The Treasure of the Incas
G. A. Henty
Part 2 out of 7
"Now, señor," Dias said, "as we have settled the main point, let us talk
over the arrangements. What is the weight of your baggage?"
"Not more than a mule could carry. Of course we shall sling our rifles
over our shoulders. We have a good stock of ammunition for them and for
our pistols. We shall each take two suits of clothes besides those we
wear, and a case of spirits in the event of accident or illness. We shall
each have three flannel shirts, stockings, and so on, but certainly
everything belonging to us personally would not mount up to more than a
hundred and fifty pounds. We should, of course, require a few cooking
utensils, tin plates, mugs, and cups. What should we need besides these?"
"A tent and bedding, señor. We should only have, at the start, to carry
such provisions as we could not buy. When we are beyond the range of
villages in the forests we might often be weeks without being able to buy
anything; still, we should probably be able to shoot game for food. We
should find fruits, but flour we shall have to take with us from the last
town we pass through before we strike into the mountains, and dried meat
for an emergency; and it would be well to have a bag of grain, so that we
could give a handful or so to each of the mules. I am glad you have
brought some good spirits--we shall need it in the swamps by the rivers.
Your tea and coffee will save your having to buy them here, but you will
want some sugar. We must take two picks and a shovel, a hammer for
breaking up ore, a small furnace, twenty crucibles and bellows, and a few
other things for aiding to melt the ore. You would want for the journey
five baggage mules, and, of course, three riding mules. I could hardly
manage them, even with aid from you, in very bad places, and I would
rather not take any strange man with me on such business as we have in
hand. But some assistance I must have, and I will take with me my nephew
José. He has lost his father, and I have taken him as my assistant, and
shall train him to be a guide such as I am. He is but fifteen, but he
already knows something of his business, and such an expedition will teach
him more than he would learn in ten years on the roads."
"That would certainly be far better than having a muleteer whom you could
not trust, Dias. My brother and myself will be ready to lend you a hand
whenever you want help of any kind. We have not had any experience with
mules, but sailors can generally turn their hands to anything. Now, how
about the eight mules?"
"I have five of my own, as good mules as are to be found in the province;
we shall have to buy the three others for riding. Of course I have saddles
"But you will want four for riding."
"No, señor; yours and the one I ride will be enough. José at times will
take my place, and can when he likes perch on one of the most lightly
"How much will the riding mules cost?"
"I can get fair ones for about fifty dollars apiece; trade is slack at
present owing to the troubles, and there are many who would be glad to get
rid of one or two of their train."
"And now, Dias, we come to the very important question, what are we to pay
you for yourself, your nephew, and the five mules--say by the month?"
"I have been thinking the matter over, señor--I have talked it over with
my wife"--he paused for a moment, and then said: "She wishes to go with
Harry opened his eyes in surprise. "But surely, Dias, you could not think
of taking her on such an expedition, where, as you say yourself, you may
meet with many grave dangers and difficulties?"
"A woman can support them as well as a man," Dias said quietly. "My wife
has more than once accompanied me on journeys when I have been working on
contract. We have been married for fifteen years, and she has no children
to keep her at home. She is accustomed to my being away for weeks. This
would be for months, perhaps for two years. I made no secret to her that
we might meet with many dangers. She says they will be no greater for her
than for me. At first she tried to dissuade me from going for so long a
time; but when I told her that you were sent me by the gentleman who saved
my life a year after I married her, and that he had recommended you to me
as standing to him almost in the relation of a son, and I therefore felt
bound to carry his wishes into effect, and so to pay the debt of gratitude
that I owed him, she agreed at once that it was my duty to go and do all
in my power for you, and she prayed me to take her with me. I said that I
would put it before you, señor, and that I must abide by your decision."
"By all means bring her with you, Dias. If you and she are both willing to
share the dangers we should meet with, surely we cannot object in any
"Thank you, señor; you will find her useful. You have already seen that
she can cook well; and if we have José to look after the animals when we
are searching among the hills, you will find it not unpleasant, when we
return of an evening, to find a hot supper ready for us."
"That is quite true, and I am sure we shall find your wife a great
acquisition to our party. The only difference will be, that instead of one
large tent we must have two small ones--it does not matter how small, so
long as we can crawl into them and they are long enough for us to lie
down. And now about payment?"
"I shall not overcharge you," Dias said with a smile. "If my wife had
remained behind I must have asked for money to maintain her while we were
away. It would not have been much, for she has her garden and her house,
and there is a bag hid away with my savings, so that if she had been
widowed she could still live in the house until she chose someone else to
share it with her; she is but thirty-two, and is as comely as when I first
married her. However, as she is going with us, there will be no need to
trouble about her. If misfortune comes upon us and I am killed, it is
likely she will be killed also. We shall have no expenses on the journey,
as you will pay for food for ourselves and the animals. You will remember,
señor, that I make this journey not as a business matter--no money would
buy from me any information that I may have as to hidden mines or
treasures,--I do it to repay a debt of gratitude to my preserver, Don
Henry Barnett, and partly because I am sure that I shall like you and your
brother as I did him. I shall aid you as far as lies in my power in the
object for which you are undertaking this journey. Therefore until it is
finished there shall be no talk about payment. You may have many expenses
beyond what you calculate upon. If we meet with no success, and return to
Lima empty-handed, I shall have lost nothing. I shall have had no expenses
at home, my wife and I will have fed at your expense, and José will have
learned so much that he would be as good a guide as any in the country.
You could then give me the three mules you will buy, to take the place of
any of mine that may have perished on the journey, and should you have
them to spare, I will take a hundred dollars as a _bueno mano_. If we
succeed, and you discover a rich mine or a hidden treasure, you shall then
pay me what it pleases you. Is it a bargain?"
"The bargain you propose is ridiculously one-sided, Dias, and I don't see
how I could possibly accept the offer you make to me."
"Those are my terms, señor," Dias said simply, "to take or to leave."
"Then I cannot but accept them, and I thank you most heartily;" and he
held out his hand to Dias, and the Indian grasped it warmly.
"When do you propose we shall start?"
"Will this day week suit you, señor? There are the mules to buy, and the
tents to be made--they should be of vicuña skin with the wool still on,
which, with the leather kept well oiled, will keep out water. We shall
want them in the hills, but we shall sometimes find villages where we can
sleep in shelter."
"Not for us, Dias. Mr. Barnett has told me that the houses are for the
most part alive with fleas, and I should prefer to sleep in a tent,
however small, rather than lie in a bed on the floor of any one of them.
We don't want thick beds, you know--a couple of thicknesses of well-
quilted cotton, say an inch thick each, and two feet wide. You can get
these made for us, no doubt."
The Indian nodded.
"That would be the best for travel; the beds the Peruvian caballeros use
are very thick and bulky."
"You will want two for yourself and your wife, and two for José. By the
by, we shall want a tent for him."
Dias smiled. "It will not be necessary, señor; muleteers are accustomed to
sleep in the open air, and with two thick blankets, and a leathern
coverlet in case of rain, he will be more than comfortable. I shall have
five leather bags made to hold the beds and blankets. But the making of
the beds and tents will take some time--people do not hurry in Lima,--and
there will be the riding saddles and bridles to get, and the provisions. I
do not think we can be ready before another week. It will be well, then,
that you should, before starting away, visit the ruins of Pachacamac. All
travellers go there, and it will seem only natural that you should do so,
for there you will see the style of the buildings, and also the
explorations that were everywhere made by the Spaniards in search of
"Very well, Dias; then this day week we shall be ready to start. However,
I suppose I shall see you every day, and learn how you are getting on with
Bertie had been sitting at the window looking down into the street while
this conversation was going on. "Well, what is it all about?" he asked,
turning round as the Indian left the room. "Is it satisfactory?"
"More than satisfactory," his brother answered. "In the first place his
nephew, a lad of fifteen, who is training as a mule-driver, is going with
us, which is much better than getting an outsider; in the next place his
wife is going with us." "Good gracious!" Bertie exclaimed, "what in the
world shall we do with a woman?"
"Well, I think we shall do very well with her, Bertie; but well or ill she
has to go. She will not let her husband go without her, which is natural
enough, considering how long we shall be away, and that the journey will
be a dangerous one. But really I think she will be an acquisition to the
party. She is bright and pretty, as you no doubt noticed, and what is of
more importance, she is a capital cook."
"She certainly gave us a good meal yesterday," Bertie said, "and though I
could rough it on anything, it is decidedly pleasanter to have a well-
"Well, you see, that is all right."
"And how many mules are we to take?"
"Five for baggage, and three for riding. I have no doubt Dias's wife will
ride behind him, and the boy, when he wants to ride, will perch himself on
one of the baggage mules. Dias has five mules, and we shall only have to
buy the three for riding."
"What is it all going to cost, Harry?" Bertie said when his brother had
told him all the arrangements that had been made. "That is the most
important point after all."
"Well, you will be astonished when I tell you, Bertie, that if we don't
succeed in finding a treasure of any kind I shall only have to pay for the
three riding mules, and the expenses of food and so on, and a hundred
"Twenty pounds!" Bertie said incredulously; "you are joking!"
"No, it is really so; the man said that he considered that in going with
me he is only fulfilling the obligation he is under to Mr. Barnett. Of
course I protested against the terms, and would have insisted upon paying
the ordinary prices, whatever they might be, for his services and the use
of his mules; but he simply said that those were the conditions on which
he was willing to go with me, and that I could take them or leave them, so
I had to accept. I can only hope that we may find some treasure, in which
case only he consented to accept proper payment for his services."
"Well, it is awfully good of him," Bertie said; "though really it doesn't
seem fair that we should be having the services of himself, his wife, his
boy, and his mules for nothing. There is one thing, it will be an extra
inducement to him to try and put us in the way of finding one of those
"I don't think so, Bertie; he said that not for any sum of money whatever
would he do what he is going to do, but simply from gratitude to Barnett.
It is curious how the traditions, or superstitions, or whatever you like
to call them, of the time of the Incas have continued to impress the
Indians, and how they have preserved the secrets confided to their
ancestors. No doubt fear that the Spaniards would force them to work in
the mines till they died has had a great effect in inducing them to
conceal the existence of these places from them. Now that the Spaniards
have been cleared out there is no longer any ground for apprehension of
that kind, but they may still feel that the Peruvians would get the
giant's share in any mine or treasure that might be found, and that the
Indians would, under one pretence or another, be defrauded out of any
share of it. It is not wonderful that it should be so considering how
these poor people have been treated by the whites, and it would really
seem that the way in which Spain has gone to the dogs is a punishment for
her cruelties in South America and the Islands. It may be said that from
the very moment when the gold began to flow the descent of Spain
commenced; in spite of the enormous wealth she acquired she fell gradually
from her position as the greatest power in Europe.
"In 1525, after the battle of Pavia, Spain stood at the height of her
power. Mexico was conquered by Cortez seven years before, Peru in 1531,
and the wealth of those countries began to flow into Spain in enormous
quantities, and yet her decline followed speedily. She was bearded by our
bucaneers among the Islands and on the western coast; the Netherlands
revolted, and after fierce fighting threw oft her yoke; the battle of Ivry
and the accession of Henry of Navarre all but destroyed her influence in
France; the defeat of the Armada and the capture of Cadiz struck a fatal
blow both to her power on the sea and to her commerce, and within a
century of the conquest of Peru, Spain was already an enfeebled and
decaying power. It would almost seem that the discoveries of Columbus,
from which such great things were hoped, proved in the long run the
greatest misfortune that ever befell Spain."
"It does look like it, Harry; however, we must hope that whatever effect
the discovery of America had upon Portugal or Spain, it will make your
"I hope so, Bertie, but it is as well not to be too hopeful. Still, I have
great faith in Dias, at any rate I feel confident that he will do all he
can; but he acknowledges that he knows nothing for certain. I am sure,
however, that he will be a faithful guide, and that though we may have a
rough time, it will not be an unpleasant one. Now, you must begin to turn
to account what Spanish you have learned during the voyage; I know you
have worked regularly at it while you have not been on duty."
"I have learned a good lot," Bertie said; "and I dare say I could ask for
anything, but I should not understand the answers. I can make out a lot of
that Spanish _Don Quixote_ you got for me, but when Dias was talking to
you I did not catch a word of what he was saying. I suppose it will all
come in time."
"But you must begin at once. I warn you that when I am fairly off I shall
always talk to you in Spanish, for it would look very unsociable if we
were always talking together in English. If you ride or walk by the side
of the boy you will soon get on; and there will be Donna Maria for you to
chat away with, and from what we saw of her I should say she is sociably
inclined. In three months I have no doubt you will talk Spanish as well as
"It will be a horrid nuisance," Bertie grumbled; "but I suppose it has got
to be done."
Three days later Dias said he thought they might as well start the next
day to Pachacamac.
"We shall only want the three riding mules and one for baggage. Of course
we shall not take José or my wife. By the time we return everything will
be ready for us."
"I shall be very glad to be off, Dias. We know no one here except Señor
Pasquez; and although he has been very civil and has begged us to consider
his house as our own, he is of course busy during the day, and one can't
do above a certain amount of walking about the streets. So by all means
let us start to-morrow morning. We may as well go this time in the clothes
we wear, it will be time enough to put on the things we have bought when
we start in earnest."
Starting at sunrise, they rode for some distance through a fertile valley,
and then crossed a sandy plain until they reached the little valley of
Lurin, in which stand the ruins of Pachacamac. This was the sacred city of
the natives of the coast before their conquest by the Incas. During their
forty-mile ride Dias had told them something of the place they were about
to visit. Pachacamac, meaning "the creator of the world," was the chief
divinity of these early people, and here was the great temple dedicated to
him. The Incas after their conquest erected a vast Temple of the Sun, but
they did not attempt to suppress the worship of Pachacamac, and the two
flourished side by side until the arrival of the Spaniards. The wealth of
the temple was great; the Spaniards carried away among their spoils one
thousand six hundred and eighty-seven pounds of gold and one thousand six
hundred ounces of silver; but with all their efforts they failed to
discover the main treasure, said to have been no less than twenty-four
thousand eight hundred pounds of gold, which had been carried away and
buried before their arrival.
"If the Spaniards could not succeed in getting at the hiding-place,
although, no doubt, they tortured everyone connected with the temple to
make them divulge the secret, it is evident there is no chance for us,"
"Yes, señor, they made every effort; thousands of natives were employed in
driving passages through the terraces on which the temple stood. I believe
that they did find much treasure, but certainly not the great one they
were searching for. There is no tradition among our people as to the
hiding-place, for so many of the natives perished that all to whom the
secret was known must have died without revealing it to anybody. Had it
not been so, the Spaniards would sooner or later have learned it, for
although hundreds have died under torture rather than reveal any of the
hiding-places, surely one more faint-hearted than the rest would have
disclosed them. Certain it is that at Cuzco and other places they
succeeded in obtaining almost all the treasures buried there, though they
failed in discovering the still greater treasures that had been carried
away to be hidden in different spots. But Pachacamac was a small one in
comparison with Cuzco, and it was believed that the treasures had not been
carried far. Tradition has it that they were buried somewhere between this
town and Lima. Doubtless all concerned in the matter fled before the
Spaniards arrived, at any rate with all their cruelty the invaders never
discovered its position. The report that it was buried near may have been
set about to prevent their hunting for it elsewhere, and the gold may be
lying now somewhere in the heart of the mountains."
Harry Prendergast and his brother looked in astonishment at the massive
walls that rose around the eminence on which the temple had stood. The
latter had disappeared, but its situation could be traced on the plateau
buttressed by the walls. These were of immense thickness, and formed of
huge adobe bricks almost as hard as stone; even the long efforts of the
Spaniards had caused but little damage to them. The plateau rose some five
hundred feet above the sea, which almost washed one face of it. Half-way
up the hill four series of these massive walls, whose tops formed
terraces, stood in giant steps some fifty feet high. Here and there spots
of red paint could be seen, showing that the whole surface was originally
painted. The ascent was made by winding passages through the walls. On the
side of the upper area facing the sea could be seen the remains of a sort
of walk or esplanade, with traces of edifices of various kinds. On a hill
a mile and a half away were the remains of the Incas' temple and nunnery,
the style differing materially from that of the older building; it was
still more damaged than the temple on the hill by the searchers for
Pachacamac was the most sacred spot in South America, vast numbers of
pilgrims came here from all points. The city itself had entirely
disappeared, covered deeply in sand, but for a long distance round, it
had, like the neighbourhood of Jerusalem and Mecca, been a vast cemetery,
and a small amount of excavation showed the tombs of the faithful,
occupied in most cases by mummies.
"We will ride across to the Incas' temple. There is not much to see there,
but it is as well that you should look at the vaults in which the
treasures were hid. There are similar places at Cuzco and several of the
"It may certainly be useful to see them," Harry agreed, and they rode
across the plain. Leaving their mules outside they entered the ruins. The
Indian led them into some underground chambers. He had brought a torch
with him, and this he now lit.
"You have to be careful or you might otherwise tumble into one of these
holes and break a limb; and in that case, if you were here by yourselves,
you would certainly never get out again."
They came upon several of these places. The openings were sometimes square
and sometimes circular, and had doubtless been covered with square stones.
They were dug out of the solid ground. For about six feet the sides of the
pit were perpendicular; in some it swelled out like a great vase with a
broad shoulder, in others it became a square chamber of some size.
"Some of these places were no doubt meant to store grain and other
provisions," the Indian said, "some were undoubtedly treasuries."
"Awkward places to find," Harry said; "one might spend a lifetime in
searching for them in only one of these temples."
"They were the last places we should think of searching," Dias said. "For
years the Spaniards kept thousands of men at work. I do not say that there
may not be some few places that have escaped the searchers, but what they
could not with their host of workers find certainly could not be found by
four or five men. It is not in the temples that the Incas' wealth has been
hidden, but in caves, in deep mountain gorges, and possibly in ruins on
the other side of the mountains where even the Spaniards never penetrated.
There are such places. I know of one to which I will take you if our
search fails elsewhere. It is near the sea, and yet there are not half a
dozen living men who have ever seen it, so strangely is it hidden.
Tradition says that it was not the work of the Incas, but of the people
before them. I have never seen it close. It is guarded, they say, by
demons, and no native would go within miles of it. The traditions are that
the Incas, when they conquered the land, found the place and searched it,
after starving out the native chief who had fled there with his followers
and family. Some say that they found great treasure there, others that
they discovered nothing; all agree that a pestilence carried off nearly
all those who had captured it. Others went, and they too died, and the
place was abandoned as accursed, and in time its very existence became
forgotten; though some say that members of the tribe have always kept
watch there, and that those who carelessly or curiously approached it have
always met with their death in strange ways. Although I am a Christian,
and have been taught to disbelieve the superstitions of my countrymen, I
would not enter it on any condition."
"If we happen to be near it I shall certainly take a close look at it,"
Harry said with a laugh. "I don't fancy we should see anything that our
rifles and pistols would find invulnerable."
It was getting dark by the time they had finished their inspection of the
rooms, so, riding two or three miles away, they encamped in a grove up the
valley. Next morning they returned to Lima. Dias had given out that the
two white señors intended to visit all the ruined temples of the Incas,
and as other travellers had done the same their intention excited neither
surprise nor comment.
On the following evening after dark Harry and his brother were returning
from the house of Señor Pasquez.
"It is a pleasant house," Harry said; "the girls are pretty and nice, they
play and sing well, and are really charming. But what a contrast it was
the other morning when we went in there and accidentally ran against them
when we were going upstairs with their father, utterly untidy, and, in
fact, regular sluts--a maid of all work would look a picture of neatness
Bertie was about to answer, when there was an outburst of shouts from a
wine-shop they were passing, and in a moment the door burst open and half
a dozen men engaged in a fierce conflict rushed out. Knives were flashing,
and it was evident that one man was being attacked by the rest. By the
light that streamed out of the open door they saw that the man attacked
was Dias. It flashed across Harry's mind that if this man was killed there
was an end to all hope of success in their expedition.
"Dash in to his rescue, Bertie," he cried; "but whatever you do, mind
With a shout he sprang forward and struck to the ground a man who was
dodging behind Dias with uplifted knife, while Bertie leapt on to the back
of another, the shock throwing the man down face forward. Bertie was on
his feet in a moment, and brought the stick he carried with all his force
down on the man's head as he tried to rise. Then, springing forward again,
he struck another man a heavy blow on the wrist. The knife dropped from
the man's hand, and as he dashed with a fierce oath upon Bertie the stick
descended again, this time on his head, and felled him to the ground. In
the meantime one of the assailants had turned fiercely on Harry and aimed
a blow at him with his knife; but with the ease of a practised boxer Harry
stepped back, and before the man could again raise the knife he leaped in
and struck him a tremendous blow on the point of his chin. The fifth man
took to his heels immediately. The other four lay where they had fallen,
evidently fearing they would be stabbed should they try to get on to their
"Are you hurt, Dias?" Harry exclaimed.
"I have several cuts, señor, but none of them, I think, serious. You have
saved my life."
"Never mind that now, Dias. What shall we do with these fellows--hand them
over to the watch?"
"No, señor, that would be the last thing to do; we might be detained here
for months. I will take all their knives and let them go."
"Here are two of them," Bertie said, picking up those of the men he had
Dias stood over the man Harry had first knocked down, and with a fierce
whisper ordered him to give up his knife, which he did at once. The other
was still stupid from the effect of the blow and his fall, and Dias had
only to take his knife from his relaxed fingers.
"Now, señor, let us be going before anyone comes along."
"What was it all about, Dias?" Harry asked as he walked away.
"Many of the muleteers are jealous, señor, because I always get what they
consider the best jobs. I had gone into the wine-shop for a glass of
pulque before going round to see that the mules were all right. As I was
drinking, these men whispered together, and then one came up to me and
began to abuse me, and directly I answered him the whole of them drew
their knives and rushed at me. I was ready too, and wounded two of them as
I fought my way to the door. As I opened it one of them stabbed me in the
shoulder, but it was a slanting blow. Once out they all attacked me at
once, and in another minute you would have had to look for another
muleteer. 'Tis strange, señors, that you should have saved my life as Mr.
Barnett did. It was a great deed to risk your lives with no weapons but
your sticks against five ruffians with their knives."
"I did not use my stick," Harry said. "I am more accustomed to use my
fists than a stick, and can hit as hard with them, as you saw. But my
brother's stick turned out the most useful. He can box too, but cannot
give as heavy a blow as I can. Still, it was very lucky that I followed
your advice, and bought a couple of heavy sticks to carry with us if we
should go out after dark. Now you had better come to the hotel, and I will
send for a surgeon to dress your wound."
"It is not necessary, señor; my wife is waiting for me in my room, she
arrived this afternoon. Knife cuts are not uncommon affairs here, and she
knows quite enough to be able to bandage them."
"At any rate we shall have to put off our start for a few days."
"Not at all, señor; a bandage tonight and a few strips of plaster in the
morning will do the business. I shall be stiff for a few days, but that
will not interfere with my riding, and José will be able to load and
unload the mules, if you will give him a little assistance. Adios! and a
"That was a piece of luck, Bertie," Harry said when they had reached their
room in the hotel. "In the first place, because neither of us got a
scratch, and in the second, because it will bind Dias more closely to us.
Before, he was willing to assist us for Barnett's sake, now it will be for
our own also, and we may be quite sure that he will do his best for us."
"It is my first scrimmage," Bertie said, "and I must say that I thought,
as we ran in, that it was going to be a pretty serious one. We have
certainly come very well out of it."
"It was short and sharp," Harry laughed. "I have always held that the man
who could box well was more than a match for one with a knife who knew
nothing of boxing. One straight hit from the shoulder is sure to knock him
out of time."
Next morning Dias and his wife came up early. The former had one arm in a
sling. As they entered, the woman ran forward, and, throwing her arms
round Bertie, she kissed him on both cheeks. The lad was too much
surprised at this unexpected salute to return it, as his brother did when
she did the same to him. Then, drawing back, she poured out her thanks
volubly, the tears running down her cheeks.
"Maria asked me if she might kiss you," Dias said gravely when she
stopped. "I said that it was right that she should do so, for do we not
both owe you my life?"
"You must not make too much of the affair, Dias; four blows were struck,
and there was an end to it."
"A small matter to you, señor, but a great one to us. A Peruvian would not
interfere if he saw four armed men attacking one. He would be more likely
to turn down the next street, so that he might not be called as a witness.
It is only your countrymen who would do such things."
"And you still think that you will be ready to start the day after to-
"Quite sure, señor. My shoulder will be stiff and my arm in a sling for a
week, but muleteers think nothing of such trifles,--a kick from a mule
would be a much more serious affair."
"You don't think those rascals are likely to waylay us on the road, and
take their revenge?"
"Not they, señor. If you could do such things unarmed, what could you not
do when you had rifles and pistols? The matter is settled. They have not
been seriously hurt. If one of them had been killed I should be obliged to
be careful the next time I came here; as it is, no more will be said about
it. Except the two hurt in the wine-shop they will not even have a scar to
remind them of it. In two years they will have other things to think
about, if it is true that Colombia means to go to war with Chili."
"What is the quarrel about, Dias?"
"The Colombians helped us to get rid of the Spaniards, but ever since they
have presumed a right to manage affairs here."
"Perhaps nothing will come of it."
"Well, it is quite certain that there is no very good feeling between
Chili, Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru."
"I suppose they will be fighting all round some day?"
"Yes, and it will interfere with my business. Certainly we are better off
than when the Spaniards were here; but the taxes are heavy, and things
don't go as people expected they would when we got rid of the Spaniards.
All the governments seem jealous of each other. I don't take any interest
in these matters except so far as they interfere with trade. If every man
would attend to his own affairs it would be better for us all."
"I suppose so, Dias; but one can hardly expect a country that has been so
many years governed by a foreign power to get accustomed all at once to
governing itself." "Now, señor, I shall be glad if you will go with me
and look at the stores that are already collected. I think you will find
that everything is ready."
AMONG THE MOUNTAIN
Two days later the mules were brought round to the door at sunrise, and
Harry and his brother sallied out from the hotel, dressed for the first
time in the Peruvian costume. They were both warmly clothed. On their
heads were felt hats with broad brims, which could be pulled down and tied
over the ears, both for warmth and to prevent their being blown away by
the fierce winds that sweep down the gorges. A thick poncho of llama wool
fell from their shoulders to their knees, and loosely tied round their
necks were thick and brightly-coloured scarves. They wore high boots, and
carried large knives stuck in a strap below the knee. The rifles were
fastened at the bow of their saddles, and their wallets, with provisions
for the day, were strapped behind. By the advice of Dias each had in his
pocket a large pair of green goggles, to protect their eyes from the glare
of sun and snow. They tied these on before coming downstairs, and both
agreed that had they met unexpectedly in the street they would have passed
each other without the slightest recognition.
"It is a pity, Harry," Bertie said seriously, "that you did not have your
portrait taken to send home to a certain young lady. You see, she would
then have been able to hang it up in her room and worship it privately,
without anyone having the slightest idea that it was her absent lover."
"You young scamp," Harry said, "I will pull your ears for you."
"If you attempt anything of the sort, I shall tie the brim of my hat
tightly over them. I really think it is very ungrateful of you not to take
my advice in the spirit in which I gave it."
"If you intend to go on like this, Bert, I shall leave you behind."
"You can't do it."
"Oh, yes, I can! I might give you in charge for some crime or other; and
in lack of evidence, the expenditure of a few dollars would, I have no
doubt, be sufficient to induce the judge, magistrate, or whatever they
call him, to give you six months' imprisonment."
"Then you are an unnatural brother, and I will make no more suggestions
for your good."
So they had come downstairs laughing, though feeling a little shy at their
appearance as they issued out of the courtyard. Speedily, however, they
gained courage as they saw that passers-by paid no attention to them.
They had spent the previous afternoon in packing the bundles, in which
every item was put away so that it could be got at readily, and in making
sure that nothing had been omitted. The five baggage mules were fastened
one behind another, and José stood at the head of the leading one. As they
came out Dias swung his wife on to a cushion strapped behind his saddle,
and mounted himself before her. Harry and his brother climbed into theirs.
They had both refused to put on the heavy and cruel spurs worn by the
Peruvians, but had, at the earnest request of the Indian, put them in
"You will want them," he said. "You need not use them cruelly, but you
must give your mules an occasional prick to let them know that you have
On leaving the town the road ran up the valley of the Rimac, a small
river, but of vital importance to the country through which it passes, as
small canals branching from it irrigate the land.
"The Spaniards have done some good here at least," Harry said to Dias, who
was riding beside him.
"Some of these canals were constructed in their time, but the rest existed
long before they came here, and, indeed, long before the Incas came. The
Incas' work lies chiefly beyond the mountains; on this side almost all the
great ruins are of cities and fortresses built by the old people. Cuzco
was the Incas' capital, and almost all the towns between the two ranges of
the Andes were their work. It is true that they conquered the people down
to the sea, but they do not seem to have cared to live here. The treasures
of Pachacamac and the other places on the plains were those of the old
people and the old religion. The inhabitants of the plains are for the
most part descendants of those people. The Incas were strong and powerful,
but they were not numerous. That was why the Spaniards conquered them so
easily. The old people, who regarded them as their masters, did not care
to fight for them, just as the Peruvians did not care to fight for the
"I expect it was a good deal like the Normans in England," Bertie put in.
"They conquered the Saxons because they were better armed and better
disciplined, but they were few in number in comparison with the number
they governed, and in their quarrels with each other the bulk of the
people stood aloof; and it was only when the Normans began their wars in
France and Scotland, and were obliged to enlist Saxon archers and
soldiers, that the two began to unite and to become one people."
"I have no doubt that was so, Bertie; but you are breaking our agreement
that you should speak in Spanish only."
"Oh, bother! you know very well that I cannot talk in it yet, and you
surely do not expect that I am going to ride along without opening my
"I know you too well to expect that," Harry laughed, "and will allow an
occasional outbreak. Still, do try to talk Spanish, however bad it may be.
You have got cheek enough in other things, and cheek goes a long way in
learning to talk a foreign language. You have been four months at your
Spanish books, and should certainly begin to put simple sentences
"But that is just what one does not learn from books," the lad said. "At
any rate, not from such books as I have been working at. I could do a
high-flown sentence, and offer to kiss your hand and to declare that all I
have is at your disposal. But if I wanted to say, 'When are we going to
halt for dinner? I am feeling very peckish,' I should be stumped
"Well, you must get as near as you can, Bertie. I dare say you cannot turn
slang into Spanish; but you can find other words to express your meaning,
and when you cannot hit on a word you must use an English one. Your best
plan is to move along on the other side of Dias, and chat to his wife."
"What have I got to say to her?"
"Anything you like. You can begin by asking her if she has ever gone a
long journey with her husband before, how far we shall go to-day--things
of that sort."
"Well, I will try anyhow. I suppose I must. But you go on talking to Dias,
else I shall think that you are both laughing at me."
Five miles from Lima they passed through the little village of Quiraz.
Beyond this they came upon many cotton plantations, and in the ravines by
the side of the valley or among the ruins of Indian towns were several
large fortresses. They also passed the remains of an old Spanish town and
several haciendas, where many cattle and horses were grazing. They were
ascending steadily, and after passing Santa Clara, eleven miles from Lima,
the valley narrowed and became little more than a ravine. On either side
were rents made in the hills by earthquakes, and immense boulders and
stones were scattered about at the bottom of the narrow gorge. Four hours'
travelling brought them to Chosica, where the valley widened again near
the foot of the hills.
Here they halted for the day. There was an inn here which Dias assured
them was clean and comfortable, and they therefore took a couple of rooms
for the night in preference to unpacking their tents.
"It is just as well not to begin that till we get farther away," Harry
said. "We have met any number of laden mules coming down, and if we were
to camp here we should cause general curiosity."
He accordingly ordered dinner for himself and his brother, Dias preferring
to take his meal in a large room used by passing muleteers. The fare was
as good as they had had at the hotel at Lima.
"I am not sorry that we halted here," Bertie said; "I feel as stiff as a
"I think you got on very well, Bertie, with Mrs. Dias. I did not hear what
you were saying, but you seemed to be doing stunningly."
"She did most of the talking. I asked her to speak slowly, as I did not
manage to catch the sense of what she said. She seems full of fun, and a
jolly little woman altogether. She generally understood what I meant, and
though she could not help laughing sometimes, she did it so good-
temperedly that one did not feel put out. Each time I spoke she corrected
me, told me what I ought to have said, and made me say it after her. I
think I shall get on fairly well at the end of a few weeks."
"I am sure you will, Bertie; the trouble is only at the beginning, and now
that you have once broken the ice, you will progress like a house on
There were still four hours of daylight after they had finished their
meal, so they went out with Dias to explore one of the numerous burying-
grounds round the village. It consisted of sunken chambers. In these were
bones, with remains of the mats in which the bodies had been clothed.
These wrappings resembled small sacks, and they remarked that the people
must have been of very small size, or they could never have been packed
away in them. With them had been buried many of the implements of their
trade. One or two had apparently not been opened. Here were knitting
utensils, toilet articles, implements for weaving, spools of thread,
needles of bone and bronze. With the body of a girl had been placed a kind
of work-box, containing the articles that she had used, and the mummy of a
parrot, some beads, and fragments of an ornament of silver. Dias told them
that all these tombs were made long before the coming of the Incas. He
said that round the heads of the men and boys were wound the slings they
had used in life, while a piece of cotton flock was wrapped round the
heads of the women. Many of the graves communicated with each other by
very narrow passages; the purpose of these was not clear, but probably
they were made to enable the spirits of the dead to meet and hold
communion with each other.
"I don't want to see any more of them," Bertie said after they had spent
three hours in their investigations; "this sort of thing is enough to give
one a fit of the blues."
Beyond Chosica civilization almost ceased. The road became little more
than a mule track, and was in many places almost impassable by vehicles of
any kind. Nothing could be wilder than the scenery they passed. At times
rivers ran through perpendicular gorges, and the track wound up and down
steep ravines. Sometimes they would all dismount, though Dias assured them
it was not necessary; still, it made a change from the monotonous pace of
little over two miles an hour at which the mules breasted the steep
José rode on the first of the baggage mules, which was very lightly
loaded; he generally sang the whole time. When on foot, Donna Maria
stepped gaily along and Bertie had hard work to keep pace with her. He was
making rapid progress with the language, though occasionally a peal of
laughter from his companion told of some egregious error.
There were villages every few miles, but now when they halted they did so
as a rule a mile before they got to one of these. Dinner was cooked over a
fire of dead sticks, and after the meal Harry's tent was erected and the
bed spread in it. The Indians went on to the village for the night, while
Harry and his brother sat and smoked for a time by the fire and then
turned in. At daybreak Dias rode back leading their riding mules and a
baggage animal; the tent, beds, and the cooking utensils were packed up,
and they rode in to the village and passed on at a trot until they
overtook Maria and José, who had started with the other four mules when
Dias rode away. At last they reached the head of the pass, and two days'
journey took them to Oroya, standing on an elevated plateau some ten
thousand feet above the sea, and five thousand below the highest point of
The scenery had now completely changed. Villages were scattered thickly
over the plain, cultivation was general. The hillsides were lined by
artificial terraces, on which were perched chalets and small hamlets--they
had seen similar terraces on the way up. These were as the Spaniards found
them, and must at one time have been inhabited by a thriving population.
Even now gardens and orchards flourished upon them up to the highest
points on the hills. Oroya was a large place, and, avoiding the busy part
of the town, they hired rooms, as it was necessary to give the mules two
days' rest. On the first evening after their arrival they gathered round a
fire, for the nights were cold, and even in the daytime they did not find
their numerous wraps too hot for them.
"Now, Dias," Harry said, "we must talk over our plans. You said that we
would not decide upon anything till we got here."
"In the first place, señor, I think it would be well to go to the north to
see the Cerro de Pasco silver mine, they say it is the richest in the
world. It is well that you should see the formation of the rocks and the
nature of the ore; we may in our journeyings come across similar rock."
"It is gold rather than silver that one wants to find, Dias. I do not say
that a silver mine would not be worth a very large sum of money, but it
would be necessary to open it and go to a large expense to prove it. Then
one would have to go to England and get up a company to work it, which
would be a long and difficult matter. Still, I am quite ready to go and
see the place."
"What you say is true, señor. I could take you to a dozen places where
there is silver. They may be good or may not, but even if they were as
rich as Potosi the silver would have to be carried to Lima, so great a
distance on mules' backs that it would swallow up the profits. And it
would be almost impossible to convey the necessary machinery there, indeed
to do so would involve the making of roads for a great distance."
"At the same time, Dias, should you know of any silver lodes that might
turn out well, I would certainly take some samples, and send two or three
mule-loads of the stuff home. They might be of no good for the purpose for
which I have come out here, but in time I might do something with them;
the law here is that anyone who finds a mine can obtain a concession for
"That is so, señor, but he must proceed to work it."
"I suppose it would be sufficient to put two or three men on for that
"But if you were away for a year difficulties might arise. It would be
better for you only to determine the course of the lode, its thickness and
value, to trace it as far as possible, and then hide all signs of the
work, and not to make your claim until you return here."
"Very well, I will take your advice, Dias. And now about the real object
of our journey."
"I have been thinking it over deeply," Dias said. "First as to mines; at
present almost all the gold that is obtained is acquired by washing the
sands of rivers. Here and there gold has been found in rocks, but not in
sufficient quantities to make mining pay. The rivers whose sands are
richest in gold are in the mountains that lie behind Lake Titicaca, which
lies to the south of Cuzco and on the border of Bolivia. No one doubts
that in the time of the Incas there existed gold mines, and very rich
ones; for if it had not been so it is impossible to account for the
enormous amount of gold obtained by the Spanish conquerors, and no one
doubts that they got but a small portion of the gold in existence when
they arrived. It is of no use whatever for us to search the old ruins of
the Incas in Cuzco, or their other great towns; all that can be found
there has already been carried away.
"Now you see, señor, Huanuco, Jauja, Cuzco, and Puno all lie near the
eastern range of the Andes, and when the alarm caused by the arrogant
conduct of the Spaniards began, it was natural that the treasures should
be sent away into the heart of those mountains. The towns on the western
sides of this plateau, Challhuanca, Tanibobamba, Huancavelica, would as
naturally send theirs for safety into the gorges of the western Andes, but
all traditions point to the fact that this was not done by the Incas. As
soon as the Spaniards arrived and struck the first blow, the great chiefs
would naturally call together a band of their followers on whose fidelity
they could rely, load the treasures on llamas, of which they possessed
great numbers, and hurry them off to the mountains.
"It is among the mountains, therefore, that our search must be made. All
our traditions point to the fact that it was along the eastern range of
the Cordilleras, and the country beyond, that by far the greater portion
of the treasures were taken for concealment. At any rate, as we have but
eighteen months for the search it is on that side that we must try, and
ten times that length of time would be insufficient for us to do it
thoroughly. As to the gold mines, it is certain that they lie in that
portion of the range between Cuzco and Lake Titicaca. It was near Puno, a
short distance from the lake, that the Spaniards, owing to the folly of an
Indian, found great treasures in a cave. They would probably have found
much more had not a stream suddenly burst out which flooded the whole
valley and converted it into a lake. Which do you think we had better look
for first, gold mines or hidden treasures?"
"Of course that must depend on you, Dias, and how much you know about
these matters. I need not say that a hidden treasure would be of vastly
more use to me than the richest gold mine in the world. To obtain the gold
from a mine an abundance of labour is required, besides machinery for
crushing quartz and separating the gold from it. In the bed of a river, if
it is rich and abounding in nuggets, three or four men, with rough
machinery, could wash out a large quantity of gold in a short time, and a
place of that sort would be far better than a rich mine, which could not
be worked without a large amount of capital."
"I have heard tales of such places on the other side of the mountains to
the south. From time to time gold-seekers have returned with as much as
they could carry, but not one in a hundred of those that go ever come
back; some doubtless die from hunger and hardship, but more are killed by
the Indians. Most of the tribes there are extremely savage, and are
constantly at war with each other, and they slay every white man who
ventures into their country."
"Then is it not probable, Dias, that the gold could have come from their
"Not from the plains, but from the streams running down into them; and
although the Incas never attempted to subdue the tribes beyond the
mountains, they may have had bodies of troops to protect the workers from
incursions by these savages."
"Are there many wild beasts there?"
"In some parts of the mountains pumas and jaguars abound."
"That is not altogether satisfactory, though I should not mind if we fell
in with one occasionally. But how about game, Dias?"
"The chief game are the wild vicuñas, which are very numerous in some
parts; but they are very shy and difficult to hunt. Deer are plentiful,
and there are foxes, bears, and hogs; but the great article of food is
fish. On the plains the manatee, which is very like the seal, is caught;
turtles are found in great numbers, and the people make oil from their
eggs; and the buffo, a sort of porpoise, also abounds. The natives do not
eat these, except when very pressed for food; they catch them for the sake
of their oil. There are many kinds of fish: the sunaro, which I heard an
English traveller say are like the fish the English call the pike; these
grow to the length of seven or eight feet. And many smaller kinds of fish
are caught by throwing the juice of the root of the barbasto into small
streams. This makes the fish stupid, and they float on the surface so that
they may easily be caught by hand. There are also many sorts of fruit."
"Well, then, we ought to do fairly well, Dias."
"Yes, señor; but many of these creatures are only found in the forests and
in the rivers of the plains, and they are so much hunted by the savages
there that they are very shy. But there are some creatures with which we
certainly do not wish to meet, and unfortunately these are not uncommon. I
mean the alligators and the great serpents. The natives fear the
alligators much, for their weapons are of no avail against them, and they
would never venture to attack a great snake."
"And besides these, what other disagreeables are there, Dias?" Bertie
"There is one other disagreeable," Dias replied, "and it is a serious one.
There are in the mountains many desperate men. Some have slain an enemy
who had friends influential enough to set the law in motion against them,
or have escaped from prison; some have resisted the tax-collectors; many
have been suspected of plotting against the government; and others are too
lazy to work."
"And how do they live?" Harry asked.
"They live partly on game and partly on plunder. They steal from
cultivators; they are paid a small sum by all muleteers passing through
the mountains; they rob travellers who are worth robbing; and sometimes
they carry off a proprietor of land, and get a ransom for him.
Occasionally they will wash the sand, and get gold enough to send one of
their number into a town to buy articles they require."
"And do they go in large bands?"
"No, señor; as a rule some ten or twelve keep together under the one they
have chosen as their chief. Sometimes, if people make complaints and
troops are sent against them, they will join to resist them; but this is
not often. The authorities know well enough that they have no chance of
catching these men among the mountains they are so well acquainted with,
and content themselves with stationing a few troops in the villages."
"And is it through the robbers or the savages that so few of the gold
explorers ever return?"
"It is chiefly, I think, from hardship," Dias said; "but undoubtedly many
who venture down near the Indians' country are killed by them. Some who
have done well, and are returning with the gold they have accumulated,
fall victims to these robbers. You must not, of course, suppose that there
are great numbers of them, señor. There may be some hundreds, but from
Huancabamba--the northern frontier of the western Cordilleras, where the
Maranon crosses the eastern range--down to Lake Titicaca on the one side,
and Tacna on the other, is nigh a thousand miles, and the two ranges cover
more square leagues than can be reckoned, and even a thousand men
scattered over these would be but so many grains of sand on a stretch of
"It certainly sounds like it, Dias; but perhaps those worthy people
congregate chiefly in the neighbourhood of the passes."
"That is so, señor; but even through these a traveller might pass many
times without being troubled by them."
"Have you fallen in with them often, Dias?"
"Yes; but, as you see, they have done me no harm. Sometimes, when I get to
the end of my journey, the mules are not so heavily laden as when I
started; but generally the people for whom I work say to me, 'Here are so
many dollars, Dias; they are for toll.' There are places in the villages
at the foot of the most-frequented passes where it is understood that a
payment of so many dollars per mule will enable you to pass without
molestation. In return for your money, you receive a ribbon, or a rosette,
or a feather, and this you place in your hat as a passport. You may meet a
few men with guns as you pass along, but when they see the sign they
salute you civilly, ask for a drink of wine if you are carrying it, then
wish you good-day. It is only in little-frequented passes that you have to
take your chance. I may say that though these men may plunder, they never
kill a muleteer. They know that if they did, all traffic on that road
would cease, and the soldiers would find guides who knew every path and
hiding-place in the mountains."
"Anyhow, I think it is well, Dias, that I took your advice, and handed
over my gold to Señor Pasquez, for if we do fall into the hands of any of
these gentry, we can lose practically nothing."
"No money, señor, but we might lose everything else, except perhaps the
mules, which they could not use in the mountains. But if they were to take
our blankets, and tents, and provisions, and your firearms, we should be
in a bad way if we happened to be a couple of hundred miles in the heart
of the mountains."
"Well, I don't think they will take them," Harry said grimly, "without
paying pretty dearly for them. With your gun and our rifles, and that old
fowling-piece which you got for José, which will throw a fairly heavy
charge of buck-shot, I think we can make a very good fight against any
band of eight men, or even one or two more."
"I think so," Dias said gravely. "It is seldom I miss my mark. Still, I
hope we shall not be troubled with them, or with the Indians. You see, it
is not so much an attack by day that we have to fear, as a surprise at
night. Of course, when we are once on the hills, José and I will keep
watch by turns. He is as sharp as a needle. I should have no fear of any
of these robbers creeping up to us without his hearing them. But I can't
say so much for him in the case of the Indians, who can move so
noiselessly that even a vicuña would not hear them until they were within
"The spear is their weapon then, Dias?"
"Some tribes carry bows and arrows, others only spears, and sometimes they
poison the points of both these weapons."
"That is unpleasant. Are there remedies for the poisons?"
"None that I know of, nor do I think the savages themselves know of any.
The only chance is to pour ammonia at once into the hole that is made by
an arrow, and to cut out all the flesh round a spear-wound, and then to
pour in ammonia or sear it with a hot iron."
"That accounts for your buying that large bottle of ammonia at Lima. I
wondered what you wanted it for. When we get into the country these
unpleasant people inhabit, I will fill my spirit-flask with it, so that it
will always be handy if required. Now we understand things generally,
Dias. It only remains for you to decide where we had best leave the plain
and take to the mountains."
Dias was silent for a minute. "I should say, señor, that first we had
better journey down to Cuzco and then down to Sicuani, where the western
Cordilleras, after making a bend, join the eastern branch, and there cross
the Tinta volcano. On the other side are many gorges. In one of these I
know there is some very rich gold sand. Explorers have sought for this
spot in vain, but the secret has been well kept by the few who know it. It
has been handed down in my father's family from father to son ever since
the Spaniards came. He told it to me, and I swore to reveal it to none but
my son. I have no son, and the secret therefore will die with me. Whether
it has been passed down in any other family I cannot say. It may be, or it
may not be; but as I owe you my life, and also the debt of gratitude to
Señor Barnett, I feel that you are more to me than a son. Moreover, the
secret was to be kept lest it should come to the knowledge of the
Spaniards. The Spaniards have gone, and with them the reason for
concealment, so I feel now that I am justified in taking you there."
"I am glad of that, Dias. Assuredly the gold can be of service to no man
as long as it lies there, and it would be better to utilize it than allow
it to waste. I need not say how grateful I shall feel if you can put me in
the way of obtaining it."
"That I cannot absolutely promise," he said. "I have the indications, but
they will be difficult to find. Three hundred years bring great changes--
rocks on which there are marks may be carried away by torrents, figures
cut in the cliffs may be overgrown by mosses or creepers. However, if but
a few remain, I hope to be able to find my way. If I fail we must try
elsewhere; but this is the only one of which I have been told all the
marks. I know generally several places where great treasure was hidden,
but not the marks by which they could be discovered, and as we may be sure
that every measure was taken to hide the entrances to the caves, the
chances would be all against our lighting upon them. I may say, señor,
that, great as was the treasure of the Incas, that of the Chimoos or
Chincas, a powerful people who inhabited part of this country, was fully
as large; and traditions say that most of the treasures hidden were not
those of the Incas, but of the Chimoos, who buried them when their country
was invaded by the Incas.
"This is certainly the case with most of the treasures hidden to the west
of the mountains. It was so at Pachacamac; it was so at Truxillo, where
the Spaniards found three million and a half dollars of gold; and it is
known that this was but a small hoard, and that the great one, many times
larger, has never been discovered. Probably the secret has long been lost;
for if there are but few who know where the Incas buried their gold, it
may well be believed that the exact locality of the Chimoo treasures,
which were buried more than eight hundred years ago, is now unknown, and
that nothing but vague traditions have been handed down."
"That one can quite understand," Harry agreed, "when we consider how many
of the Chimoos must have fallen in the struggle with the Incas, and how
more than half the population were swept away by the Spaniards, to say
nothing of those who have died in the wars of the last thirty years. It
seems strange, however, that the treasures in the temple of Pachacamac
were left untouched by the Incas and allowed to accumulate afterwards."
"It was so generally regarded as the sacred city," Dias said, "that,
powerful as they were, the Incas did not attempt to interfere with it, as
to do so would certainly have stirred up a formidable insurrection of the
natives throughout the whole of their territory; and instead, therefore,
of taking possession of the temple and dedicating it to their own god,
they allowed it to remain untouched and the worship of the old gods to be
carried on there, contenting themselves with building a temple of their
own to the Sun-god close at hand."
"Whether any treasure we find belonged to the Incas or to the Chimoos is
of no consequence whatever. I certainly think that before entering upon
what would seem to be almost a hopeless search for such stores, we should
try this place that you know of. In that case it seems to me, Dias, that
if we had gone down the coast to Islay, and up through Arequipa to Cuzco,
our journey would have been considerably shorter."
"That is true, señor, but we should have found it difficult to take a
passage for our mules; the steamers are but small craft, with poor
accommodation even for passengers. And besides, until we had made all our
arrangements for the journey from Lima, I could hardly say that I had made
up my mind to bring you to this place. Only when you and your brother
saved my life did I feel that I was bound to aid you, even to the point of
divulging the secret. It is different now from what it was when it was
first handed down. At that time the Spaniards were mercilessly slaying all
known to be in the possession of any secret connected with gold, and every
discovery of gold entailed the forced labour of thousands more of the
natives. Well, señor, all that is changed; we are our own masters, and
those who find mines are allowed to work them on payment of certain
royalties. There is, therefore, no good in keeping a secret that has been
useless for hundreds of years."
"Certainly, Dias, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you are
injuring no one by the act, and are besides doing a very good action to my
brother and myself.
"Well, Bertie," Harry said when Dias had left the room, "I think we may
congratulate ourselves. For the first time I really think there is a
chance of the expedition turning out a success."
"It certainly looks like it," Bertie agreed. "For your sake I hope it will
be so. As for me, I am quite content; what with Indians and brigands, wild
beasts, alligators, and snakes, the journey is likely to be an exciting
A TROPICAL FOREST
It took them over three weeks to reach Cuzco. They did not hurry, for they
wished to keep the mules in good condition for the serious work before
them. They were travelling across a plateau thickly dotted with villages
and small towns, and everywhere richly cultivated. Near the summit of the
mountains large flocks of alpacas were grazing, and lower down herds of
cattle and sheep, while near the plain were patches of wheat, barley, and
potatoes, which in turn were succeeded by fields of maize, apple and peach
trees, and prickly-pears. At the foot were fields of sugar-cane, oranges,
citron, pine-apples, cacao, and many other tropical fruits; while in the
deeper ravines cotton was grown in abundance for the wants of the
population. Here, in fact, were all varieties of climate, from the
perpetual snow on the summits of the lofty mountains to a tropical heat in
"If the Incas had been contented with this glorious plateau, which for
centuries constituted their kingdom, and had passed a law against the
gathering of gold and the mining for silver, they might still have been
lords here," Harry said one day. "There would have been nothing to tempt
the avarice of the Spaniards, for owing to the distance of the mines from
the coast, the cost of carriage would have been immense, and the long sea
journey would have rendered the exportation of the natural products of the
country impossible. Some of the more sober-minded of the Dons might have
settled down here and taken wives from among the daughters of the nobles,
and, bringing with them the civilization of Spain, become valuable
colonists. The Incas, before they extended their conquest over the whole
of the west of South America, must have been a comparatively simple
people, and would have had none of the habits of luxury and magnificence
that tempted the Spaniards. The gold of South America was the ruin of the
Incas, as it was afterwards the chief cause of the ruin of Spain."
"Well, Harry, then I should very strongly advise you to give up treasure-
hunting and to remain poor, for the curse of the gold may not have worked
itself out yet."
"I must risk that, Bertie. I have no desire for luxury or magnificence; it
is for a laudable purpose that I seek the gold. However, if you have any
scruples on the subject there is no occasion for you to have any share in
what I may discover."
"No, I think I will agree with you and risk it; though certainly at
present I don't see what advantage any amount of money would be to me."
The houses of the peasants were for the most part comfortable, although
small, for since the expulsion of the Spaniards, the people had had no
reason to make a pretence of poverty. During the Spanish rule no one
dared, by the size of his house or by his mode of living, to show signs of
wealth above his fellows, for to do so would be to expose himself to the
cruel exactions of the tax-collectors and local officials; and even now
they had hardly recognized the change that had taken place, and remained
wedded to the habits that had become rooted in them by centuries of
The travellers had no difficulty whatever in purchasing food and forage on
the way. They always slept in their tents now, and preferred Donna Maria's
cooking to that which they could obtain in the small and generally dirty
inns in the towns.
By the time they reached Cuzco, Bertie was able to converse in Spanish
with some fluency. On the way he rode either beside Dias and his wife, or
with José; in either case an animated conversation was kept up, sometimes
on the stirring events of the war of independence and the subsequent
struggles, sometimes about life in England, its ways and customs,
concerning which neither Maria nor José had any knowledge whatever. Bertie
also endeavoured to gain some information concerning the history of Peru
prior to the rising against Spain; but neither the woman nor boy knew
anything of the subject beyond the fact that the Incas were great people,
and that the natives still mourned for them.
"You see that black apron most of the women wear over one hip, as a sign
of mourning; it is still worn for the Incas. They must have been good
people, and not cruel like the Spanish, or they would not be so much
regretted," Maria said. "I don't wear the apron, because both Dias and I
are of mixed blood, descendants on one side of natives, and on the other
of Creoles, that is of Spaniards whose families were settled here, and who
hated their countrymen just as much as we do. Well, there is Cuzco in
sight. I have never seen it, and am glad that we shall stay there for a
The old capital of the Incas lay at the end of a valley about two miles in
length, and about a mile in width. To the north of the city rose an abrupt
hill, crowned by the great citadel with its three lines of walls, the hill
being divided from those forming the side of the valley by two deep
ravines, in which flowed little streams that ran through the city. The
appearance of the town was striking. There were numerous churches, its
streets ran at right angles to each other, and the massive stone houses
dated from the early Spanish days, though they were surmounted for the
most part by modern brickwork additions. Where the great Temple of the Sun
once stood, the church of Santo Domingo had been built, a portion of the
splendid building of the old faith being incorporated in it.
"What is the use of staying here?" Bertie asked his brother impatiently,
two days after they had arrived at Cuzco. "I dare say these old ruins and
fortresses, and so on, are very interesting to people who understand all
about the Incas; but as I know nothing about them, I don't see how you can
expect me to get up any interest in an old wall because you tell me that
it is one of the remains of a palace belonging to some old chap I never
heard of. I shall be very glad when Dias says that the mules have had
enough rest and that we can set out on our business."
"I am afraid you are a Goth, Bert," Harry said, looking at him with an
expression of pity. "Here you are in one of the most interesting cities of
the world, a place that thousands and thousands of people would travel any
distance to investigate, and in forty-eight hours you are tired of it. You
have no romance in your nature, no respect for the past; you are a Goth
and a Philistine."
"I am afraid you are mixing up localities, Harry. I may be a Goth or a
Philistine, but perhaps you are not aware that these peoples or tribes had
no connection with each other. Your education in matters unconnected with
the Royal Navy seems to have been even more deplorably neglected than my
"Shut up, youngster!" "No, Lieutenant Prendergast, you are not on the
quarter-deck of one of Her Majesty's ships at present. You are not even
the leader of a small caravan on the march. We are in this locanda on
terms of perfect equality, save and except in any small advantage that you
may possess in the matter of years."
"Well, Bertie, I do not altogether disagree with what you say. If I had
come here to get up the history of the Incas, and investigate the ruins of
their palaces, I should be content to stay here for some weeks; but as it
is, I am really just as anxious as you are to be on the move. I was
speaking to Dias half an hour ago, and he says that in two more days we
shall be able to start again. We have been discussing how much flour and
other things it is absolutely necessary to take. Of course the better
provided we are the more comfortable we shall be; but on the other hand,
as Dias says, it is of great importance that the mules should carry as
little weight as possible.
"In crossing the passes we shall have the benefit of the old roads of the
Incas, but once we leave these the difficulties will be enormous. Dias
said that it might be better to dispose of our mules altogether and get
trained llamas in their place, as these can climb over rocks where no mule
could obtain a foothold. But then it would be necessary to take with us
one or two natives accustomed to their ways, and this would not suit us at
all. However, I do think that it would be worth while to take two or three
of these animals with us. They can carry a hundred pounds apiece; but as
we may be going over extraordinarily rough country, fifty pounds would be
sufficient. The advantage would be that we could establish a sort of
central camp at the farthest spot to which the mules could go, and then
make exploring expeditions with the llamas to carry provisions and tools.
The llamas are not bad eating, so that if we found no other use for them
they would assist our commissariat."
"How far can they go in a day, Harry?"
"Ten or twelve miles, and you may be sure that that is as much as we can
do when we are among the mountains."
"Then I should think they would be very useful. I suppose there will be no
difficulty in buying them?"
"None at all. A good many are brought in for sale to the market every day.
Of course it would be necessary to get strong animals accustomed to
Before starting there was another long consultation between Harry and Dias
as to which course it would be better to adopt. The most-frequented pass
through the mountains was that to Paucartambo, forty miles north-east from
Cuzco, at the mouth of the pass that leads down into the plains. Between
this town and the Carabaya range, a hundred and fifty miles to the south,
was to be found the rich gold deposit to which Dias had referred. So far,
however, as the traditions he had received informed him, it was situated
near the slopes of the Tinta volcano, and between that and Ayapata. The
direct road to this spot was extremely difficult, and he was of opinion
that the journey could be more easily performed by going to Paucartambo
and then skirting the foot of the mountains.
"You will find no difficulty in obtaining food as you go along," he said;
"wild turkeys, pheasants, and other birds are to be met with in that
district. Moreover, there are many plantations which have been deserted
owing to the depredations of the Chincas, a tribe who live on the
tributaries of the Pueros, or as it used to be called, Rio Madre de Dios.
Here you will find fields of maize still growing, sugar-cane, cacao, and
rice. One after another the estates have been abandoned; at some of them
the whole of the people on the farms were massacred, and in all the danger
was so great that the proprietors found it impossible to work them. The
one drawback to that road is that we may fall in with the Chincas, in
which case they will certainly attack us. However, they are widely
scattered through the forests, and we may not fall in with them. On the
other hand, the track by the Tinta mountain from Sicuani is extremely
difficult and dangerous, We might lose several of our animals in
traversing it, and should have to depend entirely on what we carried for
"Then by all means let us go the other way, Dias. Were we to lose some of
our mules it would be impossible to replace them, and it would be useless
to find gold if we could not carry it away."
Two days later they started, four llamas having been added to the caravan.
Dias explained that it would not be necessary to take any natives to
attend to these animals, as, once started, they would follow the mules
without difficulty, especially if they were fed with them before starting.
Three days' travelling brought them to the little town, which lay very
high up in the hills. The cold here was bitter, and the party needed all
their wraps, and were glad to get in motion as soon as it was light.
Passing over a range of mountains above Paucartambo, where a thin layer of
snow crunched under their feet, they began the tremendous descent into the
plain. In a short time the morning mist cleared away. The road led through
a tropical forest. It took them over three hours to reach the river
Chirimayu, a descent of eleven thousand feet in the course of eight miles.
Here they halted by the side of a splendid waterfall. The hills rose up
perpendicularly on every side except where the little river made its way
through the gorge; they were covered with brushwood, ferns, and creepers,
thick with flowers of many colours, while lofty palms and forest trees
grew wherever their roots could find a hold. Splendid butterflies of
immense size flitted about; birds of many kinds and beautiful plumage flew
hither and thither among the trees; humming-birds sucked the honey from
the bright flowers; parrots chattered and screamed in the upper branches
of the trees, and the foam and spray of the torrent sparkled in the sun.
Harry and his brother stood struck with admiration at the loveliness of
the scene, even Donna Maria and José ceased their chatter as they looked
at a scene such as they had never before witnessed.
"It is worth coming all the way from England to see this, Bertie."
"It is, indeed. If it is all like this I sha'n't mind how long Dias takes
to find the place he is in search of."
At a word from Dias they all set to work to take the burdens off the
animals. A place was cleared for the tents. When these had been erected
José collected dried sticks. A fire was soon lighted, and Maria began to
"Is it unhealthy here, Dias?"
"Not here, señors; we are still many hundred feet above the plain. In the
forest there it is unhealthy for whites, the trees grow so thickly that it
is difficult to penetrate them, swamps and morasses lie in many places,
and the air is thick and heavy. We shall not go down there until we need.
When we must descend we shall find an abundance of maize, and fruits of
all sorts. The savages kill the people they find on the estates, but do
not destroy the crops or devastate the fields. They are wise enough to
know that these are useful to them, and though they are too lazy to work
themselves they appreciate the good things that others have planted."
"It is rather early to make a halt, Dias."
"We have work to do, señor. In the first place we must find a spot where
large trees stand on the bank of the torrent. Two or three of these must
be felled so that they fall across it; then we shall have to chop off the
branches, lay them flat side by side, and make a bridge over which to take
animals. After breakfast we must set about this work, and it will be too
late before we finish to think of going farther to-day."
"It is well that we bought four good axes and plenty of rope at Cuzco,"
"We shall want them very often, señor. Three large torrents come down
between this and the Tinta volcano, besides many smaller ones. Some rise
from the hills to the north of us. These fall into others, which
eventually combine to make the Madre de Dios. So far as is known boats can
descend the river to the Amazon without meeting with any obstacle, from a
point only a few miles from the head of the Pueros, which we shall
presently cross. The fact that there are no cataracts during the whole
course from the hills to the junction of the rivers, shows how perfectly
flat the great plain is."
"And did either the Incas or the Spaniards ever conquer the Chincas and
cultivate these splendid plains?"
"The Incas drove them back some distance, señor, and forced them to pay a
tribute, but they never conquered them. Doubtless they cultivated the land
for some leagues from the foot of the mountains, as did the Spaniards, and
it was considered the most fertile part of the Montaña, as their
possessions this side of the Cordilleras were called. The Spaniards tried
to push farther, but met with such stout opposition by the savages that
they were forced to desist."
All were ready when Maria announced breakfast. After the meal they sat
smoking for half an hour, reluctant to commence the heavy work before
"We had better be moving, señor," Dias said as he rose to his feet, "or we
shall not get the bridge made before dark."
A hundred yards from the camp they found three large trees growing close
to each other near the edge of the stream. Bertie looked at them with an
air of disgust.
"This will be worse for the hands than rowing for twelve hours in a heavy
"I dare say it will," Harry agreed; "but it has got to be done, and the
sooner we set about it the better."
"I shall take off my flannel shirt," Bertie said.
"You had better not, señor," Dias said, as he saw what the lad was about
to do. "There are many insects here that will sting you, and the bites of
some of them swell up and turn into sores. Now, señor, I will take this
tree. The next is not quite so large, will you take that? I will help you
when I am finished with my own. Your brother and José can work by turns at
It was hard work, for the trees were over two feet across near the foot.
Dias had felled his before the others had cut half-way through, and he
then lent his aid to Harry, who was streaming with perspiration.
"You are not accustomed to it, señor. You will manage better when you have
had two or three months' practice at the work."
"I did not bargain for this, Harry," Bertie said as he rested for the
twentieth time from his work. "Jaguars and alligators, Indians and
bandits, and hard climbing I was prepared for, but I certainly never
expected that we should have to turn ourselves into wood-cutters."
"It is hard work, Bertie, but it is useless to grumble, and, as Dias says,
we shall become accustomed to it in two or three months."
"Two or three months!" Bertie repeated with a groan; "my hands are
regularly blistered already, and my arms and back ache dreadfully."
"Well, fire away! Why, José has done twice as much as you have, and he has
hardly turned a hair. I don't suppose that he has had much more practice
than you have had, and he is nothing like so strong."
"Oh, I dare say! if he has never cut, his ancestors have, and I suppose it
is hereditary. Anyhow, I have been doing my best. Well, here goes!"
Harry laughed at his brother's theory for explaining why José had done
more work than he had. He was himself by no means sorry that Dias had come
to his assistance, and that his tree was nearly ready to fall. José
climbed it with the end of a long rope, which he secured to an upper
bough. Dias then took the other end of the rope, crossed the torrent by
the tree he had felled, and when José had come down and Harry had given a
few more cuts with the axe, he was able to guide the tree in its fall
almost directly across the stream. Then he took Bertie's tree in hand. In
ten minutes this was lying beside the others. It took three hours' more
work to cut off the branches and to lay the trees side by side, which was
done with the aid of one of the mules. The smaller logs were packed in
between them to make a level road, and when this was done the workers went
back to the little camp. The sun was already setting, and Donna Maria had
the cooking-pots simmering over the fire.
"That has been a hard day's work," Harry said, when he and his brother
threw themselves down on the grass near the fire.
"Hard is no name for it, Harry. I have never been sentenced to work on a
tread-mill, but I would cheerfully chance it for a month rather than do
another day's work like this. The palms of my hands feel as if they had
been handling a red-hot iron, my arms and shoulders ache as if I had been
on a rack. I seem to be in pain from the tips of my toes to the top of my
"It is only what every settler who builds himself a hut in the backwoods
must feel, Bert. It is the work of every wood-cutter and charcoal-burner;
it is a good deal like the work of every miner. You have been brought up
too soft, my boy."
"Soft be hanged!" the lad said indignantly; "it is the first time I have
heard that the life of an apprentice on board a ship was a soft one. I
have no doubt you feel just as bad as I do."
"But you don't hear me grumbling, Bert; that is all the difference. I
expect that, of the two, I am rather the worse, for my bones and muscles
are more set than yours, and it is some years now since I pulled at either
a rope or an oar."
Bertie was silent for a minute or two, and then said rather
"Well, Harry, perhaps I need not have grumbled so much, but you see it is
a pretty rough beginning when one is not accustomed to it. We ought to
have had a short job to begin with, and got into it gradually, instead of
having six hours on end; and I expect that the backwoods settler you were
talking about does not work for very long when he first begins. If he did
he would be a fool, for he certainly would not be fit for work for a week
if he kept on till he had nearly broken his back and taken the whole skin
off his hands by working all day the first time he tried it."
"There is something in that, Bertie; and as we are in no extraordinary
hurry I do think we might have been satisfied with felling the trees to-
day, and cutting off the branches and getting them into place to-morrow.
Still, as Dias seemed to make nothing of it, I did not like to knock off
at the very start."
"The meal is ready, señor," Maria said, "and I think we had better eat it
at once, for the sky looks as if we were going to have rain."
"And thunder too," Dias said. "You had better begin; José and I will
picket the mules and hobble the llamas. If they were to make off, we
should have a lot of trouble in the morning."
The aspect of the sky had indeed changed. Masses of cloud hung on the tops
of the hills, and scud was flying overhead.
Maria placed one of the cooking-pots and two tin plates, knives, and forks
beside Harry and his brother, with two flat cakes of ground maize.
"Sit down and have your food at once," Harry said to her. "The rain will
be down in bucketfuls before many minutes."
They were soon joined by Dias and José, the latter bringing up a large can
of water from the stream. They had just finished when large drops of rain
began to patter on the ground.
"Never mind the things," Harry said as he leapt to his feet. "Crawl under
shelter at once; it is no use getting a wetting."
All at once made for the tents; and they were but just in time, for the
rain began to fall in torrents, and a peal of thunder crashed out overhead
as they got under the canvas.
"This is our first experience of this sort of thing," Harry said, as he
and his brother lit their pipes half-sitting and half-reclining on their
beds. "I rather wondered why Dias put the tents on this little bit of
rising ground, which did not look so soft or tempting as the level; but I
see now that he acted very wisely, for we should have been flooded in no
time if we had been lower down. As it is, I am by no means sure that we
shan't have the water in. Another time we will take the precaution to make
trenches round the tents when we pitch them. However, we have got a
waterproof sheet underneath the beds, so I expect it will be all right."
"I hope so. Anyhow, we had better see that the edges are turned up all
round, so that the water cannot run over them. By Jove! it does come down.
We can hardly hear each other speak."
Suddenly the entrance to the tent was thrust aside.
"Here is a candle, señors."
It was thrown in, and Dias ran back into his own tent, which was but a few
yards away, before Harry could remonstrate at his coming out.
"The candle will be useful, anyhow," Bertie said. "It is almost pitch-dark
now. What with the sun going down and the clouds overhead, it has turned
from day into night in the past five minutes."
Striking a match he lit the candle, and stuck it in between his shoes,
which he took off for the purpose.
"That is more cheerful, Harry."
"Hullo! what is that?"
A deep sound, which was certainly not thunder, rose from the woods. It was
answered again and again from different directions.
"They must be either pumas or jaguars, which are always called here lions
and tigers, and I have no doubt Dias will know by the roar which it is. I
should not mind if it were daylight, for it is not pleasant to know that
there are at least half a dozen of these beasts in the neighbourhood. We
may as well drop the cartridges into our rifles and pistols. I believe
neither of these beasts often attacks men, but they might certainly attack
The storm continued, and each clap of thunder was succeeded by roars,
snarls, and hissing, and with strange cries and shrieks. During a
momentary lull Harry shouted:
"Is there any fear of these beasts attacking us or the mules, Dias?"
"No, señor, they are too frightened by the thunder and lightning to think
of doing so."
"What are all those cries we hear?"
"Those are monkeys, señor. They are frightened both by the storm and by
the roaring of the lions and tigers."
"Which is the bigger, Harry, the puma or the jaguar?"
"I believe the jaguar is the bigger, but the puma is the more formidable
and fiercer. The latter belongs to the same family as the lion, and the
former to that of the leopards. The jaguar is more heavily built than the
leopard, and stronger, with shorter legs, but it is spotted just as the
leopard is. The puma is in build like the lion, but has no mane. Both prey
on animals of all kinds. The natives say they catch turtles, turn them
over on their backs as a man would do, and tear the shells apart. They
will also eat fish; but they are both scourges to the Indians and white
planters, as they will kill sheep, horses, and cattle. Of course, if they
are attacked by men and wounded, they will fight desperately, as most wild
creatures will; but if man does not molest them, they are quite content to
leave him alone, unless he chances to pass under a tree among the branches
of which they are lying in wait for prey. Both of them can climb trees."
"Well, I thought I should have slept like a log, Harry, after the work
that I have done, but what with the thunder and the patter of the rain,
and all those noises of beasts, I don't think I am likely to close my
"We shall get accustomed to the noises after a time, Bert; but at present
I feel as if I were in the middle of a travelling menagerie which had been
caught in a thunderstorm. It is curious that all animals should be
frightened at lightning, for they cannot know that it is really
"Yes, I know. We had two dogs on the last ship I was in. A clap of thunder
would send them flying down the companion into the cabin, and they would
crouch in some dark corner in a state of absolute terror. They would do
just the same if cannon were fired in salute, or anything of that sort. I
suppose they thought that was thunder."
In spite, however, of the noises, Harry and his brother both dropped off
to sleep before long, being thoroughly worn out by the day's work. They
were awakened by Dias opening the front of their little tent.
"The sun is up, señors, and it is a fine morning after the storm. Maria
has got coffee ready, baked some cakes, and fried some slices of meat."
"All right, Dias! we will be out directly. We will first run up the bank a
short distance, and have a dip."
"You won't be able to swim, señor. The bed of the torrent is full, and no
swimmer could breast the water."
"All right! we will be careful."
Throwing on their ponchos, they went down to the stream and ran along the
"The water is coming down like a race-horse, Bert, but just ahead it has
overflowed its banks. We can have a bath there safely, though it is not
deep enough for swimming."
After ten minutes' absence they returned to the camp, completed their
dressing, and sat down to breakfast.
"What were all those frightful noises, Dias? Were they pumas or jaguars?"
"They were both, señor. You can easily tell the difference in the sounds
they make. The jaguar's is between a roar and a snarl, while the puma's is
a sort of a hissing roar."
As soon as breakfast was over, the tents were packed up and the mules and
llamas laden. Dias had given them a feed all round an hour before. The
course they should take had been already agreed upon; they must descend to
the plain, for it would be next to impossible to cross the ravines on the
"Each stream coming down from the hills," Dias said, "must be followed
nearly up to its source, but for the next seventy or eighty miles the
search need not be so careful as it must be afterwards. The place cannot
be far from Tinta, but somewhere this side of it. We need not hurry, for
there are two months to spare."
"How do you mean, Dias?"
"On a day that answers to the 21st of March, Coyllur--that is a star--will
rise at midnight in a cleft in a peak. It can be seen only in the valley
in which the stream that contains the gold runs down. This is what my
father taught me; therefore there must be mountains to the south-east, and
this can only be where the Cordilleras run east, which is the case at
"That is excellent as far as it goes, if we happen to be in the right
valley at the time, Dias, but it would not help us in the slightest if we
were in any other valley. And we should have to wait a year before trying
in another place."
"Yes, señor, but there are marks on the rocks of a particular kind. There
are marks on rocks in other valleys, so that these should not be
distinguished by Spaniards searching for the place. I should know the
marks when I saw them."
"Then in that case, Dias, the star would not be of much use to us."
"I know not how that might be, señor, but as these instructions have been
handed down from the time when the Spaniards arrived, it must surely in
some way be useful, but in what way I cannot say."
"At any rate, Dias, what with those marks you speak of, and the star, it
will be hard if we cannot find it. I suppose you are sure that the place
is rich if we do light upon it?"
"Of that there can be no doubt, señor. Tradition says that it was the
richest spot in the mountains, and was only worked when the king had need
of gold, either for equipping an army or on some special occasion. At such
a time it would be worked for one month, and then closed until gold was
again required. However, as we go that way we shall explore other valleys.
Gold is found more or less in all of them. Possibly we may find some rich
spot which we can fall back upon if we fail in our search."
"But I hardly see how we can fail, with the star and those marks on the
rocks to aid us."
"The marks may have disappeared, señor, and in that case we may not be in
the right spot when the star rises; or again, the Incas may have closed
the approach in some way to make the matter sure. I cannot promise that we
shall find the gold; but I shall do my best with the knowledge that has
come down to me. If I fail, we must try in other directions. When the
Spaniards came, forty thousand of the Incas' people left Cuzco and the
neighbouring towns, and journeyed away down the mountains and out to the
west. Since then no reliable news concerning them has been heard, but
rumours have from time to time come from that direction to the effect that
there is a great and wealthy city there. I say not that if we failed here
we should attempt to find it. The dangers from the savages would be too
great. There would be great forests to traverse, many rivers to be
crossed. We might travel for years without ever finding their city. When
we got there, we might be seized and put to death, and if we were spared
we might not be able to make off with the treasure. I mention it to show
that gold may be found in many other places besides this valley we are
"I quite agree with you, Dias, that unless we could get some indication of
the position of this city, if it now exists, it would be madness to
attempt to search for it. I want gold badly, but I do not propose that we
should all throw away our lives in what would be almost a hopeless
adventure. Even if I were ready to risk my own life on such a mad
enterprise, I would not ask others to do the same."
Crossing the stream, they made their way down through the forest. It was
toilsome work, as they often had to clear a way with axes through the
undergrowth and tangle of creepers. But at noon they reached level ground.
The heat was now intense, even under the trees, and the air close and
oppressive. On the way down Harry shot a wild turkey. When they halted,
this was cut up and broiled over a fire, and after it had been eaten all
lay down and slept for two or three hours.
"Ought we not to set a guard?" Harry had asked.
"No, señor, I do not think it necessary. José will lie down by the side of
the llamas, and even if the mules should not give us a warning of any man
or beast approaching, the llamas will do so. They are the shyest and most
timid of creatures, and would detect the slightest movement."
For the next three weeks they continued their way. During this time five
or six ravines were investigated as far as they could be ascended. Samples
were frequently taken from sand and gravel and washed, but though
particles of gold were frequently found, they were not in sufficient
quantity to promise good results from washing.
"If we had a band of natives with us," Dias said, "we should no doubt get
enough to pay well--that is to say, to cover all expenses and leave an
ounce or two of profit to every eight or ten men engaged--but as matters
stand we should only be wasting time by remaining here."
They had no difficulty in obtaining sufficient food; turkeys and pheasants
were occasionally shot; a tapir was once killed, and, as they had brought
hooks and lines with them, fish were frequently caught in the streams.
These were of small size, but very good eating. But, as Dias said, they
could not hope to find larger species, except far out in the plains, where
the rivers were deep and sluggish.
The work was hard, but they were now accustomed to it. They often had to
go a considerable distance before they could find trees available for
bridging the torrents, but, on the other hand, they sometimes came upon
some of much smaller girth than those they had first tackled. The labour
in getting these down was comparatively slight. Sometimes these stood a
little way from the stream, but after they were felled two mules could
easily drag them to the site of the bridge. When on the march, Harry and
his brother carried their double-barrelled guns, each with one barrel
charged with shot suitable for pheasants or other birds, the other with
buck-shot. Dias carried a rifle. Very seldom did they mount their mules,
the ground being so rough and broken, and the boughs of the trees so
thick, that it was less trouble to walk at the heads of their animals than
AN INDIAN ATTACK
One day when they returned from exploring a valley, Harry and his brother,
taking their rifles, strolled down an open glade, while Dias and José
unpacked the animals. They had gone but a hundred yards when they heard a
sound that was new to them. It sounded like the grunting of a number of
pigs. Dias was attending to the mules. Harry and Bertie caught up their
guns. Presently a small pig made its appearance from among some trees.
Harry was on the point of raising his gun to his shoulder when Dias
shouted, "Stop, do not shoot!"
"What is the matter, Dias?" he asked in surprise, as the latter ran up.
"That is a peccary."
"Well, it is a sort of pig, isn't it?"
"Yes, señor. But if you were to kill it, we might all be torn in pieces.
They travel through the forests in great herds, and if one is injured or
wounded, the rest will rush upon its assailants. You may shoot down dozens
of them, but that only redoubles their fury. The only hope of escape is to
climb a tree; but they will keep watch there, regardless of how many are
shot, until hunger obliges them to retire. They are the bravest beasts of
the forests, and will attack and kill even a lion or a tiger if it has
seized one of their number. I beg you to stroll back quietly, and then sit
down. I will go to the head of the mules. If the herd see that we pay no
attention to them, they may go on without interfering with us. If we see
them approaching us, and evidently intending to attack, we must take to
the trees and try to keep them from attacking the mules; but there would
be small chance of our succeeding in doing so."
He and José at once went up to the mules, and stood perfectly quiet at
their head. Harry and Bertie moved closely up, laid their double-barrelled
guns beside them, and then sat down. By this time forty or fifty of the
peccaries had issued from the trees; some were rooting among the herbage,
others stood perfectly quiet, staring at the group on the rise above them.
Seeing no movement among them nor any sign of hostility, they joined the
others in their search for food, and in a quarter of an hour the whole
herd had moved off along the edge of the forest.
"Praise be to the saints!" Dias said, taking off his hat and crossing
himself. "We have escaped a great danger. A hunter would rather meet a
couple of lions or tigers than a herd of peccaries. These little animals
are always ready to give battle, and once they begin, fight till they die.
The more that are killed the more furious do the others become. Even in a
tree there is no safety. Many a hunter has been besieged in a tree until,
overpowered by thirst, he fell to the ground and was torn to pieces."
"What do they eat?" Harry asked.
"They will eat anything they kill, but their chief food is roots. They
kill great numbers of snakes. Even the largest python is no match for a
herd of peccaries if they catch him before he can take refuge in a tree."
"Well, then, it is very lucky that you stopped us before we fired."
"Fortunate indeed, señor. By taking to the trees we might have saved our
lives, but we should certainly have lost our mules. Both pumas and tigers
kill the little beasts when they come across stragglers. And it is well
that they do, for otherwise the woods would be full of them, though
fortunately they do not multiply as fast as our pigs, having only two or
three in a litter. They are good eating, but it is seldom that a hunter
can shoot one, for if he only wounds it, its shrieks will call together
all its companions within a mile round."
"Then we must give up the idea of having pork while we are among the
"Now, are you going to keep me here all day, Dias?" Maria called suddenly.
"It seems to me that you have forgotten me altogether."
Harry and Bertie could not help laughing.
Dias had, on returning to the mules, taken his wife and seated her on a
branch six feet from the ground, in order that, should the peccaries
attack them, he might be ready at once to snatch up his rifle and join in
the fight without having first to think of the safety of his wife. He now
lifted her down.
The action did even more than what Dias had said to convince Harry of the
seriousness of the danger to which they had been exposed, for as a rule
Donna Maria had scoffed at any offers of aid, even in the most difficult
places, and with her light springy step had taxed the power of the others
to keep up with her. These offers had not come from Dias, who showed his
confidence in his wife's powers by paying no attention whatever, and a
grim smile had often played on his lips when Harry or his brother had
offered her a hand. That his first thought had been of her now showed that
he considered the crisis a serious one.
"I thought Dias had gone mad," she said, as she regained her feet. "I
could not think what was the matter when he began to shout and ran towards
you. I saw nothing but a little pig. Then, when he came slowly back with
you and suddenly seized me and jerked me up on to that bough, I felt quite
sure of it, especially when he told me to hold my tongue and not say a
word. Was it that little pig? I saw lots more of them afterwards."
"Yes; and if they had taken it into their heads to come this way you would
have seen a good deal more of them than would be pleasant," Dias said.
"With our rifles we could have faced four lions or tigers with a better
hope of success than those little pigs you saw. They were peccaries, a
sort of wild pig, and the most savage little beasts in the forest. They
would have chased us all up into the trees and killed all the mules."
"Who would have thought it!" she said. "Why, when I was a girl I have
often gone in among a herd of little pigs quite as big as those things,
and never felt the least afraid of them. I must have been braver than I
thought I was."
"You are a good deal sillier than you think you are, Maria," Dias said
shortly. "There is as much difference between our pig and a peccary as
there is between a quiet Indian cultivator on the Sierra and one of those
savage Indians of the woods."
"I suppose I can light a fire now, Dias. There is no fear of those
creatures coming back again, is there?"
"No, I should think not. Fortunately they are going in the opposite
direction, otherwise I should have said that we had better stop here for a
day or two in case they should attack us if we came upon them again."
The next day, as they were journeying through the forest, at the foot of
the slopes José gave a sudden exclamation.
"What is it?" Dias asked.
"I saw a naked Indian standing in front of that tree; he has gone now."
"Are you sure, José?"
"Quite sure. He was standing perfectly still, looking at us, but when I
called to you he must have slipped round the tree. I only took my eyes off
him for a moment; when I looked again he was gone."
"Then we are in for trouble," Dias said gravely. "Of course it was one of
the Chincas. No doubt he was alone, but you may be sure that he has made
off to tell his companions he has seen us. He will know exactly how many
we are, and how many animals we have. It may be twenty-four hours, it may
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