Imagens das páginas

to be at a loss for expedients; so we were soon afloat again, and at noon, Laving performed eight miles in about as many hours, we stopped at a " ranche " to breakfast, " much as usual." After our morning's adventure, we ceased to wonder at the number of persons drowned on the river. Niue miles thence, after having been favoured with the usual pluvious dispensation, as night set in, we discovered the territory of an old Indian squaw decorated with two sheds, one of which was enclosed. Here we " crime-to:" several boats soon followed, including some hound down, until the number of the destitute seeking shelter and food amounted to near fourscore. The mad was six inches deep, so that our tent was useless: to proceed was impossible: the boatmen reported the rapids just above impassable by night. Food there was none; but when hope was coldest, Fortune smiled. My Niobean despair must have excited the commiseration of the old lady, who hired me a hammock, and after supping on charity, the scanty remains of a fellow-traveller's hamper, I " bung myself up," and the stilled heart could scarce produce J deeper slumber.

The sun was up when we commenced our fourth day's toil. The stream now became so rapid that oars were laid aside for poles; and keeping close to the bank, availing of every pendant branch and tree, our "speed" did not much exceed a mile to the hour. Frequently we lost, in a few moments, by being swept into deep water, the labours of a full half hour. The " apres " seemed universally to pity the "avants." As one canoe flew by us with the current, containing eight or ten passengers, all straining with ]>addlcs, they greeted us with: "This is the way, boys, you'll go when you're bound home!" Seren miles of struggling brought us to Gorgona, a small Indian village of bamboo-huts, and two boardhouses for hotel, where we found—ye gods! how we feasted our eyes on it!—the first " table-cloth " we had seen since we left the steamer Georgia; and we rabbed our hands in anticipation of breakfast. If we were somewhat disappointed in the edibles, we had feasted on that cloth, faint symbol of civilization, and paid our dimes without reluctance. We were now within seven miles of Cruces: anxious to end our aquatic voyage in that quarter, we embarked once more. The distance thence was mostly accomplished by the crew wading in the water, and thus propelling the boat. In passing a rapid not fifty yards long, which consumed an hour, our baggage was again in peril; and one of the crew, having been swept away from the boat, saved himself by bis coolness and activity, where a less agile man must have perished. Just before reaching the town, I shot an alligator, tome twelve feet long. After performing divers antics that would have astonished the entire Ravel family, he suddenly disappeared to parts unknown. In a small mud creek, branching from the river, we found the landing of Cruces, and disembarked at three P.m., on Sunday, October 27th.

As I stept on shore, two Indians were fighting with

knives, weapons they invariably carry, Laving blades about twelve inches long. The sight was anything but gratifying. 1 Lave a peculiar antipathy to surgical operations. One's blood must be warmed by either Labit, passion, or excitement, to carve unsbrinkingly a fellow-subject. Death must have been the fate of one or both of the Indians, but the bystanders interfered, and they were separated.

TLe village is a collection of miserable-looking huts, built (like all the Indian habitations) of cane and bamboo, occupied by Indians and Negroes, between whom there exists no distinction, and a few frame-buildings recently erected by Americans. In one of the latter we took up our quarters. Hogs, as in Ireland, are here privileged characters, and rove unrestrained guests through every house. As the habits of that favoured animal are not remarkable for cleanliness, it is hardly necessary to add that filth and mud enter largely into the products of the place. There was nothing to engage the traveller's curiosity, save the ruins of an old Spanish cathedral built by the Jesuits, in which mass is still performed.

After supping superlatively well, comparatively speaking, the transient twilight of the tropics had hardly vanished, ere, wishing to retire for the night, we were shown up-stairs to the general dormitory. It comprised the entire length and breadth of the building, and contained, by a nice computation of our arithmetic, seventy-two cots, to each of which was apportioned one sheet, one blanket, and a pillow, while the space allotted to an occupant was reduced to limits of which man cannot be deprived—six feet by two. Our nice perceptions were fast evaporating; but spreading my wolf-robe and my own blanket, I was soon asleep.

About midnight I was awakened by a most extraordinary concert, consisting of an extensive band of performers on the nasal organ. The harmony can only be conceived by one who has slept in the same room with fifty worn-out travellers. After the ludicrous and comic effect, so much melody became exceedingly annoying, and while revolving the expediency of raising an alarm of fire, that we might all take a fair start, fatigue triumphed over the senses, and ere long I may have joined in the choir. At daylight there was a general resurrection. Toilets were as brief as orisons. We were soon occupied bargaining with the natives for the transportation of our luggage to Panama, which was finally effected at an equal waste of words and capital, or twelve dollars per hundred pounds, and sixteen dollars for saddle-mules. At ten o'clock we mounted and rode forth, a warlike, brigandish-looking squad—from appearances, much more to be dreaded than attacked. Four men had just been robbed on the road, among whom we fancied there must have been a great want of "materiel." I think an armed party of three always safe.

In an Indian-rubber bag strapped behind me I carried a great-coat and a change of linen; in front, fastened to the saddle, my "poncho," and a small leather bag containing my gold and liquors, both equally precious and necessary. These, added to my gun, made rather a heavy burden for my "steed;" but he was a strong-built, bright-eyed little animal, and notwithstanding sundry falls, equal to any of his fellows. Proceeding a few hundred yards, we struck a narrow defile in the mountains, where our imagination, previously excited in picturing the road, we still found most wofully at fault, and some conception of the truth began to dawn upon us. It certainly beggars description. I am conscious of my inability to paint it, or give even a faint idea of its ruggedncss. It is assuredly only one remove from impassibility.

In the excitement and rivalry of the chase, I have recklessly driven my horse over many a break-neck spot, and been astonished at his success; still I should have doubted that a mule could have picked his way over such a confused chaos of rocks and stones, intermingled with slippery mud. Any attempt to ride a horse unbroken to its paths must inevitably result in the death of the animal, if not the rider. The road leads through ravines where your saddle-bags scrape the rocky sides, and often only six inches wide at the bottom, diverging till over-head the fallen trees and thiek foliage shut out the sun and darken the narrow gulfs whose windings are so abrupt, that your companions are shut from view, though not two lengths apart; mounting precipitous rocks where foot-holes arc cut for each step of the mule, and any slip, or even the error of putting a wrong foot first, sends "horse and rider" rolling over each other amid shouts of laughter. Descents, though apparently more fearful, arc much more easily accomplished by the animal sliding down on his haunches. What I have described is far the better portion of the road. In some places rocks and stones of all sires are covered and intermixed with a soft clay about three feet deep, through which the animal must take his footing at a venture, and consequently it is one continued struggling, floundering, and falling; the frequent carcases over which he step3, seemingly admonishing him of his fate, if he falter. After emerging, either mounted or afoot, the first process is to dig the mud from your eyes and face, arrange your trapping, settle yourself in your saddle, and prepare for a similar ordeal.

There appeared to be a philosophical determination among us to laugh at all misfortunes. I was greatly amused at the awkwardness of one of the party, a tall man with a long pair of "dividers," which I doubt had ever before bestrode a quadruped. He opened the "ball" with a clownish feat that set us off in convulsions of laughter, although it was some time before he joined-in, evidently entertaining serious misgivings respecting his equestrian skill, and revolving the expediency of again trusting himself on the outside of a mule. A foot-passenger to whom I addressed a few eloquent and figurative adjectives, expressive of my appreciation of the road, replied: "Fire away, stranger; you can't abuse it!" I rode

on, thinking he had expressed more in one than I should in my whole journal.

I had early found it advisable to abandon tee reins, and allow my mule to select his own pa!! About noon we came to an abortive effort at provement, by throwing a species of log-bridge over a mud-hole. AVhen about half-way across, the aim' a. finding his further progress intercepted, turned sinn to the right, and plunged off from a height of abou: four feet, actually burying himself with his head ai:.i neck below the visible horizon. My feet became too deeply imbedded to extricate myself from the sa>iit, and with a total eclipse of both eyes by the shover of mud, I kept my seat stoically, listening to tic remarks of some foot-passengers who happened I witness the catastrophe, and the shouts of my companions. "Handsomely interred !" exclaimed a row. looking red-shirt. "There's the end of his tail," said 3 facetious biped, seated on a stump, performing a surgical operation on his boot; and whether spelt tait cr tail appeared equally applicable. But his obscqiiio were not destined to be so performed ; his race was noi yet run. After a few desperate struggles, greaih assisted by a liberal application of my " persuaders. (most blood-thirsty looking spurs,) we emerged, or rather, I should say, "broke cover," fresh as paint. While thus comfortably progressing, amusing ourselves at each other's mishaps, the sky became darkened, the lightning flashed, the thunder reierberated among the rocks and chasms in not very pleasing propinquity, the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon us, and «t stood it like hydropathic disciples.

At three o'clock, copiously wet. and corrcspondinrit dry, we came to a little opening, and greeted lire American ensign on a large tent standing close by "a small dog with a short, tail." Here we d> mounted and "got fed" on corn-cake and molasses. After abundant recourse to our flasks for additional sustenance, we remounted and faced the storm, stiil laughing at vicissitudes, to which I contributed by two additional falls of my mule, we drove our vrean brutes over many a carcass of the slain, wedged in the narrow passes; which, by-the-bye, I noticedwere all horses, so I am unable to place on record the still unobserved skull of a dead donkey. By dart we reached a considerable clearing, in the centre 0; which stood two large sheds, where we must needs 1 pass the .night. We had ridden twelve miles, and surmounted all the most diabolical portions of the road. Man's courage and fortitude will sustain bins cheerily over daily hardships and sufferings, if night but bring him refreshing rest; but it would have chilled one, nourished by luxury and uninured to exposure, to have looked upon the hopeless prospect of repose before us. A large open shed, with the ground underneath wet and muddy, was our only asylum, already half filled with Indians.

Some desperate remedy and effort was necessary Reconnoitring, wc discovered that the proprietor and his two squaws, all dirty aborigines, possessed


sn enclosure in one corner, of loose cane, reaching about the height of a man. This we speedily s'ormed and took, when our host, finding we were determined to defend it and not to abdicate, opened negotiations, and a treaty was soon made and ratified, lo the following effect: We were to pay a considerable sum of money, and to receive five twine J binmocks, (our party had been reinforced by two;) the invaders to retain undisputed and quiet possession during the night, and retire unmolested in the morning. Provisions there were none to be had, by forage or negotiation, so we could not possibly sustain t siege beyond the time specified in the truce. Soon after, Uncle Sam's mails began to arrive, and were niied for the night under the same shelter. They consisted of one hundred and twenty-four bags, loading forty-one mules. "VVe were wet to the skin, and fire to dry our clothes and cheer us became another subject of bargain. As it exemplified the grasping disposition of the red rascal, I must describe it. He first bargained to make a fire for four dimes money down, and maintained the contract was fulfilled by lighting three small slicks and producing saioke enough to have dried a cargo of herrings. Our complaint of "mas fucgo" was answered with 1 "mas reales," and another equal payment brought bnt a similar instalment. This I repeated four times, till getting incensed, and fearing lie would impoterish mc before morning, I seized a brand and threatened gratuitously to bestow on him a glowing sample of my fire. Looking me steadily in the face, to satisfy himself that I was in earnest, and that no more dimes were to be had, he brought an abundant supply, displaying his "ivories" at the success of his artifice.

Long after my comrades had retired, I sat by the fire, musing over the past and present. What a picture lay before mc! How I lamented the neglect of early studies, and my inability to sketch the wild scene, so stilled, so hushed! The clouds had melted any, and the stars shone with the wondrous kriiiiancy of the tropics; the natives lay scattered on the ground, sleeping heavily in such picturesque and abandoned attitudes, it seemed more a deserted battle-field marking some fierce struggle, than the quiet repose of breathing forms still redolent with life.

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The Indians, though diminutive in stature, are generally well made, and with singularly handsome faces. They possess nothing of the high cheek-bone that so disfigures our northern tribes. With cast of features so very similar, they appear more like members of the same family; and to a stranger it is no easy matter to distinguish them apart. Their honesty I think highly commendable. Intrusted with bajgage for days together, instances arc extremely ire where anything is pilfered or lost. The following morning our party and the sun rose simultaneously. The latter seemed to have made a n^take, for he just peeped out and was speedily

covered up again. The dark forms that lay so motionless around us had disappeared like demons with the night. The lnan-with-two-halves stood immovable and statue-like, patiently awaiting us to capitulate. At a considerable outlay of smiles and dimes, we seduced his two frailties into furnishing us with coffee; but famine drove us out of our carnp, and we resumed our march. The country became more open, and the road improved rapidly as we approached Panama. A ride of five miles brought us to a rudo pavement, where I urged my mule in advance of my companions, wishing to catch a first sight of the sea. After crossing a stone bridge and passing a decayed monastery on the left, I rose a little acclivity, and the mighty though placid and peaceful Ocean of the West lay before ine! I sat motionless and almost breathless, gazing over its tranquil waters with sensations such as one rarely feels in life: like the opening of a sea), a sudden vision of a new world, or a first sight of the "other side." It was some time before I had eyes for the surrounding scenery, though grandly beautiful. The fortifications at Panama were distinctly visible. Some dozen vessels lay at anchor among mountainous islands rising abruptly from the sea. Behind the city rose a lofty peak far into the clouds; and at its base, although on a considerable mount overlooking every other edifice, stood some extensive ruins of an old cathedral. So imposing was the magnitude of Nature's works about me, I felt as if I had never before conceived the grandeur of her efforts, so wondrously developed here.

I know not what beautiful peroration I might have poured forth, as thoughts came thick and fast; but my soliloquy was interrupted by an exclamation of, "Come on; I've taken off my hat to old Briney!" The spell being thus dissolved, I rode on. We soon after came to a wide road, bounded with miserable Indian huts, extending near a mile. At its terminus we passed dilapidated stone houses composing the suburbs of the city, when a few hundred yards brought us to the walls. Crossing a ditch, and entering an arched gateway, we were in Panama.


A Cool head and a firm hand must be indispensable for such a mode of transit as this. Woe to the brain that gets dizzy, or the timid fingers that cease to clutch manfully the rope. Yet may this kind of thing become as familiar by practice, as going up stairs. Ce n'esl que le premier pas qui coule; but that first "pas," it must be admitted, is neither the s: . st nor the pleasantcsl, and should it prove a "faitx pas" must be fatal to him who makes it. At all events, the incident furnishes a very striking sn' -ct for the pencil, and is most effectively treated by the artist Daniel, to whom we are indebted for so many characteristic pictures of Indian life and scenery.

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