Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan/Chapter 21
JOURNEY TO SAN SALVADOR—A NEW COMPANION—SAN ALEJO—WAR ALARMS—STATE OF SAN SALVADOR—RIVER LEMPA—SAN VICENTE—VOLCANO OF SAN VICENTE—THERMAL SPRINGS—COJUTEPEQUE—ARRIVAL AT SAN SALVADOR—PREJUDICE AGAINST FOREIGNERS—CONTRIBUTIONS—PRESS-GANGS—VICE-PRESIDENT VIGIL—TAKING OF SAN MIGUEL AND SAN VICENTE—RUMOURS OF A MARCH UPON SAN SALVADOR—DEPARTURE FROM SAN SALVADOR—LA BARRANCA DE GUARAMAL—VOLCANO OF IZALCO—DEPREDATIONS OF RASCON—ZONZONATE—NEWS FROM GUATIMALA—JOURNEY CONTINUED—AGUISALCO—APENECA—MOUNTAIN OF AGUACHAPA—SUBTERRANEAN FIRES—AGUACHAPA—DEFEAT OF MORAZAN—CONFUSION AND TERROR.
At five o'clock the next afternoon we set out for San Salvador, Don Manuel Romero furnished me with letters of introduction to all the Gefes Politicos, and the captain's name was inserted in my passport.
I must introduce the reader to my new friend. Captain Antonio V. F., a little over thirty, when six months out on a whaling voyage, with a leaky ship and a mutinous crew, steered across the Pacific for the Continent of America, and reached the port of La Union with seven or eight feet water in the hold and half his crew in irons. He knew nothing of Central America until necessity threw him upon its shore. While waiting the slow process of a regular condemnation and order for the sale of his ship, General Morazan, with an escort of officers, came to the port to embark his wife and family for Chili. Captain F. had become acquainted with them, and through them with their side of the politics of the country; and in the evening, while we were riding along the ridge of a high mountain, he told me that he had been offered a lieutenant-colonel's commission, and was then on his way to join Morazan in his march against Guatimala. His ship was advertised for sale, he had written an account of his misadventures to his owners and his wife, was tired of remaining at the port, and a campaign with Morazan was the only thing that offered. He liked General Morazan, and he liked the country, and thought his wife would; if Morazan succeeded there would be vacant offices and estates without owners, and some of them worth having. He went from whaling to campaigning as coolly as a Yankee would from cutting down trees to editing a newspaper. It was no affair of mine, but I suggested that there was no honour to be gained; that he would get his full share of hard knocks, bullets, and sword-cuts; that if Morazan succeeded he would have a desperate struggle for his share of the spoils, and if Morazan failed he would certainly be shot. All this was matter he had thought on, and before committing himself he intended to make his observations at San Salvador.
At ten o'clock we reached the village of San Alejo, and stopped at a very comfortable house, where all were in a state of excitement from the report of an invasion from Honduras.
The captain had great difficulty in procuring mules; he had two enormous trunks, containing, among other things, Peruvian chains and other gold trinkets to a large amount; in fact, all he was worth. In the evening we walked to the plaza; groups of men, wrapped in their ponchas, were discussing in low tones the movements of the enemy, how far they had marched that day, how long they would require for rest, and the moment when it would be necessary to fly. We returned to the house, placed two naked wooden-bottomed bedsteads in one, and having ascertained by calculation that we were not likely to be disturbed during the night, forgot the troubles of the flying inhabitants, and slept soundly.
On account of the difficulty of procuring mules, we did not set out till ten o'clock. The climate is the hottest in Central America, and insalubrious under exposure to the sun; but we would not wait. Every moment there were new rumours of the approach of the Honduras army, and it was all important for us to keep in advance of them. I shall hasten over our hurried journey through the state of San Salvador, the richest in Central America, extending 180 miles along the shores of the Pacific, producing tobacco, the best indigo, and richest balsam in the world.
In the afternoon of the second day we came in sight of the Lempa, now a gigantic river rolling on to the Pacific. Three months before I had seen it a little stream among the mountains of Esquipulas. Here we were overtaken by Don Carlos Riva, a leading Liberal from Honduras, flying for life before partisan soldiers of his own state. We descended to the bank of the river, and followed it through a wild forest, which had been swept by a tornado, the trees still lying as they fell. At the crossing-place, the valley of the river was half-a-mile wide; but being the dry season, on this side there was a broad beach of sand and stones. We rode to the water's edge, and shouted for the boatman on the opposite side. Other parties arrived, all fugitives, among them the wife and family of Don Carlos, and we formed a crowd upon the shore. At length the boat came, took on board sixteen mules, saddles and luggage, and as many men, women and children as could stow themselves away, leaving a multitude behind. We crossed in the dark, and on the opposite side found every hut and shed filled with fugitives; families in dark masses were under the trees, and men and women crawled out to congratulate friends who had put the Lempa between them and the enemy. We slept upon our luggage on the bunk of the river, and before daylight were again in the saddle.
That night we slept at San Vicente, and the next morning the captain, in company with an invalid officer of Morazan's, who had been prevented by sickness from accompanying the general in his march against Guatimala, rode on with the luggage, while I, with Colonel Hoyas, made a circuit to visit El Infierno of the volcano of San Vicente. Crossing a beautiful plain running to the base of the volcano, we left our animals at a hut, and walked some distance to a stream in a deep ravine, which we followed upward to its source, coming from the very base of the volcano. The water was warm, and had a taste of vitriol, and the banks were incrusted with white vitriol and flour of sulphur. At a distance of 100 or 200 yards it formed a basin, where the water was hotter than the highest grade of my Réamur's thermometer. In several places we heard subterranean noises, and toward the end of the ravine, on the slope of one side, was an orifice about 30 feet in diameter, from which, with a terrific noise, boiling water was spouted into the air. This is called El Infiernillo, or the "little infernal regions." The inhabitants say that the noise is increased by the slightest agitation of the air, even by the human voice. Approaching to within range of the falling water, we shouted several times, and as we listened and gazed into the fearful cavity, I imagined that the noise was louder and more angry, and that the boiling water spouted higher at our call. Colonel Hoyas conducted me to a path, from which I saw my road, like a white line, over a high verdant mountain. He told me that many of the inhabitants of San Miguel had fled to San Vicente, and at that place the Honduras arms would be repelled; we parted, little expecting to see each other again so soon, and under such unpleasant circumstances for him.
I overtook the captain at a village where he had breakfast prepared, and in the afternoon we arrived at Cojutepeque, until within two days the temporary capital, beautifully situated at the foot of a small extinct volcano, its green and verdant sides broken only by a winding path, and on the top a fortress, which Morazan had built as his last rallying place, to die under the flag of the Republic.
The next day at one o'clock we reached San Salvador. Entering by a fine gate, and through suburbs teeming with fruit and flower trees, the meanness of the houses was hardly noticed. Advancing, we saw heaps of rubbish, and large houses with their fronts cracked and falling, marks of the earthquakes which had broken it up as the seat of government, and almost depopulated the city. This series of earthquakes commenced on the third of the preceding October, and for twenty days the earth was tremulous, sometimes suffering fifteen or twenty shocks in twenty-four hours, and one so severe that, as Mr. Chatfield told me, a bottle standing in his sleeping-room was thrown down. Most of the inhabitants abandoned the city, and those who remained slept under matting in the courtyards of their houses. Every house was more or less injured; some were rendered untenantable, and many were thrown down. Two days before, the vice-president and officers of the Federal and State Governments, impelled by the crisis of the times, had returned to their shattered capital. It was about one o'clock, intensely hot, and there was no shade; the streets were solitary, the doors and windows of the houses closed, the shops around the plaza shut, the little matted tents of the market-women deserted, and the inhabitants, forgetting earthquakes, and that a hostile army was marching upon them, were taking their noonday siesta. In a corner of the plaza was a barricade, constructed with trunks of trees, rude as an Indian fortress, and fortified with cannon, intended as the scene of the last effort for the preservation of the city. A few soldiers were asleep under the corridor of the quartel, and a sentinel was pacing before the door. Inquiring our way of him, we turned the corner of the plaza, and stopped at the house of Don Pedro Negrete, at that time acting as vice-consul both of England and France, and the only representative at the capital of any foreign power.
In the evening I called upon the vice-president. Great changes had taken place since I saw him at Zonzonate. The troops of the Federal government had been routed in Honduras; Carrera had conquered Quezaltenango, garrisoned it with his own soldiers, destroyed its existence as a separate state, and annexed it to Guatimala. San Salvador stood alone in support of the Federal Government. But Señor Vigil had risen with the emergency. The chief of the state, a bold-looking mulatto, and other officers of the government, were with him. They knew that the Honduras troops were marching upon the city, had reason to fear they would be joined by those of Nicaragua, but they were not dismayed; on the contrary, all showed a resolution and energy I had not seen before. General Morazan, they said, was on his march against Guatimala. Tired as they were of war, the people of San Salvador, Señor Vigil said, had risen with new enthusiasm. Volunteers were flocking in from all quarters; and with a determination that was imposing, though called out by civil war, he added that they were resolved to sustain the Federation, or die under the ruins of San Salvador. It was the first time my feelings had been at all roused. In all the convulsions of the time I had seen no flush of heroism, no high love of country. Self-preservation and self-aggrandisement were the ruling passions. It was a bloody scramble for power and place; and sometimes, as I rode through the beautiful country, and saw what Providence had done for them, and how unthankful they were, I thought it would be a good riddance if they would play out the game of the Kilkenny cats.
In the excitement and alarm of the place, it was very difficult to procure mules. As to procuring them direct for Guatimala, it was impossible. No one would move on that road until the result of Morazan's expedition was known; and even to get them for Zonzonate it was necessary to wait a day. That day I intended to abstract myself from the tumult of the city and ascend the volcano of San Salvador; but the next morning a woman came to inform us that one of our men had been taken by a pressgang of soldiers, and was in the carcel. We followed her to the place, and, being invited in by the officer to pick out our man, found ourselves surrounded by 100 of Vigil's volunteers, of every grade in appearance and character, from the frightened servant-boy torn from his master's door to the worst of desperadoes; some asleep on the ground, some smoking stumps of cigars, some sullen, and others perfectly reckless. Two of the supreme worst did me the honour to say they liked my looks, called me captain, and asked me to take them into my company. Our man was not ambitious, and could do better than be shot at for a shilling a day; but we could not take him out without an order from the chief of the state, and went immediately to the office of the government, where I was sorry to meet Señor Vigil, as the subject of my visit and the secrets of the prison were an unfortunate comment upon his boasts of the enthusiasm of the people in taking up arms. With his usual courtesy, however, he directed the proper order to be made out, and the names of all in my service to be sent to the captains of the different pressgangs, with orders not to touch them. All day men were caught and brought in, and petty officers were stationed along the street drilling them. In the afternoon intelligence was received that General Morazan's advanced guard had defeated a detachment of Carrera's troops, and that he was marching with an accession of forces upon Guatimala. A feu-de-joie was fired in the plaza, and all the church bells rang peals of victory.
In the evening I saw Señor Vigil again and alone. He was confident of the result. The Honduras troops would be repulsed at San Vicente; Morazan would take Guatimala. He urged me to wait; he had his preparations all made, his horses ready, and, on the first notice of Morazan's entry, intended to go up to Guatimala, and establish that city once more as the capital. But I was afraid of delay, and we parted to meet in Guatimala; but we never met again. A few days afterwards he was flying for his life, and is now in exile, under sentence of death if he returns;" the party that rules Guatimala is heaping opprobrium upon his name; but in the recollection of my hurried tour I never forget him who had the unhappy distinction of being vice-president of the Republic.
I did not receive my passport till late in the evening, and though I had given directions to the contrary, the captain's name was inserted. We had already had a difference of opinion in regard to our movements. He was not so bent as I was upon pushing on to Guatimala, and besides, I did not consider it right, in an official passport, to have the name of a partisan. Accordingly, early in the morning I went to the Government House to have it altered. The separate passports were just handed to me when I heard a clatter in the streets, and fifteen or twenty horsemen galloped into the courtyard, covered with sweat and dust, among whom I recognised Colonel Hoyas, with his noble horse, so broken that I did not know him. They had ridden all night. The Honduras troops had taken San Miguel and San Vicente, and were then marching upon San Salvador. If not repulsed at Cojutepeque, that day they would be upon the capital. For four days I had been running before these troops, and now, by a strange caprice, at the prospect of actual collision, I regretted that my arrangements were so far advanced, and that I had no necessity for remaining. I had a strong curiosity to see a city taken by assault, but, unfortunately, I had not the least possible excuse. I had my passport in my hand and my mules were ready. Nevertheless, before I reached Don Pedro's house I determined to remain. The captain had his sword and spurs on, and was only waiting for me. I told him the news, and he uttered an exclamation of thankfulness that we were all ready, and mounted immediately. I added that I intended to remain. He refused; said that he knew the sanguinary character of the people better than I did, and did not wish to see an affair without having a hand in it. I replied, and after a short controversy, the result was as usual between two obstinate men: I would not go and he would not stay. I sent my luggage-mules and servants under his charge, and he rode off, to stop for me at a hacienda on the road, while I unsaddled my horse and gave him another mess of corn.
In the meantime the news had spread, and great excitement prevailed in the city. Here there was no thought of flight; the spirit of resistance was general. The impressed soldiers were brought out from the prisons and furnished with arms, and drums beat through the streets for volunteers. On my return from the Government House I noticed a tailor on his board at work; when I passed again his horse was at the door, his sobbing wife was putting pistols in his holsters, and he was fastening on his spurs. Afterward I saw him mounted before the quartel, receiving a lance with a red flag, and then galloping off to take his place in the line. In two hours all that the impoverished city could do was done. Vigil, the chief of the state, clerks, and household servants, were preparing for the last struggle. At twelve o'clock the city was as still as death. I lounged on the shady side of the plaza, and the quiet was fearful. At two o'clock intelligence was received that the troops of San Vicente had fallen back upon Cojutepeque, and that the Honduras troops had not yet come up. An order was immediately issued to make this the rallying-place, and to send thither the mustering of the city. About 200 lancers set off from the plaza with a feeble shout, under a burning sun, and I returned to the house. The commotion subsided; my excitement died away, and I regretted that I had not set out with the captain, when, to my surprise, he rode into the courtyard. On the road he thought that he had left me in the lurch, and that, as a travelling companion, he ought to have remained with me. I had no such idea, but I was glad of his return, and mounted, and left my capital to its fate, even yet uncertain whether I had any government.
The captain had given me a hint in a led horse which he kept for emergencies, and I had bought one of an officer of General Morazan, who sold him because he would not stand fire, and recommended him for a way he had of carrying his rider out of the reach of bullets. At the distance of two leagues we reached a hacienda where our men where waiting for us with the luggage. It was occupied by a miserable old man alone, with a large swelling under his throat, very common all through this country, the same as is seen among the mountains of Switzerland. While the men were reloading, we heard the tramp of horses, and fifteen or twenty lancers galloped up to the fence; and the leader, a dark, stern, but respectable-looking man about forty, in a deep voice, called to the old man to get ready and mount; the time had come, he said, when every man must fight for his country; if they had done so before, their own ships would be floating on the Atlantic and the Pacific, and they would not now be at the mercy of strangers and enemies. Altogether the speech was a good one, but made from the back of a horse by a powerful man, well armed, and with twenty lancers at his heels, it was not pleasant in the ears of the "strangers" for whom it was intended. Really I respected the mail's energy, but his expression and manner precluded all courtesies; and though he looked at us for an answer, we said nothing. The old man answered that he was too old to fight, and the officer told him then to help others to do so, and to contribute his horses or mules. This touched us again; and taking ours apart, we left exposed and alone an object more miserable as a beast than his owner was as a man. The old man said this was his all. The officer, looking as if he would like a pretext for seizing ours, told him to give her up; and the old man, slowly untying her, without a word led her to the fence, and banded the halter across to one of the lancers. They laughed as they received the old man's all, and pricking the mule with their lances, galloped off in search of more "contributions."
Some time after dark we reached the hacienda of Guaramal, and before day-light the next morning we were in the saddle. In the evening we arrived at Izalco, and I again heard the deep rumbling noise of the volcano, sounding like distant thunder.
Early in the morning we started, arrived at Zonzonate before breakfast, and rode to the house of my friend M. de Nouvelle. It was exactly two months since I left it, and, with the exception of my voyage on the Pacific and sickness at Costa Rica, I had not had a day of repose.
I was now within four days of Guatimala, but the difficulty of going on was greater than ever. The captain could procure no mules. No intelligence had been received of Morazan's movements; intercourse was entirely broken off, business at a stand, and the people anxiously waiting for news from Guatimala. Nobody would set out on that road. I was very much distressed The rainy season was coming on, and by the loss of a month, the journey to Palenque would be prevented. I considered it actually safer to pass through while all was in this state of suspense, than after the floodgates of war were opened. Rascon's band had prevented my passing the road before, and other Rascons might spring up. The captain had not the same inducement to push ahead that I had. I had no idea of incurring any unnecessary risk, and on the road would have no hesitation at any time in putting spurs to my horse; and on deliberate consideration, my mind was so fully made up that I determined to procure a guide at any price, and set out alone.
In the midst of my perplexity, a tall thin, gaunt-looking Spaniard, whose name was Don Saturnine Tinodia, came to see me. He was a merchant from Costa Rica, so far on his way to Guatimala, and, by the advice of his friends rather than his own judgment, had been already waiting a week at Zonzonate. He was exactly in the humour to suit me; very anxious to reach Guatimala; and his views and opinions were just the same as mine. The captain was indifferent, and, at all events, could not go unless he could procure mules. I told Don Saturnino that I would go at all events, and he undertook to provide for the captain. In the evening he returned, with intelligence that he had scoured the town and could not procure a single mule, but he offered to leave two of his own cargoes and take the captain's, or to sell him two of his mules. I offered to lend him my horse or macho, and the matter was arranged.
In the evening we were again in the midst of tumult. Two of Captain D'Yriarte's passengers for Guayaquil, whom he had given up, arrived that evening direct from Guatimala, and reported that Carrera, with 2,000 men, had left the city at the same time with them to march upon San Salvador. Carrera knew nothing of Morazan's approach; his troops were a disorderly and tumultuous mass; and three leagues from the city, when they halted, the horses were already tired. Here our informants slipped away, and three hours afterward met Morazan's army, in good order, marching single file, with Morazan himself at their head, he and all his cavalry dismounted, and leading their horses, which were fresh and ready for immediate action. Morazan stopped them, and made them show their passports and letters, and they told him of the sally of Carrera's army, and its condition; and we all formed the conclusion that Morazan had attacked them the same day, defeated them, and was then in possession of Guatimala. Upon the whole, we considered the news favourable to us, as his first business would be to make the roads secure.
At three o'clock the next morning we were again in the saddle. A stream of fire was rolling down the volcano of Izalco, bright, but paler by the moonlight. The road was good for two leagues, when we reached the Indian village of Aguisalco. Our mules were overloaded, and one of Don Saturation's gave out entirely. We tried to procure others or Indian carriers, but no one would move from home. Don Saturnino loaded his saddle-mule, and walked; and if it had not been for his indefatigable perseverance, we should have been compelled to stop.
At one o'clock we reached Apeneco, and rode up to one of the best houses, where an old man and his wife undertook to give us breakfast. Our mules presented a piteous spectacle. Mine, which had carried my light luggage like a feather all the way from La Union, had gone on with admirable steadiness up hill and down dale, but when we stopped she trembled in every limb, and before the cargo was removed I expected to see her fall Nicolas and the muleteer said she would certainly die, and the faithful brute seemed to look at me reproachfully for having suffered so heavy a load to be put upon her back. I tried to buy or hire another, but all were removed one or two days' journey out of the line of march of the soldiers.
It was agreed that I should go on to Aguachapa and endeavour to have other mules ready early the next morning; but in the meantime the captain conceived some suspicions of the old man and woman, and resolved not to remain that night in the village. Fortunately, my mule revived and began to eat. Don Saturnino repeated his "'sta bueno," with which he had cheered us through all the perplexities of the day, and we determined to set out again. Neither of us had any luggage willing to leave, for in all probability he would never see it again. We loaded our saddle-beasts, and walked. Immediately on leaving the village we commenced ascending the mountain of Aguachapa, the longest and worst in the whole road, in the wet season requiring two days to cross it. A steep pitch at the beginning made me tremble for the result. The ascent was about three miles, and on the very crest, embowered among the trees, was a blacksmith's shop, commanding a view of the whole country back to the village, and on the other side, of the slope of the mountain to the plain of Aguachapa. The clink of the hammer and the sight of a smith's grimed face seemed a profanation of the beauties of the scene. Here our difficulties were over; the rest of our road was down hill. The road lay along the ridge of the mountain. On our right we looked down the perpendicular side to a plain 2,000 feet below us: and in front, on another part of the same plain, were the lake and town of Aguachapa. Instead of going direct to the town, we turned round the foot of the mountain, and came into a field smoking with hot springs. The ground was incrusted with sulphur, and dried and baked by subterranean fires. In some places were large orifices, from which steam rushed out violently and with noise, and in others large pools or lakes, one of them 150 feet in circumference, of dark brown water, boiling with monstrous bubbles three or four feet high, which Homer might have made the head-waters of Acheron. All around, for a great extent, the earth was in a state of combustion, burning our boots and frightening the horses, and we were obliged to be careful to keep the horses from falling through. At some distance was a stream of sulphur-water, which we followed up to a broad basin, made a dam with stones and bushes, and had a most refreshing warm bath.
It was nearly dark when we entered the town, the frontier of the State and the outpost of danger. All were on the tiptoe of expectation for news from Guatimala. Riding through the plaza, we saw a new corps of about 200 "patriot soldiers," uniformed and equipped, at evening drill, which was a guarantee against the turbulence we had seen in Izalco. Colonel Angoula, the commandant, was the same who had broken up the band of Rascon. Every one we met was astonished at our purpose of going on to Guatimala, and it was vexatious and discouraging to have ominous cautions perpetually dinned into our ears. We rode to the house of the widow Padilla, a friend of Don Saturnino, whom we found in great affliction. Her eldest son, on a visit to Guatimala on business, with a regular passport, had been thrown into prison by Carrera, and had then been a month in confinement; and she had just learned, what had been concealed from her, that the other son, a young man just twenty-one, had joined Morazan's expedition. Our purpose of going to Guatimala opened the fountain of her sorrows. She mourned for her sons, but the case of the younger seemed to give her roost distress. She mourned that he had become a soldier; she had seen so much of the horrors of war; and, as if speaking of a truant boy, begged us to urge General Morazan to send him home. She was still in mourning for their father, who was a personal friend of General Morazan, and had, besides, three daughters, all young women, the eldest not more than twenty-three, married to Colonel Molina, the second in command; all were celebrated in that country for their beauty; and though the circumstances of the night prevented my seeing much of them, I looked upon this as one of the most lady-like and interesting family groups I had seen in the country.
Our first inquiry was for mules. Colonel Molina, the son-in-law, after endeavouring to dissuade us from continuing, sent out to make inquiries, and the result was that there were none to hire, but there was a man who had two to sell, and who promised to bring them early in the morning. We had vexations enough without adding any between ourselves; but, unfortunately, the captain and Don Saturnino had an angry quarrel, growing out of the breaking down of the mules. I was appealed to by both, and, in trying to keep the peace, came near having both upon me. The dispute was so violent that none of the female part of the family appeared in the sala, and while it was pending Colonel Molina was called off by a message from the commandant. In half an hour be returned, and told us that two soldiers had just entered the town, who reported that Morazan had been defeated in his attack on Guatimala, and his whole army routed and cut to pieces; that he himself, with fifteen dragoons, was escaping by the way of the coast, and the whole of Carrera's army was in full pursuit. The soldiers were at first supposed to be deserters, but they were recognised by some of the townspeople; and after a careful examination and calculation of the lapse of time since the last intelligence, the news was believed to be true. The consternation it created in our little household cannot be described. Morazan's defeat was the death-knell of sons and brothers. It was not a moment for strangers to offer idle consolation, and we withdrew.
Our own plans were unsettled; the very dangers I feared had happened; the soldiers, who had been kept together in masses, were disbanded, to sweep every road in the country with the ferocity of partisan war. But for the night we could do nothing. Our men were already asleep, and, not without apprehensions, the captain and I retired to a room opening upon the courtyard. Don Saturnino wrapped himself in his poncha, and lay down under the corridor.
None of us undressed, but the fatigue of the day had been so great that I soon fell into a profound sleep. At one o'clock we were roused by Colonel Molina shouting in the doorway, "La gente viene!" "The people are coming!" His sword glittered, his spurs rattled, and by the moonlight I saw men saddling horses in the courtyard. We sprang up in a moment, and he told us to save ourselves; "la gente" were coming, and within two hours' march of the town. My first question was, What had become of the soldiers? They were already marching out; everybody was preparing to fly; he intended to escort the ladies to a hiding-place in the mountains, and then to overtake the soldiers. I must confess that my first thought was "devil take the hindmost;" and I ordered Nicolas, who was fairly blubbering with fright, to saddle for a start. The captain, however, objected, insisting that to fly would be to identify ourselves with the fugitives; and if we were overtaken with them we should certainly be massacred. Don Saturnine proposed to set out on our journey, and go straight on to a hacienda two leagues beyond; if we met them on the road we should appear as travellers; in their hurry they would let us pass; and, at all events, we should avoid the dangers of a general sacking and plunder of the town. I approved of this suggestion; the fact is, I was for anything that put us on horseback; but the captain again opposed it violently. Unluckily, he had four large, heavy trunks, containing jewellery and other valuables, and no mules to carry them. I made a hurried but feeling comment upon the comparative value of life and property; but the captain said that all he was worth in the world was in those trunks; he would not leave them; he would not risk them on the road; he would defend them as long as he had life; and, taking them up one by one from the corridor, he piled them inside of our little sleeping-room, shut the door, and swore that nobody should get into them without passing over his dead body. Now I, for my own part, would have taken a quiet stripping, and by no means approved this desperate purpose of the captain's. The fact is, I was very differently situated from him. My property was chiefly in horse-flesh and mule-flesh, at the moment the most desirable thing in which money could be invested; and with two hours' start I would have defied all the Cachurecos in Guatimala to catch me. But the captain's determination put an end to all thoughts of testing the soundness of my investment; and perhaps, at all events, it was best to remain.
I entered the house, where the old lady and her daughters were packing up their valuables, and passed through to the street. The church bells were tolling with a frightful sound, and a horseman, with a red banneret on the point of his lance, was riding through the streets, warning the inhabitants to fly. Horses were standing before the doors saddled and bridled, and all along men were issuing from the doors with loads on their backs, and women with packages and bundles in their hands, and hurrying children before them. The moon was beaming with unrivalled splendour: the women did not scream, the children did not cry; terror was in every face and movement, but too deep for utterance. I walked down to the church; the cura was at the altar, receiving hurried confessions and administering the sacrament; and as the wretched inhabitants left the altar they fled from the town. I saw a poor mother searching for a missing child; but her friends, in hoarse whispers, said, "La gente viene!" and hurried her away. A long line of fugitives, with loaded mules interspersed, was moving from the door of the church, and disappearing beneath the brow of the hill. It was the first time I ever saw terror operating upon masses, and I hope never to see it again. I went back to the house. The family of Padilla had not left, and the poor widow was still packing up. We urged Colonel Molina to hasten; as commandant, he would be the first victim. He knew his danger, but in a tone of voice that told the horrors of this partisan war, said he could not leave behind him the young women. In a few moments all was ready; the old lady gave us the key of the house, we exchanged the Spanish farewell with a mutual recommendation to God, and sadly and silently they left the town. Colonel Molina remained a moment behind. Again he urged us to fly, saying that the enemy were robbers, murderers, and assassins, who would pay no respect to person or character, and disappointment at finding the town deserted would make them outrageous with us. He drove his spurs into his horse, and we never saw him again. On the steps of the church were sick and infirm old men and children, and the cura's house was thronged with the same helpless beings. Except these, we were left in sole possession of the town.
It was not yet an hour since we had been roused from sleep. We had not been able to procure any definite information as to the character of the approaching force. The alarm was, "La gente viene;" no one knew or thought of more,—no one paid any attention to us,—and we did not know whether the whole army of Carrera was approaching, or merely a roving detachment. If the former, my hope was that Carrera was with them, and that he had not forgotten my diplomatic coat I felt rejoiced that the soldiers had marched out, and that the inhabitants had fled; there could be no resistance, no bloodshed, nothing to excite a lawless soldiery. Again we walked down to the church; old women and little boys gathered around us and wondered that we did not fly. We went to the door of the cura's house; the room was small, and full of old women. We tried to cheer them, but old age had lost its garrulity; they waited their fate in silence. We returned to the house, smoked, and waited in anxious expectation. The enemy did not come, the bell ceased its frightful tolling, and after a while we began to wish they would come, and let us have the thing over. We went out, and looked, and listened; but there was neither sound nor motion. We became positively tired of waiting: there were still two hours to daylight; we lay down, and, strange to say, again fell asleep.