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withstanding his critical position, he was lively and cheerful, and when I gave him a small piece of silver was as overjoyed as if he had got news of his reprieve. Jumping away, his clanking fetters making ghastly music, he gleefully showed to his guard the coin that would probably procure him food the few days he had to live. His wretched appearance, impending fate, and shocking levity, had chased away the peaceful feelings with which I had watched the quiet sunset; but as he hobbled off, night, like a pall, fell over the scene; the trembling stars peeped out from the vault of heaven, and soon a million distant orbs proclaimed that the world was but a grain of dust in the vast universe, that the things of earth were but for a moment, and, as a shadow, would pass away.
Next morning, when we wished to settle up kind entertainers, they absolutely refused to accept any payment. We had been recommended to the house, and told that we could pay for what we got; but we now learnt that no one was ever refused entertainment, and that no charge was made. We were total strangers, nor should I have any opportunity of returning their hospitality, as I had determined shortly to return to Europe; but all I could prevail upon them to accept was a present to a little girl that lived with the ladies, and of whom they were very fond, calling her "the daughter of the house.” Leaving the hospitable Señoras Rimirez with many thanks, we started on our return journey about seven o'clock.
After crossing the river, I noticed boulders of conglomerate in the drift, none of which had occurred in the valley of Depilto. The bed rock was still contorted schists, with many quartz veins. At the top of a steep rise, beyond the river, is a small plateau, or level terrace, fringing the range, formed of a gravelly boulder deposit; then another steep ascent led us to a second higher plateau, like the first, covered with boulders, lying on the level surface. The first beds of the quartzconglomerate occurred about half-way between Ocotal and Totagalpa. Between it and the contorted schists we passed over some soft, decomposing trap-rocks, which, both here and elsewhere, appeared to intervene between these two formations. Over the whole country between Ocotal and Totagalpa were spread many large boulders, great blocks of conglomerate, and of a hard blue trap-rock that I did not see in situ, lying on the upturned edges of the schistose rocks. I should have liked to have worked out the exact relative positions of the quartz conglomerate and the contorted schists, for I have no doubt that a day or two's search amongst the ravines would have shown many natural sections that would have thrown great light upon the subject; but I had no time to devote to it. We were hurrying on every day as far as our mules could carry us, as it was important that I should get back to the mines before the end of the month, and I was only able to note down the exposures that occurred within sight of the road. These, however, were sufficient to show me that the gneiss of Depilto was overlain conformably by the contorted schists; that the latter were followed by soft trappean beds, and these by thick beds of quartz conglomerate, apparently derived from the degradation of the schistose rocks, with their numerous quartz veins.
We reached Totagalpa about eleven o'clock, and remained there some time engaging labourers. We stayed at the house of a man who made the common palm-leaf hats, worn throughout the central provinces by both men and women. The palm-leaves are first boiled, then bleached in the sun, split into small strips, and platted together like straw. It was Sunday, and most of the people were in town, sitting at the doors of their huts, or under their verandahs. Nearly all the inhabitants of Totagalpa are pure Indians, and are simple and inoffensive people. They sat listening to three men, one with a whistle, the others with drums, each striving to make as much noise as possible, without any attempt at harmony or tune, whilst an enthusiast in discord kept clanging away at the bells of the church.
They had no padre of their own, but one occasionally came over from Somoti, four leagues distant, to celebrate services, or visit the sick. The next day was the great feast of Totagalpa, and they were preparing for it. As we sat under a verandah opposite the church, a procession of the town authorities issued from it, bearing a table and all the silver and brass ornaments. The principal officials each carried his stick of office, but none, excepting the Alcalde, could boast a pair of shoes. Their looks of importance and gravity showed, however, that they considered themselves the chief actors in an important ceremony. The procession slowly traversed half the round of the plaza, whilst the bells clanged, the whistle squeaked, and the drummers thumped their loudest. Stopping at a house at the corner of the plaza, the officials seated themselves on a bench outside. Then was brought out to them in bowls, nearly as large as wash-hand basins, the old Indian drink, “chicha,” made from fermented corn and sugar. Each man had one of the great bowls and a napkin; the latter they spread over their knees, and rested the bowl op it, taking long sips every now and then with evident signs of satisfaction. Little have these people changed from the times of the Conquest. Pascual de Andagoya, writing of the people of Nicaragua when they were first subjugated by Hernandez de Cordova, in 1520, says, “The whole happiness of the people consists in drinking the wine they make from maize, which is like beer, and on this they get as drunk as if it was the wine of Spain; and all the festivals they hold are for the purpose of drinking. *
The cross, candlesticks, and other ornaments were arranged on a table, and were each carefully and solemnly washed with hot water. This they do every year the day before their feast, and it makes the occasion for the procession and chicha-drinking. Most of the men of the township were gathered around, and in all, the straight coarse black hair and Indian features were unmistakable. The chicha-drinking was too long a business for our patience, and we went over to the church, where we found a number of the Indian women with great baskets full of most beautiful and sweet-smelling flowers, making garlands and bouquets to decorate the holy images and church. The beautiful flowers were twined in wreaths, or stuck on prepared stands and shapes, and their fragrance filled the church. The love
* Hakluyt Society. “Narrative of Pascual de Andagoya.” Trans. by C. R. Markham, p. 34.
of flowers is another beautiful trait of the old Indians that their descendants have not lost. The ancient Mexicans decorated their altars and temples with flowers, and in their festivals crowned themselves with garlands.
I mentioned the glistening white tower of the church in the account of our journey out. I now learnt that it was only finished the year before our visit, and had cost these poor people over 700 dollars in money, besides gifts of stone, wood, and labour amounting to more than as much again. At other Mestizo towns, where the churches were like dilapidated barns, we heard much of the religious fervour of the Indians of Totagalpa. At one time, when building the tower, both their funds and the lime were exhausted. In this strait the Alcalde called the people of the town together, and told them that the tower, on the building of which they had already spent so much, could not be finished without lime. Then and there they determined themselves to carry the limestone from the quarries, near Ocotal, ten miles distant. Next morning, before daylight, the whole village set out, and at night a long line of men, women, and children came staggering back into Totagalpa, every one with a block of limestone; and so zealous were they to bring as large stones as they could carry, that some of them had great sores worn between their shoulders where they carried their loads, slung, Indian fashion, from their foreheads. Here survives the same old Indian spirit, only turned in another direction, that impelled their forefathers, with great labour and patience, to bring from a distance and pile up great cairns of stones over the graves of their chieftains.