Page:The Rambler in Mexico.djvu/226

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DESCENT TO THE COAST.

defile. The acclivities are very steep, rocky, and mostly covered with forest. The elevated promontory between the two forks, forms a commanding, but not a very tenable position. It is fortified, if that term can apply to the existence of a rude fort, with a few pieces of cannon, without either soldiers or ammunition. It has, however, been frequently squabbled for during the last twenty years.

A long, sleepy, broiling hot day was passed among the palmetto-thatched cottages of the hamlet near the bridge, which is far from being unpicturesque; and at five in the evening, we crept into our litters again, and resumed our journey. Barren roads, covered with low bushes, conducted us to Santa Fe, which we reached at two in the morning. Here, for the second time, pursuant to the system of caution which terrible experience has inculcated, our line came to a second halt within three leagues of Vera Cruz. At Puente del Rey, we had lost many of the hangers-on of the train; and here all who were not quite acclimated, or whom necessity did not compel to enter within the infected border, took their leave, as now farther advance would bring us within the influence of the danger.

At five we set forward again. The level surface of the country became open, sandy, and steril; and forbidding beyond all description—without a hut or patch of cultivation—and the scenery glared upon us in a ghastly manner in the white light of the newly risen sun.

In the course of two hours, escaping from the long ridges of sand with which the lower levels are covered, we arrived upon the hot beach of the gulf, a little to the north of the city. We straightway despatched a messenger to the merchant to whom we were recommended, and passing the gate, threaded a few deserted streets, and heedless of anything but escape, alighted at a fonda on the quay. Half of an hour sufficed to transact our business. Our baggage had not arrived from the capital, and we found we must sail without it. By nine or soon after, on the first of May, we were already on board the New-York packet, then lying in the roadstead—for port it can