Entertainments

On the 14th of February, 1804, I landed on the Island of Mocha, after a
passage of upwards of five months from England, during which we passed
between the Cape de Verd Islands, and touched at one of them called
Mayo, for the purpose of procuring salt, which appears to be the only
article of commerce. It is produced by admitting the sea water on flats,
embanked next to the sea, during the spring tides, and allowing it to
evaporate: the salt is then collected and carried off before the return
of the high tides, when the water is again admitted, and the same
process takes place. The sea water is here strongly impregnated with
salt, owing probably to the great evaporation caused by the intense
power of the heat, which also aids and hastens the process on shore. The
inhabitants whom I saw were all blacks, with the solitary exception of
a priest, and many of them in a state of nudity, even to an age at which
decency if not modesty requires a covering. A small quantity of bananas,
the only fruit we could procure, and some poultry, were brought from St.
Jago’s, another of the islands, visible from Mayo.

The Island of Mocha, situate in 38° 21´ S. and that called Santa Maria,
lying about 80 miles to the northward of it, were the patrimony of a
family, now residing at Conception, of the name of Santa Maria, who
lived on the latter, and sent some people to reside at Mocha, but after
the commencement of the war between England and Spain, in 1780, the
family, as well as the whole of the inhabitants, were ordered by the
government of Chile to quit the islands, under the pretence that these
were a resort for smugglers: a pretence derived from the common error,
that privacy is preventive of contraband.

During the time that Mocha was in the possession of the Santa Marias a
number of the original indian inhabitants, belonging to the tribe found
on it when first visited by the Spaniards in 1549, resided there, but
they were also removed to Conception.

These two islands having been once inhabited, there are yet to be found
some few remains of cattle, which have continued to procreate: on Mocha
are horses and pigs, and some barn door fowls. Mocha is about fifteen
miles in circumference, hilly in the centre, and sloping towards the
coast, more so on the western side, where a tolerably good anchorage and
a safe landing place, on a sandy beach, may be found. Fresh water flows
from several springs; wild turnips, mint and other herbs grow in
abundance; the trees on the hilly part are principally the white
cinnamon, named by the Spaniards _canelo_, the magui, the luma, a tree
called _espino_, and others. Here are also apple, peach and cherry
trees, with a variety of wild strawberries, and myrtle-berries. Some
solitary seals yet remain on the rocks on the south side of the island.

I left Mocha after remaining there alone thirty-two days, and landed
from the brig Polly at Tucapel Viejo, the residence of one of the
Caciques, or Ulmenes, of the Araucanian indians, by whom I was most
hospitably treated.

The male indians who appeared on the beach were of a reddish brown or
copper colour, few of them reaching to the height of six feet. They were
finely shaped and very muscular, having a round face, well formed
forehead, small black eyes, flattish nose, moderately thick lips and
good teeth, but no beard. The whole of the countenance is expressive of
a certain portion of vivacity, and not uninteresting; the hair is black
and strong, all of it being drawn behind the head and platted. The women
are lower in stature than the men, their features similar, and some of
the girls, if I be not allowed to call them handsome, I cannot abstain
from saying are very pretty. The females wear their hair long, and
platted behind their heads: it is afterwards wrapped round with a tape
about an inch and a half broad, to one edge of which are attached a
number of small hawks’ bells: the plait is allowed to hang down the
back, and not unfrequently reaches below their knees.

The dress or costume of the indians at first appeared very singular to
me. In the men it consisted of a flannel shirt, and a pair of loose
drawers of the same material, generally white, reaching below the calves
of the legs; a coarse species of rug about two yards wide and two and a
half long, with a slit in the middle through which the head was passed:
this garment, if so I may style it, hanging over the shoulders and
reaching below the knees, is called a _poncho_. The common ones seemed
to be made from a brownish sort of wool, but some were very fancifully
woven in stripes of different colours and devices, such as animals,
birds, flowers, &c. Of the poncho I shall have occasion to speak again,
as it is universally worn in all the provinces of South America which I
visited; but I must say here, that I considered it as an excellent
riding dress; for hanging loosely and covering the whole body, it leaves
the arms quite at liberty to manage the whip and reins. The hat commonly
worn is in the form of a cone, without any skirts; for shoes they
substitute a piece of raw bull’s hide cut to the shape of the sole of
the foot, and tied on with slender thongs of leather. The females wear a
long white flannel tunic, without sleeves, and an upper garment of black
flannel, extending below their knees, the sides closed up to the waist,
and the corners from the back brought over the shoulders and fastened to
the corners of the piece in front with two large thorns, procured from a
species of cactus, or with large silver brooches: it is afterwards
closed round the waist with a girdle about three inches broad, generally
woven in devices of different colours; very often, however, nothing but
the white tunic is worn, with the girdle, and a small mantle or cloak
called _ichella_. The favourite colour among the indians appeared to be
a bluish green, though I saw few of their garments of this colour at
Tucapel, but remarked afterwards, at the town of Arauco, that all those
who came to sell or barter their fruit, &c. wore it. The females
generally have nothing on their heads or feet, but have a profusion of
silver rings on their fingers, and on their arms and necks an abundance
of glass bead bracelets and necklaces.

The occupation of the men, as in most unenlightened countries, appeared
to be confined to riding out to see their cattle, their small portions
of land, cultivated by the women, and to hunting. The females were
employed spinning wool with a spindle about ten inches long, having a
circular piece of burnt clay at the bottom, to assist and regulate the
rotary motion given by twirling it with the finger and thumb at the
upper end. They generally sit on the ground to spin, and draw a thread
about a yard long, which they wind on the spindle, tie a knot on the
upper end, and draw another thread: though this work is very tedious,
compared to what may be done by our common spinning-wheels, yet their
dexterity and constancy enable them to manufacture all their wearing
apparel. Weaving is conducted on a plan fully as simple as spinning. The
frame-work for the loom is composed of eight slender poles, cut in the
woods when wanted, and afterwards burnt; four of these are stuck in the
ground at right angles, the other four are lashed with thongs at the
top, forming a square, and the frame is complete. The treadles are then
placed about a foot from the front, having a roller at the back of the
frame for the yarn and another in front for the cloth, both tied fast
with thongs; the sleys, made of worsted, doubled, have two knots tied in
the middle of each pair of threads, leaving a small space between the
knots through which to pass the warp. After all the yarns are passed
through the sleys the ends are tied in small bunches to the roller,
which is turned round by two females, one at each end, whilst another
attends to the balls in front; the other ends of the yarn are then tied
to the roller in front. The thongs connected with the treadle are
fastened one to each of the sleys, and a thong being made fast to the
upper part of one of them is thrown over a loose slender pole, placed on
the top of the frame and then made fast to the other sley, so that when
one treadle is pressed by the foot it draws down one of the sleys,
holding every alternate thread, and the other rises, carrying with it
the other half of the warp. Instead of a shuttle the yarn is wound round
a slender stick, of the necessary length, and passed through the opening
formed by the rising of one of the sleys and the falling of the other;
the contrary treadle is then pressed down, and a slender piece of hard
heavy wood, longer than the breadth of the cloth, is passed across, and
the weaver taking hold of both ends drags it towards her and compresses
the thread. This piece of wood, shaped somewhat like a long sword, is
called the _macana_, and has often been resorted to as a weapon in time
of war. The same rude mode of weaving is common, though not universal,
in South America. The manner of weaving ponchos I shall describe when
treating of the town of Arauco, for what I saw here did not deserve
attention.

Besides the laborious occupation of spinning and weaving, and the usual
household labour, each wife (for polygamy is allowed, every man marrying
as many wives as he choose, or rather, as many as he can maintain) has
to present to her husband daily a dish of her own cooking, and annually
a _poncho_ of her own spinning and weaving, besides flannel for shirts
and drawers. Thus an indian’s house generally contains as many fire
places and looms as he has wives, and Abbé Molina says, that instead of
asking a man how many wives he has, it is more polite to ask him how
many fires he keeps.

The females are cleanly in their houses and persons; dirt is never seen
on their clothes, and they frequently bathe, or wash themselves three or
four times a day. The men also pay great attention to the cleanliness of
their persons. The females attend to the cultivation of their gardens,
in which the men work but little, considering themselves absolute
masters–the lords of the creation, born only to command, and the
women, being the weaker, to obey: sentiments which polygamy supports;
plurality of wives tending to destroy those tender feelings of
attachment which we find in countries where the law allows only one
wife. The principal part of the labour of their farms is performed by
the women, who often plough, sow, reap and carry to the thrashing floor
the wheat or barley, which, when trodden out by horses, is thrown into
the air, that the wind may blow away the chaff. I saw no other grain at
Tucapel or its vicinity but wheat and barley, in small patches; but I
was told that they produced a hundred fold.

The care of the offspring is entirely committed to the women. A mother
immediately on her delivery takes her child, and going down to the
nearest stream of water, washes herself and it, and returns to the usual
labours of her station. The children are never swaddled, nor their
bodies confined by any tight clothing; they are wrapped in a piece of
flannel, laid on a sheep skin, and put into a basket suspended from the
roof, which occasionally receives a push from any one passing, and
continues swinging for some minutes. They are allowed to crawl about
nearly naked until they can walk; and afterwards, to the age of ten or
twelve years, the boys wear a small poncho, and the girls a piece of
flannel, wrapped round their waist, reaching down to the knees. The
mother, after that age, abandons the boys to the care of the father, on
whom they attend and wait as servants; and the daughters are instructed
in the several works which it will ere long become their duty to fulfil.
To the loose clothing which the children wear from their infancy may
doubtless be attributed the total absence of deformity among the
indians. Perhaps some travellers might suggest, that confinement in any
shape would be considered disgraceful to the haughty Araucanians, who
are pleased to call themselves, “the never vanquished, always victors.”

The house to which I was conveyed by the indians was about five leagues
from the coast, situated in a ravine, towards the farther extremity of
which the range of hills on each side appeared to unite. A stream of
excellent water ran at the bottom of the small valley, winding its way
to the sea, and fordable at this time of the year, but visibly much
deeper at other times, from the marks of the surface water on the banks
and on several large pieces of rock lying in the stream.

The low part of the ravine (at first more than three miles wide, and
gradually closing as we rode up towards the house) was cultivated in
small patches; and among the brushwood were to be seen clusters of
apple, pear and peach trees, some of them so laden with fruit that their
branches were bent to the ground. The sides of the mountains displayed
in gorgeous profusion the gifts of nature; the same kind of fruit trees,
laden with their ripe produce, enlivened the view, and relieved the eye
from the deep green of the woods which covered the landscape, save here
and there the naked spire of a rock washed by the rains and whitened by
the sunbeams. The situation of the house appeared to have been chosen
not so much for its picturesque beauty, as for the facility of defending
it: the only approach was the road which we took, it being impossible to
descend the mountains on either side–an impossibility which appeared to
increase as we drew nearer to the house.

Four or five of the young indians, or _mosotones_, rode forward to the
house, and when it first opened to our view a crowd of women and
children had ranged themselves in front, gaping in wild astonishment at
my very unexpected appearance. We rode up to the house, which stood on a
small plain, about thirty yards above the level of the stream, and
alighted amid the din of questions and answers equally unintelligible to
me. The wild stare of curiosity, sweetened with a compassionate
expression of countenance, precluded all fear, and I could not avoid
saying to myself, Great Author of Nature, I now for the first time
behold thy animated works, unadorned with the luxuries, and free, may I
hope, from the concomitant vices, of civilization!

The house was a thatched building, about sixty feet long, and twenty
broad, with mud walls seven feet high, two doors in the front, opposite
to two others at the back, and without windows. The back part on the
inside was divided into births, the divisions being formed of canes
thinly covered with clay, projecting about six feet from the wall, with
a bed place three feet wide, raised two from the floor; the whole
appearing somewhat like a range of stalls in a stable. Opposite to these
births, and running from one end to the other, excepting the spaces at
the two doors, the floor was elevated about ten inches, and was six feet
wide: this elevation was partly covered with small carpets and rugs,
which with five or six low tables composed the whole of the household
furniture. The two doors on the back side led to the kitchen, a range of
building as long as the house, but entirely detached from it: here were
several hearths, or fire-places, surrounded with small earthen pots,
pans and some baskets made of split cane; and over each fire-place was
suspended a flat kind of basket holding meat and fish, and answering the
purpose of a safe: it is called by the indians a _chigua_. The horses
were unsaddled, and the saddles placed on the floor at one end of the
house.

The family, or what I conceived to be the family, was composed of
upwards of forty individuals. The father was between forty and fifty
years old, and apparently enjoyed all the privileges of a patriarch.
There were eight women, whom I considered to be his wives, though during
my stay he appeared to associate with only one of them, if allowing her
to wait upon him whilst eating and receiving from the others their
respective dishes (which she placed successively on the small low table)
can be called association. The young men eat the food brought to them at
different tables, or in different parts of the house. The women and
children adjourned to the kitchen, and there partook of what was left by
the male part of the family. From the first day of my arrival to the
last of my stay I always ate out of the same dish with the Cacique, or
Ulmen, for his rank I did not exactly know. Our fingers supplied the
place of forks, and large muscle shells that of spoons: knives I never
saw used at table.

Our food chiefly consisted of fresh mutton, jirked beef, fish, or
poultry, cut into small pieces and stewed with potatoes or pompions,
seasoned with onions, garlic and cayenne pepper, or capsicum. Our
breakfast, at about sunrise, was composed of some flour or toasted
wheat, coarsely ground, or crushed, and mixed with water, either hot or
cold, as it suited the palate of the eater. This flour is produced or
manufactured by first roasting the wheat or barley in an earthen pan
placed over a slow fire, until the grain takes a pale brown hue. When
cold it is ground on a flat stone, about eight inches or a foot wide,
and two feet or more in length, as they can best procure it. This is put
on the ground, with the end next the female raised about four inches.
She then takes another stone, which reaches nearly across the first, and
weighs from six to ten pounds; this she presses with her hands, and
bruises the grain, which is crushed to a state somewhat like coarsely
ground coffee. At the lower end of the stone is generally placed a clean
lamb skin, with the wool downwards, which receives the flour, called by
the indians _machica_. Our dinner (made up of the stews or messes which
I have mentioned) was generally served at noon in calabashes, or gourds
cut in two, being three inches deep, and some of them from twelve to
twenty inches in diameter. Our supper, which we took at eight o’clock,
was milk, with _machica_, or potatoes.

I cannot refrain from describing a favourite preparation of milk, called
by the natives _milcow_. Potatoes and a species of pompion, _zapallo_,
were roasted, the insides of both taken out, and kneaded together with a
small quantity of salt, and sometimes with eggs. This paste was made
into little cakes, each about the size of a dollar, and a large quantity
was put into a pot of milk, and allowed to boil for a quarter of an
hour. I joined the Indians in considering it an excellent dish. Their
poultry, fed on barley and potatoes, was fat and good; their fish, both
from the sea and the river, capital; and their beef and mutton in
fatness and flavour were far above mediocrity.

The beverage at this time of the year, there being abundance of apples,
was principally new cider, but it was sufficiently fermented to produce
intoxication, which I had several opportunities of observing among the
men: to the credit of the women, however, I must say, that I never saw
one of them in a state of ebriety. I was informed that at other times of
the year they fermented liquors from the maize, the process of which I
shall afterwards describe. Their cider is made in the following rude
manner:–a quantity of apples is procured from the woods by the women;
they are put into a species of trough, from eight to ten feet long,
being the trunk of a large tree scooped into a shape somewhat similar to
a canoe. A woman then takes a stick, or cane, nearly the length of the
trough, and standing at one extremity, beats the apples to pieces. They
are afterwards collected at one end, pressed with the hands, and the
juice is received either in large calabashes (dried gourds) or in
prepared goats’ hides. It is now carried to the house, poured into an
earthen jar, and left to ferment. The jars are made by the Indians of
baked clay:–some will hold upwards of a hundred gallons, which shews
that these people have some skill in pottery.

The only in-door diversion which I witnessed among the Indians at
Tucapel was what they certainly considered a dance. About sixteen men
and women intermixed stood up in a row, and following each other,
trotted about the room to the sound of a small drum, which was made by
drawing a piece of the fresh skin of a kid or lamb over an earthen pot
used for cooking. This diversion I saw but twice, and in both instances
after supper. Indeed the indians are not calculated for this kind of
amusement. They associate with each other but little. The females are
considered inferior to the men, and consequently no harmony or
conviviality appears to result from their company. The principal
out-door diversion among the young men is the _palican_: this game is
called by the Spaniards _chueca_, and is similar to one I have seen in
England called bandy. Molina says it is like the _calcio_ of the
Florentines and the _orpasto_ of the Greeks.

The company divides into two sets. Each person has a stick about four
feet long, curved at the lower end. A small hard ball, sometimes of
wood, is thrown on the ground: the parties separate; some advance
towards the ball, and others stand aloof to prevent it when struck from
going beyond the limits assigned, which would occasion the loss of the
game. I was told that the most important matters have been adjusted in
the different provinces of Araucania by crooked sticks and a ball: the
decision of the dispute is that of the game–the winner of the game
being the winner of the dispute.

At Arauco I heard that the present bishop of Conception, Roa, having
passed the territory belonging to the indians with their permission, (a
formality never to be dispensed with) on his visitation to Valdivia, was
apprehended in returning for not having solicited and obtained a pass,
or safe-conduct from the _Uthalmapu_, or principal political chief of
the country which he had to traverse, called by the indians, the
_Lauguen Mapu_, or marine district. His lordship was not only made
prisoner but despoiled of all his equipage; and it became a matter of
dispute, which nothing but the _palican_ could decide, whether he should
be put to death or allowed to proceed to Conception. The game was played
in the presence of the bishop: he had the satisfaction of seeing his
party win, and his life was saved. The propriety, however, of keeping
the booty taken from him was not questioned by any one.

That part of the country which I had an opportunity of visiting with
some of these kind indians was not extensive, but extremely beautiful.
The soil was rich, every kind of vegetation luxuriant, and some of the
trees were very large: the principal ones were the _espino_, the _luma_,
the _maque_, and the _pehuen_.

I was informed that the indians have both gold and silver mines, and
that they are acquainted with the art of extracting the metal from the
ores. One might presume that there was some foundation for this report
from the ornaments made of the precious metals seen in their possession:
they are of Spanish manufacture, and perhaps either the spoils of war or
the result of barter.

A trade of no great importance might be established here. The wool,
which is good, and timber, with some gold and silver, would be given in
return for knives, axes, hatchets, white and greenish coarse flannel,
ponchos, bridle bits, spurs, &c.

At about three o’clock, on a moonlight morning, in the month of April, I
left the house of my kind Toqui, with five indians. We were all on
horseback, and travelled till after sunrise, when arriving at what
appeared to me to be a common resting place, we alighted, and I
witnessed a most romantic scene.

The indians were habited in their rude costume, the poncho, the
sugar-loaf hat, the hide sandals, and spurs with rowels at least three
inches in diameter. Their horses were as uncouthly caparisoned: a deep
saddle was covered with three or four sheep skins, over which was spread
a bluish rug of long shaggy wool, the crupper with a broad piece of
leather hanging across the horse’s rump, and a broader strap attached to
each side of the saddle passing round the horse behind, about midway
down the thighs, and fastened to the cross piece to prevent its slipping
to the ground. These straps were fancifully stamped, and cut into
various shapes and devices. The huge wooden box stirrups were large
enough to hold the feet of the rider; and the heavy-bitted bridle had
beautifully platted reins, terminating in a lash or whip of the same
workmanship, divided at the end into eight or ten minor plaits, forming
a tuft resembling a tassel.

The spot at which we arrived was enchanting. The branches of a large
carob tree extended themselves above our heads, while the beautifully
green sward was spread under our feet. A small stream of water worked
its way among the pebbles on one side, and in the distance on the other
the Pacific Ocean, silvered with the rays of the newly risen sun,
heightened in brilliancy by the intervening deep green of the woods,
presented itself to our view. What an awfully grand collection of the
works of nature! He who could behold them without feeling his bosom
swell with such sensations of delight as tongue cannot utter nor pen
describe, cannot be made by this faint description to partake of what I
felt at that moment.

After the indians had alighted, part of them ran to the brook and
brought some water, in bullocks’ horns, which they always carry with
them for this purpose. They divided it among their comrades, each
receiving about a pint. Every one now took from his girdle a small
leather bag, the skin of an animal of the size of a cat, and putting a
handful of roasted flour into the horn with the water, stirred it about
with a small stick and eat it. I followed their example, and this
mixture constituted our breakfast. We then pursued our journey. About
noon we arrived at Tubul, and went to a large house belonging, as I
supposed, to the Toqui, or Cacique. Here are several other houses,
forming a small hamlet, all of whose inhabitants are indians.

We were regaled with the usual fare at dinner, with the addition of a
lamb, which was killed after our arrival, cut into halves, and roasted
over the embers. What may be considered as a certain portion of
civilization made its appearance at Tubul: the roasted lamb was laid on
a large ill-fashioned silver dish, some silver spoons and forks were
placed on the Toqui’s table: not a knife was to be seen, but the
drinking horns had bottoms. Besides the cider some strong ill tasted
brandy and thick sweet wine crowned the board.

My indian comrades or conductors occasioned much sport after dinner, by
playing what they call the _peuca_, which Molina says serves them as an
image of war. Fifteen _mosotones_, young Indians, took hold of each
other by the hands and formed a circle, in the centre of which a boy
about ten years old was placed. An equal number of young men were then
engaged in attempting to take the boy out of the ring, in which the
victory consists. The indians forming the ring at first extended their
arms as wide as they could, and paced gently round. The others rushed
altogether on the ring, and tried to break it, but their opponents
closed and the invaders were forced to desist. They then threw
themselves into several groups of two or three in each, advanced and
attacked at different points, but were again baffled in their efforts,
and after many unsuccessful trials to break the ring, and take the boy,
they were obliged through fatigue to abandon their enterprise. When the
game, which lasted at least three hours, was finished, abundance of
cider was brought, and the effects of drinking it were soon visible.
Wrestling parties commenced, in which great strength and agility were
shown: the first throw decided each contest, and the horns of cider
were freely circulated to cheer the drooping spirits of the youths. The
females and children stood in groups to witness these sports, and
interest and enthusiasm were strongly marked in their countenances.

After a supper of _milcow_, roasted potatoes, milk, &c. we retired to
our beds, which were formed of five or six clean white sheep skins, and
some white flannel. We rose at an early hour the next morning; five more
young indians were attached to my escort, and we proceeded on our way to
Arauco.

There is a roadstead and good anchorage at Tubul, and in any emergency
ships may procure an abundance of bullocks, sheep, and excellent
vegetables, in exchange for knives, axes, buttons, beads, &c. The water
at the mouth of the river is salt, but good fresh water may be easily
obtained a little way up on the north side, where a rivulet joins the
Tubul.

Having travelled about six miles, we descended to the beach of a very
extensive bay, and saw the island of Santa Maria in the horizon. At the
foot of the promontory which we had crossed was a small stream and three
neat cottages with pretty gardens before them. My guides took me to the
first of these cottages, where we were received by a white woman, the
wife of a sergeant stationed here as at a kind of advanced post. The
sergeant soon made his appearance, and although I had been so very
kindly treated by the good indians, I felt a pleasure at finding myself
once again among people of my own colour, similar to that experienced by
a person who is relieved from an apprehension of danger, by being
satisfied that it does not exist. Some dispute arose respecting the
indians leaving me and returning home; but it was adjusted by the
sergeant sending two soldiers with us, with orders to present me to the
commandant, at Arauco. After breakfasting on roasted jerked beef and
bread, we proceeded towards Arauco, and arrived there at noon.

The country over which we travelled was every where covered with
vegetation, the valleys or bottoms of the ravines with grass and shrubs,
and their hilly sides with wood. After descending to the beach, several
small ravines opened to the right, containing a considerable number of
neat thatched cottages. Quantities of wild vines climbed from tree to
tree, laden with grapes as yet green; and clusters of apple, pear, and
peach trees adorned the sides of the hills, while the low land from
their bases to the sea side was divided and fenced in with branches of
trees–cattle, principally milch cows, feeding in the enclosures.

On our arrival at Arauco I was immediately taken to the house of the
commandant, who ordered me into his presence, and the soldiers and
indians to return. I was not a little surprised at the extravagant
appearance of this military hero, who undoubtedly considered himself, in
his present situation, equal to Alexander or Napoleon, and but for his
figure I should have conceived him to be a second Falstaff. He stood
about five feet six inches high, was remarkably slender, and had a
swarthy complexion, large Roman nose, small black eyes, projecting chin,
and toothless mouth. His hair was combed back from his forehead,
abundantly powdered, and tied in a cue _a la_ Frederick. He wore an old
tarnished gold laced uniform of faded blue, with deepened red lappels,
collar and cuffs, his waistcoat and breeches being of the latter colour;
bluish stockings, brown shoes for lack of blacking, and large square
brass buckles. A real Toledo was fastened to his side with a broad black
leather belt and a brass buckle in front: an equilateral triangular hat
covered his head. Such was the visible part of this soldier. His red
cloak was on a chair near him, while his worship stood, bolt upright, in
his vast importance _personale_! Never did chivalrous knight listen
with more gravity of countenance, measured demeanour or composed
posture, to the cravings of a woe-begotten squire, than did my old
commandant to my ill-digested narrative. But what a contrast presented
itself in his goodly lady, the _comandanta_, whom I could compare to
nothing better than a large lanthorn! She stood about four feet six
inches high, and as nearly as I could conceive measured the same round
the waist, which was encompassed by an enormous hoop, at least four feet
in diameter, having a petticoat of scarlet flannel, sewed into small
folds, the bottom of which was trimmed about a foot deep with something
yellow. She wore a green bodice, and the sleeves of her undermost
garment just covered her shoulders, and were edged with green ribbon and
white fringe. Her hair was all combed back from her forehead, and tied
behind with a broad black ribbon. On the top of her head appeared a
bunch of natural flowers. It might with propriety be said of this goodly
dame, that it would be much easier to pass over than to go round her.
There were also present the curate of the parish, two Franciscan friars,
and some of the inhabitants, one of whom, Don Nicolas del Rio,
compassionating the fate of a boy, (for I was then only seventeen)
asked the commandant to allow me to be his guest. This request being
granted, the chief put on his red cloak, walked with us to the house of
Don Nicolas, and, not forgetting one iota of etiquette, presented me to
the family, composed of the wife of Don Nicolas and three daughters;
their only son being with an uncle, who was governor of Angeles. During
the time I remained at Arauco I was treated in every respect as one of
the family by these kind and hospitable people. Visiting parties to
their gardens, orchards, and vineyards, followed each other daily, and
all possible care was taken to render me happy–and not in vain, for I
was happy.

Arauco is situated at the foot of a rocky hill, accessible only by a
winding path from the inside of the walls by which the town is
surrounded. On the top of the hill were four brass guns of eighteen
pounds calibre, with a breast-work of stone, a large house for the
soldiers, forming their barracks or guard-house, and a small watch
tower. The town is a square of about six hundred yards, and is
surrounded by a wall of eighteen feet high on three of the sides, the
hill forming the fourth; two small breast-works are raised at the
corners. An arched gateway stands in the centre of the north side, with
a massy wooden door, which is closed every night at eight o’clock, and
opened at six in the morning. From the gateway is a street to the
square, or market-place, where the church is erected. There is also a
convent of Franciscan friars, which was formerly a Jesuits’ college. The
garrison consisted of thirty privates with the respective subalterns and
officers. The whole population amounts to about four hundred souls.

The town is well supplied by a spring in the rock with most excellent
water, which falls into a large stone basin, and thence runs through the
square, the principal street, and out at the gateway. Fruit, fish,
poultry, and cider called _chicha_, are brought in daily by the indian
women, and sold or bartered principally for salt, which is the article
most in demand, there being none but what is imported. The greater part
used for culinary purposes is from Peru, but a coarser kind is obtained
from the coast of Chile, near to Valparaiso. The general salutation of
the indians is _marry, marry_; and I was told, that when a Cacique or
any other chief sends to a Spaniard his _marry, marry_, it is a sure
sign that he is at peace with the Spaniards, though other tribes may be
at war with them.

I had several opportunities at Arauco of seeing the indians employed in
weaving the fine _ponchos_, some of which, I learnt, were worth from a
hundred to a hundred and fifty dollars. The wool is first washed and
picked or combed, for they have no idea of carding. It is then spun with
the spindle, as already described, and afterwards dyed the necessary
colours, such as blue, green, yellow, red, &c., and if one be wanted
which they have not the materials to produce, they purchase a piece of
Manchester flannel of the colour required, pick it to pieces, reduce it
to wool, and spin it over again, the yarn being required to be much
finer than that of the flannel, and always twisted of two or more
threads. The _poncho_ is woven in stripes of one, two, or three inches
broad, which are subsequently sewed together. Sometimes, and for the
finest _ponchos_, no loom whatever is used. The coloured threads or
yarns are rolled on a round piece of wood; the weaver ties the other
ends of them to her girdle, and lifts and depresses the threads with her
fingers, passing the woof rolled on a cane instead of a shuttle, and
beating it with the _macana_. This may undoubtedly be considered the
lowest pitch of weaving, but the patterns on the stripes are very pretty
and ingenious, and the repetitions of the devices are extremely exact.

After a few days’ rest, it was proposed by Don Nicolas that I should
accompany his daughters on an excursion to some of the neighbouring
towns and villages: a proposal highly gratifying to myself, and
apparently not less so to my new acquaintance. A permission or passport
was procured for me from the commandant, and I was ordered to present it
at every military post we might arrive at. Whether there were any
necessity for this document I do not know; but I think it was provided
to give me an idea of the authority of the military chief; for I was
never asked for it, and when I presented it at any post it was never
read; but a curl of the upper lip showed the contempt with which it was
viewed by the subalterns of this great man!

Our cavalcade, on as delightful a morning as ever broke on joyous
travellers, made a very gay appearance. The three daughters of Don
Nicolas were mounted on good horses, with square side-saddles, the upper
part of which had rather the shape of small chairs, having backs and
arms covered with velvet, fastened with a profusion of brass-headed
nails. A board about ten inches long and four broad, covered and nailed
to match, was suspended on the far side of each horse; so that the rider
sat with her left hand to the horse’s head, contrary to the custom in
England. The bridles, cruppers and appendages were of exquisite platted
work, ornamented with a number of silver rings, buckles and small
plates. I rode a horse belonging to my good host, with saddle and
trappings decorated in the same manner. The saddle was raised about four
inches before and behind, and some sheep skins were put on the seat,
covered with a red rug of very long wool. Four sumpter mules were laden
with bedding and provender, two _mosotones_, young indians, were
appointed to attend to them, and two females to wait on their young
mistresses. We mounted, and at the gate were joined by the commandant’s
two daughters, who had two soldiers for their guard. Never did I feel
more delighted than when, having passed the gateway and advanced a few
yards, I turned round to view this novel scene, to which, in my mind, a
Canterbury pilgrimage was far inferior. Five young ladies in their rigid
costume; their small but beautifully wrought _ponchos_; their black hats
and feathers; their hoops, spreading out their fancifully coloured
coats, ornamented with ribbons, fringes, and spangles; the gay
trappings of their horses; the two soldiers in uniform; the indians; the
servant girls, and the sumpter mules, which closed the procession; the
merry countenances of all; the parents, relations and friends, waving
their hats and handkerchiefs from the walls of the town; the sound of
the church and convent bells, summoning the inhabitants to mass; the
distant view of the sea on one side, and that of the enchanting plain
and mountain scenery on the other–reminded me of fairy regions, and at
times caused me almost to doubt the reality of what I beheld. It was
predetermined that we should breakfast at a farm-house about two leagues
from Arauco. Thither we rode, leaving the indians to follow with their
charge.

Our arrival was anticipated, and a splendid breakfast had been prepared:
roasted lamb, fowls, fried eggs and fish smoaked on the table; whilst
chocolate and toasted bread, excellent butter and cheese finished the
repast. We honoured our host by eating heartily, and waited the arrival
of the indians: they were ordered to follow us to the mills. We shortly
reached the bank of the river Carampangue, and after riding about twelve
miles came to the mills called _de Carampangue_. The river is in some
places from eighty to a hundred yards wide, and in others not above
twenty; running slowly towards the sea, into which it empties itself
about four miles from Arauco. Its origin is said to be in the
Cordilleras. Where the mills are situated the river is twenty-two yards
wide, with a considerable fall, and water is drawn from it for their
service by channels. These mills are three in number, with vertical
water-wheels and one pair of stones to each mill. I was informed that
the stones are brought from a considerable distance, and that they cost
about one hundred and fifty dollars the pair. They are black, with small
white stains, resembling in size and shape the wings of flies, and hence
are called _ala de mosca_. When by any accident they are broken, the
only remedy is to procure new ones, the people being ignorant of any
cement with which to unite the pieces; and probably the expense of iron
work would amount to more than that of new stones; nay, I question
whether they have a blacksmith in this part of the country who could
forge hoops to brace them. The only precaution taken to prevent such
accidents is the passing a number of thongs of raw hide, while fresh,
round the stones, and when dry they are not perhaps very inferior to
iron hoops. The wood-work is as rude, the miller being the carpenter,
blacksmith, mason, &c. The flour is not bolted, but sifted by hand.
This however is no part of the business or trade of the miller, who is
only required to grind the corn; for the meal is carried home to its
owner, and separated from the bran with large hair sieves made by the
indians.

We dined at one of the houses, partly on the fare presented to us, and
partly on our own, brought by the sumpter mules. The afternoon was spent
in rambling about the neighbouring country and picking myrtle berries,
which are delicious, and called by the people _mutillas_. They are about
the size of a large pea, of a deep red colour and of a peculiarly sweet
and aromatic flavour. They are sometimes prepared by crushing them in
water and allowing them to ferment for a few days, which produces a
pleasant beverage called _chicha de mutilla_. We found abundance of wild
grapes, (which though neither large nor sweet were very palatable) some
few plums, and plenty of apples, pears and peaches. On our return to the
miller’s house we were presented with _mate_, which is a substitute for
tea, and is used more or less in every part of South America, but since
the present revolution it has become less prevalent, partly because the
custom of drinking tea _a la Inglesa_ is more fashionable, and partly
because a regular supply of the herb cannot be procured from Paraguay,
where it grows, and from whence it derives its name. The _mate_ is
prepared by putting into a silver or gold cup about a teaspoonful of the
herb of Paraguay, to which are added a bit of sugar, sometimes laid on
the fire until the outside be a little burnt, a few drops of lemon
juice, a piece of lemon peel and of cinnamon, or a clove. Boiling water
is poured in till the cup is full, and a silver tube, about the
thickness of the stalk of a tobacco pipe, six inches long and perforated
at the lower end with small holes, is introduced. Through this the
_mate_ is sucked, with the risk of scalding the mouth. A cup supported
on a salver, most curiously chased, or filigreed, is commonly used:
however a calabash, with a fillet of silver round the top, was used on
this occasion. One tube serves the whole party, and the female who
presides will not unfrequently give a hearty suck when the cup is
returned to her, and take another after replenishing it, before it is
handed to the company. A great deal of etiquette is observed with the
_mate_. It is first offered to the person who is the greatest stranger,
or most welcome visitor, a priest, if there happen to be one present,
which is generally the case. Nothing but the severe indisposition of
Friar Vicente at Arauco freed us from his presence: an event which was
not regretted by the party until dancing was proposed in the evening,
when his ghostly fathership was missed, as no one could play on the
guitar so well as he: however one of the soldiers offered his services;
the instrument was produced and tuned, the dance named, and the
sparkling eyes of the whole company, which had greatly increased since
our arrival, bespoke a wish to “trip it on the light fantastic toe;” but
to my astonishment, a young man and woman stepped into the middle of the
room, and began to jig to the sounds of the guitar, sounds not to be
equalled except by the filing of a saw, or the boisterous singing of the
performer. This I was told was a _bolero_. They danced about five
minutes, and were relieved by two others. In this manner the diversion
was kept up until after midnight, with the assistance of cider, _chicha
de mansana_, _chicha de mutilla_, bad wine, and some brandy made from
the wild grape of the country. A hot supper closed the scene, and we
retired to the beds prepared for us at the different houses.

The following morning after breakfast we mounted our horses, and having
crossed the river at a ford, pursued our route to Nacimiento, which is
a small village surrounded by a wall with four brass guns. The greater
part of the inhabitants are indians, and apparently very poor. We spent
the night at the house of the curate, but not so agreeably as we passed
the preceding one at the mills.

On the next day we went on to Santa Juana, another frontier town,
standing on an island formed by the river dividing itself into two
branches for the space of about half a mile and again uniting. This
river is the Bio-bio, and may with propriety be called the northern
boundary of Chile. The towns on the south side of the Bio-bio are under
great risk of being sacked by the indians, and are merely kept as
advanced posts by the Spaniards. We rested one day at Santa Juana, and
returned by a different road to Nacimiento, from thence to the
Carampangue mills, and the day after to Arauco, having spent seven days
in this most agreeable excursion.

I was exceedingly surprized at being informed that war had been declared
between England and Spain; and in a few days afterwards I received
orders to proceed to Conception. I remained at the house of my friend
Don Nicolas del Rio, until my departure, enjoying every day more and
more the kind hospitality of this worthy South American and his
excellent family, whom I left with the most sincere regret, impressed
with the idea that I should never see any of them again. I was, however,
deceived, for after a lapse of seventeen years we met under
circumstances which enabled me to repay a part of their kindness.