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are all awake and astir when the sun goes down. Great spiders and scorpions prowl about, or take up advantageous positions where they expect their prey to pass. Cockroaches of all sizes, from that of one’s finger to that of one’s finger-nail, stand with long quivering antennae, pictures of alert outlook, watching for their numerous foes, or Scurry away as fast as their long legs can carry them; but if they come within reach of the great spider they are pounced upon in an instant, and with one convulsive kick give up the hopeless struggle. Centipedes, wood-lice, and all kinds of creeping things come out of cracks and crevices; even the pools are alive with water-beetles that have been hiding in the ooze all day, excepting when they came up with a dash to the surface for a bubble of fresh air. Owls and nightjars make strange unearthly cries. The timid deer comes out of its close covert to feed on the grassy clearings. Jaguars, Ocelots, and opossums slink about in the gloom. The skunk goes leisurely along, holding up his white tail as a danger-flag for none to come within range of his nauseous artillery. Bats and large moths fitter around, whilst all the day-world is at rest and asleep. The night speeds on ; the stars that rose in the east are sinking behind the western hills; a faint tinge of dawn lights the eastern sky; loud and shrill rings out the awakening shout of chanticleer; the grey dawn comes on apace; a hundred birds salute the cheerful morn, and the night-world hurries to its gloomy dens and hiding-places, like the 'sprites and fairy elves of our nursery days. It was very dark when I started to return, excepting that flashes of lightning now and then illumined the path ; but I left my mule to herself, and
Ch. IX.] RETURN TO JUIG ALPA. 175
she carried me safely into Juigalpa, where I found dinner awaiting me. It took me until midnight to skin the birds I had shot during the day; and as I had been up since six in the morning, I was quite ready for, and took kindly to, my hard leathern couch.
Juigalpa–A Nicaraguan family–Description of the road from Juigalpa to Santo Domingo—Comparative scarcity of insects in Nicaragua in 1872—Water-bearing plants—Insect traps—The South-western edge of the forest region—Influence of cultivation upon it—Sagacity of the mule.
THE site of Juigalpa is beautifully chosen, as is usual with the old Indian towns. It is on a level dry piece of land, about three hundred feet above the river. A rocky brook behind the town supplies the water for drinking and cooking purposes. The large square or plaza has the church at one end; on the other three sides are red-tiled adobe houses and stores, with floors of clay or red bricks. Streets branch off at right angles from the square, and are crossed by others. The best houses are those nearest the Square; those on the outskirts are mere thatched hovels, with open sides of bamboo poles. The house I stayed at was at the corner of one of the square blocks, and from the angle the view extended in four directions along the level roads. Each way the prospect was bounded by hills in the distance. North-east were the white cliffs of the Amerrique range, mantled with dark woods; and as the intervening country could not be seen, and only a small portion of the range itself, framed in, as it were, by the sides of the street, it looked close at hand, and like a piece of arti
Ch. X.] INDOLENCE OF THE PEOPLE. 177
ficial rockery, or the grey walls of a castle covered with ivy. The range to the south-west is several miles distant, and is called San Miguelito by the Spaniards, but I could not learn its Indian name. Our host was a musician, whose wife attended to the guests. As usual, a number of relations lived with them, including the mother of our hostess and two of her brothers. It was a very fair sample of a family amongst what may be called the middle class in Nicaragua. The master of the house plays occasionally in a band at dances and festas, and holds a respectable position at Juigalpa, where the highest families keep stores and shops. The only work is done by the females—the men keep up their dignity by lounging about all day, or lolling in a hammock, all wearied with their slothfulness, and looking discontented and unhappy. One brother told me he was a carpenter, the other a shoemaker; but that there was nothing to do in Juigalpa. I suggested that they should go to Libertad, where there was plenty of work; but they said there was too much rain there. As long as their brother-in-law will allow them, they will remain lounging about his house; and that will probably be as long as he has one, for I noticed that the Nicaraguans are rather proud to have a lot of relations hanging about and dependent on them. Now and then they do little spells of work—get in the cows or doctor one that is sick—but I doubt if any of them average more than half an hour's work per day; but even this may be an equivalent for their board, which does not cost much, being only a few tortillas and beans. To this have the descendants of the Spanish con
querors come, throughout the length and breadth of the land. With perennial summer and a fertile soil they might drink the waters of abundance; but the silken bands of indolence have wound round them generation after generation, and now they are so bound up in the drowsy folds of slothfulness that they cannot break their silken fetters. Not a green vegetable, not a fruit, can you buy at Juigalpa. Beef, or a fowl—brown beans, rice, and tortillas—form the only fare. When Mexico becomes one of the United States, all Central America will soon follow. Railways will be pushed from the north into the tropics, and a constant stream of immigration will change the face of the country, and fill it with farms and gardens, orange groves, and coffee, sugar, cacao, and indigo plantations; but no progress need be expected from the present inhabitants. Having finished our business in Juigalpa, we arranged to start on our return early the next morning, Velasquez going round by Acoyapo whilst Rito accompanied me to the mines. I had a fowl cooked overnight to take with us, and set off at six o'clock. I shall make some remarks on the road on points mot touched on in my account of the journey out. After leaving Juigalpa, we descended to the river by a rocky and steep path, crossed it, and then passed over alluvial-like plains, intersected by a few nearly dry river beds to the foot of the south-western side of the Amerrique hills, then gradually ascended the range that separates the Juigalpa district from that of Libertad. The ground was gravelly and dry, with stony hillocks covered with low trees and bushes. After ascending about a thousand feet, the ground became much moister, and we reached an Indian