NEARING the city, Bolívar halted to change his clothes. Many people had already come out miles along the road to greet him. He took off his worn, sun- bleached uniform and put on a new one, gleaming white and blue, heavy with gold. Then he remounted--not upon the tough mule that had served him in mountain marches, but on a white Arab stallion. He rode toward the city of his birth and behind him marched the wan and tattered young veterans of New Granada with the battle flags of Spanish battalions fluttering from their bayonets.
At the little bridge over the Guaire there was an arch of flowers and under the arch was a great press of people. A committee of citizens stood waiting; with them were twelve girls dressed in white and garlanded with flowers. There was a small two-wheeled cart, a sort of chariot, hung with laurel and palm and decorated with eagles painted in gilt. When Bolívar reached the bridge a spokesman for the committee addressed him in extravagant words and bade him step into the chariot. Then, at a signal, the twelve maidens took up a silken rope and drew the hero into the city. Simultaneously the whole valley burst into an uproar. Cannon thundered from the forts, the church bells clamored, the bands struck up, the people screamed in wild acclaim.
The procession moved along the narrow climbing streets toward the plaza, the chariot at the head, the long column of troops, on foot and mounted, behind. People crowded the roof-tops and balconies. Roses, hibiscus, ole