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Journey to Merida.-Village of Moona.-A Pond of Water, a Curiosity.—Aboula —Indian Runners.-Merida.-Departure.—Hunucama.-Siege of Campeachy. —Embarcation for Havana.-Incidents of the Passage.—Fourth of July at Sea. —Shark-fishing.—Getting lost at Sea.—Relieved by the Helen Maria—Passage to New-York.-Arrival.—Conclusion.
BUT to return to ourselves. At three, by the light of the moon, we left Uxmal by the most direct road for Merida, Mr. Catherwood in a coach and I on horseback, charged with a letter from the junior major-domo to his compatriot and friend, Delmonico's head chocolate-maker. As I followed Mr. C. through the woods, borne on the shoulders of Indians, the stillness broken only by the shuffle of their feet, and under my great apprehensions for his health, it almost seemed as if I were following his bier. At the distance of three leagues we entered the village of Moona, where, though a fine village, having white people and Mestitzoes among its inhabitants, travellers were more rare than in the interior of Central America. We were detained two hours at the casa real, waiting for a relief coach. At a short distance beyond, my guide led me out of the road to show me a pond of water, which in that country was a curiosity. It was surrounded by woods; wild cattle were drinking on the borders, and started like deer at our approach. At the distance of four leagues we reached the village of Aboula, with a plaza enclosed by a rough picket-fence, a good casa real and fine old alcalde, who knew our servant as belonging to the Peon family.
There was no intermediate village, and he undertook
to provide us with relief Indians to carry the coach through to Merida, twenty-seven miles. It was growing late, and I went on before with a horse for change, to reach Merida in time to make arrangements for a calèche the next day. Toward evening it rained hard. At dark I began to have apprehension of leaving Mr. Catherwood behind, sent the servant on to secure the calèche, and dismounted to wait. I was too dreadfully fatigued to ride back, and sat down in the road; by degrees I stretched myself on a smooth stone, with the bridle around my wrist, and, after a dreamy debate whether my horse would tread on me or not, fell asleep. I was roused by a jerk which nearly tore my arm off, and saw coming through the woods Indian runners with blazing pine torches, lighting the way for the coach, which had an aspect so funereal that it almost made me shudder. Mr. C. had had his difficulties. After carrying him about a league, the Indians stopped, laid him down, and, after an animated conversation, took him up, went on, but in a little while laid him down again, and, thrusting their heads under the cover of the coach, made him an eager and clamorous address, of which he did not understand one word. At length he picked up dos pesos, or two dollars, and gathered that they wanted two dollars more. As the alcalde had adjusted the account, he refused to pay, and, after a noisy wrangle, they quietly took him up on their shoulders, and began trotting back with him to the village. This made him tractable, and he paid the money, threatening them as well as he could with vengeance; but the amusing part was that they were right. The alcalde had made a mistake in the calculation ; and, on a division and distribution on the road, by hard pounding and calculating, each one knowing what he ought to receive himself, they discovered that they had been paid two dollars short. The price was twenty-five cents per man for the first, and eighteen cents for every subsequent league, besides fifty cents for making the coach; so that, with four men for relief, it was two dollars for the first league, and a dollar and a half for every subsequent one ; and a calculation of the whole amount for nine leagues was rather complicated. It was half past one when we reached Merida, and we had been up and on the road since two in the morning. Fortunately, with the easy movement of the coach, Mr. C. had suffered but little. I was tired beyond all measure; but I had, what enabled me to endure any degree of fatigue, a good cot, and was soon asleep. The next morning we saw my friend Don Simon, who was preparing to go back and join us. I cannot sufficiently express my sense of the kindness we received from himself and his family, and only hope that I may have an opportunity at some future time of returning it in my own country. He promised, when we returned, to go down with us and assist in a thorough exploration of the ruins. The Spanish vessel was to sail the next day. Toward evening, after a heavy rain, as the dark clouds were rolling away, and the setting sun was tinging them with a rich golden border, we left Merida. At eleven o'clock we reached Hunucama, and stopped in the plaza two hours to feed the horses. While here, a party of soldiers arrived from the port, waving pine torches, having just returned victorious from the siege of Campeachy. They were all young, ardent, well dressed, and in fine spirits, and full of praises of their general, who, they said, had remained at Sisal to attend a ball, and was coming on as soon as
it was over. Resuming our journey, in an hour more we met a train of calèches, with officers in uniform. We stopped, congratulated the general upon his victory at Campeachy, inquired for a United States' sloop-ofwar which we had heard was there during the blockade, and, with many interchanges of courtesy, but without seeing a feature of each other's faces, resumed our separate roads. An hour before daylight we reached Sisal, at six o'clock we embarked on board the Spanish brig Alexandre for Havana, and at eight we were under way. It was the twenty-fourth of June; and now, as we thought, all our troubles were ended. The morning was fine. We had eight passengers, all Spanish; one of whom, from the interior, when he came down to the shore and saw the brig in the ossing, asked what animal it was. From my great regard to the captain, I will not speak of the brig or of its condition, particularly the cabin, except to say that it was Spanish. The wind was light; we breakfasted on deck, making the top of the companion-way serve as a table under an awning. The captain told us we would be in Havana in a week. Our course lay along the coast of Yucatan toward Cape Catoche. On Sunday, the 28th, we had made, according to the brig's reckoning, about one hundred and fifty miles, and were then becalmed. The sun was intensely hot, the sea of glassy stillness, and all day a school of sharks were swimming around the brig. From this time we had continued calms, and the sea was like a mirror, heated and reflecting its heat. On the Fourth of July there was the same glassy stillness, with light clouds, but fixed and stationary. The captain said we were incantado or enchanted, and really it almost seemed so. We had expected to celebrate this day by dining with the American consul in Havana; but our vessel lay like a log, and we were scorching, and already pinched for water; the bare thought of a Fourth of July dinner meanwhile making Spanish ship-cookery intolerable. We had read through all the books in the mate's library, consisting of some French novels translated into Spanish, and a history of awful shipwrecks. To break the monotony of the calm, we had hooks and lines out constantly for sharks; the sailors called them, like the alligators, ennemigos de los Christianos, hoisted them on deck, cut out their hearts and entrails, and then threw them overboard. We were already out ten days, and growing short of provisions; we had two young sharks for dinner. Apart from the associations, they were not bad—quite equal to young alligators; and the captain told us that in Campeachy they were regularly in the markets, and eaten by all classes. In the afternoon they gathered around us fearfully. Everything that fell overboard was immediately snapped up; and the hat of a passenger which fell from his head had hardly touched the water before a huge fellow turned over on his side, opened his ugly mouth above the water, and swallowed it : luckily, the man was not under it. Toward evening we caught a leviathan, raised him four or five feet out of the water with the hook, and the sailors, leaning over, beat his brains with the capstan bars till he was motionless; then fastening a rope with a slipnoose under his fins, with the ship's tackle they hoisted him on deck. He seemed to fill half the side of the vessel. The sailors opened his mouth, and sastened the jaws apart with a marlinspike, turned him over on his back, ripped him open, and torc out his heart and entrails. They then chopped off about a foot