Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/150

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
142
TRAVELS IN MEXICO.

of coco nuts. Into the six hammocks, hung side by side in the centre, ten people stowed themselves as night came on, though Alonzo and I, in virtue of our silver, had a single one each. I slept uneasily, because they told me the flamingoes would come in the night, and we must get up at moonrise and hunt them. Insects of some kind—I could not tell what, nor how many, save that I knew they were numerous and sanguinary—were crawling over me all night. The hammock next me was occupied by an old woman with two babies, and she, with the men and boys on either side, was smoking and spitting all night. It was very dark, and the wind was howling through the spaces of the hut during all those weary hours, and in the morning there was a perfect "norther," and the long leaves of the coco palms were lashing their trunks in fury. At sunset the Indians told us the flamingoes would come at midnight, then at dawn, and when daylight came they were on an island two leagues off, and would appear mañana. When I heard this last, I knew the case was hopeless, and prepared to depart. The only sight of flamingoes we obtained was early in the morning, when two long lines flapped over the water far at sea, distinguishable miles away by their bright color.

Forty years ago, Mr. Stephens and Dr. Cabot had similar fortune to mine in this same locality, having been lured here from the port of Ɔilam by the stories told them of the abundance of ibis and flamingoes, and having still returned empty-handed. Then, as now, Puntas Arenas was simply a station for fishermen, and had but a single hut. I perfectly agree with the distinguished traveller, that, "for mere sporting, such a ground is not often seen, and the idea of a shooting lodge, or rather hut, on the shores of Punta Arenas for a few months in the season, presented itself almost as attractively as that of exploring ruined cities."

Stephens was then on his way back from an extended exploration of the ruins on the island of Cozumel and the east coast of the peninsula; and perhaps, as this is the nearest point we shall reach in that direction, it will be well to interpolate a short description of that portion of Yucatan. The first point at which