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We had still a voyage of sixty miles before us up the lake, and this was to be accomplished not by paddling, but by Sailing; so we now rigged two light masts, and soon after seven o’clock sailed slowly away from San Carlos before a light breeze, which in an hour's time freshened and carried us along at the rate of about six miles an hour. The sunrose higher and higher; the day waxed hotter and hotter. About noon the wind failed us again, and the sun right overhead, in a clear pitiless sky, scorched us with its rays, while our boat lay like a log upon the water, the pitch melting in the seams with the heat. The surface of the lake was motionless, except a gentle heaving. We were almost broiled with the stifling heat, but at last saw a ripple on the water coming up from the north-east, some parts bristling with pointed flecks; soon the breeze reached us, and our torment was over; our sails, no more idly flapping, filled out before the wind; the canoe dashed through the rising waves; our drooping spirits revived, and there was an opening out of provisions, and life again in the dead. The breeze continued all the afternoon, and at dark we were off the islands of Nancital, having been all day within a few miles of the north-eastern side of the lake, the banks of which are everywhere clothed with dark gloomy-looking forests. One of the islands was a favourite sleeping-place for the white egrets. From all sides they were flying across the lake towards it; and as night set in, the trees and bushes by the water-side were full of them, looking like great white flowers amongst the dark green foliage. Flocks of muscovy and whistling ducks also flew over to their evening feeding-places. Great masses of a floating plant, shaped like a cabbage,


were abundant on the lake, and on these the white egrets and other wading birds often alighted. The boatmen told me—and the story is likely enough to be true— that the alligators, floating about like logs, with their eyes above the water, watch these birds, and, moving quietly up until within a few yards of them, sink down below the surface, come up underneath them, catch them by the leg, and drag them under water. Besides the alligators, large freshwater sharks appear to be common in the lake. Sometimes, when in shallow water, we saw a pointed billow rapidly moving away from the boat, produced by some large fish below, and I was told it was a shark. After dark the wind failed us again, and we got slowly along, but finally reached our port, San Ubaldo, about ten o'clock, and found there an officer of the mining company, living in a small thatched hut, stationed there to send on the machinery and other goods that arrived for the mines. A large tiled store had also just been built by the owner of the estate there, Don Gregorio Quadra, under the verandah of which I hung my hammock for the night. Mules were waiting at San Ubaldo for us, and early next morning we set off, with our luggage on pack mules. We crossed some rocky low hills, with scanty vegetation, and, after passing the cattle hacienda of San José, reached the plains of the same name, about two leagues in width, now dry and dusty, but in the wet season forming a great slough of water and tenacious mud, through which the mules have to wade and plunge. In the midst of these plains there are some rocky knolls, like islands, on which grow spiny cactuses, low leathery-leaved trees, slender, spiny palms, with plum

like fruit, prickly acacias, and thorny bromelias. This

spiny character of vegetation seems to be characteristic of dry rocky places and tracts of country liable to great drought. Probably it is as a protection from herbivorous animals, to prevent them browsing upon the twigs and small branches when herbaceous vegetation is dried up. Small armadillos abound near these rocky knolls, and are said to feed on ants and other insects. . We had a long chase after one, which we observed some distance from the rock, over the cracked and dried-up plain : though it could not run very fast, it doubled quickly, and the rough cracked ground made odds in its favour; but it was ultimately secured. Pigeons, brown coloured, of various sizes, from that of a thrush to that of a common dove, were numerous and very tame. One of the smallest species alights and seeks about in the streets of small towns for seeds, like a sparrow, and more bold than that bird, for it is not molested by the children— rather, however, from indolence than from any lack of the element of cruelty in their dispositions. After crossing the plains we rode over undulating hills, here called savannahs, with patches of forest on the rising ground, and small plains on which grows the ternate-leaved jicara (pronounced hickory), a tree about as large as an apple-tree, with fruit of the size, shape, and appearance of a large green orange, but growing on the trunk and branches, not amongst the leaves. The outside of the fruit is a hard thin shell, packed full of seeds in a kind of dry pulp, on which are fed fowls, and even horses and cattle in the dry season; the latter are said sometimes to choke themselves with the fruit, whilst trying to eat it. Of the bruised seeds is also made a cooling drink, much


used in Nicaragua. The jicara trees grow apart at equal distances, as if planted by man. The hard thin shell of the fruit, carved in various patterns on the outside, is made into cups and drinking-vessels by the natives, who also cultivate other species of jicara, with round fruits, as large as a man's head, from which the larger drinking-bowls are made. In the smaller jicaras chocolate is always made and served in Central America, and, being rounded at the bottom, little stands are made to set them in; these are sometimes shaped like egg-cups, sometimes like toy washhand-stands. In making their earthenware vessels, the Indians up to this day follow this natural form, and their water-jars and bowls are made rounded at the bottom, requiring stands to keep them upright. The meals of Montezuma were served on thick cushions or pillows. This was probably on account of the rounded bases of the bowls and dishes used. The gourd forms of bowls probably often originated in the clay having been moulded over gourds which were burnt out in the baking process. It is said that in some of the southern states the kilns in which the ancient pottery was baked have been found, and in some the half-baked ware remained, retaining the rinds of the gourds over which they had been moulded. Afterwards, when the potter learned to make bowls without the aid of gourds, he still retained the shape of his ancient pattern. o The name, too, like the form, has had a wonderful vitality. It is the “xicalli” of the ancient Aztecs, changed to “jicara" by the Spaniards, by which they mean a chocolate-cup ; and even in Italy a modification of the same word may be heard, a tea-cup being called a chicchera. On the top of one of the hills we just got a glimpse of a small pack of wolves, or coyotes, as they are called, from the Aztec coyotl. They are smaller than the European wolf, and are cunning, like a fox, but hunt in packs. They looked down at us from the ridge of the hill for a few moments, then trotted off down the other side. Their howlings may often be heard in the early morning. Cattle, horses, and mules are bred on these plains. Male asses are kept at some of the haciendas. They are not allowed to 'mix with any of their own kind, and are well fed and in good condition; but they are only of small size, and the breed of mules might be greatly improved by the introduction of larger asses. The vegetation on the plains was rapidly drying up. Many of the trees shed their leaves in the dry season, just as they do with us in autumn. The barrenness of the landscape is relieved in March by several kinds of trees bursting into flower when they have shed their leaves, and presenting great domes of brilliant colour— some pink, others red, blue, yellow, or white, like great single-coloured bouquets. One looked like a gigantic rhododendron, with bunches of large pink flowers. The yellow-flowered ones belong to wild cotton-trees, from the pods of which the natives gather cotton to stuff pillows, &c. About one o'clock we reached rather a large river, and after crossing it came in sight of the town of Acoyapo, one of the principal towns of the province of Chontales. We stayed and had dinner with Senhor Don Dolores Bermudez, a Nicaraguan gentleman

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