South America Today - Rosario and Tucuman
( Originally Published 1911 )
THE traveller with only a few weeks at his disposal in this immense country of overflowing activity cannot pretend to make a very profound and detailed study of it. I am here setting down only those things that I saw, but, at the same time, I endeavour to show their significance, and to give some idea of their social import, while leaving my readers to judge for themselves. It is, of course, the subjective method, and is full of pitfalls, but it is also, useful inasmuch as it sheds much light on the subject if used with discrimination. My friend Jules Huret, who has been inspired to reveal to the criminally incurious French public certain countries which they persistently ignore, takes all the time he needs to collect a voluminous amount of material, which he then proceeds toplace before his readers in accordance with the strictest canons of the objective method. We know how successful he was with North America and Germany. He has marshalled before us so orderly a procession of men and things, that to my mind he has defeated his object, and left us no inducement to undertake the journey for ourselves and to obtain first-hand impressions by the direct contact which is worth all the books in the world. Huret is now publishing in the Figaro the result of a year's close study of the Argentine. He has taught and will still teach me much, no doubt, and I strongly re-commend every one to read his admirable work. But in their way I still venture to claim for my unpretentious notes the virtue of creating in my readers a desire for further information, for the simple reason that they will assuredly want to test my views in the light of their own experience. Humanity, nowadays, is moving at high speed, and the chief interest that most men attach to each day's events is the opportunities they may afford for to-morrow's energy. But the real value of the " event of the moment," to which the Press attributes more and more importance, lies in the revelation it may bring of those general laws that we must all understand. Hence the living appeal made by cursory reflections, irrespective of what may be the verdict of the future thereupon, since our " truths " of today can never be more than successive eliminations of errors.
These generalities are intended to explain the spirit in which I prepared to leave Buenos Aires, and drew up an itinerary that was necessarily curtailed by the limited time that remained to me. I had been told : " At Cordoba you will find a city of monks; Mendoza affords a charming picture of fine watercourses lined with poplars, vines in profusion, and a remarkable equipment for the wine industry; at Tucuman, there are fields of sugar-cane with dependent refineries and, also, the beginnings of an extensive forest." With irrigation-works, poplars, vines, monks even, I was already familiar : so without hesitation I headed for Tucuman, with a brief halt at Rosario, the second city of the Argentine Republic.
In its external aspect Rosario de Santa Fe differs but little from Buenos Aires. There is the same florid architecture, the same desire to do things on a large scale, the same busy spirit, though naturally on a smaller scale. Rosario exists by reason of its port, which commands the Parana. The prodigious extension of the town is due to the building of numerous railway lines, which have produced an enormous development of agriculture in the provinces of Santa Fé, Cordoba, and Santiago del Estero. The cereals grown in these provinces, representing one half the total exported by the Argentine, are carried by these railways, whilst the Parana furnishes a waterway several thousands of kilometres in length for coasting vessels on the upper river and from Paraguay as far as the mouth of the Rio. A volume might be written of its docks, built by a French firm under the management of M. Flandrin, a compatriot and native of my own Vendean village. There is a peculiar charm about meetings of the sort. A journey of many days has brought you to the unknown land, where, with the help of some imagination, any strange event is possible. After sundry adventures, the curtain rises, and the first face that meets your eye, the first voice you hear, belong to your native place. Names, scenes, and memories rush in upon the mind with a train of unexpected impressions and emotions.
To think I had come all this way to be con-fronted with that special spot of earth to which through all travels and all life's changes we re-main so firmly bound ! Far away in the distant Brazilian mountains, I met a charming Vendean woman, whose tongue had kept that accent of the langue d'oil which belonged to Rabelais. When Sancho, from the height of his waggon, beheld the earth no larger than a grain of millet, his sense of proportion was truer than ours. Only, instead of being so many hazel-nuts upon the millet, as Sancho thought, men are, in reality, merely imperceptible particles in a restricted space, bound to collide at the least movement.
My philosophy did not prevent my feeling great pleasure at meeting M. Flandrin, who is as unpretentious as he is kind, and who is a credit to his native land. We made a tour of inspection of the docks, and the inevitable trip by boat round the harbour. All I can say of the port thus hastily seen and already described in many technical publications is that, in spite of tremendous natural difficulties, it has been satisfactorily accomplished, thanks to the tenacity of the engineers and the admirable method adopted. Moored alongside the quays were a number of English and German cargo-boats (amongst which, I saw but one French, alas!) taking in grain at the rate of 800 tons per hour. The docks were begun in 1902. They were designed to cope with an average tonnage of 2,500,000, and it was at that time believed impossible to attain that figure before some thirty years at least. By 1909, however, it had been reached and passed, and a contract for their enlargement was immediately given to a French firm. Under these conditions, it is easy to understand how a town numbering 23,000 in-habitants in 1869 should, in 1910, contain nearly 200,000. This, also, explains a rivalry that exists between the second city of the Republic and Santa Fé, the historic capital of the province. Rosario complains, with some show of reason,
To give an idea of the capacity of the port: there are 5 kilometres of quays and 81 kilometres of railroad to serve the docks. The large elevator measures 3000 cubic metres. It can handle 50 tons from the Parana and 500 tons from the railway per hour. that the enormous fiscal contribution paid by her to the national exchequer does not procure for her the advantages to which her population entitles her. The deplorable deficiency of schools in Rosario is more especially a subject of loud recrimination. I cannot but think that this claim will be before long admitted. As for the esthetic future of the city, I can say nothing. When I saw it, it was disfigured in every direction by extensive road-making operations, thanks to which there will, in all probability, be open spaces enough, one day, to arouse the admiration of visitors. An excellent and modern hotel seems a good augury for the future. As usual, the welcome I received far exceeded anything I could have expected. But the municipal improvements scheme had occasioned a fever of speculation in land values, and the one subject of conversation was the fabulous fortunes to be realised in this way—so much so, indeed, that I was strongly tempted to spend a few sous on a plot of land which by now or a little later perhaps might be worth a hundred millions.
If Rosario has made a fortune out of the incredible increase of its corn harvests, it must not be supposed that cattle-rearing is neglected in the province of Santa Fé. By a fortunate coincidence, I arrived on the day of the opening of the great annual Cattle Show. The President of the Agricultural Society happens to be one of the most distinguished politicians, not only of the province but of the Republic, and, by his kindness, I was able to glean much in-formation on general topics, and, at the same time, inspect some samples of agricultural pro-duce that would not have been out of place in the first of our European shows. The surrounding provinces, including that of Buenos Aires, had sent up some of their finest specimens of horses and horned cattle. As usual, there was a superabundance of British breeds to be seen; but our Norman horses were well represented, too. To tell the truth, the dual capacity of my guide, who was no less eminent as statesman than as cattle-breeder, caused politics to some-what overshadow agriculture in our talk, and I found out that Senor Lisenadro de la Torre was the leader of a party that is aiming at the overthrow of the Cabinet now in power, whose majority, he informed me, was based on those very administrative abuses that I had already noted. The tendency is to use and even abuse authority to coerce the electors, who are unorganised for the defence of the public interests against private ambitions, " an evil that spreads terror," as may truly be said, and one of which Rosario does not hold a monopoly. On this theme the clear-headed politician, with his concise manner of speech and decided tones, gave me a rapid sketch of the situation by a brief examination of the enemy's country. And I rejoiced to see that abuses common, more or less, in all old countries, and whose remedy lies only in private endeavour, have in this new community of the Argentine provoked the same keen intelligence and determination as others which I noted. Under whatever form of government, the worth of a country lies in its men—that is, in its sum total of disinterested activity. A race that can show the development of intelligence and character that have so struck me in the course of this journey can afford to await with tranquil courage the solutions of the future.
As it is my desire to leave no dark corners unexplored, I must make a reference to the strange hints of revolution that I heard at Rosario and, later, at Tucuman. " A certain military leader would be displeased if full satisfaction were not given him. There was every reason to fear a movement. Dispatches from the Government recommended a careful guard over rifle magazines," etc. I was, however, pretty soon convinced that all these rumours were but the expiring echo of a bygone condition with very little foundation in actual fact.
Here in Rosario we are not far removed from the life of Buenos Aires. To-day the distance from one city to the other (300 kilometres) can be covered in five hours. The last part of the journey, which terminates at Tucuman (1100 kilometres from the capital), gives us the impression of a complete change of country. At daybreak, in full sunshine, the first discovery I made was that we were travelling through a cloud of dust that entirely concealed the landscape. With a kindness for which I can never be sufficiently grateful the President of the Re-public, Senor Figueroa Alcorta, had lent me his own coach for the journey. I slept in an excellent bed, with windows carefully closed and blinds drawn. But the Argentine dust knows no obstacles. For this reason the prophecy in the Book that we shall all return to dust seems to me already fulfilled. My beautiful bedroom, my luxurious dressing room, with its welcome douche, my clothes, my luggage, and my person, all were wrapped in a thick veil of fine red dust, ugly in appearance and dangerous to respiration. Yes, while I was sleeping in all confidence, the imperious dust had taken possession of train, passengers, and all that was visible to their dust-filled eyes. The stations : merely a stack of red dust; man : a vermilion-coloured walking pillar; the horseman, or vehicle: a whirl-wind of dust. Horror ! to my wrath a beautiful white shirt was discovered blushing rosy as a young girl surprised. I washed with red soap and dried with red towels my carmine-coloured face. Here is the explanation of the complexion of the Indian !
Tucuman is in sight—Tucuman, the land of Cacombo, the faithful servant of Candide. None can have forgotten that the Governor of Buenos Aires, moved by the beauty of the lovely Cunégonde, was on the point of despatching Candide when he was saved by Cacombo. But what follows marks the difference between Candide's times and our own, for Candide and Cacombo in their flight paused in " a beautiful meadow traversed by streams of water," where befell the double adventure of the monkeys and the mumps, whereas for us meadow, rivulets, monkeys, and mumps all resolve themselves into universal dust. I strain my eyes to discern some features of the country : a dismantled forest is dying in the dust; some lean cattle are grazing, on clay apparently; enormous cactuses, like trees; flocks of small white birds with pink beaks, known as " widows " (vimdas) ; and, from time to time, the beauty of a flight of cackling parrots, making in the sunlight flashes of emerald in the dusty air.
The Marseillaise! the Tricolor! the Governor, the French colony! —this is Tucuman's reception of me. Handshakes, salutes, welcoming words with affectionate references to the distant father-land. An admirable official motor-car, but execrable roads where the best of pneus finds so many obstacles to jump that it becomes quite dizzy, as is shown by its continued stagger.
The first impression given by Tucuman after the jolting and shaking of the road is that of a colonial land. Everywhere the " half-house," hastily put up, but rendered charming by its patio, and comfortable by the disposition of its rooms to take advantage of the shade. The Indian half-caste is king in Tucuman, " the Garden of the Republic," whose women, they say, are more beautiful than flowers. Everywhere, in fact, one sees bronzed faces in which two impassive black eyes shine with the brilliance of the diamond. A long, lingering glance which says, I know not what, but something that is totally un-European. Simplicity, dignity, with few words, slow gestures, an imposing harmony of bearing. I know not whether one day the dominant race will succeed in modifying or effacing the native traits. At present, nothing seems to touch the indelible imprint of American blood. A few of the women are very handsome.
The French colony in Tucuman is larger than I thought. I shall see it when I return from Santa Ana, where I am going to visit M. Hilleret's manor. As we pass, I notice broad avenues well laid out: the Place de l'Indépendance, on which there stands the statue of General Belgrano, in remembrance of the battle of Tucuman (1812), and the new palace of the Governor, which is impressive. From sixty to eighty thousand inhabitants. The town very commercial. The country broken, with high mountains. Fertile plain suitable for growing sugar-cane, tobacco, oranges, and the most beautiful flowers. Large and noble forests that are being ruthlessly devastated to supply fuel for factory furnaces. Uninterrupted cane-raising all the way to Santa Ana, where M. Hilleret, who came to the Argentine as a labourer on the railway, set up a sugar factory, thanks to which—and to Protection—he was able, at his death, to leave a fortune of a hundred millions. We were magnificently received in a hospitable mansion that betrayed the taste of a Parisian architect. A park and garden bearing traces of a recent attack from locusts. Specially beautiful were the tufts of bamboo, and the false cotton plants with their big balls of white down, amid which a tiny grey dove cooed softly like a wailing child.
What can I say of the factory that has not already been said? It is admirably managed. The cane is automatically flung on a slope down which it drops beneath heavy rollers. Two thou-sand workmen are employed, half-castes for the most part—a few are pure Indians; and a small number of French foremen. There is a picturesque scene in the town of a morning, when troops of women, old and young, followed by a procession of children, come to market and fill their wooden or earthenware bowls with provisions, balancing them on their heads; their parti-coloured rags, gaily patched, add a piquant touch to the faces, whose firm lines seem set in bronze, all vitality and expression being concentrated in the dark fire of their eyes. The workmen's quarters are indescribable slums. On both sides of a wide avenue there are rows of tiny low houses from which the most rudimentary notions of hygiene or of comfort are, apparently, carefully banished—dens rather than dwellings, to speak accurately, so destitute are they of furniture. Women and old men sit immovable in the dust, the bombilla between their lips, in an ecstasy of mate. Children moving about an all fours are scarcely distinguish-able from the little pigs which are grubbing in the rubbish-heaps. Ineffable smells issue from boiling cauldrons and stewpans, whilst in the darkness of the doorway the nobly draped figure of the guardian of the hearth stands, speechless and motionless, surveying the scene. According to European ideas, these folk are wretched indeed. Yet the climate renders existence easy and they appear to find quiet pleasure in it. We may be permitted to imagine for them a happier future and higher stage of civilisation, which they will achieve when they draw a larger share of remuneration from the monument of labour their hands have helped to put up. Laws for the protection of labour are unknown in the Argentine, which is explained by the backwardness of industry there. Although life beneath this beautiful sky must undoubtedly offer many conveniences, and although the mill-owners whom I met seemed to me both humanely and generously inclined, factories such as those I visited can scarcely exist much longer without the labour question being brought be-fore the legislators. Members of Parliament with whom I discussed the point appeared favourably disposed, though inclined to defer remedies indefinitely.
The fields of sugar-cane can be visited with-out fatigue by train. We passed teams of six or nine mules—up to their knees in dust—on their way to the factory with loads of cane grown at a distance from the railway. The drivers, sitting postilion-wise on their leaders, raised their whips with threatening cries that made the lash unnecessary. But who could have imagined that it took so much dust to manufacture sugar ! Out in the fields the peons, armed with the long knife that is always stuck in the back of their belts, cut the cane and with two dexterous turns of the blade divide it into lengths for the presses, leaving the foliage and part of the stalk for the cattle. At the wayside station there were five or six dilapidated cabins, in which the numerous progeny of the cane-cutters seemed to be thriving. In appearance they formed a temporary encampment, nothing more. The huts are made out of odds and ends picked up at haphazard, and follow a simple principle of architecture which requires a space of some twenty or thirty centimetres between the floor and the palisade—for it can scarcely be called a wall—to insure a circulation of air. Thus, one could, at a pinch, sleep in the place without arousing the smallest envy in the four-footed beasts that are happily slumbering under the starry heavens. Children, pigs, and donkeys live together in friendly promiscuity. Women, bearing in their arms their latest-born, appear on their threshold dumbfounded, apparently, at the sight of strangers. In my own language, I ask one of them for permission to glance at the interior of her hut. She stands aside, and I look in, not venturing more than a single step. The only attempt at furniture is planks laid across trestles, with rags of clothing (incredibly dirty) doing duty for mattress or blanket. A movable stove adapted to open-air cooking, and four stakes in the earth, on which are laid bits of anything that comes handy, with tree trunks for seats—this constitutes a rough-and-ready dining-room. Scattered about on the ground are different utensils for the use of man and beast. Then a commotion. A naked baby, who is sucking a sugar-cane, suddenly sees its treasure carried off by a lively little black pig. A fight and loud screams. Biped and quadruped come to blows, and the effect of excitement on the dormant functions of infant life is such that it is the child who succeeds in worsting the pig. The latter noisily protests. Then, there being no such thing as Justice on earth, it is the child who is carried off and set on the heap of rags whose odorous dampness will at nightfall soothe its sleep.
M. Edmond Hilleret, the eldest son of the founder of the factory of Santa Ana, had invited us to a tapir-hunt. To camp out in the forest for three days did not in the least daunt us, but a member of the Society for the Protection of Animals having urged upon me the shamefulness of letting dogs loose upon so in-offensive a beast, and Providence, with the same intention probably, having smitten our hunterin-chief with appendicitis, followed by an operation, our shooting was directed humbly against the parrots. I speak for my companions; as for my own part, I announced the most pacific intentions towards the birds of the forest.
Peons on horseback and light carts start off in an ocean of dust. The only way is to get in front of the procession and leave to your friends the duty of swallowing your dust. As a lack of altruism on the part of my comrades had inflicted this experience on me as we went, I took care to return the compliment on the way back. The forest, which belongs to the factory, is generally denominated "virgin " for the sake of effect. But my regard for truth compels me to state that it was not even demivierge, for there are herds grazing in the clearings, peons keeping watch, and woodcutters and colonists unceasingly busy dragging away its veils with a brutality that is never slaked. Such as it is, however, with its inextricable wildnesses, through which only the axe can clear a way, with its tall, flowering groves, its ancient trees covered with a luxuriant parasite growth that flings downwards to earth and upwards to heaven its showers of lovely colour, it is marvellously beautiful. The wonder of it is this haze of parasites, so varied in species, in colour, and in growth, with their invincible determination to live at all costs, which wrap the giant tree from root to highest twig in a monstrous profusion of new forms of life. The dead branch on which we trample has preserved, even in decomposition, the frail yet tenacious creeper whose blossoms had crowned it high aloft. The tree is no longer a tree : it is a Laocoön twisted in a fury of rage beneath the onslaught of an ocean of lives whose torrents recognise no barriers. Whichever way one looks, hairy monsters are agonising in despairing contortions, victims of a drama of dumb violence; and the spectacle conveys a keen realisation of the eternal struggle for life that is going on all around us, from the summits of these verdant heights to the subterranean depths whence issues this living force. And, as episodes in the universal tragedy, the brilliant colouring of lovely birds lights up the gloomy enchantment of the silent tumult of anguished lives whose effort after mastery can only end in death. Having not yet learnt to know man's baseness, the royal magpies of Paraguay, with their startling plumage, pause on the branches close beside our path to gaze on us in, perhaps, the same astonishment as we on them. But already in the great clearing shots resound, betokening the salute of the first arrivals to the denizens of the forest. Now, my parrot friends, make for the fields as fast as you can, out of reach of the horde of enemies !
But it is precisely these clearings that the parrot loves, for here he, like us, can satisfy his appetite. When his tribe descends upon an orchard, good-bye to the fruit harvest. We were in a vast clearing, inhabited by a small colony of farmers, whose huts are built along a rivulet on the slope of a meadow. Here are fields of maize covered with dead stalks. The cattle wander freely where they will. In an orchard stands an orange-tree, the tallest I have seen, full of golden balls. Hard by a well, on a wooden post, there sits a green parrot, with red poll, his plumage ruffled, his eye full of contempt for the human race. Attracted by the noise, two women come out from a dark hut. Gossips probably, though what they can find to talk about in such a spot it would be hard to guess. One of them attracts attention by the beauty of her form, the nobility of her pose, and the warm, coppery tint of her face. She is a Creole equally removed from the two races. Her thick hair, intensely black, falls in a plait upon her shoulders. Instinctively she has twisted pink ribbon—found, probably, in a box of biscuits—in her hair, where it makes a line of light in the night of her tresses. Erect in the simplicity of the semi-savage, without a word, without the least acknowledgment of our presence, and without a trace of embarrassment or affectation, she stands looking at us, desiring, apparently, no better occupation. Her features are regular and delicate, according to the canons of European aesthetics. Two or three pock-marks make a startling patch. All the soul of the native race is visible in the dark light of her eyes, heavy with feelings that belong to an epoch too primitive to be comprehended, even dimly, by our aged and vulgar civilisation. That surprising pink ribbon and the shyness—like remorse for some unknown crime—expressed through the ingenuous and compelling eyes, are probably the secret of her charm. Whatever it springs from, the effect is the same. Whether girl or woman it would be hard to tell. This uncertainty often gives its brilliance to feminine power.
I tear myself from contemplation of the lady and wander into the forest in the wake of the chattering birds, carrying with me, by way of viaticum, an orange whose freshness and per-fume have left me a souvenir no less delicious than that of the charm of the young beauty. I was slowly returning to the glaring sunshine of the clearing, absorbed in admiration of a flight of bright-plumaged parrots, when a vexatious gunshot brought me back to the realities of our sinful race. One of our party had concealed himself among the brushwood at the foot of the tree in which the birds were holding their parliament. The danger of the institution was instantly apparent, for five birds fell to the murderous lead. I still hold with parliaments, however, and with parrots which debate in the branches. I know not what they find to talk about, but, judged by the criterion of noise adopted at home, it must be of great importance. When we teach them to speak our Ianguage, I am aware they utter the words but attach no meaning to them. I have known humans to do the same without the birds' excuse. Moreover, a very remarkable trait in the parrot's character is that he is altruistic in the last degree, and will face any danger to assist a friend in distress by voice and gesture. When one is wounded, the rest, who have at first flown off in alarm, return with loud cries to the scene, abusing the sportsman and calling on deaf gods for justice. If further volleys make fresh victims, the flock will not give up its work of pity, thus exposing themselves to further slaughter.
All this is to explain how it was that, on my return to the place I started from, I saw on the ground a beautiful green parrot with a crimson head, lying now in the stillness of death, while two or three of his friends limped and fluttered round him, hurling maledictions at the human race. I fear they all figured later on the supper-table of the colony. The young woman with the pink ribbon, for whom the scene probably offered nothing new, stood and gazed at us as if we were the curiosity of the moment. One of the wounded birds had climbed a stump be-side her, and, without any preliminaries, had nestled up against her like a child. The woman took no notice. Her questioning eyes seemed to be seeking forms in which to clothe her thoughts, but her tongue could give no assistance. I, too, would have liked to speak to her, to learn some-thing of her story, of her notions about the world, and the ideas that influenced her actions. But I knew of no signs in which to clothe such questions, and not a word of either Spanish or Guarani (the name of a small tribe now applied to the relics of their language, which is that of the natives). With a rhythmic walk she re-turned to her hut, emerging once more to join our circle, with a tiny grey parrot perched on her shoulder, by way, perhaps, of a conversational opening. The bird, fluttering its wings, stepped down as far as her fingers, which were slim and coloured as though with henna, and I ventured to tease him. The long, red hand came slowly forward, accompanying the movements of the bird, without a shadow of a smile on her impassive face; and so, the time for our departure having come, we parted for ever with all our questions unasked.
On the following day we drove to the Salto, another clearing in the forest, enlivened by a waterfall. We fired at some hawks that we took for eagles. Large blue birds flew mocking above our heads, and our hunters ended by shooting at imaginary fish. They thought a walk in the forest absurd, so whilst I and two comrades ventured a little way, they chose the most natural occupation in the world for men who have come from the ends of the earth to see an almost virgin forest, and made up a game of poker. Oh, the joys of modern travelling, undreamed of by the early explorers!
Meantime, I wandered straight before me through the woods, at the risk of losing my way. Once I thought I was going to know the pleasures, which are not unmixed, of being hopelessly lost. Already I saw myself reduced to the necessity of hunting for an ornero's nest, the opening of which is always in the north side; but one of the party pointed out a line of bluish-grey lichen on every tree-trunk, which indicated clearly, without the help of the birds, from which direction blows the north—naturally the warm wind. Finally, by way of putting a finishing touch to my education, he assumed that I was thirsty, and leading me to a creeper growing parasitically on a large branch at the height of a man above the ground, he dexterously inserted his knife into the joint of the leaves, and there burst forth a jet of water slightly aromatic in taste, like the fine juice of some grass. The traveller's sherbet! A few minutes later we came upon a peon mounted on his mule, who, more surely than either bird or lichen, set us on the right path.
The first sugar factory founded by M. Hilleret was at Lulès. There we found a fine forest, wilder still than that of Santa Ana, with gorgeous great trees bearing bouquets of flowers, some white, some pale violet, and some pink. Fine gardens, and a park where, under the management of a French gardener, every fruit-tree of the subtropical zone may be found, from the banana and coffee-plant to the mango and chirimaya, beside a thousand other strangely named growths better calculated to surprise the eyes than charm the palate. Of an evening there was dancing in the garden. Though national in character, dancing here is much what it is elsewhere, since there is but one way to move the arms and legs. The most striking part of the picture was the attitude of the dancers when resting. In our countries these assemblies of young people would have been the excuse for jokes and laughter, often, probably, carried to a riotous excess. Here the immovable gravity of the native does not lend itself to merriment. Young men and young women exchange, now and then, a few words uttered in a low voice with the utmost composure. On the invitation of her partner, the young girl rises in exactly the same way that she would move to perform some household duty, and goes through the rites of the dance with its rhythmic measures without the vestige of a smile or a ripple of gaiety on her expressionless face. It is not, however, for lack of enjoyment, for no opportunity is missed of dancing, and the balls are prolonged indefinitely into the night. We must only see in this deportment a conception of dignity and of conduct that is not our own.
On my return to Tucuman a great reception was given by the French colony in my honour. I went to call—as, indeed, it behoved me—at the House of Independence, more modest but no less glorious than that of Philadelphia. It was here that the first national Congress was held, and here that the Oath of Independence was taken (July 9, 1816). In order to preserve the humble house, now an object of public veneration, it has been built into a large edifice, which will preserve it from decay in the future. There is no decoration—some commemorative tablets only—but it is enough. When the heart responds readily to the call of duty, an unobtrusive reminder is all that is necessary.
I was infinitely touched by the grandiose reception given me by the French colony. In a fine theatre, which is their own property, the Frenchmen of Tucuman extended the warmest of welcomes to their fellow-countryman. I found a surprise in store for me. It was arranged that I should lay the foundation-stone of the new French school of Tucuman, and, if I am to believe the inscription on the silver trowel that remains in my possession, given me for the purpose of spreading the cement, the school will bear the name of him who was thus its first mason. This honour, which is wholly unmerited, sprang, of course, from the natural longing to attach themselves in any way to France. Not a word was spoken that was not an invocation of our country, of its fight against ignorance, source of all human woes. There was a numerous and fashionable company present, whose large befeathered hats proved that Tucuman is not so very far from Paris after all. The ceremony was concluded by a pretty march-past of small boys and girls carrying the Argentine and French flags, and singing the national hymn, the Marseillaise. The little people put a world of spirit into their song. One little girl, about two feet high and gaily beribboned, was very determined to vanquish " tyranny." How congratulate her? I tried to express the very sincere pleasure the scene had given me, and remarked that these little Argentine tongues had a slightly Argentine accent in the Marseillaise.
" That is not surprising," said their proud master. " They do not know a word of French."
Then what about that charming baby's loudly expressed hatred of tyranny? It is true the significance of the hymn lies rather in the music than in its phraseology, now a century old. Children, begin by learning French, and do not wait for the opening of the school whose first stone I have just laid. All things shall be added unto you.