Most of the nomads had had some slapping acquaintance with mosquitoes during the night, and the showing of bites, swellings, lumps, etc., only ended when The Jehu ordered the bugle to be sounded for an onward move. We were well under way before half the lamentations had been entered in the station complaint book.
Bidding adieu to Polvareda, where the green fields of alfalfa show the march of progress, we pushed forward, but as we left we were unable to decide whether it was a desire to escape observation (and, perhaps, the too-effusive thanks of the lady members of the party), or a violent toothache, which caused our host to conceal himself in a huge blanket wrapped around his head as we left, but we fear it was toothache that necessitated the extra wrappings.
We had not gone far on our journey before we crossed the bridge over Las Conchas. The manager of the next section met us soon afterwards, and we inspected the cattle on his domains. On our way from Polvareda to Michelot we passed the emporium of the Universal Provider of the North, in other words, "the stores," where most of the necessities and many of the luxuries of life can be obtained. The Saint can never resist the desire of a bargain, and others of the party were anxious to see all that the stores contained, so we made a halt and inundated the building, where everything was extraordinarily neat and clean, shelves piled high with bales of bright-coloured cottons, cloths, and handkerchiefs; hats hanging in long lines, brilliant saddle-cloths, pipes, knives, tobacco, axes, leather goods and harness, every variety of tinned foods, barrels of flour, sugar, etc., all arranged with precision, and showing cleanliness and method at every turn. Some men were sitting on the benches, smoking and drinking and chatting together, for apparently "the stores" constitutes the local rendezvous and news agency for miles around.
The Saint at once made purchases, for no place is stamped on her memory unless she has spent money there. She wanted to make the whole party presents of hats, handkerchiefs, or pipes, but she was restrained, and ultimately satisfied her generosity by choosing the best saddle-cloth the establishment could supply, and one or two hats. We went into the living-rooms of the storekeeper, and found the same attractive neatness there. A gramophone occupied a side table, and skins and pictures were hanging on the walls. The storekeeper's wife and her sister were attractive Englishwomen; there were two or three children running about, but none of them could speak anything but their father's native language. After this inspection we drove on, and we are glad to be able to register the fact that Our Guest for once acted up to the first part of the old adage, "Earn sixpence a day and live up to it." The Jehu's coach had stayed behind for a while, to allow The Instigator to observe and note a great many things which were no business of his at all, and the peons had likewise remained, but The Saint, having fulfilled her mission of purchasing whenever possible, was content, and anxious to get on to the Section house for a rest before her afternoon ride, so The Chaperon drove on with his coach, and we are assured, on what we consider good authority, that when Our Guest perceived a closed gate in the way, and no peon at hand, he leapt from the carriage (perhaps "flew" would be a better word) and opened that gate. Possibly he had been fired with ambition to earn money while inspecting those crimson and blue handkerchiefs at the stores, for we know he appreciates "colours"; but, whatever his motive, he did open that gate, and let it be recorded to the honour of his fellow-passengers that his action was not allowed to pass unappreciated or unrewarded. When all the party were collected at Michelot estancia house, lunch was served on the verandah by a dour-looking Oriental, who apparently combined the duties of cook and parlourmaid in his own somewhat yellow person, and very well he performed his task, but as he went silently about his business of serving this large party, which he did with a slow precision and apparent utter disregard of his master's orders, he reminded us irresistibly of the soi-disant American definition of "Life," and we began to wonder whether it were not a Chinaman who summed up existence in the words, "After all, Life is only one d——d thing after another."
A short siesta followed lunch, and after an early tea everyone mounted horses or carriages and went forth to see the sights of the Section—everyone, that is to say, save The Chaperon, who had other work to do; he it was who discovered and averted what might have been a disaster. Some members of the party were quite content as long as they were given three cups of tea, others fancied cocktails, and some babbled for cocoa. It was suddenly found that the supply of this last useful article was running short. The Kid not being a cocoa-drinker, casually suggested filling up the tin with tannin extract or dust; she said "it looked the same and nobody need smell it," but The Chaperon declined to resort to subterfuges and rode off to the stores to supply a deficiency caused by his own lack of attention.
At Michelot, as at Polvareda, great progress has been made of late years, alfalfa laid down, fences and wells made, and the cattle are improving yearly. Our last sight, before the inspection for the day was finished, was a wonderful rodeo of 3,000 cattle, which we viewed from the vantage point of the banks of a newly made reservoir. It was a striking picture, which will not easily be erased from the memory of those who saw it. The cattle, with their long continuous lowing, were rounded up below us, and away on the horizon the sun was setting with the glory one never sees better elsewhere than over a plain, leaving, as it rapidly sank from sight, marvellous shades of gold and crimson on the fantastically shaped clouds. Save for the animals and their drivers just around us, the whole vast space seemed so still and empty, yet on every hand were traces of man's labour and skill, conquering a tract of land which was almost valueless a few short years back.
On our return to the house we found dinner for us on the verandah. This was a delightfully cool method of taking food, but rather apt to attract beasties, and although the philosophers and friends of the party arranged the lights to keep away insects as much as possible, and succeeded in their efforts, some members of the party preferred to take no risks and dined with veils wrapped around their heads, only leaving their mouths available. The Wild Man caused some excitement before we sat down to dinner by introducing us to a beast he called a "railway insect." It certainly strongly resembled a railway train, with its green light on its head, red at the tail, and luminous yellow lights all over its caterpillar-like body; it was a most interesting discovery, and the Wild Man went up in everyone's estimation for a few minutes. The Oriental again served us with silent steadiness. It was suggested that one of our "boys" should assist him in the task of waiting on the party of twelve, but notwithstanding the fact that he had been told he might kick round any boy he chose to make an assistant, he waived aside all outside help with the words "no good," and continued on his way imperturbably.
The Instigator, with The Delineator and The Jehu, had a long discussion after dinner on various Argentine subjects too deep for the ordinary mortal, though The Wild Man and The Chaperon seemed to be trying to take an intelligent interest in the conversation. Our Guest sat silent, looked sad, and on being offered a penny for his thoughts, he murmured that he was wondering whether he would be allowed any sleep to-night. Doubtless he felt wearied, because, as it is Sunday, The Chaperon had been allowed to take a half-day off for his own amusements, and Our Guest, perhaps stimulated by his financial success of the morning, offered to fulfil the duties of chaperon during his absence; but we regret to say that we cannot candidly advise Our Guest to take up chaperoning as a means of livelihood, for though willing and tactful, he lacks the long training and apprenticeship necessary for continual service in this arduous work.
The ladies seemed happier, for they had noted the mosquito nets over each bed in their room, and they looked forward to a peaceful night. We had our usual communication with Our Hostess over the telephone before retiring, and received and gave satisfactory reports from both sides.
A correspondent wishes to know if any of our readers can name the author of these lines:—
"Heaven gives sleep to the bad, in order that the good may be undisturbed." He would also like to know if this generally accepted quotation is quite correct, or whether the "un" is a misprint. Replies to "O.G.," c/o THE TACURU.
Owing to the innumerable applications which we have received for advertising space in our widely circulated periodical, we have decided to open our columns to advertisements at the rate of 50 cents per line, applications to be sent to "The Advertisement Editor," THE TACURU Offices, c/o The Jehu, First Coach. All orders must be prepaid.
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WANTED.—Bricklayers who can build straight.—Apply Manager, Michelot.
RIDING TAUGHT by a lady, side-saddle or astride; fees go to Charity.—Apply "T.S.," c/o TACURU Offices.
BOOT CLEANING undertaken in best style. Gents', per pair, $1; Ladies', per pair, for the asking.—Orders received by "T.C.," Offices of this Paper.
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Monday, March 28th, 1910.
Owing to the care with which the mosquito nets had been put up, there were few complaints of bites when the party assembled for breakfast, but the conversation chiefly degenerated into an argument on phonetics. The different rooms held various views on the harmonizing of sounds. Had it been a glee competition we should undoubtedly have given the award to the verandah party. Sleeping on the bricks seems to bring out the sweetness of a treble voice as nothing else can do. The Saint and My Lady both remarked that they were very fond of music, but they could not appreciate being awakened from their beauty sleeps, by the announcement in a raucous voice of "No, thank you." They do not wish for a moment to imply that The Kid was not perfectly justified in refusing whatever she did refuse, but they would like her in future to confine her conversations to the daytime if possible, and to leave their nights in peace. It was a happy thought on the part of The Jehu to suggest a picnic at the Waters Meet to-day, before our forward move on to Los Moyes, and after breakfast we started out. First we went to inspect the site where the new house is to be built, then on to the pretty little monte near by, where some picturesque photographs were taken of the cavalcade of riders. We paused in this tiny monte, for it is an intensely interesting spot from a botanical point of view, and with care and attention should be so for some years to come. In an extraordinary small compass this wood contains more varied specimens of trees than one would ordinarily see in a day's journey. So on to Waters Meet. Here one is afforded an opportunity for studying the watershed of this portion of Argentina. Three rivers meet here, the Concha, the Calchaqui, and the Northern Salado. The latter is the only perennial river in that region; it rises in the snowy peaks of the Andes, in the province of Salta, miles away, and it is not to be wondered at, that, though it is a slow-moving river and meanders through the Gran Chaco, in the times of floods its swollen waters overflow their banks and flood immense tracts of land. Thomas Page, an American Admiral, in the year 1855, navigated this river from its junction with the Parana to the spot where we were to-day, but when he went up it there was so little water in the river that he had to give up the idea of continuing his pioneer task of exploration. It had been his intention to open up the river for trade, and there is no reason why this should not be done at some future date. The Calchaqui goes under different names at various places. It rises on the great swamps on the North-East of the Santa Fe Land Company's territory, and flows through a chain of lakes and canadas until it runs into the huge laguna "Del Palmar," and thence along what used to be the Eastern boundary of the Santa Fe Land Company's lands, until it joins the Salado.
The Calchaqui must drain at least 150,000 acres of land, and the Rio Concha has a watershed of about 60 or 70 thousand acres. It is not known what the area of the watershed of the Salado is, but it must be immense; therefore it can be understood that the meeting-place of the waters of these three rivers is an interesting spot geographically, and we were all glad to have seen it. On our arrival at the Water Meet we had our first introduction to the native "asado," and we all hoped it would not be the last. The peons collected (apparently from nowhere), in less time than it takes to write about, sticks and odds and ends for a fire, over the ashes of which they broiled the meat, holding it over the heat on long skewers of wood. The meat was brought to us cooked, still on these skewers, and each one cut off, or had cut off for them by The Jehu, the portion he or she preferred, and a very hearty and merry meal was made by all. The resulting silence of repletion was only broken by a murmur from The Saint of "My heart is full," which sentiment, anatomically amended, was echoed by all.
When active exertion was once more possible everyone repaired to the banks of the Waters Meet, and a spot being found where there were no dead fish lying about, the ladies (under the tutorship of Our Guest and The Jehu) indulged in a little rifle-shooting at bottles. We fear that we cannot record any marvellous marksmanship on their part, for the bottles were still bobbing about on the water when the ladies' party retraced their steps to the "camp." A cup of tea was suggested before the returning drive, and it was thought possible (though not probable) that The Kid might be useful on this occasion. However any hopes in this direction were speedily dispelled when (after a great deal of noise and talk) she appeared with a thick black liquid, which proved absolutely undrinkable. True it was poured from a tea-pot, but anything less like "tea" as one usually meets it at 5 o'clock, could scarcely be imagined, and the air seemed full of the unspoken query, "Has everyone a use in this world?" The drive back to the estancia house was as pleasant as that of the morning, and there we found the Chinaman (who, owing to the strenuous exertions of The Chaperon, now appeared with considerably less hair, and obviously a more swollen head), had gauged correctly the incompetency of The Kid, in the brewing of his native beverage, and consequently had prepared a beverage which might pass for tea, and was enjoyed by all. After this refreshment a move was made, the luggage had gone on, and the party followed in their two coaches. We now began to approach a more pleasing country, and drove through little montes of scrub and trees, with a few bright-coloured verbena and cacti growing near the ground, making a brave show, and that larger optunia, the prickly pear, with its silver grey appearance and the bright crimson of its fruit showed up occasionally against the low trees. Altogether, the land had a more homelike and less expansive appearance, as it was broken up by these little groups of trees. It was a glorious drive. We were favoured with another exquisite sunset which shed weird and beautiful light over this strangely quiet and empty country. As the four-horse char-a-banc had started some minutes ahead of the more modest two-horse vehicle, it was to be supposed that it would reach the destination, Los Moyes, first, and we hear that there was some consternation expressed by the party of the smaller coach when, on their arrival they found that nothing had been heard, or seen, of the more ambitious vehicle. However, The Chaperon on being appealed to, impassively murmured "They're all right," and started to give orders for unloading, and putting up beds and generally arranging matters as if the section house belonged to him, and this callousness on his part, we are told, calmed the others sufficiently to allow of their enjoying the remnants of the sunset, undisturbed by any thoughts of the horrible fates which might (but were not likely to) have overtaken their companions.
Certainly Los Moyes section house is most prettily situated, with an expanse of alfalfa beyond the little front garden, and trees in the distance opening to show a glimpse of the smallest lake. There are three of these lakes not far from the house, and fishing is carried on, by means of spearing, in their waters. Long after the last trace of sunset had faded from the sky, The Jehu appeared with his coach, and a rush was made by the hosts of Los Moyes, and their earlier arrivals, to ascertain the cause of this delay. All anxiety was quickly allayed by one glance at the face of The Instigator. He was exuberant with joy. The rest of the occupants of the coach seemed rather less excited, and more weary, as they explained that The Instigator had sighted in the far offing a steam plough, and despite murmurs of "the dinner waits and we are tired" from The Delineator and The Wild Man, he insisted on investigating that plough, in fact on trying it himself, and it was with difficulty he was persuaded to return to the coach, and continue the drive home. We believe the credit for this latter achievement is due to The Delineator, who, with tact worthy of a diplomat, suggested that if an early return to the ploughing were made next morning, photos could be obtained of the machine and its work. This bait was successful, and The Instigator was gently enticed away with promises of "to-morrow."
After everyone was assured that everyone else was safe, The Instigator came back from his Elysium, dreamily to finish the quotation of The Delineator and The Wild Man with "Said Gilpin, So am I," and we all sat down to dinner, during which meal much merriment was caused by a difference of opinion between The Saint and her host on "dogs and species of dogs." Our enemies, the mosquitoes, were not so virulent as usual to-night, perhaps owing to the eucalyptus trees which are growing near the house; anyhow the party could venture to sit out after dinner on the verandah, which was already covered with beds for the accommodation of some of the party. Thus, with an audience seated on chairs and beds, The Instigator talked of the plough and of its marvellous work in opening up hitherto unused tracts of land. Want of labour has retarded development considerably, and until quite recently the northern camps were very much handicapped by the lack of labourers, and of men with brains to guide the labour. Not only was there a deficiency of men, but often so many of the working bullocks were drafted off to the forests for timber haulage, that it left a sparseness of them for agricultural purposes. The remedy, however, presented itself by the utilisation of the traction engine. The breaking-up of fresh lands has always been the trouble facing the colonist.
In dry weather it is almost impossible to get the plough, drawn by horse or bullock, into the ground, and the drought so punishes the working animals that often when rain comes they are too weak for their work, and the colonist is unable to take the best advantage of the season, but mechanical ploughing obviates all this, and gives him the virgin land in such a condition that with the means at hand he is able to cultivate an area sufficiently large to ensure him success.
As we sat thus on the verandah in the moonlight, plans were made for the following day. It was decided that a visit to the plough should occupy the morning, and a row on the lake, or ride round it, the afternoon, before proceeding to Lucero. Fishing was spoken of, but we could not manage everything in the short time we had at our disposal at Los Moyes, so we found that probably the fishing would have to be given up. Thus, in the security of the possession of clear consciences and mosquito nets, the party retired to rest.
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Prepaid advertisements received at the office of this paper before 6 p.m. will be inserted in the next day's issue.
"M.L." writes in answer to "O.G." that the quotation he gives is from the writing of the Persian poet Sadi. The quotation is quite correct, for though Sadi travelled for a great number of years in Europe, Asia, and Africa, he never travelled with the present Company in the Argentine, therefore he did not realise that the sleep of the bad could disturb the good. Modern thought is inclined to differ from his views.
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LOST.—Two rubber sponges and two blankets. When finished with, please return to the Manager, Michelot.
L10 REWARD.—Lost, one pearl-drop ear-ring; may be under the carpet. Finder will be rewarded as above, on returning same to "T.S.," Offices of this Paper.
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Tuesday, March 29th, 1910.
This morning, alas! did not fulfil the promise of last night's sunset, for a drizzling rain was falling when the party collected for breakfast, and we were afraid that not only would the fishing expedition be impossible, but also that the ploughing inspection might have to be postponed, and all were anxious, after the enthusiasm of The Instigator, to see that engine at work. Our host had sent some men out in the early morning to secure fish for our delectation, but they were unable to spear more than one, and this large aquatic animal was now hanging up under the verandah, causing a great deal of interest to the various curious members of the band; needless to say, The Instigator was busy divesting the fish of scales, examining them under his ubiquitous microscope, and insisting on everyone observing the marvels of Nature shown in this manner. We think that this was the psychological moment when the rest of the party began to appreciate the powers of that microscope, and insinuations were made to the owner that it would be a pity to take such a beautiful pocket instrument back to Europe, in case any accident should happen to the boat during the voyage, and the microscope be lost.
The Delineator and The Wild Man appeared to be the chief favourites for the prize, and knowing the acquisitive propensities of The Chaperon, all were surprised to note his passiveness during the competition; however, he explained his inertia by saying that his sleep had been disturbed by visions for which no microscope was needed. He offered to sketch what he had seen, but could give no more definite description in words than "figures on the blind" and "streaming hair," so he was left alone to recover his nerve. The Jehu then pointed out that his prophecy had proved correct, and the misty rain had blown off, leaving a clear sky and fine weather, so a start was made en masse for the scene of the ploughing operations. A slight lameness on the part of one of the steeds made it necessary for the smaller coach to return for change of animals after a few hundred yards. The Wild Man occupied the few minutes of this delay to the best possible advantage. The owner of the house and chattels was away, and The Wild Man, stimulated by The Chaperon made a very productive tour of the rooms and verandah, resulting in great satisfaction to himself.
When the coach was ready with fresh horses, and The Wild Man had satisfied himself that nothing of value had escaped his observation, another move forward was made, and on arriving at the ground the smaller party found that the occupants of the first coach were already on the plough, having ousted the colonists for the time being. This plough was working on rough virgin ground, turning over more land in one hour than two men and four horses can do in England in a whole day. Each member of the party took their turn on the plough, and enjoyed the pleasure derived from turning over the untouched soil, and of feeling that they were helping to start the development of Nature's truest source of wealth. The engine was drawing twenty disc-ploughs, and could plough twenty-eight to thirty acres of land a day, week in and week out.
Until recent years land in the Argentine Republic has been ploughed in small areas by animal labour, the farmer or colonist often employing the members of his family to assist him, and thus saving expense. Owing, however, to the immense harvests and the vast tracts of country awaiting development, it has become necessary to work on a much bigger scale, and to bring in the aid of machinery. In some places the ordinary form of steam plough has presented many practical disadvantages. They are heavy and unwieldy, and apt to sink in soft ground, from which they are extricated with difficulty. This is likely to cause damage, or more serious accidents, through explosion. Further, they require a constant train of water-carts and fuel wagons, and a staff of at least six persons to work them. At the spot where this engine was working the latter objections were obviated, as both wood and water were plentiful. In general, these difficulties are largely overcome by the adoption of the naphtha motor engine, which has been brought to a state of considerable perfection in Great Britain and the United States. It can be employed not only for ploughing and threshing, but also for traction, excavation, and embankment work, etc. An engine and plough will break up one hectarea of camp per hour, and some of these machines with two relays of workmen will break 108 hectareas per week. In a month of only twenty-three working days they will break up a league of camp.
The price of naphtha is gradually decreasing in the Argentine Republic, and the oil wells of the country will probably make the cost of fuel even less by-and-by than it is to-day.
Areas of fertile camp, which have hitherto lain fallow, owing to their being intersected by canadas, and difficult to get at, can now be treated by the motor plough, with the result that their value will rapidly rise. In an actual case near the Central Cordoba Railway, people are to-day offering $118 per hectarea for land which was bought two years ago for $25 per hectarea, but during the two years it has been thoroughly ploughed and drained by mechanical means.
In nearly all the northern lands small trees grow irregularly all over the camp, and in order to plough the land these trees must be dug up. Machines are manufactured in the United States to deal with land containing tree roots. They perform the double operation of cutting roots under ground and ploughing up the surface, but they have not yet been introduced into the Argentine in large numbers. Other machines dig holes for fence posts at the rate of fifty holes per hour, and they can be so accurately gauged that the posts may be firmly fixed without expending much labour in ramming.
The naphtha engine is likewise used with great advantage for traction purposes. A striking instance of this is to be found at Rio Gallegos, where many naphtha engines are engaged in the work of carrying wool over a track of more than 300 kilometres, a feat which would be quite impossible with animal labour, owing to the rocky and broken condition of the roads.
As the Santa Fe Land Company owns a great diversity of land, they have used both the steam traction and the naphtha engines, and time will show which machine is to be recommended.
It is a pity that the agricultural implement importers of Buenos Aires should have recently formed themselves into a ring to lift prices, because their doing so will certainly tend to lessen the progress which agriculture is making in the Argentine. These combinations, however, will not deter the Company from continuing its "march of progress," but it comes hard on the colonist, who, after all, is the chief factor in building up the fortunes of the great importing houses of Buenos Aires.
One of the greatest competitors of the British-built traction engine is the Hart-Parr oil engine, a splendid agricultural tool, which is invaluable where ordinary fuel is not easily procurable.
It was with great difficulty The Instigator could be persuaded to leave the plough, and at one time his enthusiasm (and the engine) carried him out of sight, and those remaining at the starting-point grew speculative as to whether he would return before dark. However, a recommencement of drizzling rain apparently cooled his ardour, and restored him to the party. The nomads gladly turned their thoughts and coaches towards the section house, realising as they went the sweet truth of the words, "The ploughman homeward plods his weary way." Lunch awaited them, and the fish of the morning appeared in a more pleasant guise, to be enjoyed by all. After lunch, the rain showing no signs of clearing off, the party had to give up all idea of the lake proper, but watched one form in front of the house instead, and wondered how it would be negotiated when the time came for an onward move. So they sat on chairs, baggage and benches under the verandah, and tried to keep awake, while observing the steady downpour. One member of the party at last gave up the struggle against the inevitable, and sank gracefully into the arms of Morpheus, represented by the bags of biscuits and other impedimenta. A photo was secured of him as he lay half concealed amongst the portmanteaux, packages and "pan." We refrain from publishing it, because the chief feature of the picture is in the boots of the sleeper. (We trust no weak humour is intended in the preceding paragraph?—EDITOR.)
A slight diversion was caused by a repacking of some goods after lunch. It seems that the bottles, with contents (a most important item), had been forgotten, and The Wild Man was approached with a request that the bottles might be transported to Lucero in his bag; of course, he cheerily acquiesced, but as the whole of the contents of his bag had to be turned out to pack the bottles scientifically, and as that bag happened to be the same receptacle in which The Wild Man had secreted the various articles collected during his tour of appreciation this morning, developments were interesting to all, save to the man who had laboured under the delusion that several horns and other articles which appeared from the bag, were still in his own possession. However, probably remembering The Wild Man's character (vide page 205), he said nothing, but calmly looked on as his goods were repacked and removed from his sight for ever. All honour to such unselfishness.
After a cup of tea and farewells, the ladies were transferred to the coaches in a highly skilled manner, and a damp drive to Lucero followed. One sheet of drizzling rain surrounded us all through the journey, and none were sorry when, after a side slip or two, the coaches drew up (not before it was quite dark) outside the estancia house. A change into dry garments was very welcome, and there was to be noticed for the first time since the start of the Tacuruers, a dull air of respectability over the party, as they collected for their evening meal.
Shirt fronts and pretty frocks appeared once more, for here we had a lady presiding over the table. Still the old proverb proved true "Fine feathers do not make fine birds," and some members of the party did not live up to their costumes. It may have been the good dinner, or the genial glow of a fire that upset their behaviour, but the fact remains that there were two or three unusual occurrences during the course of a merry meal. The Kid was observed to be burying her face in a spoonful of jelly, and others seemed to be performing a sort of a general post during the repast. However, all ended well, and after coffee various home pets were introduced by our hostess, who is a devoted lover of animals. A nutria appeared and some friendly dogs, and we heard of tame foxes and diminutive ponies to be seen next day. It was a great regret to everyone that The Delineator did not put in an appearance for dinner; he pleaded headache and retired to bed early, perhaps in the hope of getting some sleep before The Instigator came to share the room.
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HARD CASE NO. 1.—"T.K." writes to inquire the proper procedure under the following circumstances:—"A lady receives a plate of jelly at dinner, the gentleman on her right at once takes up her spoon and commences to feed her with the jelly." What should she do? And if she allows herself to be fed, is it etiquette, this year, for the gentleman on her left to give her a slight push, which results in her nose meeting the jelly in the spoon? We offer the problems to our readers, and a prize will be awarded for the best solution sent in.
LOST.—One pair deer's horns, nicely coloured. If this advertisement meets the eye of T.W.M. the owner would be very glad to have the horns returned to Michelot, but does not wish to make a point of it.
FOUND.—The reward of L10 for lost ear-ring is withdrawn; owner found lost property herself, and has paid for her advertisement.
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Wednesday, March 30th, 1910.
Much to everyone's relief The Delineator appeared at breakfast looking himself again; he replied to the enquiries showered upon him that his indisposition could be explained in the words used by Herbert Spencer, when he defined life as "The continuous adjustment of internal relations to external relations." The Delineator said that that formula, when one considered the various cookings, including the Oriental style we had lately sampled, exactly described the cause of his passing illness, from which he was now happily recovered.
The morning was bright, and nothing but the drying mud remained to remind us of the rains of yesterday. At breakfast some strange tales were told of a frightened nutria which generally slept peacefully under a wardrobe in the dressing-room; but last night the room had another occupant, whose sleep was not so peaceful as that of the nutria, and at the first sound of a snore the poor animal was so scared that it leapt from its usual bed and rushed round the room till it found a way of escape, through the window, to a more restful soot.
Cattle-dipping was to be the sight of the morning, and as soon as the out-door menagerie was explored, under the guidance of our hostess, who has a wonderful knack with all animals, the coach and cavalcade of riders set forth to the scene of operations. Here we found a large number of animals ready to be dipped. This process is necessary to clean the animals from the garrapata. This is a tick which has been, and still is, the terror of the north. It is the means of transmitting to cattle the disease known as "Texas Fever." The rough native cattle do not suffer badly from this fever, but any newly imported fine stock from the south generally succumb to it.
Time after time wealthy men who realized the menace this pest was to the north have attempted to fight it, but their efforts have not been successful. Often their loss has been immense, sometimes as many as 95% of the total animals brought into the neighbourhood from the Province of Buenos Aires have died.
Undoubtedly these constant failures helped to give the northern district a bad name, but the experiments with the animals should have been carried on by means of acclimatisation. Animals for the north should be carefully handled, and with constant vigilance, adapted to their surroundings. These are the principles on which the Santa Fe Land Company have been working, and they confidently predict that before long they will be selling pedigree bulls with tick on them. When this is an accomplished fact, another great barrier to the progress of the north will have been broken down.
The cattle tick has two phases in its life.
After establishing itself on the animal, the tick becomes a blood sucker, and at certain seasons animals running wild over unbroken camps, become literally covered with these bichos; consequently the cattle fall back in condition, and the mortality amongst them mounts up to an appallingly large percentage. To obviate this the dip is used, and has come into general use. The animals are collected from afar, and brought into the corral (a strong enclosure), from which there is a wooden passage, having many contrivances useful for marking, branding, and dehorning cattle, all of which are used in their due season; but for dipping purposes this passage terminates in a precipitous slope, and the animals are gently forced along it from the corral to plunge suddenly into a prepared bath of a strong solution, which kills every tick; so it follows, that if the animal has been totally submerged, it is absolutely free from the parasite. The object of dipping is to kill all kinds of insects and parasites which trouble the bovine race; especially so the common Louse (the Dermatodectis Bovis) which is the scab producer. The worst pest is, however, the cattle tick or Garrapata, and known under the scientific name of Boophilus Annulatus.
This latter is the harbinger of the microbe of Texas Fever or Tristeza, as it is known in the Argentine.
The remedies that are principally employed are of a tarry basis and prepared so as to be easily mixed with water, usually in the proportion of 1 to 100.
The amount of mixture used is 2.60 litres, and the cost works out at 10 cents. per head.
The greatest number of animals that the Santa Fe Land Company have been able to put through the dip in a day is 6,700, working from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Animals certainly are frightened the first time they take this bath, but very soon they find the comfort of its effect, and come to like and enjoy it. The cattle we saw dipped to-day had mostly been through the process several times before, and walked calmly down the passage, seeming to enjoy their scramble through the dip. On emerging from the dip, the animals stand in a small corral on the other side, and are kept there for a while to allow the liquor to drain off their hides, and find its way back to the tank.
Some of the younger animals seemed scared at the first plunge, and though a very great point is made of the fact that they must all be collected and driven into the corral and down the passage, with the utmost gentleness, some of them grew so disturbed at the unusual proceeding, that they leapt on to the animal in front instead of sliding down the dip as the older animals do. However, there are always plenty of men under the superintendence of the mayor-domo to see that no harm comes to any animal, and though in the early days of dips, broken legs were not unusual occurrences, nowadays there are very seldom any accidents, though thousands of animals may be dipped in a few hours. One man holds a curious sort of wide blunt prong, with which he presses the heads of any animals, who have not been totally immersed, under the liquid as they pass him, thus ensuring the destruction of all parasites.
After this inspection The Instigator and company were taken on to see land which was being broken by bullocks, and thence to the Rio Salado, (which we are hoping to negotiate much further north to-morrow), and returned in time for lunch. After a short pause for rest and a cup of tea, the party, this time with their host and hostess, set off for various windmills, earth tanks, etc., which were of recent erection, and were to be reviewed by The Instigator. Everything he saw seemed to give satisfaction, and a weary but happy band returned to the house for dinner, in the course of which some native dishes were introduced to us.
Another lovely sunset favoured us this evening as we drove homewards, and we hear that My Lady and The Wild Man almost came to a serious quarrel over the shapes of various beautifully tinted clouds. One said a certain cloud resembled a bear, the other said it was exactly like a pork pie "shot" with a diamond tiara, and the matter was still under bitter discussion long after the cloud in question had faded away into a nebulous mist. The evening was calm and still, and we all sat outside after coffee, discussing the unknown journey of to-morrow, and the perils that might befall us on our way across the camps. The Instigator talked emphatically, and quite unnecessarily, of "an early start is imperative," till we all grew tired of his insistence and retired to bed, where some of the party wondered under what circumstances they would be sleeping to-morrow.
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LUCERO, March 30th, 1910. DEAR SIR,
May I use the valuable medium of your paper for the purpose of announcing that anyone who wishes to accompany the explorers on the excursion, under the guidance of The Jehu and myself to the wild north, must be ready, decently clothed and fed, with a supply of patience and drinkables in their personal luggage, not later than 6 a.m., to-morrow, March 31st, 1910.
I am, Yours, etc., THE INSTIGATOR.
P.S.—While taking suitable precautions for the safety and happiness of those who entrust themselves to our care, we wish it to be understood that we cannot hold ourselves responsible for any loss of wearing apparel or other goods, temper, meals, or rest, caused by rain, mosquitoes, frogs, snakes, overeating, or the incompatibility of other passengers, or from any cause whatsoever.—T.I.
To the Editor of "The Tacuru."
March 30th, 1910.
We should be glad to know if anything can be done to stop the public nuisance in the shape of the amalgamation of two members of the party, who are obviously descended from some long ago Christy Minstrels. We believe that, taken separately, one at a time, at long intervals, the aforesaid members can be tolerated for a few minutes (personally, we find them nauseating to a degree, under the most favourable circumstances), but together, when they attempt to be bright and amusing, and fancy they have a sense of humour and intelligent wit, they are absolutely impossible. They might have been useful (say in 1500) as the final torture decreed by the Inquisition, but in this year of grace of 1910, they are unwarrantable, and we shall be grateful if immediate steps can be taken for their separation, if not for their entire suppression. We are, Dear Sir, still suffering from violent headaches, caused by being shut up in the same coach for three hours with these imbeciles.
T.D. and M.L.
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HARD CASE No. 1.
The prize of five cents has been awarded to a correspondent O.G. (who is requested to forward his real name and address as soon as possible) for the best solution to the Hard Case we published yesterday. He says that in those circumstances the lady should undoubtedly allow herself to be fed, and should do all in her power by opening her mouth widely, and turning her head slightly in the direction of the gentleman on her right, to assist him in his self-imposed task, and thus to avoid giving him the impression that he had committed an unusual social solecism in commencing to feed her.
Numerous correspondents have sent in solutions, but we consider the above the best. Several answers have also been sent to the second part of the question, and all agree that the gentleman on the left had no shadow of excuse for causing the lady's nose to rest in the jelly. Such a proceeding is totally without precedent in the highest circles.
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Thursday, March 31st, 1910.
THE LARGEST CIRCULATION OF ANY DAILY PAPER PUBLISHED ON THIS TRIP.
Everyone was astir early this morning, remembering The Instigator's final warning last night of the necessity for an early start, but, on assembling for breakfast at 7 a.m., The Instigator himself was missed. His hawk-like eye (we apologise to Our Guest) had noticed some Galpon, or drinking trough, or something, which he must, of course, investigate before leaving Lucero, and dragging off The Delineator and The Jehu, he quite forgot breakfast and the "early start," as he fussed over his new-found interest, and it was not until he was captured forcibly by a search party that his companions were allowed to come in to breakfast—after the rest of the party had finished. Much to everyone's delight the morning was bright and fine, and all promised favourably for the excursion into the unknown.
While waiting for the start, considerable interest was caused by the home-building operations of some birds, who were constructing a nest under the eaves of the outbuilding, and manipulating the mud for its construction in a most clever manner. One bird flew off to get some mud while the other energetically fashioned the last piece into shape in the nest, then, when the first returned, the second bird flew off to get her contribution of clay; so the moulding of that nest grew apace while we watched its progress.
Before we set out a pleading message came (and it was not the first, either) from those left at headquarters, begging us to give up our exploration scheme, and, in view of weather reports, to return in peace to the civilisation of San Cristobal; but needless to say, nothing daunted, The Instigator still kept to his determination to see all there was to be seen, and the more people try to dissuade him from a thing, once he has decided to do it, the more fixed becomes his intention to do that thing. So, expostulations were useless, the final preparations and farewells were made, a last communication held with Our Hostess at Cristobal, before our passing into the wilds, and the Tacuru coaches with their freight of precious humans, and still more precious food and drink, started off from their pleasant rest at Lucero. Someone was heard to murmur as the coaches drove off—
"Then hey! for boot and horse, lad, And round the world away; The Instigator must have his tour, lad, And never will give way!"
But this puerile parody met with the indifference it deserved, and, accompanied by the Section Manager, we commenced our journey, travelling for some hours over the land which is in his charge. "Monte," too, seemed to consider that his presence as a guide and friend would be necessary to the party, and came along with us; he is a "wild" dog of the deerhound type, who was taken as a tiny puppy from a litter found in a wood near Los Moyes, and has ever since been devoted to his captors. There is a calm air of disinterested abstraction about "Monte" which is very satisfying, and he is undoubtedly a philosopher. One of the two Indian guides we picked up during the day's journey also had a dog, but it was of a very different appearance and character to "Monte." "Monte" looked on mankind in general as needing his care and supervision, while the little black smooth-haired terrier felt "the great passion" for one alone. His master was evidently his god, and if he lost sight of "master" for two minutes it was really touching to hear his cries, almost like those of a child, as he tried to trace his master through the shallow water which we sometimes crossed.
His yelps as he splashed along, nose to the ground, almost voiced the sentiment:—
"Rank and wealth I pass unheeding, Never giving them their due; For my heart and soul are needing, Nothing in the world but "YOU!"
And he and his "YOU" were never very far apart.
In a country where kindness to animals is not considered necessary, and is very rarely found, this example of devotion between dog and man was all the more noticeable and appreciated. Needless to say, as soon as The Saint observed it she wanted to "give the man a present," and was only restrained from doing so because she had nothing suitable for presentation in her luggage, or in that of The Instigator.
About one o'clock we came to the banks of the Salado, concerning the crossing of which river we had heard so much. We had been told it was impossible and impassable; that the rains had swollen the river too much for a safe passage; that at the best of times the banks were too steep and slippery for carts to negotiate, and that all idea of crossing had better be given up. The Instigator and The Jehu merely smiled when they heard of these difficulties, but some members of the party had wondered how the traversing of that river was to be accomplished, and they were agreeably surprised, on reaching the spot chosen for crossing, to find that a tenant had built a narrow "tajamar," or earth bank, across the river, which at this place was not very wide. Everyone dismounted, the horses were taken out, and all hands were in request to pull the vehicles across. First went the coaches, then the luggage carts were dragged over. To illustrate the difficulties of the proceedings we publish one of the many photos taken, during the crossing of the tajamar. Our Guest was one of the first to help in the conveyance of these carts. Apparently, since the gate-opening episode, he has "learnt the wisdom early to discern true beauty in utility," for he is always to the fore when work is to be done, and in this case his athletic training proved the truth of the Yankee expression that "It's muscle that tells." The Delineator and The Wild Man, as usual, when real hard work presents itself, "thought the party would like photographs of it," and, armed with their cameras, retired to safe distances, where the work could not possibly interfere with them or they with it, and took photos of the progress of the carts. We cannot complain, however, of their action (or inaction, rather), for the resulting pictures make a good memorial of the crossing of the Salado by the "Tacuruers." The ladies rushed to assist when they saw that photos were being taken, but, as the carts were well over the danger line by the time the ladies were at the ropes, we have no pictured record of their deeds, which, we may note, were really quite valueless at this point.
Once the horses, carts, and luggage were safely across the tajamar the more serious business of cocktails and lunch was thought of, and, in an incredibly short time, the usual asado of meat, brought from Lucero, was under discussion.
The unfortunate sheep who were still spared were let out for a short run.
The Kid, too, was set free in the hopes that she might possibly prove useful now, but, judging from her attitude during the preparations for lunch, we should say those hopes would not be fulfilled.
As we rest after our arduous crossing of the Salado, our thoughts are inclined to wander to the awful tragedy enacted here in the year 1904. It was a disastrous year for many of the northern camp men. There was an appalling drought of long continuation, for which all the northern camps were totally unprepared; the river over which we have just passed became the concentration spot for all that is most terrible at such times. It is not exaggerating the case when we say that 15,000 animals (some of them having travelled south for 100 miles or more), forced by instinct, and guided by wire fences, came to drink from the foul, polluted chain of water-holes which then represented this river. One can imagine the horror and distress of it all—not a blade of grass for miles, where to-day the vegetation is luxuriant, and not a drop of water in this river on whose banks we are resting, only a few mud-holes in which hundreds of decaying carcases were embedded. This is what the cattle found after their long journey south, through which they were daily growing weaker. It is not surprising to hear that, at one place alone on the river-bed, over 3,000 hides were taken off dead animals, and, probably, it is well within the mark to say that at least another 1,000 were lost. Well may we wonder, "Why this terrible suffering and loss?" And the answer comes back, "Human negligence." It was the want of wells which caused all this misery; cattle will bear drought for a long time, but the actual want of water maddens them and causes the death of thousands. If the northern camps are to be colonised and are to become prosperous, the first necessity is the obtaining of a supply of good water; second in importance only to the water supply is the fencing of the camps, by which means a control over the cattle is established; refined camps, better grasses, and alfalfa, will all follow in due course; and anyone who has studied these northern lands would have no hesitation in predicting that these camps will, in time, prove just as profitable as any in the vast Republic of Argentina, and this is saying a good deal, as those who have travelled over the rich southern camps will realise. But, for his own sake, and for the sake of the cattle in his care, let it be the first business of the estanciero to provide good and sufficient wells, so that the terrible history of 1904 may never be repeated.
However, the scene is different to-day, with a pleasant sunshine, the crisp air sweeping over the uncultivated camp of natural grasses, and plenty of water in the river; but we cannot linger, so, after the pipe of peace for some, and a short siesta for others, "the all-aboard" bugle was sounded, horses were put in, carts packed once more, and, after a farewell to our host—who was returning to the section house—we went on ahead into the wilder regions, and had a pleasant, though rather short, drive for two or three hours before The Jehu called a halt. He explained that we should require at least an hour for the unloading and erection of the tents, tables, etc., before dusk; therefore, as the sun was only a hand's breadth from the horizon (roughly speaking, an hour before setting), we must dismount. He had chosen a pleasant spot for the camp of the night, not far from a small ranch, and here the coaches halted. Of course the luggage carts could not come up until some time later, as their loads were so much heavier, and My Lady became even more popular than usual when she suggested that the wait should be beguiled with a cup of tea, and produced her tea-basket from the coach; true, we found that there was no tea, but My Lady had plenty of cocoa. Water was obtained from the house near by, and a very welcome cup of cocoa handed round, accompanied by an unexpected slice of cake which apparently appeared from nowhere, and which disappeared equally effectively, for it was decidedly useful fodder and appreciated as such by all.
We discovered here that our friend "Monte" had declined to go back after lunch with his present master to Lucero, but had chosen to accompany his past master on this expedition. His presence was an agreeable surprise. He was found surveying the party with his calm scrutiny, and apparently he approved of our spot for camping, also of the cake.
As The Chaperon could find no work to do before the carts arrived, he, for once, relaxed from his terrible strain of usefulness, and tided over the tedious hour by trying to "throw the knife" in the most approved cowboy manner. As each member of the party had had their "tea" (he was practising with the knife which was used for the carving of the cake—and anything else, when needed), no one objected to this harmless amusement on his part, provided he did not pitch the knife on to their toes; and, after long exercise, with the help of The Wild Man, who is an adept at these tricks, The Chaperon at last succeeded in "throwing the knife" to his satisfaction, and others' terror. A sigh of relief escaped the lips of those who were dodging the knife when they saw the luggage-carts looming in the distance. They at once drew the attention of The Chaperon to the approach of the carts, and were rejoiced to see him return the weapon to its sheath (in his leggings), and stiffen into the attitude of action once more.
No sooner were the carts on the spot than every member of the party was at work, or pretending to be so. Poles were taken off the carts, luggage uncovered, canvas was everywhere, yells for "the mallet" alternated with the resounding blows struck, with the same, by the strong men of the band, tent-pegs bristled all over the ground, everyone wanted the hammer at the same time, and apparent chaos reigned for half an hour; then, behold! as by magic, the din ceased, two tents had been securely erected, floored with canvas, the luggage was placed under another covering of canvas, a table, with plates, knives, forks, etc., was ready in an open space, camp-stools stood around it, beds, blankets, sheets and pillows galore were in each tent, and the smell of roasting meat in the distance rose pleasantly upon the air. The place looked as if the party had been accustomed to camp there regularly once a week, so well was everything arranged. Nothing had been forgotten which could add comfort, for all hands had been working hard, and each peon, too, had done his share; in fact, the sight would have rejoiced the soul of the most ardent, red-tied Socialist, for surely never did a community carry out more thoroughly the principle of "each one working for the happiness of others." True, there was no trade union to limit their exertions, but that was an omission for which we may be thankful.
As the dusk quickly deepened, the peons gathered round their fire, over which the meat was cooking, a little distance from the camp site; the lamps were lit and hung from poles, and the party looked with satisfaction on their handiwork. It would have made an interesting, and not unpicturesque illustration, if one could have obtained a photo of the "Primera Vista" camp that evening.
But it was at this time, just when all seemed smiling and happy, that the travellers were to go through their first real trial, for here the discovery was made of a serious loss. It was spoken of in whispers at first, but gradually the whispers increased to a murmur as the loss became generally known; yet neither man nor woman quailed, and none could have told from their outward bearing the bitter struggle they were inwardly facing. A cynical traveller once said, after noting the innumerable number of statues in the land, "South America has evidently produced a phenomenal number of heroes," but we are inclined to think their tale has not been told if those who bore their trouble so bravely that night are to be "unhonoured and unsung." Think what it meant, you who may read this, in years to come, in civilised places, comfortably seated in your armchairs, conveniently near the cellaret, and,—honour our brave! They had at least two days to face (with no prospect of obtaining supplies anywhere) and they discovered, here, that the case of whisky was lost, left behind, vanished—they knew not what, only that it had disappeared!
Theirs not to reason why, Theirs not to moan or sigh, E'en though their throats were dry, Noble "Tacuruers"!
True, the comforting thought that they still had a bottle and a-half of the precious drink with them may have helped them to keep their spirits up with the hope of pouring spirits down, but a bottle and a-half is not much amongst so many thirsty souls for three days, and, we repeat, that great courage and bravery was shown by the equanimity with which the party bore the news of their loss.
A minor loss was that the dinner napkins were not forthcoming, but that surprised no one, for they were in the charge of The Kid, and, of course, she had forgotten them at Lucero. We believe she said something about their being "left to be washed" there, but no one listened to her, and we used glass cloths instead.
At our first camp evening meal everyone did justice to the goods that The Chaperon provided. Coffee was not forgotten, and, after their dinner, the more musical members of the band tried to sing—it kept the mosquitoes off—and when "a catch" was attempted even the bicho colorado was cowed into silence. We had looked forward to hearing the guitar played by one of the peons here. He had brought his instrument with him, but, unfortunately, had dropped a large packing case upon it, which did not improve its tone, and this accident prevented our hearing the national dances played on a guitar in the open camp as we had hoped to do.
Weary with the exertions of the day the party turned their thoughts and steps early towards those tents where rows of little bedsteads, each with its mosquito net above, looked so attractively inviting, and before long lights were out and peace reigned as far as possible.
"Thus done the Vales to bed they creep, By whispering winds soon lulled asleep."
Guards were set and they, with Monte, were left to protect the horses and camp through the night.
March 31st, 1910.
I feel that, as I am in a measure responsible for the presence of the two people to whom your correspondents of yesterday object, I should like to apologise, through the medium of your paper, for the inconvenience these two people have caused, and to assure your correspondents that steps shall be taken to prevent a repetition of the annoyance. The fact is, that both of them are so rarely out of Bedlam at the same time that I had not realised the necessity for keeping them apart, nor the danger of their amalgamation, but they shall be kept in separate coaches in future, and I can only express my sincere regret for the mischief and trouble they have caused.
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A correspondent writes to know if any of our readers can solve the following problem for her:—"'A' starts on a seven days' journey with eighty-seven horses, he loses two, one of which he finds next day, and at the end of the week has 110 horses." The enquirer has searched through her "Hamblin Smith" but can find no honest method of solution.
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EXPERT GUIDE.—Anyone requiring a really good guide, thoroughly conversant with the Chaco, ways of wild Indians and animals, please apply "T.W.M.," Offices of this paper. Good shot, can cook and sew, able to point out all the beauties of nature, animal and vegetable. Terms moderate. Inspires confidence in the most timid ladies by his winning smile.
LOST.—One tin of gingerbread biscuits (Huntley & Palmer). No reward is offered, as they will probably be eaten by the time this advertisement is in print. If anyone would return the tin, as a recuerdo, to Lucero, advertiser would be obliged.
LOST.—Lucero. Several good horses.
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Several correspondents have written to know whether it is not a menace to the rest of the community for one member of the band to sleep promiscuously on the bricks, or anywhere else handy, at night. Two or three say they have tripped over him in the dark and consider it would be a safeguard if anyone preferring to spend the night in this way were compelled by law to burn an anchor or other light. They are quite willing to believe that the offender had had at least one "starboard light" at some period of that night, but that light had lost its power of illumination at the time our correspondents tripped over the prostrate figure, and they wish to suggest that in future, people sleeping out should use some means to safeguard unwary passers-by. (We give the complaint the publicity it deserves and trust steps will be taken to right the matter.—ED.)
Friday, April 1st, 1910.
ADVERTISE IN "THE TACURU"—THIS ENSURES YOUR WANTS BEING KNOWN IN EVERY COACH.
We fancy that most of the party were awake to see the dawn this morning: it may have been that they only saw the first streaks of light between the openings of their tent as they lay in bed trying to soothe the itching of the mosquito bites, but we think that few were asleep as the sun rose gloriously from the mists on the horizon. It was a strange sight, the sudden flooding with bright sunlight of that rough camp land, which scarcely owned a tree or shrub. It may be the primitive barbarian lying dormant in all of us though hidden under generations of civilization, which makes us feel a close communion with Nature when we see her in these great uncultivated wastes; but, whatever the causes of the sympathy, these pictures, of wild untouched Nature, leave an impression and a longing more deep than any experience gained in years of civil life; none will ever regret having seen that sunrise on the plain, though all regretted the cause of their wakefulness this morning.
Of course The Chaperon was up and clothed (he always seemed to be) and ready to get basins of water, looking-glasses, shaving materials and all luxuries for the others. The ladies were heard to enquire why he did not bring them early tea and hot water, but, on the whole, he combined the duties of valet and maid fairly efficiently.
Rumour has it that The Chaperon had given instructions that he was to be called by the guard an hour before dawn, so, in the dark, he was awakened by hoarse whispers of his name and gentle shakings. After he arose it occurred to him that it felt more like the middle of the night than the morning, and he enquired of the peon what time it was, the answer coming in soft Spanish, "Can't say, the cocks have not crowed yet!!!" On investigation The Chaperon found it was scarcely 4 a.m., so spent the remaining two hours sitting round the camp fire with the peons, alternately dozing and sucking mate. We believe he heard some expert opinions on the subject of the "roncadors" of the camp during his vigil. At any rate he had full opportunity for proving the reality of Ruskin's words, "There is no solemnity so deep to a right-thinking creature as that of dawn." At the same time he was heard to murmur something to the effect that he would prefer a little less of the "deep solemnity" and a little more of "deep slumber" another morning.
Scarcely were the toilets, and the packing of personal luggage, accomplished, before a request was made that the mosquito nets and beds might be removed for loading, and, as we emerged from the various tents, the breakfast-table greeted us ready laden with tea (from the kettle), sardines, jam, peons' biscuits, etc. True, the only milk procurable was some condensed milk, which had "gone solid," there were not enough knives to go round, and a few other irregularities, but no little items of that sort ever disturbed the temper of The Tacuruers; they simply remarked with the other "Autocrat of the Breakfast Table," "Difficulties are Nature's challenges to you," and used one spoon for all their cups, tore off lumps of bread with their fingers (when they could get hold of a loaf), and used the same plate and knife for jam and sardines alike, and enjoyed their early meal.
There was one subject that did cause sore feeling, and that was mosquitoes. We had thought we knew all about them, we were proud with the conceit of nets, ammonia, and veils, but our pride had a fall. Comparatively speaking, we had only known mosquitoes theoretically before (though that knowledge was bad enough); last night we learnt of them practically, none of us had thought of tucking in our nets, and mosquitoes seemed to swarm up under each net before we had been in bed for half an hour. Little peace did anyone get through those long night hours, and, though a voice came from one of the tents about 2 a.m., remarking clearly above the intermittent snores, "Oh! how lovely," few echoed the sentiment, and the speaker assured us this morning that she was only dreaming, and that her words did not refer to insects of any kind, neither were they made in connection with the upheaval caused by "Monte" at one period of the night. He had taken up his quarters at one end of the ladies' tent, but was disturbed from his beauty sleep by the sudden barking of a dog outside the other end of the tent. This, of course, must be seen to; it was his duty, so, leaping up, he rushed through the tent, lifting up each one of the low beds, and their occupants, as he passed under them on his way to quell the outside noise. The ladies forbore to scream, though they thought of earthquakes, but settled down again to their occupation of trying to kill mosquitoes, quietly, in the dark, and to snatch moments of slumber occasionally.
After breakfast, Our Guest was rather unkindly "put on" by The Instigator to dig holes, to ascertain how deep the rich, black, alluvial soil reached; the ladies energetically washed up the breakfast things, which occupation resulted in The Kid once more, and this time finally, being given notice to leave, without a character, owing to general incompetence, impertinence, and lack of ability to wash out tea-cloths.
By 7 a.m. the coaches and carts were ready, horses rounded up, the "Primera Vista" camp was struck, and the march onward recommenced. But not before The Chaperon had pointed out a terror that "might have been." After breakfast he approached us with a stick held at arm's length, on which hung a dead, slimy-looking, grey snake, about 4 feet long. He explained that this reptile had crawled over the neck of one of the peons as he lay on the grass last night. This had happened before we went to bed, and we felt grateful to The Chaperon for having saved us from another horror last night by keeping the fact, and snake, to himself until we were leaving that camp.
The first part of our drive to-day was a new experience; we had passed over a few ant-hills before on our journey, but now we came to a land where it was difficult, if not impossible, to dodge them; they literally covered the ground, and the South American ant-hill is a power to be reckoned with. It is not the yielding mass composed of soft earth and other heterogeneous materials as found in England, which can be demolished with a kick, should anyone have sufficient temerity to lay himself open to the attacks of the inmates by thus disturbing them; but the homes of the black ant, and the Amazon ant, in Argentina are quite a different affair. They are, usually, solid, hard masses of earth from three to four feet high, very wide at the base, and covered entirely with coarse grass. They present an unyielding obstacle to any vehicle, and the wheels of even a heavily laden cart make no impression on them, but they are not unlikely to cause the overturning of that cart, and even traction engines suffer from the sudden drop caused by these gigantic sugar-loaves. Therefore it will be easily realized that the innumerable ant-hills through, and over which, we drove, were no inconsiderable menace to the safety of the party, and it was only due to the great care and skill of our drivers in threading their way amongst these obstacles that the inmates of the coaches were not upset time after time. As it was, no accident of the slightest description occurred—only a few bumps and jolts as we ascended or descended one of the ant-hills, which are so difficult to discern in open camp, where the whole land is covered alike with long grass. The worst part of our travelling did not last more than three or four hours; then we came to smoother country, fewer ant-hills, and occasional small lagunas, the land growing slightly undulating, though still bare of trees, and, after another three hours' driving, during which we had many changes of horses and several "helps" from the guides over extra bad pieces of travelling, we could see in the distance the position of the Lake Palmar and the tops of the palms which grow on the farther shore.
It was during this part of our day's journey that the peons made two captures of live animals in an armadillo and a nutria. These men have extraordinary good and far sight, and observe any movement in the grass, yards ahead of them. They at once killed both animals, for they are exceedingly fond of armadillo flesh, and cook the animal in its skin.
It was decided that horses and drivers alike would require a rest when we reached the shores of the lake, and, after our cocheros had made futile attempts to cut figures of 8 with their respective four and two-in-hands on the invitingly firm, yellow sands which surround Lake Palmar, all dismounted, horses were taken out, and, while lunch was being prepared, the party wandered on the shores of the lake trying to find remnants of extinct monsters, fossilised palms, and other improbable things. The Instigator rushed up and down picking leaves to bits, collecting sand and examining it under the microscope (which is, as yet, his), tasting the water of the lake, and generally trying to find a way of teaching Nature how to improve on her own handiwork. It really seems a pity She does not engage him as her expert consulting engineer. My Lady and The Saint did discover a boar-hound's tooth on the sands, and two teeth of a nutria, very pretty in their long, gentle curve, white at the root and gradually deepening to a reddish-brown at the end; but both these finds were absolutely valueless, and, though there was talk of having the teeth set as brooches, etc., connoisseurs, such as The Wild Man, knew well that the "finds" would be dissolved to dust long before they could reach the civilisation of a jeweller's shop.
The tiny banks which slope down from the camp to meet the wide stretching sands of the lake are covered with scrub and low trees of the acacia type, and, on one of these low trees, eked out with camp stools, the party, wearied with their search for curios, settled down to await their mid-day meal. It was gently broken to us that the sheep had at last been sacrificed, and would shortly appear before us in a different guise. The slaughter must have been most humane, for no one of us had heard the slightest cry or sound of distress, and now the flesh was being cooked. The peons would always prefer to cook all meat in the hide, if they were allowed to do so, and it is only with constant watching that they are prevented from thus wasting the valuable skins of animals. They are enormous meat eaters, which is scarcely to be wondered at, considering how scarce green food is. They live on meat, mate, and hard biscuits.
The bright idea occurred to someone that a hors-d'oeuvre would be acceptable, considering how long ago we had had our meagre early morning meal, so the only available article, a tinned Dutch cheese, was attacked; and none but those who have tried, under similar circumstances, one of the soft Dutch cheeses which one obtains in the Argentine, would be able to understand how very good it can be. As it was handed round (to everyone on the same knife), hunger, open-air, and the exercise of the ant-hills caused it to be appreciated more than usual, even beyond its deserts, if possible.
As the party were thus collected (mostly with their legs tucked away to prevent the climbing operations of the black ants with which the ground was swarming), The Instigator took this opportunity to try to rid himself of some of the responsibility of the trip by calling a meeting (the whole nine were already there), and putting it to the vote as to whether The Kid, now that she had lost her companions the sheep, should be turned adrift to find her way back again as best she could, drowned in the lake, or allowed to accompany the party for the rest of the journey. A wild gleam of joy lit the eyes of everyone who knew anything of her at this prospect of getting rid of the trial. Both the ladies, and everyone who had known her for longer than the week, voted, hands and feet, for her extinction, but four of the men were foolishly too polite to express their real wishes. So she herself was left with the casting vote, and chose to go on! Thus The Instigator's well-thought plan to remove an incubus was frustrated. He was so disgusted with his failure in a laudable object that, directly after "lunch" (which meant each one cutting off from the half-sheep, that was handed round, the piece he or she preferred), he went off with his microscope trying to find other interests, and in a few minutes was growing unduly excited over a shrub on which he discovered some most unusual excrescences. These shapeless masses of earth, apparently growing on the shrub, he was examining from all points with the naked eye before submitting them to microscopic investigation, and it was only when Our Guest came up and removed some of the earth from one of the excrescences that The Instigator, who was watching intently, noted that the mass resolved itself into the shape of one of The Saint's shoes, which had been hung up on the shrub to dry after her lake-searching expedition. Foiled again, The Instigator collected The Delineator and My Lady, and started to walk to the northern end of the lake, where The Jehu could pick them up, when the washing, packing and harnessing allowed of an onward move. We are told that for once The Kid, perhaps stimulated by her recent narrow escape from total extinction, really did do some work here. It is true we only have her word, an indistinct murmur from The Chaperon, and some clean plates to vouch for the statement, as all the other members of the party remaining were lying in more or less graceful slumberous attitudes in carts, under trees, or anywhere else, enjoying forty winks. Some excellent photos were obtained of the sleeping beauties as they lay there resting, but their modesty caused them to beg for forbearance in the publication of any of the pictures thus obtained.
Before the actual start was made, The Jehu, Our Guest, The Chaperon, and The Wild Man tried their hands at some revolver-shooting. Naturally, the drivers, after their long hours with the reins, could not do themselves justice with the more dangerous weapons, but, combined with Our Guest and The Wild Man, they left a fair show of broken bottles in the lake, rather to the surprise of the lookers-on.
Neither of our cocheros could resist the further opportunity of figures of eight as we drove off on the hard sand, but we believe they were not encouraged in these exhibitions by their passengers, and, skirting the North part of the lake they came to a little ranch where they had arranged to meet the three walkers, who had discovered divers interesting specimens of animal, vegetable and mineral kinds during their very pleasant stroll round the lake. Here they were sitting at the ranch awaiting the arrival of the coaches, and they introduced the newcomers to a marvellous collection of tame birds with whom they had made acquaintance. The owners of the ranch had six or seven birds of different kinds, which flew about and pitched on anyone's shoulder or hand, or on the carriages, and were most friendly; in fact, one big bird was so willing to become attached to us that we could scarcely persuade it to leave the coach when we were ready to drive on.
We allowed those who had driven to the spot a few moments in which to dismount and greet the neat little mistress of the ranch, with whom we had already made friends, and her pretty children. The roofing of this little ranch and its out-houses was most interesting. It was carried out entirely with trunks of palm trees. These, split in half and cleared of all sap, made very effective roofing, placed alternately in concave and convex form, so that the ridges of the two lengths of trunk placed bark upward rest in the hollow of the intervening trunk. Naturally, all rain water drains off the convex half into the concave trunk and flows down these gullies into the water course formed of another hollowed palm trunk running along the lower edge of the roof. A more suitable and rainproof roof could scarcely be designed. The mistress of the house was most anxious to entertain us to tea, but, having picked up our guide from Vera, who it was arranged should meet us here with letters, we could not spare time for further delay, and once more started off with the guide ahead of us.
After leaving the ranch we turned to the eastward, and before long passed over the Calchaqui river (which is more generally known as the Golondrino here). This was not a difficult matter.
After crossing the Calchaqui we enter quite a new country, the land is perceptibly higher, the grasses are finer and trees begin to appear. First we came to the tall palm trees on the edge of the forest, and very imposing they were, then small montes gave place to the regular woods which stretch North on this side of the river, and trees abound. The scenery was altogether more tropical. Occasional flocks of bright pink flamingoes made a welcome touch of colour as they stood on the edge of some little laguna, or, disturbed by the unusual approach of coaches, flew off in the distance. Hares were to be seen now and then, and sometimes even one of the small wild deer of the forest was noticed before it rushed off to the shelter of the trees.
Unfortunately, about this time, the sun, which had been so friendly all day, became overcast with clouds, and the sky assumed a threatening appearance; but, notwithstanding the wise head-shakings of those who know the country (The Delineator and The Jehu in particular), the party refused to be downhearted, and asserted that rain was the most unlikely event, and, in any case, they intended to enjoy their present drive through scenery which was not unlike that which would be found in an English park; the great expanses were gone, and in their place we had slightly undulating stretches of grass bordered with trees of all kinds. The whole aspect of the land had changed and the country here was extremely pretty, though no distant views could be obtained owing to the thick growth of the trees and the impossibility of finding any but the slightest rising ground.
We arrived, before long, at a little ranch, in the neighbourhood of which we were to encamp for the night. The spot was very different to our camp of last night, for here we were surrounded with trees, and near by a flock of sheep, belonging to the ranch, were feeding. Before the heavier carts could arrive, and the work of tent-erecting commence, there was plenty of time for a cup of tea, with the aid of My Lady's useful basket; but all the water that could be obtained from the so-called "well" at the ranch was half mud, and, though this was used with great success, we could only secure two mouthfuls of tea from each cup, as the rest of the contents was composed of mud. We believe The Kid was rather annoyed about this, and felt distinctly aggrieved, but she did not dare to give vent to her feelings, and the matter did not worry those who were looking forward to "cocktails" before dinner, and well they deserved those "cocktails," for by the time the carts arrived the atmosphere had become intensely close; a slight drizzle seemed only to add to the damp heat, and the work of unloading and erecting tents, and beds, and unpacking in that warm, steaming air, which was intensified under the coverings, was no light one; but here, again, everyone performed their quota, whether large or small, for the general good. Before long the tents were up. Three were erected to-night, as, owing to the rain, we should be obliged to have food under canvas. The Instigator caused great admiration by cunningly using trees as supports in the erection of the tents under his supervision, and thus hurrying matters on. Everything was finished, beds made, luggage under cover, the table laid ready in the tent, and lamps lit and suspended before the short twilight had given place to complete darkness, and The Saint once more earned the blessings and gratitude of all by thoughtfully insisting on a general "washing of faces." As she marshalled the party in front of her, and attacked each one with sponge and towel, we were irresistibly reminded of a board school; but that sponge of toilet vinegar, after the damp heat and all the work, was one of the most refreshing things imaginable, and everyone felt cleaner and more cheerful after this ablution, and ready to attack the poor little armadillo, which had been cooked; this meat tastes very much like sucking pig. The rain, which was coming down heavily by this time, was powerless to damp the spirits of the party as they sat down to dinner. They were only troubled because they feared this would be their last evening meal in camp, and that Civilisation might again claim them for her own to-morrow, for a great deal of the enjoyment of this trip has been due, undoubtedly, to its incomparable freedom. So they spent the time in eating, and holding a mutual admiration society meeting. Each decided (between the mouthfuls of mutton and armadillo) that every other member of the party was just the nicest person that he or she had ever met, and, as there was no one there to contradict the obviously erroneous statements, all were satisfied and content, and drank each other's healths with enthusiasm, and—whatever else was left. Someone even tried to murmur something kindly about The Kid. Above all, the Instigator was eulogised, and rightly, too, for his genial influence helped everything to go well; no one could have grumbled at the little inconveniences which they had had to put up with at times, while The Instigator was so cheerful and anxious for others' comfort and careless of his own through all. His interest in, and enthusiasm for, his Company know no bounds. Get him to hold forth, and he will tell you how, in the early days of the Company, matters were quite different from what they are to-day. The shares stood then at five shillings each, and the bankers refused to allow an overdraft of L2,000, and when it became absolutely necessary to have money he actually made advances out of his own pocket to supply the requisite funds.
Shortly afterwards matters began to improve, and when he visited the property in 1900 he was able to send this reassuring message to the General Meeting:—"I honestly believe the worst is past, and that in future we shall progress."
He always appraises the work of others whether the result of their operations is successful or not, and he will appreciate the mental and manual exertions expended on the undertaking by the employees of the Company at their true worth. All he asks of his colleagues and subordinates is that each one shall "play the game" in every sense of the word to the best of his ability. He never paints the prospects of a beginner in rosy hues; in fact, he has been known to speak of the hardships and privations which a young man must be prepared to go through on first joining the Company as being comparable to "the life of a dog." To-day the men who have been through those first years of necessary self-denial and hard work are grateful for the training they have received and anxious to work their best for the Company.
For a long while the party sat talking of their experiences on this trip, and of the Company and its prospects. The travelling over this comparatively unknown land had been a revelation to most; the dormant wealth lying in the camp must be enormous, but men, money, and brains are needed to exploit it. Unfortunately, it is still difficult to get colonists for these more northern districts, but when the railway which is contemplated becomes an accomplished fact, as it assuredly must, people will be attracted further north, colonisation will be easier, the land will yield its hundredfold, and some one will, in time, have performed the great deed of "making two blades of grass grow where only one grew before." It may seem to those accustomed to the narrower life of towns, a lonely, empty life to spend one's years and energies improving these wild lands; but assuredly the man who labours here with the best that is in him, not only earns a great reward for himself in the gradual development and growth of that land, but has deserved well of mankind in general, and will, some day, receive his "Well done," than which there is no higher praise, as surely as those whose lives have been spent in the more public fields of civilisation or in military prowess.
For some, obscure reason it is generally supposed that the man who spends his life in agricultural pursuits is bound to have his mental abilities dulled by the continuous round of duties connected with the land and the care of animals. The origin of this idea is difficult to imagine, unless it be that agriculture is the oldest and most necessary pursuit of mankind; but surely the man who has to keep a perpetual watch on wind, weather and workers, animal and vegetable kingdom and natural phenomena, and be ready to anticipate any change, besides being thoroughly in touch with all the latest improvements, mechanical and material, in reference to his calling, and conversant with the ruling prices in the best markets, cannot be held to be a man whose perceptions are becoming blunted by his business. It is certainly true that there are many who do "let things go," but that class is not confined to agriculturists alone, and in agriculture, as in all other callings, those who "let things slide" very shortly find that most things have slid away from them irrevocably. Certainly the Argentine is no place for the man disinclined for exertion. She holds rewards, and great rewards; but only for the resolute who are prepared to lead a strenuous and self-denying life of labour, exposure and fatigue, and who come to her determined to win the best from her rich lands, and to take every opportunity as it comes in their way for improving their knowledge.
Plans were made for to-morrow's journey; there was talk, if the day was fine and the way possible, of going first south-east to the tannin factory at La Gallareta, then due north to Las Gamas, but it was feared that the recent heavy rains in this district would have made the undertaking of the two journeys on one day inadvisable, and the Indian guide persuaded the "leaders" that it would be wiser to go straight to Las Gamas to-morrow and leave the visit to the factory for Monday. This would give Tuesday for Santa Lucia and Wednesday for Vera. Sarnosa and Olmos could be visited from one or the other of these two estancias, and, leaving Vera on Friday afternoon, San Cristobal would be reached on Saturday evening.
As we dispersed in the rain to our various tents, a slight thunder and lightning storm commenced, but, notwithstanding this, we were happy in the assurance that our troubles from mosquitoes were likely to be less virulent to-night, owing to our proximity to the sheepfold of the ranch. Therefore, as good disciples of the immortal Pepys, we quote—and with appropriate action—"So to bed."
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OUT OF WORK.—Advertiser wants situation as general help; might be useful in tea-taster's office; hard work not so much an object as high wages and comfortable living. Advertiser could take immediate situation. No references.—T.K., Second Coach.
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ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS.
T.C. writes in answer to the arithmetical problem of yesterday's date, "Yes, if A starts with 87 horses, loses 2, and finds 1, he does end the journey with 110, for he collects 24 more at the last estancia. Only experts can do this; hence your correspondent's failure to find a solution."
LOST.—One watch and chain (said to be gold), trinkets attached containing several locks of hair and portraits of ten or twelve gentlemen. If finder would return portraits and hair, owner would be obliged.—T.K.
Saturday, April 2nd, 1910.
THE CIRCULATION OF "THE TACURU" WENT UP LITERALLY BY LEAPS AND BOUNDS YESTERDAY MORNING, FAR BEYOND THE EXPECTATIONS EVEN OF THE EDITOR.
The morning dawned damp and dreary; rain had fallen steadily all night long, and still continues. Neither The Chaperon nor anyone else had an opportunity for seeing "the golden exhalations of dawn" this morning. To-day's "exhalations" were chiefly those of moisture, and the only gold we saw was supplied by the light of the paraffin lamps which The Chaperon, always on the look out to anticipate our wishes, provided for us to see our way to wash. The water for ablutions was obtained from the mud-hole which did duty for a well at the ranch, and its appearance was somewhat disconcerting. However, with skill, one could scoop up a little of the surface of the water for a splash without disturbing the thick stratum of mud at the bottom of the basin; things might have been worse, and everyone felt that on such a damp day washing at all was merely an aesthetic waste of energy. By the time dressing was accomplished it was sufficiently light for the lamps to be dispensed with, and we assembled for breakfast in a dull-grey atmosphere. Hot tea, even though half mud, was very good. We believe that the leaf of a certain cactus has the power of clearing water absolutely; if it is dropped in a vessel of water, it and the mud settle at the bottom, leaving the water quite clear; but though several varieties of cacti were tried this morning, none were successful; apparently the special kind did not grow around our camp.
No one seemed much disheartened by the rain; even the peons, though already wet through in their scanty garments, were cheerfully smiling as usual, with no thought of grumbling. Monte, too, was calmly ready to accompany us, despite the bad weather.
Owing either to the skilful manner of tucking in the nets adopted last night, or to the neighbourhood of the sheepfold, mosquitoes had not troubled us nearly so much as on the previous night; only the continual flashes of lightning and the soft rumblings of thunder during the steady downpour had been able to disturb our deep slumbers.