On the Banks of the Amazon

On the Banks of the Amazon

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English
112 Pages
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Published 01 December 2010
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Language English
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t, running along the Isthmus of Panama, through Mexico at a less elevation, again to rise in the almost unbroken range of the Rocky Mountains, not to sink till it reaches the snow-covered plains of the Arctic region. But I am becoming too scientific and geographical; and I must confess that it was not till many years after the time of which I am speaking that I knew anything about the matter. My father, Don Martin Fiel, had been for some years settled in Quito as a merchant. His mother was Spanish, or partly so, born in Peru—I believe that she had some of the blood of the Incas in her veins, a matter of which she was not a little proud, I have been told—but his father was an Englishman, and our proper family name was Faithful. My father, having lived for many years in the Spanish South American provinces, had obtained the rights and privileges of a Spaniard. He had, however, been sent over to England for his education, and was a thorough Englishman at heart. He had made during his younger days several visits to England for mercantile purposes, and during one of them had married my mother. He was, though really a Protestant—I am sorry to have to make the confession—nominally a Roman Catholic; for he, being a Spanish subject, could not otherwise at that time have resided in any part of the territories of Spain and carried on his business with freedom: but I feel now that no person has a right to conceal their true faith, and to pretend to believe what is false, for the sake of any worldly advantage. My mother, however, had stipulated that all her children should be brought up as Protestants. To this he had agreed, though he found when he had sons that he was in consequence subjected to considerable annoyance from the priests, who threatened to denounce him as a heretic. To avoid this, he had to send his children to England at an early age for their education; indeed, had we remained at Quito we could only have obtained a very poor one at any public school or college. It will be understood from what I have said, that though we were really English, and I have always felt like an Englishman, we had both Spanish and native connections, which will account for some of the circumstances which afterwards occurred to us. My father, though he himself resided at Quito, had also a house of business at Guayaquil, which imported European manufactured goods, and exported in return Peruvian bark and other articles, of which I shall by-and-by have to speak. He was greatly respected by his fellow-citizens, although they might have been somewhat jealous of him for succeeding in his business through his energy and perseverance, while they themselves, sitting idle all the day smoking their cigarettes without attempting to exert their minds, were left behind. My dear mother lived very much alone, for the society of the ladies of Quito, though they are very charming in manner, afforded her but little satisfaction, from their utter want of education. I remember the joy which the arrival of my eldest sister, Fanny—or Doña Francisca, as the Spaniards called her—who had gone to school in England, and Aunt Martha, who brought her back, caused in the family. I had another sister, Ellen, much younger; a sweet, dear little girl, of whom I was very fond. She was indeed the pet of the family. My elder brother, John, was at school in England. I remember thinking Aunt Martha, who was my mother’s elder sister, very stiff and formal; and I was not at all pleased when she expressed her intention of teaching me and keeping me in order. My mother’s health had been delicate, and I had been left very much to the care of old Domingos, a negro servant of my father’s, who had been with him since his boyhood, and with my grandfather before him. He was the butler, or major-domo, the head over all the other servants, and, I believe, deservedly trusted. Among them I remember best little Maria, a young negro slave girl who attended especially on Ellen; and Antonio, a Gallego from the north of Spain, a worthy, honest fellow, who had been in the family from his boyhood, and was much attached to us all. I soon learned to like Aunt Martha better than I had expected, for though I thought her looks very terrible at first—and she was certainly firm—she was really kind and gentle. Under her instruction I gained the first knowledge of the letters of the alphabet, of which I was before profoundly ignorant. Of course she was very gentle with Ellen, as everybody was, and Fanny seemed to be very fond of her. She was courageous, too, as I before long had evidence. I remember one night being suddenly lifted in her arms, and carried out by her into the patio of courtyard. There was a strange rumbling noise underneath our feet, and I could see the stout walls of our house rocking to and fro; and yet, though the earth was tumbling about, she did not tremble in the least, but I heard her telling the servants not to shriek out or to pray to the saints, who could not help them, but to put their trust in God, who made the world, and who would save them from danger if it was his good will. It was a very fearful night, however, and though I believe the earthquake did not last long, it tumbled down, during the few minutes of its duration, a number of buildings, and many of the inhabitants were buried beneath the ruins. Our house, however, which was on the outskirts of the city, and had no upper story, although some of the walls were cracked, escaped without further injury; and before morning we were in our beds again, and I, for my part, was sleeping soundly. A short time after this I found that some great event was about to take place, and I saw trunks being packed; and my mother, who had been ill for some time, was very busy, and looked, I often thought, somewhat sad; and then I heard that she and Ellen and I were going to England, to be accompanied by Domingos and Maria, and that we were to remain there some time, and that I was to go to school, and then, if my father did not join us, that John and Ellen and I were to come