He soon managed to exchange a few words with the stranger, and found out even that his name was Thalcave, a word that signified in Araucanian, "The Thunderer." This surname had, no doubt, come from his skill in handling fire-arms.
But what rejoiced Glenarvan most was to learn that he was a guide by occupation, and, moreover, a guide across the Pampas. To his mind, the meeting with him was so providential, that he could not doubt now of the success of their enterprise. The deliverance of Captain Grant seemed an accomplished fact.
When the party went back to Robert, the boy held out his arms to the Patagonian, who silently laid his hand on his head, and proceeded to examine him with the greatest care, gently feeling each of his aching limbs. Then he went down to the RIO, and gathered a few handfuls of wild celery, which grew on the banks, with which he rubbed the child's body all over. He handled him with the most exquisite delicacy, and his treatment so revived the lad's strength, that it was soon evident that a few hours' rest would set him all right.
It was accordingly decided that they should encamp for the rest of the day and the ensuing night. Two grave questions, moreover, had to be settled: where to get food, and means of transport. Provisions and mules were both lacking. Happily, they had Thalcave, however, a practised guide, and one of the most intelligent of his class. He undertook to find all that was needed, and offered to take him to a TOLDERIA of Indians, not further than four miles off at most, where he could get supplies of all he wanted. This proposition was partly made by gestures, and partly by a few Spanish words which Paganel managed to make out. His offer was accepted, and Glenarvan and his learned friend started off with him at once.
They walked at a good pace for an hour and a half, and had to make great strides to keep up with the giant Thalcave. The road lay through a beautiful fertile region, abounding in rich pasturages; where a hundred thousand cattle might have fed comfortably. Large ponds, connected by an inextricable labyrinth of RIOS, amply watered these plains and produced their greenness. Swans with black heads were disporting in the water, disputing possession with the numerous intruders which gamboled over the LLANOS. The feathered tribes were of most brilliant plumage, and of marvelous variety and deafening noise. The isacus, a graceful sort of dove with gray feathers streaked with white, and the yellow cardinals, were flitting about in the trees like moving flowers; while overhead pigeons, sparrows, chingolos, bulgueros, and mongitas, were flying swiftly along, rending the air with their piercing cries.
Paganel's admiration increased with every step, and he had nearly exhausted his vocabulary of adjectives by his loud exclamations, to the astonishment of the Patagonian, to whom the birds, and the swans, and the prairies were every day things. The learned geographer was so lost in delight, that he seemed hardly to have started before they came in sight of the Indian camp, or TOLDERIA, situated in the heart of a valley.
About thirty nomadic Indians were living there in rude cabins made of branches, pasturing immense herds of milch cows, sheep, oxen, and horses. They went from one prairie to another, always finding a well-spread table for their four-footed guests.
These nomads were a hybrid type of Araucans, Pehu-enches, and Aucas. They were Ando-Peruvians, of an olive tint, of medium stature and massive form, with a low forehead, almost circular face, thin lips, high cheekbones, effeminate features, and cold expression. As a whole, they are about the least interesting of the Indians. However, it was their herds Glenarvan wanted, not themselves. As long as he could get beef and horses, he cared for nothing else.
Thalcave did the bargaining. It did not take long. In exchange for seven ready saddled horses of the Argentine breed, 100 pounds of CHARQUI, or dried meat, several measures of rice, and leather bottles for water, the Indians agreed to take twenty ounces of gold as they could not get wine or rum, which they would have preferred, though they were perfectly acquainted with the value of gold. Glenarvan wished to purchase an eighth horse for the Patagonian, but he gave him to understand that it would be useless.