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Title: Anahuac : or, Mexico and the Mexicans, Ancient and Modern
Author: Tylor, Edward Burnett
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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ANAHUAC

or, Mexico and the Mexicans, Ancient and Modern

by

EDWARD B. TYLOR

1861



[Illustration: Frontspiece. See page 93. THE CASCADE OF REGLA. From a
Photograph by J. Ball Esq. of the Hacienda de Regla. March 1856.]



INTRODUCTION.


The journey and excursions in Mexico which have originated the
narrative and remarks contained in this volume were made in the months
of March, April, May, and June of 1856, for the most part on horseback.
The author and his fellow-traveller enjoyed many advantageous
opportunities of studying the country, the people, and the antiquities
of Mexico, owing to the friendly assistance and hospitality which they
received there. With this aid they were enabled to accomplish much more
than usually falls to the lot of travellers in so limited a period; and
they had the great advantage too, of being able to substantiate or
correct their own observations by the local knowledge and experience of
their friends and entertainers.

Visiting Mexico during a lull in the civil turmoil of that lamentably
disturbed Republic, they were fortunate in being able to avail
themselves of that peaceable season in making excursions to remarkable
places and ruins, and examining the national collection of antiquities,
and other objects of interest,--an opportunity that cannot have
occurred since owing to the recommencement of civil war in its worst
form.

The following are some of the chief points of interest in these Notes
on Mexico, which are either new or treated more fully than hitherto:

     1.   The evidence of an immense ancient population,
          shewn by the abundance of remains of works of art
          (treated of at pages 146-150), is fully stated
          here.

     2.   The notices and drawings of Obsidian knives and
          weapons (at page 95, &c., and in the Appendix) are
          more ample than any previously given.

     3.   The treatment of the Mexican Numerals (at page 108)
          is partly new.

     4.   The proofs of the highly probable sophistication of
          the document in the Library at Paris, relative to
          Mexican eclipses, have not previously been advanced
          (see Appendix).

     5.   The notices of objects of Mexican art, &c., in the
          chapter on Antiquities, and elsewhere (including
          the Appendix), are for the most part new to the
          public.

     6.   The remarks on the connection between pure Mexican
          art and that of Central America, in the chapter on
          Xochicalco, are in great part new.

     7.   The singular native bridge at Tezcuco (page 153) is
          another novelty.

The order in which places and things were visited is shewn in the
annexed Itinerary, or sketch of the journeys and excursions described.



ITINERARY:

Journey 1.     Cuba. Havana. Batabano. Isles of Pines.
               Nueva Gerona. Baños de Santa Fé. Back to
               Havana. _Pages_ 1-14.

Journey 2.     Havana. Sisal. Vera Cruz. _Pages_ 15-18.

Journey 3.     Vera Cruz. Cordova. Orizaba. Huamantla.
               Otumba. Guadalupe. Mexico. _Pages_ 18-38.

Journey 4.     Mexico to Tacubaya and Chapultepec, and
               back. _Pages_ 55-58.

Journey 5.     Mexico to Santa Anita and back. _Pages_
               59-65.

Journey 6.     Mexico. Guadalupe. Pachuca. Real del
               Monte. Regla. Atotonilco el Grande.
               Soquital and back to Real del Monte. Real
               del Monte to Mount Jacal and Cerro de
               Navajas (obsidian-pits), and back to Real
               del Monte. Pachuca. Guadalupe. Mexico.
               _Pages_ 72-105.

Journey 7.     Mexico to Tisapán. Ravine of Magdalena.
               Pedrigal (lava-field), and back. _Pages_
               118-120.

Journey 8.     Mexico to Tezcuco. Pages 129--162.
               Tezcuco to Pyramids of Teotihuacán and
               back. Pages 136--146. Tezcuco to
               Tezcotzinco (the so-called "Montezuma's
               Bath," &c.). Aztec Bridge, and back to
               Tezcuco. _Pages_ 152-153. Tezcuco to
               Bosque del Contador (the grove of
               ahuehuetes, where excavations were made.)
               _Pages_ 154-156. Tezcuco to Mexico.
               _Page_ 62.

Journey 9.     Mexico. San Juan de Dios. La Guarda.
               Cuernavaca. Temisco. Xochicalco.
               Miacatlán. Cocoytla. _Pages_ 172-195.
               Cocoytla to village and cave of
               Cacahuamilpán and back. _Pages_ 196-205.
               Cocoytla to Chalma. Oculán. El Desierto.
               Tenancingo. Toluca. Lerma. Las Cruzes.
               Mexico. _Pages_ 214-220.

Journey 10.    Mexico to Tezcuco. Miraflores. Amecameca.
               Popocatepetl. San Nicolas de los Ranchos.
               Cholula. Puebla. Amozoque. Nopaluca. San
               Antonio de abajo. Orizaba. Amatlán. El
               Potrero. Cordova. San Andrés.
               Chalchicomula. La Junta. Jalapa. Vera
               Cruz. West Indies and Home. _Pages_ 260-
               327.



TABLE OF CONTENTS.



CHAPTER I.

     Cuba. Volantes. A Cuban Railway. Voyage. Passports. Isle of
     Pines. Mosquitos. Pirates. Runaway slaves. Baths of Santa Fé.
     Alligators. The Cura. Missionary Priest. Florida Colonists.
     Blacks in the West Indies. Chinese and African slaves.



CHAPTER II.

     Players and Political Adventurers. Voyage. Yucatan.
     Slave-trade in Natives. The Ten Tribes. Vera Cruz. Don
     Ignacio Comonfort. Mexican Politics. Casualties. The City of
     the Dead. Turkey-buzzards. Northers. The "temperate region."
     Cordova. The Chipi-chipi. The "cold region." Mirage.
     Sand-pillars. The rainy season. Plundered passengers.
     Robber-priest. Aztec remains. Aloe-fields. Houses of
     mud-bricks. Huts of aloes. Mexican churches. Mexican roads.
     Making pulque.



CHAPTER III.

     Palace-hotel of Yturbide. Site and building of Mexico.
     Changes in the Valley of Mexico. Dearth of Trees.
     Architecture. Drunkenness. Fights. Rattles. Judas's Bones.
     Burning Judas. Churches in Holy Week. Streets. Barricades.
     People. Women. The cypress of Chapultepec. Old-fashioned
     coaches. The canal of Chalco. Canoe-travelling. "Reasonable
     people." Taste for flowers. The "Floating Gardens."
     Promenade. Flooded streets. Earthquakes.



CHAPTER IV.

     Tacubaya. Humming-birds and butterflies. Aztec feather-work.
     Bullfight. Lazoing and colearing. English in Mexico. Hedge of
     organ-cactus. Pachuca. Cold in the hills. Rapid evaporation.
     Mountain-roads. Real del Monte. Guns and pistols. Regla. The
     father-confessor in Mexico. Morals of servitude. Cornish
     miners. Dram-drinking. Salt-trade. The Indian market. Indian
     Conservatism. Sardines. Account-keeping. The great Barranca.
     Tropical fruits. Prickly pears. Their use. The
     "Water-Throat." Silver-works. Volcano of Jorullo. Cascade of
     Regla. "Eyes of Water." Fires. The Hill of Knives. Obsidian
     implements. Obsidian mines. The Stone-age. The
     loadstone-mountain of Mexico. Unequal Civilization of the
     Aztecs. Silver and commerce of Mexico. Effect of
     Protection-duties. Silver mines. The Aztec numerals.



CHAPTER V.

     A Revolution. Siege and Capitulation of Puebla. Military
     Statistics. Highway-robbery. Reform in Mexico. The American
     war. Mexican army. Our Lady of Guadalupe. Miracles. The rival
     Virgins. Sacred lottery-ticket. Literature in Mexico. The
     clergy and their system of Education in Mexico. The Holy
     Office. Indian Notions of Christianity.



CHAPTER VI.

     To Tezcuco. Indian Canoes. Sewer-canal. Water-snakes.
     Salt-lakes. A storm on the lake. Glass-works. Casa Grande.
     Quarries. Stone Hammers. Use of Bronze in stone-cutting in
     Mexico and Egypt. Prickly Pears. Temple-pyramids of
     Teotihuacán. Sacrifice of Spaniards. Old Mexico. Market of
     Antiquities. Police. Bull-dogs. Accumulation of Alluvium.
     Tezcotzinco. Ancient baths and bridge. Salt and salt-pans.
     Fried flies'-eggs. Water-pipes. Irrigation. Agriculture in
     Mexico. History repeats itself.



CHAPTER VII.

     Horses and their training. Saddles and bits. The Courier.
     Leather clothes. The Serape. The Rag-fair of Mexico, Thieves.
     Gourd water-bottles. Ploughing. Travelling by Diligence.
     Indian carriers. Mules. Breakfast. Bragadoccio. Robbers.
     Escort. Cuernavaca. Tropical Vegetation. Sugar-cane. Temisco.
     Sugar-hacienda. Indian labourers. The evensong. The Raya.
     Strength of the Indians. Xochicalco. Ruins of the Pyramid.
     Sculptures. Common ornaments. The people of Mexico and
     Central America. Their civilization. Pear-shaped heads.
     Miacatlán.



CHAPTER VIII.

     Cocoyotla. Indian labourers. Political Condition of the
     Indians. Indian Village and huts. Cotton-spinning. The Indian
     Alcalde. Great Cave of Cacahuamilpán. Optical phenomenon.
     Monk on horseback. Religion of the Indians. Idols. Baptism by
     wholesale. Village amusements. Dancing. Chalma. The meson and
     the convent. Church-dances. The miller's daughter. Young
     friar. The Hill of Drums. Sacred cypress-tree. Oculan. Change
     of climate. Grain-districts of Mexico. The Desierto.
     Tenancingo. Toluca. Lerma. Robbers.



CHAPTER IX.

     Museum. Fate of Antiquities. War-God. Sacrificial Stone.
     Mexican words naturalized in Europe, &c. Chamber of Horrors.
     Aztec Art. Wooden Drums. Aztec Picture-writings. The
     "Man-flaying" Mr. Uhde's Collection. Mr. Christy's
     Collection. Bones of Giants. Cortes' Armour. Mexican
     Calendar-stone. Aztec Astronomy. Mongol Calendar.
     Peculiarities of Aztec Civilization. The Prison at Mexico. No
     "Criminal class." Prison-discipline. The Garotte. Mexican
     law-courts. Statistics. The Compadrazgo. Leperos and Lepers.
     Lazoing the bull. Cockfighting. Gambling. Monte. The
     fortunate Miners.



CHAPTER X.

     A travelling companion. Mexicans who live by their wits.
     Jackal-masks, &c. Mexican words used in the United States.
     Miraflores. Cotton-factory. Sacred Mount and Cypress-tree.
     Rainy Season. Ascent of Popocatepetl. The Crater. View of
     Anahuac. Descent from Popocatepetl. Plain of Puebla.
     Snow-blindness. Hospitable Shopkeeper. Morality of Smuggling.
     Pyramid and Antiquities of Cholula. Hybrid Legends of Mexico.
     Genuine Legends. Old-world analogies among the Aztecs.



CHAPTER XI.

     Puebla. The Pasadizos. Revolutions in Mexico. Festival of
     Corpus Christi. Mexican clergy. Their incomes and morals.
     Scourging. Religion of the People. Anomalous constitution of
     the Republic. The horse-bath. Debt-slaves or peons. Great
     fortunes in Mexico. Amozoque. Spurs. Nopalucán. Orizaba.
     Robbers. Locusts. Indian village. Inroads of Civilization.
     Lawsuits. Native Aristocracy. The vapour-bath. Scanty
     population. Its explanation. Unhealthy habits. Epidemics.
     Intemperance. Pineapples. Potrero. Negros. Mixed races.
     "Painted men."



CHAPTER XII.

     Barrancas. Indian trotting. Flowers. Armadillo. Fire-flies.
     Singular Fandango. Epiphytes. The Junta. Indian Life.
     Decorative Art. Horses. Jalapa. Anglo-Mexicans. Insect-life.
     Monte. Fate of Antonio. Scorpion. White Negress. Cattle.
     Artificial lighting. Vera Cruz. Further Journey. St.
     Thomas's. Voyage to England. Future destinies of Mexico.



APPENDIX.

  I. The Manufacture of Obsidian Knives.
 II. On the Solar Eclipses recorded in the Le Tellier MS.
III. Table of Aztec roots.
 IV. Glossary.
  V. Ancient Mexican mosaic work (in Mr. Christy's Collection).
 VI. Dasent's Essay on the Ethnographical value of Popular Tales and
       Legends.



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS:

PLATES:

  Cascade of Regla. _From a photograph by J. Bell, Esq. (To face
    title-page.)_

  Porter and Baker in Mexico.

  Indians bringing Country Produce to Market.

  Indians in a Rancho, making and baking Tortillas.

  Map to illustrate Messrs. Tylor and Christy's journeys and excursions
    In Mexico.



WOODCUTS:

  _(The cuts of smaller objects of antiquity, and articles at present
   in use, have been drawn from specimens in the Collection of Henry
   Christy, Esq.)_

  Indian Tlachiquero, collecting juice of the Agave for Pulque.

  View of Part of the Valley of Mexico.

  Water-carrier and Mexican Woman at the Fountain.

  Group of Mexican Ecclesiastics.

  Stone Spear-heads, and Obsidian Knives and Arrow-heads, from Mexico.

  Fluted Prism of Obsidian, and Knife-flakes.

  Mexican Arrow-heads of Obsidian.

  Aztec Stone-knife, with wooden handle, inlaid with mosaic work.

  Aztec Head in Terra-cotta.

  The Rebozo and the Serape.

  Aztec Bridge near Tezcuco.

  Spanish-Mexican Saddle and appendages.

  Spanish-Mexican Bit, with ring and chain.

  Sculptured Panel, from Xochicalco. _(After Nebel)_.

  Small Aztec Head in Terra-cotta.

  Ixtacalco Church.

  Spanish-Mexican Spurs.

  Goddess of War. _(After Nebel)_.

  Three Views of a Sacrificial Collar or Clamp, carved out of hard
    stone.

  Two Views of a Mask, carved out of hard stone.

  Ancient Bronze Bells.

  Spanish-Mexican Cock-spurs.

  Leather Sandals.

  Mexican Costumes. _(After Nebel)_.

  View of Orizaba.

  Indians of the Plateau. _(After Nebel)_.



[Illustration: MAP OF PART OF MEXICO TO ILLUSTRATE A JOURNEY FROM VERA
CRUZ TO MEXICO AND BACK & EXCURSIONS IN THE COUNTRY, By Messrs. E.B.
Tylor and H. Cristy.]



CHAPTER I.



THE ISLE OF PINES.

In the spring of 1856, I met with Mr. Christy accidentally in an
omnibus at Havana. He had been in Cuba for some months, leading an
adventurous life, visiting sugar-plantations, copper-mines, and
coffee-estates, descending into caves, and botanizing in tropical
jungles, cruising for a fortnight in an open boat among the
coral-reefs, hunting turtles and manatis, and visiting all sorts of
people from whom information was to be had, from foreign consuls and
Lazarist missionaries down to retired slave-dealers and assassins.

As for myself, I had been travelling for the best part of a year in the
United States, and had but a short time since left the live-oak forests
and sugar-plantations of Louisiana. We agreed to go to Mexico together;
and the present notes are principally compiled from our
memorandum-books, and from letters written home on our journey.

Before we left Cuba, however, we made one last excursion across the
island, and to the _Isla de Pinos_--the Isle of Pines--off the southern
coast. A volante took us to the railway-station. The volante is the
vehicle which the Cubans specially affect; it is like a Hansom cab, but
the wheels are much taller, six and a half feet high, and the black
driver sits postillion-wise upon the horse. Our man had a laced jacket,
black leather leggings, and a pair of silver spurs fastened upon his
bare feet, which seemed at a little distance to have well polished
boots on, they were so black and shiny.

The railway which took us from Havana to Batabano had some striking
peculiarities. For a part of the way the track passed between two walls
of tropical jungle. The Indian fig trees sent down from every branch
suckers, like smooth strings, which rooted themselves in the ground to
draw up more water. Acacias and mimosas, the seiba and the mahagua,
with other hard-wood trees innumerable, crowded close to one another;
while epiphytes perched on every branch, and creepers bound the whole
forest into a compact mass of vegetation, through which no bird could
fly. We could catch the strings of convolvulus with our walking-sticks,
as the train passed through the jungle. Sometimes we came upon a swamp,
where clusters of bamboos were growing, crowned with tufts of pointed
leaves; or had a glimpse for a moment of a group of royal palms upon
the rising ground.

We passed sugar-plantations with their wide cane-fields, the
sugar-houses with tall chimneys, and the balconied house of the
administrador, keeping a sharp look out over the village of
negro-cabins, arranged in double lines.

In the houses near the stations where we stopped, cigar-making seemed
to be the universal occupation. Men, women, and children were sitting
round tables hard at work. It made us laugh to see the black men
rolling up cigars upon the hollow of their thighs, which nature has
fashioned into a curve exactly suited to this process.

At Batabano the steamer was waiting at the pier, and our passports and
ourselves were carefully examined by the captain, for Cuba is the
paradise of passport offices, and one cannot stir without a visa. For
once everybody was _en règle_, and we had no such scene as my companion
had witnessed a few days before.

If you are a married man resident in Cuba, you cannot get a passport to
go to the next town without your wife's permission in writing. Now it
so happened that a respectable brazier, who lived at Santiago de Cuba,
wanted to go to Trinidad. His wife would not consent; so he either got
her signature by stratagem, or, what is more likely, gave somebody
something to get him a passport under false pretences.

At any rate he was safe on board the steamer, when a middle-aged
female, well dressed, but evidently arrayed in haste, and with a face
crimson with hard running, came panting down to the steamer, and rushed
on board. Seizing upon the captain, she pointed out her husband, who
had taken refuge behind the other passengers at a respectful distance;
she declared that she had never consented to his going away, and
demanded that his body should be instantly delivered up to her. The
husband was appealed to, but preferred staying where he was. The
captain produced the passport, perfectly _en règle_, and the lady made
a rush at the document, which was torn in half in the scuffle. All
other means failing, she made a sudden dash at her husband, probably
intending to carry him off by main force. He ran for his life, and
there was a steeplechase round the deck, among benches, bales, and
coils of rope; while the passengers and the crew cheered first one and
then the other, till they could not speak for laughing. The husband was
all but caught once; but a benevolent passenger kicked a camp-stool in
the lady's way, and he got a fresh start, which he utilized by climbing
up the ladder to the paddle-box. His wife tried to follow him, but the
shouts of laughter which the black men raised at seeing her
performances were too much for her, and she came down again. Here the
captain interposed, and put her ashore, where she stood like black-eyed
Susan till the vessel was far from the wharf, not waving her lily hand,
however, but shaking her clenched fist in the direction of the
fugitive.

To return to our voyage to the Isle of Pines.--All the afternoon the
steamer threaded her way cautiously among the coral-reefs which rose
almost to the surface. Sometimes there seemed scarcely room to pass
between them, and by night navigation would have been impossible. We
were just in the place where Columbus and his companions arrived on
their expedition along the Cuban coast, to find out what countries lay
beyond. They sailed by day, and lay to at night, till their patience
was worn out. Another day or two of sailing would have brought them to
where the coast trends northwards; but they turned back, and Columbus
died in the belief that Cuba was the eastern extremity of the continent
of Asia.

The Spaniards call these reefs "cayos," and we have altered the name to
"keys," such as _Key West_ in Florida, and _Ambergris Key_ off Belize.

It was after sunset, and the phosphorescent animals were making the sea
glitter like molten metal, when we reached the Isle of Pines, and
steamed slowly up the river, among the mangroves that fringe the banks,
to the village of Nueva Gerona, the port of the island. It consisted of
two rows of houses thatched with palm-leaves, and surrounded by wide
verandahs; and between them a street of unmitigated mud.

As we walked through the place in the dusk, we could dimly discern the
inhabitants sitting in their thatched verandahs, in the thinnest of
white dresses, gossipping, smoking, and love-making, tinkling guitars,
and singing seguidillas. It was quite a Spanish American scene out of a
romance. There was no romance about the mosquitos, however. The air was
alive with them. When I was new to Cuba, I used to go to bed in the
European fashion; and as the beds were all six inches too short, my
feet used to find their way out in the night, and the mosquitos came
down and sat upon them. Experience taught us that it was better to lie
down half-dressed, so that only our faces and hands were exposed to
their attacks.

The Isle of Pines used to be the favourite resort of the pirates of the
Spanish main; indeed there were no other inhabitants. The creeks and
rivers being lined with the densest vegetation, a few yards up the
winding course of such a creek, they were lost in the forest, and a
cruiser might pass within a few yards of their lurking-place, and see
no traces of them. Captain Kyd often came here, and stories of his
buried treasures are still told among the inhabitants. Now the island
serves a double purpose; it is a place of resort for the Cubans, who
come to rusticate and bathe, and it serves as a settlement for those
free black inhabitants of Florida who chose to leave that country when
it was given up to the United States. One of these Floridanos
accompanied us as our guide next day to the Baños de Santa Fé.

When we left the village we passed near the mangrove trees, which were
growing not only near the water but in it, and like to spread their
roots among the thick black slime which accumulates so fast in this
country of rapid vegetable growth, and as rapid decomposition. In Cuba,
the mangoe is the abomination of the planters, for they supply the
runaway slaves with food, upon which they have been known to subsist
for months, whilst the mangroves give them shelter. A little further
inland we found the guava, a thick-spreading tree, with smooth green
leaves. From its fruit is made guava-jelly, but as yet it was not ripe
enough to eat.

In the middle of the island we came upon marble-quarries. They are
hardly worked now; but when they were first established, a number of
emancipados were employed there. What emancipados are, it is worth
while to explain. They are Africans taken from captured slavers, and
are set to work under government inspection for a limited number of
years, on a footing something like that of the apprentices in Jamaica,
in the interregnum between slavery and emancipation. In Cuba it is
remarked that the mortality among the emancipados is frightful. They
seldom outlive their years of probation. The explanation of this piece
of statistics is curious. The fact is that every now and then, when an
old man dies, they bury him as one of the emancipados, whose register
is sent in to the Government as dead; while the negro himself goes to
work as a slave in some out-of-the-way plantation where no tales are
told.

We left the marble-quarries, and rode for miles over a wide savannah.
The soil was loose and sandy and full of flakes of mica, and in the
watercourses were fragments of granite, brought down from the hills.
Here flourished palm trees and palmettos, acacias, mimosas, and
cactuses, while the mangoe and the guava tree preferred the damper
patches nearer to the coast. The hills were covered with the pine-trees
from which the island has its name; and on the rising ground at their
base we saw the strange spectacle of palms and fir trees growing side
by side.

Where we came upon a stream, the change in the vegetation was
astonishing. It was a sudden transition from an English, plantation of
fir trees into the jungle of the tropics, full of Indian figs, palms,
lancewood, and great mahagua[1] trees, all knotted together by endless
creepers and parasites; while the parrots kept up a continual
chattering and screaming in the tree-tops. The moment we left the
narrow strip of tropical forest that lined the stream we were in the
pine wood. Here the first two or three feet of the trunks of the pine
trees were scorched and blackened by the flames of the tall dry
savannah-grass, which grows close round them, and catches fire several
times every year. Through the pine forest the conflagration spreads
unobstructed, as in an American prairie; but it only runs along the
edge of the dense river-vegetation, which it cannot penetrate.

The Baños de Santa Fé are situated in a cleared space among the fir
trees. The baths themselves are nothing but a cavity in the rock, into
which a stream, at a temperature of about 80°, continually flows. A
partition in the middle divides the ladies from the gentlemen, but
allows them to continue their conversation while they sit and splash in
their respective compartments.

The houses are even more quaint than the bathing-establishment. The
whole settlement consists of a square field surrounded by little
houses, each with its roof of palm leaves and indispensable verandah.
Here the Cubans come to stay for months, bathing, smoking cigarettes,
flirting, gossiping, playing cards, and strumming guitars; and they
seemed to be all agreed on one point, that it was a delightful
existence. We left them to their tranquil enjoyments, and rode back to
Nueva Gerona.

Next morning we borrowed a gun from the engineer of the steamboat, and
I bought some powder and shot at a shop where they kept two young
alligators under the counter for the children to play with. The creeks
and lagoons of the island are full of them, and the negroes told us
that in a certain lake not far off there lived no less a personage than
"the crocodile king"--"_el rey de los crocodilos_;" but we had no time
to pay his majesty a visit. Two of the Floridan negroes rowed us up the
river. Even at some distance from the mouth, sting-rays and jelly-fish
were floating about. As we rowed upwards, the banks were overhung with
the densest vegetation. There were mahogany trees with their curious
lop-sided leaves, the copal-plant with its green egg-like fruit, from
which copal oozes when it is cut, like opium from a poppy-head, palms
with clusters of oily nuts, palmettos, and guavas. When a palm-tree on
the river-bank would not grow freely for the crowding of other trees,
it would strike out in a slanting direction till it reached the clear
space above the river, and then shoot straight upwards with its crown
of leaves.

We shot a hawk and a woodpecker, and took them home; but, not many
minutes after we had laid them on the tiled floor of our room, we
became aware that we were invaded. The ants were upon us. They were
coming by thousands in a regular line of march up our window-sill and
down again inside, straight towards the birds. When we looked out of
the window, there was a black stripe lying across the court-yard on the
flags, a whole army of them coming. We saw it was impossible to get the
skins of the birds, so threw them out of the window, and the advanced
guard faced about and followed them.

On the sand in front of the village the Castor-oil plant flourished,
the _Palma Christi_; its little nuts were ripe, and tasted so innocent
that, undeterred by the example of the boy in the Swiss Family
Robinson, I ate several, and was handsomely punished for it. In the
evening I recounted my ill-advised experiment to the white-jacketed
loungers in the verandah of the inn, and was assured that I must have
eaten an odd number! The second nut, they told me with much gravity,
counteracts the first, the fourth neutralizes the third, and so on ad
infinitum.

We made two clerical acquaintances in the Isle of Pines. One was the
Cura of New Gerona, and his parentage was the only thing remarkable
about him. He was not merely the son of a priest, but his grandfather
was a priest also.

The other was a middle-aged ecclesiastic, with a pleasant face and an
unfailing supply of good-humoured fun. Everybody seemed to get
acquainted with him directly, and to become quite confidential after
the first half-hour; and a drove of young men followed him about
everywhere. His reverence kept up the ball of conversation continually,
and showed considerable skill in amusing his auditors and drawing them
out in their turn. It is true the jokes which passed seemed to us mild,
but they appeared to suit the public exactly; and indeed, the Padre was
quite capable of providing better ones when there was a market for
them.

We found that though a Spaniard by birth, he had been brought up at the
Lazarist College in Paris, which we know as the training-school of the
French missionaries in China; and we soon made friends with him, as
everyone else did. A day or two afterwards we went to see him in
Havana, and found him hard at his work, which was the superintendence
of several of the charitable institutions of the city--the Foundling
Hospital, the Lunatic Asylum, and others. His life was one of incessant
labour, and indeed people said he was killing himself with over-work,
but he seemed always in the same state of chronic hilarity; and when he
took us to see the hospitals, the children and patients received him
with demonstrations of great delight.

I should not have said so much of our friend the Padre, were it not
that I think there is a moral to be got out of him. I believe he may be
taken as a type, not indeed of Roman Catholic missionaries in general,
but of a certain class among them, who are of considerable importance
in the missionary world, though there are not many of them. Taking the
Padre as a sample of his class, as I think we may--judging from the
accounts of them we meet with in books, it is curious to notice, how
the point in which their system is strongest is just that in which the
Protestant system is weakest, that is, in social training and
deportment. What a number of men go to India with the best intentions,
and set to work at once, flinging their doctrines at the natives before
they have learnt in the least to understand what the said natives'
minds are like, or how they work,--dropping at once upon their pet
prejudices, mortally offending them as a preliminary step towards
arguing with them; and in short, stroking the cat of society backwards
in the most conscientious manner. By the time they have accomplished
this satisfactory result, a man like our Cuban Padre, though he may
have argued but little and preached even less, would have a hundred
natives bound to him by strong personal attachment, and ready to accept
anything from him in the way of teaching.

We paid a regular round of visits to the Floridan settlers, and were
delighted with their pleasant simple ways. It is not much more than
thirty years since they left Florida, and many of the children born
since have learnt to speak English. The patches of cultivated land
round their cottages produce, with but little labour, enough vegetables
for their subsistence, and to sell, procuring clothing and such
luxuries as they care for. They seemed to live happily among
themselves, and to govern their little colony after the manner of the
Patriarchs.

Whether any social condition can be better for the black inhabitants of
the West Indies, than that of these settlers, I very much doubt. They
are not a hard-working people, it is true; but hard work in the climate
of the tropics is unnatural, and can only be brought about by unnatural
means. That they are not sunk in utter laziness one can see by their
neat cottages and trim gardens. Their state does not correspond with
the idea of prosperity of the political economist, who would have them
work hard to produce sugar, rum, and tobacco, that they might earn
money to spend in crockery and Manchester goods; but it is suited to
the race and to the climate. If we measure prosperity by the enjoyment
of life, their condition is an enviable one.

I think no unprejudiced observer can visit the West Indies without
seeing the absurdity of expecting the free blacks to work like slaves,
as though any inducement but the strongest necessity would ever bring
it about. There are only two causes which can possibly make the blacks
industrious, in our sense of the word,--slavery, or a population so
crowded as to make labour necessary to supply their wants.

In one house in the Floridan colony we found a _ménage_ which was
surprising to me, after my experience of the United States. The father
of the family was a white man, a Spaniard, and his wife a black woman.
They received us with the greatest hospitality, and we sat in the porch
for a long time, talking to the family. One or two of the mulatto
daughters were very handsome; and there were some visitors, young white
men from the neighbouring village, who were apparently come to pay
their devoirs to the young ladies. Such marriages are not uncommon in
Cuba; and the climate of the island is not unfavourable for the mixed
negro and European race, while to the pure whites it is deadly. The
Creoles of the country are a poor degenerate race, and die out in the
fourth generation. It is only by intermarriage with Europeans, and
continual supplies of emigrants from Europe, that the white population
is kept up.

On the morning of our departure we climbed a high lull of limestone,
covered in places with patches of a limestone-breccia, cemented with
sandstone, and filling the cavities in the rock. All over the hill we
found doubly refracting Iceland-spar in quantities. Euphorbias, in
Europe mere shrubs, were here smooth-limbed trees, with large flowers.
From the top of the hill, the character of the savannahs was well
displayed. Every water-course could be traced by its narrow line of
deep green forest, contrasting with the scantier vegetation of the rest
of the plain.

As we steamed out of the river, rows of brilliant red flamingos were
standing in the shallow water, fishing, and here and there a pelican
with his ungainly beak. Our Chinese crew were having their meal of rice
when we walked forward, and the national chopsticks were hard at work.
We talked to several of them. They could all speak a little Spanish,
and were very intelligent.

The history of these Chinese emigrants is a curious one. Agents in
China persuade them to come out, and they sign a contract to work for
eight years, receiving from three to five dollars a month, with their
food and clothing. The sum seems a fortune to them; but, when they come
to Cuba, they find to their cost that the value of money must be
estimated by what it will buy. They find that the value of a black
labourer is thirty dollars a month, and they have practically sold
themselves for slaves; for there is no one to prevent the masters who
have bought the contract for their work from treating them in all
respects as slaves. The value of such a contract--that is, of the
Chinaman himself, was from £30 to £40 when we were in the island.
Fortunately for them, they cannot bear the severe plantation-work. Some
die after a few days of such labour and exposure, and many more kill
themselves; and the utter indifference with which they commit suicide,
as soon as life seems not worth having, contributes to moderate the
exactions of their masters. A friend of ours in Cuba had a Chinese
servant who was impertinent one day, and his master turned him out of
the room, dismissing him with a kick. The other servants woke their
master early next morning, with the intelligence that the Chinese had
killed himself in the night, to expiate the insult he had received.

Of African slaves brought into the island, the yearly number is about
15,000. All the details of the trade are matter of general notoriety,
even to the exact sum paid to each official as hush-money. It costs a
hundred dollars for each negro, they say, of which a gold ounce (about
£3 16s.) is the share of the Captain-general. To this must be added the
cost of the slave in Africa, and the expense of the voyage; but when
the slave is once fairly on a plantation he is worth eight hundred
dollars; so it may be understood how profitable the trade still is, if
only one slaver out of three gets through.

The island itself with its creeks and mangrove-trees is most favourable
for their landing, if they can once make the shore; and the Spanish
cruisers will not catch them if they can help it. If a British cruiser
captures them, the negroes are made emancipados in the way I have
already explained.

Hardly any country in the world is so thoroughly in a false position as
England in her endeavours to keep down the Cuban slave-trade, with the
nominal concurrence of the Spanish government, and the real vigorous
opposition of every Spaniard on the island, from the Captain-General
downwards. Even the most superficial observer who lands for an hour or
two in Havana, while his steamer is taking in coals, can have evidence
of the slave-trade brought before his eyes in the tattooed faces of
native Africans, young and middle-aged, in the streets and markets;
just as he can guess, from the scored backs of the negroes, what sort
of discipline is kept up among them.

We slept on board the steamboat off the pier of Batabano, and the
railway took us back to Havana next morning.



CHAPTER II.



HAVANA TO VERA CRUZ--VERA CRUZ TO MEXICO.

On the 8th of March, we went on board the "Méjico" steamer,
American-built, and retaining her American engineers, but in other
respects converted into a Spanish vessel, and now lying in the harbour
of Havana bound for Vera Cruz, touching at Sisal in Yucatan. At eight
o'clock we weighed anchor, and were piloted through the narrow passage
which leads out of the harbour past the castle of El Morro and the fort
of Cabañas, the view of whose ramparts and batteries caused quite a
flourish of trumpets among our Spanish fellow-passengers, who firmly
believe in their impregnability.

Among our fellow-passengers were a company of fifth-rate comedians,
going to Merida by way of Sisal. There was nothing interesting to us
about them. Theatrical people and green-room slang vary but little over
the whole civilized world. There were two or three Spanish and French
tradesmen going back to Mexico. They talked of nothing but the dangers
of the road, and not without reason as it proved, for they were all
robbed before they got home. Several of the rest were gamblers or
political adventurers, or both, for the same person very often unites
the two professions out here. Spain and the Spanish American Republics
produce great numbers of these people, just as Missouri breeds
border-ruffians and sympathizers. But the ruffian is a good fellow in
comparison with these well-dressed, polite scoundrels, who could have
given Fielding a hint or two he would have been glad of for the
characters of Mr. Jonathan Wild and his friend the Count.

On the morning of the third day of our voyage we reached Sisal, and as
soon as the captain would let us we went ashore, in a canoe that was
like a flat wooden box. This said captain was a Catalan, and a surly
fellow, and did not take the trouble to disguise the utter contempt he
felt for our inquisitive ways, which he seemed quite to take pleasure
in thwarting. It was the only place we were to see in Yucatan, a
country whose name is associated with ideas of tropical fruits, where
you must cut your forest-path with a machete, and of vast ruins of
deserted temples and cities, covered up with a mass of dense
vegetation. But here there was nothing of this kind. Sisal is a
miserable little town, standing on the shore, with a great salt-marsh
behind it. It has a sort of little jetty, which constitutes its claim
to the title of _port_; and two or three small merchant-vessels were
lying there, taking in cargoes of logwood (the staple product of the
district), mahogany, hides, and deerskins. The sight of these latter
surprised us; but we found on enquiry that numbers of deer as well as
horned cattle inhabit the thinly-peopled districts round the shores of
the Mexican Gulf, and flourish in spite of the burning climate, except
when a year of drought comes, which kills them off by thousands.

One possible article of export we examined as closely as opportunity
would allow, namely, the Indian inhabitants. There they are, in
every respect the right article for trade:--brown-skinned, incapable
of defending themselves, strong, healthy, and industrious; and
the creeks and mangrove-swamps of Cuba only three days' sail off.
The plantations and mines that want one hundred thousand men to bring
them into full work, and swallow aborigines, Chinese, and negroes
indifferently--anything that has a dark skin, and can be made to
work--would take these Yucatecos in any quantity, and pay well for
them. And once on a sugar-estate or down a mine, when their sham
registers are regularly made out, and the Governor has had his ounce of
gold apiece for passing them, and his subordinates their respective
rights, who shall get them out again, or even find them?

This idea struck us as we sat looking at the Indians hard at work,
loading and unloading; and finding an intelligent Spaniard, we fell to
talking with him. Indians had been carried off to Cuba, he said, but
very few, none since 1854, when two Englishmen came to the coast with a
schooner on pretence of trading, and succeeded in getting clear off
with a cargo of seventy-two natives on board. But being caught in a
heavy gale of wind, they put in for safety--of all places in the
world--into the British part of Belize. There some one found out what
their cargo consisted of, the vessel was seized, the Indians sent back,
and the two adventurers condemned to hard labour, one for four years,
the other for two and a half. In a place where the fatigue and exposure
of drill and mounting guard is death to a European soldier, this was
most likely a way of inflicting capital punishment, slow, but pretty
sure.[2]

When the Spaniards came to these countries, as soon as they had leisure
to ask themselves what could be the origin of the people they found
there, the answer came at once, "the lost tribes of Israel," of course.
And as we looked at these grave taciturn men, with their brown
complexions, bright eyes, and strikingly aquiline noses, it did not
seem strange that this belief should have been generally held,
considering the state of knowledge on such matters in those days. We
English found the ten tribes in the Red men of the north; Jews have
written books in Hebrew for their own people, to make known to them
that the rest of their race had been found in the mountains of Chili,
retaining unmistakable traces of their origin and conversing fluently
in Hebrew; and but lately they turned up, collected together and
converted to Christianity, on the shores of the Caspian. The last two
theories have their supporters at the present day. Crude as most of
these ideas are, one feels a good deal of interest in the first inquiry
that set men thinking seriously about the origin of races, and laid the
foundation of the science of ethnology.

Our return on board was a long affair, for there was a stiff breeze,
almost in our teeth; and our unwieldy craft was obliged to make tack
after tack before we could reach the steamer. Great Portuguese
men-of-war were floating about, waiting for prey; and we passed through
patches of stringy gulf-weed, trailing out into long ropes. The water
was hot, the thermometer standing at 84° when we dipped it over the
side.

On the morning of the 12th, when we went on deck, there was a grand
sight displayed before us. No shore visible, but a heavy bank of clouds
on the horizon; and, high above them, towering up into the sky, the
snowy summit of Orizaba, a hundred and fifty miles off.

Before noon, we are entering the harbour of Vera Cruz. The little
island and fort of San Juan de Ulúa just opposite the wharfs, the
island of Sacrificios a little farther to the left. A level line of
city-wall along the water's edge; and, visible above it, the flat roofs
of the houses, and the towers and cupolas of many churches. All grey
stone, only relieved by the colored Spanish tiles on the church-roofs,
and a flag or two in the harbour. Not a scrap of vegetation to be seen,
and the rays of a tropical sun pouring down upon us.

Established in the Casa de Diligencias, we deliberated as to our
journey to Mexico. The diligences to the capital, having been stopped
for some months on account of the disturbed state of the country, had
just begun to run again, avoiding Puebla, which was being besieged. We
were anxious to be off at once; but Mr. Christy sagaciously remarking
that the robbers would know of the arrival of the steamer, and would
probably take the first diligence that came afterwards, we booked our
places for the day after.

We were very kindly received by the English merchants to whom my
companion had letters, and we set ourselves to learn what was the real
state of things in Mexico.

On an average, the Presidency of the Republic of Mexico had changed
hands once every eight months for the last ten years; and Don Ignacio
Comonfort had stepped into the office in the previous December, on the
nomination of his predecessor the mulatto general Alvarez, who had
retired to the southern provinces with his army.

President Comonfort, with empty coffers, and scarcely any real
political power, had felt it necessary to make some great effort to get
popularity for himself and his government. He had therefore adopted the
policy of attacking the _fueros_, the extraordinary privileges of the
two classes of priests and soldiers, which had become part of the
constitution under the first viceroys, and which not even the war of
independence, and the adoption of republican forms, ever did away with.
Neither class is amenable to the civil tribunals for debt or for any
offences.[3] The clergy have immense revenues, and much spiritual
influence among the lower classes; and as soon as they discovered the
disposition of the new President, they took one Don Antonio Haro y
Tamirez, set him up as a counter-President, and installed him at
Puebla, the second city of the Republic, where priests swarm, and
priestly influence is unbounded. At the same time, they tried a
pronunciamiento in the capital; but the President got the better of
them after a slight struggle, and marched all his regular soldiers on
Puebla. At the moment of our arrival in the country, the siege of this
city was going on quite briskly, ten thousand men being engaged,
commanded by forty-three general officers.

Whenever anything disagreeable is happening in the country, Vera Cruz
is sure to get its full share. A month before our arrival, one Salcedo,
who was a prisoner in the castle of San Juan de Ulúa, talked matters
over with the garrison, and persuaded them to make a pronunciamento in
favour of the insurgents. They then summoned the town to join their
cause, which it declined doing for the present; and the castle opened
fire upon it, knocking about some of the principal buildings, and doing
a good deal of damage. A 30-pound shot went through the wall of our
hotel, taking off the leg of an unfortunate waiter who was cleaning
knives, and falling into the patio, or inner court. A daub of fresh
plaster just outside our bedroom door indicated the spot; and the
British Consul's office had a similar decoration. The Governor of the
city could offer no active resistance, but he cut off the supplies from
the island, and in three or four days Salcedo--finding himself out of
ammunition, and short of water--surrendered in a neat speech, and the
revolution ended.

We have but a short time to stay in Vera Cruz, so had better make our
observations quickly; for when we come back again there will be a sun
nearly in the zenith, and yellow fever--at the present moment hardly
showing itself--will have come for the summer; under those
circumstances, the unseasoned foreigner had better lie on his back in a
cool room, with a cigar in his mouth, and read novels, than go about
hunting for useful information.

There are streets of good Spanish houses in Vera Cruz, built of white
coral-rock from the reefs near the shore, but they are mildewed and
dismal-looking. Outside the walls is the Alameda; and close by is a
line of houses, uninhabited, mouldy, and in ruins. We asked who built
them. "Los Españoles," they said.

Even now, when the "nortes" are blowing, and the city is comparatively
healthy, Vera Cruz is a melancholy place, with a plague-stricken look
about it; but it is from June to October that its name, "the city of
the dead"--la ciudad de los muertos--is really deserved. In that season
comes an accumulation of evils. The sun is at its height; there is no
north wind to clear the air; and the heavy tropical rains--more than
three times as much in quantity as falls in England in the whole
year--come down in a short rainy season of four months. The water
filters through the sand-hills, and forms great stagnant lagoons; a
rank tropical vegetation springs up, and the air is soon filled with
pestilential vapours. Add to this that the water is unwholesome; the
city too is placed in a sand-bath which keeps up a regular temperature,
by accumulating heat by day and giving it out into the air by night, so
that night gives no relief from the stifling closeness of the day. No
wonder that Mr. Bullock, the Mexican traveller, as he sat in his room
here in the hot season, heard the church-bells tolling for the dead
from morning to night without intermission; for weeks and weeks, one
can hardly even look into the street without seeing a funeral.

We turned back through the city, and walked along watching the
Zopilotes--great turkey-buzzards--with their bald heads and foul
dingy-black plumage. They were sitting in compact rows on parapets of
houses and churches, and seemed specially to affect the cross of the
cathedral, where they perched, two on each arm, and some on the top.
When some offal was thrown into the streets, they came down leisurely
upon it, one after another; their appearance and deportment reminding
us of the undertaker's men in England coming down from the hearse at
the public-house door, when the funeral is over. In all tropical
America these birds are the general scavengers, and there is a heavy
fine for killing them.[4]

Scarcely any one is about in the streets this afternoon, except a gang
or two of convicts dragging their heavy chains along, sweeping and
mending the streets. This is a punishment much approved of by the
Mexican authorities, as combining terror to evil-doers with advantage
to the community. That it puts all criminals on a level, from murderers
down to vagrants, does not seem to be considered as a matter of much
consequence.

At the city-gate stands a sentry--the strangest thing I ever saw in the
guise of a soldier--a brown Indian of the coast, dressed in some rags
that were a uniform once, shoeless, filthy in the extreme, and armed
with an amazing old flint-lock. He is bad enough to look at, in all
conscience, and really worse than he looks, for--no doubt--he has been
pressed into the service against his will, and hates white men and
their ways with all his heart. Of course he will run away when he gets
a chance; and, though he will be no great loss to the service, he will
add his mite to the feeling of hatred that has been growing up for
these so many years among the brown Indians against the whites and the
half-cast Mexicans. But more of this hereafter.

One step outside the gate, and we are among the sand-hills that stretch
for miles and miles round Vera Cruz. They are mere shifting
sand-mounds; and, though some of them are fifty feet high, the fierce
north wind moves them about bodily. The Texans know these winds well,
and call them "northers." They come from Hudson's Bay to the Gulf of
Mexico, right down the Continent of North America, over a level plain
with hardly a hill to obstruct their course, the Rocky Mountains and
the Alleghanies forming a sort of trough for them. When the "norte"
blows fiercely you can hardly keep your feet in the streets of Vera
Cruz, and vessels drag their anchors or break from their moorings in
the ill-protected harbour, and are blown out to sea--lucky if they
escape the ugly coral-reefs and sand-banks that fringe the coast. There
are a few bushes growing outside the walls, and there we found the
Nopal bush, the great prickly pear--the same that has established
itself all round the shores of the Mediterranean--growing in crevices
of rocks, and cracks in lava-beds, and barren places where nothing else
will live. But what made us notice these Nopals was, that they were
covered with what looked like little white cocoons, out of which, when
they were pressed, came a drop of deep crimson fluid. This is the
cochineal insect, but only the wild variety; the fine kind, which is
used for dye, and conies from the province of Oajaca, miles off, is
covered only with a mealy powder. There the Indians cultivate great
plantations of Nopals, and spread the insects over them with immense
care, even removing them, and carrying them up into the mountains in
baskets when the rainy season begins in the plains, and bringing them
back when it is over.

On Friday, the 14th of March, at three o'clock in the morning, we took
our places in a strong American-built diligence, holding nine inside,
and began our journey by being dragged along the railroad--which was
commenced with great energy some time ago, and got fifteen miles on its
way to the capital, at which point it has stopped ever since. When day
broke we had left the railroad, and were jolting along through a
parched sandy plain, thinly covered with acacias, nopals, and other
kinds of cactus, bignonias, and the great tree-euphorbia, with which we
had been so familiar in Cuba, with its smooth limbs and huge white
flowers. At last we reached the first hill, and began gently to ascend.
The change was wonderful. Once out of the plain, we are in the midst of
a tropical forest. The trees are crowded close together, and the
convolvulus binds their branches into an impassable jungle, while ferns
and creepers weave themselves into a dense mass below; and here and
there a glimpse up some deep ravine shows great tree-ferns, thirty feet
high, standing close to the brink of a mountain-stream, and flourishing
in the damp shade.

Indian Ranchos become more frequent as we ascend; and the
inhabitants--squatting on the ground, or leaning against the
door-posts--just condescend to glance at us as we pass, and then return
to their meditations, and their cigarettes, if they happen to have any.
These ranches are the merest huts of canes, thatched with palm-leaves;
and close by each a little patch of ground is enclosed by a fence of
prickly cactus, within which are growing plantains, with their large
smooth leaves and heavy ropes of fruit, the great staple of the "tierra
caliente."

Our road winds along valleys and through pass after pass; and now and
then a long zig-zag brings us out of a valley, up to a higher level.
The air grows cooler, we are rapidly changing our climate, and
afternoon finds us in the region of the sugar-cane and the
coffee-plant. We pass immense green cane-fields, protected from the
visits of passing muleteers and peasants by a thick hedge of thorny
coffee-bushes. The cane is but young yet; but the coffee-plant, with
its brilliant white flowers, like little stars, is a beautiful feature
in the landscape.

At sunset we are rattling through the streets of the little town of
Cordova. There is such a thoroughly Spanish air about the place, that
it might be a suburb of the real Cordova, were it not for the crowds of
brown Indians in their scanty cotton dresses and great flat-brimmed
hats, and the Mexican costumes of the whiter folks. Low whitewashed
houses, with large windows to the street, protected by the heavy
iron-gratings, like cages, that are so familiar to travellers in
Southern Europe. Inside the grating are the ladies of the family,
outside stand their male acquaintance, and energetic gossiping is going
on. The smoky little lamp inside gives us a full view of the interior.
Four whitewashed walls; a table; a few stiff-backed chairs; a virgin or
saint resplendent in paint and tinsel; and, perhaps, two or three
coloured engravings, red, blue, and yellow.

A few hours in the dark, and we reach Orizaba. We have changed our
climate for the last time to-day, and have reached that district where
tobacco flourishes at an altitude of 4,000 feet above the sea. But of
this we see nothing, for we are off again long before daylight; and by
the time that external objects can be made out we find ourselves in a
new region. A valley floored with rich alluvial soil from the hills
that rise steeply on both sides, their tops shrouded in clouds. Signs
of wonderful fertility in the fields of maize and barley along the
roadside. The air warm, but full of mist, which has already penetrated
our clothes and made them feel damp and sticky. "Splendid country,
this, Señores," said an old Mexican, when he had twisted himself round
on his seat to get a good stare at us. "It seems so," said I, "judging
by the look of the fields, but it is very unpleasantly damp just now."
"Just now," said the old gentleman, echoing my words, "it is always
damp here. You see that drizzling mist; that is the chipi-chipi. Never
heard of the chipi-chipi! Why it is the riches and blessing of the
country. Sometimes we never see the sun here for weeks at a time, and
it rains a little every day nearly; but look at the fields, we get
three crops a year from them where you have but one on the fields just
above. And it is healthy, too; look at those fellows at work there.
When we get up to the Llanos you will see the difference."

The valley grew narrower as we drove on; and at last, when it seemed to
end in a great ravine, we began to climb the steep hill by a zig-zag
road. Soon the air grows clearer again, the sunshine appears and gets
brighter and brighter, we have left the mist behind, and are among
ranges of grand steep hills, covered with the peculiar vegetation of
the plateau,--Cactus, Opuntia, and the Agave Americana. In the trough
of the valley lies a regular opaque layer of white clouds, hiding the
fields and cottages from our view. We have already passed the zone of
perpetual moisture, whose incessant clouds and showers are caused by
the stratum of hot air--charged with water evaporated from the
gulf--striking upon the mountains, and there depositing part of the
aqueous vapour it contains.

You may see the same thing happening in almost every mountainous
district; but seldom on so grand a scale as here, or with so little
disturbance from other agents. Yesterday was passed in the "tierra
caliente," the hot country; our journey of to-day and to-morrow is
through the "tierra templada" and the "tierra fría," the temperate and
the cold country. Here a change of a few hundred feet in altitude above
the sea, brings with it a change of climate as great as many degrees of
latitude will cause, and in one day's travel it is possible to descend
from the region of eternal snow to the utmost heat of the tropics. Our
ascent is more gradual; but, though we are three days on the road, we
have sometimes scarcely time to notice the different zones of
vegetation we pass through, before we change again.

To make the account of the journey from the coast to Mexico somewhat
clearer, a few words must be said about the formation of the country,
as shown in a profile-map or section. The interior of Mexico consists
of a mass of volcanic rocks, thrust up to a great height above the
sea-level. The plateau of Mexico is 8,000 feet high, and that of Puebla
9,000 feet. This central mass consists principally of a greyish
trachytic porphyry, in some places rich in veins of silver-ore. The
tops of the hills are often crowned with basaltic columns, and a soft
porous amygdaloid abounds on the outskirts of the Mexican valley.
Besides this, traces of more recent volcanic action abound, in the
shape of numerous extinct craters in the high plateaus, and immense
"pedrigals" or fields of lava not yet old enough for their surface to
have been disintegrated into soil. Though sedimentary rocks occur in
Mexico, they are not the predominant feature of the country. Ridges of
limestone hills lie on the slopes of the great volcanic mass toward the
coast; and at a still lower level, just in the rise from the flat
coast-region, there are strata of sandstone. On our road from Vera Cruz
we came upon sandstone immediately after leaving the sandy plains; and
a few miles further on we reached the limestone, very much as it is
represented in Burkart's profile of the country from Tampico upwards
towards San Luis Potosi. The mountain-plateaus, such as the plains of
Mexico and Puebla, are hollows filled up and floored with horizontal
strata of tertiary deposits, which again are covered by the constantly
accumulating layers of alluvium.

Our heavy pull up the mountain-side has brought us into a new scene.
Every one knows how the snow lies in the valleys of the Alps, forming a
plain which slopes gradually downward towards the outlet Imagine such a
valley ten miles across, with just such a sloping plain, not of snow
but of earth. There has been no rain for months, and the surface of the
ground is parched and cracked all over. There is hardly a tree to be
seen except clumps of wood on the mountain-sides miles off,--no
vegetation but tufts of coarse grass, among which herds of
disconsolate-looking cattle are roaming; the vaqueros, (herdsmen) are
cantering about after them on their lean horses, with their lazos
hanging in coils on their left arms, and now and then calling to order
some refractory beast who tries to get away from the herd, by sending
the loop over his horns or letting it fall before him as he runs, and
hitching it up with a jerk round his hind legs as he steps within it.
But the poor creatures are too thirsty and dispirited just now to give
any sport, and the first touch of the cord is enough to bring them back
to their allegiance.

From the decomposed porphyry of the mountains carbonate of soda comes
down in solution to the valleys. Much of this is converted into natron
by the organic matter in the soil, and forms a white crust on the
earth. More of the carbonate of soda, mixed in various proportions with
common salt, drains continually out in the streams, or filters into the
ground and crystallizes there. This is why there is not a field to be
seen, and the land is fit for nothing but pasture. But when the rains
come on in a few months, say our friends in the diligence, this dismal
waste will be a luxuriant prairie, and the cattle will be here by
thousands, for most of them are dispersed now in the lower regions of
the tierra templada where grass and water are to be had.

My companion and I climb upon the top of the diligence to spy out the
land. The grand volcano of Orizaba had been hidden from us ever since
that morning when we saw it from far out at sea, but now it rises on
our left, its upper half covered with snow of dazzling whiteness,--a
regular cone, for from this side the crater cannot be seen. It looks as
though one could walk half a mile or so across the valley and then go
straight up to the summit, but it is full thirty miles off. The air is
heated as by a furnace, and as we jolt along the road the clouds of
dust are suffocating. We go full gallop along such road as there is,
banging into holes, and across the trenches left by last year's
watercourses, until we begin to think that it must end in a general
smash. We came to understand Mexican roads and Mexican drivers better,
even before we got to the capital.

Before us and behind lay wide lakes, stretching from side to side of
the valley; but the lake behind followed us as steadily as the one
before us receded. It was only the mirage that tantalizes travellers in
these scorched valleys, all the long eight months of the rainless
season. It seemed beautiful at first, then monotonous; and long before
the day was out we hated it with a most cordial and unaffected hatred.

Soon a new appearance attracted our attention. First, clouds of dust,
which gradually took a well-defined shape, and formed themselves into
immense pillars, rapidly spinning round upon themselves, and travelling
slowly about the plain. At one place, where several smaller valleys
opened upon us, these sand-pillars, some small, some large, were
promenading about by dozens, looking much like the genie when the
fisherman had just let him out of the bottle, and saw him with
astonishment beginning to shape himself into a giant of monstrous size.
Indeed I doubt not that the story-teller was thinking of such
sand-pillars when he wrote that wonderful description. You may see them
in the East by thousands. As they moved along, they sucked up small
stones, dust, and leaves; and our driver declared that they had been
known to take the roofs off houses, and carry flocks of sheep into the
air; "but these that you see now," said he, "are no great matter." We
estimated the size of the largest at about four hundred feet in height,
and thirty in diameter; and this very pillar, walking by chance against
a house, most decidedly got the worst of it, and had its lower limbs
knocked all to pieces.

When the sun grows hot, the bare earth heats the air that lies upon it
so much that an upward current rises from the whole face of the valley;
and to supply its place the little valleys and ravines that open into
it pour in each its stream of cooler air; and wherever two of these
streams, flowing in different directions, strike one another, a little
whirlwind ensues, and makes itself manifest as a sand-pillar. The
coachman's "molino de viento," as he called it, may very well have
happened, but it must have been a whirlwind on a large scale, caused by
the meeting of great atmospheric currents, not by the little apparatus
we saw at work.

There seems to be hardly a village in the plain; and the only buildings
we see for miles are the herdsmen's houses of stone, flat-roofed, dark
inside, and uninviting in their appearance, and the great cattle-pens,
the corrals, which seem absurdly too large for the herds that we have
yet seen; but in two or three months there will be rain, the ground
will be covered with rank grass, the corrals will be crowded with
cattle every evening; the mirage will depart when real water comes,
dust and sand-pillars will be no longer to be seen, and all the nine
horses and mules of the diligence-team, floundering, splashing, and
kicking, will hardly keep the heavy coach from settling down
inextricably in the mire. And so on until October, and then the season
of water, "la estación de las aguas," will cease, and things will be
again as they are now.

In the usual course of travel to the capital, the second night would
have been passed at Puebla. This is the second city of the Republic,
and numbers some 70,000 inhabitants. As it was then in revolt, and
besieged by the President and his army, we made a detour to the north
when about 20 miles from it, in order to sleep for a few hours at
Huamantla, a place with a most evil reputation for thieves and vermin;
and about ten at night we drove into the court-yard of a dismal-looking
inn. Three or four dirty fellows stood round as we alighted, wrapped in
their serapes--great woollen blankets, the universal wear of the
Mexicans of the plateaus. One end of the serape was thrown across from
shoulder to shoulder, and hid the lower part of their faces; and the
broad-brimmed Mexican sombrero was slouched over their eyes; we
particularly disliked the look of them as they stood watching us and
our baggage going into the inn. A few minutes after, we returned to the
court-yard to complete our observation of them, but they were all gone.

A party of Spaniards and Mexicans were at the other table in the sala
when we marched in, and as soon as we had taken off the edge of our
fierce hunger, we began to compare notes with them. "Had a pleasant
journey from Mexico?" They all answered at once, delighted to find an
audience to whom to tell their sorrows, as men always are under such
circumstances. It appeared that they had reached Huamantla an hour or
two before us, and to their surprise and delight no robbers had
appeared. But between the outskirts of the town and the inn, the cords
behind the diligence were cut, and every particle of luggage had
disappeared. At the inn-gate they got out and discovered their loss.
They set upon the Administrador of the diligence-company, who
sympathized deeply with them, but had no more substantial comfort to
offer. They declared the driver must have been an accomplice, and the
driver was sent for, for them to wreak their fury upon. He appeared
with his mouth full of beans, and told them, as soon as he could speak,
that they ought to be very thankful they had come off so easily, and,
looking at them with an expression of infinite disgust, returned to his
supper; they followed his example, and seemed to have at last found
consolation in hot dishes and Catalan wine. It was wonderful to hear of
the fine things that were in the lost portmanteaus,--the rings, the
gold watches, the rouleaux of dollars, the "papers of the utmost
importance."

I am afraid the Spanish American has not always a very strict regard
for truth.

These gentlemen had indeed got off easily, as the driver said; for the
last diligence from Vera Cruz, with our steamboat acquaintances in it,
had been stopped just outside this very town of Huamantla as they left
it before daylight in the morning. The robbers were but three, but they
had plundered the unfortunate travellers as effectually as thirty could
have done. Now, all this was very pretty to hear as a tale, but not
satisfactory to travellers who were going by the same road the next
morning; and in the disagreeable barrack-room where our beds stood in
long lines, we, the nine passengers of the "up" diligence, held a
council, standing, like Mr. Macaulay's senators, and there decided on a
most Christian line of conduct--that when the three bore down upon us,
and the muzzle of the inevitable escopeta was poked in at our window,
we would descend meekly, and at the command of "boca abajo," ("mouth
downwards,") we would humiliate ourselves with our noses in the dirt,
and be robbed quietly. Having thus decided beforehand, according to the
etiquette of the road, whether we were to fight or submit, and being
tired with a long day's journey, we all turned in, and were fast asleep
in a moment.

It seemed that almost directly afterwards the dirtiest man possible
came round, and shook us till we were conscious; and we washed in the
customary saucers, by the light of a real, flaring, smoking, Spanish
lamp with a beak, exactly what the Romans used in Pompeii, except that
this is of brass, not bronze.

With our eyes still half-shut we crawled into the kitchen for our
morning chocolate, and demanded our bill. Such a bill! One of us, a
stout Spaniard, sent for the landlord and abused him in a set speech.
The "patron" divested his countenance of every trace of expression,
scratched his head through his greasy nightcap, and stood listening
patiently. The stout man grew fiercer and fiercer, and wound up with a
climax. "If we meet with the robbers," said he, rolling himself up in
his great cloak, "we must tell them that we have passed through your
worship's hands, and there is none left for them." The landlord bowed
gravely, saw us into the diligence, and hoped we should have a
fortunate journey, and meet with no novelty on the road. A "novelty" in
Spanish countries means a misfortune.

We met with no "novelty," though, when we looked out of the window in
the early dawn and spied three men with muskets, following us at a
short distance, we thought our time had come, and watches and valuables
were plunged into boots and under seats, and through slits into the
padding of the diligence; but the three men came no nearer, and we
supposed them to be an escort of soldiers. When it was light the
difficulty was to recover the valuables--no easy matter, so securely
had they been hidden.

We heard afterwards of a little peculiarity which distinguished the
robbers of Huamantla. It seems that no less a personage than the parish
priest was accustomed to lead his parishioners into action, like the
Cornish parson in old times when a ship went ashore on the coast. What
has become of his reverence since, I do not know. He is very likely
still in his parish, carrying on his double profession, unless somebody
has shot him. I wonder whether it is sacrilege to shoot a priest who is
also a highwayman, as it used to be to kill a bishop on the field of
battle.

We are at last on the high lands of Mexico, the districts which at
least three different races have chosen to settle in, neglecting the
fertile country below. A sharp turn in the road brings its fairly out
into the plain; and then on our left are the two snowy mountains that
lie at the edge of the valley of Mexico, Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl,
famous in all Mexican books. Like Orizaba of yesterday, they seem to
rise from the plain close to us; and from the valley between them there
pours down upon us such a flood of icy wind, that, though windows are
pulled up and great-coats buttoned round our throats, we shiver
piteously, and our teeth fairly chatter till we get out of the river of
cold air; and then comes hot sunshine and dust again.

Anxious to make sure that we have really got into the land of Aztec
civilization, Mr. Christy gets down from the diligence, and hunting
about for a few minutes by the road-side, returns in triumph with a
broken arrowhead of obsidian. A deep channel cut by a water-course
gives us our first idea of the depth of the soil; for these plateaus
were once nothing but deep hollows among the mountains, which rain and
melted snow, bringing down fragments of porphyry and basalt--partly in
their original state and partly decomposed--have filled up and formed
into plains. Signs of volcanic action are abundant. To say nothing of
the two great mountains we have just left behind, there is a hill of
red volcanic tufa just beyond us; and still further on, though this is
anticipating, our road passes over the lava-field at the foot of the
little volcano of Santa Barbara.

There is a population here at any rate, village after village; and
between them are great plantations of maize and aloes; for this is the
district where the best pulque in Mexico is made, the "llanos de Apam."
It is the _Agave Americana_, the same aloe that is so common in
southern Europe, where indeed it flowers, and that grows in our gardens
and used to have the reputation of flowering once in a hundred years. I
do not exaggerate when I say that we saw hundreds of thousands of them
that day, planted in long regular lines. Among them were walking the
Indian "tlachiqueros," each with his pigskin on his back, and his long
calabash in his hand, milking such plants as were in season.

[Illustration: INDIAN TLACHIQUERO, COLLECTING JUICE OF THE AGAVE FOR
PULQUE.]

The fine buildings of the haciendas, and more especially the churches,
contrast strongly with the generality of houses, all of one story,
built of adobes (mud-bricks dried in the sun), with flat roofs of sand
and lime resting on wooden rafters, and the naked ground for a floor,
all dark, dirty, and comfortless. There are even many huts built
entirely of the universal aloe. The stems of wild aloes which have been
allowed to flower are stuck into the ground, side by side, and pieces
of leaves tied on outside them with aloe-fibre. These cut leaves are
set like tiles to form a roof, and pegged down with the thorns which
grow at their extremities. Picturesque and cheap, though hardly
comfortable, for we are in the "tierra fría" now, and the mornings and
evenings in winter are often bitterly cold.

But the churches! Is it possible that they can belong to these wretched
filthy little cottages. As black Sam, our driver, a runaway Texan
slave, suggested, it looked as though the villagers might pull down
their houses and locate themselves and their families in their
churches. We thought of Mr. Ruskin, who has somewhere expressed an
earnest desire that all the money and energy that England has wasted in
making railroads, had been spent in building churches; and we wished he
had been here to see his principles carried out.

I have travelled on rough roads in my time, but on such a road as this
never. My companion refused for a time to award the premium of badness
to our thoroughfare; but, just while we were discussing the question
and recounting our experience of bone-smashing highways, we reached a
pass where the road consisted of a series of steps, nearly a foot in
depth, down which steps we went at a swinging trot, holding on for our
lives, in terror lest the next jerk should fairly wrench our arms out
of their sockets, while we could plainly hear the inside passengers
howling for mercy, as they were shot up against the roof which knocked
them back into their seats. Aching all over, we reached level ground
again, and Mr. Christy withdrew his claims, and agreed that no road
anywhere else could possibly be so bad as a Mexican road; a decision
which later experiences only served to confirm.

Our start, every time we changed horses, was a sight to see. Nine
half-broken horses and mules, in a furious state of excitement, were
harnessed to our unwieldy machine; the helpers let go, and off they
went, kicking, plunging, rearing, biting, and screaming, into ruts and
watercourses that were like the trenches they make for gas-pipes in
London streets, with our wheels on one side on a stone wall, and in a
pit on the other, and Black Sam leaning back with his feet on the
board, waiting with perfect tranquillity until the animals had got rid
of their superfluous energy and he could hold them in. We were always
just going to have some frightful accident, and always just missed it.
The last stage before we reached Otumba, a small dusky urchin ran
across the road just before us. How Black Sam contrived to pull up I
cannot tell, though, indeed, his arms were about the size of an
ordinary man's thighs; but he did, and they got the child out from the
horses' feet quite unhurt.

It was at the inn where we stopped to breakfast that we made our first
acquaintance with the great Mexican institutions--tortillas and pulque.
The pulque was being brewed on a large scale in an adjoining building.
The vats were made of cow-skins (with the hair inside), supported by a
frame of sticks; and in them was pulque in every stage, beginning with
the sweet aguamiel--honeywater--the fresh juice of the aloe, and then
the same in different degrees of fermentation till we come to the
_madre pulque_, the mother pulque, a little of which is used like
yeast, to start the fermentation, and which has a combined odour of
gas-works and drains. Pulque, as you drink it, looks like milk and
water, and has a mild smell and taste of rotten eggs. Tortillas are
like oat-cakes, but made of Indian corn meal, not crisp, but soft and
leathery. We thought both dreadfully nasty for a day or two; then we
could just endure them; then we came to like them; and before we left
the country we wondered how we should do without them.



CHAPTER III.



CITY OF MEXICO.



[Illustration: VIEW OF PART OF THE VALLEY OF MEXICO.]

Some thirty years ago, Don Agustín Yturbide, the first and last Emperor
of Mexico, found that he wanted a palace wherein to house his
newly-fledged dignity; and began to build one accordingly, in the high
street of Mexico, close to the great convent of San Francisco. It could
not have been nearly finished when its founder was shot: and it became
the _Hotel d'Yturbide_. We are now settled in it, in very comfortable
quarters. There is a restaurant down below, where the son of the late
Yturbide dines daily, and everybody points him out to us, and moralises
over him.

Mr. Christy's drawer-roll of letters of introduction has produced an
immediate crop of pleasant acquaintances, whose hospitality is
boundless. We are not idle, far from it; and a long day's work is
generally followed by a social dinner, and an evening spent in noting
down the results of our investigations.

Prescott's _Conquest of Mexico_ has been more read in England than most
historical works; and the Mexico of Montezuma has a well-defined idea
attached to it. The amphitheatre of dark hills surrounding the level
plain, the two snowy mountain-peaks, the five lakes covering nearly
half the valley, the city rising out of the midst of the waters, miles
from the shore, with which it was connected by its four causeways, the
straight streets of low flat-roofed houses, the numbers of canals
crowded with canoes of Indians going to and from the market, the
floating gardens moved from place to place, on which vegetables and
flowers were cultivated, the great pyramid up which the Spanish army
saw their captured companions led in solemn procession, and sacrificed
on the top--all these are details in the mental picture.

Much of this has changed since the Spaniards first saw it. Cortes tried
all ordinary means to overcome the desperate obstinacy with which the
Aztecs defended their capital. The Spaniards conquered wherever they
went; but, as they moved forward, the Mexicans closed in again behind,
and from every house-top showers of darts, arrows, and stones were
poured down upon them. Cortes resolved upon the utter demolition of the
city. He was grieved to destroy it, he said, for it was the most
beautiful thing in the whole world; but there was no alternative. He
moved slowly towards the great teocalli, his fifty thousand Tlascalan
allies following him, throwing down every house, and filling the canals
with the ruins. When the conquest was finished, but one district of the
city was left standing, and in it were crowded a quarter of the
population, miserable famished wretches, who had surrendered when their
king was taken. All that was left besides was a patch of swampy ground
strewed with fragments of walls, a few pyramids too large for present
destruction, and such great heaps of dead bodies that it was impossible
to get from place to place without walking over them.

Cortes had resolved that a new city should be built, but it was not so
easy to decide where it was to be. The Aztecs, it seemed, had not
originally established themselves on the spot where Mexico was built.
When they came down from the north country, and across the hills into
the valley of Mexico, they were but an insignificant tribe, and as yet
mere savages. They settled down in one place after another, and were
always driven out by the persecutions of the neighbouring tribes. At
last they took possession of a little group of swampy islands in the
lake of Tezcuco; and then at last, safe from their enemies, they
increased and multiplied, and became a great and powerful nation.

The first beginnings of Mexico, a cluster of huts built on wooden
piles, must have borne some likeness to those curious settlements of
early tribes in the shallow part of the lakes of Switzerland and the
British Isles, of which numerous remains are still to be found. As the
nation increased in numbers, Tenochtitlán, as the inhabitants called
their city (they called themselves _Tenochques_), came to be a great
city of houses built on piles, with canals running through the straight
streets, along which the natives poled their flat-bottomed canoes. The
name which the Spaniards gave to the city, the "Venice of the New
World," was appropriate, not only to its situation in the midst of the
water, with canals for thoroughfares, but also to the history of the
causes which led to its being built in such a situation.

The habit of building houses upon piles, which was first forced upon
the people by the position they had chosen, was afterwards followed as
a matter of taste, just as it is in Holland. Even after the Aztecs
became masters of the surrounding country, they built towns round the
lake, partly on the shore, and partly on piles in the water. The
Spanish chroniclers mention Iztapalapán, and many other towns, as built
in this way. Like the Swiss tribes, the early inhabitants of Mexico
depended much upon their fishing, for which their position gave them
great facilities.

If you look at the arms of the Mexican Republic, on a passport or a
silver dollar, you will see a representation of a rock surrounded by
water. On the rock grows a cactus, and on the cactus sits an eagle with
a serpent in his beak. The story is that the wandering tribe preserved
a tradition of an oracle which said that when they should find an
eagle, holding a serpent, and perched on a cactus growing out of a
rock, then they should cease their wanderings. On an island in the lake
of Tezcuco, they found eagle, serpent, cactus, and rock, as described,
and they settled there in due course. What fragment of truth is hidden
in this myth it is hard to say. Tenochtitlán means "The Stone-cactus
place;" and the Aztec picture-writings express its name by a hieroglyph
of a prickly pear growing on a rock. Putting this history out of the
question, the Aztecs had excellent reasons for choosing this peculiar
site for their city; but these reasons were not equally valid in the
case of the new invaders. For them the surrounding salt-water was not
needed as a protection, and was merely a nuisance. Every year, when the
lake rose, the place was flooded, with enormous damage to the property
of the inhabitants; and sometimes an inundation of greater depth than
usual threatened as complete a destruction as Cortes and the Tlascalans
had made. At the best of times, the site was a salt-swamp, an ugly
place to build upon. And, lastly, all the fresh water must be brought
from the hills by aqueducts, which an enemy would cut off without
difficulty, as the Spaniards themselves had done during the siege. Now
Cortes was certainly not ignorant of all this, and he knew of many
places on the rising ground close by, where he could found his new city
under more favourable circumstances. He deliberated four or five months
on the matter, and at last decided in favour of the old site, giving as
his reason that "the city of Tenochtitlán had become celebrated, its
position was wonderful, and in all times it had been considered as the
capital and mistress of all these provinces."

The invaders were old hands at slave-driving, and so hard did they
drive the conquered Mexicans, that in four years there had arisen a
fine Spanish city, with massive stone houses of several storeys, having
the indispensable inner courts, flat roofs, and grated windows,--every
man's house literally his castle, when once the great iron
entrance-gates were closed. The Indians had, of course, been converted
en masse, and churches were being built in all directions. The great
pyramid where Huitzilopochtli, the God of war, was worshipped, had been
razed to the ground, and its great sculptured blocks of basalt were
sunk in the earth as a foundation for a cathedral. The old lines of the
streets, running toward the four points of the compass, were kept to;
and to this it is that the present Mexico is indebted for much of its
beauty. Most of the smaller canals were filled up, and the
thoroughfares widened for carriages, things of course unknown to the
Mexicans, who had no beasts of burden. In the suburbs the natives
settled themselves after their own fashion, baking adobes, large mud
bricks, in the sun, and building with them one-storey houses with flat
roofs, much as they do at the present day. And thus a new Mexico,
nearly the same as that we are now exploring, came to be planted in the
midst of the waters. Three centimes have elapsed since; the city has
grown larger, churches, convents, and public buildings have increased,
but the architectural character of the place has scarcely altered. It
is the situation that has changed. The lake of Tezcuco is four miles
off, though the causeways which once connected the city with the dry
land still exist, and have even been enlarged. They look like
railway-embankments crossing the low ground, and serve as dykes when
there is a flood, a casualty which still often happens.

This change is interesting to the student of physical geography; and
Humboldt's account of the causes which have brought it about is full
and explicit. When Mexico had been built a few years, the frightful
inundations which threatened its very existence at length awoke the
Spaniards to a sense of the mistake that had been made in placing
themselves but a few feet above the lowest level of the valley, in such
a way that, from whatever point the flood might come, they were sure to
get the benefit of it. The Spanish authorities at home, with their
usual sagacity, sent over peremptory orders that the city should be
abandoned, and a new capital built at Tacubaya--a proposal something
like intimating to the inhabitants of Naples that their position, at
the foot of Mount Vesuvius, was most dangerous, and that they must
leave it and settle somewhere else. In those days the valley was a
complete basin, with no outlet--at least not one worth mentioning; and
the heavy tropical rains and the melted snow from the mountains, poured
vast quantities of water into it. Had the valley been at the level of
the sea, it would simply have become a great lake, surrounded by hills;
but at three thousand feet higher, the atmosphere is rarefied, and
evaporation goes on with such rapidity as to keep the accumulation of
water in check. So the affair had adjusted itself in this wise, that
the land and the five lakes should divide the valley about equally
between them. It became necessary to alter this state of things, and a
passage was cut at a place where the hills were but little above the
level of the highest lake. The history of this passage, the famous
"Desague de Huehuetoca," is instructive enough, but it has been written
so threadbare that I cannot touch it. Suffice it to say, that by this
means a constant outlet was made for the lake of Zumpango, the highest
of the five, and for the Rio de Guatitlán, a stream which formerly ran
into it.

So much for one cause of the change in the present appearance of the
city. Then the Spaniards were great cutters down of forests. They
rather liked to make their new country bear a resemblance to the arid
plains of Castile, where, when you arrive in Madrid, people ask you
whether you noticed _the tree_ on the road; and moreover, as they
wanted wood, they cut it, without troubling themselves to plant for the
benefit of future generations. Now, when the trees were cut down, the
small plants which grew in their shade died too, and left the bare
earth to serve as a kind of natural evaporating apparatus. And, between
these two causes, it has come to pass that the extent of the lakes has
been so much reduced, and that Mexico stands on the dry land--if,
indeed, that may be called dry land, where you cannot dig a foot
without coming to water.

During the Tertiary period the whole valley of Mexico was one great
lake. Whether the proportion of water to land had adjusted itself
before the country was inhabited, or whether during historical times
the lakes were still gradually diminishing by the excess of evaporation
over the quantity of water supplied by rain and snow, is an open
question. At any rate the two causes I have mentioned will account for
the changes which have taken place since the conquest.

Taking it as a whole, Mexico is a grand city, and, as Cortes truly
said, its situation is marvellous. But as for the buildings, I should
be sorry to inflict upon any one who may read these sketches, a
detailed description of any one of them. It is a thousand pities that,
just at the time when the Italians and Spaniards were most zealous in
church-building, so very questionable an architectural taste should
have been prevalent.

The churches and convents in Mexico belong to that kind of renaissance
style that began to flourish in southern Europe in the sixteenth
century, and has held its ground there ever since. High façades abound,
with pilasters crowned by elaborate Corinthian capitals, forming a
curious contrast with the mean little buildings crouched behind the
tall front. In the doors of the churches outside, and the chapels
within, one is constantly coming upon that peculiar construction which
consists of what would be an arch, resting on two pillars, were not the
keystone wanting. Columns with shafts elaborately sculptured, and
twisted marble pillars of the bed-post pattern, are to be seen by
hundreds, very expensive in material and workmanship, but unfortunately
very ugly; while the numbers of puffy cherubs, inside and out, remind
the Englishman of the monuments of St. Paul's.

As to the interior decoration of the churches, the richer ones are
crowded with incongruous ornaments to a wonderful degree. Gold, silver,
costly marbles, jewels, stucco, paint, tinsel, and frippery are all
mixed up together in the wildest manner. We found the inside of the
churches to be generally the worst part of them. The Cathedral, for
instance, is really a very grand building when seen from a little
distance, with its two high towers and its cupola behind. I was greatly
edified by finding it described in the last book of Mexican travels I
have read, as built in the purest Doric style.

The Minería, or School of Mines, is a fine building, something after
the manner of Somerset House on a small scale. As for the famous Plaza
Mayor, the great square, it is a very great square indeed, large enough
to review an army in, and large enough to damage by its size the effect
of the cathedral, and to dwarf the other buildings that surround it
into mere insignificance. However, one thing is certain, that we have
not come all this way to see Spanish architecture and great squares,
but must look for something more characteristic.

I have said we arrived in Mexico on the eve of Palm Sunday, and next
morning we proceeded to consult with one of our newly-made
acquaintances as to our prospects for the ensuing Holy Week. This
gentleman, a man who took a practical view of things, mentioned a
circumstance which led him to expect that the affair would go off with
éclat. The Mexicans, both the nearly white Mestizos and the Indians of
pure race, delight in pulque. The brown people are grave and silent in
their sober state, but pulque stirs up their sluggish blood, and they
get into a condition of positive enjoyment. But very soon after this
comes a state of furious intoxication, and a general scuffle is a
common termination to a drinking-bout. Fortunately, the Indians are not
a bloodthirsty people; and, though every man carries a knife or
machete, or--if he can get nothing better--a bit of hoop-iron tempered,
sharpened, and fixed into a handle, yet nothing more serious than cuffs
and scratches generally ensues. Even if severe wounds are given, the
Indian has many chances in his favor, for his organization is somewhat
different from that of white men, and he recovers easily from wounds
that would kill any European outright.

The lower orders of the half-breed population are also given to
pulque-drinking, but with far more serious consequences. Unlike the
pure Indians, they are a hot-blooded and excitable race, and
drunkenness with them is utter madness while it lasts. Knives are drawn
at the very beginning of a squabble, and scarcely an evening passes
without one or two bodies of men killed in these drunken mêlées being
carried to the Police Cuartel in the great square. On Sundays and
holidays the number increases; but on this Palm Sunday there were
fourteen, not killed in one great battle, but brought in by ones and
twos, from different parts of the city. It was this little piece of
statistics that induced our friend to conclude that the citizens of
Mexico had made up their minds to enjoy themselves thoroughly, and that
Holy Week would be a grand affair. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of
the Semana Santa have only this to distinguish them from ordinary days,
that the churches are crowded with men and women waiting their turn at
the confessional; and that in the afternoons the old promenade of Las
Vigas, down in the Indian quarter by the canal of Chalco, is patronized
by fashionable Mexico, which, except on some four or five special days,
frequents the new Alameda. The sight of these confessionals, so
constantly filled, prompts one to ask--why just before Easter? Just
after would be more appropriate; for as we find the Glasgow people much
worse on Sundays than on week-days, so the Mexican population, not very
virtuous at the best of times, are specially and particularly wicked
when the great Church-festivals come round. The name of Shrove Tuesday
survives in our Calendar, to remind us of the time when we also used to
go to be shriven before Easter.

On Thursday at noon mass is over, the bells cease to ring, the organs
in the churches are silent, and all carriages disappear from the
streets, except the dusty Diligence which, like French law, "est
athée," and cares nothing for fasts or festivals. Now we come to
understand the wonderful wooden machine like a water-wheel, which was
put up yesterday on one tower of the Cathedral. We had asked people in
the great square, just below, what it was, but could get no answer
except that it was _la Matraca_, the rattle, for to-morrow. And now we
found that, the church bells being incapacitated, this rattle does duty
instead, striking the hours, and occasionally going off into furious
fits of clattering, without apparent reason, for ten minutes at a time,
till the two men who worked it, who were either convicts or soldiers in
fatigue-dress, were tired out. It was not this one rattle only that was
disturbing the public peace that day and the next. Everybody was
walking about with a rattle, and working it like mad, and all over the
city there was a noise like the sound of the back-scratchers at
Greenwich Fair, or of an American forest when the woodpeckers are busy.
These little rattles stand for Judas's bones, and all good Catholics
express in this odd way their desire to break them. They do the same
thing in Italy, but it is not so prominent a part of the celebration as
in Mexico, where old and young, rich and poor, all do their part in it.
As soon as we found out what it all meant, we bought matracas for
ourselves, and joined the rest of the world in their noisy occupation.
The breaking of his bones is but a preliminary measure. In the square a
fair is being held, in the booths of which the great articles of trade
now are Judas's bones, of many patterns, at all prices, and Judas
himself in pasteboard, who is to be carried about and insulted till
Saturday morning, and then, hanging up by a string, is to burst asunder
by means of a packet of powder and a slow match in his inside, and
finally to perish in a bonfire.

The first sight of these pasteboard Judases convinced us of one thing,
that we had unexpectedly come upon the old custom, of which our
processions and burning of Guy Fawkes in England are merely an
adaptation. After giving up the old custom as a Popish rite, what a
blight idea to revive it in this new shape, and to give the boys
something to carry about, bang, blow up, and make a final bonfire of,
and all in the Protestant interest! There was another thing to be
noticed about the Judases. The makers had evidently tried to vary them
as much as they could; and, by that very means, had shown how
impossible it was to them to strike out anything new. There were two
types; one was the Neapolitan _Polichinello_, whom we have naturalised
as _Punch_; and the other the God _Pan_, with his horns, and hoofs, and
tail, whom the whole Christian world has recognised as the devil, for
these many ages. Well, some took one type and some the other; and a few
tried to combine the two, of course spoiling both. But, beyond this,
their power of invention could not go. They were always trying to
conceal the old idea, and could do no more than to distort it. We could
see through their flimsy pretensions to originality much as a
schoolmaster recognises the extracts from the encyclopaedia in his
boys' essays.

As with this Judas trade, so it is with other more important arts and
sciences in this country. The old types descend, almost unchanged, from
generation to generation. Everything that is really Mexican is either
Aztec or Spanish. Among the Spanish types we may separate the Moorish.
Our knowledge of Mexico is not sufficient to enable us to analyse the
Aztec civilization, so we must be content with these three classes. I
will not go further into the question here, for occasions will
continually occur to show how--for three centuries at least--the
inhabitants of Mexico, both white and brown, have taken their ideas at
second-hand, always copying but never developing anything.

All this time my companion and I have been walking about the streets;
in evening-dress, as the etiquette of the place demands, on these three
days, from the "better classes." The Mexican ladies may be
advantageously studied just now in their church-going black silk dress
and mantilla, one of the most graceful costumes in the world. It is not
often that one has the chance of seeing them out of doors, except
hurrying to and from Mass in the morning, or in carriages on the
Alameda; but on these festival days one meets them by hundreds. They do
not contrast favorably with the ladies of Cadiz and Seville. The
mixture of Aztec blood seems to have detracted from the beauty of the
Spanish race; the dryness of the atmosphere spoils their complexions;
and the monstrous quantity of capsicums that are consumed at every meal
cannot possibly leave the Mexican digestion in its proper state.

We dined that day with Don José de A., who, though Spanish-American by
birth, was English by education and feeling, and had known my
companion's family well. Our dinner was half English, half Mexican; and
the favourite dishes of the country were there, to aid in our
initiation into Mexican manners and customs. The cooks at the inns,
mindful of our foreign origin, had dealt out the red pepper with a
sparing hand; but to-day the dish of "mole" was the genuine article,
and the first mouthful set as coughing and gasping for breath, while
the tears streamed down our faces, and Don Pepe and Don Pancho gravely
continued their dinner, assuring us that we should get quite to like it
in time. _Pepe_ and _Pancho_, by the way, are short for José and
Francisco. Dinner over, it was time to visit the churches, to which
people crowd by thousands, this evening and to-morrow, to see the
monuments, as they are called. Pancho departed, being on duty as escort
to his sisters; and we having, by Pepe's advice, left our watches and
valuables in his room, and put our handkerchiefs in our breast-pockets,
started with him. Mr. Christy, always on the look-out for a new seed or
plant, had taken possession of the seeds of two _mameis_, which are
fleshy fruits--as big as cocoa-nuts--each containing a hard smooth seed
as large as a hen's egg. These not being of great value, he put one in
each tail-pocket of his coat. When we got out, we found the streets
full of people, hurrying from one church to another, anxious to get as
many as possible visited in the evening. We went first to the monastery
of San Francisco, close to our hotel, the largest, and perhaps the
richest convent in the country. Entering through a great gate, we find
ourselves in a large courtyard, full of people, who are visiting--one
after another--the four churches which the establishment contains,
going in at one door and out at the other. At the door of the largest
church, stands a tall monk, soliciting customers for the rosaries of
olive-wood, crosses, and medals from Jerusalem, which are displayed on
a stall close by--shouting in a stentorian voice, every two or three
minutes, "He who gives alms to Holy Church, shall receive plenary
indulgence, and deliver one soul from purgatory." We bought some, but
there did not seem to be many other purchasers. Indeed, we found, when
we had been longer in the country, that a few pence would buy all sorts
of church indulgences, from the permission to eat meat on fast-days up
to plenary absolution in the hour of death; and the trade, once so
flourishing here, is almost used up. The churches were hung with black,
and lighted up; and in each was a "monument," a kind of bower of green
branches decorated with flowers, mirror's, and gold and silver
church-plate, and supposed to stand for the Garden of Gethsemane.
Inside was reclining a wax figure of our Saviour, gaudily dressed in
silk and velvet; and there were also representations of the Last
Supper, with wax-work figures as large as life. To visit and criticise
these "monuments" was the object of the sort of pilgrimage people were
making from church to church, and they seemed thoroughly to enjoy it.
It was not a superfluous precaution that we had taken, in leaving our
valuables in a place of safety, for, on our exit from the first church,
we found that Pepe had lost his handkerchief and a cigar-case, which he
had stowed away in an inner pocket, and Mr. Christy had been relieved
of one of his mamei seeds by some "lepero" who probably took it for a
snuff-box. His feelings must have been like those of the English
pickpocket in Paris, when he robbed the Frenchman of the article he had
pocketed with so much care, and found it was a lump of sugar. And so
relieved of further care for our worldly goods, we went through with
the work of seeing monuments, till we were tired and disgusted with the
whole affair, and at last went home to bed.

Next day, appropriate sermons in the churches, processions in the
afternoon, in which wax figures of Christ and the Virgin Mary were
carried by men got up in fancy dresses as soldiers and centurions, and
so called penitents, walking covered with black shrouds and veils, with
small round holes to look through, or in the yellow dress and
extinguisher cap, both with flames and devils painted on them. These
are exactly the costumes worn in old times, the first by the familiars
of the Inquisition, and the second by the criminals it condemned; and
the sight of them set us thinking of the processions they used to
figure in, when the Holy Office was flourishing at Santo Domingo, a
little way down the street where we are standing.

In the evening the Crucifixion is represented in wax in the churches,
and the visiting goes on as the night before; and the next morning is
the Sábado de Gloria, the Saturday which ends Lent. We go to the
Jesuits' church in the morning to hear the last sermon. Since Thursday
at noon, as the organs have been silenced, harps and violins have taken
their places. The sermon is long and prosy, and we rejoice that it is
the last. Then the service of the day goes on until they come to the
"Gloria in excelsis." The organ peals out again, the black
curtain--which has hidden the high altar--parts in the middle, and
displays a perfect blaze of gold and jewels: all the bells in the city
begin to ring: the carriages, which have been waiting ready harnessed
in court yards, pour out into the streets: the lumbering hackney
coaches go racing to the great square, striving to get the first fare
for luck: the Judases, which have been hanging all the morning out of
windows and across streets, are set light to as the first bell begins
to ring, and fizzing and popping burst all to pieces, and then are
thrown into a heap in the street, where a bonfire is made of them, and
the children join hands and dance round it. So Holy Week ends.

[Illustration: THE PORTER AND THE BAKER IN MEXICO. (From Models made by
Native Artists)]

The arrangement of the day in Mexico is this. Early in the morning your
servant knocks at your door, and brings in a little cup of coffee or
chocolate and a small roll, which _desayuno_--literally breakfast--you
discuss while dressing. Going down into the courtyard, you find your
horse waiting for you, and off you go for an hour or two's ride, and
back to a dejeuner-à-la-fourchette somewhere between ten and one
o'clock. Then you have seven or eight hours before dinner, so that a
good deal of work may be got into a day so divided. Things are managed
very differently in country places, but this is the fashion in the
capital among the higher class, that is, of course, the class of people
who put on dress-coats in the evening.

When we had been a day or two in Mexico, we took our first ride to
Tacubaya and Chapultepec. Mexican saddles and bridles were a novelty to
us, but when we come to describe our Mexican and his appurtenances it
will be time enough to speak of them.

The barricades in the streets constructed during the last revolution of
two or three weeks back had not yet been removed, but an opening at one
side allowed men and horses to get past. Carriages had to go round, an
easy matter in a city built as this is in squares like a chess-board.
The barricades mount two guns each, and as the streets are quite
straight they can sweep them in both directions, to the whole length of
their range. As in Turin, you can look backward and forward along the
straight streets from every part of the city, and see mountains at each
end. The suburbs of the city are quite as repulsive as our first
glimpse of them led us to expect; and, as far as one could judge by the
appearance of the half-caste inhabitants, it is not good to go there
alone after dark. Here is the end of the aqueduct of Chapultepec, the
Salto del Agua; and--crowded round it--a thoroughly characteristic
group of women and water-carriers, filling their great earthen jars
with water, which they carry about from house to house. The women are
simply and cheaply dressed, and though not generally pretty, are very
graceful in their movements. Their dress consists of a white cotton
under-dress, a coloured cotton skirt, generally blue, brown, or grey,
with some small pattern upon it, but never brilliant in colour, and a
rebozo, which is a small sober-coloured cotton shawl, long and narrow.
This rebozo passes over the back of the head, where it is somehow fixed
to a back hair-comb, and the two ends hang down over the shoulders in
front; or, more often, one end is thrown over the opposite shoulder, so
that the young lady's face is set in it, like a picture in a frame. Add
to this a springy step, the peculiarly unconstrained movement in
walking which comes of living in the open air and wearing a loose
dress, a pleasant pale face, small features, bright eyes, small hands
and feet, little slippers and no stockings, and you have as good a
picture of a Mexican half-caste girl as I can give. A book of Mexican
engravings, however, will give a much better idea of her. Then we went
past the great prison, the Acordada, and out at the gate (we had
purposely gone out of our way to see more of the city), and so into the
great promenade, the Pased or Alameda. The latter is the Spanish name
for this necessary appendage to every town. It comes from _álamo_,
which means a poplar. Imagine a long wide level road, a mile or so
long, generally so chosen as to have a fine view, with footpaths on
each side, lines of poplar trees, a fountain at each end and a statue
in the middle, and this description will stand pretty nearly for almost
every promenade of the kind I have seen in Spain or Spanish America.

[Illustration: WATER-CARRIER AND A MEXICAN WOMAN, AT THE FOUNTAIN.]

Tacubaya is a pleasant place on the ride of the first hills that begin
to rise towards the mountain-wall of the valley. Here rich Mexicans
have country-houses in large gardens, which are interesting from the
immense variety of plants which grow there, though badly kept up, and
systematically stripped by the gardeners of the fruit as it gets
ripe--for their own benefit, of course. From Tacubaya we go to
Chapultepec (Grasshopper Mountain), which is a volcanic hill of
porphyry rising from the plain. On the top is the palace on which the
viceroy Galvez expended great sums of money some seventy years ago,
making it into a building which would serve either as a palace or as a
fortress in cases of emergency. Though the Americans charged up the
hill and carried it easily in '47, it would be a very strong place in
proper hands. It is a military school now. On the hill is the famous
grove of cypresses--ahuehuetes[5]--as they are called, grand trees with
their branches hung with fringes of the long grey Spanish moss--barba
Española--Spanish beard. I do not know what painters think of the
effect of this moss, trailing in long festoons from the branches of the
trees, but to me it is beautiful; and I shall never forget where I
first saw it, on a bayou of the Mississippi, winding through the depths
of a great forest in the swamps of Louisiana.[6] In this grove of
Chapultepec, there were sculptured on the side of the hill, in the
solid porphyry, likenesses of the two Montezumas, colossal in size. For
some reason or other, I forget now what, one of the last Spanish
viceroys thought it desirable to destroy them, and tried to blow them
up with gunpowder. He only partially succeeded, for the two great
bas-reliefs were still very distinguishable as we rode past, though
noseless and considerably knocked about.

We went home to breakfast with our friends, and looked at the
title-deeds of their house in crabbed Spanish of the sixteenth century,
and the great Chinese treasure-chest, still used as the strong-box of
the firm, with an immense lock, and a key like the key of Dover castle.
Fine old Chinese jars, and other curiosities, are often to be found in
Mexico; and they date from the time when the great galleon from Manila,
which was called "el nao"--the ship--to distinguish it from all other
ships, came once a year to Acapulco.

After breakfast, business hours begin; so we took ourselves off to
visit the canal of Chalco, and the famous floating gardens--as they are
called. On our way we had a chance of studying the conveyances our
ancestors used to ride in, and availed ourselves of it. In books on
Spanish America, written at the beginning of this century, there are
wonderful descriptions of the gilt coaches, with six or eight mules, in
which the great folks used to drive in state on the promenades. They
are exactly the carriages that it was the height of a lady's ambition
to ride in, in the days of Sir Charles Grandison, and Mr. Tom Jones.
Here, in Mexico, they were still to be found, after they had
disappeared from the rest of the habitable globe; and even now, though
the private carriages are all of a more modern type, there are still
left a few of these amazing vehicles, now degraded to the cab-stand;
and we got into one that was embellished with sculptured Cupids--their
faces as much mutilated as the two Montezumas--and with the remains of
the painting and gilding, which once covered the whole affair, just
visible in corners, like the colouring of the ceilings of the Alhambra.
We had to climb up three high steps, and haul ourselves into the body
of the coach, which hung on strong leather straps; springs belong to a
later period. By the time we had got to the Paseo de las Vigas we were
glad enough to get out, wondering at the sacrifice of comfort to
dignity those highly respectable grandees must have made, and not
surprised at the fate of some inquisitive travellers who have done as
we did, and have been obliged to stop by the qualms of sea-sickness. At
the bridge we chartered a canoe to Santa Anita. This Santa Anita is a
little Indian village on the canal of Chalco, and to-day there is to be
a festival there. For this, however, we shall be too early, as we have
to be back in time to see Mexico turn out for a promenade on the Paseo
de las Vigas, and then to go out to dinner. So we must just take the
opportunity of looking at the Indian population as they go up and down
the canal in canoes, and see their gardens and their houses. However,
as the Indian notion of a festival consists in going to mass in the
morning, and getting drunk and fighting in the afternoon, we are
perhaps as well out of it. We took our passage to Santa Anita and back
in a canoe--a mere flat-bottomed box with sloping sides, made of boards
put together with wooden pegs. There was a mat at the stern for us to
squat upon, and an awning over our heads. An old Indian and his son
were the crew; and they had long poles, which they set against the
banks or the bottom of the shallow canal, and so pushed us along.
Besides these two, an old woman with two little girls got in, as we
were starting--without asking our leave, by the way--and sat down at
the other end of the canoe. Of course, the old woman began to busy
herself with the two little girls, in the usual occupation of old women
here, during their idle moments; and though she left off at our earnest
request, she evidently thought us very crotchety people for objecting.

The scene on the canal was a curious one. There were numbers of boats
going up and down; and the Indians, as soon as they caught sight of an
acquaintance, began to shout out a long string of complimentary
phrases, sometimes in Spanish and sometimes in Mexican: "How is your
worship this morning?" "I trust that I have the happiness of seeing
your worship in good health." "If there is anything I can have the
honour of doing for your worship, pray dispose of me," and so forth;
till they are out of hearing. All this is accompanied by a taking-off
of hats, and a series of low bows and complimentary grimaces. As far as
we could ascertain, it is all mere matter of ceremony. It may be an
exaggeration of the formal, complimentary talk of the Spaniards, but
its origin probably dates further back.

The Indians here no longer appeared the same dull, melancholy men whom
we had seen in the richer quarter of the town. There they were under a
strong feeling of constraint, for their language is not understood by
the whites and mestizos; and they, for their part, know but little
Spanish; and besides, there is very little sympathy between the two
classes. One thing will shew this clearly enough. By a distinct line of
demarcation, the Indians are separated from the rest of the population,
who are at least partly white. These latter call themselves "gente de
razón"--people of reason,--to distinguish themselves from the Indians,
who are people without reason. In common parlance the distinction is
made thus: the whites and mixed breed are "gente"--_people_,--the brown
men being merely "Indios"--Indians--and not people at all.

Here, in their own quarter, and among their own people, they seem
talkative enough. We can only tell what they are chattering about when
they happen to speak Spanish, either for our benefit, or to show off
their proficiency in that tongue. People who can speak the Aztec
language say that their way of forming compound words gives constant
occasion for puns and quibbles, and that the talk of the Indians is
full of such small jokes. In this respect they differ exceedingly from
the Spaniards, whose jests are generally about _things_, and seldom
about their _names_, as one sees by their almost always bearing
translation into other languages.

Most of the canoes were tastefully decorated with flowers, for the
Aztecs have not lost their old taste for ornamenting themselves, and
everything about them, with garlands and nosegays. The fruits and
vegetables they were carrying to market were very English in their
appearance. Mexico is supplied with all kinds of tropical fruits, which
come from a distance; but the district we are now in only produces
plants which might grow in our own country--barley, potatoes, cabbages,
parsnips, apples, pears, plums, peaches, and so forth, but scarcely
anything tropical in its character. One thing surprises us, that the
Indians, in a climate where the mornings and evenings are often very
chilly, should dress so scantily. The men have a general appearance of
having outgrown their clothes; for the sleeves of the kind of
cotton-shirt they wear only reach to their elbows, and their trousers,
of the same material, only fall to their knees. To these two garments
add a sort of blanket, thrown over the shoulders, a pair of sandals,
and a palm-leaf hat, and the man is dressed. His skin is brown, his
limbs muscular--especially his legs--his lips thick, his nose Jewish,
his hair coarse, black, and hanging straight down. The woman's dress is
as simple as the man's. She has on a kind of cotton sack, very short in
the sleeves, and very open at the shoulders, and some sort of a skirt
or petticoat besides. Sometimes she has a folded cotton cloth on her
head, like a Roman contadina; but, generally, nothing covers her thick
black hair, which hangs down behind in long twisted tails.

In old times, when Mexico was in the middle of a great lake, and the
inhabitants were not strong enough to hold land on the shores, they
were driven to strange shifts to get food. Among other expedients, they
took to making little floating islands, which consisted of rafts of
reeds and brushwood, on which they heaped mud from the shores of the
lakes. On the banks of the lake of Tezcuco the mud was, at first, too
full of salt and soda to be good for cultivation; but by pouring the
water of the lake upon it, and letting it soak through, they dissolved
out most of the salts, and the island was fit for cultivation, and bore
splendid crops of vegetables.[7] These islands were called _chinampas_,
and they were often large enough for the proprietor to build a hut in
the middle, and live in it with his family. In later times, when the
Mexicans came to be no longer afraid of their neighbours, the chinampas
were not of much use; and when the water was drained off, and the city
stood on dry land, one would have supposed that such a troublesome and
costly arrangement would have been abandoned. The Mexican, however, is
hard to move from the customs of his ancestors; and we have Humboldt's
word for it, that in his time there were some of these artificial
islands still in the lake of Chalco, which the owners towed about with
a rope, or pushed with a long pole. They are all gone now, at any rate,
though the name of _chinampa_ is still applied to the gardens along the
canal. These gardens very much resemble the floating islands in their
construction of mud, heaped on a foundation of reeds and branches; and
though they are not the real thing, and do not float, they are
interesting, as the present representatives of the famous Mexican
floating gardens. They are narrow strips of land, with a frontage of
four or five yards to the canal, and a depth of one hundred, or a
hundred and fifty yards. Between the strips are open ditches; and one
principal occupation of the proprietor seems to be bringing up mud from
the bottom of the ditch with a wooden shovel, and throwing it on the
garden, in places where it has sunk. The reason of the narrowness of
the strips is that he may be able to throw mud all over them from the
ditches on either side.

While we are busy observing all these matters, and questioning our
boatmen about them, we reach Santa Anita. Here there are swampy lanes
and more swampy gardens, a little village of Indian houses, three or
four pulque-shops, and a church. Outside the pulque-shops are
fresco-paintings, representing Aztec warriors carousing, and draining
great bowls of pulque. These were no specimens of Aztec art, however,
but seemed to be copied (by some white or half-caste sign-painter,
probably) from the French coloured engravings which represent the
events of the Conquest. These extraordinary works of art are to be seen
everywhere in this country, where, of all places in the world, one
would have thought that people would have noticed that the artist had
not the faintest idea of what an Aztec was like, but supposed that his
limbs and face and hair were like an European's. Here, with the real
Aztec standing underneath, the difference was striking enough. One
ought not to be too critical about these things, however, when one
remembers the pictures of shepherds and shepherdesses that adorn our
English farmhouses. We drank pulque at the sign of _The Cacique_, and
liked it, for we had now quite got over our aversion to its putrid
taste and smell. I wonder that our new faculty of pulque-drinking did
not make us able to relish the suspicious eggs that abound in Mexican
inns, but it had no such effect, unfortunately.

Our canoe took us back to the Promenade of Las Vigas, which is a long
drive, planted with rows of trees, and extends along the last mile or
two of the canal. Indeed, its name comes from the beam (Viga) which
swings across the canal at the place where the canoes pay toll. This
was the great promenade, once upon a time; but the new Alameda has
taken away all the promenaders to a more fashionable quarter, except on
certain festival days, three or four times in the year, when it is the
correct thing for society to make a display of itself--on horseback or
in carriages--in this neglected Indian quarter. We had happened upon
one of these festival days; so, as we crawled along the side-path,
tired and dusty, we had a good opportunity of seeing the Mexican beau
monde. The display of really good carriages was extraordinary; but it
must be recollected that many families here are content to live
miserably enough at home, if they can manage to appear in good style at
the theatre and on the promenade. This is one reason why so many of the
Mexicans who are so friendly with you out of doors, and in the cafés,
are so very shy of letting you see the inside of their houses. They
say, and very likely it is true, that among the richer classes, it is
customary to put a stipulation in the marriage-contracts, that the
husband shall keep a carriage and pair, and a box at the theatre, for
his wife's benefit. The horsemen turned out in great style, and the
foreigners were fully represented among them. It was noticeable that
while these latter generally adopted the high-peaked saddle, and the
jacket, and broad-brimmed felt hat of the country, and looked as though
the new arrangements quite suited them, the native dandies, on the
other hand, were prone to dressing in European fashion, and sitting
upon English saddles--in which they looked neither secure nor
comfortable.

We walked home past the old Bull-ring, now replaced by a new one near
the new promenade, and found, to our surprise, that in this quarter of
the town many of the streets were under water. We knew that the level
of the lake of Tezcuco had been raised by a series of three very wet
seasons, but had no idea that things had got so far as this. Of course
the ground-floors had to be abandoned, and the people had made a raised
pathway of planks along tho street, and adopted various contrivances
for getting dryshod up to their first floors; and in some places canoes
were floating in the street. The city looked like this some two hundred
years ago, when Martinez the engineer tried an unfortunate experiment
with his draining tunnel at Huehuetoca, and flooded the whole city for
five years. It was by the interference, they tell us, of the patroness
of the Indians, our Lady of Guadalupe, who was brought from her own
temple on purpose, that the city was delivered from the impending
destruction. A number of earthquakes took place, which caused the
ground to split in large fissures, down which the superfluous water
disappeared. For none of her many miracles has the Virgin of Guadalupe
got so much credit as for this. To be sure, it is not generally
mentioned in orthodox histories of the affair, that she was brought to
the capital a year or two before the earthquakes happened.

Talking of earthquakes, it is to be remembered that we are in a
district where they are of continual occurrence. If one looks carefully
at a line of houses in a street, it is curious to see how some walls
slope inwards, and some outwards, and some are cracked from top to
bottom. There is hardly a church-tower in Mexico that is not visibly
out of the perpendicular. Any one who has noticed how the walls of the
Cathedral of Pisa have been thrown out of the perpendicular by the
settling down of the foundations, will have an idea of the general
appearance of the larger buildings of Mexico. On different occasions the
destruction caused by earthquakes has been very great. By the way, the
liability of Mexico to these shocks, explains the peculiarity of the
building of the houses. A modern English town with two-or-three-storied
houses, with their thin brick walls, would be laid in ruins by a shock
which would hardly affect Mexico. Here, the houses of several storeys
have stone walls of such thickness that they resist by sheer strength;
and the one-storey mud houses, in the suburbs, are too low to suffer
much by being shaken about. A few days before we arrived here, our
friends Pepe and Pancho were playing at billiards in the Lonja,[8] the
Merchants' Exchange; and Pepe described to us the feeling of utter
astonishment with which he saw his ball, after striking the other,
go suddenly off at an absurd angle into a pocket. The shock of an
earthquake had tilted the table up on one side. While we were in
Mexico there was a slight shock, which set the chandeliers swinging,
but we did not even notice it. In April, a solemn procession goes from
the Cathedral, on a day marked in the Calendar as the "Patrocinio de
Señor San Jose", to implore the "Santissimo Patriarca" to protect the
city from earthquakes (temblores). In connection with this subject
there is an opinion, so generally received in Mexico that it is worth
notice. Everybody there, even the most educated people, will tell you
that there is an earthquake-season, which occurs in January or
February; and that the shocks are far more frequent than at any other
time of the year. My impression is that this is all nonsense; but I
should like to test it with a list of the shocks that have been felt,
if such a thing were to be had. It does not follow that, because
the Mexicans have such frequent opportunities of trying the question,
they should therefore have done so. In fact, experience as to popular
beliefs in similar matters rather points the other way. I recollect
that in the earthquake districts of southern Italy, when shocks were of
almost daily occurrence, people believed that they were more frequent
in the middle four hours of the night, from ten to two, than at other
times. Of course, this proved on examination to be quite without
foundation. To take one more case in point. How many of our
almanack-books, even the better class of them, contain prophecies of
wet and fine weather, deduced from the moon's quarters! How long will
it be before we get rid of this queer old astrological superstition?

We made a few rough observations of the thermometer and barometer
during our stay in Mexico. The barometer stands at about 22-1/2 inches,
and our thermometer gave the boiling point of water at 199 degrees. We
could never get eggs well boiled in the high lands, and attributed
this, whether rightly or not I cannot say, to the low temperature of
boiling water.

[Illustration: GROUP OF ECCLESIASTICS, MEXICO.]



CHAPTER IV.



TACUBAYA. PACHUCA. REAL DEL MONTE.

We went one morning to the house of our friend Don Pepe, and were
informed by the servant as we entered the courtyard that the niño, the
child, was up stairs waiting for us. "The Child" seemed an odd term to
apply to a young man of five and twenty. The young ladies, in the same
way are called the ni–as, and keep the appellation until they marry.

We went off with the niño to his uncle's house at Tacubaya, on the
rising ground above Mexico. In the garden there we found a vegetation
such as one would find in southern Europe--figs, olives, peaches,
roses, and many other European trees and flowers--growing luxuriantly,
but among them the passion-flower, which produces one of the most
delicious of fruits, the granadita, and other semi-tropical plants. The
live creatures in the garden, however, were anything but European in
their character. There were numbers of immense butterflies of the most
brilliant colours; and the garden was full of hummingbirds, darting
backwards and forwards with wonderful swiftness, and dipping their long
beaks into the flowers. They call them chupa-mirtos--myrtle-suckers,
and the Indians take them by blowing water upon them from a cane, and
catching them before they have recovered from the shock. One day we
bought a cage full of them, and tried to keep them alive in our room by
feeding them with sugar and water, but the poor little things pined
away. In old times the Mexicans were famous for their ornaments of
humming-bird's feathers. The taste with which they arranged feathers of
many shades of colour, excited the admiration of the conquerors; and
the specimens we may still see in museums are beautiful things, and
their great age has hardly impaired the brilliancy of their tints. This
curious art was practised by the highest nobility, and held in great
esteem, just as working tapestry used to be in Europe, only that the
feather-work was mostly done by men. It is a lost art, for one cannot
take much account of such poor things as are done now, in which,
moreover, the designs are European. In this garden at Tacubaya we saw
for the first time the praying Mantis, and caught him as he sat in his
usual devotional attitude. His Spanish name is "el predicador," the
preacher.

We got back to Mexico in time for the Corrida de Toros. The bull-ring
was a large one, and there were many thousands of people there; but as
to the spectacle itself, whether one took it upon its merits, or merely
compared it with the bull-fights of Old Spain, it was disgusting. The
bulls were cautious and cowardly, and could hardly be got to fight; and
the matadors almost always failed in killing them; partly through want
of skill, partly because it is really harder to kill a quiet bull than
a fierce one who runs straight at his assailant. To fill up the measure
of the whole iniquitous proceeding, they brought in a wretch in a white
jacket with a dagger, to finish the unfortunate beasts which the
matador could not kill in the legitimate way. It was evidently quite
the regular thing, for the spectators expressed no surprise at it.

After the bull-fight proper was finished, there came two or three
supplementary performances, which were genuinely Mexican, and very well
worth seeing. A very wild bull was turned into the ring, where two
lazadores, on beautiful little horses, were waiting for him. The bull
set off at full speed after one of the riders, who cantered easily
ahead of him; and the other, leisurely untying his lazo, hung it over
his left arm, and then, taking the end in his light hand, let the cord
fall through the loop into a running noose, which he whirled two or
three times round his head, and threw it so neatly that it settled
gently down over the bull's neck. In a moment the other end of the cord
was wound several times round the pummel of the saddle, and the little
horse set off at full speed to get ahead of the bull. But the first
rider had wheeled round, thrown his lazo upon the ground, and just as
the bull stepped within the noose, whipped it up round his hind leg,
and galloped off in a contrary direction. Just as the first lazo
tightened round his neck, the second jerked him by the leg, and the
beast rolled helplessly over in the sand. Then they got the lazos off,
no easy matter when one isn't accustomed to it, and set him off again,
catching him by hind legs or fore legs just as they pleased, and
inevitably bringing him down, till the bull was tired out and no longer
resisted. Then they both lazo'd him over the horns, and galloped him
out, amid the cheers of the spectators. The amusements finished with
the "colear." This is quite peculiar to Mexico, and is done on this
wise. The coleador rides after the bull, who has an idea that something
is going to happen, and gallops off as fast as he can go, throwing out
his hind legs in his awkward bullish fashion. Now, suppose you are the
coleador, sitting in your peaked Mexican saddle, that rises behind and
before, and keeps you in your seat without an effort on your part. You
gallop after the bull, and when you come up with him, you pull as hard
as you can to keep your horse back; for, if he is used to the sport, as
almost all Mexican horses are, he is wild to get past, not noticing
that his rider has got no hold of the toro. Well, you are just behind
the bull, a little to the left of him, and out of the way of his hind
legs, which will trip your horse up if you don't take care; you take
your right foot out of the stirrup, catch hold of the end of the bull's
tail (which is very long), throw your leg over it, and so twist the end
of the tail round your leg below the knee. You have either got the
bridle between your teeth or have let it go altogether, and with your
left hand you give your horse a crack with the whip; he goes forward
with a bound, and the bull, losing his balance by the sudden jerk
behind, rolls over on the ground, and gets up, looking very
uncomfortable. The faster the bull gallops, the easier it is to throw
him over; and two boys of twelve or fourteen years of age coleared a
couple of young bulls in the arena, in great style, pitching them over
in all directions. The farmers and landed proprietors are immensely
fond of both these sports, which the bulls--by the way--seem to dislike
most thoroughly; but this exhibition in the bull-ring was better than
what one generally sees, and the leperos were loud in their expressions
of delight.

When we had been a week or two in the city of Mexico, we decided upon
making an excursion to the great silver mining district of the Real del
Monte. Some of our English friends were leaving for England, and had
engaged the whole of the Diligence to Pachuca, going from thence up to
the Real, and thence to Tampico, with all the pomp and circumstance of
a train of carriages and an armed escort. We were invited to go with
them as far as Pachuca; and accordingly we rose very early on the 28th
of March, got some chocolate under difficulties, and started in the
Diligence, seven grown-up people, and a baby, who was very good, and
was spoken of and to as "leoncito." On the high plateaus of Mexico, the
children of European parents grow up as healthy and strong as at home;
it is only in the districts at a lower elevation above the sea, on the
coasts for instance, that they do not thrive. Mr. G., who was leaving
Mexico, was the head of a great merchant-house, and it was as a
compliment to him and Mrs. G. that we were accompanied by a party of
English horsemen for the first two or three leagues. Englishmen take
much more easily to Mexican ways about horses than the Mexicans do to
ours, and a finer turn-out of horses and riders than our amateur escort
could hardly have been found in Mexico. There was our friend Don
Guillermo, who rode a beautiful horse that had once belonged to the
captain of a band of robbers, and had not its equal in the city for
swiftness; and Don Juan on his splendid little brown horse Pancho,
lazoing stray mules as he went, and every now and then galloping into a
meadow by the roadside after a bull, who was off like a shot the moment
he heard the sound of hoofs. I wonder whether I shall ever see them
again, those jovial open-hearted countrymen of ours. At last our
companions said good-bye, and loaded pistols were carefully arranged on
the centre cushion in case of an attack, much to the edification of my
companion and myself, as it rather implied that, if fighting were to be
done, we two should have to sit inside to be shot at without a chance
of hitting anybody in return.

The hedges of the Organ Cactus are a feature in the landscape of the
plains, and we first saw them to perfection on the road between Mexico
and Pachuca. This plant, the Cereus hexagonus, grows in Italy in the
open air, but seems not to be turned to account anywhere except in
Mexico for the purpose to which it is particularly suited. In its wild
state it grows like a candelabrum, with a thick trunk a few feet high,
from the top of which it sends out shoots, which, as soon as they have
room, rise straight upwards in fluted pillars fifteen or twenty feet in
height. Such a plant, with pillars rising side by side and almost
touching one another, has a curious resemblance to an organ with its
pipes, and thence its name "órgano."

To make a fence, they break off the straight lateral shoots, of the
height required, and plant them closely side by side, in a trench,
sufficiently deep to ensure their standing firmly; and it is a curious
sight to see a labourer bearing on his shoulder one of these vegetable
pillars, as high as himself, and carefully guarding himself against its
spines. A hedge perfectly impassable is obtained at once; the cactus
rooting so readily, that it is rare to see a gap where one has died.
The villagers surround their gardens with these fences of cactus, which
often line the road for miles together. Foreigners used to point out
such villages to us, and remark that they seemed "well organized," a
small joke which unfortunately bears translation into all ordinary
European languages, and was inflicted without mercy upon us as new
comers.

We reached Pachuca early in the afternoon, and took up our quarters in
the inn there, and our friends went on to Real del Monte.

This little town of Pachuca has long been a place of some importance in
the world, as regards mining-operations. The Aztecs worked silver-mines
here, as well as at Tasco, long before the Spaniards came, and they
knew how to smelt the ore. It is true that, if no better process than
smelting were known now, most of the mines would scarcely be worth
working; but still, to know how to extract silver at all was a great
step; and indeed at that time, and for long after the Conquest, there
was no better method known in Europe. It was in this very place that a
Spaniard, Medina by name, discovered the process of amalgamation with
mercury, in the year 1557, some forty years after the invasion. We went
to see the place where he first worked his new process, and found it
still used as a "hacienda de beneficio" (establishment for extracting
silver from the ore.) So few discoveries in the arts have come out of
Mexico, or indeed out of any Spanish colony, that we must make the most
of this really very important method, which is more extensively used
than any other, both in North and South America. As for the rest of the
world, it produces, comparatively, so little silver, that it is
scarcely worth taking into account.

We had forgotten, when we went to bed, that we were nearly seven
hundred feet higher than Mexico; but had the fact brought to our
remembrance by waking in the middle of the night, feeling very cold,
and finding our thermometer marking 40 degrees Fahr.; whereupon we
covered ourselves with cloaks, and the cloaks with the strips of carpet
at our bedsides, and went to sleep again.

We had hired, of the French landlord, two horses and a mozo to guide
us, and sorry hacks they were when we saw them in the morning. It was
delightful to get a little circulation into our veins by going at the
best gallop our horses would agree to; for we were fresh from hot
countries, and not at all prepared for having our hands and feet numbed
with cold, and being as hoarse as ravens--for the sore throat which is
the nuisance of the district, and is very severe upon new comers, had
not spared us. Evaporation is so rapid at this high altitude that if
you wet the back of your hand it dries almost instantly, leaving a
smart sensation of cold. One may easily suppose, that when people have
been accustomed to live under the ordinary pressure of the air, their
throats and lungs do not like being dried up at this rate; besides
their having, on account of the rarity of the air, to work harder in
breathing, in order to get in the necessary quantity of oxygen.

Coughs seem very common here, especially among the children, though
people look strong and healthy, but in the absence of proper statistics
one cannot undertake to say whether the district is a healthy one or
not.

For a wonder we have a good road, and this simply because the Real del
Monte Company wanted one, and made it for themselves. How unfortunate
all Spanish countries are in roads, one of the most important first
steps towards civilization! When one has travelled in Old Spain, one
can imagine that the colonists did not bring over very enlightened
ideas on the subject; and as the Mexicans were not allowed to hold
intercourse with any other country, it is easy to explain why Mexico is
all but impassable for carriages. But if the money--or half of it--that
has been spent in building and endowing churches and convents had been
devoted to road-making, this might have been a great and prosperous
country.

For some three hours we rode along among porphyritic mountains, getting
higher at every turn, and enjoying the clear bright air. Now and then
we met or passed a long recua (train) of loaded mules, taking care to
keep the safe side of the road till we were rid of them. It is not
pleasant to meet a great drove of horned cattle in an Alpine pass, but
I really think a recua of loaded mules among the Andes is worse. A
knowing old beast goes first, and the rest come tumbling after him
anyhow, with their loads often projecting a foot or two on either side,
and banging against anybody or anything. Then, wherever the road is
particularly narrow, and there is a precipice of two or three hundred
feet to fall over, one or two of them will fall down, or get their
packs loose, and so block up the road, and there is a general scrimmage
of kicking and shoving behind, till the arrieros can get things
straight again. At last we reach the top of a ridge, and see the little
settlement of Real del Monte below us. It is more like a Cornish mining
village than anything else; but of course the engine-houses, chimneys,
and mine-sheds, built by Cornishmen in true Cornish fashion, go a long
way towards making up the resemblance. The village is built on the
awkwardest bit of ground possible, up and down on the side of a steep
ravine, one house apparently standing on the roof of another; and it
takes half a mile of real hard climbing to get from the bottom of the
town to the top.

We put up our horses at a neat little inn kept by an old Englishwoman,
and walked or climbed up to the Company's house. We made several new
acquaintances at the Real, though we left within a few hours, intending
to see the place thoroughly on our return.

One peculiarity of the Casa Grande--the great house of the Company--was
the warlike appearance of everybody in it. The clerks were posting up
the ledgers with loaded revolvers on the desk before them; the
manager's room was a small arsenal, and the gentlemen rode out for
exercise, morning and evening, armed to the teeth. Not that there is
anything to be apprehended from robbers--indeed I should like to see
any of the Mexican ladrones interfering with the Cornish miners, who
would soon teach them better manners. I am inclined to think there is a
positive pleasure in possessing and handling guns and pistols, whether
they are likely to be of any use or not. Indeed, while travelling
through the western and southern States of America, where such things
are very generally carried, I was the possessor of a five-barrelled
revolver, and admit that I derived an amount of mild satisfaction from
carrying it about, and shooting at a mark with it, that amply
compensated for the loss of two dollars I incurred by selling it to a
Jew at New Orleans.

We rode on to Regla, soon finding that our guide had never been there
before; so, next morning, we kept the two horses and dismissed him with
ignominy. A fine road leads from the Real to Regla, for all the
silver-ore from the mines is conveyed there to have the silver
separated from it. My notes of our ride mention a great water-wheel:
sections of porphyritic rocks, with enormous masses of alluvial soil
lying upon them: steep ravines: arroyos, cut by mountain-streams, and
forests of pine-trees--a thoroughly Alpine district altogether. At
Regla it became evident that our letter of introduction was not a mere
complimentary affair. There is not even a village there; it is only a
great hacienda, belonging to the Company, with the huts of the workmen
built near it. The Company, represented by Mr. Bell, received us with
the greatest hospitality. Almost before the letter was opened our
horses and mozo were off to the stables, our room was ready, and our
dinner being prepared as fast as might be. What a pleasant evening we
had, after our long day's work! We had a great wood-fire, and sat by
it, talking and looking at Mr. Bell's photographs and minerals, which
serve as an amusement in his leisure-hours. The Company's Administrador
leads rather a peculiar life here. There is no want of work or
responsibility; he has two or three hundred Indians to manage, almost
all of whom will steal and cheat without the slightest scruple, if they
can but get a chance; he has to assay the ores, superintend a variety
of processes which require the greatest skill and judgment, and he is
in charge of property to the value of several hundred thousand pounds.
Then a man must have a constitution of iron to live in a place where
the air is so rarefied, and where the temperature varies thirty and
forty degrees between morning and noon. As for society, he must find it
in his own family; for even the better class of Mexicans are on so
different a level, intellectually, from an educated Englishman, that
their society bores him utterly, and he had rather be left in solitude
than have to talk to them. Well, it is a great advantage to travellers
that circumstances fix pleasant people in such out-of-the-way places.

One necessary part of a hacienda is a church. The proprietors are
compelled by law to build one, and pay the priest's fees for mass on
Sundays and feast-days. Now, almost all the English one meets with
engaged in business, or managing mines and plantations, are Scotch, and
one may well suppose that there is not much love lost between them and
the priests. The father confessor plays an important part in the great
system of dishonesty that prevails to so monstrous an extent throughout
the country. He hears the particulars of the thefts and cheatings that
have been practised on the proprietor who builds his church and pays
for his services, and he complacently absolves his penitents in
consideration of a small penance. Not a word about restitution; and
just a formal injunction to go and sin no more, which neither priest
nor penitent is very sincere about. The various evils of the Roman
Catholic system have been reiterated till the subject has become
tiresome, but this particular practice is so contrary to the simplest
notions of morality, and has produced such fearful effects on the
character of this nation, that one cannot pass it by without notice. If
the Superintendent should roast the parish priest in front of the
oxidising furnace, till he confessed all he knew about the thefts of
his parishioners from the Company, he would tell strange stories,--how
Juan Fernandez carried off sixpennyworth of silver in each car every
day for a month; and how Pedro Alvarado (the Indian names have almost
disappeared except in a few families, and Spanish names have been
substituted) had a hammer with a hollow handle, like the stick that
Sancho Panza delivered his famous judgment about, and carried away
silver in it every day when he left work; and how Vasco Nuñez stole the
iron key from the gate (which cost two dollars to replace), walking
twenty miles and losing a day's work in order to sell it, and
eventually getting but twopence for it; and plenty more stories of the
same kind. The Padre at Regla, we heard, was not given to preaching
sermons, but had lately favoured his congregation with a very striking
one, to the effect that the Company paid him only three dollars a time
for saying mass, and that he ought to have four.

Almost every traveller who visits Mexico enlarges on the dishonesty
which is rooted in the character of the people. That they are worse now
in this respect than they were before the Conquest is highly probable.
Their position as a conquered and enslaved people, tended, as it always
does, to foster the slavish vices of dissimulation and dishonesty. The
religion brought into the country by the Spanish missionaries concerned
itself with their belief, and left their morals to shift for
themselves, as it does still.

In the mining-districts stealing is universal. Public feeling among the
Indians does not condemn it in the least, quite the contrary. To steal
successfully is considered a triumph, and to be found out is no
disgrace. Theft is not even punishable. In old times a thief might be
put in the stocks; but Burkart, who was a mining-inspector for many
years, says that in his time, some twenty years ago, tins was
abolished, and I believe the law has not been altered since. It is a
miserable sight to see the Indian labourers searched as they come out
of the mines. They are almost naked, but rich ore packs in such a small
compass, and they are so ingenious in stowing it away, that the
doorkeepers examine their mouths and ears, and their hair, and
constantly find pieces that have been secreted, while a far greater
quantity escapes. It is this system of thieving that accounts for the
existence of certain little smelting-sheds, close to the works of the
Company, who look at them with such feelings as may be imagined. These
places profess to smelt ore from one or two little mines in the
neighbourhood, but their real object is no secret. They buy the stolen
bits of rich ore from the Indian labourers, giving exactly half the
value for it.

Of course, we must not judge these Mexican labourers as though we had a
very high standard of honesty at home. That we should see workmen
searched habitually in England, at the doors of our national
dock-yards, is a much greater disgrace to us. And not merely a
disgrace, but a serious moral evil, for to expose an honest man to such
a degradation is to make him half a thief already.

People who know the Indian population best assure us that their lives
are a perpetual course of intrigue and dissimulation. Always trying to
practise some small fraud upon their masters, and even upon their own
people, they are in constant fear that every one is trying to overreach
them. They are afraid to answer the simplest question, lest it should
be a trap laid to catch them. They ponder over every word and action of
their European employers, to find out what hidden intrigue lies
beneath, and to devise some counter-plot. Sartorius says that when he
has met an Indian and asked his name, the brown man always gave a false
one, lest the enquirer should want to do him some harm.

Never did any people show more clearly the effects of ages of servitude
and oppression; but, hopeless as the moral condition of this mining
population seems, there is one favourable circumstance to be put on
record. The Cornish miners, who have been living among them for years,
have worked quite perceptibly upon the Indian character by the example
of their persevering industry, their love of saving, and their utter
contempt for thieves and liars. Instead of squandering their wages, or
burying them in the ground, many of the Indian miners take their
savings to the Banks; and the opinions of the foreigners are
gradually--though very slowly--altering the popular standard of
honesty, the first step towards the moral improvement of the Mexican
population.

In the morning we went off for an excursion, having got a lively young
fellow from the hacienda in exchange for our stupid mozo. There was
hoar frost on the ground, and the feeling of cold was intense at first;
but the sun began to warm the ground about eight o'clock, and we were
soon glad to fasten our great coats and shawls to our saddles. Three
leagues took us to the town of Atotonilco[9] el Grande, which gives its
name to the plateau we were crossing. Here we are no longer in the
valley of Mexico, which is separated from this plain by the mountains
of the Real del Monte. We rode on two leagues more to the village of
Soquital[10] where, it being Sunday, we found the inhabitants--mostly
Indians--amusing themselves by standing in the sun, doing nothing. I
can hardly say "doing nothing," though, for we went into the tienda, or
shop, and found a brisk trade going on in raw spirits. _Tienda_, in
Spanish, means a tent or booth. The first shops were tents or booths at
fairs or in market-places; and thence "tienda" came to mean a shop in
general; a derivation which corresponds with that of the word "shop"
itself. Such of the population as had money seemed to drop in at
regular intervals for a dram, which consisted of a small wine-glassful
of white-corn-brandy, called _chinguerito_. We tasted some, while the
people at the shop were frying eggs and boiling beans for our
breakfast; and found it so strong that a small sip brought tears into
our eyes, to the amusement of the bystanders. It seemed that everybody
was drinking who could afford it; from the old men and women to the
babies in their mothers' arms; everybody had a share, except those who
were hard up, and they stood about the door looking stolidly at the
drinkers. There was nothing like gaiety in the whole affair; only a
sort of satisfaction appeared in the face of each as he took his dose.
It is the drinkers of pulque who get furiously drunk, and fight; here
it is different. These drinkers of spirits are not much given to that
enormous excess that kills off the Red Indians; indeed, they are seldom
drunk enough to lose their wits, and they never have delirium tremens,
which would come upon a European, with much less provocation. They get
into a habit of daily--almost hourly--dram-drinking, and go on, year
after year, in this way; seeming, as far as we could judge, to live a
long while, such a life as it is. As we mounted our horses and rode on,
we agreed that we had seldom seen a more melancholy and depressing
sight.

We met some arrieros, who had brought up salt from the coast; and they,
seeing that we were English, judged we had something to do with mines,
and proposed to sell us their goods. The price of salt here is actually
three-pence per lb., in a district where its consumption is immense, as
it is used in refining the silver ore. It must be said, however, that
this is an unusual price; for the muleteers have been so victimised by
their mules being seized, either by the government or the rebels (one
seems about as bad as the other in this respect), that they must have a
high price to pay them for the risk. Generally seven reals, or 3s. 6d.
per arroba of 25 lbs. is the price. This salt is evaporated in the
salinas of Campeche, taken by water to Tuzpan, and then brought up the
country on mules' backs--each beast carrying 300 lbs. Of course, this
salt is very coarse and very watery; all salt made in this way is. It
suits the New Orleans people better to import salt from England, than
to make it in this way in the Gulf of Mexico, though the water there is
very salt, and the sun very hot. The fact, that it pays to carry salt
on mules' backs, tells volumes about the state of the country. At the
lowest computation, the mules would do four or five times as much work
if they were set to draw any kind of cart--however rough--on a
carriageable road. It is true that there is some sort of road from here
to Tampico, but an English waggoner would not acknowledge it by that
name at all; and the muleteers are still in possession of most of the
traffic in this district, as indeed they are over almost all the
country.

It was mid-day by this time; and, as we could not get to the Rio Grande
without taking our chance for the night in some Indian rancho, we
turned back. The heat had become so oppressive that we took off our
coats; and Mr. Christy, riding in his shirt-sleeves and holding a white
umbrella over his head, which he had further protected with a turban,
declared that even in the East he had not had so fatiguing a ride. We
passed through Soquital, and there the natives were idling and drinking
spirits as before, and seemed hardly to have moved since we left. This
plateau of Atotonilco el Grande, called for shortness Grande, is, like
most of the high plains of Mexico, composed mostly of porphyry and
obsidian, a valley filled up with débris from the surrounding
mountains, which are all volcanic, embedded in reddish earth. The
mountain-torrents--in which the water, so to speak, comes down all at
once, not flowing in a steady stream all the year round as in
England--have left evidences of their immense power in the ravines with
which the sides of the hills, from their very tops downward, are
fluted.

These fluted mountain-ridges resemble the "Kamms" (combs) of the Swiss
Alps, called so from their toothed appearance.

We had met numbers of Indians, bringing their wares to the Sunday
market in the great square of Atotonilco el Grande; and when we reached
the town on our way home, business was still going on briskly; so we
put up our horses, and spent an hour or two in studying the people and
the commodities they dealt in. It was a real old-fashioned Indian
market, very much such as the Spaniards found when they first
penetrated into the country. A large proportion of the people could
speak no Spanish, or only a few words. The unglazed pottery, palm-leaf
mats, ropes and bags of aloe-fibre, dressed skins, &c., were just the
same wares that were made three centuries ago; and there is no
improvement in their manufacture. This people, who rose in three
centuries from the condition of wandering savages to a height of
civilization that has no equal in history--considering the shortness of
the time in which it grew up--have remained, since the Conquest,
without making one step in advance. They hardly understand any reason
for what they do, except that their ancestors did things so--they
therefore must be right. They make their unglazed pottery, and carry it
five and twenty miles to market on their heads, just as they used to do
when there were no beasts of burden in the country. The same with their
fruits and vegetables, which they have brought great distances, up the
most difficult mountain-paths, at a ruinous sacrifice of time and
trouble, considering what a miserable sum they will get for them after
all, and how much even of this will be spent in brandy. By working on a
hacienda they would get double what their labour produces in this way,
but they do not understand this kind of reasoning. They cultivate their
little patches of maize, by putting a sharp stick into the ground, and
dropping the seed into the hole. They carry pots of water to irrigate
their ground with, instead of digging trenches. This is the more
curious, as at the time of the Conquest irrigation was much practised
by the Aztecs in the plains, and remains of water-canals still exist,
showing that they had carried the art to great perfection. They bring
logs of wood over the mountains by harnessing horses or mules to them,
and dragging them with immense labour over the rough ground. The idea
of wheels or rollers has either not occurred to them, or is considered
as a pernicious novelty.

It is very striking to see how, while Europeans are bringing the newest
machinery and the most advanced arts into the country, there is
scarcely any symptom of improvement among the people, who still hold
firmly to the wisdom of their ancestors. An American author, Mayer,
quotes a story of a certain people in Italy, as an illustration of the
feeling of the Indians in Mexico respecting improvements. In this
district, he says that the peasants loaded their panniers with
vegetables on one side, and balanced the opposite pannier by filling it
with stones; and when a traveller pointed out the advantage to be
gained by loading both panniers with vegetables, he was answered that
their forefathers from time immemorial had so carried their produce to
market, that they were wise and good men, and that a stranger showed
very little understanding or decency who interfered in the established
customs of a country. I need hardly say that the Indians are utterly
ignorant; and this of course accounts to a great extent for their
obstinate conservatism.

There were several shops round the market-place at Grande, and the
brandy-drinking was going on much as at Soquital. The shops in these
small towns are general stores, like "the shop" in coal- and
iron-districts in England. It is only in large towns that the different
retail-trades are separated. One thing is very noticeable in these
country stores, the certainty of finding a great stock of sardines in
bright tin boxes. The idea of finding _Sardines à l'huile_ in Indian
villages seemed odd enough; but the fact is, that the difficulty of
getting fish up from the coast is so great that these sardines are not
much dearer than anything else, and they go a long way. Montezuma's
method of supplying his table with fresh fish from the gulf, by having
relays of Indian porters to run up with it, is too expensive for
general use, and there is no efficient substitute. It is in consequence
of this scarcity of fish, that Church-fasts have never been very
strictly kept in Mexico.

[Illustration: HIEROGLYPHICS.]

The method of keeping accounts in the shops--which, it is to be
remembered, are almost always kept by white or half-white people,
hardly ever by Indians--is primitive enough. Here is a score which I
copied, the hieroglyphics standing for dollars, half-dollars, medios or
half-reals, cuartillos or quarter-reals, and tlacos--or clacos--which
are eighths of a real, or about 3/4d. While account-keeping among
the comparatively educated trades-people is in this condition,
one can easily understand how very limited the Indian notions of
calculation are. They cannot realize any number much over ten; and
twenty--cempoalli--is with them the symbol of a great number,
as a hundred was with the Greeks. There is in Mexico a mountain
called in this indefinite way "Cempoatepetl"--the twenty-mountain.
Sartorius mentions the Indian name of the many-petaled
marigold--"cempoaxochitl"--the twenty-flower. We traded for some
trifles of aloe-fibre, but soon had to count up the reckoning with
beans.

I have delayed long enough for the present over the Indians and their
market; so, though there is much more to be said about them, I will
only add a few words respecting the commodities for sale, and then
leave them for awhile.

There seemed to be a large business doing in costales (bags) made of
aloe-fibre, for carrying ore about in the mines. True to the traditions
of his ancestors, the Indian much prefers putting his load in a bag on
his back, to the far easier method of wheeling it about. Lazos sold at
one to four reals, (6d. to 2s.) according to quality. There are two
kinds of aloe-fibre; one coarse, _ichtli_, the other much finer,
_pito_; the first made from the great aloe that produces pulque, the
other from a much smaller species of the same genus. The stones with
which the boiled maize is ground into the paste of which the universal
tortillas are made were to be had here; indeed, they are made in the
neighbourhood, of the basalt and lava which abound in the district. The
metate is a sort of little table, hewn out of the basalt, with four
little feet, and its surface is curved from the ends to the middle. The
metalpile is of the same material, and like a rolling-pin. The
old-fashioned Mexican pottery I have mentioned already. It is
beautifully made, and very cheap. They only asked us nine-pence for a
great olla, or boiling-pot, that held four or five gallons, and no
doubt this was double the market-price. I never so thoroughly realized
before how climate is altered by altitude above the sea as in noticing
the fruits and vegetables that were being sold at this little market,
within fifteen or twenty miles of which they were all grown. There were
wheat and barley, and the piñones (the fruit of the stone-pine, which
grows in Italy, and is largely used instead of almonds); and from these
representatives of temperate climates the list extended to bananas and
zapotes, grown at the bottom of the great barrancas, 3,000 or 4,000
feet lower in level than the plateau, though in distance but a few
miles off. Three or four thousand miles of latitude would not give a
greater difference.

It would never do to be late, and break our necks in one of the awkward
water-courses that cut the plateau about in all directions; so we
started homewards, soon having to unfasten great-coats and shawls from
our saddles, to keep out the cold of the approaching sunset; and so we
got back to the hospitable hacienda, and were glad to warm ourselves at
the fire.

Next morning, we went off to get a view of the great barranca of Regla.
A ride over the hills brought us to a wood of oaks, with their branches
fringed with the long grey Spanish moss, and a profusion of epiphytes
clinging to their bark, some splendidly in flower, showing the
fantastic shapes and brilliant colours one sees in English
orchid-houses. Cactuses of many species complete the picture of the
vegetation in this beautiful spot. This is at the top of the barranca.
Then imagine a valley a mile or two in width, with sides almost
perpendicular and capped with basaltic pillars, and at the bottom a
strip of land where the vegetation is of the deepest green of the
tropics, with a river winding along among palm-trees and bananas. This
great barranca is between two and three thousand feet deep, and the
view is wonderful. We went down a considerable way by a zig-zag road,
my companion collecting armfuls of plants by the way, but unfortunately
losing his thermometer, which could not be found, though a long hunt
for it produced a great many more plants, and so the trouble was not
wasted. The prickly pear was covered with ripe purple fruit a little
way down, and we refreshed ourselves with them, I managing--in my
clumsiness--to get into my fingers two or three of the little sheaves
of needles which are planted on the outside of the fruit, and thus
providing myself with occupation for leisure moments for three or four
days after in taking them out.

Many species of cactus, and the nopal, or prickly pear, especially, are
full of watery sap, which trickles out in a stream when they are
pierced. In these thirsty regions, when springs and brooks are dry, the
cattle bite them to get at the moisture, regardless of the thorns. On
the north coast of Africa the camels delight in crunching the juicy
leaves of the same plant. I have often been amused in watching the
camel-drivers' efforts to get their trains of laden beasts along the
narrow sandy lanes of Tangier, between hedges of prickly pears, where
the camels with their long necks could reach the tempting lobes on both
sides of the way.

In this thirsty season, while the cattle in the Mexican plains derive
moisture from the cactus, the aloe provides for man a substitute for
water. It frequently happened to us to go from rancho to rancho asking
for water in vain, though pulque was to be had in abundance.

To attempt any description of the varied forms of cactus in Mexico
would be out of the question. In the northern provinces alone,
botanists have described above eight hundred species. The most striking
we met with were the prickly pear (cactus opuntia), the órgano, the
night-blowing cereus, the various mamillarias--dome-shaped mounds
covered with thorns, varying in diameter from an inch to six or eight
feet--and the greybeard, _el viejo,_ "the old man," as our guide called
them, upright pillars like street-posts, and covered with grey
wool-like filaments.

Getting to the top of the ravine again, we found an old Indian milking
an aloe, which flourishes here, though a little further down the
climate is too hot for it to produce pulque. This old gentleman had a
long gourd, of the shape and size of a great club, but hollow inside,
and very light. The small end of this gourd was pushed in among the
aloe-leaves into the hollow made by scooping out the inside of the
plant, and in which the sweet juice, the aguamiel, collects. By having
a little hole at each end of the gourd, and sucking at the large end,
the hollow of the plant emptied itself into the Acocote, (in proper
Mexican, _Acocotl_, Water-throat), as this queer implement is called.
Then the Indian stopped the hole at the end he had been sucking at,
with his finger, and dexterously emptied the contents of the gourd into
a pig-skin which he carried at his back. We went up with the old man to
his rancho, and tested his pulque, which was very good, though we could
not say the same of his domestic arrangements. It puzzled us not a
little to see people living up at this height in houses built of
sticks, such as are used in the hot lands, and hardly affording any
protection from the weather, severe as it is here. The pulque is taken
to market in pig-skins, which, though the pig himself is taken out of
them, still retain his shape very accurately; and when nearly full of
liquor, they roll about on their backs, and kick up the little dumpy
legs that are left them, in the most comical and life-like way. When we
went away we bought the old man's acocote, and carried it home in
triumph, and is it not in the Museum at Kew Gardens to this day? _(See
the illustration at page 36.)_

At the hacienda of Regla are to be seen on a large scale most of the
processes which are employed in the extraction of silver from the
ore--the _beneficio_, or making good, as it is called.

In the great yard, numbers of men and horses were walking round and
round upon the "tortas," tarts or pies, as they are called, consisting
of powdered ore mixed with water, so as to form a circular bed of mud a
foot deep. To this mud, sulphate of copper, salt, and quicksilver are
added, and the men and mules walk round and round in it, mixing it
thoroughly together, a process which is kept up, with occasional
intervals of rest, for nearly two months. By that time the whole of the
silver has formed an amalgam with the mercury, and this amalgam is
afterwards separated from the earth by being trampled under water in
troughs. We were surprised to find that men and horses could pass their
lives in wading through mud containing mercury in a state of fine
division without absorbing it into their bodies, but neither men nor
horses suffer from it.

We happened to visit the melting-house one evening, while silver and
lead were being separated by oxidizing the lead in a reverberatory
furnace. Here we noticed a curious effect. The melted litharge ran from
the mouth of the furnace upon a floor of damp sand, and spread over it
in a sheet. Presently, as the heat of the mass vaporized the water in
the sand below, the sheet of litharge, still slightly fluid, began to
heave and swell, and a number of small cones rose from its surface.
Some of these cones reached the height of four inches, and then burst
at the top, sending out a shower of red-hot fragments. I removed one of
these cones when the litharge was cool. It had a regidar funnel-shaped
crater, like that which Vesuvius had until three or four years ago.

The analogy is complete between these little cones and those on the
lava-field at the foot of the volcano of Jorullo, the celebrated
"hornitos;" the concentric structure of which, as described by Burkart,
proves that they were formed in precisely the same manner. Until
lately, the formation of the great cone of Jorullo was attributed to
the same kind of action as the hornitos, but later travellers have
established the fact that this is incorrect. One of the De Saussure
family, who was in Mexico a few years back, describes Jorullo as
consisting of three terraces of basaltic lava, which have flowed one
above another from a central orifice, the whole being surmounted by a
cone of lapilli thrown up from the same opening, from which also later
streams of lava have issued.

The celebrated cascade of Regla is just behind the hacienda. There is a
sort of basin, enclosed on three sides by a perpendicular wall of
basaltic columns, some eighty feet high. On the side opposite the
opening, a mountain stream has cut a deep notch in this wall, and pours
down in a cascade. The basaltic pillars rest upon an undisturbed layer
of basaltic conglomerate five feet thick, and that upon a bed of clay.
The place is very picturesque; and two great Yuccas which project over
the waterfall, crowned with their star-like tufts of pointed leaves,
have a strange effect. These basalt-columns are very regular, with from
five to eight sides; and are almost black in colour. They have a
curiously well-defined circular core in the middle, five or six inches
in diameter. This core is light grey, almost white. The Indians bring
down numbers of short lengths or joints of the columns, and they are
used at the hacienda in making a primitive kind of ore-crushing mill,
in which they are dragged round and round by mule-power, on a floor
also of basalt.

When we had visited the falls we took leave of our hospitable friend,
and set off to return to the Real. We stopped at San Miguel, another of
the haciendas of the Company, where the German barrel-process is
worked. Just behind the hacienda is the Ojo de Agua--the Eye of
Water--a beautiful basin, surrounded by a green sward and a wood of
oaks and fir-trees. A little stream takes its rise from the spring
which bubbles up into this basin, and the name "Ojo de Agua," is a
general term applied to such fountain-heads. When one looks down from a
high hill upon one of these Eyes of Water, one sees how the name came
to be given, and indeed, the idiom is thousands of years older than the
Spanish tongue, and belongs as well to the Hebrew and Arabic. A Mexican
calls a lake _atezcatl_, Water-Mirror, an expressive word, which
reminds one of the German _Wasserspiegel_.

Soon after nightfall we got back to the English inn, and went to bed
without any further event happening, except the burning of some
outhouses, which we went out to see. The custom of roofing houses with
pine-shingles ("tacumeniles"), and the general use of wood for building
all the best houses, make fires very common here. During the few days
we spent in the Real district, I find in my notebook mention of three
fires which we saw. We spent the next day in resting, and in visiting
the mine-works near at hand. The day after, an Englishman who had lived
many years at the Real offered to take us out for a day's ride; and the
Company's Administrador lent us two of his own horses, for the poor
beasts from Pachuca could hardly have gone so far. The first place we
visited was Peñas Cargadas, the "loaded rocks." Riding through a thick
wood of oaks and pines, we came suddenly in view of several sugar-loaf
peaks, some three hundred feet high, tapering almost to a point at the
top, and each one crowned with a mass of rocks which seem to have been
balanced in unstable equilibrium on its point,--looking as though the
first puff of wind would bring them down. The pillars were of
porphyritic conglomerate, which had been disintegrated and worn away by
wind and rain; while the great masses resting on them, probably of
solid porphyry, had been less affected by these influences. It was the
most curious example of the weathering of rocks that we had ever seen.
From Peñas Cargadas we rode on to the farm of Guajalote, where the
Company has forests, and cuts wood and burns charcoal for the mines and
the refining works. Don Alejandro, the tenant of the farm, was a
Scotchman, and a good fellow. He could not go on with us, for he had
invited a party of neighbours to eat up a kid that had been cooked in a
hole in the ground, with embers upon it, after Sandwich Island fashion.
This is called a _barbacoa_--a barbecue. We should have liked to be at
the feast, but time was short, so we rode on to the top of Mount Jacal,
12,000 feet above the sea, where there was a view of mountains and
valleys, and heat that was positively melting. Thence down to the Cerro
de Navajas, the "hill of knives." It is on the sides of this hill that
obsidian is found in enormous quantities. Before the conquerors
introduced the use of iron, these deposits were regularly mined, and
this place was the Sheffield of Mexico.

We were curious to see all that was to be seen; for Mr. Christy's
Mexican collection, already large before our visit, and destined to
become much larger, contained numbers of implements and weapons of this
very peculiar material. Any one who does not know obsidian may imagine
great masses of bottle-glass, such as our orthodox ugly wine-bottles
are made of, very hard, very brittle, and--if one breaks it with any
ordinary implement--going, as glass does, in every direction but the
right one. We saw its resemblance to this portwine-bottle-glass in an
odd way at the Ojo de Agua, where the wall of the hacienda was armed at
the top, after our English fashion, apparently with bits of old
bottles, but which turned out to be chips of obsidian. Out of this
rather unpromising stuff the Mexicans made knives, razors, arrow- and
spear-heads, and other things, some of great beauty. I say nothing of
the polished obsidian mirrors and ornaments, nor even of the curious
masks of the human face that are to be seen in collections, for these
were only laboriously cut and polished with jewellers' sand, to us a
common-place process.

[Illustration: STONE SPEAR-HEADS AND OBSIDIAN KNIVES AND ARROW-HEADS,
FROM MEXICO. 1. Flame shaped Arrow-head; obsidian: Teleohuacán. 2.
Arrow-head; opake obsidian: Teleohuacán. 3. Knife or Razor of Obsidian;
shown in two aspects; Mexico. 4. Leaf-shaped Knife or Javelin-head;
obsidian: from Real Del Monte. 5. Spear-head of Chalcedony; one of a
pair supposed to be spears of State: found in excavating for the Casa
Grande, Tezcuco. (This peculiar opalescent chalcedony occurs as
concretions, sometimes of large size, in the trachytic lavas of
Mexico.)]

Cortes found the barbers at the great market of Tlatelolco busy shaving
the natives with such razors, and he and his men had experience of
other uses of the same material in the flights of obsidian-headed
arrows which "darkened the sky," as they said, and the more deadly
wooden maces stuck all over with obsidian points, and of the priests'
sacrificial knives too, not long after. These things were not cut and
polished, but made by chipping or cracking off pieces from a lump. This
one can see by the traces of conchoidal fracture which they all show.

The art is not wholly understood, for it perished soon after the
Conquest, when iron came in; but, as far as the theory is concerned, I
think I can give a tolerably satisfactory account of the process of
manufacture. In the first place, the workman who makes gun-flints could
probably make some of the simpler obsidian implements, which were no
doubt chipped off in the same way. The section of a gun-flint, with its
one side flat for sharpness and the other side ribbed for strength, is
one of the characteristics of obsidian knives. That the flint knives of
Scandinavia were made by chipping off strips from a mass is proved by
the many-sided prisms occasionally found there, and particularly by
that one which was discovered just where it had been worked, with the
knives chipped off it lying close by, and fitting accurately into their
places upon it.

Now to make the case complete, we ought to find such prisms in Mexico;
and, accordingly, some months ago, when I examined the splendid Mexican
collection of Mr. Uhde at Heidelberg, I found one or two. No one seemed
to have suspected their real nature, and they had been classed as
maces, or the handles of some kind of weapon.

[Illustration: FLUTED PRISM OF OBSIDIAN: THE CORE FROM WHICH FLAKES
HAVE BEEN STRUCK OFF.]

I should say from memory that they were seven or eight inches long, and
as large as one could conveniently grasp; and one or both of them, as
if to remove all doubt as to what they were, had the stripping off of
ribbons not carried quite round them, but leaving an intermediate strip
rough. There is another point about the obsidian knives which requires
confirmation. One can often see, on the ends of the Scandinavian flint
knives, the bruise made by the blow of the hard stone with which they
were knocked off. I did not think of looking to this point when at Mr.
Uhde's museum, but the only obsidian knife I have seen since seems to
be thus bruised at the end.

[Illustration: AZTEC KNIVES OR RAZORS. LONG NARROW FLAKES OF OBSIDIAN,
HAVING A SINGLE FACE ON THE ONE SIDE AND THREE FACETS ON THE OTHER.]

Once able to break his obsidian straight, the workman has got on a long
way in his trade, for a large proportion of the articles he has to make
are formed by planes intersecting one another in various directions.
But the Mexican knives are generally not pointed, but turned up at the
end, as one may bend up a druggist's spatula. This peculiar shape is
not given to answer a purpose, but results from the natural fracture of
the stone.

Even then, the way of making several implements or weapons is not
entirely clear. We got several obsidian maces or lance-heads--one about
ten inches long--which were taper from base to point, and covered with
taper flutings; and there are other things which present great
difficulties. I have heard on good authority, that somewhere in Peru,
the Indians still have a way of working obsidian by laying a bone wedge
on the surface of a piece, and tapping it till the stone cracks. Such a
process may have been used in Mexico.

We may see in museums beautiful little articles made in this
intractable material, such as the mirrors and masks I have mentioned,
and even rings and cups. But, as I have said, these are mere
lapidaries' work.

The situation of the mines was picturesque; grand hills of porphyritic
rock, and pine-forest everywhere. Not far off is the broad track of a
hurricane, which had walked through it for miles, knocking the great
trees down like ninepins, and leaving them to rot there. The vegetation
gave evident proof of a severe climate; and yet the heat and glare of
the sun were more intolerable than we had ever felt it in the region of
sugar-canes and bananas. About here, some of the trachytic porphyry
which forms the substance of the hills had happened to have cooled,
under suitable conditions, from the molten state into a sort of slag or
volcanic glass, which is the obsidian in question; and, in places, this
vitreous lava--from one layer having flowed over another which was
already cool--was regularly stratified.

The mines were mere wells, not very deep; with horizontal workings into
the obsidian where it was very good and in thick layers. Round about
were heaps of fragments, hundreds of tons of them; and it was clear,
from the shape of these, that some of the manufacturing was done on the
spot. There had been great numbers of pits worked; and it was from
these "minillas," little mines, as they are called, that we first got
an idea how important an element this obsidian was in the old Aztec
civilization. In excursions made since, we travelled over whole
districts in the plains, where fragments of these arrows and knives
were to be found, literally at every step, mixed with morsels of
pottery, and here and there a little clay idol. Among the heaps of
fragments were many that had become weathered on the upper side, and
had a remarkable lustre, like silver. Obsidian is called _bizcli_ by
the Indians, and the silvery sort is known as _bizcli platera_.[11]
They often find bits of it in the fields; and go with great secrecy and
mystery to Mr. Bell, or some other authority in mining matters, and
confide to him their discovery of a silver-mine. They go away angry and
unconvinced when told what their silver really is; and generally come
to the conclusion that he is deceiving them, with a view of throwing
them off the scent, that he may find the place for himself, and cheat
them of their share of the profits--just what their own miserable
morbid cunning would lead them to do under such circumstances.

[Illustration: MEXICAN ARROW-HEADS OF OBSIDIAN.]

The family-likeness that exists among the stone tools and weapons found
in so many parts of the world is very remarkable. The flint-arrows of
North America, such as Mr. Longfellow's arrow-maker used to work at in
the land of the Dacotahs, and which, in the wild northern states of
Mexico, the Apaches and Comanches use to this day, might be easily
mistaken for the weapons of our British ancestors, dug up on the banks
of the Thames. It is true that the finish of the Mexican obsidian
implements far exceeds that of the chipped flint and agate weapons of
Scandinavia, and still more those of England, Switzerland, and Italy,
where they are dug up in such quantities, in deposits of alluvial soil,
and in bone-caves in the limestone rocks. But this higher finish we may
attribute partly to the superiority of the material; for the Mexicans
also used flint to some extent, and their flint weapons are as hard to
distinguish by inspection as those from other parts of the world. We
may reasonably suppose, moreover, that the skill of the Mexican
artificer increased when he found a better material than flint to work
upon. Be this as it may, an inspection of any good collection of such
articles shows the much higher finish of the obsidian implements than
of those of flint, agate, and rock-crystal. They say there is an
ingenious artist who makes flint arrow-heads and stone axes for the
benefit of English antiquarians, and earns good profits by it: I should
like to give him an order for ribbed obsidian razors and spear-heads; I
don't think he would make much of them.

[Illustration: AZTEC KNIFE OF CHALCEDONY, MOUNTED ON A WOODEN HANDLE,
WHICH IS SHAPED LIKE A HUMAN FIGURE WITH ITS FACE APPEARING THROUGH AN
EAGLE-HEAD MASK, AND HAS BEEN INLAID WITH MOSAIC WORK OF MALACHITE,
SHELL, AND TURQUOISE. LENGTH 12-1/2 INCHES.]

The wonderful similarity of character among the stone weapons found in
different parts of the world has often been used by ethnologists as a
means of supporting the theory that this and other arts were carried
over the world by tribes migrating from one common centre of creation
of the human species. The argument has not much weight, and a larger
view of the subject quite supersedes it.

We may put the question in this way. In Asia and in Europe the use of
stone tools and weapons has always characterized a very low state of
civilization; and such implements are only found among savage tribes
living by the chase, or just beginning to cultivate the ground and to
emerge from the condition of mere barbarians. Now, if the Mexicans got
their civilization from Europe, it must have been from some people
unacquainted with the use of iron, if not of bronze. Iron abounds in
Mexico, not only in the state of ore, but occurring nearly pure in
aerolites of great size, as at Cholula, and at Zacatecas, not far from
the great ruins there; so that the only reason for their not using it
must have been ignorance of its qualities.

The Arabian Nights' story of the mountain which consisted of a single
loadstone finds its literal fulfilment in Mexico. Not far from Huetamo,
on the road towards the Pacific, there is a conical hill composed
entirely of magnetic iron-ore. The blacksmiths in the neighbourhood,
with no other apparatus than their common forges, make it directly into
wrought iron, which they use for all ordinary purposes.

Now, in supposing civilization to be transmitted from one country to
another, we must measure it by the height of its lowest point, as we
measure the strength of a chain by the strength of the weakest link.
The only civilization that the Mexicans can have received from the Old
World must have been from some people whose cutting implements were of
sharp stone, consequently, as we must conclude by analogy, some very
barbarous and ignorant tribe.

From this point we must admit that the inhabitants of Mexico raised
themselves, independently, to the extraordinary degree of culture which
distinguished them when Europeans first became aware of their
existence. The curious distribution of their knowledge shows plainly
that they found it for themselves, and did not receive it by
transmission. We find a wonderful acquaintance with astronomy, even to
such details as the real cause of eclipses,--and the length of the year
given by intercalations of surprising accuracy; and, at the same time,
no knowledge whatever of the art of writing alphabetically, for their
hieroglyphics are nothing but suggestive pictures. They had earned the
art of gardening to a high degree of perfection; but, though there were
two kinds of ox, and the buffalo at no great distance from them, in the
countries they had already passed through in their migration from the
north, they had no idea of the employment of beasts of burden, nor of
the use of milk. They were a great trading people, and had money of
several kinds in general use, but the art of weighing was utterly
unknown to them; while, on the other hand, the Peruvians habitually
used scales and weights, but had no idea of the use of money.

To return to the stone knives; the Mexicans may very well have invented
the art themselves, as they did so many others; or they may have
received it from the Old World. The things themselves prove nothing
either way.

The real proof of their having, at some early period, communicated with
inhabitants of Europe or Asia rests upon the traditions current among
them, which are recorded by the early historians, and confirmed by the
Aztec picture-writings; and upon several extraordinary coincidences in
the signs used by them in reckoning astronomical cycles. Further on I
shall allude to these traditions.

On the whole, the most probable view of the origin of the Mexican
tribes seems to be the one ordinarily held, that they really came from
the Old World, bringing with them several legends, evidently the same
as the histories recorded in the book of Genesis. This must have been,
however, at a time, when they were quite a barbarous, nomadic tribe;
and we must regard their civilization as of independent and far later
growth.

We rode back through the woods to Guajalote, where the Mexican cook had
made us a feast after the manner of the country, and from her
experience of foreigners had learnt to temper the chile to our
susceptible throats. Decidedly the Mexicans are not without ideas in
the matter of cookery. We stayed talking with the hospitable Don
Alejandro and his sister till it was all but dark, and then rode back
to the Real, admiring the fire-flies that were darting about by
thousands, and listening to our companion's stories, which turned on
robberies and murders---as stories are apt to do in wild places after
dark. But, save an escape from being robbed some twenty years back, and
the history of an Indian who was murdered just here by some of his own
people, for a few shillings he was taking home, our friend had not much
reason to give for the two huge horse-pistols ho carried, ready for
action. His story of the death of a German engineer in these parts is
worth recording here. He was riding home one dark night, with a
companion; and, trusting to his knowledge of the country, tried a short
cut through the woods, among the old open mines near the Regla road.
They had quite passed all the dangerous places, he thought, so he gave
his horse the spur, and plunged sheer down a shaft, hundreds of feet
deep. His friend pulled up in time, and got home safely.

We had one more day among the mines, and then went back to Pachuca, and
next day to Mexico in the Diligence. Everywhere the same hospitality
and good-natured interest in us and our doings, often shown by people
with whom we had hardly the slightest acquaintance. Travelling here is
very different from what it is in a country on which the shadow of
Murray's Handbook has fallen.

Almost all the interest Europe takes in Mexico, politically and
commercially, turns upon the exportation of silver. The gold,
cochineal, and vanilla are of small account. It is the silver dollars
that pay for the Manchester goods, woollens, hardware, and many other
things--those ubiquitous boxes of sardines à l'huile, for instance. The
Mexicans send to Europe some five millions sterling in silver every
year, that is, about twelve shillings apiece for all the population. It
is just about what their government spends annually in promoting the
maladministration of the country (and, looking at the matter in that
point of view, they don't do their work badly for the money). The
income of the Mexican church is not quite so much, but not far off.

Baron Humboldt has expressed a hope that, at some future day, the
Mexicans will turn their attention to producing articles of real
intrinsic value, and not those which are merely a sign to represent it.
He tells us, quite feelingly, how the Peace of Amiens stopped the
working of the iron-mines that had been opened when they could get no
iron from abroad; for, when trade was reopened, people preferred buying
in Europe probably a better article at one-third the price. He even
hopes an enlightened government will encourage (that is, protect) more
useful industries. This was written fifty years ago, though. If an
enlightened government will give people some security for life and
property, and make reasonable laws, and execute them,--leaving men of
business to find out for themselves how it suits them to employ their
capital, it seems probable that the balance between articles of real
value and articles of imaginary value will adjust itself, perhaps
better than an enlightened government could do it. The Mexican
government has, unfortunately, followed Humboldt's advice in some
respects. Cotton goods, woollens, and hardware are thus protected. We
may sum up the statistics of the Mexican cotton-manufacture in a rough
way thus,--taking merely into question the coarse cotton cloth called
_manta_, and used principally by the Indians. We may reckon roughly
that for this article alone the Mexicans have to pay a million sterling
annually more than they could get it for if there were no
protection-duty. The only advantage anybody gets by this is that a
certain part of the population is employed in a manufacture unsuited to
the country, and is thus taken away from work that may be done
profitably. The actual amount of money paid in wages to the class of
operatives thus forced into existence is much _less_ than the amount
which the country forfeits for the sake of making its manta at home.
Thus a sum actually amounting to a third of the annual taxation of the
country is thrown away upon this one article; and more goes the same
way, to encourage similar unprofitable manufactures.

With respect to the silver-mines, it is stated, on competent authority,
that the northern States of Mexico are very rich in silver; but there
is scarcely any population, and that consisting mostly of Red Indians
who will not work. When this district becomes a territory of the United
States--as seems almost certain, this silver will, no doubt, be worked.
We may make three periods in the history of Mexican silver-mining.
Before the Conquest, the Aztecs worked the silver-ore at Tasco and
other places; and were very familiar with silver, though they did not
value it much. Under the Spaniards, the working of silver became the
prominent industry of the country; and, until the Mexican Independence,
the production steadily increased. The Spaniards invented amalgamation
by the _patio_-process, a most, important improvement. Then came above
twenty years of confusion, when little was done. But when the Republic
had fairly got under way, and the country was in some measure open to
foreigners, Europe, especially England, in hot haste to take advantage
of the opportunity, sent over engineers and machinery, and great sums
of money, much of which was quite wasted, to the hopeless ruin of a
great part of the adventurers.

The improvements and the machinery remained, however; and the mines
passed into other hands. Of late years the companies have been doing
very well, and now export nearly as much silver as during the latter
years of the Spanish government--nearly, but not quite. The financial
history of the Real del Monte Company is worth putting down. The
original English company spent nearly one million sterling on it,
without getting any dividend. They sold it to two or three Mexicans for
about twenty-seven thousand pounds, and the Mexicans spent eighty
thousand more on it, and then began to make profits. The annual profit
is now some £200,000.

I have said that the modern Mexican Indian has but little idea of
arithmetic. This was not the case with his ancestors, who had a curious
notation, serving for the highest numbers. The Indians of the present
day use the old Aztec numerals, and from these there is something to be
learnt.

Baron Humboldt, speaking of the Muysca Indians of South America, says
that their word for eleven is _quihicha ata_, that is, "foot one;"
meaning that they have counted all their fingers, and are beginning
their toes. He proceeds to compare the Persian words, _pentcha_, hand,
and _pendj_, five, as being connected with one another, and gives
various other curious instances of finger-numeration. We may carry the
theory further. The Zulu language reckons from one up to five, and then
goes on with _tatisitupe_ ("take the thumb"), meaning _six_;
_tatukomba_ ("take the pointer," or forefinger), meaning _seven_, and
so on. The Vei language counts from one up to nineteen, and for twenty
says _mo bande_--"a person is finished"--that is, both fingers and
toes. I venture to add another suggestion. Eichhoff gives a Sanskrit
word for finger, "daiçini" (taken apparently from _pra-deçinî_,
forefinger), and which corresponds curiously with "daçan," ten; and we
have the same resemblance running through many of the Indo-European
languages, as [Greek: deka] and [Greek: daktylos], _decem_ and
_digitus_; German, _Zehn_ and _Zehe_, and so on.

Here the Mexican numerals will afford us a new illustration. Of the
meaning of the first four of them--_çe, ome, yei, nahui_--I can give no
idea, any more than I can of the meaning of the words one, two, three,
four, which correspond to them; but the Mexican for _five_ is
_macuilli_, "hand-depicting." Then we go on in the dark as far as
_ten_, which is _matlactli_, "hand-half," as I think it means, (from
_tlactli_, half); and this would mean, not the halving of a hand, but
the half of the whole person, which you get by counting his hands only.
The syllable _ma_, which means "hand," makes its appearance in the
words five and ten, and no where else; just as it should do. When we
come to twenty, we have _cempoalli_, "one counting;" that is, one whole
man, fingers and toes--corresponding to the Vei word for twenty, "a
person is finished."

I think we need no more examples to show that people--in almost all
countries--reckon by fives, tens, or twenties, merely because they
began to count upon their fingers and toes. If the strong man who had
six fingers on each hand, and six toes on each foot, had invented a
system of numeration, it would have gone in twelves, nearly like the
duodecimals which our carpenters use; unless, indeed, he had been
stupid after the manner of very strong men, and not gone beyond sixes.
We see how the Romans, though they inherited from their Eastern
ancestors a numeration by tens up to _decem_, and then beginning again
_undecim_, &c., yet when they began to write a notation could get no
farther than five--I., II., III., IV., V.; and then on again, VI.,
VII., up to ten, from ten to fifteen, and so on.

There is a very curious vulgar error which prevails, even among people
who have a good practical acquaintance with arithmetic. It is that the
number _ten_ has some special virtue which fits it for counting up to.
The fact is that ten is not the best number for the purpose; you can
halve it, it is true, but that is about all you can do with it, for its
being divisible by five is of hardly any use for practical purposes.
_Eight_ would be a much better number, for you can halve it three times
in succession; and _twelve_ is perhaps the most convenient number
possible, as it will divide by two, three, and four. It is this
convenient property that leads tradesmen to sell by dozens, and
grosses, rather than by tens and hundreds. If we used eights or twelves
instead of tens for numeration, we might of course preserve all the
advantages of the Indian or Arabic numerals; in the first case, we
should discard the ciphers 8 and 9, and reckon 5, 6, 7, 10; and in the
second case, we should want two new ciphers for ten and eleven; and 10
would stand for twelve, and 11 for thirteen. Our happening to have ten
fingers has really led us into a rather inconvenient numerical system.

[Illustration: AZTEC HEAD, IN TERRA COTTA. (PROBABLY EITHER A
HOUSEHOLD-GOD OR A VOTIVE OFFERING).]

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE.

The unique Knife figured at page 101 and two masks incrusted with a
similar mosaic work (of turquoise and obsidian) are in Mr. Christy's
collection; and a mask and head of similar workmanship are in the
collection at Copenhagen. These are the only known examples of this
advanced style of Aztec art.

The whole once belonged probably to one set, brought to Europe soon
after the Conquest of Mexico. The two at Copenhagen were obtained at a
convent in Rome; and, of the other three, two were for a long period in
a collection at Florence, and the other was obtained at Bruges, where
it was most probably brought by the Spaniards during their rule in the
Low Countries.



CHAPTER V.



MEXICO. GUADALUPE.



[Illustration: THE ROBES WORN BY THE WOMEN OF MEXICO; AND THE SERAPE
WORN BY THE MEN.]

While we were away at the Real del Monte, the news had reached Mexico
that Puebla had capitulated, and that the rebel leader had fled. The
victory was celebrated in the capital with the most triumphal entries,
harangues, bull-fights, and illuminations done to order. If you had a
house in one of the principal streets, the police would make you
illuminate it, whether you liked or not. The newspapers loudly
proclaimed the triumph of the constitutional principle, and the
inauguration of a reign of law and order that was never to cease.

As for the newspapers, indeed, one looked in vain in them for any free
expression of public opinion. They were all either suppressed, or
converted into the merest mouthpieces of the government. The telegraph
was under the strictest surveillance, and no messages were allowed to
be sent which the government did not consider favourable to their
interests; a precaution which rather defeated itself, as the people
soon ceased to believe any public news at all. In all these mean little
shifts, which we in England consider as the special property of
despotic governments, the authorities of the Mexican Republic showed
themselves great proficients.

We were left, therefore, to form what idea we could of the real state
of Mexican affairs, from the private information received by our
friends. Just for once it may be worth while to give a few details, not
because the people engaged were specially interesting, but because the
affair may serve to give an idea of the condition of the country.

President Comonfort, not a bad sort of man, as it seemed, but not
"strong enough for the place," and with an empty treasury, tried to
make a stand against the clergy and the army, who stood firm against
any attempt at reform--knowing, with a certain instinct, that, if any
real reform once began, their own unreasonable privileges would soon be
attacked. So the clergy and part of the army set up an anti-president,
one Haro; and he installed himself at Puebla, which is the second city
of the Republic, and there Comonfort besieged him. So far I have
already described the doings of the "reaccionarios."

The newspapers gave wonderful accounts of attacks and repulses, and
reckoned the killed on both sides at 2,500. There were 10,000 regular
troops, and 10,000 irregulars (very irregular troops indeed); and these
were commanded by a complete regiment of officers, and _forty_
generals. This is reckoning both sides; but as, on pretty good
authority (Tejada's statistical table), the troops in the Republic are
only reckoned at 12,000, no doubt the above numbers are much
exaggerated. As for the 2,500 killed, the fact is that the siege was a
mere farce; and, judging by what we heard at the time in Mexico, and
soon afterwards in Puebla itself, 25 was a much more correct estimate:
and some facetious people reduced it, by one more division, to two and
a half. The President had managed, by desperate efforts, to borrow some
money in Mexico, on the credit of the State, at sixty per cent.; and it
seems certain that it was this money, judiciously administered to some
of Haro's generals, that brought about the flight of the
anti-president, and the capitulation of Puebla. The termination of the
affair, according to the newspapers, was, that the rebel army were
incorporated with the constitutional troops; that their officers--500
in number--were reduced to the ranks for a term of years; that a hot
pursuit was made after the fugitive Haro; and that, as it was notorious
that the clergy had found the money for the rebellion, it was
considered suitable that they should pay the expenses of the other side
too; and an order was made on the church-estates of the district to
that effect. Of course, it was an understood thing that the officers
thus degraded would desert at the first opportunity, and thus the
Government would be rid of them. As for Haro, it is not probable that
they ever intended to catch him; and they were very glad when he
disguised himself in sailor's clothes, and shipped himself off
somewhere. When the Mexicans first took to civil wars, the victorious
leader used to finish the contest by having his adversary shot. At the
time of our visit, this fashion had gone out; and the victor treated
the vanquished with great leniency, not unmindful of the time when he
might be in a like situation himself.

Whether the President ever got much of the forced contribution from the
clergy, I cannot say. At any rate, they have turned him out since; and
for a very poor government have substituted mere chaotic anarchy, as
Mr. Carlyle would call it. While the siege was going on, all the
commerce between Vera Cruz and the capital was interrupted, and, of
course, trade and manufacturing felt the effects severely. Nothing
shews the capabilities of the country more clearly than the fact that,
in spite of its distracted state and continual wars, its industrial
interests seem to be gaining ground steadily, though very slowly. The
evil of these ceaseless wars and revolutions is not that great battles
are here fought, cities destroyed, and men sacrificed by thousands.
Perhaps in no country in the world are "decisive victories,"
"sanguinary engagements," "brilliant attacks," and the like, got over
with less loss of life. Incredible as it may seem to any one who knows
how many civil wars and revolutions occur in the history of the country
for the last four or five years, I should not wonder if the number of
persons killed during that time in actual battle was less than the
number of those deliberately assassinated, or killed in private
quarrels.

Cheap as Mexican revolutions are in actual bloodshed, we must recollect
what they bring with them. Thousands of deserters prowling about the
country, robbing and murdering, and spreading everywhere the precious
lessons they have learnt in barracks. We know something in England of
the good moral influence that garrisons and recruiting sergeants carry
about with them; and can judge a little what must be the result of the
spreading of numbers of these fellows over a country where there is
nothing to restrain their excesses! As for the soldiers themselves, one
does not wonder at their deserting, for they are in great part pressed
men, earned off from their homes, and shut up in barracks till they
have been drilled, and are considered to be tamed; and moreover their
pay, as one may judge from the general state of the military finances,
is anything but regular. People who understand such matters, say that
the Mexicans make very good soldiers, and fight well and steadily when
well trained and well officered. They are able to march surprising
distances, day after day, to live cheerfully on the very minimum of
food, and to sleep anyhow. This we could judge for ourselves. One thing
there is, however, that they strongly object to, and that is to be
moved much beyond the range of their own climate. The men of the plains
are as susceptible as Europeans to the ill effects of the climate of
the tierra caliente; and the men of the hot lands cannot bear the cold
of the high plateaus.

Travellers in the United States make great fun of the profusion of
colonels and generals, and tell ludicrous stories on the subject. There
is also talk of the absurd number of officers in the Spanish-American
armies, but we should not, by any means, confound the two things. In
the United States it is merely a harmless exhibition of vanity, and an
amusing comment on their own high-minded abnegation of mere titles. In
Spanish America it indicates a very real and serious evil indeed.

Don Miguel Lerdo de Tejada, in his statistical chart for 1856, quoted
above, estimates the soldiers in the Republic at 12,000, and the
officers at 2,000, not counting those on half-pay. One officer to every
six men; and among them sixty-nine generals. These are not mere militia
heroes, walking about in fine uniforms, but have actual commissions
from some one of the many governments that have come and gone, and are
entitled to their pay, which they get or do not get, as may happen.
Only a fraction of them know anything whatever about the art of war.
They were political adventurers, friends or relatives of some one in
power, or simply speculators who bought their commissions as a sort of
illegitimate Government Annuities. The continual rebellions or
pronunciamientos have increased the number of officers still further.
Comonfort's notion of degrading all the officers of the rebel army was
a new and bold experiment. A very common course had been, when a
pronunciamiento had been made anywhere against the then existing
government, and a revolutionary army had been raised, for an
amalgamation to take place between the two forces; intrigue and bribery
and mutual disinclination to fight bringing matters to this peaceful
kind of settlement. In this case, it was usual for the rebel officers
to retain their self-conferred dignities.

I think this body of soldierless officers is one of the most
troublesome political elements at work in the Republic. The political
agitators are mostly among them; and it is they, more than any other
class, who are continually stirring up factions and making
pronunciamientos (what a pleasant thing it is that we have never had to
make an English word for "pronunciamiento"). Several times, efforts
have been made to reduce the Army List to decent proportions, but a
fresh crop always springs up.

In the "lowest depth" of mismanagement to which Mexican military
affairs have sunk, the newspapers still triumphantly refer to countries
which surpass them in this respect, and, at the time of our arrival,
were citing the statistics of the Peruvian Republic, where there are a
general and twenty officers to every sixty soldiers, and as many naval
officers as seamen.

These officers are not subject to the civil administration at all,
whatever they may do. They have their _fuero_, their private charter,
and are only amenable to their own tribunals, just as the clergy are to
theirs. To the ill effects of the presence of such armies and such
officers in the country, we must add the continual interruptions to
commerce arising from the distracted state of the republic, and the
uncertain tenure by which every one holds his property, not to say his
life; and this, in its effect on the morale of the whole country, is
worse than the positive suffering they inflict. So much for soldiering,
for the present. We leave the President trying, with the aid of his
Congress, to organize the government, and set things straight
generally. This August assembly is selected from the people by
universal suffrage, in the most approved manner, and ought to be a very
important and useful body, but unfortunately can do nothing but talk
and issue decrees, which no one else cares about.

In consequence of the alarming increase of highway-robbery, steps are
taken to diminish the evil. It is made lawful to punish such offenders
on the spot, by Lynch law. This is all. You may do justice on him when
caught, but really you must catch him yourself. Sober citizens are even
regretting the days of Santa Ana (recollect, I speak now of 1856, and
they might regret him still more in 1860.) He was a great scoundrel, it
is true; but he sent down detachments of soldiery to where the robbers
practised their profession, and garotted them in pairs, till the roads
were as safe as ours are in England. A President who sells states and
pockets the money may have even that forgiven him in consideration of
roads kept free from robbers, and some attempt at an effectual police.
There is a lesson in this for Mexican rulers.

The Congress professed to be hard at work cleaning out the Augean
stable of laws, rescripts, and proclamations, and making a working
constitution. We went to see them one day, and heard talking going on,
but it all came to nothing. Of one thing we may be quite sure, that if
this unlucky country ever does get set straight, it will not be done by
a Mexican Congress sitting and cackling over it.

On our return from the Real, we spent two days at the house of an
English friend at Tisapán, at the edge of the great Pedrigal, or
lava-field, which lies south of the capital. It was across this
lava-field that a part of the American army marched in '47, and
defeated a division of the Mexican forces encamped at Contrevas. On the
same day the American army attacked the Mexicans who held a strongly
fortified position at Churubusco, some four miles nearer Mexico, and
routed the main army there. They beat them again at Molino del Rey,
carried the hill of Chapultepec by storm, and then entered the city
without meeting with further resistance; though the Mexicans, after
they had formally yielded possession of the city, disgraced themselves
by assassinating stray Americans, stabbing them in the streets, and
lazoing them from the tops of the low mud houses in the suburbs.

An acquaintance of ours in Mexico met some American soldiers, with a
corporal, in the street close to his house, and asked them in.
Presently the corporal sent one of the men off into the next street to
execute some commission; but half an hour elapsed, and the man not
returning, the corporal went out to see what was the matter. He came
back presently, and remarked that some of those cursed Mexicans had
stabbed the man as he was turning the corner of the street, and left
him lying there. "So," said the corporal, "I may as well finish his
brandy and water for him;" he did so accordingly, and the men went home
to their quarters.

The American soldiers were, as one may imagine, a rough lot. Only the
smaller part of them were born Americans, the rest were emigrants from
Europe; to judge by what we heard of them--both in the States and in
Mexico--the very refuse of all the scoundrels in the Republic; but they
were well officered, and rigid discipline was maintained. So
effectually were they kept in order, that the Mexicans confessed that
it was a smaller evil to have the enemy's forces marching through the
country, than their own army.

An elaborate account of the American invasion is given in Mayer's
'Mexico.' To those who do not care for details of military operations,
there are still points of interest in the history. That ten thousand
Americans should have been able to get through the mountain-passes, and
to reach the capital at all, is an astonishing thing; and after that,
their successes in the valley of Mexico follow as a matter of course.
They could never have crossed the mountains but for a combination of
circumstances.

The inhabitants generally displayed the most entire indifference;
possibly preferring to sell their provisions to the Americans, instead
of being robbed of them by their own countrymen. Add to this, that the
Mexican officers showed themselves grossly ignorant of the art of war;
and that the soldiers, though they do not seem to have been deficient
in courage, were badly drilled and insubordinate. One would not have
wondered at the army being in such a condition---in a country that had
long been in a state of profound peace; but in Mexico a standing army
had been maintained for years, at a great expense, and continual civil
wars ought to have given people some ideas about soldiering. We may
judge, from the events of this war, that Mexico might be kept in good
order by a small number of American troops. The mere holding of the
country is not the greatest difficulty in the question of American
annexation.

One thing that struck our friends at Tisapán, among their experiences
of the war, was the number of dead bodies of women and children that
were found on the battle-fields. A crowd of women follow close in the
rear of a Mexican army; almost every soldier having some woman who
belongs to him, and who carries a heavy load of Indian corn and babies,
and cooks tortillas for her lord and master. The number of these poor
creatures who perished in the war was very great.

We spent much of our time at Tisapán in collecting plants, and
exploring the lava-field, and the cañada, or ravine, that leads up into
the mountains that skirt the valley of Mexico. I recollect one
interesting spot we came to in riding through the pine-forest on the
northern slope of the mountains, where the course of a torrent, now
dry, ran along a mere narrow trench in the hard porphyritic rock, some
ten or fifteen feet wide, until it had suddenly entered a bed of
gravel, where it had hollowed out a vast ravine, four hundred feet wide
and two hundred deep, the inlet of the water being, in proportion, as
small as the pipe that serves to fill a cistern.

Such places are common enough in the south of Europe, but seldom on so
grand a scale as one finds them in this country, where the floods come
down from the hills with astounding suddenness and violence. Mr. L. had
experience of this one day, when he had got inside his waterwheel, to
inspect its condition, the water being securely shut off, as he
thought. However, an aversada--one of these sudden freshets--came down,
quite without notice; and enough water got into the channel to set the
wheel going, so as to afford its proprietor a very curious and exciting
ride, after the manner of a squirrel in a revolving cage, until the
people succeeded in drawing off the water.

It was after our return from Tisapán that we paid a visit to Our Lady
of Guadalupe, rather an important personage in the history of Mexican
church-matters. The way lies past Santo Domingo, the church of the Holy
Office, and down a long street where live the purveyors of all things
for the muleteers. Here one may buy mats, ropes, pack-saddles--which
the arrieros delight to have ornamented with fanciful designs and
inscriptions, lazos, and many other things of the same kind. Passing
out through the city-gate, we ride along a straight causeway, which
extends to Guadalupe. A dull road enough in itself, but the
interminable strings of mules and donkeys, bringing in pig-skins full
of pulque, are worth seeing for once; and the Indians, trudging out and
in with their various commodities, are highly picturesque.

On a building at the side of the causeway we notice "Estación de
Méjico" (Mexico Station) painted in large letters. As far as we could
observe, this very suggestive sign-board is the whole plant of the
Railway Company at this end of the line. A range of hills ends abruptly
in the plain, at a place which the Indians called Tepeyacac, "end of
the hill" (literally "at the hill's nose"). Our causeway leads to this
spot; and there, at the foot and up the slope of the hill, are built
the great cathedral and other churches and chapels, altogether a vast
and imposing collection of buildings; and round these a considerable
town has grown up, for this is the great place of pilgrimage in the
country.

The Spaniards had brought a miraculous picture with them, Nuestra
Señora de Remedios, which is still in the country, and many pilgrims
visit it; but Our Lady of Guadalupe is a native Mexican, and decidedly
holds the first rank in the veneration of the people.

In the great church there is a picture mounted in a gold frame of great
value. Its distance from the altar-rails, and the pane of glass which
covers it, prevent one's seeing it very well. This was the more
unfortunate, as, according to my history, the picture is in itself
evidently of miraculous origin, for the best artists are agreed that no
human hand could imitate the drawing or the colour! It appears that the
Aztecs, long before the arrival of the Spaniards, had been in the habit
of worshipping--in this very place--a goddess, who was known as
_Teotenantzin_, "mother-god," or _Tonantzin_, "our mother." Ten years
after the Conquest, a certain converted Indian, Juan Diego (John James)
by name, was passing that way, and to him appeared the Virgin Mary. She
told him to go to the bishop, and tell him to build her a temple on the
place where she stood, giving him a lapful of flowers as a token. When
the flowers were poured out of the garment, in presence of the bishop,
the miraculous picture appeared underneath, painted on the apron
itself. The bishop accepted the miracle with great unction; the temple
was built, and the miraculous image duly installed in it. Its name of
"Santa Maria de Guadalupe," was not, as one might imagine, taken from
the Madonna of that name in Spain (of course not!), but was
communicated by Our Lady herself to another converted Indian. She told
him that her title was to be _Santa Maria de Tequatlanopeuh_, "Saint
Mary of the rocky hill," of which hard word the Spaniards made
"Guadalupe,"--just as they had turned Quauhnahuac into Cuernavaca, and
Quauhaxallan into Guadalajara, substituting the nearest word of Spanish
form for the unpronounceable Mexican names. This at least is the
ingenious explanation given by my author, the Bachelor Tanco, Professor
of the Aztec language, and of Astrology, in the University of Mexico,
in the year 1666. The bishop who authenticated the miracle was no less
a person than Fray Juan de Zumarraga, whose name is well known in
Mexican history, for it was he who collected together all the Aztec
picture-writings that he could find, "quite a mountain of them," say
the chroniclers, and made a solemn bonfire of them in the great square
of Tlatelolco. The miracles worked by the Virgin of Guadalupe, and by
copies of it, are innumerable; and the faith which the lower orders of
Mexicans and the Indians have in it is boundless.

On the 12th of December, the Anniversary of the Apparition is kept, and
an amazing concourse of the faithful repair to the sanctuary. Heller, a
German traveller who was in Mexico in 1846, saw an Indian taken to the
church; he had broken his leg, which had not even been set, and he
simply expected Our Lady to cure him without any human intervention at
all. Unluckily, the author had no opportunity of seeing what became of
him. The great miracle of all was the deliverance of Mexico from the
great inundation of 1626, and the fact is established thus. The city
was under water, the inhabitants in despair. The picture was brought to
the Cathedral in a canoe, through the streets of Mexico; and between
one and two years afterwards the inundation subsided. _Ergo_, it was
the picture that saved the city!

For centuries a fierce rivalry existed between the Spanish Virgin,
called "de Remedios," and Our Lady of Guadalupe; the Spaniards
supporting the first, and the native Mexicans the second. A note of
Humboldt's illustrates this feeling perfectly. He relates that whenever
the country was suffering from drought, the Virjen do Remedios was
carried into Mexico in procession, to bring rain, till it came to be
said, quite as a proverb, _Hasta el agua nos debe venir de la
Gachupina_--"We must get even our water from that Spanish creature." If
it happened that the Spanish Madonna produced no effect after a long
trial, the native Madonna was allowed to be brought solemnly in by the
Indians, and never failed in bringing the wished-for rain, which always
came sooner or later. It is remarkable that the Spanish party, who were
then all-powerful, should have allowed their own Madonna to be placed
at such a disadvantage, in not having the last innings. I need hardly
say that the shrine of Guadalupe is monstrously rich. The Chapter has
been known to lend such a thing as a million or two of dollars at a
time, though most of their property is invested on landed security.
They are allowed to have lotteries, and make something handsome out of
them; and they even sell medals and prints of their patroness, which
have great powers. You may have plenary indulgence in the hour of death
for sixpence or less. We drank of the water of the chalybeate spring,
bought sacred lottery-tickets, which turned out blanks, and tickets for
indulgences, which, I greatly fear, will not prove more valuable; and
so rode home along the dusty causeway to breakfast.

As means of learning what sort of books the poorer classes in Mexico
preferred, we overhauled with great diligence the book-stalls, of which
there are a few, especially under the arcades (Portales) near the great
square. The Mexican public have not much cheap literature to read; and
the scanty list of such popular works is half filled with Our Lady of
Guadalupe, and other miracle-books of the same kind. Father Ripalda's
Catechism has a large circulation, and is apparently the one in general
use in the country. Zavala speaks of this catechism as containing the
maxims of blind obedience to king and pope; but my more modern edition
has scarcely anything to say about the Pope, and nothing at all about
the government. Of late years, indeed, the Pope has not counted for
much, politically, in Mexico; and on one occasion his Holiness found,
when he tried to interfere about church-benefices, that his authority
was rather nominal than real. On the whole, nothing in the Catechism
struck me so much as the multiplication-table, which, to my unspeakable
astonishment, turned up in the middle of the book; a table of fractions
followed; and then it began again with the Holy Trinity.

To continue our catalogue; there are the almanacks, which contain rules
for foretelling the weather by the moon's quarters, but none of the
other fooleries which we find in those that circulate in England among
the less educated classes. It is curious to notice how the taste for
putting sonnets and other dreary poems at the beginnings and ends of
books has survived in these Spanish countries. What used to be known in
England as "a copy of verses" is still appreciated here, and almanacks,
newspapers, religious books, even programmes of plays and bull-fights,
are full of such dismal compositions. We ought to be thankful that the
fashion has long since gone out with us (except in the religions tract,
where it still survives). It is not merely apropos of sonnets, but of
thousands of other things, that in these countries one is brought, in a
manner, face to face with England as it used to be; and very trifling
matters become interesting when viewed in this light. The last item in
the list comprises translations, principally of French novels, those
being preferred in which the agony is "piled up" to the highest point.
German literature is represented by the "Sorrows of Werter." Of course,
"Uncle Tom's Cabin" is widely circulated here, as it is everywhere in
countries not given to the "particular vanity" attacked in it.

One need hardly say that both literature and education are at a very
low ebb in Mexico. Referring to Tejada again, I find that he reckons
that in the capital, out of a population of 185,000, there are 12,000
scholars at primary schools; but of course, as in other countries, a
large proportion of these children attend so irregularly that they can
hardly learn anything. For the country generally, he estimates one
child receiving instruction out of thirty-seven inhabitants, a very
significant piece of statistics. Efforts are being made, especially in
the capital, to raise the population out of this state. Mr. Christy
took much trouble in investigating the subject, with the assistance of
our friend Don José Miguel Cervantes, the head of the Ayuntamiento, or
Municipal Council. This gentleman, with a few others, has been doing
much up-hill work of this kind for years past, establishing schools,
and trying to make head against the opposition of the priests and the
indifference of the people, as yet with but small success.

It seems hard to be always attacking the Roman Catholic clergy, but of
one thing we cannot remain in doubt,--that their influence has had more
to do than anything else with the doleful ignorance which reigns
supreme in Mexico. For centuries they had the education of the country
in their hands, and even at this day they retain the greater share of
it. The training which the priests themselves receive will therefore
give one some idea of what they teach their scholars. Unluckily, their
course of instruction was stereotyped ages ago, when learned men
devoted themselves to writing huge books on divinity, casuistry, logic,
and metaphysics; concealing their ignorance of facts under an
affectation of wisdom and clouds of long words; demonstrating how many
millions of angels could dance on a needle's point; writing treatises
"_de omni re scibili_," and on a good many things unknowable also; and
teaching their admiring scholars the art of building up sham arguments
on any subject, whether they know anything about it or not. This is a
very vicious system of training for a man's mind, the more especially
when it is supposed to set him up with a stock of superior knowledge;
and this is what the Roman Catholic clergy have been learning,
generation after generation, in Mexico and elsewhere. Of course, there
are plenty of exceptions, particularly among the higher clergy; but, so
far as I have been able to ascertain, education in clerical schools has
generally been of this kind. It is instinctive to talk a little, as one
occasionally finds an opportunity of doing, to some youth just out of
these colleges. I recollect speaking to a young man who had just left
the Seminario of Mexico, where he had been through a long course of
theology and philosophy. He was astonished to hear that bull-fighting
and colearing were not universally practised in Europe; and, when his
father began to question me about the Crimean war, the young
gentleman's remarks showed that he had not the faintest idea where
England and France were, nor how far they were from one another.

I happened, not long ago, to visit a celebrated monastic college in
South Italy, where they educated, not ordinary mortals, but only young
men of noble birth; and here I took particular care in inspecting the
library, judging that, though the scholars need not learn all that was
there, yet that no department of knowledge would be taught there that
was not represented on the library-shelves. What I saw fully confirmed
all that I had previously seen and heard about the monastic learning of
the present day. There were to be seen many fine manuscripts, and
black-letter books, and curious old editions of great value, good store
of classics (mostly Latin, however), works of the Fathers by the
hundred-weight, and quartos and folios of canon-law, theology,
metaphysics, and such like, by the ton. But it seemed that, in the
estimation of the librarians, the world had stood still since the time
of Duns Scotus; for, of what we call positive knowledge, except a
little arithmetic and geometry, and a few very poor histories, I saw
nothing. It is easy to see how one result of the clerical monopoly of
education has therefore come about--that the intellectual standard is
very low in Mexico. The Holy Office, too, has had its word to say in
the matter. This institution had not much work to do in burning
Indians, who were anything but sceptical in their turn of mind, and,
indeed, were too much like Theodore Hook, and would believe "forty, if
you pleased." They even went further, and were apt to believe not only
what the missionaries taught them, but to cherish the memory of their
old gods into the bargain. It was three centuries after the Conquest,
that Mr. Bullock got the goddess Teoyaomiqui dug up in Mexico; and the
old Indian remarked to him that it was true the Spaniards had given
them three very good new gods, but it was rather hard to take away all
their old ones. At any rate, the functions of the Inquisition were
mostly confined to working the _Index Expurgatorius_, and suppressing
knowledge generally, which they did with great industry until not long
ago.

Here, then, are two causes of Mexican ignorance, and a third may be
this; that Mexico was a colony to which the Spaniards generally came to
make their fortunes, with a view of returning to their own land; and
this state of things was unfavourable to the country as regards the
progress of knowledge, as well as in other things.



CHAPTER VI.



TEZCUCO.

Across the lake of Tezcuco is Tezcuco itself, a great city and the
capital of a kingdom at the time of the Conquest, and famous for its
palaces and its learned men. Now it is an insignificant Spanish town,
built, indeed, to a great extent, of the stones of the old buildings.
Mr. Bowring, who has evaporating-works at the edge of the lake, and
lives in the "Casa Grande"--the Great House, just outside Tezcuco, has
invited us to pay him a visit; so we get up early one April morning,
and drive down to the street of the Solitude of Holy Cross (Calle de la
Soledad de Santa Cruz). There we find Mr. Millard, a Frenchman, who is
an _employé_ of Mr. Bowling's, and is going back to Tezcuco with us;
and we walk down to the canal with him, half a dozen Indian porters
with baskets following us, and trotting along in the queer shuffling
way that is habitual to them. At the landing-place we find a number of
canoes, and a crowd of Indians, men and women, in scanty cotton
garments which show the dirt in an unpleasant manner. A canoe is going
to Tezcuco, a sort of regular packet-boat, in fact; and of this canoe
Mr. Millard has retained for us three the stern half, over which is
stretched an awning of aloe-fibre cloth. The canoe itself is merely a
large shallow box, made of rough planks, with sloping prow and stern,
more like a bread-tray in shape than anything else I can think of.
There is no attempt at making the bows taper, and indeed the Indians
stoutly resist this or any other innovation. In the fore part of the
canoe there is already a heap of other passengers, lying like bait in a
box, and when we arrive the voyage begins.

The crew are ten in number; the captain, eight men, and an old woman in
charge of the tortillas and the pulque-jar. All these are brown people;
in fact, the navigation of the lakes is entirely in the hands of the
Indians, and "reasonable people" have nothing to do with it. Reasonable
people--"gente de razón"--being, as I have said before, those who have
any white blood in them; and republican institutions have not in the
least effaced the distinction.

So it comes to pass that the canoe-traffic is carried on in much the
same way as it was in Montezuma's time. There is one curious
difference, however. These canoes are all poled about the lakes and
canals; and I do not think we saw an Indian oar or paddle in the whole
valley of Mexico. In the ancient picture-writings, however, the Indians
are paddling their canoes with a kind of oar, shaped at the end like
one of our fire-shovels. But, as we have seen, the distribution of land
and water has altered since those days; and the lakes, far greater in
extent, were of course several feet deeper all over the present beds;
and even at a short distance from the city poling would have been
impossible. I suspect that the Aztecs originally used both poles and
paddles, and that the latter went out of use when the water became
shallow enough for the pole to serve all purposes. Otherwise, we must
suppose that the Mexicans, since the Spanish Conquest, introduced a new
invention; which is not easy to believe.

We had first to get out of the canal, and fairly out into the lake.
This was the more desirable, as the canal is one of the drains of the
city, an office that it fills badly enough, seeing that there is
scarcely any fall of water from the lower quarters of the city to the
lake. I never saw water-snakes in numbers to compare with those in the
canal, and by the side of it. They were swimming in the water,
wriggling in and out; and on the banks they were writhing in heaps,
like our passengers forward. Two of our crew tow us along, and we are
soon clear of the canal, and of the salt-swamp that extends on both
sides of it, where the bottom of the lake was in old times. Once fairly
out, we look round us. We see Mexico from a new point of view, and
begin to understand why the Spaniards called it the Venice of the New
World. Even now, though the lake is so much smaller than it was then,
the city, with its domes and battlemented roofs, seems to rise from the
water itself, for the intervening flat is soon foreshortened into
nothing. At the present moment it is evident that the level of the lake
is much higher than usual. A little way off, on our right, is the Peñón
de los Baños--"the rock of baths"--a porphyritic hill forced up by
volcanic agency, where there are hot springs. It is generally possible
to reach this hill by land, but the water is now so high that the rock
has become an island as it used to be.

When the first two brigantines were launched on the Lake of Tezcuco by
the Spaniards, Cortes took Montezuma with him to sail upon the lake,
soon leaving the Aztec canoes far behind. They went to a Peñón or rocky
hill where Montezuma preserved game for his own hunting, and not even
the highest nobility were allowed to hunt there on pain of death. The
Spaniards had a regular battue there; killing deer, hares, and rabbits
till they were tired. This Peñón may have been the Peñón de los Baños
which we are just passing, but was more probably a similar hill a
little further off, of larger extent, now fortified and known as El
Peñón, the Hill. Both were in those days complete islands at some
distance from the shore.

Now that we are out of the canal, our Indians begin to pole us along,
thrusting their long poles to the bottom of the shallow lake, and
walking on two narrow planks which extend along the sides of the canoe
from the prow to the middle point. Four walk on each plank, each man
throwing up his pole as he gets to the end, and running back up the
middle to begin again at the prow. The dexterity with which they swing
the poles about, and keep them out of each other's way, is wonderful;
and, as seen from our end of the canoe, looks like a kind of
exaggerated quarter-staff playing, only nobody is ever hit.

The great peculiarity of the lake of Tezcuco is that it is a salt lake,
containing much salt and carbonate of soda. The water is quite brackish
and undrinkable. How it has come to be so is plain enough. The streams
from the surrounding mountains bring down salt and soda in solution,
derived from the decomposed porphyry; and as the water of the lake is
not drained off into the sea, but evaporates, the solid constituents
are left to accumulate in the lake.

In England, I think, we have no example of this; but the Dead Sea, the
Caspian, the Great Salt Lake of Utah, and even the Mediterranean, have
various salts accumulated in solution in the same way. It seems to me,
that, by taking into account the proportion of soluble material
contained in the water that flows down from the mountains, the probable
quantity of water that flows down in the year, and the proportion of
salt in the lake itself, some vague guess might be made as to the time
this state of things has been lasting. I have no data, unfortunately,
even for such a rough calculation as this, or I should like to try it.

In spite of the splendid climate, a great portion of the Valley of
Mexico is anything but fertile; for the soil is impregnated with salt
and soda, which in many places are so abundant as to form, when the
water evaporates, a white efflorescence on the ground, which is called
_tequesquite_, and regularly collected by the Indians. Some of it is
stopped on its way down from the higher ground, by the evaporation of
the water that was carrying it; and some is left by the lake itself, in
its frequent floodings of the ground in its neighbourhood. So small is
the difference of level between the lake and the plain that surrounds
it, that the slightest rise in the height of the water makes an immense
difference in the size of the lake; and even a strong wind will drive
the water over great tracts of ground, from which it retires when the
gale ceases. It must have been this, or something similar, that set
Cortes upon writing home to Spain that the lakes were like inland seas,
and even had tides like the ocean. Of course, this impregnation with
salts is ruinous to the soil, which will produce nothing in such places
but tufts of coarse grass; and the shores of the lake are the most
dismal districts one can imagine. All the lakes, however, are not so
salt as Tezcuco; Chalco, for instance, is a fresh-water lake, and there
the fertility of the shores is very great, as I have already had
occasion to notice.

As soon as the novelty of this kind of travelling had worn off, we
began to find it dull, and retired under our awning to breakfast and
bitter beer; which latter luxury, thanks to a suitable climate and an
English brewer, is very well understood in Mexico, and is even accepted
as a great institution by the Mexicans themselves.

We were just getting into a drowsy state, when an unusual bustle among
the crew brought us out of our den, and we found that three hours of
assiduous poling had taken us half-way across the lake, just six
miles--a good test of the value of the Aztec system of navigation. Here
was a wooden cross set up in the water; and here, from time out of
mind, the boatmen have been used to sing a little hymn to the Madonna,
by whose favour we had got so far, and hoped to get safe to the end of
our voyage. Very well they sang it too, and the scene was as striking
as it was unexpected to us. It seemed to us, however, to be making a
great matter of crossing a piece of water only a few feet deep; but Mr.
Millard assured us, that when a sudden gale came on, it was a
particularly unpleasant place to be afloat in a Mexican canoe, which,
being flat-bottomed, has no hold at all on the water, and from its
shape is quite unmanageable in a wind. He himself was once caught in
this way, and kept out all night, with a "heavy sea" on the lake, the
boat drifting helplessly, and threatening to overturn every moment, and
that in places where the water was quite deep enough to drown them all.
The Indians lost their heads entirely, and throwing down their poles
fell on their knees, and joined in the chorus with the women and
children and the rest of the helpless brown people, beating their
breasts, and presenting medals and prints of our Lady of Guadalupe to
each wave as it dashed into them. The wind dropped, however, and Mr.
Millard got safe to Tezcuco next morning; but, instead of receiving
sympathy for his misfortunes when he got there, found that the idea of
a tempest on the lake was reckoned a mere joke, and that the
drawing-room of the Casa Grande had been decorated with a fancy
portrait of himself, hanging to the half-way cross, with his legs in
the water, and underneath, a poetical description of his sufferings to
the tune of "_Malbrouke s'en va-t-en guerre, ne sais quand reviendra_."

More poling across the lake, and then another little canal, also
constructed since the diminishing of the water of the lake (which once
came close to the city), and along which our Indians towed us. Then
came a short ride, which brought us to the Casa Grande, where Mrs.
Bowring received us with overflowing hospitality. We went off presently
into the town, to see the glassworks. In a country where all things
imported have to be carried in rough waggons, or on mules' backs, and
over bad roads, it would be hard if it did not pay to make glass; and,
accordingly, we found the works in full operation. The soda is produced
at Mr. Bowling's works close by, the fuel is charcoal from the
mountains, and for sand they have a substitute, which I never heard of
or saw anywhere else. It seems that a short distance from Tezcuco there
is a deposit of hydrated silica, which is brought down in great blocks
by the Indians; and this, when calcined, answers the purpose perfectly,
as there is scarcely any iron in it. In its natural state it resembles
beeswax in colour.

It is worth while to describe the Casa Grande, which is strikingly
different from our European notions of the "great house" of the
village. As we enter by the gate, we find ourselves in a patio--an open
quadrangle surrounded by a covered walk--a cloister in fact, into which
open the rooms inhabited by the family. The second quadrangle, which
opens into the first, is devoted to stables, kitchen, &c. The outer
wall which surrounds the whole is very thick, and the entire building
is built of mud bricks baked in the sun, and has no upper storey at
all. It is a Pompeian house on a large scale, and suits the climate
perfectly. The Aztec palaces we read so much of were built in just the
same way. The roofs slope inwards from the sides of the quadrangle, and
drain into the open space in the middle. One afternoon, a tremendous
tropical rain-storm showed us how necessary it was to have the covered
walk round the quadrangle raised considerably above this open square in
the middle, which a few minutes of such rain converted into a pond.

As for ourselves, we spent many very pleasant days at the Casa Grande,
and thoroughly approved of the arrangement of the house, except that
the four corners of the patio were provokingly alike, and the doors of
the rooms also, so that we were as much bothered as the captain of the
forty thieves to find our own doors, or any door except Mr. Millard's,
whose name was indicated--with more regard to pronunciation than
spelling--with a 1 and nine 0's chalked on it.

In spite of a late evening spent in very pleasant society, we were up
early next morning, ready for an excursion to the Pyramids of
Teotihuacán, some sixteen miles off, or so, under the guidance of one
of Mr. Bowring's men. The road lies through the plain, between great
plantations of magueys, for this is the most renowned district in the
Republic for the size of its aloes, and the quality of the pulque that
is made from them. We stopped sometimes to examine a particularly large
specimen, which might measure 30 feet round, and to see the juice,
which had collected in the night, drawn out of the great hollow that
had been cut to receive it, in the heart of the plant. The Indians have
a great fancy for making crosses, and the aloe lends itself
particularly to this kind of decoration. They have only to cut off six
or eight inches of one leaf, and impale the piece on the sharp point of
another, and the cross is made. Every good-sized aloe has two or three
of these primitive religious emblems upon it.

Several little torrent-beds crossed the road, and over them were thrown
old-fashioned Spanish stone bridges, as steep as the Rialto, or the
bridge on the willow-patterned plates.

Before going to see the pyramids, we visited the caves in the hill-side
not far from them, whence the stone was brought to build them. It is
_tetzontli_, the porous amygdaloid which abounds among the porphyritic
hills, a beautiful building-stone, easily worked, and durable. There
was a large space that seemed to have been quarried out bodily, and
into this opened numerous caves. We left our horses at the entrance,
and spent an hour or two in hunting the place over. The ground was
covered with pieces of obsidian knives and arrow-heads, and fragments
of what seemed to have been larger tools or weapons; and we found
numbers of hammer-heads, large and small, mostly made of greenstone,
some whole, but most broken.

We find two sorts of stone hammers in Europe. Solid hammers belong to
the earliest period. They are made of longish rolled pebbles; some are
shaped a little artificially, and are grooved round to hold the handle,
which was a flexible twig bent double and with the two ends tied
together, so as to keep the stone head in its place. The hammers of a
later period of the "stone age" are shaped more like the iron ones our
smiths use at the present day, and they have a hole bored in the middle
for the handle. In Brittany, where Celtic remains are found in such
abundance, it is not uncommon to see stone hammers of the latter kind
hanging up in the cottages of the peasants, who use them to drive in
nails with. They have an odd way of providing them with handles, by
sticking them tight upon branches of young trees, and when the branch
has grown larger, and has thus rivetted itself tightly on both sides of
the stone head, they cut it off, and carry home the hammer ready for
use.

Though the Mexicans carried the arts of knife and arrow-making and
sculpturing hard stone to such perfection, I do not think they ever
discovered the art of making a hole in a stone hammer. The handles of
the axes shown in the picture-writings are clumsy sticks swelling into
a large knob at one end, and the axe-blade is fixed into a hole in this
knob. Some of the Mexican hammers seem to have had their handles fixed
in this way; while others were made with a groove, in the same manner
as the earlier kind of European stone hammers just described.

When we consider the beauty of the Mexican stonecutter's work, it seems
wonderful that they should have been able to do it without iron tools.
It is quite clear that, at the time of the Spanish Conquest, they used
bronze hatchets, containing that very small proportion of tin which
gives the alloy nearly the hardness of steel. We saw many of these
hatchets in museums, and Mr. Christy bought some good specimens in a
collection of antiquities which had belonged to an old Mexican, who got
them principally from the suburb of Tlatelolco, in the neighbourhood of
the ancient market-place of the city. Such axes were certainly common
among the ancient Mexicans. One of the items of the hieroglyphic
tribute-roll in the Mendoza Codex is eighty bronze hatchets.

A story told by Bernal Diaz is to the point. He says that he and his
companions, noticing that the Indians of the coast generally carried
bright metal axes, the material of which looked like gold of a low
quality, got as many as six hundred such axes from them in the course
of three days' bartering, giving them coloured glass-beads in exchange.
Both sides were highly satisfied with their bargain; but it all came to
nothing, as the chronicler relates with considerable disgust, for the
gold turned out to be copper, and the beads were found to be trash when
the Indians began to understand them better. Such hard copper axes as
these have been found at Mitla, in the State of Oajaca, where the
ruined temples seem to form a connecting link between the monuments of
Teotihuacán and Xochicalco and the ruined cities of Yucatan and
Chiapas.

We want one more link in the chain to show the use of the same kind of
tools from Mexico down to Yucatan, and this link we can supply. In Lord
Kingsborough's great work on Mexican Antiquities there is one
picture-writing, the Dresden Codex, which is not of Aztec origin at
all. Its hieroglyphics are those of Palenque and Uxmal; and in this
manuscript we have drawings of hatchets like those of Mexico, and fixed
in the same kind of handles, but of much neater workmanship.

But here we come upon a difficulty. It is supposed that the pyramids of
Teotihuacán, as well as most of the great architectural works of the
country, were the work of the Toltec race, who quitted this part of the
country several centuries before the Spanish Conquest. It seems
incredible that bronze should have been in use in the country for so
long a time, and not have superseded so bad a material as stone for
knives and weapons. We have good evidence to show that in Europe the
introduction of bronze was almost simultaneous with the complete disuse
of stone for such purposes. It is true that Herodotus describes the
embalmers, in his time, as cutting open the bodies with "an Ethiopic
stone" though they were familiar with the use of metal. Indeed the
flint knives which he probably meant may be seen in museums. But this
peculiar usage was most likely kept up for some mystical reason, and
does not affect the general question. Almost as soon as the Spaniards
brought iron to Mexico, it superseded the old material. The "bronze
age" ceased within a year or two, and that of iron began.

The Mexicans called copper or bronze "tepuztli," a word of rather
uncertain etymology. Judging from the analogous words in languages
allied to the Aztec, it seems not unlikely that it meant originally
_hatchet_ or _breaker_, just as "itztli," or obsidian, appears to have
meant originally _knife_.[12]

When the Mexicans saw iron in the hands of the Spaniards, they called
it also "tepuztli," which thus became a general word for metal; and
then they had to distinguish iron from copper, as they do at the
present day, by calling them "_tliltic_ tepuztli," and "_chichiltic_
tepuztli;" that is, "black metal," and "red metal."

When the subject of the use of bronze in stone-cutting is discussed, as
it so often is with special reference to Egypt, one may doubt whether
people have not underrated its capabilities, when the proportion of tin
is accurately adjusted to give the maximum hardness; and especially
when a minute portion of iron enters into its composition. Sir Gardner
Wilkinson relates that he tried the edge of one of the Egyptian mason's
chisels upon the very stone it had evidently been once used to cut, and
found that its edge was turned directly; and therefore he wonders that
such a tool could have been used for the purpose, of course supposing
that the tool as he found it was just as the mason left it. This,
however, is not quite certain. If we bury a brass tool in a damp place
for a few weeks, it will be found to have undergone a curious molecular
change, and to have become quite soft and weak, or, as the workmen call
it, dead. We ought to be quite sure whether lying for centimes under
ground may not have made some similar change in bronze.

I have seen many prickly pears in different places, but never such
specimens as those that were growing among the stones in this old
quarry. They had gnarled and knotted trunks of hard wood, and were as
big as pollard-oaks; their age must have been immense; but,
unfortunately, one could not measure it, or it would have been a good
criterion of the age of the quarry, which had not only been excavated
but abandoned before their time. In one of the caves was a human
skeleton, blanched white and clean, and near it some one has stuck a
cross, made of two bits of stick, in the crevices of a heap of stones.

Returning to the entrance of the quarry, well loaded with stone hammers
and knives, we sat down to breakfast, in a cave, where our man had
established himself with the horses. An attempt on my part to cut
German sausage with an obsidian knife proved a decided failure.

We had already been struck by the appearance of the two pyramids of
Teotihuacán, when we passed by Otumba on our way to Mexico. The hills
which skirt the plain are so near them as to diminish their apparent
size; but even at a distance they are conspicuous objects. Now, when we
came close to them, and began by climbing to their summits, and walking
round their terraces, to measure ourselves against them, we began
gradually to realize their vast bulk; and this feeling continually grew
upon us. Modern architecture strives to unite the greatest possible
effect with the least cost; and the modern churches of southern Europe
and Spanish America, with their fine tall facades fronting the street,
and insignificant little buildings behind, show this idea in its
fullest development. Pyramids are built with no such object, and make
but little show in proportion to their vast mass of material; but then
one gets from them a sense of solid magnitude that no other building
gives, however vast its proportions may be. Neither of us had ever seen
the Egyptian pyramids. Even in Mexico these of Teotihuacán are not the
largest; for, though the pyramid of Cholula is no higher, it covers far
more ground. Were these monuments in Egypt, they would only rank, from
their size, in the second class.

As has often been remarked, such buildings as these can only be raised
under peculiar social conditions. The ruler must be a despotic
sovereign, and the mass of the people slaves, whose subsistence and
whose lives are sacrificed without scruple to execute the fancies of
the monarch, who is not so much the governor as the unrestricted owner
of the country and the people. The population must be very dense, or it
would not bear the loss of so large a proportion of the working class;
and vegetable food must be exceedingly abundant in the country, to feed
them while engaged in this unprofitable labour.

We know how great was the influence of the priestly classes in Egypt,
though the pyramids there, being rather tombs than temples, do not
prove it. In Mexico, however, the pyramids themselves were the temples,
serving only incidentally as tombs; and their size proves that--as
respects priestly influence--the resemblance between the two people is
fully carried out.

Like the Egyptian pyramids, these fronted the four cardinal points.
Their shape was not accurately pyramidal, for the line from base to
summit was broken by three terraces, or perhaps four, running
completely round them; and at the top was a flat square space, where
stood the idols and the sacrificial altars. This construction closely
resembled that of some of the smaller Egyptian pyramids. Flights of
stone steps led straight up from terrace to terrace, and the procession
of priests and victims made the circuit of each before they ascended to
the one above.

The larger of the two teocallis is dedicated to the Sun, has a base of
about 640 feet, and is about 170 feet high. The other, dedicated to the
Moon, is rather smaller.

These monuments were called _teocallis_, not because they were
pyramids, but because they were temples; "Teocalli" means "god's
house"--(_teotl_, god, _calli_, house), a name which the traveller
hears explained for the first time with some wonder; and Humboldt
cannot help adverting to its curious correspondence with [Greek: theou
kalia], _dei cella_. Another odd coincidence is found in the Aztec name
for their priests, _papahua_, the root of which _papa_, (the _hua_, is
merely a termination). In the Old World the word _Papa_, Pope, or
Priest, was connected with the idea of father or grandfather, but the
Aztec word has no such origin.

When the Aztecs abandoned their temples, and began to build Christian
churches, they called them also "teocallis," and perhaps do so to this
day.

The heavy tropical rains have to a great extent broken the sharpness of
the outline of these structures, and brought them more nearly to the
shape of real pyramids than they were originally; but, as we climbed up
their sides, we could trace the terraces without any difficulty, and
even flights of steps.

The pyramids consist of an outer casing of hewn stone, faced and
covered with smooth stucco, which has resisted the effects of time and
bad usage in a wonderful manner. Inside this casing were adobes,
stones, clay, and mortar, as one may see in places where the exterior
has been damaged, and by creeping into the small passage which leads
into the Temple of the Moon. Both pyramids are nearly covered with a
coating of debris, full of bits of obsidian arrows and knives, and
broken pottery. On the teocalli of the moon we found a number of recent
sea-shells, which mystified us extremely; and the only explanation we
could give of their presence there was that they might have been
brought up as offerings. A passage in Humboldt, which I met with long
after, seems to clear up the mystery. Speaking of the great teocalli of
the city of Mexico, he says, quoting an old description, that the Moon
had a little temple in the great courtyard, which was built of shells.
Those that we found may be the remains of a similar structure on the
top of the pyramid.

Prickly pears, aloes, and mesquite bushes have overgrown the pyramids
in all directions, as though they had been mere natural hills. In
Sicily one may see the lava fields of Etna planted with prickly pears:
in the ordinary course of things, it requires several centuries before
even the surface of this hard lava will disintegrate into soil; but the
roots of the cactus soon crack it, and a few years suffice to break it
up to a sufficient depth to allow of vineyards being planted upon it.
Here the same plant has in the same way affected the porous amygdaloid
with which the pyramids are faced, and has cut up the surface sadly;
but the vegetation which covers them will at any rate defend them from
the rains, and now centuries will make but little change in the
appearance of these remarkable buildings.

Near Nice there is a hill which gives a wonderfully correct idea of the
appearance of the terraced teocallis of Mexico, as they must have
looked before time effaced the sharpness of their lines. Where the
valley of the Paglione and that of St. Andre meet, the hill between
them terminates in a half pyramid, the angle of which lies toward the
south; and the inhabitants--as their custom is in southern Europe, have
turned the two slopes to account, by building them up into terraces, to
prevent the soil they have laboriously carried up from being swept down
by the first heavy rain. Seen from the proper point of view the
resemblance is complete.

From the south side of the Temple of the Moon runs an avenue of
burial-mounds, the Micaotli, "the path of the dead." On these mounds,
and round the foot of the pyramids themselves, the whole population of
the once great city of Teotihuacán and its neighbourhood used to
congregate, to see the priests and the victims march round the terraces
and up the stairs in full view of them all. Standing here, one could
imagine the scene that Cortes and his men saw from their camp, outside
Mexico, on that dreadful day when the Mexicans had cut off their
retreat along the causeways, and taken more than sixty Spanish
prisoners. Bernal Diaz was there, and tells the tale how they heard
from the city the great drum of Huitzilopochtli sending forth a strange
and awful sound, that could be heard for miles, and with it many horns
and trumpets; and how, when they had looked towards the great teocalli,
they saw the Mexicans dragging up the prisoners, pushing and beating
them as they went, till they had got them up to the open space at the
top, "where the cursed idols stood." Then they put plumes of feathers
on their heads, and fans in their hands, and made them dance before the
idol; and when they had danced, they threw them on their backs on the
sacrificial stone that stood there, and, sawing open their breasts with
knives of stone, they tore out their hearts, and offered them up in
sacrifice; and the bodies they flung down the stairs to the bottom.
More than this the Spaniards cannot have seen, though Diaz describes
the rest of the proceedings as though they had been done in his sight;
but it was not the first time they had witnessed such things, and they
knew well enough what was happening down below,--how the butchers were
waiting to cut up the carcases as they came down, that they might be
cooked with chile, and eaten in the solemn banquet of the evening.

The day was closing in by this time; and our man was waiting with the
horses at the foot of the great pyramid; and with him an Indian, whom
we had caught half an hour before, and sent off with a real to buy
pulque, and to collect such obsidian arrows and clay heads as were to
be found at the ranchos in the neighbourhood.

Near the place we started from, two or three Indians were diligently at
work at their stone-quarry, that is to say, they were laboriously
bringing out great hewn stones from the side of the pyramid, to build
their walls with; and indeed we could see in every house for miles
round stones that had come from the same source, as was proved by the
stucco still remaining upon them, smoothed like polished marble, and
painted dull red with cinnabar.

As I write this, it brings to my recollection an old Roman trophy in
North Italy, built--like these pyramids--of a shell of hewn stone,
filled with rough stones and cement, now as hard as the rock itself.
There I saw the inhabitants of the town which stands at its foot,
carrying off the great limestone blocks, but first cutting them up into
pieces of a size that they could move about, and build into their
houses. Here and there, in this little Italian town, there were to be
seen in the walls letters of the old inscription which were once upon
the trophy; and the age of the houses shewed that the monument had
served as a quarry for centuries.

As we rode home, we noticed by the sides of the road, and where ditches
had been cut, numbers of old Mexican stone-floors covered with stucco.
The earth has accumulated above them to the depth of two or three feet,
so that their position is like that of the Roman pavements so often
found in Europe; and we may guess, from what we saw exposed, how great
must be the number of such remains still hidden, and how vast a
population must once have inhabited this plain, now almost deserted.

Two days afterwards we came back. In the ploughed fields in the
neighbourhood we made repeated trials whether it was possible to stand
still in any spot where there was no relic of old Mexico within our
reach; but this we could not do. Everywhere the ground was full of
unglazed pottery and obsidian; and we even found arrows and clay
figures that were good enough for a museum. When we left England, we
both doubted the accounts of the historians of the Conquest, believing
that they had exaggerated the numbers of the population, and the size
of the cities, from a natural desire to make the most of their
victories, and to write as wonderful a history as they could, as
historians are prone to do. But our examination of Mexican remains soon
induced us to withdraw this accusation, and even made us inclined to
blame the chroniclers for having had no eyes for the wonderful things
that surrounded them.

I do not mean by this that we felt inclined to swallow the monstrous
exaggerations of Solis and Gomara and other Spanish chroniclers, who
seemed to think that it was as easy to say a thousand as a hundred, and
that it sounded much better. But when this class of writers are set
aside, and the more valuable authorities severely criticised, it does
not seem to us that the history thus extracted from these sources is
much less reliable than European history of the same period. There is,
perhaps, no better way of expressing this opinion than to say that what
we saw of Mexico tended generally to confirm Prescott's History of the
Conquest, and but seldom to make his statements appear to us
improbable.

There are other mounds near the pyramids, besides the Micaotli. Two
sides of the Pyramid of the Sun are surrounded by them; and there are
two squares of mounds at equal distances, north and south of it,
besides innumerable scattered hillocks. There are some sculptured
blocks of stone lying near the pyramids, and inside the smaller one is
buried what appears to be a female bust of colossal size, with the
mouth like an oval ring, so common in Mexican sculptures.

The same abundance of ancient remains that we found here characterizes
the neighbourhood of all the Mexican monuments in the country, with one
curious exception. Burkart declares that in the vicinity of the
extensive remains of temples known as _Los Edificios_, near Zacatecas,
no traces of pottery or of obsidian were to be found.

Before going away, we held a solemn market of antiquities. We sat
cross-legged on the ground, and the Indian women and children brought
us many curious articles in clay and obsidian, which we bought and
deposited in two great bags of aloe-fibre which our man carried at his
saddle-bow. Among the articles we bought were various pipes or whistles
of pottery, _pitos_, as they are called in Spanish, and just as we were
mounting our horses to ride off, a lad ran to the top of one of the
mounds, and blew on one of these pipes a long dismal note that could be
heard a mile off. Our friends had filled our heads so full of robbers
and ambushes, that we made sure it was a signal for some one who was
waiting for us, and the more so as the boy ran off as soon as he had
blown his blast; and when we looked round for the people whose
antiquities we had been buying, they had all disappeared. But nothing
came of it, and we got safely back to Tezcuco. As usual, we spent a
capital evening, and separated late. The owner of the glass-works, who
had been spending the evening with us, had an adventure on his road
home. He was peaceably riding along, when two men rushed out from
behind the corner of the street, and shouted "_alto ahí_!" (halte-là).
He thought they were robbers, and started at a gallop. His hat flew
off, and the men sent two bullets singing past his head, which sent him
on quicker than ever, till he reached his house. There he got his
pistols, and came back armed to the teeth to fetch the hat, which lay
where it had fallen. The supposed robbers turned out, on enquiry next
day, to have been national guards, patrolling the street; but certainly
their proceedings were rather questionable.

We had an unpleasant visit the same night. The custom of the Casa
Grande was that after dark a watchman patrolled all night, giving a
long blast every quarter of an hour on one of these same doleful
Mexican whistles, to show that ho was not sleeping on his rounds. This
was for the outside. Inside the house, _pour surcroît de précaution_, a
servant came round to see that every one was in his room; and having
satisfied himself of this, let loose in the courtyard two enormous
bulldogs, which were the terror of the household and of the whole
neighbourhood. On this particular night, a noise at our own door woke
me from a sound sleep; and I had the pleasure of seeing a creature walk
deliberately in, looking huge and terrific in the moonlight. The beast
had been into the stable two nights before, and had pinned a cow which
was there, keeping his hold upon her till next morning, when he was got
off by the keeper. With this specimen of the bulldog's abilities fresh
in my recollection, I preferred not making any attempt to resent his
impertinent intrusion, but lay still, till he had satisfied himself
with walking about the room and sniffing at our beds, when he lay down
on my carpet; I soon fell asleep again, and next morning he was gone.
The foreigners in Mexico seem to delight in fierce bull-dogs. The Casa
Grande at Tezcuco is not by any means the only place where they form
part of the garrison. One English acquaintance of ours in the Capital
kept two of these beasts up in his rooms, and not even the servants
dared go up, unless the master was there.

Every one who has read Prescott's 'Mexico' will recollect
Nezahualcoyotl, the king of Tezcuco; and the palaces he built there for
his wives, and his poets, and the rest of his great court. These
palaces were built chiefly of mud bricks; and time and the Spaniards
have dealt so hardly with them, that even their outlines can no longer
be traced. Traces of two large teocallis are just visible, and Mr.
Bowring has some burial mounds in his grounds which will be examined
some day. There is a Mexican calendar built into the wall of one of the
churches; and, as we walked about the streets of the present town, we
noticed stones that must have been sculptured before the Spaniards
brought in their broken-down classic style, and so stopped the
development of native art. As for the rest of old Tezcuco, it has
"become heaps." Wherever they dig ditches or lay the foundations of
houses, you may see the ground full of its remains.

As I said before, when speaking of the stuccoed floors near
Teotihuacán, the accumulation of alluvial soil goes on very rapidly and
very regularly all over the plains of Mexico and Puebla, where
everything favours its deposit; and the human remains preserved in it
are so numerous that its age may readily be seen. We noticed this in
many places, but in no instance so well as between Tezcuco and the
hacienda of Miraflores. There a long ditch, some five feet deep, had
just been cut in anticipation of the rainy season. As yet it was dry,
and, as we walked along it, we found three periods of Mexican history
distinctly traceable from one end to the other. First came mere
alluvium, without human remains. Then, just above, came fragments of
obsidian knives and bits of unglazed pottery. Above this again, a third
layer, in which the obsidian ceased, and much of the pottery was still
unglazed; but many fragments were glazed, and bore the unmistakable
Spanish patterns in black and yellow.

It is a pity that these alluvial deposits, which give such good
evidence as to the order in which different peoples or different states
of society succeeded one another on the earth, should be so valueless
as a means of calculating the time of their duration; but one can
easily see that they must always be so, by considering how the
thickness of the deposits is altered by such accidents as the formation
of a mud-bank, or the opening of a new channel,--things that must be
continually occurring in districts where this very accumulation is
going on. The only place where any calculation can be based upon its
thickness is on the banks of the Nile, where its accumulations round
the ancient monuments may perhaps give a criterion as to the time which
has elapsed since man ceased to clear away the deposits of the
river.[13]

As an instance of the tendency of alluvial deposits to entomb such
monuments of former ages, I must mention the temple of Segeste, which
stands on a gentle slope among the hills of northern Sicily. I had
heard talk of the graceful proportions of this Doric temple, built by
the Greek colonists; and great was my surprise, on first coming in
sight of it, to see a pediment supported by two rows of short squat
columns, without bases, and rising directly from the ground. A nearer
inspection showed the cause of this extraordinary distortion. The whole
slope had risen full six feet during the 2500 years, or so, that have
elapsed since its desertion; and the temple now stands in a large
oblong pit, which has lately been excavated. As we left the spot, and
turned to see it again a few yards off, the beautiful symmetry of the
whole had disappeared again.

To return to Tezcuco. Some three or four miles from the town stands the
hill of Tezcotzinco, where Nezahualcoyotl had his pleasure-gardens; and
to this hill we made an excursion early one morning, with Mr. Bowring
for our guide. We did not go first to Tezcotzinco itself, but to
another hill which is connected with it by an aqueduct of immense size,
along which we walked. The mountains in this part are of porphyry, and
the channel of the aqueduct was made principally of blocks of the same
material, on which the smooth stucco that had once covered the whole,
inside and out, still remained very perfect. The channel was carried,
not on arches, but on a solid embankment, a hundred and fifty or two
hundred feet high, and wide enough for a carriage-road.

The hill itself was overgrown with brushwood, aloes, and prickly pears,
but numerous roads and flights of steps cut in the rock were
distinguishable. Not far below the top of the hill, a terrace runs
completely round it, whence the monarch could survey a great part of
his little kingdom. On the summit itself I saw sculptured blocks of
stone; and on the side of the hill are two little circular baths, cut
in the solid rock. The lower of the two has a flight of steps down to
it; the seat for the bather, and the stone pipe which brought the
water, arc still quite perfect.

His majesty used to spend his afternoons here on the shady side of the
hill, apparently sitting up to his middle in water, like a frog, if one
may judge by the height of the little seat in the bath. If, as some
writers say, these were only tanks with streams of running water, and
not baths at all, why the steps cut in their sides, which are just
large enough and high enough for a man to sit in? No water has come
there for centuries now; and the morning-sun nearly broiled us, till we
got into a sort of cave, excavated in the hill, it is said, with an
idea of finding treasure. It seems there was once a Mexican calendar
cut in the rock at this spot; and some white people who were interested
in such matters, used to come to see it, and poke curiously about in
search of other antiquities. Naturally enough, the Indians thought that
they expected to find treasure; and with a view of getting the first
chance themselves, they cut down the calendar, and made this large
excavation behind it.

Here we sat in the shade, breakfasting, and hearing Mr. Bowring's
stories of the art of medicine as practised in the northern states of
Mexico, where decoction of shirt is considered an invaluable specific
when administered internally; and the recognised remedy for lumbago is
to rub the patient with the drawers of a man named John. No doubt the
latter treatment answers very well!

[Illustration: OLD MEXICAN BRIDGE NEAR TEZCUCO.]

There is an old Mexican bridge near Tezcuco which seems to be the
original _Puente de las Bergantinas_, the bridge where Cortes had the
brigantines launched on the lake of Tezcuco. This bridge has a span of
about twenty feet, and is curious as showing how nearly the Mexicans
had arrived at the idea of the arch. It is made in the form of a roof
resting on two buttresses, and composed of slabs of stone with the
edges upwards, with mortar in the interstices; the slabs being
sufficiently irregular in shape to admit of their holding together,
like the stones of a real arch. One may now and then see in Europe the
roofs of small stone hovels made in the same way; but twenty feet is an
immense span for such a construction. I have seen such buildings in
North Italy, in places where the limestone is so stratified as to
furnish rough slabs, three or four inches thick, with very little
labour in quarrying them out. In Kerry there are ancient houses and
churches roofed in the same way. What makes the Tezcuco bridge more
curious is that it is set askew, which must have made its construction
more difficult.

The brigantines which the Spaniards made, and transported over the
mountains in such a wonderful manner, fully answered their purpose, for
without them Mexico could hardly have been taken. After the Conquest
they were kept for years, for the good service they had done; but
vessels of such size do not seem to have been used upon the lake since
then; and I believe the only sailing craft at present is Mr. Bowring's
boat, which the Indians look at askance, and decidedly decline to
imitate. It is true that, somewhere near the city, there is moored a
little steamer, looking quite civilized at a distance. It never goes
anywhere, however; and I have a sort of impression of having heard that
when it was first made they got up the steam once, but the conduct of
the machinery under these circumstances was so extraordinary and
frantic that no one has ventured to repeat the experiment.

Before we left Tezcuco, we went in a boat to explore Mr. Bowring's
salt-works, which are rather like the salines of the South of France.
Patches of the lake are walled off, and the water allowed to evaporate,
which it does very rapidly under a hot sun, and with only three-fourths
of the pressure of air upon it that we have at the sea-level. The
lake-water thus concentrated is run into smaller tanks. It contains
carbonate and sesquicarbonate of soda, and common salt. The addition of
lime converts the sesquicarbonate of soda into simple carbonate, and
this is separated from the salt by taking advantage of their different
points of crystallization. The salt is partly consumed, and partly used
in the extraction of silver from the ore, and the soda is bought by the
soap-makers.

Humboldt's remarks on the small consumption of salt in Mexico are
curious. The average amount used with food is only a small fraction of
the European average. While the Tlascalans were at war with the Aztecs,
they had to do without salt for many years, as it was not produced in
their district. Humboldt thinks that the chile which the Indians
consume in such quantities acts as a substitute. It is to be remembered
that the soil is impregnated with both salt and natron in many of these
upland districts, and the inhabitants may have eaten earth containing
these ingredients, as they do for the same purpose in several places in
the Old World.

We disembarked after sailing to the end of these great evaporating
pans, and found horses waiting to take us to the Bosque del Contador.
This is a grand square, looking towards the cardinal points, and
composed of ahuehuetes, grand old deciduous cypresses, many of them
forty feet round, and older than the discovery of America. My
companion, not content with buying collections at secondhand, wished to
have some excavations made on his own account, and very judiciously
fixed on this spot, where, though there were no buildings standing, the
appearance of the ground and the mounds in the neighbourhood, together
with the historical notoriety of the place, made it probable that
something would be found to repay a diligent search. This expectation
was fully realized, and some fine idols of hard stone were found, with
an infinitude of pottery and small objects.

When I look through my notes about Tezcuco, I do not find much more to
mention, except that a favourite dish here consists of flies' eggs
fried. These eggs are deposited at the edge of the lake, and the
Indians fish them out and sell them in the market-place. So large is
the quantity of these eggs, that at a spot where a little stream
deposits carbonate of lime, a peculiar kind of travertine is forming
which consists of masses of them imbedded in tho calcareous deposit.

The flies[14] which produce these eggs are called by the Mexicans
"_axayacatl_" or "water-face." There was a celebrated Aztec king who
was called Axayacatl; and his name is indicated in the picture-writings
by a drawing of a man's face covered with water. The eggs themselves
are sold in cakes in the market, pounded and cooked, and also in lumps
_au naturel_, forming a substance like the roe of a fish. This is known
by the characteristic name of "_ahuauhtli_", that is "water-wheat."[15]

The last thing we did at Tezcuco, was to witness the laying down of a
new line of water-pipes for the saltworks. This I mention because of
the pipes, which were exactly those introduced into Spain by the Moors
and brought here by tho Spaniards. These pipes are of glazed
earthenware, taper at one end, and each fitting into the large end of
the next. The cement is a mixture of lime, fat, and hair, which gets
hard and firm when cold, but can be loosened by a very slight
application of heat. A thousand years has made no alteration in the way
of making these pipes. Here, however, the ground is so level that one
great characteristic of Moorish waterworks is not to be seen. I mean
the water-columns which are such a feature in the country round
Palermo, and in other places where the system of irrigation introduced
by the Moorish invaders is still kept up. These are square pillars
twenty or thirty feet high, with a cistern at the top of each, into
which the water from the higher level flowed, and from which other
pipes carried it on; the sole object of the whole apparatus being to
break the column of water, and reduce the pressure to the thirty or
forty feet which the pipes of earthenware would bear.

This subject of irrigation is very interesting with reference to the
future of Mexico. We visited two or three country-houses in the
plateaux, where the gardens are regularly watered by artificial
channels, and the result is a vegetation of wonderful exuberance and
beauty, converting these spots into oases in the desert. On the lower
levels of the tierra templada where the sugar-cane is cultivated, a
costly system of water-supply has been established in the haciendas
with the best results. Even in the plains of Mexico and Puebla, the
grain-fields are irrigated to some small degree. But notwithstanding
this progress in the right direction, the face of the country shows the
most miserable waste of one of the chief elements of the wealth and
prosperity of the country, the water.

In this respect, Spain and the high lands of Mexico may be compared
together. There is no scarcity of rain in either country, and yet both
are dry and parched, while the number and size of their torrent-beds
show with what violence the mountain-streams descend into lakes or
rivers, rather agents of destruction than of benefit to the land.
Strangely enough, both countries have been in possession of races who
understood that water was the very life-blood of the land, and worked
hard to build systems of arteries to distribute it over the surface. In
both countries, the warlike Spaniards overcame these races, and
irrigating works already constructed were allowed to fall to ruin.

When the Moriscos were expelled from their native provinces of
Andalusia and Granada, their places were but slowly filled up with
other settlers, so that a great part of their aqueducts and
watercourses fell into decay within a few years. These new colonists,
moreover, came from the Northern provinces, where the Moorish system of
culture was little understood; and, incredible as it may seem, though
they must have had ocular evidence of the advantages of artificial
irrigation, they even neglected to keep in repair the water-channels on
their own ground. Now the traveller, riding through Southern Spain, may
see in desolate barren valleys remains of the Moorish works which
centimes ago brought fertility to grain-fields and orchards, and made
the country the garden of Europe.

There was another nation who seem to have far surpassed both Moors and
Aztecs in the magnitude of their engineering-works for this purpose.
The Peruvians cut through mountains, filled up valleys, and carried
whole rivers away in artificial channels to irrigate their thirsty
soil. The historians' accounts of these water-works as they were, and
even travellers' descriptions of the ruins that still remain, fill us
with astonishment. It seems almost like some strange fatality that this
nation too should have been conquered by the same race, the ruin of its
great national works following immediately upon the Conquest.

Spain is rising again after long centuries of degradation, and is
developing energies and resources which seem likely to raise it high
among European nations, and the Spaniards are beginning to hold their
own again among the peoples of Europe. But they have had to pay dearly
for the errors of their ancestors in the great days of Charles the
Fifth.

The ancient Mexicans were not, it is true, to be compared with the
Spanish Arabs or the Peruvians in their knowledge of agriculture and
the art of irrigation; but both history and the remains still to be
found in the country prove that in the more densely populated parts of
the plains they had made considerable progress. The ruined aqueduct of
Tetzcotzinco which I have just mentioned was a grand work, serving to
supply the great gardens of Nezahualcoyotl, which covered a large space
of ground and excited the admiration of the Conquerors, who soon
destroyed them, it is said, in order that they might not remain to
remind the conquered inhabitants of their days of heathendom.

Such works as these seem, however, not to have extended over
whole provinces as they did in Spain. In the thinly peopled
mountain-districts, the Indians broke up their little patches of ground
with a hoe, and watered them from earthen jars, as indeed they do to
this day.

The Spaniards improved the agriculture of the country by introducing
European grain, and fruit-trees, and by bringing the old Roman plough,
which is used to this day in Mexico as in Spain, where two thousand
years have not superseded its use or even altered it. Against these
improvements we must set a heavy account of injury done to the country
as regards its cultivation. The Conquest cost the lives of several
hundred thousand of the labouring class; and numbers more were taken
away from the cultivation of the land to work as slaves for the
conquerors in building houses and churches, and in the silver-mines.
When the inhabitants were taken away, the ground went out of
cultivation, and much of it has relapsed into desert. Even before the
Conquest, Mexico had been suffering for many years from incessant wars,
in which not only thousands perished on the field of battle, but the
prisoners sacrificed annually were to be counted by thousands more,
while famine carried off the women and children whose husbands and
fathers had perished. But the slaughter and famine of the first years
of the Spanish Conquest far exceeded anything that the country had
suffered before.

At the time of the Conquest of Mexico the Spaniards let the native
irrigating-works fall into decay; and they took still more active
measures to deprive the land of its necessary water, by their
indiscriminate destruction of the forests on the hills that surround
the plains. When the trees were cut down, the undergrowth soon
perished, and the soil which had served to check the descending waters
in their course was soon swept away. During the four rainy months, each
heavy shower sends down a flood along the torrent-bed which flows into
a river, and so into the ocean, or, as in the Mexican valley, into a
salt lake, where it only serves to injure the surrounding land. In both
cases it runs away in utter waste.

In later years the Spanish owners of the soil had the necessity of the
system impressed upon them by force of circumstances; and large sums
were spent upon the construction of irrigating channels, even in the
outlying states of the North.

In the American territory recently acquired from Mexico history has
repeated itself in a most curious way. We learn from Froebel, the
German traveller, that the new American settlers did not take kindly to
the system of irrigation which they found at work in the country. They
were not used to it, and it interfered with their ideas of liberty by
placing restrictions upon their doing what they pleased on their own
land. So they actually allowed many of the water-canals to fall into
ruins. Of course they soon began to find out their mistake, and are
probably investing heavily in water-supply by this time. We ought not
to be too severe upon the Spaniards of the sixteenth century for an
economical mistake which we find the Americans falling into under
similar circumstances in the nineteenth.



CHAPTER VII.



CUERNAVACA. TEMISCO. XOCHICALCO.



[Illustration: SPANISH-MEXICAN SADDLE AND ITS APPURTENANCES.]

Much too soon, as we thought, the day came when we had arranged to
leave Tezcuco and return to Mexico, to prepare for a journey into the
tierra caliente. On the evening of our return to the capital there was
a little earthquake, but neither of us noticed it; and thus we lost our
one chance, and returned to England without having made acquaintance
with that peculiar sensation.

The purchase of horses and saddles and other equipments for our
journey, gave us an opportunity of poking about into out-of-the-way
corners of the city, and seeing some new phases of Mexican life; and
certainly we made the most of the chance. We made acquaintance with
horse-dealers, who brought us horses to try in the courtyard of the
great house of our friends the English merchants in the Calle
Seminario, and there showed off their paces, walking, pacing, and
galloping. To trot is considered a disgusting vice in a Mexican horse;
and the universal substitute for it here is the _paso_, a queer
shuffling run, first, the two legs on one side together, and then the
other two. You jolt gently up and down without rising in the stirrups;
and when once you are used to it the paso is not disagreeable, and it
is well suited to long mountain-journeys. Horses in the United States
are often trained to this gait, and are known as "pacing" horses.
Another peculiarity in the training of Mexican horses is, that many of
them are taught to "rayar," that is, to put their fore-feet out after
the manner of mules going down a pass; and slide a short distance along
the ground, so as to stop suddenly in the midst of a rapid gallop. To
practise the horses in this feat, the jockey draws a lino ("_raya_") on
the ground, and teaches them to stop exactly as they reach it, and
whirl round in the opposite direction. This performance is often to be
seen on the paseo, and other places, where smart young gentlemen like
to show off themselves and their horses; but it is only a fancy trick,
and they acknowledge that it spoils the animal's fore-legs.

After much bargaining and chaffering we bought three horses for
ourselves and our man Antonio, giving eight, seven, and four pounds for
them. This does not seem much to give for good hackneys, as these were;
but they were not particularly cheap for Mexico. While we were at
Tezcuco, Mr. Christy used to ride one of Mr. Bowring's horses, a pretty
little chestnut, which carried him beautifully, and had cost just
eleven dollars, or forty-six shillings. It had been bought of the
horse-dealers who come down every year from the almost uninhabited
states of Chihuahua, Durango, and Cohahuila, on the American frontier,
where innumerable herds of horses, all but wild, roam over boundless
prairies, feeding on the tall coarse grass. Their keep costs so little,
that the breeders are not compelled, as in England, to break them in
and sell them at the earliest possible moment, and they let the young
colts roam untamed till they are five or six years old. Their great
strength and power of endurance in proportion to their size is in great
measure to be ascribed to this early indulgence.

It is very clear that when a horse is to be sold for somewhere between
two and six pounds, the breeder cannot afford to spend much time in
breaking him in. The rough-rider lazos him, puts on the bridle with its
severe bit, and springs upon his back in spite of kicking and plunging.
The horse gallops furiously off across country of his own accord, but
when his pace begins to flag, the great vaquero spurs come into
requisition, and in an hour or two he comes back to the corral dead
beat and conquered once for all. It is easy to teach him his paces
afterwards. The anquera--as it is called--is put on his haunches, to
cure him of trotting, and to teach him the paso instead. It is a
leather covering fringed with iron tags, which is put on behind the
saddle, and allows the horse to pace without annoying him; but the
least approach to a trot brings the pointed tags rattling upon his
haunches. We bought one of these anqueras at Puebla. It was very old,
and curiously ornamented with carved patterns. In the last century,
these anqueras were a regular part of Mexican horse-equipment; but now,
except in horse-breaking yards or old curiosity-shops, they are seldom
to be seen.

Almost all the Mexican horses descend from the Arab breed--the gentlest
and yet the most spirited in the world, which have not degenerated
since the Spaniards brought them over in the early days of the
Conquest, but retain unchanged their small graceful shape, their
swiftness, and their power of bearing fatigue. There seem really to be
no large horses bred in the country. Instead of jolting about in a
carriage drawn by eight or ten mules, with harness covered with silver
and gold--as rich Mexicans used to do, the proper thing now is to have
a pair of tall carriage-horses, like ours in England; and these are
brought at great expense from the United States, and by the side of the
graceful little Mexicans they look as big and as clumsy as elephants.

Our saddles were of the old Moorish pattern, of monstrous size and
weight, very comfortable for the rider, but, I fear, much less so for
the horse, whose back often gets sadly galled, in spite of the thick
padding and the two or three blankets that are put on underneath. These
saddles run into high peaks behind and before, so that you can hardly
fall out of them, even when you go to sleep in the saddle on a long
journey, as many people habitually do. In front, the saddle rises into
a pummel which is made of hard wood, and is something like a large
mushroom with its stalk. Round this the end of the lazo is wound, after
the noose has been thrown. All Mexican saddles are provided with these
heads in front, and have, moreover, several pairs of little thongs
attached to them on each side, which serve to tie on bags, whips,
water-gourds, and other odds and ends. Behind the seat of the saddle
are more straps, where cloaks and serapes are fastened; and in case of
need even a carpet-bag will travel there. We were in the habit of
returning from our expeditions with our horses so covered with the
plants and curiosities we had collected, that it became no easy matter
to get our legs safely over the horses' backs, into their proper places
among the clusters of miscellanea. Our acquaintances used to compare us
to the perambulating butchers' shops, which are a feature in Mexican
streets, and consist of a horse with a long saddle covered with hooks,
and on every hook a joint.

The flaps of our saddles, the great spatterdashes that protected our
feet from the mud, and the broad stirrup-straps were covered with
carved and embossed patterns; indeed almost all leather-work is
decorated in this way, and the saddle-makers delight in ornamenting
their wares with silver plates and bosses; so that it was not
surprising that our saddles and bridles should have cost, though
second-hand, nearly as much as the horses.

In books of travels in Mexico up to the beginning of the present
century, one of the staple articles of wondering description was the
gorgeous trappings of the horses, and the spurs, bits, and stirrups of
gold and silver. The costumes have not changed much, but the taste for
such costly ornaments has abated; and it is now hardly respectable to
have more than a few pounds worth of bullion on one's saddle or around
one's hat, or to wear a hundred or so of buttons of solid gold down the
sides of one's leather trousers, with a very questionable cotton
calzoncillo underneath.

The horses' bits are made with a ring, which pinches the under-lip when
the bridle is tightened, and causes great pain when it is pulled at all
hard. At first sight it seems cruel to use such bits, but the system
works very well; and the horses, knowing the power their rider has over
them, rarely misbehave themselves. One rides along with the loop at the
end of the twisted horse-hair bridle hanging loose on one finger, so
that the horse's mouth is much less pulled about than with the bridles
we are accustomed to in England. When it is necessary to guide the
horse, the least pressure is enough; but, as a general rule, the little
fellow can find his way as well as his rider can. We used continually
to let our reins drop on our horses' necks, and jog on careless of pits
and stumbling-blocks. I have even seen my companion take out his
pocket-book, and improve the occasion by making notes and sketches as
he went.

[Illustration: SPANISH-MEXICAN BIT, WITH ITS RING AND CHAINS. LENGTH 9
INCHES, WIDTH 5-1/2 INCHES.]

The distance from Mexico to Vera Cruz is about two hundred and fifty
miles, and what the roads are I have in some measure described. Rafael
Beraza, the courier of the English Mission at Mexico, used to ride this
with despatches regularly once a month in forty hours, and occasionally
in thirty-five. He changed horses about every ten or fifteen miles; and
now and then, when, overcome by sleep, he would let the boy who
accompanied him to the next stage ride first, his own horse following,
and the rider comfortably dozing as he went along.

As for our own equipment, Mr. Christy adopted the attributes of the
eastern traveller when he came into the country, the great umbrella,
the veil, and the felt hat with a white handkerchief over it. As for
me, my wardrobe was scanty; so, when my travelling coat wore out at the
elbows and my trousers were sat through--like the little bear's chair
in the story, I replaced the garments with a jacket of chamois leather,
and a pair of loose trousers made of the same, after the manner of the
country. Then came a grey felt hat, as stiff as a boiler-plate, and of
more than quakerish lowness of crown and broadness of brim, but
secularized by a silver serpent for a hatband; also, a red silk sash,
which--fastening round the waist--held up my trousers, and interfered
with my digestion; lastly, a woollen serape to sleep under, and to wear
in the mornings and evenings. This is the genuine ranchero costume, and
it did me good service. Indeed, ever since my Mexican journey I have
considered that George Fox decidedly showed his good sense by dressing
himself in a suit of leather; much more so than the people who laughed
at him for it.

In the country, all Mexicans--high and low--wear this national dress;
and in this they are distinguished from the Indians, who keep to the
cotton shirts and drawers, and the straw hats of their ancestors. In
the towns, it is only the lower classes who dress in the ranchero
costume, for "nous autres" wear European garments and follow the last
Paris fashion, with these exceptions--that for riding, people wear
jackets and calzoneras of the national cut, though made of cloth, and
that the Mexican hat is often worn even by people who adopt no other
parts of the costume. There never were such hats as these for
awkwardness. The flat sharp brims of passers-by are always threatening
to cut your head off in the streets. You cannot get into a carriage
with your hat on, nor sit there when you are in. But for walking and
riding under a fierce sun, they are perhaps better than anything else
that can be used.

The Mexican blanket--the serape--is a national institution; It is wider
than a Scotch plaid, and nearly as long, with a slit in the middle; and
it is woven in the same gaudy Oriental patterns which are to be seen on
the prayer-carpets of Turkey and Palestine to this day. It is worn as a
cloak, with the end flung over the left shoulder, like the Spanish
_capa_, and muffling up half the face when its owner is chilly or does
not wish to be recognized. When a heavy rain comes down, and he is on
horseback, he puts his head through the slit in the middle, and becomes
a moving tent. At night he rolls himself up in it, and sleeps on a mat
or a board, or on the stones in the open air.

Convenient as it is, the serape is as much tabooed among the
"respectable" classes in the cities as the rest of the national
costume. I recollect going one evening after dark to the house of our
friends in the Calle Seminario with my serape on, and nearly having to
fight it out with the great dog Nelson, who was taking charge of his
master's room. Nelson knew me perfectly well, and had sat that very
morning at the hotel-gate for half an hour, holding my horse, while a
crowd of leperos stood round, admiring his size and the gravity of his
demeanour as he sat on the pavement, with the bridle in his mouth. But
that a man in a serape should come into his master's room at dusk was a
thing he could not tolerate, till the master himself came in, and
satisfied his mind on the subject.

As I said, the equipment of ourselves and our three horses took us into
a variety of strange places, for we bought the things we wanted piece
by piece, when we saw anything that suited us. Among other places we
went to the Baratillo, which is the Rag-Fair and Petticoat Lane of
Mexico, and moreover the emporium for whips, bridles, bits, old spurs,
old iron, and odds and ends generally. The little shops are arranged in
long lines, after the manner of the eastern bazaar; and the
shopkeepers, when they are not smoking cigarettes outside, are sitting
in their little dens, within arms-length of all the wares they have to
sell. Here we found what we had come for, and much more too, in the way
of wonderful old spurs, combs, boxes, and ornaments; so that we came
several times more before we left the country, and never without
carrying away some curious old relic.

Mexico, as everybody knows, is decidedly a thievish place. The shops
are all shut at dark, after the _Oración_, for fear of thieves. Ladies
used to wear immense tortoise-shell combs at the back of their heads,
where the mantilla is fastened on; but, when it became a regular trade
for thieves to ride on horseback through the streets, and pull out the
combs as they went, the fashion had to be given up. These curiously
carved and ornamented combs are still preserved as curiosities, and we
bought several of them.

While we were in Mexico, they knocked a man down in the great square at
noon-day, robbed him, and left him there for dead. The square is so
large, and the sun was so hot, that the police--whose head-quarters are
under the arches in that very square--could not possibly walk across to
see what was going on!--_moral_, if you will have the distinction of
having the largest square in the world, you must take the consequences.

Of course, where thieving is so general, the market for stolen goods
must be a place of considerable trade, and this Baratillo is one of the
principal depôts for such wares. One may realize here the story of the
citizen, in the old book, who had his wig stolen at the beginning of
his walk through London, and found it hanging up for sale a little
further on. Here the deserter comes to sell his uniform and his
ricketty old flintlock. Small blame to him. I would do the same myself
if I were in his place, and were compelled to serve under one rascally
political adventurer against another rascally political adventurer--to
say nothing of being treated like a dog, half-starved, and not paid at
all, except by a sort of half license to plunder. "Those poor soldiers!
we can't pay them, you know, and they must live somehow."

I have abused the Mexicans for being thieves, and not without reason,
though, as regards ourselves personally, we never lost anything except
a great brand-new waterproof coat which my companion had brought with
him, promising to himself that under its shelter he should bid defiance
to the daily rain-storms of the wet season. As we dismounted from the
Diligence in Mexico, in the courtyard of the hotel, some one relieved
him of it. We did not know of the Baratillo in those days, or would
have gone to look for it there. At the time of our visit it was too
late, for if it ever had been there, the Mexicans understand too well
the value of an English "ulli," as they call them, to let it hang long
for sale. "Ulli" is not a borrowed word, but the genuine Aztec name for
India-rubber, which was used to make playing-balls with, long before
the time of Columbus.

I mentioned the water-bottles as part of our equipment. They are
gourds, which are throttled with bandages while young, so as to make
them grow into the shape of bottles with necks. Then they are hung up
to dry; and the inside being cleaned out through a small hole near the
stalk, they are ready for use, holding two or three pints of water. A
couple of inches of a corn-cob (the inside of a ear of Indian corn)
makes a capital cork; and the bottle is hung by a loop of string to the
pummel of the saddle, where it swings about without fear of breaking.
One may see gourds, prepared in just the same way, in Italy, hanging up
under the eaves of the little farm-houses, among the festoons of red
and yellow ears of Indian corn; and indeed the gourd-bottle is a
regular institution of Southern Europe.

We sent Antonio on with the horses to Cuernavaca, and started by the
Diligence early one morning, accompanied by one of our English friends,
whom I will call--as every-one else did--Don Guillermo. It is the
regular thing here, as in Spain, to call everybody by his or her
Christian name. You may have known Don Antonio or Don Felipe for weeks
before you happen to hear their surnames.

The road ran at first over the plain, among great water-meadows, with
herds of cattle pasturing, and fields of wheat and maize. Ploughing was
going on, after the primitive fashion of the country, with two oxen
yoked to each plough. The yoke is fastened to the horns of the oxen,
and to the centre of the yoke a pole is attached. At the other end of
this pole is the plough itself, which consists of a wooden stake with
an iron point and a handle. The driver holds the handle in one hand and
his goad in the other (a long reed with an iron point), and so they
toil along, making a long scratch as they go. A man follows the plough,
and drops in single grains of Indian corn, about three feet apart. The
furrows are three feet from one another, so that each stalk occupies
some nine square feet of ground. When the plants are growing up they
dig between them, and heap up round each stalk a little mound of earth.

We passed many little houses consisting of one square room, built of
mud-bricks, with mud-mortar stuck full of little stones; without
windows, but generally possessing the luxury of a chimney, with a
couple of bricks forming an arch over it to keep out the rain. Glimpses
of men smoking cigarettes at the doors, half-naked brown children
rolling in the dirt, and women on their knees inside, hard at work
grinding the corn for those eternal tortillas.

At San Juan de Dios Mr. Christy climbed to the top of the Diligence,
behind the conductor, who sat with a large black leather bag full of
stones on the footboard before him. Whenever one of the nine mules
showed a disposition to shirk his work, a heavy stone came flying at
him, always hitting him in a tender place, for long practice had made
the conductor almost as good a shot as the goat-herds in the mountains,
who are said to be able to hit their goats on whichever horn they
please, and so to steer them straight when they seem inclined to stray.
But our conductor simply threw the stones, whereas the goat-herd uses
the aloe-fibre honda, or sling, that one sees hanging by dozens in the
Mexican shops.

We pass near Churubusco, and along the line by which the American army
reached Mexico. The field of lava which they crossed is close at our
right hand; and just on the other side of it lie Tisapán and our friend
Don Alejandro's cotton-factory. On our left are the freshwater-lakes of
Xochimilco and Chalco, which had risen several feet, and flooded the
valley in their neighbourhood. Between us and the great mountain-chain
that forms the rim of the valley, lies a group of extinct volcanos,
from one of which descends the great lava-field.

Passing in full view of these picturesque craters, now mostly covered
with trees and brushwood, we begin to ascend, and are soon among the
porphyritic range that forms a wall between us and the land of
sugar-canes and palms. Along the road towards Mexico came long files of
Indians, dressed in the national white cotton shirts and short drawers
and sandals, made like Montezuma's, though not with plates of gold on
the soles, such as that monarch's sandals had. Some of these Indians
are bringing on their backs wood and charcoal from the pine-forest
higher up among the mountains, and some have fastened to their backs
light crates full of live fowls or vegetables; others are carrying up
tropical fruits from the tierra caliente below, zapotes and mameis,
nisperos and granaditas, tamarinds and fresh sugar-canes. These people
are walking with their loads thirty or forty miles to market: but their
race have been used as beasts of burden for ages, and they don't mind
it.

Bright blue and red birds, and larger and more brilliant butterflies
than are seen in Europe, show that, though we are among fields of wheat
and maize, we are in the tropics after all. As the road rises we get
views of the broad valley, with its lakes and green meadows, and the
great white haciendas with their clumps of willows, their
church-towers, and the clusters of adobe huts surrounding them--like
the peasants' cottages in feudal Europe, crowding up to the baron's
castle.

Our mules begin to flag as we toil up the steep ascent; but the
conductor rattles the stones in his black bag, and as the ominous sound
reaches their ears, they start off again with renewed vigour. We pass
San Mateo, a village of charcoal-burners, where a large and splendid
stone church, with its tall dark cypresses, stands among the huts of
reeds and pine-shingles that form the village.

[Illustration: INDIANS BRINGING CHARCOAL, &C. TO MEXICO.]

Trains of mules are continually passing with their heavy loads of wood
and charcoal, bales of goods and barrels of aguardiente de caña, which
is rum made from the sugar-cane, but not coloured like that which comes
to England. The men are continually rushing backwards and forwards
among their beasts, which are not content with kicking and biting, and
banging against one another, but are always trying to lie down in the
road; and one of the principal duties of the arriero is constantly to
keep an eye on all his beasts at once, and, when he sees one preparing
to lie down, to be beforehand with him, and drive him on by a furious
shower of blows, kicks, and curses. Certainly, the Mexican mules are
the finest and strongest in the world; and, though they are just as
obstinate here as elsewhere, they are worth two or three times as much
as horses.

Our road lies through a forest of pines and oaks, which reaches to the
summit of the pass, where stands a wretched little village, La Guarda.
There we had a thoroughly Mexican breakfast, with pulque in tall
tumblers, and endless successions of tortillas, coming in hot and hot
from the kitchen, where we could see brown women with bare arms, and
black hair plaited in long tails, kneeling by the charcoal fire, and
industriously patting out fresh supplies, and baking them rapidly on a
hot plate. The _pièce de résistance_ was a stew, bright red with
tomatas, and hot as fire with chile; and then came the _frijoles_--the
black beans--without which no Mexican, high or low, considers a meal
complete. The walls of the room were decorated with highly coloured
engravings, one of which represented an engagement between a Spanish
and an English fleet, in which the English ships are being boarded by
the victorious Spaniards, or are being blown up in the background.
Where the engagement was I cannot recollect. People in Mexico, to whom
I mentioned this remarkable historical event, assured me that there are
still to be seen pictures of the destruction of the English fleet by
the French and Spaniards in the Bay of Trafalgar!

Mexico was always, until the establishment of the republic, profoundly
ignorant of European affairs. In the old times, when the intercourse
with the mother-country was by the great ship, "el nao," which came
once a year, the government at home could have just such news
circulated through the country as seemed proper and convenient to them.
We see in our own times how despotic governments can mystify their
subjects, and distort contemporary history into what shape they please.
But in Spanish America the system was worked to a greater extent than
in any other country I have heard of; and the undercurrent of popular
talk, which spreads in France and Russia things and opinions not to be
found in the newspapers, had in Mexico but little influence. Scarcely
any Mexican travelled, scarcely any foreigner visited the country, and
the Spaniards who came to hold offices and make fortunes were all in
the interest of the old country; so the Mexicans went on, until the
beginning of this century, believing that Spain still occupied the same
position among the nations of Europe that it had held in the days of
Charles the Fifth.

While my companion was outside the Diligence, Don Guillermo and I were
left to the conversation of an Italian fellow-passenger. One finds such
characters in books, but never before or since have I seen the reality.
He might have been the original of the great Braggadoccio. His
conversation was like a chapter out of the autobiography of his
countryman Alfieri.

He had accompanied the Italian nobleman who was killed in an affray
with the Mexican robbers, some years ago, and on that occasion his
defence had been most heroic. He himself had shot several of the
robbers; till at last, his friend being killed, the rest of the party
yielded to the overwhelming numbers of the brigands, and he ran off to
fetch assistance!

Whenever he was riding along a Mexican road, and any suspicious-looking
person asked him for a light, his habit was to hand him his cigar stuck
in the muzzle of a pistol; "and they always take the hint," he said,
"and see that it won't do to interfere with us." Alone, he had been
attacked by three armed men, but with a pistol in each hand he had
compelled them to retreat. But this was not all; our champion was
victorious in love as well as in arms. Like the great Alfieri, to whom
I have compared him, in every country where he travelled, the most
beautiful and distinguished ladies hardly waited for him to ask before
they cast themselves at his feet. Refusing the rich jewels that he
offered them, they declared that they loved him for himself alone.

Weeks after, we were talking to our friend Mr. Del Pozzo, the Italian
apothecary in the Calle Plateros, and happened to ask him if he were
acquainted with his heroic countryman. Whereupon the apothecary went
off into fits of unextinguishable laughter, and told us how our friend
really had been in the skirmish he described, and had nobly run away
almost before a shot was fired, leaving his friends to fight it out. An
hour or two after, he was found shaking with terror in a ditch.

To return to our road. The forest is on both sides of the Sierra; but
it is on the southern slope, over which we look down from the pass,
that the pines attain their fullest size and beauty; for here they are
as grand as in the Scandinavian forests, with all the beauty of the
pine-trees on the Italian hills. The pass, with its deep forest
skirting the road, has been a resort of robbers for many years; and the
driver pointed out to my companion a little grassy dell by the
road-side, from which forty men had rushed out and plundered the
Diligence just ten days before. With his mind just prepared, one may
imagine his feelings when he caught sight of some twenty wild-looking
fellows in all sorts of strange garments, with the bright sunshine
gleaming on the barrels of their muskets. A man was riding a little in
front of us, and as he approached the others they descended, and ranged
themselves by the side of the road. They were only the guard, after
all, and such a guard! Their thick matted black hair hung about over
their low foreheads and wild brown faces. Some had shoes, some had
none, and some had sandals. They had straw hats, glazed hats, no hats,
leather jackets and trousers, cotton shirts and drawers, or drawers
without any shirt at all; and--what looked worst of all--some had
ragged old uniforms on, like deserters from the army, and there are no
worse robbers than they. When the Diligence reached them, the guard
joined us; some galloping on before, some following behind, whooping
and yelling, brandishing their arms, and dashing in among the trees and
out into the road again. Every now and then my friend outside got a
glimpse down the muzzle of a musket, which did not add to his peace of
mind. At last we got through the dangerous pass, and then we made a
subscription for the guard, who departed making the forest ring again
with war-whoops, and firing off their muskets in our honour until we
were out of hearing.

The top of the pass is 12,000 feet above the sea, but the clouds seemed
as high as ever above us, and the swallows were flying far up in the
air. Three thousand feet lower we were in a warmer region, among oaks
and arbutus; and here, as in our higher latitudes, the climate is far
hotter than on the northern slope at the same height. Bananas are to be
found at an elevation of 9,000 feet, three times the height at which
they ceased on the eastern slope, as we came up from Vera Cruz. This
difference between the two slopes depends, in part, on the different
quantity of sunshine they receive, which is of some importance,
although we are within the tropics. But the sheltering of the southern
sides from the chilling winds from the north still further contributes
to give their vegetation a really tropical character.

We felt the heat becoming more and more intense as we descended, and
when we reached Cuernavaca we lay down in the beautiful garden of the
inn, among orange-trees and cocoanut-palms, listening to the pleasant
cool sound of running water, and looking down into the great barranca
with its perpendicular walls of rock, and the luxuriant vegetation of
the tierra caliente covering the banks of the stream that flowed far
below us. We could easily shout to the people on the other edge of the
ravine, but it would have taken hours of toiling down the steep paths
and up again before we could have reached them.

Here our horses were waiting for us; and an hour or two's ride brought
us to the great sugar-hacienda of Temisco, where we were to pass the
night, for towns and inns are few and far between in Mexico when one
leaves the more populous mountain-plateaus. So much the better, for my
companion had provided himself with letters of introduction, and we had
already seen something of hacienda life, and liked it.

As we approached Temisco, we saw upon the slopes, immense fields of
sugar-cane, now grown into a dense mass, five or six feet high, most
pleasant to look upon for the delicate green tint of the leaves that
belongs to no other plant. The colour of our English turf is beautiful,
and so are the tints of our English woods in spring, but our fields of
grain have a dull and dingy green compared to the sugar-cane and the
young Indian corn. In this beautiful valley we cannot charge the
inhabitants with entirely neglecting the irrigation of the land.
Indeed, the culture of the sugar-cane cannot be carried on without it,
and the cost of the watercourses on the large estates has been very
great. Unfortunately, even here agriculture is not flourishing. The
small number of the white inhabitants, and the distracted state of the
country make both life and property very insecure; and the brown people
are becoming less and less disposed to labour on the plantations.

It is true that most of these channels were made in old times; little
new is done now, and I could make a long list of estates that were once
busy and prosperous, giving employment to thousands of the Indian
inhabitants, and that are now over-grown with weeds and falling to
ruin.

Entering the iron gate of the hacienda, we found ourselves in an
immense courtyard, into which open all the principal buildings of the
estate, the house of the proprietor, the church--which forms a
necessary part of every hacienda--the crushing-mill, and the
boiling-houses. Into the same great patio open the immense stables for
the many riding-horses and the many hundreds of mules that carry the
sugar and rum over the mountains to market, and the tienda, the shop of
the estate, through which almost all the money paid to the labourers
comes back to the proprietor in exchange for goods. A mountain of
fresh-cut canes stood near the door of the trapiche (the
crushing-mill); and a gang of Indians were constantly going backwards
and forwards carrying them in by armfuls; while a succession of mules
were continually bringing in fresh supplies from the plantation to
replenish the great heap. The court-yard was littered all over,
knee-deep, with dry cane-trash; and mules, just freed from their
galling saddles, were rolling on their backs in it, kicking with all
their legs at once, and evidently in a state of high enjoyment. Part of
one side of the square was a sort of wide cloister, and in it stood
chairs and tables.

Here the business of the place was transacted, and the Administrador
could look up from his ledger, and see pretty well what was going on
all over the establishment.

It is very common for the owners of these haciendas to be absentees,
and to leave the entire control of their estates to the administradors;
but at Temisco, which is much better managed than most others, this is
not the case, and the son of the proprietor generally lives there. He
was out riding, so we sent our horses to the stable, and lounged about
eating sugar-canes till he should return. Presently he came, a young
man in a broad Mexican hat and white jacket and trousers, mounted on a
splendid little horse, with his saddle glittering with silver, every
inch a planter. He welcomed us hospitably, and we sat down together in
the cloister looking out on the courtyard. Evening was closing in, and
all at once the church-bell rang. Crowds of Indian labourers in their
white dresses came flocking in, hardly distinguishable in the twilight,
and the sound of their footsteps deadened as they walked over the dry
stubble that covered the ground. All work ceased, every one uncovered
and knelt down; while, through the open church-doors, we heard the
Indian choir chanting the vesper hymn. In the haciendas of Mexico every
day ends thus. Many times I heard the Oración chanted at nightfall, but
its effect never diminished by repetition, and to my mind it has always
seemed the most impressive of religious services.

Then the Administrador seated himself behind a great book, and the
calling over the "raya" began. Every man in turn was called by name,
and answered in a loud voice, "I praise God!;" then saying how much he
had earned in the day, for the Administrador to write down. "Juan
Fernandez!"--"_Alabo a Dios, tres reales y medio_:" "I praise God, one
and ninepence." "José Valdes!"--"I praise God, eighteen pence, and
sixpence for the boy;" and so on, through a couple of hundred names.

Then came, not unacceptably, a little cup of pasty chocolate and a long
roll for each of us. Then Don Guillermo and our host talked about their
mutual acquaintances in Mexico, and we asked questions about
sugar-planting, and walked about the boiling-house, where the
night-gang of brown men were hard at work stirring and skimming at the
boiling-pans, and ladling out coarse unrefined sugar into little
earthen bowls to cool. This common sugar in bowls is very generally
used by the poorer Mexicans. The sugar-boilers were naked excepting a
cotton girdle. These men were very strong, and with great powers of
endurance, but they did not at all resemble the strong men of Europe
with their great muscles standing up under their skin, the men in
Michael Angelo's pictures, or the Farnese Hercules. They are equally
unlike the thin wiry Arabs, whose strength seems so disproportionate to
their lean little bodies.

The pure Mexican Indian is short and sturdy; and, until you have
observed the peculiarities of the race, you would say he was too stout
and flabby to be strong. But this appearance is caused by the immense
thickness of his skin, which conceals the play of his muscles; and in
reality his strength is very great, especially in the legs and thighs,
and in the muscles that are brought into action in carrying burdens.
Sartorius used to observe the Indian miners bringing loads of above
five-hundred-weight up a hundred fathoms of mine-ladders, which consist
of trunks of trees fixed slanting across the shaft, with notches cut in
them for steps.

As I have said before, it is not the mere training of the individual
that has produced this remarkable development of the power of carrying
loads. The centuries before the Conquest, when there were no beasts of
burden, had gradually produced a race whose bodies were admirably
fitted for such work; and the persistency with which they have clung to
their old habits has done much to prevent their losing this
peculiarity.

To complete the description of the Indians which I have been led into
by speaking of the sugar-boilers,--they are chocolate-brown in colour,
with curved noses, straight black hair hanging flat round their heads
and covering their wonderfully low foreheads, and occasionally a scanty
black beard. Their faces are broadly oval, their eyes far apart, and
they have wide mouths with coarse lips. Not bad faces on the whole, but
heavy and unexpressive.

At ten o'clock came a heavy supper, the substantial meal of the day,
and immediately afterwards we went to bed, and dreamt such dreams as
may be imagined. We were off early in the morning with a wizened old
mestizo to guide us to the ruins of Xochicalco, which are on this very
estate of Temisco. The estate is forty miles across, however, and it is
a long ride to the ruins. After we leave the fields of sugar-cane, we
see scarcely a hut, nor a patch of cultivated ground. At last we get to
Xochicalco, and find ourselves at the foot of a hill, some four hundred
feet in height, extraordinarily regular in its conical shape, more so
than any natural hill could be, unless it were the cone of a volcano.
At different heights upon this hill, we could see from below broad
terraces running round and round it. A little nearer we came upon a
great ditch. The sides had fallen in, in many places; sometimes it was
quite filled up, and everywhere it was overgrown with thick brushwood,
as was the hill itself. It seems that this ditch runs quite round the
base of the hill, and is three miles long. Climbing up through the
thicket of thorny bushes and out upon the terraces, it became quite
evident that the hill had been artificially shaped. The terraces were
built up with blocks of solid stone, and paved with the same. On the
neighbouring hills we could discern traces of more terrace-roads of the
same kind; there must be many miles of them still remaining.

But it was when we reached the summit, that we found the most
remarkable part of the structure. The top has been cut away so as to
form a large level space, which was surrounded by a stone wall, now in
ruins. Inside the inclosure are several mounds of stone, doubtless
burial-places, and all that is left of the pyramid. Ruined and defaced
as it is, I shall never forget our feelings of astonishment and
admiration as we pushed our way through the bushes, and suddenly came
upon it. We were quite unprepared for anything of the kind; all we knew
of the place when we started that morning being that there were some
curious old ruins there.

The pyramid was composed of blocks of hewn stone, so accurately fitted
together as hardly to show the joints, and the carving goes on without
interruption from one block to another. Some of these blocks are eight
feet long, and nearly three feet wide. They were laid together without
mortar, and indeed, from the construction of the building, none was
required. The first storey is about sixteen feet high, including the
plinth at the bottom. Above the plinth comes a sculptured group of
figures, which is repeated in panels all round the pyramid, twice on
each side. Each panel occupies a space thirty feet long by ten in
height, and the bas-reliefs project three or four inches. There is a
chief, dressed in a girdle, and with a head-dress of feathers just like
those of the Red Indians of the north. Below the girdle he terminates
in a scroll. In the middle of the group is what may perhaps be a
palm-tree, with a rabbit at its foot. Close to the tree, and reaching
nearly to the same height, is a figure with a crocodile's head wearing
a crown, and with drapery in parallel lines, like the wings of the
creatures in the Assyrian bas-reliefs. Indeed this may very likely be a
conventional representation of the robes of feather-work so
characteristic of Mexico.

[Illustration: SCULPTURED PANEL. From the ruined Pyramid of Xochicalco.
(After Nebel.)]

Above these bas-reliefs is a frieze between three and four feet high,
with another sculptured panel repeated eight times on each side of the
pyramid. This remarkable sculpture represents a man sitting barefoot
and crosslegged. On his head is a kind of crown or helmet, with a plume
of feathers; and from the front of this helmet there protrudes a
serpent, just where in the Egyptian sculptures the royal basilisk is
fixed on the crowns of kings and queens. The eyes of this personage are
protected by round plates with holes in the middle, held on by a strap
round the head, like the coloured glasses used in the United States to
keep off the glare of the sun, and known as "goggles." In front of this
figure are sculptured a rabbit and some unintelligible ornaments or
weapons. "Rabbit" may have been his name.

The frieze is surmounted by a cornice; and above the cornice of the
second storey enough remains to show that it was covered with reliefs,
in the same way as the first There were five storeys originally: the
others have only been destroyed about a century. The former proprietor
of the hacienda of Temisco pulled down the upper storeys, and carried
away the blocks of stone to build walls and dams with.

The perfect execution of the details in the bas-reliefs and the
accuracy with which they are repeated show clearly that it was not so
much want of skill as the necessity of keeping to the conventional mode
of representing objects that has given so grotesque a character to the
Mexican scriptures. Certain figures became associated with religion and
astrology in Mexico, as in many other countries; and the sculptor,
though his facility in details shows that he could have made far better
figures if he had had a chance, never had the opportunity, for he was
not allowed to depart from the original rude type of the sacred object.
Humboldt remarks that the same undeviating reproduction of fixed models
is as striking in the Mexican sculptures done since the Conquest. The
clumsy outlines of the rude figures of saints brought from Europe in
the 16th century were adopted as models by the native sculptors, and
have lasted without change to this day.

It is evident that Xochicalco answered several purposes. It was a
fortified hill of great strength, also a sacred shrine, and a
burial-place for men of note, whose bodies, no doubt, still lie under
the ruined cairns near the pyramid. The magnitude of the ditch and the
terraces, as well as the great size of the blocks of stone brought up
the hill without the aid of beasts of burden, indicate a large
population and a despotic government. The beauty of the masonry and
sculpture show that the people who erected this monument had made no
small progress in the arts. We must remember, too, that they had no
iron, but laboriously cut and polished the hardest granite and porphyry
with instruments of stone and bronze; we can hardly tell how.

The resemblances which people find between Assyrian and Egyptian
sculptures and the American monuments are of little value, and do not
seem sufficient to ground any argument upon. When slightly civilized
races copy men, trees, and animals in their rude way, it would be hard
if there were not some resemblance among the figures they produce. With
reference to their ornamentation, it is true that what is called the
"key-border" is quite common in Mexico and Yucatan, and that on this
very pyramid the panels are divided by a twisted border, which would
not be noticed as peculiar in a "renaissance" building. But the model
of this border may have been suggested--on either side of the globe--by
creepers twined together in the forest, or by a cord doubled and
twisted, such as is represented in one of the commonest Egyptian
hieroglyphs.

The cornice which finishes the first storey of the pyramid is a
familiar pattern, but nothing can be concluded from these simple
geometrical designs, which might be invented over and over again by
different races when they began to find pleasure in tracing ornamental
devices upon their buildings. Upon the tattooed skins of savages such
designs may be seen, and the patterns were certainly in use among them
before they had any intercourse with white men. This is the view
Humboldt takes of these coincidences. That both the Egyptian king and
the Mexican chief should wear a helmet with a serpent standing out from
it just above the forehead, is somewhat extraordinary.

Now, who built Xochicalco? Writers on Mexico are quite ready with their
answer. They tell us that, according to the Mexican tradition, the
country was formerly inhabited by another race, who were called
_Toltecâ_, or, as we say, _Toltecs_, from the name of their city,
_Tollan_, "the Reed-swamp;" and that they were of the same race as the
Aztecs, as shown by the names of their cities and their kings being
Aztec words; that they were a highly civilized people, and brought into
the country the arts of sculpture, hieroglyphic painting, great
improvements in agriculture, many of the peculiar religious rites since
practised by other nations who settled after them in Mexico, and the
famous astronomical calendar, of which I shall speak afterwards. The
particular Toltec king to whom the Mexican historians ascribe the
building of Xochicalco was called Nauhyotl, that is to say, "Four
Bells," and died A.D. 945.

We are further told that just about the time of our Norman Conquest,
the Toltecs were driven out from the Mexican plateau by famine and
pestilence, and migrated again southward. Only a few families remained,
and from them the Aztecs, Chichemecs, and other barbarous tribes by
whom the country was re-peopled, derived that knowledge of the arts and
sciences upon which their own civilization was founded. It was by this
Toltec nation--say the Mexican writers--that the monuments of
Xochichalco, Teotihuacán, and Cholula were built. In their architecture
the Aztecs did little more than copy the works left by their
predecessors; and, to this day, the Mexican Indians call a builder a
_toltecatl_ or _Toltec_.

If we consider this circumstantial account to be anything but a mere
tissue of fables, the question naturally arises--what became of the
remains of the Toltecs when they left the high plains of Mexico? A
theory has been propounded to answer this question, that they settled
in Chiapas and Yucatan, and built Palenque, Copan, and Uxmal, and the
other cities, the ruins of which lie imbedded in the tropical forest.

At the time that Prescott wrote his History of the Conquest, such a
theory was quite tenable; but the new historic matter lately made known
by the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg has given a different aspect to the
question. Without attempting to maintain the credibility of this
writer's history as a whole, I cannot but think that he has given us
satisfactory grounds for believing that the ruined cities of Central
America were built by a race which flourished long before the Toltecs;
that they were already declining in power and civilization in the
seventh century, when the Toltecs began to flourish in Mexico; and that
the present Mayas of Yucatan are their degenerate descendants.

What I have seen of Central American and Mexican antiquities, and of
drawings of them in books, tends to support the Abbé Brasseur de
Bourbourg's view of the history of these countries. Traces of
communication between the two peoples are to be found in abundance, but
nothing to warrant our holding that either people took its civilization
bodily from the other. My excuse for entering into these details must
be that some of the facts I have to offer are new.

A bas-relief at Kabah, described in Mr. Stephens' account of his second
journey, bears considerable resemblance to that on the so-called
"sacrificial stone" of Mexico; and the warrior has the characteristic
Mexican _maquahuitl_, or "Hand-wood," a mace set with rows of obsidian
teeth.

A curious ornament is met with in the Central American sculptures,
representing a serpent with a man's face looking out from between its
distended jaws; and we find a similar design in the Aztec
picture-writings, sculptures, and pottery.

A remarkable peculiarity in the Aztec picture-writings is that the
personages represented often have one or more figures of tongues
suspended in mid-air near their mouths, indicating that they are
speaking, or that they are persons in authority. Such tongues are to be
seen on the Yucatan sculptures.

One of the panels on the Pyramid of Xochicalco seems to have a bearing
upon this subject, I mean that of the cross-legged chief, of which I
have just spoken.

In the first place, sitting cross-legged is not an Aztec custom. I do
not think we ever saw an Indian in Mexico sitting cross-legged. In the
picture-writings of the Aztecs, the men sit doubled up, with their
chins almost touching their knees; while the women have their legs
tucked under them, and their feet sticking out on the left side. On the
other hand, this attitude is quite characteristic of the Yucatan
sculptures. At Copan there is an altar, with sixteen chiefs sitting
cross-legged round it; and, moreover, one of them has a head-dress very
much like that of the Xochicalco chief (except that it has no serpent),
and others are more or less similar; while I do not recollect anything
like it in the Mexican picture-writings. The curious perforated
eye-plates of the Xochicalco chief, which he wore--apparently--to keep
arrows and javelins out of his eyes, are part of the equipment of the
Aztec warrior in the picture-writings, while Palenque and Copan seemed
to afford no instance of them; so that in two peculiarities the
remarkable sculpture before us seems to belong rather to Yucatan than
to Mexico, and in one to Mexico rather than to Yucatan.

It is not even possible in all cases to distinguish Central American
sculptures from those of Mexican origin. Among the numerous stone
figures in Mr. Christy's museum, some are unmistakably of Central
American origin, and some as certainly Mexican; but beside these, there
are many which both their owner and myself, though we had handled
hundreds of such things, were obliged to leave on the debatable ground
between the two classes.

So much for the resemblances. But the differences are of much greater
weight. The pear-shaped heads of most of the Central American figures,
whose peculiar configuration is only approached by the wildest
caricatures of Louis Philippe, are perfectly distinctive. So are the
hieroglyphics arranged in squares, found on the sculptures of Central
America and in the Dresden Codex. So is the general character of the
architecture and sculpture, as any one may see at a glance.

It is quite true that the so-called Aztec Astronomical Calendar was in
use in Central America, and that many of the religious observances in
both countries, such as the method of sacrificing the human victims,
and the practice of the worshippers drawing blood from themselves in
honour of the gods, are identical. But there were several ways in which
this might have been brought about, and it is no real proof that the
civilization of either country was an offshoot from that of the other.
To consider it as such would be like arguing that the negroes of Cuba
and the Indians of Yucatan had derived their civilization one from the
other, because both peoples are Roman Catholics, and use the same
almanac. On the whole I am disposed to conclude that the civilizations
of Mexico and Central America were originally independent, but that
they came much into contact, and thus modified one another to no small
extent.

At the risk of being prosy, I will mention the _a priori_ grounds upon
which we may argue that the civilization of Central America did not
grow up there, but was brought ready-made by a people who emigrated
there from some other country. There is a theory afloat, that it is
only in temperate climates that barbarous nations make much progress in
civilizing themselves. In tropical countries the intensity of the heat
makes man little disposed for exertion, and the luxuriance of the
vegetation supplies him with the little he requires. In such
climates--say the advocates of this theory--man acknowledges the
supremacy of nature over himself, and gives up the attempt to shape her
to his own purposes; and thus, in these countries, the inhabitants go
on from generation to generation, lazily enjoying their existence,
making no effort, and indeed feeling no desire to raise themselves in
the social scale. Upon this theory, therefore, when we find a high
civilization in hot countries, as in the plains of India, we have to
account for it by supposing an immigration of races bringing their
civilization with them from more temperate climates. This theory of
civilization favours the idea of the Central American cities having
been built by a people from Mexico. The climate of the Mexican
highlands, which may be taken in a rough way to correspond with that of
North Italy, is well suited to a nation's development. But the cities
of Yucatan and Chiapas, though geographically not far removed from the
Mexican plateau, are brought by their small elevation above the sea
into a very different climate. They are in the land of tropical heat
and the rankest vegetation, in the midst of dense forests where
pestilential fevers and overwhelming lassitude make it almost
impossible for Europeans to live, and where the Indians who still
inhabit the neighbourhood of the ruined cities are the merest savages
sunk in the lowest depths of lazy ignorance.

If this climate-theory of progress have any truth in it, no barbarous
tribe could have raised itself in such a country to the social state
which is indicated by the ruins of such temples and cities. They must
have been settlers from some more temperate region.

While wandering about the hill of Xochicalco we came upon a spot that
strongly excited our curiosity. It was simply a small paved oval space
with a little altar at one end, and, lying round about it, some
fragments of what seemed to have been a hideous grotesque idol of baked
clay. Perhaps it was a shrine dedicated to one of the inferior deities,
such as often surrounded the greater temples; for, in Mexico,
astronomy, astrology, and religion had become mixed up together, as
they have been in other quarters of the globe, and even the
astronomical signs of days and months had temples of their own.

Xochicalco means "In the House of Flowers." The word
"flower,"--_xochitl_,--is often a part of the names of Mexican places
and people, such as the lake of Xochimilco--"In the Flower-plantation."
_Tlilxochitl_, literally "black flower," is the Aztec name for vanilla,
so that the name of that famous Mexican historian, Ixtlilxochitl, whose
name sticks in the throats of readers of Prescott, means
"Vanilla-face." Why the place was called "In the House of Flowers" is
not clear. The usual explanation seems not unlikely, that it was
because offerings of flowers and first-fruits were made upon its
shrines. The Toltecs, say the Mexican chroniclers, did not sacrifice
human victims; and it was not until long after other tribes had taken
possession of their deserted temples, that the Aztecs introduced the
custom by sacrificing their prisoners of war. It seems odd, however,
that one of the Toltec kings should have been called Topiltzin, which
was the title of the chief priest among the Aztecs, whose duty it was
to cut open the breasts of the human victims and tear out their hearts.

The Indians always delighted in carrying flowers in their solemn
processions, crowning themselves with garlands, and decorating their
houses and temples with them; and, while they worshipped their gods
according to the simple rites which tradition says their prophet,
Quetzalcoatl, ("Feathered Snake,") appointed, before he left them and
embarked in his canoe on the Eastern ocean, no name could have been
more appropriate for their temple. This pleasant custom did not
disappear after the Conquest; and to this day the churches in the
Indian districts are beautiful with their brilliant garlands and
nosegays, and are as emphatically "houses of flowers" as were the
temples in ages long past.

Since writing the above notice of the Pyramid of Xochicalco, I have
come upon a new piece of evidence, which, if it may be depended on,
proves more about the history of this remarkable monument than all the
rest put together. Dupaix made a drawing of the ruins at Xochicalco in
1805, which is to be found in Lord Kingsborough's 'Antiquities of
Mexico,' and among the sculptures of the upper tier of blocks is
represented a reed, with its leaves set in a square frame, with three
small circles underneath; the whole forming, in the most unmistakable
way, the sign 3 Acatl (3 Cane) of the Mexican Astronomical Calendar.

Now it must be admitted that Dupaix's drawing of these ruins is most
grossly incorrect; but still no amount of mere carelessness in an
artist will justify us in supposing him to have invented and put in out
of his own head a design so entirely _sui generis_ as this. It does not
even follow that the drawing is wrong because the sign may not be found
there now; for it was in an upper tier, and no doubt many stones have
been removed since 1805, for building-purposes.

If the existence of the sign 3 Acatl on the pyramid may be considered
as certain, it will fit in perfectly with the accounts of the Mexican
historians, who state that Xochicalco was built by a king of the Toltec
race, and also that the Aztecs adopted the astronomical calendars of
years and days in use among the Toltecs.

It was afternoon when we left Xochicalco and rode on over a gently
undulating country, crossing streams here and there, and had our
breakfast at Miacatlán under a shed in front of the village shop, where
all the activity of the little Indian town seemed to be concentrated.
By the road-side were beautiful tamarind-trees with their dark green
foliage, and the mamei-tree as large as a fine English horse-chestnut,
and not unlike it at a distance. On the branches were hanging the great
mameis, just like the inside of cocoa-nuts when the inner shell has
been cracked off. It appeared that Nature was not acquainted with M. De
La Fontaine's works, or she would probably have got a hint from the
fable of the acorn and the pumpkin, and not have hung mameis and
cocoa-nuts at such a dangerous height.

[Illustration: AZTEC HEAD IN TERRA-COTTA. (From Mr. Christy's
Collection.)]



CHAPTER VIII.



COCOYOTLA. CACAHUAMILPÁN. CHALMA. OCULAN. TENANCINGO. TOLUCA.



[Illustration: IXTCALCO CHURCH.]

A little before dark we came to the hacienda of Santa Rosita de
Cocoyotla, another sugar-plantation which was to be our head-quarters
for some days to come. We presented our letter of introduction from the
owner of the estate, and the two administradors received us with open
arms. We were conducted into the strangers' sleeping-room, a long
barrack-like apartment with stone walls and a stone floor that seemed
refreshingly dark and cool; we could look out through its barred
windows into the garden, where a rapid little stream of water running
along the channel just outside made a pleasant gurgling sound.
Appearances were delusive, however, and it was only the change
from the outside that made us feel the inside cool and pleasant. For
days our clothes clung to us as if we had been drowned, and the
pocket-handkerchiefs with which we mopped our faces had to be hung on
chair-backs to dry. Except in the early morning, there was no coolness
in that sweltering place.

In one corner of our room I discerned a brown toad of monstrous size
squatting in great comfort on the damp flags. He was as big as a
trussed chicken, and looked something like one in the twilight. We
pointed him out to the administrador, who brought in two fierce
watchdogs, but the toad set up his back and spirted his acrid liquor,
and the dogs could not be got to go near him. We stirred him up with a
bamboo and drove him into the garden, but he left his portrait painted
in slime upon our floor.

The Indian choir chanted the Oración as we had heard it the night
before at Temisco, and then came the calling over of the raya. After
that we walked about the place, and sat talking in the open corridor.
Owners of estates, and indeed all white folks living in this part of
the country were beginning to feel very anxious about their position,
and not without reason. Ordinary political events excite but little
interest in these Indian districts, and so trifling a matter as a
revolution and a change of people in power does not affect them
perceptibly. The Indians are absolutely free, and have their votes and
their civil privileges like any other citizens. All that the owners of
the plantations ask of them is to work for high wages, and hitherto
they have done this, but for years it has been becoming more and more
difficult to get them to work. All they do with the money when they get
it, is to spend it in drinking and gambling, if they are of an
extravagant turn of mind; or to bury it in some out-of-the-way place,
if they are given to saving. If they were whites or half-caste Mexicans
they would spend their money upon fine clothes and horses, but the
Indian keeps to the white cotton dress of his fathers, and is never
seen on horseback. Now this being the case, it does not seem
unreasonable that they should not much care about working hard for
money that is of so little use to them when they have got it, and that
they should prefer living in their little huts walled with canes and
thatched with palm-leaves, and cultivating the little patch of
garden-ground that lies round it--which will produce enough fruit and
vegetables for their own subsistence, and more besides, which they can
sell for clothes and tobacco. A day or two of this pleasant easy work
at their own ground will provide this, and they do not see why they
should labour as hired servants to get more. This is bad enough, think
the hacendados, but there is worse behind. The Indians have been of
late years becoming gradually aware that the government of the country
is quite rotten and powerless, and that in their own districts at
least, the power is very much in their own hands, for the few scattered
whites could offer but slight resistance. The doctrine of "America for
the Americans" is rapidly spreading among them, and active emissaries
are going about reminding them that the Spaniards only got their lands
by the right of the strongest, and that now is the time for them to
reassert their rights.

The name of Alvarez is circulated among them, as the man who is to lead
them in the coming struggle--Alvarez the mulatto general, whose hideous
portrait is in every print-shop in Mexico. He was President before
Comonfort, and is now established with his Indian regiments in the hot
pestilential regions of the Pacific coast.

The undisguised contempt with which the Indians have been treated for
ages by the whites and the mestizos has not been without its effect.
The revolution, and the abolition of all legal distinctions of caste
still left the Indians mere senseless unreasoning creatures in the eyes
of the whiter races; and, if the original race once get the upper hand,
it will go hard with the whites and their estates in these parts. Only
a day or two before we came down from Mexico, the government had
endeavoured to quarter some troops in one of the little Indian towns
which we passed through on our way from Temisco. But the inhabitants
saluted them with volleys of stones from the church-steeple and the
house-tops, and they had to retreat most ignominiously into their old
quarters among "reasonable people."

I have put down our notions on the "Indian Question," just as they
presented themselves to us at the time. The dismal forebodings of the
planters seem to have been fulfilled to some extent at least, for we
heard, not long after our return to Europe, that the Indians had
plundered and set fire to numbers of the haciendas of the south
country, and that our friends the administradors of Cocoyotla had
escaped with their lives. The hacienda itself, if our information is
correct, which I can hardly doubt, is now a blackened deserted ruin.

At supper appeared two more guests besides ourselves, apparently
traders carrying goods to sell at the villages and haciendas on the
road. In such places the hacienda offers its hospitality to all
travellers, and there was room in our caravanserai for yet more
visitors if they had come. Our beds were like those in general use in
the tropics, where mattresses would be unendurable, and even the
pillows become a nuisance. The frame of the bed has a piece of coarse
cloth stretched tightly over it; a sheet is laid upon this, and another
sheet covers the sleeper. This compromise between a bed and a hammock
answers the purpose better than anything else, and admits of some
circulation of air, especially when you have kicked off the sheet and
lie fully exposed to the air and the mosquitos.

I cannot say that it is pleasant to wake an hour or two after going to
bed, with your exact profile depicted in a wet patch on the pillow; nor
is it agreeable to become conscious at the same time of an intolerable
itching, and to find, on lighting a candle, that an army of small ants
are walking over you, and biting furiously. These were my experiences
during my first night at Cocoyotla; and I finished the night, lying
half-dressed on my bed, with the ends of my trousers-legs tied close
with handkerchiefs to keep the creatures out. But when we got into our
saddles in the early morning, we forgot all these little miseries, and
started merrily on our expedition to the great stalactitic cave of
Cacahuamilpán.

Our day's journey had two objects; one was to see the cave, and the
other to visit the village close by,--one of the genuine unmixed Indian
communities, where even the Alcalde and the Cura, the temporal and
spiritual heads of the society, are both of pure Indian blood, and
white influence has never been much felt.

[Illustration: INDIANS MAKING & BAKING TORTILLAS. (After Models made by
a Native Artist.)]

A ride of two or three hours from the hacienda brought us into a
mountainous district, and there we found the village of Cacahuamilpán
on the slope of a hill. In the midst of neat trim gardens stood the
little white church, and the ranches of the inhabitants, cottages of
one room, with walls of canes which one can see through in all
directions, and roofs of thatch, with the ground smoothed and trodden
hard for a floor. Everything seemed clean and prosperous, and there was
a bright sunny look about the whole place; but to Englishmen,
accustomed to the innumerable appliances of civilized life, it seems
surprising how very few and simple are the wants of these people. The
inventory of their whole possessions will only occupy a few lines. The
_metate_ for grinding or rubbing down the maize to be patted out into
tortillas, a few calabashes for bottles, and pieces of calabashes for
bowls and cups, prettily ornamented and painted, and hanging on pegs
round the walls. A few palm-leaf mats (petates) to sleep upon, some
pots of thin unglazed earthenware for the cooking, which is done over a
wood-fire in the middle of the floor. A chimney is not necessary in
houses which are like the Irishman's coat, consisting principally of
holes. A wooden box, somewhere, contains such of the clothes of the
family as are not in wear. There is really hardly anything I can think
of to add to this catalogue, except the agricultural implements, which
consist of a wooden spade, a hoe, some sharp stakes to make the drills
with, and the machete--which is an iron bill-hook, and serves for
pruning, woodcutting, and now and then for less peaceful purposes.
Sometimes one sees women weaving cotton-cloth, or _manta_, as it is
called, in a loom of the simplest possible construction; or sitting at
their doors in groups, spinning cotton-thread with the _malacates_, and
apparently finding as much material for gossip here as elsewhere.

The Mexicans spun and wove their cotton-cloth just in this way before
the Conquest, and malacates of baked clay are found in great numbers in
the neighbourhood of the old Mexican cities. They are simple, like very
large button-moulds, and a thin wooden skewer stuck in the hole in the
middle makes them ready for use. Such spindles were used by the
lake-men of Switzerland, but the earthen heads were not quite the same
in shape, being like balls pierced with a hole, as are those at present
used in Mexico.

The Indians here had not the dull sullen look we saw among those who
inhabit the colder regions; and, though belonging to the same race,
they were better formed and had a much freer bearing than their less
fortunate countrymen of the colder districts.

Our business in the village was to get guides for the cavern. While
some men were gone to look for the Alcalde, we walked about the
village, and finally encamped under a tree. One of our men had got us a
bag full of fruit,--limes, zapotes, and nisperos, which last are a
large kind of medlar, besides a number of other kinds of fruit, which
we ate without knowing what they were. Though rather insipid, the limes
are deliciously refreshing in this thirsty country; and they do no
harm, however enormously one may indulge in them. The whole
neighbourhood abounds in fruit, and its name _Cacahuamilpán_ means "the
plantation of _cacahuate_ nuts."

It soon became evident that the Alcalde was keeping us waiting as a
matter of dignity, and to show that, though the white men might be held
in great estimation elsewhere, they did not think so much of them in
this free and independent village. At last a man came to summon us to a
solemn audience. In a hut of canes, the Alcalde, a little lame Indian,
was sitting on a mat spread on the ground in the middle, with his
escribano or secretary at his left hand. Other Indians were standing
outside at the door. The little man scarcely condescended to take any
notice of us when we saluted him, but sat bolt upright, positively
bursting with suppressed dignity, and the escribano inquired in a loud
voice what our business was. We told him we wanted guides to the cave,
which he knew as well as we did; but instead of answering, he began to
talk to the Alcalde. We quite appreciated the pleasure it must have
been to the two functionaries to show off before us and their assembled
countrymen, who were looking on at the proceedings with great respect;
and we had not minded affording them this cheap satisfaction; but at
last the joke seemed to be getting stale, so we proceeded some to sit
and some to lie down at full length, and to go on eating limes in the
presence of the August company. Thereupon they informed us what would
be the cost of guides and candles, and we eventually made a bargain
with them and started on foot.

On looking at the map of the State of Mexico, there is to be seen a
river which stops suddenly on reaching the mountains of Cacahuamilpán,
and begins again on the other side, having found a passage for itself
through caves in the mountain for six or seven miles. Not far from the
place where this river flows out of the side of the hill, is a path
which leads to the entrance of the cave. A long downward slope brought
us into the first great vaulted chamber, perhaps a quarter of a mile
long and eighty feet high; then a long scramble through a narrow
passage, and another hall still grander than the first. At the end of
this hall is another passage leading on into another chamber. Beyond
this we did not go. As it was, we must have walked between one and two
miles into the cavern, but people have explored it to twice this
distance, always finding a repetition of the same arrangement, great
vaulted chambers alternating with long passages almost choked by fallen
rocks. In one of the passages, I think the last we came to, the roaring
of the river in its subterranean bed was distinctly audible below us.

Excepting the great cave of Kentucky, I believe there is no stalactitic
cavern known so vast and beautiful as this. The appearance of the
largest hall was wonderful when some twenty of our Indian guides
stationed themselves on pinnacles of stalagmite, each one holding up a
blazing torch, while two more climbed upon a great mass at one end
called the altar, and burnt Bengal lights there; the rest stood at the
other extremity of the cave sending up rockets in rapid succession into
the vaulted roof, and making the millions of grotesque incrustations
glitter as if they had been masses of diamonds: All the quaint shapes
that are found in such caverns were to be seen here on the grandest
scale, columns, arched roof, organ-pipes, trees, altars, and squatting
monsters ranged in long lines like idols in a temple. There may very
well be some truth in the notion that the origin of Gothic architecture
was in stalactites of a limestone cavern, so numerous and perfect are
the long slender columns crowned with pointed Gothic arches.

Our procession through the cave was a picturesque one. We carried long
wax altar-candles and our guides huge torches made of threads of
aloe-fibre soaked in resin and wrapped round with cloth, in appearance
and texture exactly like the legs and arms of mummies. As we went, the
Indians sang Mexican songs to strange, monotonous, plaintive tunes, or
raced about into dark corners shouting with laughter. They talked about
adventures in the cave, to them of course the great phenomenon of the
whole world; but it did not seem, as far as we could hear, that they
associated with it any recollections of the old Aztec divinities and
the mystic rites performed in their honour.

No fossil bones have been found in the cavern, nor human remains except
in one of the passages far within, where a little wooden cross still
marks the spot where the skeleton of an Indian was found. Whether he
went alone for mere curiosity to explore the cave, or, what is more
likely, with an idea of finding treasure, is not known; nothing is
certain but that his candle was burnt out while he was still far from
the entrance, and that he died there. I said no fossil remains had been
found, but the level floors of the great halls are continually being
raised by fresh layers of stalagmite from the water dropping from the
roof, and no one knows what may lie under them. These floors are in
many places covered with little loose concretions like marbles, and
these concretions in the course of time are imbedded in the horizontal
layers of the same material.

As we left the entrance hall and began to ascend the sloping passage
that leads to daylight, we saw an optical appearance which, had we not
seen it with our own eyes, we could never have believed to be a natural
effect of light and shade. To us, still far down in the cave, the
entrance was only illuminated by reflected light; but as the Indians
reached it, the direct rays of sunlight fell upon them, and their white
dresses shone with an intense phosphoric light, as though they had been
self-luminous. It is just such an effect that is wanting in our
pictures of the Transfiguration, but I fear it is as impossible to
paint it upon canvas as to describe it in words.

Next morning our friend Don Guillermo said good-bye to us, and started
to return post-haste to his affairs in the capital. We stayed a few
days longer at Cocoyotla, never tiring of the beautiful garden with its
groves of orange-trees and cocoanut-palms, and the river which, running
through it, joins the stream that we heard rushing along in the cavern,
to flow down into the Pacific.

On Sunday morning the priest arrived on an ambling mule, the favourite
clerical animal. They say it is impossible to ride a mule unless you
are either an arriero or a priest. Not that it is by any means
necessary, however, that he should ride a mule. I shall not soon forget
the jaunty young monk we saw at Tezcuco, just setting out for a country
festival, mounted on a splendid little horse, with his frock tucked up,
and a pair of hairy goat-skin _chaparreros_ underneath, a broad Mexican
hat, a pair of monstrous silver spurs, and a very large cigar in his
mouth. The girls came out of the cottage doors to look at him, as he
made the fiery little beast curvet and prance along the road; and he
was evidently not insensible to the looks of admiration of these young
ladies, as they muffled up their faces in their blue rebozos and looked
at him through the narrow opening.

Nearly two hundred Indians crowded into the church to mass, and went
through the service with evident devotion. There are no more sincere
Catholics in the world than the Indians, though, as I have said, they
are apt to keep up some of their old rites in holes and corners. The
administradors did not trouble themselves to attend mass, but went on
posting up their books just outside the church-door; in this, as in a
great many other little matters, showing their contempt for the brown
men, and adding something every day to the feeling of dislike they are
regarded with.

We speak of the Indians still keeping up their ancient superstitious
rites in secret, as we often heard it said so in Mexico, though we
ourselves never saw anything of it. The Abbé Clavigero, who wrote in
the last century, declares the charge to be untrue, except perhaps in a
few isolated cases. "The few examples of idolatry," he says, "which can
be produced are partly excusable; since it is not to be wondered at
that rude uncultured men should not be able to distinguish the
idolatrous worship of a rough figure of wood or stone from that which
is rightly paid to the holy images." (There are people who would quite
agree with the good Abbé that the distinction is rather a difficult one
to make.) "But how often has prejudice against them declared things to
be idols which were really images of the saints, though shapeless ones!
In 1754 I saw some images found in a cave, which were thought to be
idols; but I had no doubt that they were figures representing the
mystery of the Holy Nativity."

A good illustration of the wholesale way in which the early Catholic
missionaries went about the work of conversion is given in a remark of
Clavigero's. There is one part of the order of baptism which proceeds
thus: "Then the Priest, wetting his right thumb with spittle from his
mouth, and touching therewith in the form of a cross the right ear of
the person to be baptized, &c." The Mexican missionaries, it seems, had
to leave out this ceremony, from sheer inability to provide enough of
the requisite material for their crowds of converts.

After mass we rode out to a mound that had attracted our attention a
day or two before, and which proved to be a fort or temple, or probably
both combined. There were no remains to be found there except the usual
fragments of pottery and obsidian. Then we returned to the hacienda to
say good-bye to our friends there, before starting on our journey back
to Mexico. All the population were hard at work amusing themselves, and
the shop was doing a roaring trade in glasses of aguardiente. The
Indian who had been our guide for some days past had opened a Monté
bank with the dollars we had given him, and was sitting on the ground
solemnly dealing cards one by one from the bottom of a dirty pack, a
crowd of gamblers standing or sitting in a semicircle before him,
silently watching the cards and keeping a vigilant eye upon their
stakes which lay on the ground before the banker. Other parties were
busy at the same game in other parts of the open space before the shop,
which served as the great square for the colony.

Under the arcades in front of the shop a fandango was going on, though
it was quite early in the afternoon. A man and a woman stood facing
each other, an old man tinkled a guitar, producing a strange, endless,
monotonous tune, and the two dancers stamped with their feet, and moved
their arms and bodies about in time to the music, throwing themselves
into affected and voluptuous attitudes which evidently met with the
approval of the bystanders, though to us, who did not see with Indian
eyes, they seemed anything but beautiful. When the danseuse had tired
out one partner, another took his place. An admiring crowd stood round
or sat on the stone benches, smoking cigarettes, and looking on gravely
and silently, with evident enjoyment. Just as we saw it, it would go on
probably through half the night, one couple, or perhaps two, keeping it
up constantly, the rest looking on and refreshing themselves from time
to time with raw spirits. Though inferior to the Eastern dancing, it
resembled it most strikingly, my companion said. It has little to do
with the really beautiful and artistic dancing of Old Spain, but seems
to be the same that the people delighted in long before they ever saw a
white man. Montezuma's palace contained a perfect colony of
professional dancers, whose sole business was to entertain him with
their performances, which only resembled those of the Old World because
human nature is similar everywhere, and the same wants and instincts
often find their development in the same way among nations totally
separated from each other.

We left the natives to their amusement, and started on our twenty miles
ride. By the time the evening had fairly begun to close in upon us, we
crossed the crest of a hill and had a dim view of a valley below us,
but there were no signs of Chalma or its convent. We let our horses
find their way as well as they could along the rocky path, and got down
into the valley. A light behind us made us turn round, and we saw a
grand sight. The coarse grass on a large hill further down the valley
had been set fire to, and a broad band of flame stretched right across
the base of the hill, and was slowly moving upwards towards its top,
throwing a lurid glare over the surrounding country, and upon the
clouds of smoke that were rising from the flames. Every now and then we
turned to watch the line of fire as it rose higher and higher, till at
last it closed in together at the summit with one final blaze, and left
us in the darkness. We dismounted and stumbled along, leading our
horses down the precipitous sides of the deep ravines that run into the
valley, mounting again to cross the streams at the bottom, and
clambering up on the other side to the level of the road. At last a
turn in the valley showed lights just before us, and we entered the
village of Chalma, which was illuminated with flaring oil-lamps in the
streets, where men were hard at work setting up stalls and booths of
planks. It seemed there was to be a fair next day.

They showed us the way to the _meson_[16] and there we left Antonio
with the horses, while the proprietor sent an idiot boy to show us the
way to the convent, for our inspection of the meson decided us at once
on seeking the hospitality of the monks for the night. We climbed up
the hill, went in at the convent-gate, across a courtyard, along a dim
cloister, and through another door where our guide made his way out by
a different opening, leaving us standing in total darkness. After a
time another door opened, and a good-natured-looking friar came in with
a lamp in his hand, and conducted us upstairs to his cell. I think our
friend was the sub-prior of the convent. His cell was a very comfortable
bachelor's apartment, in a plain way, vaulted and whitewashed, with good
chairs and a table and a very comfortable-looking bed.

We sat talking with him for a long while, and heard that the fair next
day would be attended by numbers of Indians from remote places among
the mountains, and that at noon there would be an Indian dance in the
church. It is not the great festival, however, he said. That is once a
year; and then the Indians come from fifty miles round, and stay here
several days, living in the caves in the rock just by the town, buying
and selling in the fair, attending mass, and having solemn dances in
the church. We asked him about the ill feeling between the Indians and
the whites. He said that among the planters it might be as we said, but
that in the neighbourhood of his convent the respect and affection of
the Indians for the clergy, whether white or Indian, was as great as
ever. Then we gossipped about horses, of which our friend was evidently
an amateur, and when the conversation flagged, he turned to the table
in the middle of the room and handed us little bowls made of
calabashes, prettily decorated and carved, and full of sweetmeats.
There were ten or twelve of these little bowls on the table, each with
a different kind of "tuck" in it. We inquired where all those good
things came from, and learnt that making them was one of the favourite
occupations of the Mexican nuns, who keep their brethren in the
monasteries well supplied. At last the good monk went away to his
duties and left us, when I could not resist the temptation of having a
look at the little books in blue and green paper covers which were
lying on the table with the sweetmeat-bowls and the venerable old
missal. They proved to be all French novels done into Spanish, and
"Notre-Dame de Paris" was lying open (under a sheet of paper); so I
conclude that our visit had interrupted the sub-prior while deep in
that improving work.

Presently a monk came to conduct us down into the refectory, and there
they gave us an uncommonly good supper of wonderful Mexican stews,
red-hot as usual, and plenty of good Spanish wine withal. The great
dignitaries of the cloister did not appear, but some fifteen or twenty
monks were at table with us, and never tired of questioning us--exactly
in the same fashion that the ladies of the harem questioned Doña Juana.
We delighted them with stories of the miraculous Easter fire at
Jerusalem, and the illumination of St. Peter's, of the Sistine chapel
and the Pope, and we parted for the night in high good humour.

Next morning a monk attached himself to us as our cicerone, a fine
young fellow with a handsome face, and no end of fun in him.

Now that we saw the convent by daylight, we were delighted with the
beauty of its situation. The broad fertile valley grows narrower and
narrower until it becomes a gorge in the mountains; and here the
convent is built, with the mountain-stream running through its
beautiful gardens, and turning the wheel of the convent-mill before it
flows on into the plain to fertilize the broad lands of the reverend
fathers.

When we had visited the gardens and the stables, our young monk brought
us back to the great church of the convent, where we took our places
near the monks, who had mustered in full force to be present at the
dancing. Presently the music arrived, an old man with a harp, and a
woman with a violin; and then came the dancers, eight Indian boys with
short tunics and head-dresses of feathers, and as many girls with white
dresses, and garlands of flowers on their heads. The costumes were
evidently intended to represent the Indian dresses of the days of
Montezuma, but they were rather modernized by the necessity of wearing
various articles of dress which would have been superfluous in old
times. They stationed themselves in the middle of the church, opposite
the high altar, and, to our unspeakable astonishment, began to dance
the polka. Then came a waltz, then a schottisch, then another waltz,
and finally a quadrille, set to unmitigated English tunes. They danced
exceedingly well, and behaved as though they had been used to European
ball-rooms all their lives. The spectators looked on as though it were
all a matter of course for these brown-skinned boys and girls to have
acquired so singular an accomplishment in their out-of-the-way village
among the mountains. As for us we looked on in open-mouthed
astonishment; and when, in the middle of the quadrille, the harp and
violin struck up no less a tune than "The King of the Cannibal
Islands," we could hardly help bursting out into fits of laughter. We
restrained ourselves, however, and kept as grave a countenance as the
rest of the lookers-on, who had not the faintest idea that anything odd
was happening. The quadrille finished in perfect order; each dancer
took his partner by the hand and led her forward; and so, forming a
line in front of the high altar, they all knelt down, and the rest of
the congregation followed their example; there was a dead silence in
the church for about the space of an Ave Maria, then everyone rose, and
the ceremony was over.[17]

Our young monk asked permission of his superior to take us out for a
walk, and we went down together to the convent-mill. There we saw the
mill, which was primitive, and the miller, who was burly; and also
something much more worth seeing, at least to our young acquaintance,
who tucked up his skirts and ran briskly up a ladder into the upper
regions, calling to us to follow him. A door led from the granary into
the miller's house, and the miller's daughter happened, of course
entirely by chance, to be coming through that way. A very pretty girl
she was too, and I never in my life saw anything more intensely comic
than the looks of intelligence that passed between her and the young
friar when he presented us. It was decidedly contrary to good monastic
discipline it is true, and we ought to have been shocked, but it was so
intolerably laughable that my companion bolted into the granary to
examine the wheat, and I took refuge in a violent fit of coughing. Our
nerves had been already rudely shaken by the King of the Cannibal
Islands, and this little scene of convent-life fairly finished us.

We asked our young friend what his day's work consisted of, and how he
liked convent-life. He yawned, and intimated that it was very slow. We
enquired whether the monks had not some parochial duties to perform,
such as visiting the sick and the poor in their neighbourhood. He
evidently wondered whether we were really ignorant, or whether we were
"chaffing" him, and observed that that was no business of their's, the
curas of the villages did all that sort of thing. "Then, what have you
to do?" we said. "Well," he said, "there are so many services every
day, and high mass on Sundays and holidays; and besides that,
there's--well, there isn't anything particular. It's rather a dull
life. I myself should like uncommonly to go and travel and see the
world, or go and fight somewhere." We were quite sorry for the young
fellow when we shook hands with him at parting, and he left us to go
back to his convent.

We had been clambering about the hill, seeing the caves with which it
is honeycombed, but at present they were uninhabited. At the time of
the great festival, when they are full of Indian families, the scene
must be a curious one.

The monks had hospitably pressed us to stay till their mid-day meal,
but we preferred having it at the shop down in the village, so as to
start directly afterwards. Here the people gave us a regular reception,
entertained us with their best, and could not be prevailed upon to
accept any payment whatever. The proprietor of the meson sat down
before the barley-bin which served him for a desk, and indited a long
and eloquent letter of introduction for us to a friend of his in
Oculan, who was to find a night's lodging for us. Before he sealed up
the despatch he read it to us in a loud voice, sentence by sentence. It
might have been an autograph letter from King Philip to some foreign
potentate. Armed with this important missive, we mounted our horses,
shook hands with no end of well-wishers, and rode off up the valley.

For a little while our path lay through a sort of suburb of Chalma,
houses lying near one another, each surrounded by a pleasant garden,
and both houses and people looking prosperous and cheerful. Our
directions for finding the way were simple enough. We were to go up the
valley past the Cerra de los Atambores, "the hill of drums," and the
great _ahuehuete_. What the Cerra de los Atambores might be, we could
not tell, but when we had followed the valley for an hour or so, it
came into view. On the other side of the stream rose a precipitous
cliff, several hundred feet high, and near the top a perpendicular wall
of rock was carved with rude designs. People have supposed, it seems,
that these carvings represented drums, and hence the name.

Had we known of the place before, we should have made an effort to
explore it, and copy the sculptured designs; but now it was too late,
and from the other side of the valley we could not make out more than
that there seemed to be a figure of the sun among them.

A little further on we came to the "Ahuehuete." The name means a
deciduous cypress, a common tree in Mexico, and of which we had already
seen such splendid specimens in the grove near Tezcuco, and in the wood
of Chapoltepec. This was a remarkable tree as to size, some sixty feet
round at the lower part where the roots began to spread out. A copious
spring of water rose within the hollow trunk itself, and ran down
between the roots into the little river. All over its spreading
branches were fastened votive offerings of the Indians, hundreds of
locks of coarse black hair, teeth, bits of coloured cloth, rags, and
morsels of ribbon. The tree was many centuries old, and had probably
had some mysterious influence ascribed to it, and been decorated with
such simple offerings long before the discovery of America. In Brittany
the peasants still keep up the custom of hanging up locks of their hair
in certain chapels, to charm away diseases; and there it is certain
that the Christians only appropriated to their own worship places
already held sacred in the estimation of the people.

Oculan is a dismal little place. We found the great man of the village
standing at his door, but our letter to him was dishonoured in the most
decided manner. He read the epistle, carefully folded it up and
pocketed it, then pointed in the direction of two or three houses on
the other side of the way, and saying he supposed we might get a
lodging over there, he wished us good-day and retired into his own
premises. The landlord of "over there" was very civil. He had a shed
for the horses, and could give us palm-mats to sleep upon on the floor,
or on the shop-counter, which was very narrow, but long enough for us
both; and this latter alternative we chose.

We walked up to the top of a hill close by the village, and were
surveying the country from thence, keeping a sharp look-out all the
while for Mexican remains in the furrows. For a wonder, we found
nothing but some broken spindle-heads; but, while we were thus
occupied, two Indians suddenly made their appearance, each with his
_machete_ in his hands, and wanted to know what we were doing on their
land. We pacified them by politeness and a cigar apiece, but we were
still evidently objects of suspicion, and they were quite relieved to
see us return to the village. There, an old woman cooked us hard-boiled
eggs and tortillas, and then we went tranquilly to bed on our counter,
with our saddles for pillows, and our serapes for bed-clothes.

All the way from Cocoyotla our height above the sea had been gradually
increasing; and soon after we started from Oculan next morning, we came
to the foot of one of the grand passes that lead up into the high
lands, where the road mounts by zig-zag turns through a splendid forest
of pines and oaks, and at the top of the ascent we were in a broad
fertile plain as high or higher than the valley of Mexico. It was like
England to ride between large fields of wheat and barley, and to pick
blackberries in the hedges. It was only April, and yet the grain was
almost ready for the sickle, and the blackberries were fully ripe.
Fresh green grass was growing in the woods under the oak-trees, and the
banks were covered with Alpine strawberries.

We are in the great grain-district of the Republic. Wheat is grown for
the supply of the large towns, and barley for the horses. Green barley
is the favourite fodder for the horses in the Mexican highlands, and in
the hotter districts the leaves of young Indian corn. Oats are to be
seen growing by chance among other grain, but they are never
cultivated. Though wheat is so much grown upon the plains, it is not
because the soil and climate are more favourable than elsewhere for
such culture. In the plains of Toluca and Tenancingo the yield of wheat
is less than the average of the Republic, which is from 25- to 30-fold,
and in the cloudy valleys we passed through near Orizaba it is much
greater. Labour is tolerably cheap and plentiful here, however; and
then each large town must draw its supplies of grain from the
neighbouring districts, for, in a country where it pays to carry goods
on mules' backs, it is clear that grain cannot be carried far to
market.

In the question of the population of Mexico, one begins to speculate
why--in a country with a splendid climate, a fertile soil, and almost
unlimited space to spread in, the inhabitants do not increase one-half
so fast as in England, and about one-sixth as fast as their neighbours
of the United States. One of the most important causes which tend to
bring about this state of things is the impossibility of conveying
grain to any distance, except by doubling and trebling its price. The
disastrous effects of a failure of the crop in one district cannot be
remedied by a plentiful harvest fifty miles off; for the peasants,
already ruined by the loss of their own harvest, can find neither money
nor credit to buy food brought from a distance at so great an expense.
Next year may be fruitful again, but numbers die in the interval, and
the constitutions of a great proportion of the children never recover
the effects of that one year's famine.

We left the regular road and struck up still higher into the hills,
riding amongst winding roads with forest above and below us, and great
orchids of the most brilliant colours, blue, white, and crimson,
shining among the branches of the oak-trees. The boughs were often
breaking down with the bulbs of such epiphytes; but as yet it was early
in the season, and only here and there one was in flower. At the top of
the hill, still in the midst of the woods, is the Desierto, "the
desert," the place we had selected for our noon-day halt. There are
many of these Desiertos in Mexico, founded by rich people in old times.
They are a kind of convent, with some few resident ecclesiastics, and
numbers of cells for laymen who retire for a time into this secluded
place and are received gratuitously. They spend a week or two in prayer
and fasting, then confess themselves, receive the sacrament, and return
into the world. The situation of this quiet place was well chosen in
the midst of the forest, and once upon a time the cells used to be full
of penitents; but now we saw no one but the old porter, as we walked
about the gardens and explored the quadrangle and the rows of cells,
each with a hideous little wood-cut of a martyr being tortured, upon
the door.

Thence we rode down into the plain, looking down, as we descended, upon
a hill which seemed to be an old crater, rising from the level ground;
and then our path lay among broad fields where oxen were ploughing, and
across marshes covered with coarse grass, until we came to the quaint
little town of Tenancingo. There we found the _meson_; and the landlord
handed us the key of our room, which was square, whitewashed, and with
a tiled floor. There was no window, so we had to keep the door open for
light. The furniture consisted of three articles,--two low tables on
four legs, made of rough planks, and a bracket to stick a candle in.
The tables were beds after the manner of the country; but, as a special
attention to us, the patron produced two old mattresses; the first
sight of them was enough for us, and we expelled them with shouts of
execration. We had to go to a shop in the square to get some supper;
and on our return, about nine o'clock, our man Antonio remarked that he
was going to sleep, which he did at once in the following manner. He
took off his broad-brimmed hat and hung it on a nail, tied a red cotton
handkerchief round his head, rolled himself up in his serape, lay down
on the flags in the courtyard outside our door, and was asleep in an
instant. We retired to our planks inside and followed his example.

The next afternoon we reached Toluca, a large and prosperous town, but
with little noticeable in it except the arcades (portales) along the
streets, and the hams which are cured with sugar, and are famous all
over the Republic. Our road passed near the Nevado de Toluca, an
extinct snow-covered volcano, nearly 15,000 feet above the sea. It
consists entirely of grey and red porphyry, and in the interior of its
crater are two small lakes. We were not sorry to take up our quarters
in a comfortable European-looking hotel again, for roughing it is much
less pleasant in these high altitudes--where the nights and mornings
are bitterly cold--than in the hotter climate of the lower levels.

Our next day's ride brought us back to Mexico, crossing the corn-land
of the plain of Lerma, where the soil consists of disintegrated
porphyry from the mountains around, and is very fertile. Lerma itself
is the worst den of robbers in all Mexico; and, as we rode through the
street of dingy adobe houses, and saw the rascally-looking fellows who
were standing at the doors in knots, with their horses ready saddled
and bridled close by, we got a very strong impression that the
reputation of the place was no worse than it deserved. After Lerma,
there still remained the pass over the mountains which border the
valley of Mexico; and here in the midst of a dense pine-forest is Las
Cruzes, "the crosses," a place with an ugly name, where several
robberies are done every week. We waited for the Diligence at some
little glass-works at the entrance of the pass, and then let it go on
first, as a sop to those gentlemen if they should be out that day. I
suppose they knew pretty accurately that no one had much to lose, for
they never made their appearance.

[Illustration: SPANISH-MEXICAN SPURS. _From 5 to 6 inches long, with
rowels from 2-1/2 to 3 inches in diameter. The broad instep-strap of
embossed leather is also shewn. (From Mr. Christy's Collection)_]



CHAPTER IX.



ANTIQUITIES. PRISON. SPORTS.



[Illustration: STATUE OF THE MEXICAN GODDESS OF WAR (OR OF DEATH),
TEOYAOMIQUI. _(After Nebel). Height of the original, about Nine Feet_.]

It was like getting home again to reach Mexico, we had so many friends
there, though our stay had been so short. We were fully occupied, for
weeks of hard sight-seeing are hardly enough to investigate the objects
of interest to be found in the city. We saw these things under the best
auspices, for Mr. Christy had letters to the Minister of Public
Instruction and other people in authority, who were exceedingly civil,
and did all they could to put us in the way of seeing everything we
wished. Among the places we visited, the Museum must have some notice.
It is in part of the building of the University; but we were rather
surprised, when we reached the gate leading into the court-yard, to be
stopped by a sentry who demanded what we wanted. The lower storey had
been turned into a barrack by the Government, there being a want of
quarters for the soldiers. As the ground-floor under the cloisters is
used for the heavier pieces of sculpture, the scene was somewhat
curious. The soldiers had laid several of the smaller idols down on
their faces, and were sitting on the comfortable seat on the small of
their backs, busy playing at cards. An enterprising soldier had built
up a hutch with idols and sculptured stones against the statue of the
great war-goddess Teoyaomiqui herself, and kept rabbits there. The
state which the whole place was in when thus left to the tender mercies
of a Mexican regiment may be imagined by any one who knows what a dirty
and destructive animal a Mexican soldier is.

The guardians of the Museum have treated it even worse. People who know
how often the curators of the Museums of southern Europe are ready to
sell anything not very likely to be missed will not be astonished to
hear of the same thing being done to a great extent some six or eight
years before our visit.

The stone known as the statue of the war-goddess is a huge block of
basalt covered with sculptures. The antiquaries think that the figures
on it stand for different personages, and that it is three
gods,--Huitzilopochtli the god of war, Teoyaomiqui his wife, and
Mictlanteuctli the god of hell. It has necklaces of alternate hearts
and dead man's hands, with death's heads for a central ornament. At the
bottom of the block is a strange sprawling figure, which one cannot see
now, for it is the base which rests on the ground; but there are two
shoulders projecting from the idol, which show plainly that it did not
stand on the ground, but was supported aloft on the tops of two
pillars. The figure carved upon the bottom represents a monster holding
a skull in each hand, while others hang from his knees and elbows. His
mouth is a mere oval ring, a common feature of Mexican idols, and four
tusks project just above it. The new moon laid down like a bridge forms
his forehead, and a star is placed on each side of it. This is thought
to have been the conventional representation of Mictlanteuctli (Lord of
the Land of the Dead), the god of hell, which was a place of utter and
eternal darkness. Probably each victim as he was led to the altar could
look up between the two pillars and see the hideous god of hell staring
down upon him from above.

There is little doubt that this is the famous war-idol which stood on
the great teocalli of Mexico, and before which so many thousands of
human victims were sacrificed. It lay undisturbed underground in the
great square, close to the very site of the teocalli, until sixty years
ago. For many years after that it was kept buried, lest the sight of
one of their old deities might be too exciting for the Indians, who, as
I have mentioned before, had certainly not forgotten it, and secretly
ornamented it with garlands of flowers while it remained above ground.

The "sacrificial stone," so called, which also stands in the court-yard
of the Museum, was not one of the ordinary altars on which victims were
sacrificed. These altars seem to have been raised slabs of hard stone
with a protuberant part near one end, so that the breast of the victim
was raised into an arch, which made it more easy for the priest to cut
across it with his obsidian knife. The Breton altars, where the slab
was hollowed into the outline of a human figure, have some analogy to
this; but, though there were very many of these altars in different
cities of Mexico, none are now known to exist. The stone we are now
observing is quite a different thing, a cylindrical block of basalt
nine feet across and three feet high: and Humboldt considers it to be
the stone described by early Spanish writers, and called _temalacatl_
(spindle-stone) from its circular shape, something like a distaff-head.
Upon this the captive chiefs stood in the gladiatorial fights which
took place within the space surrounding the great teocalli. Slightly
armed, they stood upon this raised platform in the midst of the crowd
of spectators; and six champions in succession, armed with better
weapons, came up to fight with them. If the captive worsted his
assailants in this unequal contest, he was set free with presents; but
this success was the lot of but few, and the fate of most was to be
overpowered and dragged off ignominiously to be sacrificed like
ordinary prisoners. On the top of the stone is sculptured an outline of
the sun with its eight rays, and a hollow in the centre, whence a
groove runs to the edge of the stone, probably to let the blood run
down. All round it is an appropriate bas-relief repeated several times.
A vanquished warrior is giving up his stone-sword and his spears to his
conqueror, who is tearing the plumed crest from his head.

The above explanation by Humboldt is a plausible one. But in Central
America altars not unlike this, and with grooves upon the top, stand in
front of the great stone idols; and this curious monument may have been
nothing after all but an ordinary altar to sacrifice birds and small
animals upon.

[Illustration: THREE VIEWS OF A SACRIFICIAL COLLAR. _Carved out of hard
mottled greenstone. (In Mr. Christy's Collection.) This is 17 inches
long, and varies from 11 to 16 inches in width. The arms are 4 inches
wide and 3 inches deep; and are 8 inches apart at about half their
length._]

Señor Leon Ramirez, the curator, had come to the Museum to meet us, and
we went over the collection of smaller objects, which are kept up
stairs in glass-cases,--at any rate out of the way of the soldiers.

Here are the stone clamps shaped like the letter U, which were put over
the wrists and ankles of the victims, to hold them down on the
sacrificial stone. They are of hard stone, very heavy and covered with
carvings. It is remarkable that, though the altars for human sacrifices
are no longer to be found, these accessory stone clamps, or yoke-like
collars, are not uncommon. A fine one from Mr. Christy's collection is
figured. _(See opposite page.)_

The obsidian knives and arrow-heads are very good, but these I have
spoken of already, as well as of the stone hammers. The axes and
chisels of stone are so exactly like those found in Europe that it is
quite impossible to distinguish them. The bronze hatchet-blades are
thin and flat, slightly thickened at the sides to give them strength,
and mostly of a very peculiar shape, something like a T, but still more
resembling the section of a mushroom cut vertically through the middle
of the stalk.

The obsidian mask is an extraordinary piece of work, considering the
difficulty of cutting such a material. It was chipped into a rude
outline, and finished into its exact shape by polishing down with
jeweller's sand. The polish is perfect, and there is hardly a scratch
upon it. At least one of the old Spanish writers on Mexico gives the
details of the process of cutting precious stones and polishing them
with _teoxalli_ or "god's sand." Masks in stone, wood, and terra-cotta
are to be seen in considerable number in museums of Mexican
antiquities. Their use is explained by passages in the old Mexican
writers, who mention that it was customary to mask the idols on the
occasion of the king being sick, or of any other public calamity; and
that men and women wore masks in some of the religious ceremonies. A
fine mask of brown lava (from Mr. Christy's collection), which has been
coloured, is here figured. _(See illustration.)_ The mirrors of
obsidian have the same beautifully polished surface as the obsidian
mask shows; and those made of nodules of pyrites, cut and polished, are
worth notice.

The Mexicans were very skilful in making pottery; and of course there
is a good collection here of terra-cotta vases, little altars and
incense-dishes, rattles, flageolets, and whistles, tobacco-pipes and
masks. Some of the large vases, which were formerly filled with skulls
and bones, are admirable in their designs and decorations; and many
specimens are to be seen of the red and black ware of Cholula, which
was famous at the time of the Conquest, and was sent to all parts of
the country. The art of glazing pottery seems only to have been
introduced by the Spaniards, and to this day the Indians hardly care to
use it. The terra-cotta rattles are very characteristic. They have
little balls in them which shake about, and they puzzled us much as the
apple-dumpling did good King George, for we could not make out very
easily how the balls got inside. They were probably attached very
slightly to the inside, and so baked and then broken loose. We often
got little balls like schoolboys' marbles, among lots of Mexican
antiquities, and these were most likely the balls out of broken
rattles.

Burning incense was always an important part of the Mexican ceremonies.
When the white men were on their march to the capital, the inhabitants
used to come out to meet them with such plates as we saw here, and burn
copal before the leaders; and in Indian villages to this day the
procession on saints' days would not be complete without men burning
incense, not in regular censers, but in unglazed earthen platters such
as their forefathers used.

[Illustration: THE INSIDE AND OUTSIDE OF AN AZTEC MASK. _Sculptured out
of hard brown lava. Twelve inches high; ten inches wide. (From Mr.
Christy's Collection.)_]

Our word _copal_ is the Mexican _copalli_. There are a few other
Mexican words which have been naturalized in our European languages, of
course indicating that the things they represent came from Mexico.
_Ocelotl_ is _ocelot_; _Tomatl_ is _tomata_; _Chilli_ is the Spanish
_chile_ and our _chili_; _Cacahuatl_ is _cacao_ or cocoa; and
_Chocolatl_, the beverage made from the cacao-bean with a mixture of
vanilla, is our chocolate.

Cacao-beans were used by the Mexicans as money. Even in Humboldt's
time, when there was no copper coinage, they were used as small change,
six for a halfpenny; and Stephens says the Central Americans use them
to this day. A mat in Mexican is _petlatl_, and thence a basket made of
matting was called _petlacalli_--"mathouse." The name passed to the
plaited grass cigar-cases that are exported to Europe; and now in Spain
any kind of cigar-case is called a _petaca_.

The pretty little ornamented calabashes--used, among other purposes,
for drinking chocolate out of--were called by the Mexicans _xicalli_, a
word which the Spaniards made into _jícara_, and now use to mean a
chocolate-cup; and even the Italians have taken to it, and call a
tea-cup a _chicchera_.

There is a well-known West Indian fruit which we call an _avocado_ or
_alligator-pear_, and which the French call _avocat_ and the Spaniards
_aguacate_. All these names are corruptions of the Aztec name of the
fruit, _ahuacatl_.

Vanilla and cochineal were first found in Mexico; but the Spaniards did
not adopt the unpronounceable native names, _tlilxochitl_ and
_nocheztli_. Vanilla, _vainilla_, means a little bean, from _vaina_,
which signifies a scabbard or sheath, also a pod. _Cochinilla_ is from
_coccus_, a berry, as it was at first supposed to be of vegetable
origin. The Aztec name for cochineal, _nocheztli_, means
"cactus-blood," and is a very apt description of the insect, which has
in it a drop of deep crimson fluid, in which the colouring matter of
the dye is contained.

The turkey, which was introduced into Europe from Mexico, was called
_huexolotl_ from the gobbling noise it makes. (It must be remembered
that x and j in Spanish are not the same letters as in English, but a
hard guttural aspirate, like the German ch). The name, slightly altered
into _guajalote_, is still used in Mexico; but when these birds were
brought to Europe, the Spaniards called them peacocks (_pavos_). To get
rid of the confusion, it became necessary to call the real peacock
"_pavón_" (big peacock), or "_pavo real_" (royal peacock). The German
name for a turkey, "Wälscher Hahn," "Italian fowl," is reasonable, for
the Germans got them from Italy; but our name "turkey" is wonderfully
absurd.

There may be other Mexican words to be found in our language, but not
many. The Mexicans were cultivating maize and tobacco when the
Spaniards invaded the country, and had done so for ages; but these
vegetables had been found already in the West India islands, and had
got their name from the language of Hayti, _mahiz_ and _tabaco_; the
latter word, it seems, meaning not the tobacco itself, but the cigars
made of it.

I do not recollect anything else worthy of note that Europe has
borrowed from Ancient Mexico, except Botanic Gardens, and dishes made
to keep hot at dinner-time, which the Aztecs managed by having a pan of
burning charcoal underneath them.

To return to the Museum. There are stamps in terra-cotta with
geometrical patterns, for making lines and ornaments on the vases
before they were baked, and for stamping patterns upon the cotton cloth
which was one of their principal manufactures, as it is now. Connected
with the same art are the _malacates_, or winders, which I have already
described. Little grotesque heads made of baked clay, like those I have
mentioned as being found in such immense numbers on the sites of old
Mexican cities, are here by hundreds. I think there were, besides, some
of the moulds, also in terra-cotta, in which they were formed; at any
rate, they are to be seen, so that making the little heads must have
been a regular trade. What they were for is not so easy to say. Some
have bodies, and are made with flat backs to stand against a wall, and
these were probably idols. The ancient Mexicans, we read, had
household-gods in great numbers, and called them _Tepitotons_, "little
ones." The greatest proportion, however, are mere heads which never had
had bodies, and will not stand anyhow. They could not have been
personal ornaments, for there is nothing to fasten them on by. They are
rather a puzzle. I have seen a suggestion somewhere, that when a man
was buried, each surviving member of his family put one of these heads
into his grave. This sounds plausible enough, especially as both male
and female heads are found.

One shelf in the museum is particularly instructive. We called it the
"Chamber of Horrors," after the manner of Marlborough House, and it
contains numbers of the sham antiquities, the manufacture of which is a
regular thing in Mexico, as it is in Italy. They are principally vases
and idols of earthenware, for the art of working obsidian is lost, and
there can be no trickery about that[18]; and as to the hammers,
chisels, and idols in green jade, serpentine, and such like hard
materials, they are decidedly cheaper to find than to make. The Indians
in Mexico make their unglazed pottery just as they did before the
Conquest, so that, if they imitate real antiques exactly, there is no
possibility of detecting the fraud; but when they begin to work from
their own designs, or even to copy from memory, they are almost sure to
put in something that betrays them.

As soon as the Spaniards came, they began to introduce drawing as it
was understood in Europe; and from that moment the peculiarities of
Mexican art began to disappear. The foreheads of the Mexican races are
all very low, and their painters and sculptors even exaggerated this
peculiarity, to make the faces they depicted more beautiful,--so
producing an effect which to us Europeans seems hideously ugly, but
which is not more unnatural than the ideal type of beauty we see in the
Greek statues. After the era of the Spaniards we see no more of such
foreheads; and the eyes, which were drawn in profiles as one sees them
in the full face, are put in their natural position. The short squat
figures become slim and tall; and in numberless little details of
dress, modelling, and ornament, the acquaintance of the artist with
European types is shown; and it is very seldom that the modern
counterfeiter can keep clear of these and get back to the old standard.

Among the things on the condemned shelf were men's faces too correctly
drawn to be genuine, grotesque animals that no artist would ever have
designed who had not seen a horse, head-dresses and drapery that were
European and not Mexican. Among the figures in Mayer's _Mexico_, a vase
is represented as a real antique, which, I think, is one of the worst
cases I ever noticed. There is a man's head upon it, with long
projecting pointed nose and chin, a long thin pendant moustache, an eye
drawn in profile, and a cap. It is true the pure Mexican race
occasionally have moustaches, but they are very slight, not like this,
which falls in a curve on both sides of the mouth; and no Mexican of
pure Indian race ever had such a nose and chin, which must have been
modelled from the face of some toothless old Spaniard.

Mention must be made of the wooden drums--_teponaztli_--of which some
few specimens are still to be seen in Mexico. Such drums figured in the
religious ceremonies of the Aztecs, and one often hears of them in
Mexican history. I have mentioned already the great drum which Bernal
Diaz saw when he went up the Mexican teocalli with Cortes, and which he
describes as a hellish instrument, made with skins of great serpents;
and which, when it was struck, gave a loud and melancholy sound, that
could be heard at two leagues' distance. Indeed, they did afterwards
hear it from their camp a mile or two off, when their unfortunate
companions were being sacrificed on the teocalli.

The Aztec drums, which are still to be seen, are altogether of wood,
nearly cylindrical, but swelling out in the middle, and hollowed out of
solid logs. Some have the sounding-board made unequally thick in
different parts, so as to give several notes when struck. All are
elaborately carved over with various designs, such as faces,
head-dresses, weapons, suns with rays, and fanciful patterns, among
which the twisted cord is one of the commonest.

Besides the drums which are preserved in museums, there are others,
carefully kept in Indian villages, not as curiosities, but as
instruments of magical power. Heller mentions such a _teponaztli_,
which is still preserved among the Indians of Huatusco, an Indian
village near Mirador in the tierra templada, where the inhabitants have
had their customs comparatively little altered by intercourse with
white men. They keep this drum as a sacred instrument, and beat it only
at certain times of the year, though they have no reason to give for
doing so. It is to be regretted that Heller did not take a note of the
particular days on which this took place; for the times of the Mexican
festivals are well known, and this information would have settled the
question whether the Indians of the present day have really any
definite recollection of their old customs.

Drums of this kind do not belong exclusively to Mexico. Among all the
tribes of North America they were one of the principal "properties"
used by the Medicine-men in their ceremonies; and among the tribes
which have not been christianized they are still to be found in use.
After we left Mexico, Mr. Christy visited some tribes in the Hudson's
Bay Territory; and on one occasion, happening to assist at a festival
in which just such a wooden drum was used, he bought it of the
Medicine-man of the tribe, and packed it off triumphantly to his
museum.

A few picture-writings are still to be seen in the Museum, which, with
the few preserved in Europe, are all we have left of these interesting
records, of which there were thousands upon thousands in Mexico and
Tezcuco. Some were burnt or destroyed during the sieges of the cities,
some perished by mere neglect, but the great mass was destroyed by
archbishop Zumarraga, when he made an attempt--and, to some extent, a
successful one--to obliterate every trace of heathenism, by destroying
all the monuments and records in the country. One of the
picture-writings hanging on the wall is very probably the same that was
sent up from Vera Cruz to Montezuma, with figures of the newly-arrived
white men, their ships and horses, and their cannons with fire and
smoke issuing from their mouths. Another shows a white man being
sacrificed, of course one of the Spanish prisoners. The pictorial
history of the migration of the Aztecs is here, and a list of tributes
paid to the Mexican sovereign; the different articles being drawn with
numbers against each, to show the quantities to be paid, as in the
Egyptian inscriptions. Lord Kingsborough's great work contains
fac-similes of several Mexican manuscripts, and in Humboldt's _Vues des
Cordillères_ some of the most remarkable are figured and described.

One of the most curious of the Aztec picture-writings is in the
Bodleian Library, and in fac-simile in Lord Kingsborough's _Antiquities
of Mexico_. In it are shown, in a series of little pictures, the
education of Mexican boys and girls, as prescribed by law. The child
four days old is being sprinkled with water, and receiving its name. At
four years old they are to be allowed one tortilla a meal, which is
indicated by a drawing above their heads, of four circles representing
years, and one cake; and the father sends the son to carry water, while
the mother shows the daughter how to spin. A tortilla is like an
oat-cake, but is made of Indian corn.

At seven years old the boy is taken to learn to fish, while the girl
spins; and so on with different occupations for one year after another.
At nine years old the father is allowed to punish his son for
disobedience, by sticking aloe-points all over his naked body, while
the daughters only have them stuck into their hands; and at eleven
years old, both boy and girl were to be punished by holding their faces
in the smoke of burning capsicums.

At fifteen the youth is married by the simple process of tying the
corner of his shirt to the corner of the bride's petticoat (thus
literally "splicing" them, as my companion remarked). And so on; after
scenes of cutting wood, visiting the temples, fighting and feasting, we
come to the last scene of all, headed "_seventy years_," and see an old
man and woman reeling about helplessly drunk with pulque; for
drunkenness, which was severely punished up to that age, was tolerated
afterwards as a compensation for the sorrows and infirmities of the
last period of life.

Astrological charts formed a large proportion of these
picture-writings. Here, as elsewhere, we may trace the origin of
astrology. The signs of the days and years were represented, for
convenience sake, by different animals, and objects, like the signs of
the Zodiac which we still retain. The signs remained after the history
of their origin was lost; and then--what more natural than to imagine
that the symbols handed down by their wise ancestors had some
mysterious meaning, connected with the days and years they stood for;
and then, that a man's destiny had to do with the names of the signs
that "prevailed" at his birth?

There is little to be seen here or elsewhere, of one kind of work in
which the Mexicans excelled perhaps more than in any other, the
goldsmith's work. Where are the calendars of solid gold and silver--as
big as great wheels, and covered with hieroglyphics, and the cups and
collars, the golden birds, beasts, and fishes? The Spaniards who saw
them record how admirable their workmanship was, and they were good
judges of such matters. Benvenuto Cellini saw some of these things, and
was filled with admiration. They have all gone to the melting-pot
centuries ago! How important the goldsmith's trade was accounted in old
times is shown by a strange Aztec law. It was no ordinary offence to
steal gold and silver. Criminals convicted of this offence were not
treated as common thieves, but were kept till the time when the
goldsmiths celebrated their annual festival, and were then solemnly
sacrificed to their god Xipe;[19] the priests flaying their bodies,
cooking and eating them, and walking about dressed in their skins, a
ceremony which was called _tlacaxipehualiztli_, "the man-flaying."

Museums of Mexican antiquities are so much alike, that, in general, one
description will do for all of them. Mr. Uhde's Museum at Heidelberg is
a far finer one than that at Mexico, except as regards the
picture-writings. I was astonished at the enormous quantity of stone
idols, delicately worked trinkets in various hard stones and even in
obsidian, terra-cotta tobacco-pipes, figures, and astronomical
calendars, &c., displayed there.

Mr. Christy's collection is richer than any other in small sculptured
figures from Central America. It contains a squatting female figure in
hard brown lava, like the one in black basalt which is drawn in
Humboldt's _Vues des Cordillères_, and there called (I cannot imagine
why) an Aztec priestess. Above all, it contains what I believe to be
the three finest specimens of Aztec decorative art which exist in the
world. One of these is the knife of which the figure at page 101 gives
some faint idea, the other two being a wooden mask overlaid with
mosaic, and a human skull decorated in the same manner, of which a more
particular description will be found in the Appendix. There are two
kinds of Aztec articles in Mr. Christy's collection which I did not
observe either at Mexico or Heidelberg. These are bronze needles,
resembling our packing-needles, and little cast bronze bells, called
in Aztec _yotl_, not unlike small horse-bells made in England at the
present day; these are figured in the tribute-lists in the
picture-writings.

[Illustration: ANTIQUE BRONZE BELLS FROM MEXICO. _Such as are often
sculptured on Aztec Images._]

Apropos of the mammoth bones preserved in the Mexican Museum, I must
insert a quotation from Bernal Diaz. It is clear that the traditions of
giants which exist in almost every country had their origin in the
discovery of fossil bones, whose real character was not suspected until
a century ago; but I never saw so good an example of this as in the
Tlascalan tradition, which my author relates as follows.--"And they"
(the Tlascalan chiefs) "said that their ancestors had told them that,
in times past, there lived amongst them in settlements men and women of
great size, with huge bones; and, as they were wicked and of evil
dispositions, they (the ancestors of the Tlascalans) fought against
them and killed them; and those who were left died out. And that we
might see what stature they were of, they brought a bone of one of
them, and it was very big, and its height was that of a man of
reasonable stature; it was a thigh-bone, and I (Bernal Diaz) measured
myself against it, and it was as tall as I am, who am a man of
reasonable stature; and they brought other pieces of bones like the
first, but they were already eaten through and rotted by the earth; and
we were all amazed to see those bones, and held that for certain there
had been giants in that land; and our captain, Cortes, said to us that
it would be well to send the great bone to Castile, that His Majesty
might see it; and so we did send it by the first messengers who went."

Among other things belonging to the Spanish period is the banner, with
the picture of the Virgin, which accompanied the Spanish army during
the Conquest. Authentic or not, it is certainly very well painted.
There is a suit of armour said to have belonged to Cortes. Its
genuineness has been doubted; but I think its extreme smallness seems
to go towards proving that it is a true relic, for Bullock saw the tomb
of Cortes opened some thirty years ago, and was surprised at the small
proportions of his skeleton. Specimens of the pottery and glass now
made in the country, and other curiosities, complete the catalogue of
this interesting collection.

The Mexican calendar is not in the Museum, but is built into the wall
of the cathedral, in the Plaza Mayor. It is sculptured on the face of a
single block of basalt, which weighs between twenty and thirty tons,
and must have been transported thirty miles by Mexican labourers, for
the stone is not found nearer than that distance from the city; and
this transportation was, of course, managed by hand-labour alone, as
there were no beasts of burden.

We know pretty well the whole system of Mexican astronomy from this
calendar-stone and a few manuscripts which still exist, and from the
information given in the work of Gama the astronomer and other writers.
The Aztecs and Tezcucans who used it, did not claim its invention as
their own, but said they had received it from the Toltecs, their
predecessors. The year consisted of 365 days, with an intercalation of
13 days for each cycle of 52 years, which brought it to the same length
as the Julian year of 365 days 6 hours. The theory of Gama, that the
intercalation was still more exact, namely, 12-1/2 days instead of 13,
seems to be erroneous.

Our reckoning only became more exact than this when we adopted the
Gregorian calendar in 1752, and the people marched about the streets in
procession, crying "Give us back our eleven days!" Perhaps this is not
quite a fair way of putting the case, however, for the new style would
have been adopted in our country long before, had it not been a Romish
institution. It was the deliberate opinion of the English, as of people
in other Protestant countries, that it was much better to have the
almanack a few days wrong than to adopt a Popish innovation. One often
hears of the Papal Bull which settles the question of the earth's
standing still. The history of the Gregorian calendar is not a bad
set-off against it on the other side. At any rate, the new style was
not introduced anywhere until sixty or seventy years after the
discovery of Mexico, and five hundred years after the introduction of
the Toltec calendar in Mexico.

The Mexican calendar-stone should be photographed on a large scale, and
studied yet more carefully than it has been, for only a part of the
divided circles which surround it have been explained. It should be
photographed, because, to my certain knowledge, Mayer's drawing gives
the year, above the figure of the sun which indicates the date of the
calendar, quite wrongly; and yet, presuming on his own accuracy, he
accuses another writer of leaving out the hieroglyph of the winter
solstice. What is much more strange is, that Humboldt's drawing in the
small edition of the _Vues des Cordillères_ is wrong in both points.
The drawing in Nebel's great work is probably the best. As to the wax
models which Mr. Christy and I bought in Mexico, in the innocence of
our hearts, a nearer inspection showed that the artist, observing that
the circle of days would divide more neatly into sixteen parts than
into twenty, had arranged his divisions accordingly; apparently leaving
out the four hieroglyphics which he considered the ugliest.

The details made out at present on the calendar are as follows:--the
summer and winter solstices, the spring and autumn equinoxes, the two
passages of the Sun over the zenith of Mexico, and some dates which
possibly belong to religious festivals. The dates of the two
zenith-transits are especially interesting; for, as they vary with the
latitude, they must have been made out by actual observation in Mexico
itself, and not borrowed from some more civilised people in the distant
countries through which the Mexicans migrated. This fact alone is
sufficient to prove a considerable practical knowledge of astronomy.

Besides this, the Mexican cycle of fifty-two years seems to be
indicated in the circle outside the signs of days, and also the days in
the priestly year of 260 days; but to make these numbers, we must allow
for the compartments supposed to be hidden by the projecting rays of
the sun.

The arrangement of the Mexican cycle of fifty-two years is very
curious. They had four signs of years, _tochtli, acatl, tecpatl_, and
_calli_,--_rabbit, canes, flint_, and _house_; and against these signs
they ranged numbers, from 1 to 13, so that a cycle exactly corresponds
to a pack of cards, the four signs being the four suits, thirteen of
each. Now, any one would suppose that in making such a reckoning, they
would first take one suit, count _one, two, three_, &c. in it, up to
13, and then begin another suit. This is not the Mexican idea, however.
Their reckoning is 1 _tochtli_, 2 _acatl_, 3 _tecpatl_, &c., just as it
may be made with the cards thus: ace of hearts, two of diamonds, 3 of
spades, 4 of clubs, 5 of hearts, 6 of diamonds, and so on through the
pack. The correspondence between the cycle of 52 years, divided among 4
signs, and our year of 52 weeks, divided among 4 seasons, is also
curious, though as entirely accidental as the resemblance to the pack
of cards, for the Mexican week (if we may call it so) consisted of 5
days instead of 7, which to a great extent nullifies the comparison.

The reckoning of days is still more cumbrous. It consists of the days
of the week written in succession from 1 to 13, underneath these the 20
signs of days, and underneath these again another series of 9 signs; so
that each day was distinguished by a combination of a number and two
signs, which combination could not belong to any other day.

The date of the year at the top of the calendar is 13 _acatl_ (13
canes), which stands for 1479, 1427, 1375, 1323, and so on, subtracting
52 years each time. Now, why was this year chosen? It was not the
beginning of a cycle, but the 26th year; and so, in ascertaining the
meaning of the dates on the calendar, allowance has to be made for six
days which have been gained by the leap-years only being adjusted at
the end of the cycle; but this certainly offers no advantage whatever;
and if an arbitrary date had been chosen to start the calendar with, of
course it would have been the first year of a cycle. The year may have
been chosen in commemoration of the foundation of Mexico or
Tenochtitlán, which historians give as somewhere about 1324 or 1325.
The sign 13 _acatl_ would stand for 1323. It is more likely that the
date merely refers to the year in which the calendar was put up. As
such a massive and elaborate piece of sculpture could only belong to
the most flourishing period of the Aztec empire, the year indicated
would be 1279, nine years before the building of the great pyramid
close by.

Baron Humboldt's celebrated argument to prove the Asiatic origin of the
Mexicans is principally founded upon the remarkable resemblance of this
system of cycles in reckoning years to those found in use in different
parts of Asia. For instance, we may take that described by Hue and
Gabet as still existing in Tartary and Thibet, which consists of one
set of signs, _wood, fire, earth_, &c., combined with a set of names of
animals, _mouse, ox, tiger_, &c. The combination is made almost exactly
in the same way as that in which the Aztecs combine their signs and
numbers, as for instance, the year of the fire-pig, the iron-hare, &c.
If these were simple systems of counting years, or even if, although
difficult, they had some advantages to offer, we might suppose that two
different races in want of a system to count their years by, had
devised them independently. But, in fact, both the Asiatic and the
Mexican cycles are not only most intricate and troublesome to work, but
by the constant liability to confound one cycle with another, they lead
to endless mistakes. Hue says that the Mongols, to get over this
difficulty, affix a special name to all the years of each king's reign,
as for instance, "the year Tao-Kouang of the fire-ram;" apparently not
seeing that to give the special name and the number of the year of the
reign, and call it the 44th year of Tao-Kouang, would answer the same
purpose, with one-tenth of the trouble.

Not only are the Mexican and Asiatic systems alike in the singular
principle they go upon, but there are resemblances in the signs used
that seem too close for chance.[20] The other arguments which tend to
prove that the Mexicans either came from the Old World or had in some
way been brought into connexion with tribes from thence, are
principally founded on coincidences in customs and traditions. We must
be careful to eliminate from them all such as we can imagine to have
originated from the same outward causes at work in both hemispheres,
and from the fact that man is fundamentally the same everywhere. To
take an instance from Peru. We find the Incas there calling themselves
"Child of the Sun," and marrying their own sisters, just as the
Egyptian kings did. But this proves nothing whatever as to connexion
between the two people. The worship of the Sun, the giver of light and
heat, may easily spring up among different people without any external
teaching; and what more natural, among imperfectly civilized tribes,
than that the monarch should claim relationship with the divinity? And
the second custom was introduced that the royal race might be kept
unmixed.

Thus, when we find the Aztecs burning incense before their gods, kings,
and great men, and propitiating their deities with human sacrifices, we
can conclude nothing from this. But we find them baptizing their
children, anointing their kings, and sprinkling them with holy water,
punishing the crime of adultery by stoning the criminals to death, and
practising several other Old World usages of which I have already
spoken. We must give some weight to these coincidences.

Of some of the supposed Aztec Bible-traditions I have already spoken in
no very high terms. There is another tradition, however, resting upon
unimpeachable evidence, which relates the occurrence of a series of
destructions and regenerations of the world, and recalls in the most
striking manner the Indian cosmogony; and, when added to the argument
from the similarity of the systems of astronomical notation of Mexico
and Asia, goes far towards proving a more or less remote connection
between the inhabitants of the two continents.

There is another side to the question, however, as has been stated
already. How could the Mexicans have had these traditions and customs
from the Old World, and not have got the knowledge of some of the
commonest arts of life from the same source? As I have said, they do
not seem to have known the proper way of putting the handle on to a
stone-hammer; and, though they used bronze, they had not applied it to
making such things as knives and spear-heads. They had no beasts of
burden; and, though there were animals in the country which they
probably might have domesticated and milked, they had no idea of
anything of the kind. They had oil, and employed it for various
purposes, but had no notion of using it or wax for burning. They
lighted their houses with pine-torches; and in fact the Aztec name for
a pine-torch--_ocotl_--was transferred to candles when they were
introduced.

Though they were a commercial people, and had several substitutes for
money--such as cacao-grains, quills of gold-dust, and pieces of tin of
a particular shape, they had no knowledge of the art of weighing
anything, but sold entirely by tale and measure. This statement, made
by the best authorities, their language tends to confirm. After the
Conquest they made the word _tlapexouia_ out of the Spanish "peso," and
also gave the meaning of weighing to two other words which mean properly
_to measure_ and _to divide equally_. Had they had a proper word of
their own for the process, we should find it. The Mexicans scarcely ever
adopted a Spanish word even for Spanish animals or implements, if they
could possibly make their own language serve. They called a sheep an
_ichcatl_, literally a "_thread-thing_," or "_cotton_": a gun a
"_fire-trumpet_:" and sulphur "_fire-trumpet-earth_." And yet, a people
ignorant of some of the commonest arts had extraordinary knowledge of
astronomy, and even knew the real cause of eclipses,[21] and represented
them in their sacred dances.

Set the difficulties on one side of the question against those on the
other, and they will nearly balance. We must wait for further evidence.

Our friend Don José Miguel Cervantes, the President of the
Ayuntamiento, took us one day to see the great prison of Mexico, the
Acordada. As to the prison itself, it is a great gloomy building, with
its rooms and corridors arranged round two courtyards, one appropriated
to the men, the other to the women. A few of the men were at work
making shoes and baskets, but most were sitting and lying about in the
sun, smoking cigarettes and talking together in knots, the young ones
hard at work taking lessons in villainy from the older hands; just the
old story.

Offenders of all orders, from drunkards and vagrants up to highway
robbers and murderers, all were mixed indiscriminately together. But we
should remember that in England twenty years ago it was usual for
prisons to be such places as this; and even now, in spite of model
prisons and severe discipline, the miserable results of our
prison-system show, as plainly as can be, that when we have caught our
criminal we do not in the least know how to reform him, now that our
colonists have refused him the only chance he ever had.

It is bad enough to mix together these men under the most favourable
circumstances for corrupting one another. Every man must come out worse
than he went in; but this wrong is not so great as that which the
untried prisoners suffer in being forced into the society of condemned
criminals, while their trials drag on from session to session, through
the endless technicalities and quibbles of Spanish law.

We made rather a curious observation in this prison. When one enters
such a place in Europe, one expects to see in a moment, by the faces
and demeanour of the occupants, that most of them belong to a special
criminal class, brought up to a life of crime which is their only
possible career, belonging naturally to police-courts and prisons,
herding together when out of prison in their own districts and their
own streets, and carefully avoided by the rest of society. You may know
a London thief when you see him; he carries his profession in his face
and in the very curl of his hair. Now in this prison there was nothing
of the kind to be seen. The inmates were brown Indians and half-bred
Mexicans, appearing generally to belong to the poorest class, but just
like the average of the people in the streets outside. As my companion
said, "If these fellows are thieves and murderers, so are our servants,
and so is every man in a serape we meet in the streets, for all we can
tell to the contrary." There was positively nothing at all peculiar
about them.

If they had been all Indians we might have been easily deceived.
Nothing can be more true than Humboldt's observation that the Indian
face differs so much from ours that it is only after years of
experience that a European can learn to distinguish the varieties of
feature by which character can be judged of. He mistakes peculiarities
which belong to the race in general for personal characteristics; and
the thickness of the skin serves still more to mask the expression of
their faces. But the greater part of these men were Mexicans of mixed
Indian and Spanish blood, and their faces are pretty much European.

The only explanation we could give of this identity of character inside
the prison and outside is not flattering to the Mexican people, but I
really believe it to be true. We came to the conclusion that the
prisoners did not belong to a class apart, but that they were a
tolerably fair specimen of the poorer population of the table-lands of
Mexico. They had been more tempted than others, or they had been more
unlucky, and that was why they were here.

There were perhaps a thousand prisoners in the place, two men to one
woman. Their crimes were--one-third, drunken disturbance and vagrancy;
another third, robberies of various kinds; a fourth, wounding and
homicides, mostly arising out of quarrels; leaving a small residue for
all other crimes.

Our idea was confirmed by many foreigners who had lived long in the
country and had been brought into personal contact with the people.
Every Mexican, they said, has a thief and a murderer in him, which the
slightest provocation will bring out. This of course is an
exaggeration, but there is a great deal of truth in it. The crimes in
the prison-calendar belong as characteristics to the population in
general. Highway-robbery, cutting and wounding in drunken brawls, and
deliberate assassination, are offences which prevail among the
half-white Mexicans; while stealing is common to them and the pure
Indian population. We noticed several instances of bigamy, a crime
which Mexican law is very severe upon. As far as we could judge by the
amount of punishment inflicted, it is a greater crime to marry two
women than to kill two men. In one gallery are the cells for criminals
condemned to death, but the occupants were allowed to mix freely with
the rest of the prisoners, and they seemed comfortable enough.

Everybody knows how much in England the condition of a prisoner depends
on the disposition of the governor in office and the system in vogue
for the moment. The mere words of his sentence do not indicate at all
what his fate will be. He comes in--under Sir John--to light labour,
much schoolmaster and chaplain, and the expectation of a
ticket-of-leave when a fraction of his time is expired. All at once Sir
James supersedes Sir John, and with him comes in a régime of hard work,
short rations, and the black hole. If he had been "in" a month sooner,
he would have been "out" now with those more fortunate criminals, his
late companions.

Things ought not to be so in England, but we need hardly wonder at
their being still worse in Mexico in this respect as in all others.
There have been twenty changes of government in ten years, and
sometimes extreme severity has been the rule, which may change at a
day's notice into the extreme of mildness. In Santa Ana's time the
utmost rigour of the law prevailed. Our friends in the Calle Seminario,
as they came back from their morning's ride in the Paseo, had to pass
through the great square; and used to see there, day after day, pairs
of garotted malefactors sitting bolt upright in the high wooden chairs
they had just been executed in, with a frightful calm look on their
dead faces.

For the last year or so all this had ceased, and there had scarcely
been an execution. It seems that one principal reason of this lenity is
that the government is too weak to support its judges; and that the
ministers of justice are actually intimidated by threats mysteriously
conveyed to witnesses and authorities, that, if such or such a criminal
is executed, his friends have sworn to avenge his death, and are on the
look-out, every man with his knife ready. To political offences the
same mercy is extended. In the early times of the war of independence,
and for years afterwards, when one leader caught an officer on the
other side, he had him tried by a drum-head court-martial, and shot.
Since then it has come to be better understood that civil war is waged
for the benefit of individuals who wish for their turn of power and
their pull at the public purse; and the successful leader spares his
opponent, not caring to establish a precedent which might prove so very
inconvenient to himself.

We were taken to see the garotte by the President, who took it out of
its little mahogany case, into which it was fitted like any other
surgical instrument. We noticed that it was rusty, and indeed it had
not been used for many months. It is not worth while to describe it.

Mexican law well administered is bad enough, not essentially unjust,
but hampered with endless quibbles and technicalities, quite justifying
the Spanish proverb, "_Mas vale una mala composición que un buen
pleito_,"--a bad compromise is better than a good lawsuit. As things
stand now, the law of any case is the least item in the account, there
are so many ways of working upon judges and witnesses. Bribery first
and foremost; and--if that fails--personal intimidation, political
influence, private friendship, and the _compadrazgo_. Naturally, if you
have a lawsuit or are tried for a crime, you should lay a good
foundation. This is done by working upon the _Juez de primera
instancia_, who corresponds in some degree to the _Juge d'instruction_
in France. This functionary is wretchedly paid, so that a small sum is
acceptable to him; and, moreover, the records of the case, as tried by
him, form the basis of all future litigation, so that it is very bad
economy not to get him into proper order. If you do not, it will cost
you three times as much afterwards. If your suit is with a soldier or a
priest, the ordinary tribunals will not help you. These two
classes--the most influential in the community--have their _fuero_,
their special jurisdiction; and woe to the unfortunate civilian who
attacks them in their own courts!

Don Miguel Lerdo do Tejada, whose sense of humour occasionally peeps
out from among his statistics, remarks gravely that "the clergy has its
special legislation, which consists of the Sacred Volumes, the decision
of General and Provincial Councils, the Pontifical Decretals, and
doctrines of the Holy Fathers." Of what sort of justice is dealt out in
that court, one may form some faint idea.

One of our friends in Mexico had a house which was too large for him,
and in a moment of weakness he let part of it to a priest. Two years
afterwards, when we made his acquaintance, he was hard at work trying,
not to get his rent, he had given up that idea long before, but to get
the priest out. I believe that, eventually, he gave him something
handsome to take his departure.

I have often quoted Don Miguel Lerdo de Tejada, and shall do so again.
His statistics of the country for 1856 are given in a broad sheet, and
seem to be generally reliable. The annual balance-sheet of the country
he sums up in three lines--

     Annual Expenditure . . . . . . 25,000,000 dollars.
     Annual Revenue . . . . . . . . 15,000,000 dollars.
                                    ----------
     Annual Deficit . . . . . . . . 10,000,000 dollars.

The President of the Ayuntamiento was a pleasant person to know, among
the dishonest, intriguing Mexican officials. He received but little pay
in return for a great deal of hard work; but he liked to be in office
for the opportunities it afforded him of improving the condition of the
poor of the city. It was a sight to see the prisoners crowd round him
as he entered the court. They all knew him, and it was quite evident
they all considered him as a friend. In what little can be done for the
ignorant and destitute under the unfavourable circumstances of the
country, Don Miguel has had a large share; but until an orderly
government, that is, a foreign one, succeeds to the present anarchy,
not very much can be done.

I mentioned the word "_compadrazgo_" a little way back. The thing
itself is curious, and quite novel to an Englishman of the present day.
The godfathers and godmothers of a child become, by their participation
in the ceremony, relations to one another and to the priest who
baptizes the child, and call one another ever afterwards _compadre_ and
_comadre_. Just such a relationship was once expressed by the word
"gossip," "God-sib," that is "akin in God." Gossip has quite
degenerated from its old meaning, and even "sib," though good English
in Chaucer's time, is now only to be found in provincial dialects; but
in German "sipp" still means "kin."

In Mexico this connexion obliges the compadres and comadres to
hospitality and honesty and all sorts of good offices towards one
another; and it is wonderful how conscientiously this obligation is
kept to, even by people who have no conscience at all for the rest of
the world. A man who will cheat his own father or his own son will keep
faith with his _compadre_. To such an extent does this influence become
mixed up with all sorts of affairs, and so important is it, that it is
necessary to count it among the things that tend to alter the course of
justice in the country.

The French have the words _compère_ and _commère_; and it is curious to
observe that the name of _compère_ is given to the confederate of the
juggler, who stands among the crowd, and slyly helps in the performance
of the trick.

We went one day to the Hospital of San Lazaro. I have mentioned the
word "_lepero_" as applied to the poor and idle class of half-caste
Mexicans. It is only a term of reproach, exactly corresponding to the
"_lazzarone_" of Naples, who resembles the Mexican lepers in his social
condition, and whose name implies the same thing; for, of course, Saint
Lazarus is the patron saint of lepers and foul beggars. There are some
few real lepers in Mexico, who are obliged by law to be shut up in this
hospital. We rather expected to see something like what one reads of
the treatment of lepers which prevailed in Europe until a few years
ago--shutting them up in dismal dens cut off from communication with
other human beings. We were agreeably disappointed. They were confined,
it is true, but in a spacious building, with court-yard and garden;
their nurses and attendants appeared to be very kind to them; and it
seems that many charitable people come to visit the inmates, and bring
them cigars and other small luxuries, to relieve the monotony of their
dismal lives. Some had their faces horribly distorted by the falling of
the corners of the eyes and mouth, and the disappearance of the
cartilage of the nose; and a few, in whom the disease had terminated in
a sort of gangrene, were frightful objects, with their features
scarcely distinguishable; but in the majority of cases the leprosy had
caused a gradual disappearance of the ends of the fingers and toes, and
even of the whole hands and feet. The limbs thus mutilated looked as
though the parts which were wanting had been amputated, and the wound
had quite healed over, but it is caused by a gradual absorption without
wound and without pain. As every one knows, leprosy of these kinds was
held until quite lately to be dangerously contagious; but, fortunately
for the poor creatures themselves, this is quite clearly proved to be
false, and the lepers are only shut up that they may have no children,
for the affection appears to be hereditary.

It was early one morning, when we were going out to breakfast at
Tisapán, that Don Juan recounted to us his experience of garrotted
malefactors sitting dead in their chairs in the great square across
which we were riding. "It was really almost enough to spoil a fellow's
breakfast," he added pathetically. Though an Englishman, and only
arrived in the country a few years before, Don Juan was as clever with
the lazo as most Mexicans, and could _colear_ a bull in great style.
Indeed, we had started early that morning in order to have time enough
to look at the bulls in the _potreros_--the great grass-meadows--that
lie for miles outside the city, and which are made immensely fertile by
flooding from time to time. Wherever we saw a bull in the distance, Don
Juan and his grand little horse _Pancho_ plunged over a bank and
through a gap, and we after him. No one ever leaps anything in this
country, indeed the form of the saddle puts it out of the question. One
or two bulls looked up as we entered the enclosure, and bolted into
other fields, pushing in among the thorns of the aloes which formed
close hedges of fixed bayonets round the meadows. At last Don Juan cut
off the retreat of an old bull, and galloping after him like mad, flung
the running loop of the lazo over his horns, at the same time winding
the other end round the pummel of his saddle. The bull was still
standing on all four legs, pulling with all its might against Pancho.
Galloping after him, so as to slacken the end of the lazo, we contrived
to transfer it from Don Juan's saddle to mine. Now my own horse
happened to be a little lame, and I was riding a poor little black
beast whose bones really seemed to rattle in his skin. Our
acquaintances in the Paseo had been quite facetious about him,
recommending us to be careful and not to smoke up against him, for fear
we should blow him over, and otherwise whetting their wit upon him. He
acquitted himself very creditably, however, and when the bull began to
pull against him, he leant over on the other side, as if he had been
galloping round a circus; and the bull could not move him an inch. It
was quite evident that it was not his first experiment. In the mean
time Don Juan had dropped the noose of my lazo just before the bull's
nose, and presently that animal incautiously put his foot into it, when
Don Juan whipped it up round his leg and went off at full gallop. My
little black horse knew perfectly well what had happened, though his
head was exactly in the opposite direction; and he tugged with all his
might, and leant over more than ever. The two lazos tightened with a
twang, as though they had been guitar-strings; and in a moment the
unfortunate bull was rolling with all his legs in the air, in the midst
of a whirlwind of dust. Having thus humiliated him we let him go, and
off he went at full speed. All this time the proprietor of the field
was tranquilly standing on a bank, looking on. Far from raging at us
for treating his property in this free and easy manner, he returned our
salutation when we rode up to him, and, addressing our sporting
countryman, said, "Well done, old fellow, come another day and try
again."

Our whole ride to Tisapán was enlivened by a series of Don Juan's
exploits. He raced after bulls, got hold of their tails, and coleared
them over into the dust. He lazo'd everything in the road, from
milestones and trunks of trees upwards; and I shall never forget our
meeting with a great mule which was trotting along the road without a
burden,--just as he passed us, our companion slipped the noose round
his hind leg, and the beast went down as if he had been shot, the
muleteers pulling up on purpose to have a good open-mouthed laugh at
the incident.

We seemed to be in rather a sporting line that day, for, after our
return from Tisapán, Don Juan and I went to see a cockfight. In Mexico,
as in Cuba and all Spanish America, this is the favourite sport of the
people. In Cuba, the principal shopkeeper in every village keeps the
cockpit--the "_plaza de gallos_." The people from the whole district
round about come in on Sunday to the village, with a triple object;
_first_, to hear mass; _secondly_, to buy their supplies for the
ensuing week; and _thirdly_, to spend the afternoon in cockfighting, at
which amusement it is easy to win or lose two or three hundred pounds
in an afternoon. The custom that the cockpit brings to the shop more
than repays the proprietor for the expense and trouble of keeping it.
In Cuba, the spurs of the cock are artificially pointed by paring with
a penknife, but the Mexican way of arming them is even more abominable.

[Illustration: STEEL COCK-SPURS (8 inches long), WITH SHEATH AND
PADDING.]

Each bird has a sharp steel knife three or four inches long, just like
a little scythe-blade, fastened over the natural spur before the fight
commences. A leather sheath covers the weapon while the cocks are being
put into the ring, and held with their beaks almost touching till they
are furious. Then they are drawn back to opposite sides of the ring,
the sheaths are taken off, and they fly at one another, giving
desperate cuts with the steel blades.

The cockpit was a small round wooden shed, with the ring in the middle,
and circular benches round it, rising one above another. The place was
full of people, mostly Mexicans of the lower orders, smoking, betting,
and talking sporting-slang. The betting was surprising, when one
compared its amount with the appearance of the spectators, among whom
there was hardly a decent coat to be seen. Every now and then, a dirty
scoundrel in a shabby leather jacket would walk round the ring with a
handful of gold, offering the odds--ten to five, ten to seven, ten to
nine, or whatever they might be, in gold ounces, which coins are worth
above three pounds apiece.

Cockfighting is such a passion here that we thought it as well to see
it for once. Santa Ana, now he has retired from politics, spends his
time at Carthagena pretty much entirely in this his favourite sport,
which forms one of the great items among the pleasures and excitements
of a Mexican life. We saw a couple of mains fought, in which the
victorious birds were dreadfully mangled, while the vanquished were
literally cut to pieces; as much money changed hands as we should have
thought sufficient to buy up the whole of the people present, cockpit
and all. Then, being both agreed that it was a disgusting sight, we
went away.

Before we left Mexico we were taken by our man Antonio to a cutler's
shop, where the principal trade seemed to be the making of these
_cuchillos_ to arm the cocks with. We bought a couple of pairs of them,
and had them carefully fitted up. The old cutler was quite delighted,
and remarked that foreigners must acknowledge that there were some
things which were done better in Mexico than anywhere else. I fear we
left him under the pleasing impression that we were taking home the
blades to introduce as models in our own benighted country.

The Mexican is a great gambler. Bad fortune he bears with the greatest
equanimity. You never hear of his committing suicide after being ruined
at play; he just goes away, and sets to work to earn enough for a fresh
stake. The government have tried to put down gambling in the State of
Mexico, but not with much success. For three days in the year, however,
at the festival of San Agustín de las Cuevas, public gambling-tables
are tolerated, though soldiers and officials are strictly forbidden to
play, an injunction which they carefully set at nought. Oddly enough,
the government, while doing all it could to keep its own functionaries
away from the _monte_ table, did not scruple to send a military escort
to convoy the bankers with their bags of gold from Mexico to San
Agustín. On one of the three days, Mr. Christy and I went there. There
was a great crowd, this time mostly a well-dressed one, and the cockpit
was on a large scale. But of course the great attraction was the
_monte_, which was being played everywhere, the stakes in some places
being coppers, in others silver, while more aristocratic establishments
would allow no stake under a gold ounce. Dead silence prevailed in
these places, and the players seemed to pride themselves upon not
showing the slightest change in their countenances, whether they won or
lost. The game itself is very simple, and has some points of
resemblance to that of lansquenet, known in Europe. The first two cards
in the pack, say a four and a king, are laid down, face up, on the
table, and the gamblers put down their money against one or the other.
Then the _croupier_ deals the cards out slowly and solemnly one after
another, calling out their names as they fall, until he comes--say to a
king; when those who have betted on the king have their stakes doubled,
and the others lose theirs. The banker has a great advantage to
compensate him for his expense and risk. If the first card which is
thrown out be one of the two numbers on the table, the banker withholds
a quarter of the stake he would otherwise have lost, paying only a
stake and three-quarters, instead of two stakes. Now, as there are
forty cards in a Spanish pack, two of which have been already thrown
out, the chances for a throw favourable to the banker are about one in
six, so that he may reckon on an average profit of about two per cent,
on all the money staked.

As for the players, they sat round the table, carefully noticing the
course of the games, and regulating their play accordingly, as they do
at Baden-Baden and Hombourg. I suppose that now and then these
scientific calculators must be told that their whole theory of chances
is the most baseless delusion, but they certainly do not believe it;
and at any rate this curious pseudo-science of winning by skill at
games of pure chance will last our time, if not longer.

On some tables there were as much as three or four thousand gold
ounces. This struck us the more because we had often tried to get gold
coin for our own use, instead of the silver dollars, the general
currency of the country, of which twenty pounds' worth to carry home on
a hot day was enough to break one's heart. We often tried to get gold,
but the answer was always that what little there was in the country was
in the hands of the gamblers, whose operations could not be worked on a
large scale without it.

The prevalence of mining, as a means of getting wealth, has contributed
greatly to make the love of gambling an important part of the national
character. Silver-mining in the old times was a most hazardous
speculation, and people engaged in it used to make and lose great
fortunes a dozen times in their lives. The miners worked not on fixed
wages, but for a share of the produce, and so every man became a
gambler on his own account. To a great extent the same evils prevail
now, but two things have tended to lessen them. Poor ores are now
worked profitably which used to be neglected by the miners; and, as
these ores occur in almost inexhaustible masses, their mining is a much
less speculative affair than the old system of mining for rich veins.
Moreover, the men are, in some of the largest mines, paid by the day,
so that their life has become more regular. In many places, however,
the work is still done on shares by the miners, who pass their lives in
alternations of excessive riches and all kinds of extravagance,
succeeded by times of extreme poverty.

An acquaintance of ours was telling us one day about the lives of these
men. One week, a party of three miners had come upon a very rich bit of
ore, and went away from the _raya_, each man with a handkerchief full
of dollars. This was on Saturday evening. On Monday morning our
informant went out for a ride, and on the road he met three dirty
haggard-looking men, dressed in some old rags; one of the three came
forward, taking off the sort of apology for a hat which he had on, and
said, "Good morning, Señor Doctor, would you mind doing us the favour
of lending us half a dollar to get something to eat?" They were the
three successful miners; and when, a few days afterwards, the man who
had asked for the money came back to return it, the Doctor inquired
what had happened.

It seemed that the three, as soon as they had received their money on
Saturday, got a lift to the nearest town, and there rigged themselves
out with new clothes, silver buttons, five-pound serapes, and a horse
for each, with magnificent silver mountings to the saddle and spurs.
Here they have dinner, and lots of pulque, and swagger about outside
the door, smoking cigarettes. There, quite by chance, an acquaintance
meets them, and admires the horses, but would like to see their paces
tried a little outside the town. So they pace and gallop along for half
a mile or so; when, also quite accidentally, they find two men sitting
outside a rancho, playing at cards. The two men--strangely enough--are
old acquaintances of the curious friend, and they produce a bowl of
cool pulque from within, which our miners find quite refreshing after
the ride. Thereupon they sit down to have a little game at _monte_,
then more pulque, then more cards; and when they awake the next
morning, they find themselves possessed of a suit of old rags, with no
money in the pockets. They had dim recollections of losing--first
money, then horses, and lastly clothes, the night before; but--as they
were informed by the old woman, who was the only occupant of the place
besides themselves--their friends had been obliged to go away on urgent
business, and could not be so impolite as to disturb them. So they
walked back to the mines, ragged and hungry, and borrowed the doctor's
half-dollar.

[Illustration: LEATHER SANDALS, WORN BY THE NATIVE INDIANS.]



CHAPTER X.



TEZCUCO. MIRAFLORES. POPOCATEPETL. CHOLULA.



[Illustration: WALKING AND RIDING COSTUMES IN MEXICO. _(After Nebel.)_]

The wet season was fast coming on when we left Mexico for the last
time. We had to pass through Vera Cruz, where the rain and the yellow
fever generally set in together; so that to stay longer would have been
too great a risk.

Our first stage was to Tezcuco, across the lake in a canoe, just as we
had been before. We noticed on our way to the canoes, a church,
apparently from one to two centuries old, with the following doggerel
inscription in huge letters over the portico, which shows that the
dogma of the Immaculate Conception is by no means a recent institution
in Mexico:

     _Antes de entrar afirma con tu vida,
     S. Maria fué sin pecado concebida:_

Which may be translated into verse of equal quality,

     _Confess on thy life before coming in,
     That blessed Saint Mary was conceived without sin._

Nothing particular happened on our journey, except that a well-dressed
Mexican turned up at the landing-place, wanting a passage, and as we
had taken a canoe for ourselves, we offered to let him come with us. He
was a well-bred young man, speaking one or two languages besides his
own; and he presently informed us that he was going on a visit to a
rich old lady at Tezcuco, whose name was Doña Maria Lopez, or something
of the kind. When we drove away from the other end of the lake, towards
Tezcuco, we took him as far as the road leading to the old lady's
house; when he rather astonished us by hinting that he should like to
go on with us to the Casa Grande, and could walk back. At the same
time, it struck us that the youth, though so well dressed, had no
luggage; and we began to understand the queer expression of the
coachman's face when he saw him get into the carriage with us. So we
stopped at the corner of the road, and the young gentleman had to get
out.

At the Casa Grande, our friends laughed at us immensely when we told
them of the incident, and offered us twenty to one that he would come
to ask for money within twenty-four hours. He came the same evening,
and brought a wonderful story about his passport not being _en règle_,
and that unless we could lend him ten dollars to bribe the police, he
should be in a dreadful scrape. We referred him to the master of the
house, who said something to him which caused him to depart
precipitately, and we never saw him again; but we heard afterwards that
he had been to the other foreigners in the neighbourhood with various
histories. We made more enquiries about him in the town, and it
appeared that his expedition to Tezcuco was improvised when he saw us
going down to the boat, and of course the visit to the rich old lady
was purely imaginary. Now this youth was not more than eighteen, and
looked and spoke like a gentleman. They say that the class he belonged
to is to be counted rather by thousands than by hundreds in Mexico.
They are the children of white Creoles, or nearly white mestizos; they
get a superficial education and the art of dressing, and with this
slender capital go out into the world to live by their wits, until they
get a government appointment or set up as political adventurers, and so
have a chance of helping themselves out of the public purse, which is
naturally easier and more profitable than mere sponging upon
individuals. One gets to understand the course of Mexican affairs much
better by knowing what sort of raw material the politicians are
recruited from.

We saw some good things in a small collection of antiquities, on this
second visit to Tezcuco. Among them was a nude female figure in
alabaster, four or five feet high, and--comparatively speaking--of high
artistic merit. Such figures are not common in Mexico, and they are
supposed to represent the Aztec Venus, who was called _Tlazolteocihua_,
"Goddess of Pleasure." A figure, laboriously cut in hard stone,
representing a man wearing a jackal's head as a mask, was supposed to
be a figurative representation of the celebrated king of Tezcuco,
_Nezahualcoyotl_, "hungry jackal," of whom Mexican history relates that
he walked about the streets of his capital in disguise, after the
manner of the Caliph in the Arabian Nights. The explanation is
plausible, but I think not correct. The _coyote_ or jackal was a sacred
animal among the Aztecs, as the Anubis-jackal was among the Egyptians.
Humboldt found in Mexico the tomb of a coyote, which had been carefully
interred with an earthen vase, and a number of the little cast-bronze
bells which I noticed in the last chapter. The Mexicans used actually
to make a kind of fetish--or charm--of a jackal's skin, prepared in a
peculiar way, and called by the same name, _nezahualcoyotl_, and very
likely they do so still. From this fetish the king's name was, no
doubt, borrowed; and it is not improbable that the whole story of the
king's walking in disguise may have grown up out of his name being the
same as that of the figure we saw, muffled up in a jackal's skin.

It is curious that the jackal, or the human figure in a jackal-mask,
should have been an object of superstitious veneration both in Mexico
and in Egypt. This, the extraordinary serpent-crown of Xochicalco, and
the pyramids, are the three most striking resemblances to be found
between the two countries; all probably accidental, but not the less
noteworthy on that account.

The collection contained a number of spherical beads in green jade,
highly polished, and some as large as pigeon's eggs. They were found in
an alabaster box, of such elaborate and beautiful workmanship that the
owner deemed it worthy to be presented as a sort of peace-offering to
the wife of President Santa Ana.

The word _coyotl_ in the name of the Tezcucan king is the present word
_coyote_--a jackal. Though unknown in English, it has passed, with
several Spanish words, into what we may call the American dialect of
our language. Prairie-hunters and Californians have introduced several
other words in this way, such as _ranch_, _gulch, corral_, &c.

The word _lariat_ one is constantly meeting with in books about
American prairies. A horse-rope, or a lazo, is called in Spanish
_reata_; and, by absorbing the article, _la reata_ is made into lariat,
just as such words as _alligator_, _alcove_, and _pyramid_ were formed.
The flexible leather riding-whip or _cuarta_ is apparently the _quirt_
that some American politicians use in arguing with their opponents.

Our last day at Tezcuco was spent in packing up antiquities to be sent
to England, the express orders of the Government against such
exportation to the contrary notwithstanding. Next morning we rode off
to Miraflores, passing on our way the curious stratum of alluvial soil
containing pottery, &c., which I have described already. Miraflores is
a cotton-factory, in the opening of a picturesque gorge just at the
edge of the plain of Mexico. The machinery is American, for the mill
dates from the time when it was considered expedient to prohibit the
exportation of cotton-mill machinery from England; and having begun
with American work, it naturally suits them to go on with it. It is
driven by a great Barker's mill, which works in a sort of well, having
an outlet into the valley, and roars as though it would tear the place
down. It is not common to see this kind of machine working on a large
scale; but here, with a great fall of water, it does very well.
Otherwise the place was like an ordinary cotton-factory, and one cannot
be surprised at people thinking that such establishments are a source
of prosperity to the country. They see a population hard at work and
getting good wages, masters making great profits, and no end of bales
going off to town; and do not consider that half the price of the cloth
is wasted, and that the protection-duty sets the people to work which
they cannot do to advantage, while it takes them away from occupations
which their country is fit for.

Next morning took us to Amecameca, a town in a little plain at the foot
of Popocatepetl, whose snow-covered top towers high up in the clouds,
like Mont Blanc over Sallanches. We had at one time cherished hopes of
getting to the top of this grand volcano, but had heard such frightful
reports of difficulties and dangers that we had concluded not to do
more than look at it from a distance, the more especially as there had
been a heavy fall of snow upon it a day or two before. We presented our
letter to the Spaniard who kept the great shop at Amecameca, and asked
him, casually, about the mountain. He assured us that the surface of
the snow would be frozen over, and that instead of being a disadvantage
the fall of snow was in our favour, for it was easier to climb over
frozen snow than up a loose heap of volcanic ashes. So we sent for the
guide, a big man, who used to manage the sulphur-workings in the crater
until that undertaking was given up. He set to work to get things ready
for the expedition, and we strolled out for a walk.

Close by the town is a "sacred mount," with little stations, and on one
day in the year numbers of pilgrims come to visit the place. Near the
top, the Indian lad who came with us showed us the mouth of a cavern,
which leads by subterranean passages under the sea to Rome--as caverns
not unfrequently do in Roman Catholic countries! What was more worth
noticing was that here there was a cypress-tree, covered with votive
offerings, like the great ahuchuete in the valley above Chalma; so that
it is likely that the place was sacred long before chapels and stations
were built upon it. Our guide told us that whenever a man touched the
tree, all feeling of weariness left him. How characteristic this
superstition is of a nation of carriers of burdens!

In the afternoon we started--ourselves, our guide, and an Indian to
carry cloaks, &c. up the mountain. We soon left the cultivated region,
and entered upon the pine-forest, which we never left during our
afternoon journey. One of the first showers of the rainy season came
down upon us as we rode through the forest. It only lasted half an
hour, but it was a deluge. In a shower of the same kind at Tezcuco, a
day or two before, rain to the amount of 1-1/10 inches fell in the
hour. By dusk we reached the highest habitation in North America, the
place where the sulphur used to be sublimed from the pumice brought
down from the crater. This place was shut up, for the undertaking has
been abandoned; but in a _rancho_ close by we found some Indian women
and children, and there we took up our quarters. The _rancho_ was a
circular hut, built and thatched with reeds, though in the midst of a
pine-forest; and presently a smart shower began, which came in upon us
as though the roof had been a sieve.

The Indian women were kneeling all the evening round the wood-fire in
the centre of the hut, baking _tortillas_ and boiling beans and coffee
in earthen pots. The wood was green, and the place was full of
suffocating smoke, except within eighteen inches of the ground, where
lay a stratum of purer air. We were obliged to lie down at once, upon
mats and serapes, for we could not exist in the smoke; and as often as
we raised ourselves into a sitting posture, we had to dive down again,
half suffocated. The line of demarcation was so accurately drawn that
it was like the Grotto del Cane, only reversed.

After a primitive supper in earthen bowls, we lay round the fire,
listening to the talk of our men and the Indian women. It was mostly
about adventures with wolves, and about the sulphur-workings, now
discontinued. The weather had cleared, and as we lay we could see the
stars shining in through the roof. About three in the morning I awoke,
feeling bruised all over, as was natural after sleeping on a mat on the
ground. Moreover, the fire had gone out, and it was horribly cold, as
well it might be at 13,000 feet above the sea. I shook some one up to
make up the fire, and went out into the open air. It was nearly full
moon; but the moonlight was very different from what we can see in
England, even on the clearest nights. On the plateau of Mexico, the
rarity and dryness of the air are such that distant objects are seen
far more distinctly than at the level of the sea, and the European
traveller's measurements of distance by the eye are always too small.
The sunlight and moonlight, for the same reason, are more intense than
at lower levels. Here, at about the same elevation as the top of the
Jungfrau, the effect was far more striking, and I shall never forget
the brilliant flood of light that illuminated that grand scene. Far
down below I could see the plain, with houses and fields dimly visible.
At the bottom of the slope began the dark pine-forest, which enveloped
the mountains up to the level at which I stood, and there broke into an
uneven line, with straggling patches running up a few hundred feet
higher in sheltered crevices. Above the forest came a region of bare
volcanic sand, and then began the snow. The highest peak no longer
looked steep and pointed as from below, but seemed to rise from the
darker line of sand in a gentle swelling curve up into the sky. There
did not seem to be a speck or a wrinkle on this smooth snowy dome, the
brilliant whiteness of which contrasted so wonderfully with the dark
pine-forest below.

About seven in the morning we started on horseback, rode up across the
sandy district, and entered upon the snow. After we left the pines,
small bushes and tufts of coarse Alpine grass succeeded. Where rocks of
basaltic lava stood out from the heaps of crumbling ashes, after the
grass had ceased, lichens--the occupants of the highest zone--were
still to be seen. Before we reached the snow, we were in the midst of
utter desolation, where no sign of life was visible. From this point we
sent back the horses, and started for the ascent of the cone. On our
yesterday's ride we had cut young pine-trees in the forest, for
alpenstocks; and we tied silk handkerchiefs completely over our faces,
to keep off the glare of the sun. Our guide did the same; but the
Indian, who had been many times before up to the crater to get sulphur,
had brought no protection for his face. We marched in a line, the guide
first, sounding the depth of the snow with his pole, and keeping as
nearly as he could along ridges just covered with snow, where we did
not sink far. It was from the lower part of the snow that we began to
understand the magnificent proportions of Iztaccihuatl--the "White
Woman," the twin mountain which is connected with Popocatepetl by an
immense col, which stretches across below the snow-line. This mountain
is not conical like Popocatepetl, but its shoulders are broader, and
break into grand peaks, like some of the _Dents_ of Switzerland, and it
has no crater.[22] Indeed, the two mountains, joined together like
Siamese twins, look as though they had been set up, side by side, to
illustrate the two contending theories of the formation of volcanos.
Von Buch and Humboldt might have made Iztaccihuatl on the "upheaval
theory," by a force pushing up from below, without breaking through the
crust to form a crater; while Poulett Scrope was building Popocatepetl
on the "accumulation theory," by throwing up lava and volcanic ashes
out of an open vent, until he had formed a conical heap some five
thousand feet high, with a great crater at the top.

As we toiled slowly up the snow, we took off our veils from time to
time, to look more clearly about us. The glare of the sun upon the snow
was dazzling, and its intense whiteness contrasted wonderfully with the
cloudless dark indigo-blue of the sky. Between twelve and one we
reached the edge of the crater, 17,884 feet above the sea. The ridge
upon which we stood was only a few feet wide, and covered with snow;
but it seemed that there was still heat enough to keep the crater
itself clear, for none lay on the bottom, or in clefts on the steep
sides.

The crater was oval, full a mile in its longest diameter, and perhaps
700 to 800 feet in depth; and its almost perpendicular walls of
basaltic lava are covered with red and yellow patches of sublimed
sulphur. We climbed a little way down into it to get protection from
the wind, but to descend further unassisted was not possible, so we sat
there, with our legs dangling down into the abyss. Part of the
_malacate_, or winder, used by the Indians in descending, was still
there; but it was not complete, and even if it had been, so many months
had elapsed since it was last used that we should not have cared to try
it. It consisted of a rope of hide, descending into the bottom of the
crater in a slanting direction; and the sulphur-collectors were lowered
and drawn up it by a windlass, in a basket to which another rope was
attached. A few years back, the volcano used to send up showers of
ashes, and even large stones; but now it has sunk to the condition of a
mere _solfatara_, sending out, from two crevices in the floor, great
volumes of sulphurous acid and steam, with a loud roaring noise. The
sulphur-working merely consisted in looking for places where the
pumice-stone was fully impregnated with sulphur, and breaking out
pieces, which were hauled up in the basket. The chief risk which the
labourers ran was from the terrific snow-storms, which come on suddenly
and without the slightest notice. Men at work collecting sulphur have
once or twice been caught by such storms in parts of the crater at a
distance from the rope, and buried in the snow.

The appearance of the "White Woman," but little lower than the point
where we stood, was very grand, but all other objects looked small. The
two great plains of Mexico and Puebla, with their lakes and towns, were
laid out like a map; and the ranges of mountains which hem them in made
them look like Roman encampments surrounded by earthworks. Even now
that the lakes have shrunk to a fraction of their former size, we could
see the fitness of the name given in old times to the Valley of Mexico,
_Anahuac_, that is, "By the Water-side." The peaks of Orizaba and
Perote were conspicuous to the east; to the north lay the
silver-mountains of Pachuca; and to the south-west a darker shade of
green indicated the forests and plantations of the _tierra caliente_,
below Cuernavaca.

It was a novel sensation to be at an altitude where the barometer
stands at 15-1/2 inches, so that the pressure on our lungs was hardly
more than one-half what we are accustomed to in England; but we did not
experience much inconvenience from it. The last thousand feet or so had
been very hard work, and we were obliged to stop every few steps, but
on the comparatively level edge of the crater we felt no difficulty in
moving about.

_Popocatepetl_ means "Smoking Mountain." The Indians naturally enough
considered it to be the abode of evil spirits, and told Cortes and his
companions that they could never reach the top. One of the Spaniards,
Diego Ordaz, tried to climb to the summit, and got as far as the snow;
whereupon he returned, and got permission to put a burning mountain in
his coat of arms, in commemoration of the exploit! If, as he declared,
a high wind was blowing, and showers of ashes falling, his turning back
was excusable, though his bragging was not. He seems to have afterwards
told Bernal Diaz that he got to the top, which we know, by Cortes'
letters to Spain, was not true. A few years later, Francesco Montano
went up, and was lowered into the crater to get sulphur. When Humboldt
relates the story, in his _New Spain_, he seems incredulous about this;
but since the _Essai Politique_ was written the same thing has been
regularly done by the Indians, as the merest matter of business, until
the crater has been fairly worked out.

We took our last look at Mexico from the ridge of the crater, and,
descending twenty feet at a stride, soon reached the bottom of the
cone. As far as we could see, the substance of the hill seemed to be of
basaltic lava, which was mostly covered with the _lapilli_ which I have
spoken of before as ashes and volcanic sand. Even before we reached the
pine-forest there was evidence of the action of water, which had
covered the slope of the mountain with beds of thick compact tufa,
composed of these lapilli mixed with fragments of lava. The
water-courses had cut deep channels through these beds, and down into
the rock below; so that the streams from the melted snow rushed down
between walls of lava, in which traces of columnar structure were
observable.

The snow we had travelled over was sometimes dry and powdery, and
sometimes hard and compact. There were no glaciers, and no glacier-ice,
properly so called. It never rains at this elevation; and, though
evaporation goes on rapidly with half the pressure taken off the air,
and a great increase in the intensity of the sun's rays, the snow
either passes directly into vapour, or carries the water off
instantaneously, as it is formed. Only so much water seems to be
produced and re-frozen as suffices to make the snow hard, and in some
favourable places near the rocks to form lumps of ice, and some of
those great icicles which the Spaniards brought down from the mountain
on their first expedition, so greatly astonishing their companions.

When we reached the rancho we thought of passing another night there;
but the Indians who had gone down to the valley for corn had not
returned, and everything was eaten up except beans, which are all very
well as accessories to dinner, but our English digestions could not
stand living upon them; so we started at once for San Nícolas de los
Ranchos. Our ride was down a deep ravine, by the side of a
mountain-torrent coming down from the snows of Popocatepetl; and, when
we stopped now and then to look behind us, we had one of the grandest
views which I have ever witnessed. The elements of the picture were
simple enough. A deep gorge at our feet, with a fierce torrent rushing
down it, dark pine-trees all round us, and above us--on either side--a
snow-covered mountain towering up into the sky. We were just in the
track of the Spanish invaders, who crossed most likely by this very
road between the two volcanos; and they record the amazement which they
felt that in the tropics snow should be unmelted upon the mountains.

A few hours riding down the steep descent, and we were in the flat
plain of Puebla. There were our two mountains behind us, but now they
looked as we had so often seen them before from a distance. The power
of realizing their size was gone, and with it most of their grandeur
and beauty. Nothing was left us but a vivid recollection of the
wonderful scenes that were before us a few hours ago, impressions not
likely to be ever effaced from our minds, where the picture of the
great snowy cone seen in the bright moonlight, and the descent between
the mountains, remain indelibly impressed as the types of all that is
most grand and impressive in the scenery of lofty mountains.

We slept at San Nícolas de los Ranches, "St. Nicholas of the huts,"
where the shopkeeper, to whom we had a letter, insisted upon turning
out of his own room for us, and treated us like princes. The reason of
our often being provided with letters to the shopkeepers in small
places, was, that they are the only people who have houses fit for
entertaining travellers. Many of them are very rich, and in the United
States they would call themselves merchants. Next morning our Indian
carrier, who had ascended the mountain without a veil, was brought in
by our guide, a pitiful object. All the skin of his face was peeling
off, and his eyes were frightfully inflamed, so that he was all but
blind, and had to be led about. Fortunately, this blindness only lasts
for a time, and no doubt he got well in a few days.

We rode through the plain to Cholula. Our number was now four; for,
besides Antonio, we had engaged another servant a few days before. We
wanted some one who knew this district well; and when a friend of ours
mentioned that there was a young man to be had who had a good horse and
was a smuggler by profession, we engaged him directly, and he proved a
great acquisition. Of course, from the nature of his trade, he knew
every bypath between Mexico and the tobacco-districts towards which we
were going; he was always ready with an expedient whenever there was a
difficulty, he was never tired and never out of temper. As for the
morality of his peculiar profession, it probably does harm to the
honesty of the people; but, considering it as a question of abstract
justice, we must remember that almost the whole of the taxes which the
Mexicans are compelled to pay to the general government are utterly
wasted upon paying officials who do nothing but intrigue, and keeping
up armies which--far from being a protection to life and property--are
a permanent and most destructive nuisance. The contract between
government and subject ought to be a two-sided one; and when the
government so entirely misuses the taxes paid by the people, I am quite
inclined to sympathize with the subjects who will not pay them if they
can help it.

We scarcely entered the town of Cholula, which is a poor place now,
though it was a great city at the time of the Spanish Conquest. The
Spanish city of Puebla, only a few miles off, quite ruined it.

We went straight to the great pyramid, which lies close to the town,
and which had been rising before us like a hill during the last miles
of our journey. This extraordinary structure is perhaps the oldest ruin
in Mexico, and certainly the largest. A close examination of its
structure in places where the outline is still to some extent
preserved, and a comparison of it with better preserved structures of
the same kind, make it quite clear that it was a terraced _teocalli_,
resembling the drawing called the "Pyramid of Cholula," in Humboldt's
_Vues des Cordillères_. But let no one imagine that the well-defined
and symmetrical structure represented in that drawing is in the least
like what we saw, and from which Humboldt made the rough sketch, which
he and his artist afterwards "idealized" for his great work. At the
present day, the appearance of the structure is that of a shapeless
tree-grown hill; and until the traveller comes quite close to it he may
be excused for not believing that it is an artificial mound at all.

The pyramid is built of rows of bricks baked in the sun, and cemented
together with mortar in which had been stuck quantities of small
stones, fragments of pottery, and bits of obsidian knives and weapons.
Between rows of bricks are alternate layers of clay. It was built in
four terraces, of which traces are still to be distinguished; and is
about 200 feet high. Upon the platform at the top stand some trees and
a church. The sides front the four cardinal points, and the base line
is of immense length, over thirteen hundred feet, so that the ascent is
very gradual.

When we reached Cholula we sent the two men to enquire in the
neighbourhood for antiquities, of which numbers are to be found in
every ploughed field round. At the top of the pyramid we held a market,
and got some curious things, all of small size however. Among them was
a mould for making little jackal-heads in the clay, ready for baking;
the little earthen heads which are found in such quantities in the
country being evidently made by wholesale in moulds of this kind, not
modelled separately. We got also several terra-cotta stamps, used in
old times for stamping coloured patterns upon the native cloth, and
perhaps also for ornamenting vases and other articles of earthenware.
Cholula used to be a famous place for making pottery, and its
red-and-black ware was famous at the time of the Conquest, but the
trade now seems to have left it. We were struck by observing that,
though there was plenty of coloured pottery to be found in the
neighbourhood of the pyramid, the pyramid itself had only fragments of
uncoloured ware imbedded in its structure; which seems to prove that it
was built before the art of colouring pottery was invented.

They have cut a road through one corner of the pyramid, and this
cutting exposed a chamber within. Humboldt describes this chamber as
roofed with blocks, each overlapping the one before, till they can be
made to meet by a block of ordinary size. This is the false arch so
common in Egypt and Peru, and in the ruined cities of Central America.
Every child who builds houses with a box of bricks discovers it for
himself. The bridge at Tezcuco, already described, is much more
remarkable in its structure. Whether our inspection was careless, or
whether the chamber has fallen in since Humboldt's time, I cannot say,
but we missed this peculiar roof.

There are several legends about the Pyramid of Cholula. That recorded
by Humboldt on the authority of a certain Dominican friar, Pedro de los
Rios, I mention--not because of its intrinsic value, which is very
slight, but because it will enable us to see the way in which legends
grew up under the hands of the early missionaries, who were delighted
to find fragments of Scripture-history among the traditions of the
Ancient Mexicans, and who seem to have taken down from the lips of
their converts, as native traditions, the very Bible-stories that they
had been teaching them, mixed however with other details, of which it
is hard to say whether they were imagined on purpose to fill up gaps in
the story, or whether they were really of native traditional origin.

Pedro de los Rios' story tells us that the land of Anahuac was
inhabited by giants; that there was a great deluge, which devastated
the earth; that all the inhabitants were turned into fishes, except
seven who took refuge in a cave (apparently with their wives). Years
after the waters had subsided, and the earth had been re-peopled by
these seven men, their leader began to build a vast pyramid, whose top
should reach to heaven. He built it of bricks baked in the sun, which
were brought from a great distance, passing them from hand to hand by a
file of men. The gods were enraged at the presumption of these men, and
they sent down fire from heaven upon the pyramid, which caused its
building to be discontinued. It is stated that at the time of the
Spanish Conquest, the inhabitants of Cholula preserved with great
veneration a large aerolite, which they said was the thunderbolt that
fell upon the top of the pyramid when the fire struck it.

The history of the confusion of tongues seems also to have existed in
the country, not long after the Conquest, having very probably been
learnt from the missionaries; but it does not seem to have been
connected with the Tower-of-Babel legend of Cholula. Something like it
at least appears in the Gemelli table of Mexican migrations, reproduced
in Humboldt, where a bird in a tree is sending down a number of tongues
to a crowd of men standing below.

I think we need not hesitate in condemning the legend of Cholula, which
I have just related, as not genuine, or at least as partly of late
fabrication. But we fortunately possess another version of it, which
shows the legend to have developed itself farther than was quite
discreet. A MS. history, written by Duran in 1579, and quoted by the
Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg, relates that people built the pyramid to
reach heaven, finding clay or mud _("terre glaise")_ and a very sticky
_bitumen ("bitume fort gluant")_, with which they began at once to
build, &c. This is evidently the slime or bitumen of the Book of
Genesis; but I believe I may safely assert that the Mexicans never used
bitumen for any such purpose, and that it is not found anywhere near
Cholula.

The Aztec historians ascribe the building of the Pyramid of Cholula to
the prophet Quetzalcoatl. The legends which relate to this celebrated
personage are to be found in writers on Mexican history, and, more
fully than elsewhere, in the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg's work.

I am inclined to consider Quetzalcoatl a real personage, and not a
mythical one. He is said to have been a white, bearded man, to have
come from the East, to have reigned in Tollan, and to have been driven
out from thence by the votaries of human sacrifices, which he opposed.
He took refuge in Cholollan, now called Cholula (which means the "place
of the fugitive"), and taught the inhabitants to work in metals, to
observe various fasts and festivals, to use the Toltec calendar of days
and years, and to perform penance to appease the gods.

A relic of the father of Quetzalcoatl is said to have been kept until
after the Spanish Conquest, when it was opened, and found to contain a
quantity of fair human hair. The prophet himself departed from Cholula,
and put to sea in a canoe, promising to return. So strong was the
belief in the tradition of these events among the Aztecs, that when the
Spaniards appeared on the coast, they were supposed to be of the race
of the prophet, and the strange conduct of Montezuma to Cortes is to be
ascribed to the influence of this belief.

There is a singular legend, mentioned by the Abbé Brasseur de
Bourbourg, of a white man, with a hooded robe and white beard, bearing
a cross in his hand, who lands at Tehuantepec (on the Pacific coast of
Mexico), and introduces among the Indians auricular confession,
penance, and vows of chastity.

The coming of white, bearded men from the East, centuries before the
Spanish invasion in the 16th century, and the introduction of new arts
and rites by them in Mexico, is as certain as most historical events of
which we have only legendary knowledge. As to who they were I cannot
offer an opinion. There are, however, one or two points connected with
the presence of the Irish and Northmen in America in the 9th and
following centuries--a period not very far from that ascribed to
Quetzalcoatl--which are worthy of notice.

The Scandinavian antiquarians make the "white-man's land"
_(Hvitramannaland)_ extend down as far as Florida, on the very Gulf of
Mexico. It is curious to notice the coincidence between the remark of
Bernal Diaz, that the Mexicans called their priests _papa_ (more
properly _papahua_), and that in the old Norse Chronicle, which tells
of the first colonization of Iceland by the Northmen, and relates that
they found living there "Christian men whom the Northmen call _Papa_."
These latter are shown by the context to have been Irish priests. The
Aztec root _teo (teo-tl, God)_ comes nearer to the Greek and Latin, but
is not unlike the Irish _dia_, and the Norse _ty-r_. The Aztec root
_col_ (charcoal) is exactly the Norse _kol_ (our word _coat_), but not
so near to the Irish _gual_. It is desirable to notice such
coincidences, even when they are too slight to ground an argument upon.

This seems to be the proper place to mention the many Christian
analogies to be found in the customs of the ancient Aztecs.

Children were sprinkled with water when their names were given to them.
This is certainly true, though the statement that they believed that
the process purified them from original sin is probably a monkish
fiction. Water was consecrated by the priests, and was supposed thus to
acquire magical qualities. In the coronation of kings, anointing was
part of the ceremony, as well as the use of holy water. The festival of
All Souls' Day reminds us of the Aztec feasts of the Dead in the autumn
of each year; and in Mexico the Indians still keep up some of their old
rites on that day. There was a singular rite observed by the Aztecs,
which they called the _teoqualo_, that is, "the eating of the god." A
figure of one of their gods was made in dough, and after certain
ceremonies they made a pretence of killing it, and divided it into
morsels, which were eaten by the votaries as a kind of sacred food.

We may add to the list the habitual use of incense in the ceremonies:
the existence of monasteries and nunneries, in which the monks wore
long hair, but the nuns had their hair cut off: and the use of the
cross as a religious emblem in Mexico and Central America.

Less certain is the recorded use of knotted scourges in performing
penance, and the existence of a peculiar kind of auricular confession.

It is difficult to ascribe this mass of coincidences to mere chance,
and not to see in them traces of connexion, more or less remote, with
Christians. Perhaps these peculiar rites came, with the Mexican system
of astronomy, from Asia; or perhaps the white, bearded men from the
East may have brought them. It is true that such a supposition runs
quite counter to the argument founded on the ignorance of the Mexicans
of common arts known in Europe and Asia. We should have expected
Christian missionaries to have brought with them the knowledge of the
use of iron, and the alphabet. Perhaps our increasing knowledge of the
ancient Mexicans may some day allow us to adopt a theory which shall at
least have the merit of being consistent with itself; but at present
this seems impossible.



CHAPTER XI.



PUEBLA. NOPALUCÁN. ORIZABA. POTRERO.



[Illustration: VIEW OF THE VOLCANO ORIZABA.]

We reached Puebla in the afternoon, and found it a fine Spanish city,
with straight streets of handsome stone houses, and paved with
flag-stones. We rather wondered at the _pasadizos_, a kind of arched
stone-pavement across the streets at short intervals, very much
impeding the progress of the carriages, which had to go up and down
them upon inclined planes. In the evening we saw the use of them
however, for a shower of rain came down which turned every street into
a furious river within five minutes after the first drop fell. For half
an hour the pasadizos did their duty, letting the water pass through
underneath, while passengers could get across the streets dryshod. At
last, the flood swept clear along, over bridges and all; but this only
lasted a few minutes, and then the way was practicable again. The
moveable iron bridges on wheels, which are to be seen standing in the
streets of Sicilian cities, ready to be wheeled across them for the
benefit of foot-passengers whenever the carriage-way is flooded, are on
the whole a better arrangement.

We should never have thought, from looking at Puebla, that it had just
been undergoing a siege; for, beyond a few patches of whitewash in the
great square, where the cannon-balls had knocked the houses about,
there were no traces of it.

We made many enquiries about the siege, and found nothing to invalidate
our former estimate of twenty-five killed,--one per cent of the number
stated in the government manifestos. Among the casualties we heard of
an Englishman who went out to see the fun, and was wounded in a
particularly ignominious manner as he was going back to his house.

Revolutions and sieges form curious episodes in the life of the foreign
merchants in the Republic. Their trade is flourishing, perhaps,--plenty
of buyers and good prices; and hundreds of mules are on the road,
bringing up their wares from the coast. All at once there is a
pronunciamiento. The street-walls are covered with proclamations. Half
the army takes one side, half the other; and crowds of volunteers and
self-made officers join them, in the hope of present pillage or future
emolument. Barricades appear in the streets; and at intervals there is
to be heard the roaring of cannon, and desultory firing of musketry
from the flat roofs, killing a peaceable citizen now and then, but
doing little execution on the enemy.

Trade comes to a dead stop. Our merchant gets his house well furnished
with provisions, shuts the outer shutters, locks up the great gates,
and retires into seclusion for a week or a fortnight, or a month or
two, as may be. At the time we were there he used to run no great risk,
for neither party was hostile to him; and if a stray cannon-ball did
hit his house, or the insurgents shot his cook going out on an
expedition in search of fresh beef, it was only by accident.

Having no business to do, the counting-house would probably take stock,
and balance the books; but when this is finished there is little to be
done but to practice pistol-shooting and hold tournaments in the
court-yard, and to teach the horses to rayar; while the head of the
house sits moodily smoking in his arm-chair, reckoning up how many of
his debtors would be ruined, and wondering whether the loaded mules
with his goods had got into shelter, or had been seized by one party or
the other.

At last the revolution is over. The new president is inaugurated with
pompous speeches. The newspapers announce that now the glorious reign
of justice, order, and prosperity has begun at last. If the millennium
had come, they could not make much more talk about it. Our unfortunate
friend, coming out of his den only to hear dismal news of runaway
debtors and confiscated bales, has to illuminate his house, and set to
getting his affairs into something like order again.

Since we left the country things have got even worse. Formerly, all
that the foreign merchants had to suffer were the incidental miseries
of a state of civil war. Now, the revolutionary leaders put them in
prison; and, if threats are not sufficient, they get forced loans out
of them, much as King John did out of his Jews.

Even in times of peace, foreign goods must be dear in Mexico. In a
country where they have to be carried nearly three hundred miles on
mules' backs, and where credit is so long that the merchant can never
hope to see his money again in less than two years, he cannot be
expected to sell very cheaply. But the continual revolutions and the
insecurity of property make things far worse, and one almost wonders
how foreign trade can go on at all.

One of our friends in Mexico had three or four hundred mules coming up
the country laden with American cotton for his mill, just when Haro's
revolution began. He got off much better than most people, however;
for, greatly to the disgust of the legitimate authorities, he went down
into the enemy's camp, and gave the revolutionary chief a dollar a bale
to let them go.

As may be supposed, commercial transactions have often very curious
features here. Strange things happen in the eastern states; but people
there say that they are nothing to the doings on the Pacific coast,
where the merchants get up a revolution when their ships appear in the
offing, and turn out the Custom-house officers, who do not enter upon
their functions again until the rich cargos have started for the
interior.

One little incident, which happened---I think--at Vera Cruz, rather
amused us. When the Government is hard-up, a favourite way of raising
ready money is to sell--of course at a very low price--orders upon the
Custom-house, to pass certain quantities of goods, duty-free. Such a
transaction as this was concluded between the Minister of Finance and a
merchant's house who gave hard dollars in exchange for an order to pass
so many hundred bales of cotton, free of duty. When the ship arrived at
port, however, the Yankee captain brought in his manifest with a broad
grin upon his face. The inspectors went down to the ship, and stood
aghast. There were the bales of cotton, but such bales! They had to be
shoved and coaxed to get them up through the hatchways at all. The
Customhouse officials protested in vain. The order was for so many
bales of cotton, and these overgrown monsters were bales of cotton, and
the merchants sent them up to Mexico in triumph.

To us, Puebla was not an interesting city. It was built by the
Spaniards, and called _Puebla de los Angeles_, because angels assisted
in building the cathedral, which does no great credit to their good
taste. Its costly ornaments of gold, silver, jewels, and variegated
marbles, are most extraordinary. One does not know which to wonder at
most, the value and beauty of the materials, or the unmitigated
ugliness of the designs.

We saw the festival of Corpus Christi while we were in Puebla; but were
to a certain extent disappointed in the display of plate and jewelled
vestments for the clergy, whose attempt to overthrow Comonfort's
government had only resulted in themselves being heavily fined, and who
were in consequence keeping their wealth in the background, and making
as little display as possible. The most interesting part of the
ceremonial to us was to see the processions of Indians from the
surrounding villages, walking crowned with flowers, and carrying
Madonnas in bowers of green branches and blossoms.

At the head of each procession walked an Indian beating a drum, _tap,
tap, tap_, without a vestige of time. The other processions with stoles
and canopies, and the officials of the city in dress-coats and yellow
kid gloves, were paltry affairs enough.

Neither during this ceremonial, nor at Easter in the Capital were any
miracles exhibited, like the performances of the Madonna at Palermo,
which the coachmen of the city carry about at Easter, weeping real
tears into a cambric pocket-handkerchief; nor is anything done in the
country like the lighting of the Greek fire, or the melting of the
blood of St. Januarius.

Puebla pretty much belongs to the clergy, who are paramount there. A
population of some sixty thousand has seventy-two churches, some of
them very large. It is the focus of the church-party, whose steady
powerful resistance to reform is one of the causes of the unhappy
political state of the country. As is usual in cathedral-towns, the
morality of the people is rather lower than elsewhere. I have said
already that the revenues of the Mexican Church are very large. Tejada
estimates the income at twenty millions of dollars yearly, more than
the whole revenue of the State; but this calculation far exceeds that
given by any other authority. He remarks that the Church has always
tried as much as possible to conceal its riches, and probably he makes
a very large allowance for this. At any rate, I think we may reasonably
estimate the annual income of the Church at $10,000,000, or £2,000,000,
two-thirds of the income of the State.

There is nothing extraordinary in the Church having become very rich by
the accumulations of three centuries in a Spanish colony, where the
manners and customs remained in the 18th century to a great extent as
they were in the 16th, and the practice of giving and leaving great
properties to the Church was in full vigour--long after it had declined
in Europe. It is considered that half the city of Mexico belongs to the
Church. This seems an extraordinary statement; but, if we remember that
in Philip the Second's time half the freehold property of Spain
belonged to the Church, we shall cease to wonder at this. The
extraordinary feature of the case is that, counting both secular and
regular clergy, there are only 4600 ecclesiastics in the country. The
number has been steadily decreasing for years. In 1826 it was 6,000; in
1844 it had fallen to 5,200, in 1856 to 4,600, giving, on the lowest
reckoning, an average of over £200 a year for each priest and monk. A
great part of this income is probably left to accumulate; but, when we
remember that the pay of the country curas is very small, often not
more than £30 to £50, there must be fine incomes left for the
church-dignitaries and the monks. Now any one would suppose that a
profession with such prizes to give away would become more and more
crowded. Why it is not so I cannot tell. It is true that the lives of
the ecclesiastics are anything but respectable, and that the profession
is in such bad odour that many fathers of families, though good
Catholics, will not let a priest enter their houses; but we do not
generally find Mexicans deterred by a little bad reputation from
occupations where much money and influence are to be had for very
little work.

The ill conduct of the Mexican clergy, especially of the monks, is
matter of common notoriety, and every writer on Mexico mentions it,
from the time of Father Gage--the English friar--who travelled with a
number of Spanish monks through Mexico in 1625, and described the
clergy and the people as he saw them. He was disgusted with their ways,
and, going back to England, turned Protestant, and died Vicar of Deal.

To show what monastic discipline is in Mexico, I will tell one story,
and only one. An English acquaintance of mine was coming down the Calle
San Francisco late one night, and saw a man who had been stabbed in the
street close to the convent-gate. People sent into the convent to fetch
a confessor for the dying man, but none was to be had. There was only
one monk in the place, and he was bed-ridden. The rest were enjoying
themselves in the city, or fast asleep at their lodgings in the bosom
of their families.

In condemning the Mexican clergy, some exception must be made. There
are many of the country curas who lead most exemplary lives, and do
much good. So do the priests of the order of St. Vincent de Paule, and
the Sisters of Charity with whom they are associated; but then, few of
these, either priests or sisters, are Mexicans.

Among the curious odds and ends which we came upon in Puebla, in the
shop of a dealer in old iron and things in general, were two or three
very curious old scourges, made of light iron chains with projecting
points on the links--terrific instruments, once in very general use. Up
to the present time, there are certain nights when penitents assemble
in churches, in total darkness, and kneeling on the pavement, scourge
themselves, while a monk in the pulpit screams out fierce exhortations
to strike harder. The description carries us back at once to the
Egyptian origin of this strange custom; and we think of the annual
festival of Isis, where the multitudes scourged themselves in memory of
the sufferings of Osiris. A story is told of a sceptical individual who
got admission to this ceremony by making great professions of devotion,
and did terrific execution on the backs of his kneeling
fellow-penitents. Before he began, the place was resounding with
doleful cries and groans; but he noticed that the cry which arose when
he struck was not like these other sounds, but had quite a different
accent. The practice of devotional scourging is still kept up in Rome,
but in a very mild form, as it appears that the penitents keep their
coats on, and only use a kind of miniature cat-o'-nine-tails of thin
cord, with a morsel of lead at the end of each tail, and not such
bloodthirsty implements as those we found at Puebla.

It seemed to us that the great influence of the priests in Mexico was
among the women of all classes, the Indians, and the poorer and less
educated half-castes. The men of the higher classes, especially the
younger ones, did not appear to have much respect for the priests or
for religion, and, indeed, seemed to be sceptical, after the manner of
the French school of freethinking. It was quite curious to see the
young dandies, dressed in their finest clothes, at the doors of the
fashionable churches on Sunday morning. None of them seemed to go to
mass, but they simply went to stare at the ladies, who, as they came
out, had to run the gauntlet through a double line of these critical
young gentlemen. As far as we could see, however, they did not mind
being looked at. The poorer mestizos and Indians, on the other hand,
are still zealous churchmen, and spend their time and money on masses
and religious duties so perseveringly that one wishes they had a
religion which was of some use to them. As it is, I cannot ascertain
that Christianity has produced any improvement in the Mexican people.
They no longer sacrifice and eat their enemies, it is true, but against
this we must debit them with a great increase of dishonesty and general
immorality, which will pretty well square the account.

Practically, there is not much difference between the old heathenism
and the new Christianity. We may put the dogmas out of the question.
They hear them and believe in them devoutly, and do not understand them
in the least. They had just received the Immaculate Conception, as they
had received many mysteries before it; and were not a little delighted
to have a new occasion for decorating themselves and their churches
with flowers, marching in procession, dancing, beating drums, and
letting off rockets by daylight, as their manner is. The real essence
of both religions is the same to them. They had gods, to whom they
built temples, and in whose honour they gave offerings, maintained
priests, danced and walked in processions--much as they do now, that
their divinities might be favourable to them, and give them good crops
and success in their enterprises. This is pretty much what their
present Christianity consists of. As a moral influence, working upon
the character of the people, it seems scarcely to have had the
slightest effect, except, as I said, in causing them to leave off human
sacrifices, which were probably not an original feature of their
worship, but were introduced comparatively at a late time, and had
already been almost abolished by one king.

The Indians still show the greatest veneration for a priest; and Heller
well illustrates this feeling when he tells us how he happened to ride
through the country in a long black cloak, and the Indians he met on
the road used to fall on their knees as he passed, and ask for his
blessing, regardless of the deep mud and their white trousers. However,
this was ten years before we were in the country, and I doubt whether
the cloak would get so much veneration now. The best measure of the
influence of the Church is the fact that when Mexico adopted a
republican constitution, in imitation of that of the United States, it
was settled that no Church but that of Rome should be tolerated in the
country; and this law still remains one of the fundamental principles
of the State, in which universal liberty and equality, freedom of the
press, and absolute religious intolerance form rather a strange jumble.
It is curious to observe that, though the Independence confirmed the
authority of the Roman Catholic religion, it considerably reduced the
church-revenues, by making the payment of tithes a matter of mere
option. The Church--of course--diligently preaches the necessity of
paying tithes, putting their obligation in the catechism, between the
ten commandments and the seven sacraments, and they still get a good
deal in this way.

We sent our horses to the bath at Pueblo. This is usually done once a
week in the cities of Mexico. We went once to see the process while we
were in the capital, and were very much amused. The horses had been to
the place before, and turned in of their own accord through a gateway
in a shabby back street; and when they got into the courtyard, began to
dance about in such a frantic manner that the _mozos_ could hardly hold
them in while their saddles and bridles were being taken off. Then they
put their heads down, and bolted into a large shed, with a sort of
floor of dust several inches deep, in which six or eight other horses
were rushing about, kicking, prancing, plunging, and literally
screaming with delight. I will not positively assert that I saw an old
white horse stand upon his head in a corner and kick with all his four
legs at once, but he certainly did something very much like it.
Presently the old _mozo_ walked into the shed, with his lazo over his
arm, and carelessly flung the noose across. Of course it fell over the
right horse's neck, when the animal was quiet in a moment, and walked
out after the old man in quite a subdued frame of mind. One horse came
out after another in the same way, took his swim obediently across a
great tank of water, was rubbed down, and went off home in high
spirits.

Though slavery has long been abolished in the Republic, there still
exists a curious "domestic institution" which is nearly akin to it. It
is not peculiar to the plains of Puebla, but flourishes there more than
elsewhere. It is called "_peonaje_," and its operation is in this wise.
If a debtor owes money and cannot pay it, his creditor is allowed by
law to make a slave or _peon _of him until the debt is liquidated.
Though the name is Spanish, I believe the origin of the custom is to be
found in an Aztec usage which prevailed before the Conquest.

A _peon_ means a man on foot, that is, a labourer, journeyman, or
foot-soldier. We have the word in English as "_pioneer_" and as the
"_pawn_" among chessmen; but I think not with any meaning like that it
has come to bear in Mexico.

On the great haciendas in the neighbourhood of Puebla, the Indian
labourers are very generally in this condition. They owe money to their
masters, and are slaves; nominally till they can work off the sum they
owe, but practically for their whole lives. Even should they earn
enough to be able to pay their debt, the contract cannot be cancelled
so easily. A particular day is fixed for striking a balance, generally,
I believe, Easter Monday, just after a season when the custom of
centuries has made it incumbent upon the Indians to spend all that they
have and all that they can borrow upon church-fees, wax-candles, and
rockets, for the religious ceremonies of the season, and the drunken
debauches which form an essential part of the festival. The masters, or
at least the _administradors_, are accused of mystifying the annual
statement of accounts between the labourer and the estate, and it is
certain that the Indian's feeble knowledge of arithmetic leaves him
quite helpless in the hands of the bookkeeper; but whether this is mere
slander or not, we never had any means of ascertaining.

Long servitude has obliterated every feeling of independence from the
minds of these Indians. Their fathers were slaves, and they are quite
content to be so too. Totally wanting in self-restraint, they cannot
resist the slightest temptation to run into debt; and they are not
insensible to the miserable advantage which a slave enjoys over a free
labourer, that his master, having a pecuniary interest in him, will not
let him starve. They have a cat-like attachment to the places they live
in; and to be expelled from the estate they were born on, and turned
out into the world to get a living, we are told by writers on Mexico,
is the greatest punishment that can be inflicted upon them.

There was nothing that we could see in the appearance of these _peons_
to distinguish them from ordinary free Indians; and our having
travelled hastily through the district where the system prevails does
not give us a right to judge of its working. We can but compare the
opinions of waiters who have studied it, and who speak of it in terms
of the strongest reprobation, as deliberately using the moral weakness
of the Indians as a means of reducing them to slavery. Sartorius,
however, takes the other side, and throws the whole blame upon the
careless improvident character of the brown men, whose masters are
obliged to lend them money to supply their pressing wants, and must
take the only security they can get. He says, and truly enough, that
the system works wretchedly both for masters and labourers. Any one who
knows the working of the common English system of allowing workmen to
run into debt with the view of retaining them permanently in their
master's service may form some faint idea of the way in which this
Mexican debt-slavery destroys the energy and self-reliance of the
people.

But in one essential particular Sartorius mis-states the case. It is
not the money which the masters lend the _peons_ to help them in
distress and sickness that keeps them in slavery. It is the money spent
in wax-candles and rockets, and such like fooleries, for Easter and All
Saints; in the reckless profusion of drunken feasts on the days of
their patron saints, and on the occasion of births, deaths, and
marriages. These feasts are as utterly disproportioned to the means of
the givers as the Irish wakes which reduce whole families to beggary.
The sums of money spent upon them are provided by the owners of the
estates, who know exactly how they are to be spent. If they preferred
that their labourers should be free from debt, they could withhold this
money; and their not doing so proves that it is their desire to keep
the _peons_ in a state of slavery, and throws the whole blame of the
system upon them.

I have spoken of the _peons_ as Indians, and so they are for the most
part in the districts we visited; but travellers who have been in
Chihuahua and other northern states tell stories of creditors
travelling through the country to collect their debts, and, where money
was not forthcoming, collecting their debtors instead,--not merely
brown Indians, but also nearly white mestizos.

Mexico is one of the countries in which the contrast between great
riches and great poverty is most striking. No traveller ever enters the
country without making this remark. The mass of the people are hardly
even with the world; and there are some few capitalists whose incomes
can scarcely be matched in England or Russia. Yet this state of things
has not produced a permanent aristocracy.

The general history of great fortunes repeats itself with monotonous
regularity. Fortunate miners or clever speculators, who have happened
to possess the gift of accumulating in addition to that of getting,
often make colossal fortunes. Miners have made the greatest sums, and
made them most rapidly. Fortunes of two or three millions sterling are
not uncommon now, and we often meet with them in the history of the
last century. They never seem to have lasted many years. Before the
Independence, the capitalist used to buy a patent of nobility, and
leave great sums to his children to maintain the new dignity; but they
hardly ever seem to have done anything but squander away their
inheritance, and we find the family returning to its original poverty
by the third or fourth generation.

Mexico is an easy place to make money in, in spite of the continual
disorders that prevail. In the mining-districts most men make money at
some time or other. The difficulty lies in keeping it. There seems to
be no training better suited for making a capitalist than the life of
the retail shopkeeper, especially in the neighbourhood of a mine. A
good share of all the money that is won and of all that is lost stops
in his till. Whoever makes a lucky hit in a mining-speculation, he has
a share of the profits, and when there is a "good thing" going, he is
on the spot to profit by it.

When once a man becomes a capitalist, there are many very profitable
ways of employing his money. Mines and cotton-factories pay well, so do
cattle-haciendas in the north, when honest administradors can be got to
manage them; and discounting merchants' bills is a lucrative business.
But far better than these ordinary investments are the monopolies, such
as the farming of the tobacco-duty, the mints, and those mysterious
transactions with the government in which ready cash is exchanged for
orders to pass goods at the Custom-house, and the other financial
transactions familiar to those who know the shifts and mystifications
of that astonishing institution, the Finance-department of Mexico.

We rode from Puebla to Orizaba. Amozoque, the first town on the road,
is a famous place for spurs, and we bought some. They are of blue steel
inlaid with strips of silver, and the rowel is a sort of cogged wheel,
from an inch and a half to three inches in diameter. _(See page 220.)_
They look terrific instruments, but really the cogs or points of the
rowels are quite blunt, and they keep the horse going less by hurting
him than by their incessant jingling, which is increased by bits of
steel put on for the purpose. Monstrous as the spurs now used are, they
are small in comparison with those of a century or two ago. One reads
of spurs, of gold and silver, with rowels in the shape of five-pointed
stars six inches in diameter. These have quite gone out now, and seem
to have been melted up, for they are hardly ever to be seen; but we
bought at the _baratillo_ of Mexico spurs of steel quite as large as
this.

My companion sent to the Art-exhibition at Manchester a couple of pairs
of the ordinary spurs of the country, such as we ourselves and
everybody else wore. They were put among the mediæval armour, and
excited great admiration in that capacity!

We slept at Nopalucán that night, and rode on next day to San Antonio
de Abajo, a little out-of-the-way village at the foot of the mountain
of Orizaba. Our principal adventure in the day's ride was that, finding
that our road made a détour of a mile or so round a beautiful piece of
green turf, we boldly struck across it, and nearly lamed our horses
thereby; for the ground was completely undermined by moles, and at
every third step the horses' feet went into a deep hole. We had to get
off and lead them back to the road.

Orizaba is the great feature in the scenery of this district of Mexico.
It is one point in the line of volcanos which stretches across the
continent from east to west. It is a conical mountain, like
Popocatepetl, and about the same height; measurements vary from twenty
feet higher to sixty feet lower. The crater has fallen in on one side,
leaving a deep notch clearly visible from below. At present, as we hear
from travellers who have ascended it, the crater, like that of
Popocatepetl, is in the condition of a _solfatara_, sending out jets of
steam and sulphurous acid gas. About three centuries ago its eruptions
were frequent; and its Mexican name, _Citlaltepetl_, "Mountain of the
Star," carries us back to the time when it showed in the darkness a
star-like light from its crater, like that of Stromboli at the present
time, when one sees it from a distance.

San Antonio de Abajo is a quaint little village, frequented by
muleteers and smugglers. Tobacco, the principal contraband article, is
grown in the plains just below; and, once carried up into the paths
among the mountains, it is hard for any custom-house officer to catch
sight of it.

When there was a government, there used sometimes to be fighting
between the revenue-officers and the smugglers; but now, if there is a
meeting, a few dollars will settle the disputed question to the
satisfaction of both parties, so that the contraband trade, though
profitable, is by no means so exciting as it used to be.

On the road towards San Antonio we saw ancient remains in the banks by
the road-side, but had no time for a regular examination. We slept on
damp mattresses in a room of the inn, where the fowls roosted on the
rafters above our heads, and walked over our faces in the early morning
in an unpleasant manner. We started before daybreak, and a descent down
a winding road, through a forest of pines and oaks, brought us by seven
in the morning from the region of pines and barley down to the district
where tobacco and the sugar-cane flourish, at the level of 3,000 to
4,000 feet above the sea.

We met a jaunty-looking party in the valley, two women and five or six
men, all on good horses, and dressed in the extreme of fashion which
the Mexican _ranchero_ affects--broad-brimmed hats with costly gold and
silver serpents for hat-bands, and clothes and saddles glittering with
silver. Martin rode up to us as they passed, and said he knew them well
for the boldest highwaymen in Mexico. Had we started an hour or two
later we should have met them in the forest, and have had an adventure
to tell of. As it was, the descent of three thousand feet had brought
us from a land of thieves to a region where highway robbery is never
known, unless when a party from the high lands come down on a marauding
expedition. It is an unquestionable fact that the Mexican robbers,
whose exploits have become a matter of world-wide notoriety, all belong
to the cold region of the plateaus, the _tierra fría_. Once down in the
_tierra templada_, or the _tierra caliente_, the temperate or the hot
regions, you hear no more of them; or at least this is the case in the
parts of Mexico we visited. The reason is clear; it is only on the
plateaus that the whites, preferring a region where the climate was not
unlike that of Castile, settled in large numbers; so that it is there
that Creoles and mestizos predominate, and they are the robbers.

We rode over great beds of gravel, cut up in deep trenches by the
mountain-streams; then along the banks of the river, among plantations
of tobacco, looking like beds of lettuces. As we were riding along the
valley, we saw before us a curious dark cloud, hanging over some fields
near the river. Our men, who had seen the appearance before, recognized
it at once as a flight of locusts, and, turning out of the high-road,
we came upon them just as they had settled on a clump of trees in a
meadow. They covered the branches and foliage until only the outline of
the trees was visible, while the rest of the swarm descended on a green
hedge, and on the grass. As for us, we went and knocked them down with
our riding-whips, and carried away specimens in our hats; but the
survivors took no manner of notice of us, and in about ten minutes they
left the trees mere skeletons, leafless and stripped of their bark, and
moved across the field in a dense mass towards some fruit-trees a
little way off. For days after this, when we met with travellers on the
road, or stopped at the door of a cottage to get a light or something
to drink, and chatted a few minutes with the inhabitants, we found that
our descent of the mountain-pass had brought us into a new set of
interests. News of the government and of the revolutionary party
excited no curiosity,--talk of robbers still less. At every house the
question was, "¿_De donde vienen, Señores_?" "Where are you from,
gentlemen?"--and when we told them, "¿_Y estaban allí las langostas_?"
"And were the locusts there?" The whole country was being devastated by
them; and the large rewards offered for them to the peasants, though
they caused dead locusts to be brought by tons, seemed hardly to
diminish their numbers. Firing guns had some slight effect in driving
off the swarms of locusts; and in some places the reports of muskets
were to be heard, at short intervals, all day long. Some idea of the
destruction caused by the locusts may be formed from the fact that in
six weeks they doubled the price of grain in the district. Fortunately,
they only appear in such numbers about once in half a century.

We had ridden a hundred miles over a rough country in the last
forty-eight hours, and were glad to get a rest at Orizaba; but on the
morning of the third day we were in the saddle again, accompanied by a
new friend, the English administrador of the cotton-mill at Orizaba.
Until we left the high-road, the country seemed well cultivated, with
plantations of tobacco, coffee, and sugar-cane; but as soon as we
turned into by-paths and struck across country, we found woods and
grassy patches, but little tilled ground, until we arrived at the
Indian village which we had gone out of our way to visit, Amatlán, that
is to say, "_The place of paper_."

In its arrangement this village was like the one that I have already
described, with its scattered huts of canes and palm-leaf thatch; but
the vegetation indicated a more tropical climate. Large fields, the
joint property of the community, were cultivated with pine-apples in
close rows, now just ripening; and bananas, with broad leaves and heavy
clusters of fruit, were growing in the little garden belonging to each
hut. The inhabitants stared at us sulkily, and gave short answers to
our questions. We went to the cottage of the Indian alcalde, who
declared that there was nothing to eat or drink in the village, though
we were standing in his doorway and could see the strings of plantains
hanging to the roof, and the old women were hard at work cooking.
However, when Mr. G. explained who he was, the old man became more
placable; and we were soon sitting on mats and benches inside the hut,
on the best of terms with the whole village. The life of these people
is simple enough, and not unsuited to their beautiful climate. The
white men have never interfered much with them; and it has been their
pride for centuries to keep as much as possible from associating with
Europeans, whom they politely speak of as _coyotes_, jackals. The
priest was a _mestizo_, and, as the Alcalde said, he was the only
_coyote_ in the settlement; but his sacred office neutralized the
dislike that his parishioners felt for his race.

These Indian communities always rejoiced in being able to produce for
themselves almost everything necessary for their simple wants; but of
late years the law of supply and demand has begun to undermine this
principle, and the cotton-cloth, spun and woven at home, is yielding to
the cheaper material supplied by the factories. Though so averse to
receiving Europeans among them, they do not object to go themselves to
work for good wages on the plantations. Those who leave their native
place, however, bring back with them tastes and wants hitherto unknown,
and inconsistent with their primitive way of life.

Another habit of theirs brings them into contact with the "reasonable
people," not to their advantage. They are excessively litigious, and
their continual law-suits take them to the large towns where the courts
of justice are held, and where lawyers' fees swallow up a large
proportion of their savings. There is a natural connexion between
farming and law-suits; and the taste for writs and hard swearing is as
remarkable among this agricultural people as it is among our own small
farmers in England.

Theoretically, the Indians in their villages live under the general
government, like any other citizens; for, since the establishment of
the republic, the civil disabilities which had kept them down for three
centuries were all abolished at a sweep, and the brown people have
their votes, and are eligible for any office. Practically, these
advantages do not come to much at present, for custom, which is
stronger than law, keeps them under the government of their own
aristocracy, composed of certain families whose nobility dates beyond
the Conquest, and was always recognized by the Spaniards. These noble
Indians seem to be pretty much as dirty, as ignorant, and as idle as
the plebeians--the ordinary field-labourers or "_earth-hands_"
(_tlalmaitl_), as they were called in ancient times,--and a stranger
cannot recognize their claims to superiority by anything in their
houses, dress, language, or bearing; nevertheless, they are the
patrician families, and republicanism has not yet deprived them of
their power over the other Indians. In early times, when men of white
or mixed blood were few in the country, it suited the Spanish
government to maintain the authority of these families, who collected
the taxes and managed the estates of the little communities. The common
people were the sufferers by this arrangement, for the Alcaldes of
their own race cheated them without mercy, and were harder upon them
than even their white rulers, just as on slave-estates a black driver
is much severer than a white one.

Near some of the houses we noticed that curious institution--the
_temazcalli_, which corresponds exactly to the Russian vapour-bath. It
is a sort of oven, into which the bather creeps on all fours, and lies
down, and the stones at one end are heated by a fire outside. Upon
these stones the bather sprinkles cold water, which fills the place
with suffocating steam. When he feels himself to have been sufficiently
sweated, he crawls out again, and has jars of cold water poured over
him; whereupon he dresses himself (which is not a long process, as he
only wears a shirt and a pair of drawers), and so goes in to supper,
feeling much refreshed. If he would take the cold bath only, and keep
the hot one for his clothes, which want it sadly, it would be all the
better for him, for the constant indulgence in this enervating luxury
weakens him very much. One would think the bath would make the Indians
cleanly in their persons, but it hardly seems so, for they look rather
dirtier after they have been in the _temazcalli_ than before, just as
the author of _A Journey due North_ says of the Russian peasants.

To us the most interesting question about the Mexican Indians of this
district was this, _Why are there so few of them?_ There are five
thousand square leagues in the State of Vera Cruz, and about fifty
inhabitants to the square league. Now, let us consider half the State,
which is at a low level above the sea, as too hot and unhealthy for men
to flourish in, and suppose the whole population concentrated on the
other half, which lies upon the rising ground from three thousand to
six thousand feet above the sea. This is not very far from the truth,
and gives us one hundred inhabitants to the square league--about
one-sixth of the population of the plains of Puebla, in a climate which
may be compared to that of North Italy, and where the chief products
are maize and European grain.

In the district of the lower temperate region, which we are now
speaking of, nature would seem to have done everything to encourage the
formation of a dense population. In the lower part of this favoured
region the banana grows. This plant requires scarcely any labour in its
cultivation; and, according to the most moderate estimate, taking an
acre of wheat against an acre of bananas, the bananas will support
twenty times as many people as the wheat. Though it is a fruit of
sweet, rather luscious taste, and only acceptable to us Europeans as
one small item of our complicated diet, the Indians who have been
brought up in the districts where it flourishes can live almost
entirely upon it, just as the inhabitants of North Africa live upon
dates.

In the upper portion of this district, where the banana no longer
flourishes, nutritious plants produce an immense yield with easy
cultivation. The _yucca_ which produces cassava, rice, the sweet
potato, yams, all flourish here, and maize produces 200 to 300 fold.
According to the accepted theory among political economists, where the
soil produces with slight labour an abundant nutriment for man, there
we ought to find a teeming population, unless other counteracting
causes are to be found.

The history of the country, as far as we can get at it, indicates a
movement in the opposite direction. Judging from the numerous towns the
Spanish invaders found in the district, the numbers of armed men they
could raise, and the abundance of provisions, we must reckon the
population at that time to have been more dense than at present; and
the numerous ruins of Indian settlements that exist in the upper
temperate region are unquestionable evidence of the former existence of
an agricultural people, perhaps ten times as numerous as at present.
The ruins of their fortifications and temples are still to be seen in
great numbers, and the soil all over large districts is full of the
remains of their pottery and weapons.

How far these settlements were depopulated by wars before the Spanish
Conquest, it is not easy to say. During the Conquest itself they did
not offer much resistance to the European invaders, and consequently
they escaped the wholesale destruction which fell upon the more
patriotic inhabitants of the higher regions. Since that time the
country has been peaceable enough; and even since the Mexican
Independence, the wars and revolutions which have done so much injury
to the inhabitants of the plateaus have not been much felt here.

In reasoning upon Mexican statistics we have to go to a great extent
upon guess-work. A very slight investigation, however, shows that the
calculation made in Mexico, that the population increases between one
and two per cent. annually, is incorrect. The present population of the
country is reckoned at a little under eight millions; and in 1806, it
seems, from the best authorities we can get, to have been a little
under six millions. Even this rate of increase, one-third every
half-century, is far above the rate of increase since the Conquest;
for, at that rate, a population a little over a million and a quarter
would have brought up the number to what it is at present, and we
cannot at the lowest estimation suppose the inhabitants after the siege
of Mexico to have been less than three or four millions. So that, badly
as Mexico is now going on with regard to the increase of its
population, about ½ per cent. per annum, while England increases over
1-1/2 per cent., and the United States twice as much, we may still
discern an improvement upon the times of the Spanish dominion, when it
was almost stationary.

Why then has this fertile and beautiful country only a small fraction
of the number of inhabitants that formerly lived in it? That it is not
caused by the climate being unfavourable to man is clear, for this
district is free from the intense heat and the pestilential fevers of
the low lands which lie nearer the sea.

It is a noticeable fact that the remains of the old settlements
generally lie above the district where the banana grows; and the higher
we rise above the sea, the more abundant do we find the signs of
ancient population, until we reach the level of 8,000 feet or a little
higher. The actual inhabitants at the present day are distributed
according to the same rule, increasing in numbers, according to the
elevation, from 3,000 to 8,000 feet, after which the severity of the
climate causes a rapid decrease.

In making these observations, I leave out of the question the hot
unhealthy coast-lands of the _tierra caliente_, and the cold and
comparatively sterile plains of the _tierra fría_, and confine myself
to that part of the country which lies between the altitudes of 3,000
and 8,000 feet, between which limits the European races flourish under
circumstances of climate which also suited the various Mexican races,
who probably came from a colder northern country. Now, if we begin to
descend from the level of the Mexican plateau--say 8,000 feet above the
sea--we find that less and less labour will provide nourishment for the
cultivator of the soil, until we reach the limit of the banana, where
the inhabitants ought to be crowded together like Chinese on their
rice-grounds, or the inhabitants of Egypt in the time of Herodotus.
Exactly the opposite rule takes effect; the banana-country is a mere
wilderness, and the higher the traveller rises the more abundant become
both present population and the remains of ancient settlements.

I suppose the reason of this is to be found in the habits and
constitution of the tribes who colonized the country, and preferred to
settle in a climate resembling that of their native land, without
troubling themselves about the extra labour it would cost them to
obtain their food. The European invaders have acted precisely in the
same way; and the distribution of the white and partly white
inhabitants of the country follows the same rule as that of the
Indians.

So far the matter is intelligible, on the principle that the
constitution and habits of the races which have successively taken up
their residence in the country have been strong enough to prevail over
the rule which regulates the supply of men by the abundance of food;
but this does not explain the fact of an actual diminution of the
inhabitants of the lower temperate districts. They were not mere
migratory tribes, staying for a few years before moving forward. They
had been settled in the country long enough to be perfectly
acclimatized; and yet, under circumstances apparently so favourable to
their increase, they have been diminishing for centuries, and are
perhaps even doing so now.

The only intelligible solution I can find for this problem is that
given by Sartorius, whose work on Mexico is well known in Germany, and
has been translated and published in England. This author's remarks on
the condition of the Indians are very valuable; and, as he was for
years a planter in this very district, he may be taken as an excellent
authority on the subject. He considers the evil to lie principally in
the diet and habits of the people. The children are not weaned till
very late, and then are allowed to feed all day without restriction on
boiled maize, or beans, or whatever other vegetable diet may be eaten
by the family. The climate does not dispose them to take much exercise;
so that this unwholesome cramming with vegetable food has nothing to
counteract its evil effects, and the poor little children get miserably
pot-bellied and scrofulous,--an observation of which we can confirm the
truth. A great proportion of the children die young, and those that
grow up have their constitutions impaired. Then they live in close
communities, and marry "in-and-in," so that the effect of unhealthy
living becomes strengthened into hereditary disease; and habitual
intemperance does its work upon their constitutions, though the
quantities of raw spirits they consume appear to produce scarcely any
immediate effect. Among a race in this bodily condition, the ordinary
epidemics of the country--cholera, small-pox, and dysentery--make
fearful havoc. Whole villages have often been depopulated in a few days
by these diseases; and a deadly fever which used to appear from time to
time among the Indians, until the last century, sometimes carried off
ten thousand and twenty thousand at once. It seemed to me worth while
to make some remarks about this question, with a view of showing that
the theory as to the relation between food and population, though
partly true, is not wholly so; and that in the region of which we have
been speaking it can be clearly shown to fail.

After spending a long morning with the Indians and their _cura_, we
took quite an affectionate leave of them. Their last words were an
apology for making us pay threepence apiece for the pineapples which we
loaded our horses with. In the season, they said, twelve for sixpence
is the price, but the fruit was scarce and dear as yet.

Our companion, besides being engaged in the Orizaba cotton-mill, was
one of the owners of the sugar-hacienda of the Potrero, below Cordova,
and we all rode down there together from the Indian village, and spent
the evening in walking about the plantation, and inspecting the new
machinery and mills. It was a pleasant sight to see the people coming
to the well with their earthen jars, after their work was done, in an
unceasing procession, laughing and chattering. They were partly Indian,
but with a considerable admixture of negro blood, for many black slaves
were brought into the country in old times by the Spanish planters.
Now, of course, they and their descendants are free, and the hotter
parts of Mexico are the paradise of runaway slaves from Louisiana and
Texas; for, so far from their race being despised, the Indian women
seek them as husbands, liking their liveliness and good humour better
than the quieter ways of their own countrymen. Even Europeans settled
in Mexico sometimes take wives of negro blood.

I have never noticed in any country so large a number of mixed races,
whose parentage is indicated by their features and complexion. In
Europe, the parent races are too nearly alike for the children of such
mixed marriages to be strikingly different from either parent. In
America and the West Indies we are familiar with the various mixtures
of white and negro, mulatto, quadroon, &c.; but in Mexico we have three
races, Spanish, pure Mexican, and Negro, which, with their
combinations, make a list of twenty-five varieties of the human race,
distinguishable from one another, and with regular names, which Mayer
gives in his work on Mexico, such as _mulatto, mestizo, zambo, chino_,
and so forth. Here all the brown Mexican Indians are taken as one race,
and the Red Indians of the frontier-states are not included at all. If
we come to dividing out the various tribes which have been or still are
existing in the country, we can count over a hundred and fifty, with
from fifty to a hundred distinct languages among them.

Out of this immense variety of tribes, we can make one great
classification. The men of one race are brown in complexion, and have
been for ages cultivators of the land. It is among them only that the
Mexican civilization sprang up, and they still remain in the country,
having acquiesced in the authority of the Europeans, and to a great
extent mingled with them by marriage. This class includes the Aztecs,
Acolhuans, Chichemecs, Zapotecs, &c., the old Toltecs, the present
Indians of Central America, and, if we may consider them to be the same
race, the nations who huilt the now ruined cities of Palenque, Copan,
Uxmal, and so forth. The other race is that of the Red Indians who
inhabit the prairie-states of North Mexico, such as the Apaches,
Comanches, and Navajos. They are hunters, as they always were, and they
will never preserve their existence by adopting agriculture as their
regular means of subsistence, and settling in peace among the white
men. As it has been with their countrymen further north, so it will be
with them; a few years more, and the Americans will settle Chihuahua
and Sonora, and we shall only know these tribes by specimens of their
flint arrow-heads and their pipes in collections of curiosities, and
their skulls in ethnological cabinets.

One of the strangest races (or varieties, I cannot say which) are the
_Pintos_ of the low lands towards the Pacific coast. A short time
before we were in the country General Alvarez had quartered a whole
regiment of them in the capital; but when we were there they had
returned with their commander into the tierra caliente towards
Acapulco. They are called _"Pintos"_ or painted men, from their faces
and bodies being marked with great daubs of deep blue, like our British
ancestors; but here the decoration is natural and cannot be effaced.

They have the reputation of being a set of most ferocious savages; and,
badly armed as they are with ricketty flint- or match-locks, and sabres
of hoop-iron, they are the terror of the other Mexican soldiery,
especially when the war has to be carried on in the hot pestilential
coast-region, their native country.

CHAR XII.

CHALCHICOMULA. JALAPA. VERA CRUZ. CONCLUSION.

[Illustration: INDIANS OF THE PLATEAU. _(After Nebel.)_]

The mountain-slopes which descend from the Sierra Madre eastward toward
the sea are furrowed by _barrancas_--deep ravines with perpendicular
sides, and with streams flowing at the bottom. But here all these
_barrancas_ run almost due east and west, so that our journey from Vera
Cruz to Mexico was made, as far as I can recollect, without crossing
one. Now, the case was quite different. We had to go from the Potrero
to the city of Jalapa, about fifty miles on the map, nearly northward,
and to get over these fifty miles cost us two days and a half of hard
riding.

By the road it cannot be much less than eighty miles; but people used
to tell us that, during the American war, an Indian went from Orizaba
to Jalapa with despatches within the twenty-four hours, probably by
mountain-paths which made it a little shorter. He came quite easily
into Jalapa at the same shuffling trot which he had kept up almost
without intermission for the whole distance. This is the Indian's
regular pace when he is on a journey, and I believe that the Red
Indians of the north have a similar gait.

We used sometimes to see a village or a house three or four miles off,
and count upon reaching it in half an hour. But a few steps further on
there would be a barranca, invisible till we came close to it, perhaps
not more than a few hundred feet wide, so that it was easy to talk to
people on the other bank. But the bottom of the chasm might be five
hundred or a thousand feet below us; and the only way to cross was to
ride along the bank, often for miles, until we reached a place where it
had been possible to make a steep bridle-path zigzagging down to the
stream below, and up again on the other side. It is only here and there
that even such paths can be made, for the walls of rock are generally
too steep even for any vegetation, except grass and climbing plants in
the crevices. Our half-hour's ride, as we supposed it would be, would
often extend to two or three hours, for on these slopes two or three
barrancas--large and small---have sometimes to be crossed within as
many miles.

If our journey had been even slower and more difficult, we should not
have regretted it; the country through which we were riding was so
beautiful. There were but few inhabitants, and the landscape was much
as nature had left it. The great volcano of Orizaba came into view now
and then with its snowy cone,[23] mountain-streams came rushing along
the ravines, and the forests of oaks were covered with innumerable
species of orchids and creepers, breaking down the branches with their
weight. Many kinds were already in flower, and their great blossoms of
white, purple, blue, and yellow, stood out against the dark green of
the oak-leaves. Wherever a mountain-stream ran down some shady little
valley, there were tree-ferns thirty feet high, with the new fronds
forming a tuft at the top of the old scarred trunk. Round the Indian
cottages were cactuses with splendid crimson flowers, daturas with
brilliant white blossoms, palm- and fruit-trees of fifty kinds. We
stopped at one of the cottages, and bought an armadillo that had just
been caught in the woods close by, while routing among his favourite
ants' nests. He was put into a palm-leaf basket, which held him all but
the tip of his long taper tail, which, like the rest of his body, was
covered with rings of armour fitting beautifully into one another. One
of our men carried him thus in his arms to Jalapa.

The Mexicans call an armadillo "_ayotochtli_," that is,
"tortoise-rabbit," a name which will be appreciated by any one who
knows the appearance of the little animal.

The villages and towns we passed were dismal places enough, and the
population scanty; but that this had not always been the case was
evident from the numerous remains of ancient Indian mound-forts or
temples which we passed on our road, indicating the existence of large
towns at some former period. There is a drawing in Lord Kingsborough's
work of a _teocalli_ or pyramid at San Andrés Chalchicomula, which we
seem to have missed on account of the darkness having come on before we
reached the town. We were several times deceived that evening by the
fireflies, which we took for lights moving about in some village just
ahead of us; and we became so incredulous at last that we would not
believe we had reached our journey's end until we could made out the
dim outlines of the houses. At the inn at San Andrés we found that we
could have no rooms, as all the little windowless dens were occupied by
people from the country who had come in for a _fiesta_. There were
indeed a good many men loafing about the courtyard, but scarcely any
women, and we could hardly understand a fandango happening without
them. They thought otherwise, however; and presently, hearing the
tinkling of a guitar, we went out and saw two great fellows in broad
hats, jackets, and serapes, solemnly dancing opposite to one another;
while more men looked on, smoking cigarettes, and an old fellow with a
face like a baboon was squatting in one corner and producing the music
we had heard. To do them justice, I must say that we found, on further
enquiry, they had not come from their respective ranchos merely to make
fools of themselves in this way, but that there was to be some
horsefair in the neighbourhood next day, and they were going there.

Our not being able to get any supper but eggs and bread, and having to
sleep on the supper-table afterwards, confirmed us in the theory we
were beginning to adopt, that nature and mankind vary in an inverse
ratio; and we were off at daybreak, delighted to get into the forest
again. We rode over hill and dale for four or five hours, and then
along the edge of a barranca for the rest of the day. This was one of
the grandest chasms we had ever seen, even in Mexico. It was four or
five miles wide, and two or three thousand feet deep, and its floor was
a mass of tropical verdure, with here and there an Indian rancho and a
patch of cultivated ground on the bank of the rapid river, whose sound
we heard when we approached the edge of the barranca. There were more
orchids and epidendrites than ever in the forest. In some places they
had killed every third tree, by forming so and close a covering over
its branches as to destroy its life; they were flourishing unimpaired
on the rotting branches of trees which they had brought down to the
ground years before. The rainy season had not yet set in in this part
of the country; and, though we could hear the rushing of the torrent
below, we looked in vain for water in the forest, until our man Martin
showed us the _bromelias_ in the forks of the branches, in the inside
of whose hollow leaves nature has laid up a supply of water for the
thirsty traveller.

We loaded our horses with the bulbs of such orchids as were still in
the dry state, and would travel safely to Europe. Sometimes we climbed
into the trees for promising specimens, but oftener contented ourselves
with tearing them from the branches as we rode below. When saddle-bags
and pockets were full, we were for a time at fault, for there seemed no
place for new treasures, when suddenly I remembered a pair of old
trousers. We tied up the ends of the legs, which we filled with
orchids; and the garment travelled to Jalapa sitting in its natural
position across my saddle, to the amazement of such Mexican society as
we met. The contents of the two pendant legs are now producing splendid
flowers in several English hothouses.

By evening we reached the _Junta_, a place where the great ravine was
joined by a smaller one, and a long slanting descent brought us to the
edge of the river. There was a ferry here, consisting of a raft of logs
which the Indian ferryman hauled across along a stout rope. The horses
were attached to the raft by their halters, and so swam across. On the
point of land between the two rivers the Indians had their huts, and
there we spent the night. We chose the fattest _guajalote_ of the
turkey-pen, and in ten minutes he was simmering in the great earthen
pot over the fire, having been cut into many pieces for convenience of
cooking, and the women were busy grinding Indian corn to be patted out
into tortillas. While supper was getting ready, and Mr. Christy's day's
collection of plants was being pressed (the country we had been passing
through is so rich that the new specimens gathered that day filled
several quires of paper), we had a good deal of talk with the brown
people, who could all speak a little Spanish. Some years before, the
two old people had settled there, and set up the ferry. Besides this,
they made nets and caught much fish in the river, and cultivated the
little piece of ground which formed the point of the promontory. While
their descendants went no further than grandchildren the colony had
done very well; but now great-grandchildren had begun to arrive, and
they would soon have to divide, and form a settlement up in the woods
across the river, or upon some patch of ground at the bottom of one of
the barrancas.

We were interested in studying the home-life of these people, so
different from what we are accustomed to among our peasants of Northern
Europe, whose hard continuous labour is quite unknown here. For the
men, an occasional pull at the _balsas_ (the rafts of the ferry), a
little fishing, and now and then--when they are in the humour for it--
a little digging in the garden-ground with a wooden spade, or dibbling
with a pointed stick. The women have a harder life of it, with the
eternal grinding and cooking, cotton-spinning, mat-weaving, and tending
of the crowds of babies. Still it is an easy lazy life, without much
trouble for to-day or care for to-morrow. When the simple occupations
of the day are finished, the time does not seem to hang heavy upon
their hands. The men lie about, "thinking of nothing at all;" and the
women--old and young--gossip by the hour, in obedience to that
beneficent law of nature which provides that their talk shall increase
inversely in proportion to what they have to talk about. We find this
law attaining to its most complete fulfilment when they shut themselves
up in nunneries, to escape as much as possible from all sources of
worldly interest, and gossip there more industriously than anywhere
else, as we are informed on very good authority.

Like all the other Mexican Indians whose houses we visited, the people
here showed but little taste in adorning their dwellings, their dresses
and their household implements. Beyond a few calabashes scraped smooth
and ornamented with coloured devices, and the blue patterns on the
women's cotton skirts, there was scarcely anything to be seen in the
way of ornament. How great was the skill of the Mexicans in ornamental
work at the time of the Conquest, we can tell from the carved work in
wood and stone preserved in museums, the graceful designs on the
pottery, the tapestry, and the beautiful feather-work; but this taste
has almost disappeared in the country. Just in the same way, contact
with Europeans has almost destroyed the little decorative arts among
most barbarous people, as, for example, the Red Indians and the natives
of the Pacific Islands; and what little skill in these things is left
among them is employed less for themselves than in making curious
trifles for the white people, and even in these we find that European
patterns have mixed with the old designs, or totally superseded them.

The Indians lodged us in an empty cane-hut, where they spread mats upon
the ground, and we made pillows of our saddles. We were soon tired of
looking up at the stars through the chinks in the roof, and slept till
long after sunrise. Then the Indians rafted us across the second river;
and we rode on to Jalapa, having accomplished our horseback journey of
nearly three hundred miles with but one accident, the death of a horse,
the four-pound one. He had been rather overworked, but would most
likely have got through, had we not stopped the last night at the
Indian _ranchos_, where there was no forage but green maize leaves, a
food our beasts were not accustomed to. It seems our men gave him too
much of this, and then allowed him to drink excessively; and next
morning he grew weaker and weaker, and died not long after we reached
Jalapa. Our other two horses were rather thin, but otherwise in good
condition; and the horse-dealers, after no end of diplomacy on both
sides, knocked under to our threat of sending them back to Mexico in
charge of Antonio, and gave us within a pound or two of what they had
cost us. There, is a good deal of trading in horses done at Jalapa,
where travellers coming down from Mexico sell their beasts, which are
disposed of at great prices to other travellers coming up from the
coast. Between here and Vera Cruz, people prefer travelling in the
Diligence, or in some covered carriage, to exposing themselves to the
sun in the hot and pestilential region of the coast.

Jalapa is a pleasant city among the hills, in a country of forests,
green turf, and running streams. It is the very paradise of botanists;
and its products include a wonderful variety of trees and flowers, from
the apple- and pear-trees of England to the _mameis_ and _zapotes_ of
tropical America, and the brilliant orchids which are the ornament of
our hot-houses. The name of the town itself has a botanical celebrity,
for in the neighbouring forests grows the _Purga de Jalapa_, which we
have shortened into _jalap_.

A day's journey above it, lies the limit of eternal snow, upon the peak
of Orizaba; a day's journey below it is Vera Cruz, the city of the
yellow fever, surrounded by burning sands and poisonous exhalations, in
a district where, during the hot months now commencing, the thermometer
scarcely ever descends below 80°, day or night. Jalapa hardly knows
summer or winter, heat or cold. The upper current of hot air from the
Gulf of Mexico, highly charged with aqueous vapour, strikes the
mountains about this level, and forms the belt of clouds that we have
already crossed more than once during our journey. Jalapa is in this
cloudy zone, and the sky is seldom clear there. It is hardly hotter in
summer than in England, and not even hot enough for the mosquitoes,
which are not to be found here though they swarm in the plain below.
This warm damp climate changes but little in the course of the year.
There are no seasons, in our sense of the word, for spring lasts
through the year.

We walked out on the first afternoon of our arrival; and sat on stone
seats on a piece of green turf surrounded by trees, that reminded us
pleasantly of the village-greens of England. There we talked with the
children of an English acquaintance who had been settled for many years
in the town, and had married a Mexican lady. They were fine lads; but,
as very often happens in such cases, they could only speak the language
of the country. Nothing can show more clearly how thoroughly a
foreigner yields to the influences around him, when he settles in a
country and marries among its people. An Englishman's own character,
for instance, may remain to some extent; but his children are scarcely
English in language or in feeling, and in the next generation there is
nothing foreign about his descendants but the name.

When we reached our hotel it was about sunset, and the heavy dew had
wetted us through, as though we had been walking in the rain. This was
no exceptional occurrence. All the year round such dews fall morning
and evening, as well as almost daily showers of rain. The climate is
too warm for this dampness to injure health, as it would in our colder
regions. To us, who had just left the bracing air of the high plateaus,
it seemed close and relaxing; but the inhabitants are certainly strong
and healthy, and one can imagine the enjoyment which the white
inhabitants of Vera Cruz must feel, when they can get away from that
city of pestilence into the pure air of the mountains.

Our quarters were at the _Veracruzana_, where we occupied a great
whitewashed room. A large grated window opened into the garden, where
the armadillo was fastened to a tree by a long string, and had soon dug
a deep hole with his powerful fore-claws, as the manner of the creature
is. The necessity of supplying the "little man in armour" with insects
for his daily food gave us some idea of the amazing abundance and
variety of the insects of the district. We caught creeping things
innumerable in the garden, but narrowly escaped being stung by a small
scorpion; and therefore delegated the task to an old Indian, who walked
out into the fields with an earthen pot, and returned with it full of
insects in about half an hour. We reckoned that there were over fifty
species in the pot.

Many of the houses and Indian huts were adorned with collections of
insects pinned on the walls in patterns, among which figured scorpions
some three inches long; and the centre-ornament was usually a
tarantula, said to be one of the most poisonous creatures of the
tropics, a monstrous spider, whose dark grey body and legs are covered
with hairs. A fine specimen will have a body about as large as a small
hen's egg, and, with his legs in their natural position, will just
stand in a cheese-plate. The Boots of the hotel went out and caught a
fine scorpion for our amusement; he brought it into our room wrapped in
a piece of brown paper, and was on the point of letting it out on our
table for us to see it run. We protested against this, and had it put
into a tumbler and covered it up with a book.

The inner _patio_ of the hotel was surrounded with the usual arcade,
into which the rooms opened. Close to our door was a long table, with a
green cloth, where the Jalapenians were constantly playing _monte_,
from nine in the morning till late at night. All classes were
represented there, from the muleteer who came to lose his hard-earned
dollars, to the rich shopkeepers and planters of the town and
neighbourhood.

I went early one afternoon to the house of the principal agent for the
Vera Cruz carriers, to arrange for sending down our heavy packages to
the coast. There was no one at the office but a girl. I enquired for
the master--"_Está jugando_,"--"He is playing," she said. I need not
have gone so far to look for him, for he was sitting just outside our
bedroom door, and indeed had been there all day. Before he condescended
to arrange our business, he waited to see the fate of the dollar he had
just put down, and which I was glad to see he lost.

Jalapa was not always the stagnant place it is now. Its pleasant houses
and gardens date from a period when it was a town of some importance.
In old times the only practicable road from Vera Cruz to Mexico passed
this way; and Jalapa was the entrepôt where the merchants had their
warehouses, and from whence the trains of mules distributed the
European merchandise from the coast to the different markets of the
country. By this arrangement, the carrying from the coast was done by a
small number of muleteers, who were seasoned to the climate, while the
great mass of traders and carriers were not obliged to descend from the
healthy region. This was of the more importance, because, though the
pure Indians are not liable to the attacks of yellow fever, the disease
is as deadly to the other inhabitants of the high lands as to
Europeans; and even those of the _mestizos_ who have the least
admixture of white blood are subject to it. Of late years, this system
has been given up, and the carriers from the high lands go down to the
coast to fetch their loads, and every year they leave some of their
number in the church-yards of the City of the Dead; while many others,
though they recover from the fever, never regain their former health
and strength. The high-road to Mexico now goes by Orizaba, so that the
importance of Jalapa as a trading-place has almost ceased.

Our Mexican journey was now all but finished, and I left my companion
here, and took the Diligence to Vera Cruz, to meet the West India
Mail-packet. Mr. Christy followed a day or two later, and went to the
United States. We dismissed our two servants, Martin and Antonio.
Martin invested his wages in a package of tobacco, which he proposed to
carry home on his horse, travelling by night along unfrequented
mountain-paths, where custom-house officers seldom penetrate. We never
heard any more of him; but no doubt he got safe home, for he was
perfectly competent to take care of himself, and he probably made a
very good thing of his journey. It was quite with regret that we parted
from him, for he was a most sensible, useful fellow, with a continual
flow of high spirits, and no end of stories of his experiences in
smuggling, and hunting wild cattle in the _tierra caliente_, in which
two adventurous occupations most of his life had been passed. In his
dealings with us, he was honesty itself, notwithstanding his equivocal
profession.

We offered Antonio a cheque on Mexico for his wages, as he was going
back there, but he said he would rather have hard dollars. We paid his
fare to Mexico by the Diligence, and gave him his money, telling him at
the same time, that he was a fool for his pains. He started next
morning; and we heard, a month or two later, that the coach was stopped
the same afternoon in the plains of Perote, and Antonio was robbed not
only of his money but even of his jacket and serape, and reached Mexico
penniless and half-naked. He was always a silly fellow, and his last
exploit was worthy of him.

Mr. Christy sat up till daybreak to see me off, filling up his time by
writing letters and pressing plants. When I was gone, he lay down in
his bed, in rather a dreamy state of mind, looking up at the ceiling.
There was a large beam just above his head, and at one side of it a
hole, which struck him as being a suitable place for a scorpion to come
out of. This idea had come into his head from the sight of the specimen
in the tumbler on the table, who had with great difficulty been drowned
in _aguardiente_. Presently something moved in the hole, and the
spectator below instantly became wide awake. Then came out a claw and a
head, and finally the body and tail of a very fine scorpion, two inches
and a half long. It was rather an awkward moment, for it was not safe
to move suddenly, for fear of startling the creature, whose footing
seemed anything but secure; and if he fell, he would naturally sting
whatever he might come in contact with. However, he met with no
accident on his way, and getting into another hole, about a yard off,
he drew up his tail after him and disappeared. Mr. Christy slipped out
of his bed with a sense of considerable relief; and having ascertained
that there were no holes in the ceiling above the bed on the other side
of the room, he turned in there, and went comfortably to sleep.

My only companion in the Diligence was a German shopman from Vera Cruz,
who was sociable, but not of an instructive turn of conversation. When
we had descended for a few hours, the heat became intolerable. Scarcely
any habitation but a few Indian cane-huts by the way-side, with bananas
and palm-trees. We stopped, about three in the afternoon, at a _rancho_
in a small village, and did not start again until next morning, a
little before day-break. Negroes and people of negro descent began to
abound in this congenial climate. I remember especially the
waiting-maid at the _rancho_, who was a "white negress," as they are
called. Her hair and features showed her African origin; but her hair
was like white wool, and her face and hands were as colourless as those
of a dead body. This animated corpse was healthy enough, however; and
this peculiarity of the skin is, it seems, not very uncommon.

The coast-regions through which I was passing abound in horned cattle,
but they are mostly far away from the high-roads. In spite of the
intense heat of the climate they thrive as well as in the higher lands.
Some are tolerably tame, and are kept within bounds by the _vaqueros_;
but the greater proportion, numbering tens of thousands, roam wild
about the country. In comparison with these cattle of the _tierra
caliente_, the fiercest beasts of the plateaus are safe and quiet
creatures. The only way of bringing them into the _corral_ is by using
tame animals for decoys, just as wild elephants are caught.

Our man Martin, who had once been a _vaquero_ on the Vera Cruz coast,
used to look upon the bulls of the high lands with great contempt. If
you chase them they run away, he said. If you lazo a bull of the hot
country, you have to gallop off with all your might, with the _toro_
close at your heels; and, if the horse falls, it may cost his life or
his rider's.

We thus find the horned cattle flourishing at every elevation, from the
sea-level to the mountain-pastures ten thousand feet above it. Horses
and sheep show less adaptability to this variety of climates. The
horses and mules come mostly from the States of the North, at a level
of from 5,000 to 8,000 feet; that remarkable country of which
Humboldt's observation gives us the best idea, when he says that,
although there are no made roads, wheel-carriages can travel distances
of a thousand miles over gently-undulating prairies, without meeting
any obstruction on the way.

Numbers of sheep are reared in the mountains, principally for the sake
of the tallow, for the consumption of tallow-candles in the mines is
enormous. The owners scarcely care at all for the rest of the animal;
and popular scandal accuses the sheep-farmers of driving their flocks
straight into the melting-coppers, without going through the
preliminary ceremony of killing them. People told us that the tallow
made in the cold regions loses its consistency when brought down into
hotter climates, but we had no means of ascertaining the truth of this.

Artificial lighting by means of tallow was not known to the ancient
Mexicans, who could not indeed have procured tallow except from the fat
of deer and smaller animals.

Bernal Diaz tells how the Spanish invaders used to dress their wounds
with "Indian Ointment." He explains the nature of this preparation in
another place. The Spaniards could get no oil in the country, nor
anything else to make salve with, so they took some fat Indian who had
just been killed in battle, and simply boiled him down.

Our ride next morning was but a few hours, the journey being so divided
in order that the passengers may reach Vera Cruz before the heat of the
day begins. We passed over a dreary district, generally too dry for
anything but cactus and acacias, but now and then, when a little water
was to be found, displaying clumps of bamboos with their elegant
feathery tufts. Then the railway took us through the dismal downs, with
their swamps and sand-hills, and so into Vera Cruz.

The English merchants we had already made acquaintance with were as
kind and hospitable as ever, and I found an Englishman, whom we had
known before, going as far as Havana by the same packet. The yellow
fever was unusually late this year, and, though June had begun, there
were but few cases. We heard afterwards that it set in a week or two
after our departure, and by its extraordinary severity made ample
amends for the lateness of its arrival.

After sunset, the air was alive with mosquitos, and the floors of the
hotel swarmed with cockroaches. The armadillo took quite naturally to
the latter creatures, and crunched them up as fast as we could catch
them for him. I was surprised to find that our word "cockroaches" does
not come from the German stock, like most of our names for insects and
small creatures, but from the Latin side of the house. The Spanish
waiter called them _cucarachas_, and the French ones _coqueraches_. The
history of the armadillo ends unfortunately: for some days he seemed to
take quite kindly to the diet of bits of meat which we had to put him
on, on shipboard, but he fell sick at Havana, and died.

My late companion travelled up into the Northern States, went to the
Indian assembly at Manitoulin Island, paid a visit to various tribes of
Red Men in the Hudson's Bay Territory--as yet unmissionized, carried
away in triumph the big medicine-drum I have already spoken of, and saw
and did many other things not to be related here. One sight that he
saw, some months later, reminded him of the wild country where we had
travelled together. He was in Iowa City, a little town of a year or
two's growth, out in the prairie States of the Far West. As he stood
one morning in the outskirts, among the plank-houses and half-made
roads, there came a solitary horseman riding in. Evidently he had come
from the Mexican frontier, a thousand miles and more away across the
plains; and no doubt, his waggons and the rest of his party were behind
him on the road, beyond the distant horizon of the prairie. By his face
he was American, but his costume was the dress of old Mexico, the
leather jacket and trousers, the broad white hat and huge jingling
spurs. His lazo hung in front of his high-peaked saddle, and his
well-worn serape was rolled up behind him like a trooper's cloak. As he
approached the town, he spurred his jaded beast, who broke into the old
familiar _paso_ of the Mexican plains. "It was my last sight of
Mexico," said my companion. He saluted the horseman in Spanish, and the
well-known words of welcome made the grim man's haggard sunburnt
features relax into a smile as he returned the salutation and rode on.

As for myself, my voyage home was short and unadventurous. From Vera
Cruz to Havana, most of my companions were Mexican refugees who had
been turned out of the country for being mixed up with Haro's
revolution or Santa Ana's intrigues. They were showily got-up men,
elaborately polite, and with much to say for themselves; but every now
and then some casual remark showed what stuff they were made of, and I
pitied more than ever the unfortunate countries whose political
destinies depend on the intrigues of these adventurers.

In the hot land-locked bay of St. Thomas's we, with the contents of
eight or nine more steamers, were shifted into the great steamer bound
homeward. I went ashore with an old German gentleman, and walked about
the streets. St. Thomas's is a Danish island, and a free port, that is,
a smuggling depôt for the rest of the West India islands, much as
Gibraltar is for the Mediterranean. It is a stifling place, full of
mosquitos and yellow fever, and the confusion of tongues reigns there
even more than in Gibraltar, for the blacks in the streets all speak
three or four languages, and the shopkeepers six or seven.

We were a strange mixture on board the 'Atrato', over two hundred of
us. Peruvians and Chilians from across the isthmus, Spaniards and
Cubans, black gentlemen from Hayti, French colonists from Martinique,
but English preponderating above all other nationalities. One or two
governors of small islands, with their families, maintaining the
dignity of Government House, at least as far as Southampton, and
unapproachable by common mortals. Army men from West India stations,
who appeared to spend their mornings in ordering the wine for dinner,
and their evenings in abusing it when they had drunk it. West India
planters, who thought it was rather hard that the Anti-slavery Society,
after ruining them and their plantations, should moreover insist on
their believing themselves to be great gainers by the change. We were
all crowded, hot, and uncomfortable, and showed our worst side, but as
we neared England better influences got the ascendant again.

It was pleasant to breathe a cooler air, and to feel that I was getting
back to my own country and my own people; but with this feeling there
was mixed some regret for the beautiful scenes I had left. The evenings
of our latitudes seemed poor when we lost the gorgeous sunsets of the
tropics, and the sea alive with luminous creatures. When I came on deck
one evening and missed the brightest ornament of the sky--the Southern
Cross, I felt that I had left the tropics, and that all my efforts to
realize the life of the last half-year would produce but a vague and
shadowy picture.

Since we left Mexico, I have not cared to follow very accurately even
the newspaper intelligence of what has been and still is going on
there. It is a pitiable history. Continual wars and revolutions, utter
insecurity of life and property, the Indians burning down the haciendas
in the South and turning out the white people, the roads on the plains
impassable on account of deserters and robbers; sometimes no practical
government at all, then two or three at once, who raise armies and
fight a little sometimes, but generally confine themselves to
plundering the peaceable inhabitants. An army besieges the capital for
months, but appears to do nothing but cut the water off from the
aqueducts, shoot stragglers, and levy contributions. One leader raises
a forced loan among the foreign residents, and imprisons or expels
those who do not submit. The leader on the other side does the same in
his part of the country, putting the British merchant in prisons where
a fortnight would be a fair average life for an European, and
threatening him with summary courtmartial and execution if he does not
pay.

London newspapers dwell on these details, and tell us that we may learn
from the condition of this unfortunate country how useless are
democratic forms among a people incapable of liberty, and that very
weak governments can commit all sorts of crimes with impunity, from the
fact that they have no official existence which foreign powers can
recognize; and various other weighty moral lessons, which must be
highly edifying to our countrymen in the Republic, who are meanwhile
left pretty much to shift for themselves.

All this time the United States are steadily advancing; and the destiny
of the country is gradually accomplishing itself. That its total
absorption must come, sooner or later, we can hardly doubt. The chief
difficulty seems to be that the American constitution will not exactly
suit the case. The Republic laid down the right of each citizen to his
share in the government of the country as a universal law, founded on
indefeasible lights of humanity, fundamental laws of nature, and what
not, making, it is true, some slight exceptions with regard to red and
black men. The Mexicans, or at least the white and half-caste Mexicans,
will be a difficulty. Their claims to citizenship are unquestionable,
if Mexico were made a State of the Union; and, as everybody knows, they
are totally incapable of governing themselves, which they must be left
to do under the constitutional system of the United States; moreover,
it is certain that American citizens would never allow even the whitest
of the Mexicans to be placed on a footing of equality with themselves.
Supposing these difficulties got over by a Protectorate, an armed
occupation, or some similar contrivance, Mexico will undergo a great
change. There will be roads and even rail-roads, some security for life
and property, liberty of opinion, a nourishing commerce, a rapidly
increasing population, and a variety of good things. Every intelligent
Mexican must wish for an event so greatly to the advantage of his
country and of the world in general.

Some of our good friends in Mexico have bought land on the American
frontier by the hundred square leagues, and can point out patches upon
the map of the world as large as Scotland or Ireland--as their private
property. What their gains will be when enterprising western men begin
to bring the country under cultivation, it is not an easy matter to
realize.

As for ourselves individually, we may be excused for cherishing a
lurking kindness for the quaint, picturesque manners and customs of
Mexico, as yet un-Americanized; and for rejoicing that it was our
fortune to travel there before the coming change, when its most curious
peculiarities and its very language must yield before foreign
influences.

[Illustration: THE REBOZO AND THE SERAPE.]



APPENDIX.

       *       *       *       *       *

I. THE MANUFACTURE OF OBSIDIAN KNIVES, ETC. (_Note to p. 97._)

Some of the old Spanish writers on Mexico give a tolerably full account
of the manner in which the obsidian knives, &c., were made by the
Aztecs. It will be seen that it only modifies in one particular the
theory we had formed by mere inspection as to the way in which these
objects were made, which is given at p.97; that is, they were cracked
off by pressure, and not, as we conjectured, by a blow of some hard
substance.

Torquemada (_Monarquía Indiana, Seville_, 1615) says; (free
translation) "They had, and still have, workmen who make knives of a
certain black stone or flint, which it is a most wonderful and
admirable thing to see them make out of the stone; and the ingenuity
which invented this art is much to be praised. They are made and got
out of the stone (if one can explain it) in this manner. One of these
Indian workmen sits down upon the ground, and takes a piece of this
black stone, which is like jet, and hard as flint, and is a stone which
might be called precious, more beautiful and brilliant than alabaster
or jasper, so much so that of it are made tablets[24] and mirrors. The
piece they take is about 8 inches long or rather more, and as thick as
one's leg or rather less, and cylindrical; they have a stick as large
as the shaft of a lance, and 3 cubits or rather more in length; and at
the end of it they fasten firmly another piece of wood, 8 inches long,
to give more weight to this part; then, pressing their naked feet
together, they hold the stone as with a pair of pincers or the vice of
a carpenter's bench. They take the stick (which is cut off smooth at
the end) with both hands, and set it well home against the edge of the
front of the stone (_y ponenlo avesar con el canto de la frente de la
piedra_) which also is cut smooth in that part; and then they press it
against their breast, and with the force of the pressure there flies
off a knife, with its point, and edge on each tide, as neatly as if one
were to make them of a turnip with a sharp knife, or of iron in the
fire. Then they sharpen it on a stone, using a hone to give it a very
fine edge; and in a very short time these workmen will make more than
twenty knives in the aforesaid manner. They come out of the same shape
as our barbers' lancets, except that they have a rib up the middle, and
have a slight graceful curve towards the point. They will cut and shave
the hair the first time they are used, at the first cut nearly as well
as a steel razor, but they lose their edge at the second cut; and so,
to finish shaving one's beard or hair, one after another has to be
used; though indeed they are cheap, and spoiling them is of no
consequence. Many Spaniards, both regular and secular clergy, have been
shaved with them, especially at the beginning of the colonization of
these realms, when there was no such abundance as now of the necessary
instruments, and people who gain their livelihood by practising this
occupation. But I conclude by saying that it is an admirable thing to
see them made, and no small argument for the capacity of the men who
found out such an invention."

Vetancurt (_Teatro Mejicano_) gives an account, taken from the above.
Hernandez (_Rerum Med. Nov. Hisp. Thes.: Rome_, 1631) gives a similar
account of the process. He compares the wooden instrument used to a
cross-bow. It was evidently a T-shaped implement, and the workman held
the cross-piece with his two hands against his breast, while the end of
the straight stick rested on the stone. He furthermore gives a
description of the making of the well-known _maquahuitl_, or Aztec
war-club, which was armed on both sides with a row of obsidian knives,
or teeth, stuck into holes with a kind of gum. With this instrument, he
says, a man could be cut in half at a blow--an absurd statement, which
has been repeated by more modern writers.

II. ON THE SOLAR ECLIPSES RECORDED IN THE LE TELLIER MS.

The curious Aztec Picture-writing, known as the _Codex
Telleriano-Remenensis_, preserved in the Royal Library of Paris,
contains a list or calendar of a long series of years, indicated by the
ordinary signs of the Aztec system of notation of cycles of years.
Below the signs of the years are a number of hieroglyphic pictures,
conveying the record of remarkable events which happened in them, such
as the succession and death of kings, the dates of wars, pestilences,
&c. The great work of Lord Kingsborough, which contains a fac-simile of
this curious document, reproduces also an ancient interpretation of the
matters contained in it, evidently the work of a person who not only
understood the interpretation of the Aztec picture-writings, but had
access to some independent source of information,--probably the more
ample oral traditions, for the recalling of which the picture-writing
appears only to have served as a sort of artificial memory. It is not
necessary to enter here into a fuller description of the MS., which has
also been described by Humboldt and Gallatin.

Among the events recorded in the Codex are four eclipses of the sun,
depicted as having happened in the years 1476, 1496, 1507. 1510.
Humboldt, in quoting these dates, makes a remark to the effect that the
record tends to prove the veracity of the Aztec history, for solar
eclipses really happened in those years, according to the list in the
well-known chronological work, _L'Art de Vérifier les Dates_, as
follows: 28 Feb., 1476; 8 Aug., 1496; 13 Jan., 1507; 8 May, 1510. The
work quoted, however, has only reference to eclipses visible in Europe,
Asia, and Africa, and not to those in America. The question therefore
arises, whether all these four eclipses recorded in _L'Art de Vérifier
les Dates_, were visible in Mexico. As to the last three, I have no
means of answering the question; but it appears that Gama, a Mexican
astronomer of some standing, made a series of calculations for a
totally distinct purpose about the end of the last century, and found
that in 1476 _there was no eclipse of the sun visible in Mexico_, but
that there was a great one on the 13th Feb., 1477, and another on the
28th May, 1481.

Supposing that Gama made no mistake in his calculations, the idea at
once suggests itself, that the person who compiled or copied the Le
Tellier Codex, some few years after the Spanish Conquest of Mexico,
inserted under the date of 1476 (long before the time of the Spaniards)
an eclipse which could not have been recorded there had the document
been a genuine Aztec Calendar; _as, though visible in Europe, it was
not visible in Mexico_. The supposition of the compiler having merely
inserted this date from a European table of eclipses is strengthened by
the fact that _the great eclipse of 1477, which was visible in Mexico,
but not in Europe, is not to be found there_. These two facts tend to
prove that the Codex, though undoubtedly in great part a copy or
compilation from genuine native materials, has been deliberately
sophisticated with a view of giving it a greater appearance of
historical accuracy, by some person who was not quite clever enough to
do his work properly. It may, however, be urged as a proof that the
mistake is merely the result of carelessness, that we find in the MS.
no notice of the eclipse of 25th May, 1481, which was visible both in
Mexico and in Europe, and so ought to have been in the record. This
supposition would be consistent with the Codex being really a document
in which the part relating to the events before the Spanish Conquest in
1521 is of genuine ancient and native origin, though the whole is
compiled in a very grossly careless manner. It would be very desirable
to verify the years of all the four eclipses with reference to their
being visible in Mexico, as this might probably clear up the
difficulty.

III. TABLE OK AZTEC ROOTS COMPARED WITH SANSCRIT, ETC.

Several lists of Aztec words compared with those of various
Indo-European languages have been given by philologists. The present is
larger than any I have met with; several words in it are taken from
Buschmann's work on the Mexican languages. It is desirable in a
philological point of view that comparative lists of words of this kind
should be made, even when, as in the present instance, they are not of
sufficient extent to found any theory upon.

As the Aztec alphabet does not contain nearly all the Sanscrit
consonants, many of them must be compared with the nearest Aztec
sounds, as:

SANSCRIT, t, th, d, dh, &c.  ... AZTEC, t.
SANSCRIT, k, kh, g, gh, &c.  ... AZTEC c.q.
SANSCRIT, l, r.              ... AZTEC, l.
SANSCRIT, b, bh, v.          ... AZTEC, v. or u.

The Aztec c is soft (as s) before e and i, hard (as k) before a, o, u.
The Aztec ch as in _cheese_. I have followed Molina's orthography in
writing such words as _uel_ or _vel_ (English, _well_) instead of the
more modern, but I think less correct way, _huel_.

 1. a-, _negative prefix_ (_as_ qualli, _good_; aqualli, _bad_). SANS.,
    a-; GREEK, a-, &c.

 2. o-, _preterite augment_ (_as_ nitemachtia, _I teach_; onitemachti,
    _I taught_); SANS., a-; compare GREEK e-.

 3. pal, _prep. by_: compare SANS. _prep._, para, _back_; pari,
    _circum_; pra, _before_; GREEK, para; LAT., per.

 4. ce-, cen-, cem-, _prefix collective_ (_as_ tlalla, _to place_,
    centlalla, _to collect_); SANS., sa-, san-, sam-; GREEK, syn; LAT.,
    syn.

 5. ce, cen-, cem-, _one_. SANS., sa (_in_ sa-krit, _once_: comp. Bopp,
    Gloss., p. 362.) LAT., se-_mel_, si-_mul_, sim-_plex_.

 6. metz (metz-tli), _moon_. SANS., mas.

 7. tlal (tlal-li), _earth_. SANS., tala, dhara. LAT., terra, tellus.

 8. citlal (citlal-in), _star_. SANS., stri, stara. LAT., stella. Eng.,
    star.

 9. atoya (atoya-tl), _river_. SANS., udya.

10. teuh (teuh-tli), _dust_. Sans., dhû-li (_from_ dhû, to drive
    about.)

11. teo (teo-tl),_god_. Sans., deva. Greek, _Theos_. Lat., deus.

12. qual (qual-li),_good_. Sans., kalya, kalyâna. Greek, kalor.

13. uel, _well_. Sans., vara, _excellent_; vli, _to choose_. Lat.,
    velle. Icel., vel. Eng., well.

14. uel, _power, brave, &c_., (uel-e, tla-uel-e.) Sans., bala,
    _strength_. Lat., valeo, valor.

15. auil, _vicious, wasteful_. Sans., âvila, _sinful, guilty;_ abala,
    _weak_. Eng., evil.

16. miec, _much_. Sans., mahat, _great_; manh _or_ mah, _to grow_.
    Icel., miok, _much_. Eng., much.

17. vey, _great_. Sans., bahu, _much_.

18. -pol, _augmentative affix_ (as tepe-tl. _mountain_; tepepol, _great
    mountain_.) Sans., puru, _much_; pula, _great, ample_. Greek,
    pothus.

19. naua (naua-c), _near, by the side of_. Sans., nah, _to join or
    connect_. German, nah, _near_.

20. ten (ten-qui), _fuil_. Sans., tûn, _to fill_.

21. izta (izta-c), _white_. Sans., sita.

22. cuz (cuz-tic), _red_. Sans, kashãya, kasãya.

23. ta (ta-tli), _father_. Sans., tãta.

24. cone (cone-tl), _child. Compare_ Sans., jan, _to beget_. Lat.,
    gen-itus. German, kin-d. Eng., kin.

25. pil (pil-li), _child. Compare_ Sans., bãla, _boy, child_; bhri, _to
    bear children_, &c. Greek, polos, _foal_. Lat., pullus, filius.
    Eng.,_foal_, &c., &c.

26. cax (cax-itl), _cup_. Sans., chasbaka.

27. paz(?)(a-paz-tli), _vase, basin_. Sans., bajana. _Compare_ Lat.,
    vas. Eng., vase.

28. com (com-itl), _earthen pot_. Sans., kumbha.

29. xuma (xuma-tli), _spoon_. Sans., chamasa; _from_ Sans., cham, _to
    eat_.

30. mich (mich-in), _fish_. Sans., machcha.

31. zaca (zaca-tl), _grass_. Sans., sãka.

32. col (te-col-li, col-ceuia, &c.), _charcoal_. Sans., jval, _to burn,
    flame_; Icel., kol; Eng., coal; Irish, gual.

33. cen (cen-tli), _grain, maize_. Sans., kana, _grain_.

34. ehe (ehe-catl), _wind_. Sans., vãyu.

35. mix (mix-tli), _cloud_. Sans., megha; Icel., and Eng., mist.

36. cal (cal-ii),_house_. Sans., sãlã. Greek, kalia; Lat., cella.

37. qua (qua-itl), _head_. Sans., ka.

38. ix (ix-tli), _eye, face_. Sans., aksha, _eye_; âsya, _face_.

39. can (can-tli), _cheek_, Sans., ganda; Lat., gena.

40. chichi (chichi-tl), _teat_. Sans., chuchuka.

41. nene (nene-tl), _pupil of eye_. Sans., nayanâ.

42. choloa, _to run or leap_. Sans., char.

43. caqui (caqui-ztli), _sound_. Sans., kach, _to sound_.

44. xin (xi-xin-ia), _to cut, ruin, destroy_. Sans., ksin, _to hurt,
    kill._

45. tlacç (tlacç-ani), _to run_. Sans., triks, _to go_; Greek, trecho.

46. patlani, _to fly_. Sans., pat.

47. mati, _to know_. Sans., medh, _to understand_; mati, _thought,
    mind_; Greek root math.

48. it (it-ta), _to see_. Sans., vid; Greek root id, eidomai, &c.;
    Lat., video.

49. meya, _to flow, trickle_. Sans., mih.

50. mic (mic-tia), _to kill_. Sans., mi, mith.

51. cuica, _to sing_. Sans., kûj. _to sing, as birds_, &c.

52. chichi _to suck_. SANS., chûsh.

53. ahnachia, _to sprinkle_: _compare_ SANS. uks.

54. coton (coton-a),_to cut_. SANS. kutt.

55. nex (nex-tia), _to shine_. SANS, nad; LAT., niteo.

55. notz (notz-a), _to call_. SANS., nad.

57. choc (choc-a),_to lament, cry_. SANS, kuch, _to cry aloud, scream;_
    such, _to wail_.

58. me(?)(in me-catl, _binding-thing, chain?) to bind_ SANS., mû, mava.

59. qua, _to eat, bite_: compare SANS. charv, _to chew, bite, gnaw_;
    chah, _to bruize_; khad, _to eat_.; GERMAN, kauen; ENG., to chew.

60. te, _thou_. SANS. tvam; LAT., tu.

61. quen, _how?_ SANS. kena.

_Other curious resemblances between the Aztec and European languages
are_:

62. pepeyol, _poplar_. LAT., populus; ICEL., popel.

63. papal (papal-otl), _butterfly_; LAT., papilio.

64. ul (ul-li), _juice of the India-rubber tree, used as oil for
    anointing, &c._ LAT., oleum; ENG., oil, &c.

       *       *       *       *       *

IV. GLOSSARY.

ANAHUAC. _Aztec_. "By the water-side."
  The name at first applied to the Valley of Mexico, from the
  situation of the towns on the banks of the lakes; afterwards
  used to denote a great part of the present Republic of Mexico.

ACOCOTE (_Aztec_, acocotl, water-throat), aloe-sucker's gourd; _see p._
  91.

ADOBE, a mud-brick, baked in the sun.
  (Perhaps a _Moorish-Spanish_ word.
  _Ancient Egyptian_, tobe, a mud-brick;
  _Arabic_, toob, pronounced with the article
  _at-toob_, whence adobe?)

AGUAMIEL (honey-water), unfermented aloe-juice.

AGUARDIENTE (burning-water), ardent spirits.

AHUEHUETE (_Aztec_, ahuehuetl), the deciduous cypress.

ALAMEDA (poplar-avenue), public promenade; _see p._ 57.

ALCALDE, a magistrate (_Moorish-Spanish_, al cadi, "the cadi").

ANQUERA (hauncher), covering for horses' haunches; _see p._ 164 (_and
  cut, p._ 260).

ARRIERO, a muleteer.

ARROYO, a rivulet, mountain-torrent.

ATAMBOB, a drum.

ATOLE (_Aztec_, atolli), porridge.

AVERSADA, a freshet.

BARATILLO, a Rag-fair, market of odds and ends; _see p._ 169.

BARBACOA, whence English "barbecue;" _see p._ 95; a native Haitian
  word.

BARRANCCA, a ravine.

CALZONCILLOS, drawers.

CAPA, a cloak.

CAYO, a coral-reef.

CHAPARREROS, over-trousers of goatskin with the hair on, used in
  riding.

CHINAMPA (_Aztec_, "a place fenced in)," a Mexican "floating garden;"
  _see p._ 62.

CHINGUERITO, Indian-corn brandy.

CHIPI-CHIPI (_Aztec_, chipini, drizzling rain); _see p._ 26.

CHUPA-MIRTO (myrtle-sucker), a humming-bird.

COLEAR, to throw a bull over by the tail (cola); _see p._ 71.

COMPADRE. COMADRE; _French_, compère, commère; _see p._ 250.

CORRAL, an enclosure for cattle.

COSTAL, a bag, or sack.

COYOTE (_Aztec_, coyotl), a jackal.

CUARTA, a leather horse-whip; _see_ p. 264.

CUARTEL, a barrack.

CUCARACHA, a cockroach.

CUCHILLO, a knife.

CURA, a parish-priest.

DESAGUE, a draining-cut.

DESAYUNO, breakfast.

EMANCIPADO (emancipated negro); see p. 6.

ESCOPETA, a musket.

ESCRIBANO, a scribe or secretary.

FANDANGO, a dance.

FIESTA, a church-festival.

FRIJOLES, beans.

FUERO, a legal privilege; _see pp._ 19, 249.

GACHUPIN, a native of Spain. Supposed to be an Aztec epithet,
  _cac-chopina_, that is, "prickly shoes," applied to the Spanish
  conquerors from their wearing spurs, which to the Indians were
  strange and incomprehensible appendages.

GARROTE, an instrument for strangling criminals.

GENTE DE RAZÓN (reasonable people), white men and half-breed Mexicans,
  but not Indians;_ see p._ 61.

GUAJALOTE (Aztec, huexolotl), a turkey: _see p._ 228.

GULCHE, a ravine.

HACENDADO, a planter, landed proprietor, from HACIENDA (literally
  "doing," from _hacer_, or _facer_, to do). An estate, establishment,
  &c.

HACIENDA DE BENEFICIO, an establishment for "benefiting" silver, i.e.,
  for extracting it from the ore.

HONDA, a sling.

HORNITOS (little ovens), the small cones near the volcano of Jorullo,
  which formerly emitted steam; see p. 92.

HULE (_Aztec,_ ulli. India-rubber?) a waterproof coat.

ICHTL (_Aztec,_ thread), thread or string of aloe-fibre.

ITZTLI (Aztec), obsidian; _see_ p. 100.

LAZADOR, one who throws the lazo.

LAZO. a running noose.

LEPERO, lazzarone, or prolétaire; _see p._ 251.

LLANOS, plains.

MACHETE, a kind of bill-hook.

MALACATE (_Aztec,_ malacatl), a spindle, spindle-head, windlass, &c.

MANTA, cotton-cloth.
MATRACA, a rattle; _see p._ 49.

MESON, a Mexican caravansery; _see p._
  209.

MESTIZO (mixtus) a Mexican of mixed Spanish and Aztec blood.

METATE (_Aztec_, metlatl) the stone used for rubbing down Indian corn
into paste; see p. 88.

METALPILE (_Aztec_, metlapilli, i.e. little metlatl), the stone
rolling-pin used in the same process.

MOLE (_Aztec,_ mulli), Mexican stew.

MOLINO DE VIENTO (literally a windmill), a whirlwind; _see p._ 31.

MONTE (literally a mountain), the favourite Mexican game; _see p. _256.

MOZO, a lad, servant, groom.

NIÑO, a child.

NOPAL (_Aztec_, nopalli), the prickly pear.

NOETE, the north wind; see p. 21.

OCOTE (_Aztec_, ocotl), a pine-tree, pine-torch. OLLA, a boiling-pot.

PASADIZO, a passage; _see p._ 231.

PASEO, a public promenade.

PASO, a kind of amble; _see p._ 163.

PATIO, a court-yard, especially the inner court of a house.

PATIO-PROCESS, method of extracting the silver from the ore, so called
  from its being carried on in paved yards; _see p. _92.

PATRON, a master, landlord.

PEDRIGAL, a lava-field.

PEOS, a debt-slave; _see_ p. 291.

PETATE (_Aztec_, petlatl), a palm-leaf mat.

PITO, 1, a whistle, pipe; 2, aloe-fibre thread.

POTRERO, a water-meadow.

PULQUE, a drink made from the juice of the aloe; _see_ p. 38. (It is a
  corruption of a native South American word, introduced into Mexico by
  the Spaniards).

RANCHERO, a cottager, yeoman.

RANCHO, a hut.

RAYA (literally a line), the paying of workmen at a hacienda, &c.

RAYAR, to pull a horse up short at a line; _see_ p. 163.

REATA, a horse-rope; _see_ p. 264.

REBOZO, a woman's shawl; _see_ p. 56.

RECUA, a train of mules.

SALA, a hall, dining-room.

SERAPE, a Mexican blanket; _see_ p. 169.

SOMBRERO, a hat.

TACUMENILES, pine-shingles for roofing.

TEMAZCALLI, Indian vapour-bath; _see_ p. 301.

TEOCALLI (_Aztec_, god's house), an Aztec pyramid-temple.

TEFONAZTLI, Indian wooden drum.

TEQUESQUITE (_Aztec_, tequesquiti), an alkaline efflorescence abundant
  on the soil in Mexico, used for soap-making, &c.

TETZONTLI, porous amygdaloid lava, a stone much used for building in
  Mexico.

TIENDA, a shop; _see_ p. 82.

TIERRA CALIENTE, the hot region.

TIERRA FRÍA, the cold region.

TIERRA TEMPLADA. the temperate region.

TLACHIQUEBO (_Aztec_, tlacbiqui, an overseer, from tlachia, to see), a
  labourer in an aloe-field, who draws the juice for pulque; _see_ p.
  36.

TORO, a bull.

TORTA (literally, a cake); _see_ p. 92.

TORTILLAS, thin cakes made of Indian corn, resembling oat-cakes; _see_
  p. 33.

TRAPICHE, a sugar-mill.

ULEI, _see_ Hule.

VAQUERO, cow-herd.

ZOPILOTE (_Aztec_, zopilotl), a turkey-buzzard.

       *       *       *       *       *

V. DESCRIPTION OF THREE VERY RARE SPECIMENS OF ANCIENT MEXICAN
MOSAIC-WORK (IN THE COLLECTION OF HENRY CHRISTY, ESQ.).

These Specimens, two Masks and a Knife, (_see page_ 101.) are
interesting as presenting examples of higher art than has been supposed
to have been attained to by the ancient Mexicans, or any other of the
native American peoples. Their distinctive feature is an incrustation
of Mosaic of Turquoise, cut and polished, and fitted with extreme
nicety,--a work of great labour, time, and cost in any country, and
especially so amongst a people to whom the use of iron was
unknown,--and carried out with a perfection which suggests the idea
that the art must have been long practised under the fostering of
wealth and power, although so few examples of it have come down to us.

Although considerably varied, they are all three of one family of work,
so to speak; the predominant feature being the use of turquoise; and
the question which presents itself at the outset is--what are the
evidences that this unique work is of Aztec origin?

The proofs are so interwoven with the style and structure of the
specimens that their appearance and nationality are best treated of
together.

The Mask of wood is covered with minute pieces of turquoise--cut and
polished, accurately fitted, many thousands in number, and set on a
dark gum or cement. The eyes, however, are acute-oval patches of
mother-of-pearl; and there are two small square patches of the same on
the temples, through which a string passed to suspend the mask; and the
teeth are of hard white shell. The eyes are perforated, and so are the
nostrils, and the upper and lower teeth are separated by a transverse
chink; thus a wearer of the mask (which sits easily on one's face) can
see, breathe, and speak with ease. The features bear that remarkably
placid and contemplative expression which distinguishes so many of the
Aztec works, in common with those of the Egyptians, whether in their
massive stone sculptures, or in the smallest and commonest heads of
baked earth. The face, which is well-proportioned, pleasing, and of
great symmetry, is studded also with numerous projecting pieces of
turquoise, rounded and polished.

In addition to the character of the work and the style of face, the
evidence of the Aztec origin of this mask is confirmed by the wood
being of the fragrant cedar or cypress of Mexico. It may be remarked
also that the inside is painted red, as are the wooden masks of the
Indians of the North-west coast of America at the present day.

The Knife presents, both in form and substance, more direct evidence of
its Aztec origin; for, in addition to its incrustation with the unique
mosaic of turquoise, blended (in this case) with malachite and white
and red shell, its handle is sculptured in the form of a crouching
human figure, covered with the skin of an eagle, and presenting the
well-known and distinctive Aztec type of the human head issuing from
the mouth of an animal. (_See cut_, p. 101.) Beyond this there is in
the stone blade the curious fact of a people which had attained to so
complex a design and such an elaborate ornamentation remaining in the
Stone-age; and, somewhat curiously, the locality of that stone blade is
fixed, by its being of that semi-transparent opalescent calcedony which
Humboldt describes as occurring in the volcanic districts of
Mexico--the concretionary silex of the trachytic lavas.

The second Mask is yet more distinctive. The incrustation of
turquoise-mosaic is placed on the forehead, face, and jaws of a human
skull, the back part of which has been cut away to allow of its being
hung, by the leather thongs which still remain, over the face of an
idol, as was the custom in Mexico thus to mask their gods on
state-occasions. The mosaic of turquoise is interrupted by three broad
transverse bands, on the forehead, face, and chin, of a mosaic of
obsidian, similarly cut (but in larger pieces) and highly polished,--a
very unusual treatment of this difficult and intractable material, the
use of which in any artistic way appears to have been confined to the
Aztecs (with the exception, perhaps, of the Egyptians).

The eye-balls are nodules of iron-pyrites, cut hemispherically and
highly polished, and are surrounded by circles of hard white shell,
similar to that forming the teeth of the wooden mask.

The Aztecs made their mirrors of iron-pyrites polished, and are the
only people who are known to have put this material to ornamental use.

The mixture of art, civilization, and barbarism which the hideous
aspect of this green and black skull-mask presents accords with the
condition of Mexico at the time of the Conquest, under which human
sacrifices on a gigantic scale were coincident with much refinement in
arts and manners.

The European history of these three specimens is somewhat curious. With
the exception of two in the Museum at Copenhagen, obtained many years
ago by Professor Thomsen from a convent in Rome, and, though greatly
dilapidated, presenting some traces of the game kind of ornamentation,
they are believed to be unique.

The Wooden Mask and the Knife were long known in a collection at
Florence. Thirty years ago the mask was brought into England from that
city, as Egyptian: and, somewhat later, the knife was obtained from
Venice.

Subsequently the Skull-mask, with a wig of hair said to be a scalp, was
found at Bruges; a locality which leads to the presumption that the
mask was brought from Mexico soon after the Conquest in 1521, and prior
to the expulsion of the Spaniards from Flanders consequent on the
revolt of the Low Countries in 1579.

_Note_.--It happens singularly enough, that a curious old work,
_Aldrorandus, Musaeum Metallicum, Bologna_, 1613, contains drawings of
a knife and wooden mask ornamented with mosaic-work of stone, made just
in the came way as those described above, and only differing from them
in the design. What became of them I cannot tell.

       *       *       *       *       *

VI. DASENT'S ESSAY ON THE ETHNOGRAPHICAL VALUE OF POPULAR TALES AND
LEGENDS.

Whilst treating of legendary lore in connection with Ethnographry, we
must not forget to refer the reader to the highly useful and
philosophical remarks on this subject in Dasent's Introduction to his
_Popular Tales from the Norse_.[25] Here we see that not only are the
popular tales of any nation indicative of its early condition and its
later progress, but also that the legends, fables, and tales of the
Indo-European nations, at least, bear internal evidence of their having
grown out of a few simple notes--of having sprung from primaeval germs
originating with the old Aryan family, from whom successive migrations
carried away the original myth to be elaborated or degraded according
to the genius and habits of the people.

Thus other means of resolving the relations of the early races of Man
are added to those previously afforded by ethnographical and
philological research.



INDEX.


Account-keeping, 87.

Acodada, 57.

Africans and Chinese, 13.

Agriculture, 26, 61, 63, 89, 157-161, 172, 216.

Ahuehuetes, 57, 155, 215, 265.

Alameda, 57.

Alluvial Deposits, 150.

Aloes, 35, 136;
  huts built of, 36.

Aloe-fibre, manufacture of, 88.

Aloe-juice, collected for Pulque, 36, 91.

Amatlan, 299.

Amecameca, 265.

American War, 118-120.

Amozoque, 295.

Anahuac, 57, 270.

Antiquities, collections of, 222-236, 262.

Antonio, our man, 321.

Ants, 8.

Aqueduct of Chapultepec, 55.

Arch, Aztec, 153, 276.

Armadillo, 312, 319, 325.

Arms of Mexico, 42.

Army, Mexican, 114-119.

Arrow-heads, 137.

Art, Aztec, 186, 230, 316.

Astronomy, Aztec, 237-241, 244.

Atotonilco, 82, 85.

Aztec Antiquities, 35, 137, 141-148, 150-156, 183-195, 222-244,
  262-264, 274-280.

Aztec Civilization, 103.

Aztec Language, 143, 227, 235, 243, 279, 333.

Bananas, 178.

Baratillo, 169-171.

Barometer, height of, 68.

Barrancas, 89, 179, 310, 313.

Barricades, 55.

Batabano, 3.

Baths of Santa Fé, 7.

Bells, ancient, 235.

Bits, 167.

Books, 124.

Bronze-age, 139.

Bronze,
  stone-cutting with, 138-140;
  hatchets, 225;
  bells and needles, 235.

Bull-fights, 70.

Bull-dogs in Mexico, 149.

Bull, lazoing the, 253, 323.

Cacahuamilpán, 200-205.

Cacao-beans, 227.

Cactuses, 73, 90, 140, 144.

Calendar-stone of Mexico, 237-240.

Canals, 58, 130.

Canoes, 60, 129, 132, 134.

Capitalists, 295.

Cascade of Regla, 93.

Castor-oil plant, 9.

Casa Grande, 77, 135.

Cattle, 16, 31, 323.

Cave of Cacahuamilpán, 203-205.

Central American Antiquities, 189-193.

Cerro de Navajas, 95-100.

Chalco,
  Canal of, 58;
  Lake, 173;

Chalma, 208-214.

Chapultepec, 55, 57.

Chinampas, 62.

Chinese in Cuba, 12.

Chipi-chipi, 26.

Cholula, 274-278.

Church, the, 113, 213, 285-290.

Church-dances, 211.

Churches in Mexico, 36, 46.

Civil-war, 112, 283, 328.

Cigar-making, 3.

Clergy of Mexico, 7, 79, 287.

Clay figures, 229, 275.

Coach, old-fashioned, 59.

Cochineal-insect, 24.

Cockfighting, 254, 256.

Cockroaches, 325.

Cocoyotla, 196.

Colearing, 71.

Columbus, 4.

Comonfort, President, 19, 112.

Compadrazgo, 250.

Commerce of Mexico, 105.

Convents in Mexico, 46, 287.

Convicts, 22.

Cordova, 25.

Corrida de Toros, 70.

Costumes, 51, 62, 168.

Courier, 167, 310.

Criminals, 245-249.

Cuba, 2.

Cuernavaca, 179.

Cura of New Gerona, 9.

Cypress-trees, 57, 155, 215, 265.

Dancing, 207, 211.

Dasent on Popular Legends, &c., 339.

Debt-slavery, 291.

Diligence, travelling by, 37, 173.

Dishonesty of Mexicans, 80-82.

Dram-drinking, 83.

Dress of the Indians, 61.

Drums, 231.

Earthquakes, 66.

Eclipses observed in Mexico, 333.

Education, 125-128.

Emancipados, 6, 14.

English in Mexico, 73, 318.

Estación de Méjico, 121.

Ethnology, 17, 102-104, 187-195, 241-244, 276-280.

Evaporation, rapid, 75.

Feather-work, 70.

Flies' eggs, 156.

Floating gardens, 62.

Flooded streets, 65.

Florida, free blacks from, 5, 10-12.

Forests, destruction of by Spaniards, 45.

Fueros, 19.

Future of Mexico, 329.

Gambling, 15, 207, 256-258, 320.

Glass-works, 135.

Glossary, 335.

Goddess of War, 222.

Gold and Silver work, 234.

Gourd-bottles, 171.

Grove of Cypresses, 57.

Guadalupe (Our Lady of), 66, 120-224.

Hams, Toluca, 219.

Havana, 1, 326.

Hedges of Cactus, 73.

Highlands of Mexico, 35.

Hill of Drums, 215.

Holy Week, 47-54.

Horse-bath, 290.

Horses, 163-165, 317.

Hotel d'Yturbide, 39.

Houses, 25, 36, 91, 135, 172;
  built on piles, 41.

Huamantla, 31.

Huehuetoca, draining-cut of, 45.

Humming-birds, 69.

Indian Baptism, 207.

Indian Ointment, 324.

Indians of Mexico, 47,60-64, 80-88, 173, 182, 197-199, 200-208,
  299-309, 314-316.

Indian Soldiers, 23, 120, 122.

Indulgences, 52, 124.

Inquisition, the, 128.

Insects, 319.

Intemperance, 47, 83, 307.

Inundations, 44, 65, 123.

Iron, 102, 140.

Irrigation, 86, 157-161, 179.

Isle of Pines, 4.

Iztaccihnatl, 268.

Jacal, Mount, 95.

Jalapa, 317-321.

Jorullo, 92.

Judas, 50.

Judas's Bones, 49.

Junta, La, 314.

Justice, Administration of, 246-248, 300.

Lakes in Valley of Mexico, 44-46, 65, 130-134, 173.

Lava-fields, 28, 35, 118.

Law-courts of Mexico, 249.

Lazoing, 71, 252-254, 323.

Legends, 236, 276-279, 340.

Leper Hospital, 251.

Leperos, 251.

Lerma, 219.

Le Tellier MS., on Eclipses, 332.

Loadstone mountain, 102.

Locusts, 298.

Lonja, 66.

Machinery in Mexico, 109.

Magnetic Iron-ore, 102.

Manufacture of Obsidian Knives, 97, 331.

Marble Quarries in the Isle of Pines, 6.

Market, Indian, 85, 89.

Martin, our servant, 273, 321.

Masks, 110, 226, 235, 337.

Matracas, 49.

Mestizos, 48, 61, 300.

Metate, 88.

Mexican Dishes, 51;
  Ladies, 51;
  Words, 227, 263.

Mexican Police, 149;
  War with United States, 118.

Mexico, City of, 41-44, 111;
  Old, 147;
  Formation of the country of, 27;
  Future of, 329;
  People of, 55;
  Valley of, 40-46, 270.

Military Statistics, 115.

Miners, 79, 258.

Miraflores, 264.

Minería, or School of Mines, 47.

Mirage, 30.

Mongolian Calendar, 241.

Monks, 205, 209, 213.

Morals of Servitude, 81, 293.

Mosaic work, 101, 110, 235.

Mosquitos, 5, 325.

Mules, Mexican, 175.

Museum of Mexico, 222-237.

Negress, white, 323.

Negros in Mexico, 13, 323.

Nevado de Toluca, 219.

Nopals, Plantations of, 24.

Nopalucán, 296.

Nortes, 21, 23.

Nuestra Señora de Remedies, 121.

Nueva Gerona, 4, 8.

Numerals, Mexican, &c., 107-110.

Obsidian,
  mines of, 95, 99;
  knives, &c., 95-102, 137, 229, 331.

Oculan, 215.

Old Mexico, 147;
  Baths near Tezcuco, 153;
  Bridge near Tezcuco, 153.

Organ-cactus, 73.

Orizaba,
  town of, 26;
  volcano of, 18, 29, 226.

Ornament, common styles of, 185.

Pachuca, 69, 74.

Palma Christi, 9.

Paseo, or Alameda, 57.

Passport-system (Cuba), 3.

Peñón de los Baños, 131.

Peons, 291-294.

People of Mexico, 55.

Picture-writings, 104, 130, 232-234.

Pintos, 309.

Pirates of the Spanish Main, 5.

Ploughing, 172.

Police, Mexican, 149.

Political Economy, 105, 217, 264, 294, 302-309, 328.

Politics of Mexico, 19, 111-118, 282-284, 290, 328.

Popocatepetl, ascent of, 265-273.

Population, 217, 302-309.

Potrero, 307.

Pottery, 85, 88, 151, 226, 275.

Priests, 9, 79, 285-290.

Prisons, 244-248.

Promenade of Las Vigas, 64.

Protective duties, 104, 264.

Puebla, 113, 281-291.

Pulque, 35, 37, 91.

Pulque-shops, 63.

Pyramids, 43, 141-148, 190, 274-278.

Quarries in the Isle of Pines, 6;
  of obsidian, 99;
  of Teotihuacán, 137.

Rag-fair in Mexico, 169.

Railway, 2, 24, 121.

Rain, 136, 266.

Rainy Region, 26.

Ranches, 25, 266, 299.

Rattles, 49.

Real del Monte, 77.

Rebozo, 56.

Reform in Mexico, 117.

Regla, 78;
  cascade of, 93.

Revolutions, 20, 114, 282-284.

Roads in Mexico, 29, 37, 76.

Robbers, 32, 117, 170, 297;
  Priest-captain of, 34.

Sacred trees, 215, 265.

Sacrifice of Spaniards, 145.

Sacrificial
  Clamps, 225;
  Stone, 223.

Saddles, &c., 162-167.

St. Thomas's, W. Indies, 327.

Salinas of Campeche, 84.

Saline condition of the soil, 133.

Salt, 83, 154.

Salt-pans, 155.

Salto del Agua, 55.

Sand-pillars, 30.

San Andrés Chalchicomula, 312.

San Antonio de Abajo, 296.

San José and Earthquakes, 67.

San Nícolas, 272.

Santa Anita, 63.

Santa Maria de Guadalupe, 121.

Santa Rosita de Cocoyotla, 196.

Sardines, 87.

School of Mines, 47.

Scorpions, 319, 322.

Sculptures at Xochicalco, 185.

Serape, 169.

Sheep, 324.

Shrines of Xochicalco, 193.

Silver-mines, &c., 74, 92, 105, 107.

Siege & Capitulation of Puebla, 113, 282.

Sisal, 16.

Skull decorated with mosaic work, 337.

Slave-trade, 13, 16.

Smuggling, 273, 296.

Solar Eclipses observed in Mexico, 331.

Soldiers, 23, 114, 171.

Soquital, 82.

Spanish-moss, 57.

Spurs, 295.

Stalactitic Cave, 200.

Statistics of Mexico, 115, 249, 286.

Stone-hammers, 137.

Stone knives and weapons, 90, 103.

Streets of Mexico, 41, 55.

Sugar-canes, 179.

Sugar-hacienda,
  of Santa Rosita, 196;
  of Temisco, 180.

Sugar-plantations of Havana, 2.

Tacubaya, 57, 69.

Tallow, 324.

Tasco, Silver-mines at, 74.

Temisco, 179.

Temple-pyramids--_see_ Pyramids.

Tenancingo, 218.

Tenochtitlán, 41.

Ten Tribes, the, 17.

Teocallis, _see_ Pyramids.

Teotihuacán,
  Pyramids of, 141-148;
  Quarries of, 137, 141.

Tequesquite, 133.

Tezcotzinco, 152.

Tezcuco, 129, 150, 260-264;
  Aztec Bridge at, 153.

Tezcuco, Lake of, 65, 129, 138.

Thieves, 52, 170, 245.

Tisapán, 118-120.

Toluca, 219.

Tortillas, 38.

Tropical Vegetation, 2, 24, 179.

Turkey-buzzards, 22.

Valley of Mexico, 45.

Yapour-bath, native, 301.

Vegetation, zones of, 21-27, 178, 216.

Vera Cruz, 18-21, 325.

Virjen de Remedios, 123.

Virgins, the rival, 123.

Volantes, 2.

War-idol, 222.

Water-bottles, 171.

Water-pipes, 157.

Xochimilco, Lake of, 173.

Xochicalco, Ruins of, 183-195.

Yucatan, 16.

Zopilites, 22.



[Illustration: DESIGN.]



NOTES



[1: The mahagua tree furnishes that curious fibrous network which is
known as _bast_, and used to wrap bundles of cigars in. The mahogany
tree is called _caoba_ in Spanish, apparently the original Indian name,
as the Spaniards probably first became acquainted with it in Cuba. Is
our word "mahogany" the result of a confusion of words, and corrupted
from "mahagua?"]

[2: We heard talk elsewhere, however, of a war going on in the interior
of the country between the white inhabitants and the Indian race; the
apparent object of the whites being to take Indian prisoners, and ship
them off for slaves to Cuba.]

[3: They must be judged by courts whose members belong to their own
body, and in these special tribunals one can imagine what sort of
justice is meted out to complainants and creditors. Comonfort's hope
was to conciliate the mass of the people by attempting to relieve them
of this enormous abuse. I believe he was honest in his intentions, but
unfortunately the people had already had to do with too many
politicians who were to redress their wrongs and inaugurate a reign of
liberty. They had found very little to come of such movements, but
extra-taxation and civil war, which left them worse off than they were
before, and the patriots generally turned out rather more greedy and
unprincipled than the others; so it was not to be wondered at that no
one came forward to give any very energetic support to the new
President.]

[4: No one ill uses them but the dogs, who drive them away when
anything better than usual is met with, and they have to stand round in
a circle, waiting for their turn.]

[5: Ahuehuete, pronounced _a-hwe-hwete_. Thus, Anahuac is
pronounced Ana-hwac; and Chihuahua, Chi-hwa-hwa.]

[6: In the Swiss Alps, between 4,000 and 5,000 feet above the sea,
there is a similar plant to be seen fringing the branches of the
pine-trees; but it only grows to the length of a few inches, and will
hardly bear comparison to the long trailing festoons of the Spanish
moss, often fifteen or twenty feet in length.]

[7: Chalco was and is a freshwater lake, and here they had not even
this to do.]

[8: The "Lonja" is a feature in the commercial towns of Spanish
America. It is not only the Merchants' Exchange, but their club,
billiard-room, and smoking-room; in fact, their "lounge," and I fancy
the two words are connected with one another.]

[9: Atotonilco, "Hot-water-place," so called from the hot springs in
the neighbourhood.]

[10: Soquital, "Clay-place," from the potter's clay which abounds in
the district. Earthenware is the staple manufacture here.]

[11: The book-name for obsidian is _itztli_, a word which seems to mean
originally "sharp thing, knife," and thence to have been applied to the
material knives are made of. Obsidian was also called _itztetl_,
knife-stone. But no Indian to whom I spoke on the subject would ever
acknowledge the existence of such a word as _itztli_ for obsidian, but
insisted that it was called _bizcli_, which is apparently the corrupt
modern pronunciation of another old name for the same mineral,
_petztli_, shiny-stone.]

[12: There is an Aztec word "puztequi" (_to break sticks, &c_.) which
may belong to the same root as "tepuztli." The first syllable "te" may
be "te-tl" (_stone_).]

[13: The researches instituted by Mr. I. Horner in the alluvium near
Heliopolis and Memphis _(Philos. Transact.,_ 1855 & 1856), although
very elaborate, still leave much to be desired before we can arrive at
definite conclusions.]

[14: _Corixa femorala_, and _Notonecta uniforciata_, according to MM.
Meneville and Virlet d'Aoust, in a Paper on the subject of the granular
or oolitic travertine of Tezcuco in the Bulletin (1859) of the
Geological Society of France.]

[15: Huauhtli is an indigenous grain abounding in Michoacán, for which
"wheat" is the best equivalent I can give. European wheat was, of
course, unknown in the country until after the Conquest.]

[16: The _meson_ of Mexico is a lineal descendant of the Eastern
Caravanserai, and has preserved its peculiarities unchanged for
centuries. It consists of two court-yards, one surrounded by stabling
and the other by miserable rooms for the travellers, who must cook
their food themselves, or go elsewhere for it.]

[17: The Aztecs were accustomed, before the Conquest, to perform dances
as part of the celebration of their religious festivals, and the
missionaries allowed them to continue the practice after their
conversion. The dance in a church, described by Mr. Bullock in 1822,
was a much more genuine Indian ceremony than the one which we saw.

Church-dancing may be seen in Europe even at the present day. The
solemn Advent dances in Seville cathedral were described to me, by an
eyewitness, as consisting of minuets, or some such stately
old-fashioned dances, performed in front of the high altar by boys in
white surplices, with the greatest gravity and decorum.]

[18: This assertion must be qualified by a remark of the Abbé Brasseur
de Bourbourg, who tells us that in some places the Indians still use
lancets of obsidian to bleed themselves with. I believe there is
nothing of the kind to be found in the part of Mexico which we
visited.]

[19: The Aztecs had but one word to denote both gold and silver, as
they afterwards made one serve for both iron and copper. This curious
word _teocuitlatl_ we may translate as "Precious Metal," but it means
literally "Dung of the Gods." Gold was "Yellow Precious Metal," and
silver "White Precious Metal." Lead they called _temetztli_,
"Moon-stone;" and when the Spaniards showed them quicksilver, they gave
it the name of _yoli amuchitl_, "Live Tin."]

[20: It is curious that these latter resemblances (as far as I have
been able to investigate the subject) disappear in the signs of the
Yucatan calendar, though its arrangement is precisely that of the
Mexican. Any one interested in the theory of the Toltecs being the
builders of Palenque and Copan will see the importance of this point.
If the Toltecs ever took the original calendar, with the traces of its
Asiatic origin fresh upon it, down into Yucatan with them, it is at
any rate not to be found there now.]

[21: The Aztec name for an eclipse of the sun is worthy of remark. They
called it _tonatiuh qualo_, literally "_the sun's being eaten_." The
expression seems to belong to a time when they knew less about the
phenomenon, and had some idea like that of the Asiatic nations who
thought the sun was occasionally swallowed up by the great dragon.]

[22: I was surprised to find Iztaccihuatl classed among the active
volcanos in Johnston's Physical Atlas, and supposed at first that a
crater had really been found. But it is likely to be only a mistake,
caused by the name of "Volcan" being given to both mountains by the
Mexicans, who used the word in a very loose way.]

[23: See the illustration at page 281.]

[24: In the original, _aras_. In the Latin of Hernandez, _arae_ I
suppose to be the little polished stone slabs which are set on the
altars in Roman Catholic churches, and in which their sacred quality
is, so to speak, contained.]

[25: _Popular Tales from the Norse_. (Translated from Asbjörnsen and
Moe's Collection.) By George Webbe Dasent, D.C.L. With an Introductory
Essay on the Origin and Diffusion of Popular Tales.--_Second Edition,
Edinburgh_: 1859.]



ERRATA:

  Page 5, line 2, _for_ verandalis _read_ verandahs.

  Page 8, line 12, _for_ il _read_ el.

  Page 17, line 17, _for_ part _read_ port.

  Page 20, line 8, _for_ pronunciamento _read_ pronunciamiento.

  Page 22, line 10, _for_ I could _read_ one can.

  Page 27, line 2, _for_ Mexicans _read_ Americana.

  Page 31, Heading, _for_ THE HLANS. HUEMANTLA. _read_ THE RAINS.
    HUAMANTLA.

  Page 31, line 4, _for_ molina de viente _read_ molino de viento.

  Page 101, in description of woodcut. Delete _bone_.

  Page 216, line 9, _for_ hands _read_ hand.





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