CHAPTER VII. MORE ABOUT THE ARGENTINE REPUBLIC.
The twilight is sad and cloudy,
The wind blows wild and free,
And like the wings of sea-birds
Flash the white caps of the sea.
Friday, September 22nd. - Mr. Fisher called for me at 8 a.m., to drive me in his little carriage to the railway yard and workshops, and then to pay some farewell visits. We also went to see the market, and to get some photographs of Rosario; after which, breakfast, packing-up, and paying the bill occupied our time until one o'clock, when we started for the steamer, to return to Buenos Ayres. On our arrival alongside the 'Proveedor,' I found that nearly all our Rosario friends had come down to the landing-place to see us off, and had brought all manner of remembrances for me and the children. Flowers in profusion; a tame cardinal bird for Muriel; a pair of dear little long-tailed green paroquets; the skin of a seal, shot at the Alexandria colony; a beautiful poncho; an Argentine bit, whip, and stirrups; a carpincha skin; two pretty little muletas - a sort of armadillo, very tame, and often kept in the houses here as a pet; and several other presents, all of which, when I look at them at home, will serve to remind me of the kind donors, and of the happy days spent in the Argentine Republic.
It was not long before we were off, and steaming slowly astern of the 'Uruguay.' This boat is not so large nor so fast as the 'Uruguay,' though the difference in speed does not probably amount to more than fifteen minutes in the twenty-four hours. Her saloon and deck are not so good, but her sleeping-cabins are much larger and more comfortable. The Italian captains are equally agreeable on both steamers, the civility is the same, and the fares and food are precisely similar, so that there is not much left to influence one in the choice of vessels. We had a pleasant party at an excellent dinner in the evening, the captain only regretting that we had not been on board two days ago, when Mlle. P. and the opera company went down from Rosario to Buenos Ayres. They had a very cheery evening, and some good music, which Tom told us afterwards he thoroughly enjoyed. There were no musicians on board to-night, and not any temptation to sit up late, which was perhaps as well; one of the reasons for our going back this way being that we wished to have an opportunity of seeing the River Tigre, which we should reach in the early morning. On the upward journey we had, to save time, embarked at Campana, which is situated above that river.
Saturday, September 23rd. - At 4.30 a.m. the captain called me, being anxious that I should not miss any of the beauties of the Tigre. On my arrival on deck he kindly had a chair placed for me right in the bows, provided me with rugs and wraps, and sent for some hot coffee, which was particularly acceptable, as the morning air was fresh and chilly. The sky was flushed with rosy clouds, the forerunners of one of the most beautiful sunrises imaginable. The river itself is narrow and monotonous, the branches of the willow-tree on either bank almost sweeping the sides of the steamer. The centre channel is fairly deep; but we managed to run aground once, though we only drew nine feet, and in turning a sharp corner it was necessary to send a boat ashore with a rope, to pull the vessel's head round.
At half-past six we reached the port of Tigre, where we found many fine ships waiting for the tide, to go up the river. Some delay occurred while the passengers' luggage was being examined; but in about half an hour we were able to land and walk to the railway-station, through an avenue of shady trees, round the trunks of which the wistaria, now in full bloom, was climbing, and past several houses, whose pretty gardens were ablaze with all sorts of flowers. At the station I found a letter from Tom, telling me we were expected to breakfast at a quinta, not far from Buenos Ayres.
For about an hour and a half the line ran through a rich and fertile country, quite the garden of Buenos Ayres, until we arrived at the station where we were to alight. Here Mr. Coghlan met us and drove us to his house, which is charmingly situated in the midst of a grove of olive-trees, formerly surrounding the palace of the viceroys. After breakfast the gardener cut us a fine bouquet of roses and violets, and we walked to the tramway, and were conveyed by one of the cars, smoothly and quickly, to the city. The contrast between this mode of travelling and riding in an ordinary carriage through the ill-paved streets is very striking. It is really less fatiguing to walk than to adopt the latter mode of conveyance, and I believe that, but for the look of the thing, most people would prefer to do so. How the vehicles themselves stand the jolting I cannot imagine, for they are all large and handsome, and must suffer tremendous strains.