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ANOTHER PATIENT. 343
coming; in an hour crossed the river of Jesus Maria, and at seven o'clock stopped to breakfast at the hacienda of the same name.
It was a miserable shell, with an arbour of branches around it, but had an appearance of cleanliness and comfort; and 'Hezoos told me that the proprietor had on it two thousand head of cattle, and owned all the land over which we had ridden from the sea. 'Hezoos was quite at home; and, as he afterward told me, he had once wanted to marry one of the daughters; but the father and mother objected, because he was not good enough. He added that they were surprised at seeing him return in such prosperous circumstances, and that the daughter told him she had always refused to marry any one else on account of her affection for him.
While breakfasting, the mother told me of a sick daughter, asked me for remedios, and finally requested me to go in and see her. The door opened from the shed, and all the apertures in the room were carefully closed, so as to exclude even a breath of air. The invalid lay in a bed in one corner, with a cotton covering over it like a moscheto-netting, but lower, and pinned close all around; and when the mother raised the covering, I encountered a body of hot and unwholesome air that almost overcame me. The poor girl lay on her back, with a cotton sheet wound tightly around her body; and already she seemed like one laid out for burial. She was not more than eighteen; the fever had just left her, her eye still sparkled, but her face was pale, and covered with spots, seams, and creases of dirt. She was suffering from intermitting fever, that scourge which breaks down the constitution and carries to the grave thousands of the inhabitants of Central America; and, according to the obstinate prejudice of the country, her face had not been washed for more than two months! I had often been disgusted with the long beards and unwashed faces of fever and ague subjects, and the ignorance and prejudice of the people on medical subjects; in illustration of which, Dr. Drivin told me of a case of practice by an old quack woman, who directed her patient, a rich cattle proprietor, to be extended on the ground naked every morning, and a bullock to be slaughtered over him, so that the blood could run warm upon his body. The man submitted to the operation more than a hundred times, and was bathed with the blood of more than a hundred bullocks; afterward he underwent a much more disgusting process, and, strange to say, he lived.
But to return: in general my medical practice was confined to men, and with them I considered myself a powerful practitioner. I did not like prescribing for women; and in this case I struck at all the prejudices of the country, and cheapened my medical skill by directing, first, that the poor girl's face should be washed; but I saved myself somewhat by making a strong point that it should be washed with warm water. Whether they thanked me or not I do not know, but I had my reward, for I saw a lovely face, and long afterward I remembered the touching expression of her eyes, as she turned toward me, and listened to the advice I gave her mother.
At ten we resumed our journey. The land was level and rich, but uncultivated. We passed several miserable cattle haciendas, the proprietors of which lived in the towns, and kept men on the estate, from time to time, to gather and number the cattle, which roamed wild in the woods. At eleven we passed the hacienda of San Felippe, belonging to a Welshman engaged in
A MINING ESTABLISHMENT. 345
mining. It was in a large clearing, and a fine situation, and its cleanliness, neatness, and good fences showed that the Welshman had not forgotten what he had learned at home.
We crossed the river Surubris and the Rio Grande or Machuca, and reached the hacienda of San Mateo, situated in the Boca of the mountain of Aguacate, and from this place we began to ascend. The road had been much improved lately, but the ascent was steep, wild, and rugged. As we toiled up the ravine, we heard before us a loud noise, that sounded like distant thunder, but regular and continued, and becoming louder as we advanced; and at length we came out on a small clearing, and saw on the side of the mountain a neat frame building of two stories, with a light and graceful balcony in front; and alongside was the thundering machine which had startled us by its noise. Strangers from the other side of the Atlantic were piercing the sides of the mountain, and pounding its stones into dust to search for gold. The whole range, the very ground which our horses spurned with their hoofs, contained that treasure for which man forsakes kindred and country.
I rode up to the house and introduced myself to Don Juan Bardh, the superintendent, a German from Friesburg. It was about two o'clock, and excessively hot. The house was furnished with chairs, sofa, and books, and had in my eyes a delightful appearance; but the view without was more so. The stream which turned the immense pounding-machine had made the spot, from time immemorial, a descansadera, or resting-place for muleteers. All around were mountains, and directly in front one rose to a great height, receding, and covered to the top with trees.
Vol. I.—X x
Don Juan Bardh had been superintendent of the Quebrada del Ingenio for about three years. The Company which he represented was called the Anglo Costa Rican Economical Mining Company. It had been in operation these three years without losing anything, which was considened doing so well that it had increased its capital, and was about continuing on a larger scale. The machine, which had just been set up, was a new German patent, called a Machine for extracting Gold by the Zillenthal Patent Self-acting Cold Amalgamation Process (I believe that I have omitted nothing), and its great value was that it required no preliminary process, but by one continued and simple operation extracted the gold from the stone. It was an immense wheel of cast iron, by which the stone, as it came from the mountain, was pounded into powder; this passed into troughs filled with water, and from them into a reservoir containing vases, where the gold detached itself from the other particles, and combined with the quicksilver with which the vases were provided.
There were several mines under Don Juan's charge, and after dinner he accompanied me to that of Corrallio, which was the largest, and, fortunately, lay on my road. After a hot ride of half an hour, ascending through thick woods, we reached the spot.
According to the opinion of the few geologists who have visited that country, immense wealth lies buried in the mountain of Aguacate; and so far from being hidden, the proprietors say, its places are so well marked that all who search may find. The lodes or mineral veins run regularly north and south, in ranges of greenstone porphyry with strata of basaltic porphyry, and average about three feet in width. In some places sidecuts or lateral excavations are made from east to west,
VISIT TO A GOLD MINE. 347
and in others shafts are sunk until they strike the vein. The first opening we visited was a side-cut four feet wide, and penetrating two hundred and forty feet before it struck the lode; but it was so full of water that we did not enter. Above it was another cut, and higher still a shaft was sunk. We descended the shaft by a ladder made of the trunk of a tree, with notches cut in it, until we reached the vein, and followed it with a candle as far as it was worked. It was about a yard wide, and the sides glittered—but it was not with gold; they were of quartz and feldspar, impregnated with sulphuret of iron, and gold in such small particles as to be invisible to the naked eye. The most prominent objects in these repositories of wealth were naked workmen with pickaxes, bending and sweating under heavy sacks of stones.
It was late in the afternoon when I came out of the shaft. Don Juan conducted me by a steep path up the side of the mountain, to a small table of land, on which was a large building occupied by miners. The view was magnificent: below was an immense ravine; above, perched on a point, like an eagle's nest, the house of another superintendent; and on the opposite side the great range of the mountains of Candelaria. I waited till my mules came up, and with many thanks for his kindness, bade Don Juan farewell.
As we continued ascending, every moment the view became more grand and beautiful; and suddenly, from a height of six thousand feet, I looked down upon the Pacific, the Gulf of Nicoya, and, sitting like a bird upon the water, our brig, La Cosmopolita. And here, on the very highest points, in the wildest and most beautiful spots that ever men chose for their abodes, were the huts of the miners. The sun touched the sea, light