The Spanish language is peculiar; its verbs are perplexing. For instance, I wished to give notice to my landlady that in the morning I would leave, so I remarked, casually, “Vamos a Madryn, ma-nana.” She looked so astonished and perturbed that I posted over to my friend the bookseller to ask him what I had said that was wrong. He laughed heartily. “You have only asked her to elope with you; that is all,” was his reply. I had said, “You and I will go to Madryn in the morning.” I should have said, “Voy a Madryn, manana,” and this I made all haste to say, to her smiling comprehension.
At Madryn I took passage on the Mitre, a German coasting steamer, and went north to Buenos Aires. It was interesting to see what the Germans were doing. Here they have established a line of good, comfortable little steamers that ply all up and down the Patagonian coast. Their officers are as spick-and-span in their blue and gold lace as though they were plying between Hamburg and New York, and their men are carefully disciplined and trained in marked contrast to the sailors on the Argentine steamers. They are slow boats, but comfort-able, and the variety of passengers is great. Among the people on board were some Scottish women and children from the Andes ; they were leaving Argentina for Australia. Their husbands and fathers had gone on before and selected new locations on the west coast of Australia, where they felt that conditions were more favorable than in Argentina. The children had been born in the Cordilleras and had never seen a school or a village until they came on this journey through Trelew and Madryn. The women complained that it was too difficult to get title to land in Argentina ; that they did not like the climate of the Andean region, and did not think it a good place in which to bring up children. The truth is the Latin and the Anglo-Saxon races do not mix more readily than do oil and water, and any attempt at blending merely results in the Anglo-Saxon being submerged, the Latin character dominating.
CHILDREN OF THE ANDES
These little half-wild children of the Cordilleras interested me. Their mothers had taught them to read. They were quite as intelligent as any children and had been so much afield that they had developed remarkable powers of observation. They were, however, as wild and shy as young Indians, although their shyness I managed skillfully to coax away as the voyage proceeded. Nearly around the world would their voyage beto London first and then at once to Australia. The old Governor of Chubut was on ship and he delighted in giving me long harangues, which were rather embarrassing, as my vocabulary allowed me to catch only one word in ten. Unhappily I have a way of assenting to things said to me, whether I understand or not; it is so easy and simple a thing to say “si, señor,” and it seems only common courtesy to do so. There was, however, another Spanish man on ship with whom I could converse quite well, since he spoke with greater distinctness and more slowly than the governor. He came to me one day with a puzzled smile.
HIS EXCELLENCY AND I CONVERSE. “Senor, is it then true that your western plains are yet covered with Indians?”
“Oh, no; indeed no; they are covered with farms, towns and cities,” I replied. “The Indians are in Carlisle college and there are a few along the railways making souvenirs for tourists.”
I think he understood me, in part, but he continued :
“Senor, is it then true, as you have told the governor, that the United States army is now at war with the Indians and that there were many white people killed by them during the past year”
“Ah, no, no, no. The governor misunderstands me. I did not comprehend his questions perfectly and said `yes’ when I ought to have said `no.’ The Carlisle Indians go on the warpath every fall and kill a good many of our college boys, but that is called `football,’ and of course it is not to be regarded seriously.”
Our voyage was “triste” (sad), as my Spanish friend remarked, with no music, and no variety in the very heavy food. Besides the people gathered into cliques that did not mingle. There were some Spanish families on ship whom I should like to have met. As to one family I recall that the señora had been beautiful and was yet handsome. She had a big crop of youngsters, all fine looking and the daughters of twelve years or more had faces such as one seldom sees out of pictures. These people kept to themselves and their manners among themselves were charming to see. I could hardly believe that they had ever lived in Patagonia; probably they had made a voyage south to escape the heats of autumn in Buenos Aires. This line of land of Tierra del Fuego, where there is a penal colony.