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I had a great deal to tell you, but we have just received copies of the Panama Star and have read of the trolley riots in Brooklyn, a crisis in France, War in the Balkans, a revolution in Honolulu and another in Colombia. The result is that we feel we are not in it and we are all kicking and growling and abusing our luck. How Claiborne and Russell will delight over us and in telling how the militia fired on the strikers and how Troop A fought nobly. Never mind our turn will come someday and we may see something yet. We have had the deuce of a time since we left Tegucigalpa. Now we are in a land where there are bull hide beds and canvas cots instead of hammocks and ice and railroads and direct communication with steamship lines. Hereafter all will be merely a matter of waiting until the boat sails or the train starts and the uncertainties of mules and cat boats are at an end. It is hard to explain about our difficulties after we left Tegucigalpa but they were many. We gave up our idea of riding here direct because they assured us we could get a steam launch from Amapala to Corinto so we rode three days to San Lorenzo on the Pacific side and took an open boat from there to Amapala. It was rowed by four men who walked up a notched log and then fell back dragging the sweeps back, with the weight of their bodies.
It was a moonlight night and they looked very picturesque rising and sinking back and outlined against the sky. They were naked to the waist and rowed all night and I had a good chance to see them as I had to lie on the bottom of the boat on three mahogany logs. By ten the next day we were too cramped to stand it, so we put ashore on a deserted island and played Robinson Crusoe. We had two biscuits and a box of sardines among five of us but we found oysters on the rocks and knocked a lot off with clubs and stones and the butts of our guns. They were very good. We also had a bath until a fish ran into me about three feet long and cut two gashes in my leg. We reached Amapala about four in the afternoon. It was an awful place; dirt and filth and no room to move about, so we chartered an open boat to sail or row to Corinto sixty miles distant. You see, we could not go back to Tegucigalpa until the steamer arrived which is to take us South of Panama and we could not go to Manaqua either and for the same reason that we had sent back our mule train and we would not wait in Amapala partly because of fever which had been there and partly because we wanted to get to Corinto where they have ice and to see Manaqua. The boat was about as long as the Vagabond and twice as deep and a foot or two more across her beam. There were four of us, five of the crew and two natives who wanted to make the trip and who we took with us. It was pretty awful. The old tub rocked like a milk shake and I was never so ill in my life, we all lay packed together on the ribs of the boat and could not move and the waves splashed over us but we were too ill to care. The next day the sun beat in on us and roasted us like an open furnace. The boat was a pit of heat and outside the swell of the Pacific rose and fell and reflected the sun like copper. We reached Corinto in about twenty four hours and I was never so glad to get any place before. The town turned out to greet us and some Englishmen ran to ask from what boat we had been ship wrecked. They would not believe we had taken the trip for any other reason. They helped us very kindly and would not let us drink all the iced water we wanted and sent us in to bathe in a place surrounded by piles to keep out the sharks and by a roof to shelter one from the sun. Corinto proved to be all that Amapala was not; clean, cool with very excellent food and broad beds of matting. I liked it better than any place at which we have been, we came on here the next day to see the President and found the city hot, dusty and of no interest. There is an excellent hotel however and we had a talk with the President who was a much better chap than Bonilla being older and more civilized. Of course there is absolutely no reason or excuse for us if we do not get control of this canal. If only that it would allow our ships of war to pass from Ocean to Ocean instead of going around the horn. The women are really beautiful but that has nothing to do with the canal. Tomorrow morning we return to Corinto as Somers and I like it best. Griscom would like to go on across by the route of the canal which would be a good thing were we certain of meeting a steamer at Simon or Greytown, but the Minister who went last month that way had to wait there sixteen days. So, we will probably leave Corinto on the 17th or 20th, there are two steamers, one that stops at ports and one that does not. They both arrive together. I do not know which we will take but--this letter will go with me. Up to date I think the trip will make a good story but it will have to be a personal one about the three of us for the country as it stands is uninteresting to the general reader for the reason that it DUPLICATES itself in everything. But with our photographs and a humorous story, it ought to be worth reading and I have picked enough curious things to make it of some value.
We are back here now and rid of that dusty, dirty city. You would be amused if you saw this place and tried to understand why we prefer it to any place we have seen. There is surf bathing at a half mile distant and a good hotel with a great bar where a Frenchman gives us ice and the sea captains and agents for mines and plantations in the interior gather to play billiards. Outside there are rows of handsome women with decollete gowns and shining black hair and colored silk scarfs selling fruit and down the one street which faces the bay are a double row of palms and the store where two American boys have a phonograph. They are the only Americans I have met who have or are taking a dollar out of this country. They play the guitar and banjo very well. One of them was on the Princeton glee club and their stories of how they have toured Central America are very amusing. Lots of Love.
S. S. Barracouta--Off San Juan
February 21, 1895.
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Adventures and Letters -by- Richard Harding Davis