Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

outside to the belfry of the church, whither we followed him; and, turning around with a movement and tone of voice that reminded us of a Mussulman in a minaret calling the faithful to prayers, he called for a coach. The roof of the church, and of the whole pile of buildings connected, was of stone cemented, firm and strong as a pavement. The sun beat intensely upon it, and for several minutes all was still. At length we saw a single Indian trotting through the woods toward the hacienda, then two together, and in a quarter of an hour there were twenty or thirty. These were the horses; the coaches were yet growing on the trees. Six Indians were selected for each coach, who, with a few minutes' use of the machete, cut a bundle of poles, which they brought up to the corridor to manufacture into coaches. This was done, first, by laying on the ground two poles about as thick as a man's wrist, ten feet long and three feet apart. These were fastened by cross-sticks tied with strings of unspun hemp, about two feet from each end; grass hammocks were secured between the poles, bows bent over them and covered with light matting, and the coaches were made. We placed our ponchas at the head for pillows, crawled inside, and lay down. The Indians took off little cotton shirts covering the breast, and tied them around their petates as hatbands. Four of them raised up each coach, and placed the end of the poles on little cushions on their shoulders. We bade farewell to the major-domo and his wife, and, feet first, descended the steps and set off on a trot, while an Indian followed leading the horses. In the great relief we experienced we forgot our former scruples against making beasts of burden of men. They were not troubled with any sense of indignity or abasement, and the weight was not much.

ANOTHER STATELY RESIDENCE. 407

There were no mountains; only some little inequalities which brought the head lower than the heels, and they seldom stumbled. In this way they carried us about three miles, and then laid us down gently on the ground. Like the Indians in Merida, they were a fine-looking race, with a good expression of countenance, cheerful, and even merry in their toil. They were amused at us because we could not talk with them. There is no diversity of Indian languages in Yucatan; the Maya is universal, and all the Spaniards speak it.

Having wiped off the perspiration and rested, they took us up again; and, lulled by the quiet movement and the regular fall of the Indians' feet upon the ear, I fell into a doze, from which I was roused by stopping at a gate, on entering which I found we were advancing to a range of white stone buildings, standing on an elevation about twenty feet high, which by measurement afterward I found to be three hundred and sixty feet long, with an imposing corridor running the whole length; and on the extreme right of the building the platform was continued one or two hundred feet, forming the top of a reservoir, on which there was a windlass with long arms; and Indian women, dressed in white, were moving round in a circle, drawing water and filling their water-jars. This was called the hacienda of Mucuyche. We entered, as usual, through a large cattle-yard. At the foot of the structure on which the building stood, running nearly the whole length, was a gigantic stone tank, about eight or ten feet wide, and of the same depth, filled with water. We were carried up an inclined stone platform about the centre of the range of buildings, which consisted of three distinct sets, each one hundred and twenty feet front. In that on the left was the church, the door of which was 3G

open, and an old Indian was then lighting candles a: the altar for vesper prayers. In front, setting a little back, were the apartments of the major-domo, and at the other end of the range the mansion of the master, ui the corridor of which we were set down, and crawled out of our coaches. There was something monstrously aristocratic in being borne on the shoulders of tenants from such a hacienda as that we had left to this stately pile. The whole appearance of things gave an idea of country residence upon a scale of grand hospitality, and yet we learned, to our astonishment, that most of the family had never seen it. The only one by whom it was ever visited was the son who had it in charge, and he came only for a few days at a time, to see how things were conducted, and examine the accounts of the major-domo. The range consisted of a single suite of rooms, one in the centre about eighty feet long, and one on each side, communicating, about forty feet long each, and a noble corridor extended along the whole front and rear.

We had an hour of daylight, which I could have employed very satisfactorily on the spot, but the servant urged us to go immediately and see a cenote. What a cenote was we had no idea, and Mr. C, being much fatigued, turned into a hammock; but, unwilling to lose anything where all was strange and unexpected, I followed the servant, crossed the roof of the reservoir, cemented as hard as stone, passed on to an open tank built of stone, covered with cement inside and out, about one hundred and fifty feet square and twenty feet deep, filled with water, in which twenty or thirty Indians were swimming; and, descending to the foot of the tank, at the distance of about a hundred yards came to a large opening in the ground, with a broad

A SYLVAN GROTTO. 409

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. Yol. IU

CHAPTER XXIV.
»

jonmey returned.—Arrival at Uxmal.—Hacienda of Uxmal. — Major-d >mos-— 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 delicals) 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

« FöregåendeFortsätt »