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wet diminished somewhat the regret with which we bade farewell for a while to the beautiful river. For an hour longer we continued on the plain of Zacapa, cultivated for corn and cochineal, and divided by fences of brush and cactus. Beyond this the country became broken, arid, and barren, and very soon we commenced ascending a steep mountain. In two hours we reached the top, three or four thousand feet high, and, looking back, had a fine view of the plain and town of Zacapa. Crossing the ridge, we reached a bold precipitous spur, and very soon saw before us another extensive plain, and, afar off, the town of Chiquimula, with its giant church. On each side were immense ravines, and the opposite heights were covered with pale and rose-coloured mimosa. We descended by a long and zigzag path, and reached the plain, on which were growing corn, cochineal, and plantain. Once more fording a stream, we ascended a bank, and at two o'clock entered Chiquimula, the head of the department of that name. In the centre of the plaza was a fine fountain, shaded by palm-trees, at which women were filling their waterjars, and on the sides were the church and cabildo. On one corner was a house, to which we were attracted by the appearance of a woman at the door. I may call her a lady, for she wore a frock not open behind, and shoes, and stockings, and had a face of uncommon interest, dark, and with finely-pencilled eyebrows. To heighten the effect of her appearance, she gave us a gracious welcome to her house, and in a few minutes the shed was lumbered with our multifarious luggage. After a slight lunch we took our guns, and, walking down to the edge of the table of land, saw, what had attracted our attention at a great distance, a gigantic church in ruins. It was seventy-five feet front and two Vol. I.-K 7
hundred and fifty feet deep, and the walls were ten feet thick. The facade was adorned with ornaments and figures of the saints, larger than life. The roof had fallen, and inside were huge masses of stone and mortar, and a thick growth of trees. It wa£ built by thfc Spaniards on the site of the old Indian village; bt*, having been twice shattered by earthquakes, the inhabitants had deserted it, and built the town where it now stands. The ruined village was now occupied as * campo santo, or burial-place; inside the church were the graves of the principal inhabitants, and in the niches of the wall were the bones of priests and monks, with their names written under them. Outside were the graves of the common people, untended and uncared for, with the barrow of laced sticks which had carried the body to the grave laid upon the top, and slightly covered with earth. The bodies had decayed, the dirt fallen in, and the graves were yawning. Around this scene of desolation and death nature was rioting in beauty; the ground was covered with flowers, and parrots on every bush and tree, and flying in flocks over our heads, wanton in gayety of colours, with senseless chattering disturbed the stillness of the grave.
We returned to the town, and found about twelve hundred soldiers drawn up in the plaza for evening parade. Their aspect was ferocious and banditti-like, and it was refreshing to see convicts peeping through the gratings of the prison, and walking in chains on the plaza, as it gave an idea that sometimes crimes were punished. With all their ferocity of appearance, the officers, mounted on prancing mules or very small horses, almost hidden in saddle-cloth and armour, wore an air bordering upon the mock heroic. While w« were looking at them, General Cascara, the command
ant of the department, attended by a servant, rode up to the line. He was an Italian, upward of sixty, who had served under Napoleon in Italy, and on the downfall of the emperor had fled to Central America. Banished by Morazan, and eight years in exile, he had just returned to the country, and six months before had been appointed to this command. He was ghastly pale, and evidently in feeble health; and I could not but think that, if recollections of the pomp of war under the emperor ever crossed his mind, he must needs blush at his barefooted detachment. He returned to his house, whither we followed and presented our passport. Like the commandant at Yzabal, he seemed ill at ease, and spoke much of the distracted state of the country. He was dissatisfied, too, with the route I proposed taking; and though I told him it was merely to visit the ruins of Copan, he was evidently apprehensive that I intended going to San Salvador to present my credentials to the Federal government. He viséd the passport, however, as I required; though, after we left, he called Augustin back, and questioned him very closely as to our purposes. I was indignant, but smothered my feelings in consideration of the distracted state of the country, and the game of life and death that was then playing throughout the land. We returned to the house and the interesting lady who had welcomed us to it. As yet we did not know whether she was señora or señorita; but, unhappily, we found that a man whom we supposed her father was her husband. When we inquired of her about a fine boy ten years old, whom we supposed to be her brother, she answered, “es mio,” he is mine; and, as if it was fated that the charm of her appearance should be broken, when, according to the rules of courtesy, I offered for her choice a cigar and a puro, she took the latter. But it was so long since I had seen a woman who was at all attractive, and her face was so interesting, her manners were so good, her voice so sweet, the Spanish words rolled so beautifully from her lips, and her frock was tied so close behind, that, in spite of ten-year-old boy and puro, I clung to my first impressions.
The next morning we rose early. Our interesting hostess and her fatherly husband were up betimes to assist us. It would have been an offence to the laws of hospitality to offer them money; but Mr. C. gave the boy a penknife, and I put on the finger of the sefiora a gold ring, with the motto, "Souvenir d'amitie." It was in French, and her husband could not understand it, nor, unfortunately, could she.
At seven o'clock we started. Passing the ruined church and the old village, we rode over a rich valley, so well cultivated with Indian corn that it gave a key to the boy's question, Whether we had come to Chiquimula to buy maize? At a league's distance we came to the village of St. Stephanos, where, amid a miserable collection of thatched huts, stood a gigantic church, like that at Chiquimula, roofless, and falling to ruins. We were now in a region which had been scourged by civil war. A year before the village had been laid waste by the troops of Morazan.
Passing the village, we came upon the bank of a stream, in some places diverted into water-courses for irrigating the land; and on the other side of the stream was a range of high mountains. Continuing along it, we met an Indian, who advised our muleteer that the camino real for Copan was on the opposite side of the river, and across the range of mountains. We returned
A Li. SB OF MOUNTAINS. 77
and forded the river; a great part of the bed was dry, and we rode along it for some distance, but could find no path that led up the mountain. At length we struck one, but it proved to be a cattle-path, and we wandered for more than an hour before we found the camino real; and this royal road was barely a track by which a single mule could climb. It was evident that our muleteer did not know the road, and the region we were en tering was so wild that we had some doubts about following him. At eleven we reached the top of the mountain, and, looking back, saw at a great distance, and far below us, the town of Chiquimula; on the right, up the valley, the village of St. Helena; and, rising above a few thatched huts, another gigantic and roofless church. On each side were mountains still higher than ours, some grand and gloomy, with their summits buried in the clouds; others in the form of cones and pyramids, so wild and fantastic that they seemed sporting with the heavens, and I almost wished for wings to fly and light upon their tops. Here, on heights apparently inaccessible, we saw the wild hut of an Indian, with his milpa or patch of Indian corn. Clouds gathered around the mountains, and for an hour we rode in the rain; when the sun broke through we saw the mountain tops still towering above us, and on our right, far below us, a deep valley. We descended, and found it narrower and more beautiful than any we had yet seen, bounded by ranges of mountains several thousand feet high, and having on its left a range of extraordinary beauty, with a red soil of sandstone, without any brush or underwood, and covered with gigantic pines. In front, rising above the miserable huts of the village, and seeming to bestride the valley, was the gigantic church of St. John the Hermit, reminding me of the