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I took little notice of it, and began to think of the dreadful story the boy had told me, and of many similar ones which I had heard; for I had always endeavoured to get at the history of the huts which were burnt, although I generally found that the Gauchos thought very little about it; and that the story was sometimes altogether in oblivion, before time had crumbled into dust the tottering mud walls which were the monuments of such dreadful cruelties.
It appears the Pampas Indians, who, in spite of their ferocity, are a very brave and handsome race of men, occasionally invade “los Cristianos," as the Gauchos always terms themselves, for two objects to steal cattle, and for the pleasure of murdering the people ; and that they will even leave the cattle to massacre their enemies.
In invading the country, they generally ride all night, and hide themselves on the ground during the day; or, if they do travel, crouch almost under the bellies of their horses, who by this means appear to be dismounted and at liberty. They usually approach the huts at night and at a full gallop, with their usual shriek, striking their mouths with their hands—and this war-whoop, which is to intimidate their enemies, is continued through the whole of the dreadful operation.
Their first act is to set fire to the roof of the hut, and it is almost too dreadful to fancy what the feelings of a family must be, when, after having been alarmed by the barking of the dogs, which the Gauchos always keep in great numbers, they first hear the wild cry which announces their doom, and in an instant afterwards find that the roof is burning over their heads.
While I was sitting upon the side seat of the carriage, reflecting on the cruelties which had been exercised in a country which, in spite of its history, was really wild and beautiful, and which possessed an air of unrestrained freedom which is always exhilarating, I remarked that the carriage was only at a walk, an occurrence which in South America had never before happened to me, and in an instant it stopped. “ Vea Senor,” said Pizarro, with a firm countenance, as he turned back to speak to me,“ que tanta gente!” He pointed with his right hand before him, and I saw that the smoke which I had before observed, was dust, and in it I indistinctly saw a crowd of men on horseback in a sort of wild military array; and on both flanks, at a great distance off, individual horsemen, who were evidently on the look out to prevent a surprise. Our horses were completely tired; the whole body were coming rapidly towards us, and to mend the matter, Pizarro told me that he was afraid they were los Indios. “Senor," said he, with great coolness, and yet with a look of despair, “Tienne armas a fuego ?” I told him I had none to spare, for I had only a short double-barrelled gun and two brace of pistols. “Aqui un sable, Pizarro !” said I, pushing the handle of a sabre towards him from the window of the carriage. “Que sable !” said he, almost angrily; and raising his right arm perpendicularly over his head, in a sort of despair, he added, “ contra tanta gente !” but while his arm was in the position described, “Vamos!” said he, in a tone of determined courage, and giving his hand half a turn, he spurred his jaded horse, and advanced instantly at a walk. Poor Cruz, the other peon, seemed to view the subject altogether in a different light; he said not a word, but as I cast a glance at him, I perceived that his horse, far from pulling the carriage, was now and then hanging back a little-a just picture of his rider's feelings. I could not help for a moment admiring Pizarro's figure, as I saw him occasionally digging his spurs into the side of his horse, which had not only to draw the carriage and me, but Cruz and his horse also ; however, I now began to think of my own situation.
I earnestly wished that I had never come into the country, and thought how unsatisfactory it was to be tortured and killed by mistake in other people's quarrels however, this would not do. I looked towards the cloud of dast, and it was evidently much nearer. In despair, I got my gun and pistols, which were all loaded, and when I had disposed of them, I opened a small canvas bag which contained my ammunition gimcracks, for my gun and pistols had all fulminating locks. I ranged them on the seat before
me—the small powder-flask, the buck-shot, the bullets, the copper caps, and the punched cards ; but the motion of the carriage danced them all together, and once or twice I felt inclined, in despair, to knock them all off the seat, for against so many people resistance was vain : however, on the other hand, mercy was hopeless, so I, at last, was driven to make the best of a very bad bargain.
The carriage, which had a window at each of the four sides, had wooden blinds, which moved horizontally. I therefore shut them all, leaving an embrasure of about two inches, and then for some seconds I sat looking at the crowd which was coming to
As they came close to us, for until then I could scarcely see them for dust, I perceived that they had no spears, and next that they wore clothes ; but as they had no uniforms, I conceived that they were a crowd of Montoneros, who are quite as
cru the Indians; however, as soon as they came to us, and when some of them had passed us, Pizarro pulled up and talked to them. They were a body of seven hundred wild Gauchos, collected and sent by the governors of Cordova and some other provinces, to proceed to Buenos Aires to join the army against the Brazilians; and on their flank they had scouts, to prevent a surprise by the Indians, who had invaded the country only a few weeks before.
It was really a reprieve ; every thing I saw for the rest of the day pleased me--and for many days afterwards, I felt that I was enjoying a new lease of
Pagsage across the Great Cordillera.
On the opposite side of the water, was one of the most singular geological formations which we had witnessed. At the head of a ravine was an enormous perpendicular mountain of porphyry, broken into battlements and turrets, which gave it exactly the appearance of an old castle, on a scale, however, altogether the subject of a romance. The broken front represented, in a most curious manner, oldfashioned windows and gates, and one of the Cornish miners declared « he could see an old woman coming across a draw-bridge."
As I was looking up at the region of snow, and as my mule was scrambling along the steep side of the rock, the capataz overtook me, and asked me if I chose to come on, as he was going to look at the « Ladera de las Vacas," to see if it was passable, before the mules came to it. * He accordingly trot
· When frst, from the melting of the snow, the Cordillera is “ open," this Ladera is always impassable; but it becomes broader towards the end of sammer,