"Well, now we've secured a lodging, we must think of supper," said Glenarvan. "Our friends must not have reason to complain of the couriers they sent to precede them; and if I am not much mistaken, they will be very satisfied. It strikes me that an hour's shooting won't be lost time. Are you ready, Robert?"
"Yes, my Lord," replied the boy, standing up, gun in hand.
Why Glenarvan proposed this was, that the banks of the Guamini seemed to be the general rendezvous of all the game in the surrounding plains. A sort of partridge peculiar to the Pampas, called TINAMOUS; black wood-hens; a species of plover, called TERU-TERU; yellow rays, and waterfowl with magnificent green plumage, rose in coveys. No quadrupeds, however, were visible, but Thalcave pointed to the long grass and thick brushwood, and gave his friends to understand they were lying there in concealment.
Disdaining the feathered tribes when more substantial game was at hand, the hunters' first shots were fired into the underwood. Instantly there rose by the hundred roebucks and guanacos, like those that had swept over them that terrible night on the Cordilleras, but the timid creatures were so frightened that they were all out of gunshot in a twinkling. The hunters were obliged to content themselves with humbler game, though in an alimentary point of view nothing better could be wished. A dozen of red partridges and rays were speedily brought down, and Glenarvan also managed very cleverly to kill a TAY-TETRE, or peccary, a pachydermatous animal, the flesh of which is excellent eating.
In less than half an hour the hunters had all the game they required. Robert had killed a curious animal belonging to the order EDENTATA, an armadillo, a sort of tatou, covered with a hard bony shell, in movable pieces, and measuring a foot and a half long. It was very fat and would make an excellent dish, the Patagonian said. Robert was very proud of his success.
Thalcave did his part by capturing a NANDOU, a species of ostrich, remarkable for its extreme swiftness.
There could be no entrapping such an animal, and the Indian did not attempt it. He urged Thaouka to a gallop, and made a direct attack, knowing that if the first aim missed the NANDOU would soon tire out horse and rider by involving them in an inextricable labyrinth of windings. The moment, therefore, that Thalcave got to a right distance, he flung his BOLAS with such a powerful hand, and so skillfully, that he caught the bird round the legs and paralyzed his efforts at once. In a few seconds it lay flat on the ground.
The Indian had not made his capture for the mere pleasure and glory of such a novel chase. The flesh of the NANDOU is highly esteemed, and Thalcave felt bound to contribute his share of the common repast.
They returned to the RAMADA, bringing back the string of partridges, the ostrich, the peccary, and the armadillo. The ostrich and the peccary were prepared for cooking by divesting them of their tough skins, and cutting them up into thin slices. As to the armadillo, he carries his cooking apparatus with him, and all that had to be done was to place him in his own shell over the glowing embers.
The substantial dishes were reserved for the night-comers, and the three hunters contented themselves with devouring the partridges, and washed down their meal with clear, fresh water, which was pronounced superior to all the porter in the world, even to the famous Highland USQUEBAUGH, or whisky.
The horses had not been overlooked. A large quantity of dry fodder was discovered lying heaped up in the RAMADA, and this supplied them amply with both food and bedding.
When all was ready the three companions wrapped themselves in the ponchos, and stretched themselves on an eiderdown of ALFAFARES, the usual bed of hunters on the Pampas.
CHAPTER XIX THE RED WOLVES
NIGHT came, but the orb of night was invisible to the inhabitants of the earth, for she was just in her first quarter. The dim light of the stars was all that illumined the plain. The waters of the Guamini ran silently, like a sheet of oil over a surface of marble.