The different centres of trade and commerce in the Argentine can easily be reached by train or river steamer. Rosario, with its 140,000 inhabitants, in the north; Bahia Blanca, where there is the largest wheat elevator in the world, in the south, and Mendoza, at the foot of the Andes, several times destroyed by earthquake, five hundred miles west - all these are more or less like the capital.

To arrive at an isolated village of the interior the traveller must be content to ride, as I did, on horseback, or be willing to jolt along for weeks in a wagon without springs. These carts are drawn by eight, ten, or more bullocks, as the weight warrants, and are provided with two very strong wheels, without tires, and often standing eight and ten feet high. The patient animals, by means of a yoke fastened to their horns with raw-hide, draw these carts through long prairie grass or sinking morass, through swollen rivers or oozing mud, over which malaria hangs in visible forms.

The voyager must be prepared to suffer a little hunger and thirst on the way. He must sleep amongst the baggage in the cart, or on the broader bed of the ground, where snakes and tarantulas creep and the heavy dew saturates one through and through.

As is well known, the bullock is a slow animal, and these never travel more than two or three miles an hour.

Time with the native is no object. The words, "With patience we win heaven," are ever on his lips.

The Argentine countryman is decidedly lazy.

Darwin relates that he asked two men the question: "Why don't you work?" One said: "The days are too long!" Another answered: "I am too poor."

With these people nothing can succeed unless it is begun when the moon is on the increase. The result is that little is accomplished.

You cannot make the driver understand your haste, and the bullocks understand and care still less.

The mosquitoes do their best to eat you up alive, unless your body has already had all the blood sucked out of it, a humiliating, painful and disfiguring process. You must carry with you sufficient food for the journey, or it may happen that, like me, you are only able to shoot a small ring dove, and with its entrails fish out of the muddy stream a monster turtle for the evening meal.

If, on the other hand, you pass a solitary house, they will with pleasure give you a sheep. If you killed one without permission your punishment would perhaps be greater than if you had killed a man.

If a bullock becomes ill on the road, the driver will, with his knife, cut all around the sod where the animal has left its footprint. Lifting this out, he will cut a cross on it and replace it the other side uppermost. This cure is most implicitly believed in and practised.

The making of the cross is supposed to do great wonders, which your guide is never tired of recounting while he drinks his mate in the unbroken stillness of the evening. Alas! the many bleaching bones on the road testify that this, and a hundred other such remedies, are not always effectual, but the mind of the native is so full of superstitious faith that the testimony of his own eyes will not convince him of the absurdity of his belief. As he stoops over the fire you will notice on his breast some trinket or relic - anything will do if blessed by the priest - and that, he assures you, will save him from every unknown and unseen danger in his land voyage. The priest has said it, and he rests satisfied that no lightning stroke will fell him, no lurking panther pounce upon him, nor will he die of thirst or any other evil. I have remarked men of the most cruel, cutthroat description wearing these treasures with zealous care, especially one, of whom it was said that he had killed two wives.

When your driver is young and amorously inclined you will notice that he never starts for the regions beyond without first providing himself with an owl's skin. This tied on his breast, he tells you, will ensure him favor in the eyes of the females he may meet on the road, and on arrival at his destination.

I once witnessed what at first sight appeared to be a heavy fall of snow coming up with the wind from the south. Strange to relate, this phenomenon turned out to be millions of white butterflies of large size. Some of these, when measured, I found to be four and five inches across the wings. Darwin relates his having, in 1832, seen the same sight, when his men exclaimed that it was "snowing butterflies."

The inhabitants of these trackless wilds are very, very few, but in all directions I saw numbers of ostriches, which run at the least sign of man, their enemy. The fastest horse could not outstrip this bird as with wings outstretched he speeds before the hunter. As Job, perhaps the oldest historian of the world, truly says: "What time she lifteth herself up on high, she scorneth the horse and his rider." The male bird joins his spouse in hatching the eggs, sitting on them perhaps longer turns than the female, but the weather is so hot that little brooding is required. I have had them on the shelf of my cupboard for a week, when the little ones have forced their way out Forty days is the time of incubation, so, naturally, those must have been already sat on for thirty-three days. With open wings these giant birds often manage to cover from twenty-five to forty-five eggs, although, I think, they seldom bring out more than twenty. The rest they roll out of the nest, where, soon rotting, they breed innumerable insects, and provide tender food for the coming young. The latter, on arrival, are always reared by the male ostrich, who, not being a model husband, ignominiously drives away the partner of his joys. It might seem that he has some reason for doing this, for the old historian before referred to says: "She is hardened against her young ones as though they were not hers."

As the longest road leads somewhere, the glare of the whitewashed church at last meets your longing gaze on the far horizon. The village churches are always whitewashed, and an old man is frequently employed to strike the hours on the tower bell by guess.

I was much struck by the sameness of the many different interior towns and villages I visited. Each wore the same aspect of indolent repose, and each was built in exact imitation of the other. Each town possesses its plaza, where palms and other semi-tropical plants wave their leaves and send out their perfume.

From the principal city to the meanest village, the streets all bear the same names. In every town you may find a Holy Faith street, a St. John street and a Holy Ghost street, and these streets are shaded by orange, lemon, pomegranate, fig and other trees, the fruit of which is free to all who choose to gather. All streets are in all parts in a most disgraceful condition, and at night beneath the heavy foliage of the trees Egyptian darkness reigns. Except in daylight, it is difficult to walk those wretched roads, where a goat often finds progress a difficulty. Rotten fruit, branches of trees, ashes, etc., all go on the streets. A hole is often bridged over by a putrefying animal, over which run half-naked urchins, pelting each other with oranges or lemons - common as stones. When the highways are left in such a state, is it to be wondered at that, while standing on my own door-step, I have been able to count eleven houses where smallpox was doing its deadly work, all within a radius of one hundred yards?

Even in the city of La Plata, the second of importance in Argentina, I once had the misfortune to fall into an open drain while passing down one of the principal streets. The night was intensely dark, and yet there was no light left there to warn either pedestrian or vehicle-driver, and this sewer was seven feet deep.

Simple rusticity and ignorance are the chief characteristics of the country people. They used to follow and stare at me as though I were a visitor from Mars or some other planet. When I spoke to them in their language they were delighted, and respectfully hung on my words with bared heads. When, however, I told them of electric cars and underground railways, they turned away in incredulity, thinking that such marvels as these could not possibly be.

Old World towns they seem to be. The houses are built of sun-baked mud bricks, kneaded by mares that splash and trample through the oozy substance for hours to mix it well. The poorer people build ranches of long, slender canes or Indian cornstalks tied together by grass and coated with mud. These are all erected around and about the most imposing edifice in the place - the whitewashed adobe church.

All houses are hollow squares. The patio, with its well, is inside this enclosure. Each house is lime-washed in various colors, and all are flat-roofed and provided with grated windows, giving them a prison-like appearance. The window-panes are sometimes made of mica. Over the front doors of some of the better houses are pictures of the Virgin. The nurse's house is designated by having over the doorway a signboard, on which is painted a full-blooming rose, out of the petals of which is peeping a little babe.

If you wish to enter a house, you do not knock at the door (an act that would be considered great rudeness), but clap your hands, and you are most courteously invited to enter. The good woman at once sets to work to serve you with mate, and quickly rolls a cigar, which she hands to you from her mouth, where she has already lighted it by a live ember of charcoal taken from the fire with a spoon. Matches can be bought, but they cost about ten cents a hundred. If you tell the housewife you do not smoke she will stare at you in gaping wonder. Their children use the weed, and I have seen a mother urge her three-year-old boy to whiff at a cigarette.

Bound each dwelling is a ramada, where grapes in their season hang in luxuriant clusters; and each has its own garden, where palms, peaches, figs, oranges, limes, sweet potatoes, tobacco, nuts, garlic, etc., grow luxuriantly. The garden is surrounded by a hedge of cacti or other kindred plants. The prickly pear tree of that family is one of the strangest I have seen. On the leaves, which are an inch or more in thickness, grows the fruit, and I have counted as many as thirteen pears growing on a single leaf. When ripe they are a deep red color, and very sweet to the taste. The skin is thick, and covered with innumerable minute prickles. It is, I believe, a most refreshing and healthful food.

Meat is very cheap. A fine leg of mutton may be bought for the equivalent of twelve cents, and good beef at four cents a pound. Their favorite wine, Lagrimas de San Juan (Tears of Holy John), can be bought for ten cents a quart.

All cooking is done on braziers - a species of three-legged iron bucket in which the charcoal fire is kindled. On this the little kettle, filled from the well in the patio, is boiled for the inevitable mate. About this herb I picked up, from various sources, some interesting information. The mate plant grows chiefly In Paraguay, and is sent down the river in bags made of hides. From the village of Tacurti Pucu in that country comes a strange account of the origin of the yerba mate plant, which runs thus: "God, accompanied by St. John and St. Peter, came down to the earth and commenced to journey. One day, after most difficult travel, they arrived at the house of an old man, father to a virgin young and beautiful. The old man cared so much for this girl, and was so anxious to keep her ever pure and innocent, that they had gone to live in the depths of a forest. The man was very, very poor, but willingly gave his heavenly visitors the best he could, killing in their honor the only hen he possessed, which served for supper. Noting this action, God asked St. Peter and St. John, when they were alone, what they would do if they were Him. They both answered Him that they would largely reward such an unselfish host. Bringing him to their presence, God addressed him in these words: 'Thou who art poor hast been generous, and I will reward thee for it. Thou hast a daughter who is pure and innocent, and whom thou greatly lovest. I will make her immortal, and she shall never disappear from earth.' Then God transformed her into the plant of the yerba mate. Since then the herb exists, and although it is cut down it springs up again." Other stories run that the maiden still lives; for God, instead of turning her into the mate plant, made her mistress of it, and she lives to help all those who make a compact with her, Many men during "Holy week," if near a town, visit the churches of Paraguay and formally promise to dedicate themselves to her worship, to live in the woods and have no other woman. After this vow they go to the forest, taking a paper on which the priest has written their name. This they pin with a thorn on the mate plant, and leave it for her to read. Thus she secures her devotees.

Roman Catholicism is not "Semper Idem," but adapts itself to its surroundings.

Mate is drunk by all, from the babe to the centenarian; by the rich cattle-owner, who drinks it from a chased silver cup through a golden bombilla, to his servant, who is content with a small gourd, which everywhere grows wild, and a tin tube. Tea, as we know it, is only to be bought at the chemist's as a remedy for nerves. In other countries it is said to be bad for nerves.

Each house possesses its private altar, where the saints are kept. That sacred spot is veiled off when possible - if only by hanging in front of it a cow's hide - from the rest of the dwelling. It consists, according to the wealth or piety of the housewife, in expensive crosses, beads, and pictures of saints decked out with costly care; or, it may be, but one soiled lithograph surrounded by paper flowers or cheap baubles of the poorer classes; but all are alike sacred. Everything of value or beauty is collected and put as an offering to these deities - pieces of colored paper, birds' eggs, a rosy tomato or pomegranate, or any colored picture or bright tin. Descending from the ridiculous to the gruesome, I have known a mother scrape and clean the bones of her dead daughter in order that they might be given a place on the altar. Round this venerated spot the goodwife, with her palm-leaf broom, sweeps with assiduous care, and afterwards carefully dusts her crucifix and other devotional objects with her brush of ostrich feathers. Here she kneels in prayer to the different saints. God Himself is never invoked. Saint Anthony interests himself in finding her lost ring, and Saint Roque is a wonderful physician in case of sickness. If she be a maiden Saint Carmen will find her a suitable husband; if a widow, Saint John will be a husband to her; and if an orphan, the sacred heart of the Virgin of Carmen gives balsam to the forlorn one. Saint Joseph protects the artisan, and if a candle is burnt in front of Saint Ramon, he will most obligingly turn away the tempest or the lightning stroke. In all cases one candle at least must be promised these mysterious benefactors, and rash indeed would be the man or woman who failed to burn the candle; some most terrible vengeance would surely overtake him or his family.

God, as I have said, is never invoked. Perhaps He is supposed to sit in solitary grandeur while the saints administer His affairs? These latter are innumerable, and whatever may be their position in the minds of Romanists in other lands, in South America they are distinct and separate gods, and their graven image, picture or carving is worshipped as such.

When religious questions have not arisen, life in those remote villages has passed very pleasantly. The people live in great simplicity, knowing scarcely anything of the outside world and its progress.

At the Feast of St. John the women take sheep and lambs, gaily decorated with colored ribbons, to church with them. That is an act of worship, for the priest puts his hand on each lamb and blesses it. Avelorio for the dead, or a dance at a child's death, are generally the only meetings beside the church; but, as the poet says:

    "'Tis known, at least it should be, that throughout 
     All countries of the Catholic persuasion, 
    Some weeks before Shrove Tuiesiday comes about, 
     The people take their fill of recreation, 
    And buy repentance ere they grow devout, 
     However high their rank or low their station, 
    With fiddlling, feasting, dancing, drinking, masking, 
    And other things which may be had for asking."

Carnival is a joyous time, and if for only once in the year the quiet town then resounds with mirth. Pails of water are carried up to the flat roofs of the houses, and each unwary pedestrian is in turn deluged. At other times flour is substituted, and on the last day of the feast ashes are thrown on all sides. At other seasons of the year the streets are quiet, and after the rural pursuits of the day are over, the guitar is brought out, and the evening breeze wafts waves of music to each listening ear. The guitar is in all South America what the bag-pipes are to Scotland-the national musical instrument of the people. The Criollo plays mostly plaintive, broken airs - now so low as to be almost inaudible, then high and shrill. Here and there he accompanies the music with snatches of song, telling of an exploit or describing the dark eyes of some lovely maiden. The airs strike one as being very strange, and decidedly unlike the rolling songs of British music.

In those interior towns a very quiet life may be passed, far away from the whistle of the railway engine. Everything is simplicity itself, and it might almost be said of some that time itself seems at a standstill. During the heat of the day the streets are entirely deserted; shops are closed, and all the world is asleep, for that is the siesta time. "They eat their dinners and go to sleep - and could they do better?"

After this the barber draws his chair out to the causeway and shaves or cuts his customer's hair. Women and children sit at their doors drinking mate and watching the slowly drawn bullock-carts go up and down the uneven, unmade roads, bordered, not by the familiar maple, but with huge dust-covered cactus plants, The bullocks all draw with their horns, and the indolent driver sits on the yoke, urging forward his sleepy animals with a poke of his cane, on the end of which he has fastened a sharp nail. The buey is very thick-skinned and would not heed a whip. The wheels of the cart are often cut from a solid piece of wood, and are fastened on with great hardwood pins in a most primitive style. Soon after sunset all retire to their trestle beds.

In early morning the women hurry to mass. The Criollo does not break his fast until nearly mid-day, so they have no early meal to prepare. Even before it is quite light it is difficult to pass along the streets owing to the custom they have of carrying their praying- chairs with them to mass. The rich lady will be followed by her dark- skinned maid bearing a sumptuously upholstered chair on her head. The middle classes carry their own, and the very poor take with them a palm-leaf mat of their own manufacture. When mass is over religion is over for the day. After service they make their way down to the river or pond, carrying on their heads the soiled linen. Standing waist- high in the water, they wash out the stains with black soap of their own manufacture, beating each article with hardwood boards made somewhat like a cricketer's bat. The cloths are then laid on the sand or stones of the shore. The women gossip and smoke until these are dry and ready to carry home again ere the heat becomes too intense.

In a description of Argentine village life, I could not possibly omit the priest, the "all in all" to the native, the temporal and spiritual king, who bears in his hands the destinies of the living and the dead. These men are the potentates of the people, who refer everything to them, from the most trivial matter to the weightier one of the saving of their souls after death. Bigotry and superstition are extreme.

Renous, the naturalist, tells us that he visited one of these towns and left some caterpillars with a girl. These she was to feed until his return, that they might change to butterflies. When this was rumored through the village, priest and governor consulted together and agreed that it must be black heresy. When poor Renous returned some time afterwards he was arrested.

The Argentine village priest is a dangerous enemy to the Protestant. Many is the time he has insulted me to my face, or, more cowardly, charged the school-boys to pelt and annoy me. In the larger towns the priest has defamed me through the press, and when I have answered him also by that means, he has heaped insult upon injury, excluded me from society, and made me a pariah and a byword to the superstitious people. I have been stoned and spat upon, hurled to the ground, had half-wild dogs set on me, and my horse frightened that he might throw me. I have been refused police help, or been called to the office to give an account of myself, all because I was a Protestant, or infidel, as they prefer to term it. At those times great patience was needed, for at the least sign of resistance on my part I should have been attacked by the whole village in one mass. The policeman on the street has looked expectantly on, eager to see me do this, and on one occasion he escorted me to the station for snatching a bottle from the hand of a boy who was in the act of throwing it at my head. Arriving there I was most severely reprimanded, although, fortunately, not imprisoned.

Women have crossed themselves and run from me in terror to seek the holy water bottle blessed by the father. Doors have been shut in my face, and angry voices bade me begone, at the instigation of this black-robed believer in the Virgin. Congregations of worshippers in the dark-aisled church have listened to a fabulous description of my mission and character, until the barber would not cut my hair or the butcher sell me his meat! Many a mother has hurriedly called her children in and precipitately shut the door, that my shadow in passing might not enter and pollute her home. Perhaps a senorita, more venturesome, with her black hair hanging in two long plaits behind each shoulder, has run to her iron-barred window to smile at me, and then penitently fallen before her patron saint imploring forgiveness, or hurried to confess her sin to the wily padre. If the confession was accompanied by a gift, she has been absolved by him; if she were poor, her tear-stained face, perhaps resembling that of the suffering Madonna over the confessional, has moved his heart to tenderness, for well he knows that

     "Maidens, like moths, are ever caught by glare, 
     And Mammon wins his way where seraphs might despair."

The punishment imposed has only been that she repeat fifty or a hundred Ave Marias or Paternosters. Poor deluded creature! Her sin only consisted in permitting her black eyes to gaze on me as I passed down the street.

"These poor creatures often go to confession, not to be forgiven the wretched past, but to get a new license to commit sin. One woman, to whom we offered a tract, refused it, and, showing us an indulgence of three hundred days, said: 'These are the papers I like.'"

A young university man in the capital confessed that he had never read the New Testament and never would read it, because he knew it was against the Church of Rome. The mass of the people have not the slightest notion of goodness, as we count piety, and lying is not considered wrong. A native will often entreat the help of his favorite saint to commit a theft.

"To the Protestant the idea of religion without morals is inconceivable; but in South America Romanism divorces morals and religion. It is quite possible to break every command of the Decalogue and yet be a devoted, faithful Romanist." [Footnote: Rev. J. H. La Fetra, in "Protestant Missions in South America"]

I can only describe Roman Catholicism on the South American continent as a species of heathenism. The Church, to gain proselytes, accepted the old gods of the Indians as saints, and we find idolatrous superstition and Catholic display blended together. The most ignorant are invariably the most pious. The more civilized the Criollo becomes, the less he believes in the Church, and the priest in return condemns him to eternal perdition.

"It is not necessary to detail the multitude of pagan superstitions with which the religion of South America is encumbered. It is enough to point out that it does not preach Christ crucified and risen again. It preaches Mary, whom it proclaims from the lips of thousands of lecherous priests to be of perpetual virginity. And it is by its deliberate falsehood and deceit, as well as by its misrepresentation, that the Roman Catholic Church in South America has not only not taught Christianity, but has directly fostered deception and untruth of character." [Footnote: Missions in South America. Robert E. Speer.]

When I desired respectfully to enter a church with bared head and deferential mien, they have followed me to see that I did not steal the trinkets from the saints or desecrate the altar. If I have touched the font of holy water, instead of it purifying me, I have defiled it for their use; and when I have looked at the images of the saints the people have seen them frown at me. After my exit the priest would sprinkle holy water on the spots where I had stood, to drive away "the evil influence."

In those churches one may see an image, with inscription beneath, stating that those who kiss it receive an indulgence for sin and a promise of heaven. When preaching in Parana I inadvertently dropped a word in disparagement of the worship of the Virgin, when, quick as thought, a man dashed towards me with gleaming steel. The Criollo's knife never errs, and one sharp lunge too well completes his task; but an old Paraguayan friend then with me sprang upon him and dashed the knife to the ground, thus leaving my heart's blood warm within me, and not on the pavement. I admired my antagonist for the strength of his convictions - true loyalty he displayed for his goddess, who, however, does not, I am sure, teach her devotees to assassinate those who prefer to put their faith rather in her Divine Son. Had I been killed the priest would on no account have buried me, and would most willingly have absolved the assassin and kept him from the "arm of justice." That arm in those places is very short indeed, for I have myself met dozens of murderers rejoicing in their freedom. Hell is only for Protestants.

On the door of my lodging I found one morning a written paper, well pasted on, which read:


"Die! Live the Virgin and all the Saints!" That paper I took from the door and keep as a souvenir of fanaticism.

The Bible is an utterly unknown book, except to the priests, who forbid its entrance to the houses. It, however, could do little good or harm, for the masses of the people are utterly unlettered. All Protestant literature stolen into the town is invariably gathered and burned by the priest, who would not hesitate also to burn the bringer if he could without fear of some after-enquiry into the matter.

Rome is to-day just what she always was. Her own claim and motto is: Semper idem (Always the same). But for this age of enlightenment her inquisitorial fires would still burn. "Rome's contention is, not that she does not persecute, but only that she does not persecute saints. She punishes heretics - a very different thing. In the Rhemish New Testament there is a note on the words, 'drunken with the blood of saints,' which runs as follows: 'Protestants foolishly expound this of Rome because heretics are there put to death. But their blood is not called the blood of saints, any more than the blood of thieves or man-killers, or other malefactors; and for the shedding of it no commonwealth shall give account.'"

During my residence in Argentina a Jesuit priest in Cordoba publicly stated that if he had his way he would burn to death every Protestant in the country.

The following statements are from authorized documents, laws and decrees of the Papacy:

"The papacy teaches all her adherents that it is a sacred duty to exterminate heresy.

"Urban II. issued a decree that the murder of heretics was excusable. 'We do not count them murderers who, burning with the zeal of their Catholic mother against the excommunicate, may happen to have slain some of them.'" [Footnote: "Romanism and Reformation."]

In Argentine life the almanac plays an important part; in that each day is dedicated to the commemoration of some saint, and the child born must of necessity be named after the saint on whose day he or she arrives into the world. The first question is, "What name does it bring?" The baby may have chosen to come at a time when the calendar shows an undesirable name, still the parents grumble not, for a saint is a saint, and whatever names they bear must be good. The child is, therefore, christened "Caraciollo," or "John Baptist," when, instead of growing up to be a forerunner of Christ, he or she may, with more likelihood, be a forerunner of the devil. Whatever name a child brings, however, has Mary tacked on to it.

All names serve equally well for male or female children, as a concluding "o" or "a" serves to distinguish the sex. Many men bear the name of Joseph Mary. Numbers, also, both male and female, have been baptized by the name of "Jesus," "Saviour," or "Redeemer." If I were asked the old question, "What's in a name?" I should answer, "Very little," for in South America the most insolent thief will often boast in the appellation of Don Justice, and the lowest girl in the village may be Senorita Celestial. Don Jesus may be found incarcerated for riotous conduct, and I have known Don Saviour throw his unfortunate wife and children down a well; Don Destroyer would have been a more appropriate name for him. Mrs. Angel her husband sometimes finds not such an angel after all, when she puts poison into his mate cup, a not infrequent occurrence. Let none be deceived in thinking that the appellation is any index to a man's character.

Dark, needy people - Rome's true children!

The school-books read: Which is the greatest country? Ans., Spain. Who is the greatest man? Ans., The Pope. Why? Because he is infallible.

It is his wish, and the priest's duty, to keep them in this darkness. Yet, - One came from God, "a light to lighten the Gentiles," and He said, "I am the Light of the world." Some day they may hear of Him and themselves see the Light.

Already the day is breaking, and superstition must prepare to hide itself. The uneducated native no longer pursues the railway train at thundering pace to lasso it because the priest raved against its being built. He even in some cases doubts if it is "an invention of hell," as he was taught.

The educated native, Alberdi, a publicist and an advocate of freedom, in the discussion over religious rights of foreigners in the Argentine, wrote: "Spanish America reduced to Catholicism, with the exclusion of any other cult, represents a solitary and silent convent of monks. The dilemma is fatal, - either Catholics and unpopulated, or populated and prosperous and tolerant in the matter of religion."