Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/178

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This was forty years ago. A few years later, a more adventurous traveller than Stephens, Monsieur Arthur Morelet, entered this region by the river Usumacinta, and skirted the border of that supposed centre of ancient civilization. Being alone, his adventures are of a more fascinating character than those of Stephens, who seldom departed from certain lines of travel. He plunged at once into the dense forests that surround the territory of the Lacandones, travelling from the Gulf coast at Laguna de Terminos to Lake Peten, thence to Guatemala (the capital), thence to the Gulf of Honduras, and home via Havana. He spent several years in that country, and evidently believed in the existence of the "mysterious city."

In an introduction to the English translation of the book written by the above-mentioned traveller, Mr. E. G. Squier thus speaks of this region, "lying between Chiapas, Tabasco, Yucatan, and the republic of Guatemala, and comprising a considerable portion of each of these States, which, if not entirely blank, is only conjecturally filled up with mountains, lakes, and rivers. It is almost as unknown as the interior of Africa itself. We only know that it is traversed by nameless ranges of mountains, among which the great river Usumacinta gathers its waters from a thousand tributaries, before pouring them, in a mighty flood, into the Laguna de Terminos and the Gulf of Mexico. . . . . Within its depths, far off on some unknown tributary of the Usumacinta, the popular tradition of Guatemala and Chiapas places that great aboriginal city, with its white walls shining like silver in the sun, which the cura of Quiché affirmed he had seen with his own eyes from the tops of the mountains of Quezaltenango."

But did the endeavors to find this sacred stronghold cease with Morelet? By no means. If we are to believe a Spanish memoir, written by Don Pedro Velasquez, of Guatemala, the stories circulated by Stephens stimulated two young men of Baltimore to set out on an expedition for its discovery. Passing over the uneventful period of their voyage, we find them at last on the borders of the valley containing the object of their search. The city in all its glory of glistening walls and