Sidor som bilder
PDF
[ocr errors]

flight of more than fifty steps; descending which, I saw unexpectedly a spectacle of such extraordinary beauty, that I sent the servant back to tell Mr. Catherwood to come to me forthwith, if he had to be carried in his hammock. It was a large cavern or grotto, with a roof of broken, overhanging rock, high enough to give an air of wildness and grandeur, impenetrable at midday to the sun's rays, and at the bottom water pure as crystal, still and deep, resting upon a bed of white limestone rock. It was the very creation of romance; a bathingplace for Diana and her nymphs. Grecian poet never imagined so beautiful a scene. It was almost a profanation, but in a few minutes we were swimming around the rocky basin with feelings of boyish exultation, only regretting that such a freak of nature was played where so few could enjoy its beauties. On a nobleman's estate in England it would be above all price. The bath reinvigorated our frames. It was after dark when we returned; hammocks were waiting for us, and very soon we were in a profound sleep. Vol. II.—3 F

CHAPTER XXIV.

Journey resumed.—Arrival at Uxmal.—Hacienda of Uxmal.— Major-domos.Adventures of a young Spaniard.-Visit to the Ruins of Uxmal.—First Sight of the Ruins.—Character of the Indians.—Details of Hacienda Life.—A delicate Case.—Illness of Mr. Catherwood.—Breaking up.

At daybreak the next morning, with new Indians and a guide on horseback from the hacienda, we resumed our journey. The surface of the country was the same, limestone with scrub trees. There was not soil enough to absorb the water, which rested in puddles in the hollows of the stones. At nine o'clock we reached another hacienda, smaller than the last, but still having a lordly appearance, where, as before, the women were drawing water by a wheel. The major-domo expressed his sense of the honour conferred upon him by our visit, and his anxiety to serve us, gave us a breakfast of milk, tortillas, and wild honey, and furnished us with other Indians and a guide. We mounted again; very soon the sun became intensely hot; there were no trees to shade us, and we suffered excessively. At half past twelve we passed some mounds of ruins a little off the road, but the sun was so scorching that we could not stop to examine them, and at two o'clock we reached Uxmal. Little did I think, when I made the acquaintance of my unpretending friend at the Spanish hotel in Fulton-street, that I should ride upward of fifty miles on his family estates, carried by his Indians, and breakfasting, dining, and sleeping at his lordly haciendas, while the route marked out for our return would bring us to others, one of which was larger than any we had

[graphic]
[ocr errors]

seen. The family of Peon, under the Spanish dominion, had given governors to the province of Yucatan. On the establishment of independence, its present head, a stanch Royalist, retired in disgust from all kinds of employment, and the whole of the large family estates were managed by the Señora Donna Joaquina, Unfortunately, Don Simon had left for Merida, and we had missed him on the way. Moreover, owing to the heat of the sun and our awkward saddles, we arrived at the end of this triumphal march in a dreadfully jaded and forlorn condition, and perhaps we never dismounted more utterly worn out and uncomfortable. The hacienda of Uxmal was built of dark gray stone, ruder in appearance and finish than any of the others, with a greater appearance of antiquity, and at a distance looked like an old baronial castle. A year before it had been given to Don Simon by his father, and he was making large repairs and additions to the building, though, as his family never visited it, and he only for a few days at a time, for what purpose I could not conceive. It had its cattle-yard in front, with tanks of water around, some with green vegetation on the top, and there was an unwholesome sensation of dampness. It had, too, its church, which contained a figure of muestra Señor, “Our Lord,” revered by the Indians of all the haciendas around, the fame of which had reached the household servants at Merida, and which was the first object that attracted the attention of our guide. The whole hacienda was immediately at our disposal; but, worn down with heat and fatigue, we took at once to our hammocks. The hacienda had two major-domos, one a Mestitzo, who understood the language and business, and in the other we found an acquaintance, or, at least, what seem

ed so, for about the time that we left New-York he was a waiter at Delmonico's. It was a strange encounter at this out-of-the-way place, to be brought into close connexion with this well-known restaurant, which in that country seemed the seat of art and fountain of happiness. He was a young Spaniard from Catalonia, who, with a friend, having taken part in some defeated insurrection, fled to Cuba, whence, on the point of being discovered, they escaped to New-York, penniless. Igmorant of the language, with no means of getting a livelihood, both were received by Delmonico as waiters at his restaurant, where the friend rose to be head chocolate-maker; but he was languishing as simple waiter, when Don Simon proposed to him to go to Uxmal. Without knowing where he was going, except that it was to some part of Spanish America, or what was to be his business, he found himself in a retired place, surrounded by Indians whose language he could not understand, and having no one near him with whom he could exchange a word except the major-domo. These major-domos form a class in Yucatan who need sharp looking after. Like the Scotch servant applying for a place, they are not particular about wages, and are satisfied with what little they can pick up about the house. This is the character of most of the major-domos; and the position of the young man, being white, intelligent, and honest, had advantages in that country, as Don Simon intended to give him, as soon as he understood the business, a superintendence over the major-domos of three or four haciendas; but, unfortunately, he wanted energy, felt the want of society and the loneliness of his situation, remembered scenes of enjoyment with his friend and other waiters, and at Uxmal talked of the opera; and when at dinner-time he drew a feeling pic

[ocr errors]

ture of Delmonico's saloon, we sympathized with him cordially. In the afternoon, rested and refreshed, we set out for a walk to the ruins. The path led through a noble piece of woods, in which there were many tracks, and our Indian guide lost his way. Mr. C., being unwell, returned to the hacienda. We took another road, and, emerging suddenly from the woods, to my astonishment came at once upon a large open field strewed with mounds of ruins, and vast buildings on terraces, and pyramidal structures, grand and in good preservation, richly ornamented, without a bush to obstruct the view, and in picturesque effect almost equal to the ruins of Thebes; for these, standing on the flat valley of the Nile, and extending on both sides of the river, nowhere burst in one view upon the sight. Such was the report I made to Mr. Catherwood on my return, who, lying in his hammock unwell and out of spirits, told me I was romancing; but early the next morning we were on the ground, and his comment was that the reality exceeded my description. The place of which I am now speaking was beyond all doubt once a large, populous, and highly civilized city, and the reader can nowhere find one word of it on any page of history. Who built it, why it was located on that spot, away from water or any of those natural advantages which have determined the sites of cities whose histories are known, what led to its abandonment and destruction, no man can tell. The only name by which it is known is that of the hacienda on which it stands. In the oldest deed belonging to the Peon family, which goes back a hundred and forty years, the buildings are referred to, in the boundaries of the estate, as Las Casas de Piedra. This is the only

« FöregåendeFortsätt »