Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/224

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TRAVELS IN MEXICO.

seen creeping slowly on its course, held in check by the powerful engine. All the way up the hills you can trace the road, its serpentine trail drawn in and out the valley and along the ridges, ever and anon doubling upon itself, but ever climbing. At last we reach another water-tank, perched at the crest of a ridge, after having ascended over a grade of nearly five per cent through rock cuts hung with ferns, severing the backs of the buttresses that come down from the mountains above, and through tunnels that pierce them one after another. Looking down upon the hills and dales clothed in pines and oaks, we might imagine ourselves in New Hampshire, but we are already higher than Mount Washington!

Here the view is of surpassing beauty. Far to the left the volcano rears its white peak above ranks of sombre pines, and right beneath is a variegated landscape, alternate groves, copses, fields, and garden spots, through which is traced the sinuous line of the iron road. Beyond the tank is a narrow iron bridge, ninety feet long, and spanning a chasm that ends only at the valley below. If any support should snap here, nothing could save us from being precipitated two thousand feet downward. At the bridge the fair vale of Maltrata again lies before us, though ten miles distant by the track, and nearly three thousand feet below. Glorious are the views of Maltrata obtained as the train rushes in and out the cuts. The valley is perfectly flat, divided into squares by hedges and walls, with every shade of green, with houses and trees most picturesquely grouped, waving with grain in places, and golden where the harvest is done. Exactly in its centre is a red-domed church, and a square with portals and fountain; every inch is cultivated beyond the town, where verdant valleys run up into the hills, the slopes of which are yellow with grain and brown with upturned earth. Hill is piled upon hill, stretching away to the horizon till lost in purple haze. We are cutting the crests of a hundred ridges, crawling along the summits of mountains, now peering into dark chasms a thousand feet deep, containing streams drawn fine as silver threads, now penetrating forests of pines, black and vast.