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A VILLAGE FETE. 177
neglect of the padre's good fare convinced me that he was really in a bad way. I gave him some medicine, but I believe he suspected me, and was afraid to take it.
At twelve o'clock the mules sent for by the padre arrived, with a strapping young ladino as muleteer; but they were not in a condition to set off that day. In the afternoon I took a long walk on the bank of the river, and, returning, stopped under one of the Ceiba trees, where a travelling merchant was displaying his wares, consisting of two trunks of striped cottons, beads, horn combs, scissors, &c. His mule was tied by a long rope, and a pair of pistols lay on one of the boxes.
Passing on, I met a party of women, dressed in white, with red shawls over the tops of their heads. I have seen enough of fancy colours in women to remove some prejudices, but retain an oldfashioned predilection for white faces; and here I remarked that the whitest women were the prettiest, though the padre did not agree with me entirely. Under the shed of a deserted house near by was an old Indian with ten or twelve Indian girls, teaching them the catechism. They were dressed in red plaid cotton, drawn round the waist and tied in a knot on the left side, and a white handkerchief over the shoulders. Other parties were out in different places, organizing for a village ftte in honour of some saint; and toward evening, while sitting with the padre, now dressed in his long black gown, a procession advanced, headed by the oldest man in the village, with white hair and beard, and a lame man and two or three associates playing on violins. Before reaching the house they set off five or six rockets, and then all went up and saluted the padre, kissing the back of his hand; the women went inside, carrying bundles wrapped in clean white napkins; and when I
went in to take my chocolate, I found the table piled up with cakes and confectionary. Afterward all went to the church for vesper prayers. I could but think, what afterward impressed itself upon me more and more in every step of my journey in that country, blessed is the village that has a padre.
During the day, the deaf and dumb boy had contrived several times to make me understand that he wished to accompany me, and in the evening the padre concluded to make him happy by giving him a journey to Guatimala. Early in the morning the convent was in commotion. The good padre was unused to fitting out an expedition for Guatimala. Many things were wanting besides the mules, and the village was laid under contribution. During the bustle, a single soldier entered the village, and created an alarm that he was the pioneer of others come to quarter upon them. 'The padre told him who I was, and that the guard must not molest me. At length all was ready; a large concourse of people, roused by the requisitions of the padre, were at the door, and among them two men with violins. The padre directed his own gigantic energies particularly to the eatables; he had put up chocolate, bread, sausages, and fowl; a box of cakes and confectionary; and, as the finale, the deaf and dumb lad came out of the house, holding at arm's length above his head the whole side of an ox, with merely the skin taken off and the ribs cracked, which was spread as a wrapper over one of the cargoes, and secured by a netting. A large pot, with the bottom upward, was secured on the top of another cargo. The padre took a kind leave of me, and a most affectionate one of the deaf and dumb lad; and at nine o'clock, with violins playing, and a turnout that would have astonished my city friends, I made
another start for the capitol. A low groan from the piazza reminded me of my muleteer. I dismounted, and, at the moment of parting, exchanged a few words of kindness. His brawny figure was prostrated by fever; at times he had vexed me almost beyond endurance; but, with all my malice against him, I could not have wished him in a worse condition. The boy sat by his side, apparently softened by the illness of his master, and indifferent as to my going. For the first time in a long while we had a level road. The land was rich and productive; brown sugar sold for three cents a pound, and white lump, even under their slow process of making it, for eight cents, and indigo could be raised for two shillings a pound. I was riding quietly, when four soldiers sprang into the road almost at my mule's head. They were perfectly concealed until I approached, and their sudden appearance was rather footpad-like. They could not read my passport, and said that they must conduct me to Chiquimula. My road lay a little off from that town; and, fortunately, while under escort, the soldier whom I had seen in San Jacinto overtook us, satisfied them, and released me. A short distance beyond I recognised the path by which we turned off to go to Copan. Three weeks had not elapsed, and it seemed an age. We passed by the old church of Chiquimula, and, winding up the same zigzag path by which we had descended, crossed the mountain, and descended to the plain of Zacapa and the Motagua River, which I hailed as an old acquaintance. It was growing late, and we saw no signs of habitation. A little before dark, on the top of a small eminence on the right, we saw a little boy, who conducted us to the village of San Rosalie, beautifully situated on a point formed by the bend of the river. The village consisted of a miserable collection of huts; before the door of the best was a crowd of people, who did not ask us to stop, and we rode up to one of the poorest. All we wanted was sacate* for the mules. The stores of the padre were abundant for me, and the deaf and dumb lad cut a few ribs from the side of the ox, and prepared supper for himself and the muleteer.
While supping we heard a voice of lamentation from the house before which the crowd was assembled. After dark I walked over, and found that they were mourning over the dead. Inside were several women; one was wringing her hands, and the first words I distinguished were, "Oh, our Lord of Esquipulas, why have you taken him away?" She was interrupted by the tramp of horses' hoofs, and a man rode up, whose figure in the dark I could not see, but who, without dismounting, in a hoarse voice said that the priest asked six dollars to bury the corpse. One of the crowd cried out, "Shame! shame!" and others said they would bury it in el campo, the field. The horseman, in the same hoarse voice, said that it was the same if buried in the road, the mountain, or the river, the priest must have his fee. There was a great outcry; but the widow, in a weeping tone, declared that the money must be paid, and then renewed her exclamations: "My only help, my consolation, my head, my heart; you who was so strong, who could lift a ceroon of indigo:" "you said you would go and buy cattle;" "I said, ' yes; bring me fine linen and jewelry.'" The words, and the piercing tone of distress, reminded me of a similar scene I had once beheld on the banks of the Nile. By invitation of one of the friends I entered the house. The corpse
* Sacate means any kind of grass or leaves for mules. The best is sacate oe maize, or the stalks and leaves of Indian com.
A DEATH SCENE. 181
lay on the ground, in a white cotton dress extending from the neck to the feet. It was that of a young man, not more than twenty-two, with the mustache just budding on his upper lip, tall, and but a month before so strong that he could "lift a ceroon of indigo." He had left home to buy cattle, returned with a fever, and in a week was dead. A bandage was tied under his chin to hold up his jaw; his thin wrists were secured across his breast; and his taper fingers held a small crucifix made of corn-husks stitched together. On each side of his head was a lighted candle, and ants, which burden the ground, were swarming over his face. The widow did not notice me, but the mother and two young sisters asked me if I had no remedios; if I could not cure him; if I could have cured him if I had seen him before.
I left the bereaved family and withdrew. The man who had asked me to enter met me at the door, and gave me a seat among the friends. He inquired about my country, where it was, and whether the customs were like theirs; and very soon, but for the lamentations of the widow, many would have forgotten that a few yards from them lay a dead friend.
I remained with them an hour, and then returned to my hut. The piazza was full of hogs; the interior was a perfect piggery, full of fleas and children; and the woman, with a cigar in her mouth, and the harshest voice I ever heard, still brought in child after child, and piled them up on the floor. My men were already asleep outside; and borrowing an undressed ox-hide, I spread it on the floor at the end of the house; upon this I laid my pellon, and upon that I laid myself. The night before I had slept under a moscheto netting! Oh, padre of San Jacinto, that a man of my "rank and