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Central America, "every tribe related, more or less distinctly, their tradition of the deluge, in which one, or three, or eight persons were saved above the waters on the top of a high mountain/'*
If Atlantis were low lands connecting the West Indian islands with America, the other islands mentioned by Plato may have been the Azores, also greatly increased in extent by the lowering of the ocean; and the overwhelming of this low land, on the melting of the ice at the close of the glacial period, may be that great catastrophe that is recorded on both sides of the Atlantic, but is more clearly remembered in the traditions of America, because all the high lands there had been covered with ice, and the inhabitants were restricted to those that were overwhelmed by the deluge.
I approached this subject from the side of Natural History. I was driven to look for a refuge for the animals and plants of tropical America during the glacial period, when I found proofs that the land they now occupy was at that time either covered with ice or too cold for genera that can now only live where frost is unknown. I had arrived at the conclusion that they must have inhabited low lands now submerged, and following up the question, I soon saw that the very accumulation of ice that made their abode impossible provided another for them by the lowering of the sea. Then pursuing the subject still further, I saw that all over the world curious questions concerning the distribution of races of mankind, of animals, and of plants, were rendered more easy of solution on the theory that
* "Lifted and Subsided Eocks in America," by G-. Catlin, p. 182.
Ch. XIV.] THE SEA DRAESTED BY GLACIAL ICE. 273
land was more continuous once than now; that islands now separated were then joined together, and to adjacent continents; and that what are now banks and shoals beneath the sea were then peopled lowlands.
I have said that the sea during the glacial period, if, as I believe, it was contemporaneous in the two hemispheres, must have stood at least 1,000 feet lower than it now does. It may have been much lower than this, but I prefer to err on the safe side. When geologists have mapped out the limits of ancient glacier and continental ice all over the world, it will be possible to calculate the minimum amount of water that was abstracted from the sea; and if by that time hydrographers have shown on their charts the shoals and submerged banks that would be laid dry, fabled Atlantis will rise before our eyes between Europe and America, and in the Pacific the Malay Archipelago will give place to the Malay Continent. Here is a noble inquiry, an unexplored region of research, at the entrance of which I can only stand and point the way for abler and stronger minds; an inquiry that will lead to the knowledge of the lands where dwelt the peoples of the glacial period who lived before the flood.
Vague and visionary as these speculations must appear to many, to others who are acquainted with the enormous glaciation to which America has been subjected they will appear based on substantial truths. The immense accumulation of ice over both poles, reaching far down over the temperate zones, in some meridians encroaching on the tropics, and in Equatorial America all the land lying at the least above 2,000 feet above the level of the sea also supporting great glaciers,
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 Nicaragnail criminal—Geology between Ocotal and Totagalpa— Preparations 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 (laughter of the house." Leaving the hospitable Seiioras Rimirez with many thanks, we started on our return journey about seven o'clock.