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DESCRIPTION OF A HUT. 109
a skilful physician near her, answered for him, and I returned to relieve Mr. Catherwood, and add another to his list of patients. The whole party escorted us to the hut, bringing along only the mule that carried the hammocks; and by the addition of Mr. C. to the medical corps, and a mysterious display of drawing materials and measuring rods, the poor woman's fever seemed frightened away.
The hut stood on the edge of a clearing, on the ground once covered by the city, with a stone fragment, hollowed out and used as a drinking-vessel for cattle, almost at the very door. The clearing was planted with corn and tobacco, and bounded on each Bide by the forest. The hut was about sixteen feet square, with a peaked roof, thatched with husks of Indian corn, made by setting in the ground two upright poles with crotches, in which another pole was laid to support the peak of the roof, and similar supports on each side, but only about four feet high. The gable end was the front, and one half of it was thatched with corn-leaves, while the other remained open. The back part was thatched, and piled up against it was Indian corn three ears deep. On one side the pile was unbroken, but on the other it was used down to within three or four feet of the ground. In the corner in front was the bed of Don Miguel and his wife, protected by a bull's hide fastened at the head and side. The furniture consisted of a stone roller for mashing corn, and a comal or earthen griddle for baking tortillas; and on a rude shelf over the bed were two boxes, which contained the wardrobe and all the property of Don Miguel and his wife, except Bartalo, their son and heir, an overgrown lad of twenty, whose naked body seemed to have burst up out of a pair of boy's trouBers, disdaining a shirt, his stomach swollen by a distressing liver complaint, and that and his livid face clouded with dirt. There was only room enough for one hammock, and, in fact, the cross-sticks were not strong enough to support two men. The pile of corn which had been used down was just high and broad enough for a bed; by consent, I took this for my sleeping-place, and Mr. Catherwood hung up his hammock; we were so glad at being relieved from the churlish hospitality of Don Gregorio, and so near the ruins, that all seemed snug and comfortable.
After a noonday meal I mounted the luggage-mule, with only a halter to hold her, and, accompanied by Augustin on foot, set out for Don Gregorio's, for the purpose of bringing over the luggage. The heavy rains had swollen the river, and Augustin was obliged to strip himself in order to ford it. Don Gregorio was not at home; and the muleteer, as usual, glad of a difficulty, said that it was impossible to cross the river with a cargo that day. Regularly, instead of helping us in our little difficulties, he did all that he could to increase them. He knew that, if we discharged him, we could get no mules in Copan except by sending off two days' journey; that we had no one on whom we could rely to send; and that the delay would be at least a week. Uncertain at what moment it might be advisable to leave, and not wishing to be left destitute, I was compelled to hire him to remain, at a price which was considered so exorbitant that it gave me a reputation for having "mucha plata," which, though it might be useful at home, I did not covet at Copan; and, afraid to trust me, the rascal stipulated for daily payments. At that time I was not acquainted with the cash system of business prevailing in the country. The barbarians are not
AW ADVENTURE. Ill
satisfied with your custom unless you pay them besides; and the whole, or a large portion, must be in advance. I was accidentally in arrears to the muleteer; and, while I was congratulating myself on this only security for his good behaviour, he was torturing himself with the apprehension that I did not mean to pay at all.
In the mean time it began to rain; and, settling my accounts with the senora, thanking her for her kindness, leaving an order to have some bread baked for the next day, and taking with me an umbrella and a blue bag, contents unknown, belonging to Mr. Catherwood, which he had particularly requested me to bring, I set out on my return. Augustin followed with a tin teapot, and some other articles for immediate use. Entering the woods, the umbrella struck against the branches of the trees, and frightened the mule; and, while I was endeavouring to close it, she fairly ran away with me. Having only a halter, I could not hold her; and, knocking me against the branches, she ran through the woods, splashed into the river, missing the fording-place, and never stopped till she was breastdeep. The river was swollen and angry, and the rain pouring down. Rapids were foaming a short distance below. In the effort to restrain her, I lost Mr. Catherwood's blue' bag, caught at it with the handle of the umbrella, and would have saved it if the beast had stood still; but as it floated under her nose she snorted and started back. I broke the umbrella in driving her across; and, just as I touched the shore, saw the bag floating toward the rapids, and Augustin, with his clothes in one hand and the teapot in the other, both above his head, steering down the river after it. Supposing it to contain some indispensable drawing materials, I dashed among the thickets on the bank in the hope of intercepting it, but became entangled among branches and vines. I dismounted and tied my mule, and was two or three minutes working my way to the river, where I saw Augustin's clothes and the teapot, but nothing of him, and, with the rapids roaring below, had horrible apprehensions. It was impossible to continue along the bank; so, with a violent effort, I jumped across a rapid channel to a ragged island of sand covered with scrub bushes, and, running down to the end of it, saw the whole face of the river and the rapids, but nothing of Augustin. I shouted with all my strength, and, to my inexpressible relief, heard an answer, but, in the noise of the rapids, very faint; presently he appeared in the water, working himself around a point, and hauling upon the bushes. Relieved about him, I now found myself in a quandary. The jump back was to higher ground, the stream a torrent, and, the excitement over, I was afraid to attempt it. It would have been exceedingly inconvenient for me if Augustin had been drowned. Making his way through the bushes and down to the bank opposite with his dripping body, he stretched a pole across the stream, by springing upon which I touched the edge of the bank, slipped, but hauled myself up by the bushes with the aid of a lift from Augustin. All this time it was raining very hard; and now I had forgotten where I tied my mule. We were several minutes looking for her; and wishing everything but good luck to the old bag, I mounted. Augustin, principally because he could carry them more conveniently on his back, put on his clothes.
Reaching the village, I took shelter in the hut of Don Jose Maria, while Augustin, being in that happy state that cannot be made worse, continued through the rain.
A THUNDER STORM. 113
There was no one in the hut but a little girl, and the moment the rain abated I followed. I had another stream to cross, which was also much swollen, and the road was flooded. The road lay through a thick forest; very soon the clouds became blacker than ever; on the left was a range of naked mountains, the old stone quarries of Copan, along which the thunder rolled fearfully, and the lightning wrote angry inscriptions on its sides. An English tourist in the United States admits the superiority of our thunder and lightning. I am pertinacious on all points of national honour, but concede this in favour of the tropics. The rain fell as if floodgates were opened from above; and while my mule was slipping and sliding through the mud I lost my road. I returned some distance, and was again retracing my steps, when I met a woman, barefooted, and holding her dress above her knees, who proved to be my rheumatic patient, the wife of Don Jose Maria. While inquiring the road, I told her that she was setting at naught the skill of the physician, and added, what I believed to be very true, that she need not expect to get well under our treatment. I rode on some distance, and again lost my way. It was necessary to enter the woods on the right. I had come out by a footpath which I had not noticed particularly. There were cattle-paths in every direction, and within the line of a mile I kept going in and out, without hitting the right one. Several times I saw the print of Augustin's feet, but soon lost them in puddles of water, and they only confused me more; at length I came to a complete stand-still. It was nearly dark; I did not know which way to turn; and as Mr. Henry Pelham did when in danger of drowning in one of the gutters of Paris, I stood still and hallooed. To my great joy, Vol. I.—P