Poems & Short Stories: 4,435
Forum Members: 67,986
Forum Posts: 1,216,101
And over 2 million unique readers monthly!
Two men were sitting in the smoking-room of a London club. The room was almost empty, and as they occupied arm-chairs in one corner of it, they were able to talk freely without fear of being overheard. One of them was a man of sixty, the other some five or six and twenty.
"I must do something," the younger man said, "for I have been kicking my heels about London since my ship was paid off two years ago. At first, of course, it didn't matter, for I have enough to live upon; but recently I have been fool enough to fall in love with a girl whose parents would never dream of allowing her to marry a half-pay lieutenant of the navy with no chance in the world of getting employed again, for I have no interest whatever."
"It is an awkward case certainly, Prendergast," the other said; "and upon my word, though I sympathize with you, I cannot blame Fortescue. He is not what you might call a genial man, but there is no doubt that he was a splendid lawyer and a wonderful worker. For ten years he earned more than any man at the bar. I know that he was twice offered the solicitor- generalship, but as he was making two or three times the official salary, he would not take it. I believe he would have gone on working till now had he not suddenly come in for a very fine estate, owing to the death, in the course of two or three years, of four men who stood between him and it. Besides, I fancy he got hints that in the general opinion of the bar he had had a wonderfully good innings, and it was about time that younger men had a share in it. What his savings were I do not know, but they must be very large. His three sons are all at the bar, and are rising men, so there was no occasion for him to go on piling up money for them. But, as I say, he has always had the reputation of being a hard man, and it is practically certain that he would never allow his daughter to marry a man whom he would regard as next door to a pauper. Now, what are you thinking of doing?"
"Well, sir, Miss Fortescue has agreed to wait for me for two years, and of course I am eager to do something, but the question is what? I can sail a ship, but even could I get the command of a merchantman, it would not improve my position in the eyes of the parents of the lady in question. Now, you have been knocking about all over the world, I do wish you would give me your advice. Where is there money to be got? I am equally ready to go to the North Pole or the Equator, to enter the service of an Indian prince, or to start in search of a treasure hidden by the old bucaneers."
"You talk Spanish, don't you?"
"Yes; all my service has been in the Mediterranean. We were two years off the coast of Spain, and in and out of its ports, and as time hung heavily on our hands, I got up the language partly to amuse myself and partly to be able to talk fluently with my partners at a ball."
The elder man did not speak for a minute or two.
"You have not thought of South America?" he said at last.
"No, Mr. Barnett; I don't know that I have ever thought of one place more than another."
The other was again silent.
"I don't think you could do better anywhere," he said slowly. "It is a land with great possibilities; at any rate it is a land where you could be understood, and of course it would be folly to go anywhere without a knowledge of the language. I was, as you know, five years out there, and came home when the war broke out between Chili and the Spaniards. I have been more in Peru than in Chili, and as Peru was still in the hands of the Spanish, it would have been impossible for me to go there again as long as the war lasted. Knocking about as I did, I heard a great deal from the natives (I mean the Indians). I gathered from them a number of their traditions, and I am convinced that they know of any number of gold mines that were formerly worked, but were blocked up when the Spaniards invaded the country, and have been kept secret ever since.
"The natives have never spoken on the subject at all to the Spaniards. If they had, they would have been flogged until they revealed all they knew-- that is to say, they would have been flogged to death, for no tortures will wring from an Indian anything he knows about gold. They look upon that metal as the source of all the misfortunes that have fallen upon their race. With an Englishman whom they knew and trusted, and who, as they also knew, had no wish whatever to discover gold mines, they were a little less reticent. I never asked them any questions on a subject in which I had not a shadow of interest, but I certainly had some curiosity, not of a pecuniary kind, because the matter had always been a riddle as to the hiding-place of the Incas' treasures. And from what I learned I should say it is absolutely certain that a great portion of these escaped the search of their Spanish tyrants.
"Whether the men who were employed in the work all died without revealing the secret, or whether it had been trusted to a chosen few, I know not; but the natives believe that there are still a few among them to whom the secret has been passed down from father to son. Anyhow, all had heard vague traditions. Some said that part of the treasure was carried hundreds of miles inland and given over to a tribe of fierce savages, in a country into which no European can enter. Another tradition is that a portion of it was carried off by sea in a great canoe, which was never heard of again and was believed to have been lost. I am not for a moment supposing, Prendergast, that if you went out there you would have the most remote chance of discovering what the Spaniards, ever since they landed there, have been in vain trying to find, and I certainly should not think of recommending a mad-brained adventure, but undoubtedly there are many rich gold mines yet to be found. There are openings for trade, too; and I can give you introductions to merchants both in Chili and Peru. It is not a thing I should recommend to everyone, far from it; but if you want to combine adventure with a chance, however small, of making money, I don't know that you can do better than go to South America. You are fitted for no calling here; your income, counting your half-pay, would suffice to keep you out there, and a couple of years of such a life would do you no harm."
"It is just what I should like," the young man said enthusiastically; "though I don't know how I should set to work if I did find a mine."
"You would have to bring home specimens, with particulars of the width of the lode. Of course you would crush pieces up and wash them yourself, or get your Indian to wash them; that would give you an approximate idea of the percentage of gold. If it were rich, I could introduce you to men who would advance money for working it, giving you a share of the profits. They would send out a mining expert with you. He would verify your report, and then you would take up the concession. I don't know whether there have been any changes in the regulations, but there is no difficulty in learning how to proceed from one or other of the men to whom I will give you introductions. The thing would not be worth thinking of were it not that the man who always went with me as guide and muleteer is an Indian, and has, I am convinced, a knowledge of some of these places. He was with me all the time I was out there. I saved his life when a puma sprang upon him, and he more than once hinted that he could make me a rich man, but I had no inclination that way, my income being sufficient for all my wants. Still, on the chance that he is alive--and he was about thirty when he was with me fifteen years ago, so it is probable that he is still to the fore --I will give you a letter to him telling him that you are a dear friend of mine, and that I trust to him to do any service he can for you just as he would have done for myself. Had it not been for that I should never have mentioned the matter to you. These old mines are the dream of every Peruvian. They have been searching for them ever since the conquest of the country, and as they have failed, it is absurd to think that an Englishman would have the slightest chance of lighting upon a mine, still less of finding any of the Incas' treasures. But with the Indian's aid it is just possible that you may find something, though I should advise you most strongly not to build in any way upon the chance. I consider that you cannot possibly win Miss Fortescue; that being so, two years of knocking about will not make your position worse, and by the time you come back, you may have ceased to struggle against fate. It will afford you a remote --but distinctly remote--opportunity of bettering your position, will give you something else to think about besides that young lady's charms, and you may even come to recognize that life is, after all, possible without her. You may shake your head, lad; but you know children cry for the moon sometimes, yet afterwards come to understand that it would not be a desirable plaything."
"Well, at any rate, Mr. Barnett, I am extremely obliged for your suggestion and for your offer of introductions. It is just the life that I should enjoy thoroughly. As you say, the chance that anything will come of it is extremely small, but at least there is a possibility, and I take it as a drowning man catches at a straw."
"By the way, you mustn't think only of gold; silver is, after all, the chief source of the riches of Peru, and there are numbers of extraordinarily rich mines. It is calculated that three hundred millions have been produced since the first occupation by the Spaniards. Quicksilver is also very abundant; copper and lead are found too, but there is not much to be done with them at present, owing to the cost of carriage. There is good shooting in the mountains on the eastern side of the Andes, and you will find plenty of sport there."
They talked over the matter for some time before they separated, and Harry Prendergast became quite excited over it. On his return to his rooms he was astonished to find the candles alight and a strong smell of tobacco pervading the place. A lad of about sixteen leapt from the easy-chair in which he had been sitting, with his feet on another.
"Hullo, Harry, I didn't expect you back so soon! The maid said you were dining out, and I suppose that generally means one o'clock before you are back."
"Well, what brings you here, Bert? I thought I had got you off my hands for a year at least."
"I thought so, myself," the lad said coolly; "but circumstances have been too strong for me. We were running down the Channel the night before last, when a craft that was beating up ran smack into us. I don't know that it was his fault more than ours; the night was dark, and it was very thick, and we did not see each other until she was within a length of us. Luck was against us; if she had been a few seconds quicker we should have caught her broadside, but as it was she rammed us, knocking a hole in our side as big as a house, and we had just time to jump on board her. Our old craft went down two minutes after the skipper, who was of course the last man, left her. The other fellow had stove his bow in. Luckily we were only about a couple of miles off Dungeness, and though she leaked like a sieve, we were able to run her into the bay, where she settled down in two and a half fathoms of water. As soon as it was light we landed and tramped to Dover. A hoy was starting for the river that evening, and most of us came up in her, arriving at the Pool about three hours ago. It is a bad job, Harry, and I am horribly put out about it. Of course nothing could be saved, and there is all the new kit you bought for me down at the bottom. I sha'n't bother you again; I have quite made up my mind that I shall ship before the mast this time, and a five-pound note will buy me a good enough outfit for that."
"We need not talk about that now, Bertie. You are certainly an unlucky beggar; this is the second time you have been wrecked."
"It is a frightful nuisance," the boy said. "It is the kit I am thinking of, otherwise I should not mind. I didn't care for the skipper. He seemed all right and decent enough before we started, but I soon heard from fellows who had sailed with him before that he was a tartar; and what was worse, they said he was in the habit of being drunk two nights out of three. However, that has nothing to do with it. I am really awfully sorry, Harry. You have been a thundering good elder brother. I hated to think that you had to shell out last time, and I have quite made up my mind that you sha'n't do it again."
"Well, it cannot be helped; it is no fault of yours; still, of course, it is a nuisance. Thank God that no harm has come to you, that is the principal thing. Now, sit down and go on with your pipe, you young monkey. I did not think you had taken to smoking."
"One has to," the lad said, "everyone else does it; and there is no doubt that, when you have got the middle watch on cold nights with foul winds, it is a comfort."
"Well, go on smoking," his brother said. "I will light up too. Now shut your mouth altogether. I want to think."
They were silent for fully ten minutes, then Harry said;
"I told you about that business of mine with Miss Fortescue."
Bertie grinned all over his face, which, as he sat, was not visible to his brother. Then with preternatural gravity he turned towards him.
"Yes, you told me about it; an uncomfortable business wasn't it?--surly old father, lovely daughter, and so on."
"I will pull your ear for you, you young scamp," Harry said wrathfully, "if you make fun of it; and I have a good mind not to say what I was going to."
"Say it, Harry, don't mind my feelings," the lad said. "You can't say I did not stand it well when I was here last week, and gave you no end of sympathy. Go ahead, old fellow; I dare say I shall be taken bad some day, and then I shall be able to make allowances for you."
"I'll have nothing more to say to you, you young imp."
"Don't say that, Harry," the lad said in a tone of alarm. "You know how sympathizing I am, and I know what a comfort it is for you to unburden yourself; but I do think that it won't be necessary to go into personal descriptions, you know, or to tell me what you said to her or she said to you, because you told me all that ten days ago, also what her tyrannical old father said. But really seriously I am awfully sorry about it all, and if there is anything that I can possibly do for you I shall be only too pleased. I don't see that it would be any advantage for me to go and give the old gentleman my opinion of him; but if you think it would, and can coach me in some of his sore points, we might see how we could work upon them."
"I always thought you were a young ass, Bertie," Harry said sternly, "but I have not realized before how utterly assified you are."
"All right, Harry!" the lad said cheerfully; "hit me as hard as you like, under the circumstances I feel that I cannot kick."
Harry said nothing for another five minutes.
"This is a serious matter," he said at last, "and I don't want any tomfoolery."
"All right, Harry! I will be as serious as a judge."
"I am thinking of going away for two years."
The lad turned half round in his chair and had a good look at his brother.
"Where are you going to?" seeing by Harry's rather gloomy face that he was quite in earnest.
"I believe I am going to Peru."
"What are you going there for, Harry?" the lad said quietly.
"I told you," the other went on, "that Mr. Fortescue said that he had no personal objection to me, but that if I was in a position to give his daughter a home equal to that which I wanted her to leave, he would be content."
"This seemed to me hopeless," Harry went on. "I told you that she was willing to wait for two years, but that she couldn't promise much longer than that, for her father had set his mind on her making a good match; he has certainly put a tremendous pressure upon her. When I was talking at the club this evening to Mr. Barnett--you know that he is our oldest friend and is one of our trustees--I told him about it, and said that though I was ready to do anything and go anywhere I could not see my way at all to making a big fortune straight away. He agreed with me. After talking it over he said he knew of but one way by which such a thing would be at all possible, but the betting would be twenty thousand to one against it. Of course I said that if there was even a possibility I would try it. Well, you know he was in Peru for some years. He says that the natives have all sorts of legends about rich mines that were hidden when the Spaniards came first, and that it is certain that, tremendous as was the amount of loot they got, a great part of the Incas' treasure was hidden away. Once or twice there had been great finds-in one case two million and a half dollars. It is believed that the secret is still known to certain Indians. When he went out there he had a muleteer, whose life he saved when he was attacked by some beast or other, and this man as much as hinted that he knew of a place where treasure might be concealed; but as Barnett was interested in beasts and plants and that sort of thing, and had a comfortable fortune, he never troubled himself about it one way or another. Well, he offered to give me a letter to this man, and he regarded it as just possible that the fellow, who seems to be a descendant of some of the people who were members of the Incas' court at the time the Spaniards came, may have some knowledge of the rich mines that were then closed down, and that he may be able to show them to me, from his feeling of gratitude to Barnett. It is but one chance in a million, and as I can see no other possibility of making a fortune in two years, I am going to try it."
"Of course you will," the lad said excitedly, "and I should think that you would take me with you."
"I certainly had not dreamt of doing so, Bertie. But if I have to keep on getting fresh outfits for you, the idea has come into my mind during the last half-hour that I could not do better."
"Harry, you are sure to be disappointed lots of times before you hit on a treasure, and then if you were all by yourself you would get down in the mouth. Now, I should be able to keep you going, pat you on the back when you felt sick, help you to fight Indians and wild beasts, and be useful in all sorts of ways."
"That is like your impudence, Bertie," the other laughed. "Seriously, I know I shall be a fool to take you, and if I really thought I had any chance to speak of I should not do so; but though I am going to try, I don't expect for a moment that I shall succeed. I feel that really it would be a comfort to have someone with me upon whom I could rely in such a life as I should have to lead. It certainly would be lonely work for one man. The only doubt in my mind is whether it will be fair to you--you have got your profession."
"But I can go back to it if nothing good turns up, Harry. I can visit the firm and tell them that I am going to travel with you for a bit, and hope that on my return they will take me back again and let me finish my apprenticeship. I should think they would be rather glad, for they always build and never buy ships, and it will take them six months to replace the Stella. Besides, it will do me a lot of good. I shall pick up Spanish-- at least, I suppose that is the language they speak out there--and shall learn no end of things. As you know, we trade with the west coast of America, so I should be a lot more useful to the firm when I come back than I am now."
"Well, I will think it over, and let you know in the morning. I must certainly consult Mr. Barnett, for he is your trustee as well as mine. If we go I shall work my way out. It will be a big expense, anyhow, and I don't mean, if possible, to draw upon my capital beyond three or four hundred pounds. I believe living is cheap out there, and if I buy three or four mules I shall then have to pay only the wages for the muleteers, and the expenses of living. Of course I shall arrange for my income and half- pay to be sent out to some firm at Lima. Now, you had better go off to bed, and don't buoy yourself up with the belief that you are going, for I have by no means decided upon taking you yet."
"You will decide to take me, Harry," the lad said confidently, and then added with a laugh: "the fact that you should have adopted a plan like this is quite sufficient to show that you want somebody to look after you."
Harry Prendergast did not get much sleep that night He blamed himself for having mentioned the matter at all to Bertie, and yet the more he thought over it the more he felt that it would be very pleasant to have his brother with him. The lad was full of fun and mischief, but he knew that he had plenty of sound sense, and would be a capital companion, and the fact that he had been three years at sea, and was accustomed to turn his hand to anything, was all in his favour. If nothing came of it he would only have lost a couple of years, and, as the boy himself had said, the time would not have been altogether wasted. Bertie was down before him in the morning. He looked anxiously at his brother as he came in.
"Well, I have thought it over in every light. But in the first place, Bertie, if you go with me you will have to remember that I am your commanding officer. I am ten years older than you, and besides I am a lieutenant in the King's Navy, while you are only a midshipman in the merchant service. Now, I shall expect as ready obedience from you as if I were captain of my own ship and you one of my men; that is absolutely essential."
"Of course, Harry, it could not be otherwise."
"Very well, then; in the next place I shall abide by what Mr. Barnett says. He is your guardian as well as trustee, and has a perfect right to put a veto upon any wild expedition of this sort. Lastly, I should hope, although I don't say that this is absolutely necessary, that you may get your employer's promise to take you back again in order that you may complete your time."
"Thank you very much, Harry!" the lad said gratefully. "The first condition you may rely upon being performed, and I think the third will be all right, for I know that I have always been favourably reported upon. Old Prosser told me so himself when he said that I should have a rise in my pay this voyage. As to Mr. Barnett, of course I can't say, but I should think, as it was he who put you up to this, he must see that it would be good for you to have someone to take care of you."
"I think he is much more likely to say that I shall have quite enough to do to take care of myself, without having the bother of looking after you. However, I will go and see him this morning. You had better call upon your employers."
"Don't you think I had better go to Mr. Barnett with you, Harry?"
"Not as you are now anyhow, Bertie. Your appearance is positively disgraceful. You evidently had on your worst suit of clothes when you were wrecked, and I can see that they have not been improved by the experience. Why, there is a split right down one sleeve, and a big rent in your trousers!"
"I got them climbing on board, for I had no time to pick and choose, with the Stella sinking under my feet."
"Well, you may as well go as you are, but you had better borrow a needle and thread from the landlady and mend up the holes. You really cannot walk through the city in that state. I will see about getting you some more clothes when we get back, for I cannot have you coming here in these in broad daylight. Here are three guineas; get yourself a suit of pilot cloth at some outfitter's at the East End. It will be useful to you anyhow, whether you go with me or ship again here."
"There is a good deal in what you say, Harry," Mr. Barnett said when Prendergast asked his opinion as to his taking his brother with him. "Two years would not make any material difference in his career as a sailor; it simply means that he will be so much older when he passes as mate. There is no harm in that. Two or three and twenty is quite young enough for a young fellow to become an officer, and I don't think that many captains care about having lads who have just got their certificate. They have not the same sense of responsibility or the same power of managing. Then, too, Bertie will certainly have a good deal of knocking about if he spends a couple of years in South America, and the knowledge he will gain of Spanish will add to his value with any firm trading on that coast. As far as you are concerned, I think it would be a great advantage to have him with you. In a long expedition, such as you propose, it is a gain to have a companion with you. It makes the work more pleasant, and two men can laugh over hardships and disagreeables that one alone would grumble at; but apart from this, it is very important in case of illness.
"A lonely man laid up with fever, or accidental injury, fares badly indeed if he is at a distance from any town where he can obtain medical attendance, and surrounded only by ignorant natives. I was myself at one time down with fever for six weeks in a native hut, and during that time I would have given pretty nearly all that I was worth for the sight of a white face and the sound of an English voice. As to the fact that it is possible that the lad might catch fever, or be killed in an affray with natives, that must, of course, be faced; but as a sailor he runs the risk of shipwreck, or of being washed overboard, or killed by a falling spar. Everything considered, I think the idea of his going with you is a good one. I don't suppose that many guardians would be of the same opinion, but I have been so many years knocking about in one part of the world or another, that I don't look at things in the same light as men who have never been out of England."
"I am glad you see it in that way, sir. I own that it would be a great satisfaction to have him with me. He certainly would be a cheery companion, and I should say that he is as hard as nails, and can stand as much fatigue and hardship as myself. Besides, there is no doubt that in case of any trouble two men are better than one."
"I cannot advance any money out of the thousand pounds that will come to him when he is of age. By your father's will it was ordered that, in the event of his own death before that time, the interest was to accumulate. Your father foresaw that, like you, probably Bertie would take to the sea, and as the amount would be fully two thousand pounds by the time he comes of age, it would enable him to buy a share in any ship that he might, when he passed his last examination, command; but I will myself draw a cheque for a hundred pounds, which will help towards meeting expenses. I feel myself to some extent responsible for this expedition. I somewhat regret now having ever spoken to you on the subject, for I cannot conceal from myself that the chance of your making a discovery, where the Spaniards, with all their power of putting pressure on the natives for the past two or three hundred years, have failed, is so slight as to be scarcely worth consideration.
"I tell you frankly that I broached the subject chiefly because I thought it was much better for you to be doing something than kicking your heels about London, and mooning over this affair with Miss Fortescue. There is nothing worse for a young man than living in London with just enough to keep him comfortably without the necessity of working. Therefore I thought you would be far better travelling and hunting for treasure in Peru, than staying here. Even if you fail, as I feel is almost certain, in the object for which you go out, you will have plenty to occupy your thoughts, and not be dwelling continually upon an attachment which in all probability will not turn out satisfactorily. I do not suppose that you are likely to forget Miss Fortescue, but by the time you return you will have accustomed yourself to the thought that it is useless to cry for the moon, and that, after all, life may be very endurable even if she does not share it. Therefore I propounded this Peruvian adventure, feeling sure that, whatever came of it, it would be a benefit to you."
"No doubt it will, sir. I see myself the chance of success is small indeed, but there is none at all in any other way. It is just the sort of thing I should like, and I quite feel myself that it would be good for me to have plenty to think about; and now that you have consented to Bertie's going with me, I feel more eager than before to undertake the expedition. The place is in rather a disturbed state, isn't it?"
"If you are going to wait until Peru ceases to be in a disturbed state, Harry, you may wait another hundred years. The Spanish rule was bad, but Peru was then a pleasant place to live in compared with what it is now. It is a sort of cock-pit, where a succession of ambitious rascals struggle for the spoils, and the moment one gets the better of his rivals fresh intrigues are set on foot, and fresh rebellions break out. There are good Peruvians--men who have estates and live upon them, and who are good masters. But as to the politicians, there is no principle whatever at stake. It is simply a question of who shall have the handling of the national revenue, and divide it and the innumerable posts among his adherents. But these struggles will not affect you largely. In one respect they will even be an advantage. Bent upon their own factious aims, the combatants have no time to concern themselves with the doings of an English traveller, whose object out there is ostensibly to botanize and shoot. Were one of them to obtain the undisputed control of affairs he might meddle in all sorts of ways; but, as it is, after you have once got pretty well beyond the area of their operations, you can regard their doings with indifference, knowing that the longer they go on fighting the fewer scoundrels there will be in the land.
"But even were they to think that it was mining, and not science or sport that took you out there, they would scarcely interfere with you. It is admitted by all the factions that Peru needs capital for her development, and at present that can best be got from this country. The discovery of a fresh mine means employment to a large number of people, and the increase of the revenues by a royalty or taxation. English explorers who have gone out have never had any reason to complain of interference on the part of the authorities. You will find the average better class of Peruvians a charming people, and extremely hospitable. The ladies are pretty enough to turn the head of anyone whose affections are not already engaged. The men are kindly and courteous in the extreme. However, you would have little to do with these.
"In the mountains you would largely depend upon your rifle for food, and on what you could get in the scattered native villages. The Indians have no love for the Peruvians. They find their condition no better off under them than it was under the Spaniards. Once they find out that you are English they will do all in their power for you. It is to Cochrane and the English officers with him that they owe the overthrow and expulsion of their Spanish tyrants, and they are vastly more grateful than either the Chilians or Peruvians have shown themselves to be."
On returning to their lodgings Harry met his brother, who had been into the city.
"Old Prosser was very civil," said Bertie. "He said that as their ships were chiefly in the South American trade it would be a great advantage for me to learn to speak Spanish well. They had not yet thought anything about whether they should order another ship to replace the Stella; at any rate, at present they had no vacancy, and would gladly give me permission to travel in South America, and would find me a berth to finish my apprenticeship when I returned. More than that, they said that as I had always been so favourably reported upon they would put me on as a supernumerary in the Para, which will sail in a fortnight for Callao. I should not draw pay, but I should be in their service, and the time would count, which would be a great pull, and I should get my passage for nothing."
"That is capital. Of course I will take a passage in her too."
"And what does Mr. Barnett say?"
"Rather to my surprise, Bertie, he did not disapprove of the plan at all. He thought it would be a good thing for me to have you with me in case of illness or anything of that sort. Then no doubt he thought to some extent it would keep you out of mischief."
"I don't believe he thought anything of the sort. Did he say so?"
"Well, no, he didn't; but I have no doubt he felt it in some way a sort of relief."
"That is all very fine. I know, when I have been down to his place in the country between voyages, I have always been as well behaved as if I had been a model mid."
"Well, I have heard some tales of your doings, Bertie, that didn't seem quite in accord with the character you give yourself."
"Oh, of course I had a few larks! You cannot expect a fellow who has been away from England for a year to walk about as soberly as if he were a Methodist parson!"
"No, I should not expect that, Bertie. But, on the other hand, I should hardly have expected that he would, for example, risk breaking his neck by climbing up to the top of the steeple and fastening a straw-hat on the head of the weathercock."
"It gave it a very ornamental appearance; and that weathercock was never before watched so regularly by the people of the village as it was from that time till the hat was blown away in a gale."
"That I can quite believe. Still, Mr. Barnett told me that the rector lodged a complaint about it."
"He might complain as much as he liked; there is no law in the land, as far as I know, that makes the fixing of a straw-hat upon a weathercock a penal offence. It did no end of good in the village, gave them something to talk about, and woke them up wonderfully."
"And there were other things too, I think," his brother went on.
"Oh, well, you need not go into them now! they are an old story. Besides, I fancy I have heard of various tricks played by Mr. Midshipman Harry Prendergast, and, as I heard them from your lips, I cannot doubt but that they were strictly veracious. Well, this is jolly now. When are we going to begin to get our outfit?"
"We will lose no time about that. But really there is not much to get--a couple of good rifles and two brace of pistols, with a good store of ammunition, those clothes you have just bought, and two or three suits of duck for the voyage. I shan't get any special kit until we arrive there, and can take the advice of people at Lima whether we had better travel in European clothes or in those worn by the Peruvians. Of course saddles and bridles and all that sort of thing we can buy there, and we shall want a small tent to use when we get into out-of-the-way places. I shall take three hundred pounds in gold. I have no doubt we can exchange it into silver profitably; besides, it is much more handy for carrying about. I shall go down this afternoon and see Prosser and secure a berth."
"I think you will have to arrange that with the captain. Very few of our ships have accommodation for passengers, but the captains are allowed to take one or two if they like."
"All right! At any rate I must go to the office first. They can refer me to the skipper if they like; that would be better than my going to him direct."
|Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily|
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.