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I have omitted the particulars of our survey; the dif. ficulty and labour of opening lines through the trees; climbing up the sides of the ruined pyramids; measuring steps, and the aggravation of all these from our want of materials and help, and our imperfect knowledge of the language. The people of Copan could not comprehend what we were about, and thought we were practising some black art to discover hidden treasure. Bruno and Francisco, our principal coadjutors, were completely mystified, and even the monkeys seemed embarrassed and confused; these counterfeit presentments of ourselves aided not a little in keeping alive the strange interest that hung over the place. They had no “monkey tricks,” but were grave and solemn as if officiating as the guardians of consecrated ground. In the morning they were quiet, but in the afternoon they came out for a promenade on the tops of the trees; and sometimes, as they looked steadfastly at us, they seemed on the point of asking us why we disturbed the repose of the ruins. I have omitted, too, what aggravated our hardships and disturbed our sentiment, apprehensions from scorpions, and bites of moschetoes and garrapatas or ticks, the latter of which, in spite of precautions (pantaloons tied tight over our boots and coats buttoned close in the throat), got under our clothes, and buried themselves in the flesh; at night, moreover, the hut of Don Miguel was alive with fleas, to protect ourselves against which, on the third night of our arrival we sewed up the sides and one end of our sheets, and thrust ourselves into them as we would into a sack. And while in the way of mentioning our troubles I may add, that during this time the flour of the hacienda gave out, we were cut off from bread, and brought down to tortillas.
Vol. I.-T 13
The day after our survey was finished, as a relief we set out for a walk to the old stone quarries of Copan. Very soon we abandoned the path along the river, and turned off to the left. The ground was broken, the forest thick, and all the way we had an Indian before us with his machete, cutting down branches and saplings. The range lies about two miles north from the river, and runs east and west. At the foot of it we crossed a wild stream. The side of the mountain was overgrown with bushes and trees. The top was bare, and commanded a magnificent view of a dense forest, broken only by the winding of the Copan River, and the clearings for the haciendas of Don Gregorio and Don Miguel. The city was buried in forest and entirely hidden from sight. Imagination peopled the quarry with workmen, and laid bare the city to their view. Here, as the sculptor worked, he turned to the theatre of his glory, as the Greek did to the Acropolis of Athens, and dreamed of immortal fame. Little did he imagine that the time would come when his works would perish, his race be extinct, his city a desolation and abode for reptiles, for strangers to gaze at and wonder by what race it had once been inhabited.
The stone is of a soft grit. The range extended a long distance, seemingly unconscious that stone enough had been taken from its sides to build a city. How the huge masses were transported over the irregular and broken surface we had crossed, and particularly how one of them was set up on the top of a mountain two thousand feet high, it was impossible to conjecture. In many places were blocks which had been quarried out and rejected for some defect; and at one spot, midway in a ravine leading toward the river, was a gigantic block, much larger than any we saw in the city, which
was probably on its way thither, to be carved and set up as an ornament, when the labours of the workmen were arrested. Like the unfinished blocks in the quarries at Assouan and on the Pentelican Mountain, it remains as a memorial of baffled human plans. We remained all day on the 6p of the range. The close forest in which we had been labouring made us feel more sensibly the beauty of the extended view. On the top of the range was a quarried block. With the chay stone found among the ruins, and supposed to be the instrument of sculpture, we wrote our names upon it. They stand alone, and few will ever see them. Late in the afternoon we returned, and struck the river about a mile above the ruins, near a stone wall with a circular building and a pit, apparently for a reservoir. As we approached our hut we saw two horses with side-saddles tied outside, and heard the cry of a child within. A party had arrived, consisting of an old woman and her daughter, son, and his wife and child, and their visit was to the medicos. We had had so many applications for remedios, our list of patients had increased so rapidly, and we had been so much annoyed every evening with weighing and measuring medicines, that, influenced also by the apprehensions before referred to, we had given out our intention to discontinue practice; but our fame had extended so far that these people had actually come from beyond San Antonio, more than thirty miles distant, to be cured, and it was hard to send them away without doing something for them. As Mr. C. was the medico in whom the public had most confidence, I scarcely paid any attention to them, unless to observe that they were much more respectable in dress and appearance than any patients we had had except the members of Don Gregorio's family; but during the evening I was attracted by the tone in which the mother spoke of the daughter, and for the first time noticed in the latter an extreme delicacy of figure and a pretty foot, with a neat shoe and clean stocking. She had a shawl drawn over her head, and on speaking to her she removed the shawl, and turned up a pair of the most soft and dovelike eyes that mine ever met. She was the first of our patients in whom I took any interest, and I could not deny myself the physician's privilege of taking her hand in mine. While she thought we were consulting in regard to her malady, we were speaking of her interesting face; but the interest which we took in her was melancholy and painful, for we felt that she was a delicate flower, born to bloom but for a season, and, even at the moment of unfolding its beauties, doomed to die. The reader is aware that our hut had no partition walls. Don Miguel and his wife gave up their bed to two of the women; she herself slept on a mat on the ground with the other. Mr. C. slept in his hammock, I on my bed of Indian corn, and Don Miguel and the young men under a shed out of doors. I passed two or three days more in making the clearings and preparations, and then Mr. Catherwood had occupation for at least a month. When we turned off to visit these ruins, we did not expect to find employment for more than two or three days, and I did not consider myself at liberty to remain longer. I apprehended a desperate chase after a government; and fearing that among these ruins I might wreck my own political fortunes, and bring reproach upon my political friends, I thought it safer to set out in pursuit. A council was called at the base of an idol, at which Mr. C. and I were both present. It was resumed in Don
Miguel's hut. The subject was discussed in all its bearings. All the excitement in the village had died away; we were alone and undisturbed; Mr. C. had under his dominion Bruno and Francisco, Don Miguel, his wife, and Bartalo. We were very reluctant to separate, but it was agreed, mem. con., for me to go on to Guatimala, and for Mr. Catherwood to remain and finish his drawings. Mr. Catherwood did remain, and, after many privations and difficulties, was compelled to leave on account of illness. He returned a second time and completed them, and I give the result of the whole. At a short distance from the Temple, within terraced walls, probably once connected with the main building, are the “idols” which give the distinctive character to the ruins of Copan; and if the reader will look on the map, and follow the line marked “pathway to Don Miguel's house,” toward the end on the right he will see the place where they stand. Near as they are, the forest was so dense that one could not be seen from the other. In order to ascertain their juxtaposition, we cut vistas through the trees, and took the bearings and distances; and I introduce them in the order in which they stand. The first is on the left of the pathway, at the point marked K. This statue is fallen and the face destroyed. It is twelve feet high, three feet three inches on one side, and four feet on the other. The altar is sunk in the earth, and we give no drawing of either. At a distance of two hundred feet stands the one marked S. It is eleven feet eight inches high, three feet four inches on each side, and stands with its front to the east on a pedestal six feet square, the whole resting on a circular stone foundation sixteen feet in diam