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Interior of a Convent.—Royal Bird of Quiché.-Indian Languages.—The Lord's Prayer in the Quiché Language.—Numerals in the same.—Church of Quiché. —Indian Superstitions.—Another lost City.—Tierra de Guerra.-The Aboriginals.-Their Conversion to Christianity.—They were never cunquered.—A living City.—Indian Tradition respecting this City.—Probably has never been visited by the Whites.—Presents a noble Field for future Enterprise.—Departure.— San Pedro.—Wirtue of a Passport.—A difficult Ascent.—Mountain Scenery.—Totonicapan.—An excellent Dinner.—A Country of Aloes.—“River of Blood.”—Arrival at Quezaltenango.
It was late when we returned to the convent. The good padre regretted not being at home when we arrived, and said that he always locked his room to prevent the women throwing things into confusion. When we entered it was in what he called order, but this order was of a class that beggars description. The room contained a table, chairs, and two settees, but there was not a vacant place even on the table to sit down or to lay a hat upon. Every spot was encumbered with articles, of which four bottles, a cruet of mustard and another of oil, bones, cups, plates, sauce-boat, a large lump of su gar, a paper of salt, minerals and large stones, shells, pieces of pottery, sculls, bones, cheese, books, and manuscripts formed part. On a shelf over his bed were two stuffed quezales, the royal bird of Quiché, the most beautiful that flies, so proud of its tail that it builds its nest with two openings, to pass in and out without turning, and whose plumes were not permitted to be used except by the royal family.
Amid this confusion a corner was cleared on the table for dinner. The conversation continued in the same unbroken stream of knowledge, research, sagacity, and satire on his part. Political matters were spoken of in
whispers when any servants were in the rooms. A laugh was the comment upon everything, and in the evening we were deep in the mysteries of Indian history. Besides the Mexican or Aztec language, spoken by the Pipil Indians along the coast of the Pacific, there are twenty-four dialects peculiar to Guatimala. Though sometimes bearing such a strong resemblance in some of their idioms that the Indians of one tribe can understand each other, in general the padres, after years of residence, can only speak the language of the tribe among which they live. This diversity of languages had seemed to me an insuperable impediment in the way of any thorough investigation and study of Indian history and traditions; but the cura, profound in everything that related to the Indians, told us that the Quiché was the parent tongue, and that, by one familiar with it, the others are easily acquired. If this be true, a new and most interesting field of research is opened. During my whole journey, even at Guatimala, I had not been able to procure any grammar of an Indian language, nor any manuscripts. I made several vocabularies, which I have not thought it worth while to publish; but the padre had a book prepared by some of the early fathers for the church service, which he promised to have copied for me and sent to a friend at Guatimala, and from which I copied the Lord's prayer in the Quiché language. It is as follows: Cacahan chicah lae coni Vtzah. Vcahaxtizaxie mayih Bila Chipa tapa Cani ahauremla Chibantah. Ahuamla Uaxale Chiyala Chiqueeh hauta Vleus quehexi Caban Chicah. Uacamic Chiyala. Chiqueeh hauta. Eihil Caua. Zachala Camac quehexi Cacazachbep qui. Mac Xemocum Chiqueeh; moho Estachcula maxa Copahic
Chupamtah Chibal mac xanare Cohcolta la ha Wonohel itgel quehe Chucoe. Amen.
I will add the following numerals, as taken from the same book:
Hun, one. Uaelahuh, sixteen.
Whether there is any analogy between this language and that of any of our own Indian tribes, I am not able to say.
For a man who has not reached that period when a few years tell upon his teeth and hair, I know of no place where, if the country becomes quiet, they might be passed with greater interest than at Santa Cruz del Quiché, in studying, by means of their language, the character and traditionary history of the Indians; for here they still exist, in many respects, an unchanged people, cherishing the usages and customs of their ancestors; and though the grandeur and magnificence of the churches, the pomp and show of religious ceremonies, affect their rude imaginations, the padre told us
that in their hearts they were full of superstitions, and still idolaters; had their idols in the mountains and ravines, and in silence and secrecy practised the rites received from their fathers. He was compelled to wink at them; and there was one proof which he saw every day. The church of Quiché stands east and west. On entering it for vespers the Indians always bowed to the west, in reverence to the setting sun. He told us, too, what requires confirmation, and what we were very curious to judge of for ourselves, that in a cave near a neighbouring village were sculls much larger than the natural size, and regarded with superstitious reverence by the Indians. He had seen them, and vouched for their gigantic dimensions. Once he placed a piece of money in the mouth of the cave, and a year afterward found the money still lying in the same place, while, he said, if it had been left on his table, it would have disappeared with the first Indian who entered. The padre's whole manner was now changed; his keen satire and his laugh were gone. There was interest enough about the Indians to occupy the mind and excite the imagination of one who laughed at everything else in the world; and his enthusiasm, like his laugh, was infectious. Notwithstanding our haste to reach Palenque, we felt a strong desire to track them in the solitude of their mountains and deep ravines, and watch them in the observance of their idol. atrous rites; but the padre did not give us any encouragement. In fact, he opposed our remaining another day, even to visit the cave of sculls. He made no apology for hurrying us away. He lived in unbroken solitude, in a monotonous routine of occupations, and the visit of a stranger was to him an event most welcome; but there was danger in our remaining. The
Indians were in an inflammable state; they were already inquiring what we came there for, and he could not answer for our safety. In a few months, perhaps, the excitement might pass away, and then we could return. He loved the subjects we took interest in, and would join us in all our expeditions, and aid us with all his influence. And the padre's knowledge was not confined to his own immediate neighbourhood. His first curacy was at Coban, in the province of Vera Paz; and he told us that four leagues from that place was another ancient city, as large as Santa Cruz del Quiché, deserted and desolate, and almost as perfect as when evacuated by its inhabitants. He had wandered through its silent streets and over its gigantic buildings, and its palace was as entire as that of Quiché when he first saw it. This is within two hundred miles of Guatimala, and in 1 district of country not disturbed by war; yet, with all jur inquiries, we had heard nothing of it. And now, he information really grieved us. Going to the place would add eight hundred miles to our journey. Our plans were fixed, our time already limited; and in that wild country and its unsettled state, we had superstitious apprehensions that it was ominous to return. My impression, however, of the existence of such a city is most strong. I do most earnestly hope that some future traveller will visit it. He will not hear of it even at Guatimala, and perhaps will be told that it does not exist. Nevertheless, let him seek for it; and if he do find it, experience sensations which seldom fall to the lot of man. But the padre told us more; something that increased our excitement to the highest pitch. On the other side of the great traversing range of Cordilleras lies the Vol. II.-B B 17