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must have greatly drained the sea; lands now submerged must have been uncovered, and on the return of the waters at the close of the glacial period many a peopled lowland must have been overwhelmed in the nearly universal deluge.
A Nicaraguan criminal—Geology between Ocotal and TotagalpaPreparations at Totagalpa for their annual festival—Chichadrinking—Piety of the Indians—Ancient civilisation of tropical America—Palacaguina—Hospitality of the Mestizos–Curious Custom at the festival at Condego—Cross range between Segovia. and Matagalpa-Sontuli— Birds’ nests.
WE got back to Ocotal, on our return from Depilto, before dark, and made arrangements for setting out on our return to the mines the next morning. Whilst sitting under the corridor, looking across the pretty flower-garden at the glowing western sky, illumined by the last rays of the setting sun, a poor fettered criminal, holding up by means of a string the thick chain that bound together his ankles, came limping along, with a soldier behind him armed with gun and bayonet. He had been brought out of prison to beg. In most of the towns of Nicaragua no food is given to the prisoners, whether convicted, or merely charged with crime. Those that have no money to buy food are sent out every day with an armed escort to beg. The prisoner that hobbled up to me was under twenty years of age, and had been convicted of murder and condemned to death. He had appealed against the sentence to a
higher court, but I was told that there was scarcely any chance of a decision in his favour, and that he would probably be shot in a day or two. Notwithstanding his critical position, he was lively and cheerful; when I gave him a small piece of silver was as overjoyed as if he had got news of his reprieve, and went jumping away, his clanking fetters making ghastly music, gleefully showing 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 away, 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 with our 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.” Tleaving the hospitable Señoras Rimirez with many thanks, we started on our return journey about Seven o’clock.
Ch. XV.] GEOILOGICAL FORMATION. 277
After crossing the river, I noticed boulders of conglomerate in the drift; none of these 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 quartz-conglomerate 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 stayed 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 very 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,