A FORGOTTEN CITY OF THE ANDES

The traveler of to-day is seldom granted the pleasure of visiting really
new territory. How much more rarely comes the joy of being one of the
first of modern men to tread the streets of an entire city, unrivaled in
location and unknown to history! Such, however, is the privilege of
those who come up to Cuzco in these days with the time and disregard for
roughing it necessary to visit Machu Picchu.

The mysterious, white-granite city of the Incas or their predecessors
now called by that name was unknown to civilized man and the world until
Professor Hiram Bingham of Yale visited the site in 1911, to come back a
year later in charge of the expedition that cleared it of the rampant
jungle growth and the oblivion of ages. Here was uncovered what are
perhaps the most splendid pre-Columbian ruins in the Western Hemisphere,
most splendid because, in addition to being the most important—except
Cuzco itself—discovered since the Conquest, they have not been wrecked
by treasure-hunters or confused with Spanish building. The account of
the find had overtaken me in Lima, and all the four-hundred-mile tramp
across Peru to the ancient City of the Sun had been gladdened by the
anticipation of visiting a spot that not only promised extraordinary
interest in itself, but had the added attraction of being difficult of
access.

I had planned to travel to Machu Picchu alone and afoot. In Cuzco,
however, it was my good fortune to run across Professor R—— of our
Middle West, and to change in consequence my customary mode of
transportation. We called on the prefect together. His mind wandered, as
do those of all his class, to his _cholita_ or whatever it is that sends
the Andean official wool-gathering, even while he puzzled to account for
the joint appearance of a famous sociologist recommended by the
President of the Republic and a tramp who had arrived on foot. His
secretary at length delivered an impressive document informing whomever
it might concern that we were going to “Mansupisco.” When I protested,
the prefect assured the professor it was often spelled that way. I
insisted, whereupon he and the secretary sneaked off and found a
geography, and this time got all right except the date. That was a week
behind time, which was perhaps in keeping with the local color.

Martinelli of the cinema, who volunteered to accompany us, owned a coast
horse and a wise gray _macho_, leaving the prefect to obey his
telegraphic orders only to the extent of furnishing another animal
capable of keeping the professor’s feet off the ground. This was not so
easy as it may sound, for the professor had finally halted in his
physical rise in the world about midway between the six and seven foot
mark, and the horses of the Andes are rarely spoken of without tacking
on the Spanish diminutive, _ito_.

Having already spent more than a year among the people of the Andes, I
was by no means so surprised as the professor when, upon descending in
full road regalia to the cobbled street at six, we found no sign of the
horse the prefect had solemnly promised to have standing saddled at our
hotel door at five. Some things come to him who waits—long enough—even
in Peru, however, and by the time the third round of anecdotes was
ended, there broke the street vista and drifted down upon us a Peruvian
soldier in full accoutrements, bestriding a sorrowful little black mule
and leading as gaunt and decrepit a _chusco_ as even I had ever seen
among those shaggy ponies that masquerade under the name of horse
throughout the Andes. The soldier dismounted and saluted. The professor
stood gazing abstractedly down upon the animal, no doubt drawing a
mental picture of himself in the rôle of Don Quixote, with the added
touch of dragging his toes on the ground over 150 miles of Andean
trails. With a snort, and a speed that proved his four years in the
United States had not been entirely misspent, Martinelli disappeared in
the direction of the prefectura. Before another hour had drifted into
the past he reappeared, followed by a second soldier leading a real
horse from the corral of the officers of the garrison.

“How did you manage it?” I asked, in admiration.

“I raised hell,” said Martinelli, tightening the girth of his own
animal.

“What Peru most needs,” mused the professor, who has the happy faculty
of now and then giving his professional vocabulary a furlough, “is about
ten thousand of you young fellows educated abroad to come home here and
raise hell.”

Plainly the professor was already beginning to get a real mental grasp
on South America.

We transferred the government saddle to the real horse and by eight were
clattering away over the cobblestones of the City of the Incas, the
soldier on his sorrowful black mule bringing up a funereal rear. This
was doing very well indeed. To get off on the same day planned, at any
hour whatever, is no slight feat in the Andes. Such of Cuzco as had
already lifted its frowsy head from the pillow gazed hazy-eyed out upon
us as we wound and clashed our stony way up out of the city by that
breakneck stairway down which I had descended from my trans-Peruvian
journey. The morning sunlight fell weirdly upon the City of the Sun
below when we reached the notch in the hills where all Indians pause
before the last view of the sacred capital of their ancestors to murmur,
with bared heads, “O Cuzco, Great City, I bid thee adieu!”

As we jogged on in the sunny October morning across the bare, colorful,
cool hills of Cuzco toward the lofty pampa beyond, I turned to ask the
soldier behind:

“Cómo te llamas?”

“Tomás,” he replied, with a military salute, “Tomás Cobino, sargento de
la Gendarmería Nacional.”

“Can you be that same Tomás who was with the Americans in Machu Picchu?”

“Sí, señor, I attended _los yanquis_ three months in their
treasure-hunts.”

The means has not yet been found of convincing the people of the Sierra
that digging about old ruins can have any motive other than that of
seeking the traditional treasures of the Incas.

A few miles out, the road was in the throes of “repair” by a large gang
of Indians, under command of the alguaciles of the neighboring hamlets,
who stood haughtily by, firmly grasping their silver-mounted staffs of
office. They looked not at all like worldlings, but like men from Mars
commanded by sixteenth-century pirates. At first we met many
mule-trains, Cuzco-bound, the leaders wearing about their necks long
jangling bells with wooden clappers. The Cuzco Indian, of the color of
old brass, with his bare legs, scanty knee-breeches, and flat,
black-and-red _montera_, sneaked noiselessly by with the air of a
whipped cur, fawningly removing his pancake hat and murmuring an abject
“Amripusma.” The greeting sounded like Quichua, but is merely what
becomes of the Spanish “Ave María Purísima” in the mouth of the
aboriginal. The professor showed great astonishment to find even the
women raising their hats in salutation, but Martinelli and I had long
since grown to expect it. In his democracy he touched his own hat and
repeated “Buenos días, señor” to each Indian’s greeting, instead of
acknowledging it with a surly grunt or haughty silence, in the Peruvian
fashion. He would have been astonished to know how the startled native
cudgeled his primitive brain all the way home, there to roll about his
mud hut telling his fellows how he had met a “kara” so roaring drunk
that he called him “señor,” as if he were a white man.

Within an hour the trail swung to the right. Away over our left
shoulders lay that splendid Plain of Anta, rich with cattle and
historical memories of the Conquistadores. The distant bleat of sheep
now and then drew our eyes to a bedraggled little Indian shepherdess,
armed with a sling, and spinning incessantly, automatically, the crude
native yarn on her cruder spindle of a quinoa-stalk run through a potato
as whirl-bob, as she edged cautiously away. These lonely guardians of
the flocks are not infrequently pursued with impunity by native
travelers, and are even known to resort to mechanical means to frustrate
attack. In this treeless region the doors of the Indians’ dismal mud
hovels were of stiff, sun-dried, hairy cowhides. As the bare world rose
still higher, even these miserable dwellings died out, and only the
bleak, brown uplands of the Andes spread about us on every hand.

In mid-morning we topped a great bare _puna_, from the chilly summit of
which the white-crested Central Cordillera stretched like some mighty
wall across the entire horizon, the snow-peaks and glaciers thrusting
their hoary heads through the less-white banks of clouds. Then a vast
Andean valley, like those that had long since grown so familiar to me,
yet were always beautiful, opened out before us, in its lap the town of
Maras, tinted the pale red of its aged tile roofs. The great rolling,
red-brown basin was surrounded by age-wrinkled mountainsides speckled
with little shadowed valleys and perpendicular _chacras_, or tiny Indian
farms, hung on their flanks like small paintings on slightly inclined
walls. We halted for dinner with the gobernador, and for _chala_, as the
Incas called dried cornstalks with half-matured ears; and to admire the
far-reaching view and the cut-stone doorways of mud houses sculptured
with bastard Inca-Christian designs.

We went on again over the high, brown, barren world, the wind-swept
summit of each succeeding land-wave bringing again above the horizon the
great snow-crested wall that each time seemed near, yet all the jogging
day appeared not a yard nearer. At three we came suddenly to a vast
split in the earth, into which we began to go down and ever down by
acute zigzags and stony _cuestas_ that grew so steep we had to dismount
and lead our animals. Before and below us spread the magnificent cañon
of the Urubamba, that river of many names which, rising near Titicaca,
at length adds its bit to the giant Amazon. Spring plowing was in
progress on the valley floor, walled by mountains as far as the eye
could reach in either direction. Over this rampart the sun still peered
when we reached the level of the river at last and, picking up the road
from up the valley, jogged down along it.

Stone-faced terraces of the Incas were frequent; here and there far up
the sheer enclosing bluffs were the ruins of pre-Conquest watch-towers
of rough stone. At times the road was itself one of these ancient
terraces, the retaining wall of the one above rubbing our left elbows, a
sheer drop of some eight feet to that below close on our right. In
places the river itself was faced and narrowed by massive cut-stones.
The exotic iron bridge, replacing to-day the former one of braided
withes, by which we crossed to Ollantaytambo had a central pier of those
enormous boulders which the bygone race seemed to toss about at will.

We rode to the bare, mud-hutted plaza past splendid wrought-stone walls
of what had once been palaces little inferior to those of Cuzco. The
local “authority” bowed low over our “passport” and turned the
_gobernación_ over to us for the night. This was an all but windowless
second-story room opening on the unfurnished plaza, with a springy earth
floor laid on poles. Into it shrinking alguaciles lugged our baggage and
a rheumatic table and bench, without once releasing their staffs of
office. Tomás, our soldier-servant, had found the bringing up of the
rear a heavy task, and he and his worn and sorrowful black mule arrived
with the last rays of the setting sun. Meanwhile, the egg supply of
Ollantaytambo having been greatly reduced, we spread our saddle-blankets
and lay down with heads to the walls; for the slope of the floor was
such that to stretch along them would have been to fetch up before
morning in a tangled confusion in the middle of the room.

Like Limatambo, near which Chusquito had ended our joint career,
Ollantaytambo was one of the four fortresses and rest-houses, each about
twelve leagues out on the Inca highways that sallied forth from Cuzco to
the “Four Corners of the Earth.” Its ruins, among the most striking in
South America, consist of fairly recent Inca structures alternating with
remains of unknown antiquity. Unquestioned history, however, has little
to say of the great wrought-stone fortress in the best “Inca style” on
the hill overlooking the town; the several splendid defensive walls, on
the general plan of Sacsahuaman, being topped off with any chips of
stone at hand, as if at the sudden appearance of besiegers. This might
suggest that a later race of less energy had taken advantage of the
works of more hardy ancestors, but for the mystery of the “Tired Stones”
of porphyry, the largest 25 by 10 by 5 feet in dimensions, which lie
abandoned all the way from the town to the quarry far up near the top of
the mountain wall across the river, down the face of which they were
tobogganed.

Ollantaytambo unquestionably was once densely populated. On all sides it
is surrounded by remarkable terraces, some still under half-hearted
cultivation, long and flat, with barely a foot difference in each
succeeding level, on the valley floor; narrow and high-walled on the
swift mountainsides and for miles up a side gully to the east. The
inhabitants of to-day, unemotional, bath-fearing, Quichua-speaking
Indians, as in all this region, still occupy much of the old “Inca”
town, with its shoulder-wide streets between massive stone walls that
grow more and more careless in construction in direct ratio to their
distance from the center. Whole blocks of these ancient houses are still
intact, except for the roofs, a single doorway giving entrance to each
block. Strangely enough, this was the same unbroken exterior wall around
an interior court common to the Moor and Spaniard. Had it fallen to men
of the Anglo-Saxon race to overthrow the empire of the Incas, they would
have been vastly more struck by the aboriginal architecture than were
the Conquistadores.

Enormous cut-stones are here and there incorporated with the buildings
of to-day; as in Cuzco, many an adobe second-story has been superimposed
on the walls of what must have been at least a king’s palace. Far up the
sheer bluff behind the ancient town hangs the “school,” bright yellow in
color, constructed, according to the alcalde, of some concrete-like
substance that has not disintegrated under the rain and sunshine of
centuries. From below it looks more like a five-story building than the
five terraces piled one above the other on the inaccessible face of the
mountain, which it really is. If, as is commonly accepted, it was a
school for children of the nobles—for the Incas, like the priests who
have inherited their power, did not believe in education for the common
people—a daily climb to and descent from it eliminated any necessity for
a course in physical training. Whether the “school” was built by another
race, or whether those whose massive monuments cover the site below
could not carry their blocks of stone so far aloft, is but another of
those baffling mysteries that hover forever over the ruins of the Andes.
About the town are several “baths” of carved stone, which may rather
have been reservoirs for drinking water—I for one will not believe that
a bath was ever a part of the equipment of the Andean Indian. As
everywhere within a radius of many miles about Cuzco, every possible
boulder, ground-stone, or rock-ledge is carved into seats, steps,
dungeon-like grottoes, every fantastic shape a tyrannic mind could have
conceived, a score of grotesque forms that can only be accounted for as
the whims of some despot. The ancient Peruvian emperors seem to have
believed, as firmly as the windjammer’s “bo’s’n” who sets his crew to
picking oakum, in the relationship between idle hands and mischief, and
to have assigned the otherwise unengaged the task of carving the nearest
boulder.

With the remaining half of the seventy-five miles from Cuzco to
Mandorpampa before us, we were away betimes in the soft, early-summer
morning, tinged with coolness from off the half-hidden snow-clads above,
as we rode northeastward into the sunrise down the right bank of the
Urubamba. Gradually, as the morning warmed, the blue-white glaciers of
Piri and its neighbors shook off their night wraps of clouds, until they
stood forth above us in all their massive grandeur. The valley narrowed
to a cañon, and that to a gorge, with repulsive, bare mountain walls
standing precipitously more than a thousand feet into the sky on either
hand. Here and there the rock-broiling river was hurried between
retaining walls laboriously constructed by the bygone race. Often these
alone held us up, as the precipice shouldered us to the sheer edge of
the stream; sometimes, indeed, the road was hewn out of the
perpendicular mountainside and carried tremulously across from one solid
foothold to another on patched-up props of stone. Straight above us on
virtually unassailable crags were the ruins of walls, and perhaps small
forts, the holders of which might have showered down boulders squarely
upon us—had they not centuries since been laid away in their
bottle-shaped graves, hugging their osseous knees. On the inaccessible
left bank were scores of ancient terraces. For miles every available
inch of the mountainside had once been prepared for cultivation. Small,
indeed, must have been the laborer’s wage, a daily handful of beans and
corn, in this once densely populated cañon, where the struggle for
existence forced the construction of an eight-foot wall of stone to
uphold a four-foot shelf of cultivation.

[Illustration:

Spring plowing in the Urubamba Valley. The woman in front is
scattering manure, the man behind dropping seed potatoes and
covering them by a flip of the bare foot]

Hourly it grew more perfect summer, and ever more delightful views and
magnificent vistas broke unexpectedly upon us, contrasting strangely
with the bleak, wind-swept puna of the day before. The old trail from
Cuzco to the tropical montaña climbed sulkily away up a side quebrada
toward the dreary uplands. This new road to Santa Ana had only recently
made accessible for the first time in modern days this marvelous cañon
of the Urubamba. It was nowhere steep. We went down by frequent little
stony descents, with no corresponding rises, half-aware of now and then
standing in our stirrups as our animals dropped from under us, the
conscious self gazing at the enthralling scene below and above. Frequent
pack-trains passed us, bound upward out of the hot-lands with cargoes of
fiery native aguardiente, in leather skins inside cloth-wrapped wooden
frames, or long cylindrical packages of coca-leaves such as the drivers
were chewing. Often the meetings were at points where only extreme
vigilance saved us from being pushed over the precipice; for, though our
right of way gave us the mountainside, the pack-animals, shy of the
roaring stream below, sought to crowd in between us and the wall, in
spite of the threatening cries and whistling of their arrieros.

At eleven we stopped for “breakfast.” By the time we were in the saddle
again the vegetation began to grow frankly tropical. The approach to the
vast Amazonian lowlands was heralded by trees, then by whole forests
climbing the lower flanks of the hills that cut in alternately from
either side; then they began clothing the lower ridges and the flanks of
the mountains themselves, in delightful contrast to the dreary
treelessness of the upper heights. The first full-grown trees of the
montaña, crowding in among the hardy shrubs of the lower highlands,
began to stand forth against the irregular patches of sky ahead. Jungle
brush and undergrowth sprang up about us. Moss and tropical herbage took
to draping the moist rocks and boulders, until even the perpendicular
face of the mountain clothed itself in lush-green vegetation. Ferns, the
first I had seen in months, appeared, and quickly grew to their gigantic
tropical forms. Orchids were plentiful, and other flowers of brilliant
colors. The government telegraph wire that had followed us across the
bleak, wind-swept puna the day before, on poles shriveled with the cold,
began to jump gaily from parasite-laden tree to tree. Brooks of
sparkling clear water came leaping down from the unseen glaciers and
frozen heights above, to the joy of both man and beast. A condor,
volplaning on motionless wings high above the mountain wall, looked like
a sparrow mingled with the white clouds that flecked the summer sky. A
soft wind caressed us, and upon us fell that lazy, contented mood that
always follows a descent from the cold, nerve-straining páramo.

As we descended still deeper into the fastnesses of the Andes, the solid
granite precipices, rising sheer thousands of feet from the foaming
rapids to the clouds, remained at the same height; but the valley of the
river continued to descend, and gave us the curious effect of seeming to
see the mountains that shut us in rise ever higher into the sky. The
cañon of the Urubamba had shrunk to a resounding gorge of sharp V-shape,
with virtually no room left for cultivation, so that even the hardy
_andenes_ of the ancients were crowded out of existence, and only the
imperious river forced its way through the mountains, permitting the
narrow road to follow on the precarious footholds blasted for it along
one of the towering granite walls. We began to meet yellow, fever-eyed
walking skeletons, straggling languidly up from the tropical valleys.
These increased until all the few travelers were gaunt and hollow-eyed,
and of a lifeless cast of countenance. Now a humid jungle hemmed us in;
impenetrable tropical forest covered all the tumbled mountain world
about us, the further ranges blue-black with distance, an unbroken
wilderness in which might lie buried a score of forgotten cities. Trees
assumed those fantastic shapes that startle or mock the tropical
traveler. Lianas, those great climbing vines over which the northern
school-boy dreams before his open geography while the snow swirls about
the shivering window, swung languidly from these giants of the jungle.
The rampant vegetation clutched playfully at us along the way; now and
again a branch reached forth and whipped us in our sweated faces. The
drowsy chorus of the jungles sounded about us; the tropical joy of life
took possession even of the professor, rousing him to song, so that the
cañon resounded with discordant, rumbling Middle-Western noises.

Toward four the beautiful jagged peak of Huayna Picchu came into sight
down the winding gorge, puffs of white clouds hovering about it; and we
knew we were approaching our goal. But things moved with ever more
tropical languor. In places the road became a stony stairway down which
we must pick our way step by step; in others it was pieced together with
slivers of rock to keep it from falling sheer into the angry stream
below. The impending crags squeezed the trail to the extreme edge, so
that an unwary horseman, gazing at the riches of nature about him, was
not infrequently rapped on the head by jagged points of rock left by the
dynamite of the trail-builders. Tropical birds of startling plumage
flitted in and out of the impenetrable undergrowth; the pungent,
death-suggesting, yet enticing scent of the tropics filled our nostrils.
The sun abandoned us early, and left us with a sense of being down in
some great well dreamily wondering whether we should ever again reach
the broad, open world above.

Dusk was falling when the road wandered out upon a bit of flat meadow,
squeezed between the mountain wall and the now calmer river, facing the
breakneck slopes of Huayna Picchu. This was Mandorpampa. A
grass-thatched hut on poles served as tambo. As we hung our alforjas
over the unhewn beams, an unattractive half-breed, past middle age and
scented with fire-water, appeared from the adjoining hut he occupied
with a flock of Quichua-speaking women and children. It was he who had
first guided _los yanquis_ to the then jungle-hidden Machu Picchu. He
had long known of the ruins, as had other natives, but had never
considered them extensive or important. Indeed, he seemed still to have
a distinctly low opinion of them as “things of the Gentiles,” not to be
compared with the Cathedral of Cuzco, with its tin saints and tinseled
Virgins. He promised to climb to the site with us in the morning,
however, for a consideration, and I fell to preparing supper over my
miniature cooking-range.

After it, we sat for a time in the heavy, humming, tropical night,
listening to the _chirrido_ of jungle crickets and striving by anecdote
and song to keep up the professor’s spirits, drooping under the dread of
snakes and vipers and the thousand subtle dangers of the tropics. For
the night we arranged that Martinelli should share with the family
chickens the pole couch of the Indian’s “guest-room,” knowing that, as a
Peruvian, he preferred to sleep in as airless a spot as possible, while
the professor and I prepared to hoist ourselves up into the garret of
small poles under the low thatched roof of the tambo. It was like
stowing a piano on an upper bookshelf, but we got a bit of our “beds”
bunched under us at last, and when the poles had ceased to sag and
creak, I fell asleep.

The humid darkness was showing signs of fading when I woke the professor
from a night during which, by his own testimony, he had not slept a
wink. The cause of his insomnia was not lack of comfort, for the
professor is an experienced man of the woods, but a great mental
anguish. An insect had stung him on a knuckle. Now the professor had
just come from investigating that dread disease of the Andes knows as
_uta_, from the Quichua word for rot, which, beginning in just such an
insect bite, eats away the victim’s flesh until he is hurried at
breakneck speed into the grave. His was too fixed a place in the life of
our Middle West to afford to be rotted away here in the Peruvian jungle
by a mere insect. Naturally he wanted our earnest examination and
experienced opinion whether we should, after all, climb to Machu Picchu
or hurry back to Cuzco to call a conference of the medical wiseacres. I
examined the bite solicitously. There was no doubt that it was merely
the preliminary nibble of the myriad insects that would have fallen upon
us in earnest, and tattooed us with the strange patterns I had already
often worn, had we descended another five thousand feet into the real
tropics. But one cannot put such things cruelly and baldly to a
companion weighed down by the intangible dread of the subtle,
pest-infested hot-lands, from which no man is free upon his first
descent into them. Between us we convinced the professor that he would
in all probability outlive the day, and by fog-bound six we were off.

[Illustration:

“As we rode eastward into the sunrise down the gorge of the Urubamba,
glacier-clad Piri above threw off its night wraps of clouds”]

[Illustration:

The semicircular tower and some of the finest stone-cutting and
fitting of Machu Picchu. The vegetation had already begun to grow up
again but a few months after the site had been cleared]

The lover of ardent waters had concluded that he could not possibly get
his various activities in shape to accompany us before eight, and we
decided to hobble along without his historical assistance. We paid him
two _soles_ to keep the animals well fed and, lest the matter slip his
mind, left Tomás with him as a perpetual reminder. This left us well
burdened with our “beds” and the supplies necessary to pass the night,
for I would not hear of paying the forgotten city only a flying visit.
Being the only one in Andean training, I volunteered to carry the
surplus and, bowed under a bulky sixty-five pounds held by a llama-hair
rope across my chest, like any Indian cargador, I led the way back along
the road, planning to boast myself forever after the equal of any
aboriginal burden-bearer of the Andes. Barely had I reconciled myself to
the perpendicular climb in store for us under such a load, however, when
we came upon a gang of Indians chopping the boulder-imbedded roadway
higher back under the edge of the cliff for flood-time. The foreman
offered us carriers. None of them were large; beside the professor the
impassive fellows approached dwarfishness, and I uttered a protest when
Martinelli waved a thumb at by no means the largest. But my fancied
equality to the human freight-trains of the Andes oozed away as suddenly
as the rotundity of a pricked wine-skin. When, the Indian had swung upon
his back the burden I had been staggering under on a level roadway,
Martinelli nonchalantly tossed his twenty-five pounds on top of it. A
bit further on that unfeeling savage paused at one of the pole-and-leaf
shelters of the workmen under the edge of the impending cliff and added
a pair of blankets, a coca-bag, and several other personal odds and
ends, then waltzed away as lightly as a prairie chicken under its
tail-feathers—faster than we cared to follow.

Perhaps two miles back, a hidden path plunged swiftly down through the
wet, clinging jungle to the sapling bridge that hung precariously from
rock to boulder across the river. Beyond the snarling stream, which
snatched impotently at us as we passed, sagging, a perpendicular jungled
mountainside, apparently impenetrable, stared impassively down upon us.
But when we had clambered and tripped some distance over the rocks and
jagged boulders at the edge of the raging torrent, a hole in the
undergrowth, like the lair of some wild animal, proved to be the
beginning of a trail, now overgrown almost to nothing.

The first mile up was through densest wet jungle. We climbed clutching
at the vegetation as at the hair of some giant head we were striving to
surmount. The average slope was perhaps sixty-five degrees, though there
were places virtually perpendicular where to lose an Andean
level-headedness would have been to pitch many yards down toward the now
hoarse river below. According to local repute, this section was
notorious for its venomous snakes, particularly a little ten-inch
_víbora_ whose bite is certain death unless the victim instantly adopts
the heroic measures of the Indians and carves out a Shylockian chunk of
flesh, cauterize the wound with a hot iron, and retire a half-year to
recuperate. But as with all tales of robbers, dangers, and sudden death
on the road ahead, that behind me trailed out harmless and unexciting.

Gradually the heavy jungle gave way to a lighter, stunted growth that
had once been burned over and on which the sun blazed down mercilessly.
Up the all but sheer face of this the trail sweated in sharp zigzags.
Rumiñaui, as we had dubbed our stony-eyed carrier, kept steadily above
us, and though he panted a bit, it was the least burdened of us who
called now and then for a breathing-spell. Dry-tongued with thirst, we
came at last to an almost level shelf of the mountain, with a patch of
shade. In it grew a “Spanish tomato” shaped like a huge strawberry, of a
double acidity that throttled our thirst for the moment. Somewhat higher
we found ourselves mounting ancient agricultural terraces. These were
walls of rough stone, head high, that sustained level spaces of like
width. Far from being under cultivation, the rich, black soil of these
artificial mountain shelves nourished an all but impassable tangle of
new jungle growth; and the trunks of great trees that had been felled
and charred over cut us off in many directions. By working our way
laboriously back and forth, and gradually mounting several terraces, now
by a canted tree-trunk, now by the four projecting stones set stair-like
in the faces of the walls, by which the prehistoric husbandmen mounted
and descended, we found a terrace along which we could tear our way, and
came out at last, nearly two hours above the river, on the sheer edge of
things. Machu Picchu lay before us.

My first impression was tinged with disappointment. Aside from the
universal experience of finding a long-heralded scene striking in
inverse ratio to the length of time the imagination has fed upon it, my
mental picture of a city seemed to call for skyscrapers crowded together
over a vast area that could be bound closely together only by a
rapid-transit system. Measured by these subconscious standards, the town
the Incas or their predecessors had left here in the beautiful
fastnesses of the Urubamba was small. But at least it had been our good
fortune to catch the first sight of it from a splendid point of vantage.
Well below us, and across a gully so deep as to be almost a valley, the
abandoned city lay spread out under the gorgeous Andean sunshine in all
its white-granite brilliancy; and if all the town could not be included
in a view from this point, or from any other, that view included all the
finer buildings, and left out chiefly the extensive _andenes_ and the
third-class houses of those who lived on and worked them. Though
roofless, it was otherwise a complete city, in so fine a state of
preservation that the beholder felt like one of the old Spanish
Conquistadores in those enviable years when there were still new worlds
to discover.

On a gigantic scale, its site was that of an ancient feudal castle. A
mountain ridge defended by nature in one of her most solitary moods, and
including within its confines the steeple-pointed peak of Huayna Picchu,
fell away on every side by tremendous precipices into the fearful void
of the Urubamba, a sheer unbroken two thousand feet to the thread-like
river that makes a three fourths circle around it; while beyond,
pregnant with mystery of impassable jungle and the story of a bygone
race, lay a wonderful wilderness of Andean ranges, shaggy with dense
forest, pitched and tumbled and fading away in the blue-black of
unfathomable distance. Yet how strange that an entire city, a mere two
days’ ride from Cuzco, should thus have remained for centuries unknown!
Only he who knows the Latin-American will comprehend how Machu Picchu
could be so seldom visited even now, after _los yanquis_ have uncovered
it; though the cuzqueños who passively wait for foreigners to come and
do what they themselves should long since have done blandly assume
credit for the newly discovered city, as if they had some part in it
because the blood of its builders runs in their veins. Yet to the world
at large its existence was never suspected. Squier, noted for his
accuracy, says self-confidently: “Ollantaytambo was the frontier town
and fortress of the Incas in the valley of the Ucayali, as it is to-day
of their conquerors. There were outlying works some leagues lower down
at Havaspampa, but the bulwark of the Empire against the savage Antis in
this direction was Ollantaytambo.” Small wonder he heard nothing of a
place not a whisper of which has crept into all the writings of Peru
since Pizarro’s secretary first took to setting down the prowess of his
commander.

Machu Picchu was indeed a city of refuge. There is no need of Incaic
lore and the furrowed brow of the archeologist to be certain of that.
Only men scared beyond the functioning of goose-flesh would have
scurried away into this most inaccessible nook of the Andes and
scrambled up these appalling cliffs to escape their pursuers; only men
to whom labor was nothing as compared with the fear of bodily violence
would have toiled a century fitting together these gigantic boulders,
rather than sally forth and take their chances against the slings or
poisoned arrows of their enemies. The slinking, hare-hearted Cuzco
Indian of to-day may easily be their lineal descendant.

Effectively defended by nature though they were, these champions of
precaution left no loopholes. Across the gully between where we sat and
the lost city they had thrown two massive stone walls from sheer
precipice to sheerer. Outside this were most of the agricultural
terraces, for within the city proper was scant space for cultivation,
and in case of attack the peasants no doubt abandoned their fields and
raced to town. Between these walls lay a dry moat, deep and wide, while
at the city gate the fortress was constructed on the “salient” system of
Sacsahuaman, so that while a besieger was gently knocking for admittance
some member of the goose-flesh clan could stroll out on the wall above
and drop a boulder on his astonished head. Nor was that all. In every
least crevice or foothold across which the champion trapeze performer or
tight-rope artist of the besieging tribes could by any stretch of the
trembling imagination have squirmed his way, the defenders built little
patches of rock-wall, in places he only will believe who has climbed to
see; and on the tiptop of the neighboring heights, on Machu Picchu
mountain, on the steeple-point of Huayna Picchu, in every crow’s-nest
the most athletic Indian could hope to reach, were stone watch-towers,
sometimes invisible, from which certainly the sentinels had some
telegraphic means of passing word down to the cautious city. There were
no adventurers among the builders of Machu Picchu. They took no chances.

When we had drunk in this comprehensive view of the forgotten city, we
descended by projecting terrace stones and jungled zigzags and finally
by a great stone stairway to the dry moat, then by a graded approach to
the city gate, always tearing our way through thick undergrowth. For
though “los chapetes” had cleared away the dense tropical forest that
had hidden the city from civilized man since historical time began, the
rampant vegetation was striving quickly to conceal it again, as if
jealous of its beauty or guardian of its secret. Being far more
determined in its efforts than the apathetic Peruvians, it bade fair to
succeed. Already the _caña brava_ waved impudently head-high everywhere,
and what might grow to such trees as had been felled in hundreds were
already sprouting forth again here and there from between the
interstices of the splendid walls. A deserving-politician caretaker had
been appointed by the government, but he was caring for both Machu
Picchu and Ollantaytambo by living in Cuzco on his salary.

[Illustration:

“We came out on the edge of things and Machu Picchu lay before us”]

We sent Rumiñaui ahead to stack our junk under the weather-blackened
thatch roof supported by four slender legs, down in a central space that
might have been a parade-ground or a garden to fall back upon in time of
siege. There we hastened to disentangle the canvas bucket and bade him
“Unuta apamuy.” But it was more easily ordered than brought. The
cut-stone basins to which small _acequias_ had once carried water down
off the shoulders of the range behind had gone stone-dry, and as we lay
choking in the welcome shade, surviving only on the anticipation of the
cooling draughts soon to come, the Indian came wandering back with that
apathetic expressionlessness of his race—the bucket empty. Martinelli
rose up, cursing in three tongues, to lead him, and soon returned to say
that a well-filled bucket was following close behind. But Martinelli was
a Peruvian, given like all his race to counting his chickens before the
eggs are laid. After fighting his way through the jungle to the edge of
the hollow “where the spring really is,” he had neglected to descend ten
yards further through the bushes to find whether the spring really was.
So that a few yards behind his resuscitating announcement came trailing
Rumiñaui, more stony-eyed than ever, still carrying a collapsed bucket.

Audible expression of our inmost sentiments would have been the opposite
of thirst-quenching, and as each day consists of a limited number of
hours, even in the waterless tropics, I slung my kodak over a shoulder
and set out to see as much as possible before preservation of life might
force a hurried descent to the river. The fancied disappointment of the
first view had worn completely away. As the mind adapted itself to
pre-Columbian standards, the abandoned city assumed its true aspect,
that of a delicate work of art of intensive construction. Here in this
eagle’s nest of the Andes, virtually cut off from the rest of the world,
had lived an artistic and adaptable people with a capacity for
concentration of effort, for sustained endeavor, and a high grade of
efficiency now lost among the Peruvians. Virtually all the stone work of
the better part of the city was of the very best “Inca style” in plan,
cut, and fit. Nothing I had seen in all the length of the Andes, from
Cañar in the far north, could surpass these walls, rivaled only by those
of Cuzco; and even those of the City of the Sun cannot match the
charming uniform color of this white-gray granite, approaching in beauty
to pure marble. Whereas Sacsahuaman and Ollantaytambo seemed massive,
cyclopean, this new city of old gives the effect of a delicate gem in a
peerless setting—though the man of to-day ordered to tote the smallest
block in the average wall would not exactly refer to it as delicate.

Like the remains of Cuzco, the ruins are exclusively confined to walls.
The Inca civilization seems to have been of that utilitarian turn of
mind that gives its attention chiefly to the practical, with the result
that to-day there is not a statue in the length and breadth of Peruvian
ruins; and the grass-thatched roofs beyond which these unrivaled
stone-cutters did not advance may have fallen in centuries before
Pizarro first herded his pigs among the foothills of Estremadura. But as
walls they are unsurpassed, fitted with so tireless a nicety that, even
without mortar, they stand to-day, except where the roots of trees have
crowded in between them, striking illustrations of that time-worn phrase
of all Peruvian chroniclers from Garsilaso to Squier, “so that a
knife-blade cannot be inserted between them.” Marble-white walls there
were so splendidly symmetrical that time after time the enraptured eye
stole along them as over a beloved form. As with all Inca architecture,
everything,—walls, doors, niches—decreased in size toward the top, at
about the slope of the surrounding precipices, carrying the mind back to
Karnak and the ruins of the Nile. Every possible ground-boulder or
rock-ledge and mountain-platform was made full use of, and the eye at
times hardly detects where the building of nature leaves off and the
planning of man begins.

Hidden away from the iconoclastic, gold-thirsting Spaniards, and so far
distant from the dwellings of his effete descendants that transportation
of its blocks for their own botching is impossible, Machu Picchu has
escaped the common fate of the other pre-Columbian ruins of the Andes
and remains a city intact, like Pompeii, as genuine as when its
inhabitants abandoned it, carrying off perhaps their household gods and
the revered remains of their ancestors. But for the missing roof, scores
of buildings are as well preserved as on the day their dwellers
departed. Rough-stone, windowed gables—though both Humboldt and Prescott
deny the existence of gables or windows in ancient Peru—stand everywhere
peaked above the general level, sometimes still bearing the stump of a
great tree the roots of which had curled and twined in among the stones
wherever a handful of soil was to be found to feed upon. The ruins
seemed to sprout flowers and trees. Giants of the forest grew wherever
there was a suggestion of foothold; with a Jewish persistency they had
crowded in between apparently inseparable stone blocks; great trees had
sprung up and grown to man’s estate in unbelievable places, on the very
peaks of frail stone gables, even out from between the still
tight-fitted granite boulders. The task of “los yanquis” had been no
sinecure. They had felled an entire tropical forest, with giant trees a
century old, the charred trunks of a few of which lay as they had
fallen, like gluttonous bandits overtaken at their stolen feast,
convenient stairways now from one terrace to another. But much care had
been necessary. Many a stump must be left where it stood, for even to
attempt its removal would frequently have brought down half the
structure it grew in. Besides clearing it of the concealing vegetation,
the Americans had dug away in places several feet of soil and had
presented at last the entire city, with its alignment of streets, its
“baths,” temples, palaces, and blocks of dwellings. The finest ruins of
the Western Hemisphere, the mystery of this city of the unpeopled
wilderness trebles its fascination. How could such a place have
completely eluded the foraging Spaniards? How could long centuries have
passed during which Ollantaytambo was accepted as the last monument of
importance in the valley of the Urubamba? How—

But just then a cry of “Cancha unu!” from Martinelli, who affected
Quichua since he found I had some knowledge of it, brought me tearing
back through the undergrowth to the roof on legs. Back along one of the
terraces a trickling supply of water had been found, and now we might
take time to view the ruins more leisurely. We concocted a lunch and
sent Stony-Eye to carry our possessions to a “sacred cave” among the
palaces.

The town centers about the main plaza, with its splendid wrought-stone
temple, backed by the priest’s dwelling with the sacred hill piled up
behind it. Here, too, is the temple of the three windows, so unusual a
feature of prehistoric Peruvian architecture that the chief of the
excavators connects it with the tradition of the three brothers who came
out of as many windows to found the Empire of the Incas. “Al principio
del mundo,” as Garsilaso puts it,—“In the beginning of the world, say
the Indians who live to the east and north of the city of Cuzco, three
brothers sallied forth through some windows in some rocks, which they
called royal windows.” Certainly, if this is the original Tampu Tocco
from which came the founders of the Empire, they improved little in
their building during the long years between Machu Picchu and the
construction of Cuzco. Its sponsor considers the city a thousand years
old. Yet though the virile simplicity of its construction is untouched
by the beginning of that ornateness that marks decadence in all
civilizations, there is something of delicacy and artistic splendor,
even amid a curious mixture of the crude and primitive, that does not
seem to bespeak an older and less-developed people than the builders of
Cuzco.

The long, solid walls are broken, as in most Inca structures, by niches
large and small, mere shallow closets without doors, with cylindrical
projecting stones alternating between them. These have been fancied,
among other things, to have wardrobes and hooks for clothing, but the
habit of their descendants suggest that the builders were content to
hang their garments on the floor. Though larger than the average Andean
dwelling of to-day, houses of more than one room are rare. The ancient
Peruvians were evidently as indifferent to lack of privacy as their
modern successors. Along the walls are stone couches as comfortable as
those of sun-baked mud which the weary traveler is fortunate to find in
the better-class houses of the interior to this day. They probably had
as little furniture as their descendants, and the host of long ago no
doubt greeted his guest with that selfsame “Tome asiento” (Be seated)
and a wave of the hand toward a six-inch block of wood or a sharp corner
of stone. They lived apparently more thickly than in any modern
tenement-house, and the problem of increase of population must have been
acute. Was it this internal pressure that forced them finally to abandon
their eagle’s-nest? Every square foot of ground was utilized, the rooms
densely crowded together, with even subterranean dwellings, and long
rows of rough-stone houses stand steeply one above the other on the
swift precipices of the city.

For all its ups and downs—and it was next to impossible to go somewhere
else in Machu Picchu without climbing or descending—intercommunication
was amply provided. Scores of stairways of all lengths and sizes, often
laboriously cut out of a single ground-boulder, lead everywhere. Mrs.
Tocco had no difficulty in dropping in on Mrs. Huasi simply because she
lived in another clan-group or up over her head. Tunnels, too, were
common to this ingenious race of stone-cutters, and fat men must have
been as rare as among the Indians of to-day, or distinctly limited in
their movements. No nation under blockade ever made more intensive use
of its agricultural possibilities. Within a radius of several miles not
a possible foot of ground escaped cultivation. The soil, carried perhaps
from a great distance, was richly fertile, and to these men of a bygone
race the building of a massive stone wall to support half its size in
arable ground was all in the day’s work. The terraces on the north side
of the mountain, half agricultural, half defensive, drop swiftly away as
long as there is a suggestion of foothold, and those on the west of the
sacred plaza and below the _intihuatana_, or sun-dial, go down so
vertiginously hand over hand that there could have been no dizzy heads
among the husbandmen of long ago. It was easy for the peasant of those
days to do away with an enemy; he had only to reach down from his own
field and push his rival off his three-foot farm into bottomless
oblivion.

[Illustration:

One of the many stairways of Machu Picchu. “The eye could scarcely
detect where the building of nature left off and the planning of man
began”]

[Illustration:

The resounding gorge of the Urubamba, with terraces of the ancient
inhabitants on the inaccesible left bank]

I pushed on toward the outskirts. The social inequalities of to-day were
as native to the civilization of this lost race. As one left the center,
the houses grew less and less like the cut-stone palaces; on the edges
of the town hung mere cobblestone hovels, little better than the
miserable dens of the modern Indian. All about them now was rampant cane
jungle. On the slopes, from the interstices between the rocks, even on
the thatched roof of last year’s shelter of the workmen, grew big yellow
calabashes, like gypsy pumpkins. Then there was wild corn and self-sown
potatoes, bushes of ripe _ají_, the beloved peppers of the Incas, in
deep reds and greens. These were no doubt the chief products of olden
times, constantly threatened with suffocation by the belligerent
tropical vegetation. Monarch of all he surveyed—and it was much—the
ruler of this aery probably lived chiefly on corn and frozen potatoes,
ground in such carved stone mortars as are still to be found here; and
he could not have been overwhelmingly troubled with a longing for the
fleshpots or for other excitement than that his enemies gave him. For he
does not seem to have often visited other towns, and even “los yanquis”
found no ruins of theater or billiard-hall.

The Incas, using the word broadly, showed an extraordinary liking for
building where they had an unbroken outlook over all the surrounding
world. Lovers of nature, perhaps, though the apparently complete
indifference of their descendants to its charms and moods makes this
debatable, they were, above all, practical fellows, moved less by
esthetic reasons than by an overwhelming dislike of being awakened from
an afternoon siesta by a well-aimed boulder. Yet had their only quest
been unrivaled situations, that of Machu Picchu could scarcely have been
improved upon. Mere words or pictures give faint idea of the unique
charm of the place. Men not merely of iron will and endless patience,
they must also have had a fixed and unchanging policy for generations,
for with such tools as they possessed it is inconceivable that they
could have built Machu Picchu in less than a century. Not even their
ambitionless descendants of to-day have less of the wanderlust than
they; and what a conviction of the perpetual endurance of the status quo
was theirs, to take such infinite pains in their building that they need
not even be repaired for centuries. Were they driven out by the fierce
Aymarás from the south, or by the dreaded “huari-ni,” the “breechless”
tribes from the hot-lands below, which the meek Indian of the highlands
fears to this day; were they suddenly wiped out by an epidemic; or did
they gather strength and courage after centuries of hiding in this lofty
nest and sally forth with the avowed intention of conquering the world,
perhaps to be destroyed, and the secret of their city with them? Every
traveler knows how isolated groups of men gradually come to fancy
themselves superior to all the rest of the universe. Whatever the cause
of the migration, it must have taken stern renunciation to leave behind
so much of the work of themselves and their ancestors.

I was aroused from my musings by a crashing in the jungle, and the
professor hailed me with, “Wait! I want your advice!” It was that awful
bite on the knuckle again. By this time it had grown to nearly the size
of the second letter of this word, was a pale red in color, and about it
was a swelling that could plainly be seen under a microscope, or without
one by a man with good eyes and a badly worried imagination.

“Now of course this might not turn out to be uta,” said the victim, in
an agitated voice, “but if it should, twenty-four hours delay might make
all the difference in the world, and I wonder if it wouldn’t be
_prudent_, at least, to go down now and get started back to Cuzco.”

I examined the alarming symptom with care. There was no doubt that it
was the dreaded “rot”—bally rot, in fact. As to the swelling, had not I
myself more than once been so swollen by tropical insects that my best
friends would not have recognized me in a bar-room? Moreover, I was not
to be cheated out of the night I had promised myself in the abandoned
city, and from words of sympathy and reassurance, I led the conversation
deftly and gently back through the mention of the professor’s large
life-insurance policy, to the dangers of life here in the days of the
Incas, who had not even those post-mortem sops to make existence
bearable, until the terror of the tropics, inherent in all men of the
temperate zone, was buried beneath the fascinating mystery of the
fathomless past.

The earth offers few such views as that from the _intihuatana_, the
“place where the sun was tied,” at the top of the town. There the great
topping boulder has been carved into an upright shaft of stone, of
symbolic sacredness no doubt in those bygone days when the people of
Peru made the error of worshipping the sun instead of bowing down before
wooden images, though it looks as much like a beheading-block as a
sun-dial. The scene is best enjoyed alone. The intrusion of modern man
seems to break the spell, and the imagination halts lamely in its
striving to build up the past. Literally at my feet the world dropped
away sheer to the Urubamba, like a copper thread all but encircling the
entire city with what is virtually one precipice. The altitude of Machu
Picchu is put at 8500 feet and that of the river at 2000 less, yet it is
surprising how distinctly the roar of the stream comes up to the very
top of the invulnerable city. Utterly unpeopled, the visible world is
one tumbled mass of gigantic forest-clad mountains rolling away to
inaccessible distance-blue ranges, rising afar off to snow-capped crests
mingled with the sky. Here are not the haggard and sterile Andes of
elsewhere, but softened, undulating forms, so densely wooded that
nowhere is a spot of earth visible. Swing round the circle, and on the
other side the gaze falls as precipitously into the Urubamba. There
three great ranges rise one behind another, fading from blue to the
purple of vast distances, until the icy wall of the Central Cordillera
shuts off all the world beyond. In another direction the rolling purple
ranges die enticingly away one beyond the other into the great _montaña_
and the hot-lands of the Amazon, while masses of pure white clouds come
floating majestically up out of Brazil beyond. One regrets having to
return as he came, always a misfortune, and the gaze falls again to the
hoarse thread of river below, watching it wind away into the mystery of
the unknown, to break through the central range beyond where the eye
loses it, and so on away, away. But the chief hardship of travel is
renunciation.

Here, in what is to-day the home only of the condor, one may muse, but
muse in vain, on the history of Machu Picchu. A thousand years old; and
a thousand years hence it will still be here! Why is man of such
perishable stuff that mere rocks and stones may laugh at the brevity of
his existence? If only one could call back the ancient inhabitants to
tell their story! Did they build so long before the Conquest that the
city was already overgrown and forgotten when the bearded centaurs first
appeared to startle and undo their descendants? Or was this some secret
holy spot the Indians concealed by silence even from the garrulous
descendant of Huayna Ccápac? Were its existence known to them, why did
not Tupac Amaru and his followers set up a defence here against the
Spaniards? For even in those days the place would have been invulnerable
against anything but treachery from within.

However baffling its story, it is not difficult for one who has wandered
along the Andes to build up a picture of the living city of the past as
he sits here in the declining day, lulled yet excited by the ceaseless
music of the Urubamba far below, mysterious, Indian-like in its
impassiveness, as if it knew, but were sworn forever to guard, the
secret it has girdled with its impregnable precipices for unknown
centuries. Before the inner eye the many stone stairways take on life.
Up and down them move unhurriedly, yet actively, thick-set men and women
with broad, copper-tinted faces, noiseless in their bare feet, their
garments a constant interweaving of many bright colors. The hundreds of
peaked gables take on gothic-steep roofs of thatch, symmetrical,
carefully made, perhaps with decorated ceilings within, at least in the
temples and palaces. Llamas step silently through the narrow streets,
gazing with haughty dreaminess about them. From all the crowded city
rises the hum of busy, bucolic life, yet not noisily, for the general
tone is peaceful industry and a phlegmatic preoccupation. Now and again
the hollow boom of a wooden gong rises and dies away in one of the
sacred temples. As the shadows lengthen, bare-legged workmen, a cheek
swollen with a cud of coca, mount up the breakneck terraces below,
waving with Indian corn or purple with potato-blossoms, pass silently
along the brow of the intihuatana hill, and hurry unhurriedly on to
their cobble-stone huts in the crowded outskirts. A greater hush than
before falls on all the scene, except for the never-varying voice of the
Urubamba, as the Inca, majestic of mien, the royal _llauta_ about his
forehead, attended a certain distance by respectful nobles bearing the
symbolic burden on their shoulders, mounts to the sacred rock. There,
alone, or attended at respectful aloofness only by the high-priests of
the little temple behind, he watches the god of the Peruvians of old
sink swiftly, as it was sinking now, behind the snow range that stands
out cold and clear to the west, and sees the labyrinth of shaggy, wooded
ranges beyond the bottomless void below melt and merge into one common,
fading-purple whole. Off in a corner of the city, on the brow of the
headlong precipice, comes faintly to the imperial ears the sound of
stone striking stone, where the miscreant sentenced that day to carve a
new seat in an over-carved boulder before the coming of the new moon
plies his task. With full darkness even this ceases. The faint
smoke-columns of the supper-fires die away, and before the night is an
hour old the entire city is sunk in slumber, save only the watchmen in
their towers and aeries behind and above, and along the city wall in the
hollow beneath. From these come faint glows to punctuate the darkness of
the Andean night, then nothing, and from a living city Machu Picchu
returns to what it is, an utterly unpeopled mountain-peak cut off from
all the known world, into which have intruded three hob-nailed beings of
noisy modern days, and their stony-eyed serving-man briefly loaned from
that world of long ago.

[Illustration:

The temple of the three windows, an unusual feature of Inca
architecture]

[Illustration:

“Rumiñaui” seated on the _intihuatana_, or sun-dial, at the top of the
town, from which the world falls away a sheer 2000 feet to the
Urubamba below]

Martinelli was inclined to sleep in the sacred cave under the circular
tower. To this the professor objected, as too “snaky,” and they
compromised on the long stone bench above, near the finest wall in Machu
Picchu. When they were settled, I piled my bedding on the back of
Rumiñaui, and drove him away into the humid, viper-teeming darkness.
Sailing under sealed orders, he tore his way fearfully through the
undergrowth that clutched at him with a thousand unseen fingers, down
through the jungle-grown heart of the town and knee-deep across the
sacred plaza, its three great windows staring all but invisible at us in
the night. On I pursued the trembling wretch into the three-sided
high-temple, the most imposing structure of Machu Picchu, and three
times bade him pile his load up on the stone altar before he would
believe his ears. When I murmured “illimni” (“all right”), he turned
tail and fled so suddenly that he forgot even the customary
leave-taking.

Above, below, and all about me the night was chanting its mysterious
pagan song. The distant roar of the Urubamba came up clear and sharp. In
the sky above, myriad stars shone forth with that unusual brightness of
upper heights. The rest was blackness. I cleared away a few plants and
parasites from the altar and the niches above. It was an immense
cut-stone fourteen feet long and five high, but a bare three feet wide,
and a long drop for an uneasy sleeper. I rolled out saddle-blanket and
ponchos to form the “bed” of many an Andean night; then unconsciously,
in an instant, I solved the niche problem that has been harassing
Peruvian antiquarians for centuries. Nothing could be simpler! The
bygone race broke the long surfaces of their walls with these
half-openings neither as settings for their idols nor as stations for
their guards, but as convenient places in which to lay their leggings,
hobnailed boots, and tin watches for the night. I am by no means the
only one who will be glad to have the problem solved at last.

It would have been easy for the high priest to have dropped in on me
during the night, or to have sent his henchmen to do likewise with a few
rocks and boulders, even if he could not have arranged for me a dance of
his private _ñustas_, especially as the temple is now roofless. But I
slept the night through monotonously undisturbed, waking only once to
congratulate myself on being so far removed from the disturbing living
world, and falling asleep again without even feeling to find whether my
revolver still hung within easy reach.

Long wilderness travel seems to develop in the nostrils a power to scent
the dawn. I had finished dressing when the night began to pale along its
eastern rim, and striding away through the dew-dripping jungle and down
the great central stone stairway, I came upon the professor and
Martinelli huddled together end to end on their roofless stone couch,
snoring oblivious of the fact that the daylight in which no true
traveler sleeps had already come. The opportunity for correction was too
precious to lose. Close beside them I drew my revolver and fired a
roaring 38-caliber shot into the rosy dawn overhead. Mere words are
powerless to picture the slothful pair as they exploded forth from their
coverings, with the rampant hair and fist-like eyes of Puritans suddenly
fallen upon by a band of Indians in the good old days when Puritans were
fair prey. In the sacred cave below I found Rumiñaui also sitting up in
his “bed,” scratching the sleep out of his eyes, and having sent him for
my possessions set to boiling coffee while listening to the sad story of
my companions.

Barely had I left them to their own protection the evening before when
Martinelli thought he felt a snake strike his boot, and shouted in
alarm. (By morning light he found a cactus-spine had pricked him through
the leather.) Then Rumiñaui had come with a long and dolorous Quichua
tale of the tribes of “víboras” that had their nests in the interstices
of the wall beside and above them, and only awaited the stillness of the
night to sally forth on their deadly errands. This in turn recalled to
the professor that the so-called circular “snake-windows” were in this
very building, and caused him to scrunch down, head and all, into his
sleeping-bag, hoping against hope that no deadly viper could bite
through its several thicknesses. To make life even more miserable,
another gnat had stung him on another knuckle,—a voracious creature,
evidently, so bent on destruction that it had made a special trip up
from the valley below for this nefarious purpose, since insects do not
commonly inhabit Machu Picchu. Now, it might be that the first bite had
not injected the dread _uta_, but surely no ordinary man could hope to
survive a second. So that all the bitter night through the professor
lay—or, more exactly, curved—rigid and motionless within his six-foot
sleeping-bag on the extreme outer edge of the stone divan, as far as
possible from the viperous wall, yet always in fear of taking the awful
two-foot drop to the reptilian ground beneath, while before his sunken
eyes passed in cinematographic succession the picture of the dread “rot”
he could distinctly feel creeping and crawling through all his frame,
devouring it limb by limb, feature by feature, the awful news seeping
out into the Middle West that one of his most cherished citizens had
been brought to grief by a mere insect of the Andes! But enough of the
harrowing details! Yet the worst is still to be heard. All the endless
night through things kept dropping down upon the sleepers from the wall
above. To my unromantic mind these were bits of twigs and leaves, yet in
the subtle silence of the tropical night small wonder each was a
possible sudden-death to the sufferer within the sleeping-bag, assuring
himself a thousand times that no viper could bite through it, yet
lacking faith in his own assurance. The most anguishing moment of all
was that when there dropped squarely upon him, with a soft, reptile-like
thud, something that proved by daylight that he had hung carelessly in
the Incaic niche above one of his woolen socks!

The descent was harder than the climb; also it was quicker. So slippery
was the wet trail at that angle that whenever our heels failed to bite
into the soil we sat down emphatically on the backs of our necks some
feet further down the slope, fetching it a resounding wallop with the
rest of the body. There is talk of some day building an electric line
from Cuzco, and a funicular up to the ruins, with perhaps a tourist
hotel among them. Fortunately talk does not easily breed action in Peru.
One of the chief charms of Machu Picchu is inherent in the difficulty of
reaching it; a scene once made accessible to fat, middle-aged ladies is
ready to be marked off the traveler’s itinerary and to be turned over to
the tender mercies of the tourist.

We ended the descent without broken bones, though not without shattered
tempers, and finding the precarious connection with the outer world
still sagging between the roaring boulders, climbed the wet jungled bank
beyond. Here Rumiñaui, in addition to his regular government wage of
twenty cents, was rewarded with a shilling and a handful of coca-leaves,
only the latter seeming to be of any interest to him; and here,
strangely enough, Tomás was waiting, as he had been ordered, with the
four animals, their heads turned toward Cuzco.

On November 11th I took train southward. Though my original plan of
following the Inca highway from Quito to Cuzco had been accomplished,
the thought of turning homeward with half the continent still unexplored
had become an absurdity. But the scattered life of that dreary region to
the south of the Imperial City promised too little of new interest to be
worth covering on foot. If I did walk down to the station, behind my
belongings on jogging Indian legs, it was because to have waited for the
nine o’clock mule-car would probably have been to miss the nine-thirty
train.

Cuzco, like its rival to the north, has been connected by rail with the
outside world since 1908. The train leaves on Tuesdays and Saturdays,
spending a night at Sicuani and another at Juliaca, whence a branch
descends to Arequipa. Every Friday there is a vertiginous “express” that
makes Puno in one day.

A fertile valley, the great _bolson_, or mountain pocket, that stretches
from the pampa of Anta in the north to Urcos on the south, with many
grazing cattle, frequent villages, and strings of laden Indians and
asses, rolled slowly past. Before noon we caught the gorge of the muddy
Vilcañota, the same stream that under the name of Urubamba encircles
Machu Picchu, with little patch-farms far up the face of the enclosing
ranges and here and there steep, narrow side valleys rich with
cultivation. Yet cultivatable ground was scarce, so scarce that it was
easy to understand why the ancient population spared as much of it as
possible by walling up their dead in caves and planting all but
perpendicular slopes.

Next day the valley rose gradually, until cultivation gave way
completely to cattle and sheep, then to llama and alpaca herds grazing
on the tough ichu of broad punas stretching to arid foothills that, in
turn, rolled up into a great snow-clad range on our left. An aggressive,
despairing aridity, rarely touched with a cheering note of green, spread
in every direction. A dreary land indeed would this have been to journey
through afoot. Small wonder the race accustomed always to this desolate
landscape is of melancholy temperament, given to personifying nature as
a host of evil spirits inimical to man.

The drear and barren land across which lay the branch line of the third
day rolled ever higher to the Crucero Alto at 14,666 feet. Two large
lakes, cold, steely-blue in tint, with a few barren islands, broke upon
the scene and sank slowly as we panted upward; patches of snow lay
above, around, and then below us; the glare of the arid, sun-flooded
landscape grew painful to the eyes, recalling that many an Andean
traveler holds colored glasses an indispensable part of his equipment.
Towns there were none; and the stations consisted of one or two
wind-threshed buildings of stone or sheet-iron, dismal beyond
conception.

Then we descended gradually. Here and there in the edge of reedy lagoons
stood _parihuanas_,—long-legged, rose-tinted birds the feathers of which
in olden days formed the Inca’s head-dress, when capital punishment was
meted out to anyone of lesser rank who dared decorate himself with them.
Equally sacred were the _vicuñas_, the undomesticated species of the
llama family that furnished the imperial ermine. Ordinarily the traveler
is fortunate to catch sight from the train of one or two of those timid
animals. To-day a group of fourteen appeared not five hundred yards away
across the pampa; then within an hour we passed close by flocks of nine,
twelve, seven, and eight respectively, a total of fifty, more than my
Peruvian seat-companion, who crossed this line several times a year, had
seen in all his life. Unlike the three domesticated species, llama,
alpaca, and guanaco, the vicuñas are uniform in color, a reddish-brown
with whitish belly, legs, and tail, not unlike a fawn in general
appearance. A more delicate animal could scarcely be imagined; the neck
seemed hardly larger than a man’s wrist, the legs fragile in their
slender daintiness. They were graceful, as well as swift, even in their
running, which resembled the gait of the jack-rabbit in the way they
brought front and hind legs together. The flocks still belong to the
government as in the days of the Incas, when they were protected by
royal edict, under penalty of death. For some ten years past Peruvian
law, too, has forbidden killing them, but the valuable wool and skins
are still to be had in the larger cities, for game-wardens are
conspicuous by their absence.

What seemed a hopeless desert thinly covered with dry, wiry bunch-grass,
now spread in all directions. We were crossing the vast “Pampa de
Arguelles,” so named from the family that has leased hundreds of square
miles of it from the government. They in turn grant the Indians
permission to graze their cattle,—at 25 cents a year for larger animals,
twice that for each flock of small ones; yet “los Arguelles” derive
income sufficient to permit the family to live on the fat of Paris.
Mirages, as of rivers flowing landward, appeared now and then across the
arid immensity. At stations lay piled great heaps of _yarlta_, a fuel
resembling a cross between peat and giant mushrooms. Further down, a
scraggly bush was cut for the same purpose and carried in bundles on
donkeys’ backs. Soon that dreary Sahara of the West Coast lay on every
hand, massive rocks piled up fantastically, monotonous to the last
degree, yet not without a certain striking beauty under some moods. The
landscape was what the Germans call _eintönig_, of a rich yellow-brown,
dusted by the winds and bleached by the suns of centuries, and spreading
away to infinity with a hint of the vastness of the earth which even the
sea does not give.

Suddenly a deep-green patch of alfalfa burst out among the glaring
rocks, trebling their barrenness by contrast. It was the little oasis of
Yura, fed by a small stream, the water of which, reputed efficacious to
disordered livers, is bottled and sold—less widely to-day than before
the priests, whose rival establishment produces the “Water of Jesus,”
threatened to blackball out of heaven anyone who drank the other. Then
far away across the Egypt-tinted world the eye made out well below, at
first dimly, a green oasis with a great, or at least a widespread, city
covering about half of it. “Ari, quepay!” (“Yes, let us stay a while!”)
the first settlers are said to have cried when they caught sight of this
garden spot; and the train seemed like-minded, setting us down at last
in Arequipa, second city of Peru. Three dawdling days had been required
to cover 412 miles.

The only place of importance between the Pacific and Titicaca is
strikingly oriental in atmosphere, with a suggestion of Cairo, thanks to
its shuffling donkeys—a hole is slit in their nostrils that they may
more easily breathe this highland air—and its encircling desert, yet
exceeding the latter in beauty by reason of the snowclads hovering about
it. To the north lies Chachani, fantastic with its peaks and pinnacles
and jagged ice-fields; nearer at hand stands hoar-headed Misti, rivalled
in symmetry of form only by Fujiyama and Cotapaxi. From any second-story
roof the arid, yellow sand stretches away as from the summit of the
pyramids to a horizon far more broken and tumbled than that of the
Sahara. The hills are streaked with what looks like snow, but is really
fine sand, the same sand that lies in waves monotonously multiplied in
the form of wandering, crescent-shaped _médanos_ nearer the coast,
whence quantities of it are shipped to Europe to make a cheap glass.
Down below and round about the city are fat cattle knee-deep in green
pastures, in an oasis where irrigation produces alfalfa, as well as many
fruits, in abundance. The desert air is clear beyond words, bringing the
newcomer from the bleak highlands above the impression that summer, an
unoppressive midsummer of the North, has suddenly come again. Every
evening wonderful sunsets, ranging from lurid pink through purple and
blue-gray to a velvety fading slate, play a veritable symphony of color
across the surrounding desert world.

The city itself is flat, of one, or at most two stories, always with the
bulking mass of Misti or its neighbors behind it. Earthquakes have been
frequent in Arequipa. Because of these visitations, perhaps, the town
has everywhere an unfinished appearance, most buildings ceasing abruptly
just above the first story and looking as if the rest had been shaken
off or suddenly abandoned. A few have ventured to crawl up again to two
stories, and here and there a bold adventurer to three, these latter,
commonly of sheet-iron, seeming constantly to tremble at their own
temerity. As in Lima and the lands of the Arab, the roofs are flat,
places of promenade and evening _tertulias_; for rain falls, if at all,
only in brief afternoon showers. The town is built largely of a soft
white stone, almost chalk in composition, and light in weight as
terra-cotta, which is chopped or sawed out of a desert quarry not far
away and which, though it hardens in the air, can still be carved with a
knife. Two arched bridges with massive piers, mildly suggesting those by
which one enters Toledo in Spain, span the little cliff-sided Chili. The
eucalyptus seems less at home here than in the higher cities of the
Sierra, but drooping willows abound. As everywhere on the West Coast of
Peru, massive mud fences afford places of promenade in the outskirts.

I was treading close on the heels of civilization of a material sort.
Electric street-cars had appeared in Arequipa a bare three months
before; with motormen imported from Lima they afforded an efficient
service to nearly every corner of the oasis. The innovation had not been
without its difficulties. Strolling one morning, I met three cholos
driving a dozen donkeys marketward. Suddenly they began to shout and
dance about the animals as if some danger were imminent. A block away
sounded the gong of a bright new tramcar, but as I had never known one,
least of all in South America, deliberately to run down an animal, I
wondered at the uproar. To my surprise the car came on without
slackening speed. The shrieking cholos succeeded in hauling, pushing, or
coaxing most of the stubborn brutes off the line, but one pair refused
to vary their set course. At the last moment one of these lost courage
and sidestepped, but his sturdy black companion kept serenely on, with
stubborn down-hung ears and a “to-hell-with-you” flip of the tail—and
just then a corner of the swiftly moving car caught him on the starboard
beam. He turned a complete somersault on the cobbles, rolled on to his
feet, and gazed after the still speeding car with a scowl not unmixed
with a ludicrous expression of astonishment. Later I learned from the
American manager of the line that a number of donkeys, burritos, and
dogs had been killed during the first month of operation. Decrees and
warnings had been utterly wasted, and Arequipa’s donkeys would have
stagnated the lines and again taken possession of the gait of life
without this resort to the teaching of experience.

Cuzco and Arequipa are reputed the Peruvian strongholds of conservatism.
Of the two, the latter is probably more deeply under the spell of the
ancient church. The din of bells was almost constant; during my week in
the city I saw no fewer than five images of the Virgin paraded through
the streets to the usual accompaniment of kneeling cholos, bareheaded
whites, and scores of sanctimonious-faced old beatas following with
funereal step. Several of Arequipa’s fiestas are noted for the dancing
of wooden saints to barbaric music in the public squares. Others have
fixed periods of calling on their fellows, sallying forth from their
home churches to the plaza where, manipulated by the cholo bearers
beneath, they bow to and finally “kiss” each other, to the fanatical
applause of the multitude. The town boasts also several crucified
figures operated by wires that cause the eyes to roll, the limbs to
quiver, and the head finally to droop as in death, after which a gang of
workmen, carrying towels over their arms to wipe away the “blood,” climb
up to remove the nails and lay the “body of Jesus” away in a glass
coffin until the next holy day.

[Illustration:

The babies of Bolivia sit in a whole nest of finery on nurse’s back]

[Illustration:

Arequipa is built of stones light as wood, cut from a neighboring
quarry. They harden when exposed to the air]

From a score of stories typical of Arequipa with which I was favored by
a fellow-countryman, who had spent many years as the alpaca expert of
the chief local warehouse, I pass on two. For months he and his wife had
been annoyed by the throngs of beggars who gathered for a bowl of soup
each noon at the monastery just across the narrow street from his
residence, and then slept out the day in the sandy hollows nearby, like
the dogs of Constantinople. What particularly aroused his ire were the
habits of an old fellow of ninety or so, whom he had known for years. A
few weeks before, finding him in the all too scanty remnants of what had
once been shirt and trousers, the American had smuggled him into his
workshop and given him a complete new outfit from his own wardrobe. The
mendicant returned to his customary hollow a hundred yards up the
street, which he was accustomed to share with several curs and a donkey
or two, and during the night his fellow-beggars robbed him of the new
garments. What, then, was the donor’s surprise and American disgust when
he set out on his early stroll next morning to find the old fellow
parading up and down the street, begging of the women bound for mass in
the monastery church “without a lickin’ stitch on him, as naked as the
day he was born. If you’d tell it in the States, they’d say you was
lyin’ and that he must have had a shirt an’ britches on anyway. But, no,
sir, just as I’m telling you, without a lickin’ stitch, an’ parading his
wrinkled old ninety-year carcass up an’ down amongst all them women
goin’ to mass.”

But the ladies seemed merely to be mildly amused, and the native
policeman saw nothing in the sight worthy of comment. Children now and
then roam the streets of Arequipa in their birthday clothes, and the old
fellow had long since been in his second childhood. My outraged
fellow-countryman went across town to make complaint to his friend, the
prefect. The latter did not see what he could do about it.

“Why don’t you send him to the hospital?” grumbled the alpaca-expert.

“They wouldn’t receive him, with no one to pay for his keep.”

“Well, sir, I couldn’t stand it no longer having that ol’ feller
paradin’ around before my house, with my wife inside an’ all of them
women folks goin’ to mass, as naked as the day he was born. So next
mornin’ I borrowed a stretcher an’ got four Indians, an’ I says, ‘Now
you git that ol’ feller on that stretcher an’ tie him down an’ carry him
over to the hospital an’ leave him inside, or dump him in the river or
anything you like, only so’s you git him out of here. An’ I’ve got a
phone an’ when I hear he’s inside the hospital I’ll give you each a
sol.’ Well, sir, them Indians just dumped him in the hospital _payteeo_
before the Sisters of Mercy could shut the gates, an’ they had to keep
him.

“I’ve got a lot of friends amongst them priests across the road, even if
I ain’t a Catholic,” he went on, “an’ they’re a pretty nice lot o’
fellers, take ’em all in all. They’s three kinds of ’em: the brown
priests, the black priests, an’ the white priests” (Franciscans,
Dominicans, and Mercedarias). One especial, by the name of Jayzoóse, has
been over here in my house off an’ on for fifteen years to ask for a
chicken or some eggs, or a few dollars to build a new altar, or to have
a few drinks—Oh, they’re a pretty decent lot o’ fellers, an’ of course
they’ve got to live somehow. Well, Jayzoóse—he’s livin’ with a woman
over there behind the monastery wall an’ got four or five kids; but then
of course they all do that in Peru, though I suppose the Catholics up in
the States wouldn’t believe you if you told ’em, but of course you ’n me
or anybody that’s been down here—well, Jayzoóse come over the other day
an’ says he wants me to come an’ hear him preach. So I went out to a
church over here on the edge of town an’ I tell you he preached a mighty
strong sermon, too. Only it was All Saints’ Day an’ of course everybody
was drunk. So I was layin’ here readin’ along in the afternoon, when I
heard somebody knock at the street door—or if I happened to be asleep
an’ didn’t, Theodore Roosevelt” (pointing to a cross between a Dachshund
and a pug curled up at his feet) “here, or Woody Wilson” (an Irish
terrier) “there did, for they always hear anybody that knocks, no matter
if it’s midnight—an’ I went to the door an’ there was Jayzoóse, an’ he
was pickled to the eyes. So I invited him in, an’ he says, ‘Why don’t
you give me something to drink?’ An’ I says, ‘Well, Jayzoóse, I ain’t
got anything in the house just now, but I’ll send out an’ get something.
An’ I sent out an’ got two bottles of beer. But Jayzoóse was that drunk
he couldn’t sit up, say nothin’ of stand up, an’ when the beer come he
got to rollin’ around an’ out of his pocket drops a big loaded revolver.
I picked it up an’ says, ‘Here, I’m goin’ to keep this gun fer you. What
are you goin’ to do with a gun anyway?’ An’ Jayzoóse says, ‘I’m goin’ to
kill that there Chilian blacksmith down the street, because he don’t go
to mass an’ says he don’t believe in the Holy Church an’ its miracles;
an’ if I’d a had a couple of drinks more, I’d a killed him las’ night.’
An’ I says, ‘No, you don’t want to kill that feller, Jayzoóse, an’ I’ll
keep this gun fer you until to-morrow,’—an’ I got up to help him home,
an’ when I opened the street door, in tumbles a woman that had been
leanin’ up against it—being All Saints’ Day—an’ just fell down into the
parlor here; an’ by the time I rolled her out again an’ got Jayzoóse
home I was sweatin’ some, I can tell you.”

I strolled out one afternoon in a leisurely hour from the central plaza
by a street growing ever rougher and less cobbled to the Harvard
Observatory on the flank of Misti, with a splendid view of the
snow-capped cone towering into the sky close beside it and a marvelous
outlook over all the oasis of Arequipa. Here, in a household where it
was easy to fancy myself suddenly set back in the heart of my own land,
American scientists photograph the heavens on large dry-plates, with
exposures of from one to eight hours, through telescopes automatically
regulated to the speed of the earth, but requiring also constant hand
adjustment. Arequipa, however, is growing less ideal for the purpose,
since the number of its cloudy days has more than doubled. The blood-red
sun was sinking behind the Sahara hills when I turned homeward through
the caressing air of evening, the desert flanks of Misti and Chachani
and Pichapichu glowing a velvety red from the reflection of the opposite
horizon, the white oriental city growing dimmer and dimmer, then
suddenly bursting out in a spray of electric lights above which the two
white spires of the cathedral more than ever resembled minarets.

Next day I returned to the highlands in the private car of the railway
superintendent, a fellow-countryman. The day was brilliant, the leprous
desert flashing in the sun even after it had given way to the ichu-brown
tablelands of the great plateau, Misti bulking as large a hundred
kilometers away as out at the observatory on her flanks, and snow-caps
springing up into the luminous sky about us to all points of the
compass. All the afternoon we loafed in cushioned armchairs facing the
back platform, on which sat our host shooting with automatic gun-pistol
at vicuñas, a pastime strictly against the law, but Peruvian statutes
scarcely reach the altitude of a railway superintendent. Fortunately the
animals were scarce and far away, and the nearest he came to breaking
the law was to raise the desert dust about them and send them scampering
across the rolling pampa at a lope between that of jack-rabbit and a
deer, sparing us the necessity of halting the train and sending out the
crew to bring in the game. From Juliaca we turned south along a flat
once-lake-bottom. Arms and branches of Titicaca, full of shivering
reeds, broke in upon the dusk that thickened into night just as we
pulled into Puno, cold, dreary, and monotonously like all other towns of
the high Sierra.

I had timed my arrival to take, instead of the regular steamer directly
across the lake, the semi-monthly “Yapura” that makes the round of its
shore, with many stops. We were off at ten and out upon the “open sea”
by midnight, a huge distorted moon rising off the starboard bow, into
the prismatic wake of which we wheezed slowly but steadily, until it
crawled up under the black skirts of the clouds that covered the edges
of an otherwise starlit sky. A wind as penetrating as that off Cape Race
caused our diminutive craft to roll and plunge merrily, to the distress
of the priest, lawyer, and home-made Ph.D., with whom I shared the
six-by-eight dining-room-cabin. Titicaca by daylight has the identical
color of the sea itself, and we awoke to find ourselves wheezing along
in mid-ocean, so to speak, at eighteen knots—every two or three hours.
We cast anchor first before the red town of Juli, in a lap of bare hills
sloping up from the steel-blue lake. I dropped on top of the first
boatload of cargo and went ashore, the captain, having orders not to
start without me, promising to blow a special signal. The Jesuits claim
to have set up in Juli the first printing-press in America, and here
Quichua was first reduced to writing. To-day it is a mere dawdling
village, distinguished by the voluminous Dutchman breeches of its
Indians. At noon Pomata held us long enough to unload the priest and a
few boxes and bales at the usual cobblestone wharf. This same good padre
had assured me that it was a well-known fact that Saint Thomas had
visited America before the Conquest and had brought the Indians their
civilization, being known to them as “Tomi”—a bit familiar, to say the
least. How persistently mankind seeks to rob poor old Columbus of his
glory!

In the afternoon we churned into a wide, semicircular bay as far as
shallow water and rustling reeds permitted, and I was soon climbing the
easy slope to Yunguyo. Here and there was much freight to discharge.
When I expressed my surprise at the consumptive powers of so small a
town, the captain winked an Irish-Peruvian eye and breathed, rather than
murmured, “contrabando.” I had come at last to the end of endless Peru,
with the unexpected privilege of walking out of it, as I had entered it
eight months before. Yunguyo lies on the neck of a little peninsula,
part of which, by the arbitrariness of international frontiers, is
Bolivian. The steamer had orders to pick me up in the morning, and
slipping on kodak and revolver, I struck out for the sacred city of
Copacabana. A league from the landing the road mounted a stony ridge,
passed through the two arches of an uninhabited rural chapel, and left
the historical, if sometimes profanity-provoking, land of Peru forever
behind.

To that day I had never, to my knowledge, met a Bolivian. Those born
beyond the boundary evidently kept the fact a profound secret, and in
Peru the silence about the adjoining land was as if it were on the
opposite side of the earth. Once in Bolivia it was as rare to hear
anything of Peru. It was a stony country, in fact there were more stones
than country. Everywhere they lay piled up in high massive fences with
half-tillable patches between them. The wide road was well-peopled with
Indians afoot, Indians darker and of more independent mien than those of
Cuzco. This was the route by which, according to tradition, Manco Ccápac
set out from the island of Titicaca to found the Inca Empire. The
countrymen were engaged in a sort of planting and plowing bee, a
half-drunken festival, their hatbands decorated with newly picked
flowers. The instant I passed the boundary the head-dress of the women
changed to an ugly, round, narrow-brimmed felt hat hitherto unknown. On
the Peruvian side the shores of the lake had been reedy and shallow,
lisping with water-birds and a melancholy wind from off Titicaca, as if
the sea were thinking sadly of its lost glory. But as I topped the ridge
of the peninsula, there opened suddenly before me the vast steely-blue
lake, as clear-cut against the base of the reddish-brown hills as if dug
with some gigantic spade, rolling away in one direction over the horizon
like an Atlantic, the velvet-brown island of Titicaca standing forth in
the middle distance sharp as an etching. Rocks, which the superstitious
Indians fancy are impious men turned to stone, stood forth on every
hand. Children along the way addressed me as “tata,” the Aymará version
of the Quichua “tayta” (father).

At the end of a five-mile stroll the stony highway broke forth into a
little lake-side town. The church and monastery sacred to Our Lady of
Copacabana, roofed with glistening green and yellow tiles, in a square
surrounded by heavy walls brilliant with the crimson _flor del Inca_,
nestles in a lap of rocky hills a bit back from the lake and bulks high
above the haunts of mere men at its feet. In the days of the Incas this
was a holy city, with a certain “idol of vast renown among the
Gentiles,” a place of purification whence pilgrims embarked for the
ultra-sacred island of Titicaca. The church militant would not have been
itself had it lost this opportunity of grafting its own superstitions on
those of the aboriginals, and some three centuries ago the present
“Virgen de Copacabana” was set up, with the usual marvelous tale of her
miraculous appearance in this spot. Her servants have been realizing
richly on their foresight ever since. A steady stream of pilgrims pours
into the holy city from Peru, as well as Bolivia, and even from further
off, the year round, though August 5 and February 2 are the days of
chief festival and mightiest crowds. Near the monastery is a large
_hospicio_, a two-story lodging-house for pilgrims, with a great
rectangular patio opening through an archway. In the town roundabout is
that curious atmosphere of a mixture of piety and commercial advantage
common to Rome, Jerusalem, Benares, and Puree, an air of something hard
to believe, yet highly advantageous to accept, at least outwardly. The
costumes of the populace had grown frankly Bolivian. In several of the
shops stocked with sacred baubles, facing the immense grass-grown plaza,
women were rolling cigarettes, new proof that I was in Bolivia, for to
roll a cigarette in Peru is the exclusive privilege of the government.

The priest of Pomata had given me a note to the superior of the
monastery. A doorkeeper led me into pillared cloisters opening on a
flower-grown patio and softly into the sanctum of Father Basoberri, deep
in conversation with a parish priest who had brought a flock of pilgrims
from a neighboring town. Being a European, he created a better
impression than the average native churchman. To celebrate my arrival he
ordered a servant to uncork a bottle of imported beer and, after the
first formalities, had him set me down in the monastery dining-room,
where an excellent meal stopped abruptly short of dessert and coffee.
The superior conducted me in person to the large brick-and-tile room
reserved for distinguished guests, opening on the now bitter-cold
expanse of Titicaca, and advised me to fasten the padlock and put the
key in my pocket, “for though we are here in a monastery, there are
people passing back and forth, and it is safer. Now,” he went on, “if
you wish to see the customs of the pilgrims, you have only to mount that
stairway.”

I climbed two stone flights in semi-darkness and found myself in a
narrow wooden gallery at the back of a large, high chamber suffused with
a “dim religious light.” It was painted blue, with a sprinkling of
golden stars, as nearly the painter’s visualization of heaven, no doubt,
as the crudity of his workmanship permitted him to express. Confession
and a contribution to the attendant priests are requirements for
admittance to the floor of the church below. At the further end stood
the gaudy altar, in its center a glass-faced alcove containing the
far-famed Virgin of Copacabana. The figure, scarcely three feet high,
was cumbered with several rich silk gowns, laden with gold and jewels,
and with a blazing golden crown many sizes too large. Round-about her
were expanses of golden-starred heavens, and half a hundred of what
looked to a layman like large daggers threatened her from all sides. The
original blue-stone idol had been destroyed by the Spaniards, the
present incumbent having been fashioned in 1582 by Tito-Yupanqui, lineal
descendant of the Incas. He was no artist, but was said to have been
inspired by the Virgin herself.

The place was unusually immaculate for the Andes, as becomes a famous
shrine where money pours in the year around, and was in striking
contrast to the squalor of the surrounding region. The entire floor
below was crowded with kneeling pilgrims, weirdly half-lighted by
candles, except around the altar, where there was light enough to make
priests, acolytes, and the Virgin stand out brilliantly. A week is the
customary length of stay for pilgrims, with a ceremony of welcome and
one of dismissal, separated by a long series of masses, confessions and
purifications—not to mention the ubiquitous fees. It is perfectly
well-known throughout the length and breadth of the Andes, as the priest
from the neighboring town, having taken me in hand as soon as I appeared
in the gallery, whispered above the rumble of the services, that Nuestra
Señora de Copacabana is an all-round champion in the miracle line. For
instance: Hardly a year back she had picked up a ship about to be
wrecked on the coast of Chile and set it out a thousand miles or so into
the mill-pond Pacific, merely because one of the sailors had had the
presence of mind to call upon her at the height of the storm. The
newspapers of the time seem to have covered the service poorly. Or there
was the case of the Indian in my cicerone’s own parish who, working in
his field far up the side of a mountain sloping swiftly toward Titicaca,
suddenly fell headlong down the precipice. He would infallibly have been
dashed to pieces on the rocks below, had he not suddenly, halfway down,
uttered the name of the Virgin—personally I never knew the mind of an
Andean Indian to work with such rapidity—and instantly found himself
comfortably seated back in his own field again. The fact should not be
lost sight of, however, in rating this marvel that the Aymará husbandman
cheers on his labors with an even stronger chicha than that of his
Quichua cousins to the north.

The ceremony we were now witnessing was that of dismissing the departing
pilgrims. At about two-minute intervals there knelt on the steps of the
altar one person, a man and wife, or sometimes a man, wife, and child,
always of the same family. An Indian acolyte in red thrust a lighted
candle into a hand of each, the chief priest bowed down before the
image, while back beside us in the gallery an Indian in a poncho pumped
a wheezing melodeon and the choir, consisting of several boys, four old
half-Indian women wrapped to the ends of their noses in black mantos,
and three merry little girls who managed to keep up a constant gossip
and game through it all, knelt on the floor about the instrument and
moaned weird hymns. If the pilgrim was of the “gente decente” class, the
hymn was in Spanish; if an Indian, it was in Aymará. During the singing,
and the chanting of the priest, another acolyte in a still more striking
robe stepped forth and covered the kneeling person or persons at the
altar with what looked like a richly embroidered blanket. This the
priest beside me asserted was the Virgin’s cloak, capable of protecting
from all evil, for a certain length of time—varying, perhaps, with the
fee.

Then suddenly the cloak was snatched away, the candles were jerked out
of the hands of the worshippers, the latter were all but bodily pushed
aside, and a priest on the side-lines called out the next name from the
list in his hands. This field-manager was startlingly unBolivian in
efficiency, keeping things moving with a rush, and calling the next
group almost before the acolyte reached for the blue blanket. The
attitude of all those professionally connected with the ceremony, was
scornful, careless, and hurried—like a New York barber who is convinced
there is no “tip” coming. The fifth group to appear, however, was less
cavalierly treated. A tall, well-dressed man stepped forward, and an
acolyte quickly slipped in front of him a _prie-dieu_, or prayer-stool
with high back, of the style used in church by well-to-do South American
women. Then, to my surprise, two young men in riding breeches and
leggings, who had been standing near us in the gallery, stumbled over
each other in their haste to get down to the floor below and kneel on
either side of the older man. “Ese caballero,” whispered the priest
beside me, with a distinct tone of pride in his voice, “is a famous
lawyer and ex-senator from La Paz, and those are his two sons. They are
great devotees of the Blessed Virgin of Copacabana.”

[Illustration:

Indians plowing on the shores of Titicaca. Those behind break up the
clods with wooden mallets]

[Illustration:

Sunrise at Copacabana, the sacred city of Bolivia on the shores of
Titicaca]

When the cloak had been laid away for the night, the chief priest
mounted a pulpit projecting from the side-wall, and in the same drawl in
which he had chanted at the altar, compared with which the notorious
American nasal twang is soft and songful, either preached a sermon, or
recited a bit from the Bible, or imparted some stern orders from the
Pope—which, neither I nor, I am certain, any other hearer not previously
informed ever guessed. For the monotonous drone in which he hurried
through the thing, like a man with an appointed tryst, was such that
during the full twenty minutes it lasted I had not the faintest notion
whether it was in Latin, Spanish, or Aymará. The only intelligible word
I caught was an often-repeated, slovenly “Copavan.” Then the acolytes
hastily snuffed the candles, and we filed out. At the foot of the
stairway my companion was fallen upon by an old Indian and his son who,
imprinting a rapid-fire of kisses on his by no means lily-white hands,
begged him to hear them confess. He waved them aside as one might an
importunate cur, until the Indian, redoubling his osculations, assured
him he had real coin to pay for the service, whereupon the good padre
took courteous leave of me and led the pair to his room in the
monastery.

I was hurrying into my clothes in the bitter cold Titicaca dawn, when
the faint long-drawn whistle of the “Yapura” was borne to my ears. To my
astonishment it was barely five, so great is the difference in the hour
of sunrise in the few degrees I had moved southward since leaving Cuzco.
Copacabana in its lap of terraced hills shrunk into the past as we
slipped away around the peninsula of the same name. Before us rose the
Island of the Sun, traditional cradle of the Inca race, yellow-brown and
mountainous, with terraces far up some of its rugged valleys, one
red-roofed village housing the workmen of General Pando, chief owner of
the island. It produces potatoes, maize, and quinoa. On the mainland,
too, all the shores were terraced and cultivated from the water’s edge
to the tops of the ridges and hills, in long, square, rectangular, or
such fantastic shapes of fields as the lay of the land required. To the
east the great glacier mass of Sorata, by some reputed the highest peak
in America, lay piled into the sky, half-hidden and cut off from the
solid earth by vast banks of white clouds. Before long we passed, a bit
further off, Coati, the Island of the Moon, a low ridge terraced from
end to end, constituting a single hacienda noted for its fertility. Mere
words give but a faint notion of the beauty of Titicaca on a brilliant
morning, with its striking combinations of soft colors,—the dense
blue-green of the lake, curtained by tumbled banks of snow-white clouds,
the velvety yellow-brown islands and mainland, with the faint-purple
cloud-shadows playing across them. The mighty glacier bulk of Sorata
piercing the sky seemed to move forward also, as the steamer slipped
lazily on, frequently bringing into view new and more delicately
beautiful combinations of the same elements.

The Bolivian mainland we drew near in the early afternoon was of a
reddish soil, with many patches of bright green and pretty little tilted
fields checkering the ridges clear down to the water’s edge. At Guaqui,
the landing-place, no train was to leave for twenty-four hours, and I
set out afoot across the exhilarating plains of Bolivia for Tiahuanaco,
twelve miles away. It was a fertile, well-plowed land, where the
remaining stubble suggested wheat as the chief product. The sun dropped
behind a dense, blue-black bank of clouds hanging like a pall over
Titicaca behind, and there was no sunset when the time for it came, but
only a gradual, steady fading of light to a faint gleam in which the
eyes could barely make out the ground underfoot. The evening stillness
was broken only by the rare lowing of a cow afar off; a shower that was
half hail and all cold beat stingingly into my face. But for the storm
and wind, an absolute silence lay like a solid wall on every hand, with
nowhere the suggestion of a light, the many clusters of Indian huts that
had speckled the plain by day seeming to keep disconfidently out of
reach of highway and railroad.

At eight I stumbled into the station building of Tiahuanaco. The
telegraph operator was sufficiently impressed by my familiarity with the
name of the gringo superintendent to induce the woman across the track
to serve me stale bread and native cheese, and tea made of the water of
Titicaca, brought here in locomotive tanks. On the table were several of
the dailies of La Paz—it was difficult to think of that city as “the
capital” after eight months of considering Lima the center of the
universe—in which the world’s news all at once jumped up to date. But it
was like reading a serial story of which one has lost several chapters
and finds it impossible to pick up all the threads again.

Tiahuanaco, 12,900 feet above the sea, in a broad, open, unprotected
plain, frigid by night, and not over warm by day under the chill blue of
its highland sky, is the chief archeological enigma of “Alto-Peru.” The
most important ruins lie a few hundred yards north of the station, and
an equal distance from the modern adobe town with its bulking stone
church. From a slight rise of ground the flat plain, sprinkled with many
clusters of mud huts, stretches away to a gouged and broken ridge, here
reddish, there green with vegetation, that fences it in. Huge blocks of
stone lie tumbled and scattered over a vaster extent than at Luxor and
Karnak, in a disarray at once suggesting earthquake; for they seem too
immense to have been overthrown by a merely human destroying vengeance.
In the region roughly known as Peru there were several detached and
separate civilizations, some of which clearly antedated the Incas; and
Tiahuanaco has little in common with the ruins further north. There the
relics consist almost exclusively of stone walls; here there are
virtually none, though excavations might uncover a few remnants. What is
left looks, in contrast to the stem practicability of “Inca” ruins, like
the caprice of some childish sovereign. But it is not certain how justly
we may judge of the whole original plan, since not only the neighboring
hamlet, as well as La Paz, has helped itself freely to the materials for
its own chief buildings, but the railroad has carried off vast
quantities of it for the construction of bridges and culverts. The still
existing monuments are chiefly immense stone blocks too great to be
moved by puny modern man, some still upright, some fallen. Bas-reliefs,
of which Machu Picchu offers none, are numerous; sculptured figures are
unknown among the ruins of Peru, while here there are several. Some
resemble totem poles of stone. The most striking is a sturdy rock god,
his features defaced by the revolver shots of the enlightened youths of
La Paz on their Sunday excursions, which, like the twin figures of
Thebes, sits abandoned out on the plain. The monolithic gateway, a
single block of dark gray stone on which the intricate carving and
bas-reliefs still stand forth clear yet inscrutable, has been set
together again since Squier’s day.

As I sat gazing across the disordered mystery of long ago, an Indian
woman, the ubiquitous bundle and second generation on her back, a crude
sling in one hand, drove her pigs out into what seems once to have been
the main square of the ruined city. As the animals fell to rooting about
among the ruins, the woman walked across to the inscrutable stone god
and bowed down before it with a strange, heathenish courtesy. I
attempted to work my way around to leeward in the hope of catching a
photograph of the aboriginal rite. But while I was still some distance
off, she either spied or scented me, and raced away toward the town at a
greater speed than I had ever before witnessed in one of her race.

In the modern town dwells an indolent, not to say insolent, population
of cholos and Indians, ignorant as the Arabs of the Nile of the motive
that brings strange beings from far off to view the disdained remnants
of long ago, yet ready to take all possible advantage of that absurd
custom. The place bids fair to become as overrun with the pests of
tourist centers as the show-places of Europe. Already the stranger is
greeted by a rabble of unsoaped urchins, offering for sale as
“antigüedades” all manner of worthless pebbles. Aware that visitors, for
some strange reason, are interested only in things of great age, these
children vociferously proclaim everything in sight “muy antigua,” even
to the loaves and meat displayed in the shops, a statement for which
there is some basis. The bulking church of the town, as well as portions
of the rudest edifices, is constructed of splendid cut-stone. On either
side of the entrance are the weather-worn torsos of a man and a woman,
crudely carved from reddish sandstone, sadly defaced, and having an even
greater air of antiquity than the chief monuments out on the plain. They
would be more properly in their setting out among the other ruins; here
they are startling as one bursts unexpectedly upon them facing the empty
grass-grown plaza of the dawdling village.

The train snorted in soon after noon. Across the bleak Collao spring
plowing was at its height, amid much ceremony. Many of the sleek oxen
were half-hidden by the red and yellow flags of Bolivia, set upright on
the yoke across their horns. Gay streamers and banners decorated animals
and plow, while the Indian family that in each case had come in full
force to see the propitiation of the spirits that rule over the fields,
was garbed in its gayest. For not only must the moon be in a particular
phase, but all gods must be won over, all demons exorcised, and all
signs promising, before it is worth while to begin the year’s sowing.
What a fertile plateau it was, compared to stony Peru, the plowing
unchecked over hill and dale of the slightly rolling plain as far as the
eye could see!

An official passing through the train to examine the bundles for
contraband was the only formality that had marked the passing of the
frontier. In the second-class car I began to gather the impression that
the Aymará Indian, if morose and even less given to smiling, was on the
whole a more promising type of humanity than the Quichuas. For though he
was more inclined to insolence, he was far less obsequious, more manly
than the slinking race to the north, less passive and obedient, more
bellicose and jealous of his rights; and as long as there is any fight
left in a man, there is still hope for him.

The day waned. A plowman driving his oxen homeward and carrying the plow
on his own shoulder is a touch Gray did not catch. The plain grew less
fertile, and was dotted now with countless stone-heaps; Illimani and a
long, half-clouded snow-range grew up before us; we climbed somewhat,
though the world roundabout seemed level as before. The railroad swung
to the left. The scores of mule, donkey, and llama pack-trains, however,
kept straight on across the bleak, stone-heaped plain, till suddenly at
a white pillar a few miles away they seemed to drop all at once into the
unknown over the edge of the near horizon.

Where the train halted I scorned the electric trolley and, walking a few
yards, saw suddenly burst upon me a scene for once superior to the
anticipation,—La Paz, America’s most lofty capital, in its hole in the
ground. Up there at the “Alto,” 13,600 feet above the sea, all was
brown, cold, barren, unenticing; all about, behind, and around me the
bleak, uninhabited Andean plateau, stony and drear, cherishing nothing
but bunches of tough _ichu_, stretched away like a faded brown sea to
the hazy distance. Then at my very feet this gave way, and all the
nearby world pitched headlong down into a gashed and broken chasm 1200
feet down, measuring perhaps two miles across from where I stood to an
equal height on the tumbled and ramified foothills opposite. These,
breaking and splitting and falling away into unseen valleys, and
climbing out again to become more rugged and higher ridges, finally
culminated in a vast and jagged mass of snow and ice, cut off from the
solid earth by banks of clouds, above which the reflection of the
descending sun streamed in brilliant rose color upon the glaciered
pinnacle of giant Illimani, 24,500 feet above the sea. Across the broad
puna a cold, fitful wind whistled lugubriously; down below, though
barely a sound of life except the blood-stirring snort of a regimental
band came up this sheer quarter-mile from the city, all seemed
pleasantly cozy and warm.

The lower flanks of the great _cuenca_ were checkered with little Indian
farms, now mostly light-brown from being newly plowed, some still the
brownish-green of old crops, and all hanging at a decided angle. Further
down, on the floor of the valley itself, were similar irregular patches,
chiefly of the brilliant green of alfalfa, of every conceivable
shape,—round, triangular, horseshoe, veritable “Gerrymanders” in the
strange forms given them by the configurations of the ground; for, once
down below it, this proves by no means so floor-flat as it seems from
above. In the very bottom of the valley, rather on the further side and
stretching a bit up the opposite slope, lay La Paz itself. It was a
compact city, so compact that it seemed one conglomerate mass into which
the eye broke only once,—at the tree-roofed central plaza, tiny from
here as a green paster on a vast wall-painting. From this height one saw
little but the roofs, the dull-red of the tiles greatly
predominating—almost too much red, as in the garments of an Indian
gathering; next came the white and colored house-walls, then the sober
gray of old churches, and finally here and there the edge of a blue,
green, or even an orange wall peering above the mass.

All about the city proper, imperceptibly joining it and stretching away
on nearly all sides over vastly more space than the town itself, were
perhaps half as many buildings, scattered singly or in small clusters,
forming an almost unbroken row down the valley to the southeastward.
Here and there one of these ostentated itself in brilliant red; most of
them were cream-color or the gray of sheet-iron; and everywhere between
them were the irregular green of plowed patches, with now and then a
grove of blue-green eucalyptus, or a patch of willows, enticing from
this treeless height where, once the eye rose a bit from the floor of
the valley, there was not the suggestion of a shrub. Not the least
striking feature of the scene was the glassy clearness of the
atmosphere, with nowhere a puff of smoke, and absolutely nothing to dim
the view; if the clock in the all-too-slender tower of the congress
building had been larger, it would have been easy to tell the time by
it.

Brown ribbons of roads, all starting at a pillar on the plateau above,
strung like drippings of syrup down all sides of the cuenca, except on
the rugged, uninhabited flank opposite; and along all of them on this
Saturday afternoon crawled at what seemed a snail’s pace files of
Indians with their laden donkeys and llamas, the cargoes generally
covered with straw, the drivers chiefly in red ponchos, though so like
tiny crawling ants were they from this height that the colors were
barely noted. Seldom broken, these strings of pack-trains stretched from
the edge of the plateau to where the head of each procession to the
morrow’s market was swallowed up in the compact, silent city.

I walked on around the yawning chasm, the wind that howled across the
puna reaching the very marrow of my bones, a raging hail-storm beating
upon me for a brief moment and making the city below seem doubly snug
and serene by contrast. The little “Great River” of La Paz one did not
see at all, so tiny is it and worn so far down into the clay soil of the
valley in a half-seen gorge descending through tumbled ranges of gnarled
hills toward the _yungas_, as the Bolivian calls the tropical _montaña_,
below. Mere words give but a faint notion of this lower end of the
cuenca of La Paz. For so broken and pitched and tumbled, so
fantastically gashed by the rains is it, that it would be an
indescribably beautiful thing, even if there were not added the
wonderful colors and half-tones, a rich dark-red predominating, over the
countless split and torn and every-shape hollows and needles and
pinnacles of earth across which the cloud-shadows play incessantly. The
mournful notes of a _quena_, or rude Indian flute, floated sadly by on
the wind. Then sunset crept relentlessly across the valley to the town
that seemed to crouch motionless with fear of the darkness descending
upon it, paused a moment to do its work well, swallowing up all before
it in the purple twilight of tropical altitudes, then climbed slowly
again out of the hollow on the further side and spread at last across
all the world. The city’s bright colors had faded to an indistinct
sameness, the brown hills and deeply eroded clay cliffs were blotched
red by the departing sun, though the snow peaks above were still ablaze
with light; the purple bases of the range receded into black, then into
nothing, leaving Illimani standing forth white and cold, stone-dead as a
once ardent hope, utterly alone in the luminous sky of the Andean night.

I descended afoot behind the last pack-train, a stony, thigh-aching
half-hour from the pillar to the central plaza. The first information to
reach me was that La Paz outdid in cost of living even Lima, which is
criminal. The _boliviano_ having but four fifths the value of the _sol_,
I had fancied prices would be correspondingly lower; but here _two_
units were often required where one had sufficed before, and the great
majority scorned to do business in smaller coins. The hotels which my
sadly mutilated letter of credit permitted me to enter were not only
unsavory and atrociously managed, but had the barbarous custom of
several beds in a room. Each in turn attempted to thrust me into a
rumpled nest, with four or five others of unknown nationality or
antecedents close beside it, within a battered door to which there was
neither lock nor bolt. Whatever else I may be, I am distinctly not a
gregarious being in that sense; whereupon they offered me a room with
only _one_ companion, as if there were any particular virtue in numbers!
I brought up at last in the “Tambo Quirquincha,” facing the Plaza Alonzo
de Mendoza, an inn favored almost entirely by natives arriving on
horseback.

The constitution of Bolivia asserts that Sucre is the real capital, but
permits congress to choose its place of meeting, and “because of the
constant danger from our two chief enemies” (Peru and Chile) “at the
northern end of the Republic, the Government really resides in La Paz.”
How much the choice is governed by the fact that there is no railroad,
but only a mule trail, to the “real capital,” is a matter of conjecture.
At any rate, the president has not been in Sucre in more than a dozen
years, congress has its seat in La Paz, and the head of the army resides
there—conditions which will no doubt continue, at least until the
railroad reaches Sucre. On the other hand the former “Chuquisaca” is
honored with the presence of the supreme court and the archbishop of
Bolivia, who do not have to move often enough to make mule trails
burdensome. But Sucre will not be comforted. Her chief newspaper is
named “La Capital,” each of its editorials ends with the argument “La
Capital!” and it always refers to La Paz as “the present seat of
Government.”

This “seat of Government,” perhaps the most Indian capital of all South
America, has the most purely Spanish name. It should still be called
Chuquiyapu, as the aboriginals refer to it to-day, rather than by the
trite Castilian designation that is duplicated a score of times
throughout Spanish-America. The census of 1909 discovered 76,559 persons
in the entire hole in the ground. Of these, 20,007 were rated “white,”
but as usual in Latin-America the enumerators got the color sadly mixed
with the social position of the enumerated. Indeed, the chief of the
census goes on to explain “white” as “descendants, more or less pure, of
Spaniards, Europeans, or North Americans”—in other words, anyone with a
distinct trace of European blood. There may be a third that many of
strictly Caucasian race. Of the 3458 foreign residents, 86 were
Americans; of 696 non-Catholics, 562 were foreign men, 40, foreign
women, 193, Bolivian men (“chiefly atheists”), and _one_ Bolivian woman.
Bold woman, indeed, to admit it! The census rated 30% of the population
as Indians; but here again the social status must have played its part,
or else there are many non-resident country Indians often in the city.
African blood is extremely rare, though slavery was not abolished until
1851. It is no climate for negroes. “The unmarried American women are
nearly all teachers,” the report continues, then takes a rap at the
country’s chief enemy for stealing her seaport and bottling her up
within South America by remarking, “Las chilenas living in La Paz are
almost without exception prostitutes.” Most striking of all the data,
perhaps, is the fact that of the 60,445 inhabitants over nineteen years
of age, only 13,047 are married. But this does not mean that race
suicide is imminent; rather that the priests have made the cost of
marriage all but prohibitive to the lower classes, and that many others
are thereby influenced to consider the ceremony of minor importance. In
the entire republic 16% are “alfabéticos,” that is, “know their
letters,” a much more handy expression in Latin-American statistics than
“read and write.” Only Honduras, in all America, is so low in this
respect.

[Illustration:

One of the two huge figures facing the grass-grown plaza of modern
Tiahuanaco at the entrance to the church]

[Illustration:

The ancient god of Tiahuanaco before which the Indian woman, herding
her pigs, bowed down in worship]

Roughly speaking, the population is divided into three classes, as
everywhere in the Andes, each shading into the other until the lines of
demarkation are at best hazy. Of the whites, the census report itself
asserts, “Sequestered, they knew more of theological subtleties than of
religion, were more devout than moral, and had more preoccupations than
ideas. There is even to-day no stimulus for their best faculties, and
they have lost almost completely that virile character bequeathed them
by their Spanish ancestors. They will work only at commerce or
government employments that demand no corporeal fatigue.” Effeminate is
the description that most quickly occurs to the foreigner; but they are
no more so than all men of the “gente decente” class throughout South
America. Even the whites take on something of that sulky dis-confidence,
that unobliging insolence of the Aymará character, and one quickly
catches the feeling that the foreigner is disliked in Bolivia, at least
far more so than in Peru. Another native, with the point of view of wide
travel, assures us, “The whites are really Indians and cholos in their
mode of thought. Thanks to the Aymará blood in his veins, or to the
effect of that environment on his character, the paceño lacks docility,
is uncommunicative, and is bored at all times at everything; hence his
desire for excitement, for noise, and the resultant life in the
canteens. In the three cold cities of Bolivia more liquor is consumed
than in all the rest of the country; alcoholism is the national vice par
excellence, and the surest way to win a fortune is to run a bar.”

But in any strict census the cholo is the most numerous class of La Paz.
A native writer succinctly explains the rise of this mixed race: “As in
the beginning the Spaniards had not within reach many women of their own
race, they satisfied the physical and moral necessities of the sex with
women of the vanquished tribes…. A few of these succeeded in inspiring
real passion in the breasts of the hardy Conquistadores, sometimes even
to the extent of causing the latter to marry themselves legally and
Catholicly with our Indian women.” All hail to the inspiring Indian
women! One must not, however, overlook the fact that “real passion”
among the old Spanish Conquistadores was not so closely allied to soap
and tooth-powder as in our own days. Short and sturdy—especially the
women, who do not wear themselves out with dissipation—with quick little
eyes, the cholos have much of the independence of the Aymará character;
they are quite the opposite of servile, and somewhat despise both the
whites and the aboriginals.

No country of South America has so large a percentage of pure Indian
population as Bolivia. The Aymará is by nature silent and aloof, more
sullen and cruel than the Quichua, and by no means so obsequious as the
aboriginals of Cuzco. He never touches his hat to a passing gringo;
unlike the Indian of Quito he crosses the main plaza in any dress he
chooses, even carrying bundles and sitting on the benches; in the region
roundabout, the race has inner organizations under their own chiefs
which are virtually independent of the Government; yet in town he does
as he is ordered, though sullenly, and shopkeepers drag him in to
perform any low task at whatever reward they choose to give him. As
_pongo_, or house-servant, he is farmed out as a child and becomes
virtually a slave,—though that condition worries him little. A frequent
“want-ad.” in the papers of La Paz runs: “Se alquila pongo con taquia,”
that is, there is for rent an Indian servant with necessity of gathering
for his master llama droppings as fuel. Festivals and fire-water are his
chief amusements. Sunday he reserves as a day to get drunk, and couples
are reputed to take turns at this recreation, so that one may be in
condition to lead the other home when it is over. His music is
melancholy beyond words. As a Bolivian puts it, “He lives without
inquietude and without remorse, being dangerous only when he is full of
liquor or religion. He is a beast of burden, uncomplaining, desires
nothing, is apparently content with his fate, and looks with supreme
indifference on all the rest of the world and its people.”

The contrasts of life in La Paz are striking. Here an ancient scribe
sits before a typewriter agency; there a group of Indian women squat
before the crude products of the country, in front of the
electric-lighted emporium of a foreign merchant; electric tramways
thrust aside trains of llamas even in the principal streets. Speaking of
these street-cars, they crawl back and forth across town, sometimes
zigzagging whole blocks for every street; and the dishevelled carriages
for hire are generally drawn by four horses. For La Paz is broken and
steep, often held up in layers by retaining walls, while the sidewalks
are often toboggan-steep and always slippery. Houses which from the
“Alto” seem on the level are found to be a hundred feet or more one
above the other. It is one of the easiest cities to get lost in without
being really lost; for one always comes out finally on some corner where
a familiar landmark or half the city stands forth to orientate one at
once. Many a street is crowded with Indians from the country, and
especially with chola vendors who, there being no regular market-place,
spread their wares where they will, squatting in unbroken rows on the
sidewalks and driving the uncomplaining pedestrian into the slippery
cobbled streets. One does not hurry in La Paz; the air is too scanty. A
bogotano complained that he could not sleep there on account of the
altitude! The temperature ranges from 6 degrees Centigrade in June to 18
in this mid-summer month of December. Yet even then it was somewhat
wretched after sunset, and no one would choose to sit in pajamas in the
central plaza at night. From eleven to three it grew almost
uncomfortably warm for climbing about so up-and-down a place, and the
brilliant unclouded sky was hard both on eyes and nerves at noonday.

It is difficult for the stranger to get accustomed to seeing droves of
llamas, with drivers dressed in the style of Inca days, soft-footing
across the main plaza or patiently awaiting their masters, with the
modern congress building as a background. Congress, by the way, was in
session during my days in La Paz. The visitors’ gallery is high up above
the perfectly circular chamber, giving the half-hundred representatives
the appearance of being down at the bottom of a deep well. They smoked
frequently, spoke sitting, were largely white, though the cholo class
was by no means unrepresented, and among them were two priests in full
vestments, their tonsures shining up at us like rays from the Middle
Ages. There were also several who strangely resembled Tammany
politicians of the popular cartoons, and nowhere was there any outward
sign of genius, legislative or otherwise. While the man who had the
“floor” kept his seat and droned endlessly through something or other,
the presiding officer sat motionless and openly bored, and members
slept, smoked, read newspapers, wrote letters, and otherwise busied
themselves with the vital problems of the nation, after the fashion of
legislative bodies the world over.

There is a distinct gradation in the costumes of La Paz, especially
among the women. The men of the “gente decente” class, the whites and
the consider-themselves-whites, ape Paris to the best of their ability,
as in all Andean capitals. The higher-class cholo, ranging from
shoe-makers to clerks—in both the American and English sense—wears more
or less countrified and ill-fitting “European” garb, even to gloves and
a cane on Sunday, if he can get them; for social standing depends
chiefly on dress. The less ambitious half-caste wears the same leather
sandal as the Indian, a coat showing a bit above or below his more or
less crude-colored poncho, a coarse shirt without collar, and a heavy
felt hat. A peculiarity of the paceño costume, as universal among the
Indians and poorer cholos as the cord around the knee of British
workmen, is a slit in the back of the trouser-leg, showing a white,
pajama-like undergarment above the bare brown ankle. The Indians,
conservative as all their race, are slow to adopt the slightest change,
and still dress much as in the time of the Incas. The men wear peaked
knitted-wool “skating-caps” of gay colors, with earlaps, like clowns in
a circus, often with a felt hat of varying tones of gray on top of it.
Their ponchos of alpaca-wool are of solid colors,—orange, scarlet,
purple, magenta—with some tone of red always the ruling favorite. Much
of this cloth has for years come from Germany, though there is still
considerable native weaving. Some go barefoot; more often they wear the
heavy, well-made leather sandals that are displayed in large quantities
in the market-stalls.

But the men of La Paz lend it little color compared to the women. These
may be roughly divided, following the local phraseology, into
“señoritas,” “cholas,” and “indias”; though these in turn subdivide,
until there are six rather distinct costume classes, all shading
somewhat into one another. First: The foreign women and a small number
of native white ones copy the styles of Paris with more or less success.
Second: The moderately well-to-do woman—and all those of the “gente
decente” class during the morning hours of mass; it being against the
rules to wear a hat in church—wrap themselves from head to foot in the
jet black _manto_ that gives them the appearance of stalking crows.
These commonly powder their faces with what seems to be cheap flour, and
are rarely startling in their beauty, though many are physically
attractive between the ages of seventeen and twenty-three.

[Illustration:

Arequipa, second city of Peru, in its desert oasis, backed by Misti
Volcano]

[Illustration:

“Suddenly the bleak pampa falls away at one’s feet, and La Paz in its
hole in the ground, 1,200 feet below, spreads out at the foot of
Illimani and its sister peaks”]

Third (to be marked Baedeker-fashion with two stars) comes the most
picturesque figure in Bolivia, if not in South America,—la chola de La
Paz. Her mate may blossom out in all the atrocities or “European”
attire, but la chola clings tenaciously and wisely to the costume of her
ancestors. Moreover, in this case the picturesque is not attended by its
usual handmaid, uncleanliness. La Paz is not immaculate by modern
standards, but at least la chola does her share toward making it seem
so. She wears the usual multiplicity of skirts, but of a finer material
and better fit than elsewhere, so that while she is still somewhat bulky
about the hips, she is not disagreeably so. Her outer skirt is always of
a solid color, distinctly gay, but never of the crudeness this garment
attains among the Indian women. Of well-woven cloth, it stops just
halfway from foot to knee, never high enough to suggest immodesty and
never low enough to drag on the ground, as is the distressing custom
among many of the middle-class women up and down the Andes. Above this
she wears two shawls—at least that is the nearest English equivalent in
a male vocabulary—of some excellent material closely resembling silk,
with perpendicular stripes of varying width and color, the whole gay in
the extreme, yet never clashing with the rest of the costume so far as
the mere male eye can detect. These being large, they are folded in the
middle and thrown about the shoulders, a glimpse of the inner one adding
to the gaiety of the ensemble, the fringe of both sweeping her ankles.
Her hair, jet black, and coarse as a horse’s mane, she parts in the
middle and combs flat on either side, the ends of the braids, without
the suggestion of a decoration of ribbon or flower, hanging sometimes
inside, sometimes outside the shawls. From her ears swing heavy earrings
of fantastic design some two inches long. Most striking of all is her
unique hat. This is of straw, of “Panama” texture, with the general form
of our derby or the Englishman’s “bowler,” lacquered or glazed over with
something that causes it to reflect the brilliant sunlight of these
heights like a mirror, and seeming at first sight as absurd and out of
place as our own “’ard ’at” might to a visitor from Mars.

But one soon gets used to it, and even to like it, especially as la
chola wears it at just the suggestion of a rakish angle, ever so
slightly inclined over the right eye, though the near-certainty that she
is wholly unconscious of that fact only adds to the attractiveness. When
she grows excited, as in arguing the price of a nickel’s-worth of beans
in the market-place, she has a way of giving the front rim a flip of the
finger that knocks the hat back from her brow, under which circumstances
she so vividly recalls a Western “drummer” in a heated but friendly
argument in a bar-room, that one sighs with regret that she has not a
half-burned cigar protruding at an aggressive angle from the corner of
her mouth to complete the picture.

There remains but to speak of her footwear. This consists of a high
shoe, native-made, on a very Parisian last, with high, slender “French
heels,” of every color a shoe could be by any stretch of propriety, but
with cream or canary-color the favorite, a bow of the same material—it
seems to be kid—down near the toe and a bundle of tassels at the top.
Occasionally the shoes are high enough to join company with the
halfway-to-the-knee skirt, below which peers the white lace of an inner
petticoat, but even then when she stoops over in arguing a purchase, one
notes a “clocked” stocking, that adds still more to the debauch of
colors, going on up—at least to where it is fitting for a stranger to
cease investigation.

Astonishment grows that la chola can afford such garments. The shoes
alone cost as high as $10, and every stitch in sight is of a grade and
workmanship that come high in Bolivia, that would not, indeed, be cheap
in a far more productive country. Yet the chief wonder is the
specklessness of her entire garb—doubly wonderful to one of long Andean
experience. The glazed hat shines like the polished dome of a mosque,
the skirts and shawls always look as if they had just that moment come
out of a Parisian shop, and the cream-colored shoes have not a fly-speck
upon them; yet la chola wears this costume at any hour and under all
circumstances—in the street, at least—and carries on her often soiling
business in all parts of town. Some assert that she starves herself to
dress; but her appearance does not uphold the contention. However she
affords it, it is to be hoped that the means will continue, and that she
will not some day abandon in favor of the atrocities of foreign fashions
the most picturesque costume in South America, and the chief decoration
of every outdoor scene and public gathering in La Paz.

The chola is not exactly _chic_; the thick-setness bequeathed her by
Indian forebears makes that word fail. But she is as nearly so as the
Andean Indian type can become; and as she trips along at a “snappy,”
energetic stride up and down the break-neck cobbled streets of La Paz,
in her slender-waisted “French heels,” and not only does _not_ break her
neck but does not even jar from its angle her “stiff ’at,” the eye is as
certain to note her passing as it would that of a meteor in the sky
above. She is always full-cheeked and plump, often good to look at in
spite of her rather bulky Indian features, and aggressively independent,
going anywhere at any time she chooses in complete indifference to the
oriental seclusion that still clings about the upper class women. She
treats the rest of the world with a manner midway between sauciness and
impudence, scorning anything on the plane of reading and writing with
the disdain of her Indian forebears. She holds most of the places in the
market and the _pulperías_, or little liquor and food shops, and ranges
all the way from small shopkeeper to unservile serving-maid to
well-to-do women. One gets the impression from a brief acquaintance that
she is as superior to her mate, the shifty-eyed cholo, as are the women
of Tehuantepec to their men. She speaks Aymará by choice, but will use
Spanish when necessary; and she is always at least comparatively young.
One sees cholas up to thirty or thirty-five, but as they do not look as
if they died off at that age, the natural conclusion is that they fall
into a more somber and less agreeable costume. La chola is seldom
married “legally and Catholicly,” but if she has a baby, a mishap that
not infrequently befalls her, she wears it as all Andean women wear
their babies,—on her back. Instead of being carelessly slung in a
blanket tied across mother’s chest, however, this fortunate mite sits in
a whole nest of clean, gay garments, the spotless white lining hanging
down a foot or more on all sides of it, ending in a lace fringe. Indeed,
this better care of baby is notable in La Paz, and has its influence
even among the Indian women.

But I set out to give a half-dozen female classes. The fourth is the
same chola, just a shade lower in the scale. She also wears a little
round hat, but of brown or black felt. Her skirts and shawls are
less gay and of coarser texture, her stockings are dark, and her
footwear a shining-black, low slipper without heel. The fifth is
usually a common servant, almost touching on the Indian woman, her
garments sometimes descending to the plebeian, crude-colored,
made-in-Germany-and-in-a-hurry _bayeta_ in which the higher grade
chola would scorn to be seen, though it is almost universal to her
class elsewhere in the Andes. She wears also a shiny black slipper,
but no stockings, though her brown plump leg looks almost like
finely woven silk. There is no suggestion of immodesty in this
absence of nether covering, yet when one of this class, for some
sojourning-gringo reason, suddenly appears in the bare white legs of
what at first glance seems a lady of our own race, the sight brings
something of a shock. Of the three types of chola, the third and
fourth may blend a bit, sometimes to the extent of coiffing the
latter in a glazed hat; but only the first ever falls into the
foolishness of the “upper” class in flouring her face a bit, and at
worst it is confined to a few sporadic cases.

At the bottom of the scale, as everywhere in the Andes, comes the Indian
woman, varying a bit in garb, according to the degree of her poverty.
She wears the round felt hat and endures the chill highland winds by
wrapping several thick bayeta skirts of clashing colors around her waist
in bunches, until she looks like—I am at a loss for a comparison that is
ugly, awkward, and bulky enough;—may I say, like a very badly packed
sack of assorted hardware with the looser and lighter things above the
compressed middle? She likes red best, and as the day warms, every
second or third of the skirts she removes one by one is of some shade of
that color. Below them are bronzed legs and either bare feet with
hoof-like soles, or, as La Paz and vicinity are distinctly stony, as
well as cold, with a flat sandal of a single piece of leather, with
thongs over the heel and between the large toe and the others. Solidly
built as she is, one wonders how the Indian woman’s waist can support
the weight of six or eight heavy bayeta skirts. Yet always, in addition
to these, night or day, young or old, drunk or sober, filthy or only
dirty, she carries a bundle on her back in the colored blanket tied
across her chest, with, whenever possible—and her possibilities in this
line are infinite—the head of a baby protruding somewhere from the load,
now gazing earnestly at the road ahead, now dancing a crowing hornpipe
on the broad back of the utterly unresponsive mother.

Now, mix all these types; put at least half the male population in gay
ponchos, with every known shade of saffron, red, orange, purple, and the
like; sprinkle among them youths with long hair tied in queues, wearing
gay-striped ponchos that conceal all but their sturdy brown legs, who
straggle up out of the tropical coca-country to the east to mingle with
the city life; add a distinctive costume for each surrounding village,
the noiseless llama-driver in his absurd cap, a number of Germans in
Bolivian army uniforms, monks in black, brown, and white, nuns in gray,
soldiers in light-gray uniforms, policemen in brown ones, hundreds of
personal idiosyncracies in color and style, and it will be more easily
understood why La Paz is justly entitled to that overworked word
“picturesque,” and why the aboriginal name of Chuquiyapu would still be
more fitting than the trite Spanish one by which Bolivia’s unofficial
capital is known to the world. Moreover, children dress exactly like
father or mother as soon as they can walk. La chola’s little girl is her
mother’s exact miniature, glazed hat, gay shawl, fancy little
high-heeled shoes and all, as likely as not with a doll in fancy
garments on her back; the cholo’s son paddles behind his father in long
breeches slit up the back, gay poncho and felt hat; the little Indian
girl trots after her mother in the selfsame red, green, or magenta
skirts of bayeta, the round felt hat on her head, and always a bundle on
her back, though she be barely three years old and the burden only a
bundle of yarn—as if to accustom her early to the life she must lead to
the day of her funeral.

[Illustration:

Llamas of La Paz patiently awaiting the return of their driver]

[Illustration:

Down the valley below La Paz the pink and yellow soil stands in
fantastic, rain-gashed cliffs]

There are many fine walks in and about La Paz. On a sunny afternoon,
brilliant-clear as an afternoon can be only at this height, it is a joy
to follow a muddy little creek, known as the Chuquiyapu, down through
the broken and tumbled gorge below the town, where the clay soil, now
sandy white, now soft red, is rain-gashed into a hundred fantastic
shapes. The slender, always-at-home eucalyptus and a species of
weeping-willow line the way. Illimani raises its hoar head higher and
higher into the sky above, seeming to calm the spirits with its majestic
serenity and promise of perpetual coolness. So imperceptibly does the
valley descend that one could drift clear down into the languid tropical
_yungas_ that draws one on like a lodestone, like the “spicy garlic
smells” of the Far East, until suddenly realizing how far the city has
been left behind, one takes oneself figuratively by the neck and turns
back to the town.

Or there is the climb out of the cuenca itself, a stiff hour to the
pillar above. Once on the bleak puna, I wandered along the edge of the
chasm to get a view of the city below from all angles. Near the station
my eye was caught by the private car of a railroad superintendent.
Fancying it might be that of my host on the journey up from Arequipa, I
strolled toward it. A dishevelled fellow, his ragged coat close up
around his neck, his long hair protruding like straw from a scarecrow, a
two weeks’ black beard bristling, sat on the back platform, peeling
potatoes.

“Está aqui el Señor ——?” I asked casually.

A cloud of incomprehension seemed to pass over the scarecrow face. I
repeated the question, thinking he might be one of those weak-minded
natives so often found at large in South America.

“English! English is all I talks,” came the startling reply out of the
depths of the unshaven one, not only the accent but the presence of a
few blackened stumps in lieu of teeth betraying both the nationality and
the caste of the speaker. As I had never since leaving Panama seen a
white man, much less an English-speaking person, doing manual labor my
mistake was natural.

Thanks to the pleasure of having a hearer who could understand him, the
exile’s sad, not to say jumbled, story was soon forthcoming.

“I ’ad a good iducation, d’ ye see,” he began, “sent to collidge an’ all
that; but I tykes it into my ’ead t’ go t’ sea. An’ I was first-cabin
steward on the ‘Dinkskiver’—I’ve my papers an’ discharge, an’ ready t’
show ’em t’ any man—an’ we runs int’ Australy, an’ I goes t’ the —— Club
there, an’ a gentleman he introdjuces me t’ the club, which is where all
the best gentlemen belongs, d’ ye see. An’ ’e says, ‘Look ’ere, if you’d
like t’ stop ashore we’ll get the captain t’ sign y’ off an’ we’ll put
y’ up as steward t’ the club,’ d’ ye see—I bein’ a first-class cook an’
can bake an’ do any kind o’ cookin’—an’ I got me papers an’ discharges
right ’ere with me t’ prove it. An’ it was a right-o job, one o’ the
best jobs I ever ’ad, s’ elp me. So I was steward t’ the —— Club, d’ ye
see—an’ I’ll show the papers provin’ it t’ any man interested—but fin’ly
one day I blew that job, d’ ye see; an’ I was three years out in
Australy. But finally one day I says t’ myself, ‘I might as well see
America, too.’ An’ I ’ad my passage pyde clean ’ome t’ Liverpool, d’ ye
see, on the Roossian steamer ——, an’ we come across t’ _Ay_quique first,
she bein’ bound round the ’Orn ’ome t’ Liverpool. But three of us gets
ashore in _Ay_quique, d’ ye see, an’ we was messin’ about there
an’—an’—lookin’ about, d’ y’ understand, an’ fin’ly we was left ashore
there in _Ay_quique, d’ ye see, not ’avin’ got on board again before the
packet sailed. An’ the British Consul ’e says, ‘Well, I’ll do anything I
can fer ye, boys.’ An’ I ’ad money too, d’ ye see, an’ my passage was
pyde clean ’ome t’ Liverpool on the Roossian, only she slipped ’er ’ook
while we was ashore an’ there we was stranded in _Ay_quique.

“So then I gets up t’ this ’ere Arequeepy” (It turned out later that he
meant Arica) “an’ I ’ad money on me, d’ y’ understand, but I was lookin’
about an’ seein’ if I couldn’t get work, d’ ye see, an’ messin’ about
’ere an’ there, an’ fin’ly I ’adn’t no money left an’ was on the beach
there in Arequeepy. An’ so I tykes on with the boss ’ere as cook—I bein’
a first-class cook an’ steward—an’ the boss ’e likes me all right, too,
d’ ye see. Only d’ ye know what ’e’s pying me? Sixty bally paysoze a
month! That is, I sye ’e’s pying me that, but not a blightin’ tanner ’as
’e give me yet, an’ s’ elp me, I ayn’t so much as ’ad a shave since I
took up with ’im. So finally I says, ‘Well, ’ere, sir, I wants me
money.’ An’ the boss says, All right, ’e’d pye me all right, only ’e
’adn’t nothin’ with ’im t’ pye me then, the banks bein’ all closed on a
Sunday; an’ ’e says, ‘Well, I’ll tell ye what I’ll do. If you’ll go up
t’ Bolivy on this ’ere trip I’ve got t’ make, I’ll pye ye soon as ever
we get down again,’ d’ ye see. So I says, ‘That’ll do me,’ an’ we come
up ’ere. An’ I ayn’t ’ad my clothes off on th’ ole bolly trip, an’
cookin’ all the time. The boss ’e likes me all right, d’ ye see, but I
don’t know ’ow about this ’ere Peruvan in the ki’chen with me, seein’ as
’ow I can’t understand ’is bloomin’ lingo. An’ I only jus’ left a good
cookin’ job account o’ a black feller. ’E was always pickin’ up with me,
an’ fin’ly one day ’e calls me a —— —— ——, an’ I says, ‘You’re another,
ye —— —— black ——,’ an’ so I quit an’ got this ’ere job with the
boss—anythink at all t’ keep y’ afloat when y’re stove in, d’ ye see.
An’ yesterday mornin’ we stops at a place, d’ ye see, an’ the boss says,
‘Well, now, Joe, rustle out an’ buy some pervisions’—an’ me not knowin’
a word o’ the bally lingo! An’ then las’ night when I’d served ’em
coffee at ’arf past midnight, the boss says, ‘Well, ye might as well
turn in an’ do a wink o’ sleep, Joe.’ So I turns in under the
dinin’-room tyble; only I couldn’t sleep any all night fer the cold.
Nobody ’ad took the trouble t’ tell me it was cold up ’ere, d’ ye
understand, an’ bein’ in the tropicks I didn’t see ’ow it could be—an’
me been livin’ in North Australy where it’s a ’underd an’ twenty in the
shyde. But I says t’ myself, d ’ye see, I’ll tyke one blanket along in
cyse I ’ave a chance t’ turn in on the trip. Only one blanket don’t stop
the cold at all ’ere, d’ ye see, an’ when the boss comes int’ the
dinin’-room this mornin’ an’ says, Well, Joe, let’s ’ave some coffee,’ I
’adn’t slept none whatever. An’ I ’ave that funny feelin’s, my legs all
’eavy an’ achin’ an’ feelin’ that bad in the back o’ the neck I don’t
know but I’m took with somethink. I’ll tell ye this ayn’t no white man’s
country, tyke it from me. When I gets down again, if the boss’ll give me
my money, I’m goin’ t’ make fer ’ome full speed a’ead, I’m tellin’ ye
an’ not ashymed of it. It’s all right-o fer you that talks the lingo an’
as got ’ardened t’ the cold. But fer me that couldn’t sleep a wink all
night fer bein’ that cold—’ere in the tropicks, too—an’ that busy
cookin’ day an’ night I ayn’t ’ad my clothes off On the trip, an’ this
’ere achin’ in my legs, d’ ye see, as if I’d been took with
somethink…. No, I ayn’t been down t’ the city, though o’ course I see
it from up ’ere, an’ I was wonderin’ what place it would be, bein’ a
moderate fine lookin’ town fer these ’ere foreign countries. But we’ll
be goin’ back t’night; the boss’ll likely be ’ere any minute. An’ I
comes of a good family, d’ ye see, an’ they’ll be ’appy t’ see me ’ome
again, they will. They give me a good iducation an’ sent me t’ collidge
an’ all that, d’ ye see; only I took it int’ me ’ead t’ go t’ sea an’
come out t’ Australy, an’ I’ll show any man me papers—”

But the bitter night air that was beginning to sweep across the plateau
was not the only reason I decided to be on my way.

As the sun sets gradually down through the cuenca of La Paz, so it
rises, gilding first the western precipice far up near the edge of the
plateau, plainly seen from my pillow in the “Tambo Quirquincha,” then
slowly crawling down into the valley until, long after its first
appearance, it finally floods in upon the city itself and lights up its
streets and eastern house-walls. On such a cool, sun-flooded morning,
known to the calendar as December fourth, a cholo boy of eleven
presented himself to carry my baggage to the station, and did so easily,
though I should have groaned at the load myself. The second-class
coaches, here tramcars, left first, and slowly corkscrewed up out of the
valley, the motorman, once we were started, coming inside where it was a
bit less frigid, closing the door behind him, and giving all his
attention to two comely cholas whose little black eyes jumped about like
those of guinea-pigs.

On the “Alto” a brilliant sun somewhat tempered the biting cold of the
puna at this early hour. At Viacha a better train awaited us, her engine
turned south,—big vestibuled cars, marked “Ferrocarril á Bolivia” and
plying to Antofagasta, a smooth, well-built roadbed that spoke of Chile
and more modern countries, a diner ready for those who did not choose to
buy boiled goat and frozen potatoes of the skirt-heaped Indian women
squatting at the stations. Once off across the sandy, bunch-grass
wilderness, flat as a sea, with herds of llamas grazing here and there,
and little farms of all shapes hanging on the slopes of far-off and
gradually receding hillsides, the train sped on as if it never intended
to stop again. In truth there was little reason to do so, for it was as
dreary a region as the imagination could picture. The few stations at
which we halted briefly, single, wind-swept huts on the edge of salt
marshes, bore names fitting to the landscape,—Silencio, Soledad,
Eucalyptus—here a lone tree afforded the only feature to which a name
could be attached. Now and then mirages across the dismal desert gave
the _lomitas_ the appearance of islands, the heat waves seeming to be
water lapping their shores.

[Illustration:

Cholas of La Paz, in their striking costume]

In mid-afternoon Oruro arose across the brown pampa, as Port Saïd rises
from her muddy sea, and we rumbled into a flat, miserable, if from the
miner’s point of view important town, gloomy, bleak, perhaps the most
desolate city my eyes had ever fallen upon. The squat adobe buildings,
chiefly one-story, were in many cases thatched over tile roofs, giving
them the appearance of wearing a weather-worn hat over colored caps,
like the Indians of La Paz. Reddish-brown, utterly barren desert hills,
with mine openings, formed the background. The wind drove the sand like
needles into our faces and seemed bent on cutting our eyes out. Cholas
ostentated themselves in somewhat the same costume as those of the seat
of government, but dulled and soiled by the all-pervading dust.
Siberian, dreary, comfortless, the place seemed, yet its stores were
well-stocked, and there were more gringos per capita than I had seen in
many a day. Seeming to hate themselves and life in general, even the
Americans had a haughty, unapproachable air, as in so many mining towns
of the Andes, the unconscious result no doubt of caste treatment of
Indian workmen.

I was only too glad when the train on a newly-constructed branch-line
carried us off northeastward late next morning. A long string of mud
monuments still marks the centuries’-old route across the trackless
desert. Beehive-shaped huts of mud huddled in the sunshine here and
there. We climbed in long zigzags over the crest of the Cuesta Colorada,
drear hills of broken rock where only a scant brown bunch-grass finds
foothold. Below the divide hearty gringo faces, more cheerful in this
lower altitude, broke in now and then on the monotony of Latin-American
features. Many tents marked with large letters “F. C. A. B.” lined the
way, interspersed with the stone kennels of workmen and their women, and
the swarming natural consequences. There is something about a railroad
construction-gang more suggestive of the world’s progress than almost
any other labor of man.

The new line petered out in the stony village of Changolla, some
sixty-five miles from Oruro and halfway to Cochabamba, which it is in
time due to reach. A stage-coach offered accommodations for the rest of
the trip; but the joy of jolting all day in the thing was not
commensurate with the pleasure of a new experience, even had the fare
for both passengers and baggage not been prohibitive to a scantily
supplied wanderer. “See Sinclair there,” suggested the gringo chief,
pointing to a sandy, unshaven Scot of more than six energetic feet, who
was superintending the loading of all manner of railroad material into
ponderous two-wheeled carts; and the hint was sufficient.

Changolla would have been excited that night were it possible for
railroad constructors of long experience in many wild regions to become
so. A fellow-countryman and predecessor of the New Zealander in charge
of the camp had gone on a rampage with an American youth and turned
bandits, in dime-novel style. Filled with distilled bravery, they had
“held up” a nearby camp under the impression that the paymaster had
arrived, and disappointed in this, they had shot a harmless Chilian
employee. It took some time and all my papers to calm the suspicions of
Changolla before I was offered lodging with the New Zealander. The
“bandits” had sworn to shoot him and his assistants on sight, and a
cardboard had been fastened over the window to prevent them from
carrying out the threat by lamp-light as we ate, though none of the
group showed any nervousness at the prospect.

But the highwaying of the pair was amateurish at best. They had made no
plans whatever for getting out of town, had even to ask the way, and had
as provisions—two bottles of whiskey. Thus it was not strange that they
were rounded up before morning, and my hosts showed no surprise when
dawn disclosed the prisoners shackled in one of the box-cars. They had
been taken, asleep, some ten miles from the scene of the crime, with a
bottle in one hand and a gun in the other. The chief looked his
fellow-countryman over, expressed his sentiments with a “You’re a hell
of a bandit, you are,” lit a cigarette, and went on about his day’s
work. Mounted on asses, with a stick through their elbows behind them,
the pair set out for Cochabamba guarded by a score of soldiers. The
punishment for murder in Bolivia is to be taken back to the scene of the
crime and shot, though there is many a slip between the law and its
execution, and judges, according to my hosts, must be properly “greased”
before they will even indict a criminal, particularly when the
complainant is a rich foreign company.

Meanwhile nine enormous carts, each drawn by six sleek and mighty mules,
laden with all the bulky material required for railroad construction, to
say nothing of my baggage, and covered in Forty-niner fashion, got under
way. I set off ahead. The trail followed a broad, stony and sandy
river-bed across which serpentined a yellow brook of brackish, luke-warm
water which it was impossible by just two steps to cross dry-shod. The
unfinished railroad flanked the barren, stony hills on the left, the
embankment carved out of them being broken by unbuilt bridges and
incomplete cuts and tunnels that cost me many a steep scramble. In the
river-bed below passed a broken stream of Indians and cholos driving
donkeys and mules, heavy-laden, as were most of the drivers themselves,
their ponchos, chiefly of red with narrow perpendicular stripes,
standing out against the barren brown landscape. Every little green
patch on its edge was well-populated; many a hacienda or small village
having become a railway construction camp where haughty young Englishmen
gazed coldly and suspiciously at one of their race sinking his caste to
travel on foot. The Briton who has “knocked about” the world until the
corners have been blunted is an agreeable fellow; but in his youthful,
fresh-from-London days he is best avoided.

The embankment gave out, and we struck a gorge where the carts were
saved only by the vigilance of “Sandy,” astride his splendid macho, and
the mules, as by a miracle. In the blazing, dusty, river-bed, sweat
poured profusely as I plodded, clinging to the tail of a cart to be
snatched across the ever-recurring stream. The towns were miserable, yet
misery seems far less pitiful in perpetual summer. Worst of all, there
was no water a man dared drink. The banks of the river were lined for
broken spaces with large quantities of cobbles inside wire nets—an
Argentine idea, according to the Scot—to keep the river from undermining
and washing away the coming railroad. It seemed absurd to have to take
such precautions against a tiny meandering brook, but in the rainy
season this increases to a rushing torrent filling all the valley.

It was starving mid-afternoon before “Sandy” called a halt for
“breakfast,” and the peons prepared a _chupe_,—a stew of potatoes,
charqui, rice, and anything else that it occurred to them to toss into
the pot. At sunset we camped like gypsies in the stony, wind-blown,
waterless river-bed; the mules were turned loose among several heaps of
straw carried in one of the carts, and we rolled up in blankets on the
sand. The drivers were a motley gang of Bolivian, Argentine, and Chilian
cholos, each with the accent peculiar to his nationality. All had long
knives in their belts and were inclined to use them on slight
provocation. Several carried their wives, or at least their women, with
them in the carts, sometimes with a child or two in addition.

Next day as I plodded beside his long-legged mule, “Sandy” whiled away
the long, hot hours with reminiscences.

“Did they tell you in Juliaca how I cleaned out their damned hotel,” he
asked.

They had, but I wanted “Sandy’s” own version of the affair.

“Well, we were playing billiards, when some greaser said something about
gringos, and I told him to shut up. The crowd was too drunk to know
better, so I had to take a bunch of billiard-cues and clean out the
thirty-two of them. It cost me just a hundred and twelve pounds—twelve
for the greasers’ doctor-bills and a hundred to get my friend the
subprefect to lie low until I could get over the line.

“Before the railway came I used to transport across the desert from
Arica,” he went on, steering his mule around a hollow of broken rock,
“and I had a little dog named Bobbie Burns. He was a wise little dog,
and as the desert sand burned his feet he got still wiser, and used to
run way ahead of me, a mile or so, so far he could just see me, and then
dig a hole in the sand and lie in it until I was a mile ahead and almost
out of sight again; and then he would race by me with a ‘how-d’-do’ yelp
and dig another hole. A chileno greaser killed that little dog,” said
“Sandy,” gazing dreamily across the mirage-flowing landscape, “and I
never got a chance to do as much for him.”

The Capinota river we had been following, or rather criss-crossing, for
two days came to an alfalfa-green village, exceedingly restful to eyes
that had been gazing unbrokenly on the sun-flooded desert, and the trail
struck off at right angles up a branch of a stream milky with dust. That
night we camped again in the sand at the end of the haul, in celebration
of which “Sandy” shaved and put on a purple neckcloth to scream at his
red hair. There I took leave of him, with seventeen miles still
separating me from Cochabamba. It was not the problem of transporting
myself, but rather my baggage, that forced me to trot several times into
blazing-hot Parotani in quest of a donkey—all in vain. At length—strange
chances one takes in South America—I caught a total stranger bound for
the city, and he was soon lost in the dust ahead, with all my
possessions on the crupper of his mule. The sweating trail with its
plaguing brook grew in time into a road on the left bank; huts, then
entire villages sprang up beside me; troops of pack-animals increased to
an almost steady stream, and at four I overtook my baggage in Vinto,
recovered it by payment of a _boliviano_, and was soon screaming in a
little toy train on a 75-centimeter-gage track, at the terrifying speed
of an hour and forty minutes for the twelve miles, into the second city
of Bolivia.

There are three such “railroads” running out of Cochabamba, though none
of them venture more than a few miles. All were brought up piecemeal on
muleback or on massive two-wheel carts, like the first steamers on
Titicaca, for it is what the natives call a “mediterranean” town. One is
a steam line with a single toy locomotive, which starts every hour from
the central plaza, for the suburb Calacala, “noted” for its baths,
splitting the ears with its infantile shriek and spitting hot cinders
upon all the bench-holders in the vicinity. A cochabambino assured me
that I could not believe it possible this “enormous” locomotive had been
brought “from Germany” on muleback; but as he had never been further out
of town than its three little lines could carry him, his conception of
locomotives was somewhat atrophied. This one was so childlike that once,
when it suddenly started up as I was crossing the street, I
unconsciously put out a hand to thrust it back until I had passed.

Cochabamba, 60,000 inhabitants by its own count, the majority of whom
have never left its suburbs, is conceded to be the second city of
Bolivia, and considers itself the first, after the South American
fashion. It is constantly quarrelling with La Paz as to which shall
furnish the country its president, a truce being usually patched up by
alternating the honor. The population of Bolivia is made up of just such
heterogeneous groups, among which there exists a profound aversion. The
rivalry is particularly tenacious between the _Collas_, those, chiefly
of the Aymará race, inhabiting the _Collao_, or northern portion of the
country bordering on Titicaca, and the south of the republic, containing
a large proportion of Quichua blood and partaking of many of the
characteristics of that timid, dreamy race. Like the Quichua in general,
the cochabambino is wedded to his native soil, with an ineradicable
affection for it, partly because isolation keeps its customs largely
unchanged. The tongue of the Incas is still the chief one of the lower
classes; the town’s name, indeed, is derived from the Quichua words
_kocha_ (lake) and _pampa_ (plain)—which the Conquistadores as usual
corrupted by pronouncing it as if they had a cold in the head. There is
little question but that the surrounding valley was once a lake-bottom.
Founded in 1574, the place was christened by a high-sounding Spanish
name, which, as so often happened in South America, failed to stick. It
has a restful, summer-resort air, with birds singing in its shaded
alamedas, reminding one faintly of Granada, with its sand and cactus and
half-arid soil requiring irrigation. The little river Cocha wanders by
the north and east sides of the town on its way to join the Mamoré; the
surrounding hills are less brown than the altiplanicie, half-clothed
with trees and with patches of green running up the sides of the range.
The showers were no highland drizzles, but perfect sheets of water for
an hour or more—fine prospects for my continued travels at the end of
wheel-going!

Yet it is a colorless place compared to La Paz. Adobe is the chief
building material; there is no structure of great importance, though “La
Compañía” of the early Jesuits has the usual ornate façade. Its houses
are of the light yellow mud of the surrounding plain, less painted than
those of the capital, and even the tile roofs are of so dull and dusty a
red as scarcely to excite the eye. On a barren knoll at the back of the
town is a ruined adobe bull-ring, once large and ornate, and still
higher up, before the monument to the “Heroes of Cochabamba,” the gaze
stretches away across a yellowish land, flat as a sea, baking in the
blazing sunshine. Costumes, too, show far less color than those of La
Paz. La chola wears a similar hat, but it is flatter and therefore
uglier, and she has neither the immaculateness, instinct for pleasing
color combinations, nor the sprightliness of her Aymará cousin. Natives
of pure Caucasian blood are so rare as to be almost conspicuous.
Important commerce is largely in the hands of Germans; even the English
vice-consul was a Teuton. The municipal library bore a large sign
announcing that it was open from 9 to 11, 1 to 4, and 7 to 9. At
nine-thirty the doddering old librarian appeared, and at 10:05, when he
had finished reading the morning paper and smoking his cigarette, he put
on his hat and remarked, “Nos vamos, señores,” and go we did, sure
enough. In the afternoon and evening he did not appear. Cochabamba has
been called the paradise of priests. Fat, coarse-featured men of the
cloth swarm, and the town is rated the most fanatical in Bolivia. As
late as ten years ago a _hogüera_ was lighted in the central plaza to
carry out an _auto de fé_ against a Protestant who had dared to preach
his doctrines in a private house, the materials, for the inquisitorial
bonfire being the holy books and furniture of the evangelist. The troops
were called upon to interfere and prevented the consummation of the act,
but they were not able to keep the “heretics” from being cruelly stoned
by the populace. The approach of the railway, however, the arrival of
many gringos, and a now firmly established mission-school with a
government subsidy is wearing down somewhat this medieval point of view.

In a corner of the main plaza of Cochabamba, where the sunshine streaks
upon it through the trees, was the “gringo bench,” a rendezvous at which
there was always to be found at least an American and an odd Englishman
or two, generally miners and even more generally penniless. For Bolivia
had proved less golden than the rumors that had oozed forth from her
interior, and there is no better climate than that of Cochabamba in
which to sit waiting for whatever chooses to turn up next. At the time
of my arrival the bench had three principal occupants. The most
permanent fixture was “Old Man Simpson,” over eighty, not merely a
fellow-countryman, but originally from the same town in which I had
spent my youth; indeed, he was still a subscriber to the weekly
newspaper I had earned more than one school-day dollar folding and
“carrying.” A “Forty-niner” who had drifted from California to Chile, he
had been in South America unbrokenly—though frequently “broke”—many more
years than I had been on earth, his fortunes rising and falling with
miner’s luck and open-handedness, his “Spanish” still atrocious. Now he
was so nearly blind that he could recognize us one from another only by
our voices; and every day he sat from sunrise to dusk, except for his
“breakfast” and siesta from eleven to one, in the shaded corner of the
plaza, a cud of coca-leaves in one cheek, his gnarled and leathery hands
folded on the head of his _chonta_ cane. All day long he would weave
endless tales of the prospector’s life, wandering disconnectedly over
all the western side of the continent, as long as he could get a single
gringo to sit and listen. When he could not, and was, or fancied
himself, alone, he sat hour after hour motionless, murmuring each time
the clock in the tower above struck, “Well, it’s —— o’clock,” and
relapsing again into silence.

After Simpson came Sampson, an extraordinary cockney, resourceful,
quick-witted, full of quaint sayings, of a strikingly personal
philosophy of life, so much of a “hustler” that his initiative often
boiled over into audacity. He spoke fluently a colloquial Spanish and
considerable Quichua, chewed coca incessantly, and came close to being
the ugliest man I had ever set eyes upon. This last mentioned quality
was enhanced by the slap-stick clown garb he wore,—faded overalls with a
bib, some remnants of shoes here and there about his ham-like feet, a
woolen neckcloth à la Whitechapel, and an Indian felt hat on the back of
his bullet head. His view of life he summed up—among friends—briefly
with, “I am strictly honest; I never tyke anything I can’t reach.” As to
his resourcefulness: in this identical garb he had gained the entrée to
the haughtiest class of natives, with whom outward appearances
constitute some 99 percent., and had talked his hypnotic way into the
confidence of a lawyer and ex-senator of Cochabamba to such an extent
that the latter contemplated giving him charge of a large tract of land
to plant with cotton.

The third bencher, Tommy Cox, had been “down inside” with Sampson on
some prospecting scheme that had failed. Originally from Toronto, he was
in appearance and speech a “typical Englishman,” a little sandy-haired
fellow of twenty-five, the antithesis of his companion in initiative, of
so dim a personality compared to Sampson that one barely noted his
existence when the two were together.

When I arrived in Cochabamba nothing was more certain than that I should
continue my tramp down the Andes, through Sucre and Potosí, into the
Argentine. But plans do not keep well in so warm a climate. I sat one
day musing on the trip ahead of me, when Sampson cut in:

“’Ere! If you’re looking for something new, why don’t you shoot across
country by Santa Cruz to the Paraguay river and down to Asunción and B.
A.? Least I don’t think it’s never been done by a white man alone and
afoot.”

The idea sprouted. I suddenly discovered that I was weary of high
altitudes and treeless _punas_, of the drear sameness of the Andes and
the constant repetition of the _serranos_ that inhabit them. To that
moment I had, like most of the world, conceived of Bolivia as a lofty
plateau, arid and cold; whereas more than half of it is a vast, tropical
lowland, spreading away from the slopes of the Andes to the borders of
Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina, making it the third largest country of
South America. There was, it seemed, a fourth way of entering or leaving
this mediterranean land, and it was neither by way of Mollendo, Arica,
nor Antofagasta; but a route all but unknown to the world at large, yet
followed by many of its imports and exports. The _montaña_ or _yungas_
promised a new type of people, a new style of life; a knowledge of South
America would be only half complete without including in my itinerary
the immense hot-lands and river-webbed wilderness stretching eastward
from the Andes. I wished some day to visit Paraguay, anyway; the
distance to Puerto Suarez was evidently greater than to railhead in the
Argentine—by striking an average of varying information, with the
assistance of such maps as the local librarian gave me time to glance
over, I came to the conclusion that it was roughly 800 miles—but on the
other hand much of this new route was floor-flat, and I had had my fill
of climbing over such labyrinths of mountain ranges as lay to the south.
True, in this season the region to the east would be wet and muddy, but
with no bitter cold nights in prospect I could throw away much of my
load, and at least there would be brilliant sunshine most of the time,
which is half of life. Besides, is not the chief joy of travel the
privilege of suddenly and unexpectedly smashing fixed plans, to replace
them with something hitherto undreamed?

To all these arguments there was added another still more potent. When I
began to make inquiries, I learned that the proposed trip was
“impossible.” Several of my informants quoted recently received letters
to prove it. The last hundred leagues would be entirely under water; the
wild Indians of the Monte Grande would see to it that I should not get
so far, to say nothing of miles of chest-deep mud-holes, “tigers,” and
swarms of even more savage insects, and many days without food or human
habitation. That settled it. In Bogotá the tramp down the Andes had been
“impossible,” but had long since lost completely that charming quality.
I decided to strike eastward in quest of the Paraguay.

“I wouldn’t mind tackling it myself,” sighed Tommy, when I mentioned my
decision to the benchers. “I’m badly needed in B. A. But I’m stony
broke. Of course if I could find anyone who would take along a
steamer-trunk-size man as excess baggage—”

“If the senator doesn’t make up his wandering Bolivian mind soon, I’ll
quit embellishing this plaza myself,” put in the cockney, though there
was a glint in his eye that suggested, long afterward, that he had meant
the hint as a hoax, and considered the trip as impossible as did the
rest of Cochabamba.

Were I to have a companion, I should not have chosen Sampson. He was a
man with far too much mind of his own to be good company in an
uncivilized wilderness. Tommy, diffident, unresourceful, totally lacking
in initiative, without self-confidence, wholly innocent of Spanish, to
all appearance tractable and harmless, was much to be preferred.
Moreover, he was better looking. Though I was thinly furnished with
_bolivianos_ and the nearest possible source of supply was Buenos Aires,
I concluded that the code of world-wanderers forbade me to leave Tommy
to waste away on the “gringo bench,” and we joined forces. He was to
carry his proportionate share of such baggage as I could not throw away,
including the tin kitchenette and the bottle of 40 percent. alcohol that
went with it—if experience proved I could trust him with that—leaving
me, thanks also to the offer of a fellow-countryman to carry the
developing-tanks to Santa Cruz on his cargo-mule, only a moderate load.
I should have bought a donkey, or another _chusco_, rather than turn
ourselves into pack-animals, but for two reasons: first, such a purchase
would have relieved me of most of the billetes I had left; secondly, the
fate of “Cleopatra” and “Chusquito” caused me to doubt whether any
four-footed animal could endure the journey.

It was two months from the day I had walked into Cuzco that one of
Cochabamba’s toy trains carried us past adobe towns and mud fences, with
dome-shaped huts that gave the scene an oriental touch, and set us down
in Punata in time for dinner in the _picantería_ where Tommy had once
before washed down a similar plate of stringy roast pork with a glass of
chicha. Then we swung on our packs and struck eastward into the unknown.

Beyond Arani next morning came the real parting of the ways. The trail
that swung to the right along the base of the hills went on to Sucre and
the silver mountain; that by which we zigzagged up the face of a stony
range led across the continent. Here the mountains closed in, and the
vast, fertile, yet dreary and desolate plain of Cochabamba, that had
seemed to stretch out interminably in the brilliant sunshine,
disappeared at length below a swell of land and was lost forever behind
us.

For a week the going was not unlike that down the Andes, though it grew
gradually lower as the endless ridges of the eastern slope calmed down
slowly, like the waves of some tempestuous sea. It was only on the road
that I began really to make the acquaintance of Tommy. In spite of his
Canadian birth he dressed like a Liverpool dock-laborer, with a heavy
cap, a kerchief about his neck, and a heavy winter vest—that is,
“w’stc’t”—which he could not be induced to shed, however hot the
climate, though he readily enough removed his coat. He spoke with a
strong “English accent,” and a man following behind with a basket could
have picked up enough H’s to have started a supply-store of those scarce
articles in Whitechapel itself. He had given Cochabamba ample
opportunity to show its gratitude at his departure, but the fourteen
_bolivianos_ of his last eleemosynary gleanings turned out to be barely
sufficient to keep him in cigarettes on the journey. His share of the
load he carried in the half of a hectic tablecloth, of mysterious
origin, tied across his chest, as an Indian woman carries her latest
offspring. His own possessions consisted wholly and exclusively of a
large, sharp-pointed, proudly-scoured trowel; for Tommy was by
profession a bricklayer and mason. This general convenience, weapon,
sign of caste, and hope of better days to come, he wore through the band
of his trousers, as the Bolivian peon carries his long knife, and the
services it performed were unlimited. I was never nearer throwing my
kodak into a mud-hole than when it failed to catch Tommy solemnly eating
soft-boiled eggs with the point of his faithful trowel.

The hospitality of the Bolivian soon proved low, even in comparison with
the rest of the Andes, and every meal and lodging cost us a struggle. At
Pocona, for example, I ended a 36-mile walk down the nose of a range on
which a coach road descended by never-ending S’s to a narrow valley
bottom below. Tommy had fallen behind, and I had begun to wonder whether
he could endure the pace our scantiness of funds made necessary. As I
debouched into the grass-grown plaza, I paused to ask a dim-minded
person drowsing before one of the doors where one could find a night’s
lodging. He silently projected his lips toward a building before which
stood the empty stage-coach. There a group of supercilious, unwashed
cholos of varying stages of insobriety informed me, with an air that
plainly said “We are purposely deceiving you,” first, that there was no
tambo in town, then that there was accommodation only for travelers “á
bestia.”

“For horsemen only, eh?” I cried, in the voice natural to an all-day
fast. “Where does the corregidor live?” What are gobernadores in Peru
become corregidores in Bolivia.

“Down the street,” mouthed a half-drunken fellow, with a lazy toss of
the head in no particular direction.

I snatched a youth out of the group and pushed him before me. Some way
down the foot-torturing cobbles he halted at the open door of the usual
slatternly, earth-floored room, saying:

“The corregidor lives here.”

“Go in and fetch him,” I answered, blocking his attempted retreat. He
called out two or three times in the singsong with which neighbors greet
neighbors in the Andes, then obeyed my order to enter and summon the
“authority”—at least he disappeared inside the building. Some time later
two chola girls appeared at the door to ask in pretended surprise what I
desired.

“Where is the corregidor?”

“He is in the country. He doesn’t live here,” they replied respectively
in one breath, betraying themselves by their carelessness in not
rehearsing the reply before appearing.

“Where is the boy who brought me here?”

“Escapado—he escaped—through the back door.”

I had long ago learned this trick of local “authorities” in Andean
villages of hiding away at the approach of a stranger bearing orders
from the government, and the complicity of all the population in the
concealment. But I had learned, also, one means of bringing him to
light. I marched into the house and, throwing my pack on an adobe divan
covered with blankets, announced that I should sleep there. The cholas
would call the corregidor at once, they had called him, they couldn’t
call him, he was coming in a minute, he did not live in town, and a
dozen other falsehoods poured in a chaotic flood from their lips. For an
hour I held to the divan. But as evening settled down, it became evident
that the ruse of Peru would not work in Bolivia; that though I might
sleep there by force, I should remain thirsty and hungry. I shouldered
my bundle and hobbled back to the plaza. There ten centavos spent for
chicha convinced the sceptical inhabitants that I was not penniless, and
in time it paved the way to a request for food.

“Cómo no?” came the mechanical answer, and a long time after dark a big
bowl of broth, luke-warm of temperature but sizzling hot with _ají_, was
followed by some hashed black _chuño_, or frozen potatoes, mixed with an
egg, and some bran-like bread.

“How much do I owe?” I asked when I finished.

“Pues—ah—será setenta centavos.”

“Está bién. And who is going to sleep on those beds?” I continued,
pointing to the long adobe divans, each with a roll of thin mattress and
blankets, at either end of the room.

“Nadie.”

“No one? How much do you charge for a bed?”

“Un boliviano, no más,” replied the chola in that droning, soothing
voice in which the Andean always names an exorbitant price which he
knows the traveler cannot refuse to pay. “Voy á tender, no?” “Yes,
spread it out.”

I was stripping to crawl into the “star” bed of the tambo—in which only
horsemen are accommodated—when there sounded at the door I had fastened
ajar with a bench, the worn and humble voice of Tommy. Having fallen
behind because of a half-sprained ankle, he had stumbled on into town
down that stony, looping descent which I had found bad enough even by
day. Fortunately there was a bit of cold broth and some chuño left,
after devouring which he turned in on the other divan.

Next day we passed a wind-blown, rain-gashed plain, with a few huts on
which to practice my neglected Quichua and, early in the afternoon,
reached Totora, so named from a long rush which grows in swampy ground.
It is the largest town between Cochabamba and Santa Cruz and capital of
a province, with several thousand inhabitants. Set in a hollow of the
treeless hills, it was dreary and colorless as a mining town, with
breakneck cobbled streets, and a little tile-paved plaza surrounded by
what Tommy called “drapers’ shops,” all with the selfsame display of
bayeta and other crude-colored cloths. The vista of many a street was
enlivened by swinging red signs, like Japanese or Chinese banners, above
the doors where chicha was for sale. Far better, and almost given away
in Colombia, this native drink had come to cost twice what a larger
glass of beer would in the United States. In the upper corner of the
plaza we spread ourselves at ease on a shaded bench. Around the _pila_
in the center of the square a constant crowd carrying earthen jars
fought for the two trickles of water. Behind us stood what dared to call
itself the “Hotel Union,” consisting of a billiard-table and an absent
proprietor, who, according to the disinterested cholas, might be back
during the evening to discuss with us our offer to spend the night with
him. The neighboring tambo was closed “because of a wedding in the
family,” so rare a ceremony in Bolivia that we had not the heart to
complain. Tommy tired of sitting, and went to lie down in frank “hobo”
fashion in the plaza band-stand. As dusk came on we made a round of the
shops, warned that there would be none for some days ahead. We bought
eggs, and blocks of crude sugar, now called _empanada_, coca to chew
when thirsty, several loaves of the bran-like bread that weighed us down
like grindstones, and some shelled peanuts which we found next day to be
unroasted. Any chip of stone or scrap of iron served as weights in the
shops, though some had brass cups full of shot, over which a paper was
pasted by the rare government inspector, soon to “break itself” until he
came again. That purchaser who got twelve ounces to his pound was as
lucky as the one whose _vara_ came anywhere near being a yard long. A
half-pound weight was commonly the heaviest on hand, and the old woman
who sold us sugar poured that amount in with the weight in the other
side of the scales, and so on until she had made up the unprecedented
quantity we demanded.

A telegraph wire strode bandy-legged over the hills with us on the
twenty broken and panting miles to Duraznillo. Across a flanking valley
the range was mottled with all colors from deep red to Nile-green, the
depths of its gullies purple under dense cloud-shadows, while all the
rest of the world lay in brilliant sunshine, and vast banks of
snowy-white clouds took on fantastic shapes which the imagination could
animate into all manner of strange beings, or people with innumerable
plots and fairy-tales. One mighty descent brought us to a “river,” but
at the very moment we reached it, it turned suddenly muddy from rains
somewhere in the hills above and spoiled our plan for a “bathe,” as
Tommy expressed it. In the dry, burning hills beyond, my companion went
astray, but found himself again by following my hob-nailed footsteps. He
had so little initiative that he would not lead the way, and his
favorite plan of plodding at my very heels having been vetoed, as he did
not mix well with the landscape, he commonly trailed a half-mile behind,
usually taking care not to lose sight of me.

Duraznillo had a public “rest-house” that had once been an adobe chapel,
but which was now as bare as a millionaire’s room in heaven. I boiled
oatmeal and eggs in the water Tommy brought from a stagnant pool not far
away, but waited in vain for the return of the only European-clad
resident, who had volunteered to “arrange us.” As the shades of night
spread, the beaten-mud floor looked harder and harder, and in nosing
about we were astonished to discover several once-imported mattresses
covering a pile of adobe bricks in the back _corredor_ of the chief
house of the village, apparently uninhabited. Still, it was possible
that the local “authority” would in time come out of hiding, and we
lolled patiently, if road-weary, in the moonlight.

We had waited until—well, perhaps eight, though without a watch it
seemed hours later, when patience ceased to be a virtue, and we slipped
through a hole in the mud fence, each to embrace a mattress. It may be
that a trap had been set for us. As we approached the wall again, an
unusually large half-Indian, wrapped in a poncho, loomed up on the other
side, and shouted in an authoritative voice:

“What are you doing inside that fence?”

Now I do not like any man to address me in that tone, least of all a
South American Indian. It is neither good training for his own primitive
character nor advantageous to future gringo travelers.

“Speaking to me, indio?” I demanded.

“I am corregidor of Duraznillo, also guardian of this house.”

“Corregidor! Then you are the very fellow we have been looking for these
last four hours. You will kindly lend us two mattresses to sleep on.”

“I will not lend you _one_ mattress to sleep on. What are you doing?”

Plainly he was of Aymará rather than meek Quichua blood.

“And where have you been hiding yourself, señor corregidor? We have a
letter for you from the government.”

“Ugh!” he snorted, with an effort at sarcasm. “Let’s see that letter
from the government.”

“It is in my pack in the chapel.”

“Bring it over here.”

“Since when have caballeros run after Indians to show them government
orders? Are you going to lend us two mattresses?”

“Not one!”

“Tommy, chuck them over.”

He did so with trembling hands, for something had given the diminutive
bricklayer an extraordinary respect for “authorities.” The corregidor
followed at our heels, bellowing, as we carried our finds into the
ex-chapel and spread them out. A stocky youth and a woman with a
flickering candle appeared behind him in the doorway, and the Indian
demanded my papers.

“Can you read?” I asked.

“I can,” he snarled; which he could, to the extent of spelling out the
order at about a line a minute.

“Bien,” he admitted at last, in a surly voice, “but you are to ask for
things, not take them.”

“From a corregidor who hides himself?”

“And the prefect orders that you be furnished what you need _at a just
price_,” he added triumphantly, ignoring my reply.

“Exactly.”

“Then you will pay two bolivianos for each mattress.”

“Very well; but you will first make out a receipt for that amount, that
I may send it back to the prefect.”

It was not the first time I had played this unfailing card against an
Andean “authority” attempting extortion. He knew he was beaten; for
though he could read, after a Bolivian fashion, he probably could not
write, and certainly would not dare let such a document reach the
prefect. Like a true Latin-American, however, he saved his face as long
as possible:

“Very well, give me some paper to write it on.”

“As corregidor, you should furnish your own paper. I have none.”

“Well, you may use one mattress, but not two,” he growled.

“You lose. In _my_ country we are not accustomed to sleep two on the
same mattress.”

A shiver of rage seemed to pass over him, while his Castilian pride
struggled for expression behind his mask of Indian features. Then he
faded away into the night and was heard no more, though I was not so
certain of him as not to prop a heavy wooden beam against the door in
such a way that an attempt to sneak in upon us during the night would
quite likely have been followed in the morning by the intruder’s
funeral.

Never-ending spiral descents, so steep we had to set the brakes
constantly, making our thighs ache, brought us at last to a hot and
stony river-bed across which a luke-warm, knee-deep “river” snaked its
way incessantly. We stuffed leggings and _Fusslappen_ into our bundles
and walked all the rest of the day barefoot in our unlaced boots,
crossing the stream perhaps a hundred times, and envying the hoof-soled
natives as often as we paused to pull on our footwear. Tommy found it
too much trouble to roll down his trousers after each crossing, and
complained of sunburned legs for days to come. But at least the going
was level. The stillness and lack of population recalled Jaen in the far
north of Peru. For hours we tramped stonily between ever lower
cactus-grown hills, only the mournful note of the jungle-dove breaking
the silence. The first gnats and giant-jawed insects we were doomed to
endure more and more as we advanced to the eastward began to annoy us.
As scrub trees thickened, bird life grew more prevalent. Bands of
parrakeets screamed by, as always along these dry, tropical river-beds;
now and then a parrot or two, forerunners of many to come, passed
overhead. The rare huts squatting in scant patches of shade were now of
mere open-work poles. To sleep in them was far less inviting than to lie
on the ground under a shrub.

[Illustration:

“Sandy” leading his train of carts loaded with construction material
for the railroad to Cochabamba]

[Illustration:

The “gringo bench” of Cochabamba,—left to right, “Old Man Simpson;”
Tommy Cox; Sampson, the Cockney; Owen, and Scribner]

But the Andes did not subside so easily. Next morning the trail shook
off the river and climbed wearily to a wind-swept puna, then dropped by
a leg-straining _bajada_ into another cañon with a muddy, lukewarm
brook, only to pant upward again to another summit. Several times each
day we sweated to a hilltop and lay down in a cool breeze we should not
often enjoy in the days to come. Range back of blue range spread away
into ever-bluer, purple distance. The region recalled the Malay
Peninsula—with all its romance rubbed off and even more inhospitable
inhabitants tucked away in the undergrowth. Yet surely, if slowly, the
Andes were flattening down, and each summit was less lofty than the
preceding.

One afternoon passing arrieros told us that three of our _paisanos_ were
not far ahead. We increased our pace and strode at five, with thirty
miles in our legs, into the miserable mud town of Chilón. In the corral
and corredor back through one of the dismal dwellings we found, camped
with their four mules, the American prospectors, Scribner, Kimball, and
Owen, who had burdened themselves with my developing-tank. We foraged
together. These interior villages are less useful to the seeker after
supplies than a lone country hut, for in them each native “passes the
buck” by sending the inquirer on to someone else. The traveler who has
lived for days chiefly on the anticipation of what he will eat in the
town he has been assured is “provided with everything,” is fortunate to
collect the ingredients of even one real meal, and that only at the
expense of wandering from door to door, like a Buddhist priest with his
begging-bowl. Chilón was even more anemic and indifferent than usual. It
is rated the most fever-stricken region of Bolivia, and the government
has striven in vain to drive out the almost universal _chucho_ by
planting the eucalyptus and sending doctors to study its cause. The only
water to be had was a yellow liquid mud dipped up in the back yard.
Kimball prepared to cook in it some of the _charqui_ he had bought at
blockade prices, only to bring to light a swarm of maggots. A can of
peaches from Chile—some time in the last century—cost two bolivianos;
four ounces of tea, a boliviano, a pound of sugar as much, and at that
it was a coarse, dirty, stony stuff, so hard an ax was required to break
it. One slattern a bit less sullen in aspect than the town in general
asked if we “knew how” to eat _mote_ and _charol_. We assured her we
knew how to eat anything we could get our fingers on, and she set before
us a single plate of boiled shelled corn and little cubes of fried fat
pork, which we ate with the spoons nature had provided us. In the entire
town we gleaned two whole eggs. Most of the huts that displayed them
answered with that clumsy old Andean lie, “Son ajenos—They belong to
some one else.” A woman squatting behind one of the huts admitted she
had eggs to sell, but said she did not feel like getting up to sell
them. That was the attitude of all Chilón. It may be that the hookworm,
as well as the _chucho_, was prevalent.

When I awoke at dawn, Kimball, in retaliation for the state of the
charqui, had already picked a chicken from one of the trees in the
corral and managed to stuff it into his alforjas without a squawk. By
the time we were off, it began to rain. A half-sand, half-mud road
splashed and skated away through semi-tropical scrub woods, caking our
feet with glue-like mud, and soaking our garments from both inside and
out. In spite of the rain the tropical heat weighed down upon us like
water-logged blankets, and nowhere was there water to drink. Rarely
among the spiny scrub trees we came upon a miserable hut of poles and
sticks, in each of which lounged a dozen or so of the colorless, mongrel
natives of the region. _Rancho_ was being cooked in one such hovel, and
though the householders showed no joy, or any other species of emotion,
at our presence, when the meal was ready, a small wash-basin of rice,
charqui, and pepper stew was set on the ground before us, and we were
each silently handed a wooden spoon. There was, of course, no bread, but
a gourd bowl of _mote_ was added for our competition. This was one
contest in which Tommy was easily my superior. The languid, fever-yellow
chola would not accept payment for the food, though she did so readily
enough for the chica we had drunk, calling up to Tommy far-off memories
of the land of “free lunch,” so that several times during the blazing
afternoon I heard his sheet-iron voice torturing the wilderness behind
me with his own version of a one-time Broadway favorite:

“_S_take me back to New York town….”

Not two hours beyond we drifted into a saw-mill hacienda, and before I
knew it Tommy had told his tale so feelingly to the Italian owner, who
had the misfortune to understand a little English, that we must go in
and have a plate of cold spaghetti, imported to these wilds at
nerve-shaking prices. Best of all, after nothing better than liquid mud
for days, was several glasses of almost clear water. The Italian was
bubbling over about some new invention by one of his countrymen that
would forever abolish war. Half the world might be abolished without our
hearing of it in these wilds. Before we left he inquired whether we had
quinine, and forced upon Tommy a box of pills, with the urgent advice to
take one every morning. I had already begun to dose myself daily, but
was never able to convince my companion that ills might be forestalled
far more easily than they could be ousted after they had staked their
claims.

It was December 21, the longest day of the year, and the sun was still
high when we again overtook our “paisanos,” camped this time along a
brick-floored corredor under the projecting eaves of a large tile-roofed
hacienda-house, among scrub trees and scattered huts to the right of the
trail. The building was imposing for the region, for the owner held
title to a vast tract and many cattle. I recalled the plump hospitality
of many a similar hacendado of Peru, but was quickly reminded that we
were in Bolivia. Our “paisanos” had already eaten. Having come on foot,
Tommy and I were too low caste to be invited into the brick-floored
dining-room with the swarming family. After much reconnoitering I found
a hut where a lean chicken could be bought at a high price, and the
señora of the hacienda grudgingly agreed to have her servants cook it.
Here, too, the only water was a thick yellow liquid flowing behind the
house and common to all its animals. At sight of it we had abandoned our
plan to bathe, yet we must drink it and cook in it. The apathy of life
in these parts is exemplified by the fact that an hacendado of
comparative wealth will drink mud all his life, rather than dig a well.

Long after dark an unwashed chola came waddling into the corredor with a
single bowl of charqui stew and two wooden spoons. Tommy fell upon this
gratefully, as he would have upon a bone discarded by a dog. Personally
I was not pleased with the metamorphosis the fowl had undergone, and
calling out the haughty hacendado, I thrust a handful of bills toward
him, asking if he could not sell us something fit to eat, even if he did
want the chicken for himself. The hint caused him to turn a livid green.
These landowners of the interior, too “proud” to sell food to travelers,
are yet too tight-fisted to give it away; and a lifetime on their own
broad, if worthless, acres, with only a few cringing Indians about them,
lording it over even their own women, causes them to consider themselves
vastly superior to all mankind, and to treat travelers accordingly. So
thoroughly had I ruffled his pomposity that the fellow, visibly shaking
with anger, went to sit under a scraggly tree in the grassless sand
before the house and rage in silence, then took to pacing back and
forth, in and out of the building, and kept it up until well into the
morning. He might have vented his rage more effectually, for law has but
slight foothold in these wild regions, but for the half-dozen revolvers,
rifles, and pistols lying about us in the corredor. Meanwhile a servant
brought my chicken in a pot, and though it was tougher than life in
Bolivia, we drank the broth and hung the remnants of the fowl to a
rafter above our heads, out of reach of dogs, Indians, or ants.

It rained most of the night, and the wood we could find in the chill
slate-tinted dawn was so wet that it was a good hour before we boiled
tea and rice in the yellow mud—and coaxed Tommy to get up in time to
eat. Barely two hundred yards beyond, we came to the muddy river, must
unshoe the feet we had just carefully shod for the day, and had a
provoking task dressing them again on the mud-reeking further bank.
Tommy went to hunt cigarettes—which are to be had in these parts only by
inquiring at each hut until one has found some old woman who has
inadvertently rolled a dozen or two beyond her own consumption—and it
was hours later that he overtook me. We undulated on over half-sandy
country, a thorn-tree desert without sight or sound of human life, grown
with thousands of immense cactus trees of the pipe-organ species from
which fell myriads of _tunas_, an “apple” Tommy called it, the outer
spines of which fall off when ripe, the juicy interior, full of tiny
black seeds, with mildly the taste of strawberries, effective at least
in quenching the thirst.

At a scattered cluster of huts called Mataral we found a group of
drunken Indians, male and female, celebrating the customary wake in and
about a hut where a baby had died. The corpse of the _angelito_ lay
pale-yellow and half naked on a bare, home-made table, a lighted candle
on either side of its head, its nostrils stuffed with cotton, and
already beginning to make its presence known to another of the five
senses, while all about the premises rolled maudlin, fishy-eyed
half-breeds, only too glad of any excuse for consuming gallons of
overripe chicha. Outside, a half-sober cholo was piecing a coffin
together from the odds and ends of boxes that had once held foreign
imports. The priest’s assurance that infants, properly baptized, go
directly to heaven makes such a death the cause almost for rejoicing
among the ignorant population of Bolivia, even if it leads to nothing
worse than passive infanticide.

Frequent ridges and a stream that forced us to unshoe and shoe a score
of times, reddening our legs where our leggings should have been,
decidedly reduced our pace. Not without surprise, therefore, did I sight
at dusk, among the trees on a low bluff across a nearly waterless
river-bed, a village of moderate size, thirty miles from where we had
started in the morning. It was Pampa Grande. My fellow-countrymen had
already commandeered a mud room on a corner of the second street, and
chucked their possessions pell-mell into it. Among the luxuries the
place offered was bread, soggy and gritty, dark of complexion as the
inhabitants, but bread for all that. While we were swallowing chunks of
this and of _empanada_, some one discovered that it was Christmas Eve. A
celebration was imperative. Kimball dug up an ancient fife from his
pack, I still possessed a battered mouth-organ, and all but Owen, who
had none, lent their voices to the lusty, if not musical, carols that
astonished the apathetic hamlet so thoroughly that a few found energy to
gather in a drooping group in the noiseless street outside. We ended
with our patriotic anthem, in the midst of which Kimball’s fife suddenly
broke off its wail long enough for him to assure Tommy:

“Here, young feller, don’t get it into your nut that’s ‘Gawd save no
King’ we’re treatin’ these greasers to!”

The prospectors pushed on in the morning, but finding ourselves a day
ahead of our schedule, and that we could still reach Santa Cruz before
the end of the year, we decided to spend Christmas in Pampa Grande. It
was ideal Christmas weather. The village stands on the eighteenth
parallel, at an altitude of some 4000 feet, giving it a soft midsummer
air, with a caressing breeze and a most restful atmosphere. Life had
slowed down to a snail’s pace. The mud-housed inhabitants were too
indolent to make a noise or disturbance; even our next-door neighbors
were too apathetic to come and satisfy their curiosity by staring at us.
Lying on the adobe couch under the eaves, we could let our eyes roam
lazily over the surrounding sandy, scrub-wooded country of unabrupt
hills, utterly silent but for the occasional faint note of the mourning
jungle-dove.

But the all-important question was Christmas dinner. The boyish
corregidor was duly impressed by my papers, and assured me we could have
“anything we might desire.” I took him at his word and handed over a
boliviano with a request for eggs. He called in a sandaled youth and
sent him away with orders to round up a basketful. Then he wandered
home. After a time the youth came shuffling back to say he could not
find a single egg; and thrust the coin toward me. I was too experienced
an Andean traveler to accept it and thus absolve the “authorities” of
any further aid. Blocked in his turn, the corregidor came again in
person to suggest a chicken at a boliviano. My extravagance in accepting
this offer startled him, but he dropped the coin deftly into my hand and
hurried languidly off, ostensibly to look for the fowl, really to sneak
home by a roundabout route. He could not be blamed much for such
conduct. Appointed by force and obliged to serve without emoluments, the
rural “authority” lives between two millstones, the lower composed of
his fellow-townsmen and lifelong friends, with whom he must continue his
existence, a far more tangible and permanent reality than the somewhat
nebulous government that furnishes travelers with imperative orders from
far-off La Paz or Cochabamba.

But a Christmas dinner is nothing to grow sentimental or sympathetic
about. When I had loafed and drowsed and read an hour or more longer, I
wandered a few yards up the sandy street to the corregidor’s hut.

“No,” he mourned regretfully from his hammock, “I have not been able to
find a chicken. Nobody wants to sell.”

“But, señor corregidor,” I protested, “we haven’t a thing with which to
make dinner—Christmas dinner, and the Minister of the Interior in La Paz
told me—”

The official name brought him slowly from the hammock to his feet, a
worried look on his face.

“Very well,” he sighed, “then we will make you an almuerzo here in my
house, which is your own.”

“Not at all, señor; we would not dream of troubling you. But if you have
wherewith to make an almuerzo, let us have the ingredients and we will
cook them to suit ourselves.”

“Well, there is charqui—”

“Don’t mention it. We don’t want to insult our stomachs, even on
Christmas. I was speaking of food.”

“Well, there is a house down at the edge of the river where they have
killed a beef—”

“Yes, three days ago; and the lump of it my compatriots bought this
morning all but lifted the roof off our hut. A slice carved out of the
middle of it was grass-green. The yellow dog that picked up both chunks
of it when we threw it into the street may have had the Christmas dinner
of his life, but he is not likely to see another.”

“Ay, Diós, señor, then there is nothing else.”

“Now, for the good of Pampa Grande, I advise you! There are plenty of
chickens in town.”

“The people will not sell. The only way is for you to go out and shoot
one with your revolver.”

“I never risk my aim on anything smaller than a bullock. Cartridges are
expensive in the wilds of Bolivia.”

Such gringo persistency was annoying. Native travelers needed only to be
told the same lie two or three times before they left him in peace to
drowse in his hammock. With a badly concealed sigh he wandered into the
street, and led the way across the noiseless sanded plaza to the house
of his friend the alcalde. The two conferred together and finally sent
out a cholo with orders to run down a chicken—“anybody’s at all.” The
emissary returned by and by to report that he could not find one. The
pair looked at me as much as to say, “There, you see the last hope has
failed.” I ignored the hint. In despair they called in another cholo and
with a mumbled order handed him a shotgun. A long time later a report
was heard some distance off. The two officials shivered. By and by the
cholo returned with the shotgun and announced that “it was badly
loaded.” He said nothing about the aiming. The officials looked at me
imploringly. I remained like a statue of patience seated on a cactus. At
last the alcalde, with the air of a member of a suicide club who has
drawn the black bean, snatched up the gun and, calling upon the cholo to
follow, disappeared into the sunshine. For a time only the chirp of an
insect in the thatch above sounded. Then a shot was heard, and a moment
later the alcalde dodged into the room like a man pursued by bandits,
thrust the weapon quickly under a reed mat, and assumed his seat and his
most innocent air. Legally he might shoot all his neighbors’ chickens on
government order; practically he was not anxious to be seen at it. The
corregidor looked sorrowfully but appealingly up at him. His voice was a
weak whisper:

“Yes, we got him. It was Don Panchito’s red one. No, the pullet. No,
none of the family seemed to see me, but quién sabe?”

For a considerable time more nothing happened. I began to wonder if
this, too, had been a well-acted ruse. Now and then the alcalde or the
corregidor rose and peered anxiously down the street through the crack
of the door. Whenever the patter of footsteps sounded outside, the pair
grew stiff with misgiving.

Then suddenly in burst the cholo, carrying under his poncho the _pollo_,
already relieved of its feathers, thus accounting for the last delay. It
was a tolerably plump bird, and the corregidor thought fifty centavos
would be a just price. He would give it to Don Panchito to-morrow, when
his wrath had cooled. I paid it and hurried home. There followed an
hour’s wandering and pleading, all of which I must do in person, since
Tommy spoke no Spanish, and several more appeals to the corregidor
before I got lard, rice, tiny potatoes at ten cents a pound, as well as
an unexpected bowl of what purported to be stewed peaches. The pot the
corregidor could lend us was large enough for an army. Tommy, who had
once been second cook on board ship—after they had found him—was
appointed fireman and general assistant, and soon had the three-stone
fagot cook-stove out under the back porch roaring. Then with plantains
fried in lard and —. But why enumerate? By the time we had fed the
ragamuffins at the back door and hung the not yet empty kettle on the
top of a hammock-post, even Tommy’s inclination to make tea had
evaporated. It may not have been a genuine Christmas dinner. Pumpkin
pie, for instance, was painfully conspicuous by its absence. But it
produced the same effect. While Tommy stretched out on a mud divan, I
spread my poncho on the sand under a tree in the back yard, where the
gusts of breeze came often enough to lull me quickly into a siesta.

I had barely fallen asleep when the chicken-shooter came to “give me
information about the town,” and I must get up and go back to the room
with him. There he picked up the scattered pages of Ibañez’ “Flor de
Mayo” I had discarded as I read, then clawed out my copy of a Cochabamba
newspaper. When he had perused that he took to fingering my note-book,
which fortunately he could not read, until at last in disgust I spread
my poncho again on the brick floor and was soon sound asleep. When I
woke again at sunset both informant and information had faded away. I
went out on the porch to write, and a neighbor came to pull the
note-book out of my hands and solemnly “read” it, quite oblivious in his
illiteracy to the fact that there was hardly a word of Spanish in it,
besides being legible only to the elect. Then he must inspect my
fountain-pen and learn all its inner secrets. When I recovered it and
continued writing with what ink was not smeared over his person, he
thrust his nose between the pages, inquiring:

“Are you noting all the inhabitants of Pampa Grande?”

“No.”

“Ah, only the notable ones, then?”

“Alas, no; you see I have only a moderate-sized note-book.”

[Illustration:

The home and family of the _alcalde_ who could not read]

[Illustration:

Our impromptu celebration of Christmas Eve in Pampa Grande]

In the cool of evening the corregidor came again to share his troubles
with me, bewailing the fact that Pampa Grande no longer had a Christmas
celebration, because they had no cura. By the same token there was no
longer a public market on Sundays and feast-days, “for the Indians only
come to town to sell if there is a church fiesta at which they can drink
chicha.”

“God save us,” he sighed as he rose to leave, “for want of a priest we
are all turning Protestants!”

I respread my “bed” early. But the aftermath of the Christmas dinner had
not yet run its course. Some time far into night I was for a long time
half-conscious of some hubbub, and at last woke entirely. On his piece
of blanket on the floor Tommy was rolling from side to side, in one hand
his precious trowel, which he was beating on the flaggings until it rang
again, while shouting at the top of his voice:

“Mortar! Mortar! How in —— can I lay bricks if you don’t keep me in
mortar?”

All next day he dragged far behind in the twenty-five miles to
Samaipata, second largest town of this leg of the journey. Ahead of us
was a five-days’ tramp without the suggestion of a village, and we were
forced to weigh ourselves down under such supplies as we could purchase.
Some two hours beyond Samaipata, 3000 feet or more above the road, up
the range on the right, stands what the natives of the region call “El
Fuerte.” Here, in a splendid strategic position, covering the flat top
of an entire hill, were and still are extensive terraces and the mostly
fallen remains of what must have been important buildings, now overgrown
with brush, though there are few or no real trees. Scattered about this
cold and barren plateau, some 10,000 feet above sea-level, are many
carved seats, similar to those of Cuzco and vicinity, and figures cut in
sandstone, among which jaguars, ostriches, and other fauna of the Andes
can still be distinguished, though many are time- and weather-worn
beyond identification. Practical miners who have visited the spot report
the existence of ore-washing apparatus of hewn stone. According to
tradition the Incas had here their easternmost stronghold, built by
Yupanqui, the emperor who aspired to conquer the hated _huara-ni_, the
“breechless” tribes of the tropical lowlands. At present “El Fuerte” is
utterly uninhabited. For many years one aged Indian lived here, long
reputed to be more than a century old. The people of the region called
him “the Inca” and credited him with supernatural powers and untold
wealth. The usual rumors of hidden gold and jewels, and of subterranean
passages from temple to treasure-house, hover about the place. So far as
is known the site has never been visited, or at least explored, by
archeologists, to whom it might bring rewards not inferior to those of
Machu Picchu.

As the Andes flattened down, ever slowly and as if under protest, the
population showed more African blood; and if the people did not grow
more friendly, at least they were less incommunicative than those of the
highlands. The women took to smoking, a custom almost unknown to the sex
on the _altiplanicie_, until it become quite the fashion. Quichua had
finally died out near Totora. Real tropical heat, such as I had all but
forgotten the existence of, weighed down upon us, though it did not
induce Tommy to be seen without his winter vest. We moved forward
steadily, but no longer pushed the pace; the tropics is no place for
that. Wandering comfortably along sandy trails through half-woods, we
came now and then upon a cluster of weather-blackened wooden crosses
tied together with vines, with rudely carved and misspelled lettering,
such as:

“Rogad adiós por el alma de Pablo Morales
Fallesió 22 julio de 1911.”

The alcalde of Monos, which consisted of a single hut at the top of a
stiff zigzag, had already held that honor for years, in spite of his
protests. When I handed him the order from his chief in Samaipata, he
returned it, asking me to read it aloud, as he could not. I did so
fairly, without taking advantage of the occasion to include a command
from the president of the republic for him to stand on his head, and,
duly impressed, he spread a sun-dried cowhide for us on the unlevelled
earth floor of his wall-less lean-to, and set his women to preparing us
a caldo, of which we furnished the rice and they the fire, labor, and a
bit of what looked and tasted like grass. Food had grown so tasteless
that we had to force it down like medicine, simply because we needed the
strength. To me fell the task of making the family understand why we
should wish to eat again in the morning, before we started.

A couple of hours beyond, I came upon Tommy, who for once had forged
ahead, seated beside the trail and overcome with sadness. With reason,
as the Spaniard says. Far away across the bottomless wooded hole in the
earth at our feet rose a sharp range with red rock cliffs up which the
trail climbed to the very gates of heaven—which we should find locked no
doubt when we arrived. As Tommy put it, “I think they must have to take
part of that hill away when the moon comes over.” We slept that night
higher than Samaipata. But this was the last surge of the Andean
billows. Next morning we came out on a wonderful vista of tropical South
America, an unbroken sea of green, rolling and more hilly than I had
imagined it, spreading away in all directions into the purple haze of
vast distances. We had come at last to the end of the Andes.

Now and then thereafter came a short descent, but no more rises, and we
were soon in real jungle, with palm-trees of many species. Banana plants
appeared; and insects bit us from hair to ankles. Upon us came that
care-free languor of the tropics, and for the first time I realized the
strain of living and tramping two or three miles aloft. Dense vegetation
crowded the trail, now heavy in sand in which the constant slap of our
feet grew monotonous, close on either hand. Night had no terrors now,
for we could lie down anywhere. Fruit of many kinds grew,—plantains,
bananas, melons, oranges green in color, papayas,—but was rarely for
sale. The rare inhabitants had a more kindly air, addressing us as
“Ché”—“Hola, ché gringo!”—the familiar and affectionate term, evidently
from the Guaraní for “Look!” or “Listen!”, which we were to hear often
from now on clear into the Argentine, but they were still not noted for
unselfishness. A belligerent attitude might have won more, but that we
had left behind with the bleak highlands. Besides, through it all Tommy
would have hung on my coat-tail, had I worn one, shuddering in his
English, laboring-class voice, “Don’t! Don’t tyke it! The police!”—and
once anything had been obtained, he would have made away with it so
swiftly that I should have caught little more than its vagrant aroma.
The desire for sweets was alarming. Indeed, it was a craving for food,
rather than hunger, that troubled us. We ate great chunks of
_empanisado_, and an hour after the best meal we should have jumped to
accept an invitation to a fifteen-course dinner.

We were following now the course of the little, all but waterless,
Piray, some day to join the Mamoré and the Amazon. There were many
pack-trains of donkeys and mules going and coming. Thunder grumbled
frequently far off to the east. Toward sunset we came upon an
hacienda-house before which hung a bullock on a clothes-line—in the
process of being charquied, and already as succulent as the sole of an
old boot. The haughty hacendado grudgingly sold us chunks of the
already-too-long-dead animal at the breath-taking price of fifty
centavos a pound, and steeping tea in water so thick it could all but
stand alone, we cut off slabs of the meat and thrust them into the fire
on the ends of sticks, to eat it half-raw and unaccompanied, like
gauchos of the pampas.

About the house was thick grass, an unusual feature in South America,
for ordinarily either the altitude is too great for it, or the jungle so
thick it cannot grow in the constant shade. The hacendado gave us
permission to lie anywhere in the yard, with a graciousness that implied
we might also eat the longest grass if we chose. All the corrals in the
neighborhood were filled with donkey- and mule-trains, with arrieros
speaking both Spanish and the Quichua of the highlands, on the way to or
from Santa Cruz with cargoes of alcohol, hides, and tobacco coming out
and foreign merchandise going in. For a long time we sat in the velvety
air of a jungle evening, listening to the singing of tree-toads and
crickets and the occasional faint tinkle of a grazing lead-mule’s bell,
with now and then the sharp, excited chorus of birds,—all interwoven
with the wind-borne voices of the arrieros. Then I picked a spot, as apt
to be free from snakes, on the clipped grass a few yards from the house,
and lay down on my rubber poncho. The soft breeze soon lulled me to
sleep, in spite of the itching of countless insect-bites. I had not
slept long probably, when I was awakened by rain striking me in the
face. It would not last long, I fancied. I pulled the poncho over me and
let it rain. It did. Quickly it increased to a hollow roar; trickles of
water began to tickle me along the ribs. Evidently I had picked a slight
slope, for the water was soon pouring in upon me in streams. I caught up
my scattered belongings and dashed for the house, the wet poncho lapping
up all the mud in the vicinity, and some of my effects dropping at each
step, forcing me to await the next flash of lightning to find them.
Under the corredor roof there was barely room to roll up beside Tommy on
the earth floor, trampled hard as an iron casting, and for an hour there
roared such a tropical deluge as I had never known in the western
hemisphere.

The Piray, now a wide, raging river of red mud, forced us to strip to
the waist, and even then splashed us redly far higher as we breasted the
powerful current. All day we plowed through dense forest, wet and soggy,
singing with insect life, a roaring tropical shower bursting upon us now
and then, after each of which the red sun blazed out through the thick,
humid air. With dusk we waded heavy-kneed into La Guardia, sticky and
sweated as the dweller in the tropics must always be who cannot spend
the day in a hammock; fighting swarms of gnats while we waited patiently
for the promised antidote for our raging appetites. Twice during the day
we had climbed padlocked bars across the trail. I had fancied them
toll-gates, but found they were _aduanillas_, little custom-houses for
the collection of duty on goods entering, or produce leaving the
department of Santa Cruz. Each hide exported paid about 65 cents; the
flour that had come all the way from Tacoma, Washington, by ship, train,
and mule had added to its already exorbitant price a high departmental
duty. No wonder chunks of boiled yuca commonly took the place of bread.

Beyond La Guardia the country was more open, the forest at times giving
place to half-meadows, with single trees and grazing cattle, across
which drifted a breeze that tempered the midsummer heat. The way lay so
straight across the floor-flat country that the line of telegraph poles
beside it looked like a single pole standing forth against the horizon.
There were many huts now, roofed and sometimes entirely made of palm
branches. Warm, muddy water was our only drink, for we had descended so
low that the inhabitants were too lazy even to make chicha. Once we got
a watermelon, which are small here and far from being on ice. In passing
another hut I was startled by a cry of “Se vende pan,” and went in to
pay two females, whose faces were a patchwork of gnat-bites, an
astounding price for some tiny, soggy biscuits. Ponderous ox-carts with
solid wooden wheels crawled by noiselessly in the deep sand behind three
and even four pairs of drowsy oxen. Everything, even the breeze, moved
now with the leisureliness of the tropics. The jungle ahead was so flat
and green, so banked by clouds, that one had the feeling that the sea
was soon to open out beyond. We loafed languidly on, certain that our
goal was near, yet though there were other evidences that we were
approaching a city, there were no more visible signs of it than in
approaching Port Saïd from the sea.

At last, so gradually that we were some time in distinguishing it from a
tree-top, a dull-colored church-tower grew up in line with the vista of
telegraph-poles. We drifted inertly into a sand-paved, silent, tropical
city street, past rows of languid stares, and on the last afternoon of
the year, with Cochabamba 335 miles behind us, sat down dripping, a
week’s lack of shave veiling our sun-toasted features, in the central
plaza of Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

Tommy had heard so many stories of the generosity of the cruceños that
he was astonished to have reached the center of town without being
invited from some doorway to come in and make his home there as long as
he chose. This was doubly annoying, since rumor had it that white men
were so in favor with the gentler sex that a sandy-haired one as
handsome as Tommy fancied himself to be was in danger of being damaged
by the feminine rush his appearance was sure to precipitate. After a
time he rose to carry his perplexity back to where we had seen the
British vice-consular shield covering the front of a house. When I met
him again he had told his sad tale so effectively that he had been “put
up” at both hotels by as many compatriots and was eating regularly at
each, though taking care not to let his right hand know what the left
was carrying to his mouth. After dark, in a humid night made barely
visible by a few candle street-lamps, I splashed out to the hut of
Manuel Abasto in the outskirts, to sleep under the trees in the
canvas-roofed hammock of one of the American prospectors, the legitimate
occupant being engaged in the rôle of Don Juan in the city. The hut was
crowded with peons already half drunk, languidly fingering several
guitars and now and then raising mournful voices in some amorous ballad.
At midnight church-bells rang, and one distant whistle blew weakly to
greet the incoming year, but the music of the tropical rain on the
canvas over my head soon lulled me to sleep again.

Santa Cruz de la Sierra, capital of all the vast department of eastern
Bolivia, owes its fame largely to its isolation. Like those eminent men
of many secluded corners of South America, it is important only because
of the exceeding unimportance of its neighbors. The only tropical city
of Bolivia, it stands some 1500 feet above sea-level on the 18th
meridian, very near the geographical center of the republic, so far from
the outside world that mail deposited on January 7th reached New York on
March 11th. Of its 19,000 inhabitants, 11,000 are female. The emporium
and distributing point of all this region and of the rubber districts of
the Beni, its commerce is chiefly in the hands of Germans, though the
two houses that all but monopolize the trade pose as Belgian, with
headquarters in Antwerp. There are few Bolivian, and only three cruceño
houses of importance, and these for the most part buy of German
wholesalers in Cochabamba. Three or four native families have as much as
$150,000, a fortune by cruceño standards, won from rubber, or from
cattle ranches roundabout the city. Yet there is much primitive barter,
even in the town,—an ox for a load of fire-wood, and the like, with no
money concerned in the transaction. Santa Cruz is the place of birth of
those famous Suarez brothers who are kings of the rubber districts of
the Amazon.

It is a city of silence. Spreading over a dead-flat, half-sandy, jungled
plain, its right-angled streets are deep in reddish sand in which not
only its shod feet—by no means in the majority, though the upper class
is almost foppish in dress—but even the solid wooden wheels of its
clumsy ox-carts make not a sound. There is no modern industry to lend
its strident voice, though the town boasts three “steam establishments”
for the making of ice, the grinding of maize, and the sawing of lumber,
and every street fades away at either end into the whispering jungle.
Narrow sidewalks of porous red bricks, roofed by the wide overhanging
eaves of the houses, often upheld by pillars or poles, line most of the
streets. But these are by no means continuous, and being commonly high
above the street level and often taken up entirely, especially of an
evening, by the families, who consider this their veranda rather than
the pedestrian’s right of way, the latter generally finds it easier to
plod through the sand of the street itself. In the rainy season, which
begins with the new year and lasts through April, there are many muddy
pools and ponds in the outskirts, along the edges of some of which the
streets crawl by on long heaps of the skulls of cattle, bleached
snow-white by the sun, and the larger of which, almost lakes, somehow
carried the mind back to Kandy, Ceylon. Frequently the streets in the
center of town are flooded for an hour or more, until the thirsty sand
has drunk up a tropical deluge. For these eventualities Santa Cruz has a
system of its own. At each corner four rows of _atoquines_,
weather-blackened piles of a kind of mahogany, protrude a foot or more
above the sand; and along these stepping-stones the minority passes
dry-shod from one roofed sidewalk to another.

The houses, usually of a single story, their tile roofs bleached
yellowish by the tropical sun, present a large room, wide open by day on
the porch sidewalk, and rather bare in appearance in spite of a forest
of frail cane chairs, black in color. From the once whitewashed adobe
walls protrude several pairs of hooks on each of which hangs, except
during the hour of siesta, a rolled-up hammock. On or near the floor
sits a little hand sewing-machine, the exotic whirr of which sounds now
and then; and just inside the door are usually a few shallow tubs, like
small dugout canoes, holding tropical fruits, soggy bread cakes, and
sugar in all its stages; for many, even of the “best families,” patch
out their livelihood with a bit of amateur shopkeeping. Through this
main room, parlor, and chief pride of each family, past which one cannot
walk without glancing in upon the household, a back door gives a glimpse
of the patio, a pretty garden hidden away after the Moorish
fashion—strange that the Arab influence should have reached even this
far-distant heart of South America—airy and bright and large, for space
is not lacking in Santa Cruz, often almost an orchard and blooming with
flowers of many colors. On this open several smaller rooms which, being
out of sight of the public, are often far less attractive than the
parlor.

[Illustration:

A street of Santa Cruz de la Sierra after a shower, showing the
_atoquines_, or projecting spiles by which pedestrians cross from
one roofed sidewalk to another]

[Illustration:

Conscripts of the Bolivian army practicing their first manoeuvers in
the central plaza of Santa Cruz. All who have reached the age of
nineteen during the past year are obliged to report at the capital
of their province on New Year’s Day]

In the outside world the climate of Santa Cruz is reputed obnoxious to
whites; about its name hover those legends, common also to India, of
Europeans being worn to fever-yellow wrecks. As a matter of fact, the
temperature does not rise higher than in southern Canada in July, and a
cool breeze sweeps almost continually across the pampas about it.
Mosquitos are rare, fever all but unknown. It is not loss of health, but
his energetic view of life which the Caucasian immigrant risks.
Especially during this hottest season of January the heat was humid and
heavy, and I found myself falling quickly into the local mood of
contentment just to lie in a hammock and let the world drift on without
me. It took an unusual length of time to make up my mind to do anything,
and then required more will-power than usual to force myself to get up
and do it, particularly to keep on doing it until it was finished. But
it is perhaps as largely due to environment as to the climate that Santa
Cruz is visibly lazy. The region roundabout is so fertile that almost
every staple except wheat and potatoes grow, and the slightest exertion
earns sustenance. There are sugar plantations and sugar- and
alcohol-producing establishments scattered here and there; the province
of Sara to the north supplies food not only to the city but to the
rubber districts as far away as the Acre; coffee, rice, and tobacco can
be produced in abundance; hides already constitute an important export;
the region to the west is reputed rich in oil. Yet Santa Cruz makes
small use of her possibilities, languidly waiting for the arrival of a
railroad and the influx of foreign capital to develop them.

The rumors that seep up out of Santa Cruz of her beautiful pure-white
types are largely of artificial propagation. It is true that she has a
larger percentage of Spanish blood than any other city of Bolivia, but
this is rarely found in its unadulterated form. Some negro and
considerable Indian ancestry has left its mark, and while there is not a
full-blooded African, or perhaps a full Indian, in town, and Spanish is
the universal, if slovenly, tongue, genuine white natives are few in
number. As to the beautiful girls and women of popular fancy, they do
exist, but certainly in no larger proportion than pearls in oysters. The
overwhelming majority are coarse-featured, with heavy noses and sensual
lips, crumbling teeth that hint at degeneration, and little
attractiveness beyond the quick-fading physical one of youth.

Some cynic has said that a wall set about Santa Cruz de la Sierra would
enclose the largest house of ill-fame on earth. So broad a statement is
unkind. Yet not merely are the majority of cruceños born out of
wedlock—that much can be said of all Bolivia—but those who are
accustomed to investigate such matters agree that the seeker after
feminine favors in Santa Cruz need never leave the block in which he
chances to find himself. Plain-spoken foreign residents put it baldly
that virginity never survives the twelfth year, but this is no doubt an
exaggeration. The causes of this lack of social tautness are several.
The overstock of one sex, due largely to the migration of the young men
to the rubber forests of the Beni, often never to return; a widespread
poverty and the lack of any independent means of livelihood for women;
and a tropical apathy, even of character, are perhaps the chief. Then,
too, there is a marked absence of good example. The higher officials and
more wealthy men have, with rare exceptions, at least one irregular
household; not a few have only irregular ones. The story is current of
one of the chief political powers of the department who decided to visit
his daughter at school in Germany. Forewarned, that startled young lady
hastened to write: “If you and mama are coming to Germany, you must get
married first.” The father yielded good-naturedly to this quaint whim of
a favorite daughter, and during the weeks before his departure, spread
the story far and wide as one of his best after-dinner witticisms. The
native priests almost invariably have concubines. Some, using the
transparent subterfuge common to all Latin-America, refer to their
families as “housekeeper” and “nephews.” Not a few frankly speak of “the
mother of my children.” With rare exceptions this runs to the plural.
Among the masses, naturally, these conditions are not improved upon.
Marriage, troublesome, expensive, and conspicuous, hardly bringing even
the advantage of neighborly approbation, is apt to be looked upon as a
nuisance; and it is always hard to go to useless trouble in the tropics.
The nineteen-year-old son of an American resident was pointed out by
both sexes as a curiosity, because he was still without natural
children. The laws of Bolivia recognize three classes of
offspring,—legitimate, natural, and unnatural. The second are
inalienable heirs to one fifth the father’s property. The third division
comprises those born out of wedlock to parents who could not marry if
they wished,—that is, one or both of whom is already married, or has
taken the priestly vows of celibacy. The town has little notion of the
viewpoint of the rest of the world on this subject. Like an island far
out at sea, all but cut off from the rest of mankind, it has developed
customs—or a lack of them—of its own, its individual point of view; and,
like all isolated groups, it is sure of its own importance in exact
ratio to the lack of outside influence; so that barefooted cruceños are
firmly convinced that their ways are vastly superior to those of the
rest of the world, which they judge by the few sorry specimens thereof
who drift in upon them bedraggled by weeks on wilderness trails. The
term “Colla,” used to designate the people of the Bolivian highlands,
and passed on by the masses to the world at large, is here a word of
deprecation.

With few exceptions the foreign residents soon fall into this easy,
tropical way of life. The two “Belgian” firms bring in scores of young
German employees trained in the European main house; and there are
normally some 250 Teutonic residents. The percentage of these is low who
are not established within a month of their arrival in any part of the
region with their own “housekeepers.” The recruit is shown the
expediency of this arrangement by both the precept and the example of
his fellow-countrymen. Celibacy is alleged to be doubly baneful in the
tropics; there are no hotels or restaurants worthy the name; the
pleasure of forming a part of the best native family would soon wear
threadbare, even if the Moorish seclusion of these did not make
admittance impossible. To live with even a modicum of comfort in these
wilds the white man must have a home of his own. The frail walls thereof
are slight protection against theft. Unless he will reduce his
possessions to what he can carry to and from his stool or counter each
day, a “housekeeper” is imperative. Though a neighbor might be induced
to provide meals and such housekeeping as she has time for, the cruceña
brings her personal interest to bear only on those things of which she
is genuinely, if temporarily, a part. To her, wages are neither
customary nor attractive; the reward for her labors must be a
temporarily permanent home. Hence the “servant problem” is most easily
solved by adopting the servant. Whatever principles contrary to this
mode of life the youthful Teuton brings with him from his native land,
they quickly melt away under the tropical sun, and there is commonly
little resistance to the new environment.

Let it not be understood that there is unusual betrayal or persecution
of innocent womanhood in Santa Cruz. Rather the contrary is true. It is
the man who runs the most constant gauntlet of temptation. The arrival
of a new clerk is sure to cause a crowding of young women about the door
of the establishment, and to swamp it with pretended purchasers. Report
has it that a daughter of almost the “best families” may be won by the
employee who will remain a few years and buy her a house or leave her a
small income at his departure. With the poorer classes the usual
procedure is to open negotiations with the girl’s family, to give her
mother a present, or win her consent through her taste for strong drink.
In the wilder regions of the interior the gift of a rifle, or something
equally coveted, to the father is usually sufficient. Daughters are
easily acquired, but rifles are scarce. Coming under short contract, the
recruit, grown to a darker-skinned bookkeeper or sub-manager, goes his
way, or is transferred, and leaves behind whatever family may have
befallen him, frequently recommending his “widow” to a newly arrived
compatriot. Though there is said to be less taking of “housekeepers”
than formerly, in a given group of thirty Germans, twenty had female
companions, six had German wives, and four, legal cruceña wives. At the
time of my stay in Santa Cruz, 49 native women were calling monthly upon
the cashier of a single commercial house for the pension granted them
for the rearing of their from one to six half-German children; and these
were the abandoned mates only of such as were still employees of the
firm elsewhere, or of the rare few who had themselves left some stipend
for their offspring. The point of view of the Teuton on this subject is
that he is no worse, but merely more free from “hypocrisy” than the
Anglo-Saxon. Even the German women accept the condition with little
protest, often joining in the celebration at the baptism of the
illegitimate infant of a compatriot. In an isolated corner of the
department I found a well-educated, likable German keeping house with a
jet-black negro girl; and not only was his wife in Germany aware of the
arrangement, and amused by his letters concerning his companion, but
advised him to keep her as long as he remained in Bolivia, that he might
have “some one to look after him and keep him in health.”

Were the results of these attachments an improved human stock, there
might be less to condemn. For in its present stage of progress, tropical
Bolivia is more amenable to economic than to “moral” improvement; and
the country is sorely in need of population. But the foreign blood
injected into cruceño arteries is as nothing against the environment.
The sons of Europeans may be an improvement upon the natives, at least
in those rare cases where the father has remained to add the vigor of
his training; but the succeeding generation is only too apt to
degenerate quickly into the most native of natives. The assertion of
scientists that new blood must constantly be brought to the tropics if
these regions are to progress, is plainly demonstrated in Santa Cruz.
Throughout the department may be seen to-day in the flesh those
conditions which, centuries ago, followed the coming of the
Conquistadores without their own women or the Puritan’s point of view,
which have made Latin-America from end to end the abode of a chiefly
mongrel race.

Attempted improvement of the status quo meets with as little approval as
in all other centers of the universe. The American directress of the
government girls’ school found herself balked at the outset in the
simplest matters. Her edict that pupils must not come to school without
some other nether garment than the customary skirt was bitterly opposed
both by mothers and by her assistants, on the ground that “it is so hot
in Santa Cruz.” Cruceños blame the heat for most of their shortcomings,
as the gringo miners of the Andes sweepingly “lay it to the altitude.”
In the school in question there were 300 girls of the “best families” of
Santa Cruz. One in every four of them was of legitimate birth. The
teachers were in many cases decrepit grand-dames, yet no one with a
relative or a friend in the government offices could be removed, because
these saw to it that no report against their protegees ever reached
higher officials. In the faculty meetings it was impossible to criticize
a pupil, whatever her delinquency, for she was sure to have at least one
relative among the teachers to precipitate an uproar.

On New Year’s Day I had taken up my abode with the only permanent
American resident of Santa Cruz. “Juan” S. Bowles, born in Ohio—a
cavalry troop of which state he had commanded from Atlanta to the
sea—had come to Brazil nine years after the war and ascended to Santa
Cruz by way of the Amazon, in the years when 80 days of hard labor were
required to cover the 280 miles now served by the Madeira-Mamoré
railroad. He had never since seen his native land. His ice-plant was for
many years the only producer of that exotic commodity in tropical
Bolivia, where, in the early days, it ranked as a luxury at 25 cents a
pound. Under his unwilted American energy and indifference to local
caste rules the plant still produced its daily quota, if at something
less than that regal reward. On his back veranda stood a leather bed—an
ox-hide stretched on a wooden frame on legs—just the place to spend a
cruceño night, and his stories of “Johnny Rebs” alone made the week I
spent there well worth while.

Sometimes, though with difficulty, his reminiscences could be staged in
Bolivia. After Santa Cruz had drunk and died of swamp water savored with
dead cats for some three centuries, this energetic new resident imported
machinery and drove an artesian well, coming upon excellent water some
fifty feet below the surface. This he offered for sale, putting out of
business the friars who, watching the barometer, successfully prayed to
the Virgin for rain. The first woman to arrive with her _cántaro_ on her
head asked the son in charge if he were not “ashamed to sell the water
God gave.”

“But he didn’t give the pump or drive the well,” retorted the boy;
“There is plenty of God’s free water over there in the swamp.”

To-day the former captain of cavalry has ten wells to his credit and is
trying to get the municipality to let him install an “aeromotor.”

For all his long residence, the Ohioan had by no means reconciled life
to the cruceño point of view. His criticisms on this subject were
biting. Though the town swarmed with “educated” loafers, well-dressed
according to their ideals, it was all but impossible to get native
assistants. The youths, egged on by their mothers, flocked to the
already overcrowded white-fingered professions, rather than become
mechanics or learn to run an engine, two occupations sadly needed in
Santa Cruz. As the old man put it, “They won’t come here and learn a
good, useful trade, with pay while learning; yet if you throw a stone at
a dog anywhere in town and miss him, you are sure to hit a priest, a
lawyer, or a doctor—with nothing to do.” The boys he could hire, of the
most poverty-stricken families, would not work where anyone could see
them. Agapito would tote bricks within the patio without a protest, but
he would take his discharge rather than carry a parcel to or from the
post-office. The mothers would rather have their daughters earn their
living in the local feminine way than have their sons descend to manual
labor. A “caballero,” wearing shoes, without socks, requiring his gun
repaired to go hunting, could not get it to the shop until he could find
an Indian to carry it there.

Bowles was an interesting example of the transplanted American. A man of
education and of shrewd native wit, he had developed here in the
wilderness a quaint, isolated philosophy of his own, and was one of
those rare white men who have spent many years unbrokenly in such an
environment and climate without “going to seed.” Not merely was he a
wide and reflective reader on all subjects from the scientific to the
curious, but still, at seventy-five, produced in the interstices of his
labors as chief mechanic of the region authoritative articles for the
Buenos Aires, London, and American periodicals. How great a feat this is
only those can understand who know the enervating effect on both mind
and body of long tropical residence. His staunch individualism and
independence of the verdict of the world was little short of startling
to those of us who live more nearly in it. Set away in the fastnesses of
the earth, with only his own mind to feed upon, instead of having his
opinions delivered at his door each morning by the newsboy, he had
developed a thinking-machine of his own that grasped firmly whatever it
took hold of, and a hard, unsentimental common sense fitted to his
environment. His speech carried one back to the Civil War, and his
vocabulary had quaint, amusing touches; for the words he had added to it
since his migration had been chiefly from books, with rare and brief
intercourse with English-speaking persons. Thus his pronunciation of
many terms unknown to the world in the seventies had been evolved from
his own mind amid his Spanish-tongued environment. He spoke of
“alumeénum,” and called the recently discovered cause of all earthly
ills “Mee-crów-bays.” Words like “poligamic,” rarely heard from any but
scientific mouths, appeared in the same sentence with “ketched,” the
past participle of Civil War days. Edison’s noisy invention he called
“pho-nó-graph,” but the word “leisurely” he pronounced correctly, not a
common American feat.

This New Year’s Day was notable to Bowles for another reason. His
youngest son and last effective assistant made his first appearance in
the uniform of a Bolivian soldier, and moved from home to the cuartel.
Conscription is theoretically universal in Bolivia. On the first day of
each year every youth within the republic who has reached his nineteenth
birthday must report at the capital of his department, ready for
service. Those that are not physically unfit, or have not sufficient
influence, are given three months training, after which they draw lots
to serve two years at 40 centavos a day. During my time there the plaza
of Santa Cruz was overrun with lank country boys and sallow city youths,
in most cases still in their civilian garb of baggy, road-worn linen or
near-Parisian _gente decente_ attire, awkwardly practicing the right and
left face under the commands of youthful officers. By Bolivian law a
child born in Bolivia is a Bolivian, whatever the nationality of the
father. The Civil War veteran, who had strictly kept his American
citizenship, though married to a Bolivian wife, had appealed in vain to
the American minister in La Paz. Prospective immigrants to this, as to
several other South American countries, should not overlook this point
in the future of their children. As Bowles expressed it, “Fifteen
hundred bolivianos for every son born in the country is too much tax to
pay for the privilege of living in it.” When the time came for choosing
by lot the recruits needed to make up the peace quota of the Bolivian
army, Teutonic in its discipline and formation, this useful son of an
American “drew unlucky” and was obliged to serve two years, though fate
had left behind in Santa Cruz many a worthless native loafer.

But the then most widely-known gringo sojourner in Santa Cruz was an
Englishman who chose to call himself “Jack Thompson.” His habitat was
the departmental prison. His story was well-fitted to the “Penny
Dreadful” or the cinema screen. Some years ago “Thompson” and a
fellow-countryman had drifted out of the interior of Brazil into
Corumbá, and offered to sell their rights to a rubber forest they had
discovered. The Teutonic house that showed interest asked them to await
a decision, and meanwhile offered them employment in the escort of a
party of German employees, peons, and muleteers carrying £7000 in gold
to a branch of the establishment in the interior of Bolivia. On the
trail a German of the escort drew the Englishmen into a plot to hold up
the party. A week or more inland, at a rivulet called Ypias, the trio
suddenly fell upon their companions and killed three Germans, a
Frenchman, a Bolivian muleteer, and the chola “housekeeper” of the chief
of the expedition. The rest scattered into the jungle; except one old
Indian arriero who, unable to run, managed to crawl up into the branches
of a nearby tree. There he witnessed the second act of the melodrama.
For a time the trio remained in peace and concord, washed, drank, and
concocted a meal over jungle brush. But soon the question of the
division of the gold became a dispute. The German asserted that, as
author of the plan, he should take half. The Englishmen insisted on an
equal division. The dispute became a quarrel. At length, late in the
afternoon, when the unknown observer was ready to drop to the ground and
a quick death, from exhaustion, fear, and thirst, the Englishmen fell
upon their confederate with a revolver, two rifles, and a sabre. Even a
German must succumb under such odds. Leaving the body where it fell, the
pair divided the gold, and each swinging a pair of saddlebags over a
shoulder, struck off into the trackless jungle, for some reason fancying
this a surer escape than to mount mules and dash for safety in Brazil.

[Illustration:

Manuel Abasto, a native of Santa Cruz de la Sierra]

[Illustration:

Through the open doors of Santa Cruz one often catches a glimpse of
the patio, a garden gay with flowers]

Meanwhile some of the refugees had reached nearby settlements. Several
search parties were made up and, having buried what the vultures had
left, took up the scent. The natives of these jungle regions are not
easily eluded in their own element. For four days the Britons struggled
through the tropical wilderness, half-dead from thirst—for it was
September, at the end of the dry season—and soon reduced to a few native
berries as food. The gold became too heavy for their waning forces. They
managed to climb to the summit of a jungle bluff and bury most of it. On
the fifth day a search party came upon them resting in a shaded thicket.
A volley killed his companion and slightly wounded “Thompson.” Leaving
the corpse for the vultures, the pursuers tracked the wounded man all
night and next morning caught him at bay. Having pointed out the
hiding-place of the gold, he was set backward astride a mule with his
hands tied behind him and, amid such persecution as the savage,
half-Indian Bolivian can invent, was escorted to San José, and later
driven through the jungle and lodged in the departmental prison.

All this had occurred three years before. Twice “Thompson,” who was a
Mason, as are some of the officials of Bolivia, “escaped.” The first
time he was found drunk in the plaza before his evasion was known; the
second, he walked the 160 leagues to Yacuiva through the jungle without
once touching the trail, only to celebrate too early what he fancied,
for lack of geographical knowledge, was his escape into the Argentine,
and be forced to walk all the way back. Finally, after more than a year
in prison, he had been tried—on paper, as in all Spanish-America—and
within another twelve-month had coaxed the judge to deliver his verdict
and sentence him—to be shot. The supreme court and the president had
still to pass upon the matter, and another year had drifted by.

Of late years it is not easy to gain admittance to the prison of Santa
Cruz. About its doors swarm ragged sentinels who scream frantically
“Cabo de Guardia!” (“Corporal of the Guard”), and swing their aged
muskets menacingly whenever a stranger pauses to speak to them. But a
note from the prefect brought me the attention of the haughty superiors
of the “Policía de Seguridad,” who saw fit to permit me to wade across
the first patio of the prison. There an insolent half-negro in the
remnants of a faded khaki uniform felt me carefully over for firearms,
and at length deigned to open a wooden-barred door. Beyond another
mud-floored anteroom and through another wooden gate, I found myself in
a bare patio some forty feet square, with a deep open well and signs
that the entire yard became a pond whenever it rained. This was
surrounded on all sides by an ancient low building of adobe, under the
projecting eaves of which, on the ground or in hammocks, and inside
squalid cell-like rooms, loafed a score or more of men and several women
of all known human complexions and degrees of undress. A single boy
soldier of simian brow, with a disproportionately heavy loaded rifle on
his shoulder, paraded in the shade of the eaves. He looked, indeed, like
one to whose ingrown intelligence could safely be trusted matters of
life and death!

My errand made known, several of the prisoners, without rising, began to
shout, “Don Arturo!” By and by a voice came back, “’Stá bañandose!” I
crossed to one of the cells, a small room filled with sundry junk,
chiefly the tools of a mechanic, of which the wooden-barred door stood
ajar. Inside, on a piece of board laid on the earth floor, stood
“Thompson,” in the costume of Adam, pouring a bucket of water over his
head. I explained that I was drifting through Bolivia and fancied he
might be glad to hear his native tongue again. He was, having had only
two such visitors during the year just ended. Wrapping a towel about his
loins, he stood and chatted, while an anemic half-negro in what had once
been khaki leaned against the door-post watching our every movement, and
several other prisoners crowded round in the customary ill-bred South
American fashion.

“Thompson” was an unattractive man in middle life, rather thin, with the
accent and bad teeth of the Englishman of the mechanic class, and the
uninspired and rather hopeless philosophy of life common to that caste.
Otherwise his attitude was in no way different from what it would have
been had we been a pair of tramps met on the road. He smiled frequently
as he talked, and was neither more sad nor more cynical than the average
of his class. He made no secret of his part in what he referred to as
“our stunt,” and gave me detailed information on how to find the graves
along the trail “where we pulled it off,” in case I should continue to
the eastward. He plainly regretted the crime, but only because he had
been caught. Knowing he had already published a doctored account of the
occurrence in an English monthly and had found the remuneration
exceedingly useful in eking out his existence in a Bolivian prison, I
suggested the writing of the whole story.

“Aye, but they ’re not going to give me time,” he answered, rolling and
lighting a cigarette. “I just got word from Sucre that they have
confirmed the sentence. Now as soon as the president signs it, they’ll
call me out and …”

“Oh, I don’t believe Montes would do that to a gringo,” I remarked
encouragingly. “He is a Mason, too—”

“Well, I don’t care a rap whether they do or not,” he replied, with
considerable heat, “I’m perfectly willing they do it and have it over
with. Even if he commutes the sentence, it means ten years more of
this”—he pointed to the slovenly yard and dirtier inmates—“and it’s
quite as bad as the other; I don’t know but worse.”

When he had dressed and stepped outside to pose for a photograph, he
presented rather a “natty” appearance, though his low-caste face could
not be disguised. Together we wandered through the prison. “Thompson,”
in his striving to be “simpático” amid his surroundings, had become
quite a “caballero” in his manner, and spoke Spanish unusually well for
one of his class and nationality. The prisoners found it as necessary to
earn their own living inside the prison as outside, for though the
government theoretically furnishes food, it would not have kept the
smallest inmate alive for a week. “Thompson” asserted that he had not
touched prison fare since his incarceration. His “cell” was fitted up as
a workshop, with a bench, a small vise, and such tools of a mechanic as
he had been able to collect, and he earned a meager fare and other
necessities by mending watches and at the various tinkering jobs that
reached him from outside. Shoe-making was the favorite occupation of his
fellow-jailbirds. More than a dozen had their open “cells” scattered
with odds and ends of leather and half-finished footwear. Formerly, the
public had passed freely in and out of the prison, and prisoners,
underbidding free labor, since their lodging was already supplied them,
had always earned enough to satisfy their appetites. Now, the rules had
become somewhat more strict, at least to outsiders, and with less
opportunity to sell their wares more than one inmate suffered from
hunger.

We passed into one of the two large common rooms, foul-smelling mud dens
in which “Thompson” had seen as many as 37 persons of both sexes and all
degrees of crime, age, and condition sometimes _locked in_ for an entire
month by some whim of _carcelero_ or judge. The room being completely
innocent of any convenience whatever, the conditions of prisoners and
prison when the door might finally be unlocked needs no description.
Just now the room was open, and there were but 26 inmates, men and women
mixed indiscriminately, for there were no rules, even at night, as to
the sleeping-places of the two sexes. The female prisoners, in fact,
earned their food as do so many cruceñas outside, from such of the male
inmates and soldier guards as could reward their favors, and had
advanced to a point where even privacy was no longer requisite. Even
then several slovenly couples reclined together on the uneven floor in
half-amorous attitudes, and on a species of crippled bed in a corner sat
an evil-eyed fellow of some negro blood, on the floor at whose feet, her
uncurried head resting affectionately between his legs, squatted a
native woman in the early thirties, who might years before have been
almost beautiful. She had killed the “Turk” with whom she had been
living, and was for a time under sentence to be shot. The president,
however, after making her two accomplices draw lots for fifteen years’
imprisonment and execution respectively—by Bolivian law two persons
cannot be executed for the same crime—the supreme penalty falling upon a
Chilian, had commuted her sentence to ten years. Outside the prison the
rumor was prevalent that her lenient treatment arose from the fact that
she had borne a son to the prosecuting attorney.

During my stroll my companion ceremoniously introduced me to several of
the six “gringo” prisoners. One was a German-Peruvian, eight months
before the manager of a local bank, and since then in prison, still
untried, on the charge of disposing of bad drafts. When a powerful
company does not feel it has sufficient evidence to convict a man whose
arrest it has caused, it is the Bolivian custom to see that the judge
does not bring the case to trial. Nearly every government official
semi-openly having his price, the prisons are apt to hold chiefly those
who have underbid in the contest for “justice.” “Thompson” asserted—and
he was corroborated by many outside the cárcel—that for some £200 he
could make his escape. The savage half-Indian conscripts serving as
carceleros vented their hatred of the gringos at every opportunity, and
made their lives constantly miserable by watching for the slightest
breaking of the rules to give them an excuse to shoot. In former times,
when rubber was high in price, the Intendente de la Policía frequently
sold prisoners to the “rubber kings” of the Beni at 1000 bolivianos a
head, and it was a rare victim of this system who did not end his days
as a virtual slave in the Amazonian forests.

As we shook hands at the gate of the inner patio, “Thompson” remarked:

“If Montes signs it, I’ll have forty-eight hours left with nothing to do
and I’ll write you something. I believe the thoughts of a man waiting to
be shot”—it was the only time he used that word during the
interview—“would make interesting reading. The ending would be all right
if these Indians could make a good job of it, but they’ll end by bashing
in my head with the butts of their muskets, as they have all the
others.”

If I have inadvertently given the impression that there are no stern
laws and rules of personal conduct in Santa Cruz de la Sierra let me
hasten to disavow it as quickly as I was disabused in the matter myself;
for it was here that I tarnished my hitherto spotless record for
non-arrest in South America. I had come to give “Thompson” a bundle of
American weeklies and was leaving the prison again, when a German who
had ridden in from Cochabamba asked me to serve as interpreter while he
procured a gun license. As we stepped into the comandancia, an anemic,
yellow-skinned half-Indian youth in uniform shouted in the most insolent
tone at his command, “Take off your hats!” The German quickly snatched
his close-cropped bullet head bare, but the tone aroused my antagonism
in spite of myself; moreover, a dozen unwashed natives lounged about the
miserable mud hall with their hats on. To obey the orders of this class
of Latin-American officials requires a certain degree of humility, of
which, thank God, I have not a trace. At the second command I retorted,
“What for?”

“In respect for the Bolivian government!” shrieked the evil-eyed,
ill-smelling official behind the main desk.

“But I have no respect whatever for the Bolivian government,” I
protested, warding off with an elbow the boy soldier who was attempting
to snatch the hat from my head; and I stepped out into the street. There
I was legally immune. There is no law requiring one to uncover in the
streets, even in straight-laced Santa Cruz. But the legal aspect of a
case is easily overlooked in Bolivia. The official screamed, “Cabo de la
Guardia!”, and there poured out upon me five boy soldiers with loaded
muskets, who, clutching at me like cats, began pushing me back into the
prison. I had been long enough a policeman myself to know the folly of
resisting arrest, however unjustified; moreover, there was an entire
regiment of these little brown fellows in town, most of whom would be
only too happy to give vent to their dislike of gringos.

Once I had entered an empty mud room on the first patio, the door was
quickly bolted behind me and I stood looking out through the
wooden-barred window upon the mud-hole yard, back and forth across which
marched the jeering little soldiers and several loungers, grinning at me
nastily behind their blackened stumps of teeth. I was in great
danger—that I should be late for the dinner to which I had been invited
at eleven. For though my arrest was not legal, those responsible for it
had the very simple old Latin-American expedient of holding me
“incomunicado” and keeping everyone outside ignorant of my plight. I sat
down on the window-ledge and fell to reading the Spanish paper edition
of Ernst Haeckel I was so fortunate as to have with me. A half-hour
passed. Meanwhile that dinner was a bare hour away, and formal feasts
are not so frequent in tropical Bolivia as to be missed without regret.
Luckily, I caught Tommy’s eye as he dodged under the eaves to escape a
new cloud-burst and, beckoning him to the window, managed to say, before
he was driven off by three soldiers with fixed bayonets, “Go tell the
prefect …”

The matter never got as far as the prefect. No sooner did the comandante
of the prison learn that a man, who only yesterday had been hobnobbing
with the supreme chief of the department, had been visited with the
indignity of imprisonment, than he hastened to order me set at liberty.

Before we leave Santa Cruz, the story of “Thompson” permits a bit of
anticipation. Months later, in far southern Chile, I chanced to pick up
a newspaper, among the scant foreign despatches of which my eye fell
upon:

“Bolivia, 14 May—In Santa Cruz de la Sierra was shot to-day the criminal
’Thompson,’ of English nationality, condemned to the supreme penalty for
having assassinated the conductors of money of some local houses.”

Another half-year passed before there reached me in Brazil local papers
and letters giving details. According to these, the judge wept when he
read the sentence, but “Thompson” shook hands with him, telling him the
sentence was just, and that the only criticism he had to offer was that
the execution had been so long delayed. As his last favor, he asked that
jail conditions be improved, that his friends might be more humanly
housed. On his last night he got permission to have a few of these—all
jailbirds—to dinner with him, but refused to touch liquor himself, “so I
shall be able to take in every detail clearly.” In the morning he
informed friends that he had parents, brothers, and sisters in London,
and a wife and son in the United States. To these he had been writing
since his arrest that he was engaged in an enterprise that would in time
make him rich, if luck was with him. On the evening before his execution
he wrote bidding them all farewell, saying he had suddenly contracted a
tropical disease the doctors despaired of, and would be dead by the time
they got the letter. He was shot at noon, while the bells of the
cathedral were striking, so that nothing should be heard outside the
prison.

In Santa Cruz Tommy fell victim to that loathsome ailment popularly
known as “cold feet.” An attack of fever and a hazy promise of
employment for his trusty trowel were no doubt among the causes; it is
probable, too, that he had not entirely lost faith in the attractiveness
of sandy hair. But the inoculation was chiefly due to the replies to our
inquiries about the road ahead. These were not exactly reassuring. It
was characteristic of Tommy, however, that he pretended to be eager to
push on, while secretly planning to remain behind.

There is one of the sand streets of Santa Cruz de la Sierra which does
not run out to nothing in the surrounding jungle, but dwindles to what
is known locally as the “camino de Chiquitos,” and pushes on to the
Paraguay river, some 400 miles distant. “Road” in the cruceño sense,
however, means anything but a comfortable highway. As usual, the town
was scornful of the suggestion that two lone gringos could make the
journey on foot. Disheartening stories assailed us of the dangers from
snakes and “tigers,” of the unending pest of insects, of the almost
total lack of sleeping-places and even of supplies. For the first week
we must carry all food with us; in this rainy season the route was sure
to abound with chest-deep mud-holes and miles of swamps; the last twenty
leagues, near the Paraguay, would be completely inundated and impassable
for months, until the waters subsided. Or, if the rains did not come on
at their accustomed time, there was as much danger of the country being
wholly waterless for long distances. Moreover, beyond the Rio Guapay,
eight leagues east of the capital, stretched the notorious Monte Grande,
a dense, unbroken forest in which roamed wild Indians given to shooting
six-foot arrows of _chonta_, or iron-heavy black palm, from their
eight-foot bows, with such force that they pass clear through a man at
fifty yards. This was said to be quite painful. Nor were these mere idle
rumors; we had only to drop in on one of several men in town to be shown
arrows taken from the bodies of victims, and a sojourning
fellow-countryman had several relics of the tribe he had had the good
fortune to see first while prospecting on the banks of the Guapay.

Reading Tommy’s real opinion of the journey behind his face, I laid
plans to continue alone. Experienced travelers asserted that boiled
water, a careful diet, a selected medicine-kit, waterproofs, a tropical
helmet, and a woolen cholera-belt for night chills were prime
necessities. I had all but six of this half-dozen requisites. By choice
I should have turned rural native entirely and worn a straw hat, a
breechclout, a pair of leather sandals, and a towel. But life can seldom
be reduced to such charming simplicity. Two things at least were
indispensable,—a cloth hammock and a _mosquitero_ to hang over it; for
the only sleeping-place on most of the journey would be that which the
traveler carried with him. Then I must “hacer tapeque,” as they say in
Santa Cruz, or “pack” a bag of rice and some sheets of sun-dried beef,
to say nothing of distributing about my person a kodak, revolver,
cartridges, and money in various forms of metal. Add to this a few
indispensable garments, sealed tins of salt and matches, kitchenette,
photographic and writing materials, and the other unavoidable odds and
ends for a scantily inhabited 400-mile trip of unknown duration, and it
will be readily understood why, after mailing the developing-tank and
even my coat, razor and accessories, I staggered heavily across town on
January 8th, to begin the longest single leg of my South American
journey.

Fortunately, the German who had sought my assistance in the matter of
the gun license, was bound for at least a few days in the same
direction. Heinrich Konanz, born in Karlsruhe, had served the last of
three years as a conscript in the expedition against the Chinese Boxers,
and had since worked as a carpenter in China and California, until he
had concluded to seek a permanent home as a colonist in some region
where population was less numerous. He was largely innocent of
geography, spoke habitually a painful cross between his once native
tongue and what he fondly fancied was English, with a peppering of
Chinese, and knew almost no Spanish. The mule that had carried him from
Cochabamba he found it necessary to turn into a pack-animal for the
tools, materials, and provisions he had purchased in Santa Cruz, and was
to continue on foot. He had been placidly making plans to push on alone,
when rumors in his own tongue suddenly reached him of the Monte Grande
and its playful Indians. His first inclination had been to throw up the
sponge and return to Cochabamba. But his capital had been greatly
reduced and his hotel room was heaped with the supplies sold him by his
local fellow-countrymen, who would not have taken them back at a fourth
of the original cost. He made a virtue of necessity, added a new rifle
to his revolver and shotgun, and offered to find room on the mule for
the heavier portion of my baggage in return for the reassurance of my
company.

[Illustration:

Konanz seated on our baggage in the _pelota de cuero_, or “leather
ball” in which we were both carried across the Rio Guapay]

[Illustration:

The force of one of the four _fortines_, or “fortresses,” with which
the Bolivian government garrisons the Monte Grande against the
savages]

It was a brilliant day when I shouldered the German’s rifle, my own
revolver well oiled and freshly loaded, and led the way out of town.
Mud-holes, along which we picked our way on rows of the whitened skulls
of cattle, soon gave place to a great pampa, with tall, coarse grass and
scattered trees, across which lay a silent sand road so utterly dry that
we had already suffered long from thirst when we reached the first
“well,” a mud-hole thick with green slime, attesting by its taste the
also visible fact that all the cattle for miles around made it their
loafing-place and protection from the swarms of flies and insects. Here
we not only drank, but filled the German’s water-bag. When the liquid
mud in this gave out, my companion took to lapping up that in the
cart-ruts and the footprints of cattle along the trail. I held out until
I overtook a boy carrying on his head a pailful of guapurú
(wah-poo-roó), of which I bought a hatful for a _medio_. This is a fruit
cruelly like a large luscious cherry in appearance, growing without a
stem on the trunk of a gnarly pampa tree, of a snow-white meat not
particularly pleasant to the taste, but a welcome antidote for tropical
thirst.

Twice during the day we met a train of heavy, crude ox-carts roofed with
sun-dried ox-hides, that recalled the “prairie-schooners” of pioneer
days, eight oxen to each, creaking westward with infinite slowness. In
the afternoon the forest closed in about us, and we plodded on through
deep sand alternating with mud-holes. Soon all the woods about us were
screaming like a dozen suffragette meetings in full session and,
fancying the uproar came from edible wild fowls, I crept in upon them,
rifle in hand. To my astonishment, I found a band of small monkeys
shrieking together in a huge tree-top. Even a monkey steak would not
have been unacceptable. I fired into the branches. Instantly there fell,
not the wherewithal for a sumptuous evening repast, but the most
absolute silence. The little creatures did not flee, however, but each
sprang a limb or two higher and watched my slightest movement with
brilliant, roving eyes. A qualm came upon me and I hurried after the
German.

That night we camped in a clump of trees about a water-hole. The native
who pointed out the trail to it did so in a surly, regretful manner, as
if he resented the consumption by strangers who should have remained in
their own country of a priceless treasure insufficient for home
consumption. Down at the bottom of a deep hole in the sand, strongly
fenced with split rails, was an irregular puddle barely four inches
deep, full of fallen leaves, wrigglers, and decayed vegetable matter;
yet from it radiated trails in all directions. The blocks of crude brown
sugar we had purchased that morning had melted during the day and
smeared everything within reach; the boiled leg of mutton already
whispered its condition to the nostrils. The breeze a slight knoll
promised treacherously died down, and the swarms of insects that sung
about us all night frequently struck home, in spite of the close-knit
_mosquitero_ that kept us running with sweat until near dawn.

Monkeys were already howling in the nearby woods when we pulled on our
clothes, wet and sticky, in a soggy morning that soon carried out its
promise of rain; and parrots now and then screamed at us in dull-weather
mood. A heavy shower paused for a new start and became a true jungle
deluge. My poncho would have been useless; besides, it was wrapped, in
Australian “swag” style, around my possessions on the mule. Past
experience told me that the only reliable waterproof in the tropics is
to let it rain—and dry out again when opportunity offers. We settled
down to splash on indifferently, soaked through and through from hat to
shoes, dripping at every seam. The weather was not over warm either, and
only the heaviest moments of the storm dispersed the swarms of ravenous
mosquitoes.

In dense woods punctuated with mud-holes, a yellow youth in two cotton
garments overtook us well on in the afternoon, and asked if we would
need a “pelota.” We would. He stopped at a jungle hut some distance
beyond and emerged with an entire ox-hide, sun-dried and still covered
with the long red hair of its original owner, folded in four like a
sheet of writing paper, on his head. For a mile or more he plodded
noiselessly behind us. Then suddenly the forest opened out upon the
notorious Guapay, or Rio Grande, a yellow-brown stream, wide as the
lower Connecticut, flowing swiftly northward to join the Mamoré on its
journey to the Amazon. We splashed a mile or more up along its edge, to
offset the distance we should be carried downstream before striking a
landing opposite. Here two men of bleached-brown skin, each completely
naked but for a palm-leaf hat securely tied on, relieved our companion
of his load and set about turning it into a boat. These “pelotas de
cuero” (“leather balls”) are the ferries of all this region, being
transportable, whereas a wooden boat, left behind, would be stolen by
the “indios bravos.” Around the edge of the hide were a dozen loopholes
through which was threaded a cord that drew it up into the form of a
rude tub. To add firmness to this, the hat-wearers laid a corduroy of
green poles in the bottom. Then they piled our baggage into it, set the
German atop, and dragged it down the sloping mud bank into the water,
while the youth coaxed the mule into the stream and swam with it for the
opposite shore. This seemed load enough and to spare. But when I had
fulfilled my duties as official photographer of the expedition, I, too,
was lifted in, as they would no doubt have piled in Tommy also, had he
been with us, and away we went, easily 500 pounds, speeding down the
racing yellow stream, the naked ferrymen first wading, then swimming
beside us, clutching the pelota, the “gunwales” of which were in places
by no means an inch above the water. Had the none-too-stout cord broken,
the hide would instantly have flattened out and left us—for an
all-too-brief moment—like passengers on the magic carpet of oriental
fairy-tales.

Before and high above us, where the _peloteros_ coaxed the crazy craft
ashore, stretching like a Chinese wall of vegetation further than the
eye could follow in either direction, stood an impenetrable forest, the
famous Monte Grande, or “Great Wilderness,” of Bolivia. Here was the
chief haunt of the wild Indians of the penetrating arrow, a region
otherwise uninhabited, through which the “road” to the Paraguay squeezes
its way for hundreds of miles almost without a shift of direction. We
swung our hammocks on the extreme edge of the river, where the breeze
promised to blow—and failed of its promise, like most things
Latin-American. For though the day was not yet spent, the journey
through the Monte Grande is fixed in its itinerary by the four
“garrisons” maintained some five leagues apart by the Bolivian
government as a theoretical protection against the nomadic Indians. At
dusk a man swam the river with his clothing and possessions in the brim
of his hat, and soon afterward the stream began to rise so rapidly that
it is doubtful if we could have passed it for several days.

Almost at once, in the morning, we met a train of nine enormous roofed
carts of merchandise from Europe by way of Montevideo, each drawn by
eight yoke of gaunt, way-worn oxen, straining hub-deep through the mire
at a turtle’s pace. The forest crowded them so closely on either hand
that we must back into it, as into the shallow niche of an Inca wall,
and stand erect and motionless until the train had crawled by, the
wilderness bawling and echoing a half-hour with the cries of the dozen
drivers with their long goads dodging in and out, knee-deep in mud,
among the panting brutes. We met no other person during the day.
Travelers through the Monte Grande go always in bands, and the
ox-drivers stared at us setting out alone, as at gringo madmen.

We deployed in campaign formation. Our revolvers loose in their
holsters, the German marched ahead, closely followed by his affectionate
“mool,” while I brought up the rear with his new Winchester. Mine was
the post of honor and most promise, for the Indians of the Monte Grande
do not face their intended victims, but spring from behind a tree to
shoot the traveler in the back, and dodge back out of sight again. They
shoot seated, using the feet to stretch the bow, a slight advantage, in
point of time, to their prey. Rumor has it that the tribe is by nature
peaceful; but they were long hunted for sport and are still shot on
sight, with no questions asked, and so have come to look upon all
travelers as tribal enemies. They are said to be entirely nomadic, to
wear nothing but a feather clout, and to bind their limbs in childhood,
so that the forearm and the leg below the knee become mere bone and
sinew with which they can thrust their way through the spiny undergrowth
without pain. This improvement on nature draws the foot out of shape,
and the footprint of a savage, showing only the imprint of the heel, the
outer edge of the foot, and the crooked big toe, is easily distinguished
from that of the ordinary native. However, that was not my lucky day,
and I caught not so much as a kodak-shot at a feather clout, though I
glanced frequently over my shoulder all the day through.

But if the Indians failed us, there were other visitations to make up
for them. Every instant of the day we fought swarms of gnats and
mosquitos; though the sun rarely got a peep in upon us, its damp, heavy
heat kept us half-blinded with the salt sweat in our eyes. The road was
really a long tunnel through unbroken forest meeting overhead, into
which the thorny undergrowth crowded in spite of the ox-cart traffic.
All day long, mud-holes, often waist-deep for long distances, completely
occupied the narrow forest lane. The region being utterly flat, the
waters of the rainy season gather in the slightest depression, which
passing ox-carts plough into a slough beyond description; while the
barest suggestion of a stream inundates to a swamp all the surrounding
territory. For the first mile we sought, in our inexperience, to tear
our way around these through the edge of the forest. But so dense was
this that it barred us as effectually as a cactus hedge. We took to
wading, now to the knees, now to the waist, sometimes slipping into
unseen cart-ruts and plunging to the shoulders in noisome slime.

[Illustration:

Jim and “Hughtie” Powell, Americans from Texas who have turned
Bolivian peons]

[Illustration:

A jungle hair-cut]

It grew monotonous, but so does life under the best of conditions.
Moreover, whatever gloom our surroundings created was more than offset
by the German. Not that he was gay, nor, indeed, cheerful under
adversity. But the genuine comedian, like an Italian Hamlet, has no
inkling of his humor. Konanz was at his best when he fancied himself
most tragic, putting me frequently to excruciating labor to preserve
outwardly that solemn gravity that was indispensable to peace between
us. He insisted on speaking “English.” This astounding tongue he had
concocted by the simple rule of learning the corresponding English for
each German word, and jealously retaining the German grammar and form;
all this with so guttural an accent that the hearer could not
distinguish “lake” from “leg.” Thus I was informed that “He put it his
hat in,” and “He set him by a boat the river over.” Our snow-white
pack-mule was of that affectionate nature that craves constant
companionship. But the Teuton had no affection to spare, and whenever
the animal chanced to stray a yard from the spot in which he had left
her, he fell upon the poor brute with a bellow of rage:

“Oh, py Gott, Mr. Mool! Ven I don’t hat to lug myself der loat all to
San Yozay, I rhight avay shoot her der head through. To-morrow, py Gott,
I bind her der dree on, der …”

At sunset we waded through a barred gate into the _pascana_, or tiny
natural clearing, of Cañada Larga, the first of the four _fortines_.
Five miserable thatched huts, some without walls and the others of
open-work poles set upright, were occupied by eight boyish soldiers in
faded rags of khaki and ancient cork helmets of the same color, and a
slattern female belonging to the lieutenant. The latter was a haughty
fellow of twenty-five, sallow with fever and gaunt from long tropical
residence, a graduate of the Bolivian West Point in La Paz, and
permanently in command of all the garrisons of the Monte Grande. The
others were two-year conscripts between nineteen and twenty-one,
assigned to the forts for a year, usually to be forgotten by the
government and left there months longer.

Our official paper ordered the commander to “give us all facilities,
wood and water, and to sell us food—_provided there was any_.” He waved
a hand in a bored, tropical way, and two of the handsomest children in
uniform brought us wood, and soon came lugging a huge bucket of water on
a pole across their shoulders. What food could he sell us? Not a thing.
Some yucas, at least? Señor, we have only half rations of rice for
ourselves. But the prefect said we could depend…. The prefect, señor,
has not sent us any supplies for more than a month. There was nothing
left but to cook some of our own rice and charqui, and try to be
thankful for even that miserable substitute for food. Its staying powers
were slight. Twice during the night I ate a large plate of it cold, and
spent most of the time hungry at that. Not that I got up to eat; much of
the night I wandered up and down the pascana, fighting the mosquitos and
a tiny gnat whose bite was out of all proportion to its size, and which
the fine gauze mosquitero designed for the purpose by no means kept out,
though it did effectually any breeze that stirred.

The lieutenant insisted on sending along a soldier to “protect” us from
the savages. He was a girlish-looking boy of Indian features, armed with
an ancient Winchester of broken butt, thick with rust inside and out.
Most of the day he lagged far behind, for the sun-dried stretches of
road between the swamps and mud-holes hurt even his calloused feet. We
tramped unbrokenly for seven hours, the endless forest-wall close on
either hand, without sighting another human being, until the jungle
opened out slightly on the little pascana of Tres Cruces. The sergeant
in command dragged himself out a few yards to meet us, a rifle-shot
having warned him of our approach. He had four soldiers and a
gnat-bitten female. They called the bucketful they brought us from a
swamp, “excellent water.” It _was_ clear, to be sure, and a decided
improvement on what we had drunk from the mud-holes during the day, the
swampy taste not quite overwhelming. But it was lukewarm from lying out
under the sun, and had at least a hundred tadpoles swimming merrily
about in it. One dipped up a cupful, picked out the tadpoles gently but
firmly, and forced as much of their vacated bath as possible down the
feverish throat.

The gnats of Tres Cruces quickly got wind of the arrival of fresh
supplies and attacked us in battalions. The previous camp had been
gnatless compared to this. Known to the natives as _jejenes_, they are
almost invisible, yet they can bite through a woolen garment or a cloth
hammock so effectively that the mosquito’s puny efforts pass unnoticed
in comparison. Wherever they alight they leave a red spot the size of a
mustard-seed that itches and burns for days afterward. What such a host
of them had hoped to feed on, had we not unexpectedly turned up, I
cannot guess; surely they were taking long chances of starvation here in
the unpeopled wilderness. Under no circumstances did they give us a
moment of respite. Even the soldiers, tropical born and long accustomed
to them, ate their supper plate in hand, marching swiftly up and down
the “parade-ground” and striking viciously at themselves with the free
hand. We could not leave off fighting them long enough to lift a kettle
off the fire, without a hundred instantly stinging us in as many
distinct spots. In bookless Santa Cruz I had had the luck to pick up a
paper edition of Nietzsche in Spanish, but even in that tongue the
journey through an entire sentence was impossible. I could not write a
word or speak a sentence without pausing to slap savagely at some
portion of my anatomy. My notes of those days are all short and choppy.
A long sentence was impossible. It seemed unbelievable so tiny a thing
could bite so. The mosquitero was useless. They could bite through
sheet-iron. A real dinner would have been a joy, but an hour’s relief
from these incessant pests would have outdone a week of banquets. One
wanted to run and dance and scream, but tired feet forbade. Much as we
needed rest, we must keep walking swiftly up and down the pascana,
wondering how long a man would last on charqui and rice, walking day and
night. “Oh, py Gott!” cried Konanz, attempting in vain to slap himself
between the shoulder-blades. “In China py der Boxer der mosquito he
pinch is very much, aber here!”

Tramping doggedly back and forth in the dusk, I heard the sergeant in
his hut singing and apparently happy. I raced to his door. Eureka!
Necessity is the mother of invention, even among the uninventive. He was
swinging swiftly back and forth in his hammock. I grasped a pack-rope
and was soon rushing swiftly through the half-arc of a circle. The
relief was startling. But to work incessantly with the arms was little
better than tramping the pascana. If only the inventor of perpetual
motion had not put his invention off so long. The relief from torture
quickly made me drowsy. But if the swinging flagged for an instant, the
jejenes at once brought me wide awake. Before long, too, a few hardy
gnats solved the problem of catching their prey on the fly, like
experienced “hoboes.” More and more learned the trick, until I gave up
in despair and took once more to tramping the parade-ground; kept it up,
indeed, most of the brilliant, moonlit night.

In the morning I found that ants had eaten into decorative fringes the
edges of my leather leggings. Vampire bats had smeared our white mule
with her own blood. For a long time I could not make the German
understand what had happened to the animal, until I dug up out of the
depths of memory the word “Fledermaus.” To watch him pack was always
amusing—also a torture. He had learned to do everything in the German
style of systematized routine, in which the longest way round is always
the shortest way between two points; and he knew nothing of
“efficiency,” of that dovetailing of work in such a way as to hasten the
process. Instead of lighting a fire first and having his breakfast ready
by the time he was dressed, he must be entirely garbed before touching a
stick or a pot; and so on clear through the loading. However often he
made up the pack, each detail must be laboriously thought out again, and
as he could never think of more than one thing at a time, the operation
was endless. Bring him what he needed to load next, and he stared
stony-eyed at me, as if wondering why I was trying to disturb his
meditations. Though we rose at dawn, we were fortunate to be off before
the sun had surmounted the jungle tree-tops.

The sergeant insisted, languidly and tropically, on sending one of his
armed boys along. We refused. Should anything have happened to the
child, such as a sprained ankle in “protecting” us from the savages, we
could never have forgiven ourselves. All day long we tramped due
eastward through unbroken forest. Monotonously the swamps and mud-holes
continued. It would not have been so bad could we have waded all the way
barefoot; but the sun-dried stretches between made shoes imperative.
Never a patch of clearing, never a sign of human existence—though I
still glanced frequently over my shoulder—never the suggestion of a
breeze to temper the heat or to break the ranks of the swarming insects!
We threw ourselves face-down at any mud-hole or cart-rut, gratefully, to
drink. “It was crawlin’ an’ it stunk, but”—anything that can by any
stretch of the word be called water is only too welcome in tropical
Bolivia. The red-hot poison with which the gnats of days past had
inoculated us from head to foot itched murderously. Amateur wilderness
travelers have a theory that “dope” smeared over the body will afford
protection in such cases, but it would be a strong concoction indeed
that could rout the jejenes of the Monte Grande. The only method is to
get bit and heal again, as one gets wet and dries again, or goes astray
and finds oneself again. The one absolute rule is, _Don’t scratch!_ Not
to scratch may drive the sufferer mad, but to do so will drive him
doubly insane; and swamp water is infectious to any abrasion of the
skin, and an open sore is the greatest peril of tropical travel.

Let it not be fancied, however, that life was sad even with these
drawbacks. The song of the jungle was unbroken, the brilliant sunshine
joyful, for all its heat. In places the road was completely veiled by
clouds of beautiful white butterflies. Sweating freely, there was a
spontaneous play of the mental spirits and a sense of splendid physical
well-being, not the mind-paralyzing gloom of our northern winters. Up on
the high plateau the mind might work as freely, but with this
difference: there it seemed to be using itself up, each period of
exaltation being followed by the feeling that one was much older, much
more worn out, while here there were no such after effects. Though we
drank water which, in civilization, would have caused us to die of
cramps within an hour, the constant sweating carried off its evil
effects, and though gaunt and gnat-bitten, we both looked “the picture
of health.” The main rule for keeping well in the tropics is to live on
the country, to avoid canned food and dissipation, and above all to get
plenty of hard exercise and exposure to the elements. Unfortunately,
where food is most needed, it is most difficult to obtain.

A toilsome eighteen miles ended at Pozo del Tigre—there was something
fetching about the name of this third fortín,—the “Tiger’s
Drinking-place.” Here were four boys, a cossack post in command of a
corporal; also at last there was something for sale, for some one had
planted a patch of corn back in the forest. Two soldiers brought us
_choclos_ and _huiro_,—green-corn for ourselves and stalks of the same
for the mule. The conscripts preferred coffee and rice in payment, for
money is of slight value beyond the Rio Grande, but demanded five times
what the stuff was worth. It was not sweet-corn, and was either
half-grown or overripe, but was welcome for all that. We threw the ears
into the fire and raked them out, to munch what was not entirely burned
or still raw. The jejenes made it impossible to hold them over the fire
to toast. We squatted so closely over the blaze it all but burned our
garments, yet the relief was so great, in spite of the smoke in our
eyes, that we all but fell asleep into the fire.

The life of these garrisons is dismal in the extreme. The soldiers had
absolutely no drill or other fixed duty. In most cases they were too
apathetic to plant anything, even to dig a well, however heavily time
hung on their hands, preferring to starve on half-rations, to choke in
the dry season and drink mud in the wet, rather than to exert
themselves. Each “fort” had in the center of the “parade-ground” a crude
horizontal-bar made of a sapling. But it was used only for a languid
moment, when utter ennui drove some one to it. The impossibility of
“team-work” among Latin-Americans was never more clearly demonstrated
than by the fact that each soldier cooked his own food separately three
times a day over his own stick fire. There was not faith enough among
them even to permit division of labor in bringing fire-wood. Each set
his _marmita_, a soldier’s tin cook-pot shaped to fit between the
shoulders, on the ends of burning sticks and sat constantly on his heels
beside it, lest it spill over as one of the fagots burned away. The
fellows were astonished to learn the use of Y-shaped sticks for hanging
their kettles.

Toward morning I slept an hour or two from utter exhaustion. It was
astonishing how one recuperated for all the day ahead with so short a
rest. After all, tramping is not like mental labor; a brief repose is
all that is necessary. The savages having deceived us for three days, we
lessened our burdens by fastening rifle and shotgun within quick reach
on the mule, though still keeping our revolvers handy. Wild animals are
commonly hidden away in the silence of the forest, even in such
wildernesses, and rarely cross a path used by man; but they are not
always unseen. We were tramping side by side when I pointed excitedly at
the narrowing vista of the road ahead.

“Deer!” I cried.

The German, his mind perhaps on Indians, all but sprang over his mule.
Some two hundred yards ahead a reddish fawn stood grazing, and fresh
meat would have been more acceptable just then than eternal riches. As a
three-year soldier it was surely my companion’s place to shoot; besides,
the rifle and cartridges were his. But he marched stolidly forward. With
no officer behind to give a stentorian command, his mind refused to
work. Every step was increasing the probability of seeing a splendid
venison repast for ourselves and for the soldiers ahead bound away into
the trackless forest.

“Schüsse doch!” I cried, in a hoarse whisper.

Alas! I had overlooked the preliminary routine of “Ready! Load! Aim!”
The German snatched hastily and blindly at the pack, leveled a gun, and
fired. A discharge of bird-shot sprinkled the nearby tree-trunks, and
the startled deer sprang with one leap into the unknown. Konanz had
caught up the shotgun instead of the rifle!

It must not be gathered, however, that he was not an effective hunter,
given prey fitted to his abilities. All this region is noted for its
_petas_, a large land-turtle, with the empty charred shells of which any
camping-ground is sure to be scattered. During the afternoon the German
actually ran one down.

Tied on the pack, it arrived at the fourth and last _fortín_ of the
Monte Grande, Guayritos, a larger clearing surrounded by _matorrales_ or
palm-tree swamps, and noted for attacks by the savages. The corporal
ordered one of his three men to prepare the turtle. He split it open
with a machete and, removing all the meat, spitted the liver, the chief
delicacy, on a stick, while I set the rest to boiling. When it had
cooked for an hour, the addition of a handful of rice and a chip of
salty rock made the most savory repast of several days. All through the
cooking Konanz had sat moodily by, fighting clouds of jejenes and
smoking furiously for protection. When the meal was ready he refused to
touch it. Evidently turtle is not eaten in the German army. But for once
the inner man all but overcame the iron discipline of years. It may have
been the smoke that brought tears to his eyes as I fell upon the mess;
at any rate he moved away from the fire and went to tramp gloomily up
and down the edge of the pascana. The thick muscles, that in life are so
strong that a man cannot pull a leg from its shell by main force, were
of a dark-red meat far superior to the finest chicken—unless appetite
deceived me—and almost boneless. The comatose condition induced by the
feast lasted with only an occasional break all night, so that I slept
considerably, even though the gnats roared about my net like a raging
sea on a distant cliff-bound coast, and a few hundred managed to gain
admittance.

A tropical shower was raging when we finished loading. Even the soldiers
were in a snarling mood. The going was so slippery that it was painful.
For long distances there were _camelones_ or _barriales_, as the
interminable corduroy-like mud ridges with troughs of slime between them
are called. Every step was perilous, until we were splashed and soaked
from hat-crown down; after that a misstep and a sprawl did not matter.
Skeletons of oxen were numerous along the way. When the rain ceased, the
day remained thick, and the heat was heavy enough to cut with a spade.
For long stretches we waded waist-deep through swamps of long green
grasses. A few slight pascanas began to break the endless forest. In one
of them, and scattered far beyond, we met the first travelers since
entering the woods,—four rusty and mud-plastered wagons, hopelessly
mired, others with their several yokes of oxen lying indifferently in
water, mud, or on dry land.

That afternoon our journey seemed to have come ignominiously to an end.
An immense swamp or lake a half-mile wide spread across the trail and
far away in both directions into the now thinner forest, the notorious
“curiche de Tuná.” We attempted to flank it, only to have a faint side
path end in the impassable tangles of an even greater swamp. Wandering
in this for an hour, we regained the road at last, and, putting
everything damageable in our hats and strapping our revolvers about our
necks, attempted the crossing. The lake proved only chest-deep, but the
glue-like mud-bottom all but swallowed up the mule, and the pack emerged
streaming water from every corner.

The sun was getting low when we sighted a little wooded hill above the
sea-flat forest ahead. The road dodged the hillock, however, and we
slushed hopelessly on through endless virgin forest. Night was coming
on. The insignificance of man in these primeval woods was appalling.
Suddenly a large, rail-fenced cornfield appeared in a clearing beside
the “road,” but this plunged on again into the wilderness without
disclosing any other sign of humanity. Darkness was upon us when a man
in white rode out of the gloom ahead, and all but fell from his mule in
astonishment. We had passed unseen the branch trail to the scattered
hamlet of El Cerro, a score of thatched huts, constituting the first
civilian dwelling of man beyond the Rio Grande.