Adventures in Peru, Chapter 11

Reasons to be Fearful

Through the Nasca and Cañete Valleys, Part 3

Later in the day I took Francisco with me on a shooting expedition. We had not gone far before I noticed a number of parrots sitting about on the branches of a nice, flowery tree. I made my approach with due caution, and had the satisfaction to get three of them with my first barrel. The other I discharged at a martinette that was running along the ground some distance away. These four birds proved a welcome addition to our larder. I didn’t trouble to bag any more, although we saw numerous partridges and martinette, and also a bush-turkey.

I might add here that it was my invariable custom never to load my gun till I wanted to discharge it. And though, through adhering to this rule, I frequently missed chances of getting Pete buck, I had good reasons for so doing. Some years previously, at Hamilton Langley’s estancia, D., a friend of his, and manager of a bank in Buenos Ayres, paid him a visit, in company with his wife. They brought with them an excellent pointer called Ponto. One day we all went out to get some partridges. Like most vivacious Frenchmen, D. was eager to get to business, and pushed on considerably ahead of the rest of us. Suddenly we heard bang! bang! bang! in quick succession, followed by a scream, “Oh! Oh!” We hurried off in the direction whence the sounds seemed to come, and, after searching around, found the luckless man. He presented a fearful spectacle, having apparently stumbled, and in falling had received the contents of both barrels in his stomach. He was beyond all human aid when H. reached him. Subsequently the widow gave Ponto to me, and I kept him till I left San Emilio. Moreover, I myself had a rather nasty experience on the same estate. We were after wild duck, which had been located on a salt lake, and I was walking with a Mrs. Cornmell. On the way down, she said, “Do shoot a few plover.” Now I didn’t care much for plover, but I said, “All right,” and soon after bagged a brace. Then I loaded my gun, put it at half-cock, and proceeded to make the best of my way to the duck haunt. Suddenly my foot hitched in something, and I stumbled. Bang! went my gun. Fortunately it was pointing ahead, and so didn’t interfere with Mrs. Cornmell; but it gave her a bit of a turn, and shook me up more than I cared to admit. These two lessons were sufficient for me. I resolved I would never again carry a loaded gun.

After lunch I set off to examine some old ruins the Indian had spoken about, on the right-hand side of the river about three miles down. I rode the excellent pacer left for my use by the owner of the hacienda and followed a path which took me straight to my objective. I spent a couple of hours examining the ruins very closely. They were the remains of what had been fairly large buildings. The walls were rough-built of cobble stones and mud bricks mixed, fully two feet thick, and the rooms seemed planned on spacious lines. Everything was overgrown with weeds and young trees; and I noticed several mounds outside and within.

On the east side grew a lovely bush of wild jasmine. I have never seen a bigger or finer specimen. Entwined with it was a gorgeous blue convolvulus creeper. In my humble opinion, Nature had provided this as a protection for the beautiful bush. The two together made a far finer show than they would have done if separated. I am led to think this, because of an experience that I had in Trinidad. In the garden of the Villa Iris, which belonged to my wife, and faced the great Savannah Park, there was a magnificent bush of white jasmine, the envy of all beholders. One day the coolie gardener told my wife a yarn. A white convolvulus had begun throwing its tendrils around the bush. Said he, “If you don’t have that weed pulled up, the jasmine will surely die.” I questioned the truth of this, but ultimately we let the man have his way. Now, mark the sequel! From that day to this the jasmine has never once flowered properly. In fact, sometimes it has not bloomed at all.

On my way back from the ruins, I saw several bush-chicken resting on a tree; so I dismounted, stalked them carefully, and knocked over a brace. What with goat flesh, parrots, partridges, and martinette, we had now sufficient variety of meats to satisfy even the most fastidious eater.