Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

which are carried a short distance and committed to the flames.

This act would be less revolting if done effectually, but like everything done in this country, it is but half done. Men are hired to do the work, but wood being scarce, and not expecting the priests to inspect, they do as little work as possible, keeping in view their reward. I can never forget my feelings, upon visiting this scene of annual desecration; my very soul sickens with disgust at the recollection of it. Here were coffins half-burned, exhibiting the ghastly visages of their lifeless tenants; others having turned over during the conflagration, had emptied the half-decayed bodies upon the ground; some partially consumed, others still shrouded in their grave-clothes. Here lay the head and part of the chest of a stalwart frame, the flesh having but just commenced to decay, the countenance still bearing the impress of its Maker. Very near, partially shrouded in a winding sheet, were the delicately moulded limbs of a female, who had for a brief period tenanted the house of death, now brought forth and committed to the flames.

It will be a consolation to those residing in the States, who have lost friends at Panama, to know that no one out of the church is allowed burial in consecrated ground; their remains, consesequently, are not disturbed. According to the true theory of religion, infants that die before baptism go directly to purgatory, notwiihstanding their parents may belong to the true church. As a suitable receptacle for these unfortunate little innocents, deep pits are dug in the rear of the churches, into which they are unceremoniously cast; their influence upon consecrated ground would, it is thought, be contaminating. Curiosity led me. to inspect one of these pits; what I beheld I will leave to the imagination of the reader. I am not prepared to say positively, but I believe that the true theory in reference to these infants is, that they are not irrevocably lost, but to reclaim them from purgatcry requires a gigantic effort on the part of the church.

There are many things here to attract and awaken interest in the mind, but no matter how strong the desire for information, nothing can be learned from the lower classes of the population. The source of information which, in the States is inexhaustible, is here barren ; for to say that a New Grenadian even knows his

PEERLESS CHARACTERISTICS.

189

own wife and children, is awarding him, comparatively, a very high degree of attainment. Pass and inspect the ruins of a monastery or other edifice, and ask the first person you meet what it is, and. what the cause of its destruction ? the invariable reply is, “no sabio, Señor.” In passing along near the head of “ Calle San Juan de Dio," my attention was attracted by the movements of a little girl who, with a lighted taper in her hand, passed rapidly along to an elbow in the main wall of the city, and leaving her light hastily retreated. Upon inspecting the spot, I discovered that part of the wall was laid up of human skulls, and removing a stone which closed up an aperture, I saw a burning taper which is kept here as an “eternal light." I stepped into a small store near and inquired the history of this catacomb; the response was, “no sabi Señor.” My solution was that they were the bones of heroes who had fallen in the defence of the city.

When speaking of the ignorance of the people, I wish to be understood as alluding to the mass, for, in Panama, there are ladies and gentlemen of the highest cultivation and attainments, those who are endowed in the highest degree with those peerless qualities which are so pre-eminently.characteristic of the Castilian race. The stranger's friend, and friend's protector; life itself is not a sacrifice when lost in the protection of that of a friend. The ignorance of the mass, as in all the departments of Spanish America, arises from a want of noble incentives; the entire mind being enslaved and controlled by the church.

Chapter Thirty-second.

ANUN-FANDANGO-MARRIAGE ENGAGEMENT BROKEN-START FOR GORGONA-OUE EX.

TREME MODESTY-SAGACITY OF THE MULE-SLEEP ON MY TRUNK-A DREAM-AN ALLIGATOR WITH A MOUSTACHE-INFERNAL REGIONS-DEMONS-AN INDIVIDUAL WITH LONG EARS, AND A MULE IN BOOTS-FALLING OUT OF BED-FUNERAL PROCESSION-GORGONA -START FOR CHAGRES-OUR BUNGO FULL--SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION, ALMOST—"* POCO TIEMPO "-LIZARDS FOR DINNER-THE HOSTESS-GATUN-MUSIC OF THE OCEAN-ARRIVAL.

THERE were a number of Americans in town, en route to Cali. fornia, awaiting the arrival of the Steamer Oregon, which was, at this time, fully due; there were also here several females from the States, unattended, on their way to the “Eldorado." I sketched the convent of “San Francisco " and "La Mugher," and while doing the latter I was watched by a nun whose pallid features I could plainly see through the grating.

During the evening we visited the “lions,” and brought up at a "fandango;" we did not, however, participate in the dance, but retired in good season, designing to set out the next morning for Gorgona. At an early hour the Philadelphia was besieged by dusky muleteers reiterating their "cargo Gorgona?" and before the sun had shown his disc above the horizon, we were under way. As we passed along Calle de Merced, I was very modestly recognized by an interesting Señorita, who, on the previous evening, had made to me a proposition of marriage; I, of course, accepted; but owing to numerous pressing engagements, I was not just then prepared to attend to it, and postponed it until the next evening. I did not tell her that I was to leave town early the next morning, nor did she suspect when I passed, that I was on my way, but looked as much as to say, "you won't forget, will you ?" As we gained the out-skirts of the city, we were hailed by half a dozen half-clad natives, who demanded a real for each horse and mule in our cavalcade. We

SAGACITY OF THE MULE.

191

exhibited the strongest symptoms of non-compliance, and our worthy collectors were soon convinced that we were not the party they were looking for; they, however, succeeded in extorting from many, and claimed to be acting under a recent act of government.

As we arrived at the national bridge, we met a party of Señoritas wending their way towards the city; they saluted us with “buenos dias, Caballieros," and said by their looks that they would accompany us to the States, if we wished them to. Our extreme modesty prevented our making the proposition, and we parted with a mutual “ adios.” We soon entered the forest, where the gigantic palms, embracing each other, protected us from the scorching rays of the sun. Our cavalcade was made up of mules and horses, some of them mounted, others packed. Our mutual friend, J. R. Foster, whom we had expected for days to consign to the ocean, was one of our party ; being mounted on a gentle horse, in an easy saddle, and buoyed up with the fond hope of again reaching home, he astonished all by his persevering endurance. The balance of the party were in good health, and enjoyed the trip exceedingly.

I was much struck, as I had often been, with the sagacity of the mule. One of them was packed with Mr. Fairchild's trunk, and my own; feeling some interest in my trunk, I naturally paid the most attention to that particular mule; and if he could have understood any language excepting the dead ones, I should have informed him that I thought him a very fine fellow. But just as I came to this very satisfactory conclusion, he was guilty of a freak that well-nigh destroyed my confidence in him. We had gained the summit of a hill, where the path stretched away for half a mile, almost level, when mule took it into his head to run, and, to my great amazement, he did run; I presumed he was making his escape, and cried out to the muleteer to stop him, but he replied “mula caro algun per comer," and so it proved, for after running a quarter of a mile, he stopped and commenced eating. As soon as the cavalcade came up, he again started, and kept repeating until he had satisfied his hunger, when he walked along in the most orderly manner, and good humored too, for his ears were erect, and a smile appeared to beam from his countenance. At our first watering-place, after

drinking, he dropped himself down, in the most mechanical manner, to rest. When we were ready to start, the “mula” of our muleteer would bring him to his hoofs, all right, and off.

At 1 P.M., we reached the “half-way tent," and as some of the party were behind, we resolved to put up for the night. After supper we heard a cannon, announcing the arrival of the Oregon at Panama. I stretched myself out on my trunk in the open air, and was soon unconscious of my situation. My spirit was restless, and, as if not satisfied with one trip, spent the night in passing to and fro, over the route we had traveled during the day. Now my mule would change to a monkey, and I would ride him to the top of one of the highest trees; he would then become instantly transformed into an alligator, and there would be left no alternative but to precipitate ourselves into the mud below; in the passage down I was also transformed into an alligator, and immediately found myself covered with scales and swimming about in a pond, with an alligator on each side, holding on to my moustache, “showing me up” to my fellow alligators. The honors heaped upon me so excited and elated me, that I commenced rushing through the water, and soon found myself high and dry on land, looking around for my mule. I again mounted, and resolved to have no farther connexion with either monkey or alligator, but to ride directly through to Gorgona. Again my spirit lost its way, and I found myself on the bank of one of the most sluggish and dismal streams it is possible to imagine; the recollection of it now sends a chill to my heart. My mule stood appalled with terror, and cried for mercy, when I applied the spur. There was no alternative; it lay in the route, and we must cross it; I rode back a short distance that my mule might forget his terror; he again came up, reared and plunged, and we immediately sank below the surface; we continued to sink down, down, down, a damp chilly sensation crept over me, and I became stifled with horror; now my mule blows fire and smoke from his nostrils, and a demon of the most appalling aspect, covered with green and slime, and now another and another, all dancing along, laughing most hideously and biting their fingers in derision, as they contemplate their victim. We soon reached their abode, my blood is sent curdling to my heart, and with a feeling of horror and desperation I strike

« AnteriorContinuar »