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roots, high at the trunk and tapering, not round, like the roots of other trees, but straight, with sharp edges, traversing rocks and the roots of other trees. It was the last of the rainy season; the heavy rains from which we had suffered at sea had deluged the mountain, and it was in the worst state, to be passable; for sometimes it is not passable at all. For the last few days there had been no rain; but we had hardly congratulated ourselves upon our good fortune in having a clear day, when the forest became darker and the rain poured. The woods were of impenetrable thickness; and there was no view except that of the detestable path before us. For five long hours we were dragged through mudholes, squeezed in gulleys, knocked against trees, and tumbled over roots; every step required care and great physical exertion; and, withal, I felt that our inglorious epitaph might be, “tossed over the head of a mule, brained by the trunk of a mahogany-tree, and buried in the mud of the Mico Mountain.” We attempted to walk, but the rocks and roots were so slippery, the mudholes so deep, and the ascents and descents so steep, that it was impossible to continue. The mules were only half loaded, and even then several broke down; the lash could not move them; and scarcely one passed over without a fall. Of our immediate party, mine fell first. Finding that I could not save her with the rein, by an exertion that strained every nerve I lifted myself from off her back, and flung clear of roots and trees, but not of mud; and I had an escape from a worse danger: my dagger fell from its sheath and stood upright, with the handle in the mud, a foot of naked blade. Mr. Catherwood was thrown with such violence, that for a few moments, feeling the helplessness of our condition, I was horrorstruck, Long before this he had broken silence to utter an exclamation which seemed to come from the bottom of his heart, that, if he had known of this “mountain,” I might have come to Central America alone; if I had had any tendency to be a little uplifted by the honours I received at Balize, I was brought down by this high way to my capital. Shortly after Augustin's mule fell backward; he kicked his feet out of the stirrups, and attempted to slide off behind; but the mule rolled, and caught him with his left leg under, and, but for his kicking, I should have thought that every bone in his body was broken. The mule kicked worse than he ; but they rose together, and without any damage except that the mud, which before lay upon them in spots, was now formed into a regular plaster. We were toiling on toward the top of the mountain, when, at a sudden turn, we met a solitary traveller. He was a tall, dark-complexioned man, with a broadbrimmed Panama hat, rolled up at the sides; a striped woollen Guatimala jacket, with fringe at the bottom; plaid pantaloons, leather spatterdashes, spurs, and sword; he was mounted on a noble mule with a high-peaked saddle, and the butts of a pair of horseman's pistols peeped out of the holsters. His face was covered with sweat and mud; his breast and legs were spattered, and his right side was a complete incrustation; altogether, his appearance was fearful. It seemed strange to meet any one on such a road; and, to our surprise, he accosted us in English. He had set out with muleteers and Indians, but had lost them in some of the windings of the woods, and was seeking his way alone. He had crossed the mountain twice before, but had never known it so bad; he
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had been thrown twice; once his mule rolled over him, and nearly crushed him ; and now she was so frightened that he could hardly urge her along. He dismounted, and the trembling beast and his own exhausted state confirmed all that he had said. He asked us for brandy, wine, or water, anything to revive him; but, unfortunately, our stores were ahead, and for him to go back one step was out of the question. Imagine our surprise, when, with his feet buried in the mud, he told us that he had been two years in Guatimala “negotiating” for a bank charter. Fresh as I was from the land of banks, I almost thought he intended a fling at me; but he did not look like one in a humour for jesting; and, for the benefit of those who will regard it as an evidence of incipient improvement, I am able to state that he had the charter secured when he rolled over in the mud, and was then on his way to England to sell the stock. He told us, too, what seemed in better keeping with the scene, that Carrera had marched toward St. Salvador, and a battle was daily expected between him and Morazan. But neither of us had time to lose; and parting, though with some reluctance, almost as abruptly as we had met, we continued our ascent. At one o'clock, to our inexpressible satisfaction, we reached the top of the mountain. Here we found a clearing of about two hundred feet in diameter, made for the benefit of benighted muleteers; in different places were heaps of ashes and burned stumps of wood, the remains of their fires. It was the only place on the mountain which the sun could reach, and here the ground was dry; but the view was bounded by the clearing. We dismounted, and would have lunched, but had no water to drink; and, after a few minutes' rest, re
sumed our journey. The descent was as bad as the ascent; and, instead of stopping to let the mules breathe, as they had done in ascending, the muleteers seemed anxious to determine in how short a time they could tumble them down the mountain. In one of the muddiest defiles we were shut up by the falling of a mule before, and the crowding upon us of all behind; and, at the first convenient place, we stopped until the whole caravan had passed. The carefulness of the mules was extraordinary. For an hour I watched the movements of the one before me. At times he put one of his fore feet on a root or stone, and tried it as a man would; sometimes he drew his fore legs out of a bed of mud from the shoulders, and sometimes it was one continued alternation of sinking and pulling out. This is the great high road to the city of Guatimala, which has always been a place of distinction in Spanish America. Almost all the travel and merchandise from Europe passes over it; and our guide said that the reason it was so bad was because it was traversed by so many mules. In some countries this would be a reason for making it better; but it was pleasant to find that the people to whom I was accredited were relieved from one of the sources of contention at home, and did not trouble themselves with the complicated questions attendant upon internal improvements.” In two hours we reached a wild river or mountain torrent, foaming and breaking over its rocky bed, and shaded by large trees. It was called El Arroyo del Muerto, or Stream of the Dead. The muleteers were already distributed on the rocks or under the shade of
* Since that time the Constituent Assembly of Guatimala has imposed a tax of one dollar upon every bale of merchandise that passes over the mountain, for the improvement of the road.
the trees, eating their frugal meal of corn-cakes; the mules were in the river, or scattered along the bank; and we selected a large tree, which spread its branches over us like a roof, and so near the stream that we could dip our drinking-cups into the water. All the anxiety which I had been able to spare during the day from myself I had bestowed upon the barometer on the back of the guide. He carried, besides, a small white pitcher, with a red rim, on the belt of his machete, of which he was very proud and very careful; and several times, after a stumble and a narrow escape, he turned round and held up the pitcher with a smile, which gave me hopes of the barometer; and, in fact, he had carried it through without its being broken; but, unfortunately, the quicksilver was not well secured, and the whole had escaped. It was impossible to repair it in Guatimala, and the loss of this barometer was a source of regret during our whole journey; for we ascended many mountains, the heights of which have never been ascertained. But we had another misadventure, which, at the moment, touched us more nearly. We sat on the ground, Turkish fashion, with a vacant space between us. Augustin placed before us a well-filled napkin; and, as we dipped water from the clear stream by our side, a spirit of other days came over us, and we spoke in contempt of railroads, cities, and hotels; but oh, publicans, you were avenged. We unrolled the napkin, and the scene that presented itself was too shocking, even for the strongest nerves. We had provided bread for three days, eggs boiled hard, and two roasted fowls for as long as they might last. Augustin had forgotten salt, but he had placed in the napkin a large paper of gunpowder as an adventure of his own. The