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Title: The Naturalist in Nicaragua
Author: Thomas Belt












In the "Life and Letters of Charles Darwin," edited by his son, Mr.
Francis Darwin (volume 3 page 188), the following passage occurs:--

"In the spring of this year (1874) he read a book which gave him
great pleasure, and of which he often spoke with admiration, "The
Naturalist in Nicaragua," by the late Thomas Belt. Mr. Belt, whose
untimely death may well be deplored by naturalists, was by
profession an engineer, so that all his admirable observations in
natural history, in Nicaragua and elsewhere, were the fruit of his
leisure. The book is direct and vivid in style, and is full of
description and suggestive discussions. With reference to it my
father wrote to Sir J.D. Hooker: 'Belt I have read, and I am
delighted that you like it so much; it appears to me the best of
all natural history journals which have ever been published.'"

Now that the book so highly recommended by such an authority is
about to be introduced to a public which has hitherto only known it
by hearsay, it will be interesting to inquire into the reason of
its appreciation by such men as Darwin and Hooker--and Lyell,
Huxley, and Wallace, with other leaders of the scientific world of
that day, might be quoted to the same effect--and to give some
particulars of the author's short active life.

The Belts were an old family which had been established at Bossal
in Yorkshire since the reign of Richard II. The main line died out
some twenty years ago, but about the beginning of the eighteenth
century a member of the family went to the Tyne to join the
well-known ironworks of Crawley at Winlaton. He and his descendants
remained with the firm for over a century, and he was the
great-great-grandfather of the grandfather of Thomas Belt born at
Newcastle-on-Tyne on November 27, 1832.

Thomas was the fourth child of a family of seven. His mother
possessed a singularly sweet and beautiful disposition; his father,
much given to hobbies, was stern and unbending, and he himself
combined an almost womanly gentleness with a quiet determination
that unflinchingly faced all obstacles. With a high sense of
personal honour, unassuming and even-tempered, he was only roused
to anger by acts of oppression or wanton cruelty. Then his
indignation, though not loud, was very real, and he acted with a
promptitude which would hardly have been expected from his usually
placid demeanour. A story is told of how one day sitting at table
he saw through the window a man belabouring a woman. Without saying
a word, he rushed out, pinioned the offender by the elbows and,
running him to the top of a steep slope in the street, gave him a
kick which sent him flying down the declivity. The incident is
recalled merely as an illustration of his practical way of dealing
with difficulties which stood him in good stead in many an
out-of-the-way corner of the world when contending with obstacles
caused either by the perversity of man or the forces of nature. He
never carried fire-arms even when travelling in the most unsettled
districts, and his firm but conciliatory manner overcame opposition
in a wonderful way. In ordinary life he was the kindest and most
considerate of men, and his transparent sincerity made friends for
him everywhere. Nor was he ever happier than when assisting others
in those pursuits which occupied his own leisure.

The interesting question as to what led Belt to become a naturalist
is difficult to answer. "Environment" nowadays accounts for much,
but none of his brothers--and all the family had a similar
bringing-up--showed any inclination for what with him became the
ruling passion of his life. And yet, in a wider sense, "environment"
had probably something to do with it. In the first half of the
nineteenth century Newcastle could boast of a succession of
field-naturalists unequalled in the country--Joshua Alder and
Albany Hancock, who wrote the monograph on British nudibranchiate
mollusca for the Ray Society; William Hutton and John Thornhill,
botanists; W.C. Hewitson, Dr. D. Embleton, and John Hancock,
zoologists; Thomas Athey and Richard Howse,
palaeontologists--these, and others like them, were
enthusiastically at work collecting, observing, recording,
classifying. Fresh discoveries were being made every day; what are
now commonplace scientific truisms wore then all the charm of
novelty; the secrets of nature were being unveiled, and modern
science was entering upon an ever-extending kingdom.

Into all this scientific activity Belt was born, and from his
earliest years it may be said of him, as in the well-known lines it
was said of Agassiz:--

   "And he wandered away and away
   With Nature, the dear old nurse,
   Who sang to him night and day
   The rhymes of the universe."

   "And whenever the way seemed long,
   Or his heart began to fail,
   She would sing a more wonderful song,
   Or tell a more marvellous tale."

"If happiness," he wrote in his twenty-second year, "consists in
the number of pleasing emotions that occupy our mind--how true is
it that the contemplation of nature, which always gives rise to
these emotions, is one of the great sources of happiness."

The earliest instance which has been remembered of his fondness for
animal life occurred when he was about three years old. He had been
in the garden and came running to show his mother what he had
found. Opening his carefully gathered up pinafore, out jumped two
frogs--to the great dismay of the good lady, for frogs are first
cousins to toads, the dire effects of whose glance and venom were
known to every one.

He received the best education the town could give, and was
fortunate in his schoolmasters--first Dr. J.C. Bruce of antiquarian
fame, and then Mr. John Storey, second to none in his day as a
north-country botanist.

Belt's father was much interested in horticulture; and, possessing
some meteorological instruments, entrusted him, when only twelve
years old, with the keeping of a set of observations which showed
not only the barometric and thermometric readings twice a day, and
the highest and lowest temperatures, but also the rainfall, the
state of the sky, the form of the clouds, and the force and
direction of the wind. The elaborately arranged columns, full of
symbols and figures, look very quaint in the careful boyish
handwriting, and must have absorbed much of his spare time.

Insects, however, had the greatest attraction for him. He writes in
his journal: "I have made a great improvement in the study of
entomology, to which I have an ardent attachment." And a little
later: "I find I have not time to study so many things. I am afraid
that I will not be able to carry on entomology and botany together;
but entomology I will not give up." He had been studying
"electricity, astronomy, botany, conchology, and geology." At the
age of sixteen he wrote: "I feel a longing, a natural desire, to
explore and understand the ways of science. I am ambitious of doing
something that will deserve the praise or excite the admiration of
mankind." When the praise and admiration came, no one could have
been more indifferent to them than himself. Nature, his "nurse,"
had become his queen; and never was there a more devoted,
whole-hearted subject, a more simple-minded follower of science for
its own sake without any thought of the honour or glory that might
accrue thereby.

On August 10, 1849, he records: "I have been thinking for the last
few days about fixing on some subject or pursuit on which to devote
my life, as it is of no use first starting one subject and then
another, thus learning nothing. After giving it a good deal of
consideration, I have determined on studying 'Natural History,' not
confining myself to any one branch of that vast subject. As this is
a subject on which I intend to devote my leisure hours during the
greater part if not the whole of my lifetime, I consider it to be
of the greatest importance that I should lay a good foundation for
it. I therefore intend during the ensuing winter to study the
English language and composition, so as to be able to describe
objects and explain my sentiments with greater clearness and
precision than I can at present." The last sentence illustrates the
systematic thoroughness of all his work which was one reason of his

Belt's "leisure hours" were soon more numerous than he had
anticipated when recording his determination to devote them to
natural history. Already his health had shown signs of giving way,
and presently there was a nervous break-down which necessitated his
giving up all work and being out in the open air as much as
possible. But what appeared to be probably the wrecking of his life
provided the opportunity which might not otherwise have occurred of
encouraging and developing his inborn love of nature. Becoming a
member of the Tyneside Naturalists' Field Club, he interested
himself greatly in the local fauna and flora, and formed very
complete collections of the plants, insects, and shells. His name
occurs frequently in the "Transactions" of the Club as the recorder
of species new to the district. His health gradually improved, but
it was doubtful whether he would be able to bear the strain of any
indoor occupation, for which indeed he felt an ever-increasing

It was the time of the discovery of gold in Australia, and after
much discussion he and his elder brother joined the stream of
adventurers and sailed in 1852 for Victoria. In this rough "school
of mines" he acquired that insight into the building-up of the
earth's crust and that practical knowledge of minerals which served
him so well in after-life as a mining engineer. But although the
whole colony was in the grip of the gold-fever, Belt retained the
same quiet habits of observation which had marked him at home--for
there, as to whatever part of the world his work subsequently
called him, the engineer was always at heart a naturalist. He
proved an excellent observer, and a certain speculative tendency
led him to group his observations so as to bring out their full
theoretical bearing.

Amid real hard work he found time to evolve a theory of whirlwinds
and to speculate upon the soaring of birds. A companion has
recorded in the following terms another matter which engaged much
of his attention at this time: "The boldest of his speculations,
and one of the soundest, as after-events proved, was his plan for
crossing the Australian continent. He proposed, at the time the
government expedition was mooted, to replace the costly plans of
the government by the following scheme:--That he and his brother
Anthony (who was unfortunately lost in the "Royal Charter") should
be conveyed to the Gulf of Carpentaria, with about twenty
pack-horses loaded with provisions and water; that an escort should
protect them for some twenty miles from the coast, and that then
the two voyagers only, with their pack-horses, should make their
way to Cooper's Creek, the farthest known accessible point from the
Victorian settled districts. Belt argued justly: 'If we fail, only
two lives will be lost, but all chances are in our favour; we are
provided with water and food more than ample to cover the distance
we have to travel. Every step of our road carries us homeward and
to safety. If we never find a drop of water on the road, our
animals have enough to carry those who have to bear the whole
journey to their goal, and as the animals succumb they will be shot
or turned adrift.' The event showed Belt's sagacity. The
unfortunate government expedition left Melbourne loaded with
camp-followers and impedimenta, and by the time they reached a few
stages beyond Cooper's Creek were well-nigh exhausted. Burke, the
leader of the expedition, in desperation started with his two men,
Wills and King, and bravely struck out for the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Through desert and fertile plains, not altogether destitute of
water, they reached in safety the northern shore of Australia; but
the energy, the courage, and the strength that took them this long,
weary journey did not suffice to carry them back over double the
distance to their camp. Brave hearts! they struggled on; but King
only, and as a worn-out man, ever saw Cooper's Creek again. Belt's
plan would have solved the problem without loss of life and at a
tenth of the cost." He always regretted that he had not the means
of carrying it out independently of government assistance.

After eight years in Australia Belt returned to England, married,
and was successively manager of mining companies in Nova Scotia,
North Wales, and Nicaragua, sandwiching in between these
appointments a visit to Brazil to report upon some gold mines in
the province of Maranham. In whatever part of the world his work
took him he turned for rest and relaxation to the branches of
natural science for which the locality offered the greatest

In Nova Scotia he began those investigations into the cause and
phenomena of the glacial period which were to be the study of the
last years of his life, and to which he himself attached the
greatest importance. In Wales he took up the question of the age of
the rocks in the neighbourhood of Dolgelly, and after much study of
their fossils proposed the now accepted classification of the
Lingula flags of the Lower Silurian system into the Maenturog flags
and slates, the Festiniog flags, and the Dolgelly slates. The
collecting of lepidoptera was his chief amusement in Brazil, where
he made his first acquaintance with the teeming life of the torrid
zone and laid the foundation for those observations on tropical
nature which his longer stay in Nicaragua gave rise to, and which
are recorded in this book.

After his return from Central America, his services were in great
request as a consulting mining engineer, and the succeeding years
of his life were spent in almost continual travel: over all parts of
Great Britain, to North and South Russia, Siberia, the Kirghiz
Steppes, Mexico, and the United States. It was on one of his annual
visits to Colorado that he was seized with sudden sickness and died
on September 21, 1878, at the early age of forty-five.

Thomas Belt was an accurate and intelligent observer possessed of
the valuable faculty of wonder at whatever is new or strange or
beautiful in nature, and the equally valuable habit of seeking a
reason for all he saw. Having found or imagined one, he went on to
make fresh observations, and sought out new facts to see how they
accorded with his supposed cause of the phenomena. "The Naturalist
in Nicaragua" has therefore a value and a charm quite independent
of the particular district it describes. As a mere book of travel
it is surpassed by scores of other works. The country and the
people of Nicaragua are too much like other parts of tropical
Spanish America, with their dull, lazy inhabitants, to possess any
novelty. There is little in the book that can be called adventure,
and still less of geographical discovery.

And yet, the many and highly diversified phases in which life
presents itself in the tropics enabled the skilled naturalist to
fill a volume with a series of episodes, experiences, and
speculations of which the reader will never tire. His keen powers
of observation and active intellect were applied to various
branches of scientific inquiry with unflagging ardour; and he had
the faculty of putting the results of these inquiries in a clear,
direct form, rendered the more attractive by its simplicity and
absence of any effort at fine writing. He does not obtrude his own
personality, and, like all genuine men, he forgets "self" over his
subject. Instead of informing us whether or not he received "the
salary of an ambassador and the treatment of a gentleman," he
scatters before us, broadcast, facts interesting and novel,
valuable hints for future research, and generalisations which amply
repay a close study. Not alone the zoologist, the geologist, but
the antiquarian, the ethnologist, the social philosopher, and the
meteorologist will each find in these pages additions to his store
of knowledge and abundant material for study.

With all this, the work is not a mere catalogue of dry facts: it is
eminently a readable book, bringing vividly before us the various
subjects with which it is concerned. Minutely accurate in his
description of facts and bold in his reasoning upon them, Belt
covered so much ground that some of his theories have not held
their own; but others have stood the test of time and been absorbed
into the world's stock of knowledge, while all bear witness to the
singular grasp of his mind and have stimulated thought and
observation--which is a great virtue in theories, be they true or

It has been already stated that Belt devoted the scanty leisure of
his last years to the study of the glacial period, entering with
zest into the consideration of its cause, the method of deposition
of its beds, and the time-relationship of man to it--complex
questions on which his imagination had full scope, and which, had
his life been prolonged, his patient accumulation of evidence might
have ultimately led him to suggest answers that would have been
generally accepted by scientific men. But the cause of the
remarkable change of climate during those late Tertiary and
post-Tertiary times known as the glacial period is still without a
completely satisfactory explanation. In Belt's day geologists were
inclined to get over the difficulty of accounting for the phenomena
by any feasible terrestrial change by explaining them as the result
of cosmical causes, and Croll's theory of the increase of the
eccentricity of the earth's orbit was widely received among them.
Belt, on the other hand, held that the cold was due to an increase
in the obliquity of the ecliptic. But these astronomical
explanations have not met with much acceptance by physicists; and
so chemists have been turned to by some geologists for support of
the hypothesis of the variation in the amount of carbon dioxide in
the air, or of other alterations in the atmosphere, while others
have gone back to the idea of geographical changes. That
considerable oscillations of the relative levels of land and sea
took place during the Ice Age has been now clearly established, and
the general result of the investigations favours Belt's opinion
that the land during part of that period stood much higher than now
over the northern regions of Europe and North America. It would,
however, lead us too far away from the present book to enter into
even a cursory examination of his views upon the glacial period,
and those readers who desire to pursue the matter will find
assistance for doing so in the bibliography at the end of this

Of more immediate interest to us are the "observations on animals
and plants in reference to the theory of evolution of living forms"
which the title-page announces as a part of the narrative, and
which indeed form the main portion of the work. Upon the
publication of Darwin's "Origin of Species" in 1859, Belt had
become an ardent evolutionist, and was henceforth always on the
look-out for facts in support of the theories which had breathed
such new life into biological studies. In Nicaragua he devoted
special attention to those wonderful protective resemblances,
especially among insects, which Bates had explained by his theory
of "Mimicry;" and as the subject crops up again and again in this
book, the non-scientific reader will find it helpful to have before
him an outline of the expanded and completed theory--though he
should be warned that some writers have been too much inclined to
attribute to "mimicry" any accidental resemblance between two
species. How far such accidental resemblances may be carried is
probably well illustrated by the bee, the spider, and the fly
orchis of our own downs and copses.

"Mimicry" proper is often confused with "protective resemblance,"
and it will be advisable to begin with the consideration of the

Concealment, while useful at times to all animals, is absolutely
essential to some; and it is wonderful in what different ways it is
attained. In cases of "cryptic resemblance to surroundings" the
shape, colouration, or markings are such as to conceal an animal by
rendering it difficult to distinguish from its immediate
environment. In most cases the effect is PROTECTIVE; but in snakes,
spiders, mantids, and other preying animals it is termed
AGGRESSIVE, since it enables these animals to stalk their prey
undetected. It is probable that this power, when possessed by a
vertebrate animal, nearly always bears the double meaning, as in
the green tree frog, where the colouration is protective so far as
it provides concealment from snakes, which are particularly fond of
these frogs, and aggressive in that it allows flies and other
insects to approach without suspicion.

There may be either General Resemblance to surrounding objects or
Special Resemblance to definite objects. The plain sandy colour of
desert animals, the snow white of the inhabitants of the arctic
regions, the inconspicuous hues of nocturnal animals, the stripes
of the tiger and the zebra, the spots of the leopard and the
giraffe have all a cryptic effect which at a very short distance
renders the creatures invisible amid their natural surroundings.
Nor is it necessary in order to attain this invisibility that the
colouring should be really dull and plain. It all depends upon the
habitat. Mr. Wallace has described "a South American goatsucker
which rests in the bright sunshine on little bare rocky islets in
the upper Rio Negro where its unusually light colours so closely
resemble those of the rock and sand that it can scarcely be
detected till trodden upon." A little observation will supply large
numbers of instances of such protective colouration.

It is, however, in the insect world that this principle of
adaptation of animals to their environment is most fully and
strikingly developed. "There are thousands of species of insects,"
says Mr. Wallace again, "which rest during the day clinging to the
bark of dead or fallen trees; and the greater portion of these are
delicately mottled with grey and brown tints, which though
symmetrically disposed and infinitely varied, yet blend so
completely with the usual colours of the bark, that at two or three
feet distance they are quite undistinguishable."

In protective resemblances at their highest state of perfection the
colouring is not constant but, as Professor Poulton puts it in his
delightful book on "The Colours of Animals", "can be adjusted to
harmonise with changes in the environment or to correspond with the
differences between the environment of different individuals." The
seasonal change of colour in northern animals is a well-known
instance of the former, and the chameleon's alterations of hue of
the latter.

Besides General Resemblance, in which the general effects of
surrounding colours are reproduced, we have Special Resemblance, in
which the appearance of a particular object is copied in shape and
outline as well as in colour. Numerous instances will be found in
this book, and a "Leaf Insect" and a "Moss Insect" are illustrated.
But the classic example is the butterfly from the East Indies so
graphically described by Mr. Wallace, Kallima paralekta, which
always rests among dead or dry leaves and has itself leaf-like
wings spotted over with specks to imitate the tiny fungi growths on
the foliage it resembles. "It sits on a nearly upright twig, the
wings fitting closely back to back, concealing the antennae and
head, which are drawn up between their bases. The little tails of
the hind wings touch the branch and form a perfect stalk to the
leaf, which is supported in its place by the claws of the middle
pair of feet which are slender and inconspicuous. The irregular
outline of the wings gives exactly the perspective effect of a
shrivelled leaf." The wonderful "stick insects" in like manner
mimic the twigs of the trees among which they lurk. Nor need we go
abroad in search of examples, for among our own insects are
countless instances of marvellous resemblances to the inanimate or
vegetable objects upon which they rest. One of the most interesting
is that of the geometer caterpillars, which are very plentiful, and
any one can observe them for himself even in a London garden. They
support themselves for hours by means of their posterior legs,
forming an angle of various degrees with the branch on which they
are standing and looking for all the world like one of its twigs.
The long cylindrical body is kept stiff and immovable, with the
separations of the segments scarcely visible, and its colour is
obscure and similar to that of the bark of the tree. Kirby and
Spence tell of a gardener mistaking one of these caterpillars for a
dead twig, and starting back in great alarm when, on attempting to
break it off, he found it was a living animal.

Sometimes concealment is secured by the aid of adventitious
objects. Many lepidopterous larvae live in cases made of the
fragments of the substances upon which they feed; and certain
sea-urchins cover themselves so completely with pebbles, shells,
and so forth, that one can see nothing but a heap of little stones.
Perhaps, however, the most interesting instance is the crab
described by Mr. Bateson, which "takes a piece of weed in his two
chelae and, neither snatching nor biting it, deliberately tears it
across, as a man tears paper with his hands. He then puts one end
of it into his mouth, and after chewing it up, presumably to soften
it, takes it out in the chelae and rubs it firmly on his head or
legs until it is caught by the peculiar curved hairs which cover
them. If the piece of weed is not caught by the hairs, the crab
puts it back in his mouth and chews it up again. The whole
proceeding is most human and purposeful."

There is another class of colours in which not concealment but
conspicuousness is the object aimed at. Such colours are borne by
animals provided with formidable weapons of defence (the sting of
the wasp, for example), or possessed of an unpleasant taste or
offensive odour, and their foes come by experience to associate
this form of colouring with disagreeable qualities and avoid the
animals so marked. Belt was the first to account, in this way, for
the conspicuous colouration of the skunk; and it is now believed
that startling colours and conspicuous attitudes are intended to
assist the education of enemies by enabling them to learn and
remember the animals which are to be avoided. The explanation of
warning colours was devised by Mr. Wallace to account for the
brilliancy in the tints of certain caterpillars which birds find
disagreeable, and the subject has been principally studied by
experiments upon such caterpillars. But examples of warning colours
are recognised, among many others, in the contrasted black and
yellow of wasps, bees, and hornets, the bright red, black, and
yellow bands of the deadly coral snakes, and the brilliantly
coloured frog of Santo Domingo which hops unconcernedly about in
the daytime in his livery of red and blue--"for nothing will eat
him he well doth know."

But--and here comes in the principle to which the term "mimicry" is
now restricted--if warning colours are helpful to noxious animals,
then defenceless animals acquiring these colours will share in the
protection afforded by them. And so we find a deceptive similarity
between animals occurring in the same district, but not closely
related, in which the mimicked form is unpalatable or has an odour
repulsive to birds and lizards. It must, of course, be understood
that the mimicry is unconscious, the result, as in the cases of
cryptic resemblance, having been brought about by natural
selection--the less perfect the mimicry the more liable are the
individuals to be attacked, and the less chance have they of
reproducing their kind.

This imitation was first accounted for by Mr. Bates in the case of
the Heliconidae, a group of showy, slow-flying abundant butterflies
possessing "a strong pungent semi-aromatic or medicinal odour which
seems to pervade all the juices of their system." It does not
follow, of course, that what seems to us a disagreeably smelling
fluid should prove distasteful to the palate of a lizard or a bird.
But careful observation of the butterflies convinced both Bates and
Wallace that they were avoided, or at any rate not pursued, by
birds and other creatures; and Belt found that they were rejected
by his tame monkey which was very fond of other insects. So their
conspicuous wings, with spots and patches of yellow, red, or white
upon a black, blue or brown ground, may fairly be considered an
example of warning colouration--though Mr. Thayer has with great
ingenuity and acumen endeavoured to show that the markings are
effective for concealment and that their value as warning marks is
doubtful. Now, says Mr. Beddard, "in the same situations as those
in which the Heliconias are found there also occur, more rarely,
specimens of butterflies minutely resembling the Heliconias, but
belonging to a perfectly distinct family--the Pieridae. They belong
to the two genera Leptalis and Euterpe, consisting of numerous
species, each of which shows a striking likeness to some one
particular species of Heliconia. This likeness is not a mark of
near affinity; it affects no important character, but only the
shape and colouration of the wings."

The particular resemblance here described was the origin of the
theory of Protective Mimicry, the conditions under which it occurs
being, according to Mr. Wallace:

1. That the imitative species occur in the same area and occupy
   the same station as the imitated.
2. That the imitators are always the more defenceless.
3. That the imitators are also less numerous in individuals.
4. That the imitators differ from the bulk of their allies.
5. That the imitation, however minute, is external and visible
   only, never extending to internal characters or to such as do
   not affect the external appearance.

There are plenty of examples of this phenomenon, such as the
hornet-like moths and bee-like flies of our own country, and many
other instances will be found in these pages. One discovered in
tropical America by Mr. W.L. Sclater would have much delighted Belt
had he come across it. In that region of the world the leaf-cutting
ants present a very characteristic appearance as the column
proceeds homewards, each ant carrying a piece of leaf held
vertically in its jaws; and a homopterous insect has been found
that faithfully resembles an ant bearing its burden. The latter is
suggested by the thin compressed green body of the insect, and its
profile is precisely like that of the jagged edge of the fragment
of leaf held over the back of the ant.

Of all the Nicaraguan fauna, judging from the narrative, the ants
occupy the most prominent position. Both indoors and out they are
ever in evidence. Belt describes the foraging ants, which do not
make regular nests of their own, but attack those of other species
and prey upon every killable living thing that comes in their way;
the leaf-cutting ants, whose attacks upon his garden were repelled
with so much difficulty; standing armies of ants maintained by
certain trees for their protection, and many other kinds, some of
which kept his attention constantly on the stretch. Much space is
devoted to their habits and wonderful instincts, amounting in many
cases, so Belt considered, to as clear an evidence of reasoning
intelligence as can be claimed for man himself. Indeed, after
reading the account of their freeing of an imprisoned comrade and
their grappling with problems arising out of such modern inventions
as carbolic acid and tramways, we need not feel surprised if an
observer accustomed to scrutinise the animal world so closely feels
sceptical on the subject of "instinct" viewed as a mysterious
entity antithetically opposed to "reason" and supposed to act as
its substitute in the lower orders.

In reference to their methods of obtaining food, ants have been
classified as hunting, pastoral, and agricultural, "three types,"
as Lord Avebury remarks, "offering a curious analogy to the three
great phases in the history of human development." As regards their
social condition they differ from mankind in having successfully
established communism. At the present day all the social
hymenoptera possess a unique interest on account of their
working-order or neuters. These, as is well-known, are females
whose normal development has been checked. Are we to assume that
"once upon a time" a woman's rights movement sprang up in bee-hives
and ant-hills which ended in reducing the males to a very
unimportant position and in limiting the number of the fully
developed females? Are we to expect that the "strong-minded" women
arising among us are the forerunners of a "neuter" order and the
heralds of a corresponding change in human society?

"It is full of theories," says the author, writing of his book;
modestly adding, "I trust not unsupported by facts." And so
naturally does he dovetail the two together that the theories often
seem portions of the facts. On all kinds of subjects suggestive
reasons are proposed:--why the scarlet-runners which flowered so
profusely in his garden never produced a single pod; why the banana
and sugar-cane are probably not indigenous to America; why gold
veins grow poorer as they descend into the earth; why whirlwinds
rotate in opposite directions in the two hemispheres; why the
earthenware vessels of the Indians are rounded at the bottom and
require to be placed in a little stand--on all the varied matters
that come under his observant eyes he has something interesting to
say. You learn how the natives obtain sugar, palm-wine, and rubber;
what is the use of the toucan's huge beak, and how plants secure
the fertilisation of their flowers. You watch the tricks of the
monkey, the humming-bird's courtship, the lying in wait of the
alligator, and all the ceaseless activity of the forest--that
forest so monotonous in its general features, but fascinating
beyond measure when the varied life-histories working out within it
are realised--and you share in the keen joy of the naturalist who
has written with such simple eloquence of the beauty, the wonder,
and the mystery of the natural world.


The following is a list of the works of Thomas Belt:--

An inquiry into the Origin of Whirlwinds,
   Philosophical Magazine volume 17 1859 pages 47-53.
Mineral Veins: an Inquiry into their Origin
   founded on a Study of the Auriferous Quartz Veins of Australia,
   London 1861.
On some Recent Movements of the Earth's Surface
   and their Geological Bearings [1863] Nova Scotian Institute of
   Natural Science Proceedings and Transactions
   volume 1 part 1 1867 pages 19-30.
List of Butterflies observed in the Neighbourhood of Halifax,
   Nova Scotia [1863] Nova Scotian Institute of Natural Science
   Proceedings and Transactions volume 2 part 1 1867 pages 87-92.
On the Formation and Preservation of Lakes by Ice Action,
   Geological Society Quarterly Journal volume 20 1864 pages 463-465,
   Philosophical Magazine volume 28 1864 page 323,
   Nova Scotian Institute of Natural Science Proceedings and
   Transactions volume 2 part 3 1867 page 70.
The Glacial Period in North America [1866] Nova Scotian Institute
   of Natural Science Proceedings and Transactions
   volume 2 part 4 1867 pages 91-106.
On some New Trilobites from the Upper Cambrian Rocks of North Wales,
   Geological Magazine volume 4 1867 pages 294-295.
On the "Lingula Flags" or "Festiniog Group" are the
   Dolgelly District, Geological Magazine
   volume 4 1867 pages 493-495, 536-543; volume 5 1868 pages 5-11.
The Naturalist in Nicaragua, London 1874 2nd edition
   revised and corrected 1888.
Glacial Phenomena in Nicaragua, American Journal of Science
   volume 7 1874 pages 594-595.
An Examination of the Theories that have been proposed to account
   for the Climate of the Glacial Period,
   Journal of Science volume 4 1874 pages 421-464.
The Steppes of Siberia, Geological Society Quarterly Journal
   volume 30 1874 pages 490-498,
   Geological Magazine Decade 2 volume 1 1874 pages 423-424.
The Glacial Period, Nature volume 10 1874 pages 25-26.
Niagara: Glacial and Post-Glacial Phenomena,
   Journal of Science volume 5 1875 pages 135-156.
The Drift of Devon and Cornwall: its Origin, Correlation with
   that of the South-West of England, and Place in the Glacial
   Series, Geological Society Quarterly Journal
   volume 32 1876 pages 80-90;
   Geological Magazine volume 2 1875 pages 622-624,
   Philosophical Magazine volume 1 1876 pages 159-161.
On the Geological Age of the Deposits containing Flint Implements
   at Hoxne, in Suffolk, and the Relation that Palaeolithic Man
   bore to the Glacial Period,
   Journal of Science volume 6 1876 pages 289-304.
On the First Stages of the Glacial Period in Norfolk and Suffolk,
   Geological Magazine volume 4 1877 pages 156-158.
The Steppes of Southern Russia, Geological Society Quarterly Journal
   volume 33 1877 pages 843-862;
   Philosophical Magazine volume 4 1877 pages 151-152.
On the Loess of the Rhine and the Danube,
   Journal of Science volume 7 1877 pages 67-90.
The Glacial Period in the Southern Hemisphere,
   Journal of Science volume 7 1877 pages 326-353.
Quartzite Implements at Brandon,
   Nature volume 16 1877 page 101.
On the Discovery of Stone Implements in Glacial Drift
   in North America, Journal of Science volume 8 1878 pages 55-74.
The Superficial Gravels and Clays around Finchley, Ealing,
   and Brentford, Journal of Science volume 8 1878 pages 316-360.
Notes on the Discovery of a Human Skull in the Drift near Denver,
   Colorado, Proceedings of the American Association for the
   Advancement of Science at St. Louis,
   Missouri August 1878 volume 27 (1879) pages 298-299.

[The notes within square brackets have been added to this edition
by the writer of the Introduction. ]

[Title-page of the First Edition.]






With Observations of Animals and Plants in Reference to
the Theory of Evolution of Living Forms.



   "It was his faith--perhaps is mine--
   That life in all its forms is one,
   And that its secret conduits run
   Unseen, but in unbroken line,
   From the great fountain-head divine,
   Through man and beast, through grain and grass."


[Dedication of the First Edition.]












Arrival at Greytown.--The river San Juan.--Silting up of the
harbour.--Crossing the bar.--Lives lost on it.--Sharks.
--Christopher Columbus.--Appearance of the town.--Trade.
--Healthiness of the town and its probable cause.--Comparison
between Greytown, Pernambuco, and Maceio.--Wild fruits.--Plants.
--Parrots, toucans, and tanagers.--Butterflies and beetles.
--Mimetic forms.--Alligators: boy drowned at Blewfields by one.
--Their method of catching wild pigs.


Commence journey up San Juan river.--Palms and wild canes.
--Plantations.--The Colorado river.--Proposed improvement of the
river.--Progress of the Delta.--Mosquitoes.--Disagreeable night.
--Fine morning.--Vegetation of the banks.--Seripiqui river.
--Mot-mots.--Foraging ants: their method of hunting.--Ant-thrushes.
--They attack the nests of other ants.--Birds' nests, how preserved
from them.--Reasoning powers in ants.--Parallel between the
mammalia and the hymenoptera.--Utopia.


Journey up river continued.--Wild pigs and jaguar.--Bungos.--Reach
Machuca.--Castillo.--Capture of Castillo by Nelson.--India-rubber
trade.--Rubber-men.--Method of making india-rubber.--Congo monkeys.
--Macaws.--The Savallo river.--Endurance of the boatmen.--San
Carlos.--Interoceanic canal.--Advantages of the Nicaraguan route.
--The Rio Frio.--Stories about the wild Indians.--Indian captive
children.--Expeditions up the Rio Frio.--American river steamboats.


The lake of Nicaragua.--Ometepec.--Becalmed on the lake.--White
egrets.--Reach San Ubaldo.--Ride across the plains.--Vegetation of
the plains.--Armadillo.--Savannahs.--Jicara trees.--Jicara bowls.
--Origin of gourd-shaped pottery.--Coyotes.--Mule-breeding.--Reach
Acoyapo.--Festa.--Cross high range.--Esquipula.--The Rio Mico.
--Supposed statues on its banks.--Pital.--Cultivation of maize.
--Its use from the earliest times in America.--Separation of the
maize-eating from the mandioca-eating indigenes of America.
--Tortillas.--Sugar-making.--Enter the forest of the Atlantic
slope.--Vegetation of the forest.--Muddy roads.--Arrive at Santo


Geographical position of Santo Domingo.--Physical geography.--The
inhabitants.--Mixed races.--Negroes and Indians compared.--Women.
--Establishment of the Chontales Gold-Mining Company.--My house and
garden.--Fruits.--Plantains and bananas; probably not indigenous to
America: propagated from shoots: do not generally mature their
seeds.--Fig-trees.--Granadillas and papaws.--Vegetables.
--Dependence of flowers on insects for their fertilisation.--Insect
plagues.--Leaf-cutting ants: their method of defoliating trees:
their nests.--Some trees are not touched by the ants.--Foreign
trees are very subject to their attack.--Method of destroying the
ants.--Migration of the ants from a nest attacked.--Corrosive
sublimate causes a sort of madness amongst them.--Indian plan of
preventing them ascending young trees.--Leaf-cutting ants are
fungus-growers and eaters.--Sagacity of the ants.


Configuration of the ground at Santo Domingo.--Excavation of
valleys.--Geology of the district.--Decomposition of the rocks.
--Gold-mining.--Auriferous quartz veins.--Mode of occurrence of the
gold.--Lodes richer next the surface than at lower depths.
--Excavation and reduction of the ore.--Extraction of the gold.--
"Mantos".--Origin of mineral veins: their connection with intrusions
of Plutonic rocks.


Climate of the north-eastern side of Nicaragua.--Excursions around
Santo Domingo.--The Artigua.--Corruption of ancient names.
--Butterflies, spiders, and wasps.--Humming-birds, beetles, and
ants.--Plants and trees.--Timber.--Monkey attacked by eagle.
--White-faced monkey.--Anecdotes of a tame one.--Curassows and
other game birds.--Trogons, woodpeckers, mot-mots, and toucans.


Description of San Antonio valley.--Great variety of animal life.
--Pitcher-flowered Marcgravias.--Flowers fertilised by
humming-birds.--By insects.--Provision in some flowers to prevent
insects, not adapted for carrying the pollen, from obtaining access
to the nectaries.--Stories about wasps.--Humming-birds bathing.
--Singular myriapods.--Ascent of Pena Blanca.--Tapirs and jaguars.
--Summit of Pena Blanca.


Journey to Juigalpa.--Description of Libertad.--The priest and the
bell.--Migratory butterflies and moths.--Indian graves.--Ancient
names.--Dry river-beds.--Monkeys and wasps.--Reach Juigalpa.--Ride
in neighbourhood.--Abundance of small birds.--A poor cripple.--The
"Toledo."--Trogons.--Waterfall.--Sepulchral mounds.--Broken
statues.--The sign of the cross.--Contrast between the ancient and
the present inhabitants.--Night life.


Juigalpa.--A Nicaraguan family.--Description of the road from
Juigalpa to Santo Domingo.--Comparative scarcity of insects in
Nicaragua in 1872.--Water-bearing plants.--Insect-traps.--The
south-western edge of the forest region.--Influence of cultivation
upon it.--Sagacity of the mule.


Start on journey to Segovia.--Rocky mountain road.--A poor lodging.
--The rock of Cuapo.--The use of large beaks in some birds.
--Comoapa.--A native doctor.--Vultures.--Flight of birds that soar.
--Natives live from generation to generation on the same spot.--Do
not give distinctive names to the rivers.--Caribs barter guns and
iron pots for dogs.--The hairless dogs of tropical America.
--Difference between artificial and natural selection.--The cause
of sterility between allied species considered.--The disadvantages
of a covering of hair to a domesticated animal in a tropical


Olama.--The "Sanate."--Muy-muy.--Idleness of the people.--Mountain
road.--The "Bull Rock."--The bull's-horn thorn.--Ants kept as
standing armies by some plants.--Use of honey-secreting glands.
--Plant-lice, scale-insects, and leaf-hoppers furnish ants with
honey, and in return are protected by the latter.--Contest between
wasps and ants.--Waxy secretions of the homopterous hemiptera.


Matagalpa.--Aguardiente.--Fermented liquors of the Indians.--The
wine-palm.--Idleness of the Nicaraguans.--Pine and oak forests.
--Mountain gorge.--Jinotega.--Native plough.--Descendants of the
buccaneers.--San Rafael.--A mountain hut.


Great range composed of boulder clay.--Daraily.--Lost on the
savannahs.--Jamaily.--A deer-hunter's family.--Totagalpa.--Walls
covered with cement and whitewashed.--Ocotal.--The valley of
Depilto.--Silver mine.--Geology of the valley.--Glacial drift.--The
glacial period in Central America.--Evidence that the ice extended
to the tropics.--Scarcity of gold in the valley gravels.
--Difference of the Mollusca on the east and west coast of the
Isthmus of Darien.--The refuge of the tropical American animals and
plants during the glacial period.--The lowering of the sea-level.
--The land shells of the West Indian Islands.--The Malay
Archipelago.--Easter Island.--Atlantis.--Traditions of the deluge.


A Nicaraguan criminal.--Geology between Ocotal and Totagalpa.
--Preparations at Totagalpa for their annual festival.
--Chicha-drinking.--Piety of the Indians.--Ancient civilisation of
tropical America.--Palacaguina.--Hospitality of the Mestizos.
--Curious custom at the festival at Condego.--Cross range between
Segovia and Matagalpa.--Sontuli.--Birds' nests.


Concordia.--Jinotega.--Indian habits retained by the people.
--Indian names of towns.--Security of travellers in Nicaragua.
--Native flour-mill.--Uncomfortable lodgings.--Tierrabona.--Dust
whirlwind.--Initial form of a cyclone.--The origin of cyclones.


Cattle-raising.--Don Filiberto Trano's new house.--Horse-flies and
wasps.--Teustepe.--Spider imitating ants.--Mimetic species.
--Animals with special means of defence are conspicuously marked,
or in other ways attract attention.--Accident to horse.--The
"Mygale."--Illness.--Conclusion of journey.


Division of Nicaragua into three zones.--Journey from Juigalpa to
lake of Nicaragua.--Voyage on lake.--Fresh-water shells and
insects.--Similarity of fresh-water productions all over the world.
--Distribution of European land and fresh-water shells.--Discussion
of the reasons why fresh-water productions have varied less than
those of the land and of the sea.


Iguanas and lizards.--Granada.--Politics.--Revolutions.--Cacao
cultivation.--Masaya.--The lake of Masaya.--The volcano of Masaya.
--Origin of the lake basin.


Indian population of the country lying between the great lakes of
Nicaragua and the Pacific.--Discovery and conquest of Nicaragua by
the Spaniards.--Cruelties of the Spaniards.--The Indians of Western
Central America all belonged to one stock.--Decadence of Mexican
civilisation before the arrival of the Spaniards.--The designation
"Nahuatls" proposed to include all the Mexican, Western Central
American, and Peruvian races that had descended from the same
ancient stock.--The Nahuatls distinct from the Caribs on one side
and the Red Indians on the other.--Discussion of the question of
the peopling of America.


Return to Santo Domingo.--The birds of Chontales.--The insects of
Chontales.--Mimetic forms.--Departure from the mines.--Nicaragua as
a field for emigration.--Journey to Greytown.--Return to England.


. . .










PLATE 9. HUMMING-BIRDS (Florisuga mellivora, LINN.).


PLATE 11. PITCHER-FLOWER (Marcgravia nepenthoides).

















. . .


The following pages have been written in the intervals between
arduous professional engagements. Begun on the Atlantic during my
voyage home from Central America, the first half relieved the
tedium of a long and slow recovery from the effects of an accident
occurring on board ship. The middle of the manuscript found me
traversing the high passes of the snow-clad Caucasus, where I made
acquaintance with the Abkassians, in whose language Mr. Hyde Clark
finds analogies with those of my old friends the Brazilian Indians.
I now write this brief preface and the last chapter of my book
(with Bradshaw's "Continental Guide" as my only book of reference),
on my way across the continent to the Urals, and beyond, to the
country of the nomad Kirghizes and the far Altai mountains on the
borders of Tibet; and when readers receive my work I shall probably
have turned my face homewards again, and for weeks be speeding
across the frozen Siberian steppes, wrapped in furs, listening to
the sleigh bells, and wondering how my book has sped. It is full of
theories--I trust not unsupported by facts: some thought out on the
plains of Southern Australia; some during many a solitary sleigh
drive over frozen lakes in North America; some in the great forests
of Central and South America; some on the wide ocean, with the
firmament above and below blending together on the horizon; and
some, again, in the bowels of the earth when seeking for her hidden
riches. The thoughts are those of a lifetime compressed into a
little book; and, like the genie of the Arabian tale, imprisoned in
an urn, they may, when it is opened, grow and magnify, or, on the
contrary, be kicked back into the sea of oblivion.

This much is necessary; not to disarm criticism, but to excuse
myself to those authors whose labours on some of the subjects I
have treated of I may not have mentioned. I have, during my
sojourns in England, worked hard to read up the literature of the
various questions discussed, but I know there must be many
oversights and omissions in referring to what others have done;
especially with regard to continental writers, for I know no
language but my mother-tongue; and their works, excepting where I
have had access to translations, have been sealed books to me.

I am indebted to Mr. H.W. Bates for much assistance, and especially
for undertaking the superintendence of these sheets in their
passage through the press; to Mr. W.C. Hewitson, of Oatlands Park,
I am under many obligations, for taking charge of my entomological
collections, for naming many of my butterflies, and for access to
his magnificent collection of Diurnal Lepidoptera. Mr. Osbert
Salvin and Dr. P.L. Sclater have named for me my collection of
birds; and for much entomological information I am indebted to
Professor Westwood, Mr. F. Smith, and Dr. D. Sharp; whilst, in
botany, Professor D. Oliver, of Kew, has kindly named for me some
of the plants. Through the assistance of these eminent authorities,
I trust that the scientific names scattered throughout the book may
be depended upon as correct.

Nijni Novgorod,

October 9th, 1873.



Arrival at Greytown.
The river San Juan.
Silting up of the harbour.
Crossing the bar.
Lives lost on it.
Christopher Columbus.
Appearance of the town.
Healthiness of the town and its probable cause.
Comparison between Greytown, Pernambuco, and Maceio.
Wild fruits.
Parrots, toucans, and tanagers.
Butterflies and beetles.
Mimetic forms.
Boy drowned at Blewfields by an alligator.
Their method of catching wild pigs.

At noon on the 15th February 1868, the R.M.S.S. "Solent," in which
I was a passenger, anchored off Greytown, or San Juan del Norte,
the Atlantic port of Nicaragua in Central America. We lay about a
mile from the shore, and saw a low flat coast stretching before us.
It was the delta of the river San Juan, into which flows the
drainage of a great part of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and which is
the outlet for the waters of the great lake of Nicaragua. Its
watershed extends to within a few miles of the Pacific, for here
the isthmus of Central America, as in the great continents to the
north and south of it, sends off by far the largest portion of its
drainage to the Atlantic. In the rainy season the San Juan is a
noble river, and even in the dry months, from March to June, there
is sufficient water coming down from the lake to keep open a fine
harbour, if it were not that about twenty miles above its mouth it
begins to dissipate its force by sending off a large branch called
the Colorado river, and lower down parts with more of its waters by
side channels. Twenty years ago the main body of water ran past
Greytown; there was then a magnificent port, and large ships sailed
up to the town, but for several years past the Colorado branch has
been taking away more and more of its waters, and the port of
Greytown has in consequence silted up. All ships now have to lie
off outside, and a shallow and, in heavy weather, dangerous bar has
to be crossed.* [* Greytown is still the headquarters of Nicaraguan
trade with Europe and Eastern America though the attempts to
improve the harbour by dredging and building jetties have had only
partial success. Its great opportunity passed with the final
abandonment, in favour of the Panama route, of the scheme for an
inter-oceanic canal by way of the lakes, with its eastern terminus
a mile to the north of the town at a spot which was named

All we could see from the steamer was the sandy beach on which the
white surf was breaking, a fringe of bushes with a few coco-nut
palms holding up their feathery crowns, and in the distance a low
background of dark foliage. Before we anchored a gun was fired, and
in quick answer to the signal some canoes, paddled by negroes of
the Mosquito coast, here called "Caribs," were seen crossing the
bar, and in a few minutes were alongside. Getting into one of the
canoes with my boxes, I was rapidly paddled towards the shore. When
we reached the bar we were dexterously taken over it--the Caribs
waited just outside until a higher wave than usual came rolling in,
then paddling with all their might we were carried over on its
crest, and found ourselves in the smooth water of the river.

Many lives have been lost on this bar. In 1872 the commander of the
United States surveying expedition and six of his men were drowned
in trying to cross it in heavy weather. Only a few mangled remnants
of their bodies were ever found; for what adds to the horror of an
upset at this place, and perhaps has unnerved many a man at a
critical moment, is that large sharks swarm about the entrance to
the river. We saw the fin of one rising above the surface of the
water as it swam lazily about, and the sailors of the mail steamers
when lying off the port often amuse themselves by catching them
with large hooks baited with pieces of meat. It is probable that it
was at one of the mouths of the San Juan that Columbus, in his
fourth voyage, lost a boat's crew who had been sent for wood and
fresh water, and when returning were swamped on the bar. Columbus
had rounded Cape Gracias a Dios four days before, and had sailed
down the coast with a fair wind and tide, so that he might easily
have reached the San Juan.

Inside the bar we were in smooth water, for but a small stream is
discharged by this channel. On our right was a sandy beach, on our
left great beds of grass growing out of the shoal water--weedy
banks filled up the once spacious harbour, and cattle waded amongst
the long grass, where within the last twenty years a frigate has
lain at anchor. Wading and aquatic birds were abundant in the
marshes, amongst which white cranes and a chocolate-brown jacana,
with lemon-yellow under wing, were the most conspicuous. A large
alligator lazily crawled off a mud-spit into the water, where he
floated, showing only his eyes and the pointed scales of his back
above the surface. The town was now in full view--neat,
white-painted houses, with plume-crowned palms rising amongst and
over them, and we landed at one of several wooden wharves that jut
into the river.

Greytown, though only a small place, is one of the neatest tropical
towns that I have visited. The houses, especially in the business
portion of the town, are well built of wood, and painted white with
brown roofs. Pretty flower gardens surround or front many of them.
Others are nearly hidden amongst palms and bread-fruit, orange,
mango, and other tropical fruit trees. A lovely creeper (Antigonon
leptopus), with festoons of pink and rose-coloured flowers, adorns
some of the gardens. It is called la vegessima, "the beautiful," by
the natives, and I found it afterwards growing wild in the
provinces of Matagalpa and Segovia, where it was one of the great
favourites of the flower-loving Indians. The land at and around
Greytown is perfectly level. The square, the open spaces, and many
of the streets are covered with short grass that makes a beautiful
sward to walk on.

The trade in the town is almost entirely in the hands of foreign
residents, amongst whom Mr. Hollenbeck, a citizen of the United
States, is one of the most enterprising. A considerable import
trade is done with the States and England. Coffee, indigo, hides,
cacao, sugar, logwood, and india-rubber are the principal exports.
I called on Dr. Green, the British Consul, and found him a most
courteous and amiable gentleman, ready to afford protection or
advice to his countrymen, and on very friendly terms with the
native authorities. He has lived for many years in Nicaragua, and
his many charitable kindnesses, and especially the medical
assistance that he renders in all cases of emergency, free of
charge, have made him very popular at Greytown. His beautiful house
and grounds, with a fine avenue of coco-nut trees in full bearing,
form one of the most attractive sights in Greytown. I found Mr.
Paton, the vice-consul, equally obliging, and I am indebted to him
for much information respecting the trade of the port, particularly
with regard to the export of india-rubber, the development of which
trade he was one of the first to encourage.

Behind the town there is a long lagoon, and for several miles back
the land is quite level, and interspersed with lakes and ponds with
much marshy ground. Perfectly level, surrounded by swamps, and
without any system of drainage, either natural or artificial,
excepting such as the sandy soil affords, Greytown might be thought
a very unhealthy site for a town. Notwithstanding, however, its
apparent disadvantages, and that for nine months of the year it is
subject to heavy tropical rains, it is comparatively healthy, and
freer from fever than many places that appear at first sight better
situated. Much is due to the porous sandy soil, but more I believe
to what appears at first sight an element of danger, the perfect
flatness of the ground. Where there are hills there must be
hollows, and in these the air stagnates; whilst here, where the
land is quite level, the trade winds that blow pretty constantly
find their way to every part, and carry off the emanations from the
soil. As a similar instance I may mention the city of Pernambuco,
on the eastern coast of Brazil, containing 80,000 inhabitants. It
is perfectly level like Greytown, surrounded and intersected with
channels of water, above the level of which it only stands a few
feet. The crowded parts of the town are noted for their evil smells
and filth, but, though entirely without drainage, it is celebrated
for its healthiness; whilst a little lower down the coast, the town
of Maceio, situated about sixty feet above the sea, surrounded by
undulating ranges and with a good natural drainage, is much more
unhealthy, fevers being very prevalent. As at Greytown so at
Pernambuco, the trade winds blow with much regularity, and there
are neither hills nor hollows to interfere with the movements of
the air, so that miasmatic exhalations cannot accumulate.

Surrounding the cleared portions around Greytown is a scrubby bush,
amongst which are many guayava trees (Psidium sp.) having a fruit
like a small apple filled with seeds, of a sub-acid flavour, from
which the celebrated guava jelly is made. The fruit itself often
occasions severe fits of indigestion, and many of the natives will
not swallow the small seeds, but only the pulpy portion, which is
said to be harmless. I saw another fruit growing here, a yellow
berry about the size of a cherry, called "Nancito" by the natives.
It is often preserved by them with spirit and eaten like olives.
Beyond the brushwood, which grows where the original forest has
been cut down, there are large trees covered with numerous
epiphytes--Tillandsias, orchids, ferns, and a hundred others, that
make every big tree an aerial garden. Great arums perch on the
forks and send down roots like cords to the ground, whilst lianas
run from tree to tree or hang in loops and folds like the
disordered tackle of a ship.

Green parrots fly over in screaming flocks, or nestle in loving
couples amidst the foliage, toucans hop along the branches, turning
their long, highly-coloured beaks from side to side with an
old-fashioned look, and beautiful tanagers (Ramphocaelus
passerinii) frequent the outskirts of the forest, all velvety
black, excepting a large patch of fiery-red above the tail, which
renders the bird very conspicuous. It is only the male that is thus
coloured, the female being clothed in a sober suit of
greenish-brown. I think this bird is polygamous, for several of the
brown ones were always seen with one of the red-and-black ones. The
bright colours of the male must make it very conspicuous to birds
of prey, and, probably in consequence, it is not nearly so bold as
the obscurely-coloured females. When a clear space in the brushwood
is to be crossed, such as a road, two or three of the females will
fly across first, before the male will venture to do so, and he is
always more careful to get himself concealed amongst the foliage
than his mates.

I walked some distance into the forest along swampy paths cut by
charcoal burners, and saw many beautiful and curious insects.
Amongst the numerous butterflies, large blue Morphos and narrow,
weak-winged Heliconidae, striped and spotted with yellow, red, and
black, were the most conspicuous and most characteristic of
tropical America. Amongst the beetles I found a curious longicorn
(Desmiphora fasciculata), covered with long brown and black hairs,
and closely resembling some of the short, thick, hairy caterpillars
that are common on the bushes. Other closely allied species hide
under fallen branches and logs, but this one clung exposed amongst
the leaves, its antennae concealed against its body, and its
resemblance to a caterpillar so great, that I was at first deceived
by it. It is well known that insectivorous birds will not touch a
hairy caterpillar, and this is only one of numberless instances
where insects, that have some special protection against their
enemies, are closely imitated by others belonging to different
genera, and even different orders. Thus, wasps and stinging ants
have hosts of imitators amongst moths, beetles, and bugs, and I
shall have many curious facts to relate concerning these mimetic
resemblances. To those not acquainted with Mr. Bates's admirable
remarks on mimetic forms, I must explain that we have to speak of
one species imitating another, as if it were a conscious act, only
on account of the poverty of our language. No such idea is
entertained, and it would have been well if some new term had been
adopted to express what is meant. These deceptive resemblances are
supposed, by the advocates of the origin of species by natural
selection, to have been brought about by varieties of one species
somewhat resembling another having special means of protection, and
preserved from their enemies in consequence of that unconscious
imitation. The resemblance, which was perhaps at first only remote,
is supposed to have been increased in the course of ages by the
varieties being protected that more and more closely approached the
species imitated, in form, colour, and movements. These
resemblances are not only between insects of different genera and
orders, but between insects and flowers, leaves, twigs, and bark of
trees, and between insects and inanimate nature. They serve often
for concealment, as when leaves are imitated by leaf-insects and
many butterflies, or for a disguise that enables predatory species
to get within reach of their prey, as in those spiders that
resemble the petals of flowers amongst which they hide.


That I may not travel over the same ground twice, I may here
mention that on a subsequent visit to Greytown I rode a few miles
northward along the beach. On my return, I tied up the horse and
walked about a mile over the sand-bank that extends down to the
mouth of the river. A long, deep branch forms a favourite resort
for alligators. At the far end of a sand-spit, near where some low
trees grew, I saw several dark objects lying close to the water on
the shelving banks. They were alligators basking in the sun. As I
approached, most of them crawled into the water. Mr. Hollenbeck had
been down a few days before shooting at them with a rifle, to try
to get a skull of one of the monsters, and I passed a dead one that
he had shot. As I walked up the beach, I saw many that were not
less than fifteen feet in length. One lay motionless, and thinking
it was another dead one, I was walking up to it, and had got within
three yards, when I saw the film over its eye moving; otherwise it
was quite still, and its teeth projecting beyond its lips added to
its intense ugliness and appearance of death. There was no doubt,
however, about the movement of the eye-covers, and I went back a
short distance to look for a stick to throw at it; but when I
turned again, the creature was just disappearing into the water. It
is their habit to lie quite still, and catch animals that come near
them. Whether or not it was waiting until I came within the swoop
of its mighty tail I know not, but I had the feeling that I had
escaped a great danger. It was curious that it should have been so
bold only a few days after Mr. Hollenbeck had been down shooting at
them. There were not less than twenty altogether, and they swam out
into the middle of the inlet and floated about, looking like logs
in the water, excepting that one stretched up its head and gave a
bellow like a bull. They sometimes kill calves and young horses,
and I was told of one that had seized a full-grown horse, but its
struggles being observed, some natives ran down and saved it from
being pulled into the water and drowned. I heard several stories of
people being killed by them, but only one was well authenticated.
This was told me by the head of the excellent Moravian Mission at
Blewfields, who was a witness of the occurrence. He said that one
Sunday, after service at their chapel at Blewfields, several of the
youths went to bathe in the river, which was rather muddy at the
time; the first to plunge in was a boy of twelve years of age, and
he was immediately seized by a large alligator, and carried along
under water. My informant and others followed in a canoe, and
ultimately recovered the body, but life was extinct. The alligator
cannot devour its prey beneath the water, but crawls on land with
it after he has drowned it. They are said to catch wild pigs in the
forest near the river by half burying themselves in the ground. The
pigs come rooting amongst the soil, the alligator never moves until
one gets within its reach, when it seizes it and hurries off to the
river with it. They are often seen in hot weather on logs or
sand-spits lying with their mouths wide open. The natives say they
are catching flies, that numbers are attracted by the saliva of the
mouth, and that when sufficient are collected, the alligator closes
its jaws upon them, but I do not know that any reliance can be
placed on the story. Probably it is an invention to account for the
animals lying with their mouths open; as in all half-civilised
countries I have visited I have found the natives seldom admit they
do not know the reason of anything, but will invent an explanation
rather than acknowledge their ignorance.


Commence journey up San Juan river.
Palms and wild canes.
The Colorado river.
Proposed improvement of the river.
Progress of the delta.
Disagreeable night.
Fine morning.
Vegetation of the banks.
Seripiqui river.
Foraging ants: their method of hunting.
They attack the nests of other ants.
Birds' nests, how preserved from them.
Reasoning powers in ants.
Parallel between the Mammalia and the Hymenoptera.

I FOUND at Greytown the mail-boat of the Chontales Gold-Mining
Company, which came down monthly in charge of Captain Anderson, an
Englishman who had knocked about all over the world. The crew
consisted of four Mosquito negroes, who are celebrated on this
coast for their skill as boatmen. Besides the crew, we were taking
three other negroes up to the mines, and with my boxes we were
rather uncomfortably crowded for a long journey. The canoe itself
was made from the trunk of a cedar-tree (Cedrela odorata). It had
been hollowed out of a single log, and the sides afterwards built
up higher with planking. This makes a very strong boat, the
strength and thickness being where it is most required, at the
bottom, to withstand the thumping about amongst the rocks of the
rapids. I was once in one, coming down a dangerous rapid on the
river Gurupy, in Northern Brazil, when we were driven with the full
force of the boiling stream broadside upon a rock, with such force
that we were nearly all thrown down, but the strong canoe was
uninjured, although no common boat could have withstood the shock.

Having determined to go up the river in this boat, we took
provisions with us for the voyage, and one of the negroes agreed to
act as cook. Having arranged everything, and breakfasted with my
kind friends, Mr. and Mrs. Hollenbeck, I bade them adieu, and
settled myself into the small space in the canoe that I expected to
occupy for six days. Captain Anderson took the helm, the "Caribs"
dipped their paddles into the water, and away we glided into a
narrow channel amongst long grass and rushes that almost touched us
on either side. Greytown, with its neat white houses, and feathery
palms, and large-leaved bread-fruit trees, was soon shut from our
view, and our boatmen plying their paddles with the greatest
dexterity and force, made the canoe shoot along through the still
water. Soon we emerged into a wider channel where a stronger stream
was running, and then we coasted along close to the shore to avoid
the strength of the current. The banks at first were low and marshy
and intersected by numerous channels; the principal tree was a
long, coarse-leaved palm, and there were great beds of wild cane
and grass, amongst which we occasionally saw curious green lizards,
with leaf-like expansions (like those on the leaf-insects),
assimilating them in appearance to the vegetation amongst which
they sought their prey. As we proceeded up the river, the banks
gradually became higher and drier, and we passed some small
plantations of bananas and plantains made in clearings in the
forest, which now consisted of a great variety of dicotyledonous
trees with many tall, graceful palms; the undergrowth being ferns,
small palms, Melastomae, Heliconiae, etc. The houses at the
plantations were mostly miserable thatched huts with scarcely any
furniture, the owners passing their time swinging in dirty
hammocks, and occasionally taking down a canoe-load of plantains to
Greytown for sale. It is one of the rarest sights to see any of
these squatters at work. Their plantain patch and occasionally some
fish from the river suffice to keep them alive and indolent.

At seven o'clock we reached the Colorado branch, which carries off
the greater part of the waters of the San Juan to the sea. This is
about twenty miles above Greytown, but only eighteen by the
Colorado to the sea, and is near the head of the delta, as I have
already mentioned. The main body of water formerly flowed down past
Greytown, and kept the harbour there open, but a few years ago,
during a heavy flood, the river greatly enlarged and deepened the
entrance to the Colorado Channel, and since then year by year the
Greytown harbour has been silting up. Now (I am writing in 1873)
there is twelve feet of water on the bar at the Colorado in the
height of the dry season, whilst at Greytown the outlet of the
river is sometimes closed altogether. The merchants at Greytown
have entertained the project of dredging out the channel again, but
now that the river has found a nearer way to the sea by the
Colorado this would be a herculean task, and it would cost much
less money to move the whole town to the Colorado, where by
dredging the bar a fine harbour might easily be made, but
unfortunately the Colorado is in Costa Rica, the Greytown branch in
Nicaragua, and there are constant bickerings between the two states
respecting the outlet of this fine river, which make any
well-considered scheme for the improvement of it impracticable at
present. A sensible solution of the difficulty would be a
federation of the two small republics. The heads of the political
parties in the two countries see, however, in this a danger to
their petty ambitions, and will not risk the step, and so the
boundary question remains an open one, threatening at any moment to
plunge the two countries into an impoverishing war.

If the Colorado were not to be interfered with by man, it would, in
the course of ages, carry down great quantities of mud, sand, and
trunks of trees, and gradually form sandbanks at its mouth, pushing
out the delta further and further at this point, until it was
greatly in advance of the rest of the coast; the river would then
break through again by some nearer channel, and the Colorado would
be silted up as the Lower San Juan is being at present. The
numerous half filled-up channels and long lagoons throughout the
delta show the various courses the river has at different times

Our boatmen paddled on until nine o'clock, when we anchored in the
middle of the stream, which was here about one hundred yards wide.
Distant as we were from the shore, we were not too far for the
mosquitoes, which came off in myriads to the banquet upon our
blood. Sleep for me was impossible, and to add to the discomfort,
the rain came down in torrents. We had an old tarpaulin with us,
but it was full of holes, and let in the water in little streams,
so that I was soon soaked to the skin. Altogether, with the
streaming wet and the mosquitoes, it was one of the most
uncomfortable nights I have ever passed.

The waning moon was sufficiently high at four o'clock to allow us
to bring the long dreary night to an end, and to commence paddling
up the river again. As the day broke the rain ceased, the mists
cleared away, our spirits revived, and we forgot our discomforts of
the night in admiration of the beauties of the river. The banks
were hidden by a curtain of creeping and twining plants, many of
which bore beautiful flowers, and the green was further varied here
and there by the white stems of the cecropia trees. Now and then we
passed more open spots, affording glimpses into the forest, where
grew, in the dark shade, slender-stemmed palms and beautiful
tree-ferns, contrasting with the great leaves of the Heliconiae. At
seven we breakfasted on a sand-bank, and got our clothes and
blankets dried. There were numerous tracks of alligators, but it
was too early to look for their eggs in the sand; a month later, in
March, when the river falls, they are found in abundance, and eaten
by the canoe-men. At noon we reached the point where the Seripiqui,
a river coming down from the interior of Costa Rica, joins the San
Juan about thirty miles above Greytown. The Seripiqui is navigable
by canoes for about twenty miles from this point, and then
commences a rough mountain mule-track to San Jose, the capital of
Costa Rica. We paddled on all the afternoon with little change in
the river. At eight we anchored for the night, and although it
rained heavily again, I was better prepared for it, and, coiling
myself up under an umbrella beneath the tarpaulin, managed to sleep
a little.

We started again before daylight, and at ten stopped at a small
clearing for breakfast. I strolled back a little way into the
gloomy forest, but it was not easy to get along on account of the
undergrowth and numerous climbing plants that bound it together. I
saw one of the large olive-green and brown mot-mots (Momotus
martii), sitting upon a branch of a tree, moving its long curious
tail from side to side, until it was nearly at right angles to its
body. I afterwards saw other species in the forests and savannahs
of Chontales. They all have several characters in common, linked
together in a series of gradations. One of these features is a spot
of black feathers on the breast. In some species this is edged with
blue, in others, as in the one mentioned above, these black
feathers form only a small black spot nearly hidden amongst the
rust-coloured feathers of the breast. Characters such as these,
very conspicuous in some species, shading off in others through
various gradations to insignificance, if not extinction, are known
by naturalists to occur in numerous genera; and so far they have
only been explained on the supposition of the descent of the
different species from a common progenitor.


As I returned to the boat, I crossed a column of the army or
foraging ants, many of them dragging along the legs and mangled
bodies of insects that they had captured in their foray. I
afterwards often encountered these ants in the forests and it may
be convenient to place together all the facts I learnt respecting


The Ecitons, or foraging ants, are very numerous throughout Central
America. Whilst the leaf-cutting ants are entirely vegetable
feeders, the foraging ants are hunters, and live solely on insects
or other prey; and it is a curious analogy that, like the hunting
races of mankind, they have to change their hunting-grounds when
one is exhausted, and move on to another. In Nicaragua they are
generally called "Army Ants." One of the smaller species (Eciton
predator) used occasionally to visit our house, swarm over the
floors and walls, searching every cranny, and driving out the
cockroaches and spiders, many of which were caught, pulled or
bitten to pieces, and carried off. The individuals of this species
are of various sizes; the smallest measuring one and a quarter
lines, and the largest three lines, or a quarter of an inch.

I saw many large armies of this, or a closely allied species, in
the forest. My attention was generally first called to them by the
twittering of some small birds, belonging to several different
species, that follow the ants in the woods. On approaching to
ascertain the cause of this disturbance, a dense body of the ants,
three or four yards wide, and so numerous as to blacken the ground,
would be seen moving rapidly in one direction, examining every
cranny, and underneath every fallen leaf. On the flanks, and in
advance of the main body, smaller columns would be pushed out.
These smaller columns would generally first flush the cockroaches,
grasshoppers, and spiders. The pursued insects would rapidly make
off, but many, in their confusion and terror, would bound right
into the midst of the main body of ants. A grasshopper, finding
itself in the midst of its enemies, would give vigorous leaps, with
perhaps two or three of the ants clinging to its legs. Then it
would stop a moment to rest, and that moment would be fatal, for
the tiny foes would swarm over the prey, and after a few more
ineffectual struggles it would succumb to its fate, and soon be
bitten to pieces and carried off to the rear. The greatest catch of
the ants was, however, when they got amongst some fallen brushwood.
The cockroaches, spiders, and other insects, instead of running
right away, would ascend the fallen branches and remain there,
whilst the host of ants were occupying all the ground below. By and
by up would come some of the ants, following every branch, and
driving before them their prey to the ends of the small twigs, when
nothing remained for them but to leap, and they would alight in the
very throng of their foes, with the result of being certainly
caught and pulled to pieces. Many of the spiders would escape by
hanging suspended by a thread of silk from the branches, safe from
the foes that swarmed both above and below.

I noticed that spiders were generally most intelligent in escaping,
and did not, like the cockroaches and other insects, take shelter
in the first hiding-place they found, only to be driven out again,
or perhaps caught by the advancing army of ants. I have often seen
large spiders making off many yards in advance, and apparently
determined to put a good distance between themselves and their foe.
I once saw one of the false spiders, or harvest-men (Phalangidae),
standing in the midst of an army of ants, and with the greatest
circumspection and coolness lifting, one after the other, its long
legs, which supported its body above their reach. Sometimes as many
as five out of its eight legs would be lifted at once, and whenever
an ant approached one of those on which it stood, there was always
a clear space within reach to put down another, so as to be able to
hold up the threatened one out of danger.

I was much more surprised with the behaviour of a green, leaf-like
locust. This insect stood immovably amongst a host of ants, many of
which ran over its legs, without ever discovering there was food
within their reach. So fixed was its instinctive knowledge that its
safety depended on its immovability, that it allowed me to pick it
up and replace it amongst the ants without making a single effort
to escape. This species closely resembles a green leaf, and the
other senses, which in the Ecitons appear to be more acute than
that of sight, must have been completely deceived. It might easily
have escaped from the ants by using its wings, but it would only
have fallen into as great a danger, for the numerous birds that
accompany the army ants are ever on the look out for any insect
that may fly up, and the heavy flying locusts, grasshoppers, and
cockroaches have no chance of escape. Several species of
ant-thrushes always accompany the army ants in the forest. They do
not, however, feed on the ants, but on the insects they disturb.
Besides the ant-thrushes, trogons, creepers, and a variety of other
birds, are often seen on the branches of trees above where an ant
army is foraging below, pursuing and catching the insects that fly

The insects caught by the ants are dismembered, and their too bulky
bodies bitten to pieces and carried off to the rear. Behind the
army there are always small columns engaged on this duty. I have
followed up these columns often; generally they led to dense masses
of impenetrable brushwood, but twice they led me to cracks in the
ground, down which the ants dragged their prey. These habitations
are only temporary, for in a few days not an ant would be seen in
the neighbourhood; all would have moved off to fresh

Another much larger species of foraging ant (Eciton hamata) hunts
sometimes in dense armies, sometimes in columns, according to the
prey it may be after. When in columns, I found that it was
generally, if not always, in search of the nests of another ant
(Hypoclinea sp.), which rear their young in holes in rotten trunks
of fallen timber, and are very common in cleared places. The
Ecitons hunt about in columns, which branch off in various
directions. When a fallen log is reached, the column spreads out
over it, searching through all the holes and cracks. The workers
are of various sizes, and the smallest are here of use, for they
squeeze themselves into the narrowest holes, and search out their
prey in the furthest ramifications of the nests. When a nest of the
Hypoclinea is attacked, the ants rush out, carrying the larvae and
pupae in their jaws, only to be immediately despoiled of them by
the Ecitons, which are running about in every direction with great
swiftness. Whenever they come across a Hypoclinea carrying a larva
or pupa, they capture the burden so quickly, that I could never
ascertain exactly how it was done.

As soon as an Eciton gets hold of its prey, it rushes off back
along the advancing column, which is composed of two sets, one
hurrying forward, the other returning laden with their booty, but
all and always in the greatest haste and apparent hurry. About the
nest which they are harrying everything is confusion, Ecitons run
here and there and everywhere in the greatest haste and disorder;
but the result of all this apparent confusion is that scarcely a
single Hypoclinea gets away with a pupa or larva. I never saw the
Ecitons injure the Hypoclineas themselves, they were always
contented with despoiling them of their young. The ant that is
attacked is a very cowardly species, and never shows fight. I often
found it running about sipping at the glands of leaves, or milking
aphides, leaf-hoppers, or scale-insects that it found unattended by
other ants. On the approach of another, though of a much smaller
species, it would immediately run away. Probably this cowardly and
un-antly deposition has caused it to become the prey of the Eciton.
At any rate, I never saw the Ecitons attack the nest of other

The moving columns of Ecitons are composed almost entirely of
workers of different sizes, but at intervals of two or three yards
there are larger and lighter-coloured individuals that will often
stop, and sometimes run a little backward, halting and touching
some of the ants with their antennae. They look like officers
giving orders and directing the march of the column.

This species is often met with in the forest, not in quest of one
particular form of prey, but hunting, like Eciton predator, only
spread out over a much greater space of ground. Crickets,
grasshoppers, scorpions, centipedes, wood-lice, cockroaches, and
spiders are driven out from below the fallen leaves and branches.
Many of them are caught by the ants; others that get away are
picked up by the numerous birds that accompany the ants, as
vultures follow the armies of the East. The ants send off exploring
parties up the trees, which hunt for nests of wasps, bees, and
probably birds. If they find any, they soon communicate the
intelligence to the army below, and a column is sent up immediately
to take possession of the prize. I have seen them pulling out the
larvae and pupae from the cells of a large wasp's nest, whilst the
wasps hovered about, powerless, before the multitude of the
invaders, to render any protection to their young.

I have no doubt that many birds have acquired instincts to combat
or avoid the great danger to which their young are exposed by the
attacks of these and other ants. Trogons, parrots, toucans,
mot-mots, and many other birds build in holes of trees or in the
ground, and these, with their heads ever turned to the only
entrance, are in the best possible position to pick off singly the
scouts when they approach, thus effectually preventing them from
carrying to the main army intelligence about the nest. Some of
these birds, and especially the toucans, have bills beautifully
adapted for picking up the ants before they reach the nest. Many of
the smaller birds build on the branches of the bull's-horn thorn,
which is always thickly covered with small stinging honey-eating
ants, that would not allow the Ecitons to ascend these trees.

Amongst the mammalia the opossums can convey their young out of
danger in their pouches, and the females of many of the tree-rats
and mice have a hard callosity near the teats, to which the young
cling with their milk teeth, and can be dragged away by the mother
to a place of safety.

The eyes in the Ecitons are very small, in some of the species
imperfect, and in others entirely absent; in this they differ
greatly from those ants which hunt singly, and which have the eyes
greatly developed. The imperfection of eyesight in the Ecitons is
an advantage to the community, and to their particular mode of
hunting. It keeps them together, and prevents individual ants from
starting off alone after objects that, if their eyesight were
better, they might discover at a distance. The Ecitons and most
other ants follow each other by scent, and, I believe, they can
communicate the presence of danger, of booty, or other
intelligence, to a distance by the different intensity or qualities
of the odours given off. I one day saw a column of Eciton hamata
running along the foot of a nearly perpendicular tramway cutting,
the side of which was about six feet high. At one point I noticed a
sort of assembly of about a dozen individuals that appeared in
consultation. Suddenly one ant left the conclave, and ran with
great speed up the perpendicular face of the cutting without
stopping. It was followed by others, which, however, did not keep
straight on like the first, but ran a short way, then returned,
then again followed a little further than the first time. They were
evidently scenting the trail of the pioneer, and making it
permanently recognisable. These ants followed the exact line taken
by the first one, although it was far out of sight. Wherever it had
made a slight detour they did so likewise. I scraped with my knife
a small portion of the clay on the trail, and the ants were
completely at fault for a time which way to go. Those ascending and
those descending stopped at the scraped portion, and made short
circuits until they hit the scented trail again, when all their
hesitation vanished, and they ran up and down it with the greatest
confidence. On gaining the top of the cutting, the ants entered
some brushwood suitable for hunting. In a very short space of time
the information was communicated to the ants below, and a dense
column rushed up to search for their prey.

The Ecitons are singular amongst the ants in this respect, that
they have no fixed habitations, but move on from one place to
another, as they exhaust the hunting grounds around them. I think
Eciton hamata does not stay more than four or five days in one
place. I have sometimes come across the migratory columns. They may
easily be known by all the common workers moving in one direction,
many of them carrying the larvae and pupae carefully in their jaws.
Here and there one of the light-coloured officers moves backwards
and forwards directing the columns. Such a column is of enormous
length, and contains many thousands, if not millions of
individuals. I have sometimes followed them up for two or three
hundred yards without getting to the end.

They make their temporary habitations in hollow trees, and
sometimes underneath large fallen trunks that offer suitable
hollows. A nest that I came across in the latter situation was open
at one side. The ants were clustered together in a dense mass, like
a great swarm of bees, hanging from the roof, but reaching to the
ground below. Their innumerable long legs looked like brown threads
binding together the mass, which must have been at least a cubic
yard in bulk, and contained hundreds of thousands of individuals,
although many columns were outside, some bringing in the pupae of
ants, others the legs and dissected bodies of various insects. I
was surprised to see in this living nest tubular passages leading
down to the centre of the mass, kept open just as if it had been
formed of inorganic materials. Down these holes the ants who were
bringing in booty passed with their prey. I thrust a long stick
down to the centre of the cluster, and brought out clinging to it
many ants holding larvae and pupae, which probably were kept warm
by the crowding together of the ants. Besides the common
dark-coloured workers and light-coloured officers, I saw here many
still larger individuals with enormous jaws. These they go about
holding wide open in a threatening manner, and I found, contrary to
my expectation, that they could give a severe bite with them, and
that it was difficult to withdraw the jaws from the skin again.

One day when watching a small column of these ants, I placed a
little stone on one of the ants to secure it. The next that
approached, as soon as it discovered the situation of the prisoner,
ran backwards in an agitated manner, and communicated the
intelligence to the others. They rushed to the rescue, some bit at
the stone and tried to move it, others seized the captive by the
legs, and tugged with such force that I thought the legs would be
pulled off, but they persevered until they freed it. I next covered
one up with a piece of clay, leaving only the ends of its antennae
projecting. It was soon discovered by its fellows, which set to
work immediately, and by biting off pieces of the clay, soon
liberated it. Another time I found a very few of them passing along
at intervals. I confined one of these under a piece of clay, at a
little distance from the line, with his head projecting. Several
ants passed it, but at last one discovered it and tried to pull it
out, but could not. It immediately set off at a great rate, and I
thought it had deserted its comrade, but it had only gone for
assistance, for in a short time about a dozen ants came hurrying
up, evidently fully informed of the circumstances of the case, for
they made directly for their imprisoned comrade, and soon set him
free. I do not see how this action could be instinctive. It was
sympathetic help, such as man only among the higher mammalia shows.
The excitement and ardour with which they carried on their
unflagging exertions for the rescue of their comrade could not have
been greater if they had been human beings, and this to meet a
danger that can be only of the rarest occurrence. Amongst the ants
of Central America I place the Eciton as the first in intelligence,
and as such at the head of the Articulata. Wasps and bees come next
to ants, and then others of the Hymenoptera. Between ants and the
lower forms of insects there is a greater difference in reasoning
powers than there is between man and the lowest mammalian. A recent
writer has argued that of all animals ants approach nearest to man
in their social condition.* (*Houzeau, "Etudes sur les Facultes
mentales des Animaux comparees a celles de l'Homme.") Perhaps if we
could learn their wonderful language we should find that even in
their mental condition they also rank next to humanity.

I shall relate two more instances of the use of a reasoning faculty
in these ants. I once saw a wide column trying to pass along a
crumbling, nearly perpendicular, slope. They would have got very
slowly over it, and many of them would have fallen, but a number
having secured their hold, and reaching to each other, remained
stationary, and over them the main column passed. Another time they
were crossing a water-course along a small branch, not thicker than
a goose-quill. They widened this natural bridge to three times its
width by a number of ants clinging to it and to each other on each
side, over which the column passed three or four deep. Except for
this expedient they would have had to pass over in single file, and
treble the time would have been consumed. Can it not be contended
that such insects are able to determine by reasoning powers which
is the best way of doing a thing, and that their actions are guided
by thought and reflection? This view is much strengthened by the
fact that the cerebral ganglia in ants are more developed than in
any other insect, and that in all the Hymenoptera, at the head of
which they stand, "they are many times larger than in the less
intelligent orders, such as beetles."* (* Darwin, "Descent of Man"
volume 1 page 145.)

The Hymenoptera standing at the head of the Articulata, and the
Mammalia at the head of the Vertebrata, it is curious to mark how,
in geological history, the appearance and development of these two
orders (culminating, one in the Ants; the other in the Primates)
run parallel. The Hymenoptera and the Mammalia both make their
first appearance early in the secondary period, and it is not until
the commencement of the tertiary epoch that ants and monkeys appear
upon the scene. There the parallel ends. No one species of ant has
attained any great superiority above all its fellows, whilst man is
very far in advance of all the other Primates.

When we see these intelligent insects dwelling together in orderly
communities of many thousands of individuals, their social
instincts developed to a high degree of perfection, making their
marches with the regularity of disciplined troops, showing
ingenuity in the crossing of difficult places, assisting each other
in danger, defending their nests at the risk of their own lives,
communicating information rapidly to a great distance, making a
regular division of work, the whole community taking charge of the
rearing of the young, and all imbued with the strongest sense of
industry, each individual labouring not for itself alone but also
for its fellows--we may imagine that Sir Thomas More's description
of Utopia might have been applied with greater justice to such a
community than to any human society. "But in Utopia, where every
man has a right to everything, they do all know that if care is
taken to keep the public stores full, no private man can want
anything; for among them there is no unequal distribution, so that
no man is poor, nor in any necessity, and though no man has
anything, yet they are all rich; for what can make a man so rich as
to lead a serene and cheerful life, free from anxieties, neither
apprehending want himself, nor vexed with the endless complaints of
his wife? He is not afraid of the misery of his children, nor is he
contriving how to raise a portion for his daughters, but is secure
in this, that both he and his wife, his children and grandchildren,
to as many generations as he can fancy, will all live both
plentifully and happily."


Journey up river continued.
Wild pigs and jaguar.
Reach Machuca.
Capture of Castillo by Nelson.
India-rubber trade.
Method of making india-rubber.
Congo monkeys.
The Savallo river.
Endurance of the boatmen.
San Carlos.
Interoceanic canal.
Advantages of the Nicaraguan route.
The Rio Frio.
Stories about the wild Indians.
Indian captive children.
Expeditions up the Rio Frio.
American river steamboats.

AFTER breakfast we again continued our voyage up the river, and
passed the mouth of the San Carlos, another large stream running
down from the interior of Costa Rica. Soon after we heard some wild
pigs (Dicoteles tajacu) or Wari, as they are called by the natives,
striking their teeth together in the wood, and one of the boatmen
leaping on shore soon shot one, which he brought on board after
cutting out a gland on its back that emits a musky odour, and we
afterwards had it cooked for our dinner. These Wari go in herds of
from fifty to one hundred. They are said to assist each other
against the attacks of the jaguar, but that wary animal is too
intelligent for them. He sits quietly upon a branch of a tree until
the Wari come underneath; then jumping down kills one by breaking
its neck; leaps up into the tree again and waits there until the
herd depart, when he comes down and feeds on the slaughtered Wari
in quietness. We shortly afterwards passed one of the large boats
called bungos, that carry down to Greytown the produce of the
country and take up merchandise and flour. This one was laden with
cattle and india-rubber. The bungos are flat-bottomed boats, about
forty feet long and nine feet wide. There is generally a little
cabin, roofed over at the stern, in which the wife of the captain
lives. The bungo is poled along by twelve bungo-men, who have
usually only one suit of clothes each, which they do not wear
during the day, but keep stowed away under the cargo that it may be
dry to put on at night. Their bronzed, glistening, naked bodies, as
they ply their long poles together in unison, and chant some
Spanish boat-song, is one of the things that linger in the memory
of the traveller up the San Juan. Our boatmen paddled and poled
until eleven at night, when we reached Machuca, a settlement
consisting of a single house, just below the rapids of the same
name, seventy-miles above Greytown.

We breakfasted at Machuca before starting next morning, and I
walked up round the rapids and met the canoe above them. About five
o'clock, after paddling all day, we came in sight of Castillo,
where there is an old ruined Spanish fort perched on the top of a
hill overlooking the little town, which lies along the foot of the
steep hill; hemmed in between it and the river, so that there is
only room for one narrow street. It was near Castillo that Nelson
lost his eye. He took the fort by landing about half a mile lower
down the river, and dragging his guns round to a hill behind it by
which it was commanded. This hill is now cleared of timber and
covered with grass, supporting a few cows and a great many goats.
In front of the town run the rapids of Castillo, which are
difficult to ascend, and as there is no road round them excepting
through the town of Castillo, advantage has been taken of the
situation to fix the custom-house there, where are collected the
duties on all articles going up to the interior. The first view of
Castillo when coming up the river is a fine one. The fort-crowned
hill and the little town clinging to its foot form the centre of
the picture. The clear, sparkling, dancing rapids on one side
contrast with the still, dark forest on the other, whilst the whole
is relieved by the bright green grassy hills in the background.
This view is the only pleasant recollection I have carried away of
the place. The single street is narrow, dirty, and rugged, and when
the shades of evening begin to creep up, swarms of mosquitoes issue
forth to buzz and bite.

I here made the acquaintance of colonel McCrae, who was largely
concerned in the india-rubber trade. He afterwards distinguished
himself during the revolutionary outbreak of 1869. He collected the
rubber men and came to the assistance of the government, helping
greatly to put down the insurrection. Originally a British subject,
but now a naturalised Nicaraguan, he has filled with great credit
for some time the post of deputy-governor of Greytown, and I always
heard him spoken of with great esteem both by Nicaraguans and
foreigners. He showed to me pieces of cordage, pottery, and stone
implements brought down by the rubber men from the wild Indians of
the Rio Frio. Castillo is one of the centres of the rubber trade.
Parties of men are here fitted out with canoes and provisions, and
proceed up the rivers, far into the uninhabited forests of the
Atlantic slope. They remain for several months away, and are
expected to bring the rubber they obtain to the merchants who have
fitted them out, but very many prove faithless, and carry off their
produce to other towns, where they have no difficulty in finding
purchasers. Notwithstanding these losses, the merchants engaged in
the rubber trade have done well; its steadily increasing value
during the last few years having made the business a highly
remunerative one. According to the information supplied to me at
Greytown by Mr. Paton, the exports of rubber from that port had
increased from 401,475 pounds, valued at 112,413 dollars, in 1867,
to 754,886 pounds, valued at 226,465 dollars, in 1871. India-rubber
was well-known to the ancient inhabitants of Central America.
Before the Spanish conquest the Mexicans played with balls made
from it, and it still bears its Aztec name of Ulli, from which the
Spaniards call the collectors of it Ulleros. It is obtained from
quite a different tree, and prepared in a different manner, from
the rubber of the Amazons. The latter is taken from the Siphonia
elastica, a Euphorbiaceous tree; but in Central America the tree
that yields it it is a species of wild fig (Castilloa elastica). It
is easily known by its large leaves, and I saw several whilst
ascending the river. When the collectors find an untapped one in
the forest, they first make a ladder out of the lianas or "vejuccos
" that hang from every tree; this they do by tying short pieces of
wood across them with small lianas, many of which are as tough as
cord. They then proceed to score the bark, with cuts which extend
nearly round the tree like the letter V, the point being downwards.
A cut like this is made about every three feet all the way up the
trunk. The milk will all run out of a tree in about an hour after
it is cut, and is collected into a large tin bottle made flat on
one side and furnished with straps to fix on to a man's back. A
decoction is made from a liana (Calonyction speciosum), and this on
being added to the milk, in the proportion of one pint to a gallon,
coagulates it to rubber, which is made into round flat cakes. A
large tree, five feet in diameter, will yield when first cut about
twenty gallons of milk, each gallon of which makes two and a half
pounds of rubber. I was told that the tree recovers from the wounds
and may be cut again after the lapse of a few months; but several
that I saw were killed through the large Harlequin beetle
(Acrocinus longimanus) laying its eggs in the cuts, and the grubs
that are hatched boring great holes all through the trunk. When
these grubs are at work you can hear their rasping by standing at
the bottom of the tree, and the wood-dust thrown out of their
burrows accumulates in heaps on the ground below. The government
attempts no supervision of the forests: any one may cut the trees,
and great destruction is going on amongst them through the young
ones being tapped as well as the full-grown ones. The tree grows
very quickly, and plantations of it might easily be made, which
would in the course of ten or twelve years become highly

We left Castillo at daylight the next morning, and continued our
journey up the river. Its banks presented but little change. We saw
many tall graceful palms and tree ferns, but most of the trees were
dicotyledons. Amongst these the mahogany (Swietonia mahogani) and
the cedar (Cedrela odorata) are now rare near the river, but a few
such trees were pointed out to me. High up in one tree, underneath
which we passed, were seated some of the black congo monkeys
(Mycetes palliatus) which at times, especially before rain and at
nightfall, make a fearful howling, though not so loud as the
Brazilian species. Screaming macaws, in their gorgeous livery of
blue, yellow, and scarlet, occasionally flew overhead, and tanagers
and toucans were not uncommon.

Twelve miles above Castillo we reached the mouth of the Savallo,
and stayed at a house there to breakfast, the owner, a German,
giving us roast wari, fowls, and eggs. He told me that there was a
hot spring up the Savallo, but I had not time to go and see it.
Above Savallo the San Juan is deep and sluggish, the banks low and
swampy. The large palm, so common in the delta of the river, here
reappeared with its great coarse leaves twenty feet in length,
springing from near the ground.

Our boatmen continued to paddle all day, and as night approached
redoubled their exertions, singing to the stroke of their paddles.
I was astonished at their endurance. They kept on until eleven
o'clock at night, when we reached San Carlos, having accomplished
about thirty-five miles during the day against the current. San
Carlos is at the head of the river, where it issues from the great
lake of Nicaragua, about one hundred and twenty miles from
Greytown. The mean level of the waters of the lake, according to
the survey of Colonel O.W. Childs, in 1851, is 107 1/2 feet, so
that the river falls on an average a little less than one foot per
mile. The height of the lowest pass between the lake and the
Pacific is said to be twenty-six feet above the lake, therefore at
that point the highest elevation between the two oceans is only
about 133 feet; but even allowing that an error of a few feet may
be discovered when a thorough survey is made across from sea to
sea, there can be no doubt that at this point occurs the lowest
pass between the Atlantic and the Pacific in Central America. This
fact, and the immense natural reservoir of water near the head of
the navigation, point out the route as a practicable one for a ship
canal between the two oceans.

Instead of cutting a canal from the head of the delta of the San
Juan to the sea, as has been proposed, the Colorado branch might be
straightened, and dredged to the required depth. Higher up, the
Torre, Castillo, and Machuca Rapids form natural dams across the
river. These might be raised, locks formed round them, and the
water deepened by dredging between them. In this way the great
expense of cutting a canal, and the fearful mortality that always
arises amongst the labourers when excavations are made in the
virgin soil of the tropics, especially in marshy lands, would be
greatly lessened between the lake and the Atlantic. Another great
advantage would be that the deepening of the river could be
effected by steam power, so that it would not be necessary to bring
such a multitude of labourers to the isthmus as would be required
if a canal were cut from the river; the whole track, moreover,
passes through virgin forests rich in inexhaustible supplies of
fuel.* (* The commission appointed by the United States Government
to examine into the practicability of making a canal across the
isthmus reported in favour of the Nicaraguan route, and the work
was begun at Greytown in 1889. But after an expenditure of 4,500,
000 dollars, the scheme was abandoned, for political reasons, in
favour of the Panama route.)

San Carlos is a small town at the foot of the great lake, where it
empties its waters into the San Juan river, its only outlet to the
ocean. On a hill behind the town, and commanding the entrance to
the river, are the ruins of a once strong fort built by the
Spaniards, the crumbling walls now green with the delicate fronds
of a maiden hair fern (Adiantum). The little town consists of a
single rugged street leading up from the lake. The houses are
mostly palm-thatched huts, with the bare earth floors seldom or
never swept. The people are of mixed origin, Indian, Spanish, and
Negro, the Indian element predominating. Two or three better built
stores, and the quarters of the military governor, redeem the place
from an appearance of utter squalor. Behind the town there are a
few small clearings in the forest, where maize is grown. Some
orange, banana, and plantain trees exhaust the list of the
productions of San Carlos, which is supported by being a calling
place for all vessels proceeding up and down the river, and by the
Ulleros or rubber-men who start from it for expeditions up the Rio
Frio and other rivers. We found there two men who had just been
brought down the Rio Frio by their companions, greatly injured, by
the lianas up which they had made their ladder to ascend one of the
rubber trees, having broken and precipitated them to the ground. I
learnt that this was a very unusual accident, the lianas generally
being very tough and strong, like great cables.

Most fabulous stories have been told about the Rio Frio and its
inhabitants; stories of great cities, golden ornaments, and
light-haired people, and it may be useful to relate what is known
about it.

The Rio Frio comes down from the interior of Costa Rica, and joins
the San Juan, near where the latter issues from the lake. The banks
of its upper waters are inhabited by a race of Indians who have
never been subjugated by the Spaniards, and about whom very little
is known. They are called Guatuses, and have been said to have red
or light-coloured hair and European features, to account for which
various ingenious theories have been advanced; but, unfortunately
for these speculations, some children, and even adults, have been
captured and brought down the river by the Ulleros, and all these
have the usual features and coarse black hair of the Indians. One
little child that Dr. Seemann and I saw at San Carlos, in 1870, had
a few brownish hairs amongst the great mass of black ones; but this
character may be found amongst many of the indigenes, and may
result from a very slight admixture of foreign blood. I have seen
altogether five children from the Rio Frio, and a boy about sixteen
years of age, and they had all the common Indian features and hair;
though it struck me that they appeared rather more intelligent than
the generality of Indians. Besides these, an adult woman was
captured by the rubber-men and brought down to Castillo, and I was
told by several who had seen her that she did not differ in any way
from the usual Indian type.

The Guatuse (pronounced Watusa) is an animal about the size of a
hare, very common in Central America, and good eating. It has
reddish-brown fur, and the usual explanation of the Nicaraguans is
that the Indians of the Rio Frio were called "Guatuses" because
they had red hair. It is very common to find the Indian tribes of
America called after wild animals, and my own opinion is that the
origin of the fable about the red hair was a theory to explain why
they were called Guatuses; for the natives of Nicaragua, and of
parts much nearer home, are fond of giving fanciful explanations of
the names of places and things: thus, I have been assured by an
intelligent and educated Nicaraguan, that Guatemala was so-called
by the Spaniards because they found the guate (a kind of grass) in
that country bad, hence "guate malo," "bad guate,"--whereas every
student of Mexican history knows that the name was the Spanish
attempt to pronounce the old Aztec one of Quauhtemallan, which
meant the Land of the Eagle. I shall have other occasions, in the
course of my narrative, to show how careful a traveller in Central
America must be not to accept the explanations of the natives of
the names of places and things.

The first people who ascended the Rio Frio were attacked by the
Indians, who killed several with their arrows. Exaggerated opinions
of their ferocity and courage were in consequence for a long time
prevalent, and the river remained unknown and unexplored, and
probably would have done so to the present day, if it had not been
for the rubber-men. When the trade in india-rubber became fully
developed, the trees in the more accessible parts of the forest
were soon exhausted, and the collectors were obliged to penetrate
farther and farther back into the untrodden wilds of the Atlantic
slope. Some more adventurous than others ascended the Rio Frio, and
being well provided with fire-arms, which they mercilessly used,
they were able to defy the poor Indians, armed only with spears and
bows and arrows, and to drive them back into the woods. The first
Ulleros who ascended the river were so successful in finding
rubber, that various other parties were organised, and now an
ascent of the Rio Frio from San Carlos is of common occurrence. The
poor Indians are now in such dread of fire-arms, that on the first
appearance of a boat coming up the river they desert their houses
and run into the woods for shelter. The Ulleros rush on shore and
seize everything that the poor fugitives have left behind them; and
in some cases the latter have not been able to carry off their
children, and these have been brought down in triumph to San
Carlos. The excuse for stealing the children is that they may be
baptised and made Christians; and I am sorry to say that this
shameful treatment of the poor Indians is countenanced and connived
at by the authorities. I was told of one commandante at San Carlos
who had manned some canoes and proceeded up the river as far as the
plantain grounds of the Indians, loaded his boats with the
plantains, and brought them down to San Carlos, where the people
appear to be too indolent to grow them themselves. All who have
ascended the river speak of the great quantities of plantains that
the Guatuses grow, and this fruit, and the abundant fish of the
river, form their principal food. Their houses are large sheds open
at the sides, and thatched with the "suiti" palm. As is often the
case amongst the Indians, several families live in one house. The
floor is kept well cleaned. I was amused with a lady in San Carlos
who, in describing their well-kept houses to Dr. Seemann and
myself, pointed to her own unswept and littered earth floor and
said, "They keep their houses very, very clean--as clean as this."
The lad and the woman who were captured and brought down the Rio
Frio both ran away--the one from San Carlos, the other from
Castillo; but neither could succeed in reaching home, on account of
the swamps and rivers in their way, and after wandering about the
woods for some time they were recaptured. I saw the lad soon after
he was taken the second time. He had been a month in the woods,
living on roots and fruits, and had nearly died from starvation. He
had an intelligent, sharp, and independent look about him, and kept
continually talking in his own language, apparently surprised that
the people around him did not understand what he was saying. He was
taken to Castillo, and met there the woman who had been captured a
year before, and had learnt to speak a little Spanish. Through her
as an interpreter, he tried to get permission to return to the Rio
Frio, saying that if they would let him go he would come back and
bring his father and mother with him. This simple artifice of the
poor boy was, of course ineffectual. He was afterwards taken to
Granada, for the purpose, they said, of being educated, that he
might become the means of opening up communication with his tribe.

The rubber-men bring down many little articles that they pillage
from the Indians. They consist of cordage, made from the fibre of
Bromeliaceous plants, bone hooks, and stone implements. Amongst the
latter, I was fortunate enough to obtain a rude stone hatchet, set
in a stone-cut wooden handle: it was firmly fixed in a hole made in
the thick end of the handle.* [* Figured in Evans' "Ancient Stone
Implements" second edition page 155. In Evans' first edition it is
erroneously stated in the text to be from Texas. It has been
pointed out that early man adopted the opposite method to the
modern in the mounting of his axes: we fix the handle into a hole
in the axe head; he jammed the head into a hole in the handle.] It
is a singular fact, and one showing the persistence of particular
ways of doing things through long ages amongst people belonging to
the same race, that, in the ancient Mexican, Uxmal, and Palenque
picture-writings, bronze axes are represented fixed in this
identical manner in holes at the thick ends of the handles.

We slept on board one of the steamers of the American Transit
Company. It was too dark when we arrived at San Carlos to see
anything that night of the great lake, but we heard the waves
breaking on the beach as on a sea-shore, and from further away came
that moaning sound that has from the earliest ages of history
connected the idea of the sea with sorrow and sadness.* (* "There
is sorrow on the sea; it cannot be quiet" Jeremiah 49:23.) The
steamer we stayed in was one of four river-boats belonging to the
Transit Company, which was at this time in difficulties, and
ultimately the boats were sold; part of them being bought by Mr.
Hollenbeck, and used by the navigation company which he
established. These steamers are built expressly for shallow rivers,
and are very different structures from anything we see in England.
The bottom is made quite flat, and divided into compartments; the
first deck being only about eighteen inches above the water, from
which it is divided by no bulwarks or other protection. Upon this
deck are placed the cargo and the driving machinery. A vertical
boiler is fixed at the bow, and two horizontal engines, driving a
large paddle-wheel, at the stern. The second deck is for
passengers, and is raised on light wooden pillars braced with iron
rods about seven feet above the first. Above this is another deck,
on which are the cabins of the officers and the steering apparatus.
The appearance of such a structure is more like that of a house
than a boat. The one we were in, the "Panaloya," drew only three
feet of water when laden with 400 passengers and twenty tons of


The lake of Nicaragua.
Becalmed on the lake.
White egrets.
Reach San Ubaldo.
Ride across the plains.
Vegetation of the plains.
Jicara trees.
Jicara bowls.
Origin of gourd-shaped pottery.
Reach Acoyapo.
Cross high range.
The Rio Mico.
Supposed statues on its banks.
Cultivation of maize.
Its use from the earliest times in America.
Separation of the maize-eating from the mandioca-eating
   indigenes of America.
Enter the forest of the Atlantic slope.
Vegetation of the forest.
Muddy roads.
Arrive at Santo Domingo.

As daylight broke next morning, I was up, anxious to see the great
lake about which I had heard so much. To the north-west a great
sheet of quiet water extended as far as the eye could reach, with
islands here and there, and--the central figure in every view of
the lake--the great conical peak of Ometepec towered up, 5050 feet
above the sea, and 4922 feet above the surface of the lake. To the
left, in the dim distance, were the cloud-capped mountains of Costa
Rica; to the right, nearer at hand, low hills and ranges covered
with dark forests. The lake is too large to be called beautiful,
and its vast extent and the mere glimpses of its limits and
cloud-capped peaks appeal to the imagination rather than to the
eye. At this end of the lake the water is shallow, probably filled
up by the mud brought down by the Rio Frio.

We had still a voyage of sixty miles before us up the lake, and
this was to be accomplished not by paddling, but by sailing; so we
now rigged two light masts, and soon after seven o'clock sailed
slowly away from San Carlos before a light breeze, which in an
hour's time freshened and carried us along at the rate of about six
miles an hour. The sun rose higher and higher; the day waxed hotter
and hotter. About noon the wind failed us again, and the sun right
overhead, in a clear pitiless sky, scorched us with its rays, while
our boat lay like a log upon the water, the pitch melting in the
seams with the heat. The surface of the lake was motionless, save
for a gentle heaving. We were almost broiled with the stifling
heat, but at last saw a ripple on the water come up from the
north-east; soon the breeze reached us, and our torment was over;
our sails, no more idly flapping, filled out before the wind; the
canoe dashed through the rising waves; our drooping spirits
revived, and there was an opening out of provisions, and life again
in the boat. The breeze continued all the afternoon, and at dark we
were off the islands of Nancital, having been all day within a few
miles of the north-eastern side of the lake, the banks of which are
everywhere clothed with dark gloomy-looking forests. One of the
islands was a favourite sleeping-place for the white egrets. From
all sides they were flying across the lake towards it; and as night
set in, the trees and bushes by the water-side were full of them,
gleaming like great white flowers amongst the dark green foliage.
Flocks of muscovy and whistling ducks also flew over to their
evening feeding-places. Great masses of a floating plant, shaped
like a cabbage, were abundant on the lake, and on these the white
egrets and other wading birds often alighted. The boatmen told
me--and the story is likely enough to be true--that the alligators,
floating about like logs, with their eyes above the water, watch
these birds, and, moving quietly up until within a few yards of
them, sink down below the surface, come up underneath them, catch
them by the legs and drag them under water. Besides the alligators,
large freshwater sharks appear to be common in the lake. Sometimes,
when in shallow water, we saw a pointed billow rapidly moving away
from the boat, produced by some large fish below, and I was told it
was a shark.

After dark the wind failed us again, and we got slowly along, but
finally reached our port, San Ubaldo, about ten o'clock, and found
an officer of the mining company, living in a small thatched hut,
stationed there to send on the machinery and other goods that
arrived for the mines. A large tiled store had also just been built
by the owner of the estate there, Don Gregorio Quadra, under the
verandah of which I hung my hammock for the night. Mules were
waiting at San Ubaldo for us, and early next morning we set off,
with our luggage on pack mules. We crossed some rocky low hills,
with scanty vegetation, and, after passing the cattle hacienda of
San Jose, reached the plains of the same name, about two leagues in
width, now dry and dusty, but in the wet season forming a great
slough of water and tenacious mud, through which the mules have to
wade and plunge.

In the midst of these plains there are some rocky knolls, like
islands, on which grow spiny cactuses, low leathery-leaved trees,
slender, spiny palms, with plum-like fruit, prickly acacias, and
thorny bromelias. This spiny character of vegetation seems to be
characteristic of dry rocky places and tracts of country liable to
great drought. Probably it is as a protection from herbivorous
animals, to prevent them browsing upon the twigs and small branches
where herbaceous vegetation is dried up. Small armadillos abound
near these rocky knolls, and are said to feed on ants and other
insects. We had a long chase after one, which we observed some
distance from the rock, over the cracked and dried-up plain: though
it could not run very fast, it doubled quickly, and the rough
cracked ground made odds in its favour; but it was ultimately
secured. Pigeons, brown coloured, of various sizes, from that of a
thrush to that of a common dove, were numerous and very tame. One
of the smallest species alights and seeks about in the streets of
small towns for seeds, like a sparrow, and more boldly than that
bird, for it is not molested by the children--more perhaps from
indolence than from any lack of the element of cruelty in their
dispositions. After crossing the plains we rode over undulating
hills, here called savannahs, with patches of forest on the rising
ground, and small plains on which grows the ternate-leaved jicara
(pronounced hickory), a tree about as large as an apple-tree, with
fruit of the size, shape, and appearance of a large green orange,
but growing on the trunk and branches, not amongst the leaves. The
outside of the fruit is a hard thin shell, packed full of seeds in
a kind of dry pulp, on which are fed fowls, and even horses and
cattle in the dry season; the latter are said sometimes to choke
themselves with the fruit, whilst trying to eat it. Of the bruised
seeds is also made a cooling drink, much used in Nicaragua. The
jicara trees grow apart at equal distances, as if planted by man.
The hard thin shell of the fruit, carved in various patterns on the
outside, is made into cups and drinking-vessels by the natives, who
also cultivate other species of jicara, with round fruit, as large
as a man's head, from which the larger drinking-bowls are made. In
the smaller jicaras chocolate is always made and served in Central
America, and, being rounded at the bottom, little stands are made
to set them in; these are sometimes shaped like egg-cups, sometimes
like toy washhand-stands. In making their earthenware vessels, the
Indians up to this day follow this natural form, and their
water-jars and bowls are made rounded at the bottom, requiring
stands to keep them upright.

The meals of Montezuma were served on thick cushions or pillows.
This was probably on account of the rounded bases of the bowls and
dishes used. The gourd forms of bowls possibly originated from the
clay being moulded over gourds which were burnt out in the baking
process. It is said that in the Southern States the kilns in which
the ancient pottery was baked have been found, and in some the
half-baked ware remained, retaining the rinds of the gourds over
which they had been moulded. Afterwards, when the potter learned to
make bowls without the aid of gourds, he still retained the shape
of his ancient pattern.

The name, too, like the form, has had a wonderful vitality. It is
the "xicalli" of the ancient Aztecs, changed to "jicara" by the
Spaniards, by which they mean a chocolate-cup; and even in Italy a
modification of the same word may be heard, a tea-cup being called
a chicchera.

On top of one of the hills we just got a glimpse of a small pack of
wolves, or coyotes, as they are called, from the Aztec coyotl. They
are smaller than the European wolf, and are cunning, like a fox,
but hunt in packs. They looked down at us from the ridge of the
hill for a few moments, then trotted off down the other side. Their
howlings may often be heard in the early morning.

Cattle, horses, and mules are bred on these plains. Male asses are
kept at some of the haciendas. They are not allowed to mix with any
of their own kind, and are well fed and in good condition; but they
are only of small size, and the breed of mules might be greatly
improved by the introduction of larger asses.

The vegetation on the plains was rapidly drying up. Many of the
trees shed their leaves in the dry season, just as they do with us
in autumn. The barrenness of the landscape is relieved in March by
several kinds of trees bursting into flower when they have shed
their leaves, and presenting great domes of brilliant colour--some
pink, others red, blue, yellow, or white, like single-coloured
bouquets. One looked like a gigantic rhododendron, with bunches of
large pink flowers. The yellow-flowered ones belong to wild
cotton-trees, from the pods of which the natives gather cotton to
stuff pillows, etc. About one o'clock we reached rather a large
river, and after crossing it came in sight of the town of Acoyapo,
one of the principal towns of the province of Chontales. we stayed
and had dinner with Senor Don Dolores Bermudez, a Nicaraguan
gentlemen who had been educated in the States, and spoke English
fluently. He very kindly took me over the town, and I always found
him ready to give me information respecting the antiquities and
natural products of the country. Acoyapo and the district around it
contains about two thousand inhabitants. The store-keepers,
lawyers, and hacienderos are of Spanish and mixed descent. Amongst
the lower classes there is much Indian and some negro blood; but
there are many pure Indians scattered through the district, living
near the rivers and brooks, and growing patches of maize and beans.
In the centre of the town is a large square or plaza, with a
stucco-fronted church occupying one side, and the principal stores
and houses ranging around the other three sides. A couple of
coco-palms grow in front of the church, but do not thrive like
those near the sea-coast. It was Saturday, the 22nd of February,
when we arrived; this was a great feast-day, or festa, at Acoyapo,
and the town was full of country people, who were amusing
themselves with horse-races, cock-fights, and drinking aguardiente.
Their mode of cock-fighting is very cruel, as the cocks are armed
with long sickle-shaped lancets, tied on to their natural spurs,
with which they give each other fearful gashes and wounds. All
classes of Nicaraguans are fond of this amusement; in nearly every
house a cock will be found, tied up in a corner by the leg, but
treated otherwise like one of the family. The priests are generally
great abettors of the practice, which forms the usual amusement of
the towns on Sunday afternoons. I have heard many stories of the
padres after service hurrying off to the cock-pit with a cock under
each arm. Bets are made on every fight, and much money is lost and
won over the sport.

Like most of the Nicaraguan towns, Acoyapo appears to have been an
Indian city before the Spanish conquest. The name is Indian, and in
the plaza Senor Bermudez pointed out to me some flat bared rock
surfaces, on which were engraved circles and various straight and
curved characters, covering the whole face of the rock. Some rude
portions of stone statues that have been found in the neighbourhood
are also preserved in the town. The Spaniards called the town San
Sebastian; but the more ancient name is likely to prevail,
notwithstanding that in all official documents the Spanish one is
used. Acoyapo is a grazing district, and there are some large
cattle haciendas, especially towards the lake. The town suffers
from fever owing to the neighbouring swamp. Much of the land around
is very fertile; but little of it is cultivated, as the people are
indolent, and content if they make a bare livelihood. We left
Acoyapo about three o'clock: our road lay up the river, which we
crossed three times. Excepting near the river, the country was very
thinly timbered; and it was pleasant, after riding across the open
plains, exposed to the hot rays of the sun, to reach the shady
banks of the stream, by which grew many high thick-foliaged trees,
with lianas hanging from them, and bromelias, orchids, ferns, and
many other epiphytes perched on their branches. At these spots,
too, were various beautiful birds, amongst which the Sisitote, a
fine black and orange songster, and a trogon (Trogon
malanocephalus, Gould), were the most conspicuous.

We reached and crossed a high range, from the summit of which we
had a splendid view over the plains and savannahs we had crossed,
to the great lake, with its islands and peaked hills, and beyond
the dark dim mountains of Costa Rica, amongst which dwell the
Indians of the Rio Frio and other little-known tribes. Before us
were spread out well-grassed savannahs, thinly timbered, excepting
where dark winding lines of trees or light green thickets of
bamboos marked the course of rivers or mountain brooks. Here and
there were dotted thatched huts, in which dwelt the owners of the
cattle, mules, and horses feeding on the meadows. Far in the
distance the view was bounded by a line of dark, nearly
black-looking forest, which, there commencing, extends unbroken to
the Atlantic. Near its edge, a seven-peaked range marked the
neighbourhood of Libertad--the beginning of the gold-mining
district. Descending the slope of the range, we found the savannahs
on its eastern side much more moist than those to the westward of
it; and as we proceeded, the humidity of the ground increased, and
the crossings of some of the valleys and swamps were difficult for
the mules. The dry season had set in, and these places were rapidly
drying up; but in many it had just reached that stage when the mud
was most tenacious; at one very bad crossing, called an "estero,"
my mule fell, with my leg underneath him, pinning me in the mud.
The poor beast was exhausted, and would not move. Night had set
in--it was quite dark, and I had lagged some distance behind my
companions: fortunately they heard my shouts, and, soon returning,
extricated me from my awkward predicament. Without further mishap
we reached Esquipula, a village inhabited mostly by half-breeds,
and slung our hammocks for the night in a small thatched house
belonging to the mining company, who kept many of their draught
bullocks at this place on account of the excellent pasture around.
The village of Esquipula is built near the river Mico, which,
rising in the forest-clad ranges to the eastward, runs for several
miles through the savannahs, then again enters the forest and flows
into the Atlantic at Blewfields, a broad and deep river. This river
must have had at one time a large Indian population dwelling in
settled towns near its banks. Their burial places, marked with
great heaps of stones, are frequent, and pieces of pottery, broken
stone statues, and pedestals are often met with. Near Esquipula
there are some artificial-looking mounds, with great stones set
around them; in fact, this and another village, a few miles to the
south, called San Tomas, are, I believe, both built on the sites of
old Indian towns. The Indians of the Rio Mico gave the Spaniards
some trouble on their first settlement of the country. About two
leagues from Acoyapo, the site of a small town was pointed out to
me, now covered with low trees and brushwood. Here the Spaniards
were attacked in the night-time by the Rio Mico Indians, and all of
them killed, excepting the young women, who were carried off into
captivity, and the place has ever since lain desolate.

Many extravagant stories have been told of the great statues that
are said to have been seen on the banks of the Mico, much lower
down the river than where we crossed it; but M. Etienne, of
Libertad, who descended it to Blewfields, and some Ulleros of San
Tomas, who had frequently been down it after india-rubber, assured
me that the reported statues were merely rude carvings of faces and
animals on the rocks. They appear to be similar to what are found
on many rivers running into the Caribbean Sea, and to those which
were examined by Schomburgk on the rocks of the Orinoco and
Essequibo. As others like them, of undoubted Carib workmanship,
have been found in the Virgin Islands, it is possible that they are
all the work of that once-powerful race, and not of the settled
agricultural and statue-making Indians of the western part of the

We started from Esquipula early next morning, and crossed low
thinly-timbered hills and savannahs to Pital, a scattered
settlement of many small thatched houses, close to the borders of
the great forest; on the edge of which were clearings, made for
growing maize, which is cultivated entirely on burnt forest land.
At some parts they had already commenced cutting down trees for
fresh clearings; these would be burnt in April, and the maize sown
the following month, in the usual primitive way, just as it was in
Mexico before and at the Spanish conquest. In commencing a
clearing, the brushwood is first cut close to the ground, as it
would be difficult to do so after the large trees are felled. The
big timber is then cut down, and in April it is set fire to. All
the small wood and leaves burn well; but most of the large trunks
are left, and many of the branches. Most of the latter are cut up
to form a fence round the clearing, this at Pital and Esquipula
being made very close and high to keep out deer. In May, the maize
is sown; the sower makes little holes with a pointed stick, a few
feet apart, into each of which he drops two or three grains, and
covers them with his foot. In a few days the green leaves shoot up,
and grow very quickly. Numerous wild plants also spring up, and in
June these are weeded out; the success of the crop greatly
depending upon the thoroughness with which this is done. In July
each plant has produced two or three ears; and before the grain is
set these are pulled off, excepting one, as if more are left they
do not mature well. The young ears are boiled whole, and make a
tender and much-esteemed vegetable. They are called at this stage
"chilote," from the Aztec xilotl; and the ancient Mexicans in their
eighth month, which began on the 16th July, made a great festival,
called the feast of Xilonen. The poor Indians now have often reason
to rejoice when this stage is reached, as their stores of corn are
generally exhausted before then, and the "chilote" is the first
fruits of the new crop. In the beginning of August the grains are
fully formed, though still tender and white; and it is eaten as
green corn, now called "elote." In September the maize is ripe, and
is gathered when dry, and stowed away, generally over the rooms of
the natives. A second crop is often sown in December.

Maize is very prolific, bearing a hundredfold, and ripening in
April. From the most ancient times, maize has been the principal
food of the inhabitants of the western side of tropical America. On
the coast of Peru, Darwin found heads of it,* along with eighteen
species of marine shells, in a raised beach eighty-five feet above
the level of the sea (* "Geological Observations in South America"
1846 page 49 and "Animals and Plants under Domestication" volume 1
page 320.); and in the same country it has been found in tombs
apparently more ancient than the earliest times of the Incas.*
(*Von Tschudi "Travels in Peru" English edition page 177.) In
Mexico it was known from the earliest times of which we have any
record, in the picture writings of the Toltecs; and that ancient
people carried it with them in all their wanderings. In Central
America the stone grinders, with which they bruised it down, are
almost invariably found in the ancient graves, having been buried
with the ashes of the dead, as an indispensable article for their
outfit for another world. When Florida and Louisiana were first
discovered, the native Indian tribes all cultivated maize as their
staple food; and throughout Yucatan, Mexico, and all the western
side of Central America, and through Peru to Chili, it was, and
still is, the main sustenance of the Indians. The people that
cultivated it were all more or less advanced in civilisation; they
were settled in towns; their traders travelled from one country to
another with their wares; they were of a docile and tractable
disposition, easily frightened into submission. It is likely that
these maize-eating peoples belonged to closely affiliated races. In
the West India Islands they occupied most of Cuba and Hayti; but
from Porto Rico southwards the islands were peopled by the warlike
Caribs, who harassed the more civilised tribes to the north. From
Cape Gracias a Dios southward, the eastern coast of America was
peopled on its first discovery by much ruder tribes, who did not
grow maize, but made bread from the roots of the mandioca (Manihot
aipim); and still in British Guiana, on the Lower Amazon, and in
north-eastern Brazil, farina made from the roots of the mandioca is
the staple food. Maize has been introduced by the Portuguese, but
it has no native name, and is used mostly for feeding cattle and
fowls, scarcely at all for the food of the people. This fundamental
difference in the food of the indigenes points to a great
distinction between the peoples to which I shall have in the sequel
to revert. In the West India Islands, Cuba and Hayti seem to have
been peopled from Yucatan, and Florida, Porto Rico, and all the
islands to the southwards, from Venezuela.

In Central America, the bread made from the maize is prepared at
the present day exactly as it was in ancient Mexico. The grain is
first of all boiled along with wood ashes or a little lime; the
alkali loosens the outer skin of the grain, and this is rubbed off
with the hands in running water, a little of it at a time, placed
upon a slightly concave stone, called a metlate, from the Aztec
metlatl, on which it is rubbed with another stone shaped like a
rolling-pin. A little water is thrown on it as it is bruised, and
it is thus formed into paste. A ball of the paste is taken and
flattened out between the hands into a cake about ten inches
diameter and three-sixteenths of an inch thick, which is baked on a
slightly concave earthenware pan. The cakes so made are called
tortillas, and are very nutritious. When travelling, I preferred
them myself to bread made from wheaten flour. When well made and
eaten warm, they are very palatable.

There are a few small sugar plantations near Pital. The juice is
pressed out of the canes by rude wooden rollers set upright in
threes, the centre one driving the one on each side of it by
projecting cogs. The whole are set in motion by oxen travelling
round the same as in a thrashing-mill. The ungreased axles of the
rollers, squeaking and screeching like a score of tormented pigs,
generally inform the traveller of their vicinity long before he
reaches them. The juice is boiled, and an impure sugar made from
it. I do not think that the sugar-cane was known to the ancient
inhabitants of the country: it is not mentioned by the historians
of the conquest of Mexico and Peru, nor has it, like maize and
cacao, any native name.

As soon as we passed Pital we entered the great forest, the black
margin of which we had seen for many miles, that extends from this
point to the Atlantic. At first the road lay through small trees
and brushwood, a second growth that had sprung up where the
original forest had been cut for maize plantations; but after
passing a brook bordered by numerous plants of the pita, from which
a fine fibre is obtained, and which gives its name to Pital, we
entered the primeval forest. On each side of the road great trees
towered up, carrying their crowns out of sight amongst a canopy of
foliage; lianas wound round every trunk and hung from every bough,
passing from tree to tree, and entangling the giants in a great
network of coiling cables, as the serpents did Laocoon; the simile
being strengthened by the fact that many of the trees are really
strangled in the winding folds. Sometimes a tree appears covered
with beautiful flowers, which do not belong to it, but to one of
the lianas that twines through its branches and sends down great
rope-like stems to the ground. Climbing ferns and vanilla cling to
the trunks, and a thousand epiphytes perch themselves on the
branches. Amongst these are large arums that send down aerial
roots, tough and strong, and universally used instead of cordage by
the natives. Amongst the undergrowth several small species of
palms, varying in height from two to fifteen feet, are common; and
now and then magnificent tree ferns, sending off their feathery
crowns twenty feet from the ground, delight the sight with their
graceful elegance. Great broad-leaved heliconiae, leathery
melastomae, and succulent-stemmed, lop-sided-leaved begonias are
abundant, and typical of tropical American forests. Not less so are
the cecropia trees, with their white stems and large palmated
leaves standing up like great candelabra. Sometimes the ground is
carpeted with large flowers, yellow, pink, or white, that have
fallen from some invisible tree-top above, or the air is filled
with a delicious perfume, for the source of which one seeks around
in vain, as the flowers that cause it are far overhead out of
sight, lost in the great overshadowing crown of verdure. Numerous
babbling brooks intersect the forest, with moss-covered stones and
fern-clad nooks. One's thoughts are led away to the green dells in
English denes, but are soon recalled; for the sparkling pools are
the favourite haunts of the fairy humming-birds, and like an arrow
one will dart up the brook, and, poised on wings moving with almost
invisible velocity, clothed in purple, golden, or emerald glory,
hang suspended in the air; gazing with startled look at the
intruder, with a sudden jerk, turning round first one eye, then the
other, and suddenly disappear like a flash of light.

Unlike the plains and savannahs we crossed yesterday, where the
ground is parched up in the dry season, the Atlantic forest, bathed
in the rains distilled from the north-east trades, is ever verdant.
Perennial moisture reigns in the soil, perennial summer in the air,
and vegetation luxuriates in ceaseless activity and verdure, all
the year round. Unknown are the autumn tints, the bright browns and
yellows of English woods, much less the crimsons, purples, and
yellows of Canada, where the dying foliage rivals, nay, excels the
expiring dolphin in splendour. Unknown the cold sleep of winter;
unknown the lovely awakening of vegetation at the first gentle
touch of spring. A ceaseless round of ever-active life weaves the
forest scenery of the tropics into one monotonous whole, of which
the component parts exhibit in detail untold variety and beauty.

To the genial influence of ever-present moisture and heat we must
ascribe the infinite variety of the trees of these forests. They do
not grow in clusters or masses of single species, like our oaks,
beeches, and firs, but every tree is different from its neighbour,
and they crowd upon each other in unsocial rivalry, each trying to
overtop the other. For this reason we see the great straight trunks
rising a hundred feet without a branch, and carrying their domes of
foliage directly up to where the balmy breezes blow and the sun's
rays quicken. Lianas hurry up to the light and sunshine, and
innumerable epiphytes perch themselves high up on the branches.

The road through the forest was very bad, the mud deep and
tenacious, the hills steep and slippery, and the mules had to
struggle and plunge along through from two to three feet of sticky
clay. One part, named the Nispral, was especially steep and
difficult to descend, the road being worn into great ruts. We
crossed the ranges and brooks nearly at right angles, and were
always ascending or descending. About two we reached a clearing and
hacienda, belonging to an enterprising German, named Melzer, near a
brook called Las Lajas, who was cultivating plantains and
vegetables, and had also commenced brick and tile making, besides
planting some thousands of coffee trees. His large clearings were a
pleasant change from the forest through which we had been toiling,
and we stayed a few minutes at his house. After riding over another
league of forest-covered ranges, we reached Pavon, one of the mines
of the Chontales Company, and passing the Javali mine soon arrived
at Santo Domingo, the headquarters of the gold-mining company whose
operations I had come out to superintend.


Geographical position of Santo Domingo.
Physical geography.
The inhabitants.
Mixed races.
Negroes and Indians compared.
Establishment of the Chontales Gold-Mining Company.
My house and garden.
Plantains and bananas; probably not indigenous to America:
   propagated from shoots: do not generally mature their seeds.
Granadillas and papaws.
Dependence of flowers on insects for their fertilisation.
Insect plagues.
Leaf-cutting ants: their method of defoliating trees: their nests.
Some trees are not touched by the ants.
Foreign trees are very subject to their attack.
Method of destroying the ants.
Migration of the ants from a nest attacked.
Corrosive sublimate causes a sort of madness amongst them.
Indian plan of preventing them ascending young trees.
Leaf-cutting ants are fungus-growers and eaters.
Sagacity of the ants.

The gold-mining village of Santo Domingo is situated in the
province of Chontales, Nicaragua, in latitude 12 degrees 16
minutes north and longitude 84 degrees 59 minutes west, nearly
midway between the Atlantic and the Pacific, where Central America
begins to widen out northward of the narrow isthmus of Panama and
Costa Rica. It is in the midst of the great forest that covers most
of the Atlantic slope of Central America, and which continues
unbroken from where we had entered it, at Pital, eastward to the
Atlantic; westward it terminates in a sinuous margin about seven
miles from the village, and there commence the lightly timbered and
grassy plains and savannahs stretching to the Lake of Nicaragua.
The surface of the land in the forest region forms a succession of
ranges and steep valleys, covered with magnificent timber and much
undergrowth. Santo Domingo lies about 2000 feet above the level of
the sea, and the hills around it rise from 500 to 1000 feet higher.
It is built in the bend of a small stream, the head waters of a
branch of the Blewfields river, on a level, low piece of ground,
with the brook winding almost round it, and, beyond that, encircled
by an amphitheatre of low hills in the hollow of which it lies. The
road to the mines runs through it, and forms the main street,
having on each side thatched stores and irregularly built houses.
The inhabitants, about three hundred in number, are entirely
dependent on the mines around, there being no cultivation or any
other employment in the immediate neighbourhood. The people are of
a mixed descent, in which Indian blood predominates, then Spanish
with a slight admixture of the Negro element, whilst amongst the
rising generation many fair-haired children can claim paternity
amongst the numerous German and English workmen that have been
employed at the mines. The store-keepers form the aristocracy of
the village. They are indolent; lounging about, or lying smoking in
their hammocks the greater part of the day, but generally civil and
polite. They are particular in their dress, and may often be seen
in faultless European costume, silk umbrella in hand, in twos or
threes, taking a short quiet walk up the valley. The lower class of
miners are scantily and badly clothed, especially when they come
first to the mines. They are bare-footed, with poor ragged cotton
trousers and a thin jacket of the same material. Generally, after
being a year or two at the mines, they begin to wear better
clothing, and may often be seen with a new shirt, which to show off
is worn hanging down outside, like a surtout coat. Amongst these
are many pure Indians, short sturdy men, who make the steadiest
workmen, patient and industrious, but with little appreciation of
the value of money, and spending the whole of their wages at the
end of the month, before they resume work. At these times the
commandant comes in from the town of Libertad, about nine miles
distant, with half-a-dozen bare-footed soldiers carrying old
muskets on their shoulders, and levies blackmail upon the poor
patient "Mosas," as they are called, in the shape of a fine for
drunkenness. But the "aguardiente," a native-made rum, is
nevertheless always kept on hand, being a government monopoly, and
ever ready, so that the Mosas may have no excuse to be sober and
escape being fined.

Even in their drink the poor Indians are not very violent, and get
intoxicated with surprising stolidity and quietness. Amongst the
half-breeds, especially where the Negro element exists, there are
often quarrellings and rows, when they slash away at each other
with their long knives or "machetes," and get ugly cuts, which,
however, heal again quickly.

Both the Negroes and Indians are decidedly inferior to the whites
in intellect, but they do not differ so much from the Europeans as
they do from each other. The Negro will work hard for a short
while, on rare occasions, or when compelled by another, but is
innately lazy. The Indian is industrious by nature, and works
steadily and well for himself; but if compelled to work for
another, loses all heart, and pines away and dies. The Negro is
talkative, vivacious, vain, and sensual; the Indian taciturn,
stolid, dignified, and moderate. As freemen, regularly though
poorly paid and kindly treated, the Indians work well and
laboriously in the mines; but the Negro seldom engages either in
that or any other settled employment, unless compelled as a slave,
in which condition he is happy and thoughtless. I do not defend
slavery, but I believe it to be a greater curse to the masters than
to the slaves, more deteriorating to the former than to the latter.
The Spaniards at first enslaved the Indians, but they died away so
rapidly that in a very short time the indigenes of the whole of the
once-populous islands of the West Indies were exterminated, and
large numbers of Indians were carried off from the mainland to
supply their places, but died with equal rapidity; so that the
Spaniards found it more profitable to bring negroes from Africa,
who thrived and multiplied in captivity as readily as the enslaved
Indians pined away and died. In Central America there never were
many black slaves; since the States threw off the yoke of Spain
there have been none; and this comparative scarcity of the Negro
element makes these countries much more pleasant and safer to dwell
in than the West Indies, where it is much larger. The Indian seldom
or never molests the whites, excepting in retaliation for some
great injury; whilst amongst the free Negroes, robbery, violence,
and murder need no other incentives than their own evil passions
and lust.

The women at Santo Domingo are much the same as those found at all
the small provincial towns of Central America. Morality is at a low
ebb, and most of them live as mistresses, not as wives, for which
they do not seem to suffer in the estimation of their neighbours.
This is greatly due in Nicaragua, as it is throughout Central and
South America, to the profligate lives led by the priests, who,
with few rare exceptions, live in concubinage more or less open.
The women have children at an early age, and make kind and
indulgent mothers.


The village is bounded to the eastward by the mines and hacienda of
the Chontales Mining Company, whose houses, workshops, and
machinery are on rising ground on each side of the valley, with the
brook running down between. About fifty acres of the forest have
been cut down, and a great deal of this is fenced in and covered
with grass. Going up the valley from the village, on the right hand
side, about fifty yards from the road, on a grass-covered slope,
stand the houses of the commissioner and cashier, in the latter of
which the medical officer also lives. The former, a large,
white-washed, square, two-storied, wooden house, with verandahs
round three sides of it, and communicating by a covered passage
with a detached kitchen behind, had been built by one of my
predecessors, Captain Hill, R.N., who did not live to inhabit it.
It was a roomy, comfortable house, commanding a view of the
machinery, workshops, and part of the mines on the other side of
the valley, and formed my residence for upwards of four years.

The slope in front of the house, down to the river, was covered
with weedy bushes when I arrived; but I had these cleared away, and
a fine greensward of grass took their place. On this I planted
young orange, lime, and citron trees; and I had the pleasure,
before I left, to see them beginning to bear their fine fruit. To
the west of the house was a dell, covered with fallen logs and
rubbish thrown from the hill, in which was a perennial spring of
limpid water. I had the logs and rubbish gathered together and
burnt, put a light fence round it, and formed a small vegetable,
fruit, and flower garden. The mango and avocado trees had not come
into bearing before I left; but pineapples, figs, grenadillas,
bananas, pumpkins, plantains, papaws, and chioties fruited
abundantly. The last named is a native of Mexico; it is a climbing
plant with succulent stems and vine-like leaves, and grows with
great rapidity. The fruit, of which it bears a great abundance, is
about the size and shape of a pear, covered with soft prickles. It
is boiled and eaten as a vegetable, and resembles vegetable marrow.
At Santo Domingo it continues to bear a succession of fruits during
eight months of the year.

Next to maize, plantains and bananas form the principal sustenance
of the natives. The banana tree shoots up its succulent stem, and
unfolds its immense entire leaves with great rapidity; and a group
of them waving their silky leaves in the sun, or shining ghostly
white in the moonlight, forms one of those beautiful sights that
can only be seen to perfection in the tropics. There are a great
many varieties of them, and they are cooked in many ways--boiled,
baked, made into pastry, or eaten as a fruit. The varieties differ
not only in their fruits, but in the colour of their leaves and
stems; the natives can distinguish them without seeing the fruit,
and have names for each, by which they are known throughout all
Central America, Mexico, and Peru. These names are of Spanish
origin; and this fact, together with the absence of any native,
Mexican, or Peruvian name for the fruit, inclines me to adopt the
opinion of Clavigero, who contends, in opposition to other writers,
that the plantain and banana were not known in these countries
before the Spanish conquest, but were first brought from the
Canaries to Hayti in 1516, and from thence taken to the mainland.

Neither the sugar-cane* nor the plantain is given in the list of
the indigenous productions of Mexico by the careful and accurate
Hernandez. (* The sugar-cane is said never to bear seed in the West
Indies, Malaga, India, Cochin China, or the Malay Archipelago.
--Darwin's "Animals and Plants under Domestication" volume 2 page
169.) The natives made sugar from the green stems of the maize.
Humboldt thinks that some species of plantain were indigenous to
America; but it seems incredible that such an important fruit could
have been overlooked by the early historians. In the old world the
cultivation of the banana dates from the earliest times of which
tradition makes mention. One of the Sanscrit names was
bhanu--fruit, from which probably the name "banana" was derived.*
(* Humboldt's "Aspects of Nature" volume 2 page 141.)

Both the plantain and the banana are always propagated from shoots
or suckers that spring from the base of the plants; and it is to be
remarked that the pineapple and the bread-fruit, that are also
universally grown from cuttings or shoots, and have been cultivated
from remote antiquity, have in a great measure lost the faculty of
producing mature seed. Such varieties could not arise in a state of
nature, but are due to selection by early races of mankind, who
would naturally propagate the best varieties; and, to do this, seed
was not required. As the finest kinds of bananas, pineapples, and
bread-fruit are almost seedless, it is probable that the nutriment
that would have been required for the formation of the seeds has
been expended in producing larger and more succulent fruits. We
find some varieties of oranges, which also have been cultivated
from very early ages, producing fruits without seeds; but as these
trees are propagated from seeds, these varieties could not become
so sterile as those just mentioned. There can be no doubt that the
seedless varieties of banana, bread-fruits, and pineapples have
been propagated for hundreds of years; and this fact ought to
modify the opinions generally entertained by horticulturists that
the life of plants and trees propagated from shoots or cuttings
cannot be indefinitely prolonged in that way. Perhaps this may be
the case in trees, such as apples, that have come under their
notice; and the reason that the varieties die out after a certain
time, if not reproduced from seed, may be that the vigour of the
trees is at last used up by the production of mature seed, but that
in the seedless bananas, pineapples, and bread-fruits this does not

Figs grow well in Nicaragua, and by many their luscious fruit is
preferred to all others. My trees suffered greatly from the attacks
of a large and fine longicorn beetle (Taeniotes scalaris, Fab.)
which laid its eggs in the green bark, and produced white grubs
that mined into the stem. I had to dig down to them with a knife to
extricate them and prevent them destroying the young trees. We were
surrounded at a short distance by the forest, in which grow many
species of wild fig-trees; and this probably was the reason that my
trees suffered so much, for at Granada the fig-growers were not
troubled with this insect.

The grenadilla is the fruit of one of the passion-flowers
(Passiflora quadrangularis), and is shaped like a large oblong
apple, which it also resembles in perfume. It makes fine tarts and
puddings, being somewhat like the gooseberry in taste. I had much
difficulty in preserving it from being eaten by small forest rats
that came out of the woods, where they had already been accustomed
to eat the wild fruit of this climber.

The moist, warm climate seemed to suit the papaw tree, as it grew
with great vigour, and produced very large and fine melon-like
fruits. The green fruits are excellent for making pastry, if
flavoured with a little lime-juice.

In vegetables, I grew three species of sweet potatoes--yellow,
purple, and white skinned, and which differ also in their leaves
and flowers; cabbages, kidney-beans, pumpkins, yuccas (Jatropha
manihot), quequisque (a species of arum, Colocasia esculenta),
lettuces, tomatoes, capiscums, endives, parsley, and carrots.

The climate was too damp to grow onions; neither could I succeed
with peas, potatoes, or turnips. Scarlet runners (Phaseolus
multiflorus) grew well, and flowered abundantly, but never produced
a single pod. Darwin has shown that this flower is dependent, like
many others, for its fertilisation upon the operations of the busy
humble-bee, and that it is provided with a wonderful mechanism, by
means of which its pollen is rubbed into the head of the bee, and
received on the stigma of the next plant visited.* (* "Gardener's
Chronicle" October 24, 1857 and November 14, 1858; also T.H. Farrer
in "Annals of Natural History" October 1868.) There are many
humble-bees, of different species from ours, in tropical America;
but none of them frequented the flowers of the scarlet runner, and
to that circumstance we may safely ascribe its sterility. An
analogous case has been long known. The vanilla plant (Vanilla
planifolia) has been introduced from tropical America into India,
but though it grows well, and flowers, it never fruits without
artificial aid. It is the same in the hothouses of Europe. Dr.
Morren, of Liege, has shown that, if artificially fertilised, every
flower will produce fruit; and ascribes its sterility to the
absence, in Europe and India, of some insect that in America
carries the pollen from one flower to another.* (* Taylor's "Annals
of Natural History" volume 3 page 1.) When those interested in the
acclimature of the natural productions of one country on the soil
of some distant one, study the mutual relations of plants and
animals, they will find that in the case of many plants it is
important that the insects specially adapted for the fertilisation
of their flowers should be introduced with them. Thus, if the
insect or bird that assists in the fertilisation of the vanilla
could be introduced into and would live in India, the growers of
that plant would be relieved of much trouble, and it might be
thoroughly naturalised. Judging from my experience, it would be
useless to attempt the acclimature of the scarlet-runner bean in
Chontales unless the humble-bee were also introduced.

Caterpillars, plant-lice, bugs, and insect pests of all kinds were
numerous, and did much harm to my garden; but the greatest plague
of all were the leaf-cutting ants, and I had to wage a continual
warfare against them. During this contest I gained much information
regarding their habits, and was successful in checking their
ravages, and I shall occupy the remainder of this chapter with an
account of them.


Nearly all travellers in tropical America have described the
ravages of the leaf-cutting ants (Oecodoma); their crowded,
well-worn paths through the forests, their ceaseless pertinacity in
the spoliation of the trees--more particularly of introduced
species--which are stripped bare and ragged with the midribs and a
few jagged points of the leaves only left. Many a young plantation
of orange, mango, and lemon trees has been destroyed by them. Again
and again have I been told in Nicaragua, when inquiring why no
fruit-trees were grown at particular places, "It is no use planting
them; the ants eat them up." The first acquaintance a stranger
generally makes with them is on encountering their paths on the
outskirts of the forest crowded with the ants; one lot carrying off
the pieces of leaves, each piece about the size of a sixpence, and
held up vertically between the jaws of the ant; another lot
hurrying along in an opposite direction empty-handed, but eager to
get loaded with their leafy burdens. If he follows this last
division, it will lead him to some young trees or shrubs, up which
the ants mount; and then each one, stationing itself on the edge of
a leaf, commences to make a circular cut, with its scissor-like
jaws, from the edge, its hinder feet being the centre on which it
turns. When the piece is nearly cut off, it is still stationed upon
it, and it looks as though it would fall to the ground with it;
but, on being finally detached, the ant is generally found to have
hold of the leaf with one foot, and soon righting itself, and
arranging its burden to its satisfaction, it sets off at once on
its return. Following it again, it is seen to join a throng of
others, each laden like itself, and, without a moment's delay, it
hurries along the well-worn path. As it proceeds, other paths, each
thronged with busy workers, come in from the sides, until the main
road often gets to be seven or eight inches broad, and more
thronged than the streets of the city of London.

After travelling for some hundreds of yards, often for more than
half a mile, the formicarium is reached. It consists of low, wide
mounds of brown, clayey-looking earth, above and immediately around
which the bushes have been killed by their buds and leaves having
been persistently bitten off as they attempted to grow after their
first defoliation. Under high trees in the thick forest the ants do
not make their nests, because, I believe, the ventilation of their
underground galleries, about which they are very particular, would
be interfered with, and perhaps to avoid the drip from the trees.
It is on the outskirts of the forest, or around clearings, or near
wide roads that let in the sun, that these formicariums are
generally found. Numerous round tunnels, varying from half an inch
to seven or eight inches in diameter, lead down through the mounds
of earth; and many more from some distance around, also lead
underneath them. At some of the holes on the mounds ants will be
seen busily at work, bringing up little pellets of earth from
below, and casting them down on the ever-increasing mound, so that
its surface is nearly always fresh and new-looking.

Standing near the mounds, one sees from every point of the compass
ant-paths leading to them, all thronged with the busy workers
carrying their leafy burdens. As far as the eye can distinguish
their tiny forms, troops upon troops of leaves are moving up
towards the central point, and disappearing down the numerous
tunnelled passages. The out-going, empty-handed hosts are partly
concealed amongst the bulky burdens of the incomers, and can only
be distinguished by looking closely amongst them. The ceaseless,
toiling hosts impress one with their power, and one asks--What
forests can stand before such invaders? How is it that vegetation
is not eaten off the face of the earth? Surely nowhere but in the
tropics, where the recuperative powers of nature are immense and
ever active, could such devastation be withstood.

Further acquaintance with the subject will teach the inquirer that,
just as many insects are preserved by being distasteful to
insectivorous birds, so very many of the forest trees are protected
from the ravages of the ants by their leaves either being
distasteful to them, or unfitted for the purpose for which they are
required, whilst some have special means of defence against their
attacks. None of the indigenous trees appear so suitable for them
as the introduced ones. Through long ages the trees and the ants of
tropical America have been modified together. Varieties of plants
that arose unsuitable for the ants have had an immense advantage
over others that were more suitable; and thus through time every
indigenous tree that has survived in the great struggle has done so
because it has had originally, or has acquired, some protection
against the great destroyer. The leaf-cutting ants are confined to
tropical America; and we can easily understand that trees and
vegetables introduced from foreign lands where these ants are
unknown could not have acquired, excepting accidentally, and
without any reference to the ants, any protection against their
attacks, and now they are most eagerly sought by them. Amongst
introduced trees, some species of even the same genus are more
acceptable than others. Thus, in the orange tribe, the lime (Citrus
lemonum) is less liked than the other species; it is the only one
that I ever found growing really wild in Central America: and I
have sometimes thought that even in the short time since the lime
was first introduced, about three hundred years ago, a wild variety
may have arisen, less subject to the attacks of the ants than the
cultivated variety; for in many parts I saw them growing wild, and
apparently not touched. The orange (Citrus aurantium) and the
citron (Citrus medicus), on the other hand, are only found where
they have been planted and protected by man; and, were he to give
up their cultivation, the only species that would ultimately
withstand the attacks of the ants, and obtain a permanent footing
in Central America, would be the lime. The reason why the lime is
not so subject to the attacks of the ants is unknown; and the fact
that it is so is another instance of how little we know why one
species of a particular genus should prevail over another nearly
similar form. A little more or less acridity, or a slight chemical
difference in the composition of the tissues of a leaf, so small
that it is inappreciable to our senses, may be sufficient to ensure
the preservation or the destruction of a species throughout an
entire continent.

The ravages of this ant are so great that it may not be without
interest for me to enter upon some details respecting the means I
took to protect my own garden against their attacks, especially as
the continual warfare I waged against them for more than four years
made me acquainted with much of their wonderful economy.

In June 1869, very soon after the formation of my garden, the
leaf-cutting ants came down upon it, and at once commenced denuding
the young bananas, orange, and mango trees of their leaves. I
followed up the paths of the invading hosts to their nest, which
was about one hundred yards distant, close to the edge of the
forest. The nest was not a very large one, the low mound of earth
covering it being about four yards in diameter. At first I tried to
stop the holes up, but fresh ones were immediately opened out: I
then dug down below the mound, and laid bare the chambers beneath,
filled with ant-food and young ants in every stage of growth; but I
soon found that the underground ramifications extended so far, and
to so great a depth, while the ants were continually at work making
fresh excavations, that it would be an immense task to eradicate
them by such means; and notwithstanding all the digging I had done
the first day, I found them the next as busily at work as ever at
my garden, which they were rapidly defoliating. At this stage, our
medical officer, Dr. J.H. Simpson,* came to my assistance, and
suggested pouring carbolic acid, mixed with water, down their
burrows. (* This gentleman, beloved by all who knew him, of rare
talent, and with every prospect of a prosperous career before him,
died at Jamaica from hydrophobia, between two and three months
after being bitten by a small dog that had not itself shown any
symptoms of that disease.) The suggestion proved a most valuable
one. We had a quantity of common brown carbolic acid, about a pint
of which I mixed with four buckets of water, and, after stirring it
well about, poured it down the burrows; I could hear it rumbling
down to the lowest depths of the formicarium four or five feet from
the surface. The effect was all I could have wished: the marauding
parties were at once drawn off from my garden to meet the new
danger at home. The whole formicarium was disorganised. Big fellows
came stalking up from the cavernous regions below, only to descend
again in the utmost perplexity.

Next day I found them busily employed bringing up the ant-food from
the old burrows, and carrying it to a new one a few yards distant;
and here I first noticed a wonderful instance of their reasoning
powers. Between the old burrows and the new one was a steep slope.
Instead of descending this with their burdens, they cast them down
on the top of the slope, whence they rolled down to the bottom,
where another relay of labourers picked them up and carried them to
the new burrow. It was amusing to watch the ants hurrying out with
bundles of food, dropping them over the slope, and rushing back
immediately for more. They also brought out great numbers of dead
ants that the fumes of the carbolic acid had killed. A few days
afterwards, when I visited the locality again, I found both the old
burrows and the new one entirely deserted, and I thought they had
died off; but subsequent events convinced me that the survivors had
only moved away to a greater distance.

It was fully twelve months before my garden was again invaded. I
had then a number of rose-trees and also cabbages growing, which
the ants seemed to prefer to everything else. The rose-trees were
soon defoliated, and great havoc was made amongst the cabbages. I
followed them to their nest, and found it about two hundred yards
from the one of the year before. I poured down the burrows, as
before, several buckets of water with carbolic acid. The water is
required to carry the acid down to the lowest chambers. The ants,
as before, were at once withdrawn from my garden; and two days
afterwards, on visiting the place, I found all the survivors at
work on one track that led directly to the old nest of the year
before, where they were busily employed making fresh excavations.
Many were bringing along pieces of the ant-food from the old to the
new nests; others carried the undeveloped white pupae and larvae.
It was a wholesale and entire migration; and the next day the
formicarium down which I had last poured the carbolic acid was
entirely deserted. I afterwards found that when much disturbed, and
many of the ants destroyed, the survivors migrate to a new
locality. I do not doubt that some of the leading minds in this
formicarium recollected the nest of the year before, and directed
the migration to it.

Don Francisco Velasquez informed me, in 1870, that he had a powder
which made the ants mad, so that they bit and destroyed each other.
He gave me a little of it, and it proved to be corrosive sublimate.
I made several trials of it, and found it most efficacious in
turning a large column of the ants. A little of it sprinkled across
one of their paths in dry weather has a most surprising effect. As
soon as one of the ants touches the white powder, it commences to
run about wildly, and attack any other ant it comes across. In a
couple of hours, round balls of the ants will be found all biting
each other; and numerous individuals will be seen bitten completely
in two, whilst others have lost some of their legs or antennae.
News of the commotion is carried to the formicarium, and huge
fellows, measuring three-quarters of an inch in length, that only
come out of the nest during a migration or an attack on the nest or
one of the working columns, are seen stalking down with a
determined air, as if they would soon right matters. As soon,
however, as they have touched the sublimate, all their stateliness
leaves them: they rush about; their legs are seized hold of by some
of the smaller ants already affected by the poison; and they
themselves begin to bite, and in a short time become the centres of
fresh balls of rabid ants. The sublimate can only be used
effectively in dry weather. At Colon I found the Americans using
coal tar, which they spread across their paths when any of them led
to their gardens. I was also told that the Indians prevent them
from ascending young trees by tying thick wisps of grass, with the
sharp points downwards, round the stems. The ants cannot pass
through the wisp, and do not find out how to surmount it, getting
confused amongst the numberless blades, all leading downwards. I
mention these different plans of meeting and frustrating the
attacks of the ants at some length, as they are one of the greatest
scourges of tropical America, and it has been too readily supposed
that their attacks cannot be warded off. I myself was enabled, by
using some of the means mentioned above, to cultivate successfully
trees and vegetables of which the ants were extremely fond.


Notwithstanding that these ants are so common throughout tropical
America, and have excited the attention of nearly every traveller,
there still remains much doubt as to the use to which the leaves
are put. Some naturalists have supposed that they use them directly
as food; others, that they roof their underground nests with them.
I believe the real use they make of them is as a manure, on which
grows a minute species of fungus, on which they feed;--that they
are, in reality, mushroom growers and eaters. This explanation is
so extraordinary and unexpected, that I may be permitted to enter
somewhat at length on the facts that led me to adopt it. When I
first began my warfare against the ants that attacked my garden, I
dug down deeply into some of their nests. In our mining operations
we also, on two occasions, carried our excavations from below up
through very large formicariums, so that all their underground
workings were exposed to observation. I found their nests below to
consist of numerous rounded chambers, about as large as a man's
head, connected together by tunnelled passages leading from one
chamber to another. Notwithstanding that many columns of the ants
were continually carrying in the cut leaves, I could never find any
quantity of these in the burrows, and it was evident that they were
used up in some way immediately they were brought in. The chambers
were always about three parts filled with a speckled, brown,
flocculent, spongy-looking mass of a light and loosely connected
substance. Throughout these masses were numerous ants belonging to
the smallest division of the workers, which do not engage in
leaf-carrying. Along with them were pupae and larvae, not gathered
together, but dispersed, apparently irregularly, throughout the
flocculent mass. This mass, which I have called the ant-food,
proved, on examination, to be composed of minutely subdivided
pieces of leaves, withered to a brown colour, and overgrown and
lightly connected together by a minute white fungus that ramified
in every direction throughout it. I not only found this fungus in
every chamber I opened, but also in the chambers of the nest of a
distinct species that generally comes out only in the night-time,
often entering houses and carrying off various farinaceous
substances, and which does not make mounds above its nests, but
long, winding passages, terminating in chambers similar to the
common species, and always, like them, three parts filled with
flocculent masses of fungus-covered vegetable matter, amongst which
are the ant-nurses and immature ants. When a nest is disturbed, and
the masses of ant-food spread about, the ants are in great concern
to carry every morsel of it under shelter again; and sometimes,
when I had dug into a nest, I found the next day all the earth
thrown out filled with little pits that the ants had dug into it to
get out the covered up food. When they migrate from one part to
another, they also carry with them all the ant-food from their old
habitations. That they do not eat the leaves themselves I convinced
myself; for I found near the tenanted chambers, deserted ones
filled with the refuse particles of leaves that had been exhausted
as manure for the fungus, and were now left, and served as food for
larvae of Staphylinidae and other beetles.* (*This theory that the
leaf-cutting ants feed on a fungus which they cultivate has been
confirmed by Mr. Fritz Muller, who had arrived at it independently
in Brazil. His observations on this and various other habits of
insects are contained in a letter to Mr. Charles Darwin, published
in "Nature" of June 11, 1874.)

These ants do not confine themselves to leaves, but also carry off
any vegetable substance that they find suitable for growing the
fungus on. They are very partial to the inside white rind of
oranges, and I have also seen them cutting up and carrying off the
flowers of certain shrubs, the leaves of which they neglected. They
are particular about the ventilation of their underground chambers,
and have numerous holes leading up to the surface from them. These
they open out or close up, apparently to keep up a regular degree
of temperature below. The great care they take that the pieces of
leaves they carry into the nest should be neither too dry nor too
damp, is also consistent with the idea that the object is the
growth of a fungus that requires particular conditions of
temperature and moisture to ensure its vigorous growth. If a sudden
shower should come on, the ants do not carry the wet pieces into
the burrows, but throw them down near the entrances. Should the
weather clear up again, these pieces are picked up when nearly
dried, and taken inside; should the rain, however, continue, they
get sodden down into the ground, and are left there. On the
contrary, in dry and hot weather, when the leaves would get dried
up before they could be conveyed to the nest, the ants, when in
exposed situations, do not go out at all during the hot hours, but
bring in their leafy burdens in the cool of the day and during the
night. As soon as the pieces of leaves are carried in they must be
cut up by the small class of workers into little pieces. I have
never seen the smallest class of ants carrying in leaves; their
duties appear to be inside, cutting them up into smaller fragments,
and nursing the immature ants. I have, however, seen them running
out along the paths with the others; but instead of helping to
carry in the burdens, they climb on the top of the pieces which are
being carried along by the middle-sized workers, and so get a ride
home again. It is very probable that they take a run out merely for
air and exercise. The largest class of what are called workers are,
I believe, the directors and protectors of the others. They are
never seen out of the nest, excepting on particular occasions, such
as the migrations of the ants, and when one of the working columns
or nests is attacked; they then come stalking up, and attack the
enemy with their strong jaws. Sometimes, when digging into the
burrows, one of these giants has unperceived climbed up my dress,
and the first intimation of his presence has been the burying of
his jaws in my neck, from which he would not fail to draw the
blood. The stately observant way in which they stalk about, and
their great size, compared with the others, always impressed me
with the idea that in their bulky heads lay the brains that
directed the community in its various duties. Many of their
actions, such as that I have mentioned of two relays of workmen
carrying out the ant-food, can scarcely be blind instinct. Some of
the ants make mistakes, and carry in unsuitable leaves. Thus grass
is nearly always rejected by them, yet I have seen some ants,
perhaps young ones, carrying in leaves of grass. After a while
these pieces were invariably brought out again and thrown away. I
can imagine a young ant getting a severe earwigging from one of the
major-domos for its stupidity.

I shall conclude this long account of the leaf-cutting ants with an
instance of their reasoning powers. A nest was made near one of our
tramways, and to get to the trees the ants had to cross the rails,
over which the waggons were continually passing and repassing.
Every time they came along a number of ants were crushed to death.
They persevered in crossing for several days, but at last set to
work and tunnelled underneath each rail. One day, when the waggons
were not running, I stopped up the tunnels with stones; but
although great numbers carrying leaves were thus cut off from the
nest, they would not cross the rails, but set to work making fresh
tunnels underneath them. Apparently an order had gone forth, or a
general understanding been come to, that the rails were not to be

These ants do not appear to have many enemies, though I sometimes
found holes burrowed into their nests, probably by the small
armadillo. I once saw a minute parasitic fly hovering over a column
of ants, near a nest, and every now and then darting down and
attaching an egg to one entering. Large, horned beetles (Coelosis
biloba) and a species of Staphylinus are found in the nests, but
probably their larvae live on the rotten leaves, after the ants
have done with them.


Configuration of the ground at Santo Domingo.
Excavation of valleys.
Geology of the district.
Decomposition of the rocks.
Auriferous quartz veins.
Mode of occurrence of the gold.
Lodes richer next the surface than at lower depths.
Excavation and reduction of the ore.
Extraction of the gold.
Origin of mineral veins: their connection with intrusions
   of Plutonic rocks.

THERE is scarcely any level land around Santo Domingo, but in every
direction a succession of hills and valleys. The hills are not
isolated; they run in irregular ranges, having mostly an east and
west direction, but with many modifications in their trend. From
the main valleys numerous auxiliary ones cut deeply into the
ranges, and bifurcate again and again, like the branches of a tree,
forming channels for carrying off the great quantity of water that
falls in these rainy forests. The branching valleys, all leading
into main ones, and these into the rivers, have been excavated by
subaerial agency, and almost entirely by the action of running
water. It is the system that best effects the drainage of the
country, and has been caused by that drainage.

The wearing out of valleys near Santo Domingo proceeds more rapidly
than in regions where less rain falls, and where the rocks are not
so soft and decomposed. Even during the few years I was in
Nicaragua there were some modifications of the surface effected; I
saw the commencement of new valleys, and the widening and
lengthening of others, caused not only by the gradual denudation of
the surface, but by landslips, some of which occur every wet

The rocks of the district are dolerytes, with bands and protrusions
of hard greenstones. The decomposition of the dolerytes is very
great, and extends from the tops of the hills to a depth (as proved
in the mines), of at least two hundred feet. Next the surface they
are often as soft as alluvial clay, and may be cut with a spade.
This decomposition of the rocks near the surface prevails in many
parts of tropical America, and is principally, if not always,
confined to the forest regions. It has been ascribed, and probably
with reason, to the percolation through the rocks of rain-water
charged with a little acid from the decomposing vegetation. If this
be so, the great depth to which it has reached tells of the immense
antiquity of the forests.

Gold-mining at Santo Domingo is confined almost entirely to
auriferous quartz lodes, no alluvial deposits having been found
that will pay for working. The lodes run east and west, and are
nearly perpendicular, sometimes dipping a little to the north,
sometimes a little to the south, and near the surface, generally
turning over towards the face of the hill through which they cut.
The trend of the main ranges, also nearly east and west, is
probably due to the direction of the outcrops of the lodes which
have resisted the action of the elements better than the soft
dolerytes. The quartz veins now form the crests of many of the
ranges, but are everywhere cut through by the lateral valleys. The
beds of doleryte lie at low angles, through which the quartz veins
cut nearly vertically. Excepting that they are very irregular in
thickness, and often branch and send thin offshoots into the
enclosing rocks, they resemble coal seams that have been turned up
on edge, so as to be vertical instead of horizontal. They run for a
great distance. Near Santo Domingo they had been traced for two
miles in length, and probably they extend much further. They are
what are called fissure-veins, owing their origin to cracks or
fractures in the rocks that have been filled up with mineral
substances through chemical, thermal, aqueous, or plutonic
agencies. In depth, the bottom of fissure-veins has never been
reached, and taking into consideration the deep-seated forces
required to produce fissures of such great length and regularity,
we may safely assume that they run for miles deep into the
earth--that their extension vertically is as great as it is
horizontally. The possibility that they extend to immense depths is
increased when we reflect that mineral veins occur in parallel
groups that run with great regularity for hundreds of miles; and
further by the fact that, in all the changes of the earth's
surface, by which deep-seated rocks have been brought up and
exposed by denudation, no instance is known of the bottom of a
fissure-vein having been brought by such movements within the reach
of man.

The gold-mines of Santo Domingo are in veins or loads of auriferous
quartz that run parallel to each other, and are so numerous that
across a band more than a mile in width one may be found every
fifty yards. All that have been worked vary greatly in thickness;
sometimes within a hundred yards a lode will thicken out from one
to seventeen feet. Their auriferous contents vary still more than
their width. The richest ore, worth from one to four ounces per
ton, occurs in irregular patches and bands very small in comparison
with the bulk of the ore stuff, which varies in value from two to
seven pennyweights per ton. The average value of all the ore
treated by the Chontales Mining Company, up to the end of 1871, has
been about seven pennyweights per ton, and during that time small
patches have been met with worth one hundred ounces of gold per
ton. The gold does not occur pure, but is a natural alloy of gold
and silver, containing about three parts of the former to one of
the latter. Besides this metallic alloy (to which, for brevity, I
shall, in the remarks I have to make, give its common designation
of gold), the quartz lodes contain sulphide of silver, peroxide of
manganese, peroxide of iron, sulphides of iron and copper, and
occasionally ores of lead.

The quartz is generally very friable, full of drusy cavities, and
broken up into innumerable small pieces that are often coloured
black by the peroxide of manganese. The gold is in minute grains,
and generally distributed loosely amongst the quartz. Pieces as
large as a pin's head are rare, and specimens of quartz showing the
gold in it are seldom met with, even in the richest portions of a
lode. The fine gold-dust can, however, easily be detected by
washing portions of the lode-stuff in a horn. The quartz and clay
is washed away, and the gold-dust sinks to the bottom, and is
retained in the horn. This is the usual way in which a lode is
tested by the mining agents, and long practice has made them very
expert in valuing the ore by the wash in the "spoon." Although most
of the gold occurs loose, amongst the soft portions of the lode,
the hard quartz also contains it disseminated in minute grains
throughout. These can be obtained in the horn by pounding the
quartz to powder and then washing it.


One feature in the distribution of gold in the quartz lodes of
Santo Domingo led to a most exaggerated opinion of their value when
they were first mined by English companies. On the hills, near the
outcrops of the lodes, the ore was in some places exceedingly rich.
One thousand ounces of gold were obtained from a small patch of ore
near the surface of the Consuelo lode, and at Santo Domingo, San
Benito, San Antonio, and Javali lodes, very rich ore was also
discovered within a few fathoms of the surface. When, however,
these deposits were followed downwards, they invariably got poorer,
and at one hundred feet from the surface, no very rich ore had been
met with. Below that, when the works are prosecuted still deeper,
there does not appear to be any further progressive deterioration
in the value of the ore, and it varies in yield from two to seven
pennyweights of gold per ton, upon which yield further depth does
not seem to have any effect. The cause of these rich deposits near
the surface does not appear to me to be that the lodes originally,
before they were exposed by denudation, contained more gold in
their upper portions than below, but to be the effect of the
decomposition and wearing down of the higher parts, and the
concentration of the gold they contained in the lode below that
worn away. We have seen that in the decomposed parts of the lode
the gold exists in loose fine grains. During the wet season water
percolates freely from the surface down through the lodes, and the
gold set free by the decomposition of the ore at the surface must
be carried down into it, so that in the course of ages, during the
gradual degradation and wearing away of the surface, there has, I
believe, been an accumulation of the loose gold in the upper parts
of the lodes from parts that originally stood much higher, and have
now been worn away by the action of the elements.

This accumulation of loose gold near the surface of auriferous
veins, set at liberty from its matrix by the decomposition of the
ore, and concentrated by degradation, is probably the reason of the
great richness of many of what are called the "caps" of quartz
veins; that is, the parts next the existing surface, and has also,
perhaps, originated the belief that auriferous lodes deteriorate in
value in depth. I at one time, after having studied the auriferous
quartz veins of Australia, advocated this theory, which was first
insisted upon by Sir R.I. Murchison, but further experience in
North Wales, Nova Scotia, Brazil, and Central America has led me to
doubt its correctness, excepting in cases such as we have been
considering, where there has been an accumulation of gold in the
superficial portions of lodes since their original formation. Gold
is distributed in quartz veins in bands, and in patches of richer
stone of more or less extent. These richer portions of the lodes,
if sunk upon perpendicularly, will be passed through, but so also
they would be if followed horizontally, their extent in one
direction being as great as it is in the other. The chances of
meeting with further patches of rich ore in depth, after one has
been passed through, are about the same as they are in driving
horizontally, and the frequency therefore with which the auriferous
ores are met with along the surface will, as a rule, be an index of
their occurrence in depth, if we be careful in distinguishing
deposits belonging to the original condition of the lodes, and
those due to subsequent concentration. To do this we must get below
the immediate surface, and take as our guide the gold occurring in
the solid undecomposed quartz, and not the loose grains contained
in the fissures and cavities.

  Diagram showing method of excavating ore at Santo Domingo Mines.
    A, Levels.
    B, Rise, down which the ore is thrown.
    D, Stopes.
    C, Stopes refilled with clay and barren rock.
  Lowest level, Tramway to Stamps.)

The lodes of Santo Domingo are worked by means of levels driven
from near the bottoms of the valleys that intersect them. When
these levels have entered sufficiently far into the hills, shafts
are driven upwards from them to the surface, and other levels
driven sixty feet higher than the first. This process is continued
until the lode lying above the lowest level has been divided off
into horizontal bands, each about sixty feet in depth. The quartz
is then excavated above the topmost level, and thrown down the
shafts to the lowest, where it is received into waggons and
conveyed to the reduction works. As both the ore and the enclosing
rocks are greatly decomposed and very soft, the whole of the ground
has to be securely timbered as the work proceeds. The levels are
timbered with "nispera," a wood of great durability and strength,
but the excavated portions between them are only temporarily
secured with common soft wood, and at the end of every fortnight
filled up with clay and barren rock. The mining is entirely
executed by native workmen, principally Mestizos from the border
lands of Honduras and Nicaragua, where they have been engaged in
silver-mining. They are paid according to the amount of ground
excavated, and are very industrious when poor; but when they
accumulate a little money, they take fits of idleness and
dissipation until it is spent.

The ore is taken down to the reduction works in waggons that run
down by gravitation, and are drawn up by mules. It is then stamped
to powder by iron beaters, each of which is lifted by cams, and let
fall seventy times per minute. The stamped ore, in the form of fine
sand, is carried by a stream of water over inclined copper plates
covered with mercury, with which is mixed a little metallic sodium.
Nearly the whole of the free gold is caught by the mercury, for
which it has a great affinity, and accumulates as amalgam on the
copper plates, from which it is cleaned off every twelve hours. The
sand and water then pass over inclined tables covered with
blankets, the fibres of which intercept particles of gold and
mercury that have escaped from the first process, and afterwards
into a concentrating box, where the coarsest grains of sand and the
sulphurets of iron, copper, and silver are caught, and with the
sand from the blankets re-treated in arrastres. These arrastres are
round troughs, twelve feet in diameter, paved with stones. Four
large stones of quartz are dragged round and round in this trough,
and grind the coarse sand to fine powder. The gold liberated sinks
into the crevices in the stone pavement, a little mercury being put
into the trough to form it into amalgam. The arrastres and all the
amalgamating apparatus is cleaned up once a month. The amalgam
obtained is squeezed through thin dressed skins, and is then of the
consistence of stiff putty, and of a silver colour. These balls of
amalgam are placed in iron retorts, and the mercury driven off by
heat and condensed again in water. The balls of gold so obtained
are then melted into bars weighing about one hundred ounces each,
and in that state sent to England. At Santo Domingo about two
thousand tons of ore are treated monthly, and the whole cost of
treatment, including all charges for mining, carriage, reduction,
amalgamation, and management, is only about eight shillings per
ton. The loss of mercury is about twenty pounds for every thousand
tons of ore treated; the smallness of the loss in comparison with
that of many other gold-extracting establishments being greatly due
to the employment of sodium in the amalgamating process. The loss
of mercury usually occurring in amalgamation work is principally
caused by its mineralisation, and sodium has such an intense
affinity for oxygen and sulphur, that it reduces the mercury to its
metallic form again, and prevents its being carried off in light
mineralised flakes and powder.

  A, Lode.
  B, Decomposed doleryte.
  C, Surface soil.
  D. Quartz rocks in surface soil.)

The band of auriferous quartz veins worked at Santo Domingo
continues westward for eight miles, as far as the savannahs near
Libertad, and has been largely mined in the neighbourhood of that
town, and between that point and Santo Domingo. Besides the working
of the mines proper, some surface deposits, called by the Spaniards
"Mantos," are also worked for gold, especially in the neighbourhood
of Libertad. The "Mantos" consist of broken quartz, covering the
faces of the hills in the neighbourhood of some of the lodes. In
some places they form a broken but regular stratum over the whole
side of a hill, and I was much puzzled at first to account for
their origin.

I have already mentioned that the lodes near their summit incline
over towards the face of the hill through which they cut. In some
cases, as in the San Antonio mine, the lode is in parts bent
completely round, as shown in the section in Plate 8. This bending
over of the lodes is always towards the face of the hill, and is, I
think, produced by successive small landslips. It is evident that
if carried still further than in the case shown in the diagram, the
lode would be brought down over the face of the hill, and the
result has, I think, been achieved in some places, and a regular
"Manto" produced. I have already stated that small landslips are of
frequent occurrence on the sides of the hills. We had several times
the entrance to our mines temporarily closed by them in the wet

Mr. David Forbes,* (* "Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society"
volume 17.) in his account of the geology of Peru and Bolivia, has
advanced the opinion that auriferous quartz veins belong to two
different systems, one occurring in connection with Granitic, the
other with Diorytic intrusive rocks. In later papers he has shown
that this occurrence of gold is not confined to South America, but
appears to prevail in all parts of the world.* (* "Geological
Magazine" September 1866.) One of the latest writers on the
subject, Mr. R. Daintree, in his "Notes on the Geology of
Queensland", has shown that the auriferous veinstones in that
colony occur in connection with, or in the near vicinity of certain
intrusive trap-rocks, and that even some of the trappean dykes
themselves are auriferous.* (* "Quarterly Journal of the Geological
Society" volume 28 page 308.) Several years ago, I endeavoured to
show that mineral veins in granitic districts occurred in regular
sequences, with certain intrusive rocks, as follows:--first,
Intrusion of main mass of granite; second, Granitic veins; third,
Elvan dykes; and, lastly, Mineral veins, cutting through all the
other intrusive rocks.* (* See "Geological Survey of Canada" pages
141 and 173.) Later observations have led me to conclude that a
similar sequence of events characterised the occurrence of
auriferous quartz veins in connection with the intrusive rocks,
commonly designated Greenstones, in some districts consisting of
diabase, as in North Wales, near Dolgelly; in others of dioryte, as
in Santo Domingo; and in many parts of South America and Australia.
In North Wales we have, firstly, an intrusion of diabase, occurring
in great mountain masses; secondly, Irregular tortuous dykes of
diabase; thirdly, Elvan dykes; and, lastly, auriferous quartz
veins. In every region of intrusive plutonic rocks that has been
thoroughly explored, a similar succession of events, culminating in
the production of mineral veins, has been proved to have taken
place,* (* "Mineral Veins" page 16.) and it appears that the origin
of such veins is the natural result of the plutonic intrusion.
There is, also, sometimes a complete gradation from veins of
perfectly crystallised granite, through others abounding in quartz
at the expense of the other constituents, up to veins filled with
pure quartz, as at Porth Just, near Cape Cornwall; and, again, the
same vein will in some parts be filled with felspar; in others,
contain irregular masses of quartz, apparently the excess of silica
beyond what has been absorbed in the trisilicate compound of
felspar.* (* Mr. John Phillips in "Memoirs, Geological Survey of
Great Britain" volume 2 page 45.) Granitic, porphyritic, and
trappean dykes* also sometimes contain gold and other metals; (*
Sir R.I. Murchison "Siluria" pages 479, 481, 488 and 500; and R.
Daintree "Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society" volume 28
pages 308, 310.) and I think the probability is great that quartz
veins have been filled in the same manner--that if dykes and veins
of granite have been an igneous injection, so have those of quartz.
By an igneous injection, I do not mean that the fused rock owed its
fluidity to dry heat. The celebrated researches of Sorby on the
microscopical fluid cavities in the quartz of granite and quartz
veins, have shown beyond a doubt that the vapour of water was
present in comparatively large quantities when the quartz was
solidifying. All strata below the surface contain water, and if
melted up would still hold it as super-heated steam; and M. Angelot
has suggested that fused rock under great pressure may dissolve
large quantities of the vapour of water, just as liquids dissolve
gases. The presence of the vapour of water would cause the
liquefaction of quartz at a much lower temperature than would be
possible by heat alone, unaided by water.* (* H.C. Sorby "Journal
of the Geological Society" volume 14.) I know that this opinion is
contrary to that usually held by geologists, the theory generally
accepted being that mineral veins have been produced by deposits
from hot springs; but during twenty years I have been engaged in
auriferous quartz-mining in various parts of the world, and nowhere
have I met with lodes, the phenomena of which could be explained on
this hypothesis. The veinstone is pure quartz containing water in
microscopical cavities, as in the quartz crystals of granite, but
not combined as in the hydrous siliceous sinter deposited from hot
springs. The lodes are not ribboned, but consist of quartz, jointed
across from side to side, exactly like trappean dykes. There is
often a banded arrangement produced by the repeated re-opening and
filling of the same fissure; but never, in quartz veins, a regular
filling up from the sides towards the centre, as in veins produced
by deposits from springs. Quartz veins extend sometimes for miles,
and it is necessary to suppose on the hydro-thermal theory that the
fissures remained open sufficiently long for the gradual deposition
of the veinstones, without the soft and shattered rocks at their
sides falling in, nor yet fragments from above; although there are
many lodes, fully twenty feet in width, filled entirely with quartz
and mineral ores, without any included fragments of fallen rocks,
and nowhere showing any trace of regular deposition on the sides.
The gold also found in auriferous lodes is never pure, but forms
varies alloys of gold, silver, copper, lead, iron, and bismuth; and
no way is known of producing these alloys except by fusion.

It is true that mineral veins contain many minerals that could not
exist together undecomposed with even a moderate degree of heat;
but it is only here contended that the original filling of the
lodes was an igneous injection, not that the present arrangement
and composition of all the minerals is due to the same action.
Since the lodes were first filled they have been subjected to every
variety of hydro-thermal and aqueous influence; for the cooling of
the heated rocks must have been a slow process, and undoubtedly the
veins have often been the channels both for the passage of hot
water and steam from the interior, and of cold water charged with
carbonic acid and carbonate of lime from the surface, and many
changes must have taken place. Auriferous quartz veins have
resisted these influences better than others, because neither the
veinstone nor the metal is easily altered, and such veins therefore
form better guides for the study of the origin of mineral lodes
than fissures filled with calc spar and ores of the baser metals,
all readily dissolved and re-formed by hydro-thermal agencies. Our
mineralogical museums are filled with beautiful specimens of
crystals of quartz, fluor spar, and various ores deposited one on
the other; and the student who confines his attention to these is
naturally led to believe that he sees before him the process by
which mineral veins have been filled. But the miner, working far
underground, knows that such crystals are only found in cavities
and fissures, and that the normal arrangement of the minerals is
very different. The deposition of various spars one on the other in
cavities is a secondary operation even now going on, and has
nothing necessarily to do with the original filling of the lodes;
indeed, their arrangement is so different that it helps to prove
they have been differently formed.

It would take a volume to discuss this question in all its
bearings, and as I have already entered more fully into it in
another place,* (* "Mineral Veins" by Thomas Belt. John Weale 1861.
) I shall only now give a brief resume of the conclusions I have
arrived at respecting the origin of mineral veins.

1. Sedimentary strata have been carried down, by movements of the
earth's crust, far below the surface, covered by other deposits,
and subjected to great heat, which, aided by the water contained in
the rocks and various chemical reactions, has effected a
re-arrangement of the mineral contents of the strata, so that by
molecular movements, the metamorphic crystalline rocks, including
interstratified granites and greenstones, have been formed.

2. Carried to greater depths and subjected to more intense heat,
the strata have been completely fused, and the liquid or pasty
mass, invading the contorted strata above it, has formed perfectly
crystalline intrusive granites and greenstones.

3. As the heated rocks cooled from their highest parts downwards,
cracks or fissures have been formed in them by contraction, and
these have been filled from the still-fluid mass below. At the
beginning these injections have been the same as the first massive
intrusive rocks, either granite or greenstone; but as the rocks
gradually cooled, the fissures reached greater and greater depths;
and the lighter constituents having been drawn off and exhausted,
only the heavier molten silica, mingled with metallic and aqueous
vapours, has been left, and with these the last-formed and deepest
fissures have been filled. These injections never reached to the
surface--probably never beyond the area of heated rocks; so that
there have been no overflows from them, and they have only been
exposed by subsequent great upheaval and denudation.

4. Probably the molten matter was injected into the fissures of
rocks already greatly heated, and the cooling of these rocks has
been prolonged over thousands of years, during which the lodes have
been exposed to every degree of heat, from that of fusion to their
present normal temperature. During the slow upheaval and denudation
of the lodes, they have been subjected to various chemical,
hydro-thermal, and aqueous agencies, by which many of their
contents have been re-arranged and re-formed, new minerals have
been brought in by percolation of water from the surrounding rocks,
and possibly some of the original contents have been carried out by
mineral springs rising through the lines of fissures which are not
completely sealed by the igneous injection, as the contraction of
the molten matter in cooling has left cracks and crevices through
which water readily passes.

5. Some of the fissures may have been re-opened since they were
raised beyond the reach of molten matter, and the new rent may have
been filled by hydro-thermal or aqueous agencies, and may contain,
along with veinstones of calcite derived from neighbouring beds of
limestone, some minerals due to a previous igneous injection.
Crevices and cavities, called "vughs" by the miners, have been
filled more or less completely with crystals of fluor spar, quartz,
and various ores of metals from true aqueous solutions, or by the
action of super-heated steam.

6. By these means the signs of the original filling of many mineral
lodes, especially those of the baser metals, have been obscured or
obliterated; but in auriferous quartz lodes both the metal and the
veinstone have generally resisted all these secondary agencies, and
are presented to us much the same as they were first deposited,
excepting that the associated minerals have been altered, and in
some cases new ones introduced, by the passage of hot springs from
below or percolation of water from the surface.


Climate of the north-eastern side of Nicaragua.
Excursions around Santo Domingo.
The Artigua.
Corruption of ancient names.
Butterflies, spiders, and wasps.
Humming-birds, beetles, and ants.
Plants and trees.
Monkey attacked by eagle.
White-faced monkey.
Anecdotes of a tame one.
Curassows and other game birds.
Trogons, woodpeckers, mot-mots, and toucans.

THE climate of Santo Domingo and of the whole north-eastern side of
Nicaragua is a very damp one. The rains set in in May, and continue
with occasional intermission until the following January, when the
dry season of a little more than three months begins. Even during
the short-lived summer there are occasional rains, so that although
the roads dry up, vegetation never does, the ground in the woods is
ever moist, and the brooks perennial. In the shady forest,
mosquitoes and sand-flies are rather troublesome; but the large
cleared space about the houses of the mining company is almost free
from them, and in the beautiful light evenings one can sit under
the verandahs undisturbed, watching the play of the moonbeams on
the silky leaves of the bananas, the twinkling north star just
peeping over the range in front, with "Charlie's Wain" in the upper
half of its endless circlings, whilst in the opposite direction the
eye rests on the beautiful constellations of the southern
hemisphere. On the darkest nights innumerable fire-flies flash
their intermittent lights as they pass amongst the low bushes or
herbage, making another twinkling firmament on earth. On other
evenings, sitting inside with lighted candles and wide opened
doors, great bats flap inside, make a round of the apartment, and
pass out again, whilst iris-winged moths, attracted by the light,
flit about the ceiling, or long-horned beetles flop down on the
table. In this way I made my first acquaintance with many
entomological rarities.* (* In moths, numerous fine Sphingidae and
Bombycidae; and in beetles, amongst many others, the rare Xestia
nitida (Bates) and Hexoplon albipenne (Bates) were first described
from these evening captures.)

The heaviest rains fall in July and August, and at these times the
brooks are greatly swollen. The one in front of my house sometimes
carried away the little wooden bridge that crossed it, and for an
hour or two became impassable, but subsided again almost as soon as
the heavy rain ceased falling, for the watershed above does not
extend far. Every year our operations were impeded by runs in the
mines, or by small landslips stopping up our tramways and levels,
or floods carrying away our dam or breaking our watercourses; but
after August we considered our troubles on this score at an end for
the season. Occasionally the rains lasted three or four days
without intermission, but generally they would come on in the
afternoon, and there would be a downpour, such as is only seen in
the tropics, for an hour or two, then some clear weather, until
another great bank of clouds rolled up from the north-east and sent
down another deluge. In September, October, and November there are
breaks of fine weather, sometimes lasting for a fortnight; but
December is generally a very wet month, the rains extending far
into January, so that it is not until February that the roads begin
to dry up.

I had much riding about. The mines worked by us, when I first went
out, extended from Consuelo, a mile higher up the valley, to Pavon,
a mile below Santo Domingo; and even after I had concentrated our
operations on those nearer to our reduction works, there were many
occasions for me to ride into the woods. I had to look after our
wood-cutters and charcoal-burners, to see that they did not
encroach upon the lands of our neighbours, as they were inclined to
do, and involve us in squabbles and lawsuits; paths had to be
opened out, to bring in nispera and cedar timber, our property
surveyed, and new mines, found in the woods, visited and explored.
Besides this, I spent most of my spare time in the forest, which
surrounded us on every side. Longer excursions were frequent. The
Nicaraguans, like all Spanish Americans, are very litigious, and
every now and then I would be summoned, as the representative of
the company, to appear at Libertad, Juigalpa, or Acoyapo, to answer
some frivolous complaint, generally made with the expectation of
extorting money, but entertained and probably remanded from time to
time by unscrupulous judges, who are so badly paid by the
government that they have to depend upon the fees of suitors for
their support, and are much open to corruption. These rides and
strolls into the woods were very fruitful in natural-history
acquisitions and observations. I shall give an account of some of
those made in the immediate vicinity of Santo Domingo, and I wish I
could transfer to my readers some of the pleasure that they
afforded me. They gave the relief that enabled me to carry on for
years an incessant struggle, under great difficulties, to bring the
mines into a paying state, continually hampered for want of
sufficient capital, with most inadequate machinery, and all the
annoyances, delays, and disappointments inevitable in carrying on
such a precarious enterprise as gold-mining far in the interior of
a half-civilised country.

The brook that ran at the foot of the bank below my house, and
there called the "Quebrada de Santo Domingo," is dignified half a
mile lower down, after passing the mines of the Javali Company and
receiving the waters of another brook coming down from the
westward, by the name of the Javali river. The Indians, however,
both at the Indian village of Carca, seven miles back in the
mountains, and those lower down the river itself, call it "Artigua."
The preservation of these old Indian names is important, as they
might some time or other throw considerable light on the early
inhabitants of the country. In all parts of the world the names of
mountains, valleys, lakes, and rivers are among the most certain
memorials of the ancient inhabitants. The reason the names of the
natural features of a country remain unchanged under the sway of
successive nations, speaking totally different languages, appears
to be this. The successful invaders of a country, even in the most
cruel times, never exterminated the people they conquered; at the
least, the young women were spared. The conquerors established
their own language, and to everything they had known in their own
land they gave their own names; but to things quite new to them,
which nearly always included the mountains, valleys, lakes, and
rivers, and often the towns and many of the natural productions,
they accepted the existing names from the survivors of the
conquered people. Often the names were corrupted, the new
inhabitants altering them just a little, to render their
pronunciation easier, or to make them significant in their own
language. Thus the fruit of the Persea gratissima was called
"ahuacatl" by the ancient Mexicans; the Spaniards corrupted it to
"avocado," which means an advocate; and our sailors still further,
to "alligator pears." The town of Comelapa, in Chontales, the name
of which means, in Spanish, "Eat a macaw," is undoubtedly a
corruption of some old Indian name of similar form to that of the
neighbouring village of Comoapa, although the Spaniards give an
absurd explanation of it, evidently invented, according to which it
was so called because a sick man was cured of a deadly disease by
eating the bird indicated.

The Artigua--I shall call it so, to do what I can to save the name
from oblivion--is woefully polluted by the gold-mining on its
banks, and flows, a dark muddy stream, through the village of Santo
Domingo, and just below it precipitates itself one hundred and
twenty feet over a rocky fall. One of the forest roads leads down
its banks for several miles to some small clearings, where a few
scattered, Spanish-speaking Indians and half-breeds cultivate maize
and plantains. After leaving Santo Domingo, it at first follows the
left bank of the stream, through low bushes and small trees of
second growth, then crosses a beautiful clear brook coming down
from the east, and finally winding round a slope covered with great
trees and dense undergrowth, reaches the site chosen for the
machinery at Pavon, where a large space has been cleared, much of
which is covered with grass. After descending a steep hill, the
Artigua, with its muddy water, is crossed. Here, in the dry season,
in the hot afternoons, the wet sandy banks were the favourite
resorts of multitudes of butterflies, that gathered in great masses
on particular moist spots in such numbers that with one swoop of my
net I have enclosed more than thirty in its gauzy folds. These
butterflies were principally different species of Callidryas,
yellow and white, mixed with brown and red species of Timetes,
which, when disturbed, rose in a body and circled about; on the
ground, looking like a bouquet; when rising, like a fountain of
flowers. In groups, by themselves, would be five or six specimens
of yellow and black Papilios, greedily sucking up the moisture, and
vibrating their wings, now and then taking short flights and
settling again to drink. Hesperidae, too, abounded; and in a
favourable afternoon more than twenty different species of
butterflies might be taken at these spots, the finest being a
lovely white, green, and black swallow-tailed Papilio, the first
capture of which filled me with delight. Near the river were some
fallen-down wooden sheds, partly overgrown with a red-flowered
vine. Here a large spider (Nephila) built strong yellow silken
webs, joined one on to the other, so as to make a complete curtain
of web, in which were entangled many large butterflies, generally
forest species, caught when flying across the clearing. I was at
first surprised to find that the kinds that frequent open places
were not caught, although they abounded on low white-flowered
shrubs close to the webs; but, on getting behind them, and trying
to frighten them within the silken curtain, their instinct taught
them to avoid it, for, although startled, they threaded their way
through open spaces and between the webs with the greatest ease. It
was one instance of many I have noticed of the strong instinct
implanted in insects to avoid their natural enemies. I shall
mention two others. The Heliconidae, a tribe of butterflies
peculiar to tropical America, with long, narrow, weak wings, are
distasteful to most animals: I have seen even spiders drop them out
of their webs again; and small monkeys, which are extremely fond of
insects, will not eat them, as I have proved over and over again.
Probably, in consequence of this special protection, they have not
needed stronger wings, and hence their weak flight. They are also
very bold, allowing one to walk close up to flowers on which they
alight. There is one genus with transparent wings that frequents
the white-flowered shrubs in the clearings, and I have sometimes
advanced my hand within six inches of them without frightening
them. There is, however, a yellow and black banded wasp that
catches them to store his nest with; and whenever one of these came
about, they would rise fluttering in the air, where they were safe,
as I never saw the wasp attack them on the wing. It would hawk
round the groups of shrubs, trying to pounce on one unawares; but
their natural dread of this foe made it rather difficult to do so.
When it did catch one, it would quietly bite off its wings, roll it
up into a ball, and fly off with it. Again, the cockroaches that
infest the houses of the tropics are very wary, as they have
numerous enemies--birds, rats, scorpions, and spiders: their long,
trembling antennae are ever stretched out, as if feeling the very
texture of the air around them; and their long legs quickly take
them out of danger. Sometimes I tried to chase one of them up to a
corner where on the wall a large cockroach-eating spider stood
motionless, looking out for his prey; the cockroach would rush away
from me in great fear; but as soon as it came within a foot of its
mortal foe nothing would force it onwards, but back it would
double, facing all the danger from me rather than advance nearer to
its natural enemy.

To return to the spiders. Besides the large owner and manufacturer
of each web who was stationed near its centre, there were on the
outskirts several very small ones, belonging, I think, to two
different species. I sometimes threw a fly into one of the webs.
The large spider would seize it and commence sucking its blood. The
small ones, attracted by the sight of the prey, would advance
cautiously from the circumference, but generally stop short about
halfway up the web, evidently afraid to come within reach of the
owner; thus having to content themselves with looking at the
provisions, like hungry urchins nosing the windows of an
eating-house. Sometimes a more audacious one would advance closer,
but the owner would, when it came within reach, quickly lift up one
of its feet and strike at it, like a feeding horse kicking at
another that came near its provender, and the intruder would have
to retire discomfited. These little spiders probably fed on minute
insects entangled in the web, too small for the consideration of
the huge owner, to whom they may be of assistance in clearing it.

(PLATE 9. HUMMING-BIRDS (Florisuga mellivora, LINN.).)


Soon after crossing the muddy Artigua below Pavon, a beautifully
clear and sparkling brook is reached, coming down to join its pure
waters with the soiled river below. In the evening this was a
favourite resort of many birds that came to drink at the pellucid
stream, or catch insects playing above the water. Amongst the last
was the beautiful blue, green, and white humming-bird (Florisuga
mellivora, Linn.); the head and neck deep metallic-blue, bordered
on the back by a pure white collar over the shoulders, followed by
deep metallic-green; on the underside the blue neck is succeeded by
green, the green from the centre of the breast to the end of the
tail by pure white; the tail can be expanded to a half circle, and
each feather widening towards the end makes the semicircle complete
around the edge. When catching the ephemeridae that play above the
water, the tail is not expanded: it is reserved for times of
courtship. I have seen the female sitting quietly on a branch, and
two males displaying their charms in front of her. One would shoot
up like a rocket, then suddenly expanding the snow-white tail like
an inverted parachute, slowly descend in front of her, turning
round gradually to show off both back and front. The effect was
heightened by the wings being invisible from a distance of a few
yards, both from their great velocity of movement and from not
having the metallic lustre of the rest of the body. The expanded
white tail covered more space than all the rest of the bird, and
was evidently the grand feature in the performance. Whilst one was
descending, the other would shoot up and come slowly down,
expanded. The entertainment ended in a fight between the two
performers; but whether the more beautiful or the more pugnacious
were the accepted suitor, I know not. Another fine humming-bird
seen about this brook was the long-billed, fire-throated
Heliomaster pallidiceps (Gould), generally engaged in probing long
narrow-throated red flowers, forming, with their attractive nectar,
complete traps for the small insects on which the humming-birds
principally feed, the bird returning the favour by carrying the
pollen of one flower to another. A third species, also seen at this
brook, Petasophora delphinae, Less., is of a dull brown colour,
with brilliant purple ear-feathers and metallic-green throat. Both
it and Florisuga mellivora are short billed, generally catching
flying insects, and do not frequent flowers so much as other
humming-birds. I have seen the Petasophora fly into the centre of a
dancing column of midges and rapidly darting first at one and then
at another, secure half-a-dozen of the tiny flies before the column
was broken up; then retire to a branch and wait until it was
re-formed, when it made another sudden descent on them. A fourth
species (Heliothrix barroti, Bourc.), brilliant green above, white
below, with a shining purple crest, has also a short bill, and I
never saw it about flowers, but always hovering underneath leaves
and searching for the small soft-bodied spiders that are found
there. Two of them that I examined had these spiders in their
crops. I have no doubt many humming-birds suck the honey from
flowers, as I have seen it exude from their bills when shot, but
others do not frequent them. The principal food of all is small
insects. I have examined scores of them, and never without finding
insects in their crops. Their generally long bills have been spoken
of by some naturalists as tubes into which they suck the honey by a
piston-like movement of the tongue; but suction in the usual way
would be just as effective; and I am satisfied that this is not the
primary use of the tongue, nor of the mechanism which enables it to
be exserted to a great length beyond the end of the bill. The
tongue, for one-half of its length, is semi-horny and cleft in two,
the two halves are laid flat against each other when at rest, but
can be separated at the will of the bird and form a delicate
pliable pair of forceps, most admirably adapted for picking out
minute insects from amongst the stamens of the flowers. The
woodpecker, which has a similar extensile mechanism for exserting
its tongue to a great length, also uses it to procure its food--in
its case soft grubs from holes in rotten trees--and to enable it to
pull these out, the end of the tongue is sharp and horny, and
barbed with short stiff recurved bristles.

Continuing down the river, the road again crosses it, and enters on
the primeval forest almost untouched by the hand of man, excepting
in spots where the trees that furnish the best charcoal have been
cut down by the charcoal-burners, or a gigantic isolated cedar
(Cedrela odorata) has been felled for shingles, bringing down in
its fall a number of the neighbouring trees entangled in the great
bush ropes. Such open spots, letting in the sunshine into the thick
forests, were favourite stopping-places; for numerous butterflies
frequent them, all beautiful and most varied in their colours and
marking. The fallen trees, too, are the breeding-places of
multitudes of beetles, whose larvae riddle them with holes. Some
beetles frequent different varieties of timber, others are peculiar
to a single tree. The most noticeable of these beetles are the
numerous longicorns, to the collection of which I paid a great deal
of attention, and brought home more than three hundred species.
More than one-half of these were new to science, and have been
described by Mr. Bates. To show how prolific the locality was in
insect life, I need only state that about two hundred and ninety of
the species were taken within a radius of four miles, having on one
side the savannahs near Pital, on the other the ranges around Santo
Domingo. Some run and fly only in the daytime, others towards
evening and in the short twilight; but the great majority issue
from their hiding-places only in the night-time, and during the day
lie concealed in withered leaves, beneath fallen logs, under bark,
and in crevices amongst the moss growing on the trunks of trees, or
even against the bare trunk, protected from observation by their
mottled brown, grey, and greenish tints--assimilating in colour and
appearance to the bark of the tree. Up and down the fallen timber
would stalk gigantic black ants, one inch in length, provided with
most formidable stings, and disdaining to run away from danger.
They are slow and stately in their movements, seeming to prey
solely on the slow-moving wood-borers, which they take at a great
disadvantage when half buried in their burrows, and bear off in
their great jaws. They appear to use their sting only as a
defensive weapon; but other smaller species that hunt singly, and
are very agile, use their stings to paralyse their prey. I once saw
one of these on the banks of the Artigua chasing a wood-louse
(Oniscus), very like our common English species, on a nearly
perpendicular slope. The wood-louse, when the ant got near it, made
convulsive springs, throwing itself down the slope, whilst the ant
followed, coursing from side to side, and examining the ground with
its vibrating antennae. The actions of the wood-louse resembled
that of the hunted hare trying to throw the dog off its scent, and
the ant was like the dog in its movements to recover the trail. At
last the wood-louse reached the bottom of the slope, and concealed
itself amongst some leaves; but the ant soon discovered it,
paralysed it with a sting, and was running away with it, turned
back downwards, beneath itself, when I secured the hunter for my
collection. All these ants that hunt singly have the eyes well
developed, and thus differ greatly from the Ecitons, or army ants.

The road, continuing down the Artigua, crosses it again, winds away
from it, then comes to it again, at a beautiful rocky spot overhung
by trees; the banks covered with plants and shrubs, and the rocks
with a great variety of ferns, whilst a babbling, clear brook comes
down from the ranges to the right. Some damp spots near the river
are covered with a carpet of a beautiful variegated, velvety-leaved
plant (Cyrtodeira chontalensis) with a flower like an achimenes,
whilst the dryer slopes bear melastomae and a great variety of
dwarf palms, amongst which the Sweetie (Geonoma sp.), used for
thatching houses, is the most abundant. About here grows a species
of cacao (Herrania purpurea) differing from the cultivated species
(Theobroma cacao). Amongst the larger trees is the "cortess,"
having a wood as hard as ebony, and at the end of March entirely
covered with brilliant yellow flowers, unrelieved by any green, the
tree casting its leaves before flowering. The great yellow domes
may be distinguished amongst the dark green forest at the distance
of five or six miles. Near at hand they are absolutely dazzling
when the sun is shining on them; and when they shed their flowers,
the ground below is carpeted as with gold. Another valuable timber
tree, the "nispera" (Achras sapota), is also common, growing on the
dryer ridges. It attains to a great size, and its timber is almost
indestructible, so that we used it in the construction of all our
permanent works. White ants do not eat it, nor, excepting when
first cut, and before it is barked, do any of the wood-boring
beetles. It bears a round fruit about the size of an apple, hard
and heavy when green, and at this time is much frequented by the
large yellowish-brown spider-monkeys (Ateles), which roam over the
tops of the trees in bands of from ten to twenty. Sometimes they
lay quiet until I was passing underneath, and then shaking a branch
of the nispera tree, they would send down a shower of the hard
round fruit. Fortunately I was never struck by them. As soon as I
looked up, they would commence yelping and barking, and putting on
the most threatening gestures, breaking off pieces of branches and
letting them fall, and shaking off more fruit, but never throwing
anything, simply letting it fall. Often, when on lower trees, they
would hang from the branches two or three together, holding on to
each other and to the branch with their fore feet and long tail,
whilst their hind feet hung down, all the time making threatening
gestures and cries. Occasionally a female would be seen carrying a
young one on its back, to which it clung with legs and tail, the
mother making its way along the branches, and leaping from tree to
tree, apparently but little encumbered with its baby. A large black
and white eagle is said to prey upon them, but I never witnessed
this, although I was constantly falling in with troops of the
monkeys. Don Francisco Velasquez, one of our officers, told me that
one day he heard a monkey crying out in the forest for more than
two hours, and at last, going to see what was the matter, he saw
one on a branch and an eagle beside it trying to frighten it to
turn its back, when it would have seized it. The monkey, however,
kept its face to its foe, and the eagle did not care to engage with
it in this position, but probably would have tired it out.
Velasquez fired at the eagle, and frightened it away. I think it
likely from what I have seen of the habits of the spider-monkeys
that they defend themselves from this peril by keeping two or three
together, thus assisting each other, and that it is only when the
eagle finds one separated from its companions that it dares to
attack it.

Sometimes, but more rarely, we would fall in with a troop of the
white-faced cebus monkey, rapidly running away, throwing themselves
from tree to tree. This monkey feeds also partly on fruit, but is
incessantly on the look-out for insects, examining the crevices in
trees and withered leaves, seizing the largest beetles and munching
them up with great relish. It is also very fond of eggs and young
birds, and must play havoc amongst the nestlings. Probably owing to
its carnivorous habits, its flesh is not considered so good by
monkey-eaters as that of the fruit-feeding spider-monkey, but I
never myself tried either. It is a very intelligent and mischievous
animal. I kept one for a long time as a pet, and was much amused
with its antics. At first, I had it fastened with a light chain;
but it managed to open the links and escape several times, and then
made straight for the fowls' nest, breaking every egg it could get
hold of. Generally, after being an hour or two loose, it would
allow itself to be caught again. I tried tying it up with a cord,
and afterwards with a raw-hide thong, but had to nail the end, as
it could loosen any knot in a few minutes. It would sometimes
entangle itself round a pole to which it was fastened, and then
unwind the coils again with great discernment. Its chain allowed it
to swing down below the verandah, but it could not reach to the
ground. Sometimes, when there were broods of young ducks about, it
would hold out a piece of bread in one hand, and, when it had
tempted a duckling within reach, seize it by the other, and kill it
with a bite in the breast. There was such an uproar amongst the
fowls on these occasions, that we soon knew what was the matter,
and would rush out and punish Mickey (as we called him) with a
switch, which ultimately cured him of his poultry-killing
propensities. Once, when whipping him, I held up the dead duckling
in front of him, and at each blow of the light switch told him to
take hold of it, and at last, much to my surprise, he did so,
taking it and holding it tremblingly in one hand. He would draw
things towards him with a stick, and even use a swing for the same
purpose. It had been put up for the children, and could be reached
by Mickey, who now and then indulged himself with a swing on it.
One day, I had put down some bird-skins on a chair to dry, far
beyond, as I thought, Mickey's reach; but, fertile in expedients,
he took the swing and launched it towards the chair, and actually
managed to knock the skins off in the return of the swing, so as to
bring them within his reach. He also procured some jelly that was
set out to cool in the same way. Mickey's actions were very
human-like. When any one came near to fondle him, he never
neglected the opportunity of pocket-picking. He would pull out
letters, and quickly take them from their envelopes. Anything
eatable disappeared into his mouth immediately. Once he abstracted
a small bottle of turpentine from the pocket of our medical
officer. He drew the cork, held it first to one nostril then to the
other, made a wry face, recorked it, and returned it to the doctor.
Another time, when he got loose, he was detected carrying off the
cream-jug from the table, holding it upright with both hands, and
trying to move off on his hind limbs. He gave the jug up without
spilling a drop, all the time making an apologetic grunting chuckle
he often used when found out in any mischief, and which meant, "I
know I have done wrong, but don't punish me; in fact, I did not
mean to do it--it was accidental." Whenever, however, he saw he was
going to be punished, he would change his tone to a shrill,
threatening note, showing his teeth, and trying to intimidate. He
had quite an extensive vocabulary of sounds, varying from a gruff
bark to a shrill whistle; and we could tell by them, without seeing
him, when it was he was hungry, eating, frightened, or menacing;
doubtless, one of his own species would have understood various
minor shades of intonation and expression that we, not entering so
fully into his feelings and wants, passed over as unintelligible.*
There is a third species of monkey (Mycetes palliatus), called by
the natives the congo, which occasionally is heard howling in the
forest; but they are not often seen, as they generally remain quiet
amongst the upper branches of particular trees.

[* Mickey came into Belt's possession in rather an interesting way.
He belonged to the well-known German botanist Dr. Seemann, who was
the manager at that time of the neighbouring Javali mine. Seemann
died at Javali; and when Belt went to read the Burial Service over
him, as was his custom upon the death of any European, the monkey
sprang upon him and, seizing him by the neck, clung to him with all
his might. So determined was he to adopt Belt as his protector that
the matter ended by his being taken back to Chontales where he
lived in great contentment.

This frantic clinging to some one for protection was always the
conclusion of Mickey's short experiences of freedom. He probably
did not find his captivity at all irksome, for on getting loose
from his chain he made no attempt to escape into the adjoining
forest, but contented himself with running round and round the
house and garden thoroughly enjoying the hue and cry after him. But
becoming either alarmed at or weary of his escapade, he always
ended by making a rush for the eldest of the children whom he half
throttled with his sinewy little arms while offering voluble
excuses in his own language. On one occasion, however, it was
feared that Mickey was really gone, for, contrary to all precedent,
he had left the garden and betaken himself to the forest where of
course all trace of him was at once lost. But after nightfall a
pattering of small feet was heard in the passage, and there was
Mickey with a very woe-begone and penitent expression on his white
face, asking to be received and forgiven.]

One day, when riding down this path, I came upon a pack of pisotes
(Nasua fusca, Desm.), a raccoon-like animal, that ascends all the
small trees, searching for birds' nests and fruits. There were not
less than fifty in the pack I saw, and nothing seemed likely to
escape their search in the track they were travelling. Sometimes
solitary specimens of the pisoti are met with, hunting alone in the
forest. I once saw one near Juigalpa, ascending tree after tree,
and climbing every branch, apparently in search of birds' nests.
They are very fond of eggs; and the tame ones, which are often kept
as pets, play havoc amongst the poultry when they get loose. They
are about the size of a hare, with a taper snout, strong tusks, a
thick hairy coat, and bushy tail. When passing down this road, I at
times saw the fine curl-crested curassow (Crax globicera), as large
as a turkey, jet black, excepting underneath. This kind would
always take to the trees, and was easy to shoot, and as good eating
as it was noble in appearance. The female is a very
different-looking bird from the male, being of a fine brown colour.
Dr. Sclater, in a paper read before the Zoological Society of
London, June 17th, 1873, stated that in the South and Central
American species of Crax there is a complete gradation from a
species in which the sexes scarcely differ, through others in which
they differ more and more, until in Crax globicera they are quite
distinctly coloured, and have been described as different species.
The natives call them "pavones," and often keep them tame; but I
never heard of them breeding in confinement. Another fine game bird
is a species of Penelope, called by the natives "pavos." It feeds
on the fruits of trees, and I never saw it on the ground. A
similar, but much smaller, bird, called "chachalakes," is often met
with in the low scrub.

Mountain hens (species of Tinamus) were not uncommon, about the
size of a plump fowl, and tasting like a pheasant. There were also
two species of grouse and a ground pigeon, all good eating.

Amongst the smaller birds were trogons, mot-mots, toucans, and
woodpeckers. The trogons are general feeders. I have taken from
their crops the remains of fruits, grasshoppers, beetles, termites,
and even small crabs and land shells. Three species are not
uncommon in the forest around Santo Domingo. In all of them the
females are dull brown or slaty black on the back and neck, these
parts being beautiful bronze green in the males. The largest
species (Trogon massena, Gould) is one foot in length, dark bronze
green above, with the smaller wing feathers speckled white and
black, and the belly of a beautiful carmine. Sometimes it sits on a
branch above where the army ants are foraging below; and when a
grasshopper or other large insect flies up and alights on a leaf,
it darts after it, picks it up, and returns to its perch. I found
them breaking into the nests of the termites with their strong
bills, and eating the large soft-bodied workers; and it was from
the crop of this species that I took the remains of a small crab
and a land shell (Helicina). Of the two smaller species, one
(Trogon atricollis, Vieill.) is bronze green above, with speckled
black and white wings, belly yellow, and under feathers of the tail
white, barred with black. The other (Trogon caligatus, Gould) is
rather smaller, of similar colours, excepting the head, which is
black, and a dark blue collar round the neck. Both species take
short, quick, jerky flights, and are often met with along with
flocks of other birds--fly-catchers, tanagers, creepers,
woodpeckers, etc., that hunt together, traversing the forests in
flocks of hundreds together, belonging to more than a score
different species; so that whilst they are passing over, the trees
seem alive with them. Mr. Bates has mentioned similar gregarious
flocks met with by him in Brazil; and I never went any distance
into the woods around Santo Domingo without seeing them. The reason
of their association together may be partly for protection, as no
rapacious bird or mammal could approach the flock without being
discovered by one or other of them, but the principal reason
appears to be that they play into each other's hands in their
search for food. The creepers and woodpeckers and others drive the
insects out of their hiding-places under bark, amongst moss, and in
withered leaves. The fly-catchers and trogons sit on branches and
fly after the larger insects, the fly-catchers taking them on the
wing, the trogons from off the leaves on which they have settled.
In the breeding season, the trogons are continually calling out to
each other, and are thus easily discovered. They are called "viduas,"
that is, "widows," by the Spaniards.

Woodpeckers are often seen along with the hunting flocks of birds,
especially a small one (Centrurus pucherani, Mahl), with red and
yellow head and speckled back. This species feeds on fruits, as
well as on grubs taken out of dead trees. A large red-crested
species is common near recently-made clearings, and I successively
met with one of an elegant chocolate-brown colour, and another
brown with black spots on the back and breast, with a
lighter-coloured crested head (Celeus castaneus, Wagl.).

Of the mot-mots, I met with four species in the forest, all more or
less olive green in colour (Momotus martii and lessoni, and
Prionyrhynchus carinatus and platyrhynchus), having two of the
tail-feathers very long, with the shafts denuded about an inch from
the end. The mot-mots have all hoarse croak-like cries, heard at a
great distance in the forest, and feed on large beetles and other

The toucans are very curious-looking birds, with their enormous
bills. They hop with great agility amongst the branches. The
largest species at Santo Domingo was the Rhamphastus tocard,
Vieill., twenty-three inches in length, of which one-fourth was
taken up by the long bill and another fourth by the tail; above,
all black, excepting the tail-coverts, which are white; below,
throat and breast clear lemon yellow, bordered with red, the rest
black, excepting the under tail-coverts, red. When alive, the bill
is beautifully painted with red, brown, and yellow. I kept a young
one for some time as a pet until it was killed by my monkey. It
became very tame, and was expert in catching cockroaches,
swallowing them with a jerk of its bill.

After passing through some low scrubby forest, very thick with
tangled second growth, the clearings of the mestizoes were reached,
about five miles below Santo Domingo. Maize, plantains, and a few
native vegetables were grown here, and the owners now and then came
up to the village to sell their produce. Their houses were
open-sided low huts, thatched with palm-leaves; their furniture,
rude bedsteads made out of a few rough poles, tied together with
bark, supported on crutches stuck in the ground, with raw-hides
stretched across them; their cooking utensils a tortilla-stone and
a few coarse earthenware jars and pans; their clothing dirty cotton
rags. This was the limit of my journeys in this direction, although
the path continued on to the savannahs towards San Tomas. The soil
at this place is good, and I think that it has been long
cultivated, as much of the forest appears of second growth, in
which small palms and prickly shrubs abound.


Description of San Antonio valley.
Great variety of animal life.
Pitcher-flowered Marcgravias.
Flowers fertilised by humming-birds.
By insects.
Provision in some flowers to prevent insects, not adapted for
   carrying the pollen, from obtaining access to the nectaries.
Stories about wasps.
Humming-birds bathing.
Singular myriapods.
Ascent of Pena Blanca.
Tapirs and jaguars.
Summit of Pena Blanca.

ON the northern side of the Santo Domingo valley, opposite to my
house, a branch valley came down from the north, which we called
the San Antonio Valley. It intersected all the lodes we were
working, and I constructed a tramway up it as far as the most
northern mine, called San Benito, by which we brought down the ore
to the stamps and the firewood for the steam-engine, and in a short
time we had cleared all the timber from the lower part of the
valley; and a dense scrub or second growth sprang up, through which
numerous paths were made by the woodcutters. I was almost daily up
this valley, visiting the mines, or in the evening after the
workmen had left, and on Saturday afternoons, when they
discontinued work at two o'clock. On Sundays, too, it was our
favourite walk, for the tramway was dry to walk on; there were
tunnels, mines, and sheds at various parts to get into if one of
the sudden heavy showers of rain came on; and there were always
flowers or insects or birds to claim one's attention. I planned the
whole of the tramway; the upper half I surveyed and levelled
myself; and my almost daily walks up it familiarised me with every
bush and fallen log by its side, and with every turn of the clear
cool brook that came prattling down over the stones, soon at the
machinery to lose its early purity, and be soiled in the ceaseless
search for gold.

(PLATE 11. PITCHER-FLOWER (Marcgravia nepenthoides).)


The sides of the valley rose steeply, and a fair view was obtained
from the tramway in the centre over the shrubs and small trees on
each side, so that the walk was not so hemmed in with foliage, as
is usual in the forest roads. Insects were plentiful by this path.
In some parts brown tiger beetles ran or flew with great swiftness;
in others, leaf-cutting ants in endless trains carried aloft their
burdens of foliage, looking as they marched along with the segments
of leaves, held up vertically, like green butterflies, or a mimic
representation of a moving Birnam wood. Sometimes the chirping of
the ant-thrushes drew attention to where a great body of army-ants
were foraging amongst the fallen branches, sending the spiders,
cockroaches, and grasshoppers fleeing for their lives, only to fall
victims to the surrounding birds. On the fallen branches and logs I
obtained many longicorn beetles; the woodcutters brought me many
more, and from this valley were obtained some of the rarest and
finest species in my collection. On the myrtle-like flowers of some
of the shrubs, large green cockchafers were to be found during the
dry season, and a bright green rosechafer was also common. I was
surprised to find on two occasions a green and brown bug (Pentatoma
punicea) sucking the juices from dead specimens of this species.
The bug has weak limbs, and the beetle is more than twice its size
and weight, and is very active, quickly taking wing; so that the
only way in which it could be overcome that I can think of is by
the bug creeping up when it is sleeping, quietly introducing the
point of its sharp proboscis between the rings of its body, and
injecting some stupefying poison. In both instances that I
witnessed, the bug was on a leaf up a shrub, with the bulky beetle
hanging over suspended on its proboscis. Other species of bugs
certainly inject poisonous fluids. One black and red species in the
forest, if taken in the hand, would thrust its sharp proboscis into
the skin, and produce a pain worse than the sting of a wasp.
Amongst the bushes were always to be found the beautiful scarlet
and black tanager (Rhamphocoelus passerinii, Bp.), and more rarely
another species (R. sanguinolentus, Less.). Along with these, a
brownish-coloured bird, reddish on the breast and top of the head
(Phoenicothraupis fusicauda, Cab.), flew sociably; whilst generally
somewhere in the vicinity, as evening drew on, a brown hawk might
be seen up some of the low trees, watching the thoughtless chirping
birds, and ready to pounce down when opportunity offered. Higher up
the valley more trees were left standing, and amongst these small
flocks of other birds might often be found, one green with red head
(Calliste laviniae, Cass.); another, shining green, with black head
(Chlorophones guatemalensis); and a third, beautiful black, blue,
and yellow, with yellow head (Calliste larvata, Du Bus.). These and
many others were certain to be found where the climbing Marcgravia
nepenthoides expanded its curious flowers. The flowers of this
lofty climber are disposed in a circle, hanging downwards, like an
inverted candelabrum. From the centre of the circle of flowers is
suspended a number of pitcher-like vessels, which, when the flowers
expand, in February and March, are filled with a sweetish liquid.
This liquid attracts insects, and the insects numerous
insectivorous birds, including the species I have mentioned and
many kinds of humming-birds. The flowers are so disposed, with the
stamens hanging downwards, that the birds, to get at the pitchers,
must brush against them, and thus convey the pollen from one plant
to another. A second species of Marcgravia that I found in the
woods around Santo Domingo has the pitchers placed close to the
pedicels of the flowers, so that the birds must approach them from
above; and in this species the flowers are turned upwards, and the
pollen is brushed off by the breasts of the birds. In temperate
latitudes we find many flowers fertilised by insects, attracted by
honey-bearing nectaries; and in tropical America not only bees,
moths, and other large insects carry the pollen from one flower to
another, but many flowers, like the Marcgravia, are specially
adapted to secure the aid of small birds, particularly
humming-birds, for this purpose. Amongst these, the "palosabre," a
species of Erythrina, a small tree, bearing red flowers, that grew
in this valley, near the brook, often drew my attention. The tree
blooms in February, and is at the time leafless, so that the large
red flowers are seen from a great distance. Each flower consists of
a single long, rather fleshy petal, doubled over, flattened, and
closed, excepting a small opening on one edge, where the stamens
protrude. Only minute insects can find access to the flower, which
secretes at the base a honey-like fluid. Two long-billed
humming-birds frequent it; one (Heliomaster pallidiceps, Gould),
which I have already mentioned, is rather rare; the other
(Phaethornis longirostris, De Latt.) might be seen at any time when
the tree was in bloom, by watching near it for a few minutes. It is
mottled brown above, pale below, and the two middle tail feathers
are much longer than the others. The bill is very long and curved,
enabling the bird easily to probe the long flower, and with its
extensile cleft tongue pick up the minute insects from the bottom
of the tube, where they are caught as if in a trap, their only way
of exit being closed by the bill of the bird. Whilst the bird is
probing the flower, the pollen of the stamens is rubbed in to the
lower part of its head, and thus carried from one flower to
fecundate another. The bottom of the flower is covered externally
with a thick, fleshy calyx--an effectual guard against the attempts
of bees or wasps to break through to get at the honey.
Humming-birds feed on minute insects, and the honey would only be
wasted if larger ones could gain access to it, but in the flower of
the palosabre this contingency is simply and completely guarded

Many flowers have contrivances for preventing useless insects from
obtaining access to the nectaries. Amongst our English flowers
there are scores of interesting examples, and I shall describe the
fertilisation of one, the common foxglove, on account of the
exceeding simplicity with which this object is effected, and to
draw the attention of all lovers of nature to this branch of a
subject on which the labours of Darwin and other naturalists have
of late years thrown a flood of light. The pollen of the foxglove
(Digitalis purpurea) is carried from one flower to another by the
humble-bee, who, far more than the hive bee, that "improves each
shining hour," deserves to be considered the type of steady,
persevering industry. It improves not only the hours of sunshine,
but those of cloud, and even rain; and, long before the honey-bee
has ventured from its door, is at work bustling from flower to
flower, its steady hum changing to an importunate squeak as it
rifles the blossoms of their sweets. The racemes of purple bells
held up by the foxglove are methodically visited by it, commencing
at the bottom flower, and ascending step by step to the highest.
The four stamens and the pistil of the foxglove are laid closely
against the upper side of the flower. First a stamen on one side
opens its anthers and exposes its pollen. The humble-bee, as it
bustles in and out, brushes this off. Then another stamen exposes
its pollen on the other side, then another and another; but not
till all the pollen has been brushed off does the cleft end of the
pistil open, and expose its viscid stigma. The humble-bee brushes
off the pollen onto its hairy coat from the upper flowers of one
raceme and carries it direct to the lowest flowers of another,
where the viscid stigmas are open and ready to receive it. If the
humble-bee went first to the upper flowers of the spike and
proceeded downwards, the whole economy of this plant to procure
cross fertilisation would be upset.* (* Darwin mentions having seen
humble-bees visiting the flowering spikes of the Spiranthes
autumnalis (ladies' tresses), and notices that they always
commenced with the bottom flowers, and crawling spirally up, sucked
one flower after the other, and shows how this proceeding ensures
the cross fertilisation of different plants.--"Fertilisation of
Orchids" page 127.) The open flower of the foxglove hangs
downwards. The lower part, or dilated opening of the tube, is
turned outwards, and has scattered stiff hairs distributed over its
inner surface; above these the inside of the flower hangs almost
perpendicularly, and is smooth and pearly. The large humble-bee
bustles in with the greatest ease, and uses these hairs as
footholds whilst he is sucking the honey; but the smaller
honey-bees are impeded by them, and when, having at last struggled
through them, they reach the pearly, slippery precipice above, they
are completely baffled. I passed the autumn of 1857 in North Wales,
where the foxglove was very abundant, and watched the flowers
throughout the season, but only once saw a small bee reach the
nectary, though many were seen trying in vain to do so.

Great attention has of late years been paid by naturalists to the
wonderful contrivances amongst flowers to secure cross
fertilisation; but the structure of many cannot, I believe, be
understood, unless we take into consideration not only the
beautiful adaptations for securing the services of the proper
insect or bird, but also the contrivances for preventing insects
that would not be useful, from obtaining access to the nectar. Thus
the immense length of the nectary of the Angraecum sesquipedale of
Madagascar might, perhaps, have been completely explained by Mr.
Wallace, if this important purpose had been taken into account.* (*
"Natural Selection" by A.R. Wallace page 272.)

The tramway in some parts was on raised ground, in others excavated
in the bank side. In the cuttings the nearly perpendicular clay
slopes were frequented by many kinds of wasps that excavated round
holes of the diameter of their own bodies, and stored them with
sting-paralysed spiders, grasshoppers, or horse-flies. Amongst
these they lay their eggs, and the white grubs that issue therefrom
feed on the poor prisoners. I one day saw a small black and yellow
banded wasp (Pompilus polistoides) hunting for spiders; it
approached a web where a spider was stationed in the centre, made a
dart towards it--apparently a feint to frighten the spider clear of
its web; at any rate it had that effect, for it fell to the ground,
and was immediately seized by the wasp, who stung it, then ran
quickly backwards, dragging the spider after it, up a branch
reaching to the ground, until it got high enough, when it flew
heavily off with it. It was so small, and the spider so heavy, that
it probably could not have raised it from the ground by flight. All
over the world there are wasps that store their nests with the
bodies of spiders for their young to feed on. In Australia, I often
witnessed a wasp combating with a large flat spider that is found
on the bark of trees. It would fall to the ground, and lie on its
back, so as to be able to grapple with its opponent; but the wasp
was always the victor in the encounters I saw, although it was not
always allowed to carry its prey off in peace. One day, sitting on
the sand-banks on the coast of Hobson's Bay, I saw one dragging
along a large spider. Three or four inches above it hovered two
minute flies, keeping a little behind, and advancing with it. The
wasp seemed much disturbed by the presence of the tiny flies, and
twice left its prey to fly up towards them, but they darted away
immediately. As soon as the wasp returned to the spider, there they
were hovering over and following it again. At last, unable to drive
away its small tormenters, the wasp reached its burrow and took
down the spider, and the two flies stationed themselves one on each
side the entrance, and would, doubtless, when the wasp went away to
seek another victim, descend and lay their own eggs in the nest.

The variety of wasps, as of all other insects, was very great
around Santo Domingo. Many made papery nests, hanging from the
undersides of large leaves. Others hung their open cells underneath
verandahs and eaves of houses. One large black one was particularly
abundant about houses, and many people got stung by them. They also
build their pendent nests in the orange and lime trees, and it is
not always safe to gather the fruit. Fortunately they are heavy
flyers, and can often be struck down or evaded in their attacks.
They do good where there are gardens, as they feed their young on
caterpillars, and are continually hunting for them. Another
species, banded brown and yellow (Polistes carnifex), has similar
habits, but is not so common. Bates, in his account of the habits
of the sand-wasps at Santarem, on the Amazon, gives an interesting
account of the way in which they took a few turns in the air around
the hole they had made in the sand, before leaving to seek for
flies in the forest, apparently to mark well the position of the
burrow, so that on their return they might find it without
difficulty. He remarks that this precaution would be said to be
instinctive, but that the instinct is no mysterious and
unintelligible agent, but a mental process in each individual
differing from the same in man only by its unerring certainty.* (*
"Naturalist on the River Amazons" page 222.) I had an opportunity
of confirming his account of the proceedings of wasps when quitting
a locality to which they wished to return, in all but their
unerring certainty. I could not help noting how similar they were
to the way in which a man would act who wished to return to some
spot not easily found out, and with which he was not previously
acquainted. A specimen of the Polistes carnifex was hunting about
for caterpillars in my garden. I found one about an inch long, and
held it out towards the wasp on the point of a stick. The wasp
seized the caterpillar immediately, and commenced biting it from
head to tail, soon reducing the soft body to a mass of pulp. Then
rolling up about one half of the pulp into a ball, it carried it
off. Being at the time amidst a thick mass of a fine-leaved
climbing plant, it proceeded, before flying away, to take note of
the place where the other half was left. To do this, it hovered in
front for a few seconds, then took small circles in front, then
larger ones round the whole plant. I thought it had gone, but it
returned again, and had another look at the opening in the dense
foliage down which the other half of the caterpillar lay. It then
flew away, but must have left its burden for distribution with its
comrades at the nest, for it returned in less than two minutes, and
making one circle around the bush, descended to the opening,
alighted on a leaf, and ran inside. The green remnant of the
caterpillar was lying on another leaf inside, but not connected
with the one on which the wasp alighted, so that in running in it
missed the object and soon got hopelessly lost in the thick
foliage. Coming out, it took another circle, and pounced down on
the same spot again, as soon as it came opposite to it. Three small
seed-pods, which here grew close together, formed the marks that I
had myself taken to note the place, and these the wasp seemed also
to have taken as its guide, for it flew directly down to them, and
ran inside; but the small leaf on which the fragment of caterpillar
lay, not being directly connected with any on the outside, it again
missed it, and again got far away from the object of its search. It
then flew out again, and the same process was repeated again and
again. Always, when in circling round it came in sight of the
seed-pods, down it pounced, alighted near them, and recommenced its
quest on foot. I was surprised at its perseverance, and thought it
would have given up the search; not so, however, for it returned at
least half-a-dozen times, and seemed to get angry, hurrying about
with buzzing wings. At last it stumbled across its prey, seized it
eagerly, and as there was nothing more to come back for, flew
straight off to its nest, without taking any further note of the
locality. Such an action is not the result of blind instinct, but
of a thinking mind; and it is wonderful to see an insect so
differently constructed using a mental process similar to that of
man. It is suggestive of the probability of many of the actions of
insects that we ascribe to instinct being the result of the
possession of reasoning powers.

Where the tramway terminated at San Benito mine, the valley had
greatly contracted in width, and the stream, excepting in time of
flood, had dwindled to a little rill. A small rough path, made by
the miners to bring in their timber, continued up the brook,
crossing and recrossing it. The sides of the valley were very
steep, and covered with trees and undergrowth. The foliage arched
over the water, forming beautiful little dells, with small, clear
pools of water. One of these was a favourite resort of
humming-birds, who came there to bathe, for these gem-like birds
are very frequent in their ablutions, and I spent many a half-hour
in the evenings leaning against a trunk of a tree that had fallen
across the stream four or five yards below the pool, and watching
them. At all times of the day they occasionally came down, but
during the short twilight there was a crowd of bathers, and often
there were two or three at one time hovering over the pool, which
was only three feet across, and dipping into it. Some would delay
their evening toilet until the shades of night were thickening, and
it became almost too dark to distinguish them from my stand. Three
species regularly frequented the pool, and three others
occasionally visited it. The commonest was the Thalurania venusta
(Gould), the male of which is a most beautiful bird--the front of
the head and shoulders glistening purple, the throat brilliant
light green, shining in particular lights like polished metal, the
breast blue, and the back dark green. It was a beautiful sight to
see this bird hovering over the pool, turning from side to side by
quick jerks of its tail, now showing its throat a gleaming emerald,
now its shoulders a glistening amethyst, then darting beneath the
water, and rising instantly, throw off a shower of spray from its
quivering wings, and fly up to an overhanging bough and commence to
preen its feathers. All humming-birds bathe on the wing, and
generally take three or four dips, hovering, between times, about
three inches above the surface.

Sometimes when the last-mentioned species was suspended over the
water, its rapidly vibrating wings showing like a mere film, a
speck shot down the valley, swift as an arrow, as white as a
snowflake, and stopping suddenly over the pool, startled the
emerald-throat, and frightened it up amongst the overhanging
branches. The intruder was the white-cap (Microchera parvirostris,
Lawr.), the smallest of thirteen different kinds of humming-birds
that I noticed around Santo Domingo; being only a little more than
two and a half inches in length, including the bill; but it was
very pugnacious, and I have often seen it drive some of the larger
birds away from a flowering tree. Its body is purplish-red, with
green reflections, the front of its head flat and pearly white,
and, when flying towards one, its white head is the only part seen.
Sometimes the green-throat would hold its ground, and then it was
comical to see them hovering over the water, jerking round from
side to side, eyeing each other suspiciously, the one wishing to
dip, but apparently afraid to do so, for fear the other would take
a mean advantage, and do it some mischief whilst under water;
though what harm was possible I could not see, as there were no
clothes to steal. I have seen human bathers acting just like the
birds, though from a different cause, bobbing down towards the
water, but afraid to dip their heads, and the idea of comicality
arose, as it does in most of the ludicrous actions of animals, from
their resemblance to those of mankind. The dispute would generally
end by the green-throat giving way, and leaving the pugnacious
little white-cap in possession of the pool.

Besides the humming-birds I have mentioned, there were four or five
other small ones that we used to call squeakers, as it is their
habit for a great part of the day to sit motionless on branches and
every now and then to chirp out one or two shrill notes. At first I
thought these sounds proceeded from insects, as they resemble those
of crickets; but they are not so continuous. After a while I got to
know them, and could distinguish the notes of the different
species. It was not until then that I found out how full the woods
are of humming-birds, for they are most difficult to see when
perched amongst the branches, and when flying they frequent the
tops of trees in flower, where they are indistinguishable. I have
sometimes heard the different chirps of more than a dozen
individuals, although unable to get a glimpse of one of them, as
they are mere brown specks on the branches, their metallic colours
not showing from below, and the sound of their chirpings--or rather
squeakings--being most deceptive as to their direction and distance
from the hearer. My conclusion, after I got to know their voices in
the woods, was that the humming-birds around Santo Domingo equalled
in number all the rest of the birds together, if they did not
greatly exceed them. Yet one may sometimes ride for hours without
seeing one. They build their nests on low shrubs--often on branches
overhanging paths, or on the underside of the large leaves of the
shrubby palm-trees. They are all bold birds, suffering you to
approach nearer than any other kinds, and often flying up and
hovering within two or three yards from you. This fearlessness is
probably owing to the great security from foes that their swiftness
of flight ensures to them. I have noticed amongst butterflies that
the swiftest and strongest flyers, such as the Hesperidae, also
allow you to approach near to them, feeling confident that they can
dart away from any threatened danger--a misplaced confidence,
however, so far as the net of the collector is concerned.

At the head of the tramway, near the entrance to the San Benito
mine, we planted about three acres of the banks of the valley with
grass. In clearing away the fallen logs and brushwoods, many
beetles, scorpions, and centipedes were brought to light. Amongst
the last was a curious species belonging to the sucking division of
the Myriapods (Sugantia, of Brandt), which had a singular method of
securing its prey. It is about three inches long, and sluggish in
its movements; but from its tubular mouth it is able to discharge a
viscid fluid to the distance of about three inches, which stiffens
on exposure to the air to the consistency of a spider's web, but
stronger. With this it can envelop and capture its prey, just as a
fowler throws his net over a bird. The order of Myriapoda is placed
by systematists at the bottom of the class of insects; the sucking
Myriapods are amongst the lowest forms of the order, and it is
singular to find one of these lowly organised species furnished
with an apparatus of such utility, and the numberless higher forms
without any trace of it. Some of the other centipedes have two
phosphorescent spots in the head, which shine brightly at night,
casting a greenish light for a little distance in front of them. I
do not know the use of these lights, but think that they may serve
to dazzle or allure the insects on which they prey. We planted two
kinds of grasses, both of which have been introduced into Nicaragua
within the last twenty years. They are called Para and Guinea
grasses, I believe, after the places from which they were first
brought. The former is a strong succulent grass, rooting at the
joints; the latter grows in tufts, rising to a height of four to
five feet. Both are greatly liked by cattle and mules; large
bundles were cut every day for the latter whilst they were at work
on the tramway, and they kept in good condition on it without other
food. The natural, indigenous grass that springs up in clearings in
the neighbouring forest is a creeping species, and is rather
abundant about Santo Domingo. It has a bitter taste, and cattle do
not thrive on it, but rapidly fall away in condition if confined to
it. They do better when allowed to roam about the outskirts of the
forest amongst the brushwood, as they browse on the leaves of many
of the bushes. This grass is not found far outside the forest, but
is replaced on the savannahs by a great variety of tufted grasses,
which seem gradually to overcome the creeper in the clearings on
the edge of the forest; but at Santo Domingo the latter was
predominant, and although I sowed the seeds of other grasses
amongst it, they did not succeed, on account of the cattle picking
them out and eating them in preference to the other.

There were many other paths leading in different directions into
the forest, and I shall describe one of them, as it differed from
those already mentioned, leading to the top of a bare rock, rising
fully 1000 feet above Santo Domingo.

This rock, on the southern and most perpendicular side, weathers to
a whitish colour, and is called Pena Blanca, meaning the white
peak. It is visible from some points on the savannahs. During the
summer months it is, on the northern side, covered with the flowers
of a caulescent orchid (Ornithorhynchos) that has not been found
anywhere else in the neighbourhood; and the natives, who are very
fond of flowers, inheriting the taste from their Indian ancestors,
at this time, often on Sundays ascend the peak and bring down large
quantities of the blossoms. Its colour, when it first opens, is
scarlet and yellow. With it grows a crimson Mackleania. Once when I
made an ascent, in March, these flowers were in perfection, and in
great abundance, and the northern face of the rock was completely
covered with them. When I emerged from the gloomy forest, the sun
was shining brightly on it, and the combination of scarlet,
crimson, and yellow made a perfect blaze of colour, approaching
more nearly to the appearance of flames of fire than anything I
have elsewhere seen in the floral world.


The last ascent I made to the summit of Pena Blanca was in the
middle of June 1872, after we had had about two weeks of
continuously wet weather. On the 17th, the rain clouds cleared
away, the sun shone out, and only a few fleecy cumuli sailed across
the blue sky, driven by the north-east trade wind. I had on
previous visits to the peak noticed the elytra of many beetles
lying on the bare top. They were the remnants of insects caught by
frogs; great bulky fellows that excited one's curiosity to know how
ever they got there. Amongst the elytra were those of beetles that
I had never taken, and as they were night-roaming species, I
determined to go up some evening and wait until dark, with a
lanthorn, to see if I could take any of them. We had one heavy
shower of rain in the afternoon, so that the forest was very wet,
and the hills slippery and difficult for the mule. The path ascends
the valley of Santo Domingo, then crosses a range behind a mine
called the "Consuelo," enters the forest, descending at first a
steep slope to a clear brook; after crossing this, the ascent of
the hill of Pena Blanca begins, and is continuous for about a mile
to the top of the rock. The ground was damp, and the forest gloomy,
but here and there glimpses of sunshine glanced through the trees,
and enlivened the scene a little. I startled a mountain hen
(Tinamus sp.) which whirred off amongst the bushes. The dry slopes
of hills are their favourite feeding-places, and around Pena Blanca
they are rather plentiful; and so, also, in their season, are the
curassows and penelopes. In the lower ground, the footmarks of the
tapir are very frequent, especially along the small paths, where I
have sometimes traced them for more than a mile. They are harmless
beasts. One of our men came across one near Pena Blanca, and
attacked and killed it with his knife. He brought in the head to
me. It was as large as that of a bullock. I often tried to track
them, but never succeeded in seeing one. One day in my eagerness to
get near what I believed to be one, I rushed into rather unpleasant
proximity with a jaguar, the "tigre" of the natives. I had just
received a fresh supply of cartridge cases for my breech-loader,
and wishing to get some specimens of the small birds that attend
the armies of the foraging ants, I made up three or four small
charges of Number 8 shot, putting in only a quarter of an ounce of
shot into each charge, so as not to destroy their plumage. I went
back into the forest along a path where I had often seen the great
footmarks of the tapir. After riding about a couple of miles, I
heard the notes of some birds, and, dismounting, tied up my mule,
and pushed through the bushes. The birds were shy, and in following
them I had got about fifty yards from the path, to a part where the
big trees were more clear of brushwood, when I heard a loud hough
in a thicket towards the left. It was something between a cough and
a growl, but very loud, and could only have been produced by a very
large animal. Never having seen or heard a jaguar before in the
woods, and having often seen the footprints of the tapir, I thought
it was the latter, and thinking I would have to get very close up
to it to do it any damage with my little charge of small shot, I
ran along towards the sound, which was continued at intervals of a
few seconds. Seeing a large animal moving amongst the thick bushes,
only a few yards from me, I stopped, when, to my amazement, out
stalked a great jaguar (like the housekeeper's rat, the largest I
had ever seen), in whose jaws I should have been nearly as helpless
as a mouse in those of a cat. He was lashing his tail, at every
roar showing his great teeth, and was evidently in a bad humour.
Notwithstanding I was so near to him, I scarcely think he saw me at
first, as he was crossing the open glade about twenty yards in
front of me. I had not even a knife with me to show fight with if
he attacked me, and my small charge of shot would not have
penetrated beyond his skin, unless I managed to hit him when he was
very near to me. To steady my aim, if he approached me, I knelt
down on one knee, supporting my left elbow on the other. He was
just opposite to me at the time, the movement caught his eye, he
turned half round, and put down his neck and head towards the
ground as if he was going to spring, and I believe he could have
cleared the ground between us at a single bound, but the next
moment he turned away from me, and was lost sight of amongst the
bushes. I half regretted I had not fired and taken my chance; and
when he disappeared, I followed a few yards, greatly chagrined that
in the only chance I had ever had of bagging a jaguar, I was not
prepared for the encounter, and had to let "I dare not," wait upon
"I would." I returned the next morning with a supply of ball
cartridges, but in the night it had rained heavily, so that I could
not even find the jaguar's tracks, and although afterwards I was
always prepared, I never met with another. From the accounts of the
natives, I believe that in Central America he never attacks man
unless first interfered with, but when wounded is very savage and
dangerous. Velasquez told me that his father had mortally wounded
one, which, however, sprang after him, and had got hold of him by
the leg, when it fortunately fell down dead.

The path up Pena Blanca hill gets steeper and steeper, until about
fifty yards from the rock it is too precipitous and rugged to ride
with safety, so that the rest of the ascent must be made on foot.
Tying my mule to a sapling, I scrambled up the path, and soon
emerging from the dark forest, stood under the grey face of the
rock towering up above me. It has two peaks, of which the highest
is accessible, footholds having been cut into the face of it, and
the most difficult part being surmounted by a rude ladder made by
cutting notches in a pole. Above it the rock is shelving, and the
top is easily reached. I found a strong north-east wind blowing,
which made it rather uncomfortable on the top, but the view was
very fine and varied. To the south-east and east the eye roams over
range beyond range all covered with dark forest, that partly hides
the inequalities of the ground, the trees in the hollows growing
higher than those on the hills. On this side the rock is a sheer
precipice, going down perpendicularly for more than three hundred
feet; the face of the cliff all weathered white. The tops of the
trees are far below, and as one looking down upon them hears the
various cries and whistles of the birds come up, and marks the
vultures wheeling round in aerial circles over the trees far below
one's feet, then it is that you realise that at last the forest,
with its world of foliage, has been surmounted. Looking down on the
trees, every shade of green meets the eye, here light as grass,
there dark as holly, whilst the fleecy clouds above cast lines of
dark shadows over hill and dale.

Directly south-east is a high rock, about three miles distant, and
beyond it the Carca and the Artigua rivers must meet, judging from
the fall of the country. The course of the Carca is marked by some
patches of light green, that look like grass, and are probably
clearings made by the Indians.

To the south the eye first passes over about six miles of forest,
then savannahs and grassy ranges stretching to the lake, which is
only dimly seen, with the peaks of Madera and Ometepec more
distinct, the latter bearing south-west by west. Alone on the
summit of a high peak, with surging green billows of foliage all
around, dim misty mountains in the distance, and above the blue
heavens, checkered with fleecy clouds, that have travelled up
hundreds of miles from the north-east, thoughts arise that can be
only felt in their full intensity amid solitude and nature's
grandest phases. Then man's intellect strives to grapple with the
great mysteries of his existence, and like a fluttering bird that
beats itself against the bars of its cage, falls back baffled and


Another shower of rain came on, quickly followed by sunshine again.
Great banks of vapour began to rise from the forest, and fill the
valleys, and now looking down over the precipice, instead of
foliage there was a glistening white cloud spread out below, up
through which came the cries of birds. The hills stood up through
the cloud of mist like islands. To the south-west, over the
savannahs, the air was clear, and the peak of Ometepec was a fine
object in the distance. A white cloud enveloping its top looked
like a snow-cap, and this, as the night came on, descended lower
and lower, mantling closely around it, and conforming to its
outline. That the savannahs should not give off the same vapour as
the forest has been ascribed, and, I believe, with reason, to the
fact that their evaporating surfaces are much smaller than those of
the latter, with their numberless leaves heated by the previous

As night came on, a wetting mist drove over the top of the peak,
and the wind increased in strength, making it very cold and bleak,
for there was no shelter of any kind on the summit. Such a night
was not a favourable one for insects, but I got a few beetles that
were new to me on the very top of the rock, where only rushes are
growing. They appeared to be travelling with the north-east trade
wind, and were sifted out by the rushes as they passed over. On a
finer night I have no doubt many species might be obtained. I
suppose that the wind was moving at the rate of not less than
thirty miles an hour, so that the beetles, when they got up to it
from the forest below, where it was comparatively calm, might
easily be carried hundreds of miles without much labour to
themselves. I added two fine new Carabidae to my collection; and
about eleven o'clock started back again, having many a fall on the
slippery steep before I reached the place where I had left my mule.
It was a very dark night, and the oil of my small bull's-eye
lanthorn was exhausted, but the mule knew every step of the way,
and, though slipping often, never fell, and carried me safely home.


Journey to Juigalpa.
Description of Libertad.
The priest and the bell.
Migratory butterflies and moths.
Indian graves.
Ancient names.
Dry river-beds.
Monkeys and wasps.
Reach Juigalpa.
Ride in neighbourhood.
Abundance of small birds.
A poor cripple.
The "Toledo."
Sepulchral mounds.
Broken statues.
The sign of the cross.
Contrast between the ancient and the present inhabitants.
Night life.

TOWARDS the end of June, in 1872, I had to go to Juigalpa, one of
the principal towns of the province of Chontales, on business
connected with a lawsuit brought against the mining company by a
litigious native. I started early in the morning, taking with me my
native boy, Rito, who carried on his mule behind him my blankets
and a change of clothes. I carried in my hand a light
fowling-piece. The roads through the forest were excessively muddy,
and it took us four hours to get over the seven miles to Pital; the
poor mules struggling all the way through mud nearly three feet
deep. Shortly after leaving Pital, we passed the river Mico; and
two miles further on, across some grassy hills, reached the small
town of Libertad. It is the principal mining centre of Chontales.
There are a great number of gold mines in its vicinity, several of
which are worked by intelligent Frenchmen. The gold and silver
mines of Libertad are richer than those of Santo Domingo, and many
of the owners of them have extracted great quantities of the
precious metals.

The town is situated near to the edge of the forest, being
separated by the Rio Mico, across which it is proposed to build a
wooden bridge, as during floods the river is impassable. Whether
the bridge will ever be built or not I cannot tell. Several times
rates have been levied, and money collected to build it, but the
funds have always melted away in the hands of the officials. There
is an alcalde and a judge at Libertad. Every one worth two hundred
dollars is liable to be elected to the latter office. Only
unimportant cases are tried by him, and his decisions depend
generally on the private influence that is brought to bear upon
him. He is often a tool in the hands of some unprincipled lawyer.
The church at Libertad is a great barn-like edifice, with tiled
roof. At one side is a detached small bell-tower, in which hang two
bells, one sound and whole, the other cracked and patched. The
latter was a present from one of the mining companies, and had
excited a great scandal. The mining company had a fine large bell,
with which they called together their workmen. The priest of
Libertad, thinking it might be much better employed in the service
of the church, made an application for it. The superintendent of
the mine could not part with it, but having an old broken bell, he
had it patched up, and sent it out with a letter, explaining that
he could not let them have the other, but that if this one was of
any use, they were welcome to it. The priest heard that the bell
was on the road, and thinking it was the one he had coveted, got up
a procession to go and meet it, to take it to its place with
befitting ceremony. But when he saw the old battered and broken
article that had been sent, his satisfaction was changed to rage,
instead of blessing he cursed it, threw it to the ground, and even
kicked and spat upon it. His rage for a time knew no bounds, as he
thought that he had been mocked by the heretical foreigners, and
his indignation was at first shared by some of the principal
inhabitants of the town, but when the explanatory letter had been
interpreted to them, their feelings changed, and the poor bell was
put up to do what duty it could. There are some good stores in
Libertad, the best being branches of Granada houses that buy the
produce of the country--hides, india-rubber, and gold--for export,
and import European manufactured goods.

Captain Velasquez joined me at Libertad, and, after getting
breakfast, we started. The road passes over grassy hills, on which
cattle and mules were feeding. The edge of the forest is not far
distant to the right, and all the way along it there have been
clearings made and maize planted. As we rode along, great numbers
of a brown, tailed butterfly (Timetes chiron) were flying over to
the south-east. They occurred, as it were, in columns. The air
would be comparatively clear of them for a few hundred yards, then
we would pass through a band perhaps fifty yards in width, where
hundreds were always in sight, and all travelling one way. I took
the direction several times with a pocket compass, and it was
always south-east. Amongst them were a few yellow butterflies, but
these were not so numerous as in former years. In some seasons
these migratory swarms of butterflies continue passing over to the
south-east for three to five weeks, and must consist of millions
upon millions of individuals, comprising many different species and
genera. The beautiful tailed green and gilded day-flying moth
(Urania leilus) also joins in this annual movement. When in Brazil,
I observed similar flights of butterflies at Pernambuco and
Maranham, all travelling south-east. Mr. R. Spruce describes a
migration which he witnessed on the Amazon, in November 1849, of
the common white and yellow butterflies. They were all passing to
the south-south-east.* (* "Journal of the Linnean Society" volume
9.) Darwin mentions that several times when off the shores of
Northern Patagonia, and at other times when some miles off the
mouth of the Plata, the ship was surrounded by butterflies; so
numerous were they on one occasion, that it was not possible to see
a space free from them, and the seamen cried out that it was
"snowing butterflies."* (* "Naturalist's Voyage" page 158.) These
butterflies must also come from the westward. I know of no
satisfactory explanation of these immense migrations. They occurred
every year whilst I was in Chontales, and always in the same
direction. I thought that some of the earlier flights in April
might be caused by the vegetation of the Pacific side of the
continent being still parched up, whilst on the Atlantic slope the
forests were green and moist. But in June there had been abundant
rains on the Pacific side, and vegetation was everywhere growing
luxuriantly. Neither would their direction from the north-west
bring them from the Pacific, but from the interior of Honduras and
Guatemala. The difficulty is that there are no return swarms. If
they travelled in one direction at one season of the year, and in
an opposite at another, we might suppose that the vegetation on
which the caterpillars feed was at one time more abundant in the
north-west, at another in the south-east; but during the five years
I was in Central America, I was always on the look-out for them,
and never saw any return swarms of butterflies. Their migration
every year in one definite direction is quite unintelligible to me.

We gradually ascended the range that separates the watershed of the
Lake of Nicaragua from that of the Blewfields river, passing over
grassy savannahs. About two leagues from Libertad there are many
old Indian graves, covered with mounds of earth and stones. A
well-educated Englishman, Mr. Fairbairn, has taken up his abode at
this place, and is growing maize and rearing cattle. There are many
evidences of a large Indian population having lived at this spot,
and their pottery and fragments of their stones for bruising maize
have been found in some graves that have been opened. Mr. Fairbairn
got me several of these curiosities, amongst them are imitations of
the heads of armadillos, and other animals. Some of these had
formed the feet of urns, others were rattles, containing small
balls of baked clay. The old Indians used these rattles in their
solemn religious dances, and the custom is probably not yet quite
obsolete, for as late as 1823 Mr. W. Bullock saw, in Mexico, Indian
women dancing in a masque representing the court of Montezuma, and
holding rattles in their right hands, to the noise of which they
accompanied their motions. Several stone axes have been found,
which are called "thunderbolts" by the natives, who have no idea
that they are artificial, although it is less than four hundred
years ago since their forefathers used them. Like most of the sites
of the ancient Indian towns, the place is a very picturesque one.
At a short distance to the west rise the precipitous rocks of the
Amerrique range, with great perpendicular cliffs, and huge isolated
rocks and pinnacles. The name of this range gives us a clue to the
race of the ancient inhabitants. In the highlands of Honduras, as
has been noted by Squiers, the termination of tique or rique is of
frequent occurrence in the names of places, as Chaparriistique,
Lepaterique, Llotique, Ajuterique, and others. The race that
inhabited this region were the Lenca Indians, often mentioned in
the accounts given by the missionaries of their early expeditions
into Honduras. I think that the Lenca Indians were the ancient
inhabitants of Chontales, that they were the "Chontals" of the
Nahuatls or Aztecs of the Pacific side of the country, and that
they were partly conquered, and their territories encroached upon
by the latter before the arrival of the Spaniards, as some of the
Aztec names of places in Nicaragua do not appear to be such as
could be given originally by the first inhabitants; thus Juigalpa,
pronounced Hueygalpa, is southern Aztec for "Big Town." No town
could be called the big town at first by those who saw it grow up
gradually from small beginnings, but it is a likely enough name to
be given by a conquering invader. Again Ometepec is nearly pure
Aztec for Two Peaks, but the island itself only contains one, and
the name was probably given by an invader who saw the two peaks of
Ometepec and Madera from the shore of the lake, and thought they
belonged to one island. The Lenca Indians nowhere appear to have
built stone buildings, like the Quiches, and Lacandones of
Guatemala, and the Mayas of Yucatan, who were probably much more
nearly affiliated to the Nahuatls of Mexico than the Lencas.

We reached the top of the dividing range, and now left the main
road, taking a path to the left, that is very rocky and narrow. We
began rapidly to descend, and found an entire change of climate on
this side of the range. It had been raining for weeks at Libertad,
and everywhere the ground was wet and swampy, but two miles on the
other side of the range the ground was quite dry, and so it
continued to Juigalpa. Dry gravelly hills, covered with low scrubby
bushes and trees, succeeded the damp grassy slopes we had been for
hours travelling over. Prickly acacias, nancitos, guayavas,
jicaras, were the principal trees, with here and there the one
whose thick coriaceous leaves are used by the natives instead of
sandpaper. The beds of the rivers were dry, or at the most
contained only stagnant pools of water, until we reached the
Juigalpa river, which rises far to the eastward; the north-east
trade wind in crossing the great forest that clothes the Atlantic
slope of the continent, gives up most of its moisture; and this
range, rising about three thousand feet above the sea, intercepts
nearly all that remains, so that only occasional showers reach

On one of the low gravelly hills that we passed, not far from the
path, we saw a troop of the white-faced monkey (Cebus albifrons) on
the ground, amongst low scattered trees. Their attitudes, some
standing up on their hind legs to get a better look at us, others
with their backs arched like cats, were amusing. Though quite ready
to run away, they stood all quite still, watching us, and looked as
if they had been grouped for a photograph. A few steps towards them
sent them scampering off, barking as they went.

Soon after this, I got severely stung by a number of small wasps,
whose nest I had disturbed in passing under some bushes. About
thirty were upon me, but I got off with about half-a-dozen stings,
as I managed to kill the rest as they made their way through the
hair of my head and beard, for these wasps, having generally to do
with animals covered with hair, do not fly at the open face, but at
the hair of the head, and push down through it to the skin before
they sting. On this and on another occasion on which I was attacked
by them, I had not a single sting on the exposed portions of my
face, although my hands were stung in killing them in my hair. It
is curious to note that the large black wasp that makes its nest
under the verandahs of houses and eaves of huts, and has had to
deal with man as his principal foe, flies directly at the face when

Without further adventure we reached Juigalpa at dusk, and took up
our quarters not far from the plaza, in a house where one large
room was set apart for the accommodation of travellers. We found we
should have to stay for a couple of days before our business was
concluded; and whilst waiting for some law papers to be made out, I
determined to try to see some of the Indian antiquities in the
neighbourhood. We had hard leather stretchers to sleep on, the use
of mattresses being almost unknown.

Next morning I was up at daylight, and, after getting a cup of
coffee and milk, started off on horseback on the lower road towards
Acoyapo. This led over undulating savannahs, with grass and jicara
trees, and small clumps of low trees and shrubs on stony hillocks.
Wild pigeons were very numerous, and their cooings were incessant.
On the rocky spots grew spiny cactuses, with flattened pear-shaped
joints and scarlet fruit. I reached the Juigalpa river about two
miles below the town. Near the crossing it ran between shelving
rocky banks, with here and there still reaches and pebbly shores.
Shady trees overhung the clear water; and behind were myrtle-leaved
shrubs and grassy openings. The morning was yet young, and the
banks were vocal with the noises of birds, that chattered,
whistled, chirruped, croaked, cooed, warbled, or made discordant
cries. I doubt if any other part of the earth's surface could show
a greater variety of the feathered tribe. A large brown bittern
stood motionless amongst the stones of a rapid portion of the
stream, crouching down with his neck and head drawn back close to
his body, so that he looked like a brown rock himself. Kingfishers
flitted up and down, or dashed into the water with a splashing
thud. At a sedgy spot were some jacanas stalking about. When
disturbed, these birds rise chattering their displeasure, and
showing the lemon yellow of the underside of their wings, which
contrasts with the deep chocolate brown of the rest of their
plumage. Parrots flew past in screaming flocks, or alighted on the
trees and nestled together in loving couples, changing their
screaming to tender chirrupings. Numerous brown and yellow
fly-catchers sat on small dead branches, and darted off every now
and then after passing insects. A couple of beautiful mot-mots
(Eumomota superciliaris) made short flights after the larger
insects, or sat on the low branches by the river-bank, jerking
their curious tails from side to side. Swallows skimmed past in
their circling flights, whilst in the bushes were warbling
orange-and-black Sisitotis and many another bird of beautiful
feather. One class of birds, and that the most characteristic of
tropical America, was decidedly scarce. I did not see a single
humming-bird by the river-side. On the savannahs they are much less
frequent than in the forest region. Insects were not so numerous as
they had been in preceding years. Over sandy spots two speckled
species of tiger-beetles ran and flew with great swiftness. I saw
one rise from the ground and take an insect on the wing that was
flying slowly over. On one myrtle-like bush, with small white
flowers, there were dozens of a small Longicorn new to me, which,
when flying, looked like black wasps.

It was very pleasant to sit in the cool shade, and listen to, and
watch, the birds. There was here no fear of dangerous animals, the
only annoyance being stinging ants or biting sand-flies, neither of
which were at this place very numerous. Snakes also were scarce. I
saw but one, a harmless green one, that glided away with wavy folds
amongst the brushwood. The natives say that alligators are
plentiful in the river, but that they are harmless. I saw one small
one, about five feet long, floating with his eyes, nostrils, and
the serratures of his back only above water. Every one bathes in
the river without fear, which would not be the case if there had
been any one seized by them during the last fifty years; for no
traditions are more persistent than tales of the attacks of wild
beasts. Anxious parents pass on from generation to generation the
stories they themselves were told when children.

As I sat upon the rocks in the cool shade, enjoying the scene,
there came hobbling along, with painful steps, on the other side of
the river, a poor cripple, afflicted with that horrible disease,
elephantiasis. He crossed the river with great difficulty, as his
feet were swollen to six times their natural size, with great horny
callosities. One of his hands was also disabled; and altogether he
was a most pitiable object. Such a sight seemed a blot upon the
fair face of nature; but it is our sympathy for our kind that makes
us think so. If the trees were sympathetic beings, not a poor
crippled specimen of humanity would have their pity, but the
gnarled and half-rotten giants of the forest, threatening to topple
down with every breeze; whilst to our eyes the dying tree, covered
with moss and ferns, and, maybe, clasped by climbing vines, is a
picturesque and pleasing sight. So, the fishes would pity their
comrades caught by the kingfisher, the birds those in the claws of
the hawk--every creature considering the fate that overtook its
fellows, and which might befall itself--the great blot in nature's

The poor cripple told me he was going into Juigalpa. He had,
doubtless, heard that a stranger had arrived in the town; for every
time I had been there he had turned up. His best friends are the
foreigners, who look with greater pity on his misfortune than his
neighbours, who have grown accustomed to it.

The blind, the lame, and the sick are the only beggars I ever saw
in Nicaragua. The necessaries of life are easily procured. Very
little clothing is required. Any one may plant maize or bananas;
and there is plenty of work for all who are willing or obliged to
labour; so the healthy and strong amongst the poorer classes lead
an easy and pleasant life, but the sick and incapacitated amongst
them are really badly off. There is a great indifference amongst
the natives to the wants of their comrades struck down by sickness
or accident, and hospitals and asylums are unknown.

I was told that the cripple, lame as he was, often took long
journeys, and had even gone as far as Granada. He had been a
soldier in one of the revolutions, when John Chamorro was
President, and ascribed the commencement of the disease to getting
a chill by bathing when he was heated.

After he had hobbled off, I bathed in the cool river, and then
rambled about on the other side, where I found some large mango
trees full of delicious ripe fruit. It was getting on towards noon:
the sun was high and hot, and the birds had mostly retired into the
deepest shades for their mid-day sleep. I could have lingered all
day, but it was time for me to return, as I had arranged with
Velasquez to accompany him in search of some Indian graves he had
heard of about three miles away.

As I left the river, I heard the whistle of the beautiful "toledo,"
so called because its note resembles these syllables, clearly and
slowly whistled, with the emphasis on the last two. Following the
sound, it led me to a deep, thickly-timbered gully, at the bottom
of which was the bed of a brook, consisting now only of detached
pools, over one of which, on the limb of a tree, sat a large
dark-coloured hawk, with white-banded tail, watching for
fresh-water and land crabs, on which it feeds. I had a long chase
after the toledo. As soon as I got within sight of it, sometimes
before, it would dart away through the brushwood, generally across
the brook, and in a few minutes I would hear its deep-toned whistle
again as if in mockery of my pursuit. I had to climb and reclimb
the steep banks of the gully: but at last, creeping cautiously, and
just getting my head above the bank, I got a shot. There were two
of them sitting close together. I brought both down, and they
proved to be in fine plumage. The toledo (Chirosciphia lineata) is
about the size of a linnet, of a general velvety black colour. The
crown of the head is covered with a flat scarlet crest, and the
back with what looks like a shawl of sky-blue. From the tail spring
two long ribbon-like feathers. Its curious note is often heard on
the savannahs, in the thick timber that skirts the small brooks;
but it is not often seen, as it is a shy bird and frequents the
deepest shades.

There were several of the yellow-breasted trogon (T.
melanocephalus) sitting amongst the branches, and now and then
darting off after insects. This species often breaks into the nest
of the termites, and feeds on the soft-bodied workers. Another
trogon about here, with red breast (T. elegans), has a peculiarly
harsh, croaking voice, very different from the other species, and
more resembling the cry of a mot-mot.

As I rode back over the savannahs to Juigalpa, the nearly vertical
rays of the sun were reflected from the dry, hot, sandy soil. Not a
sound was now heard from the numerous birds. The shrill cicada
still piped its never-ending treble. No wind was stirring, and the
air over the parched soil quivered with heat.

I was glad to get back to my "hotel," and have breakfast, with
chocolate served up in jicaras. After an hour's rest, I started
with Velasquez in search of the Indian antiquities. We rode up the
right side of the river, high up above the stream, as the banks are
rocky and precipitous; then down a shelving road to a lower level,
and across undulating savannahs thinly timbered. After about three
miles, we came out on a small flat plain, probably alluvial, about
twenty acres in extent, mostly covered with grass, with a few
scattered jicara trees. On the further end of this plain was a
mud-walled, thatched hut, called "El Salto," from a fall of the
river close by. A man was lounging about, and a woman bruising
maize for tortillas. The man told us that the "worked stones," as
he called them, were on the side of the plain we had crossed.
Before going to look at them, we went down to the river to see the
waterfall. Just opposite the house the Juigalpa river, which comes
flowing down over a flat bed of trachyte, leaps down a deep narrow
chasm that it has cut in the hard rock. This chasm is about fifty
feet deep, and only twenty wide. The river was low, and poured all
its water in at the end of the deep notch; but when flooded, it
must rush in over the sides also, and make a magnificent turmoil of
waters. Even when I saw it, the water, as it rushed along at the
bottom of the narrow chasm, boiling and surging amongst great
masses of fallen rock with a steady roar, looked as if it would
carry all before it. Deep pot-holes, some of them ten feet deep,
were worn into the trachyte rock, and sections of several were
shown in the sides of the chasm, which could only have been formed
when the falls were many yards lower down. The trachyte is very
hard and tough. The sections of the pot-holes are as fresh as if
they had been made but yesterday.

In reply to my assertion that the falls had produced, and were now
working back the chasm, our guide, the lounging man from the house,
said the rocks had always been as they were: he had lived there ten
years, and there had been no change in them. Perhaps, if the buried
Indians could rise from their graves where they were laid to rest
more than three hundred years ago, they, too, would testify that
there had been no change, that the rocks and the leaping river were
as they had been and would be for ever. The untrained mind cannot
grasp the idea of the effect of slowly-acting influences extending
over vast periods of time.


We asked the guide if there were any cairns near, and he said there
was one on the top of a neighbouring hill. Up this we climbed. It
was the rounded spur of a range behind, jutting out into the small
plain before mentioned, and might be partly artificial. On the
summit, which commanded a fine view of the country around, with the
white cliffs and dark woods of the Amerrique range in front, was an
Indian cairn, elliptical in shape, about thirty feet long and
twenty broad. Several small trees had sprung up amongst the stones.
Near the centre two holes had been dug down about four feet deep.
Our guide told us that he and his brother had made them, to hide
themselves in from the soldiers during the last revolutionary
outbreak. Not a very likely story, that they should have chosen the
top of a bare hill for a hiding-place, when all around in the
valleys there were thickets of brushwood. He said they had found
nothing in the holes. We, however, soon found fragments of two
broken cinerary urns, one of fine clay, painted with red and black,
the other much coarser and stronger, without ornament. The custom
of the Chontales Indians appears to have been to burn their dead,
and place the ashes in a thin painted urn, inclosed within a
stronger one. This was buried, along with the stone for grinding
maize, and a cairn of stones built over the grave, in the centre of
which was sometimes set up the statue of the deceased.

It was evident that the tomb had been ransacked in search of
treasure; but our guide was very reticent about it. He admitted,
however, on further questioning, that he had found a broken
"metlate," or maize-grinder, in the grave. Velasquez got down into
the deepest hole, and unearthed some more fragments of pottery, but
nothing more.

We then descended the steep face of the hill again, and crossed the
plain to where the "worked stones" were lying. We found them to be
broken fragments of statues, one larger, better worked, and in much
fairer preservation than the others. They had all been much
battered and broken. The greater size and solidity of this one had
made it more difficult to deface. It was in two parts, the head
being severed from the body. The total length of the two fragments
was about five feet. The face had been much shattered. The nose was
gone and the mouth defaced, but enough was left to show that the
latter had been protruding. The eyes were in good preservation,
prominent, and with the eyeballs projecting. Around the head was an
ornamented circlet, like a crown. The arms were laid over the
breast, and were continued upwards over the shoulder, and partly
down the back, as if it had been intended to indicate the
shoulder-blades. The legs were doubled up, and continued round to
the back, in the same way as the arms.

The back of the figure was elaborately carved, the most noticeable
features being a wide ornamented belt around the waist, and two
well-carved crosses, one on each shoulder.

The other stones lying about were broken portions of other smaller
figures and of pedestals. All were made out of very hard, tough
trachyte; and the labour required to make the principal one out of
such difficult material without tools of iron must have been

The fragments were all lying out on the bare plain. I thought they
must have been brought from some burial-place of the ancient
Indians. Our guide, on being asked, said he had seen other cairns
of stones besides these on the hill-top, but could not recollect
where. He was very uneasy when questioned; and at last said he had
business to attend to, and left us abruptly. In his absence we
examined all around for traces of graves. Between the plain and the
river was a thicket of low trees and undergrowth. Peering into
this, we saw some heaps of stones; and, pushing in amongst the
bushes, found it was full of old Indian graves, marked by heaps of
stones, in the centres of some of which still stood the pedestals
on which the statues had been placed. Most of the heaps were about
twenty feet in diameter, and composed of stones of the average size
of a man's head; but one, from the centre of which grew an immense
cotton-wood tree, was made of about a dozen very large stones, some
about five feet long, three broad, and one thick. Here we got a
clue to the behaviour of our guide. When he told us that he knew
not where there were any more cairns, he was standing within thirty
feet of one hidden by the thicket, which bore evident marks of
having been recently disturbed. It was the cairn of big stones. One
of these had been overturned, and some fresh-cut poles, that had
been used as levers, were lying alongside, with the green bark
broken and bruised. A hole had been dug underneath it, and filled
up with stones again. Our lounging friend had been doing a little
exploring on his own account. Many of the natives believe that
treasure is buried under these heaps of stones; and the interest
that foreigners take in them they ascribe to their wish to obtain
these treasures. Our guide, wishing to get these himself, had taken
us to the single grave on the top of the hill, which he had already
ransacked, and professed ignorance of the others. I only hope that
he did not compound with his conscience for the lies he had told us
by coming back after we left, and trying to break off the nose of
another idol, as the natives call the images. They think they show
their zeal for Christianity by defacing them. This is why scarcely
any of the noses of the images are left. They form the most salient
points for attack. And that the images have not been utterly
destroyed by the ill-usage they have had for three hundred years is
due to the hard, tough rock of which they are made. It is probable
that the statues at El Salto were brought out from the cairns into
the plain, and publicly thrown down, defaced, and broken, when the
Spaniards first took possession of the Juigalpa district, and
forced Christianity upon the Indians; for the conquerors everywhere
overthrew and mutilated the "idols" of the Indians, set up the
cross and their own images, and forced the people to be baptised.
The change was not a great one. Already the cross was an emblem
amongst them and baptism a rite; and the images they were called
upon to adore did not differ so greatly from those they had
worshipped before. They easily conformed to the new faith. D'Avila
is said to have overthrown the idols at Rivas, and to have baptised
nine thousand Indians. Then the Spaniards, having Christianised the
Indians, made slaves of them, and ground them to the dust with
merciless cruelties and overwork, which quickly depopulated whole
towns and districts.

The presence of the cross in Central America greatly astonished the
Spanish discoverers. In Yucatan and throughout the Aztec Empire it
was the emblem of the "god of rain." There has been much
speculation by various authors respecting its origin, as a
religious emblem, in Mexico and Central America. It has even been
supposed that some of the early Icelandic Christians of the ninth
century may have reached the coast of Mexico, and introduced some
knowledge of the Christian religion. But the cross was a religious
emblem of the greatest antiquity, both in Syria and Egypt, and
baptism was a pre-Christian rite. This and other observances, such
as auricular confession and monastic institutions, were so mixed up
with the worship of a great number of gods, at the head of which
was the worship of the sun, and were associated with such horrid
human sacrifices and pagan ceremonials, that it is more likely that
they acquired the cross, with other pagan traditions handed down to
them from a remote antiquity, from the common stock from whence
both the inhabitants of the Eastern and Western hemispheres were
descended. There is good evidence for supposing that young children
were offered up in sacrifice to Thaloc, the god of rain, the very
god whose emblem was the cross--a contrast too great to the "Suffer
little children to come unto me" of the loving Saviour, not to make
the mind revolt against the idea that the cross of the god of rain
was derived from the cross of the Christian.

I see no reason for supposing that the images of El Salto were
idols, as supposed by the early Spaniards, and still by the
degenerate half-breeds. They are more likely portrait-statues of
famous chieftains who led the tribe to many a victory. When they
died, a loving people, with wailings and lamentations, celebrated
their obsequies. The funeral pyre was built, the body burnt, and
the ashes carefully gathered together, and placed in the
finely-wrought urn and painted cinerary, and this in one larger and
coarser. These were buried with the stone maize-grinder, and
sometimes weapons and earthen dishes and food. Over the grave a
pile of stones was raised, and skilful artificers were set to work
on the hardest and toughest stone they could find to make a statue
of the chief whose memory they reverenced. It must have taken
months, if not years, to have fashioned the statue I have figured
out of the trachyte without tools of iron, and it strikes one with
wonder to think of the patience and perseverance with which the
details were worked out. No eye-servers were these Indians; before
and behind they bestowed equal pains and labour on their work,
undeterred by the hardness of the materials or the rudeness of
their tools.

When we turn from these works and remains of a great and united
tribe to the miserable huts of the present natives, we feel how
great a curse the Spanish invasion has in some respects been to
Central America. The half-breed, wrapped up in himself, lives from
year to year in his thatched hut, looking after a few cows, and
making cheese from their milk. He perhaps plants a small patch of
maize once a year, and grows a few plantains, content to live on
the plainest fare, and in the rudest style, so that he may indulge
in indolence and sloth. So he vegetates and drops into his grave,
and in a year or two no mark or sign tells where he was laid. The
graves of the old Indians are still to be found, but no mounds mark
the spots where the inhabitants of the valley since the conquest
have been laid to rest. They have passed away, as they lived,
without a record or memorial.

The builders of these cairns and the fashioners of these statues
were a different and a better race. They stood by each other, and
reverenced and obeyed their chiefs. They tilled the ground and
lived on the fruits of it. From the accounts of all the historians
of the Spanish conquest, the Pacific side of Nicaragua was so
densely populated when the Spaniards first arrived that the greater
part of it must have been cultivated like a garden; and it is
probable that the population was ten times greater than it is now.
Another point that strikes the observer is, that not only the
descendants of the Spaniards and the Mestizos are sunk far below
the level of the old Indians, but that the nearly pure Indians, of
whom there are many large communities, have so degenerated that it
is hard to believe that they are the very same people that, four
hundred years ago, had advanced so far in their peculiar
civilisation. They are not so sunk in sloth as the half-breeds.
They still till the ground, grow maize, cacao, and many fruits;
they still make the earthenware dishes of the country, though far
inferior to those of their ancestors; but they have lost their
tribal instincts, they do not support each other; they acknowledge
no chiefs; each one is absorbed in his own affairs, and they are
only a little less slothful than the half-breeds. Will these
Indians ever again attain to that pitch of civilisation at which
they had arrived before the conquest?--I fear not. The whip that
kept them to the mark in the old days was the continual warfare
between the different tribes, and this has ceased for ever. War is
not always a curse. "There is some soul of goodness in things
evil." Before the Spanish conquest no small isolated communities
could exist. Those in which the tribal instinct was strongest, who
stood shoulder to shoulder with their fellows, reverenced and
obeyed their chiefs, and excelled in feats of strength and agility,
would annihilate or subjugate the weaker and less warlike races. It
was this constant struggle between the different tribes that weeded
out the weak and indolent, and preserved the strong and
enterprising; just as amongst many of the lower animals the
stronger kill off the weaker, and the result is the improvement of
the race, or at any rate the maintenance of the point of excellence
at which it had arrived in former times.

Since the Spanish conquest there has been no such process of
selection in operation amongst the Indians. The most indolent can
obtain enough food, whilst the climate makes clothing almost a
superfluity. The idle and improvident live their natural terms of
years, and increase their kind even faster than the provident and
industrious. The tribal feeling is destroyed; the selfish and
sensual instincts are developed, and year by year the Indian

Mr. Bates, at the end of his admirable work on the natural history
of the Amazon, speculates on the future of the human race, and
thinks that under the equator alone will it attain the highest form
of perfection. I have had similar thoughts when riding over
hundreds of miles of fertile savannahs in Central America, where an
everlasting summer and fertile land yield a harvest of fruits and
grain all the year round where it is not even necessary "to tickle
the ground with a hoe to make it laugh with a harvest." But
thinking over the cause of the degeneracy of the Spaniards and
Indians, I am led to believe that in climes where man has to battle
with nature for his food, not to receive it from her hands as a
gift; where he is a worker, and not an idler; where hard winters
kill off the weak and brace up the strong; there only is that
selection at work that keeps the human race advancing, and prevents
it retrograding, now that Mars has been dethroned and Vulcan set on

In destroying the ancient monarchies of Mexico and Central America,
the Spaniards inflicted an irreparable injury on the Indian race;
for whether or not a republic is the highest ideal form of
government (and doubtless it would be if man were perfect), it is
not adapted for savage or half-civilised communities, and I
cordially agree with the truth enunciated by Darwin when, writing
of the natives of Tierra del Fuego, he says, "Perfect equality
among the individuals composing the Fuegian tribes must for a long
time retard their civilisation. As we see those animals whose
instinct compels them to live in society, and obey a chief, are
most capable of improvement, so is it with the races of mankind.
Whether we look at it as a cause or a consequence, the most
civilised always have the most artificial governments. For
instance, the inhabitants of Otaheite, who, when first discovered,
were governed by hereditary kings, had arrived at a far higher
grade than another branch of the same people, the New Zealanders,
who, although benefited by being compelled to turn their attention
to agriculture, were republicans in the most absolute sense."* (*
"Naturalist's Voyage" page 229.)

Dusk was coming on before we left the small plain, with its broken
statues, and the steep hill overlooking it, on which probably
religious rites had been celebrated and human sacrifices offered
up. This people have entirely passed away, and the sparse
inhabitants of the once thickly-populated province have not even a
tradition about them. In Europe and North America more is known
about them, and more interest taken in gleaning what little
vestiges of their history can be recovered from the dim past, than
among their own degenerate descendants.

Half way to Juigalpa was an Indian hut and a small clearing made
for growing maize. The fallen trunks of trees were a likely place
for beetles, and as I had brought a lantern with me, I stayed to
examine them whilst Velasquez rode on to get some food ready. At
night many species of beetles, especially longicorns, are to be
found running over the trunks, that lie closely hidden in the
day-time. The night-world is very different from that of the day.
Things that blink and hide from the light are all awake and astir
when the sun goes down. Great spiders and scorpions prowl about, or
take up advantageous positions where they expect their prey to
pass. Cockroaches of all sizes, from that of one's finger to that
of one's finger-nail, stand with long quivering antennae, pictures
of alert outlook, watching for their numerous foes, or scurry away
as fast as their long legs can carry them; but if they come within
reach of the great spider they are pounced upon in an instant, and
with one convulsive kick give up the hopeless struggle. Centipedes,
wood-lice, and all kinds of creeping things come out of cracks and
crevices; even the pools are alive with water-beetles that have
been hiding in the ooze all day, excepting when they come up with a
dash to the surface for a bubble of fresh air. Owls and night-jars
make strange unearthly cries. The timid deer comes out of its close
covert to feed in the grassy clearings. Jaguars, ocelots, and
opossums slink about in the gloom. The skunk goes leisurely along,
holding up his white tail as a danger-flag for none to come within
range of his nauseous artillery. Bats and large moths flitter
around, whilst all the day-world is at rest and asleep. The night
speeds on; the stars that rose in the east are sinking behind the
western hills; a faint tinge of dawn lights the eastern sky; loud
and shrill rings out the awakening shout of chanticleer; the grey
dawn comes on apace; a hundred birds salute the cheerful morn, and
the night-world hurries to its gloomy dens and hiding-places, like
the sprites and fairy elves of our nursery days.

It was very dark when I started to return, excepting that flashes
of lightning now and then illumined the path, but I left my mule to
herself, and she carried me safely into Juigalpa, where I found
dinner awaiting me. It took me until midnight to skin the birds I
had shot during the day; and as I had been up since six in the
morning, I was quite ready for, and took kindly to, my hard
leathern couch.


A Nicaraguan family.
Description of the road from Juigalpa to Santo Domingo.
Comparative scarcity of insects in Nicaragua in 1872.
Water-bearing plants.
The south-western edge of the forest region.
Influence of cultivation upon it.
Sagacity of the mule.

THE site of Juigalpa is beautifully chosen, as is usual with the
old Indian towns. It is on a level dry piece of land, about three
hundred feet above the river. A rocky brook behind the town
supplies the water for drinking and cooking purposes. The large
square or plaza has the church at one end; on the other three sides
are red-tiled adobe houses and stores, with floors of clay or red
bricks. Streets branch off at right angles from the square, and are
crossed by others. The best houses are those nearest the square.
Those on the outskirts are mere thatched hovels, with open sides of
bamboo poles. The house I stayed at was at the corner of one of the
square blocks, and from the angle the view extended in four
directions along the level roads. Each way the prospect was bounded
by hills in the distance. North-east were the white cliffs of the
Amerrique range, mantled with dark wood. The intervening country
could not be seen, and only a small portion of the range itself;
framed in, as it were, by the sides of the street. It looked close
at hand, like a piece of artificial rockery, or the grey walls of a
castle covered with ivy. The range to the south-west is several
miles distant; and is called San Miguelito by the Spaniards, but I
could not learn its Indian name.

Our host was a musician, and his wife attended to the guests. As
usual, a number of relations lived with them, including the mother
of our hostess and two of her brothers. It was a very fair sample
of a family amongst what may be called the middle class in
Nicaragua. The master of the house plays occasionally in a band at
dances and festas, and holds a respectable position at Juigalpa,
where the highest families keep stores and shops.

The only work is done by the females--the men keep up their dignity
by lounging about all day, or lolling in a hammock, all wearied
with their slothfulness, and looking discontented and unhappy. One
brother told me he was a carpenter, the other a shoemaker, but that
there was nothing to do in Juigalpa. I suggested that they should
go to Libertad, where there was plenty of work. They said there was
too much rain there. As long as their brother-in-law will allow
them, they will remain lounging about his house; and that will
probably be as long as he has one, for I noticed that the wealthier
Nicaraguans are rather proud of having a lot of relations hanging
about and dependent on them. Now and then they do little spells of
work--get in the cows or doctor one that is sick--but I doubt if
any of them average more than half an hour's work per day. Even
this may be an equivalent for their board, which does not cost
much, being only a few tortillas and beans.

To this have the descendants of the Spanish conquerors come
throughout the length and breadth of the land. With perennial
summer and a fertile soil they might drink the waters of abundance,
but the bands of indolence have wound round them generation after
generation, and now they are so bound up in the drowsy folds of
slothfulness that they cannot break their silken fetters. Not a
green vegetable, not a fruit, can you buy at Juigalpa. Beef, or a
fowl--brown beans, rice, and tortillas--form the only fare. When
Mexico becomes one of the United States, all Central America will
soon follow. Railways will be pushed from the north into the
tropics, and a constant stream of immigration will change the face
of the country, and fill it with farms and gardens, orange groves,
and coffee, sugar, cacao, and indigo plantations. No progress need
be expected from the present inhabitants.

Having finished our business in Juigalpa, we arranged to start on
our return early the next morning, Velasquez going round by Acoyapo
whilst Rito accompanied me to the mines. I had a fowl cooked
overnight to take with us, and set off at six o'clock. I shall make
some remarks on the road on points not touched on in my account of
the journey out. After leaving Juigalpa, we descended to the river
by a rocky and steep path, crossed it, and then passed over
alluvial-like plains intersected by a few nearly dry river beds, to
the foot of the south-western side of the Amerrique hills, then
gradually ascended the range that separates the Juigalpa district
from that of Libertad. The ground was gravelly and dry, with stony
hillocks covered with low trees and bushes. After ascending about a
thousand feet, the ground became much moister, and we reached an
Indian hut on the side of the range, where a few bananas and a
little maize was grown. Indian women, naked to the waist, were, as
usual, bruising maize, this being their employment from morning to
night, whilst the men were sitting about idle. Some mangy-looking
dogs set up a loud barking as we approached. To one of them clung a
young spider-monkey. A number of parrots also gave evidence of the
great fondness the Indians have for animal pets. There is scarcely
a house where some bird or beast is not kept; and the Indian women
are very clever in taming birds, probably by their constant
kindness and gentleness to them, and by feeding them out of their
mouths and fondling them. From near here we had a fine view, and
saw that we had come up the side of a wide valley, bounded on the
right by the Amerrique range, on the left by high rounded grassy
hills, on one of which we could make out the cattle hacienda of La
Puerta. Lines of trees and bamboo thickets marked the course of
numerous brooks that joined lower down and formed the small rivers
we had crossed. Looking down the valley it opened out into a wide
plain, with here and there sharp-topped conical hills, such as
abound in Central America, where they appear to have been taken as
landmarks by the Indians, as many of the old roads lead past them.
Beyond the plain in the grey distance were the waters of the lake
and the peaks of Ometepec and Madera.

We had now to ascend the side of a ravine, the road, or rather
path, being through a bamboo thicket for about a mile, the bamboos
touching our knees on either side and arching close overhead, so
that we had to lie on the mules' necks a great part of the way.
Some portions of the road were dangerously steep and rocky; but as
fully a league in distance is saved by taking this by-path, instead
of the main road by way of La Puerta, I generally preferred
travelling by it, especially as I often took rare and new beetles
on the bushes. I usually, when travelling, carried a net fixed to a
short stick, and caught the insects as I passed along, off the
leaves, without stopping; so abundant were they, that it was very
rare for me to take the shortest journey without finding some new
species to add to my collection. On this journey I did not,
however, take many insects, as the latter half of the year 1872,
for some reason or other, was a very unfavourable season for them.*
[* It is curious that Mr. W.H. Hudson should have selected this
same summer of 1872-73 as affording on the pampas of South America
an exceptionally good example of one of those "waves of life" in
which there is a sudden and inordinate increase in many forms of
animal life. See "The Naturalist in La Plata" chapter 3.] The
scarcity of beetles was very remarkable. The wet season set in a
little earlier than usual, but I do not think that this caused the
dearth of insects as at Juigalpa, where there had been scarcely any
rain, there were very few compared with the two former years. The
year before, when the season was nearly as wet, beetles, especially
longicorns, had been very abundant; and the first half of 1872 had
not been characterised by any scarcity of them. Some of the fine
longicorns that appear in April were numerous. No less than five
specimens of a large and beautiful one (Deliathis nivea, Bates),
white, with black spots, that we considered one of our greatest
rarities, were taken in that month. It was not until the end of May
that the great scarcity of beetles, compared with their abundance
in former years, became apparent. I think all classes of beetles
had suffered. Many fine lamellicorns, that were generally numerous,
were not seen at all; neither were many species of longicorns,
usually common. A fig-tree that I had growing in my garden had been
much injured by a longicorn (Taeniotes scalaris) in 1870 and 1871,
but was not touched in 1872.

Butterflies were also scarce, but it was the second season that
they had been so. Some ants were affected; in others, such as the
leaf-cutter, I noted no perceptible diminution in number. A little
ant (Pheidole sp.) that used to swarm on a passion flower which
grew over the house, attending on the honey glands, and scale
insects, disappeared altogether; and another species (Hypoclinea
sp.) that it used to drive away took its place. A small stinging
black ant (Solenopsis sp.), that was a great plague in the houses,
was also fortunately scarce. In the beginning of June nearly all
the white ants or termites ("Comiens" of the Nicaraguans) died. In
some parts of my house they lay in little heaps, just as they
dropped from the nests above in the roof, and most of the nests
were entirely depopulated. I examined some of the dead termites
with a magnifier, but could detect no difference in them, excepting
that they seemed a little swollen.

That some epidemic prevailed amongst the insects there can be no
doubt; and it is curious that it should have attacked so many
different species and classes. I am not sure that it was confined
to the insects, for there was also a great mortality amongst the
fowls, many dying from inflammation of the crop, and two large
parrots fell victims to the same disease. This disease amongst the
birds may not, however, have been connected in any way with that
amongst the insects. I recollect that in 1865 there was a somewhat
similar mortality amongst the wasps in North Wales. In the autumn
of the preceding year they had been exceedingly abundant, and very
destructive to the fruit. In the next spring, numerous females that
had hibernated commenced making their paper nests, and I
anticipated a still greater plague of wasps in the autumn than we
had had the year before; but some epidemic carried off nearly all
the females before they finished building their nests, and in the
autumn scarcely a wasp was to be seen. I saw also in the Natural
History magazines notices of their scarcity in all parts of

The great mortality amongst the insects of Chontales in 1872 has
some bearing on the origin of species, for in times of such great
epidemics we may suspect that the gradations that connect extreme
forms of the same species may become extinct. Darwin has shown how
very slight differences in the colour of the skin and hair are
sometimes correlated with great immunity from certain diseases, and
from the action of some vegetable poisons, and the attacks of
certain parasites.* (* "Descent of Man" volume 1 page 242; and
"Animals and Plants under Domestication" volume 2 pages 227-230. I
have taken the examples given from the same author.) Any varieties
of species of insects that could withstand better than others these
great and probably periodical epidemics, would certainly obtain a
great advantage over those not so protected; and thus the survival
of one form, and the extinction of another, might be brought about.
We see two species of the same genus, as in many insects, differing
but little from each other, yet quite distinct, and we ask why, if
these have descended from one parent form, do not the innumerable
gradations that must have connected them exist also? There is but
one answer; we are ignorant what characters are of essential value
to each species; we do not know why white terriers are more subject
than darker-coloured ones to the attacks of the fatal distemper;
why yellow-fleshed peaches in America suffer more from diseases
than the white-fleshed varieties; why white chickens are most
liable to the gapes; or why the caterpillars of silkworms, which
produce white cocoons, are not attacked by fungus so much as those
that produce yellow cocoons? Yet in all these cases, and many
others, it has been shown that immunity from disease is correlated
with some slight difference in colour or structure, but as to the
cause of that immunity we are entirely ignorant.

At last we reached the summit of the range, which is probably not
less than three thousand feet above the sea, and entered on the
district of Libertad. Rounded boggy hills covered with grass, sedgy
plants, and stunted trees replaced the dry gravelly soil of the
Juigalpa district. The low trees bore innumerable epiphytal plants
on their trunks and boughs. Many of these are species of
Tillandsia, which sit perched up on the small branches like birds.
They have sheathing leaves that hold at their base a supply of
water that must be very useful to them in the dry season. Insects
get drowned in this water, and the plants may derive some
nourishment from their decomposing bodies, but I believe the
principal object is to obtain a supply of moisture, as the roots of
the plants do not hang down to the ground, like those of many other
epiphytes in the tropics, nor are they provided with bulbs like the
orchids. Some plants that hold liquids in cup-shaped leaves are
simply insect traps, many of them growing in bogs, where the supply
of moisture is perennial and constant. Such is the Indian-cup
(Sarracenia) that grows in the bogs of Canada, and the Californian
pitcher-plant (Darlingtonia californica), which also grows in bogs,
and is such an excellent fly-trap, that there is generally a layer
of from two to five inches of decomposing insects lying at the
bottom of the cup.* (* See "Nature" volume 3 pages 159 and 167.)
The different species of Drosera, or sun-dews, possess quite a
different apparatus for catching insects, and they also live in
bogs, which supports the inference that plants growing in such
situations have some especial need to obtain nutriment, which they
cannot draw from the decaying vegetation on which they live.
Possibly they obtain the salts of potash in this way. I did not
notice any provision in the leaves of the Bromeliaceous epiphytes
of Chontales to ensure the capture of insects, but often saw their
dead bodies in the water held at the base of the leaves, and any
that came to drink would be very liable to slip into the water from
off the nearly perpendicular side of the leaf and be drowned. It is
not impossible that the small supply of mineral salts required for
the organisation of these plants that do not draw any nutriment
from the earth may be obtained from dead insects, but, as I have
already stated, I believe that the principal object is to lay up a
store of water to carry them safely through the dry season.
Incidentally, the further advantage has been gained that insects
fall into the receptacles of water and are drowned, affording in
their decomposition nourishment to the plants.

Our road now lay over the damp grassy hills of the Libertad
district. It edged away from the Amerrique range on our right. To
our left, about three miles distant, rose the dark sinuous line of
the great forest of the Atlantic slope. Only a fringe of
dark-foliaged trees in the foreground was visible, the higher
ground behind was shrouded in a sombre pall of thick clouds that
never lifted, but seemed to cover a gloomy and mysterious country
beyond. Though I had dived into the recesses of these mountains
again and again, and knew that they were covered with beautiful
vegetation and full of animal life, yet the sight of that
leaden-coloured barrier of cloud resting on the forest tops, whilst
the savannahs were bathed in sunshine, ever raised in my mind vague
sensations of the unknown and the unfathomable. Our course was
nearly parallel to this gloomy forest, but we gradually approached
it. The line that separates it from the grassy savannahs is sinuous
and irregular. In some places a dark promontory of trees juts out
into the savannahs, in others a green grassy hill is seen almost
surrounded by forest. When I first came to the country, I was much
puzzled to understand why the forest should end just where it did.
It is not because of any change in the nature of the soil or
bedrock. It cannot be for lack of moisture, for around Libertad it
rains for at least six months out of the twelve. The surface of the
ground is not level on the savannahs, but consists of hill and
dale, just as in the forest. Altogether the conditions seemed to be
exactly the same, and it appeared a difficult matter to account for
the fact that the forest should end at an irregular but definite
line, and that at that boundary grassy savannahs should commence.
After seeing the changes that were wrought during the four and a
half years that I was in the country, I have been led to the
conclusion that the forest formerly extended much further towards
the Pacific, and has been beaten back principally by the agency of
man. The ancient Indians of Nicaragua were an agricultural race,
their principal food then, as now, being maize; and in all the
ancient graves, the stone for grinding corn is found placed there,
as the one thing that was considered indispensable. They cut down
patches of the forest and burnt it to plant their corn, as all
along the edge of it they do still. The first time the forest is
cut down, and the ground planted, the soil contains seeds of the
forest trees, which, after the corn is gathered, spring up and
regain possession of the ground, so that in twenty years, if such a
spot is left alone, it will scarcely differ from the surrounding
untouched forest. But it does not remain unmolested. After two or
three years it is cut down again and a great change takes place.
The soil does not now contain seeds of forest trees, and in their
stead a great variety of weedy-looking shrubs, only found where the
land has been cultivated, spring up. Grass, too, begins to get a
hold on the ground; if it prevails, the Indian, or Mestizo, does
not attempt to grow corn there again, as he knows the grass will
spoil it, and he is too indolent to weed it out. Often, however,
the brushwood has been cut down and burnt, and fresh crops of corn
grown several times before the grass has gained such an advantage
that the cultivator gives up the attempt to plant maize. There is
then a struggle between the weedy shrubs and the grass. The
leaf-cutting ants come to the aid of the latter. Grass they will
not touch, excepting to clear it away from their paths. The thick
forest they do not like, possibly because beneath its shade the
ground is kept too damp for their fungus beds. But along the edge
of the forest, by the sides of roads through it, that let in the
air and sunshine, and in clearings, they abound. They are
especially fond of the leaves of young trees, many of which are
destroyed by them. Should the brushwood ultimately prevail, and
cover the ground, the Indian or Mestizo comes again after a few
years, cuts it down, and replants it with maize. But as most of his
old clearings get covered with grass, he is continually encroaching
on the edge of the forest, beating it back gradually, but surely,
towards the north-east. As this process has probably been going on
for thousands of years, I believe that the edge of the forest is
several miles nearer the Atlantic than it was originally.

In this way many acres in the neighbourhood of Pital were taken
from the forest, and added to the grass-lands, whilst I was in the
country. The brushwood-land does not yield such good crops as the
virgin forest, but it is nearer to the huts of the cultivators, who
live out on the savannahs, so that whenever the weedy shrubs gain
possession of a spot sufficiently large for a clearing, and choke
off the grass, these places are again cut down and burnt, and thus
the forest is never allowed to establish outposts, or advanced
stations, in the disputed ground. What would be the result if man
were withdrawn from the scene, I do not know, but I believe that
the forest would slowly, but surely, regain the ground that it has
lost through long centuries. The thickets and dense brushwood that
always spring up along the edge of the forest, and consist of many
shrubs that the leaf-cutting ants do not touch, would gradually
spread, and beat back the grass. In their shade and shelter, seeds
from the forest would vegetate and grow, and thus, I think, very
slowly, inch by inch, the forest would regain its long-lost
territory, and gradually extend its limits towards the south-west,
until it reached its old boundaries, where a change in the physical
character of the land, or in the amount of moisture precipitated,
would stay its further progress. It is far more likely, however,
that man will drive back the forest to the very Atlantic than that
he will quit the scene.

After passing the Indian graves, about a league from Libertad, we
turned off to the right, by a path that led directly to the Mico,
without going through the town. After crossing several rounded
grassy hills, we reached the river, and found it swollen with
recent rains, but fordable. Sometimes travellers are detained
several days, unable to cross, and I was always glad when,
returning to the mines, I had put it behind me. Now and then a
traveller is drowned when attempting to cross the swollen river,
but these accidents are rare, as it is well known, by certain rocks
being covered, when it is unfordable. If carried away, a traveller
has little chance to save his life, as just below the crossing the
river is rapid and the banks precipitous. I heard of one man who
had had a very narrow escape. He was trying to cross on mule-back,
but his beast lost its footing, rolled over, and was rapidly washed
away. The poor man was carried into the roaring rapids, and would
soon have been drowned, but a herdsman on the bank, who was looking
for cattle, threw his lasso cleverly over the drowning traveller,
and dragged him on shore. Some of the "vacqueros," as the herdsmen
are called, are wonderfully adroit in throwing the lasso; when
riding at full speed, they throw it over the horns of the cattle,
or the heads of the horses, and can hold the strongest if sideways
on. But I have seen some old bulls that knew how to get loose; they
would run straight away from the vacquero in places where he could
not ride round them, and getting a straight pull on the lasso,
would break it, or draw it out of his hands. There are no horses or
mules, and very few cattle, however, that know how to do this, I
was told by the herdsmen.

After crossing the river, we soon reached Pital, where I had a cup
of tea and got a fresh mule. We now turned nearly at right angles
to our former course, and struck into the dark forest, the road
through which I have already described. It was very wet and muddy.
In some places, although it was only the commencement of the wet
season, the mules sank above their knees. On this occasion, as on
many others, I had often to notice how well the mule remembered
places where in some former year it had avoided a particularly bad
part by making a detour. I was riding a mule that had tender feet,
having just recovered from the bite of a spider, that had
occasioned the loss of one of its hoofs, and when it came near to a
place where it could escape the deep mud by going over a stony part
it would slacken its pace and look first at the mud, then at the
stones, evidently balancing in its mind which was the lesser evil.
Sometimes, too, when it came to a very bad place, which was better
at the sides, I left it to itself, and it would be so undecided
which side was the best, that making towards one it would look
towards the other, and end by getting into the worst of the mud. It
was just like many men who cannot decide which of two courses to
take, and end by a middle one, which is worse than either. And just
as in men, so in mules, there is every variety of disposition and
ability. Some are easily led, others most obstinate and headstrong;
some wise and prudent, others foolish and rash. The memory of
localities is much stronger in horses and mules than in man. When
travelling along a road that they have been over only once, and
that some years before, where there are numerous branch roads and
turnings, they will never make a mistake, even in the dark; and I
have often, at night, when I could not make out the road myself,
left them to their own guidance, and they have taken me safely to
my destination. Only once was I misled, and that through the too
good memory of my mule. Many years before it had been taken to a
pasture of good grass, and recollecting this, it took me several
miles out of my road towards its old feeding-ground, causing me to
be benighted in consequence.

I reached the mines at nine o'clock, and found that during my
absence it had been raining almost continuously, although at
Juigalpa there had been only a few slight showers.


Start on journey to Segovia.
Rocky mountain road.
A poor lodging.
The rock of Cuapo.
The use of large beaks in some birds.
A native doctor.
Flight of birds that soar.
Natives live from generation to generation on the same spot.
Do not give distinctive names to the rivers.
Caribs barter guns and iron pots for dogs.
The hairless dogs of tropical America.
Difference between artificial and natural selection.
The cause of sterility between allied species considered.
The disadvantages of a covering of hair to a domesticated animal
   in a tropical country.

IN July of the same year, 1872, I made the longest journey of any I
undertook in Nicaragua. It had been for some time difficult to
obtain sufficient native labourers for our mines, and, as we
contemplated extending our operations, it was very important that
it should be ascertained whether or not we could depend upon
obtaining the additional workmen that would be required. Nearly all
our native miners came from the highlands of the province of
Segovia, near to the boundary of Honduras. The inhabitants of the
lower country are mostly vacqueros, used to riding on horseback
after cattle, and not to be tempted, even by the much higher wages
they can obtain, to engage in the toilsome labour of underground
mining. The inhabitants of Segovia, on the contrary, have been
miners from time immemorial, and it is work they readily take to. I
had often desired to see for myself what supply of labour could be
obtained, but the journey was a long and toilsome one, and it was
not until the labour question became urgent that I resolved to
undertake it.


Having determined on the journey, I soon completed my preparations.
I took my Mestizo boy, Rito, with me; Velasquez was to join me on
the road; a pack-mule carried our equipment, consisting of some
bread, rugs, a large waterproof sheet, a change of clothes, and a
hammock. We started at seven o'clock on the morning of the 11th
July, and, as usual, made very slow progress through the forest as
far as Pital, in consequence of the badness of the road, which was
now worse than when I had passed over it a month before. After
reaching the savannahs, we proceeded more rapidly. We followed the
Juigalpa road until we got two leagues beyond Libertad, when we
turned more to the north, taking a path that led over mountain
ranges. This road was very rocky and steep; we were continually
ascending or descending, and as it rained all the afternoon, the
footing for our beasts was very bad. I was riding on a horse, and
he not being so sure-footed or so cautious as a mule, often
stumbled on the steep and slippery slopes. In some places the path
led along the top of the narrow ridge of a long hog-backed hill; in
others, by a series of zigzags, we surmounted or came down the
precipitous slopes. I nearly came to grief at one place. We had
climbed up one of the steep hills, and at the top a rocky shelf or
cap had to be leaped, at right angles to the narrow path that
slanted up the face of the hill. I put my horse to it, but he
slipped on the smooth rock and fell. If he had gone back over the
narrow path, he must have rolled down the abrupt slope; but he made
another spring, fell again, but this time with his fore-feet over
the rock, and on the third attempt scrambled over and landed me
safely on the top, but, I confess, much shaken in my seat. My
straw-hat came off in the struggle, and was rolling merrily down
the hill, when it was caught in a low bush, much to Rito's
satisfaction, who was anticipating a long tramp after it. We had a
fine view from the top of this range over a deep valley, bounded
with precipitous cliffs and dark patches of forest. Over our heads
floated drifting rain-clouds from the north-east that sometimes
concealed the mountain tops, sometimes lifted and showed their
craggy summits.

Our beasts were tired out with the rough travelling, and we moved
along slowly. About five o'clock we came in sight of the rock of
Cuapo, an isolated perpendicular cliff rising about 300 feet above
the top of a hill that it crowns. After descending a long, steep
range, we reached, near dusk, a small hut, called Tablason, and
here we determined to pass the night, although the accommodation
was about the scantiest possible. A man and his wife, six children,
and a woman to grind the maize for tortillas, lived in the hut. The
greatest portion of it was quite open at the sides, without even a
fence to keep out the pigs. At one end a place about ten feet
square was partitioned off from the rest, and surrounded with
mud-walls, and in this the whole family slept. Both the people and
the house were very dirty. The remains of a broken chair was the
only furniture, excepting the rough bedsteads made by inserting
four sticks into the ground, on which were laid two long poles,
kept apart by two shorter ones at the end, over which rude frame a
dry hide was stretched. I was offered one of these couches for the
night, and accepted it; though if it had not been for the rain I
would rather have slept outside, but all around was sloppy and wet;
night had set in; our mules and horse were tired; we ourselves were
fatigued, and there was no other shelter within several miles. They
had no food to sell us, and appeared to have nothing for
themselves, excepting a few tortillas and a little home-made
cheese. We opened out some of our preserved meats. Whilst I was
eating, the whole family crowded around me, apparently never having
seen any one eat with a fork before. Fortunately we had brought
candles with us, or we should have been in darkness, for they had
none; nor did they appear to use them, as they had no candlesticks,
and the children and our host himself took it by turns to hold our
lights. All wore ragged, dirty cotton clothes, that only
half-covered them. They had four cows, and pigs, dogs, and poultry.
The land around was fertile; they might take as much of it as they
liked to cultivate, and, with a little trouble, might have grown
almost anything; but the blight of Central America--the curse of
idleness, was upon them, and they were content to live on in
squalid poverty rather than work.

We were so tired that, notwithstanding our miserable and crowded
quarters, we slept soundly, but were up at daylight, and soon ready
for our journey again, after Rito had made a little coffee, and I
had compensated our host for our lodging. The scenery around was
very fine, and the place might have been made an earthly paradise.
To the north-east a spur of the forest came down to within a mile
of the house; in front were grassy hills and clumps of brushwood
and trees, with a clear gurgling stream in the bottom; and beyond,
in the distance, forest-clad mountains. As usual, the family had a
pet animal. Before we left, a pretty fawn came in from the forest
to be fed, and eyed us suspiciously, laying its head back over its
shoulders, and gazing at us with its large, dreamy-looking eyes.
The woman told us it had a wild mate in the woods, but came in
daily to visit them, the dogs recognising and not molesting it. Our
road still lay within a few miles of the dark Atlantic forest, the
clouds lying all along the first range, concealing more than they
exposed. There was a sort of gloomy grandeur about the view; so
much was hidden, that the mind was left at liberty to imagine that
behind these clouds lay towering mountains and awful cliffs. The
road passed within a short distance of the rock of Cuapo, and,
leaving my horse with Rito, I climbed up towards it. A ridge on the
eastern side runs up to within about 200 feet of the summit, and so
far it is accessible. Up this I climbed to the base of the brown
rock, the perpendicular cliff towering up above me; here and there
were patches of grey, where lichens clung to the rock, and orchids,
ferns, and small shrubs grew in the clefts and on ledges. There
were two fine orchids in flower, which grew not only on the rock,
but on some stunted trees at its base; and beneath some fallen
rocks nestled a pretty club-moss, and two curious little ferns
(Aneimea oblongifolia and hirsuta), with the masses of spores on
stalks rising from the pinnules. The rock was the same as that of
Pena Blanca, but the vegetation was entirely distinct. To the
south-west there was a fine view down the Juigalpa valley to the
lake, with Ometepec in the distance, and some sugar-loaf hills
nearer at hand. The weather had cleared up, white cumuli only
sailed across the blue aerial ocean. The scene had no feature in it
of a purely tropical character, excepting that three gaudy macaws
were wheeling round and round in playful flight, now showing all
red on the under surface, then turning all together, as if they
were one body, and exhibiting the gorgeous blue, yellow, and red of
the upper side gleaming in the sunshine; screaming meanwhile as
they flew with harsh, discordant cries. This gaudy-coloured and
noisy bird seems to proclaim aloud that it fears no foe. Its
formidable beak protects it from every danger, for no hawk or
predatory mammal dares attack a bird so strongly armed. Here the
necessity for concealment does not exist, and sexual selection has
had no check in developing the brightest and most conspicuous
colours. If such a bird was not able to defend itself from all
foes, its loud cries would attract them, its bright colours direct
them, to its own destruction. The white cockatoo of Australia is a
similar instance. It is equally conspicuous amongst the dark-green
foliage by its pure white colour, and equally its loud screams
proclaim from afar its resting-place, whilst its powerful beak
protects it from all enemies excepting man. In the smaller species
of parrots the beak is not sufficiently strong to protect them from
their enemies, and most of them are coloured green, which makes
them very difficult to distinguish amongst the leaves. I have been
looking for several minutes at a tree, in which were scores of
small green parrots, making an incessant noise, without being able
to distinguish one; and I recollect once in Australia firing at
what I thought was a solitary "green leek" parrot amongst a bunch
of leaves, and to my astonishment five "green leeks" fell to the
ground, the whole bunch of apparent leaves having been composed of
them. The bills of even the smallest parrots must, however, be very
useful to them to guard the entrances to their nests in the holes
of trees, in which they breed.

I believe that the principal use of the long sharp bill of the
toucan is also that of a weapon with which to defend itself against
its enemies, especially when nesting in the hole of a tree. Any
predatory animal must face this formidable beak if seeking to force
an entrance to the nest; and I know by experience that the toucan
can use it with great quickness and effect. I kept a young one of
the largest Nicaraguan species (Ramphastus tocard) for some time,
until it one day came within reach of and was killed by my monkey.
It was a most comical looking bird when hopping about, and though
evidently partial to fruit, was eager after cockroaches and other
insects; its long bill being useful in picking them out of crevices
and corners. It used its bill so dexterously that it was impossible
to put one's hand near it without being struck, and the blow would
always draw blood. That in the tropics birds should have some
special development for the protection of their breeding-places is
not to be wondered at when we reflect upon the great number of
predatory mammals, monkeys, raccoons, opossums, etc., that are
constantly searching about for nests and devouring the eggs and
young ones. I have already mentioned the great danger they run from
the attacks of the immense armies of foraging ants, and the
importance of having some means of picking off the scouts, that
they may not return and scent the trail for the advance of the main
body, whose numbers would overcome all resistance.

After examining round the rock without finding any place by which
it could be ascended, I rejoined Rito in the valley below, and we
continued our journey. We passed over some ranges and wide valleys,
where there was much grass and a few scattered huts, but very
little cattle; the country being thinly populated. On the top of a
rocky range we stayed at a small house for breakfast, and they made
us ready some tortillas. As usual, there seemed to be three or four
families all living together, and there were a great number of
children. The men were two miles away at a clearing on the edge of
the forest, looking after their "milpas," or maize patches. The
house, though small, was cleaner and tidier than the others we had
seen, and in furniture could boast of a table and a few chairs,
which showed we had chanced to fall on the habitation of one of the
well-to-do class. The ceiling of the room we were in was made of
bamboo-rods, above which maize was stored. The women were
good-looking, and appeared to be of nearly pure Spanish descent;
which perhaps accounted for the chairs and table, and also for the
absence of any attempt at gardening around the house--for the
Indian eschews furniture, but is nearly always a gardener.

We finished our homely breakfast and set off again, crossing some
more rocky ranges, and passing several Indian huts with orange
trees growing around them, and at two o'clock in the afternoon
reached the small town of Comoapa, where I determined to wait for
Velasquez. Looking about for a house to stay at, we found one kept
by a woman who formerly lived at Santo Domingo, and who was glad to
receive us; though we found afterwards she had already more
travellers staying with her than she could well accommodate.

I had shot a pretty mot-mot on the road, and proceeded to skin it,
to the amusement and delight of about a dozen spectators, who
wondered what I could want with the "hide" of a bird, the only
skinning that they had ever seen being that of deer and cattle. A
native doctor, who was staying at the house, insisted on helping
me, and as the mot-mot's skin is very tough, he did not do much
harm. The bird had been shot in the morning, and some one remarking
that no blood flowed when it was cut, the doctor said, with a wise
air, that that class of birds had no blood, and that he knew of
another class that also had none, to which his auditors gave a
satisfied "Como no" ("Why not?"). He also gave us to understand
that he had himself at one time skinned birds, for being evidently
looked up to as an authority on all subjects by the simple country
people, he was unwilling that his reputation should suffer by it
being supposed that a stranger had come to Comoapa who knew
something that he did not. Having skinned my bird and put the skin
out in the sun to dry, I took a stroll through the small town, and
found it composed mostly of huts inhabited by Mestizos, with a
tumble-down church and a weed-covered plaza. Around some of the
houses were planted mango and orange trees, but there was a general
air of dilapidation and decay, and not a single sign of industry or
progress visible.

Velasquez arrived at dusk, having ridden from Libertad that day.
About a dozen of us slung our hammocks in the small travellers'
room, where, when we had all gone to rest, we looked like a cluster
of great bats hanging from the rafters. No one could get along the
room without disturbing every one else, and the next morning all
were early astir. We got our animals saddled as soon as possible,
and set off on our journey. It was a clear and beautiful morning,
and a cool breeze from the north-east fanned us as we rode blithely
over grassy savannahs and hills. High up in the air soared a couple
of large black vultures, floating on the wind, and describing large
circles without apparent movement or exertion, scanning from their
airy height the country for miles around, on the look-out for their
carrion food. Like all birds that soar, both over sea and land,
when it is calm the vultures are obliged to flap their wings to
fly; but when a breeze is blowing they are able to use their
specific gravity as a fulcrum, by means of which they present their
bodies and outstretched wings and tails at various angles to the
wind, and literally sail. How often, when becalmed on southern
seas, when not a breath of air was stirring and the sails idly
flapped against the mast, have I seen the albatross, the petrel,
and the Cape-pigeon resting on the water, or rising with
difficulty, and only by the constant motion of their long wings
able to fly at all. But when a breeze sprang up they were all life
and motion, wheeling in graceful circles, now presenting one side,
now the other to view, descending rapidly with the wind, and so
gaining velocity to turn and rise up again against it. Then, as the
breeze freshened to a gale, the petrels darted about, playing round
and round the scudding ship, at home on the wings of the storm,
poising themselves upon the wind as instinctively and with as
little effort as a man balances himself on his feet. The old times
recurred as I rode over the savannah, and the soaring vultures
brought back to my mind the wheeling stormy petrels that darted
about whilst under close-reefed topsails we struggled against the
gale, rounding the stormy southern cape; when great blue seas,
"green glimmering towards the summit," towered on every side, or
struck our gallant ship like a sledge, making it shiver with the
blow, and sending a driving cloud of spray from stem to stern. Then
the petrels were in their element; then they darted about--above,
below, now here, now there--all life and motion; as if their chief
pleasure was, like Ariel, "to ride on the curled cloud" and "point
the tempest."* (* The Duke of Argyll, in his "Reign of Law", has
some excellent remarks on the flight of birds that soar, or hover.
My remarks, of which the above account is a paraphrase, were
written out in my journal in 1852, but were not published.)

We were travelling nearly parallel with the edge of the great
forest which was two or three miles away on our right; in all other
directions the view was bounded by ranges, some grassed to their
tops, others with forests climbing up their steep sides, excepting
where white cliffs gave no foothold for the trees. We passed
several grass-thatched huts inhabited by half-clad Indians or
Mestizos, who generally possess a few cows, and, away on the edge
of the forest, small clearings of maize. These people, with
unlimited fertile land at their disposal, were all sunk in what
looked like squalid poverty; but they had a roof over their heads,
and sufficient, though coarse, food, and they cared for nothing
more. Our road lay a couple of miles to the north of the village of
Huaco, where much of the maize of the province is grown; the road
then led over many swampy valleys, and our beasts had hard work
plunging through the mud. We passed through La Puerta, a scattered
collection of Indian huts; then over a river called the Aguasco,
running to the east, and probably emptying into the Rio Grande.
There were a few orange trees about some of the huts, but most of
the people were Mestizes, or half-breeds, and nothing but weeds
grew around their habitations. Their plantations of maize were
always some miles distant, and they never seem to think of moving
their houses nearer to their clearings on the edge of the forest.
Nearly always when I asked the question, I found that the grown-up
people had been born on the spot where they lived, and they are
evidently greatly attached to the localities where they have been
brought up. Probably when the settlements were first made, forest
land lay near, in which they made their clearings and raised their
crops of corn. Since then the edge of the forest has been beaten
back some miles to the north-east; but the people cling to the old
spots, where, generation after generation, their ancestors have
lived and died. A new house could be built in a few days, closer to
the forest; but they prefer travelling several miles every day to
and from their clearings, rather than desert their old homes.

Beyond the Aguasco, we had to travel over a swampy plain for about
a mile, our animals plunging all the time through about three feet
of mud. This plain was covered with thousands of guayava trees,
laden with sufficient fruit to make guava jelly for all the world.
After floundering through the swamp, we reached more savannahs, and
then entered a beautiful valley, well grassed, and with herds of
fine cattle, horses, and mules grazing on it. The grass was well
cropped, and looked like pasture-land at home. The ground was now
firmer, and we got more rapidly across it. A flock of wild Muscovy
ducks flew heavily across the plain, looking very like the tame
variety. I do not wonder at sportsmen sometimes being unwilling to
fire at them, mistaking them for domestic ducks. The tame variety
is very prolific, and sits better on its eggs than the common duck.
I have seen twenty ducklings brought out at a single hatching. They
are good eating, and a large one has nearly as much flesh upon it
as an average-sized goose.

About dusk on these plains, which extended around for several
miles, we reached the cattle hacienda of Olama, where was a large
tile-roofed house, near a river of the same name. The natives of
Nicaragua seldom give distinctive names to their rivers, but call
them after the towns or villages on their banks. Thus, at Olama,
the river was called the Olama river; higher up, at Matagalpa, the
same stream is called the Matagalpa river; and at Jinotego the
Jinotego river. The Caribs, however, who live on the rivers, and
use them as highways, have names for them all; but to the
agricultural Indians and Mestizos of the interior, they are but
reservoirs of water, crossed at distant points by their roads, and
everywhere amongst them I found the greatest ignorance prevailing
as to the connection of the different streams, and their outflow to
the ocean. All the streams about Olama flow eastward, and join
together to form the Rio Grande, that reaches the Atlantic about
midway between Blewfields and the river Wanks. It is very
incorrectly marked on all the maps of Nicaragua that I have seen.

The Caribs from the lower parts of the river occasionally come up
in their canoes to Olama, and bring with them common guns and iron
pots that they have obtained from the mahogany cutters at the mouth
of the river. These they barter for dogs. I could not ascertain
what they wanted with the dogs, but both at this place and at
Matagalpa I was told of the great value the Caribs put on them.
Although the people of Olama expressed great surprise that the
"Caritos," as they call the river Indians, should take so much
trouble to obtain dogs, they had not had the curiosity to ask them
what they wanted them for. Some people near the river have even
commenced to rear dogs to supply the demand. The Caribs had a
special liking for black ones, and did not value those of any other
colour so much. They would barter a gun or a large iron pot for a
single dog, if it was of the right colour.

The common dogs of Central America are a mongrel breed--not
differing, I believe, from those of Europe. There are usually a
number of curs about the Indian houses that run out barking at a
stranger, but seldom bite.

The hairless dogs, mentioned by Humboldt, as being abundant in
Peru,* (* "Aspects of Nature" volume 1 page 109.) are not common in
Central America, but there are a few to be met with. At Colon I saw
several. They are of a shining dark colour, and are quite without
hair, excepting a little on the face and on the tip of the tail.
Both in Peru and Mexico this variety was found by the Spanish
conquerors. It would be interesting to have these dogs compared
with the hairless dogs of China, which Humboldt says have certainly
been extremely common since very early times. Perhaps another link
might be added to the broken chain of evidence that connects the
peoples of the two countries.

A large naked dog-like animal is figured by Clavigero as one of the
indigenous animals of Mexico. It was called Xoloitzcuintli by the
Mexicans; and Humboldt considers it was distinct from the hairless
dog, and was a large dog-like wolf. Its name does not support this
view; Xoloitzcuintli literally means "a servant dog," from "Xolotl,"
a slave or servant, and itzcuintli, a dog; and we find the word
Xolotl in Huexlotl, the Aztec name of the common turkey, which was
domesticated by them, and largely used as food. I am led to believe
from this that Xolotl was applied to any animal that lived in the
house or was domesticated, and that the Xoloitzcuintli was merely a
large variety of the hairless dog. Clavigero's description of it
would fit the hairless dog of the present day very well, excepting
the size; he says it was four feet long, totally naked, excepting a
few stiff hairs on its snout, and ash coloured, spotted with black
and tawny.

Tschudi makes two races of indigenous dogs in tropical America.

1. The Canis caraibicus (Lesson), without hair, and which does not
2. The Canis ingae (Tschudi), the common hairy dog, which has
   pointed nose and ears, and barks.* (* J.J. von Tschudi quoted by
   Humboldt "Aspects of Nature" English edition volume 1 page 111.)

The small eatable dog of the Mexicans was called by them Techichi;
and Humboldt derives the name from Tetl, a stone, and says that it
means "a dumb dog," but this appears rather a forced derivation.
Chichi is Aztec for "to suck;" and it seems to me more probable
that the little dogs they eat, and which are spoken of by the
Spaniards as making very tender and delicate food, were the puppies
of the Xoloitzcuintli, and that Techichi meant "a sucker."

Whether the hairless dog was or was not the Techichi of which the
Mexicans made such savoury dishes is an open question, but there
can be no doubt that the former was found in tropical America by
the Spanish conquerors, and that it has survived to the present
time, with little or no change. That it should not have intermixed
with the common haired variety, and lost its distinctive
characters, is very remarkable. It has not been artificially
preserved, for instead of being looked on with favour by the
Indians, Humboldt states that in Peru, where it is abundant, it is
despised and ill-treated. Under such circumstances, the variety can
only have been preserved through not interbreeding with the common
form, either from a dislike to such unions, or by some amount of
sterility when they are formed. This is, I think, in favour of the
inference that the variety has been produced by natural and not by
artificial selection, for diminished fertility is seldom or never
acquired between artificial varieties.

Man isolates varieties, and breeds from them, and continuing to
separate those that vary in the direction he wishes to follow, a
very great difference is, in a comparatively short time, produced.
But these artificial varieties, though often more different from
each other than some natural species, readily interbreed, and if
left to themselves rapidly revert to a common type. In natural
selection there is a great and fundamental difference. The
varieties that arise can seldom be separated from the parent form
and from other varieties until they vary also in the elements of
reproduction. Thousands of varieties probably revert to the parent
type, but if at last one is produced that breeds only with its own
form, we can easily see how a new species might be segregated. As
long as varieties interbreed together and with the parent form, it
does not seem possible that a new species could be formed by
natural selection, excepting in cases of geographical isolation.
All the individuals might vary in some one direction, but they
could not split up into distinct species whilst they occupied the
same area and interbred without difficulty. Before a variety can
become permanent, it must be either separated from the others or
have acquired some disinclination or inability to interbreed with
them. So long as they interbreed together, the possible divergence
is kept within narrow limits, but whenever a variety is produced,
the individuals of which have a partiality for interbreeding, and
some amount of sterility when crossed with the parent form, the tie
that bound it to the central stock is loosened, and the foundation
is laid for the formation of a new species. Further divergence
would be unchecked, or only slightly checked, and the elements of
reproduction having begun to vary, would probably continue to
diverge from the parent form, for Darwin has shown that any organ
in which a species has begun to vary is liable to further change in
the same direction.* (* "See Animals and Plants under
Domestication" volume 2 page 241.) Thus one of the best tests of
the specific difference of two allied forms living together is
their sterility when crossed, and nearly allied species separated
by geographical barriers are more likely to interbreed than those
inhabiting the same area. Artificial selection is more rapid in its
results, but less stable than that of nature, because the barriers
that man raises to prevent intermingling of varieties are temporary
and partial, whilst that which nature fixes when sterility arises
is permanent and complete.

For these reasons I think that the fact that the hairless dog of
tropical America has not interbred with the common form, and
regained its hairy coat, is in favour of the inference that the
variety has been produced by natural and not by artificial
selection. By this I do not mean that it has arisen as a wild
variety, for it is probable that its domestication was an important
element amongst the causes that led to its formation, but that it
has not been produced by man selecting the individuals to breed
from that had the least covering of hairs. I cannot agree with some
eminent naturalists that the loss of a hairy covering would always
be disadvantageous. My experience in tropical countries has led me
to the conclusion that in such parts at least there is one serious
drawback to the advantages of having the skin covered with hair. It
affords cover for parasitical insects, which, if the skin were
naked, might more easily be got rid of.

No one who has not lived and moved about amongst the bush of the
tropics can appreciate what a torment the different parasitical
species of acarus or ticks are. On my first journey in Northern
Brazil, I had my legs inflamed and ulcerated from the ankles to the
knees from the irritation produced by a minute red tick that is
brushed off the low shrubs, and attaches itself to the passer-by.
This little insect is called the "Mocoim" by the Brazilians, and is
a great torment. It is so minute that except by careful searching
it cannot be perceived, and it causes an intolerable itching. If
the skin were thickly covered with hair, it would be next to
impossible to get rid of it. Through all tropical America, during
the dry season, a brown tick (Ixodes bovis), varying in size from a
pin's head to a pea, abounds. In Nicaragua, in April, they are very
small, and swarm upon the plains, so that the traveller often gets
covered with them. They get upon the tips of the leaves and shoots
of low shrubs, and stand with their hind-legs stretched out. Each
foot has two hooks or claws, and with these it lays hold of any
animal brushing past. All large land animals seem subject to their
attacks. I have seen them on snakes and iguanas, on many of the
large birds, especially on the curassows. They abound on all the
large mammals, and on many of the small ones. Sick and weak animals
are particularly infested with them, probably because they have not
the strength to rub and pick them off, and they must often hasten,
if they do not cause their death. The herdsmen, or "vacqueros,"
keep a ball of soft wax at their houses, which they rub over their
skin when they come in from the plains, the small "garrapatos"
sticking to it, whilst the larger ones are picked off. How the
small ones would be got rid of if the skin had a hairy coat I know
not, but the torment of the ticks would certainly be greatly

There are other insect parasites, for the increase and protection
of which a hairy coating is even more favourable than it is for the
ticks. The Pediculi are specially adapted to live amongst hair,
their limbs being constructed for clinging to it. They deposit
their nits or eggs amongst it, fastening them securely to the bases
of the hairs. Although the pediculi are almost unknown to the
middle and upper classes of civilised communities, in consequence
of the cleanliness of their persons, clothing, and houses, they
abound amongst savage and half-civilised people. A slight immunity
from the attacks of acari and pediculi might in a tropical country
more than compensate an animal for the loss of its hairy coat,
especially in the case of the domesticated dog, which finds shelter
with its master, has not to seek for its food at night, and is
protected from the attacks of stronger animals. In the huts of
savages dogs are greatly exposed to the attacks of parasitical
insects, for vermin generally abound in such localities. Man is the
only species amongst the higher primates that lives for months and
years--often indeed from generation to generation--on the same
spot. Monkeys change their sleeping places almost daily. The
ourang-outang, that makes a nest of the boughs of trees, is said to
construct a fresh one every night. The dwelling places of savages,
often made of, or lined with, the skins of animals, with the dusty
earth for a floor, harbour all kinds of insect vermin, and produce
and perpetuate skin disease, due to the attacks of minute sarcopti.
If the dog by losing its hair should obtain any protection from
these and other insect pests, instead of wondering that a hairless
breed of dogs has been produced in a tropical country, I am more
surprised that haired ones should abound. That they do so must, I
think, be owing to man having preferred the haired breeds for their
superior beauty and greater variety, and encouraged their


The "Sanate."
Idleness of the people.
Mountain road.
The "Bull Rock."
The bull's-horn thorn.
Ants kept as standing armies by some plants.
Use of honey-secreting glands.
Plant-lice, scale-insects, and leaf-hoppers furnish ants
   with honey, and in return are protected by the latter.
Contest between wasps and ants.
Waxy secretions of the homopterous hemiptera.

WE rode up to the large hacienda at Olama, and were asked to alight
by a man whom I at first took to be the proprietor, but afterwards
discovered to be a traveller like ourselves, buying cattle for the
Leon market. The owner of the house and his sister were away at a
little town three or four miles distant; and I was a little nervous
about the reception we should have when they returned and found us
making ourselves at home at their house. Velasquez had, however, no
apprehensions on that score, as he knew that throughout the central
departments of Nicaragua it is the custom for travellers to expect
and to receive a welcome at any house they may arrive at by
nightfall. Excepting in the towns, and on some of the main roads,
there are no houses where travellers can stop and pay for a night's
lodging. Every one expects to be called on at any time to give a
night's shelter. This is all that is afforded, as travellers carry
with them their hammocks and food. About an hour after dark, the
owner and his sister returned on mules, and the gentleman seemed
pleased at finding us at his house. I was about to offer a chair to
the sister; but Velasquez told me it was not the custom to show any
civilities to the ladies, as they would probably be misconstrued.
After a while, the master had some chocolate brought to him by his
sister, who waited upon him. The wife, the sister, and the daughter
in the departments seldom sit down to their meals with the master
of the house, but attend upon him like servants.

Whilst coffee was preparing next morning, I strolled about the
outbuildings, and was much amused at the antics of the jet black
Quiscalus, called "sanate" by the natives. They are about the size
of a magpie, with much of the active movements of that bird. They
are generally seen about cattle, sometimes picking the garrapatos
off them, but more often one on each side, watching for the
grasshoppers and other insects that are frightened up as the cattle
feed. On this morning there were several of them on the top of a
shed. Every now and then one would ruffle out its feathers, open
its wings a little, give a step or two forward towards another,
stretch out its neck, open its bill, and then give rather a long
squeak-like whistle. As soon as it had done this, it would
hurriedly close its feathers and wings, and hold its head straight
up, with its bill pointing to the sky. All its movements were
grotesque; and its sudden change in appearance after delivering its
cry was ludicrous. It appeared as if it was ashamed of what it had
done, and was trying to look as if it had not done it--just as I
have seen a schoolboy throw a snowball, and then stand rigidly
looking another way. After a few moments, the "sanate" would lower
its head, and, in a short time, go through the same performance
again, repeating every movement automatically.

Bidding adieu to our host, we rode over grassy savannahs, with much
cattle feeding on them, and in about five miles reached a small
village called Muy-muy, which means "very-very." I think it is a
corruption of an old Indian word "Muyo," met with in other Indian
names of towns, as, for instance, in Muyogalpa. After riding all
round the plaza, which formed three-fourths of the town, we at last
found a house where they consented to make us some tortillas, on
condition that we would buy some native cheese also. The land
around was fertile, but the people too lazy to cultivate it. Many
of the houses were dilapidated huts. The place altogether had a
most depressing aspect of poverty and idleness. I asked one man
what the people worked at. He said, "Nada, nada, senor," that is,
"Nothing, nothing, sir." Some of them possess cattle; and those
that have none sometimes help those that have, and get enough to
keep them alive. The principal subject of interest seemed to be the
"caritos," who had come up the river and given them guns and iron
pots for their black dogs; but no one had had the curiosity to ask
what they wanted the dogs for. It was Sunday, and many of the
country people from around had come into the village. All that had
any money were at the estanco, drinking aguardiente. The men were
dressed alike, with palm-tree hats, white calico jackets and
trousers, the latter often rolled up to the thigh on one leg, as is
the fashion in this part of the world. Nearly all were barefooted.


Having breakfasted off tortillas and cheese, we continued our
journey, and crossed two rivers running to the eastward; then
ascended a high and rocky range, along the top of which the path
lay. We took this mountain-path to avoid some very bad swamps that
we were told we should encounter if we went by the main road. The
mountain range was bare and bleak, but we had a fine view over the
surrounding country. Opposite to us, on the other side of a wide
valley, was a similar range to that along which we were travelling,
the sides partly wooded and partly cleared for planting maize. We
passed several Indian huts with grass-thatched roofs, and met a
party of Indians travelling down the mountain in single file, each
man carrying his bow and arrows. They were going down to Huaco to
buy corn, the maize crop having failed around Matagalpa the last
season. The mountain road, though dry, was rocky, with steep
ascents, and our mules got very tired. About five o'clock we
descended from the hills into the valley of Ocalca, near to which
there had been some gold workings, now abandoned. Here we came in
sight, for the first time, of the pine forests, a high range a few
miles to the north being covered with them.

About dusk, we reached an Indian hut, and proposed staying there
for the night. The owners were pure Indians; the women, engaged as
usual in grinding maize, were naked to the waist. There was an old
man and his son, and some children. The old Indian looked
distressed at our proposal to take up our quarters there for the
night, but he made no objection. The accommodation was very poor,
there being no hammocks or bedsteads; and I think all the inmates
must have slept above on some bamboos that were laid across the
beams. Learning from the old man that there was a large and better
house a little further on, we relieved him of our company, and
crossing a river, reached a cattle hacienda owned by a very stout
native named Blandon, who made us welcome. The house was a large
one; and there were a number of mozos and women-servants about. We
asked if we could buy anything to eat, and Senor Blandon said he
would get supper prepared, at which we were much pleased, as we had
had nothing all day excepting a drink of coffee at daylight, and
some tortillas and cheese at Muy-muy. After waiting a long time, we
were invited to our supper; and on going into an inner room, found
it consisted only of coffee and two small cakes called "roskears"
for each of us; and we were told they had nothing else to offer us.
So, munching our dry roskears, we mumbled over them as long as we
could, and did not waste a crumb, wondering how our host got so fat
on such fare. We were as hungry when we finished as when we began,
and soon laid down on our hard couches to forget our hunger in

We started off early the next morning, as we were within a few
leagues of the town of Matagalpa, and knew when we got there we
should obtain plenty of provisions. About a league before arriving
at Matagalpa there is a high range, with perpendicular cliffs near
the summit. Rito told us that near the base of these cliffs there
was a carving of a bull, and that the place was enchanted. I had
heard in other parts stories of bulls being engraved or painted on
rocks, but was very doubtful about their being true, as, up to the
advent of the Spaniards, the Indians of Central America had never
seen any cattle; and since the conquest they appear to have
entirely given up their ancient practice of carving on stone,
whilst the Spaniards and half-breeds have not learnt the art; so
that I have never seen a single carving in the central departments
that could be ascribed to a later period than the Spanish conquest.

Tired and hungry though we were, I was determined to put this story
to the test; so Velasquez and I climbed up to the cliffs, and
searched all round them, but could find no carving. At one place
there was a large black stain on the cliff, produced by the
trickling down of water from above, and I afterwards learnt that
this stain at a distance somewhat resembled a bull, and a little
imagination completed the likeness. The lady of the house where we
stayed at Matagalpa assured us she had seen it, and that everything
appertaining to a bull was there. This she insisted on with a
minuteness of detail rather embarrassing to a fastidious auditor.

Clambering down the rocks, we reached our horse and mule, and
started off again, passing over dry weedy hills. One low tree, very
characteristic of the dry savannahs, I have only incidentally
mentioned before. It is a species of acacia, belonging to the
section Gummiferae, with bi-pinnate leaves, growing to a height of
fifteen or twenty feet. The branches and trunk are covered with
strong curved spines, set in pairs, from which it receives the name
of the bull's-horn thorn, they having a very strong resemblance to
the horns of that quadruped. These thorns are hollow, and are
tenanted by ants, that make a small hole for their entrance and
exit near one end of the thorn, and also burrow through the
partition that separates the two horns; so that the one entrance
serves for both. Here they rear their young, and in the wet season
every one of the thorns is tenanted; and hundreds of ants are to be
seen running about, especially over the young leaves. If one of
these be touched, or a branch shaken, the little ants (Pseudomyrma
bicolor, Guer.) swarm out from the hollow thorns, and attack the
aggressor with jaws and sting. They sting severely, raising a
little white lump that does not disappear in less than twenty-four

These ants form a most efficient standing army for the plant, which
prevents not only the mammalia from browsing on the leaves, but
delivers it from the attacks of a much more dangerous enemy--the
leaf-cutting ants. For these services the ants are not only
securely housed by the plant, but are provided with a bountiful
supply of food, and to secure their attendance at the right time
and place, the food is so arranged and distributed as to effect
that object with wonderful perfection. The leaves are bi-pinnate.
At the base of each pair of leaflets, on the mid-rib, is a
crater-formed gland, which, when the leaves are young, secretes a
honey-like liquid. Of this the ants are very fond; and they are
constantly running about from one gland to another to sip up the
honey as it is secreted. But this is not all; there is a still more
wonderful provision of more solid food. At the end of each of the
small divisions of the compound leaflet there is, when the leaf
first unfolds, a little yellow fruit-like body united by a point at
its base to the end of the pinnule. Examined through a microscope,
this little appendage looks like a golden pear. When the leaf first
unfolds, the little pears are not quite ripe, and the ants are
continually employed going from one to another, examining them.
When an ant finds one sufficiently advanced, it bites the small
point of attachment; then, bending down the fruit-like body, it
breaks it off and bears it away in triumph to the nest. All the
fruit-like bodies do not ripen at once, but successively, so that
the ants are kept about the young leaf for some time after it
unfolds. Thus the young leaf is always guarded by the ants; and no
caterpillar or larger animal could attempt to injure them without
being attacked by the little warriors. The fruit-like bodies are
about one-twelfth of an inch long, and are about one-third of the
size of the ants; so that an ant carrying one away is as heavily
laden as a man bearing a large bunch of plantains. I think these
facts show that the ants are really kept by the acacia as a
standing army, to protect its leaves from the attacks of
herbivorous mammals and insects.


The bull's-horn thorn does not grow at the mines in the forest, nor
are the small ants attending on them found there. They seem
specially adapted for the tree, and I have seen them nowhere else.
Besides the Pseudomyrma, I found another ant that lives on these
acacias; it is a small black species of Crematogaster, whose habits
appear to be rather different from those of Pseudomyrma. It makes
the holes of entrance to the thorns near the centre of one of each
pair, and not near the end, like the Pseudomyrma; and it is not so
active as that species. It is also rather scarce; but when it does
occur, it occupies the whole tree, to the exclusion of the other.
The glands on the acacia are also frequented by a small species of
wasp (Polybia occidentalis). I sowed the seeds of the acacia in my
garden, and reared some young plants. Ants of many kinds were
numerous; but none of them took to the thorns for shelter, nor the
glands and fruit-like bodies for food; for, as I have already
mentioned, the species that attend on the thorns are not found in
the forest. The leaf-cutting ants attacked the young plants, and
defoliated them, but I have never seen any of the trees out on the
savannahs that are guarded by the Pseudomyrma touched by them, and
have no doubt the acacia is protected from them by its little
warriors. The thorns, when they are first developed, are soft, and
filled with a sweetish, pulpy substance; so that the ant, when it
makes an entrance into them, finds its new house full of food. It
hollows this out, leaving only the hardened shell of the thorn.
Strange to say, this treatment seems to favour the development of
the thorn, as it increases in size, bulging out towards the base;
whilst in my plants that were not touched by the ants, the thorns
turned yellow and dried up into dead but persistent prickles. I am
not sure, however, that this may not have been due to the habitat
of the plant not suiting it.

These ants seem at first sight to lead the happiest of existences.
Protected by their stings, they fear no foe. Habitations full of
food are provided for them to commence housekeeping with, and cups
of nectar and luscious fruits await them every day. But there is a
reverse to the picture. In the dry season on the plains, the
acacias cease to grow. No young leaves are produced, and the old
glands do not secrete honey. Then want and hunger overtake the ants
that have revelled in luxury all the wet season; many of the thorns
are depopulated, and only a few ants live through the season of
scarcity. As soon, however, as the first rains set in, the trees
throw out numerous vigorous shoots, and the ants multiply again
with astonishing rapidity.


Both in Brazil and Nicaragua I paid much attention to the relation
between the presence of honey-secreting glands on plants, and the
protection the latter secured by the attendance of ants attracted
by the honey. I found many plants so protected; the glands being
specially developed on the young leaves, and on the sepals of the
flowers. Besides the bull's-horn acacias, I, however, only met with
two other genera of plants that furnished the ants with houses,
namely the Cecropiae and some of the Melastomae. I have no doubt
that there are many others. The stem of the Cecropia, or trumpet
tree, is hollow, and divided into cells by partitions that extend
across the interior of the hollow trunk. The ants gain access by
making a hole from the outside, and then burrow through the
partitions, thus getting the run of the whole stem. They do not
obtain their food directly from the tree, but keep brown
scale-insects (Coccidae) in the cells, which suck the juices from
the tree, and secrete a honey-like fluid that exudes from a pore on
the back, and is lapped up by the ants. In one cell eggs will be
found, in another grubs, and in a third pupae, all lying loosely.
In another cell, by itself, a queen ant will be found, surrounded
by walls made of a brown waxy-looking substance, along with about a
dozen Coccidae to supply her with food. I suppose the eggs are
removed as soon as laid, for I never found any along with the
queen-ant. If the tree be shaken, the ants rush out in myriads, and
search about for the molester. This case is not like the last one,
where the tree has provided food and shelter for the ants, but
rather one where the ant has taken possession of the tree, and
brought with it the Coccidae; but I believe that its presence must
be beneficial. I have cut into some dozens of the Cecropia trees,
and never could find one that was not tenanted by ants. I noticed
three different species, all, as far as I know, confined to the
Cecropiae, and all farming scale-insects. As in the bull's-horn
thorn, there is never more than one species of ant on the same

In some species of Melastomae there is a direct provision of houses
for the ants. In each leaf, at the base of the laminae, the
petiole, or stalk, is furnished with a couple of pouches, divided
from each other by the mid-rib, as shown in the figure. Into each
of these pouches there is an entrance from the lower side of the
leaf. I noticed them first in Northern Brazil, in the province of
Maranham; and afterwards at Para. Every pouch was occupied by a
nest of small black ants, and if the leaf was shaken ever so
little, they would rush out and scour all over it in search of the
aggressor. I must have tested some hundreds of leaves, and never
shook one without the ants coming out, excepting on one
sickly-looking plant at Para. In many of the pouches I noticed the
eggs and young ants, and in some I saw a few dark-coloured Coccidae
or aphides; but my attention had not been at that time directed to
the latter as supplying the ants with food, and I did not examine a
sufficient number of pouches to determine whether they were
constant occupants of the nests or not. My subsequent experience
with the Cecropia trees would lead me to expect that they were. If
so, we have an instance of two insects and a plant living together,
and all benefiting by the companionship. The leaves of the plant
are guarded by the ants, the ants are provided with houses by the
plant, and food by the Coccidae or aphides, and the latter are
effectually protected by the ants in their common habitation.

Amongst the numerous plants that do not provide houses, but attract
ants to their leaves and flower-buds by means of glands secreting a
honey-like liquid, are many epiphytal orchids, and I think all the
species of Passiflora. I had the common red passion-flower growing
over the front of my verandah, where it was continually under my
notice. It had honey-secreting glands on its young leaves and on
the sepals of the flower-buds. For two years I noticed that the
glands were constantly attended by a small ant (Pheidole), and,
night and day, every young leaf and every flower-bud had a few on
them. They did not sting, but attacked and bit my finger when I
touched the plant. I have no doubt that the primary object of these
honey-glands is to attract the ants, and keep them about the most
tender and vulnerable parts of the plant, to prevent them being
injured; and I further believe that one of the principal enemies
that they serve to guard against in tropical America is the
leaf-cutting ant, as I have observed that the latter are very much
afraid of the small black ants.

On the third year after I had noticed the attendance of the ants on
my passion-flower, I found that the glands were not so well looked
after as before, and soon discovered that a number of scale-insects
had established themselves on the stems, and that the ants had in a
great measure transferred their attentions to them. An ant would
stand over a scale-insect and stroke it alternately on each side
with its antennae, whereupon every now and then a clear drop of
honey would exude from a pore on the back of the latter and be
imbibed by the ant. Here it was clear that the scale-insect was
competing successfully with the leaves and sepals for the
attendance and protection of the ants, and was successful either
through the fluid it furnished being more attractive or more
abundant.* (* I have since observed ants attending scale-insects on
a large plant of Passiflora macrocarpa in the palm-house at Kew.) I
have, from these facts, been led to the conclusion that the use of
honey-secreting glands in plants is to attract insects that will
protect the flower-buds and leaves from being injured by
herbivorous insects and mammals, but I do not mean to infer that
this is the use of all glands, for many of the small appendicular
bodies, called "glands" by botanists, do not secrete honey. The
common dog-rose of England is furnished with glands on the
stipules, and in other species they are more numerous, until in the
wild Rosa villosa of the northern counties the leaves are thickly
edged, and the fruit and sepals covered with stalked glands. I have
only observed the wild roses in the north of England, and there I
have never seen insects attending the glands. These glands,
however, do not secrete honey, but a dark, resinous, sticky liquid,
that probably is useful by being distasteful to both insects and

If the facts I have described are sufficient to show that some
plants are benefited by supplying ants with honey from glands on
their leaves and flower-buds, I shall not have much difficulty in
proving that many plant-lice, scale-insects, and leaf-hoppers, that
also attract ants by furnishing them with honey-like food, are,
similarly benefited. The aphides are the principal ant-cows of
Europe. In the tropics their place is taken in a great measure by
species of Coccidae and genera of Homoptera, such as Membracis and
its allies. My pineapples were greatly subject to the attacks of a
small, soft-bodied, brown coccus, that was always guarded by a
little, black, stinging ant (Solenopsis). This ant took great care
of the scale-insects, and attacked savagely any one interfering
with them, as I often found to my cost, when trying to clear my
pines, by being stung severely by them. Not content with watching
over their cattle, the ants brought up grains of damp earth, and
built domed galleries over them, in which, under the vigilant guard
of their savage little attendants, the scale-insects must, I think,
have been secure from the attacks of all enemies.

Many of the leaf-hoppers--species, I think, of Membracis--were
attended by ants. These leaf-hoppers live in little clusters on
shoots of plants and beneath leaves, in which are hoppers in every
stage of development--eggs, larvae, and adults. I believe it is
only the soft-bodied larvae that exude honey. It would take a
volume to describe the various species, and I shall confine my
remarks to one whose habits I was able to observe with some
minuteness. The papaw trees growing in my garden were infested by a
small brown species of Membracis--one of the leaf-hoppers--that
laid its eggs in a cottony-like nest by the side of the ribs on the
under part of the leaves. The hopper would stand covering the nest
until the young were hatched. These were little soft-bodied
dark-coloured insects, looking like aphides, but more robust, and
with the hind segments turned up. From the end of these the little
larvae exuded drops of honey, and were assiduously attended by
small ants belonging to two species of the genus Pheidole, one of
them being the same as I have already described as attending the
glands on the passion-flower. One tree would be attended by one
species, another by the other; and I never saw the two species on
the same tree. A third ant, however--a species of Hypoclinea--which
I have mentioned before as a cowardly species, whose nests were
despoiled by the Ecitons, frequented all the trees, and whenever it
found any young hoppers unattended, it would relieve them of their
honey, but would scamper away on the approach of any of the
Pheidole. The latter do not sting, but they attack and bite the
hand if the young hoppers are interfered with. These leaf-hoppers
are, when young, so soft-bodied and sluggish in their movements,
and there are so many enemies ready to prey upon them, that I
imagine that in the tropics many species would be exterminated if
it were not for the protection of the ants.

Similarly as, on the savannahs, I had observed a wasp attending the
honey-glands of the bull's-horn acacia along with the ants, so at
Santo Domingo another wasp, belonging to quite a different genus
(Nectarina), attended some of the clusters of frog-hoppers, and for
the possession of others a constant skirmishing was going on. The
wasp stroked the young hoppers, and sipped up the honey when it was
exuded, just like the ants. When an ant came up to a cluster of
leaf-hoppers attended by a wasp, the latter would not attempt to
grapple with its rival on the leaf, but would fly off and hover
over the ant; then when its little foe was well exposed, it would
dart at it and strike it to the ground. The action was so quick
that I could not determine whether it struck with its fore-feet or
its jaws, but I think it was with the feet. I often saw a wasp
trying to clear a leaf from ants that were already in full
possession of a cluster of leaf-hoppers. It would sometimes have to
strike three or four times at an ant before it made it quit its
hold and fall. At other times one ant after the other would be
struck off with great celerity and ease, and I fancied that some
wasps were much cleverer than others. In those cases where it
succeeded in clearing the leaf, it was never left long in peace.
Fresh relays of ants were continually arriving, and generally tired
the wasp out. It would never wait for an ant to get near it,
doubtless knowing well that if its little rival once fastened on
its leg, it would be a difficult matter to get rid of it again. If
a wasp first obtained possession, it was able to keep it; for the
first ants that came up were only pioneers, and by knocking these
off it prevented them from returning and scenting the trail to
communicate the intelligence to others.

Before leaving this subject, I may remark that just as in plants
some glands secrete honey that attracts insects, others a resinous
liquid that repels them, so the secretions of different genera of
the homopterous division of the Hemiptera are curiously modified
for strikingly different useful purposes. We have seen that by many
species of plant-lice, scale-insects, and leaf-hoppers, a
honey-like fluid is secreted that attracts ants to attend upon
them. Other species of aphides (Eriosoma) that have no honey-tubes,
and many of the Coccidae, secrete a white, flocculent, waxy cotton,
under which they lie concealed. In many of the Homoptera, this
secretion only amounts to a white powder covering the body, as in
some of the Fulgoridae. In others it is more abundant, and it
reaches its extreme limit in a species of Phenax that I found at
Santo Domingo. The insect is about an inch in length, but the waxy
secretion forms a long thick tail of cotton-like fibres, two inches
in length, that gives the insect a most curious appearance when
flying. This flocculent mass is so loosely connected with the body
that it is difficult to catch the insect without breaking the
greater part of it off. Mr. Bates has suggested that the large
brittle wings of the metallic Morphos may often save them from
being caught by birds, who are likely to seize some portion of the
wide expanse of wing, and this, breaking off, frees the butterfly.
Probably the long cumbersome tail of the Phenax has a similar use.
When flying, it is the only portion of the insect seen; and birds
trying to capture it on the wing are likely to get only a mouthful
of the flocculent wax. The large Homoptera are much preyed upon by
birds. In April, when the Cicadae are piping their shrill cry from
morning until night, individuals are often seen whose bulky bodies
have been bitten off from the thorax by some bird. The large and
graceful swallow-tailed kite at that time feeds on nothing else. I
have seen these kites sweeping round in circles over the tree-tops,
and every now and then catching insects off the leaves, and on
shooting them I have found their crops filled with Cicadae.

The frog-hoppers, besides exuding honey in some genera and wax in
others, in a third division emit, when in the larval state, a great
quantity of froth, in which they lie concealed, as in the common
"cuckoo-spit" of our meadows.


Fermented liquors of the Indians.
The wine-palm.
Idleness of the Nicaraguans.
Pine and oak forests.
Mountain gorge.
Native plough.
Descendants of the buccaneers.
San Rafael.
A mountain hut.

AT noon we arrived at Matagalpa, the capital of the province of the
same name. The town contains about three thousand inhabitants; the
province, or department, about thirty thousand. Matagalpa is built
close to the river, on a rocky surface, with stony knolls rising up
in some parts amongst the houses. It contains three churches, and
the usual large square or plaza. Around, the country appeared very
dry and barren, and there is scarcely any cultivation in the
immediate neighbourhood. We put up at one of the best houses in the
town. The family consisted of a stout lady about fifty and her
husband, their daughter and her husband, and an unmarried son. The
two younger men appeared to do nothing; the elder one had a
contract with the government to manufacture aguardiente for three
towns, and spent nearly all his time at a small hacienda, a league
distant, where he grew sugar-cane and maize, and distilled the

There is a great deal of aguardiente, an inferior kind of rum, sold
throughout Nicaragua, and most of the Indians make it a point to
get drunk on their feast-days, but at other times are a sober race.
They do not owe the introduction of intemperance to the Spaniards,
though they can now obtain stronger liquor than in the old times,
as the ancient Indians do not appear to have known how to distil,
but they made several kinds of fermented liquors. In Mexico the
chief drink was "pulque," the fermented juice of the agave or
maguey plant. In Nicaragua "chicha," a kind of light beer, made
from maize, is still the favourite Indian beverage. On the warmer
plains, the wine-palm (Cocos butyracea) is grown. I saw many of
them near San Ubaldo. The wine is very simply prepared. The tree is
felled, and an oblong hole cut into it, just below the crown of
leaves. This hole is eight inches deep, passing nearly through the
trunk. It is about a foot long and four inches broad; and in this
hollow the juice of the tree immediately begins to collect,
scarcely any running out at the butt where it has been cut off.
This tendency of the sap to ascend is well shown in another plant,
the water liana. To get the water from this it must be cut first as
high as one can reach; then about a foot from the ground, and out
of a length of about seven feet, a pint of fine cool water will
run; but if cut at the bottom first, the sap will ascend so rapidly
that very little will be obtained. In three days after cutting the
wine-palm the hollow will be filled with a clear yellowish wine,
the fermented juice of the tree, and this will continue to secrete
daily for twenty days, during which the tree will have yielded some
gallons of wine. I was told that a very large grove of these trees
was cut down by the government near Granada, on account of the
excesses of the Indians, who used to assemble there on their
festivals, and get drunk on the palm-wine. The Indians of
Nicaragua, when the Spaniards first came amongst them, objected to
the preaching of the padres against intemperance. They said
"getting drunk did no man any harm."

The manufacture of aguardiente is a government monopoly, which is
farmed out to contractors. The contracts are always given to the
political supporters of the party in power.

There are many private illegal stills in the mountains. They are
generally amongst thick forest, near a small brook, with some dense
brushwood close at hand for the distiller to slip into if any
government officers should come up. One day, when rambling in the
woods near Santo Domingo, I came across one of these "sly grog"
manufactories. The apparatus was very simple. It consisted of two
of the common earthenware pots of the country, one on the top of
the other, the top one having had the bottom taken out and luted to
the lower one with clay. This was put on a fire with the fermented
liquor. The spirit condensed against the flat bottom of a tin dish
that covered the top vessel, and into which cold water was poured,
and fell in drops on to a board, that conducted it into a long
wooden tube, from which it dropped directly into bottles.


Matagalpa does not rise above the dulness of other Nicaraguan
towns; and there is a stagnation about it, and utter absence of aim
or effort in the people, that are most distressing to a foreigner
used to the bustle, business, and diversions of European cities. A
few women washing in the river, or making tortillas or cigars in
the houses, was all I saw going on in the way of work. The men, as
usual, lolled about in hammocks, smoking incessantly. A few houses
were in process of building, or, rather, were standing half
finished. Now and then, a little is done to them; and so they take
months and years to finish; and men will show you, with the
greatest complacency, a half-built house on which nothing has been
done for two years, telling you they are so busy with it that they
cannot undertake anything else. There are no libraries, theatres,
nor concert-rooms: no public meetings nor lectures. Newspapers do
not circulate amongst the people, nor books of any kind. I never
saw a native reading, in the central provinces, excepting the
lawyers turning over their law books, or some of the functionaries
in the towns looking up the government gazette, or children at
their lessons. Night sets in at six o'clock. A single dim dip
candle is then lighted, in the better houses, set up high, so as to
shed a weak, flickering light over the whole room, not sufficient
to read by. The natives sit about and gossip till between eight and
nine, then lie down to sleep.

A single billiard-table, in a dimly-lighted room, at which three or
four play all the evening, until the closing hour, at nine, and a
dozen others sit round the walls on benches; a gambling room,
licensed by the government, where only the smallest sums are
staked; cock-fighting on Sundays; a feast day; and perhaps a
bull-fight once or twice a year; private gambling carried on to a
considerable extent by the higher classes, and aguardiente-drinking
by the lower, complete the list of Nicaraguan diversions.

On entering the Matagalpa district, we had found the roads dry and
dusty; and we now learnt that whilst at Santo Domingo the season
had been unusually wet, near Matagalpa it had been so dry that the
maize crops were suffering greatly from the drought. We had been
travelling nearly north-west, and were getting gradually further
and further away from the Atlantic, into a region where the
north-east trade wind, having to travel over a greater stretch of
land, gets drained of its moisture.

Our mules and horses were completely tired out; and we expected to
have been able, without difficulty, to hire fresh animals to take
us on to Ocotal in Segovia; but we were disappointed. We lost the
afternoon by depending upon a man who undertook to get us some. He
went away, saying he was going after them. Hour after hour passed,
and he did not return. We went to his house; and his wife told us
that he was getting the mules for us. Night set in, and still he
came not. At last, about nine o'clock, we found him at the
billiard-room. He said he thought, when he did not return, we would
take it for granted that he had not been able to find the mules. I
believe he had never been further than the billiard-saloon looking
for them. These people get through the days with such ennui and
difficulty, that they have no idea of people economising time. A
story is told about them which, whether true or not, illustrates
this. When the steamboats were first put on the Lake of Nicaragua,
the natives complained that they were charged as much as they were
in the bungos, although they got sometimes a week's sailing in the
latter, and only one day in the steamboat. We were in a dilemma
about mules. I wished to push on, as I found the journey was a
longer one than I expected when I set out; and it was important
that I should get back to the mines by the end of the month. At
last, our host offered us mules to take us as far as Jinotega,
charging us three times as much as was usual; and we determined to
go on there, and seek animals to continue our journey. We got our
own mules put into a good portrero of Para grass just below the
town, resisting our host's invitation to leave them with him,
fearing he might use them instead of feeding them. He had to send
out to his hacienda for the fresh ones; and although he promised
them at seven, it was ten o'clock the next day before they arrived;
and the delay in waiting for them quickened my appreciation of the
laziness and want of punctuality of the people of Matagalpa.

On leaving the town, we crossed the river, and ascended a range on
the other side. Here, for the first time, I got amongst pine trees
in the tropics; and they gave a very different aspect to the
country from what I had before seen. No brushwood grows under them,
and they stand apart at regular intervals, not shouldering each
other, as in the Atlantic forest, where the trees crowd together,
each trying to overtop its neighbour. No lianas hang from the
trees, and, excepting a few narrow-leaved Tillandsias, no epiphytes
nestle on the branches and trunks. Below, instead of shrubby palms,
large-leaved heliconias, and curious melastomae, the ground was
bare and brown from the fallen leaves of the pines, excepting that
in some places light grass had sprung up; in others the common
bracken-fern of Europe. All that I thought characteristic of a
tropical forest had disappeared; and the whistling of the wind
through the pine-tops, which I had not heard for years, carried me
back in imagination amongst the Canadian forests. The road was
rocky, and to the left rose mountains of nearly bare cliffs, up
which clung straggling pines, reaching to the summits, relieving,
but not concealing, their nakedness. Clumps of evergreen oaks were
the only other trees; and these, like the pines, grew in social
groups on the hills. In the valleys, the oaks and pines gave place
to a variety of trees and brushwood, different species of acacia
being the most abundant. Occasionally a tree-cactus appeared, its
curious flattened, kite-shaped joints, covered with prickles,
looking like great leaves, and its stem, formed of the same,
thickened at the bottom into a round filiform trunk, not differing
much from the trees around, but in the branches showing all the
gradations by which the flat constricted joints thicken out into
stems. In some parts, as we travelled on, we found the oak trees
and many of the pines completely draped with hanging festoons of
the grey moss-like Tillandsia usneoides, or "old man's beard." Not
a bough but had a great fringe hanging down, sometimes as much as
six feet long, like a grey veil swaying in the breeze, and giving
the trees a strange and venerable look. The ride was delightful
after the stagnation at Matagalpa: everything was fresh and new to
me. The aspect of the country, the trees, shrubs, and flowers, the
birds and insects, the aromatic perfume from the pines, claimed my
attention every minute.

After four hours' riding across the pine-clad ranges, we reached a
gorge leading up to the heights overlooking the valley of Jinotega.
The path was along the steep side of this gorge, often along the
side of a precipice, where a few logs were laid to prevent the
mules going over, but really increasing the danger, for they were
old and rotten. Large boulders, imbedded in dark-coloured earth,
lay on the steep slopes, and about these grew small herbaceous
ferns in the greatest variety and profusion--a very paradise for a
fern-collector. In some parts a light green maiden-hair fern
covered the ground with its beautifully tender foliage, reminding
me of shady banks in the north of England, covered with the equally
lovely oak-fern. Every few yards discovered some new species,
filling the mind with delight at their beauty and variety. In dryer
and more stony places, a pinnatifid club-moss stood up amongst the
stones in crisp tufts, like the parsley fern on mountain-sides at
home. A black and blue bird (Cyanocitta melanocyanea), about the
size of a jackdaw, flew in small noisy flocks; and I noticed a
beautiful trogon, with burnished green back, and rose-coloured
breast. The highest points of the ranges enclosing this ravine were
covered with pine trees (Pinus tenuifolia); lower down grew
evergreen oaks, and lower still a variety of small trees, shrubs,
and herbaceous plants, reaching to the dry bed of the brook.


After a steep and rocky ascent, we reached the top of the range,
and before us lay the upper end of the valley of Jinotega. Here it
was very narrow, hemmed in by rocky ranges capped with pine
forests. Descending the steep and rocky slope, we soon left the
pines and oaks above us, and came down on a narrow alluvial flat,
gradually widening out as we proceeded down the valley. On each
side of the road were fields of maize, suffering greatly from the
drought. The soil was a fine deep, dark loam, and for the first
time in Nicaragua I found they ploughed their land, and made
permanent fences. The plough was a primitive implement, not unlike
some of those still in use in parts of Spain. It was entirely of
wood, excepting that the point was shod with an iron plate. Many of
the fences were hedges, amongst which grew the lovely creeper
Antigonon leptopus, with festoons of pink and rose-coloured
flowers. The Indian and Mestizo girls bind it in their hair, and
call it "la vegessima," "the beautiful." It does not wither for
some time after being cut, and so is very suitable for garlands and
bouquets. It has been carried to Greytown and the West Indies; and
whenever it flourishes, it is a great favourite.

About a mile down the valley we reached the small town of Jinotega,
and put up at the estanco kept by a very polite and dignified
elderly gentleman, who, in the customary phrase of the country,
placed himself, his house, and all he possessed, at our service.
His wife, a bustling young woman, not more than half the age of her
husband, set to work at once to get our dinner ready. There were
several women-servants and many children about the house. It was
kept cleaner than is usual in Nicaragua, and I noticed in the yard
behind that some attempt at drainage had been made. Our host
appeared to be in comfortable circumstances. Outside the town he
had a small farm where he grew maize and wheat. He complained
greatly of the drought, and said it had never occurred before in
his recollection that the maize had failed in Jinotega for want of
rain. He found us a man who promised to supply us with mules or
horses to take us to Ocotal, but as they had to be brought up from
the "Campos" or plains he could not let us have them early, and it
was ten o'clock the next day before we started again.

Whilst waiting for the mules we strolled around the town. In the
centre most of the houses are substantially built and tiled; on the
outskirts there are small grass-thatched huts with high-pitched
roofs. Wheat, maize, potatoes, and beans are the principal things
grown. Many of the people have light sandy-coloured hair and blue
eyes, and I thought at first they might be the offspring of a
number of Americans that settled in Jinotega during the civil war
in the States, but afterwards abandoned the place. I found,
however, some elderly people with the same distinctive marks of
ancestry other than the Spaniards, Indians, or Negroes, and I am
inclined to believe that on the breaking up of the bands of
buccaneers by Morgan, at the end of the seventeenth century, many
of them found a refuge up the Rio Grande and Rio Wanks. They were
well acquainted with these rivers, and made many forays up them to
harry the Spanish settlements on the Pacific slope. In 1688 a body
of about three hundred French and English pirates abandoned their
ships in the Gulf of Fonseca, forced their way across the country,
and descended the Rio Wanks to the Atlantic. The fair-haired and
blue-eyed natives of Matagalpa and Segovia are probably the
descendants of the outlaws who made these provinces their highway
from one ocean to another.

Jinotega is pleasantly situated, and has many advantages over other
Nicaraguan towns. The climate is temperate and moderately dry, the
land very fertile. Pine trees on the surrounding ranges furnish
fuel and light. Pasture is abundant; for two miles below the town
the valley opens out into wide "campos" covered with grass, on
which a large number of horses, cattle, and mules are reared.

Our road lay down the valley. On the sides of the enclosing ranges
there were many cultivated patches, and we saw whole families, men,
women, and children, weeding amongst the maize. A few showers had
fallen during the night and given them some hopes of saving their
crops. We passed a village called Apanas and then struck across the
plains, and on the other side reached low flat-topped ranges
covered with small trees and brushwood, amongst which were many
clearings well fenced and planted with maize. Passing over an
undulating country, the hills covered with oak forests, the
lowlands well grassed, we reached about two o'clock San Rafael, a
small town that has used up all its houses in forming the plaza in
front of a barn-like church. As usual, the half-breed population
were sunk in idleness and poverty.

We stopped at one of the houses to get a drink of "tiste," and were
visited by a fussy little man who told us that he was secretary to
the judge and keeper of the "estanco," and in fact the ruling power
in the town, which he placed at our disposal. We, however, wanted
nothing but our "tiste" and to get some information about a cave we
had heard was in the neighbourhood. Our friend knew all about it,
and got a boy to show us the way for a couple of dimes. Under his
guidance we crossed a brook, and passing through a pine forest soon
reached the cave, which was on the side of the precipitous bank of
a small stream. It was only a small one, extending for about twenty
feet back, hollowed out of a sandy conglomerate, probably by the
action of the brook when it ran at a higher level. I dug a little
into the floor, but had not time to do much, and found nothing.
There were signs of its having been recently occupied, the walls
and roof were blackened with smoke, and numerous shells of the
common fresh-water melania were lying about. We were told that the
Indians when travelling used it, and that during the last
revolution the inhabitants of San Rafael hid their valuables in it,
though what they consisted of I am at a loss to say.

On leaving the cave our guide put us on the wrong road, and we did
not discover the mistake until we had travelled a couple of miles.
We then arrived at some huts in the pine forest, where we were told
that the road to Ocotal was half a mile distant, across a stream
and a high steep range opposite. We had either to return to San
Rafael to take the right road or to cross the range. The latter
looked rather formidable, but we determined to try it. It was very
steep and rocky, but amongst the pines there was no underwood, so,
after some stumbling and slipping, our beasts managed to scramble
to the top, and we soon after regained the road.

We now travelled over steep ranges, composed of great moraine-like
heaps of clay, with large angular boulders. Pine and oak trees
covered the heights, shrouded with long fringes and festoons of the
moss-like Tillandsia. Many epiphytes grew on the oaks, amongst
which the mottled yellow flower of an orchid hung down in spikes
six feet long.

Five miles after regaining the road we reached the top of a high
range of hills, and found a single hut on the summit. Night was
coming on, it was raining, and we were told that there was a very
bad road before us over mountains, and no other house for three
leagues. We determined to stay at the hut, although the prospect of
our night's entertainment was a most cheerless one. The hut was
about twenty feet square, with a small attached shed for a kitchen.
The floor was the natural earth, littered with corn husks and other
refuse. There was not a bit of furniture, excepting some rough
sleeping-places made of hides stretched over poles. There was not a
stool nor even a log of wood to sit down upon. In this miserable
hut dwelt three families, consisting of nine individuals; men,
women, and children.

The land around appeared to be poor. A patch of the forest in front
of the house, sloping down the side of a steep valley, had been
cleared, and planted with maize and wheat. We were told that there
were a few other houses down this valley. The people in the hut
seemed miserably poor. I said to Velasquez that they must have been
born on the settlement, as I could not imagine any one coming from
outside the mountains to live at such a spot, and on inquiry we
found that every one was a native, born within a mile of the hut.
It was perhaps bleaker than usual that evening, a continuous rain
was falling, and a high wind whistling through the pine-tops. Pigs,
dogs, and fowls were constantly in one's way, and the only cheering
sign was the bright blaze and fragrant smell of the burning pine
splinters. I asked one of the men if he preferred this place to
Jinotega, where the fertile slopes and grassy plains had so pleased
our eyes. He answered he did, the air was fresher and there was
less fever.

They made for us some tortillas, and we had tea with us. The only
ingenious thing about the place was a sort of stove, dome-shaped,
made of clay, with two holes through the top like a cooking-stove,
on which they put their earthenware cooking vessels. I turned into
my hammock early, with all my clothes and my boots on, and my coat
buttoned tightly round me, as the bleak wind found many a crevice
to whistle through, and the open network of the hammock, agreeable
enough in the warm lowlands, was too slight a protection against
the cold of the mountains. A few poles placed across the doorway
partially closed it, but some of the smallest pigs got through, and
were rooting and grunting amongst our baggage all night.

As soon as daylight broke next morning we were up, stiff, chilled,
and cramped, and got some hot coffee made, which warmed us a
little. We then had a better look round than we had had the night
before. It was a most desolate spot, with scarcely any grass; and a
poor half-starved horse came up to get a small feed of maize.

The people of the mountain regions of Europe cannot, if they would,
take up land in the fertile lowlands, as they are already occupied,
but in the central provinces of Nicaragua the greater part of the
land is unappropriated, and these people might, if they liked, make
their homesteads where, with one-half the labour they spend on
their barren mountain ridge, they might live in abundance. But they
have been born and bred where they live, and knowing how strong is
the force of custom and how attached the Indians are to their
homes, I do not wonder that they stay from generation to generation
on this bleak range. I can imagine that if removed to the lowlands
they would sigh for their mountain home, to smell the fragrance of
the pine trees, and to hear once more the wind whistling through
their branches. I have already noticed how the Indians cling
generation after generation to the same spot, even when a short
removal would be manifestly to their advantage. I fear there is a
more ignoble reason that has as much to do with this as their love
of home, their confirmed and innate laziness. They shrink from any
labour that they are not forced to undertake. As an instance, no
one during at least two generations that the house had been
occupied had brought in even a log of wood for a seat, and a table
would, I fancy, be beyond their wildest dreams of comfort. An
Avocado tree grew before their door, the only fruit tree to be
seen, and it was nearly destroyed by being deeply cut into. I asked
why they had injured it, and they said they fired at it as a
target, and, lead being scarce, they dug out the bullets with their
knives; yet within thirty paces of their hut there were plenty of
pine trees that would have done equally well as a target, but then
they would have had to walk a few yards from their door.

How was such a spot first chosen for settlement? All the names of
the places around are Indian, and probably in the old times when
there was continual warfare amongst the tribes, the remnants of
one, conquered and nearly extirpated, fled to the mountains, and
occupied a locality from necessity and for safety that they would
not otherwise have chosen. Afterwards when a new generation arose
they looked on the pine-clad hills as their home and birthright.


Great range composed of boulder clay.
Lost on the savannahs.
A deer-hunter's family.
Walls covered with cement, and whitewashed.
The valley of Depilto.
Hawks and small birds.
Silver mine.
Geology of the valley.
Glacial drift.
The glacial period in Central America.
Evidence that the ice extended to the tropics.
Scarcity of gold in the valley gravels.
Difference of the Mollusca on the east and west coast
   of the Isthmus of Darien.
The refuge of the tropical American animals and plants
   during the glacial period.
The lowering of the sea-level.
The land shells of the West Indian Islands.
The Malay Archipelago.
Easter Island.
Traditions of the deluge.

BIDDING adieu to our hosts, we mounted our mules and descended the
ridge on which their hut is built. The range was very steep, and
fully 1200 feet high, composed entirely of boulder clay. This clay
was of a brown colour, and full of angular and subangular blocks of
stone of all sizes up to nine feet in diameter. The hill on the
slope that we descended was covered with a forest resembling that
around Santo Domingo, though the trees were not so large; but
tree-ferns, palms, lianas, and broad-leaved Heliconiae and
Melastomae were again abundant. In these forests, I was told, the
"Quesal," the royal bird of the Aztecs (Trogon resplendens), is
sometimes found.

After descending about 1000 feet, we issued from the forest and
passed over well-grassed savannahs surrounded by high ranges, on
the eastern slopes of which were forests of pine-trees. The ground
was entirely composed of boulder clay, and not until we had
travelled about five miles did we see any rock in situ. This
boulder clay had extended all the way from San Rafael, and ranges
of hills appeared to be composed entirely of it. The angular and
subangular stones that it contained were an irregular mixture of
different varieties of trap, conglomerate, and schistose rocks. In
the northern states of America such appearances would be
unhesitatingly ascribed to the action of ice, but I was at the time
unprepared to believe that the glacial period could have left such
a memorial of its existence within the tropics, at no greater
elevation above the sea than 3000 feet.

Riding on without stopping, we passed through Yales, a small
village of scattered huts, and reached a river flowing north
through a fine alluvial plain almost uninhabited. After crossing
the river three times, we turned off to the north-west, and passed
over low grassy ranges with scattered pine-trees, and in the
hollows a few clearings for growing maize, wheat, and beans. At
noon we halted for an hour to let our mules feed on a small
alluvial flat, for they had had nothing to eat the night before on
the bleak mountain summit.

Continuing our journey, we arrived at Daraily, where was a fine
large clearing, with stone walls and a sugar-mill. The house was
about half a mile from the road, at the foot of a hill covered with
scattered pine-trees, forming a fine background to the scene. The
farm was well cultivated, and kept clean from weeds. Altogether the
scene was a most unusual one for the central provinces of
Nicaragua, and reflected great credit on the proprietor, Don
Estevan Espinosa. Had Nicaragua many such sons they would soon
change the face of the country, and turn many a wilderness into a
fruitful garden.

Passing over a stony range, we descended by a steep pass into the
valley of the Estely, and followed it down to the westward across
low dry hills with prickly bushes and scrub. About five o'clock we
reached an extensive plain, covered with prickly trees and shrubs,
and pressed on to get to the village of Palacaguina, where we
proposed to pass the night. There were many paths leading across
the plain, and there was no person to be seen to direct us which to
take; whilst the scrubby trees interrupted our view in every
direction. Rito had once before been in the neighbourhood, and
thought he knew the way, so we submitted ourselves to his guidance;
but, as it proved, he took a path which led us past, instead of to,
the town. Night set in as we were pushing across dry weed-covered
hills, destitute of grass or water, every minute expecting to meet
some one who could tell us about the road. Rito was still confident
that he was right, although both Velasquez and myself had concluded
we must have got on the wrong road. The only animal we met with was
a black and white skunk, with a young one following it. The mother
ran too fast up a rocky slope for the young one, which was left
behind, and came towards us. It was very pretty, with its
snow-white bushy tail laid over its black back. We were, however,
afraid to touch it, fearing that, young as it was, it might have a
supply of that foetid fluid that its kind discharge with too sure
an aim at any assailant. The skunks move slowly about, and their
large white tails render them very conspicuous. Their formidable
means of defence makes for them the obscure colouration of other
dusk-roaming mammals unnecessary, as they do not need concealment.

Hour after hour passed, and we reached no house, nor met any one on
the road; and at last, about nine o'clock, we determined to stop at
a spot where there was a little grass, but no water, as the poor
jaded mules had been ridden since daylight, excepting for an hour
at midday. We spread our waterproof sheet from the branch of a
tree, and lay down dinnerless and supperless, having had nothing
but a little sweet bread and native cheese all day; we were now too
thirsty to eat even that. Hearing some frogs croaking in the
distance, Velasquez went away in the direction from whence the
sound came, hoping to find some water: but there was none, the
frogs being in damp cracks in the ground. About eleven we heard the
noise of men talking; and holloaing to them, our shouts were
returned. We ran across the plain, through the bushes, and found
two Indians, who were returning from some plantations of maize to
their home, several miles distant. Both were nearly naked, the
youngest having only a loin-cloth on. When talking to us, they
shouted as if we were many yards distant; and as soon as one began
to answer a question, the other went on repeating, in a higher key,
what the first said.

They told us that we had come two leagues past Palacaguina, and
were on the road to a small town called Pueblo Nuevo, and directed
us how we should find the right track in the morning for continuing
our journey to Ocotal. They were highly amused at our misadventure,
and laughed and talked to each other about it. Rito also laughed
much at the mistake he had made, and though disposed to be angry at
his obstinacy in bringing us several miles out of our course, we
knew that he had done his best. All the native servants, when they
make a mistake, or do any damage accidentally, treat it as a joke;
and it is best, under such circumstances, to be good-humoured with
them, as, if reproved, they are very likely to turn sulky, and do
some more damage. They are independent, and care nothing about
being discharged, as any one can live in Nicaragua without working
much. Rito was an active, merry fellow, and might every now and
then be observed laughing to himself; if asked what it was about,
he was sure to answer that he was thinking about some little
accident that had occurred. I once, when trying to loop up the side
of my hammock, fell out of it, and next day Rito could not control
himself, but was continually exploding in a burst of laughter; and
for days afterwards any allusion to it would set him into
convulsions. When we returned to Santo Domingo, it was one of his
stock stories. He used to say he wanted very much to come to my
assistance, but could not for laughing.

Next morning we started at daylight, and soon found the path the
Indians had told us about, which took us to a place called Jamaily
(pronounced Hamerlee), where was an extensive indigo plantation.
About 100 men were employed weeding and clearing the ground. No
fences are required for indigo growing, as neither horses nor
cattle will eat the plant. A mile beyond Jamaily we saw, amongst
some bushes, a poor-looking, grass-thatched hut, with the sides
made of an open work of branches and leaves. We went up to it to
try to buy something to eat, but found only three children in it;
the oldest, a very dirty little girl of about five years of age,
with a piece of cloth worn like a shawl, her only clothing, and the
two younger quite naked. A little boy, about three years old, was
very talkative, and prattled away all the time we were there. He
said that some people living near had four cows, but that they had
none; that his father shot deer and sold their skins, and that two
days before he fired at a rock, thinking it was a deer.

We heated some water and made tea, and with some sweet bread and
native cheese managed to allay our hunger, the little boy amusing
us all the time with his prattle. Pointing to a mangy dog lying on
the floor covered with some old rags, he said it had fever, and
that at night it threw off the rags, and the fleas got at it, but
that during the day he kept it well covered up. I was amused with
the little fellow, who in that squalid hut, without a scrap of
clothing, and fed with the coarsest food, was as happy as, if not
happier than, any child I had seen. By and by an elder girl came
along from some other hut, and told us that the man was away
hunting for deer, and that his wife had gone to her mother's, about
a mile distant. She also informed us that the hunter had not a gun
of his own, but gave half the meat of the deer he killed for the
loan of one. He had a trained ox, which, as soon as it saw a deer,
commenced eating, and walking gradually towards it; whilst the man
followed, concealed, and thus got within distance to shoot it. He
generally got two when he went out, and sold the hides for twenty
cents per pound, the skins averaging five pounds' weight each. It
is astonishing that deer should be so little afraid of man as they
are, after having been objects of chase for probably thousands of
years. Sometimes when one is encountered in the forest it will
stand within twenty yards stupidly gazing at a man, or perhaps
striking the ground impatiently with its forefoot, and often
waiting long enough for an unloaded gun to be charged. The woman of
the house came in before we left and we paid her for the use of her
fire. She did not know how old her children were, and Velasquez
told me that very few of the lower classes in Nicaragua knew either
their own age or that of their children.

The soil about here, for many leagues, was full of small angular
fragments of white quartz. They had attracted my attention the day
before, and I now found they were derived from thick beds of
conglomerate, the decomposition of which released the fragments of
quartz, of which it was mainly composed. Many of these beds of
conglomerate were inclined at high angles. I noticed also some
contorted, highly inclined talcose schists, full of small quartz
veins, generally running between the laminae of the schists.
Probably the conglomerates had been produced by the wearing down of
these schists.

We passed through two Indian towns--the first Yalaguina, the second
Totagalpa. At the last the church looked very clean and pretty, and
was ornamented with a single square tower, built of rough stones,
and covered with white cement that glistened like marble at a short
distance. The peculiar shining appearance of the cement is due to
the admixture of a fine black sand in the whitewash used. The
cement itself is strong and durable, and its manufacture was known
to the Indians long before the advent of the Spaniards. Bernal Diaz
de Castillo, one of the followers of Cortez, often speaks, in his
history, of the houses built of stone and lime, and covered with
cement. On their march to Mexico, when they arrived at Cempoal, he
says, "Our advanced guard having gone to the great square, the
buildings of which had been recently plastered and whitewashed, in
which art the people are very expert, one of our horsemen was so
struck with the splendour of their appearance in the sun that he
came back in full speed to Cortez to tell him that the walls of the
houses were of silver." We also learn from the same historian that
the city of Cholula "had at that time above 100 lofty white towers,
which were the temples of their idols."

Between Yalaguina and Totagalpa there was much of the conglomerate
rock that I have already mentioned. Over this the soil was dry and
stony, and filled with small quartz pebbles. The vegetation was
scanty, principally thorny shrubs and trees. Amongst the former the
Pinuela, a plant closely allied to the pine-apple, and used to make
fences, was the most abundant. In the alluvial flats were many fine
patches of maize looking extremely well, for in Segovia the crops
had not been injured by drought. The low hills were very sandy and
dry, and the beds of the brooks waterless, but a little beyond
Totagalpa we found a small running stream, and stopped an hour to
refresh our mules and to eat some provisions we had bought at

All through Segovia the country is divided into townships,
embracing an area of from twenty to twenty-five square leagues.
Over each of these there is an alcalde, living in the small central
town, and elected by the inhabitants of the townships. The
boundaries are marked by heaps of stones surmounted by wooden
crosses, set up on the roads leading from one town to another.

After riding a few more leagues over rocky hills with scanty
vegetation, we came in sight, from the top of one of the ranges, of
the town of Ocotal, the capital of Segovia, with its white walls
and red-tiled roofs. Descending a long rocky slope we forded one of
the affluents of the Rio Wanks, and half a mile further on arrived
at the town, situated on a dry plain. A heavy thunderstorm broke
over us as we entered the town, and the rain came down in torrents
whilst we were searching for a house to put up at. In answer to our
inquiries we were directed to the best house in the town. It was
situated at the corner of the plaza, had lofty well-built walls,
large doors and gateway, clean tiled floors, and in the courtyard
behind a pretty flower garden, with a tank to hold rain water. We
were received by two elderly ladies, the sisters of the owner Don
Pedro, who made us welcome in a stately sort of way, and got some
dinner prepared, consisting of beans, tortillas, avocados, and

We learnt that the present town was about seventy years old and not
very flourishing, as the land around was dry and sterile. The old
capital of Segovia was situated five leagues further down the
river, where the land around was fertile. But the buccaneers came
up the river in their boats and sacked the town, and the site was
deserted for one more difficult of access, the river being much
shallower and obstructed by rapids higher up. At the site of the
old town the church still stands, but only a few poor Negroes live
there now. Two branches of the river unite a little below the
present town, and following it down for about four days' journey a
place named Cocos is reached, which is the furthest settlement of
the Spaniards towards the Atlantic. To this point large bungos come
up the river, and Don Pedro had been very wishful to get it opened
out above for navigation, but had not succeeded.

There were very few men to be hired at Ocotal, and we determined to
go on to Depilto, a small mining town near the Honduras boundary,
where we were assured there were plenty to be obtained. We had only
engaged the mules to come as far as Ocotal, and had great
difficulty in getting others to go on with. I think the people at
first were afraid that we might cross the boundary and never
return. We afterwards learnt that robberies of mules often took
place; some rogues making a business of stealing mules out of
Honduras, bringing them into Nicaragua, selling them, and stealing
others to return with. There were, however, some people in Ocotal
who had worked at the mines and knew us, and when this information
spread we had the offer of several animals. If we had known the
cause of the reluctance of the people to let us have mules at
first, we should easily have got over the difficulty by leaving the
value of the animals in the hands of some responsible person, but
the owners had made all sorts of excuses for not lending them, and
we had not suspected the true cause. We had been travelling
continually for nine days, and looked more like brigands than
honest travellers, and the good easy-going people of Ocotal had
their suspicions about us.

As I have said, when satisfied of our good faith, the mule owners
soon offered us the use of their beasts, and next morning Velasquez
and I started at seven o'clock on two fine fresh mules and rode
merrily up the valley of the Depilto. The river rises in the high
ranges that form the boundary between Honduras and Nicaragua, and
running down past Depilto joins the Ocotal river a little below the
capital. Our road lay up the valley close to the river, which we
crossed and recrossed several times. The vegetation was scanty, but
the morning was a lovely one after the thunderstorm of the night
before, and we greatly enjoyed our ride. We did not see many birds,
a pretty hawk that I shot being the most noticeable. Hawks of
various kinds are very abundant in the tropics, and if the small
birds had to personify death, they would certainly represent him as
one, for this is the form in which he must generally appear to
them. Towards evening the hawk glides noiselessly along and alights
on a bough, near where he hears the small birds twittering amongst
the bushes. Perhaps they see him and are quiet for a little, but he
sits motionless as the sphinx, and they soon get over their fear
and resume their play or feeding. Then suddenly a dark mass swoops
down and rises again. It is the hawk, with a small bird grasped in
his strong talons, gasping out its last breath. Its comrades are
terror-struck for a moment and dash madly into the thickets, but
soon forget their fear. They chirp to each other, the scattered
birds reunite; there is a fluttering and twittering, a rearranging
of mates, then again songs, feeding, love, jealousy, and

The banks of the river were sandy and sterile, and the soil
contained much small quartz. The bed rock was a talcose schist near
to Ocotal, but higher up the river it changed to gneissoid and
quartz rocks, the latter in hard and massive beds. As we ascended
the valley, the ranges bounding it got higher and steeper, the soil
more sandy and barren, with scattered pine trees growing amongst
the rocks. Great, bare, rounded masses of hard quartzite protruded
through the scanty soil, and in the river were enormous boulders of
granite-like gneiss.

Depilto is only nine miles from Ocotal, but we took three hours to
reach it, as I made many stoppages to examine the rocks and to
catch fleet-limbed speckled tiger-beetles on the sandy roads. The
little town was not half populated, the silver-mines had been
closed for some time, most of the houses were empty, and the people
still clinging about the place seemed to have nothing to do, for
the land is too barren for cultivation. We made known our
requirements for labourers, and were assured that plenty would be
glad to go to Santo Domingo. They would not, however, bind
themselves there, but preferred to go down untrammelled with any
conditions about pay or work, and I may anticipate here by saying
that the result of our visit was very satisfactory, numbers of
workmen having been obtained for the mines.

After getting some breakfast at a house that seemed to be the hotel
of Depilto, we set out to visit a silver-mine named "El Coquimba."
We had to ascend a high range opposite the town, and found riding
over the steep bare exposures of quartz rock so difficult and
dangerous that about half way up we tied our mules to some young
pine trees and proceeded on foot. The mine was abandoned, and the
shafts and levels were closed by falls of rock. Some of the ore,
sulphide of silver, was lying at the mouth of one of the old
shafts. Our guide told us that the lode was two feet wide. Both it
and the containing rock was very hard, and the miners had also
water to contend against. I do not think from what I saw that the
mine could be made to pay on a large scale, though next the surface
small remunerative deposits of ore had been found. In depth the
hardness of the rocks would make the sinking of shafts and driving
of levels, the "dead work" of the miners, very costly.

We started on our return down the valley at three o'clock, and took
particular note of the succession of the rocks, as I had become
much interested in finding these quartz and gneissoid beds, which I
had no doubt were the same Laurentian rocks that I had seen in
Canada and Brazil--the very backbone of the continent, ribbing
America from Patagonia to the Canadas--the fundamental gneiss which
is covered, in other parts of Central America that I had visited,
by strata of much more recent origin. Going down the valley of the
Depilto the massive beds of quartz and gneiss are soon succeeded by
overlying, highly inclined, and contorted schists, and as far as
where the road from Ocotal to Totagalpa crosses the river, the
exposures of bed rock were invariably these contorted schists, with
many small veins of quartz running between the laminae of the rock.
On the banks of the river, from about a mile below Depilto,
unstratified beds of gravel are exposed in numerous natural
sections. These beds deepen as the river is descended, until at
Ocotal they reach a thickness of between two and three hundred
feet, and the undulating plain on which Ocotal is built is seen in
sections near the river to be composed entirely of them. These
unstratified deposits consist mostly of quartz sand with numerous
angular and subangular blocks of quartz and talcose schist. Many of
the boulders are very large, and in some parts great numbers have
been accumulated in the bed of the river by the washing away of the
smaller stones and sand. Some of these huge boulders were fifteen
feet across, the largest of them lying in the bed of the river two
miles below Depilto. Most of them were of the Depilto quartz rock
and gneiss, and I saw many in the unstratified gravel near Ocotal
fully eight miles from their parent rock. Near Ocotal this
unstratified formation is nearly level, excepting where worn into
deep gulches by the existing streams. The river has cut through it
to a depth of over two hundred feet, and there are high precipices
of it on both sides, similar to those near streams in the North of
England that cut through thick beds of boulder clay.

  Section of Strata between Depilto and the hill three miles
      south-west of Ocotal.
  Gravel with boulders of trap and conglomerate.
  Gravel with boulders of gneiss and quartz rock.
  Contorted schists.
  Quartz rock and gneiss.)

The evidences of glacial action between Depilto and Ocotal were,
with one exception, as clear as in any Welsh or Highland valley.
There were the same rounded and smoothed rock surfaces, the same
moraine-like accumulations of unstratified sand and gravel, the
same transported boulders that could be traced to their parent
rocks several miles distant. The single exception was, I am
convinced, one of observation and not one of fact, namely, I saw no
glacial scratches on the rocks; but geologists know how rare these
are on natural exposures in some districts that have certainly been
glaciated, and will not be surprised that in a hurried visit of
only a few hours I should not have discovered any. Glacial
scratches are seldom preserved on rock surfaces exposed to the
action of the elements. Even in Nova Scotia, where scratches and
grooves are met with wherever the rock surface has been recently
laid bare, I do not remember having ever seen any on natural
exposures. It is only where protected by a covering of clay or
gravel from the action of the elements, that they have been
preserved through the ages that have passed since the glacial
epoch, and as I did not see any rock surfaces near Depilto that had
been recently bared, it is not surprising that, notwithstanding the
other proofs of glacial action, I should not have seen any ice
scratches or grooves.

I could no longer withstand the evidence that had been gradually
accumulating of the presence of large glaciers in Central America
during the glacial period, and these, once admitted, afforded me a
solution of many phenomena that had before been inexplicable. The
immense ridges of boulder clay between San Rafael and Yales, the
long hog-backed hills near Tablason, the great transported boulders
two leagues beyond Libertad on the Juigalpa road, and the scarcity
of alluvial gold in the valleys of Santo Domingo, could all be
easily explained on the supposition that the ice of the glacial
period was not confined to extra-tropical lands, but in Central
America covered all the higher ranges, and descended in great
glaciers to at least as low as the line of country now standing at
two thousand feet above the sea.

In my description of the mines of Santo Domingo I have only briefly
alluded to the scarcity of alluvial gold in the valleys. It may be
correlated with a similar scarcity in the glaciated valleys of Nova
Scotia and North Wales, in the neighbourhood of auriferous quartz
veins, and is probably due to the same cause. Glacier ice scoops
out all the contents of the valleys, and in deepening them does not
sort the materials like running water or the action of the waves
upon the sea coast. I have in another place* (* "The Glacial Period
in North America" by Thomas Belt. Published in "Transactions of the
Nova Scotian Institute of Natural Science" 1866 page 91.) shown
that in Nova Scotia, in the neighbourhood of rich auriferous quartz
veins that have been greatly denuded, grain gold is only sparingly
disseminated throughout the drifts of the valleys, whilst in
Australia every auriferous quartz vein has been the source of an
alluvial deposit of grain gold, produced by the denudation and
sorting action of running water. When the denuding agent was water,
the rocks were worn away, and the heavier gold left behind at the
bottom of the alluvial deposits; but when the denuding agent was
glacier ice the stony masses and their metallic contents were
carried away, or mingled together in the unassorted moraines.

That the transportation of boulders in Nicaragua was due to
glaciers, and not to floating icebergs, may be argued on zoological
grounds. The transported boulders, near Ocotal, are about three
thousand feet above the sea, those near Libertad about two thousand
feet. The low pass between the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans,
through the valley of the San Juan and the Lake of Nicaragua, is
less than two hundred feet above the sea,* (* See ante, Chapter 4.)
and to allow for the flotation of icebergs at the lower of the two
places named, a channel of more than eighteen hundred feet in depth
would have connected the two oceans. This supposition is negatived
by the fact that the mollusca on the two coasts, separated by the
narrow Isthmus of Darien, are almost entirely distinct, whilst we
know that since the glacial period there has been little change in
the molluscan fauna, nearly, if not all, the shells found in
glacial deposits still existing in neighbouring seas. In the
Caribbean province, which includes the Gulf of Mexico, the West
Indian Islands, and the eastern coast of South America as far as
Rio de Janeiro, the number of marine shells is estimated by
Professor C.B. Adams at not less than 1500 species. From the
Panamic province, which, on the western coast of America, extends
from the Gulf of California to Payta in Peru, there has been
catalogued 1341 distinct species of marine molluscs. Out of this
immense number of species, less than fifty occur on both sides of
the narrow Isthmus of Darien. So remarkably distinct are the two
marine faunas, that most zoologists consider that there has been no
communication in the tropics between the two seas since the close
of the miocene period, whilst the connection that is supposed to
have existed at that remote epoch, and to account for the
distribution of corals, whilst advocated by Professor Duncan and
other eminent men, is disputed by others equally eminent. No
zoologist of note believes that there has been a submergence of the
land lying between the Pacific and the Atlantic since the pliocene
period, and icebergs could not have floated without such
submergence, so that, in the cases I have mentioned, the boulders,
if ice-borne, have been carried by glaciers and not by floating

Whilst I thus found evidence of the ice of the glacial period
reaching, in the northern hemisphere, to within the tropics; in the
southern hemisphere Professor Hartt has found glacial drift
extending from Patagonia, all through Brazil to Pernambuco, and
Agassiz has even announced the discovery of glacial moraines up to
the equator. I have myself seen, near Pernambuco, and in the
province of Maranham, in Brazil, a great drift deposit that I
believe to be of glacial origin; and I think it highly probable
that the evidence that is accumulating will force geologists to the
conclusion that the ice of the glacial period was not only more
extensive than has been generally supposed, but that it existed at
the same time in the northern and southern hemispheres, leaving, at
least, on the American continent, only the lower lands of the
tropics free from the icy covering.

I shall not enter upon the question of the cause of the cold of the
glacial period. It is probably closely connected with the cause of
an exactly opposite state of things, the heat of the miocene
period, when the beech, the hazel, and the plane lived and
flourished in Spitzbergen, as far north as latitude 78 degrees,
and, according to Heer, firs and poplars reached to the North Pole,
if there was then land there for them to grow upon. I consider that
the great extension of the ice in the glacial period supports the
conclusion of Professor Heer, founded on the northern extension of
the miocene flora, that these enormous changes of climate cannot be
explained by any rearrangement of the relative positions of land
and water, and that "we are face to face with a problem whose
solution must be attempted and doubtless completed by the
astronomer."* (* I have since discussed this question in the
"Quarterly Journal of Science" for October 1874.)

There is another branch of the subject that I cannot so easily
leave. It is the answer to the question, What became of the many
peculiar tropical American genera of animals and plants, when a
great part of the tropics was covered with ice, and the climate of
the lower lands much colder than now? For instance, the Heliconii
and Morphos are a group of butterflies peculiar to tropical
America, containing many distinct genera which, on any theory of
descent from a common progenitor, must have originated ages before
the glacial period. How is it that such peculiarly tropical groups
were not exterminated by the cold of the glacial period, or if able
to stand the cold, that they did not spread into temperate regions
on the retreat of the ice? I believe the answer is, that there was
much extermination during the glacial period, that many species and
some genera, as, for instance, the American horse, did not survive
it, and that some of the great gaps that now exist in natural
history were then made; but that a refuge was found for many
species, on lands now below the ocean, that were uncovered by the
lowering of the sea caused by the immense quantity of water that
was locked up in frozen masses on the land.

Mr. Alfred Tylor considers that the ice cap of the glacial period
was the cause of a great reduction of the level of the sea,
amounting to at least 600 feet.* (* "Geological Magazine" volume 9
page 392.) But if we admit that the ice existed in both hemispheres
at the same time, we shall have to speculate on a lowering of the
level of the sea to at least 1000 feet. We have many facts tending
to prove that during the extreme extent of the glacial period the
land stood much higher relatively to the sea than it now does.
Professor Hartt believes that during the time of the drift, Brazil
stood at a much higher level than at present,* (* "Geology and
Physical Geography of Brazil" by Ch. Fred. Hartt page 573.) and we
can, on the supposition of a general lowering of the sea all over
the world, account for the distribution of animal life over islands
now separated by shallow seas. Thus Mr. Bland, in a paper read
before the American Philosophical Society, on "The Geology and
Physical Geography of the West Indies, with reference to the
distribution of Mollusca," states his opinion that Porto Rico, the
Virgins, the Anguilla group, Cuba, the Bahamas, and Hayti, once
formed continuous dry land that obtained its land molluscs from
Central America and Mexico. The land molluscs of the islands to the
south, on the contrary, from Barbuda and St. Kitt's down to
Trinidad, are of two types, one Venezuelan, the other Guianian; the
western side of the supposed continuous land, namely, Trinidad,
Tobago, Grenada, the Grenadines, St. Vincent, and St. Lucia,
belonging to the first type; the eastern side, from Barbados to
Antigua, to the second.* (* Quoted in "At Last" by Charles Kingsley
page 305.)

Commenting on Mr. Bland's valuable communication, Mr. Kingsley
justly says: "If this be so, a glance at the map will show the vast
destruction of tropic land during almost the very latest geological
epoch; and show, too, how little, in the present imperfect state of
our knowledge, we ought to dare any speculations as to the absence
of man, as well as of other creatures, on those great lands
destroyed. For, to supply the dry land which Mr. Bland's theory
needs, we shall have to conceive a junction, reaching over at least
five degrees of latitude, between the north of British Guiana and
Barbados; and may freely indulge in the dream that the waters of
the Orinoco, when they ran over the lowlands of Trinidad, passed
east of Tobago, then northward between Barbados and St. Lucia,
afterwards turning westward between the latter island and
Martinique, and that the mighty estuary--for a great part at least
of that line--formed the original barrier which kept the land
shells of Venezuela apart from those of Guiana."* (* Loc cit page

A very similar theory has been propounded by Mr. Wallace to account
for the distribution of the faunas of the Malay Archipelago, in his
admirable work on the natural history of that region.* (* "The
Malay Archipelago" volume 1 page 11.) Java, Sumatra, and Borneo are
separated from each other, and from the continent of Asia, by a
shallow sea less than six hundred feet in depth, and must at one
time have been connected by continuous land to allow of the
elephant and tapir of Sumatra and Borneo, the rhinoceros of Sumatra
and Java, and the wild cattle of Borneo and Java, to spread from
the continent to these now sea-surrounded lands, as none of these
large animals could have passed over the arms of the sea that now
separate them. The smaller mammals, the birds, and insects, all
illustrate this view, almost all the genera found in any of the
islands occurring also on the Asiatic continent, and the species
being often identical. On the other hand, the fauna of islands to
the eastward are more closely connected with Australia, and must at
one time have been joined to it by nearly continuous land.
Honeysuckers and lories take the place of the woodpeckers, barbets,
trogons, and fruit thrushes of the western islands, and the many
mammals belonging to Asiatic genera are no more seen.

Mr. Wallace ascribes the present isolation of the islands, and
their separation from the adjoining continents, to the submergence
of the channels between them caused by the abstraction of matter
thrown out by the numerous volcanoes. Looking, however, at the fact
that at the time when these islands were probably connected with
the continents of Asia on the one side and Australasia on the
other, namely, at the close of the pliocene period, England was
connected with the continent; Malta, as shown by its fossil
elephants, with Africa; the West Indies with Yucatan and Venezuela;
it seems to me more probable that the cause was not a local one,
but a general lowering of the waters of the ocean all over the
world to at least one thousand feet, produced by the prodigious
quantity of water locked up in the frozen masses that covered a
great part of both hemispheres.

The wide diffusion of the Malayan dialects over the Pacific,
reaching as far as the Sandwich Islands, shows the great extension
of that race in former times. On numerous islands in Polynesia
there are cyclopean ruins utterly out of keeping with their present
size and population. Who can look at the pictures of little Easter
Island, with its gigantic images standing up in unworshipped
solitude, without feeling that that insignificant islet could never
have supported the race that reared the monuments. But if that and
other islands were once hills overlooking peopled lowlands, the
sense of incongruity vanishes. We see the images, not gazing
gloomily over the ocean that narrowly circles them in, but proudly
looking across wide plains peopled by their worshippers, who from
their villages and fields behold the gods they adore, and implore
their protection and support.

Was the fabled Atlantis really a myth, or was it that great
continent in the Atlantic laid bare by the lowering of the ocean,
on which the present West Indian Islands were mountains, rising
high above the level and fertile plains that are now covered by the
sea? Obscurely the accounts of it have come down to us from the dim
past, but there is a remarkable coincidence between the traditions
that have been handed down on the two sides of the Atlantic.

In a fragment of the works of Theopompus, who lived in the fourth
century before the Christian era, is an account of a conversation
between Silenus and Midas, the king of Phrygia, in which the former
tells the king that Europe, Asia, and Africa were surrounded by the
sea, but that beyond them was an island of immense size, in which
were many great cities, and nations with laws and customs very
different from theirs. Plato, in his "Timaeus and Critias," relates
that Solon was told by a priest of Sais, from the sacred
inscriptions in the temple, how Solon's country "once opposed a
power which with great arrogance pushed its way into Europe and
Asia from the Atlantic Ocean. Beyond the entrance which you call
the Pillars of Hercules there was an island larger than Libya and
Asia together. From it navigation passed to the other islands, and
from them to the opposite continent which surrounded that ocean. On
this great Atlantic island there was a powerful and singular
kingdom, whose dominion extended not only over the whole island,
but over many others, and parts of the continent. It ruled also
over Libya as far as Egypt, and over Europe as far as Tyrrhenia.
This kingdom with the whole of its forces united tried to subjugate
in one campaign your country and ours, and all the country within
the strait. At that time, O Solon, your nation shone out from all
others by bravery and power. It was placed in great danger, but it
defeated the attacking army, and erected triumphal monuments. But
when at a later period earthquakes and great floods took place, the
whole of your united army was swallowed up during one evil day and
one evil night, and at the same time the island of Atlantis sank
into the sea." Crantor, quoted by Proclus, corroborates the account
by Plato, and says that he found this same story retained by the
priests of Sais, three hundred years after the period of Solon, and
that he was shown the inscriptions on which it was recorded.

Turning to the western side of the Atlantic, we find in the "Teo
Amoxtli," as translated by the Abbe Brasseur de Bourburg, an
account of the overwhelming of a country by the sea, when thunder
and flames came out of it, and "the mountains were sinking and
rising." Everywhere throughout America there are traditions of a
great catastrophe, in which a whole country was submerged, and only
a few people escaped to the mountains; and the Spanish conquerors
relate with wonder the accounts they found amongst the Indians of a
universal deluge. Amongst the modern Indians the traveller, Catlin,
relates that in one hundred and twenty different tribes that he had
visited in North, and South, and Central America, "every tribe
related, more or less distinctly, their tradition of the deluge, in
which one, or three, or eight persons were saved above the waters
on the top of a high mountain."* (* "Lifted and Subsided Rocks in
America" by G. Catlin page 182.)

If Atlantis were lowlands connecting the West Indian Islands with
America, the other islands mentioned by Plato may have been the
Azores, also greatly increased in extent by the lowering of the
ocean; and the overwhelming of this lowland, on the melting of the
ice at the close of the glacial period, may be that great
catastrophe that is recorded on both sides of the Atlantic, but is
more clearly remembered in the traditions of America, because all
the highlands there had been covered with ice, and the inhabitants
were restricted to those that were overwhelmed by the deluge.

I approached this subject from the side of Natural History. I was
driven to look for a refuge for the animals and plants of tropical
America during the glacial period, when I found proofs that the
land they now occupy was at that time either covered with ice or
too cold for genera that can now only live where frost is unknown.
I had arrived at the conclusion that they must have inhabited
lowlands now submerged, and following up the question, I soon saw
that the very accumulation of ice that made their abode impossible
provided another for them by the lowering of the sea. Then pursuing
the subject still further, I saw that all over the world curious
questions concerning the distribution of races of mankind, of
animals, and of plants, were rendered more easy of solution on the
theory that land was more continuous once than now; that islands
now separated were then joined together, and to adjacent
continents; and that what are now banks and shoals beneath the sea
were then peopled lowlands.

I have said that during the glacial period, if, as I believe, it
was contemporaneous in the two hemispheres, the sea must have stood
at least 1000 feet lower than it now does. It may have been much
lower than this, but I prefer to err on the safe side. When
geologists have mapped out the limits of ancient glacier and
continental ice all over the world, it will be possible to
calculate the minimum amount of water that was abstracted from the
sea; and if by that time hydrographers have shown on their charts
the shoals and submerged banks that would be laid dry, fabled
Atlantis will rise before our eyes between Europe and America, and
in the Pacific the Malay Archipelago will give place to the Malay
Continent. Here is a noble inquiry, an unexplored region of
research, at the entrance of which I can only stand and point the
way for abler and stronger minds; an inquiry that will lead to the
knowledge of the lands where dwelt the peoples of the glacial
period who lived before the flood.

Vague and visionary as these speculations must seem to many, to
others who are acquainted with the enormous glaciation to which
America has been subjected they will appear to be based on
substantial truths. The immense accumulation of ice over both
poles, reaching far down into the temperate zones, in some
meridians encroaching on the tropics, and in Equatorial America
certainly all the land, lying 2000 feet above the level of the sea,
supporting great glaciers, involve conditions which must have
greatly drained the sea. Lands now submerged must have been
uncovered, and on the return of the waters at the close of the
glacial period many a peopled lowland must have been overwhelmed in
the nearly universal deluge.


A Nicaraguan criminal.
Geology between Ocotal and Totagalpa.
Preparations at Totagalpa for their annual festival.
Piety of the Indians.
Ancient civilisation of tropical America.
Hospitality of the Mestizos.
Curious custom at the festival at Condego.
Cross range between Segovia and Matagalpa.
Birds' nests.

WE got back to Ocotal, from Depilto, before dark, and made
arrangements for setting out on our return to the mines the next
morning. Whilst sitting under the corridor, looking across the
pretty flower-garden at the glowing western sky, illumined by the
last rays of the setting sun, a poor fettered criminal, holding up
by means of a string the thick chain that bound together his
ankles, came limping along, with a soldier behind him armed with
gun and bayonet. He had been brought out of prison to beg. In most
of the towns of Nicaragua no food is given to the prisoners,
whether convicted or merely charged with crime. Those that have no
money to buy food are sent out every day with an armed escort to
beg. The prisoner that hobbled up to me was under twenty years of
age, and had been convicted of murder and condemned to death. He
had appealed against the sentence to a higher court, but I was told
that there was scarcely any chance of a decision in his favour, and
that he would probably be shot in a day or two. Notwithstanding his
critical position, he was lively and cheerful, and when I gave him
a small piece of silver was as overjoyed as if he had got news of
his reprieve. Jumping away, his clanking fetters making ghastly
music, he gleefully showed to his guard the coin that would
probably procure him food the few days he had to live. His wretched
appearance, impending fate, and shocking levity had chased away the
peaceful feelings with which I had watched the quiet sunset; but as
he hobbled off, night, like a pall, fell over the scene; the
trembling stars peeped out from the vault of heaven, and soon a
million distant orbs proclaimed that the world was but a grain of
dust in the vast universe, that the things of earth were but for a
moment, and, as a shadow, would pass away.

Next morning, when we wished to settle up with our kind
entertainers, they absolutely refused to accept any payment. We had
been recommended to the house, and told that we could pay for what
we got; but we now learnt that no one was ever refused
entertainment, and that no charge was made. We were total
strangers, nor should I have any opportunity of returning their
hospitality, as I had determined shortly to return to Europe; but
all I could prevail upon them to accept was a present to a little
girl that lived with the ladies, and of whom they were very fond,
calling her "the daughter of the house." Leaving the hospitable
Senoras Rimirez with many thanks, we started on our return journey
about seven o'clock.

After crossing the river, I noticed boulders of conglomerate in the
drift, none of which had occurred in the valley of Depilto. The bed
rock was still contorted schists, with many quartz veins. At the
top of a steep rise, beyond the river, is a small plateau, or level
terrace, fringing the range, formed of a gravelly boulder deposit;
then another steep ascent led us to a second higher plateau, like
the first, covered with boulders, lying on the level surface. The
first beds of the quartz-conglomerate occurred about half-way
between Ocotal and Totagalpa. Between it and the contorted schists
we passed over some soft, decomposing trap-rocks, which, both here
and elsewhere, appeared to intervene between these two formations.
Over the whole country between Ocotal and Totagalpa were spread
many large boulders, great blocks of conglomerate, and of a hard
blue trap-rock that I did not see in situ, lying on the upturned
edges of the schistose rocks. I should have liked to have worked
out the exact relative positions of the quartz-conglomerate and the
contorted schists, for I have no doubt that a day or two's search
amongst the ravines would have shown many natural sections that
would have thrown great light upon the subject; but I had no time
to devote to it. We were hurrying on every day as far as our mules
could carry us, as it was important that I should get back to the
mines before the end of the month, and I was only able to note down
the exposures that occurred within sight of the road. These,
however, were sufficient to show me that the gneiss of Depilto was
overlain conformably by the contorted schists; that the latter were
followed by soft trappean beds, and these by thick beds of
quartz-conglomerate, apparently derived from the degradation of the
schistose rocks, with their numerous quartz veins.

We reached Totagalpa about eleven o'clock, and remained there some
time engaging labourers. We stayed at the house of a man who made
the common palm-leaf hats, worn throughout the central provinces by
both men and women. The palm-leaves are first boiled, then bleached
in the sun, split into small strips, and platted together like
straw. It was Sunday, and most of the people were in town, sitting
at the doors of their huts, or under their verandahs. Nearly all
the inhabitants of Totagalpa are pure Indians, and are simple and
inoffensive people. They sat listening to three men, one with a
whistle, the others with drums, each striving to make as much noise
as possible, without any attempt at harmony or tune, whilst an
enthusiast in discord kept clanging away at the bells of the

They had no padre of their own, but one occasionally came over from
Somoti, four leagues distant, to celebrate services or visit the
sick. The next day was the great feast of Totagalpa, and they were
preparing for it. As we sat under a verandah opposite the church, a
procession of the town authorities issued from it, bearing a table
and all the silver and brass ornaments. The principal officials
each carried his stick of office, but none, excepting the Alcalde,
could boast a pair of shoes. Their looks of importance and gravity
showed, however, that they considered themselves the chief actors
in an important ceremony. The procession slowly traversed half the
round of the plaza, whilst the bells clanged, the whistle squeaked,
and the drummers thumped their loudest. Stopping at a house at the
corner of the plaza, the officials seated themselves on a bench
outside. Then was brought out to them in bowls, nearly as large as
wash-hand basins, the old Indian drink, "chicha," made from
fermented corn and sugar. Each man had one of the great bowls and a
napkin; the latter they spread over their knees, and rested the
bowl on it, taking long sips every now and then with evident signs
of satisfaction. Little have these people changed from the times of
the Conquest. Pascual de Andagoya, writing of the people of
Nicaragua when they were first subjugated by Hernandez de Cordova,
in 1520, says, "The whole happiness of the people consists in
drinking the wine they make from maize, which is like beer, and on
this they get as drunk as if it was the wine of Spain; and all the
festivals they hold are for the purpose of drinking."* (* Hakluyt
Society. "Narrative of Pascual de Andagoya" Translated by C.R.
Markham page 34.)

The cross, candlesticks, and other ornaments were arranged on a
table, and were each carefully and solemnly washed with hot water.
This they do every year the day before their feast, and it makes
the occasion for the procession and chicha-drinking. Most of the
men of the township were gathered around, and in all the straight
coarse black hair and Indian features were unmistakable. The
chicha-drinking was too long a business for our patience, and we
went over to the church, where we found a number of the Indian
women with great baskets full of most beautiful and sweet-smelling
flowers, making garlands and bouquets to decorate the holy images
and church. The beautiful flowers were twined in wreaths, or stuck
on prepared stands and shapes, and their fragrance filled the
church. The love of flowers is another beautiful trait of the old
Indians that their descendants have not lost. The ancient Mexicans
decorated their altars and temples with flowers, and in their
festivals crowned themselves with garlands.

I mentioned the glistening white tower of the church in the account
of our journey out. I now learnt that it was only finished the year
before our visit, and had cost these poor people over 700 dollars
in money, besides gifts of stone, wood, and labour amounting to
more than as much again. At other Mestizo towns, where the churches
were like dilapidated barns, we heard much of the religious fervour
of the Indians of Totagalpa. At one time, when building the tower,
both their funds and the lime were exhausted. In this strait the
Alcalde called the people of the town together, and told them that
the tower, on the building of which they had already spent so much,
could not be finished without lime. Then and there they determined
themselves to carry the limestone from the quarries, near Ocotal,
ten miles distant. Next morning, before daylight, the whole village
set out, and at night a long line of men, women, and children came
staggering back into Totagalpa, every one with a block of
limestone; and so zealous were they to bring as large stones as
they could carry, that some of them had great sores worn between
their shoulders where they carried their loads, slung, Indian
fashion, from their foreheads. Here survives the same old Indian
spirit, only turned in another direction, that impelled their
forefathers, with great labour and patience, to bring from a
distance and pile up great cairns of stones over the graves of
their chieftains.

This care of their church is quite spontaneous on their part, as
they have no padre; indeed, from my experience of the priests in
other towns, I think it likely that if they had one, he would
intercept most of the offerings expended on the church and images.
There are exceptions, but generally the padres of Central America
are rapacious and immoral. They are much now as they were in Thomas
Gage's time, more than two hundred years ago, and the poor Indians
are just as humble and respectful to them. In his quaint book, "A
New Survey of the West Indies", he says: "Above all, to their
priest they are very respectful; and when they come to speak to him
put on their best clothes and study their words and compliments to
please him. They yielded to the popish religion, especially to the
worshipping of saints' images, because they look upon them as much
like their forefathers' idols. Out of the smallest of their means
they will be sure to buy some of these saints, and bring them to
the church that they may stand and be worshipped by them and
others. The churches are full of them, and they are placed upon
stands, gilded and painted, to be carried in procession on their
proper day. And hence comes no small profit to the priests; for on
such saints' days the owner of the saint makes a great feast in the
town, and presents the priest sometimes two or three, sometimes
four or five crowns for his mass and sermon, besides a turkey and
three or four fowls, with as much cacao as will make him chocolate
for all the octave or eight days following. The priest, therefore,
is very watchful over these saints' days, and sends warning
beforehand to the Indians of the day of their saint. If they
contribute not bountifully, then the priest will chide and threaten
that he will not preach."* (* Loc cit pages 332-334.)

When we left Totagalpa, they were still drinking "chicha;" and I
shall not forget the solemn satisfied look of the shoeless
corporation, as they sipped their drink in sight of their
townspeople, now and then singling out some friend, to whom they
signed to come and quaff at the big bowl. The warm drink had
loosened the tongue of the solemn alcalde. He came, and with many
compliments, wished us a good journey. He, good man, had reached
the summit of his ambition--he was the chief of his native town; he
wore shoes; and what more could he hope for or desire?

The central government interferes but little with the local
officials; and the small towns in the interior are almost
self-governed. Neither do they pay any direct taxes, the only
contributions to the national exchequer being fees for killing
cattle, selling land or houses, and making agreements, and a
government monopoly in the sale of tobacco and spirits. So the
country folks lead an easy life, excepting in times of revolution,
when they are pressed into the army. The Indian townships are
better managed than those of the Spaniards and Mestizos; the plazas
are kept freer from weeds, and the roads in good order. Probably
nowhere but in tropical America can it be said that the
introduction of European civilisation has caused a retrogression;
and that those communities are the happiest and the best-governed
who retain most of their old customs and habits. Yet there it is
so. The civilisation that Cortez overthrew was more suitable for
the Indians than that which has supplanted it. Who can read the
accounts of the populous towns of Mexico and Central America in the
time of Montezuma, with their magnificent buildings and squares;
their gardens both zoological and botanical; their markets,
attended by merchants from the surrounding countries; their
beautiful cloth and feather work, the latter now a lost art; their
picture writing; their cunning artificers in gold and silver; their
astronomical knowledge; their schools; their love of order, of
cleanliness, of decency; their morality and wonderful patriotism,
without feeling that the conquest of Mexico was a deplorable
calamity; that if that ancient civilisation had been saved it might
have been Christianised and purified without being destroyed, and
to-day have stood one of the wonders and delights of the world. Its
civilisation was self-grown, it was indigenous, it was unique: a
few poor remnants of its piety, love of order, and self-government
still remain in remote Indian townships; but its learning,
magnificence, and glory have gone for ever.

On leaving Totagalpa, we took the road for Yalaguina. About a mile
from the first-named town, the contorted schists cropped up again,
and were followed, as before, by beds of soft decomposing trap, and
these again by thick beds of quartz-conglomerate. This succession
was repeated two or three times during the day's journey. The trap
beds formed, by decomposition, a dark fertile soil. Wherever maize
was planted on it, it was thriving greatly. We reached Yalaguina
about two o'clock, and pushed on for Palacaguina, four leagues
further on, passing for a considerable part of the road along the
banks of a small stream, by the side of which were some large and
fine fields of maize and beans.

We reached Palacaguina an hour before dark, and on asking for
lodging for the night, were directed to a small poor-looking house.
The front door of this was closed when we rode up, but was opened
with haste, and about a dozen young men rushed out, who, it turned
out afterwards, had been gambling, and hence the closed doors. We
were asked to alight; one man took the gun; others offered to take
our hats, to unload the pack-mule, etc. Two or three of them were
Zambeses, and not very good-looking; they made themselves so
officious, that Velasquez confessed to me afterwards that he was
rather afraid of them, and thought they were too pressing in their
attentions, and meant to rob us. Our fears were groundless; they
had been suddenly startled in the midst of an illegal game, and
were glad to find that we were not government officers pouncing
upon them. The house itself was dirty and small, with one hammock
and one chair for its furniture; we should have fared badly if one
of the men, Don Trinidad Soso, had not recollected having once seen
Velasquez before, and on the strength of that considered himself
bound to take our entertainment into his own hands. He was the
nephew of the padre, who was absent, and he invited us to his
uncle's house, where we were soon installed, and found much more
comfortable quarters. The padre had a good-looking housekeeper, who
was also an excellent cook; and she got us ready a supper of
venison, tortillas, eggs, and chocolate, to which we did not fail
to do justice. Then the padre's bedstead was placed at my disposal,
so that altogether we had been most fortunate in meeting with our
good friend Don Trinidad.

Most of the people living at Palacaguina were half-breeds with a
large infusion of Negro blood; and the weed-covered streets and
plaza and dilapidated church compared unfavourably with the not far
distant Indian town of Totagalpa. The Mestizos are a thriftless,
careless people, but I care not here to dilate on their
shortcomings. Let only the hospitality and kindness I experienced
in Palacaguina live in my mind, and let regret draw a veil over
their failings, and censure forget to chide.

Next morning Don Trinidad went himself to get us milk for our
chocolate, three or four others assisted us as kindly on our
departure as they had welcomed us on our arrival, and we rode away
with more pleasant recollections of the weedy-looking town than if
we had been entertained by grandees; for these people were poor,
and had assisted us out of pure good-nature. The country at first
was level, and the roads smooth and dry. The morning was
delightfully cool; and as we trotted along our spirits were high
and gay, and snatches of song sprang unbidden to our lips. How
delightful these rides in the early morning were! how all nature
seemed to be in accord with our feelings! Every bush and tree was
noted, every bird-call heard. We would shout to one another, "Do
you see this or that?" or set Rito off into convulsions with some
thin joke. Every sense was gratified; it was like the youth of
life. But as the day wore on, the sun would shine hotter and
hotter, what had been a pleasure became a toil, and we would push
on determinedly but silently. The day would age, and our shadows
come again and begin to lengthen; the heat of the day was past, but
our spirits would not mount to their morning's height. The
beautiful flowers, the curious thorny bushes, the gorgeous
butterflies, and many-coloured birds were all there; but our
attention could only be called unwillingly to them. Our jaded
animals trudged on with mechanical steps, and, tired ourselves, we
thought of nothing but getting to the end of our day's journey, and
resting our weary frames.

We did not return from Palacaguina by the road we had come, but
took one much more to the westward. This we did, not only to see a
fresh line of country, but to gratify Rito with a visit to his
relations, whom he had not seen for two years. Two miles beyond
Palacaguina, we crossed a river, beyond which I saw no more of the
quartz-conglomerate that I have so often mentioned whilst passing
through Segovia. From this place to the mines the rocks were soft
decomposing dolerites, with many harder bands of felsite, and,
occasionally, plains composed of more recent trachytic lavas.

We passed through another weedy, dilapidated town, called Condego,
where they have a singular custom at their annual festival held on
the 15th of May. For some weeks before this date, they catch all
the wild beasts and birds they can, and keep them alive. During the
night preceding the feast-day they plant the plaza in front of the
church with full-grown plants of maize, rice, beans, and all the
other vegetables that they cultivate; and amongst them they fasten
the wild beasts and birds that have been collected; so that the sun
that set on a bare, weedy plaza rises on one full of vegetable and
animal life. The year before, a young jaguar that had been caught
was the great attraction. It has now grown so large, that they are
afraid of it, and do not know what to do with it. It is kept in an
empty house at Pueblo Nuevo, along with a dog, to which it is
greatly attached, although it is the one that caught it when young.
The custom of planting the square with vegetables, and bringing
together all the wild animals that can be collected, is doubtless
an Indian one. The ancient Nicaraguans are said to have worshipped
maize and beans, but the service may not have had more significance
than our own harvest feasts.

We reached the edge of the savannahs of the plain of Segovia and
began to ascend the high ranges that divide it from the province of
Matagalpa, and soon entered a mountainous country. Our course at
first lay up the banks of a torrent that had cut deeply into beds
of boulder clay filled with great stones. The lower part of the
range was covered with trees of various kinds, but none of them
growing to a great height; higher up we reached the sighing pine
trees, and higher still, the hills were covered with grass, and
supported herds of cattle. About noon, we arrived at a poor-looking
hacienda near the top of the range. The proprietor owned about two
hundred cattle, and lived in a house, mud-walled and
grass-thatched, consisting of one room and a kitchen. Round the
sides of the room were crowded eight rude bedsteads, and hammocks
were slung across the centre. A mob of twenty-one men, women, and
children lived at the house, and must have herded together like
cattle at night. There were a great number of half-clothed and
naked children running about. The women, of whom there were six,
made us some chocolate and tortillas ready, and we rested awhile.
Before we left, the men came in with the milking cows and calves.
There were two men on horseback, but as the country was too rough
for riding fast, they were accompanied by three boys on foot, who
were sweating profusely with running after the cattle. The calves
were separated from the cows and fastened up. The cows would keep
near the corral until the next morning, when they would be milked,
and the calves turned out with them again.

We continued to ascend for a mile further, and then reached the top
of the range, which was bare of trees and covered with sedgy grass.
Heavy rain came on, with tremendous gusts of wind, and as the path
lay along the very crest of the mountain range, we were exposed to
all the fury of the storm. In some places the cargo mule was nearly
blown down the steep slope, and the one I was riding had to stop
sometimes to keep its feet. The wind was bleak, and we were
drenched with rain, and very cold. Fortunately the storm of rain
did not last for more than half-an-hour, but the high cold wind
continued all the time we were on the ridge, which was several
miles long, with steep slopes on either side. We were glad when we
got to a more sheltered spot, where some mountain oak trees
protected us from the wind, and at four o'clock, reaching a small
scattered settlement called Sontuli, we determined, although early
in the day, to stay there, as it was Rito's birthplace, and his
only sister, whom he had not seen for two years, lived there. All
the hamlet were Rito's friends, and he had soon a crowd about him
talking and laughing.

None of the lands around were enclosed--all seemed to be common
property; and every family had a few cows and two or three brood
mares. A little maize was grown, but the climate was rather too
bleak and wet for it. We were now close to the boundary of the
province of Matagalpa, and began again to hear of the drought that
had destroyed most of the maize crop in that province, although in
Chontales, on one side of it, we had had rather more rain than
usual, and in Segovia, on the other, we had seen that the crops
were excellent. Probably the high ranges that bound Matagalpa on
every side had intercepted the rains and drained the winds of their

Having made such an early halt, we intended to have made up for it
by an equally early start the next morning, but were detained by
our mules having strayed during the night, and it was seven o'clock
before they could be found. We had a long day's journey before us,
during which we should not be able to buy any provisions, so, over
night, Rito's sister had cooked a fowl for us to take with us. She
had married one of the settlers of Sontuli, and, although still
young and fresh-looking, had already three lusty children. The
great number of children at all the houses had surprised me
greatly, as I had been told that the country was decreasing in
population. This, I have no doubt, is a mistake, and the
inhabitants, if the country should remain at peace, would multiply

On leaving Sontuli, the road led over mountain pastures and through
woods of the evergreen oak draped from top to bottom with the grey
moss-like Tillandsia, which hung in long festoons from every
branch, and was wound around the trunks, like garlands, by the
wind: the larger masses, waving in the breeze, hung down for four
or five feet below the branches. The small birds build in them, and
they form excellent hiding-places for their nests, where they are
tolerably secure from the attacks of their numerous enemies. I had
often, when in the tropics, to notice the great sagacity or
instinct of the small birds in choosing places for their nests. So
many animals--monkeys, wild-cats, raccoons, opossums, and
tree-rats--are constantly prowling about, looking out for eggs and
young birds, that, unless placed with great care, their progeny
would almost certainly be destroyed. The different species of
Oropendula or Orioles (Icteridae) of tropical America choose high,
smooth-barked trees, standing apart from others, from which to hang
their pendulous nests. Monkeys cannot get at them from the tops of
other trees, and any predatory mammal attempting to ascend the
smooth trunks would be greatly exposed to the attacks of the birds,
armed, as they are, with strong sharp-pointed beaks. Several other
birds in the forest suspend their nests from the small but tough
air roots that hang down from the epiphytes growing on the
branches, where they often look like a natural bunch of moss
growing on them. The various prickly bushes are much chosen,
especially the bull's-horn thorn, which I have already described.
Many birds hang their nests from the extremities of the branches,
and a safer place could hardly be chosen, as with the sharp thorns
and the stinging ants that inhabit them no mammal would, I think,
dare to attempt the ascent of the tree. Stinging ants are not the
only insects whose assistance birds secure by building near their
nests. A small parrot builds constantly on the plains in a hole
made in the nests of the termites, and a species of fly-catcher
makes its nest alongside of that of one of the wasps. On the
savannahs, between Acoyapo and Nancital, there is a shrub with
sharp curved prickles, called Viena paraca (come here) by the
Spaniards, because it is difficult to extricate oneself from its
hold when the dress is caught, for as one part is cleared another
will be entangled. A yellow and brown flycatcher builds its nest in
these bushes, and generally places it alongside that of a banded
wasp, so that with the prickles and the wasps it is well guarded. I
witnessed, however, the death of one of the birds from the very
means it had chosen for the protection of its young. Darting
hurriedly out of its domed nest as we were passing, it was caught
just under its bill by one of the curved hook-like thorns, and in
trying to extricate itself got further entangled. Its fluttering
disturbed the wasps, who flew down upon it, and in less than a
minute stung it to death. We tried in vain to rescue it, for the
wasps attacked us also, and one of our party was severely stung by
them. We had to leave it hanging up dead in front of its nest,
whilst its mate flew round and round screaming out its terror and
distress. I find that other travellers have noted the fact of birds
building their nests near colonies of wasps for protection. Thus,
according to Gosse, the grassquit of Jamaica (Spermophila olivacea)
often selects a shrub on which wasps have built, and fixes the
entrance to its domed nest close to their cells. Prince Maximilian
Neuwied states in his "Travels in Brazil", that he found the
curious purse-shaped nest of one of the Todies constantly placed
near the nests of wasps, and that the natives informed him that it
did so to secure itself from the attacks of its enemies. I should
have thought that when building their nests they would be very
liable to be attacked by the wasps. The nests placed in these
positions appear always to be domed, probably for security against
their unstable friends.


Indian habits retained by the people.
Indian names of towns.
Security of travellers in Nicaragua.
Native flour-mill.
Uncomfortable lodgings.
Dust whirlwind.
Initial form of a cyclone.
The origin of cyclones.

SOME of the ranges were very craggy, and one was so steep and rocky
that we had to dismount and lead our mules, and even then one of
them fell several times. These craggy ranges were covered with the
evergreen oaks, and we saw but few pine trees. Now and then we
passed over the tracks of the leaf-cutting ants, who were hurrying
along as usual, laden with pieces of foliage about the size of a
sixpence. There were but few birds, and insects also were scarce,
the bleak wet weather doubtless being unsuitable for them.

We now began to descend on the Matagalpa side of the elevated
ranges we had been travelling over, and crossed many small valleys
and streams, the latter everywhere cutting through boulder clay,
with very few exposures of the bed-rock. In the lower lands were
many patches cultivated with maize and beans, but the country was
very sparsely inhabited. At noon, we reached a small town called
Concordia, where the houses were larger and better built than those
in the small towns of Segovia. The church, on the other hand, was
an ugly barn-like building, apparently much neglected. The rocks
were trachytes, and the soil seemed fertile, but there was very
little of it cultivated. Many of the men we met wore long swords
instead of the usual machetes. There is a school for learning
fencing at Concordia, and the people of the district are celebrated
for being expert swordsmen. They have often fencing matches. The
best man is called the champion, and he is bound to try conclusions
with every one that challenges him.

After leaving Concordia we had only one more range to cross, then
began to descend towards the plains below Jinotega, and about dusk
reached that town and were kindly received by our former
entertainers. Doubtless much European blood runs in the veins of
the inhabitants of Jinotega, but in their whole manner of living
they follow the Indian ways, and it is the same throughout
Nicaragua, excepting amongst the higher classes in the large towns.
All their cooking vessels are Indian. Just as in the Indian huts,
every pot or pan is of coarse pottery, and each dish is cooked on a
separate little fire. The drinks in common use are Indian, and have
Indian names; tiste, pinul, pinullo, and chicha, all made from
maize, sugar, and chocolate. As before observed, whatever was new
to the Spaniards when they invaded the country retained its Indian
name. It is so with every stage of growth of the maize plant,
chilote, elote, and maizorca. The stone for grinding the maize is
exactly the same as those found in the old Indian graves, and it is
still called the metlate. All the towns we passed through in
Segovia retained their Indian names, though their present
inhabitants know nothing of their meaning. The old names of many of
the towns are probably remnants of a language earlier than that of
the inhabitants at the time of the conquest, and their study might
throw some light on the distribution of the ancient peoples.
Unfortunately the names of places are very incorrectly given in the
best maps of Central America, every traveller having spelt them
phonetically according to the orthography of his own language.
Throughout this book I have spelt proper names in accordance with
the pronunciation of the Spanish letters.

Many of the names of towns in Nicaragua and Honduras end in "galpa,"
as Muyogalpa, Juigalpa, Totagalpa, and Matagalpa. Places
apparently of less consequence in Segovia often end in the
termination "lee" strongly accented, as Jamaily, Esterly, Daraily,
etc., and in "guina," pronounced "weena," as in Palacaguina and
Yalaguina. In Chontales many end in "apa," or "apo," as Cuapo,
Comoapa, Comelapa, Acoyapo, and others.

The Spaniards, whenever they gave a name to a town, either named it
after some city in Spain or after their Saints. There are dozens of
Santa Rosas, San Juans, and San Tomases. Even some of the towns,
which have well-known Indian names, are called officially after
some Spanish saint, but the common people stick to the old names,
and they are not to be thrust aside.

We had a long talk with our courteous host of the estanco at
Jinotega. He had a small library of books, nearly all being missals
and prayer-books. He had a little knowledge of geography and was
wishful to learn about Europe, and at the same time most desirous
that we should not think that he, one of the chief men of the town,
did not know all about it. That England was a small island he
admitted was new to him, as he thought it was part of the United
States or at least joined to them. He asked if it was true that
Rome was one of the four quarters of the globe. We explained that
it was only a large city, to which he replied gravely that he knew
it was so, but wished to have our opinion to confirm his own.

No newspapers come to Jinotega, excepting occasionally a government
gazette, and only a few of the grown-up people are able to read.
News travel quickly from one town to another, but every incident is
greatly exaggerated; and many extravagant stories are set afloat
with no other foundation than the inventive faculties of some idle
brain. To appreciate what an immense aid a newspaper press is to
the dissemination of truth one must travel in some such country as
Nicaragua where newspapers do not circulate. It is impossible to
get trustworthy intelligence about any event that has happened a
hundred miles away, and stories of murders and robberies that were
never committed are widely circulated amongst the credulous people.
As far as my experience goes highway robbery is unknown in
Nicaragua. Foreigners entrusted with money have stated they have
been robbed, but there has always been suspicions that they
themselves embezzled the money that they said they lost. Personally
I never carried arms for defence in the country, and was never
molested nor even insulted, though I often travelled alone. The
only dangerous characters in the country are the lower class of
foreigners, and these are not numerous. Petty thefts are common
enough, and at the mines we found that none of the labouring class
were to be trusted; but robberies of a daring character or
accompanied by violence were never committed by the natives to my

In their drinking bouts they often quarrel among themselves, and
slash about with their long heavy knives, inflicting ugly gashes
and often maiming each other for life. One-armed men are not
uncommon; and I knew of two cases where an arm was chopped off in
these encounters. Nearly every pay-week our medical officer was
sent for to sew up the wounds that had been received. Fortunately
even at these times they do not interfere with foreigners, their
quarrels being amongst themselves, and either faction fights or
about their women, or gambling losses. Many of the worst cases of
cutting with knives were by the Honduraneans employed at the mines,
who generally got off through the mountains to their own country.
One who was taken managed to escape by inducing the soldiers who
had him in charge to take him up to the mines to bring out his
tools. He went in at the level whilst they guarded the entrance.
Hour after hour passed without his returning, and at last they
learnt that he had got through some old workings to another opening
into the mine and had started for Honduras. Once in the bush
pursuit is hopeless, as the undergrowth is so dense that it is
impossible to follow by sight.

We left Jinotega at seven in the morning, passed over the pine-clad
ranges again, and at one o'clock came in sight of the town of
Matagalpa. At the river a mill was at work grinding wheat. I went
into the shed that covered it and found it to be simple and
ingenious. Below the floor was a small horizontal water-wheel
driven by the stream striking against the inclined floats. The
shaft of the wheel passed up through the floor and the lower stone,
and was fixed to the upper one, which turned round with it without
any gearing. The flour made is dark and full of impurities, as no
care is taken to keep it clean.

We found the mules and horses we had left at Matagalpa in good
condition, and after getting some dinner started again, taking the
road towards Teustepe instead of that by which we had come, as we
were told we should avoid the swamps by so doing, for more to the
westward they had had no rain. We rode down the valley below the
town and found it very dry and barren, the only industry worth
naming being a small indigo plantation. Indigo seems to have been
more cultivated formerly than now. In many parts I saw the deserted
vats in which the plants were steeped to extract the dye. We
ascended a high range to the left of the valley, on the top of
which were a few pine trees. These we were told were the last we
should see on the road to Chontales. On the other side of the range
the descent was very steep, and the road was carried down the
precipitous and rocky slope in a series of zigzags, so that we saw
the mules a few score yards in advance directly under our feet.

From the hill we had seen a house in the valley, and as night was
setting in we sought for it, but the whole district was so covered
with low scrubby trees with many paths running in various
directions that it was long before we found it. When at last we
discovered it, the prospect before us of a night's lodging was so
discouraging that had it not then been getting quite dark, and
being told that we should have to travel several miles before
coming to another house, we should have sought for other shelter.
The small hut was as usual filled with men, women, and children.
Two of the women were lying ill, and one seemed to be dying. There
was no room for us in the hut if we had been willing to enter it.
We slung our hammocks under a small open-sided shed near by and
passed a miserable night. A strong cold wind was blowing, and the
swinging of the hammocks caused by it kept a number of dogs
continually barking and snapping at our hammocks and boots. We rose
cold and cramped at daylight, and without waiting to make ready any
coffee, saddled our beasts and rode away.

A little maize was grown about this place, and the people told us
that sugar thrived, but the plantations of it were small and
ill-kept, and everything had a look of poverty and decadence. They
said that twenty years ago there was no bush growing around their
house. The country was then open grassed savannahs, and there was
less fever. Now the bush grows up to their very doors, and they
will not take the trouble to cut it down even to save themselves
from the attacks of fever. Here as everywhere throughout the
central provinces, deep ingrained indolence paralyses all industry
or enterprise, and with the means of plenty and comfort on every
side, the people live in squalid poverty.

For four leagues we rode over high ranges with very fine valleys
separating them, containing many thatched houses and fields of
maize, sugar, and beans. Where not now cultivated the sides of the
ranges were covered with weedy-looking shrubs and low trees,
proving that all the land had at one time been cropped, and this
was further shown by the old lines of pinuela fences and ditches
that were seen here and there amongst the brushwood. As we got
further south the alluvial flats in the valleys increased in size
and fertility, and the cultivated fields were enclosed with
permanent fences. On some of the ranges we crossed, the rocks were
amygdaloidal, containing nests of a white zeolite, the fractured
planes of which glittered like gems on the pathway.

Eight leagues from Matagalpa we reached the small town of
Tierrabona, where, as the name implies, the land is very good.
Every house had an enclosure around it, planted with maize and
beans: and though it was evident that the land was cropped year
after year, it still seemed to bear well. We stopped at a small
brook just outside the town, and ate some provisions we had brought
from Matagalpa. Some speckled tiger-beetles ran about the dusty
road, and on wet muddy places near the stream groups of butterflies
collected to suck the moisture. Amongst them were some fine
swallow-tails (Papilio), quivering their wings as they drank, and
lovely blue hair-streaks (Theclae). The latter, when they alight,
rub their wings together, moving their curious tail-like appendages
up and down. Great dragon-flies hawked after flies; while on the
surface of still pools "whirligigs" (Gyrinidae) wheeled about in
mazy gyrations, just as they are seen to do at home.

Savannahs, sparingly timbered, were next crossed; then we reached
one of those level plains, with black soil and blocks of porous
trachyte lying on the surface, which are swamps in the rainy
season, and have for vegetation sedgy grasses and scattered jicara
trees, cactuses and thorny acacias. Up to the time we passed, there
had been no rain in these parts, and the plain was dry and bare,
with great cracks in the black soil. The grass had not sprung up,
not a breath of air was stirring, and the heated air quivered over
the parched ground, forming in the distance an imperfect mirage.

Directly overhead the noonday sun hung hot in the hazy sky. As we
moodily toiled over the plain, my attention was arrested by a dust
whirlwind that suddenly sprang up about fifty yards to our left.
The few dry leaves on the ground began to whirl round and round,
and to ascend. In a minute a spiral column was formed, reaching,
perhaps, to the height of fifty feet, consisting of dust and dry
dead leaves, all whirling round with the greatest rapidity. The
column was only a few yards in diameter. It moved slowly along,
nearly parallel with our course, but only lasting a few minutes.
Before I could point it out to Velasquez, who had ridden on ahead,
it had dissolved away. I had been very familiar with these air
eddies in Australia, and had hoped to carry on some investigations
concerning them, begun there, in Central America; but, though
common on the plains of Mexico and of South America, this was the
only one I witnessed in Central America.

The interest with which I regarded these miniature storms was due
to the assistance that their study was likely to give in the
discussion of the cause of all circular movements of the
atmosphere, including the dreaded typhoon and cyclone. The chief
meteorologists who have discussed this difficult question have
approached it from the side of the larger hurricanes. There is a
complete gradation from the little dust eddies up through larger
whirlwinds and tornadoes to the awful typhoons and cyclones of
China and the West Indies; and it has long been my opinion that if
meteorologists devoted their attention to the smaller eddies that
can be looked at from the outside, and their commencement,
continuance, and completion watched and chronicled, they could not
fail to obtain a large amount of information to guide them in the
study of cyclonic movements of the atmosphere.

Unless the smaller whirlwinds are quite distinct from the larger
ones in their origin, the theories advanced by meteorologists to
account for the latter are certainly untenable. According to the
celebrated M. Dove, cyclones owe their origin to the intrusion of
the upper counter trade-wind into the lower trade-wind current.* (*
"Law of Storms" page 246.) More lately, Professor T.B. Maury has
stated that "the origin of cyclones is found in the tendency of the
south-east trade-winds to invade the territory of the north-east
trades by sweeping over the equator into our hemisphere, the
lateral conflict of the currents giving an initial impulse to
bodies of air by which they begin to rotate." Cyclones having thus
originated, Professor Maury considers that they are continued and
intensified by the vapour condensed in their vortex forming a
vacuum.* (* "Quarterly Journal of Science" 1872 page 418.)

Humboldt had long ago ascribed whirlwinds to the meeting of
opposing currents of air.* (* "Aspects of Nature" volume 1 page 17.
) There is this dynamical objection to the theory. The movements of
the air in whirlwinds are much more rapid than in any known
straight current, such as the trade winds; and it is impossible
that two opposing currents should generate between them one of much
greater force and rapidity than either. If force A joins with force
B, surely force C, the product, must have the power of both A and
B. But even if this fundamental objection to the theory could be
set aside, the small whirlwinds could not thus arise, as they are
most frequent when the air is nearly or quite motionless.

Then, again, when we turn to Professor Maury's theory that the
cyclones, having been initiated by the conflict of contrary
currents, are continued and intensified by the condensation of
vapour in their vortex forming a vacuum, we find it negatived by
the fact that in the smaller whirlwinds the air is dry, and there
is consequently no condensation of vapour; yet, in comparison with
their size, they are of as great violence as the fiercest typhoon.
Tylor describes the numerous dust whirlwinds he saw on the plains
of Mexico,* (* "Anahuac" by E.B. Tylor page 21.) Clarke those on
the steppes of Russia, and Bruce those on the deserts of Africa,
and nowhere is there mention made of any condensation of vapour. I
have seen scores of whirlwinds in Australia, many rising to a
height of over one hundred feet; yet there was never any
perceptible condensation of vapour, though some of them were of
sufficient force to tear off limbs of trees, and carry up the tents
of gold-diggers into the air. Franklin describes a whirlwind of
greater violence than any of these. It commenced in Maryland by
taking up the dust over a road in the form of an inverted
sugar-loaf, and soon increased greatly in size and violence.
Franklin followed it on horseback, and saw it enter a wood, where
it twisted and turned round large trees: leaves and boughs were
carried up so high that they appeared to the eye like flies. Again
there was no condensation of vapour.

We thus see that whirlwinds of great violence occur when the air is
dry, and there can be no condensation. When, however, they are
formed at sea, and occasionally on land, the air next the surface
is saturated with moisture; and this moisture is condensed when it
is carried to a great height, forming clouds, or falling in showers
of rain and hail. This condensation of vapour is an effect, and not
a cause, and takes place, not in the centre, but at the top or at
the sides of the ascending column. This is well shown in an
account, by an eye-witness, of a whirlwind that did great damage
near the shore of Lough Neagh, in Ireland, in August 1872.* (*
"Nature" volume 6 page 541.) It was about thirty yards in diameter.
It destroyed several haystacks, and carried the hay up into the air
out of sight. It partially unroofed houses, and tore off the
branches of trees. The railway station at Randalstown was much
injured; great numbers of slates, and two and a half hundredweight
of lead were torn from the roof. When passing over a portion of the
lake, it presented the appearance of a waterspout. On land
everything that it lapped up was whirled round and round, and
carried upwards in the centre, whilst dense clouds surrounded the
outside and came down near to the earth.

As above mentioned, I had in Australia many opportunities of
studying the dust whirlwinds; and as I looked upon them as the
initial form of a cyclone, I paid much attention to them. On a
small plain, near to Maryborough, in the province of Victoria, they
were of frequent occurrence in the hot season. This plain was about
two miles across, and was nearly surrounded by trees. In calm,
sultry weather, during the heat of the day, there were often two at
once in action in different parts of it. They were only a few yards
in diameter, but reached to a height of over one hundred feet, and
were often, in their higher part, bent out of their perpendicular
by upper aerial currents. The dust and leaves they carried up
rendered their upward spiral movement very conspicuous. No one who
studied these whirlwinds could for a moment believe that they were
caused by conflicting currents of air. They occurred most
frequently when there was least wind; and this particular plain
seemed to be peculiarly suitable for their formation, because it
was nearly surrounded by trees, and currents of air were prevented.
They lasted several minutes, slowly moving across the plain, like
great pillars of smoke.* (* A friend of mine tells me that he saw a
similar whirlwind rise at noon one still summer day, and traverse
the dusty road on the Chesil Bank between Portland and Weymouth. It
travelled fully half a mile, about as fast as he could walk; and
the point where it met the ground was not thicker than his walking
stick. By and by it swept out to sea, where the dust gradually

When attentively watched from a short distance, it was seen that as
soon as one was formed, the air immediately next the heated soil,
which was before motionless, or quivering as over a furnace, was
moving in all directions towards the apex of the dust-column. As
these currents approached the whirlwind, they quickened and carried
with them loose dust and leaves into the spiral whirl. The movement
was similar to that which occurs when a small opening is made at
the bottom of a wide shallow vessel of water: all the liquid moves
towards it, and assumes a spiral movement as it is drawn off.

The conclusion I arrived at, and which has since been confirmed by
further study of the question, was, that the particles of air next
the surface did not always rise immediately they were heated, but
that they often remained and formed a stratum of rarefied air next
the surface, which was in a state of unstable equilibrium. This
continued until the heated stratum was able, at some point where
the ground favoured a comparatively greater accumulation of heat,
to break through the overlying strata of air, and force its way
upwards. An opening once made, the whole of the heated air moved
towards it and was drained off, the heavier layers sinking down and
pressing it out. Sir George Airey has suggested to me that the
reason of the particles of air not rising as they are heated, when
there is no wind blowing, may be due to their viscosity: and this
suggestion is correct. That air does not always rise when heated,
appears from the hot winds of Australia, which blow from the heated
interior towards the cooler south, instead of rising directly
upwards. Sultry, close weather, that sometimes lasts for several
days, would also be impossible on the assumption that air rises as
soon as it is heated.

This explanation supplies us with the force that is necessary to
drive the air with the great velocity with which it moves in
whirlstorms. The upper, colder, and heavier air is pressing upon
the heated stratum, and the greater the area over which the latter
extends, the greater will be the weight pressing upon it, and the
greater the violence of the whirlwind when an opening is formed for
the ascent of the heated air. There is a gradual passage, from the
small dust eddies, through larger whirlstorms such as that at Lough
Neagh, to tornadoes and the largest cyclone; every step of the
gradation might be verified by numerous examples; and if this book
were a treatise on meteorology, it might be admissible to give
them; but to do this would take up too much of my space, and I
shall only now make some observations on the largest form of
whirlstorm--the dreaded cyclone.

Just as over the little plain at Maryborough, protected by the
surrounding forest from the action of the wind, the heated air
accumulates over the surface until carried off in eddies, so,
though on a vastly larger scale, in that great bight formed by the
coasts of North and South America, having for its apex the Gulf of
Mexico, there is an immense area in the northern tropics, nearly
surrounded by land, forming a vast oceanic plain, shut off from the
regular action of the trade-winds by the great islands of Cuba and
Hayti, where the elements of the hurricane accumulate, and at last
break forth. In this and such like areas, the lower atmosphere is
gradually heated from week to week, and, as in Australia the
quivering of the air over the hot ground foreshadows the whirlwind,
and in Africa the mirage threatens the simoom, so in the West
Indies a continuance of close, sultry weather, an oppressive calm,
precedes the hurricane. When at last the huge vortex is formed, the
heated atmosphere rushes towards it from all sides, and is drained
upwards in a spiral column, just as in the dust-eddy, on a gigantic
scale. Unlike the air of the dust-eddy, that of the hurricane
coming from the warm surface of the ocean is nearly saturated with
vapour, and this, as it is carried up and brought into contact with
the colder air on the outside of the ascending column, is condensed
and falls in torrents of rain, accompanied by thunder and

I advanced this theory to account for the origin of whirlwinds in a
paper read before the Philosophical Institute of Victoria in 1857.
It was afterwards communicated by the Astronomer-Royal to the
"London Philosophical Magazine", where it appeared in January 1859.
A suggestion that I at the same time offered, that the opposite
rotation of cyclones in the two hemispheres was due to the same
causes as the westerly deflection of the trade-winds from a direct
meridional course, has been generally adopted by physicists, and I
am not without hopes that the main theory may also yet be accepted;
but whether or not, I am confident that a study of the smaller
eddies of air is the proper way to approach the difficult question
of the origin of cyclones.


Don Filiberto Trano's new house.
Horse-flies and wasps.
Spider imitating ants.
Mimetic species.
Animals with special means of defence are conspicuously marked,
   or in other ways attract attention.
Accident to horse.
The "Mygale."
Conclusion of journey.

AFTER crossing the trachytic plain, we reached a large cattle
hacienda, and beyond, the river Chocoyo, on the banks of which was
some good, though stony, pasture land. We saw here some fine
cattle, and learnt that a little more care was taken in breeding
them than is usual in Nicaragua. The country, with its rolling
savannahs, covered with grass, is admirably suited for
cattle-raising, and great numbers are exported to the neighbouring
country of Costa Rica. Scarcely any attention is, however, paid to
the improvement of the breeds. Few stations have reserve potreros
of grass. In consequence, whenever an unusually dry season occurs,
the cattle die by hundreds, and their bones may be seen lying all
over the plains. Both Para and Guinea grass grow, when planted and
protected, with the greatest luxuriance; and the latter especially
forms an excellent reserve, as it grows in dense tufts that cannot
be destroyed by the cattle. When not protected by fencing, however,
the cattle and mules prefer these grasses so much to the native
ones, that they are always close-cropped, and when the natural
pasturage fails there is no reserve of the other to fall back on. I
planted both the Para and Guinea grasses largely at the mines and
at Pital, and we were able to keep our mules always in good
condition with them.

About four o'clock in the afternoon our animals were getting tired,
and we ourselves were rather fatigued, having been in the saddle
since daylight, with the exception of a few minutes' rest at
Tierrabona. We halted at a thatched cottage on some high stony
savannah land, and were hospitably received by the peasant
proprietor, Don Filiberto Trano. He informed us that we had entered
the township of Teustepe, and that the town itself was eight
leagues distant. The family consisted of Don Filiberto, his wife,
and four or five children. They had just prepared for their own
dinner a young fowl, stewed with green beans and other vegetables,
and this they placed before us, saying that they would soon cook
something else for themselves. We were too hungry to make any
scruples, and after the poor, coarse fare we had been used to, the
savoury repast seemed the most delicious I ever tasted. I think we
only got two meals on the whole journey that we really enjoyed.
This was one, the other the supper that the padre's housekeeper at
Palacaguina cooked for us, and I have recorded at length the names
of the parties to whom we were indebted for them.

Don Filiberto had about twenty cows, all of which that could be
found were driven in at dusk, and the calves tied up. As they came
in, the fowls were on the look-out for the garrapatos, or ticks;
and the cows, accustomed to the process, stood quietly, while they
flew up and picked them off their necks and flanks. The calves are
always turned out with the cows in the morning, after the latter
are milked, so that if not found again for some days, as is often
the case in this bushy and unenclosed country, the cows are milked
by them and do not go dry. They give very little milk, probably due
to the entire want of care in breeding them. It is at once made
into cheese, which forms a staple article of food amongst the
poorer natives.

The small house was divided into three compartments, one being used
as a kitchen. It was in rather a dilapidated condition, and Don
Filiberto told me that he was busy building a new residence. I was
curious to see what progress he was making with it, and he took me
outside and showed me four old posts used for tying the cows to,
which had evidently been in the ground for many years. "There," he
said, "are the corner-posts, and I shall roof it with tiles." He
was quite grave, but I could not help smiling at his faith. I have
no doubt that, as long as he lives, he will lounge about all day,
and in the evening, when his wife and children are milking the
cows, will come out, smoke his cigarette, leaning against the
door-post of his patched and propped-up dwelling, and contemplate
the four old posts with a proud feeling of satisfaction that he is
building a new house. Such a picture is typical of Nicaragua.

Don Filiberto told us that there was a limestone quarry not far
from his house; and as I wished to learn whether it occurred in
beds or veins, I proposed next morning to walk over to it, but he
said we should need the mules to cross the river. Thinking, from
his description, that it was only about a mile distant, I started
on mule-back with him; but after riding fully a league, discovered
that he actually did not know himself where it was, but was seeking
for another man to show him. We at last arrived at the house of
this man. He was absent. A boy showed us a small piece of the
limestone. It was concretionary, and I learnt from him that it
occurred in veins. I was vexed about the time we had lost, and the
extra work we had given the poor mules; my only consolation was
that as we rode back I picked a fine new longicorn beetle off the
leaves of an overhanging tree.

When we came to settle up with our host he proposed to charge us
twenty-five cents, just one shilling, or fourpence each. They had
given us a good dinner and put themselves to much inconvenience to
provide me with a bedstead, and this was their modest charge. Nor
did they make it with any expectation that we would give more. It
is the universal custom amongst the Mestizo peasantry to entertain
travellers; to give them the best they have and to charge for the
bare value of the provisions, and nothing for the lodging. We could
so depend upon the hospitality of the lower classes that every day
we travelled on without any settled place to pass the night,
convinced that we should be received with welcome at any hut that
we might arrive at when our mules got tired or night came on. The
only place in the whole journey where we had been received with
hesitation was at the Indian house a day's journey beyond Olama.
There the people were pure Indians, and other circumstances made me
conclude that the Indians were not so hospitable as the Mestizos.

We finally started about nine o'clock and rode over dry savannahs,
where, although there was little grass, I was told that cattle did
well browsing on the small brushwood with which the hills were
covered. All the forenoon we travelled over stony ranges and dry
plains and savannahs. At noon we reached the dry bed of a river and
crossed it several times, but could find no water to quench our
thirst, whilst the sun shone down on us with pitiless heat. About
one o'clock we came to some pools where the bed of the river was
bare rock with rounded hollows containing water, warm but clean, as
the cattle could not walk over the smooth slopes to get at it. Here
we halted for an hour and had some tiste and maize cakes, and cut
some Guinea grass that grew amongst the rocks for our mules. Over
the heated rocks scampered brown lizards, chasing each other and
revelling in the sunshine. Butterflies on lazy wings came and
settled on damp spots, and the cicada kept up his shrill continuous
monotone, but not so loudly as he would later on when it got
cooler. The cicada is supposed by some to pipe only during midday,
but both in Central America and Brazil I found them loudest towards
sunset, keeping up their shrill music until it was taken up by
night-vocal crickets and locusts.

We were returning parallel to our course in going to Segovia, but
several leagues to the westward, and this made a wonderful
difference in the climate. There we were wading through muddy
swamps and drenched with continual rains. Here the plains were
parched with heat, vegetation was dried up, and there was scarcely
any water in the river beds. The north-east trade-wind, before it
reaches thus far, gives up its moisture to the forests of the
Atlantic slope, and now passed over without even a cloud to relieve
the deep blue of the sky or temper the rays of the sun.

The vegetation on the plains was almost entirely composed of thorny
plants and shrubs; acacias, cacti, and bromeliae were the most
abundant. Animal life was scarce; there were a few flycatchers
amongst the birds, and armadillos were the only mammals.
Horse-flies (Tabanus) were too numerous, and drops of blood
trickled down our mules' faces where they had feasted. In some
parts large, banded black and yellow wasps (Monedula surinamensis,
Fabr.) came flying round us and had a threatening look as they
hovered before our faces, but they were old acquaintances of mine
in Brazil, and I knew that they were only searching about for the
horse-flies with which they store their nests, just as other wasps
do with spiders, first benumbing them with their sting. I noted
here another instance of the instinctive dread that insects have of
their natural enemies. The horse-flies were so bloodthirsty that we
could kill them with the greatest ease with our hands on the mules'
necks, or if we drove them away they would return immediately. As
soon, however, as a wasp came hawking round, the flies lost their
sluggish apathy and disappeared amongst the bushes, and I do not
think that excepting when gorged with blood they would easily fall
a prey to their pursuers.

We were joined on the road by a storekeeper on his way to Teustepe.
He was armed with pistols, which it is the fashion to carry in
Nicaragua, though many travellers have nothing more formidable in
their holsters than a spirit flask and some biscuits. He talked as
usual of threatened revolutionary risings, but these form the
staple conversation throughout Central America amongst the middle
classes, and until they really do break out it is best not to
believe in them. He told us also that the drought had been very
great around Teustepe, and that the crops were destroyed by it.

About three we reached the town, and after buying some provisions
to take with us, pushed on again. Below Teustepe we crossed the
river Malacatoyo which empties into the Lake of Nicaragua, and
beyond it the road passed over a wild alluvial flat with high
trees, amongst which we saw a troop of white-faced monkeys.

On the leaves of the bushes there were many curious species of
Buprestidae, and I struck these and other beetles off with my net
as I rode along.* [* Naturally the example of their chief inspired
all the mining officials with an ardour for collecting insects;
but, when riding with any of them through the forest or over the
plains, Belt's trained eyes always saw so many more than the others
that a saying arose that his mule assisted him by stopping before
any specimen he had failed to notice!] After one such capture I
observed what appeared to be one of the black stinging ants on the
net. It was a small spider that closely resembled an ant, and so
perfect was the imitation that it was not until I killed it that I
determined that it was a spider and that I had needlessly feared
its sting. What added greatly to the resemblance was that, unlike
other spiders, it held up its two fore-legs like antennae, and
moved them about just like an ant. Other species of spiders closely
resemble stinging ants; in all of them the body is drawn out long
like an ant, and in some the maxillary palpi are lengthened and
thickened so as to resemble the head of one.

Ant-like spiders have been noticed throughout tropical America and
also in Africa.* (* See "Nature" volume 3 page 508.) The use that
the deceptive resemblance is to them has been explained to be the
facility it affords them for approaching ants on which they prey. I
am convinced that this explanation is incorrect so far as the
Central American species are concerned. Ants, and especially the
stinging species, are, so far as my experience goes, not preyed
upon by any other insects. No disguise need be adopted to approach
them, as they are so bold that they are more likely to attack a
spider than a spider them. Neither have they wings to escape by
flying, and generally go in large bodies easily found and
approached. The real use is, I doubt not, the protection the
disguise affords against small insectivorous birds. I have found
the crops of some humming-birds full of small soft-bodied spiders,
and many other birds feed on them. Stinging ants, like bees and
wasps, are closely resembled by a host of other insects; indeed,
whenever I found any insect provided with special means of defence
I looked for imitative forms, and was never disappointed in finding

Stinging ants are not only closely copied in form and movements by
spiders but by species of Hemiptera and Coleoptera, and the
resemblance is often wonderfully close.* (* Amongst the longicorn
beetles of Chontales, Mallocera spinicollis, Neoclytus Oesopus, and
Diphyrama singularis, Bates, all closely resemble stinging ants
when moving about on fallen logs.) All over the world wasps are
imitated in form and movements by other insects, and in the tropics
these mimetic forms are endless. In many cases the insect imitating
is so widely removed, in the normal form of the order to which it
belongs, from that of the insect imitated, that it is difficult to
imagine how the first steps in the process of imitation took place.
Looking however at the immense variety of insect life in the
tropics, and remembering that in early tertiary times nearly the
whole world was in the same favourable condition as regards
temperature (vegetation, according to Heer, extending to the
poles), and must have supported a vast number of species and genera
that were destroyed during the glacial period, we must suppose
that, in that great variety of forms, it sometimes occurred that
two species belonging to distinct orders somewhat resembled each
other in form or colouration, and that the resemblance was
gradually increased, when one species had special means of
protection, by the other being benefited the more nearly it
approached it in appearance.

It is to be remarked that the forms imitated have always some kind
of defence against insectivorous birds or mammals; they are
provided with stings or unpleasant odours or flavours, or are
exceedingly swift in flight; excepting where inanimate nature is
imitated for concealment. Thus I had an opportunity of proving in
Brazil that some birds, if not all, reject the Heliconii
butterflies, which are closely resembled by butterflies of other
families and by moths. I observed a pair of birds that were
bringing butterflies and dragon-flies to their young, and although
the Heliconii swarmed in the neighbourhood and are of weak flight
so as to be easily caught, the birds never brought one to their
nest. I had a still better means of testing both these and other
insects that are mimicked in Nicaragua. The tame white-faced monkey
I have already mentioned was extremely fond of insects, and would
greedily munch up beetle or butterfly given to him, and I used to
bring to him any insects that I found imitated by others to see
whether they were distasteful or not. I found he would never eat
the Heliconii. He was too polite not to take them when they were
offered to him, and would sometimes smell them, but invariably
rolled them up in his hand and dropped them quietly again after a
few moments. There could be no doubt, however, from the monkey's
actions, that they were distasteful to him. A large species of
spider (Nephila) also used to drop them out of its web when I put
them into it. Another spider that frequented flowers seemed to be
fond of them, and I have already mentioned a wasp that caught them
to store its nest with.

Amongst the beetles there is a family that is just as much mimicked
as the Heliconii are amongst the butterflies. These are the
Lampyridae, to which the fireflies belong. Many of the genera are
not phosphorescent, but all appear to be distasteful to
insectivorous mammals and birds. I found they were invariably
rejected by the monkey, and my fowls would not touch them.

The genus Calopteron belonging to this family is not
phosphorescent. In some of the species, as in C. basalis (Klug),
the wing-covers are widened out behind in a peculiar manner. This
and other species of Calopteron are not only imitated in their
colour and markings by other families of beetles, but also in this
peculiar widening of the elytra. Besides this, the Calopteron when
walking on a leaf raises and depresses its wing cases, and I
observed exactly the same movement in a longicorn beetle (Evander
nobilis, Bates), which is evidently a mimetic form of this genus.
In addition to being mimicked by other families of beetles,
Calopteron is closely resembled by a species of moth (Pionia
lycoides, Walker). This moth varies itself in colour; in one of the
varieties it has a central black band across the wings, when it
resembles Calopteron vicinum (Deyrolle), in another this black band
is wanting, when it resembles C. basalis. Professor Westwood has
also pointed out to me that the resemblance to the beetle is still
further increased in the moth by raised lines of scales running
lengthwise down the thorax.

The phosphorescent species of Lampyridae, the fireflies, so
numerous in tropical America, are equally distasteful, and are also
much mimicked by other insects. I found different species of
cockroaches so much like them in shape and colour that they could
not be distinguished without examination. These cockroaches,
instead of hiding in crevices and under logs like their brethren,
rest during the day exposed on the surface of leaves, in the same
manner as the fireflies they mimic.

Protective resemblances amongst insects are so numerous and
widespread, and they have been so ably described by Bates and
Wallace, that I shall only mention a few of the most noticeable
examples that came under my attention, and which have not been
described by other authors. Amongst these were the striking
modifications of some beetles belonging to the Mordellidae. These,
in their normal form, are curious wedge-shaped beetles, which are
common on flowers, and leap like fleas. In some of the Nicaraguan
species the body is lengthened, and the thorax and elytra coloured,
so as to resemble wasps and flies. In the Mordellidae the head is
small, and nearly concealed beneath the large thorax; and in the
mimetic forms the latter is coloured so as to resemble the large
head and eyes of the wasp or fly imitated. The species that
resembles a wasp moves its antennae restlessly, like the latter

The movements, as well as the shape and colour of the insect
imitated, are mimicked. I one day observed what appeared to be a
hornet, with brown semi-transparent wings and yellow antennae. It
ran along the ground vibrating its wings and antennae exactly like
a hornet, and I caught it in my net, believing it to be one. On
examining it, however, I found it to belong to a widely different
order. It was one of the Hemiptera, Spiniger luteicornis (Walk.),
and had every part coloured like the hornet (Priocnemis) that it
resembled. In its vibrating coloured wing-cases it departed greatly
from the normal character of the Hemiptera, and assumed that of the

All the insects that have special means of protection, by which
they are guarded from the attacks of insectivorous mammals and
birds, have peculiar forms, or strongly contrasted, conspicuous
colours, and often make odd movements that attract attention to
them. There is no attempt at concealment, but, on the contrary,
they appear to endeavour to make their presence known. The long
narrow wings of the Heliconii butterflies, banded with black,
yellow, and red, distinguish them from all others, excepting the
mimetic species. The banded bodies of many wasps, or the rich
metallic colours of others, and their constant jerky motions, make
them very conspicuous. Bees announce their presence by a noisy
humming. The beetles of the genus Calopteron have their wing-cases
curiously distended, and move them up and down, so as to attract
attention; and other species of Lampyridae are phosphorescent,
holding out danger signals that they are not eatable. The reason in
all these cases appears to be the same as Mr. Wallace has shown to
hold good with banded, hairy, and brightly coloured caterpillars.
These are distasteful to birds, and, in consequence of their
conspicuous colours, are easily known and avoided. If they were
like other caterpillars, they might be seized and injured before it
was known they were not fit for food.* (* In a paper on "Mimicry,
and other Protective Resemblances amongst Animals" first published
in the "Westminster Review" July 1867, afterwards in "Natural
Selection", Wallace has elaborately discussed this question. My
observations are supplemental to his and to the original ones of


Amongst the mammals, I think the skunk is an example of the same
kind. Its white tail, laid back on its black body, makes it very
conspicuous in the dusk when it roams about, so that it is not
likely to be pounced upon by any of the carnivora mistaking it for
other night-roaming animals. In reptiles, the beautifully banded
coral snake (Elaps), whose bite is deadly, is marked as
conspicuously as any noxious caterpillar with bright bands of
black, yellow, and red. I only met with one other example amongst
the vertebrata, and it was also a reptile. In the woods around
Santo Domingo there are many frogs. Some are green or brown, and
imitate green or dead leaves, and live amongst foliage. Others are
dull earth-coloured, and hide in holes and under logs. All these
come out only at night to feed, and they are all preyed upon by
snakes and birds. In contrast with these obscurely coloured
species, another little frog hops about in the daytime dressed in a
bright livery of red and blue. He cannot be mistaken for any other,
and his flaming vest and blue stockings show that he does not court
concealment. He is very abundant in the damp woods, and I was
convinced he was uneatable so soon as I made his acquaintance and
saw the happy sense of security with which he hopped about. I took
a few specimens home with me, and tried my fowls and ducks with
them, but none would touch them. At last, by throwing down pieces
of meat, for which there was a great competition amongst them, I
managed to entice a young duck into snatching up one of the little
frogs. Instead of swallowing it, however, it instantly threw it out
of its mouth, and went about jerking its head as if trying to throw
off some unpleasant taste.* (* Probably the strongly contrasted
colours of the spotted salamander of Southern Europe and the
warning noise made by the rattlesnake may be useful in a similar
manner, as has been suggested by Darwin.)

After travelling three leagues beyond Teustepe, we reached, near
dusk, a small house by the roadside, at which had put up for the
night a party of muleteers, with their mules and cargoes. Our
beasts were too tired to go further, so we determined to take our
chance of finding room for our hammocks. Soon after we alighted, as
I sat on a stone near the door of the house, a gun went off close
to us, and my horse sprang forward, nearly upon me. We soon found
it was our own gun, which had been given to Rito to carry. He had
strapped it behind his saddle, and one of the other mules had come
up, rubbed against it, and let it off. The poor horse was only four
feet from the muzzle, and the contents were lodged in its loin. A
large wound was made from which the blood flowed in a great stream,
until Velasquez got some burnt cloth and stanched it. Fortunately
the charge in the gun was a very light one, and no vital part was
touched. We arranged with the muleteers to take our cargo to
Juigalpa for us, and determined to leave Rito behind to lead the
horse gently to Pital. The horse, which was a very good one,
ultimately recovered.

At this house the woman had eight children, the eldest, I think,
not more than twelve years of age. The man who passed as her
husband was the father of the youngest only. Amongst the lower
classes of Nicaragua men and women often change their mates. In
such cases the children remain with the mother, and take their
surname from her. Baptism is considered an indispensable rite, but
the marriage ceremony is often dispensed with; and I did not notice
that those who lived together without it suffered in the estimation
of their neighbours. The European ladies at Santo Domingo were
sometimes visited by the unmarried matrons of the village, who were
very indignant when they found that there were scruples about
receiving them. They were so used to their own social observances,
that they thought those of the Europeans unwarrantable prudery.

Before turning out the mules, Rito got some limes and squeezed the
juice out upon their feet, just above the hoof. He did this to
prevent them from being bitten by the tarantula spider, a species
of Mygale that makes its nest in the ground, and is said to abound
in this locality. Many of the mules are bitten in the feet on the
savannahs by some venomous animal. The animal bitten immediately
goes lame, and cannot be cured in less than six months, as the hoof
comes off, and has to be renewed. The natives say that the Mygale
is the aggressor; that it gets on the mule's foot to bite off the
hairs to line its nest with, and that if not disturbed it does not
injure the mule, but that if the latter tries to dislodge it, it
bites immediately. I do not know whether this story be true or not,
and I had no opportunity of examining a Mygale's nest to see if it
was lined with hairs, but Professor Westwood informs me that all
that he knows are lined with fine silk. Possibly the mules, when
rambling about, step on the spider, and are then bitten by it.
Velasquez told me that when he was a boy he and other children used
to amuse themselves by pulling the Mygale out of its hole, which is
about a foot deep in the ground. To get it out they fastened a
small ball of soft wax to a piece of string, and lowered it down
the hole, jerking it up and down until the spider got exasperated
so far as to bury its formidable jaws in the wax, when it could be
drawn to the surface.

We had part of the kitchen to sleep in, and were so tired, and
getting so accustomed to sleep anywhere, that we had a good night's
rest, rose early next morning, and were soon on the road again,
leaving Rito to bring on the lamed horse. We had a good view of the
rock of San Lorenzo, a high cliff capping a hill, and resembling
the rocks of Cuapo and Pena Blanca, but with less perpendicular
sides. About this part, which lay high, as well as where we stayed
the night before, there had been rains; but on the lowlands lying
between the two places there had been none. Our road again lay over
grassy plains and low, lightly-timbered hills, with very few
houses--probably not more than one in a league. The country was now
greener; they had had showers of rain, and fine grass had sprung
up. Passing as we did from a dried-up district into one covered
with verdure, feelings were awakened akin to those with which in
the temperate zone we welcome the spring after a long winter.

As we rode on, the grass increased; there were swampy places in the
hollows, and now and then very muddy spots on the road. On every
side the prospect was bounded by long ranges of hills--some of them
precipitous, others covered to the summits with dark foliaged
trees, looking nearly black in the distance. About noon we came in
sight of the Amerrique range, which I recognised at once, and knew
that we had reached the Juigalpa district, though still several
leagues distant from the town. Travelling on without halting we
arrived at the hacienda of San Diego at four o'clock. Velasquez
expected to find in the owner an old acquaintance of his, and we
had intended staying with him for the night, as our mules were
tired out; but on riding up to the house we found it untenanted,
the doors thrown down, and cattle stabling in it. We pushed on
again. I thought I could make La Puerta, a hacienda three leagues
nearer Libertad than Juigalpa, and as the road to it branched off
from that to Juigalpa soon after passing San Diego, and Velasquez
had to go to the latter place to make arrangements for getting our
luggage sent on, I parted with him, and pushed on alone. Soon
after, I crossed rather a deep river, and in a short time my mule,
which had shown symptoms of distress, became almost unable to
proceed, so that it was only with the greatest difficulty I could
get along at all. After leading--almost dragging--it slowly for
about a mile I reached a small hut, where they told me that it was
three leagues to La Puerta, and only one to Juigalpa. The road to
Puerta was all up hill, and it was clearly impossible for me to
reach it that night, so I turned off across the savannahs, in the
direction of Juigalpa, wishing that I had not separated from
Velasquez. My poor beast was dragged along with much labour, and I
was getting thoroughly knocked up myself. Several small temporary
huts were passed, in which lived families that had come down from
the mountains, bringing with them their cows to feed on the plains
during the wet season. I was tempted to put up at one of these, but
all were full of people, and I persevered on until it got quite
dark. Just then I arrived at a hacienda near the river, and engaged
a young fellow to get his horse and ride with me to the town. When
my mule had a companion it went better, and being very tired I got
on its back again. It was extremely dark, and I should not have
found the road without a guide. We passed over the small plain,
where the broken statues lie, but my guide, who had lived all his
life within a mile of them, had never heard of them. My mule fell
heavily with me in a rocky pass, but I escaped with a slight
bruise. We had great trouble to get it on its legs again, and
ultimately reached Juigalpa about nine o'clock.

Next morning I awoke with a dreadful headache and pain in my back,
brought on either by the fatigue of the day before, or by having
been tempted to eat some half-ripe guayavas when coming across the
plains tired and hungry. I lay in the hammock until ten o'clock,
and then feeling a little better, got on my mule and started. I was
so ill as to be obliged to hold on to the pommel of my saddle and
several times to get off and lie down. We had brought some "tiste"
with us made from chocolate and maize, and drinks of this relieved
me. I at last reached Libertad at four o'clock, and went to bed
immediately. Having fasted all day in place of taking medicine, I
rose pretty well next morning, and we rode through the forest to
the mines, reaching them at noon on the 29th July, after an absence
of nineteen days.


Division of Nicaragua into three zones.
Journey from Juigalpa to lake of Nicaragua.
Voyage on lake.
Fresh-water shells and insects.
Similarity of fresh-water productions all over the world.
Distribution of European land and fresh-water shells.
Discussion of the reasons why fresh-water productions
   have varied less than those of the land and of the sea.

I SHALL ask my readers to accompany me on one more journey. I have
described the great Atlantic forest that clothes the whole of the
eastern side of Nicaragua. I have gone through the central
provinces, Chontales, Matagalpa, and Segovia; from the San Juan
river, the south-eastern boundary of Nicaragua, away to the
confines of Honduras on the north-west. I now propose to leave the
central provinces, amongst which we have so long lingered, and to
describe one of my journeys to those lying between the great lakes
and the Pacific.

Whilst the country to the north-east of the lakes is mostly
composed of rocks, of great age, geologically, such as schists,
quartzites, and old dolerytic rocks, with newer but still ancient
trachytes, that to the south-west of them is formed principally of
recent volcanic tufas and lavas, the irruption of which has not yet
ceased. Most of the land, resulting from the decomposition of the
tufas, is of extreme fertility; and, therefore, we find on the
Pacific side of Nicaragua, indigo, coffee, sugar, cacao, and
tobacco growing with the greatest luxuriance.

Nicaragua is thus divided into three longitudinal zones. The most
easterly is covered by a great unbroken forest; the principal
products being india-rubber and mahogany. The central zone is
composed of grassed savannahs, on which are bred cattle, mules, and
horses. It is essentially a pasturage country, though much maize
and a little sugar and indigo are grown in some parts. The western
zone skirts the Pacific, and is a country of fertile soil, where
all the cultivated plants and fruits of the tropics thrive
abundantly; the rich, fat land might, indeed, with a little labour,
be turned into a Garden of Eden.

In the autumn of 1871, it became necessary for me to proceed to
Granada to empower a lawyer there to act for us in a lawsuit in
which we were engaged. Taking Velasquez and a servant with me, I
rode over to Juigalpa on the 1st of November. We had intended to go
by land to Granada, but we learnt that, through continued wet
weather, much of the low land of the delta of the Malacatoya was
impassable, so we determined to make for the lake, and try to get a
boat to take us to Los Cocos, from which place there was a good
road to Granada. We found at Juigalpa a Libertad storekeeper, named
Senor Trinidad Ocon. He had already engaged a boat, and courteously
offered, if we could not find one when we got to the lake, to give
us a passage in his.

We started from Juigalpa the next morning; and for the first few
miles our road lay down by the river, a deep branch of which we
crossed. The alluvial plains bordering the river were covered with
fine, though short, grass, amongst which were some beautiful
flowers. The orange and black "sisitote" (Icterus pectoralis, Wagl.
) flew in small flocks amongst the bushes; and the "sanate"
(Quiscalus) was busy amongst the cattle. Their usual plan of
operations is for a pair of them to accompany one of the cattle,
one on each side, watching for grasshoppers and other insects that
are frightened up by the browsing animal. They keep near the head,
and fly after the insects that break cover, but neither encroaches
on the hunting ground of the other.

We stopped at a little hacienda perched at the top of a small hill.
It was called "El Candelera," and was a small cattle station,
surrounded by plains. We then crossed the valley, and made for a
range of hills between us and the lake. The ascent was steep and
rocky; and it took us two hours to get to the top. We then saw the
great lake, like a sea, lying spread out before us, but still at a
considerable distance. The descent was very steep, and we had to
make long detours to avoid precipitous ravines. At last we reached
level ground; but it was even worse than the mountain roads to
travel, being in many parts wet and swampy. After missing our way,
and having to retrace our steps for more than a mile, we reached
Santa Claro, a cattle hacienda, at dusk. Here we found Senor Ocon's
boat, but there was no other. The boatmen said we must embark at
once. We made an arrangement with a man who had accompanied Ocon to
take our mules to San Ubaldo, as we proposed to return that way.
The boat was small, and there were seven of us; so that with our
saddles and luggage we were much cramped for room.

They poled the boat for two miles down a small river that emptied
into the lake, but just before we reached it, the boatmen stopped
and said it was too rough to proceed that night, and
notwithstanding our remonstrances they tied the boat to some
bushes. Our cramped position was very irksome; the river was
bordered by swamps, so that we could not land, and thousands of
mosquitoes came about and rendered sleep impossible. About
midnight, the moon rose, and two hours later we prevailed on the
boatmen to set sail, but, notwithstanding their excuse about it
being too rough, there was so little wind that we made slow
progress. At eight we went on shore, where there was a hut built
close by the lake below Masaya. The lake was flooded, and the water
had been over the floor of the hut during the night. All around
were swamps, and the mosquitoes were intolerable. We could buy no
food at the miserable shanty, and soon set sail again. A little
more wind afterwards springing up, we reached Los Cocos at eleven
o'clock. There is a small village at this place, where we got
breakfast cooked, and did justice to it. We hired horses to take us
to Granada; but as the road for a league further on was overflown
by the lake, we went on in the boat, and a boy took the horses
round to meet us, swimming them across the worst places.

Glad we were to get on horseback again, and to canter along a hard
sandy road, instead of sitting cramped up in a little boat, with
the sun's rays pouring down on us. The path led amongst the bushes,
and was sometimes overflowed, but the soil was sandy, and there was
no mud. All the beach was submerged, or we should have ridden along
it. The last time I had passed by this part of the lake was in July
1868. Then the waters of the lake were low, and we rode along the
sandy beach, black in some parts with titanic iron sand. The beach
resembled that of a sea-coast, with the waves rolling in upon it,
and to the south-east the water extended to the horizon. Along the
shore were strewn shells thrown up by the surf; and on examining
them, I found them all to belong to well-known old-world
genera--Unio, Planorbis, Ancylus, and Ampullari.

On this journey, all the beach was, as I have said, covered with
water, and I saw no shells; but in the pools on the road were
water-beetles swimming about, and these showed a surprising
resemblance to the water-beetles of Europe. Gyrinidae swam round
and round in mazy circles; Dytiscidae came up to the surface for a
moment, and dived down again to the depths below with a globule of
air glistening like a diamond. Amongst the vegetation at the bottom
and sides of the pools Hydrophilidae crawled about, just as in
ponds in England. Not only were those familiars there, but they
were represented by species belonging to the typical
genera--Gyrinus, Colymbetes, and Hydrophilus. Over these pools flew
dragon-flies, whose larval stages are passed in the water, closely
resembling others all over the world. All the land fauna was
strikingly different from that of other regions; but the water
fauna was as strikingly similar.

The sameness of fresh-water productions all over the globe is not
confined to animal life, but extends to plants also. Alphonse de
Candolle has remarked that in large groups of plants which have
many terrestrial and only a few aquatic species the latter have a
far wider distribution than the former. It is well known to
botanists that many fresh-water and marsh plants have an immense
range over continents, extending even to the most remote islands.*
(* Darwin "Origin of Species" page 417.) The close affinities of
fresh-water animals and plants have been noticed by many
naturalists. Darwin saw with surprise, in Brazil, the similarity of
the fresh-water insects, shells, etc., and the dissimilarity of the
surrounding terrestrial beings compared with those of Britain.* (*
Darwin "Origin of Species" page 414.) Dr. D. Sharp informs me that
water-beetles undoubtedly present the same types all over the
world. He believes there is no family of Coleoptera in which
tropical or extra-tropical species so closely resemble one another
as in the Dytiscidae. Cybister is found in Europe, Asia, Africa,
Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, and North America; and the species
have a very wide range. Dr. Sharp remarks that this wide
distribution and great similarity of the Dytiscidae is of special
interest when we recollect that they are nothing but Carabidae
fitted for swimming, and yet that the Carabidae are one of the
groups in which the tropical members differ widely from the
temperate ones.

For following up this branch of inquiry the study of the
distribution of the mollusca offers special advantages. There are
numerous marine, fresh-water, and terrestrial species and genera.
They are slow moving; they have not the means of transporting
themselves great distances, like insects, for example, that may
easily and often pass over arms of the sea, or fly from one country
to another. Their shells are the commonest of fossils; and in
islands such as Madeira and St. Helena, where we have abundant
remains of extinct land shells, there are few, if any, of extinct
animals of other classes or of plants.

Taking the shells of Europe, we find a remarkable difference in the
distribution of the land and fresh-water species. According to Mr.
Lovell Reeve, who has specially studied this question, out of many
hundreds of land mollusks inhabiting the Caucasian province at its
centre in Hungary and Austria, only ninety extend to the British
Isles, and of these thirty-five do not reach Scotland. Upwards of
two hundred species of Clausilia are to be found in the centre of
the province, and of these only four reach England, and only one
Scotland. Out of five hundred and sixty species of Helix inhabiting
the Caucasian province, there are but twenty-four in Britain.

Whilst the distribution of the terrestrial mollusks of Europe is
thus restricted in range, though the species are numerous, the
fresh-water shells are few in species, but of wide distribution.
Quoting again from Mr. Reeve:--Of the Lymnaeacea "there are not six
species, it maybe safely stated, in all Europe, more than there are
in Britain. They have no particular centre of creation. There is no
evidence to show whether the alleged progenitors of our British
species were created in Siberia, Hungary, or Tibet. There is
scarcely any variation either in the form or number of the species
in those remote localities. Of Planorbis scarcely more than fifteen
species inhabit the whole Caucasian province, and we have eleven of
them in Britain." "Of Physa and Lymnaea, it is extremely doubtful
whether there are any species throughout the province more than we
have in Britain. Neither of Ancylus, which lives attached,
limpet-like, to sticks and stones, and has very limited facilities
of migration, are there any species throughout the province more
than we have in Britain."* (* Lovell Reeve "British Land and
Fresh-Water Mollusks" page 225.)

The wide distribution of species inhabiting fresh water compared
with those living on land has not, as we have seen, escaped the
comprehensive mind of Darwin, and in explanation of the fact, he
has shown how fresh-water shells may be carried from pool to pool,
or from one river or lake to others many miles distant, sticking to
the feet of water-fowl, or to the elytra of water-beetles. Whilst
the distribution of water-mollusks may be thus accounted for, the
greater variety and more restricted range of the land species is
not explained. They have at least equal means of dispersion,
compared with the sluggish, mud-loving water-shells of our ponds
and ditches. Why should the one have varied so much and the other
so little? We might at first sight have expected the very reverse,
on the theory of natural selection. In large lakes and in river
systems isolated from others, we might look for the conditions most
favourable for the variation of species, and for the preservation
of the improved varieties.

It is evident that there must have been less variation, or that the
varieties that arose have not been preserved. I think it probable
that the variation of fresh-water species of animals and plants has
been constantly checked by the want of continuity of lakes and
rivers in time and space. In the great oscillations of the surface
of the earth, of which geologists find so many proofs, every
fresh-water area has again and again been destroyed. It is not so
with the ocean--it is continuous--and as one part was elevated and
laid dry, the species could retreat to another. On the great
continents the land has probably never been totally submerged at
any one time; it also is continuous over great areas, and as one
part became uninhabitable, the land species could in most cases
retreat to another. But for the inhabitants of lakes and rivers
there was no retreat, and whenever the sea overflowed the land,
vast numbers of fresh-water species must have been destroyed. A
fresh-water fauna gave place to a marine one, and the former was
annihilated so far as that area was concerned. When the land again
rose from below the sea, the marine fauna was not destroyed--it
simply retired farther back.

There is every reason to believe that the production of species is
a slow process, and if fresh-water areas have not continued as a
rule through long geological periods, we can see how variation has
been constantly checked by the destruction, first in one part, then
in another, of all the fresh-water species; and on these places
being again occupied by fresh water they would be colonised by
forms from other parts of the world. Thus species of restricted
range were always exposed to destruction because their habitat was
temporary and their retreat impossible, and only families of wide
distribution could be preserved. Hence I believe it is that the
types of fresh-water productions are few and world-wide, whilst the
sea has mollusks innumerable, and the land great variety and wealth
of species. This variety is in the ratio of the continuity of their
habitats in time and space.

It follows also, from the same reasoning, that old and widespread
types are more likely to be preserved in fresh-water areas than on
land or in the sea, for the destruction of wide-ranging species is
effected more by the competition of improved varieties than by
physical causes; so that when variation is most checked old forms
will longest survive. Therefore I think it is that amongst fishes
we find some old geological types still preserved in a few of the
large rivers of the world.

To illustrate more clearly the theory I have advanced, I will take
a supposititious case. In the southern states of America there is
reason to suppose that since the glacial period there has been a
great variation in the species of the fresh-water mollusk genus
Melania, and in different rivers there are distinct groups of
species. Now let us suppose that the glacial period were to return,
and that the icy covering, gradually thickening in the north,
should push down southward as it did once before. The great lakes
of North America would be again filled with ice, and their
inhabitants destroyed. As the ice advanced southward, the
inhabitants of one river-system after another would be annihilated,
and many groups of Melania entirely destroyed. On the retreat of
the ice again the rivers and lakes would reappear, but the
varieties of animals that had been developed in them would not, and
their places would be taken by aquatic forms from other areas, so
that the number of species would be thereby greatly reduced, and
wide-spreading forms would be freed from the competition of many
improved varieties.

Viewed in this light, the similarity of fresh-water productions all
over the world, instead of being a difficulty in the way of the
acceptance of the theory of natural selection, becomes a strong
argument in favour of its truth; for we perceive that the number of
marine, terrestrial, and freshwater animals is in proportion to the
more or less continuous development that was possible under the
different conditions under which they lived.

The same line of argument might be used to explain the much greater
variety in some classes of terrestrial animals than in others. The
land has often been submerged in geological history, and the
classes that were best fitted to escape the impending catastrophes
would be most likely to preserve the varieties that had been
developed. The atmosphere has always been continuous, and the
animals that could use it as a highway had great advantages over
those that could not, and so we find the slow-moving terrestrial
mollusks few in number compared with the multitudinous hosts of
strong-flying insects; similarly, the mammals are far outnumbered
by the birds of the air, that can pass from island to island, and
from country to country, unstopped by mighty rivers or wide arms of
the sea.


Iguanas and lizards.
Cacao cultivation.
The lake of Masaya.
The volcano of Masaya.
Origin of the lake basin.

THE road passed along a sandy ridge only a little elevated above
the waters of the lake, and the ground on both sides was submerged.
As we travelled on we were often startled by hearing sudden plunges
into the water not far from us, but our view was so obstructed by
bushes that it was some time before we discovered the cause. At
last we found that the noise was made by large iguana lizards, some
of them three feet long, and very bulky, dropping from the branches
of trees, on which they lay stretched, into the water. These
iguanas are extremely ugly, but are said to be delicious eating,
the Indians being very fond of them. The Carca Indians, who live in
the forest seven miles from Santo Domingo, travel every year to the
great lake to catch iguanas, which abound on the dry hills near it.
They seize them as they lie on the branches of the trees, with a
loop at the end of a long stick. They then break the middle toe of
each foot, and tie the feet together, in pairs, by the broken toes,
afterwards sewing up the mouth of the poor reptiles, and carrying
them in this state back to their houses in the forest, where they
are kept alive until required for food. The raccoon-like "pisoti"
is also fond of them, but cannot so easily catch them. He has to
climb every tree, and then, unless he can surprise them asleep,
they drop from the branch to the ground and scuttle off to another
tree. I once saw a solitary "pisoti" hunting for iguanas amongst
some bushes near the lake where they were very numerous, but during
the quarter of an hour that I watched him, he never caught one. It
was like the game of "puss in the corner." He would ascend a small
tree on which there were several; but down they would drop when he
had nearly reached them, and rush off to another tree. Master
"pisoti," however, seemed to take all his disappointments with the
greatest coolness, and continued the pursuit unflaggingly.
Doubtless experience had taught him that his perseverance would
ultimately be rewarded: that sooner or later he would surprise a
corpulent iguana fast asleep on some branch, and too late to drop
from his resting-place. In the forest I always saw the "pisoti"
hunting in large bands, from which an iguana would have small
chance of escape, for some were searching along the ground whilst
others ranged over the branches of the trees.

Other tree-lizards also try to escape their enemies by dropping
from great heights to the ground. I was once standing near a large
tree, the trunk of which rose fully fifty feet before it threw off
a branch, when a green Anolis dropped past my face to the ground,
followed by a long green snake that had been pursuing it amongst
the foliage above, and had not hesitated to precipitate itself
after its prey. The lizard alighted on its feet and hurried away,
the snake fell like a coiled-up watch-spring, and opened out
directly to continue the pursuit; but, on the spur of the moment, I
struck at it with a switch and prevented it. I regretted afterwards
not having allowed the chase to continue and watched the issue, but
I doubt not that the lizard, active as it was, would have been
caught by the swift-gliding snake, as several specimens of the
latter that I opened contained lizards.

Lizards are also preyed upon by many birds, and I have taken a
large one from the stomach of a great white hawk with its wings and
tail barred with black (Leucopternis ghiesbreghti) that sits up on
the trees in the forest quietly watching for them. Their means of
defence are small, nor are they rapid enough in their movements to
escape from their enemies by flight, and so they depend principally
for their protection on their means of concealment. The different
species of Anolis can change their colour from a bright green to a
dark brown, and so assimilate themselves in appearance to the
foliage or bark of trees on which they lie. Another tree-lizard,
not uncommon on the banks of the rivers, is not only of a beautiful
green colour, but has foliaceous expansions on its limbs and body,
so that even when amongst the long grass it looks like a leafy
shoot that has fallen from the trees above. I do not know of any
lizard that enjoys impunity from attack by the secretion of any
acrid or poisonous fluid from its skin, like the little red and
blue frog that I have already described, but I was told of one that
was said to be extremely venomous. As, however, besides the repute
of giving off from the pores of its skin poisonous secretion, it
was described to be of an inconspicuous brown colour, and to hide
under logs, I should require some confirmation of the story by an
experienced naturalist before believing it, for all my experience
has led me to the opinion that any animal endowed with special
means of protection from its enemies is always either conspicuously
coloured, or in other ways attracts attention, and does not seek

About four o'clock we reached the city of Granada, and, passing
along some wide streets and across a large square, found the hotel
of Monsieur Mestayer, where we engaged rooms for the night. The
hotel, like most of the houses in the city, was built, in the
Spanish style, around a large courtyard, in the centre of which was
a flower-garden. Madame Mestayer was very fond of pets, and had
macaws and parrots, a tame squirrel, a young white-faced monkey
(Cebus albifrons), and several small long-haired Mexican dogs. I
was interested in watching the monkey examining all the loose bark
and curled-up leaves on a large fig-tree in search of insects. In
this and other individuals of this species, a great variety of
countenances could be distinguished, and I could easily have picked
my own monkey out of all the others I have seen by the expression
of its face. I was told that the one in the garden at Monsieur
Mestayer's did not touch the figs on the tree, and I believe it;
the Cebus is much more of an animal than a vegetable feeder, whilst
the spider-monkeys (Ateles) live principally on fruits.

Granada was entirely burnt down by Walker and his filibusters in
1856, and the present city is built on the ruins of that founded by
Hernandez de Cordova in 1522. The streets are well laid out at
right angles to each other, and there are many large churches, some
of them in ruins. In one of the latter a company of mountebanks
performed every evening, and the circumstance did not seem to
excite surprise or comment.

The streets are built in terraces, quite level for about fifty
yards, then with a steep-paved declivity leading to another level
portion. One has to be careful in riding down from one level to
another, as horses and mules are very liable to slip on the smooth
pavement. The houses are built of "adobe" or sun-dried brick. The
walls are plastered and whitewashed, and the roofs and floors
tiled. They are mostly of one storey, and the rooms surrounding the
courtyards have doors opening both to the inside and to the street.

There are no factories in Granada, but many wholesale stores, kept
by merchants, who import goods from England and the United States,
and export the produce of the country--indigo, hides, coffee,
cacao, sugar, india-rubber, etc. Many of these merchants are very
wealthy; but all deal retail as well as wholesale; and the reputed
wealthiest man of the town asked me if I did not want to buy a few
boxes of candles. The highest ambition of every one seems to be to
keep a shop, excepting when the revolutionary fever breaks out
about every seven or eight years, when, for a few months, business
is at a stand-still, and the population is divided into two
parties, alternately pursuing and being pursued, but seldom
engaging in a real battle.

There was one of these outbreaks whilst I was in Nicaragua, and the
whole country was in a state of civil war for more than four
months, nearly all the able-bodied men being drafted into the
armies that were raised, but I believe there were not a score of
men killed on the field of battle during the whole time; the town
of Juigalpa was taken and retaken without any one receiving a
scratch. The usual course pursued was for the two armies to
manoeuvre about until one thought it was weaker than the other,
when it immediately took to flight. Battles were decided without a
shot being fired, excepting after one side had run away.

Of patriotism I never saw a symptom in Central America, nothing but
selfish partisanship, willing at any moment to set the country in a
state of war if there was only a prospect of a little spoil. The
states of Central America are republics in name only; in reality,
they are tyrannical oligarchies. They have excellent constitutions
and laws on paper, but both their statesmen and their judges are
corrupt; with some honourable exceptions, I must admit, but not
enough to stem the current of abuse. Of real liberty there is none.
The party in power is able to control the elections, and to put
their partisans into all the municipal and other offices. Some of
the Presidents have not hesitated to throw their political
opponents into prison at the time of an election, and I heard of
one well-authenticated instance where an elector was placed,
uncovered, in the middle of one of the plazas, with his arms
stretched out to their full extent and each thumb thrust down into
the barrel of an upright musket, and kept a few hours in the
blazing sun until he agreed to vote according to the wish of the
party in power. A change of rulers can only be effected by a
so-called revolution; with all the machinery of a republic, the
will of the people can only be known by the issue of a civil war.

With high-sounding phrases of the equality of man, the lower orders
are kept in a state almost approaching to serfdom. The poor Indians
toil and spin, and cultivate the ground, being almost the only
producers. Yet in the revolutionary outbreaks they are driven about
like cattle, and forced into the armies that are raised. Central
America declared its independence of Spain in 1823, and constituted
itself a republic, under the name of the United States of Central
America. The confederacy, which consisted of Guatemala, San
Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, was broken up in
1840, when each of the States became an independent republic. Ever
since, revolutionary outbreaks have been periodical, and the
States, with the exception of Costa Rica, have steadily decreased
in wealth and produce.

It would be ungenerous of me, in this condemnation of the political
parties of Central America, not to state that there are many
individuals who view with alarm and shame the decadence of their
country. Such, however, is the state of public opinion, that their
voices are unheard, or listened to with indifference. There seems
to be some radical incapacity in the Latin races to comprehend what
we consider true political economy. The will of the majority is not
the law of the land, but the will of the strongest in arms. They
cannot understand that a republic has no more divine right than a
monarchy; that a country having an hereditary sovereign at its
head, if it is governed in consonance with the wishes of the
greatest number of its inhabitants, is freer than a republic where
a minority rules by force of arms. They make a principle out of
what is a mere detail of government--whether the chief of the state
be elective or hereditary--but the fundamental principle of good
government, namely, that the will of the majority shall be the law
of the land, is trampled under foot and treated as the dream of an

The environs of Granada are very pretty; it is situated only a mile
from the lake, and a few miles lower down the sleeping volcano of
Mombacho juts boldly out, rising to a height of nearly 5000 feet,
and clothed to the very summit with dark perennial verdure. The
cacao of Granada and Rivas is said to be amongst the finest grown,
and there are many large plantations of it. The wild cacao grows in
the forests of the Atlantic slope, and when cultivated it still
requires shade to thrive luxuriantly. This is provided at first by
plantain trees, afterwards by the coral tree, a species of
Erythrina, called by the natives Cacao madre, or the Cacao's
mother, on account of the fostering shade it affords the cacao
tree. The coral tree rises to a height of about forty feet, and
when in flower, at the beginning of April, is one mass of bright
crimson flowers, fairly dazzling the eyes of the beholder when the
sun is shining on it.

One of the principal courts of law is held at Granada, and whilst
we were there a priest was being tried for having seduced his own
niece. He was afterwards convicted, and, to show the moral
torpidity of the people, I may mention that his only punishment was
banishment to Greytown, where he appeared to mix in Nicaraguan
society as if he had not a spot on his character.

Having finished our business in Granada, we started for Masaya,
where I wished to consult a lawyer, Senor Rafael Blandino, who most
deservedly bears a very high character in Nicaragua for probity and
ability. We had a difficulty in obtaining horses, and did not get
away until noon. The road was a good one, having been made by the
late President, Senor Fernando Guzman, who seems to have done what
little lay in his power to develop the resources of the country.
The soil was entirely composed of volcanic tufas, and was covered
with fine grass; but there were no springs or brooks, all the
moisture sinking into the porous ground. Lizards were numerous, and
on damp spots on the road there were many fine butterflies, most of
them of different species from those of Chontales.

At four o'clock we entered Masaya, and passed down a long road
bordered with Indian huts and gardens. The town is said to contain
about 15,000 inhabitants, nine-tenths of whom are Indians. It
covers a great space of ground, as the Indian houses are each
surrounded by a garden or orchard; they stand back from the road,
and are almost hidden amongst the trees. There was no water when I
visited Masaya, excepting what was brought up from the lake which
lies more than 300 feet below the town, surrounded, excepting on
the western side, by precipitous cliffs, down which three or four
rocky paths have been cut. Up these, all day long, and most of the
night, women and girls are carrying water in Indian earthenware
gourd-shaped jars, which they balance on cushions on their heads,
or sling in nets on their backs. No men, or boys above ten years of
age, carry water, and the women seemed to have all the labour to
do. I believe it would have been impossible to find ten men at work
in Masaya at any one time.

I spent the next day exploring around Masaya, as I was greatly
interested with the geological structure of the country. One of the
paths down to the lake has been made passable for animals taken
down to drink. I rode my horse down, but in the steepest part he
slipped on to his side, and I was content to lead him the rest of
the way. The scene was one which is only possible in a
half-civilised tropical land. Women, with the scantiest of
clothing, or less, were washing linen, standing up to their waists
in the water amongst the rocks, on which they thumped the clothes
to be cleansed; laughing and chatting to each other incessantly.
Men with mules and horses were bathing themselves and their animals
at a small sandy beach, and girls were carrying off great jars of
water, which they obtained further down, where the water was less
tainted with the ablutions. Great rocks, that had fallen from the
cliffs above, lined the shore; and amongst these grew many shrubs
and plants new to me. The cliffs themselves were, in some parts,
green with lovely maidenhair ferns, belonging to three different


On the opposite shore rises the cone of the volcano of Masaya, and
the streams of lava that have flowed down to the lake and covered
the old precipitous cliffs on that side are plainly visible. The
cliff encircles the whole lake, excepting where concealed by the
recent lava overflow. At the time of the conquest of Nicaragua, in
1522, the volcano of Masaya was in a state of activity. The
credulous Spaniards believed the fiery molten mass at the bottom of
the crater to be liquid gold, and through great danger, amongst the
smoke and fumes, were lowered down it until, with an iron chain and
bucket, they could reach the fiery mass, when the bucket was melted
from the chain, and the intrepid explorers were drawn up half dead
from amongst the fumes. Since then there have been several
eruptions; and so late as 1857 it threw out volumes of smoke, and
probably ashes. The whole country is volcanic. For scores of miles
every rock is trachytic, and the earth decomposing tufas.

The lake itself is like an immense crater with its perpendicular
cliffs. I spent some time in making an accurate section of the
strata as exposed in the rocky paths leading down to the water. The
whole section exposed is 348 feet in height from the surface of the
lake to the top of the undulating plain on which Masaya is built.
This measurement was kindly given to me by Mr. Simpson, an
enterprising American engineer engaged in erecting a steam-pump to
raise the water for the supply of the town. At the bottom are seen
great cliffs of massive trachyte (Number 1 in section). Above this
is an ash bed, then a bed of breccia containing fragments of
trachyte, then another bed of cinders, which looks like a rough
sandstone, but is pisolitic, and contains pebbles of the size of a
bean. This bed is surmounted by one that possesses great interest
(Number 5 in section). It is composed of fine tufa, in which is
imbedded a great number of large angular fragments of trachyte,
some of which are more than three feet in diameter. It is the last
bed but one, the surface being composed of lightly coherent strata
of tufaceous ash, worn into an undulating surface by the action of
the elements.

I believe there is but one explanation possible of the origin of
these strata, namely, that the great bed of trachyte at the base is
an ancient lava bed; that this, perhaps long after it was
consolidated, was covered by beds of ashes and scoriae thrown out
by a not far distant volcano, and that at last a great convulsion
broke through the trachyte bed and hurled the fragments over the
country along with dense volumes of dust and ashes. The angular
blocks of trachyte imbedded in the stratum Number 5 in section are
exactly the same in composition as the great bed below, and in them
I think we see the fragments of the rocks that once filled the
perpendicular-sided hollow now occupied by the lake. Looking at the
vast force required to hollow out the basin of the lake, by
blasting out the whole contents into the air--distributing them
over the country so that they have not been piled up in a volcanic
cone round the vent, but lie in comparatively level beds--I cannot
expect that this explanation will be readily received, nor should I
myself have advanced it if I could in any other way account for the
phenomena. Still, within historical times, there have been volcanic
outbursts, not of such magnitude, certainly, as was required to
excavate the basin of the lake of Masaya, but still of sufficient
extent to show that such an origin is not beyond the limits of

Thus, in the same line of volcanic energy, not far from the
boundary line of the States of Nicaragua and San Salvador, there
was an eruption of the volcano of Cosaguina, on the 20th of January
1835, when dense volumes of dust and ashes, and fragments of rocks,
were hurled up in the air and deposited over the country around.
The vast quantity of material thrown out by this explosion may be
gathered from the fact that, one hundred and twenty miles away,
near the volcano of San Miguel, the dust was so thick that it was
quite dark from four o'clock in the evening until nearly noon of
the next day; and even at that distance there was deposited a layer
of fine ashes four inches deep. The noise of the explosion was
heard at the city of Guatemala, four hundred miles to the westward,
and at Jamaica, eight hundred miles to the north-east.

In St. Vincent, in the West Indies, there was a great eruption on
April 27th, 1812, which continued for three days, and was heard six
hundred and thirty miles away on the llanos of Caracas. It has been
so graphically narrated by Canon Kingsley that I shall once more
quote from his eloquent pages. "That single explosion relieved an
interior pressure upon the crust of the earth which had agitated
sea and land from the Azores to the West Indian Islands, the coasts
of Venezuela, the Cordillera of New Granada, and the valleys of the
Mississippi and Ohio. For nearly two years the earthquakes had
continued, when they culminated in one great tragedy, which should
be read at length in the pages of Humboldt. On March 26th, 1812,
when the people of Caracas were assembled in the churches, beneath
a still and blazing sky, one minute of earthquake sufficed to bury,
amid the ruins of the churches and houses, nearly ten thousand
souls. The same earthquake wrought terrible destruction along the
whole line of the northern Cordilleras, and was felt even at Santa
Fe de Bogota and Honda, one hundred and eighty leagues from
Caracas. But the end was not yet. While the wretched survivors of
Caracas were dying of fever and starvation, and wandering inland to
escape from ever-renewed earthquake shocks, among villages and
farms which, ruined like their own city, could give them no
shelter, the almost forgotten volcano of St. Vincent was muttering
in suppressed wrath. It had thrown out no lava since 1718, if, at
least, the eruption spoken of by Moreau de Jonnes took place in the
Souffriere. According to him, with a terrific earthquake, clouds of
ashes were driven into the air, with violent detonations from a
mountain situated at the eastern end of the island. When the
eruption had ceased, it was found that the whole mountain had
disappeared. Now there is no eastern end to St. Vincent nor any
mountain on the east coast, and the Souffriere is at the northern
end. It is impossible, meanwhile, that the wreck of such a mountain
should not have left traces visible and notorious to this day. May
not the truth be, that the Souffriere had once a lofty cone, which
was blasted away in 1718, leaving the present crater-ring of cliffs
and peaks; and that thus may be explained the discrepancies in the
accounts of its height, which Mr. Scrope gives as 4940 feet, and
Humboldt and Dr. Davy at 3000, a measurement which seems to me to
be more probably correct? The mountain is said to have been
slightly active in 1785. In 1812, its old crater had been for some
years (and is now) a deep blue lake, with walls of rock around, 800
feet in height, reminding one traveller (Dr. Davy) of the lake of
Albano. But for twelve months it had given warning, by frequent
earthquake shocks, that it had its part to play in the great
subterranean battle between rock and steam; and on the 27th April
1812 the battle began."

"A Negro boy--he is said to be still alive in St. Vincent--was
herding cattle on the mountain-side. A stone fell near him, and
then another. He fancied that other boys were pelting him from the
cliffs above, and began throwing stones in return. But the stones
fell thicker, and among them one and then another too large to have
been thrown by human hand. And the poor fellow woke up to the fact
that not a boy but the mountain was throwing stones at him; and
that the column of black cloud which was rising from the crater
above was not harmless vapours, but dust, and ash, and stone. He
turned and ran for his life, leaving the cattle to their fate,
while the steam mitrailleuse of the Titans--to which all man's
engines of destruction are but pop-guns--roared on for three days
and nights, covering the greater part of the island with ashes,
burying crops, breaking branches off the trees, and spreading ruin
from which several estates never recovered; and so the 30th of
April dawned in darkness which might be felt.

"Meanwhile, on the same day, to change the scene of the campaign
two hundred and ten leagues, 'a distance,' as Humboldt says, 'equal
to that between Vesuvius and Paris,' the inhabitants, not only of
Caracas, but of Calabozo, situate in the midst of the llanos, over
a space of four thousand square leagues, were terrified by a
subterranean noise, which resembled frequent discharges of the
loudest cannon. It was accompanied by no shock, and, what is very
remarkable, was as loud on the coast as at eighty leagues inland;
and at Caracas, as well as at Calabozo, preparations were made to
put the place in defence against an enemy who seemed to be
advancing with heavy artillery. They might as well have copied the
St. Vincent herd-boy, and thrown their stones, too, at the Titans;
for the noise was, there can be no doubt, nothing else than the
final explosion in St. Vincent far away. The same explosion was
heard in Venezuela, the same at Martinique and Guadeloupe; but
there, too, there were no earthquake shocks. The volcanoes of the
two French islands lay quiet, and left their English brother to do
the work. On the same day, a stream of lava rushed down from the
mountain, reached the sea in four hours, and then all was over. The
earthquakes which had shaken for two years a sheet of the earth's
surface larger than half Europe was stilled by the eruption of this
single vent.

"The strangest fact about this eruption was, that the mountain did
not make use of its old crater. The original vent must have become
so jammed and consolidated, in the few years between 1785 and 1812,
that it could not be reopened even by a steam-force the vastness of
which may be guessed at from the vastness of the area which it had
shaken for two years. So when the eruption was over it was found
that the old crater-lake, incredible as it may seem, remained
undisturbed, as far as has been ascertained. But close to it, and
separated only by a knife-edge of rock some 700 feet in height, and
so narrow that, as I was assured by one who had seen it, it is
dangerous to crawl along it, a second crater, nearly as large as
the first, had been blasted out, the bottom of which, in like
manner, is now filled with water.

"The day after the explosion, 'Black Sunday,' gave a proof, but no
measure, of the enormous force which had been exerted. Eighty miles
to windward lies Barbados. All Saturday a heavy cannonading had
been heard to the eastward. The English and French fleets were
surely engaged. The soldiers were called out, the batteries manned,
but the cannonade died away, and all went to bed in wonder. On the
1st of May the clocks struck six; but the sun did not, as usual in
the tropics, answer to the call. The darkness was still intense,
and grew more intense as the morning wore on. A slow and silent
rain of impalpable dust was falling over the whole island.

"The trade-wind had fallen dead; the everlasting roar of the surf
was gone; and the only noise was the crashing of the branches
snapped by the weight of the clammy dust. About one o'clock the
veil began to lift, a lurid sunlight stared in from the horizon,
but all was black overhead. Gradually the dust-cloud drifted away;
the island saw the sun once more, and saw itself inches deep in
black, and in this case fertilising, dust.

"Those who will recollect that Barbados is eighty miles to windward
of St. Vincent, and that a strong breeze from east-north-east is
usually blowing from the former island to the latter, will be able
to imagine, not to measure, the force of an explosion which must
have blown the dust several miles into the air above the region of
the trade-wind. Whether into a totally calm stratum or into that
still higher one in which the heated south-west wind is hurrying
continually from the tropics toward the pole."* (* "At Last" by
Charles Kingsley volume 1 page 90.)

I have quoted this graphic account of the great volcanic eruption
of St. Vincent in 1812 from Canon Kingsley's delightful work to
impress on my readers, in more eloquent language than I can
command, the fact of great explosions having taken place in recent
times similar in character, though much inferior in extent and
force, to that by which I believe the great basin of the Lake of
Masaya and similar basins in the same and adjoining Pacific
provinces have been blasted out. I do not shut my eyes to the fact
that great as was the force in operation in 1812 at St. Vincent,
that necessary to excavate the great chasm at Masaya was
incomparably greater. No one is more disinclined than I am to
invoke the aid of greater natural forces in former times than are
now in existence. But I believe there is good reason to infer that
at the close of the glacial period volcanic energy was much more
intense than now. So strained is the earth's crust at some parts
that it is surmised that even a great difference in the pressure of
the atmosphere such as occurs during a cyclone, may be sufficient
to bring on an earthquake or a volcanic eruption already imminent.
Whether this be so or not, there can be no doubt that at the
melting away of the ice of the glacial period there was an enormous
change in the strains on the earth's crust. Ice that had been piled
up mountains high at the poles and along the chain of the Andes all
through tropical America melted away and ran down to the ocean
beds. This great transference of weight could not have been
accomplished without many rendings of the earth's crust and many
outpourings of lava and volcanic outbursts. Let us reflect, too,
that not only was an enormous mass of matter, before lying over the
poles, removed nearer to the equator, and many mountain-chains
relieved of the ice of thousands and tens of thousands of years,
but that there must have been an actual change in the earth's
centre of gravity. All our experience shows that the ice was more
developed on some meridians than others; probably nowhere in the
whole world did it lie so thick as along the American continents;
and everywhere it must have been greater over the land than over
the sea. When it assumed its liquid form, and arranged itself
freely according to its specific gravity, the centre of gravity of
the earth must have been effectively changed. All who have studied
the present statical condition of the earth's crust will readily
admit that such a change might produce greater volcanic outbursts
than any known to history.

Then when we turn to the most ancient traditions of the human race
in both the old and the new worlds, and find everywhere fire and
water linked together in the accounts of the great catastrophes
that are said nearly to have annihilated the human race, I for one
am inclined to accept them, and to believe that when, in the "Leo
Amontli," as translated by Brasseur de Bourbourg, we read of "the
volcanic convulsions that lasted four days and four nights," of
"the thunder and lightning that came out of the sea," of "the
mountains that were rising and sinking when the great deluge
happened," and that when Plato on the other side of the Atlantic
speaks of the earthquakes that accompanied the engulfment of
Atlantis, we hear the dim echoes that have been sounding down
through all time from that remote past, of the fearful volcanoes
and earthquakes that terrified mankind at the time of the great

In these remarks on the origin of some of the lakes of Nicaragua I
except the largest ones, namely, the lake of Managua and the great
lake of Nicaragua, which probably occupy areas of depression
produced by the large amount of material abstracted from below and
thrown out by ancient volcanoes.


Indian population of the country lying between the great lakes
   of Nicaragua and the Pacific.
Discovery and conquest of Nicaragua by the Spaniards.
Cruelties of the Spaniards.
The Indians of Western Central America all belonged to one stock.
Decadence of Mexican civilisation before the arrival of the Spaniards.
The designation "Nahuatls" proposed to include all the Mexican,
   Western Central American, and Peruvian races that had descended
   from the same ancient stock.
The Nahuatls distinct from the Caribs on one side and the Red Indians
   on the other.
Discussion of the question of the peopling of America.

I RODE for some distance around the Lake of Masaya, and reached an
Indian village named Nandasme, about two leagues from the city. As
usual the streets were laid out at right angles, and the houses of
the Indians embowered in trees, many of which are grown entirely
for the beautiful odoriferous flowers they produce. There are
several other Indian villages around the lake, from each of which
paths have been cut through the forest down to the water, along
which the women are constantly ascending and descending to fill
their vessels for the supply of their houses.

All the fertile country lying between the great lakes and the
Pacific was densely populated at the time of the conquest, and it
was not far from Masaya that the great chief, Diriangan, lived, who
tried, but tried in vain, to stem the onward course of the
Spaniards. Gil Gonzales de Avila was in command of the first
expedition sent to explore the country of Nicaragua. He sailed from
Panama with one hundred followers and four horses, the latter,
auxiliaries whose aid was never dispensed with in these expeditions
on account of the superstitious terror with which the unaccustomed
sight of a man and a horse, apparently joined together, inspired
the Indians. He landed somewhere on the Gulf of Nicoya, near which
he entered the country of a powerful chief, after whom the gulf was
named. Nicoya entertained the Spaniards courteously, supplied them
with food, and embraced the Christian religion, being baptised
himself along with all his people, six thousand in number.

Pushing on to the northward for fifty leagues, Gonzales entered the
territories of a great chief named Nicaragua, whose country
comprised the present province of Rivas. Nicaragua had been
informed of "the sharpness of the Spanish swords" and received
Gonzales with hospitality, presenting him with much gold, equal to
"25,000 pieces of eight," and garments and plumes of feathers. He
asked the Spaniards many shrewd questions: about the flood, and
about the sun, moon, and stars; their motion, quality, and
distance; what was the cause of night and day and the blowing of
the winds? how the Spaniards got all their information about
heaven; who brought it to them, and if the messenger came down on a
rainbow? We are told that "Gonzales answered to the best of his
ability, commending the rest to God." Probably his interrogator
knew more of the visible heavenly bodies than he did, for Nicaragua
was of the Aztec race, a people who knew the true theory of
eclipses, and possessed an astronomical calendar of great accuracy.

Pedrarias, who was then in command at Panama, stimulated by the
accounts of the rich country that Gonzales had discovered, sent
Hernando de Cordova in 1522 to subdue and settle the country of
Nicaragua. Pascual de Andagoya tells the story of the rich land,
"populous and fertile, yielding supplies of maize, and many fowls
of the country, and certain small dogs which they also eat, and
many deer and fish. This is a land of abundance of good fruits and
of honey and wax, wherewith all the neighbouring countries are
supplied. The bees are numerous, some of them yellow, and these do
not sting." The poor Indians, too, could not sting, they were
powerless with their coats of feathers and swords of stone against
the arms of the Spaniards, who treated them like a hive of
stingless bees, turning them out and eating up their riches. "They
had a great quantity of cotton cloths, and they held their markets
in the open squares, where they traded. They had a manufactory
where they made cordage of a sort of nequen, which is like carded
flax; the cord was beautiful and stronger than that of Spain, and
their cotton canvas was excellent. The Indians were very civilised
in their way of life, like those of Mexico, for they were a people
who had come from that country, and they had nearly the same

They had even in one direction reached a pitch of civilisation that
some of our philanthropists are only now hoping for. Women's rights
were acknowledged, and, if anything, they appear to have had too
much of them. Pascual says: "They had many beautiful women. The
husbands were so much under subjection that if they made their
wives angry they were turned out of doors, and the wives even
raised their hands against them."* (* This and the other quotation
are from the "Narrative of Pascual de Andagoya" translated by C.R.
Markham for the Hakluyt Society.) Much have the Indians changed
since then under the dominion of the Spaniard, and now all the toil
and labour fall to the lot of the weaker sex. One custom still
remaining amongst the Masaya Indians may be a relic of the old days
of woman's superiority. When they marry, the goods that the wife
had before her marriage still belong to her, and if she had a mule
or horse, and her husband had none, he cannot use hers without her

The poor Indians were ground down to the dust by the Spaniards with
pitiless barbarities. All their possessions were seized, and they
themselves exported to Panama and Peru, and sold as slaves to work
at the mines. Even in Pascual's time the country had been greatly
depopulated by these means. The people were harmless and patient,
but there was a noble independence about them that could not be
eradicated, and the Spaniards found it was cheaper to bring the
negro from Africa, with his light and careless nature, than to try
to enslave a people who did not resist, but who sought a refuge
from their persecutors in the grave rather than continue in
slavery. I shall not harrow the feelings of my readers with the
mass of treachery, avarice, blasphemy, and horrible cruelties with
which the conquerors rewarded the noble people who entertained them
so courteously. To me the conquest of Mexico, Central America, and
Peru appears one of the darkest pages in modern history. One virtue
indeed shone out--undaunted courage; and the human mind is so
constituted that this single redeeming point irresistibly enlists
our sympathies. But for this, Pizarro would be execrated as a
monster of cruelty, and even the fame of Cortez, immeasurably
superior as he was to the rest of the conquerors, would be
tarnished with innumerable deeds of violence, cruelty, and

As has been already mentioned, the Pacific provinces of Nicaragua
were inhabited by a people closely related to the Mexicans, and
their language was nearly the same. According to Squier, who has
more than any other traveller studied the different races, the
Indians living at the island of Omotepec at the present time are of
pure Mexican or Aztec stock. So many of the names of towns in the
central provinces are also of Aztec origin, that they must have had
a considerable footing there also. They called the older
inhabitants, whom they had probably dispossessed and driven back to
the interior, "Chontalli," "barbarians," and hence the name of the
province of Chontales, where these tribes still existed in
considerable numbers at the time of the conquest.

All these races, differing as they did in language and in the
degree of civilisation at which they had arrived, were closely
affiliated.* (* According to Prescott the Aztecs and cognate races
believed their ancestors came from the north-west, and were
preceded by the real civilisers--the Toltecs.) The American
archaeologist, Mr. John D. Baldwin, is of opinion that they were
the descendants of indigenes. That at some very remote period,
before they had attained a high degree of civilisation, they
separated into two branches, one of which occupied Peru, the other
Central America and Mexico. Both branches advanced greatly in
civilisation, and both afterwards deteriorated by being conquered
by ruder but more warlike people belonging to the same stock. From
Mexico the ancient people spread northward and southward. The
northern emigrants peopled the banks of the Mississippi, and were
the mound-builders. The southern emigrants peopled Central America.
Then came an immigration from the far north-west, of nomadic tribes
from north-eastern Asia, who drove out the mound-builders. The
latter retreated back to Mexico, that their fathers had left ages
before, and were the ancient Toltecs. Later on, the Aztecs, who
were the southern branch of the ancient Mexicans, invaded Mexico
from the south, and supplanted the Toltecs. Another branch of the
same ancient stock were the Mayas of Yucatan.* (* "Ancient America"
by J.D. Baldwin, A.M.)

Looking then far back we have, according to the old traditions, a
few people who had escaped a great cataclysm, when fire and water
both fought against mankind; remnants perhaps of many tribes, who,
when the lowlands were overwhelmed, escaped to the mountains,
speaking a variety of languages, and bringing with them some
remembrances of the civilisation of their ancient homes. They
increased and multiplied in their new abodes. Some in Mexico, some
in Yucatan, and others in Peru arrived at a great pitch of
civilisation. Ages passed away, they had developed into several
distinct peoples, all showing traces of their common descent, but
having branched off in different directions in their lines of
progress; all underlaid by a few great principles: in their
religion, by the worship of the heavenly bodies; in their
government, by complete and absolute obedience to their kings and
leaders; in their mode of life all agriculturists and dwellers in
regular towns and villages. They spread northward and occupied the
valley of the Mississippi, and in summer time sent off large bodies
of workmen to extract the copper of Lake Superior. Then came the
nomadic tribes from the north-west, the Red Indians of the present
day, and drove out the mound-builders, who were turned back on
their ancient home, of which they had lost all recollection, and
where they appeared as immigrants and invaders. In the subjugation
of the ancient Choluans by the Toltecs, and afterwards the Toltecs
by the Aztecs, we see what has often occurred in the world's
history--a highly civilised race conquered by a ruder people, who
had advanced farther in the arts of war, and so overcame the people
who had advanced farther in the arts of peace. Therefore the
Choluans were replaced by the more warlike Toltecs, the Toltecs by
the ruder Aztecs, and those who look at the miserable towns and
villages of the present inhabitants alongside of the ruins of the
grand edifices, the roads and aqueducts of ancient Mexico and Peru,
may say, the Aztecs by the less civilised Spaniards.

The term Brown Indians has been proposed to distinguish the races
of Mexico, Central and South America, from the Red Indians of the
north; but it is a too general term, as it includes not only the
highly-civilised Aztecs, Mayas, and Peruvians, but the much ruder
Caribs of the eastern coasts of South America and the Antilles, who
were widely removed from them in race and language. Squier has
proposed the term Nahuatls for the people of Mexico and Central
America, and if it might be strained to include the Peruvians also,
and all the peoples descended from that ancient civilised race that
had spread northward and southward, it would supply a want that I
have greatly felt in studying these peoples. The Nahuatls--I use
the term in this extended sense--are one of three great Indian
races that occupy the greater part of North and South America. They
had the Red Indians to the north of them, the savage Caribs to the
south-east. From both these races they were profoundly different,
though not in equal degrees. To the Red Indian they have scarcely
any affinity, excepting such as had been brought about by the
nomads, who came down from the north-west, taking the women of the
Nahuatls, whom they conquered, for their wives, and thus bringing
about some points of structural resemblance, such as are to be seen
in a lesser degree in the citizens of the United States, through
whose veins the blood of the half-breeds of the earlier settlements
still courses. In Florida, and around the northern side of the Gulf
of Mexico, there had probably been a greater fusion of the two
races. But in origin the two peoples are distinct; the one came
from north-eastern Asia, the other, I believe, from a tropical
country joined on to the present continent, that was submerged at
the breaking up of the glacial period.

Was that country to the east or the west of the present continent?
Was it Atlantis, or was it a submerged country in the Pacific? I am
inclined to the latter opinion, and to believe that the inhabitants
of ancient Atlantis were the ancestors of the warlike and
adventurous Caribs. The Nahuatls, in their peaceful dispositions
and agricultural pursuits, are much more nearly allied to the
Polynesians, and their present preponderance on the western coast
favours the idea that they had a western origin.* (* I have already
at page 46 alluded to the fundamental difference in the food of the
Nahuatls and the Caribs.)

The Caribs, who were found in possession of most of the West Indian
Islands, and of the eastern coast of South America, were a warlike,
fierce, and enterprising race. Even in Columbus's time they were
found making long voyages to ravage the villages of the
peace-loving Nahuatls. If there be any truth in the story told to
Solon by the priests of Sais, they are a much more likely people to
have invaded the countries around the Mediterranean than the
Nahuatls. What seems foreign in the customs and beliefs of the
latter appears to have come from the west--from China and
Japan--whilst there are some few points of affinity between the
Caribs and the peoples of Europe and Africa. Thus, Mr. Hyde Clarke
states that the greater part of Brazil is covered by the Guarani or
Tupi languages, which are allied to the Agaw of the Nile region,
the Abkass of Caucasia, etc.

There is one singular custom amongst the Carib races of America,
and amongst some ancient peoples in Asia, Europe, and Africa, the
existence of which on both sides of the Atlantic cannot, I think,
be explained excepting on the theory that there was a remote
intercourse or affinity amongst the peoples who practised it. I
allude to the singular custom of the "couvade," in which the father
is put to bed on the birth of a child. I take the following account
of this curious practice from Mr. Tylor's philosophical "Early
History of Mankind".

The couvade is developed to the highest degree in South America and
the West Indies. The following account is given by Du Tertre of the
Carib couvade in the West Indies. When a child is born, the mother
goes presently to work, but the father begins to complain, and
takes to his hammock, and there he is visited as though he were
sick, and undergoes a course of dieting "which would cure of the
gout the most replete of Frenchmen." The imaginary invalid must
repose and take careful nursing and nourishing food. In Brazil, on
the birth of a child, the father was put to bed and fed with light
food, whilst the mother was unattended to, and went about her work.
The practice of the couvade was universal, in some form or other,
amongst the Carib races, but was unknown amongst the peoples whom I
have called the Nahuatls.

On the other side of the Atlantic the couvade has been noticed in
West Africa, and "amongst the mountain tribes known as the
Miau-tsze, who are supposed to be, like the Sontals and Gonds of
India, remnants of a race driven into the mountains by the present
dwellers of the plains." "Another Asiatic people, recorded to have
practised the couvade, are the Tibareni of Pontus, at the south of
the Black Sea, among whom, when the child was born, the father lay
groaning in bed with his head tied up, while the mother tended him
with food and prepared his baths." In Europe the couvade may be
traced up from ancient into modern times in the neighbourhood of
the Pyrenees. Above 1800 years ago Strabo mentions the story that,
among the Iberians of the north of Spain, the women, after the
birth of a child, tend their husbands, putting them to bed instead
of going themselves; and this account is confirmed by the evidence
of the practice amongst the modern Basques. In Biscay, says Michel,
"in valleys whose population recalls in its usages the infancy of
society, the women rise immediately after childbirth and attend to
the duties of the household, while the husband goes to bed, taking
the baby with him, and thus receives the neighbours' compliments."
"It has been found also in Navarre, and on the French side of the
Pyrenees. Legrand d'Aussy mentions that in an old French fable the
king of Torelose is 'au lit et en couche' when Aucassin arrives and
takes a stick to him and makes him promise to abolish the custom in
his realm. The same author goes on to state that the practice is
said still to exist in some cantons of Bearn, where it is called
'faire la couvade.' Lastly, Diodorus Siculus notices the same habit
of the wife being neglected, and the husband put to bed and treated
as the patient among the natives of Corsica about the beginning of
the Christian era."

For a fuller account of the couvade I must refer my readers to
Tylor's "Early History of Mankind", from which I have so largely
quoted; his summing up of this curious custom is profound and
philosophical. He says: "The isolated occurrences of a custom among
particular races, surrounded by other races that ignore it, may be
sometimes to the ethnologist like those outlying patches of strata
from which the geologist infers that the formation they belong to
once spread over intervening districts, from which it has been
removed by denudation; or like the geographical distribution of
plants, from which the botanist argues that they have travelled
from a distant home. The way in which the couvade appears in the
new and old worlds is especially interesting from this point of
view. Among the savage tribes of South America it is, as it were,
at home, in a mental atmosphere, at least, not so different from
that in which it came into being as to make it a mere meaningless,
absurd superstition. If the culture of the Caribs and Brazilians,
even before they came under our knowledge, had advanced too far to
allow the couvade to grow up fresh among them, they at least
practised it with some consciousness of its meaning; it had not
fallen out of unison with their mental state. Here we find,
covering a vast compact area of country, the mental stratum, so to
speak, to which the couvade most nearly belongs. But if we look at
its appearances across from China to Corsica the state of things is
widely different; no theory of its origin can be drawn from the
Asiatic and European accounts to compete for a moment with that
which flows naturally from the observations of the missionaries,
who found it not a mere dead custom, but a live growth of savage
psychology. The peoples, too, who have kept it up in Asia and
Europe seem to have been, not the great progressive, spreading,
conquering, civilising nations of the Aryan, Semitic, and Chinese
stocks. It cannot be ascribed even to the Tartars, for the Lapps,
Finns, and Hungarians appear to know nothing of it. It would seem
rather to have belonged to that ruder population, or series of
populations, whose fate it has been to be driven by the great races
out of the fruitful lands to take refuge in mountains and deserts.
The retainers of the couvade in Asia are the Miau-tsze of China and
the savage Tibareni of Pontus. In Europe they are the Basque race
of the Pyrenees, whose peculiar manners, appearance, and language,
coupled with their geographical position, favour the view that they
are the remains of a people driven westward and westward, by the
pressure of more powerful tribes, till they came to these last
mountains, with nothing but the Atlantic beyond. Of what stock were
the original barbarian inhabitants of Corsica we do not know; but
their position, and the fact that they, too, had the couvade, would
suggest their having been a branch of the same family who escaped
their persecutors by putting out to sea and settling in their
mountainous island."* (* E.B. Tylor "Early History of Mankind"
pages 288-297.)

Let us now return to the Nahuatls, and see if they present any
affinities to the nations of the old world. Humboldt's well-known
argument, in which he sought to prove the Asiatic origin of the
Mexicans, was based upon the remarkable resemblance of their system
of reckoning cycles of years to that found in use in different
parts of Asia. Both the Asiatic and Mexican systems of cycles are
most artificial in their construction, and troublesome in practice,
and they are very unlikely to have arisen independently on two
continents. Humboldt says: "I inferred the probability of the
western nations of the new continent having had communication with
the east of Asia long before the arrival of the Spaniards from a
comparison of the Mexican and Tibeto-Japanese calendars, from the
correct orientation of the steps of the pyramidal elevations
towards the different quarters of the heavens, and from the ancient
myths and traditions of the four ages or four epochs of destruction
of the world, and the dispersion of mankind after a great flood of
waters."* (* Humboldt "Aspects of Nature" volume 2 174.)

Whilst there are undoubtedly many curious coincidences in the
customs of the ancient Mexicans and the peoples of eastern Asia,
there are, on the other hand, so many differences that I believe it
is safer to infer that they were essentially distinct in origin,
and that there had been communication between the two peoples in
very early times, but that the foreign influence in Mexico was
extremely feeble, and too weak to check the growth of an
essentially indigenous civilisation. Possibly sun and serpent
worship, baptism, and the use of the cross as a sacred emblem, were
the survival of religious beliefs that had obtained in the very
cradle of the human race. We cannot, however, believe that mankind
had, before the separation and dispersion of the eastern and
western nations, attained to any great astronomical knowledge, and
it is quite possible that the extraordinary coincidences between
the chronological and astronomical systems of the Nahuatls and the
eastern Asiatics might have been brought about by some of the
latter having been stranded on the American shore.

Humboldt argued that, "as the western coasts of the American
continent trend from north-west to south-east, and the eastern
coasts of Asia in the opposite direction, the distance between the
two continents in 45 degrees of latitude, or in the temperate zone,
which is most favourable to mental development, is too considerable
to admit of the probability of such an accidental settlement taking
place in that latitude. We must then assume the first landing to
have been made in the inhospitable climate of from 55 to 65
degrees, and that the civilisation thus introduced, like the
general movement of population in America, has proceeded by
successive stations from north to south."* (* Humboldt "Aspects of
Nature" volume 2 176.) If we are obliged to assume that the people
themselves came from the old world, such an origin might be sought
for them as well as any other; but all research since Humboldt's
time has favoured the idea that there are no signs of the Nahuatls
being a newer people than the nations of Asia. And if it is not the
derivation of the people, but of some coincidences in their
observances and knowledge, we may seek for it some simpler solution
than the migration of a whole people down through North to Central
America. That solution is, I believe, to be found in the fact, not
taken into consideration by Humboldt, that the great Japanese
current, after traversing the eastern coast of Japan, sends one
large branch nearly directly east across the Pacific to the coast
of California, and an offshoot from it passes southward along the
Mexican coast and as far as the western coast of Central America.
In Kotzebue's narrative of his voyage round the world, he says:
"Looking over Adams' diary, I found the following notice--'Brig
Forester, March 24, 1815, at sea, upon the coast of California,
latitude 32 degrees 45 seconds north, longitude 133 degrees 3
minutes west. We saw this morning, at a short distance, a ship, the
confused state of whose sails showed that they wanted assistance.
We bent our course towards her, and made out the distressed vessel
to be Japanese, which had lost both mast and helm. Only three dying
Japanese, the captain and two sailors, were found in the vessel. We
took these unfortunate people on board our brig, and, after four
months' nursing, they entirely recovered. We learned from these
people that they had sailed from the harbour of Osaka, in Japan,
bound for another seaport, but were overtaken by a storm, in which
they lost the helm and mast. Till that day their ship had been
drifting about, a mere butt for the winds and waves, during
seventeen months; and of thirty-five men only three remained, all
the others having died of hunger.'" Is it not likely that in
ancient times such accidents may have occurred again and again, and
that information of the astronomical and chronological systems of
eastern Asia may thus have been brought to the Nahuatls, who, from
the ease with which they embraced the religion of the Spaniards,
are shown to have been open to receive foreign ideas?

The three arguments on which Humboldt principally relied to prove
that a communication had existed between the east of Asia and the
Mexicans may be explained without adopting his theory that the
Nahuatls had travelled round from the old world. The remarkable
resemblance of the Mexican and Tibeto-Japanese calendars might
result from the accidental stranding of a Japanese or Chinese
vessel on their shores, bringing to them some man learned in the
astronomy of the old world. The correct orientation of the sides of
their pyramidal temples was but the result of their great
astronomical knowledge and of the worship of the sun. And the
resemblance of their traditions of four epochs of destruction and
of the dispersion of mankind after a great flood of waters, arose
from the fact that the great catastrophes that befell the human
race at the melting of the ice of the glacial period were universal
over the world.


Return to Santo Domingo.
The birds of Chontales.
The insects of Chontales.
Mimetic forms.
Departure from the mines.
Nicaragua as a field for emigration.
Journey to Greytown.
Return to England.

HAVING finished our business at Masaya, we rode back to Granada on
the evening of the second day, and the next morning took a passage
in a fine steamboat that Mr. Hollenbeck, of Greytown, had placed on
the lake to convey passengers and goods between Granada and San
Carlos, at the head of the river San Juan. We arrived at San Ubaldo
at two o'clock, and found our mules safe but foot-sore, through
travelling over the rocky hills from Santo Claro. The San Jose
plains were in a dreadfully muddy state, and for five miles we went
plunging through the swamps. Most of the mules fell several times,
and we had great difficulty in getting them up again. We passed two
travellers with their mules up to their girths in mud, and
incapable of extricating themselves, but could not help them, as we
dared not allow ours to stand, or they would stick fast also. We
had met, at San Ubaldo, the son of Dr. Seemann, on his way home to
England. His pack-mule had stuck fast in the plains the night
before, and he had passed the night sitting on his boxes, half sunk
in the mud, and attacked by myriads of mosquitoes that had covered
his hands, face, and neck with blisters.

It was two hours after dark before we got across the weary plains.
We found shelter for the night at a small hut on their border,
where, for a consideration, the occupants gave up to us their
mosquito curtains and stretchers, and sat up themselves. I suppose
in such situations people get used to the mosquitoes, but to us
they were intolerable. They buzzed around us and settled on our
hands and face, if the former were not incessantly employed driving
them off. Those of our party who had no curtains had a lively time
of it. A gentleman of colour, from Jamaica, who was returning to
the mines after escorting young Mr. Seemann to the port, and who
could find no place to rest in, excepting an old hammock, kept his
long arms going round like a windmill, every now and then wakening
every one up with a loud crack, as he tried to bring his flat hand
down on one of his tormentors. A mosquito, however, is not to be
caught, even in the dark, in such a way. It holds up its two hinder
legs as feelers; the current of air driven before a descending blow
warns it of the impending danger, and it darts off to one side, to
renew its attack somewhere else. The most certain way to catch them
in the dark is to move the outstretched finger cautiously towards
where one is felt, until a safe striking distance is reached. But
what is the use of killing one when they are in myriads? None
whatever, excepting that it is some occupation for the sleepless
victim. The black gentleman was a thinker and a scholar, and used
to amuse himself at the mines by writing letters addressed to Mr.
Jacob Elam, Esquire (himself), in which he informed himself that he
had been left legacies of ten, twenty, or thirty thousand pounds, a
few thousand more or less costing nothing. Pondering during that
weary night over the purpose of creation, he startled me about one
in the morning with the question, "Mr. Belt, sir, can you tell me
what is the use of mosquitoes?"

"To enjoy themselves and be happy, Jacob."

"Ah, sir! if I was only a mosquito!" said Jacob, as he came down
with another fruitless whack.

At the first cock-crow we were up, and as the cheerful dawn lighted
up the east, we were in our saddles, and the miseries of the night
Were but the jests of the morning. The mules even seemed to be
eager to leave that dismal swamp, where malaria hung in the air,
and mosquitoes did their best to drive mankind away. The dry
savannahs were before us, our hearts were young as the morning, the
tormenting spirits of the night had flown away with the darkness,
and jest and banter enlivened the road. We reached Acoyapo at nine
o'clock; my good friend Don Dolores Bermudez lent me a fresh mule,
and, riding all day, I reached Santo Domingo in the evening.

I have little more of interest to relate. Years had sped on at
Santo Domingo; and the time approached when I should be set free
from the worries and responsibilities attending the supervision of
gold-mines, the products of which were just at that tantalising
point, on the verge between profit and loss, that made their
superintendence a most irksome and anxious duty. The difficulty of
the task was vastly increased by the capital of the company having
been originally wasted in the erection of machinery that proved to
be useless; so that financial questions constantly retarded the
completion of the works. This book has not been written, however,
to tell the story of the struggles of a mining engineer; and I turn
aside with pleasure from this slight digression to say what little
more I have to tell of my natural history experiences.

I did not, until near the conclusion of my stay, commence
collecting the skins of birds, contenting myself with watching and
noting their habits. I obtained the skins of ninety-two species
only; but small as this collection was, it proved an important
addition to the knowledge of the bird-fauna of Nicaragua. The
eminent ornithologist, Mr. Osbert Salvin, published in the "Ibis"
for July 1872 a list of seventy-three species that I had up to that
time sent to England. Altogether, only one hundred and fifty
species, including those that I had collected, were known from
Nicaragua. Fragmentary as our knowledge is, it is sufficient, in
Mr. Salvin's opinion, to indicate, with tolerable accuracy, to
which of the two sub-provinces of the Central American fauna the
forest region of Chontales belongs. The birds I sent to England
proved nearly conclusively that the Costa-Rican sub-province
included Chontales in Nicaragua, and that the boundary between it
and the sub-province of Southern Mexico and Guatemala must be
sought for more to the north-west.

Of the southern species, which in Chontales find their northern
limit, so far as is known, there are in my small collection
thirty-two species, whilst belonging to the northern sub-province,
and not known to range further south, there are only seven species;
showing that the connection with Costa Rica and the south is much
closer than that with Guatemala and the north, and that the
boundary between the two sub-provinces is not found, as was
supposed, in the depression of the isthmus occupied by the great
lakes and their outlet the San Juan river, but must exist further
towards, if not in, Honduras. Mr. Salvin says, "What I suspect to
be the case, though I cannot as yet bring evidence to prove it, is,
that the forests of Chontales spread uninterruptedly into Costa
Rica, but that towards the north and north-west a decided break
occurs, and that this break determines the range of the prevalent
Costa Rican and Guatemalan forest forms."* (* "The Ibis" July 1872
page 312.) I can confirm Mr. Salvin's supposition. The San Juan
river forms no greater break in the forest than a dozen other
rivers that run through it and fall into the Atlantic. But a
decided interruption does occur to the north-west. It is found in
the valleys of Humuya and Goascoran in Honduras, which, along with
the central plain of Comayagua, constitute a great transverse
valley running north and south from sea to sea, and cutting
completely through the chain of the Cordilleras.* (* Squier "States
of Central America" page 681.) The highest point of this pass is
2850 feet above the sea, and the country around is composed of
undulating savannahs and plains covered with grass. The Gulf of
Honduras, cutting deeply into the continent, also plays an
important part in preventing the intermingling of the faunas of the
two sub-provinces, but the principal barrier is the termination of
the great Atlantic forest north-westward, which even at Cape
Gracias begins to give place to plains and savannahs next the

  1. Evander nobilis, Bates.
  2. Gymnocerus beltii, Bates.
  3. Polyrhaphis fabricii, Thom.
  4. Deliathis nivea, Bates.
  5. Taeniotes praeclarus, Bates.
  6. Chalastinus rubrocinctus, Bates.
  7. Cosmisoma Titania, Bates.
  8. Carneades superba, Bates.
  9. Amphionyca princeps, Bates.)

My entomological collections were much more complete than my
collections of birds, especially those of the butterflies and
beetles.* [* The author's bird and insect collections were
purchased at his death by Messrs Godman and Salvin who also
acquired from Mr. H.W. Bates the types and other specimens of
coleoptera described by him which had not remained in the original
collection. These are all now in the British Museum, together with
the Hewitson bequest, in which are many of the lepidoptera types.
It may not be out of place to add that Mr. Hewitson left in his
will the sum of two hundred pounds to Belt in recognition of the
way in which the latter's collections had been placed at his
service.] Mr. W.C. Hewitson has described twenty-five new species,
but no list of the whole of the butterflies known from Nicaragua
has yet been published. In Coleoptera I made large collections, but
the extensive families of the Elateridae, Lamellicorns, and others
are still uncatalogued, and very many species remain to be
described. The only beetles that have been catalogued as yet with
sufficient completeness to warrant any general conclusions are the
Longicorns. I collected about 300 different species, and Mr. H.W.
Bates has enumerated 242 of these in a paper "On the Longicorn
Coleoptera of Chontales, Nicaragua," published in the "Transactions
of the Entomological Society" for 1872. In an interesting summary
of the results he gives the following analysis of the range of the

Peculiar to Chontales: 133 species.

Common to Chontales and Mexico: 38 species.

Common to Do. and the West India Islands: 5 species.

Common to Do. and the United States: 5 species.

Common to Do. and New Grenada or Venezuela: 24 species.

Common to Do. and the Amazon Region: 22 species.

Common to Do. and South Brazil: 10 species.

Generally distributed in Tropical America: 5 species.

Total: 242 species.

Omitting the peculiar species and those generally distributed in
Tropical America, we have thus forty-three that are found in
Chontales and in Mexico or the United States, and sixty-one that
are found in Chontales and countries lying to the southward. The
preponderance of southern forms is not so great as in the birds,
but when we reflect on the large number of peculiar species, and
that the Longicorns of the Atlantic slope of Costa Rica are yet
scarcely known, it appears likely that many of the Chontales
species will be found ranging southward across the San Juan river,
and that the Insect fauna will be shown to have the same relations
as the Bird fauna; for, as the Atlantic forest continues unbroken
much further southward than northward, so will the insects peculiar
to the forest region have a greater range in that direction.

Mr. Hollick has beautifully drawn on wood a few of the
characteristic Longicorns of Chontales, all of them, with one
exception (Polyrhaphis fabricii), being as yet only known from that
province, but probably extending into Costa Rica.

One of these, the lovely little Cosmisoma Titania, Number 7 in
Plate 25, has been appropriately named after the Queen of the
Fairies by Mr. Bates. It was first found by Mr. Janson, junior, who
came out to Chontales purposely to collect insects; and I
afterwards obtained it in great numbers. The use of the curious
brushes on the antennae is not known. Another longicorn, about the
same size (Coremia hirtipes), has its two hindmost legs greatly
lengthened, and furnished with brushes: one I saw on a branch was
flourishing these in the air, and I thought at first they were two
black flies hovering over the branch, my attention being taken from
the body of the beetle by the movement of the brushes.

Another fine longicorn, figured in Plate 25, Deliathis nivea, looks
as if made of pure white porcelain spotted with black. It is a rare
beetle, one or two specimens each season being generally all that
are taken. It is usually found on the leaves of young trees from
twelve to twenty feet from the ground. I have taken the rather
heavy-bodied female by throwing a stone at it and causing it to
fall within reach, but the male is more active on the wing, and it
was long before I obtained a specimen.



Amongst the insects of Chontales none are more worthy of notice
than the many curious species of Orthoptera that look like green
and faded leaves of trees. I have already described one species
that resembles a green leaf, and so much so that it even deceived
the acute senses of the foraging ants; other species, belonging to
a closely-related genus (Pterochroza), imitate leaves in every
stage of decay, some being faded-green, blotched with yellow;
others, as in the species figured, resemble a brown withered leaf,
the resemblance being increased by a transparent hole through both
wings that looks like a piece taken out of the leaf. In many
butterflies that resemble leaves on the under side of their wings,
the wings being raised and closed together when at rest so as to
hide the bright colours of the upper surface, there are similar
transparent spots that imitate holes; and others again are jagged
at the edge, as if pieces had been taken out of them. Many
chrysalides also have mirror-like spots that resemble holes; and
one that I found hanging from the under side of a leaf had a real
hole through it, formed by a horn that projected from the thorax
and doubled back to the body, leaving a space between. Another
insect, of which I only found two specimens, had a wonderful
resemblance to a piece of moss, amongst which it concealed itself
in the daytime, and was not to be distinguished except when
accidentally shaken out. It is the larval stage of a species of

The extraordinary perfection of these mimetic resemblances is most
wonderful. I have heard this urged as a reason for believing that
they could not have been produced by natural selection, because a
much less degree of resemblance would have protected the mimetic
species. To this it may be answered, that natural selection not
only tends to pick out and preserve the forms that have protective
resemblances, but to increase the perceptions of the predatory
species of insects and birds, so that there is a continual
progression towards a perfectly mimetic form. This progressive
improvement in means of defence and of attack may be illustrated in
this way. Suppose a number of not very swift hares and a number of
slow-running dogs were placed on an island where there was plenty
of food for the hares but none for the dogs, except the hares they
could catch; the slowest of the hares would be first killed, and
the swifter preserved. Then the slowest-running dogs would suffer,
and having less food than the fleeter ones, would have least chance
of living, and the swiftest dogs would be preserved; thus the
fleetness of both dogs and hares would be gradually but surely
perfected by natural selection, until the greatest speed was
reached that it was possible for them to attain. I have in this
supposed example confined myself to the question of speed alone,
but in reality other means of pursuit and of escape would come into
play and be improved. The dogs might increase in cunning, or
combine together to work in couples or in packs by the same
selective process; and the hares on their part might acquire means
of concealment or stratagem to elude their enemies; but, on both
sides, the improvement would be progressive until the highest form
of excellence was reached. Viewed in this light, the wonderful
perfection of mimetic forms is a natural consequence of the
selection of the individuals that, on the one side, were more and
more mimetic, and on the other (that of their enemies) more and
more able to penetrate through the assumed disguises. It has
doubtless happened in some cases that species, having many foes,
have entirely thrown off some of them through the disguises they
have been brought to assume, but others they still cannot elude.

Since Mr. Bates first brought forward the theory of mimetic
resemblances its importance has been more and more demonstrated, as
it has been found how very largely animal life has been influenced
in form and colour by the natural selection of the varieties that
were preserved from their enemies, or enabled to approach their
prey, through the resemblance they bore to something else. So
general are these deceptive resemblances throughout nature, that it
is often difficult to determine whether sexual preferences or the
preservation of mimetic forms has been most potent in moulding the
form and coloration of species, and in some the two forces are seen
to be opposed in their operation. Thus in some butterflies that
mimic the Heliconidae, the females only are mimetic, the males
retaining the normal form and coloration of the group to which they
belong. In such cases it appears as if the females have not been
checked in gradually assuming the disguise they wear, and it is
important that they should be protected, as they are more exposed
to destruction while seeking for places to deposit their eggs; but
that both sexes should not have inherited the change in form and
colour when it would have been beneficial to both can only be
explained, I think, on the supposition that the females had a
choice of mates and preferred those that retained the primordial
appearance of the group. This view is supported by the fact that
many of the males of the mimetic Leptalides have the upper half of
the lower wing of a pure white, whilst all the rest of the wings is
barred and spotted with black, red, and yellow, like the species
they mimic. The females have not this white patch, and the males
usually conceal it by covering it with the upper wing, so that I
cannot imagine its being of any other use to them excepting as an
attraction in courtship, to exhibit to the females, and thus
gratify a deep-seated preference for the normal colour of the order
to which the Leptalides belong.

I finally left the mines September 6th, 1872, on my way to England.
I was accompanied through the forest by several of the mining
officials. Though glad to return to Europe, it was not without some
feeling of regret that I rode for the last time through the forest
where I had so often wandered during the years I had been at Santo
Domingo. The woods had become as familiar to me as home scenes. No
more should I see the white-headed ruby humming-bird come darting
down the brook, chasing away the green-throat from its
bathing-place; no more watch the flocks of many-coloured birds
hunting the insects in the forests, or admire the wonderful
instincts of the tropical ants. I listened with pleasure to the
last hoarse cries of the mot-mots, and tried to impress on my
memory the curious forms of vegetation--the palms, the gigantic
arums, the tangled lianas, and perching epiphytes.

After reaching Pital I rode rapidly over the savannahs, where the
swallows were skimming over the top of the long grass to frighten
up the insects which rested there. After another flounder across
the San Jose plains, I reached San Ubaldo without incident,
excepting a tumble with my mule in the mud. Much of the land
between Pital and the lake is well fitted for the cultivation of
maize, sugar, and plantains, and near the river at Acoyapo the soil
is very fertile. Little of it is occupied, and it is open to any
one to squat down on it and fence it in. All that is required is
that the form shall be gone through of obtaining permission from
the alcalde of the township, which is never refused. Nicaragua
offers a tempting field for the emigrant, but there are some other
considerations which should not be lost sight of. When a man finds
he can live easily without much work, that all his neighbours are
contented with the scantiest clothing, the coarsest food, and the
poorest dwellings, he is very apt to fall into the same slothful
habits. Even if he himself has innate energy enough to ward off the
insidious foe, he will see his children growing up exposed to all
the temptations to lead an easy life that a tropical climate
offers, and without any example of industry or enterprise around
them to arouse or cultivate a spirit of emulation. The consequence
is that nearly all the foreign settlers in Nicaragua from amongst
the European and North American labouring classes have fallen into
the same lazy habits as the Nicaraguans, and whenever I have been
inclined to blame the natives for their indolence, some
recollection of a fellow-countryman who has succumbed to the same
influences has arrested my harsher judgment. I cannot recommend
Nicaragua, with all its natural wealth, its perpetual summer, its
magnificent lakes, and its teeming soil, as a place of emigration
for isolated families, and even for larger schemes of colonisation
I do not think it so suitable as our own colonies and the United
States. A large body of emigrants would carry with them the
healthful influence of the good and industrious, and the spirit of
emulation and progress might be preserved if the community could be
kept together, but I fear this could not be. After a while the
tastes of one individual would lead in one, those of another in an
opposite direction. Where all were free to choose, the idle would
go away from the influences that urged them to industry, the
sensual from the restraints of morality. Many will, however, smile
at the objection I have to emigration to Nicaragua, when they
perceive that it is founded only on the ease with which people can
live in plenty there. There is one form of colonisation that will
be successful, and that is the gradual moving down southward of the
people of the United States. When the destiny of Mexico is
fulfilled, with one stride the Anglo-American will bound to the
Isthmus of Panama, and Central America will be filled with cattle
estates, and with coffee, sugar, indigo, cotton, and cacao
plantations. Railways will then keep up a healthful and continuous
intercourse with the enterprising North, and the sluggard and the
sensual will not be able to stand before the competition of the
vigorous and virtuous. Nor will the Anglo-American long be stayed
by the Isthmus in his progress southward. Unless some such
catastrophe happens as a few years ago threatened to cover North
America with standing armies as in Europe, which God forbid, not
many centuries will roll over before the English language will be
spoken from the frozen soil of the far north to Tierra del Fuego in
the south.

The fine steamer that the enterprise of Mr. Hollenbeck had placed
on the lake, and which he had named the "Elizabeth" after his
amiable wife, had been wrecked a short time before I left the
country, and Mr. Hollenbeck's own health had greatly suffered by
the labours he undertook in endeavouring to get the vessel off the
sunken rock on which it had struck. Notwithstanding this and other
misfortunes, enough to try a man's mettle to its foundation, his
native pluck carried him through all his difficulties, and he was
away to the States to get new vessels and blow another blast at
fortune's iron gates. Whilst I write these last few pages I learn
that a new steamer ploughs the lake, and that his transit service
is again in complete working order. Success attend him.

The result of the wreck of the "Elizabeth", so far as I was
concerned, was that I had to take a passage down the lake to San
Carlos in a bungo packet, so full as to necessitate closer
acquaintanceship with many amiable Nicaraguans than was agreeable
to my insular prejudices. When in the middle of the night an old
woman tried to roll me off the soft plank I had found for myself
into a litter of crying babies, I indulged in some bitter
reflections on the race, that, I am happy to say, were as
transitory as the inconvenience to which I was put. At San Carlos
we changed to the river steamer under my old friend Captain
Birdsall. As I have already described the scenery of the San Juan
in the account of my journey up, I shall not repeat the story, but
simply state that we reached Greytown on the 11th September, and on
the 16th embarked on the West Indian Mail Packet. I arrived in
England within a month, to find my native town (Newcastle)
wealthier and dirtier than ever, with thousands of furnaces
belching out smoke and poisonous gases; to find the people of
England fretting about the probable exhaustion of her coal-fields
in a few hundred years, actually dreading the time when she will no
longer be the smithy of the world, but the centre of the science,
philosophy, literature, and art of the Anglo-Saxon race--that race
whose sons all over the globe will then look up to her with loving
reverence as the mother of nations, the coloniser of the world, the
pioneer of freedom, progress, and morality.





Achras sapota.


Acrocinus longimanus.



Aguasco, R.


Airey, Sir George.



Alluvial deposits, gold.


Amalgamation process.

America, western side of tropical, food of people.

American race, derivation of.

Amerrique range, the.


Amusements, Nicaraguan.


Andagoya, Pascual de.
  his account of Nicaragua.
  on chicha-drinking.

Aneimea hirsuta.

Angelot, M.
  on fused rock.

Angraecum sesquipedale.


Antigonon leptopus.

Antiquities. Indian.

Antonio, San, lode.

Antonio, San, Valley.


Ants, army.
  assisting each other.
  attending leaf hoppers.
  attending scale insects.
  ant bridge.
  communicate by scent.
  inhabiting bullshorn thorn.
  leaf cutters.
  reason in.
  sagacity of.






Artificial selection.

Artigua, R.





Auriferous quartz.
  veins of, in Queensland.

  hot winds in.
  wasps in.
  whirlwinds in.

Avila, Gil Gonzales de.


  ancient Mexican.


Baldwin, Mr. J.D.

Bamboo thickets.


Baptism, a pre-christian rite.

Bates, Mr. H.W.
  on instinct in wasps.
  on life under the equator.
  on the Longicorn Coleoptera of Chontales.
  on mimetic forms.
  on mimetic resemblances.
  on social birds.
  on wings of Morphos.


Beak of birds.


  habits of.
  the harlequin.
  killing bug.
  on Pena Blanca.


Benito, San. lode.

Bermudez, Don Dolores.

  accompanying an army of ants.
  fertilising flowers.
  rejecting Heliconii.


Bland, Mr., on the distribution of land shells in the West Indies.

Blewfields, R.

Boulder clay.

Boundary question between Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

Bourbourg, Brasseur de, Abbe, on the Teo Amoxtli.

Brazil, migratory butterflies of.



Bruce, on whirlwinds in Africa.


Bugs. injecting poisonous fluid.

Bullock, Mr. W., on the use of rattles in Mexico.

Bull's-horn thorn.
  wasps attending glands of.



Burial customs of the ancient Indians.

  instinct of.
  migrations of.
  in Rio Plata.
  in Patagonia.
  Mr. Darwin on.
  Mr. R. Spruce on.



Cactuses. tree.

Californian pitcher-plant.


Calliste larvata.

Calopteron basilis.

Canal, interoceanic.

Candelera, El.

Candolle, Alphonse de, on fresh-water productions.

Canis caraibicus (Lesson).
  ingae (Tschudi).


Captive Indians.


Carbolic acid.

Carca Indians.

Caribbean Sea, carving on rocks on the banks.

  food of the.

Carlos, San.


  capture of by Nelson.

Castilloa elastica.


Catlin, G.
  on traditions of the deluge among the American Indians.
  "Lifted and Subsided Rocks in America" by.


Cebus albifrons.



Cedrela odorata.

Celeus castaneus.



Central America.
  States of, absence of patriotism in.
  civil war.
  tyrannical oligarchies.

Centrurus pucherani.




Children, great numbers of.

Childs, Colonel, O.W., survey for canal.



Chirosciphia lineata.

Chlorophanes guatemalensis.

Chocoyo, R.


Chontales, birds of.
  derived from chontali.
  Mining Co.

Chontales and Costa Rica, connection of forest forms.



Cinerary urns.

Citron trees.

Citrus aurantium.

Clarke, Mr. Hyde.

Claro, Santa.


  on the Xoloitzcuintli.

  of Nicaragua.
  San Domingo.



Cockatoo of Australia.




  Cocos butyracea.



Colorado, R.

Colour, differences in, correlated with immunity from disease.

Columbus, Christopher.






  festival of.

Congo monkeys.

Consuelo lode.

Coremia hirtipes.

Corrosive sublimate.


Cosmisoma Titania (Bates).

Couvade, the custom of the.



Crantor, on the Island Atlantis.

Crax globicera.



  the sign of.

Cuapo, rock of.



Cyanocitta melanocyanea.


  origin of.
  West Indian.

Cyrtodeira Chontalensis.

Daintree's, Mr. R., "Notes on the Geology of Queensland".


Darlingtonia californica.

Darwin, "Descent of Man".

Darwin on animals and plants.
  on the effects of slight differences of colour.
  on fertilisation of scarlet runner.
  on fossil maize in Peru.
  on fresh-water mollusks.
  on the bumble bee.
  on the migration of butterflies.

Darwin on natives of Terra del Fuego.


Degeneration of the inhabitants of Central America.

Deliathis nivea (Bates).

valley of.

Desmiphora fasciculata.


Diaz de Castello on the use of cement by the Indians.

Dicoteles tajacu.

Digitalis purpurea.

Diodorus Siculus.

Diorytic intrusive rocks.

Diphyrama singularis (Bates).



Domingo, Santo.
  commissioner's house at.
  mines at.
  rain at.
  watershed at.
  Quebrada de.

Dove, M., on origin of cyclones.

Dragon flies.


Duncan, Professor, on the submergence of Isthmus of Darien
   in Miocene times.

Du Tertre.


Eagle, monkey-eating.

Easter Island.

Eciton hamata.


Egrets, white.




"Elizabeth", steamer.


Elvan dykes.


Epidemic among insects.
  wasps in Great Britain.





Essequibo, carved rocks of.

Estely, the.

Eumonota superciliaris.

Evander nobilis (Bates).

Fairbairn, Mr.






Fig trees.


Fissure veins.

Floating plants.


Florisuga Mellivora, Linn.


Forbes, Mr. David, on auriferous quartz veins.

Forest of the Atlantic slope.

"Forest region, limit of the".
  effect of cultivation on the.


Foxglove, fertilisation of.

Franklin on whirlwind in Maryland.

Fresh-water animals.

on Pena Blanca.

Gage, Thomas, on the Indians' respect for their priest.


Glacial beds.


  distribution of, in quartz veins.

Gosse, P., on grassquit of Jamaica.

Gourd-shaped pottery.

Gracias a Dios, C.

  courts of law at.

Granitic intrusive rocks.


Green, Dr.



  trade of.
  salubrity of, due to its flatness.


Guatuse, the.

Guatuses, Indians.

Guava jelly.

Guayava trees.

Guinea grass.


Guzman, Senor Fernando.


Harlequin beetle.

Hartt, Professor, on glacial drift in South America.

  crab eating.


Heer, Professor, on the Miocene flora.




Heliomaster pallidiceps (Gould).

Heliothrix barroti.


Herrana purpurea.


Hewitson, Mr. W.C.


Hollenbeck, Mr.



Horse fly.



  on hairless dogs.
  on origin of the Mexican and Eastern Asiatics.
  on origin of whirlwinds.

  abundance of.
  nests of.
  rapidity of flight.
  fertilising flowers.
  tongue of.



Hypoclinea sp.


Ice, influence of, in volcanic eruptions.


Icterus pectoralis, Wagl.


  cooking vessels.
  love of flowers.
  names of towns.

  origin of.
  wholesale baptism of, by Spanish.



Insectivorous birds.

Insect life at night.

  instinct of.

Interoceanic canal.

Ixodes bovis.




Jatropha Manihot.

Javali lode.


  valley of.

Jose, San.

Juan, San, R.
  Del Norte.
  bar of.
  delta of.


Kidney beans.


Kingsley, Canon.
  account of volcanic eruption of St. Vincent.
  on the dry land connecting the Islands of the West Indies.

Kotzebue's voyage round the world.

Lacandones of Guatemala.





Las Lajas.

Laurentian rock.

Lenca Indians.



Leucopternis ghiesbreghti.


  rain at.

Lime trees.



Lodes, deterioration in depth of.
  direction of.


Longicorn beetles.





Maceio, subject to fevers.



McCrae, Colonel.

Madeira peaks.


  cultivation of.
  food of the people of North-East Brazil.
  of Mexico.
  of British Guiana.
  of the Caribs.
  stone grinders.

Malacatoyo, R.

Malayan dialects.

Mallocera Spinicollis.




Manihot aipim.

Mantos, origin of.

Marcgravia nepenthoides.

  lake of.
  volcano of.
  strata at.
  origin of strata at.

Masaya Indians, women.


Maury, Professor T.B., on origin of cyclones.

  of Yucatan.

  pouches in.



Mestayer, Monsieur.



  maize in.
  food of people of.



Mico, R.

Microchera parvirostris.

Microscopical cavities in rocks.

Miguelito, San.

  Domingo, Santo.
  El Coquimba.


Mocoim, the.

Momotus Martii.

Monedula surinamensis (Fabr.).

  sagacity of.
  speech of.




Morren, Dr., of Liege.



Moss insect.


  tails of.

  bitten by spiders.
  sagacity of.

Murderers, punishment of, in Nicaragua.

Muscovy ducks.


Mycetes Palliatus.




  of natural features of a country important in an inquiry as to
    the original inhabitants.
  of places corrupted.



Nasua fasca.




Neuwied, Prince Maximilian, on nest of Tody.

  bird fauna of.
  civil war in.
  conquest of by Spaniards.
  division of into three zones.
  emigration to.
  insects of.

Nicaragua, name of chief.

Nicaraguans, hospitality of.
  and Mexicans closely related.

Nicaraguan judges.

Nicoya, Gulf of.








Ometepec, Island of.




Orange trees.

  on rock of Cuapo.
  on Pena Blanca.

Orinoco, carved rocks of.










Para grass.



Passiflora quadrangularis.

Passion flower.

Paton, Mr.







Pena Blanca.
  ascent of.
  rocks of.
  precipice of.


Pentatoma punicea.

Pernambuco, healthiness of.

Peroxide of iron.

Peru, maize found in raised beaches and tombs.

Petasophora delphinae.


Phaethornis longirostris.


Phaseolus multiflorus.


Pheidole sp.

  tail of.

Phoenicothraupis fusicauda.


Pigeons, wild.

Pigs, wild, or wari.

Pine apples.

Pinuela, the.

Pinus tenuifolia.

Pionia lycoides.






Plantain trees.

Plant lice.


Pliocene period.

Plough, Nicaraguan.

Polistes carnifex.

Polybia occidentalis.

Polyrhaphis Fabricii, Thom.

Port Just, veins of granite and quartz at.


  ancient Indian.
  gourd shaped.


Prionyrhynchus carinatus.

Pseudomyrma bicolor (Guer.).


Puerta, La.








Rafael, San.

Ramphastus tocard.


Reeve, Mr. Lovell, on Mollusks.

Rhamphocoelus passerinii.

Rio Frio.
  Indians of.

  Plata, migration of butterflies.

Rivers, names of.

Rosa Villosa.


Rose, glands on.

Salto, El.

Salvin, Mr. Osbert.

Sanate, the.


San Sebastian.

Santarem, wasps at.


Savallo, R.


Scarlet runner.


Sclater, Dr., on the species of Crax.



Seemann, Mr.

  townships of.

Selection, artificial and natural, difference between.

Seripiqui, R.


  of the Caribbean prov.
  of the Panamic.



Simpson, Dr. J.H.



Solenopsis sp.


Sorby, Mr. H.C., on microscopic cavities in quartz.

Spaniards, invasion of Nicaragua by.
  cruelties practised by.

Spermophila olivacea.

Spider monkeys.


Spiniger luteicornis (Walk.).

Squiers, Mr.
  the Lenca Indians.

Steamboats on San Juan.
  Lake of Nicaragua.

Still, native.

  maize grinders.

Stove, Indian.




Sugar-loaf hills.

Sulphide of.


Sweet potatoes.



Taeniotes scalaris.

Talcose schists.



Termites, or white ants.

Thaloc, the god of rain.

Thalurania venusta.


Theopompus, on a large island outside of Europe, Asia, and Africa.







  the cultivation of maize.




  beak of.


Trappean dykes.

Trap rocks.

Trogon atricollis.
  females, dull coloured.


Tschudi, on indigenous dogs of tropical America.

Tylor, Mr. Alfred.
  on the reduction of the level of the sea.

Tyler, E.B.
  on the couvade.
  his "Early History of Mankind".
  on whirlwinds in Mexico.

Ubaldo, San.




Urania leilus.



Vanilla planifolia.

Velasquez, Don Francisco.



Viena paraca.

Virgin Islands.
  carved rocks of.

  San Miguel.
  St. Vincent.


Wallace, Mr. A.R.
  on Angraecum sesquipedale.
  on brightly coloured caterpillars.
  on the faunas of the Malay archipelago.

War, not always a curse.

  attending leaf-hoppers.
  hunting for spiders.
  killing caterpillars.
  nests of.
  taking note of place to which they wish to return.

Water-beetles, bearing plants.

Waterfall near San Domingo.
  of El Salto.

Westwood, Professor, on nests of mygale.

  origin of.


Wolves, or Coyotes.

  chased by ants.

  tongue of.

Xilomen, feast of.




Yucatan, the cross in.



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