Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/223

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FROM COAST TO CAPITAL.

French zouaves are said to have routed five thousand men of the Mexican army, is a conspicuous object near the town. The station here is the best on the road; it is half a mile distant from the town, and connected with it by road and tramway.

Above Orizaba the rails are drawn over fertile fields and wooded hills, through a fine country, rapidly growing poorer, where they run straight away towards the hills, and then make a decided dash for the mountains. In half an hour from the small station of Encinal, we enter the gloomy gorge known as El Infernillo, the Little Hell, passing over dizzy banks and bridges, above a stream which has worn a deep chasm in the trap rock. A black cross on a projecting point indicates death and danger, and reminds us of the fate that awaits him who slips from the track above. Far below, gazing downward from the dizzy bridge we are crossing, upheld by slender columns, we can see a little stream dashing into a black and dismal ravine, where it is lost, until it reappears on the plain we have left. Plunging into a tunnel, we emerge at the other end into scenery radically different, for we have now reached the region of pines, more than five thousand feet above the sea. A little valley lies spread before us now, an emerald embosomed in the mountains, called La Joya, the Jewel, in the centre of which is the station of Maltrata. Just as the whistle sounds for this station, the volcano of Orizaba bursts upon the view again, its whole snow-white summit rising majestically above the hills. The train is met by hundreds of Indian girls and women, holding out baskets of fruit, such as peaches, pomegranates, oranges, pine-apples, avocado pears, and tamales, or meat smothered in corn paste, cakes, tortillas, and bottles of pulque; everything, in fact, that the Mexican taste (limited) is supposed to crave. Peach trees line the track at the station, and all the houses have gardens about them, as this is a suburb, and the town extends farther into the valley.

Beyond this the track literally climbs the mountain, approaching it by great curves. At La Bota, where the engine stops for water, and where they take on a supply of wood,—pine wood that gives out a resinous odor,—the down train can be