Page images

After reaching Pital I rode rapidly over the savannahs, where the swallows were skimming over the top of the long grass to frighten up the insects which rested there. After another flounder - across the San José plains, I reached San Ubaldo without incident, excepting a tumble with my mule in the mud. Much of the land between Pital and the lake is well fitted for the cultivation of maize, sugar, and plantains, and near the river at Acoyapo the soil is very fertile. Little of it is occupied, and it is open to any one to squat down on it and fence it in. All that is required is that the form shall be gone through of obtaining permission from the alcalde of the township, which is never refused. Nicaragua offers a tempting field for the emigrant, but there are some other considerations which should not be lost sight of. When a man finds he can live easily without much work, that all his neighbours are contented with the scantiest clothing, the coarsest food, and the poorest dwellings, he is very apt to fall into the same slothful habits. Even if he himself has innate energy enough to ward off the insidious foe, he will see his children growing up exposed to all the temptations to lead an easy life that a tropical climate offers, and without any example of industry or enterprise around them to arouse or cultivate a spirit of emulation. The consequence is that nearly all the foreign settlers in Nicaragua from amongst the European and North American labouring classes have fallen into the same lazy habits as the Nicaraguans, and whenever I have been inclined to blame the natives for their indolence, some recollection of a fellow-countryman who has succumbed to the same influences has arrested my harsher judgment. I cannot recommend Nicaragua, with

Ch. XXI.]



all its natural wealth, its perpetual summer, its magnificent lakes, and its teeming soil, as a place of emigration for isolated families, and even for larger schemes of colonisation I do not think it so suitable as our own colonies and the United States. A large body of emigrants would carry with them the healthful influence of the good and industrious, and the spirit of emulation and progress might be preserved if the community could be kept together, but I fear this could not be. After a while the tastes of one individual would lead in one, those of another in an opposite direction. Where all were free to choose, the idle would go away from the influences that urged them to industry, the sensual from the restraints of morality. Many will, however, smile at the objection I have to emigration to Nicaragua, when they perceive that it is founded only on the ease with which people can live in plenty there. There is one form of colonisation that will be successful, and that is the gradual moving down southward of the people of the United States. When the destiny of Mexico is fulfilled, with one stride the Anglo-American will bound to the Isthmus of Panama, and Central America will be filled with cattle estates, and with coffee, sugar, indigo, cotton, and cacao plantations. Railways will then keep up a healthful and continuous intercourse with the enterprising North, and the sluggard and the sensual will not be able to stand before the competition of the vigorous and virtuous. Nor will the Anglo-American long be stayed by the Isthmus, in his progress southward. Unless some such catastrophe happens as a few years ago threatened to cover North America with standing armies as in Europe, which God forbid, not many centuries will roll over before the English language will be spoken from the frozen soil of the far north to Tierra del Fuego in the south.

The fine steamer that the enterprise of Mr. Hollenbeck had placed on the lake, and which he had named the Elizabeth after his amiable wife, had been wrecked a short time before I left the country, and Mr. Hollenbeck's own health had greatly suffered by the labours he undertook in endeavouring to get the vessel off the sunken rock on which it had struck. Notwithstanding this and other misfortunes, enough to try a man's mettle to its foundation, his native pluck carried him through all his difficulties, and he was away to the States to get new vessels and blow another blast at fortune’s iron gates. Whilst I write these last few pages I learn that a new steamer ploughs the lake, and that his transit service is again in complete working order. Success attend him.

The result of the wreck of the Elizabeth, so far as I was concerned, was that I had to take a passage down the lake to San Carlos in a bungo packet, so full as to necessitate closer acquaintanceship with many amiable Nicaraguans than was agreeable to my insular prejudices. When in the middle of the night an old woman tried to roll me off the soft plank I had found for myself into a litter of crying babies, I indulged in some bitter reflections on the race, that, I am happy to say, were as transitory as the inconvenience to which I was put. At San Carlos we changed to the river steamer under my old friend Captain Birdsall. As I have already described the scenery of the San Juan in the account of my journey up, I shall not repeat the story, but simply state

Ch. XXI.]



that we reached Greytown on the 11th September, and on the 16th embarked on the West Indian Mail Packet. I arrived in England within a month, to find my native town (Newcastle) wealthier and dirtier than ever, with thousands of furnaces belching out smoke and poisonous gases; to find the people of England fretting about the probable exhaustion of her coal-fields in a few hundred years, actually dreading the time when she will no longer be the smithy of the world, but the centre of the science, philosophy, literature, and art of the Anglo-Saxon race—that race whose sons all over the globe will then look up to her with loving reverence as the mother of nations, the coloniser of the world, the pioneer of freedom, progress, and morality.

« EelmineJätka »