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Ch. IX.] REMARKABLE SINGING-BIRD. 161
so the healthy and strong amongst the poorer classes lead an easy and pleasant life; but the sick and incapacitated amongst them are badly eff. 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 Chamovro 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 had a bathe 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 siesta ; 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 to return, 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 M
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; but the shrill cicada still piped its never-ending treble. Not a breath of wind was stirring; and the air over the parched soil quivered with heat. I was glad to get back to my “hotel,” and have breakfast, with chocolate served up in jicaras. After an
Ch. IX.] THE EL SALTO WATERFALL. } 63
hour's rest, I started with Velasquez in search of the Indian antiquities. We rode up the right side of the river, high up above the stream, as the banks are rocky and precipitous; then down a shelving road to a lower level, and across undulating savannahs thinly timbered. After about three miles, we came out on a small flat plain, probably alluvial, about twenty acres in extent, mostly covered with grass, with a few scattered jicaras trees. On the further end of this plain was a mud-walled, thatched hut, called “El Salto,” from a fall of the river close by. A man was lounging about, and a woman bruising maize for tortillas. The man told us that the “worked stones,” as he called them, were on the side of the plain we had crossed. Before going to look at them, we went down to the river to see the waterfall. Just opposite the house the Juigalpa river, which comes flowing down over a flat bed of trachyte, leapt down a deep narrow chasm that it has cut in the hard rock. This chasm is about fifty feet deep, and only twenty wide. The river was low, and poured all its water in at the end of the deep notch; but when it is flooded, it must rush in over the sides also, and make a magnificent turmoil of waters. Even when I saw it, the water, as it rushed along at the bottom of the narrow chasm, boiling and surging amongst great masses of fallen rock with a steady roar, looked as if it would carry all before it. Deep pot holes, some of them ten feet deep, were worn into the hard trachyte rock, and sections of sea-coal were shown in the sides of the chasm, which could only have been formed when the falls were many yards lower down. The trachyte is very hard and tough; and the sections of the pot-holes are as fresh as if they had been made but yesterday.
In reply to my assertion that the falls had produced, and were now working back, the chasm, our guide, the lounging man from the house, said the rocks had always been as they were: he had lived there ten years, and there had been no change in them. Perhaps, if the buried Indians could rise from their graves where they were laid to rest more than three hundred years ago, they, too, would testify that there had been no change, and that the rocks and the leaping river were as they had been and would be for ever; for the untrained mind cannot grasp the idea of the effect of slowly-acting influences extending over vast periods of time.
We asked the guide if there were any cairns near, and he said there was one on the top of a neighbouring hill. Up this we climbed. It was the rounded spur of a range behind, jutting out into the Small plain before mentioned, and may be partly artificial. On the summit, which commanded a fine view of the country around, with the white cliffs and dark woods of the Amerrique range in front, was an Indian cairn, elliptical in shape, about thirty feet long and twenty broad. Several Small trees had sprung up amongst the stones. Near the centre two holes had been dug down about four feet deep. Our guide told us that he and his brother had made them, to hide themselves in from the soldiers during the last revolutionary outbreak. Not a very likely story, that they should have chosen the top of a bare hill for a hiding-place, when all around in the valleys there were thickets of brushwood. He said they had found nothing in the holes; but we soon found fragments of two broken cinerary urns, one of fine clay, painted with red and black, the other much coarser and stronger, without