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Church of St. John in the wilderness of Judea, but the situation was even more beautiful. At two o'clock we crossed the stream and entered the village. Opposite the church the muleteer told us that the day's work was over, but, with all our toils, we had made only fifteen miles, and were unwilling to stop so soon. The exceeding beauty of the place might have tempted us, but the only good plastered hut was occupied by a band of ruffianly soldiers, and we rode on. The muleteer followed with curses, and vented his spite in lashing the mules. Again we crossed the stream, and, continuing up the valley along the dry bed, which bore marks of the flood that washed it in the rainy season, in an hour we crossed it half a dozen times. Heavy clouds rested on the mountains, and again we had rain. At four o'clock we saw on a high table on the left the village of Hocotan, with another gigantic church. According to the route agreed upon with the muleteer, this should have been the end of our first day's journey. We had been advised that the cura could give us much information about the ruins of Copan, and told him to cross over and stop there; but he refused, and, hurrying on the mules, added that we had refused to stop when he wished, and now he would not stop for us. I could not spur my mule beyond her own gait, and, unable to overtake him, jumped off and ran after him on foot. Accidentally I> put my hand on my pistols, to steady them in my belt, and he fell back and drew his machete. We came to a parley. He said that if we went there we could not reach Copan the next day; whereupon, willing to make a retreat, and wishing to leave him no excuse for failing, we continued.
At six o'clock we rose upon a beautiful table of land, on which stood another gigantic church. It was the
A DESERTED VILLAGE. 79
seventh we had seen that day, and, coming upon them in a region of desolation, and by mountain paths which human hands had never attempted to improve, their colossal grandeur and costliness were startling, and gave evidence of a retrograding and expiring people. This stood in a more desolate place than any we had yet seen. The grass was green, the sod unbroken even by a mule path, not a human being was in sight, and even the gratings of the prison had no one looking through them. It was, in fact, a picture of a deserted village. We rode up to the cabildo, the door of which was fastened and the shed barricaded, probably to prevent the entrance of straggling cattle. We tore away the fastenings, broke open the door, and, unloading the mules, sent Augustin on a foraging expedition. In half an hour he returned with one egg, being all that he was able to procure; but he had waked up the village, and the alcalde, an Indian with a silver-headed cane, and several alguazils with long thin rods or wands of office, came down to examine us. We showed them our passport, and told them where we were going, at which, with their characteristic indifference of manner, they expressed no surprise. They could not read the passport, but they examined the seal and returned it. We asked them for eggs, fowls, milk, &c., to all of which they answered, what afterward became but too familiar, "no hay," "there is none," and in a few minutes they retired and left us to ourselves.
The cabildo was about forty feet long and twenty broad, with plastered walls; its furniture consisted of a large table and two benches with high backs, and the alcalde sent us a jar of water. We abused the muleteer for stopping at a place where we could get nothing to eat, and made our dinner and supper upon bread and chocolate, taking care not to give him any. There were pins in the walls for swinging hammocks, and in the evening we prepared for sleep. Mr. C. was in his hammock, and I was half undressed, when the door was suddenly burst open, and twenty-five or thirty men rushed in, the alcalde, alguazils, soldiers, Indians, and Mestitzoes, ragged and ferocious-looking fellows, and armed with staves of office, swords, clubs, muskets, and machetes, and carrying blazing pine sticks. At the head of them was a young officer of about twenty-eight or thirty, with a glazed hat and sword, and a knowing and wicked expression, whom we afterward understood to be a captain of one of Carrera's companies. The alcalde was evidently intoxicated, and said that he wished to see my passport again. I delivered it to him, and he handed it over to the young officer, who examined it, and said that it was not valid. In the mean time, Mr. Catherwood and I dressed ourselves. I was not very familiar with the Spanish language, and, through Augustin, explained my official character, and directed him particularly to the endorsements of Commandant Peiiol and General Cascara. He paid no regard to my explanations; the alcalde said that he had seen a passport once before, and that it was printed, and on a small piece of paper not bigger than his hand; whereas mine was the one given by government on a quarto sheet. Besides this, they said that the seal of General Cascara was only that of the department of Chiquimula, and it ought to be that of the state of Guatimala. I did all in my power to show the insufficiency of these objections; but, after a warm altercation, the young man said that we should not proceed on our journey, but must remain at Comotan until information could be sent to Chiquimula, and orders received from
that place. We had no disposition to remain in such hands; threatened them with the consequences of throwing any obstructions in our way; and I at length said that, rather than be detained there and lose time, I would abandon my journey to Copan altogether, and return by the road on which I came ; but both the officer and the alcalde said peremptorily that we should not leave Comotan. The young man then told me to give up my passport. I answered that the passport was given me by my own government; that it was the evidence of my official character, necessary for my personal security, and I would not give it up. Mr. Catherwood made a learned exposition of the law of nations, the right of an ambassador, and the danger of bringing down upon them the vengeance of the government del Norte, which I sustained with some warmth, but it was of no use. At length I told him again that I would not give up the passport, but offered to go with it myself, under a guard of soldiers, to Chiquimula, or wherever else they chose to send it; he answered insultingly that we should not go to Chiquimula or anywhere else; neither forward nor backward; that we must stay where we were, and must give up the passport. Finding arguments and remonstrances of no use, I placed the paper inside my vest, buttoned my coat tight across my breast, and told him he must get it by force; and the officer, with a gleam of satisfaction crossing his villanous face, responded that he would. I added that, whatever might be the immediate result, it would ultimately be fatal to them; to which he answered, with a sneer, that they would run the risk. During the whole time, the band of cowardly ruffians stood with their hands on their swords and machetes, and two assassin-looking scoun
drels sat on a bench with muskets against their shoulders, and the muzzles pointed within three feet of my breast. If we had been longer in the country we should have been more alarmed: but as yet we did not know the sanguinary character of the people, and the whole proceeding was so outrageous and insulting that it roused our indignation more than our fears. Augustin, who, from having had a cut across the head with a machete, which did not kill him, was always bellicose, begged me in French to give the order to fire, and said that one round would scatter them all. We had eleven charges, all sure; we were excited, and, if the young man himself had laid his hands upon me, I think I should have knocked him down at least; but, most fortunately, before he had time to give his order to fall upon us, a man, who entered after the rest, of a better class, wearing a glazed hat and round-about jacket, stepped forward and asked to see the passport. I was determined not to trust it out of my hands, and held it up before a blazing pine stick while he read it, and, at Mr. Catherwood's request, aloud.
I have since doubted whether even the officer had read it, or, if so, whether he had communicated its contents, for it produced an effect upon the alcalde and his alguazils; and, after some moments of anxious suspense to us, they forbore to execute their threat, but said that we must remain in custody. I demanded a courier, to carry a letter immediately to General Cascara, which they refused; but, on my offering to pay the expense of the courier, the alcalde promised to send it. Knowing General Cascara to be an Italian, and afraid to trust my Spanish, I wrote a note, which Mr. C. translated into Italian, informing him of our arrest and imprisonment; that we had exhibited to the alcalde and