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In the mean time our masts had become so locked in the branches of the trees that we carried away some of our miserable tackling in extricating them; but at length were once more in the middle of the river, and renewed our war upon los enemigos de los Christianos. The sun was so hot that we could not stand outside the awning, but the boatmen gave us notice when we could have a shot. Our track down the river will be remembered as a desolation and scourge. Old alligators, by dying injunction, will teach the rising generation to keep the head under water when the bungoes are coming. We killed perhaps twenty, and others are probably at this moment sitting on the banks with our bullets in their bodies, wondering how they came there. With rifles we could have killed at least a hundred.
At three o'clock the regular afternoon storm came on, beginning with a tremendous sweep of wind up the river, which turned the bungo round, drove her broadside up the stream, and before we could come to at the bank we had a deluge of rain. At length we made fast, secured the hatch over the place prepared for us, and crawled under. It was so low that we could not sit up, and, lying down, there was about a foot of room above us. On our arrival at the Palisada we considered ourselves fortunate in finding a bungo ready, although she had already on board a full load of logwood from stem to stern. Don Francisco said it would be too uncomfortable, and wished us to wait for a bungo of his own; but delay was to us a worse evil, and I made a bargain to have a portion of the logwood taken out behind the mainmast, so as to admit of a hatch on deck, and 4give room below. But we had not given any personal superintendence; and when we came on board, though the logwood seemed of a rather hard species for sleep
ing on, we did not discover the extreme discomfort of the place until forced below by the rain. Even the small place engaged, and paid for accordingly, we had not to ourselves. . The Peten lads crawled under with us, and the patron and señores followed. We could not drive them out into a merciless rain, and all lay like one mass of human flesh, animated by the same spirit of suffering, irritation, and helplessness. During this time the rain was descending in a deluge; the thunder rolled fearfully over our heads; lightning flashed in through the crevices of our dark burrowing-place, dazzling and blinding our eyes; and we heard near us the terrific crash of a falling tree, snapped by the wind, or, as we then supposed, shivered by lightning.
Such was our position. Sometimes the knots in the logwood fitted well into the curves and hollows of the body, but in general they were just where they should not be. We thought we could not be worse off, but very soon we found our mistake, and looked back upon ourselves as ungrateful murmurers without cause. The moschetoes claimed us as waifs, and in murderous swarms found the way under the hatches, humming and buzzing
“Fee, faw, fum,
I now look back upon our troubles at that place with perfect equanimity; but at the moment, with the heat and confinement, we were in anything but an amiable humour, and at ten o'clock broke out furious, upbraided the patron and his lazy señores for not reaching the mouth of the river before night, as is usually done, and as he had been charged by the alcalde to do, and insisted upon his hauling out into the stream. Vol. II.-3 C
The rain had ceased, but the wind was still furious, and dead ahead. By the misty light we saw a large bungo, with one sail set, seemingly flying up the river like a phantom. We made the patron haul out from the bank, but we could not keep the river, and, after a few zigzag movements, were shot across to the opposite side, where we brought upon us new and more hungry swarms. Here we remained an hour longer, when the wind died away, and we pushed out into the stream. This was a great relief. The señores, though more used to the scourge of moschetoes than we, suffered quite as much. The clouds rolled away, the moon broke out, and, but for the abominable insects, our float down the wild and desolate river would have been an event to live in memory; as it was, not one of us attempted to sleep; and I verily believe a man could not have passed an entire night on the banks and lived.
At daylight we were still in the river. Very soon we reached a small lake, and, making a few tacks, entered a narrow passage called the Boca Chico, or Little Mouth. The water was almost even with the banks, and on each side were the most gigantic trees of the tropical forests, their roots naked three or four feet above the ground, gnarled, twisted, and interlacing each other, gray and dead-looking, and holding up, so as to afford an extended view under the first branches, a forest of vivid green. At ten o'clock we passed the Boca Chica and entered the Lake of Terminos. Once more in salt water and stretching out under full sail, on the right we saw only an expanse of water; on the left was a border of trees with naked roots, which seemed growing out of the water; and in front, but a little to the left, and barely visible, a long line of trees, marking the island of Carmen, on which stood the town of La
guna, our port of destination. The passage into the lake was shoal and narrow, with reefs and sandbars, and our boatmen did not let slip the chance of running her ashore. Their efforts to get her off capped the climax of stupidity and laziness; one or two of them pushing on poles at a time, as if they were shoving off a rowboat, and then stopping to rest and giving up to others. Of what could be done by united force they seemed to have no idea ; and, after a few ineffectual efforts, the patron said we must remain till the tide rose. We had no idea of another night on board the bungo, and took entire command of the vessel. This we were entitled to do from the physical force we brought into action. Even Mr. Catherwood assisted; and, besides him, we were three able-bodied and desperate men. Juan's efforts were gigantic. From the great surface exposed, the moschetoes had tormented him dreadfully, and he was even more disgusted with the bungo than we. We put two of the men into the water to heave against the bottom with their shoulders, and ourselves bearing on poles all together, we shoved her off into deep water. With a gentle breeze we sailed smoothly along until we could distinguish the masts of vessels at the Laguna rising above the island, when the wind died away entirely, and left us under a broiling sun in a dead calm. At two o'clock we saw clouds gathering, and immediately the sky became very black, the harbinger of one of those dreadful storms which even on dry land were terrible. The hatches were put down, and a tarpaulin spread over for us to take refuge under. The squall came on so suddenly that the men were taken unaware, and the confusion on board was alarming. The
patron, with both hands extended, and a most beseeching look, begged the señores to take in sail; and the sefiores, all shouting together, ran and tumbled over the logwood, hauling upon every rope but the right one. The mainsail stuck half way up, and would not come down; and while the patron and all the men were shouting and looking up at it, the marinero who had been upset in the canoe, with tears of terror actually streaming from his eyes, and a start of desperation, ran up the mast by the rings, and, springing violently upon the top one, holding fast by a rope, brought the sail down with a run. A hurricane blew through the naked masts, a deluge of rain followed, and the lake was lashed into fury; we lost sight of everything. At the very beginning, on account of the confusion on board, we determined not to go under the hatch; if the bungo swamped, the logwood cargo would carry her to the bottom like lead. We disencumbered ourselves of boots and coats, and brought out life-preservers ready for use. The deck of the bungo was about three feet from the water, and perfectly smooth, without anything to hold on by, and, to keep from being blown or washed away, we lay down and took the whole brunt of the storm. The atmosphere was black; but by the flashes we saw the bare poles of another bungo, tossed, like ourselves, at the mercy of the storm. This continued more than an hour, when it cleared off as suddenly as it came up, and we saw the Laguna crowded with more shipping than we had seen since we left New-York. In our long inland journey we had almost forgotten the use of ships, and the very sight of them seemed to bring us into close relations with home. The squall having spent its fury, there was now a dead calm. The men took to their sweeps, but made very little headway; and, with the port in full sight, we had great apprehen