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In a higher-grade room I was asked to choose the lesson, and suggested geography. A youth passed swiftly over the map with a pointer, spinning off a description 'of the principal cities, learned by rote, the priest in charge lifting him back on the track as often as he forgot the exact language of the original and came to a wordless halt. Little helpful hints accompanied every question. A youth stood before the map of Colombia, on which the capital was printed in enormous letters, when the priest asked:
"What city did Quesada found in 1538?"
Blank silence from the youth.
The youth, with great wisdom: "Bogotá."
that the priests kept him bound hand and foot.
"I had an excellent, experienced normal. graduate in charge of that first class," he sighed, "and now we have that boy in a cassock! Bah!"
THE BARBER OF SAN PABLO
WE were startled to have the first boy we met in San Pablo admit that posada could be had. His own mother had a room to rent. He laid aside the hat he was weaving and, taking up a bunch of enormous keys, started across the cobbled street toward an adobe building. But at that moment a patched and bare-foot, though eloquent, man rushed down upon us, likewise offering us posada. For a time it looked as if for once, instead of having to fight for lodging, lodgings were going to
"Excellent!" murmured my fellow- fight for us. We settled the dispute by the
"And what place is this?" quizzed the teacher, pointing to an isthmus that curved up into a corner of the map like a tail. "Pa-Pana-"
"Panama!" shrieked the youth, "a province of Colombia which is now in rebellion. The "
He was evidently going on with more startling and fluent information when an all-but-imperceptible twitching of an eye of the Jesuit superior turned the pointer to other climes.
The teacher never lost an opportunity to give a religious twist to the proceedings. A boy whose pointer hovered about the Mediterranean mumbled:
"And another of the cities is Nicea-" The priest:
"Ah, what celebrated event in the history of mankind took place in Nicea?"
"The great council of the church in which-" began the youth, and rattled on as glibly as if he had been there in person.
When we had turned out into the street alone, the shabby little minister became confidential, explaining that the colegio toward which we were headed had once held a large student body, but now, owing to political changes, Señor Later he became even more frank, and complained
simple expedient of asking each his price. "One real," answered the boy, defiantly.
"In my oficina de peluquería," said the man, haughtily, "it will cost you nothing. Moreover, all foreigners always lodge there."
Behind his bravado he seemed so nearly on the point of weeping that we should no doubt have chosen his "office of barbering" even had there been no such vast gulf between the rival prices. He thanked us for the favor and, producing an enormous key, unlocked one of those unruly shop doors indigenous to rural South America, above which projected a shingle bearing on one side the information "Peluquería Cívica" and on the other the name of our host, Santiago Muñoz. The keyhole was in the shape of a swan; others in the town, and all through Nariño, have the form of a man, horse, goose, and a dozen other ludicrous shapes. These home-made doors of Andean villages never fit easily, and their locks have always some peculiar idiosyncrasy of their own, so that by the time the traveler learns to unlock the door of his lodging without native assistance he is ready to move on.
Santiago let us into the usual white
washed mud room, with a tile floor furnished as a Colombian barber shop, which means that it was chiefly empty and by no means immaculate, with two wooden benches, two tin basins, and a water pitcher, also empty or soiled; two homemade, or San Pablo-made, chairs, a lame table littered with newspapers from a year to two months old, a scanty supply of open razors, strops, Florida water, soap, and brushes scattered promiscuously about, a couple of once white gowns of "Mother Hubbard" form for customers, and in one corner a heap of human hair, chiefly black and coarse. Then there were the luxuries of a home-made candlestick, with some six inches of candle, and a lace curtain, I worked with red and blue flowers, to cut off the gaze of the curious, except those who were bold enough frankly to push it aside and stare in upon us. Windows, to say nothing of glass, are unknown in these towns of the Andes. The barber gave us full possession, key and all, we had to toss a coin to see who should burden himself with it when we went out, -and informed us that a woman next to the church supplied meals to travelers on demand.
The benches were only fourteen inches wide, but they were of soft wood, and so delighted were we to find accommodations so plentiful that I was about to make a similar suggestion when Hays yawned:
The only way one can photograph these something at right angles to them
"Let's hang over here to-morrow." Late the next morning Santiago wandered in upon us.
"Last year another Meestear"-in the rural Andes the native form of this word is used as a common noun to designate not only Americans and Englishmen, but Germans, Swedes, Frenchmen, and even Spaniards-"stopped here," he began. "You perhaps know him. His name was Meestear Giuseppe."
We doubted it.
"But surely you must know him," persisted the barber, "for he was a foreigner also."
The rural Colombian conceives of the world as made up of two countries, his own, the chief one, and a smaller one, perhaps only a city, that lies outside its boundaries.
As he talked, the barber kept fingering a letter, and bit by bit he half betrayed, half admitted that he gave free lodging to estranjeros because he wished to keep on good terms with this outside world in general and in particular because he wished to find some means of sending six dollars to that little place beyond the national boundaries. When he had explained himself at length he turned the letter over to us.
It was in correct Spanish, mimeographed to resemble a type-written personal communication, and told in several
pages of flowery language what I can perhaps condense within reasonable limits:
Chirological College of California,
Muy señor mío:
With great pleasure we send you a pamphlet on "Secret Force," because we know that it contains information which will be of vast importance to you as a means of being able to obtain that secret knowledge of the human character and of personal influence permitting you in a moment to know and understand the life of all other persons, to know their desires and their intentions, their habits and deficiencies, their plans, and all that can be prejudicial to you. Following our system, you can read the character of persons as an open book; if you possess the system "Natajara," there will be no one who can deceive you; by means of it you can know beforehand in all circumstances all that others intend to do, and direct them to your own entire satisfaction. By means of the system "Natajara" you can know exactly how much progress, how much health, how much love, and how much happiness the future has reserved for you, and if it does not reserve for you as much as you desire, you can make it change its course to come out in accordance with your ambitions.
Never, either in the present century or in those past, has there been given a more potent knowledge to the world. It teaches precisely how and when to use the magic force by means of which one obtains the realization of all desires; it places those who possess it in a sphere superior to that of the generality of humanity, makes them masters of destiny. . . . I do not dare tell you all the advantages you can have with this knowledge, but I assure you it is what you need that your life convert itself into a true success. I beg you to read letter by letter all the "Secret Force" says and to send for the system "Natajara." There is nothing so powerful as this system, nothing that equals it. Remember that the sending to you of the system for a mere $6 is only a special
offer that we make, and if you wish to have the privilege of being the first in your locality to possess these great secrets, you ought to send this very day.
Without further particulars, etc., I take great pleasure in signing myself
Your grateful and affectionate servant, [signed] A. VICTOR SEGNO, President per Sec.
Dictated to No. 1 S.
There was no doubt that Santiago had followed the injunction to read the accompanying pamphlet letter by letter. Thanks to his Colombian schooling, that was the only way he could read it. But how was he to send the "mere $6" to "Inspiration Point" without his fellow-townsmen knowing it and perhaps forestalling his anxious desire to be the first in his locality to possess the powerful secret? There is no postal-order system between Colombia and the United States. He dared not send the cash, well knowing that it would not get beyond the local post-office, even if so large an amount in Nariño silver could be made up into a package the post would carry. So he had hidden the letter away and had patiently lain in wait for every rare foreigner that drifted into San Pablo.
While we read the letter he sat on one of our beds, to wit, a wooden bench, nervously fingering the toes of his never-shod feet. When we had finished he begged us to find some way of sending the money, and implored us, on our hopes of eternity, not to whisper a word of the secret to his fellow-townsmen. We promised to think the matter over as he rose to go.
"When are you going to open the shop this morning?" asked Hays.
"Oh, I shall not trouble to open today," said the barber in a sad and weary voice, and wandered away with the air of a man who sees no need of common toil when he is on the point of becoming the dictator of fate in all his locality.
We hatched a scheme against his reIf we fancied he might perhaps forget the matter, we were deceived. Nothing else seemed to be weighing on his
ant character of San Pablo, and, anyway, it would only be in payment for our lodgings."
The Colombian never needs much urging to accept a favor, and his formal protests soon died away. I sat down to write out the check:
The Fake Bank, 920 110th Street,
New York, U. S. A.
Pay to the order of the Chirological College of Los Angeles, Cal., the sum of six dollars ($6).
The barber carefully folded the valuable document, and hid it away in his garments, promising to send it at the very
first opportunity, in a plain envelop, unregistered.
"For," he explained, confiding to us a nation-wide secret, "the post-office officials always steal any letter they think has anything valuable in it, and to register it makes them sure it has."
The treatment was cruel, perhaps, but we could think of no better. No doubt Santiago waited many anxious months for the arrival of the system, but certainly no longer than he would have waited had he managed to send real money. Meanwhile, as the enthusiasm of a Latin-American shrinks rapidly, it may be that he grew resigned to his failure to become the secret ruler of San Pablo, and took up again the shaving of its faces and the cutting of its coarse, black hair.