Page:Incidents of travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan.djvu/38

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10
TRAVELS IN CENTRAL AMERICA.

a salute of thirteen guns was fired; passing the fort, the soldiers presented arms, the government schooner lowered and raised her ensign, and when I mounted the deck of the steamboat, the captain, with hat in hand, told me that he had instructions to place her under my orders, and to stop wherever I pleased.

The reader will perhaps ask how I bore all these honours. I had visited many cities, but it was the first time that flags and cannon announced to the world that I was going away. I was a novice, but I endeavoured to behave as if I had been brought up to it; and, to tell the truth, my heart beat, and I felt proud; for these were honours paid to my country, and not to me.

To crown the glory of the parting scene, my good friend Captain Hampton had charged his two four-pounders, and when the steamboat got under way he fired one, but the other would not go off. The captain of the steamboat had on board one puny gun, with which he would have returned all their civilities; but, as he told me, to his great mortification, he had no powder.

The steamboat in which we embarked was the last remnant of the stock in trade of a great Central American agricultural association, formed for building cities, raising the price of land, accommodating emigrants, and improvement generally. On the rich plains of the province of Vera Paz they had established the site of New Liverpool, which only wanted houses and a population to become a city. On the wheel of the boat was a circular brass plate, on which, in strange juxtaposition, were the words "Vera Paz," "London." The captain was a small, weather-beaten, dried up old Spaniard, with courtesy enough for a Don of old. The engineer was an Englishman, and the crew were Spaniards, Mestitzoes, and mulattoes, not particularly at home in the management of a steamboat.

Our only fellow-passenger was a Roman Catholic priest, a young Irishman, who had been eight months at Balize, and was now on his way to Guatimala by invitation of the Provesor, by the exile of the Archbishop the head of the Church. The cabin was very comfortable, but the evening was so mild that we took our tea on deck. At ten o'clock the captain came to me for orders. I have had my aspirations, but never expected to be able to dictate to the captain of a steamboat. Nevertheless, again, as coolly as if I had been brought up to it, I designated the places I wished to visit, and retired. Verily, thought I, if these are the fruits of official appointments, it is not strange that men are found willing to accept them.