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    A Second Story of Two Brothers

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    Chapter 6
    Previous Chapter
    Shortly after writing the story of two brothers in the last part but
    one I was reminded of another strange story of two brothers in that
    same distant land, which I heard years ago and had forgotten. It now
    came back to me in a newspaper from Miami, of all places in the world,
    sent me by a correspondent in that town. He--Mr. J. L. Rodger--some
    time ago when reading an autobiographical book of mine made the
    discovery that we were natives of the same place in the Argentine
    pampas--that the homes where we respectively first saw the light stood
    but a couple of hours' ride on horseback apart. But we were not born on
    the same day and so missed meeting in our youth; then left our homes,
    and he, after wide wanderings, found an earthly paradise in Florida to
    dwell in. So that now that we have in a sense met we have the Atlantic
    between us. He has been contributing some recollections of the pampas
    to the Miami paper, and told this story of two brothers among other
    strange happenings. I tell it in my own way more briefly.

    * * * * *

    It begins in the early fifties and ends thirty years later in the early
    eighties of last century. It then found its way into the Buenos Ayres
    newspapers, and I heard it at the time but had utterly forgotten it
    until this Florida paper came into my hand.

    In the fifties a Mr. Gilmour, a Scotch settler, had a sheep and cattle
    ranch on the pampas far south of Buenos Ayres, near the Atlantic coast.
    He lived there with his family, and one of the children, aged five, was
    a bright active little fellow and was regarded with affection by one of
    the hired native cattlemen, who taught the child to ride on a pony, and
    taught him so well that even at that tender age the boy could follow
    his teacher and guide at a fast gallop over the plain. One day Mr.
    Gilmour fell out with the man on account of some dereliction of duty,
    and after some hot words between them discharged him there and then.
    The young fellow mounted his horse and rode off vowing vengeance, and
    on that very day the child disappeared. The pony on which he had gone
    out riding came home, and as it was supposed that the little boy had
    been thrown or fallen off, a search was made all over the estate and
    continued for days without result. Eventually some of the child's
    clothing was found on the beach, and it was conjectured that the young
    native had taken the child there and drowned him and left the clothes
    to let the Gilmours know that he had had his revenge. But there was
    room for doubt, as the body was never found, and they finally came to
    think that the clothes had been left there to deceive them, and that as
    the man had been so fond of the child he had carried him off. This
    belief started them on a wider and longer quest; they invoked the aid
    of the authorities all over the province; the loss of the child was
    advertised and a large reward offered for his recovery and agents were
    employed to look for him. In this search, which continued for years,
    Mr. Gilmour spent a large part of his fortune, and eventually it had to
    be dropped; and of all the family Mrs. Gilmour alone still believed
    that her lost son was living, and still dreamed and hoped that she
    would see him again before her life ended.

    One day the Gilmours entertained a traveller, a native gentleman, who,
    as the custom was in my time on those great vacant plains where houses
    were far apart, had ridden up to the gate at noon and asked for
    hospitality. He was a man of education, a great traveller in the land,
    and at table entertained them with an account of some of the strange
    out-of-the-world places he had visited.

    Presently one of the sons of the house, a tall slim good-looking young
    man of about thirty, came in, and saluting the stranger took his seat
    at the table. Their guest started and seemed to be astonished at the
    sight of him, and after the conversation was resumed he continued from
    time to time to look with a puzzled questioning air at the young man.
    Mrs. Gilmour had observed this in him and, with the thought of her lost
    son ever in her mind, she became more and more agitated until, unable
    longer to contain her excitement, she burst out: "O, Señor, why do you
    look at my son in that way?--tell me if by chance you have not met
    someone in your wanderings that was like him."

    Yes, he replied, he had met someone so like the young man before him
    that it had almost produced the illusion of his being the same person;
    that was why he had looked so searchingly at him.

    Then in reply to their eager questions he told them that it was an old
    incident, that he had never spoken a word to the young man he had seen,
    and that he had only seen him once for a few minutes. The reason of his
    remembering him so well was that he had been struck by his appearance,
    so strangely incongruous in the circumstances, and that had made him
    look very sharply at him. Over two years had passed since, but it was
    still distinct in his memory. He had come to a small frontier
    settlement, a military outpost, on the extreme north-eastern border of
    the Republic, and had seen the garrison turn out for exercise from the
    fort. It was composed of the class of men one usually saw in these
    border forts, men of the lowest type, miztiros and mulattos most of
    them, criminals from the gaols condemned to serve in the frontier army
    for their crimes. And in the midst of the low-browed, swarthy-faced,
    ruffianly crew appeared the tall distinguished-looking young man with a
    white skin, blue eyes and light hair--an amazing contrast!

    That was all he could tell them, but it was a clue, the first they had
    had in thirty years, and when they told the story of the lost child to
    their guest he was convinced that it was their son he had seen--there
    could be no other explanation of the extraordinary resemblance between
    the two young men. At the same time he warned them that the search
    would be a difficult and probably a disappointing one, as these
    frontier garrisons were frequently changed: also that many of the men
    deserted whenever they got the chance, and that many of them got
    killed, either in fight with the Indians, or among themselves over
    their cards, as gambling was their only recreation.

    But the old hope, long dead in all of them except in the mother's
    heart, was alive again, and the son, whose appearance had so strongly
    attracted their guest's attention, at once made ready to go out on that
    long journey. He went by way of Buenos Ayres where he was given a
    passport by the War Office and a letter to the Commanding Officer to
    discharge the blue-eyed soldier in the event of his being found and
    proved to be a brother to the person in quest of him. But when he got
    to the end of his journey on the confines of that vast country, after
    travelling many weeks on horseback, it was only to hear that the men
    who had formed the garrison two years before, had been long ordered
    away to another province where they had probably been called to aid in
    or suppress a revolutionary outbreak, and no certain news could be had
    of them. He had to return alone but not to drop the search; it was but
    the first of three great attempts he made, and the second was the most
    disastrous, when in a remote Province and a lonely district he met with
    a serious accident which kept him confined in some poor hovel for many
    months, his money all spent, and with no means of communicating with
    his people. He got back at last; and after recruiting his health and
    providing himself with funds, and obtaining fresh help from the War
    Office, he set out on his third venture; and at the end of three years
    from the date of his first start, he succeeded in finding the object of
    his search, still serving as a common soldier in the army. That they
    were brothers there was no doubt in either of their minds, and together
    they travelled home.

    And now the old father and mother had got their son back, and they told
    him the story of the thirty years during which they had lamented his
    loss, and of how at last they had succeeded in recovering him:--what
    had he to tell them in return? It was a disappointing story. For, to
    begin with, he had no recollection of his child life at home--no
    faintest memory of mother or father or of the day when the sudden
    violent change came and he was forcibly taken away. His earliest
    recollection was of being taken about by someone--a man who owned him,
    who was always at the cattle-estates where he worked, and how this man
    treated him kindly until he was big enough to be set to work
    shepherding sheep and driving cattle, and doing anything a boy could do
    at any place they lived in, and that his owner and master then began to
    be exacting and tyrannical, and treated him so badly that he eventually
    ran away and never saw the man again. And from that time onward he
    lived much the same kind of life as when with his master, constantly
    going about from place to place, from province to province, and finally
    he had for some unexplained reason been taken into the army.

    That was all--the story of his thirty years of wild horseback life told
    in a few dry sentences! Could more have been expected! The mother had
    expected more and would not cease to expect it. He was her lost one
    found again, the child of her body who in his long absence had gotten a
    second nature; but it was nothing but a colour, a garment, which would
    wear thinner and thinner, and by-and-by reveal the old deeper
    ineradicable nature beneath. So she imagined, and would take him out to
    walk to be with him, to have him all to herself, to caress him, and
    they would walk, she with an arm round his neck or waist; and when she
    released him or whenever he could make his escape from the house, he
    would go off to the quarters of the hired cattlemen and converse with
    them. They were his people, and he was one of them in soul in spite of
    his blue eyes, and like one of them he could lasso or break a horse and
    throw a bull and put a brand on him, and kill a cow and skin it, or
    roast it in its hide if it was wanted so; and he could do a hundred
    other things, though he couldn't read a book, and I daresay he found it
    a very misery to sit on a chair in the company of those who read in
    books and spoke a language that was strange to him--the tongue he had
    himself spoken as a child!
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