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groves of plantain and cocoanut trees; canoes with sails set were lying on the water, and men and women -vere sitting under the trees gazing at us. It was a soft and sunny scene, speaking peace and freedom from the tumults of a busy world. But, beautiful as it was, we soon forgot it; for a narrow opening in a rampart of mountains wooed us on, and in a few moments we entered the Rio Dolce. On each side, rising perpendicularly from three to four hundred feet, was a wall of living green. Trees grew from the water's edge, with dense, unbroken foliage, to the top; not a spot of barrenness was to be seen ; and on both sides, from the tops of the highest trees, long tendrils descended to the water, as if to drink and carry life to the trunks that bore them. It was, as its name imports, a Rio Dolce, a fairy scene of Titan land, combining exquisite beauty with colossal grandeur. As we advanced the passage turned, and in a few minutes we lost sight of the sea, and were enclosed on all sides by a forest wall; but the river, although showing us no passage, still invited us onward. Could this be the portal to a land of volcanoes and earthquakes, torn and distracted by civil war 2 For some time we looked in vain for a single barren spot ; at length we saw a naked wall of perpendicular rock, but out of the crevices, and apparently out of the rock itself, grew shrubs and trees. Sometimes we were so enclosed that it seemed as if the boat must drive in among the trees. Occasionally, in an angle of the turns, the wall sunk, and the sun struck in with scorching force, but in a moment we were again in the deepest shade. From the fanciful accounts we had heard, we expected to see monkeys gambolling among the trees, and parrots flying over our heads; but all was as WoL. I.-E
quiet as if man had never been there before. The pelican, the stillest of birds, was the only living thing we saw, and the only sound was the unnatural bluster of our steam-engine. The wild defile that leads to the excavated city of Petra is not more noiseless or more extraordinary, but strangely contrasting in its steril desolation, while here all is luxuriant, romantic, and beautiful. For nine miles the passage continued thus one scene of unvarying beauty, when suddenly the narrow river expanded into a large lake, encompassed by mountains and studded with islands, which the setting sun illuminated with gorgeous splendour. We remained on deck till a late hour, and awoke the next morning in the harbour of Yzabal. A single schooner of about forty tons showed the low state of her commerce. We landed before seven o’clock in the morning, and even then it was hot. There were no idlers on the bank, and the custom-house officer was the only person to receive us. The town stands on a gentle elevation on the banks of the Golfo Dolce, with mountains piled upon mountains behind. We walked up the street to the square, on one side of which was the house of Messrs. Ampudia and Purroy, the largest and, except one they were then engaged in building, the only frame house in the place. The rest were all huts, built of poles and reeds, and thatched with leaves of the cahoon-tree. Opposite their door was a large shed, under which were bales of merchandise, and mules, muleteers, and Indians, for transporting goods across the Mico Mountain. The arrival of the padre created a great sensation. It was announced by a joyful ringing of the church bells, and in an hour after he was dressed in his sur
plice and saying mass. The church stood at the head of the square, and, like the houses, was built of poles and thatched with leaves. In front, at a distance of ten or fifteen feet, was a large wooden cross. The floor was of bare earth, but swept clean and strewed with pine-leaves; the sides were trimmed with branches and festoons of flowers, and the altar was ornamented with figures of the Virgin and saints, and wreaths of flowers. It was a long time since the people had had the privilege of hearing mass, and the whole population, Spaniards, Mestitzoes, and Indians, answered the unexpected but welcome call of the matin bell. The floor was covered with kneeling women having white shawls over their heads, and behind, leaning against the rude pillars, were the men; and their earnestness and humility, the earthen floor and the thatched roof, were more imposing than the pomp of worship in the rich cathedrals of Europe or under the dome of St. Peter’s. After breakfast we inquired for a barber, and were referred to the collector of the port, who, we were told, was the best hair-cutter in the place. His house was no bigger than his neighbours', but inside hung a military saddle, with holsters and pistols, and a huge sword, the accoutrements of the collector when he sallied out at the head of his deputy to strike terror into the heart of a smuggler. Unfortunately, the honest Democrat was not at home ; but the deputy offered his own services. Mr. C. and I submitted; but the padre, who wanted his crown shaved, according to the rules of his order, determined to wait the return of the collector. I next called upon the commandant with my passport. His house was on the opposite side of the square. A soldier about fourteen years old, with a bell-crowned straw hat falling over his eyes like an extinguisher upon a candle, was standing at the door as sentinel. The troops, consisting of about thirty men and boys, were drawn up in front, and a sergeant was smoking a cigar and drilling them. The uniform purported to be a white straw hat, cotton trousers and shirt outside, musket, and cartridge-box. In one particular uniformity was strictly observed, viz., all were barefooted. The first process of calling off rank and file was omitted; and, as it happened, a long-legged fellow, six feet high, stood next to a boy twelve or thirteen years old. The custom-house officer was with the sergeant, advising him; and, after a manoeuvre and a consultation, the sergeant walked up to the line, and with the palm of his hand struck a soldier on that part of the body which, in my younger days, was considered by the schoolmaster the channel of knowledge into a boy's brain.
The commandant of this hopeful band was Don Juan Penol, a gentleman by birth and education, who, with others of his family, had been banished by General Morazan, and sought refuge in the United States. His predecessor, who was an officer of Morazan, had been just driven out by the Carrera party, and he was but twenty days in his place.
Three great parties at that time distracted Central America: that of Morazan, the former president of the Republic, in San Salvador, of Ferrera in Honduras, and of Carrera in Guatimala. Ferrera was a mulatto, and Carrera an Indian; and, though not fighting for any common purpose, they sympathized in opposition to Morazan. When Mr. Montgomery visited Guatimala, it was just thrown into a ferment by the rising of Carrera, who was then regarded as the head of a
1 COMPATRIOT. 37
troop of banditti, a robber and assassin; his followers were called Cachurecos (meaning false coin), and Mr. Montgomery told me that against him an official passport would be no protection whatever. Now he was the head of the party that ruled Guatimala. Sefior Penol gave us a melancholy picture of the state of the country. A battle had just been fought near San Salvador, between General Morazan and Ferrera, in which the former was wounded, but Ferrera was routed, and his troops were cut to pieces, and he feared Morazan was about to march upon Guatimala. He could only give us a passport to Guatimala, which he said would not be respected by General Morazan.
"We felt interested in the position of SeBor Penol; young, but with a face bearing the marks of care and anxiety, a consciousness of the miserable condition of the present, and fearful forebodings for the future. To our great regret, the intelligence we received induced our friend the padre to abandon, for the present, his intention of going to Guatimala. He had heard all the terrible stories of Morazan's persecution and proscription of the priests, and thought it dangerous to fall into his hands; and I have reason to believe it was the apprehension of this which ultimately drove him from the country.
Toward evening I strolled through the town. The population consists of about fifteen hundred Indians, negroes, mulattoes, Mestitzoes, and mixed blood of every degree, with a few Spaniards. Very soon I was accosted by a man who called himself my countryman, a mulatto from Baltimore, and his name was Philip. He had been eight years in the country, and said that he had once thought of returning home as a servant by way of New-Orleans, but he had left home in such a