Imagens das páginas



Chapter Eighth.



The bay

In the bay of Panama (called the “Pearl Archipelago," from the numerous pearls obtained in its waters,) there are innumer. able islands, all of great fertility, supplying the city with vegetables, tropical fruits, eggs, fowls, &c. (See Plate.) It is from these islands vessels are supplied with provisions and water, the latter being obtained at Toboga, one of the largest of the group. A more enchanting scene than is presented from the higher points of these islands, cannot be imagined. as placid as a mirror, Panama in full view, with mountains rising in the background. Looking along down the coast of South America, you see a succession of lofty mountains, some by their conical peaks proclaiming their volcanic origin, some still clouded in smoke, giving token of the fierce struggle that is going on within. Still farther to the right the bay opens into the broad Pacific; that little ripple that is now running out, will go on gathering strength, until it breaks upon the shores of the “Celestial Empire." Still farther to the right, a tower, shrouded in ivy, seems weeping over the tomb of a city.

In the background mountain succeeds mountain, until the last is buried in clouds. Ships and steamers are lying quietly at anchor; numerous islands are blooming at your feet, clothed with tropical fruits, growing and ripening spontaneously. Nature reigns supreme, the hand of man bas not marred her, perfection; if his rude habitation is sometimes seen, it is nestling quietly in the bosom of some grove planted by the hand of Nature, interlaced by vines, their tendrils entwining, forming an arbor over his head, and presenting fruit and wine at

his door. It seems a paradise. It would seem that man might be happy here. He has not to care for tomorrow, but to partake of the bounties of nature as they are presented. But, alas! man spends his life struggling for the thousand phantasies his own diseased imagination has engendered, while nature has placed happiness within his reach, and only asks contentment.

The markets of Panama, as well as the retail trade in other departments, are under the supervision of females. They are generally well supplied with every variety of fruit from the islands, together with eggs, fowls, &c. The beef and pork are sold by the yard. Beef is cut in thin strips and dried in the sun; this is packed or sewed up in skins, and is an article of export from many of the South American Republics. The inhabitants have a great passion for "fighting-cocks.” There is not a house that is not furnished with from one to a dozen. They generally occupy the best aparments, and, on entering a house, your first salutation is from "chanticleer," he having a strange propensity to do the loud talking. They also venerate the turkey-buzzard, with which the city is sometimes clouded. They are the carrion bird of the south, and no doubt good in their place, but the most loathsome of all the feathered tribe.

The citizens of Panama, as well as of other tropical countries, have the happy faculty of devoting most of their time to the pursuit of pleasure, i.e., they divide time between business and pleasure, giving to the latter a great predominance. Before the innovations made by “los Americanos,” stores were open from 9 to 10 A, M., and 4 to 5 P. M., the balance of the day was spent in smoking, drinking coffee, chocolate, or cocoa, gambling, cock-fighting, attending church, or wooing sleep in ham. mocks. The city is generally healthy, yet at some seasons of the year, is subject to fevers of a malignant type. It has been visited several times by that scourge the cholera, which swept off many of its inhabitants, and, at one time, seemed destined to depopulate the country. The priests clad themselves in sackcloth, and devoted every moment to the rites of the church, burning incense and invoking the patron saint of the city to stay the ravages of the disease. The vaults in which the dead

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are deposited, are a succession of arches in mason-work, resem. bling large ovens. When one of these is full it is closed up, and the adjoining one filled.

The city has a small garrison of soldiers, their only duty being to guard the prison, and conduct prisoners out in chain-gangs to labor, paving the streets, repairing the walls, carrying goods, &c. A gang will be seen in front of the cathedral, in the accompanying plate. The appearance of the under-officers, is ludicrous in the extreme. They are seen parading the streets with an air of authority, in full uniform, and barefooted.

Soon after my arrival at Panama, one of the British steamers came in from Valparaiso with $1,000,000 in gold and silver. This was deposited in front of the custom-house, and guarded during the night by soldiers; and, in the morning, packed on mules, preparatory to crossing the Isthmus. It required thirtynine mules to effect the transportation. A detachment of nine first started, driven by a single soldier, armed with a musket, and barefooted. The second, third, and fourth detachments started at intervals of half an hour, each guarded like the first. The mules were driven in droves, without bridle or halter. The route being through an unbroken forest of twenty-five miles, it would seem a very easy matter to rob the “

conducta.” But, strange to say, although $1,000,000 per month, for several years, has passed over the route, no such attempt has ever been made. In the im. mediate vicinity, and overlooking the city, is a mountain called “Cerro Lancon," which was once fortified by an invading foe, from which the city was bombarded and taken. On the summit a staff is now seen, from which the stars and stripes float proudly in the breeze. This was erected by the Panama Railroad Company, to point out, during the survey, the location of the city.

Great anxiety was felt by the Americans at Panama to proceed on to California. The sun had passed overhead, and was settling in the north, indicating the approach of the rainy season. Many were sick of the fever, many had died, which added to the general anxiety. Many had procured steamer tickets before leaving home. The steamers had passed down to San Francisco, been deserted by their crews, and were unable to return, and there were no seaworthy vessels in port. The indomitable go-a-head-ativeness of the Yankee nation could not



remain dormant, and soon several “bungoes” were "up" for California. Schooners of from thirteen to twenty-five tons, that had been abandoned as worthless, were soon galvanized, by pen and type, into "the new and fast sailing schooner.” These were immediately filled up at from $200 to $300 per ticket, passengers finding themselves. In the anxiety to get off, a party purchased an iron boat on the Chagres River, carried it across to Panama on their shoulders, fitted it out, and sailed for California. The first "bungo" that sailed, after getting out into the bay some three or four miles, was struck by a slight flaw of wind, dismasted, and obliged to put back for repairs. This caused a very perceptible decline in "bungo" stocks. Many took passage in the British steamer for Valparaiso, in hopes to find conveyance from that port. The passengers of one of the fast sailing schooners” when going on board, preparatory to sailing, found that the owners, in their zeal to accommodate their countrymen, bad sold about three times as many tickets as said vessel would carry. Instead of allowing fourteen square feet to the man, as the law requires, they appear to have taken the exact-dimensions of the passengers, and filled the vessel accordingly. The passengers refused to let the captain weigh anchor, and sent a deputation on shore to demand the return of their money; but lol the disinterested gentlemen were “non

' est inventus." After a long search, they succeeded in finding one of the worthies, and notwithstanding his disinterested efforts in behalf of the public, he was locked up. The captain fearing personal violence, left the vessel privately, and for several days was nowhere to be found. The passengers, however, entered into a compromise with themselves, the first on the list going on board. The mate informed the captain and they were soon under way. The owner, who had been so persecutingly locked

. up, having formerly been an operator in Wall Street, resolved to slight the hospitalities of the city, and took his leave when the barefooted sentinel wasn't looking.

One circumstance that added much to the annoyance of our detention was, that the letters from our friends were all directed to San Francisco, and were then lying in the letter-bags at Panama, but not accessible to us. I felt this annoyance most sensibly. I would have given almost any price for one word of

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