Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

us.

paradise to the sore-footed wayfarer. At other ruin ; but its vulgar features owned last this enchanting approach brought us none of the green and mossy dignity of to the outskirts of Rivas, and we entered age, which gave a melancholy beauty to a narrow, mud-walled street, and never the former. It was a glaring pile of halted until we came out upon the cen- naked dust and rubbish, and its shot tral and only plaza of the miserable crumbled walls and riddled doors toi. town. Our incumbered march, without the tale of its destruction. The entire breakfast, after a long, inactive sea-voy- front on that side of the plaza was in ruage, had wearied us sadly; and we threw ins, with the exception of one stout buildour luggage upon the ground, lay down ing on the corner diagonally opposed to upon it, and ruminated on a scene of little us. The northern side was inclosed by a comfort to the faint-hearted, if there were long, low building, with its elevated doors any such in our little crowd of world-bat- partly hidden by the far-projecting, redtered and battering strong men, topers, tiled roof; and in front of it six or eight and vagabonds.

grim pieces of cannon, mounted upon The square we had entered was per- wheels, gaped their black mouths toward haps one hundred yards or

more in

Our own side of the square was ocwidth, much overgrown with grass, and cupied by a building exactly like the one surrounded by buildings of mean and opposite. The low-reaching roof was supgloomy aspect. Six narrow and sordid ported by wooden posts, and the long streets debouched into it, — two coming porch or corridor between the posts and with parallel courses from the west, two the wall was paved with large earthen from the east, and one entering at each tiles. The doors, elevated several feet eastern angle from the north and south. above this pavement to baffle the heat It was at the opening of the last of these of a tropical sun, were darkened by the that we rested, and received our first im- overhanging roof; and this, together with pressions of the wretched plaza, - since the effect of the small wooden-grated hung for us with a thousand dirty remi- windows and the absence of furniture, niscences.

gave the rooms a gloomy and comfortIt displayed none of those architectur- less aspect. All these buildings, with the al embellishments and attempts at mag- exception of the ruined convent, which nificence which usually centre about the was of stone, were built of adobes, or plazas of the Spanish-American capitals, large sun-dried blocks of mud; and their -- not even a carved door-facing or tri- walls, doors, and staring red roofs were Aing ornament of any description. The everywhere bruised or perforated with entire side on our right, between the two

shot. eastern streets, was occupied by the crack- Such was the plaza and middle spot ed and roofless walls of an ancient church of Rivas, a town of some two or three or convent, which had long been a neg- thousand inhabitants, where General lected ruin. The fallen stones and mor- Walker stood at bay many weary days tar had raised a sloping embankment against the combined Costa Ricans, Guahigh up its venerable sides ; and the temalans, and Chamorristas, and was netsmall trees, here and there shooting above ted at last. But these observations of the luxuriant grass and running vines the squalid plaza were of another date. which covered this climbing pile of rub- At present our eyes and thoughts fasten bish, waved their branches over the top upon the crowd of melancholy, feverof the mouldering walls. The interior eaten filibusters, who walk with heavy of the crumbling structure was a wilder- pace up and down the corridors, and ness of rank grass and weeds, the elys- along the paths which cross the grassium of reptiles, iguanas, centipedes, and grown plaza. There was a morbid, yelten thousand poisonous insects. On our lowish glaze, almost universal, on their left, opposite the falling church, was an- faces, and an unnatural listlessness and

9

utter lack of animation in all their move- man's feet out at the hospital. They die ments and conversation, which contrast- out there night and day. All these men ed painfully with the boisterous hilarity you see here will die in six months." and rugged healthiness of our late Cali- After running through this humorfornian fellow-travellers. Their appear- ous vein, he told me what adventures ance was most forlorn and despicable in he had seen since joining the filibuster a military view,—no soldier's uniform or army ; which, however, I have no inspirit amongst them, only the poor man's tention to recount;---honor enough, if I uniform of rags and dirt, and the spirit may relate veridically, and with passable of careless, disease-worn, doomed men. phrase, my own tamer befallings. Nevertheless, all bore about them some Long after we had grown sufficiently emblem of their trade; some, for the hungry, one came from General Walker, most part with difficulty, carried muskets and led us to a house in the outer parts or rifles; some, the better-dressed and of the town, where, he informed us, we healthier looking, wore swords,- a weap

had been allotted to quarter for the on, as I afterwards found, distinctive of present. The same person further incommissioned officers; some bad with structed us to send to the commissary, them only their pistols or cartridge-box- and we should obtain wherewith to satises, which, belted around the middle, fy our hunger. We did so gladly; and served a double purpose in keeping up having drawn a supply of beef, tortillas, their ragged breeches. Then almost all and plantains, were comparatively conof them, as they moved about or lay tent for the rest of the day. in the shade of the corridors, sucked or After several days of idle loitering gnawed some fruit of the country,—the about the camp, our party was separated only thing which they seemed to do with and ranked in divers old companies of energy or due sensation.

the army. Myself and some few others Whilst I sat looking about at these obtained seats amongst the horsemen, miserable people, I was accosted by an and had reason to think ourselves hapindividual whom I had known in Cali- py; for the mounted part of the service fornia. He professed to be glad to see was so much more esteemed, that lieume; told me Nicaragua was the finest tenants of the foot companies had been of countries; “but,” said he, with some known to drop their rank voluntarily and latent humor of too ghastly a hue, “ I'm take grade as private soldiers in the sadsorry you didn't come down with us three

dle. months ago, as you thought of doing; But first it was necessary to achieve we've all been promoted. The officers our horses before we could mount; and and two-thirds of the men have died, and to that end we were permitted, and innearly all the rest of us are promoted. deed commanded, by General Walker, I myself am captain. You made a great President of Nicaragua, to search the mistake, you see.”

surrounding haciendas and stables, until “ My friend,” said I, “ you needn't try we were satisfactorily provided. Acto frighten me. I've lived in a tropical cordingly we set out one morning on climate before, and it is the healthiest part this errand, furnished, all of us, with riof the world for men of my tempera- fles and store of ammunition, against the ment."

possibility of collision with such country* Then you'll be promoted,” said he. folk as might desire over-ardently to keep “ A healthy man is sure of his reward in their horses by them. It will not be profitthis service. Do you see that fellow able to follow our search over that magcrossing the plaza with the old shoes in nificent country, diversified with groves bis hand ?

of cocoa and plantain trees, patches of “ Yes," said I,—“poor man!”

sugar-cane and maize, with here and there * He has got them off of some dead a picturesque grange embowered amidst

66

orange and palm trees. Suslice it to say, For my own share in the spoils of this that all the animals in the vicinity of Trojan adventure, I chose a well-legged Rivas, fit for warlike purposes, had been mule, young, lively, and well enough removed, and toward evening we found looking generally; and thenceforward I ourselves out amongst the hills to the was entitled to call myself “ Mounted west, beyond the circle of cultivation, Ranger,” according to General Walker's

, and as yet with no horses in tow. From rather high-sounding classification. the summit of a high, grass-crowned hill Let no one reflect upon the writer bewe swept all the surrounding country ;- cause he assisted in robbing this churchtoward the east spread a vast sea of ver- man of his horses. For him there was no dure, rolled into gentle hollows and ridg- choice; and if he is chargeable with mores, broken by the red roofs of Rivas, San al depravity, it must be elsewhere,- forJorge, and Obraja ; and beyond all, the sooth, in joining with one who masle war lake stretching into misty remoteness, unprovided with a military chest sufficient with its islands, and the ever-notable to cover expenses. However, this is no volcanoes, Madeira and Ometepec, ris- matter, one way or the other.

The priing abruptly out of it. It was a glorious vate character of the relator, Samuel scene, worthy of reverie. But we must Absalom, is not before the reader; nor scan it as Milton's Devil — to compare us is it to be expected that he will care to with one far above us - did the hardly turn his eye upon it for a moment. fairer garden of Paradise,—with thoughts The ranger company in which we had of prey in our hearts. Nor were we dis- been ranked was stationed below, on the appointed, any more than that other Transit road; but as it would return to greater one; for on top of an open head-quarters as soon as the California ridge, a short distance west of us, we saw immigrants, now due, had crossed over a solitary horse, tethered, and feeding to the Pacific, we were ordered to await composedly, as if he had nothing to fear it there. We spent the interim foraging out here amongst the hills. Part of us for our animals or loitering about the keep our eyes upon him, lest his tricky camp. It may be that some short expoowner should get the alarm and remove sition of filibuster spirit and circumstanhim ; whilst others plunge into the cop- ces, as we saw them at this leisure time, pice which fills the intervening hollow, will have interest for one or two. A few and soon reappear on the ridge beyond. weeks before our arrival, the prospect of

Whilst we stood about the horse, com- the Americans in Nicaragua was black muning doubtfully, not knowing where enough, and, indeed, despaired of by to find another, an old man approached

General Henningsen, with the us, and, with rueful look and gesture, greater part of the force, was cooped up besought us not to deprive him of the and half starved in Granada, by three or sole support of his life.

four thousand Costa Ricans and Chamor“ Beyond that hill," said he, “the Pa- ristas ; General Walker, with the remaindre has many better horses. El Padre der, lay lower down on the Isthmus, está un rico hombre. Yo estoy muy pobre, watched by a second division of the enSeñores."

emy, and too weak to give him any asSet it down to the credit of filibusters, sistance. General Henningsen's men, that we gladly surrendered this old man reduced to a mere handful by starvation his horse, and betook ourselves to the rear and the bullets of the enemy, could hold of the hill which he pointed out to us; out but a day or two longer; and then and there, after some search, we found, the entire force of the allies would unite in close covert of tangled and almost im- and beat up General Walker, and end penetrable bushes, a small corral of mules the squalid game.

The Central Ameriand horses, which the Padre had be- cans were certain of their prey. But grudged the service of General Walker. just at this juncture sereral hundred

most.

healthy Americans landed on the Trans- the Chamorristas,— the aristocratic Nicait road, and, placing them on one of the raguan faction originally opposed to Palake steamers, together with his old force, tricio Rivas and the Liberals, now in arms General Walker took them up to Grana- against General Walker, — but that they da, sent them ashore in bungos under a made miserable soldiers outside of a barriheavy fire, told them to do or die, and cade, and General Walker bad no arms to then paddled out into the lake with the throw away upon them. For sustenance, steamer. It was a good stroke. The the filibusters had the fruits around Rimen, without other hope, fought their vas, and a small ration of tortillas and way over three successive barricades to beef, furnished them daily by Walker's General Henningsen, brought him out commissary. The beef, as we heard, was setting fire to the city, reëmbarked on supplied by Señor Pineda, General Walkthe steamer, and finally landed again at er's most powerful and faithful friend the fort of San Jorge, two miles east of amongst the natives; and the tortillas Rivas. After that, General Walker were bought from the native women in gathered all his force at Rivas, and the the neighborhood of Rivas. It was the enemy drew off to Granada, with some quality of the food — assisted largely by thirty or forty miles between.

exposure, irregular fasts, and aguardiente When we reached Nicaragua, in the which made Nicaragua so fatal to the latter part of December, 1856, the en- filibusters. The isthmus between the lake tire force of the filibusters was still in and the Pacific, swept nine months of the Rivas, with the exception of a small par- year by cool eastern breezes, is not unty stationed on the Rio San Juan, be- healthy. But the ration of beef and toryond the lake, and communicating with tillas (simple maize cakes without salt) the Isthmus force only by means of two was too scanty and intermittent; and in small steamers, “ La Virgen ” and “San the absence of proper food, the men were Cárlos,” which plied across the lake be- driven to fill their stomachs with the untween the head of the river and Virgin wholesome fruits which everywhere surBay, on the California passenger-line. rounded their quarters, and but few were The allies had remained inactive at Gra- able to stand it many months. nada, and were said to be broken into As to the spirit which seemed to anifactions, and daily deserting and return- mate these men, it was certainly most ing home in large bodies. The isthmus discouraging. They had lost all thought of Rivas was free ground to the filibus- - supposing them to have ever had such ters, and a score of rangers might forage thought — of regenerating Central Amerwith little danger from the Costa Ricau ica; and most of them wished no better line almost to Granada. Their force thing than to fill their bellies, or to escape outside of the hospital, as we saw it at from Nicaragua. Many of them were head-quarters, numbered probably from sunk into a physical and mental lethargy, eight hundred to one thousand men,- thinking of nothing and caring for nothone-third mere skeletons, scarcely able to ing, and were gone, not a few, even into go through drill on the plaza,- fit only lunacy. Some cursed General Walker to bury, — and the great majority of the for enticing them there under false preremainder turning yellow, shaken daily tences. There were men with families by chills and fever, and soon to be as who professed to have come there to setworthless as the others. They were all tle and cultivate the soil, having been perforeigners,— Americans, Germans, Irish, suaded that the war was ended and the French, and English,—with the excep- country prepared for peaceful immigration of one small company of natives, tion. Some had paid their own passage, captained by a half-breed Mexican. It purposing merely to reconnoitre, and rewas said, however, that many of the poor- main or not, as it pleased them; but er natives were willing to fight against when they landed in Nicaragua, General

a

Walker placed muskets in their unwill- not without excuse; for though there was ing hands, and there he had kept them, a nasal whine in the tone of the little Genfighting, not for himself or his promises, eral, and no great fire in his unmeanbut for life. It disgusted others that ing eye, there was yet a quiet self-relithe service was not only almost certain ance about him extremely imposing, and death and thankless, but was altogether which, as I thought, reached back of any unprofitable. It was General Walker's temporary sufflation as tyrant of Rivas, practice, and had been always, to dis- and was based upon perennial character. charge bis soldiers' wages with scrip of Nor is it contrary, so far as I know, to no cash value whatever, or so little that the laws of psychology, for a man to be many neglected to draw it when due endued with all the self-reliance of Bonathem. And this was concealed at their parte, with, at the same time, an unusualenlistment. Indeed, the hatred towards ly short gift of the great man's marvellous General Walker and the service seemed insight, military or other. almost universal amongst the privates, and Such an all-pervading demoralized spirthey would have revolted and thrown it amongst the men as this I have slightaway their arms at any moment, had ly marked was sure to be contagious; there been hope of escape in that. But and I am persuaded that there were few they were held together by common dan- of us who came down there with enthuger in a treacherous or hostile country, siasm or admiration for General Walker, separated by broad oceans and impassable but lost most of it during our first days' forests from a land of safe refuge. There mixture in Rivas. was, besides, distrust of each other; and At the end of some six or eight days, fear, though no love, of General Walker.

our company came up from the Transit He was said to have the iron will and road, without the California passengers reckless courage of the true man of des- having as yet made their appearance. tiny. At one time, so they told us, a General Walker was expecting by this large body of fresh, able-bodied men, steamer, so long due on the Atlantic just arrived in Nicaragua, refused to join side, a large body of recruits with canthe filibusters on account of some disap- non, bombs, and other military stores, pointment about the amount of promis- whose arrival would put him in condition ed wages. General Walker led out his to attack the enemy at Granada. He crowd of yellow men, whom the new- began to grow uneasy; and at length comers might have knocked down with sent an armed row-boat across the lake the wind of their fists, and so overawed to the head of the Rio San Juan to get them by this display of resolution that intelligence. The little party which held they forth with swallowed their complaints that river were thought to be in no danand joined his ranks with as good a grace ger behind the walls of San Carlos and as they might I myself, in these first Castillo, and still further protected by days, saw a little incident which impress- the impenetrable forests which stretched ed me that the man was no trifler. I backward from either bank; but now was in his quarters one day, when an it began to be whispered that General officer came in and made a report to Walker had committed a fatal blunder him about some matter of his duty. in not using the surest means to keep his

“ Captain,” said General Walker, look- only communication with the Atlantic ing serenely over the man's head, “ if this open. is the way you are going to do business, In the mean while our company of Nicaragua has no further need for you. rangers was ordered back to the TransWe want nothing of this sort done here, it road, to remain until the passengers Sir."

crossed. We rode down by a trail that The fierce, big-whiskered officer said lay nearer the Pacific than the one by nothing, but looked cowed; and, indeed, which we had first approached Rivas

« AnteriorContinua »