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A MAJOR-DOMO. 293
respectable citizens of the place were reeling round the estanco, and urged me to stop; but my guide said they were a bad set, and advised me to return and pass the night at the sugar-mill. Presuming that he knew the people of whom he spoke better than I did, I was no way inclined to disregard his caution. It was after dark when we reached the trapiche; some of the workmen were sitting around a fire smoking; others were lying asleep under a shed, and I had but to
"Look around and choose my ground, And take my rest."
I inquired for the major-domo, and was escorted to a mud house, where in the dark I heard a harsh voice, and presently, by the light of a pine stick, saw an old and forbidding face corresponding, and by its side that of a young woman, so soft and sweet that it seemed to appear expressly for the sake of contrast; and these two were one. I was disposed to pity her; but the old major-domo was a noble fellow in heart, and she managed him so beautifully that he never suspected it. He was about going to bed, but sent men out to cut sacate, and both he and his wife were pleased that accident had brought me to their hut. The workmen sympathized in their humour, and we sat for two hours around a large table under the shed, with two candles sticking up in their own tallow. They could not comprehend that I had been to the top of the Volcano de Agua, and then ridden down to the coast merely to see the Pacific. A fine, open-faced young man had a great desire to travel, only he did not like to go away from home. I offered to take him with me and give him good wages. The subject was discussed aloud. It was an awful thing to go away from home, and among strangers, where no one would care for him. His house was the outside of the major-domo's hut, but his home was in the hearts of his friends, and perhaps some of them would be dead before he returned. The wife of the major-domo seemed a good spirit in tempering the hearts and conduct of these wild and half-naked men. I promised to give him money to pay his expenses home when he should wish to return, and he agreed to go with me. At three o'clock the old major-domo was shouting in my ears. I was not familiar with my own name with the don prefixed, and thought he had “waked up the wrong passenger.” The courage of the young man who wished to travel failed him, and he did not make his appearance; in the expectation of his going my guide did not come, and I set out alone. Before daylight I passed for the third time through the village of San Pedro, and a little beyond overtook a bundle on horseback, which proved to be a boy and a woman, with one poncha over both. The River Michetoya was foaming and breaking in a long succession of rapids on our right, and we rode on together to San Cristoval. I rode up to the convent, pounced upon the cura at the witching hour of breakfast, mounted again, and rode around the base of the Volcano de Agua, with its cultivated fields and belt of forest and verdure to the top. Opposite was another volcano, its sides covered with immense forests. Between the two I passed a single trapiche belonging to a convent of Dominican friars, entered a large and beautiful valley, passed hot springs, smoking for more than a mile along the road, and entered among the nopals or cochineal plantations of Amatitan. On both sides were high clay fences, and the nopals were more extensive than those of the Antigua, and more valuable,
A ROVINB AMERICAN. 295
as, though only twenty-five miles from it, the climate is so different that they produce two crops in each season. Approaching the town, I remembered that Mr. Handy, who had travelled from the United States through Texas and Mexico with a caravan of wild animals, had told me in New-York of an American in his employ, who had left him at this place to take charge of a cochineal plantation, and I was curious to see how he looked and flourished in such employment. I had forgotten his name, but, inquiring on the road for an American del Norte, was directed to the nopal of which he had charge. It was one of the largest in the place, and contained four thousand plants. I rode up to a small building in the middle of the plantation, which looked like a summer-house, and was surrounded by workmen, one of whom announced me as a " Spaniard," as the Indians generally call foreigners. Dismounting and giving my mule to an Indian, I entered and found Don Henriques sitting at a table with an account-book before him, settling accounts with the workmen. He was dressed in the coton or jacket of the country, and had a very long beard; but I should have recognised him anywhere as an American. I addressed him in English, and he stared at me, as if startled by a familiar sound, and answered in Spanish. By degrees he comprehended the matter. He was under thirty, from Rhinebeck Landing, on the Hudson River, where his father keeps a store, and his name was Henry Pawling; had been a clerk in New-York, and then in Mexico. Induced by a large offer and a strong disposition to ramble and see the country, he accepted a proposal from Mr. Handy. His business was to go on before the caravan, hire a place, give notice, and make preparations for the exhibition of the animals. In this capacity he had travelled all over Mexico, and from thence to Guatimala. It was seven years since he left home, and since parting with Mr. Handy he had not spoken a word of his own language; and as he spoke it now it was more than half Spanish. . I need not say that he was glad to see me. He conducted me over the plantation, and explained the details of the curious process of making cochineal. He was somewhat disappointed in his expectations, and spoke with great feeling of home; but when I offered to forward letters, said he had resolved never to write to his parents again, nor to inform them of his existence until he retrieved his fortunes, and saw a prospect of returning rich. He accompanied me into the town of Amatitan; and as it was late, and I expected to return to that place, I did not visit the lake, but continued direct for Guatimala.
The road lay across a plain, with a high, precipitous, and verdant wall on the left. At a distance of a league we ascended a steep hill to the table-land of Guatimala. I regret that I cannot communicate to the reader the highest pleasure of my journey in Central America, that derived from the extraordinary beauty of scenery constantly changing. At the time I thought this the most delightful ride I had had in the country. On the way I overtook a man and his wife on horseback, he with a game-cock under his arm, and she with a guitar; a little boy was hidden away among bedding on a luggagemule, and four lads were with them on foot, each with a game-cock wrapped in matting, with the head and tail only visible. They were going to Guatimala to pass the Christmas holydays, and with this respectable party I entered the gate of the city, on the eighth day after my departure. I found a letter from Mr. Catherwood, dated at Esquipulas, advising me that he had been rob
CHRISTMAS EVE. 297
bed by his servant, taken ill, had left the ruins, gone to Don Gregorio's, and was then on his journey to Guatimala. My messenger had passed through Copan, and gone on he did not know where. I was in great distress, and resolved, after a day's rest, to set off in search of him.
I dressed myself and went to a party at Seiior Zebadours, formerly minister to England, where I surprised the Guatimaltecos by the tour I had made, and particularly by having come alone from Istapa. Here I met Mr. Chatfield, her Britannic majesty's consul general, and Mr. Skinner, who had arrived during my absence. It was Christmas Eve, the night of El Nascimiento, or birth of Christ. At one end of the sala was a raised platform, with a green floor, and decorated with branches of pine and cypress, having birds sitting upon them, and looking-glass, and sandpaper, and figures of men and animals, representing a rural scene, with an arbour, and a wax doll in a cradle; in short, the grotto of Bethlehem and the infant Saviour. Always, at this season of the year, every house in Guatimala has its nascimiento, according to the wealth and taste of the proprietor, and in time of peace the figure of the Saviour is adorned with family jewels, pearls, and precious stones, and at night every house is open, and the citizens, without acquaintance or invitation, or distinction of rank or persons, go from house to house visiting; and the week of El Nascimiento is the gayest in the year; but, unfortunately, at this time it was observed only in form; the state of the city was too uncertain to permit general opening of houses and running in the streets at night. Carrera's soldiers might enter.
The party was small, but consisted of the elite of Guatimala, and commenced with supper, after which
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