« FöregåendeFortsätt »
reason to believe that the place was entirely desolate; we might be on the ground before any one knew we were in the neighbourhood, and then make terms either to remain or evacuate, as the case might require; and it was worth the risk if we got one day's quiet possession. With this uncertain prospect we immediately commenced repairing and making preparations for our journey. The comfort of finding ourselves at this distant place in the house of a countryman can hardly be appreciated. In dress, manner, appearance, habits, and feelings, the doctor was as natural as if we had met him at home. The only difference was his language, which he could not speak connectedly, but interlarded it with Spanish expressions. He moved among the people, but he was not of them; and the only tie that bound him was a dark-eyed Spanish beauty, one of the few that I saw in that country for whom a man might forget kindred and home. He was anxious to leave the country, but was trammelled by a promise made his mother-in-law not to do so during her life. He lived, however, in such constant anxiety, that he hoped she would release him. Comitan, the frontier town of Chiapas, contains a population of about ten thousand. It has a superb church, and well-filled convent of Dominican friars. The better classes, as in Central America, have dwelling-houses in the town, and derive their subsistence from the products of their haciendas, which they visit from time to time. It is a place of considerable trade, and has become so by the effect of bad laws; for, in consequence of the heavy duties on regular importations at the Mexican ports of entry, most of the European goods consumed in this region are smuggled in from Balize and Guatimala. The proceeds of confiscations and the perquisites of officers are such an important
U TILITY OF A FRIE N D. 253
item of revenue that the officers are vigilant, and the day before we arrived twenty or thirty mule-loads that had been seized were brought into Comitan; but the profits are so large that smuggling is a regular business, the risk of seizure being considered one of the expenses of carrying it on. The whole community, not excepting the revenue officers, are interested in it, and its effect upon public morals is deplorable. The markets, however, are but poorly supplied, as we found. We sent for a washerwoman, but there was no soap in the town. We wanted our mules shod, but there was only iron enough to shoe one. Buttons for pantaloons, in size, made up for other deficiencies. The want of soap was a deplorable circumstance. For several days we had indulged in the pleasing expectation of having our sheets washed. The reader may perhaps consider us particular, as it was only three weeks since we left Guatimala, but we had slept in wretched cabildoes, and on the ground, and they had become of a very doubtful colour. In time of trouble, however, commend me to the sympathy of a countryman. Don Santiago, alias Doctor M*Kinney, stood by us in our hour of need, provided us with soap, and our sheets were purified. I have omitted a circumstance which from the time of our arrival in the country we had noticed as extraordinary. The horses and mules are never shod, except perhaps a few pleasure horses used for riding about the streets of Guatimala. On the road, however, we were advised, after we had set out, that it was proper to have ours shod; but there was no good blacksmith except at Quezaltenango, and as we were at that place during a fiesta he would not work. In crossing long
ranges of stony mountains, not one of them suffered except Mr. Catherwood's riding mule, and her hoofs were worn down even with the flesh.
Pawling's difficulties were now over. I procured for him a separate passport, and he had before him a clear road to Mexico; but his interest had been awakened; he was loth to leave us, and after a long consultation and deliberation resolved that he would go with us to Palenque.
ON the first of May, with a bustle and confusion like those of May-day at home, we moved out of Don Santiago's house, mounted, and bade him farewell. Doubtless his daily routines have not since been broken by the visit of a countryman, and communication is so difficult that he never hears from home. He charged us with messages to his friend Doctor Coleman, United States consul at Tobasco, who was then dead; and the reader will perhaps feel for him when I mention that probably a copy of this work, which I intend to send him, will never reach his hands.
I must pass over the next stage of our journey, which was through a region less mountainous, but not less solitary than that we had already traversed. The first af. ternoon we stopped at the hacienda of Sotaná, belonging to a brother-in-law of Don Santiago, in a soft and lovely valley, with a chapel attached, and bell that at evening called the Indian workmen, women, and children to vesper prayers. The next day, at the abode, of Padre Solis, a rich old cura, short and broad, living on a fine hacienda, we dined off solid silver dishes, drank out of silver cups, and washed in a silver basin. He had lived at Palenque, talked of Candones or unbaptized Indians, and wanted to buy my macho, prom
ising to keep him till he died; and the only thing that relieves me from self-reproach in not securing him such pasture-grounds is the recollection of the padre's weight. At four o'clock on the third day we reached Ocosingo, likewise in a beautiful situation, surrounded by mountains, with a large church; and in the wall of the yard we noticed two sculptured figures from the ruins we proposed to visit, somewhat in the same style as those at Copan. In the centre of the square was a magnificent Ceiba tree. We rode up to the house of Don Manuel Pasada, the prefet, which, with an old woman-servant, we had entirely to ourselves, the family being at his hacienda. The house was a long enclosure, with a shed in front, and furnished with bedsteads made of reeds split into two, and supported on sticks resting in the ground. The alcalde was a Mestitzo, very civil, and glad to see us, and spoke of the neighbouring ruins in the most extravagant terms, but said they were so completely buried in El Monte that it would require a party of men for two or three days to cut a way to them; and he laid great stress upon a cave, the mouth of which was completely choked up with stones, and which communicated by a subterraneous passage with the old city of Palenque, about one hundred and fifty miles distant. He added that if we would wait a few days to make preparations, he and all the village would go with us, and make a thorough exploration. We told him that first we wished to make preliminary observations, and he promised us a guide for the next morning. That night broke upon us the opening storm of the rainy season. Peals of crashing thunder reverberated from the mountains, lightning illuminated with fearful flashes the darkness of night, rain poured like a deluge