Page:The Rambler in Mexico.djvu/54

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SANTA CATHARINA.

old times and old policy, when, in consequence of the Spaniard's taking what he could find, without payment, the poor Indian always contrived to have nothing.

The lesson was not lost upon us; and, ever after, what between civility, affected indifference, and content, a timely use of cigaritas and soft words, we never had to leave an Indian hut unsatisfied.

In the course of the evening, after passing through the noblest forests of live oak we had yet seen in the country; or over moist levels, where almost impenetrable thickets of bamboo cane clustered round the huge fantastic trunks of the banian; and ten thousand vegetable strings and ropes wove a canopy overhead, we reached the Indian village of Santa Catharina, whose situation on an elevated plateau vies for beauty with that of its rival just described. We did not halt here, however, but pushing on over a fatiguing line of country by a deep miry track, came to a halt at a large and roomy rancho, where we found the needful accommodation, and the rest which a heavy day's journey of eighteen leagues made very welcome to our draggled train. A few miles to the left, rose a range of mountains covered with foliage to the very summit, and with singularly pointed and insolated rocks rising at intervals from their base.

I pass rapidly over the next day's march, which lay across much the same kind of country, picturesque in the highest degree, from the broken character of the surface and from the rich and redundant character of the vegetation. From the occasional bare ridges which we surmounted, we continued to command most extensive views over the Huastec, as the rich county at the foot of the higher chain is called. This part of the state of Vera Cruz, is, throughout, very thinly inhabited, and cultivation very sparingly applied to its surface. Indeed the cholera of the preceding year had swept away a large proportion of the Indian population; and one extensive Indian village, at which we halted at noon, magnificently situated like all its neighbours, was nearly depopulated by its ravages.