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Title: Legends of the City of Mexico
Author: Janvier, Thomas A. (Thomas Allibone)
Language: English
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  [See page 127.]

                                OF THE
                            CITY OF MEXICO

                             COLLECTED BY
                          THOMAS A. JANVIER
                              MEMBER OF
                    THE FOLK-LORE SOCIETY, LONDON

                        WALTER APPLETON CLARK
                     AND BY PHOTOGRAPHS OF PLACE

                            [Illustration: logo]

                     HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
                         NEW YORK AND LONDON

                               BOOKS BY

                          THOMAS A. JANVIER

     IN OLD NEW YORK. Illustrations and maps. Post 8vo $1.75

      THE DUTCH FOUNDING OF NEW YORK. Illustrated. 8vo, Half-leather
      net 2.50

      THE AZTEC TREASURE-HOUSE. Ill'd. 8vo 1.50

      THE UNCLE OF AN ANGEL. Ill'd. Post 8vo 1.25

      THE PASSING OF THOMAS. Illustrated. 8vo 1.25

      IN THE SARGASSO SEA. Post 8vo 1.25

      IN GREAT WATERS. Illustrated. Post 8vo 1.25

      SANTA FE'S PARTNER. Illustrated. Post 8vo 1.50

      THE CHRISTMAS KALENDS OF PROVENCE. Illustrated. Post 8vo, net

                 HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS, N. Y.

                Copyright, 1910, by HARPER & BROTHERS.

                        _All rights reserved._
                       Published January, 1910.
              _Printed in the United States of America._

                               C. A. J.

                     WITHOUT WHOSE HELP THIS BOOK
                       COULD NOT HAVE BEEN MADE


  INTRODUCTION                                               ix

  LEGEND OF DON JUAN MANUEL                                   1

  LEGEND OF THE OBEDIENT DEAD NUN                             6

  LEGEND OF THE PUENTE DEL CLÉRIGO                           11

  LEGEND OF THE MULATA DE CÓRDOBA                            15

  LEGEND OF THE CALLEJÓN DEL MUERTO                          22

  LEGEND OF THE ALTAR DEL PERDON                             30

  LEGEND OF THE CALLEJÓN DEL ARMADO                          39

  LEGEND OF THE ADUANA DE SANTO DOMINGO                      43

  LEGEND OF THE CALLE DE LA QUEMADA                          52

  LEGEND OF THE CALLE DE LA CRUZ VERDE                       59

  LEGEND OF THE MUJER HERRADA                                64

  LEGEND OF THE ACCURSED BELL                                69


  LEGEND OF THE LIVING SPECTRE                               96

  LEGEND OF THE CALLE DE LOS PARADOS                        108

  LEGEND OF THE CALLE DE LA JOYA                            112

  LEGEND OF THE CALLE DE LA MACHINCUEPA                     116


  LEGEND OF LA LLORONA                                      134


  DON JUAN MANUEL                                           141

  ALTAR DEL PERDON                                          145

  ADUANA DE SANTO DOMINGO                                   149

  LA CRUZ VERDE                                             149

  MUJER HERRADA                                             150

  ACCURSED BELL                                             153

  CALLEJÓN DEL PADRE LECUONA                                156

  LIVING SPECTRE                                            159

  LA LLORONA                                                162



  LEGEND OF THE CALLE DEL PUENTE DEL CUERVO              _Frontispiece_

  LEGEND OF THE CALLE DEL PUENTE DEL CLÉRIGO           _Facing p._    14

  LEGEND OF THE CALLEJÓN DEL ARMADO                        "          40

  LEGEND OF THE MUJER HERRADA                              "          66

  LEGEND OF THE CALLEJÓN DEL PADRE LECUONA                 "          88

  LEGEND OF THE CALLE DE LOS PARADOS                       "         108

                         PHOTOGRAPHS OF PLACE

  CAPILLA DE LA ESPIRACIÓN           _Facing p._                       4

  LA CRUZ VERDE                            "                          60

  HOME OF DOÑA MARÍA                       "                         110

  HOUSE OF DON JUAN MANUEL                 "                         142

  DOORWAY, HOUSE OF DON JUAN MANUEL        "                         144

  NO. 7 PUERTA FALSA DE SANTO DOMINGO      "                         152

  WHERE THE DEAD MAN WAS CONFESSED         "                         156


These legends of the City of Mexico are of my finding, not of my
making. They are genuine folk-stories. Each one of them is a true
folk-growth from some obscure curious or tragical ancient matter that,
taking hold upon the popular imagination, has had built up from it
among the people a story satisfying to the popular heart.

Many of them simply are historical traditions gone wrong: being rooted
in substantial facts which have been disguised by the fanciful
additions, or distorted by the sheer perversions, of successive
generations of narrators through the passing centuries. Others of them
have for their kernel some unaccounted-for strange happening that,
appealing to the popular mind for an explanation, has been explained
variously by various imaginative people of varying degrees of
perception and of intelligence: whose diverse elucidations of the
same mystery eventually have been patched together into a single
story--that betrays its composite origin by the inconsistencies and
the discrepancies in which it abounds. A few of them--starting
out boldly by exalting some commonplace occurrence into a
marvel--practically are cut from the whole cloth. All of them--and
most obviously the most incredible of them--have the quality that
gives to folk-stories in general their serious value: they reflect
accurately the tone of thought, and exhibit more or less clearly
the customs and the conditions, of the time to which they belong.
Among the older people of the City of Mexico, alike the lettered and
the unlettered, they still are cherished with a warm affection and
are told with a lively relish--to which is added, among the common
people, a lively faith. The too-sophisticated younger generation,
unhappily, is neglectful and even scornful of them. Soon, as oral
tradition, they will be lost.

Most fortunately, the permanent preservation in print of these
legends--and of many more of the same sort--long since was assured.
Because of the serious meaning that is in them, as side-lights on
history and on sociology, they have been collected seriously by
learned antiquarians--notably by Don Luis González Obregón and by Don
Manuel Rivera Cambas--who have searched and sifted them; and who have
set forth, so far as it could be discovered, their underlying germs of
truth. By the poets--to whom, naturally, they have made a strong
appeal--they have been preserved in a way more in keeping with their
fanciful essence: as may be seen--again to cite two authors of
recognized eminence--in the delightful metrical renderings of many of
them by Don Vicente Riva Palacio, and in the round threescore of them
that Don Juan de Dios Peza has recast into charming verse. By other
writers of distinction, not antiquarians nor poets, various
collections of them have been made--of which the best is the
sympathetic work of Don Angel R. de Arellano--in a purely popular
form. By the playwrights have been made from the more romantic of
them--as the legend of Don Juan Manuel--perennially popular plays. By
minor writers, in prose and in verse, their tellings and retellings
are without end.

While the oral transmission of the legends among the common
people--by heightening always the note of the marvellous--has tended
to improve them, the bandying about in print to which they have been
subjected has worked a change in them that distinctly is for the
worse. In their written form they have acquired an artificiality that
directly is at odds with their natural simplicity; while the sleeking
of their essential roughnesses, and the abatement of their equally
essential inconsistencies and contradictions, has weakened precisely
the qualities which give to them their especial character and their
peculiar charm.

The best versions of them, therefore, are those which are current
among the common people: who were the makers of them in the beginning;
who--passing them from heart to lip and from lip to heart again
through the centuries--have retained in them the subtle pith that
clearly distinguishes a built-up folk-story from a story made by one
mind at a single melting; whose artless telling of them--abrupt,
inconsequent, full of repetitions and of contradictions--preserves the
full flavor of their patchwork origin; and, most important of all,
whose simple-souled faith in their verity is of the selfsame spirit
in which they were made. These are the versions which I have tried
here to reproduce in feeling and in phrase.

       *       *       *       *       *

My first winter in Mexico, twenty-five years ago, was spent in
Monterey; and there, in a small way, my collection of Mexican
folk-lore was begun. My gathering at that time consisted mainly of
superstitious beliefs--omens, house-charms, the evil eye, the unlucky
day--but it included a version of the story of La Llorona essentially
identical with the version, here given, that I later found current in
the City of Mexico. The sources from which I drew in Monterey were
three or four old, and old-fashioned, women with whom my wife
established such friendly relations as to win them into freely
confidential talk with her; the most abundant yield coming from a
kindly old Doña Miguelita (she was given always the affectionate
diminutive), who was attached loosely as a sort of brevet grandmother
to the family with whom we were lodged. Had I been alone I should not
have been able to extract any information from these old people. It
would have been impossible to convince them that such matters could
be regarded with anything but contempt by a man.

In like manner, later, from a most valuable source in the City of
Mexico, my information was to be had only at second-hand. This source
was our dear Joséfa Correa, who during four successive winters at once
was our washer-woman and our friend. Joséfa's semi-weekly visits gave
us always a warm pleasure; and her talk--of which she was no
miser--gave us always much of interest to ponder upon: she being a
very wise old woman, with views of life that were broad and sound. As
she was precisely of the class in which the folk-stories of the city
originated, she was the best of authorities for the current popular
versions of them: but always was it through my wife that her tellings
of them came to me. Various other old women, encountered casually,
similarly were put under contribution by my wife for my purposes. One
of the most useful was a draggled old seller of rebozos; another, of
equal value, was a friendly old body whom we fell in with at a railway
station while waiting through two hours for a vagrant train. To me all
of these women would have been sealed books; I could have got nothing
from them without my wife's help.

For that help, and for the help that she has given me in searching and
in collating my authorities for the Legends and for the Notes relating
to them, I am very grateful to her.

To my friend and fellow-lover of things ancient and marvellous,
Gilberto Cano, I am under signal obligations. In addition to his nice
appreciation and his wide knowledge of such matters, this excellent
man--twenty-four years ago, and later--was the best waiter at the
Hôtel del Café Anglais. (It is gone, now, that admirable little hotel
over which the brave Monsieur Gatillon so admirably presided--and the
City of Mexico distinctly is the worse for its loss.) Our
acquaintance, that had its beginning in my encounters with him in his
professional capacity, soon ripened into a real friendship--still
enduring--along the line of similarity of tastes. His intelligent
answers to my questions about one or another of the many old buildings
which attracted our attention in the course of our walks about the
city--then all new to us--early impressed upon me a serious respect
for his antiquarian attainments; and this respect was increased when,
after making a hesitant offer of them that I accepted eagerly, he lent
to us several excellent books treating of the ancient matters in which
we were interested: explaining, modestly, that these books were his
own; and that he had bought them in order that he might acquire an
accurate knowledge of the city in which he had been born and in which
for all his life he had lived. As my own knowledge grew, I found that
in every instance he had answered my questions correctly; and the
books which he had lent to me were certified to, later, by my erudite
friend Don José María Vigil, Director of the Biblioteca Nacional, as
standard authorities--and I bought copies of all of them to add to the
collection of Mexicana that I then was beginning to form.

Gilberto was so obliging as to spend several afternoons in our
quarters--coming to us in the dull time between luncheon and dinner
when his professional duties were in abeyance--that I might write at
his dictation some of the many folk-traditions with which his mind was
stored. Like our dear Joséfa, he was an absolute authority on the
current popular versions, and he seemed to share her faith in them;
but he told them--because of his substantial knowledge of Mexican
history--more precisely than she told them, and with an appreciative
understanding of their antiquarian interest that was quite beyond her

He was a small man, our Gilberto, with a low and gentle voice, and a
manner that was gentle also--both in the literal and in the finer
sense of the word. In the thrilling portions of his stories he would
lean forward, his voice would deepen and gather earnestness, his
bright brown eyes would grow brighter, and his gestures--never
violent, and always appropriate--would enlarge the meaning of his
words. With the instinct of a well-bred man he invariably addressed
himself to my wife; and through his discourse ran a constant refrain
of "and so it was, Señorita"--_pues si, Señorita_--that made a point
of departure for each fresh turn in the narrative, and at the same
time gave to what he was telling an air of affirmative finality.
Usually he ended with a few words of comment--enlightening as
exhibiting the popular viewpoint--either upon the matter of his story
or by way of emphasizing its verity.

His tellings ranged widely: from such important legends as those of
Don Juan Manuel and La Llorona--his versions of which are given in my
text--to such minor matters as the encounter of his own brother with a
freakish ghost who carried the bed on which the brother was sleeping
from one part of the house to another. All the knowledge being on his
side, I could give him little guidance--and whatever happened to come
into his head, in the way of the marvellous, at once came out of it
again for my benefit. Some of his stories, while exhaustively
complete, and undeniably logical, were almost startling in their
elemental brevity--as the following: "Once some masons were pulling
down an old house, and in the wall they found many boxes of money.
After that, those masons were rich"! In justice I should add that this
succinct narrative merely was thrown in, as a make-weight, at the end
of a long and dramatic hidden-treasure story--in which a kindly old
ghost-lady, the hider of the treasure, had a leading part.

Because of the intelligent interest that Gilberto took in my
folk-lore collecting, it was a source of keen regret to him that our
meeting had not come a little earlier, only two years earlier, during
the lifetime of his great-aunt: who had known--as he put it
comprehensively--all the stories about the city that ever were told. I
too grieved, and I shall grieve always, because that ancient person
was cut off from earth before I could have the happiness of garnering
the traditionary wisdom with which she was so full charged. But my
grief is softened--and even is tinctured with a warm thankfulness--by
the fact that a great deal of it was saved to me by my fortunate
encounter with her grand-nephew: who so faithfully had treasured in
his heart her ancient sayings; and who so freely--to the winning of my
lasting gratitude--gave them to me for the enrichment of my own store.

  NEW YORK, _September 26, 1909_.

                    LEGENDS OF THE CITY OF MEXICO

                     LEGEND OF DON JUAN MANUEL[1]

This Don Juan Manuel, Señor, was a rich and worthy gentleman who had
the bad vice of killing people. Every night at eleven o'clock, when
the Palace clock was striking, he went out from his magnificent
house--as you know, Señor, it still is standing in the street that has
been named after him--all muffled in his cloak, and under it his
dagger in his hand.

Then he would meet one, in the dark street, and would ask him
politely: "What is the hour of the night?" And that person, having
heard the striking of the clock, would answer: "It is eleven hours of
the night." And Don Juan Manuel would say to him: "Señor, you are
fortunate above all men, because you know precisely the hour at which
you die!" Then he would thrust with his dagger--and then, leaving the
dead gentleman lying in the street, he would come back again into his
own home. And this bad vice of Don Juan Manuel's of killing people
went on, Señor, for a great many years.

Living with Don Juan Manuel was a nephew whom he dearly loved. Every
night they supped together. Later, the nephew would go forth to see
one or another of his friends; and, still later, Don Juan Manuel would
go forth to kill some man. One night the nephew did not come home. Don
Juan Manuel was uneasy because of his not coming, fearing for him. In
the early morning the city watch knocked at Don Juan Manuel's door,
bringing there the dead body of the nephew--with a wound in the heart
of him that had killed him. And when they told where his body had been
found, Don Juan Manuel knew that he himself--not knowing him in the
darkness--had killed his own nephew whom he so loved.

Then Don Juan Manuel saw that he had been leading a bad life: and he
went to the Father to whom he confessed and confessed all the killings
that he had done. Then the Father put a penance upon him: That at
midnight he should go alone through the streets until he was come to
the chapel of the Espiración (it faces upon the Plazuela de Santo
Domingo, Señor; and, in those days, before it was a gallows); and that
he should kneel in front of that chapel, beneath the gallows; and
that, so kneeling, he should tell his rosary through. And Don Juan
Manuel was pleased because so light a penance had been put upon him,
and thought soon to have peace again in his soul.

But that night, at midnight, when he set forth to do his penance, no
sooner was he come out from his own door than voices sounded in his
ears, and near him was the terrible ringing of a little bell. And he
knew that the voices which troubled him were those of the ones whom he
had killed. And the voices sounded in his ears so wofully, and the
ringing of the little bell was so terrible, that he could not keep
onward. Having gone a little way, his stomach was tormented by the
fear that was upon him and he came back again to his own home.

Then, the next day, he told the Father what had happened, and that he
could not do that penance, and asked that another be put upon him. But
the Father denied him any other penance; and bade him do that which
was set for him--or die in his sin and go forever to hell! Then Don
Juan Manuel again tried to do his penance, and that time got a half of
the way to the chapel of the Espiración; and then again turned
backward to his home, because of those woful voices and the terrible
ringing of that little bell. And so again he asked that he be given
another penance; and again it was denied to him; and again--getting
that night three-quarters of the way to the chapel--he tried to do
what he was bidden to do. But he could not do it, because of the woful
voices and the terrible ringing of the little bell.


Then went he for the last time to the Father to beg for another
penance; and for the last time it was denied to him; and for the last
time he set forth from his house at midnight to go to the chapel of
the Espiración, and in front of it, kneeling beneath the gallows, to
tell his rosary through. And that night, Señor, was the very worst
night of all! The voices were so loud and so very woful that he was in
weak dread of them, and he shook with fear, and his stomach was
tormented because of the terrible ringing of the little bell. But he
pressed on--you see, Señor, it was the only way to save his soul from
blistering in hell through all eternity--until he was come to the
Plazuela de Santo Domingo; and there, in front of the chapel of the
Espiración, beneath the gallows, he knelt down upon his knees and told
his rosary through.

And in the morning, Señor, all the city was astonished, and
everybody--from the Viceroy down to the cargadores--came running to
the Plazuela de Santo Domingo, where was a sight to see! And the sight
was Don Juan Manuel hanging dead on the gallows--where the angels
themselves had hung him, Señor, because of his sins!


It was after she was dead, Señor, that this nun did what she was told
to do by the Mother Superior, and that is why it was a miracle. Also,
it proved her goodness and her holiness--though, to be sure, there was
no need for her to take the trouble to prove those matters, because
everybody knew about them before she died.

My grandmother told me that this wonder happened in the convent of
Santa Brígida when her mother was a little girl; therefore you will
perceive, Señor, that it did not occur yesterday. In those times the
convent of Santa Brígida was most flourishing--being big, and full of
nuns, and with more money than was needed for the keeping of it and
for the great giving of charity that there was at its doors. And now,
as you know, Señor, there is no convent at all and only the church
remains. However, it was in the church that the miracle happened, and
it is in the choir that Sor Teresa's bones lie buried in the coffin
that was too short for her--and so it is clear that this story is

The way of it all, Señor, was this: The Señorita Teresa Ysabel de
Villavicencio--so she was called in the world, and in religion she
still kept her christened name--was the daughter of a very rich
hacendado of Vera Cruz. She was very tall--it was her tallness that
made the whole trouble--and she also was very beautiful; and she went
to Santa Brígida and took the vows there because of an undeceiving in
love. The young gentleman whom she came to know was unworthy of her
was the Señor Carraza, and he was the Librarian to the Doctors in the
Royal and Pontifical University--which should have made him a good
man. What he did that was not good, Señor, I do not know. But it was
something that sent Sor Teresa in a hurry into the convent: and when
she got there she was so devout and so well-behaved that the Mother
Superior held her up to all the other nuns for a pattern--and
especially for her humility and her obedience. Whatever she was told
to do, she did; and that without one single word.

Well, Señor, it happened that the convent was making ready, on a day,
for the great festival of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe; and in the
midst of all the whirring and buzzing Sor Teresa said suddenly--and
everybody was amazed and wonder-struck when she said it--that though
she was helping to make ready for that festival she would not live to
take part in it, because the very last of her hours on earth was
almost come. And a little later--lying on her hard wooden bed and
wearing beneath her habit the wired shirt of a penitent, with all the
community sorrowing around her--Sor Teresa died just as she said she
would die: without there being anything the matter with her at all!

Because of the festival that was coming, it was necessary that she
should be buried that very night. Therefore they made ready a
comfortable grave for her; and they sent to the carpenter for a coffin
for her, and the coffin came. And it was then, Señor, that the trouble
began. Perhaps, because she was so very tall a lady, the carpenter
thought that the measure had not been taken properly. Perhaps, being
all so flurried, they really had got the measure wrong. Anyhow,
whatever may have set the matter crooked, Sor Teresa would not go into
her coffin: and as night was near, and there was no time to make
another one, they all of them were at their very wits' end to know
what to do. So there they all stood, looking at Sor Teresa; and there
Sor Teresa lay, with her holy feet sticking straight out far beyond
the end of the coffin; and night was coming in a hurry; and next day
would be the festival--and nobody could see how the matter was going
to end!

Then a wise old nun came to the Mother Superior and whispered to her:
telling her that as in life Sor Teresa had been above all else perfect
in obedience, so, probably, would she be perfect in obedience even in
death; and advising that a command should be put upon her to fit into
her coffin then and there. And the old nun said, what was quite true
and reasonable, that even if Sor Teresa did not do what she was told
to do, no harm could come of it--as but little time would be lost in
making trial with her, and the case would be the same after their
failure as it was before. Therefore the Mother Superior agreed to try
what that wise old nun advised. And so, Señor--all the community
standing round about, and the candle of Nuestro Amo being lighted--the
Mother Superior said in a grave voice slowly: "Daughter, as in life
thou gavest us always an example of humility and obedience, now I
order and command thee, by thy vow of obedience, to retire decorously
within thy coffin: that so we may bury thee, and that thou mayest rest
in peace!"

And then, Señor, before the eyes of all of them, Sor Teresa slowly
began to shrink shorter--to the very letter of the Mother Superior's
order and command! Slowly her holy feet drew in from beyond the end of
the coffin; and then they drew to the very edge of it; and then they
drew over the edge of it; and then they fell down briskly upon the
bottom of it with a sanctified and most pious little bang. And so
there she was, shrunk just as short as she had been ordered to shrink,
fitting into her coffin as cozily as you please! Then they buried her,
as I have told you, Señor, in the comfortable grave in the choir that
was waiting for her--and there her blessed shrunken bones are lying


This priest who was murdered and thrown over the bridge, Señor, was a
very good man, and there was very little excuse for murdering him.
Moreover, he belonged to a most respectable family, and so did the
gentleman who murdered him, and so did the young lady; and because of
all that, and because at the best of times the killing of a priest is
sacrilege, the scandal of that murder made a stir in the whole town.

At that time--it was some hundreds of years ago, Señor--there lived in
the street that now is called, because of it all, the street of the
Puente del Clérigo, a very beautiful young lady who was named Doña
Margarita Jáuregui. And she, being an orphan, dwelt with her uncle,
this priest: who was named Don Juan de Nava and was a person of rank,
being a caballero of the orders of Santiago and Calatrava. In those
days there were few houses upon that street, which was the causeway
between the City and the Indian town of Tlaltelolco; and for the
greater safety of the Spaniards dwelling in the City there was a wide
ditch, that this bridge crossed, between them and the Indian town.
Long ago, Señor, Tlaltelolco became a part of the City; and the ditch,
and the bridge over it, are gone.

Now it happened that at the court of the Viceroy was a noble young
Portuguese gentleman, who had great riches and two titles, named Don
Duarte de Sarraza; and the Viceroy, who was the Conde de Salvatierra,
very much esteemed him because he was of a loyal nature and of good
heart. Therefore this noble young gentleman fell in love with Doña
Margarita, and she with him; but her uncle, the Padre Don Juan,
knowing that Don Duarte was a vicious young man--a gambler, and in
other ways what he should not have been--forbade his niece to have
anything to do with him. So things rested for a while on those terms,
and Don Duarte did not like it at all.

Well, it happened on a night, Señor, that Don Duarte was at the window
of Doña Margarita, telling his love for her through the grating; and
while he was so engaged he saw Padre Don Juan coming home along the
causeway by the light of the stars. Then that wicked young man went to
where the bridge was, and when the Padre was come to the bridge he
sprang upon him and drove his dagger deep into his skull. The dagger
was nailed so fast there, Señor, that he could not drag it loose
again; and so he bundled the dead priest over the wall of the bridge
and into the water with the dagger still sticking in the skull of him;
and then he went his way to his home.

Not wishing to have it thought that he had committed that murder, Don
Duarte did not go near Doña Margarita for almost a whole year. And
then--because his love for her would not suffer him to wait away from
her longer--he went in the night-time to meet her once more at her
window; and he had in his heart the wicked purpose to make her come
out to him, and then to carry her off.

That did not happen--and what did happen is a terrible mystery. All
that is known about it is this: Very early in the morning the
neighbors living thereabout found Don Duarte dead on the Bridge of the
Cleric; and holding him fast, a bony knee on his breast and two bony
hands at his throat strangling him, was a skeleton. And the skeleton,
Señor, was dressed in a black cassock, such as only clerics wear, and
in the skull of it a rusty dagger was nailed fast. Therefore it became
generally known that Don Duarte had murdered the Padre Don Juan; and
that the skeleton of the Padre Don Juan had killed Don Duarte in just


It is well known, Señor, that this Mulata of Córdoba, being a very
beautiful woman, was in close touch with the devil. She dwelt in
Córdoba--the town not far from Vera Cruz, where coffee and very good
mangos are grown--and she was born so long ago that the very oldest
man now living was not then alive. No one knew who was her father, or
who was her mother, or where she came from. So she was called La
Mulata de Córdoba--and that was all. One of the wonders of her was
that the years passed her without marking her, and she never grew old.

She led a very good life, helping every one who was in trouble, and
giving food to the hungry ones; and she dressed in modest clothes
simply, and always was most neat and clean. She was a very wicked
witch--and beyond that nobody really knew anything about her at all.
On the same day, and at the same hour, she would be seen by different
people in different places widely apart--as here in the City, and in
Córdoba, and elsewhere variously--all in precisely the same moment of
time. She also was seen flying through the air, high above the roofs
of the houses, with sparks flashing from her black eyes. Moreover,
every night the devil visited her: as was known generally, because at
night her neighbors observed that through the chinks in the tight-shut
doors and windows of her house there shone a bright light--as though
all the inside of the house were filled with flames. She went to mass
regularly, and at the proper seasons partook of the Sacrament. She
disdained everybody; and because of her disdainings it was believed
that the master of her beauty was the Lord of Darkness; and that
seemed reasonable. Every single one of the young men was mad about
her, and she had a train of lovers from which she could pick and
choose. All wonders were told of her. She was so powerful, and could
work such prodigies, that she was spoken about--just as though she had
been the blessed Santa Rita de Cascia--as the Advocate of Impossible
Things! Old maids went to her who sought for husbands; poor ladies
who longed for jewels and fine dresses that they might go to the court
of the Viceroy; miners that they might find silver; old soldiers, set
aside for rustiness, to get new commands--so that the saying, "_I_ am
not the Mulata of Córdoba!" is the answer when any one asks an
impossible favor even now.

How it came about, Señor, no one ever knew. What every one did know
was that, on a day, the Mulata was brought from Córdoba here to the
City and was cast into the prison of the Holy Office. That was a piece
of news that made a stir! Some said that a disdained lover had
denounced her to the Inquisition. Others said that the Holy Office had
laid hands on her less because she was a witch than because of her
great riches--and it was told that when she had been seized ten
barrels filled with gold-dust had been seized with her. So talk about
the matter was on every tongue.

Many years went by, Señor, and all of that talk was almost forgotten.
Then, on a morning, the city was astonished by hearing--no one knew
from where--that at the next auto de fé the witch of Córdoba would
walk with the unredeemed ones, carrying the flameless green candle
and wearing the high bonnet, and would be burned at the burning-place
of the Holy Office--it was in front of the church of San Diego, Señor,
at the western end of what now is the Alameda--and so would have
burned out of her her sins. And before that astonishment was ended,
there came another and a greater: when it was told that the witch,
before the very eyes of her jailers, had escaped from the prison of
the Inquisition and was gone free! All sorts of stories flew about the
city. One said, crossing himself, that her friend the devil had helped
her to her freedom; another said that Inquisitors also were of flesh
and blood, and that she had been freed by her own beauty. Men talked
at random--because, neither then nor later, did anybody know what
really had happened. But what really did happen, Señor, was this:

On a day, the chief Inquisitor went into the prison of the Mulata that
he might reason her to repentance. And, being come into her prison--it
was a long and lofty chamber that they had put her into, Señor, not
one of the bad small cells--he stopped short in amazement: beholding
before him, drawn with charcoal on the wall of the chamber, a great
ship that lacked not a single rope nor a single sail nor anything
whatever that a ship requires! While he stood gazing at that ship,
wondering, the Mulata turned to him and looked strangely at him out of
her wicked black eyes, and said in a tone of railing: "Holy Father,
what does this ship need to make it perfect?" And to that he answered:
"Unhappy woman! It is thou who needest much to make thee perfect, that
thou mayest be cleansed of thy sins! As for this ship, it is in all
other ways so wholly perfect that it needs only to sail." Then said
the Mulata: "That it shall do--and very far!" and there was on her
face as she spoke to him a most wicked smile. With astonishment he
looked at her, and at the ship. "How can that be possible!" he asked.
"In this manner!" she answered--and, as she spoke, she leaped lightly
from the floor of the prison to the deck of the ship, up there on the
wall, and stood with her hand upon the tiller at the ship's stern.

Then happened, Señor, a very wonderful marvel! Suddenly the sails of
the ship filled and bellied out as though a strong wind were blowing;
and then, before the eyes of the Inquisitor, the ship went sailing
away along the wall of the chamber--the Mulata laughing wickedly as
she swung the tiller and steered it upon its course! Slowly it went at
first, and then more and more rapidly, until, being come to the wall
at the end of the chamber, it sailed right on into and through the
solid stone and mortar--the Mulata still laughing wickedly as she
stood there steering at the ship's stern! And then the wall closed
whole and solid again behind the ship, and only a little echoing sound
of that wicked laughter was heard in the chamber--and the ship had
vanished, and the Mulata was out of her prison and gone!

The Inquisitor, Señor, who had seen this devil's miracle, immediately
lost all his senses and became a madman and was put into a mad-house:
where, till death gave peace to him, he raved always of a beautiful
woman in a great ship that sailed through stone walls and across the
solid land. As for the Mulata, nothing more ever was heard of her. But
it was generally known that her master the devil had claimed her for
his own.

This story is entirely true, Señor--as is proved by the fact that the
Inquisition building, in which all these wonders happened, still is
standing. It is the Escuela de Medicina, now.


It is an unwise thing, Señor, and there also is wickedness in it, to
make a vow to the Blessed Virgin--or, for that matter, to the smallest
saint in the whole calendar--and not to fulfil that vow when the
Blessed Virgin, or the saint, as the case may be, has performed
punctually all that the vow was made for: and so this gentleman of
whom I now am speaking found out for himself, and most uncomfortably,
when he died with an unfulfilled vow on his shoulders--and had to take
some of the time that he otherwise would have spent pleasantly in
heaven among the angels in order to do after he was dead what he had
promised to do, and what he most certainly ought to have done, while
he still was alive.

The name of this gentleman who so badly neglected his duty, Señor, was
Don Tristan de Alculer; and he was a humble but honorable Spanish
merchant who came from the Filipinas to live here in the City of
Mexico; and he came in the time when the Viceroy was the Marqués de
Villa Manrique, and most likely as the result of that Viceroy's doings
and orderings: because the Marqués de Villa Manrique gave great
attention to enlarging the trade with the East through the
Filipinas--as was found out by the English corsairs, so that Don
Francisco Draco, who was the greatest pirate of all of them, was able
to capture a galleon laden almost to sinking with nothing but silver
and gold.

With Don Tristan, who was of an elderliness, came his son to help him
in his merchanting; and this son was named Tristan also, and was a
most worthy young gentleman, very capable in the management of
mercantile affairs. Having in their purses but a light lining, their
commerce at its beginning was of a smallness; and they took for their
home a mean house in a little street so poor and so deserted that
nobody had taken the trouble to give a name to it: the very street
that ever since their time has been called the Alley of the Dead
Man--because of what happened as the result of Don Tristan's
unfulfilled vow. That they were most respectable people is made clear
by the fact that the Archbishop himself--who at that period was the
illustrious Don Fray García de Santa María Mendoza--was the friend of
them; and especially the friend of Don Tristan the elder, who
frequently consulted with him in regard to the state of his soul.

So a number of prospering years passed on, Señor, and then, on a time,
Don Tristan the son went down to the coast to make some buyings: and
it was in the bad season, and the fever seized him so fiercely that
all in a moment the feet and half the legs of him fairly were inside
of death's door. Then it was that Don Tristan, being in sore trouble
because of his son's desperate illness, made the vow that I am telling
you about. He made it to the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe; and he vowed
to her that if she would save his son alive to him from the fever he
would walk on his bare feet from his own house to her Sanctuary, and
that there in her Sanctuary he would make his thanks to her from the
deep depths of his soul. And the Blessed Virgin, being full of love
and of amiability, was pleased to listen to the prayer of Don Tristan,
and to believe the vow that went along with it: wherefore she caused
the fever immediately to leave the sick Don Tristan--and presently
home he came to his father alive and well.

But Don Tristan, having got from the Blessed Virgin all that he had
asked of her, did not give to her what he had promised to give to her
in return. Being by that time an aged gentleman, and also being much
afflicted with rheumatism, the thought of taking a walk of near to
three miles barefoot was most distasteful to him. And so he put his
walk off for a week or two--saying to himself that the Blessed Virgin
would not be in any hurry about the matter; and then he put it off for
another week or two; and in that way--because each time that he was
for keeping his vow shivers would come in his old feet at dread of
being bare and having cold earth under them, and trembles would come
in his old thin legs at dread of more rheumatism--the time slipped on
and on, and the Blessed Virgin did not get her due.

But his soul was not easy inside of him, Señor--and it could not be,
because he was playing fast and loose with it--and so he laid the
whole matter before his friend the Archbishop: hoping that for
friendship's sake the Archbishop would be so obliging as to dispense
him from his vow. For myself, Señor, I cannot but think that the
Archbishop--for all that his position put him in close touch with
heavenly matters, and gave him the right to deal with them--was not
well advised in his action. At any rate, what he did was to
tranquillize Don Tristan by telling him that the Blessed Virgin was
too considerate to hold him to a contract that certainly would lay him
up with a bad attack of rheumatism; and that even--so wearied out
would he be by forcing his old thin legs to carry him all that
distance--might be the death of him. And so the upshot of it was that
the Archbishop, being an easy-going and a very good-natured gentleman,
dispensed Don Tristan from his vow.

But a vow, Señor, is a vow--and even an Archbishop cannot cast one
loose from it; and so they all found out on this occasion, and in a
hurry--because the Blessed Virgin, while never huffed over trifles,
does not let the grass grow under her feet when her anger justly is

Only three days after Don Tristan had received his dispensation--to
which, as the event proved, he was not entitled--the Archbishop went
on the twelfth of the month, in accordance with the custom observed in
that matter, to celebrate mass at the Villa de Guadalupe in Our Lady's
Sanctuary. The mass being ended, he came homeward on his mule by the
causeway to the City; and as he rode along easily he was put into a
great surprise by seeing Don Tristan walking toward him, and by
perceiving that he was of a most dismal dead paleness and that his
feet were bare. For a moment Don Tristan paused beside the
Archbishop--whose mule had stopped short, all in a tremble--and
clasped his hand with a hand that was of an icy coldness; then he
passed onward--saying in a dismal voice, rusty and cavernous, that for
his soul's saving he was fulfilling the vow that he had made to her
Ladyship: because the knowledge had come to him that if this vow were
not accomplished he certainly would spend the whole of Eternity
blistering in hell! Having thus explained matters, not a word more did
Don Tristan have to say for himself; nor did he even look backward, as
he walked away slowly and painfully on his bare old feet toward Our
Lady's shrine.

The Archbishop trembled as much as his mule did, Señor, being sure
that strange and terrible things were about him; and when the mule a
little came out of her fright and could march again, but still
trembling, he went straight to Don Tristan's house to find out--though
in his heart he knew what his finding would be--the full meaning of
this awesome prodigy. And he found at Don Tristan's house what he knew
in his heart he would find there: and that was Don Tristan, the four
lighted death-candles around him, lying on his bed death-struck--his
death-white cold hands clasped on his breast on the black pall
covering him, and on his death-white face the very look that was on it
as he went to the keeping of his unkept vow! Therefore the Archbishop
was seized with a hot and a cold shuddering, and his teeth rattled in
the head of him; and straightway he and all who were with
him--perceiving that they were in the presence of a divine
mystery--fell to their knees in wondering awe of what had happened,
and together prayed for the peace of Don Tristan's soul.

Very possibly, Señor, the Archbishop and the rest of them did not pray
hard enough; or, perhaps, Don Tristan's sin of neglect was so serious
a matter that a long spell in Purgatory was required of him before he
could be suffered to pass on to a more comfortable region and be at
ease. At any rate, almost immediately he took to walking at midnight
in the little street that for so long he had lived in--always wrapped
in a long white shroud that fluttered about him in the night wind
loosely, and carrying always a yellow-blazing great candle; and so
being a most terrifying personage to encounter as he marched slowly up
and down. Therefore everybody who dwelt in that street hurried to move
away from it, and Don Tristan had it quite to himself in its
desertedness--for which reason, as I have mentioned, the Alley of the
Dead Man became its name.

I have been told by my friend the cargador, Señor, and also by several
other trustworthy persons, that Don Tristan--though more than three
hundred years have passed since the death of him--has not entirely
given up his marchings. Certainly, for myself, I do not think that it
would be judicious to walk in the Callejón del Muerto at midnight even

                  LEGEND OF THE ALTAR DEL PERDON[2]

This painter, Señor, who by a miracle painted the most beautiful
picture of Our Lady of Mercy that is to be found in the whole
world--the very picture that ever since has adorned the Altar del
Perdon in the Cathedral--in the beginning of him was a very bad
sinner: being a Fleming, and a Jew, and many other things that he
ought not to have been, and therefore straight in the way to pass the
whole of Eternity--his wickednesses being so numerous that time would
have been wasted in trying to purge him of them in Purgatory--in the
hottest torments that the devil his master could contrive. He was a
very agreeable young gentleman, of a cheerful and obliging nature, and
both witty and interesting in his talkings--for which reason the
Viceroy had a great liking for his company and had him often at the
Palace to the banquets and the festivals of the court. His name,
Señor, was Don Simon Peyrens; and the Viceroy his patron--in whose
suite he had come from Spain expressly to beautify the Palace with his
paintings--was Don Gastón de Peralta, Marqués de Falces: who was the
third Viceroy of the Province, being the successor to the good Don
Luis de Velasco when that most worthy gentleman ceased to be a Viceroy
and became an angel in the year 1564.

Well, Señor, it happened some years later--in the time of Don Martín
Enriquez de Almanza, the fourth Viceroy, with whom Peyrens remained in
favor--that the Chapter of the Cathedral, desiring to make splendid
the Altar del Perdon, offered in competition to all the painters of
Mexico a prize for the most beautiful picture of Our Lady of Mercy:
which picture was to be placed in the centre of that altar and to be
the chief glory of it. And, thereupon, all the painters of Mexico,
save only Peyrens, entered into that competition with a reverent and
an eager joy. And then it was, Señor, that Peyrens made plain the
wickedness that was in him by his irreverent blasphemies. At a banquet
at the Palace a very noble gentleman asked him why he alone of all
the painters of Mexico--and he the best of all of them--had not
entered into the competition; to which that sinful young man answered
with a disdainful and impious lightness that the painting of what were
called sacred pictures was but foolishness and vanity, and that he for
his part could not be tempted to paint one by all the gold in the

Talk of that sort, Señor, as you well may imagine, scalded the ears of
all who heard it--and in the quarter where the punishment of such
sinning was attended to it made an instant stir. In a moment
information of that evil young man's utterances was carried to the
Archbishop--who at that time was the venerable Fray Alonzo de
Montúfar--and in another moment he found himself lodged behind iron
bars in a cell in the Inquisition: that blessed constrainer to
righteousness, for the comforting of the faithful, that then was
proving its usefulness by mowing down the weeds of heresy with a very
lively zeal.

Being of an incredible hard-heartedness, neither the threats nor the
pleadings of the Familiars of the Holy Office could stir Peyrens from
the stand that he had taken. Resolutely he refused to recant his
blasphemies; equally resolutely he refused to accept his freedom on
the condition that he should paint the picture of Our Lady--and he
even went so far, when they brought him the materials for the making
of that picture, as to tear the canvas to shreds and rags!

And so the days ran on into weeks, and the weeks into months, and
nothing changed in that bad matter: save that the Archbishop, saintly
man that he was, began to lose his temper; and that the Familiars of
the Holy Office lost their tempers entirely--and were for settling
accounts with Peyrens by burning his wickedness out of him with
heavenly fire.

As it happened, Señor, a great opportunity for such wholesome
purifying of him was imminent: because at that time the preparations
were being made for the very first auto de fé that ever was celebrated
in Mexico, and all the City was on tiptoe of joyful expectation of it.
Therefore everybody was looking forward with a most pleased interest
to seeing that criminally stiff-necked painter--properly clad in a
yellow coat with a red cross on the back and on the front of
it--walking with the condemned ones; and then, on the brasero that had
been set up in the market-place, to seeing him and his sins together
burned to ashes; and then to seeing those sin-tainted ashes carried to
the outskirts of the City and scattered pollutingly on the muddy

However, Señor, none of those interesting and edifying things
happened: because Our Lady of Mercy--and it was just like the
good-nature of her to do so--took a hand in the affair, and by the
working of a loving miracle made everything come out smoothly and

On a night, as he lay sleeping on his pallet in his cell in the
Inquisition, Peyrens was awakened suddenly he knew not how; and as he
wakened he found in his nose a smell so delectable that he thought
that he still was asleep and his nose dreaming it: and for him to have
that thought was quite reasonable, Señor, because it was the pure
fragrance of heaven--to which, of course, human noses are
unaccustomed--that filled the room. Then, as he lay on his pallet
wondering, a shimmering light began to glow softly in the darkness;
and the light constantly grew stronger and stronger until it became a
glorious radiance far brighter than any sunlight; and then in the
midst of that resplendency--yet the heavenly sparkle of her making the
dazzle of it seem like darkness--Our Lady of Mercy herself appeared to
him: and he would have died of the glory of her, had it not been for
the loving kindness that shone upon him assuringly and comfortingly
from her gentle eyes.

Then said to him Our Lady, in a voice sweeter than any earthly music:
"Little son, why dost thou not love me?" And Peyrens--his hard heart
melted by that gentle look and by that sweet voice, and all of his
wickedness cured by that loving kindness--rose from his pallet and
knelt before Our Lady, saying with a deep earnestness: "Queen of
Heaven, I reverence and I love thee with all the heart of me and with
all my soul!" Then, for a time, a serene strange happiness bemazed him
dream-fully--and when his bemazement left him the resplendent presence
was gone. But with him still remained the heavenly radiance that was
brighter than any sunlight, and the heavenly perfume that was sweeter
than spikenard and lilies; and while he pondered all these mysteries,
awe-bound and wondering, again sounded in his ears that heaven-sweet
voice--coming as from a great distance, but with a bell-note
clearness--saying to him gently and lovingly: "Paint now thy picture
of me, little son!"

Quite possibly, Señor, in the hurry of the moment, Our Lady forgot
that Peyrens had no canvas--because in his sinful anger he had
destroyed it--on which to paint the picture that she commanded of him;
but, for myself, I think that she meant to set his wits to work to
find the means by which he could obey her command. At any rate, his
wits did work so well that even as she spoke he saw his way out of his
difficulty; and in an instant--all a-thrill with joyful eagerness to
do Our Lady's bidding, and inspired by the splendor of his vision of
her--he set himself to painting the portrait of her, just as his own
eyes had seen her in her glory, on the oaken door of his cell.

All the night long, Señor--working by the heaven-light that was
brighter than any sunlight, and having in his happy nose the heaven
fragrance that uplifted his soul with the sweetness of it--he painted
as one who painted in a heaven-sent dream. And when the morning came,
and the glimmering daylight took dimly the place of the heaven-light,
he had finished there on the door of his cell the most beautiful
picture of Our Lady--as I said in the beginning--that ever has been
painted in this mortal world: and so it had to be--because, you see,
it is the only picture of her that ever has been painted of her by one
who has beheld her with mortal eyes!

As usually is the case with miracles, Señor, the outcome of this one
was most satisfactory. The Archbishop and the Chapter of the
Cathedral, being brought in haste, instantly felt themselves compelled
to adore that miraculous image; and when they had finished adoring it
they equally felt themselves compelled to declare that Peyrens by his
making of it had earned both his freedom and the prize. Therefore
Peyrens was set at liberty and most richly rewarded; and the pictured
door was taken from its hinges and, being framed in a great frame of
silver, was set upon the Altar del Perdon to be the chief glory of it;
and what was best of all--because it made safe the soul of him for all
Eternity--the Archbishop formally confirmed to Peyrens his
absolution, through Our Lady's loving kindness, from his bad heresy
and from all his other sins.

What became of this Peyrens later, Señor, I have not heard mentioned;
but in regard to the accuracy of all that I have told you about him
there can be no question: because the miracle-picture that he painted
still adorns the Altar del Perdon, and is the chief glory of it--and
there you may see it this very day.


This Alleyway of the Armed One, Señor, got its name because long
ago--before it had any name at all--there lived in it an old man who
went always clad in armor, wearing also his sword and his dagger at
his side; and all that was known about him was that his name was Don
Lope de Armijo y Lara, and that--for all that he lived so meanly in so
mean a street in so mean a quarter of the City--he was a rich
merchant, and that he came from Spain.

Into his poor little house no one ever got so much as the tip of his
nose, and he lived alone there in great mystery. In spite of his
riches, he had not even one servant; and he himself bought his own
victuals and cooked them with his own hands. Always he was seen armed
to the teeth [_armado hasta los dientes_] when he went abroad. Under
his mean robe was a full suit of armor, and in his belt was a long
dagger and a broad and very long sword; also, when at night he went
out on strange errands, he carried a great pike. Therefore, presently,
people spoke of him not as Don Lope but as El Armado--and so he was

That he was a wicked person was known generally. He was very
charitable to the poor. Every morning he went to pray in the church of
San Francisco; and he remained praying there for hours at a time,
kneeling upon his knees. Also, at the proper seasons, he partook of
the Sacrament. Some said that through the shut windows of his house,
in the night-time, they had heard the sound of his scourgings as he
made penance for his sins.


In the darkness of the darkest of nights--when there was no moon, and
especially when a dismal drizzling rain was falling--he would be seen
to come out from his house in all his armor and go stealing away in
the direction of the Plazuela de Mixcalco. He would disappear into the
shadows, and not come back again until midnight had passed. Then he
would be heard, in his shut house, counting his money. For a long
while that would go on--counting, counting, counting--there was no
end to the clinking of silver coin. Then, when all his money was
counted, would be heard the sound of scourging, together with most
lamentable and complaining groanings. And, at the end of all, would
come a heavy clanking--as of a great iron cover falling heavily upon a
chest of iron. After that there would be no sign of life about the
house until the morning--when the Armed One would come forth from it
and go to San Francisco to pray.

The life of that man was a bad mystery, Señor, that many wished to
uncover by denouncing him to justice; but the uncovering came of its
own accord, and was a greater mystery still! On a morning, all the
neighbors saw the Armed One hanging dead--hanging dead from his own
balcony by a cord! No one knew what to think; but most thought that he
had hung himself there in fear that denouncement of his crimes would
be made and that justice would have its hold upon him. When the
Alcalde came, and made search in his house, a very great sum of money
was found; and, also, were found many skulls of men who certainly
must have perished at his hands.

It is a most curious matter, Señor. I cannot see my way through it.
But the house is gone.


This gentleman who for love's sake, Señor, conquered his coldness and
his laziness and became all fire and energy, was named Don Juan
Gutiérrez Rubín de Celis. He was a caballero of the Order of
Santiago--some say that he wore also the habit of Calatrava--and the
colonel of the regiment of the Tres Villas. He was of a lovable
nature, and ostentatious and arrogant, and in all his ways dilatory
and apathetic to the very last degree. So great were his riches that
not even he himself knew the sum of them: as you will understand when
I tell you that on an occasion of state--it was the entry into the
City in the year 1716 of the new Viceroy, the Marqués de
Valero--pearls to the value of thirty thousand pesos were used in the
mere trimming of his casacón.

Being of an age to take part so nobly in that noble ceremony, he must
have been a gentleman well turned of forty, Señor, when the matters
whereof I now am telling you occurred: of which the beginning--and
also the middle and the ending, because everything hinged upon it--was
his falling most furiously in love with a very beautiful young lady;
and his falling in love in that furious fashion was the very first
sign of energy that in all his lifetime, until that moment, he had
shown. The name of this beautiful young lady with whom he fell in love
so furiously was Doña Sara de García Somera y Acuña; and she was less
than half as old as he was, but possessed of a very sensible nature
that made her do more thinking than is done usually by young ladies;
and she was of a noble house, and a blood relative of the Viceroy's:
for which reason the Viceroy--who by that time was Don Juan de Acuña,
Marqués de Casafuerte--was much interested in the whole affair.

The love-making of this so notoriously lazy gentleman did not at all
go upon wheels, Señor: because Doña Sara set herself--as was her habit
when dealing with any matter of importance--to thinking about it very
seriously; and the more that she thought about it the more she made
her mind up that so dull and so apathetic a gentleman--who, moreover,
was old enough to be her father--would not in the least be the sort of
husband that she desired. But also, because of her good sense, she
perceived that much was to be said in favor of entering into wedlock
with him: because his rank and his great wealth made him one of the
most important personages in the Vice-Kingdom; and, moreover, for all
that he was old enough to be her father, he still was a very
personable man. And so she thought very hard in both directions, and
could not in either direction make up her mind.

While matters were in this condition, Señor--Don Juan furiously in
love with Doña Sara, and Doña Sara thinking in that sensible way of
hers about being temperately in love with Don Juan--something happened
that gave a new turn to the whole affair. This thing that happened was
that the Viceroy--who was a great friend of Don Juan's; and who, as I
have mentioned, was a kinsman of Doña Sara's, and much interested in
all that was going forward--appointed Don Juan to be Prior of the
Consulado; that is to say, President of the Tribunal of Commerce:
which was a most honorable office, in keeping with his rank and his
riches; and which also was an office--because all the work of it could
be done by deputy, or even left undone--that fitted in with Don Juan's
lazy apathy to a hair.

Now at that time, Señor, the building of the Aduana de Santo Domingo
was in progress--it ceased to be a custom-house many years ago, Señor;
it is occupied by the Secretaría de Comunicaciones now--and it had
been in progress, with no great result from the work that laggingly
was done on it, for a number of years. The charge of the making of
this edifice rested with the Consulado; and, naturally, the new Prior
of the Consulado was even more content than had been his predecessors
in that office to let the making of it lag on.

Then it was, Señor, that there came into the sensible mind of Doña
Sara a notable project for proving whether Don Juan's lazy apathy went
to the very roots of him; or whether, at the very roots of him--over
and above the energy that he had shown in his furious love for
her--he had energy that she could arouse and could set a-going in
practically useful ways. And her reasoning was this wise: that if Don
Juan could be stirred by her urgence to do useful work with vigor,
then was it likely that her urgence would arouse him from all his
apathies--and so would recast him into the sort of husband that she
desired to have. Therefore Doña Sara told Don Juan that she would
marry him only on one condition; and that her condition was that he
should finish completely the long-drawn-out building of the Aduana
within six months from that very day! And Don Juan, Señor, was so
furiously in love with Doña Sara that in the same instant that she
gave him her condition he accepted it; and he--who never had done a
hand's turn of work in all his lifetime--promised her that he would do
the almost impossible piece of work that she had set him to do: and
that the Aduana should be finished completely within six months from
that very day!

And then all the City was amazed--and so, for that matter, Don Juan
himself was--by the fire and the force and the breathless eagerness
with which he set himself to the task that Doña Sara had put upon
him. In a single moment he had gone to every one of all the architects
in the City urging them to take in charge for him that almost
impossible piece of building; and in the very next moment--every one
of all the architects in the City having made answer to him that what
he wanted of them could not even by a miracle be accomplished--he
himself took charge of it: and with a furiousness that matched
precisely--as Doña Sara perceived with hopeful satisfaction--with the
furiousness of his love.

What Don Juan did in that matter, Señor, was done as though in the
insides of him were tempests and volcanoes! From the Tierra Caliente
he brought up as by magic myriads of negro workmen to do the digging
and the heavy carrying; all the quarries around the City he crammed
full of stone-cutters; every mason was set to work at wall-laying;
every carpenter to making the doors and the windows; every brick-yard
to making the tiles for the roof and the floors; every blacksmith to
making the locks and the hinges and the window-gratings and the
balcony rails. And in the midst of his swarms of laborers Don Juan
himself worked harder than all of them put together; and was
everywhere at once among them urging them to hurry and to hurry; and
to any one of them who showed even the slightest sign of lagging there
came from Don Juan's mouth a berating volleying of scorpions and
snakes and toads!

In very truth, Señor, such was Don Juan's raging energy that he was as
a frenzied person. But it was a frenzy that had no real madness in it:
because everything that he did and that he made to be done was
directed by a most sensible discretion--so that not a moment of time
nor the turn of a hand was wasted, and in every single instant the
building grew and grew. And the upshot of it all was that he
accomplished just what he had made his whole soul up he would
accomplish: within the six months that Doña Sara had given him to do
his work in, he did do it--and even with a little time to spare. Three
full days before the last of his six months was ended the Aduana was
finished to the very least part of its smallest detail; and Don
Juan--all aglow over his triumphant fulfilment of Doña Sara's almost
impossible condition--carried the key of that perfectly completed vast
structure to the Palace, and there placed the key of it in the
Viceroy's hands!

Moreover--that all the world might know why it was, and for whom it
was, that his great work had been accomplished--Don Juan caused to be
carved on a wall of the building a most artfully contrived
inscription: that seemed only to give soberly his own name, and the
names of the Consules associated with him, and the date of the
Aduana's completion; but that was so arranged that the first letters
of the five lines of it together made the initials of Doña Sara's

Don Juan thus having done what Doña Sara had set him to do, and what
every one of all the architects in the City had declared could not be
done even by a miracle, it was evident to the whole world that at the
very roots of him was more blazing energy than would suffice for the
equipment of a half hundred of ordinary men. Wherefore Doña Sara was
well satisfied--her urgence having stirred him to do that great useful
work with such masterful vigor--that her urgence equally would arouse
him from all of his apathies: and so would recast him into the sort of
husband that she desired to have. Therefore Doña Sara immediately
gave to Don Juan her hand in marriage: and as the Aduana still is
standing--and precisely where, faster than a miracle, Don Juan built
it--the Señor has only to look at it, and to read the inscription
showing Doña Sara's initials, to know both the truth of this curious
story and that Doña Sara's choice of a husband was well made.


Not knowing what they are talking about, Señor, many people will tell
you that the Street of the Burned Woman got its name because--in the
times when the Holy Office was helping the goodness of good people by
making things very bad for the bad ones--a woman heretic most properly
and satisfactorily was burned there. Such is not in the least the
case. The Quemadero of the Inquisition--where such sinners were
burned, that their sins might be burned out of them--was nowhere near
the Calle de la Quemada: being at the western end of what now is the
Alameda, in quite a different part of the town. Therefore it is a
mistake to mix these matters: and the real truth is that this
beautiful young lady did herself destroy her own beauty by setting
fire to it; and she did it because she wanted to do it--that in that
way she might settle some doubts which were in her heart. It all
happened in the time of the good Viceroy Don Luis de Velasco: and so
you will perceive, Señor, that this story is more than three hundred
years old.

The name of this beautiful young lady who went to such lengths for her
heart's assuring was Doña Beatrice de Espinosa; and the name of her
father was Don Gonzalo de Espinosa y Guevra--who was a Spanish rich
merchant who came to make himself still richer by his buyings and his
sellings in New Spain. Being arrived here, he took up his abode in a
fine dwelling in the quarter of San Pablo, in the very street that now
is called the Street of the Burned Woman because of what presently
happened there; and if that street was called by some other name
before that cruel happening I do not know what it was.

Doña Beatrice was as beautiful, Señor, as the full moon and the best
of the stars put together; and she was more virtuous than she was
beautiful; and she was just twenty years old. Therefore all the young
gentlemen of the City immediately fell in love with her; and great
numbers of the richest and the noblest of them--their parents, or
other suitable persons, making the request for them--asked her
father's permission to wed her: so that Doña Beatrice might have had
any one of twenty good husbands, had any one of them been to her mind.
However--being a lady very particular in the matter of husbands--not
one of them was to her liking: wherefore her father did as she wanted
him to do and refused them all.

But, on a day, matters went differently. At a great ball given by the
Viceroy in the Palace Doña Beatrice found what her heart had been
waiting for: and this was a noble Italian young gentleman who
instantly--as all the others had done--fell in love with her; and with
whom--as she never before had done with anybody--she instantly fell in
love. The name of this young gentleman was Don Martín Scipoli; and he
was the Marqués de Pinamonte y Frantescello; and he was as handsome as
he was lovable, and of a most jealous nature, and as quarrelsome as it
was possible for anybody to be. Therefore, as I have said, Señor, Doña
Beatrice at once fell in love with him with all the heart of her; and
Don Martín at once fell in love with her also: and so violently that
his jealousy of all her other lovers set off his quarrelsomeness at
such a rate that he did nothing--in his spare time, when he was not
making love to Doña Beatrice--but affront and anger them, so that he
might have the pleasure of finding them at the point of his sword.

Now Doña Beatrice, Señor, was a young lady of a most delicate nature,
and her notions about love were precisely the same as those which are
entertained by the lady angels. Therefore Don Martín's continual
fightings very much worried her: raising in her heart the dread that
so violent a person must be of a coarse and carnal nature; and that,
being of such a nature, his love for her came only from his
beblindment by the outside beauty of her, and was not--as her own love
was--the pure love of soul for soul. Moreover, she was pained by his
being led on by his jealousy--for which there was no just occasion--to
injure seriously, and even mortally, so many worthy young men.

Therefore Doña Beatrice--after much thinking and a great deal of
praying over the matter--made her mind up to destroy her own beauty:
that in that way she might put all jealousies out of the question;
and at the same time prove to her heart's satisfying that Don Martín's
love for her had nothing to do with the outside beauty of her and
truly was the pure love of soul for soul.

And Doña Beatrice, Señor, did do that very thing. Her father being
gone abroad from his home, and all of the servants of the house being
on one excuse or another sent out of it, she brought into her own
chamber a brazier filled with burning coals; and this she set beneath
an image of the blessed Santa Lucía that she had hung upon the wall to
give strength to her in case, in doing herself so cruel an injury, her
own strength should fail. Santa Lucía, as you will remember, Señor,
with her own hands plucked out her own wonderfully beautiful eyes and
sent them on a platter to the young gentleman who had troubled her
devotions by telling her that he could not live without them; and with
them sent the message that, since she had given him the eyes that he
could not live without, he please would let her and her devotions
alone. Therefore it was clear that Santa Lucía was the saint best
fitted to oversee the matter that Doña Beatrice had in hand.

But in regard to her eyes Doña Beatrice did not precisely pattern
herself upon Santa Lucía: knowing that without them she could not see
how Don Martín stood the test that she meant to put him to; and, also,
very likely remembering that Santa Lucía miraculously got her eyes
back again, and got them back even more beautiful than when she lost
them: because, you see, they came back filled with the light of
heaven--where the angels had been taking care of them until they
should be returned. Therefore Doña Beatrice bound a wet handkerchief
over her eyes--that she might keep the sight in them to see how Don
Martín stood his testing; and, also, that she might spare the angels
the inconvenience of caring for them--and then she fanned and fanned
the fire in the brazier until the purring of it made her know that the
coals were in a fierce blaze. And then, Señor, she plunged her
beautiful face down into the very heart of the glowing coals! And it
was at that same instant--though Doña Beatrice, of course, did not
know about that part of the matter--that the Street of the Burned
Woman got its name.

Being managed under the guidance and with the approval of Santa Lucía,
the cruelty that this virtuous young lady put upon her own beauty
could lead only to a good end. Presently, when the bitter pain of her
burning had passed a little, Doña Beatrice bade Don Martín come to
her; and he, coming, found her clad in virgin white and wearing over
her poor burned face a white veil. And then the test that Doña
Beatrice had planned for her heart's assuring was made.

Little by little, Doña Beatrice raised her white veil slowly; and,
little by little, Don Martín saw the face of her: and the face of her
was more shudderingly hideous--her two beautiful eyes perfectly alight
and alive amid that distorted deathliness was what made the shudder of
it--than anything that ever he had dreamed of in his very worst dream!
Therefore, with a great joy and thankfulness, Don Martín immediately
espoused Doña Beatrice: and thence-forward and always--most reasonably
ceasing to love the outside beauty of her--gave her, as she wanted him
to give her, the pure love of soul for soul.

For myself, Señor, I think that the conduct of that young lady was
unreasonable, and that Don Martín had just occasion to be annoyed.


This story is not a sad one, Señor, like the others. It is a joyful
story of a gentleman and a lady who loved each other, and were
married, and lived in happiness together until they died. And it was
because of his happiness that the gentleman caused to be carved on the
corner of his house, below the balcony on which he saw that day the
sign which gave hope to him, this great green cross of stone that is
there still.

The house with the green cross on it, Señor, stands at the corner of
the Calle de la Cruz Verde--the street, you see, was named for it--and
the Calle de Migueles. It was a fine house in the days when Doña
María's father built it. Now it is old and shabby, and the saint that
once stood in the niche above the cross is gone. But there is an
excellent pulquería there, Señor--it is called La Heroina--where
pulque of the best and the freshest is to be had every morning of
every day the whole year round.

I do not know, Señor, when this matter happened; but I have heard it
told that this gentleman, who was named Don Alvaro de Villadiego y
Manrique, came to Mexico in the train of the Viceroy Don Gastón de
Peralta--so it must have happened a very long while ago.

This Don Alvaro was a very handsome gentleman--tall, and slender, and
fair; and he wore clothes of white velvet worked with gold, and a blue
cap with a white feather; and he rode always a very beautiful Arabian
horse. His hair and his little pointed beard were a golden brown,
Señor; and he was a sight to behold!

[Illustration: LA CRUZ VERDE]

It happened, on a day, that he was taking the air on his Arabian; and
he was wearing--because a festival of some sort was in progress--all
of his fine clothes. So he came prancing down the Calle de Migueles,
and in the balcony of that corner house--the house on which the green
cross now is--he saw a very beautiful young lady, who was most genteel
in her appearance and as white as snow. He fell in love with her on
that very instant; and she--although because of her virtue and good
training she did not show it--on that very instant fell in love with
him. Then he made inquiry and found that her name was Doña María de
Aldarafuente y Segura. Therefore he resolved to marry her. And so,
every day he rode past her balcony and looked up at her with eyes full
of love. As for Doña María, she was so well brought up, and her
parents watched her so narrowly, that it was a long while before she
made any answering sign. And for that reason, Señor, she loved him all
the more tenderly in her heart.

Then it happened, at the end of a long while, that Doña María's mother
fell ill; and so, the watch upon her being less close, Don Alvaro was
able to get to her hands a letter in which he begged that she would
give to him her love. And he told her in his letter that--if she could
not answer it with another letter--she should give him one of two
signs by which he would know her will. If she did not love him, she
was to hang upon the railing of her balcony a cross of dry
palm-leaves--and when he saw that dry cross he would most certainly,
he told her, that day die. But if she did love him, she was to hang a
cross of green palm-leaves upon the railing of her balcony--and when
he saw that green cross he would know, he told her, that she had given
him her true promise of heaven-perfect happiness for all his life

Being a lady, Señor, Doña María let some days go by before she hung on
the railing of her balcony any cross at all--and during those days Don
Alvaro was within no more than a hair's breadth of going mad. And
then--when madness was so close to him that with one single moment
more of waiting his wits would have left him--on a day of days, when
the spring-time sun was shining and all the birds were singing
love-songs together, Don Alvaro saw hanging on the railing of Doña
María's balcony a beautiful bright green cross!

Of course, after that, Señor, things went fast and well. By the
respectable intervention of a cleric--who was the friend of Don
Alvaro, and who also was the friend of Doña María's parents--all the
difficulties were cleared away in a hurry; and only a fortnight after
the green cross was hung on the railing of Doña María's balcony--that
fortnight seemed an endless time to Don Alvaro, but for such a matter
it really was the least that a lady could get ready in--they went
together before the altar, and at the foot of it they vowed to each
other their love. And what is best of all, Señor, is that they kept
faithfully their vow.

Then it was, being gladly married, that Don Alvaro caused the green
cross of stone--so big that it rises to the first floor from the
pavement--to be carved on the corner of the house that thenceforward
they lived in; and it was carved beneath the very balcony where had
hung the green cross of palm-leaves that had given to him Doña María's
true promise of heaven-perfect happiness for all his life long.

And there the green cross still is, Señor; and the name of the street,
as I have told you, is the Calle de la Cruz Verde--which of course
proves that this story is true.

                    LEGEND OF LA MUJER HERRADA[5]

I do not know when this matter happened, Señor; but my grandfather,
who told me about it, spoke as though all three of them--the priest,
and the blacksmith, and the woman--had lived a long while before his
time. However, my grandfather said that the priest and the woman, who
was his housekeeper, pretty certainly lived in a house--it is gone
now, Señor--that was in the street that is called the Puerta Falsa de
Santo Domingo. And he said that the blacksmith certainly did live in a
house in the Calle de las Rejas de la Balvanera--because he himself
had seen the house, and had seen the farrier's knife and the pincers
cut on the stone arching above the door. Therefore you perceive,
Señor, that my grandfather was well acquainted with these people, and
that this story is true.

The priest was a secular, Señor, not belonging to any Order; and he
and the blacksmith were compadres together--that is to say, they were
close friends. It was because the blacksmith had a great liking for
his compadre, and a great respect for him, that from time to time he
urged him to send away the housekeeper; but his compadre always had
some pleasant excuse to make about the matter, and so the blacksmith
would be put off. And things went on that way for a number of years.

Now it happened, on a night, that the blacksmith was wakened out of
his sleep by a great pounding at the door of his house; and when he
got up and went to his door he found standing there two blacks--they
were men whom he never had laid eyes on--and with them was a she mule
that they had brought to be shod. The blacks made their excuses to him
politely for waking him at that bad hour: telling him that the mule
belonged to his compadre, and had been sent to him to be shod in the
night and in a hurry because his compadre of a sudden had occasion to
go upon a journey, and that he must start upon his journey very early
on the morning of the following day. Then the blacksmith, looking
closely at the mule, saw that she really was the mule of his
compadre; and so, for friendship's sake, he shod her without more
words. The blacks led the mule away when the shoeing was finished;
and, as they went off into the night with her, they fell to beating
her so cruelly with heavy sticks that the blacksmith talked to them
with great severity. But the blacks kept on beating the mule, and even
after they were lost in the darkness the blacksmith continued to hear
the sound of their blows.

[Illustration: LA MVJER HERRADA]

In some ways this whole matter seemed so strange to the blacksmith
that he wanted to know more about it. Therefore he got up very early
in the morning and went to his compadre's house: meaning to ask him
what was the occasion of this journey that had to be taken in such a
hurry, and who those strange blacks were who so cruelly had beaten his
meritorious mule. But when he was come to the house he had to wait a
while before the door was opened; and when at last it did open, there
was his compadre half asleep--and his compadre said that he was not
going on any journey, and that most certainly he had not sent his mule
to be shod. And then, as he got wider awake, he began to laugh at
the blacksmith because of the trick that had been put upon him; and
that the woman might share in the joke of it--they all were great
friends together--he knocked at the door of her room and called to
her. But the woman did not answer back to him; and when he knocked
louder and louder she still gave no sign.

Then he, and the blacksmith too, became anxious about the woman; and
together they opened the door and went into the room. And what they
saw when they were come into the room, Señor, was the most terrible
sight that ever was seen in this world! For there, lying upon her bed,
was that unhappy woman looking all distraught and agonized; and nailed
fast to the feet and to the hands of her were the very same iron shoes
that the blacksmith--who well knew his own forge-work--had nailed fast
to the hoofs of the mule! Moreover, upon her body were the welts and
the bruises left there when the blacks had beaten the mule with their
cruel blows. And the woman, Señor, was as dead as she possibly could
be. So they knew that what had happened was a divine punishment, and
that the blacks were two devils who had changed the woman into a mule
and so had taken her to be shod.

Perceiving, because of such a sign being given him, Señor, that he had
committed an error, the master of that house of horror immediately
went out from it--and at once disappeared completely and never was
heard of again. As for the blacksmith, he was so pained by his share
in the matter that always afterward, until the death of him, he was a
very unhappy man. And that is the story of the Iron-shod Woman, Señor,
from first to last.

                    LEGEND OF THE ACCURSED BELL[6]

This story, Señor--it is about the accursed bell that once was the
clock-bell of the Palace--has so many beginnings that the only way
really to get at the bones of it would be for a number of people, all
talking at once, to tell the different first parts of it at the same

For, you see, the curse that was upon this bell--that caused it to be
brought to trial before the Consejo of the Inquisition, and by the
Consejo to be condemned to have its wicked tongue torn out and to be
banished from Spain to this country--was made up of several curses
which had been in use in other ways elsewhere previously: so that one
beginning is with the Moor, and another with Don Gil de Marcadante,
and another with the devil-forged armor, and still another with the
loosing of all the curses from the cross (wherein for some hundreds of
years they were imprisoned) and the fusing of them into the one great
curse wherewith this unfortunate bell was afflicted--which happened
when that holy emblem was refounded, and with the metal of it this
bell was made.

Concerning the Moor, Señor, I can give you very little information.
All that I know about him is that he had the bad name of Muslef; and
that he was killed--as he deserved to be killed, being an Infidel--by
a Christian knight; and that this knight cut his head off and brought
it home with him as an agreeable memento of the occasion, and was very
pleased with what he had done. Unfortunately, this knight also brought
home with him the Moor's armor--which was of bronze, and so curiously
and so beautifully wrought that it evidently had been forged by
devils, and which was farther charged with devilishness because it had
been worn by an Infidel; and then, still more unfortunately, he
neglected to have the armor purified by causing the devils to be
exorcised out of it by a Christian priest. Therefore, of course, the
devils remained in the armor--ready to make trouble whenever they got
the chance.

How Don Gil de Marcadante came to be the owner of that accursed
devil-possessed armor, Señor, I never have heard mentioned. Perhaps he
bought it because it happened to fit him; and, certainly--he being a
most unusually sinful young gentleman--the curse that was upon it and
the devils which were a part of it fitted him to a hair.

This Don Gil was a student of law in Toledo; but his studies were the
very last things to which he turned his attention, and the life that
he led was the shame of his respectable brother and his excellent
mother's despair. Habitually, he broke every law of the Decalogue, and
so brazenly that all the city rang with the stories of his evil doings
and his crimes. Moreover, he was of a blusterous nature and a born
brawler: ready at the slightest contradiction to burst forth with such
a torrent of blasphemies and imprecations that his mouth seemed to be
a den of snakes and toads and scorpions; and ever quick to snatch his
sword out and to get on in a hurry from words to blows. As his nearest
approach to good nature was after he had killed some one in a quarrel
of his own making, and as even at those favorable times his temper was
of a brittleness, he was not looked upon as an agreeable companion
and had few friends.

This Don Gil had most intimate relations with the devil, as was proved
in various ways. Thus, a wound that he received in one of his duels
instantly closed and healed itself; on a night of impenetrable
darkness, as he went about his evil doings, he was seen to draw apart
the heavy gratings of a window as though the thick iron bars had been
silken threads; and a stone that he cast at a man in one of his
rages--mercifully not hitting him--remained burning hot in the place
where it had fallen for several days. Moreover, it was known generally
that in the night time, in a very secret and hidden part of his
dwelling, he gave himself up to hideous and most horrible sacrileges
in which his master the devil had always a part. And so these
facts--and others of a like nature--coming to the knowledge of the
Holy Office, it was perceived that he was a sorcerer. Therefore he was
marched off--wearing his devil-forged armor, to which fresh curses had
come with his use of it--to a cell in the Inquisition; and to make
sure of holding him fast until the next auto de fé came round, when he
was to be burned properly and regularly, he was bound with a great
chain, and the chain was secured firmly to a strong staple in the cell

But the devil, Señor, sometimes saves his own. On a morning, the
jailer went as usual to Don Gil's cell with the bread and the water
for him; and when he had opened the cell door he saw, as he believed,
Don Gil in his armor waiting as usual for his bread and his water: but
in a moment he perceived that what he saw was not Don Gil in his
armor, but only the accursed armor standing upright full of emptiness;
and that the staple was torn out; and that the great chain was broken;
and that Don Gil was gone! And then--so much to the horror of the
jailer that he immediately went mad of it--the empty armor began
slowly to walk up and down the cell!

After that time Don Gil never was seen, nor was he heard of, again on
earth; and so on earth, when the time came for burning him at the auto
de fé, he had to be burned in effigy. However--as there could be no
doubt about the place to which the devil had taken him--everybody was
well satisfied that he got his proper personal burning elsewhere.

Then it was, Señor, that the Holy Office most wisely ordered that that
devil-possessed and doubly accursed armor should be melted, and
refounded into a cross: knowing that the sanctity of that blessed
emblem would quiet the curses and would hold the devils still and
fast. Therefore that order was executed; and the wisdom of it--which
some had questioned, on the ground that devils and curses were
unsuitable material to make a cross of--was apparent as soon as the
bronze turned fluid in the furnace: because there came from the fiery
seething midst of it--to the dazed terror of the workmen--shouts of
devil-laughter, and imprecations horrible to listen to, and frightful
blasphemies; and to these succeeded, as the metal was being poured
into the mould, a wild outburst of defiant remonstrance; and then all
this demoniac fury died away--as the metal hardened and became fixed
as a cross--at first into half-choked cries of agony, and then into
confused lamentations, and at the last into little whimpering moans.
Thus the devils and the curses were disposed of: and then the
cross--holding them imprisoned in its holy substance--was set up in a
little townlet not far from Madrid in which just then a cross
happened to be wanted; and there it remained usefully for some
hundreds of years.

At the end of that period--by which time everybody was dead who knew
what was inside of it--the cross was asked for by the Prior of a
little convent in that townlet near Madrid, who desired it that he
might have it refounded into a bell; and as the Prior was a worthy
person, and as he really needed a bell, his request was granted. So
they made out of the cross a very beautiful bell: having on one side
of it the two-headed eagle; and having on the other side of it a
calvario; and having at the top of it, for its hanging, two imperial
lions supporting a cross-bar in the shape of a crown. Then it was hung
in the tower of the little convent; and the Prior, and all the
Brothers with him, were very much pleased. But that worthy Prior, and
those equally worthy Brothers, were not pleased for long, Señor:
because the curses and the devils all were loose again--and their
chance to do new wickednesses had come!

On a night of blackness, without any warning whatever, the whole of
the townlet was awakened by the prodigious clangor of a bell
furiously ringing. In an instant--seeking the cause of this
disturbance--everybody came out into the night's blackness: the Señor
Cura, the Señor Alcalde, the alguaciles, the Prior, the Brothers, all
the townsfolk to the very last one. And when they had looked about
them they found that the cause of the disturbance was the new bell of
the convent: which was ringing with such an excessive violence that
the night's blackness was corrupted with its noise.

Terror was upon everyone; and greater terror was upon every one when
it was found out that the door of the bell-tower was locked, and that
the bell was ringing of its lone self: because the bad fact then
became evident that only devils could have the matter in hand. The
Señor Alcalde alone--being a very valiant gentleman, and not much
believing in devils--was not satisfied with that finding. Therefore
the Señor Alcalde caused the door to be unlocked and, carrying a torch
with him, entered the bell-tower; and there he found the bell-rope
crazily flying up and down as though a dozen men were pulling it, and
nobody was pulling it--which sight somewhat shook his nerves.
However, because of his valorousness, he only stopped to cross
himself; and then he went on bravely up the belfry stair. But what he
saw when he was come into the belfry fairly brought him to a stand.
For there was the bell ringing tempestuously; and never a visible hand
was near it; and the only living thing that he found in the belfry was
a great black cat with its tail bushed out and its fur
bristling--which evil animal for a moment leered at him malignantly,
with its green eyes gleaming in the torch-light, and then sprang
past him and dashed down the stair.

Then the Señor Alcalde, no longer doubting that the bell was being
rung by devils, and himself not knowing how to manage devils, called
down from the belfry to the Señor Cura to come up and take charge of
the matter: whereupon the Señor Cura, holding his courage in both
hands, did come up into the belfry, bringing his hisopo with him, and
fell to sprinkling the bell with holy water--which seemed to him, so
far as he could see his way into that difficult tangle, the best thing
that he could do. But his doing it, of course, was the very worst
thing that he could have done: because, you see, Señor, the devils
were angered beyond all endurance by being scalded with the holy water
(that being the effect that holy water has upon devils) and so only
rang the bell the more furiously in their agony of pain. Then the
Señor Alcalde and the Señor Cura perceived that they could not quiet
the devils, and decided to give up trying to. Therefore they came down
from the belfry together--and they, and everybody with them, went away
through the night's blackness crossing themselves, and were glad to be
safe again in their homes.

The next day the Señor Alcalde made a formal inquest into the whole
matter: citing to appear before him all the townsfolk and all the
Brothers, and questioning them closely every one. And the result of
this inquest was to make certain that the bell-ringer of the convent
had not rung the bell; nor had any other of the Brothers rung it; nor
had any of the townsfolk rung it. Therefore the Señor Alcalde, and
with him the Señor Cura--whose opinion was of importance in such a
matter--decided that the devil had rung it: and their decision was
accepted by everybody, because that was what everybody from the
beginning had believed.

Therefore--because such devilish doings affected the welfare of the
whole kingdom--a formal report of all that had happened was submitted
to the Cortes; and the Cortes, after pondering the report seriously,
perceived that the matter was ecclesiastical and referred it to the
Consejo of the Inquisition; and the members of the Consejo, in due
course, ordered that all the facts should be digested and regularized
and an opinion passed upon them by their Fiscal.

Being a very painstaking person, the Fiscal went at his work with so
great an earnestness that for more than a year he was engaged upon it.
First he read all that he could find to read about bells in all the
Spanish law books, from the _Siete Partidas_ of Alonzo the Wise
downward; then he read all that he could find about bells in such law
books of foreign countries as were accessible to him; then, in the
light of the information so obtained, he digested and regularized the
facts of the case presented for his consideration and applied himself
to writing his opinion upon them; and then, at last, he came before
the Consejo and read to that body his opinion from beginning to end.
Through the whole of a long day the Fiscal read his opinion; and
through the whole of the next day, and the next, and the next; and at
the end of the fourth day he finished the reading of his opinion and
sat down. And the opinion of the Fiscal was that the devil had rung
the bell.

Then the Consejo, after debating for three days upon what had been
read by the Fiscal, gave formal approval to his opinion; and in
conformity with it the Consejo came to these conclusions:

      1. That the ringing of the bell was a matter of no importance
      to good Christians.

      2. That the bell, being possessed of a devil, should have its
      tongue torn out: so that never again should it dare to ring of
      its lone devilish self, to the peril of human souls.

      3. That the bell, being dangerous to good Christians, should
      be banished from the Spanish Kingdom to the Indies, and
      forever should remain tongueless and exiled over seas.

Thereupon, that wise sentence was executed. The devil-possessed bell
was taken down from the belfry of the little convent, and its wicked
tongue was torn out of it; then it was carried shamefully and with
insults to the coast; then it was put on board of one of the ships of
the flota bound for Mexico; and in Mexico, in due course, it arrived.
Being come here, and no orders coming with it regarding its
disposition, it was brought from Vera Cruz to the Capital and was
placed in an odd corner of one of the corridors of the Palace: and
there it remained quietly--everybody being shy of meddling with a bell
that was known to be alive with witchcraft--for some hundreds of

In that same corner it still was, Señor, when the Conde de
Revillagigedo--only a little more than a century ago--became Viceroy;
and as soon as that most energetic gentleman saw it he wanted to know
in a hurry--being indisposed to let anything or anybody rust in
idleness--why a bell that needed only a tongue in it to make it
serviceable was not usefully employed. For some time no one could tell
him anything more about the bell than that there was a curse upon it;
and that answer did not satisfy him, because curses did not count for
much in his very practical mind. In the end a very old clerk in the
Secretariat gave him the bell's true story; and proved the truth of it
by bringing out from deep in the archives an ancient yellowed
parchment: which was precisely the royal order, following the decree
of the Consejo, that the bell should have its tongue torn out, and
forever should remain tongueless and exiled over seas.

With that order before him, even the Conde de Revillagigedo, Señor,
did not venture to have a new tongue put into the bell and to set it
to regular work again; but what he did do came to much the same thing.
At that very time he was engaged in pushing to a brisk completion the
repairs to the Palace--that had gone on for a hundred years
languishingly, following the burning of it in the time of the Viceroy
Don Gaspar de la Cerda--and among his repairings was the replacement
of the Palace clock. Now a clock-bell, Señor, does not need a tongue
in it, being struck with hammers from the outside; and so the Conde,
whose wits were of an alertness, perceived in a moment that by
employing the bell as a clock-bell he could make it useful again
without traversing the king's command. And that was what immediately
he did with it--and that was how the Palace clock came to have foisted
upon it this accursed bell.

But, so far as I have heard, Señor, this bell conducted itself as a
clock-bell with a perfect regularity and propriety: probably because
the devils which were in it had grown too old to be dangerously
hurtful, and because the curse that was upon it had weakened with
time. I myself, as a boy and as a young man, have heard it doing its
duty always punctually; and no doubt it still would be doing its duty
had not the busybodying French seen fit--during the period of the
Intervention, when they meddled with everything--to put another bell
in the place of it and to have it melted down. What was done with the
metal when the bell was melted, Señor, I do not know; but I have been
told by an old founder of my acquaintance that nothing was done with
it: because, as he very positively assured me, when the bell was
melted the metal of it went sour in the furnace and refused to be

If that is true, Señor, it looks as though all those devils in the
bell--which came to it from the Moor and from the devil-forged armor
and from Don Gil de Marcadante--still had some strength for wickedness
left to them even in their old age.


Who Padre Lecuona was, Señor, and what he did or had done to him in
this street that caused his name to be given to it, I do not know. The
Padre about whom I now am telling you, who had this strange thing
happen to him in this street, was named Lanza; but he was called by
everybody Lanchitas--according to our custom of giving such endearing
diminutives to the names of those whom we love. He deserved to be
loved, this excellent Padre Lanchitas: because he himself loved
everybody, and freely gave to all in sickness or in trouble his loving
aid. Confessing to him was a pleasure; and his absolution was worth
having, because it was given always with the approval of the good God.
My own grandfather knew him well, Señor, having known a man who had
seen him when he was a boy. Therefore this strange story about him is

On a night--and it was a desponding night, because rain was falling
and there was a chill wind--Padre Lanchitas was hurrying to the house
of a friend of his, where every week he and three other gentlemen of a
Friday evening played malilla together. It is a very serious game,
Señor, and to play it well requires a large mind. He was late, and
that was why he was hurrying.

When he was nearly come to the house of his friend--and glad to get
there because of the rain and the cold--he was stopped by an old woman
plucking at his wet cloak and speaking to him. And the old woman
begged him for God's mercy to come quickly and confess a dying man.
Now that is a call, Señor, that a priest may not refuse; but because
his not joining them would inconvenience his friends, who could not
play at their game of malilla without him, he asked the woman why she
did not go to the parish priest of the parish in which the dying man
was. And the woman answered him that only to him would the dying man
confess; and she begged him again for God's mercy to hurry with her,
or the confession would not be made in time--and then the sin of his
refusal would be heavy on his own soul when he himself came to die.

So, then, the Padre went with her, walking behind her along the cold
dark streets in the mud with the rain falling; and at last she brought
him to the eastern end of this street that is called the Callejón del
Padre Lecuona, and to the long old house there that faces toward the
church of El Carmen and has a hump in the middle on the top of its
front wall. It is a very old house, Señor. It was built in the time
when we had Viceroys, instead of the President Porfírio; and it has no
windows--only a great door for the entering of carriages at one end of
it, and a small door in the middle of it, and another small door at
the other end. A person who sells charcoal, Señor, lives there now.

It was to the middle door that the woman brought Padre Lanchitas. The
door was not fastened, and at a touch she pushed it open and in they
went together--and the first thing that the Padre noticed when he was
come through the doorway was a very bad smell. It was the sort of
smell, Señor, that is found in very old houses of which all the doors
and windows have been shut fast for a very long time. But the Padre
had matters more important than bad smells to attend to, and all that
he did about it was to hold his handkerchief close to his nose. One
little poor candle, stuck on a nail in a board, was set in a far
corner; and in another corner was a man lying on a mat spread upon the
earth floor; and there was nothing else whatever--excepting cobwebs
everywhere, and the bad smell, and the old woman, and the Padre
himself--in that room.

That he might see him whom he was to confess, Padre Lanchitas took the
candle in his hand and went to the man on the mat and pulled aside the
ragged and dirty old blanket that covered him; and then he started
back with a very cold qualm in his stomach, saying to the woman: "This
man already is dead! He cannot confess! And he has the look of having
been dead for a very long while!" And that was true, Señor--for what
he saw was a dry and bony head, with yellow skin drawn tight over it,
having shut eyes deep sunken. Also, the two hands which rested crossed
upon the man's breast were no more than the same dry yellow skin
shrunk close over shrunken bones! And, seeing such a bad strange
sight, the Padre was uneasy and alarmed.

But the woman said back to him with assurance, yet also coaxingly:
"This man is going to confess, Padrecito"--and, so speaking, she
fetched from its far corner the board with the nail in it, and took
the candle from him and set it fast again upon the nail. And then the
man himself, in the light and in the shadow, sat up on the mat and
began to recite in a voice that had a rusty note in it the Confiteor
Deo--and after that, of course, there was nothing for the Padre to do
but to listen to him till the end.


What he told, Señor, being told under the seal of confession, of
course remained always a secret. But it was known, later, that he
spoke of matters which had happened a good two hundred years back--as
the Padre knew because he was a great reader of books of history; and
that he put himself into the very middle of those matters and made the
terrible crime that he had committed a part of them; and that he ended
by telling that in that ancient time he had been killed in a brawl
suddenly, and so had died unconfessed and unshriven, and that ever
since his soul had blistered in hell.

Hearing such wild talk from him, the Padre was well satisfied that the
poor man's wits were wandering in his fever--as happens with many,
Señor, in their dying time--and so bade him lie quietly and rest
himself; and promised that he would come to him and hear his
confession later on.

But the man cried out very urgently that that must not be: declaring
that by God's mercy he had been given one single chance to come back
again out of Eternity to confess his sins and to be shriven of them;
and that unless the Padre did hearken then and there to the confession
of his sins, and did shrive him of them, this one chance that God's
mercy had given him would be lost and wasted--and back he would go
forever to the hot torments of hell.

Therefore the Padre--being sure, by that time, that the man was quite
crazy in his fever--let him talk on till he had told the whole story
of his frightful sinnings; and then did shrive him, to quiet him--just
as you promise the moon to a sick, fretful child. And the devil must
have been very uneasy that night, Señor, because the good nature of
that kind-hearted priest lost to him what by rights was his own!

As Padre Lanchitas spoke the last words of the absolution, the man
fell back again on his mat with a sharp crackling sound like that of
dry bones rattling; and the woman had left the room; and the candle
was sputtering out its very last sparks. Therefore the Padre went out
in a hurry through the still open door into the street; and no sooner
had he come there than the door closed behind him sharply, as though
some one on the inside had pushed against it strongly to shut it fast.

Out in the street he had expected to find the old woman waiting for
him; and he looked about for her everywhere, desiring to tell her that
she must send for him when the man's fever left him--that he might
return and hear from the man a real confession, and really shrive him
of his sins. But the old woman was quite gone. Thinking that she must
have slipped past him in the darkness into the house, he knocked at
the door lightly, and then loudly; but no answer came to his
knocking--and when he tried to push the door open, using all his
strength, it held fast against his pushing as firmly as though it had
been a part of the stone wall.

So the Padre, having no liking for standing there in the cold and rain
uselessly, hurried onward to his friend's house--and was glad to get
into the room where his friends were waiting for him, and where plenty
of candles were burning, and where it was dry and warm.

He had walked so fast that his forehead was wet with sweat when he
took his hat off, and to dry it he put his hand into his pocket for
his handkerchief; but his handkerchief was not in his pocket--and then
he knew that he must have dropped it in the house where the dying man
lay. It was not just a common handkerchief, Señor, but one very finely
embroidered--having the letters standing for his name worked upon it,
with a wreath around them--that had been made for him by a nun of his
acquaintance in a convent of which he was the almoner; and so, as he
did not at all like to lose it, he sent his friend's servant to that
old house to get it back again. After a good long while, the servant
returned: telling that the house was shut fast, and that one of the
watch--seeing him knocking at the door of it--had told him that to
knock there was only to wear out his knuckles, because no one had
lived in that house for years and years!

All of this, as well as all that had gone before it, was so strange
and so full of mystery, that Padre Lanchitas then told to his three
friends some part of what that evening had happened to him; and it
chanced that one of the three was the notary who had in charge the
estate of which that very house was a part. And the notary gave Padre
Lanchitas his true word for it that the house--because of some
entangling law matters--had stood locked fast and empty for as much as
a lifetime; and he declared that Padre Lanchitas must be mixing that
house with some other house--which would be easy, since all that had
happened had been in the rainy dark. But the Padre, on his side, was
sure that he had made no mistake in the matter; and they both got a
little warm in their talk over it; and they ended by agreeing--so that
they might come to a sure settlement--to meet at that old house, and
the notary to bring with him the key of it, on the morning of the
following day.

So they did meet there, Señor, and they went to the middle door--the
one that had opened at a touch from the old woman's hand. But all
around that door, as the notary bade Padre Lanchitas observe before
they opened it, were unbroken cobwebs; and the keyhole was choked with
the dust that had blown into it, little by little, in the years that
had passed since it had known a key. And the other two doors of the
house were just the same. However, Padre Lanchitas would not admit,
even with that proof against him, that he was mistaken; and the
notary, smiling at him but willing to satisfy him, picked out the dust
from the keyhole and got the key into it and forced back hardly the
rusty bolt of the lock--and together they went inside.

Coming from the bright sunshine into that dusky place--lighted only
from the doorway, and the door but part way open because it was loose
on its old hinges and stuck fast--they could see at first nothing more
than that the room was empty and bare. What they did find, though--and
the Padre well remembered it--was the bad smell. But the notary said
that just such bad smells were in all old shut-up houses, and it
proved nothing; while the cobwebs and the closed keyhole did prove
most certainly that Padre Lanchitas had not entered that house the
night before--and that nobody had entered it for years and years. To
what the notary said there was nothing to be answered; and the
Padre--not satisfied, but forced to give in to such strong proof that
he was mistaken--was about to come away out of the house, and so have
done with it. But just then, Señor, he made a very wonderful and
horrifying discovery. By that time his eyes had grown accustomed to
the shadows; and so he saw over in one corner--lying on the floor
close beside where the man had lain whose confession he had taken--a
glint of something whitish. And, Señor, it was his very own
handkerchief that he had lost!

That was enough to satisfy even the notary; and as nothing more was to
be done there they came out, and gladly, from that bad dark place into
the sunshine. As for Padre Lanchitas, Señor, he was all mazed and
daunted--knowing then the terrible truth that he had confessed a dead
man; and, what was worse, that he had given absolution to a sinful
soul come hot to him from hell! He held his hat in his hand as he
came out from the house--and never did he put it on again: bareheaded
he went thenceforward until the end of his days! He was a very good
man, and his life had been always a very holy life; but from that time
on, till the death of him, he made it still holier by his prayings and
his fastings and his endless helpings of the poorest of the poor. At
last he died. And it is said, Señor, that in the walls of that old
house they found dead men's bones.

                   LEGEND OF THE LIVING SPECTRE[8]

Apparitions of dead people, Señor, of course are numerous and
frequent. I myself--as on other occasions I have mentioned to
you--have seen several spectres, and so have various of my friends.
But this spectre of which I now am telling you--that appeared on the
Plaza Mayor at noonday, and was seen by everybody--was altogether out
of the ordinary: being not in the least a dead person, but a person
who wore his own flesh and bones in the usual manner and was alive in
them; yet who certainly was walking and talking here on the Plaza
Mayor of this City of Mexico in the very self-same moment that he also
was walking and talking in a most remote and wholly different part of
the world. Therefore--in spite of his wearing his own flesh and bones
in the usual manner and being alive in them--it was certain that he
was a spectre: because it was certain that his journeying could have
been made only on devils' wings. The day on which this marvel
happened is known most exactly: because it happened on the day after
the day that the Governor of the Filipinas, Don Gómez Pérez
Dasmariñas, had his head murderously split open, and died of it, in
the Molucca Islands; and that gentleman was killed in that bad manner
on the 25th of October in the year 1593. Therefore--since everything
concerning this most extraordinary happening is known with so great an
accuracy--there can be no doubt whatever but that in every particular
all that I now am telling you is strictly true.

Because it began in two different places at the same time, it is not
easy to say certainly, Señor, which end of this story is the beginning
of it; but the beginning of it is this: On a day, being the day that I
have just named to you, the sentries on guard at the great doors of
the Palace--and also the people who at that time happened to be
walking near by on the Plaza Mayor--of a sudden saw an entirely
strange sentry pacing his beat before the great doors of the Palace
quite in the regular manner: marching back and forth, with his gun on
his shoulder; making his turns with a soldierly propriety; saluting
correctly those entitled to salutes who passed him; and in every way
conducting himself as though he duly had been posted there--but making
his marchings and his turnings and his salutings with a wondering look
on the face of him, and having the air of one who is all bedazzled and

What made every one know that he was a stranger in this City was that
the uniform which he wore was of a wholly different cut and fabric
from that belonging to any regiment at that time quartered here:
being, in fact--as was perceived by one of the sentries who had served
in the Filipinas--the uniform worn in Manila by the Palace Guard. He
was a man of forty, or thereabouts; well set up and sturdy; and he had
the assured carriage--even in his bedazzlement and bemazement--of an
old soldier who had seen much campaigning, and who could take care of
himself through any adventure in which he might happen to land.
Moreover, his talk--when the time came for him to explain
himself--went with a devil-may-care touch to it that showed him to be
a man who even with witches and demons was quite ready to hold his

His explanation of himself, of course, was not long in coming: because
the Captain of the Guard at once was sent for; and when the Captain of
the Guard came he asked the stranger sentry most sharply what his name
was, and where he came from, and what he was doing on a post to which
he had not been assigned.

To these questions the stranger sentry made answer--speaking with an
easy confidence, and not in the least ruffled by the Captain's
sharpness with him--that his name was Gil Pérez; that he came from the
Filipinas; and that what he was doing was his duty as near as he could
come to it: because he had been duly detailed to stand sentry that
morning before the Governor's Palace--and although this was not the
Governor's Palace before which he had been posted it certainly was a
governor's palace, and that he therefore was doing the best that he
could do. And to these very curious statements he added--quite
casually, as though referring to an ordinary matter of current
interest--that the Governor of the Filipinas, Don Gómez Pérez
Dasmariñas, had had his head murderously split open, and was dead of
it, in the Molucca Islands the evening before.

Well, Señor, you may fancy what a nest of wasps was let loose when
this Gil Pérez gave to the Captain of the Guard so incredible an
account of himself; and, on top of it, told that the Governor of the
Filipinas had been badly killed on the previous evening in islands in
the Pacific Ocean thousands and thousands of miles away! It was a
matter that the Viceroy himself had to look into. Therefore before the
Viceroy--who at that time was the good Don Luis de Velasco--Gil Pérez
was brought in a hurry: and to the Viceroy he told over again just the
same story, in just the same cool manner, and in just the same words.

Very naturally, the Viceroy put a great many keen questions to him;
and to those questions he gave his answers--or said plainly that he
could not give any answers--with the assured air of an old soldier who
would not lightly suffer his word to be doubted even by a Viceroy; and
who was ready, in dealing with persons of less consequence, to make
good his sayings with his fists or with his sword.

In part, his explanation of himself was straightforward and
satisfactory. What he told about the regiment to which he belonged was
known to be true; and equally known to be true was much of what he
told--being in accord with the news brought thence by the latest
galleon--about affairs in the Filipinas. But when it came to
explaining the main matter--how he had been shifted across the ocean
and the earth, and all in a single moment, from his guard-mount before
the Governor's Palace in Manila to his guard-mount before the
Viceroy's Palace in the City of Mexico--Gil Pérez was at a stand. How
that strange thing had happened, he said, he knew no more than Don
Luis himself knew. All that he could be sure of was that it _had_
happened: because, certainly, only a half hour earlier he had been in
Manila; and now, just as certainly, he was in the City of Mexico--as
his lordship the Viceroy could see plainly with his own eyes. As to
the even greater marvel--how he knew that on the previous evening the
Governor of the Filipinas had had his head murderously split open, and
was dead of it, in the Molucca Islands--he said quite freely that he
did not in the least know how he knew it. What alone he could be sure
of, he said, was that in his heart he did know that Don Gómez had
been killed on the previous evening in that bad manner; and he very
stoutly asserted that the truth of what he told would be clear to Don
Luis, and to everybody, when the news of the killing of Don Gómez had
had time to get to Mexico in the ordinary way.

And then Gil Pérez--having answered all of the Viceroy's questions
which he could answer, and having said all that he had to say--stood
quite at his ease before the Viceroy: with his feet firmly planted,
and his right hand on his hip, and his right arm akimbo--and so waited
for whatever might happen to be the next turn.

Well, Señor, the one thing of which anybody really could be sure in
this amazing matter--and of which, of course, everybody was sure--was
that the devil was at both the bottom and the top of it; and, also,
there seemed to be very good ground for believing that Gil Pérez was
in much closer touch with the devil than any good Christian--even
though he were an old soldier, and not much in the way of Christianity
expected of him--had any right to be. Therefore the Viceroy rid
himself of an affair that was much the same to him as a basket of
nettles by turning Gil Pérez over to the Holy Office--and off he was
carried to Santo Domingo and clapped into one of the strongest cells.

Most men, of course, on finding themselves that way in the clutches of
the Inquisition, would have had all the insides of them filled with
terror; but Gil Pérez, Señor--being, as I have mentioned, an old
campaigner--took it all as it came along to him and was not one bit
disturbed. He said cheerfully that many times in the course of his
soldiering he had been in much worse places; and added that--having a
good roof over his head, and quite fair rations, and instead of
marching and fighting only to sit at his ease and enjoy himself--he
really was getting, for once in his life, as much of clear comfort as
any old soldier had a right to expect would come his way. Moreover, in
his dealings with the Familiars of the Holy Office his conduct was
exemplary. He stuck firmly to his assertion that--whatever the devil
might have had to do with him--he never had had anything to do with
the devil; he seemed to take a real pleasure in confessing as many of
his sins as he conveniently could remember; and in every way that was
open to him his conduct was that of quite as good a Christian as any
old soldier reasonably could be expected to be.

Therefore--while he staid on in his cell very contentedly--the
Familiars of the Holy Office put their heads together and puzzled and
puzzled as to what they should do with him: because it certainly
seemed as though the devil, to suit his own devilish purposes, simply
had made a convenience of Gil Pérez without getting his consent in the
matter; and so it did not seem quite fair--in the face of his protest
that he was as much annoyed as anybody was by what the devil had done
with him--to put him into a flame-covered sanbenito, and to march him
off to be burned for a sorcerer at the next auto de fé. Therefore the
Familiars of the Holy Office kept on putting their heads together and
puzzling and puzzling as to what they should do with him; and Gil
Pérez kept on enjoying himself in his cell in Santo Domingo--and so
the months went on and on.

And then, on a day, a new turn was given to the whole matter: when
the galleon from the Filipinas arrived at Acapulco and brought with it
the proof that every word that Gil Pérez had spoken was true. Because
the galleon brought the news that Don Gómez Pérez Dasmariñas--the crew
of the ship that he was on having mutinied--really had had his head
murderously split open, and was dead of it, in the Molucca Islands;
and that this bad happening had come to him at the very time that Gil
Pérez had named. Moreover, one of the military officers who had come
from the Filipinas in the galleon, and up from Acapulco to the City of
Mexico with the conducta, recognized Gil Pérez the moment that he laid
eyes on him; and this officer said that he had seen him--only a day or
two before the galleon's sailing--on duty in Manila with the Palace
Guard. And so the fact was settled beyond all doubting that Gil Pérez
had been brought by the devil from Manila to the City of Mexico; and,
also, that the devil--since only the devil could have done it--had put
the knowledge of the murderous killing of Don Gómez into his heart.
Wherefore the fact that Gil Pérez was in league with the devil was
clear to all the world.

Then the Familiars of the Holy Office for the last time put their
heads together and puzzled and puzzled over the matter; and at the end
of their puzzling they decided that Gil Pérez was an innocent person,
and that he undoubtedly had had criminal relations with the devil and
was full of wickedness. Therefore they ordered that, being innocent,
he should be set free from his cell in Santo Domingo; and that, being
a dangerous character whose influence was corrupting, he should be
sent back to Manila in the returning galleon. And that was their

Gil Pérez, Señor, took that disposition of him in the same easy-going
way that he had taken all the other dispositions of him: save that he
grumbled a little--as was to be expected of an old soldier--over
having to leave his comfortably idle life in his snug quarters and to
go again to his fightings and his guard-mounts and his parades. And so
back he went to the Filipinas: only his return journey was made in a
slow and natural manner aboard the galleon--not, as his outward
journey had been made, all in a moment on devils' wings.

To my mind, Señor, it seems that there is more of this story that
ought to be told. For myself, I should like to know why the Familiars
of the Holy Office did not deal a little more severely with a case
that certainly had the devil at both the bottom and the top of it;
and, also, I should like to know what became of Gil Pérez when he got
back to Manila in the galleon--and there had to tell over again about
his relations with the devil in order to account for his half year's
absence from duty without leave. But those are matters which I never
have heard mentioned; and what I have told you is all that there is to


Two dead lovers, Señor, stand always in the Calle de los Parados, one
at each end of it; and that is why--because they remain steadfastly on
parade there, though it is not everybody who happens to see their
yellow skeletons on those corners--the street of the Parados is so


As you may suppose, Señor, the lovers now being dry skeletons, what
brought them there happened some time ago. Just when it happened, I do
not know precisely; but it was when an excellent gentleman, who was an
officer in the Royal Mint, lived in the fine house that is in the
middle of the street on the south side of it, and had living with him
a very beautiful daughter whose hair was like spun gold. This
gentleman was named Don José de Vallejo y Hermosillo; and his daughter
was named (because her mother was of the noble family of Vezca) Doña
María Ysabel de Vallejo y Vezca; and she was of great virtue and
sweetness, and was twenty-two years old.

All the young men of the City sought her in marriage; but there were
two who were more than any of the others in earnest about it. One of
these was Don Francisco Puerto y Solis, a lieutenant of dragoons: who
had to offer her only his good looks--he was a very handsome
gentleman--and the hope of what he might get for himself with his
sword. The other one was the Señor Don Antonio Miguel del Cardonal,
Conde de Valdecebro--who also was a handsome gentleman, and who owned
mills in Puebla of the Angels, and a very great hacienda, and was so
rich that it was the whole business of two old notaries to count his

And these two posted themselves every day in the street in which was
Doña María's home--one at the corner of the Calle del Reloj, the other
at the corner of the Calle de Santa Catarina--that they might look at
her when she came forth from her house; and that she might see them
waiting to get sight of her, and so know that they loved her. It was
the same custom then, Señor, as it is to-day. In that way all of our
polite young men make love.

And just as our young ladies nowadays wait and wait and think and
think before they make their hearts up, so Doña María waited and
thought then--and the time slipped on and on, and neither the
Lieutenant nor the Conde knew what was in her mind. Then there
happened, Señor, a very dismal thing. A pestilence fell upon the City,
and of that pestilence Doña María sickened and died. But it chanced
that neither of her lovers was on his corner when they took her out
from her house to bury her--you see, Señor, even lovers must eat and
sleep sometimes, and they could not be always on their watch for
her--and in that way it happened that neither of them knew that she
was dead and gone. Therefore they kept on standing on their parade
quite as usual--coming steadfastly to their corners day after day, and
month after month, and year after year. And although, after a while,
they died too, they still stood at their posts--just as though they
and Doña María still were alive. And there, on their corners, they
have remained until this very day.

[Illustration: HOME OF DOÑA MARÍA]

It is told, Señor, that once in broad daylight half the City saw those
honest waiting skeletons. It was on a day when there was a great
festival for the incoming of a new Viceroy, and they were seen by
the crowd that waited in the atrium of the church of Santa Catarina to
see the procession pass. But that was some hundreds of years ago,
Señor. Now, for the most part, it is at night and by moonlight that
they are seen. I have not happened to see them myself--but then I do
not often go that way.

                    LEGEND OF THE CALLE DE LA JOYA

What this street was called, in very old times, Señor, no one knows:
because the dreadful thing that gave to it the name of the Street of
the Jewel happened a long, long while ago. It was before the
Independence. It was while the Viceroys were here who were sent by the
King of Spain.

In those days there lived in this fine house at the corner of the
Calle de Mesones and what since then has been called the Calle de la
Joya--it is at the northwest corner, Señor, and a biscuit-bakery is on
the lower floor--a very rich Spanish merchant: who was named Don
Alonso Fernández de Bobadilla, and who was a tall and handsome man,
and gentle-mannered, and at times given to fits of rage. He was
married to a very rich and a very beautiful lady, who was named Doña
Ysabel de la Garcide y Tovar; and she was the daughter of the Conde de
Torreleal. This lady was of an ardent and a wilful nature, but Don
Alonso loved her with a sincerity and humored her in all her whims
and wants. When they went abroad together--always in a grand coach,
with servants like flies around them--the whole City stood still and

Doña Ysabel was not worthy of her husband's love: and so he was told
one day, by whom there was no knowing, in a letter that was thrown
from the street into the room where he was sitting, on the ground
floor. It was his office of affairs, Señor. It is one of the rooms
where the biscuits are baked now. In that letter he was bidden to
watch with care his wife's doings with the Licenciado Don José Raul de
Lara, the Fiscal of the Inquisition--who was a forlorn little man
(_hombrecillo_) not at all deserving of any lady's love--and Don
Alonso did watch, and what came of his watching was a very terrible

He pretended, Señor, that he had an important affair with the Viceroy
that would keep him at the Palace until far into the night; and so
went his way from his home in the early evening--but went no farther
than a dozen paces from his own door. There, in the dark street,
huddled close into a doorway, his cloak around him--it was a night in
winter--he waited in the creeping cold. After a time along came some
one--he did not know who, but it was the Licenciado--and as he drew
near to the house Doña Ysabel came out upon her balcony, and between
them there passed a sign. Then, in a little while, the door of Don
Alonso's house was opened softly and the Licenciado went in; and then,
softly, the door was shut again.

Presently, Don Alonso also went in, holding in his hand his dagger.
What he found--and it made him so angry that he fell into one of his
accustomed fits of rage over it--was the Licenciado putting on the
wrist of his wife a rich golden bracelet. When they saw him, Señor,
their faces at once went white--and their faces remained white always:
because Don Alonso, before the blood could come back again, had killed
the two of them with his dagger--and they were white in death! Then
Don Alonso did what gave to this street the name of the Street of the
Jewel. From Doña Ysabel's wrist he wrenched loose the bracelet, and as
he left the house he pinned it fast with his bloody dagger to the

In that way things were found the next morning by the watch; and the
watch, suspecting that something wrong had happened--because to see a
bracelet and a bloody dagger in such a place was unusual--called the
Alcalde to come and look into the matter; and the Alcalde, coming,
found Doña Ysabel and the Licenciado lying very dead upon the floor.
So the street was called the Calle de la Joya, and that is its name.

Don Alonso, Señor, was worried by what he had done, and became a
Dieguino--it is the strict order of the Franciscans. They go
barefoot--and it was in the convent of the Dieguinos, over there at
the western end of the Alameda, that he ended his days.


Naturally, Señor, this matter which gave its name to the Calle de la
Machincuepa created a scandal that set all the tongues in the City to
buzzing about it: every one, of course, blaming the young lady--even
though she did it to win such vast riches--for committing so publicly
so great an impropriety; but some holding that a greater blame
attached to the Marqués, her uncle, for punishing her--no matter how
much she deserved punishment--by making her inheritance depend upon so
strange and so outrageous a condition; and some even saying that the
greatest blame of all rested upon the Viceroy: because he did not
forbid an indecorum that was planned to--and that did--take place in
the Plaza Mayor directly in front of his Palace, and so beneath his
very nose. For myself, Señor, I think that the young lady deserved
more blame than anybody: because she was free to make her own choice
in the matter, and that she chose riches rather than propriety very
clearly proved--though that, to be sure, was known before she did her
choosing--that she had a bad heart. As the Viceroy who did not forbid
that young lady to do what she did do was the Duque de Linares--who,
as you know, Señor, took up the duties of his high office in the year
1714--you will perceive that the curious event about which I now am
telling you occurred very nearly two full centuries ago.

At that time there lived in the street that ever since that time has
been called the Street of the Machincuepa a very rich and a very noble
Spanish gentleman whose name was Don Mendo Quiroga y Saurez, and whose
title was Marqués del Valle Salado. In his beginning he was neither
rich nor noble, and not even of good blood: having been begotten by an
unknown father and born of an unknown mother; and having in his young
manhood gone afloat out of Spain as a common sailor to seek his
fortune on the sea. What he did upon the sea was a matter that his
teeth guarded his tongue from talking about in his later years: but it
was known generally that--while in appearance he and his ship had been
engaged in the respectable business of bringing slaves from Africa to
the colonies--his real business had been that of a corsair; and that
on his murdering piracies the corner-stone of his great fortune had
been laid.

Having in that objectionable manner accumulated a whole ship-load of
money, and being arrived at an age when so bustling a life was
distasteful to him, he came to Mexico; and, being come here, he bought
with his ship-load of money the Valle Salado: and there he set up
great salt-works out of which he coined more gold--knowing well how to
grease the palms of those in the Government who could be of service to
him--than could be guessed at even in a dream. Therefore it was known
with certainty that he possessed a fortune of precisely three millions
and a half of dollars--which is a greater sum, Señor, than a hundred
men could count in a whole month of summer days. And of his millions
he sent to the King such magnificent presents that the King, in simple
justice to him, had to reward him; and so the King made him a
marqués--and he was the Marqués del Valle Salado from that time on.

Therefore--being so very rich, and a marqués--his sea-murderings of
his younger days, and his sea-stealings that made the corner-stone of
his great fortune, were the very last things which his teeth suffered
his tongue to talk about: and he lived with a great magnificence a
life that caused much scandal, and he was generally esteemed and
respected, and because of his charities he was beloved by all the

As old age began to creep upon this good gentleman, Señor, and with it
the infirmities that came of his loose way of living, he found himself
in the world lonely: because, you see--never having perceived any
necessity for marrying--he had no wife to care for him, nor children
whose duty it was to minister to his needs. Therefore--his brother in
Spain about that time dying, and leaving a daughter behind him--he
brought from Spain his dead brother's daughter, whom he put at the
head of his magnificent household, and equally confided himself in his
infirmity to her care. And, that she might be repaid for her care of
him, he heaped upon her every possible luxury and splendor that his
great riches could procure.

The name of this young lady, Señor, was Doña Paz de Quiroga; and the
position to which she was raised by Don Mendo's munificence--and all
the more because she was raised to it from the depths of poverty--was
very much to her mind. Doña Paz was of a great beauty that well became
the rich clothing and the rich jewels that her uncle lavished upon
her; and what with her beauty, and her finery, and her recognized
nobility as the lawful inheritor of her uncle's title, she knew
herself to be--and made no bones of asserting herself to be--the very
greatest lady at the Viceroy's court. She was of a jealous and
rancorous disposition, and very charitable, and excessively selfish,
and her pride was beyond all words. Every one of the young men in the
City immediately fell in love with her; and she won also the respect
of the most eminent clerics and the homage of the very greatest nobles
of the court. So nice was her sense of her own dignity that even in
the privacy of her own household her conduct at all times was marked
by a rigorous elegance; and in public she carried herself with a grave
stateliness that would have befitted a queen.

But this young lady had a bad heart, Señor, as I have already
mentioned; and toward Don Mendo, to whom she owed everything, she did
not behave well at all. So far from ministering to him in his
infirmities, she left him wholly to the care of hired servants; when
she made her rare visits to his sick-room she carried always a scented
kerchief, and held it to her nose closely--telling him that the smell
of balsams and of plasters was distasteful to her; and never, by any
chance whatever, did she give him one single kind look or kind word.
As was most natural, Don Mendo did not like the way that Doña Paz
treated him: therefore, in the inside of him, he made his mind up that
he would pay her for it in the end. And in the end he did pay her for
it: as she found out when, on a day, that worthy old man was called to
go to heaven and they came to read his will.

Doña Paz listened to the reading of the will with the greatest
satisfaction, Señor, until the reading got to the very end of it:
because Don Mendo uniformly styled her his beloved niece--which
somewhat surprised her--and in plain words directed that every one of
his three millions and a half of dollars should be hers. But at the
very end of the will a condition was made that had to be fulfilled
before she could touch so much as a tlaco of her great inheritance:
and that condition was so monstrous--and all the more monstrous
because Doña Paz was so rigorously elegant in all her doings, and so
respectful of her own dignity--that the mere naming of it almost
suffocated her with fright and shame.

And, really, Señor, that Doña Paz felt that way about it is not be
wondered at, because what Don Mendo put at the very end of his will
was this: "So to Paz, my beloved niece, I leave the whole of my
possessions; but only in case that she comply precisely with the
condition that I now lay upon her. And the condition that I now lay
upon her is this: That, being dressed in her richest ball dress, and
wearing her most magnificent jewels, she shall go in an open coach to
the Plaza Mayor at noonday; and that, being come to the Plaza Mayor,
she shall walk to the very middle of it; and that there, in the very
middle of it, she shall bow her head to the ground; and that then, so
bowing, she shall make the turn which among the common people of
Mexico is called a 'machincuepa.' And it is my will that if my
beloved niece Paz does not comply precisely with this condition,
within six months from the day on which I pass out of life, then the
whole of my possessions shall be divided into two equal parts: of
which one part shall belong to the Convent of Nuestra Señora de la
Merced, and the other part shall belong to the Convent of San
Francisco; and of my possessions my beloved niece Paz shall have no
part at all. And this condition I lay upon my beloved niece Paz that,
in the bitterness of the shame of it, she may taste a little of the
bitterness with which her cruelties have filled my dying years."

Well, Señor, you may fancy the state that that most proud and most
dignified young lady was in when she knew the terms on which alone her
riches would come to her! And as to making her mind up in such a case,
she found it quite impossible. On the one side, she would say to
herself that what was required of her to win her inheritance would be
done, and done with, in no more than a moment; and that then and
always--being rich beyond dreaming, and in her own right a
marquésa--she would be the greatest lady in the whole of New Spain.
And then, on the other side, she would say to herself that precisely
because of her great wealth and her title she would be all the more
sneered at for descending to an act so scandalous; and that if she did
descend to that act she would be known as the Marquésa de la
Machincuepa to the end of her days. And what to do, Señor, she did not
know at all. And as time went on and on, and she did not do anything,
the Mercedarios and the Franciscanos--being always more and more sure
that they would share between them Don Mendo's great fortune--talked
pleasantly about new altars in their churches and new comforts in
their convents: and as they talked they rubbed their hands.

And so it came to the very last day of the six months that Don Mendo
had given to Doña Paz in which to make her mind up; and the morning
hours of that day went slipping past, and of Doña Paz the crowds that
filled the streets and the Plaza Mayor saw nothing; and the
Mercedarios and the Franciscanos all had smiling faces--being at last
entirely certain that Don Mendo's millions of dollars would be

And then, Señor, just as the Palace clock was striking the half hour
past eleven, the great doors of Don Mendo's house were opened; and out
through the doorway came an open coach in which Doña Paz was seated,
dressed in her richest ball dress and wearing the most magnificent of
her jewels; and Doña Paz, pale as a dead woman, drove through the
crowds on the streets and into the crowd on the Plaza Mayor; and then
she walked, the crowd making way for her, to the very middle of
it--where her servants had laid a rich carpet for her; and there, as
the Palace clock struck twelve--complying precisely with Don Mendo's
condition--Doña Paz bowed her head to the ground; and then, so bowing,
she made the turn which among the common people of Mexico is called a
machincuepa! So did Doña Paz win for herself Don Mendo's millions of
dollars: and so did come into the soul of her the bitterness of shame
that Don Mendo meant should come into it--in reward for the bitterness
with which her cruelties had filled his dying years!

What became of this young lady--who so sacrificed propriety in order
to gain riches--I never have heard mentioned: but it is certain that
the street in which she lived immediately got the name of the Street
of the Machincuepa--and the exact truth of every detail of this
curious story is attested by the fact that that is its name now.

Perhaps the meaning of this word machincuepa, Señor--being, as Don
Mendo said in his will, a word in use among the common people of
Mexico--is unknown to you. The meaning of it, in good Spanish, is
salto mortal--only it means more. And it was precisely that sort of an
excessive somersault--there in the middle of the crowded Plaza Mayor
at noonday--that the most proud and the most dignified Doña Paz


As you know, Señor, in the street that is called the Street of the
Bridge of the Raven, there nowadays is no bridge at all; also, the
house is gone in which this Don Rodrigo de Ballesteros lived with his
raven in the days when he was alive. As to the raven, however, matters
are less certain. My grand-father long ago told me that more than
once, on nights of storm, he had heard that evil bird uttering his
wicked caws at midnight between the thunderclaps; and a most
respectable cargador of my acquaintance has given me his word for it
that he has heard those cawings too. Yet if they still go on it must
be the raven's spectre that gives voice to them; because, Señor, while
ravens are very long-lived birds, it is improbable that they live--and
that much time has passed since these matters happened--through more
than the whole of three hundred years.

This Don Rodrigo in his youth, Señor, was a Captain of Arcabuceros in
the Royal Army; and, it seems, he fought so well with his crossbowmen
at the battle of San Quintin (what they were fighting about I do not
know) that the King of Spain rewarded him--when the fighting was all
over and there was no more need for his services--by making him a
royal commissioner here in Mexico: that he might get rich comfortably
in his declining years. It was the Encomienda of Atzcapotzalco that
the King gave to him; and in those days Atzcapotzalco was a very rich
place, quite away from the City westward, and yielded a great revenue
for Don Rodrigo to have the fingering of. Nowadays, as you know,
Señor, it is almost a part of the City, because you get to it in the
electric cars so quickly; and it has lost its good fortune and is but
a dreary little threadbare town.

It was with the moneys which stuck to his fingers from his
collectorship--just as the King meant that they should stick, in
reward for his good fighting--that Don Rodrigo built for himself his
fine house in the street that is now called, because of the bridge
that once was a part of it, and because of the raven's doings, the
Puente del Cuervo. If that street had another name, earlier, Señor, I
do not know what it was.

This Don Rodrigo, as was generally known, was a very wicked person;
and therefore he lived in his fine house, along with his raven, in
great magnificence--eating always from dishes of solid silver, and
being served by pages wearing clothes embroidered with gold. But, for
all his riches, he himself was clad as though he were a beggar--and a
very dirty beggar at that. Over his jerkin and breeches he wore a long
capellar that wrapped him from his neck to his heels loosely; and this
capellar had been worn by him through so many years that it was shabby
beyond all respectability, and stained with stains of all colors, and
everywhere greasy and soiled. Yet on the front of it, upon his breast,
he wore the Cross of Santiago that the King had given him; and wearing
that cross, as you know, Señor, made him as much of a caballero as the
very best. In various other ways the evil that was in him showed
itself. He never went to mass, and he made fun openly of all holy
things. The suspicion was entertained by many people that he had
intimacies with heretics. Such conduct gives a man a very bad name
now; but it gave a man a worse name then--and so he was known
generally as the Excommunicate, which was the very worst name that
anybody could have.

As to the raven, Señor, Don Rodrigo himself named it El Diablo; and
that it truly was the devil--or, at least, that it was a devil--no one
ever doubted at all. The conduct of that reprobate bird was most
offensive. It would soil the rich furnishings of the house; it would
tear with its beak the embroidered coverings of the chairs and the
silken tapestries; it would throw down and shatter valuable pieces of
glass and porcelain; there was no end to its misdeeds. But when Don
Rodrigo stormed at his servants about these wreckings--and he was a
most violent man, Señor, and used tempestuous language--the servants
had only to tell him that the raven was the guilty one to pacify him
instantly. "If it is the work of the Devil," he would say without
anger, "it is well done!"--and so the matter would pass.

Suddenly, on a day, both Don Rodrigo and the raven disappeared. Their
going, in that strange and sudden way, made a great commotion; but
there was a greater commotion when the Alcalde--being called to look
into the matter--entered the house to search it and found a very
horrible thing. In the room that had been Don Rodrigo's bedroom, lying
dishonored upon the floor, broken and blood-spattered, was the most
holy image; and all about it were lying raven feathers, and they also
were spattered with blood. Therefore it was known that the raven-devil
and Don Rodrigo had beaten the holy image and had drawn blood from it;
and that the great devil, the master of both of them, in penalty for
their dreadful act of sacrilege, had snatched them suddenly home to
him to burn forever in hell. That was the very proper end of them.
Never were they seen again either on sea or land.

Naturally, Señor, respectable people declined to live in a house where
there had been such shocking doings. Even the people living in the
adjoining houses, feeling the disgrace that was on the neighborhood,
moved away from them. And so, slowly, as the years went on, all of
those houses crumbled to pieces and fell into ruins which were carted
away--and that is why they no longer are there. But it is generally
known, Señor, that until Don Rodrigo's house did in that way go out of
existence, Don Rodrigo continued to inhabit it; and that the raven
continued to bear him company.

Just a year from the time that the devil had snatched away to hell the
two of them--and it was at midnight, and a storm was upon the
City--the neighbors heard between the thunder-claps the clock on the
Palace striking its twelve strokes; and then, between the next
thunder-claps, they heard the raven caw twelve times. Then it became
known that the raven nightly took up its post on the parapet of the
bridge that was in that street; and that, when his cawing for midnight
was ended, he habitually flew up into the balcony of Don Rodrigo's
house; and that on the balcony he found Don Rodrigo--a yellow
skeleton, and over the bones of it the dirty old capellar--ready and
waiting for him. Don Rodrigo's skeleton would be sitting quite at its
ease on the balcony; on the railing of the balcony would be perched
the raven; and with his dry-bone fingers--making a little clicking
sound, like that of castanets--Don Rodrigo would stroke gently the
back of that intensely wicked bird. All this would show for a moment
while the lightning was flashing; then darkness would come, and a
crash of thunder; and after the thunder, in the black silence, the
little clicking sound of Don Rodrigo's dry-bone fingers stroking the
raven's back gently again would be heard.

And so it all went on, Señor, my grandfather told me, until the house
tumbled down with age, and these disagreeable horrors no longer were
possible; and it is most reasonably evident--since the street got its
name because of them--that they really must have happened, and that
they must have continued for a very long time.

As I have mentioned, Señor, my friend the cargador--who is a most
respectable and truthful person--declares that sometimes on stormy
nights he himself has heard the raven's cawings when the Palace clock
has finished its twelve strokes; and from that it would appear that
the raven is to be met with in the Puente del Cuervo even now.

                       LEGEND OF LA LLORONA[9]

As is generally known, Señor, many bad things are met with by night in
the streets of the City; but this Wailing Woman, La Llorona, is the
very worst of them all. She is worse by far than the vaca de
lumbre--that at midnight comes forth from the potrero of San Pablo and
goes galloping through the streets like a blazing whirlwind, breathing
forth from her nostrils smoke and sparks and flames: because the Fiery
Cow, Señor, while a dangerous animal to look at, really does no harm
whatever--and La Llorona is as harmful as she can be!

Seeing her walking quietly along the quiet street--at the times when
she is not running, and shrieking for her lost children--she seems a
respectable person, only odd looking because of her white petticoat
and the white reboso with which her head is covered, and anybody might
speak to her. But whoever does speak to her, in that very same moment

The beginning of her was so long ago that no one knows when was the
beginning of her; nor does any one know anything about her at all. But
it is known certainly that at the beginning of her, when she was a
living woman, she committed bad sins. As soon as ever a child was born
to her she would throw it into one of the canals which surround the
City, and so would drown it; and she had a great many children, and
this practice in regard to them she continued for a long time. At last
her conscience began to prick her about what she did with her
children; but whether it was that the priest spoke to her, or that
some of the saints cautioned her in the matter, no one knows. But it
is certain that because of her sinnings she began to go through the
streets in the darkness weeping and wailing. And presently it was said
that from night till morning there was a wailing woman in the streets;
and to see her, being in terror of her, many people went forth at
midnight; but none did see her, because she could be seen only when
the street was deserted and she was alone.

Sometimes she would come to a sleeping watchman, and would waken him
by asking: "What time is it?" And he would see a woman clad in white
standing beside him with her reboso drawn over her face. And he would
answer: "It is twelve hours of the night." And she would say: "At
twelve hours of this day I must be in Guadalajara!"--or it might be in
San Luis Potosí, or in some other far-distant city--and, so speaking,
she would shriek bitterly: "Where shall I find my children?"--and
would vanish instantly and utterly away. And the watchman would feel
as though all his senses had gone from him, and would become as a dead
man. This happened many times to many watchmen, who made report of it
to their officers; but their officers would not believe what they
told. But it happened, on a night, that an officer of the watch was
passing by the lonely street beside the church of Santa Anita. And
there he met with a woman wearing a white reboso and a white
petticoat; and to her he began to make love. He urged her, saying:
"Throw off your reboso that I may see your pretty face!" And suddenly
she uncovered her face--and what he beheld was a bare grinning skull
set fast to the bare bones of a skeleton! And while he looked at her,
being in horror, there came from her fleshless jaws an icy breath; and
the iciness of it froze the very heart's blood in him, and he fell to
the earth heavily in a deathly swoon. When his senses came back to him
he was greatly troubled. In fear he returned to the Diputacion, and
there told what had befallen him. And in a little while his life
forsook him and he died.

What is most wonderful about this Wailing Woman, Señor, is that she is
seen in the same moment by different people in places widely apart:
one seeing her hurrying across the atrium of the Cathedral; another
beside the Arcos de San Cosme; and yet another near the Salto del
Agua, over by the prison of Belen. More than that, in one single night
she will be seen in Monterey and in Oaxaca and in Acapulco--the whole
width and length of the land apart--and whoever speaks with her in
those far cities, as here in Mexico, immediately dies in fright. Also,
she is seen at times in the country. Once some travellers coming along
a lonely road met with her, and asked: "Where go you on this lonely
road?" And for answer she cried: "Where shall I find my children?"
and, shrieking, disappeared. And one of the travellers went mad.
Being come here to the City they told what they had seen; and were
told that this same Wailing Woman had maddened or killed many people
here also.

Because the Wailing Woman is so generally known, Señor, and so greatly
feared, few people now stop her when they meet with her to speak with
her--therefore few now die of her, and that is fortunate. But her loud
keen wailings, and the sound of her running feet, are heard often; and
especially in nights of storm. I myself, Señor, have heard the running
of her feet and her wailings; but I never have seen her. God forbid
that I ever shall!


                                NOTE I

                      LEGEND OF DON JUAN MANUEL

Don Juan Manuel was a real person: who lived stately in a great house,
still standing, in the street that in his time was called the Calle
Nueva, and that since his time has borne his name; who certainly did
murder one man--in that house, not in the street--at about, probably,
eleven o'clock at night; and who certainly was found hanging dead on
the gallows in front of the Capilla de la Espiración, of an October
morning in the year 1641, without any explanation ever being
forthcoming of how he got there. What survive of the tangled curious
facts on which the fancies of this legend rest have been collected by
Señor Obregón, and here are summarized.

Don Juan Manuel de Solórzano, a native of Burgos, a man of rank and
wealth, in the year 1623 came in the train of the Viceroy the Marqués
de Guadalcázar to Mexico; where for a long while he seems to have led
a life prosperous and respectable. In the year 1636 he increased his
fortune by making an excellent marriage--with Doña Mariana de Laguna,
the daughter of a rich mine-owner of Zacatecas. His troubles had their
beginning in an intimate friendship that he formed with the Viceroy
(1635-1640) the Marqués de Cadereita; a friendship of so practical a
sort on the side of the Viceroy as to cause remonstrance to be made in
Spain against his excessive bestowal of official favors on his
favorite. Moreover, "the evil speaking of the curious" was excited by
the fact that Don Juan and his wife spent a great part of their time
at the Palace in the Viceroy's company.

Matters were brought to a crisis by Don Juan's appointment as
Administrator of the Royal Hacienda; an office that gave him control
of the great revenues derived from the fleets which plied annually
between Mexico and Spain. The conduct of this very lucrative
administration previously had been with the Audiencia; and by the
members of that body vigorous protest was made against the Viceroy's
action in enriching his favorite at their cost. "Odious gossip" was
aroused; threats were made of a popular uprising; an appeal--duly
freighted with bribes to assure its arrival at the throne--was made to
the King. "But the springs put in force by the Viceroy must have been
very powerful--more powerful than the money sent by the
Audiencia--since Philip IV. confirmed Don Juan in the enjoyment of his


While the case thus rested, an incidental scandal was introduced into
it. By the fleet from Spain came one Doña Ana Porcel de Velasco: a
lady of good birth, very beautiful, the widow of a naval officer,
reduced by her widowhood and by other misfortunes to poverty. In her
happier days she had been a beauty at Court, and there the Marqués de
Cadereita had known her and had made suit to her, wherefore she had
come to Mexico to seek his Viceregal protection. Housing her in the
Palace being out of the question, the Viceroy begged that Don Juan
would take her into his own home: and that disposition of her,
accordingly, was made--with the result that more "odious gossip"
was aroused. What became of the beautiful Doña Ana is unrecorded. Her
episodic existence in the story seems to be due to the fact that
because of her the popular ill-will against Don Juan and against the
Viceroy was increased.

A far-reaching ripple from the wave of the Portuguese and Catalonian
revolt of the year 1640, influencing affairs in Mexico, gave
opportunity for this ill-will to crystallize into action of so
effective a sort that the Viceroy was recalled, and his favorite--no
longer under protection--was cast into prison. Don Juan's
commitment--the specific charge against him is not recorded--was
signed by one Don Francisco Vélez de Pereira: who, as Señor Obregón
puts it, "was not only a Judge of the criminal court but a criminal
Judge" (_no era solamente un Alcalde del crímen sino un Alcalde
criminal_) because he made dishonest proposals to Doña Mariana as the
price of her husband's liberation. It would seem that Doña Mariana
accepted the offered terms; and in so grateful a spirit that she was
content to wait upon the Alcalde's pleasure for their complete
ratification by Don Juan's deliverance. Pending such liquidation of
the contract, news was carried to Don Juan in prison of the irregular
negotiations in progress to procure his freedom: whereupon he procured
it for himself, one night, by breaking jail. Going straight to his own
home, he found there the Alcalde--and incontinently killed him.

That one killing that Don Juan Manuel certainly did commit--out of
which, probably, has come the legend of his many murders--created,
because of the high estate of all concerned in it, a deplorable
scandal: that the Audiencia--while resolved to bring Don Juan to
justice--sought to allay by hushing up, so far as was possible, the
whole affair. The Duque de Escalona, the new Viceroy (1640-1642), was
at one with the Audiencia in its hushing-up policy; but was
determined--for reasons of his own which are unrecorded--that Don Juan
should not be executed. So, for a considerable period of time, during
which Don Juan remained in prison, the matter rested. The event seems
to imply that the Audiencia accomplished its stern purpose, as opposed
to the lenient purpose of the Viceroy, by means as informal as they
were effective. Certainly, on a morning in October, 1641, precisely as
described in the legend, Don Juan Manuel was found hanging dead on the
gallows in front of the Capilla de la Espiración. Señor Obregón
concludes the historical portion of his narrative in these words: "The
Oidores, whose orders it is reasonable to suppose brought about that
dark deed, attributed it to the angels--but there history ends and
legend begins."


Somewhere in the course of my readings--I cannot remember where--I
have come upon the seriously made suggestion that Don Juan Manuel
practically was a bravo: that the favors which he received from the
Viceroy were his payment for putting politically obnoxious persons out
of the way. This specious explanation does account for his traditional
many murders, but is not in accord with probability. Aside from the
fact that bravos rarely are men of rank and wealth, a series of
murders traceable to political motives during the Viceregal term of
the Marqués de Cadereita--whose many enemies keenly were alive to his
misdoings--almost certainly would be found, but is not found,
recorded in the chronicles of his time. Such omission effectively puts
this picturesque explanation of Don Juan's doings out of court.

                               NOTE II

                    LEGEND OF THE ALTAR DEL PERDON

Simon Peyrens, a Flemish painter, came to Mexico in the suite of the
third Viceroy (1566-1568) Don Gastón de Peralta, Marqués de Falces. If
he painted--and, presumably, he did paint--a Virgin of Mercy for the
Altar del Perdon, his picture has disappeared: doubtless having been
removed from the altar when the present Cathedral (begun, 1573;
dedicated, though then incomplete, 1656) replaced the primitive
structure erected a few years after the Conquest. The Virgin of the
Candelaria on the existing Altar del Perdon was painted by Baltasar de
Echave, the Elder; a Spanish artist of eminence who came to Mexico
about the end of the sixteenth century. Peyrens certainly had the
opportunity to do his work under conditions akin to, but decidedly
more unpleasant than, those set forth in the legend: as Señor Obregón
has made clear by producing facts which exhibit the afflictions of
that unfortunate artist; and which also, incidentally, account for the
appearance in Mexico of a miracle-story that in varying forms is found
in the saintly chronicles of many lands.

Señor Obregón's source is an original document of the time of Fray
Alonso de Montúfar; a Dominican brother who was the second Archbishop
of Mexico (1554-1572), and who also held the office of Inquisitor--in
accordance with the custom that obtained until the formal
establishment (1571) of the Inquisition in Mexico. It was before him,
therefore, as represented by his Provisor, that the case of Peyrens
was brought.

As stated in this document, Peyrens had declared in familiar talk with
friends that simple incontinence was not a sin; and he farther had
declared that he liked to paint portraits, and that he did not like
to, and would not, paint saints nor pictures of a devotional sort. His
friends admonished him that his views in regard to incontinence made
him liable to arraignment before the ecclesiastical authorities;
whereupon--seemingly seeking, as a measure of prudence, to forestall
by his own confession any charge that might be brought against him--he
"denounced himself," on September 10, 1568, to Fray Bartolomé de Ledesma,
Gobernador de la Mitra. As the result of his confession--instead
of being granted the absolution that he obviously expected to
receive--he was arrested and cast into prison.

Four days later, September 14th, he was examined formally. To the
questions propounded to him, he replied, in substance: That he had
been born in Antwerp, the son of Fero Peyrens and of Constanza Lira
his wife; that he was not of Jewish descent; that none of his family
had been dealt with by the Inquisition; that in his early manhood he
had gone to Lisbon and later to Toledo, where the Court then was
seated, to practice his profession as a painter; that he had come to
New Spain, in the suite of the Viceroy, in the hope of bettering his
fortunes. In regard to the charges against him, he explained: That
what he had said about the sinlessness of simple incontinence had been
spoken lightly in friendly talk, and, moreover, very well might have
been misunderstood because of his imperfect knowledge of the Spanish
tongue; and that what he had said about liking to paint portraits and
not being willing to paint saints had been said only because
portrait-painting was the better paid. His trial followed: at which
nothing more was produced against him--although a number of witnesses,
including "many painters," were interrogated--than the facts brought
out in his own examination.

In order to force from Peyrens himself a fuller and more incriminating
confession, the Provisor, Don Estéban de Portillo, ordered that he
should be "submitted to the test of torture." This test was applied on
December 1st--when Peyrens "supported three turns of the rack and
swallowed three jars of water dripped into his mouth by a linen rag,"
without modifying or enlarging his previous declarations. By the rules
of the game--he having, in the jargon of the Inquisition, "conquered
his torment"--the proceedings against him then should have ended. Mr.
Lea, commenting on his case ("The Inquisition in the Spanish
Dependencies," p. 198), writes: "This ought to have earned his
dismissal, but on December 4th he was condemned to pay the costs of
his trial and to give security that he would not leave the City until
he should have painted a picture of Our Lady of Merced, as an
altar-piece for the church. He complied, and it was duly hung in the

I have not found--seemingly, Mr. Lea did find--a record of the actual
painting of the picture. The sentence passed on Peyrens is given in
full by Señor Obregón--in archaic Spanish, whereof much of the queer
flavor evaporates in translation--and is as follows:

     "In the criminal plea now pending before me, preferred by the
     Holy Office against simon peireins fleming held in the prison
     of this Arcobispado in regard to the words which the said simon
     peireins spoke and on which he has been prosecuted, on the acts
     and merits of this case it is found that for the crime
     committed by simon peyrens using him with equity and mercy I
     condemn him to paint at his own cost an altar-piece (retablo)
     of our lady of mercy for this holy church [the Cathedral] very
     devout and to me pleasing, and that in the interim while he is
     painting this altar-piece he shall not leave this city under
     penalty of being punished with all rigor as one disobedient to
     the mandates of the holy office, and I admonish and command the
     said simon peireins that from this time forth he shall not
     speak such words as those for the speaking of which he has been
     arrested nor shall he question any matters touching our holy
     catholic faith under penalty of being rigorously punished and
     in addition I condemn him to pay the costs of this trial, and
     this is my definitive sentence so judging and I pronounce and
     order it in and by this writing

  El D^{or} Estevan de Portillo

             *       *       *       *       *

      "In Mexico the fourth of december of the year one thousand
      five hundred and sixty eight was given and pronounced this
      definitive sentence of the above tenor by the aforesaid sor
      doctor barbosa (_sic_) provisor and vicar general of this
      Archbishopric of Mexico in the presence of me joan de avendaño
      apostolic notary public and of the audiencia of this
      Archbishopric of mexico witnesses el bachiller villagomez and
      juan vergara

  johan de avendaño"

The ancient record ends with the statement that this sentence was
communicated to Peyrens on the day that it was pronounced, and that he
"consented and did consent" with it--_y dixo que consentía y

                               NOTE III


Carved over an arch half-way up the main stairway of the
ex-Aduana--the building no longer is used as a custom-house--still may
be read Don Juan's acrostic inscription that sets forth the initials
of Doña Sara de García Somera y Acuña, the lady for whom he so
furiously toiled:

     Siendo prior del Consulado el coronel D^n Juan Gutierrez Rubin
     de Celis, caballero del Orden de S^ntiago, y consules D^n
     Garza de Alvarado del mismo Orden, y D^n Lucas Serafin Chacon,
     se acabó la fabrica de esta Aduana en 28 de Junio de 1731.

                               NOTE IV


Señor Arellano has documented the legend of the Green Cross by adding
to his sympathetic version of it the following note: "Some years ago I
saw in either the church of San Miguel or the church of San Pablo, set
aside in a corner, a bronze tablet that once had rested upon a tomb.
On it was the inscription, 'Doña María de Aldarafuente Lara y Segura
de Manrique. Agosto 11 de 1573 años. R.I.P.'; and beneath the
inscription was a large Latin cross. Probably the tablet was melted
up. When I went to look for it, later, it was not to be found."

This record testifies to the truth of the pretty legend to the extent
that it proves that the hero and the heroine of it were real people,
and that their wedding really took place; and it also testifies to the
melancholy fact--since Don Alvaro came to Mexico in the train of the
Viceroy Don Gastón de Peralta, whose entry into the Capital was made
on September 17, 1566--that their wedded life lasted less than seven
years. The once stately but now shabby house whereon the cross is
carved is in what anciently was a dignified quarter of the City; and
the niche for a saint, vacant now, above the cross is one of the
characteristics of the old houses in which people of condition lived.
The cross is unique. No other house in the City is ornamented in this

                                NOTE V

                     LEGEND OF THE MUJER HERRADA

Doubtless this legend has for its foundation an ancient real scandal:
that--being too notorious to be hushed up--of set purpose was given to
the public in a highly edifying way. Certainly, the story seems to
have been put in shape by the clerics--the class most interested in
checking such open abuses--with the view of driving home a deterrent
moral by exhibiting so exemplary a punishment of sin.

Substantially as in the popular version that I have used in my text,
Don Francisco Sedano (circa 1760) tells the story in his delightful
"Noticias de México"--a gossiping chronicle that, on the dual ground
of kindly credulity and genial inaccuracy, cannot be commended in too
warm terms.

"In the years 1670-1680, as I have verified," Sedano writes, "there
happened in this City of Mexico a formidable and fearful matter"; and
without farther prelude he tells the story practically as I have told
it, but in much plainer language, until he reaches the climax: when
the priest and the blacksmith try to awaken the woman that she may
enjoy the joke with them. Thence he continues: "When a second call
failed to arouse her they looked at her more closely, and found that
she was dead; and then, examining her still more closely, they found
nailed fast to her hands and to her feet the four iron shoes. Then
they knew that divine justice thus had afflicted her, and that the two
blacks were demons. Being overcome with horror, and not knowing what
course to follow in a situation so terrible, they agreed to go
together for counsel to Dr. Don Francisco Ortiz, cura of the parish
church of Santa Catarina; and him they brought back with them. On
their return, they found already in the house Father José Vidal, of
the Company of Jesus, and with him a Carmelite monk who also had been
summoned. [By whom summoned is not told.] All of them together
examining the woman, they saw that she had a bit in her mouth [the
iron shoes on her hands and feet are not mentioned] and that on her
body were the welts left by the blows which the demons had given her
when they took her to be shod in the form of a mule. The three
aforesaid [the Cura, Father Vidal, and the Carmelite] then agreed that
the woman should be buried in a pit, that they then dug, within the
house; and that upon all concerned in the matter should be enjoined
secrecy. The terrified priest, trembling with fear, declared that he
would change his life--and so left the house, and never appeared

Sedano documents the story with facts concerning the reputable clerics
concerned in it, writing: "Dr. Ortiz, cura de Santa Catarina, being
internally moved [by what he had seen] to enter into religion, entered
the Company of Jesus; wherein he continued, greatly esteemed and
respected, until his death at the age of eighty-four years. He
referred always to this case with amazement. A memoir of Father José
Vidal, celebrated for his virtues and for his preaching, was written
by Father Juan Antonio de Oviedo, of the Company of Jesus, and was
printed in the College of San Yldefonso in the year 1752. In that
memoir, chapter viii, p. 41, this case is mentioned; a record of it
having been found among the papers of Father Vidal." Sedano adds that
he himself heard the case referred to in a Lenten sermon preached by a
Jesuit Father in the church of the Profesa in the year 1760.


Sedano farther writes: "In the Calle de las Rejas de la Balvanera is a
casa de vecindad [tenement house] that formerly was called the Casa
del Pujabante: because a pujabante and tenazos [farrier's knife and
pincers] were carved on the stone lintel of the doorway. This carving
I have seen many times. It was said to mark the house in which the
blacksmith lived, in memory of the shoeing of the woman there. The
house [the site is that of the present No. 5] has been repaired and
the carving has been obliterated. In the street of the Puerta Falsa de
Santo Domingo, along the middle of which anciently ran a ditch, facing
the Puerta Falsa, was an old tumble-down house [the site is that of
the present No. 7] wherein lived, as I was told by an antiquarian
friend, the priest and the woman. This is probable: because Father
Vidal tells that the house was near the parish church of Santa
Catarina; and for that reason Dr. Ortiz, the cura of that church,
would be likely to make notes of an occurrence in his own parish."

                               NOTE VI

                     LEGEND OF THE ACCURSED BELL

This legend affords an interesting example of folk-growth. As told by
Señor Obregón, the story simply is of a church bell "in a little town
in Spain" that, being possessed by a devil, rang in an unseemly
fashion without human aid; and for that sin was condemned to have its
tongue torn out and to be banished to Mexico. As told by Señor
Arellano, the story begins with armor that was devil-possessed because
worn by the devil-possessed Gil de Marcadante. This armor is recast
into a cross wherein the devils are held prisoners and harmless; the
cross is recast into a bell of which the loosed devils have
possession--and from that point the story goes on as before. As told
in verse by Señor Juan de Dios Peza, the armor is devil-forged to
start with; and is charged still more strongly with devilishness by
being worn in succession by an Infidel and by a wicked feudal lord
before it comes to Gil de Marcadante--from whose possession of it the
story continues as before.

A fourth, wholly Spanish, version of this legend is found in Becquer's
_La Cruz del Diablo_. In this version the armor belongs in the
beginning to one Señor del Segre, whose cruelties lead to a revolt of
his vassals that ends in his death and in the burning of his
castle--amid the ruins of which the armor remains hanging on a
fire-blackened pillar. In time, bandits make their lair in the ruined
castle. While a hot dispute over their leadership is in progress among
them the armor detaches itself from the pillar and stalks into the
midst of the wrangling company. From behind the closed visor a voice
declares that their leader is found. Under that leadership the bandits
commit all manner of atrocities. Again the country folk rally to fight
for their lives. Many of the bandits are killed, but the leader is
scatheless. Swords and lances pass through the armor without injuring
him. In the blaze of burning dwellings the armor becomes white-hot,
but he is unharmed. A wise hermit counsels exorcism. With this
spiritual weapon the devil-leader is overcome and captured; and within
the armor they find--nothing at all! In true folk-story fashion the
narrative rambles on with details of the escape and recapture of the
devil-armor "a hundred times." In the end, following again the wise
hermit's counsel, the armor is cast into a furnace; and then, being
melted, is refounded--to the accompaniment of diabolical shrieks and
groans of agony--into a cross. A curious and distinctive feature of
this version is that the devils imprisoned in the cross retain their
power for evil. Prayers made before that cross bring down curses;
criminals resort to it; in its neighborhood is peril of death by
violence to honest men. So leaving the matter, Becquer's story ends.
The scene of these marvels is the town of Bellver, on the river Segre,
close under the southern slope of the Pyrenees.[10]

Señor Obregón gives what is known of the bell's history in Mexico. It
was of "medium size"; the hanger in the shape of an imperial crown
supported by two lions; on one side, in relief, the two-headed eagle
holding in its talons the arms of Austria; on the other side a
Calvario--Christ, St. John, the Virgin; near the lip, the words "Salve
Regina," and the legend: "Maese Rodrigo me fecit 1530." From the
unknown time of its arrival in Mexico until the last quarter of the
eighteenth century it reposed idly in one of the corridors of the
Palace. There it was found by the Viceroy (1789-1794) the Conde de
Revillagigedo; and by that very energetic personage, to whom idleness
of any sort was abhorrent, promptly was set to work. In accordance
with his orders, it was hung in a bell-gable, over the central doorway
of the Palace, directly above the clock; and in that position it
remained, very honestly doing its duty as a clock-bell, for more than
seventy years. During the period of the French intervention, in
December, 1867, a new bell was installed in place of it and orders
were given that it should be melted down--possibly, though Señor
Obregón gives no information on this point, to be recast into cannon,
along with the many church bells that went that way in Mexico at about
that time. Whatever may have been planned in regard to its
transmutation did not come off--because the liquid metal became
refractory and could not be recast. As this curious statement of fact
has an exceptional interest in the case of a bell with so bad a
record, I repeat it in Señor Obregón's own words: "_Entonces se mandó
fundirla; mas al verificarlo se descompuso el metal!_"

                               NOTE VII


By a natural confusion of the name of the street in which the dead man
was confessed with the name of the priest who heard his confession,
this legend frequently is told nowadays as relating not to Padre Lanza
but to Padre Lecuona. An old man whom I met in the Callejón del Padre
Lecuona, when I was making search for the scene of the confession,
told me the story in that way--and pointed out the house to me in all
sincerity. Following that telling, I so mixed the matter myself in my
first publication of the legend. Who Padre Lecuona was, or why the
street was named after him, I have not discovered. Probably still
another legend lurks there. Señor Riva Palacio tells the story as of
an unnamed friar "whom God now holds in his glory," and assigns it to
the year 1731. The motive of the story is found in Spain long
before the oldest date assigned to it in Mexico. The wicked hero of
Calderon's play, _La devocion de la Cruz_, is permitted to purge his
sinful soul by confession after death. The Padre Lanza whose name has
been tacked fast to the story--probably because his well-known
charitable ministrations to the poor made him a likely person to yield
to the old woman's importunities--was a real man who lived in the City
of Mexico, greatly loved and respected, in the early years of the
nineteenth century. Señor Roa Bárcena fixes the decade 1820-1830 as
the date of his strange adventure with a dead body in which was a
living soul.


Aside from minor variants, two distinct versions of this legend are
current. That which I have given in my text is the more popular. The
other, less widely known, has for its scene an old house in the Calle
de Olmedo--nearly a mile away from the Callejón del Padre Lecuona, and
in a far more ancient quarter of the City. Concisely stated, the Calle
de Olmedo version is to this effect:

Brother Mendo, a worthy and kind-hearted friar, is met of a dark night
in the street by a man who begs him to come and hear a dying person
confess. The friar wears the habit of his Order, and from his girdle
hangs his rosary. He is led to a house near by; and finds within the
house a very beautiful woman, richly clad in silks, whose arms are
bound. That she is not in a dying state is obvious, and the friar asks
for an explanation. For answer, the man tells him roughly: "This woman
is about to die by violence. I must give her death. As you please,
wash clean her sinful soul--or leave it foul!" At that, he yields, and
her confession begins. It is so prolonged that the man, losing
patience, ends it abruptly by thrusting forth the friar from the
house. Through the closed door he hears shrieks and tries to re-enter;
but the door remains closed firmly, and his knocking is unheeded. He
finds that his rosary no longer is at his girdle. In order to recover
it, and to allay his fears for the woman's safety, he calls a watchman
to aid him by demanding in the name of the law that the door shall be
opened. No response is made from within to their violent knocking; and
an old woman, aroused by it, comes out from a nearby dwelling and
tells them that knocking there is useless--that through all her long
lifetime she has lived beside that house, and that never through all
her long lifetime has that house been inhabited. The watchman--holding
his lantern close to the door, and so perceiving that what she tells
is verified by the caked dust that fills its crevices and that clogs
its key-hole--is for abandoning their attempt to enter. The friar
insists that they must enter: that his rosary is within the house;
that he is determined to recover it; that the door must be forced.
Yielding to him, the watchman forces the door and together they enter:
to find a yellowed skeleton upon the floor; scattered around it scraps
of mouldering silk; in the eye-sockets of the skull cobwebs--and lying
across that yellowed skeleton is the friar's rosary! Brother Mendo
covers his face with his hands, totters for a moment, and then falls
dying as he exclaims in horror: "Holy God! I have confessed a soul
from the other life!" And the crowd of neighbors, by that time
assembled, cries out: "Brother Mendo is dead because he has confessed
the dead!"

                              NOTE VIII

                     LEGEND OF THE LIVING SPECTRE

The theme of this legend--the transportation by supernatural means of
a living person from one part of the world to another--is among the
most widely distributed of folk-story motives. In _The Arabian
Nights_--to name an easily accessible work of reference--it is found
repeatedly in varying forms. In Irving's _Alhambra_ a version of it is
given--"Governor Manco and the Old Soldier"--that has a suggestive
resemblance to the version of my text. Distinction is given to the Mexican
story, however, by its presentment by serious historians in association
with, and as an incident of, an otherwise well-authenticated historical

That Don Gómez Pérez Dasmariñas, Governor of the Filipinas, did have
his head badly split open, and died of it, in the Molucca Islands, on
the 25th of October in the year 1593, and that on that same day
announcement of his so-painful ending was made in the City of Mexico,
are statements of natural and of supernatural fact which equally rest
upon authority the most respectable: as appears from Señor Obregón's
documentation of the legend, that I here present in a condensed form.

Guarded testimony in support of the essential marvel of the story is
found in a grave historical work of the period, _Sucesos de las Islas
Filipinas_, written by the learned Dr. Antonio de Morga, a Judge of
the Criminal Court of the Royal Audiencia and sometime legal adviser
(_consultor_) to the Holy Office in New Spain. This eminent personage
notes as a curious fact that the news of the murder of Don Gómez Pérez
Dasmariñas was known on the Plaza Mayor of the City of Mexico on the
very day that the murder occurred; but adds--his legal caution
seemingly disposing him to hedge a little--that he is ignorant of the
means by which the news was brought.

Without any hedging whatever, Fray Gaspar de San Agustin, in his
_Conquista de las Islas Philipinas_ (Madrid, 1698), tells the whole
story in a whole-hearted way. According to Fray Gaspar, there arrived
in Manila about the year 1593, Don Gómez Pérez Dasmariñas being at
that time Governor, ambassadors sent by the King of Cambodia--one of
them a Portuguese named Diego Belloso, and the other a Spaniard named
Antonio Barrientes--whose mission was to ask the assistance of the
Spaniards in repelling an invasion of Cambodia, then threatened by the
King of Siam. As a present from the King to the Governor, the embassy
brought "two beautiful elephants (_dos hermosos elefantes_), which
were the first ever seen in Manila."

Don Gómez Pérez promised readily the assistance asked for; but with
the intention of using a pretended expedition to Cambodia as a cloak
for a real expedition to seize the Moluccas. To this end he assembled
an armada, made up of four galleys and of attendant smaller vessels,
on which he embarked a considerable military force; and, along with
the soldiers, certain "notable persons and venerable religious." His
preparations being completed, he sailed from Manila on October 17,
1593. A week later, the capitana galley, having on board the Governor,
was separated from the fleet by a storm and was driven to take shelter
in the harbor of Punta de Azufre: to make which haven the two hundred
and fifty Chinese rowers were kept at their work with so cruel a
rigor, the climax of other cruelties, that they determined to mutiny.
Accordingly, on the night of their arrival, October 25th, "putting on
white tunics that they might know each other in the darkness," they
rose against the Spaniards and murdered every one of them--the
Governor, as he came forth from his cabin, having "his head half split
open"--and tossed their dead bodies overboard into the sea.

Fray Gaspar points out that Don Gómez Pérez came to that bad end as a
just reward from heaven, because on various occasions he arrogantly
had "contended and disputed" with the Bishop of the Filipinas; and in
support of this view of the matter he declares that the Governor's
deserved murder "was announced in Manila and in Mexico by supernatural
signs." In Manila the announcement was symbolical: "On the very day of
his killing there opened in the wall [of the Convent of San Agustin]
on which his portrait was painted a crack that corresponded precisely
with the splitting of his skull." Of the other announcement, that
described in the legend, he writes in these assured terms: "It is
worthy of deep ponderation that on the very same day on which took
place the tragedy of Gómez Pérez that tragedy was known in Mexico by
the art of Satan: who, making use of some women inclined to such
agilities (_algunas mujeres inclinadas á semejantes agilidades_),
caused them to transplant to the Plaza Mayor of the City of Mexico a
soldier standing guard on the walls of Manila; and this was
accomplished so unfelt by the soldier that in the morning--when he
was found walking sentry, musket in hand, in that city--he asked of
those who addressed him in what city he was. By the Holy Office it was
ordered that he should be sent back to these islands: where many who
knew him have assured me of the truth of this event."

Señor Obregón's comment, at once non-committal and impartial, on Fray
Gaspar's narrative admits of no improvement. I give it in his own
words: "In the face of the asseveration of so brainy a chronicler (_un
cronista tan sesudo_) we neither trump nor discard (_no ponemos ni
quitamos rey_)"; to which he adds a jingle advising the critical that
he gives the story as it was given to him:

    "Y si lector, dijeres, ser comento,
     Como me lo contaron te lo cuento."

                               NOTE IX

                         LEGEND OF LA LLORONA

This legend is not, as all of the other legends are, of
Spanish-Mexican origin: it is wholly Mexican--a direct survival from
primitive times. Seemingly without perceiving--certainly without
noting--the connection between an Aztec goddess and this the most
widely distributed of all Mexican folk-stories, Señor Orozco y Berra

"The Tloque Nahuaque [Universal Creator] created in a garden a man and
a woman who were the progenitors of the human race.... The woman was
called Cihuacohuatl, 'the woman snake,' 'the female snake'; Tititl,
'our mother,' or 'the womb whence we were born'; Teoyaominqui, 'the
goddess who gathers the souls of the dead'; and Quilaztli, implying
that she bears twins. She appears dressed in white, bearing on her
shoulder a little cradle, as though she were carrying a child; and she
can be heard sobbing and shrieking. This apparition was considered a
bad omen." Referring to the same goddess, Fray Bernardino de Sahagun
thus admonished (circa 1585) the Mexican converts to Christianity:
"Your ancestors also erred in the adoration of a demon whom they
represented as a woman, and to whom they gave the name of Cioacoatl.
She appeared clad as a lady of the palace [clad in white?]. She
terrified (_espantada_), she frightened (_asombraba_), and cried aloud
at night." It is evident from these citations that La Llorona is a
stray from Aztec mythology; an ancient powerful goddess living on--her
power for evil lessened, but still potent--into modern times.

She does not belong especially to the City of Mexico. The belief in
her--once confined to, and still strongest in, the region primitively
under Aztec domination--now has become localized in many other places
throughout the country. This diffusion is in conformity with the
recognized characteristic of folk-myths to migrate with those who
believe in them; and in the case of La Llorona reasonably may be
traced to the custom adopted by the Conquistadores of strengthening
their frontier settlements by planting beside them settlements of
loyal Aztecs: who, under their Christian veneering, would hold to--as
to this day the so-called Christian Indians of Mexico hold to--their
old-time faith in their old-time gods.

Being transplanted, folk-myths are liable to modification by a new
environment. The Fiery Cow of the City of Mexico, for instance, not
improbably is a recasting of the Basque vaca de lumbre; or, possibly,
of the goblin horse, El Belludo, of Grenada--who comes forth at
midnight from the Siete Suelos tower of the Alhambra and scours the
streets pursued by a pack of hell-hounds. But in her migrations, while
given varying settings, La Llorona has remained unchanged. Always and
everywhere she is the same: a woman clad in white who by night in
lonely places goes wailing for her lost children; a creature of evil
from whom none who hold converse with her may escape alive.

Don Vicente Riva Palacio's metrical version of this legend seems to be
composite: a blending of the primitive myth with a real tragedy of
Viceregal times. Introductorily, he tells that for more than two
hundred years a popular tale has been current in varying forms of a
mysterious woman, clad in white, who runs through the streets of the
City at midnight uttering wailings so keen and so woful that whoever
hears them swoons in a horror of fear. Then follows the story: Luisa,
the Wailer, in life was a woman of the people, very beautiful. By her
lover, Don Muño de Montes Claros, she had three children. That he
might make a marriage with a lady of his own rank, he deserted her.
Through a window of his house she saw him at his marriage feast; and
then sped homeward and killed--with a dagger that Don Muño had left in
her keeping--her children as they lay sleeping. Her white garments all
spattered with their blood, she left her dead children and rushed
wildly through the streets of the City--shrieking in the agony of her
sorrow and her sin. In the end, "a great crowd gathered to see a woman
garroted because she had killed her three children"; and on that same
day "a grand funeral procession" went with Don Muño to his grave. And
it is this Luisa who goes shrieking at night through the streets of
the City even now.

My friend Gilberto Cano is my authority for the version of the
legend--the popular version--that I have given in my text. It seems to
me to preserve, in its awed mystery and in its vague fearsomeness, the
very feeling with which the malignant Aztec goddess assuredly was
regarded in primitive times.

                               THE END


[Footnote 1: See Note I.]

[Footnote 2: See Note II.]

[Footnote 3: See Note III.]

[Footnote 4: See Note IV.]

[Footnote 5: See Note V.]

[Footnote 6: See Note VI.]

[Footnote 7: See Note VII.]

[Footnote 8: See Note VIII.]

[Footnote 9: See Note IX.]

[Footnote 10: "La Cruz del Diablo," with other stories of a like sort
by Becquer, all very well worth reading, may be read in English in the
accurate translation recently made by Cornelia Frances Bates and
Katharine Lee Bates under the title _Romantic Legends of Spain_ (New
York, Thomas Y. Crowell & Co.); and in the original Spanish, with the
assistance of scholarly notes and a vocabulary, in the collection
prepared for class use by Dr. Everett Ward Olmsted under the English
title _Legends and Poems by Gustavo Adolfo Becquer_ (Boston, Ginn &

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's note:

Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_).

Small capital text has been replaced with all capitals.

The carat character (^) indicates that the following letter is
superscripted (example: S^ntiago). If two or more letters are
superscripted they are enclosed in curly brackets (example: D^{or}).

Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note.
Irregularities and inconsistencies in the text have been retained as

The illustrations have been moved so that they do not break up
paragraphs, thus the page number of the illustration might not match
the page number in the List of Illustrations.

The cover for the eBook version of this book was created by the
transcriber and is placed in the public domain.

The list of drawings is incorrect. There is no drawing in the book for
the reference to it has been left in place.

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