Tramping Through Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras
Harry A. Franck

Part 3 out of 4

second-class because there was no fourth.

It may be that the biography which pieced itself unconsciously together
as he talked needs a sprinkle of salt here and there, but it all had the
earmarks of veracity. He was a Briton, once a surgeon in the British
army, with the rank of captain, saw service with Roberts in Egypt, and
was with Kitchener at the relief of Khartum. Later he served in India
with the Scotch Grays. He looked the part, and had, moreover, the accent
and scars to go with it. Glimpses through his conversation into the
background beyond suggested he had since been in most parts of the
world. He liked Argentina best and the United States least, as a place
of residence. Practising as a physician and oculist, he had amassed a
moderate fortune, all of which he had lost, together with his wife and
child, and possibly a bit of his own wits, in the flood of Monterey.
Since that catastrophe he had had no other ambition than to earn enough
to drift on through life. With neither money nor instruments left, he
took to teaching English to the wealthier class of Mexicans in various
parts of the country, now in mission schools, now as private tutor. A
Methodist institution in Querétaro had dispensed with his services
because he protested against an order to make life unpleasant to those
boys who did not respond with their spending money to a daily call for
alms at the morning assembly. Six months ago he had drifted into a
little town near San Marcos, wearing the title of "professor," and got
together a class of private pupils, chief among them three daughters of
a wealthy hacendado. Rebels came one day and in the exuberance that
follows a full meal long delayed, with pulque embroidery, one of them
fired two shots through the window not far from his venerable British
head. The "professor" picked up a two-foot mahogany ruler, marched out
into the plaza and, rapping the startled rebel over the skull, took his
rifle away from him and turned it over to the delighted jefe
político. From then on his future seemed assured, for if the rest of the
town was poor, the hacendado's wealth was only rivaled by his daughters'
longing for English.

But life is a sad proposition at best. On the Monday preceding our
meeting the "professor" sat with his pupils in the shade of the broad
hacienda veranda when he saw two priests wandering toward the house
"like Jews with a pack of clothing to sell." "It's all up with the
Swede," he told himself according to his own testimony. The prophecy
proved only too true. The padres had come to order that the three
daughters be god-mothers to the "Cristo" (in the form of a gaudy doll)
that was to be "born" in the town on Christmas eve and paraded to the
cathedral of Puebla. As their ticket to heaven depended upon obedience,
none of the faithful señoritas dreamed of declining the honor, even
though it involved the expenditure of considerable of papá's good money
and required them to spend most of the time until Christmas rehearsing
for the ceremony and "praising the glory of God" with the priests in a
room of the church, locked against worldly intruders. Naturally this
left them no time for English. His mainstay gone, the "professor" threw
up the sponge and struck out for pastures new, carrying his trunk-like
"telescope" two hot and sandy leagues to catch this morning train.

At Esperanza the Briton went me one better on my own custom of "living
on the country." To the _enchiladas_, large tortillas red with
pepper-sauce and generously filled with onions, and the smaller
tortillas covered with scraps of meat and boiled egg which we bought of
the old women and boys that flocked about the train, he added a liter of
pulque. Not far beyond, we reached Boca del Monte, the edge of the
great plateau of Mexico. A wealth of scenery opened out. From the window
was a truly bird's-eye view of the scattered town of Maltrata, more than
two thousand feet almost directly below in the center of a rich green
valley, about the edge of which, often on the very brink of the
thick-clothed precipice, the train wound round and round behind the
double-headed engine, traveling to every point of the compass in its
descent. The town rose up to us at last and for the first time since
mounting to San Luís Potosí two months before, I found myself less than
a mile above sea-level. Instead of the often bare, wind-swept plateau,
immense weeds of the banana family grew up about us, and a beautiful
winding vale reeking with damp vegetation stretched before and behind us
as we slid onward. High above all else and much farther away than it
seemed, stood the majestic, snow-white peak of Orizaba. In mid-afternoon
we descended at the city of that name.

It was large, but really a village in every feature of life. Here again
were the broad eaves of one-story, tile-roofed houses, stretching well
out over the badly cobbled streets, down the center of which ran open
sewers. The place was unkempt and unclean, with many evidences of
poverty, and the air so heavy and humid that vegetation grew even on the
roofs. I wandered about town with the "professor" while he "sized it up"
as a possible scene of his future labors, but he did not find it
promising. By night Orizaba was still well above the tropics and the
single blanket on the hotel cot proved far from sufficient even with its
brilliant red hue.



It is merely a long jump with a drop of two thousand feet from Orizaba
to Córdoba. But the train takes eighteen miles of winding, squirming,
and tunneling to get there. On the way is some of the finest scenery in
Mexico. The route circles for miles the yawning edge of a valley dense
with vegetation, banana and orange trees without number, with huts of
leaves and stalks tucked away among them, myriads of flowers of every
shade and color, and here and there coffee bushes festooned with their
red berries. The dew falls so heavily in this region that the rank
growth was visibly dripping with it.

At somnolent Córdoba I left the line to Vera Cruz for that to the
southward. The car was packed with the dirty, foul-tongued wives and the
children and bundles of a company of soldiers recently sent against the
rebels of Juchitan. Ever since leaving Boca del Monte the day before I
had been coming precipitously down out of Mexico. But there were still
descents to be found, and the train raced swiftly without effort in and
out through ever denser jungle, magnificent in colors, alive with birds,
a land in each square yard of which the traveler felt a longing to pause
and dwell for a while, to swing languidly under the trees, gazing at the
snow peak of Orizaba now growing farther and farther away.

Our conveyance was a species of way-freight, which whiled away most of
the day at a speed fittingly respectful to the scenery about us. With
every station the population grew perceptibly more lazy. The alert,
eager attitude of the plateau gave place to a languorous lethargy
evident in both faces and movements. People seemed less sulky than those
higher up, more communicative and approachable, but also, strangely
enough, less courteous, apparently from laziness, a lack of the energy
necessary for living up to the rules of that Mexican virtue. They
answered readily enough, but abruptly and indifferently, and fell
quickly into their customary somnolence. For a time we skirted the Río
Blanco, boiling away toward the sea. Oranges were so plentiful they hung
rotting on the trees. The jungle was dense, though by no means so much
so as those of the Far East. On either hand were hundreds of native
shacks,--mongrel little huts of earth floors, transparent walls of a
sort of corn-stalk, and a thick, top-heavy roof of jungle grass or
banana leaves, set carelessly in bits of space chopped out of the
rampant jungle. Now and then we passed gangs of men fighting back the
vegetation that threatened to swallow up the track completely.

Beautiful palm-trees began to abound, perfectly round, slender stems
supporting hundreds of immense leaves hanging edgewise in perfect arch
shape, perhaps the most symmetrical of all nature's works. What is
there about the palm-tree so romantic and pleasing to the spirits? Its
whisper of perpetual summer, of perennial life, perhaps. Great luscious
pineapples sold through the windows at two or three cents each. The
peons of this region carried a machete in a leather scabbard, but still
wore a folded blanket over one shoulder, suggesting chilly nights. The
general apathy of the population began to manifest itself now in the
paucity of hawkers at the stations. On the plateau the train seldom
halted without being surrounded by a jostling crowd, fighting to sell
their meager wares; here they either lolled in the shade of their banana
groves, waiting for purchasers to come and inspect their displays of
fruit, or they did not even trouble to offer anything for sale. Why
should man work when his food drops year by year into his lap without
even replanting? Moreover, flat noses and kinky hair were growing more
and more in evidence.

Not all was jungle. As the mountains died down and faded away in the
west there opened out many broad meadows in which were countless sleek
cattle tended by somnolent herdsmen on horseback. Much sugar-cane grew,
lengths of which were sold to the brawling soldiers' wives and the
carload in general, which was soon reeking with the juice and chewed
pulp. By afternoon jungle was a rarity and most of the country was a
rich sort of prairie with cattle without number, and here and there an
immense tree to break the monotony. These rich bottomlands that seemed
capable of producing anything in unlimited quantities were almost
entirely uncultivated. At several stations there bulked above the
throng white men in appearance like a cross between farmers and
missionaries, the older ones heavily bearded. For a time I could not
catalogue them. Then, as we pulled out of one town, two of what but for
their color and size I should have taken for peons raced for the last
car-step, one shouting to the other in the strongest of Hoosier accents:

"Come on, Bud, let's jemp 'er!"

Which both did, riding some sixty feet, and dropped off like men who had
at last had their one daily excitement. Inquiry proved that they
belonged to a colony of Mormons that has settled in several groups in
this region, where nature sets their creed a prolific example.

Unbroken prairies, in their tropical form, now stretched as far as the
eye could reach, with just the shade of a shadowy range in the far
west. The heat had not once grown oppressive during the day.

With dusk it turned almost cold. We wound slowly on into the damp, heavy
night, a faint full moon struggling to tear itself a peep-hole through
the clouds, and finally at ten, seat-sore with fifteen hours of
slat-bench riding, pulled up at Santa Lucrecia.

It was just such a town as dozens of others we had passed that day; a
plain station building surrounded unevenly by a score or so of
banana-grove huts. Here ends the railroad southward, joining that
across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. From the track of the latter a wooden
sidewalk that rang drum-hollow under my heels led across a gully of
unknown depth in the black night to the Hotel "El Sol Mejicano,"
standing-room for which had been gashed out of the jungle. It was a
wooden and sheet-iron building on stilts, swarming even at night with
dirty children, pigs, chickens, and yellow dogs, and presided over by a
glassy-eyed, slatternly woman of French antecedents, the general shape
of a wine-skin three-fourths full, and of a ghoulish instinct toward the
purses of travelers. In one end were a dozen "rooms," separated by
partitions reaching half way to the sheet-iron roof, and in the other a
single combination of grocery and general store, saloon and pool-table,
assorted filth and the other attributes of outposts of civilization. The
chambers were not for rent, but only the privilege of occupying one of
the several beds in each. These fortunately were fairly clean, with good
springs and mosquito canopies, but with only a quilt for
mattress--unless it was meant for cover--a single sheet, and the usual
two little, round, hard mountainous pillows. Otherwise the cabins were
wholly unfurnished, even to windows. The train that had brought us in
spent the night bucking and jolting back and forth near by; even a
barefoot servant walking anywhere in the building or on the veranda set
the edifice rocking as in an earthquake; two Mexicans occupying the
"room" next to my own--more properly, the one I helped occupy--bawled
anecdotes and worse at the top of their voices most of the night; guests
were hawking and spitting and coughing incessantly in various parts of
the house; at three a servant began beating on the door with something
in the nature of a sledge-hammer to know if I wished to take the train
Atlantic-bound, and refused to accept a negative answer; my room-mate
held the world's record for snoring; at the first suggestion of dawn
every child, chicken, and assorted animal in the building and vicinity
set up its greatest possible uproar; and I was half-frozen all night,
even under all the clothing I possessed. Except for these few
annoyances, I slept splendidly. There was at least the satisfaction of
knowing that a traveling millionaire obliged to pass a night in Santa
Lucrecia would spend it no better.

Everything was dripping wet when I fled back across the aërial sidewalk
to the station. It was not hot, but there was a dense, heavy atmosphere
in which one felt he could be as lively and industrious as elsewhere,
yet found himself dragging listlessly around as the
never-do-anything-you-don't-have-to inhabitants. Even the boyish train
auditor had an irresponsible lackadaisical manner, and permitted all
sorts of petty railway misdemeanors. The childishness of tropical
peoples was evident on every hand. There was no second-class car on
this line, but one third, all but empty when we started, evidently not
because most bought first-class tickets but because the auditor was of
the tropics. Endless jungle covered all the visible world, with only the
line of rails crowding through it. The cocoanut palms and those
top-heavy with what looked like enormous bunches of dates soon died out
as we left the vicinity of the coast. At Rincon Antonio the car filled
up, and among the new-comers were many of the far-famed women of
Tehuantepec. Some were of striking beauty, almost all were splendid
physical specimens and all had a charming and alluring smile. They
dressed very briefly--a gay square of cloth about their limbs,
carelessly tucked in at the waist, and a sleeveless upper garment that
failed to make connections with the lower, recalling the women of
Ceylon. The absence of any other garments was all too evident. Almost
all wore in their jet-black hair a few red flowers, all displayed six
inches or more of silky brown skin at the waist, and the majority wore
necklaces of gold coins, generally American five and ten dollar gold
pieces. To see one of them stretched out at full length on a seat,
smoking a cigarette and in animated conversation with a man that five
minutes before had been a total stranger, might have suggested a certain
looseness of character. But this was denied by their facial expression,
which bore out the claim of a chance acquaintance long resident among
them that they are very frank, "simple," and friendly, but far more apt
to keep within a well-defined limit than the average of tropical women.
Tehuantepec, indeed, is the land of "woman's rights." The men having
been largely killed off during the days of Diaz, the feminine stock is
to-day the sturdier, more intelligent, and industrious, and arrogates to
itself a far greater freedom than the average Mexican woman. Many of
those in the car spoke the local Indian dialect, Zapoteca, but all
seemed possessed of fluent Spanish.

Yet how different was all the carload from what we have come to consider
"civilized" people. If the aim of humanity is to be happy in the
present, then these languid, brown races are on the right track. If
that aim is to advance, develop, and accomplish, they must be classed
with the lower animals.

For a half hour before reaching Rincon Antonio, we had been winding with
a little brawling river through a hilly gorge dense-grown with
vegetation. The town was in the lull between two revolts. A bare four
days before, a former chief and his followers had been taken by the
populace and shot behind the water-tank beside where we paused at the
station. A week later new riots were to break out. But today the place
was sunk in its customary languor, and only a few bullet-ridden walls
and charred ruins hinted its recent history.

I had pictured the Isthmus of Tehuantepec a flat neck of land from ocean
to ocean. But the imagination is a deceitful guide. Beyond the town of
the water-tank we wormed for miles through mountains higher than the
Berkshires, resembling them indeed in form and wealth of vegetation,
though with a tropical tinge. The jungle, however, died out, and the
train crawled at a snail's pace, often looping back upon itself, through
landscapes in which the organ-cactus was most conspicuous. Even here the
great chain known as the Rockies and the Andes, that stretches from
Alaska to Patagonia, imposes a considerable barrier between the two
seas. There was a cosmopolitan tinge to this region, and the
_boinas_ of Basques mingled with the cast-iron faces of Americans
and sturdy self-possessed Negroes under broad "Texas" hats. An hour
beyond the hills, in a thick-wooded land, I dropped off at the town of
Tehuantepec, an intangible place that I had some difficulty in
definitely locating in the thickening darkness.

Here was a new kind of Mexico. In many things, besides the naked, brown
waists of the women, it carried the mind back to Ceylon. There were the
same reed and thatched huts, almost all surrounded by spacious yards
fenced by corn-stalk walls through which the inmates could see easily
but be seen with difficulty. Here, too, boys went naked until the
approach of puberty; the cocoanut palms, the dense banana groves, even
the huge earthen water-jars before the houses recalled the charming isle
of the Singhalese, and if the people were less kindly to the stranger
they were much more joyful and full of laughter than the Mexican of the
plateau. In this perhaps they had more in common with the Burmese. The
men, often almost white in color, wore few large hats, never one
approaching those of the highlands. The hotter the sun, the smaller the
hat, seems to be the rule in Mexico. Here it was hot, indeed; a dense,
thick, tangible heat, that if it did not sap the strength suggested the
husbanding of it.

A fiesta raged on the night of my arrival. The not too musical blare of
a band drew me to a wide, inclined street paved in sand, at the blind
end of which were seated five rows of women in as many gradations, and
everywhere shuttled men and boys, almost all in white trousers, with a
shirt of the same color, Chinese-fashion, outside it, commonly barefoot
with or without sandals. A few even wore shoes. I hesitated to join the
throng. The subconscious expectation of getting a knife or a bullet in
the back grows second nature in Mexico. Few foreigners but have
contracted the habit of stepping aside to let pass a man who hangs long
at their heels. The approach of a staggering, talkative peon was always
an occasion for alertness, and one that came holding a hand behind him
was an object of undivided curiosity until the concealed member
appeared, clutching perhaps nothing more interesting than a cigar or a
banana. Mexicans in crowds, mixed with liquor and "religion," were
always worth attention; and here was just such a mixture, for the fiesta
was in honor of the Virgin, and the libations that had been poured out
in her honor were generous. But the drink of Tehuantepec, whatever it
might be--for pulque is unknown in the tropics--appeared to make its
devotees merely gay and boisterous. The adults were friendly, even to an
American, and the children shouted greetings to me as "Señor Gringo,"
which here is merely a term of nationality and no such opprobrious title
as it has grown to be on the plateau.

A few rockets had suggested an incipient revolution while I was at
supper. Now the scene of the festivities was enlivened by four huge
set-pieces of fireworks, each with a bell-shaped base in which a man
could ensconce himself to the waist. One in the form of a duck first
took to human legs and capered about the square while its network of
rockets, pin-wheels, sizzlers, twisters, cannon-like explosions, and
jets of colored fire kept the multitude surging back and forth some
twenty minutes, to the accompaniment of maudlin laughter and the dancing
and screaming of children, while the band, frankly giving up its vain
attempts to produce music, gazed with all eyes and blew an unattentive,
never-ending rag-time of some two strains. A monster turkey took up the
celebration where the charred and disheveled duck left off, capering
itself into blazing and uproarious oblivion. The finale consisted of two
gigantic figures of a man and a woman, with a marvelous array of all
possible lights and noises that lasted a full half-hour, while the two
barefoot wearers danced back and forth bowing and careering to each
other. The aftermath ran far into the night, and brought to naught my
plans to make up for the sleepless night before.

Though most of the inhabitants of Tehuantepec live on earth floors in
reed and grass houses, there is scarcely a sign of suffering
poverty. Little Spanish is heard among them, although even the children
seem quite able to speak it. Their native Indian tongue differs from the
Castilian even in cadence, so that it was easy to tell which idiom was
being spoken even before the words were heard. It is the chief medium of
the swarming market in and about the black shadows of a roof on
legs. Here the frank and self-possessed women, in their brief and simple
dress, were legion. Footwear is unknown to them, and the loose,
two-piece, disconnected dress was augmented, if at all, with a black
lace shawl thrown over the shoulders in the, to them, chilly
mornings. But the most remarkable part of the costume, of decorative
properties only, is the head-dress common to a large per cent, of the
women in town. From the back of the otherwise bare head hangs to the
waist an intricate contrivance of lace and ruffles, snow-white and
starched stiff, the awful complications of which no mere male would be
able to describe beyond the comprehensive statement that the ensemble
much resembles a Comanche chief in full war regalia. Above this they
carry their loads on their heads in a sort of gourd bowl decorated with
flowers, and walk with a sturdy self-sufficiency that makes a veranda or
bridge quake under their brown-footed tread. They are lovers of color,
especially here where the Pacific breezes turn the jungle to the
eastward into a gaunt, sandy, brown landscape, and such combinations as
soft-red skirts and sea-blue waists, or the reverse, mingle with black
shot through with long perpendicular yellow stripes. The striking
beauties of many a traveler's hectic imagination were not in evidence.
But then, it is nowhere customary to find a town's best selling sapotes
and fish in the market-place, and at least the attractiveness ranked
high compared with a similar scene in any part of the world, while
cleanliness was far more popular than in the highlands to the north.

The foreigner in Mexico is often surprised at the almost impossibility
of getting the entree into its family life. American residents of high
position are often intimate friends for years of Mexican men in their
cafés and male gatherings, without ever stepping across their
thresholds. Much of the seclusion of the Moor still holds, even half a
world distant from the land of its origin. Yet his racial
pseudo-courtesy leads the Mexican frequently to extend an invitation
which only long experience teaches the stranger is a mere meaningless
formality. On the train from Córdoba I spent considerable time in
conversation with a well-to-do youth of Tehuantepec, during which I was
formally invited at least a dozen times to visit him at his home. He
failed to meet me at the rendezvous set, but was effusive when I ran
across him in the evening round of the plaza:

"Ah, amigo mío. Muy buenas noches. Como 'stá uste-e-é? So delighted! I
was grieved beyond measure to miss you. I live in the Calle Reforma,
number 83. There you have your own house. I am going there now. Do you
not wish to accompany me? I have...."

"Yes, I should like to look in on you for a few moments."

"Ah, I was so sorry to miss you," he went on, standing stock still. "I
must give you my address and you must write me, and I you."

There followed an exchange of cards with great formality and many
protestations of eternal friendship; then an effusive hand-shake and:

"Mil gracias, señor. May you have a most pleasant voyage. Thanks
again. So pleased to have met you. Adiós. May you travel well. Hasta
luego. Adiós. Que le vaya bien," and with a flip of the hand and a
wriggling of the fingers he was gone.

That evening I returned early to the "Hotel La Perla." Its entire force
was waiting for me. This consisted of Juan, a cheery, slight fellow in a
blue undershirt and speckled cotton trousers of uncertain age, who was
waiter, chambermaid, porter, bath-boy, sweeper, general swipe, possibly
cook, and in all but name proprietor; the nominal one being a spherical
native on the down-grade of life who never moved twice in the same day
if it could be avoided, leaving the establishment to run itself, and
accepting phlegmatically what money it pleased Providence to send
him. The force was delighted at the pleasure of having a guest to wait
upon, and stood opposite me all through the meal, offering gems of
assorted wisdom intermingled with wide-ranging questions. I called for
an extra blanket and turned in soon after dark. There reigned a
delicious stillness that promised ample reparation for the two nights
past. Barely had I drowsed off, however, when there intruded the
chattering of several men in the alleyway and yard directly outside my
window. "They'll soon be gone," I told myself, turning over. But I was
over-optimistic. The voices increased, those of women chiming
in. Louder and louder grew the uproar. Then a banjo-like instrument
struck up, accompanying the most dismally mournful male voice
conceivable, wailing a monotonous refrain of two short lines. This
increased in volume until it might be heard a mile away. Male and female
choruses joined in now and then. In the snatches between, the monotonous
voice wailed on, mingled with laughter and frequent disputes. I rose at
last to peer out the window. In the yard were perhaps a half-hundred
natives, all seated on the ground, some with their backs against the
very wall of my room, nearly all smoking, and with many pots of liquor
passing from hand to hand. Midnight struck, then one, then two; and
with every hour the riot increased. Once or twice I drifted into a short
troubled dream, to be aroused with a start by a new burst of
pandemonium. Then gradually the sounds subsided almost entirely. My
watch showed three o'clock. I turned over again, grateful for the few
hours left ... and in that instant, without a breath of warning, there
burst out the supreme cataclysm of a band of some twenty hoarse and
battered pieces in an endless, unfathomable noise that never once paused
for breath until daylight stole in at the window.

At "breakfast" I took Juan to task.

"Ah, señor," he smiled, "it is too bad. But yesterday a man died in the
house next door, and his friends have come to celebrate."

"And keep the whole town awake all night?"

"Ay, senor, it is unfortunate indeed. But what would you? People will
die, you know."

Sleep is plainly not indigenous to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

From the neighboring town of Gamboa there runs southward a railway known
as the "Pan-American." Its fares are high and a freight-train behind an
ancient, top-heavy engine drags a single passenger-car divided into two
classes with it on its daily journey. The ticket-agent had no change,
and did not know whether the end of the line was anywhere near
Guatemala, though he was full of stories of the dangers to travelers in
that country. A languid, good-natured crowd filled the car. We are so
accustomed to think of lack of clothing as an attribute of savages that
it was little short of startling to see a young lady opposite, naked to
the waist but for a scanty and transparent suggestion of upper garment,
read the morning newspaper and write a note with the savoir-faire of a
Parisienne in her boudoir. She wore a necklace of American five-dollar
gold pieces, with a pendant of twenties, the Goddess of Liberty and the
date, 1898, on the visible side, and as earrings two older coins of
$2.50. Nearly every woman in the car was thus decorated to some extent,
always with the medallion side most in evidence, and one could see at a
glance exactly how much each was worth.

In a long day's travel we covered 112 miles. At Juchitán the passengers
thinned. Much of this town had recently been destroyed in the
revolution, and close to the track stood a crowded cemetery with
hundreds of gorged and somnolent _zopilotes_, the carrion-crow of
Mexico, about it. The country was a blazing dry stretch of mesquite and
rare patches of forest in a sandy soil, with huts so few that the train
halted at each of them, as if to catch its breath and wipe the sweat out
of its eyes. Once, toward noon, we caught a glimpse of the Pacific. But
all the day there spread on either hand an arid region with bare rocky
hills, a fine sand that drifted in the air, and little vegetation except
the thorny mesquite. A few herds of cattle were seen, but they were as
rare as the small towns of stone huts and frontiers-man aspect. The
train passed the afternoon like a walker who knows he can easily reach
his night's destination, and strolled leisurely into Tonolá before

Beyond the wild-west hotel lay a sweltering sand town of a few streets
atrociously cobbled. We had reached the land of hammocks. Not a hut did
I peep into that did not have three or four swinging lazily above the
uneven earth floor. In the center of the broad, unkempt expanse that
served as plaza stood an enormous _pochote_, a species of
cottonwood tree, and about it drowsed a Sunday evening gathering half
seen in the dim light of lanterns on the stands of hawkers. On a dark
corner three men and a boy were playing a _marimba_, a frame with
dried bars of wood as keys which, beaten with small wooden mallets, gave
off a weird, half-mournful music that floated slowly away into the heavy
hot night. The women seemed physically the equal of those of
Tehuantepec, but their dress was quite different, a single loose white
gown cut very low at the neck and almost without sleeves. One with a
white towel on her head and hanging loosely about her shoulders looked
startlingly like an Egyptian female figure that had stepped forth from
the monuments of the Nile. Their brown skins were lustrous as silk,
every line of their lithe bodies of a Venus-like development and they
stood erect as palm-trees, or slipped by in the sand-paved night under
their four-gallon' American oilcans of water with a silent, sylph-like

The train, like an experienced tropical traveler, started at the first
peep of dawn. Tonolá marked the beginning of a new style of landscape,
heralding the woodlands of Guatemala. All was now dense and richly
green, not exactly jungle, but with forests of huge trees, draped with
climbing vines, interlarded with vistas of fat cattle by the hundreds up
to their bellies in heavy green grass, herds of which now and then
brought us almost to a standstill by stampeding across the track. In
contrast to the day before there were many villages, a kind of cross
between the jungle towns of Siam and the sandy hamlets of our "Wild
West." A number had sawmills for the mahogany said to abound in the
region. Now and then a pretty lake alive with wild fowl appeared in a
frame of green. There were many Negroes, and not a few Americans among
the ranchers, sawmill hands and railway employees, while John Chinaman,
forbidden entrance to the country to the south, as to that north of the
Rio Grande, put in a frequent appearance, as in all Mexico. It was a
languorous, easy-going land, where day-before-yesterday's paper was
news. The sulky stare of the Mexican plateau had completely
disappeared, and in its place was much laughter and an unobtrusive
friendliness, and a complete lack of obsequiousness even on the part of
the peons, who elbowed their way in and out among all classes as if
there were no question as to the equality of all mankind. The daily
arrival of the train seemed to be the chief recreation of the populace,
so that there were signs of protest if it made only a brief stop. But
there was seldom cause for this complaint, for the swollen-headed old
engine was still capable of so much more than the schedule required that
it was forced to make a prolonged stay at almost every station to let
Father Time catch up with us.

The rumor ran that those who would enter Guatemala must get permission
of its consul in Tapachula. But our own representative at that town
chanced to board the train at a wayside hamlet and found the papers I
carried sufficient. Two fellow countrymen raced away into the place as
the train drew in, and returned drenched with sweat in time to continue
with our leisurely convoy. Dakin was a boyish man from the Northern
States, and Ems a swarthy "Texican" to whom Spanish was more native than
English, both wandering southward in quest of jobs, as stationary and
locomotive engineers respectively. They rode first-class, though this
did not imply wealth, but merely that Pat Cassidy was conductor. He was
a burly, whole-hearted American, supporting an enormous, flaring
mustache and, by his own admission, all the "busted" white men traveling
between Mexico and Guatemala. While I kept the seat to which my ticket
entitled me, he passed me with a look of curiosity not unmixed with a
hint of scorn. When I stepped into the upholstered class to ask him a
question he bellowed, "Si' down!" The inquiry answered, I rose to leave,
only to be brought down again with a shout of, "Keep yer seat!" It is no
fault of Cassidy's if a "gringo" covers the Pan-American on foot or
seated with peons, or goes hungry and thirsty or tobaccoless on the
journey; and penniless strangers are not conspicuous by their absence
along this route. As a Virginia Negro at one of the stations put it
succinctly, "If dey ain't black, dey'se white."

A jungle bewilderment of vegetation grew up about us, with rich
clearings for little clusters of palm-leaf huts, jungles so dense the
eye could not penetrate them. Laughing women, often of strikingly
attractive features, peopled every station, perfect in form as a Greek
statue, and with complexions of burnished bronze. Everywhere was
evidence of a constant joy in life and of a placid conviction that
Providence or some other philanthropist who had always taken care of them
always would. Teeth were not so universally splendid as on the plateau,
but the luminous, snapping black eyes more than made up for this less
perfect feature.

Nightfall found us still rumbling lazily on and it was nearly an hour
later that we reached Mariscal at the end of the line, four or five
scattered buildings of which two disguised themselves under the name of
hotels. Ems and I slept--or more exactly passed the night--on cots in
one of the rooms of transparent partitions, while Dakin, who refused to
accept alms for anything so useless, spread a grass mat among the dozen
native women stretched out along the veranda.



The three of us were off by the time the day had definitely dawned. Ems
carried a heavy suitcase, and Dakin an awkward bundle. My own modest
belongings rode more easily in a rucksack. A mile walk along an unused
railroad, calf-high in jungle grass, brought us to a wooden bridge
across the wide but shallow Suchiate, bounding Mexico on the
south. Across its plank floor and beyond ran the rails of the
"Pan-American," but the trains halt at Mariscal because Guatemala, or
more exactly Estrada Cabrera, does not permit them to enter his great
and sovereign republic. Our own passage looked easy, but that was
because of our inexperience of Central American ways. Scarcely had we
set foot on the bridge when there came racing out of a palm-leaf hut on
the opposite shore three male ragamuffins in bare feet, shouting as they
ran. One carried an antedeluvian, muzzle-loading musket, another an
ancient bayonet red with rust, and the third swung threateningly what I
took to be a stiff piece of telegraph wire.

"No se pasa!" screamed the three in chorus, spreading out in skirmish
line like an army ready to oppose to the death the invasion of a hostile
force. "No one can pass the bridge!"

"But why not?" I asked.

"Because Guatemala does not allow it."

"Do you mean to say three caballeros with money and passports--and shoes
are denied admittance to the great and famous Republic of Guatemala?"

"Not at all, senor, but you must come by boat. The Pope himself cannot
cross this bridge."

It would have been unkind to throw them into the river, so we returned
to a cluster of huts on the Mexican bank. Before it drowsed a half-dozen
ancient and leaky boats. But here again were grave international
formalities to be arranged. A Mexican official led us into one of the
huts and set down laboriously in a ledger our names, professions,
bachelordoms, and a mass of even more personal information.

"You are Catholic, señor," he queried with poised pen, eying me

"No, señor."

"Ah, Protestant," he observed, starting to set down that conclusion.


There came a hitch in proceedings. Plainly there was no precedent to
follow in considering the application of so non-existent a being for
permission to leave Mexico. The official smoked a cigarette pensively
and idly turned over the leaves of the ledger.

"Será ateo," said a man behind him, swelling his chest with pride at his
extraordinary intelligence.

"That doesn't fill the bill either," I replied, "nor any other single
word I can think of."

But the space for this particular item of information was cramped. We
finally compromised on "Sin religión," and I was allowed to leave the
country. A boatman tugged and poled some twenty minutes before we could
scramble up the steep, jungle-grown bank beyond. At the top of it were
scattered a dozen childish looking soldiers in the most unkempt and
disheveled array of rags and lack thereof a cartoonist could
picture. They formed in a hollow square about us and steered us toward
the "comandancia," a few yards beyond. This was a thatched mud hut with
a lame bench and a row of aged muskets in the shade along its
wall. Another bundle of rags emerged in his most pompous, authoritative
demeanor, and ordered us to open our baggage. Merely by accident I
turned my rucksack face down on the bench, so there is no means of
knowing whether the kodak and weapon in the front pockets of it would
have been confiscated or held for ransom, had they been seen. I should
be inclined to answer in the affirmative. In the hut our passports were
carefully if unintelligently examined, and we were again fully
catalogued. Estrada Cabrera follows with great precision the movements
of foreigners within his boundaries.

In the sandy jungle town of Ayutla just beyond, two of us multiplied our
wealth many times over without the least exertion. That Dakin did not
also was only due to the unavoidable fact that he had no multiplicand to
set over the multiplier. I threw down Mexican money to the value of
$8.30 and had thrust upon me a massive roll of $150. The only drawback
was that the bills had led so long and maltreated a life that their face
value had to be accepted chiefly on faith, for a ten differed from a one
only as one Guatemalan soldier differs from his fellows, in that each
was much more tattered and torn than the other. After all there is a
delicate courtesy in a government's supplying an illiterate population
with illegible money; no doubt experience knows other distinguishing
marks, such as the particular breeds of microbes that is accustomed to
inhabit each denomination; for even inexperience could easily recognize
that each was so infested. I mistake in saying this was the only
drawback. There was another. The wanderer who drops into a hut for a
banana and a bone-dry biscuit, washed down with a small bottle of
luke-warm fizzling water, hears with a pang akin to heart-failure a
languid murmur of "Four dollars, señor," in answer to his request for
the bill. It is not easy to get accustomed to hearing such sums
mentioned in so casual a manner.

A little narrow-gage "railway" crawls off through the jungle beyond
Ayutla, but the train ran on it yesterday and to-morrow. To-day there
was nothing to do but swing on our loads and strike off southward. The
morning air was fresh and the eastern jungle wall threw heavy shade for
a time. But that time soon came to an end and I plodded on under a sun
that multiplied the load on my back by at least the monetary multiple of
Guatemala. Ems and Dakin quickly demonstrated a deep dislike to tropical
tramping, though both laid claim to the degree of T. T. T. conferred on
"gringo" rovers in Central America. I waited for them several times in
vain and finally pushed on to the sweltering, heat-pulsating town of
Pahapeeta, where every hut sold bottled firewater and a diminutive box
of matches cost a dollar. Grass huts tucked away in dense groves along
the route were inhabited by all but naked brown people, kindly disposed,
so it required no exertion, toward a passing stranger. Before noon the
jungle opened out upon an ankle-deep sea of sand, across which I plowed
under a blazing sun that set even the bundle on my back dripping with

But at least there was a broad river on the farther side of it that
looked inviting enough to reward a whole day of tramping. The place was
called Vado Ancho--the "Wide Wade"; though that was no longer necessary,
for the toy railroad that operated to-morrow and yesterday had brought a
bridge with it. I scrambled my way along the dense-grown farther bank,
and found a place to descend to a big shady rock just fitted for a
siesta after a swim. Barely had I begun to undress, however, when three
brown and barefoot grown-up male children, partly concealed in
astounding collections of rags, two with ancient muskets and the third
with a stiff piece of wire, tore through the bushes and surrounded me
with menacing attitudes.

"What are you doing here?" cried the least naked.

"Why the idle curiosity?"

"You are ordered to come to the comandancia."

I scrambled back up the bank and plodded across another sand patch
toward a small collection of jungle huts, the three "soldiers" crowding
close about me and wearing the air of brave heroes who had saved their
country from a great conspiracy. Lazy natives lay grinning in the shade
as I passed. One of the lop-shouldered, thatched huts stood on a hillock
above the rest. When we had sweated up to this, a military order rang
out in a cracked treble and some twenty brown scarecrows lined up in the
shade of the eaves in a Guatemalan idea of order. About half of them
held what had once been muskets; the others were armed with what I had
hitherto taken for lengths of pilfered telegraph wire, but which now on
closer inspection proved to be ramrods. Thus each arm made only two
armed men, whereas a bit of ingenuity might have made each serve three
or four; by dividing the stocks and barrels, for instance. The
tatterdemalion of the treble fiercely demanded my passport, while the
"army" quickly degenerated into a ragged rabble loafing in the shade.

I started to lay my rucksack on the bench along the wall, but one of the
fellows sprang up with a snarl and flourished his ramrod
threateningly. It was evidently a _lèse militarismus_ worthy of
capital punishment for a civilian to pass between a pole supporting the
eaves and the mud wall of the building. I was forced to stand in the
blazing sunshine and claw out my papers. They were in English, but the
caricature of an officer concealed his ignorance before his fellows by
pretending to read them and at length gave me a surly permission to
withdraw. No wonder Central America is a favorite _locale_ for
comic opera librettos.

I descended again to the river for a swim, but had not yet stretched out
for a siesta when there came pushing through the undergrowth three more
"soldiers," this time all armed with muskets.

"What's up now?"

"The colonel wants to see you in the comandancia."

"But I just saw your famous colonel."

"No, that was only the teniente."

When I reached the hilltop again, dripping with the heat of noonday, I
was permitted to sit on an adobe brick in the sacred shade. The colonel
was sleeping. He recovered from that tropical ailment in time, and a
rumor came floating out that he was soon to honor us with his
distinguished presence. The soldiers made frantic signs to me to rise
to my feet. Like Kingslake before the Turkish pasha, I felt that the
honor of my race and my own haughty dignity were better served by
insisting on social equality even to a colonel, and stuck doggedly to
the adobe brick. The rumor proved a false alarm anyway. No doubt the
great man had turned over in his sleep.

By and by the lieutenant came to say the commander was in his office,
and led the way there. At the second door of the mud-and-straw building
he paused to add in an awe-struck whisper:

"Take off your hat and wait until he calls you in."

Instead I stepped toward the entrance, but the teniente snatched at the
slack of my shirt with a gasp of terror:

"Por Diós! Take off your revolver! If the colonel sees it...."

I shook him off and, marching in with martial stride and a haughty
carelessness of attitude, sat down in the only chair in the room except
that occupied by the commander, with a hearty:

"Buenas tardes, colonel."

He was a typical guatemalteco in whole trousers and an open shirt, but
of some education, for he was writing with moderate rapidity at his
homemade desk. He also wore shoes. His manner was far more reasonable
than that of his illiterate underlings, and we were soon conversing
rationally. He appeared to know enough English to get the gist of my
passport, but handed it back with the information that I should have
official Guatemalan permission to exist within the confines of his
eighteen-for-a-dollar country.

"You carry an apparatus for the making of photographs," he went
on. "Suppose you had taken a picture of our fortress and garrison here?"

"Gar--How's that, señor?"

"It is the law of all countries, as you know, not to allow the
photographing of places of military importance. Even the English would
arrest you if you took a picture of Gibraltar."

It was careless of me not to have noted the striking similarity of this
stronghold to that at the entrance to the Mediterranean. Both stand on

"And where do I get this official permission?"


"Yet necessary?"

But I still carried Mexican cigarettes, a luxury in Guatemala, so we
parted friends, with the manners of a special envoy taking leave of a
prime minister. The only requirement was that I should not open my
kodak within sight of this hotbed of military importance. I all but
made the fatal error of passing between the sacred eave-post and the
wall upon my exit, but sidestepped in time to escape unscathed, and left
the great fortress behind and above me.

After all I had been far more fortunate than a fellow countryman I met
later, who had had a $200 camera smashed by this same ragged "garrison."

Siesta time was past and I struck on out of town. In the last hut an
old woman called out to know why I had gone down to the river, and
showed some suspicion at my answer.

"There are so many countries trying to get our war plans," she

A trail wide enough for single-wheeled vehicles crowded its way between
jungle walls. In the breathless, blazing sunshine the sweat passed
through my rucksack and into my formal city garments beyond, carrying
the color of the sack with it. For some time no one was abroad except a
dripping "gringo" and a rare cargador in barely the rags necessary to
escape complete nakedness, who greeted me subserviently and gave me most
of the road. The Indians of the region were inferior in physique to
those of the Mexican plateau, ragged beyond words, and far from handsome
in appearance. Their little thatched huts swarmed, however, and almost
all displayed something to sell, chiefly strong native liquor in bottles
that had seen long and varied service. There was nothing to eat but
oranges green in color. The way was often strewn with hundreds of huge
orange-colored ones, but they were more sour than lemons and often
bitter. A tropical downpour drove me once into the not too effective
shelter of the jungle, and with sunset a drizzle set in with a promise
of increase. A woodchopper had told me I could not reach my proposed
destination that night, but I pressed forward at my best pace up hill
and down through an all but continuous vegetation and surprised myself
by stumbling soon after dark upon electric-lighted Coatepeque, the first
real town of Guatemala, and not a very real one at that.

However, a burly American ran a hotel where the bill for supper and
lodging was only $15, and if the partitions of my room were bare they
were of mahogany, as were also the springs of the bed. The pilfering of
an extra mattress softened this misfortune somewhat, and toward morning
it grew cool enough to stop sweating. When I descended in the morning,
Ems and Dakin were sitting over their coffee and eggs. They had paid $5
each to ride in a covered bullock cart from Vado Ancho--and be churned
to a pulp.

Reunited, we pushed on in the morning shadows. Ems and Dakin divided
the weight of the former's suitcase; but even after the "Texican" had
thrown away two heavy books on locomotive driving, both groaned under
their loads. The sun of Guatemala does not lighten the burdens of the
trail. Ems had boarded the bullock cart the proud possessor of a bar of
soap, but this morning he found it a powder and sprinkled it along the
way. Soap is out of keeping with Guatemalan local color anyway. Dense
forests continued, but here almost all had an undergrowth of coffee
bushes. Some of the largest coffee _fincas_ of Guatemala lie along
this road, producing annually to hundreds of thousands in gold. Such
prosperity was not reflected in the population and toilers. The natives
were ragged, but friendly, every man carrying a machete, generally in a
leather scabbard, and the women almost without exception enormous loads
of fruit. They were weak, unintelligent, pimple-faced mortals, speaking
an Indian dialect and using Spanish only with difficulty. Ragged Indian
girls were picking coffee here and there, even more tattered carriers
lugged it in sacks and baskets to large, cement-floored spaces near the
estate houses, where men shoveled the red berries over and over in the
sun and old women hulled them in the shade of their huts.

Jungle trees, often immense and polished smooth as if they had been
flayed of their bark, gave us dense cool shade, scented by countless
wild flowers. But en cambio the soft dirt road climbed and wound and
descended all but incessantly, gradually working its way higher, until
we could look out now and then over hundreds of square miles of hot
country with barely a break in all its expanse of dense, steaming
vegetation. Coffee continued, but alternated now with the slender trees
of rubber plantations, with their long smooth leaves, and already
scarred like young warriors long inured to battle. The road was really
only an enlarged trail, not laid out, but following the route of the
first Indian who picked his way over these jungled hills. Huts were
seldom lacking; poor, ragged, cheerful Indians never. In the afternoon
the trail pitched headlong down and around through a rock-spilled
barranco with two sheer walls of the densest jungle and forest shutting
it in. Where it crossed a stream, Dakin and I found a shaded, sandy
hollow scooped out behind a broad flat rock in the form of a huge
bathtub of water, clearer than any adjective will describe. Ems, whose
swarthy tint and strong features suggested the opposite, was the least
able to endure the hardships of the road, and lay lifeless in the shade
at every opportunity.

The road panted by a rocky zigzag up out of the ravine again and on over
rough and hilly going. Here I fell into conversation with an Indian
finca laborer, a slow, patient, ox-like fellow, to whom it had plainly
never occurred to ask himself why he should live in misery and his
employers in luxury. He spoke a slow and labored, yet considerable,
Spanish, of which he was unable to pronounce the f or v; saying "pinca"
for finca and "pale" for vale. Those of his class worked from five to
five shoveling coffee or carrying it, with two hours off for breakfast
and _almuerzo_, were paid one Guatemalan dollar a day, that is, a
fraction over five cents in our money, and furnished two arrobas (fifty
pounds) of corn and frijoles and a half-pound of salt a month. Yet there
are no more trustworthy employees than these underpaid fellows. As
pay-day approaches, one of these same ragged Indians is given a grain
sack and a check for several thousand dollars gold and sent to the town
where the finca owner does his banking, often several days' distant. The
sack half filled with the ragged bills of the Republic and their
customary microbes, the Indian shoulders it and tramps back across the
country to the estate, stopping at night in some wayside hut and tossing
the sack into a corner, perhaps to leave it for hours while he visits
his friends in the vicinity. Yet though both the messenger and his hosts
know the contents of his bundle, it is very rare that a single illegible
_billete_ disappears en route.

We plodded on into the night, but Ems could only drag at a turtle-pace,
and it became evident we could not make Retalhuleu without giving him
time to recuperate. The first large hut in the scattered village of
Acintral gave us hospitality. It was earth-floored, with a few homemade
chairs, and a bed with board floor. Though barely four feet wide, this
was suggested as the resting-place of all three of us after a supper of
jet-black coffee, native bread, and cheese. Dakin and I found it more
than crowded, even after Ems had spread a _petate_, or grass-mat,
on the ground. The room had no door, and women and girls wandered
indifferently in and out of it as we undressed, one mite of barely six
smoking a huge black cigar in the most business-like manner. The place
was a species of saloon, like almost every hut along the road, and the
shouting of the family and their thirsty townsmen seldom ceased even
momentarily until after midnight.

Having occasion to be in Guatemala City that day, I rose at two and,
swallowing a cup of black coffee and two raw eggs and paying a bill of
$12, struck out to cover the two long leagues left to Retalhuleu in time
to catch the six-o'clock train. The moon on its waning quarter had just
risen, but gave little assistance during an extremely difficult
tramp. All was blackest darkness except where it cast a few silvery
streaks through the trees, the road a mere wild trail left by the rainy
season far rougher than any plowed field, where it would have been only
too easy to break a leg or sprain an ankle. Bands of dogs, barking
savagely, dashed out upon me from almost every hut. Besides four small
rivers with little roofed bridges, there were many narrower streams or
mud-holes to wade, and between them the way twisted and stumbled up and
down over innumerable hills that seemed mountains in the unfathomable
darkness. When I had slipped and sprawled some two hours, a pair of
Indians, the first to be found abroad, gave the distance as "dos
leguas," in other words, the same as when I had started. I redoubled my
speed, pausing only once to call for water where a light flickered in a
hut, and seemed to have won the race when at the edge of the town I came
to a river that required me to strip to the waist. As I sprinted up the
hill beyond, the sound of a departing train drifted out of the darkness
ahead and an Indian informed me that it had been scheduled to leave at
five. Fortunately I continued, for it turned out to be a freight, and
the daily passenger left at six, so that just as the east began to turn
gray I was off on the long ride to the capital.

The train takes twelve hours to make this run of 129 miles by a
three-foot-gage railroad, stopping at every cluster of huts along the
way. The third-class coach was little more than a box-car with two rough
benches along its sides. The passengers were unprepossessing; most of
them ragged, all of them unclean, generally with extremely bad teeth,
much-pimpled faces, emaciated, and of undeveloped physique, their eyes
still possessing some of the brightness but lacking the snap and glisten
of those of Tehuantepec and the plateau. Many were chrome-yellow with
fever. Ragged officers of law and disorder were numerous, often in bare
feet, the same listless inefficiency showing in their weak,
unproductive, unshaven features. The car grew so crowded I went to sit
on the platform rail, as had a half-dozen already, though large signs on
the door forbade it.

It was after noon when we reached the first important town,
Esquintla. Here the tropics ended and the train began to climb, so
slowly we could have stepped off anywhere, the vegetation visibly
changing in character with every mile. On the now crowded platform two
natives alternately ordered American beer of the train-boy, at $5 a
bottle! At Palin we were assailed by tattered vendors of all manner of
fruit, enormous pineapples selling for sixty guatemalteco
cents. Amatitlan also swarmed with hawkers, but this time of candy in
the form of animals of every known and imaginable species. Thereafter we
wound round beautiful Lake Amatitlan, a dark, smooth stretch of water,
swarming with fish and bottomless, according to my fellow platformers,
flanked by sloping, green, shrub-clad banks that reflected themselves in
it. The train crossed the middle of the lake by a stone dyke and climbed
higher and ever higher, with splendid views of the perfect cone-shaped
volcanoes Agua and Panteleón that have gradually thrown themselves up to
be the highest in Guatemala and visible from almost every part of the
republic. It was growing dark when the first houses of Guatemala City
appeared among the trees, and gradually and slowly we dragged into the
station. A bare-footed policeman on the train took the names and
biographies of all on board, as another had already done at Esquintla,
and we were free to crowd out into the ragged, one-story city with its
languid mule-cars.

In the "Hotel Colon" opposite Guatemala's chief theater and shouldering
the president's house, which is tailor-shop and saloon below, the daily
rate was $12. The food was more than plentiful, but would have been an
insult to the stomach of a harvest-hand, the windowless room was musty
and dirty, the walls splashed, spotted, and torn, and the bed was by far
the worst I had occupied south of the Rio Grande, having not only a
board floor but a mattress that seemed to be stuffed with broken and
jagged rocks. Notwithstanding all which I slept the clock round.

If there is any "sight" in Guatemala City besides its slashing sunlight
and its surrounding volcanoes, and perhaps its swarms of Indians
trotting to and from the market on Sundays, it is the relief map of the
entire Republic inside the race-course. This is of cement, with real
water to represent the lakes and oceans and (when it is turned on) the
rivers. Every town, railway, and trail of any importance is marked, an
aid to the vagabond that should be required by law of every country. On
it I picked out easily the route of my further travels. The map covers a
space as large as a moderate-sized house and is seen in all its details
from the two platforms above it. Its only apparent fault is that the
mountains and volcanoes are out of all proportion in height. But
exaggeration is a common Central-American failing.

The city is populous, chiefly with shoeless inhabitants, monotonously
flat, few buildings for dread of earthquake being over one story, even
the national palace and cathedral sitting low and squat. An elevation of
five thousand feet gives it a pleasant June weather, but life moves with
a drowsy, self-contented air. Its people are far more obliging than the
average of Mexico and have little or none of the latter's sulkiness or
half-insolence. Here reigns supreme Estrada Cabrera; exactly where very
few know, for so great is his dislike to assassination that he jumps
about incessantly from one of his one-story residences to another,
perhaps, as his people assert, by underground passages, for he is seldom
indeed seen in the flesh by his fond subjects. In less material
manifestations he is omnipresent and few are the men who have long
outlived his serious displeasure. A man of modest ability but of
extremely suspicious temperament, he keeps the reins of government
almost entirely in his own hands, running the country as if it were his
private estate, which for some years past it virtually has been. It is a
form of government not entirely unfitted to a people in the bulk utterly
indifferent as to who or what rules them so they are left to loaf in
their hammocks in peace, and no more capable of ruling themselves than
of lifting themselves by their non-existent boot-straps. Outwardly life
seems to run as smoothly as elsewhere, and the casual passer-by does not
to his knowledge make the acquaintance of those reputed bands of
adventurers from many climes said to carry out swiftly and efficiently
every whispered command of Guatemala's invisible ruler.

On Sunday a bull-fight was perpetrated in the _plaza de toros_
facing the station. It was a dreary caricature of the royal sport of
Spain. The plaza was little more than a rounded barnyard, the four gaunt
and cowardly animals with blunted horns virtually lifeless, picadors and
horses were conspicuous by their absence, and the two matadors were not
even skilful butchers. A _cuadrilla_ of women did the "Suerte de
Tancredo" on one another's backs--as any one else could have on his head
or in a rocking-chair--and the only breath of excitement was when one
of the feminine _toreras_ got walked on by a fear-quaking animal
vainly seeking an exit. All in all it was an extremely poor newsboys'
entertainment, a means of collecting admissions for the privilege of
seeing to-morrow's meat prepared, the butchers skinning and quartering
the animals within the enclosure in full sight of the disheveled

The train mounted out of the capital with much winding, as many as three
sections of track one above another at times, and, once over the range,
fell in with a river on its way to the Atlantic. The country grew dry
and Mexican, covered with fine white dust and grown with cactus. At
Zacapa, largest town of the line, Dakin was already at work in a
machine-shop on wheels in the railroad yards, and Ems was preparing to
take charge of one of the locomotives. Descending with the swift
stream, we soon plunged into thickening jungle, growing even more dense
than that of Tehuantepec, with trees, plants, and all the stationary
forms of nature struggling like an immense multitude fighting for life,
the smaller and more agile climbing the sturdier, the weak and
unassertive trampled to death underfoot on the dank, sunless ground. We
crossed the now considerable river by a three-span bridge, and entered
the banana country. English-speaking Negroes became numerous, and when
we pulled in at the station of Quiraguá, the collection of bamboo
shanties I had expected was displaced by several new and modern
bungalows on the brow of a knoll overlooking the railroad. Here was one
of the great plantations of the United Fruit Company. From the veranda
of the office building broad miles of banana plants stretched away to
the southern mountains. Jamaican Negroes were chiefly engaged in the
banana culture, and those from our Southern States did the heavier and
rougher work. Their wages ran as high as a dollar gold a day, as against
a Guatemalan peso for the native peons of the coffee estates in other
sections. Much of the work was let out on contract. There were a
number of white American employees, college-trained in some cases, and
almost all extremely youthful. The heat here was tropical and heavy, the
place being a bare three hundred feet above sea-level where even
clothing quickly molds and rots. My fellow countrymen had found the most
dangerous pastimes in this climate to be drinking liquor and eating
bananas, while the mass of employees more often came to grief in the
feuds between the various breeds of Negroes and with the natives.

In the morning a handcar provided with a seat and manned by two muscular
Carib Negroes carried me away through the banana jungle by a private
railroad. The atmosphere was thick and heavy as soured milk. A
half-hour between endless walls of banana plants brought me to a
palm-leaf hut, from which I splashed away on foot through a riot of wet
jungle to the famous ruins of Quiraguá. Archeologists had cleared a
considerable square in the wilderness, still within the holdings of the
fruit company, felling many enormous trees; but the place was already
half choked again with compact undergrowth. There were three immense
stone pillars in a row, then two others leaning at precarious angles,
while in and out through the adjacent jungle were scattered carved
stones in the forms of frogs and other animals, clumsily depicted, a
small calendar stone, and an immense carved rock reputed to have been a
place of sacrifice. Several artificial mounds were now mere stone hills
overgrown with militant vegetation, as were remnants of old stone
roadways. Every stone was covered with distinct but crudely carved
figures, the most prominent being that of a king with a large Roman nose
but very little chin, wearing an intricate crown surmounted by a
death's-head, holding a scepter in one hand and in the other what
appeared to be a child spitted on a toasting fork. All was of a species
of sandstone that has withstood the elements moderately well, especially
if, as archeologists assert, the ruins represent a city founded some
three thousand years ago. Some of the faces, however, particularly those
toward the east and south from which come most of the storms, were worn
almost smooth and were covered with moss and throttling
vegetation. Through it all a mist that was virtually a rain fell
incessantly, and ground and jungle reeked with a clinging mud and
dripping water that soaked through shoes and garments.



The train carried me back up the river to Zacapa, desert dry and
stingingly hot with noonday. Report had it that there was a good road
to Jocotán by way of Chiquimula, but the difference between a "buen
camino" and a mere "road" is so slight in Central America that I
concluded to follow the more direct trail. The next essential was to
change my wealth into Honduranean silver, chiefly in coins of one
_real_, corresponding in value to an American nickel; for financial
transactions were apt to be petty in the region ahead of me. In the
collection I gathered among the merchants of Zacapa were silver dollars
of Mexico, Salvador, Chile, and Peru, all of which stand on terms of
perfect equality with the peso of Honduras, worth some forty cents. My
load was heavier, as befitted an exit from even quasi-civilization. The
rucksack was packed with more than fourteen pounds, not counting kodak
and weapon, and for the equivalent of some thirty cents in real money I
had acquired in the market of Guatemala City a hammock, more exactly a
sleeping-net, made of a species of grass by the Indians of Cobán.

Under all this I was soon panting up through the once cobbled village of
Zacapa and across a rising sand-patch beyond, cheered on by the parting
information that the last traveler to set out on this route had been
killed a few miles from town for the $2 or so he carried. Mine would not
have been any particular burden in a level or temperate country, but
this was neither. The sun hung so close it felt like some immense
red-hot ingot swinging overhead in a foundry. The road--and in Central
America that word seldom represents anything better than a rocky,
winding trail with rarely a level yard--sweated up and down sharp
mountain faces, picking its way as best it could over a continual
succession of steep lofty ridges. Even before I lost the railway to view
I was dripping wet from cap to shoes, drops fell constantly from the end
of my nose, and my eyes stung with salt even though I plunged my face
into every stream. My American shoes had succumbed on the tramp to
Retalhuleu and the best I had been able to do in Guatemala City was to
squander $45 for a pair of native make and chop them down into
Oxfords. These, soaked in the jungle of Quiraguá, now dried iron-stiff
in the sun and barked my feet in various places.

I had crossed four ranges and was winding along a narrow, dense-grown
valley when night began to fall. The rumors of foul play led me to keep
a hand hanging loose near my weapon, though the few natives I met seemed
friendly enough. Darkness thickened and I was planning to swing my
hammock among the trees when I fell upon the hut of Coronado Cordón. It
was a sieve-like structure of bamboo, topped by a thick palm-leaf roof,
with an outdoor mud fireplace, and crowded with dogs, pigs, and roosted
fowls. Coronado himself, attired in the remnants of a pair of cotton
trousers, greeted me from his hammock.

"May I pass the night with you?"

"To be sure, señor. You may sleep on this bench under the roof."

But I produced my hammock and he swung it for me from two bamboo rafters
of the low projecting eaves, beside his own and that of a horseman who
had also sought hospitality, where a steady breeze swept through. His
wife squatted for an hour or more over the fireplace, and at length I
sat down--on the ground--to black coffee, frijoles, tortillas, and a
kind of Dutch cheese.

Long before morning I was too cold, even under most of the contents of
my pack, to sleep soundly. It was December and the days were short for
tramping. This one did not begin to break until six and I had been
awake and ready since three. Coronado slept on, but his señora arose
and, covering her breasts with a small apron, took to grinding corn for
tortillas. These with coffee and two eggs dropped for a moment in hot
water, after a pin-hole had been broken in each, made up my breakfast,
and brought my bill up to nearly eleven cents.

I was off in the damp dawn. Any enumeration of the rocky, slippery,
twisting trails by which I panted up and over perpendicular mountain
ridges under a burning sun without the shadow of a cloud, would be
wearisome. Sweat threatened to ruin even the clothing in my bundle, it
soaked even belt and holster, rusting the weapon within it, and leaving
a visible trail behind me. Once, at the careless nod of an Indian, I
strained up an all but perpendicular slope, only to have the trail end
hundreds of feet above the river in a fading cow-path and leave me to
climb down again. Farther on it dodged from under my feet once more and,
missing a reputed bridge, forced me to ford a chest-deep river which all
but swept me away, possessions and all, at the first attempt.

Jocotán, on the farther bank, was a lazy, sunbaked village the chief
industry of which seemed to be swinging in hammocks, though I did manage
to run to earth the luxury of a dish of tough meat. Comotán was close
beyond, then came two hours straight up to a region of pine-trees with
vistas of never-ending mountains everywhere dense-forested, the few
adobe or bamboo huts tucked in among them being as identically alike as
the inhabitants. These were almost obsequious peons, wearing a sort of
white pajamas and moderate-sized straw hats, all strangely clean. Each
carried a machete, generally with a curved point, and not a few had
guns. Toward evening I struck a bit of level going amid dense vegetation
without a breath of air along the bank of a river that must be forded
lower down, which fact I took advantage of to perpetrate a general
laundering. This proved unwise, for the sun went down before the
garments had dried and left me to lug on along the stream those the
unexacting customs of the country did not require me to put on
wet. Every hundred yards the trail went swiftly down into the stony bed
of a tributary, with or without water, and clambered breathlessly out
again. A barked heel had festered and made every other step painful.

It was more than an hour after dark that I sweated into the _aldea_
of Chupá, so scattered that as each hut refused me lodging I had to
hobble on a considerable distance to the next. The fourth or fifth
refusal I declined to accept and swung my hammock under the eaves. A
woman was cooking on the earth floor for several peon travelers, but
treated me only with a stony silence. One of the Indians, however, who
had been a soldier and was more friendly or less suspicious of
"gringoes," divided with me his single tortilla and bowl of
frijoles. The family slept on dried cowskins spread on the bare earth.

Food was not to be had when I folded my hammock and pushed on at
daylight. One of a cluster of huts farther up was given over to a squad
of "soldiers," garrisoning the frontier, and an officer who would have
ranked as a vagabond in another country sold me three tortillas and a
shellful of coffee saved from his rations. Another cluster of huts
marked the beginning of a stiff rocky climb, beyond which I passed
somewhere in a swampy stretch of uninhabited ground the invisible
boundary and entered Honduras, the Land of Great Depths.

It was indeed. Soon a vast mountain covered with pine forest rose into
the sky ahead and two hours of unbroken climbing brought me only to the
rim of another great wooded valley scolloped out of the earth and down
into which I went all but headfirst into the town of Copán. Here, as I
sat in a fairly easy chair in the shaded corner of a barnyard among
pigs, chickens, and turkeys while my tortillas were preparing, I got the
first definite information as to the tramp before me. Tegucigalpa, the
capital, was said to be fifteen days distant by mule. On foot it might
prove a trifle less. But if transportation in the flesh was laborious
and slow, the ease of verbal communication partly made up for it. A
telegram to the capital cost me the sum total of one real. It should
have been a real and a quarter, but the telegraph operator had no

Beyond the town I found with some difficulty the gate through which one
must pass to visit the ancient ruins of Copán. Once inside it, a path
led through jungle and tobacco fields and came at length to a great
artificial mound, originally built of cut-stone, but now covered with
deep grass and a splendid grove of immense trees, until in appearance
only a natural hill remained. About the foot of this, throttled by
vegetation, lay scattered a score or more of carved stones, only one or
two of which were particularly striking. Summer solitude hovered over
all the scene.

Back again on the "camino real" I found the going for once ideal. The
way lay almost level along a fairly wide strip of lush-green grass with
only a soft-footed, eight-inch path marking the route, and heavy jungle
giving unbroken shade. Then came a hard climb, just when I had begun to
hear the river and was laying plans for a drink and a swim, and the
trail led me far up on the grassy brow of a mountain, from which spread
a vast panorama of pine-clad world. But the trails of Honduras are like
spendthrift adventurers, struggling with might and main to gain an
advantage, only wantonly to throw it away again a moment later. This one
pitched headlong down again, then climbed, then descended over and
again, as if setting itself some useless task for the mere pleasure of
showing its powers of endurance. It subsided at last in the town of
Santa Rita, the comandante of which, otherwise a pleasant enough fellow,
took me for a German. It served me right for not having taken the time
to shave my upper lip. He had me write my name on a slip of paper and
bade me adiós with the information that if "my legs were well oiled" I
could make the hacienda Jarral by nightfall.

I set a good pace along the flat, shaded, grassy lane beside the river,
promising myself a swim upon sighting my destination. But the tricky
trail suddenly and unexpectedly led me far up on a mountain flank and
down into Jarral without again catching sight or sound of the
stream. There were three or four palm-leaf huts and a large, long
hacienda building, unspeakably dirty and dilapidated. The estate
produced coffee, heaps of which in berry and kernel stood here and there
in the dusk. The owner lived elsewhere; for which no one could blame
him. I marched out along the great tile-floored veranda to mention to
the stupid _mayordomo_ the relationship of money and food. He
referred me to a filth-encrusted woman in the cavern-like kitchen, where
three soiled and bedraggled babies slept on a dirtier reed mat on the
filthy earth floor, another in a hammock made of a grain sack and two
pieces of rope, amid dogs, pigs, and chickens, not to mention other
unpleasantnesses, including a damp dungeon atmosphere that ought early
to have proved fatal to the infants. When she had sulkily agreed to
prepare me tortillas, I returned to ask the way to the river. The
mayordomo cried out in horror at the notion of bathing at night,
pointing out that there was not even a moon, and prophesying a fatal
outcome of such foolhardiness and gringo eccentricity. His appearance
suggested that he had also some strong superstition against bathing by

I stumbled nearly a mile along to-morrow's road, stepping now and then
into ankle-deep mud puddles, before reaching the stream, but a plunge
into a stored-up pool of it was more than ample reward. "Supper" was
ready upon my return, and by asking the price of it at once and catching
the woman by surprise I was charged only a legitimate amount. When I
inquired where I might swing my hammock, the enemy of bathing pointed
silently upward at the rafters of the veranda. These were at least ten
feet above the tiled floor and I made several ineffectual efforts before
I could reach them at all, and then only succeeded in hanging my
sleeping-net so that it doubled me up like a jack-knife. Rearranging it
near the corner of the veranda, I managed with great effort to climb
into it, but to have fallen out would have been to drop either some
eight feet to the stone-flagged door or twenty into the cobbled and
filthy barnyard below. The chances of this outcome were much increased
by the necessity of using a piece of old rope belonging to the hacienda,
and a broken arm or leg would have been pleasant indeed here in the
squalid wilderness with at least a hundred miles of mule-trail to the
nearest doctor.

Luckily I only fell asleep. Several men and dirtier boys, all in what
had once been white garments, had curled up on bundles of dirty mats and
heaps of bags all over the place, and the night was a pandemonium of
their coughing, snoring, and night-maring, mingled with the hubbub of
dogs, roosters, turkeys, cattle, and a porcine multitude that snuggled
in among the human sleepers. The place was surrounded by wet, pine-clad
mountains, and the damp night air drifting in upon me soon grew cold and

Having had time to collect her wits, the female of the dungeon charged
me a quadrupled price for a late breakfast of black coffee and pin-holed
eggs, and I set off on what turned out to be a not entirely pleasant
day's tramp. To begin with I had caught cold in a barked heel, causing
the cords of the leg to swell and stiffen. Next I found that the
rucksack had worn through where it came in contact with my back; third,
the knees of the breeches I wore succumbed to the combination of sweat
and the tearing of jungle grasses; fourth, the garments I carried
against the day I should again enter civilization were already rumpled
and stained almost beyond repair; and, fifth, but by no means last, the
few American bills I carried in a secret pocket had been almost effaced
by humidity and friction. Furthermore, the "road" completely surpassed
all human powers of description. When it was not splitting into a
half-dozen faint paths, any one of which was sure to fade from existence
as soon as it had succeeded in leading me astray in a panting chase up
some perpendicular slope, it was splashing through mud-holes or small
rivers. At the first stream I squandered a half-hour disrobing and
dressing again, only to find that some two hundred yards farther on it
swung around once more across the trail. Twice it repeated that stale
practical joke. At the fourth crossing I forestalled it by marching on,
carrying all but shirt and hat,--and got only sunburn and stone-bruises
for my foresight, for the thing disappeared entirely. Still farther on I
attempted to save time by crossing another small river by a series of
stepping-stones, reached the middle of it dry-shod, looked about for the
next step, and then carefully lay down at full length, baggage and all,
in the stream as the stone turned over under my feet. But by that time I
needed another bath.

An old woman of La Libertad, a collection of mud huts wedged into a
little plain between jungled mountain-sides, answered my hungry query
with a cheery "Cómo no!" and in due time set before me black beans and
blacker coffee and a Honduranean tortilla, which are several times
thicker and heavier than those of Mexico and taste not unlike a plank of

Though often good-hearted enough, these children of the wilderness have
no more inkling of any line between dirt and cleanliness, nor any more
desire to improve their conditions, themselves, or their surroundings,
which we of civilized lands think of as humanity's privilege and
requirement, than the mangy yellow curs that slink in and out between
their legs and among their cooking pots. I had yet to see in Honduras a
house, a garment, a single possession, or person that was anything short
of filthy.

As I ate, a gaunt and yellow youth arrived with a rag tied about his
brow, complaining that a fever had overtaken him on a steep mountain
trail and left him helpless for hours. I made use for the first time of
the small medicine case I carried. Then the old woman broke in to
announce that her daughter also had fever. I found a child of ten
tossing on a miserable canvas cot in the mud hut before which I sat, her
pulse close to the hundred mark. When I had treated her to the best of
my ability, the mother stated that a friend in a neighboring hut had
been suffering for more than a week with chills and fever, but that she
was "embarrassed" and must not take anything that might bring that
condition prematurely to a head. I prescribed not without some layman
misgiving. Great astonishment spread throughout the hamlet when I
refused payment for my services, and the old woman not only vociferously
declined the coin I proffered for the food, but bade me farewell with a
vehement "Diós se lo pagará"--whether in Honduranean change or not she
did not specify. The majority of the inhabitants of the wilds of
Honduras live and die without any other medical attention than those of
a rare wandering charlatan or pill-peddler.

Beyond was a rising path through dense steaming jungle, soon crossed by
the ubiquitous river. Across it, near a pretty waterfall, the trail
climbed up and ever up through jungle and forest, often deep in mud and
in places so steep I had to mount on all fours, slipping back at each
step like the proverbial frog in the well. A splendid virgin forest
surrounded me, thick with undergrowth, the immense trees whispering
together far above. A half-hour up, the trail, all but effaced, was cut
off by a newly constructed rail fence tied together with vines run
through holes that had been pierced in the buttresses of giants of the
forest. There was no other route in sight, however, and I climbed the
obstruction and sweated another half-hour upward. A vista of at least
eight heavily wooded ranges opened out behind me, not an inch of which
was not covered with dense-green treetops. Far up near the gates of
heaven I came upon a sun-flooded sloping clearing planted with tobacco,
and found a startled peon in the shade of a make-shift leaf hut. Instead
of climbing the hill by this private trail, I should immediately have
crossed the river again more than an hour below and continued on along

When he had recovered from the fright caused by so unexpected an
apparition, the Indian yielded up his double-bodied gourd and made no
protest when I gurgled down about half the water he had carried up the
mountain for his day's thirst. That at least was some reward for the
useless climb, for there is no greater physical pleasure than drinking
one's fill of clear cold water after a toilsome tropical tramp. I
crashed and slid down to the river again and picked up once more the
muddy path along it between dense walls of damp jungle. It grew worse
and worse, falling in with a smaller stream and leaping back and forth
across it every few yards, sometimes permitting me to dodge across like
a tight-rope walker on wet mossy stones, more often delaying me to
remove shoes and leggings. An hour of this and the scene changed. A vast
mountain wall rose before me, and a sharp rocky trail at times like
steps cut by nature in the rock face led up and up and still forever
upward. A score of times I seemed to have reached the summit, only to
find that the trail took a new turn and, gathering up its skirts,
climbed away again until all hope of its ever ceasing its sweating
ascent faded away. After all it was perhaps well that only a small
portion of the climb was seen at a time; like life itself, the appalling
sight of all the difficulties ahead at once might discourage the climber
from ever undertaking the task.

It was near evening when I came out in a slight clearing on what was at
last really the summit. Vast forests of whispering pine-trees surrounded
me, and before and behind lay an almost endless vista of heavily wooded,
tumbled mountains, on a low one of which, near at hand but far below,
could be seen the scattered village of San Augustín. There was still a
long hour down the opposite face of the mountain, with thinner pine
forests and the red soil showing through here and there; not all down
either, for the trail had the confirmed habit of falling into bottomless
sharp gullies every few yards and struggling out again up the steepest
of banks, though the privilege of thrusting my face into the clear
mountain stream at the bottom of each made me pardon these monotonous
vagaries. After surmounting six or eight such mountain ranges in a day,
under a sun like ours of August quadrupled and some twenty pounds of
awkward baggage, without what could reasonably be called food, to say
nothing of festered heels and similar petty ailments, the traveler comes
gradually by nightfall to develop a desire to spend ten minutes under
the electric fans of a "Baltimore Lunch."

Yet with all its difficulties the day had been more than enjoyable,
wandering through endless virgin forests swarming with strange and
beautiful forms of plant and bird life, with rarely a habitation or a
fellow-man to break the spell of pure, unadulterated nature. For break
it these did. As the first hut of San Augustín intruded itself in the
growing dusk there ran unbidden through my head an ancient refrain:

"Plus je vois l'homme, plus j'aîme mon chien."

Nearer the center of the collection I paused to ask a man leaning
against his mud doorway whether he knew any one who would give me
posada. The eagerness with which he offered to do so himself gave me
visions of an exorbitant bill in the morning, but it turned out that he
was merely anxious for the "honor" of lodging a stranger. This time I
slept indoors. My host himself swung my hammock from two of the beams in
his large, single-room house made of slats filled in with mud. Though a
man of some education, subscriber to a newspaper of Salvador and an
American periodical in Spanish, and surrounded by pine forests, it
seemed never to have occurred to him to try to better his lot even to
the extent of putting in a board floor. His mixture of knowledge and
ignorance was curious. He knew most of the biography of Edison by heart,
but thought Paris the capital of the United States and the population of
that country 700,000.

In the house the only food was tortillas, but across the "street" meat
was for sale. It proved to be tough strips a half-inch square of
sun-dried beef hanging from the rafters. I made another suggestion, but
the woman replied with a smile half of amusement half of sorrow that all
the chickens had died. A few beans were found, and, as I ate, several
men drifted into the hut and gradually and diffidently fell to asking
strange and childish questions. It is hard for those of us trained to
democracy and accustomed to intercourse only with "civilized" people to
realize that a bearded man of forty, with tall and muscular frame, may
have only an infantile grade of intelligence, following the conversation
while it is kept on the plane of an eight-year-old intellect, but
incapable of grasping any real thought, and staring with the
open-mouthed naïveté of a child.

Tobacco is grown about San Augustín, and every woman of the place rolls
clumsy cigars and cigarettes as incessantly as those of other parts knit
or sew. The wife and daughter of my host were so engaged when I
returned, toiling leisurely by the light of pine splinters; for rural
Honduras has not yet reached the candle stage of progress. For a
half-real I bought thirty cigarettes of the size of a lead-pencil, made
of the coarse leaves more fitted to cigars. The man and wife, and the
child that had been stark naked ever since my arrival, at length rolled
up together on a bundle of rags on the dank earth floor, the daughter of
eighteen climbed a knotched stick into a cubbyhole under the roof, and
when the pine splinter flickered out I was able for the first night in
Honduras to get out of my knee-cramping breeches and into more
comfortable sleeping garments. The festered heel gave me considerable
annoyance. A bread and milk poultice would no doubt have drawn the fever
out of it, but even had any such luxury been obtainable I should have
applied it internally. During the night I awoke times without number.
Countless curs, that were to real dogs what these people are to
civilized races, howled the night hideous, as if warning the village
periodically of some imaginary danger, suggested perhaps by the scent of
a stranger in their midst. Sometime in the small hours two youths,
either drunk or enamored of the bedraggled senorita in the cubbyhole
above, struck up a mournful, endless ballad of two unvarying lines, the
one barely heard, the other screeching the eternal refrain until the
night shuddered with it. All the clothing I possessed was not enough to
keep me warm both above and below.

One of the chief difficulties of the road in Honduras is the
impossibility of arousing the lazy inhabitants in time to prepare some
suggestion of breakfast at a reasonably early hour. For to set off
without eating may be to fast all the hot and laborious day. The sun was
already warm when I took up the task of picking my way from among the
many narrow, red, labyrinthian paths that scattered over the hill on
which San Augustín reposes and radiated into the rocky, pine-forested,
tumbled mountain world surrounding it. Some one had said the trail to
Santa Rosa was easy and comparatively level. But such words have strange
meanings in Honduras. Not once during the day did there appear a level
space ten yards in length. Hour after hour a narrow path, one of a score
in which to go astray, worn in the whitish rock of a tumbled and
irregular series of soft sandstone ridges with thin forests of pine or
fir, clambered and sweated up and down incessantly by slopes steeper
than any stairway, until I felt like the overworked chambermaid of a
tall but elevator-less hotel. My foot was much swollen, and to make
things worse the region was arid and waterless. Once I came upon a
straggling mud village, but though it was half-hidden by banana and
orange groves, not even fruit could be bought. Yet a day or two before
some scoundrel had passed this way eating oranges constantly and
strewing the trail with the tantalizing peelings; a methodical, selfish,
bourgeois fellow, who had not had the humane carelessness to drop a
single fruit on all his gluttonous journey.

When I came at last, at the bottom of a thigh-straining descent, upon
the first stream of the day, it made up for the aridity behind, for the
path had eluded me and left me to tear through the jungle and wade a
quarter mile before I picked up the trail again. Refreshed, I began a
task before which I might have turned back had I seen it all at once.
Four mortal waterless hours I toiled steeply upward, more than twenty
times sure I had reached the summit, only to see the trail, like some
will-o'-the-wisp, draw on ahead unattainably in a new direction. I had
certainly ascended four thousand feet when I threw myself down at last
among the pines of the wind-swept summit. A draught from the gourd of a
passing peon gave me new life for the corresponding descent. Several of
these fellow-roadsters now appeared, courteous fellows, often with black
mustaches and imperial à la Napoleon III, who raised their hats and
greeted me with a sing-song "Qué se vaya bien," yet seemed remarkably
stupid and perhaps a trifle treacherous. At length, well on in the
afternoon, the road broke through a cutting and disclosed the welcome
sight of the town of Santa Rosa, its white church bulking above all else
built by man; the first suggestion of civilization I had seen in

The suggestion withered upon closer examination. The place did not know
the meaning of the word hotel, there was neither restaurant, electric
light, wheeled vehicles, nor any of the hundred and one things common to
civilized towns of like size. After long inquiry for lodging, I was
directed to a pharmacy. The connection was not apparent until I found
that an American doctor occupied there a tiny room made by partitioning
off with a strip of canvas stretched on a frame a part of the public
hallway to the patio. He was absent on his rounds; which was fortunate,
for his Cuban interpreter not merely gave me possession of the "room"
and cot, but delivered to me the doctor's supper of potatoes, rice, an
imitation of bread, and even a piece of meat, when it arrived from a
market-place kitchen. Here I spent Sunday, with the extreme lassitude
following an extended tramp in the hungry wilderness. The doctor turned
up in the afternoon, an imposing monument of a man from Texas with a
wild tangle of dark-brown beard, and the soft eyes and gentle manners of
a girl. He had spent some months in the region, more to the advantage of
the inhabitants than his own, for disease was far more wide spread than
wealth, and the latter was extremely elusive even where it
existed. Hookworm was the second most common ailment, with cancer and
miscarriages frequent. The entire region he had found virtually given
over to free love. The grasping priests made it all but impossible for
the poorer classes to marry, and the custom had rather died out even
among the well-to-do. All but two families of the town acknowledged
illegitimate children, there was not a priest nor a youth of eighteen
who had not several, and more than one widow of Honduranean wealth and
position whose husband had long since died continued to add yearly to
the population. The padre of San Pedro, from whose house he had just
come, boasted of being the father of eighty children. All these things
were common knowledge, with almost no attempt at concealment, and indeed
little notion that there might be anything reprehensible in such
customs. Every one did it, why shouldn't any one? Later experience
proved these conditions, as well as nearly 90 per cent. of complete
illiteracy, common to all Honduras.

The only other industry of Santa Rosa is the raising of tobacco and the
making of a tolerably good cigar, famed throughout Honduras and selling
here twenty for a real. Every hut and almost every shop is a cigar
factory. The town is four thousand feet above sea-level, giving it a
delightful, lazy, satisfied-with-life-just-as-it-is air that partly
makes up for its ignorance, disease, and unmorality. The population is
largely Indian, unwashed since birth, and with huge hoof-like bare feet
devoid of sensation. There is also considerable Spanish blood, generally
adulterated, its possessors sometimes shod and wearing nearly white
cotton suits and square white straw hats. In intelligence the entire
place resembles children without a child's power of imitation. Except
for the snow-white church, the town is entirely one-story, with tile
roofs, a ragged flowery plaza, and straight streets, sometimes cobbled,
that run off down hill, for the place is built on a meadowy knoll with a
fine vista of hills and surrounded by an immensely rich land that would
grow almost anything in abundance with a minimum of cultivation.

The one way of getting an early start in Honduras is to make your
purchases the night before and eat them raw in the morning. Christmas
day had barely dawned, therefore, when I began losing my way among the
undulating white rock paths beyond Santa Rosa. Such a country brings
home to man his helplessness and unimportance before untamed nature. I
wished to be in Tegucigalpa, two hundred miles away, within five days;
yet all the wealth of Croesus could not have brought me there in that
time. As it was, I had broken the mule-back record, and many is the
animal that succumbs to the up and down trails of Honduras. This one
might, were such triteness permissible, have been most succinctly
characterized by a well-known description of war. It was rougher than
any stone-quarry pitched at impossible angles, and the attraction of
gravity for my burden passed belief. To this I had been forced to add
not merely a roll of silver reales but my Christmas dinner, built up
about the nucleus of a can of what announced itself outwardly as pork
and beans. Talgua, at eleven, did not seem the fitting scene for so
solemn a ceremony, and I hobbled on, first over a tumble-down stone
bridge, then by a hammock-bridge to which one climbed high above the
river by a notched stick and of which two thirds of the cross-slats were
missing, while the rest cracked or broke under the 185 pounds to which I
subjected them.

I promised myself to pitch camp at the very next clear stream. But the
hammock-bridge once passed there began a heart-breaking climb into
bone-dry hills, rolling with broken stones, and palpitating with the
heat of an unshaded tropical sun. Several times I had perished of thirst
before I came to a small sluggish stream, only to find its water deep
blue with some pollution. In the end I was forced to overlook this
drawback and, finding a sort of natural bathtub among the blazing rocks,
fell upon what after all proved to be a porkless feast. The doctor's
treatment had reduced the swelling in foot and ankle, but the wound
itself was more painful than ever and called for frequent soaking. In
midafternoon I passed a second village, as somnolent as the belly-gorged
zopilotes that half-jumped, half-flew sluggishly out of the way as I
advanced. Here was a bit of fairly flat and shaded going, with another
precarious hammock-bridge, then an endless woods with occasional sharp
stony descents to some brawling but most welcome stream, with
stepping-stones or without. Thus far I had seen barely a human being all
the day, but as the shades of evening grew I passed several groups of
arrieros who blasted my hopes of reaching Gracias that night, but who
informed me that just beyond the "rio grande" was a _casita_ where
I might spend the night.

It was sunset when I came to the "great river," a broad and noisy though
only waist-deep stream with two sheer, yet pine-clad rock cliffs more
striking than the Palisades of the Hudson. A crescent moon was peering
over them when I passed the swinging bridge swaying giddily to and fro
high above the stream, but on the steep farther bank it lighted up only
a cruel disappointment. For the "casita" was nothing but a roof on
wabbly legs, a public rest-house where I might swing my hammock but go
famished to bed. I pushed on in quest of a more human habitation. The
"road" consisted of a dozen paths shining white in the moonlight and
weaving in and out among each other. No sign of man appeared, and my
foot protested vehemently. I concluded to be satisfied with water to
drink and let hunger feed upon itself. But now it was needed, not a
trickle appeared. Once I fancied I heard a stream babbling below and
tore my way through the jungle down a sharp slope, but I had only caught
the echo of the distant river. It was well on into the night when the
welcome sound again struck my ear. This time it was real, and I fought
my way down through clutching undergrowth and stone heaps to a stream,
sluggish and blue in color, but welcome for all that, to swing my
hammock among stone heaps from two elastic saplings, for it was just my
luck to have found the one spot in Honduras where there were no trees
large enough to furnish shelter. Luckily nothing worse than a heavy dew
fell. Now and then noisy boisterous bands of natives passed along the
trail from their Christmas festivities in the town ahead. But whereas a
Mexican highway at this hour would have been overrun with drunken peons
more or less dangerous to "gringoes," drink seemed to have made these
chiefly amorous. Still I took good care to arrange myself for the night
quietly, if only to be able to sleep undisturbed. Once, somewhere in the
darkest hours, a drove of cattle stampeded down the slope near me, but
even as I reached for my weapon I found it was not the band of peons
from a dream of which I had awakened. The spot was some 1500 feet lower
than Santa Rosa, but still so sharp and penetrating is the chill of
night in this region in contrast to the blazing, sweating days that I
did not sleep a moment soundly after the first hour of evening.

An hour's walk next morning brought me to Gracias, a slovenly,
nothing-to-do-but-stare hamlet of a few hundred inhabitants. After I had
eaten all the chief hut could supply, I set about looking for the
shoemaker my already aged Guatemalan Oxfords needed so badly. I found
the huts where several of them lived, but not where any of them
worked. The first replied from his hammock that he was sick, the second
had gone to Tegucigalpa, the third was "somewhere about town if you have
the patience to wait." Which I did for an hour or more, and was rewarded
with his turning up to inform me that he was not planning to begin his
labors again so soon, for only yesterday had been Christmas.

Over the first hill and river beyond, I fell in with a woman who carried
on an unbroken conversation as well as a load on her head, from the time
she accepted the first cigar until we had waded the thigh-deep "rio
grande" and climbed the rocky bank to her hut and garden. At first she
had baldly refused to allow her picture to be taken. But so weak-willed
are these people of Honduras that a white man of patience can in time
force them to do his bidding by sheer force of will, by merely looking
long and fixedly at them. Many the "gringo" who has misused this power
in Central America. Before we reached her home she had not only posed
but insisted on my stopping to photograph her with her children "dressed
up" as befitted so extraordinary an occasion. Her garden was unusually
well supplied with fruit and vegetables, and the rice boiled in milk she
served was the most savory dish I had tasted in Honduras. She refused
payment, but insisted on my waiting until the muleteers she had charged
for their less sumptuous dinner were gone, so they should not discover
her unpatriotic favoritism.

During the afternoon there was for a time almost level going, grassy and
soft, across gently dipping meadows on which I left both mule-trains and
pedestrians behind. Houses were rare, and the fall of night threatened
to leave me alone among vast whining pine forests where the air was
already chill. In the dusk, however, I came upon the hut of Pablo
Morales and bespoke posada. He growled a surly permission and addressed
hardly a word to me for hours thereafter. The place was the most filthy,
quarrelsome, pig and chicken overrun stop on the trip, and when at last
I prepared to swing my hammock inside the hut the sulky host informed me
that he only permitted travelers the _corredor_. Two other
guests--ragged, soil-encrusted arrieros--were already housed within, but
there were at least some advantages in swinging my own net outside from
the rafters of the eaves. Pigs jolted against me now and then and before
I had entirely fallen asleep I was disturbed by a procession of dirty
urchins, each carrying a blazing pine stick, who came one by one to look
me over. I was just settling down again when Pablo himself appeared, an
uncanny figure in the dancing light of his flaming torch. He had heard
that I could "put people on paper," and would I put his wife on paper in
return for his kindness in giving me posada? Yes, in the morning. Why
couldn't I do it now? He seemed strangely eager, for a man accustomed to
set mañana as his own time of action. His surly indifference had
changed to an annoying solicitude, and he forced upon me first a
steaming tortilla, then a native beverage, and finally came with a large
cloth hammock in which I passed the night more comfortably than in my
own open-work net.

In the morning heavy mountain clouds and a swirling mist made
photography impossible, but my host was not of the grade of intelligence
that made this simple explanation possible. He led the way into the
windowless hut, in a corner of which lay a woman of perhaps thirty in a
dog-litter of a bed enclosed by curtains hung from the rafters. The
walls were black with coagulated smoke. The woman, yellow and emaciated
with months of fever, groaned distressingly as the curtains were drawn
aside, but her solicitous husband insisted on propping her up in bed and
holding her with an arm about the shoulders while I "put them both on
paper." His purpose, it turned out, was to send the picture to the
shrine of "la Virgen de los Remedios" that she might cure the groaning
wife of her ailment, and he insisted that it must show "bed and all and
the color of her face" that the Virgin might know what was required of
her. I went through the motions of taking a photograph and explained as
well as was possible why it could not be delivered at once, with the
added information to soften his coming disappointment that the machine
sometimes failed. The fellow merely gathered the notion that I was but a
sorry magician at best, who had my diabolical hocuspocus only
imperfectly under control, and he did not entirely succeed in keeping
his sneers invisible. I offered quinine and such other medicines as were
to be found in my traveling case, but he had no faith in worldly

By nine the day was brilliant. There was an unusual amount of level
grassy trail, though steep slopes were not lacking. During the morning I
passed several bands of ragged soldiers meandering northward in rout
order and some distance behind them their bedraggled women and children,
all afoot and carrying their entire possessions on their heads and
backs. Frequently a little wooden cross or a heap of stones showed where
some traveler had fallen by the wayside, perhaps at the hands of his
fellow-man; for the murder rate, thanks largely to drink and vendettas,
is high in Honduras. It might be less if assassins faced the death
penalty, instead of being merely shut within prisons from which an
active man could soon dig his way to freedom with a pocket-knife, if he
did not have the patience to wait a few months until a new revolution
brought him release or pardon.

The futility of Honduranean life was illustrated here and there. On some
vast hillside capable of producing food for a multitude the eye made out
a single _milpa_, or tiny corn-field, fenced off with huge slabs of
mahogany worth easily ten times all the corn the patch could produce in
a lifetime--or rather, worth nothing whatever, for a thing is valuable
only where it is in demand. At ten I lost the way, found it again, and
began an endless, rock-strewn climb upward through pines, tacking more
times than I could count, each leg of the ascent a toilsome journey in
itself. Not the least painful of road experiences in Honduras is to
reach the summit of such a range after hours of heavy labor, to take
perhaps a dozen steps along the top of the ridge, and then find the
trail pitching headlong down again into a bottomless gorge, from which
comes up the joyous sound of a mountain stream that draws the thirsty
traveler on at double speed, only to bring him at last to a rude bridge
over a precipitous, rock-sided river impossible to reach before
attacking the next slope staring him in the face.

Luckily I foraged an imitation dinner in San Juan, a scattering of mud
huts on a broad upland plain, most of the adult inhabitants of which
were away at some work or play in the surrounding hills. Cattle without
number dotted the patches of unlevel meadows, but not a drop of milk was
to be had. Roosters would have made the night a torture, yet three eggs
rewarded the canvassing of the entire hamlet. These it is always the
Honduranean custom to puncture with a small hole before dropping into
hot water, no doubt because there was no other way of getting the
universal uncleanliness into them. Nor did I ever succeed in getting
them more than half cooked. Once I offered an old woman an extra real if
she would boil them a full three minutes without puncturing them. She
asserted that without a hole in the end "the water could not get in to
cook them," but at length solemnly promised to follow my orders
implicitly. When the eggs reappeared they were as raw as ever, though
somewhat warm, and each had its little punctured hole. I took the cook
to task and she assured me vociferously that "they broke themselves."
Apparently there was some superstition connected with the matter which
none dared violate. At any rate I never succeeded in being served
un-holed eggs in all rural Honduras.

Not only have these people of the wilderness next to nothing to eat, but
they are too indolent to learn to cook what they have. The thick, doughy
tortillas and half-boiled black beans, accompanied by black, unstrained
coffee with dirty crude sugar and without milk, were not merely
monotonous, but would have been fatal to civilized man of sedentary
habits. Only the constant toil and sweat, and the clear water of
mountain stream offset somewhat the evil effects under which even a
horseman would probably have succumbed. The inhabitants of the
Honduranean wilds are distinctly less human in their habits than the
wild men of the Malay Peninsula. For the latter at least build floors
of split bamboo above the ground. Without exaggeration the people of
this region were more uncleanly than their gaunt and yellow curs, for
the latter carefully picked a spot to lie in while the human beings
threw themselves down anywhere and nonchalantly motioned to a guest to
sit down or drop his bundle among fresh offal. They literally never
washed, except by accident, and handled food and filth alternately with
a child-like blandness.

I was just preparing to leave San Juan when a woman came from a
neighboring hut to request my assistance at a child-birth! In this
region all "gringoes" have the reputation of being physicians, and the
inhabitants will not be undeceived. I forcibly tore myself away and
struck for the surrounding wilderness.

From soon after noon until sunset I climbed incessantly among tumbled
rocks without seeing a human being. A cold wind howled through a vast
pine forest of the highest altitude of my Honduranean journey--more than
six thousand feet above sea-level. Night fell in wild solitude, but I
could only plod on, for to sleep out at this height would have been
dangerous. Luckily a corner of moon lighted up weirdly a moderately wide
trail. I had tramped an hour or more into the night when a flickering
light ahead among the trees showed what might have been a camp of
bandits, but which proved to be only that of a group of muleteers, who
had stacked their bales of merchandise around three sides under an
ancient roof on poles and rolled up in their blankets close to the
blazing wood fire they had built to the leeward of it.

They gave no sign of offering me place and I marched on into the howling
night. Perhaps four miles beyond I made out a cluster of habitations
pitched on the summit and slope of a hill leaning toward the trail with
nothing above it on any side to break the raging wind. An uproar of
barking dogs greeted my arrival, and it was some time before an inmate
of one of the dark and silent huts summoned up courage to peer out upon
me. He emerged armed with a huge stick and led the way to a miserable
hovel on the hilltop, where he beat on the door and called out that an
"hombrecito" sought posada. This opened at last and I entered a mud
room in one end of which a fire of sticks blazed fitfully. A woman of
perhaps forty, though appearing much older, as is the case with most
women of Honduras, lay on a wooden bed and a girl of ten huddled among
rags near the fire. I asked for food and the woman ordered the girl to
heat me black coffee and tortillas. The child was naked to the waist,
though the bitter cold wind howled with force through the hut, the walls
and especially the gables and roof of which were far from whole. The
woman complained of great pain in her right leg, and knowing she would
otherwise groan and howl the night through in the hope of attracting the
Virgin's attention, I induced her to swallow two sedative pills. The
smoke made me weep as I swung my hammock from two soot-blackened
rafters, but the fire soon went out and I awoke from the first doze
shivering until the hut shook. The temperature was not low compared with
our northern winters, but the wind carried a penetrating chill that
reached the marrow of the bones. I rose and tried unsuccessfully to
relight the fire. The half-naked girl proved more skilful and I sat
huddled on a stool over the fire, alternately weeping with the smoke and
all but falling into the blaze as I dozed. The pills had little effect
on my hostess. I gave her three more, but her Honduranean stomach was
evidently zinc-lined and she groaned and moaned incessantly. I returned
to my hammock and spent several dream-months at the North Pole before I
was awakened at first cockcrow by the old woman kneeling on the earth
floor before a lithograph of the Virgin surrounded by withered pine
branches, wailing a singsong prayer. She left off at length with the
information that her only hope of relief was to make a pilgrimage to the
"Virgen de los Remedios," and ordered the girl to prepare coffee. I paid
my bill of two reales and gave the girl one for herself, evidently the
largest sum she had ever possessed, if indeed she remained long in
possession of it after I took my hobbling and shivering departure.

A cold and wind-swept hour, all stiffly up or down, brought me to
Esperanza, near which I saw the first wheeled vehicle of Honduras, a
contraption of solid wooden wheels behind gaunt little oxen identical
with those of northwest Spain even to the excruciating scream of its
greaseless axle. In the outskirts two ragged, hoof-footed soldiers
sprang up from behind the bushes of a hillside and came down upon me,
waving their muskets and screaming:

"A'onde va? D'onde viene? Have you a pass to go through our department?"

"Yes, from your consul in Guatemala."

They did not ask to read it, perhaps for a reason, but permitted me to
pass; to my relief, for the old woman had announced that smallpox was
raging in her town of Yamaranguila and its people were not allowed to
enter Esperanza. This proved to be a place of considerable size, of
large huts scattered over a broad grassy plain in a sheltered valley,
with perhaps five thousand inhabitants but not a touch of
civilization. Crowds of boys and dirty ragged soldiers followed me,
grinning and throwing salacious comments as I wandered from house to
house trying to buy food. At a corner of the plaza the comandante called
to me from his hut. I treated him with the haughty air of a superior,
with frequent reference to my "orders from the government," and he
quickly subsided from patronizing insolence to humility and sent a
soldier to lead me to "where food is prepared for strangers." Two
ancient crones, pottering about a mud stove in an open-work reed kitchen
through which the mountain wind swept chillingly, half-cooked an
enormous slab of veal, boiled a pot of the ubiquitous black coffee, and
scraped together a bit of stale bread, or more exactly cake, for _pan
dulce_ was the only species that the town afforded. A dish of
tomatoes of the size of small cherries proved far more appetizing, after
they had been well washed, but the astonishment with which the aged pair
watched me eat them suggested that the tradition that held this fruit
poison still reigns in Esperanza.

Back once more in the comandancia I resolved to repay the soldiers
scattered about town for their insolence in the one way painful to the
Honduranean--by making them exert themselves. Displaying again my
"government order," I demanded a photograph of the garrison of Esperanza
with the comandante, its generals, colonels, lieutenants, and all the
lesser fry at the head; and an imperative command soon brought the
entire force of fifty or more hurrying barefoot and startled, their
ancient muskets under their arms, from the four somnolent corners of the
city. I kept them maneuvering a half-hour or so, ostensibly for
photographic reasons, while all the populace looked on, and the
_reos_, or department prisoners in their chains, formed a languid
group leaning on their shovels at the edge of the plaza waiting until
their guards should be returned to them.

At ten I reshouldered my stuff and marched out in a still cold, cloudy,
upland day, the wondering inhabitants of Esperanza staring awe-stricken
after me until I disappeared from view. A few miles out I met two pure
Indians, carrying oranges in nets on their backs, the supporting strap
across their foreheads. To my question they admitted the fruit was for
sale, though it is by no means uncommon in Central America for
countrymen to refuse to sell on the road produce they are carrying to
town for that purpose. I asked for a real's worth. Luckily they
misunderstood, for the price was "two hands for a medio," and as it was
I had to leave lying on the grass several of the ten fine large oranges
one of the aborigines had counted on his fingers and accepted a
two-and-a-half cent piece for with a "Muchas gracias, amigo." Farther on
I met scores of these short, thick-set Indians, of both sexes and all
ages, straining along over mountain trails for forty or fifty miles from
their colonies to town each with at most a hundred and fifty oranges
they would there scarcely sell for so high a price.

Beyond a fordable, ice-cold stream a fairly good road changed to an
atrocious mountain trail in a labyrinth of tumbled pine-clad ridges and
gullies, on which I soon lost my way in a drizzling rain. The single
telegraph wire came to my rescue, jumping lightly from moss-grown stick
to tall slender tree-trunk across vast chasms down into and out of which
I had to slip and slide and stumble pantingly upward in pursuit. Before
dark I was delighted to fall upon a trail again, though not with its
condition, for it was generally perpendicular and always thick with
loose stones. A band of arrieros cooking their scanty supper under a
shelter tent asserted there were houses some two leagues on, but for
hours I hobbled over mountains of pure stone, my maltreated feet wincing
at every step, without verifying the assertion. Often the descents were
so steep I had to pick each footstep carefully in the darkness, and more
than one climb required the assistance of my hands. A swift stream all
but swept me off my feet, and in the stony climb beyond I lost both
trail and telegraph wire and, after floundering about for some time in a
swamp, was forced to halt and swing my hammock between two saplings
under enormous sheer cliffs that looked like great medieval castles in
the night, their white faces spotted by the trees that found foothold on
them. Happily I had dropped well down out of the clouds that hover about
Esperanza and the cold mountain wind was now much tempered. The white
mountain wall rising sheer from my very hips was also somewhat
sheltering, though it was easy to dream of rocks being dropped from
aloft upon me.

I had clambered a steep and rocky three hours next morning before I came
upon the first evidences of humanity, a hut on a little tableland, with
all the customary appurtenances and uncleanliness. Black unstrained
coffee and tortillas of yellow hue gradually put strength enough in my
legs to enable them to push me on through bottomless rocky barrancas,


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