« FöregåendeFortsätt »
paper was broken, and the bread, fowls, and eggs were thoroughly seasoned with this new condiment. All the beauty of the scene, all our equanimity, everything except our tremendous appetites, left us in a moment. Country taverns rose up before us; and we, who had been so amiable, abused Augustin, and wished him the whole murderous seasoning in his own body. We could not pick out enough to satisfy hunger. It was perhaps the most innocent way of tasting gunpowder, but even so it was a bitter pill. We picked and made excavations for immediate use, but the rest of our stores was lost.
This over, we mounted, and, fording the stream, continued our descent. Passing oft" by a spur of the mountain, we came out upon an open ridge, commanding a view of an extensive savannah. Very soon we reached a fine table of land, where a large party of muleteers on their way to Yzabal were encamped for the night. Bales of indigo, which formed their cargoes, were piled up like a wall; their mules were pasturing quietly near them, and fires were burning to cook their suppers. It was a great satisfaction to be once more in an open country, and to see the mountain, with its dense forest, lighted up by the setting sun, grand and gloomy, and ourselves fairly out of it. With ten hours of the hardest riding I ever went through, we had made only twelve miles.
Descending from this table, we entered a plain thickly wooded, and in a few minutes reached a grove of wild palm-trees of singular beauty. From the top of a tall naked stem grew branches twenty or thirty feet long, spreading from the trunk, and falling outward with a graceful bend, like enormous plumes of feathers; the trees stood so close that the bending branches
A PLEASANT ENCOUNTER. 49
met, and formed arches, in some places as regular as if constructed by art; and as we rode among them, there was a solemn stillness, an air of desolation, that reminded us of the columns of an Egyptian temple.
Toward dark we reached the rancho of Mico. It was a small house, built of poles and plastered with mud. Near it, and connected by a shed thatched with branches, was a larger house, built of the same material, expressly for the use of travellers. This was already occupied by two parties from Guatimala, one of which consisted of the Canonigo Castillo, his clerical companion or secretary, and two young Pavons. The other was a French merchant on his way to Paris. Mr. C. and I were picturesque-looking objects, not spattered, but plastered with mud from head to foot; but we were soon known, and received from the whole company a cordial welcome to Central America.
Their appearance was such as gave me a highly favourable opinion of the description of persons I should meet at Guatimala. The canonigo was one of the first men in the country in position and character, and was then on his way to Havana on a delicate political mission, being sent by the Constituent Assembly to invite back the archbishop, who had been banished by General Morazan ten years before. He undertook to do the honours, and set before us chocolate and what he called the "national dish," fregoles, or black beans fried, which, fortunately for our subsequent travels, we "cottoned" to at once. We were very tired, but agreeable company was better than sleep. The canonigo had been educated at Rome, and passed the early part of his life in Europe; the Frenchman was from Paris; the young Pavons were educated in New-York; and we sat till a late hour, Vol I « 5
our clothes stiff with mud, talking of France, Italy, and home. At length we hung up our hammocks. We had been so much occupied that we had paid no attention to our luggage; and, when we wanted to procure a change of raiment, could not find our men, and were obliged to turn in as we were; but, with the satisfactory feeling that we had passed "the mountain," we soon fell asleep.
A Canonigo—How to roast a Fowl.—Extempore Shoemaking.—Motagua River. -Beautiful Scene.—Crossing the River.—The Luxury of Water.—Primitive Costumes-How to make Tortillas–Costly Timber—Gualan–Oppressive Heat.-Shock of an Earthquake.—A stroll through the Town.—A troublesome Muleteer-A Lawsuit.—Important Negotiations.—A Modern Bona Dea.—How to gain a Husband.--A Kingdom of Flora.-Zacapa–Making free win a Host.
Before daylight I was out of doors. Twenty or thirty men, muleteers and servants, were asleep on the ground, each lying on his back, with his black chamar wound round him, covering his head and feet. As the day broke they arose. Very soon the Frenchman got up, took chocolate, and, after an hour's preparation, started. The canonigo set off next. He had crossed the mountain twenty years before, on his first arrival in the country, and still retained a full recollection of its horrors. He set off on the back of an Indian, in a silla, or chair with a high back and top to protect him from the sun. Three other Indians followed as relay carriers, and a noble mule for his relief if he should become tired of the chair. The Indian was bent almost double, but the canonigo was in high spirits, smoking his cigar, and waving his hand till he was out of sight. The Pavons started last, and we were left alone.
Still none of our men came. At about eight o'clock two made their appearance; they had slept at a rancho near by, and the others had gone on with the luggage. We were excessively provoked; but, enduring as we might the discomfort of our clothes stiff with mud, saddled and set off.
We saw no more of our caravan of mules, and our muleteer of the barometer had disappeared without notice, and left us in the hands of two understrappers.
Our road lay over a mountainous country, but generally clear of wood; and in about two hours we reached a collection of ranchos, called El Posos. One of our men rode up to a hut and dismounted, as if he were at home. The woman of the house chided him for not having come the night before, which he gruffly ascribed to us; and it was evident that we stood a chance of losing him too. But we had a subject of more immediate interest in the want of a breakfast. Our tea and coffee, all that we had left after the destruction of our stores by gunpowder, were gone forward, and for some time we could get nothing. And here, in the beginning of our journey, we found a scarcity of provant greater than we had ever met with before in any inhabited country. The people lived exclusively upon tortillas—flat cakes made of crushed Indian corn, and baked on a clay griddle—and black beans. Augustin bought some of these last, but they required several hours' soaking before they could be eaten. At length he succeeded in buying a fowl, through which he ran a stick, and smoked it over a fire, without dressing of any kind, and which, with tortillas, made a good meal for a penitentiary system of diet. As we had expected, our principal muleteer was unable to tear himself away; but, like a dutiful husband, he sent, by the only one that was now left, a loving message to his wife at Gualan.
At the moment of starting, our remaining attendant said he could not go until he had made a pair of shoes, and we were obliged to wait; but it did not take long. Standing on an untanned cowhide, he marked the size of his feet with a piece of coal, cut them out with his