In due time we again reached Piedra Blanca, and, notwithstanding our ragged, thorn-torn garments, felt we were once more joined on to the world.

The bubonic plague had broken out farther down the country, steamboats were at a standstill, so we had to wait a passage down the river. Piedra Blanca is an interesting little spot. One evening a tired mule brought in the postman from the next town, Holy Joseph. He had been eight days on the journey. Another evening a string of dusty mules arrived, bringing loads of rubber and cocoa. They had been five months on the way.

When the Chiquitana women go down to the bay for water, with their pitchers poised on their heads, the sight is very picturesque. Sometimes a little boy will step into one of the giant, traylike leaves of the Victoria Regia, which, thus transformed into a fairy boat, he will paddle about the quiet bay.

The village is built on the edge of the virgin forest, where the red man, with his stone hatchet, wanders in wild freedom. It contains, perhaps, a hundred inhabitants, chiefly civilized Chiquitanos Indians. There is here a customs house, and a regular trade in rubber, which is brought in from the interior on mule-back, a journey which often takes from three to four months.

One evening during our stay two men were forcibly brought into the village, having been caught in the act of killing a cow which they had stolen. These men were immediately thrown into the prison, a small, dark, palm-built hut. Next morning, ere the sun arose, their feet were thrust into the stocks, and a man armed with a long hide whip thrashed them until the blood flowed in streamlets down their bare backs! What struck us as being delicately thoughtful was that while the whipping proceeded another official tried his best to drown their piercing shrieks by blowing an old trumpet at its highest pitch!

The women, although boasting only one loose white garment, walk with the air and grace of queens, or as though pure Inca blood ran in their veins. Their only adornment is a necklace of red corals and a few inches of red or blue ribbon entwined in their long raven-black hair, which hangs down to the waist in two plaits. Their houses are palm-walled, with a roof of palm-leaves, through which the rain pours and the sun shines. Their chairs are logs of wood, and their beds are string hammocks. Their wants are few, as there are no electric- lighted store windows to tempt them. Let us leave them in their primitive simplicity. Their little, delicately-shaped feet are prettier without shoes and stockings, and their plaited hair without Parisian hats and European tinsel. They neither read nor write, and therefore cannot discuss politics. Women's rights they have never heard of. Their bright-eyed, naked little children play in the mud or dust round the house, and the sun turns their already bronze-colored bodies into a darker tint; but the Chiquitana woman has never seen a white baby, and knows nothing of its beauty, so is more than satisfied with her own. The Indian child does not suffer from teething, for all have a small wooden image tied round the neck, and the little one, because of this, is supposed to be saved from all baby ailments! Their husbands and sons leave them for months while they go into the interior for rubber or cocoa, and when one comes back, riding on his bullock or mule, he is affectionately but silently received. The Chiquitano seldom speaks, and in this respect he is utterly unlike the Brazilian. The women differ from our mothers and sisters and wives, for they (the Chiquitanas) have nothing to say. After all, ours are best, and a headache is often preferable to companioning with the dumb. I unhesitatingly say, give me the music, even if I have to suffer the consequences.

The waiting-time was employed by our hunter in his favorite sport. One day he shot a huge alligator which was disporting itself in the water some five hundred yards from the shore. Taking a strong rope, we went out in an Indian dug-out to tow it to land. As my friend was the more dexterous in the use of the paddle, he managed the canoe, and I, with much difficulty, fixed the rope by a noose to the monster's tail. When the towing, however, commenced, the beast seemed to regain his life. He dived and struggled for freedom until the water was lashed into foam. He thrust his mighty head out of the water and opened his jaws as though warning us he could crush the frail dug-out with one snap. Being anxious to obtain his hide, and momentarily expecting his death, for he was mortally wounded, I held on to the rope with grim persistency. He dived under the boat and lifted it high, but as his ugly nose came out on the other side the canoe regained its position in the water. He then commenced to tow us, but, refusing to obey the helm, took us to all points of the compass. After an exciting cruise the alligator gave a deep dive and the rope broke, giving him his liberty again. On leaving us he gave what Waterton describes as "a long-suppressed, shuddering sigh, so loud and so peculiar that it can be heard a mile." The bullet had entered the alligator's head, but next morning we saw he was still alive and able to "paddle his own canoe." The reader may be surprised to learn that these repulsive reptiles lay an egg with a pure white shell, fair to look upon, and that the egg is no larger than a hen's.

One day I was called to see a dead man for whom a kind of wake was being held. He was lying in state in a grass-built hovel, and raised up from the mud floor on two packing-cases of suspiciously British origin. His hard Indian face was softened in death, but the observant eye could trace a stoical resignation in the features. Several men and women were sitting around the corpse counting their beads and drinking native spirits, with a dim, hazy belief that that was the right thing to do. They had given up their own heathen customs, and, being civilized, must, of course, be Roman Catholics. They were "reduced," as Holy Mother Church calls it, long ago, and, of course, believe that civilization and Roman Catholicism are synonymous terms. Poor souls! How they stared and wondered when they that morning heard for the first time the story of Jesus, who tasted death for us that we might live. To those in the home lands this is an old story, but do they who preach it or listen to it realize that to millions it is still the newest thing under the sun?

Next day the man was quietly carried away to the little forest clearing reserved for the departed, where a few wooden crosses lift their heads among the tangled growth. Some of these crosses have four rudely carved letters on them, which you decipher as I. N. R. I. The Indian cannot tell you their meaning, but he knows they have something to do with his new religion.

As far as I could ascertain, the departed had no relatives. One after another had been taken from him, and now he had gone, for "when he is forsaken, withered and shaken, what can an old man do but die?" - it is the end of all flesh. Poor man! Had he been able to retain even a spark of life until Holy Week, he might then have been saved from purgatory. Rome teaches that on two days in the year - Holy Thursday and Corpus Christi - the gates of heaven are unguarded, because, they say, God is dead. All people who die on those days go straight to heaven, however bad they may have been! At no other time is that gate open, and every soul must pass through the torments of purgatory.

A missionary in Oruru wrote: "The Thursday and Friday of so-called Holy Week, when Christ's image lay in a coffin and was carried through the streets, God being dead, was the time for robberies, and some one came to steal from us, but only got about fifty dollars' worth of building material. Holy Week terminates with the 'Saturday of Glory,' when spirits are drunk till there is not a dram left in the drink-shops, which frequently bear such names as 'The Saviour of the World,' 'The Grace of God,' 'The Fountain of Our Lady,' etc. The poor deluded Romanists have a holiday on that day over the tragic end of Judas. A life-size representation of the betrayer is suspended high in the air in front of the cafes. At ten a.m. the church bells begin to ring, and this is the signal for lighting the fuse. Then, with a flash and a bang, every vestige of the effigy has disappeared! At night, if the town is large enough to afford a theatre, the crowds wend their way thither. This place of very questionable amusement will often bear the high-sounding name, Theatre of the Holy Ghost!"

There is no church or priest in the village of Piedra Blanca. Down on the beach there is a church bell, which the visitor concludes is a start in that direction, but he is told that it is destined for the town of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, three hundred miles inland. The bell was a present to the church by some pious devotee, but the money donated did not provide for its removal inland. This cost the priests refuse to pay, and the Chiquitanos equally refuse to transport it free. There is no resident priest to make them, so there it stays. In the meantime the bell is slung up on three poles. It was solemnly beaten with a stick on Christmas Eve to commemorate the time when the "Mother of Heaven" gave birth to her child Jesus. In one of the principal houses of the village the scene was most vividly reproduced. A small arbor was screened off by palm leaves, in which were hung little colored candles. Angels of paper were suspended from the roof, that they might appear to be bending over the Virgin, which was a highly-colored fashion-plate cut from a Parisian journal that somehow had found its way there. The child Jesus appeared to be a Mellin's Food-fed infant. Round this fairy scene the youth and beauty of the place danced and drank liberal potations of chicha, the Bolivian spirits, until far on into morning, when all retired to their hammocks to dream of their goddess and her lovely babe.

After this paper Virgin the next most prominent object of worship I saw in Piedra Blanca was a saint with a dress of vegetable fibre, long hair that had once adorned a horse's tail, and eyes of pieces of clamshell.

Poor, dark Bolivia! It would be almost an impossible thing to exaggerate the low state of religion there. A communication from Sucre reads: "The owners of images of Jesus as a child have been getting masses said for their figures. A band of music is employed, and from the church to the house a procession is formed. A scene of intoxication follows, which only ends when a good number lie drunk before the image - the greater the number the greater the honor to the image?" The peddler of chicha carries around a large stone jar, about a yard in depth. The payment for every drink sold is dropped into the jar of liquor, so the last customers get the most "tasty" decoction.

Naturally the masses like a religion of license, and are as eager as the priests to uphold it. Read a tale of the persecution of a nineteenth century missionary there. Mr. Payne in graphic language tells the story:

"Excommunication was issued. To attend a meeting was special sin, and only pardoned by going on the knees to the bishop. Sermons against us were preached in all the churches. I was accused before the Criminal Court. It was said I carried with me the 'special presence' of the devil, and had blasphemed the Blessed Virgin, and everyone passing should say: 'Maria, Joseph.' One day a crowd collected, and sacristans mixed with the multitude, urging them on to 'vengeance on the Protestants.' About two p.m. we heard the roar of furious thousands, and like a river let loose they rushed down on our house. Paving-stones were quickly torn up, and before the police arrived windows and doors were smashed, and about a thousand voices were crying for blood. We cried to the Lord, not expecting to live much longer. The Chief of Police and his men were swept away before the mob, and now the door burst in before the huge stones and force used. There were two parties, one for murder and one for robbery. I was beaten and dragged about, while the cry went up, 'Death to the Protestant!' The fire was blazing outside, as they had lots of kerosene, and with all the forms, chairs, texts, clothes and books the street was a veritable bonfire. Everything they could lay hands on was taken. At this moment the cry arose that the soldiers were coming, and a cavalry regiment charged down the street, carrying fear into the hearts of the people. A second charge cleared the street, and several soldiers rode into the patio slashing with their swords."

In this riot the missionary had goods to the value of one thousand dollars burnt, and was himself hauled before the magistrates and, after a lengthy trial, condemned to die for heresy!

Baronius, a Roman Catholic writer, says: "The ministry of Peter is twofold - to feed and to kill; for the Lord said, 'Feed My sheep,' and he also heard a voice from heaven saying, 'Kill and eat.'" Bellarmine argues for the necessity of burning heretics. He says: "Experience teaches that there is no other remedy, for the Church has proceeded by slow steps, and tried all remedies. First, she only excommunicated. Then she added a fine of money, and afterwards exile. Lastly she was compelled to come to the punishment of death. If you threaten a fine of money, they neither fear God nor regard men, knowing that fools will not be wanting to believe in them, and by whom they may be sustained. If you shut them in prison, or send them into exile, they corrupt those near to them with their words, and those at a distance with their books. Therefore, the only remedy is to send them betimes into their own place."

As this mediaeval sentence against Mr. Payne could hardly be carried out in the nineteenth century, he was liberated, but had to leave the country. He settled in another part of the Republic. In a letter from him now before me as I write he says: "The priests are circulating all manner of lies, telling the people that we keep images of the Virgin in order to scourge them every night. At Colquechaca we were threatened with burning, as it was rumored that our object was to do away with the Roman Catholic religion, which would mean a falling off in the opportunities for drunkenness." So we see he is still persecuted.

The Rev. A. G. Baker, of the Canadian Baptist Mission, wrote: "The Bishop of La Paz has sent a letter to the Minister of Public Worship of which the following is the substance: 'It is necessary for me to call attention to the Protestant meetings being held in this city, which cause scandal and alarm throughout the whole district, and which are contrary to the law of Bolivia. Moreover, it is indispensable that we prevent the sad results which must follow such teachings, so contrary to the true religion. On the other hand, if this is not stopped, we shall see a repetition of the scenes that recently took place in Cochabamba.'" [Footnote: Referring to the sacking and burning of Mr. Payne's possessions previously referred to.]

Bolivia was one of the last of the Republics to hold out against "liberty of worship," but in 1907 this was at last declared. Great efforts were made that this law should not be passed.

In my lectures on this continent I have invariably stated that in South America the priest is the real ruler of the country. I append a recent despatch from Washington, which is an account of a massacre of revolutionary soldiers, under most revolting circumstances, committed at the instigation of the ecclesiastical authorities: "The Department of State has been informed by the United States Minister at La Paz, Bolivia, that Col. Pando sent 120 men to Ayopaya. On arriving at the town of Mohoza, the commander demanded a loan of two hundred dollars from the priest of the town, and one hundred dollars from the mayor. These demands being refused, the priest and the mayor were imprisoned. Meanwhile, however, the priest had despatched couriers to the Indian village, asking that the natives attack Pando's men. A large crowd of Indians came, and, in spite of all measures taken to pacify them, the arms of the soldiers were taken away, the men subjected to revolting treatment, and finally locked inside the church for the night. In the morning the priest, after celebrating the so-called 'mass of agony,' allowed the Indians to take out the unfortunate victims, two by two, and 103 were deliberately murdered, each pair by different tortures. Seventeen escaped death by having departed the day previous on another mission."

After Gen. Pando was elected President of the Republic of Bolivia, priestly rule remained as strong as ever. To enter on and retain his office he must perforce submit to Church authority. When in his employ, however, I openly declared myself a Protestant missionary; and, because of exploration work, was made a Bolivian citizen.

In 1897 it was my great joy to preach the gospel in Ensenada. Many and attentive were the listeners as for the first time in their lives they were told of the Man of Calvary who died that they might live. With exclamations of wonder they sometimes said: "What fortunate people we are to have heard such words!" Four men and five women were born again. Ensenada, built on a malarial swamp, was reeking with miasma, and the houses were raised on posts about a yard above the slime. I was in consequence stricken with malarial fever. One day a man who had attended the meetings came into my room, and, kneeling down, asked the Lord not to let me suffer, but to take me quickly. After long weeks of illness, God, however, raised me up again, and the meetings were resumed, when the reason of the priest's non- interference was made known to me. He had been away on a long vacation, and, on his return, hearing of my services, he ordered the church bells rung furiously. On my making enquiries why the bells clanged so, I was informed that a special service was called in the church. At that service a special text was certainly taken, for I was the text. During the course of the sermon, the preacher in his fervid eloquence even forbade the people to look at me. After that my residence in the town was most difficult. The barber would not cut my hair, nor would the butcher sell me his meat, and I have gone into stores with the money ostentatiously showing in my hand only to hear the word, "Afuera!" (Get out!) When I appeared on the street I was pelted with stones by the men, while the women ran away from me with covered faces! It was now a sin to look at me!

I reopened the little hall, however, for public services. It had been badly used and was splashed with mud and filth. The first night men came to the meetings in crowds just to disturb, and one of these shot at me, but the bullet only pierced the wall behind. A policeman marched in and bade me accompany him to the police station, and on the way thither I was severely hurt by missiles which were thrown at me. An official there severely reprimanded me for thus disturbing the quiet town, and I was ushered in before the judge. That dignified gentleman questioned me as to the object of my meetings. Respectfully answering, I said: "To tell the people how they can be saved from sin." Then, as briefly as possible, I unfolded my mission. The man's countenance changed. Surely my words were to him an idle tale - he knew them not. After cautioning me not to repeat the offence, he gave me my liberty, but requested me to leave the town. Rev. F. Penzotti, of the B. &F. B. Society, was imprisoned in a dungeon for eight long months, so I was grateful for deliverance.

An acquaintance who was eye-witness to the scene, though himself not a Christian, tells the following sad story:

"Away near the foot of the great Andes, nestling quietly in a fertile valley, shut away, one would think, from all the world beyond, lay the village of E - -. The inhabitants were a quiet, home-loving people, who took life as they found it, and as long as they had food for their mouths and clothes for their backs, cared little for anything else. One matter, however, had for some little time been troubling them, viz., the confession of their sins to a priest. After due consideration, it was decided to ask Father A., living some seventeen leagues distant, to state the lowest sum for which he would come to receive their confessions. 'One hundred dollars,' he replied, 'is the lowest I can accept, and as soon as you send it I will come.'

"After a great effort, for they were very poor, forty dollars was raised amongst them, and word was sent to Father A. that they could not possibly collect any more. Would he take pity on them and accept that sum? 'What! only forty dollars in the whole of E - -,' was his reply, 'and you dare to offer me that! No! I will not come, and, furthermore, from this day I pronounce a curse on your village, and every living person and thing there. Your children will all sicken and die, your cattle all become covered with disease, and you will know no comfort nor happiness henceforth. I, Father A., have said it, and it will come to pass.'

"Where was the quiet, peaceful scene of a few weeks before? Gone, and in its place all terror and confusion. These ignorant people, believing the words of the priest, gathered together their belongings and fled. As I saw those poor, simple people leaving the homes which had sheltered them for years, as well as their ancestors before them, and with feverish haste hurrying down the valley - every few minutes looking back, with intense sorrow and regret stamped on their faces - I thought surely these people need some one to tell them of Jesus, for, little as I know about Him, I am convinced that He does not wish them to be treated thus."

The priest is satisfied with nothing less than the most complete submission of the mind and body of his flock. A woman must often give her last money for masses, and a man toil for months on the well-stocked land of the divine father to save his soul. If he fail to do this, or any other sentence the priest may impose, he is condemned to eternal perdition.

Mr. Patrick, of the R. B. M. U., has described to me how, soon after he landed in Trujilla, he attended service at a Jesuit church. He had introduced some gospels into the city, and a special sermon was preached against the Bible. During the service the priest produced one of the gospels, and, holding it by the covers, solemnly put the leaves into the burning candle by his side, and then stamped on the ashes on the pulpit floor. The same priest, however, Ricardo Gonzales by name, thought it no wrong to have seventeen children to various mothers, and his daughters were leaders in society. "Men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil." In Trujilla, right opposite my friend's house, there lived, at the same time, a highly respected priest, who had, with his own hands, lit the fire that burnt alive a young woman who had embraced Christianity through missionary preaching. Bear in mind, reader, I am not writing of the dark ages, but of what occurred just outside Trujilla during my residence in the country. Even in 1910, Missionary Chapman writes of a convert having his feet put in the stocks for daring to distribute God's Word. [Footnote: I never saw greater darkness excepting in Central Africa. I visited 70 of the largest cathedrals, and, after diligent enquiry, found only one Bible, and that a Protestant Bible about to be burned - Dr. Robert E. Speer, in "Missionary Review of the World," August, 1911.]

Up to four years ago, the statute was in force that "Every one who directly or through any act conspires to establish in Bolivia any other religion than that which the republic professes, namely, that of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church, is a traitor, and shall suffer the penalty of death."

After a week's stay in Piedra Blanca, during which I had ample time for such comparisons as these I have penned, quarantine lifted, and the expedition staff separated. I departed on horseback to inspect a tract of land on another frontier of Bolivia 1,300 miles distant.