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Lacuna.—Journey to Merida.—Sisal.—A new Mode of Conveyance.—Village o( Hunucama.—Arrival at Merida.—Aspect of the City.—Fete of Corpus Domini.—The Cathedral.—The Procession.—Beauty and Simplicity of the Indian Women.— PaVace of the Bishop.—The Theatre.—Journey to Uxmal—Hacienda of Vayalquex.—Value of Water.—Condition of the Indians r"i Yucatan.—A peculiar kind of Coach.—Hacienda of Mucuyche.—A beautiful Grotto.
The town of Laguna stands on the island of Carmen, which is about seven leagues long, and which, with another island about four leagues in length, separates the Lake of Terminos from the Gulf of Mexico. It is the depot of the great logwood country in the interior, and a dozen vessels were then in port awaiting cargoes for Europe and the United States. The town is well built and thriving; its trade has been trammelled by the oppressive regulations of the Central government, but it had made its pronunciamento, disarmed and driven out the garrison, and considered itself independent, subject only to the state government of Yucatan. The anchorage is shoal but safe, and easy of access for vessels not drawing over twelve or thirteen feet of water.
We could have passed some time with satisfaction in resting and strolling over the island, but our journey was not yet ended. Our next move was for Merida, the capital of Yucatan. The nearest port was Campeachy, a hundred and twenty miles distant, and the voyage was usually made by bungo, coasting along the shore of the open sea. With our experience of bungoes this was most disheartening. Nevertheless, this would have been our unhappy lot but for the kindness of Mr. Russell and Captain Fensley. The latter was bound directly to New-York, and his course lay along 3E
the coast of Yucatan. Personally he was disposed to do all in his power to serve us, but there might be some risk in putting into port to land us. Knowing his favourable disposition, we could not urge him; but Mr. Russell was his consignee, and by charter-party had a right to detain him ten days, and intended to do so ; but he offered to load him in two days upon condition of his taking us on board, and, as Campeachy was blockaded, landing us at Sisal, sixty miles beyond, and the seaport of Merida. Captain Fensley assented, and we were relieved from what at the time we should have considered a great calamity.
In regard to the project for the purchase of the ruins of Palenque, which I have before referred to, Mr. Russell entered into it warmly; and with a generosity I cannot help mentioning, hardly to be expected from one so long from home, requested to be held liable for two thousand dollars as part of the cost of introducing them into the United States. In pursuance of my previous arrangement I wrote to the prefect, advising him of Mr. Russell's co-operation, and referring him to Pawling as my agent in settling the details of the purchase. This was enclosed in a letter from Mr. Russell to the same effect, which stated, besides, that the money should be paid the moment it was required, and both, with full instructions, were given to Pawling. The interest which Mr. Russell took in this matter gave me a flattering hope of success, and but for him, the scheme for making castings would have failed entirely. He was engaged in building an unusually fine house, and in order to finish it had sent to Campeachy for plaster of Paris, but not finding any there, had imported some from NewYork. Fortunately, he had a few barrels left; and but for this accident—there was none nearer than Vera
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Cruz or New-Orleans—Pawling's journey, so far as related to this object, would have been fruitless. We settled the details of sending the plaster with Pawling to Palenque, receiving and shipping the castings to me at New-York, and on Saturday morning at seven o'clock bade farewell to Mr. Russell, and embarked on board the Gabrielacho. Pawling accompanied us outside the bar, and we took leave of him as he got on board the pilot-boat to return. We had gone through such rough scenes together since he overtook us at the foot of the Sierra Madre, that it may be supposed we did not separate with indifference. Juan was still with us, for the first time at sea, and wondering where we would take him next.
The Gabrielacho was a beautiful brig of about one hundred and sixty tons, built under Captain Fensley's own direction, one half belonging to himself, and fitted up neatly and tastefully as a home. He had no house on shore; one daughter was at boarding-school in the United States, and the rest of his family, consisting of his wife and a little daughter about three years old, was with him on board. Since his marriage seven years before, his wife had remained but one year on shore, and she determined not to leave him again as long as he followed the seas, while he was resolved that every voyage should be the last, and looked forward to the consummation of every sailor's hopes, a good farm. His daughter Vicentia, or poor Centy, as she called herself, was the pet of all on board; and we had twelve passengers, interesting to the Common Council of New-York, being enormous turtles, one of which the captain hoped would gladden the hearts of the fathers of the city at their fourth of July dinner.
The reader cannot realize the satisfaction with which
we found ourselves in such comfortable quarters on board this brig. We had an afternoon squall, but we considered ourselves merely passengers, and, with a good vessel, master, and crew, laughed at a distant bungo crawling close along the shore, and for the first time feared that the voyage would end too soon. Perhaps no captain ever had passengers so perfectly contented under storm or calm. Oh you who cross the Atlantic in packet-ships, complaining of discomforts, and threaten to publish the captain because the porter does not hold out, may you one day be caught on board a bungo loaded with logwood I
The wear and tear of our wardrobe was manifest to the most indifferent observer: and Mrs. Fensley, pitying our ragged condition, sewed on our buttons, darned, patched, and mended us, and put us in order for another expedition. On the third morning Captain Fensley told us we had passed Campeachy during the night, and, if the wind held, would reach Sisal that day. At eight o'clock we came in sight of the long low coast, and moving steadily toward it, at a little before dark anchored off the port, about two miles from the shore. One brig was lying there, a Spanish trader, bound to Havana, and the only vessel in port. The anchorage is an open roadstead outside of the breakers, which is considered perfectly safe except during a northeast storm, when Spanish vessels always slip their cables and stand out to sea.
In the uncertainty whether what we were going to see was worth the trouble, and the greater uncertainty of a conveyance when we wanted it, it was trying to leave a good vessel which in twenty days might carry us home. Nevertheless, we made the exertion. It was dusk when we left the vessel. We landed at the end
of a long wooden dock, built out on the open shore of the sea, where we were challenged by a soldier. At the head of the pier was a guard and custom house, where an officer presented himself to escort us to the commandant. On the right, near the shore, was an old Spanish fortress with turrets. A soldier, barely distinguishable on the battlements, challenged us; and, passing the quartel, we were challenged again. The answer, as in Central America, was "Patria libre." The tone of the place was warlike, the Liberal party dominant. The revolution, as in all the other places, had been conducted in a spirit of moderation; but when the garrison was driven out, the commandant, who had been very tyrannical and oppressive, was taken, and the character of the revolution would have been stained by his murder, but he was put on board a bungo and escaped. We were well received by the commandant; and Captain Fensley took us to the house of an acquaintance, where we saw the captain of the brig in the offing, which was to sail in eight days for Havana, and no other vessel was expected for a long time. We made arrangements for setting out the next day for Merida, and early in the morning accompanied the captain to the pier, saw him embark in a bungo, waited till he got on board, and saw the brig, with a fine breeze and every sail set, stand out into the ocean for home. We turned our backs upon it with regret. There was nothing to detain us at Sisal. Though prettily situated on the seashore and a thriving place, it was merely the depot of the exports and imports of Merida. At two o'clock we set out for the capital.
We were now in a country as different from Central America as if separated by the Atlantic, and we began our journey with an entirely new mode of conveyance.