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- On the Pampas - 20/47 -


amusement for the girls."

And so next morning, and nearly every morning afterward, the girls practiced with the light rifle at a mark, until in time their hands became so steady that at short distances of sixty or seventy yards they could beat their brothers, who were both really good shots. This was principally owing to the fact that the charge of powder used in these rifles was so small that there was scarcely any recoil to disturb the aim. It was some time before they could manage to hit anything flying; but they were very proud one evening when, having been out late with the boys, a fat goose came along overhead, and the girls firing simultaneously, he fell with both bullets in his body. After this they, too, carried their rifles out with them during their rides.

Any one who had known Maud and Ethel Hardy at home would have scarcely recognized them now in the sunburnt-looking lassies, who sat upon their horses as if they had never known any other seat in their lives. Their dress, too, would have been most curious to English eyes. They wore wide straw hats, with a white scarf wound round the top to keep off the heat. Their dresses were very short, and made of brown holland, with a garibaldi of blue-colored flannel. They wore red flannel knickerbockers, and gaiters coming up above the knee, of a very soft, flexible leather, made of deer's skin. These gaiters were an absolute necessity, for the place literally swarmed with snakes, and they constantly found them in the garden when going out to gather vegetables. Most of these snakes were harmless; but as some of them were very deadly, the protection of the gaiters was quite necessary. The girls did not like them at first, especially as their, brothers could not help joking them a little, and Hubert said that they reminded him of two yellow-legged partridges. However, they soon became accustomed to them, and felt so much more comfortable about snakes afterward that they would not have given them up upon any account.

The boys always wore high boots for the same reason, and had no fear whatever of the snakes; but Mr. Hardy insisted that each of them should always carry in a small inner pocket of their coats a phial of spirits of ammonia, a small surgical knife, and a piece of whipcord; the same articles being always kept in readiness at the house. His instructions were, that in case of a bite they should first suck the wound, then tie the whipcord round the limb above the place bitten, and that they should then cut deeply into the wound crossways, open it as much as possible, and pour in some spirits of ammonia; that they should then pour the rest of the ammonia into their water-bottle, which they always carried slung over their shoulders, and should drink it off. If these directions were instantly and thoroughly carried out, Mr. Hardy had little fear that the bite, even of the deadliest snake, would prove fatal. In addition he ordered that in case of their being near home they should, upon their arrival, be made to drink raw spirits until they could not stand, and that, if they were some distance away from home, and were together, the one bitten should lie down while the other galloped at full speed to take back a bottle of brandy, and order assistance to be sent. This remedy is well known throughout India. Any one bitten by a poisonous snake is made to drink spirits, which he is able to do without being affected by them, to an extraordinary extent; a man who at ordinary times could scarcely take a strong tumbler of spirits and water, being able, when bitten, to drink a bottle of pure brandy without being in the least affected by it. When the spirit does at last begin to take effect, and the patient shows signs of drunkenness, he is considered to be safe, the poison of the spirit having overcome the poison of the snake.

CHAPTER IX.

NEIGHBORLY VISITS AND ADVICE.

It must not be supposed that the Hardys, during the whole of this time, were leading a perfectly solitary life. Upon the contrary, they had a great deal of sociable companionship. Within a range of ten miles there were no less than four estancias owned by Englishmen, besides that of their first friend Mr. Percy. A ride of twenty miles is thought nothing of out on the pampas. The estate immediately to the rear of their own was owned by Senor Jaqueras, a native. The tract upon the east of his property was owned by three young Englishmen, whose names were Herries, Cooper, and Farquhar. They had all been in the army, but had sold out, and agreed to come out and settle together.

The southwestern corner of their property came down to the river exactly opposite the part where the north-eastern corner of Mount Pleasant touched it: their house was situated about four miles from the Hardys. To the west of Senor Jaqueras, the estate was owned by two Scotchmen, brothers of the name of Jamieson: their estancia was nine miles distant. In the rear of the estate of Senor Jaqueras, and next to that of Mr. Percy, were the properties of Messrs. Williams and Markham: they were both about ten miles from Mount Pleasant. These gentlemen had all ridden over to call upon the newcomers within a very few days of Mr. Hardy's first arrival, and had offered any help in their power.

The Hardys were much pleased with their visitors, who were all young men, with the frank, hearty manner natural to men free from the restraints of civilized life. The visits had been returned in a short time, and then for awhile all communication with the more distant visitors had ceased, for the Hardys were too busy to spare time upon distant rides. One or other of the party at Canterbury, as the three Englishmen had called their estancia, very frequently dropped in for a talk, and Mr. Hardy and the boys often rode over there when work was done, Canterbury was also a young settlement--only four or five months, indeed, older than Mount Pleasant--so that its owners, like themselves, had their hands full of work; but sometimes, when they knew that the Hardys were particularly hard at work, one or two of them would come over at daybreak and give their assistance. During the final week's work, especially just before Mrs. Hardy's arrival, all three came over and lent their aid, as did the Jamiesons.

As soon as Mrs. Hardy had arrived all their neighbors came over to call, and a very friendly intercourse was quickly established between them. As there was no spare bedroom at Mount Pleasant, some hammocks were made, and hooks were put into the sitting-room walls, so that the hammocks could be slung at night and taken down in the morning. The English party always rode back to Canterbury, as the distance was so short, and the Jamiesons generally did the same; but Messrs. Percy, Williams, and Markham usually came over in the afternoon, and rode back again next morning.

When the press of work was over the boys and their sisters often cantered over to Canterbury to tea, and sometimes, but more seldom, to the Jamiesons' estancia. The light-hearted young Englishmen were naturally more to their fancy than the quiet and thoughtful Scotchmen. The latter were, however, greatly esteemed by Mr. and Mrs. Hardy, who perceived in them a fund of quiet good sense and earnestness.

Upon Sunday morning Mr. Hardy had service, and to this the whole of their friends generally came. It was held early, so that the Jamiesons and the Englishmen could ride back to their homes before the heat of the day, the other three remaining to dine, and returning in the cool of the evening. Canterbury was entirely a sheep and cattle farm. The owners had five thousand sheep, and some hundreds of cattle; but they had comparatively a good deal of time upon their hands, as stock and sheep farming does not require so much personal care and supervision as must be bestowed upon agricultural farms. The Jamiesons, on the contrary, were entirely occupied in tillage: they had no sheep, and only a few head of cattle.

Mr. Hardy was remarking upon this one day to Mr. Percy, who replied, "Ah, the poor fellows are very unfortunate. They brought out a fair capital, and had as large a stock of sheep and cattle as the Canterbury party have. About six months, however, before you arrived--yes, it's just a year now--the Indians swept down upon them, and carried off every animal they had. They attacked the house, but the Jamiesons defended themselves well; and the Indians were anxious to get off with their booty, and so they beat a retreat. Pursuit was hopeless; every horse had been driven off, and they had to walk six miles to the next hacienda to give the news; and long before a party could be got together the Indians were beyond the possibility of pursuit. Two or three hundred sheep and a dozen or two of the bullocks found their way back, and these and their land was all that remained to the Jamiesons of their capital, for they had invested all they had in their stock. However, they looked affairs manfully in the face, sold their animals, bought a couple of plows and draught bullocks, hired a peon or two, and set to work with a will. They will get on but slowly for a time; but I have no doubt that they will do well in the course of a few years. Men with their pluck and perseverance are certain to get on. That puts me in mind, Hardy, of a matter upon which I had intended to speak to you. We are just getting now to the time of the year when Indian attacks are most likely to take place. Sometimes they are quiet for a year or two, then they are very troublesome again. Five or six years ago, just after I first came out, we had terrible times with them. Vast numbers of cattle were driven off: the sheep they less seldom take, because they cannot travel so fast, but they do drive them off sometimes. A good many shepherds were killed, and two or three estancias captured and burned, and the inmates murdered. You are now the furthest settler, and consequently the most exposed. Your estancia is strong and well built, and you are all well armed and good shots. You are, I think, in that respect safe, except from sudden surprise. The dogs are sure to give an alarm; still I should sleep with everything in readiness."

"Thank you, Percy; I shall take your advice. I expected it from what I had heard when I bought the place; but from hearing nothing of Indians all this time, I had almost forgotten it. I will prepare for defense without the loss of a day. The house has only one vulnerable point--the doors and shutters. I will measure them this afternoon, and will get you to take over a letter and forward it to Rosario by the first opportunity, for some sheets of thin iron to cover them with."

Mr. Percy promised to forward the letter the very next day by a bullock-cart he was sending in, and also that the same cart should bring them back. He said that if a conveyance were sent over in two days' time for them they would be in readiness at his place.

This conversation caused Mr. Hardy great uneasiness. It was a possibility he had been quite prepared for; but he could not feel that the danger was really at hand without an anxious feeling. His thousand sheep had cost him twelve hundred and fifty dollars, and his cattle as much more. The lambing season had come and gone, and the flock of sheep had doubled in number. The cattle, too, had


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