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Briggs, Charles F. (Charles Frederick), 1804-1877 [1839], The adventures of Harry Franco. Volume 1 (F. Saunders, New York) [word count] [eaf025v1].
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CHAPTER XXI. Adventures in the Pampas, a Pampara, &c.

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We made our exit from the town by the same
narrow street through which we entered it the night
before; and we made such good use of our legs,
that by the time the sun peeped up above the level
plain, which lay stretched out to the horizon before
us, we could see nothing of the city at our backs,
but the domes and spires of the churches and convents.
Magnificent objects they were at a distance;
but a near view of their dilapidated walls, and the
nasty finery of their interiors, completely dispelled
all the bright dreams in which I had indulged of
their splendor. Alas! alas! that the Cross of
Christ should be elevated on a towering dome,
only to designate a collection of every thing that
is wretched in taste and balsphemous in art.

We continued to trudge on without meeting
with either Gauchos or Montaneros; and as the
day advanced, and our hunger increased, we began
to have serious misgivings of getting neither
jerked beef nor farina for our dinners. But we walked
sturdily on, neither being willing to give out first,
and at last we descried a clump of trees, at the

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apparent distance of two or three miles, and shaped our
course for them, expecting to find an estancia; but
on reaching them, they proved to be a small orchard
of peach trees, with the walls of a house
standing near, which appeared recently to have
been burned. The house was surrounded by a
deep ditch, with a small draw bridge. We looked
for something eatable, but in vain. As we were
leaving the place, we discovered a party of horsemen
approaching, so we halted for them to come
up. As they were riding at a furious gallop, it
was not long before they were along side of us.
There were four of them; fine cut-throat looking
rascals they were. The foremost and youngest of
them, was a noble looking fellow, and he sat as
easily and as gracefully upon his horse's back, as
though he had been born there. His face was full
and swarthy, his shoulders broad, and his eyes
black and fiery; his long glossy black hair streamed
upon the wind as he rode. On his head he wore
a broad brimmed hat, and over his shoulders a
scarlet poncho, the simplest, but most graceful covering
ever worn upon a man's back. His legs
were bare. The other three were leaner and
dirtier, and their ponchos were coarse and ragged.

One of the horsemen spoke to us in Spanish,
which neither of us could understand; but Jerry

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supposing they asked us what we were in search of,
replied, “very much of the beef and the farina,
signors.” This they understood as little as we had
understood them, and they directly saluted us in a
manner which we could not fail to feel, if we did
not understand.

The fine looking fellow in the red poncho, drew
his sabre, and gave Jerry a hearty thwack across
his shoulders, with the flat of it; and one of the
ragged rascals at the same time complimented me
in a similar manner, with the handle of a spear,
which he carried in his hand. This had a similar
effect upon both of us, for, without any concerted
action, we immediately took to our legs and scampered
for life; but we soon found ourselves stretched
upon the ground, for these fine fellows had, with
inconceivable dexterity, contrived to throw a small
cord around our heels, with which they tripped us
up. Finding it was impossible to escape, we made
no further attempt, and our captors having bestowed
two or three more whacks upon our shoulders,
motioned to us to get up behind them. As I had
taken a fancy to the wearer of the scarlet poncho,
I mounted behind him, and Jerry got up behind
the ruffian who had belabored me with the handle
of his spear. We were no sooner mounted, than
away they started at a hard gallop; it was with the

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greatest difficulty that I made out to keep my seat.
I clung to the scarlet poncho with all my might,
and came near two or three times bringing both
the wearer of it and myself to the ground, for which
I was favored with some of the choicest curses in
the Gaucho dialect. We rode for more than an
hour, without in the least slackening our speed.
By and by, we came to an enclosure, where there
were a great number of horses. The Gauchos dismounted,
and caught, with their lassos, fresh horses
for themselves, and for Jerry and myself. When
they were remounted, they motioned to us to follow
them, and off they started again at a full gallop,
and off came Jerry and myself, almost simultaneously.
Fortunately, neither of us was hurt by
the fall, so we mounted again, and started once
more, and succeeded in keeping our seats; we had
no saddles, and it was terrible hard riding, for we
galloped very hard. Soon, however, my blood
became heated, and the rapidity with which we
scoured over the plain, excited my feelings, and I
experienced a sensation of wild delight, which I
had never felt before. I forgot my hunger, my
bruises, my perilous situation, and the aimless
journey on which I was bound, and thought how
happy I should be if I could but ride on forever
over those boundless plains.

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These sensations lasted but a short time; our
horses began, after a while, to flag, their motions
became more uneasy, and my blood began to
cool, and feelings of hunger and weariness began
to oppress me. The sun was sinking in the west,
and a heavy, dull looking cloud, apparently
charged with rain, and wind, and lightning, was
rising in the opposite direction, when we came to
another roofless house, with blackened and smoky
walls, exactly like the one we had left. It was
surrounded by a deep ditch, with a draw bridge,
but there were no peach trees near it. There was
a drove of cattle grazing near, and one of our
captors caught a young bullock with a lasso by
his hind heels, and brought him to the ground;
and another of the Gauchos severed the head of
the animal from his body; it was quick work.
We all dismounted, and from the movement of
the Gauchos, Jerry perceived that they intended
to cook the bullock. So we set ourselves to work,
to collect together a heap of sticks, over which
they erected a gallows, from which they suspended
the carcass, without even divesting it of its skin.
One of the Gaucho's took a little pouch from beneath
a scarlet girdle, which he wore around his
waist, and having struck a light, he set fire to
the heap of sticks, which cracked and snapped

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right merrily, and crisped the hide of the bullock.
This manner of roasting beef was entirely novel
to me, and under other circumstances, I might not
have regarded it with very pleasant yearnings;
but as it was, my mouth watered as I stirred up
the fire, and the carcass hissed, and cracked, and
sputtered. My appetite was so keen, it appeared
to me the heighth of human bliss to sit down to
sup off a whole ox.

It grew dark very suddenly, and the sky was
completely overcast with clouds. The fire, as we
stirred it up, and added fresh fagots, cast around
a lurid glare, which fell upon the forms of the
Gauchos, who were stretched out upon the ground,
wrapped in their ponchos, taking a nap, while the
bullock was roasting; the grazing cattle and the
blackened walls of the house were the only other
objects which the light revealed. It was a scene
of savage picturesqueness, and I should have enjoyed
it highly, had I not been so hungry. When
we thought the beef was sufficiently roasted, we
let the fire go down, and called up the Gauchos,
who began immediately to rake away the coals,
and make preparation for taking the bullock down.
But they suddenly stopped, and having listened for
a moment with hushed breath, they began to extinguish
the flaming embers, and to smother the

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fire by throwing sand upon it. Judging from the
earnestness with which they set themselves to work,
we conjectured they had some good cause for doing
so, and we aided them with all our might,
Presently the sound of horses' feet was heard,
which grew plainer and plainer every moment;
the practised ears of the Gauchos had enabled
them to distinguish it long before it reached ours.
Having extinguished the fire, they caught their
horses and mounted them, and Jerry and I were
about to do the same, when one of the Gauchos
struck me across the shoulders with his sabre, and
throwing me the end of his lasso, the other being
fastened to a ring in his saddle, pointed to the
roasted carcass, to which I made it fast. I then
mounted my horse; the Gauchos appeared impatient
to be gone, but they walked their horses,
dragging the roasted bullock after them, and
Jerry and I followed in the rear. The tramp of
horses' feet approaching us, grew more and more
distinct, and from the sound there appeared to be
a numerous troop. The Gaucho who was dragging
along the carcass, finding it an incumbrance,
cast off his lasso and left it behind him. We continued
to walk our horses a little further, and then
we came to a halt. The horsemen from whom
we were fleeing were, as I judged from the

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exclamations of our captors, a party of Indians, who
were attracted by the light of our fire. If they
had surprised us, they would have cut our throats
first, and then regaled themselves with the bullock
which we had been roasting for our supper; a consummation,
which it was any thing but pleasant to

From the actions of the Gauchos, I concluded
they considered themselves in danger of being
surprised, and I was impatient to start off on
a gallop. Our safety, however, was in the
pitchy darkness of the night, which almost
prevented our seeing each other, although we
were closely huddled together. By and by, the
horsemen reached the spot which we had left, and
came to a halt. They raked open the coals, which
sent up a few glimmering sparks, but not light
enough to reveal the forms of the marauders. We
could hear them yelling and shouting, apparently
giving vent to their disappointment in not finding
their expected prey. Presently we heard them in
motion again, and I thought they were going to
continue on their way, but my heart died within
me, when I discovered that they were riding in a
circuit around us, probably supposing that we
were somewhere in their immediate neighborhood.
From the sound of the horses' feet, there must

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have been at least thirty of them. Round and
round they rode, sometimes approaching us so
closely, that we could hear their voices, as they
muttered to themselves. The Gauchos held their
breaths, and ground their teeth; they kept their
sabres in their hands, and their horses reined up
ready for a start. Jerry and myself were closely
huddled together, but we were afraid to speak,
even in a whisper; he trembled like a leaf, and
whether I trembled or not, I came near dying with
fright. I thought that my time was come, and the
prophecy of my cousin about to be fulfilled. I
saw myself, in imagination, with my throat cut
from ear to ear, blasting upon a desert plain, and
I thought of my poor mother, and my heart broken
sister. The horsemen, Indians or Montaneros,
or whatever they were, continued to ride
around and about us, sometimes almost touching
us as they flew past. Once I thought I could distingush
a dusky form, but before I could assure
myself of it, it was lost in the darkness. At last
the troop halted again, and after giving another
yell, they galloped back in the direction which
they came, and as the sound of their horses' feet
grew fainter and fainter, my heart grew stouter
and stouter, and by the time the sound had died
entirely away, thoughts of the roasted bullock

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began to intrude themselves into my mind. Doubtless,
the musings of the Gauchos were running in
the same direction, for they dismounted from their
horses, and groped their way back to the ruined
house which we had left, feeling about on the
ground, as they went, and Jerry and I did the
same, but without finding the bullock. Strangely
enough, we were unable to find it at all, and the
Gauchos each lighted a paper cigar, and crawled
up alongside of the half demolished house, and
stretched themselves out to sleep. Happy fellows,
they could solace themselves with the unsubstantial
fumes of a paper cigar, and take their rest on
the bare ground without inconvenience. Jerry
and myself sat together on the ground, conjecturing
the probable motives of the Gauchos in making
us their captives, and offering such encouragement
to each other, as our minds could suggest.

Although the sky was filled with black and
heavy clouds, there was not a breath of wind
stirring. The atmosphere was warm and oppressive,
and I experienced a difficulty of respiration.
The horizon in the south-east had for some
time been constantly illuminated with flashes of
lightning, and every thing seemed to give notice
of an approaching storm. One of the Gauchos
started up, and exclaimed, “pampara,” upon which

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the others withdrew from beneath the walls of the
house, and drew their ponchoes closely about them,
and lay down again in an exposed spot. I looked
to the east, and discovered the cause of the Gaucho's
exclamation. A bright yellowish cloud was
rising rapidly above the horizon, and spreading
itself over the sky; we were not kept long in
ignorance of its quality, for it soon burst, and a
gust of wind and hail swept over us, compared
with which the hardest gale I had ever experienced
was a gentle zephyr. It was well with the Gauchos
that they had crawled away from the walls
of the house, for they were prostrated in a moment.
As we were unable to stand upon our feet, we
threw ourselves upon the ground, with our faces
down, and a cloud of dust and leaves, branches
of trees, sticks, hail-stones, and fire, passed over
our backs. I was expecting every moment to
hear the troop of horsemen rush by on the wings
of the wind. The uproar and hurly burly of the
elements did not continue long; but when the tumult
began to subside, the rain began to pour down in
torrents. The Gauchos raised themselves up,
made the sign of the cross, muttered their prayers,
and laid down again, and apparently they soon fell
asleep. But I was not used to sleeping under

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such circumstances, and, if I could have slept with
the rain pouring down upon me, my fears would
have kept me awake. Jerry himself was nodding,
and I was left alone to my reflections.

It was very evident that the Gauchos had no
intention of robbing us, for they had made no
attempt to search our persons, and I could not
believe that they had made captives of us for the
mere pleasure of beating us; the only use to
which I imagined they could put us, was to compel
us to join them on some perilous expedition
against the Indians.

That was an enterprise for which I had not the
least possible inclination. There was neither
profit nor honor to be gained in it; nothing that
would enable me either to gain the affections of
Georgiana De Lancey, or to triumph over my
haughty cousin. Weak and exhausted as I was,
and hopeless as the attempt seemed, I resolved to
make an effort to escape, and find my way back
to Buenos Ayres. It so happened that on the
afternoon in which I left the ship, I had taken the
pocket handkerchief of Georgiana De Lancey,
and tied it about my neck underneath my shirt,
and now pressing it to my heart, I thought of its
lovely owner, and the blood seemed to start with
quickened pulsations through my veins; it gave

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me new life and fresh vigor to go through with
my resolution.

I jogged my companion, and told him what I
had resolved to do; he was at first loth to join me,
fearing that, if the Gauchos should awake before
we could make our escape, they would murder us
for making the attempt. But I soon prevailed
upon him to accompany me, and we crept away
from where the Gauchos were sleeping, upon our
hands and knees, until we were securely out of
their hearing. We were lucky in catching two
of the horses which were within the enclosure of
the ditch, and having walked them quietly over
the little bridge, we mounted them, and turning
our backs to the rain, galloped away as fast as
they would carry us. I felt at first very stiff and
sore, but the motion of the horse soon made me
feel warm and supple. We galloped away at the
imminent risk of breaking our necks till daylight
appeared, when the rain began to abate, and the
wind to lull. We were far enough from the Gauchos
to have no fear of them; but there was no
house in sight, and I felt that I could not hold out
much longer without food or rest. We continued
to ride until the sun was above the horizon, when
our eyes were gladdened by the sight of a house,
a long way off, with wreaths of blue smoke

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ascending from the chimney; it was the most beautiful
sight that ever met my eyes; never before
did smoke find favor with me. We turned our
horses' heads directly for the smoking chimney,
and when we got to the house, which was only a
rude hut, we dismounted from our horses, and
walked in without any ceremony. Our appearance
told our tale; there was no need of words,
even though we could have spoken them. The
inmate of the hut understood our wants, and
treated us kindly. In the centre of the floor was
a bright fire, on one side of which, stuck upon a
long stick, was half of a sheep roasting, and suspended
over the fire from the end of a pole was a
pot boiling and bubbling, and sending forth a
savory odor, which caused the water to run out
of both corners of my mouth. A swarthy looking
Gaucho, and his still swarthier wife, with three
naked children, were seated on the bare clay floor
watching the fire. The man beckoned us to the
fire, and the woman brought us a log to sit upon,
while the children crowded around their father's
knees, and stared at us with their fingers in their

Jerry observed that these little Gauchos conducted
themselves for all the world like the children
in the States, for they, he said, always put

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their fore fingers in their mouths when they saw
a stranger.

By the time our clothes were dry, the mutton
was roasted, and the Gaucho's wife having spread
it on a board, and taken the pot off the pole, gave
each of us a small biscuit, and something like a
squash shell; the man motioned to us to eat, and
we fell to, first upon the roast and then upon the
boiled, and then upon the roast and then upon
the boiled again.

It was a delicious meal. Such mutton! and
such soup! The Gaucho and the Gaucho's wife
looked at us with amazement, as we devoured the
fat and juicy meat, and swallowed the scalding
hot pot liquor. Many and hearty were the encomiums
which Jerry and I pronounced upon our
entertainers as we devoured their mutton. Jerry
swore that the Gaucho was the gentlemanliest
man he had ever seen in his life, and I told his
wife, although she could not understand a word
of what I was saying, that she was the handsomest
woman in the world but one, and that was
Georgiana De Lancey.

At length, our appetites began to fail us, and
Jerry, in the fullness of his gratitude, pulled out
the Captain's watch, and offered it to our host, at
the same time turning out his pockets to show

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that we had nothing else to offer in payment for
our breakfast. The Gaucho's eyes sparkled at
sight of the watch, but he struck his hand upon
his breast, and shook his head indignantly, and
told us in very excellent pantomime that his feelings
were hurt by the offer. I rebuked Jerry
for insulting the honest man's feelings by offering
him such a trifle.

“What, then, shall we give him,” said Jerry;
“you know we hav'n't got a midi to bless ourselves.”

“Give him,” I replied, “we will give him
nothing, since we have nothing to give; but we
will stay with him, and work for him, to show our

“So we will,” said Jerry, putting the watch in
his fob again; “we will stay with him the rest of
our lives. But I feel confounded sleepy; let us
take a nap on that pile of sheep skins in the corner,
and when we wake we will pitch into the
mutton again. So we lay down upon the sheep
skins to sleep, and when we awoke, the sun was
in the western sky. I felt greatly refreshed, although
somewhat stiff and feverish. Perceiving
that the Gaucho's wife was making preparations
for the afternoon meal, we got up and stretched
ourselves, and when the mutton was ready, the

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Gaucho invited us as before, and we began to
eat, but with appetites not half as keen as they
were in the morning; indeed, the mutton appeared
to have lost its exquisite flavor, and the
pot liquor was barely palateable. Jerry actually
found fault because we had but one little biscuit
given us. He said he didn't half like the
Gaucho's looks, and I was obliged to confess that
I thought he had a cut throat cast of the eye. After
dinner was over, we sat picking our teeth in
the door way; I told Jerry I felt more like travelling
than sleeping, and by way of sounding his
feelings, observed, that Buenos Ayres could not
be a very long way off.

Jerry replied that he did not think it was, and
if I would say the word, he was all ready to pull
up stakes and steer for Irish Jemmy's.

I was glad to hear him say so, and we agreed
to set off immediately. I beckoned to the Gaucho,
who was reclining on the floor, with his head
in his wife's lap, and the little Gauchos playing
about him, and tried to make him understand
that we were going to set off for the city, and
wanted him to show us the way. He pointed in
the direction that we must take, and we shook
hands with him and his wife, and then took our
departure on foot. The horses that we rode the

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night before having been left to themselves, had
taken themselves off.

The storm had passed over, and the pampas
looked green and pleasant, the sky was soft and
blue, and the sun, though fast sinking in the
west, still imparted a warmth to the air; as a good
man, even in his dying moments, will warm the
soul by his converse.

We trudged on in fine spirits, exhilarated by
the influences of the weather, and the happy contrast
which our condition bore to what it was the
night before. Jerry pulled out his pistol, and on
examination, found it to be in good order. We
resolved to fight if either Indians, or Gauchos, or
Montaneros, should attack us again, and to die
rather than incur the risk of spending another
night like the last. We had advanced about two
miles, when we made these valiant resolves; there
was not a soul in sight, and our courage was
high. The sun had just disappeared behind the
horizon, when we heard the sound of horses' feet
behind us. I looked round, and perceived a
horseman approaching us on full gallop, his poncho
streaming out behind in the wind. We stopped,
and Jerry pulled out his pistol and cocked
it. As the horse neared us very fast, we soon
discovered the rider to be no other than the

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Gaucho, whose hut we had just left. He was coming
at a full gallop, and I perceived him to raise
himself upon his stirrups and swing his lasso
round his head, and the next moment I felt the
noose drop over my shoulders, and before I could
disengage myself from it, I was jerked to the
ground, and dragged along with great rapidity.
I heard the clank of the Gaucho's cutlass, as he
drew it from its steel scabbard, and wheeled up
towards Jerry, who levelled his pistol at him and
fired. The Gaucho fell immediately from his saddle,
and his horse stood still. Jerry cut the lasso,
and disengaged me, but I was so terribly frightened
I could not stand upon my feet for some minutes;
my head swam round, and I felt deadly
sick; the sight of the bleeding Gaucho was by no
means calculated to restore me. However, I
soon recovered from my fright, and began to assist
Jerry in stopping the blood which gushed out,
thick and black, from the wound in the Gaucho's
breast. Unfortunately, neither Jerry nor myself
had on a linen shirt, but I tore the lining out of
my jacket, and with it tried to stop the wound,
but it was in vain. The poor wretch never
spoke after he fell; his eyes were rolled up in his
head, and his teeth ground together. He was
evidently dead, but I was unwilling to leave him.

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I was horror struck at the thought of our kind
entertainer having been murdered by one of us
who had so lately been sheltered beneath his

“Come,” said Jerry, “we must not stop to
set up an Irish howl over the blackguard now;
he's as dead as Julius Cæsar, and it is not his
fault that we are not taking our measure on the
green sward, with the heart's blood running out
of a hole in our breasts, instead of himself. I
am sorry he's dead though, any how, for we eat
his mutton, and this is a poor way of discharging
a debt.”

“Well,” I replied, “since we can't restore him
to life, let us, at least, restore his body to his poor

“No, no,” said Jerry, “let us mount his horse
and be off towards Buenos Ayres, or they will
make mince meat of us if we are caught here.”

So both of us mounted the Gaucho's horse, and
rode as fast as he would carry us towards Buenos

I remember having heard that the Gauchos,
though they would never deny a stranger a shelter
beneath their roof, nor molest him while a guest,
yet they would rob him if they could after he had
left their door. This may not be true, but I have

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no doubt of the intention of the Gaucho to murder
us, for the sake of the watch, which his sense of
honor would not allow him to accept as a present,
while we were his guests.

Jerry and I indulged in a good many grave
speculations on this singular trait of character,
which helped to pass away the time, and to divert
our thoughts from the unpleasant situation in
which we were placed. We both came to the conclusion,
that, strange and incredible as it might
appear for a man to treat us with every kindness,
while we were under his roof, and then attempt to
rob us as soon as we had left it, it was not a whit
more wonderful than that, at home, a man could
be a knave, a cheat, and a turncoat in politics,
and at the same time be a gentleman and a christian
in private life.

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Briggs, Charles F. (Charles Frederick), 1804-1877 [1839], The adventures of Harry Franco. Volume 1 (F. Saunders, New York) [word count] [eaf025v1].
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