The evening before leaving for one of my periodical excursions, I was putting in order my guns, my insect-cases, and all my travelling necessaries, when my eldest son, a lad nine years old, came running to me in that wheedling manner—using that irresistible diplomacy of childhood which imposes on fathers and mothers so many troublesome treaties, and which children so well know how to assume when they desire to obtain a favor.
"Are you going to make as long a journey as you did last month?" he asked.
"Longer, I think; for, as we are so soon leaving for Europe, I want to complete my collection as rapidly as possible. I know you will be a good boy during my absence, and obedient to your mother. You will think of me sometimes, will you not?"
"I should much prefer not to think of you," he responded.
"You would rather, then, that I staid at Orizava?"
"Oh no; I should like you to go, and—to go with you."
"What can you be thinking of? Before we were a mile on the road you would be knocked up, complaining of heat, thirst, fatigue—"
"That's quite a mistake, dear father. I know I should be very useful to you, if you would only take me. I could pick up wood, light the fire, and look after the cooking, besides catching butterflies and insects, both for your collection and mine."
"That's all very well; but the first time you were scratched by a thorn you would cry."
"Oh father! I promise you I will never cry, except when—I can't help it."
I could not resist smiling at this answer.
"Then it is a settled thing, and I am to go with you," exclaimed Lucien.
"We must consult your mother, and if she sees no objection, I—"
The child ran off without allowing me to finish my sentence.
While I went on cleaning my guns, I found that I was pleading with myself in favor of the little would-be traveller. I also remembered that when I was only seven years old I had travelled long distances on foot in company with my father, and to this early habit owed much of the power of accomplishing dangerous and fatiguing journeys, which would have frightened stronger men. I even persuaded myself that it would be useful, before leaving Mexico, to impress the memory of my son with a sight of some of the grand scenes of tropical nature, so that he should retain correct ideas of the wonderful country in which his infancy had been spent. I moreover knew that l'Encuerado, the gallant Indian who had been my servant for so many years, perfectly adored his young master, and would watch over him just as I should, and thus ward off any possible mishaps. On the other hand, I risked inspiring my son with that love of travel and adventure which had contributed materially to my scientific collection, but very little to my fortune. Nevertheless, what a wholesome influence is exercised over the mind by an almost unceasing struggle with the difficulties that beset one's course through an unknown country. Both the mind and body of my son must surely benefit by such an excursion, which might be curtailed if desirable....