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Immediately from the village the road, which was a mere opening through the trees, commenced descending, and very soon we came to a road of palos or sticks, like a staircase, so steep that it was dangerous to ride down them. But for these sticks, in the rainy season the road would be utterly impassable. Descending constantly, at a little after twelve we reached a small stream, where the Indians washed their sweating bodies.
From the banks of this river we commenced ascending the steepest mountain I ever knew. Riding was out of the question; and encumbered with sword and spurs, and leading our mules, which sometimes, held back, and sometimes sprang upon us, the toil was excessive. Every few minutes we were obliged to stop and lean against a tree or sit down. The Indians did not speak a word of any language but their own. We could hold no communication whatever with them, and could not understand how far it was to the top. At length we saw up a steep pitch before us a rude cross, which we hailed as being the top of the mountain. We climbed up to it, and, after resting a moment, mounted our mules, but, before riding a hundred yards, the descent began, and immediately we were obliged to dismount. The descent was steeper than the ascent. In a certain college in our country a chair was transmitted as an heirloom to the laziest man in the senior class. One held it by unanimous consent; but he was seen running down hill, was tried and found guilty, but avoided sentence by the frank avowal that a man pushed him, and he was too lazy to stop himself. So it was with us. It was harder work to resist than to give way. Our mules came tumbling after us; and after a most rapid, hot, and fatiguing descent, we reached a stream covered with leaves and insects. Here two of our In
dians left us to return that night to Tumbala' Our labour was excessive ; what must it have been to them! though probably accustomed to carry loads from their boyhood, they suffered less than we ; and the freedom of their naked limbs relieved them from the heat and confinement which we suffered from clothes wet with perspiration. It was the hottest day we had experienced in the country. We had a farther violent deScent through woods of almost impenetrable thickness, and at a quarter before four reached San Pedro. Looking back over the range we had just crossed, we saw Tumbala, and the towering point on which we stood the evening before, on a right line, only a few miles distant, but by the road twenty-seven. If a bad name could kill a place, San Pedro was damned. From the hacienda of Padre Solis to Tumbala, every one we met cautioned us against the Indians of San Pedro. Fortunately, however, nearly the whole village had gone to the fête at Tumbala. There was no alcalde, no alguazils; a few Indians were lying about in a state of utter nudity, and when we looked into the huts the women ran away, probably alarmed at seeing men with pantaloons. The cabildo was occupied by a travelling party, with cargoes of sugar for Tobasco. The leaders of the party and owners of the cargoes were two Mestitzoes, having servants well armed, with whom we formed an acquaintance and tacit alliance. One of the best houses was empty; the proprietor, with his family and household furniture, except reed bedsteads fixed in the ground, had gone to the fiesta. We took possession, and piled our luggage inside. Without giving us any notice, our men deserted us to return to Tumbala, and we were left alone. We could not speak the language, and could get nothing for the mules or for ourselves to eat; but, through the leader of the sugar party, we learned that a new set of men would be forthcoming in the morning to take us on. With the heat and fatigue I had a violent headache. The mountain for the next day was worse, and, afraid of the effort, and of the danger of breaking down on the road, Mr. C. and Pawling endeavoured to procure a hammaca or silla, which was promised for the morning.
A wild Country.—Ascent of a Mountain.—Ride in a Silla.-A precarious Situa. tion.—The Descent.—Rancho of Nopa.-Attacks of Moschetoes.—Approach to Palenque.—Pasture Grounds.—Willage of Palenque.—A crusty Official.—A courteous Reception.—Scarcity of Provisions.—Sunday.—Cholera.-Another Countryman,—The Conversion, Apostacy, and Recovery of the Indians.—River Chacamal.—The Caribs.-Ruins of Palenque.
EARLY the next morning the sugar party started, and at five minutes before seven we followed, with silla and men, altogether our party swelled to twenty Indians. The country through which we were now travelling was as wild as before the Spanish conquest, and without a habitation until we reached Palenque. The road was through a forest so overgrown with brush and underwood as to be impenetrable, and the branches were trimmed barely high enough to admit a man's travelling under them on foot, so that on the backs of our mules we were constantly obliged to bend our bodies, and even to dismount. In some places, for a great distance around, the woods seemed killed by the heat, the foliage withered, the leaves dry and crisp, as if burned by the sun; and a tornado had swept the country, of which no mention was made in the San Pedro papers. We met three Indians carrying clubs in their hands, naked except a small piece of cotton cloth around the loins and passing between the legs, one of them, young, tall, and of admirable symmetry of form, looking the freeborn gentleman of the woods. Shortly afterward we passed a stream, where naked Indians were setting rude nets for fish, wild and primitive as in the first ages of savage life. At twenty minutes past ten we commenced ascending Vol. II.—M M
the mountain. It was very hot, and I can give no idea of the toil of ascending these mountains. Our mules could barely clamber up with their saddles only. We disencumbered ourselves of sword, spurs, and all useless trappings; in fact, came down to shirt and pantaloons, and as near the condition of the Indians as we could. Our procession would have been a spectacle in Broadway. First were four Indians, each with a rough oxhide box, secured by an iron chain and large padlock, on his back; then Juan, with only a hat and pair of thin cotton drawers, driving two spare mules, and carrying a double-barrelled gun over his naked shoulders; then ourselves, each one driving before him or leading his own mule; then an Indian carrying the silla, with relief carriers, and several boys bearing small bags of provisions, the Indians of the silla being much surprised at our not using them according to contract and the price paid. Though toiling excessively, we felt a sense of degradation at being carried on a man's shoulders. At that time I was in the worst condition of the three, and the night before had gone to bed at San Pedro without supper, which for any of us was sure evidence of being in a bad way. We had brought the silla with us merely as a measure of precaution, with much expectation of being obliged to use it; but at a steep pitch, which made my head almost burst to think of climbing, I resorted to it for the first time. It was a large, clumsy armchair, put together with wooden pins and bark strings. The Indian who was to carry me, like all the others, was small, not more than five feet seven, very thin, but symmetrically formed. A bark strap was tied to the arms of the chair, and, sitting down, he placed his back against the back of the chair, adjusted the length of the strings,