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and lighted up the sides of the mountains, while the tops were covered with clouds. At four o'clock we had a distant view of the great plain of Zacapa, bounded on the opposite side by a triangular belt of mountains, at the foot of which stood the town. We descended and crossed the plain, which was green and well cultivated; and, fording a stream, ascended a rugged bank and entered the town.
It was by far the finest we had seen. The streets were regular, and the houses plastered and whitewashed, with large balconied windows and piazzas. The church was two hundred and fifty feet long, with walls ten feet thick, and a facade rich with Moorish devices. It was built in the form of a Latin cross. In one end of the cross was a tailor's shop, and the other was roofless. At one corner was a belfry, consisting of four rough trunks of trees supporting a peaked roof covered with tiles. Two bells were suspended from a rude beam; and, as we passed, a half-naked Indian was standing on a platform underneath, ringing for vespers.
We rode up to the house of Don Mariano Durante, one of the largest and best in the place, being about a hundred feet front, and having a corridor extending the whole length, paved with square stones. The door was opened by a respectable-looking St. Domingo negro, who told us, in French, that Sefior Durante was not at home, but that the house was at our service; and, going round to a porte cochire alongside, admitted us into a large courtyard ornamented with trees and flowers, at one side of which was a cabelleria or stable. We left our mules in the hands of the servants, and entered a sala or reception-room covering nearly the whole front, with large windows reaching down to the floor and iron balconies, and furnished with tables, a European bu
MAKING FREE WITH A HOST. 69
reau, and chairs. In the centre of the room and in the windows hung cages, handsomely made and gilded, containing beautiful singing-birds of the country, and two fine canary birds from Havana. This was the residence of two bachelor brothers, who, feeling for the wants of travellers in a country entirely destitute of hotels, kept a door always open for their accommodation. We had candles lighted, and made ourselves at home. I was sitting at a table writing, when we heard the tramp of mules outside, and a gentleman entered, took off his sword and spurs, and laid his pistols upon the table. Supposing him to be a traveller like ourselves, we asked him to take a seat; and, when supper was served, invited him to join us. It was not till bedtime that we found we were doing the honours to one of the masters of the house. He must have thought us cool, but I flatter myself he had no reason to complain of any want of attention.
Purchasing a Bridle.—A School and its Regulations.—Conversation with an Indian.— Spanish Translation of the " Spy."—Chiquimula.—A Church in Ruins. —A Veteran of the French Empire.—St. Stephanos.—A Land of Mountains.— An Affair with a Muleteer.—A deserted Village.—A rude Assault.—Arrest.— Imprisonment.—Release.
The next day we were obliged to wait for our muleteer. Our guide of the night before had stolen one of our bridles; and here we found the beginning of an annoyance which attended us throughout Central America, in the difficulty of buying anything ready made. There was a blacksmith who had a bit partly made, but had not charcoal enough to finish it. Fortunately, during the day an Indian arrived with a backload, and the bridle was completed. The headstall we bought of a saddler, and the reins, which were of platted leather like the lash of a whip, we were lucky enough to obtain ready made. The arrival of the charcoal enabled the blacksmith to fit us out with one pair of spurs.
At Zacapa, for the first time, we saw a schoolhouse. It was a respectable-looking building, with columns in front, and against the wall hung a large card, headed,
"1st Decurion (a student who has the care of ten other students). 2d Decurion.
"Interior regulation for the good government of the school of first letters of this town, which ought to be observed strictly by all the boys composing it," &c.,
with a long list of complicated articles, declaring the rewards and punishments. The school, for the government of which these regulations were intended, consisted of five boys, two besides the decurions and monitor. It was nearly noon, and the master, who was the clerk of the alcalde, had not yet made his appearance. The
only books I saw were a Catholic prayer-book and a translation of Montesquieu's Spirit of the Laws. The boys were fine little fellows, half white; and with one of them I had a trial of sums in addition, and then of exercises in handwriting, in which he showed himself very proficient, writing in Spanish, in a hand which I could not mistake, “Give me sixpence.” We were rather at a loss what to do with ourselves, but in the afternoon our host called in an Indian for the purpose of enabling us to make a vocabulary of Indian words. The first question I asked him was the name of God, to which he answered, Santissima Trinidad. Through our host I explained to him that I did not wish the Spanish, but the Indian name, and he answered as before, Santissima Trinidad, or Dios. I shaped my question in a variety of ways, but could get no other answer. He was of a tribe called Chinaute, and the inference was, either that they had never known any Great Spirit who governed and directed the universe, or that they had undergone such an entire change in matters of religion that they had lost their own appellation for the Deity. In the evening the town was thrown into excitement by the entry of a detachment of Carrera's soldiers, on their way to Yzabal to receive and escort a purchase of muskets. The house of our friend was a gatheringplace of residents, and, as usual, the conversation turned upon the revolutionary state of the country. Some of them, as soon as they knew my official character, were anxious for me to go directly to San Salvador, the headquarters of the Morazan or Federal party, and assured me that the road to Guatimala was occupied by the troops of Carrera, and dangerous to travel over. I knew too much of the effect of party spirit to put implicit faith in what partisans told me, and endeavoured to change the subject. Our host asked me whether we had any wars in my country, and said he knew that we had had one revolution, for he had read La Historia de la Revolution de los Estados Unidos del Norte, in four volumes, in which General "Washington appeared under the name of Harper, and Jack Lawton and Dr. Sitgreaves were two of the principal characters; from which I learned, what will perhaps be new to some of my readers, that in the Spanish translation the tale of the "Spy" is called a History of the American Revolution.
Our muleteer did not make his appearance till late the next day. In the mean time, I had had an opportunity of acquiring much information about the roads and the state of the country; and, being satisfied that, so far as regarded the purpose of my mission, it was not necessary to proceed immediately to Guatimala, and, in fact, that it was better to wait a little while and see the result of the convulsions that then distracted the country, we determined to visit Copan. It was completely out of the line of travel, and, though distant only a few days' journey, in a region of country but little known, even at Zacapa; but our muleteer said that he knew the road, and made a contract to conduct us thither in three days, arranging the different stages beforehand, and from thence direct to Guatimala.
At seven o'clock the next morning we started. Although both my companion and myself were old travellers, our luggage was in bad packages for travelling with mules over a mountainous country—hard to put on and easy to fall off; and, in keeping with this, we had but one pair of spurs between us. In an hour we forded the Motagua, still a broad stream, deep, and with a rapid current; and coming out with our feet and legs