Page images
PDF
EPUB

Ch. XVII.]

BITE OF MYGALE.

' 323

their neighbours. The European ladies at Santo Domingo were sometimes visited by the unmarried matrons of the village, who were very indignant when they found that there were scruples about receiving them. They were so used to their own social observances, that they thought those of the Europeans unwarrantable prudery.

Before turning out the mules, Rito got some limes and squeezed the juice out upon their feet, just above the hoof. He did this to prevent them from being bitten by the tarantula spider, a species of Mygale that makes its nest in the ground, and is said to abound in this locality. Many of the mules are bitten in the feet on the savannahs by some venomous animal. The animal bitten immediately goes lame, and cannot be cured in less than six months, as the hoof comes 'off, and has to be renewed. The natives say that the Mygale is the aggressor; that it gets on the mule's foot to bite off the hairs to line its nest with, and that if not disturbed it does not injure the mule, but that if the latter tries to dislodge it, it bites immediately. I do not know whether this story be true or not, and I had no opportunity of examining a Mygale's nest to see if it was lined with hairs, but Professor Westwood informs me that all that he knows are lined with fine silk. Possibly the mules, when rambling about, step on the spider, and are then bitten by it. Velasquez told me that when he was a boy he and other children used to amuse themselves by pulling the Mygale out of its hole, which is about a foot deep in the ground. To get it out they fastened a small ball of soft wax to a piece of string, and lowered it down the hole, jerking it up and down until the spider got exasperated so far as to bury its formidable jaws in the wax, when it could be drawn to the surface.

We had part of the kitchen to sleep in, and were so tired, and getting so accustomed to sleep anywhere, that we had a good night's rest, rose early next morning, and were soon on the road again, leaving Rito to bring on the lamed horse. We had a good view of the rock of San Lorenzo, a high cliff capping a hill, and resembling the rocks of Cuapo and Peña Blanca, but with less perpendicular sides. About this part, which lay high, as well as where we stayed the night before, there had been rains; but on the lowlands lying between the two places there had been none. Our road again lay over grassy plains and low, lightly-timbered hills, with very few houses-probably not more than one in a league. The country was now greener; they had had showers of rain, and fine grass had sprung up. Passing as we did from a dried-up district into one covered with verdure, feelings were awakened akin to those with which in the temperate zone we welcome the spring after a long winter.

As we rode on, the grass increased; there were swampy places in the hollows, and now and then very muddy spots on the road. On every side the prospect was bounded by long ranges of hills—some of them precipitous, others covered to the summits with dark foliaged trees, looking nearly black in the distance. About noon we came in sight of the Amerrique range, which I recognised at once, and knew that we had reached the Juigalpa district, though still several leagues distant from the town. Travelling on without halting we arrived at the hacienda of San Diego at four o'clock.

Ch. XVII.]

TOILSOME JOURNEY.

325

Velasquez expected to find in the owner an old acquaintance of his, and we had intended staying with him for the night, as our mules were tired out; but on riding up to the house we found it untenanted, the doors thrown down, and cattle stabling in it. We pushed on again. I thought I could make La Puerta, a hacienda three leagues nearer Libertad than Juigalpa, and as the road to it branched off from that to Juigalpa soon after passing San Diego, and Velasquez had to go to the latter place to make arrangements for getting our luggage sent on, I parted with him, and pushed on alone. Soon after, I crossed rather a deep river, and in a short time my mule, which had shown symptoms of distress, became almost unable to proceed, so that it was only with the greatest difficulty I could get along at all. After leading—almost dragging—it slowly for about a mile I reached a small but, where they told me that it was three leagues to La Puerta, and only one to Juigalpa. The road to Puerta was all up hill, and it was clearly impossible for me to reach it that night, so I turned off across the savannahs, in the direction of Juigalpa, wishing that I had not separated from Velasquez. My poor beast was dragged along with much labour, and I was getting thoroughly knocked up myself. Several small temporary huts were passed, in which lived families that had come down from the mountains, bringing with them their cows to feed on the plains during the wet season. I was tempted to put up at one of these, but all were full of people, and I persevered on until it got quite dark. Just then I arrived at a hacienda near the river, and engaged a young fellow to get his horse and ride with me to the town. When my mule had a companion it went better, and being very tired I got on its back again. It was extremely dark, and I should not have found the road without a guide. We passed over the small plain, where the broken statues lie, but my guide, who had lived all his life within a mile of them, had never heard of them. My mule fell heavily with me in a rocky pass, but I escaped with a slight bruise. We had great trouble to get it on its legs again, and ultimately reached Juigalpa about nine o'clock.

Next morning I awoke with a dreadful headache and pain in my back, brought on either by the fatigue of the day before, or by having been tempted to eat some halfripe guayavas when coming across the plains tired and hungry. I lay in the hammock until ten o'clock, and then feeling a little better, got on my mule and started. I was so ill as to be obliged to hold on to the pommel of my saddle, and several times to get off and lie down. We had brought some "tiste” with us made from chocolate and maize, and drinks of this relieved me. I at last reached Libertad at four o'clock, and went to bed immediately. Having fasted all day in place of taking medicine, I rose pretty well next morning, and we rode through the forest to the mines, reaching them at noon on the 29th July, after an absence of nineteen days.

( 327 )

CHAPTER XVIII.

Division of Nicaragua into three zones-Journey from Juigalpa to lake

of Nicaragua—Voyage on lake–Fresh-water shells and insectsSimilarity of fresh-water productions all over the world—Distribution of European land and fresh-water shells—Discussion of the reasons why fresh-water productions have varied less than those of the land and of the sea.

I SHALL ask my readers to accompany me on one more journey. I have described the great Atlantic forest that clothes the whole of the eastern side of Nicaragua. I have gone through the central provinces, Chontales, Matagalpa, and Segovia ; from the San Juan river, the south-eastern boundary of Nicaragua, away to the confines of Honduras on the north-west. I now propose to leave the central provinces, amongst which we have so long lingered, and to describe one of my journeys to those lying between the great lakes and the Pacific.

Whilst the country to the north-east of the lakes is mostly composed of rocks, of great age, geologically, such as schists, quartzites, and old dolerytic rocks, with newer but still ancient trachytes, that to the south-west of them is formed principally of recent volcanic tufas and lavas, the irruption of which has not yet ceased. Most of the land, resulting from the decomposition of the tufas, is of extreme fertility; and, therefore, we find on the Pacific side of Nicaragua, indigo, coffee, sugar, cacao, and tobacco growing with the greatest luxuriance.

« EelmineJätka »