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Out On The Pampas
By G A Henty


There is no Preface or Introduction to this book but I can tell you I read the entire book online and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I had published books about Scots in Argentina on my web site and I was keen to try and find a publication that would explain what it might be like to settle on the Pampas. 

This book is actually about an English family that decides to move from England to settle on the Pampas as they are convinced there is money to made and that they would be better off as a result. The book starts by introducing us to the family and then explores the preparations they are making to be as well prepared as possible for the move. There are the mother and father and two sons and two daughters.

The sons are sent out to work with carpenters and farmers and also get shooting lessons.  The daughters also get shooting lessons, riding lessons and are also given teaching in cooking and sewing and they hire a Spanish maid to help teach them the local language.

So they are preparing as best they can for the move and we follow them through this process and then onto the ship that takes them to their new lands.  We see the decision by the father on what land to purchase and see them building their first house and at the same time buying the sheep, cattle and crops that they'll need to prove the land.  Certainly some failures but much more success.

You also see them organizing defence against the Indians and their are several Indian attacks. There are in fact two Scotsmen that are near neighbours along with some other families.

So all in all I found this to be a great read and it helped me understand more of what settlement was like on the Pampas.

Here is how Chapter 1 starts...

WHAT are you thinking of, Frank?' Mrs. Hardy asked her husband one evening, after an unusually long silence on his part.

'Well, my dear, I was thinking of a good many things. In the first place, I think, I began with wondering what I should make of the boys; and that led to such a train of thoughts about ourselves and our circumstances, that I hardly knew where I was when you spoke to me.'

Mr. Hardy spoke cheerfully, but his wife saw at once that it was with an effort that he did so. She put down the work upon which she was engaged, and moved her chair nearer to his by the fire.

'It is a serious question, Frank, about the boys. Charley is fifteen now, and Hubert fourteen. I wonder myself sometimes what we shall do with them.'

'There seems no opening here in England for young fellows. The professions are crowded, even if they were not altogether beyond our means; and as to a clerkship, they had better have a trade, and stick to it: they would be far happier, and nearly as well paid. The fact is, Clara,' and here Mr. Hardy paused a little, as if to gain courage to say what he feared would be very disagreeable to his wife, 'the fact is, we are altogether too crowded here. The best thing for the children, by far, and I think the best thing for ourselves; would be to emigrate.'

Mrs. Hardy gave a little sigh, but said nothing, and sat looking quietly into the fire, as her husband went on: 'You see, my dear, I am just, and only just earning enough for us to live upon. Nor is there any strong probability of an increase of business. The boys, as you say, are growing up, and I see no prospect of giving them a fair start in life. Abroad it is altogether different: we can buy land and stock it for next to nothing. We should live roughly, certainly; but at least there is no fear for the future, and we should start our boys in life with a fair certainty of success. Still, Clara, I do not of course mean that I have made up my mind upon the subject It is far too serious a matter to decide upon hastily. I only threw out the suggestion; and if you, after thinking it over, are against it, there is an end of the matter.'

Mrs. Hardy was silent for a little, and a tear sparkled on her cheek in the fire-light; then she said, 'I am not surprised, Frank, at what you have said. In fact I have expected it for some time. I have observed you looking over books upon foreign countries, and have seen that you often sat thoughtful and quiet. I guessed, therefore what you had in your mind. Of course, dear, as a woman, I shrink from the thought of leaving all our friends and going to quite a strange country, but I don't think that I am afraid of the hardships or discomfort. Thousands of other women have gone through them, and there is no reason why I should not do the same. I do think with you that it would be a good thing for the boys, perhaps for the girls too; and that, when we have got over the first hardships, we too should be happier and more free from care than we are now. So you see, Frank, you will meet with no opposition from me; and if, after deliberation, you really determine that it is the best thing to do, I shall be ready to agree with you. But it is a hard thought just at first, so please do not say any more about it to-night.'

Mr. Hardv was an architect, as his father had been before him. He had not, however, entered the office at the usual age, but when eighteen had gone out to the United States, to visit an uncle who had settled there. After spending some time with him, the love of adventure had taken him to the far west, and there he had hunted and shot for nearly three years, till a letter, long delayed on the way, entreated him to return to England, as his father's health was failing. He at once started for England, and found that his father was in a feeble state of health, but was still able to carry on the business. Frank saw, however, that he was unequal to the work, and so entered the office, working hard to make up for lost time. He was a good draughtsman, and was shortly able to take a great burden off his father's shoulders. He had not been long at home, however, before he fell in love with Clara Aintree, the daughter of a clergyman; and his father making over to him a share in the business, they were married just as Frank attained his twenty-fourth year, his wife being about nineteen. Two years after the marriage Mr. Hardy sen. died, and from that time Frank had carried on the business alone.

B... was a large provincial town, but it scarcely afforded remunerative employment for an architect; and although Mr. Hardy had no competitor in his business, the income which he derived from it was by no means a large one, and the increasing expenses of his family rendered the struggle, to make ends meet, yearly more severe. His father had been possessed of a small private fortune, but had rashly entered into the mania of railway speculation, and at his death had left about 3000 to his son. This sum Frank Hardy had carefully preserved intact, as he he'd foreseen that the time might come when it would, for his children's sake, be advisable to emigrate. He had long looked forward to this, but had abstained from taking any step until his sons were of an age to be able to make themselves useful in a life in the bush or upon the prairies. Frank Hardy, at the time our story begins, was about forty. He was a tall, active man, and the life he had led in America when young had hardened his muscles, and given him the full use of every faculty.

Mrs. Hardy was five years younger than her husband, and scarcely looked thirty years old. She was a high spirited woman, well fitted to be her husband's companion in the dangers and hardships of a settler's life.

The subject of emigration once started, was frequently continued, and presently books and maps began to be consulted, and the advantages and disadvantages of the various countries and colonies to be debated. Finally, Mr. and Mrs. Hardy agreed that the Argentine Republic, in its magnificent rivers, its boundless extent of fertile land, in its splendid climate, its cheap labour, and its probable prospects, offered the greatest advantages. The decision once arrived at, it was determined to announce it to the children, who had up to this time no idea of the great change decided upon. Breakfast was over, and the boys, whose holidays had just begun, were about to leave the table, when their father said:

'Wait a moment, boys; there is something we want to talk to you about.'

The boys resumed their seats. 'Your mamma and I have been wondering what you boys are to become, and we do not see any openings likely to occur here. Now, what should you say to us all emigrating?

'What, going abroad, papa!' they both exclaimed joyously.

'Yes, boys, settling in the back woods or in the prairies.'

'Oh that would be jolly,' Charley said, 'I know, papa, having fights with Indians, and all that sort of thing. Oh it would be glorious!'

'Well, Charley,' his father said, smiling, 'I do not know that we shall have fights with Indians, nor do I think it would be very jolly if we did. But we should have to rough it, you know; you boys would have to work hard, to help me in everything, and to look after the cattle and sheep.'

'What fun ! what fun!' the boys both shouted; 'we should like it of all things in the world.'

'And what do you think of it, Maud and Ethel?' their mamma asked the two little girls, who were looking very surprised, but rather doubtful as to the pleasure of the fights with Indians which their brothers had spoken so delightedly about. 'You will have to be two very useful little women, and will have to help me just as the boys will have to help your papa. Very likely we may not be able to get a servant there, and then we shall have to do everything.'

'That will be fine, mamma,' said Maud, who was rather over twelve, while her sister was just eleven. 'I don't think I could cook, but you should cook, and I could scrub and do all the hard work, and Ethel could wash up, and lay the table, and that sort of thing. That would be fine, mamma.'

Ethel, who almost always agreed with her elder sister, did so now, and the four young ones became quite uproarious in their plans for making themselves useful. At last Mr. Hardy called for order.

'Now silence all, and listen to me. This affair is a serious business; and although I hope and believe that we shall all enjoy our life very much, still we must prepare for it, and look upon it in earnest, and not as a sort of game'. I have business here which I cannot finish before another eight or nine months. Let us all make the most of our time before we start. In the first place, the language of the people among whom we are going is Spanish, and we must all learn to speak it well before we leave. For the next three months we will work together at grammar and exercises, and then I will try and get some Spanish teacher to live in the house, and speak the language with us until we go. In the next place, it will be well that you should all four learn to ride. I have hired the paddock next to our garden, and have bought a pony, which will be here to-day, for the girls. You boys have already ridden a little, and I shall now have you taught in the riding school. I went yesterday to Mr. Saris, and asked him if he would allow me to make an arrangement with his head gardener for you to go there to learn gardening. He at once agreed; and I have arranged with the gardener that you are both to be there every morning at six o'clock, and are to work until nine. At nine you will come in to breakfast. From breakfast to dinner you will have to yourselves, except upon the days you take riding lessons; and I should wish you to spend this time at your usual studies, except Latin, which will be of no use to you. From two till halfpast four you are to learn carpentering. I have made an agreement with Mr. Jones to pay him so much to take you as a sort of apprentices for the next nine months. In the evening we will all work together at Spanish. It will be hard work; but if you want to be of any real use....

And there you have a flavour of the book.

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