In Search of the Castaways
Part 2 out of 11
yet I tell you the Peak of Teneriffe is quite visible yonder
above the horizon."
But whether Paganel could not or would not see it then, two hours later
he was forced to yield to ocular evidence or own himself blind.
"You do see it at last, then," said John Mangles.
"Yes, yes, distinctly," replied Paganel, adding in a disdainful tone,
"and that's what they call the Peak of Teneriffe!"
"That's the Peak."
"It doesn't look much of a height."
"It is 11,000 feet, though, above the level of the sea."
"That is not equal to Mont Blanc."
"Likely enough, but when you come to ascend it, probably you'll
think it high enough."
"Oh, ascend it! ascend it, my dear captain! What would be the good
after Humboldt and Bonplan? That Humboldt was a great genius.
He made the ascent of this mountain, and has given a description
of it which leaves nothing unsaid. He tells us that it comprises
five different zones--the zone of the vines, the zone of the laurels,
the zone of the pines, the zone of the Alpine heaths, and, lastly,
the zone of sterility. He set his foot on the very summit,
and found that there was not even room enough to sit down.
The view from the summit was very extensive, stretching over an
area equal to Spain. Then he went right down into the volcano,
and examined the extinct crater. What could I do, I should like you
to tell me, after that great man?"
"Well, certainly, there isn't much left to glean.
That is vexing, too, for you would find it dull work waiting
for a vessel in the Peak of Teneriffe."
"But, I say, Mangles, my dear fellow, are there no ports
in the Cape Verde Islands that we might touch at?"
"Oh, yes, nothing would be easier than putting you off at Villa Praya."
"And then I should have one advantage, which is by no
means inconsiderable--I should find fellow-countrymen
at Senegal, and that is not far away from those islands.
I am quite aware that the group is said to be devoid
of much interest, and wild, and unhealthy; but everything
is curious in the eyes of a geographer. Seeing is a science.
There are people who do not know how to use their eyes,
and who travel about with as much intelligence as a shell-fish.
But that's not in my line, I assure you."
"Please yourself, Monsieur Paganel. I have no doubt geographical science
will be a gainer by your sojourn in the Cape Verde Islands. We must
go in there anyhow for coal, so your disembarkation will not occasion
the least delay."
The captain gave immediate orders for the yacht to continue her route,
steering to the west of the Canary group, and leaving Teneriffe on
her larboard. She made rapid progress, and passed the Tropic of Cancer
on the second of September at 5 A. M.
The weather now began to change, and the atmosphere became damp
and heavy. It was the rainy season, "_le tempo das aguas_,"
as the Spanish call it, a trying season to travelers, but useful
to the inhabitants of the African Islands, who lack trees and
consequently water. The rough weather prevented the passengers
from going on deck, but did not make the conversation any less
animated in the saloon.
On the 3d of September Paganel began to collect his luggage
to go on shore. The DUNCAN was already steaming among
the Islands. She passed Sal, a complete tomb of sand lying
barren and desolate, and went on among the vast coral reefs
and athwart the Isle of St. Jacques, with its long chain
of basaltic mountains, till she entered the port of Villa Praya
and anchored in eight fathoms of water before the town.
The weather was frightful, and the surf excessively violent,
though the bay was sheltered from the sea winds.
The rain fell in such torrents that the town was scarcely visible
through it. It rose on a plain in the form of a terrace,
buttressed on volcanic rocks three hundred feet high.
The appearance of the island through the thick veil of rain
was mournful in the extreme.
Lady Helena could not go on shore as she had purposed;
indeed, even coaling was a difficult business, and the passengers
had to content themselves below the poop as best they might.
Naturally enough, the main topic of conversation was the weather.
Everybody had something to say about it except the Major,
who surveyed the universal deluge with the utmost indifference.
Paganel walked up and down shaking his head.
"It is clear enough, Paganel," said Lord Glenarvan, "that the elements
are against you."
"I'll be even with them for all that," replied the Frenchman.
"You could not face rain like that, Monsieur Paganel,"
said Lady Helena.
"Oh, quite well, madam, as far as I myself am concerned.
It is for my luggage and instruments that I am afraid.
Everything will be ruined."
"The disembarking is the worst part of the business.
Once at Villa Praya you might manage to find pretty good quarters.
They wouldn't be over clean, and you might find the monkeys
and pigs not always the most agreeable companions.
But travelers are not too particular, and, moreover, in seven
or eight months you would get a ship, I dare say, to take you
back to Europe."
"Seven or eight months!" exclaimed Paganel.
"At least. The Cape Verde Islands are not much frequented by ships
during the rainy season. But you can employ your time usefully.
This archipelago is still but little known."
"You can go up the large rivers," suggested Lady Helena.
"There are none, madam."
"Well, then, the small ones."
"There are none, madam."
"The running brooks, then."
"There are no brooks, either."
"You can console yourself with the forests if that's the case,"
put in the Major.
"You can't make forests without trees, and there are no trees."
"A charming country!" said the Major.
"Comfort yourself, my dear Paganel, you'll have the mountains
at any rate," said Glenarvan.
"Oh, they are neither lofty nor interesting, my Lord, and, beside,
they have been described already."
"Already!" said Lord Glenarvan.
"Yes, that is always my luck. At the Canary Islands, I saw myself
anticipated by Humboldt, and here by M. Charles Sainte-Claire Deville,
"It is too true," replied Paganel, in a doleful voice.
"Monsieur Deville was on board the government corvette,
La Decidee, when she touched at the Cape Verde Islands,
and he explored the most interesting of the group, and went
to the top of the volcano in Isle Fogo. What is left for me
to do after him?"
"It is really a great pity," said Helena. "What will become
of you, Monsieur Paganel?"
Paganel remained silent.
"You would certainly have done much better to have landed at Madeira,
even though there had been no wine," said Glenarvan.
Still the learned secretary was silent.
"I should wait," said the Major, just as if he had said,
"I should not wait."
Paganel spoke again at length, and said:
"My dear Glenarvan, where do you mean to touch next?"
"Plague it! That is a long way out of the road to India."
"Not it! From the moment you pass Cape Horn, you are getting
nearer to it."
"I doubt it much."
"Beside," resumed Lord Glenarvan, with perfect gravity,
"when people are going to the Indies it doesn't matter much
whether it is to the East or West."
"What! it does not matter much?"
"Without taking into account the fact that the inhabitants
of the Pampas in Patagonia are as much Indians as the natives
of the Punjaub."
"Well done, my Lord. That's a reason that would never have
entered my head!"
"And then, my dear Paganel, you can gain the gold medal anyway.
There is as much to be done, and sought, and investigated,
and discovered in the Cordilleras as in the mountains of Thibet."
"But the course of the Yarou-Dzangbo-Tchou--what about that?"
"Go up the Rio Colorado instead. It is a river but little known,
and its course on the map is marked out too much according
to the fancy of geographers."
"I know it is, my dear Lord; they have made grave mistakes. Oh, I make
no question that the Geographical Society would have sent me to Patagonia
as soon as to India, if I had sent in a request to that effect.
But I never thought of it."
"Just like you."
"Come, Monsieur Paganel, will you go with us?" asked Lady Helena,
in her most winning tone.
"Madam, my mission?"
"We shall pass through the Straits of Magellan, I must tell you,"
said Lord Glenarvan.
"My Lord, you are a tempter."
"Let me add, that we shall visit Port Famine."
"Port Famine!" exclaimed the Frenchman, besieged on all sides.
"That famous port in French annals!"
"Think, too, Monsieur Paganel, that by taking part in our enterprise,
you will be linking France with Scotland."
"A geographer would be of much use to our expedition, and what can
be nobler than to bring science to the service of humanity?"
"That's well said, madam."
"Take my advice, then, and yield to chance, or rather providence.
Follow our example. It was providence that sent us the document,
and we set out in consequence. The same providence brought you
on board the DUNCAN. Don't leave her."
"Shall I say yes, my good friends? Come, now, tell me,
you want me very much to stay, don't you?" said Paganel.
"And you're dying to stay, now, aren't you, Paganel?" returned Glenarvan.
"That's about it," confessed the learned geographer; "but I was afraid
it would be inconsiderate."
CHAPTER IX THROUGH THE STRAITS OF MAGELLAN
THE joy on board was universal when Paganel's resolution was made known.
Little Robert flung himself on his neck in such tumultuous delight
that he nearly threw the worthy secretary down, and made him say,
"Rude _petit bonhomme_. I'll teach him geography."
Robert bade fair to be an accomplished gentleman some day,
for John Mangles was to make a sailor of him, and the Major
was to teach him _sang-froid_, and Glenarvan and Lady Helena were
to instil into him courage and goodness and generosity, while Mary
was to inspire him with gratitude toward such instructors.
The DUNCAN soon finished taking in coal, and turned her back
on the dismal region. She fell in before long with the current
from the coast of Brazil, and on the 7th of September entered
the Southern hemisphere.
So far, then, the voyage had been made without difficulty.
Everybody was full of hope, for in this search for Captain Grant,
each day seemed to increase the probability of finding him.
The captain was among the most confident on board, but his confidence
mainly arose from the longing desire he had to see Miss Mary happy.
He was smitten with quite a peculiar interest for this young girl,
and managed to conceal his sentiments so well that everyone on board
saw it except himself and Mary Grant.
As for the learned geographer, he was probably the happiest
man in all the southern hemisphere. He spent the whole day
in studying maps, which were spread out on the saloon table,
to the great annoyance of M. Olbinett, who could never get
the cloth laid for meals, without disputes on the subject.
But all the passengers took his part except the Major,
who was perfectly indifferent about geographical questions,
especially at dinner-time. Paganel also came across
a regular cargo of old books in the chief officer's chest.
They were in a very damaged condition, but among them he raked
out a few Spanish volumes, and determined forthwith to set
to work to master the language of Cer-vantes, as no one on
board understood it, and it would be helpful in their search
along the Chilian coast. Thanks to his taste for languages,
he did not despair of being able to speak the language fluently
when they arrived at Concepcion. He studied it furiously,
and kept constantly muttering heterogeneous syllables.
He spent his leisure hours in teaching young Robert, and instructed
him in the history of the country they were so rapidly approaching.
On the 25th of September, the yacht arrived off
the Straits of Magellan, and entered them without delay.
This route is generally preferred by steamers on their way to
the Pacific Ocean. The exact length of the straits is 372 miles.
Ships of the largest tonnage find, throughout, sufficient depth of water,
even close to the shore, and there is a good bottom everywhere,
and abundance of fresh water, and rivers abounding in fish,
and forests in game, and plenty of safe and accessible harbors;
in fact a thousand things which are lacking in Strait Lemaire
and Cape Horn, with its terrible rocks, incessantly visited
by hurricane and tempest.
For the first three or four hours--that is to say, for about
sixty to eighty miles, as far as Cape Gregory--the coast on
either side was low and sandy. Jacques Paganel would not lose
a single point of view, nor a single detail of the straits.
It would scarcely take thirty-six hours to go through them,
and the moving panorama on both sides, seen in all the clearness
and glory of the light of a southern sun, was well worth the trouble
of looking at and admiring. On the Terra del Fuego side, a few
wretched-looking creatures were wandering about on the rocks,
but on the other side not a solitary inhabitant was visible.
Paganel was so vexed at not being able to catch a glimpse of
any Patagonians, that his companions were quite amused at him.
He would insist that Patagonia without Patagonians was not
Patagonia at all.
But Glenarvan replied:
"Patience, my worthy geographer. We shall see the Patagonians yet."
"I am not sure of it."
"But there is such a people, anyhow," said Lady Helena.
"I doubt it much, madam, since I don't see them."
"But surely the very name Patagonia, which means 'great feet'
in Spanish, would not have been given to imaginary beings."
"Oh, the name is nothing," said Paganel, who was arguing simply
for the sake of arguing. "And besides, to speak the truth,
we are not sure if that is their name."
"What an idea!" exclaimed Glenarvan. "Did you know that, Major?"
"No," replied McNabbs, "and wouldn't give a Scotch pound-note
for the information."
"You shall hear it, however, Major Indifferent. Though Magellan
called the natives Patagonians, the Fuegians called them Tiremenen,
the Chilians Caucalhues, the colonists of Carmen Tehuelches,
the Araucans Huiliches; Bougainville gives them the name of Chauha,
and Falkner that of Tehuelhets. The name they give themselves
is Inaken. Now, tell me then, how would you recognize them?
Indeed, is it likely that a people with so many names has
any actual existence?"
"That's a queer argument, certainly," said Lady Helena.
"Well, let us admit it," said her husband, "but our friend Paganel
must own that even if there are doubts about the name of the race
there is none about their size."
"Indeed, I will never own anything so outrageous as that,"
"They are tall," said Glenarvan.
"I don't know that."
"Are they little, then?" asked Lady Helena.
"No one can affirm that they are."
"About the average, then?" said McNabbs.
"I don't know that either."
"That's going a little too far," said Glenarvan. "Travelers who have
seen them tell us."
"Travelers who have seen them," interrupted Paganel, "don't agree
at all in their accounts. Magellan said that his head scarcely
reached to their waist."
"Well, then, that proves."
"Yes, but Drake declares that the English are taller than
the tallest Patagonian?"
"Oh, the English--that may be," replied the Major, disdainfully, "but we
are talking of the Scotch."
"Cavendish assures us that they are tall and robust,"
continued Paganel. "Hawkins makes out they are giants.
Lemaire and Shouten declare that they are eleven feet high."
"These are all credible witnesses," said Glenarvan.
"Yes, quite as much as Wood, Narborough, and Falkner, who say they
are of medium stature. Again, Byron, Giraudais, Bougainville, Wallis,
and Carteret, declared that the Patagonians are six feet six inches tall."
"But what is the truth, then, among all these contradictions?"
asked Lady Helena.
"Just this, madame; the Patagonians have short legs, and a large bust;
or by way of a joke we might say that these natives are six feet high
when they are sitting, and only five when they are standing."
"Bravo! my dear geographer," said Glenarvan. "That is very well put."
"Unless the race has no existence, that would reconcile all statements,"
returned Paganel. "But here is one consolation, at all events:
the Straits of Magellan are very magnificent, even without Patagonians."
Just at this moment the DUNCAN was rounding the peninsula of Brunswick
between splendid panoramas.
Seventy miles after doubling Cape Gregory, she left on her starboard
the penitentiary of Punta Arena. The church steeple and the Chilian
flag gleamed for an instant among the trees, and then the strait
wound on between huge granitic masses which had an imposing effect.
Cloud-capped mountains appeared, their heads white with eternal snows,
and their feet hid in immense forests. Toward the southwest,
Mount Tarn rose 6,500 feet high. Night came
V. IV Verne on after a long lingering twilight, the light insensibly
melting away into soft shades. These brilliant constellations
began to bestud the sky, and the Southern Cross shone out.
There were numerous bays along the shore, easy of access, but the yacht
did not drop anchor in any; she continued her course fearlessly
through the luminous darkness. Presently ruins came in sight,
crumbling buildings, which the night invested with grandeur, the sad
remains of a deserted settlement, whose name will be an eternal
protest against these fertile shores and forests full of game.
The DUNCAN was passing Fort Famine.
It was in that very spot that Sarmiento, a Spaniard, came in 1581,
with four hundred emigrants, to establish a colony.
He founded the city of St. Philip, but the extreme severity
of winter decimated the inhabitants, and those who had
struggled through the cold died subsequently of starvation.
Cavendish the Corsair discovered the last survivor dying
of hunger in the ruins.
After sailing along these deserted shores, the DUNCAN went through
a series of narrow passes, between forests of beech and ash and birch,
and at length doubled Cape Froward, still bristling with the ice
of the last winter. On the other side of the strait, in Terra
del Fuego, stood Mount Sarmiento, towering to a height of 6,000 feet,
an enormous accumulation of rocks, separated by bands of cloud,
forming a sort of aerial archipelago in the sky.
It is at Cape Froward that the American continent actually
terminates, for Cape Horn is nothing but a rock sunk in the sea
in latitude 52 degrees. At Cape Momax the straits widened,
and she was able to get round Narborough Isles and advance
in a more southerly direction, till at length the rock
of Cape Pilares, the extreme point of Desolation Island,
came in sight, thirty-six hours after entering the straits.
Before her stem lay a broad, open, sparkling ocean,
which Jacques Paganel greeted with enthusiastic gestures,
feeling kindred emotions with those which stirred the bosom
of Ferdinand de Magellan himself, when the sails of his ship,
the TRINIDAD, first bent before the breeze from the great Pacific.
CHAPTER X THE COURSE DECIDED
A WEEK after they had doubled the Cape Pilares, the DUNCAN
steamed into the bay of Talcahuano, a magnificent estuary,
twelve miles long and nine broad. The weather was splendid.
From November to March the sky is always cloudless, and a constant
south wind prevails, as the coast is sheltered by the mountain
range of the Andes. In obedience to Lord Glenarvan's order,
John Mangles had sailed as near the archipelago of Chiloe
as possible, and examined all the creeks and windings of
the coast, hoping to discover some traces of the shipwreck.
A broken spar, or any fragment of the vessel, would have put
them in the right track; but nothing whatever was visible,
and the yacht continued her route, till she dropped anchor
at the port of Talcahuano, forty-two days from the time she
had sailed out of the fogs of the Clyde.
Glenarvan had a boat lowered immediately, and went on shore,
accompanied by Paganel. The learned geographer gladly availed
himself of the opportunity of making use of the language he had
been studying so conscientiously, but to his great amazement,
found he could not make himself understood by the people.
"It is the accent I've not got," he said.
"Let us go to the Custom-house," replied Glenarvan.
They were informed on arriving there, by means of a few
English words, aided by expressive gestures, that the
British Consul lived at Concepcion, an hour's ride distant.
Glenarvan found no difficulty in procuring two fleet horses,
and he and Paganel were soon within the walls of the great city,
due to the enterprising genius of Valdivia, the valiant comrade
of the Pizarros.
How it was shorn of its ancient splendor! Often pillaged by the natives,
burned in 1819, it lay in desolation and ruins, its walls still
blackened by the flames, scarcely numbering 8,000 inhabitants,
and already eclipsed by Talcahuano. The grass was growing in
the streets, beneath the lazy feet of the citizens, and all trade
and business, indeed any description of activity, was impossible.
The notes of the mandolin resounded from every balcony,
and languishing songs floated on the breeze. Concepcion, the ancient
city of brave men, had become a village of women and children.
Lord Glenarvan felt no great desire to inquire into the causes
of this decay, though Paganel tried to draw him into a discussion
on the subject. He would not delay an instant, but went
straight on to the house of Mr. Bentic, her Majesty's Consul,
who received them very courteously, and, on learning their errand,
undertook to make inquiries all along the coast.
But to the question whether a three-mast vessel, called the BRITANNIA,
had gone ashore either on the Chilian or Araucanian coast, he gave
a decided negative. No report of such an event had been made to him,
or any of the other consuls. Glenarvan, however, would not allow himself
to be disheartened; he went back to Talcahuano, and spared neither pains
nor expense to make a thorough investigation of the whole seaboard.
But it was all in vain. The most minute inquiries were fruitless,
and Lord Glenarvan returned to the yacht to report his ill success.
Mary Grant and her brother could not restrain their grief.
Lady Helena did her best to comfort them by loving caresses,
while Jacques Paganel took up the document and began studying it again.
He had been poring over it for more than an hour when Glenarvan
interrupted him and said:
"Paganel! I appeal to your sagacity. Have we made an erroneous
interpretation of the document? Is there anything illogical
about the meaning?"
Paganel was silent, absorbed in reflection.
"Have we mistaken the place where the catastrophe occurred?"
continued Glenarvan. "Does not the name Patagonia seem apparent
even to the least clear-sighted individual?"
Paganel was still silent.
"Besides," said Glenarvan, "does not the word INDIEN prove
we are right?"
"Perfectly so," replied McNabbs.
"And is it not evident, then, that at the moment of writing the words,
the shipwrecked men were expecting to be made prisoners by the Indians?"
"I take exception to that, my Lord," said Paganel;
"and even if your other conclusions are right, this, at least,
seemed to me irrational."
"What do you mean?" asked Lady Helena, while all eyes were fixed
on the geographer.
"I mean this," replied Paganel, "that Captain Grant is _now
a prisoner among the Indians_, and I further add that the document
states it unmistakably."
"Explain yourself, sir," said Mary Grant.
"Nothing is plainer, dear Mary. Instead of reading the document
_seront prisonniers_, read _sont prisonniers_, and the whole
thing is clear."
"But that is impossible," replied Lord Glenarvan.
"Impossible! and why, my noble friend?" asked Paganel, smiling.
"Because the bottle could only have been thrown into the sea just when
the vessel went to pieces on the rocks, and consequently the latitude
and longitude given refer to the actual place of the shipwreck."
"There is no proof of that," replied Paganel, "and I see nothing
to preclude the supposition that the poor fellows were dragged
into the interior by the Indians, and sought to make known
the place of their captivity by means of this bottle."
"Except this fact, my dear Paganel, that there was no sea,
and therefore they could not have flung the bottle into it."
"Unless they flung it into rivers which ran into the sea,"
This reply was so unexpected, and yet so admissible, that it
made them all completely silent for a minute, though their
beaming eyes betrayed the rekindling of hope in their hearts.
Lady Helena was the first to speak.
"What an idea!" she exclaimed.
"And what a good idea," was Paganel's naive rejoinder to her exclamation.
"What would you advise, then?" said Glenarvan.
"My advice is to follow the 37th parallel from the point where it
touches the American continent to where it dips into the Atlantic,
without deviating from it half a degree, and possibly in some part
of its course we shall fall in with the shipwrecked party."
"There is a poor chance of that," said the Major.
"Poor as it is," returned Paganel, "we ought not to lose it.
If I am right in my conjecture, that the bottle has been carried
into the sea on the bosom of some river, we cannot fail to find
the track of the prisoners. You can easily convince yourselves
of this by looking at this map of the country."
He unrolled a map of Chili and the Argentine provinces as he spoke,
and spread it out on the table.
"Just follow me for a moment," he said, "across the American continent.
Let us make a stride across the narrow strip of Chili,
and over the Cordilleras of the Andes, and get into the heart of
the Pampas. Shall we find any lack of rivers and streams and currents?
No, for here are the Rio Negro and Rio Colorado, and their tributaries
intersected by the 37th parallel, and any of them might have carried
the bottle on its waters. Then, perhaps, in the midst of a tribe
in some Indian settlement on the shores of these almost unknown rivers,
those whom I may call my friends await some providential intervention.
Ought we to disappoint their hopes? Do you not all agree with me
that it is our duty to go along the line my finger is pointing out at
this moment on the map, and if after all we find I have been mistaken,
still to keep straight on and follow the 37th parallel till we find
those we seek, if even we go right round the world?"
His generous enthusiasm so touched his auditors that, involuntarily,
they rose to their feet and grasped his hands, while Robert exclaimed
as he devoured the map with his eyes:
"Yes, my father is there!"
"And where he is," replied Glenarvan, "we'll manage to go, my boy,
and find him. Nothing can be more logical than Paganel's theory,
and we must follow the course he points out without the least hesitation.
Captain Grant may have fallen into the hands of a numerous tribe,
or his captors may be but a handful. In the latter case we shall
carry him off at once, but in the event of the former, after we
have reconnoitered the situation, we must go back to the DUNCAN
on the eastern coast and get to Buenos Ayres, where we can soon
organize a detachment of men, with Major McNabbs at their head,
strong enough to tackle all the Indians in the Argentine provinces."
"That's capital, my Lord," said John Mangles, "and I may add,
that there is no danger whatever crossing the continent."
"Monsieur Paganel," asked Lady Helena, "you have no fear then
that if the poor fellows have fallen into the hands of the Indians
their lives at least have been spared."
"What a question? Why, madam, the Indians are not anthropophagi!
Far from it. One of my own countrymen, M. Guinnard,
associated with me in the Geographical Society, was three years
a prisoner among the Indians in the Pampas. He had to endure
sufferings and ill-treatment, but came off victorious at last.
A European is a useful being in these countries.
The Indians know his value, and take care of him as if he were
some costly animal."
"There is not the least room then for hesitation,"
said Lord Glenarvan. "Go we must, and as soon as possible.
What route must we take?"
"One that is both easy and agreeable," replied Paganel.
"Rather mountainous at first, and then sloping gently down
the eastern side of the Andes into a smooth plain, turfed and
graveled quite like a garden."
"Let us see the map?" said the Major.
"Here it is, my dear McNabbs. We shall go through the capital
of Araucania, and cut the Cordilleras by the pass of Antuco,
leaving the volcano on the south, and gliding gently down the
mountain sides, past the Neuquem and the Rio Colorado on to the Pampas,
till we reach the Sierra Tapalquen, from whence we shall see
the frontier of the province of Buenos Ayres. These we shall
pass by, and cross over the Sierra Tandil, pursuing our search
to the very shores of the Atlantic, as far as Point Medano."
Paganel went through this programme of the expedition without
so much as a glance at the map. He was so posted up in the travels
of Frezier, Molina, Humboldt, Miers, and Orbigny, that he had
the geographical nomenclature at his fingers' ends, and could
trust implicitly to his never-failing memory.
"You see then, friend," he added, "that it is a straight course.
In thirty days we shall have gone over it, and gained the eastern
side before the DUNCAN, however little she may be delayed
by the westerly winds."
"Then the DUNCAN is to cruise between Corrientes and Cape Saint Antonie,"
said John Mangles.
"And how is the expedition to be organized?" asked Glenarvan.
"As simply as possible. All there is to be done is to reconnoiter
the situation of Captain Grant and not to come to gunshot with
the Indians. I think that Lord Glenarvan, our natural leader;
the Major, who would not yield his place to anybody; and your
humble servant, Jacques Paganel."
"And me," interrupted Robert.
"Robert, Robert!" exclaimed Mary.
"And why not?" returned Paganel. "Travels form the youthful mind.
Yes, Robert, we four and three of the sailors."
"And does your Lordship mean to pass me by?" said John Mangles,
addressing his master.
"My dear John," replied Glenarvan, "we leave passengers on board,
those dearer to us than life, and who is to watch over them
but the devoted captain?"
"Then we can't accompany you?" said Lady Helena, while a shade
of sadness beclouded her eyes.
"My dear Helena, the journey will so soon be accomplished that it
will be but a brief separation, and--"
"Yes, dear, I understand, it is all right; and I do hope
you may succeed."
"Besides, you can hardly call it a journey," added Paganel.
"What is it, then?"
"It is just making a flying passage across the continent, the way
a good man goes through the world, doing all the good he can.
_Transire beneficiendo_--that is our motto."
This ended the discussion, if a conversation can be so called,
where all who take part in it are of the same opinion.
Preparations commenced the same day, but as secretly as possible
to prevent the Indians getting scent of it.
The day of departure was fixed for the 14th of October. The sailors
were all so eager to join the expedition that Glenarvan found the only
way to prevent jealousy among them was to draw lots who should go.
This was accordingly done, and fortune favored the chief officer,
Tom Austin, Wilson, a strong, jovial young fellow, and Mulrady, so good
a boxer that he might have entered the lists with Tom Sayers himself.
Glenarvan displayed the greatest activity about the preparations,
for he was anxious to be ready by the appointed day.
John Mangles was equally busy in coaling the vessel, that she
might weigh anchor at the same time. There was quite a rivalry
between Glenarvan and the young captain about getting first
to the Argentine coast.
Both were ready on the 14th. The whole search party assembled
in the saloon to bid farewell to those who remained behind.
The DUNCAN was just about to get under way, and already
the vibration of the screw began to agitate the limpid waters of
Talcahuano, Glenarvan, Paganel, McNabbs, Robert Grant, Tom Austin, Wilson,
and Mulrady, stood armed with carbines and Colt's revolvers.
Guides and mules awaited them at the landing stairs of the harbor.
"It is time," said Lord Glenarvan at last.
"Go then, dear Edward," said Lady Helena, restraining her emotion.
Lord Glenarvan clasped her closely to his breast for an instant,
and then turned away, while Robert flung his arms round Mary's neck.
"And now, friends," said Paganel, "let's have one good hearty
shake of the hand all round, to last us till we get to the shores
of the Atlantic."
This was not much to ask, but he certainly got strong enough
grips to go some way towards satisfying his desire.
All went on deck now, and the seven explorers left the vessel.
They were soon on the quay, and as the yacht turned round
to pursue her course, she came so near where they stood,
that Lady Helena could exchange farewells once more.
"God help you!" she called out.
"Heaven will help us, madam," shouted Paganel, in reply,
"for you may be sure we'll help ourselves."
"Go on," sung out the captain to his engineer.
At the same moment Lord Glenarvan gave the signal to start,
and away went the mules along the coast, while the DUNCAN
steamed out at full speed toward the broad ocean.
CHAPTER XI TRAVELING IN CHILI
THE native troops organized by Lord Glenarvan consisted of three men
and a boy. The captain of the muleteers was an Englishman, who had
become naturalized through twenty years' residence in the country.
He made a livelihood by letting out mules to travelers,
and leading them over the difficult passes of the Cordilleras,
after which he gave them in charge of a BAQUEANO, or Argentine guide,
to whom the route through the Pampas was perfectly familiar.
This Englishman had not so far forgotten his mother tongue among
mules and Indians that he could not converse with his countrymen,
and a lucky thing it was for them, as Lord Glenarvan found it far
easier to give orders than to see them executed, Paganel was still
unsuccessful in making himself understood.
The CATAPEZ, as he was called in Chilian, had two natives
called PEONS, and a boy about twelve years of age under him.
The PEONS took care of the baggage mules, and the boy led
the MADRINA, a young mare adorned with rattle and bells,
which walked in front, followed by ten mules.
The travelers rode seven of these, and the CATAPEZ another.
The remaining two carried provisions and a few bales of goods,
intended to secure the goodwill of the Caciques of the plain.
The PEONS walked, according to their usual habit.
Every arrangement had been made to insure safety and speed,
for crossing the Andes is something more than an ordinary journey.
It could not be accomplished without the help of the hardy
mules of the far-famed Argentine breed. Those reared
in the country are much superior to their progenitors.
They are not particular about their food, and only drink once
a day, and they can go with ease ten leagues in eight hours.
There are no inns along this road from one ocean to another.
The only viands on which travelers can regale themselves are dried meat,
rice seasoned with pimento, and such game as may be shot _en route_.
The torrents provide them with water in the mountains, and the rivulets
in the plains, which they improve by the addition of a few drops
of rum, and each man carries a supply of this in a bullock's horn,
called CHIFFLE. They have to be careful, however, not to
indulge too freely in alcoholic drinks, as the climate itself
has a peculiarly exhilarating effect on the nervous system.
As for bedding, it is all contained in the saddle used by the natives,
called RECADO. This saddle is made of sheepskins, tanned on one side
and woolly on the other, fastened by gorgeous embroidered straps.
Wrapped in these warm coverings a traveler may sleep soundly,
and brave exposure to the damp nights.
Glenarvan, an experienced traveler, who knew how to adapt
himself to the customs of other countries, adopted the Chilian
costume for himself and his whole party. Paganel and Robert,
both alike children, though of different growth, were wild with delight
as they inserted their heads in the national PONCHO, an immense
plaid with a hole in center, and their legs in high leather boots.
The mules were richly caparisoned, with the Arab bit in their mouths,
and long reins of plaited leather, which served as a whip;
the headstall of the bridle was decorated with metal ornaments,
and the ALFORJAS, double sacks of gay colored linen,
containing the day's provisions. Paganel, DISTRAIT as usual,
was flung several times before he succeeded in bestriding his
good steed, but once in the saddle, his inseparable telescope on
his shoulder-belt, he held on well enough, keeping his feet fast
in the stirrups, and trusting entirely to the sagacity of his beast.
As for Robert, his first attempt at mounting was successful,
and proved that he had the making in him of an excellent horseman.
The weather was splendid when they started, the sky a deep
cloudless blue, and yet the atmosphere so tempered by the sea
breezes as to prevent any feeling of oppressive heat.
They marched rapidly along the winding shore of the bay of Talcahuano,
in order to gain the extremity of the parallel, thirty miles south.
No one spoke much the first day, for the smoke of the DUNCAN was still
visible on the horizon, and the pain of parting too keenly felt.
Paganel talked to himself in Spanish, asking and answering questions.
The CATAPEZ, moreover, was a taciturn man naturally,
and had not been rendered loquacious by his calling. He hardly
spoke to his PEONS. They understood their duties perfectly.
If one of the mules stopped, they urged it on with a guttural cry,
and if that proved unavailing, a good-sized pebble,
thrown with unerring aim, soon cured the animal's obstinacy.
If a strap got loose, or a rein fell, a PEON came forward instantly,
and throwing off his poncho, flung it over his beast's head
till the accident was repaired and the march resumed.
The custom of the muleteers is to start immediately after breakfast,
about eight o'clock, and not to stop till they camp for the night, about 4
P. M. Glenarvan fell in with the practice, and the first halt was just
as they arrived at Arauco, situated at the very extremity of the bay.
To find the extremity of the 37th degree of latitude, they would have
required to proceed as far as the Bay of Carnero, twenty miles further.
But the agents of Glenarvan had already scoured that part of
the coast, and to repeat the exploration would have been useless.
It was, therefore, decided that Arauco should be the point of departure,
and they should keep on from there toward the east in a straight line.
Since the weather was so favorable, and the whole party,
even Robert, were in perfect health, and altogether
the journey had commenced under such favorable auspices,
it was deemed advisable to push forward as quickly as possible.
Accordingly, the next day they marched 35 miles or more,
and encamped at nightfall on the banks of Rio Biobio. The country
still presented the same fertile aspect, and abounded in flowers,
but animals of any sort only came in sight occasionally,
and there were no birds visible, except a solitary heron
or owl, and a thrush or grebe, flying from the falcon.
Human beings there were none, not a native appeared;
not even one of the GUASSOS, the degenerate offspring of Indians
and Spaniards, dashed across the plain like a shadow, his flying
steed dripping with blood from the cruel thrusts inflicted by
the gigantic spurs of his master's naked feet. It was absolutely
impossible to make inquiries when there was no one to address,
and Lord Glenarvan came to the conclusion that Captain Grant
must have been dragged right over the Andes into the Pampas,
and that it would be useless to search for him elsewhere.
The only thing to be done was to wait patiently and press
forward with all the speed in their power.
On the 17th they set out in the usual line of march, a line which it
was hard work for Robert to keep, his ardor constantly compelled
him to get ahead of the MADRINA, to the great despair of his mule.
Nothing but a sharp recall from Glenarvan kept the boy in proper order.
The country now became more diversified, and the rising
ground indicated their approach to a mountainous district.
Rivers were more numerous, and came rushing noisily down the slopes.
Paganel consulted his maps, and when he found any of those streams
not marked, which often happened, all the fire of a geographer
burned in his veins, and he would exclaim, with a charming
air of vexation:
"A river which hasn't a name is like having no civil standing.
It has no existence in the eye of geographical law."
He christened them forthwith, without the least hesitation,
and marked them down on the map, qualifying them with the most
high-sounding adjectives he could find in the Spanish language.
"What a language!" he said. "How full and sonorous it is!
It is like the metal church bells are made of--composed of
seventy-eight parts of copper and twenty-two of tin."
"But, I say, do you make any progress in it?" asked Glenarvan.
"Most certainly, my dear Lord. Ah, if it wasn't the accent,
that wretched accent!"
And for want of better work, Paganel whiled away the time along the road
by practising the difficulties in pronunciation, repeating all the
break-jaw words he could, though still making geographical observations.
Any question about the country that Glenarvan might ask the CATAPEZ
was sure to be answered by the learned Frenchman before he could reply,
to the great astonishment of the guide, who gazed at him in bewilderment.
About two o'clock that same day they came to a cross road,
and naturally enough Glenarvan inquired the name of it.
"It is the route from Yumbel to Los Angeles," said Paganel.
Glenarvan looked at the CATAPEZ, who replied:
And then, turning toward the geographer, he added:
"You have traveled in these parts before, sir?"
"Oh, yes," said Paganel, quite gravely.
"On a mule?"
"No, in an easy chair."
The CATAPEZ could not make him out, but shrugged his shoulders
and resumed his post at the head of the party.
At five in the evening they stopped in a gorge of no great depth,
some miles above the little town of Loja, and encamped for the night
at the foot of the Sierras, the first steppes of the great Cordilleras.
CHAPTER XII ELEVEN THOUSAND FEET ALOFT
NOTHING of importance had occurred hitherto in the passage through Chili;
but all the obstacles and difficulties incident to a mountain journey
were about to crowd on the travelers now.
One important question had first to be settled. Which pass would take
them over the Andes, and yet not be out of their fixed route?
On questioning the CATAPEZ on the subject, he replied:
"There are only two practicable passes that I know of in this
part of the Cordilleras."
"The pass of Arica is one undoubtedly discovered by Valdivia Mendoze,"
"And that of Villarica is the other."
"Well, my good fellow, both these passes have only one fault;
they take us too far out of our route, either north or south."
"Have you no other to propose?" asked the Major.
"Certainly," replied Paganel. "There is the pass of Antuco, on the slope
of the volcano, in latitude, 37 degrees 30' , or, in other words,
only half a degree out of our way."
"That would do, but are you acquainted with this pass
of Antuco, CATAPEZ?" said Glenarvan.
"Yes, your Lordship, I have been through it, but I did not
mention it, as no one goes that way but the Indian shepherds
with the herds of cattle."
"Oh, very well; if mares and sheep and oxen can go that way,
we can, so let's start at once."
The signal for departure was given immediately, and they struck into the
heart of the valley of Las Lejas, between great masses of chalk crystal.
From this point the pass began to be difficult, and even dangerous.
The angles of the declivities widened and the ledges narrowed,
and frightful precipices met their gaze. The mules went cautiously along,
keeping their heads near the ground, as if scenting the track.
They marched in file. Sometimes at a sudden bend of the road,
the MADRINA would disappear, and the little caravan had to guide
themselves by the distant tinkle of her bell. Often some capricious
winding would bring the column in two parallel lines, and the CATAPEZ
could speak to his PEONS across a crevasse not two fathoms wide,
though two hundred deep, which made between them an inseparable gulf.
Glenarvan followed his guide step by step. He saw that his perplexity
was increasing as the way became more difficult, but did not dare
to interrogate him, rightly enough, perhaps, thinking that both mules
and muleteers were very much governed by instinct, and it was best
to trust to them.
For about an hour longer the CATAPEZ kept wandering about almost
at haphazard, though always getting higher up the mountains.
At last he was obliged to stop short. They were in a narrow valley,
one of those gorges called by the Indians "quebrads," and on reaching
the end, a wall of porphyry rose perpendicularly before them,
and barred further passage. The CATAPEZ, after vain attempts
at finding an opening, dismounted, crossed his arms, and waited.
Glenarvan went up to him and asked if he had lost his way.
"No, your Lordship," was the reply.
"But you are not in the pass of Antuco."
"You are sure you are not mistaken?"
"I am not mistaken. See! there are the remains of a fire left
by the Indians, and there are the marks of the mares and the sheep."
"They must have gone on then."
"Yes, but no more will go; the last earthquake has made
the route impassable."
"To mules," said the Major, "but not to men."
"Ah, that's your concern; I have done all I could.
My mules and myself are at your service to try the other passes
of the Cordilleras."
"And that would delay us?"
"Three days at least."
Glenarvan listened silently. He saw the CATAPEZ was right.
His mules could not go farther. When he talked of returning,
however, Glenarvan appealed to his companions and said:
"Will you go on in spite of all the difficulty?"
"We will follow your Lordship," replied Tom Austin.
"And even precede you," added Paganel. "What is it after all?
We have only to cross the top of the mountain chain, and once over,
nothing can be easier of descent than the slopes we shall find there.
When we get below, we shall find BAQUEANOS, Argentine shepherds,
who will guide us through the Pampas, and swift horses accustomed
to gallop over the plains. Let's go forward then, I say, and without
a moment's hesitation."
"Forward!" they all exclaimed. "You will not go with us, then?"
said Glenarvan to the CATAPEZ.
"I am the muleteer," was the reply.
"As you please," said Glenarvan.
"We can do without him," said Paganel. "On the other side we
shall get back into the road to Antuco, and I'm quite sure I'll
lead you to the foot of the mountain as straight as the best
guide in the Cordilleras."
Accordingly, Glenarvan settled accounts with the CATAPEZ,
and bade farewell to him and his PEONS and mules.
The arms and instruments, and a small stock of provisions were
divided among the seven travelers, and it was unanimously agreed
that the ascent should recommence at once, and, if necessary,
should continue part of the night. There was a very steep winding
path on the left, which the mules never would have attempted.
It was toilsome work, but after two hours' exertion, and a great
deal of roundabout climbing, the little party found themselves
once more in the pass of Antuco.
They were not far now from the highest peak of the Cordilleras,
but there was not the slightest trace of any beaten path.
The entire region had been overturned by recent shocks of earthquake,
and all they could do was to keep on climbing higher and higher.
Paganel was rather disconcerted at finding no way out to the other
side of the chain, and laid his account with having to undergo
great fatigue before the topmost peaks of the Andes could be reached,
for their mean height is between eleven and twelve thousand six
hundred feet. Fortunately the weather was calm and the sky clear,
in addition to the season being favorable, but in Winter,
from May to October, such an ascent would have been impracticable.
The intense cold quickly kills travelers, and those who even manage
to hold out against it fall victims to the violence of the TEMPORALES,
a sort of hurricane peculiar to those regions, which yearly fills
the abysses of the Cordilleras with dead bodies.
They went on toiling steadily upward all night, hoisting themselves
up to almost inaccessible plateaux, and leaping over broad,
deep crevasses. They had no ropes, but arms linked in arms
supplied the lack, and shoulders served for ladders. The strength
of Mulrady and the dexterity of Wilson were taxed heavily now.
These two brave Scots multiplied themselves, so to speak.
Many a time, but for their devotion and courage the small band could
not have gone on. Glenarvan never lost sight of young Robert,
for his age and vivacity made him imprudent. Paganel was a true
Frenchman in his impetuous ardor, and hurried furiously along.
The Major, on the contrary, only went as quick as was necessary,
neither more nor less, climbing without the least apparent exertion.
Perhaps he hardly knew, indeed, that he was climbing at all,
or perhaps he fancied he was descending.
The whole aspect of the region had now completely changed. Huge blocks
of glittering ice, of a bluish tint on some of the declivities,
stood up on all sides, reflecting the early light of morn.
The ascent became very perilous. They were obliged to reconnoiter
carefully before making a single step, on account of the crevasses.
Wilson took the lead, and tried the ground with his feet.
His companions followed exactly in his footprints, lowering their voices
to a whisper, as the least sound would disturb the currents of air,
and might cause the fall of the masses of snow suspended in the air
seven or eight hundred feet above their heads.
They had come now to the region of shrubs and bushes,
which, higher still, gave place to grasses and cacti.
At 11,000 feet all trace of vegetation had disappeared.
They had only stopped once, to rest and snatch a hurried meal to
V. IV Verne recruit their strength. With superhuman courage,
the ascent was then resumed amid increasing dangers and difficulties.
They were forced to bestride sharp peaks and leap over chasms
so deep that they did not dare to look down them. In many places
wooden crosses marked the scene of some great catastrophes.
About two o'clock they came to an immense barren plain, without a
sign of vegetation. The air was dry and the sky unclouded blue.
At this elevation rain is unknown, and vapors only condense into
snow or hail. Here and there peaks of porphyry or basalt pierced
through the white winding-sheet like the bones of a skeleton;
and at intervals fragments of quartz or gneiss, loosened by the action
of the air, fell down with a faint, dull sound, which in a denser
atmosphere would have been almost imperceptible.
However, in spite of their courage, the strength of the little band was
giving way. Glenarvan regretted they had gone so far into the interior
of the mountain when he saw how exhausted his men had become.
Young Robert held out manfully, but he could not go much farther.
At three o'clock Glenarvan stopped and said:
"We must rest."
He knew if he did not himself propose it, no one else would.
"Rest?" rejoined Paganel; "we have no place of shelter."
"It is absolutely necessary, however, if it were only for Robert."
"No, no," said the courageous lad; "I can still walk; don't stop."
"You shall be carried, my boy; but we must get to the other side
of the Cordilleras, cost what it may. There we may perhaps find
some hut to cover us. All I ask is a two hours' longer march."
"Are you all of the same opinion?" said Glenarvan.
"Yes," was the unanimous reply: and Mulrady added, "I'll carry the boy."
The march eastward was forthwith resumed. They had a
frightful height to climb yet to gain the topmost peaks.
The rarefaction of the atmosphere produced that painful oppression
known by the name of PUNA. Drops of blood stood on the gums
and lips, and respiration became hurried and difficult.
However strong the will of these brave men might be,
the time came at last when their physical powers failed,
and vertigo, that terrible malady in the mountains,
destroyed not only their bodily strength but their moral energy.
Falls became frequent, and those who fell could not rise again,
but dragged themselves along on their knees.
But just as exhaustion was about to make short work of any further ascent,
and Glenarvan's heart began to sink as he thought of the snow lying far
as the eye could reach, and of the intense cold, and saw the shadow
of night fast overspreading the desolate peaks, and knew they had
not a roof to shelter them, suddenly the Major stopped and said,
in a calm voice, "A hut!"
CHAPTER XIII A SUDDEN DESCENT
ANYONE else but McNabbs might have passed the hut a hundred times,
and gone all round it, and even over it without suspecting its existence.
It was covered with snow, and scarcely distinguishable from
the surrounding rocks; but Wilson and Mulrady succeeded in digging
it out and clearing the opening after half an hour's hard work,
to the great joy of the whole party, who eagerly took possession of it.
They found it was a CASUCHA, constructed by the Indians,
made of ADOBES, a species of bricks baked in the sun.
Its form was that of a cube, 12 feet on each side, and it
stood on a block of basalt. A stone stair led up to the door,
the only opening; and narrow as this door was, the hurricane,
and snow, and hail found their way in when the TEMPORALES
were unchained in the mountains.
Ten people could easily find room in it, and though the walls might be
none too water-tight in the rainy season, at this time of the year,
at any rate, it was sufficient protection against the intense cold,
which, according to the thermometer, was ten degrees below zero.
Besides, there was a sort of fireplace in it, with a chimney of bricks,
badly enough put together, certainly, but still it allowed of a
fire being lighted.
"This will shelter us, at any rate," said Glenarvan, "even if
it is not very comfortable. Providence has led us to it,
and we can only be thankful."
"Why, it is a perfect palace, I call it," said Paganel;
"we only want flunkeys and courtiers. We shall do capital here."
"Especially when there is a good fire blazing on the hearth,
for we are quite as cold as we are hungry. For my part, I would
rather see a good faggot just now than a slice of venison."
"Well, Tom, we'll try and get some combustible or other," said Paganel.
"Combustibles on the top of the Cordilleras!" exclaimed Mulrady,
in a dubious tone.
"Since there is a chimney in the CASUCHA," said the Major,
"the probability is that we shall find something to burn in it."
"Our friend McNabbs is right," said Glenarvan. "Get everything
in readiness for supper, and I'll go out and turn woodcutter."
"Wilson and I will go with you," said Paganel.
"Do you want me?" asked Robert, getting up.
"No, my brave boy, rest yourself. You'll be a man, when others
are only children at your age," replied Glenarvan.
On reaching the little mound of porphyry, Glenarvan and his
two companions left the CASUCHA. In spite of the perfect
calmness of the atmosphere, the cold was stinging.
Paganel consulted his barometer, and found that the depression
of the mercury corresponded to an elevation of 11,000 feet,
only 910 meters lower than Mont Blanc. But if these mountains
had presented the difficulties of the giant of the Swiss Alps,
not one of the travelers could have crossed the great chain
of the New World.
On reaching a little mound of porphyry, Glenarvan and Paganel
stopped to gaze about them and scan the horizon on all sides.
They were now on the summit of the Nevadas of the Cordilleras,
and could see over an area of forty miles. The valley of the
Colorado was already sunk in shadow, and night was fast drawing
her mantle over the eastern slopes of the Andes. The western
side was illumined by the rays of the setting sun, and peaks
and glaciers flashed back his golden beams with dazzling radiance.
On the south the view was magnificent. Across the wild valley
of the Torbido, about two miles distant, rose the volcano
of Antuco. The mountain roared like some enormous monster,
and vomited red smoke, mingled with torrents of sooty flame.
The surrounding peaks appeared on fire. Showers of red-hot stones,
clouds of reddish vapor and rockets of lava, all combined,
presented the appearance of glowing sparkling streams.
The splendor of the spectacle increased every instant
as night deepened, and the whole sky became lighted up with
a dazzling reflection of the blazing crater, while the sun,
gradually becoming shorn of his sunset glories, disappeared like
a star lost in the distant darkness of the horizon.
Paganel and Glenarvan would have remained long enough gazing
at the sublime struggle between the fires of earth and heaven,
if the more practical Wilson had not reminded them of the business
on hand. There was no wood to be found, however, but fortunately
the rocks were covered with a poor, dry species of lichen.
Of this they made an ample provision, as well as of a plant
called LLARETTA, the root of which burns tolerably well.
This precious combustible was carried back to the CASUCHA
and heaped up on the hearth. It was a difficult matter
to kindle it, though, and still more to keep it alight.
The air was so rarefied that there was scarcely oxygen enough
in it to support combustion. At least, this was the reason
assigned by the Major.
"By way of compensation, however," he added, "water will boil
at less than 100 degrees heat. It will come to the point
of ebullition before 99 degrees."
McNabbs was right, as the thermometer proved, for it was plunged into the
kettle when the water boiled, and the mercury only rose to 99 degrees.
Coffee was soon ready, and eagerly gulped down by everybody.
The dry meat certainly seemed poor fare, and Paganel couldn't help saying:
"I tell you what, some grilled llama wouldn't be bad with this, would it?
They say that the llama is substitute for the ox and the sheep,
and I should like to know if it is, in an alimentary respect."
"What!" replied the Major. "You're not content with your supper,
most learned Paganel."
"Enchanted with it, my brave Major; still I must confess I
should not say no to a dish of llama."
"You are a Sybarite."
"I plead guilty to the charge. But come, now, though you call me that,
you wouldn't sulk at a beefsteak yourself, would you?"
"And if you were asked to lie in wait for a llama, notwithstanding the
cold and the darkness, you would do it without the least hesitation?"
"Of course; and if it will give you the slightest pleasure--"
His companions had hardly time to thank him for his obliging good nature,
when distant and prolonged howls broke on their ear, plainly not
proceeding from one or two solitary animals, but from a whole troop,
and one, moreover, that was rapidly approaching.
Providence had sent them a supper, as well as led them to a hut.
This was the geographer's conclusion; but Glenarvan damped his joy
somewhat by remarking that the quadrupeds of the Cordilleras are
never met with in such a high latitude.
"Then where can these animals come from?" asked Tom Austin. "Don't you
hear them getting nearer!"
"An avalanche," suggested Mulrady.
"Impossible," returned Paganel. "That is regular howling."
"Let us go out and see," said Glenarvan.
"Yes, and be ready for hunting," replied McNabbs, arming himself
with his carbine.
They all rushed forthwith out of the CASUCHA. Night had
completely set in, dark and starry. The moon, now in her
last quarter, had not yet risen. The peaks on the north and
east had disappeared from view, and nothing was visible save
the fantastic SILHOUETTE of some towering rocks here and there.
The howls, and clearly the howls of terrified animals,
were redoubled. They proceeded from that part of the Cordilleras
which lay in darkness. What could be going on there?
Suddenly a furious avalanche came down, an avalanche of living
animals mad with fear. The whole plateau seemed to tremble.
There were hundreds, perhaps thousands, of these animals,
and in spite of the rarefied atmosphere, their noise was deafening.
Were they wild beasts from the Pampas, or herds of llamas and vicunas?
Glenarvan, McNabbs, Robert, Austin, and the two sailors,
had just time to throw themselves flat on the ground before
they swept past like a whirlwind, only a few paces distant.
Paganel, who had remained standing, to take advantage of his
peculiar powers of sight, was knocked down in a twinkling.
At the same moment the report of firearms was heard.
The Major had fired, and it seemed to him that an animal had fallen
close by, and that the whole herd, yelling louder than ever,
had rushed down and disappeared among the declivities lighted
up by the reflection of the volcano.
"Ah, I've got them," said a voice, the voice of Paganel.
"Got what?" asked Glenarvan.
"My spectacles," was the reply. "One might expect to lose that much
in such a tumult as this."
"You are not wounded, I hope?"
"No, only knocked down; but by what?"
"By this," replied the Major, holding up the animal he had killed.
They all hastened eagerly into the hut, to examine McNabbs'
prize by the light of the fire.
It was a pretty creature, like a small camel without a hump.
The head was small and the body flattened, the legs were long and slender,
the skin fine, and the hair the color of _cafe au lait_.
Paganel had scarcely looked at it before he exclaimed, "A guanaco!"
"What sort of an animal is that?" asked Glenarvan.
"One you can eat."
"And it is good savory meat, I assure you; a dish of Olympus! I knew
we should have fresh meat for supper, and such meat!
But who is going to cut up the beast?"
"I will," said Wilson.
"Well, I'll undertake to cook it," said Paganel.
"Can you cook, then, Monsieur Paganel?" asked Robert.
"I should think so, my boy. I'm a Frenchman, and in every Frenchman
there is a cook."
Five minutes afterward Paganel began to grill large slices
of venison on the embers made by the use of the LLARETTAS,
and in about ten minutes a dish was ready, which he served up
to his companions by the tempting name of guanaco cutlets.
No one stood on ceremony, but fell to with a hearty good will.
To the absolute stupefaction of the geographer, however,
the first mouthful was greeted with a general grimace,
and such exclamations as--"Tough!" "It is horrible."
"It is not eatable."
The poor SAVANT was obliged to own that his cutlets could not be relished,
even by hungry men. They began to banter him about his "Olympian dish,"
and indulge in jokes at his expense; but all he cared about was to find
out how it happened that the flesh of the guanaco, which was certainly
good and eatable food, had turned out so badly in his hands.
At last light broke in on him, and he called out:
"I see through it now! Yes, I see through it. I have found
out the secret now."
"The meat was too long kept, was it?" asked McNabbs, quietly.
"No, but the meat had walked too much. How could I have forgotten that?"
"What do you mean?" asked Tom Austin.
"I mean this: the guanaco is only good for eating when it is
killed in a state of rest. If it has been long hunted, and gone
over much ground before it is captured, it is no longer eatable.
I can affirm the fact by the mere taste, that this animal has
come a great distance, and consequently the whole herd has."
"You are certain of this?" asked Glenarvan.
"But what could have frightened the creatures so, and driven them
from their haunts, when they ought to have been quietly sleeping?"
"That's a question, my dear Glenarvan, I could not possibly answer.
Take my advice, and let us go to sleep without troubling our heads
about it. I say, Major, shall we go to sleep?"
"Yes, we'll go to sleep, Paganel."
Each one, thereupon, wrapped himself up in his poncho, and the fire
was made up for the night.
Loud snores in every tune and key soon resounded from all sides of
the hut, the deep bass contribution of Paganel completing the harmony.
But Glenarvan could not sleep. Secret uneasiness kept
him in a continual state of wakefulness. His thoughts
reverted involuntarily to those frightened animals flying
in one common direction, impelled by one common terror.
They could not be pursued by wild beasts, for at such an elevation
there were almost none to be met with, and of hunters still fewer.
What terror then could have driven them among the precipices
of the Andes? Glenarvan felt a presentiment of approaching danger.
But gradually he fell into a half-drowsy state, and his apprehensions
were lulled. Hope took the place of fear. He saw himself on the morrow
on the plains of the Andes, where the search would actually commence,
and perhaps success was close at hand. He thought of Captain Grant
and his two sailors, and their deliverance from cruel bondage.
As these visions passed rapidly through his mind, every now and then
he was roused by the crackling of the fire, or sparks flying out,
or some little jet of flame would suddenly flare up and illumine
the faces of his slumbering companions.
Then his presentiments returned in greater strength than before,
and he listened anxiously to the sounds outside the hut.
At certain intervals he fancied he could hear rumbling noises
in the distance, dull and threatening like the mutter-ings
of thunder before a storm. There surely must be a storm raging
down below at the foot of the mountains. He got up and went
out to see.
The moon was rising. The atmosphere was pure and calm.
Not a cloud visible either above or below. Here and there was
a passing reflection from the flames of Antuco, but neither storm
nor lightning, and myriads of bright stars studded the zenith.
Still the rumbling noises continued. They seemed to meet together
and cross the chain of the Andes. Glenarvan returned to the CASUCHA
more uneasy than ever, questioning within himself as to the
connection between these sounds and the flight of the guanacos.
He looked at his watch and found the time was about two in the morning.
As he had no certainty, however, of any immediate danger,
he did not wake his companions, who were sleeping soundly
after their fatigue, and after a little dozed off himself,
and slumbered heavily for some hours.
All of a sudden a violent crash made him start to his feet.
A deafening noise fell on his ear like the roar of artillery.
He felt the ground giving way beneath him, and the CASUCHA
rocked to and fro, and opened.
He shouted to his companions, but they were already awake,
and tumbling pell-mell over each other. They were being rapidly dragged
down a steep declivity. Day dawned and revealed a terrible scene.
The form of the mountains changed in an instant. Cones were cut off.
Tottering peaks disappeared as if some trap had opened at their base.
Owing to a peculiar phenomenon of the Cordilleras, an enormous mass,
many miles in extent, had been displaced entirely, and was speeding
down toward the plain.
"An earthquake!" exclaimed Paganel. He was not mistaken.
It was one of those cataclysms frequent in Chili, and in
this very region where Copiapo had been twice destroyed,
and Santiago four times laid in ruins in fourteen years.
This region of the globe is so underlaid with volcanic fires
and the volcanoes of recent origin are such insufficient
safety valves for the subterranean vapors, that shocks are of
frequent occurrence, and are called by the people TREMBLORES.
The plateau to which the seven men were clinging, holding on by tufts
of lichen, and giddy and terrified in the extreme, was rushing down
the declivity with the swiftness of an express, at the rate of fifty miles
an hour. Not a cry was possible, nor an attempt to get off or stop.
They could not even have heard themselves speak. The internal rumblings,
the crash of the avalanches, the fall of masses of granite and basalt,
and the whirlwind of pulverized snow, made all communication impossible.
Sometimes they went perfectly smoothly along without jolts or jerks,
and sometimes on the contrary, the plateau would reel and roll like a ship
in a storm, coasting past abysses in which fragments of the mountain
were falling, tearing up trees by the roots, and leveling, as if with
the keen edge of an immense scythe, every projection of the declivity.
How long this indescribable descent would last, no one
could calculate, nor what it would end in ultimately.
None of the party knew whether the rest were still alive, whether one
or another were not already lying in the depths of some abyss.
Almost breathless with the swift motion, frozen with the cold air,
which pierced them through, and blinded with the whirling snow,
they gasped for breath, and became exhausted and nearly inanimate,
only retaining their hold of the rocks by a powerful instinct
of self-preservation. Suddenly a tremendous shock pitched them
right off, and sent them rolling to the very foot of the mountain.
The plateau had stopped.
For some minutes no one stirred. At last one of the party
picked himself up, and stood on his feet, stunned by the shock,
but still firm on his legs. This was the Major. He shook
off the blinding snow and looked around him. His companions
lay in a close circle like the shots from a gun that has just
been discharged, piled one on top of another.
The Major counted them. All were there except one--that one
was Robert Grant.
CHAPTER XIV PROVIDENTIALLY RESCUED
THE eastern side of the Cordilleras of the Andes consists of a
succession of lengthened declivities, which slope down almost
insensibly to the plain. The soil is carpeted with rich herbage,
and adorned with magnificent trees, among which, in great numbers,
were apple-trees, planted at the time of the conquest, and golden
with fruit. There were literally, perfect forests of these.
This district was, in fact, just a corner of fertile Normandy.
The sudden transition from a desert to an oasis, from snowy peaks
to verdant plains, from Winter to Summer, can not fail to strike
the traveler's eye.
The ground, moreover, had recovered its immobility.
The trembling had ceased, though there was little doubt the forces
below the surface were carrying on their devastating work further on,
for shocks of earthquake are always occurring in some part or other
of the Andes. This time the shock had been one of extreme violence.
The outline of the mountains was wholly altered, and the Pampas
guides would have sought vainly for the accustomed landmarks.
A magnificent day had dawned. The sun was just rising from his ocean bed,
and his bright rays streamed already over the Argentine plains,
and ran across to the Atlantic. It was about eight o'clock.
Lord Glenarvan and his companions were gradually restored to animation by
the Major's efforts. They had been completely stunned, but had sustained
no injury whatever. The descent of the Cordilleras was accomplished;
and as Dame Nature had conveyed them at her own expense, they could
only have praised her method of locomotion if one of their number,
and that one the feeblest and youngest, the child of the party,
had not been missing at the roll call.
The brave boy was beloved by everybody. Paganel was particularly
attached to him, and so was the Major, with all his apparent coldness.
As for Glenarvan, he was in absolute despair when he heard
of his disappearance, and pictured to himself the child lying
in some deep abyss, wildly crying for succor.
"We must go and look for him, and look till we find him,"
he exclaimed, almost unable to keep back his tears.
"We cannot leave him to his fate. Every valley and
precipice and abyss must be searched through and through.
I will have a rope fastened round my waist, and go down myself.
I insist upon it; you understand; I insist upon it.
Heaven grant Robert may be still alive! If we lose the boy,
how could we ever dare to meet the father? What right have we
to save the captain at the cost of his son's life?"
Glenarvan's companions heard him in silence. He sought to read
hope in their eyes, but they did not venture to meet his gaze.
At last he said,
"Well, you hear what I say, but you make no response.
Do you mean to tell me that you have no hope--not the slightest?"
Again there was silence, till McNabbs asked:
"Which of you can recollect when Robert disappeared?"
No one could say.
"Well, then," resumed the Major, "you know this at any rate.
Who was the child beside during our descent of the Cordilleras?"
"Beside me," replied Wilson.
"Very well. Up to what moment did you see him beside you?
Try if you can remember."
"All that I can recollect is that Robert Grant was still by my side,
holding fast by a tuft of lichen, less than two minutes before the shock
which finished our descent."
"Less than two minutes? Mind what you are saying;
I dare say a minute seemed a very long time to you.
Are you sure you are not making a mistake?"
"I don't think I am. No; it was just about two minutes,
as I tell you."
"Very well, then; and was Robert on your right or left?"
"On my left. I remember that his poncho brushed past my face."
"And with regard to us, how were you placed?"
"On the left also."
"Then Robert must have disappeared on this side," said the Major,
turning toward the mountain and pointing toward the right:
"and I should judge," he added, "considering the time that
has elapsed, that the spot where he fell is about two miles up.
Between that height and the ground is where we must search,
dividing the different zones among us, and it is there we
shall find him."
Not another word was spoken. The six men commenced their explorations,
keeping constantly to the line they had made in their descent,
examining closely every fissure, and going into the very depths
of the abysses, choked up though they partly were with fragments
of the plateau; and more than one came out again with garments torn
to rags, and feet and hands bleeding. For many long hours these brave
fellows continued their search without dreaming of taking rest.
But all in vain. The child had not only met his death on the mountain,
but found a grave which some enormous rock had sealed forever.
About one o'clock, Glenarvan and his companions met again in the valley.
Glenarvan was completely crushed with grief. He scarcely spoke.
The only words that escaped his lips amid his sighs were,
"I shall not go away! I shall not go away!"
No one of the party but could enter into his feeling, and respect it.
"Let us wait," said Paganel to the Major and Tom Austin. "We will
take a little rest, and recruit our strength. We need it anyway,
either to prolong our search or continue our route."
"Yes; and, as Edward wishes it, we will rest. He has still hope,
but what is it he hopes?"
"Who knows!" said Tom Austin.
"Poor Robert!" replied Paganel, brushing away a tear.
The valley was thickly wooded, and the Major had no difficulty in finding
a suitable place of encampment. He chose a clump of tall carob trees,
under which they arranged their few belongings--few indeed, for all they
had were sundry wraps and fire-arms, and a little dried meat and rice.
Not far off there was a RIO, which supplied them with water, though it
was still somewhat muddy after the disturbance of the avalanche.
Mulrady soon had a fire lighted on the grass, and a warm refreshing
beverage to offer his master. But Glenarvan refused to touch it,
and lay stretched on his poncho in a state of absolute prostration.
So the day passed, and night came on, calm and peaceful as the preceding
had been. While his companions were lying motionless, though wide awake,
Glenarvan betook himself once more to the slopes of the Cordilleras,
listening intently in hope that some cry for help would fall
upon his ear. He ventured far up in spite of his being alone,
straining his ear with painful eagerness to catch the faintest sound,
and calling aloud in an agony of despair.
But he heard nothing save the beatings of his own heart,
though he wandered all night on the mountain. Sometimes the Major
followed him, and sometimes Paganel, ready to lend a helping
hand among the slippery peaks and dangerous precipices among
which he was dragged by his rash and useless imprudence.
All his efforts were in vain, however, and to his repeated
cries of "Robert, Robert!" echo was the only response.
Day dawned, and it now became a matter of necessity to go and bring
back the poor Lord from the distant plateau, even against his will.
His despair was terrible. Who could dare to speak of quitting this
fatal valley? Yet provisions were done, and Argentine guides and
horses were not far off to lead them to the Pampas. To go back would
be more difficult than to go forward. Besides, the Atlantic Ocean
was the appointed meeting place with the DUNCAN. These were strong
reasons against any long delay; indeed it was best for all parties
to continue the route as soon as possible.
McNabbs undertook the task of rousing Lord Glenarvan from his grief.
For a long time his cousin seemed not to hear him. At last he shook
his head, and said, almost in-audibly:
"Did you say we must start?"
"Yes, we must start."
"Wait one hour longer."
"Yes, we'll wait another," replied the Major.
The hour slipped away, and again Glenarvan begged for longer grace.
To hear his imploring tones, one might have thought him a criminal
begging a respite. So the day passed on till it was almost noon.
McNabbs hesitated now no longer, but, acting on the advice of the rest,
told his cousin that start they must, for all their lives depended
on prompt action.
"Yes, yes!" replied Glenarvan. "Let us start, let us start!"
But he spoke without looking at McNabbs. His gaze was
fixed intently on a certain dark speck in the heavens.
Suddenly he exclaimed, extending his arm, and keeping it motionless,
as if petrified:
"There! there! Look! look!"
All eyes turned immediately in the direction indicated so imperiously.
The dark speck was increasing visibly. It was evidently some bird
hovering above them.
"A condor," said Paganel.
"Yes, a condor," replied Glenarvan. "Who knows? He is coming down--
he is gradually getting lower! Let us wait."
Paganel was not mistaken, it was assuredly a condor.
This magnificent bird is the king of the Southern Andes, and was
formerly worshiped by the Incas. It attains an extraordinary
development in those regions. Its strength is prodigious.
It has frequently driven oxen over the edge of precipices down into
the depths of abysses. It seizes sheep, and kids, and young calves,
browsing on the plains, and carries them off to inaccessible heights.
It hovers in the air far beyond the utmost limits of human sight,
and its powers of vision are so great that it can discern
the smallest objects on the earth beneath.
What had this condor discovered then? Could it be the corpse
of Robert Grant? "Who knows?" repeated Glenarvan, keeping his
eye immovably fixed on the bird. The enormous creature was
fast approaching, sometimes hovering for awhile with outspread wings,
and sometimes falling with the swiftness of inert bodies in space.
Presently he began to wheel round in wide circles. They could
see him distinctly. He measured more than fifteen feet, and his
powerful wings bore him along with scarcely the slightest effort,
for it is the prerogative of large birds to fly with calm majesty,
while insects have to beat their wings a thousand times a second.
The Major and Wilson had seized their carbines, but Glenarvan
stopped them by a gesture. The condor was encircling in his
flight a sort of inaccessible plateau about a quarter of a mile
up the side of the mountain. He wheeled round and round with
dazzling rapidity, opening and shutting his formidable claws,
and shaking his cartilaginous carbuncle, or comb.
"It is there, there!" exclaimed Glenarvan.
A sudden thought flashed across his mind, and with a terrible cry,
he called out, "Fire! fire! Oh, suppose Robert were still alive!
But it was too late. The condor had dropped out of sight behind
the crags. Only a second passed, a second that seemed an age,
and the enormous bird reappeared, carrying a heavy load and flying
at a slow rate.
A cry of horror rose on all sides. It was a human body the condor
had in his claws, dangling in the air, and apparently lifeless--
it was Robert Grant. The bird had seized him by his clothes, and had
him hanging already at least one hundred and fifty feet in the air.
He had caught sight of the travelers, and was flapping his
wings violently, endeavoring to escape with his heavy prey.
"Oh! would that Robert were dashed to pieces against the rocks,
rather than be a--"
He did not finish his sentence, but seizing Wilson's carbine,
took aim at the condor. His arm was too trembling, however, to keep
the weapon steady.
"Let me do it," said the Major. And with a calm eye,
and sure hands and motionless body, he aimed at the bird,
now three hundred feet above him in the air.
But before he had pulled the trigger the report of a gun resounded from
the bottom of the valley. A white smoke rose from between two masses
of basalt, and the condor, shot in the head, gradually turned over and
began to fall, supported by his great wings spread out like a parachute.
He had not let go his prey, but gently sank down with it on the ground,
about ten paces from the stream.
"We've got him, we've got him," shouted Glenarvan; and without
waiting to see where the shot so providentially came from,
he rushed toward the condor, followed by his companions.
When they reached the spot the bird was dead, and the body
of Robert was quite concealed beneath his mighty wings.
Glenarvan flung himself on the corpse, and dragging it from
the condor's grasp, placed it flat on the grass, and knelt
down and put his ear to the heart.
But a wilder cry of joy never broke from human lips, than Glenarvan
uttered the next moment, as he started to his feet and exclaimed:
"He is alive! He is still alive!"
The boy's clothes were stripped off in an instant, and his face
bathed with cold water. He moved slightly, opened his eyes,
looked round and murmured, "Oh, my Lord! Is it you!"
he said; "my father!"
Glenarvan could not reply. He was speechless with emotion,
and kneeling down by the side of the child so miraculously saved,
burst into tears.
CHAPTER XV THALCAVE
ROBERT had no sooner escaped one terrible danger than he ran
the risk of another scarcely less formidable. He was almost
torn to pieces by his friends, for the brave fellows were so
overjoyed at the sight of him, that in spite of his weak state,
none of them would be satisfied without
V. IV Verne giving him a hug. However, it seemed as if good rough
hugging did not hurt sick people; at any rate it did not hurt Robert,
but quite the contrary.
But the first joy of deliverance over, the next thought was
who was the deliverer? Of course it was the Major who suggested
looking for him, and he was not far off, for about fifty paces
from the RIO a man of very tall stature was seen standing
motionless on the lowest crags at the foot of the mountain.
A long gun was lying at his feet.
He had broad shoulders, and long hair bound together with leather thongs.
He was over six feet in height. His bronzed face was red between the eyes
and mouth, black by the lower eyelids, and white on the forehead.
He wore the costume of the Patagonians on the frontiers, consisting of
a splendid cloak, ornamented with scarlet arabesques, made of the skins
of the guanaco, sewed together with ostrich tendons, and with the silky
wool turned up on the edge. Under this mantle was a garment of fox-skin,
fastened round the waist, and coming down to a point in front.
A little bag hung from his belt, containing colors for painting his face.
His boots were pieces of ox hide, fastened round the ankles
by straps, across.
This Patagonian had a splendid face, indicating real intelligence,
notwithstanding the medley of colors by which it was disfigured.
His waiting attitude was full of dignity; indeed, to see him standing
grave and motionless on his pedestal of rocks, one might have taken
him for a statue of _sang-froid_.
As soon as the Major perceived him, he pointed him out to Glenarvan,
who ran toward him immediately. The Patagonian came two steps
forward to meet him, and Glenarvan caught hold of his hand
and pressed it in his own. It was impossible to mistake
the meaning of the action, for the noble face of the Scotch
lord so beamed with gratitude that no words were needed.
The stranger bowed slightly in return, and said a few words
that neither Glenarvan nor the Major could understand.
The Patagonian surveyed them attentively for a few minutes,
and spoke again in another language. But this second idiom
was no more intelligible than the first. Certain words,
however, caught Glenarvan's ear as sounding like Spanish,
a few sentences of which he could speak.
ESPANOL?" he asked.
The Patagonian nodded in reply, a movement of the head which has
an affirmative significance among all nations.
"That's good!" said the Major. "Our friend Paganel will be
the very man for him. It is lucky for us that he took it
into his head to learn Spanish."
Paganel was called forthwith. He came at once, and saluted the stranger
with all the grace of a Frenchman. But his compliments were lost
on the Patagonian, for he did not understand a single syllable.
However, on being told how things stood, he began in Spanish, and opening
his mouth as wide as he could, the better to articulate, said:
"_Vos sois um homen de bem_." (You are a brave man.)
The native listened, but made no reply.
"He doesn't understand," said the geographer.
"Perhaps you haven't the right accent," suggested the Major.
"That's just it! Confound the accent!"
Once more Paganel repeated his compliment, but with no better success.
"I'll change the phrase," he said; and in slow, deliberate tones
he went on, "_Sam duvida um Patagao_" (A Patagonian, undoubtedly).
No response still.
"DIZEIME!" said Paganel (Answer me).
But no answer came.
"_Vos compriendeis?_" (Do you understand?) shouted Paganel,
at the very top of his voice, as if he would burst his throat.
Evidently the Indian did not understand, for he replied in Spanish,
"_No comprendo_" (I do not understand).
It was Paganel's turn now to be amazed. He pushed his spectacles
right down over his nose, as if greatly irritated, and said,
"I'll be hanged if I can make out one word of his infernal patois.
It is Araucanian, that's certain!"
"Not a bit of it!" said Glenarvan. "It was Spanish he spoke."
And addressing the Patagonian, he repeated the word, "ESPANOL?"
"_Si, si_" (yes, yes) replied the Indian.
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