Adventures in Peru, Chapter 5

A Terrific Hailstorm

A Journey Into the Interior, Part 3

Next day, soon after breakfast, I started on the last lap of my journey, expecting to reach the workings of my Lima friend, near Tres Cruces, in a couple of days. I took with me a letter of introduction from the Corregidor to a friend of his, who kept sheep and alpacas—chiefly alpacas. He was a Peruvian, and owned farms in both Peru and Bolivia. He lived for the greater part of the year on his Peruvian estate. About three o’clock in the afternoon we got caught in a terrific hailstorm. The hailstones were as large as marbles, and the mules wouldn’t face them. l turned Batson’s stern towards the storm, which lasted a full hour and a half. Muffled in my Irish cloak (a fine affair I had bought at Sandy-point, and big enough to cover me and the mule), we suffered no inconvenience whatever. But the delay proved awkward, because night overtook us ere we reached the farm of Guiterrez. About half an hour after we had resumed our journey, Batson suddenly pricked up his ears and broke into a jog trot. The mules, headed by my chestnut as bell horse, followed suit, likewise the Indians. Very soon we discovered what had occasioned this singular manoeuvre. Within a quarter of an hour, up loomed a big building out of the darkness. It was one of Guiterrez’s barns. His house was close by. We knocked at the door, and Don Ramon himself answered the summons. I handed him Rameres’ letter, which he read, and at once extended his hospitality. Dinner, he said, would be ready in about half an hour, and he would be very pleased if I would join him. I gladly accepted the kind invitation, for I was feeling pretty well famished.

During the meal, which I thoroughly enjoyed, Ramon told me that pumas had been troubling his animals a lot. Within the previous three weeks, they had killed three young colts of very fine pacing breed. He had tried to poison the marauders, by putting stuff on a dead carcass, without the slightest effect, for they had left the bait severely alone. I told him that was quite usual, wild beasts very seldom go for any prey that has been doctored. At the same time, I considered it would be futile to sit up and watch an animal that had been killed by jaguar or puma, unless it had been left lying with its right, or liver, side up. I first learnt this truth from a book, entitled “Leaves from a Sportsman’s Diary,” written by a colonel who had been a great shikari in India, and I had proved its worth on several occasions. Ramon invited me to stay and have a cut at the pumas. I told him nothing would give me greater pleasure. A week or a fortnight occupied in ridding him of these pests would be time well spent.

Adventures in Peru, Chapter 5

My Morning Dip

A Journey Into the Interior, Part 2

When I reached Sicasica I found no difficulty in getting accommodation. As a matter of fact, the President of Bolivia had most courteously directed the proprietor of the hotel to reserve his best room for me; and further, he had sent a letter of introduction to Don Fillipi Rameres, the Corregidor of a village a day’s ride nearer Vera Cruz. When I asked the proprietor if he had a bath, so that I might enjoy my usual morning tub, he said he hadn’t got one, the cold was so intense people didn’t use them. “But,” he continued, “if you like, I’ll tell one of my Indians to put a bucket of cold water in your rubber bath at seven o’clock in the morning, so that you may have a sponge.” This arrangement suited me admirably.

Next day I resumed my journey after breakfast, and in due course reached the point I aimed at—a fair-sized Indian village in the Vera Cruz range. It is situate about 12,500 ft. above sea-level. Some of the surrounding peaks tower up to 18,000 ft. and 19,000 ft. The Corregidor seemed to be a very decent chap, of the Mountain Indian breed. He placed his drawing-room at my disposal, together with a corral for my mules and a kitchen for my boys. He also engaged me, later on, an Indian and his wife and her sister to accompany me—the man to act as guide, and to assist with the cargo; the women, who were not at all bad-looking, to attend to my personal wants.

I stayed here four days, buying of the Corregidor barley-grain in the straw for my mules, and five sheep to be made into challona, for use on the trip. They weighed about 60 lb. apiece. Our meals, so far as I was concerned, consisted of bacon and eggs for breakfast, Irish stew for lunch, and Irish stew for dinner at 7 p.m. The Indians had the same, barring the bacon and eggs. Every morning about 7.30 or 8 o’clock I used to go down to the river, which was only about two hundred yards off, to have my morning dip. As the water was always frozen over, I had to bathe in one or other of the holes broken by the Indians, before I could enjoy my bath. As usual, I dried myself in the sun. Some little distance away there was a cliff, and upon this I noticed a lot of Indian women and boys sitting, the first morning I made my appearance in the river. They seemed to take a great interest in my proceedings. On the third morning, when I returned to the Corregidor’s house after my bath, I saw forty or fifty Indian women squatting down on the opposite side of the road. They were making no noise whatever, but simply waiting—waiting for me, if you please.

When I entered the house the Corregidor said, “I have an amusing thing to tell you.”

“What is it?” I inquired.

“You see all those women out there? Well, they tell me that the Gringo—meaning you—appears to be a very nice sort of chap, but evidently a bit touched in his head. For on three successive mornings he had gone down to the river, taken off all his clothes, and sponged himself with the icy cold water; so they wished me to hand him over to them to be taken care of.”

In common with most Indian tribes, these good folk regard the mentally afflicted with a certain amount of veneration; hence their request was really nothing out of the ordinary. I have no doubt they were quite prepared to carry out what they offered to do, namely to cook and fend for me in every way, while I would be free to enjoy myself as I thought fit. I was curious to know what answer the Corregidor had made. “I told them,” he said, “the man you speak of is a friend of mine. He is staying with me, and is not the least bit off his head. What you have seen him do down at the river, is his usual custom. Within a little while, he will be back in the house, and I will then tell him what you say. If you will wait a bit, you shall know what he thinks of it.”

Of course, I could not entertain the offer made by these kind-hearted females, for the staff already engaged by my friend the Corregidor, was ample for my requirements. But I could not help feeling flattered by the interest they took in me, for if the group included a sprinkling of withered old women, the majority were robust and well set up, and some of the girls very good-looking!

Indian woman of the high Andes near Cuzco and Puno. Illustration from Adventures in Peru.
Adventures in Peru, Chapter 5

A Most Embarrassing Situation

A Journey Into the Interior, Part 1

I left Mollendo by the eight-thirty train on Wednesday morning, and arrived at Arequipa at six-thirty the same night. Next day I happened to meet my friend, the consul for Uruguay and Peru. It appeared that he also was interested in the Province of Inquisivi, and intended to take the Peru and Bolivia train, leaving Friday morning at eight for Puno, the terminus, situate on the banks of Lake Titicaca. So we agreed to travel together. A description of Titicaca was given in my Adventures in Bolivia, hence I need only add that one of the islands near the peninsula of Capacabana is held specially sacred by the natives. For, according to their most highly respected traditions, it was here that Manco Capac and his consort founded their glorious empire. Here may be seen the ruins of an old monastery, which was in existence when the Incas came and conquered the Huancas. There are stones in this great building, weighing twenty tons at least. Alongside the principal doorway, there is one still standing that I should put at twelve tons. Five hundred priests, I believe, are attached to this monastery.

At Puno I met a Russian Count and his wife, who were accompanied by a Baron von K——, who acted as secretary to the Count. They had been exploring the sacred isle, and intended to extend their trip as far as the great gold river, Tipuani. Unfortunately—so I heard later—the way up the Sorata Pass proved too much for the Countess and the Baron. So the whole party had to return to Puno. The Count stood it better than the others, and naturally so, for he was a big fellow.

Crossing the High Andes by the Pass of Sorata is no joke for a woman; in fact old Naboa told me that in all the sixty years he had been acquainted with that district, he had heard of but one lady who had accomplished the feat. She was a Countess—Countess M. I’ll call her—who had run away from her husband with a Baron R. The Count, it appears, followed them with his revolver, intending to shoot the guilty pair when he came up with them. The runaways put in six months at Tipuani. Baron R. occupied himself prospecting for gold, three miles from the village. He engaged six natives and four West Indians to dig and wash for him. One day a West Indian told him a Gringo Caballero, i.e. a foreign gentleman, lay very sick of fever at Gritado, a place ten miles the La Paz side of the river. Baron R. took pity on the sick man, and started off at once in search of him, accompanied by the Countess and six Indians with a stretcher. It was intended to fetch him home to their place and nurse him back to health. They found him, lying on a mattress, in a hut belonging to a man called Ricardo Rodriguez. Picture their surprise when he turned out to be no less a person than Count M. himself! The situation was most embarrassing; but Baron R. and the Countess made the best they could of it, and gave the sick man every attention; so that, within a little while, he became convalescent, and fit to be removed to their place. There they nursed him back to health; explanations were given and received, and, ultimately, all three became reconciled and left Tipuani together, apparently on the best of terms with each other.

We travelled from Puno by the lake steamer to Quaqui, and then took train to La Paz Alto. Thence we journeyed by coach as far as La Paz. Following my usual custom, I put up at the Hotel Guibert, and persuaded the consul to do the same. The proprietor was absent in Europe, but I was glad to hear the Jura baths had quite rid him of his rheumatism. In return for my advice about taking the Jura cure, he made me free of his house—a very pleasant and delicate way of expressing his gratitude.

We stayed here five days, while the consul’s buggy horses rested. They had come up from his mine near Incasiva. I occupied myself in getting five cargo mules, and two for saddle-work. The latter were beautiful creatures, and cost, in English money, £30 apiece, or half as much again as the cargo mules. I named them Batson and Charlie, after two mules that took my fancy in a Barbadian tram-car. Batson was black all over; Charlie, chestnut, with dark chestnut mane and tail, and a black mark right down his back. I loaded up the cargo mules with provisions—not forgetting to include some old Madeira, half a case of whisky, six bottles of old port, and several pots of Liebig’s extract—and sent them on ahead to Sicasica, ninety miles away. I followed three days later, by the diligence that runs twice a week between La Paz and Oruro. The driver was an Indian, famed for being extremely punctual. On one occasion, it is said, he refused to wait more than five minutes for his boss, who had arranged to travel with him. The laggard, as mail contractor and so forth, was a pretty big bug in his way. I occupied the box-seat on the trip referred to. I was on my way to Oruro—the racing season in Chile having concluded—to call on my friend and patron, Mariano Penny, previous to my starting on an experimental trip over the Andes, in search of some old mines that had been worked by the Ancients, and lost to sight for many years. Well, we started without the boss, and in due course arrived at a place about ten miles from La Paz Alto. Here we stopped fifteen minutes to change mules. Before this operation was completed who should appear upon the scene but the missing man! He had driven a four-horse buggy at a furious pace all the way from our starting-point. Much to my relief, he did not rave at the driver, but, on the contrary, made him a present of five dollars for sticking to his time schedule.

I travelled so often with this Indian that we became quite good friends. He sometimes handed over the ribbons to me, while he chucked stones at the mules to induce them to show their best paces. Full lick we would go over the Camp, taking boulders, ruts, and holes in our stride. There was no road, properly speaking, but only a track beaten down by the traffic. We often passed llamas loaded with corn and attended by Indians, who looked very picturesque in their different coloured ponchos and caps made of llama or vicuna wool. The Indians never start their llamas on a journey before 9.30 a.m. They march on till 3.30 in the afternoon, resting for rather less than an hour midday. Ordinarily a llama should cover twelve miles a day, and carry from 35 to 50 lb. Some of the biggest can manage 75 lb. These are highly valued by their owners. On short journeys, when employed to convey gold, silver, tin or copper ore down from the mines, a llama is often burdened with 100 lb.

Adventures in Peru, Chapter 4

A Gentleman Interested in Tin

Sea Serpents and Sea Treasures, Part 2

At Valparaiso I transferred to the Guatemala. Unfortunately the weather was pretty bad when we reached Mollendo, and the water was so rough that the passengers and mails had to be hoisted from the vessel in baskets and let down into surf-boats, and thus conveyed to shore. This method of landing is frequently adopted on this coast. It has its attractions for those who can find a basket to fit them. There was a bit of a difficulty in my case; so I decided to stick to the boat until she reached Callao, where I had some business to transact with a gentleman who was interested in tin. We arrived there in due course, and I went to see him. The proposition he wished to discuss was being worked on a very small scale by one man, with the assistance of two Indians. It was located three days’ mule ride from Sicasica. He received me most hospitably, and, after thoroughly going into the matter, agreed to give me the sum of £300 if I would visit the mine and report fully upon it. I was also to have 25 per cent. of the profits, if he decided to take it up.

I started back to Mollendo on the Huascar. This time the sea was calm, and so we landed without any difficulty. I stayed that night and the next day at the Hotel Ferro Carril. There I met a fellow called Boynton. He was the same Boynton who once started to travel round the world wheeling a barrow for a bet of £10,000 to £200, he to pay all his own expenses. He failed, simply through contracting an Eastern fever, which laid him by the heels for a matter of three months. It left him so weak that he had to give up his project. Otherwise, he thought, he would have succeeded. Boynton was on his way back from Arequipa, where he had been prospecting for gold. He had some pretty good samples with him, and hoped to find a company who would take an interest in them. Whether he ever succeeded, I do not know. Previously, he had been secretary to Lord Headley, who was engaged by a Peruvian Rubber Company in 1903 to report on their estate. Lord Headley told me they paid him £5000 to carry out this work and remain there six months, which wasn’t bad pay. When first approached, he said the job didn’t appeal to him; but he changed his mind when he knew the munificent offer they were prepared to make, and took on Boynton. How and why they eventually parted company is a tale I may, perhaps, tell another day.

Bubonic plague greatly troubled the West Coast of South America when I was at Mollendo. The owner of the Central Hotel had it, and was, in consequence, isolated by the authorities in a building they had set aside for the purpose, at some little distance from the town. This plague attacks one either in the groin or in the neck. They say it can be cured by a simple operation, if only the groin is affected; but when the neck is involved, then, Goodbye everybody! There is no rule, however, without an exception. This chap had bubonic in his neck, bad as could be; but, somehow or other, he managed to pull through.

Adventures in Peru, Chapter 4

Sea Serpents and Sea Treasures

Part 1

Many people say the Sea Serpent is all bunkum, and they are welcome to their opinion. On land, in the Temperate Zones, creeping things are small, and, speaking generally, of no account; but in the Torrid Zone they attain a tremendous size. Snakes are to be found in the Narrow Seas; hence I cannot, for the life of me, see why monster serpents should not exist in Equatorial waters. I got my first glimpse of the Great Sea Serpent in 1901, when voyaging off the Island of Fernando de Noronha. Fernando de Noronha, so called after its discoverer, is about five miles long and three miles broad, and is situated east of Brazil. It is a convict settlement, and is infested with rats.

Four years later, at practically the same spot, it was my good fortune to be favoured with another sight of this wonderful creature. I was then taking a trip in a P.S.N.C. boat which called at Fernando de Noronha. We left the island about midday. Lunch was served, as usual, at one o’clock, but I didn’t attend, as I was getting fit for crossing the High Andes yet again, to revisit the Sacambaja River and the Caballo Cunco Hill. So I contented myself with a few cold beef sandwiches and half a bottle of beer. Soon after I had finished my frugal repast, I distinctly saw the Wonder of the Seas. It appeared about fifty yards ahead of the steamer, on the port side. It had a head as big as a cow’s head, and its body looked as large round as a flour barrel. I only saw one coil of the latter, and that was a matter of eight to ten yards away from the head, and raised above the water a foot or so.

When the captain—a Liverpool man—and the other passengers came up, I told them what I had seen. The captain said to me: “Prodgers, if I didn’t know you very well indeed, and were not quite certain you had taken no extra cocktails before lunch, I should think you had seen double. Man and boy, I have sailed the seas these many years, but I have never yet cast eye on any sea serpent.” He was, however, fain to admit that he had often heard of the monster, and that my description of it tallied with what he had been told.

It will be remembered that the late Earl of Crawford, when on his fine auxiliary yacht the Valhalla, fourteen miles from the coast near Para, had an experience on December 7th, 1905, similar to that recorded above. It was also on this trip that I heard, from a passenger named Campbell, there was an island called Trinidad, south of Bahia, where treasure is supposed to be buried. Campbell told me that during 1903 he formed one of a party who visited the island to which I have referred. The captain of the schooner they went in, claimed to know the exact spot where the treasure was buried. They reached Trinidad all right, and spent three days in getting their stores ashore, and putting up a rough hut as a shelter. Unfortunately, whilst they were thus engaged, their leader had an attack of yellow fever; so they decided to get back to Bahia as soon as possible in order that he might receive proper medical attention. But all was in vain, and the poor fellow died without revealing the treasure’s hiding-place. Strange to say, about ten or twelve years ago I came across an old document that seemed to confirm Campbell’s tale. It was given me by a man whom I had befriended when he was down and out—when he had nothing to do, and nothing to live on. His fair-weather friends had all forsaken him. Some even said they didn’t know him. He applied to me as a last resort, and I told him he could go to a small house I owned on the isle of Juan Fernandez, and live there rent-free till something turned up. This house, as already related, I had taken in part-payment of my fee for superintending the breaking-up of the three-masted schooner Adriatic, of which more anon.

I used to keep several boats at this place, and have enjoyed many a pleasant hour, standing in a flat-bottomed punt to shoot Blue Rock pigeons. This man, by the way, also claimed to know of treasure buried at Itaperica; but the data that old Waldimar Fisher, who lives at my place in Juan Fernandez, supplied me with, refers to the one buried in the Isle of Trinidad, south of Bahia.

Adventures in Peru, Chapter 3

Sweet Pigeon and Horrible Pork

The Haunt of the Buccaneers, Part 2

A few years ago Penny commissioned me to approach the Chilian Government, to see if they would sell him Juan Fernandez for £100,000; but I did not succeed in my mission. I was told the Chilians did not wish to part with a place that had such historic associations. In the event of their ever changing their mind, there was only one nation they would be disposed to treat with, viz. the English nation.

In 1818, Chile was using this island as a convict settlement. By the year 1820, the population included three hundred malefactors and one hundred soldiers. There was no fear of any food shortage, as besides plenty of vegetables and fruit, the island was well stocked with wild cattle, sheep, goats, pigeons, etc.

An Englishman, by name Sutcliffe, was appointed Governor in 1835. This was the year of the great earthquake. Following on the tremors, came a huge uprising of the sea, which swept away all the buildings near the beach, save only the Government House, fort, and erections situated higher up. I was courteously permitted by De Rodht to peruse the official account of this terrifying experience, written by Sutcliffe himself.

In 1840, the convicts were transferred to the mainland, and anyone who liked could then lease the three sister islands from Chile. Santa Clara, situate only half a mile away from Juan Fernandez, is treeless and waterless. Plenty of grass grows there, however, thus affording plentiful provision for a multitude of wild goats.

Mas-a-fuera is ninety miles further off. Here again goats are as plentiful as pebbles on a beach. Luxuriant grass and babbling brooks ensure their well-being. Many hawks may be met with.

Besides paying rent for these islands, the lessee had to maintain a small steamer, or a sailing barque, in order to communicate with the mainland every six months. I took up this project once, and dropped about £300. Had I been able to secure a partner to go shares, I think I should have come out all right.

The landing at Mas-a-fuera is very bad, much worse, in fact, than at Juan Fernandez. There were no inhabitants when I visited the island; but in the sealing season the sealers make it one of their resorts. I have participated in some of the hunts. It is fine sport, clubbing the seals as they emerge from the caves. But it is not child’s play, for if you do not hit them a good hard crack over the head, they make no bones about bowling you over. The pelts of these seals are very valuable. The fur is of a rich coffee colour. Every two or three years the sealing rights are put up to auction.

During one of these expeditions, we came across three wild pigs. I shot one and had part of it cooked. The flesh was in appearance all one could wish for, but oh, the flavour! Manuel Correro, a Portuguese who accompanied me, thought he had never tasted anything more horrible. I don’t think he was far wrong either. The animals had evidently been feeding on the carcasses of sharks, which had been left to rot on the beach, after the oil had been extracted. I never remember eating better pigeons. Their flesh was delightful. I put that down to the great quantities of cranberries, cherries, and raspberries they had consumed.

The rent of these three islands is 7500 dollars, I should say. If a sailing ship is kept in lieu of a steamer, it must not be less than a 700-tonner.

Selkirk is supposed to have lived in a cave a good long pull up from the look-out, but I don’t subscribe to that opinion. He might have used it as an emergency resort, but was much more likely to take up his abode in one or other of the half-dozen or so that occur at the foot of the hill, near the tablet. They look much nicer. Fresh water is close to hand, and any amount of delicious fruits. Moreover, it involves a climb hardly worth mentioning.

Adventures in Peru, Chapter 3

The Haunt of the Buccaneers

Part 1

Juan Fernandez took its name from the man who discovered it in 1563, together with the sister islands of Santa Clara and Mas-a-fuera. He was a Spanish pilot. In consideration of his enterprise, the Government leased Juan Fernandez to him. He soon tired of his bargain. Subsequently, Captain Stradling of the Cinque Ports galley, had a disagreement with his crew when in these waters, and as a result, forty-five men deserted and took up their abode on the island. In February, 1700, Dampier called there. All but five of the adventurers joined his ship. In October, 1704, the Cinque Ports returned to ascertain the fate of the men who remained on the island. Only two survived, the other three had been captured by the French between whiles.

On the occasion of his second visit, Captain Stradling again experienced trouble with his crew. In this latter instance, however, it was confined to one man only, Alexander Selkirk, upon whose experiences, real and imaginary, Defoe based his engrossing narrative of “Robinson Crusoe.”

Selkirk said that, rather than serve longer under Captain Stradling, he would prefer to live on the island. Stradling took him at his word, and put him ashore with a small quantity of stores and provisions. Before the ship weighed anchor, Selkirk repented his hasty decision, and begged hard to be taken off again. His prayers fell on deaf ears. He was left to work out his salvation in solitude. To this little incident boys owe the most fascinating book ever written for their benefit. But for it, Selkirk’s name might never have been inscribed on the Roll of Fame. For more than four years he had to be content to make the island his abode. He was finally taken off by the Duke privateer under Captain Wood Rogers, February 12th, 1709.

In 1868, the officers of H.M.S. Topaz affixed a copper tablet to a huge rock on top of a hill to the right of the Yungue, whence a beautiful view of the sea can be obtained, north and south. This spot is known as Alexander Selkirk’s Look-out.

The following is the inscription: “In memory of Alexander Selkirk, a mariner, native of Largo in the County of Fife, Scotland, who was on this island in complete solitude 4 years and 4 months. He was landed from the Cinque Ports galley of 96 tons and 10 guns, A.D. 1704, and was taken off by the Duke privateer 12 February, 1709. He died Lieut. of the Weymouth 1723, aged 47 years. This tablet was erected on Selkirk’s Look-out by Commander Powell and Officers of H.M.S. Topaz A.D. 1868.”

In 1668 the buccaneer Sharp anchored in Cumberland Bay, and found seals on shore in large numbers, together with many sea lions. Wild pigs were also so abundant that, besides what they killed for their immediate sustenance, they salted down 100 carcasses.

In 1687, five men of a pirate vessel, commanded by Captain Edward Davis, voluntarily took up their abode on the island. They remained there until 1690, when they were taken off by Captain Story of the Welfare.

Buccaneers frequently made Juan Fernandez their rendezvous, and, there seems little doubt, deposited some of their ill-gotten gains there. An old Chilian supplied me with particulars of an incident that supports this view. In 1716, so he said, his grandfather had told him, a barque unloaded several boatloads of treasure there, the operation being superintended by a Spaniard, who was reputed to be a grandee. He and a black remained behind to see to its safe disposal. Six months later, the barque brought another cargo of booty. No sailor was permitted to leave the ship, except those who manned the boat or carried the treasure ashore. After the plunder had been shared out, the leader of the buccaneers had it hidden snugly away. At the entrance of the cache, he buried an axe, a cutlass, and a crowbar. Near by is the grave of his slave companion, who died from the effects of a blow sustained during a quarrel with his brother pirates. An ancestor of my Chilian friend helped bury this man.

Anson, who anchored in Cumberland Bay to refit his shattered squadron in 1741, found large quantities of vegetables growing in wild luxuriance, including cabbage, celery, watercress, radishes, etc. Before leaving, he added to the resources of the island by planting peach stones and cherry stones all over a wide area. He thought Juan Fernandez a most charming spot. Probably through his representations when he reached home, some idea of forming an English settlement was entertained. Spain got to hear about it; and in 1750 took formal possession of the island. Later on, when Chile threw off the Spanish yoke, it passed into her charge.

For much of the foregoing information, I am indebted to my good friend De Rodht.

Adventures in Peru, Chapter 2

The Italian’s Wife

A Tropical Island, Part 6

When I adjourned on the island there were only nine families in residence all told. They were of various nationalities. Two were Chilian, one Portuguese, one German, one Spanish, one French, one Italian, one English, and one Swiss of German extraction—the last being the family of de Rodht, the Governor.

The Italian had been banished for life from Chile. The Chilians had long suspected him of smuggling, and of receiving stolen goods. So they set a trap for him, and he fell into it. Some of the Angamos men were ordered to induce him to purchase of them some new ship’s stores—mattresses and so forth. They found him nothing loth. The same night police were sent to arrest him. When they arrived at the Italian’s residence, he was enjoying his dinner in a room which commanded a view of the path the emissaries of the law had to traverse. He told his wife to admit no one. The police, however, insisted on seeing him; so he retired to his bedroom and locked himself in. The police followed him and demanded admittance. This he refused to grant. When the Government men purposed to break down the door, he threatened to shoot the first man who crossed the threshold. Having reason to believe he would be as good as his word, the police resorted to a device they had put into operation on similar occasions. They bored holes in the bottom of the door, and set light to a concoction of sulphur, red pepper, cotton wool, etc. The fumes they contrived to introduce into the Italian’s room. So effectual did this artifice prove that the Italian was soon glad to open the door. His arrest and trial followed, as a matter of course. The charge preferred against him was proved up to the hilt. When sentenced, he was given the option of being deported to Juan Fernandez, in lieu of serving twenty years’ imprisonment. Like a sensible man he chose the island.

The culprit was not devoid of good feeling, for he told his wife he couldn’t expect her to stick to a beggar-man; so the best thing she could do would be to apply for a divorce, and marry some other man better calculated to bring happiness into her life. His spouse was a most beautiful woman, and a wonderful musician. Moreover, her age was twenty-seven years less than her husband’s. Hence she would have experienced little difficulty in finding a suitable partner. But—who can gauge the strength of a woman’s love?—this noble girl would have none of it. “What!” she cried. “Forsake you now you are down and out? Never! I took you for good or bad, for richer or poorer. Where you go, I will go.” So it came to pass that when the Italian was sent to Juan Fernandez, he did not go alone; his faithful wife accompanied him. She willingly turned her back on all the attractions of society for the sake of the man she loved.

As may be imagined, the houses in which the majority of these nine families lived were quite unpretentious. Most of them were constructed of native-grown timber and corrugated iron imported from the mainland, but those belonging to Arrendondo, De Rodht, Correros, and myself were very nicely built.

Fishing, catching lobster, extracting shark oil, and fish curing were the only industries pursued by the inhabitants. Fonck exploited lobsters, and I dried fish. I tried to extract oil from cod, but failed. Unlike the Newfoundland and Norwegian varieties, its liver contained none. Shite, Fonck’s manager, and I used to open our stores every Saturday from 10 o’clock till 1 p.m., allowing all who required provisions to have them on tick. Owing to an old law permitting the sale of liquor only in those districts where there are resident police, none was allowed to be sold on Juan Fernandez. As there were no doctors, so there could be no frail women. Male offenders against public morality were punished by five years’ imprisonment on the mainland. Females got a similar stretch in the House of Correction.

My own views as regards alcohol are these. It is a thing sent for our use, it is of incalculable value in tropical countries, but its abuse is to be deprecated. I felt that a certain amount of alcohol was an absolute necessity for the male residents at least, so I had no compunction in giving such of my customers as I judged would make proper use of it, a small quantity from time to time.

Adventures in Peru, Chapter 2

A Tempting Offer

A Tropical Island, Part 5

There is plenty of provender for cattle on Juan Fernandez—any amount of grass and wild oats, also excellent tobacco which has a nice nutty flavour all its own.

The temperature is very equable. De Rodht showed me his book, in which he had set down particulars for sixteen years, of readings taken daily at 8 a.m., 9 p.m., and noon. From this I learnt the average temperature at 8 a.m. was 62 degrees, and at noon 72 degrees.

According to tradition five ship-loads of treasure lie buried somewhere near French Bay. Only a very small portion has ever been discovered. This was found by a Dane, who lighted on enough “red stuff” to keep him in luxury till the end of his days. He bought a nice three-masted auxiliary yacht with part of the proceeds, and gave the man who put him on the right track a lot of provisions and £2000. I came across this other man one day, in fact, I did him a service—I cured him of his rheumatism. In return he disclosed to me the exact spot where the big hoard lies concealed. Owing to a family disagreement he had kept it secret from his sons.

I lost no time in waiting about, but at once commenced making preparations for the fray. I fitted up my two donkeys with a kind of pannier for the conveyance of the necessary tools and cargo, and made up my mind to take Fisher with me and camp out near the spot indicated, so that I could explore the locality thoroughly at my leisure. Unfortunately, just as I had completed my arrangements, Mariano Penny sent a note by the Chilian transport Angamos, the purport of which was, that as Zavala was giving up his horses, the writer would like to know what remuneration I would require to take his place. Thinking I might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb, I replied “£100 a month,” and then dismissed the matter from my mind, never expecting to hear about it again. My surmise was wrong, however, for ten days later Penny’s schooner hove in sight with another letter for me. Like the first it was written by his wife. It ran thus: “Mariano says if you will come at once, leaving the day after you receive this, he is willing to pay you £80 a month, plus 50 per cent. on all prizes the horses win. In addition he will give you £200 a year to look for old mines for him and Minchin, during December, January, and February. If you don’t care to do the prospecting, then you will have to go somewhere where there is snow and ice so that you can keep yourself fit for the next racing season, as Mariano doesn’t want any sick man messing about with his horses. As regards entering horses, you can enter them wherever and whenever you like; but you must clearly understand, that if any horse, so entered, fails to get into the first three, Samuel Navarette, Mariano’s secretary, has strict orders to deduct £10 from your salary, each time it occurs, unless the jockey is proved to have been at fault, or something has happened in the race to prejudice the horse’s chance. This, of course, doesn’t apply to any animal entered at Mariano’s special request, or Minchin’s. Any horse outside his own that you may train with his approval, you will receive £10 a month for, plus 25 per cent., or £5 a month and 50 per cent.”

On the face of it, the job looked a good one; but one requiring very careful handling. I determined to accept it, and at the same time, made up my mind to be most circumspect.

Adventures in Peru, Chapter 2

Banished by the Kaiser

A Tropical Island, Part 4

Whilst I was engaged on breaking up the wreck, Kuhn busied himself making arrangements about his lobster project. He chartered the Pachuco. For this he had to pay £2000 a year—a large sum to risk certainly; but he thought he could make that, and a bit more, by loading up from the mainland with passengers for Juan Fernandez. He reckoned that there were many folk who would jump at the chance of getting the trip, with four days thrown in on the island, for £40 a head.

When he told me what he had done, I said, “Old man, you’ll lose your money, if you don’t watch it. You’ll get passengers only in the summer months, and if, as is most probable, some of them find their tummies are not proof against the tumble and the tossing of the sea, they will put others off going. Then as regards the lobsters, a tank is essential for their safe conveyance; the Pachuco has none. How are you going to get over that?”

“You stand on me,” he replied. “I’ve studied the subject thoroughly, and know all there is to be known about it. You are A1 at training horses and keeping their legs in order, but lobsters——!!!”

The air with which this harangue was delivered was indescribably funny.

At his invitation I accompanied him on his first trip, “just to learn how things are done,” as he put it. If I took advantage of the opportunity to do a little business in the fern line, who shall blame me? One can’t make money standing around! Our cargo consisted of 1200 lobsters and 400 tree ferns. The shell-fish were distributed in large open crates so that they might be easily sprayed with sea-water from time to time. Our voyage only occupied three days, but when we reached Valparaiso all the lobsters had kicked the bucket, except one.

After this experience, Kuhn took my tip, and approached the owners of the Pachuco about a tank. They expressed themselves very amiably over the matter, and said so long as the insurance company didn’t object, they were quite agreeable to his putting one in. Unluckily, the insurance people wouldn’t hear of it. They handed out a flat refusal. Poor old Kuhn! My prediction concerning the passengers was justified up to the hilt. The first batch, which included my good friend, Count von Koningsmarck, were sick all the way. The baron was so poorly that he could enjoy only one day goat-shooting with me, instead of the couple he had looked forward to.

I had the laugh over Kuhn, for I made £250 out of my ferns, whereas his lobster venture turned out disastrously; after dropping £4000 in twelve months, he abandoned it altogether.

Von Koningsmarck was captain in the Prussian Guards, and personal A.D.C. to the Kaiser. He gave me once an instance of Wilhelm’s arrogance that is illuminating. One evening, after dinner, K. ventured to question a statement his Imperial master had made about some subject that was being discussed—music, I believe. The Kaiser was greatly incensed. “Count Koningsmarck,” he thundered, “you will leave Germany this day week. Consider yourself banished until I give you permission to return.” K. bowed and left the palace. Within a week he was on his way to Chile. To save his face, it was given out that he had been lent to the Chilian Government as a cavalry instructor.

K. had a private income of £25,000 a year, so was able to do himself pretty well. Colmo, the champion chaser, belonged to him, and he trained and rode the horse himself. In the saddle he adopted Tod Sloan’s style. He was the only man I have known who exploited the forward seat successfully over a country. Five years or so after he arrived in Chile, K. came to me, and said, “What do you think? The Kaiser has written and asked me to return and let bygones be bygones.” I forget what comment I made; but, anyhow, K. couldn’t resist the reference to the friendship that formerly existed between them. So he went back to Germany. In the Great War Koningsmarck bore himself bravely; but, alas! met the fate allotted to many flying-men: his machine crashed through some structural defect, and he was picked up dead.