It was evening. The sun had just set beneath the waters of the Pacific, which could be distinguished in the far distance; and the whole western sky, undimmed by a cloud, was burning with a radiant glow of splendour such as to the eyes of the untutored Peruvians might well appear an emanation from the Deity they worshipped.
I was looking out, with others of my family, from the windows of the country house we inhabited, on the glorious spectacle. We were residing in Peru, that romantic region with which the name of the conqueror Pizarro must be for ever associated—the kingdom of the once powerful and enlightened Incas, on the western shore of South America. At the time of which I speak, however, its greatness, its prosperity and happiness, had passed away; it was a mere province of Old Spain, and governed by a viceroy sent from that country, while the race of its ancient sovereigns, though still existing, was humbled and disregarded, and almost unknown.
My parents were English, and England was my native land. My father, Mr Henry Rexton, had been a soldier in his youth; but when he married my mother, who was the daughter of an eminent British merchant, he quitted the army; and my grandfather induced him, by advantageous offers, to take a share in his house of business. The firm traded with Peru; and certain mercantile transactions of importance requiring for a time the superintendence of a partner, my father and mother went out there, taking with them me and a younger sister, their only children then born. Year after year unexpected circumstances occurred which compelled them, much against their wish, to remain in the country; and well do I remember how frequently in our family circle the subject of conversation was the happiness we expected to enjoy on returning home. On first going to Peru, we resided in Lima, the modern capital; but at length the heat of the climate affecting my mother’s health, in the hopes of it being restored by a cooler atmosphere, my father engaged a house in the country, at a considerable distance from the city. It was situated among the lower ranges of the lofty Cordilleras, one of those mighty ranges of mountains which stretches from one end to the other of the South American continent, the eastern portion of them being more properly known by the name of the Andes.