« FöregåendeFortsätt »
ed up the surface of the water, and softened the rugged mountains; it was the most beautiful scene I ever saw, and this loveliest view was the last; for suddenly it became dark, and very soon the darkest night I ever knew came on. As we descended, the woods were so thick that even in the daytime they shut out the light, and in some places the road was cut through steep hills higher than our heads, and roofed over by the dense foliage. 'Hezoos was before me, with a white hat and jacket, and had a white dog running by his side, but I could not see the outline of his figure. The road was steep but good, and I did not pretend to direct the mule. In one of the darkest passages 'Hezoos stopped, and, with a voice that made the woods ring, cried out " a lion," "a lion." I was startled, but he dismounted and lighted a cigar. This was cool, I thought; he relieved me by telling me that the lion was a different animal from the roarer of the African desert, small, frightened by a shout, and only ate children. Long as it seemed, our whole descent did not occupy three hours, and at ten o'clock we reached the house in the Boca de la Montagna. It was shut, and all were asleep; but we knocked hard, and a man opened the door, and, before we could ask any questions, disappeared. Once inside, however, we made noise enough to wake everybody, and got corn for the mules and a light. There was a large room open to all comers, with three bedsteads, all occupied, and two men were sleeping on the floor. The occupant of one of the beds, after eying me a few moments, vacated it, and I took his place. The reader must not suppose that I am perfectly unscrupulous; he took all his bedclothes, viz., his chamar, with him. The bed and all its furniture consisted of an untanned bull's hide.
LA GAR IT A. 349
La Garita.— Alihuela.—A friendly People.—Heredia.—Rio Segondo.—Coffeeplantations of San Jose.—The Sacrament for the Dying.—A happy Meeting.— Travelling Embarrassments—Quarters in a Convent.—Senor Carillo, Chief of State .—Vicissitudes of Fortune.—Visit to Cartsgo.—Tres Rios.—An unexpected Meeting.—Ascent of the Volcano of Cartago.—The Crater.—View of the two Seas.—Descent.—Stroll through Cartago.—A Burial.—Another attack of Fever and Ague.—A Vagabond.—Cultivation of Coffee.
The next morning we entered an open, rolling, and undulating country, which reminded me of scenes at home. At nine o'clock we came to the brink of a magnificent ravine, and winding down by a steep descent of more than fifteen hundred feet, the mountains closed around us and formed an amphitheatre. At the bottom of the ravine was a rough wooden bridge crossing a narrow stream running between perpendicular rocks a hundred and fifty feet high, very picturesque, and reminding me of Trenton Falls.
We ascended by a steep road to the top of the ravine, where a long house stood across the road, so as to prevent all passing except directly through it. It is called La Garita, and commands the road from the port to the capital. Officers are stationed here to take an account of merchandise and to examine passports. The one then in command had lost an arm in the service of his country, i. e., in a battle between his own town and another fifteen miles off, and the place was given to him as a reward for his patriotic services.
As we advanced the country improved, and for a
league before entering Alihuela it was lined on both
sides with houses three or four hundred yards apart,
built of sundried bricks, whitewashed, and the fronts of some were ornamented with paintings. Several had chalked in red on each side of the door the figure of a soldier, with his musket shouldered and bayonet fixed, large as life and stiff as a martinet. But all imperfections were hidden by rows of trees on both sides(of the road, many of them bearing beautiful flowers, which in some places completely imbowered the houses. The fields were cultivated with sugarcane, and every house had its little trapiche or sugarmill; and there were marks of carriage-wheels, and very soon we heard a vehicle approaching. The creaking of its wheels made almost as much noise as the Zillenthal Patent Cold Amalgamating Machine in the mountain of Aguacate. They were made of a cut, about ten or twelve inches thick, from the trunk of a Guanacaste tree, with a hole in the centre, which played upon the axle almost ad libitum, and made the most mournful noise that can be conceived. The body was constructed of sugarcane; it was about four feet high, and drawn by oxen fastened by the horns instead of the neck.
At the entry of Alihuela I stopped to inquire for one bearing a name immortal in the -history of the Spanish conquest. It was the name of Alvarado. Whether he was a descendant or not I do not know, nor did he; and strange to say, though I met several bearing that name, not one attempted to trace his lineage to the conqueror. Don Ramon Alvarado, howejrer, was recommended to me for qualities which allied him in character with his great namesake. He was the courier of the English Mining Company for Serapequea and the River St. Juan, one of the wildest roads in all Central America.
Next to the advantage of the sea voyage, my principal object in leaving Zonzonate was to acquire some information in regard to the canal route between the
Atlantic and Pacific by means of the Lake of Nicaragua and the River San Juan, and my business with Alvarado was to secure him as a guide to the port of San Juan. In half an hour all these arrangements were made, the day fixed, and half the contract-money paid. In the mean time 'Hezoos was busily engaged in drawing a black glazed covering over my hat, and fixing in it an American eagle which I had taken off on shipboard. -, - There are four cities in Costa Rica, all of which lie within the space of fifteen leagues; yet each has a different climate and different productions. Including the suburbs, Alihuela contains a population of about 10,000. The plaza was beautifully situated, and the church, the cabildo, and the houses fronting it were handsome. The latter were long and low, with broad piazzas and large windows, having balconies made of wooden bars. It was Sunday, and the inhabitants, cleanly dressed, were sitting on the piazzas, or, with doors wide open, reclining in hammocks, or on high-backed wooden settees inside. The women were dressed like ladies, and some were handsome, and all white. A respectable-looking old man, standing in the door of one of the best houses, called out “Amigo,” “friend,” and asked us who we were, whence we came, and whither we were going, recommending us to God at parting; and all along the street we were accosted in the same friendly spirit. At a distance of three leagues we passed through Heredia without dismounting. I had ridden all day with a feeling of extraordinary satisfaction; and if such were my feelings, what must have been those of "Hezoos ? He was returning to his country, with his love for it increased by absence and hardship away from home. All the way he met old acquaintances and friends. He was a good-looking fellow, dashingly dressed, and wore a basket-hilted Peruvian sword more than six feet long. Behind him was strapped a valise of scarlet cloth, with black borders, part of the uniform of a Peruvian soldier. It would have been curious to remember how many times he told his story: of military service and two battles in Peru; of impressment for the navy and desertion; a voyage to Mexico, and his return to Guatimala by land; and always concluded by inquiring about his wife, from whom he had not heard since he left home, "la povera" being regularly his last words. As we approached his home his tenderness for la povera increased. He could not procure any direct intelligence of her; but one good-natured friend suggested that she had probably married some one else, and that he would only disturb the peace of the family by his return.
A league beyond Heredia we came to another great ravine. We descended, and crossed a bridge over the Rio Segondo. A few months before, this river had risen suddenly and without any apparent cause, swept away a house and family near the bridge, and carried with it consternation and death. But little is known of the geography of the interior of the country, and it is supposed that a lake had burst its bounds. Rising upon the other side,'Hezoos pointed out the scene of the battle in which the officer at La Garita had lost his arm, and in which he himself had taken part, and, being a San Jose man, he spoke of the people of the other town as an Englishman in Lord Nelson's time would of a Frenchman.
On the top of the ravine we came upon a large table of land covered with the rich coffee-plantations of San Jose. It was laid out into squares of two hundred feet,