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small clumps of low trees and shrubs on stony hillocks. Wild pigeons were very numerous, and their cooings were incessant. On the rocky spots grew spiny cactuses, with flattened pear-shaped joints and scarlet fruit. I reached the Juigalpa river about two miles below the town. Near the crossing it ran between shelving rocky banks, with here and there still reaches and pebbly shores. Shady trees overhung the clear water; and behind were myrtle-leaved shrubs and grassy openings. The morning was yet young, and the banks were vocal with the noises of birds, that chattered, whistled, chirruped, croaked, cooed, warbled, or made discordant cries. I doubt if any other part of the earth's surface could show a greater variety of the feathered tribe. A large brown bittern stood motionless amongst the stones of a rapid portion of the stream, crouching down with his neck and head drawn back close to his body, so that he looked like a brown rock himself. Kingfishers flitted up and down, or dashed into the water with a splashing thud. At a sedgy spot were some jacanas stalking about. When disturbed, these birds rise chattering their displeasure, and showing the lemon yellow of the underside of their wings, which contrasts with the deep chocolate brown of the rest of their plumage. Parrots flew past in screaming flocks, or alighted on the trees and nestled together in loving couples, changing their screaming to tender chirrupings. Numerous brown and yellow flycatchers sat on small dead branches, and darted off every now and then after passing insects. A couple of beautiful mot-mots (Eumomota superciliaris) made short flights after the larger insects, or sat on the low branches by the river-bank, jerking their curious tails from side
to side. Swallows skimmed past in their circling flights, whilst in the bushes were warbling orange-and-black Sisitotis and many another bird of beautiful feather. One class of birds, and that the most characteristic of tropical America, was decidedly scarce. I did not see a single humming-bird by the river-side. On the savannahs they are much less frequent than in the forest region. Insects were not so numerous as they had been in preceding years. Over sandy spots two speckled species of tiger-beetles ran and flew with great swift
I saw one rise from the ground and take an insect on the wing that was flying slowly over. On one myrtle-like bush, with small white flowers, there were dozens of a small Longicorn new to me, which, when flying, looked like black wasps.
It was very pleasant to sit in the cool shade, and listen to, and watch, the birds. There was here no fear of dangerous animals, the only annoyance being stinging ants or biting sand-flies, neither of which were at this place very numerous. Snakes also were scarce. but one, a harmless green one, that glided away with wavy folds amongst the brushwood. The natives say that alligators are plentiful in the river, but that they are harmless. I saw one small one, about five feet long, floating with his eyes, nostrils, and the serratures of his back only above water. Every one bathes in the river without fear, which would not be the case if there had been any one seized by them during the last fifty years ; for no traditions are more persistent than tales of the attacks of wild beasts. Anxious parents pass on from generation to generation the stories they themselves were told when children.
As I sat upon the rocks in the cool shade, enjoying the scene, there came hobbling along, with painful steps, on the other side of the river, a poor cripple, afflicted with that horrible disease, elephantiasis. He crossed the river with great difficulty, as his feet were swollen to six times their natural size, with great horny callosities. One of his hands was also disabled ; and altogether he was a most pitiable object. Such a sight seemed a blot upon the fair face of nature; but it is our sympathy for our kind that makes us think so. If the trees were sympathetic beings, not a poor crippled specimen of humanity would have their pity, but the gnarled and half-rotten giants of the forest, threatening to topple down with every breeze; whilst to our eyes the dying tree, covered with moss and ferns, and, maybe, clasped by climbing vines, is a picturesque and pleasing sight. So, the fishes would pity their comrades caught by the kingfisher, the birds those in the claws of the hawkevery creature considering the fate that overtook its fellows, and which might befall itself—the great blot in nature's plan.
The poor cripple told me he was going into Juigalpa. He had, doubtless, heard that a stranger had arrived in the town; for every time I had been there he had turned up. His best friends are the foreigners, who look with greater pity on his misfortune than his neighbours, who have grown accustomed to it.
The blind, the lame, and the sick are the only beggars I ever saw in Nicaragua. The necessaries of life are easily procured. Very little clothing is required. Any one may plant maize or bananas; and there is plenty of work for all who are willing or obliged to labour; so the healthy and strong amongst the poorer classes lead an easy and pleasant life, but the sick and incapacitated amongst them are really badly off. There is a great indifference amongst the natives to the wants of their comrades struck down by sickness or accident, and hospitals and asylums are unknown.
I was told that the cripple, lame as he was, often took long journeys, and had even gone as far as Granada. He had been a soldier in one of the revolutions, when John Chamorro was President, and ascribed the commencement of the disease to getting a chill by bathing when he was heated.
After he had hobbled off, I bathed in the cool river, and then rambled about on the other side, where I found some large mango trees, full of delicious ripe fruit. It was getting on towards noon: the sun was high and hot, and the birds had mostly retired into the deepest shades for their mid-day sleep. I could have lingered all day, but it was time for me to return, as I had arranged with Velasquez to accompany him in search of some Indian graves he had heard of about three miles away.
As I left the river, I heard the whistle of the beautiful “ toledo," so called because its note resembles these syllables, clearly and slowly whistled, with the emphasis on the last two. Following the sound, it led me to a deep, thickly-timbered gully, at the bottom of which was the bed of a brook, consisting now only of detached pools, over one of which, on the limb of a tree, sat a large dark-coloured hawk, with white-banded tail watching for fresh-water and land crabs, on which it feeds. I had a long chase after the toledo. As soon as
I got within sight of it, sometimes before, it would dart away through the brushwood, generally across the brook, and in a few minutes I would hear its deep-toned whistle again as if in mockery of my pursuit. I had to climb and reclimb the steep banks of the gully: but at last, creeping cautiously, and just getting my head above the bank, I got a shot. There were two of them sitting close together. I brought both down, and they proved to be in fine plumage. The toledo (Chirosciphia lineata) is about the size of a linnet, of a general velvety black colour. The crown of the head is covered with a flat scarlet crest, and the back with what looks like a shawl of sky-blue. From the tail spring two long ribbon-like feathers. Its curious note is often heard on the savannahs, in the thick timber that skirts the small brooks; but it is not often seen, as it is a shy bird, and frequents the deepest shades.
There were several of the yellow-breasted trogon (T. melanocephalus) sitting amongst the branches, and now and then darting off after insects. This species often breaks into the nests of the termites, and feeds on the soft-bodied workers. Another trogon about here, with red breast (T. elegans), has a peculiarly harsh, croaking voice, very different from the other species, and more resembling the cry of a mot-mot.
As I rode back over the savannahs to Juigalpa, the nearly vertical rays of the sun were reflected from the dry, hot, sandy soil. Not a sound was now heard from the numerous birds. The shrill cicada still piped its never-ending treble. No wind was stirring, and the air over the parched soil quivered with heat.
I was glad to get back to my “hotel,” and have