« FöregåendeFortsätt »
cle of this once great and lovely city, overturned, desolate, and lost; discovered by accident, overgrown with trees for miles around, and without even a name to distinguish it. Apart from everything else, it was a mourning witness to the world's mutations.
“Nations melt From Power's high pinnacle, when they have felt The sunshine for a while, and downward go.” As at Copan, I shall not at present offer any conjecture in regard to the antiquity of these buildings, merely remarking that at ten leagues' distance is a village called Las Tres Cruces or the Three Crosses, from three crosses which, according to tradition, Cortez erected at that place when on his conquering march from Mexico to Honduras by the Lake of Peten. Cortez, then, must have passed within twenty or thirty miles of the place now called Palenque. If it had been a living city, its fame must have reached his ears, and he would probably have turned aside from his road to subdue and plunder it. It seems, therefore, but reasonable to suppose that it was at that time desolate and in ruins, and even the memory of it lost.
Departure from the Ruins.—Bad Road.—An Accident.—Arrival at the Village —A Funeral Procession.—Negotiations for Purchasing Palenque.—Making Casts—Final Departure from Palenque.—Beautiful Plain.—Hanging Birds'. nests.-A Sitio.—Adventure with a monstrous Ape-Hospitality of Padres— Las Playas.—A Tempest.—Moschetoes.—A Youthful Merchant.—Alligators. —Another Funeral.—Disgusting Ceremonials.
AMoNG the Indians who came out to escort us to the rillage was one whom we had not seen before, and whose face bore a striking resemblance to those delineated on the walls of the buildings. In general the faces of the Indians were of an entirely different character, but he might have been taken for a lineal de scendant of the perished race. The resemblance was perhaps purely accidental, but we were anxious to procure his portrait. He was, however, very shy, and unwilling to be drawn. Mr. Catherwood, too, was worn out, and in the confusion of removing we postponed it upon his promising to come to us at the village, but we could not get hold of him again.
We left behind our kitchen furniture, consisting of the three stones which Juan put together the first day of our residence, vessels of pottery and calabashes, and also our beds, for the benefit of the next comer. Everything susceptible of injury from damp was rusty or mouldy, and in a ruinous condition; we ourselves were not much better; and with the clothes on our backs far from dry, we bade farewell to the ruins. We were happy when we reached them, but our joy at leaving them burst the bounds of discretion, and broke out into extravagances poetical, which, however, fortu
nately for the reader, did not advance much beyond the first line:
“Adios, Las Casas de Piedra.”
The road was worse than at any time before; the streams were swollen into rivers, and along the banks were steep, narrow gullies, very difficult to pass. At one of these, after attempting to ascend with my macho, I dismounted. Mr. Catherwood was so weak that he remained on the back of his mule; and after he had crossed, just as he reached the top, the mule's strength gave way, and she fell backward, rolling over in the stream with Mr. Catherwood entirely under. Pawling was behind, and at that time in the stream. He sprang off and extricated Mr. Catherwood, unhurt, but very saint, and, as he was obliged to ride in his wet clothes, we had great apprehensions for him. At length we reached the village, when, exhausted by hard and unintermitted labour, he gave up completely, and took to bed and the medicine-chest. In the evening nearly all my friends of the dinner-party came to see us. That one day had established an intimacy. All regretted that we had had such an unfortunate time at the ruins, wondered how we had lived through it, and were most kind in offers of services. The padre remained after the rest, and went home with a lantern in the midst of one of those dreadful storms which had almost terrified us at the ruins.
The next day again was Sunday. It was my third Sunday in the village, and again it was emphatically a day of rest. In the afternoon a mournful interruption was given to the stillness of the place by the funeral of a young Indian girl, once the pride and beauty of the
village, whose portrait Mr. Waldeck had taken to em
bellish his intended work on Palenque. Her career, as often happens with beauty in higher life, was short, brilliant, and unhappy. She had married a young Indian, who abandoned her and went to another village. Ignorant, innocent, and unconscious of wrong, she was persuaded to marry another, drooped, and died. The funeral procession passed our door. The corpse was borne on a rude bier, without coffin, in a white cotton dress, with a shawl over the head, and followed by a slender procession of women and children only. I walked beside it, and heard one of them say, “bueno Christiano, to attend the funeral of a poor woman.” The bier was set down beside the grave, and in listing the body from it the head turned on one side, and the hands dropped; the grave was too short, and as the dead was laid within the legs were drawn up. Her face was thin and wasted, but the mouth had a sweetness of expression which seemed to express that she had died with a smile of forgiveness for him who had injured her. I could not turn my eyes from her placid but gries-worn countenance, and so touching was its expression that I could almost have shed tears. Young, beautiful, simple, and innocent, abandoned and dead, with not a mourner at her grave. All seemed to think that she was better dead: she was poor, and could not maintain herself. The men went away, and the women and children with their hands scraped the earth upon the body. It was covered up gradually and slowly; the feet stuck out, and then all was buried but the face. A small piece of muddy earth fell upon one of the eyes, and another on her sweetly smiling mouth, changing the whole expression in a moment; death was now robed with terror. The women stopped to comment upon the change; the dirt sell so as to cover the whole
face except the nose, and for two or three moments this alone was visible. Another brush covered this, and the girl was buried. The reader will excuse me. I am sorry to say that if she had been ugly, I should, perhaps, have regarded it as an every-day case of a wife neglected by her husband; but her sweet face speaking from the grave created an impression which even yet is hardly effaced. But to return to things more in my line. We had another long journey before us. Our next move was for Yucatan. From Mr. Catherwood's condition I had great fear that we would not be able to accomplish what we purposed; but, at all events, it was necessary to go down to the seacoast. There were two routes, either by Tobasco or the Laguna, to Campeachy, and war again confronted us. Both Tobasco and Campeachy were besieged by the Liberals, or, as they were called, the Revolutionists. The former route required three days’ journey by land, the latter one short day; and as Mr. C. was not able to ride, this determined us. In the mean time, while waiting for his recovery, and so as not to rust and be utterly useless when I returned home, I started another operation, viz., the purchase of the city of Palenque. I am bound to say, however, that I was not bold enough to originate this, but fell into it accidentally, in a long conversation with the prefect about the richness of the soil, the cheapness of land, its vicinity to the seaboard and the United States, and easy communication with New-York. He told me that a merchant of Tobasco, who had visited the place, had proposed to purchase a tract of land and establish a colony of emigrants, but he had gone away and never returned. He added, that for two years a government order from the State of Chiapas, to which the region Vol. II.