Sidor som bilder


and if we let her go she would be driven out into the lake, and cast ashore, if at all, twenty or thirty miles distant, whence we should have to scramble back over mountains; and there was a worse danger than this, for in the afternoon the wind always came from the other side, and might drive us back again into the middle of the lake. We saw the people on the shore looking at us, and growing smaller every moment, but they could not help us. In all our difficulties we had none that came upon us so suddenly and unexpectedly, or that seemed more threatening. It was hardly ten minutes since we were standing quietly on the beach, and if the wind had continued five minutes longer I do not know what would have become of us; but, most fortunately, it lulled. Juan's strength revived; with a great effort he brought us under cover of the high headland beyond which the wind first struck us, and in a few minutes we reached the shore.

We had had enough of the lake; time was precious, and we determined to set out after dinner and ride four leagues to Solola. We took another mozo, whom the padre recommended as a bobon, or great fool. The first two were at swords' points, and with such a trio there was not much danger of combination. In loading the mules they fell to quarrelling, Bobon taking his share. Ever since we left, Don Saturnino had superintended this operation, and without him everything went wrong One mule slipped part of its load in the courtyard, and we made but a sorry party for the long journey we had before us. From the village our road lay toward the lake, to the point of the opposite mountain, which shut in the plain of Panajachcl. Here we began to ascend. For a while the path commanded a view of the village and plain; but by degrees we diverged from it

and after an hour's ascent came out upon the lake, rode a short distance upon the brink, with another immense mountain range before us, and breaking over the top the cataract which I had seen from the canoe. Very soon we commenced ascending; the path ran zigzag, commanding alternately a view of the plain and of the lake. The ascent was terrible for loaded mules, being in some places steps cut in the stone like a regular staircase. Every time we came upon the lake there was a different view. At four o'clock, looking back over the high ranges of mountains we had crossed, we saw the great volcanoes of Agua and Fuego. Six volcanoes were in sight at once, four of them above ten thousand, and two nearly fifteen thousand feet high. Looking down upon the lake we saw a canoe, so small as to present a mere speck on the water, and, as we supposed, it was sent for us by our friend Don Saturnino. Four days afterward, after diverging and returning to the main road, I found a letter from him, directed to "El Ministro de Nueva-York," stating that he found the road so terrible that night overtook him, and he was obliged to stop three leagues short of Atitlan. On arriving at that place he learned that the canoe was on his side of the lake, but the boatmen would not cross till the afternoon wind sprang up. The letter was written after the return of the canoe, and sent by courier two days' journey, begging us to return, and offering as a bribe a noble mule, which, in our bantering on the road, he affirmed was better than my macho. Twice the mule-track led us almost within the fall of cataracts, and the last time we came upon the lake we looked down upon a plain even more beautiful than that of Panajachel. Directly under us, at an immense distance below, but itself elevated

[ocr errors]

SOLO LA. 165

fifteen hundred or two thousand feet, was a village, with its church conspicuous, and it seemed as if we could throw a stone down upon its roof. From the moment this lake first opened upon us until we left it, our ride along it presented a greater combination of beauties than any locality I ever saw. The last ascent occupied an hour and three quarters. As old travellers, we would have avoided it if there had been any other road ; but, once over, we would not have missed it for the world. Very soon we saw Solola. In the suburbs drunken Indians stood in a line, and took off their old petates (straw hats) with both hands. It was Sunday, and the bells of the church were ringing for vespers, rockets were firing, and a procession, headed by violins, was parading round the plaza the figure of a saint on horseback, dressed like a harlequin. Opposite the cabildo the alcalde, with a crowd of Mestitzoes, was fighting cocks.

The town stands on the lofty borders of the Lake of Atitlan, and a hundred yards from it the whole water was visible. I tied my horse to the whipping-post, and, thanks to Carrera's passport, the alcalde sent off for sacate, had a room swept out in the cabildo, and offered to send us supper from his own house. He was about ten days in office, having been appointed since Carrera's last invasion. Formerly this place was the residence of the youngest branch of the house of the Kachiquel Indians.

It was our purpose at this place to send our luggage on by the main road to Totonicapan, one day's journey beyond, while we struck off at an angle and visited the ruins of Santa Cruz del Quiche. The Indians of that place, even in the most quiet times, bore a very bad name, and we were afraid of hearing such an account r{ them as would make it impossible to go there. Carera had left a garrison of soldiers in Solola, and we called upon the commandant, a gentlemanly man, suspected of disaffection to Carrera's government, and therefore particularly desirous to pay respect to his passport, who told me that there had been less excitement at that place than in some of the other villages, and promised to send the luggage on under safe escort to the corregidor of Totonicapan, and give us a letter to his commissionado in Santa Cruz del Quiche.

On our return we learned that a lady had sent for us. Her house was on the corner of the plaza. She was a chapetone from Old Spain, which country she had left with her husband thirty years before, on account of wars. At the time of Carrera's last invasion her son was alcalde mayor, and fled. If he had been taken he would have been shot. The wife of her son was with her. They had not heard from him, but he had fled toward Mexico, and they supposed him to be in the frontier town, and wished us to carry letters to him, and to inform him of their condition. Their house had been plundered, and they were in great distress. It was another of the instances we were constantly meeting of the effects of civil war. They insisted on our remaining at the house all night, which, besides that they were interesting, we were not loth to do on our own account. The place was several thousand feet higher than where we slept the night before, and the temperature cold and wintry by comparison. Hammocks, our only beds, were not used at all. There were not even supporters in the cabildo to hang them on. The next morning the mules were all drawn up by the cold, their coats were rough, and my poor horse was so chilled that he could hardly move. In coming in he had attracted attention, and the



alcalde wanted to buy him. In the morning he told me that, being used to a hot climate, the horse could not bear the journey across the Cordilleras, which was confirmed by several disinterested persons to whom he appealed. I almost suspected him of having done the horse some injury, so as to make me leave him behind. However, by moving him in the sun his limbs relaxed, and we sent him off with the men and luggage, and the promised escort, to Totonicapan, recommended to the corregidor. *

At a quarter before nine we bade farewell to the ladies who had entertained us so kindly, and, charged with letters and messages for their son and husband, set out with Bobon for Santa Cruz del Quiche. At a short distance from the town we again rose upon a ridge which commanded a view of the lake and town; the last, and, as we thought, the loveliest of all. At a league's distance we turned off from the camino real into a narrow bridle-path, and very soon entered a well-cultivated plain, passed a forest clear of brush and underwood, like a forest at home, and followed the course of a beautiful stream. Again we came out upon a rich plain, and in several places saw clusters of aloes in full bloom. The atmosphere was transparent, and, as in an autumn day at home, the sun was cheering and invigorating.

At twelve o'clock we met some Indians, who told us that Santa Thomas was three leagues distant, and five minutes afterward we saw the town apparently not more than a mile off; but we were arrested by another immense ravine. The descent was by a winding zigzag path, part of the way with high walls on either side, so steep that we were obliged to dismount and walk all the way, hurried on by our own impetus and the mules

« FöregåendeFortsätt »