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:
I had a great deal to tell you, but we have just received copies of the Panama Star and have read of the trolley riots in Brooklyn, a crisis in France, War in the Balkans, a revolution in Honolulu and another in Colombia. The result is that we feel we are not in it and we are all kicking and growling and abusing our luck. How Claiborne and Russell will delight over us and in telling how the militia fired on the strikers and how Troop A fought nobly. Never mind our turn will come someday and we may see something yet. We have had the deuce of a time since we left Tegucigalpa. Now we are in a land where there are bull hide beds and canvas cots instead of hammocks and ice and railroads and direct communication with steamship lines. Hereafter all will be merely a matter of waiting until the boat sails or the train starts and the uncertainties of mules and cat boats are at an end. It is hard to explain about our difficulties after we left Tegucigalpa but they were many. We gave up our idea of riding here direct because they assured us we could get a steam launch from Amapala to Corinto so we rode three days to San Lorenzo on the Pacific side and took an open boat from there to Amapala. It was rowed by four men who walked up a notched log and then fell back dragging the sweeps back, with the weight of their bodies.
It was a moonlight night and they looked very picturesque rising and sinking back and outlined against the sky. They were naked to the waist and rowed all night and I had a good chance to see them as I had to lie on the bottom of the boat on three mahogany logs. By ten the next day we were too cramped to stand it, so we put ashore on a deserted island and played Robinson Crusoe. We had two biscuits and a box of sardines among five of us but we found oysters on the rocks and knocked a lot off with clubs and stones and the butts of our guns. They were very good. We also had a bath until a fish ran into me about three feet long and cut two gashes in my leg. We reached Amapala about four in the afternoon. It was an awful place; dirt and filth and no room to move about, so we chartered an open boat to sail or row to Corinto sixty miles distant. You see, we could not go back to Tegucigalpa until the steamer arrived which is to take us South of Panama and we could not go to Manaqua either and for the same reason that we had sent back our mule train and we would not wait in Amapala partly because of fever which had been there and partly because we wanted to get to Corinto where they have ice and to see Manaqua. The boat was about as long as the Vagabond and twice as deep and a foot or two more across her beam. There were four of us, five of the crew and two natives who wanted to make the trip and who we took with us. It was pretty awful. The old tub rocked like a milk shake and I was never so ill in my life, we all lay packed together on the ribs of the boat and could not move and the waves splashed over us but we were too ill to care. The next day the sun beat in on us and roasted us like an open furnace. The boat was a pit of heat and outside the swell of the Pacific rose and fell and reflected the sun like copper. We reached Corinto in about twenty four hours and I was never so glad to get any place before. The town turned out to greet us and some Englishmen ran to ask from what boat we had been ship wrecked. They would not believe we had taken the trip for any other reason. They helped us very kindly and would not let us drink all the iced water we wanted and sent us in to bathe in a place surrounded by piles to keep out the sharks and by a roof to shelter one from the sun. Corinto proved to be all that Amapala was not; clean, cool with very excellent food and broad beds of matting. I liked it better than any place at which we have been, we came on here the next day to see the President and found the city hot, dusty and of no interest. There is an excellent hotel however and we had a talk with the President who was a much better chap than Bonilla being older and more civilized. Of course there is absolutely no reason or excuse for us if we do not get control of this canal. If only that it would allow our ships of war to pass from Ocean to Ocean instead of going around the horn. The women are really beautiful but that has nothing to do with the canal. Tomorrow morning we return to Corinto as Somers and I like it best. Griscom would like to go on across by the route of the canal which would be a good thing were we certain of meeting a steamer at Simon or Greytown, but the Minister who went last month that way had to wait there sixteen days. So, we will probably leave Corinto on the 17th or 20th, there are two steamers, one that stops at ports and one that does not. They both arrive together. I do not know which we will take but--this letter will go with me. Up to date I think the trip will make a good story but it will have to be a personal one about the three of us for the country as it stands is uninteresting to the general reader for the reason that it DUPLICATES itself in everything. But with our photographs and a humorous story, it ought to be worth reading and I have picked enough curious things to make it of some value.
We are back here now and rid of that dusty, dirty city. You would be amused if you saw this place and tried to understand why we prefer it to any place we have seen. There is surf bathing at a half mile distant and a good hotel with a great bar where a Frenchman gives us ice and the sea captains and agents for mines and plantations in the interior gather to play billiards. Outside there are rows of handsome women with decollete gowns and shining black hair and colored silk scarfs selling fruit and down the one street which faces the bay are a double row of palms and the store where two American boys have a phonograph. They are the only Americans I have met who have or are taking a dollar out of this country. They play the guitar and banjo very well. One of them was on the Princeton glee club and their stories of how they have toured Central America are very amusing. Lots of Love.