The afternoon of the day we were in Puerto Cortez the man of war Atlanta steamed into the little harbor and we all cheered and the lottery people ran up the American flag. Then I and the others went out to her as fast as we could be rowed and I went over the side and the surprise of the officers was very great. They called Somers and Griscom to come up and we spent the day there. They were a much younger and more amusing lot of fellows than those on the Minneapolis and treated us most kindly. It was a beautiful boat and each of us confessed to feeling quite tempted to go back again to civilization after one day on her. Their boat had touched at Tangier and so they claimed that she was the one meant in the Exiles. They told me that the guide Isaac Cohen whom I mentioned in Harper's Weekly carries it around as an advertisement and wanted to ship with them as cabin boy. We left the next day on the railroad and the boys finding that two negroes sat on the cowcatcher to throw sand on the rails in slippery places bribed them for their places and I sat on the sand box. I never took a more beautiful drive. We did not go faster than an ordinary horse car but still it was exciting and the views and vistas wonderful. Sometimes we went for a half mile under arches of cocoanut palms and a straight broad leafed palm called the manaca that rises in separate leaves sixty feet from the ground. Imagine a palm such as we put in pots at weddings and teas as high as Holy Trinity Church and hundreds and hundreds of them. The country is very like Cuba but more luxuriant in every way. There are some trees with marble like trunks and great branches covered with oriole nests and a hundred orioles flying in and out of them or else plastered with orchids. If Billy Furness were to see in what abundance they grew he would be quite mad. It is a great pity he did not come with us. This little town is the terminus of the railroad and we have been here four days while Jeffs the American Colonel in the Hondurean Army is getting our outfit. It has been very pleasant and we are in no hurry which is a good thing for us. It is a most exciting country and as despotic as all uncivilized and unstable governments must be. But we have called on the Governor of the district with Jeffs and he gave us a very fine letter to all civil and unmilitary authorities in the district calling on them to aid and protect us in every way. I am getting awfully good material for my novel and for half a dozen stories to boot only I am surprised to find how true my novel was to what really exists here. About ten years ago ---- disappeared, having as I thought drunk himself to death. He came up to me here on my arrival with a lot of waybills in his hand and I learned that he had been employed in this hole in the ground by a railroad for two years. I remembered meeting him at Newport when I was still at Lehigh, and last night he asked me to dinner and told me what he had been doing which included everything from acting in South America to blacking boots in Australia. His boss was a Pittsburgh engineer who is apparently licking him into shape and who told me to tell his father that he had stopped drinking absolutely. His colored "missus" sat with us at the table and played with a beetle during the three hours I stayed there during which time he asked me about ---- who he said had ruined him. He told me of how ---- had done and said this, and the contrast to the thatched roof and the mud floor and the Scotch American engineer and the mulatto girl was rather striking. I never had more luck in any trip than I have had on this one and the luck of R. H. D. of which I was fond of boasting seems to hold good. That man of war, for instance, was the only American one that had touched at Puerto Cortez in TEN years and it came the day we did and left the day we did. We saw a big lithograph of Eddie Sothern in a palm hut here so we went before a notary and swore to it and had three seals put on the paper and sent it him as a joke. We start tomorrow the 22nd so you see we are behind our schedule and I suppose you people are all worried to death about us. We will be much longer than six days on our way to Tegucigalpa as we are going shooting and also to pay our respects to Bogran the ex-president and the man who is getting up the next revolution. But we take care to tell everyone we are travelling for pleasure and are great admirers of Bonilla the present president. Somers and I are getting on famously. He is a very fine boy with a great sense of humor and apparently very fond of me. We had five men counting Jeffs who we call our military attache and Charwood and four drivers and eleven mules so it is quite an outfit. In Ecuador with one more man it would constitute a revolution.
DEAR FAM: SANTA BARBARA--January 25, 1895.
We are not at Tegucigalpa as you observe but travelling in this country. "As you see it on Broadway " and as you see it here are two different things. We have had five days of it so far and rested here today in order to pay our respects to General Bogran the ex-president of the Republic. It is still six days to Tegucigalpa. The trip across Central America will certainly be one of the most interesting experiences of my life. It is the most beautiful country I have seen and the most barbarous. It is also the hottest and the most insect-ious and the dirtiest. This latter seems a little view to take of it but it means a great deal as the insects prevent your doing anything in a natural way; as for instance sitting on the grass or sleeping on the ground or hunting through the bushes. It is pretty much as you imagine it is from what you have read, that covers it, and I have discovered nothing new by coming to see it. I only verify what others have seen. The people are most uninteresting chiefly because they are surly to Americans and do not make you feel welcome. I do not mean that I did not do well to come for I am more glad that I did than I can say only I have not, as I have been able to do before, found something that others have not seen. I never expect to see such a country again unless in Africa. If you leave the path for ten yards you would never get back to it except by accident and you could not get that far away unless you cut yourself a trail. In some places the mail route which we follow and over which the mail is carried on the backs of runners is cut in the rock and we go down steps as even as those of the City Hall and for hours we travel over rough rocks and stones and a path so narrow that your knees catch in the vines at the side. The mules are wonderfully sure footed and never slip although they are very little, and I am pretty heavy. The heat is something awful. It bakes you and will dry your pith helmet in ten minutes after you have soaked it in water. But the scenery is magnificent, sometimes we ride above the clouds and look down into valleys stretching fifty miles away and see the buzzards half a mile below us. Then we go through forests of manaca palms that spread out on a single stem sideways and form arches over our heads with the leaves hanging in front of us like portiers or we cross great plains of grass and cactus and rock. The best fun is the baths we take in the mountain streams. They are almost as cool as one could wish and we shoot the rapids and lie under the waterfalls and come out with all the soreness rubbed out of us as though we had been massaged. We went shooting for two days but as they had no dogs we did not do much. I got the best shot of the trip and missed it. It was a large wild cat and he turned his side full on but I fired over him. Somers and I spent most of the time firing chance shots at alligators, but they never gave us a good chance as the birds warn them when they are in danger. One old fellow fifteen feet long beat us for some time and then Somers and I started across the river to catch him asleep. It was like the taking of Lungtepen. We had our money belts around our necks and our shoes in one hand and rifles in the other. The rapids ran very fast and the last I saw of Somerset he was sitting on the bank he had started from counting out wet bank notes and blowing the water out of his gun barrel. I got across all right by sticking my feet between rocks and put on my shoes and crawled up on the old Johnnie. He smelt of musk so strong that you could have found him in the dark. I had, a beautiful shot at him at fifty yards but I was too greedy and ran around some rocks to get nearer and he heard me and dived. I shot a macaw, one of those overgrown parrots with tail feathers three feet from tip to tip. I got him with a rifle and as Griscom had got his with a shotgun I came out all right as a marksman although I was very sore at missing the wild cat. We sleep in hats and we sleep precious little for the dogs and pigs and insects all help to keep us awake and I cannot get used to a hammock. The native beds are made of matting such as they put over tea chests, or bull's hide stretched. Last night I slept in a hut with a woman and her three daughters all over fifteen and they sat up and watched me prepare for bed with great interest. I would not have missed this trip for any other I know. I wanted to rough it and we've roughed it and we will have another week of it too. We have some remarkable photographs and the article ought to be most interesting. Bogran proved to be a very handsome and remarkable man and we had a very interesting talk with him. From Tegucigalpa we will probably go directly to Venezuela across the Isthmus of Panama and not visit another Republic. We have all travelled too much to care to duplicate, and that is what we would be doing by remaining longer in Central America. A month of it will be enough of it and we will not get away from Amapala before the first of February. We are all well and happy and dirty and sing and laugh and tell stories and listen to Griscom's anecdotes of the aristocracy as we pick our way along. So goodbye and God bless you all.
TEGUCIGALPA, CENTRAL AMERICA. February lst, 1895.
Here we are at last, the trip from Santa Barbara where I last wrote you was made in six days. It was not so interesting as the first part because it was very high up and the tropical scenery gave way to immensely tall pines and other trees that might have been in California, or the Rockies. The Corderillas which is the name of the mountains we crossed are a continuation, by the way, of the Rockies, and the Andes but are not more than 4,000 feet high. We had two very hot days of it in the plains of Comgaqua where there was once a city of 60,000 founded by Cortez but where there are not now more than 6,000. The heat was awful. We peeled all over our faces and hands and dodged and ducked our heads as though some one were biting at us. My saddle and clothes were so hot that I could not place my hand on them. At one village we heard that a bull fight was to be given at the next fifteen miles away, so we rode on there and arrived in time to take part. They had enclosed the plaza with a barricade of logs seven feet high, bound together with vines. They roped a big bull and lassoed him all over and then a man got on his back with spurs on his bare feet and held on by the ropes around the bull's body and by his toes and threw a cloak over the bull's eyes when ever it got too near any one-- They stuck it with spears until it was mad and then let the lassoes slip and the bull started off to tear out the torreadors. I thought it would be a great sporting act to kodak a bull while it was charging you and so we all volunteered to act as torreadors and it was most exciting and funny. It was rather late to get good results but I got some pretty good pictures of the bull coming at me with his head down and then I'd skip into a hole in the wall. The best pictures I got were of Somers and Griscom scrambling over the seven foot barriers with the bull in hot chase. We all looked so funny in our high boots and helmets and so much alike that the savages yelled with delight and thought we had been engaged especially for their pleasure. Our "mosers," or mule drivers treated us most insolently but we could not do anything because Jeffs. had engaged them and we did not want to interfere with his authority but at a place the last day out one of them told Jeffs. he lied and that we all lied. He had lost or stolen a canteen of Griscom's and they had said we had not given it to him. Jeffs. went at him right and left and knocked him all over the shop. There were half a dozen drunken mule drivers at the place and we thought they would take a hand but they did not. That night Jeffs. thought to try us to see what we would have done and left us bathing in a mountain stream and rode on ahead and hid himself behind a rock in a canon and lay in ambush for us. We were jogging along in the moonlight and Somerset was reciting the "Walrus and the Carpenter," when suddenly Jeffs. let out a series of yells in Spanish and opened fire on us over our heads. Somerset was riding my mule and I had no weapons, so I yelled at him to shoot and he fell off his mule and ran to mine and let go at the rock behind which Jeffs. was with the carbines. So that in about five seconds Jeffs.' curiosity was perfectly satisfied as to what we would do, and he shouted for mercy. We thought it was a sentry or brigands and were greatly disappointed when it turned out to be Jeffs. We got here last night and a dirtier or more dismal place you never saw. We had telegraphed ahead for rooms but nothing was in order and we were lodged much worse than we had been several times in the interior where there was occasionally a clean floor. This morning we wrote direct to the President, asking for an interview or audience and did not ask our Consul to help us because Jeffs. had asked him in our presence to come meet us and he said he would after he had done talking to some other men, but he never came. Before we heard from Bonilla however, we learned that the Vice-president who has the same name was to be sworn in so we went to the palace along with the populace in their bare feet. We sat out of sight but the English Consul who was the finest looking person in the chamber--all over gold lace--saw us and asked that we be given places in front, which the minister of something asked us to take but we objected on account of our clothes. Somers had on a flannel suit that looked exactly like pajamas and lawn tennis shoes. But as soon as the ceremony was over they insisted on our going in to the banquet hall and in spite of our objections we were there conveyed and presented to Bonilla who behaved very well and after saying he had received our letters but had not had time to read them left us and avoided us, which was what we wanted for we looked like the devil. We met everybody else though and took the English and Guatemalian Consuls back to our rooms and gave them drinks and then we went to their rooms, so the day went very pleasantly. The President sent us a funny printed card appointing an audience at eleven to-morrow. It is exactly what you would imagine it would be, the soldiers are barefooted except about fifty and the President leaned out of the window in his shirt sleeves after the review and they have not plastered up the holes in his palace that his cannon made in it just a year ago to-day, when he was fighting Vasquez, and Vasquez was then on the inside and Bonilla on the hills. I forgot to tell you that this morning a boy about sixteen years old, with a policeman's badge and club came to our window and talked pleasantly with us or at us rather, while we shaved and guyed him in English. Finally we found that he had come to arrest Jeffs. so we told him where Jeffs. was but he preferred to watch us shave and we finished it under his custody. Then we went to the Commandante and found that the mosers had had Jeffs. arrested for not paying them on their arrival at Tegucigalpa, as we had distinctly told them we would not do but at San Pedro from where we took them, on their return. It was only a spite case suggested by Jeffs. thrashing their leader. The Commandante gave them a scolding and we went out in triumph.
Your cable received all right. We were very glad to hear. We have decided to go on by mules to Manaqua, the Capital of Nicaragua, and from there either to Corinto or to Lemon on the Atlantic side. We had to do this or wait here ten days for the boat going south at Amapala. It is moonlight now so that we can avoid the heat of the day. Yesterday we went out riding with the President, who put a gold revolver in his hip pocket before he started and made us feel that uneasy lies the head that rules in this country. He had two horses that had never been ridden before, as a compliment to our powers, the result was that the Vice-president's horse almost killed him, which I guess the President intended it should and the horse Griscom rode backed all over the town. He was a stallion and had never been ridden before that day. Mine was a gentle old gee-gee and yet I felt good when we were all on the ground again. The British consul gave Somers a fine reception and raised the flag for him and had the band there to play "God Save the Queen," which he had spent the whole morning in teaching them. Griscom and I called on our Consul and played his guitar. We bought one for ourselves for the rest of the trip.
I want you to do something for me: keep all the unfavorable notices you get. I know Mother won't do it, so I shall expect Nora to make a point of saving them from the waste-paper basket. If there is not a lot of them when I get back, I will raise a row.
MANAQUA-NICARAGUA-February 13, 1895. DEAR FAM: