Page:The Rambler in Mexico.djvu/77

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REAL DEL MONTE.

stay far longer than prudence should have permitted, the more so, as a thunder storm was evidently in preparation. We had four leagues of road before us; and the latter part of this, after entering the mountains, was acknowledged to be extremely perilous for a nocturnal ride. A melancholy proof had been given only a few evenings before, when one of the gentlemen connected with the mines, descending from Real del Monte, with Mr. M., was precipitated in the darkness into a profound barranca, and was then lying at the point of death.

But whether in the shape of thunder storm, darkness, barranca, or banditti, we seemed to have made up our minds to dare the danger, and to sleep at an elevation of two thousand feet higher up the country. In fine, just as the thunder began to echo among the mountains of the Rio del Chico, we might be seen issuing from the deep ravine, and urging our horses across the plain in the direction of the nearest chain, like men who knew that no time was to be lost.

Evening fell in early, under the lugubrious and premature shade cast over the brown plain and blue mountains by the thunder clouds; and by the time we reached a small village at the foot of the latter, night had fairly set in. The storm, however, seemed to spread itself more to the northward, as the glare of lightning became less frequent; and it was now that such a darkness fell upon us as baffles all description. I had been riding forty yards in advance as a kind of scout, feeling the way, but now I was compelled to come to a dead stop, and give up the task of leader to Espindola. A momentary flash from time to time showed us that we were at the entrance of a mountain defile overhung with rocks, and at the brink of a dashing torrent, rolling down a barranca to the left; but in our progress forward, our ears alone gave token of the character of the locality. The danger I have no scruple in saying was imminent, and increased in a terrific degree, as we crawled forward step by step, at the edge of a gulf, which increased momentarily in depth, upon a road of no great breadth, undefended on the side of the precipice, and conducted in several in-