Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

INTERVIEW WITH C A R R E R A. 247

way. Such was Carrera, at the time of my visit more absolute master of Guatimala than any king in Europe of his dominions, and by the fanatic Indians called el Hico de Dios, the Son of God, and nuestro Senor, our Lord.

When I entered the room he was sitting at a table counting sixpenny and shilling pieces. Colonel Monte Rosa, a dark Mestitzo, in a dashing uniform, was sitting by his side, and several other persons were in the room. He was about five feet six inches in height, with straight black hair, an Indian complexion and expression, without beard, and did not seem to be more than twenty-one years old. He wore a black bombazet roundabout jacket and pantaloons. He rose as we entered, pushed the money on one side of the table, and, probably out of respect to my coat, received me with courtesy, and gave me a chair at his side. My first remark was an expression of surprise at his extreme youth; he answered that he was but twenty-three years old; certainly he was not more than twenty-five; and then, as a man conscious that he was something extraordinary, and that I knew it, without waiting for any leading questions, he continued, that he had begun (he did not say what) with thirteen men armed with old muskets, which they were obliged to fire with cigars; pointed to eight places in which he had been wounded, and said that he had three balls then in his body. At this time he could hardly be recognised as the same man who, less than two years before, had entered Guatimala with a horde of wild Indians, proclaiming death to strangers. Indeed, in no particular had he changed more than in his opinion of foreigners, a happy illustration of the effect of personal intercourse in breaking down prejudices against individuals or classes. He had become personally acquainted with several, one of whom, an English doctor, had extracted a ball from his side; and his intercourse with all had been so satisfactory, that his feelings had undergone an entire revulsion; and he said that they were the only people who never deceived him. He had done, too, what I consider extraordinary; in the intervals of his hurried life he had learned to write his name, and had thrown aside his stamp. I never had the fortune to be presented to any legitimate king, nor to any usurper of the prerogatives of royalty except Mohammed Ali. Old as he was, I gave him some good advice; and it grieves me that the old lion is now shorn of his mane. Considering Carrera a promising young man, I told him that he had a long career before him, and might do much good to his country; and he laid his hand upon his heart, and with a burst of feeling that I did not expect, said he was determined to sacrifice his life for his country. With all his faults and his crimes, none ever accused him of duplicity, or of saying what he did not mean; and, perhaps, as many self-deceiving men have done before him, he believes himself a patriot.

I considered that he was destined to exercise an important, if not a controlling influence on the affairs of Central America; and trusting that hopes of honourable and extended fame might have some effect upon his character, I told him that his name had already reached my country, and that I had seen in the newspapers an account of his last entry into Guatimala, with praises of his moderation and exertions to prevent atrocities. He expressed himself pleased that his name was known, and such mention made of him among strangers; and said he was not a robber and murderer, as he was called

[ocr errors]

by his enemies. He seemed intelligent and capable of improvement, and I told him that he ought to travel into other countries, and particularly, from its contiguity, into mine. He had a very indefinite notion as to where my country was ; he knew it only as El Norte, or the North; inquired about the distance and facility for getting there, and said that, when the wars were over, he would endeavour to make El Norte a visit. But he could not fix his thoughts upon anything except the wars and Morazan ; in fact, he knew of nothing else. He was boyish in his manners and manner of speaking, but very grave; he never smiled, and, conscious of power, was unostentatious in the exhibition of it, though he always spoke in the first person of what he had done and what he intended to do. One of the hangers-on, evidently to pay court to him, looked for a paper bearing his signature to show me as a specimen of his handwriting, but did not find one. My interview with him was much more interesting than I had expected; so young, so humble in his origin, so destitute of early advantages, with honest impulses, perhaps, but ignorant, fanatic, sanguinary, and the slave of violent passions, wielding absolutely the physical force of the country, and that force entertaining a natural hatred to the whites. At parting he accompanied me to the door, and in the presence of his villanous soldiers made me a free offer of his services. I understood that I had the good fortune to make a favourable impression; and afterward, but, unluckily, during my absence, he called upon me in full dress and in state, which for him was an unusual thing. At that time, as Don Manuel Pavon told me, he professed to consider himself a brigadier-general, subject to the orders of the government. He had no regular Vol. I.-II

allowance for the maintenance of himself and troops; he did not like keeping accounts, and called for money when he wanted it; and, with this understanding, in eight months he had not required more than Morazan did in two. He really did not want money for himself, and as a matter of policy he paid the Indians but little. This operated powerfully with the aristocracy, upon whom the whole burden of raising money devolved. It may be a satisfaction to some of my friends to know that this lawless chief is under a dominion to which meeker men are loth to submit; his wife accompanies him on horseback in all his expeditions, influenced by a feeling which is said to proceed sometimes from excess of affection; and I have heard that it is no unimportant part of the business of the chief of the state to settle family jars.

As we were returning to my house, we met a gentleman who told Mr. Pavon that a party of soldiers was searching for a member of the Assembly who was lying under the displeasure of Carrera, but a personal friend of theirs; and as we passed on we saw a filo of soldiers drawn up before his door, while others were inside searching the house. This was done by Carrera's orders, without any knowledge on the part of the government.

PARTY TO MIX CO. 251

CHAPTER XII.

Party to Mixco.—A Scene of Pleasure.—Procession in Honour of the Patron Saint of Miico.—Fireworks.—A Bombardment.—Smoking Cigars.—A Nightbrawl—Suffering and Sorrow.—A Cockfight.—A Walk in the Suburbs.—Sunday Amusements.—Return to the City.

In consequence of the convulsions and danger of the times, the city was dull, and there was no gayety in private circles; but an effort had been made by some enterprising ladies to break the monotony, and a party, to which I was invited, was formed for that afternoon to Mixco, an Indian village about three leagues distant, at which the festival of its patron saint was to be celebrated the next day with Indian rites.

At four o'clock in the afternoon I left my door on horseback, to call on Don Manuel Pavon. His house was next to that of the proscribed deputy, and a line of soldiers was drawn around the whole block, with the purpose of preventing an escape, while every house was searched. I always gave these gentlemen a wide berth when I could, but it was necessary to ride along the whole line; and as I passed the house of the deputy, with the door closed and sentinels before it, I could but think of his distressed family, in agony lest his hiding-place should be discovered.

Don Manuel was waiting for me, and we rode to the house of one of the ladies of the party, a young widow whom I had not seen before, and who, in her ridingdress, made a fine appearance. Her horse was ready, and when she had kissed the old people good-by we carried her off. The women-servants, with familiarity

« FöregåendeFortsätt »