Project Gutenberg's Wild Life in the Land of the Giants, by Gordon Stables

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Title: Wild Life in the Land of the Giants
       A Tale of Two Brothers

Author: Gordon Stables

Release Date: December 10, 2011 [EBook #38263]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8


Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

Gordon Stables

"Wild Life in the Land of the Giants"

"A Tale of two Brothers"

Chapter One.

Book I—Our Home by the Sea.

The Old Home by the Sea—Aunt Serapheema.

Reginald Augustus John Fitzmaurice Jones!

That is my name in full.

There is not the slightest occasion to remember it.

The name is far and away too long, and too tall for ordinary use. Twice only have I taken it to church with me, namely, on the day of my baptism, and on my wedding morn. On both these occasions it was written on a bit of paper, and folded up for future use.

On the first occasion it was carefully carried in my father’s waistcoat pocket, and I brought it home.

On the second occasion it was carefully carried in my own waistcoat pocket, and brought home by one far dearer to me than even a father.

But as regards a name or names rather, my brother did not fare a bit better than I did.

Rupert Domville Ffoljambe-Foley Jillard Jones!

That is my brother’s name in full. And, indeed, I think it will be readily admitted that his was a harder case than even mine, and seeing that I was the elder, this seemed scarcely fair.

Reginald Augustus John Fitzmaurice Jones! Only fancy a spirited young man having to make his way in life, and drag through existence with such a name as that tagged on to him. For one young man even it would be bad enough, but there were two of us, and we always drove in couple.

What a deal maiden aunts have to account for, as often as not! Yes, it was all owing to Aunt Serapheema, and even to this day I cannot help thinking she owes us a very ample apology.

Here is how it occurred:

Father—he was Captain Jones then—was sitting all alone one evening in the room which was designated by courtesy the study, though, as far as literature is concerned, it contained little else save a few magazines, the newspapers, and—father’s pipe rack. Well, father was enjoying a mild cigar by the open window—for it was spring, and the birds were singing in every bush—when there entered to him—Aunt Serapheema, who began to cough.

Father put his cigar hastily down on the outside sill of the window, with a little sigh, for it was one of the Colonel’s—Colonel McReady’s—best, and only newly lit.

He hastened to place the high-backed armchair for the lady. It was like herself, this chair—straight, tall, dark, and prim.

“The smoke, I suppose, would have annoyed you?”

“It would have, Harold.”

“And the open window?”

“That we can do with.”

“Ahem!” continued my aunt, smoothing the long black silken mits she always wore on her hands and arms. “Ahem!”

“Yes, sister,” said my father.

“Yes, aunt, if you please. Remember that in future, Harold; and it will be as well if, instead of calling Dora, your wife, by the ridiculous name of Dot, you now address her as ‘mamma’ or ‘ma.’”

The “now” in aunt’s last sentence referred to the birth of my brother and me.

“If you do not so address her, before very long the boys themselves will be calling their mother Dot.”

“Certainly,” said father, “as you wish, sist—I—I mean aunt.”

“Well, and it is about the boys I have come to speak, if you will favour me with a moment’s attention.”

“Assuredly, sis—a—auntie dear.” And my father pulled himself together, as if he had been on parade. “Nothing wrong with the twins, I trust?”

“No, nothing wrong—as yet. But you know they must be baptised at an early date. Have you considered what names to give them?”

“Well, really—no—I—”

“Of course not. Men are—merely men. Luckily your wife and I have been considering for you. But have you any suggestion to make?”

“Ahem, well, a—my name has a John in it, and my brother’s is Jim. Short and sweet. Simple and all the rest of it. Eh? What?”

I have been told that Aunt Serapheema did not answer him for fully half a minute, but subjected him to what might be called a process of ocular transfixion. Compared to such a punishment, to be face to face with Russian bayonets would have been child’s play to poor father.

“John! and Jim!” she said at last, slowly rising. “You may resume your horrid cigar, Harold. I did not expect to get much sense out of you, and I am therefore not disappointed. On this sheet of paper you will find the names we have decided upon. You will note that—at the earnest request of your wife—the paternal name does find a place, but Jim!” She transfixed him again, then went gliding to the door, which father opened and bowed her away.

Then he almost ran to the window, and like the naughty old boy he must have been, I fear he relit that horrid cigar, singing lightly to himself as he hunted for the matches.

Now one’s birth and baptism may seem very trivial matters to linger over, especially when one has a life-story like my brother’s and mine to tell. But events and adventures too will crowd each other fast enough ere long. For the brief present I am like some strong swimmer, who is about to commit himself to battle with the waves of a storm-tossed ocean, and who, before he takes the plunge, gazes once around and casts a longing, lingering look behind.

Besides, one’s boyhood’s days or childhood’s hours are the happiest, without doubt, that ever fall to our lot here below, and we do not know this till they are for ever fled. Yes, I grant you that this stage of our existence is not exempt from grief and sorrow, and very real these look while they last, though they are easily chased away or kissed away as the case may be. Then there is stern education to come up day after day like a terrible task-master.

As far as my brother and I were concerned, education assumed the corporeal form of Aunt Serapheema. My father’s study—properly dusted and disinfected in order to thoroughly exorcise the ghost of Colonel McReady’s cigars—became our schoolroom, the high-backed armchair our prim preceptor’s throne. Mind you, we always did think auntie somewhat prim, though it would be neither polite nor politic to tell her so. Auntie was not only fearfully and wonderfully made as regards angularity, but she was wonderfully clever as well. I tremble even yet when I think of how she used to come down upon us with dates—figuratively speaking, and how appallingly she used to hurl “ographies” and “ologies” at our poor little frightened faces. I always did think that dates—with the exception of the sticky eating sort—and “ologies” and “ographies” were sent into the world like thorns and thistles, just to prick and punish unfortunate boys.

Auntie used to wear glasses—two pairs at once; and it was not when she looked at you right straight through these glasses that she appeared dreadful, but when she glanced sternly over them.

She carried, or swayed as a sceptre, a long oaken pointer. It was not very thick, but very hard and far-reaching, and when it came down on your knuckles—oh, it always left a red mark, and sounded as if the clock were striking one. It struck one very often every forenoon.

Even out of school auntie had a way of addressing any person that commanded attention, but alone with her in the schoolroom her voice was positively thrilling.

It was only natural that both my brother’s attention and mine should waver or wander at times. Well, my father’s first manly word in the barrack square used to make every soldier stiffen, as it were; but it was nothing to auntie’s caution. Nowhere near it in regal pomposity.

“Reginald, look towards me!” or—“Rupert Domville, I am talking.”

Oh, didn’t poor Jill used to jump!

Yes, by Jill I mean my brother. We had got tired of calling each other Regie and Bertie, and one night held a consultation in our attic bedroom.

“Your name,” said my brother, “shall be boiled down to plain Jack.”

“Well, Master Rupert Domville Ffoljambe-Foley Jillard Jones,” I replied, “if I’m to be boiled down to Jack, you shall be boiled down to Jill.”

“Oh, I don’t mind a bit. It’s short. But—a—isn’t Jill an old lady’s name?”

“Well, I rather think it is, because Jack and Jill went up the hill, you know, and I’ve seen pictures of them, and one was an old lady. But that doesn’t matter, does it?”

“No, Jack.”

“Silly thing, though, to go up a hill to fetch a pail of water. Was the well on top of the hill, I wonder?”

“I couldn’t say. But, Jack?”

“Yes, Jill.”

“Suppose we play at Jack and Jill to-morrow, just to inoculate our names, you know.”

“Inaugurate, you mean, you silly old Jill.”

“Well, it’s much the same. Won’t it be fun?”

“Yes, and I’ll do it. Let’s fall asleep, and maybe dream about it.”

“Let’s make some metre first.” This was a favourite pastime of ours—and we always did have some fun of some kind before we fell asleep. Our “poetry,” as we called it, certainly was not of much account; but the play was this: whatever two or three words one of us said, the other had to match in metre. To-night it ran as follows—I put our names before our lines:—

Jack. “Our Auntie Prim,”
Jill. “She’s got so slim,”
Jack. “And her eyes are so dim,”
Jill. “That I’ll wager a limb”
Jack. “She can’t see over her spectacle rim.”

“Bravo! Jack,” cried Jill, “that’s famous.”

Then we had a chorus of laughing. But it was checked as completely and suddenly as if that traditional pail of water had come souse on both our heads, for auntie’s voice rang up the stair—

“Reginald and Rupert, I am listening.”

We covered our heads with the bedclothes, and were as mute as mice, till the sunshine streamed in at the window next morning, and Sally knocked with our drop of hot water.

But immediately after school hours we went off with a rush and a run to the stable, where we found Robert washing Aunt Serapheema’s pony’s white feet.

“Robert, we want a pail of water.”

“Whatever be ye goin’ to do wi’ th’ pail o’ water, lads?”

“Oh, we’ll soon tell you,” cried I: “I’m Jack, and he’s Jill now, and we’re going to play at it real. We’re going to roll down the green mount same’s we often do, you know, only we must have a pail of water.”

“Well, well, well,” said Robert, “I never! But sha’n’t Oi carry it up for thee?”

“No, no, that wouldn’t leave us half the fun.”

The green mount, as it was called, was a grassy hill near the sea, on which we used to have no end of fun in summer. It was pretty steep, and right in view of the dining-room window.

At this window our darling mother, as we always called her, and Aunt Serapheema were sitting talking quietly, while Sally laid the cloth, and they were not a little astonished to see us boys lugging painfully up the hill with a pail of water. Of course the real Jack and Jill had gone to fetch water, but we could only carry our programme out in the way we were doing.

Both mamma and auntie watched us with no little curiosity; while Sally, near by, stood looking too.

“Are you ready now?” said Jill, when we were near the top, “because you’ve got to tumble first, you know.”

“I’m ready,” I cried.

Down I toppled.

Over went the bucket, and over went Jill.

“Sakes-a-mussy!” shrieked Sally. “Sakes-a-mussy! missus, they’re all tumbling down together.”

Mother cried, “Oh! the dear boys.”

Aunt lifted her eyes and mittened palms cloudwards.

But for all that, down we rolled in fine form,—

Jill over Jack,
The bucket over Jill,
Right to the bottom
Of the big green hill.

That is how we metred it, that evening after the row was all over, and we were sent to bed.

But it would have defied all the art of metre to describe the plight we were in when Robert and Sally picked us up, and led us at arm’s length into the kitchen. For I was soused from head to foot, and Jill had got it second hand, and as for mud and rents—the least said the soonest mended.

We didn’t play any more at Jack and Jill with real water.

Chapter Two.

While Walking on the Sea-Beach.

Everybody loved auntie, for with all her strictness, and—to our young eyes her strange old-world ways, she was so good and so genuine. Goodness was no penance with auntie; it was not put on and off like a dress-coat, a silk hat, or a sealskin jacket; it was part and parcel of her very nature. I believe that if auntie ever cloaked her real soul’s self at all, it was when she was apparently exceedingly wroth with us, after some of our little escapades; which we could no more help than a bird can help flying. But sitting there in that weird black chair, lecturing Jill and me with uplifted forefinger, and steadfast glances over, not through, the two pairs of glasses, she certainly did look thrillingly stern. And she had a way, too, of making us feel thoroughly ashamed of ourselves, without saying much or without scolding.

So our love was mingled with a good deal of reverence. Really I laugh now when I think of it, but whether you can understand the feeling or not, we—that is Jill and I—almost revered the chair in which auntie sat, even when she wasn’t sitting in it. You see we were allowed to play and dance and jump in the schoolroom on wet days, or when the wind blew high from the south and west, and dashed the sea’s spray over beach and gardens. And do what we might, we never could disabuse our minds of the notion that the chair was a living thing, and took notes of all we said and did, and would whisper things to auntie when she sat down again.

At ordinary times, when we might be merely squatting together on a goatskin rug, reading “Robinson Crusoe,” or turning over the leaves of a huge “Arabian Nights” to look at the pictures, it did not matter much. But always when I proposed a game at anything very ridiculous—and it was always I who did make the proposition—before we began, I would say—

“Wait half a minute, Jill, let’s play at the chair being naughty first.”

This was only an excuse, of course, to have the chair turned round with its back to us.

Then I would walk up to it, and with my forefinger raised chidingly—

“You are a naughty old chair,” I would say; “you cannot be at rest five minutes at a time, and I am afraid you are showing your brother a bad example. Go into the corner, sir, until I tell you to come out.”

“Now then,” I would continue, mimicking the fishermen we listened to hoisting their yawls from the beach and surf. “Now then, Jill, lend a hand here, and look lively, lad. Tackle on to her. Merrily matches it. Together. Heave with a will. Up with her. Round she goes, and up she is, and we go rolling home. Hurrah!”

When we got the chair fairly round with its back to us we felt at peace to do as we liked. We could stand on our heads till our faces got blue and our eyes felt ready to burst; I could make a go-cart of Jill, and haul him all round the room with the skipping-rope; he could make a ship’s mast of me, and squirm up and stand on my shoulders to give three cheers for the Queen and the Royal Navy; we could build a tower with the chairs, and in fact do anything or everything except spill the ink. When we did that it cast a damp gloom over our spirits just as it spread an inky pall over a portion of the table-cloth.

My father was our friend and playmate whenever he came home. This was not oftener than twice or thrice a week, for he was doing duty with his regiment at the somewhat distant naval and military port of P—. He would fain have come oftener, but dared not offend so kindly a superior officer as Colonel McReady.

Now auntie did not actually complain to father, but she used to mention some of the maddest of our escapades, and with Jill climbing over the back of his chair, and I, perhaps, standing bolt upright on his knees, balanced by his hands, father would say—

“You young rascals, what did you do it for? Eh?”

And this made us laugh like mad things, for we knew father was not angry.

“Ah, well, auntie dear,” he would say, “boys will be boys.”

“True,” she would reply; “but boys needn’t be monkeys, need they, Harold?”

“And really, Harold,” she would add, “the boys would be so different if you were to show just a little more parental authority.”

This always made dear daddie laugh. I don’t know why. The “parental authority” somehow tickled him, for, as mother used to say, he looked more a boy himself than a wise old parent.

But father loved auntie as much as any of us did, and looked up to her too. As she was his sister-in-law he needn’t have done that, only she was ever so much older, and, as father would add, “wiser as well.”

Here is one proof that she had a deal of power over him:

Father did not hate his uniform; no real soldier does, although I have heard some say they did; but he did not see the fun, as he called it, of wearing it when off duty. He was off duty going to church on Sundays, but he went in uniform, nevertheless. Why? Because auntie like to see him dressed so.

Mother did not always go to church, because she was delicate; but father and auntie and we boys invariably did.

Let me think a moment. How old would we have been then? Oh, about nine. Dressed exactly alike—black jackets alike, broad white collars alike, tall silk hats alike—the hats were auntie’s notion of the severely genteel—and little rattan canes alike.

Faces and eyes and hair all alike. So much alike were we, indeed, on a Sunday morning, that if any one, except mamma and auntie, who I daresay had their own private marks, called us by our correct names, it was just guesswork or merely chance.

Father made no attempt at distinguishing us on Sundays and holidays. If, for example, he had given Jill a penny with a view to lollipops, and I came round soon after, he would say:

“Let me see, now—I gave you a penny before, didn’t I?”

Or he would quiz me, and say, “Are you Jack, or are you Jill?”

It will be observed that father had taken to call us Jack and Jill, though auntie rather objected.

But hardly any one else knew us apart even on week-days; even Sally was puzzled, and Robert never made any attempt at nomenclature.

In fact we were a kind of Corsican brothers in similitude, for, if I remember rightly, they were twins like Jill and me.

On the Sunday afternoons my brother and I were sent, if the weather was fine, to take a stroll along by the windings and bendings of the beach, between the green rising hills and banks and the sea. We went all alone, and were recommended by auntie to think about all good things as we walked, to study the strange objects strewn on the sand or left by the receding waves, to gaze upon the sea, the sky, the rocks, and the beautiful birds, and to remember our Father in heaven made them all. We were not to think our week-day thoughts, but rigidly to banish and exclude therefrom, tops, whips, balls, and boats; we were not to fling pebbles, nor jump on seaweed; we must walk erect not too close to the water, for fear of our boots, and if a shower came on we were to wrap our pocket-handkerchiefs round our hats and make straight for home.

All these injunctions we did our best to obey, except one which I have forgotten to name: we were not to laugh. Now we would have obeyed auntie even in this, but sometimes we were carried away by curious things occurring. Anyhow, it did not take much to make us laugh, I fear, even on Sunday. Take one walk as an example.

It was a lovely summer’s afternoon, hardly any wind, the sea almost glassy or glossy—use which word you please; far out were vessels with all kinds of queer rigs half-becalmed, and close in the foreground the breakers rolling in so lazily that it seemed a stress for them to break at all. There was a dreamy stillness in the air, and even the sea-birds seemed to feel its influence, and floated half asleep on the sleeping billows.

Jill and I were walking a little apart when we met a big red dog. He half started when he saw the pair of us, glanced quickly from one to the other, gave a short bark which appeared forced out of him, and trotted off with his tail between his hocks. He must have seen, or thought he saw, something odd about us.

We laughed, but thought of auntie.

Then we went on and on and came to a cottage where there was a very wise game-cock with a flock of very wise-looking hens. We always stopped to look at them, they had such a contented and happy, stay-at-home look about them. And, strange to say, this cock used to march his hens down the garden path, and then they all stopped to study Jill and me. And the cock used to eye us with one side of his red head and cry, “Kr-rr-rr-rr—!” in so droll a way that we laughed again, and this time forgot all about auntie.

A little farther on we met a whole bevy of schoolgirls, and they all looked at us, and while the youngest giggled outright, the oldest put their fingers to their lips to hide their smiles, and we heard one of them say “hats.” Jill did not like this I know, for he pursed up his mouth and presently said, “Jack, if it only came on to rain, I’d soon roll my hat up, wouldn’t you?” I laughed alone this time.

People, older common-people I mean, stopped and stared after us, and some said queer things, and some called us queer names. A fisherwoman, for instance, sang out—

“Hullo! my chickabiddies. Got out, then? W’y you looks as much alike as pigeons’ eggs.”

A swarthy old sailor hailed us with—

“Whither away, my pirates bold?” Jill laughed at this. We loved pirates. Then we came to a place where two fishermen, rough and weather-beaten, in dandy, dark, Sunday sou’-westers, and dark blue Sunday jerseys and polished top-boots, were leaning against a boat, and one of them must shake hands politely and say—

“Hullo! my young hearties! W’y it does one’s heart good to look at ye! Ain’t they alike, Bill? Keep ’em together, Bill, till I run up for Nancy.”

Nancy came, a good-looking, portly fisherman’s wife, and for a time she did nothing but stick her hands in her sides and laugh. Oh, she did laugh, to be sure!

Then her husband and Bill, his mate, laughed too, and the seagulls chimed in, and somehow made us think of Punch and Judy. So then we laughed also, and a pretty chorus it was.

“Bless the darlings, though,” said Nancy; “it’s a shame to laugh; we don’t mean anything unmannerly but—ha, ha, ha, he, he, he,” and the chorus was all done over again.

“I say, lads,” said the first speaker, “come for a sail with us to-morrow, or next day, will ye?”

“We would,” we replied, both in a breath, and both in the same words precisely, “if auntie would let us.”

“Ah! bless her, bring auntie too. We’ll cushion the boat, Bill, won’t us?”

“That we will, Joe.”

“Well, we said we’d tell auntie,” and away we went. We only met one man who spoke to us going back, and he said—“Good evening, young double and quits.” Of course we did not say a word to auntie that evening about the invitation, but after a turn on the beach next day, during which we met our fisher friends, who renewed the request, we broached the subject.

Auntie tossed her head a little at first, but when we mentioned about the cushions she smiled and said—“Good people, I dare say. Well, it is evident they know we are gentlefolks. You can tell them we’ll go to-morrow afternoon.”

After school hours Jill and I ran to tell our new-found friends that we were to be allowed to come, and that auntie was coming as well.

They were so pleased that they kept us a whole hour in their queer, old-fashioned cottage, in which everything was as strange and wonderful to us as some of the places we read of in our old story-books.

Poor Jill! It was really strange the dependence he had upon me, his twin brother—his elder brother—his second self. I but mention the following in proof of this. It happened about the time we first made the acquaintance of the boatmen. Jill had gone to look for nests all by himself for a wonder. Unfortunately he fell over a cliff. Not all the way down, else there would have been no more Jill—and no more Jack, perhaps, for I hardly think I could have lived without my brother. He had been in his perilous position for hours before found. Listening at last near the top of the cliff, I could hear his plaintive, pleading voice calling me, though he knew not I was there.

“Come to me, Jack, come to me,” he prayed, “for I cannot come to you.”

I had reason to remember these strange words in after life, as will be seen.

Chapter Three.

The Story of a Shipwreck—A Mystery—The Fate of Poor Joe.

We all went on that boat cruise—that is, auntie went, and Jill and I. Auntie appeared to take us with her but we were really taking her. That was fun.

There was nothing remarkable about the cruise, except that it was the first of many far more delightful, for Jill and me.

Auntie behaved like an angel all through, if one could conceive of an angel wearing two pairs of spectacles one on top of the other and long black mits. But auntie’s heart contained the angel, and to-day she never once looked over her glasses—always through them.

The fishermen, Bill and Joe, “ma’am”-ed her and “miss”-ed her, and she smiled a deal, and did not get even squeamish, for she was a sailor’s daughter, and knew all about boats and ships.

We sailed straight away out, and tacked round an island, and there was a lumpy bit of a sea on. But auntie steered part of the way, much to her own delight and the admiration of Bill and Joe. Sometimes the boat gave a jump or fell down with a jerk into the trough of a sea, and the sail would tighten and the sheet would strain, and perhaps a feather of a wave would skim across the boat and hit us all; but nothing disturbed the equanimity of our bold Aunt Serapheema.

She shook hands so prettily, too, with the men and with Nancy, who curtseyed so low, that she looked like a brig under full sail settling down by the stern.

The men lifted their hats, and I’m sure each had something in his hand that auntie had left there; then away we came, and Jill and I jumped on lumps of seaweed to crack the little bladders all the way home, and auntie didn’t mind a bit.

“It would do you good, mamma,” she said to mother at dinner that day, “to go out for a sail now and then; I must say it has made me feel quite young again.”

The pointer did not strike one o’clock on Jill’s knuckles or mine all next forenoon, so of course we wished that auntie would always go out a-sailing.

But it was when telling my brother and me stories of a winter’s evening by the fire, or upstairs on the balcony in the sweet summer-time that auntie was at her very very best. Then the angel came out in earnest, and neither Jill nor I were ever a bit afraid of her. We would sit close up by her knee, and even lean across her lap, or toy with her mitted hands as we listened entranced to every word she said.

They were mostly stories of the ocean wave, and of far-away lands and climes beyond the setting sun. Indeed what else could a sailor’s daughter, whose father had gone down with his ship in the stormy Bay, speak to us about, secularly?

But she had the gift of telling Bible stories well also. The wonderful adventures of Joseph and his brethren quite enthralled us, and often after we went to bed I used to try to tell it in the same way and same words to Jill, but never so entrancingly, though he liked it so much that he often went to sleep before I had finished.

I said my mother was delicate, and this is the reason why auntie took such charge of us; but mother invariably came to our room after Sally had done with us, and would sit by our bedside sewing for an hour together sometimes. It was to her we said our prayers. No, we did not say them, for mother taught us to think and pray the prayer—to wish what we said, as it were; and we got into that habit, Jill and I, so that at any time when praying, with our hearts wandering, as it were, we believed the good angels never could hear that prayer, and never bear it away to the good Father on the great white throne of grace.

I dare say few boys love their mother so much as we loved our beautiful mother, but then one always does think just in that way about one’s own love. None other can be like it.

Well, at all events, our childhood, what with one thing or another, was a very happy one, and slipped all too soon away.

Why was it, I wonder, that as far back as I can remember, I always felt myself my brother’s keeper, so to speak? Mind you, though I was the cider, it was only by five minutes. But this five minutes appeared to make me immeasurably wiser than Jill. I was not stronger, nor bigger, nor anything, only just five minutes older, and five years wiser. So I thought, and so Jill thought, and he never failed to consult me in all matters, however trivial.

He would just say, with that simple, innocent smile of his:

“Jack, what would you do now?”

And I would tell him, and he would do it straight away.

Of course Jill was very dear to me. I loved him more than I did myself. Does that seem a strange confession? Well, it is true, though. I think one reason for this great affection was his likeness to papa. I saw that, if others did not. And he even had papa’s way of talking and using little odd words, such as “certainly,” “assuredly,” and so forth.

For example one day in the schoolroom we were among the “ologies”—bother them all.

“Reginald Augustus,” said auntie, and I pulled myself to “attention” and braced sharp up, as Bill would say. “Reginald Augustus, define to us the meanings of the words ‘entomology’ and ‘etymology.’”

Now I would have been all right if I hadn’t started off by putting the cart before the horse.

“Entomology,” I replied, “is the science that treats of word derivations, and etymology describes insects.”

One o’clock struck on my knuckles, loud enough to be heard over all the room.

“Rupert Domville,” said auntie, “is your brother right in saying that etymology describes insects?”

“Certainly, auntie.”

“But suppose I say that entomology, not etymology, is the science descriptive of insect life, would you then say your brother was right?”

Assuredly, aunt,” said Jill, boldly.

One o’clock rang out sharp and clear on old Jill’s knuckles, and we were both sent to our seats to think.

The cottage we lived in might have just as well been denominated a villa, only Aunt Serapheema, to whom it belonged, rather despised high-flown names. It was a beautiful old house in the suburbs of a romantic wee fisher village, that nestled under high banks and green braes, not far from the great naval seaport of P—.

My father’s duties at the barracks were not very heavy in our childhood, for there was no war, and though the ride home was a long one, every night almost we listened for the clatter of his horse’s hoofs, whether he came or not, and Jill and I bounded to meet him. His coming was the one great event of the day or week to us all, and he never failed to bring light and sunshine to Trafalgar Cottage.

Our mother was very, very beautiful—Jill and I always thought so—and our father was the beau ideal to our young minds of what a hero ought to be. I think I see him now as he used to look standing by his beautiful black horse, before mounting in the morning, one arm thrown carelessly over the mane, with his fair hair and his blue eyes smiling as he blew kisses to the drawing-room window, and had kisses blown back in return.

Of course you will excuse a son speaking thus of his parents. They might not have been much to any one else, but they were all the world to my brother and me.

My father was to be a rich man some day, auntie told us, when he came into his estates in Cornwall. Meanwhile he was simply Captain Jones, and proud and happy to be so.

Ours was not a very large village, though dignified at times by the name of town by the people themselves, only it was quaint and pretty enough in the sweet summer-time, when the sky was blue, and the sea reflected its colour; when the waves sang on the beach, and birds in the hedges and bushes, on the cliffs, and in the glen; when fisher boats were drawn up on the sand, or went lazily out towards the horizon in the evening. Yes, then it was even picturesque, and more than one artist that I remember of lived quite a long time at the Fisherman’s Joy. They would be sketching boats and sails and spars, and the natives themselves, all day, to the great astonishment of the natives.

“He do be uncommon clever-like,” I heard one man say; “but surely he ought to let the loikes of we have our Sunday clothes on afore he paints us.”

The artists thought differently.

Quite a friendship sprang up between our family and the Grays.

But shortly after we made their acquaintance, Bill—who was not a Gray, his name was Moore—went away, having got, at his own request—he being a deserving old coast-guardsman—a post as ship keeper on an old hulk, of which you will hear more soon. Here he lived alone with his old woman, as he called his buxom wife.

Then something else really strange happened. Quite an adventure in a little way. Jill had gone to P— with mamma that day, and I was strolling on the beach, feeling very lonely indeed. The tide was far back, and near the water’s edge I could see a girl gathering shells. Strolling down towards her was a fisher lad, about my own age, and some instinct impelled me to follow. I was just in time to notice him rudely snatch at her basket, and empty all the shells, and presently she passed me crying.

My blood boiled, so I went right on and told the boy he was no gentleman.

He said he didn’t pretend to be, but he could lick me if I wanted him to, gentleman or not gentleman.

I said, “Yes, I wanted him to.”

I never knew I was so strong before. That lad was soon on his back crying for mercy, and next minute I left him.

The girl was about seven, but so beautiful and lady-like.

She thanked me very prettily, and we walked on together, I feeling shy. But I summoned up courage after a time to ask her name.

“Mattie Gray,” she replied; “and yonder comes mother.”

To my surprise, “mother” was Nancy, the fisherman’s wife.

I was invited in, and made a hero of for hours, but somehow I could not keep from wondering about Mattie.

I told auntie the story that evening. Now, if there be anything a woman loves in this world it is a mystery, and auntie was no exception. So she and Jill and I all walked over to the cottage next afternoon.

“What a lovely child you have, Mrs Gray! We have not seen her before.”

“No, ma’am, she’d been to school.”

“Have you only one?”

“My dear lady,” said Nancy, “Mattie isn’t ours. You see, we have only been here for six months, and people don’t know our story. We come from far south in Cornwall, and when a baby, bless her, Mattie, as we call her, came to us in a strange, strange way.”

“Tell us,” said auntie, seating herself in a chair which Nancy had dusted for her.

“Oh, it is soon told, ma’am, all that’s of it. We lived on a wild bit o’ coast, ma’am, and many is the ship that foundered there. Well, one wild afternoon we noticed a barque trying to round the point, and would have rounded it, but missed stays like, struck, and began to break up. We saw her go to pieces before our eyes, for no boat could be lowered.

“At long last, though, my man and his mate determined to venture. It was a terrible risk. But I am a fisherman’s wife, and I never said, ‘Don’t go, Joe.’”

She paused a moment, woman-like, to wipe away a tear.

“And they saved the crew?” asked auntie.

“They came back wi’ four in the boat, ma’am. One was a gentle lady, one was Mattie, and there were two sailors besides. They were all Spanish, Miss. The poor lady never spoke a word we could understand. She wore away next afternoon, but that great box yonder was washed on shore, and when she saw it she pointed to poor baby, then to the chest, and smiled—and died.”

“And the men, could they tell you nothing?”

“They told the parson something in Spanish, but it wasn’t much. Mattie’s mother was a grand dame, and the father had not been on board. They promised to write and tell us more, but ah! Miss, we’ll never hear nor know aught else till the sea gives up its dead.”

“We read of such things in books,” said auntie, “but I never heard so strange a tale from living lips before. Come hither, child.”

Mattie obeyed, and, marvellous to say, was not a bit afraid of auntie. She clambered on to her knee and put an arm round her neck, and auntie looked softened, so much so that for a moment or two I thought I saw a tear in her eye. She sat a long time talking, and orphan Mattie went sound asleep.

After this Mattie came very often to Trafalgar Cottage, and became our playmate all the winter, out of doors when the weather was fine, and in the house when it blew wild across the sea.

Jill and I grew very fond of Mattie, but we used to wonder at her strange beauty. She was so different from other children, with her creamy face, her weird black eyes, and long, long hair. And we used to wonder also at her cleverness. I suppose Spanish people have the gift of tongues, but though Mattie was younger by three years than we, she could talk far better, and to hear her read was like listening to the music of birds.

She used to read to us by the hour, Jill and I lying on the floor on goats’ skins, as was our custom, and feeling all the while in some other world—dreamland, I think they call it.

There were three of us now, for auntie asked permission to teach Mattie with us. But one o’clock was never struck on Mattie’s little knuckles; indeed, she was clever even at “ologies,” and had all the “ographies” by heart, and so did not deserve one o’clock.

There were three of us to play on the beach now, and climb the broomy hills, and gather wild flowers, and look for birds’ nests in the spring, and three of us to go out with Father Gray in his brown-sailed yawl.

There were three of us, never separate all the livelong summer days.

But summer passed away at last, the days shortened in, the sea looked rougher and colder now, and the vessels out on the grey distance went staggering past under shortened sails, or flew like ghosts when the wind blew high.

And then came my first sorrow, the first time that I really knew there was grief and death in the world.

I will not take long to tell it. I am but little likely to linger over so sad and dismal a memory of the past. Yet every incident in that day’s drama is painted on the tablets of memory in colours that will never be effaced while life does last.

Little did big brown-bearded Joe Gray think, when he kissed his wife and Mattie on that bright afternoon, and with his mate put off to sea, that they would never see him alive again.

The moon rose early, and shone red and clear over the water in a triangular path of silver, that went broadening away towards the horizon. And when hours passed by, and the wind came up with cloud banks out of the west, Nancy—fisherman’s wife though she was—grew uneasy, and went very often to the door.

The wind grew wilder and wilder, and the air was filled with rain, and with spray from the waves that broke quick and angrily on the beach.

The big petroleum lamp was lighted and put in the window. That lamp had often guided Joe Gray through darkness and storm to his own cottage door.

They tell me that fisher folks, and toilers by and on the sea have an instinct that is not vouchsafed to dwellers inland. Be that as it may, poor Nancy could rest to-night neither indoors nor out. But hours and hours went by, and still the husband came not. How she strained her ears to catch some sound above the roaring wind and lashing seas, to give her joy, only those who have so waited and so watched can tell.

Her only hope at last was that he might have made some other port or taken shelter under the lee of the island.

The night passed away. Wee Mattie slept, and towards morning even the distracted wife’s sorrows were bathed for an hour in slumber. But she sprang up at last—she thought she heard his voice.

The fire had burned out on the hearth, the lamp was out too, but grey daylight was shimmering through the uncurtained panes.

“Yes, yes!” she cried. “Coming, Joe! Coming, lad!”

And she staggered up and rushed forth.

What was that dark thing on the beach? It was a great boat—it was his yawl, bottom up.

She knew little more for a time after that. She saw people hurrying towards her and towards the wreck; then all was a mist for hours.

But they found poor Joe beneath the yawl, and they bore him in and laid him in the little “best” room. He was dead and stiff, with cold, hard hands half clenched, and in one a morsel of rope. It was the end of the main sheet he had grasped in his hour of agony, and they cut it off and left it there.

Her grief, they say, when she awoke at last, was past describing. With a wail of widowed anguish, that thrilled through the hearts of the sea-hardened listeners she flung herself on the body.

“My Joe, my Joe—my own poor boy!” she moaned. “Oh, why has Heaven deprived me of my man!”

They simply turned away and left her to her grief. They thought it best, but there was not a man among them whose face was not wet with tears.

That was my first sorrow; but, alas! there were more to come.

And it is strange the effect that sorrow has on the young. Before this, all my life had seemed one long happy dream. But all at once I became awake, and I date my real existence from the day they laid poor Joe Gray in the little churchyard, high above the sea, that will sing his requiem for ever and for ay.

Chapter Four.

The Sound of War—First Sorrows—A Change in our Lives.

Like many other poor folks, to the houses of whom Death comes when least expected, Nancy Gray was left without a penny in the world, and wee Mattie was doubly an orphan since Daddie Gray was drowned.

When then, after a visit or two to the fisherman’s cottage, auntie one morning announced that she had taken Mattie over to be as one of her own kith and kin, and that Nancy herself would have employment at Trafalgar Cottage, none of us was a bit surprised. It was only the angel in auntie’s heart showing a little more.

So Mattie was henceforth styled “sister” by Jill and me.

Then came sorrow the second. War broke out at the Cape, the Caffres were up and killing—butchering, in fact—our poor people at all hands. Father’s regiment was ordered out, and though he himself might have stayed at home, he elected to go.

What a grief this was for us! Jill and I looked upon our dear father as one already dead.

“I’m sure they’ll kill you, father,” Jill sobbed.

“Why me, my boy?”

“Because they kill all the prettiest men,” said the innocent boy.

Then came a few busy days and tearful days, and—then my father was gone. The scene of the departure of the soldiers for the war is something I will never forget. What made it all the worse was, that in returning home our carriage was blocked by a mob, and we had to witness the passing by of a soldier’s funeral. It was inexpressibly sad, and I remember my dear mother wept on auntie’s breast, till I verily believed her heart would break.

From that very date our bed was made up in mother’s own room. We were all she had now. Besides, something must have told her that she would not even have us long.

Children’s sorrows do not last very long, their souls are very resilient, and this is wisely ordered. So by the time we got father’s first letter we had learned to live on in happy hope of soon seeing him back.

Letter after letter came; some that told of the fighting were sad enough, but there was no word of our soldier father returning from the wars.

One day we were all seated at breakfast and talking quite cheerfully, when the postman’s thrilling rat-tat was heard at the door. That knock always did make us start, now that father was away at the wars. And this very morning, too, we had watched the postman till he went past and disappeared round the corner, so he must have forgotten our letter and come with it on his return. Sally came in with it at last, but seemed to take such a long time.

“It’s from the Cape, ma’am,” she said, “and it isn’t in black.”

Girls are so thoughtless.

I cannot tell you how it was, but neither Jill nor I could take our eyes off poor ma’s face when she took the letter, tore it open, and began to read. A glance at the envelope told her it was his dear handwriting, so a gleam of joy came into her eyes, and a fond smile half-played round her lips. Alas! both the gleam and the smile were quickly banished, and were succeeded by a look of utter despair. Oh, my beautiful mother, how dazed and strange she appeared! One glance round the table, then the letter dropped from her fingers, and we rushed to support her.

But the flood of tears came now fast enough, and as she threw herself on the sofa in a paroxysm of grief, we really thought her heart would break.

Speak she could not for a time.

“Oh, mother dear, what is it?”

“Tell us, mother, tell us all.”

“Is father killed?”

The sight of our anguish probably helped to stem for a time the current of her own.

“N-no,” she sobbed. “Father is not killed—but he is wounded—slightly, he says,—and, I must go away to him.”

Here she hugged us to her breast.

“It will not be for long, children—only just a little, little time—and you must both be so good.”

Our turn had come now—our very hearts seemed swamped as the great grief came swelling over them, like the waves of the ocean. She let us weep for a time, she made no attempt either to repress our tears or to stop our senseless, incoherent talk.

“You cannot go. You must not leave us.”

This, and this alone, was the burden of our song. Alas! the fiat had gone forth, and in our very souls we knew and felt it. Once more she kissed us, then auntie led us out, saying we must leave mamma a little while for her good. We would do anything for ma’s good, even to going away into the schoolroom—which never before had looked so grim and cheerless—and squatting on our goatskin to cry. Every now and then poor Jill would say—

“Don’t you cry so, Jack.”

And every now and then I would make the same request to him.

They say there is no love equal to that a mother bears for a child; but tell me this, ye who have known it, what love exceeds that which a fond and sensitive child bears for a mother? and oh, what else on earth can fill the aching void that is left when she is gone?

For a time weeping gave us relief, then even that consolation was taken away. I just felt that my life’s lamp had clean gone out, that there was no more hope—could be no more hope for me.

It was difficult to realise or grasp all the terrible truth at once. Mother going away! Our own dear darling mother, and we, perhaps never, never to see her more! Never listen to her voice again at eventide, singing low to us by the firelight, or telling us tales by our bedside! Never kneel again by her knees to pray! Never feel again her soft good-night kisses, nor the touch of her loving hands! Never—but here the tears returned, and once more Jill and I wept in each other’s arms.

In times of grief like this I think the mind is more highly sensitised, as a photographic artist would say, and takes and retains impressions more quickly. For the minutiae even of that sad eventful morning are still retained in my memory in a remarkable way. I remember the slightest sounds and most trivial sights heard or seen by Jill and me as we sat in our listless grief by the window. I remember the yelp of a little cur we used to pity, because it was always tied up; the laugh of a street carter as he talked to a neighbour; the dreary, intermittent tapping of the twig of a rose-bush against the glass; the low boom of the breaking waves. I remember it was raining; that the wind blew high across the sea; that the sea itself was grey and chafing, and apparently all in motion in one direction, like some mighty river of the new world; I remember the dripping bushes in the front garden, and the extra-green look of the rain-varnished paling around it; and even the little pools of water on the street, and the buffeted appearance of the few passengers striving to hold umbrellas up against the toilsome wind.

Mother came quietly in, and—she was smiling now.

How much that smile cost her, mothers alone may tell, but even we knew it was a smile without, to hide the grief within.

Mother went away.

For many a long month now there was a blank, a void in our hearts and in our home that nothing could fill.

Except Hope.

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” Truer words were never spoken. When Hope dies, Life itself is soon extinct.

Auntie Serapheema did all she could now to cheer us. She was far less prim and stern with Jill and me. One o’clock struck no more on his knuckles nor on mine. She even shortened our school hours, and was easier with us in the matter of “ologies” and “ographies.” Letters came frequently and with great regularity, and they were always cheerful. Father was better, and mother would be happy if they could both get home, and they hoped to. Yes, they hoped to, but no letter said when, or how soon that hope might be realised.

But one of the most cheerful letters was from father himself, in which he said he trusted to be able to send us both into the Royal Navy as cadets. To be naval officers had always been our dream of dreams, Jill’s and mine. To wear the grand old uniform of blue and gold, to tread the snowy quarter-deck with swords by our side, and the white flag fluttering in the sunshine overhead—

“The flag that braved a thousand years,
The battle and the breeze—”

to sail the seas, to hear great guns firing, to attack ships and forts, and do all kinds of gallant deeds for our own glory and our country’s good—this constituted our notions of life as it ought to be led.

We would have to pass, though. The examination, however, was not a stiff one. Jill and I were but little over ten, but thanks to auntie we knew most of the subjects already well, if not thoroughly.

Would we pass the doctor with flying colours? Well, we were hardy and healthy, though at that time of no extra physique. We must get stronger somehow. Auntie consulted the family doctor, she herself suggesting “dumb-bells.” The doctor’s reply was—“Fiddlesticks, madam, fiddlesticks,”—for doctors do not like other people, especially female-people, to put words in their mouths. But auntie was a little discomposed at the brusque mention of “fiddlesticks.”

“What then would you suggest, sir?” she said, pompously.

The doctor simply pointed with his forefinger first at the green hills and cliffs, then at the sea, took up his hat and marched out of the room, curtly bowing her “good morning” as he turned in the doorway.

Now, whom should we find in earnest confab with auntie next forenoon but Bill Moore, the ship keeper.

Jill and I at once beat a discreet retreat.

I must tell you a little more about Bill. He had not always been simply Bill Moore, but Mr Moore. He had, first and foremost as a young man, taken honours in classics and mathematics at a northern university, then gone straight “to the dogs”—so they said. When he in some measure recovered himself—war being then going on—he had joined the service (Royal Navy) as a man ready and willing to turn his hand to anything. Well, they were not so particular in those days; they would not refuse bone and muscle in whatever shape it came, and Bill had been a handsome fellow in his day. He got on in the service, and though he soon became an A.B., and really preferred to be before the mast, he was rated schoolmaster for many years, but finally received an appointment as coast-guardsman, and latterly, as we know, keeper of the hulk, with a fairly good pension.

He took a great fancy for us, and as somehow or other auntie had an acute and undying aversion to public schools, when Mr Bill Moore proposed we should come to the hulk and be drilled by him physically and mentally, she felt greatly inclined to accede. Hence the present interview.

“Perhaps they might do better at a public school, Miss, than with me, but—”

“I won’t hear of a public school,” auntie cut in with, curtly.

“Well, Miss, we have a mast and ratlins on my old tub; I would take care they were well drilled and had plenty of exercise, my wife will look after their internal comforts, and I can insure their passing their examinations in a year or two.”

“And they would be out of harm’s way,” mused my aunt.

“We’ll have strict discipline, Miss. They must not leave the ship without my permission.”

“There would be no objection to your having the boys, I suppose?”

“I know the old admiral well, Miss; sailed with him for five long years, and blew the Russians about a bit. No, I went straight to him before I wrote to you.”

“And what did he say?”

“‘Do what you please with the old Thunderbolt,’ he said, ‘only don’t set her on fire.’ These are his words, Miss.”

“Well, then, Mr Moore, I think you may consider the matter as settled. The boys will not be far away, they will be under control and discipline, they will know something beforehand about ships, and they can come home, I suppose, now and then to go to church on a Sunday?”

“Oh yes, Miss, and I’m sure my wife and I will be delighted if you and dear Mattie will come and see us all regularly. We’ll always call these our red-letter days.”

Auntie smiled and promised. There is no doubt about it. Mr Bill Moore knew what ladies’ hearts are made of.

So it was all arranged that very day, and in a fortnight after we started and took up our quarters on board the saucy Thunderbolt.

Chapter Five.

The Gallant “Thunderbolt”—Tom Morley, Bo’s’n’s Mate—A Strange Dream.

It would be hard to say, perhaps, why the gallant old Thunderbolt was laid up as a hulk. She looked a fine old wooden frigate, and had seen a lot of service in her time. But the engines had been taken out of her, and away up the water she lay like a good many more, moored by the head to swing with the tide, or with any extra strong wind that blew. She was evidently considered too good to break up, and she might, the Admiralty thought, come in handy some day, and even require to be fitted out for sea again.

Meanwhile she would do as a store, or rather lumber ship. But at this time neither stores nor lumber either worth speaking about was on board of her.

She hardly made any water, though occasionally some hands came off from the dockyard and pumped her dry, with a deal of din and noise and no end of talking and chaffing. In fact the Thunderbolt seemed to have been forgotten by the big human guns at Somerset House, and for that matter there was no real use in the bit stump of a lower mast that stuck out of her forward, nor the morsel of ratlin that led to it, unless to dry clothes upon. Her crew, all told, were an old bo’s’n’s mate and Mr Moore. We must call him Mr Moore now, and forget the Bill.

Tom Morley was the bo’s’n’s name, a rugged old son of a gun as ever any one clapped eyes upon, with a face as rough and red as a boiled lobster, and a voice that would have brought down birds out of the air had he used it to its full extent. It was a harsh voice, however, and gave you the idea his air-tubes had been originally lined with emery paper, which had never worn quite smooth.

Such was Tom, a good-hearted old soul nevertheless, though with a sad predilection for tossing off cans. It will be seen, therefore, that he was a seaman of the old school—one that Dibdin would have delighted to portray. Yes, and he often made the decks of the saucy old Thunderbolt ring with Dibdin’s heroic ditties.

Although it might have been difficult to define which was the superior officer of this hulk, owing to the peculiar rating of Mr Moore, when he had served afloat, neither was jealous of the other: when Moore was out of the ship Morley was captain, and vice versa; when both were on board, why then both were captains. But, between ourselves, I do think Mrs Moore herself was what the Yankees call “boss of the whole concarn.” Anyhow, she did just as she pleased, and cooked and washed for the crew all-told, and hung up the clothes wherever she liked.

Attached to the hulk was a morsel of a dinghy boat not much bigger than Mrs Moore’s washing tub, only differently shaped, in some slight degree at least.

We youngsters received a hearty welcome when we came off. Tom had put on his best coat for the occasion, and much to our delight met us in the gangway, saluting us in true naval fashion with as much dignity as if we had been admirals.

“Very glad to see you, young gentlemen,” said Tom. “You are truly welcome on board the saucy Thunderbolt. And I assure you the sight of your youthful faces makes me think the old times has all come back again. I’d like to be taking up anchor now with a Yee-ho and Heave-O!”

Jill and I laughed and thought Tom very jolly.

“But I say, Captain Moore,” he continued, turning to his shipmate, “how ever are we to tell these youngsters apart? Why, bother my old wig, if they ain’t as like as two whalers, same rig, too, from top to bottom, same cut from jib to binnacle. I say, messmate, if I’d never seen ’em before and met ’em as I was coming out of the ‘Jolly Tapsters’ I’d think—I was only seein’ one, though there appeared to be two.”

“I’ll make that all right, Tom,” said Mrs Moore, coming up from below and taking charge of us right away.

And she did too, for when we appeared on deck an hour after, I wore a red ribbon round my straw hat, and Jill wore a blue, and Tom doffed his cap, and giving a shout that must have been heard on shore, hailed us at once as “Admiral Jack of the Red,” and “Admiral Jill of the Blue.”

We were simply delighted with our accommodation on board, and with everything on the old hulk fore and aft.

Of course we all lived aft, and dined in state together in the great cabin, where once a post captain had sat at meals or in council of war, and in which, probably, before now court-martials had been assembled and men tried for life itself.

Jill and I had a large cabin to ourselves on the starboard side of the “saloon,” as it would be called in the merchant service, the Moorcs had theirs on the port side, and the bo’s’n’s mate occupied quarters in the ward-room on the deck beneath. Our cabin was furnished charmingly, but we each had a swinging cot, though they were in close juxtaposition. There were curtains to the windows and doorways, and a carpet and pictures and all complete.

All day long we had different views of our surroundings from the ports below in our cabin, or from the ward-room. For according to the tide the old ship swung; now we would be looking down the harbour among ships, noble men-of-war and others, and away out seaward, again it would be the town or dockyard, and at other times the green country. Oh, it was very charming and so romantic, I can tell you.

In a day or two we commenced our studies in downright earnest, and a very pleasant and thorough teacher Mr Moore proved. But it was all forenoon work, and not all book work either. For twice a week or oftener we were told off to go round the ship with Tom, and he gave us the name of every part of her hull, and examined us on his lectures afterwards.

One day a shore boat brought alongside a full rigged ship nearly as long as a sofa, and this was hoisted carefully on deck and lowered below. It was, of course, a model man-o’-war, and old Tom set about next day putting it “ship-shape and Bristol fashion,” as he called it. He thoroughly overhauled it, altering here, and adding there, cutting and criticising all the time. While he was doing this we were with him, listening to every word, and gained quite a deal of information about rigging, etc, in this way. It took Tom three weeks to refit his model ship and make her ready for sea, as he called it. Then—still having us alongside of him—he manned and provisioned her, taking in stores from little boats that he brought alongside on the deck. And though this was to a large degree dummy work, he would have the thing rightly done. No lugger or officer’s boat either must come alongside in any save an orthodox fashion, and if in hauling up stores any hitch happened to the gearing, he would have it all put carefully to rights before another cask, or box, or shot, or shell was taken on board.

I think we worked with Tom in this way for three or four months, by which time we really began to consider ourselves proficient seamen and officers.

Nor was our exercise forgotten. This was also Tom’s department, and he would have Jill and I squirming up and down the ratlins and over the top for an hour at a time. Or standing face to face with sword-sticks, going through, at the word of command, each cut and guard and quirk of the sword exercise. This we considered grand fun, but it was serious earnest with honest Tom.

“There ain’t no nonsense about this sort of thing, young gentlemen,” he would say. “I saw you laughing, Admiral Jack, and whatever you does Admiral Jill does too. Now if it occurs again on duty I’ll mast-head ye, so look out for squalls. ’Ttention! On guard! Point o’ your sword a leetle higher, Admiral Jill. Shoulders more square, Admiral Jack. That’s better. Right toe a trifle more fore-and-aft. So. Steady as you go.”

But as soon as duty, as Tom called it, was done, we were all as merry as Eton boys off on a summer holiday. We had all kinds of games on board, and plenty of rowing about on the water in that morsel of a dinghy, and were allowed to go on shore at any reasonable hour and for any reasonable time.

Tom had always gone in for growing mustard and cress on board, and a bit o’ sea-kale in a flower-pot, but the idea struck Jill and me that we might carry garden operations out to even greater perfection, and having asked and obtained permission of Mr Moore, we set to work and soon arranged in different parts of the deck a series of little flower gardens made from orange boxes. And very charming and beautiful they looked.

So that when auntie came with Mattie one summer’s morning, they were both astonished at our horticultural skill and contrivances.

Tom and Mr Moore always dressed in their best when the ladies were coming, and a bit of bunting was even hoisted on the top of the mast, and no clothes permitted to be hung up to air or dry for that day.

Auntie used to make a pic-nic of these visits. Mrs Moore had the table-cloth laid with spotless linen and adorned with gay flowers, and Mummy Gray, as Mattie called her foster-mother, invariably brought a basket of such good things, that the very thoughts of them beforehand used to make my mouth water, and of course Jill’s as well.

“I’m really delighted, Mr Moore,” said Aunt Serapheema, on the quarter-deck one day, “to see the boys looking so well and happy. It was really an excellent thought of yours to have them here, and I have not the slightest doubt they will prove a credit to your tuition, and pass their examination with flying colours.”

“Bravo! Miss,” cried Tom Morley. “In my time, Miss, I’ve heard many’s the little speech on a quarter-deck, but I declare to you, on the honour of an old sailor, I never heard a neater than that.”

“To my mate Tom, here,” replied Mr Moore, “belongs the credit more than to me and my wife, of making the young gentlemen what you see them.”

Old Tom Morley scraped and bowed in the most orthodox fashion, and Mr Moore continued:

“He does keep them at it, Miss. Why, it’s drill, drill, drill, all day long, and the boys like it, too. Then he reads to them and tells them stories in the evening.”

“Good books, I hope?”

“Not bad ’uns, Miss, I can assure you. We’ve Dickens and Scott, and that lot, but what we’re doin’ principally at present is a thorough overhaul o’ Marryat. He is the chap, Miss, to give a man, or boy either, a right taste o’ the crust o’ the service.”

Dear Mattie was listening to all this while she stood close by me, with one wee arm round my wrist, all eyes and smiles.

“What a perfect picture those two little ones look!” said Mrs Moore. “You are very fond of your little sailor brothers, aren’t you, dear? Which do you like best?”

Mattie’s eye wandered from Jill to me, then she dropped her head smiling on my shoulder.

“I love them both,” she said, “but Jack saved my life.”

That was only Mattie’s romantic way of alluding to our introduction, when I punched the rude fisher-boy’s head on her account.

But there was never a bit of jealousy about Jill.

There was one other thing that Tom taught us, and it is a branch of such pleasant education that I advise all boys to go in for it, viz, joiner’s and carpenter’s work. We had a regular bench on board and all sorts of tools, so that we could make almost any sort of article.

We spent the greater part of every evening on board ship, and as Tom was generally on board also, and had a wealth of wonderful tales to tell, the time passed very quickly indeed.

We did not forget to read and pray as dear mother told us to, and this we did every night whether sleepy or not. Mind, I am not telling this part of our story for the sake of showing we were good boys. We were no better, perhaps no worse, than other lads of our age, but we had then, as I have had all my life, unbounded faith in prayer, and in the goodness of the Father who made us. Besides, there was so much to thank Him for and to ask Him for, and while on our knees we somehow seemed always close to our absent mother. That alone made prayer so sweet.

Like most boys, we rather liked ghost stories, and though I do not believe it now, we had an idea then, that the old Thunderbolt was haunted. You see so many men had been killed on her battle-decks, and there were so many ugly dark stains about the parts where the guns had been, that it is no wonder lads so full of romance as we were, manufactured a ghost or two.

The decks did seem very gloomy and empty just after nightfall, so much so that, I do not mind confessing, when Jill and I had to go forward, we walked very closely together indeed, and gave many a fearful quick glance round, lest we should see a strange light or something even more startling.

But we never saw anything fearsome, though more than once, after we had been talking about mysterious things just before getting into our cots, we did have ugly dreams, and were glad when we saw daylight shimmering on the water alongside.

Now, all along my influence over Jill had been something quite marvellous. It really was as if his soul and mine were linked together in bonds that nothing could sever. Our very thoughts and imaginings were often precisely similar at the same time or times.

Well, knowing this, I should have been most careful in all I did and in all I said, and I will never, never forgive myself for not being so. For as you will presently see, my giving way to romantic imaginings and thoughts, that however pleasant they might be for the present, were really silly, had terrible results.

Tom Morley used to tell us tales of the pirates of the olden times, a race of marauders that I need hardly say have been long since swept from the face of the great deep.

Well, we liked ghosts best, perhaps, but next to them came pirates.

Being older than Jill—by five minutes—I really ought to have known better, yet one day I proposed playing at pirates. And soon this became a regular game of ours. Tom did not seem to mind it much, though he himself did not play, but he lent us a couple of old-fashioned horse pistols, and taught us to load and fire them—one lesson was enough. Of course we did not use anything more deadly than a little blotting-paper to keep the powder in.

Jill was always the pirate. He used to hail and board the ship from the bows in fine form, while I represented the crew. The battle would rage with pistols and sword-sticks, the former being dispensed with after the first discharge, and the fight then continued all over the deck, breast to breast, the excitement increasing every minute.

Sometimes the ship was captured, and I had to represent the crew to the bitter end, and walk the plank a dozen times.

What we did miss more than anything else was a black flag with skull and cross-bones.

Happy thought, we would make one!

We worked unknown to Tom at this, however. I bought the stuff, white and black, and it cost us a whole week or more to finish the job, but it was certainly a very creditable piece of work when finished. Quite a big thing too, and all complete, and ready to be run up to the halyards on which Tom hoisted a bit of bunting on high-days and holidays.

We never really thought of running it up, of course, but it was nice to have it. We felt then we w’ere pirates, in imagination at all events.

Now here is a singular thing which I must relate. One morning after being called by Tom—this was a regular part of Tom’s duty—I looked round to Jill’s cot, and there he was sitting bolt upright in it, with that sunny smile on his innocent sleepy face.

“What’s up, Jill?” I asked.

“You’re not,” said Jill, “though I heard Tom sing out, ‘Five bells, young gentlemen, please,’ more than half an hour ago.”

Then the next words spoken were said by both at precisely the same time, syllabic by syllable as if we had been wound up to it.

“I’ve had such a funny dream.”

We looked at each other, then I said:

“What was yours, Jill?”

“Nay,” said Jill, “you tell me yours first, because you know you are the eldest.”

“Well, I dreamt we had captured the Thunderbolt, hoisted the black flag and run off to sea with her.”

“That was exactly my dream,” said Jill.

“Did you make Mr Moore and the rest walk the plank?”

“Oh no, Jack, I wouldn’t dream of anything so very dreadful. I didn’t see them anywhere about.”

“Neither did I in mine. But my dream was altogether jolly fun.”

“So was mine and—”

“Gone six bells, young gentlemen. Really if this sort o’ thing goes on, I’ll take the number o’ your hammocks, and report ye on the quarter-deck next time your aunt comes on board.”

“All right, Captain Tom, we’ll be out in five minutes.”

And up we jumped, and were speedily dressed, and on deck for our morning walk.

But we thought no more of the dream.

It went as completely out of our minds as if we had never dreamed it at all.

But it was brought to our minds about a month afterwards in a way I am never likely to forget.

Meanwhile we still kept up our game of playing at being pirates.

It was summer now, and dear sister Mattie came often to see us, more often with her Mummy Gray than with Aunt Serapheema.

Of course we initiated her into the mystery of the pirate-game, and she took a most active part in it too. She acted the rich old dowager who had bags of gold and treasures untold, diamonds and all the rest of it, and who was eventually captured, and made to walk the plank with the rest of the unhappy crew.

I never saw any game take such complete possession of a child, as that pirate-play did of Mattie. She came oftener on board now than she might otherwise have done; she entered into the thing heart and soul, suggesting many improvements we never should have thought about, and acting her part as if to the manner born.

Of course she was told of the black flag, and must see it, and her eyes actually sparkled as they fell on the weird white skull and bleached cross-bones.

Things went on thus for some weeks longer, the pirate-play never losing interest, and each of us being thorough masters of his or her part.

But one day Mr Moore with his wife were invited to Trafalgar Cottage and Tom Morley was left in charge of the ship, while at her own special request Mattie was also left on board.

We could play now to our hearts’ content.

But we little knew what was before us.

Chapter Six.

An Appalling Adventure—“We must Prepare for Instant Flight.”

Just after tea, and while Tom was telling some of his most fascinating stories, and we three children were listening with dilated eyes and bated breath, we were hailed by a boatman.

Thunderbolt ahoy!”

“Ay, ay,” cried Tom, jumping up and rushing to the gangway—we had been having tea on the upper deck.

Then up sprang an old shipmate of Tom’s, and we heard them talking earnestly together and looking towards us. At last Tom advanced almost shyly. “I dunno really,” he said, “if one o’ you young gentlemen would like to be left in charge of the old Thunderbolt for an hour or so. Yonder’s an old shipmate o’ mine, and I’d dearly like to run on shore for maybe an hour.”

“Oh, we’d like it immensely.” We spoke these words both at the same time, as strangely enough we always did speak brief sentences, when excited.

“Well then,” said Tom, laughing and addressing me, “You’re Captain Jack, this is Commander Jill, and this is Mattie the mate.”

“Hurrah!” we shouted. “Off you trundle, Tom, and see you enjoy yourself properly; and if you don’t report yourself in due form when you come on board, we’ll put you in irons. D’ye hear?”

“Ay, ay, sir,” said Tom, saluting. Then over the side went he and his friend, and we saw them—no more.

Tom had promised not to be gone longer than eight o’clock, but eight and nine went by, and still he came not. The shades of night began to darken over the water and over the town, and worse than all it came on to blow.

We did not expect Mrs Moore to come back. Indeed it had been arranged, that if she did not return by seven, Tom was to see to putting us all to bed; and Tom—wicked, thoughtless Tom—had faithfully promised he would.

Alas! I fear that at that very moment Tom was tossing a can, and singing one of Dibdin’s songs.

“It’s very romantic, isn’t it?” said Mattie.

We both smiled like automata and said “yes”; but I don’t think either of us thought it was a desirable situation to be left in.

Jill and I were thinking about the ghost. But it would not do to say a word concerning this to Mattie. Each knew, too, what the other was thinking about. I am sure enough of this, because when, just as we were retiring into the great cabin, Jill gave a little glance behind him, and I said in his ear, “There are no such things, old Jill,” he nodded and smiled.

The wind shortly increased to nearly the force of a gale. It went roaring through the rigging of our one mast in a way that was dismal to listen to, though Mattie assured us it was perfectly delightful. The water alongside was all in a seethe, and the great ship wriggled if she did not roll, and kept pulling at her moorings as if she wanted to go flying away on the wings of that strong north wind. We busied ourselves, now, Jill and I, in getting supper, after which we put Mattie to bed on the couch. The three of us determined to turn in all-standing, as sailors phrase it when they mean that they do not undress.

But Jill and I took rugs and lay down in the cabin, as we did not want to be far from Mattie should she call during the night.

We had thought of keeping watch and watch in true navy fashion. But for several reasons we abandoned the idea. First and foremost there really was nothing to watch except Mattie, and we could watch her better if beside her; secondly it would be dreadfully dreary; and thirdly there was the very remotest chance, that the ghost of some of the brave fellows whose life-blood stained the fighting deck might take it into its head to visit the Thunderbolt during the storm that was raging.

The three of us said our prayers together, Jill and I kneeling down by Mattie’s couch. Then we kissed “good night,” and she went off like a top.

After we were quite sure she was sound, Jill looked at me and I looked at Jill, and up we both got as if we had arranged it all beforehand, and carefully locked the door and loaded our pistols and lay down again. We had no shot, but I said that did not matter, as if the noise of the pistol did not alarm the ghost and show him he was not wanted, shot would only go right through him and the holes would fill up again immediately.

However, we knew ghosts did not like light, so we left the swing lamp burning and lay down.

Not to sleep, for a time at all events. We could hear the roar of the wind now more distinctly, and many strange noises that we could not understand. It might have been rats, but there were footsteps so audible overhead every now and then, that we fully expected to see the door open and honest Tom appear to report himself.

I’m certain we heard scuffling and stamping outside the door, but at last all sounds merged into dreams, and if we did start awake now and then we could not be sure whether the noises that roused us were reality or imaginary.

We did sleep sound at last, for long hours too; then all at once, as if by instinct, or, as I said before, as if wound up to it like clockwork automata, Jill and I both rose up and became fully sensible that we were standing hand in hand in the centre of the room.

It was grey daylight on a lovely morning—very early, perhaps not quite three o’clock, and Jill and I both stared in astonishment as we gazed out of the port.

Why, the town was going round us. Houses and buildings and vessels were passing by the window.

Could we be dreaming? No, yonder was the green of a hill now, and the clouds moving also.

About the same moment that these wonderful phenomena were being presented to our eyes, the midshipman on watch on one of the ships—who, by the way, was half asleep—ran down below and reported to his commander that a steamer was going up harbour, and would run into the dockyard.

The commander said, “Get out of here, youngster. You’re mad or dreaming.”

The middy went on deck, but came diving below again immediately, taking two steps at a time.

“The Thunderbolt has slipped her moorings, and is driving out to sea.”

“Ay, lad,” said the commander, “that is more like it. The steamer you thought moving has been stationary.”

And now on board the hulk the real situation began to dawn upon our minds.

We were being run away with.

Then a great gun reverberated high over the howling wind, and gun after gun followed.

The good people of the town made quite sure that one of two things had happened: either a foreign enemy had landed, or the end of the world had come.

At the first gun Mattie, wideawake, jumped off the couch, and we at once explained to her the situation.

“Hullo!” she cried, “how nice! Hullo! hullo! Let’s play at being pirates.”

Her mirth and excitement were infectious.

In a minute or two we were armed and had rushed on deck, and the play was commenced.

The old Thunderbolt now was making good way down the harbour, and how she missed fouling and sinking some of the craft is to me a mystery to this day. But some of them had a marvellously close shave.

The whole harbour was now alarmed, and the officers and crews swarmed on the decks of the vessels. But the stately hulk held on her way, heading—sometimes sterning—for more open water.

Meanwhile, Pirate Jill was cheering in the ratlines, and finally leaped down, and the battle began with swords, we, the combatants, shouting as wildly as we thought was desirable.

We were now bearing close down upon the flag-ship, and could distinguish the officers on the poop.

“Hurrah!” cried Jill, “let’s now play at being pirates proper.”

“Hullo!” cried Mattie, “we’re all pirates.”

I ran speedily off for Tom’s old battered speaking trumpet, and we were very close to the flag-ship when I hailed her, in true pirate fashion.

“Lie to there, till we send a boat on board, or we’ll blow you out of the water.”

A chorus of laughter came from quarter-deck and waist.

“Fire!” I cried.

Bang, bang, went both pistols at once.

“Hullo!” cried Mattie; “Hullo!”

And at the same moment, seeing she had the halyards in her hand, I looked aloft just in time to see a little black bundle expand into a huge flag, and lo! fluttering out in the morning air was the dark dread ensign of the pirate, with its hideous skull and cross-bones.

“Hullo!” cried Mattie once more.

But Jill and I stood aghast!

Then our dream rushed back to our minds.

We did not foul the flag-ship, and were soon rolling away out seawards. But what had we done? It was dreadful to think of—hoisted the pirate flag and fired upon one of her Majesty’s flags, right into the teeth of her officers and crew.

So paralysed were we that we entirely forgot to haul down the flag, and it was still flying when—an hour afterwards a couple of tugs managed to get us in tow, and we were once more heading back for the harbour.

The first words the officer of the tug said to me, when he had time to speak, were—

“Why, you’re a pretty lot! Cutting out a man o’ war under the very guns of the flag-ship, and running off with it. Ha! ha! ha!”

Whatever the laugh might have meant, it sounded to me like the yell of a hyena.

“If you please, sir,” I advanced, “we didn’t run away with the ship; the ship ran away with us.”

“Was it bullum versus boatum,” he said, “or boatum versus bullum?”

“I don’t talk Turkish,” I said.

“Well,” he said, “Turkish here or Turkish there, you young pirate, I suppose you know what you’ll catch?”

“Hang us, won’t they?”

“Hang you? Yes. Drum-head court-martial, and hanging, and serve you right too. You don’t look very frightened,” he added. “There get away inside, the lot of you, and thank your stars it is no worse.”

We did as we were told, at the same time I could not help wondering what worse could befall us, than a drum-head court-martial with hanging to follow.

I stopped behind Jill long enough to ask the officer this question:

“They won’t hang our little sister Mattie?”

“No, not likely, we’ll make much of her.”

He caught Mattie up as he spoke, and soon had her laughing and crowing like a mad thing as he galloped round the deck with her on his shoulder.

“They won’t hang Mattie,” I said to Jill.

“No,” said Jill, “that is one good thing.”

“Well, do you want to be hanged, Jill?”

“I don’t think I should like it much.”

“Well, nothing can save us, you know.”

“But flight, Jack.”

“Yes, flight, Jill, that’s it. I suppose they won’t drum-head us to-day?”

“I don’t know. I’m not so sure. A drum-head court-martial is a drum-head court-martial, you see. And the beauty of it is—if there be any beauty about it—that it’s got up and got done with at once.”

“Well, then, I move we prepare for instant flight.”

“Quite right. I’m all ready as it is. Let us eat this pie, though.”

We did eat the pie. In fact, we breakfasted very heartily. But we grew very sad again when we thought of Mattie we must leave so soon, if indeed we should be successful in getting away at all. However, we could only try.

I got Mattie by the port, and said sadly enough—

“You won’t ever, ever forget me, will you, dear Mattie?” I put the question with a kiss.

“No, you silly boy; I promise I won’t. But what a silly question. We’ll play at pirates again to-morrow.”

I felt very much inclined to cry, but—I did not.

Chapter Seven.

Alone on the Moor—Adventure in the Cave.

On looking back through a long vista of years, and considering all the pros and cons of the case, and remembering that Jill and I were only boys, I do not think it any wonder we ran away from the dear old Thunderbolt hulk. I have always accused myself to myself, for the folly of having given way to a sudden romantic impulse—for which I, being the elder of the three on board, am alone accountable—playing at pirates, firing at a flag-ship, and all the rest of it.

But when our little game was over, and the full enormity of the offence stared us in the face, and after what the officer of the tug-boat had told us, I repeat, it is no wonder we ran away. We were not to know the officer was, figuratively speaking, laughing in his sleeve at us. We believed him. We were convinced it would end in a drum-head court-martial, with, next day, poor Jack swung up at one end of the fore-yard, and poor dear Jill at the other. A pretty sight that would have been on a summer’s morning. Romantic? Oh, yes, I own there would have been a good deal of romance about it. Rather much indeed. Our position would have been far too exalted to suit even my ambition.

Some one has said that hanging is the worst use you can put a man to, so it cannot be good for a boy.

That officer of the tug-boat, too, made so awfully light of the matter.

When I had asked him if hanging was very, very, dreadful,—

“Oh, dear me, no, my lad,” he replied, laughing, “not half so bad as having a tooth pulled.”

Our darling mother told us never to hate anybody, but I do not think I loved that officer very much just then.

Well, how did we get away? The fact is our escape was effected far more safely and easily than I had anticipated. I had expected that there would be a considerable deal of romance about that I felt sure they would fire shot and shell and shrapnel at the boat that was bearing us off, and if after throwing ourselves into the water we reached shore safely, they would send a regiment or two of soldiers at the very least to pursue us.

The old Thunderbolt, when she ran away, “showed a pair of clean heels,” so I heard that tug-boat fellow say, because wind and tide was hurrying her on. But it was no such easy matter to get her back; so the whole morning had fled before she was once more alongside her moorings. Then the bustle and din and the loud talking were shocking, for nearly an hour.

Mattie—I was so glad of this—got very sleepy, so we took her into Mrs Moore’s room and placed her on the bed. She bade us both good-night prettily, but sleepily, and I was glad of this too, for the “good-nights” did for the “good-byes.” Ah! little did Mattie think we were going to leave her, but she did not feel the tear that fell on her beautiful hair as I bent over her. It was best. After this I suppose it was activity that made us feel brave. We had to look sharp, I assure you. We hurried into our cabin—ours, alas! no more—and exchanged our hats for caps, and put on our monkey jackets—our winter ones. This would not look odd, because there was quite a raw air over the water. We went and packed our one portmanteau, taking nothing lumbersome, and no books, except our little Bibles that mamma had given us.

Then I sat down and wrote a letter, a very brief one, to Mattie. It only said, in a boy’s scrawling hand—

“Dearest Mattie,—Please always pray for Jack and poor Jill.—Your loving and affectionate Jack.”

I folded this up, and glided away into the child’s room and laid it on her pillow. She was sound asleep, but I kissed her brow. If I had stopped to look at her, I believe my heart would have broken in two.

Jill was waiting with the bag, and the difficulty was now to get a boat. We had thought of getting into the dinghy and paying a man to return it. It was better we didn’t.

I opened the port. The fresh morning air blew in and calmed me, and just at that moment, as if a good fairy had sent him, a shore boatman rounded the stern of the hulk, and was close beneath us.

“Boatman,” I said, “can you take us on shore?”

He looked about him a bit and nodded. Then I dropped my bag, and he caught it so neatly.

“We’ll get in from a lower port,” I said.

The man nodded again. Off Jill and I went down below to poor Tom Morley’s quarters. Nobody saw us, for everybody was on the upper deck forward, and making a terrible din. In three minutes more we were well away from the ship, but I made Jill lie down for fear of the shot and shell and shrapnel which I expected to be flying about our ears soon, and I myself pulled up the neck of my monkey jacket.

The man rowed right away up the harbour, and, to my intense joy, we had soon put a wall between us and the ships of war.

My heart had been thumping violently, and I dare say so was poor Jill’s.

When we landed, and I was diving for my purse to pay the mail, he held up his hand deprecatingly.

“Look here, youngsters,” he said, “I was a boy myself once. You’ve got into a little scrape, and you’re going to stop away from school till the little storm blows over. I won’t take a penny for this job, and I’ll take you both on board free and for nothing. My name’s Joe Saunders; you can ask for me.”

Then we thanked him and shook hands with him, with the tears in our eyes—in fact I think some rolled over. Next moment we were off and away.

We walked very fast and took the quietest streets. We met some marines, and our hearts began to beat again; but they hardly looked at us.

When we had gone some distance we were on high ground, and paused to look back. We could see the forest of masts rising over the walls and yards, and the smoke curling up from the chimneys. And as we gazed two bells rang out almost simultaneously from all the ships, while immediately afterwards, sweet and clear in the still morning air, rose the music of the band on the flag-ship’s quarter-deck.

It was very beautiful, but to us inexpressibly saddening.

We hurried on now, and were soon thankful to find ourselves out in the green country, with music of another kind falling on our ears—the happy songs of the birds.

We did not stay to listen then, however; we were in far too great a hurry to put as many miles as the day would admit of between us and the scenes of our wild piratical escapades. For we had not a doubt that, as soon as the Thunderbolt was once safely moored, the hue and cry would go out for the capture of the daring pirates who had threatened to blow one of Her Majesty’s flag-ships, with a tame admiral on board of it, out of the water.

So we went on, and on, and on, bearing away to the north, the country becoming wilder and more desolate at every turn of the road. When it was long past midday we began to feel very hungry, and, spying smoke rising from a little roadside inn not far off, we determined to halt and refresh ourselves.

A very quiet-looking, motherly sort of woman showed us into a neat little parlour, and making her acquainted with our desires, she went out and soon returned with a dinner fit for a king. Indeed I am sure that King Charles, when he was in hiding, did not fare half so well. Here were new potatoes, and boiled bacon and beans, and a jug of table beer, to say nothing of the white cloth and the wild flowers. What more could a king desire?

We felt exceedingly comfortable after dinner, and much bolder. Indeed we felt so far braced up that I determined forthwith to write to Auntie Serapheema and our darling mother. We had brought with us our little writing-cases, so, with Jill looking over my shoulder, I began writing.

Auntie’s letter did not take long. We expressed our sorrow, thanked her for all her kindness, and told her we were determined to be sailors if not captured; and that we hoped one day to return to England laden with jewels and gold, and come back and live happy ever after in Trafalgar Cottage. We sent our love to Sally and Robert, and our very dearest love to little Mattie; and we signed the letter with our names in full.

That last was a stroke of policy, we thought.

Next we commenced writing to papa and mamma. I wrote letter after letter and tore them all up, carefully stowing away the pieces in our bag, lest if left about they might lead to our capture.

I hardly remember what sort of a tear-blotched, loving, and penitent epistle the last was, but perhaps it would have answered as well as a longer one. Just then a postman hove in sight. He stopped to refresh himself, and I ran out and gave him the letters. I had not even forgotten to put the correct number of stamps on poor mamma’s.

So we had crossed the Rubicon.

But having sent the letter to mamma, a load appeared to have fallen off my mind, all in a heap as it were.

When we asked the landlady how much was to pay, she looked at us and said, “Sixpence each.”

“Which way are you going?” she added.

“North,” I answered.

“You’ll be on a walking tour, young sirs?”

I nodded.

“Well, you better not walk farther the night. There isn’t another house now for seven miles. You’re on the moor. I can give you a clean, nice bed, and breakfast any time you like in the morning.”

I consulted with Jill and we concluded to stay.

When alone again we counted our money. Financial ruin did not stare us in the face, for our united fund from the savings of many a lucky penny—dear aunt was so good to us—came to a few shillings over seven pounds. We thought ourselves rich, but determined to be very cautious nevertheless.

We slept well and did not dream once. Our bedroom was a little attic, the window of which looked over the front causeway. The sound of many voices awoke us next morning. I sprang out of bed, and peeped cautiously out from under a corner of the blind.

To my horror and dismay the roadway was crowded with soldiers, and I could distinctly see the glitter of fixed bayonets. Pale and trembling were both of us now, but we dressed and waited. After about an hour’s terrible suspense the party broke up, one half—who, by the way, had a prisoner—going south, and the rest going on in the direction of the moor.

The men were only hunting for deserters, after all, so our appetite returned, and we did ample justice to the good things set before us by the kind landlady. Then we bade her good-bye, and started.

We had to move with great caution now, for we knew the soldiers were on ahead, and we did not know what might happen. However, nothing did happen all that forenoon. We must have missed our way somehow, for instead of coming to the one house the woman spoke of, we came to quite a little hamlet, with a shop or two, and here, not knowing what might be before us, we bought provisions enough in the shape of bacon, butter, bread, and red herrings—we were not dainty—to last us for a week at least.

Then cautiously inquiring our way north, and after making a hearty lunch at a small inn, we set out once more, and, feeling very buoyant and fresh, walked on as straight as the road would take us till nearly sundown.

We never came to an eminence, however, without getting up and gazing round us, and when we came to a wooded turn in the road we deserted it altogether and took to the bush.

Just about sundown we heard voices on ahead, and Jill and I leapt like deer behind a hedge, and lay as still as snakes do. We soon saw the gleam of scarlet. It was the soldiers returning, and with them, between men with fixed bayonets, a poor dejected-looking lad with his fatigue jacket open and soiled, and his head bare. He was handcuffed.

When right opposite us they all stopped.

“Give us a light, Bill,” said one.

They had only stopped to light their pipes, though Jill and I trembled like aspen leaves. I noticed that one of the men, after he had taken a draw or two himself, wiped the pipe-stem and thrust it friendly-like into the the prisoner’s mouth. He must have been a good man.

But we gathered enough from their conversation, brief as it was, to quite frighten us.

“He’s on the moor,” said one, “and they’re bound to have him.”

“A desperate character, isn’t he?”

“Rather. Kill you as soon as wink.”

Then they went on.

Who was this desperate character, abroad on the moor?

“Surely they can’t refer to me, Jill?” I said.

“Oh no,” said Jill; “certainly not. They would have mentioned me, you know.”

“I don’t think so, Jill. You are not such a desperate character as I am.”

“Oh yes; I’m ten times worse,” said Jill, awfully.

We soon after came into a country high, bleak, and desolate, with only here and there a clump of trees. Hills there were in plenty, but houses none.

And night was falling fast, and both of us were getting very tired. We would have to sleep out, that was evident, and so determined to take the first available shelter. So on coming to a bushy gully, with a tiny streamlet going singing down the centre of it, we left the road and followed the water upwards, and were soon at the foot of a rock. To my surprise, on pulling some bushes aside I found a cave.

Some shepherd’s, evidently, we thought, for here was a bed of withered ferns, soft and dry; and not far from the mouth of the cave a place where a fire had been.

So we camped at once and lit a fire, for I had forgotten nothing. We made the fire between some stones, and placed thereon our tin billy with water to boil for tea.

We soon had made an excellent supper, and Jill’s dear eyes sparkled as he sipped his tea.

“What a splendid bushman you are, Jack!” he said. “This is a first-rate sort of a life, and, don’t you know, I wouldn’t mind living this way for a month.”

“Well,” I said, “it seems pretty safe; and I propose we do stop here for a few days. By that time they will think we are far away, and never look here for us.”

“Agreed,” said Jill.

Then we went and gathered a quantity of fern, so that we had quite a delightful bed in the cave; and as night was now over all the wastes around us, we determined to retire. The stars were out and glimmering down, and bats wheeling about, and every now and then the tu-whit—tu-whoo! of the brown owl made us start. It sounded so close to us, and oh, it was so mournful!

Other than that there was not a sound to be heard. We crept in, and I lit a candle as coolly as if I had been an old campaigner. I stuck it between two stones. Then I read a bit from mother’s Bible, and down we lay after that, leaving the candle burning for company’s sake. We did not like to be quite in the dark in so eeriesome a place.

But tired as we were, we lay and talked and planned for hours, and when I looked at my watch—yes, we each had a watch—I was surprised to find it was nearly twelve o’clock.

“We needn’t hurry up in the morning though, Jill.”

“Assuredly not,” said Jill.

Five minutes after we were sound asleep.

It might have been an hour afterwards, or it might have been two. I know not. But I do know we both awoke with a start at the same moment, and sat up shaking and trembling with fear.

A terrible-looking man stood in the cave gazing down at us.

Chapter Eight.

Good Advice from a Strange Quarter—Midnight and Anxiety.

The state of my mind at this moment must have been akin to that of a snake-charmed bird. I felt utterly, abjectly helpless. Had the apparition taken a knife out and proceeded to kill us, I do not think I should have lifted a hand or uttered a cry, except a frightened moan like a person in a nightmare.

He stood and looked down at us long and earnestly. A strangely haggard, but not an evil face, black beard of a week’s growth perhaps, and short dark hair hardly seen for the napkin that bound his head instead of a hat or cap.

We found voice at last, both at the same time. “Oh, sir,” we said, beseechingly, “do not kill us!” He started as we spoke the last two words, started as if stung, and gazed behind him with quick dramatic action, his black eyes all ablaze for the moment. So have I often since seen a hunted wolf look when at bay.

The first words he spoke betrayed him to be a foreigner.

“Kill!” he said, “what for I kill you? You alone? All alone?”

“Yes,” we replied, “yes, sir, quite alone.”

“’Tis goot. Do not fear me. Where go you to-morrow day? What you do here?”

I glanced at him for a moment before I spoke, and the truth flashed across my mind. This was the terrible convict we heard the soldiers say was abroad on the moor. He was not in convict dress, and though his coat was in rags, his boots were good. We learned from him, afterwards, that he had exchanged clothes, strange though it appeared, with a scarecrow. There was some humour here, though sadly blended with deepest pathos.

No, this man might rob, but he would not kill us. He was in trouble like ourselves. So we told him we were running away from school.

He looked at us again, and I saw he believed us. “Angleese, I not speak much. I am Español. I am a convict. Do not fear. I have never kill one. No—no—no.”

He sat down beside the candle and took out a knife and a turnip.

Something told me the poor fellow was famishing. I jumped up and went to my bag, and placed bread and bacon in his hand. He ate ravenously and thanked me. Perhaps it was only fancy, but I thought I saw tears in his eyes.

While he ate, much to our astonishment, a little black mouse ran down his sleeve, and sat on the back of his left hand, which he took care to keep still. The creature ate hungrily of the crumbs he gave it, and when finished, he held out his little finger, around which the mouse entwined both its little arms, while it licked it as lovingly as a dog would have done. Then, at a sign from the convict, it once more retreated.

I am sure, even now, that it was his love for the gentle wee mouse that made Jill and I take to this man, and believe what he told us. Briefly, his story was this:

“Many years ago, one, two, ten perhaps, I am cast away on this shore. My mate and me alone live. We trabel much. We seek for friend. No find. Then we come to big town, Cardeef, you call it. Here we find goot friend. We go seek for ship then to take us to Cadeeth. It is night. All my money in my belt. Bad men come out, kill my mate. I hear voices, footsteps. I run up to my mate. I pull out the ugly knife. I am caught there. I am taken to preeson, tried before justice—justice, ha! ha! I not kill my poor mate. All same. No one speak my language well. I not can speak Angleese den. I get angry, wild, mad. They put me away to preeson. Twenty year they say. But now I am free. They never get me more. I die first.”

“And the mouse?” said Jill.

“That is my preeson mate. I think ’tis the speerit of Roderigo, my friend, in dat little mouse. The warder want to kill him. Den I say, I escape or die. You may believe me. ’Tis all true. What for I tell little chaps like you lie. I have good friend at home. I will tell all dere. The Español Government will make de Angleese restitute. But dey cannot bring back Roderigo.”

“Did you love Roderigo very much?”

“He was best of friend. All same as brother. Yes, I love him. And you? What you do?”

Then, boy-like, we told this man all our terrible tale. We expected him to be visibly affected; perhaps, convict though he was, to shrink from us.

He certainly was visibly affected, but in a way we little expected. He laughed outright.

“For ten long year,” he said, “I never laugh before.”

The little mouse came down his sleeve again and sat on his wrist to wash his face and blink at the candle. The convict pointed to it with a forefinger and laughed again.

“Even Roderigo,” he cried, “is much amoose. Ha, ha, ha! Ah, boys,” he added, almost immediately getting serious; “you have a home. Go back to dat home. Go back, I say, go back. I speak as an all unworthy friend.”

“But they will hang us for piracy.”

“Do not make me laugh more. It does not become rags and grief to laugh. See, I am widout money, and naked, still I laugh. Poor boys, go back!”

I considered for a moment, then abruptly changed the subject.

“How do you expect to get away? We saw soldiers to-day on the moor. They were talking about you, and said you could not escape.”

His face grew darker and sadder.

Then, with all a boy’s generous abandon, I pulled out my purse and showed him my money. Even little Roderigo—Jill afterwards declared—paused in the act of washing his ears and gazed at the glittering coins.

“This is all we have,” I said.

“You unwise boy! I might take all. I will not refuse de offer of kindness. See, I take two. No more. This has save my life.”

He dipped a finger and thumb into the coins in my palm and took two sovereigns, and I put away the rest. He sat a long time silent after this. Then he got up, and going out, soon returned with an armful of ferns, which he placed in a corner.

“I sleep now,” he said. “To-morrow day we talk.”

Strange that now we felt no fear of this strange being. We slept soundly and well, and daylight was streaming into the cave when we were aroused. The convict had lightly touched me on the shoulder.

He was smiling, and looked now neither so haggard nor so terrible as on the evening before.

“No warm breakfus,” he said, smiling. “Soldiers have pass ’long de highway. Think you they seek for de convict to put in preeson, or de pirate boys to hang? Eh?”

We both trembled. But the keen air of the hill gave us an appetite and we did not miss the tea.

“Now we talk,” said the convict. “I have been think.”

“And,” I said, firmly, “I have also been thinking. It may not be so bad as we thought. They may not want to hang us. But they would disgrace and laugh at us, and I am a soldier’s son. I will not go back. Would you, Jill?”

“Assuredly not.”

“Den what else you do?”

“Go to sea before the mast.” The convict laughed again before he replied—“Boys, I speak as your friend. Do not be fools. Go to sea? What? Who take you? Though I have been long in preeson, I know all de law. At sea what can you do? No dings. No capitan will have runaways. Suppose you do hide, what you calls stowaway. Den they make you for to work—”

“We don’t mind that.”

“Stop till I speak. Dey bring you back to de same port. Ha, ha!”

It had never struck us before in this light. Not that we intended to stow away, but little goslings that we were, we fancied we had only to make our way to a seaport and choose a ship, and that any captain would be delighted to have us without asking any questions.

This convict was speaking sense, but he had already cast down our idols and banished every morsel of sentiment from our situation.

I could have cried with vexation.

I almost hated the poor fellow now. Why could he not have left us to go on a little longer in the flowery lane of our romance? Presently he spoke again.

“You have to me been a friend. Now to you I will be a friend. I will go to your aunt.”

“No, no, no.”

“Stop, my friend. I will tell her what you do wish me to speak. No dings more. Shall I go?”

“Tell her,” I said, “that we are well and happy. No, tell her we are wretched. No, no. Jill, what shall we tell her?”

“Well,” said Jill, with his old smile, “you can’t say we’re jolly. Just say we won’t come back. That we want to get a ship to go to mother.”

No, Jill, not like that, a ship to go to sea. They will not take us without aunt’s leave—then, we must get it.”

“Ah!” cried the convict, “dat is sensibeel now. You speak like one young man. I go to-night. You stay in de cave. Do not be seen. I will quickly return.”

“But you will not bring Aunt Serapheema!”

I felt angry at the time for speaking thus, but I could not help it. To have been dragged back now would have broken both our hearts, of this I am convinced.

“No,” said the convict. “As I am a good Catholic—no.”

This was enough for me. I took out once more my little writing-case, and feeling more happy and hopeful now, I wrote a long letter to auntie. It might have been but a repetition of the last, but it breathed even more emphatically than before our firm determination not to return till we had been to sea, adding that if this dream—that is the very word I used—were denied to us, we would work for our daily bread with the sweat of our brow.

It may have been a foolish boyish letter, and I dare say was, but it spoke our feelings, and no letter can do more than that.

This I entrusted to our friend the Spaniard, and he put it in his breast.

We kept close to the cave all that day, and several times heard voices in the distance, but no one came near us.

At night, as soon as the stars shone out, the convict left us, and we now felt very lonely indeed, but made the best of it, eating a hearty supper and talking till long past midnight.

As I write, poor Auntie Serapheema’s diary lies before me, and as the following entry refers to Jill and me, I take the liberty of transcribing it in full.

July 25, 18—. Last night, being the fourth since the disappearance of the dear foolish boys, and just as Sarah was bringing the Book, there came a knock to the hall door. Poor Mattie and I both started. Every knock makes us start now. It was only Robert, but he came to say a strange man wanted to see me on business. I made Sarah re-light the lamp in the drawing-room and retire. He stood near the mantelpiece as I entered, and bowed with almost stage politeness. I could see at once he was a foreigner. Englishmen are not urbane. He was clean shaved with the exception of the moustache, which was long and tinged with grey like his hair—also long. His eyes were very dark and piercing, and he looked altogether interesting and like a man who had come through some grievous sorrow. He handed me the bill of the reward of 50 pounds for the dear lads. ‘Yes, it was I who offered it,’ I said. Speaking in broken English, he told me I must take the bills in to-morrow, and issue others saying the lads were found. He knew where they were, and could arrange for me to meet them. ‘Where?’—‘At Bristol.’—‘No, nearer?’—‘Not a mile,’ he said. Did he want the reward then? I said this to try him. He did not speak. He appeared about to faint. I made him sit down, and caused Sarah to bring wine and a little food. While he ate he handed me a letter from my most foolish of lads. I watched him while he refreshed himself. Strange to say, a little mouse he called Roderigo came from his sleeve and sat in his hand, and he fed it. It then retired. I knew then I had a strange being to deal with, but I also felt I could trust him. But he would give me none of his own history; yet if he had asked me then for the whole of the money I would have handed it over. He only asked for twenty pounds to carry out his plans on the morrow. Yes, in answer to his question, he could sleep under my roof and welcome. Would I forgive him if he retired soon. Yes, again; he looked tired and was so polite. He said, was I the boys’ eldest sister. I am often taken to be very young. While we talked Mattie came in. I was surprised to see the child turn red and white by turns as he looked at her. Then she advanced and held out her hand. She said, ‘I am glad you have come.’ I said, ‘What do you say, child?’ Her reply was a strange one as she gazed from my face to the man’s. ‘Is that not—oh, I cannot call you to name. But I saw you—and oh, it must have been in a dream.’ She looked half in a dream now, and I was about to call Sarah, fearing she might be ill, when she smiled, and was soon after talking with the mysterious stranger as if they had long known each other. She marvelled much at the little mouse. He called it his friend, his mate, his brother, and though she laughed, she seemed to understand him.

“This morning he went away, and soon returned improved in habiliment. Poor fellow, he does not look well off. Now he has gone, and to-morrow I start for Bristol. But though Mattie would fain come, I must go all alone. That is the agreement.”

Here the extract ends.

On the day after the Spaniard left us, nothing occurred till near evening, when we were much frightened by the sudden appearance at the cave mouth of a huge dog. We thought it was a bloodhound, and that we were to be tracked thus, or our friend the Spaniard. The dog gave one startled look and retired, and presently, on venturing to look through the bushes, we found, much to our relief, he was running behind a man on horseback.

Nothing happened all that night, and next day we felt very uneasy as hour after hour went by and our new friend never returned. What could have occurred? False I felt he would not prove. But was he re-taken or dead? Oh, that would indeed have been dreadful.

The time went wearily, wearily on. We never ventured out of the cave, lest we might be seen, for once again we saw soldiers pass and repass.

When the evening star appeared shining bright and clear over the valley far beneath us, we felt more safe. Then the bats went wheeling past and past, and the mournful cry of the brown owl sounded drearily over the moor again.

We thought we should pray for our friend. We did this, lit our candle, and read from the Book, as dear auntie always called it. While we were yet reading we heard the distant sound of wheels, and speedily put the light out lest it might betray us.

We were badly frightened again when the carriage stopped down on the bridge. We ran inside the cave, for we had come out to look, but just then we heard the owl’s cry three times repeated, and this was the signal.

We got our bag and ran down the brook-side, and there stood the Spaniard—for he spoke—but so changed we did not know him.

We were so happy then. And we had more questions to ask than the faithful man could easily answer.

Chapter Nine.

A Midnight Drive—Arrival at Bristol—The Good Ship “Salamander”—How Tom Morley Died.

My brother and I jumped up into the dog-cart, I making Jill sit in front for safety’s sake, he being the younger, and the roads being hilly in parts. Then up jumped our Jehu as I may now call our friend the Spaniard, all the more truly in that he was arrayed from chin to knee in a double breasted buff-coloured coachman’s coat with buttons of brass. The coat, when daylight came, looked a little the worse for wear, but, to use a paradox, this was all the better for the part he was playing.

I had only time to press Adriano’s hand and ask for auntie and Mattie before we started. They were well and it was all right, and aunt would meet me at Bristol.

I should have liked to have asked many more questions, but the noise and jolting of the cart prevented me. Besides, Adriano seemed but little inclined to talk, and I noticed that he gave frequent glances from side to side, scanning as well as he could that portion of the moor which could be seen in the starlight.

Jill put his hand over the back of the seat and I placed it in my bosom, and thus felt I had my brother’s company and he mine. There was no need to speak to him then. Jill and I understood each other’s thoughts by touch as well as by talk. But indeed I was myself but in small humour for conversing. I felt safe—that was enough for the present; but why Adriano had brought a cart, or where he was driving us to, I had no desire to be informed.

In about half an hour, far away on the horizon to the right, I thought I could perceive the reflection of a great fire behind the hills. The flames looked increasing every minute. Surely, I thought, some forest must be on fire away over yonder. But soon the moon rose red and round, and apparently laughing at the trick it had played me. I watched it mount higher and higher, getting paler and more silvery, fighting its way through the clouds, and changing their blackness into beauty and brightness, just as our souls may change sorrows and afflictions, if we but have true faith in the Father.

Ere long, the moon ruled queen of the heavens’ blue arch, and the very stars seemed to pale before its glory.

I could not help thinking as we jogged along, how very differently things had all turned out from the morning—very far away it seemed—when poor Jill and I had left the ship with, figuratively speaking, rope around our necks. So true is it that we cannot even guess from hour to hour what is before us. You may try the experiment, if you please, of imagining what some place you are going to will be like, or some person you are going to meet for the first time. Your imagination will be very far out indeed. Still, I am certain of one thing, that if we do our duty simply and well, and leave the rest in the hands of the Providence we entrust with our life-guidance, all will turn out for the best. Who could have dreamt of our meeting the “terrible” convict, or of his giving us such honest, fatherly advice. With our heads full of silly romance, and our purses brimming over with three pounds ten each, where would Jill and I have landed. We would soon have been poor little ragged, bare-footed boys, with never a penny to buy bread or a postage-stamp, and oh, I tremble now to think what we might not have come to.

As I was musing thus, the road began rapidly to descend till we found ourselves in a deep, wooded ravine and on a bridge.

Adriano had quick eyes. He saw two men spring from the bank a little ahead before I did, and slackened speed. One stood at each side of the road as we drove very slowly past.

Adriano simply raised his whip hand as Jehus do by way of salute, but spoke no word. A moment afterwards, however, he raised his cap as if to scratch his head and the moon glinted on his grey hair—which I knew was a wig.

The men were very upright and soldierly in their bearing, but dressed in dark clothes tightly fitting.

One caught the back-board of the dog-cart, and walked some little way, helping himself along up the hill by the hold he had taken, which was only natural. But my heart began to jump and flicker, and my mouth grew suddenly dry with dread. Luckily I did not lose the power of speaking, nor did I falter much.

“You’re late out, my lad?”


“Going far?”

“Y-es, very far. Going to see my poor aunt.”

I had taken my handkerchief out, for what reason I do not know. But a sudden inspiration made me raise it momentarily to my face.

The man noticed it.

“Ah! poor boy,” he said; “I hope you’ll find her better than you expect.”

“I hope so,” I said, and in my heart of hearts I did.

“Death comes sooner or later to us all, lad,” he added. “Good-night.”

“Good-night, sir.”

Not a word was spoken by any of us in the trap, till we were a good mile past the place. Then Adriano turned round.

“Who you think those men are?” he asked.

“I can guess.”

“They belong to the preeson. I know them. Ha, ha, they not know me.”

There were no further adventures that night, but just as day was breaking slowly in the east, we all alighted near a brook, and Adriano put a nose-bag on the horse after letting him drink. Then our friend took out a basket from the cart. It contained one of auntie’s pies—auntie was famous for pies—and many other good things. I could not help thinking now how truly good at heart she was, and how ungrateful I had been. Hope returned to my heart, however, while eating, and I prayed inwardly I might live to reward her for all her kindness.

We were now in a very lonely and also a very quiet place, so that when Adriano suggested a few hours’ sleep, nothing seemed more natural. He gave us a rug and we lay down together, Jill and I under a bush, and very soon indeed all our tiredness and all our troubles were alike forgotten.

My watch had run down and so had Jill’s, so I have no actual notion how long we slept, only it must have been for many hours, because the sun was over in a different part of the sky and we were hungry. This last, I have often proved in deserts and wilds, is an excellent way of knowing the time when you do not happen to possess a watch.

We slept that night at a little country inn, and were up and away before the sun was well over the woods. We took our time on the road to-day, lazed and dawdled in fact, while Jill and I committed all kinds of frolics. We culled huge bunches of wild flowers, and even bedecked the horse’s head, so that when we arrived in the evening at a little village the people at once put us down as boys on a holiday.

Next night we drove into Bristol, and now Jill and I forgot all about the wild flowers, as we thought of our interview with auntie.

I pictured to myself all sorts of dreadful and impossible situations. How would she receive us? How would we advance? How apologise for all the trouble and inconvenience we had been to her? How this, that; and fifty other things, that were all scattered to the winds when we drove into the inn yard and found auntie all smiles and ribbons, actually waiting to help us down out of the trap?

“Poor dear lads, you must be so tired and hungry. But dinner is waiting when you’ve had a wash. I declare to you, boys, I’m not a bit sorry to come to Bristol. It is quite a holiday to me. And old associations do so crowd round my heart. Your grandpa, my dear father, used to sail regularly from Bristol. Oh, Reginald, you do look unkempt. Sleeping in your clothes, I dare say. Come along. We will say good-night, Señor Adriano. Be here at ten to-morrow.”

And it was not till just before we went down to one of the nicest dinners ever a boy sat down to, that auntie said, “Now, boys, say not a word again about the Thunderbolt. All is past and forgiven. It was not to be, boys. You were not destined for the navy.”

We clung to her hands, and thanked her.

“And after all,” mind you, “I believe with my dear father, that we have far better sailors in the merchant service than in the navy.”

On the whole, then, our reunion was more like coming home after being away on a holiday than anything else. So different from anything we could have expected.

We were too tired to talk much that night, and next morning Adriano bade us good-bye after doing some business with auntie.

I felt some sorrow at parting; so did Jill.

“Shall we ever, ever see each other again, Adriano?” I said.

“Quien sabe? de world is not wide to de sailor. We meet—perhaps.—I go home now, I hope. I will see my government—I will return here or to Cardeef—a free man. A dios. A dios.”

This was a busy day with auntie, and a busy day for us too. We saw the inside of many a shipping office before evening, and I was proud to learn that my Aunt Serapheema was so well known and so highly respected by every one, but I was not aware then that she was owner of a great many shipping shares.

I remember what one white-haired old gentleman said to her.

“The boys are big enough for their years, and look strong and well, but are they not just a little too young?”

“Their grandfather,” said auntie, proudly, “went to sea when barely ten.”

“I know your father was an exceptional youngster, and no man could have died more highly respected. No man.”

“Let me see now,” said auntie, speaking more to herself than to Mr Claremont, “the Salamander belongs to only a few shareholders.”

“Belongs mostly to you, Miss Domville.”

“And the captain is a gentleman.”

“Captain Coates is an excellent fellow.”

“Takes his wife with him most trips?”

“He does so in September.”

“I love a man who does that. He is a true sailor.”

“Perhaps too soft-hearted, though,” said Mr Claremont. “Don’t you think so, Miss Domville?”

“No, I don’t.”

“So brusque and cheerful. Just like your father, Miss. Just like dear old Captain Domville.”

“And I couldn’t be like a better man, could I, Mr Claremont?”

“True, true, true.”

“Well, my boys shall go out in September with Captain and Mrs Coates.”

So like her father. So like her father. Why, Miss Domville, do you know that your words sound very like a command?”

“And so they are meant to sound, Mr Claremont,” said auntie, laughing. “But mind you, it is I, not you, who are giving it. It is with me all responsibility rests, remember. I, not you, have to account to Major Jones, their dear father, and to my sister.”

“Yes, Miss, yes, yes, yes. I am just your adviser.”

“That’s all. So that settles it.”

So like her father. So very like her father,” said the old gentleman, as he bowed us to the door.

I looked at Jill after we got into the street, and Jill looked at me, and the wish uppermost in our minds at that moment was to take off our caps and shout, as we used to do when playing pirates; and the greatest sorrow in our hearts at the same moment was that we could not do anything of the sort, because it would have looked so silly.

When at luncheon that afternoon, auntie told us she would remain with us until our ship sailed in September, we of course felt very glad.

“But,” I said, “will they not miss you at home?”

“I was thinking of Mattie.”

“Oh, no,” said auntie, “who is to miss me? Poor dear Mattie has her Mummy Gray, the canaries have Sarah, and Trots has Robert to wash his feet and exercise him. You see, Reginald, I am free. I love to be free. That is the sole reason why I do not get married.”

Poor auntie, it struck me even then she did not look much like a marrying lady; but I did not say anything.

Captain Coates called in the evening. He was not your beau ideal of a sailor quite, being rather tall, thin, and dressed like a landsman. The peculiar feature of his face was his nose. It was a big nose, but sharp and thin. If his nose had been a circus horse, a clown would hardly have cared to ride bare-back on it. I may as well state here, at once, that Captain Coates never drank anything stronger than tea; still his nose was somewhat flushed at all times, and more so during an east wind. Mrs Coates was with him, a round-faced, cosy, bonnie wee woman that Jill and I took to at once.

She was very proud of her husband, and he was fond of her.

“Jack,” she told us that evening, “is every inch a sailor. Oh, it is fine to hear him carrying on when we’re shortening sail in front of a puff. And all the men obey him, too.”

Captain Coates laughed aloud—rather a pleasant, hearty laugh it was.

“Obey me, do they! Quite an exceptional thing on board a ship. Thunder! Miss Domville, the man who didn’t obey me would soon be scratching an ailing head.”

“That’s just his way,” Mrs Coates whispered to me. “Jack is such a fellow.—Oh, by the way, you’re called Jack. We’ll have two?”

“Oh, it won’t matter much,” I said, “I’ve a whole barrowful of names besides to pick and choose from.”

“I’m sure you’ll like the sea and Captain Coates, and that we shall all pull together famously. By the way, Miss Domville, I’m taking a maid again.”

“You had one last time.”

“Yes, and a nice handful she was. Ill for weeks, and I had to attend upon her. This is a black girl, so humorous, kindly, and good, and been to sea quite a long time.”

We were very happy that evening, especially when aunt told us that we were going to India, and that we should call at the Cape and probably see mamma.

“Oh,” I shouted, “I’m so glad that we played pirates.”

“So am I,” cried Jill, and began to dance.

“Auntie,” I said, “promise me one thing. Oh, you must promise.”

“Well, well, if I must promise, what is it?”

“You’ll write and tell mamma we’ve gone to sea. But don’t say where. We want to pop in on her unawares. Don’t we, Jill?”


“Well,” said auntie, “I’ll humour you for once.”

There is always something in this life happening to mar one’s joy, just when it is at its height. That is my experience. But things are wisely ordered. Heaven does not desire us to get too fond of this world. If it were all sunshine we would be sure to, and forget there is a happier land beyond the grave.

But before we went to bed, auntie told us about the sad fate of poor Tom Morley.

She seemed unwilling at first to tell us anything to damp our spirits, but as we had mentioned Tom, and saw there was something behind her first simple statement that Tom was dead, we pressed her and she withheld nothing.

The brief narrative of his latter end was related to her by Tom’s own quondam shipmate, the man who had come on board for him on that unfortunate evening before our final foolish adventure on the Thunderbolt; and when we heard it from auntie’s lips it made an impression on us I am never likely to forget.

Boys do take fancies for persons, whether men or women, whom they get in tow with—to use a sea phrase—when young, and I think they are more likely to be lasting ones if these persons have any memorable oddity about them. Tom had several, his hoarse but not unpleasant voice, his flower-pot coloured face, and his exceeding good nature when off duty. To put it in few words, he then used to let us do as we liked. I think I see Jill yet jumping round him and singing—

“Dear old Tom Morley,
Come tell us a storley.”

Then we would catch him and “lug him below” (the phrase is Tom’s) and seat him in his armchair, and even light his pipe for him, and then sit down to listen.

Tom’s stories nearly always had much about the same plan of commencement, which was somewhat as follows:—

“When I was in the old Semiramis, young gentlemen, ah! ships were ships in them days, and officers and men were officers and men, I can tell you, and knowed their duty, and did it too, no matter what stood in their way. Well, one day we were a-cruisin’ off a bit o’ land,”—and so on and so forth.

Yes, we did like Tom. But sad was the pity he had that predilection for “tossing cans” with friends, else he might have gone aloft in a different fashion and his body filled an honoured grave.

But Tom met his old messmate that day, and went off with him, and they must have a can together for old times, and many more than one perhaps. The evening probably passed away quickly enough, what with talking of the dear old days “when ships were ships and you I were young, lad.”

But, according to his friend, Tom pulled himself up with a round turn at last, and as he pulled out his big, old-fashioned silver watch.

“Oh dear,” he cried, “I’d no idea how the time was flyin’; and those dear children on board, too, all by their dear little selves. Now, old chummy, I’m off. Duty’s duty, and we may meet again another day.”

“I don’t think you can get off to-night to the Thunderbolt,” replied his friend.

“What d’ye mean?” said Tom.

“Why I mean that it’s blowin’ big guns.”

“No matter if it blows fifty-sixes or Armstrongs, Tom’s goin’ off if birds can fly.”

“There won’t be a boat’ll take you off to-night, Tom,” said the landlord.

“Then I’ll swim,” said Tom Morley, doggedly. “I’ve done that afore, when duty was duty.”

“I know you has, Tom; but take my advice, don’t try any such foolish game on a night like this, or you’ll get left.”

“Good-night, landlord.—Come on,” cried Tom to his friend.

Away they went together.

It was past ten by the time they reached the usual steps. No boatman was there.

“Tom, come on back. Sleep on shore to-night, old man.”

“What,” cried Tom, “and those three darlings on board! Don’t ye try to persuade me, Bill. You knows Tom o’ the old. Duty is duty, and Tom’ll face it.”

The moon was shining quite brightly, and though the water was rough, the wind was favourable.

“D’ye see the dear old Thunderbolt yonder, Bill? Well, Tom’ll sleep there to-night or—in a sailor’s grave. I think I see the anxious wee faces at the port yonder watching for me. Coming, darlings Tom’s a-coming.”

Tom had kicked off his boots as he spoke; then he relieved himself of what he called his top hamper. But even now his old shipmate could not believe him in earnest. He did, though, when Tom darted from his side and took a header into the tide.

He swam up close in shore first for a good distance, then struck out across, but still heading up. For a time his messmate could even hear him singing a stave of that charming old song—

“Good-night—all’s well.”

“The last long notes,” said his mate, “rang down the wind like a death-knell.”

And death-knell it was to poor Tom. If ever he reached the ship’s longitude, he must have been carried past her with fearful speed, and—the curtain drops.

Chapter Ten.

Book II—Patagonia and the Land of Fire.

A Strange Introduction—Saint Helena and Fun on Shore—Cape Town.

The amount of good advice vouchsafed to us before sailing, by dear aunt, was only equalled by the sum total of our own good resolves. There was nothing in the world we were not going to do and be that was worth doing or being. And every night of our lives for weeks before sailing, we made some new good intention, and duly entered it in the log of our memories.

Alas! I fear that going to sea for the first time is very like entering upon a new year: there is the same firm determination to do good and to be good, and one invariably sticks to his intentions boldly—for a week or a fortnight.

Our life now, I remember, was to be all couleur de rose. There would not be a single hitch in it; it would spin over the wheels of time as softly as a well-coiled rope glides through a greased block. We were going to work like New Hollanders, and get up to the working of the ship in a month at the farthest, be able to reef, steer, and box the compass in another month; we would always be on deck three minutes before the watch was called; we would show the men a good example—we certainly had a good opinion of our little selves; we would be always cheerful and merry and willing; and last, but not least, we would keep such a log as would be worth handing over to the British Museum when done with.

However, there is no harm in trying to be perfect; on the contrary, it shows a boy is ambitious, and an ambitious boy is certain to do well and advance. He may not obtain to the height of his ambition, but if he aims high he’ll hit high, nevertheless, although he may neither send his arrow through the moon nor set the Thames on fire.

The Salamander was a sailing ship, but a crack little craft at that, well-handled, and well-manned. A barque she was as to rig, but almost clipper built, without extra narrowness of beam. She was a strong, sturdy-timbered, safe ship, and could do a bit of handsome sailing on a wind.

But being a sailing ship, she had to be towed by such a puffing little dirty noisy tug, all the way down the river. This is a sort of a beginning to a voyage that I never could endure. When I go to sea, I like best to get into blue water right away, just as I dearly love to take a header from the rocks into deep water when bathing—right splash down among the jelly fishes.

But we hoisted sail at last with a deal of “yee-hoing” and sing-songing, then the tug and we parted company with a ringing cheer, which Jill and I took an eminent part in. Indeed, when the order was given to hoist the jib, both of us attempted to take an eminent part in that also, and were thunderstruck at being advised to go aft if we didn’t want our toes tramped. Why, the scramble in setting sail, the hurrying here and scurrying there, the noise and shouting, would have left a Rugby football match far in the rear.

When sail was got up at last, and the water had entirely lost its pea-soup colour, the Salamander went bobbing and curtseying over the wee wavelets, swaying about like a pretty Spanish girl dancing a fandango, and with a motion altogether so pleasant, that I said to Jill I did not think there was any life in the world so pleasant as a life on the ocean wave.

Just as I was saying this I received a dig from a thumb in the ribs, accompanied by that clicking sound a Jehu makes with his mouth when he wants his horse to “gee up.” I think it is spelt thus: “tsck!” If not, I do not know how to spell it.

“Tsck! youngsters, how d’y’e like it? Eh! Tsck! Sorry to leave the shorie-worry. Eh? Tsck.”

He was a youth of about fifteen, in blue pilot jacket with brass buttons, and a cap on the after-part of his head. He had a short neck and handsome face, but square chin, which he stuck very much up in the air when he spoke. I did not like him, then.

I drew myself up to my full height—four feet six, I think—and asked him if he was aware he was taking an unwarrantable amount of familiarity with my ribs.

I was using my very best English on him—auntie’s English.

“What’s your name, chummy?”

“Captain Coates may be able to inform you.”

“Ha! ha! going to ride the high horse. Eh?”

“What’s your name, little un? Tsck!” This to Jill.

Jill bridled up now.

“When I’m as big as you, I’ll thrash you,” said my brother.

“But you’ll never be, ’cause I’ll keep growing. See?”

I looked at him disdainfully up and down.

“You don’t give promise at present,” I said, “of ever attaining heroic dimensions.”

“Eh?” he said, putting a finger behind his left ear, as deaf people do. “I didn’t catch on. What ship did you say?”

“Because,” I added, “you’re squat, and you’re not wholesome, nor handsome.”

This was hardly handsome of me.

He shook his head now as if in great grief.

“Oh! you ungrateful little griffin,” he gasped out. “Here is poor innocent me come to chummy with you, and there is you a-rebuffing of me like everything. I declare it’s enough to make the binnacle pipe its eye.”

Then he brightened up all at once.

“I say,” he said, “was that old duchess your aunt? Uncommon fine old girl. Give you any yellow boys, eh?”

I turned on my heel and walked away, arm-in-arm with Jill.

At the same moment Mrs Coates and her black maid came up, and I was surprised to observe the immediate change in this young officer’s demeanour. He lifted his hat to the lady, and advanced almost shyly, certainly deferentially.

“Now, boys,” said Mrs Coates, smiling, “let me make you acquainted with your brother officer, Mr Jeffries. Mr Jeffries—Master Reginald—and-all-the-rest-of-it Jones; Master Rupert, etc, Jones—twin brothers, as you may see.”

Mr Jeffries cordially shook hands with us.

“I really was trying to scrape acquaintance with them when you came on deck, Mrs Coates.”

“How did you proceed?” asked the lady.

“Well, I—I fear I dug them in the ribs rather, Mrs Coates, but I now most humbly apologise.”

“And I have to apologise,” I returned, “for calling you squat and ugly.” I lifted my hat.

“And I,” said Jill, lifting his hat, “have to apologise for saying I would thrash you—I won’t.”

“No,” said Mr Jeffries, “I dare say you won’t yet awhile. Well, let’s all be pleasant. We’re all in the same boat. But boys, I’m plain Peter. Don’t Mr me.”

“And I’m Jack.”

“And I’m Jill.”

“Oh,” laughed Mrs Coates, “then I must call my Jack—John.”

I could not help thinking this was a very strange introduction, but the ice was broken, and that was everything.

We had music after dinner, in our pretty little saloon, Mrs Coates and Peter playing duets together, he with the clarionet—on which charming instrument every boy should take lessons before going to sea—and she at the piano.

We youngsters went on deck before turning in. The stars were all out, and all sail was crowded; but though well into the Channel, we made but little way, the sea all round being as calm as an English lake.

We sat down together near the companion.

“You don’t think me a very nasty fellow now, do you?” said Peter.

“No, I begin to like you rather.”

“Am I very ugly?”

“No, not ugly, but you looked conceited.”

“Well, so I perhaps am. Now, I’m lots older than you, and we’ve known each other all the evening, so forgive me for trying plainly to put you up to ropes. You’re green, and you must get rid of your lime-juice. Now, never lose your temper.”

“Oh! Jill,” I cried, laughing, “Peter is right, and we’ve broken our good resolve.”

“Always take chaff in the spirit it is meant.”

“So we had intended,” I sighed, “hadn’t we, Jill?”


“Well, that’s all to-night. We’re friends?”

“We are.”

“Then, good-night. I have got to keep the first morning watch.”

“Good-night, Peter.”

“Jill,” I said, “we’ve made fools of ourselves already. Let us go down below, and turn in.”

So we did, and cosy little cribs we had, and a little cabin all to ourselves—this is most exceptional, mind, but we were very young.

Just after we got up from our knees,—

“Give us the log-books,” I said, “Jill.”

“I say, Jack,” said Jill, sleepily, “maybe it would be as well to write every day’s doings complete every morning.”

“I dare say that would be best,” I said, “and I must say I’m feeling very tired.”

Next day it was blowing a bit, and we had something else to occupy our minds than writing logs. Indeed I never felt so thoroughly bad and unambitious in my life. I did try to eat some breakfast, but the fish got it after. Jill was the same, so ill, and the ship would keep capering about in a way that made me wish I’d been a soldier instead of a sailor.

“How’re you getting on?” Peter often asked kindly. “Oh, you are not nearly so bad as I was at first, and on the day the mate rope-ended me off to my watch.”

“Isn’t it blowing hard?” I ventured to ask.

“Blowing? dear life no, it’s a glorious breeze.”

The glorious breeze—how I hated such glory—kept at it for many days. The sea got rougher and the waves higher, and we got worse. I do not think anything would have induced me to go near a ship again, if a good angel had only put me down then at the door of Trafalgar Cottage.

But every one was kind to us.

Then one day the mate—he was rather a tartar—put us both in separate watches, and after this I think our sufferings began in earnest.

Not a word had yet been written in the log, so that was our third good intention thrown to the winds.

It really seemed to me that the mate was cruel; he did not kick us about, but he sent us flying, on very short notice too. And we dared not say a word. Then we had all kinds of little menial offices to perform, even for the captain’s cat and for two beautiful dogs that belonged to the mate. To be sure, there was a boy or two forward, but the mate told us—Jill and me—that he wanted to make men of us. He explained that no officer could ever know when a thing was well done unless he knew how to do it himself.

Going aloft was at first fearful work. I’ll never forget, though, lying out on a yard making a sham of reefing, and holding on like a fly on a roof, praying, and expecting every moment to be hurled into the sea. It came easier at last, and before we reached Saint Helena, where we lay in, I could do a deal both below and aloft, and had hands and feet as good as the captain’s cat.

Now if ever the lines of any two boys were cast in pleasant places on going first to sea, they were Jill’s and mine, and yet we were not happy. What would it have been had we been subjected to the thousand and one little tyrannies of ship life most apprentices have to endure? I’m not going to describe them, because I am telling a story, not giving a lecture; nor do I wish to say a word to prevent bold, hardy lads from adopting the sea as a profession; but let no one go to be a sailor lured by the romance and glamour thrown over it in too many sea novels.

Peter and we got on shore together at Saint Helena. This was a treat, because we were now quite friendly, and I had not forgotten the good advice he gave us the first evening we met.

Leila, Mrs Coates’ maid, also had a passage on shore in the same boat, and Peter, much to the amusement of the men—with whom, by the way, he was a great favourite—pretended to make love to her all the way. He told her, to begin with, that her name was sweetly poetic, and pretty. So far he was right. Then he said her teeth were like pearls. Leila grinned, simpered, and showed her teeth. And really Peter was not far wrong. Having adhered to the truth so far, I believe Leila was in a position to believe anything. So Peter praised her eyes next. He said they reminded him of koh-i-noors floating in a bucket of tar, and he referred to the coxswain to say whether he was not right. The coxswain confessed that diamonds were never so numerous where he had been, as to float them on tar, but that Leila was pretty enough to make a fellow pitch a ball of spun-yard at the captain’s head if she asked him to.

For this pretty compliment the coxswain received a dig in the ribs from Leila that well-nigh sent him overboard among the sharks and turtles, and certainly took his breath away.

“Oh!” cried the coxswain. “If that’s your way of showing your affection, my beauty, a little of it goes a long way.”

“What for you tease a poor girl, then?”

“Your hair, my Leila—” began Peter again.

“Cut it short, Mr Jeffries,” cried the coxswain, laughing; “why, sir, you can’t praise that!”

“Cut it short!” said Peter; “why it couldn’t be shorter. But look at those crisp wee ringlets, how they curl round one’s affections, how they entwine themselves with every poetic feeling—”

“Way enough—oars,” shouted the coxswain.

There was indeed way enough. The good fellow had not been keeping his weather eye lifting, and now the boat took the beach with such force that nearly all hands caught crabs, the bewitching Leila among the rest.

Peter made haste to help her up, and assisted her on shore. He even carried his politeness so far as to offer her his arm along the beach.

“You go ’long now,” she replied. “You nothing but one piccaninny. I not can gib dis heart ob mine to a child so small as you.”

Jill and I laughed, and Peter laughed good-naturedly, and fell back.

“Bother it all, boys, she’s got the best of me after all.”

Here, in James’s Town, as in other places, my brother and I attracted universal attention, among blacks and whites, by our wonderful resemblance to each other. And they did not hesitate to show it. For instance, I was some distance behind Jill and Peter, when I met a bluff old sailor.

“Hullo! matie,” he shouted, “blessed if I ain’t three sheets in the wind. I could have sworn I met you a minute ago, and there you are again. I’ll go back and have a sleep. Can’t go on board like this.”

But when he saw the two of us together, he concluded to go on board, after treating himself to another glass of beer, and drinking our healths. So we had to “shout” as Peter called it.

Before we entered the little inn, which was kept by a highly respectable man of colour, Peter pushed me unceremoniously into a little stable place, and told me to wait till come for.

I obeyed, feeling sure Peter was up to some lark. About five minutes after, the door was opened, not by Peter, but by a black man in a white jacket.

He sprang back in amazement when he saw me.

“You must be de debbil, sah,” he said.

“Thank you,” I replied, “but you’re more of his colour.”

The explanation is this: after calling for beer and sherbet, Peter, who knew the landlord, having been here before, said—

“Now, Mr Brown, you see this young gentleman,” alluding to Jill.

“Yes, sah,” said Mr Brown, “pertiklerly handsom boy, sah.”

“True,” said Peter, “but his chief peculiarity is his ubiquitousness.”

“Yes, sah, sure ’nuff, sah; come to look again, he is rather obliquitous.”

“He can go through a key-hole.”

The man drew back.

“Now, come and I’ll show you.” And upstairs the three went; and after making sure the window was properly fastened, Jill was duly locked into the room, and the landlord put the key in his pocket. In a minute after they returned. The room was empty to all appearance—Jill, in fact, was behind a chair in a corner. The landlord peeped under the bed, then stared in blank amazement.

“Now come on,” cried Peter, “we’ll find him out of doors. Go and look in your little stable.”

And there, of course, Mr Brown found me. Meanwhile Jill had got downstairs, and had hidden himself in the parlour, so that Peter had an opportunity of ringing the changes on this trick in several ways.

Finally we both appeared at once.

“I’m going to pay for the sherbet,” said I and Jill both in a breath, and both extending our hands at once.

“No, sah,” said Mr Brown, “I not touch it. P’r’aps sah, the money is obliquitous too—ha! ha!”

We had a deal of fun that day one way or another, and very much enjoyed our visit to Napoleon’s tomb. I believe I should have waxed quite romantic about that, or about some of the splendid views we saw on every side of us, but who could be romantic with Peter alongside making us laugh every moment?

After returning, we went to climb ladder hill. Every one does so, therefore we must. The ladder leads up the face of a cliff about four hundred feet high.

“I think,” said Peter, “I see my way to a final joke before going off. Jill, old man, you hide down here till I shout from the cliff top, then come slowly up the ladder, rubbing yourself as if you had tumbled.”

Then up we went. We were in luck. An old gentleman at the top was watching our ascent from under his white umbrella. We said “good afternoon,” and passed along some little way, and at a sign from Peter I got into hiding.

Peter ran back. “Oh!” he cried, “I fear my young friend has fallen over the cliff.”

“Dear me, dear me,” said the old gentleman, looking bewilderedly round, “so he must have. How very, very terrible.”

“But it won’t hurt him, will it?”

“Hurt him? why he’ll be cat’s meat by this time.”

“Oh, you don’t know my friend,” said Peter. “He’s a perfect little gutta-percha ball, he is.”

Then he shouted, “Jill—Jill, are you hurt?”

And when Jill presently came puffing and blowing up the ladder, and making pretence to dust his jacket, that old gentleman’s face was such a picture of mingled amazement and terror that I felt sorry for him; so I suddenly appeared on the scene, and, according to Peter, thus spoiled the sport.

Jill and I had built all sorts of castles in the air anent our arrival at Cape Town, and the meeting with our darling mother and brave papa. We were not in the least little bit afraid of a scolding from either.

The Salamander was to lie here for a whole week, so we would be certain to enjoy ourselves if—ah! there always is an if. I do not believe there ever was a castle in the air yet that had not a big ugly ogre living in some corner of it. Supposing father were killed, or something happened to mamma.

But here was the Cape at last, and the bay, and the town, and the grand old hills above. It was early in the morning when we dropped anchor, but there was plenty of bustle and stir on the water nevertheless. The houses looked very white in the sun’s glare, which was so bright on the water that we could scarcely look on it. The hills were purple, grey, and green with patches of bright crimson here and there, for it was early summer in this latitude. Indeed, everywhere around us was ablaze with sunlight and beauty. But all this fell flat on Jill and me, and we did not feel any near approach to happiness till the boat was speeding swiftly towards the landing with us. For somewhere in shore yonder lived, we hoped, all we held truly dear.

Chapter Eleven.

Life at Sea—Poor Father’s Death—Mattie and I.

Where did Major Jones of the —th live?

Was the regiment in town?

These were only two out of a dozen questions we asked about two dozen people on the street. And greatly to our astonishment, no one could give us a definite answer. We thought all the world knew our papa.

At last we met a smart sergeant of marines, who told us afterwards he was just up from Symon’s Town on a few days’ outing. Our father’s regiment had gone to the front, away up country, but he would go with us to the barracks. He did so, and got an address—that of the house where the major used to live; and he walked with us that distance, then bade us good day.

The door was opened by a little yellow lady wearing a crimson silk bandana by way of cap. We had hardly spoken ere she guessed we were the “young massa boys that Ma’am Jones speak so much about.”

“And mother, is she with father?”

“She was wid Capitan Jones, but she come home to-day, sick.”

“She is here, then?”

“No, to-day she come home.”

“Is she very ill?”

“No, bless de lubly lad, no, no ill at all, only sick.”

Here was confusion and grief all mingled up together.

However, we waited. It was a beautiful room we were in, all jalousied and curtained, all thoroughly tropical in appearance, while every nick-nack around us was mother’s—her work-box, writing-desk, books, everything.

A light carriage stopped ere long, and at a glance we could see it was mother’s. We could not wait any longer, but ran right away down the garden to meet her.

Then the scene—which must be imagined.

Mamma was looking as well and beautiful as ever. She was on sick-leave; that was what the little yellow Malay lady wanted to convey.

What a happy, happy week that was. And every hour of it we spent with mother. The only drawback to our pleasure was that we could not see poor father. But when we came back—ah! then.

We had such good news at the end of the week, too—that is good news for Jill and me, not for the owners’ profit, however, including Auntie Serapheema. It was simply that, owing to delay in lading and unlading, the Salamander would not be ready for sea for another week. This was a respite we did not fail to take advantage of, and so we spent it in going everywhere and seeing everything, in company with mother, of course, and very often Peter.

I felt that I liked Peter now better than ever, because he was so deferential and polite to mamma. No Frenchman had more urbanity about him than Peter, when he concluded to show it.

How Jill and I wished that week had been a year. The Cape has always seemed to me a very delightful dreamy sort of a place. The scenery is so grand, there is health in every breeze, and the people do not hurry along in life as they do in the States of America, where one is surrounded by such a stream of fast-flowing life that he thinks he is behind the age if he does not sail with it. But at the Cape one can take time to vegetate and enjoy his existence.

Up anchor and away again. A few tears at parting, and hopes of a speedy reunion. It had felt funny, as Jill expressed it, to find mamma amidst such tropical surroundings, but there was a good time coming, and we might soon see her back in dear old Trafalgar Cottage.

Of course Peter and we had fun at the Cape, and Peter played a good many more of his monkey tricks; but one particular monkey trick was played on me by a smart-looking Portuguese fellow, whom I will not forget, but am never likely to meet, so I make a virtue of necessity by forgiving him.

It was on the forenoon of our sailing. Jill was already on board, and I myself was about to put off in the very last boat, when the man came up and politely touched his cap.

“I sent them all off, sir,” he said, “and this is the little bill.”

I glanced at it. One pound 5 shillings 6 pence for various little nick-nacks, chiefly preserved fruits and other eatables.

“Ha!” I said to myself, “this is strange.” Then aloud: “I never ordered these things, my man.”

“You forget, sir. Only last night, sir, and you gave me sixpence to be sure to take them off in time. Will you come with me to the store?”

“No, no,” I said; “it was my brother, doubtless. Here you are, one pound six shillings. Keep the sixpence because I suspected you.”

I did not see my brother to speak to till dinnertime.

“Fork over, old man,” I said, throwing him the bill. “I paid that for you, and don’t you forget your liabilities when next you leave a foreign port.”

Jill glanced at the bit of paper, and his look of blank astonishment told me at once I had been very neatly victimised. So much for being a twin.

Peter exploded in a hearty fit of laughter, which went rippling round the table; and though I looked a little blank—Jill said “blue”—for a time, I presently joined in the mirth.

“You see, my boy,” said Captain Coates, “that it is quite an expensive thing to keep a double.”

“Long may he keep his double,” said Mrs Coates.

I grew serious all at once. I glanced just once at poor Jill’s innocent face, while a strange feeling of gloom rushed over my heart.

Keep my double! Why surely, I thought, it could never be otherwise. I must always have Jill—always, always. I could no more live without that brother of mine than I could exist without the air I breathe.

Perhaps dear Mrs Coates noticed the air of concern her words had inadvertently called up, for she made haste to change the subject. I do not know whether she did so very artistically or not, but very effectually.

“Have ever you seen oysters growing on trees, Mr Jeffries?” she asked.

How closely the sublime is ever associated with the ridiculous in this world! Mirth itself or folly is never really very far away from grief. The one merely turns its back to the other.

Oysters growing on a tree indeed! Yet I could not repress a smile, and I dare say Mrs Coates noticed she was victorious.

“Oysters growing on trees? Yes, years and years ago.” I often noticed that peculiarity about Peter: he used to speak as if he were indeed a very old man. And, mind you, one’s peculiarities should always be respected, even if they convey to your mind the idea that the owner is affected with pride. Because every one has peculiarities, and they are often faults; but all have faults.

I think in the present instance Peter would have been pleased if Jill or I had contradicted him, but we did not. Jill merely said:

“Wouldn’t I like to have trees like these growing in my garden.”

Then Captain Coates explained that Peter referred to the mangrove trees, with huge bare root-tops, that grew by the seashore in Africa, and graciously permitted the succulent bivalves to cling to them.

I have heard it said, reader, that there was not much romance about the merchant service; that, like the glory of war, it all clung to the Royal Navy. This is not quite true, and were I but to describe one half the adventures—none very wild, perhaps—and half the fun we had for the next four years of our life at sea, giving an account at the same time of the storms and dangers we encountered, and a pen-and-ink picture graphically told of the lovely lands and seas we made the acquaintance of, it would be one of the most readable books ever printed. But I have that to tell of poor Jill and myself which I believe will be far more absorbing than the every-day events in the life of a sailor.

Our voyage, then, to Bombay was all that could be desired. Now that Jill and I really felt ourselves to be seafarers in the strict sense of the word, we settled down to our life, and began to enjoy it.

This is a feeling that comes sooner or later to all who make going to sea their profession, and it is born of the fact that your ship becomes your home; so that on shore you always feel out for the day or the week, as the case may be, but as soon as your foot is on deck you feel back and settled down. It is this feeling I doubt not which makes every true sailor love his ship.

From Bombay we went to China, and thence to Sydney, and it was there the great grief found us, a grief which made Jill and I feel we had left our boyhood behind us and grown suddenly old.

We had lost our father!

He had died, as heroes die, fighting at the head of his regiment, sword and revolver in hand, against fearful odds.

I shall not dwell on this sorrow; it had better be imagined. It was Mrs Coates who broke the news to us, after taking us below to our cabin. She let us weep as young orphan brothers would, in each other’s arms, unrestrained for a long time, before she broke gently in with the remark:

“Dear boys, God is good to you; you still have your mother.”

Oh yes, we still had our mother, and when the first wild transports of our grief were past, our thoughts sorrowfully reverted to her, and her lonely life in auntie’s cottage by the sea.

I think the first comfort we really had was in our manly resolves to do everything that was right, and to be everything that was brave and good, for the sake of this widowed mother of ours, and out of respect to the memory of our hero father.

But as I have said, the grief made us old, and mind you, age goes not with years; the poor miserable children that beg in the streets of London, half naked and in rags, whose parents are more unnatural than the wildest beasts, they, I say, are as old in spirit and heart, and often in wisdom, as happy young men and women of over twenty-one.

It was strange, too, that, children though we were, we could not help feeling that henceforward we would be our mother’s protectors.

Ah, I have to confess, though, that, so hard was the blow to bear, so intense was the grief we experienced for father’s death, we saw no silver lining to the cloud for many a day, and, at night, neither Jill nor I could get our hearts quite round those beautiful words in God’s own prayer, “Thy will be done.”

And so months and years flew by, and Jill and I grew big and strong, and at the age of sixteen we brothers took the position of second and third mates on the Salamander. There really was no such rating as third mate, but the captain and everyone else who had anything to do with the ship, knew well we would not be parted if possible.

In all these years we had only been twice home, for our ship had what might be called a roving commission. Captain Coates was part owner of her and the rest of the owners knew well he would do all for the best, so that when abroad he invariably took whatever turned uppermost in the shape of trade. When unlading at one port, he seldom knew where he would be sailing to next. Sometimes we would take several trips back and fore between the same two ports. In a word, Captain Coates despised no trade or trip either by which he saw his way to make an honest penny.

On our last return home, we found that mamma was much more cheerful and resigned, that Auntie Serapheema had not yet got married. It was not even rumoured that she had refused many offers. She seemed wholly bound up in mamma.

Mummy Gray, Sarah, and Robert, were just as we had left them, Robert and Trots the pony being both stiffening a trifle with age.

Mattie was grown almost out of “kenning,” as the Scotch say. She had slipped up, but she was none the less wonderfully beautiful.

Peter told her in his off-hand way, in Auntie’s presence too, that when she was a few years older he might possibly make love to her, and probably marry her, but not to build upon this as a promise.

Mattie told him he was an old man, and he had better marry Sarah. She said Robert wouldn’t mind, because Robert had Trots, the pony.

Mattie, and Jill, and I, visited the Thunderbolt. Mr Moore was still in charge, and we talked much of old times and poor Tom Morley, but we did not play at pirates, though Mrs Moore pulled out the black flag and displayed it. She was always going to keep it, she said, as a memento of days gone by.

On board the hulk, Mattie took me aside to show me something, which she did with sparkling eyes and a heightened colour. It was only the little letter that I had put on her pillow.

“But,” said Mattie, “of course we always pray for you when far away at sea, only there is one word in this letter that I don’t like, quite I mean.”

“And what is that, Mattie?”

“Why do you say, ‘Poor Jill’?” I do not know how it was, but at that very moment a kind of shadow passed over my heart: I cannot otherwise define it—a kind of cold feeling.

“I don’t know, Mattie,” I replied, looking, I’m sure more serious than I intended, for my looks were mirrored in Mattie’s face. “I don’t know, Mattie; but I often think something will happen to ‘poor Jill’—”

“There it is again—‘poor Jill.’”

“Only,” I added, “Heaven, forbid it should be in my lifetime, Mattie.”

“Amen,” said the child.

It was while I was at home this time—this last time for many years—that a very curious thing happened. A sailor died at Cardiff, and on his death-bed called a priest and confessed to him that he alone had been the murderer of Roderigo, the Spanish sailor and companion of Adriano, who had suffered so long in prison.

I felt extremely happy about this, and so did auntie. She, of course, had not known the story of the man at the time when he was instrumental in saving Jill and me from probably an ugly fate. I had told her afterwards, however, when I knew Adriano had gone out of the country. And, with some show of reason perhaps, both auntie and Mummy Gray connected him and the murdered Roderigo with the mystery that enshrouded Mattie’s life.

“He will come again some day,” auntie said, “and we will know all.”

“Yes,” said Mummy Gray, solemnly, “I hope so.”

The Queen granted Adriano a free pardon. Auntie was disloyal enough to laugh when she read that piece of intelligence in the newspaper.

“Pardon for what?” she said, “after having kept the poor dear sailor in prison and bondage for so many terrible years. It sounds like adding hideous insult to awful injury.”

Chapter Twelve.

“Come to me, Jack, I cannot come to you.”

Peter Jeffries, now chief mate of the dear old Salamander, could no more help chaffing Jill and me, than a monkey can help pulling its mother’s tail. And we used to tell him so.

For instance, brother and I nearly always kept watch together, merely for company’s sake. You see we were both put in the same watch because the Salamander required no third mate. So Peter did not hesitate to remind us often enough that we were only one man between the two of us. But the fact was we were kept together on the Salamander, at auntie’s wish, in order to become perfect sailors under bold Captain Coates, and not, as Peter would have it, that we might have our socks seen to by Mrs Coates, and our pocket-handkerchiefs aired by the black but comely Leila.

However, by way of paying him out for it, Jill would sometimes keep Peter’s watch for him, and let him have four hours extra in, thus returning wheat for chaff.

During the next year of our life, Jill and I grew to to be quite men—seventeen, you know, or nearly—and Jill reminded Peter that he could thrash him now, for we really were taller.

The resemblance between us was not a whit marred, and to tell you the truth we took a pride in it, and, just for the fun of the thing, always dressed exactly alike, even to our scarves.

About this time we were bound from the Cape to Rio, which we made in fine form, though we kept a good look-out for Russian cruisers, it being war time. We often met ships that made us fidget for the time being, but the danger was never extreme at the best.

From Rio we started for San Francisco, meaning at first to go round the Horn, but Captain Coates changed his mind, and determined to penetrate through the Straits of Magellan.

We received the first intimation of the captain’s intention from Peter, when he came on deck one lovely morning to join my brother and me in our walk.

There was about a six-knot breeze blowing aslant our course from the south-west by west, so though every stitch of canvas was set, there was not a deal doing.

“The old man says you’re to keep a few points closer to the wind,” said Peter.

“All right,” I replied, giving the necessary orders.

Peter was in one of his funny moods to-day, I knew, because he asked Jill if, having nothing else to do, he would mind whistling for some more wind.

“For a capful, if you like,” said Jill, merrily; “may I have your cap to hold it in?”

“Now, youngster, I own you’re smart, but never cheek your superior officer. Besides, I’m older than either of you, and if you’re both good boys I’m going to marry your sister.”

We laughed outright.

“Thank you,” said Jill, “that is very good. I remember you told Mattie herself that last time we were home, and I thought at the time cheek couldn’t well go further.”

“If anybody marries Mattie,” continued Jill, “it must be Jack.”

“Jack! What! Marry his sister?”

I grew suddenly serious.

“My dear Peter,” I said, “it is strange that through all these years it never occurred to me to tell you that Mattie is not our sister, though we call her so, and love her just the same, but—”

“Just the same as a sister?” said Peter, interrupting me. He had a smile on his face, but it was a made one—one of those smiles that curl round the lips, but never reach as far as the eyes; at the same time in those eyes was a look of such earnestness as I but seldom saw there.

Jill and I were standing side by side looking at Peter, and as the latter spoke, our hands touched. I knew then, as I do now—though neither my brother nor I ever spoke of it—that the same thought thrilled through both of us: “Could Peter be in love with our little Mattie? To be sure she was barely fifteen, but then—”

“I ought to have told you,” I continued, “that there is a sad mystery about Mattie’s birth and parentage.”

“Ha!” said Peter, “a story, eh? Well, we will have it to-night in the first watch.”

“Very well.”

Peter brightened up again immeasurably.

“Do you know why we altered course?” he asked.

“Usual thing, I suppose.”

“No, not the usual thing.

“We’re going to try to push through the straits. Fine weather, clear skies, a spanking bit of a breeze, and good luck will do it, though it is risky enough in all weathers for sailing ships, ’cause of course you’re in and out, off and on, tacking and running, and all kinds of capers, and never off a lee-shore, morn, noon, and night, till you’re out into the Pacific Ocean.

“Ever hear of Magellan, Greenie?” he continued, looking at poor Jill. He often called Jill “Greenie,” which he said was a pet name.

Now Jill and I knew all the history of the great navigator of ancient times. Our Aunt Serapheema took good care of that.

“Magellan? let me see,” said Jill. “Oh yes, there used to be a Magellan who kept a draper’s shop in Upper High Street.”

“Well,” said Peter, “that is true enough, but I hardly think that is the man. However, I’ve been through the straits before.”

“Do they charge anything for letting you through,” said Jill, quietly.

Peter laughed till he had to wriggle about in all directions. “I tell you what it is, Greenie, you’ll be the death of me some day. Well, we shall touch at the Land of the Giants.”

“Are there really giants?”

“I’m not going to spin any yarn from personal experience, child, because I can’t to any extent. But our bo’s’n told me it was a land of giants. There are giant plains—they call them pampas—giant lakes and rivers, giant hills and forests—awful in their gloom—giant men and women, giant cocks and hens—”

“Yes, the ostriches.”

“And the whole is defended round the coast by giant cliffs, alive with giant birds; but we’ll see for ourselves in a day or two, Greenie, if you’ll only whistle for the wind.”

“If it comes.”

“Yes, if it comes.”

That same night in the first watch, which happened to be Peter’s, we told, or rather I told, him all I knew of Mattie’s history.

He was silent for some time afterwards, leaning quietly over the weather bulwarks, watching the phosphorescence in the sea. That was a glorious sight indeed, but Peter was not thinking about that at all. “Did it ever occur to you, Jack,” he said at length, “that this Adriano whom you so befriended—”

“Who so befriended us.”

”—Might be one of the sailors saved from the wreck? might be even Mattie’s father?”

“No, no, no,” I cried, “not that, Peter. It certainly was unaccountable that when she first saw Adriano she seemed to recognise him, but remember that she could have been little over a year old when the shipwreck occurred. Besides, I wouldn’t like to think of Adriano, friend and all as he must always rest in my memory, being Mattie’s father.”

“Liking has nothing to do with it one way or another.”

“No, certainly not.”

“Assuredly not,” from Jill.

“But,” I insisted, “the two shipwrecked sailors assured Nancy Gray that the lady’s husband had not been on board.”

“Jack,” said Peter, “you’re a capital sailor, but you would have made but a poor lawyer. Depend upon it there are wheels within wheels in the mystery that surrounds poor Mattie.”

“It will be all the better if it is never cleared up,” I said firmly, “and I hope it won’t be—there!”

“Well, I think otherwise. But one of the two men told the clergyman something. Do you know what that was?”

“No, and it didn’t seem to signify.”

“Didn’t it? There again I differ, and if you won’t think me officious, I’m going to probe this matter as deeply as I can.”

“Do as you please, Peter; I only hope you won’t find out—”


“Anything disagreeable.”

“No fear of that, Jack. I pride myself in being able to read character, and there is that in Mattie’s face and eyes that tells me she is a lady born.”

“That has not been denied, Peter.”

“No, but not only of gentle but unsullied birth.”

As he spoke there came again, I thought, that same strange dreamy look in Peter’s eyes; but I could not be sure, though the light from the companion fell full in his face.

He extended his hand, and I grasped it. It was as if we were signing a compact of some kind, I hardly knew what.

Then Jill and I went below.

Mrs Coates sat near the stove, which was burning brightly, in her little rocking chair, reading; her black maid sitting not far off sewing; in front of the fire a big pleasant-faced cat was singing a duet with the brightly burnished copper kettle, and the great lamp swung in its gymbals from a beam over head.

I could not help pausing in the doorway for a moment to admire the homelike cosiness of the scene. By and by down came Captain Coates.

“Jill, my lad,” he said, as he seated himself by the little piano, “trot on deck and relieve Peter a bit.”

When Peter came down he went at once for his clarionet, and we had very sweet music indeed.

This, or something like it, is the way we usually spent our evenings in fine weather.

In two days time we were, or thought we were, not far off the entrance to the First Narrows, but the horizon was hazy.

The same afternoon a great red-funnelled steamer hove in sight, and came ploughing and churning on in our direction. She was English, and homeward bound. How glad we were! We did not take ten minutes to finish our letters. They carried all kinds of tender messages and wishes and hopes, and told how well and happy we were and expected to remain.

I went in charge of the boat with the letters, and was very kindly received. As I stood on the deck of the fine steamer, I really could not help wishing I was going home. It was but for a moment; then I remembered I had duties that called me elsewhere.

The ships parted with cheers, and the flock of seagulls, Cape pigeons, and albatrosses that had been following the steamer divided, one half going on after her, the others electing to share our fortunes, and pick up our cook’s tit-bits from off the water.

We were now in Possession Bay, which surrounds the entrance to the First Narrows of Magellan Straits; but though the wind was fair, there was a strange haze lying low all round the horizon, so our good captain determined to keep “dodging” or tacking about till the weather should clear.

Captain Coates had told us at dinner that for his part he would sooner go round the Horn any day, than through the Straits, but he had important business at Sandy Point—a Chilian town of small dimensions on the Patagonia shore—and—“duty is duty.”

The sun went down blood-red in the haze, and with as little sail as possible on her we went tacking to and fro. Two great albatrosses were sailing round and round, sometimes coming so close that we could hear the rustle of their feathers and note the glitter of their green eyes and the shape of their powerful beaks. I could not help thinking of the words of Coleridge in that weird poem, “The Ancient Mariner.”

At length did come an albatross,
    Thorough the fog it came,
As if it had been a Christian soul
    We hailed it in God’s name.

And a good south wind sprang up behind,
    The albatross did follow,
And every day for food or play
    Came to the mariner’s “hollo!”

It may have been these lines that I conned over to myself, or the mournful sough to that was in the wind to-night; but, at all events, some sort of heaviness seemed to lie about my heart that I could not account for.

About three hours after sunset, the moon had asserted itself. Very high in air it shone, right overhead almost, and although but half a moon, was exceedingly bright and silver-like. But half-moons give the stars a chance, and to-night, though the haze lay houses high all along the horizon, the sky above was darkly blue, and so clear that you could mark the changing radiance of colour of many of the stars that sparkled as dew-drops do in the sun’s rays.

I noted all this with satisfaction, I cannot say with pleasure. There was that unbanishable feeling of heaviness at my heart, which I have mentioned. It was getting late, however, so I went below to our cosy saloon, and was soon chatting cheerfully with our little mother, Mrs Coates. As I was turning to come down the companion, I had heard Peter sing out to Jill, “Oh, look at that great grampus!” And both had gone to see it.

We expected the captain down every minute to play, as was his wont, and rather wondered he did not come.

Suddenly on deck was heard the sound of footsteps hurrying aft, and at the same moment that awful shout—who that has ever heard it is likely to forget it till his dying day—?

“Man overboard!”

Mrs Coates started to her feet, clutching at the arm of the chair to prevent herself from falling.

With a sudden and terrible fear at my heart I went rushing up the ladder.

Peter was there—alone.

“Where is Jill?” I gasped.

“It is he,” was all he could answer.

I knew where he had fallen, from the direction in which all eyes were turned. A life-buoy had already been thrown, and the usual hurried orders were being issued.

From out of the dark depths of the sea I thought I could hear my brother’s voice, as I had heard it once before, in innocent pleading tones, when he was a child—

“Come to me, Jack, come to me; I cannot come to you.”

Next moment I was in the water, and the ship was some distance off. She seemed to move so fast away.

Here was the life-buoy. In my anguish I dashed it aside. I could support my brother. Many a time I had done so in the waves before our cottage door at home.

I felt glad the ship had gone, with her noise and bustling decks. I could listen.

“Jill,” I shouted, “coo-ee! Jill, I’m here.”

Then, to my joy, a faint answering shout came down the wind.

On—on—on I swam. Taking desperate strokes. Shouting one moment, listening the next.

At last, at last.

He was sinking, but I was not weary.

I remember hearing the clunk-clank of the oars of a coming boat.

Then that was lost to me; there came a terrible roaring in my ears, sparks flashed across my eyes, and—

When next I became conscious, I was lying in my bunk.

One anxious glance upwards. Oh, joy! it was Jill’s hand I held in mine.

So I slept.

Chapter Thirteen.

The Straits of Magellan—Firelanders—The Storm—The Ship Strikes.

To rub shoulders with death always leaves a chilly feeling in my heart for a day or two. It is as though the King of Terrors had just encircled me for one brief moment in his icy mantle, and let me free again.

I felt thus next morning, anyhow, but very thankful to Heaven, when I saw Jill quietly dressing. I did not chide him.

“Are you better, brother?” he said, with his father’s smile.

I knew he was penitent, and grateful, and all the rest of it, because he said “brother.” At ordinary times I was simply “Jack.”

I was softened.

“I’m all right,” I answered. “But, Jill, you must be more careful.”

“I’ll try, brother.”

Then I turned out, and began to dress, singing as usual.

Mrs Coates did come to breakfast, but looked worn and nervous. Peter was full of banter and nonsense. Captain Coates was keeping watch to let Peter “feed,” as Peter called it. But presently our worthy skipper would come below, and make a terrible onslaught on the cold ham. Nothing ever interfered with his appetite much. He was a philosopher, although a lean one, and always looked upon the bright side of life, and the bread-and-butter side.

“I sha’n’t get over the fright for a month,” said poor Mrs Coates. “Peter tells me he was standing on the bulwark, hardly holding on to anything.”

“I’ve scolded him well,” I said, “and if we meet the mail boat I’ve a good mind to send him back to mother and Mattie.”

“Wouldn’t you feel lop-sided, Jack, without the child?” said Peter. “And the Salamander would only have half a second mate. No; we’ll stick to Jill, only next time he wants a cold bath, we’ll find means to oblige him without having to call all hands.”

“Mrs Coates, I’ll have another egg, please,” said Jill.

“Well,” said Peter, “by all the coolness—”

“Hands make sail!”

This last was a shout on deck, and in five minutes more we were all “upstairs,” as Mrs Coates phrased it.

We were entering the First Narrows, the low, moundy shores of Patagonia on our right, the gloomy grandeur of the frowning mountains of Tierra del Fuego on our left, the sea all dark between.

I have said “gloomy grandeur,” but gloom can hardly be associated with glaciers, ice, and snow; and surely, too, the myriads of wheeling birds were doing all they could to dispel the gloom; still, it lay on the sea, it hung on the dark cliffs, and hovered on the mists that had not yet risen from the mountain summits.

Indeed, everything in and around this strange ocean highway has an air of gloom. You cannot help feeling you are at the end of the world. There is something weird in the very appearance of the water, weird and treacherous too; and albeit the forests that clothe the lower sides of the mountains, some hundred miles farther on, are wildly picturesque, surmounted as they are by rugged hills, snow-white cliffs, and glittering glaciers, they look black, inhospitable, threatening.

The weather continued fine, the wind was fair. We kept quietly on all day, through the Second Narrows, and into Broad Reach, the captain having timed things well. The wind was now more abeam, but less in force, so that we should make a pleasant night of it.

Never have I seen a more glorious sunset than we now had. To gaze on that splendid medley of light and colour, that hung over the western hills, seemed to give one a foretaste of the beauty of heaven itself. But with all its dazzling, thrilling loveliness, it did not make us feel happy. At all events it kept us silent.

Next day, early, we reached Sandy Point. A strange wee town of long, low wooden huts with shingle roofs, a little church, a great prison, and a ricketty pier, very foreign-looking, and not at all elevating to the mind. But the gentleman—a Chilian he was—who came off to transact business with Captain Coates was the quintessence of politeness, doubly distilled.

We had to stop two hours here, so Jill and I, with Mrs Coates, went on shore to see the giants, and buy guanaco skins for our friends at home.

The giants were not in. At least I saw none of them. But there were shops, and I fear that both Jill and I spent more money on ostrich feathers than we had any right to do.

Early in the afternoon we once more weighed anchor, and stood away down the Reach, the breeze keeping steadily up all day, but, unfortunately for us, going down with the sun. It was my watch from twelve till four; the moon did not shine out brightly to-night, being obscured with clouds, a by no means unusual occurrence in this dreary region.

Jill did not keep me company either; he was tired, he said, and had turned early in. Perhaps it was this fact that was the occasion of my strange depression of spirits, a depression which I could neither walk off nor talk off, nor gambol off, albeit I tried hard to do so with our dogs, the beautiful deerhound and collie. They indeed appeared as little inclined for play to-night as I had ever seen them.

“They seems to have something on their minds,” said Ritchie, a sturdy old sailor who had sailed the seas off and on for twenty years.

“You’re not superstitious, Ritchie?” I asked.

Ritchie took three or four pulls at his pipe before he replied.

“I dunno, young sir, what you’d call superstitious, but I’ve seen some queer things in my time, and something was sure to ’appen arterwards. Once, sir—”

“Stay, Ritchie,” I cried. “Don’t let’s have any of your ghost stories to-night I couldn’t stand them. The truth is, I’m a bit down-hearted.”

“Go and have a tot o’ rum; I’ll j’ine you.”

“No, Ritchie, that wouldn’t do either you or me good in the long run. But I dare say I’m feeling a trifle lonely; my brother isn’t the thing, I fear.”

“Nonsense, sir, nonsense. Never saw him looking better, nor you either, sir. I knows what’s the matter.”


“It’s the musgo that’s coming.”

“The musgo?”

Ay, you’re new to the Straits, I must remember. The musgo is a fog, ‘a fiend fog’ I’ve heard it called. You always feel low-like afore it rolls down. To-morrow, sir, you’ll hardly see your finger afore you.”

“So dark!”

“It’s dark and it’s white—just as if it rolled off the snow, and so cold. You’ll see.”

“You said this moment, Ritchie, I wouldn’t see.”

This was a most miserable attempt at a joke on my part, and I felt so at the time.

Ritchie laughed as if it was his duty to laugh.

“Look, look!” I cried. “Look at the fire away in shore yonder, near the cliff foot.”

“I sees him.”

“And look, another on the lee bow—if we have a lee bow to-night—another on the quarter, and is that one far away yonder like a star?”

“That’s one. Them’s the canoe Indians a signalling to each other.”

“The natives of Tierra del Fuego?”

“Yes, drat ’em, and a bad, treacherous lot they be. They’re saying now—‘Look out, there is a barque becalmed.’”

“Would they attack a ship?”

Ritchie laughed.

“Give them a chance only,” he said, “and there isn’t a more murderous, bloodthirsty lot ever launched a boat.

“I was broken down here once, or a bit farther up. It was in the little steamer Cordova, a Monte Videan. Smashed our seven, we did. Very little wind, and hardly a bit o’ sail to hoist. They weren’t long in spotting the difficulty. Durin’ the day, a miserable-looking woman and boy came in a canoe to sell skins and to beg. They must ’ave spotted that we had only a few hands. For at the darkest hour of midnight the ship was attacked.”

“Anything occur?”

“Well, it was like this: There wasn’t a longer-headed chap ever sailed than our skipper. A Scot he was, and clever for that. He knew these Fuegian fiends well, and was prepared.

“We had lights ready to get up at a moment’s notice. If we’d had arms we’d have used those, but with the exception of two or three revolvers we were defenceless. But we had coals, lumps as big as the binnacle. And we had boiling water and the hose ready. Mercy on us though, young sir, I think I hear the blood-curdling yell of those savages now, as they boarded at our bows. Up went the lights. Up came the hose, and—they caught a Tartar. It was cruel? Maybe, but it was self-defence.”

“And the coals?”

“We sank their canoes with these. A kick would knock a Fuegian canoe in bits any day, so our task was easy. They sent an arrow to the very heart of poor Bill Wheeler, and he fell backwards dead, and they harpooned another of our men; but few of them went back with a whole skin, I’ll warrant.”

Before my watch was over there was no more wind than would have sufficed to move a child’s paper boat, but the night was not quite so dark, the moon escaping now and then to cast a few silvery rays on the water or light up the rugged tops of the distant sierras, then being speedily engulfed once more in great inky-dark clouds.

The situation was by no means a desirable one, for currents run here like mill streams, and we were a measurable distance from the wild, desolate shore.

Ritchie was right; and when I went on deck next morning before breakfast, I found that the musgo was thick and white around us, and though it was easy enough to see one’s finger at arm’s length, it is no exaggeration to say it was impossible to see the jib-boom end from the foremast.

We must have been somewhere off Point Gallant, in an ugly place, so it is no wonder the captain concluded to anchor if he could get near enough to find soundings.

The wind was rising now, and though but in puffs which just gave the Salamander a send now and then, we were forging ahead at perhaps two knots an hour.

It continued like this all day long, but the wind had increased by evening, and almost threatened a gale. We could not now be far off the English Reach, which, as a glance at a map will show you, is narrow, and therefore dangerous in the extreme. So long, therefore, as we had a surety of width of water, we determined to lay to with as little sail as possible on her.

Night seemed to come on a full hour sooner. It was a night I shall never forget. Anxiety was depicted on every face that there was a chance of getting a glimpse at. And though the captain tried to speak cheerfully in his wife’s presence, it was evident his thoughts were not with his words. Every extra puff of the still rising wind must have felt going through his heart like a knife. I know it did through mine. Even Peter was serious for once.

On going forward I saw Ritchie standing by the winch.

“What do you think of it now, Ritchie?” I asked.

“Think of it, lad?” he replied. “I think it’s likely to be a case with the old Salamander before four bells in the morning watch.”

“You’re a pessimist,” I said. This was a favourite expression of poor aunt’s.

“It’s the mist that’ll do it,” he said. “Look, see sir, if the wind gets no higher the musgo will continue. Then we may drift quietly on shore and strike. If it does blow a real gale, away goes the musgo and out comes the moon; that would be a poor enough outlook, but we’d see what we were doing.”

Hour after hour went by, and though the storm increased, there was never a sign of the musgo rolling off. No one thought of turning in to-night. The captain never even suggested when he came below, as he now and then did, that even Mrs Coates should go to her cabin.

There was something very awful in this waiting, waiting, waiting. And for what? Had any one dared ask himself this question, he would hardly have been brave enough to have answered it.

It must have been about four in the morning. I could not say for certain, for bells I do not think had even been struck, when suddenly, without a moment’s warning, the wind increased to a shrieking, roaring squall of more than gale-force, and next minute we had struck and were engulfed in breakers.

Chapter Fourteen.

We Leave the Doomed Ship—Pursued by Savages.

I was in the saloon at the time, and everything seemed to fall together, as it were. It felt as if the ship’s bottom were dashed in and upwards, and when I struck a light—for the lamp had been extinguished, though it did not leave the gymbals—all was chaos in our once cosy wee saloon. Piano, chairs, books, ornaments, all mixed up together. I hastened to help Mrs Coates to her feet, and called to the steward to gather up the burning coals off the deck, else with the spilt oil we should be on fire.

No need, for a green sea came tumbling down the companion, and surged foaming in at the doorway, till we stood ankle deep in water. Another and another followed. The wind roared with redoubled violence. Then louder than the wind and the voice of the sea, came the crash of a falling mast. The squall appeared to have done its worst now, and though the seas continued to break against and over us, it was more in sheets of spray than in green water. We had gone on shore stem foremost, and were firmly wedged between two low bush-clad cliffs.

Now slowly, almost imperceptibly, the wind went down, and the musgo rolled away, and when morning broke cold and drearily over the sea and hills, the sky was comparatively clear, our position could be clearly defined and our danger could be faced.

Three poor fellows had fallen under the wreck, and were either killed at once or quickly drowned. A few others were wounded or bruised, and all were shaken.

The boats to the number of three—whalers they were—remained intact.

We were in a kind of wooded cove, with hills rising high at each side save on the sea-board, and far away above us was a region of ice and snow, with a cataract tumbling its waters apparently out of the very sky itself.

When the sun rose at last, dismal as was our plight, I could not help admiring, nay, even marvelling at, the beauty of the scenery around us. It was grand beyond compare.

We were in no immediate danger. We appeared to have been lifted in on the top of an immense wave, and deposited between the cliffs and on a hard flat bottom, from which we could not slide. There were timbers from her lower sides floating about us even now that told their own sad tale.

The ship was doomed, but we who were spared had much, very much, to be thankful for.

The captain consulted with Ritchie, who was carpenter on board, besides holding some other rating. He was not only the oldest on board, but by far the most experienced. It was resolved at once to put ourselves in a state of preparation, for the savages would assuredly find us out before long.

Then we went to prayers.

I need hardly say they were solemn and heart-felt.

There was no time to be lost now, however. We must get ready at once to leave the wreck, and in boats make the best of our way eastward towards Sandy Point. Whether we could do so in peace and safety remained to be seen.

We were in the hands of an all-seeing Providence; we could but say “Thy will be done,” and leave the rest to Him.

“We had better bury the dead on shore, Ritchie?” said the captain.

He really was asking a question for information. He seemed to quite defer to Ritchie.

“I wouldn’t do that, sir. These canoe Indians are cannibals, and they’ll have ’em up and eat them as sure as one belayin’ pin’s like another. No, sir, it’ll be just as quick to tack ’em up and give ’em a sailor’s grave.”

“You see to that then, Ritchie. Will you take charge of the boat, Mr Jack? Thank you.”

The broken and buried corpses of the poor fellows were speedily sewn in hammocks, which were heavily weighted with iron, and taken out to sea as far as we dared to go; and then, while the solemn burial service was read by Ritchie, one by one they were dropped overboard, and sank into the murky water with sullen booming plash. As he closed the book, Ritchie looked round him on all sides, but there was no sign of savages to be seen, neither smoke on shore nor canoe at sea. Nor was there any sound to break the stillness except the plaintive cry of a sea-bird; and yet who could tell what eyes of Indians the forest might not hide?

On our return we found our comrades all very busy indeed.

Poor Mrs Coates, looking very pale and resigned, sat on the companion. Woman-like, even in this dire strait she had not forgotten to bring a basket with her, and Leila clutched another. Both were warmly clad, and both wore guanaco mantles, the very garments we had purchased at Sandy Point.

Captain Coates put another question to Ritchie:

“Should we or should we not fire the ship, Mr Ritchie, think you?”

“For the matter o’ that,” replied Ritchie, “I’d as soon feed snakes in the woods as put any good thing in the way o’ these cannibal fiends, but I think, sir, leaving the ship for them will be our salvation. You ask my opinion, sir, and I give it. The wind is changing round already. It’s a way the winds have here, where the Pacific and the Atlantic seem to me to fight for mastery like. We needn’t be in a hurry then to leave the ship till they come.”

“You feel sure they’ll come?”

“Ah! never doubt ’em, sir. When they see we’re leaving the ship, they won’t chase us till they’ve cleared the wreck. My advice is, have up the ’baccy for ’em all ready, and the rum too. Let them look for everything else.”

“You seem obliging to them.”

“There’s a method in my obligingness, sir. Let’s leave the rum in different jars about, and cut the ’baccy all in bits and scatter it over the decks. Wolves, sir, fighting over a dead horse’ll be nothing to the scramble they’ll have for the ’baccy and rum.”

The boats were now lowered and laden with the ship’s valuables. Each boat was well provisioned, and supplied with water and rum, and also armed.

The men were twenty and two, all told, giving about five to each of two whalers, and seven to the largest whaler or cutter, as she was sometimes called. The captain himself took charge of this, his wife and Leila as passengers; Peter took command of the second boat, and I of the third, in my boat Ritchie being rifleman. Jill, it is needless to say, came with me, his elder brother. Ah! that five minutes of difference in our ages made me the man, you see, and Jill the child, and I would not have had it otherwise for all the world.

The day wore on. Noon passed, yet never a sign of Indian was seen. So we did what all right-thinking Englishmen would have done under the circumstances. We dined.

We made both ladies swallow a ration of rum. Poor Mrs Coates’ eyes watered, and Leila became a little hysterical and finally cried.

The wind went round and round, till at last it was fair.

Everything looked so propitious. But why did not the savages appear?

“I have it, sir,” said Ritchie. “They’re waiting to attack us at night, and I now propose we start. They’re hidden somewhere, depend upon it.”

Ritchie was right, and no sooner had we got fairly into the offing, than out their canoes swarmed after us.

“Keep well together in a line,” cried the captain, “and stand by to give them a volley.”

Ritchie stood up in his boat, and shouted at the foremost boat in broken Spanish. He tried to tell them that the tobacco was in the ship.

But on they came. Mrs Coates and Leila were made to lie down in the boat, and only just in time, for a shower of arrows flew over us next minute.


Half a dozen rifles rang out in the still air, dusky forms sprang up in the canoes and fell to rise no more. Again and again our guns spread death in their ranks, and the nearer they came the hotter they had it.

We had spears in the boats, boarding pikes and axes. Would we have to use them? For a moment it seemed likely. All sail was set, and almost every hand was free for a tulzie that, if it came, would indeed be a terrible one.

One more telling volley. Would they now draw off? Yes, for over the water from the wreck came a mingled shout and yell. The canoes at once were stopped. Greed did what our guns had failed to accomplish. Murder and revenge are sweet to a savage, but tobacco and rum are sweeter still.

In ten minutes time we and our dusky foes were far apart indeed, the savages having a grand canoe race back to the wreck, we dancing away over the waves and heading straight for the east.

“Thank Heaven,” said Ritchie, fervidly, “they’re gone.”

“Do you think we could have beaten them off, Ritchie?” I asked.

“One can never tell how things will go in a hand-to-hand fight. Not as ever I’ve been in many, but, bless your innocent soul, lad, I’ve come through so much. I came to close quarters once on the African shore with a crowd o’ canoes just like that. I could have sworn we’d have beaten them off easy. And so we might have done, if our boats had continued on an even keel. But that wasn’t their game. No, they threw themselves like wild cats on one gunwale, and over we went. They had us in the water; and by the time a boat shoved off from the Wasp and came to our assistance, there was hardly a man among us left to tell tales.”

“That was fearful!”

“Ye see—haul aft the main sheet a bit—you see, sir, mostly all savages has their own ways o’ fightin’, their own tactics as you might say. Drat ’em all, I say.”

“You don’t believe in the noble savage?” said Jill.

“Not same’s they make ’em nowadays, sir. ’Cause why, we white men have spiled them. And now we want to kill ’em all off the face o’ the earth. It’s just like an ignorant old party having a dog for a pet. He’s everything at first, and the very cat takes liberties with him, till one day he snaps. It’s only natural, but what does the ignorant old party do?—why puts him in a bag and drowns him. It’s the same wi’ the savage: the white man has spoiled him, and now he thinks he’d better get rid of him entirely. Well, young gentlemen, by your leave I’ll have a smoke. You’ve got the compass all right, Mr Jill? Thank ye. ’Cause if the weather changes for the worst, then—”

“Hush, hush. Why you are a pessimist!”

“I don’t know that ship. But never mind. You don’t smoke?”

“N-no,” said Jill, “not yet.”

“Let me catch him at it,” I said.

“What have ye got under the sail, sir?”

“Why, the dogs,” said Jill, laughing. “You didn’t think I was going to leave them, did you? Look here.” He lifted the corner of the sail as he spoke, and there, sure enough, were Ossian the noble Scottish deerhound, and Bruce the collie.

“Mind,” continued Jill, “both o’ these would have done a little fighting if the worst had come to the worst.”

The wind held steadily from the west and by north, and blew stiff after a time, but the boats sailed dry—neither were far distant from the other—and everything was as comfortable as could be expected under the sad circumstances.

“If there doesn’t come any more north in it than this,” said Ritchie, with a glance skyward, “it’ll do. But, you see, we ought to be heading up Famine Reach now.”

“What a name!” said Jill.

“Ay, and there is a sad and terrible story to it too, that some day I may perhaps tell you.”

The afternoon wore slowly away, neither Jill nor I saying much; Ritchie, with his old-world yarns, doing nearly all the talking, and indeed it was a treat to listen to him. There was nothing of the nature of what are called sailor’s yarns about Ritchie’s talk, but an air of truthfulness in every sentence. Many a time by the galley fire in the dear lost Salamander, when asked by some of the men to “spin ’em a yarn,” Ritchie would reply—

“If I thinks on anything as has really happened, I’ll tell that. Mind ye, men,” he would add, “I’m going on for fifty. That ain’t a spring chicken, and I’ve knocked about so much and seen such a deal, that if I tells all the truth an’ nobbut the truth, why I’ll be seventy afore I’m finished. By that time I reckon it’ll be time to clear up decks to enter the eternal port.”

Now, being senior officer, I really was in charge of the boat, still I determined to take advice in everything from Ritchie, as in duty bound, he being my superior by far and away both in age and experience, and I may add in wisdom.

So, when near sundown, I asked him if the men should eat, he shook his head and said—“Not yet awhile.”

I did not feel easy in my mind at the answer, nor at his presently relapsing into silence, pulling harder at his pipe than usual without seeming to enjoy it, and casting so many half-uneasy glances skywards.

I feared that we were not yet out of danger. Jill had gone to sleep in the bottom of the boat, and somehow this also made me nervous and uneasy. I drew the sail over him with the exception of his face, and there he lay snug enough to all appearance, his head pillowed on the collie’s shoulder. I could not help wondering to myself where he was in his dreams. At home, I could have wagered two to one—two turnips to a leg of mutton, for instance.

Presently his features became pained, set and rigid, and his hands were clutched in the sail, while he moaned or half screamed like one in a nightmare.

Ritchie noticed it too.

“Call his name. Call his name, sir. That’s allers the way to bring ’em out of it.”

Well, desperate diseases need desperate remedies, so I did call his name—in full too.

Rupert Domville Ffoljambe-Foley Jillard Jones” I shouted, so loud that the other boats must have thought I was hailing them.

Jill sat bolt upright, looking bewildered.

Ossian and Bruce jumped up and barked.

The men all laughed, and no wonder.

“Well,” said Ritchie, “blow me teetotally tight if ever in all my born days I ’eard sich a name as that ’afore. Why ’twould wake old Rip himself. After that I think the men better have ’alf a biscuit and a bite o’ bacon. It’ll do ’em good—after that.”

Chapter Fifteen.

Lost in the Snowstorm—What we Saw in the Forest.

We all felt “heartier,” as Ritchie phrased it, after our dainty morsel of supper. The pork, of course, was new, and, sailor fashion, we dipped our biscuits in the sea, to give them a relish, before we ate them.

The dogs shared just as if they had been part of the crew. So they were for that matter.

The wind fell off as the sun sank behind the snowy mountains, fell off and off, till we were becalmed. Then I gave the orders—

“In sail,” and “out oars.”

After spanking along under sail for so long a time as we had done, to be reduced to rowing seems dreary work. However, there is nothing like the sea for teaching one patience, so we did not murmur.

The sunset was gorgeous enough, in all conscience, and played all sorts of fantastic tricks of colouring among the snowy cliffs, peaks, and glaciers, making a picture such as few artists could, if they would, produce on canvas, or would dare to if they could.

As we had nothing else to do, Jill and I sat silently staring at the ever changing sky, with as much inward pleasure as ever child gazed upon the flowers in a kaleidoscope.

Even after the sun had set entirely, the sky was wondrous in its beauty. It seemed to me as if the artist Nature, whom we all try to copy, were mixing her colours to commence some great new work, and that the sky was her palette.

But that palette itself was a picture, oh how grand and solemn! First we had the sea, darkling now under the shadows of the giant hill, yet borrowing tints from the clouds. Then the wild wooded cliffs, and pointed rocks looking almost black against the background of snow and ice rising up, and up, and up its sharpest lines, softened till it ended in the rugged serrated horizon.

High up in the heavens, where in the rifts the sky could be seen, it was of a light cerulean blue, pure, ethereal, the grey clouds in bars and piles, still the same shaped bars of cloud lower down; but here the rifts of sky were of an ineffably lovely tint of pale sea green, and the clouds were purple, while all along the horizon the naked sky was of the deepest orange, almost approaching to crimson, all aglow with light.

Even as we gazed, a change came over the spirit of the scene; for the green rifts changed to a milky white, with a hazy blush of crimson floating over it, borrowed from the splendour beneath and beyond.

Still another change: the rifts away to the north and the south had all turned to sea green, and right in the east, when we look round, we find that the higher clouds that erst were grey and dull, are now a burning bronze and crimson.

Then the clouds kept borrowing each other’s colours at second hand. But at last crimson and yellow changed to lurid bronze and purple, then to grey and to darker grey, and soon, out from the only green rift left, shone a pale star.

It is night.

The air is chill and cold. Birds—strange, wild, low-flying creatures whose names we know not—hurry past us, or over us, to their eeries in some distant rock, and the silence is unbroken save by the clunk-clank—clunk-clank—of the oars in the rowlocks.

Jill is leaning against me, and I feel him shiver slightly.

“Jill,” I say, “you’re not well, old man.”

“Oh yes, brother, I’m well enough.”

“But you’re not downright, jolly well.”

“I feel a trifle shivery, that’s all, brother. I had an ugly dream; and besides, I don’t think I’ve quite recovered my sea-bath yet.”

“Look ’ee here, sir,” said Ritchie. “That young man isn’t quite the thing. Now I’m going to prescribe. He’s going to bed down among the dogs, and what’s more, he’s going to sleep. He’ll have a tot o’ rum as medicine. There are times, gentlemen, when such a thing may do good. Now’s one o’ them. And if he doesn’t wake up early in the morning his old self, then my name isn’t Ted Ritchie.”

I left my brother in Ritchie’s hands, and soon he had him snug in bed.

There was more moonlight to-night, but still the moon had a struggle for it.

I happened to be looking behind me towards the bay where we had left the good old Salamander, and Ritchie was looking too—both thinking the same thoughts perhaps—when suddenly a huge pear-shaped column of fire-rays shot up into the sky, then gradually died away. We spoke not, but listened, till over the water came a dull crashing rumble, the like of which I had never heard before. The sound died away among the hills like thunder.

“She’s gone,” said one of the men, and for a few moments all lay on their oars.

Ay, right enough,” said Ritchie, “and there’s more’n a score o’ them sea-fiends gone with her, I’ll warrant.

“It’s the gunpowder we were taking to Honolulu that’s done it,” he continued.

“A pity,” I said, “we did not throw that overboard.”

“I dunno so much about that. Those Indian savages would have had to die sometime. It’s just as well now, as before they do more mischief.”

I laughed.

“That is queer philosophy,” I said; “we should never do evil, nor wish for evil, that good may come. I wonder how they managed it.”

“Why, sir, they’re as inquisitive as monkeys—they be. They would find out a barrel and take it for rum. Off would come the lid, one fellow holding the light. A dozen hands would be plunged in, and they would taste the black stuff. Well, they wouldn’t like it, and one savage would pitch a handful at the other. That would begin the fun. We’ve just heard how it ended. Well, gentlemen, I feel a sort of satisfied now, for blame me if I half liked the idea of leaving our old bones there for these savages to pick at.”

A red gleam now illumined the sky where we had noticed the flash; it was evident the old Salamander was on fire, and burning fast and furiously.

“Now, then,” I said presently, “I’ll take the first watch, Ritchie. You turn in there. You go to the dogs with Jill.”

“Ay, sir; and I’ll sleep sound now I’ve seen the last of my dear old ship.”

As the night wore on I was concerned to notice the moon become obscured. Although on the water there was not a puff of wind, still, high over head, the clouds were hurrying over the sky from east to west. Something was coming, but I did not care to wake Ritchie yet. He needed all the rest he could get, having been awake so long and working so hard.

It grew very dark now, and I could not see the other boats, though they must have been close at hand. We had kept well together on purpose, for we cared not to show signal lights.

Presently there came a puff of wind. Then almost before words could describe it, a snow-squall. It was the spring of the year, but indeed even during summer, in this dreary region, snow-storms are not uncommon.

How soundly Ritchie slept! There was hail rattling on the canvas over him, and there had been one or two sharp peals of thunder also, but still he slumbered on. The men could make no headway against the storm; in fact we must have been losing way considerably, for the poor fellows were tired, and, even before the squall, had been nodding at their oars. Still they would not give in, nor give up. By and by came the lull, but the wind still blew with a good deal of force, and the snow was blinding.

“In oars,” I said, “and get the sail up now; we’ll tack a bit.”

We did so, reaching well over on both sides, as far as we thought was safe; the snow continuing thick and fast. Presently another squall came. And so on and off for many long hours. I would not think of waking Ritchie, for I felt very fresh and fit for duty, and what could he do even if up. I allowed the men to sleep, two at a time, for an hour or so. Thus I managed to keep them fresh also.

The snow left off at last, and the sky cleared a little, but the wind kept up and blew from the same quarter. Just at grey daylight in the morning Ritchie threw off his tarpaulin and sat up, looking dazed for a moment or two.

“My dear young sir, I’m ashamed of myself,” he said, looking at his watch; “but where in the world are we?”

“No where that I know of; it has been blowing and snowing all night long, and now we’re close under some wooded cliffs, and the other boats are not in sight.”

“This is bad,” said Ritchie.

I had taken off my jacket, and was wringing the sleeves when Jill appeared.

“I’m as fresh as a daisy,” he said; “but what a time I must have slept! Are we nearly at Sandy Point?”

We laughed.

“Sandy Point, my dear sir; you won’t see Sandy Point for a week if it keeps on like this.”

“Well, we’ll have breakfast, I suppose. I could eat a hunter.”

“Good sign. We’ll all join you.”

By and by Ritchie stood up and had a good look round.

“I know where we are. I’ve been here before in happier times. We’ll run in shore and rest. No good trying to beat up against this breeze. The other boats sail more closely to the wind, and I hope by this time they are well on to Froward Reach, and round the corner.”

The boat was now put about, and in a few minutes we found ourselves in a bay, and sheltered cove off the bay.

At another time and under happier auspices we could have afforded to admire the scenery around us. At first glance, had you been there, you might have fancied yourself in some lovely glen in the wilds of Scotland or Wales. That is so long as your glance did not go too high, away up to the hills of everlasting snow. But all about us, except a few yards of shore, was wood and forest, among the trees being several such as the beech—just breaking into bud—with which the English eye is familiar. Here, too, were ferns and mosses such as we had seen growing in the woods and sylvan dells at home.

We had landed, as I have said, in a cove off the bay, and this was really the mouth of a little river, very silent here and very deep, but a little more inland hurrying along over its stony bed with a noise like thunder. It was doubtless fed by the melting snows of the Cordilleras.

Jill and I left the men to draw up the boat while we took a little ramble into the interior, promising Ritchie not to go beyond hail. We wanted to stretch our legs and get fully awakened.

Jill was his old self again, so I was happy accordingly.

“How’s all this going to end, Jill?” I said.

“I don’t know,” replied Jill; “but I suppose we might as well be here as anywhere else.”

“Certainly; if those interesting savages do not give us more trouble.”

“Oh, bother take them; never mind. We gave them such a dose yesterday they’ll hardly want another.”

“Jill,” I said, “look!”

We had come to a bit of clearing on the banks of the river, and close by a huge tree were the remains of a fire. The ground round it, too, was well beaten down, as if people had lately been round it.

“Strange!” said Jill, “and no one seems about.”

I took up two half-burned branches. The ends were covered with ashes and looked cold. I struck them together, sparks flew out!

“Jill,” I said, “we’ll go back now. The Indians are near us now.”

Chapter Sixteen.

A State of Siege.

We hastened back to give Ritchie the news.

If we had expected he would exhibit any surprise we were mistaken.

“It’s no more’n I expected,” he said quietly.

“Perhaps,” I hazarded, “these are friendly Fuegians?”

“I never met ’em,” he replied. “Must be some new tribe. All that ever I saw could be friendly enough when driving a good bargain, and scraping the butter all to their own side of the dish. Their motto is, ‘Take all we can get, and take it anyhow.’ My dear lad,” he continued, “could anything be handier for these savages than to collar a white man. He is dressed, and has nick-nacks in his pocket; well, they want the dress and the nick-nacks, for you see they don’t have any clothes of their own worth mentioning; then the body of the white man comes in handy for a side-dish. They think no more of killing a white man than they do of sending an arrow through the heart of a guanaco. No, never trust a Fuegian farther than you can fling him, and that’d be over the cliff if I had all my will.”

Hark! There was a crashing sound among the bushes not far off. I ran to my gun. So did Jill. But Ritchie never moved step nor muscle, at which I was at first a little surprised. Not, however, when a guanaco appeared in the clearing not far off, and had a long-necked look at us.

“Don’t fire!” he cried. “We’re not ready for the niggers yet.”

“Didn’t you fancy,” I asked, “that the savages were on us when you heard the bushes crackling?”

“That I didn’t. They don’t come like that. You don’t see them, and you never hear them. No, they’re all from home. That fire was lit last night, and left burning. But they’ll come back. So now to get ready. You see, young gentlemen, the gentry very likely look upon the glen and woods round here as a kind of happy hunting-ground. There is fish in the river, too, and fish in the bay. So, though it may be days before they come, we may as well cook their dinner in time.”

“But surely we won’t be here for days?”

“Maybe not. But it’s just as likely to be days as not. It all depends.”

As he spoke, Ritchie advanced some little distance to the right, beckoning us to follow.

He drew the bushes aside from the foot of the rock, and lo! the entrance to a large cave.

“It’s still there, you see,” said Ritchie. “Not a bit altered since I was here before. No; caves are like keyholes, they never fly away.”

He entered, and we followed, the men holding the branches aside to admit the light. The place was large and roomy, and evidently constantly inhabited. Here were the remains of a fire, here a heap of bones, and here again a bed of dry leaves.

The most of the forenoon was spent in preparing our fortifications. The bushes were cut down from the front, admitting light and air, and a bulwark of small tree trunks was built in front, the boat being hauled inside. There was plenty of fallen wood about, so that our work was by no means difficult.

After all had been done that could be done, we had nothing to do but watch and wait.

Watch and wait for the wind to change and give us a chance, or for the foe to come.

I do not know anything more irksome than such a position. When there is danger ahead, it is human nature to wish to face it at once and be done with it. But in this case we did not know whence the danger would come, nor what would be its precise character when it did come.

All that day—and a dreary one it was—the wind blew steadily from the east, whitening the waves, and moaning mournfully through the trees in the forest around us. We kept a good outlook on the Reach for any steamer or ship that might be passing, but none appeared.

The sun set in a gloomy sky to-night, and the moon failed to show. This was no disadvantage. Our sentry was set, and beside him the two dogs kept watch and ward. We lay down armed all in the dark, Jill and I side by side, on our couches of leaves. I think Ritchie began to tell a story, and I set myself to listen, but exhausted Nature would assert herself, and I was soon hard and fast asleep. Nor did I waken till broad daylight was streaming in at the mouth of the cave.

Another day went slowly past, without any alteration in the wind, and without our friend the foe appearing.

About sundown Jill bantered Ritchie about the Pacific and Atlantic fighting for mastery, and the frequent changes in the wind; but Ritchie took it very good-naturedly.

“It is evident,” Jill said, “the Atlantic has it all its own way this time, Ritchie.”

Night fell again, as dark and wild as ever. About ten o’clock, just as we were thinking of settling, one of the dogs uttered a low and ominous growl, but was at once muzzled by the sentry’s hand.

A canoe had suddenly glided into the little creek or river’s mouth, but it passed on. Another and another followed, till we had counted seven in all; but from the constant jabbering they kept up it was evident they had not observed us.

“That makes the fleet,” whispered Ritchie. “Seven is a magic number with many savages.”

About an hour after, Ritchie stole quietly out of the little fort. He soon returned and asked me to come. I obeyed. Jill wanted to accompany me, but I forbade him.

We stole quietly up the river, keeping well in under the shade of the trees, and ere long saw the light of a fire glimmering through the bush ahead. We crept on still more silently now, careful not even to snap a twig.

We reached high ground just a little way above the clearing, and gradually drew near the glimmering light. Then Ritchie cautiously lifted a branch of evergreen.

A more fantastic and horrible sight I never saw. The fire was fiercely hot, and evidently made of hard dry old wood. Around it, but at a goodly distance, sat, crouched, or lay fully a score of semi-naked savages, all men, all armed—at least their weapons lay near them—and all silent. Many had hats and garments of our men on; woollen shirts or linen ones, some bloodstained. But their legs and arms were all bare. Every eye was turned towards the fire, where, spitted against the tree up which the red flames were now roaring, were huge masses of flesh that a glance told me was human. There was a hideous grotesqueness about the whole scene that made me draw back and shudder. But some movement on the part of the cannibals made me look again. The feast was about to begin.

Ritchie and I drew back and cautiously took our departure.

We never spoke till near the creek side, and then only in whispers.

“Those are the fellows from the Salamander,” said Ritchie. “The very flesh they are now gorging on is part of their companions that were blown in pieces.”

The Fuegians evidently set no sentries, so their canoes, which we soon came upon drawn up in a row, were entirely at our mercy.

Our mercy was excessively meagre in this instance.

These canoes are merely planks of wood fashioned with knives and fire, and lashed together by means of pieces of skin.

It took us no great length of time to dismember them, nor to launch the pieces into the stream afterwards.

“And now,” said Ritchie, “the forest itself is our principal danger. These chaps’ll be all about us to-morrow morning early, like bluebottles round a dead mouse: more’ll come to help them, and the bush ’ll be their cover. We’ll fire it. The wind is favourable.”

“It really is a pity,” I remarked, half seriously, “to spoil this scenery.”

“Come,” was all my companion added.

So well and willingly did we both work, that in less that half an hour we had fired the forest in five different places. The amount of underwood and of fallen decayed trees was very great, so that the very earth itself would undoubtedly smoulder and burn for days, thus affording us protection from the savages.

I have seen many a conflagration in my time, but none, I think, so awful as that.

So closely did the fire rage around us at one time and so great was the heat, that we were considering whether we should not launch our boat and put out to sea. From the high cliff above us burning branches ever came toppling down, but these were easily removed.

Then the fire receded, and attacked the glen above and around the bay, the crackling and roaring of the flames became indescribable; tongues of fire seeming also to be carried away with the clouds of rolling smoke, as if even that itself were ablaze. Ritchie and I both stood appalled to behold the vastness of the ruin our work had effected.

Long after the flames had left them, and gone over the hill and high up the valley towards the snow-line, the sturdy arms of the beech-trees stretched out red against a background of black, and every now and then a limb would fall with a loud report, sending up volumes of ashes, smoke, and sparks.

Whether or not on the first outbreak of the fire, the savages had left their fearful orgies and made a rush to the spot where they had left their canoes can never be known. It was evident enough by next morning, nevertheless, that they had found out we were in the bay, and had managed even that night to communicate by signal fires to their companions on other shores and on islands, that white men were about; for as early as dawn canoes were seen off the coast—more and more came, till there was quite a swarm.

We were besieged. The wind might change if it liked, or remain where it was, it could make no difference to us now. To have ventured to run out against such odds would have been to throw our lives recklessly away. But our position was good.

As we expected, the decayed mould of which, the bottom of the glen and hills was composed—centuries old, perhaps—kept on smouldering, and would do so for weeks. Then the bay was in our front and to our right the open sea.

No, we were safe for a time. But how long would our provisions last?

We made a careful survey, and found that with great economy we had enough for a week or even longer.

When we first appeared in the open, the yelling and menacing of the savages in their canoes was dreadful to hear and behold. For a time Ritchie thought they would cast prudence to the winds and attempt to force a landing.

Two boats did come near enough to fire arrows at us, but they dearly paid for their rashness, and three at least of the Indians would never fire an arrow more.

Long before sundown the enemy had drawn off, and there was not a canoe to be seen anywhere.

“Now would be a chance,” said Jill, “if the wind would only change.”

Ritchie looked at him and smiled.

“My dear lad,” he said, “we wouldn’t be two hundred yards beyond the bar before they would be on us. We wouldn’t be able to get back, and we’d never get far on in this world. No, that’s only a trick, and a very transparent one; just the same as pussy plays with a mouse. But I’m too old for ’em. Drat ’em! Oh, I do love ’em, don’t I just?”

He did not look as if he did.

Day after day—two, three, five, went hopelessly by. The weather kept fine, and the wind was now favourable for a sortie if we were at length compelled to run the gauntlet.

We had hoisted a signal on the cliff top in the hopes that passing ships might see it and perhaps send to our assistance. But the ships we saw were a long way off, and noticed not our signal, for we were some distance out of the usual track of vessels.

On the fifth day Jill and I went up stream some little distance through the burnt forest, and Ossian, the dog, found near the bank a guanaco half-roasted. This was indeed a blessing, and we dined more heartily that evening than we had done for a week. We tried fishing, hoping thereby to add to our larder, but were only indifferently successful. Having neither lines nor bait, we were reduced to the plan called “guddling” by Scottish schoolboys, where you wade and catch the trout with your hands.

Affairs grew desperate on the seventh day, not so much for want of food as from the fact that the ground had ceased to burn, and cooled sufficiently to permit one to walk over the ashes.

A combined attack by land and sea was therefore hourly expected by us, all the more so in that the canoes seemed more active than usual, flitting about hither and thither, but apparently paying no heed to us.

“They’re too silent to please me,” said Ritchie; “they’ll be on us to-night as sure as shot.”

On the same afternoon far away out in the Reach we noticed a noble steamer.

Jill and I stood looking at her until she had gone down out of sight on the horizon. We could easily fancy ourselves on board of her. We could see in imagination the orderly, clean white decks, the burnished brass and wood, the sailors and officers in their smart uniforms, the chairs on deck where lounged the passengers reading, talking, and quietly napping, the officer on the bridge and the sturdy seaman at the wheel. It was so sad; and we waiting—to sell our lives as dearly as possible. That is the last consolation of the brave. And Jill and I had promised ourselves so much, at least.

Jill put such a strange question to Ritchie this afternoon, but I knew what the poor lad was thinking about.

“Ritchie,” he said, “do these horrid Indians torture their prisoners if they take any alive?”

“I’ve never heard they did,” was the quiet reply. “And indeed I don’t think they have the sense—drat ’em.”

The time, we thought, wore all too quickly to a close, and almost as soon as the sun went down in the west, up rose the full moon in the east, and then everything—if not as bright as day—was light enough at all events for the work so soon to commence.

Chapter Seventeen.

Fighting in Terrible Earnest—Our Last Sortie—Back to Back in Cornish Fashion.

Long before the sun had set, we had strengthened our bulwarks, and put our little citadel into as good a state of defence as possible, with the materials at our command.

Knowing that sooner or later an attack would come, unless we could communicate with some passing ship, Ritchie had been busy for days, and our fortifications now consisted of an outer and an inner rampart of trees. But neither were of great extent, there being but eight of us altogether to defend them; unless, indeed, we counted the dogs, and they were hardly dogs of war. Ossian, however, was an immensely powerful animal, with the strength almost of a young mastiff, and all the agility of the English greyhound. Bruce, on the other hand, made up in sagacity and courage what he lacked in brute force.

Jill had become inordinately fond of the animals; I would not therefore have had a hair of their honest heads touched in anger for all the world. It was evident to me, nevertheless, that as soon as the mêlée commenced they would join in, unless prevented, and get speared beyond a doubt. I therefore had one of the men to make them secure to the boat early in the evening.

Behind that boat our last stand was to be made, if the worst should come to the worst. It was therefore drawn up opposite to and guarding the entrance to the cave.

We had plenty of ammunition, rifles, revolvers, and boarding pikes, part of a cargo which, as I hinted before, we were taking out to Honolulu.

Short though the time we had been thus closely thrown together, I think we—the men and Jill and I—loved each other like a band of brothers. There is nothing like danger for cementing the ties of social equality. Then, we all looked up to Ritchie as to a father almost. As to our captain, at all events, for that he was in reality if not by actual rating.

He was a little, active, and very athletic man, and with a trusty weapon in his hand, I never doubted that he would prove a terrible enemy among even a score of these not over-wholesome Fuegians, or Firelanders, as they are often called. Not but what these savages are hardy enough. Passing ships can scarcely judge of the whole race from the miserable and often puny creatures that are sent out to beg and sell curiosities. No, if it be any credit to him, I will admit that the Fuegian Indian is as fierce and warlike in his own way as any savage ever I met with. He can be either a lamb or a wild beast, as it suits his purpose. He has but one aim or object in the world, and but one motto: “Kill and eat.” Nor is he a whit particular what he does kill and eat. Is there nothing good to be said for these Indians? Yes, they are fond of their offspring and careful of their comforts, until the children can run. After that they must look out for themselves, and pick up a dead mouse or a dead bird, wherever they can find it, till they learn to use their bows and arrows. And a Fuegian boy is quite a little warrior by the time he has reached his sixth or seventh year.

The Fireland warrior full grown is not a giant, but sometimes very powerful, and far more hardy than could be believed possible, going almost stark naked even in winter—when at work, at all events; that is, when hunting, fishing, rowing, or running.

This is a digression, but it is necessary to show the kind of enemy we had so soon to meet in battle. I must digress further to the extent of a few words, and tell you that Jill was an excellent swordsman. We had a good tutor in our father, and my brother and I were always at sword exercise when at home and not doing either work or mischief. Many a hard knock we had given each other, but I rejoice to add we never lost our tempers.

“You feel sure we’ll have a go at these niggers to-night, Mr Ritchie, if I may make so bold?”

This was a question put to our captain shortly after the moon had risen.

“As sure as that I’m looking at the moon,” said Ritchie.

“And what think you will be the upshot?”

“It’ll be a down-shot to begin with,” replied Ritchie, by way of making a grim joke.

“But, Lawlor lad, I’m half afraid the Fuegians will have the upper hand, drat ’em!”

“And we’ll all be scuppered?”

“We’re all in the hands of Providence,” said Ritchie.

“’Cause I’ve a sweetheart,” said Lawlor.

“And I’ve a mother,” said another man.

“And I,” said another, “have a wife and the prettiest baby ever opened blue eyes.”

“I have neither kith nor kin,” said Wrexham, a tall young giant of a fellow. “I’m going to lay about me a bit by and by; and look here, lads, I wouldn’t mind dying for the lot of you.”

“Don’t talk thus,” said Ritchie. “Let each of us now say a bit of a prayer to himself.”

There was silence for the space of five minutes; then we all stood up, and there and then, as if by one common impulse, we shook hands all round. We felt better now. We even wished the foe would come, but we knew also that when they did commence the attack, it would be in silence and with suddenness.

A whole hour went by. No one spoke much. We just hung about the cave mouth, occasionally giving a look to see our arms were in perfect order and array. Now and then Jill went into the cave and talked with the dogs as if they were human beings. I think he did so simply to pass the time.

I was wondering in what particular way the battle would commence, and what would be the peculiar incidents connected with it, when Ritchie suddenly clutched my arm and gazed seawards. A bright light was visible far out in the offing. A bright white light. Could it be that assistance was at hand?

Presently all was dark on the sea again, except for the quivering lines of moonlight on the waters. But next minute a bright crimson glare was thrown over the water. They were burning a red light. It was a signal undoubtedly.

“Can we make them hear, I wonder?” said Ritchie. “I think we can. The night is still, and the wind is off the shore.”

We waited till the red light had quite burned out, then fired a volley, that went reverberating away up among the hills and rocks like thunder, and must have been heard far and near.

The savages must have seen that signal too, for now came a shower of arrows, which we fain would have replied to had we seen an object to fire at. We took shelter within the inner rampart, well knowing they would soon appear in the outer.

We were not disappointed. Heads and spears were seen above our first line of defence.

“Steady, men!”

The volley we gave them must have been effective. There was silence among the foe no longer, but the wildest and most unearthly yells. Again and again did they try to storm our outer defence. Again and again were they hurled down and back.

Our little fort seemed impregnable. Hope was in our hearts now. We had only to hold our position, and assistance would soon be with us.

The attack was renewed again and again, but with the same results. I began almost to feel sorry for the carnage our guns and revolvers must undoubtedly have been creating. But it was no fault of ours. We were but acting on the defensive.

Then there came a lull in the storm, and we found time to bind up a wound in Lawlor’s left wrist. It had been caused by an arrow, and was bleeding profusely. The rest of us were as yet unscathed.

“I don’t like this silence,” said Ritchie. “They’re up to some devilment, or my name isn’t Ted. Let us get over and see.”

We, Ritchie and I, scaled our first defence and mounted the second, only to see “Birnam wood” advancing, so to speak.

“All hands here, quick?” cried Ritchie.

In a few minutes, nay moments, we were firing at the advancing wood. It was too late. The pile was made and speedily lighted, and the smoke and sparks went rolling over us.

This was their plan, then. We were to be burned out or smoked out, like rats from a hole.

In this battle betwixt civilisation and savagery, the former had hitherto got the advantage. Was all this to be changed? It would seem so.

The natives retreated now. They had but to wait till our position became untenable, and slay us as we sought safety in flight. Flight? Yes, but whither?

The fire began to burn fiercely. In a few moments more the ramparts had caught, and now it was time for action.

We determined to hold our fort as long as possible, then make our last—our final sortie. We tore down the lee side of the inner bulwark, and crouched on the ground close to the rock; and it is well we did, for just then a whole shower of arrows flew over our heads.

“That is good, men,” cried Ritchie. “The arrows come from the direction of the creek. Stand by to rush out when I give the order.”

I missed Jill from my side. The kindly boy, even in the midst of the fire and fighting, had not forgotten the dogs, and had gone to let them loose.

Now in a fight or battle of any kind it is very little any single individual can tell of it. We only knew in the present instance that the order was given to “Charge,” and out we rushed from our fiery den.

Ritchie and Wrexham led, keeping the smoke as a cover as long as they could. Jill and I, shoulder to shoulder, followed. I know little else; I only thought of Jill.

Hitherto, I must own, I had considered that in many ways I was my brother’s superior, and more than once, I fear, I treated him as a child. After his bravery this night, and his coolness in this terrible mêlée, I always looked upon him as a man, and my equal—except, of course, in age.

The savages would have done well had they scattered and poured upon us their clouds of arrows. For some reason or another they did not, but waited our charge by the creek side, all in a mass, and with spears and yells. Savages as a rule put no end of value on their yelling and whooping qualities, and at times, it must be admitted, these war cries are very confusing and startling. We fired one rifle volley into their midst; one or two volleys from the revolver. Then we met and mixed. I cannot tell now, nor could I ever tell, their numbers. They seemed like a huge dark cloud.

“Back to back, Jill!” I cried.

“Hurrah!” shouted my brother. “Back to back, Jack, in good old Cornish fashion! Hurrah!”

And back to back we fought in the midst of those fiends, who went down wherever we charged. Back to back, and wielding with terrible effect two long supple Arab swords we had bought at the Cape.

Back to back, as brothers should in an engagement like this. But for how long I know not. A mist came over my eyes, a strange white smoke-like mist. Then I remembered no more.

But I was lying there by the creek side when I came to, with Jill bending over me. Lying in the moonlight, and not far off, talking to Ritchie, was Peter himself, who came towards us as soon as he heard Jill saying, “Are you better now, brother?”

So we were saved. I had merely been stunned with a blow from a stone. I had fallen about the very time Peter with his boat’s crew had leapt on shore, and the savages began to fly, and Jill had caught me up in his arms and staggered with me to meet them.

That is all I know of this fight with the Firelanders.

Ritchie was unscathed. Poor Wrexham was stark and stiff, with, an arrow sticking in his heart, and two of the others were wounded, but not severely. It is unnecessary to add that the natives had suffered severely.

“Peter,” I said, as soon as I could gasp out a word or two, “I’m so glad to see you.”

“I thought you wouldn’t mind my paying you a visit,” said Peter, smiling.

“I dare say I’m talking a bit strange,” I said. “I feel rather dazed. I fainted, didn’t I? So foolish to faint!”

“True, it’s very foolish to faint, old man, but when a fellow gets hit behind the ear with a pebble as big as an ostrich’s egg, then fainting and folly are not quite synonymous terms.”

“Well, thank you,” I muttered. “I’m obliged, really. How’s—”

“How’s things?” said Peter, helping me out.

“Yes, how—are you all at home?”

“Poor Jack!” said Peter. “Why they’ve knocked you a kind of silly. You’ll be better when you’ve had a sleep.”

They carried me to the boat. I remember the motion of it, and I remember the bright moonlight on the water, but nothing else for another day.

Chapter Eighteen.

The Story of our Rescue—A Dinner and a Ball—Peter and Dulzura.

On our arrival at Sandy Point (Puenta Arenas) we, that is Jill and I, had been billeted at a pretty little bungalow belonging to a Chilian, and next morning early Peter came to see us, and tell us the story of our rescue.

“First and foremost,” he began, “let me tell you that I’m precious glad to see you again, Jack, and you too, Greenie; though, bother me if I’m not beginning to think you’re not half so green as you look, for the way he was fighting, Jack, when I landed to help you, was a caution to codgers, I can tell you. Ha, ha! why, I laugh to think how he was making the spear heads fly whenever a few of those Foogies made a thrust at him. How many Greenie killed I couldn’t wager; but I’m pretty certain he has found the cannibals in food for a fortnight.

“And you too, Jack. I got a blink of you before you fell. You were back to back, you two; and what with you being so precious like Jill, and Jill being so precious like you, I’m sure the Foogies were frightened and took the two of you for one. And of course they’re not far wrong, though you’re not fastened together like the Siamese twins by a bit of skin.”

“How did you find us?”

“Ay,” said Jill, “that’s more to the point.”

“Well, I’m going to tell you, Greenie, if you’ll only give me time. I’d have told you all about it yesterday, but you wouldn’t spare a minute away from Jack.

“You see, then, when we got separated in that snow-squall, we did not take much thought about you at first. We remembered you had a boat compass, and that Ritchie was a good man, and naturally supposed you would find your way here.

“The squally weather continued, but in the very thick of it we found ourselves alongside a steamer—the same saucy little Chilian man-o’-war that so kindly went in search of you. And it isn’t fun, I can tell you, to search all up and down among these coves and creeks and islands and forests and glens.

“Well, they took us on board, and made very much of us all the way to Sandy Point, and Captain Coates and our little mother Coates, with Leila, are now living with the governor.

“We waited two days to see if you would show your noses. Then matters looked serious, and as the captain of the gunboat had had several men killed by the Foogies two summers ago, he all the more readily consented to go to look for the missing boat.

“Well, we just looked till we found you. That is the long and the short of it. We searched the wrong shore first. But really I had hoped you had gone down in the squall; that your boat had foundered, and you had been all drowned-dead, as Ritchie would say.”

“But why, in the name of mystery, Peter, did you wish us drowned?”

“Why, because I imagined it would be death somehow; and, to tell you the truth, I couldn’t bear the thoughts of your being killed and eaten.

“Just fancy,” continued Peter, looking mischievously at Jill, “just fancy Greenie here served up with parsley and butter sauce, or however they do serve them up.”

“Never mind, Peter,” I said, laughing; “all’s well that ends well.”

“Yes, my boy, unless it ends better than well, and that’s how it’s going to.”

“How do you mean?” asked Jill. “Why, in a ball. And that’s what is going to be given. There are two ships here, and I’m so glad, because there is a pretty Chilian girl that I’m half mad on, the daughter of somebody or another, and—and she’ll be there. Do you see, Greenie?”

At little outlandish towns like Sandy Point it does not take a very long time, when ships are alongside, to get up an entertainment of any kind, so in less than a week the ball came off.

It was preceded by a dinner on board the man-o’-war, at which I was pleased to note that Jill was the hero of the hour. I really felt proud of him, but Jill took it all as a matter of course.

The dinner was excellent of its kind, though I think even Captain Coates missed the big solid English joints. Here all was made dishes, dishes of surprise you might say. Peter and I sat pretty close together, Jill being stowed away among the ladies somewhere, so I knew what Peter did. On the whole I should say he did well, and I should think he must have changed his plate about twenty times before dessert.

“My object was,” he told me next morning, “to taste everything. I wanted to improve the mind as well as the body. D’ye see?”

“Oh yes, we saw right enough.” Peter never failed to be explicit when he talked. For the first time in my life, we tasted guanaco and ostrich meat, and horseflesh; and the commander of the ship positively apologised because he had not been able to procure a fry of agouti and a curry of armadillo. I for one readily excused the gallant commander, and I suppose so did Peter; though I know this much, if steak of grampus and roast albatross had been placed before him, he would have felt it his duty to eat of these dishes.

When talking grew fast and furious, which it did about the middle of the seventeenth course—“the seventeenth round” Peter afterwards styled it—I had time to look around me and note the peculiarities of my companions at table.

The principal peculiarities of the foreign officers, I soon discovered, were excessive politeness and a gesticulatory method of talking, not by any means approaching to rudeness, but strange to an Englishman’s eye. The commander was a short, stout, good-natured little fellow, very round-faced, and cheerful in eye. I do not wonder at this, if he “fed”—the expression is Peter’s—as well every day as we had now done. His officers were second editions of himself, only boiled down, as it were. There were several gentlemen from the two merchant ships, and two ladies. One of the latter was a captain’s wife, who, like our little mother Coates, preferred to plough the stormy ocean with her husband to staying at home on the dull shore.

The other lady was she on whom Peter had gone mad, as he told us. I think I am right in asserting that poor Peter had eyes for nobody and nothing at table except her. She really was a charming girl. I did not wonder at Peter’s all too sensitive heart being smitten with her. Besides, you know, Peter was a sailor. He did not know her Christian name. He had simply given her one. He called her Dulzura, which certainly sounds very nice, and means “sweet,” “suave,” “pleasant,” “pretty,” and a whole regiment of other nice adjectives.

Near the head of the table sat Dulzura’s father. I knew him for her father at a glance. He was an exceedingly handsome man, but bold-looking as well as handsome, though most deferential and gentlemanly. His age might have been about fifty. I put him down at once as a soldier, but found out afterwards that, though he had been in the Chilian army, he was now, if anything, a sportsman and rover.

Well, after the dinner came the ball on the quarter-deck. There was not a great deal of room, certainly, but then our party was not large.

Señor Castizo, as Dulzura’s father was called, opened the ball, leading off in a waltz with our little mother Coates. Poor little mother Coates! she felt much flattered, but soon got tired. Darning was more in her way than dancing. But Castizo was not tired, and no sooner had Mrs Coates retired than, full of glee and delight, there rushed up to him his daughter. He might have been her elder brother, so gracefully did he waltz. The two were the admiration of all beholders, especially Peter. He was waiting to receive her, and I’ll never forget the kindly yet princely air with which her father handed the young lady over.

Peter led her away in triumph to breathe among the evergreens in the improvised conservatory. I saw Peter soon after, and I never noticed him look so happy before.

I saw him later on. He was out near the mainmast. I should have told you that the ball was on the upper deck, under an awning beautifully decorated with flags and greenery. Yes, I saw Peter there, and with him was Dulzura’s father. A glance told me he was doing the agreeable. Both were smoking such huge cigars that really Peter looked small behind his.

I next saw Peter among the musicians, playing on his clarionet. His soul seemed in it. His soul seemed more in it when asked by Dulzura to play a solo. I shall never forget that I did not know before he could play so sweetly. Surely, I thought, Peter is inspired.

Well, as far as appearances went that night it was my brother Jill who was the greater favourite with Dulzura. He could dance better than Peter.

But next day, when Peter came to breakfast with us, he could speak about nothing else but the dinner and ball of the previous evening.

I was amused, too, at the way he spoke to Jill.

“I’m awfully obliged to you, Greenie,” he said, “for dancing so much with my Dulzura. It was kind and considerate. I knew you wouldn’t make love and talk nonsense to her as some of the officers tried to do.”

“Oh no,” said Jill, with his quiet smile, “we talked nothing but politics, I assure you, and discussed the future prospects of the South Sea Islanders.”

“Do you like her, Greenie?”


“Love, of course, is out of the question?”


“Well, you’ll be glad to know that she and I get on famously together. The worst of it is that she can’t talk much English, and I don’t know much Spanish. But she is going to teach me. About a fortnight will make me perfect.”

“About a fortnight, Peter,” I said in some surprise. “Why the boat for Monte Video comes round the day after to-morrow.”

“Ah! yes, but I’m not going in her. Neither are you nor Greenie here. That’s what I came to speak about.”

“Well, heave round. I’ll be glad to hear what you have to say.”

“It’s very simple. Señor Castizo has taken an inordinate fancy for me. Dear Dulzura goes home with her maid to Valparaiso in about three weeks time, but her father stops. He is going into the wilds of Patagonia, where he has been before, and knows the lay of the land well. And he asked me to stay too, and accompany him.”

“Yes, and what did you say?”

“I said I’d do so like a shot, if I got you and Greenie to come with us.”

Jill’s eyes sparkled with delight.

“It would be simply glorious,” he said. “And I’m sure mother wouldn’t mind, nor aunt either.”

“But we haven’t much money to rig up,” I said.

“Oh, we’ve enough, I assure you. It’s a cheap country to live in. Castizo says about all a man wants is a guanaco robe and a gun, with a horse or two, and there you are.”

I confess I was quite as struck with the notion of having a few wild adventures in the Land of the Giants as Jill was; but, being the elder, I was of course bound to prudence and discretion.

“We’d have to write a very long letter home,” I said.

“Well, you’re capable of doing that, I believe.”

“And state that there is little danger, and that it will recruit Jill’s health.”

“Capital phrase!” cried Peter. “Jack, you’re quite a diplomatist.”

“But,” I added, “is there much danger?”

“Not very much, from the way Castizo speaks. I would bear very lightly on those if I were you.”

“And you know, Jack,” said Jill, “adventures would not be much worth without just a soupçon of danger.”

“True. Well, I must confess I’m willing. What about Ritchie?”

“He and another man are coming with us.”

“And Captain Coates and our dear little mother?”

“Going home. They must, you know. We needn’t. And it isn’t French leave either. You and I and Jill are shipwrecked mariners—that, by the way, is why we are objects of interest and romance to Dulzura. We’re shipwrecked mariners, and it isn’t as if we were apprentices.”

“We are all passed mates.”

“And the Salamander was aunt’s ship,” added Jill. “She can get us another.”

“True, Jill; you’re a brick.”

“Well,” he added, “is it a bargain?”

“Yes,” I said, speaking for Jill and myself too. Then we all shook hands, and the conversation took another turn; that is—it went back to Dulzura.

Chapter Nineteen.

Book III—The Land of Giants.

All Alone on the Pampas—The Camp in the Cañon.

Alone on the Pampas. Alone in the moonlight. Alone amidst scenery so black, so bare, so desolate, that looking back now through a long vista of years, as I sit by my cosy English fireside, I shudder to think of it.

There was nought of life to be seen anywhere, save that single horseman on his trusty steed who stopped for a moment on an upland ridge to gaze around him. Not a tree; hardly a bush; the very grass itself in stunted patches, with rough boulders lying here and there as if they had been rained from the heavens. No signs of house nor habitation, only the sharply undulating plain, wherever the eye might turn, and far away on the western horizon, hills or mountains snow-clad, glimmering white in the uncertain light of moon and stars.

The moon? Yes, and I have oftentimes thought, while on the Pampas, that if one could reach that orb, it would be just such a landscape as this he would see on every side; and if wind blows there at all, it would be just such a wind, as is now moaning and sighing over this dreary plain from the distant Cordilleras.

It was neither a wild nor a stormy night, however. Behind a huge bank of yellow clouds, that lay high over the mountains, the lightning was flickering and playing every moment; the breeze was not high nor was it extra cold, being early summer in this region. It is the desolation and the exceeding lonesomeness of the situation that strikes to the heart and feelings of one when he thinks of it.

And the deep silence!

Were there no sounds at all? Very few; only that moaning, sighing, whispering wind, rising at times into almost a shriek, then dying away again till it could scarce be heard. A wind in which, had you been at all nervous, you might have almost declared you heard voices, human or ghostly. Only the wind, and now and then the cry of some night-hawk or its victim; or the plaintive, peevish yap of the prairie fox.

Very marked indeed is the silence by night on the Patagonian Pampas. Not more so anywhere except on the broad, glittering snow-fields of the Arctic “pack,” or the highest plateaus of the Himalayan hills.

So tall and square is the figure of the horseman, whose rifle is slung across his shoulders, and so active, yet sturdy and strong, does his horse look, that standing there on the ridge, he has all the picturesqueness of a mounted Arab.

He shudders slightly now and draws his guanaco mantle closer about him, gazes once more around as if taking his bearings, then rides slowly on.

Presently he comes near a bush, a stunted barberia and draws rein speedily, for from under it fierce green eyes glare at him, and a sound, which is half yawn half yell of anger, makes him place a hand on his revolver.

He does not fire, however; he waits. Then a huge puma gathers itself up and edges off, drawing its graceful length along the ground, but making off still with head turned towards him, and breathing hoarse defiance, till, with bounds and leaps, he is soon out sight. When the puma has quite disappeared, he rides on again, but with a little more caution, avoiding the bushes. Where there is one puma there may be, and generally is, another.

He does not draw rein again for a good hour. Uphill and downhill, but mostly on the gravelly level, till all at once he finds himself on the bank of a cañon or ravine.

He bends down now and pats the neck of his horse. The animal neighs, and is answered from the bottom of the glen; then the horseman slowly descends, carefully, and with judicious hand restraining the impatience of his steed. So steep is the bank that the hind legs of the horse sometimes slip right under him, and loosened stones roll down to the green sward below.

Low down in the strath here there is a stream of water, a river in fact, rushing along, its waters sparkling in the moonlight, and everywhere on its banks the sward is green and beautiful. Here a whole herd of horses are quietly grazing. They look up as the horseman approaches, and toss their heads as if happy to have a new companion, while from some little distance the barking of dogs is heard, and presently a huge animal—looking huger still in the uncertain light—comes bounding straight through the herd of horses, and challenges the rider. The dog’s hair is erect from head to stern, and he growls low but ominously.

“Good dog,” says Señor Castizo; “don’t you know me? Poor Ossian, poor boy!”

The dog knows him very well indeed, but gives him to understand that he—Ossian—is on guard to-night, and must be careful.

“It is easy to know you,” Ossian seems to say. “My nose has not failed me yet. I’d know you with my eyes shut. But what are you doing out alone at night? It looks bad. No, you needn’t call me poor boy. I’m not I’m Ossian, and with the exception of honest Bruce, the other dogs are not worth a bark. You can follow me now, but be careful.”

Ossian ran on in front, growling low to himself, and the horseman followed. As soon as they had rounded the corner of a rock bluff, they came in sight of the camp, and now Ossian stopped short and gave vent to such an alarm-peal that every one speedily rushed outside their tents. It might be hostile Indians, they thought. When living in the desert one must be at all times cautious.

But here was no hostile Indian, only honest, bold Castizo.

Peter and I were the first to rush towards him, and bid him welcome. I caught the horse by the head. The brute was longing to join the herd. Peter, always impulsive, grasped his friend’s hand even before he had dismounted.

“We were really getting anxious about you.”

“And supper’s all ready,” I added.

“Ah, that’s the way. I confess I’m hungry. I gave you two days’ start from Santa Cruz station, and so you see I’ve overtaken you, and I only slept one night on the Pampas.”

“Weren’t you afraid, sir, the pumas would eat you?”

“No, they don’t like live meat; but now, young fellows, I’m not going to be ‘sir’-ed. We can’t live together free and easy if we stand on ceremony. We are all equal on the Pampas.”

“But there is a cacique or chief among the Ishmaelites?”

“Yes; but a cacique holds a kind of sinecure office. He is partly chief and partly magistrate, gives himself a great many airs; and the women often laugh at him behind his back. I’ll be cacique if you like, but not ‘Sir.’”

“Well,” said Peter, “I’ll be bound we won’t laugh at you behind your back.”

As he spoke, Peter divested the horse of saddle and bridle, as nimbly as if he had been brought up in a stable all his life. It quite took me by surprise.

The saddle is a mere bundle of wood and skins, covered with rugs and gear. It is not uncomfortable to ride on once you are acquainted with it; but although we had been a few days on the Pampas, and had ridden as neatly as we could, we were still tired and exceedingly sore. The bridle is also of guanaco skin, and the bit of wood and thong. Nevertheless these hardy horses of the plains are well used to such primitive harness.

There is one fault with the saddle, which we soon found out: unless it be particularly well girt it has a disagreeable habit of wheeling to one side just when you are at a pleasant canter, or gallop perhaps, and so emptying you out.

“Here,” cried Peter, stuffing the gear into my arms, “take hold of that, Greenie, and look lively; the cacique is hungry.”

“I’m not Greenie,” I said; “if I was, Peter, old man, I’d pull your ears.”

“Oh, you’re not Greenie! Well, Jack, then, you shouldn’t be so like him in the moonlight. I’m going to put a black spot on one of your noses, so that I can tell t’other from which. Then I suppose I’d forget which I put the black spot on.”

“Better not try it on me,” I said.

The horse was loose now and free, and with a happy nicker he went trotting off to quench his thirst in the stream, previously to having his supper.

“Come on, boys, I’m starving. Good Ossian. Ah! you can be friendly enough now. Where is your kau (tent), Peter?”

“My cow, mon ami?”

“Yes, your kau.”

“We haven’t got a cow. We have some condensed milk.”

Castizo laughed.

“Why,” he explained, “a kau is a toldo, or tent.”

“Well, Cacique, I’ve heard of people, when overtaken by a blizzard on the North American prairies, killing a horse, disembowelling it, then getting inside and hauling the hole in after them; but it’s the first time I ever heard of a cow being used as a tent. We live to learn. Here’s the cow, mon ami. Will you walk inside, Señor Cacique?”

“Ah!” cried Castizo, rubbing his hands gleefully.

“Here’s a blaze of light and glory! Here’s comfort; here’s luxury!”

Then, even before he shook hands with Jill and Ritchie, Castizo must elevate his palms like a Spanish girl dancing, cock his head a little on one side, and smilingly sing a verse of a song which caused his eyes to sparkle with merriment, and made those laugh who listened to him.

“We’re glad to see you,” said Jill.

Right glad to see you,” said Ritchie.

“I know you all are, boys. Thought I would lose myself, I suppose. Ah, no! I have been too long on the plains, and in forests, mountains, and wildernesses, to do that. My good Pedro here knows me.”

“Master likes to be alone—much,” said Pedro, a dark-haired, black-eyed, black-bearded, sturdy little Chilian.

This man’s face was preternaturally white. No sunshine ever scorched him brown, or even red; but perhaps the darkness of his hair brought out the pallor more. He had a pleasant smile, and two rows of teeth as white as a young puppy’s.

Lawlor was not far away; and with him also Castizo shook hands. So equality was established.

Our tent was not of guanaco skins, like that of the Indians who accompanied us on this expedition. We had a canvas marquee of small dimensions, but most comfortable, and so neatly made that it could pack together into a load for one horse, poles and all.

Castizo had been a Patagonian traveller for years. At first, he told us, he “herded” with the Indians under their tents of skin, and lived quite as they did, with the exception of the drinking of rum; but he soon found it better to import a little civilisation into his mode of life. So he did; and I advise any one who meditates going to the Patagonian Pampas to do the same.

Here we were in our handsome tent, with every comfort before and around us which it is capable of transporting into the wilderness.

The table was a piece of canvas spread on the ground in the middle of the tent. Candles—real candles—burned in the centre, stuck in a rudely formed sconce of wood, which in its turn was stuck through the canvas into the ground. Our seats were our huge, gown-like guanaco mantles, which by and by would serve us for blankets, when we lay down to sleep on our couches of withered grass.

Our dishes and plates were all of tin, easily packed and easily carried, and we had knives and forks. Had our table been a raised wooden one, it would have groaned, not so much with the variety of good things, but with their solidness and substantiality. Here were steak of guanaco, and stew of horseflesh—one of our pack animals had broken a leg the day before, and we were wise to make use of him—and here were roast ducks. Cakes we had, too, made of flour which had been half-roasted before it left Valparaiso. These cakes were made by Pedro, who was our very excellent cook. I think there must have been something else in them as well as flour. However they were very nice, and tasted and looked somewhat like a happy combination of Scotch haggis, Australian damper, and Irish scone.

We had no beer to drink; we had no wine; but we had yerba maté, which combines the invigorating qualities of both, with all the soothing, calming influence of a cup of good coffee or tea.

It is a kind of tea made of the dried leaves of the Paraguayan ilex, and is infused and drunk just as tea is; though the Patagonian Indians and hunters usually drink it through tubes pierced with little holes, so that they can have the infusion without the powder or leaves.

“Well, boys,” said Castizo, whose English, by the way, was irreproachable, “we’ve made a fairly good start. And your captain, with his adorable little wife—what an amiable creature she is—will be nearly half-way home by this time. Are you sorry you haven’t gone with them to see the mother?”

“Ah!” I said, “I know mother well: she will be pleased to hear we are enjoying ourselves, and learning something at the same time. Won’t she, Jill?”

“Assuredly; and so will aunt.”

“Well,” said Castizo, with a laugh, “as to learning something, there is no doubt about that. You will learn to be men. The Pampas is the best school in the world.”

“Whose sentry-go is it to-night?” said Peter.

“Mine, I believe,” said Jill, looking at his watch; “I go on in half an hour. Then Lawlor.”

“That’s right,” said Lawlor.

In less than an hour, we were all curled up in our toldo or kau, wrapped in our good guanaco robes, and fast asleep.

Out in the moonlight, however, Jill, with his rifle at the shoulder, paced steadily to and fro on sentry, and not very far off, leaning against one of the posts of the great skin tent, stood a Patagonian, also on duty. He looked a noble savage, erect and stately, and tall enough in his robe of skin to have passed for a veritable giant. Lying carelessly across his left arm, its point upwards, and gaily decorated with ostrich feathers, was his spear. A formidable weapon is this Patagonian spear, of immense length and strength, and tipped with a knife of stoutest steel. A swordsman has little chance against so terrible an instrument of warfare, for your giant antagonist can strike home long before you can get near enough to do execution. If very active and you can succeed in parrying one blow, you may seize the instrument, and rush in and slay your man; but, as the Scotch put it, “What would he be doing all this time?” He will not wait till you get quietly up to him, depend upon it. So I say that the best fencer that ever switched a foil is not a match for a Patagonian spearsman.

The Patagonians who formed part of our present camp were good fellows all. They were hired by Castizo, some at Puento Arenas, and some from a tribe stationed at or near Santa Cruz. Those from the former place, our cacique—as we may as well now call Castizo—had taken north with him in his yacht to Santa Cruz, and altogether our Indians numbered twenty-four souls. No women, no children, save those of the chief and his second in command. Our cacique knew better than to encumber himself with many of these on the march.

That these Patagonians would remain faithful to us, we had little doubt. For, first and foremost, they are, on the whole, good-natured and friendly to white men; secondly, they had only been paid in part, and would not get the remainder of their stores till we returned to Santa Cruz.

A glance at the map will show where this last place lies. But do not think it is a town. At the time of which I speak, it consisted indeed of but one estancia, on an island. It has an excellent harbour, however, and ships in distress often come here. Others, again, come regularly to meet the Indian tribes, and purchase from them skins, ostrich feathers, and curios.

There is a regular Indian encampment here. They all live in tents, and for the matter of that compare favourably with the gipsies we meet on our own Scottish borders at home.

How sound one sleeps on the Pampas! I scarcely knew my head was on the pillow till it was morning again, dogs barking and yelping, Indians shouting, horses neighing, and the bold, strong voice of the Patagonian chief as he harangued his men, heard high above all.

Chapter Twenty.

A Wild Ride—Cooking an Ostrich Whole—Quiet Evenings round the Camp Fire.

He was indeed a noble savage, this Patagonian chief. His name was Jeeka; at least it sounded like that. Peter said “Jeeka” was near enough, and to give it a better ring we added “Prince”—Prince Jeeka.

Peter admired him very much, as all young men admire nobility of figure.

“I’ll tell you what it is, Jack,” he said to me to-day; “if I had a figure like that fellow, it isn’t going to sea I’d be.”

“What would you do?”

“Take to the stage. What an Othello the fellow would make! Look at him now. What an air of quiet command, and such a voice! That is his favourite wife in the corner, with baby in her arms. She looks at him with fondness, not unmingled with awe. Even the dogs are listening, as if they understood every word he said.”

“It’s more than I do, Peter.”

In good weather—and this particular morning was beautiful—no one feels inclined to laze on the Pampas. Your sleep has been sweet and sound; your breakfast, principally of meat, as fat as you please, has been a hearty one, yet you do not feel heavy after it. On the contrary you have but one wish—to be up and away.

Our route to-day would lead us somewhat aside from this Rio Santa Cruz (the river of the Holy Cross), in a direction about west and by north, straight away, in fact, for the distant Cordillera range of mountains, which was to be our ultimate destination.

Ever since our start, and even before we started, we—Ritchie, Peter, Jill, and myself—had been practising morn, noon, and night with bolas and lasso. The latter needs no description, and a good horseman soon gets up to throwing it well, although there is a danger of being dragged headlong out of the saddle, when it becomes tightened between the lassoed animal and the thrower. The bolas are balls, two or three, of either stone or lead covered with skin, attached to the ends of some yards of thong. They are whirled rapidly round the head for a moment or two, then deftly allowed to fly off at a tangent, so that when they fall upon an animal, be it ostrich, guanaco, or even the South American lion called puma, they so hamper his movements that further flight is out of the question. The horseman speedily advances and puts a speedy end to the creature’s sufferings.

To-day the journey was a peculiarly arduous one. The sun was blazing down from an unclouded sky, making it positively hot for the climate; but after being heated, when we stopped a short time the cold east wind went searching through bones and marrow. We felt, as Peter expressed it, “suddenly placed inside an American patent freezer.”

The route was very rough: the same barren wilderness that we had been traversing for days; the same sort of sand-clay or gravel, under foot; the same stunted bushes, grass and thistle tufts; the same stony ground, the same up hill and down dell, over banks, up steep terraces, across plateaus, down into cartons and past salinas, near which was a greater abundance of vegetation, though nothing approaching to luxuriance. These salinas are salt lagoons or lakes. I feel sure, from their appearance, many of them are the craters of extinct volcanos. And indeed the whole country where we were to-day seemed as if at one time it had been overflown by lava, and subsequently rent and torn by earthquakes.

Castizo told Jill and me that all the land here at various periods of time had been raised from the level of the sea by the giant forces of nature operating beneath, and that this accounted for the terrace-like formation we now and then came to. But Jill and I were too young at that time to study geology. Besides, we had no more love for “ologies” at this period of our lives, than we had when poor Aunt Serapheema used to strike one o’clock on our knuckles at home. As we wanted to put as much land between us and the Atlantic as possible, we did not stay to-day for big hunting. Besides, we were not in the very best of hunting countries yet, though we saw several herds of guanaco, and a good many ostriches.

We had one little hunt, however. It was disobeying the orders of our cacique to break away from the line of march, but in this particular case we could not well help it. Besides, if any one was to blame, it was Ossian.

A fox, a huge beast like a wolf, ran across our path.

“Hurrah!” Ossian seemed to cry, “Yowff, yowff. Come on, Bruce. Here’s a chance!”

Away went the two dogs like two birds. Away went Jill after his pets like a third bird, while I brought up the rear.

We heard Castizo order a halt, so we thought it would be all right, and rode heedlessly on after the dogs. We must have ridden fully two miles when we came up with Ossian. Poor Bruce was nowhere in it; near him lay the fox, dead. I speedily dismounted, and secured the tail, which I fastened to Jill’s saddle. Then Bruce came up panting, and complained to us that his legs were not long enough. Guanacos, he said, were more his form; and this proved to be true enough, for he afterwards proved invaluable at this form of hunting.

As we were returning, we noticed an ostrich at some distance to the right. Our bolas were handy, and so off we went at a tangent, in pursuit. Another and another sprang up, and to my intense delight and Jill’s glory he succeeded in entangling one I shot the bird with my revolver, but I think even now I see the wild and frightened look the poor creature had in its quaint, queer face. We did not stop to possess ourselves of any of the meat, but secured the feathers, tied them in a bundle, and prepared to return in triumph.

Well, to retrace our trail was easy enough. We reached the spot where we had left our companions.

They were gone.

But where, whither? We could see the plains all round us when we rode up to the top of a ridge for very many miles, but never a vestige of the cavalcade.

“Jill,” I said, “we’re left and lost.”

“But they cannot surely have gone out of sight in so short a time!”

“Where are they then?”

“It seems to me as if the earth has opened and swallowed them up.”

And that was really and truly what had happened, with this difference: the earth had opened thousands of years before, and our companions were swallowed to-day. They were quietly preparing lunch down in the bottom of a green-carpeted cañon.

We were very glad to find them, and Peter told us after, he had been looking out for us all the time from behind a boulder at the top of the bank.

When Prince Jeeka found out we had killed an ostrich, and had not brought in the flesh, he was astonished.

“You young,” he said, smiling, “young, young—” Then he ordered an Indian to go and find it; which he did, and not long after brought it to camp.

Meanwhile the Indians had made a splendid fire in the lee of a rock, with roots and bushes pulled from the adjoining bank. I had once seen an ox roasted whole, but never before an ostrich.

The huge bird was speedily disembowelled. The entrails fell to the share of the mongrel greyhounds, or coarse-built whippets, and a deal of quarrelling they had over them. The blood was drunk by the chief and his wives. It certainly did not improve their copper-coloured complexions. Meanwhile stones were heated and placed inside the bird, the whole being finally lifted on to the bright fire, and partly covered. In about an hour it was cooked.

We were all hungry, and glad to share with the Indians. I cannot say I relished it very much; but hunger is sweet sauce, and it is never half so sweet as when squatting gipsy-fashion round a meal spread in the open air.

After a few hours’ rest we went on again, and so on and on day after day.

We seemed to be making forced marches, and seldom stayed to do much hunting, except simply for sake of fresh meat.

Unless one keeps a diary on the road—and that is what neither Jill nor I did—it is impossible to remember a tithe of the many little events that happen, or the character of the scenery. During the first six or eight days of this journey, however, there was but one character in the scenery, and that I have already noted; and great events were few and far between, so that only a few impressions remain recorded on the tablets of my memory.

I will never forget our quiet camp life of an evening, when the tents were raised, and we settled down for enjoyment. Sometimes even yet, when sleepless in bed of a night I allow my mind to revert to them, and they never fail to woo me to sweet and dreamless slumber.

The dinner was, of course, the great event of the evening, and it was wonderful how well Pedro cooked that meal, considering the few things at his command. Lawlor and he were our servants in a manner of speaking, but immediately after dinner they joined the group around the camp fire, and there we sat chatting and telling stories till ten o’clock or past.

Every one had something to tell, and Castizo, though full of adventurous stories and reminiscences himself, never failed to draw “yarns,” as sailors call them, from others.

Even Jill and I found our tongues, and told Castizo about the little escapades of our schoolboy days. He listened to these, I think, far more eagerly than he did to the wilder exploits of Ritchie, Lawlor, and Pedro.

He laughed heartily over our piratical experiences, running with, or being run away with by the hulk, and firing our pistols at the flag-ship.

“Your sister Mattie,” I remember him saying one evening, “must be a darling child, and as full of spirit and fun as a young puma.”

“She is all that,” “She is all that,” said Jill and I together.

It used to amuse Castizo to hear my brother and me, when mutually excited, speak thus together in one breath and in the same words. He would laugh, and then say—

“You boys seem to be animated with but one spirit between you.”

“One spirit is quite enough for Jill and me,” “One spirit is quite enough for Jack and me.”—this would be our answers.

It was not very often that Castizo was in the humour to tell us a story; but when we did get him to consent, we had descriptions of the most thrilling adventures, both by sea and land, that it is possible to imagine.

“Do,” I ventured to say once, “do the señora, your wife, and the señorita—”

“Dulzura,” said Peter.

“Miss you greatly, when from home?”

A strange change came over his countenance. From happiness and mirth it suddenly changed to melancholy the most acute. I felt sorry immediately I had spoken, and hastened to say—

“My dear friend, I have hurt your feelings; pray pardon my thoughtlessness.”

“Nay, nay,” he made haste to reply; “it is nothing. But my wife is gone. If ever angel lived and breathed on earth, it was Magdalena. Her death was to me an abiding sorrow. But I seem to see her and feel her presence even yet, and she is often with me when I am alone.”

This gave me the clue to what we had considered a mystery, namely, Castizo’s great fondness for spending a portion of almost every night all alone out in the Pampas. Whether it rained or blew, in fact whatsoever the weather was like, Castizo always went out. This habit he commenced, as I have already shown, when we first started, when he rode two lonesome days and nights after us; and the habit he kept up till the last.

But Castizo was always willing to oblige us with a song. He had a splendid voice, and sang as well in English as in Spanish or Chilian.

Pedro’s stories were also well worth listening to. His experiences had been many and varied; but, alas! many of them were, to say the least, very hazy, and there was a deal in the history of his life far too dark to tell. Yet he was a faithful fellow, and would any day go through fire and water to oblige us.

Peter never had a story to tell. When asked to “spin us a yarn” he would tap his clarionet, and say, with a smile—

“I tell all my stories, like the Arcadian shepherds, through my pipe.”

“Well, then, play,” Castizo would remark.

“Yes, play,” Jill would add emphatically; “our cacique commands you.”

“All right, Greenie dear,” Peter would reply, and play forthwith.

I do not think I ever heard sweeter melody anywhere than that which Peter discoursed on his pipe, as he called it, around the camp fire on the lonely Pampas.

Some of the Indians would be sure to come from their toldos, and draw near our door, whenever Peter began to play, especially Prince Jeeka and his favourite wife, Nadi.

They were invariably asked in, and just as invariably did poor Nadi bring with her some sewing to do, generally in the shape of a few pieces of guanaco skin, which she was sewing together to make a roba or mantle for her husband or herself.

Very gentle, quiet, and amiable was Nadi, and bound up in her child and noble husband. I say “noble” advisedly; for all the time we knew him he was always the “prince,” generous, kind to his wife and child, brave and unselfish in the extreme. And yet they told me that he had in his time done some terrible deeds, and had even with his own hand slain the cousin of his wife Nadi. When I looked at Jeeka, I could not find it in my heart to believe this.

Nadi used to sing. It was more a wail than anything else; though while doing so she used to nod her head, and smiles would steal over her dark but pretty face, while her eyes sparkled with excitement and fun. Her husband would join in the chorus, as if he, too, enjoyed it. Perhaps Castizo and Pedro knew what it was all about; I am sure none of the rest of us ever did.

Sometimes Jill, or Peter, and I used to go over to the toldos of the Indians. We always took with us a bit of tobacco, and sometimes a little bag of flour. We generally found them lazing in groups, smoking and playing cards or dice. But as soon as ever their own cacique, Jeeka, gave the word, all playing was almost instantly stopped, and soon after they had rolled their mantles more tightly round them, and gone off to sleep.

In the morning before the start, Jeeka invariably helped his wife into the saddle; then she, with her child and the other two women, rode leisurely on.

To be alone in the desert, is to be alone with God; and every one of us soon came to follow the habit of Castizo, and retire nightly a little way from the camp, there to commune with our Father above. Like as in the old, old times, Jill and I invariably went together, knelt together, and returned together.

Jeeka was a strange being. He was clever, for he could not only speak Spanish but tolerably good English, and he could think.

“What you go out for,” he said to me one morning, “last night?”

“To speak with the Great Good Spirit,” I replied. “He who made all things, and who keeps us in life and free from danger. Do you not speak with the Great Good Spirit?”

“Hum-m-m. Sometime. I think there is one, two, Great Spirit.”

“Yes, a Spirit of Evil, and a Great Good Spirit.”

“Hum-m-m. I sometime speak the one for good. Sometime I speak the other.”

“That is not right, Jeeka. We are told only to pray to the Great Good Spirit.”

“You told? Who tell you?”

I was getting out of my depth now, so I put him off for the present.

“Some day soon,” I said, “Jill, my brother, and I, will tell you all the strange story of the world.”

“You tell Nadi, my wife, too?”

“Yes, we will tell you both, and you shall tell your tribe.”

“Hum-m-m. Good!”

Next minute Jeeka had shaken off all concern and religious feeling, and was addressing his men in loud stentorian tones as to the duties of the day before us. For a great hunt was on the tapis.

Chapter Twenty One.

The “Murder Tree”—Wild and Exciting Sport—Jill and the Puma—Hostile Indians.

This was to be a memorable day in the history of our adventures, for troubles began that we did not see the end of for many a long month afterwards.

We were now in a splendid hunting district; herds of guanacos had been seen, with innumerable ostriches, besides animals of various kinds.

We had even noticed some wild horses in the distance, but they had evidently sniffed danger from afar, for they speedily drew off, and disappeared to the nor’ard in a cloud of dust.

Very early in the morning we crossed a river. I am unable at this date to give the name of it, but think it must have been some tributary of the now distant Rio Santa Cruz or of the Chico.

We Englishmen were all tolerably good horsemen now, thanks to Jeeka, who had given us lessons, and thanks to our good steeds themselves. They were wonderfully well trained. Peter and Lawlor were the worst riders, and got many a tumble and shaking; but instead of bolting when their riders fell off, the horses simply stood and looked at them, as much as to say: “What fun you can find in tumbling off our backs in that higgledy-piggledy way, we utterly fail to discover.”

An accident of this kind caused the greatest merriment among the Indians. They waved their spears in the air, and shouted with laughter. Even gentle Nadi clapped her hands, and cried “Engleese! Engleese!” She meant, of course, that there was nothing too eccentric for an Englishman to do, for the notion that they had fallen off accidentally never for a moment crossed her thoughts.

We got over the river easily enough, only Peter did not gird up his mantle in the true Patagonian fashion, and so when he reached bank he looked more like a half-drowned pole-cat ferret than anything else on earth. Again Nadi must clap her hands and laugh, and cry “Engleese! Engleese!”

On now over a vast undulating plain, with more bush than we had yet seen, and, wonder of wonders! one single tree, growing at the east side of a rock. I noticed that all the Indians gave the tree a wide birth. I asked one Indian to come with me towards it; he only answered “Malo, malo,” and rode away in another direction. So Jill and I went to see it. A more weird-looking tree I never had come near. It was almost dead; just a few green leaves, the rest of its branches bare and blackened, as if by fire. Near it, and half buried in the gravel, were several skulls and bones.

It was a murder tree!

Castizo told us this in the evening. Some Chilians, who were suspected of having proved false to a certain tribe, were taken to this dreary spot at midnight, and quietly “knifed.”

The story made us shudder, and both Jill and I dreamt about it afterwards.

Preparations were now set about to form a grand battue.

This is a form of hunting which I admit I do not admire, but it is common in nearly every country, Scotland and England not excepted. In this case it was to some extent a necessity. We wanted fresh meat, and the Indians wanted skins and feathers.

To say that we “youngsters” were not excited from the very commencement, would be to throw doubts upon our very nationality.

We were excited.

So much so, that the preliminaries seemed to us interminably long and dull. First of all a halt was called, and Jeeka held a short palaver with our cacique. As they spoke in Patagonian we could not tell what was said, but from the gestures they made it was evident that Castizo was placing the principal command of the hunt in the hands of Prince Jeeka.

Now guns and revolvers, lassoes and bolas, were seen to. After this, Jeeka disrobed himself, tying his mantle on his saddle, and almost at the same time four Indians followed his example. Off they presently rode in different directions, two bearing away to the right, and three, including Jeeka, to the left. They seemed to make or describe the arc of a circle. After they had been gone some time, a fire was seen in one place on the right, and another to the left. Four more Indians at once divested themselves of the roba, and rode after the others. So gradually they all dispersed. We followed in due time, “dislocating” ourselves just as the Indians had done, leaving the women with the spare horses, and one boy to follow slowly along the tract.

We soon sighted the Indians, who were careering to and fro, and gradually closing in. But the portion of country—a wide, rough, rolling, bushy plain—was very extensive, so that the afternoon was well begun before the real sport was.

We soon, however, noticed herds of guanaco here and there, and scared looking, strangely bewildered ostriches. The guanacos stampeded, the birds fled hither and thither, but were turned with yells and shouts wherever they went.

Presently a herd began to break between Jill and myself and some Indians.

Now was the time to display our skill. Our horses seemed to know more about this strange species of hunting than we did, for they carried us quickly near the flying herd. I swung and flung my bolas, and missed, and had to dismount. Jill was more fortunate, and soon killed his first guanaco. The Indians were very busy indeed; so was Castizo. I had never seen finer horsemanship than his was out of the circus itself. He and his steed seemed imbued with the same spirit. Indeed, it did not appear to be a man on horseback we saw before us, but some Centaur of old. As Ritchie said afterwards, man and horse were all of a-piece.

I made up soon after for my awkwardness, and an ostrich succumbed to my bolas.

Gradually as the circle narrowed, wilder and more exciting grew the sport. Wilder and wilder yet. It came to be almost a mêlée at last. It came to a slaughter and murder of the innocents. And we white men, tired of bolas work, laid birds and beasts dead around us by the dozen with our guns.

It has been said that the puma will not attack a man on horseback. But in cases like the present there is many an exception.

Jill had an adventure which I will never forget. Nor shall I ever forget the splendid display of his huge strength and skill as a rider, which Prince Jeeka made on this occasion.

From behind a green calpeta bush an immense puma charged down on my brother. I noticed that, but I was powerless to help him, though my rifle lay on my arm. But I noticed something else at the same moment—Jeeka coming thundering down to the charge. He was rapidly shortening his bolas till he swung but one ball.

The puma paused to spring—so terrible a countenance, such fierce, vindictive eyes, such awful teeth! Hurrah! Jeeka is on him or over him. There is a dull thud as the ball crashes against the brute’s skull. Next moment the beast is on his back, spitting blood and spasmodically kicking his last; while Jeeka is riding on as unconsciously as if he had not saved my dear Jill’s life.

I frequently saw Peter driving the battue. I sometimes saw him in the saddle; at other times I saw him on his back on the gravel, and once I noticed him crawling out of a bush into which his horse had shied him. At least he told us his horse had shied him there; but Jill only laughed at him, and said the facts were, he had no seat.

“No mistake about the seat,” said Peter. “It’s all there, and a precious hard one it is.”

Prince Jeeka told us that he had never conducted a more successful hunt in his life, and that there would be plenty of work now for his followers in curing skins, so that playing cards must for a time be abandoned.

As we rode on to a camping ground that night we saw the smoke of fires in the distance, and after about half an hour drew rein near a camp of strange Indians. They were men from the north, Castizo informed us, hardly so well mounted as we were, but even better armed than our own Indians.

As they at once sprang to their saddles on our approach, and as Jeeka marshalled his men in battle array, the danger of a fight appeared imminent.

Castizo, however, was equal to the occasion for once. He galloped in front of our Prince Jeeka and waved him back, the proud Patagonian chief obeying reluctantly. Then he stationed us white men on each flank of our little army, the women having already been beckoned off to a safe distance in the rear.

Castizo’s next move was a brave one. With revolver in his right hand he rode straight up to the northern cacique, and at once covered him. This chief’s spear had been pointed at Castizo’s breast, but after a few words from the latter it was raised. The spears of all his band were immediately after elevated also. Then the palaver began. There was much excited talking between Castizo and the strange cacique, and several times I expected to see Castizo put a bullet through his heart, for he still had him covered.

After a time matters grew more quiet, but I could frequently hear the name of Nadi mentioned. At last Castizo shouted, and with downcast head Nadi appeared—still on horseback—before them. Prince Jeeka was about to plunge forward and join his wife, but a word from Castizo restrained him. Had he done so, the consequences would have been terrible.

There was more wild talk, much of it addressed by the northern cacique to Nadi, who answered never a word, but sat as still as a statue, the tears raining down over her face and falling on her baby’s shoulders.

I was very sorry for Nadi, though I could not tell what it all meant.

At last the long stormy interview ended. Nadi made a gesture as if about to ask forgiveness from the strange cacique, but he turned from her.

Then the Indians of our party filed slowly past the others, Jeeka, with his wife riding beside him, exchanging glances of deadly hatred with the other cacique as he left him on his right hand.

When all had gone on, but not one moment before, Castizo slowly lowered his revolver, made a salaam, which was—not without some considerable degree of courtesy returned,—and came on after us.

I noticed soon after this that Nadi, with a fond smile, handed her baby to Jeeka, and that he kissed it and returned it. This was a very pretty little Patagonian love-passage that spoke volumes.

Peter asked Castizo for an explanation of the feud soon after, but was laughingly referred to Jeeka himself.

“That man, that cacique, is my Nadi’s blood-brother,”—he meant her real brother, for the term “brother” is often used among the Patagonians in the sense of sincere friendship. “I visit far north. I see Nadi; Nadi see me. I not can live without Nadi. I offer fifty horse for her. The brother refuse. Then I call my men; I ride to the brother’s camp. We fight, and kill much men. Then I carry Nadi away. I not give one horse. Ha, ha!”

“Then it was, after all, a case of elopement. It was young Lochnivar all over again, only ten times more so.”

“We see, then, Peter,” I said, “that the self-same feelings agitate the breasts of these savages as dwell in our own.”

“Yes,” said Peter, “human nature is the same all the world over.”

That evening, after supper, Jill asked Peter what his feelings were particularly.

“I don’t know,” was the reply, “which end of me is uppermost. I feel all bruised and sore, and just as though I had gone in at one end of a thrashing machine and come out at the other.”

“Won’t you sing us a song to-night, then?” said Castizo, laughing, “or play on your pipe?”

“Play, mon ami? Pipe, my friend? It’ll be when I’m asleep, then.”

“I tell you what it is, you know,” said Ritchie. “You wouldn’t find it ’alf so ’ard on ye if you were to stick more in the saddle.”

“Ah! well,” said Peter, “I’ll perhaps learn to. Anyhow, I mean to try. Good-night, boys; I’m off to the land of dreams.”

Extra precaution was used to-night to prevent a surprise. Although he had been riding all day, Castizo intimated his intention of keeping the middle watch. He knew the Patagonians well, and knew that, while he lived, Jeeka would not be forgiven by the chief whom he had made his brother-in-law in so heroic a manner. Sooner or later vengeance would come, and it would be sooner rather than later if the northern Indians should have their will.

But the night wore away peacefully, and next day a scout, who had been sent out early to see what was doing at the hostile camp, returned with a morsel of half-burnt wood in his hand. He silently handed it to Jeeka. It was cold to the heart.

The enemy had gone early.

Chapter Twenty Two.

A Blinding Summer-Snowstorm—Peter as a Horseman—Peter in a Fix.

Such is the exhilarating and toning power of the air on the Pampas, that though we had all lain down tired enough, we felt as fresh next morning as mountain trouts.

The only feeling that remained from our exertions of yesterday was a kind of gentle and not unpleasant languor. We were therefore in no great hurry to depart. But as towards ten o’clock the clouds began to bank up and obscure the sun in the north and east, and our present camp was not one of the best-positioned, Castizo gave the order for departure.

We had not gone far till up started an ostrich right from under Jill’s horse’s nose, and lo! and behold, our first find of a nest—if nest it could be called.

As there were but fifteen eggs in it, we were sure they would be fresh, so we quickly appropriated them, the poor bird himself and his mate, who was not far away, both falling victims to the bolas of the Indians.

Perhaps it was just as well; it took them away from sorrow.

A most exemplary parent and husband is the ostrich. The hen bird lays over a score of eggs, and the cock considers it his duty to do the greater part of the hatching. At all events, he sits on the nest for about eighteen hours out of the twenty-four, and before he leaves the nest carefully turns every egg over. Then he goes away to stretch his legs and scratch a bit for his breakfast, which it must be allowed he has fairly earned. While he is gone it is the hen’s turn to brood, so that between them, in about a month’s time, they usually succeed in raising a very large family of the most idiotic-looking chickens it has ever been my good fortune to cast eyes upon.

There is no close time for the ostrich on the Pampas of Patagonia, and it will probably be a very long time indeed before there is one. Meanwhile, despite hunters, white and brown, wild cats, pumas, and foxes, the birds thrive and abound in such quantities, that the wonder is that more sportsmen from this country do not go to Patagonia to try their luck.

As we advanced on our journey to-day the weather seemed to grow colder and colder. The wind went down at last. It had not been high all the morning. Then little morsels of snow began to fall. They were no bigger than millet-seeds, but Jeeka shook his head when he saw them, pointed upwards, then around him, and said something to our cacique in Patagonian.

The millet-seed snow gradually merged into flakes; bigger and bigger did these grow, till at last we were in the midst of a blinding summer’s snowstorm.

It was impossible to see even a few yards ahead, so we formed into line, one going in front of the other, Jeeka and Castizo being ahead. Castizo had a compass. Jeeka seemed to carry a compass in the brain. He appeared to know every rock, every bush, and every tussock of grass, disguised though they now were in a mantle of snow.

By and by Castizo came to the rear, where, with heads down and with our arms often across our faces, leaving it entirely to the horses to follow the trail, Peter, Jill, and I were struggling on.

“How do you like it?” he said cheerfully to Jill, who was the centre figure.

“I’ve been more agreeably situated many a time,” replied Jill.

“And I’ve been more agreeably seat-uated too,” cried Peter, with a glance behind him, which almost cost him the seat he was punning about. For when on horseback, poor Peter was always like the rocking-stone on the Cornish hills—touch and go. Only the rocking-stone never does go. Peter did frequently, and although the sly dog at first pretended that he could ride, he had the reckless courage to confess now that he had been mistaken. He would not venture to look up in the air, he said, for anything; and whenever he was rash enough to glance behind him, as he did now, he had to clutch at the saddle with both hands.

“Peter!” I shouted, “you’ll fall, little boy.”

“He deserves to,” said Jill, “after making so despicable a pun.”

“Well,” said Castizo, laughing, “seat or no seat, Peter, you will have to remain in that saddle for many hours to come. You’ll have to dine there, too.”

“Will I, indeed? Well, mon ami, before night comes I’ll be as soft as a jellyfish or a lightly boiled egg. But never mind, if I’m to be a martyr, here goes. I’m willing.”

Just at that very moment, as if fate were all against Peter, his horse stumbled and the rider tumbled. Then the steed stood stock still, and Peter got up, rubbing himself amid a chorus of laughing. We really could not help it, he looked so comical and ridiculous. Castizo had to hold his sides, and Nadi, who was next in front, and of course jumped to the conclusion that Peter had done it on purpose, and that he was the most humorous youth under the sun, made the Pampa ring with her merry laughter.

“He, he, hee-ee!” she laughed. “O Engleese! Engleese!”

But Peter himself looked as solemn as a judge with the black cap on. He simply rubbed himself.

“That’s the way it’s done, you see,” he said at last. “You thought I would remain in the saddle for many hours, did you, my friend? Ah! you don’t know Peter Jeffries yet.”

“Well, Peter,” I said, “I should think that falling off would get somewhat monotonous at last.”

“I don’t fall off. The beast pitches me off Come, Jack, don’t you sit and grin there like a cub fox at a dead turkey. Get down and give a fellow a leg-up.”

I did as told, and Peter was soon seated once more. Nadi departed still laughing, for she never could imagine that any one, unless a squaw, would ask a “leg-up.” She imagined it was all part of the performance. Peter was evidently a favourite of hers.

This was still more evident when, about an hour afterwards, wishing to adjust her robe, she rode coolly alongside his horse and, before Peter could tell what she was about, deposited the baby in his arms.

Peter looked aghast, though he kept firm hold of the child.

Honi soit qui mal y pense!” he said, solemnly. “Honey, suet, marling-spikes, and pens! I’m in a fix now. Jack, dear boy, are you behind me? I daren’t look round for the world!”

“I’m here,” I answered, choking with laughter.

“Pray for me, Jack. I’ll do as much for you again. Goodness gracious, Jack! if I’ve got to leave the saddle now, I’ll be death of this darling child. If the horse should stumble or baby should kick, it’s all up with us; and I haven’t made my will either.”

Here the baby sneezed, and Peter swayed unsteadily in the saddle.

“Hoop!” he cried. “I did think it was all up with me then. Jack, will you have baby?”

“Not I, thank you.”

“Jill, you’re a dear, good fellow. You’ll take the baby, won’t you? The mother has gone away forward somewhere. Do, old man. I’ll never call you Greenie again.”

“I won’t have little copper-face.”

“Well, then,” said Peter, doggedly, “if it should sneeze again there’ll be manslaughter. That’s all.”

But, greatly to our shipmate’s relief, back came Nadi, and once more secured her darling. Peter smiled now, but he gave a big sigh of relief that might have been heard all over the Pampas.

“You chaps,” he said, “boast about your feats of horsemanship; but just let any of you try riding over the wide wild prairie with a baby in your arms. Well, I’ve done that, and don’t you forget it.”

The storm grew worse instead of better; the snow fell thicker and faster every moment. And now something very strange occurred, for suddenly it became very dark. One would have thought night was falling. While we were all wondering what was about to happen, a blinding flash of lightning spread itself athwart the gloom, followed almost immediately after by a rattling peal of thunder. Flash succeeded flash, peal after peal of thunder, harsh, sharp, and deafening, reverberated from rock to rock. It was unlike any thunder I had ever heard before—not the deep bass roar that one listens to in a storm off the Cape, nor the crashing big-gun sound of thunder in the mountains. The noise was of a tearing, rending character, and resembled platoon or volley firing as near as anything I know of. But the effect of the lightning among the falling snow was most beautiful and wonderful. And whenever a more brilliant and dazzling flash than usual occurred, for a few seconds thereafter the flakes looked purple, blue, and crimson, and sometimes nearly black.

Our horses stood the storm well, for they are marvellously trained animals.

It got lighter now, and gradually the snow ceased to fall, and we could see the sky. Blue it was towards the eastern horizon, with one dark, unbroken canopy of clouds moving fast away overhead towards the Cordilleras.

Back rolled the great cloud-curtain, and presently out shone the glorious sun, and the scene around us was now beautiful but dazzling in the extreme.

We rode on through the Pampas all that day. Whenever we came to a lagoon—and we passed many—we noticed that the water looked as black as ink. It is the same with the sea in the Arctic regions, the contrast in colour accounting for the optical illusion.

We saw many ducks on these lakes, as well as a species of wild geese; but Castizo did not think it advisable to delay our advance for the sake of sport, especially as our larder was full to repletion.

The sun was setting when we reached our camping ground, which was under the lee of a terrace of rocks and close to a pretty little lake. Tired though we all were, more particularly Peter, we could not help pausing to marvel at the extraordinary beauty of the snow-clad hills of the west. Their strange and fantastic summits, and even far down towards the base of the mountains, were lit up with a glory of colour which in no country of the world have I ever seen rivalled or equalled. The shadows or shades were sharply defined and of a bluish purple hue. The high lights were either of pure white or the most delicate shades of crimson. What a beautiful world this is, after all, if we could be but content with it! and every sort of weather, every sort of scenery, and every season, whether spring, summer, autumn or winter, has its own peculiar charm to one who is at home with Nature or Nature’s God.

Our men and the Indians now bustled about, and in less than half an hour the toldos were erected and the dinner nearly ready. Our dish to-night was to be a Patagonian stew, the meat consisting of the tit-bits of the guanaco and ostrich, with a kind of tuberous root dug up by the Indians, and which is indeed a palatable adjunct to diet on the Pampas. Another dish was to be a mash of ostriches’ eggs, which, well salted and peppered and mixed with a morsel of guanaco suet, is food fit for a hungry king.

But while dinner was cooking, and in order to pass the time, Ritchie, Jill, and I went down by the side of the lagoon to look for game, while Peter lay down in the toldo to rub himself.

We had half an hour’s splendid sport. Owing to the weather, perhaps, the birds did not care to fly, so we had to shoot them afloat Ossian would not take the water to retrieve, so Bruce had all the work to do, and very nimbly and energetically he did it too. There were with us several of the ordinary Pampas whippets, but they merely sat with their tails in the snow and looked on. It really seemed to us that Bruce was showing off a bit on his own account, for although he might have waded into the water, this did not suit him. It was not effective enough. He must give one warning bark first to attract the attention of the mongrels—the bark sounding almost like the word “look?”—then down he came with a feathering rush, sprang far into the water, swam up to his bird, caught it nimbly and brought it out.

We retired early, and slept very sound indeed, particularly Peter.

Chapter Twenty Three.

“Our Horses Stampeded”—“Poor Benighted Heathens!”—Jill’s Little Joke—Telling Jeeka the Story of the world—Adventure in the Haunted Wood.

When we looked out next morning we found, to our surprise, that the snow had all gone from the Pampas.

“Isn’t it strange?” I said to Castizo.

“No,” he answered—“at least I should say ‘yes, it is strange,’ but then one must never marvel at anything that happens on the Pampas. If I’m any judge of the weather, however, well have summer now.”

Travelling to-day was exceedingly difficult, the ground being so wet and sloppy. Peter only tumbled once. We came to a river, and had some trouble getting over it. There should be no river here, though on very rare occasions the rain from the mountains, and more particularly the melting snow, has been known to come down in an immense force and fill the cañon from bank to bank.

As the weather soon grew fine once more, with the exception of now and then a drizzling rain or thick fog, which, however, did little more than damp the surface and lay the dust, Castizo, our worthy cacique, determined to take things easy.

We therefore set about enjoying ourselves as much as we could. Our report was at all times excellent. I could not help saying to Peter that a sportsman in this country who was not afraid of roughing it a little, might actually accumulate wealth.

“And bumps,” said Peter, solemnly. “My dear Jack,” he added, “it’s the roughing it that is the great drawback. Now I can walk as well as anybody. Or if I ride and the nag goes at a nice swinging gallop, then I’m as jolly as if on the quarter-deck of an A1-er. But these beastly nags go hippity-skippity, skippity-nippity, till it’s perfectly sickening.”

“Well, but Peter, old man, you ought to be getting quite hard by this time.”

“No, Jack, it’s all the other way. Instead of the saddle hardening me, I’m hardening the saddle. There is where the grief comes in, and I’m afraid it is breaking down an otherwise splendid constitution.”

“Have an extra rug under you, then.”

“A feather pillow would suit him best,” said Jill, laughing.

“I’ll tell Mother Coates about you, Mr Greenie, soon’s we get home. That is if there be anything left of me to get home.”

“Well, Peter,” continued Jill, “it is partly my fault, after all—your being so sore, I mean.”

“How, Greenie?”

“Because I neglected to ask Mother Coates for the cold cream before the steamer left Sandy Point.”

At this moment a herd of guanacos was sighted. There was a shout from the Indians, who at once spread out to surround them.

“Hurrah!” cried Peter. “Here’s for off. Hoop!”

And away went our erratic messmate, helter-skelter over the plains, quite forgetting the hardness of the saddle in that wild gallop.

Peter had become quite an adept at throwing either lasso or bolas. The only drawback here again being that after “heaving,” as he called it, he was apt to follow them, and this resulted in more bumps. It is really surprising to me that Peter never smashed his neck, or at the very least his collar-bones. When we congratulated him on his good luck in this respect, he replied—

“Why, how can I break bones? There isn’t a bone in my body, I tell you. I’m all pulp.”

Peter certainly had plenty of pluck.

I never saw Peter happier than one morning when awaking, we found that all our horses had stampeded. Perhaps stampeded is too strong a word. It would be more correct to say they had silently disappeared. So we had to walk in search of them.

The trail was evident enough, and led us still farther to the west. There was no mistake about it. Peter could walk if he could not ride. He was constantly turning round to us and calling—

“Come on, you fellows. Haven’t you got any legs under you? Such old dawdlers I never did see!”

The Indians said that the Gualichu had lured the horses away—meaning the evil spirit whom they sometimes worship.

The Gualichu might have been an evil spirit, but if so he was a most handsome one, and shaped like a small-headed, fiery-eyed, arch-necked stallion, with marvellous mane and tail.

I was surprised to see Jeeka level his gun at the beautiful brute and fire. The stallion rolled down dead, and after that we had but little difficulty in bringing back our steeds.

We encamped that night by a very small stream, which meandered through a chaos of round stones and boulders. And here, for the first time since we set out, we succeeded in catching fish—a kind of grey mountain trout; they were of excellent flavour, but small in size.

We saw some commotion among the Indians this evening after dinner, and found they were muttering prayers or incantations, and making salaams to the new moon.

“Poor benighted heathens!” said Peter, glancing up at the lunar scimitar, which had just escaped from beneath a little cloud. “Poor heathens! I quite feel for them.”

“But what are you doing,” said Jill, “with your hands in your pockets?”

“Why, I’m turning my money of course. Don’t you always do that when you see the new moon?”

“Poor benighted heathen!” cried Jill.

Peter now saw what was meant, and laughed as heartily as any one.

Presently we entered the toldo, and Peter sat down as usual to smooth his bumps. I noticed Jill looking towards him with a half-subdued smile of mischief on his face. Soon he glanced towards me, and we went out together.

“I’ve thought of a little trick to play Peter,” said Jill.

“Well?” I said.

“Get Nadi to give him the baby again.”

“But how will you manage?”

“Come and see.”

Nadi’s innocent face always lighted up with smiles when Jill and I went near her. My brother addressed her in broken Patagonian. It was very much broken, but it suited the purpose. Nevertheless, Nadi understood English well, though too shy to talk it.

“Peter,” he said, pointing to little copper-face. “Peter ywotisk, Peter kekoosh, moyout win coquet talenque.” (Peter is weary and cold, and would like to have the baby for a little while.)

Up jumped Nadi, her eyes sparkling with delight, and went off to the tent. We followed. In she went, and without a word popped the baby down on Peter’s knee, then retired most gracefully.

Everybody laughed at Peter, but, like a sensible young man, he made the best of it; and when we entered, looking as innocent as sucking guanacos, there he was talking away to the child, and making it laugh and crow more than ever its mother did.

“You see what it is to be a good-natured fellow,” Peter said to me. “Now you’ll live a long time before you get baby to hold.”

Peter often got baby after this, and I really think he came to like it, only he told Jeeka to inform his wife, that the danger of handing him the child when on horseback was extreme. So this never occurred again.

I think, on the whole, then, that Peter had the best of Jill and his little joke.

The country now became changed in aspect, far more rugged and hilly and wild, but at times its beauty was almost awesome.

One day we came upon a patch of woodland, the first real trees we had seen. Then we knew we were within a measurable distance of Castizo’s romantic home in the Cordilleran forests.

We encamped this night close to the wood.

The Indians did not, according to Jeeka, quite relish the propinquity. The wood was haunted by evil spirits. There was a fox with two heads that had been frequently seen within its dark shades, and there was something in white which Jeeka could not well define. It might have two heads or it might have twenty, he could not say; but it was very terrible, and death soon visited the person whose track this something-in-white crossed.

There was no good could accrue from laughing at Jeeka. I could not help thinking, however, what a pity it was so noble a fellow—savage, if you choose to call him so—should remain in such mental darkness. Could we not do a little to help him, Jill and I?

We might try. One never does know what one can do till a trial is made.

“Jeeka,” I said that evening, “will you go for a walk with Jill and me, and bring Nadi?”

“So, so,” was the reply, meaning “yes.”

We would have led him towards the wood, but he shook his head, and spoke but one word in a very firm and decided tone—


He led us down into a rocky ravine where grew many strange bushes we had never seen before, and in the more open places an abundance of wild flowers, many like our own pinks and primroses that grow among the dear Cornish hills. In this ravine was a streamlet which, however, had so worn away its rocky bed that we could hardly see it. We could hear it, however, and when we peeped over the cliffs that formed its banks, there it was foaming and tearing along, and leaping from shelf to shelf of its stony bed. Sometimes it formed great pools of dark brown water, in which fish were leaping after the swarming flies.

Not far from this wild stream, and within hearing of its ceaseless song, we all threw ourselves on the grass in a ring. Nadi, woman-like, had brought some sewing with her, some beautiful skunk skins from which—we afterwards discovered—she was making a little roba or poncho for her favourite Peter.

“You’re not afraid of the Gualichu?” I said.

Jeeka looked hastily round as if to make sure there was nothing very dreadful in sight, before he replied—

“I shoot he quick, suppose I can.”

“But you shot him before in the shape of a horse?” I said.

“So, so.”

“And he has come to life again?”

“He, everywhere.”

“You speak the truth, Jeeka: the spirit of evil, if not the evil spirit in person, is everywhere. Now who, think you, made these grand old hills, the mountains beyond? Who made trees and those sweet flowers? Who made the horses at first, the guanaco and the ostrich? Who made man? Not the Gualichu, surely?”

“N-no. He not make them good,” said Jeeka, thoughtfully.

It was an innocent, childlike answer, but yet it brought to my mind at once the words in the first chapter of Genesis, “And God saw that it was good.”

It brought me at once to my subject too. I had felt very shy in speaking at first, but I felt it my duty to speak, and I really think I waxed eloquent as I proceeded. Words seemed to come at all events, simple words and simple language, but they suited the occasion.

I told Nadi and Jeeka the story of the world, the story of its fall, and of its redemption through the mercy and loving-kindness of the Good Spirit who made it.

A story so simple that babes and sucklings can understand it, appealed to the very hearts of these poor handsome heathens.

Nadi dropped her skunk skins in her lap, and listened open-mouthed. Jeeka was cutting the root of a bush which he had plucked into chips with his dagger. He never once looked up, but I knew he was listening too.

There was silence for a time after I had finished. Then Jeeka rose, and grasped my hand.

“Brother,” he said, “you tell me this story again? So, so?”

“So, so,” repeated poor Nadi.

During all my story she looked as though she understood every word, and I have no doubt she did; but her husband frequently interrupted me by saying to her—

“Ma Onques?” (Do you understand?) on which Nadi would merely nod assent, without taking her eyes a moment from my face.

I have often thought since then what a blessing it is that all a poor human being needs for his soul’s salvation is so easily understood, that even the intellect of a savage can compass and comprehend it. What a hard road it would be to the New Jerusalem were the finger-posts that point the way written in a language few could understand, or the directions couched in technicalities only a limited few could fathom. But no, there it is in a nutshell. “Repent, love, believe and be forgiven.”

The truth had got firm hold of Jeeka, or Jeeka had got firm hold of the truth. I was soon sure of that. It was not so much that he tried to be a better man, as that he seemed ever afterwards to live as if he were only “down here”—the woods are his own for a brief time,—and that his real home was in the far beyond.

He used often now to make Jill or me repeat the story of the world to him, and especially the story of the Cross. He always brought Nadi with him when he desired to speak to me on such subjects. But he sometimes asked us strange questions. Such as about the grass: was it a good crop in heaven? Horses: were they well trained? etc, etc. Once Jill read to him from the Revelation a passage where white horses are mentioned in a vision.

Jeeka was delighted, and made him read it over and over again. He was also greatly pleased with descriptions of Bible battles.

One day Jill read to him the description of the great fight between the Israelites and the Canaanites, in which it is said that the Lord caused great stones to be rained from heaven upon the enemy.

Jeeka here grew quite excited.

“Hum-m-m. So. So. So!” he cried. “The same thing I have seen.”

“You, Jeeka?”

“So, so. Big stone. Terrible fire, much smoke and t’under. Big stone fall eberywhere. So, so.”

As he spoke Jeeka waved his arm away towards the west, and I at once understood him to refer to an eruption of some great volcano of the Cordilleras, for there are several such.

What pleased Nadi more than anything else was the singing of hymns. She used to join with us, but it was more of a child’s voice than anything else.

However, Nadi was very young, not more than sixteen perhaps, wife and mother though she was.

Our route lay even more to the north than the west now, and it was soon evident that we were on the great border-line betwixt the wild bleak Pampas and the forest-clad mountains, which are but a continuation of the great Andes chain.

The way was now a winding one, for we often had to make long détours to get round a lake or the spur of a mountain, although the lower hills we still continued to face and cross.

Sport, and plenty of it, still fell to our lot, though the gun and revolver and spear came in now more handy than the bolas and lasso.

Even here, however, in the midst of the wildest mountain and sylvan scenery, there were vast stretches of level valleys and plateaus between the hills. Most of these were the feeding-grounds for vast herds of guanacos and of wild horses.

Our camping grounds of a night were now generally in some grass-covered glade, and it was indeed a pleasure to fall asleep in our toldo with the sound of the wind whispering through the trees like the murmur of waves on a sandy beach.

There were many night sounds now, however, besides the whispering of the trees, and some of these, to say the least, were not over-pleasant to listen to. If, for instance, we were anywhere near to rocky ground, there was the mournful and weird yelling of wild cats. These were mingled at times with the “Yap-yap-yeow—ow” of the Patagonian fox. There were also many strange cries and sounds which we could not account for, so we were fain to put them all down to the birds.

It was not safe to enter the forests by night; sometimes even in daytime there was danger enough. I remember I went to bathe one day by myself in a bright clear pool formed by a mountain torrent. The water was delightfully cool, so I stopped for a full hour enjoying myself.

After lounging a little by the river’s bank, dressing leisurely and falling into a kind of day-dream, I prepared to return. No one knew where I was, and if I were missed, both Jill and Peter would be anxious. I commenced to retrace my steps up a little pathway through an entanglement of bush and thorn, but had only advanced a short way when from the scrub in front I heard a low growl, emitted evidently by a puma, and he could not be many yards away. To fly was to court pursuit, and that meant death, for I had no arms of any kind. I shaded my eyes with my hand, and looked cautiously under the bush. Yes, yonder was a pair of huge green fiend-like eyes glaring at me, watching me as a cat watches a mouse.

I drew cautiously back, glad to get away with my life, and re-crossed the stream. But here I was on another horn of the dilemma, for the only other way back to the camp would take me fully three miles about, with the probability, too, that I might lose myself and wander about all night long. No, this would not do; I must scare that puma. The little pathway, it just then occurred to me, must have been made by wild beasts—perhaps pumas.

“Whatever man dares, he can do,” I said to myself, as I gathered an armful of big round stones. Then I advanced once more towards the puma’s bush, and shouting, threw a stone I was answered by a snap and a growling roar. Another stone: result the same, only the snap more vicious and the growl more angry. I was in for it now, so I threw the third stone with all the force I could command, giving vent at the same time a yell that would have startled a Chak-Chak Indian.

This had an effect that I had hardly bargained for. I had counted upon the denizen of that incense bush going off in any direction rather than mine. Not so. With a spitting coughing roar, that went through my nerves like a shock from a powerful battery, the brute sprang out towards me. But a merciful Providence was surely protecting me, for at the very moment the huge extended talons were nearly in my neck, another and larger puma bounded from the bush, striking the first and sending it rolling down the little pathway. Then over and over they rolled like two huge overgrown kittens, until they finally disappeared. Indeed it is evident enough the two beasts had been all the time romping together, and that even my presence did not suffice to interfere with their sense of fun.

Peter laughed heartily when I told him of the occurrence; but Jill did not. He even scolded me. What right had I to go away into the bush without him? he inquired, and hoped it would be a warning to me.

Poor innocent Jill!

The Indians, and even Jeeka, were rather afraid of the wood in which this adventure had taken place. It was haunted.

Strange, I thought, that so many woods were haunted.

Yet one cannot wonder at these poor people being superstitious, wandering so much as they do in this wild lone land, seeing so many sights and hearing so many strange sounds for which they cannot account.

Chapter Twenty Four.

A Journey to the Country of the Gualichu—The Earthquake—a wondrous sight—“I will pray to the Great Good Spirit.”

“I feel unusually fresh this morning,” said Peter one day as we all squatted down to breakfast.

“Considering,” he added, “the roughish time we had yesterday, I’m a little astonished at my recuperative powers.”

“What ship did you say?” said Ritchie.

“Recuperative powers, Edward. That’s the ship. And I didn’t know I had any. Why, when I turned in last night I said to Jack there, ‘Jack,’ says I, ‘I’m feeling ninety years of age.’ But this morning I can hold my age like a young hawk.”

“And the bumps, Peter?” I said.

“Gone down beautifully, Jack. Hardly a bump visible to-day. Just a blueness on some of the bone ends. Greenie, I’ll trouble you for another slice of that ostrich gizzard.”

“Well,” said Castizo, “I’m glad to see you all looking so bright and jolly. ‘Jolly’ is English, is it not?”

“Oh, thorough English!”

“Because, my boys all, I want to make a détour to-day, and pay a visit to an old friend of mine, Kaiso to name—King Kaiso in full. Kaiso means big, and big he is.”

“A giant.”

“A giant among giants, for he has surrounded himself with the biggest fellows he could find anywhere. He’s a funny fellow himself. He has been far travelled too: been to Chili and Monte Video, where he went as a show on the boards of a small theatre or concert place. As soon as he made money, however, he bought all the pretty and useful things he could find, and so retired to the fastnesses of his mountains. His troops are a strange band, of northern and southern Indians. The wonder to me is how he manages to keep peace among them. He keeps a private witch, however, a tame puma, and a medicine man.”

“I don’t mind the witch much,” said Peter, “they are usually pretty tame; but the puma, mon ami, is it tame? Has he a dog licence? Does he keep it chained up?”

“Oh, no, but it is very affectionate. Don’t let it lick your hand, that is all, for its tongue is exceedingly rough, and if it tastes blood, it is like King Kaiso with rum, it wants more. Jill, my plate is empty.”

“And does this King Kaiso,” said Ritchie, “live far from here.”

“Yes, several days’ hard ride.”

Peter groaned.

“But we’ll have a good rest when we get there. Then a few days more will take us home.”

Peter smiled now, and passed his plate to Jill again.

“Last time, and the only time in fact,” continued our cacique, “that I visited Kaiso, he condemned me to death. But this was at night, and Kaiso had some rum. He told me he would himself do me the honour to cut my head off with one of his very best swords. I thanked him, of course, and appeared quite pleased about it. But lo! in the morning he had forgotten all about it. We were half-way through breakfast when he said, ‘Oh, by de way, I was goin’ to lop your head off dis mornin’. But I too tire. I much too tire. Some oder day p’r’aps.’ I assured him not to trouble about the matter; that I could afford to wait, and would wait to oblige him.”

“And there was no more about it?”

“Never a word. He had finished all the rum, you see. But Kaiso lives in a strange land. His home is in the country of the Gualichu.”

“Gualichu! That’s the evil spirit, isn’t it?”

“Yes, Jill. But the only evil spirit I ever saw there had been imported from Jamaica.”


“Rum, yes, that’s the real Gualichu. Well, Jack, you have good influence with Jeeka; go and tell him where we mean going. He will demur; I had the greatest difficulty in getting him to go last time, and he said he never would return.”

So as soon as breakfast was finished I paid a visit to Jeeka’s toldo. He was waiting while his people, harnessed up and were ready for the road.

“Jeeka,” I said, coming to the point at once, “we are going to visit King Kaiso!”

Jeeka’s face assumed an aspect of almost terror.

“What!” he said. “Go to Kaiso. Kaiso bad man. Kaiso all same’s Gualichu. He live in Gualichu land. Hum-m-m. I will not go. Kaiso kill us all. Hum-m. He have snake to hiss and bite. He have puma to roar and tear. He keep Gualichu man and Gualichu karken. He have fire all round de forest. But the forest itself not burn!”

I sat with Jeeka and Nadi a whole hour, and it needed all my powers of persuasion to make them consent to lead the way to the Gualichu land.

They did so at last, however, and long before the sun was high in the north we were well on our road.

It would take the greater part of a goodly volume, to give anything like a correct description and history of our journey to the land of the Gualichu. We had hills to climb, mountain torrents to wade, long dreary plains to cross that seemed never-ending, and deep jungle-like forests to penetrate through. Sometimes these last were as dark as gloaming even under the midday sun. In their gloomy thickets we could hear the voices of angry pumas, and we saw and shot some of these of immense size.

We saw one immense snake of the boa description, and we also saw some deer.

Castizo marvelled much at this.

“I did not know,” he said, “there were deer so far south.”

“Strayed out of some gentleman’s park,” said Peter, quizzingly.

“And as for boas, if that was a boa, how on earth did it come there!” continued Castizo.

“Oh, I know,” said Peter.

“Do you?” said Ritchie; “tell us.”

“Why it has escaped from Wombell’s Menagerie, of course.”

The idea of gentleman’s parks or Wombell’s Menagerie being in this wilderness was ridiculous enough; but Peter was in one of his funny moods.

We did not stop anywhere for sport, only when any wild creature crossed our hawse, as Ritchie phrased it, we brought it down for sake of its flesh or skin.

Hawks and vultures we found very numerous in these regions, and many strange animals we had never seen before, some of the ant-eating fraternity, others like ermines, but brilliantly coloured, and others again that seemed partly rat and partly nondescript. There were otters in the mountain streams, and fish in such marvellous abundance that, in one hour, Jill and I caught nearly one hundred and fifty.

(This would, indeed, be a land of pleasure for the sportsman. And yet only a month ago, I heard a member of a West-End club assure a friend that sport was played out. He had been everywhere, he said, and shot everything, and there really wasn’t anything left worth pointing a gun at.)

One dark night, while encamped near the borders of a deep, dark wood, we were all awakened by a strange feeling of qualmishness.

“I dreamt,” said Jill, “I was at sea for the first time again.”

“Something we’ve all eaten,” said Peter, “that hasn’t agreed with us, though I had nothing for supper except about a pound of that puma steak, and a few handfuls of ba-ba roots.”

“Hark! Listen.”

“Hark! Listen,” from Jill and me.

There was a noise in the distance as of heavy waggons rolling over a metal road, then the earth trembled and shook with a strange heaving motion as if water were rushing beneath the surface. The same feeling of qualmishness shot over us, and we all pressed our hands to our heads.

It was an earthquake.

The vibration had no sooner ceased than we heard Castizo’s voice calling to us.

Come out, boys, and you’ll see something.”

We hurried on our clothes. I felt more nervous and frightened than ever I had done in my life before. So were Jill and Peter.

“I hope,” said the latter, “the earth won’t open and swallow us up. Fancy being buried alive!”

“It would soon be all over, Peter,” said Jill.

Castizo, Lawlor and Ritchie were already out in the open and gazing westward. A fitful, changeful light was on their faces, such as I had never seen before. Sometimes it was a rosy glimmer, then it would change to pale yellow or blue.

The light came from the western horizon, and the appearance there was simply appalling. A great cone-shaped hill was vomiting forth columns of smoke alternating with fierce and terrible flames. In the midst of the fire we saw innumerable dark bodies which were undoubtedly rocks.

The night was very dark, so that the eruption was more fearful than it would otherwise have been.

All the Indians were out; most of them lying on their faces, and, I thought, praying.

I went to Jeeka, who sat beside his wife on the grass. Nadi was weeping and moaning.

“Jeeka,” I said, “do not pray to the Gualichu. Pray to Him who made everything, and who loves us—the Great Good Spirit.”

“Did He make that fiery hill?”

“He made and governs everything.”

“Does He govern the Gualichu?”

“He governs every one on earth, and all things on and under the earth.”

“I will pray to the Great Good Spirit.”

Towards morning the eruption died away as quickly as it had begun. Then we retired, and slept well and soundly for several hours.

But next day there was something very like mutiny in our camp. The Indians now refused point blank to go farther with us into the land of the Gualichu.

Jeeka would have braved everything to oblige us, but cacique though he was, he could not go entirely against the wishes of his people.

So it was determined to leave them here in camp till we returned. It was but one day’s journey now to King Kaiso’s country, and Jeeka gave us a solemn pledge that he would not let his people desert. He would shoot them first, he said.

Then we white men saddled our horses, the Indians loaded our pack mares, and off we started all alone to see the terrible king, who kept pet pumas and snakes, tame witches and medicine men.

Chapter Twenty Five.

King Kaiso’s Land—A Regiment of Giants—Kaiso’s Witch—Condemned to Death.

Our first intimation we received that we were close on King Kaiso’s country, we had this same evening from a lot of dogs that were ranging through the wood we were in. A wood, singular to say, with hardly any undergrowth, but bedded feet deep with the fallen leaves and nut husks that had fallen in previous years.

The dogs yelped and ran. Presently we came upon a bevy of children whom our sudden appearance seemed to scare out of their senses. I shall never forget their looks of terror, nor the speed with which they fled screaming and howling out of the woods.

Soon we heard drums beating and a trumpet braying. “Braying” is exactly the right word in the right place, but, a donkey with a bad attack of whooping cough would have brayed far more musically.

Nevertheless, that trumpet was a call to arms. And we were no sooner clear of the trees than we saw a troop of fully fifty spear-armed warriors riding boldly towards us, from a gipsy-like encampment in the centre of a plain.

This was the flower of King Kaiso’s army. And yonder was the king himself at the head of them.

We halted, and as they came rushing on towards us, I thought I had never seen finer men in my life. Not one of them could have been less than six feet high in his potro boots, while the muscles of their arms and naked chests were wondrous to behold. They were naked to the waist, and their black hair, adorned with ostrich feathers, floated over their brawny shoulders.

The king was a giant, pure and simple. A very Saul among his soldiers, towering a good head and shoulders over the biggest among them.

We had halted, and when within about fifty yards of us, at a word of command from Kaiso, the troop suddenly drew rein, and stood like statues, looking most delightfully picturesque.

Castizo waved a white handkerchief. That was all. But the effect was wonderful.

Without saying a word, Kaiso pointed back towards the encampment. Round went each horse and away went the troop thundering over the plain, and in a few minutes had entirely disappeared.

Then, and not till then, did Kaiso advance. His greeting was most cordial. No, there was no sham. It really was sincere. There were actually tears in the giant’s eyes.

After asking Castizo fifty questions at least, he turned to us and shook us cordially by the hand, calling us “brothers,” and bidding us welcome to the country of the Kaisos.

Chatting and laughing pleasantly now he led us towards the toldos, telling us all that he meant to do to entertain us, and what we should have to eat. The menu, I remember, included horse, puma, guanaco, skunk, armadillo, eggs, fish of every sort, and yerba maté. It was evident he did not mean to starve us.

Kaiso was a fine bold-looking man. Although a giant, there was nothing repulsive about him. His frame was everywhere well knit, and when he bent his naked arm, his biceps stuck out like Donald Dinnie’s—and this is paying the king a very high compliment indeed.

Jill and I dismounted.

Peter was more cautious.

“I say, your majesty,” said Peter, “how’s your puma? I hope it is lively. I’m extremely fond of pumas.”

Kaiso did not reply verbally; he put two fingers of his right hand into his mouth and the puma came in a series of bounds from the wood not far off, and, arching his back, rubbed himself against his master’s leg.

Then the beast marched up to Castizo and went through the same performance. He evidently knew our cacique. He smelt Jill’s legs and mine, but made no sign of friendliness.

“Delightful creature!” said Peter from his saddle. “Tame, I suppose? Looks like a huge cat. Pussy, pussy, pussy.”

“Tame,” said the king. “So, see what I do now.”

What he did do was rather startling, and at the same time proved the strength of this Herculean king.

“Gollie! Gollie! Gollie!” he cried, and Gollie followed him for some distance. Then, after stroking him, he seized the huge animal by the tail, and, turning on a pivot himself, he whirled the puma off the ground and round and round in a circle for fully a minute. When he let go the beast lay in a heap, dead to all appearance.

“Dead!” said Peter, dismounting. “Well, Kaiso, old chap, you needn’t have killed him. I’m so sorry I sha’n’t be able to have any fun with him. Poor Gollie!”

“Gollie not dead,” cried the king, laughing. “Gollie drunk. Dat is all. Byme-by he come sober, and den you hab fun plenty.”

Peter’s face fell.

“I’m sorry I spoke,” he said.

“Peter,” I said, “you’re a humbug.”

Meanwhile Kaiso’s wives had made us maté, and we all squatted down to drink it. It was extremely refreshing, and as the puma presently got up and slunk away to the woods, even Peter grew happy once more.

King Kaiso was as good as his word. He was hospitality personified. He seemed not to know how kind to be to us, and during the five days we sojourned with him the village was en gala, given up to games and festivities.

It was a strange country this, in which King Kaiso lived, close to the borders of a region of volcanoes, the fires of which we could see every night. But there was trace of volcanic action in the immediate vicinity. If ever there was a true oasis in the desert, this was one, and I could not help believing, with Castizo, that there were fires right beneath us, and that it was the heat from these which caused the luxuriant growth of tree and shrub and waving grass. The woods were, in some places, quite a sight to see, for not only did lovely ferns and the most charming of wild flowers grow everywhere, but even flowering creepers and climbers. Some of the latter were of the wistaria description, but in clusters of the deepest crimson, with a sweetness of odour that permeated the air in every direction.

Kaiso lived here in tents all summer, but his warriors and people went on frequent far-off hunting expeditions, and even visited Santa Cruz, bringing back many of the luxuries of civilisation.

Kaiso was never attacked. The Patagonian Indians are far too superstitious to venture anywhere near the Gualichu land. So Kaiso and his people, who numbered in all about three hundred souls, lived in peace. The king told us there was no Gualichu; his medicine man had driven him away, with the assistance of his witch.

We were introduced to this medicine man. He had a string of strange charms hanging round his neck, the fangs of wild beasts, curious coloured stones, and other trifles; and he carried attached to his spear a bunch of herbs. Otherwise there was nothing remarkable about him.

The witch we also saw. Instead of the old hag we imagined she would be, we were agreeably surprised to find a young girl of very prepossessing appearance, who smiled pleasantly on us, shook hands and made signs. She was deaf and dumb.

The bad spirit, the medicine man told us, had stolen her ears and tongue, but had given her much wisdom instead.

During the winter months Kaiso and his wives lived in caves.

We visited these caves, and found to our astonishment that they were completely lined with skins; all the walls, all the roofs, and all the floors were skin. The value of these skins must have been very great. Thousands of pounds would not purchase them in Europe.

Some of Kaiso’s customs were ridiculous enough. One was this: he insisted upon his wives having a Banian day, as we call it at sea, once a week. He not only insisted, but made sure of it; for the night before he clapped them all together in one of these hairy caves, and placed armed sentries before the door, and neither food nor drink was allowed to cross the threshold till they had fasted four and twenty hours.

“They get too fat,” Kaiso explained. “Suppose I not do that. Fat wife too slow. No good. No.”

Every day of our sojourn in the country of the Gualichu brought some new pleasure. As far as I can remember, the programme was somewhat as follows:—

First day. A grand hunt and battue in the forest, in which all hands engaged, even to the women and children. We killed many pumas, foxes as big as wolves, and other beasts and birds innumerable.

Second day. A great fishing expedition, with a feast of fish in the evening. We were more than astonished to-day to see little boys and girls leap from cliffs over a hundred feet high into deep pools in the river beneath. They also allowed themselves to be carried over a waterfall, and when we white folks thought we should never again behold them, lo! they bobbed up like seals close to our feet, smiling, and thinking it the best fun in the world.

Third day. A kind of circus. Marvellous display of horsemanship by Kaiso’s people. We tried to persuade Peter to display his prowess, but he begged to be excused owing to the bumps. Dance in the evening.

Fourth day. The marriage of a subordinate chief. This marriage was made on purpose to gratify us, for the chief had no particular desire to enter the holy bonds. Kaiso’s word was law, however. There was a grand procession to bring the bride home, and a wild ride all round the plain, with much clapping of hands, singing, and shouting.

Fifth day. This was our last, and I shall never forget it. It was to be devoted to harmless dancing and other frolics. But unfortunately some of Kaiso’s men who had been away at Santa Cruz arrived in the forenoon, bringing with them a large keg of rum.

“Now,” said Castizo to us, “the Gualichu has come in earnest.”

I am sorry to say that the rejoicing among the male portion of King Kaiso’s little community was universal, as soon as that keg of fire-water was broached. Even old quiet men, of whom there were several in camp, smacked their lips and grew garrulous in their glee.

To do him justice, Kaiso shared the poison liberally among his braves. After which, dancing and the wildest revelry became the order of the day. Everything, however, passed off pleasantly enough till near sunset, when some disagreement between two of the warriors was to be fought out with knives upon the spot. In this they were disappointed, however, for the women had taken the precaution to hide all warlike weapons. The warriors, however, were not to be entirely baulked in their designs. They commenced therefore to fight literally with teeth and nails, like wild beasts. The desire to tear each other spread through the camp like wild-fire. Donnybrook Fair was never anything to the scene we now witnessed.

We white folks stood aloof and simply looked on. It is dreadful to have to say that several men were killed with stones in this inhuman battle.

In the midst of it all up strode the giant Kaiso, with the keg of rum in his arms, and peace was immediately restored, and more rum distributed. The men who fought now commenced to sing and to hug each other, and vow eternal friendship; but in the midst of their ill-timed merriment it was heartrending to hear the wail of the women and children over dead husbands and fathers.

Kaiso had gradually changed during the afternoon from a fool to a raving maniac, rushing around with a bludgeon, felling his men and smashing the tents. He relapsed into idiocy again, but it was of a mischievous and fiendish kind.

Castizo tried to get him to eat. He would not; but he would drink maté mixed with rum. So our good cacique humoured him, hoping he would soon fall asleep.

Not so soon, however. He called his chiefs together, and waving an arm wildly in our direction, said briefly and fiercely,—

“Wirriow walloo! Eemook noosh. Lasso!”

His chiefs grinned and retired. But Castizo began to sing; but we could see it was but a ruse. Kaiso joined in with his deep bass voice, which was more like a lion’s roar than anything human. It was a song with a chorus, and a rattling one too, and this we all sang. We certainly were not very like men who were condemned to be strangled with the lasso early in the morning, but such had, indeed, been Kaiso’s command.

“More rum!” Kaiso would have it. But it told even on the brain of this giant before long, and he toppled back where he sat, and fell into a deep sleep.

What a sigh of relief Peter gave!

I was expecting that pet puma in every minute.

“D’ye think he’ll waken?”

“Oh no, he won’t wake to-night,” said Castizo.

“We’re going to be all hanged in the morning, aren’t we?” said Ritchie.

“Yes, that’s the order.”

“Well, if I had my way, I’d—”


“Scupper the lot. Begin with Kaiso.”

“No, no, my friend; Kaiso is not a bad fellow when sober. I know a better plan than that Come with me. Lawlor, you’re a big fellow, carry the keg.”

Off we marched to the large toldo, where all who were awake of Kaiso’s warriors were still talking and shouting.

Seeing what we carried, they welcomed us with a shout and a yell.

Castizo was most liberal in his allowances. Nor did we leave the toldo till every warrior had succumbed.

“I pity their heads in the morning,” I said.

“So do I,” said Castizo, “for this is not rum, but the vilest arrack, brought to the country specially for these poor wretches.”

It is needless to say that there was no sleep for us that night.

Luckily it was fine, so about one o’clock in the morning we silently caught and saddled our horses, and rode away into the forest in the same way as we had come.

We had great difficulty in finding our way, and had to steer by our pocket-compasses. But we got through at last, and before the sun shone over the hills we were far beyond pursuit.

We arrived early in the afternoon, safe and sound, at our Indian camp, and were received with every sign of joy, no one having expected we would ever return from the land of Gualichu.

Chapter Twenty Six.

Castizo’s Idyllic Home in the Cordilleras—Preparing for winter—catching and Breaking Wild Horses.

So long had we lazed on the Pampas and on the borders of the Cordilleras, that summer had almost fled before we reached Castizo’s mountain home. It is probably doing ourselves injustice, however, to talk of lazing on the Pampas. The time was well spent, for if there be any happiness of a solid nature on earth, I think it had been ours during those all-too-short summer months. If you were to ask me for an analysis of this happiness, I think I should reply that it resulted from that perfect freedom from all care which only a true nomad ever enjoys, from the constant chain of adventures and incidents that surrounded us, from the strange scenery weird and wild, from the beauty of the sky night and morning, and, above all, from the perfect, the bounding health we enjoyed, health that made us laugh at danger and consider troubles, in whatever shape they came, trifles light as air.

Castizo had told us often about his estancia in the hills. For many years he had gone back and fore to it from Santa Cruz. It was simply a craze of his, he said; a mere whim or fad. He dearly loved loneliness, and in his own little Highlands he enjoyed it to the fullest extent. He was never afraid of the Indians. Not that he considered them immaculate as to virtue, and the soul of honour; but because his person, intact and safe and sound, represented to them so much property. He never paid them wholly until they had returned with him to the little station on the eastern coast, and then great indeed was their reward.

But all independently of this, I am convinced that these poor Indians dearly loved their white cacique, and that apart from any financial consideration, any one of them would have fought for him until he fell and died on the Pampa.

Yes, Castizo had spoken much to us of his life and adventures in the mountains, but he had not described his little village. Therefore we were not prepared for what we saw.

First, then, we had to cross a wide, extended, open plain or pampa, so great in extent indeed that we began to think the wilderness had commenced again.

In the very centre of this plain was a broad lagoon, but how fed or dried we could not tell, for no stream ran into nor out of it. There it was, nevertheless, and all round its borders bushes grew, and a rank, rushy kind of vegetation with tall flowers, crimson, blue, and bright yellow. We noticed with pleasure, too, that there were both ducks and geese on it. On the plain, moreover, we shot several birds of the grouse species, though quite different from any I had ever seen before.

After we had ridden about an hour longer, a purple mist that had hitherto hidden the hills was lifted up like a veil by some slight change of wind, and there revealed in all its beauty was one of the loveliest little glens ever met with in a long summer’s ramble. And near the top, closely shut in and sheltered from the cold west winds by wooded hills, was our mountain home. Primitive enough, in all conscience, was this estancia, consisting of a mere collection of log huts, well thatched and cosy enough in appearance, but only one having any pretension to display. This last was plastered as to its walls, had a little garden in front, and flowers growing up over it.

Before we reached this tiny village we came upon the Indian camp, and here children and women and old men ran out to meet us, with joyful shouts that were re-echoed from the hills and rocks on every side.

Even before the wives embraced their husbands or the children their fathers, they all gathered round Castizo, the welcome they gave him bringing tears to his eyes.

“Yank! Yank! Yank!” they shouted a hundred times o’er. (Father! father! father!) Had he possessed a score of hands they would have shaken them all, while the pretty children who could not reach high enough must catch and kiss the border of his guanaco robe.

They took away his horse. He must walk the rest of the way. He must be in their midst and tell them all his adventures. Their Yank must speak to his children, and tell them too what he had brought them.

The girls had culled wild flowers, and these they hung round the necks of all our horses, so that the welcome was a general one.

No, we had not expected this. Neither had we expected that the inside of the principal cottage would be so well furnished. Everything was rough and homely, to be sure, but everything was comfortable and cosy. Viewed externally, it was difficult at first to see whence the smoke could issue, but as soon as we entered we noticed a very ample fireplace indeed, the smoke being conveyed away by a copper chimney issuing from the back of the house, and thus protected from the baffling winds of winter and spring.

We admired all we saw, and Peter at once ensconced himself in one of the easy chairs, and confessed that he felt happier and hungrier than he had done for many a long day.

Pedro had the toldo erected at some distance from the house, and proceeded forthwith to cook dinner.

After this meal Castizo went down to the Indian camp, accompanied by Lawlor, carrying a huge bundle containing the presents and pretty things brought to the old men and women and children all the way from Valparaiso. There were pipes and cards (Spanish) and dice-boxes of curious shapes for the former, trinkets and dolls and toys and sweets for the children, and for the ladies strings of beads, necklaces, bracelets, and lockets that made them almost scream with delight and admiration. As gewgaw after gewgaw was taken out the constant shout by these impulsive young ladies was—

Heen careechi? Heen careechi?” (Who gets that?) followed by a grateful—

O nareemo nachee!” (Many thanks!) from the lucky recipient.

Only one old man asked for rum. But Castizo shook his head and replied in Spanish, which this Indian understood—

“Never more, Goonok, never again. When last I brought rum to the camp, thinking you would but taste and put it away, hé aqui! you and your people drank all. All at once! You quarrelled and fought. There was much bloodshed, Goonok. You know the green grave at the corner of the wood yonder. There your brave son sleeps. He was killed that night, Goonok, by his own cousin’s hand. Never more, Goonok, never again.”

Maté yerba?”

“Yes, plenty of that. As much maté as will last the camp all the livelong winter.”

!” cried the old man. “Is, then, our white cacique to stay with us through the winter?”


“And his young men and all his followers?”

“All, Goonok, every one of us.”

“Then is Goonok indeed happy, and to-night, old as he is, Goonok will dance.”

It was only natural that a ball should follow the home-coming of the white father, as Castizo was sometimes called.

A special toldo was erected for the purpose by the Indians by making three kaus into one, and to the music of horrid drums and still more horrid pipes, very pretty dances were gone through indeed. It seemed to me a pity, however, that the men daubed their faces with paint or clay, as it gave them a grotesque appearance which bordered on the hideous.

At a sign from Castizo, and during a lull in the proceedings, Peter brought out his clarionet. He had hardly played a note ere a silence deep as death fell upon the assembled Indians. At first some of them ran away, as if frightened, but all soon returned and stood or sat listening entranced. How very deeply the music had affected them was proved by the sighs they gave vent to immediately after Peter had finished. There must be something genuinely good in the heart of those wild Tehuelches, or they could not love music so much.

We all slept well and soundly that night, there being nothing to disturb us save the occasional shrill scream of the Indian on sentry. This startled Jill and I at first, but as the sound died away in mournful cadence, instinct told us what it meant, and we slept all the better after it.

Though it was yet early in autumn, we took the advice of our own cacique and set about at once preparing for the long winter that was before us. For storms in these regions come on suddenly, sometimes, long before autumn is over.

Our people were divided into two parties, one to hunt, another to work at home and in the woods.

The former brought in the flesh of the guanaco, the ostrich, the armadillo, and even the skunk. Skunk meat certainly sounds offensive, but it is very delicious eating, nevertheless. This meat was carefully salted and stored in huge earthenware jars.

One way of storing meat was very strange to me, but, as I afterwards discovered, most effectual. It was first salted with pampas salt from the Salinas, it was then buried in a grave lined with salt-sprinkled leaves, and well packed down. Meat was also sun-dried and partially smoked.

Fish were caught in abundance, especially a sort of perch, and these were smoked with a peculiar kind of wood and stored away for winter use.

Firewood was also to be had in abundance, simply for the gathering. Much of this was dug up out of the boggy land, and was found to be “as fat as fir,” to use an expression of Ritchie’s.

There were many kinds of fruit in the forests, principally of the hardier species, and bushels of these were dried in the sun or by fire, and during the winter they made a valuable adjunct to our diet. Nuts too were plentiful.

But, after all, the most important item of food, not only for ourselves but for our horses, was a kind of tuberous root, which grew in any quantity in the glens and even on the banks out in the open plain. For two whole weeks we had fully a score of Indians, to say nothing of their children, digging and storing these roots. The mice were in millions all round our estancia, so the only safe way of preserving our roots and thereby preventing a famine was to dig graves and bury them. Even these had to be watched, so numerous were the mice.

Hay we stored in large quantities in stacks; also the tender herbage of several trees of which, when green, the horses ate with great relish.

We soon discovered that the armadillos were on the scent of our buried flesh food. So stakes were driven in the ground, and to these dogs were fastened every night in the immediate vicinity of our buried treasure. We did not intend, however, that these poor animals should be on sentry all night long exposed to the wind and rain, the sleet or the snow. We therefore built them shelters, so that they were cosy and happy.

We had our reward, for even on the second night of his watch one dog made an immensely large armadillo prisoner. I happened to be first about that morning, and seeing how eagerly the faithful canine sentry looked towards me, I went up to pat him, when he pointed to a huge ball-looking thing.

“That’s the robber,” the dog seemed to say; “I can’t get him to unroll himself, or I should soon let the stuffing out of him. Will you oblige me?”

I did not oblige the dog, as I object to take life in a cold-blooded manner. But an Indian did, and we had the ’dillo for dinner. Though somewhat peculiar in flavour, the flesh was as tender as that of a stewed rabbit.

So much fodder had we collected, that we determined to add to our stock of horses, feeling sure that some accident would befall a few of them before the winter was over.

Jill and Ritchie joined the expedition to go over the plain in search of wild horses. Peter preferred to stay at home. He had no desire, he said, to raise his bumps again. I stayed with Peter to keep him company.

Jill and Ritchie were gone for three days, and I was getting uneasy when the whole cavalcade reappeared.

“Terribly wild work,” said Ritchie as he entered the log-house. “Ain’t I tired just?”

“Oh, I’m not a bit,” said Jill, coming in behind him.

Jill looked flushed and excited, and confessed to being delightfully hungry. He proved his words, too, when we all sat down to dinner.

The Indians had brought in with them five poor, dejected-looking animals that had been thrown with the lasso, and altogether used far more cruelly than I care to describe.

But these horses soon took to their food; then the breaking-in process was commenced. After being tormented until perfectly wild, and their strength almost quite expended with kicking and plunging, they were forcibly bitted and bridled. An Indian then waiting his chance would spring boldly on the bare-back of a steed, and the battle ’twixt man and beast commenced in downright earnest. The way the Indian breaker stuck to his horse, despite his rearing, plunging, and buck-jumping, was truly marvellous. If he was thrown, which he sometimes was, he sprang to his feet again, those around jeering and laughing at him, and though bruised and bleeding, vaulted once more on the horse’s back.

The battle had but one ending: total exhaustion of the horse, and victory of the Indian.

Only one poor animal escaped thorough subjection. This steed reared too far, fell backwards, and his skull coming against a piece of rock with a sickening thud, he never moved a leg again.

We had that horse for dinner.

Jeeka, seeing the accident, touched me on the shoulder.

“Poor horse!” he said, “good horse! He go there now. So, so?”

He pointed solemnly upwards with his whole arm as he spoke.

What could I answer? This was my convert to Christianity, the religion of love. I had read to him of horses in both the Bible and New Testament. Could I now say to him, “No, Jeeka, a horse has no hereafter?” Had I done so, I would not have been speaking my mind, as I do most sincerely believe that no creature God ever made is born to perish. So I nodded and smiled and said—

“So, so, Jeeka; so, so.”

Chapter Twenty Seven.

The Snow-Wind—Winter Life and Amusement—Death of “De Little Coqueet.”

“Listen,” said Castizo, one evening about a month after this, as we all sat round the fire in the log hut. “Listen, boys, listen all. That is the snow-wind. Winter is coming now in earnest. Pedro,” he added, “put more logs on the fire, and brew us a cup of yerba maté. Thank Heaven no one of us is out on the Pampa to-night, or belated in that dismal forest.”

The snow-wind!

Have you ever heard it, reader mine?

If you have listened to it only half as often as I have done, you will be able to tell it by the sound, as it goes moaning round your dwelling, although at the midnight hour. Should you even have gone to bed ere it comes on, and are awakened by it, you will shiver a little and say to yourself, “That is the snow-wind.” A nervous shiver it would be, a shiver born of thought and thankfulness, for there is something in the voice of this heartless wind which seldom fails to cast a momentary sadness over the spirits of the listener—not necessarily an unpleasant sadness, for you have to thank Heaven you are not out on the moor or out on the plain, and exposed to it. And if sitting by your own hearth when you hear it, the fire seems to burn more cheerily, and the room around you looks more pleasant and homelike.

The snow-wind does not shriek and whistle, and scream, as does an ordinary gale; it is heard but in one low, long-drawn dreary monotone. It never threatens to tear off roofs or uproot trees; it does not get very high at one moment to sink into semi-silence the next; it hardly ever alters its key-note, but keeps on—on—on in its one sad wail.

If you hear a wind like this on a winter’s night, be sure that, if flakes are not already falling, the snow is on its wings, and soon it will be shaken off.

The snow-wind! I have been out on the icy plains of Greenland when it has begun to blow, and made all haste to reach my ship. I have heard it in moorland wilds when far from home, and made speedy tracks backward to my hut, my very dogs seeming to know what was coming, and trotting on with heads down and tails almost trailing on the ground. If it comes at night the stars always hide themselves, and the very moon—should there be one—appears to shelter behind the unbroken surface of dark grey clouds.

Every wild creature knows the sough of the snow-wind. Bears creep farther into their dens when they hear it; wolves hide under the pine trees; the fox dreams not of leaving his burrow; rabbits cower closer beneath the tree roots, and birds seek shelter under the thickest boughs.

“The snow-wind,” continued Castizo. “Are we all safe and secure, Ritchie?”

“We be, I’m thinking, sir. I noticed the Indians covering the front of their huts. I think everything is done, and, before I came in, sir, I slewed the funnel round against the breeze; that’s the way the fire burns so cheerily.”

“Thanks, Ritchie; I’m sure I don’t know what we would do without so genuine a sailor to keep us straight. Ah! here comes Pedro with steaming bowls of maté. Now, boys all, I call this the acme of comfort.”

“So do we all,” cried Peter, jovially. “Oh, here’s to the Queen, God bless her!”

“God bless her,” said Ritchie. “I wonders now if ever she drank a basin o’ maté in all her born days. Strikes me, as a sailor like, sir, it’s better nor tea and beer, and better nor all the rum in the universe.”

Our talk was now of home. This soon gave place to yarns of our various adventures, Ritchie being in excellent form to-night, and, between the whiffs he took of his Indian pipe, he related to us some marvellous experiences. Though his English was not of the best, he managed to make it graphic, and every picture he drew, we seemed to see before us. I suppose Castizo saw those pictures in the fire. He kept gazing steadily into it, at all events, and was more silent than usual.

Perhaps his thoughts were not in Ritchie’s stories at all. I felt now, as I sat near him, that Castizo had a story to tell of his own life, if he only would, and I felt, too, the story was a sad one.

Presently he seemed to awaken from a reverie; he pulled himself together, as it were, lit a fresh cigar, and smiled round on us.

“I’ve been dreaming, boys,” he said.

“Dreaming with them black eyes o’ yours open, sir?” said Ritchie.

“Ay, Ritchie, ay; I often dream with my eyes open. But, Peter, where is your pipe?”

Peter got his pipe out, and very delightful music he discoursed.

But in every lull of the conversation we could hear the wail of the snow-wind.

Many a time and oft, while wintering under the Norland lights, in the long drear Arctic night, have I thought of the months we spent in that wild woodland glen close by the forests of the Cordilleras.

I have thought of them, and of my pleasant companions, when my ship was snowed up for weeks, during which never a star was visible, nor even the Aurora itself, when the darkness was filled with ice dust, borne along all over the snow-fields by whirlwinds that ever and anon collided, creating a chaos in which no creature ever born could live for half a minute. I have thought of them when wandering over the Alaskan plains, or sharing his hut with the humble but friendly native of Kamschatka. I have thought of them, and never without a certain degree of retrospective pleasure not unmingled with sadness. For many of my companions in that lonesome glen have since gone to the Land o’ the Leal. Ah! that Land o’ the Leal, what a happy place it must be, if only from the fact that we shall meet there the dear ones we lost on earth, and—there will be no more sad “good-byes!”

When we awoke the next morning after we had listened to the moaning of the snow-wind through the forest, through the harsh-leaved forest, there was an unusual silence. There was no wind now, and the cold was intense. It was dark, too, but soon the drift was dragged from our window, and a cheerful face peeped in at us. It was Ritchie’s.

“Are ye all alive and kicking, lads?”

“All alive, Ritchie, thank you. The kicking has all to come.”

“Well, bear a hand, and rig up; the breakfast is ready to serve.”

And such a breakfast when we did leave our room! The fish and the eggs were enough in themselves to make a hungry man’s mouth water; but then, besides, there was a grill, the very odour of which I wonder did not bring all the wild beasts in the forest around us.

Castizo’s bed was in this room, but it had been made up long ago. And there was Castizo waiting for us. He had been out, too, for his potro boots lay near the door, and his feet were encased in cosy slippers.

“This is perfectly jolly,” said Peter.

“It is delightful!”

“It is delightful!” from Jill and me.

“I’ve been sitting here reading a little book,” said our cacique, “and now and then comparing our present life with that of the poor people who have to winter in London or New York. The cold, damp wind out of doors, the slush and the snow, the rattle and roar of wheels, the vulgar shouting in the streets, the questionable viands, and, worse than all, the people one meets at breakfast and dinner. Here we have chosen our companions—we have chosen each other; we like each other, and will help one another.”

“That we will,” said Ritchie.

“A good cook, a capital sailor-man, the broad, brave shoulders of a Lawlor, the best of Indians, and three young men of the world. Should we not be happy and thankful? Peter, help me to a little more of Pedro’s mush. And, Pedro, bring the teapot. Thank you. Place it near the fire again.”

“Yes,” I said, “independence is a truly delightful thing.”

“The world is uncharitable—I mean the civilised world: in towns and cities you hardly know how to look and live to please people. If you seem independent, they hate you; if you are obsequious, they despise you. Jill, here is a tit-bit—ostrich gizzard, my boy! Pedro, have you seen to the dogs?”

“But,” I said, “even in cities you find wheat among the chaff.”

Castizo laughed lightly.

“Yes,” he said, “an ounce of wheat to a hundredweight of chaff. My dear boy, I know life; and I advance that if you put the souls of city folks through a sieve, you might find a good big honest one in a thousand. No more, I assure you.”

Snow was the order of the winter in our present home. But this did not keep us within doors. On the contrary, I think it added to our pleasures. We had splendid riding. Even Peter enjoyed it, and although he had many a tumble, much to the delight of Nadi, falling among soft snow, he said, was not half so disagreeable as tumbling among the rocks. The snow gave the bumps a chance.

Two things we might have done, but could not. Skating on the frozen lake would have been delightful, only we had no skates. Sleighing would have been pleasant, too, but we had not the tools to make a sledge.

We had a rude species of tobogganing, however, and in fine weather this was a constant pleasure to us. The Indians had never seen anything of the kind before, and entered into the fun heart and soul. Even Nadi liked it.

Sometimes Peter condescended to descend the toboggan slide with her as her knight. But as she always would insist on taking “that blessed baby”—as Peter called it—with her, it was at times a little awkward, particularly when they disappeared all three in a snow-drift, or when they flew off the board half-way down the hill, and rolled the rest of the way. “Baby’s a brick, though,” Peter said; “the little rascal never cries, just squeezes the snow out of its eyes with its knuckles, winks to me, and laughs.”

Yes, tobogganing is great fun. It was the beavers, by the way, who first taught the Indians of the Rocky Mountains the game. Then the Indians taught the whites; and I think it is far from fair not to erect a monument to the beaver in some public thoroughfare in Montreal or New York.

Peter and I, with the assistance of others, established a kind of circus. This was also great fun. The feats of horsemanship performed in our circle before the log-hut doors, I have never seen surpassed at any hippodrome at home or in Paris.

We had old men riders, bare-back, standing and sitting.

We had young boy riders.

We had girl riders. We had infant riders.

We had lasso performances and bolas play. Before the winter drew to a close, I verily believe that our company was good enough to make our fortune in any large city of Europe.

Peter once undertook to ride a Pampas pony, or rather a dwarf horse.

“It seems simple,” said Peter, “and I won’t have far to fall.”

Well, if Peter had studied for a month how best to amuse these Indians, he could not have fallen upon a better plan. “Fallen” did I say? Yes; and it seemed all falling, for Peter was no sooner on than he was off again; and the variety of different methods that pony adopted in spilling him proved it to be a little horse of the rarest versatility. No wonder Nadi clapped her hands as she shouted with laughter, crying—

“O, O, Angleese! Angleese!” Had this been an intentional display of Peter’s powers, it really would have been exceedingly clever; but tumbling off a horse came natural to Peter, so that instead of trying to fall off in a great many different ways, as the Indians all thought he was, he was all the while doing his very best to keep on top, as he called it.

Peter’s performance brought down the house, but it brought up his bumps again.

If tobogganing, hunting in the plains and forest, and fishing in the rivers, with circus riding, were our outdoor games, at night innocent games of cards, story-telling, singing, and dancing, helped to pass away the time till ten o’clock, after which all was silence in and around the camp and huts, except the doleful chant of the sentries.

The Indians by day, however, were certainly not always playing. They were often enough busy manufacturing various articles from silver, iron, copper, and wood, to say nothing of pipes. All these would barter well when spring came round and they met once more the white men of Santa Cruz, or even of Sandy Point itself. All this was men’s work; meanwhile the women were busy sewing skins.

Peter had already been presented with his little skunk-skin poncho or capa, and very proud he was thereof.

“Aren’t you fellows jealous!” he said, as he went marching up and down to show it off. “Just wait till you get a little poncho; there will be no holding you for pride.”

So one way or another the winter wore away far more quickly than would be imagined. Of course, Jill and I often thought of home and mother and Mattie. Sometimes our hearts would give an uneasy thud, as we remembered how long a time it was since we had seen them, or even heard from them.

What if our darling mother were dead! This would indeed be the greatest grief that could befall us. We could only hope for the best, and pray.

Every Sunday all through the winter we had reading and prayers in the log hut. Jeeka and his wife were constant in their attendance, and if Nadi did not understand all that was said, let us hope she learned enough for her soul’s salvation.

Grief had not yet visited our little settlement, but, alas! it was to come.

August was nearly at a close, and we were beginning to look forward to the coming of spring, when a more bitter snowstorm came on than any we had yet known. The snow was not so very deep, but the wind was very high and keen.

Early on the second morning of the second day of the storm, Nadi came running to our log-house, and, wringing her hands as if in terrible grief, asked for Peter.

“Nadi, what is it?” cried Peter, in great concern to see her tears. “What has happened?”

Nadi spoke English now. That showed how great and real was her anguish.

“Oh, come, come!” she cried; “come you, quick, plenty quick. De leetle coqueet, he die. Oh, come!”

Peter never stayed even to put his cap on, but hurried away through the snow with Nadi towards the Indian toldos.

It was too true. The poor baby was in extremis. Peter bent over it as he sat down. It knew him, and smiled in his face.

Peter gave it his forefinger, as he was wont to do, and this the poor little thing clutched with its soft hand, and held until it died. Child though it was, holding Peter’s finger seemed to give it confidence. It was as if some one was leading it safely through the dark valley.

I had never seen tears in Peter’s eyes till that morning.

Let us hope poor baby soon saw the Light.

Chapter Twenty Eight.

The Dreaded River-Lion—Adventure on the Plains—Lost in a Snowstorm—“To Sleep were Death.”

The grief of Jeeka and his wife Nadi for the death of their infant was positively painful to witness. Every one in the camp seemed also to partake in it. There was a kind of wake held the night before the funeral, and the wailing was greater than anything I have heard in Ireland on a like occasion.

At the grave, the horse on which Nadi and baby had travelled all across the Pampa was thrown and strangled, and all the child’s trinkets and playthings and even clothes were burned. The body was rolled in a guanaco robe and laid to rest, the clods were heaped in, and snow put over these. Then we all came silently back.

Next day everything was in statu quo except that baby was not there. We could trace signs of deep grief and a sleepless night in Jeeka’s and Nadi’s faces but they made no reference of any kind to their dead and gone darling.

One calm cold day, Ritchie and Jill returned from the river to say that they had seen a most wondrous sight. A huge animal with terrible teeth and eyes, shaped somewhat like a tiger, had rushed up out of one of the deepest, darkest pots or pools and attacked a native dog which was standing near.

The fight had been sharp and fierce, but before assistance could be rendered, the beast, whatever it was, had conquered the dog and dragged him down under water.

Gol de Rio. Gol de Rio,” said Jeeka, who had heard the account. “Not go near. He all same as one Gualichu. Bad man! So, so.”

“Bad man here, or bad man there,” said Ritchie, “I mean to have a shot at him.”

We backed Ritchie in his wish, but as there was evidently no chance of getting Jeeka to come with us, we determined to set out ourselves next day.

We did, and waited four hours in ambush. But all in vain. The Gol de Rio, or water-lion, never showed face.

“He is gorging on the poor dog,” said Ritchie. “Let us give him a rest for a day or two.”

“I’ve a plan,” said Jill. “Let us tether the guanaco lamb to the bank, and stand by with our guns.”

The lamb was a poor forsaken little beast we had found half-dead beneath a tree, and taken home and tried to rear.

The plan was feasible. We went very early next morning and tied the wee thing up to a bush near the bank. It seemed to know there was danger as if by instinct, for it struggled and cried most plaintively and pitifully.

Meanwhile we hid behind a rock, with our guns in position.

We had not long to wait. First there was a ripple on the pool, then a monster brownish-yellow head was protruded, with paws near it paddling lightly as if for support. The face was whiskered, and the eyes looked extremely fierce. The beast looked cautiously round first, then it eyed the shivering lamb, and at once made for the bank.

When near its intended victim, it stopped as if about to spring, moving its long moustache rapidly fore and aft, as a cat does.

Three rifles rang out sharp and clear in the wintry air. Next moment the huge beast had turned on its back, and its death struggle was a brief one.

This was Jeeka’s Gol de Rio. He certainly merited the title; a more repulsive specimen of river otter I have never seen, before nor since.

We dragged him home with a lasso, and the Indian women and children ran screaming to their toldos when they saw him.

I was told afterwards that this river-lion had more than once seized children who were playing on the banks of the stream, and I can easily believe it.

Do horses, I have often wondered, possess any instinct to warn them of coming danger? The following adventure would seem to prove that they do.

One bright clear morning, Jill and I made up our minds to ride over to the lake in the plains and bring home, if possible, some birds. We took with us Ossian and Bruce. There was not a cloud in the sky when we set out, and all the surface of the ground was covered with hard dry snow. Unlike Patagonian Indians, white men cannot go very long without food; so Jill and I took a good solid luncheon in our bags, quite enough for ourselves and the dogs also. We had a snack behind our saddles also, so that I might say no huntsmen ever started in quest of sport under happier auspices.

“Good-bye, Peter, if you won’t come,” “Good-bye, Peter, if you won’t come,” we cried.

“My bumps!” shouted Peter.

So we waved him a laughing “Adieu!” and went cantering off.

“As the frost is so hard and the day so fine,” I said to Jill, “I think we’re sure to find some feathers on the lake, for it seldom if ever freezes.”

“We’re sure to, Jack. And won’t we look fine, clattering into camp to-night with the ducks and the geese all dangling to our saddles.”

“Peter will be jealous.”

“Poor Peter! it’s a pity he can’t ride better.”

So on we trotted, talking and laughing right merrily. Presently Jill said—

“Sing, Jack; I can give you a bit of a bass.”

I did sing, a rattling old saddle-song that I had learned at the Cape. Jill joined in, the horses’ feet kept excellent time, and the very dogs barked with glee as they went galloping on in front.

“Could anything be more jolly?” said Jill.

“Nothing in the world, Jill. I feel as happy as a village maid on her marriage morning.”

“Yes, and happiness and hunger go together. I think I could pick a bit already.”

“Jill, Jill! you’re just the same now as when a boy. Put anything in your pocket, and there never was any keeping your hands from it.”

At long last the black water of the lake appeared, and our happiness came to a crisis when we noticed numerous flocks of birds on it, grey, black, and white.

We would have a good bag.

We trotted round the water’s edge and finally dismounted.

All the forenoon we walked about, and had many a good shot. Bruce duly retrieved everything, and Ossian sat on the bank and looked on.

Then we went back to our horses, fed them and had our own luncheon; resting a good hour afterwards on the snow. The sun was shining so brightly that we did not feel the cold.

It was by this time pretty far on in the afternoon, but we had not yet made up the splendid bag we had promised ourselves; so we determined to continue the sport, although we already felt somewhat tired, the ground being rather rough.

This time we took the precaution to tie our horses to the calipaté or barberry bushes, with lassoes.

The day drew so quickly to a close—apparently, I mean, for time does slip fast away when one is enjoying himself.

When the sun sank at last, we found ourselves two good miles at least from our homes. We could not do the distance on such ground, and carrying so much game, under an hour.

“Never mind, Jill,” I said; “there will be a moon, you know.”

“Half a moon, but that’ll be enough. I believe I shall quite enjoy the canter home under the stars.”

“What is that yonder, Jill?” As I spoke, I pointed to a long white ridge that was slowly rising over the wooded hills and sierras.

“That is cloud!”

“I hope we are not going to have a change of weather.”

“Never mind, we’ll soon get home. An hour and a half will do it. Hurry up.”

We had been looking for a few minutes more at the ground beneath our feet than at anything else. When I glanced along the lake edge again, I could not believe my eyes, for a moment or two.

Jill gazed in the same direction.

“Our horses were gone!”

Far away on the plain we could descry two black moving spots. These were our steeds, but miles beyond our power of recall.

Night had quite fallen before we left the lake side, for we had to go right back to the places from which our horses had stampeded for our guanaco mantles.

The stars were shining brightly, and high in the heavens was Jill’s half-moon; so that for a time we had light enough. We gave many an anxious glance towards the west, however. We naturally wondered whether our horses had gone straight home. If so, assistance would speedily come. It was unlikely, however, for, excited with having obtained their freedom, the animals would be more apt to make for the forest, there to play truant for a time and crop the twiglets—already breaking into bud and burgeon—from their favourite bushes and trees.

By the time we had walked about three miles we felt very tired indeed, and agreed to abandon our game. We put them, therefore, in a heap on the plain, and continued our journey. But for that ominous cloud bank which was rising higher and higher, we should have taken the journey more easy, and perhaps have rested a while.

On we walked, almost dragging our weary limbs now. The night still continued fine, the moon seemed to change into molten silver, the stars literally sparkled and shone like diamonds in their background of dark ethereal blue.

There was something almost appalling, however, in the gradual approach of that great sheet of cloud, rising grim and dark on the western horizon. It came on and up more swiftly every minute, and soon covered one whole third of the heavens.

On and up, on and upwards, swallowing star after star, constellation after constellation, and now it has reached the moon itself, and for a moment only its outer edge is a rim of golden light; then the moon too disappears, is buried in the black advancing mass. Almost at the same time the wind comes moaning over the plain, accompanied with driving snow. It increases every minute, and soon it is nearly impossible to walk against it.

It is almost a hurricane now; it moans no longer, it roars, shrieks, howls around us, and the snow freezes into cakes upon our garments, into ice on our faces, into icicles on our hair.

Sometimes we turn round and walk with our backs to the terrible blast. Often we fall, but we help each other up, for we are hand in hand as brothers ever should be.

Jill whispers—it seems but a whisper though he is shouting—in my ear at last.

“I can do no more, brother. I am sinking.”

I feel glad—glad of the excuse to sink down among the snow and rest a little. Only a little. We creep close together, with our backs to the storm, pulling up our mantles round our heads and drawing in our legs for warmth. Oh, those good guanaco mantles, what a blessing they are now!

I keep talking to Jill and he to me, though we each have to shout into the other’s ear.

I remember calling—

“Jill, we must not sleep. Are you drowsy?”

“No, not very.”

“To sleep were death.”

After a few moments, in an agony of desperation, thinking and fearing more for my brother than myself, I spring up, and again we try to wrestle on. The dogs keep close to our heels, though we hardly can see them, so covered are they with snow and ice.

In vain, in vain. We can go no farther, and once more take shelter beneath our robes of skin. Ossian and Bruce creep partly between us.

We talk no more now, but determinedly try to keep awake.

A whole hour must have passed in this way. I am not on the plain now, it seems to me. I am wandering with my brother over the moorland at home, where when boys we met the convict. But the moor is strangely changed; it is all a-glimmer with radiant light. Every bush, branch, twig, and twiglet seem formed of coloured light or flame; the scene is gorgeous, enchanting.

Suddenly, all is dark. My brother is wrenched away from my grasp, and—I awake shrieking. I awake to find myself lying on the log-house floor on a couch of guanaco skins.

My brother is safe, and even the dogs.

In an hour’s time we are both well enough to get up and refresh ourselves with a cup of Pedro’s yerba maté.

But our escape had been little short of miraculous. We had wandered a long distance out of the track, for the wind had gone round, and were entirely buried when found, only faithful Ossian and Bruce’s voices had been heard high above the roaring storm.

We owed our lives to them.

Chapter Twenty Nine.

The Fight ’twixt Winter and Spring—A Never-to-be-Forgotten Evening—Attacked by Northern indians—The Fire.

Would Springtime never come again?

We had expected it weeks ago. The birds and beasts in the forest had expected it too. The former had commenced to sing, the latter had grown unusually active; guanacos had been in search of tender herbage, pumas had been in search of the guanacos. Hungry, lank, dismal-eyed foxes had come down to stare at the toldos when the dogs were eating; and even the armadillos had unrolled themselves from cosy caves and corners, and crawled at night towards the encampment.

Then the new snowstorm had come on all so suddenly too.

The denizens of the woods had taken shelter under the trees; in some of these the branches, snow-laden, had dropped groundward, forming quite a series of tents in the forest. In these the Indians had found whole colonies of great gawky-looking ostriches, and had made a harvest in feathers.

Lawlor, wading through the snow one day, and peeping in under the trees, came face to face with a puma. It would have gone hard with him had not Ritchie, rifle in hand, been close alongside and shot the huge beast while it was in the very act of springing.

But the dreary season came to an end at last, and the snow began to melt and to fly away. Then winter and spring seemed to fight together for the mastery. Winter riding on the wings of a fierce west wind that roared harshly through the woods and bent the trees before it. Winter driving before him battalions of threatening clouds, white, grey, and black, and trying to blot out the sun. Frost, with his crystal cohorts, struggling for every inch of ground, fighting for the lake of the plains, which had succumbed to the last terrible storm and was hardened over; fighting for the streams, the rapids, the cataracts.

The sun, in all his beauty and splendour, shooting out every now and then into the rifts of blue, and sending his darts groundwards at every unprotected spot, each ray a ray of hope for the long-enslaved earth. Sunshine glittering on the leaves of evergreen shrubs, shining on the needles of pines, and adorning every budding twig with radiant dew-drops, that erst were crystals of ice.

Spring victorious on the higher grounds, and sending down torrents and floods to assist its triumph in the lowlands and plains.

Winter at last vanquished and gone, and forced to fly even from under the trees and every shady nook.

Now comes a warm soft breeze from the north and the east, and all the land responds to it. Torrents still pour from the hills, but the woods grow green in little over a week, and wild flowers carpet every knoll and bank.

We are all active now in the estancia and in the camp. We are preparing for the long march back over the Pampa to Santa Cruz, where Castizo says he doubts not his little yacht is already lying safely at anchor, and his daughter anxiously waiting his appearance.

Horses are now better fed and tended, and regularly exercised day after day. Saddles are repaired, and stirrups and bridles seen to. The women are busier than ever with their needles. Boys and girls are twining sinews for the strings of bolas and for lassoes. The dogs seem wild with delight. They all appear to know we will soon be on the march once more, and they dearly love their life on the plains.

Our stores are nearly exhausted—I mean our coffee, tea, maté and sugar. Flesh is still abundant, and always is. So no one will be sorry to leave this lovely forest nook, albeit we have spent many a happy day in it.

“In three days more,” said Castizo one evening, as we all sat round the blazing logs, “we will be ready to start.”

“I feel a little sorry in leaving this place,” said Jill.

“There is nothing but leave-takings in this world,” said Castizo; “and the happier one is the quicker the time flies, and the sooner seems to come this leave-taking.”

“Never mind,” said Peter; “if our good cacique would only say he would take me, I should be right glad to return with him another day.”

“You will come back, I dare say, sir?” said Ritchie.

“If spared, yes. I may not spend another winter here though, for the simple reason that I will not have such pleasant company. I am fond of loneliness, still I shall ever look back to this winter as to some of the happiest months ever I spent in all my chequered career.”

“So shall we all,” I made bold to say.

“Hear, hear,” said Peter and Jill.

“You’ve been happy, Pedro?”

“Ah! señor, multo, multo.”

“Peter, your pipe.”

“Is that a command,” said Peter.

“Certainly. Am I not still your cacique?”

Peter got his pipe and commenced to play, and presently, after a gentle knock at the door, in came the giant Jeeka and his wife Nadi. They stood at some little distance till invited to draw nearer the fire. Then they squatted on a guanaco skin, Jeeka holding his wife’s hand in his lap, and both looking so pleased and happy.

I shall never forget their faces. I have but to place my hand over my eyes at this moment, and I see them once again.

Alas! little did they know what was before them. And little did any one there expect what happened before the sun of another day crimsoned the peaks of the lofty mountains.

Peter, Jill, and I sat long that night in our little room before turning in, talking of home. But Peter had something else to speak about. Need it be said that Dulzura—as he still delighted to call her—formed his chief subject for discourse to-night.

“Oh,” he said, “I only wonder you fellows did not hear my heart going pit-a-pat, when Castizo told us his daughter was coming round in the yacht.”

“My dear Peter,” Jill said, “I do believe you are actually in love.”

“Is it the first time you’ve discovered it, my honest Greenie? Haven’t I cause to be? Was there ever such a lovely or fascinating creature in the world as Dulzura! And I’m a man now, remember. Twenty-one, boys, or I will be in a month.”

He stroked an incipient moustache as he spoke, and appeared savage because Jill and I laughed at him.

“Suppose Dulzura is already engaged?” said Jill, somewhat provokingly.

“Jill, you’re a Job’s comforter,” replied Peter. “Of course, if she is engaged, there’s an end to the matter. I’d enter a convent and turn a father.”

“A pretty father you’d make,” cried Jill, laughing again.

“All right,” said Peter, “Wait till you’re in love, Greenie, and won’t I serve you out just!”

“Well, boys,” I put in, “a happy thought has just occurred to me.”

“Let’s have it.”

“Suppose we cease talking and all go to bed.”

“Right,” cried Peter, jumping up and beginning to undress.

In a few minutes more “good-nights” were said, and we were composing ourselves to sleep. Sleep in this region is deep and heavy, and I may surely add healthy, for one awakens in the morning feeling as fresh as the daisies or the proverbial lark.

I did not seem to have been asleep a quarter of an hour when Peter shook me by the shoulder.

“Jack, Jack,” he was saying, “there is something up.”

Peter was already dressed, and accustomed as I had been to scenes of danger I was soon following his example, though hardly knowing where I was or what I was doing.

“Don’t you hear?” said Peter.

I listened now. In a moment I was as wide awake as ever I have been in my life.

I remember everything that happened that morning as though ’twere but yesterday. It was morning too. Our windows faced the east, and there was a faint glimmering of the dawn already in the sky.

From the direction of the Indian camp, came first a subdued hum of angry voices. These were soon mingled with shouts of men and screams of women and children, and presently there were added the clash of weapons and the ring of revolver shots.

“They are fighting down at the toldos,” said Peter. “Hurry up with your dressing.”

“Whom are they fighting with?”

“I cannot say. It may be mutiny. Either that, or the Northern Indians are on us.”

“Heaven forbid.”

“Here, Greenie!” cried Peter.

“Jill, Jill!” I shouted, “Get up, brother. They are fighting.”

Jill sat up and listened for a moment, then threw himself doggedly back again on his pillow.

“Jill!” I roared, shaking him viciously, “get up, you silly sleepy boy. The Indians are on us.”

Jill appeared fairly roused now. He sprang up and began to hurry on his dress.

We, that is Peter and I, got our revolvers and stuck them in our belts—they were always kept loaded; then we took our swords and sallied out.

“Follow quick, Jill,” were my last words to my brother. “Look out for me and get to my side. We may have to do a bit more back to back work.”

We saw at a glance that it was Northern Indians with whom we had to deal, and quite a large party.

The fight was raging fiercely. Peter and I overtook Ritchie and Lawlor hurrying into the fray, and joined them. Castizo was already there. We could hear his stern words of command, and we noticed too that his revolver emptied many a saddle. Our people were fighting on foot, but fighting well and bravely. The women and children had already fled to the forest.

We came up at the right time, evidently, and the volleys we poured in created the greatest confusion in the ranks of the enemy. They seemed staggered for a little while, and made as if to retreat, but were rallied and came on once more to the charge.

How long we fought I could not say; it might have been ten minutes, or it might have been half an hour.

Suddenly there was a momentary lull, and I looked about me for Jill. He was nowhere to be seen. I shouted to Peter. He had not seen him. I extricated myself from the mêlée as best I could, and hurried back to the log-house. The poor foolish fellow must have gone to sleep again. As it happened, this is precisely what he had done. But, to my horror, I found the log-house surrounded by smoke. It was on fire.

And my brother was there, in its midst.

How I reached the door I never knew. At first I seemed dazed, nor am I certain that at any period of that dreadful night I regained the equilibrium of my senses.

I rushed in through smoke and flames. I could just distinguish my brother’s form lying half-dressed on his couch, but was speedily obliged to retreat.

Then I remember feeling angry with the fire, mad almost. Why should the flames take my brother from me, the being I loved as my own soul? No, no! Save him I must, save him I should! I looked upon the fire as a living thing, as a cruel, remorseless, merciless wild beast. I fought the fire. I defied it. I was calm, though; that is, I was calm as regards the rational sequence of my actions, but in reality I was a maniac for the time being. Do men, I wonder, who do marvellous deeds of daring in the field or lead forlorn hopes, feel and fight as I then did?

With a strength that did not appear to be my own, I tore down the blazing door-posts and door that barred my entrance. Then once more I was in the room. Groping around now, stumbling too, for I could see nothing in the smoke. Ah! here at last I have him; I have him at last now!

Out now I struggle and stagger, and fall choking in the morning air.

Chapter Thirty.

“It is better thus.”

Yes, Jill was saved. He soon revived, and was able to follow me down to the toldos.

My hands were badly burned, but I did not feel pain then. Such a gush of happiness had come over my heart when Jill spoke to me again, that I forgot everything else.

Daylight had by this time spread itself right athwart the sky; and I remember the morning was beautiful with one crimson feathery cloud over the eastern horizon, where the sun was soon to show.

By the time we reached the Indian camp, the battle was over and won. The survivors of the Northern Indians had been beaten back to the woods from which they had sallied, and there was but little fear that they would come again. Too many of their saddles had been emptied to encourage a renewal of the warfare.

It was a sad scene. The tents torn and flapping in the morning breeze, some of them down; broken spears and guns and daggers lying here and there; dead and dying horses; dead and dying men, the anguish of the women, the wailing of the children.

I took all this in at a glance. Then my eyes were riveted on a group at some little distance, and I hastened thither, to find Castizo kneeling beside the tall noble form of the prostrate Prince Jeeka.

He holds out his right hand as I approach; Castizo gives place to me, and I kneel where he had knelt. At his other side crouches Nadi. She is bewildered and silent, grief and anguish depicted in every line of her poor drawn, pinched face.

“Jeeka, Jeeka, are you much hurt? Who has done this?”

“Hurt? Yes. Ya shank, ya shank.” (I am tired and sleepy). “So, so.”

He closed his eyes for a moment. I thought he was gone, but he slowly opened them again, and looked at me.

“Poor Nadi!” he said. “It—was—her brother. So, so.”

This, then, was the key to the awful night’s work. Revenge. Verily these Patagonian Indians are men of like passions with ourselves.

“The Great Good Spirit is come. Jeeka goes—home. Tell me—the story of the—world. So, so.”

These were the last words poor Prince Jeeka ever spoke on earth. He had gone to learn the story of the world, in a better world than ours.

We all came away and left Nadi with her dear husband. Her face had fallen forward on his big broad chest, and she appeared convulsed with grief.

“Leave her a little,” Castizo said. “It is ever better thus.”

In about half an hour, or it might have been less, Peter and I returned.

Nadi had never moved from her position.

“Nadi, my poor woman,” said Peter. “Nadi, Nadi.”

She was still.

Peter touched her shoulder, then turned quickly round to me.

“She does not need our consolation, Jack,” he said, solemnly.

“What,” I cried, “is Nadi dead?”

“Nadi is dead!”

If I have any consolation at all in looking back to the events of that morning, it is to think that Jill and I had told to these poor heathens the sad, sweet story of this world.

Jeeka and his wife are buried side by side on the banks of the river that rolls through the forest, close to the spot where our old log-house stood.

“Amidst the forests of the West,
By a dark stream they’re laid;
The Indian knows their place of rest
Far in the cedar shade.”

Chapter Thirty One.

On the Good Yacht “Magdalena”—“The very Seas used to sing to us”—The Home-Coming—The End.

At sea once more.

At sea in one of the smartest yachts that ever walked the waters like a thing of life.

At sea, and homeward bound. Ah! that was what sent the joyful flush to our cheeks and the glad glitter to our eyes, whenever we chose to think of the fact, and try to realise it.

The Magdalena in which we were sailing was no racer, but a splendid sea craft, and one that, as Ritchie said, could have shown a pair of clean heels to the best tea-ship in the merchant service. And that was saying a deal. She was broad in the beam for a yacht, but consequently safe and comfortable. Her masts were tall, but they were also strong, and she carried such a cloud of canvas that, seen from a distance, she must have looked a perfect albatross.

To say that her decks were as white as snow would be to talk figuratively, but literally they were as white as cocoanut husk and holystone could make them. The sails were really like snow in the sunshine, and there was not a bit of polished wood about her decks, whether in binnacle or capstan, that did not look as if varnished; nor a morsel of brass or copper that did not shine.

There was an awning over the quarter-deck by day, for we were in the tropics, and the sun blazed down with a heat sufficient to soften the pitch, if it did not absolutely make it boil.

Yonder, under the awning, sits Castizo, in a light coat and straw hat, quietly reading a book. Jill and I are walking rapidly up and down the deck, and Dulzura is standing beside Peter. Both are gazing down at the bubbling green water, that goes eddying along the good ship’s sides. Yet I do not think that either Dulzura or he is thinking very much about it.

But why, it may be reasonably asked, are we homeward bound, instead of bearing up for Castizo’s place at Valparaiso? Ah! thereby hangs a tale. And I will endeavour to tell it as it was told to us, on the very last night we spent on the Pampa.

We were barely one day’s journey from the port of Santa Cruz, and were bivouacked in a green cañon under the lee of the west barranca. Not far off were the toldos of our faithful Indians. Alas! we sadly missed Jeeka and poor Nadi, though. Not far off, the horses quietly grazed by the water’s edge.

We sat beside the fire of roots on our guanaco skins for the night was not warm.

There had been silence for a brief space. We were waiting for our maté. Presently it came in steaming bowls.

“Ah! thank you, Pedro. What should we do without you?” said Castizo.

“What, indeed?” “What, indeed?” said Jill and I.

“How anxious your daughter will be,” said Peter. “She has had quite a long time to wait for us.”

Castizo smiled.

“My daughter,” he replied, “will not be idle. She will have gone cruising. She is like me and like her poor mother—she hates inactivity.”

“You have only once before mentioned Miss Castizo’s mother in our hearing,” said Peter.

“True, Peter. But now that we are so soon to part—for you will meet a steamer at Puentas Arenas to take you back to your own country, and we may never meet again—I may as well give you a very brief outline of my life.”

We are all silent, and presently Castizo continued:

“It must be brief indeed; I am but a poor storyteller. Besides, I have but little to tell, and there is a tinge of sorrow over it all.

“I was born of a noble Spanish family, and found myself fatherless and wealthy at a very early age. I was always fond of wild sport and of a nomadic life, and before I had reached the age of twenty-five had visited most parts of the world in my own yacht, and been a soldier to boot. At a ball one night in Madrid I fell deeply in love with a beautiful young lady. She was quite of my own way of thinking as regards a wandering life. I will not dwell upon the happiness of my married life. Suffice it to say that Magdalena became the one bright star in my mental firmament. I do not think any one could have loved each other more than we did. Zenona, whom you, Peter, call Dulzura, was the first pledge of that love. About two years after her birth I accepted a post of great honour in Monte Video, and thither we went to settle down. We even sold our yacht, so content were we with the climate. Then Silvana was born.

“It was about a year after this that I noticed a marked change in my poor wife. She began to look ill. I wish now I had thrown up my post of honour. What did I need with honour, when I had riches and the whole love of such a wife as Magdalena?

“She must have a change. She must go home. I would follow in the course of a year. Ah! my dear friends, it is here the sorrow comes in. She entreated me, she begged of me in tears and anguish, not to ask her to leave me.

“No, no, no. I was obdurate. Oh, I must have been hard-hearted—mad, even.

“She went away. She sailed in a ship bound for France, a Spanish barque.”

Castizo paused, and I could see the tears in his eyes by the light of the fire.

“And the ship was wrecked?” said Peter.

I had never seen Peter look so strange before; he appeared almost wild.

“The ship,” said Castizo, slowly, almost solemnly, “must have foundered at sea, for I never saw nor heard of her more, nor of my poor dear wife and baby. That is my story: that is the key to the seeming mystery of my restlessness, and of my love for being alone at times. That is all.”

“No,” cried Peter, half rising from the recumbent position he had resumed when Castizo began to speak. “No, my friend Castizo; that is not all. That is not all, Jack. Is it?”

“I think not,” I said, and I was almost as excited now as Peter, while Jill, too, sat up with his eyes fixed on Castizo’s face, on which was a look of mingled curiosity and amazement.

I will finish the story,” continued Peter, speaking as slowly as he could. “I knew your daughter Zenona the moment I first saw her at Puentas Arenas. I knew her eyes, her strangely beautiful face; I knew her hair, her wondrous hair. We have her counterpart at home, in the old house by the sea, where dwell Jack’s mother and aunt. You have heard them,”—he pointed to Jill and me—“you have heard them speak of their sister Mattie. Mattie is that counterpart.”

“I do not understand,” said Castizo.

“Nay, but listen, and you shall. The ship in which your poor wife and child were sent home, did not founder at sea. She was wrecked on the coast of Cornwall, and went in pieces next day. Not a timber of her was saved, her very name would have been unknown but that two sailors out of all the crew were saved, and your wife and child.”

“My wife and child! Say those words again!”

“Do not let me raise hopes, my friend, that must end in disappointment. The lady died.”

Castizo fell back with a moan, but sat up once more as Peter went on talking.

“But the child lived; is living now—at least so we must hope, for we left her well. She is their adopted sister Mattie.”

“This is indeed a strange ending to my story. What name did the ship so cast away sail by.”

Peter was silent.

“Neither Jill nor I remember,” I replied. “We are not quite sure we ever heard it. One of the shipwrecked sailors was killed. The other, whose name is Adriano, I have lost sight of for many a long year.”

Castizo’s face fell.

“There was no such man on board the Zenobia. I knew every man in the barque. Ha, Peter, my dear boy, I fear it was someone else’s ship, someone else’s wife and child. Can you give me the date?”

“Alas!” I said, “I cannot even do that for certain. It was a fisherman’s boat that saved those who were saved. It was the fisherman’s wife who kept the child, till by accident she became our sister. There is no other clue.”

“Was there not a large chest,” said Peter.

“Yes,” I said. Then I described the box most minutely to Castizo. It was such a strange box, taller than it was broad, the length and width the same, and painted blue.

It was Castizo’s turn now to show anxiety and excitement. He made me describe the box over and over again. I even took a pencil and sketched it from memory on a fly-leaf of the Bible dear mother had given me when a boy.

Then Castizo said, “That was my poor Magdalena’s box. Thank God, our child lives.”

He put but one more question to me.

“Was there nothing of value in the chest? Were there no papers, money, or rings or watches?”

“Nothing save clothes. I’ve often and often heard Mummy Gray, as Mattie calls her, wonder at that.”

“Then I’m more than ever convinced the chest was hers. It had a false bottom. The box was specially prepared for the voyage. Oh, boys, Heaven, in sending you to Puentas Arenas, condescended to answer my prayers. Now, instead of returning to Valparaiso, my yacht shall take you back to England.”

That, then, was what occurred on our last night on the Pampa; and the story begun by Castizo, and so opportunely finished by Peter with a little assistance from Jill and me, was the cause of our being here altogether, homeward bound in the good sea yacht Magdalena.

That was indeed an idyllic voyage. Even to Jill and me it was idyllic, ten times more so must it have been to Peter and Dulzura.

With the exception of a week in the doldrums while crossing the line, we had glorious weather all the way, with just the breezes a sailor loves, enough to fill the sails and carry us merrily onwards.

The very seas used to sing to us as they went seething past and away astern; and on sighting the dear chalky cliffs of England, the gulls that came out in flocks to meet us seemed to shriek us a welcome, and tell us all was well.

Perhaps we ought to have come farther up the Channel than we did, and sailed right into the great naval seaport, where dear father used to be stationed.

But no. We would do nothing of the sort, but—the weather being fine and only a gentle breeze now blowing—go right into the little bay, and anchor before our own door.

And so we did.

Yonder it was, dear old-fashioned Trafalgar Cottage. We all looked at it through the glass. Nothing altered, nothing. Balcony, garden, railings, and climbers all the same.

But there were no signs of life about, though smoke came from the chimney.

Oh dear, how a sailor’s heart does beat with anxiety when he reaches once more his native land; and how he does keep worrying and wondering whether his relations and friends are alive and well!

We are in the bay now, and the anchor is let go. What a delicious sound is that of the chain running out! No music in the world is half so sweet.

“Jack, Jack!” cries Jill, who was forward in the bows, the wind blowing off the land. “Run, Jack, run!”

I rushed forward.

“What is it, Jill? What is it?”

“Robert bringing round Trots. Hurrah!”

So it was. The same old Robert. The same old Trots.

“Look again. Look, look! Yonder is Aunt Serapheema getting in. And darling mother in the doorway.”

We were near enough to shout.

And shout we did. Peter joined in with a will, and Ritchie and Lawlor joined to help us.

Jill and I even crept out along bowsprit and jib-boom, and waved our handkerchiefs and shouted again.

Was there ever such an home-coming in the world I wonder!

Auntie knows our voices. Mother waves back to us.

“Call away the boat!”

In a few minutes more, rowed by the sturdy arms of Lawlor and Ritchie, the little boat is bounding over the water.

Then it is beached, and mother, half hysterical and wholly in tears, does not know which of us to hug first.

And the fact is she does not know till we tell her which is Jack and which is Jill.

“I’m Jack, mother;” “I’m Jill, mother,” we say.

Then we go all up home together.

Mattie was well, but away at school. She returned next day, however, and Jill and I were half afraid of her, so tall and beautiful had she become. But dear Mattie was self-possessed enough, though we semi-civilised sailors were shy.

This was a never-to-be-forgotten day. We had brought Mattie—we would always call her Mattie—a father and a sister. For this box was the box, and that is saying enough.

For many voyages after this, Jill and I sailed together in the same ships. And very often Ritchie and Lawlor were our shipmates.

We never saw nor heard anything more of Adriano. That was a little morsel of mystery never cleared up.

Castizo settled down in England, having bought property not far from the little churchyard where his dear wife is sleeping. He is there now, though he is getting old. With him live Peter and his wife Dulzura, as he still calls her, and it is ever a pleasure to meet them, and oftentimes, I scarcely need say, we talk of the dear old days on the Pampas and our life in the Land of the Giants.

Alas, poor Jill, though! It is sad to record how we were parted at last. We who thought the same thoughts, dreamt the same dreams, and were seldom separate by night or by day. We who had come through so many wild and stormy adventures hand in hand, I might say, to be parted so strangely.

We had come off a long voyage to the Arctic ice, and were together in London. We left each other but for an hour, it was agreed. I was back in time at the appointed place, but poor Jill never appeared. I never saw my brother again. No one could find out, though all search was made, whither he had gone, or been taken!

Long years have passed away since then. I have fallen heir to our long lost estates. Mother and aunt live with me in our noble home.

Mattie is my wife.

They say I look a sadder man.

This may be so. Yet I live in hope that poor Jill and I are sure to meet again some day—somewhere. And when lying awake at night, thinking about the past, I sometimes seem to hear a voice which I know to be my brother’s, saying—

“Come to me, Jack; come to me, for I cannot come to you.”

The End.

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