dollars' worth of gold. This is an exact counterpart of what takes place in nature. Mountains suffer degradation and wear away, and with them the metallic veins which they contain. The hardest rock is worn into impalpable mud, the ordinary metals oxidate, and both are removed; but gold, platina, and a few others are nearly indestructible, and from their weight, sinking to the bottom, are left behind. After whole mountains have passed through this grinding-mill, and have been washed by the hand of nature, the residue becomes metalliferous, and man finds it worth his while to complete the task of separation.
Bad as the above treatment of the miners appears, it is gladly accepted of by them; for the condition of the labouring agriculturists is much worse. Their wages are lower, and they live almost exclusively on beans. This poverty must be chiefly owing to the feudal-like system on which the land is tilled: the landowner gives a small plot of ground to the labourer, for building on and cultivating, and in return has his services (or those of a proxy) for every day of his life, without any wages. Until a father has a grown-up son, who can by his labour pay the rent, there is no one, except on occasional days, to take care of his own patch of ground. Hence extreme poverty is very common among the labouring classes in this country.
There are some old Indian ruins in this neighbourhood, and I was shown one of the perforated stones, which Molina mentions as being found in many places in considerable numbers. They are of a circular flattened form, from five to six inches in diameter, with a hole passing quite through the centre. It has generally been supposed that they were used as heads to clubs, although their form does not appear at all well adapted for that purpose. Burchell states that some of the tribes in Southern Africa dig up roots, by the aid of a stick pointed at one end, the force and weight of which is increased by a round stone with a hole in it, into which the other end is firmly wedged. It appears probable, that the Indians of Chile formerly used some such rude agricultural instrument.
One day, 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
- Burchell's Travels, vol. ii. p. 45.