Atlantic Monthly Vol. 6, No. 33, July, 1860

Part 2 out of 5

much curious matter, is worthy of better adornment in the form of its
presentation to the world, and ought to have a title more suggestive
of its antiquarian lore. I should call it "Fossil Remains of Old
Maryland Law, with Notes by an Antiquary."

It fell into my hands by a purchase at auction, some twenty years
after I had abandoned the Legend of the Cave and the Hawks as a
hopeless quest. In running over its contents, I found that a Colonel
George Talbot was once the Surveyor-General of Maryland; and in two
short marginal notes (the substance of which I afterwards found in
Chalmers's "Annals") it was said that "he was noted in the Province
for the murder committed by him on Christopher Rousby, Collector of
the Customs,"--the second note adding that this was done on board a
vessel in Patuxent River, and that Talbot "was conveyed for trial to
Virginia, from whence he made his escape; and after being retaken,
and" (as the author expresses his belief) "tried and convicted, was
finally pardoned by King James the Second."

These marginal notes, though bringing no clear support to the story
of the Cave, were embers, however, of some old fire not entirely
extinct,--which emitted a feeble gleam upon the path of inquiry. The
name of the chief actor coincided with that of the tradition; the
time, that of James the Second, conformed pretty nearly to my
conjecture derived from the age of the hawks; and the nature of the
crime was what I had imagined. There was just enough in this brief
revelation to revive the desire for further investigation. But where
was the search to be made? No history that I was aware of, no sketch
of our early time that I had ever seen, nothing in print was known to
be in existence that could furnish a clue to the story of the
Outlaw's Cave.

And here the matter rested again for some years. But after this
lapse, chance brought me upon the highway of further development,
which led me in due time to a strange realization of the old proverb
that "Murder will out,"--though, in this case, its discovery could
bring no other retribution than the settlement of an historical
doubt, and give some posthumous fame to the subject of the

In the month of May, 1836, I had a motive and an opportunity to make
a visit to the County of St. Mary's. I had been looking into the
histories of our early Maryland settlement, as they are recounted in
the pages of Bozman, Chalmers, and Grahame, and found there some
inducements to persuade me to make an exploration of the whereabouts
of the old city which was planted near the Potomac by our first
pilgrims. Through the kindness of a much valued friend, whose
acquirements and taste--both highly cultivated--rendered him a most
effective auxiliary in my enterprise, I was supplied with an
opportunity to spend a week under the hospitable roof of Mr.
Carberry, the worthy Superior of the Jesuit House of St. Inigoes on
the St. Mary's River, within a short distance of the plain of the
ancient city.

Mr. Campbell and myself were invited by our host to meet him, on an
appointed day, at the Church of St. Nicholas on the Patuxent, near
the landing at Town Creek, and we were to travel from there across to
St. Inigoes in his carriage,--a distance of about fifteen miles.

Upon our arrival at St. Nicholas, we found a full day at our disposal
to look around the neighborhood, which, being the scene of much
historical interest in our older annals, presented a pleasant
temptation to our excursion. Our friendly guide, Mr. Carberry, took
us to Drum Point, the southern headland of the Patuxent at its
entrance into Chesapeake Bay. Here was, at that time, and perhaps
still is, the residence of the Carroll family, whose ancestors
occupied the estate for many generations. The dwelling-house was a
comfortable wooden building of the style and character of the present
day, with all the appurtenances proper to a convenient and pleasant
country homestead. Immediately in its neighborhood--so near
that it might be said to be almost within the curtilage of the
dwelling--stood an old brick ruin of what had apparently been a
substantial mansion-house. Such a monument of the past as this, of
course, could not escape our special attention, and, upon inquiry, we
were told that it was once, a long time ago, the family home of the
Rousbys, the ancestors of the present occupants of the estate; that
several generations of this family, dating back to the early days of the
Province, had resided in it; and that when it had fallen into decay,
the modern building was erected, and the old one suffered to crumble
into the condition in which we saw it. I could easily understand and
appreciate the sentiment that preserved it untouched as part and
parcel in the family associations of the place, and as a relic of the
olden time which no one was willing to disturb.

The mention of the name of the Rousbys, here on the Patuxent River,
was a sudden and vivid remembrancer to me of the old story of Talbot,
and gave new encouragement to an almost abandoned hope of solving
this mystery.



Within a short distance of this spot, perhaps not a mile from Drum
Point, there is a small creek which opens into the river and bears
the name of Mattapony. In early times there was a notable fort here,
and connected with it a stately mansion, built by Charles Calvert,
Lord Baltimore, for his own occasional residence. The fort and
mansion are often mentioned in the Provincial records as the place
where the Council sometimes met to transact business; and accordingly
many public acts are dated from Mattapony.

Calvert was doubtless attracted to this spot by the pleasant scenery
of the headland which here looks out upon the noble water-view of the
Chesapeake, and by its breezy position as an agreeable refuge from
the heats of summer.

Our party, therefore, determined to set out upon a search for some
relics of the mansion and fort; and as a guide in this enterprise, we
engaged an old negro who seemed to have a fair claim in his own
conceit to be regarded both as the Solomon and the Methuselah of the
plantation. He was a wrinkled, wise-looking old fellow, with a watery
eye and a grizzled head, and might, perhaps, have been about eighty;
but, from his own account, he left us to infer that he was not much
behind that great patriarch of Scripture whose years are described as
one hundred and threescore and fifteen.

Finding that he was native to the estate, and had lived here all his
life, we interrogated him with some confidence in his ability to
contribute something useful to the issue of our pursuit. Amongst all
the Solomons of this world, there is not one so consciously impressed
with the unquestionable verity of his wisdom and the intensity of his
knowledge as one of these veterans of an old family-estate upon which
he has spent his life. He is always an aristocrat of the most
uncompromising stamp, and has a contemptuous disdain and intolerance
for every form of democracy. Poor white people have not the slightest
chance of his good opinion. The pedigree and history of his master's
family possess an epic dignity in his imagination; and the liberty he
takes with facts concerning them amounts to a grand poetical
hyperbole. He represents their wealth in past times to have amounted
to something of a fabulous superfluity, and their magnificence so
unbounded, that he stares at you in describing it, as if its excess
astonished himself.

When we now questioned our venerable conductor, to learn what he
could tell us of the old Proprietary Mansion, he said, in his way, he
"membered it, as if it was built only yesterday: he was fotch up so
near it, that he could see it now as if it was standing before him:
if _he_ couldn't pint out where it stood, it was time for him to give
up: it was a mighty grand brick house,"--laying an emphasis on
_brick_, as a special point in his notion of its grandeur; and then
he added, with all the gravity of which his very solemn visage was a
copious index, that "Old Master Baltimore, who built it, was a real
fine gentleman. He knowed him so well! He never gave anything but
gold to the servants for tending on him. Bless you! he wouldn't even
think of silver! Many a time has he given me a guinea for waiting on

This account of Old Master Baltimore, and his magnificent contempt of
silver, and the intimacy of our patriarch with him, rather startled
us, and I began to fear that the story of the house might turn out to
be as big a lie as the acquaintance with the Lord Proprietary,--for
Master Baltimore had then been dead just one hundred and twenty-one
years. But we went on with him, and were pleasantly disappointed when
he brought us upon a hill that sloped down to the Mattapony, and
there traced out for us, by the depression of the earth, the visible
lines of an old foundation of a large building, the former existence
of which was further demonstrated by some scattered remains of the
old imported brick of the edifice which were imbedded in the soil.

This spot had a fine outlook upon the Bay, and every advantage of
locality to recommend its choice for a domestic establishment. We
could find nothing to indicate the old fort except the commanding
character of the hill with reference to the river, which might
warrant a conjecture as to its position. I believe that the house was
included within the ramparts of the fortification, as I perceive in
some of the old records that the fortification itself was called the
Mattapony House, which was once beleaguered and taken by Captain John
Coode and Colonel Jowles.

After we had examined all that was to be seen here, our next point of
interest was a graveyard, which, we had been informed by some of the
household at Mrs. Carroll's, had been preserved upon the estate from
a very early period. Our old gossip professed to know all about this,
from its very first establishment. It was in another direction from
the mansion-house, about a mile distant, on the margin of an inlet
from the Bay, called Harper's Creek; and thither we accordingly went.
Before we reached the spot, the old negro stopped at a cabin that lay
in our route and provided himself with a hoe, which, borne upon his
shoulder, gave a somewhat mysterious significance to the office he
had assumed. He did not explain the purpose of this equipment to us,
and we forbore to question him. After descending to the level of the
tide and passing through some thickets of wild shrubbery, we arrived
upon a grassy plain immediately upon the border of the creek; and
there, in a quiet, sequestered nook of rural landscape, the smooth
and sluggish little inlet begirt with waterlilies and reflecting wood
and sky and the green hill-side upon its surface, was the chosen
resting-place of the departed generations of the family. A few simple
tombstones--some of them darkened by the touch of Time--lay clustered
within an old inclosure. The brief memorials engraved upon them told
us how inveterately Death had pursued his ancient vocation and
gathered in his relentless tribute from young and old in times past
as he does to-day.

Here was a theme for a sermon from the patriarch, who now leaned upon
his hoe and shook his head with a slow ruminative motion, as if he
hoped by this action to disengage from it some profound moral
reflections, and then began to enumerate how many of these good
people he had helped to bury; but before he had well begun this
discourse we had turned away and were about leaving the place, when
he recalled us by saying, "I have got one tombstone yet to show you,
as soon as I can clear it off with the hoe: it belongs to old Master
Rousby, who was stobbed aboard ship, and is, besides that, the
grandest tombstone here."

Here was another of those flashes of light by which my story seemed
to be preordained to a prosperous end. We eagerly encouraged the old
man to this task, and he went to work in removing the green sod from
a large slab which had been entirely hidden under the soil, and in a
brief space revealed to us a tombstone fully six feet long, upon
which we were able to read, in plainly chiselled letters, an
inscription surmounted by a carved heraldic shield with its proper
quarterings and devices.

Our group at this moment would have made a fine artistic study. There
was this quiet landscape around us garnished with the beauty of May;
there were the rustic tombs,--the old negro, with a countenance
surcharged with the expression of solemn satisfaction at his
employment, bending his aged figure over the broad, carved stone, and
scraping from it the grass which had not been disturbed perhaps for a
quarter of a century; and there was our own party looking on with
eager interest, as the inscription every moment became more legible.
That interest may be imagined, on reading the inscription, which,
when brought to the full light of day, revealed these words:--

"Here lyeth the body of Xph'r Rousbie Esquire, who was taken out of
this world by a violent death received on board his Majesty's ship
The Quaker Ketch, Capt. Tho's. Allen Commander, the last day of
October 1684. And also of Mr. John Rousbie, his brother, who departed
this naturall life on board the Ship Baltimore, being arrived in
Patuxen the first day of February 1685."

This was a picturesque incident in its scenic character, but a still
more engaging one as an occurrence in the path of discovery. Here was
most unexpectedly brought to view a new link in the chain of our
story. It was a pleasant surprise to have such a fact as this
breaking upon us from an ambuscade, to help out a half-formed
narrative which I had feared was hopeless of completion. The
inscription is a necessary supplement to the marginal notes. As an
insulated monument, it is meagre in its detail, and stands in need of
explanation. It does not describe Christopher Rousby as the Collector
of the Customs; it does not affirm that he was murdered; it makes no
allusion to Talbot: but it gives the name of the ship and its
commander, along with the date of the death. "The Landholder's
Assistant" supplies all the facts that are wanting in this brief
statement. These two memorials help each other and enlarge the common
current of testimony, like two confluent streams coming from opposite
sources. From the two together we learn, that Colonel Talbot, the
Surveyor-General in 1684, killed Mr. Christopher Rousby on board of a
ship of war; and we are apprised that Rousby was a gentleman of rank
and authority in the Province, holding an important commission from
the King. The place at which the tomb is found shows also that he was
the owner of a considerable landed estate and a near neighbor of the
Lord Proprietary.

The story, however, requires much more circumstance to give it the
interest which we hope yet to find in it.



I have now to change my scene, and to pursue in another quarter more
important investigations. I break off with some regret from my visit
to St. Mary's, because it had many attractions of its own, which
would form a pleasant theme for description. Some of the results of
that visit I embodied, several years ago, in a fiction which I fear
the world will hardly credit me in saying has as much history in it
as invention. [Footnote: _Rob of the Bowl._] But my journey had no
further connection with the particular subject before us, after the
discovery of the tomb. I therefore take my leave, at this juncture,
of good Father Carberry and St. Inigoes, and also of my companion in
this adventure,--pausing but a moment to say, that the Superior of
St. Inigoes has, some time since, gone to his account, and that I am
not willing to part with him in my narrative without a grateful
recognition of the esteem I have for his memory, in which I share
with all who were acquainted with him,--an esteem won by the simple,
unostentatious merit of his character, his liberal religious
sentiment, and his frank and cordial hospitality, which had the best
flavor of the good old housekeeping of St. Mary's,--a commendation
which every one conversant with that section of Maryland will
understand to imply what the Irish schoolmaster, in one of Carleton's
tales, calls "the hoighth of good living."

After my return from this excursion, I resolved to make a search
amongst the records at Annapolis, to ascertain whether any memorials
existed which might furnish further information in regard to the
events to which I had now got a clue. And here comes in a morsel of
official history which will excuse a short digression.

The Legislature had, about this time, directed the Executive to cause
a search through the government buildings, with a view to the
discovery of old state papers and manuscripts, which, having been
consigned, time out of mind, to neglect and oblivion, were known only
as heaps of promiscuous lumber, strewed over the floors of damp
cellars and unfrequented garrets. The careless and unappreciative
spirit of the proper guardians of our archives in past years had
suffered many precious folios and separate papers to be disposed of
as mere rubbish; and the not less culpable and incurious indolence of
their successors, in our own times, had treated them with equal
indifference. The attention of the Legislature was awakened to the
importance of this investigation by Mr. David Ridgely, the State
Librarian, and he was appointed by the Executive to undertake the
labor. Never did beagle pursue the chase with more steady foot than
did this eager and laudable champion of the ancient fame of the State
his chosen duty. He rummaged old cuddies, closets, vaults, and
cocklofts, and pried into every recess of the Chancery, the Land
Office, the Committee-Rooms, and the Council-Chamber, searching
up-stairs and down-stairs, wherever a truant paper was supposed to lurk.
Groping with lantern in hand and body bent, he made his way through
narrow passages, startling the rats from their fastnesses, where they
had been intrenched for half a century, and breaking down the thick
drapery--the Gobelin tapestry I might call it--woven by successive
families of spiders from the days of the last Lord Proprietary. The
very dust which was kicked up in Annapolis, as the old newspapers
tell us, at the passage of the Stamp Act, was once more set in motion
by the foot of this resolute and unwearied invader, and everywhere
something was found to reward the toil of the search. But the most
valuable discoveries were made in the old Treasury,--made, alas! too
late for the full fruition of the Librarian's labor. The Treasury,
one of the most venerable structures in the State, is that lowly and
quaint little edifice of brick which the visitor never fails to
notice within the inclosure of the State-House grounds. It was
originally designed for the accommodation of the Governor and his
Council, and for the sessions of the Upper House of the Provincial
Legislature; the Burgesses, at that time, holding their meetings in
the old State House, which occupied the site of the present more
imposing and capacious building: this latter having been erected
about the year 1772.

In some dark recess of the Treasury Office Mr. Ridgely struck upon a
mine of wealth, in a mouldy wooden box, which was found to contain
many missing Journals of the Provincial Council, some of which bore
date as far back as 1666. It was a sad disappointment to him, when
his eye was greeted with the sight of these folios, to see them
crumble, like the famed Dead-Sea Apples, into powder, upon every
attempt, to handle them. The form of the books was preserved and the
character of the writing distinctly legible, but, from the effect of
moisture, the paper had lost its cohesion, and fell to pieces at
every effort to turn a leaf. I was myself a witness to this
tantalizing deception, and, with the Librarian, read enough to show
the date and character of the perishing record.

Through this accident, the Council Journals of a most interesting
period, embracing several years between 1666 and 1692, were
irretrievably lost. Others sustained less damage, and were partially
preserved. Some few survived in good condition.

Our Maryland historians have had frequent occasion to complain of the
deficiency of material for the illustration of several epochs in the
Provincial existence, owing to the loss of official records. No
research has supplied the means of describing the public events of
these intervals, beyond some few inferences, which are only
sufficient to show that these silent periods were marked by incidents
of important interest. The most striking of these privations occurs
towards the end of the seventeenth century,--precisely that period to
which the crumbling folios had reference.

This loss of the records has been ascribed to their frequent removals
during periods of trouble, and to the havoc made in the rage of
parties. The Province, like the great world from which it was so far
remote, was distracted with what are sometimes called religious
quarrels, but what I prefer to describe as exceedingly irreligious
quarrels, carried on by men professing to be Christians, and
generated in the heat of disputes concerning the word of the great
Teacher of "peace on earth." Out of these grew any quantity of
rebellion and war, tinctured with their usual flavor of persecution.
For at this era the wars of Christendom were chiefly waged in support
of dogmas and creeds, and took a savage hue from the fury of
religious bigotry. The wars of Europe since that period have arisen
upon commercial and political questions, and religion has been freed
from the dishonor of promoting these bloody strifes so incompatible
with its high office. In these quarrels of the fathers of Maryland,
the archives of government were seized more than once, and, perhaps,
destroyed. On one occasion they were burnt. And so, amongst all these
disorders, it has fallen out that the full development of the State
history has been rendered impossible.

Mr. Ridgely's foray, however, into this domain of dust and darkness
has happily rescued much useful matter to aid the future chronicler
in supplying the deficiency of past attempts to trace the path of our
modest annals through these silent intervals. Incidentally the
Librarian's work has assisted my story; for, although the recovered
folios did not touch the exact year of my search, the pursuit of them
led me to what I may claim as a discovery of my own. I found what I
could not say was wholly lost, but what, until Mr. Ridgely's
exploration drew attention to the records, might have been said to
have shrunk from all notice of the present generation, and to be fast
falling a prey to the tooth of time and the visit of the worm. A few
years more of neglect and the ill usage of careless custodians, and
it would have passed to that depository of things lost upon the
earth, which fable has placed in the moon. It was my good fortune, in
this upturning of relics of the past, to lay my hand upon a sadly
tattered and decayed MS. volume,--unbound, without beginning and
without end, coated with the dust which had been gathering upon it
ever since Chalmers and Bozman had done their work of deciphering its
quaint old text. It lay in the state of rubbish, in an old case,
where many documents of the same kind had been consigned to the same
oblivion, and with it had been sleeping for as many years, perhaps,
as the Beauty in the fairy tale,--happily destined, at last, to be
awakened, as she was, by one who by his perseverance had won a title
to herself.

This manuscript was now, in this day of revival, brought out from its
hiding-place, and, upon inspection, proved to be a Journal of the
Council for some few years including the very date of the death of
the Collector on the Patuxent.

The record was complete, neatly written in the peculiar manuscript
character of that age, so difficult for a modern reader to decipher.
Its queer old-fashioned spelling suggested the idea that our
ancestors considered both consonants and vowels too weak to stand
alone, and that therefore they doubled them as often as they could;
and there was such an actual identification of its antiquity in its
exterior aspect as well as in its forms of speech, that, when I have
sat poring over it alone at midnight in my study, as I have often
done, I have turned my eye over my shoulder, expecting to see the
apparition of Master John Llewellin--who subscribes his name with a
very energetic nourish as Clerk of the Council--standing behind me in
grave-colored doublet and trunk-hose, with a starched ruff, a
wide-awake hat drawn over his brow, and a short black feather falling
amongst the locks of his dark hair towards his back.

This Journal lets in a blaze of light upon the old tradition of
Talbot's Cave. The narrative of what it discloses it is now my
purpose to make as brief as is compatible with common justice to my



Charles Calvert, Lord Baltimore, the son of Cecilius, was, according
to the testimony of all our annalists, a worthy gentleman and an
upright ruler. He was governor of Maryland, by the appointment of his
father, from 1662 to 1675, and after that became the Lord Proprietary
by inheritance, and administered the public affairs in person. His
prudence and judgment won him the esteem of the best portion of his
people, and the Province prospered in his hands.

All our histories tell of the troubles that beset the closing years
of his residence in Maryland. They arose partly out of his religion,
and in part out of the jealousy of the crown concerning the
privileges of his charter.

He was a Roman Catholic; but, like his father, liberal and tolerant
in opinion, and free from sectarian bias in the administration of his
government. Apart from the influence of his father's example, the
training of his education, his real attachment to the interests of
the Province, and his own natural inclination,--all of which pointed
out to him the duty as well as the advantage of affording the utmost
security to the freedom of religious opinion,--the conditions under
which he held his proprietary rights rendered a departure from this
policy the most improbable accusation that could be made against him.
The public mind of England at that period was fevered to a state of
madness by the domestic quarrel that raged within the kingdom against
the Catholics. The people were distracted with constant alarms of
Popish plots for the overthrow of the government. The King, a
heartless profligate, absorbed in frivolous pleasures, scarcely
entertained any grave question of state affairs that had not some
connection with his hatreds and his fears of Catholics and
Dissenters. Then, also, the Province itself was composed, in far the
greater part, of a Protestant population,--computed by some
contemporary writers at the proportion of thirty to one,--a
population who were guarantied freedom of conscience by the Charter,
and who possessed all necessary power both legal and physical to
enforce it.

Under such circumstances as these, how is it possible to impute
designs against the old established toleration, which had marked the
history of Maryland from its first settlement to that day, to so
prudent and careful a ruler as Charles Calvert, without imputing to
him, at the same time, a folly so absurd as to belie every opinion
that has ever been uttered to his advantage?

Yet, notwithstanding these improbabilities, the accusation was made
and affected to be believed by the King and his Council; the result
of which was that a royal order was sent to the Proprietary,
commanding him to dismiss every Catholic from employment in the
Province, and to supply their places by the appointment of

The most plausible theory upon which I can account for this harsh
proceeding is suggested by the fact that parties in the Province took
the same complexion with those in the mother country and ran parallel
with them,--that the same excitements which agitated the minds of the
people in England were industriously fomented here, where no similar
reason for them existed, as the volunteer work of demagogues who saw
in them the means of promoting their own interest,--that, in fact,
this opposition to the Proprietary grew out of a failing in our
ancestors which has not yet been cured in their descendants, a
weakness in favor of the loaves and fishes. The party in the majority
carried the elections, and felt, of course, as all parties do who
perform such an exploit, that they had made a very gigantic sacrifice
for the good of the country and deserved to be remunerated for such
an act of heroism, and thereupon set up and asserted that venerable
doctrine which has been erroneously and somewhat vaingloriously
claimed as the conception of a modern statesman, namely,--"that to
the victors belong the spoils." I rejoice in the discovery that a
dogma so profound and so convenient has the sanction of antiquity to
commend it to the platform of the patriots of our own time.

I must in a few words notice another charge against Lord Baltimore,
which was even more serious than the first, and to which the cupidity
of the King lent a willing ear. Parliament had passed an act for
levying certain duties on the trade of the Southern Colonies, which
were very oppressive to the commerce of Maryland. These duties were
gathered by Collectors specially appointed for the occasion, who held
their commissions from the Crown, and who were stationed at the
several ports of entry of the Province. The frequent evasion of these
duties gave rise to much ill-will between the Collectors and the
people. Lord Baltimore was charged with having connived at these
evasions, and with obstructing the collection of the royal revenue.
His chief accusers were the Collectors, who, being Crown officers,
seemed naturally to array themselves against him. Although there was
really no foundation for this complaint, yet the King, who never
threw away a chance to replenish his purse, compelled the Proprietary
to pay by way of retribution a large sum into the Exchequer.

I have no need to dwell upon this subject, and have referred to it
only because it explains the relation between Lord Baltimore and
Christopher Rousby, and has therefore some connection with my story.
Rousby was an enemy to the Proprietary; and from a letter preserved
by Chalmers it appears there was no love lost between them. Lord
Baltimore writes to the Earl of Anglesey, the President of the King's
Council, in 1681,--"I have already written twice to your Lordship
about Christopher Rousby, who I desired might be removed from his
place of Collector of his Majesty's Customs,--he having been a great
knave, and a disturber of the trade and peace of the Province"; which
letter, it seems, had no effect,--as Christopher Rousby was continued
in his post. He was doubtless emboldened by the failure of this
remonstrance against him to exhibit his ill-will towards the
Proprietary in more open and more vexatious modes of annoyance.

All these embarrassments threw a heavy shadow over the latter years
of Lord Baltimore's life, and now drove him to the necessity of
making a visit to England for the purpose of personal explanation and
defence before the King. He accordingly took his departure in the
month of June, 1684, intending to return in a few months; but a tide
of misfortune that now set in upon him prevented that wish, and he
never saw Maryland again.

In about half a year after Calvert's arrival in England, King Charles
the Second was gathered to his fathers, and his brother, the Duke of
York, a worse man, a greater hypocrite, and a more crafty despot,
reigned in his stead.

James the Second was a Roman Catholic, and Calvert, on that score
alone, might have expected some sympathy and favor: he might, at
least, have expected justice. But James was heartless and selfish.
The Proprietary found nothing but cold neglect, and a contemptible
jealousy of the prerogatives and power conferred by his charter.
James himself claimed to be a proprietary on this continent by virtue
of extensive royal grants, and was directly interested with William
Penn in defeating the claims of the Baltimore family to the country
upon the Delaware; he was, therefore, in fact, the secret and
prepossessed enemy of Calvert. Instead of protection from the Crown,
Calvert found proceedings instituted in the King's Bench to annul his
charter, which, but for the abrupt termination of this short,
disgraceful reign in abdication and flight, would have been
consummated under James's own direction. The Revolution of 1688
brought up other influences more hostile still to the Proprietary;
and the Province, which was always sedulous to follow the fashions of
London, was not behindhand on this occasion, but made, also, its
revolution, in imitation of the great one. The end of all was the
utter subversion of the Charter, and a new government of Maryland
under a royal commission. How this was accomplished our historians
are not able to tell. From 1688 to 1692 is one of our dark intervals
of which I have spoken. It begins with a domestic revolution and ends
with the appointment of a Royal Governor, and that is pretty nearly
all we know about it. After this, there was no Proprietary dominion
in Maryland, until it was restored upon the accession of George the
First in 1715, when it reappears in the second Charles Calvert, a
minor, the grandson of the late Proprietary. This gentleman was the
son of Benedict Leonard Calvert, and was educated in the Protestant
faith, which his father had adopted as more consonant with the
prosperity of the family and the hopes of the Province.

Before Lord Baltimore took his departure, he made all necessary
arrangements for the administration of the government during his
absence. The chief authority he invested in his son Benedict Leonard,
to whom I referred just now,--at that time a youth of twelve or
fourteen years of age. My old record contains the commission issued
on this occasion, which is of the most stately and royal breadth of
phrase, and occupies paper enough to make a deed for the route of the
Pacific Railroad. In this document "our dearly beloved son Benedict
Leonard Calvert" is ordained and appointed to be "Lieutenant General,
Chief Captain, Chief Governor and Commander, Chief Admiral both by
sea and land, of our Province of Maryland, and of all our Islands,
Territories, and Dominions whatsoever, and of all and singular our
Castles, Forts, Fortresses, Fortifications, Munitions, Ships, and
Navies in our said Province, Islands, Territories, and Dominions

I hope to be excused for the particularity of my quotation of this
young gentleman's titles, which I have given at full length only by
way of demonstration of the magnificence of our old Palatine Province
of Maryland, and to excite in the present generation a becoming pride
at having fallen heirs to such a principality; albeit Benedict
Leonard's more recent successors to these princely prerogatives may
have reason to complain of that relentless spirit of democracy which
has shorn them of so many worshipful honors. But we republicans are
philosophical, and can make sacrifices with a good grace.

As it was quite impossible for this young Lieutenant General to go
alone under such a staggering weight of dignities, the same
commission puts him in leading-strings by the appointment of nine
Deputy or Lieutenant Governors who are charged with the execution of
all his duties. The first-named of these deputies is "our dearly
beloved Cousin," Colonel George Talbot, who is associated with "our
well-beloved Counsellor," Thomas Tailler, Colonel Vincent Low,
Colonel Henry Darnall, Colonel William Digges, Colonel William
Stevens, Colonel William Burgess, Major Nicholas Sewall, and John
Darnall, Esquire. These same gentlemen, with Edward Pye and Thomas
Truman, are also commissioned to be of the Privy Council, "for and in
relation to all matters of State."

These appointments being made and other matters disposed of, Charles
Calvert took leave of his beautiful and favorite Maryland, never to
see this fair land again.



I have now to pursue the narrative of my story as I find the
necessary material in the old Council Journal. I shall not incumber
this narrative with literal extracts from these proceedings, but give
the substance of what I find there, with such illustration as I have
been able to glean from other sources.

Colonel George Talbot, whom we recognize as the first-named in the
commission of the nine Deputy Governors and of the Privy Council,
seems to have been a special favorite of the Proprietary. He was the
grandson of the first Baron of Baltimore, the Secretary of State of
James the First. His father was an Irish baronet, Sir George Talbot,
of Cartown in Kildare, who had married Grace, one of the younger
sisters of Cecilius, the second Proprietary and father of Charles
Calvert. He was, therefore, as the commission describes him, the
cousin of Lord Baltimore, who had now invested him with a leading
authority in the administration of the government.

He was born in Ireland, and from some facts connected with his
history I infer that he did not emigrate to Maryland until after his
marriage, his wife being an Irish lady.

That he was a man of consideration in the Province, with large
experience in its affairs, is shown by the character of the
employments that were intrusted to him. He had been, for some years
before the departure of Lord Baltimore on his visit to England, a
conspicuous member of his Council. He had, for an equal length of
time, held the post of Surveyor-General, an office of high
responsibility and trust. But his chief employment was of a military
nature, in which his discretion, courage, and conduct were in
constant requisition. He had the chief command, with the title and
commission of Deputy Governor, over the northern border of the
Province, a region continually exposed to the inroads of the fierce
and warlike tribe of the "Sasquesahannocks."

The country lying between the Susquehanna and the Delaware, that
which now coincides with parts of Harford and Cecil Counties in
Maryland and the upper portion of the State of Delaware, was known in
those days as New Ireland, and was chiefly settled by emigrants from
the old kingdom whose name it bore. This region was included within
the range of Talbot's command, and was gradually increasing in
population and in farms and houses scattered over a line of some
seventy or eighty miles from east to west, and slowly encroaching
upon the thick wilderness to the north, where surly savages lurked
and watched the advance of the white man with jealous anger.

The tenants of this tract held their lands under the Proprietary
grants, coupled with a condition, imposed as much by their own
necessities as by the law, to render active service in the defence of
the frontier as a local militia. They were accordingly organized on a
military establishment, and kept in a state of continual preparation
to repel the unwelcome visits of their hostile neighbors.

A dispute between Lord Baltimore and William Penn, founded upon the
claim of the former to a portion of the territory bounding on the
Delaware, had given occasion to border feuds, which had imposed upon
our Proprietary the necessity of building and maintaining a fort on
Christiana Creek, near the present city of Wilmington; and there were
also some few block-houses or smaller fortified strongholds along the
line of settlement towards the Susquehanna.

These forts were garrisoned by a small force of musketeers maintained
by the government. The Province was also at the charge of a regiment
of cavalry, of which Talbot was the Colonel, and parts of which were
assigned to the defence of this frontier.

If we add to these a corps of rangers, who were specially employed in
watching and arresting all trespassers upon the territory of the
Province, it will complete our sketch of the military organization of
the frontier over which Talbot had the chief command. The whole or
any portion of this force could be assembled in a few hours to meet
the emergencies of the time. Signals were established for the muster
of the border. Beacon fires on the hills, the blowing of horns, and
the despatch of runners were familiar to the tenants, and often called
the ploughman away from the furrow to the appointed gathering-place.
Three musket-shots fired in succession from a lonely cabin, at
dead of night, awakened the sleeper in the next homestead; the three
shots, repeated from house to house, across this silent waste of
forest and field, carried the alarm onward; and before break of day a
hundred stout yeomen, armed with cutlass and carbine, were on foot to
check and punish the stealthy foray of the Sasquesahannock against
the barred and bolted dwellings where mothers rocked their children
to sleep, confident in the protection of this organized and effective
system of defence.

In this region Talbot himself held a manor which was called New
Connaught, and here he had his family mansion, and kept hospitality
in rude woodland state, as a man of rank and command, with his
retainers and friends gathered around him. This establishment was
seated on Elk River, and was, doubtless, a fortified position. I
picture to my mind a capacious dwelling-house built of logs from the
surrounding forest; its ample hall furnished with implements of war,
pikes, carbines, and basket-hilled swords, mingled with antlers of
the buck, skins of wild animals, plumage of birds, and other trophies
of the hunter's craft; the large fireplace surrounded with hardy
woodsmen, and the tables furnished with venison, wild fowl, and fish,
the common luxuries of the region, in that prodigal profusion to
which our forefathers were accustomed, and which their descendants
still regard as the essential condition of hearty and honest
housekeeping. This mansion I fancy surrounded by a spacious picketed
rampart, presenting its bristling points to the four quarters of the
compass, and accessible only through a gateway of ponderous timber
studded thick with nails: the whole offering defiance to the grim
savage who might chance to prowl within the frown of its midnight

Here Talbot spent the greater portion of the year with his wife and
children. Here he had his yacht or shallop on the river, and often
skimmed this beautiful expanse of water in pursuit of its abundant
game,--those hawks of which tradition preserves the memory his
companions and auxiliaries in this pastime. Here, too, he had his
hounds and other hunting-dogs to beat up the game for which the banks
of Elk River are yet famous.

This sylvan lodge was cheered and refined by the presence of his wife
and children, whose daily household occupations were assisted by
numerous servants chosen from the warm-hearted people who had left
their own Green Isle to find a home in this wilderness.

Amidst such scenes and the duties of her station we may suppose that
Mrs. Talbot, a lady who could not but have relinquished many comforts
in her native land for this rude life of the forest, found sufficient
resource to quell the regrets of many fond memories of the home and
friends she had left behind, and to reconcile her to the fortunes of
her husband, to whom, as we shall see, she was devoted with an ardor
that no hardship or danger could abate.

Being the dispenser of her husband's hospitality,--the bread-giver,
in the old Saxon phrase,--the frequent companion of his pastime, and
the bountiful friend, not only of the families whose cottages threw
up their smoke within view of her dwelling, but of all who came and
went on the occasions of business or pleasure in the common
intercourse of the frontier, we may conceive the sentiment of respect
and attachment she inspired in this insulated district, and the
service she was thus enabled to command.

This is but a fancy picture, it is true, of the home of Talbot,
which, for want of authentic elements of description, I am forced to
draw. It is suggested by the few scattered glimpses we get in the
records of his position and circumstances, and may, I think, be
received at least as near the truth in its general aspect and
characteristic features.

He was undoubtedly a bold, enterprising man,--impetuous, passionate,
and harsh, as the incidents of his story show. He was, most probably,
a soldier trained to the profession, and may have served abroad, as
nearly all gentlemen of that period were accustomed to do. That he
was an ardent and uncompromising partisan of the Proprietary in the
dissensions of the Province seems to be evident. I suppose him, also,
to have been warm-hearted, proud in spirit, and hasty in temper,--a
man to be loved or hated by friend or foe with equal intensity. It is
material to add to this sketch of him, that he was a Roman
Catholic,--as we have record proof that all the Deputy Governors
named in the recent commission were, I believe, without
exception,--and that he was doubtless imbued with the dislike and
indignation which naturally fired the gentlemen of his faith against
those who were supposed to be plotting the overthrow of the Proprietary
government, by exciting religious prejudice against the Baltimore

[To be continued.]





On the 18th of April, having collected such information bearing on
our purposes as it was possible to obtain, we left La Union, and
fairly commenced the business of "Hunting a Pass." To reach the
valley of the Goascoran, on the extent and character of which so much
depended, it was necessary to go round the head of the Bay of La
Union. For several miles our route coincided with that of the _camino
real_ to San Miguel, and we rode along it gayly, in high and hopeful
spirits. The morning was clear and bright, the air cool and
exhilarating, and the very sense of existence was itself a luxury. At
the end of four miles we struck off from the high road, at right
angles, into a narrow path, which conducted us over low grounds,
three miles farther, to the Rio Sirama, a small stream, scarcely
twenty feet across, the name of which is often erroneously changed in
the maps for that of Goascoran or Rio San Miguel. Beyond this stream
the path runs over low hills, which, however, subside into plains
near the bay, where the low grounds are covered with water at high
tide. The natives avail themselves of this circumstance, as did the
Indians before them, for the manufacture of salt. They inclose
considerable areas with little dikes of mud, leaving openings for the
entrance of the water, which are closed as the tide falls. The water
thus retained is rapidly evaporated under a tropical sun, leaving the
mud crusted over with salt. This is then scraped up, dissolved in
water, and strained to separate the impurities, and the saturated
brine reduced in earthen pots, set in long ranges of stone and clay.
The pots are constantly replenished, until they are filled with a
solid mass of salt; they are then removed bodily, packed in dry
plantain-leaves, and sent to market on the backs of mules. Sometimes
the pots are broken off, to lighten the load, and great piles of
their fragments--miniature _Monti testacci_--are seen around the
_Salinas_, as these works are called, where they will remain long
after this rude system of salt-manufacture shall be supplanted by a
better, as a puzzle for fledgling antiquaries.

Six miles beyond the Rio Sirama we came to another stream, called the
Siramita or Little Sirama, for the reason, probably, as H. suggested,
that it is four times as large as the Sirama. It flows through a bed
twenty feet deep and upwards of two hundred feet wide, paved with
water-worn stones, ragged with frayed fragments of trees, and
affording abundant evidence that during the season of rains it is a
rough and powerful torrent. Between this stream and the Goascoran
there is a maze of barren hills, relieved by occasional level
reaches, covered with acacias and deciduous trees. Through these the
road winds in easy gradients, and there are numerous passes perfectly
feasible for a railway, in case it should ever be deemed advisable to
carry one around the head of the bay to La Union.

The traveller emerges suddenly from among these hills into the valley
of the Goascoran, and finds the river a broad and gentle stream
flowing at his feet. At the time of our passage, the water at the
ford was nowhere more than two feet deep, with gravelly bottom and
high and firm banks, without traces of overflow. We had now passed
the threshold of the unknown region on which we were venturing, and
although we had a moral conviction that the valley before us afforded
the requisite facilities for the enterprise which we had in hand, yet
it was not without a deep feeling of satisfaction, almost of
exultation, that, on riding to the summit of a bare knoll close by,
we traced the course of the river, in a graceful curve, along the
foot of the green hills on our left, and saw that it soon resumed its
general direction north and south, on the precise line most favorable
for our purposes. In the distance, rising alone in the very centre of
the valley, we discerned the castellated Rock of Goascoran, behind
which, we were told, nestled the village of Goascoran, where we
intended passing the night. We had taken its bearings from the top of
Conchagua, and were glad to find that the intervening country was
level and open, chiefly savanna, or covered with scattered trees.
There was no need of instrumentation here, and so, ordering Dolores
to bring up the baggage as rapidly as possible, we struck across the
plain in a right line, in total disregard of roads or pathways, for
the Rock of Goascoran. A smart gallop of two hours brought us to its
foot, and in a few minutes after we entered the village, and rode
straight to the _Cabildo_, or House of the Municipality, tied our
mules to the columns of the corridor, pushed open the door, and made
ourselves at home.

And here I may mention that the _Cabildo_, throughout Honduras, is
the stranger's refuge. Its door is never locked, and every traveller,
high or low, rich or poor, has a right to enter it unquestioned, and
"make it his hotel" for the time being. Its accommodations, it is
true, are seldom extensive and never sumptuous. They rarely consist
of more than one or two hide-covered chairs, a rickety table, and two
or three long benches placed against the wall, with a _tinaja_ or jar
for water in the corner, and possibly a clay oven or rude contrivance
for cooking under the back corridor. In all the more important
villages, which enjoy the luxury of a local court, the end of the
_Cabildo_ is usually fenced off with wooden bars, as a prison.
Occasionally the traveller finds it occupied by some poor devil of a
prisoner, with his feet confined in stocks, to prevent his digging a
hole through the mud walls or kicking down his prison-bars, who
exhibits his ribs to prove that he is "_muy flaco_," (very thin,) and
solicits, in the name of the Virgin and all the _Santos_, _"algo para
comer"_ (something to eat).

In most of the _cabildos_ there is suspended a rude drum, made by
drawing a raw hide over the end of a section of a hollow tree, which
is primarily used to call together the municipal wisdom of the place,
whenever occasion requires, and secondarily by the traveller, who
beats on it as a signal to the _alguazils_, whose duty it is to
repair at once to the _Cabildo_ and supply the stranger with what he
requires, if obtainable in the town, at the rates there current. Not
an unwise, nor yet an unnecessary regulation this, in a country where
nobody thinks of producing more than is just necessary for his wants,
and, having no need of money, one does not care to sell, lest his
scanty store should run short, and he be compelled to go to work or
purchase from his neighbors.

The people of Goascoran stared at us as we rode through their
streets, but none came near us until after we had vigorously pounded
the magical drum, when the _alguazils_ made their appearance,
followed by all the urchins of the place, and by a crowd of lean and
hungry curs,--the latter evidently in watery-mouthed anticipation of
obtaining from the strangers, what they seldom got at home, a stray
crust or a marrow-bone. We informed our _alguazils_ that we had mules
coming, and wanted _sacate_ for them. To which they responded,--

_"No hay."_ (There is none.)

"Then let us have some maize."


"What! no maize? What do you make your _tortillas_ of?"

"We have no _tortillas_."

"How, then, do you live?"

"We don't live."

"But we must have something for our animals; they can't be allowed to

To which our _alguazil_ made no reply, but looked at us vacantly.

"Do you hear? we _must_ have some _sacate_ or some maize for the

Still no reply,--only the same vacuous look,--now more stolid, if
possible, than before.

I had observed that the _Teniente's_ wrath was rising, and that an
explosion was imminent. But I must confess that I was not a little
startled, when, drawing his bowie-knife from his belt, he strode
slowly up to our impassible friend, and, firmly grasping his right
ear, applied the cold edge of the steel close to his head. The
supplementary _alguazil_ and the rabble of children took to their
heels in affright, followed by the dogs, who seemed to sympathize in
their alarm. But, beyond a slight wincing downwards, and a partial
contraction of his eyes and lips, the object of the _Teniente's_
wrath made no movement, nor uttered a word of expostulation. He
evidently expected to lose his ears, and probably was surprised at
nothing except the pause in the operation. My own apprehensions were
only for an instant; but, had they been more serious than they were,
they must have given way before the extreme ludicrousness of the
group. I burst into a roar of laughter, in which the _Teniente_ could
not resist joining, but which seemed to be incomprehensible to the
_alguazil_, whose face assumed an expression which I can only
describe as that of astonished inanity. I don't think he is quite
certain, to this day, that the incident was not altogether an ugly
dream. At any rate, he lost no time in obeying my order to go
straight to the first _alcalde_ of the village, and tell him that he
was wanted at the _Cabildo_.

Reassured by seeing the _alguazil_ come out alive, the _muchachos_
returned, greatly reinforced, edging up to the open door timidly,
ready to retreat on our slightest movement. We had not long to wait
for the first _alcalde_, of whose approach we were warned by a sudden
scramble of curs and children, who made a broad lane for his passage.
Evidently, our _alcalde_ was a man of might in Goascoran, and he
established an immediate hold on our hearts by stopping on the
corridor and clearing it of its promiscuous occupants by liberal
applications of his official cane. He was a man of fifty, burly in
person, and wore his shirt outside of his trousers, but, altogether,
carried himself with an air of authority. He was prompt in speech,
and, although evidently much surprised to find a party of foreigners
in the _Cabildo_, rapidly followed up his salutation by putting
himself and the town and all the people in it "at the disposition of
our Worships."

I explained to him how it was that he had been sent for, placing due
emphasis on the stupidity of the _alguazil_. He heard me without
interruption, keeping, however, one eye on the _alguazil_, and
handling his cane nervously. By the time I had finished, the cane
fairly quivered; and the delinquent himself, who had scarcely
flinched under the _Teniente's_ knife, was now uneasily stealing away
towards the door. Our _alcalde_ saw the movement, and, with a hurried
bow, and _"Con permiso, Caballeros"_ (With your permission,
gentlemen,) started after the fugitive, who was saluted with _"Que
bestia!"_ (What a beast!) and a staggering blow over his shoulders.
He hurried his pace, but the _alcalde's_ cane followed close, and
with vigorous application, half-way across the _plaza_. And when the
_alcalde_ returned, out of breath, but full of apologies, he received
a welcome such as could be inspired only by a profound faith in his
ability and willingness to secure for us not merely _sacate_ and
maize, but everything else that we might desire. We told him that he
was a model officer and a man after our own hearts, all of which he
listened to with dignified modesty, wiping the perspiration from his
face, meanwhile, with--well, with the tail of his shirt!

The _alcalde_ was very hard on his constituency, and, from all that
we could gather, he seemed to regard them collectively as
_"bestias_," and _"hombres sin vergueenza"_ (men without shame). We
concurred with him, and regretted that he had not a wider and more
elevated official sphere, and gave him, withal, a _trago_ of brandy,
which he seemed greatly to relish, and then again approached the
subject of _sacate_ for our mules. To our astonishment, the _alcalde_
suddenly grew grave, and interrupted me with--

_"Pero, no hay, Senor_." (But there is none, Sir.)

"Well, maize will answer."


"What! no maize? What do you make your _tortillas_ of?"

"We have no _tortillas_."

"How, then, do you live?"

"We don't live."

A general shout of laughter greeted this last reply, in which, after
a moment of puzzled hesitation, the _alcalde_ himself joined.

"So, you don't live?"

"Absolutely, no!"

"But you eat?"

"Very little. We are very poor."

"Well, what do you eat?"

"Cheese, _frijoles_, and an egg now and then."

"But, no _tortillas_?"

"No. We planted the last kernel of maize two days ago."

And so it was. The little stock of dried grass and maize-stalks
stored up from the present rainy season had long ago been consumed,
and the maize itself, which is here the real staff of life, had run
short,--and that, too, in a country where three crops a year might
easily be produced by a very moderate expenditure of labor in the way
of tillage and irrigation.

Fortunately for our poor animals, Dolores had provided against
contingencies like this, and taken in a supply of maize at La Union.
As for ourselves, what with a few eggs and _frijoles_, furnished by
the _alcalde_, in addition to the stock of edibles, pickled oysters
and other luxuries, prepared for us by Dona Maria, we contrived to
fare right sumptuously in Goascoran. We afterwards found out,
experimentally, what it was not to live, in the sense intended to be
conveyed by the unfortunate _alguazil_ and the impetuous _alcalde_,
and which H. declared logically meant to be without _tortillas_--But
we could never make out why the alcalde should call the _alguazil_ "a
beast," and beat him over his shoulders with a cane, withal.

Goascoran is a small town, of about four hundred inhabitants, and
boasts a tolerably genteel church and a comfortable _cabildo_. It is
situated on the left bank of the river to which it gives its name,
and which here still maintains its character of a broad and beautiful
stream. On the opposite side from the town rises a high, picturesque
bluff, at the foot of which the river gathers its waters in deep,
dark pools with mirror-like surfaces, disturbed only by the splash of
fishes springing at their prey, or by the sudden dash of water-fowls
settling from their arrowy flight in a little cloud of spray.

I have alluded to the castellated Rock of Goascoran, which, however,
is only a type of the general features of the surrounding country.
The prevailing rock is sandstone, and it is broken up in fantastic
peaks, or great cubical blocks with flat tops and vertical walls,
resembling the mesas of New Mexico. At night, their dark masses,
rising on every hand, might be mistaken for frowning fortresses or
massive strongholds of the Middle Ages. They seem to mark the line
where the volcanic forces which raised the high islands in the Bay of
Fonseca had their first conflict with the sedimentary and primitive
rocks of the interior. The river is full of boulders of quartz and
granite reddened by fire, resembling jasper, and alternating with
worn blocks of lava,--further evidences of volcanic action.
Altogether, the country, in its natural aspects, reminds the
traveller of the district lying between Pompeii and Sorrento, in
Italy, and probably owes its essential features to the same causes.

From Goascoran to Aramacina, a distance of twelve miles, the road
traverses a slightly broken country, while the river pursues its
course, as before, through a picturesque valley, narrowed in places
by outlying _mesas_, but still regular, and throughout perfectly
feasible for a railway. Aramacina itself is prettily situated, in a
bend of one of the tributaries of the Goascoran, the Rio Aramacina,
and numbers perhaps three hundred inhabitants. Immediately in front
rises a broad sandstone table or _mesa_, at the foot of which there
are some trickling springs of salt water, much frequented by cattle,
and corresponding to the _saltlicks_ of our Western States.

Behind the town is a high spur of the mountain range of Lepaterique,
covered with pines, and veined with silver-bearing quartz. We visited
the abandoned mines of Marqueliso and Potosi, but the shafts were
filled with water, and only faint traces remained of the ancient
establishments. Extravagant traditions are current of the wealth of
these mines, and of the amounts of treasure which were taken from
them in the days of the Viceroys. A few specimens of the refuse ore,
which we picked up at the mouth of the principal shaft, proved, on
analysis, to be exceedingly rich, and gave some color to the local

The _cabildo_ of Aramacina was very much dilapidated, and promised us
but poor protection against the rain, which now began to fall every
night with the greatest regularity. We nevertheless selected the
corner where the roof appeared soundest, and managed to pass the
night without a serious wetting. The evening was enlivened by visits
from all the leading inhabitants, whom we found to be far more
communicative than their neighbors of Goascoran. Our most
entertaining visitor, however, was a "countryman," as he styled
himself, a negro by the name of John Robinson, born in New York, and
now a magnate in Aramacina, where he had resided for upwards of
sixteen years. Although he had fallen into the habits of the native
population, and wore neither shirt nor shoes, he entertained for them
a superlative contempt, which he expressed in a strange jumble of bad
English and worse Spanish. He had been with Perry on Lake Erie, and
afterwards on board various vessels of war, in some capacity which he
did not explain with great clearness, but which he evidently intended
should be understood as but little lower than that of commander. A
glass of brandy made him eloquent, and he took a position in the
middle of the _cabildo_, and gave us an oration on the people of
Honduras, in a style singularly grotesque and demonstrative. In
broken and scarcely intelligible English,--for he had nearly
forgotten the language of his youth,--he denounced them as "thieves
and liars," and then asked them, "Is it not true?" Imagining,
doubtless, that he was declaiming their praises, the enthusiastic
assemblage responded, _"Si! si!"_ (Yes! yes!) Not a crime so gross,
nor a trait of character so degraded, but he laid it to their charge,
receiving always the same vehement response, _"Si! Si!"_

We got rid of our _paisano_ with difficulty, and only under a promise
to visit his _chacra_, somewhere in the vicinity, next morning. But
we saw no more of him,--not much to our regret; for John Robinson, I
fear, was sadly addicted to brandy, of which our supply was far too
small to admit of honoring many such drafts as he had made the
preceding evening.

One and a half miles to the southeast of Aramacina is a ledge of
sandstone rock, with a smooth vertical face, which is covered over
with figures, deeply cut in outline. This ledge forms one side of a
rural amphitheatre overlooking the adjacent valley, and is by nature
a spot likely to be selected as a "sacred place" by the Indians. It
faces towards the west, and from all parts of the amphitheatre, which
may have answered the purposes of a temple, the morning sun would
appear to rise directly over the rock. The engravings in some places
are much defaced or worn by time, so that they cannot be made out;
but generally they are deep and distinct,--so deep, indeed, that I
used those which run horizontally as steps whereby to climb up the
face of the ledge. I should say that they were two and a half inches
deep. A portion had been effaced by a rude quarry which the people of
Aramacina had opened here to obtain stone for their church.

Some of the figures are easily recognizable as those of men and
animals, while others appear entirely arbitrary, or designed simply
for ornament. Enough can be clearly made out to show the affiliation
of the engravers with the ancient Mexican families of Nicaragua and
San Salvador. The space covered by these inscriptions is about one
hundred feet long, by twelve or fifteen in height. A quarter of a
mile to the southward are other smaller rocks with figures, too much
defaced, however, to be traced satisfactorily. Vases of curious
workmanship, human bones in considerable quantities, and other relics
and remains, it is said, may be discovered by digging in the earth
anywhere within the natural amphitheatre to which I have referred.
This is another circumstance going to favor the belief that this was
anciently a place of great sanctity; for it is a universal custom
among all nations to bury their dead in the neighborhood of shrines
and temples.

Although the immediate district in which these aboriginal traces are
found does not seem to have fallen within the region occupied by the
Nahuatt or Mexican tribes of Central America at the time of the
Conquest, but in what was called the country of the Chontals, yet it
is not difficult to suppose, that, in the various hostile encounters
which we know took place between the two nations, the Nahuatts may
have penetrated as far as Aramacina, and left here some record of
their visit,--if, indeed, they did not succeed in effecting a
temporary lodgment. At any rate, there can be but little doubt that a
portion of the engravings on the rocks above described, but
particularly those which seem to record dates, were made by them.

From Aramacina to Caridad, the next town on our course, and four
leagues distant, the road is laid out on Spanish principles, which
are the very reverse of scientific. Instead of keeping along the
river-valley, it passes directly over a high, rocky spur of the
lateral mountains, through a pass called _El Portillo_, (The Portal,)
elevated fifteen hundred feet above the sea. The view from its
summit, whence we were enabled to trace our course up to this point,
as if on a map, in some degree compensated us for the labor of the
ascent. From here we could also look ahead, beyond the town of
Caridad; and we saw, with some misgivings, that there the lateral
ranges of mountains seemed to send down their spurs boldly to the
river, leaving only what the Spaniards call a _canon_ or narrow
gorge, walled in with precipitous rocks, for its passage. A shadow
came over every face, in view of the possible obstacles in our path;
and although we tried to reassure ourselves by the reflection, that,
where so large a stream could pass, there must certainly be room
enough for a road, yet, it must be confessed, we wound down the hill
of El Portillo to Caridad with spirits much depressed. Moreover, a
drizzling rain set in before we reached the village, and clouds and
vapor settled down gloomily on the surrounding hills and mountains,
rendering us altogether more dismal than we had been since leaving
New York. We rode up to the _cabildo_ of Caridad in silence, and
fortunately found it new, neat, and comfortable, with cover for our
mules, ample facilities for cooking, and an abundance of dry wood for
a fire, now rendered necessary to comfort by the damp, and the
proximity of high mountains. Fortunately, also, we experienced no
difficulty in getting fodder for our animals and food for
ourselves,--a bright-eyed Senora, wife of the principal _alcalde_,
volunteering to send us freshly baked and crisp _tortillas_, which
were brought to us hot, in the folds of the whitest of napkins. After
dinner and coffee, and under the genial influences of a fire of the
pitch-pine, which gave us both light and heat, our spirits returned,
and we did not refuse a hearty laugh, when H. read from a dingy
paper, which he found sticking on the wall of the _cabildo_, the
report of the day's transactions on the Caridad Exchange, "marked by
a great and sudden decline in railway shares, caused by the timidity
of holders, and by an equally sudden reaction, occasioned by two
dozen of soft-boiled eggs and a peck of _tortillas_."

Caridad is a neat little town, of about three hundred inhabitants,
situated on a level plateau nearly surrounded by high mountains,--the
valley of the river, both above and below, being reduced to its
narrowest limits. To the northeastward of the town, and on a shelf of
the Lepaterique Mountains, which rise abruptly in that direction, and
are covered with pine forests to their summits, is distinctly visible
the Indian town of Lauterique,--its position indicating clearly that
it had been selected with reference to defensive purposes. We had
seen its white church from El Portillo, looking like a point of
silver on the dark green slope of the mountain.

Rain fell heavily during the night; but the morning broke bright and
clear. The increased roar of the river, however, made known to us
that it was greatly swollen, and when we walked down to its brink we
found it a rapid and angry torrent, with its volume of water more
than double that of the previous day. This was not an encouraging
circumstance; for we had learned, that, if we intended following up
the stream, instead of making a grand _detour_ over the mountains, it
would be necessary to ford the river, about a mile above the town.
All advised us against attempting the passage. _"Manana_,"
(Tomorrow,) they said, would do as well, and we had better wait.
Meanwhile the waters would subside. Nobody had ever attempted the
passage after such a storm; and the river was _"muy bravo"_ (very
angry). I have said that all advised us against moving; but I should
except the second _alcalde_, who had taken a great fancy to us, and
wanted to enter our service. His dignity did not rebel at the
position of _arriero_ or muleteer; any place would suit him, so that
we would agree to take him finally to "El Norte,"--for such is the
universal designation of the United States among the people of
Central America. He shared in none of the fears of his townsmen, and
told them, that, fortunately, all the world was not as timid as
themselves, and wound up by volunteering to accompany us and get us
across. We gladly accepted his offer, and started out with the least
possible delay. I need not say that we made rather an anxious party.
The unpromising observations of the preceding day, and the
possibilities of the mountains' closing down on the river so as to
forbid a passage, were uppermost in every mind; but all sought to
hide their real feelings under an affectation of cheerfulness, not to
say of absolute gayety. As we advanced, and rounded the hills which
shut in the little _plateau_ of Caridad on the north, we saw that the
high lateral mountains sent down their rocky spurs towards each other
like huge buttresses, lapping by, and, so far as the eye could
discern, forming a complete and insurmountable barrier. Over the brow
of one of these, a zigzag streak of white marked the line of the
mule-path. Our guide traced it out to us with his finger, and assured
us that it traversed a bad _portillo_, over which the wind sometimes
sweeps with such force as to take a loaded mule off his feet, and
dash him down the steep sides of the mountain. Half a mile of level
ground still intervened between us and the apparent limit of our
advance, and we trotted over it in silence, pulling up on the abrupt
bank of the deep trough of the river, which foamed and chafed among
the great boulders in its bed, and against its rocky shores, nearly a
hundred feet below us. A break-neck path wound down to a little
sandpit; and on the opposite side of the stream another path wound
up, in like manner, to a narrow _plateau_, on which stood a single
hut, with its surroundings of plantain-trees and maize-fields. I
looked anxiously up the stream, but a sudden bend, a few hundred
yards above, shut off the view; and there the flinty buttresses of
the mountain rose sheer and frowning, perpendicularly from the
water's edge.

The eyes of the Lieutenant had followed mine, and we exchanged a
glance which expressed as plainly as words, that, unless the
mountain-spur which projected into the bend of the river should prove
sufficiently narrow to be tunnelled, or should fall off so as to
admit of a side-cutting in the rock, our project might be regarded as
at an end. To determine that point was our next and most important
step. Down the steep descent, scrambling amongst rocks and bushes,
where it seemed a goat would hardly dare to venture,--down we plunged
to the water's edge. Here the stream was not less than a hundred
yards broad, flowing over a rocky bed full of rolling stones and
boulders, with a velocity which it seemed impossible for man or beast
to stem. But our _alcalde_ was equal to the emergency.

Stripping himself naked, he took a long pole shod with iron, which
seemed to be kept here for the purpose, and started out boldly into
the stream, for the purpose of making a preliminary survey of the
line of passage. Planting his pole firmly down the stream, so as to
support himself against the current, he cautiously advanced, step by
step, "prospecting" the bottom with his feet, so as to ascertain the
shallowest ford, and that freest from rocks and stones. Sometimes he
slipped into deep holes and disappeared beneath the surface, but be
always recovered himself, and went on with his work with the greatest
deliberation and composure. After crossing and recrossing the river
in this manner three or four times, he succeeded in fixing on a
serpentine line, where the water, except for a few yards near the
opposite bank, was only up to his shoulders, and which he pronounced
_"muy factible"_ (very feasible).

"But, _amigo"_ exclaimed H., in an excited tone, "you forget that you
are six feet high, and that I am but five feet five!"

_"No hay cuidado!"_ (Have no care!) was the reassuring reply of the
alcalde, as he slapped his broad chest with his open palm; _"soy
responsable!"_ (I am responsible!)

The mules were now unsaddled, and the trunks taken over, one by one,
on the _alcalde's_ head. Next, the animals were forced into the
water, and, after vehement flounderings, now swimming, now stumbling
over rolling stones, they were finally, bruised and bleeding and the
forlornest of animals, got across in safety. Next came our turn, and
I led the way, with a thong fastened around my body below the
armpits, and attached, in like manner, to our stalwart _alcalde_.
Long before we reached the middle of the stream, notwithstanding I
carried a large stone under each arm by way of ballast, I was swept
from my feet out to the length of my tether, and thus towed over by
our guide. When all were snugly across, the laughter was loud and
long over the ridiculous figure which everybody had cut in
everybody's eyes, except his own. H. immortalized the transit in what
the French call _un croquis_, but it would hardly bear reproduction
in the pages of a narrative so staid as this.

Intent on determining, with the least possible delay, the important
question, whether the mountains really opposed an insurmountable
obstacle to our project, I left my companions and Dolores to resaddle
and get under way at their leisure, and pushed ahead with the
_alcalde_. Striking off from the mule-path, we climbed up, among
loose rocks and dwarf-trees and bushes, to the top of the mountain.
My excitement gave me unwonted vigor, and my sturdy guide, streaming
with perspiration long before we reached the summit, prayed me, "in
the name of all the saints," to moderate my rate of speed, and give
him a _trago_ of Cognac. My suspense was not of long duration; for,
on reaching the crest of the eminence, I found that we were indeed on
a narrow spur, easily tunnelled, or readily turned by galleries in
the rock, and that, beyond, the country opened out again in a broad
table-land sloping gently from the north, and traversed nearly in its
centre by the gorge of the river. The break in the Cordilleras was
now distinct, and I could look quite through it, and see the blue
peaks of the mountains on the Atlantic slope of the continent. A
single glance sufficed to disclose all this to my eager vision, and
the next instant six rapid shots from my revolver conveyed the
intelligence to my companions, who were toiling up the narrow
mule-path, half a mile to my right. The _Teniente_ dismounted, evidently
with the intention of joining us, but soon got back again into his
saddle,--having experienced, as H. explained, "a sudden recurrence of

Rejoining my companions, I dismissed our guide with a reward which
surprised him, and we pursued our way to the _Portillo_. This name is
given to the point where the path, after winding up the side of the
mountain half-way to its summit, suddenly turns round its brow, and
commences its descent. It is a narrow shelf, in some places scarcely
more than a foot wide, rudely worked in the living rock, which falls
off below in a steep and almost precipitous descent to the river; and
although it did not quite realize the idea we had formed of it from
the description of our guide, it was sufficiently pokerish to inspire
the most daring mountaineer with caution. At any rate, most of our
party dismounted, preferring to lead their mules around the point to
having their heads turned in riding past it. Exposed to the full
force of the winds, which are drawn through this river-valley as
through a funnel, and with a foothold so narrow, it was easy to
believe that neither man nor beast could pass here during the season
of the northers, except at great risk of being dashed down the

A little beyond the _Portillo_, the road diverges from the valley
proper of the river, and is carried over an undulating country to the
village of San Antonio del Norte, finely situated on a grassy plain,
of considerable extent, a dependency of the valley of the Goascoran.
We had intended stopping here for the night; but the _cabildo_ was
already filled with a motley crowd of _arrieros_ and others on their
way to San Miguel. A tall _mestizo_, covered with ulcers, sat in the
doorway, and two or three culprits extended their claw-like hands
towards us through the bars of their cage and invoked alms in the
name of the Virgin and all things sacred. We therefore contented
ourselves with a lunch under the corridor of a neighboring house,
and, notwithstanding it was late in the afternoon, pressed forward
towards the little Indian town of San Juan, three leagues distant.

It was a long and rough and weary way, and as night fell without any
sign of a village in front, we began to have a painful suspicion that
we had lost our road,--if a narrow mule-path, often scarcely
traceable, can be dignified by that name. So we stopped short, to
allow a man on foot, whom we had observed following on our track for
half an hour, to come up. He proved to be a bright-eyed, good-natured
Indian, who addressed us as _"Vuestras Mercedes_," and who informed
us not only that we were on the right road to San Juan, but also that
he himself belonged there and was now on his way home.

"Good, _amigo!_--but how far is it?"

_"Hay no mas"_ (There is no more,) was the consoling response.

"But where is the town?"

_"Alla!"_ (There!)

And he threw his hand forward, and projected his lips in the
direction he sought to indicate,--a mode of indication, I may add,
almost universal in Central America, and explicable only on the
assumption that it costs less effort than to raise the hand.

Our new friend was communicative, and told us that he had been all
the way to Caridad to bring a priest to San Juan, _"para hacer cosas
de familia_," (to attend to family affairs,) which he explained as
meaning "to marry, baptize, and catechize." The people of San Juan,
he added, were too poor to keep a priest of their own; they couldn't
pay enough; and, moreover, their women were all old and ugly. And he
indulged in a knowing wink and chuckle.

Meantime we had kept on our course, and it had become quite dark;
still there was no sign of the village,--not even the flicker of
lights or the barking of dogs.

"What did the fellow say about the distance?" inquired H., angrily.

"That there was no more distance."

"Ask him again; he couldn't have understood you."

_"Amigo_, where is your village? You said just now that it was close

_"Hay no masita, Senor!"_

"What's that?"

"He says that the distance was nothing before, and is still less

"Bah! he's a fool!" Half an hour later, which to H.'s indignant
imagination seemed an age, we reached the top of a high ridge, and
saw the first glimmer of the lights of the village, on the farther
edge of a broad plain, a mile and a half distant.

_"Estamos aqui!"_ (Here we are!) exclaimed our guide, triumphantly.

Our mules pricked forward their ears at the welcome sight, and we
trotted briskly over the plain, and, as usual, straight to the
_cabildo_,--a newly constructed edifice of canes plastered with mud,
but, for a tropical country, suffering under the slight defect of
having no windows or aperture for ventilation besides the door. The
drum brought us the most attentive of _alguazils_, and we fared by no
means badly in San Juan; that is to say, we had plenty of milk and

When supper was over, H. lighted a pine splinter, and put on record
his "Observations on the Standard of Measurement in Honduras," which
I am allowed to copy for the information of travellers.

"Distances here are computed by what may be called Long Measure.
League is a vague term, and, like _x_ in an algebraic equation,
stands for an unknown quantity. It may mean ten miles, more or
less,--any distance, in fact, over five miles. The unit of measure,
as fixed by law, is _estamos aqui_, (here we are,) which is a mile
and a half; _hay no masita_ (a little less than nothing) is five
miles; _hay no mas_ (there is no more) is ten miles; and _muy cerca_
(very near) is a hard day's journey. As regards spirituous liquors, a
_trago_ of brandy, or 'a drink,' is whatever may be in the bottle, be
the same large or small, and the quantity more or less."

San Juan is insignificant in point of size, but its population seems
to be well to do in the world, in the relative sense in which that
term is to be interpreted in Central America. Here we found that the
river forks,--the principal branch, however, which retains the name
of Goascoran, still preserving its general course north and south.
The smaller branch, called Rio de San Juan, descends from high
mountains to the westward, having its rise, we were told, near the
secluded Indian _pueblos_ of Similaton and Opotoro. We found the
elevation of San Juan to be nine hundred feet above the sea,--an
altitude sufficiently great, combined with the proximity of the
Cordilleras, to give it a generally cool and delightful climate. The
change in temperature from that of the sea-coast, however, is less
marked than the change in scenery and vegetation. It is true, we find
the ever-graceful palm, the orange, plantain, and other tropical
fruit-trees; but the country is no longer loaded down with forests.
It spreads out before the traveller in a succession of swelling hills
and level savannas, clothed with grass, and clumped over with pines,
and miniature parks of deciduous trees, sufficiently open to permit
cattle and horsemen to roam freely in every direction. During the dry
season, however, this open region becomes dry and parched, and the
traveller passing over it then would be apt to pronounce the whole
country sterile and without cultivation. But in little lateral
valleys and _coves_ among the mountains, sheltered from the sun, and
watered by springs or running streams, there are many plantations of
sugar-cane, maize, rice, and other standard products of the tropics,
of unsurpassed luxuriance. We sometimes came on these green places
unexpectedly, far away from any habitation, and all the more gem-like
and beautiful from their rough setting of sere savanna and rugged

We left San Juan early in the morning, crossing to the left bank of
the river, still a noble stream, a hundred and fifty feet broad, and
pure as crystal. A government _tambo_, or _rancho_, opposite the
town, on the bank, indicated that even here the river was sometimes
unfordable. Hence the construction of this public shelter for
travellers obliged to wait for the subsidence of the waters. These
government _ranchos_ are common on all the roads, in the less
populous parts of the country, or where the towns are widely
separated, and are the refuge of the wayfarer benighted or overtaken
by a storm in his journey. They seldom consist of more than four
forked posts planted in the ground, supporting a roof of _paja_ or
thatch. Occasionally one or two sides are wattled up with canes, or
closed with poles placed closely together. They are usually built
where some spring or stream furnishes a supply of water, and where
there is an open patch of pasturage; and although they afford nothing
beyond shelter, they are always welcome retreats to the weary or
belated traveller. For one, I generally preferred stopping in them to
passing the night in the little villages, where the _cabildos_ are
often dirty and infested with fleas, and where a horrible concert is
kept up by the lean and mangy curs which throughout Central America
disgrace the respectable name of dog. In fact, a large part of the
romance and many of the pleasantest recollections of our adventures
in Honduras are connected with these rude shelters, and with the long
nights which we passed in them, far away in dark valleys, or on
mountain-crests, but always amongst Nature's deepest solitudes.

After crossing the river, our path, with the perversity of all
Spanish roads, instead of following up the valley of the stream,
diverged widely to the right through a cluster or knot of hills, in
which we were involved until we reached a rapid stream called Rio
Guanupalapa, flowing through a narrow gorge, over a wild mass of
stones and boulders. Here we breakfasted, picturesquely enough, and,
resuming our course, soon emerged from the hilly labyrinth on a
series of terraces, falling off like steps to the river on our left.
They had been burned over, and the young grass was sprouting up,
under the freshening influence of the early rain, in a carpet of
translucent green. At a distance of four leagues from San Juan, after
descending from terrace to terrace, we again reached the river, now
flowing through a valley three hundred yards broad, and about fifty
feet below the general level of the adjacent _plateau_. Here we found
another fork in the stream: the principal body of water descending,
as before, from the right, and called Rio Rancho Grande; the smaller
stream, on the left, bearing the name of Rio Chaguiton; and the two
forming the Rio Goascoran. Half a mile beyond the ford is a
collection of three or four huts, called Rancho Grande. Here we
stopped to determine our position. We were now at the foot of the
"divide," and close to the pass, if such existed, of which we were in
search. Immediately in front rose a high peak, destitute of trees,
which the people called _El Volcan_. It had deep breaks or valleys on
either side, evidently those of the streams to which I have alluded.
Outside of these, the mountains, six or eight thousand feet in
height, swept round in a majestic curve. Were there, then, two passes
through the Cordilleras, separated by the conical peak of El Volcan?
or did the great valley of the Goascoran divide here, only to waste
itself away in narrow gorges, leaving a summit too high to be
traversed except by mountain mules?

Strange to say, the occupants of the huts at Rancho Grande could give
us no information on these points, but to all our inquiries only
answered, _"Quien sabe?"_ (Who knows?)--and pointed out to us the
line of the mule-path, winding over the intervening hills and along
the flank of El Volcan. Up to this time we had had comparatively
small experience, and did not quite understand, what we afterwards
came to know too well, that a Spanish road is perfect only when it
runs over the highest and roughest ground that by any possibility may
be selected between two given points.

We did not waste much time with the people of Rancho Grande, but
urged on our mules as rapidly as possible. Turning abruptly to the
right and leaving the _plateau_ behind us, we advanced straight up
the high ridge intervening between the two valleys, and thence in a
zigzag course to the foot of El Volcan, a mass of igneous rock,
protruded through the horizontal sandstone strata,--the gradual
recession of which gives to the country the terraced character to
which I have so often alluded. Leaving our mules here, H. and myself
clambered up amongst rough and angular rocks, strewn in wildest
disorder, to the bare and rugged summit of El Volcan. From this
commanding position the view was unobstructed all the way back to the
Pacific. The whole valley of the river, and line of our
_reconnaissance_, the _Portillo_ of Caridad, the Rock of Goascoran,
the Volcano of Conchagua, and the high islands of the Bay of Fonseca,
were all included in the view. Rancho Grande and the fork of the
river appeared at our feet; and on the right hand and the left,
extending upwards in nearly parallel directions, were the deep
valleys of the rivers Rancho Grande and Chaguiton,--that of the
former clothed with pines, while that of the latter presented only a
succession of savannas, with here and there a group of forest-trees.
Our view to the northward, however, was obstructed by hills and
forests, and our ascent of El Volcan failed to give us a view of the
Pass, which we knew must now be near at hand. We descended,
therefore, and resumed our course,--anxiously, it is true, but with
few of the serious misgivings which had beset us at Caridad.

The path wound around the base of El Volcan, on the level terrace or
shelf from which it springs. As we advanced, we could distinctly
perceive that the valley to our right rose gradually, with a gentle,
but constant grade. At a distance of three miles it had nearly
reached the level of the terrace along which we rode, and at the end
of our fourth mile the terrace and the valley merged into each other,
and the mule-path dipping into the waters of the stream, now reduced
to a sparkling brook, resumed its direction on the opposite bank. We
stopped here, in a natural park of tall pines, and lunched beneath
their shade, drinking only the cool, clear water which murmured among
the mossy stones at our feet. We needed no artificial stimulus; our
spirits were high and buoyant; we had almost traced the
Goascoran to its source; half an hour more must bring us to its
fountain-head,--and then? We knew not exactly what then; but one
thing was certain, that nothing in the form of a hill or mountain
obstructed our advance, for the light, reflected from a clear sky,
streamed horizontally between the tree-trunks in front, while on either
hand the vistas were dark, and the outlines of gigantic mountains could be
discerned towering to mid-heaven.

Half a mile farther on, crossing in the interval a number of little
tributary streams, we came where the pines were more scattered; they
soon disappeared, and we emerged upon an open glade or natural
meadow. A high mountain, dark with forests, rose on our right; on the
left was a long range of grassy hills; but in front all was clear! A
government _rancho_, built under the shade of a couple of tall
fruit-trees, stood in the middle of the savanna, and on its farther edge
were the cane buildings of a cattle-_hacienda_, just visible through
the wealth of plantain-trees by which they were surrounded, while the
cattle themselves were dotted over the intervening space, cropping
the young grass, which here looked brighter and fresher than in the
valley below. Impulsively my mule pricked her ears forward, and broke
into a rapid trot. Soon she stepped across the stream, which we had
followed to its birthplace, now reduced to a trickling rivulet
stealing out from a spring, "an eye of water," (_ojo de agua_,) coyly
hidden away under a clump of trees draped with evergreen vines at the
foot of the neighboring hills. I knew that we were at the "summit";
the faint swell of the savanna, scarcely perceptible to the eye,
which supported the government _rancho_, it was clear, was the
highest point between the two great oceans, and the cool breeze which
fanned our foreheads was the expiring breath of the trade-winds
coming all the way from the Bay of Honduras! My mule halted at the
_rancho_; I threw the bridle over her neck, and went forward on foot;
but I had not proceeded a hundred paces before my attention was
arrested by the cheerful murmur of another little stream, also
descending from the foot of the mountain at our right,--but this
time, after traversing half the width of the savanna, it turned away
suddenly to the north, and with a merry dash and sparkling leap
started off on its journey to the Atlantic! In that direction,
however, a forest of tall pines still shut off the view, and it was
not until I reached the summit of one of the lateral hills that I
could look over and beyond them. Then, for the first time, I saw the
great plain of Comayagua, at a level some hundreds of feet below us,
spreading away for a distance of forty miles, in a rich succession of
savannas and cultivated grounds, dotted with villages, and
intersected by dark waving lines of forest, marking the courses of
the various streams that traverse it like the veins on an out-spread
hand. At its northeastern extremity, its white walls now gleaming
like silver in the sunlight, and anon subdued and distant under the
shadow of a passing cloud, was the city of Comayagua, unmistakable,
from its size, but especially from the imposing mass of its
cathedral, as the principal town of the plain, and the capital of the
Republic. Circling around this great plain, and, with the exception
of only a narrow opening at its northern extremity, literally
shutting it in like an amphitheatre, is a cincture of mountains,
rising to the height of from three to six thousand feet,--a fitting
frame-work for so grand a picture.

I returned slowly to the _rancho_, where my companions were preparing
our encampment, and communicated to them the result of my
observations. Singularly enough, there was no excitement; even H.
forgot to inquire "what was the price of stock." But we took our
dinner in calm satisfaction,--if four _tortillas_, three eggs, six
onions, and a water-melon, the total results of Dolores's foraging
expedition to the cattle-_hacienda_, equally divided between eight
hungry men, can be called a dinner.

We spent the evening, a good part of the night, and the next day
until afternoon, in determining our position and altitude, and in
various explorations in both directions from the summit. We found
that we were distant seventy-eight miles in a right line from La
Union, and (barometrically) 2958 feet above mean-tide in the Pacific.
We afterwards ascertained that the hut in which we passed the night
is called Rancho Chiquito, and that name was accordingly given to
this summit, and to the Pass, as distinguished from another break
through the mountains, to the westward, which we subsequently
discovered and designated as the Pass of Guajoca.

After Rancho Chiquito, the first town which is reached in the plain
of Comayagua, entering it from this direction, is Lamani,--a small
village, it is true, but delightfully situated in an open meadow,
relieved only by fruit-trees and the stems of the _nopal_ or palmated
cactus, which here grows to a gigantic size, frequently reaching the
height of twenty or thirty feet. The _cabildo_ was in a state of
extreme dilapidation, and we called on the first _alcalde_ for better
accommodations. He took us to the house of the _padre_, who was away
from home, and installed us there. It was the best house in the
place, whitewashed, and painted with figures of trees, men, animals,
and birds, all in red ochre, and in a style of art truly archaic. The
_padre's_ two servants, an old woman and her boy, were the sole
occupants of the establishment, and did not appear at all delighted
to see us. According to their account, there was nothing in the
house to eat; they had no _tortillas_, no eggs, no chickens,
_"absolutamente nada"_ (absolutely nothing). All this was affirmed
with the greatest gravity, while a dozen fat fowls were distinctly
visible through the open doorway, perched, for the night, among the
bare limbs of the _jocote_ trees in the court-yard. I pointed them
out to the old woman, and, producing a handful of silver, told her
that we were willing to pay for such as we required.

_"Pero no puedo venderles_." (But I can't sell them.)


_"No puedo"_

Dolores meantime took a stick, knocked three of the finest from their
perches, and quietly wrung their necks. I expected to see the old
dame swoon away, or at least go off in a paroxysm of tears; but,
instead of committing any such civilized folly, she silently took up
her slaughtered innocents, dressed and cooked them, and thanked me
profoundly for the _medio_ each, which I handed her next morning. The
lesson was not lost on us, in our subsequent travels; for we found it
almost universal, that the lower classes are utterly indisposed to
sell their domestic commodities. Their services may be purchased; but
their chickens are above price. When, however, you have helped
yourself, you are astonished to find how ridiculously small a sum
will heal the wound you have made and atone for the loss you have

From Lamani to Comayagua the road is direct, over a slightly
undulating plain, subsiding gently to the north, and traversed nearly
in its centre by the Rio Hanuya, fed by numerous tributaries falling
from the mountains on either hand. We forded it at a distance of ten
miles from Lamani, and were surprised to find it already a large and
deep stream, frequently impassable for days and weeks together,
during the season of rains. Half a mile beyond the ford we came to
the Villa de San Antonio, a considerable place, and, next to the
capital itself and the town of Las Piedras, the largest in the plain.
Here we stopped at the house of the first _alcalde_, who gave us a
cordial reception, and an ample dinner, in a civilized fashion,--that
is to say, we had veritable plates, and knives and forks withal.

In Central America, curiosity is unchecked by our conventional laws,
and the traveller soon ceases to be surprised at any of its
manifestations, however extraordinary. When, therefore, a couple of
dozen spectators, of all ages and both sexes, invaded the house of
our host, and huddled around us while eating, we were in no degree
astonished, but continued our meal as if unconscious of their
presence. One yellow dame, however, was determined not to be ignored,
and insisted on speaking English, of which she had a vocabulary of
four or five words, picked up in her intercourse with American
sailors at the port of Truxillo. We were hungry, and did not much
heed her; whereupon she disappeared, as if piqued, but soon returned
with what she evidently regarded as an irresistible appeal to our
interest, in the shape of a blue-eyed, flaxen-haired child, perhaps
three years old, perfectly naked, but which she placed triumphantly
on the table before us.

_"Mira estos caballeros! son paisanos tuyos, ninito!"_ (See these
gentlemen, child! they are your countrymen!)

"Yes!" ejaculated the brat, to the infinite entertainment of the
spectators, none of whom appeared to discover the slightest
impropriety in the proceeding.

Of course, we had not come all the way to the Villa de San Antonio to
set up our standard of what is moral or amusing; so we laughed also,
and asked the mother to give us the history of the phenomenon. It was
given without circumlocution; and we learned, in most direct phrase,
that Captain ---- of ----, who traded to Truxillo, was responsible
for this early effort towards what H. called "the enlightenment of
the country." So far from feeling ashamed of her _escapade_ with the
Captain, the mother gloried in it, and rather affected a social
superiority over her less fortunate neighbors, in consequence. It is,
however, but right to say, that the freedom with which matters of
this sort are talked about in Central America does not necessarily
imply that the people at large are less virtuous than in other
countries. _Honi soit qui mal y pense_ is a motto universally acted
on; legs are called legs; and even the most delicate relations and
complaints are spoken of and discussed without the slightest attempt
at concealment or periphrasis. It is no doubt true, that marriage is
far from general among the middle and lower classes; and a woman may
live with a man in open concubinage without serious detriment to her
character or position, so long as she remains faithful to him.[1] It
is only when she becomes "light o' love" and indiscriminate in her
conduct, that she is avoided and despised. And although the remark
may sound strangely to American ears, I have no question that this
left-hand compact, on the whole, is here quite as well kept as the
vows which have secured the formal sanction of the law and the

[Footnote 1: But few statistics relating to this subject are in
existence; but those few quite bear out these observations. According
to the official returns of the District of Amatitlan in Guatemala,
the whole number of births in that Department for the year 1858 was
1394, of which 581 were illegitimate!]

[To be continued.]


How do _you_ know what the cow may know,
As under the tasselled bough she lies,
When earth is a-beat with the life below,
When the orient mornings redden and glow,
When the silent butterflies come and go,--
The dreamy cow with the Juno eyes?

How do _you_ know that she may not know
That the meadow all over is lettered, "Love,"
Or hear the mystic syllable low
In the grasses' growth and the waters' flow?
How do _you_ know that she may not know
What the robin sings on the twig above?

[Footnote: See "The Poet's Friends,"
_Atlantic Monthly_, vol. v., p. 185.]


There is a moral or a lesson to be found in the life of almost every
man, the chief duty of a biographer being to set forth and illustrate
this; and a history of the commonest individual, if written truly,
could not fail to be interesting to his fellows; for the feelings and
aspirations of men are pretty much alike all the world over, and the
elements of genius not very unequally distributed through the mass of
mankind,--the thing itself being a development due to circumstances,
very probably, as much as to anything singular in the man. But there
are few good biographies extant; the writers, for the most part,
contenting themselves with superficial facts, refusing or unable to
follow the mind and motive powers of the subject,--or following these
imperfectly. For this reason, they who would read the truest kind of
biographies must turn to those written by men of themselves,--that
is, the autobiographies; and these are, in fact, found to be among
the most attractive specimens of literature in our language, or any

The life of any man is more or less of a mystery to other men, and
one who would write it effectively must have been intimate with him
from his youth onward. When the biography is that of a man of genius,
the difficulty is greatly increased, even to the writer who has been
his life-long familiar; for genius, by the necessity of its being,
implies a departure in a variety of ways from the thoughts and rules
of that regulated existence which is most favorable to the progress
and welfare of men in the mass,--at least, as these are generally
understood. But if the life-long intimacy be wanting in this
instance, the task of the writer is the most difficult of all, and
almost always a failure,--save in some rare case, where the writer
and his subject have been men of a similar stamp.

Few biographies are written by the life-intimates of the dead. In
most instances they are composed as tasks or duties by comparative
strangers; or if now and then by the friends or associates of the
subject, these are very likely the observers of only a part of his
life, the _seri studiorum_ of his latter or middle career, and
unacquainted with that period when the strong lines of character are
formed and the mental tendencies fixed. Boswell's "Life of Johnson"
is considered one of the best performances of its kind in our
language; but it is, after all, only half a biography, as it were. We
have the pensioned and petted life of the rough and contemptuous man
of genius,--whose great renown in English literature, by-the-by, is
owing far more to that garrulous admirer of his than to his own
works,--but we have little or nothing about those days of study or
struggle when he taught and flogged little boys, or felt all the
contumely excited by his shabby habiliments, or knocked down his
publisher, or slept at night with a hungry stomach on a bulkhead in
the company of the poor poet Savage. All the racier and stronger part
of the man's history is slurred over. No doubt he would not encourage
any prying into it, and neither cared to remember it himself nor
wished others to do so. He had a sensitive horror of having his life
written by an ignorant or unfriendly biographer, and even spoke of
the justice of taking such a person's life by anticipation, as they
tell us. Others, feeling a similar horror, and some of them conscious
of the enmities they should leave behind them, have themselves
written the obscurer portions of their own lives, like Hume, Gibbon,
Gifford, Scott, Moore, Southey. These men must have felt, that, even
at best, and with the fairest intentions, the task of the biographer
is full of difficulties, and open to mistakes, uncertainties, and
false conclusions without number.

The autobiographies are the best biographies. No doubt, self-love and
some cowardly sensitiveness will operate on a man in speaking of his
own doings; but all such drawbacks will still leave his narrative far
more trustworthy, as regards the truth of character, than that of any
other man: and this is more emphatically the case in proportion to
the genius of the writer; for genius is naturally bold and true, the
antipodes of anything like hypocrisy, and prone to speak out,--if it
were but in defiance of hatred or misrepresentation, even though the
better and more philosophic spirit were wanting. We should have
better and more instructive autobiographies, if distinguished men
were not deterred by the self-denying ordinance so generally
accepted, that it is not becoming in any one to speak frankly of
himself or his own convictions. We have no longer any of the strong,
wayward egotists,--the St. Augustines, the Montaignes, the Rousseaus,
the Mirabeaus, the Byrons; even the Cobbetts have died out. But the
Carlyles and the Emersons preserve amongst us still the evidences of
a stronger time.

There are two sorts of biographies, which may be described, in a
rough way, as biographies of thought and biographies of action. It
may not be a very difficult thing, perhaps, to write the life of a
politician or a general, or even of a statesman or a great soldier.
At any rate, the history of such a one is an easy matter, compared
with that of a mere man of thought, of a man of genius. In the former
case, we have the marked events, which are, as it were, the
stepping-stones of biography,--events belonging to the narrative of the
time,--and the individual receives a reflected light from many men
and things. Dates and facts make the task of statement or commentary
more easy to the writer, and his work more interesting to the general
reader. But the case of the mere thinker, the man of inaction, whose
sphere of achievement is for the most part a little room, and who
produces his effects in a great measure in silence or solitude, is a
very different one. The names of his publications, the dates of them,
the number of them, the publisher's price for them, the critic's
opinion of them, are meagre facts for the biographer; and if the man
of genius be a man of quiet, sequestered life, the record of it will
be only the more uninteresting to the reader. It is only when
something painful has been suffered, something eccentric done and
misunderstood and denounced or derided, that the biography rouses the
languid interest of the public. Indeed, so imperfect and false are
the plan and style of the literary biographies, that such opprobria
are, as it were, necessary to them,--necessary stimulants of
attention, and necessary shades of what would otherwise be a
monotonous and ineffective picture; and thus the unlucky men of
letters suffer posthumously for the stupidity of others as well as
their faults or divergencies. When biographers have not facts, they
are not unwilling to make use of fallacies: they set down "elephants
for want of towns." Dean Swift is a case in point. Society has
avenged itself by calumniating the man who spat upon its hypocrisies
and rascalities; and to appease the wounded feelings of the world, he
is attractively set down as a savage and a tyrant. Mr. Thackeray and
others find such a verdict artistically suitable to their criticisms
or their narratives, (a French author has written a romantic book
about the Dean and Stella,) and so the man is still depicted and
explained as the slayer of two poor innocent women, a sort of
clerical Bluebeard, and the horrid ogre who proposed to kill and eat
the fat Irish babies. Thackeray's plan of dissertation, indeed, was
inconsistent with any displacing or disturbing of the preconceived
notions; the success of it was, on the contrary, to be built upon the
customary old impressions of the subject. Everybody is pleased to
find his own idea in Thackeray, liking it all the better for the
graphic way in which it is set forth and illustrated; and the result
shows the shrewd artistic judgment of the critic, who apparently
(especially in the Dean's case) understands his readers rather better
than his theme. As for Swift,--though a fair knowledge of the man may
be gleaned from the several biographies of him that we have, his life
has not yet been fairly written and interpreted; and we believe the
same may be said of most literary men of genius.

It must certainly be said of Shelley,--and this brings us to the
beginning of our remarks. Not one man in ten thousand would be
capable of writing the life of that poet as it should be
written,--even supposing the biographer were one of his intimate friends.
Shelley went entirely away from the ranks of society,--farther away
than Byron, and was a man harder to be understood by the generality
of men. An autobiography of such a man was more needed than that of
any other; but we could not expect an autobiography from Shelley. He
felt nothing but pain and sorrow in the retrospect of his life, and,
like Byron, shrank from the task of explaining the mixture of self-will,
injustice, falsehood, and impetuous defiance that made up the
greater part of his history; and when he died, he left everything at
sixes and sevens, as regarded his place and acts in the world.
Accordingly, until lately, no one ventured forward with a biography
of the departed poet, who has been for more than a generation looked
on, as it were, through the medium of two lights: one, that of his
poetry, which represents him as the loftiest and gentlest of minds;
and the other, the imperfect notices of his life, which show him
forth a cruel, headstrong, and reckless outlaw,--hooted at,
anathematized, (and by his own father first,) driven out, like a
leper in the Middle Ages, and deprived of the care of his children.
In his case, however, the tendency to dwell upon and bring out the
darker traits of biography does not exhibit itself in any remarkable
way; and, on the whole, Shelley's character wears a mild and retiring
rather than a defiant or fiendish aspect. The world is inclined to
make allowances for him, on account of his beautiful poetry; and this
is something of the justice which, on other grounds also, is probably
due to him. Still, nobody has come forward to write his biography as
it should be written; and we are yet to seek for the illustrated
moral of a sensitive, unaccommodating, and impulsive being, rebelling
against the rules of life and the general philosophy of his
fellow-creatures, and shrinking with a shy, uncomprehended pride from the
companionship of society. Shelley's disposition was a marked and rare
one, but there is nothing of the riddle in it; for thousands, of his
temperament, may always be found going strangely through the world,
here and there, and the interpretation of such a character could be
made extremely interesting, and even instructive, by any one capable
of comprehending it.


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