Page:The Rambler in Mexico.djvu/189

This page has been validated.
183
THE PLAINS.

at the time that he was a known bandit, whose fidelity and safeguard the good cura had thus thought proper to secure; and we have since had them verified, and found that this was really the case.


The plains over which we now moved, were more barren and inhospitahle in their character than I can describe. The surface, strewed with loose scoria and rock, and brown as the sands of Arabia, produced not a blade of grass; but reflected the hot rays of the sun with a glare which blistered and excoriated the face and hands. And the fervid, glowing, furnacelike heat of the sun I shall never forget! There it hung in the heavens like a blazing ball of copper, shedding its beams through a yellow haze, which, at an early hour of the day, spread a thin transparent veil over the vast plains and their lowering mountain boundary; and as it rose to the zenith, throwing our shadows under our feet, it scorched the skin like fire. In vain the eye was cast abroad in search of relief: every object far and near glared with the reflected brilliance—not a tree, not a rock, not an overhanging bank in the shadowless and thirsty land! The yawning barranca, deep as it might be, formed but a focus, where the sun's rays were concentrated. The very hills in advance seemed to cast no shade. Opinions as to our distance from them, were hazarded and recanted again and again. They loomed in thin haze, till they appeared near at hand, while their lowest swell lay at the distance of many miles. And then the barrancas! Though our previous travelling in this singular country had prepared us for this feature of the plains as well as of the mountain slopes, we had nowhere seen them upon the same scale. One of those we traversed this morning, of which no indication had been observed till we arrived at the very brink, took us an entire hour to traverse. Though water has undoubtedly been an agent in their formation, the origin of the greater number of those tremendous furrows in the surface of the table land is to be traced to the earthquake, and the sudden disruption of the strata by volcanic agency. You see many, in which the two sides, though furlongs apart,