« EelmineJätka »
living on roots and fruits, and had nearly died from starvation. He had an intelligent, sharp, and independent look about him, and kept continually talking in his own language, apparently surprised that the people around him did not understand what he was saying. He was taken to Castillo, and met there the woman who had been captured a year before, and had learnt to speak a little Spanish. Through her as an interpreter, he tried to get permission to return to the Rio Frio, saying that if they would let him go he would come back and bring his father and mother with him; but this simple artifice of the poor boy was, of course, ineffectual. He was afterwards taken to Granada, for the purpose, they said, of being educated, that he might become the means of opening up communication with his tribe.
The rubber-men bring down many little articles that they pillage from the Indians. They consist of cordage, made from the fibre of Bromeliaceous plants, bone hooks, and stone implements. Amongst the latter, I was fortunate enough to obtain a rude stone hatchet, set in a stone-cut wooden handle: it was firmly fixed in a hole made in the thick end of the handle. It is a singular fact, and one showing the persistence of particular ways of doing things through long ages amongst people belonging to the same race that, in the ancient Mexican, Uxmal, and Palenque picture-writings, bronze axes are represented fixed in this identical manner in holes at the thick ends of the handles.
We slept on board one of the steamers of the American Transit Company. It was too dark when we arrived at San Carlos to see anything that night of the great lake, but we heard the waves breaking on the beach like a sea-shore, and from further away came that moaning sound that has from the earliest ages of history connected the idea of the sea with sorrow and sadness.* The steamer we stayed in was one of four river-boats belonging to the Transit Company, which was at this time in difficulties, and ultimately the boats were sold; part of them being bought by Mr. Hollenbeck, and used by the navigation company which he established. These steamers are built expressly for shallow rivers, and are very different structures from anything we see in England. The bottom is made quite flat, and divided into compartments; the first deck being only about eighteen inches above the water, from which it is divided by no bulwarks or other protection. Upon this deck are placed the cargo and the driving machinery. A vertical boiler is fixed at the bow, and two horizontal engines, driving a large paddle-wheel, at the stern. The second deck is for passengers, and is raised on light wooden pillars braced with iron rods about seven feet above the first. Above this is another deck, on which are the cabins of the officers and the steering apparatus. The appearance of such a structure is more like that of a house than a boat. The one we were in, the Panaloya, draws only three feet of water, when laden with 400 passengers and twenty tons of cargo.
The Lake of Nicaragua-Ometepec-Becalmed on the Lake-White
Cygnets-Reach San Ubaldo-Ride across the Plains-Vegetation of the Plains-Armadillo SavannahsJicara Trees-Jicara Bowls-Origin of Gourd-shaped Pottery-Coyotes-Mule-breed. ing-Reach Acoyapo— Festa - Cross High Range—EsquipulaThe Rio Mico-Supposed Statues on its banks-Pital-Cultivation of Maize-Its use from the earliest times in America-Separation of the Maize-eating from the Mandioca-eating Indigenes of America–Tortillas--Sugar-making— Enter the Forest of the Atlantic Slope—Vegetation of the Forest-Muddy Roads-Arrive at Santo Domingo.
As daylight broke next morning, I was up, anxious to see the great lake about which I had heard so much. To the north-west a great sheet of quiet water extended as far as the eye could reach, with islands here and there, and—the central figure in every view of the lake —the great conical peak of Ometepec towered up, 5,050 feet above the sea, and 4,922 feet above the surface of the lake. To the left, in the dim distance, were the cloudcapped mountains of Costa Rica; to the right, nearer at hand, low hills and ranges covered with dark forests. The lake is too large to be called beautiful, and its vast extent and the mere glimpses of its limits and cloudcapped peaks appeal to the imagination rather than to the eye. At this end of the lake the water is shallow, probably filled up by the mud brought down by the Rio Frio.
We had still a voyage of sixty miles before us up the lake, and this was to be accomplished not by paddling, but by sailing ; so we now rigged two light masts, and soon after seven o'clock sailed slowly away from San Carlos before a light breeze, which in an hour's time freshened and carried us along at the rate of about six miles an hour. The sun rose higher and higher; the day waxed hotter and hotter. About noon the wind failed us again, and the sun right overhead, in a clear pitiless sky, scorched us with its rays, while our boat lay like a log upon the water, the pitch melting in the seams with the heat. The surface of the lake was motionless, except a gentle heaving. We were almost broiled with the stilling heat, but at last saw a ripple on the water coming up from the north-east, some parts bristling with pointed Aecks; soon the breeze reached us, and our torment was over; our sails, no more idly flapping, filled out before the wind; the canoe dashed through the rising waves; our drooping spirits revived, and there was an opening out of provisions, and life again in the dead. The breeze continued all the afternoon, and at dark we were off the islands of Nancital, having been all day within a few miles of the north-eastern side of the lake, the banks of which are everywhere clothed with dark gloomy-looking forests. One of the islands was a favourite sleeping-place for the white egrets. From all sides they were flying across the lake towards it; and as night set in, the trees and bushes by the water-side were full of them, looking like great white flowers amongst the dark green foliage. Flocks of muscovy and whistling ducks also few over to their evening feeding-places. Great masses of a floating plant, shaped like a cabbage,
were abundant on the lake, and on these the white egrets and other wading birds often alighted. The boatmen told me—and the story is likely enough to be truethat the alligators, floating about like logs, with their eyes above the water, watch these birds, and, moving quietly up until within a few yards of them, sink down below the surface, come up underneath them, catch them by the leg, and drag them under water. Besides the alligators, large freshwater sharks appear to be common in the lake. Sometimes, when in shallow water, we saw a pointed billow rapidly moving away from the boat, produced by some large fish below, and I was told it was a shark.
After dark the wind failed us again, and we got slowly along, but finally reached our port, San Ubaldo, about ten o'clock, and found there an officer of the mining company, living in a small thatched hut, stationed there to send on the machinery and other goods that arrived for the mines. A large tiled store had also just been built by the owner of the estate there, Don Gregorio Quadra, under the verandah of which I hung my hammock for the night. Mules were waiting at San Ubaldo for us, and early next morning we set off, with our luggage on pack mules. We crossed some rocky low hills, with scanty vegetation, and, after passing the cattle hacienda of San José, reached the plains of the same name, about two leagues in width, now dry and dusty, but in the wet season forming a great slough of water and tenacious mud, through which the mules have to wade and plunge.
In the midst of these plains there are some rocky knolls, like islands, on which grow spiny cactuses, low leathery-leaved trees, slender, spiny palms, with plum