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Three years' slavery among the Patagonians: an account of his captivity online

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nothino- of a hostile character. The words,
" It is he! it is he!" frequently repeated
by one of my noisy neighbours, having
roused me to look round, I was agreeably
surprised at recognizing a person I had



366 THREE YEARS' SLAVERY

known at Mendoza, and whose whole atten-
tion, as well as that of his companion,
appeared fixed on me. I immediately rose
to bow to him*, but I was fated to meet with
surprise on surprise, for both he and the
person next him held out their hands with
all sorts of friendly demonstrations, and ad-
dressed me by my names. I soon learned
the answer to the riddle : this gentleman,
who was unknown to me, had arrived at
Buenos Ayres some time after me, and, at
the instigation of his family, which was ac-
quainted with mine, had made unceasing
inquiry concerning me. He had corres-
ponded with my excellent mother, who, six
months after my capture by the Indians, had
been informed of the fact by the good
missionaries, and by a well-known man of
learning, Monsieur Bravard, whose love of
science brought him to If terrible and prema-
ture end. He perished under the ruins of
that superb Mendoza, of which he had, a few



AMONG THE PATAGONIANS. 367

clays before, only too accurately predicted
the destruction.

Monsieur Edmond Carre, sucli was the
name of the charming and obliging fellow-
countryman with whom I had the honour
next day to become more fully acquainted,
had, by an extraordinary presentiment, pre-
served some of my mother's letters, on
the chance of some providential accident
bringing us together. My friends, the
Barthes, from whom I had received so
many marks of sympathy, shared in the joy
I felt at this happy meeting, which, doubt-
less, would not have taken place but for
their pressing endeavours to induce me to
take a few moments' amusement. I was the
more delighted with this unhoped-for circum-
stance, that it resulted in a conversation
which confirmed the truth of the story of my
misfortunes which I had related to the
Barthes family.

It was with the assistance of Monsieur



368 THREE YEARS 1 SLAVERY

Carre that I got letters from my family,
giving me the means of returning to France.
During a stay of several months at
Valparaiso, notwithstanding the obliging
services of my friends Barthes and Carre, I
obtained nothing but such hard work as
completely broke down my health. There,
while carefully concealing my sad position from
my friends, I found myself, as I had done
in traversing the Pampas and crossing the
Cordilleras, several times reduced to star-
vation. I was overcome with distress, seeing
myself everywhere and always pursued by
the same fate ; in the midst of civilized
beings I was often compelled, when resting
from the fatigues of the day, to sleep on a
wretched pallet in a roofless garret, exposed
to icy winds and torrents of rain, that be-
numbed my limbs, and revived my sufferings
to such a degree that I had the greatest
difficulty in the world to bear up against
them.



AMONG TEE PATAGONIANS. 369

Even these wretched eraploymeDts several
times failed me ; at times I was obliged to
put up with two or three mouthfuls of bread
a day, and to make my way stealthily into
stables where I shared the litter of animals
more fortunate than myself, having at least
food enough to appease the cravings of their
appetite.

Overcome by despair, and growing more
and more ill, I resolved, as I had been
advised, to call on Monsieur Cazottei Consul
at Valparaiso. This functionary received me
in the kindest manner, congratulating me on
my fortunate return to liberty. He informed
me that he had long before received orders
from the Government concerning me, and
showed me an enormous bundle of papers, in
which were docketed the different articles he
had published about me in all the Chilian
newspapers, in consequence of the repre-
sentations of my family, made through
Monsieur Limperani, Consul-general at San-

24



370 THREE YEARS' SLAVERY

tiago, and through the missionaries. Mon-
sieur Cazotte had the goodness, before
embarking me on board the corvette " Con-
stantine," to furnish me with all that was
necessary for me on the voyage.

A week after my interview with the
consul, the departure of the vessel for France
having been irrevocably fixed, I went to my
excellent friends, the Barthes', to take my
leave and. express to them once more my
sincere gratitude. It was not without deep
emotion that I parted from these good
people, of whom the recollection will never
be effaced from my memory, any more
than that of Monsieur Carre, who exerted
himself in my behalf with as warm an
interest as if I had been one of his own
relatives.

As at Valparaiso, so it was on board the
vessel that was bearing me to France, my
mind, oppressed by long-continued misery,
was absorbed by two conflicting emotions :



AMONG THE PATAG0NIAN8. 371

the desire to return to France, and to all those
whom I loved, and an incessant struggle with
the reminiscences of my captivity.

Like Mungo Park, escaped from the
tyranny of the Moors of the Great Sahara, I
was a long time believing in my deliverance.
It was with me as with that great traveller :
I needed to cross the ocean, to return to
my country, to the restorative calmness of
the paternal hearth, to^ free my sleep from
visions, and my brain from phantoms con-
jured up by the odious remembrance of the
brigands of the desert.



NOTES.



Note A.— The Viscacha, in Indian Trouby, is very com-
mon to the south of Buenos Ayres. This animal makes
burrows in the earth like the rabbit, with numerous out-
lets close together, and mostly near roads. It lives in
families, and consumes the grass in its neighbourhood.
It is not unfrequently met with in gardens, where it
causes great havoc, still oftener in sown fields. It only
goes about during the twilight, and never far from its
burrow. Its length varies from twenty to twenty-five
pouces, without including the tail ; its body is thick-set, head
fat and chubby, ear large, eye large, muzzle blunt and
shaggy ; it has the mouth and teeth of the hare. The fore-
quarters are much higher than the hind-quarters. It has
long and very stiff bristles in place of moustaches. The
flesh of this animal is very white and very tender, but very
insipid, yet good eating when well seasoned.

Note B. — Gnayu-u cCAzara-. Cervus compestris of F.
Cuvier. A kind of roebuck, differing from the European
species by its white throat.



374 NOTES.

Note C. — The ceton, mamouel ceton, or careux ceton, is a
gigantic kind of thistle, to which the Indians give one or
other of these names, according as it is green or dry.
Green, they call it careux ceton ; dry, mamouel ceton.

This thistle, very common in certain parts, where it
grows with great rapidity, differs entirely from that which
is known in France. It has a round and very upright stem,
often attaining a height of over two metres, the diameter
varying from one to two, and even to two and a half pouces.
It is armed, so to speak, throughout its length with long
narrow leaves, forming sharp angles, and bristling with a
great quantity of spines. The top of the stem is crowned
by a mass of small leaves looking like a ball.

The Indians are generally very fond of this plant, which,
when quite young, is of great service in the preparation of
certain dishes, such as : 1st. Tchaffis- ceton, a mixture of
milk and small pieces of the stem of this thistle, which they
allow to ferment, and on which they regale themselves as
often as possible ; 2nd. Hilo-ceton, thistle baked in the ashes
and always mixed with raw or half-cooked meat.

They eat it also in an uncooked state, and I have
sometimes feasted on it raw ; for in its natural condition
I found it very like celery.

When dry, this gigantic thistle, the stem of which
becomes hollow and very hard, serves the Indians of the
plain for wood (mamouel) ; during three quarters of the year
no other combustible being at their disposal, besides mey-
vacas, or mey-potro, the dried dung of oxen or horses, or
Foros and yieouine, that is to say, bones and fat.

Note D. — Monsieur Guinnard's words are : " Les unes
viennent de la direction ouest-nord-est, les autres de celle



NOTES. 375

ouest-sud-est, mais ces divers affluents ne viennent grossir
le Colorado que beaucoup plus au loin." I confess I do
not clearly understand him. — Trans.

Note E. — I fail to seize the meaning of Monsieur
Guinnard's statement : " On trouve tonjours ces ceufs
en tres-grand nombre. Les Indiens ne mangent que
ceux qui sont en nombre pair, et font fi des autres qu'ils
pretendent ne pas etre fecondes." One of the strangest
habits known of the African ostrich is that of laying on the
outside of its nest a number of eggs not intended to be
hatched, and which are found fresh, while the eggs within
the nest are in an advanced state of incubation : does the
nandou, the ostrich of Patagonia, act in the same way?
and are its superfluous eggs the "odd" ones which the
Pampeans treat with such marked contempt? — Trans.



THE END.



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Online LibraryAuguste GuinnardThree years' slavery among the Patagonians: an account of his captivity → online text (page 15 of 15)