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On the Banks of the Amazon

William Henry Giles Kingston

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  On the Banks of the Amazon, by W.H.G. Kingston.


  This is a quite long book, very well written, about a trip down theAmazon. There is rather a lot of "Natural History", but not too much,because it has all been made easy to follow, and is very interesting.All sorts of interesting things happen on this voyage.

  The copy used for digitisation had a rather furry and small typeface.Not one of the clearest we have ever seen. Consequently it was ratherheavy labour trying to iron out the misreads and typos, and it may wellbe that some remain, though nowhere near the prescribed limit of 99.95%.

  There are 132,948 words in the book, so 1 in 2000 means that we musthave less than 66 errors still remaining, which I am sure is the case.

  It is a rather curious thing that one is reminded at times ofBallantyne's "Martin Rattler," written very much earlier, even down toto the presence of a "recluse". That doesn't mean you won't enjoy thebook just as much as you might have enjoyed "Martin Rattler." Best, asalways, as an audiobook.





  I might find an excuse for being proud, if I were so,--not because myancestors were of exalted rank or title, or celebrated for noble deedsor unbounded wealth, or, indeed, on account of any ordinary reasons,--but because I was born in one of the highest cities in the world. I sawthe light in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, then forming the northernpart of the Spanish province of Peru. The first objects I rememberbeyond the courtyard of our house in which I used to play, with itsfountain and flower-bed in the centre, and surrounding arches ofsun-burned bricks, were lofty mountains towering up into the sky. Fromone of them, called Pichincha, which looked quite close through theclear atmosphere of that region, I remember seeing flames of fire anddark masses of smoke, intermingled with dust and ashes, spouting forth.Now and then, when the wind blew from it, thick showers of dust felldown over us, causing great consternation; for many thought that stonesand rocks might follow and overwhelm the city. All day long a loftycolumn of smoke rose up towards the sky, and at night a vast mass offire was seen ascending from the summit; but no harm was done to thecity, so that we could gaze calmly at the spectacle withoutapprehension. Pichincha is, indeed, only one of several mountains inthe neighbourhood from the tops of which bonfires occasionally blazeforth. Further off, but rising still higher, is the glittering cone ofCotopaxi, which, like a tyrant, has made its power felt by thedevastation it has often caused in the plains which surround its base:while near it rise the peaks of Corazon and Ruminagui. Far more dreadedthan their fires is the quaking and heaving and tumbling about of theearth, shaking down as it does human habitations and mountain-tops,towers and steeples, and uprooting trees, and opening wide chasms,turning streams from their courses, and overwhelming towns and villages,and destroying in other ways the works of men's hands, and human beingsthemselves, in its wild commotion.

  These burning mountains, in spite of their fire and smoke, appear butinsignificant pigmies compared to that mighty mountain which rises intheir neighbourhood--the majestic Chimborazo. We could see far off itssnow-white dome, free of clouds, towering into the deep blue sky, manythousand feet above the ocean; while on the other side its brother,Tunguragua, shoots up above the surrounding heights, but, in spite ofits ambitious efforts, has failed to reach the same altitude I mightspeak of Antisana, and many other lofty heights with hard names? but Ifancy that a fair idea may be formed of that wonderful region of giantmountains from the description I have already given.

  I used often to think that I should like to get to the top ofChimborazo, the way up looked so easy at a distance; but no one has everreached its summit, though several valiant philosophers and others havemade the attempt.

  The mountain range I have described, of which Chimborazo was longconsidered the highest point, till Aconcagua in Chili was found to behigher, rises from the ocean in the far-off southern end of America, andruns up along its western shore, ever proud and grand, with snow-toppedheights rising tens of thousands of feet above the ocean, till it sinksonce more towards the northern extremity of the southern half of thecontinent, running along the Isthmus of Panama, through Mexico at a lesselevation, again to rise in the almost unbroken range of the RockyMountains, not to sink till it reaches the snow-covered plains of theArctic region.

  But I am becoming too scientific and geographical; and I must confessthat it was not till many years after the time of which I am speakingthat I knew anything about the matter. My father, Don Martin Fiel, hadbeen for some years settled in Quito as a merchant. His mother wasSpanish, or partly so, born in Peru--I believe that she had some of theblood of the Incas in her veins, a matter of which she was not a littleproud, I have been told--but his father was an Englishman, and ourproper family name was Faithful. My father, having lived for many yearsin the Spanish South American provinces, had obtained the rights andprivileges of a Spaniard. He had, however, been sent over to Englandfor his education, and was a thorough Englishman at heart. He had madeduring his younger days several visits to England for mercantilepurposes, and during one of them had married my mother. He was, thoughreally a Protestant--I am sorry to have to make the confession--nominally a Roman Catholic; for he, being a Spanish subject, could nototherwise at that time have resided in any part of the territories ofSpain and carried on his business with freedom: but I feel now that noperson has a right to conceal their true faith, and to pretend tobelieve what is false, for the sake of any worldly advantage. Mymother, however, had stipulated that all her children should be broughtup as Protestants. To this he had agreed, though he found when he hadsons that he was in consequence subjected to considerable annoyance fromthe priests, who threatened to denounce him as a heretic. To avoidthis, he had to send his children to England at an early age for theireducation; indeed, had we remained at Quito we could only have obtaineda very poor one at any public school or college. It will be understoodfrom what I have said, that though we were really English, and I havealways felt like an Englishman, we had both Spanish and nativeconnections, which will account for some of the circumstances whichafterwards occurred to us.

  My father, though he himself resided at Quito, had also a house ofbusiness at Guayaquil, which imported European manufactured goods, andexported in return Peruvian bark and other articles, of which I shallby-and-by have to speak. He was greatly respected by hisfellow-citizens, although they might have been somewhat jealous of himfor succeeding in his business through his energy and perseverance,while they themselves, sitting idle all the day smoking their cigaretteswithout attempting to exert their minds, were left behind. My dearmother lived very much alone, for the society of the ladies of Quito,though they are very charming in manner, afforded her but littlesatisfaction, from their utter want of education.

  I remember the joy which the arrival of my eldest sister, Fanny--or DonaFrancisca, as the Spaniards called her--who had gone to school inEngland, and Aunt Martha, who brought her back, caused in the family. Ihad another sister, Ellen, much younger; a sweet, dear little girl, ofwhom I was very fond. She was indeed the pet of the family. My elderbrother, John, was at school in England. I remember thinking AuntMartha, who was my mother's elder sister, very stiff and formal; and Iwas not at all pleased when she expressed her intention of teaching meand keeping me in order. My mother's health had been delicate, and Ihad been left very much to the care of old Domingos, a negro servant ofmy father's, who had been with him since his boyhood
, and with mygrandfather before him. He was the butler, or major-domo, the head overall the other servants, and, I believe, deservedly trusted. Among themI remember best little Maria, a young negro slave girl who attendedespecially on Ellen; and Antonio, a Gallego from the north of Spain, aworthy, honest fellow, who had been in the family from his boyhood, andwas much attached to us all. I soon learned to like Aunt Martha betterthan I had expected, for though I thought her looks very terrible atfirst--and she was certainly firm--she was really kind and gentle.Under her instruction I gained the first knowledge of the letters of thealphabet, of which I was before profoundly ignorant. Of course she wasvery gentle with Ellen, as everybody was, and Fanny seemed to be veryfond of her. She was courageous, too, as I before long had evidence. Iremember one night being suddenly lifted in her arms, and carried out byher into the patio of courtyard. There was a strange rumbling noiseunderneath our feet, and I could see the stout walls of our houserocking to and fro; and yet, though the earth was tumbling about, shedid not tremble in the least, but I heard her telling the servants notto shriek out or to pray to the saints, who could not help them, but toput their trust in God, who made the world, and who would save them fromdanger if it was his good will. It was a very fearful night, however,and though I believe the earthquake did not last long, it tumbled down,during the few minutes of its duration, a number of buildings, and manyof the inhabitants were buried beneath the ruins. Our house, however,which was on the outskirts of the city, and had no upper story, althoughsome of the walls were cracked, escaped without further injury; andbefore morning we were in our beds again, and I, for my part, wassleeping soundly.

  A short time after this I found that some great event was about to takeplace, and I saw trunks being packed; and my mother, who had been illfor some time, was very busy, and looked, I often thought, somewhat sad;and then I heard that she and Ellen and I were going to England, to beaccompanied by Domingos and Maria, and that we were to remain there sometime, and that I was to go to school, and then, if my father did notjoin us, that John and Ellen and I were to come back together with ourmother, unless she returned before that time. Aunt Martha and Fannywere to stay and take care of my father. Of course I was highlydelighted when I heard this, and began packing a box with my playthings,and all sorts of articles, and was very indignant when Maria told methat they were not to go. I do not remember much about the journey,except that my father came with us, and that the party rode on mules;that Domingos carried me before him; that we went up and down mountainsand into deep valleys; and that sometimes it was very hot, and sometimesvery cold; and that we stopped at very uncivilised-lookingresting-places at night; and that at last we reached a large town, closeto the sea, which was, I have since learned, Guayaquil. I rememberseeing some magnificent fruits--pine-apples, oranges, lemons, limes,alligator-pears, melons, and many others--and eating some of them, orprobably I should not have recollected the circumstance. The place wasvery busy, and far more people were moving about than I had beenaccustomed to see at Quito; and in the harbour were a number ofvessels--large ships and small ones, and curious rafts, on which thenatives were sailing or paddling about, called _balsas_. They were madeof light balsa wood, which is very buoyant. They were of all sizes, andsome had come in from a considerable distance along the coast. Then myfather accompanied us on board a big ship, and took an affectionateleave of my mother and sister and me; and we all cried very much atparting, at least Ellen and I did, though I was so well pleased with allthe sights I witnessed that I soon forgot my sorrow. Then the sails ofthe _Pizarro_--that was the name of our ship--were set, and we glidedout of the harbour, while the boat containing my father returned to theshore. The _Pizarro_ was, I should say, a Spanish ship, commanded byCaptain Lopez, a very worthy man, in whom my father had greatconfidence, or he would not have committed our mother and us to hischarge. At that time Spanish vessels alone were allowed by theSpaniards to trade to the ports of their colonies, which contributedwith many other causes greatly to retard their progress. I, however,knew nothing about such matters at that time. I remember the compass inthe binnacle placed before a big wheel, at which a man was alwaysstanding steering the ship, and I was told that we were sailing south.I thought the ocean, which was blue, and calm, and glittering in thesunshine, must be very wide, and wondered where it could end, or whetherit had an end towards the west. On the east was the coast of Peru, andI could see the lofty snow-capped mountains rising up out of the plain,looking as if they were intended to bear up the sky should it come downtowards the earth. Day after day we glided on. There they were as highas ever, apparently quite close to us, though I heard the captain tellmy mother that they were fifty miles off or more. I scarcely believedhim, though I did not think so big and grave a man could tell a story.I did not understand at that time to what a distance objects can be seenin that pure, clear atmosphere. We after that stood off the coast formany hours, and yet they appeared almost as high as ever. The mountainsI saw were the Andes or the Cordilleras, among which I had lived so longwithout having a clear idea of their extent.

  We were not idle during the voyage, for our mother set to work thesecond day we were at sea to give us our lessons. She had made a pointof teaching us English as soon as we could utter a word; but thoughEllen spoke it very well from being always with her, I spoke Spanishmixed with Quichua, the native Indian tongue, much more readily. Wenow, however, learned all our lessons in English, and read a great deal,so that I got on rapidly.

  The weather at length began to grow unusually cold, and the sky wascovered with clouds. We put on warm clothes, and kept much oftener thanusual in the cabin. The ship too began to tumble about, and I thoughtsometimes would be sent right over. I remember inquiring seriously if a_waterquake_ were taking place; for I had hitherto seen the ocean socalm, that I fancied it would always remain so, and that it was only theearth which was given to shaking and tumbling about. The wind whistledand roared, and the spray flew over the deck, and the sailors went outon the yards and reefed the sails; but no one seemed to mind what washappening, so I was soon content, and thought all was right; and when Ilooked on the waves, it struck me that they were not a quarter as highas the mountains I had been accustomed to see, and wondered how theywere able to tumble the great big ship about in the way they did. Stillon we went day after day, and I discovered that we were sailing in anopposite direction to that we had before steered. I could not make itout, till the captain showed me a chart, and gave me my first lesson ingeography on a grand scale; and I then saw that we had come down thewest coast of South America, and were now sailing northward along itseastern coast.

  I was very glad when I could go on deck again without greatcoat, and thesun shone forth as brightly almost as it does at Quito. Then in alittle time the weather got very hot again, and there was no wind, andthe ship lay on the glassy sea, her white sails flapping against themasts. There we lay day after day, and I began to think that at thatrate we should never get to England; but Captain Lopez told me that Ineed not trouble myself about the matter, as the wind was sure to comesome day or other, and that then we should glide along as fast as ever.I found that he was right, though we were becalmed several times afterthat.

  At length we saw the crew very busy in polishing up the ship, andranging the cables along the deck, as getting them ready for anchoringin called; and men were aloft all day looking out ahead; and then camethe shout of "Terra! terra!--Espana!" and I found that we wereapproaching the coast of Spain. The next morning when I went on deckthe ship was at anchor, surrounded by land, with a large city on oneside, and other towns or villages scattered about on the other. Thiswas the beautiful Bay of Cadiz. Near us lay a large ship with theEnglish flag flying at her peak. Captain Lopez went on board her, andthen hurried on shore with certain papers in his hand; and when hereturned, we all went on board the English ship. Soon after, the anchorwas hove up, the sails let fall, and away we sailed out of the harbour.Thus we did not even set foot on Spanish soil. I aske
d my mother thereason of this: she replied, that finding the ship on the point ofsailing, she did not like to lose the opportunity of going to England inher; that the ship was called the _Inca_, commanded by Captain Byles,with whom she and my father were acquainted.

  I remember that Captain Byles was very kind and attentive, that thecabin was very neat and clean--a quality for which that of the _Pizarro_was not remarkable--while the English crew, many of whom were oldmen-of-war's-men, paid off at the end of the war, were far more orderlythan the Spaniards. There was a black cook, Sam by name, and a whitegoat. With the former we soon struck up a friendship, for he wasgood-natured and kind to us, and a most intelligent fellow; the latterused to chase us round and round the deck, and several times tumbled mehead over heels when I jumped before her to prevent her from butting atEllen. Of Sam I shall have to speak more by-and-by. I do not remembermany more incidents of the voyage till one day I saw the men heaving thelead, and I found that we were in the chops of the Channel; and then Iheard the shout of "Land! land!" from one of the crew at the mast-head,and I was told that England was in sight; and after a time I saw alight-blue line away over the bow on the left side, and heard that itwas the Lizard, which I explained to Ellen was not a creature, but apoint of land at the west end of England. With a fine breeze,studdingsails on either side, the colours flying, the sky bright and thesea blue, the big ship, her canvas glittering in the sunlight glidedproudly up Channel. Even the gruffest old seaman began to smile, andevery one seemed in good spirits. At last a little one-masted vesselcame dancing over the small waves towards us, our sails were brailed up,a boat put off from her, and a big man with huge whiskers, and roughgreatcoat, and broad-brimmed hat climbed up the side, and shook handswith the captain; and I heard that the pilot had come on board, and thatwe were sailing into the Downs. I went below, and on returning on deckI looked up and saw, instead of the broad sheets of white canvas whichhad so long been spread, the long yards above my head with the sailsclosely furled. The ship was at anchor. In a short time the boat camealongside, and my mother and sister and I, with our attendants, werelowered into her. We rowed on shore, and went to a big house, where allthe people were wonderfully polite. I asked if this was to be ourfuture home, but my mother told me it was an inn--very unlike theresting-places we had stopped at on our journey from Quito.

  The next day we were all seated inside a yellow carriage, with Domingosand Maria on the outside, and rolling away over the smooth road at agreat rate. We went on and on, changing horses every now and then,through a country dotted about with houses which looked very large andgrand, and green trees which looked very small after those I had beenaccustomed to see. At length the houses became thicker and thicker, andwe were driving through long streets with numberless carriages dashinghere and there, and carts, and vans, and vehicles of all sorts; and mymother told me we were in London. We drove on, and I thought we shouldsoon be on the other side; but I found that we had not got nearly intothe centre of it. I had thought Quito a large city, but this, Iguessed, must be ten times larger. All the houses, too, lookedwonderfully high, and I thought if an earthquake were to occur, howquickly they would all topple down. I asked my mother how people couldventure to build such tall houses. She laughed, and said that happilyin England there were no earthquakes; and that, in another city in thenorth, there were houses ten stories high.

  We stopped at last before a house in a long, dull-looking street, and agentleman came to the door and handed us all out, and kissed my motherand Ellen and me, and welcomed us to England; and I found that he wasUncle James, my mother's brother; and there was our aunt, his wife, anda number of cousins, boys and girls; and we were all soon quite at homeand happy, though I did not exactly know what to do with myself.

  A few days after that, Uncle James and my mother and I drove out in acarriage, and there was a box on the top of it full of my clothes, andseveral other things; and then I found that I was going to school. Iwas rather pleased than otherwise; not that I wished to leave my motherand Ellen, but I wanted to know what sort of a place school was. Wewent some distance away from London, and stopped before a house with aniron gate, and a huge stone lion on each side of it. We got out, andwere shown into a drawing-room, and there we sat, till a tall gentlemandressed in black, with a very white head, made his appearance, and mymother and Uncle James talked to him for some time; then he called meup, patted me on the head, and told me he hoped that I should be a goodboy, and learn my lessons well. I did not feel quite comfortable whenmy mother got up and kissed me again and again, and looked somewhat sad;and then Uncle James wished me good-bye; and out they went, while thetall gentleman kept me by the hand.

  "Now, Harry Faithful," he said, "I will introduce you to yourschool-fellows;" and he conducted me through a passage, at the end ofwhich was a door which opened out into a large open space covered withgravel, with high walls on either side. A big tree stood in the centre,and a vast number of boys of all ages were running about. Some hadhoops, others were jumping over long ropes, and others, with reinsfastened to their arms held by bigger boys, were scampering round andround, playing at horses. Some were leaping over each other's backs,and others were hopping about with their arms folded charging at eachother. I thought it very good fun, and hoped that was the way they werealways employed.

  The tall gentleman, after waiting a minute or two, called out, "AntonyNyass, come here. Here is the son of an old friend of your father's. Iexpect you to look after him."

  Then he turned round to me, and said, "When the bell rings, you willcome in with the rest, and we will lose no time in placing you."

  "And so you are the new boy," said my companion. "What is your name?"I told him. "Well, I am very glad you are come," he observed, "for Iwant a chum. We will have all sorts of fun together. Will you have ahoop? I have got a prime one which beats all those of the fellows in myclass; or will you go shares in a pair of leather reins?" I told himthat I should be very glad to do what he liked, and that I had plenty ofmoney, though I could not say how much, as I was not accustomed toEnglish coin, and could not remember what it was called. "Oh, I willsoon put you up to that," he said, laughing; "but do not show it now.We will see by-and-by what you can do with it."

  While we were speaking, a number of other boys collected round us, andbegan to ask me all sorts of questions--who I was, who my friends were,where I had come from, how old I was, and if I had ever been to anotherschool.

  "Do not tell them," whispered Nyass.

  "What is that you are saying, Master Tony!" exclaimed one of the boys."You are putting him up to some of your own tricks."

  "I will tell you all by-and-by," I answered, taking my new friend'shint.

  "Can you run?" asked Tony. "Tell them that you will race any one ofthem," he whispered.

  "I do not know, but I will try," I replied.

  "Who is for a race?" exclaimed Tony. "He will run you down to thebottom of the play-ground and back again, and if he does not beat allthe fellows of his own size I shall be surprised."

  I was light and active, and though I had never before run a race, havingno companions to run with, I did my best to follow out Tony'ssuggestion. At the word, off I set as hard as I could tear; five or sixother fellows besides Tony ran also. He kept up with me, though wedistanced the rest. He touched the wall at the bottom, and I followedhis example.

  "Now, back again as hard as you can go! I am the best runner of my sizein the school," he cried out, as he kept close to me; "if you beat me,your fame is established, and the fellows will treat you with respectafter that."

  I felt, however, very doubtful whether I could beat Tony; but I did mybest, and as we neared the point we started from I found myself drawingahead of him. "That is it!" he shouted; "keep on, and you will do it."I suspected that he was letting me get ahead of him on purpose, and Ireached the starting-point four or five paces before him. I felt,however, that I could not have run another minute if my life haddepended on it; while he came i
n without the slightest panting. Theother fellows followed mostly together, a short distance behind.

  It is curious how slight a thing gives a boy a position at once in aschool. Thanks to Tony, I gained one at once, and ever afterwards keptit. I do not intend to give an account of my school-life andadventures, as I have more interesting matter to describe. I was placedin the lowest class, as might have been expected. Although I knewnothing of Latin, I was up to several things which my class-mates werenot, and as I did my best to learn, I soon caught up a number of them.My friend Tony was in the class above me, and he was always ready togive me any help. Though not quarrelsome, I had several battles tofight, and got into scrapes now and then, but not often, and altogetherI believed I was getting on pretty well. Tony, my first acquaintance,remained my firm friend. Although now and then we had quarrels, wequickly made them up again. He used to listen with eager ears to theaccounts I gave him of my voyage, and the wonders of my native land. Henever laughed at my foreign accent, though the other boys did; but Ivery soon got rid of it. I used to try to teach him Spanish, and theIndian language, which I had learned from the servants; but I soonforgot them myself, and had difficulty even in recalling a few words ofthe tongue which I once spoke with ease.

  "I say, Harry, I should so like to go out with you to that country,"said Tony to me one day. "When you go back I must try and get my fatherto let me accompany you."

  I, of course, was well pleased at the proposal, and we talked for daystogether of what we should do when we got out there. At last we beganto think that it was very hard we should have to wait till we had grownbig fellows like those at the head of the school, and Tony proposed thatwe should start away by ourselves. We looked at the map, and consideredhow we could best accomplish our object. We observed the mighty riverAmazon rising at no great distance--so it seemed on paper--from Quitoitself, and running right across the continent into the Atlantic.

  "Will it not be fun paddling up by ourselves in a canoe!" exclaimedTony. "We will have guns to go on shore and shoot birds and beasts; andwhen we grow tired of paddling we will sail along before the wind; andwe will have a tent, and sleep in it at night, and light a fire in frontof it to cook our suppers and keep off the wild beasts; and then, whenwe arrive at the upper end of the river, we will sell our canoe to theIndians, and trudge away on foot with knapsacks on our backs up themountains, till we reach your father's house; and will not he beastonished to see us!"

  I agreed with him in his last idea certainly, but I was puzzled to thinkhow we were to reach the mouth of the Amazon, and when we were there howwe were to procure canoe. All the rest appeared pretty easy in the wayTony proposed it, and, after all, even on a big map, the river did notlook so very long.

  "Well, my idea is," said Tony, "that we should save up all ourpocket-money, and then, some day when we have got very hard lessons todo, or anything disagreeable takes place, run off, and get aboard a shipsailing to South America. I should not mind being cabin-boy for a shorttime; and as you know Spanish and Indian, you could tell the captain youwould interpret for him, and of course he would be very glad to haveyou; and then, you know, we should soon learn to be sailors; and it willbe much pleasanter climbing about the rigging and up the masts and alongthe yards than sitting at our desks all day bothering our heads withCaesar and Ovid and sums and history and geography, and all that sort ofthing."

  "But I have not got Caesar and Ovid to do yet," I observed; "and I wantto have a little more schooling; for Uncle James says I shall not be fitfor anything until I do. Do not you think we had better wait till I getinto your class, or rather higher still?"

  Tony said he was much disappointed at my drawing back, which he argued Iwas doing when I made these remarks. However, I spoke in perfectsincerity, and fully believed that I should enjoy the adventure heproposed just as much as he would. I had my doubts, however, whether weshould receive so favourable a reception at the end of our journey as hesupposed. However, he continued talking and talking about the matter,till I agreed to consider what could be done during another half.

  I spent my first holidays in London at Uncle James's, and my brotherJohn came there, and I was surprised to find what a big fellow he was.We were very good friends, and he took me out to see a number of thesights of London. We went, among other places, to Exeter Change, wherethere were all sorts of wild beasts. I had no idea until then thatthere were so many in the world. I was highly interested, and learnedthe names of nearly all of them; and John told me where they had comefrom, and all about their habits. Then Uncle James gave me a book ofnatural history, which I read with great delight. I found by the bookthat the beasts I had seen at Exeter Change were only a very smallnumber of those which exist in different parts of the world. I likedthat book of natural history better than any I had ever read; except,perhaps, "Robinson Crusoe," which Tony had lent me, and which he saidwas the best book that ever was written. I thus gained a veryconsiderable knowledge of the quadrupeds and the feathered tribes of theanimal kingdom, and Uncle James said he thought some day I should becomea first-rate naturalist, if I had opportunities of studying thecreatures in their native wild. I resolved the next summer holidays,which were to be spent in the country, to catch as many of the creaturesas I could, and form a menagerie of my own. I should say I had not toldJohn of the plan Tony and I had in contemplation--of exploring theAmazon by ourselves. I thought, from some of his remarks, that hepossibly might not approve of it.

  I soon got tired of London, after I had seen the usual sights, though Iwas glad to be with my mother and Ellen and my cousins. John also wasvery kind, but he was such a big fellow that I stood in as much awe ofhim as I did of my uncle. I was not sorry, therefore, to find myself atschool with companions of my own age. As the weather was very cold,Tony and I agreed that we would put off our expedition till the summer,and in the meantime we talked of the menagerie I proposed making, andother subjects of equal importance, which prevented us thinking aboutthe former matter.

  I had a good many friends among my school-fellows. Arthur Mallet, nextto Tony, was my chief friend. He was by several months my junior--adelicate, gentle boy, amiable, sensible, and clever. He was liked bythe masters as well as by the boys, and that is saying much in hisfavour. Poor fellow, notwithstanding this he was frequently out ofspirits. I asked him one day why he looked so sad. He was silent forsome minutes. "I will tell you, Harry," he said at length. "I amthinking of my mother. She is dying. I know it, for she told me so.She never deceived me. When she has gone I shall have no one to carefor me--and--and--Harry, I shall have to depend on the charity ofstrangers for support. She urged me to work hard, that I might beindependent; but it will be a long time before I can become so. Formyself I do not so much mind, but it troubles my mother greatly; andthen to have her die--though I know she is going to heaven--I cannotbear the thought." He said more in the same style. "And then, shouldmy father come back--oh, what will he do!" he added.

  "I thought from what you said that you had no father," I remarked."Where is he then, Arthur?"

  "That is what I do not know," he answered. "Do not speak about it toany one, Harry. He went away a long time ago, on account of somethingthat had happened. He could not bear to stay in England. But he wasnot to blame. That is all I know. He could not take her with him; andmy grandmother and aunts with whom she was left died, and their fortunewas lost; and what she has now got is only for her life, and thattroubles her also greatly."

  I tried as well as I could to comfort Arthur, and after this felt morethan ever anxious to stand by him an a friend. "I may some day be ableto help him," I thought--but I did not tell him so. Our friendship hadbeen disinterested, and thus I wished it to remain.

  I said that I had many friends at school, but there were some few whom Ilooked upon in a contrary light; especially one big boy, Houlston, ofwhom all the little ones were dreadfully afraid. He used to make us doanything that seized his fancy, and if we ventured to refuse, oftenthrashed
us. Poor Arthur Mallet frequently came in for hisill-treatment, and bore it, we all thought, with far too much patience.At last Tony and I and a few other fellows agreed that we would stand itno longer. One day Houlston and one of the upper form boys, who wasyounger than himself, had a dispute. We thought that he was going tothrash the other fellow; but the latter standing up in his own defence,Houlston walked off, not venturing, as we supposed, to encounter him.This, of course, gave us courage. A few day afterwards Tony wasreading, when Houlston, coming by, seized his book, saying he wanted it.Tony watched his opportunity, and snatching it up, made off out of theschool-room, through the play-ground into a yard on one side, which, notbeing overlooked by any of the windows from the house, was the usualplace for pugilistic encounters. Houlston followed. I saw ArthurMallet and several of those who had promised to side with us standingnear. Arthur joined us, though somewhat unwillingly. We made chase.Tony, who had fled to the yard, was at length overtaken by his pursuer,who began hitting him over the head and shoulders. I signed to mycompanions, and making a spring, jumped on Houlston's back and beganbelabouring him with might and main. I shouted to the others to come onand attack him on either side. He was furious, and struck out right andleft at them; but I, clinging pertinaciously to his back, prevented hisblows having due effect. My companions on this closed in, and two ofthem seizing him by the legs, down he came, with me still clinging tohis back. The rest now threw themselves upon him. Handkerchiefs werebrought out, and in spite of his struggles they managed to tie his armsbehind him, while I kept him down. Though he kicked out furiously, byjumping on his body we succeeded in securing his legs, and we thus hadhim in our power. It was in the evening of a half-holiday. On one sideof the yard was a wood-shed. Into this we dragged him. Astonishmentand the efforts he made to free himself had prevented him from shoutingfor help. Before he had uttered a cry, Rawlings, one of the biggest ofour party, running up, shoved a handkerchief into his mouth, whichcompletely gagged him. We then all ran away, leaving him withoutcompunction in the dark and cold. Assembling again in the school-room,we agreed to leave him till somebody coming by might release him.Tea-time came, and Houlston did not make his appearance. I began togrow anxious, and communicated my fears to Arthur, who sat next to me.Still he did not come. Tea was over. At last Arthur entreated that wewould go and ascertain what was the matter. It was now quite dark. Iremember quite well the uncomfortable feeling I had, as, stealing out,we groped our way in the dark to the yard. On approaching thewood-house we heard a groan. Could it proceed from Houlston? My heartbeat more tranquilly, though, for the groan showed that he was alive.We crept in. He was where we had left him; but his hands were icy cold.I bethought me first of withdrawing the handkerchief from his mouth.Some of the fellows proposed leaving him again.

  "Oh no, no; pray don't do that!" exclaimed Arthur. "Perhaps he willpromise to give up bullying if we agree to cast him loose."

  "You hear that, Houlston?" said Tony. "Will you become a good fellowand treat the little chaps properly, or will you spend the night outhere?"

  Houlston only grumbled out some words which we could not understand. Atlast we heard him say, "What is it you want?" It was evident from histone that he was greatly humbled. That is not surprising, for he musthave been very cold and very hungry, and Tony repeated the question.

  "He will not promise. We must put the gag in again," said two or threeof the other fellows.

  "Will you promise?" asked Tony again.

  "Oh, do let him go!" again exclaimed Arthur, whose kind heart was movedby the pitiable condition of our captive. "He will promise--I know hewill; and I do not mind if he bullies me ever so much. We should thinkany one very cruel who kept us out in the cold as we have kept him. Iam sure that he will promise what we ask--won't you, Houlston?"

  "No, he will not," said another boy. "He will have a couple of hours towait till the names are called over, and perhaps somebody will then comeand look for him. He will be much colder by that time."

  "Oh yes, I will promise!" cried Houlston. "Let me go, and I will notbully you little fellows any more. Just try me. And I will rememberwhat Mallet said--he has more feeling than any of you; I did not expecthim to have spoken as he has, for I treated him always worse than any ofyou."

  "You promise, on your word of honour," said Tony; "and you will not goand complain of us? You must promise that too."

  Houlston was completely humbled. He promised all we demanded.

  "We may trust to his word. I am sure we may!" exclaimed Arthur. "Oh,do let us loose him!"

  "Thank you, Mallet. Thank you, Faithful. I am much obliged to you,"whispered Houlston, as Arthur undid the handkerchief which bound hiswrists. The others were in the meantime casting off those round hislegs. We lifted him up, for he was so numbed and chilled that he couldnot walk. Arthur had brought a slice of bread and butter doubled up inhis pocket. He offered it to Houlston, who took it gratefully. Hisclothes, I felt, were covered with chips of wood and dust. We brushedhim with our hands as well as we could in the dark, and then led himback into the playroom, where the boys were collecting after tea. Iwatched him narrowly, fearing mat he might tell some of the big fellowswhat had happened; but he went to his box without speaking to any one,and then taking up his books, proceeded to the school-room to learn hislessons for the next day. We kept our counsel, and were convinced thatHoulston wisely kept his, for not a word did he utter to any of hiscompanions of what had occurred. From that day forward he was generallykind and good-natured, and especially so to Arthur Mallet. He helpedhim in his lessons, and was constantly making him presents of suchthings as boys prize, though older people may not set much value onthem. Though he might lose his temper with others, he never did so withArthur, and always seemed anxious to show his friendly feeling in avariety of ways. I have seldom seen a fellow so greatly changed for thebetter as Houlston became, owing, I believe, greatly to the way Arthurhad pleaded his cause when the rest of us seemed inclined to revengeourselves still further than we had already done.

  I should not have mentioned the circumstance, except for the sake of themoral it taught me. There is an old saying, that when a bull runs atyou the best way of escaping him is to seize him by the horns; and fromthe manner we overcame Houlston, I am convinced of the wisdom of theadvice. Ever since, when a difficulty has occurred, I have seized itboldly, grappled with it as we grappled with Houlston, summoned up allmy courage, resolution, and strength, just as Tony and I called ourcompanions to our assistance, and dragged it, metaphorically speaking,to the ground, gagged it as we gagged the bully, and not let it looseagain till I have been convinced that it would no longer trouble me.Again, when I have had any difficult thing to do, I have done it atonce, or tried my best to do it. I have never put off a disagreeablething which I may have had to do till another day. I have got it overas soon as possible, whatever it may have been. I have generally foundthat the anticipation is worse than the reality. I cannot understandwhat made Houlston take to bullying; and I must say after this he showedmuch good feeling, and became a firm friend both to Tony and me, notappearing to harbour any ill-feeling for the way we had treated him.

  I must hurry over my school-boy days. I was not able to carry out myplan of the menagerie the next summer. My uncle, instead of going tohis country house, took us all to the sea-side. I, however, on thatoccasion picked up a good deal of knowledge about vessels and boats, andfish, and marine animals; and instead of a menagerie we had an aquarium,into which we used to put the small fish and other creatures we caughtin the pools on the rocks. I was making an important step in the studyof natural history--gaining the custom of observing the habits ofcreatures. The following year I carried out my long-intended plan,having induced one of my cousins to join me in it. We made severalcages and boxes; and among our captives we numbered a couple of rabbits,a weasel, hedgehog, ferret, and stoat, with a number of pigeons andother birds, and, I may add, three or four snakes. We caught a viper--o
r, as it is frequently called, an adder--the only venomous creaturewhich exist in England; but my uncle objected to our keeping it alive,though he consented to its being turned into a bottle of spirits. Wekilled another, and cut off its head to observe its poisonous fangs. Ondissecting the head, we found that the fangs exist on either side of theupper jaw, in which they lie down flat towards the throat. They are onhinges, the roots connected with little bags of poison. When thecreature is irritated and about to bite, these fangs rise up. They arehollow, with small orifices at their points. When biting, the roots ofthe fangs are pressed against the bags of poison, which thus exudesthrough the orifices and enters the wound they make. All venomousserpents are provided with fangs, but in the jaws of some species thefangs, instead of lying down, are always erect, ready for action. Thenature of the poison varies in different species. The poison of someproduces paralysis; that of others causes the body when bitten to swelland become putrid. The venom of some is so powerful that it rapidlycourses through the veins and destroys life in a few minutes; that ofothers makes much slower progress. The English viper, or adder, has buta small quantity of poison in its bag, and its bite rarely producesdeath. Some of the smallest snakes, in tropical climes, are the mostvenomous. However, I shall by-and-by have a good deal to say on thesubject.

  From what I have mentioned, it will be understood that I had already gota taste for and some insight into natural history, and when I returnedto school I was able to discourse very learnedly on the subject. Thismade Tony more anxious to carry out our long-projected undertaking.Still, as we were very well treated at school, we had no excuse forrunning away, and put it off from day to day. At length, in truth, webegan to grow wiser, and look at it in a different light. Tony, indeed,one day confided his plan to Houlston.

  "Well, when you make up your mind to go, just tell me," said Houlston.

  "What I would you go with us?" exclaimed Tony. "That would be capital.With a big fellow like you we should be able to make our way anywhere."

  "Not exactly that," was the answer. "I'll tell you what I should do,Nyass. As soon as I found that you had started, I should make chaseafter you and bring you back. Depend upon it, it would be the best markof friendship I could show you! Time enough by-and-by--when you havegone through school and been at college, and got a little more knowledgethan you now possess in your heads--to start on such an expedition. Ihave a great notion that I should like to do something of the sortmyself; so, if you ever start on an expedition to South America or anyother part of the world, find me out if you can, and let me know, andthen perhaps I shall be ready to accompany you."

  These sensible remarks of Houlston put Tony completely off his purpose,and we finally agreed to follow the advice of our school-fellow, andwait patiently till we had finished our studies.

  In the meantime I should say that my mother had rejoined my father atQuito. When I first came to England I thought that the time when Ishould leave school was a very long way off. It seemed like a dreamwhen I found myself at last a big fellow of sixteen at the commencementof the summer holidays. There was Ellen, almost a grown-up young lady--in my eyes, at all events--and John, who had been in Uncle James'scounting-house in London, a man with big whiskers.

  "Well, Harry," said Uncle James, "would you like to go back to school,or accompany John and Ellen to South America? Your father wishes tohave John's assistance, and perhaps you also can make yourself useful."

  Although by this time I found school a far pleasanter place than when Iwas a little boy, yet, as may be supposed, I did not take long todecide.

  "I will accompany John," I said without hesitation.

  "We shall have to part with you soon, then, I am sorry to say," observedmy uncle; "for Captain Byles, who still commands the _Inca_, is about tosail for Guayaquil. In consequence of the emancipation of the SpanishSouth American provinces from the iron yoke of the mother country, theirports are now free, and ships of all nations can trade to them, whichwas not the case when you came home. Captain Byles has twice beforebeen to the Pacific, and we have resolved to send the _Inca_ thereagain. He will be very glad to have you as passenger. You must lose notime, therefore, in getting ready."

  I replied very honestly that I was sorry to leave him and aunt andcousins; but, at the same time, I could not help feeling delighted atthe thought of again seeing my father and mother and Fanny, andrevisiting the magnificent scenes which had made so deep an impressionupon my mind, besides being able to indulge on a large scale in thestudy of the natural history of that wonderful region. I did not forgetmy friends, Tony and Arthur Mallet, and as soon as I had time I sat downand wrote to them both. At the end of a week I received the followingreply from Tony:--

  "Dear Harry,--Your letter threw me into a state of wild commotion. Youto be actually starting for the country we have so often talked about,while, as far as I could see, I was destined to stick quietly at a deskin my father's counting-house. After thinking the matter over, however,and recollecting how kind and considerate he has always been, Idetermined to show him your letter, and tell him frankly of mylong-cherished wish to go abroad. He talked to me a good deal toascertain whether I was in earnest. `I did not wish to send you fromme,' he said at last; `but I will now tell you that a few months ago Ireceived a letter from a cousin of mine who has lately established ahouse of business at Para in Brazil, requesting me to send out twosteady lads as clerks, adding that he should be very glad to receive ason of mine if I could spare him.' I jumped at the idea; for though Ishould have liked to have gone out with you, Harry, yet, as I have nomeans of doing that, I am delighted to go to Para, because, as it is atthe mouth of the Amazon, it is the very place of all others I shouldhave chosen. It is where we proposed going to when we used to talk ofour expedition up the mighty river, and perhaps, after all, we may beable somehow or other to realise those wild fancies of our early days.To be sure, when I come to measure off the distance on the map, which wedid not then think of doing, I find that Quito and Para are a tremendouslong way apart. Still, perhaps some day or other we may be able toaccomplish a meeting. At all events, I told my father that I waswilling to accept our cousin's offer, and at the same time I put in aword for Houlston, from whom I had heard a few days before, telling methat he was looking about for something to do, and ready to do anythingor go anywhere. He has no parents, or brothers or sisters, or any tieto keep him in England. I showed his letter to my father, and told himthat he was a big, strong fellow, and that though I did not much likehim when I was a little fellow, he was greatly improved. My father onthis said he would send for him, and should he possess the necessaryqualifications, he should be very glad to recommend him for theappointment. Houlston came, and as he writes well, and is a good handat arithmetic, and has a fair amount of knowledge on other matters, myfather told me that he would recommend him for the appointment. Thelong and short of the matter is, that Houlston and I are to go up toLondon with my father in a few days, to get our outfits, and to secure apassage by the first vessel sailing for Para or the nearest port to itin Brazil. We shall meet, Harry, and we will then talk matters over,and, I hope, strike out some plan by which we may be able to carry outour early designs, although perhaps not in the same way we formerlyproposed. Houlston sends his kind regards to you, and says he shall bevery happy to meet you again _Adeos, meu amigo_--that is, Good-bye, myfriend. I have lost no time in beginning to learn Portuguese, which isthe language the Brazilians speak, and I intend to work hard at it onthe voyage, so as to be able to talk away in a fashion when I land.--Your sincere old friend, Antony Nyass."

  I was very glad to get this letter, but was much disappointed at nothearing from Arthur. Another day's post, however, brought me a letterfrom him. I should have said that he had left school three monthsbefore, and that I had not since heard from him. His letter was a verysad one. I gathered from it that what he had dreaded had come to pass.His mother was dead, and he was left almost destitute, though he triedto hide from me as muc
h as possible the fact of his poverty.

  I at once made up my mind what to do. I took the letter to my uncle,told him all about Arthur, and entreated that he might be sent out withus in the _Inca_. "I will answer for it that he will amply repay allthe kindness he may receive," I added. Uncle James said that he wouldconsider the matter, and in the course of the day told me, to my greatsatisfaction, that I might write to Mallet and invite him to come up totown. Arthur lost no time in obeying the summons. My uncle was muchpleased with him, and Arthur gratefully accepted the proposal that heshould accompany us to Quito.

  Two days afterwards Tony and Houlston arrived in London. A ship forPara was on the point of sailing. They had therefore to hurry on theirpreparations. They spent the evening with us at my uncle's, and Johntold me that he liked Houlston very well, and hoped some day to see himagain. Tony he thought a capital fellow--so enthusiastic andwarm-hearted, yet not wanting in sense; but Arthur, as I knew he would,he liked better than either. Tony brought with him a beautiful blackcocker spaniel. "Here, Harry, I want you to accept this fellow as akeepsake from me," he said, leading the dog up to me. "Pat him on thehead, call him True, and tell him you are going to be his master, and hewill understand you. He can do everything but talk; but though he doesnot often give tongue, he is as brave as a lion."

  I warmly thanked Tony for his gift as I patted True, who jumped up andlicked my hand. "But you want a dog for yourself. I scarcely like totake him from you," I said.

  "Set your mind at rest; I have his brother--whom I left at ourlodgings--his equal in most respects, if not quite so great a beauty,"he answered. "You will excuse me, I know. I have called my dog`Faithful,' after you. As I cannot have you with me, I wanted somethingto remind me of you; and faithful I am sure he will prove to me, asyours will prove true to you."

  I thanked Tony for his kind feeling for me, and assured him that Iconsidered it a compliment that he had called his dog after me.

  True was indeed a beauty--a Welsh cocker--somewhat larger than usualperhaps. He came up in his moral qualities to all Tony had said abouthim. He took to me at once, and a true friend he ever proved. Weaccompanied our friends aboard their ship, which was a Portuguese,called the _Vasco da Gama_. She was a fine large vessel. The crew weresmall and swarthy, but active-looking fellows, most of them wearing longred caps on their heads, and blue or pink-striped shirts, with knivesstuck in their girdles. They jabbered and shouted tremendously as theygot under weigh. Tony and Houlston stood on the poop bidding usfarewell. "We shall meet, Harry! we shall meet!" Tony cried out."Good-bye, Harry; good-bye, Arthur; good-bye, old fellows!"

  "Perhaps we shall overtake you on the voyage!" shouted John.

  "Not much fear of that," answered Houlston.

  We were soon too far off to exchange further words, though we could hearthe voices of the crew even when we had got to a considerable distancefrom the ship.