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England, where the system of selling part of the vein is fol. lowed, the miners are obliged to act and think for themselves, and are therefore a singularly intelligent and well-behaved set of men.
The dress of the Chilian miner is peculiar and rather picturesque. He wears a very long shirt of some dark-colored baize, with a leathern apron, the whole being fastened round his waist by a bright-colored sash. His trousers are very broad, and his small cap of scarlet cloth is made to fit the head closely. We met a party of these miners in full costume, carrying the body of one of their companions to be buried. They marched at a very quick trot, four men sup
. porting the corpse. One set having run as hard as they could for about two hundred yards, were relieved by four others, who had previously dashed ahead on horseback. Thus they proceeded, encouraging each other by wild cries. Altogether the scene formed a most strange funeral.
Captain Head has described the wonderful load which the “ apires ” — truly beasts of burden — carry up from the deepest mines. I confess I thought the account exaggerated, so that I was glad to take an opportunity of weighing one of the loads, which I picked out by hazard. It required considerable exertion on my part, when standing directly over it, to lift it from the ground. The load was considered under weight when found to be one hundred and ninety-seven pounds. The apire had carried this up eighty perpendicular yards—part of the way by a steep passage, but the greater part up notched poles, placed in a zigzag line up the shaft. According to rule, the apire is not allowed to halt for breath
unless the mine is six hundred feet deep. The average load is considered as rather more than two hundred pounds, and I have been assured that one of three hundred pounds, by way of a trial, had been brought up from the deepest mine. At this time the apires were bring. ing up the usual load twelve times in the day—that is, twenty-four hundred pounds from eighty yards deep; and they were employed in the intervals in breaking and picking ore.
These men, excepting from accidents, are healthy, and appear cheerful. Their bodies are not very muscular. They rarely eat meat once a week, and nev. er oftener. Although knowing that their labor was not forced, it was nevertheless quite revolting to see the state in which they reached the mouth of the mine—their bodies bent forward, their legs bowed, their muscles quivering, the perspiration streaming from their faces over their breasts, their nostrils distended, the corners of their mouths forcibly drawn back, and the expulsion of their breath most laborious. After staggering to the pile of ore, they emptied the carpacho; in two or three seconds recov. ering their breath, they wiped the sweat from their brows,
and, apparently quite fresh, descended the mine again at a quick pace. This seems to me a wonderful instance of the amount of labor which habit, for it can be nothing else, will enable a man to endure.
One day, while we were at the gold mines of Yaquil, a German collector in natural history, of the name of Renous, called, and nearly at the same time an old Spanish lawyer. I was amused at being told the conversation which took place between them. Renous speaks Spanislı so well that the old lawyer mistook him for a Chilian. Renous, alluding to me, asked him what he thought of the King of England sending out a collector to their country, to pick up lizards and beetles, and to break stones. The old gentleman thought seriously for some time, and then said, “It is not well - hay un gato encerrado aqui (there is a cat shut up here). No man is so rich as to send out people to pick up such rubbish. I do not like it. If one of us were to go and do such things in England, do not you think the King of England would very soon send us out of his country?” And this old gentleman, from his profession, belongs to the better informed and more intelligent classes ! Renolis himself, two or three years before, left in a house at San Fernando some caterpillars, under charge of a girl to feed, that they might turn into butterflies. This was rumored through the town, and at last the priests and the governor consulted together, and agreed it must be some heresy. So, when Renous returned, he was arrested.