself near me, and after a moment of reflection—

"Don Gustavio," said he, "I have spoken of an expedition in which I thought of having your company."

"Just so," I answered, "and I am ready to follow you, Don Zeno."

"Thank you, my friend; but before accepting your consent, let me give you some words of explanation."

"Do so."

"The expedition in question is one of a most serious character; it is directed towards well-known countries, which have been rarely, and at long intervals, trodden by the foot of the white man. We shall have nearly insurmountable obstacles to overcome—terrible dangers to run. Notwithstanding the precautions I have taken to secure our safety, I must tell you that we risk death in the midst of hordes of savages. As to me, my sacrifice is made."

"And are you going?"

"Yes, I am going, for I have the most important reasons for doing so; but as to you, your position is not the same, and I do not see what right I have to take you with me in a desperate venture."

"I shall go with you, Don Zeno, come what may; my decision is taken, my resolution will not change."

"Well," he said, in an agitated voice, "I shall not argue anymore. Several times we have spoken between ourselves about the Paulistas; you have asked me for information about them; that information you will find in these notes that I leave you. Read them attentively, they will make you acquainted with the motives for the expedition that I now undertake."

It is these notes, placed in order by me, followed by an account of the expedition in which I took part, that the reader is now about to peruse. I have only taken the precaution to change certain names and dates, in order not to wound the just susceptibility of persons still living, and worthy, according to all report, of the estimation in which they are held in Brazil.



On the 25th of June, 1790, about seven o'clock in the evening, a rather numerous troop of horsemen suddenly emerged from a narrow ravine, and began to ascend a steep path on the flank of a mountain forming the extreme limit of the Sierra di Ibetucata, situated in the province of São Paolo.

These horsemen, having traversed the Rio Paranapanema, prepared no doubt to cross the Rio Tietê, if, as the direction which they followed appeared to indicate, they were going to the territory of Minas Gerais.

For the most part well dressed, they wore the picturesque costume of sertanejos, and were armed with sabres, pistols, knives, and carbines. Their laços, rolled up, were hanging, attached by rings, to the right sides of their saddles.

We shall observe that the bolas—that terrible arm of the gaucho of the pampas in the Banda Oriental—is completely unused in the interior of Brazil.

These men, with their bronzed complexions, haughty bearing, boldly seated on their horses, their hands resting on their weapons, ready to make use of them, and their eyes constantly fixed on the underwood and the thickets in order to discover the route, and to guard against ambuscades, offered in the oblique and mild rays of the setting sun, in the midst of that majestic scene, a striking resemblance to those troops of Paulista adventurers who in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, appeared led by the finger of God to undertake bold expeditions, which were to give new countries to the mother city, and to finish by confining to their impenetrable forests the warlike and unsubdued tribes of the first inhabitants of the soil.

The horsemen of whom we are speaking were thirty in number, reckoning the servants charged with the mules loaded with baggage, and who, in case of attack, were to join their companions in the general defence, and were armed with fusils and sabres.

At some distance behind this first troop came a second, composed of a dozen horsemen, in the midst of whom was a palanquin closely shut, carried by two mules.

These two troops evidently obeyed the same chief, for when the first had arrived at the summit of the mountain, it stopped, and a horseman was sent to hasten the arrival of the second.

The men of the second troop affected a certain military air, and wore the costume of the soldados da conquista, which, at the first glance of a person accustomed to Brazilian manners, clearly showed that the chief of the caravan was not only a rich and powerful personage, but that his journey was surrounded by perils.

Notwithstanding the heat of the day, which was then closing, these soldiers sat firmly in their saddles, and carried, without appearing in any way discommoded by it, the strange accoutrement without which they never undertake an expedition—that is to say, the cuirass, named gibao de armas, a kind of greatcoat stuffed with cotton and quilted, which descends almost to the knees, and also covers and protects the arms better than any other armour from the long Indian arrows.

As when they followed the savages into the forests, they were obliged to abandon their horses, upon which they could not penetrate the virgin forests, they had at their side a kind of large blade, called facão, which was of use to them in cutting bamboos to open up a passage; they each had also an espingole, or a fusil without bayonet, which they ordinarily loaded only with large shot, as it was almost impossible to direct a ball with certainty in these inextricable masses of foliage, rendered thicker still by the strange disposition of the branches, and the entanglement of the bamboos.

These soldiers are much feared by the Indians and the runaway Negroes, whom they have a special mission to track and surprise.

They are much esteemed in the country on account of their courage, their sobriety, and their fidelity, whenever put to the test; thus the presence of a dozen of them in the caravan was a certain indication of the high position which the chief of the expedition occupied in Brazilian society.

The caravan stopped, as we have said, at the summit of the mountain. From that elevation there was a view spread before them, to a considerable distance, over a landscape of forests, of varied valleys, traversed by innumerable streams; but not a house, not a hut, was visible to animate this splendid and wild scene.

The travellers, little affected by the attractions of the magic panorama which was spread out before them, and moreover fatigued by a long journey through almost impracticable paths, while a torrid sun profusely poured its burning rays on their heads, hastened to instal themselves in their camp for the night.

Whilst some amongst them unloaded the mules and heaped up the baggage, others erected a tent in the midst of this improvised camp; the strongest made a heap of trees as a provisional intrenchment, and some others lit the fires intended for the cooking of the evening meal—fires which were to be kept up all night in order to keep off wild beasts.

When the camp was completely made, a horseman of haughty bearing, about twenty-eight or thirty years at the most, whose aristocratic manner, bold look and short manner of speaking, denoted the habit of command, gave the order for the palanquin, which up to that moment had remained at some little distance, surrounded by its escort, to approach.

The palanquin immediately advanced as far as the tent, and was opened. The curtain of the tent moved, and then fell back, without it being possible to know of what sex was the person whom the palanquin had enclosed, and who had just quitted it. The palanquin was immediately borne away. The soldier who had probably previously received strict injunctions, surrounded at a pistol shot the tent, to which they would allow no one to approach.

The chief of the caravan, after having assisted at the execution of the order he had given, withdrew under a somewhat smaller tent, erected at some paces from the first, and throwing himself on a seat, was soon absorbed in profound reflections.

This horseman, as we have said, was a man of twenty-eight or thirty years of age, with delicate and aristocratic features, of almost feminine beauty and delicacy. His countenance, gentle and affable at the first aspect, lost this appearance as soon as it was studied with care, to assume an expression of mocking and cruel wickedness, which inspired fear and almost repulsion; his large black eyes had a vague look which was rarely fixed, his mouth furnished with brilliant white teeth, surmounted by a fine black moustache, oiled with care, only half-opened to allow an ironic smile to escape from his lips, slightly raising their corners. Such as he was, however, to superficial eyes, he was an admirable horseman, full of nobility, and of a seductive bearing.

He had scarcely been twenty minutes alone under his tent, when the curtain of the tent was removed gently to give passage to a man who, after having assured himself by looking around, that the horseman of whom we have just given a sketch was quite alone, took two steps into the interior, and removed his hat respectfully.

This person formed to the first the most complete and the rudest contrast; he was still young, with muscular form and angular features—a base, mean, and cruel physiognomy, impressed with an expression of sullen wickedness; his forehead low and depressed, his eyes grey, round, deeply sunken, and considerably removed from each other, his nose long and hooked, his high cheekbones, his large mouth with flat lips, gave him a distant resemblance to a bird of prey of the least noble kind. His monstrous head, supported by a thick and short neck, was buried between two shoulders of great breadth, his awkward arms covered with enormous muscles, gave him the appearance of possessing extraordinary brutal force, the general aspect of which had something repulsive in it. This individual, whom it was easy at once to recognise as a mameluco [1] hybrid, wore the costume of the sertanejos.

Several minutes passed before the young man recognised the man who was standing before him.

"Ah, 'tis you, Malco Diaz," said he.

"Yes, Monsieur le marquis, it is me," answered the mameluco[1], in a low and half-stifled voice.

"Well, what do you want with me, now?"

"Well," said the other with a chill sneer, "the reception that your lordship gives me is scarcely endearing; it is two days since I have spoken to you."

"I have no reason, I suppose, to trouble myself with you. What is the use of my putting myself out? Are you not in my pay, and consequently my servant?" replied the marquis, with a haughty frown.

"It is true," answered the other, "a servant is a dog, and ought to be treated as such; however, you know the proverb, 'A bom jogo bo a volta.'"[2]

"Spare me your stupid proverbs. I beg and tell me, without more circumlocution, what brings you here?" answered the young man with impatience.

"Well, the business is, your lordship, that I engaged myself to you for two months at Rio Janeiro, in order to serve you as a guide, for four Spanish ounces per month, or, if you prefer it, 106,000 reis.[3] Is it not true, your lordship?"

"Perfectly; only you forget that you received before leaving Rio Janeiro—"

"One month in advance," interrupted the mameluco; "on the contrary, I remember it very well."

"What do you want, then?"

"I want the remainder for a simple reason, your lordship; because, our bargain expiring at ten o'clock tomorrow morning, I prefer to settle with you this evening, rather than cause you any trouble during the march."

"What, is it so long since we began the journey?"

"Calculate, your lordship."

"Just so, quite as long," replied he, pensively.

There was a long silence.

"So you wish to quit me, Malco Diaz," said the young man abruptly, in a more friendly tone than that which he had employed just before.

"Has not my engagement terminated, your lordship?"

"Just so; but you can renew it."

The mameluco hesitated; his master did not take his eye off him.

"Will your lordship allow me to speak frankly?"


"Well, you are a great lord, a marquis, it is true; as for me, I am but a poor devil, compared with you, very little and of no account. However, miserable as you suppose me, there is something invaluable in my estimation."

"And that is—"

"My liberty, your lordship; my independence, the right of going and of coming, without rendering anyone an account of my proceedings. I humbly submit that I am not born to be a servant."

"Have you said all?"

"Yes, all, your lordship."

"But you are not a servant, only a guide."

"That is true, your lordship; but often, spite of yourself, you forget the guide, to think only of the servant; and as to me, I cannot get used to be treated in that fashion. My pride revolts in spite of myself."

A scornful smile played upon the lips of the young man.

"So," answered he, "the motive that you give me is the only one that induces you to leave me?"

"It is the only one, your lordship."

"But if, quite satisfied with your service, I propose to you five quadruplet instead of four, you would accept it without doubt."

"Pardon me, your lordship," said he, "I should refuse."

"Even if I offered you six?"

"Even if you offered me ten."

"Ah!" said the marquis, biting his lip; "When do you intend to leave us?"

"When your lordship will permit me."

"But if I insisted that you should remain with us until tomorrow at ten o'clock?"

"I should remain, my lord."

"Good," said the young man in a tone of indifference, "I see that your mind is made up."

"Oh, decidedly, my lord."

"I am going now to pay the remainder that I owe you; you shall then be free to go away immediately."

The young man drew several pieces of gold from a purse, and presented them to the mongrel.

"Take it," said he.

Malco held out his hand, but soon thinking better of it—

"Pardon, my lord," said he, "you are making a mistake."

"I? How is that?"

"Why, you only owe me four ounces, I believe."


"You are giving me eight."

"I give you four ounces because I owe them to you, and I add four others, because, before parting with you, I wish to give a proof of my satisfaction of the manner in which you have done your duty."

A second time the mameluco hesitated, but exercising great control over himself, and stepping back, as if to wish to escape the fascination exercised over him by the sight of the metal, he placed, although with an evident repugnance, four of the pieces of gold on a chest, answering with a voice stifled with emotion—

"I am very grateful to you, my lord, but I cannot accept so rich a present."

"Why not, if it pleases me to make it, Malco? Am I not the master, to dispose of what belongs to me?"

"Yes, my lord, you are free to do that; but I repeat that I shall not accept the money."

"At least you will give me an explanation of this enigma, for if I do not deceive myself, you love gold."

"Yes, my lord, when it is honourably gained, but I am not a beggar to accept a remuneration to which I consider I have no right."

"These sentiments do you honour," answered the young man, with a biting raillery.

He then took the four pieces of gold, chinked them in his hand, and then put them again into his purse.

"Now we are quits."

And with a gesture, he ordered the mameluco to withdraw. The latter, very ill at ease under the searching look of the marquis, did not wait for the suggestion to be repeated. He bowed awkwardly, and left the tent.

He then proceeded to his horse, which he had attached some paces off to a stake, threw himself in the saddle, and went off with a pensive air, descending the mountain at a gentle trot in the direction of the Sertão, at the entry of which the caravan had established its bivouac.

When he had gone sufficiently far not to fear being seen, he broke off abruptly to the right, and returned.

"Devil of a man," murmured he, in a low voice, attentively surveying the shrubs and thickets for fear of surprise; "it is evident that he suspects something; I have not a moment to lose; for—I know him. If I permit myself to hesitate, I am a lost man; but if I don't hesitate, the affair is too good for me not to devote all my efforts to bring it to a good conclusion. We shall see who will gain the day."

Then vigorously putting spurs to his horse, the mameluco pressed into a gallop, and was not long disappearing into the darkness; for, during his conversation with his former master, the night had fallen.

Meanwhile, as soon as the mameluco had quitted the tent, the marquis rose with a gesture of rage and of menace, but almost immediately reseating himself—

"No," said he, in a sullen voice, "let us give him time to get away; we will let him have complete security; the traitor does not think me so well informed. Oh, I will revenge myself cruelly for the constraint I imposed upon myself before him."

He rose again, withdrew the curtain of the tent, and looked out; the greatest tranquillity, the most complete calm, reigned in the camp. The marquis then called twice, in a moderately loud voice—

"Diogo! Diogo!"

At the call, which he appeared to expect, a man approached almost immediately.

"Here I am," said he.

"Come in directly," resumed the marquis.

This man was the chief of the soldados da conquista. He entered.

[1] This name is given to the mongrels born of a white man and Indian woman, or vice versa.

[2] One good turn deserves another.

[3] The reis is a fictitious coin. This formidable sum is worth about 340 francs only, in French money.



Of all the Indians of the new world the aborigines of Brazil are those who have defended their independence the most obstinately, and fought with the greatest fury against the invasion of their territory by the whites. At the present day this war, commenced in the early days of the conquest, is continued implacably on both sides, without any other result of it being perceptible, than the entire destruction of the unfortunate race so deplorably spoliated by Europeans.

By degrees, as we advance in our recital, we shall give more circumstantial details on the singular and extravagant customs of the Brazilian natives—customs of which little is known in Europe. They are all the more interesting, as at an early day they will no longer exist but in legend, by reason of the incessant progress of civilisation, which will effect the complete extinction of the aboriginal race, the same as in all the other countries of the new world.

At about ten leagues from the plateau, where the caravan of which we have spoken had camped for the night, the same day, a little before sunset, in a vast glade situated on the left bank of the Rio Paraguai, at the entrance of a considerable cotinga, or low forest, three men, seated on the trunks of dead trees lying on the earth, were holding a very animated conversation.

These persons, although Indians, belonged to tribes completely distinct.

The first, as far as could be discovered—for the age of the Indian is extremely difficult to determine—was a man who appeared to have attained middle age—that is to say, from thirty-five to forty. His tall and well-proportioned figure his vigorous and well-set limbs, displayed great strength; his regular features would have been beautiful, had they not been disfigured by strange painting and tattooing. But, on examining him with care, there was seen to flash in his eyes a cunning which denoted a rather uncommon intelligence. The nobility of his gestures, and his bold and haughty countenance, gave to his entire person a stamp of wild grandeur.

The costume of this Indian, although very simple, was not wanting either in grace or elegance; the bright red band in which were stuck some parrot feathers, and which encircled his head, the hair of which was shaved like that of the Franciscans, proclaimed not only his Guaycurus nationality, but also his position as a chief. A necklace of jaguar teeth encircled his neck; a poncho of gaudy colours was thrown over his shoulders; his large leather drawers reaching to the knee, were fastened at the hips by a girdle of tapir skin, in which was stuck a long knife; his legs were protected against the bite of serpents by boots made with the leather from the forelegs of a horse, cut away in a single piece while still warm, and made into a kind of sheath, so that the leather in drying had taken the form of the limbs it was intended to preserve.

Besides the knife hanging from his girdle, the Guaycurus chief had placed on the ground near him a quiver of tapir skin, four feet long, and filled with arrows. A polished and glittering bow of palo d'arco of uncommon strength and size was lying near the quiver, and within reach of his hand; leaning against the palm tree was an enormous lance, at least fifteen feet long, and furnished with a sharp blade, and garnished at the other extremity with a tuft of ostrich feathers.

The second Indian was about the same age as his companion; his features, notwithstanding the paint and tattooing which disfigured them, were handsome, and his countenance possessed great flexibility. He was dressed and armed like the first; only by the headdress, made with the fibrous and elastic cocoon of the flower of the ubassa palm tree, it was easy to recognise him as a Payagoas chief, a nation nearly as powerful as that of the Guaycurus.

The last Indian was a poor devil, half-naked, lean, and of a timid and sickly appearance—to all appearance a slave. He stationed himself out of hearing of the two chiefs whose horses he was charged to watch. These horses, painted like their masters, of different colours, had no harness, but a thick coarse saddle, furnished with wooden stirrups, covered with tapir skin, and to the right and left of which hung a lasso and the formidable bolas.

At the moment when we place these three persons on the scene, the Guaycurus chief was speaking, smoking all the while a kind of calumet, made of the leaves of the palm tree, rolled together, and was listened to deferentially by the other chief, who was standing up before him, carelessly supported by his long lance.

"The man that my brother Emavidi-Chaime told me of does not come," said he. "The sun descends rapidly, several hours have flown since I waited. What thinks the chief of the Payagoas?"

"He must wait still; the man will come; he has promised; although degenerate, he is not a paleface. He has in his veins some of the blood of the Tapis."

"What is the name of this man?" asked the other.

"Does Tarou Niom know him? He is a mameluco; his name is Malco Diaz."

"I have seen him," laconically said the chief, letting his head fall with a pensive air on his breast.

There was a silence of some instants; it was the Guaycurus who broke it.

"Has my brother ever seen," he said, "the jaguars make war upon each other?"

"Never," replied the Payagoas chief.

"Then why does the chief believe in the faith of this man? The Indian blood, if he has some drops of it, is so mingled in his veins with that of the whites and blacks, that it has lost all its vigour."

"My brother speaks well, his words are just; only it is not on the good faith of this mameluco that I reckon."

"On what then?" asked Tarou Niom.

"On his hatred first, and then—"


"On his avarice."

"Yes," replied the Guaycurus chief, "it is to these two feelings only that we must trust when we wish to ally ourselves with these faithless dogs; but this mameluco, is he not a Paulista?"

"No; on the contrary, he is a sertanejo."

"The whites are always bad. What guarantee has this Malco given?"

"The best that I can desire; his son, whom he charged with bringing me the message, has come into my village with two black slaves. One has gone away again, but the other remains with the child."

"Good!" answered Tarou Niom, "I acknowledge in this the prudence of my brother Emavidi-Chaime; if the father is a traitor, the child shall die."

"He shall die!"

Silence reigned again for a considerable time between the companions.

The sun had completely disappeared, shadows covered the earth, darkness, as with a funeral pall, enveloped the forest in which these two men were. Already in the inexplorable depths of the desert low growlings began to reverberate, and announced the waking of the dread wanderers of the night.

The slave, who was an Indian mundracus, on the order of his master, Tarou Niom, the captain of the Guaycurus—for the Indians of this nation have adopted the Portuguese titles—gathered some dry wood, formed a pile of it between the two chiefs, and set fire to it, so that its light might keep off the wild beasts.

"It is very late," said the Guaycurus.

"The journey to come here is long," laconically answered the Payagoas.

"Has the mameluco explained for what reason he wished the meeting of his warriors and mine?"

"No. Malco is prudent; a slave might betray the confidence of his master, and sell his secret to an enemy. The mameluco reserves it to inform us himself of the affair he wishes to propose to us."

"Good!" answered the chief. "What matters this man to me? I have only come on the invitation of my brother. I know that he will not betray me."

"I thank my brother, Tarou Niom, for his opinion of me; for a long time I have been devoted to him."

At this moment a far-off noise was heard—slight, and almost inappreciable at first, but which approached rapidly.

The two Indians listened for some seconds, and then exchanged a smile.

"It is the gallop of a horse," said Tarou Niom.

"In a few minutes he will be here."

The chiefs were not deceived—it was, in fact, the furious gallop of a horse. Soon the branches snapped, the shrubbery separated under the powerful effort the chest of a horse, galloping at full speed, and a horseman bounded into the glade.

Arrived within a few paces of the warriors, he suddenly pulled up his horse, leaped to the ground, and gave the bridle to the slave, who took it and conducted the noble animal to the two others.

The horseman, who was no other than the mameluco, saluted the Indians and seated himself in front of them.

"My friend has tarried long," said the Payagoas.

"It is true, Captain," answered Malco, wiping his forehead, which was covered with perspiration; "I ought to have been here long before, but that was impossible. My master camped in a place farther off than I reckoned on, and notwithstanding my wish to be exact, it was impossible for me to come sooner."

"Good, that is nothing, since here is the sertanejo; some hours lost are nothing, if the affair you wish to propose to us is good."

"Good I believe it to be; but are you still resolved to break the truce that seven moons ago you concluded with the whites?"

"What is that to the sertanejo?" drily answered the Guaycurus.

"I want to know before explaining to you what brings me here."

"Let the warrior speak, and the captains will hear him; they will judge of the truth of his words."

"Very well; this is why I wish to ask you the question. I know the honour that you carry into all your transactions—even with the whites. If you consent, as I know for some days they have begged you, to prolong the truce, I should have nothing to propose to you, for the simple reason that you would refuse to give me your assistance against the people with whom you would be at peace. You see I speak to you frankly."

These words, which manifested the respect of the Indians for their pledged faith, and for the honesty which they import into their relations with their mortal enemies, were, notwithstanding the praise they implied, listened to coldly.

"Two suns have already passed," proudly answered the Guaycurus, "since I notified to the Paulistas the rupture of the truce."

Malco Diaz, master as he was of himself, could not suppress a gesture of satisfaction at this declaration.

"So you have recommenced the war," said he.

"Yes," briefly answered the Indian.

"Then all is well," said the half-caste.

"I am waiting," said the Guaycurus.

"The night advances; the sertanejo has not come so quickly to the rendezvous that he himself made, that he may speak of futile things to the powerful captains," added the Payagoas.

Malco Diaz appeared to be collecting his thoughts for some minutes; then he resumed:

"Can I reckon on my brothers?" said he, casting at the Indians the look of a viper.

"We are warriors; let the mameluco explain himself. If he wishes to gain some advantage by the war that is recommencing, we will serve him by serving ourselves," answered Tarou Niom.

The half-caste knew the Indians too well not to understand the ironical meaning of the words pronounced by the Guaycurus chief. However, he made no sign of having perceived that meaning.

"I direct you to a numerous caravan; so much the more easy to surprise as not having the least mistrust, and believing that the truce still exists, it is on the march almost without any guard."

"Ah," said the two Indians.

"Yes," resumed Malco; "I am moreover so much the more certain of what I advance, as, for two moons—that is to say, from the day when this caravan left Rio de Janeiro—I have served as guide."

"Good, so doubt is not possible," said the Guaycurus.

"In no respect."

"And towards what part is this caravan going?"

"They do not intend to stop until they come to the Rio San Lourenço."

"Are these men Paulistas?" asked Tarou Niom.

"No," briefly answered the half-caste.

The two chiefs exchanged a look.

"But," resumed Malco Diaz, "although they may not be Paulistas, they are your enemies."

"Perhaps," said the Payagoas.

"Is he a friend who enters into a country to seize upon the riches it contains without the authority of the true masters of that country?"

"Is such the thought of the chief of this caravan?" asked Tarou Niom.

"Not only his thought, but his design."

"Very well; but what are the riches which these men intend to seize?"

"The gold and the diamonds which are in the country."

"They know, then, that there are some?"

The half-caste smiled with sarcasm.

"Not only they know it," said he, "but also they know so well all the bearings of the country, that they can go there without a guide."

"Ah!" said the Indians, fixing upon him a scrutinising look.

"It is so," said he without being disconcerted.

"And who, then, has so well informed them about the riches of our country?" asked the Guaycurus.

"I," coolly answered Malco.

"You!" cried Tarou Niom, "Then you are a traitor."

The mameluco shrugged his shoulders.

"A traitor!" said he, with irony; "Am I then one of your people; do I belong to your nation; have you confided this secret, forbidding me to reveal it?"

"But, then, if you have sold your secret to these men, why do you now denounce them to us?"

"That is my affair, and concerns me only; as to you, see if it will suit you to allow strangers to penetrate into your country."

"Listen," said Tarou Niom severely; "you are just the man that your colour shows you; that is to say, a faithless white man. You sell your brethren. What price do you demand? Answer, and be brief."

The half-caste lifted his eyes at this rude apostrophe; then immediately collecting himself—

"A very little matter," said he, "the right of taking prisoner whomsoever may suit me, and to choose him without any obstacle being offered me."

"Very well, it shall be so."

"Then you accept?"

"Certainly, only, as according to your admission these people are not aware of the rupture of the truce, and as it would not be honourable to attack them unawares, we will warn them to be on their guard."

A flash of fury darted from the eyes of the half-caste.

"And if after that warning they were to renounce their project?" asked he.

"Then they would be sure to withdraw without fear of being disturbed in their retreat," drily answered the Guaycurus.

Malco Diaz made a gesture of fury, but after a moment a smile of raillery played upon his lips.

[1] In Botocondo, tarou, sun, niom, to come—rising sun.



The man whom the marquis had called immediately after his interview with the mameluco, and whom he had at once ordered to enter his tent, was short and thick, but well made and strong, and about forty years of age.

An Indian of a pure race, he bore on his countenance, which neither tattoo nor paint disfigured, the distinctive traits, although a little effaced, of the Mogul race. His black eyes, lively and full, his straight nose, his large mouth, his rather high cheekbones, formed a physiognomy which, without being handsome, was not wanting in a certain sympathetic charm. As we have said, he commanded some soldados da conquista attached to the caravan.

The captain, for such is the title that he bore, respectfully saluted the marquis, and waited till it might please him to speak to him.

"Sit down, Diogo," said the marquis, kindly; "we must have a long talk together."

The Indian bowed, and seated himself.

"You saw the man who went out of this tent a minute ago, did you not?" resumed the marquis.

"Yes, your Excellency," answered the captain.

"And without doubt you recognised him."

The Indian smiled, without otherwise answering.

"Good; what do you think of him?"

"Of whom, your Excellency?" said he.

"Of the man of whom I am speaking."

"Why, your Excellency, I think of him what you yourself think, probably."

"I ask your opinion, Señor Don Diogo, in order to judge if it tallies with mine."

"Eh, eh," said the Indian, shaking his head.

"Which is—"

"That this man is a traitor, my lord."

"So you also believe in treason on his part?"

"Well, my lord, to speak frankly, for 'tis a frank explanation you ask of me is it not?"


"Well, I am convinced that this accursed mameluco is quietly leading us to some trap that he has artfully prepared."

"That is very serious, you know," answered the marquis, in a reflective tone.

"Very serious indeed, your lordship. Malco is a sertanejos, and in the language of the desert, Sertão is the synonym of treason."

"Well, I avow to you the suspicions you utter do not astonish me."

"I am happy, my lord, to see you share my opinion."

"What! You have no suspicions?" cried the marquis.

"No, I am certain."

"Certain! And you have told me nothing of it up to the present time?"

"I am morally certain, but it would be impossible to prove what I advance at the present time."

The marquis allowed his head to fall on his breast, and remained silent for some moments.

"But," pursued he, "this moral certainty is founded on certain indications?"

"Oh, indications do not fail, my lord. Unhappily, these circumstances would appear very frivolous, if I revealed them to persons who were not forewarned; that is why I have abstained from saying anything to you before you asked me."

"Perhaps you are right, but now the situation is changed; it is I who, of my own accord, have asked this interview with you. The situation in which we are is critical; it may become more so."

"Come what may, I know I am doing my duty, and that is sufficient for me, even if Malco should come to affirm to your lordship that I have not spoken the truth about him."

"You have nothing to fear about señor Malco."

"Violent and wicked as he is, your lordship," answered the captain, with some animation, "I do not fear him, and he knows that well. This is not the first time we have fallen out."

"I did attach to my words the meaning you give to them; you have nothing to fear from Diaz, for the simple reason that he is no longer in my service."

"What! Your lordship," cried the Indian, with astonishment, "you have dismissed him?"

"No, it is he himself, of his own accord, who has left us to ourselves."

"Your Excellency was wrong to allow him to leave; when people have in their power a rascal of that stamp, they should not let him go."

"What could I do? His engagement was up, and he refused to renew it, or even to prolong it for some days; so I was obliged to consent to his departure."

"That is right, your Excellency; pardon me. This man was free, so you could not retain him; but, under similar circumstances, I should not have acted so, especially after my suspicions."

"I know well that is wrong; unhappily, I had no pretext to give him, no plausible reason to keep him."

"Yes, yes, all that is true; but believe me, my lord, if Malco has so abruptly left us, it is because he had strong reasons for doing so, and that he has near here some accomplices, in conjunction with whom he is preparing our ruin."

"I think with you, Don Diogo; but who are these accomplices? Where are they hidden?"

The captain smiled with cunning.

"Only birds and fishes do not leave traces of their path," said he; "skilful as a man may be, we can always discover his track."

"So you would give much to know where this man has gone to?"

"Certainly, my lord; notwithstanding the precautions by which he has surrounded his flight, and the care which he has taken to hide his tracks."

"Unhappily, before undertaking anything, we must wait for sunrise."

"Why should we wait till tomorrow, my lord? I ask your pardon for daring to interrogate you."

"Why, it appears to me that to discover a track, even if it were ever so plainly indicated, the first condition is to see clearly."

"That is of little importance, my lord," answered the captain; "for a man accustomed as I am to track the desert at all hours, darkness does not exist."

"So," cried the marquis, with a movement of satisfaction, "if I ordered you to mount horse—"

"I would mount immediately, my lord."

"And you would bring me news?"

"No doubt of it; am I not an Indian myself, my lord—a civilised Indian, it is true; but, nevertheless, I have preserved sufficient of the sagacity of the race to which I belong to fear no failure in a step which may appear to you very difficult."

"Since it is to be so, Don Diogo, put yourself in the saddle as soon as possible, and go, for heaven's sake. I await your return with most eager impatience."

"Before the rising of the sun I will return, and with good news; but I want you to allow me to conduct the affair in my own way."

"Act as you please, Captain; I trust to your sagacity."

"I shall not deceive your expectation, my lord," answered the captain, rising.

The marquis accompanied him as far as the curtain of the tent, and then returned to sit down; but, after some minutes of reflection, he abruptly rose, went out, and walked rapidly towards the mysterious tent of which we have already had occasion to speak.

This tent, much larger, than that erected for the marquis, was divided into several compartments by canvas sheets, ingeniously adapted, and rather resembled, for luxury and comfort, a habitation intended to last several months, than a camp merely constructed for a few hours.

The compartment which the marquis entered was furnished with sofas; a carpet was spread on the ground, and a silver lamp, curiously chased, placed on a piece of furniture, diffused a gentle and mellow light.

A young Negress of about twenty, of sprightly countenance and pretty figure, was occupied, on the entry of the marquis, in playing with a magnificent ara perched on a slip of rosewood, to which he was attached by a gold chain fastened to one of his legs.

The Negress, without leaving off the occupation in which she seemed to take delight, and making the bird utter discordant cries, leant carelessly towards the marquis, half turning in his direction with a movement full of arch insolence, and gave him a roguish look from beneath her long eyelashes, and waited till he should address her.

The marquis, without appearing to observe the hostile attitude assumed by the slave, took some steps towards her, and, touching her lightly with his finger—

"Phoebe," said he to her in Spanish, "will you please to take notice that I am here?"

"What is your presence to me, Señor marquis?" answered she, slightly shrugging her shoulder.

"To you, nothing; it is true, Phoebe, as it is not for you that I have come, but for your mistress."

"At this hour?"

"Why not?"

"Because doña Laura—fatigued, as it appears, by the long journey that she has been obliged to make today—has retired, ordering me not to allow anyone to come near her."

A feverish flush suffused the countenance of the marquis; he knitted his eyebrows so as to make them meet; but considering, no doubt, the ridiculousness of a scene with a slave who was only acting according to orders, he soon mastered himself.

"Well," said he, intentionally slightly raising his voice, "your mistress is free in her own house to act in her own way; only, this interview, which for some days she has refused me with such obstinacy, I shall know how to compel her to accord to me."

Scarcely had he pronounced these words, when a curtain was drawn aside, and doña Laura entered the room.

"You threaten me, I think, Don Roque de Castelmelhor," said she, in a sharp and loud voice. "Retire, Phoebe," added she; "but only go so far as you may be able to come to me immediately."

Phoebe bowed her head, cast a last look at the marquis, and left the room.

"Now, Señor caballero," pursued doña Laura, "since the slave has retired, speak; I will listen to you."

The marquis bowed respectfully to her—

"Not, Señorita, before you have deigned to take a seat."

"What good will that do? But," she added, "if that mark of condescension will abridge this interview, it would ill become me not to obey you."

The marquis bit his lip, but did not answer.

Doña Laura seated herself on the sofa farthest removed, and crossing her arms on her chest with a wearied air, while she fixed on her interlocutor a haughty look—

"Speak now, I beg you," said she. "Phoebe has not lied to you; I am extremely fatigued."

These words were hissed, if we may employ the happy expression of an old author, from the most sharpened beak than can be imagined, and doña Laura leant her head on a cushion, feigning a slight gape.

But the resolution of the marquis had been taken, not to see or understand anything.

Doña Laura was sixteen years of age; all grace and delicacy. Her charmingly developed figure had that sprightliness which Spanish women alone possess. Her bearing was marked by that careless and voluptuous languor, the secret of which the Hispano-Americans have obtained from the Andalusians. Her long deep chestnut hair fell in silky ringlets on brilliantly white shoulders; her blue and dreamy eyes seemed to reflect the azure of the sky, and were crowned by black eyebrows, the delicate outline of which was traced as with a pencil. Her finely chiselled nose, and her charming little mouth, which, in half opening, discovered a double row of pearly teeth, completed a beauty rendered more gentle and noble by the delicacy and transparency of her skin.

Dressed in gauze and muslin, like all Creoles, the young girl was ravishing, seated on a sofa like the beija flor in the chalice of a flower, especially at that moment when anger, suppressed and mastered with difficulty, caused her virgin bosom to palpitate, and covered her cheeks with a crimson flush, doña Laura had something seductive, and at the same time majestic about her, which imposed respect, and almost commanded veneration.

Don Roque de Castelmelhor, notwithstanding the decision, and the formal intention he had manifested, could not resist the powerful charm of a beauty so noble and pure. His look fell before that of the young girl, which was filled with hatred and almost with contempt.

"We have reached, Señorita," he said, "after great fatigues, the limit of the civilised countries of Brazil; for, if I do not deceive myself, the route it is now necessary to follow is hidden in deserts into which, before us, a few hardy explorers only had dared to venture. I think, then, that the time has come to exchange explanations frankly."

Doña Laura smiled with disdain, and, interrupting him with a gesture:

"As that situation, caballero," said she, with bitterness, "cannot be rendered clearer and more decided, I will spare you, if you wish it, the embarrassment of entering into certain details... Oh, do not interrupt me," said she, with vivacity, "here is the fact in a few words: my father, don Zeno Álvarez de Cabral, a descendant of one of the most illustrious conquerors of this country, a refugee in the environs of Buenos Aires, from reasons of which I am ignorant, but which doubtless little concern you, rendered hospitality to a lost traveller, who, in the middle of the night, during a frightful storm, presented himself at the door of his hacienda. That traveller was you, Señor, you, a descendant of a race not less illustrious than ours, since one of your ancestors was governor of Brazil. The name of the marquis, don Roque de Castelmelhor, offered to my father all the guarantees of honour and good faith he could desire; you were received, then, by the exile, not as a foreigner, not even as a compatriot, but as a friend and a brother. Our family became yours; all that is true, is it not?"

"All that is true, Señorita," answered the marquis.

"I see, with pleasure, that you have, in default of other qualities, frankness, Señor," ironically replied the girl. "Robbed of all its property, my family, exiled for nearly a century from the country discovered by one of its ancestors, could live but with difficulty. You presented yourself to my father as a victim of the political intrigues of people into whose hands the king of Portugal had delegated his powers; this reason was sufficient for our house to become yours, and for my father not keeping secrets from you. There was one, however, of which, notwithstanding all your skill, it was impossible for you to obtain the revelation; it is on the discovery of that secret that depended the future fortune of his family, if, as my father hoped, the king should permit him someday to return to Brazil. This secret, which my father, my brother, and myself alone knew, by what means you succeeded, if not in wholly discovering it, at least in penetrating it sufficiently that your covetousness and your avarice should be aroused to the point of making you betray your benefactors—that is what I shall not seek to explain. In a word, although you had, during several months, lived intimately with us, without appearing to honour me with the least attention—treating me rather as a child than as a young girl, suddenly you changed. You see that I also am frank."

"Go on, Señorita," answered the marquis, smiling, "I know your candour. It remains for me to learn whether you possess as much perspicacity."

"You shall not be long judging of that, Señor," replied she, ironically. "Perhaps your cares and devotion would have obtained the result you hoped for, and I might have been brought, if not to love you, at least to be interested in you; but, happily for me, I was not long in seeing clearly into your heart. Carried away by insatiable avarice, you allowed yourself on several occasions in my presence, to speak to me of everything but your pretended love."

"Oh, Señorita," exclaimed the marquis.

"Yes," answered she, with bitter raillery; "I know you are a consummate actor, and that it would not be my fault were I even now to believe in that passion of which you make so great a display."

The young girl paused for some moments, to allow the marquis the opportunity of answering, but, instead of doing so, he bit his lips and bowed his head.

Doña Laura smiled.

"The brutal way in which you have traitorously carried me off is the most decided proof to me of the odious scheme of which I have been the victim. If you really loved me, nothing was easier to you than to ask my hand of my father."

"Señorita, did you not answer to the demand I had the honour to address to you by a refusal?" asked the marquis.

"Certainly; but I am only a young girl," answered she, with animation, "a child, as you yourself have said, who does not know herself. That offer of marriage ought not then in any way, and especially with regard to the rules of society to have been addressed to me, but to my father. But no! You had another design: that marriage was but a pretext for you to seize on the immense riches you covet. At this moment you would not dare to maintain the contrary."

"Who knows?" murmured he, with an air of raillery.

"So you have preferred to cause me to fall into a snare, to carry me away from my family, whom my disappearance has plunged into the most profound despair, and to force me to follow you—I, a poor defenceless child, a prisoner in the midst of bandits, of whom you are the chief."

"Since, according to your own expression, Señorita, I have so brutally carried you away from your family, have I conducted myself towards you otherwise than as a gentleman of my name and race ought?"

"It is true," answered she, bursting into a fit of laughter; "I must admit that. But what is the cause of these attentions and this respect?"

"Love most sincere and most—"

"Enough of lies, Señor;" she cried, "your first word on entering under this tent betrayed you."


"You believe yourself to have arrived in the latitude of the diamond country discovered by one of my ancestors, and you wish at last to try and obtain from me—for avarice blinds you—the revelation of the secret you believe I possess!"



There was, after this accusation, so energetically pronounced by the young girl, some minutes of deathlike silence in the tent.

Without, the wind lashed the trees, and intertwined the branches with sounds almost like human wailings; the leaves were whirled in the air, and fell quivering on the thicket; at short intervals the lugubrious note of the owl, concealed in the hollows of the rocks, was heard, repeated from the distance like a dismal echo. Vague and indefinable sounds arose, carried on the wings of the wind, dying away only to be continually repeated, and further adding to the mysterious horror of this sombre and moonless night, the thick darkness of which gave to the objects a fantastically deathlike appearance.

The marquis had risen, his arms crossed behind his back, his head reclining on his breast; he strode about the tent, a prey to an agitation which he made vain efforts to conceal.

Doña Laura, half lying on the sofa, her head thrown backwards, followed him with a fixed and mocking look, waiting with anxiety the approaching explosion of that anger she had not been afraid to excite.

At last, after some minutes, which appeared an age to the young girl, the marquis stopped in front of her, and raised his head.

His face was pale, but his features had resumed their careless and mocking expression, only a light nervous quivering of his eyebrows—an index with him of a furious rage, mastered with difficulty—bore witness to the efforts he was compelled to make to subdue himself.

"I have allowed you, have I not, Señorita," said he, "to speak without interrupting you; I have in this interview—you will at least render me that justice—given proof, not only of patience, but of good taste. In fact," added he, with an ironical smile, "of what use is it to discuss an accomplished fact? Nothing that you can say will change your actual position; you are in my power; no human aid can succeed in modifying my intentions towards you. This conversation, that I should wish to have been conducted more amicably, you yourself, of your own accord, have placed on the unfriendly footing on which it now is."

He stopped; the young girl coquettishly supported her head on her right hand, and surveying him with a look, in which contempt and raillery were equally mingled, she answered him with a careless voice—

"You make a grave mistake, caballero. This conversation, which you value so much, I care very little for. Now that I have explained myself clearly, and without reservation, I will allow you to speak as much as you please, since it is impossible for me to impose silence on you, and I am condemned to hear you; only, I warn you beforehand, in order to avoid the expenditure of useless eloquence, that whatever you may say to me, whatever may be the threats you offer me, you will not obtain the honour of an answer."

The marquis bit his lip with so much violence that he drew blood, but answered with a sneer—

"In truth, Señorita, is this resolution firmly fixed in your mind? You will not deign to answer me? I shall be deprived of hearing the harmonious music of your gentle voice resounding in my ear; but, in spite of yourself, I am convinced, you will fail in your heroic vow."

"Try it," answered she with disdain. "The occasion is suitable for me to give you a denial."

"I shall take care not to allow it to escape, Señorita."

The marquis approached a butaca, placed a few paces before the young girl, sat down, and assuming an attitude full of grace and carelessness, he continued in a tone as peaceable as though he had been commencing a confidential communication—

"Señorita," said he, "you have, I admit, perfectly defined our respective positions; that secret you possess has been revealed to me by chance by a former servant of your family, who sold it me very dear. It was, then, with the fixed intention of obtaining the information necessary to the success of my plans, that I presented myself to your father. You see that I imitate your candour. I did not love you, and, to say the truth, I do not love you now. A woman like you, seductive as you are, would not suit me; your disposition is too much like my own. I should have probably married you had you consented to give me your hand—pardon me this rude candour—but, resolved to seize the treasure that I covet, I should, to assure myself of its possession, have accomplished what I consider as the greatest sacrifice, that is to say, the act of alienating my liberty forever in favour of a woman whom I did not love."

The young girl bowed with a mocking smile, and clapped her hands two or three times.

Almost immediately the curtain was drawn aside, and the slave appeared.

"Phoebe," said doña Laura to her, "as probably I shall not be able to take the repose which I need till very late, and as I feel, in spite of myself, my eyelids drooping, and sleep overcoming me, bring me the maté, my child, and bring me at the same time papelitos; perhaps these two stimulants combined, and taken in a strong dose, will triumph over the sleepiness which oppresses me."

The slave went out laughing, and the marquis remained an instant, overcome by the superb coolness of the young girl, and her heroic indifference.

Some minutes passed away, during which they both maintained silence; there the light step of the Negress was again heard, and she reappeared, holding in her hands a silver platter, on which were the maté, some cigarettes of Indian maize straw, and a silver braserito, containing fire.

Phoebe presented the maté to her mistress, and made a movement to withdraw.

"Remain, chica," said doña Laura; "what the marquis has to tell me cannot be too serious for you to hear."

The young servant placed on the table the platter she held, and came incontinently to lie at the feet of her mistress, exchanging with her a mocking smile, which redoubled, if that is possible, the rage of the marquis.

"Let it be so," said the marquis, bowing, "I will continue before your slave, Señorita; it is little consequence to me who hears or who listens to me; moreover, I have but a few more words to say."

Doña Laura sipped her maté, without paying any attention to the speech of the marquis.

"You never put sugar enough in the maté, chica," said she; "this is bitter."

"I was saying, Señorita," continued the marquis, "that, repulsed by you, but not wishing to renounce projects for a long time ripened and fixed in my mind, I at last resolved to carry you away. I will not weary you with the recital of the means employed by me to succeed in deceiving the restless vigilance of your family. Since you are here alone in my power, at several hundred leagues from the residence of your father, it is not only that I have succeeded in making you fall into the snare laid by me under your feet, but also that I have so well guarded against the suspicions of those who interest themselves in your fate."

"Decidedly, Phoebe, this maté is too bitter," said the young girl; "give me a cigarette."

The slave obeyed.

"Now, Señorita," continued the marquis, still impassable, "I am coming to the end of this conversation, of which all that has been yet said is to a certain extent only a preface—a rather long preface, perhaps, but one which you will pardon me, for it was indispensable, to make myself well understood by you. I have carried you away, it is true; but reassure yourself, as long as you remain under my protection, your honour shall be safe; I give you the word of a gentleman for it. You smile; you are wrong. I am honest in my way. Give me the exact indications that I expect from you, and immediately I grant you, not only liberty, but, moreover, I engage to send you back safe and sound, without your honour being suspected, into the hands of your family. Strange as this proposition may appear to you, it is nevertheless serious, and appears to me to merit your consideration. Answer me one word—one word only, 'Yes' and on the instant you are free."

The marquis paused; doña Laura remained mute, and appeared not to have heard.

"You are obstinate, Señorita," replied Don Roque, with some animation "you are wrong; you are staking, I repeat, your fortune and your future happiness at this moment."

"Another cigarette, Phoebe," interrupted doña Laura, shrugging her shoulders.

"Beware!" cried Don Roque, with ill-suppressed irritation; "Beware, Señorita we must finish once for all these continual evasions."

The young girl rose, took a step towards the marquis, measured him for an instant from head to foot, covering him, so to speak, with a look charged with all the contempt which she felt for him, and turning towards Phoebe, who was motionless and mute by her side—

"Come, chica," said she to her, placing her hand on her shoulder; "the night is far advanced, it is time for us to retire, and go to sleep."

And without granting another look to the marquis, mute and stupefied with this audacious procedure, the young girl quitted the room.

In spite of himself, the marquis remained an instant in the place which he occupied; his eyes firmly fixed on the curtain, the folds of which still preserved a scarcely perceptible vibration. All of a sudden he recovered himself, passed his hand across his forehead, moist with perspiration, and darting a look of hatred towards the spot where doña Laura had disappeared—

"Oh!" cried he, with a voice stifled by fury, "What tortures will I pay for so many insults!"

He left the tent, staggering like a drunken man.

The cold air of the night, fanning his face, brought him wonderful relief; little by little his features regained their serenity; calmness returned to his mind; an ironical smile played upon his slender lips, and he murmured in a low voice, as he strode towards his tent:

"Fool that I am to allow myself to be carried away thus by a foolish child! What in reality are her insults and contempt to me? Am I not master to subdue her pride? Patience, patience! Nay, vengeance, if it be long in coming, will only strike her the more cruelly, and will be only the more terrible."

The marquis re-entered his tent. After having regulated the wick of a lamp the flickering light of which feebly illumined the surrounding objects, Don Roque approached a round stool, which served him for a table, and drawing from his breast a yellow and stained paper, on which was rudely drawn, by an unskilful hand, a kind of rough plan, he proceeded to study it with the greatest care, and was not long in becoming completely absorbed.

The entire night was passed away without the marquis quitting the position he had taken, and without his eyes closing for a single instant.

The plan, rough and incomplete as it appeared to be, was that of the diamond country, which concealed those incalculable riches so ardently coveted by the young man.

But this plan—made from memory a long time after having seen the country, and that in superficial manner, by an ignorant man—could unluckily only be a feeble aid to the marquis. He felt it in spite of himself, and this certainty redoubled his fury.

But what could be done with a woman more than he had done with doña Laura? How was he to vanquish her resistance, and constrain her to speak?

For more than three hours the sun had already risen; the marquis, still plunged in his thoughts, had not appeared to perceive the return of the light, when the gallop of a horse which approached rapidly, caused him suddenly to raise his head.

At the same instant the curtain of the tent was withdrawn, and the captain entered.

The Indian was covered with dust; his flushed features, and his forehead covered with perspiration, showed the velocity of his journey.

"Ah, it is you, Diogo!" cried the marquis on perceiving him. "Welcome, what news?"

"Nothing, my lord," answered the captain.

"How nothing? Have you not been able to succeed in discovering the track of that Malco?"

"Pardon me, my lord; I have, on the contrary, followed that track for more than three hours."

"Then you have news to give me?"

"I have, my lord, but not what you expect."

"Explain yourself, my friend; my head is a little fatigued."

"Here is the fact, in a few words, my lord. After having, as I have told you, followed for three hours, without the slightest deviation, the track of Malco—a track, let it be said to his honour, thoroughly devious, and as to which everybody but myself would inevitably have been deceived, so skilfully was it made—I arrived on the borders of a forest, into which I did not hesitate to enter. Absorbed by the care I took in not losing this frightfully involved track, I did not care to look much around me, so that I suddenly found myself in an Indian encampment."

"An encampment of Indians so near us!" cried the marquis, with surprise.

"Yes, my lord, of Indian bravos, and moreover, the bravest of this country."


"Yes, I found myself suddenly face to face with three Indians, of whom one was a Guaycurus, the other a Payagoas; as to the other, he was simply a Monduruka slave."

"Oh, oh! That is serious for us."

"It could not be more serious, my lord."

"And how did you escape from this trap?"

"These savages have honour. Although my uniform revealed me as one of their most deadly enemies, they, nevertheless, received me in a friendly way, and invited me to sit near their fire."

"That is strange," murmured the marquis.

"Seeing that they received me thus, I accepted their invitation frankly, and sat myself near them. My design was to make them talk, in which I succeeded."

"Aha! What did they say?"

"They informed me that Malco had come to seek them some hours before me; that he had had a long conversation with them, and that he had informed them of your arrival, the number of men at your disposal, and even the very spot where you encamped."

"The wretch! The double traitor!" cried the marquis.

"This revelation, I admit, made me reflect seriously, and placed me in great embarrassment, from which I did not know how to escape, when the Indians themselves furnished me with the means to make an honourable retreat."

"How is that?"

"The Guaycurus chief informed me that the truce concluded with the whites had been broken."

"Oh!" exclaimed the marquis, "What fatality! To fail so near the end."

"Permit me to finish, my lord."

"Speak! Speak!"

"The chief added, that probably as you had for a long time left the plantations, you were ignorant of this rupture, and that consequently it would not be right to abuse your good faith by attacking you."

"Ah!" said the marquis, breathing heavily.

"As they do no not wish to be wanting in the laws of hospitality, they give you two days to go away."

"H'm," cried the marquis, whom these last words plunged more profoundly into the perplexity from which, for an instant, he thought he had escaped; "What did you say then, Diogo?"

"The most strict truth, my lord, on my honour."

"I believe you, my friend; but finish."

"Oh, I have nothing much more to add, except that they informed me that, in case you refused to accept this condition, you would be inevitably attacked."

"And about Malco? Did they tell you nothing more about him?"

"Not a word, my lord."

"So that you are completely unaware where this wretch hides himself?"

"Absolutely, my lord; I thought that what the Guaycurus chief had told me was of such great importance, that you would desire to be informed of it as soon as possible, so I have returned as rapidly as I could."

"You have done well, my friend; I thank you. But in such circumstances as these," he asked, "how would you act?"

"I should beat a retreat."

"Beat a retreat; never!"

"Then we shall be massacred to the last man."

"No matter, I will push ahead. You will not abandon me?"

"I, my lord? My duty is to follow you; wherever you go I will follow. What is it to me to be killed?"

And after having respectfully saluted the young man, the captain withdrew with as tranquil and careless a step as though he were not certain beforehand that the order just given him was equivalent to a condemnation to death.

When he was alone the marquis remained an instant motionless; then, stamping his foot with rage, and darting to heaven a look of defiance—

"Oh!" cried he, with a stifled voice, "These cursed diamonds; I will have them, although it were necessary, in seizing them, to walk in blood up to the girdle."



While, according to his orders, the captain of the soldados da conquista caused the camp to be raised and the mules to be laden, preparing everything for an immediate departure, the marquis—a prey to a terrible agitation—strode about his tent, cursing the fate which appeared to dog his steps, and obstinately to destroy his most skilful plans, constantly removing far from him at the moment when he thought to seize it, the rich treasure that he coveted—a treasure which, since he had laid himself out to seek it, had cost him so much fatigue and weariness of every kind, and for which he had during so long a time braved immense perils, and almost lost his honour.

Suddenly he stopped, striking his forehead. A new idea crossed his mind, giving a brightness to his eye; he tore a page from his pocketbook, wrote some words in haste, and gave it to a slave, ordering him to carry it, on his part, to doña Laura Antonia de Cabral.

The day was splendidly beautiful; the sun had risen, radiant on the horizon in waves of purple and gold; the morning breeze gently refreshed the atmosphere, and the birds, timidly perched under the foliage, sang with full vigour their joyous songs.

All was joy and happiness in that scene, so calm and majestic, which the hand of man had not yet deformed.

The black slaves, the half-caste hunters, and the Indian soldiers who composed the caravan, felt, spite of themselves, the magnetic influence of that delicious morning, and appeared to have forgotten their past perils and fatigues to care for nothing but the future, which appeared to them so sweet, and so full of seductive promise; it was in laughing, in singing, and in talking gaily among themselves, that they accomplished the rude task of raising the camp.

The marquis alone remained dull and pensive. It was because, scorched by the shameful thirst for gold, his heart concealed a terrible tempest, and remained insensible to the magnificent harmonies of nature which acted so powerfully on the rude but honest organisations of the Indians and Negroes.

However, the horses were saddled, the mules were again loaded, the rolled up tents were placed on a waggon drawn by several oxen. Doña Laura had stepped into her palanquin, which was immediately closed upon her. They only waited the order of the marquis to put themselves en route.

Don Roque was walking apart, absorbed in his thoughts; he appeared to have forgotten that all was ready for the departure, and that the moment had come to effect the descent of the mountain—to enter the desert.

At last the captain ventured to touch him lightly on the arm.

"What do you want with me, Don Diogo?" asked Don Roque, drily.

"My lord," answered he, "we only await your pleasure to commence the journey."

"If it is so, let us set out immediately," answered he, making a movement towards his horse.

"Pardon, my lord," pursued the Indian; "before you give orders for the march, I have some important information to submit to you."

"To me!" cried the marquis, looking at him with surprise.

"To you, my lord," coldly answered the Indian.

"Is it a new treason by which I am threatened?" pursued he, with a bitter smile; "And do you wish to abandon me—you also, Don Diogo?"

"You are doubly unjust to me, my lord," sharply answered the Indian; "I have no intention of abandoning you."

"If I am wrong, which is possible, excuse me, Don Diogo; and let us come to business, I beg you. Time flies."

"Some minutes more or less do not matter, my lord; we shall arrive quickly enough where we are going."

"What do you wish to say—explain yourself."

"What I have already had the honour to say to you this morning, my lord, that not one of us will return from this expedition."

The marquis made a gesture of impatience—

"Is it then for you to repeat to me your sinister predictions that you stop me thus?" he cried.

"By no means, your Excellency; I do not admit my right either to control your acts or to oppose your plans. I have warned you, that is all. I am now at your orders."

"You have not, I hope, whispered a word to anyone of these absurd crotchets which possess your brain?"

"What use would it be, my lord, to speak without your authority of what you term crotchets, and what I term certainties? The soldiers placed under my orders know as well as I do what awaits them in the desert. As to your slaves, what use would it be to frighten them beforehand? Is it not better to leave them in entire ignorance? For, I repeat, to escape will be impossible for us."

The marquis knitted his eyebrows, and crossed his arms with anger.

"Let us see," resumed he, with a subdued voice, but nevertheless, with trembled emotion, "let us make amend for it, Diogo."

"I ask nothing better, your Excellency."

"Speak, but be brief; I repeat, time flies, an hour ago we ought to have been on our journey."

The captain scratched his forehead with an embarrassed air, but appearing all of a sudden to arrive at a decision.

"This is the state of the case, my lord," said he; "up to the present time we have traversed civilised countries, or nearly so, where we have only had to contend against ordinary dangers; that is to say, the bites of wild beasts or those of reptiles."


"Why, you understand, my lord, we are about, in a few minutes, to enter the territory of the redskins."

"To what are you driving, with these interminable preambles?" asked the marquis.

"To this, your Excellency; you are a great lord, expert in everything connected with civilised life, but pardon me for saying so, in complete ignorance of life in the desert. I believe then, with all due respect to you, my lord, that it would be well for you to permit me to take upon myself alone, from today, the responsibility of the journey of the caravan. There, your Excellency, that is what I wished to say to you."

The marquis remained some moments silent; his eyes fixed on the calm and loyal countenance of the captain.

"What you ask of me is very serious, Don Diogo," at last answered the marquis. "Treason surrounds me on every side; the men on whom I thought I had the most right to count have been the first to abandon me; you yourself consider this journey in advance to be a folly, and appear to be afflicted by sad presentiments."

"Your Excellency, I am not surprised at the suspicions against me which arise in your mind; on the contrary, I think them very natural. But the soldados da conquista are all tried men, chosen with the greatest care, and since the formation of this corps there has never been found a traitor in it. I do not say this for myself, but the honourable manner in which I have spoken to you—the things I have told you—ought to inspire, if not entire confidence in me, at least the commencement of it."

"Yes, I know; all your proceedings have been in good faith; you see that I render you justice."

"Not sufficiently, your Excellency; you judge me according to the knowledge acquired in civilised life, and not by that of the desert. Permit me, then, to make a simple observation."


"We are fifty leagues from the nearest town, a few leagues only from the Indian enemies, who only await an opportunity to attack us."

"That is true," murmured the marquis pensively,

"Good! You understand me, your Excellency; now, suppose I am a traitor?"

"I have not said so."

"Well! I admit nothing would be easier for me than to abandon you to yourself where we now are—to leave with my soldiers, and believe me, your Excellency, you would be as irremediably lost as if I gave you over tomorrow, or any other day, to the Indians."

The marquis turned pale, and his head fell on his breast with a troubled air. The logic of the captain's reason struck him to the heart, showing him his own powerlessness, and the great devotion of the man whom he accused, and who was ready so nobly to sacrifice his life to serve him.

"Pardon me my unjust suspicions, Don Diogo," he said; "my doubts are dissipated forever. I have faith in you; act in your own way, without even consulting me, if you think necessary. I swear to you, on my word of honour as a gentleman, that I will not embarrass you in anything; and that, under all circumstances, I will be the first to set the example of obedience."

"I regret that I only have a life to sacrifice for you, my lord," answered the captain.

"Do not speak any more of that, my friend, but act for the best."

"I will try to do so, my lord. First, will you inform me in what direction you intend to proceed?"

"We must first reach the borders of a little lake which lies in the neighbourhood of the Rio Bermejo."

"Oh, oh," answered the Indian, "the journey is long; we have to traverse, before arriving there, all the country of the Guaycurus and the Payagoas; then we shall pass the Rio Pilcomayo, to enter the Islano de Manso. It is a rough way, your Excellency."

"I have always thought that Malco Diaz made us take a wrong direction."

"You are wrong, my lord. The manner in which he has abandoned you shows that he had the greatest interest in bringing you as quickly as possible to the Indian territory."

"That is true."

"Now, my lord, if you will please to mount horse, we will set out as soon as you like."

"Immediately," answered the marquis.

The young man went towards the palanquin, in which doña Laura was shut up, whilst the captain rejoined his soldiers, and prepared all for the departure.

The marquis reined his horse to the right side of the palanquin, and slightly leaning from his saddle—

"Doña Laura," said he, "do you hear me?"

"I hear you," answered the young girl, although she remained invisible.

"Will you listen to me for a few minutes?" pursued the marquis.

"It is impossible for me to do otherwise," murmured she.

"You have received my letter this morning? Have you read it?"

"I have read it."

"I thank you, Señorita."

"I do not accept thanks which I do not merit."

"For what reason?"

"Because this letter has not in the least influenced my immovable determination."

The marquis made a gesture of scorn.

"You do not accept my conditions?"


"Consider, that a terrible danger threatens you."

"It will be welcome, whatever it may be, if it delivers me from the slavery in which you hold me."

"That is your last word, Señorita?"

"The last."

"But such obstinacy is folly."

"Perhaps. In any case it avenges me of you."

"It is to death that you are proceeding."

"I hope so; but you only asked of me a few minutes for conversation. They have nearly passed. Spare me then, Señor, speaking anymore to me, for I shall not answer you. Moreover, I perceive that your bandits are resuming their journey."

Indeed, the caravan began to descend the slope of the mountain, the path narrowed more and more, and a long conversation became absolutely impossible.

"Oh; curses on you," cried the marquis with rage.

The young girl only answered by a burst of mocking laughter. Don Roque made a last gesture of menace, and buried his spurs in the flanks of his horse.

The captain had brought to bear on his arrangements for the march the qualities both of a soldier and an experienced trapper.

The soldados da conquista, accustomed for a long period to make war on the Indians, had been placed in advance by him, and on the flanks of the caravan, under orders to clear the route, and to carefully watch the thickets both to the right and left.

The half-caste hunters, formed in a single compact troop, advanced, fusil on thigh and finger on trigger, with eye and ear on the watch.

The Negro slaves formed the rearguard.

The caravan, thus disposed, could not but present a considerably extended and imposing line. It was composed of fifty-five men in all, of whom about forty-five were resolute fellows, for a long time accustomed to track the desert, and who could be reasonably counted on in case of need. As to the other ten, they were Negro or mulatto slaves who had never seen fire.

The caravan slowly descended the mountain, its track cleared right and left by the soldiers sent out by the captain as scouts.

By degrees, as the travellers approached the desert, the landscape changed, and assumed a more imposing and grand aspect.

Some moments more, and the descent would be finished.

Don Roque approached Don Diogo, and touching him lightly on the shoulder—

"Well," said he, smiling, "we shall soon be on the plain, and we have not seen a living soul. Believe me, captain, the threats made by the Indians are but rodomontade; they have tried to frighten us, that is all."

"Do you speak seriously, my lord?" said the Indian. "Do you really believe what you say?"

"Certainly, dear Don Diogo; and everything, it appears to me, gives me reason to do so."

"Then you are taking a wrong view of it, your Excellency, for I certify to you that the Guaycurus have advanced nothing that they do not intend to carry out."

"Do you fear an attack?" said the marquis.

"An attack—not, perhaps, immediately, but at least a summons."

"A summons; on the part of whom?"

"Why, on the part of the Guaycurus, probably."

"Come, you are jesting. On what do you base such supposition?"

"I do not suppose, your Excellency, I see."

"What, you see—"

"Yes, and it is easy for you to do the same, for before a quarter of an hour the man whom I warn you of will be before you."

"Oh, oh! That is good."

"Look, your Excellency," said Diogo, stretching his arm in a certain direction; "do you see that grass which quivers and bends with a regular movement?"

"Yes, I see it; well?"

"You remark, do you not, that this movement is only partial, and continually advances towards us?"

"Just so; but what does that prove?"

"That proves, your Excellency, that an Indian is coming towards us at a gallop."

"Come, you are jesting, captain."

"Not the least in the world, my lord; you will soon have a proof of it."

"I shall only believe it when I see it."

"If it is so," pursued the captain, hiding a smile, "believe, then, for here he is."

At that moment a Guaycurus Indian, armed as a warrior, and mounted on a magnificent horse, suddenly emerged from the high grass, and boldly reined up across the path, within a pistol shot of the Brazilians, waving in his hand a tapir skin.

"Fire on that vagabond," cried the marquis, shouldering his carbine.

"Do not do that," said the captain.

"What! Is he not an enemy?" pursued the marquis.

"That may be, your Excellency; but at this moment he is an envoy."

"As an envoy—that savage? You are jesting with me without doubt," cried the marquis.

"By no means, my lord; let us hear what this man has to say to us."

"What good will it be?" said he, with scorn.

"If it were only to know the projects of those who have sent him."

The marquis hesitated an instant, then placing his carbine again in his shoulder belt—

"Well, that is possible," murmured he; "better allow him to explain himself. Who knows? Perhaps they desire to treat with us."

"It is not probable," answered the captain laughing; "but, in any case, if you will permit me, my lord, I will go and question him."

"Do so, do so, Don Diogo; I am curious to know this message."

The captain bowed; then, after having thrown down his tromblon, his sabre, and his knife, he proceeded at a trot towards the Indian.

"You are mad," cried Don Roque, darting towards him; "what, do you abandon your arms? Do you wish, then, to be assassinated?"

Don Diogo smiled, shrugging his shoulders with disdain, and, holding back the marquis's horse by the bridle to prevent him advancing any further—

"Do you not see that that man is without arms?" said he.

The marquis made a gesture of surprise, and stopped; he had not remarked that circumstance.



The vast territory of Brazil is even at the present time inhabited by numerous Indian tribes, spread over the sombre forests and the vast deserts which cover that country.

Of these nations, two especially hold an important place in the history of the aboriginal races of Brazil; these are the Payagoas and the Guaycurus.

The latter most particularly occupy our attention.

After having exchanged with the marquis the few words which we have reported, Don Diogo advanced alone, and without arms, towards the Indian, who was boldly stationed across the path, and who regarded him as he approached without making the slightest movement.

These two men, although of a common origin, and both descended from the aboriginal race, and from the first owners of the soil which they trod, offered, nevertheless, two quite distinct types, and formed the most complete contrast.

The Guaycurus, painted as a warrior, proudly draped in his poncho, boldly sitting on his horse—as untamed as himself—his flashing eye firmly fixed on the man who advanced towards him, whilst a smile of proud disdain played upon his lips, would have well represented in the eyes of an observer the type of that powerful race, confident in its right and in its power, which, since the first day of its discovery, has sworn an implacable hatred to the whites; has retreated step by step before them, without ever having turned their back; and which has resolved to perish rather than submit to an odious yoke and a dishonourable servitude.

The captain, on the contrary—less vigorously built, embarrassed in his exact and artificial costume, bearing on his features the indelible mark of the servitude to which he had submitted, constrained in his posture, replacing haughtiness by effrontery, and only fixing by stealth a saturnine look on his adversary—represented the bastard type of that race to which he had ceased to belong, and the costumes of which he had repudiated, to adopt without understanding them, those of his conquerors, instinctively feeling his inferiority, and submitting, perhaps unknown to himself, to the magnetic influence of that nature which was so strong because it was free.

"Who are you, dog?" said the Guaycurus, harshly, casting on him a look of contempt; "You who bear the garments of a slave?"

"I am as you are, a son of this land," answered the captain, in a morose tone, "only more happy than you; my eyes are open to the true faith."

"Do not employ your lying tongue in sounding your own praises. It ill becomes you to me," answered the warrior, "to boast of the sweetness of slavery."

"Are you then come, crossing my route, to insult me?" said the captain, with an ill-suppressed accent of rage. "My arm is long, and my patience short."

The warrior made a gesture of disdain.

"Who would dare to flatter himself to frighten Tarou Niom?" said he.

"I know you; I know that you are famed in your nation for your courage in combat and your wisdom in council. Cease, then, from vain romancing and bombast."

"A fool sometimes gives good counsel," was the warrior's repartee; "what you say is just. Let us come, then, to the real subject of this interview. I wait while you explain."

"Why have you not reported to the palefaces the message with which I charged you for them?"

"I am no more the slave of the whites than you."

"And notwithstanding that warning, they continue to march in advance?"

"You see it is so."

"These men are mad."

"They by no means share that opinion. More sensible than you, without fearing you, they do not scorn you."

"Is it not the greatest insult they can offer us, to dare to invade our territory?"

"They do not invade your territory."

"You are a dog with a forked tongue. The palefaces have no occasion to traverse our country."

"You have not the right to hinder the passage of peaceable citizens through your country."

"If we have not that right, we take it. The Guaycurus are the only masters of these territories."

"Listen to me," said Diogo, "that the truth may penetrate to your heart."

"Speak; am I not here to listen to you?"

"We have no intention of penetrating any further into your country; we only wish to pass."

"Aha! And what do you call the country to which you are going?" pursued the chief.

"The country of the Frentones."

"The Frentones are the allies of my nation; to enter on their territory is to enter on ours. We will not suffer this violation. Go and rejoin him who has sent you, and tell him that Tarou Niom consents to allow him to go, on condition that he will immediately turn his horse's head towards the north."

The captain remained unmoved.

"Do you not understand me?" asked the warrior, with violence; "On that condition alone can you hope to escape, every one of you, from death or slavery. Go!"

"It is useless," answered the captain; "the white chief will not consent to return before having definitively accomplished the object of his journey."

"What interest induces this man to stake his life?"

"I do not know; that is not my affair."

"Good; so, notwithstanding all that I may say to him, he will continue to advance?"

"I am convinced of it."

"Very well, he shall die."

"Is it, then, war that you desire?"

"No, it is vengeance. The whites are not our enemies; they are wild beasts that we kill."

"Take care, chief; the struggle between us will be serious, I warn you."

"So much the better; it is a long time since my sons have met an enemy worthy of their courage."

"This conversation is now useless; allow me to return to my people."

"Go, then; I have no more, indeed, to say to you. Remember, that it is the obstinacy of your master that calls down upon his head the misfortunes that will fall upon it."

"I thank you for the information; chief, I will profit by it, be sure of that," said Diogo, with irony.

The Guaycurus smiled without answering, and, burying his spurs in the flanks of his horse, disappeared almost instantly in the high grass.

The captain rejoined the marquis, who was waiting with impatience the result of the interview.

"Well," cried he, as soon as Don Diogo had made his appearance.

"What I foresaw has happened," answered the Indian.

"Which is—"

"That these Guaycurus will not, under any pretext, allow us to place our foot on their territory."


"They order us to retrace our steps; they are resolved not to give us a passage."

"We shall force one for ourselves by passing over their corpses," haughtily cried the marquis.

"I doubt it, your Excellency. No one individually is capable of successfully contending against ten enemies."

"Do you, then, think them so numerous?"

"I have understated it; it is not ten, but a hundred, that I should have said."

"You seek to frighten me, Diogo?"

"What use would it be, your Excellency? I know that nothing I could say to you would succeed in persuading you, it would be but wasting precious time."

"Then it is you who are afraid," cried the marquis.

The Indian, at this undeserved insult, turned pale in the manner of the men of his race; that is to say, his countenance assumed a tint of dull white; his eyes flushed with blood, and a convulsive trembling agitated all his limbs.

"What you say not only is not generous, your Excellency," he answered, "but is inappropriate at this moment. Why insult a man who for the last hour has endured uncomplainingly, on the part of your enemy, deadly insults?"

"But at all events," resumed Don Roque, in a more gentle voice, "our position is intolerable. We cannot remain here thus; how are we to escape from the difficulty in which we are?"

"That, your Excellency, is what I am thinking of. An immediate attack from the Guaycurus is not what concerns me at the present moment. I know their manner of fighting; they must have at the present moment an interest in sparing us—for why? I cannot yet decide, but I shall soon know."

"What makes you suppose that?"

"The obstinacy with which they try to persuade us to return, instead of assailing us unawares."

"What do you intend to do?"

"At first, to study the plans of the enemy, my lord, and, if God gives me aid I shall succeed, I swear, in discovering those plans."

"Be assured, that if we succeed in defeating their projects, and in escaping from our enemies, the recompense I shall give you will be equivalent to the service you render me."

"It is useless to speak of reward to a dead man, and I consider myself so," answered the captain.

"Always that thought!" said the young man.

"Yes, always, your Excellency, but do not concern yourself. Knowing that I cannot escape the fate which threatens me, I will try all that is humanly possible to postpone the inevitable catastrophe. That ought to reassure you."

"Not much," said the marquis with a smile.

"Only, your Excellency, I repeat, I want all my liberty of action."

"I have given you my word, as a gentleman."

"And I have accepted it, my lord. The war we are now commencing has nothing in common with those which, they tell me, you are accustomed to make in Europe. We have in face of us enemies whose principal weapon is trickery; it is only then by showing ourselves more keen and more subtle than they, that we shall succeed in conquering them, if it is possible for us—which I do not believe—to obtain that result."

"Once for all, I promise to give you the most perfect liberty, strange and singular as appear to me the dispositions you judge it necessary to take."

"That is speaking like a wise man; courage! Who knows? Perhaps God may deign to work a miracle."

"I thank you for at last giving me a ray of hope, Diogo," said the marquis, "as it is not a commodity of which you are a prodigal."

"We are men, to whom it is necessary to speak frankly, to put ourselves on our guard, my lord, and not timid children, whom it is necessary to deceive. Now," he added, "if you have no objection, we must encamp for the night."

"What! Stop already!" cried the young man.

"What a pity!" cried the Indian, "That this expedition should be doomed to end so badly! I could have given you some lessons, my lord, which would have made you, in time, one of the most skilful trappers of the Brazilian woods."

Notwithstanding the critical situation in which he was, the marquis could not forbear laughing at this outburst of the worthy captain.

"Never mind," answered he, "do not deprive me of your lessons. Perhaps they will be of use."

"With the favour of God, my lord; listen to me, then. This is what we ought to do."

"I am all attention."

"We ought not to penetrate any farther into the desert before having some positive information as to the movement of our enemies. This information I alone can obtain, by mixing with them and introducing myself into their villages. Do you understand me, my lord?"

"Pretty well; one thing alone in what you have told me remains doubtful."

"What is it?"

"You intend yourself to go and seek news."

"Just so; such is my intention."

"Do you not think that will be very imprudent? You risk being discovered."

"True, and if that should happen, my fate is decided. What would you, my lord? There is a risk to run, but by no other means of acting. However perilous such an expedition may be, it is not so much so as you may suppose, for a man who, like me, belongs to the Indian race and naturally knows the habits of the men he wishes to deceive."

While the marquis and the captain thus talked together, the caravan continued to advance slowly through the inextricable meanderings of a narrow path, traced with difficulty by the passage of wild beasts.

Silence the most complete reigned in the desert, which the foot of man appeared never to have trodden since the time of its discovery.

Meanwhile the half-caste hunters and the soldados da conquista, aroused by the unexpected presence before them of the Guaycurus chief, put themselves on their guard; they only advanced according to the Spanish expression, "with the beard on the shoulder," eye and ear on the watch, finger on the trigger of their fusils, ready to fire at the least alarm.

The caravan thus attained the hill on which Don Diogo proposed to encamp. The Indian—with that infallible glance which a long experience gives, and which is possessed only by men inured by years of life in the desert, so varied and so full of unforeseen dangers—had admirably chosen the only spot where it was possible to establish a camp which could resist a sudden attack of the enemy.

This hill formed an advance post of one of the largest rivers of the plain. Its steep sides were without verdure, its summit alone was covered with a thick wood. On the side next to the river the hill, which was almost perpendicular, was insurmountable, and only accessible by the desert for a space of ten yards at the most.

The marquis congratulated Don Diogo on the sagacity with which he had chosen this position—

"However," added he, "I cannot help asking myself whether it is necessary for a single night to establish ourselves on the summit of such a fortress."

"If we had but to remain there but a single night," answered the Indian, "I should not have given myself the trouble of choosing this place, but the information we have to obtain will take us some time, and we may remain here a few days."

"Remain a few days here!" cried the marquis.

"I cannot say positively. Perhaps we may set out again tomorrow. That will depend upon circumstances. Although our position may not be good, still it depends a little upon us not to make it worse."

"You are always right, my friend," answered the young man; "let us camp then since you wish it."

The captain then left the marquis, and proceeded to give all necessary orders.

The Brazilians first occupied themselves in securing the most important things—that is to say, the food and the munitions of war; then, this care taken, they installed the camp on the edge of the platform of the hill. They then formed a rampart of trunks of trees, interlaced one in the other. Behind this first rampart the waggons and carts were fastened in the form of a St. Andrew's cross.

According to the express orders of the captain, the trees which were necessary for the fortifications had to be felled; the others remaining standing were not only to give shade to the Brazilians, but also to serve for defence in case of assault, and moreover, to prevent the Indians reckoning them, and thus knowing the number of enemies whom they had to attack.



When night was come, and obscurity had completely enveloped the landscape; Don Diogo entered the tent where the marquis was walking up and down, his head drooping, and his arms crossed on his chest.

"Ah, 'tis you, Captain?" said the young man, stopping. "What news?"

"Nothing, your Excellency," answered the Indian. "All is calm; the night, I think, will be tranquil."

"However, you have, if I am not deceived, something to say to me."

"Just so, your Excellency; I come to announce that I am about to quit the camp."

"You quit the camp!"

"Is it not necessary that I go out for information?"

"True; how long do you reckon to be on this excursion?"

"Who can say, your Excellency? Perhaps one day, perhaps two; perhaps only a few hours. All will depend on circumstances. It is possible that I shall never return."

The marquis remained an instant—his eyes fixed with a strange expression on the captain.

"Don Diogo," said he, at last, placing his hand in a friendly way on his shoulder, "before leaving me, permit me to ask you a question."

"Do so, my lord."

"What is the reason which induces you to manifest so great a devotion—so complete a self-denial?"

"What good would it do to tell you, my lord; you would not understand me."

"Several times have I asked myself this question without being able to reply. We have only known each other two months; before the treason of Malco, I had scarcely exchanged a few ordinary words with you."

"Mon Dieu, my lord," carelessly answered the Indian; "I in nowise interest myself in you, believe me."

"But, then," cried the marquis, with the utmost surprise, "why risk your life for me?"

"I have told you, my lord, that you would not understand me."

"Never mind, my friend; answer my question, I beg you."

"You wish it, your Excellency?"

"I demand it, as far as I am permitted to have my way on such a matter."

"Be it so; listen to me then, my lord; only I doubt, I repeat, whether you will understand me."

"Speak, speak."

"Do not be angry, then, my lord, I beg you, if what you are about to hear should appear a little hard. To a question frankly put I must make a candid answer. You personally do not interest me at all. You yourself have said that I scarcely know you. Only it happens that you are in some respects under my keeping; that when I was placed under your orders, I swore to defend you in all circumstances during the time we should travel together. When that miserable Malco betrayed you, I understood the responsibility that the treason caused to devolve upon me."

"But," interrupted the marquis, "that is no reason why you should sacrifice your life."

"It is not to you, my lord, it is to myself that I make this sacrifice—to my honour, which would be wounded if I did not, if necessary, fall by your side, in trying, up to the last moment, to protect you, and to make a shield for you by my body. But," added he, with a sad smile, "of what use is it to dwell on this subject my lord? Profit by my devotion, without disquieting yourself about other matters. Moreover, it is not so great a thing as you think."

"How is that?"

"Eh! Mon Dieu, my lord, for a very simple reason; we soldados da conquista, who incessantly make war against the Indian bravos, continually stake our lives, and always finish by being killed in some ambuscade. You see that the sacrifice I make for you is very little, and does not merit in any way that I should glory in it."

Don Roque felt emotion in spite of himself, at the artless loyalty of this half-civilised man.

"You are worth more than I am," he said, holding out his hand.

"Why, no, my lord; I am less civilised, that is all; and," he continued, "now that I have answered your question, we will, if you please, return to our business."

"I do not ask anything better, Captain; you told me, I think, that you intended to quit the camp?"

"We have not an instant to lose to try and gain information; we have to do, do not forget, with Indian bravos—the cleverest and bravest of the desert. They are tough adversaries."

"I begin to believe it."

"While I am absent, remain in the camp, keep a good watch, and make yourself personally certain that the sentinels do not sleep at their post."

"Depend upon me for that."

"I forgot one very important thing, my lord; if you are attacked by the Indians during my absence, and hard put to it, attach a red faja to the highest branch of the watch tree; this faja I shall see in whatever place I may be."

"That shall be done; have you any other recommendations?"

"None, your Excellency; it only remains for me now to take leave. Remember not to go out."

"I shall not stir a step; that's agreed on. You will find me again, I hope, in as good a situation as that in which you leave me."

"I hope so, my lord. Au revoir!"

Diogo bowed a second time, and left the tent.

The captain set out from the camp on foot.

The soldados da conquista rarely use horses; they only employ them when they have a long journey on the plain, for the Brazilian forests are so thick and encumbered with ivy and creeping plants, that it is literally impossible to traverse them, otherwise than hatchet in hand, which renders a horse not only useless, but in some respects an obstruction, to his master, by the embarrassment which he continually causes.

Thus the soldados da conquista are generally excellent pioneers. These men have legs of iron, nothing stops or retards them; they march with a speed and certainty which would shame our chasseurs à pied, who, nevertheless, justly enjoy a reputation as hardy fellows on the march.

Captain Diogo enjoyed among his companions—good judges in such a matter—a reputation for uncommon sagacity. He had on many occasions given proofs of admirable skill and address, but he had never found himself in such difficult circumstances before.

The Indian bravos, of whom he was the implacable foe, and to whom he had caused irreparable losses, held him in deadly hatred, mingled with superstitious terror. Diogo had so often, and with such good fortune, escaped the snares spread under his feet—so often escaped a nearly certain death—that the Indians had come to believe that this man was protected by some unknown charm, and that he possessed supernatural power.

The captain knew well the opinion that the Indians had of him; he knew that if ever he fell into their hands, not only had he no quarter to hope for, but, moreover, that he had to expect the most frightful tortures. This certainly, however, had no influence on his mind; his boldness was not dismayed, and, far from taking precautions during the course of his various expeditions, it was with unspeakable pleasure that he braved his adversaries to the face.

The expedition that he was now making was the boldest and most difficult of all he had attempted.

His intention was nothing less than to enter a village of the Guaycurus, to be present at their meetings, and thus succeed in discovering their secrets.

After having left the camp, the captain rapidly descended the hill, proceeding, notwithstanding the thick darkness which surrounded him, with as much certainty as by daylight, and walking with such lightness, that the noise of his steps would, at some yards' distance, have been imperceptible to the most practised ear.

When he had reached the bank of the river, he looked around him an instant; then he threw himself on the ground, and commenced to crawl gently in the direction of a neighbouring wood, a part of which was washed by the water of a river.

Arrived at two or three steps from the wood, the Indian suddenly stopped, and thus remained for several minutes, without even the noise of his breathing being heard.

Then, after having, by looking around him, sounded the darkness, as it were, he huddled himself into a small space, like a wild beast ready to take a spring. Seizing his knife in the right hand, he lightly raised his head, and imitated, with rare accuracy, the hissing of the giboya, or boa constrictor.

Scarcely had this hissing sound been heard when the branches of the thicket were agitated; they were then separated with violence, and an Indian bounded in fright towards the river. At the same moment the captain darted behind him, buried his knife in the Indian's neck, and laid him dead at his feet.

This murder had been committed in less time than it has taken us to relate it. But a few seconds had flown, and the warrior was lying lifeless before his implacable enemy.

Don Diogo coolly wiped his knife with a tuft of grass, replaced it in his girdle, and leaning over his victim, he regarded him attentively.

"Come," he murmured, "fortune has favoured me; this is one of the chiefs; his costume will suit me."

After this "aside," which explained the secret motive for the murder he had just committed in so rude a manner, the captain took upon his shoulders the body of the Guaycurus, and concealed himself with it in the thicket, from which he had so skilfully drawn his enemy.

The reader must not conclude, from what we have just related, that the captain was a ferocious and sanguinary man. Don Diogo enjoyed amongst his companions a merited reputation for kindness and humanity, but the circumstances in which he was placed at that moment were exceptional. It was evident that if the Guaycurus spy, whom he had surprised and so pitilessly killed, had perceived him first, he would have stabbed him without hesitation. For that matter, the captain had taken care to say as much himself to the marquis. The war which was commencing was one of treachery and ambush.

Time was precious; he therefore hastened to despoil his victim, in whose vestments he clothed himself. By a fortunate coincidence the two men were about the same size.

The Indians possess a particular talent, not only for personation, but even put themselves into the very skin of those whose features they wish to borrow.

With very trifling exceptions, the painting of the Guaycurus chiefs is all the same, and as their bearing differs very little, when an Indian of pure race assumes their costume, he easily attains a complete disguise.

In a few instants the dead man was despoiled; only the captain took care to place under the enemy's poncho his own pistols and knife.

After having carefully concealed his own vestments in a hole which he dug for that purpose, the captain assured himself that profound silence reigned around him; then, reassured or nearly so, he took the corpse again upon his shoulders, attached a large stone to its neck, to prevent it from floating, and, carefully separating the branches of the thicket (the roots of which were planted in the water), he pushed it gently into the river, without making the least noise.

This delicate operation terminated, the captain glided again into the thicket, with a smile of satisfaction.

Two hours thus passed away, during which the mysterious silence of the desert was not disturbed.

Diogo began to weary of the length of his task; he was seeking some means of bringing it to an end, and of joining the Guaycurus, who could not, in all probability, be far removed, when a slight trembling of the dry leaves awakened his attention.

He soon perceived the step of a man who was approaching him; this man, although walking cautiously, did not appear to think the situation dangerous enough to demand great precautions—hence this trembling which, slight as it was, had not escaped the delicate and experienced ear of the captain.

But what was this man, and what did he want?

These questions that Diogo addressed to himself, and which were impossible for him to answer, only resulted in alarming him seriously for his personal safety.

To guard against anything which might happen, the captain held himself on his guard; the critical moment had arrived to contend with artifice against those whom he wished to deceive. He prepared himself to sustain bravely the shock, whatever it might be, with which he was threatened.

Arrived at about four paces from the thicket, in the midst of which the captain had placed himself—motionless and silent as a block of granite—the unknown rover stopped.

For some seconds there was perfect silence, during which one could almost have heard the brave soldier's heart beating.

He could not, by reason of the darkness, see his enemy, but he guessed where he was, and became very uneasy, considering his silence and his stillness as a bad omen.

On a sudden the cry of an owl was heard in the air twice repeated. Perfectly modulated as this imitation was, the ear of an Indian could not be deceived.

The captain understood that this cry was a signal from his unknown visitor; but to whom was it addressed? Was it to him, or was it to some warriors ensconced in the neighbouring thickets?

Perhaps the precautions of Diogo had not been well taken; the knot which tied the cord round the neck of the warrior whom he had killed had perhaps come undone, the body had floated, and the Guaycurus, perceiving the corpse, had discovered the treason, and were coming at this moment to avenge their brother by killing his assassin.

These various thoughts crossed the mind of the soldier like a flash of lightning; however, it was necessary to act, any hesitation would have ruined him. So, recommending himself to fate, the captain made a desperate effort, and, in his turn, imitated twice the cry of the owl.

He then waited with anxiety the result of this desperate attempt, not daring to believe in its success.

This uncertainty was short; almost at the same instant the man, whoever he might be, who was concealed near the thicket, raised his voice. He spoke in the Guaycurus language, which Diogo not only understood, but spoke with race perfection.

"My brother, has the Grand Sarigue seen the whites?"


"Good! Come."

After having exchanged these few words, Don Diogo obeyed the injunction that was thus given him, and boldly came out of the thicket, although, despite the success of his stratagem, he did not feel himself completely reassured.

The Indian, whom he recognised at the first glance to be Tarou Niom himself, was so convinced he was dealing with one of his own warriors, that he did not even give himself the trouble to examine him. Moreover, the chief appeared to be preoccupied.

"These dogs, then, have not ventured to scour the plain during the darkness?" asked he.

"No," answered Diogo, "they remain together like poltroon dogs, they do not dare to stir."

"I thought them more brave and skilful. They have with them a man who knows the desert well—a traitor, as to whom I reserve myself to put hot coals into his eyes, and cut out his lying tongue."

The captain inwardly trembled at these threats, which were addressed to him.

"This dog shall die," said he.

"He and those whom he conducts," answered the chief. "I have need of my brother."

"I am at the orders of Tarou Niom."

"Epoï, I speak. For the success of my projects we must have the assistance of the Payagoas, without their war canoes I can attempt nothing. Emavidi Chaime has promised to send me fifty, each manned by ten warriors, as soon as I express my wish for them. My brother, the Grand Sarigue, will go and ask for these canoes?"

"I will go."

"I have myself brought here my brother's horse, in order that he may lose no time. Here is my keaio,[1] my brother will show it to Emavidi Chaime, the chief of the Payagoas, on the part of his friend Tarou Niom, and will say to him—"

"'Tarou Niom demands the accomplishment of the promise made.'"

"I will say it," said Diogo.

"Good, my brother is a great warrior; I love him, let him follow me."

The two men then began to march rapidly without speaking, one behind the other.

Don Diogo inwardly congratulated himself on the fate which had been pleased to arrange matters so well, for he feared the piercing eye of the Guaycurus chief, and it was with a secret apprehension that he thought of the moment when they should both arrive at the camp, where the light of the watch fires would reveal his disguise to the eyes of the Guaycurus—so difficult to deceive, and who, moreover, knew the man he personated too well to allow him to impose upon them.

Meanwhile the two men reached a glade where two horses were held by the bridle by a slave.

"Here is the horse of my brother, let him depart," said Tarou Niom; "I await his return with impatience. He proceeds towards the south. As for me, I return to the camp, soon to see you again."

Diogo did not know which of the two horses was his own; fearing to make a mistake, and to take one for the other, he feigned to stumble in order to give the chief time to put himself in the saddle, which the latter, whose suspicion was not awakened, did immediately.

Diogo imitated his example.

The two men buried their spurs in the flanks of their horses, and went off at full speed in different directions.

When he was at last alone, the captain could not suppress a sigh of relief.

[1] knife.



The Guaycurus and their allies the Payagoas are essentially shepherds. They are also thorough agriculturalists. The former are horsemen, and spend half their lives roaming about; the latter are stationary. They in general live on the banks of rivers and lakes, and are much addicted to fish.

Their habitations are mere huts of the most primitive description.

Diogo scarcely knew which route to follow to arrive at the village of the Payagoas—not only of the position, but even of the existence of which he was ignorant.

As he had already often found himself in connection with them, and knew their usages, he had darted off quite at random in the direction the chief had indicated to him, intending to follow as nearly as possible the bank of the river, convinced that there only he would find their village, if it really existed, which he had no reason to doubt.

He galloped all night, scarcely knowing where he was going, and ardently longing for sunrise.

At last the day dawned. Diogo ascended a rather high hill, and from thence he looked around him.

At three or four leagues from the spot where he had stopped, on the very bank of the river, the captain perceived—in a rather misty light it is true, but nevertheless distinct to his piercing eye—a confused and considerable mass of cabins, over which hovered a thick cloud of smoke.

Diogo descended the hill, and resumed his course, making straight for the village. When he approached it, he could see it was more important than he at first thought, and fortified by an enclosure formed by a large and deep ditch, behind which they had raised a range of sticks, bound together with ivy.

The captain called all his boldness to his aid, and, after a moment of hesitation, bravely advanced towards the village, into which he entered at a gallop.

The warriors were still for the most part asleep, lying on hides stretched on the ground, the body covered by the clothing of the women, and the head placed on little bundles of hay, of which their females make use in riding on horseback.

In the streets that the captain traversed, he only met children or a few women going to seek a supply of wood. Others prepared the meal of manioc; some, crouched down before their cabins, were making either pottery or baskets, but the greater number were occupied in weaving the cotton stuff which they use for clothing.

Notwithstanding the early hour, great activity reigned in the village, which appeared to be very populous. The captain cast, as he proceeded, a curious glance on all that was offered to his view, inwardly astonished at the laborious manner of living of these poor Indians, whom travellers are pleased to represent as so indolent that the least work is repugnant to them, and as rather liking to pass the entire day in smoking or sleeping, than in concerning themselves with the cares which the necessities of life so imperiously demand.

However, notwithstanding the curiosity that devoured him, and the admiration that this spectacle gave rise to, prudence warned him to allow nothing to appear on his countenance.

Although he had successfully penetrated into the interior of the village, Diogo could not but be considerably embarrassed to find the cottage inhabited by the captain of the Payagoas.

Diogo vainly turned over in his mind, while continuing his gallop, the means of escaping from this embarrassment, when chance once more came to his aid. At the moment when he passed before a cabin of good appearance, forming the angle of a square, his horse, frightened by a tame peccary, which suddenly rushed howling to fasten to the horse's legs, began to rear, which in an instant brought round it twenty of those lazy people who always abound in the centres of population.

These idlers, whose numbers increased every minute, pressed more and more round the horse, which the captain had extreme difficulty in restraining, and in preventing from doing injury to some of the people, whose cries began seriously to frighten the animal.

At the same instant a man of tall stature came out from the hut of which we have spoken, and, attracted by the noise, threaded the crowd, which separated respectfully on his appearance, and soon found himself in face of the captain.

The latter, who, two days previously, when he had been on the search of the guide, had met with the chief of the Payagoas, recognised him immediately.

Saluting him in the Indian fashion, he jumped to the ground.

"Ai!" cried the chief; "A Guaycurus warrior? What has happened, then?"

"At the instant, when I was about to stop my horse before the cottage of the captain, for whom I have a message," answered Diogo without being disconcerted, "a peccary frightened him."

"Epoï! My brother is a complete Guaycurus horseman; the animal is tame," graciously said Emavidi, "and is allowed to stray. What is my brother's name?"

"The Grand Sarigue," said Diogo.

"Ai! I know the name of my brother; he is a renowned warrior; I have often heard people praise him; I am happy to see him."

The captain thought it necessary to bow.

Emavidi continued—

"My brother has made a long track to arrive here; he will accept the hospitality of a chief. The Payagoas love the Guaycurus; they are brothers."

"I accept the generous offer of the chief," answered the captain.

Emavidi Chaime clapped his hands. A slave ran towards him. The chief ordered him to take charge of Diogo's horse. He then dismissed the crowd which had stopped before his door with a gesture, and introduced the captain to his cabin, the entrance to which he closed with a hurdle covered with an ox's hide.

The cabin was spacious, well ventilated, clean, and internally arranged with uncommon intelligence.

In a distant corner of the apartment the slaves were occupied in certain labours, under the direction of the wife of the chief.

On a sign from Emavidi, she came with haste to welcome the stranger, and to offer him all the refreshment which she supposed he needed.

This woman was named White Star. She was tall and well made: her features were intelligent, without being absolutely handsome. The expression of her countenance was sweet; she appeared to be about twenty-two or twenty-three years of age at the most.

Her costume was composed of a piece of stuff streaked with various colours, which enveloped her rather tightly from the chest to the foot, fastened at the hips by a large girdle, called ayulate, of a crimson colour. This girdle is white in the case of young girls, and they only abandon it when they marry. Pinia-Pai was neither painted nor tattooed; her long black hair, arranged in the Brazilian style, fell nearly to the ground; little silver beads, threaded, forming a kind of chaplet, encircled her neck; metal plates attached to her breast half-concealed her bosom, and large semicircles of gold were suspended to her ears.

With this picturesque costume this young woman was not wanting in a certain piquant grace, and was calculated, as indeed was the fact, to appear charming to the captain.

With a celerity full of respect, White Star had in an instant garnished the table with dishes, the abundance of which made up for the frugality of the repast, for it consisted only of meat, fruits, boiled fish, and meat dried in the sun, and roasted on hot coals.

Diogo, on the invitation of the chief, proceeded to do honour to this improvised repast, of which he had begun to feel the want.

The chief, although taking no part in the repast, excited his guest to eat, and the captain, whose appetite appeared to increase as he proceeded, did not need any pressing to vigorously attack all the dishes.

Moreover, apart from the hunger Diogo felt, he knew that not to eat much, when one is invited to the table of a chief, is considered by the latter as wanting in politeness, and almost a mark of contempt.

However, a time arrived when, notwithstanding all his good will, he was obliged to stop.

Emavidi Chaime, who had followed with interest the prowess accomplished by his guest, appeared charmed. He then offered him some tobacco in a long pipe of palm leaves, rolled together, and the two men proceeded to emit large puffs of smoke in each other's faces.

When her presence was no longer necessary, White Star had discreetly withdrawn into another apartment of the cottage, making a sign to her slaves to follow her.

A considerable lapse of time now elapsed, without a single word being exchanged. The nature of the Indians is contemplative, and has much in common with that of the Orientals. Tobacco produces on them the effect of a narcotic, and if it does not completely send them to sleep, it at least plunges them for a considerable time into a kind of somnolent ecstasy.

It was Emavidi Chaime who first broke silence.

"My brother, the Grand Sarigue, is the bearer of a message from Tarou Niom to me?" said he.

"Yes," answered Diogo.

"Is this message personal, or is it addressed to the other captains of the nation, and to the grand council?"

"It is only for my brother, Emavidi Chaime."

"Epoï, does my brother think proper to communicate it to me at once, or does he prefer to wait and take some hours of repose?"

"The Guaycurus warriors are not weak women," answered Diogo; "a journey of a few hours on horseback takes nothing from their vigour."

"My brother has well spoken; what he says is true. My ears are open; the words of Tarou Niom always rejoice the heart of his friend."

"Tarou Niom is prudent," answered Diogo; "he knows that the Pai dogs now tread the sacred earth of the Guaycurus and the Payagoas. Treason has come with them."

Then, removing from his girdle, where he had placed it, the knife that the chief had sent by him, he presented it to the Payagoas.

"Here," said he, "is the keaio of Tarou Niom. Does the captain, Emavidi Chaime, recognise it?"

The chief took it in his hands, considered it for an instant with attention, and, replacing it on the table—

"I recognise it," said he; "my brother can speak."

Diogo bowed as a sign of acknowledgment, passed the knife again into his girdle, and answered—

"Here are the words of Tarou Niom; they are graven in the heart of the Grand Sarigue. Tarou Niom reminds the captain of the Payagoas of his promise; he asks him if he has really the intention to keep it?"

"Yes, I will keep the promise made to my brother, the captain of the Guaycurus. This very day the grand council will assemble, and tomorrow the war canoes will ascend the river; I myself will direct them."

"What, then, does my brother mean?" said Diogo; "I do not understand him. Does he not say that the war canoes will ascend the river?"

"I have, indeed, said so," answered the chief.

"For what reason will my brother take that direction?"

"Why, to aid, as has been agreed between us, Tarou Niom, to conquer the Pai dogs."

"Listen to the words of the chief; the Pai are surrounded by my warriors; flight is impossible for them; already discouraged and half dying with hunger, in two or three suns at the latest they will fall into my hands, if my brother remember his promise."

"Well?" interrupted the chief.

"Other enemies more serious," imperturbably continued Diogo, "threaten us at this moment."

"Is that true, then, which, this very morning, one of my scouts told me?" cried the chief.

"It is, unhappily, but too true," coolly answered Diogo. "It is especially with the design of assuring you of that news, and of taking with you the necessary dispositions—that is to say," said he, with a gracious smile, "to concert only measures of safety that it may suit you to adopt in the general interest, and to report them immediately to Tarou Niom, in order that he may efficiently support you, that he has sent me to his brother."

"So the whites are entering in all directions?"


"The captain, Joachim Terraira, has then really set out from Villa Bella?"

"There cannot be the least doubt of that," boldly answered Diogo.

"And Tarou Niom," pursued the chief, "thinks that I ought to dispute the passage of the Pai?"

"Six thousand warriors will join those of the Payagoas chief."

"But it is especially the passage of the river that it is important to defend."

"This opinion is also that of Tarou Niom."

"Epoï, my warriors, aided by those of my brother, Tarou Niom, will keep the ford of Camato, whilst the great war canoes will intercept the communications, and harass the Pai along the river."

"My brother has perfectly understood his wishes."

"What may be the number of the Pai who come from Bella Villa?"

"Tarou Niom has been assured that they were at least two thousand."

"Ai; that is extraordinary; I have been told that their number is not more than five hundred."

Diogo bit his lips, but immediately collecting himself—

"They are more numerous than the leaves strewed by the hurricane," said he, "only they are divided into little war detachments."

"Ha!" cried the chief, with alarm, "That is terrible."

"Moreover," added Diogo, who knew the terror Indians have for Negroes, "each war detachment is followed by a considerable number of coatas (Negroes), who have taken the terrible oath to massacre all the Payagoas wanderers, and to carry away their wives and daughters."

"Oh!" said the chief, with a feeling of ill-concealed fright; "The coatas are not men, they resemble evil genii. The warning of my brother shall not be lost. This very evening the women and children shall leave the village to withdraw into the Llano de Manso, and the warriors shall proceed to march to the ford of Camato, followed by all the war canoes."

Diogo rose—

"Does the Grand Sarigue leave, then, already?" asked the chief, rising also.

"It is necessary, chief; Tarou Niom has charged me with making the greatest haste."

"Epoï, my brother will thank the great captain of the Guaycurus."

The two men went out. On the order of Emavidi Chaime a slave brought out Diogo's horse; the latter leaped into the saddle, exchanged a few more words with the chief, and then they separated.

The captain was delighted. Up to the present time all had succeeded beyond his hope; not only did he know the plans of the enemy, but also he had learned that the Paulistas, who had suddenly appeared on the battlefield, could, at any moment, come to aid them. Moreover, he had hindered the junction of the two Indian nations, which, by preserving a free passage of the rivers, offered a chance of safety to the caravan.

Diogo left the village at a gentle trot, plunged in these sanguine reflections, and only wishing one thing—to rejoin his companions as soon as possible.

When he saw the desert plain spread out before him, he leant over the neck of his horse, refreshed and invigorated by two hours of repose, touched it with the spur, and began to dart along with the rapidity of the wind.

On a sudden, at the turn of a path, he came across a horseman who was coming towards him with a rapidity equal to his own.

Diogo could not repress an exclamation of surprise, and almost of fear. In this horseman he recognised Malco Diaz.

"Fortune turns," grumbled he between his teeth, at the same time urging forward his horse, which appeared to annihilate space.



The unforeseen encounter with the mameluco had suddenly upset don Diogo's course of ideas.

The inquisitive look which the ex-guide had cast at him as he passed, the cry that he himself had, in the suddenness of his surprise, allowed to escape—all these circumstances gave him much to think of.

The eye of hatred is piercing. The Indian did not conceal from himself that the half-caste had in the depth of his heart a bitter hatred for him, not only for the manner in which he had pursued him after his departure from the camp, but because Diogo had in some respects taken his place near the marquis.

What gave a little hope to the Indian was, that the meeting had been so fortuitous, and at the same time so rapid, that, thanks to his disguise, the completeness of which had deceived Emavidi Chaime himself, it was almost impossible to recognise him without examination.

Diogo made a mistake, and he soon had a proof of it.

His very disguise had caused his enemy, if not to recognise, at least to suspect him.

Now, the very morning of the day on which we again meet with him, two hours before sunrise, Malco Diaz had had a rather long conversation with Tarou Niom relative to the last arrangements agreed upon between them.

During the course of this conversation, as Malco Diaz insisted that the chief should attack the whites without more delay, the latter had answered that he could not commence the assault before the arrival of his allies, the Payagoas; that he did not wish by precipitation, which nothing could justify, to compromise the success of an enterprise so well managed up to that time; that for that matter the delay was insignificant, and would not extend beyond a few hours, since he had dispatched to Emavidi Chaime one of his most faithful warriors, the Grand Sarigue, in order to urge him to make haste in joining them.

Malco took leave of the Guaycurus captain, and mounting immediately on horseback, he proceeded towards the village, hoping every moment to discover the Payagoas flotilla.

He was not likely to see the canoes—the reason we already know; only, arrived at a certain spot, it seemed to him that he could distinguish something, the appearance of which he thought very suspicious, partially concealed in the reeds.

Malco Diaz was curious; he dearly liked to ascertain the cause of things, and to find out the explanation of what he could not understand.

He approached the river with the design of assuring himself as to what this doubtful object might be, in which he soon recognised a corpse.

The mameluco alighted, threw his lasso, drew out the corpse with it, and contemplated it. His astonishment was great when in this mutilated corpse, already half-devoured by the alligators, he recognised the Grand Sarigue, that very warrior that Tarou Niom had a few hours before dispatched to the Payagoas.

The half-caste left the corpse there without concerning himself about it any further; he mounted his horse, and resumed his journey so much the more rapidly as, since the messenger was dead, he had not been able to fulfil his commission.

Only, who had killed the Grand Sarigue? In what way had this murder been committed?

Following up these doubtful circumstances, he came across a horseman coming from the village of the Payagoas, whither he himself was proceeding, and from which he was scarcely a league distant, and, strange to say, this horseman appeared the very man whom he had found some moments since dead and half-devoured.

The affair became very embarrassing; the half-caste did not know what to think; he asked himself whether he had not been deceived—if the corpse he had discovered was really that of the Grand Sarigue?

All of a sudden a bright idea crossed his mind; there was evidently treason, the man whom he had met wore a disguise!

One man only could have assumed with such rare skill another costume and bearing. That man was Diogo.

As soon as this thought had occurred to Malco Diaz, it gave certainty to his mind. Foaming with rage at having been so far duped, and burning to revenge himself, he abruptly turned the bridle of his horse.

But while Malco was making these reflections, and had, by a course of deduction, at last arrived at the truth, a considerable time had passed—a time that the Indian had profited by planning and preparing for a ruse which should aid him to escape.

Persons who do not know that noble and intelligent race, the horses of the American desert, will, with difficulty, conceive even a distant idea of the wonderful speed with which a pursuit in the desert is executed.

When the horse has been incessantly excited, he feels the magnetic influence of his horseman, and appears to identify himself with him, and to understand his wishes.

Grand in his fury and energy, his eyes full of fire, his nostrils spirting with blood, his mouth foaming, feeling neither bit nor bridle, he seems to annihilate space, leaping ravines, scaling hills, crossing rivers, overcoming all obstacles with a dexterity, skill, and velocity, which pass all belief, animating himself on his journey, and by degrees reaching a kind of mad and proud excitement, so much the more beautiful, as he appears to understand that he may die in the desperate battle in which he is struggling; but what matters if he attains the end, and if his master is saved?

It was such a journey as that we have just described that at this moment was maintained, shall we say, by the two horses, for their horsemen, impelled by their implacable hatred, saw nothing and thought of nothing.

Malco Diaz redoubled his efforts to regain the ground he had lost, but in vain. He was alone, and his horse had attained the extreme limit of his speed.

Woods succeeded to woods; hills to hills. Diogo was still invisible; he appeared to have been suddenly engulphed, so wonderful was his rapid disappearance.

If the half-caste was well mounted, the captain also had an excellent horse.

Finally, after three hours of a desperate course, Malco Diaz arrived at the summit of a little hill which he had ascended at a gallop, and perceived far before him a cloud of dust which seemed to fly before the hurricane.

He guessed it was his enemy, and afresh urged his horse, whose efforts were already prodigious.

By degrees, whether it was that the horse that Diogo rode was more fatigued than that of the half-caste, by reason of his long journey on the previous night, or whether that of Malco Diaz was naturally swifter, the latter perceived that he gained on his enemy.

The mameluco uttered a cry of joy, like the howl of a wild beast, and seized his carbine.

Meanwhile, the journey was still continued, and afar off in the distant horizon might be seen the hill on the summit of which the Brazilians had encamped. No doubt, the sentinels of the whites posted on the trees could distinguish, although indistinctly, the strange actors in this extraordinary struggle.

It was necessary, then, to bring it to an end, so much the more as, strange to say, the Guaycurus remained invisible, and thus allowed it to be supposed that they had discovered the uselessness of a longer blockade.

The solitude and abandonment on the part of his allies disquieted the half-caste.

At last the distance between the two travellers became so little that they would soon find themselves within pistol shot of each other.

Malco Diaz charged his carbine, shouldered it, and without slackening his horse, fired.

Diogo's horse, struck in the body made a prodigious bound in advance, reared convulsively on his hind legs, uttered a neigh of grief, and fell backward, dragging his rider with him in his fall.

Malco slung his carbine and darted like a shot, with a cry of triumph, on his enemy.

Leaping immediately to the ground, he darted towards him with a bound like a tiger, and raised his poignard to finish him, in case he was not quite dead.

But his arm fell powerless by his side, and he started back with a howl of disappointment and rage.

At the same moment he was vigorously seized from behind, and stretched upon the grass before he had even had the time to attempt to resist.

"Eh, eh, companion," said Diogo to him in a railing voice; "how do you like that? It is well done, is it not?"

This is what had happened:—

Diogo had immediately decided that if he continued to fly in a straight line, his enemy, mounted on a fresh horse, would not be long in overtaking him, and that even if he escaped him, he would inevitably fall into the hands of the Guaycurus.

He had then calculated his flight, so as to deviate by degrees in an imperceptible manner at first, in order to avoid the spot where he supposed their enemies had established their camp.

This first stratagem had completely succeeded. Malco Diaz, blinded by the desire to overtake Diogo, had followed him in the tracks that he had made, without caring to explain to himself the reasons for his route.

When the Indian had arrived at the outskirts of a wood, he had jumped to the ground, and with that remarkable dexterity which those of his race possess, he had made a sham horseman with grass, and covered it with the clothing which he himself wore; then, after having firmly attached it to the back of the horse, under the saddle and to the flanks of which he had placed piercing thorns, he had started the animal off in the direction which he wished him to take.

As to himself, he continued his route on foot.

It was a few minutes after his coming out of the wood that Malco Diaz, for the first time, perceived the horse that galloped so rapidly before him.

This explanation that Diogo, with a saturnine air, gave to Malco, further increased his fury.

"You have killed a horse that I loved—a noble beast, that I shall with difficulty replace. I ought, then, to kill you, Malco; but I shall not redden my knife with your blood."

"You would do wrong, Diogo," sullenly answered Malco, "for I swear to you, that on the first opportunity I will kill you."

"You will act according to your instincts, Malco. I know that you are a wicked man."

"I will kill you—I swear it by my share of paradise."

"Your share in paradise would appear to me very doubtful, my poor friend; but that is not the question now."

"What do you mean to do, then, since you say you do not wish to kill me?"

"What I promise I intend to perform, Malco; no, I will not kill you, but I will place you in a position where it is impossible for you to injure me."

The half-caste did not answer; he foamed with fury, and writhed like a serpent on the ground.

"Keep still a moment, Malco," said the captain, peaceably; "you are really very troublesome."

And so saying, he bound him firmly with his lasso, notwithstanding his prodigious efforts to escape.

"There, it is finished," cried Diogo, when the last knot was tied. "Now I have only to gag you."

"To gag me!" cried the half-caste; "To gag me! Why?"

"Why, my friend, I find you very innocent; permit me to tell you that if I gag you, it is probably to prevent you from crying out."

There was a moment of silence. Malco reflected, and Diogo made a gag with the care and attention that he brought to bear on all he did.

"How long do you think it will take to put yourself in safety?" asked the half-caste.

"Why do you ask that question?" answered the captain, kneeling down before him.

"What does it matter to you? Answer me frankly."

"If that can give you any pleasure, I am willing to do so, Malco. Two hours will be long enough."

"Well, if I promise you to remain quiet where I am, without calling out, would you gag me?"

"Hum!" said the captain; "A promise is a very vague thing, Malco, when it concerns life or death."

"That is true, but if I made you that promise?"

Diogo shook his head with an embarrassed air.

"Come! Answer!" pursued Malco.

"Well, no! I could not accept it," said Diogo. "There, I tell you plainly, it would be too dangerous."

"Wait," cried Malco, as he prepared to fix the gag.

Diogo stopped.

"Well, now," pursued Malco, "if, instead of this promise, I were to give you my word of honour as a cavalheiro, what would you do?"

"Hum," answered the other, "but would you give it me?"

"Why do you ask that?"

"Because you would keep it, and you do not wish to enter into an engagement with me."

"So you believe my word?"


"Well, do not gag me, Diogo; I give it you."

"Come, you are jesting."

"By no means; I give you my word of honour to remain as I am—not for two hours only, but for three—without stirring, and without offering a cry."

"Indeed!" said the captain, looking at him full in the face; "Are you serious?"

"Quite serious; is it agreed?"

"It is agreed," answered Diogo, and he threw away the gag.

Strange anomaly of character in certain men, and which is so often met with, especially among the Brazilian half-castes; with them their word is everything, nothing will induce them to break it.

Diogo knew so well that he could trust to that word, that he accepted it without hesitation.

"I leave you, Malco," said he to him; "do not distress yourself too much."

"Go to the devil; but remember that I have promised to kill you."

"Bah, bah!" answered the other; "You say that now because you are furious. I suppose you think, as you have not succeeded against me today, that you will be more fortunate another time."

"I hope so," said the half-caste, gnashing his teeth.

Diogo easily caught the horse, which was not very far off, and started off.

As soon as the captain had reached the bank he abandoned the horse, entered the water, and commenced to swim.

Although this river literally swarmed with alligators, the captain had not hesitated to enter it. He knew by experience that alligators rarely attack man.

The only thing he feared was to be perceived by the Indian sentinels, who, without doubt, were in ambush in the neighbouring woods.

But luck did not desert him in this last and desperate effort.

Arrived at a short distance from the thicket he wished to reach, Diogo glided between two streams. For that matter, this precaution was, let us hasten to say, not necessary; it was not the river (on which they had nothing to fear) that the Guaycurus watched, but only the hill where their enemies were to be found.

Diogo glided then, without encumbrance, into the thicket, opened the hole he had made to conceal his clothes, and drew them out with a thrill of delight; but instead of clothing himself with them, he made a packet of them, as well as of his arms, and again entered the river.

This mode of travelling appeared to him shorter and safer.

In order not to attract too much attention to himself, the captain had enveloped his packet in palm leaves, and had fastened the whole upon his head. Thus, as he swam, on the level of the water, this packet appeared to be drifting gently with the current; from the bank, it had completely the appearance of a mass of leaves and branches.

He soon reached the foot of the hill; there he was safe, and he could only be seen by the persons whom chance might have brought to the other bank.

After having calculated with a look the height he would have to ascend, and elevating himself almost perpendicularly above the river, the captain took in one hand his poignard, and in the other the knife confided to him by Tarou Niom as a sign of recognition, and began, with extreme ease and dexterity, to scale this kind of wall, planting by turns his weapons in the fissures of the rocks, and then pulling himself up by mere strength of wrist.

The ascent of the captain was long. At one time he remained suspended between heaven and earth, without being able either to mount or descend. But Diogo was a man endowed with too much coolness and courage to despair; a moment of reflection made him perceive a declivity less rough than that which he was pursuing.

Arrived on the platform of the hill, he made a halt for a moment to take breath. His difficult expedition had, against all probability, terminated happily; the information he had gained was important; all then was for the best, and he inwardly congratulated himself, not on the manner in which he had conducted this perilous affair, but on the pleasure that his return would give his companions.

He then prepared himself, and again set out on his journey with a step as free and as light as if he had not supported superhuman fatigues.

The sun was setting at the moment when the captain reached the summit of the hill.

As soon as his return became known, all his companions pressed around him with cries of joy, which awakened the marquis, and caused him to run out.

The captain uttered an exclamation of surprise and of grief, at the scene which presented itself to his eyes when he found himself within the enclosure of the camp.

The tents and vehicles had been reduced to ashes; the greater part of the mules, and a great number of the horses, had been killed; seven or eight corpses of hunters and Negroes were lying here and there on the ground; trees, half-burnt and lying in a confused mass, added still more to the horror of this spectacle.

Doña Laura, having taken refuge, as well as she was able, under an enramada,[1] exposed to the wind, and crouched sorrowfully before a dying fire, was preparing, with the aid of Phoebe, the evening meal.

In fact, everything presented an aspect of ruin and desolation.

"Mon Dieu! What does all this mean?" cried he with grief.

"It means," answered the marquis, bitterly, "that you were not wrong, Diogo."

"But has there, then, been a fight during my absence?"

"No; there has been a surprise; but come, Diogo, a moment with you privately, and I will explain what has happened."

The captain followed him.

When they were out of sight of the Brazilians, the marquis commenced his narrative.

Two hours after the departure of Diogo, a shower of burning arrows had rained suddenly on the camp from all sides at once, and that in so desperate a way that at first the Brazilians did not know where to run, or in what manner to defend themselves. The fire had almost immediately burst out with such an intensity that it was impossible to extinguish it; a burning arrow having, unhappily, fallen in the waggon which contained the powder, the vehicle was blown up, killing and wounding several men.

The Guaycurus had profited by the fright of the Brazilians, to attempt a furious assault, during which the remainder of the munitions had been almost wholly expended.

Diogo sadly shook his head at this painful narrative; then he commenced his own, which his companion listened to with profound attention.

When he had finished, there was a momentary pause.

"What do you recommend?" at last asked the marquis.

"The situation is almost desperate," decisively answered the captain. "The most prudent course, in my opinion, would be to try a sortie; to try and open a passage for ourselves."

"Yes," murmured the marquis, aside, "perhaps that would be better; but I wish to wait a bit. I have dispatched a scout to gain information about the enemy."

"You alone are master," answered Diogo, who had heard him; "but every minute that passes takes away from us, believe me, several days of our existence."

"Perhaps," violently cried the marquis, stamping with anger; "but we do not know all yet. Can I not try to join Don Joachim Terraira?"

"Certainly, you can, your Excellency."

"Well!" cried he, with joy.

"Well! You will only succeed in causing us all to be massacred the quicker—that is all."

After having uttered these words, the captain turned his back on the marquis, and rejoined his companions.

[1] kind of tent made of branches.



The night was tranquil. The Brazilians passed it in sleep. Diogo alone watched over the common safety.

About two hours before sunrise the scout who had been dispatched by the marquis returned to the camp.

He was the bearer of strange news. The Indians had disappeared.

Diogo listened attentively to the report brought by the man. Then turning towards the marquis, who had also passed the night without closing his eyes—

"Well?" asked he.

"It appears to me—" answered the marquis.

"Wait!" interrupted Diogo; "My friend," said he, addressing the scout, "go and lie down; you must want to recruit your strength."

The Brazilian bowed, and immediately withdrew.

"It is not advisable," pursued Diogo, "that this man should hear what we have to say."

"I think that if this news is true, it is excellent."

"Understand well, your Excellency, and be assured that I possess too thorough a knowledge of the Indians and their manners to deceive myself."

"I admit it, my friend. Speak, then, I beg."

"I should think, your Excellency, that I failed in my duty if at the crisis at which we are arrived I did not speak to you with the greatest freedom. The Guaycurus have honourably warned you to withdraw from them—they have given you liberty to do so; wrong or right, you have scorned their warning, I do not dispute with you, understand, your Excellency, the wisdom of this decision."

"Continue, my friend."

"They have so little intention of withdrawing, that they have dispatched me to ask the aid of their allies, the Payagoas. Then they have attacked you with fury, not with the design of seizing on your camp—they knew beforehand that they would not succeed—but to reduce you to your present position; that is to say, to the last gasp."

"Conclude, conclude!" interrupted the marquis.

"The conclusion is easy enough," pursued the captain; "the Guaycurus have pretended to withdraw in order to bring you out into the plain, and to overcome you the more easily."

"Are you then afraid, Diogo?"

"Certainly, my lord: very much afraid."


"Pardon; this needs an explanation. I am afraid—not to die, for from the moment you announced to me your formal intention, I reckoned on the sacrifice of my life."

"Then, what is it you mean?"

"I mean, my lord, that I do not fear to die, but that I am dreadfully afraid of being killed like a beast."

Notwithstanding the gravity of the situation, the marquis burst out laughing.

"Bah, bah!" said he; "Things, I am convinced, will turn out better than you suppose."

"I wish so, without hoping it, your Excellency."

"Let us see; you believe you are in a position to guide us to the spot where the Paulistas are at this moment."

"Nothing is more easy than to proceed on the journey, my lord, but I cannot guarantee it."

"How is that?"

"Why, because we shall all be massacred before reaching it."

"Hum, Diogo; you become monotonous, my friend."

"The end will prove me right, my lord."

"Be silent, prophet of bad omen. At what distance do you think we are from the Paulistas?"

"Thirty leagues at the most."

"What! Thirty leagues; no more? Come, you are becoming foolish, with your puerile fears."

"You will see, your Excellency, you will see."

"Well, let it be so; the die is cast, I will try, whatever happens. At break of day we will leave."

"With your permission, my lord, I think that as you absolutely are determined on a foolish thing, would it not be more suitable to do it in a logical way?"

"Which means—"

"That tomorrow will be too late."

"So, in your opinion, it would be necessary—"

"To leave immediately, my lord."

"Well, let it be so; let us set out."

In this circumstance, as in all the preceding, Diogo did not neglect any precaution.

Four of his soldiers, tried and experienced men, were at first dispatched by him in advance.

In the preceding assault the waggons and the baggage had been burnt, and the greater part of the mules had been killed, so that the caravan, relieved of its load, was in a position to accelerate its march.

Diogo caused the horses' feet to be covered with bags of sheepskin, filled with sand, in order to stifle the sound of their steps, and ordered the mouth of each animal to be fastened with a lasso.

"Companions," said he, when each man was in his saddle, "not a cry, not a sound! We are attempting; at the present moment an expedition on which safety depends; if we are discovered we shall be lost."

"One word, Diogo," said the marquis to him. "Why have you insisted on our leaving so suddenly?"

"Because the Indian bravos, your Excellency, ordinarily guard themselves very badly, and pass the night in sleeping instead of watching."

"Thank you; now let us set out."

"One moment, my lord;" and then addressing all the soldiers:—

"I am about to march first," said he; "you will follow me one by one, holding your horses by the bridle to prevent them from stumbling; and thus arousing the attention of the enemy. You will try to march in my steps, in order to leave as narrow a track as possible. Now, pay attention and remember this:—The cry of the alligator will warn you to halt; the same cry twice raised will mean that you are to mount; the cry of the owl will order you to gallop. You thoroughly understand me, do you not?"

The descent commenced. It was a strange spectacle, that offered by this long line of black spectres, which glided silently in the night, and appeared to climb the flanks of the hill.

The noise of a branch broken off by the wind; the falling of a leaf, the unexpected flight of a nocturnal bird—everything was the object of fear; the bravest man felt, in spite of himself, the blood run cold in his veins, for behind each trunk of a tree, each angle of a rock, he feared he should see dart out suddenly the enemy whom he was trying to avoid.

The descent was long; they could but march slowly. Diogo, who appeared to see at night as well as by day, chose his ground with the greatest care, and did not advance except when he was sure that the earth on which he placed his foot was firm.

Sometimes they stopped for a few minutes, and then a shudder of alarm ran like an electric current through the whole line.

At last, at the end of an hour, they reached the plain.

The cry of an alligator which was raised in the silence warned them that they were to halt.

Two minutes later the same cry raised twice caused them to throw themselves in the saddle, and then at last, at the cry of the owl, they darted off at a gallop, doubled in pace by the instinctive fear that they experienced of terrible danger.

The marquis had ordered doña Laura to mount on horseback. The young girl obeyed passively, without uttering a word, and had placed herself, as well as her slave, in the middle of the line of horsemen.

The marquis had wished this because this position appeared to him least dangerous.

During all the night the Brazilians, leaning on the necks of their horses, galloped on.

At sunrise they had made eighteen or nineteen leagues, which was enormous, but the poor horses were spent.

At a league before them the fugitives perceived a broad stream.

It was the Pilcomayo, one of the most considerable affluents of the Rio Paraguai.

The marquis approached the captain.

"We have done wonders, Diogo," said he to him; "thanks to your admirable arrangements, we are saved."

"Do not thank me yet, my lord," answered the Indian, with a mocking smile "all is not yet finished."

"Oho! We have now an advance of our enemies which puts us out of their reach."

"We have gained no advance on the Guaycurus, my lord; our only chance of safety is to reach the river, and to cross it."

"Well! What prevents us from doing so?"

"Look at the horses; before we have got half the distance which separates us from the Pilcomayo, the enemy will be upon us."

"You are thoroughly obstinate to the end; you see yourself that the plain is perfectly clear."

"You think so, my lord?"

"Why, I have looked in vain in every direction."

"That is because you are not used to the prairie, that is all. Look," added he, stretching his arm in the direction of the northeast. "Notice that convulsive undulation of the high grass."

"Just so; but what does that prove?"

"Do you see again," continued the impassable captain, "those companies of nandus and of seriemas who run madly in all directions. Those flights of guaros and of kamichis?"

"Yes, yes, I see all that; well?"

"Well! Well, your Excellency, the undulation of the grass without apparent cause, since there is not a breath of air stirring, the mad course of the nandus and the seriemas, and the frightened flight of the guaros and the kamichis, simply mean that the Guaycurus are on our track."

"But in an hour we shall have crossed the river."

"With our horses that is impossible; it is with difficulty that they can put one foot before the other."

"That is true," murmured the marquis, "but then what is to be done?"

"Prepare ourselves to die."

"Oh, that is not true that you say, Diogo."

"In an hour not one of us will exist," coolly answered the captain.

"But we shall not allow ourselves to be assassinated without defending ourselves?"

"That is another question, my lord. Will you fight to the last gasp?"


"Very well. We shall be killed, I am certain, but the victory will cost our enemies dearly."

Without losing a moment, the captain made his arrangements for the combat.

The Brazilians jumped to the ground, cut the throats of their horses, and with the bodies of the unhappy animals they formed a circle.

The marquis, occupied at this time in speaking with animation to doña Laura, did not perceive this butchery, till it was too late to oppose it.

"What are you doing?" cried he.

"Entrenchments," impassively answered Diogo. "Behind these bodies we shall shelter ourselves."

"But how, then, shall we fly after the combat?"

The Indian burst into a nervous and discordant laugh.

"We shall not fly, inasmuch as we shall be dead."

The marquis could find nothing to answer.

Doña Laura had thrown herself on the ground, a prey to profound despair. Her horse was the only one that had not been killed.

"You are about to die," said Don Roque.

"I hope so," answered she, with a low and broken voice.

"You thoroughly hate me, then?"

"There is not in my heart place for hatred; I despise you."

"Doña Laura," he pursued, "there is yet time. Reveal to me your secret."

"Why should I do so?" she said.

"Curses!" cried he, stamping with rage. "This woman is a demon. Will nothing, then, convince you? Of what use to you now would be the possession of that secret?"

"And to you?" she coldly asked.

"Tell me, tell me, and I swear to you I will save you, even if to do so I should have to walk in blood up to the knees. Tell me, Doña Laura, I entreat you."

"No! I prefer to die, than to be saved by you."

"Die, then, and be cursed!" cried the marquis, seizing a pistol from his girdle.

A hand arrested his arm.

He turned round, darting a fierce look at him who had dared to touch him.

"Excuse me, your Excellency," said Diogo to him, still impassable, "if I interrupt your interesting conversation with the señorita."

Doña Laura had not made a movement to escape death. Death for her would have been a deliverance.

"What do you want with me?" cried the marquis.

"To announce to you, my lord, that the moment is near. Look!"

The marquis looked.

"Why, wretch!" cried he, after a moment, "If you are not a traitor, you are grossly deceived."

"As you please, my lord."

"It is a manada of wild horses."

"Exactly so, my lord," answered the captain, with a smile of disdain; "you have not the least experience of the style in which the Guaycurus fight, nor of life in the desert. This is probably the last thing I shall teach you, but it is well you should know it. The Guaycurus are the best horsemen in the world. This is the ruse they employ to surprise the enemy. They send in advance a troop of wild horses, in order to conceal their number; then in the rear they follow, lying on their sides on their horses, the left hand on the mane, and the right foot supported by the stirrup."

We have said that all the Brazilians were lying behind the bodies of their horses, ready to fire at the word of command.

About them the vultures and the urubus, attracted by the smell of blood, were wheeling in large circles, uttering harsh and discordant cries.

At a half league off, on the plain, a herd of horses was running with extreme rapidity.

The Brazilians were sorrowful and silent; they believed themselves lost.

"Boys," cried Diogo, "spare your munitions; do not fire but when you are sure. You know that we have no more powder."

All of a sudden the wild horses came down like a thunderbolt on the entrenchments, and notwithstanding a murderous discharge close to their breasts, leaped them with an irresistible spring.

The Guaycurus warriors leaped to their saddles, uttering frightful cries, and the massacre commenced.

In the first rank, near Tarou Niom, was Malco Diaz.

The eyes of the half-caste flashed with excitement. He dashed with extraordinary fury into the thickest of the mêlée.

By a movement—rather from instinct than by calculation—the Brazilians, after their entrenchments had been carried, had grouped themselves round Laura.

The young girl, kneeling on the ground, her hands clasped, was praying with fervour.

Poor Phoebe, her breast pierced by a lance, was writhing at her feet, in the last convulsions of agony.

There was something really grand in the spectacle offered by some twenty men or so, motionless, silent, keeping close together, and struggling desperately against a multitude of enemies; having made the sacrifice of their lives, but resolved to fight to the last gasp, and only to fall when dead.

Diogo and the marquis achieved prodigies of valour—the Indian with a supreme contempt of death, the white man with the rage of despair.

"Now, your Excellency," said the captain, mockingly, "do you still believe we shall be saved?"

Meanwhile the ranks of the Brazilians were being thinned more and more.

On a sudden Malco Diaz bounded in advance, overturned the marquis, and seizing doña Laura by the hair, he lifted her up, threw her on the neck of his horse, and darted off across the desert.

The young girl uttered a terrible cry, and fainted.

This cry Diogo had heard. The captain leaped over the body of the marquis, and overturning everything before him, rushed off in pursuit.

But what can a man on foot do against a horseman riding at full speed?

Malco Diaz stopped, a flash of fury darted from his eyes, and he shouldered his gun.

"It is my last charge," murmured Diogo; "it shall be for her." And he fired.

Malco Diaz immediately staggered, his arms were thrown up convulsively, and he rolled on the ground, dragging the young girl in his fall.

He was dead.

Diogo darted towards him, but suddenly he made a bound on one side, and taking his gun by the barrel, he raised it above his head. An Indian was coming down upon him, but the former, immediately changing his position, bounded like a jaguar, clasped in his powerful arms the Indian who pursued him, overthrew him, and at the same moment put himself in the saddle in the Indian's place.

This prodigy of skill and agility accomplished, he flew to the aid of the young girl.

Scarcely had he raised her in his arms to put her on the horse, which he had so miraculously appropriated, than the Guaycurus warriors surrounded him.

Diogo cast a sorrowful look at the young girl, whom he placed on the ground, and drawing from his girdle his pistols, the only arms he had left—

"Poor child," murmured he; "I have done what I could. Fate is against me. I will certainly kill two more of them before dying," he said, coolly loading his pistols.

Suddenly the ranks of the warriors opened. Tarou Niom appeared.

"Let no one touch that man and woman," he said.

"Come, that will be for another time," said the captain, replacing his pistols in his girdle.

"You are brave; I love you," resumed Tarou Niom; "take that jni-maak (feather); it will serve you for a safeguard. Remain here until I return."

Diogo took the feather, and sat down sadly near the young girl.

An hour later the captain and doña Laura were accompanying the Guaycurus warriors, who were returning to their village.

The young girl was still in a fainting condition, and did not yet know the full extent of the new misfortune which had fallen upon her.

Diogo carried her on the neck of his horse, and carefully upheld her. The brave captain appeared already if not resigned, completely consoled for his defeat, and talked amicably with the captain, Tarou Niom, who manifested so much regard for him.

Diogo and the young girl alone had survived by a miracle, which had excited a feeling of pity in the ferocious heart of the Guaycurus chief.

As to the Marquis de Castelmelhor, no one knew what had become of him. Notwithstanding the most active search, it had been impossible to find his body.

Was he dead? Was be living? And had he, against all probability, succeeded in escaping?



On the 23rd December, 1815, between two and three o'clock in the afternoon, that is to say, at the hottest time of the day, two travellers—coming respectively from the north and south—met face to face on the banks of a little river, an affluent of the Río Dulce, at the ford of the Licol, situated at an equal distance from Santiago and San Miguel de Tucumán.

On arriving on the bank of the stream, as by one accord, the two travellers drew bridle, and looked about them attentively for some time.

The river that both were preparing to cross in a contrary direction, swollen by the rains from recent storms, was pretty broad at this time, which fact hindered the two travellers from severally reconnoitring each other sufficiently to form a decided opinion of one another.

Every stranger that one meets in the desert is, if not an enemy, at least without information, an individual whom prudence warns the traveller to mistrust.

After a short but decidedly perceptible hesitation, each traveller took his fusil in his hand, from his shoulder belt, loaded it, making the trigger snap with a sharp noise, and appearing to take a decided resolution, lightly touched the flanks of his horse with a spur, and entered the river.

The ford was broad and not deep, the water reached scarcely to the belly of the horses, which permitted the horsemen to go their own way.

However, they advanced towards each other, continuing to watch each other attentively, and ready to fire at the least suspected movement.

Suddenly they raised a joyful exclamation, and stopped, bursting out into hearty laughter.

Several times they tried to speak, but laughter was stronger than their will.

Meanwhile, they had suddenly dropped their fusils, which immediately resumed their unoffensive position in the shoulder belt.

At last one of them succeeded in gaining sufficient coolness to give expression to his thoughts.

"Pardieu!" cried he in French, stretching out his right hand to his companion, who was still laughing; "The encounter is strange. I do not yet dare to believe my eyes. Are you a man or a phantom? Is it yourself, my dear sir—you whom I saw scarcely two years ago in Paris, dancing attendance on the government for some employment or other—that I now find in the depths of the desert, wearing poncho and sombrero?"

"Yes," answered the other, casting a look of satisfaction at himself; "the costume suits me very well; but," added he, between two bursts of laughter, "I have a right, it appears to me, to put the same question to you."

"Hush!" interrupted the first speaker; "Nothing is stable in this world, you know, M. Gagnepain."

"Alas! Who more than I has been in a position to learn that?" sadly said the first traveller.

"You sigh. Have you become the sport of fortune?"

"Fortune and I are too little acquainted just at present," said he, with a smile, "for her to have treated me in one fashion or the other. In fact. I only complain about her indifference towards me. As to you, Monsieur, I should think that the recent events of which our unhappy country has been the theatre cannot but have favourably influenced your fortune."

The second traveller smiled bitterly.

"Ingratitude and proscription are current money in courts," said he; "it is in vain that man thinks himself skilful and acute in this world."

"Without reckoning the passions which influence him," interrupted the first speaker, with a slight accent of raillery. "Where are you going, then, in this manner?"

"To San Miguel de Tucumán; then to Chili."


"Oh no; my people are coming after me. And you?"

"Oh, as to me it is different; I am nearly on my estate here."


"Ma foi, yes; only, you must understand, I do not intend to live forever in this country; if you like, I shall be happy to invite you to my house, from, which we are only about twenty miles distant."

"What! Your house? You have a house here?"

"Mon Dieu! Yes; it is necessary to come here to America to accomplish that miracle of becoming landowner. That is a good joke, is it not?" said he, laughing. "What do you say to my proposition? Does it please you?"

The other hesitated a moment.

"Decide, sir; chance, or, if you prefer it, Providence, which has brought us together so strangely, has perhaps some unknown plans concerning us. Do not let us oppose it."

"Why joke on this subject. M. Gagnepain?" asked the other; "Although you are an artist, and consequently a man of strong mind, what you say is more true than you doubtless wish to avow."

"Pardon; I had forgotten that you were an Oratorian. Well, will you retrace your route?"

"I am not in a hurry; I shall arrive soon enough whither I am going. I shall have great pleasure in passing a few hours in your company."

"Come, then, we will stretch ourselves on the grass in the shade of those magnificent palm trees, and, while our horses rest themselves, we will pass the great heat of the day in talking and waiting for your people."

"Your offer is so cordial that I cannot refuse it."

"Well spoken, my dear duke."

"Silence," briskly interrupted he to whom this title was given; "my name is Dubois, and I am a naturalist; remember that, I beg."

"Ah!" said the other, with slight astonishment; "As you like. Pass as Dubois; that name is as good as another."

"Better for me at this time."

The two travellers then regained the bank of the river, where, according to the plan they had agreed on, they unloosed the bridle of the horses, taking care to tie them by a strap of leather, for fear they should wander; and after having beaten the bushes with the barrels of their guns to frighten the reptiles, they stretched themselves on the fresh and tufted grass, under the protecting shade of a gigantic palm tree, giving a sigh of agreeable relief.

The country, in the centre of which our travellers had met, was, according to all reports, far from meriting the epithet which one of the two had conferred on it; it was on the contrary, a beautiful country; the grand landscapes of it have always given rise, to the admiration of explorers—very rare, by the way—whom the love of science has induced to visit them under all their aspects.

The Tucumán, where are passing at the present time the events of our history, is one of the most happily situated countries in South America.

Situated at the north of the province of Catamarca, this country, crossed by a branch of the Andes, enjoys a climate temperate in summer, and scarcely cold in winter; a great part of this territory is composed of immense plateaux or llanos, covered with luxuriant vegetation, intersected by numerous streams and considerable rivers, which, not finding any outlet by reason of the want of undulation in the ground, form numerous lakes, without any tide.

It is at the present time one of the most vast, the most thickly populated, and the richest of the Buenos Airean confederation.

From the spot where the travellers had stopped they enjoyed an enchanting view, and saw spread out before them a most charming landscape. At their feet a large and deep river wound like a silver ribbon through the plains, covered with high grass of an emerald green, in the midst of which bounded every moment stags and sheep, playing in troops; wild bulls raised their large heads, armed with formidable horns, and casting about them half timid looks; flights of pigeons and partridges were wheeling in every direction, uttering their sharp or gentle notes, whilst magnificent black swans were playing on the river, and allowed themselves to be carelessly carried along by the current, defiling before the herons that were occupied in searching for fish in the river. Immense forests spread on the background of the landscape, and rose step by step on the far-off slopes of the Cordilleras, whose rugged summits, covered with eternal snow, were mingled with the clouds.

The sun spread profusely its dazzling rays over this primitive scene, and caused the incessantly moistened sand of the shores of the river to sparkle like millions of diamonds.

A profound calm reigned in this desert, so full of animal life, nevertheless, and from the bosom of which rose like a solemn hymn the songs of the innumerable birds perched under the foliage.

Before proceeding farther, and reporting the conversation of our travellers, we will make the reader more intimately acquainted with them, by sketching their portraits in a few lines.

The first—he who did not wish to be known by the title of duke, and who pretended to be a naturalist, calling himself Dubois—was a man about fifty-two years of age, but who appeared more than sixty. His body, long and lean, was slightly bent; his slender limbs were lost, so to say, in the ample folds of his clothing; his features, fatigued by watching and intellectual labour, without doubt, must have been at one time handsome. His forehead was large, but furrowed by deep wrinkles; his black and full eye, surmounted by thick eyebrows, had a fixed and penetrating look, which, when he became animated, it was impossible to support. His nose was straight, his mouth rather large, but furnished with magnificent teeth; his lips, somewhat slender, on which a cold and mocking smile appeared stereotyped. His square chin, with total absence of beard, completed an imposing physiognomy—a little hard, perhaps, but which, when he pleased, he could render extremely prepossessing.

All his person manifested that aristocratic, unctuous, and somewhat sleek grace which distinguishes diplomats and the high dignitaries of the Church. It formed, with the nobility of his gesture, a complete contrast, not only to the costume he had thought proper to adopt, but also with the plebeian manners which he affected, and which, like a part badly learned, he every now and then forgot.

The other traveller was named Émile Gagnepain; he was about thirty or thirty-two years of age, his figure was ordinary, but well and strongly made; his shoulders were large his chest prominent; health characterised his whole person; his arms, on which large muscles stood out like cords, hard as iron, manifested uncommon bodily strength. His countenance indicated frankness and good humour; his regular features, his brown eyes full of intelligence, his laughing mouth, his hair—tawny blonde in colour—curled like that of a Negro, his moustache, oiled with care and coquettishly turned up; his chin shaved, and his bushy whiskers, which reached nearly the corner of his mouth, formed a physiognomy full of frankness and energy, which, at the first glance, attracted sympathy. The rather rude liberty of his movements, his rapid and decided conversation, caused him to be easily set down as one of those privileged beings, as some say—but unfortunate as we say—whom people call artists. In a word, he was a painter. For the rest—a peculiarity that we have forgotten to mention—he had firmly attached to the croup of his horse a box of colours, a large umbrella, an easel, and a maulstick, an apparatus indispensable to all painters, and which, in a country less savage than that in which he was, would have immediately pronounced his profession, notwithstanding his costume of a gaucho.

It was he who first began the conversation. Scarcely had he stretched himself on the grass than, getting up abruptly, and tracing a circle in space with his right arm stretched out before him—

"What an admirable thing is Nature," he cried, "and how culpable are men in spoiling it, as they incessantly do, under pretext of amelioration, as though Providence were not more skilful than they!"

"Bravo!" answered the other—to whom we will give, for the present, the name of Dubois under which he made himself known to us—"Bravo! Monsieur Émile; I see that you are still as enthusiastic as even at the time when I had the pleasure of first meeting you."

"Eh, Monseigneur—Monsieur, I should say—pardon this involuntary slip—do not envy us enthusiasm, we poor devils of artists; enthusiasm is faith, is youth, is hope, perhaps."

"God preserve me from such a thought. I admire you, on the contrary—I who, at my time of life, can drink nothing but absinthe."

"Bah!" gaily said the painter, "Tomorrow does not exist; it is a myth; let us be merry today. Look, what a brilliant sun; what a magnificent landscape! Will all that not make you more contented with humanity?"

"How happy is youth!" said monsieur Dubois; "Everything strikes upon it. Even in the desert, where it runs the imminent risk of dying with hunger."

"Allowing that, Monsieur, the man who has lived in Paris on nothing ought not to fear any desert."

"That leads us to a question that I wish to ask," answered the other, laughing at the artist's jest.

"Let us have the question," said the artist.

"Be so good, then, not to attribute to an indiscretion unworthy of me, but only to the lively interest I take in you, the question I propose to ask you."

"As to indiscretion with me, sir, you are jesting, no doubt; come, do not fear to ask me. Whatever it may be, I will do my best to answer it satisfactorily."

"Since our first rencontre, I have racked my brains to discover the motive which induced you to emigrate here."

"Emigrate! Bah, Monsieur; villainous word! To travel, you wish to say, no doubt?"

"To travel, let it be, my young friend; I will not quibble with you on an expression that you have a right to regard as 'villainous.'"

"Why not tell me frankly that you wish to know my history, Monsieur le Duc?"

"Hush; do forget that title!"

"To the devil with it; I shall always forget."

"I hope not, when I shall have informed you that it is of the last importance that this unlucky title should be ignored by everyone in this country."

"That is sufficient; I will not forget myself."

"I thank you; now, if I do not abuse your good nature, relate to me the history I so much want to learn; for at Paris we met one another under circumstances of too trivial a character for me even to inform myself of your antecedents, which I do not know why, now interest me more than I can explain to you."

"That is easy to understand, Monsieur; the distances which separate us from each other, the insurmountable barriers which in Paris are raised between us, exist no longer here. We are two men, face to face in the desert, one as important as the other, and, I hasten to add, two fellow countrymen, that is to say, two friends. Naturally, we ought to make common cause in everything, to interest ourselves in each other, and love one another, as a protest of dislike of the strangers in the midst of whom fate has cast us, and who are, and ought to be, our natural enemies."

"Perhaps you are right; but I shall be happy, if you please, to hear your history."

"This history is very simple, Monsieur; in a few words I will relate it to you; only I much doubt whether it will interest you."

"Tell it me, my young friend."

"Well, then, my name, you know, is Émile Gagnepain—a plebeian name it is, is it not?"

"The name is of little consequence."

"Without doubt. In 1792, when the country was in danger, my father, a poor devil of a first clerk to a procureur, who had been married but a few years, abandoned his wife and child—the latter aged seven or eight years—to engage himself as a volunteer, and fly to the defence of the Republic. When my father announced to his wife the determination he had taken, she answered him with quite a Spartan brevity—"

"'Go and defend your country; it ought to rank before your family,' said my mother."

"My father left; our poor hearth, already very miserable, became still more so; happily, I had the good fortune of being recommended to David, in whose studio I entered. My mother could thus, by dint of economy, wait for better times. However, years passed away, my father did not return; we seldom received news of him; we learnt that he had been nominated a captain in the Twenty-fifth demi-brigade."

"Sometimes, though rarely, a little aid in money reached my mother. At the camp of Boulogne my father refused the cross of the Legion of Honour, under pretext that the Republic had no distinctions to give to those of her children who were doing their duty."

"Some months later he fell, pierced by the ball of Austerlitz, in the midst of an Austrian square that he had penetrated at the head of his company, crying, 'Vive la République!'"

"The emperor did not entertain any rancour against a soldier of '92. He gave a pension of eight hundred francs to his widow; that was very well, but not enough to live upon. Happily, I had grown up, and was now in a position to do something in aid of my mother. Thanks to the all-powerful protection of my master, although still very young, I gained enough money, not only to support myself comfortably, but also to give my mother a little of that comfort of which she had so much need."

"It was then, I don't know for what reason, that I was seized with a desire to travel in America, in order to study that scenery of which, as people say, we have only counterfeits, more or less successful."

"You are severe, Monsieur," interrupted his companion.

"No, I am just. Nature does not exist amongst us; art alone struts in her place; no European landscape will ever sustain a comparison with a stage scene."

"But I resume: I then redoubled my efforts. I wished to leave, but not before assuring my mother a position which would place her forever, whatever might happen during my absence, above want. By dint of work and perseverance, I succeeded in solving this almost unsolvable problem; the efforts it was necessary to make I will not tell you, sir: they surpass all belief; but my determination was taken."

"I wished to see that America of which travellers give us such magnificent descriptions. At last, after ten years of incessant struggle, I succeeded in acquiring a sum of thirty-five thousand francs—that was very little, was it not? However, that was sufficient for me; I kept five thousand francs for myself, and placed the rest in my mother's name."

"I left; it is now eight months since I landed in America. I am as happy as on the first day. Everything looks smiling to me; the future is mine; I live like the birds, without care for the morrow. I have purchased for the comparatively large sum of two hundred and fifty francs, a rancho of some poor Indian Guaranis, who, frightened by the war of the colonies against the metropolis, have taken a refuge in the grand chaco, among their own people. That is how I have become a landowner."

"Continually journeying hither and thither, I study the country, and I choose the landscape that, at a later period, I shall paint. That will last as long as it may: the future is with God; it is useless for me to concern myself with it beforehand."

"There is my history, Monsieur; you see it is simple."

"Yes," answered his companion, with a pensive air; "too simple, in fact. Complete happiness does not exist in the world in which we are. Why not think a little of the adversity which may surprise you?"

"Why," said the artist, laughing, "it is because, more unhappy and poorer than Polycrates, the tyrant of Samos, I have not even a ring to throw into the sea. Moreover, you know the end of the history; some fish or other would bring it back to me. I prefer to wait."

"This philosophy is good; I see no fault in it. Happy are those who can practise it; unhappily I am not of the number," said he, repressing a sigh.

"If I did not fear to displease you, I would, in my turn, address you a question," pursued the painter.

"I know what you wish to ask. You do not understand—is it not so?—how it is that I, whose elevated position would seem to place me under shelter from tempests, find myself near you today in the desert."

"Pardon me, Monsieur; if what I ask you will the least in the world annoy you, do not tell me a word."

The old man smiled with bitterness—

"No," pursued he; "it is good sometimes to pour off the fulness of one's heart into a pure and indulgent soul. I will only tell you a few words which will acquaint you with all."

"Elevated summits fatally attract lightning; that is an axiom generally acknowledged. Notwithstanding the support I gave the Bourbons, my devotion would not convince them of my fidelity."

"Under the rule of Louis XVIII., they regained the same spirit which had formerly voted the death of Louis XVI. Friends warned me, condemning myself to exile, to avoid the death suspended, without doubt, over my head."

"I abandoned all—parents, friends, fortune, even a name without stain, and honoured up to that time—to go into another hemisphere, to conceal my proscribed head."

"While you, young and careless, arrived by one side in America, I arrived by another side—old, with all my illusions dispelled, cursing the blow which struck me."

"Believe me, whatever may be their name, dynasties are all ungrateful, because they feel themselves powerless. The people alone is just, because it knows that it is strong."

"I pity you in a double sense," answered the young man, holding out his hand: "first, because your proscription is iniquitous, then because you arrive in a country in full revolution."

"I know it," answered he, smiling; "it is on this revolution that I reckon: perhaps it will save me."

"I hope so, for your sake, although your words are so obscure to me that I cannot understand them. It is true that up to the present time I have never thought of politics."

"Who knows if they will not soon absorb all your thoughts?"

"God forbid, Monsieur," cried he with a sort of indignation; "I am a painter."

"Here are my people," said M. Dubois.


"Why here, before us!"

"The devil! Then what are these horsemen who are coming towards us on this side?" said the painter, indicating with his finger, diametrically opposite to that at which appeared a group composed of some fifteen individuals.

"Hum!" said his companion, with a shade of uneasiness; "Who can these people be?"

"Bah!" said the young man; "We shall soon know."

"Too soon, perhaps," answered the old man, pensively shaking his head.

Two troops, in fact, were galloping down towards the river.

They were at about an equal distance from the travellers.



Let us say, in a few words, what was the political situation of the ancient viceroyalty of Buenos Aires at the moment when our history commences.

Notwithstanding the royal decree of Jan. 22, 1809, declaring the provinces of Spanish America an integral part of the monarchy, with equal rights to those of the other provinces of the metropolis, Don Baltazar de Cisneros, named viceroy, arrived with the title of Count of Buenos Aires, and with the authority to receive an annual payment of 100,000 reals.

Indignation, for a long time subdued, at last burst out.

A commission, at the head of which figured two devoted patriots, named don Juan José Castelli and don Manuel Belgrano, was instituted.

On the 14th of May, 1810, a deputation, composed of nearly 600 notables of Buenos Aires, waited on the viceroy to invite him to abandon an authority henceforth ridiculous and illegal, since it emanated from a power which no longer existed in Europe.

A Junta was formed which, after having proclaimed the abolition of the Cour des Comptes, the impost on tobacco, and all dealings with the viceroy, sent an imposing force to Córdoba against General Liniers, French in origin, but devoted to the Spanish monarchy, which for a long time he had served with éclat in America.

Liniers had succeeded in collecting a considerable army, supported by a little squadron which, starting from Monte Video, had come to blockade Buenos Aires.

Unhappily, this event, which was to save the royal cause, compromised it in the most serious way.

The army of Liniers was disbanded; the greater part of the soldiers fell into the hands of the independent party. Moreno, Concha, and Liniers himself, met with the same fate.

The Junta, on learning this unlooked-for result of a campaign from which so much was expected, resolved to strike a decisive blow, in order to intimidate the partisans of the royal cause.

General Liniers was much loved by the people, for he had rendered them many great services. They could have been saved and freed by him. It was necessary to avoid this misfortune.

Don Juan José Castelli consequently received the orders to go in advance of the captives; he obeyed, and they met in the neighbourhood of Mont Pappagallo.

Then there transpired a horrible scene, that history has justly branded with disgrace. Without form of trial, in cold blood, all the prisoners' throats were cut; the bishop of Córdoba alone was spared—not out of respect for his sacred office, but merely to flatter the popular prejudices.

Thus died, cowardly assassinated, General Liniers, a man to whom France justly boasts of having given birth, who rendered such great services to his adopted country, and whose name will everlastingly live on American shores, by reason of his noble and splendid qualities.

A new storm burst over the independent party.

The viceroy of Peru sent, under the command of Colonel Córdoba, a corps d'armée against the Buenos Aireans.

On the 7th November, the two parties met at Hupacha. After a sanguinary fight, the royalists were conquered, and the greater part made prisoners.

Castelli, who, we have seen, massacred Liniers and his companions, had followed the royalist troops in their march. He did not wish to leave his work incomplete: the prisoners were all shot on the field of battle.

The viceroy of Peru, dismayed by this disaster, asked a truce, which the Junta consented to accord to him.

But the struggle was far from ended. Spain was by no means disposed to abandon, without being constrained to do so by force of arms, the magnificent countries where, during a long time, her flag had peaceably floated, and from whence she derived immense riches; and, at the moment when our history recommences, the independence of the Buenos Airean provinces, far from being assured, was again seriously imperilled.

The subjects of the new power had not been long in entering into battle with each other, and in sacrificing to their own miserably ambitious views the most sacred interests of their country, in inaugurating that era of fratricidal war which is not yet finished, and which is leading these beautiful and rich territories to an inevitable ruin.

At the moment when we resume our recital, the Spanish party, for a time subdued, had raised their head again; the colonists, scarcely emancipated, had never found themselves in so great danger of perishing.

The Spanish general, Pezuela, at the head of his experienced troops, made great progress in Peru. On the 25th November he gained a signal victory at Viluma, had retaken Chuguisaca, Potosí, and Tunca; his guards reached Cinti, and some squadrons of volunteer guerillas, partisans of Spain, ravaged almost with impunity the frontier of the province of Tucumán.

The situation was then most critical. The war had lost nothing of its original ferocity; each party appeared to be composed of brigands thirsting for blood and pillage, rather than of brave soldiers or loyal patriots. The road was infested by people without abode, who turned coats according to circumstances, and made war on the two parties according to the exigencies of the moment. The Indians, profiting by these disorders, fished in troubled waters, and chased the whites—royalists or insurgents.

Then, to put the finishing touch to so many misfortunes, a Brazilian army, ten thousand strong, commanded by General Lesort, had invaded the province of Monte Video, which had been for a long time coveted by Brazil, and on which it hoped, favoured by the intestine dissensions of the Buenos Aireans, to seize almost without striking a blow.

It will be easily understood how precarious was the situation of European travellers, necessarily isolated in this country, not knowing either the language or the manners of the people into whose midst they found themselves thrown, and thus cast unawares into the midst of this revolutionary whirlwind, which, like an African simoom, was pitilessly devouring all with which it came in contact.

We shall now return to the two Frenchmen, whom we left carelessly stretched on the grass on the shore of the river, discoursing of various matters.

The view of the second troop, discovered by the painter, had excited to the highest degree the curiosity of his companion. Let us hasten to state that this uneasiness was more than justified by the excessively suspicious appearance of the horsemen.

They were about fifty in number, well mounted, and armed to the teeth with long lances, sabres, poignards, and blunderbusses. These horsemen were evidently Spaniards. Their features, bronzed by the sun and the air of the desert, indicated intelligence and bravery; there was in them something of the haughty and determined bearing of the first Spanish conquerors, from whom they descended in a direct line, without degenerating. Still masters of a great part of the American territory, they did not admit that they could ever be chased from it by the independent party, notwithstanding the victories gained by the latter.

Although riding at a gallop, they advanced in good order; their chests covered with a cuirass of buffalo skin, intended to shield them from the Indian arrows, the lance fixed in the stirrup, the blunderbuss in the bow, the turned sabre in the scabbard, knocking against the spur with a metallic sound.

At ten paces in advance of the troop came a young man of haughty mien, of proud and noble features, with a full black eye, a sarcastic mouth, shaded by a fine black moustache, coquettishly oiled and turned up at the ends.

This young man bore the insignia of a captain, and commanded the troop which followed him. He was about twenty-five years of age; while galloping, he played, with a charming air, with his horse, a magnificent specimen of the untamed coursers of the pampa, who, while spoken to and handled with the nervous delicacy of a woman, curvetted, leaped on one side, and sometimes brought a frown and an ill-humoured grimace to the bronzed and battered countenance of an old sergeant, who was galloping in the rear of the right of the company.

Meanwhile, the distance between the two troops rapidly diminished, and the travellers found themselves, so to speak, the common centre of them.

The two Frenchmen, without saying a word, but as by common consent, had put themselves in the saddle, and in the middle of the track waited, calm and dignified, but their hands on their weapons, and doubtless inwardly uneasy, although they did not wish to appear so.

The second troop, of which we have not yet spoken, was composed of some thirty horsemen at the most, all wearing the characteristic and picturesque costume of the gauchos of the pampa. In the midst they led a dozen mules, loaded with baggage.

Arrived at fifteen paces from the travellers, the two troops halted, appearing to measure one another with their eyes, and mutually preparing for the combat.

To an indifferent spectator, certainly it would have been a strange spectacle offered by these three groups of men, thus boldly camped in the midst of the desert plain, looking defiantly at each other, and, nevertheless, stationary, and appearing to hesitate to charge.

Some minutes passed by.

The young officer, no doubt wishing to bring affairs to a crisis, and wearied with a hesitation he did not appear to share, advanced, making his horse to caracole, and carelessly twirling his moustache.

Arrived at some five or six paces from the travellers:

"Hola, good people," said he, in a sardonic voice, "what do you do there? With a frightened air like nandus in a covey altogether. You do not intend, I suppose, to bar our passage?"

"We have no pretensions of the kind, Señor Captain," answered M. Dubois, in the best Castilian he could manage—Castilian which, notwithstanding his efforts, was deplorable; "we are peaceable travellers."

"¡Caray!" cried the officer, turning round and laughing; "Whom have we here; English, I suppose?"

"No, Señor; Frenchmen," said M. Dubois, with a somewhat nettled look.

"Bah! English or French, what matters?" pursued the officer, with raillery "They are all heretics."

At this manifestation of ignorance, the two travellers shrugged their shoulders with contempt.

"What does that mean?" said the officer.

"Parbleu," answered the painter, "it means that you are deceiving yourself grossly, that is all. We are as good Catholics as you are, if not better."

"Aye, rye, you crow very loud, my young cock."

"Young," said the artist, with a sneer, "you are deceived there again; I am at least two years older than you; as to crowing, it is very easy to swagger and act the 'eater up of little children,' when you are fifty to two."

"Those people down there," pursued the officer, "are they not with you?"

"Yes, they are with us; but what matters that? In the first place, they are inferior to you in number, and next, they are not soldiers."

"Agreed," answered the captain, twirling his moustache with a mocking smile, "I grant you that; what do you wish to conclude from it?"

"Only this, Captain; that we Frenchmen bear insults with great difficulty, no matter where they come from; and that if we were only equal in numbers, this would not have happened."

"Aha, you are brave!"

"Pardieu; revenge is sweet."

"That is swagger also, it appears to me."

"It is an honourable boast."

"Listen," said the captain, after a moment, with exquisite politeness. "I fear I have been deceived with regard to you, and I sincerely ask your pardon for it. I agree to give you free passage, and to those who accompany you, but on one condition."

"Let us have it!"

"You told me a little while ago that I should not speak as I did, had I not believed I should be supported."

"I told you so, because I thought so."

"And you think so still, no doubt?"


"Well, here is what I propose; we are both armed. Let us alight, draw our sabres, and he who shall conquer the other shall be free to act as he thinks proper—that is to say, if it is you, you can pass on your road without fear of being molested, and if it is me, well, a general battle. Does that suit you?"

"Perfectly well," answered the painter, laughing.

"What are you going to do, Monsieur Émile?" cried the old man, briskly. "Do you mean to expose yourself to great danger for a cause which in truth is indifferent to you, and only concerns me?"

"Come," said he, shrugging his shoulders, "are we not fellow countrymen? Your cause is mine. Let me give a lesson to that Spanish braggart, who imagines that Frenchmen are poltroons."

And, without wishing to hear more, he disengaged his foot from the stirrup, leaped to the ground, drew his sabre, and struck its point in the earth, waiting the good pleasure of his adversary.

"But, at least, do you know how to fight?" cried M. Dubois, a prey to the greatest anxiety.

"You are joking," said he, laughing. "Of what use would be the five-and-twenty years' war that France has had, if her sons had not learnt to fight? But make yourself easy," added he, seriously, "I have had eighteen months' instruction in sword exercise, and learned to wield the sabre like a hussar; moreover, we artists know this sort of thing by instinct."

Meanwhile, the captain had also alighted, after having ordered his troop to remain spectators of the combat. The horsemen had shaken their heads; they had, however, not made any remark, but the old sergeant, of whom we have spoken, and who, without doubt, enjoyed certain liberties with his chief, took a few steps in advance, and thought proper to hazard a respectful protest.

The captain, without answering him, made him a mute gesture of a character so decided and imperious, that the worthy soldier stepped back quite snubbed, and resumed his former position without daring to risk a second remonstrance.

"Never mind," he grumbled, between his teeth, twirling his moustache with a furious air; "if this heretic gets the best of it, whatever Don Lucio may say, I know well what I shall do."

The young captain briskly alighted, and advanced towards his adversary, whom he saluted politely.

"I am fortunate," said he, graciously, "in the opportunity which presents itself of receiving from a Frenchman a lesson in fencing, for you have the reputation of being a complete master in arms."

"Eh! Perhaps what you say is more true than you think, Señor," answered the painter, with a smile of raillery; "but if service fails us sometimes, goodwill never forsakes us."

"I am convinced of it, Monsieur."

"Whenever you please to commence, Captain, I am at your orders."

"And I at yours, Señor."

The two adversaries saluted one another with the sabre, and put themselves on guard at the same moment, with perfect grace.

The sabre is, in our opinion, an arm too much disdained, and which ought, on the contrary, to have the preference over the sword in duels, as it has in battles.

The sabre is the true weapon of the military man—officer or soldier. The sword is, on the contrary, only an arm for a gentleman on parade, and is now assumed by persons who, for the most part, carry it at their sides without knowing how to use it.

The sword is a serpent, its bite is mortal. It makes one liable, in using it for a futile cause in a duel, to kill a brave man. The sabre, on the contrary, only makes large wounds which it is easy to heal, and which nearly always it is possible to graduate according to the gravity of the offence received, without risking the life of one's adversary.

The two men, as we have said, had put themselves on their guard. After another bow, the combat commenced, and they exchanged a few passes, mutually feeling their way, as it were, and only using their weapons with extreme prudence.

The Spanish officer was what may be called a good duellist. With a somewhat effeminate appearance, he had a wrist of iron and muscles of steel. His style of fencing was broad and elegant; he appeared to handle his weapon, which was rather heavy, as if he had had a mere reed in his hand.

The style of the French painter was more compact, more nervous, his blows, more unforeseen, and certainly more rapid.

However, the combat did not last long, before it was easy to see with whom would rest the victory. On a sudden, the sabre of the captain leaped into the air, carried away as if by a sling, and fell at a great distance off.

The Frenchman darted off immediately, picked up his adversary's weapon, and presenting it to him:

"Pardon me, Señor," he said, "and be so good, I beg you, to resume a weapon which you use so well. I have only taken it from you by surprise, and I remain at your orders."

"Señor," answered the captain, putting his sabre in the scabbard, "I have merited the lesson that you have given me. Ten times you have had my life in your hands without wishing to take advantage of it. Our combat is finished. I acknowledge myself vanquished, more even by your courtesy than by your skill in the management of arms."

"I do not admit, caballero," pursued the painter, "that any but trifling credit is due to me for the advantage that chance alone has given me over you."

"Go in peace, wherever it may appear good to you, as well as your companions, Señor. You have no insult to fear from us; only I do not consider myself quit of you. My name is Don Lucio Ortega, remember that name. In any circumstances in which you may find yourself, if you have need of me, be it twenty years hence, boldly ask your old adversary and friend."

"I really do not know how to thank you, Señor. I am but a poor French painter, named Émile Gagnepain; but if the opportunity ever presents itself, I shall be happy to prove how much I value the sentiments of goodwill that you manifest towards me."

After this mutual exchange of courtesy, the two men mounted on horseback.

The Spaniards remained motionless at the place where they first stopped, and they allowed to defile before them, without making the least hostile movement, the little troop, at the head of which walked side by side the two Frenchmen. When they passed before him, the captain exchanged a courteous salute with them, and then he gave his troop the order to depart. It darted off at a gallop, and before long had disappeared in the meandering of the track.

"You have been more fortunate than wise," said M. Dubois, to his young companion, when they had crossed the river, and had made the distance between them and the Spaniards rather considerable.

"Why so?" asked the painter, with surprise.

"Why, because you have risked being killed."

"My dear sir, in the country where we now are, we continually run the risk of being killed. In leaving France, I have made a complete abnegation of my life, persuaded that I shall never again see my country. I therefore consider every moment which passes without bringing me misfortune as a favour done me by Providence; so that, my mind being made up, I do not attach the least value to an existence which at any moment can be taken from me under the first pretext that turns up, and even, if need be, under the very slightest provocation."

"You have a rather strange philosophy."

"What can you expect? With the patriots, the royalists, the bandits, the Indians, and the wild animals that infest this country—blessed by Heaven as it is—it would be, in my opinion, folly to reckon on more than four-and-twenty hours of existence, and to form projects for the future."

M. Dubois burst out laughing.

"Nevertheless," said he, "it is necessary for us to think a little of the future just now, if it be but to choose the place where we shall camp for the night."

"Do not let that disquiet you. Have I not said that I would conduct you to my house."

"You have proposed it to me, it is true, but I do not know if I ought to accept your hospitality."

"It will be modest, for I am not rich—far from it; but you may depend it will be cordial."

"But the embarrassment that so great a number of guests will occasion you—"

"You are jesting, Monsieur, or you know very little of Spanish customs. Your people will not cause me any embarrassment."

"Since it is so, then, I accept without further ceremony, so as to pass a few hours more in your charming company."

"Bravo; that is agreed," gaily said the young man; "now, if you will permit me, I will be your guide; for without my assistance, it would be very difficult to find my habitation."

The painter then, in fact, assumed the superintendence of the caravan, and, turning it to the left, he led it by the tracks of wild animals, scarcely perceptible in the grass, to the summit of a gently rising hill, which commanded a view of the plain to a great distance. It was crowned by several buildings, the extent and importance of which the darkness prevented the travellers from deciding.

M. Dubois had only been joined at an hour considerably advanced by his assistants and his escort. The quarrel that had so suddenly been raised by the Spanish captain had caused a rather considerable loss of time, so that the day was far advanced when the travellers could at last resume their journey, and the night had closed in upon them when they ultimately reached the habitation of the young Frenchman.

They had arrived at the foot of the hill, when they saw several lights moving rapidly, and two or three men furnished with torches running before them.

These men were the Indian servants of the painter, who had been a long time watching for the arrival of their master, and who, at the sound of the horses, came to offer him their services.

The installation of the travellers was neither long nor difficult. The mules unloaded, and the baggage placed under a shed, the animals were unsaddled and tied up. The servants gave them provender; then they lighted large fires to cook their supper, and gaily prepared themselves to pass the night in the open air.

M. Dubois and his young companion alone had entered the house, or rather the rancho—for this modest dwelling, built of reeds and clay, and covered with leaves, gave access on all sides to wind and rain, and scarcely merited the name of a cottage.

The interior, however, was neat, and carefully arranged, and supplied with simple but good furniture.

"Here is the salon and the dining room, which we shall later in the evening transform into a sleeping room," said the artist, laughing; "for the present, we will put it to use as a dining room, and will proceed to supper, if you please."

"Nothing will suit me better," answered M. Dubois, pleasantly; "I even promise you that I shall do honour to the supper. I have a tremendous appetite."

"So much the better, then, for the quantity of the repast will make you overlook its quality."

The young man clapped his hands. Almost immediately an Indian woman appeared, and prepared the table, which, in a very brief time was covered with simple dishes, hastily prepared. M. Dubois had opened his bottle case, and had taken from it several bottles, which produced an excellent effect in the primitive receptacle on the middle of the table.

On the invitation of his host, the old man seated himself, and the repast commenced.

After a long day of travelling in the desert, exposed to the heat of the sun and to the dust, people are not very particular as to the quality of the provisions. Appetite makes one consider that to be good which, at another time, would not be touched with the end of the finger. Thus, the aristocratic guest of the painter, making the best of his position, resolutely commenced the attack on what was placed before him; and, contrary to his presentiments, everything was found, if not excellent, at all events eatable.

When supper was over, and the wine vessel taken away, the painter, after a few minutes' conversation, wished his guest a cordial good night, and withdrew.

The latter, as soon as he was alone, changed his mantle into a mattress—that is to say, he stretched it on the table, laid himself down on it, enveloped himself carefully in it, and slept.

He could not have told how long he had been sleeping, when all of a sudden he was rudely awakened by cries of fright and of rage raised at a little distance from him, and with which were almost immediately mingled several shots.

M. Dubois rose in the utmost anxiety, and rushed out to discover the cause of this extraordinary tumult.



A strange spectacle, and which he was certainly far from expecting, offered itself to his astonished eyes.

The platform, or rather the court situated before the rancho, was occupied by some twenty individuals, who were crying out and gesticulating with fury, and in the midst of whom was the painter, his head uncovered, his hair flying in the wind, his right foot placed on his gun, which had been thrown on the ground before him, and a pistol in each hand.

Behind the young man, five or six Indians, his servants, with their guns at their shoulders, ready to fire.

At the door of the shed the loaded mules and the saddled horses were held by two or three Indians armed with guns and sabres.

By the light of the torches, the red flames of which threw out a strange reflection, the scene assumed a fantastic appearance of a remarkable character, rudely contrasting with the profound darkness which reigned on the plain, and which the varying light of the torches illuminated at each gust of the night wind.

The old man, without seeking an explanation of this mournful drama, but instinctively understanding that something was passing in which he was personally interested, darted forward boldly to the side of his young companion.

"What is it?" he cried. "Are we attacked?"

"Yes," quickly answered the young man; "we are attacked, but by your peons (attendants)."

"By my attendants!" exclaimed M. Dubois.

"It would appear that these worthy gauchos have found your baggage suit them, and that the idea has occurred to them to seize upon it—that is all. It is very simple, you see. But let me act; they are not going to succeed as easily as they think."

"Perhaps, if I were to speak to them?" ventured the old man.

"Not a word, not a gesture; leave that to me. You are my guest; my duty is to defend you, and, God aiding me, so long as you shall be under my roof, I will defend you, come what may, against everything."

The old man did not attempt to insist; moreover, he had not the time for it. The attendants, for a moment taken aback by his unforeseen appearance, in the midst of them, recommenced their cries and their wild gestures, brandishing their arms with a threatening air, and narrowing every moment the circle in which M. Dubois and his few defenders were compactly standing.

The struggle, which had been on the point of commencement between the two parties, was most unequal, and in the proportion of about one to four; since, besides the two Frenchmen, only six Indians, of whom three were holding the horses and mules, were preparing to fight the twenty bandits or so who had so insolently revolted.

However, notwithstanding their small number, the Frenchmen and their servants resolved to face the danger boldly, and to maintain the combat to the last gasp, considering the conditions that these wretches thought proper to impose unworthy of their acceptance.

The painter coolly cocked his pistols, slung his gun by his shoulder belt, and, instead of waiting the attack of the attendants, boldly advanced towards them, after having rejoined his companions, by a gesture, to remain where they were, but be ready to defend him.

A bold action always has its effect on the masses.

The attendants, instead of continuing to march in advance, hesitated, stopped, and finished by retreating to the wall of the shed, against which they placed their backs.

They could not at all understand the strange rashness of this man, who thus dared to come alone to face them; and, spite of themselves, by an instinctive sentiment, they felt for him a respect mingled with fear. Moreover, the combat which had taken place some hours before between the young man and the Spanish captain, by proving the incontestable power and bravery of the stranger, had excited their admiration—a circumstance which had considerable weight with them at the moment—added to the respect which they had for him, and caused them still further to hesitate.

The artist had understood the situation at a glance. He felt that he could not escape from the awkward position in which he found himself, but by boldness and decision. His resolve was the work of a moment, and instead of waiting for the danger, he had bravely anticipated it, convinced that this was the only practicable way of saving his life and that of his companions, who for the moment appeared to be quite at sea, and rather to depend on chance than on the most skilful of plans.

"Come, let us make an end of this," said he, in a hard and firm voice, stopping at a couple of paces from the attendants, who were standing huddled against each other before him; "what do you want?"

To this question no answer was given.

"Will you answer yes or no?" pursued Émile. "What do you demand? No doubt you have no intention of appropriating to yourselves, purely and simply, the baggage of the person in whose service you are. That would be the deed of highway robbers, and, low as you may have become in my esteem, I do not believe you have arrived at so base a point as that."

"And that is just where you are wrong, Señor," said an attendant, taking a couple of steps in advance, swaying himself jauntily about, and laughing.

The painter did not hesitate. The moment was critical; he aimed at the attendant, and discharged a pistol full in his chest, saying—

"I do not speak to you; I address myself to these honourable caballeros, and not to a fellow of your sort."

The poor devil rolled on the ground without uttering a cry. He had been killed in an instant.

The effect produced by this daring action was electrical. The attendants, charmed not only at being treated as honourable caballeros, but also at coming out of the delicate position in which they had inconsiderately placed themselves, applauded with enthusiasm, and uttered mad cries of joy at this unwarrantable act.

"I was saying, then," pursued the painter, in a gentle voice, and coolly reloading his pistol, "that you are honest people—that is understood and agreed on between us. Now that we understand one another, explain to me the motives that have induced you to revolt in this way, and to push matters to such lengths that had I not arrived you would have left with the horses, mules, and baggage."

A unanimous protest was raised to this accusation.

"Well," continued the young man, "the mules and the horses have been saddled and loaded inadvertently, I admit. Without thinking of doing wrong you would have prepared to take them away with you, still, through a mistake which would be regretted, all that, strictly speaking, may be, if not logical, at least possible. But still, in revolting against a man who has paid you something in advance, and whom you have engaged to serve honourably for the term of the journey, you had certain motives. What are these motives is what I wish to know. What are they? Tell me."

A reaction had worked in the minds of all these uncultivated men. The bold and honest courage of the young man had carried them away in spite of themselves. Scarcely had he finished speaking than all protested energetically to their loyalty and devotion, pressing round him, and almost suffocating him as they closed in upon him.

But he, without losing any of his coolness, and wishing that the lesson should be complete, pushed them away gently with his hand, and making a sign for them to be quiet.

"One moment," said he to them, smiling; "it is not necessary for another mistake to come and embroil us anew at the moment when we are on the point of understanding one another. My friends, who are at some little distance from us, and who do not know what is passing, would suppose me in danger, and come up to my aid. Let me then prove to them that all is finished, and that I consider myself perfectly safe."

And taking his pistols by the barrels, he threw them over his head; unbuckled his sabre, and sent it the same way; and then crossed his arms carelessly on his breast.

"Now let us talk," said he.

This last action of unheard-of boldness literally staggered the mutineers. They acknowledged themselves conquered, and, without wishing to enter upon new explanations, they humbly bowed before the haughty young man, and kissed his hands, swearing devotion under all circumstances, and immediately withdrew with a rapidity which proved their repentance.

Some minutes afterwards the mules were unloaded, the horses unsaddled, and the attendants, enveloped in their ponchos, were sleeping, stretched before the watch fires.

Émile rejoined his companions—anxious and stationary at the place where he had left them—carelessly twirling a cigarette of maize straw between his nervous fingers.

But his countenance was pale, and his eyes had a sombre expression. On his road he found his arms, and again took possession of them.

"You have done wonders," said M. Dubois to him, grasping his hand with gratitude.

"No," answered he, with a sweet and calm smile; "only I remembered the word of Danton."

"What word?"

"Boldness. It is only with boldness we can tame wild beasts; and what are men if not savage beasts?"

"But you risked your life?"

"Have I not said that a long while ago I made that sacrifice? But do not attach, I beg you, more importance to this affair than it really deserves. Everything depended on a firm and prompt resolution. These men were prepared for theft—not for assassination. That is the secret of the matter."

"Do not seek to lower the value of an action of which I shall preserve an ever grateful memory."

"Bah! What I have done for you today you will do for me tomorrow, and then we shall be quits."

"I doubt it. I am not a man for battle. I have only social courage. In an émeute, I am afraid."

"Pardieu! So am I; only I do not allow it to be seen. But let us speak no more of this; we have to talk of more important matters—at least, if you would not prefer to resume your sleep, so awkwardly interrupted."

"It would be impossible for me to sleep now. I am entirely at your disposal."

"Since it is so, let us re-enter the rancho. The nights are cold, the dew frozen. It is of no use for us to be any longer in the open air. You see that our wild revolutionists have taken in good part their defeat, and sleep peaceably. Do not let any of them, who may perhaps be still watching, suppose that we still have any anxiety on their account. Come."

They re-entered the rancho, the door of which the painter scrupulously closed after him.

When they had sat down, the young man opened a bottle of rum, poured out a glass, and, after having tasted it, he gave two or three puffs of smoke, and then placing his glass on the table—

"The situation is grave," he said, throwing himself back in his chair; "do you wish that we should speak unreservedly?"

"I should like nothing better," answered the old man, casting at him a furtive look from beneath his half-closed eyelids.

"First and before all, let us understand one another thoroughly," pursued Émile, smiling; "here we do not talk diplomatically: is it not so?"

"Why should we?" said his companion, smiling.

"Why, the force of habit may lead you away, and, believe me, at this moment it would be a wrong to yourself to allow yourself thus to be led."

"Fear nothing. I shall be with you as frank as possible."

"Um!" said the young man, with a half-convinced air; "However, it matters not, I will risk it; so much the worse for you if you do not keep your promise, for I have no other interest but yours."

"I am convinced of it; speak, then, fearlessly."

"First, one question. You are going to Tucumán?"

"Have I not told you so?"

"Just so. A part of the men who accompany you are disguised soldiers that the government of Buenos Aires has given you to serve you for the escort."

"How do you know that?"

"In a way which it is difficult to guess. So you are charged with a political mission?"


"Parbleu! That speaks for itself; only I wish you to observe that it is completely indifferent to me, and that I do not attach the least importance to it."


"Allow me to continue. From what has passed tonight, it is evident to me that a part of your escort is traitorous, and intends to give you up to the Spaniards."

"Do you think so?"

"I am sure of it."

"Matters are serious, then?"

"You have a mission?"

"Suppose what you please; but aid me in escaping from my embarrassment."

"Well, I understand; you need say no more. Now, you will never reach Tucumán!"

"Do you know your opinion is also mine?"

"Pardieu! I know it well. Now that these fellows are curbed, this is what I propose—"


"But, take particular notice that it is only in your interest."

"I am convinced of it."

"If it is agreeable to you, as these bandits profess a certain respect for me, I offer to accompany you as far as Tucumán."

"My dear compatriot, nothing can be more agreeable to me in every way than this proposition. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are literally saving my life."

"Pardon me—but on one condition."

"But what is that condition?" said the old man.

"It is simple; I believe that you will accept it with enthusiasm," answered the young man, laughing.

"Tell me, tell me; I am all attention."

"I must tell you that, without ever having been able to give myself a reason for it, I have always felt a profound disgust for politics."

"There is nothing wrong in that," said the old man, shaking his head with a pensive air.

"Is there not? So that, if I consent to escort you as far as Tucumán, and to conduct you there safe and sound, it is on the express condition that there shall never be a political discussion between us as long as we remain together. I have come to America to study art; let us each enjoy our specialty."

"I ask nothing better, and subscribe joyfully to that condition."

"And then—"

"Ah! There is something else."

"Consequent on the fear that I have previously expressed, I wish to leave you when we are in sight of Tucumán—that is to say, let us understand one another, before entering it; and if some day chance should bring us together again, you will never tell anyone whatever the service I shall have rendered you. Will that suit you?"

M. Dubois considered for a moment.

"My dear compatriot," at last said he, "I understand and I appreciate, believe me, all the delicacy of your procedure towards me. I engage, with all my heart, not to trouble your happy artist carelessness by coming to bore you with political questions that, happily for you, you cannot understand; but your last condition is too hard. However great may be the danger which threatens me at this moment, I will expose myself to it without hesitation rather than consent to forget the gratitude that I owe you, and to feign towards you an indifference against which my whole being revolts. We are both Frenchmen, cast far from our country, on a land where all is hostile to us; we are consequently brothers, that is to say, we are severally answerable for each other; and you so well enter into this, that all you have done since our meeting has been done under this impression. Do not defend yourself; I know you better, perhaps, than you know yourself, but permit me to tell you that your exquisite delicacy causes you just now to overshoot your mark. It is not for yourself, but for me alone that you fear all this; I cannot accept this sacrifice of self-denial. Although I am not a man of action, as you are, I nevertheless will in no circumstances consent to compromise my duties; and it is a duty for me—a sacred duty ever—not to forget what I owe you, and to acknowledge my deep obligations to you."

These words were pronounced with so much frankness and simplicity that the young man was moved; he held out his hand to the old man, whose pale and severe countenance had assumed, under the feelings which agitated it, an imposing expression. He answered in a voice which he vainly tried to render indifferent.

"Let it be so; since you demand it, Monsieur, I give way; to insist further would be ungracious. At break of day we will begin the journey, unless you would prefer to pass a day or two here."

"Urgent affairs call me to Tucumán. If it were not so, the revolt of tonight would induce me to hasten."

"It will not be renewed, I give you my word. These wild beasts are now muzzled, and changed into lambs. Better than you I know this mongrel race, for I have already lived several months in the midst of it. But we cannot use too much prudence. It is better, then, that you leave as soon as possible. There are already three hours of night; take advantage of it by getting a little sleep. I will wake you when the hour of departure has arrived. Good night."

The two men shook hands once more; the painter withdrew, and the old man remained alone.

"What a pity," murmured he to himself, installing himself as comfortably as possible in his mantle, and stretching himself on the table, "that a man of such ability, and with so brave a heart, should let his life become the sport of fancy, and not consent to devote himself to a serious career! There is in him, I am convinced, the stuff whereof to make a diplomatist."

While he was making these reflections he fell asleep. As to the young man, as, notwithstanding the assurance he affected, he inwardly had a vague misgiving, instead of lying down in the room which he usually occupied, he stretched himself in the open air on the esplanade, across the door of the rancho, and after having cast around him an inquiring look, to assure himself that all was really secure, he slept peacefully.

Scarcely had the stars commenced to pale in the sky, and the horizon to be irradiated with large opal band, than the painter was up and surveying the preparations for departure.

The attendants, who had completely resumed their duty, obeyed his orders with perfect docility, appearing to have quite forgotten the attempt at rebellion so happily frustrated.

When the mules were loaded and the horsemen in their saddles, the young man awakened his guest, and they proceeded on their journey.

From the house of Émile Gagnepain to the town of Tucumán the journey was rather long. It lasted four days, during which nothing occurred worth mentioning. They camped in the evening sometimes in some Guaranis rancho, abandoned by reason of the war, sometimes on the open field, and left a little before sunrise.

The attendants did not belie the good opinion that the young painter had formed of them; their conduct was exemplary, and during all the journey they did not manifest any tendency to revolt anew.

On the sixth day, at about ten o'clock in the morning, the white houses and the high towers of San Miguel de Tucumán—to restore to it the name which geographers confer upon it—arose upon the horizon.

The aspect of this city is enchanting; built on the confluence of the Río Dulce and the Río Tucumán, in such a situation as the Spaniards alone knew how to choose at the epoch of the conquest, the town is traversed by straight and broad streets, with pavements, and intersected here and there by beautiful squares, adorned with sumptuous buildings. The population of Tucumán is about 12,000 souls; it possesses a college, and a somewhat renowned university; while its commerce makes it one of the most important towns of the Banda Oriental.

At the time when we take the reader there that importance had further increased by the war. It had been fortified by means of a deep ditch, and by earth ramparts, sufficient to put it in a position to resist an attack.

For some time strong detachments of troops had been sent to the town on account of the events which had happened in Peru, and the approach of the Spanish troops.

These various corps were camped round the town, and their bivouacs offered the most singular aspect, especially to the eyes of a European, accustomed to that order, symmetry, and discipline which characterise the armies of the world.

In these camps all was pell-mell and disorder. The soldiers, lying or sitting on the ground, were playing, sleeping, smoking, or eating, while their wives—for in the entire Hispano-American army each soldier is always followed by his wife—led the horses to drink, prepared the meals, or cleaned the arms with that passive obedience which is the characteristic of Indian women, and which in some respects renders those unhappy creatures so interesting and worthy of pity.

The travellers, obliged to pass through the bivouacking parties, did not do so without some apprehension. However, contrary to their misgiving, they had not to submit to any insult, and entered without any obstacle San Miguel de Tucumán.

The town appeared en fête; the clocks of the convents and of the churches were ringing a full peal; the streets were full of men and women, dressed in their best and handsomest costumes.

"Have you decided on a spot where to stop?" said the painter to his companion.

"Yes," answered the latter, "I am going to the portals of the Plaza Mayor."

"But to which? All the square is furnished with portals."

"To those which front the cathedral. An apartment has been retained for me at the house No. 3."

"Good, I see that close-by."

The caravan was then threading an apparently inextricable labyrinth at streets, but in about a quarter of an hour it came out upon the Plaza Mayor.

"Here we are arrived," said the painter. "Permit me now to take leave of you."

"Not before you have consented to accept from me the hospitality I have received from you."

"Why not let me go?"

"Who knows; perhaps I may still want your assistance?"

"If it is to be so, I resist no longer, and I will follow you."

"Let us enter, then, for I believe here is the house."

They were, in fact, in front of No. 3.



San Miguel de Tucumán, the studious and calm town, whose broad streets were ordinarily almost deserted, and whose squares resembled the cloisters of an immense convent, had suddenly changed its aspect. It might have been called a vast barrack, so many soldiers of all kinds encumbered it. The quiet life of its inhabitants had been changed into feverish existence, full of noise and excitement. Men, women, children, and soldiers, mingled pell-mell at the corner of each street, and in every square, were calling out and talking in emulation of each other, gesticulating with that vivacity and animation peculiar to southern races; brandishing banners with the colours of the nation, and dragging about in all the busy streets, and close to the houses, boxes and cohetes, that supreme manifestation of joy in Spanish America.

A fête without cohetes or crackers, without fireworks, making noise and smoke, is a failure in these countries. The quantity of powder which is consumed in this way attains fabulous proportions.

We are pleased to render this justice to the Hispano-Americans—that they have no pretentiousness in their fireworks, and that they let them off artlessly, to their great contentment, as well by day under the most brilliant sun, as by night in the midst of darkness. We have even remarked that they prefer, by a refinement, no doubt, of extravagant selfish enjoyment, to let them off by daylight under the noses of the gaping crowd, that escapes half-burnt, howling and cursing at the mischievous wags, who laugh convulsively at the good turn which they have done for their admirers.

On this day, as the travellers learned on their passage, the inhabitants of San Miguel were celebrating a great victory gained by a chief of the Buenos Airean Montoneros over the Spaniards.

In the old Spanish colonies, and in general throughout America—that of the south as well as that of the north—it is not well to take too literally these bulletins of victory, which for the most part are only skirmishes of no importance, when there are neither killed nor wounded; and which even frequently conceal defeats or shameful retreats.

For some years Europeans have been informed as to the character of these dwellers beyond the sea; their boasting and throwing the hatchet have passed into a proverb. Everyone knows that the puff is of American origin; that the most magnificent flocks of canards reach us at a single flight from the other side of the Atlantic; and that, although many come from the Spanish republics, the most numerous start in countless troops from all the ports of the United States of America, which have justly acquired such a superiority for the rearing of these interesting birds, that henceforth no one will venture to dispute with them the palm of the puff, the public announcement, and the official lie.

An entire house had been placed at the disposal of M. Dubois by the new republican power. The governor of the province and the general commanding the troops camped round the town, warned of his arrival, waited for him at the door of the house, at the head of a numerous and brilliant staff.

The painter grasped the hand of his companion, allowing him to enjoy in his own way the honours which they heaped upon him; and, curious, true artist as he was, he put an album under his arm, glided through the crowd assembled in the Plaza Mayor, and wandered about, his nose in the air and his hands in his pocket, in quest of studies to paint or types to sketch; preferring to look out for novelty, than to submit to the wearisomeness of an official reception.

However, he had left his horses and his attendants with those of M. Dubois, who had only consented to his temporary departure after having made him promise not to choose any other dwelling than his own during all the time he might be pleased to stay at San Miguel.

The artist wore the complete costume of the inhabitants of the country, and had nothing which could attract attention; so it was easy for him to move about among the groups without being incommoded by the impertinent curiosity of the gaping idlers, for whom, especially at this time, a stranger—a European particularly—was an extraordinary being, who they imagined belonged to a different species to themselves, and towards whom they manifested more pity than goodwill. The greater part at the present day believe that Europeans are heretics, half men and half demons, and damned from the moment of their birth.

Nothing, in our opinion, is so agreeable as to walk about thus, without occupation of any sort, wandering through the crowd, isolated amidst the multitude; allowing oneself carelessly to follow out the caprices of the moment; mingling sometimes indirectly in the general joy, then resuming the course of one's thoughts, and again becoming alone in the midst of the crowd; only attaching oneself by an invisible chain—incessantly breaking, and again joined by chance—to events which, as an immense kaleidoscope, defile before one's eyes; at once an actor and a spectator, indifferent or interested to everything that strikes the eye, elbowing and skimming everything without being oneself mixed up in the facts which are transpiring.

The young man, happy as a scholar during the vacation at being so agreeably rid of his serious companion, thus wandered about, admiring the public monuments, the squares, the promenades; gazing at the women who passed near him, with a light and gentle tread; carelessly smoking his cigarette, walking right on without knowing where he was going, and caring very little, seeing that he was on the lookout for novelty.

He thus reached, scarcely knowing how, the Alameda or promenade of the town, a charming garden with thick foliage, adorned with clusters of pomegranate and orange trees in flower, the delicious perfume from which embalmed the atmosphere. By a singular chance the Alameda was deserted; all the population had been carried away into the centre of the town, and for one day had abandoned this delicious promenade.

The painter congratulated himself on the solitude in which he found himself, after the noise and uproar with which he had been so long mingled, and which began to oppress his temples, and to cause him to feel a kind of moral lassitude.

He cast his eye round for a bench, which he soon discovered, half-concealed in a bower of orange trees, and sat down with an unspeakable sense of pleasure.

It was about five o'clock in the evening. The breeze had risen, and was refreshing the heated atmosphere; the sun, nearly level with the ground, immeasurably lengthened the shadow of the trees; a number of birds concealed in the foliage were singing with all their might, and millions of insects with transparent wings were humming and flying around the flowers, the sweets of which they were gathering.

The sounds of the fête only came as a far-off echo, and almost inaudible to this solitude, which breathed the most complete calm.

Carried away in spite of himself by all that surrounded him, and submitting to the enervating influence of the perfume exhaled by the flowers, the young man allowed himself to fall back, crossed his arms over his chest, and, half closing his eyes, he fell into a sweet reverie, which soon absorbed his whole being, and made him completely forget reality, to be borne away into the fantastic land of dreams.

How long had he been subjected to this delicious somnolence, without name in our language? He could not have answered his own question; when suddenly he gained consciousness with a rude gesture of ill humour, listening and casting around him a look of discontent.

The sound of conversation had reached him.

However, it would have been in vain for him to try and pierce the darkness, for night had come; he could see no one. He was still alone in the bower, into the recess of which he had withdrawn.

He redoubled his attention; then he discovered that the voices that he had heard were those of two men who had stopped at a few paces behind him, and that the cluster of orange trees, in the midst of which he was alone, precluded his seeing them.

These two men, whoever they might be, appeared to wish not to be heard, for they spoke in a low voice, though with some animation. Unhappily, the Frenchman was so near them that, in spite of himself, and do what he might to prevent it, he heard all they said.

"The devil take these fellows," murmured the young man to himself; "to think of coming to talk politics here! I was so comfortable. What shall I do with myself now?"

But as he heard what his neighbours said, and even their lightest movements, the latter probably would have heard him if he had endeavoured to leave the place. Force compelled him, then, though he grumbled at it, to maintain his hiding place, and to continue to hear the conversation of the two men—a conversation by no means calculated to reassure him, and which from time to time assumed a very disquieting character for a third party, called to be, spite of himself, a confidant.

We have mentioned what horror the painter had for politics: the reader will easily understand what was his anxiety on hearing such things as those we are about to relate.

"This news is certain!" said one of the interlocutors.

"I have it from an eyewitness," answered the other.

"¡Caramba!" said the first, slightly raising his voice, "So we may soon hope to see the general in these parts!"

The painter trembled. He seemed to recognise that voice, without being able to recall where he had previously heard it.

"So the insurgents have been defeated?" continued the same speaker.

"Utterly defeated, Captain. I repeat it, at the battle of Villuma, General Pezuela pursued them more than six leagues, hard pressing them with the sword."

"Bravo! And what is he doing now?"

"Carsi! He is marching, doubling the rations, in order to arrive the quicker; unhappily, as far as we can see, he will not be able to be here for two months."

"That is very late."

"Yes; but that allows you to prepare your batteries."

"That is true; nevertheless, the mission with which the general charges me is full of difficulties. The insurgents are numerous round the town, and they keep a good guard; if it were a question of carrying away two or three, or even ten deputies, perhaps I could answer for success; but consider, my dear count, that it is nothing less than causing the disappearance of sixty or eighty persons."

"I do not understand you."

"That is natural," continued the captain; "only arrived today in the town, and not having yet gone out, except with me, you are unacquainted with what is passing."

"Entirely so," pursued the other, to whom had been given the title of count.

"Here are the circumstances in a few words. The insurgents wish to strike a decided blow. With this design they have convoked here at Tucumán a congress composed of deputies from each revolted district. This congress has for its object the proclaiming of the independence of Buenos Aires, and of all the Banda Oriental."

"¡Sangre de Dios! Are you sure of that?" cried the Count astounded.

"So sure that I know it by one of my cousins, who is himself one of these deputies, and who has no secret from us."

"¡Cuerpo de Cristo! This is dreadful! The general will be furious when I inform him of it."

"I am convinced of it; but what is to be done?"

"To prevent it by all means."

"It is impossible; means fail us completely. I can only dispose of a hundred men, with whom I can attempt nothing, so much the more as we are playing an unlucky game at this moment. The population is running frantic at the success of the chief of the Montoneros, Zeno Cabral, has gained two days ago over the royal troops, commanded by Colonel Azevedo."

"This success is somewhat apocryphal, my dear Captain. I give you my word of honour; it merely consists of an unimportant skirmish between foragers."

"I admit it; it is even certain that it is so; but no one in the town will believe it; so that the check must be considered real."

"Well, what matters? Let us leave these people in their error, and take advantage of it by acting. Now that they think themselves invincible, and that they amuse themselves by wasting their powder in fireworks, we can perhaps try a bold attack on the town."

"Your idea is not bad; I even avow that it rather pleases me; but it has to be matured. It would be necessary to adroitly remove the troops camped in the environs, and to profit by their absence to attempt a surprise."

"Then nothing would be easier than to seize upon the deputies."

"Do not let us go too fast; let us first see what are the forces we have at our disposal for this expedition, which cannot but be very perilous, and which offers—I do not deceive you—very little chance of success."

"Well, let us discuss the matter; I am quite agreeable."

The painter, becoming more and more ill at ease through these confidences, which assumed rather a grave aspect for him, and wishing at all hazards to escape from the perplexing position in which he found himself—for he instinctively understood that it was a conversation between conspirators, and that he risked his life if he were discovered—took a resolution which appeared to him to be an inspiration from Heaven. Not wishing to continue to be a third party to secrets of such importance, he resolved to discover himself. He did not conceal from himself that the first moments would be very dangerous for him to get through, when the two men knew that their conversation had been heard throughout; but he preferred rather to risk this uncertain chance of saving his life than to remain any longer in the awkward position.

Émile was foolishly bold, and scarcely ever thought of danger; on the contrary, he rushed headlong into it—the reader has already discovered this for himself; but this time, contrary to his habits, he used some little prudence before revealing his presence to the unknown speakers.

He gently cocked his pistols, which he held in his hand under his poncho, ready to make use of them if need be: then rising from the bench on which up to that moment he had remained sitting—

"¡Hola caballeros!" said he, in a voice not loud enough to be heard by any other persons than those to whom he addressed himself. "Take care! There are ears which hear you."

The two men uttered an exclamation of surprise and terror; then there was a trampling sound in the shrubbery, and they appeared in front of the young man, each holding a sabre in one hand and a pistol in the other, their countenances distorted by rage and fright.

But they suddenly stopped.

The young man stood motionless before them, his pistols in his grasp.

"Halt, and let us talk it over," said he coolly.

This scene had something strange and startling about it. In this little enclosure of orange trees in flower—in the silver rays of the moon, in the midst of a profound calm, in the bosom of that calm nature on which the imposing silence of a night impressed a stamp of majesty—these three men, thus placed face to face, measuring each other with their glances and ready for attack, formed a most striking contrast with what surrounded them.

"Talk over the matter!" said the count. "Of what use would that be?"

"To prevent killing one another like brutes without knowing why," answered the painter.

"A traitor merits death."

"I agree with you; but I am not a traitor, since I make myself known to you, when it would have been easy to remain silent until I had discovered all your secrets."

This observation—very reasonable for that matter—appeared to produce a certain impression on the two men.

"Then, why these arms?" continued the count, in a tone evidently mollified.

"To avoid what would have happened had I not taken the precaution to furnish myself with them."

"You are not a spy upon us, then?"

"By no means; in fact, I was here a good while before you. The sound of your conversation awakened me from a light slumber into which I had fallen, and not caring to be, against your will, a confidant in your secrets, I have decided to warn you."

"Who can prove it?" sternly pursued the count.

"I presume, caballero," answered the young man, "that you allow yourself to doubt my words?"

"Who, then, are you, Señor, that you ought to be thus believed at the first words?"

"I!" said the young man, laughing; "Not much compared with you—a poor French painter, but honest, thank God, to the fingers' ends."

"Ah! I know him," cried the second stranger, who till that moment had remained silent. "I know him now. Put up your sabre and drop your pistol, my dear count. Arms are not wanted here."

"I will do so willingly, if that is your advice, Captain," answered the count, with hesitation. "However, it appears to me that in so serious a position—"

"Down with your arms! I tell you," interrupted the captain, who had already put aside his own. "I will answer, body for body, as to this cavalier."

"Be it so," said the count; "but prudence—"

"What? Since this caballero gives you his word, and this word is corroborated by my own, that is sufficient, it appears to me," pursued the captain.

The young man, seeing that his adversaries had apparently no longer any hostile intentions, quietly uncocked his pistols, and, replacing them in his girdle, he turned towards him who had so unexpectedly come to his aid—

"I thank you, Señor," said he, "for the good opinion that you have of me. Although your voice is not unknown to me, I shall be, nevertheless, happy if you will be good enough to refresh my memory, by informing me, if you can, where I have had the honour of meeting you before."

"Vive Dios, Señor. Don Émile," he resumed in a tone of good humour, "you have a short memory."

"How do you know my name?"

"And you know mine, unless you have forgotten it—which would not astonish me after what I see!"

"I am really astonished, Señor; but I cannot the least in the world recall where we have already seen one another."

"Come, since it is absolutely necessary that I tell you my name once more, I will do so. I am Don Lucio Ortega."

"The Spanish captain!" cried he.

"And whom you so dexterously disarmed. The very same, caballero."

"Oh! How could I forget that meeting, which has left me so charming a souvenir?" he said, holding out his hand.

"So this gentleman is a friend of yours?" pursued the count.

"Yes, my dear count; and one of the most intimate."

"Pardon me for saying it, but you know what would be the consequences of indiscretion."

"They would be terrible. Continue."

"And you think yourself still in a position to answer for the discretion of this caballero?"

"As much as for my own, I repeat."

"Good; act in your own way, then," he continued.

"Listen," said the captain; "I can understand how you, who do not know this gentleman, may entertain secret anxiety; we are not engaged in child's play at this moment, we are risking our lives in a desperate undertaking; each of us has a right to demand of his companion a strict account of his conduct."

"Just so; it appears to me it ought to be so."

"Very well. This account I am going to give you. In spite of himself, and without having wished to do so, Don Émile has discovered secrets of the greatest importance. These secrets, I am convinced, he will keep at the bottom of his heart; but the certainty that I have you do not share: this is your right, and I have nothing to object to in it; but, with the design of merely reassuring you, I will take all the precautions, with respect to my friend, that you can demand. Of course, these precautions will have in them nothing to wound the honour or self-respect of Don Émile, whom I hold above all as my friend."

"I will act with the captain," briskly answered the young man; "and I place myself completely at your disposal as to anything you are pleased to exact from me. I humbly confess that politics cause me a shudder, and that I most sincerely regret to be so unfortunately discovered here, when it would have been so easy for me to have been elsewhere, where, without doubt, I should have been much better off."

The gravity of the Count was not proof against this speech, uttered with such despairing artlessness. He burst into laughter.

"You are a charming companion," said he; "and, although our connection has commenced under such hostile auspices, I hope it will be lasting: that soon you will become one of our friends, and I shall be one of yours."

"That will be a great honour for me, Monsieur le Comte," he answered, bowing.

"Now that you have placed one foot on our secrets, it is necessary that you enter into them entirely."

"Is it, then, absolutely necessary?"

"Decidedly so."

"It is curious how for the last few days fate has been pleased to pursue me and obstinately to make me a man of politics, when I should be so happy merely to paint pictures—I, who have only come to America for that purpose. It has been a splendid idea, certainly, and I have well chosen my time."

"In the first place, it is necessary for you to make your decision."

"I know it well, and that is just the reason why I am enraged; but as soon as I shall be able to act otherwise, I shall not hesitate a moment, I promise you."

"Until a new order, it is indispensable that you remain with us—that you be in some sort our prisoner; but, reassure yourself, your captivity shall not be hard; we will make it, or at least we will try to make it, as agreeable to you as possible."

"So you are going to deprive me of my freewill?" said the painter with a tragi-comic air.

"It must be so for the present."

"Hum! Well, I consent to it—the devil take politics! What occasion had I to come to San Miguel to accompany that old Dubois?"

The two men started at that name.

"You know the Duc de Mantone?" they exclaimed.

"Ah, ha! You know whom I mean, it appears?"

"The Duc de Mantone, formerly a member of the Convention, a senator under the Emperor Napoleon, who has come to America under the name of Louis Dubois?" said the count.

"That is he. Why, then, did he urge me so strongly not to give him his title?"

"Because he hoped not to be recognised. He comes here, hunted by the Bourbons for having voted the death of Louis XVI., to seek a refuge in this country, and to lend the insurgents the aid of his experience in conducting the revolution."

"The fact is that he ought to know a great deal about this affair," said the painter, laughing.

"But what were you saying about him? Was he really at San Miguel?"

"I myself aided him to enter the town today."


"Parbleu! He is a fellow countryman: and, look you, Captain, we were together when I had the honour of meeting you."

"What! That tall old man with such a haughty look and such imposing features, who sat so firmly on horseback near you?"

"The very same."

"Oh, if I had known it!" cried the captain.

"What would you have done, then?"

"I should have captured him, ¡vive Dios!"

"Then it is fortunate that you did not know him, for probably there would have been a skirmish."

The captain took no notice of this remark.

"Come," said he.

"Where shall you conduct me?"

"To Cabildo."

"To Cabildo! What for?"

"The governor gives a grand ball there today; we shall spend some little time there."

"I fear that this conceals some political manoeuvre."


"Provided that I do not find myself further mixed up in it, spite of myself—"

"I will try to leave you ignorant of what may transpire."

"I shall be very grateful to you for it. Well, à la grâce de Dieu!"

The three men, quite reconciled, left the little inclosure, set out from Alameda, and took the road to Cabildo, conversing in a friendly way.

The streets were illuminated, and the population were diverting themselves more than ever in letting off fireworks.



Montonero, the feminine of which is montonera, is essentially an American word, although its root is undoubtedly Spanish. It signifies, literally, a heap, a mass, a collection. Taken in the bad acceptation of the word, a montonera means a gathering of men of the sack and cord—of bandits without faith or law—of highway robbers.

But this is not the meaning which was at first given to the word. They understood by montonera, a cuadrilla—a guerilla composed of banished politicians—of insurgents who made war as partisans at their own risk and peril, but who were brave and honest.

The Spaniards, at the commencement of the insurrection of the colonies against the government, imposed this name on them in order to lower them in public opinion—a name in which the Montoneros themselves boasted, and which they considered it an honour to bear.

But when the civil war degenerated into a fratricidal struggle among citizens—when the Spaniards were conquered and constrained to abandon the new world—the Montoneros degenerated, and suspicious men of all parties came to shelter themselves under their banners, and to seek there an impunity for their crimes. They were then nothing more than a lot of sinister bandits, resembling those bands of robbers and vagrants of the middle ages which so long desolated Europe, and the successive governments were, during more than two centuries, powerless to destroy, or even to repress them.

Appearing to have received the traditions of their progenitors of the old World, the Montoneros commenced to ravage the country, to pillage the haciendas, to put to ransom the towns too weak to oppose an energetic resistance to them; and serving any cause for pay, they adopted all parties in turn, remorselessly betraying one after the other, and only seeing in civil war one end—pillage.

At the epoch in which our history transpires, although the Montoneros had already degenerated from their original loyalty, and a number of people without any occupation had succeeded in getting into their ranks, they nevertheless preserved, at least in appearance, the principles of chivalrous patriotism which had governed their formation, and their name did not inspire, as it afterwards did, terror to the honest folk and peaceable citizens whom it was the mission of the Montoneros to protect and defend.

In a fertile valley, at the foot of a wooded hill of moderate height, on the bank of the Río Tucumán, at about fifteen leagues from the town of San Miguel, a troop of horsemen, whose number might be about three hundred, had camped in a delicious position.

The soldiers, all clothed in the costume of the gauchos of the pampa—their features expressive of energy, and their faces bronzed in the sun, but with a fierce look—were for the most part armed, not only with sabres and guns, but also with a long and strong lance, the blade of which was garnished with a bright red streamer.

Lying or sitting at the foot of the fig and orange trees, they had planted their lances in the ground, and were playing, talking, or sleeping, while their horses were freely wandering about, feeding on the green grass of the plain.

Some sentinels, scattered on the somewhat distant heights—motionless as statues of Florentine bronze, of which they had the warm and coppery tint—were watching over the common safety.

These men, whose reputation for bravery was celebrated in all the Banda Oriental, composed the Montonera of the celebrated Zeno Cabral—the same who had had, they said, some days before, a quarrel with the royal troops, and whose victory the town of San Miguel was celebrating with shouts and fireworks.

This wild and primitive encampment, which more resembled a halt of bandits than anything else, had a most picturesque appearance, and would have been the admiration of a painter of the Salvator Rosa school.

Nearly in the centre of the encampment, at the summit of a little hill of a scarcely perceptible slope, several men, whose arms and clothing were in a better position, and their appearance less fierce than those of their companions, were seated on the grass smoking their cigarettes.

These men were the officers. In the midst of them was their chief, or the general, as they called him.

This chief was a very young man, appearing, at the most, twenty-two, with fine and delicate features, and gentle and graceful manners, which, in the eyes of an indifferent spectator, would have appeared little calculated to command men like those who had voluntarily ranged themselves under his banner; but an observer would not have been deceived by the energetic expression on his calm and handsome face, by the uncommon height of his clear and well-chiselled forehead, and by the eagle glance which escaped from his full black eyes. A sad melancholy seemed settled on his features, and it was with extreme difficulty that his companions—for the most part young men of his own age, and belonging to the first families of the country—could succeed at long intervals in bringing a sad smile upon his lips.

His head supported on his right hand, thoughtlessly twirling with his left hand his long and silky black moustache, he carelessly gazed, without any apparent object, on the immense and magnificent panorama which was spread before him, only answering by monosyllables to the questions which were addressed to him, and appearing absorbed in some secret thought.

His officers, seeing all their advances repulsed by their chief, had decided to leave him to his reflections, whatever they were, since he appeared to wish to indulge them, and began to chat and laugh among themselves, when all of a sudden some forty horsemen appeared on the horizon, coming at full speed towards the spot where the Montonera was encamped.

"Eh?" said one of the officers, placing his hand as a shade over his eyes, "Who can these horsemen be?"

"They are our people, since the sentinels have allowed them to pass," answered another officer.

"Have we, then, scouts in the environs?"

"I could not be certain of it; but as the general had spoken of detailing Captain Quiroga, with some twenty soldiers, to watch the defiles of the Sierra, and as I do not see him among us, it is probable that the general has given effect to the project."

"It would be his troop, then, that is coming up?"

"I think so; for that matter, we shall not be long in knowing the real state of affairs."

The horsemen still rode towards them; they were soon sufficiently near to be recognised.

"You were not deceived, Don Juan Armero," resumed the first officer: "it is, in fact, Captain Quiroga. I can distinguish from here his long lean body, which appears to sway about in his clothes, and his angular and morose face, which makes him appear like a bird of night."

"The fact is," answered don Juan, "that the worthy captain is easy to recognise; but you should be more careful, Don Estevan; you know that the general likes him much, and perhaps it would displease him to hear him thus spoken of."

"To the devil! As if I said any ill of him! Captain Quiroga is a brave and worthy soldier, whom I love and appreciate very highly myself, but that is no reason why he should have the figure of Adonis."

"A matter about which he cares very little, without doubt, gentlemen," said Zeno Cabral, mingling in the conversation; "he contents himself with being one of our bravest and most experienced officers."

"¡Caramba! General; and we also all love him—the brave old man who might be our father, and who tells us during the nights of bivouac such pleasant tales of old times."

The chief of the party smiled, without answering.

"But what is he bringing us here?" suddenly cried don Estevan Albino, the officer who had first spoken. "Why, I can see the folds of a robe and a mantilla fluttering in the wind!"

"Two robes and two mantillas, if you please, Don Estevan; and even more, if I am not deceived," sententiously remarked Don Juan Armero.

"¡Válgame Dios!" said the young officer, laughing; "The old boy is bringing us a bevy of petticoats."

The officers rose; some opened their lorgnettes, and began to examine attentively the troops which were arriving, freely commenting on the prize made by the old officer, and which he was bringing with him.

Zeno Cabral had fallen again into his reverie, apparently indifferent to what was passing around him; but the feverish flush which suffused his face, and the knitting of his eyebrows, belied the affected calm, and showed that he was inwardly a prey to strong emotion.

Meanwhile, the horsemen rapidly traversed the plain, and approached nearer and nearer, coming towards the group of officers, recognisable by the Buenos Airean flag, the staff of which was fixed in the ground, and which floated in long folds to the breeze.

On the arrival of the horsemen the Montoneros rose, looked at them curiously, and then followed them, laughing and sneering among themselves, so much that, when they reached the foot of the little hill where the officers were waiting for them, they found themselves literally enveloped by a compact crowd that Captain Quiroga was obliged to separate with a blow or two from a piece of lancewood, of which he acquitted himself with imperturbable coolness.

The officers had not calumniated the worthy captain. The difference of costume apart, he resembled, trait for trait, Don Quixote, at the time of his second sortie.

There was the same long and meagre body, the same lean and angular countenance, with a depressed forehead, sunken eyes, hooked nose like the beak of a bird, large jaws furnished with a few worn-out teeth, long grey moustaches, and high reddish cheekbones.

And yet this eccentric appearance—as they would nowadays have called it—had nothing ridiculous in it. This singular physiognomy was set off by such an expression of bravery, candour, and goodness, that at first sight one felt oneself attracted towards the old officer—for he was at least fifty—and quite disposed to love him.

The soldiers laughed convulsively on receiving the blows that the captain generously distributed to them, and it was with great difficulty that he could rid himself of them.

"Devil take these fellows!" said the captain; "They will not let me approach the general."

And, followed by a part of his soldiers, who, like himself, had alighted, he walked up the hill where the officers were gathered.

The soldiers led several prisoners in their midst; among these prisoners were some women, of whom two appeared, by their costume and manners, to belong to high society.

The Montoneros, notwithstanding the indiscreet curiosity which animated them, had not dared, out of respect for their chief, to pass the natural limit traced by the foot of the little hill. Grouped in disorder round some soldiers who were guarding the horses, they gazed anxiously on their officers.

The latter were ranged right and left of Zeno Cabral, and had given free passage to Captain Quiroga and to those whom he brought with him. Zeno Cabral had slowly risen, and, his hand supported by the handle of his sabre, his countenance cold and impassive, and his eyebrows knitted, he waited for his subordinate to speak.

The captain, having with a gesture ordered those who followed him to stop, took some steps in advance, and, after a military salute, he remained motionless without uttering a word. Amongst all his qualities, the captain did not reckon that of being an orator; his silence had become proverbial in the company.

Don Zeno knew that if he did not interrogate the captain, the latter would never make up his mind to speak first. He therefore made an effort, and affecting an indifference which was doubtless very far from his real feeling—

"You have returned, then, Captain Quiroga?" said he.

"Yes, General," laconically answered the officer.

"Have you fulfilled the mission that I confided to you?"

"I believe so, General."

"You have surprised the enemies of the country?"

"Those or others, General. I seized the people you designated when they debouched from the ravine; whether they are enemies of the country or not I do not know—that does not concern me."

"That is right," said don Zeno Cabral, who was evidently dragging out the conversation, and hesitated to attack the point of it really interesting to him.

The captain was again silent.

Don Zeno resumed, after a short pause, fidgeting his sabre knot with suppressed ill temper.

"But, in a word, what have you done?"

At this moment one of the prisoners motioned the captain on one side with a sudden gesture, and taking a step in advance—

"Do you not know, Don Zeno Cabral?" she said, in a haughty voice, throwing on her shoulders, with a gesture full of nobility, the rebozo of black lace which veiled her face.

The officers stifled a cry of admiration at the sight of the sovereign beauty of this woman.

Don Zeno Cabral took a step backward, biting his lips with vexation, while his countenance became covered with a mortal paleness.

"Madame," said he, with closed teeth, "you are a prisoner, and must only speak—do not forget that—when you are questioned."

A smile of contempt curled the lips of the lady. She slightly shrugged her shoulders, and fixed on the general a look with such an expression that, in spite of himself, he turned away his eyes.

This lady, in all the force and pride of her beauty, appeared to be about twenty-seven or twenty-eight years of age, although in reality she was about thirty-three. Her features, with extreme regularity of outline, realised the ideal of Roman beauty; her black eyes, full of fire and passion, her delicate forehead, her pretty mouth, her fine and velvet skin, her complexion very slightly bronzed by the sun, and, above all, the haughty and mockingly cruel expression of her countenance, excited a repulsion for her for which it was impossible at first to account. Her majestic figure, her noble gestures—everything about this woman, by an inexplicable contrast, repelled instead of attracting. One would have looked for the roar of a wild beast in the harmonious modulations of her voice, and the claws of a tiger under her rosy nails.

"Beware what you do, caballero," she resumed; "I am a foreigner; I am travelling peaceably; no one has a right to stop me, or even to impede my course."

"I repeat, Madame," coldly answered the general, "when I interrogate you, then, and then alone, I will permit you to answer me."

"Have I then fallen into the hands of bandits, without faith or law?" pursued she, with contempt. "Am I in the power of robbers of the desert? For that matter, the manner in which, up to the present time, I have been treated, and the sight of the man before whom I am conducted, would make me suppose so."

A murmur of anger, immediately repressed by a gesture from don Zeno Cabral, arose among the officers at this imprudent outburst.

"Where is the guide that we suspected of treason?" said the general, turning towards the captain.

"I have seized him," answered the latter.

"Have you acquired proofs of his treason?"

"Undoubted proofs, General."

"Have him brought in."

There was a movement among the soldiers. Some of them separated from the group which surrounded the prisoners, and led—treating him roughly—before their chief a half-caste of pitiful mien, with squinting eyes and thickset limbs, who, for more safety, no doubt, they had firmly bound round the neck with a lasso.

Don Zeno Cabral looked for a moment at this man—who stood humble and trembling before him—with a singular mixture of pity and disgust.

"You are convicted of treason," said he to him at last. "I have the right to hang you. I give you five minutes to commend your soul to God."

"I am innocent, noble General," murmured the wretch, falling on his knees, and hanging down his head with fear.

The general shrugged his shoulders, and turned towards the officers, with whom he began to talk in a low voice, without appearing to hear the prayers that the prisoner continued to address to him in a crying tone.

Three or four minutes passed. A funereal silence characterised the attentive crowd of the Montoneros.

It is always a serious matter, that condemnation to death, pronounced coldly, resolutely, and without appeal, even for men habituated to stake their lives on the hazard of a die, like those who were assisting at this scene; thus, in spite of themselves, they felt themselves seized with a secret fright, increased by the doleful sounds of the voice of the wretch who was writhing with fear in their midst, and imploring with sobs the pity of their chief.

The latter turned round, and making a sign to Captain Quiroga—

"It is time," said he.

"¡Caray!" said the captain; "The pícaro has been long enough seeking the gallows; he will not have cheated it, that will be at least a satisfaction for him in his last moments."

This singular speech on the part of a man who spoke so little as a rule, astonished everybody, and suddenly changing the course of ideas among the company, caused them to burst out into mocking laughter and jests directed to the condemned, who from that time lost all hope.

A soldier had mounted a tree a few paces off, and had attached his lasso to the principal branch. The captain ordered that the spy should be led under the tree, and a running knot was cast around his neck.

"Stop!" cried the lady prisoner, suddenly interposing; "That man is mine; take care what you are about to do."

There was a moment of hesitation. The wretch drew breath again; he thought he was saved.

"Take care yourself, Señora," harshly answered Zeno Cabral; "I alone command here."

"I am the Marchioness de Castelmelhor," she resumed, "the wife of General Castelmelhor; each drop of blood of that man shall cost the lives of thousands of your countrymen."

"You are a foreigner, Madame—the wife—you have said so yourself—of a Portuguese general, who has only entered our territory a few days since to ravage it. Think of yourself, and do not intercede anymore for that wretch."

"But," said she, with bitter irony, "are you not a Portuguese yourself, Señor—a Portuguese by descent at least?"

"Enough, Madame; from respect to yourself, do not insist any more. This man is guilty; he is condemned; he ought to die; he shall die."

At this moment a second woman, who, up to this time, had remained unnoticed among the other prisoners, darted quickly forward, and seizing with a nervous gesture the arm of the general, while tears ran down her face, pale with emotion—

"And mine, Don Zeno," she cried, "and mine! If I asked pardon for that man, would you refuse me?"

"Oh!" cried the general, with despair; "You here—you, Doña Eva!"

"Yes, I—I, Don Zeno, who supplicate you by all you hold most dear, to pardon him."

The general looked at her for some moments with an expression of love, of anger, and of grief, impossible to describe; whilst the young woman, panting, desolate, her eyes filled with tears, and her hands clasped, almost kneeling before him, addressed him a mute prayer. Then, suddenly making a last effort over himself, and resuming his cold and impassive appearance, he regained his composure, and crossing his arms on his breast—

"It is impossible," said he; "obey, Captain."

The latter did not allow the order to be repeated. The miserable spy, seized by hands of iron, was raised into the air, and launched into eternity before even having a clear perception of this unforeseen dénouement.

The young girl—for the person who had vainly endeavoured to interpose between the justice and the clemency of the general was a young girl, almost a child, scarcely fifteen years of age—seized with fright at the sight of this hideous spectacle, terrified by the cries of brutal joy raised by the soldiers, quite gave way; her arms hanging down, her head falling on her breast, half fainting, her beautiful and gentle countenance was suffused with a mortal paleness; her long tresses fell in disorder on her shoulders, and her eyes, so mild and tender, the azure of which appeared to reflect the blue of the sky, were veiled and dimmed by grief, whilst a nervous movement agitated her whole body.

The marchioness approached her, lifted her up calmly, and directing the general's attention to her with a look of sovereign contempt—

"Stand up, my daughter," said she; "this posture only befits suppliants or criminals, and you are, thank God, neither. Did I not forewarn you that this man had a tiger's heart?"

"Oh! My mother! My mother!" cried she, hiding her face in her bosom, "How much I suffer!"

At these words, uttered with an agonising expression, the general made a sudden movement, as if to start towards the young girl.

But the marchioness, standing erect with a leonine boldness, fixed him to his place with a scornful look.

"Back, Señor," said she; "neither my daughter nor I know you. We are your prisoners. If you dare, kill us also, as you have almost threatened."

At this speech, the cruel accent of which recalled him suddenly to himself, the general resumed his coolness, and answered, with a cutting tone—

"Not you, Madame; we do not kill women; but your accomplices will be shot within an hour."

"What matters it to me?" she answered.

And supporting her daughter in her arms, she went with a firm step to mingle again with the prisoners.

This strange scene, incomprehensible to all that witnessed it, had plunged the officers and soldiers into profound astonishment.

Up to that time they had known their chief, brave—even rash—hard towards others as towards himself—of extreme severity in matters of discipline, but just, humane, and never in cold blood commanding the death of the unhappy prisoners whom the chances of war placed in his power. Thus, this sudden change in the humour of their chief, this cruelty which he had exhibited, astonished them, and filled them, unknown to themselves, with secret terror. They instinctively understood that this man, ordinarily so cold and impassive, must have very powerful motives to act as he did, and thus to give a complete denial to the mildness of character which, up to that time, he had always manifested; so, though this cruelty appeared revolting, no one dared to blame him, and those of his officers who felt disposed to accuse him could not decide to do so.

Meanwhile, don Zeno Cabral, without appearing to remark the emotion produced by this scene, strode about the place where he was, his arms behind his back, and his head leaning on his breast, seemingly a prey to great agitation.

The officers stood apart, watching him by stealth, waiting with visible anxiety the determination which doubtless he would not be long in taking—a determination on which depended the life or death of the unhappy prisoners.

Captain Quiroga at last approached him, and respectfully barred his passage at the moment when, after having terminated his promenade in one direction, he was turning to continue it in the other.

Don Zeno raised his head.

"What do you want?" said he.

"The order, General."

"What order?"

"The confirmation of that you have given me."

"I!" said he, with astonishment.

"Yes, General; I wish to know if it is necessary to shoot immediately the twelve Brazilian prisoners there."

The general started as if a serpent had stung him; he stealthily darted a look towards the beautiful young girl. She was weeping, her face hidden in her mother's bosom.

"What are these men?" said he.

"Nothing much—poor devils of servants, I believe."

"Ah! Not soldiers?"

"Not one."

"However, they defended themselves."

"Well, General, that is their right."

The general fixed his piercing eye upon the impassive face of the old soldier.

"Ah!" said he; "How many of your men have they killed?"

"Two, and wounded five, but honourably."

"I find you very tenderhearted today, Captain Quiroga," said he, in a tone of sarcasm.

"I am just, as usual, General," he answered.

The general turned pale at this hard remark, but immediately recovering himself—

"Thank you, my old friend," pursued he, holding out his hand; "thank you, for having reminded me what I owe to myself. Let them sound the signal to saddle; we leave for San Miguel, gentlemen. Captain, I leave the prisoners under your special care; let them be treated with kindness."

"Good Zeno, I am grateful to you," answered the old soldier, with a low but firm voice, taking the hand that his chief held out, and kissing it; "good, my friend."

"Come, gentlemen, to horse!" cried the general, turning aside to conceal his emotion.



The cabildo of San Miguel de Tucumán was gay with excitement, and brilliantly lighted up. The people collected on the Plaza Mayor saw through the open windows the crowd of guests, men and women, in their most magnificent costumes, and their most brilliant toilets.

The governor was giving a tertulia a gala (soirée) to celebrate, in official style, the brilliant victory gained by the celebrated and valorous partisan chief, don Zeno Cabral, over the troops of the King of Spain.

Joy burst forth and overflowed all parts of the cabildo on to the square, and from the square into the streets, where the people, picking up the crumbs which fell from the official fête, amused themselves in their own way, laughing, singing, dancing, and here and there exchanging—so great was their delight—a few blows of the knife.

The soirée had acquired new lustre from the arrival of M. Dubois, who—although everybody knew his title of Duc de Mantone—preferred to preserve the modest name which he had adopted on his arrival in America; saying with charming good humour, to those who reproached him with this obstinate incognito, which deceived no one, that the name of Dubois reminded him of the best years of his youth, when he fought on the benches of the National Convention to conquer for his country the republic and liberal institutions; and that he thought it well to resume this name now, when, in the decline of life, he came to another hemisphere, to maintain, with all the influence that his experience could give, the same principles.

At this the questioners could find nothing to answer, and withdrew, charmed with the spirit and manners of the old member of Convention, and—let us hasten to state—secretly flattered at possessing in their ranks one of those Titans of the National French Convention who, from their curule chairs, had made the world tremble, and whom the storm had been powerless to annihilate.

About half past nine, at the moment when the fête was at its height, Captain Don Louis Ortega, the painter, Émile Gagnepain, and the Count de Mendoza entered the cabildo, and made their appearance in the saloons.

Thanks to the captain, the French artist had changed his costume of a gaucho, rubbed and worn in use, for a splendid Buenos Airean chacrero, which almost rendered him unrecognisable.

The presence of the newcomers was little remarked in the whirlwind of the fête, and they could, without attracting attention, mingle in the crowd of guests which literally encumbered the reception rooms.

The French painter had a few minutes' happiness in contemplating the fête, the entire appearance and arrangements of which so little resembled what, under similar circumstances, we are accustomed to see in Europe.

The cabildo, the former palace of the governor of the province, had, in fact, vast and well-ventilated rooms, but the furniture of which formed a striking contrast to the magnificent toilets of the guests.

The whitewashed walls were entirely bare; two rows of benches were all the furniture of the saloons, which were lighted by means of wax candles and garlands of coloured lamps, hidden as far as possible in the midst of bouquets of artificial flowers. On a stage placed in the centre of the principal saloon was an orchestra composed of some fifteen musicians, who, playing almost ad libitum, made the most odious uproar with their instruments that could be imagined.

But joy and enthusiasm lit up every face. The guests appeared very little to care whether the music was good or bad, provided it enabled them to dance, of which they acquitted themselves in a thoroughly joyous manner, bounding and gambolling in emulation of each other with every manifestation of pleasure.

In the midst of the crowd the general commanding and the governor were promenading, followed by a number of their staff, glittering with ornaments, and returning with a patronising air the salutes which were addressed to them.

Near them was M. Dubois, upright and formal, in his black coat in the French style, and his short breeches, forming the most singular contrast to those who surrounded him.

The painter could scarcely repress a burst of laughter on perceiving him, and tried to hide himself in the middle of the crowd; but it was labour lost: M. Dubois perceived him, and came right to him.

The painter was obliged to wait for him.

"My young friend," said M. Dubois, passing his arm under his arm, and drawing him towards the seat of a window, which was unoccupied at the moment, "I am happy to have the opportunity of meeting you; I have something important to say to you."

"Important!" said the artist, with a gesture of annoyance, "The devil take it."

"Yes," replied he, smiling; "you shall see."

"I am scarcely serious enough in my nature," pursued he; "I am an artist, you know—a painter, a passionate lover of art; and it is just to escape the exigencies of serious life that I have abandoned France to come to America."

"Then you have decidedly fallen," said M. Dubois with a dash of irony.

"I begin to believe that I am wrong."

"It is possible, but let us return to business."

"What, it is a question of business, then?"

"Pardieu! Is not everything business in this world?"

"Hum!" said the artist, not at all convinced.

M. Dubois assumed a paternal air, and, seizing a button of his companion's coat, without doubt, to prevent him from escaping—

"Listen to me with attention," said he; "the few days that I have had the advantage of passing in your company enabled me to study your character, and to appreciate it at its just value; you are an intelligent, wise, and modest young man; you please me."

"You are very good," mechanically murmured Émile by way of answer.

"I wish to do something for you."

"That is a good idea; have you any influence?"

"Yes, much more than you doubtless think."

"Then render me a service."

"What? Speak. I shall be glad to acquit myself of what I owe you."

"Bah! That is nothing; do not let us speak of it."

"On the contrary, let us talk about it."

"No, no, I beg you; rather render me the service which I ask of you."


"Then procure me, this very evening, a respectable escort, so that I may without danger reach Buenos Aires."

"What do you wish to do at Buenos Aires?"

"To embark by the first ship which sets sail, in order to fly as soon as possible from this frightful country, where they only talk politics, and where life has so many tragic elements that it becomes insupportable to any man who, like me, lives only for art."

"Have you finished?" asked the diplomatist.

"Nearly; it only remains for me to add, that if you render me this immense service, you will make me the happiest of men, and I shall be eternally grateful to you. What I ask is easy, it appears to me."

"Yes, it is easy enough."

"Then I may count on your kindness?"

"I do not say that."

"What, you refuse me?"

"For your good; in your interest I ought to do so."

"Parbleu! That is good!" cried the artist, quite disappointed.

"I know better than yourself what is good for you; let me explain myself."

"Speak, but I warn you beforehand, that you will not succeed in convincing me."

"Perhaps. I was saying, then, when you interrupted me," resumed he, imperturbably, "that you please me. Called by the confidence of the enlightened men who play the foremost parts in the glorious revolution of this noble country to occupy a high place in their counsels, I want near me an honest intelligent man, in whom I can trust, who understands Spanish—which I do not—and which I am told to learn; in a word, who will be devoted to me, and who will be rather a friend than a secretary. This man, after mature reflection, I have chosen—it is you."


"Yes, my friend."

"Thank you for the preference."

"Then you accept."

"I! I refuse—I refuse with all my might."

"Come, you are not serious."

"My dear Monsieur Dubois, I do not joke about such things—they are too serious."

"Bah! Bah! You will reflect."

"My reflections are made, my resolution immovable; I repeat that I refuse. Why, there seems to be an epidemic! Everybody is obstinately trying to make me against my will a man of politics; it's enough, upon my honour, to drive me mad."

The diplomatist slightly shrugged his shoulders, and, tapping the painter on the arm in a friendly way—

"Sleep upon it," said he; "tomorrow you will answer me." And he turned away to leave him.

"But I swear to you—" said Émile.

"I will listen to nothing," interrupted he; "dance, amuse yourself; tomorrow you will talk."

And he left him.

"They are all demented!" cried the young man, stamping with rage. "What a singular mania to wish to make me by force a serious man. He will be very clever who will catch me tomorrow at Tucumán. I will leave tonight. I will escape, come what may. This life is awful, and I can bear it no longer; but the advice that M. Dubois has given me is not bad; I will take advantage of the few hours of liberty that remain to divert myself, if that is possible."

After this "aside," during which the greater of his anger evaporated, the painter re-entered the ballroom.

The fête continued, more excited and disorderly than when his countryman had drawn him aside; people were dancing in all parts of the saloons—not the cold and insipid French quadrilles, where it is good taste to walk stiffly and with constraint, but the graceful samba juecas, the jotas—in fact, all the delicious Spanish dances, so full of freedom, of movement, and abandon, where liberty never passes certain bounds, but which, nevertheless, allow the women to display all the voluptuous graces which they possess without shocking the eye of the most austere moralist.

The painter, unknown to all who surrounded him, and speaking Spanish with too much difficulty—although he understood it very well—to hold any conversation whatever with his neighbours, leant his shoulder against the wall, and with his arms folded across his breast, he watched with increasing interest the dances which passed before him like a whirlwind; when suddenly the music ceased, the dancing stopped, and a move was made by the crowd.

Loud cries—joyful cries, let us hasten to state—were heard in the square; then the crowd in the cabildo fell back, and separated briskly into two parts, leaving a large open space in the middle of the rooms.

The governor, the general, and some twenty officers, then advanced up this passage, which had been left open for them, at the head of the newly arrived guests, who had not been expected, but whom, nevertheless, they prepared to receive most cordially.

At the appearance of the newcomers in the saloons, applause burst forth with unwonted force, and hats and handkerchiefs were waved with enthusiasm.

Those that entered were the true heroes of the fête.

Don Zeno Cabral, who, it was thought, had camped at about ten leagues from San Miguel de Tucumán, entered the cabildo with all the staff of his Montonera.

At the sight of those bold partisans, who a few days before had gained a signal advantage over the Spaniards, joy became delirium. Everybody rushed towards them to see them and congratulate them, and in the first movement of enthusiasm they really ran some danger of being suffocated by their admirers.

However, by degrees the demonstrations, without ceasing to be hearty, became calmer, and there was again room to move in the saloons, which, during a short time, the people of the square had nearly invaded.

The fête recommenced.

But the guests, whose curiosity had been excited to the highest point, and who could not satiate themselves by looking at these men, whom they considered as almost their saviours, no longer entered into the amusements with the same spirit as before.

The painter, wearied with the secondary part which he was playing in the midst of people whose aspirations it was impossible for him to understand, and whose enthusiasm he could not share, had left the corner of the room where he had so long remained alone, admiring in silence the scene of excitement which passed before him; and he sought to open up a passage through the crowd, and reach the square incognito—hoping easily to escape during the tumult caused by the arrival of the Montoneros—when he felt himself touched lightly on the shoulder.

He turned round, and could with difficulty repress an exclamation of ill humour on recognising his two companions of the Alameda—those who had assisted him to an introduction to the cabildo—in a word, the Spanish captain and the Count de Mendoza.

Both were disguised, and had put on a costume similar to that which the young Frenchman wore.

"Where are you going to this way?" asked the count, with a sneer.

We must render this justice to the painter—that if he had not completely forgotten the two men whose prisoner on parole he was, at least, in his inmost heart he hoped to escape their vigilance, reckoning on chance for the opportunity.

"I?" asked he, surprised unawares.

"Certainly, you," said the count.

"Mon Dieu," said he, with the most indifferent air that he could affect, "it is suffocating in these rooms, and I was going out on the square, in quest of a little breathable air."

"Is that all?"


"Do not distress yourself, then; as we want a little air, like yourself, we will accompany you," pursued the count.

"Be it so; I am quite agreeable," said he.

They took some steps towards the door. But the young man, suddenly altering his mind, stopped, and turning briskly towards his two bodyguards, who followed him step for step—

"Parbleu!" said he to them, resolutely, "I have changed my mind, and since the opportunity for an explanation between us presents itself, I will profit by it."

"What is that he says?" asked the count, haughtily.

"Let the caballero speak," said the captain; "I am certain that he has something interesting to say."

"Yes, Señor, very interesting indeed, for me!"

"Ah, ah!" murmured the count; "Let us hear—it must be curious."

"You think so?"

"I am convinced of it."

"But, pardon," pursued the count; "are you not, like us, my dear sir, of opinion that it is not well to put the public in the confidence of things which concern us alone?"

"I can understand that you have an interest in seeking mystery; such is not my view. I wish, on the contrary, that the greatest publicity should be given to this conversation."

"That is a great pity."

"Why so?"

"Because," coldly remarked the count, drawing from under his poncho a pistol loaded and cocked, "if you say one word more—if you do not follow us on the instant—I will blow your brains out."

The painter burst out laughing.

"You would not be stupid enough to do that!" said he.

"And why?"

"Because you would be immediately arrested; because important reasons oblige you to remain unknown; and because my death would not be sufficiently advantageous to you for you thus to risk your personal safety for the pleasure of killing me."

"¡Cuerpo de Cristo!" cried the captain, laughing; "Well answered, on my word. You are beaten, my dear count."

"All is not finished between us," said the count, gnashing his teeth, but putting aside his weapon.

"I am astonished, Señor," coolly resumed the young man, "that you—an hidalgo, a gentleman of the old stamp—that you should every now and then manifest such bad taste."

"Take care, Monsieur," cried the count, "do not play thus with my anger; if you push me to extremities, I can forget everything."

"Come," said Émile, shrugging his shoulders with disdain, "do you take me for a timid child that is frightened by threats? You forget who I am, and who you are. Take my advice, let us live together in the bonds of courtesy; any uproar would ruin you, and make you ridiculous."

"Let us make an end of it," said the captain, interposing; "it has already lasted too long. Do not let us attract attention towards us for a foolish affair like this. You wish, Señor, to regain your liberty by our giving you up your parole, do you not?"

"Just so; that is what I ask, Señor; am I wrong?"

"Upon my word, no; in acting thus, you do but obey the instinct that God has placed in the hearts of all men; I cannot blame you."

"What are you doing, Captain?" cried the count, with violence.

"Eh, mon Dieu! My dear count, I am doing what I must do. It must be one of two things—either this stranger is an honest man, in whom we ought to have confidence, or he is a rogue who will deceive us at the first opportunity. In one case, as in the other, we ought to trust his word. If he is honest, he will keep it; if not, he will succeed in escaping."

"Perfectly reasoned, Señor," answered the artist. "The word that I have given you, believe me, binds me more strongly towards you than the best forged chain."

"I am convinced of it, Señor. To terminate this contest, I declare to you here that you are free to act as you like, without our imposing any obstacle, certain that you will not betray men against whom you have no motive of hatred, and to whom you have promised secrecy."

"You have well judged, Señor; I thank you for that opinion, which is true."

"You wish it," exclaimed the count, with suppressed rage; "let it be so; but you will repent this foolish confidence in a man whom you do not know, and who, moreover, is a foreigner."

"Come, my dear count, you are pushing your mistrust too far. There are honest men everywhere, even in that France that you hate, and this cavalier is of the number. Your hand, Señor, and au revoir. Perhaps we shall meet again in more favourable circumstances; then I hope you will accord me your friendship, as I have already offered you mine."

"With all my heart, sir," said the painter, warmly pressing the hand which was held out to him, and only answering the words of the Count by a smile of disdain.

"Now, thank God, this grave discussion has terminated," pursued the captain, laughing, "I believe that all our affairs here are finished for the night, my dear count, and that it is time to retire."

"We have only stayed too long here; like you, I think we ought to leave as soon as possible," answered the count, with a morose air.

"If you will permit me, I will accompany you as far as the square, Señores; seductive as this fête may be, it has no charms for me. I feel the need of repose."

"Come, then," said the captain.

They then quitted the saloon, and made towards the exit.

"On my word," thought the painter, "I am happy to be rid of them at this price, to find myself at last free. As to that dear Monsieur Dubois, I wish him much joy, and especially that he may quickly find another secretary, for he was perfectly wrong in reckoning on me."

And the young man joyfully rubbed his hands.

Unhappily for him, the series of his troubles had not yet come to an end, as he had rather prematurely flattered himself.

At the moment when the three men reached the outer door, and were about to descend the few steps which led into the court of the cabildo:

"There they are!" said a voice.

Immediately the two sentinels placed at the door crossed their guns and barred the passage.

"Come, what now?" murmured the painter, with vexation.

"What does this mean?" demanded the count, haughtily.

"It means," answered a man, stepping forward, who had been hitherto in the darkness, "that I arrest you in the name of the country, and that you are my prisoners."

He who had just spoken this was Captain Quiroga.

"We prisoners!" exclaimed the three men.

"Yes, you," coldly resumed the captain, "you, Don Jaime de Zúñiga, Count de Mendoza, and you, Captain Don Lucio Ortega, accused of high treason."

"Well, and me; what have I to do with all this?"

"You, my dear sir, we arrest you as a presumed accomplice of these caballeros, in company of whom you have introduced yourself to the cabildo, and with whom you have been talking a long time."

"Ah! That is madness!" exclaimed the painter, at the height of astonishment; "But I am not at all a friend of these caballeros."

"Enough!" coldly answered the captain; "Now, gentlemen, give up the arms that you probably conceal in your clothing if you do not wish to be searched."

The two Spaniards exchanged a look; then, by a movement rapid as thought, they rushed with an invincible force upon the sentinels who were barring their passage, overthrew them, and bounded into the court.

But here they found themselves in the presence of some twenty soldiers, hidden beforehand, who precipitated themselves upon them, and in the twinkling of an eye they were searched and disarmed.

"Well, we give ourselves up," said the count; "you need not lay hands on us anymore, and treat us like bandits."

The soldiers immediately moved a little on one side, and allowed the prisoners, ruffled by their fall, to put their clothing a little in order.

This struggle, short as it was, had, nevertheless, attracted a great number of people.

"Come," said Captain Quiroga, rudely seizing the arm of the painter, to make him descend the steps.

"Why, this is horrible," exclaimed the latter, arguing with fury; "you violate the right of nations. I am a Frenchman, I am a foreigner; let me go, I tell you."

The contest would probably have terminated to the disadvantage of the young man, alone, among so many enemies, if suddenly the governor had not advanced, and addressing the captain—

"Let that caballero go," said he; "there is a mistake. He is an honest man; he is the secretary to the Duc de Mantone."



[In our next volume, "The Insurgent Chief," the adventures of the personages mentioned in this description of Life in the Pampas will be continued.]




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