Page:The Rambler in Mexico.djvu/52

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The night was gloomy; and the mountains in advance half shrouded by curtains of dark clouds. I have a disagreeable recollection of the whole scene. I remember, however, that both amusement, interest, and surprise, were excited in us by three distinct circumstances: amusement at the extravagant joy and pride of heart evinced by Juliano, when a rabbit was killed with his mighty carbine, by Espindola; interest at the visit of two fine boys, lineal descendants of Montezuma, from a a neighbouring rancho; and surprise at the fact being mentioned to us, that the father of an old gallant who was the leader of the debauchees before named, was at that hour in sound health at the next hacienda, at the age of one hundred and twenty years. This rancho lay twenty-four leagues from Pueblo Viejo.

March the first we proceeded through the same broken line of country. Some difficulty was experienced from our being several times entangled in jungles of bamboo, and in muddy swamps, or thick natural groves of lemon and orange trees; till two o'clock in the afternoon, when the country became more open, and finding a poor Indian hut, beautifully situated, we halted to breakfast, and to repose ourselves and our animals. The cabin was constructed of light bamboo frames, thatched with palmetto leaves not only on the roof but the sides, and divided into two or three compartments, with coarse screens of grass matting.

The inhabitants were all of the softer sex; consisting of three young maidens, under the surveillance of two most forbidding crones. We here, if I recollect right, made our first experience of the difficulty to which the traveller is exposed in Mexico, in persuading the Indian to furnish him, even if paid in advance, with the slightest food or provender either for man or beast. Nothing was to be had. No hai! was the answer to every query. They had neither maize, nor chocolate, nor fodder, nor eggs, nor fowls; nor bananas, nor frijoles, nor tortillas, nor dried meat, nor even Chile. What did they live upon—for they were all, old and young, as plump as partridges. No hai! was the only word you could ex-