Part 11 out of 15
the other side of the isle, he came upon a little shady beach,
which, beneath a bank of stone some six feet high, fringed the edge
of a perfectly still and glassy bay. Ten yards farther, the
cataract fell sheer in thunder: but a high fern-fringed rock turned
its force away from that quiet nook. In it the water swung slowly
round and round in glassy dark-green rings, among which dimpled a
hundred gaudy fish, waiting for every fly and worm which spun and
quivered on the eddy. Here, if anywhere, was the place to find the
owner of the canoe. He leapt down upon the pebbles; and as he did
so, a figure rose from behind a neighboring rock, and met him face
It was an Indian girl; and yet, when he looked again,--was it an
Indian girl? Amyas had seen hundreds of those delicate dark-
skinned daughters of the forest, but never such a one as this. Her
stature was taller, her limbs were fuller and more rounded; her
complexion, though tanned by light, was fairer by far than his own
sunburnt face; her hair, crowned with a garland of white flowers,
was not lank, and straight, and black, like an Indian's, but of a
rich, glossy brown, and curling richly and crisply from her very
temples to her knees. Her forehead, though low, was upright and
ample; her nose was straight and small; her lips, the lips of a
European; her whole face of the highest and richest type of Spanish
beauty; a collar of gold mingled with green beads hung round her
neck, and golden bracelets were on her wrists. All the strange and
dim legends of white Indians, and of nations of a higher race than
Carib, or Arrowak, or Solimo, which Amyas had ever heard, rose up
in his memory. She must be the daughter of some great cacique,
perhaps of the lost Incas themselves--why not? And full of simple
wonder, he gazed upon that fairy vision, while she, unabashed in
her free innocence, gazed fearlessly in return, as Eve might have
done in Paradise, upon the mighty stature, and the strange
garments, and above all, on the bushy beard and flowing yellow
locks of the Englishman.
He spoke first, in some Indian tongue, gently and smilingly, and
made a half-step forward; but quick as light she caught up from the
ground a bow, and held it fiercely toward him, fitted with the long
arrow, with which, as he could see, she had been striking fish, for
a line of twisted grass hung from its barbed head. Amyas stopped,
laid down his own bow and sword, and made another step in advance,
smiling still, and making all Indian signs of amity: but the arrow
was still pointed straight at his breast, and he knew the mettle
and strength of the forest nymphs well enough to stand still and
call for the Indian boy; too proud to retreat, but in the
uncomfortable expectation of feeling every moment the shaft
quivering between his ribs.
The boy, who had been peering from above, leaped down to them in a
moment; and began, as the safest method, grovelling on his nose
upon the pebbles, while he tried two or three dialects; one of
which at last she seemed to understand, and answered in a tone of
evident suspicion and anger.
"What does she say?"
"That you are a Spaniard and a robber, because you have a beard."
"Tell her that we are no Spaniards, but that we hate them; and are
come across the great waters to help the Indians to kill them."
The boy translated his speech. The nymph answered by a
contemptuous shake of the head.
"Tell her, that if she will send her tribe to us, we will do them
no harm. We are going over the mountains to fight the Spaniards,
and we want them to show us the way."
The boy had no sooner spoken, than, nimble as a deer, the nymph had
sprung up the rocks, and darted between the palm-stems to her
canoe. Suddenly she caught sight of the English boat, and stopped
with a cry of fear and rage.
"Let her pass!" shouted Amyas, who had followed her close. "Push
your boat off, and let her pass. Boy, tell her to go on; they will
not come near her."
But she hesitated still, and with arrow drawn to the head, faced
first on the boat's crew, and then on Amyas, till the Englishmen
had shoved off full twenty yards.
Then, leaping into her tiny piragua, she darted into the wildest
whirl of the eddies, shooting along with vigorous strokes, while
the English trembled as they saw the frail bark spinning and
leaping amid the muzzles of the alligators, and the huge dog-
toothed trout: but with the swiftness of an arrow she reached the
northern bank, drove her canoe among the bushes, and leaping from
it, darted through some narrow opening in the bush, and vanished
like a dream.
"What fair virago have you unearthed?" cried Cary, as they toiled
up again to the landing-place.
"Beshrew me," quoth Jack, "but we are in the very land of the
nymphs, and I shall expect to see Diana herself next, with the moon
on her forehead."
"Take care, then, where you wander hereabouts, Sir John: lest you
end as Actaeon did, by turning into a stag, and being eaten by a
"Actaeon was eaten by his own hounds, Mr. Cary, so the parallel
don't hold. But surely she was a very wonder of beauty!"
Why was it that Amyas did not like this harmless talk? There had
come over him the strangest new feeling; as if that fair vision was
his property, and the men had no right to talk about her, no right
to have even seen her. And he spoke quite surlily as he said--
"You may leave the women to themselves, my masters; you'll have to
deal with the men ere long: so get your canoes up on the rock, and
keep good watch."
"Hillo!" shouted one in a few minutes, "here's fresh fish enough to
feed us all round. I suppose that young cat-a-mountain left it
behind her in her hurry. I wish she had left her golden chains and
ouches into the bargain."
"Well," said another, " we'll take it as fair payment, for having
made us drop down the current again to let her ladyship pass."
"Leave that fish alone," said Amyas; "it is none of yours."
"Why, sir!" quoth the finder in a tone of sulky deprecation.
"If we are to make good friends with the heathens, we had better
not begin by stealing their goods. There are plenty more fish in
the river; go and catch them, and let the Indians have their own."
The men were accustomed enough to strict and stern justice in their
dealings with the savages: but they could not help looking slyly at
each other, and hinting, when out of sight, that the captain seemed
in a mighty fuss about his new acquaintance.
However, they were expert by this time in all the Indian's fishing
methods; and so abundant was the animal life which swarmed around
every rock, that in an hour fish enough lay on the beach to feed
them all; whose forms and colors, names and families, I must leave
the reader to guess from the wondrous pages of Sir Richard
Schomburgk, for I know too little of them to speak without the fear
of making mistakes.
A full hour passed before they saw anything more of their Indian
neighbors; and then from under the bushes shot out a canoe, on
which all eyes were fixed in expectation.
Amyas, who expected to find there some remnant of a higher race,
was disappointed enough at seeing on board only the usual half-
dozen of low-browed, dirty Orsons, painted red with arnotto: but a
gray-headed elder at the stern seemed, by his feathers and gold
ornaments, to be some man of note in the little woodland community.
The canoe came close up to the island; Amyas saw that they were
unarmed, and, laying down his weapons, advanced alone to the bank,
making all signs of amity. They were returned with interest by the
old man, and Amyas's next care was to bring forward the fish which
the fair nymph had left behind, and, through the medium of the
Indian lad, to give the cacique (for so he seemed to be) to
understand that he wished to render every one his own. This offer
was received, as Amyas expected, with great applause, and the canoe
came alongside; but the crew still seemed afraid to land. Amyas
bade his men throw the fish one by one into the boat; and then
proclaimed by the boy's mouth, as was his custom with all Indians,
that he and his were enemies of the Spaniards, and on their way to
make war against them,--and that all which they desired was a
peaceable and safe passage through the dominions of the mighty
potentate and renowned warrior whom they beheld before them; for
Amyas argued rightly enough, that even if the old fellow aft was
not the cacique, he would be none the less pleased at being
mistaken for him.
Whereon the ancient worthy, rising in the canoe, pointed to heaven,
earth, and the things under, and commenced a long sermon, in tone,
manner, and articulation, very like one of those which the great
black-bearded apes were in the habit of preaching every evening
when they could get together a congregation of little monkeys to
listen, to the great scandal of Jack, who would have it that some
evil spirit set them on to mimic him; which sermon, being partly
interpreted by the Indian lad, seemed to signify, that the valor
and justice of the white men had already reached the ears of the
speaker, and that he was sent to welcome them into those regions by
the Daughter of the Sun.
"The Daughter of the Sun!" quoth Amyas; "then we have found the
lost Incas after all."
"We have found something," said Cary; "I only hope it may not be a
mare's nest, like many another of our finding."
"Or an adder's," said Yeo. "We must beware of treachery."
"We must beware of no such thing," said Amyas, pretty sharply.
"Have I not told you fifty times, that if they see that we trust
them, they will trust us, and if they see that we suspect them,
they will suspect us? And when two parties are watching to see who
strikes the first blow, they are sure to come to fisticuffs from
mere dirty fear of each other."
Amyas spoke truth; for almost every atrocity against savages which
had been committed by the Spaniards, and which was in later and
worse times committed by the English, was wont to be excused in
that same base fear of treachery. Amyas's plan, like that of
Drake, and Cook, and all great English voyagers, had been all along
to inspire at once awe and confidence, by a frank and fearless
carriage; and he was not disappointed here. He bade the men step
boldly into their canoes, and follow the old Indian whither he
would. The simple children of the forest bowed themselves
reverently before the mighty strangers, and then led them smilingly
across the stream, and through a narrow passage in the covert, to a
hidden lagoon, on the banks of which stood, not Manoa, but a tiny
HOW AMYAS WAS TEMPTED OF THE DEVIL
"Let us alone. What pleasure can we have
To war with evil? Is there any peace
In always climbing up the climbing wave?
All things have rest, and ripen toward the grave
In silence; ripen, fall, and cease:
Give us long rest or death, dark death, or dreamful ease."
Humboldt has somewhere a curious passage; in which, looking on some
wretched group of Indians, squatting stupidly round their fires,
besmeared with grease and paint, and devouring ants and clay, he
somewhat naively remarks, that were it not for science, which
teaches us that such is the crude material of humanity, and this
the state from which we all have risen, he should have been tempted
rather to look upon those hapless beings as the last degraded
remnants of some fallen and dying race. One wishes that the great
traveller had been bold enough to yield to that temptation, which
his own reason and common sense presented to him as the real
explanation of the sad sight, instead of following the dogmas of a
so-called science, which has not a fact whereon to base its wild
notion, and must ignore a thousand facts in asserting it. His own
good sense, it seems, coincided instinctively with the Bible
doctrine, that man in a state of nature is a fallen being, doomed
to death--a view which may be a sad one, but still one more
honorable to poor humanity than the theory, that we all began as
some sort of two-handed apes. It is surely more hopeful to believe
that those poor Otomacs or Guahibas were not what they ought to be,
than to believe that they were. It is certainly more complimentary
to them to think that they had been somewhat nobler and more
prudent in centuries gone by, than that they were such blockheads
as to have dragged on, the son after the father, for all the
thousands of years which have elapsed since man was made, without
having had wit enough to discover any better food than ants and
Our voyagers, however, like those of their time, troubled their
heads with no such questions. Taking the Bible story as they found
it, they agreed with Humboldt's reason, and not with his science;
or, to speak correctly, agreed with Humboldt's self, and not with
the shallow anthropologic theories which happened to be in vogue
fifty years ago; and their new hosts were in their eyes immortal
souls like themselves, "captivated by the devil at his will," lost
there in the pathless forests, likely to be lost hereafter.
And certainly facts seemed to bear out their old-fashioned
theories; although these Indians had sunk by no means so low as the
Guahibas whom they had met upon the lower waters of the same river.
They beheld, on landing, a scattered village of palm-leaf sheds,
under which, as usual, the hammocks were slung from tree to tree.
Here and there, in openings in the forest, patches of cassava and
indigo appeared; and there was a look of neatness and comfort about
the little settlement superior to the average.
But now for the signs of the evil spirit. Certainly it was no good
spirit who had inspired them with the art of music; or else (as
Cary said) Apollo and Mercury (if they ever visited America) had
played their forefathers a shabby trick, and put them off with very
poor instruments, and still poorer taste. For on either side of
the landing-place were arranged four or five stout fellows, each
with a tall drum, or long earthen trumpet, swelling out in the
course of its length into several hollow balls from which arose,
the moment the strangers set foot on shore, so deafening a
cacophony of howls, and groans, and thumps, as fully to justify
Yeo's remark, "They are calling upon their devil, sir." To which
Cary answered, with some show of reason, that "they were the less
likely to be disappointed, for none but Sir Urian would ever come
to listen to such a noise."
"And you mark, sirs," said Yeo, "there's some feast or sacrifice
toward. "I'm not overconfident of them yet."
"Nonsense!" said Amyas, "we could kill every soul of them in half-
an-hour, and they know that as well as we."
But some great demonstration was plainly toward; for the children
of the forest were arrayed in two lines, right and left of the open
space, the men in front, and the women behind; and all bedizened,
to the best of their power, with arnotto, indigo, and feathers.
Next, with a hideous yell, leapt into the centre of the space a
personage who certainly could not have complained if any one had
taken him for the devil, for he had dressed himself up carefully
for that very intent, in a jaguar-skin with a long tail, grinning
teeth, a pair of horns, a plume of black and yellow feathers, and a
"Here's the Piache, the rascal," says Amyas.
"Ay," says Yeo, "in Satan's livery, and I've no doubt his works are
according, trust him for it."
"Don't be frightened, Jack," says Cary, backing up Brimblecombe
from behind. "It's your business to tackle him, you know. At him
boldly, and he'll run."
Whereat all the men laughed; and the Piache, who had intended to
produce a very solemn impression, hung fire a little. However,
being accustomed to get his bread by his impudence, he soon
recovered himself, advanced, smote one of the musicians over the
head with his rattle to procure silence; and then began a harangue,
to which Amyas listened patiently, cigar in mouth.
"What's it all about, boy?"
"He wants to know whether you have seen Amalivaca on the other
shore of the great water?"
Amyas was accustomed to this inquiry after the mythic civilizer of
the forest Indians, who, after carving the mysterious sculptures
which appear upon so many inland cliffs of that region, returned
again whence he came, beyond the ocean. He answered, as usual, by
setting forth the praises of Queen Elizabeth.
To which the Piache replied, that she must be one of Amalivaca's
seven daughters, some of whom he took back with him, while be broke
the legs of the rest to prevent their running away, and left them
to people the forests.
To which Amyas replied, that his queen's legs were certainly not
broken; for she was a very model of grace and activity, and the
best dancer in all her dominions; but that it was more important to
him to know whether the tribe would give them cassava bread, and
let them stay peaceably on that island, to rest a while before they
went on to fight the clothed men (the Spaniards), on the other side
of the mountains.
On which the Piache, after capering and turning head over heels
with much howling, beckoned Amyas and his party to follow him; they
did so, seeing that the Indians were all unarmed, and evidently in
the highest good humor.
The Piache went toward the door of a carefully closed hut, and
crawling up to it on all-fours in most abject fashion, began
whining to some one within.
"Ask what he is about, boy."
The lad asked the old cacique, who had accompanied them, and
received for answer, that he was consulting the Daughter of the
"Here is our mare's nest at last," quoth Cary, as the Piache from
whines rose to screams and gesticulations, and then to violent
convulsions, foaming at the mouth, and rolling of the eyeballs,
till he suddenly sank exhausted, and lay for dead.
"As good as a stage play."
"The devil has played his part," says Jack; "and now by the rules
of all plays Vice should come on."
"And a very fair Vice it will be, I suspect; a right sweet
Iniquity, my Jack! Listen."
And from the interior of the hut rose a low sweet song, at which
all the simple Indians bowed their heads in reverence; and the
English were hushed in astonishment; for the voice was not shrill
or guttural, like that of an Indian, but round, clear, and rich,
like a European's; and as it swelled and rose louder and louder,
showed a compass and power which would have been extraordinary
anywhere (and many a man of the party, as was usual in musical old
England, was a good judge enough of such a matter, and could hold
his part right well in glee, and catch, and roundelay, and psalm).
And as it leaped, and ran, and sank again, and rose once more to
fall once more, all but inarticulate, yet perfect in melody, like
the voice of bird on bough, the wild wanderers were rapt in new
delight, and did not wonder at the Indians as they bowed their
heads, and welcomed the notes as messengers from some higher world.
At last one triumphant burst, so shrill that all ears rang again,
and then dead silence. The Piache, suddenly restored to life,
jumped upright, and recommenced preaching at Amyas.
"Tell the howling villain to make short work of it, lad! His tune
won't do after that last one."
The lad, grinning, informed Amyas that the Piache signified their
acceptance as friends by the Daughter of the Sun; that her friends
were theirs, and her foes theirs. Whereon the Indians set up a
scream of delight, and Amyas, rolling another tobacco leaf up in
another strip of plantain, answered,--
"Then let her give us some cassava," and lighted a fresh cigar.
Whereon the door of the hut opened, and the Indians prostrated
themselves to the earth, as there came forth the same fair
apparition which they had encountered upon the island, but decked
now in feather-robes, and plumes of every imaginable hue.
Slowly and stately, as one accustomed to command, she walked up to
Amyas, glancing proudly round on her prostrate adorers, and
pointing with graceful arms to the trees, the gardens, and the
huts, gave him to understand by signs (so expressive were her
looks, that no words were needed) that all was at his service;
after which, taking his hand, she lifted it gently to her forehead.
At that sign of submission a shout of rapture rose from the crowd;
and as the mysterious maiden retired again to her hut, they pressed
round the English, caressing and admiring, pointing with equal
surprise to their swords, to their Indian bows and blow-guns, and
to the trophies of wild beasts with which they were clothed; while
women hastened off to bring fruit, and flowers, and cassava, and
(to Amyas's great anxiety) calabashes of intoxicating drink; and,
to make a long story short, the English sat down beneath the trees,
and feasted merrily, while the drums and trumpets made hideous
music, and lithe young girls and lads danced uncouth dances, which
so scandalized both Brimblecombe and Yeo, that they persuaded Amyas
to beat an early retreat. He was willing enough to get back to the
island while the men were still sober; so there were many leave-
takings and promises of return on the morrow, and the party paddled
back to their island-fortress, racking their wits as to who or what
the mysterious maid could be.
Amyas, however, had settled in his mind that she was one of the
lost Inca race; perhaps a descendant of that very fair girl, wife
of the Inca Manco, whom Pizarro, forty years before, had, merely to
torture the fugitive king's heart, as his body was safe from the
tyrant's reach, stripped, scourged, and shot to death with arrows,
uncomplaining to the last.
They all assembled for the evening service (hardly a day had passed
since they left England on which they had not done the same); and
after it was over, they must needs sing a Psalm, and then a catch
or two, ere they went to sleep; and till the moon was high in
heaven, twenty mellow voices rang out above the roar of the
cataract, in many a good old tune. Once or twice they thought they
heard an echo to their song: but they took no note of it, till
Cary, who had gone apart for a few minutes, returned, and whispered
"The sweet Iniquity is mimicking us, lad."
They went to the brink of the river; and there (for their ears were
by this time dead to the noise of the torrent) they could hear
plainly the same voice which had so surprised them in the hut,
repeating, clear and true, snatches of the airs which they had
sung. Strange and solemn enough was the effect of the men's deep
voices on the island, answered out of the dark forest by those
sweet treble notes; and the two young men stood a long while
listening and looking out across the eddies, which swirled down
golden in the moonlight: but they could see nothing beyond save the
black wall of trees. After a while the voice ceased, and the two
returned to dream of Incas and nightingales.
They visited the village again next day; and every day for a week
or more: but the maiden appeared but rarely, and when she did, kept
her distance as haughtily as a queen.
Amyas, of course, as soon as he could converse somewhat better with
his new friends, was not long before he questioned the cacique
about her. But the old man made an owl's face at her name, and
intimated by mysterious shakes of the head, that she was a very
strange personage, and the less said about her the better. She was
"a child of the Sun," and that was enough.
"Tell him, boy," quoth Cary, "that we are the children of the Sun
by his first wife; and have orders from him to inquire how the
Indians have behaved to our step-sister, for he cannot see all
their tricks down here, the trees are so thick. So let him tell
us, or all the cassava plants shall be blighted."
"Will, Will, don't play with lying!" said Amyas: but the threat was
enough for the cacique, and taking them in his canoe a full mile
down the stream, as if in fear that the wonderful maiden should
overhear him, he told them, in a sort of rhythmic chant, how, many
moons ago (he could not tell how many), his tribe was a mighty
nation, and dwelt in Papamene, till the Spaniards drove them forth.
And how, as they wandered northward, far away upon the mountain
spurs beneath the flaming cone of Cotopaxi, they had found this
fair creature wandering in the forest, about the bigness of a seven
years' child. Wondering at her white skin and her delicate beauty,
the simple Indians worshipped her as a god, and led her home with
them. And when they found that she was human like themselves,
their wonder scarcely lessened. How could so tender a being have
sustained life in those forests, and escaped the jaguar and the
snake? She must be under some Divine protection: she must be a
daughter of the Sun, one of that mighty Inca race, the news of
whose fearful fall had reached even those lonely wildernesses; who
had, many of them, haunted for years as exiles the eastern slopes
of the Andes, about the Ucalayi and the Maranon; who would, as all
Indians knew, rise again some day to power, when bearded white men
should come across the seas to restore them to their ancient
So, as the girl grew up among them, she was tended with royal
honors, by command of the conjuror of the tribe, that so her
forefather the Sun might be propitious to them, and the Incas might
show favor to the poor ruined Omaguas, in the day of their coming
glory. And as she grew, she had become, it seemed, somewhat of a
prophetess among them, as well as an object of fetish-worship; for
she was more prudent in council, valiant in war, and cunning in the
chase, than all the elders of the tribe; and those strange and
sweet songs of hers, which had so surprised the white men, were
full of mysterious wisdom about the birds, and the animals, and the
flowers, and the rivers, which the Sun and the Good Spirit taught
her from above. So she had lived among them, unmarried still, not
only because she despised the addresses of all Indian youths, but
because the conjuror had declared it to be profane in them to
mingle with the race of the Sun, and had assigned her a cabin near
his own, where she was served in state, and gave some sort of
oracular responses, as they had seen, to the questions which be put
Such was the cacique's tale; on which Cary remarked, probably not
unjustly, that he "dared to say the conjuror made a very good thing
of it:" but Amyas was silent, full of dreams, if not about Manoa,
still about the remnant of the Inca race. What if they were still
to be found about the southern sources of the Amazon? He must have
been very near them already, in that case. It was vexatious; but
at least he might be sure that they had formed no great kingdom in
that direction, or he should have heard of it long ago. Perhaps
they had moved lately from thence eastward, to escape some fresh
encroachment of the Spaniards; and this girl had been left behind
in their flight. And then he recollected, with a sigh, how
hopeless was any further search with his diminished band. At
least, he might learn something of the truth from the maiden
herself. It might be useful to him in some future attempt; for he
had not yet given up Manoa. If he but got safe home, there was
many a gallant gentleman (and Raleigh came at once into his mind)
who would join him in a fresh search for the Golden City of Guiana;
not by the upper waters, but by the mouth of the Orinoco.
So they paddled back, while the simple cacique entreated them to
tell the Sun, in their daily prayers, how well the wild people had
treated his descendant; and besought them not to take her away with
them, lest the Sun should forget the poor Omaguas, and ripen their
manioc and their fruit no more.
Amyas had no wish to stay where he was longer than was absolutely
necessary to bring up the sick men from the Orinoco; but this, he
well knew, would be a journey probably of some months, and attended
with much danger.
Cary volunteered at once, however, to undertake the adventure, if
half-a-dozen men would join him, and the Indians would send a few
young men to help in working the canoe: but this latter item was
not an easy one to obtain; for the tribe with whom they now were,
stood in some fear of the fierce and brutal Guahibas, through whose
country they must pass; and every Indian tribe, as Amyas knew well
enough, looks on each tribe of different language to itself as
natural enemies, hateful, and made only to be destroyed wherever
met. This strange fact, too, Amyas and his party attributed to
delusion of the devil, the divider and accuser; and I am of opinion
that they were perfectly right: only let Amyas take care that while
he is discovering the devil in the Indians, he does not give place
to him in himself, and that in more ways than one. But of that
Whether, however, it was pride or shyness which kept the maiden
aloof, she conquered it after a while; perhaps through mere woman's
curiosity; and perhaps, too, from mere longing for amusement in a
place so unspeakably stupid as the forest. She gave the English to
understand, however, that though they all might be very important
personages, none of them was to be her companion but Amyas. And
ere a month was past, she was often hunting with him far and wide
in the neighboring forest, with a train of chosen nymphs, whom she
had persuaded to follow her example and spurn the dusky suitors
around. This fashion, not uncommon, perhaps, among the Indian
tribes, where women are continually escaping to the forest from the
tyranny of the men, and often, perhaps, forming temporary
communities, was to the English a plain proof that they were near
the land of the famous Amazons, of whom they had heard so often
from the Indians; while Amyas had no doubt that, as a descendant of
the Incas, the maiden preserved the tradition of the Virgins of the
Sun, and of the austere monastic rule of the Peruvian superstition.
Had not that valiant German, George of Spires, and Jeronimo Ortal
too, fifty years before, found convents of the Sun upon these very
So a harmless friendship sprang up between Amyas and the girl,
which soon turned to good account. For she no sooner heard that he
needed a crew of Indians, than she consulted the Piache, assembled
the tribe, and having retired to her hut, commenced a song, which
(unless the Piache lied) was a command to furnish young men for
Cary's expedition, under penalty of the sovereign displeasure of an
evil spirit with an unpronounceable name--an argument which
succeeded on the spot, and the canoe departed on its perilous
John Brimblecombe had great doubts whether a venture thus started
by direct help and patronage of the fiend would succeed; and Amyas
himself, disliking the humbug, told Ayacanora that it would be
better to have told the tribe that it was a good deed, and pleasing
to the Good Spirit.
"Ah!" said she, naively enough, "they know better than that. The
Good Spirit is big and lazy; and he smiles, and takes no trouble:
but the little bad spirit, he is so busy--here, and there, and
everywhere," and she waved her pretty hands up and down; "he is the
useful one to have for a friend!" Which sentiment the Piache much
approved, as became his occupation; and once told Brimblecombe
pretty sharply, that he was a meddlesome fellow for telling the
Indians that the Good Spirit cared for them; "for," quoth he, "if
they begin to ask the Good Spirit for what they want, who will
bring me cassava and coca for keeping the bad spirit quiet?" This
argument, however forcible the devil's priests in all ages have
felt it to be, did not stop Jack's preaching (and very good and
righteous preaching it was, moreover), and much less the morning
and evening service in the island camp. This last, the Indians,
attracted by the singing, attended in such numbers, that the Piache
found his occupation gone, and vowed to put an end to Jack's Gospel
with a poisoned arrow.
Which plan he (blinded by his master, Satan, so Jack phrased it)
took into his head to impart to Ayacanora, as the partner of his
tithes and offerings; and was exceedingly astonished to receive in
answer a box on the ear, and a storm of abuse. After which,
Ayacanora went to Amyas, and telling him all, proposed that the
Piache should be thrown to the alligators, and Jack installed in
his place; declaring that whatsoever the bearded men said must be
true, and whosoever plotted against them should die the death.
Jack, however, magnanimously forgave his foe, and preached on, of
course with fresh zeal; but not, alas! with much success. For the
conjuror, though his main treasure was gone over to the camp of the
enemy, had a reserve in a certain holy trumpet, which was hidden
mysteriously in a cave on the neighboring hills, not to be looked
on by woman under pain of death; and it was well known, and had
been known for generations, that unless that trumpet, after
fastings, flagellations, and other solemn rites, was blown by night
throughout the woods, the palm-trees would bear no fruit; yea, so
great was the fame of that trumpet, that neighboring tribes sent at
the proper season to hire it and the blower thereof, by payment of
much precious trumpery, that so they might be sharers in its
So the Piache announced one day in public, that in consequence of
the impiety of the Omaguas, he should retire to a neighboring
tribe, of more religious turn of mind; and taking with him the
precious instrument, leave their palms to blight, and themselves to
the evil spirit.
Dire was the wailing, and dire the wrath throughout the village.
Jack's words were allowed to be good words; but what was the Gospel
in comparison of the trumpet? The rascal saw his advantage, and
began a fierce harangue against the heretic strangers. As he
maddened, his hearers maddened; the savage nature, capricious as a
child's, flashed out in wild suspicion. Women yelled, men scowled,
and ran hastily to their huts for bows and blow-guns. The case was
grown critical. There were not more than a dozen men with Amyas at
the time, and they had only their swords, while the Indian men
might muster nearly a hundred. Amyas forbade his men either to
draw or to retreat; but poisoned arrows were weapons before which
the boldest might well quail; and more than one cheek grew pale,
which had seldom been pale before.
"It is God's quarrel, sirs all," said Jack Brimblecombe; "let Him
defend the right."
As he spoke, from Ayacanora's hut arose her magic song, and
quivered aloft among the green heights of the forest.
The mob stood spell-bound, still growling fiercely, but not daring
to move. Another moment, and she had rushed out, like a very
Diana, into the centre of the ring, bow in hand, and arrow on the
The fallen "children of wrath" had found their match in her; for
her beautiful face was convulsed with fury. Almost foaming in her
passion, she burst forth with bitter revilings; she pointed with
admiration to the English, and then with fiercest contempt to the
Indians; and at last, with fierce gestures, seemed to cast off the
very dust of her feet against them, and springing to Amyas's side,
placed herself in the forefront of the English battle.
The whole scene was so sudden, that Amyas had hardly discovered
whether she came as friend or foe, before her bow was raised. He
had just time to strike up her hand, when the arrow flew past the
ear of the offending Piache, and stuck quivering in a tree.
"Let me kill the wretch!" said she, stamping with rage; but Amyas
held her arm firmly.
"Fools!" cried she to the tribe, while tears of anger rolled down
her cheeks. "Choose between me and your trumpet! I am a daughter
of the Sun; I am white; I am a companion for Englishmen! But you!
your mothers were Guahibas, and ate mud; and your fathers--they
were howling apes! Let them sing to you! I shall go to the white
men, and never sing you to sleep any more; and when the little evil
spirit misses my voice, he will come and tumble you out of your
hammocks, and make you dream of ghosts every night, till you grow
as thin as blow-guns, and as stupid as aye-ayes!"*
* Two-toed sloths.
This terrible counter-threat, in spite of the slight bathos
involved, had its effect; for it appealed to that dread of the
sleep world which is common to all savages: but the conjuror was
ready to outbid the prophetess, and had begun a fresh oration, when
Amyas turned the tide of war. Bursting into a huge laugh at the
whole matter, he took the conjuror by his shoulders, sent him with
one crafty kick half-a-dozen yards off upon his nose; and then,
walking out of the ranks, shook hands round with all his Indian
Whereon, like grown-up babies, they all burst out laughing too,
shook hands with all the English, and then with each other; being,
after all, as glad as any bishops to prorogue the convocation, and
let unpleasant questions stand over till the next session. The
Piache relented, like a prudent man; Ayacanora returned to her hut
to sulk; and Amyas to his island, to long for Cary's return, for he
felt himself on dangerous ground.
At last Will returned, safe and sound, and as merry as ever, not
having lost a man (though he had had a smart brush with the
Guahibas). He brought back three of the wounded men, now pretty
nigh cured; the other two, who had lost a leg apiece, had refused
to come. They had Indian wives; more than they could eat; and
tobacco without end: and if it were not for the gnats (of which
Cary said that there were more mosquitoes than there was air), they
should be the happiest men alive. Amyas could hardly blame the
poor fellows; for the chance of their getting home through the
forest with one leg each was very small, and, after all, they were
making the best of a bad matter. And a very bad matter it seemed
to him, to be left in a heathen land; and a still worse matter,
when he overheard some of the men talking about their comrades'
lonely fate, as if, after all, they were not so much to be pitied.
He said nothing about it then, for he made a rule never to take
notice of any facts which he got at by eavesdropping, however
unintentional; but he longed that one of them would say as much to
him, and he would "give them a piece of his mind." And a piece of
his mind he had to give within the week; for while he was on a
hunting party, two of his men were missing, and were not heard of
for some days; at the end of which time the old cacique come to
tell him that he believed they had taken to the forest, each with
an Indian girl.
Amyas was very wroth at the news. First, because it had never
happened before: he could say with honest pride, as Raleigh did
afterwards when he returned from his Guiana voyage, that no Indian
woman had ever been the worse for any man of his. He had preached
on this point month after month, and practised what he preached;
and now his pride was sorely hurt.
Moreover, he dreaded offence to the Indians themselves: but on this
score the cacique soon comforted him, telling him that the girls,
as far as he could find, had gone off of their own free will;
intimating that he thought it somewhat an honor to the tribe that
they had found favor in the eyes of the bearded men; and moreover,
that late wars had so thinned the ranks of their men, that they
were glad enough to find husbands for their maidens, and had been
driven of late years to kill many of their female infants. This
sad story, common perhaps to every American tribe, and one of the
chief causes of their extermination, reassured Amyas somewhat: but
he could not stomach either the loss of his men, or their breach of
discipline; and look for them he would. Did any one know where
they were? If the tribe knew, they did not care to tell: but
Ayacanora, the moment she found out his wishes, vanished into the
forest, and returned in two days, saying that she had found the
fugitives; but she would not show him where they were, unless he
promised not to kill them. He, of course, had no mind for so
rigorous a method: he both needed the men, and he had no malice
against them,--for the one, Ebsworthy, was a plain, honest, happy-
go-lucky sailor, and as good a hand as there was in the crew; and
the other was that same ne'er-do-weel Will Parracombe, his old
schoolfellow, who had been tempted by the gipsy-Jesuit at
Appledore, and resisting that bait, had made a very fair seaman.
So forth Amyas went, with Ayacanora as a guide, some five miles
upward along the forest slopes, till the girl whispered, "There
they are;" and Amyas, pushing himself gently through a thicket of
bamboo, beheld a scene which, in spite of his wrath, kept him
silent, and perhaps softened, for a minute.
On the farther side of a little lawn, the stream leapt through a
chasm beneath overarching vines, sprinkling eternal freshness upon
all around, and then sank foaming into a clear rock-basin, a bath
for Dian's self. On its farther side, the crag rose some twenty
feet in height, bank upon bank of feathered ferns and cushioned
moss, over the rich green beds of which drooped a thousand orchids,
scarlet, white, and orange, and made the still pool gorgeous with
the reflection of their gorgeousness. At its more quiet outfall,
it was half-hidden in huge fantastic leaves and tall flowering
stems; but near the waterfall the grassy bank sloped down toward
the stream, and there, on palm-leaves strewed upon the turf,
beneath the shadow of the crags, lay the two men whom Amyas sought,
and whom, now he had found them, he had hardly heart to wake from
their delicious dream.
For what a nest it was which they had found! the air was heavy with
the scent of flowers, and quivering with the murmur of the stream,
the humming of the colibris and insects, the cheerful song of
birds, the gentle cooing of a hundred doves; while now and then,
from far away, the musical wail of the sloth, or the deep toll of
the bell-bird, came softly to the ear. What was not there which
eye or ear could need? And what which palate could need either?
For on the rock above, some strange tree, leaning forward, dropped
every now and then a luscious apple upon the grass below, and huge
wild plantains bent beneath their load of fruit.
There, on the stream bank, lay the two renegades from civilized
life. They had cast away their clothes, and painted themselves,
like the Indians, with arnotto and indigo. One lay lazily picking
up the fruit which fell close to his side; the other sat, his back
against a cushion of soft moss, his hands folded languidly upon his
lap, giving himself up to the soft influence of the narcotic coca-
juice, with half-shut dreamy eyes fixed on the everlasting sparkle
of the waterfall--
"While beauty, born of murmuring sound,
Did pass into his face."
Somewhat apart crouched their two dusky brides, crowned with
fragrant flowers, but working busily, like true women, for the
lords whom they delighted to honor. One sat plaiting palm fibres
into a basket; the other was boring the stem of a huge milk-tree,
which rose like some mighty column on the right hand of the lawn,
its broad canopy of leaves unseen through the dense underwood of
laurel and bamboo, and betokened only by the rustle far aloft, and
by the mellow shade in which it bathed the whole delicious scene.
Amyas stood silent for awhile, partly from noble shame at seeing
two Christian men thus fallen of their own self-will; partly
because--and he could not but confess that--a solemn calm brooded
above that glorious place, to break through which seemed sacrilege
even while he felt it a duty. Such, he thought, was Paradise of
old; such our first parents' bridal bower! Ah! if man had not
fallen, he too might have dwelt forever in such a home--with whom?
He started, and shaking off the spell, advanced sword in hand.
The women saw him, and springing to their feet, caught up their
long pocunas, and leapt like deer each in front of her beloved.
There they stood, the deadly tubes pressed to their lips, eyeing
him like tigresses who protect their young, while every slender
limb quivered, not with terror, but with rage.
Amyas paused, half in admiration, half in prudence; for one rash
step was death. But rushing through the canes, Ayacanora sprang to
the front, and shrieked to them in Indian. At the sight of the
prophetess the women wavered, and Amyas, putting on as gentle a
face as he could, stepped forward, assuring them in his best Indian
that he would harm no one.
"Ebsworthy! Parracombe! Are you grown such savages already, that
you have forgotten your captain? Stand up, men, and salute!"
Ebsworthy sprang to his feet, obeyed mechanically, and then slipped
behind his bride again, as if in shame. The dreamer turned his
head languidly, raised his hand to his forehead, and then returned
to his contemplation.
Amyas rested the point of his sword on the ground, and his hands
upon the hilt, and looked sadly and solemnly upon the pair.
Ebsworthy broke the silence, half reproachfully, half trying to
bluster away the coming storm.
"Well, noble captain, so you've hunted out us poor fellows; and
want to drag us back again in a halter, I suppose?"
"I came to look for Christians, and I find heathens; for men, and I
find swine. I shall leave the heathens to their wilderness, and
the swine to their trough. Parracombe!"
"He's too happy to answer you, sir. And why not? What do you want
of us? Our two years vow is out, and we are free men now."
"Free to become like the beasts that perish? You are the queen's
servants still, and in her name I charge you--
"Free to be happy," interrupted the man. "With the best of wives,
the best of food, a warmer bed than a duke's, and a finer garden
than an emperor's. As for clothes, why the plague should a man
wear them where he don't need them? As for gold, what's the use of
it where Heaven sends everything ready-made to your hands?
Hearken, Captain Leigh. You've been a good captain to me, and I'll
repay you with a bit of sound advice. Give up your gold-hunting,
and toiling and moiling after honor and glory, and copy us. Take
that fair maid behind you there to wife; pitch here with us; and
see if you are not happier in one day than ever you were in all
your life before."
"You are drunk, sirrah! William Parracombe! Will you speak to me,
or shall I heave you into the stream to sober you?"
"Who calls William Parracombe?" answered a sleepy voice.
"I, fool!--your captain."
"I am not William Parracombe. He is dead long ago of hunger, and
labor, and heavy sorrow, and will never see Bideford town any more.
He is turned into an Indian now; and he is to sleep, sleep, sleep
for a hundred years, till he gets his strength again, poor fellow--"
"Awake, then, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and
Christ shall give thee light! A christened Englishman, and living
thus the life of a beast?"
"Christ shall give thee light?" answered the same unnatural
abstracted voice. "Yes; so the parsons say. And they say too,
that He is Lord of heaven and earth. I should have thought His
light was as near us here as anywhere, and nearer too, by the look
of the place. Look round!" said he, waving a lazy hand, "and see
the works of God, and the place of Paradise, whither poor weary
souls go home and rest, after their masters in the wicked world
have used them up, with labor and sorrow, and made them wade knee-
deep in blood--I'm tired of blood, and tired of gold. I'll march
no more; I'll fight no more; I'll hunger no more after vanity and
vexation of spirit. What shall I get by it? Maybe I shall leave
my bones in the wilderness. I can but do that here. Maybe I shall
get home with a few pezos, to die an old cripple in some stinking
hovel, that a monkey would scorn to lodge in here. You may go on;
it'll pay you. You may be a rich man, and a knight, and live in a
fine house, and drink good wine, and go to Court, and torment your
soul with trying to get more, when you've got too much already;
plotting and planning to scramble upon your neighbor's shoulders,
as they all did--Sir Richard, and Mr. Raleigh, and Chichester, and
poor dear old Sir Warham, and all of them that I used to watch when
I lived before. They were no happier than I was then; I'll warrant
they are no happier now. Go your ways, captain; climb to glory
upon some other backs than ours, and leave us here in peace, alone
with God and God's woods, and the good wives that God has given us,
to play a little like school children. It's long since I've had
play-hours; and now I'll be a little child once more, with the
flowers, and the singing birds, and the silver fishes in the
stream, that are at peace, and think no harm, and want neither
clothes, nor money, nor knighthood, nor peerage, but just take what
comes; and their heavenly Father feedeth them, and Solomon in all
his glory was not arrayed like one of these--and will He not much
more feed us, that are of more value than many sparrows?"
"And will you live here, shut out from all Christian ordinances?"
"Christian ordinances? Adam and Eve had no parsons in Paradise.
The Lord was their priest, and the Lord was their shepherd, and
He'll be ours too. But go your ways, sir, and send up Sir John
Brimblecombe, and let him marry us here Church fashion (though we
have sworn troth to each other before God already), and let him
give us the Holy Sacrament once and for all, and then read the
funeral service over us, and go his ways, and count us for dead,
sir--for dead we are to the wicked worthless world we came out of
three years ago. And when the Lord chooses to call us, the little
birds will cover us with leaves, as they did the babies in the
wood, and fresher flowers will grow out of our graves, sir, than
out of yours in that bare Northam churchyard there beyond the
weary, weary, weary sea."
His voice died away to a murmur, and his head sank on his breast.
Amyas stood spell-bound. The effect of the narcotic was all but
miraculous in his eyes. The sustained eloquence, the novel
richness of diction in one seemingly drowned in sensual sloth,
were, in his eyes, the possession of some evil spirit. And yet he
could not answer the Evil One. His English heart, full of the
divine instinct of duty and public spirit, told him that it must be
a lie: but how to prove it a lie? And he stood for full ten
minutes searching for an answer, which seemed to fly farther and
farther off the more he sought for it.
His eye glanced upon Ayacanora. The two girls were whispering to
her smilingly. He saw one of them glance a look toward him, and
then say something, which raised a beautiful blush in the maiden's
face. With a playful blow at the speaker, she turned away. Amyas
knew instinctively that they were giving her the same advice as
Ebsworthy had given to him. Oh, how beautiful she was! Might not
the renegades have some reason on their side after all.
He shuddered at the thought: but he could not shake it off. It
glided in like some gaudy snake, and wreathed its coils round all
his heart and brain. He drew back to the other side of the lawn,
and thought and thought--
Should he ever get home? If he did, might he not get home a
beggar? Beggar or rich, he would still have to face his mother, to
go through that meeting, to tell that tale, perhaps, to hear those
reproaches, the forecast of which had weighed on him like a dark
thunder-cloud for two weary years; to wipe out which by some
desperate deed of glory he had wandered the wilderness, and
wandered in vain.
Could he not settle here? He need not be a savage, he and his
might Christianize, civilize, teach equal law, mercy in war,
chivalry to women; found a community which might be hereafter as
strong a barrier against the encroachments of the Spaniard, as
Manoa itself would have been. Who knew the wealth of the
surrounding forests? Even if there were no gold, there were
boundless vegetable treasures. What might he not export down the
rivers? This might be the nucleus of a great commercial
And yet, was even that worth while? To settle here only to torment
his soul with fresh schemes, fresh ambitions; not to rest, but only
to change one labor for another? Was not your dreamer right? Did
they not all need rest? What if they each sat down among the
flowers, beside an Indian bride? They might live like Christians,
while they lived like the birds of heaven.--
What a dead silence! He looked up and round; the birds had ceased
to chirp; the parroquets were hiding behind the leaves; the monkeys
were clustered motionless upon the highest twigs; only out of the
far depths of the forest, the campanero gave its solemn toll, once,
twice, thrice, like a great death-knell rolling down from far
cathedral towers. Was it an omen? He looked up hastily at
Ayacanora. She was watching him earnestly. Heavens! was she
waiting for his decision? Both dropped their eyes. The decision
was not to come from them.
A rustle! a roar! a shriek! and Amyas lifted his eyes in time to
see a huge dark bar shoot from the crag above the dreamer's head,
among the group of girls.
A dull crash, as the group flew asunder; and in the midst, upon the
ground, the tawny limbs of one were writhing beneath the fangs of a
black jaguar, the rarest and most terrible of the forest kings. Of
one? But of which? Was it Ayacanora? And sword in hand, Amyas
rushed madly forward; before he reached the spot those tortured
limbs were still.
It was not Ayacanora, for with a shriek which rang through the
woods, the wretched dreamer, wakened thus at last, sprang up and
felt for his sword. Fool! he had left it in his hammock!
Screaming the name of his dead bride, he rushed on the jaguar, as
it crouched above its prey, and seizing its head with teeth and
nails, worried it, in the ferocity of his madness, like a mastiff-
The brute wrenched its head from his grasp, and raised its dreadful
paw. Another moment and the husband's corpse would have lain by
But high in air gleamed Amyas's blade; down with all the weight of
his huge body and strong arm, fell that most trusty steel; the head
of the jaguar dropped grinning on its victim's corpse;
"And all stood still, who saw him fall,
While men might count a score."
"O Lord Jesus," said Amyas to himself, "Thou hast answered the
devil for me! And this is the selfish rest for which I would have
bartered the rest which comes by working where Thou hast put me!"
They bore away the lithe corpse into the forest, and buried it
under soft moss and virgin mould; and so the fair clay was
transfigured into fairer flowers, and the poor, gentle, untaught
spirit returned to God who gave it.
And then Amyas went sadly and silently back again, and Parracombe
walked after him, like one who walks in sleep.
Ebsworthy, sobered by the shock, entreated to come too: but Amyas
forbade him gently,--
"No, lad, you are forgiven. God forbid that I should judge you or
any man! Sir John shall come up and marry you; and then, if it
still be your will to stay, the Lord forgive you, if you be wrong;
in the meanwhile, we will leave with you all that we can spare.
Stay here and pray to God to make you, and me too, wiser men."
And so Amyas departed. He had come out stern and proud; but he
came back again like a little child.
Three days after Parracombe was dead. Once in camp he seemed
unable to eat or move, and having received absolution and communion
from good Sir John, faded away without disease or pain, "babbling
of green fields," and murmuring the name of his lost Indian bride.
Amyas, too, sought ghostly council of Sir John, and told him all
which had passed through his mind.
"It was indeed a temptation of Diabolus," said that simple sage;
"for he is by his very name the divider who sets man against man,
and tempts one to care only for oneself, and forget kin and
country, and duty and queen. But you have resisted him, Captain
Leigh, like a true-born Englishman, as you always are, and he has
fled from you. But that is no reason why we should not flee from
him too; and so I think the sooner we are out of this place, and at
work again, the better for all our souls."
To which Amyas most devoutly said, "Amen!" If Ayacanora were the
daughter of ten thousand Incas, he must get out of her way as soon
The next day he announced his intention to march once more, and to
his delight found the men ready enough to move towards the Spanish
settlements. One thing they needed: gunpowder for their muskets.
But that they must make as they went along; that is, if they could
get the materials. Charcoal they could procure, enough to set the
world on fire; but nitre they had not yet seen; perhaps they should
find it among the hills: while as for sulphur, any brave man could
get that where there were volcanoes. Who had not heard how one of
Cortez' Spaniards, in like need, was lowered in a basket down the
smoking crater of Popocatepetl, till he had gathered sulphur enough
to conquer an empire? And what a Spaniard could do an Englishman
could do, or they would know the reason why. And if they found
none--why clothyard arrows had done Englishmen's work many a time
already, and they could do it again, not to mention those same
blow-guns and their arrows of curare poison, which, though they
might be useless against Spaniards' armor, were far more valuable
than muskets for procuring food, from the simple fact of their
One thing remained; to invite their Indian friends to join them.
And that was done in due form the next day.
Ayacanora was consulted, of course, and by the Piache, too, who was
glad enough to be rid of the rival preacher, and his unpleasantly
good news that men need not worship the devil, because there was a
good God above them. The maiden sang most melodious assent; the
whole tribe echoed it; and all went smoothly enough till the old
cacique observed that before starting a compact should be made
between the allies as to their share of the booty.
Nothing could be more reasonable; and Amyas asked him to name his
"You take the gold, and we will take the prisoners."
"And what will you do with them?" asked Amyas, who recollected poor
John Oxenham's hapless compact made in like case.
"Eat them," quoth the cacique, innocently enough.
"Humph!" said Cary. "The old proverb comes true--'the more the
merrier: but the fewer the better fare.' I think we will do
without our red friends for this time."
Ayacanora, who had been preaching war like a very Boadicea, was
"Do you too want to dine off roast Spaniards?" asked Amyas.
She shook her head, and denied the imputation with much disgust.
Amyas was relieved; he had shrunk from joining the thought of so
fair a creature, however degraded, with the horrors of cannibalism.
But the cacique was a man of business, and held out stanchly.
"Is it fair?" he asked. "The white man loves gold, and he gets it.
The poor Indian, what use is gold to him? He only wants something
to eat, and he must eat his enemies. What else will pay him for
going so far through the forests hungry and thirsty? You will get
all, and the Omaguas will get nothing."
The argument was unanswerable; and the next day they started
without the Indians, while John Brimblecombe heaved many an honest
sigh at leaving them to darkness, the devil, and the holy trumpet.
When their departure was determined, she shut herself up in her
hut, and appeared no more. Great was the weeping, howling, and
leave-taking on the part of the simple Indians, and loud the
entreaties to come again, bring them a message from Amalivaca's
daughter beyond the seas, and help them to recover their lost land
of Papamene; but Ayacanora took no part in them; and Amyas left
her, wondering at her absence, but joyful and light-hearted at
having escaped the rocks of the Sirens, and being at work once
HOW THEY TOOK THE GOLD-TRAIN
"God will relent, and quit thee all thy debt,
Who ever more approves, and more accepts
Him who imploring mercy sues for life,
Than who self-rigorous chooses death as due,
Which argues over-just, and self-displeased
For self-offence, more than for God offended."
A fortnight or more has passed in severe toil, but not more severe
than they have endured many a time before. Bidding farewell once
and forever to the green ocean of the eastern plains, they have
crossed the Cordillera; they have taken a longing glance at the
city of Santa Fe, lying in the midst of rich gardens on its lofty
mountain plateau, and have seen, as was to be expected, that it was
far too large a place for any attempt of theirs. But they have not
altogether thrown away their time. Their Indian lad has discovered
that a gold-train is going down from Santa Fe toward the Magdalena;
and they are waiting for it beside the miserable rut which serves
for a road, encamped in a forest of oaks which would make them
almost fancy themselves back again in Europe, were it not for the
tree-ferns which form the undergrowth; and were it not, too, for
the deep gorges opening at their very feet; in which, while their
brows are swept by the cool breezes of a temperate zone, they can
see far below, dim through their everlasting vapor-bath of rank hot
steam, the mighty forms and gorgeous colors of the tropic forest.
They have pitched their camp among the tree-ferns, above a spot
where the path winds along a steep hill-side, with a sheer cliff
below of many a hundred feet. There was a road there once,
perhaps, when Cundinamarca was a civilized and cultivated kingdom;
but all which Spanish misrule has left of it are a few steps
slipping from their places at the bottom of a narrow ditch of mud.
It has gone the way of the aqueducts, and bridges, and post-houses,
the gardens and the llama-flocks of that strange empire. In the
mad search for gold, every art of civilization has fallen to decay,
save architecture alone; and that survives only in the splendid
cathedrals which have risen upon the ruins of the temples of the
Sun, in honor of a milder Pantheon; if, indeed, that can be called
a milder one which demands (as we have seen already) human
sacrifices, unknown to the gentle nature-worship of the Incas.
And now, the rapid tropic vegetation has reclaimed its old domains,
and Amyas and his crew are as utterly alone, within a few miles of
an important Spanish settlement, as they would be in the solitudes
of the Orinoco or the Amazon.
In the meanwhile, all their attempts to find sulphur and nitre have
been unavailing; and they have been forced to depend after all
(much to Yeo's disgust) upon their swords and arrows. Be it so:
Drake took Nombre de Dios and the gold-train there with no better
weapons; and they may do as much.
So, having blocked up the road above by felling a large tree across
it, they sit there among the flowers chewing coca, in default of
food and drink, and meditating among themselves the cause of a
mysterious roar, which has been heard nightly in their wake ever
since they left the banks of the Meta. Jaguar it is not, nor
monkey: it is unlike any sound they know; and why should it follow
them? However, they are in the land of wonders; and, moreover, the
gold train is far more important than any noise.
At last, up from beneath there was a sharp crack and a loud cry.
The crack was neither the snapping of a branch, nor the tapping of
a woodpecker; the cry was neither the scream of the parrot, nor the
howl of the monkey.
"That was a whip's crack," said Yeo, "and a woman's wail. They are
close here, lads!"
"A woman's? Do they drive women in their gangs?" asked Amyas.
"Why not, the brutes? There they are, sir. Did you see their
"Men!" said Amyas, in a low voice, "I trust you all not to shoot
till I do. Then give them one arrow, out swords, and at them!
Pass the word along."
Up they came, slowly, and all hearts beat loud at their coming.
First, about twenty soldiers, only one-half of whom were on foot;
the other half being borne, incredible as it may seem, each in a
chair on the back of a single Indian, while those who marched had
consigned their heaviest armor and their arquebuses into the hands
of attendant slaves, who were each pricked on at will by the pike
of the soldier behind them.
"The men are mad to let their ordnance out of their hands."
"Oh, sir, an Indian will pray to an arquebus not to shoot him; he
sure their artillery is safe enough," said Yeo.
"Look at the proud villains," whispered another, "to make dumb
beasts of human creatures like that!"
"Ten shot," counted the business-like Amyas, "and ten pikes; Will
can tackle them up above."
Last of this troop came some inferior officer, also in his chair,
who, as he went slowly up the hill, with his face turned toward the
gang which followed, drew every other second the cigar from his
lips, to inspirit them with those pious ejaculations to the various
objects of his worship, divine, human, anatomic, wooden and
textile, which earned for the pious Spaniards of the sixteenth
century the uncharitable imputation of being at once the most
fetish-ridden idolaters and the most abominable swearers of all
"The blasphemous dog!" said Yeo, fumbling at his bow-string, as if
he longed to send an arrow through him. But Amyas had hardly laid
his finger on the impatient veteran's arm, when another procession
followed, which made them forget all else.
A sad and hideous sight it was: yet one too common even then in
those remoter districts, where the humane edicts were disregarded
which the prayers of Dominican friars (to their everlasting honor
be it spoken) had wrung from the Spanish sovereigns, and which the
legislation of that most wise, virtuous, and heroic Inquisitor
(paradoxical as the words may seem), Pedro de la Gasca, had carried
into effect in Peru,--futile and tardy alleviations of cruelties
and miseries unexampled in the history of Christendom, or perhaps
on earth, save in the conquests of Sennacherib and Zingis Khan.
But on the frontiers, where negroes were imported to endure the
toil which was found fatal to the Indian, and all Indian tribes
convicted (or suspected) of cannibalism were hunted down for the
salvation of their souls and the enslavement of their bodies, such
scenes as these were still too common; and, indeed, if we are to
judge from Humboldt's impartial account, were not very much amended
even at the close of the last century, in those much-boasted Jesuit
missions in which (as many of them as existed anywhere but on
paper) military tyranny was superadded to monastic, and the Gospel
preached with fire and sword, almost as shamelessly as by the first
A line of Indians, Negroes, and Zambos, naked, emaciated, scarred
with whips and fetters, and chained together by their left wrists,
toiled upwards, panting and perspiring under the burden of a basket
held up by a strap which passed across their foreheads. Yeo's
sneer was but too just; there were not only old men and youths
among them, but women; slender young girls, mothers with children,
running at their knee; and, at the sight, a low murmur of
indignation rose from the ambushed Englishmen, worthy of the free
and righteous hearts of those days, when Raleigh could appeal to
man and God, on the ground of a common humanity, in behalf of the
outraged heathens of the New World; when Englishmen still knew that
man was man, and that the instinct of freedom was the righteous
voice of God; ere the hapless seventeenth century had brutalized
them also, by bestowing on them, amid a hundred other bad legacies,
the fatal gift of negro-slaves.
But the first forty, so Amyas counted, bore on their backs a burden
which made all, perhaps, but him and Yeo, forget even the wretches
who bore it. Each basket contained a square package of carefully
corded hide; the look whereof friend Amyas knew full well.
"What's in they, captain?"
"Gold!" And at that magic word all eyes were strained greedily
forward, and such a rustle followed, that Amyas, in the very face
of detection, had to whisper--
"Be men, be men, or you will spoil all yet!"
The last twenty, or so, of the Indians bore larger baskets, but
more lightly freighted, seemingly with manioc, and maize-bread, and
other food for the party; and after them came, with their bearers
and attendants, just twenty soldiers more, followed by the officer
in charge, who smiled away in his chair, and twirled two huge
mustachios, thinking of nothing less than of the English arrows
which were itching to be away and through his ribs. The ambush was
complete; the only question how and when to begin?
Amyas had a shrinking, which all will understand, from drawing bow
in cool blood on men so utterly unsuspicious and defenceless, even
though in the very act of devilish cruelty--for devilish cruelty it
was, as three or four drivers armed with whips lingered up and down
the slowly staggering file of Indians, and avenged every moment's
lagging, even every stumble, by a blow of the cruel manati-hide,
which cracked like a pistol-shot against the naked limbs of the
silent and uncomplaining victim.
Suddenly the casus belli, as usually happens, arose of its own
The last but one of the chained line was an old gray-headed man,
followed by a slender graceful girl of some eighteen years old, and
Amyas's heart yearned over them as they came up. Just as they
passed, the foremost of the file had rounded the corner above;
there was a bustle, and a voice shouted, "Halt, senors! there is a
tree across the path!"
"A tree across the path?" bellowed the officer, with a variety of
passionate addresses to the Mother of Heaven, the fiends of hell,
Saint Jago of Compostella, and various other personages; while the
line of trembling Indians, told to halt above, and driven on by
blows below, surged up and down upon the ruinous steps of the
Indian road, until the poor old man fell grovelling on his face.
The officer leaped down, and hurried upward to see what had
happened. Of course, he came across the old man.
"Sin peccado concebida! Grandfather of Beelzebub, is this a place
to lie worshipping your fiends?" and he pricked the prostrate
wretch with the point of his sword.
The old man tried to rise: but the weight on his head was too much
for him; he fell again, and lay motionless.
The driver applied the manati-hide across his loins, once, twice,
with fearful force; but even that specific was useless.
"Gastado, Senor Capitan," said he, with a shrug. "Used up. He has
been failing these three months!"
"What does the intendant mean by sending me out with worn-out
cattle like these? Forward there!" shouted he. "Clear away the
tree, senors, and I'll soon clear the chain. Hold it up,
The driver held up the chain, which was fastened to the old man's
wrist. The officer stepped back, and flourished round his head a
Toledo blade, whose beauty made Amyas break the Tenth Commandment
on the spot.
The man was a tall, handsome, broad-shouldered, high-bred man; and
Amyas thought that he was going to display the strength of his arm,
and the temper of his blade, in severing the chain at one stroke.
Even he was not prepared for the recondite fancies of a Spanish
adventurer, worthy son or nephew of those first conquerors, who
used to try the keenness of their swords upon the living bodies of
Indians, and regale themselves at meals with the odor of roasting
The blade gleamed in the air, once, twice, and fell: not on the
chain, but on the wrist which it fettered. There was a shriek--a
crimson flash--and the chain and its prisoner were parted indeed.
One moment more, and Amyas's arrow would have been through the
throat of the murderer, who paused, regarding his workmanship with
a satisfied smile; but vengeance was not to come from him.
Quick and fierce as a tiger-cat, the girl sprang on the ruffian,
and with the intense strength of passion, clasped him in her arms,
and leaped with him from the narrow ledge into the abyss below.
There was a rush, a shout; all faces were bent over the precipice.
The girl hung by her chained wrist: the officer was gone. There
was a moment's awful silence; and then Amyas heard his body
crashing through the tree-tops far below.
"Haul her up! Hew her in pieces! Burn the witch!" and the driver,
seizing the chain, pulled at it with all his might, while all
springing from their chairs, stooped over the brink.
Now was the time for Amyas! Heaven had delivered them into his
hands. Swift and sure, at ten yards off, his arrow rushed through
the body of the driver, and then, with a roar as of the leaping
lion, he sprang like an avenging angel into the midst of the
His first thought was for the girl. In a moment, by sheer
strength, he had jerked her safely up into the road; while the
Spaniards recoiled right and left, fancying him for the moment some
mountain giant or supernatural foe. His hurrah undeceived them in
an instant, and a cry of "English! Lutheran dogs!" arose, but
arose too late. The men of Devon had followed their captain's
lead: a storm of arrows left five Spaniards dead, and a dozen more
wounded, and down leapt Salvation Yeo, his white hair streaming
behind him, with twenty good swords more, and the work of death
The Spaniards fought like lions; but they had no time to fix their
arquebuses on the crutches; no room, in that narrow path, to use
their pikes. The English had the wall of them; and to have the
wall there, was to have the foe's life at their mercy. Five
desperate minutes, and not a living Spaniard stood upon those
steps; and certainly no living one lay in the green abyss below.
Two only, who were behind the rest, happening to be in full armor,
escaped without mortal wound, and fled down the hill again.
"After them! Michael Evans and Simon Heard; and catch them, if
they run a league."
The two long and lean Clovelly men, active as deer from forest
training, ran two feet for the Spaniard's one; and in ten minutes
returned, having done their work; while Amyas and his men hurried
past the Indians, to help Cary and the party forward, where shouts
and musket shots announced a sharp affray.
Their arrival settled the matter. All the Spaniards fell but three
or four, who scrambled down the crannies of the cliff.
"Let not one of them escape! Slay them as Israel slew Amalek!"
cried Yeo, as he bent over; and ere the wretches could reach a
place of shelter, an arrow was quivering in each body, as it rolled
lifeless down the rocks.
"Now then! Loose the Indians!"
They found armorers tools on one of the dead bodies, and it was
"We are your friends," said Amyas. "All we ask is, that you shall
help us to carry this gold down to the Magdalena, and then you are
Some few of the younger grovelled at his knees, and kissed his
feet, hailing him as the child of the Sun: but the most part kept a
stolid indifference, and when freed from their fetters, sat quietly
down where they stood, staring into vacancy. The iron had entered
too deeply into their soul. They seemed past hope, enjoyment, even
But the young girl, who was last of all in the line, as soon as she
was loosed, sprang to her father's body, speaking no word, lifted
it in her thin arms, laid it across her knees, kissed the fallen
lips, stroked the furrowed cheeks, murmured inarticulate sounds
like the cooing of a woodland dove, of which none knew the meaning
but she, and he who heard not, for his soul had long since fled.
Suddenly the truth flashed on her; silent as ever, she drew one
long heaving breath, and rose erect, the body in her arms.
Another moment, and she had leaped into the abyss.
They watched her dark and slender limbs, twined closely round the
old man's corpse, turn over, and over, and over, till a crash among
the leaves, and a scream among the birds, told that she had reached
the trees; and the green roof hid her from their view.
"Brave lass!" shouted a sailor.
"The Lord forgive her!" said Yeo. "But, your worship, we must have
these rascals' ordnance."
"And their clothes too, Yeo, if we wish to get down the Magdalena
unchallenged. Now listen, my masters all! We have won, by God's
good grace, gold enough to serve us the rest of our lives, and that
without losing a single man; and may yet win more, if we be wise,
and He thinks good. But oh, my friends, remember Mr. Oxenham and
his crew; and do not make God's gift our ruin, by faithlessness, or
greediness, or any mutinous haste."
"You shall find none in us!" cried several men. "We know your
worship. We can trust our general."
"Thank God!" said Amyas. "Now then, it will be no shame or sin to
make the Indians carry it, saving the women, whom God forbid we
should burden. But we must pass through the very heart of the
Spanish settlements, and by the town of Saint Martha itself. So
the clothes and weapons of these Spaniards we must have, let it
cost us what labor it may. How many lie in the road?"
"Thirteen here, and about ten up above," said Cary.
"Then there are near twenty missing. Who will volunteer to go down
over cliff, and bring up the spoil of them?"
"I, and I, and I;" and a dozen stepped out, as they did always when
Amyas wanted anything done; for the simple reason, that they knew
that he meant to help at the doing of it himself.
"Very well, then, follow me. Sir John, take the Indian lad for
your interpreter, and try and comfort the souls of these poor
heathens. Tell them that they shall all be free."
"Why, who is that comes up the road?"
All eyes were turned in the direction of which he spoke. And,
wonder of wonders! up came none other than Ayacanora herself, blow-
gun in hand, bow on back, and bedecked in all her feather garments,
which last were rather the worse for a fortnight's woodland travel.
All stood mute with astonishment, as, seeing Amyas, she uttered a
cry of joy, quickened her pace into a run, and at last fell panting
and exhausted at his feet.
"I have found you!" she said; "you ran away from me, but you could
not escape me!" And she fawned round Amyas, like a dog who has
found his master, and then sat down on the bank, and burst into
"God help us!" said Amyas, clutching his hair, as he looked down
upon the beautiful weeper. "What am I to do with her, over and
above all these poor heathens?"
But there was no time to be lost, and over the cliff he scrambled;
while the girl, seeing that the main body of the English remained,
sat down on a point of rock to watch him.
After half-an-hour's hard work, the weapons, clothes, and armor of
the fallen Spaniards were hauled up the cliff, and distributed in
bundles among the men; the rest of the corpses were thrown over the
precipice, and they started again upon their road toward the
Magdalena, while Yeo snorted like a war-horse who smells the
battle, at the delight of once more handling powder and ball.
"We can face the world now, sir! Why not go back and try Santa Fe,
But Amyas thought that enough was as good as a feast, and they held
on downwards, while the slaves followed, without a sign of
gratitude, but meekly obedient to their new masters, and testifying
now and then by a sign or a grunt, their surprise at not being
beaten, or made to carry their captors. Some, however, caught
sight of the little calabashes of coca which the English carried.
That woke them from their torpor, and they began coaxing abjectly
(and not in vain) for a taste of that miraculous herb, which would
not only make food unnecessary, and enable their panting lungs to
endure that keen mountain air, but would rid them, for awhile at
least, of the fallen Indian's most unpitying foe, the malady of
As the cavalcade turned the corner of the mountain, they paused for
one last look at the scene of that fearful triumph. Lines of
vultures were already streaming out of infinite space, as if
created suddenly for the occasion. A few hours and there would be
no trace of that fierce fray, but a few white bones amid untrodden
beds of flowers.
And now Amyas had time to ask Ayacanora the meaning of this her
strange appearance. He wished her anywhere but where she was: but
now that she was here, what heart could be so hard as not to take
pity on the poor wild thing? And Amyas as he spoke to her had,
perhaps, a tenderness in his tone, from very fear of hurting her,
which he had never used before. Passionately she told him how she
had followed on their track day and night, and had every evening
made sounds, as loud as she dared, in hopes of their hearing her,
and either waiting for her, or coming back to see what caused the
Amyas now recollected the strange roaring which had followed them.
"Noises? What did you make them with?"
Ayacanora lifted her finger with an air of most self-satisfied
mystery, and then drew cautiously from under her feather cloak an
object at which Amyas had hard work to keep his countenance.
"Look!" whispered she, as if half afraid that the thing itself
should hear her. "I have it--the holy trumpet!"
There it was verily, that mysterious bone of contention; a handsome
earthen tube some two feet long, neatly glazed, and painted with
quaint grecques and figures of animals; a relic evidently of some
civilization now extinct.
Brimblecombe rubbed his little fat hands. "Brave maid! you have
cheated Satan this time," quoth he; while Yeo advised that the
"idolatrous relic" should be forthwith "hove over cliff."
"Let be," said Amyas. "What is the meaning of this, Ayacanora?
And why have you followed us?"
She told a long story, from which Amyas picked up, as far as he
could understand her, that that trumpet had been for years the
torment of her life; the one thing in the tribe superior to her;
the one thing which she was not allowed to see, because, forsooth,
she was a woman. So she determined to show them that a woman was
as good as a man; and hence her hatred of marriage, and her
Amazonian exploits. But still the Piache would not show her that
trumpet, or tell her where it was; and as for going to seek it,
even she feared the superstitious wrath of the tribe at such a
profanation. But the day after the English went, the Piache chose
to express his joy at their departure; whereon, as was to be
expected, a fresh explosion between master and pupil, which ended,
she confessed, in her burning the old rogue's hut over his head,
from which he escaped with loss of all his conjuring-tackle, and
fled raging into the woods, vowing that he would carry off the
trumpet to the neighboring tribe. Whereon, by a sudden impulse,
the young lady took plenty of coca, her weapons, and her feathers,
started on his trail, and ran him to earth just as he was unveiling
the precious mystery. At which sight (she confessed) she was
horribly afraid, and half inclined to run; but, gathering courage
from the thought that the white men used to laugh at the whole
matter, she rushed upon the hapless conjuror, and bore off her
prize in triumph; and there it was!
"I hope you have not killed him?" said Amyas.
"I did beat him a little; but I thought you would not let me kill
Amyas was half amused with her confession of his authority over
her; but she went on--
"And then I dare not go back to the Indians; so I was forced to
come after you."
"And is that, then, your only reason for coming after us?" asked
He had touched some secret chord--though what it was he was too
busy to inquire. The girl drew herself up proudly, blushing
scarlet, and said:
"You never tell lies. Do you think that I would tell lies?"
On which she fell to the rear, and followed them steadfastly,
speaking to no one, but evidently determined to follow them to the
They soon left the highroad; and for several days held on
downwards, hewing their path slowly and painfully through the thick
underwood. On the evening of the fourth day, they had reached the
margin of a river, at a point where it seemed broad and still
enough for navigation. For those three days they had not seen a
trace of human beings, and the spot seemed lonely enough for them
to encamp without fear of discovery, and begin the making of their
canoes. They began to spread themselves along the stream, in
search of the soft-wooded trees proper for their purpose; but
hardly had their search begun, when, in the midst of a dense
thicket, they came upon a sight which filled them with
astonishment. Beneath a honeycombed cliff, which supported one
enormous cotton-tree, was a spot of some thirty yards square
sloping down to the stream, planted in rows with magnificent
banana-plants, full twelve feet high, and bearing among their huge
waxy leaves clusters of ripening fruit; while, under their mellow
shade, yams and cassava plants were flourishing luxuriantly, the
whole being surrounded by a hedge of orange and scarlet flowers.
There it lay, streaked with long shadows from the setting sun,
while a cool southern air rustled in the cotton-tree, and flapped
to and fro the great banana-leaves; a tiny paradise of art and
care. But where was its inhabitant?
Aroused by the noise of their approach, a figure issued from a cave
in the rocks, and, after gazing at them for a moment, came down the
garden towards them. He was a tall and stately old man, whose
snow-white beard and hair covered his chest and shoulders, while
his lower limbs were wrapt in Indian-web. Slowly and solemnly he
approached, a staff in one hand, a string of beads in the other,
the living likeness of some old Hebrew prophet, or anchorite of
ancient legend. He bowed courteously to Amyas (who of course
returned his salute), and was in act to speak, when his eye fell
upon the Indians, who were laying down their burdens in a heap
under the trees. His mild countenance assumed instantly an
expression of the acutest sorrow and displeasure; and, striking his
hands together, he spoke in Spanish:
"Alas! miserable me! Alas! unhappy senors! Do my old eyes deceive
me, and is it one of those evil visions of the past which haunt my
dreams by night; or has the accursed thirst of gold, the ruin of my
race, penetrated even into this my solitude? Oh, senors, senors,
know you not that you bear with you your own poison, your own
familiar fiend, the root of every evil? And is it not enough for
you, senors, to load yourselves with the wedge of Achan, and
partake his doom, but you must make these hapless heathens the
victims of your greed and cruelty, and forestall for them on earth
those torments which may await their unbaptized souls hereafter?"
"We have preserved, and not enslaved these Indians, ancient senor,"
said Amyas, proudly; "and to-morrow will see them as free as the
birds over our heads."
"Free? Then you cannot be countrymen of mine! But pardon an old
man, my son, if he has spoken too hastily in the bitterness of his
own experience. But who and whence are you? And why are you
bringing into this lonely wilderness that gold--for I know too well
the shape of those accursed packets, which would God that I had
"What we are, reverend sir, matters little, as long as we behave to
you as the young should to the old. As for our gold, it will be a
curse or a blessing to us, I conceive, just as we use it well or
ill; and so is a man's head, or his hand, or any other thing; but
that is no reason for cutting off his limbs for fear of doing harm
with them; neither is it for throwing away those packages, which,
by your leave, we shall deposit in one of these caves. We must be
your neighbors, I fear, for a day or two; but I can promise you,
that your garden shall be respected, on condition that you do not
inform any human soul of our being here."
"God forbid, senor, that I should try to increase the number of my
visitors, much less to bring hither strife and blood, of which I
have seen too much already. As you have come in peace, in peace
depart. Leave me alone with God and my penitence, and may the Lord
have mercy on you!"
And he was about to withdraw, when, recollecting himself, he turned
suddenly to Amyas again--
"Pardon me, senor, if, after forty years of utter solitude, I
shrink at first from the conversation of human beings, and forget,
in the habitual shyness of a recluse, the duties of a hospitable
gentleman of Spain. My garden, and all which it produces, is at
your service. Only let me entreat that these poor Indians shall
have their share; for heathens though they be, Christ died for
them; and I cannot but cherish in my soul some secret hope that He
did not die in vain."
"God forbid!" said Brimblecombe. "They are no worse than we, for
aught I see, whatsoever their fathers may have been; and they have
fared no worse than we since they have been with us, nor will, I
The good fellow did not tell that he had been starving himself for
the last three days to cram the children with his own rations; and
that the sailors, and even Amyas, had been going out of their way
every five minutes, to get fruit for their new pets.
A camp was soon formed; and that evening the old hermit asked
Amyas, Cary, and Brimblecombe to come up into his cavern.
They went; and after the accustomed compliments had passed, sat
down on mats upon the ground, while the old man stood, leaning
against a slab of stone surmounted by a rude wooden cross, which
evidently served him as a place of prayer. He seemed restless and
anxious, as if he waited for them to begin the conversation; while
they, in their turn, waited for him. At last, when courtesy would
not allow him to be silent any longer, he began with a faltering
"You may be equally surprised, senors, at my presence in such a
spot, and at my asking you to become my guests even for one
evening, while I have no better hospitality to offer you."
"It is superfluous, senor, to offer us food in your own habitation
when you have already put all that you possess at our command."
"True, senors: and my motive for inviting you was, perhaps,
somewhat of a selfish one. I am possessed by a longing to
unburthen my heart of a tale which I never yet told to man, and
which I fear can give to you nothing but pain; and yet I will
entreat you, of your courtesy, to hear of that which you cannot
amend, simply in mercy to a man who feels that he must confess to
some one, or die as miserable as he has lived. And I believe my
confidence will not be misplaced, when it is bestowed upon you. I
have been a cavalier, even as you are; and, strange as it may seem,
that which I have to tell I would sooner impart to the ears of a
soldier than of a priest; because it will then sink into souls
which can at least sympathize, though they cannot absolve. And
you, cavaliers, I perceive to be noble, from your very looks; to be
valiant, by your mere presence in this hostile land; and to be
gentle, courteous, and prudent, by your conduct this day to me and
to your captives. Will you, then, hear an old man's tale? I am,
as you see, full of words; for speech, from long disuse, is
difficult to me, and I fear at every sentence lest my stiffened
tongue should play the traitor to my worn-out brain: but if my
request seems impertinent, you have only to bid me talk as a host
should, of matters which concern his guests, and not himself."
The three young men, equally surprised and interested by this
exordium, could only entreat their host to "use their ears as those
of his slaves," on which, after fresh apologies, he began:
"Know, then, victorious cavaliers, that I, whom you now see here as
a poor hermit, was formerly one of the foremost of that terrible
band who went with Pizarro to the conquest of Peru. Eighty years
old am I this day, unless the calendar which I have carved upon
yonder tree deceives me; and twenty years old was I when I sailed
with that fierce man from Panama, to do that deed with which all
earth, and heaven, and hell itself, I fear, has rung. How we
endured, suffered, and triumphed; how, mad with success, and
glutted with blood, we turned our swords against each other, I need
not tell to you. For what gentleman of Europe knows not our glory
and our shame?"
His hearers bowed assent.
"Yes; you have heard of our prowess: for glorious we were awhile,
in the sight of God and man. But I will not speak of our glory,
for it is tarnished; nor of our wealth, for it was our poison; nor
of the sins of my comrades, for they have expiated them; but of my
own sins, senors, which are more in number than the hairs of my
head, and a burden too great to bear. Miserere Domine!"
And smiting on his breast, the old warrior went on:
"As I said, we were mad with blood; and none more mad than I.
Surely it is no fable that men are possessed, even in this latter
age, by devils. Why else did I rejoice in slaying? Why else was
I, the son of a noble and truthful cavalier of Castile, among the
foremost to urge upon my general the murder of the Inca? Why did I
rejoice over his dying agonies? Why, when Don Ferdinando de Soto
returned, and upbraided us with our villainy, did I, instead of
confessing the sin which that noble cavalier set before us,
withstand him to his face, ay, and would have drawn the sword on
him, but that he refused to fight a liar, as he said that I was?"
"Then Don de Soto was against the murder? So his own grandson told
me. But I had heard of him only as a tyrant and a butcher."
"Senor, he was compact of good and evil, as are other men: he has
paid dearly for his sin; let us hope that he has been paid in turn
for his righteousness."
John Brimblecombe shook his head at this doctrine, but did not
"So you know his grandson? I trust he is a noble cavalier?"
Amyas was silent; the old gentleman saw that he had touched some
sore point, and continued:
"And why, again, senors, did I after that day give myself up to
cruelty as to a sport; yea, thought that I did God service by
destroying the creatures whom He had made; I who now dare not
destroy a gnat, lest I harm a being more righteous than myself?
Was I mad? If I was, how then was I all that while as prudent as I
am this day? But I am not here to argue, senors, but to confess.
In a word, there was no deed of blood done for the next few years
in which I had not my share, if it were but within my reach. When
Challcuchima was burned, I was consenting; when that fair girl, the
wife of Inca Manco, was tortured to death, I smiled at the agonies
at which she too smiled, and taunted on the soldiers, to try if I
could wring one groan from her before she died. You know what
followed, the pillage, the violence, the indignities offered to the
virgins of the Sun. Senors, I will not pollute your chaste ears
with what was done. But, senors, I had a brother."
And the old man paused awhile.
"A brother--whether better or worse than me, God knows, before whom
he has appeared ere now. At least he did not, as I did, end as a
rebel to his king! There was a maiden in one of those convents,
senors, more beautiful than day: and (I blush to tell it) the two
brothers of whom I spoke quarrelled for the possession of her.
They struck each other, senors! Who struck first I know not; but
swords were drawn, and-- The cavaliers round parted them, crying
shame. And one of those two brothers--the one who speaks to you
now--crying, 'If I cannot have her, no man shall!' turned the sword
which was aimed at his brother, against that hapless maiden--and--
hear me out, senors, before you flee from my presence as from that
of a monster!--stabbed her to the heart. And as she died--one
moment more, senors, that I may confess all!--she looked up in my
face with a smile as of heaven, and thanked me for having rid her
once and for all from Christians and their villainy."
The old man paused.
"God forgive you, senor!" said Jack Brimblecombe, softly.
"You do not, then, turn from me, do not curse me? Then I will try
you farther still, senors. I will know from human lips, whether
man can do such deeds as I have done, and yet be pitied by his
kind; that so I may have some hope, that where man has mercy, God
may have mercy also. Do you think that I repented at those awful
words? Nothing less, senors all. No more than I did when De Soto
(on whose soul God have mercy) called me--me, a liar! I knew
myself a sinner; and for that very reason I was determined to sin.
I would go on, that I might prove myself right to myself, by
showing that I could go on, and not be struck dead from heaven.
Out of mere pride, senors, and self-will, I would fill up the cup
of my iniquity; and I filled it.
"You know, doubtless, senors, how, after the death of old Almagro,
his son's party conspired against Pizarro. Now my brother remained
faithful to his old commander; and for that very reason, if you
will believe it, did I join the opposite party, and gave myself up,
body and soul, to do Almagro's work. It was enough for me, that
the brother who had struck me thought a man right, for me to think
that man a devil. What Almagro's work was, you know. He slew
Pizarro, murdered him, senors, like a dog, or rather, like an old
"He deserved his doom," said Amyas.
"Let God judge him, senor, not we; and least of all of us I, who
drew the first blood, and perhaps the last, that day. I, senors,
it was who treacherously stabbed Francisco de Chanes on the
staircase, and so opened the door which else had foiled us all; and
I-- But I am speaking to men of honor, not to butchers. Suffice
it that the old man died like a lion, and that we pulled him down,
young as we were, like curs.
"Well, I followed Almagro's fortunes. I helped to slay Alvarado.
Call that my third murder, if you will, for if he was traitor to a
traitor, I was traitor to a true man. Then to the war; you know
how Vaca de Castro was sent from Spain to bring order and justice
where was naught but chaos, and the dance of all devils. We met
him on the hills of Chupas. Peter of Candia, the Venetian villain,
pointed our guns false, and Almagro stabbed him to the heart. We
charged with our lances, man against man, horse against horse. All
fights I ever fought" (and the old man's eyes flashed out the
ancient fire) "were child's play to that day. Our lances shivered
like reeds, and we fell on with battle-axe and mace. None asked
for quarter, and none gave it; friend to friend, cousin to cousin--
no, nor brother, O God! to brother. We were the better armed: but
numbers were on their side. Fat Carbajal charged our cannon like
an elephant, and took them; but Holguin was shot down. I was with
Almagro, and we swept all before us, inch by inch, but surely, till
the night fell. Then Vaca de Castro, the licentiate, the clerk,
the schoolman, the man of books, came down on us with his reserve
like a whirlwind. Oh! cavaliers, did not God fight against us,
when He let us, the men of iron, us, the heroes of Cuzco and
Vilcaconga, be foiled by a scholar in a black gown, with a pen
behind his ear? We were beaten. Some ran; some did not run,
senors; and I did not. Geronimo de Alvarado shouted to me, 'We
slew Pizarro! We killed the tyrant!' and we rushed upon the
conqueror's lances, to die like cavaliers. There was a gallant
gentleman in front of me. His lance struck me in the crest, and
bore me over my horse's croup: but mine, senors, struck him full in
the vizor. We both went to the ground together, and the battle
galloped over us.
"I know not how long I lay, for I was stunned: but after awhile I
lifted myself. My lance was still clenched in my hand, broken but
not parted. The point of it was in my foeman's brain. I crawled
to him, weary and wounded, and saw that he was a noble cavalier.
He lay on his back, his arms spread wide. I knew that he was dead:
but there came over me the strangest longing to see that dead man's
face. Perhaps I knew him. At least I could set my foot upon it,
and say, 'Vanquished as I am, there lies a foe!' I caught hold of
the rivets, and tore his helmet off. The moon shone bright,
senors, as bright as she shines now--the glaring, ghastly, tell-
tale moon, which shows man all the sins which he tries to hide; and
by that moonlight, senors, I beheld the dead man's face. And it
was the face of my brother!
. . . . . . .
"Did you ever guess, most noble cavaliers, what Cain's curse might
be like? Look on me, and know!