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LAKE OF AMATITAN. 313
two o'clock we started. It was the hottest hour of the day, and when we passed the gate the sun was scorching. Late as it was, our muleteer had not finished his leave-taking. His wife and little son accompanied him; and at some distance outside we were obliged to stop in the hot sun and wait till they came up. We were extremely glad when they exchanged their last embraces, and the wife and son turned off for their home in Mixco.
Notwithstanding the lateness of the hour, we diverged from the regular road for the purpose of passing by the Lake of Amatitan, but it was dark when we reached the top of the high range of mountains which bounds that beautiful water. Looking down, it seemed like a gathering of fog in the bottom of a deep valley. The descent was by a rough zigzag path on the side of the mountain, very steep, and, in the extreme darkness, difficult and dangerous. We felt happy when we reached the bank of the lake, though still a little above it. The mountains rose round it like a wall, and cast over it a gloom deeper than the shade of night. We rode for some distance with the lake on our left, and a high and perpendicular mountain-side on our right. A cold wind had succeeded the intense heat of the day, and when we reached Amatitan I was perfectly chilled. We found the captain in the house he had indicated. It was nine o'clock, and, not having touched anything since seven in the morning, we were prepared to do justice to the supper he had provided for us.
To avoid the steep descent to the lake with the cargo-mules, our muleteer had picked up a guide for us on the road, and gone on himself direct; but, to our surprise, he had not yet arrived. While at supper we
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heard an uproar in the street, and a man ran in to tell us that a mob was murdering our muleteer. The captain, a frequent visiter to the country, said it was probably a general machete fight, and cautioned us against going out. While in the corridor, hesitating, the uproar was hurrying toward us; the gate burst open, and a crowd rushed in, dragging with them our muleteer, that respectable husband and father, with his machete drawn, and so tipsy that he could hardly stand, but wanted to fight all the world. With difficulty we got him entangled among some saddle-gear, when he dropped down, and, after vain efforts to rise, fell asleep.
I woke the next morning with violent headache and pain in all my bones. Nevertheless, we started at daylight, and rode till five o'clock. The sun and heat increased the pain in my head, and for three hours before reaching Escuintla I was in great suffering. I avoided going to the corregidor's, for I knew that his sleeping apartment was open to all who came, and I wanted quiet; but I made a great mistake in stopping at the house of the captain's friend. He was the proprietor of an estanco or distillery for making agua ardiente, and gave us a large room directly back of a store, and separated from it by a low board partition open over the top; and this store was constantly filled with noisy, wrangling, and drinking men and women. My bed was next to the partition, and we had eight or ten men in our room. All night I had a violent fever, and in the morning I was unable to move. Captain De Nouvelle regretted it, but he could not wait, as his ship was ready to lie off and on without coming to anchor. Mr. Catherwood had me removed to a storeroom filled with casks and demijohns, where, except from occasional
entries to draw off liquor, I was quiet; but the odour was sickening. In the afternoon the fever left me, and we rode to Masaya, a level and shady road of four leagues, and, to our surprise and great satisfaction, found the captain at the house at which I had stopped on my return from Istapa. He had advanced two leagues beyond, when he heard of a band of robbers at some distance farther on, and returned to wait for company, sending, in the mean time, to Escuintla for a guard of soldiers. We afterward learned that they were a body of exiles who had been expelled from Guatimala, and were crossing from Quezaltenango to San Salvador; but, being in desperate circumstances, they were dangerous persons to meet on the road. The hut at which we stopped was hardly large enough for the family that occupied it, and our luggage, with two hammocks and a cartaret, drove them into a very small space. Crying children are said to be healthy; if so, the good woman of the house was blessed: besides this, a hen was hatching a brood of chickens under my head. During the night a party of soldiers entered the village, in pursuance of the captain's requisition, and passed on to clear the road. We started before daylight; but as the sun rose my fever returned, and at eleven o'clock, when we reached Overo, I could go no farther. I have before remarked that this hacienda is a great stopping-place from Istapa and the salt-works; and unfortunately for me, several parties of muleteers, in apprehension of the robbers, had joined together, and starting at midnight, had already finished their day's labour. In the afternoon a wild boar was hunted, which our muleteer, with my gun, killed. There was
a great feast in cooking and eating him, and the noise racked my brain. Night brought no relief. Quiet was all I wanted, but that it seemed impossible to have; besides which, the rancho was more than usually abundant in fleas. All night I had violent fever. Mr. Catherwood, who, from not killing any one at Copan, had conceived a great opinion of his medical skill, gave me a powerful dose of medicine, and toward morning I fell asleep.
At daylight we started, and arrived at Istapa at nine o'clock. Captain De Nouvelle had not yet gone on board. Two French ships were then lying off the port: the Belle Poule and the Melanie, both from Bordeaux, the latter being the vessel of Captain De Nouvelle. He had accounts to arrange with the captain of the Belle Poule, and we started first for his vessel.
I have before remarked that Istapa is an open roadstead, without bay, headland, rock, reef, or any protection whatever from the open sea. Generally the sea is, as its name imports, pacific, and the waves roll calmly to the shore; but in the smoothest times there is a breaker, and to pass this, as a part of the fixtures of the port, an anchor is dropped outside, with a buoy attached, and a long cable passing from the buoy is secured on shore. The longboat of the Melanie lay hard ashore, stern first, with a cable run through a groove in the bows, and passing through the sculling-hole in the stern. She was filled with goods, and among them we took our seats. The mate sat in the stern, and, taking advantage of a wave that raised the bows, gave the order to haul. The wet rope whizzed past, and the boat moved till, with the receding wave, it struck heavily on the sand. Another wave and another haul, and she swung clear of the bottom; and meeting the coming,
and hauling fast on the receding wave, in a few minutes we passed the breakers, the rope was thrown out of the groove, and the sailors took to their oars. It was one of the most beautiful of those beautiful days on the Pacific. The great ocean was as calm as a lake; the freshness of the morning still rested upon the water, and already I felt revived. In a few minutes we reached the Belle Poule, one of the most beautiful ships that ever floated, and considered a model in the French commercial marine. The whole deck was covered with an awning, having a border trimmed with scarlet, and fluttering in the wind. The quarter-deck was raised, protected by a fanciful awning, furnished with settees, couches, and chairs, and on a brass railing in front sat two beautiful Peruvian parrots. The door of the cabin was high enough to admit a tall man without stooping. On each side were four staterooms, and the stern was divided into two chambers for the captain and supercargo, each with a window in it, and furnished with a bed (not a berth), a sofa, books, drawers, writing-desk, everything necessary for luxurious living on shipboard; just the comforts with which one would like to circumnavigate the world. She was on a trading voyage from Bordeaux, with an assorted cargo of French goods; had touched at the ports in Peru, Chili, Panama, and Central America, and left at each place merchandise to be sold, and the proceeds to be invested in the products of the country; and was then bound to Mazatlan, on the coast of Mexico, whence she would return and pick up her cargo, and in two years return to Bordeaux. We had a déjeuner a la fourchette, abounding in Paris luxuries, with wines and café, as in Paris, to which, fortunately for the ship's stores, I did not bring my accustomed vigour; and there was style in