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Dante prophetically called them beautiful stars in divine symmetry, speaking infinite things at midnight, when the wind is hushed among the pines on the mountains, and the stream in the valley runs silently among the silent trees, and the birds have ceased to sing, and there is calm everywhere, even in a beating heart. Many successive nights I rose from a matbed in some cottage verandah, to look on those stars, and-for so we mingle the most heavenly with the most earthly things from their inclination knew it was time to give my horse his early feed of
Between a great many hundred feet of ascent and descent in the course of a day's ride, it is hard to perceive any general rise of the country, yet almost league by league something of tropical vegetation drops behind. The cocoa-trees ventured no further than four leagues from Acapulco; but after thirty-five leagues there is a sudden and complete change; without crossing any division, you pass, by a constant ascent out of deep rich valleys among grand, wild mountains, into one that is a mere trough, with bare, brown hills on either side, and reach Masatlan, a village with a stone house, almost a posada. The landlord I found a small strong man, with dark shaggy hair and beard, and with small, but keen, quick eyes; across his forehead and face was an ugly gash, half covered with bands of linen, and the manycolored blanket wrapped loosely round him gave a sort of Orientalism to his appear
Finding I was from California, he asked a good many questions I did not care to answer, for I did not like his manner or looks; meanwhile his son kept bothering me to take him as a servant for the journey, to clean the cabayos, etc.; I had work enough to get rid of him by standing a reale's-worth of aguardientebrandy, or whatever spirit you like to call it. A few leagues beyond Masatlan is Chilpansingo, a town perhaps three-quarters of a mile square, with long narrow streets closed in by the massive stone walls of one-story houses, pierced here and there with a door, but scarcely ever with a window. Ugly as the valley is, the town itself has many pleasant gardens, full of orange-trees, lemons, and bananas. Many villagers I met tramping home with a stock of candles for the ensuing Easter festival, and others were still buying; but
the chief inn, the Meson di San Francisco, was as quiet as death; they told me the day was 'santo,' and it was impossible to get my horse shod till Saturday, or perhaps Monday. In Mexico traveling with your horse unshod, or with only his forefeet shod, is very common; mine had come so well enough; but with no blacksmith for another thirty-five or forty leagues, I did not like the risk. First I was glad to change some United States gold at par for Mexican dollars, but that involves changing again, for in small villages the people have no money, or are afraid yours may be bad. Sometimes I could not get change even for a two-reale bit or reale; at Chilpansingo, however, they were glad enough to have my United States gold, but were unwilling to change English sovereigns, and would not look at California coin; the latter has a bad name; I lost ten per cent. on all mine, and unfortunately nine tenths of my money was in that form. Even in the States it is at five per cent. discount; but as a dollar a day will pay all your traveling expenses when once started, the loss is not very serious, after all.
Patience and perseverance will do a good deal; I found a blacksmith's house, and sat there till he returned from mass. He would shoe my horse after dinner, and invited me to share the meal; as the following day was Good Friday, dinner was frugal-tortuyas, and two kinds of beans. They offered to get me a spoon to eat with, but I preferred doing at Rome as Rome does, and a few days' practice had made me expert in the application of pieces of tortuyas to all such purposes. After dinner the blacksmith gave me a lesson in making cigaritos, and then walked out to buy horse-shoes and nails at a shop, for they seem to import the shoes in boxes. We could buy but seven nails, and as the day was "santo" the blacksmith would not make more than enough to shoe the fore-feet: the pair of shoes and seven nails cost seven reales, about three shillings and sixpence; and the shoeing half a dollar. A traveled young Mexican caine in, and assisted me in blowing a quaint pair, or one might say two pairs, of vertical bellows: he assured me there were placeres in the mountains opposite, and wished I would stay to work them; he had been to New York to get up a mining company, but came back aпρактоç, as Thu
cydides would say, and with an idea that speaking Spanish with an English pronunciation, made it easier of understanding to a foreigner; the result was most unintellible gibberish. But while he talked I had across the street better occupation for eyes and every sense: two such forms and faces as you rarely see; such as you might take for an ideal of Shakspeare's fairest Italian heroines; oval faces, hair black, but not jet-black; eyes dark, clear, soft, and laughing; complexion a delicate brunette; the stature that most graceful for women; and the throat and whole figure, though slight, yet of a symmetry that not even the folds of the long mantilla, flung a second time over the left shoulder, could entirely conceal. The sisters of Chilpansingo disappeared all too soon: I hovered about a long while, as a moth might around a dark lantern, in the hope of at least seeing the light, if it cannot burn itself, and at last went home in safety and darkness.
It would be hard to condemn all Mexican inns upon a single specimen; but the Meson di San Francisco was the dullest of hostelries. The house and verandah occupied two sides of an inner court-yard, and on to the verandah opened sundry rooms, or cells, or sepulchers. Cuarto No. 6, about twelve feet square, contained three or four old chairs, a small table, and a sort of bedstead, covered with leather, but not with bedding; the walls were of solid stone, without windows or any way of exit but through narrow folding-doors of oak, four inches thick. Perhaps I am a coward; but I never could get over the feeling that some one could, if not possibly, at least conceivably, shut me in; and careless of my revolver, looked only at my powderflask, and examined the practicability, with that limited amount, of blowing the door or door-lock open. Any way it is dull work, "sitting alone, singing alone," and dining alone; no delightful siesta in the long grass hammock swung from corner to corner of the house; no chatting with the lively muchachas; and, to do Mexican village girls justice, though blessed with a rather Indian complexion, while young they are commonly and uncommonly pretty; then what a comfort that all the long noonday not a man is to be seen; whether they are out at work or at play, one neither knows nor cares. A girl's curiosity makes her more pleasant and more piquant, perhaps flatters the traveler; but for "los
hombres," their curiosity becomes impertinence, or at least a bore; then you pick up the language from the women; they understand you; but you never understand the men. In the evenings one had to make the best of it, but often when supper was over, and I stood smoking in the moonlight, some inquisitive muchacha would come out for a talk, instead of lying down in-doors with the rest on a mat, by the splinter of pitch pine stuck aslant in the ground, and serving for a candle. Thus every one will see the preferability of a cottage to an inn. But, perhaps fitly, this night, the eve of the Crucifixion, was set apart for less worldly and sensuous occupation. The church (only the second I had seen since Acapulco; the villages have none) was crowded with both sexes. Except a short sermon from a very fat old priest, there was no service, but an arrangement of images, and preparation for a procession. The continual adjustment of dresses and lights gave me painfully the idea of being behind the scenes at a theater; but one could not deny there was something effective, though theatrically so, in the ghastly pallor of the Saviour; at one time clothed in the purple robe, and crowned with thorns, at another, blindfolded and buffeted. A second figure was that of the Virgin; and a third male figure I could not understand. At last the procession formed, and paraded the principal streets, accompanied by lamps, and followed by a multitude of people carrying candles; the brightness of the Paschal moon took off from their effect, but the serenity of a tropical night added much to that of the measured steps and solemn chanting of the priests and the bearers of the images. All knelt down as they passed, myself included, who have no personal fear of symbolism, nor any admiration of an obtrusive, unaccommodating Protestantism. The next evening there was similarly a procession, but only of a bier followed by the Virgin.
To Sumpango, a small town three leagues from Chilpansingo, there was almost a carriage-road, but I saw no vehicles, nor even a wheel-rut anywhere. I now, for the first time, began to hear the word "revolution," rumors and conjectures of what had taken place at Puebla, and not unfrequent questionings whether Acapulco had "pronounced," or Alvarez was there. From Sumpango to Mescala
the journey is twelve leagues, without an inhabited house; there is at one point a small deserted hamlet, deserted at the time of the revolution, people told me, but what revolution they meant I could not exactly find; probably that of 1855, when Santa Anna was turned out. The American war is hardly known as more than a myth in such a lack of reading. The route lay the whole distance along the Cañada, or River bottom, an ignorance of which word sent me two thousand feet or so in steep zigzags up a mountain side; the error found, it was too late in the afternoon to attempt twelve leagues; and the rider I had met asked me into his cottage, and afterward refused any payment. I was not sorry to have returned to the town, for one object of interest I had overlooked -a ruined church, with a solitary palmtree beside it; a poet might have found something to write of that tree, separated from all its kindred by forty leagues, alone in a dreary valley, and beside a ruin. I only said, "Thou and I, tall tree, are strangers here!"
Long before daybreak on Easter morning, guns were firing and music was playing, and villagers were dribbling in, as, along with the twilight, I left Sumpango; this time in the right direction. The ravine was often narrow, and the mountains on either side high and steep enough, but they had neither the grandeur of bare rock nor the beauty of a luxuriant vegetation; only a few flowering trees of the duller sort. Higher up were whole leafless woods, and everywhere different species of cactus, almost itself a tree; possibly the blossoms just opening may alter their appearance, but those tall upright pillars of dull green are particularly hateful to me; the villagers, from hence almost to the table-land, use them in fences around their cottages or corrals. Strange to say, in a few wooded parts of the Cañada I saw greater variety of birds than on any previous day; the little scarlet bird, that can settle on the lightest spray, was absent, and turtle-doves were common lower down; but green parroquets, and the woodpecker with his gorgeous crest of crimson, were entirely new; while the lizards, as of old, flashed to and fro in the sunshine. A burning sunshine it was, as the day advanced, and, worst of all, and most unexpectedly, on a sudden the stream I had crossed half a mile before was dry; not a
drop of water lay between the white pebbles. Of course, traveling down stream it is hopeless to look for water till you reach some greater stream, of which this is a tributary; that I knew to be five leagues off, and five very bad leagues too; so there was no help but a pistol-bullet; not as a substitute for a bare bodkin, but to chew; I offered my horse one, but he would not try it.
Perhaps I had spent Easter-day as well riding as resting, for the first thing I saw after dismounting at Mescala was a scion of the family returning, most crestfallen, with a defunct cock, its blood still dripping from a large gaping wound; my hostess, without a word of pity, began at once to pluck and clean it; for my part, I was not sorry my own meal was already on the fire. In the evening there was a gay fandango. Beside the village flows the Rio de Mescala, a smooth, deep, and exceedingly rapid river, some fifty or sixty yards wide; my host and another man agreed for three reales to put me across; one swam the horse over, the other swam over, towing me and my property on a raft of wicker-work and gourds, five or six feet square. We drifted a long way down stream, but got over safely; this primitive method of transit, however, though well enough for a single traveler, must be a long business with a whole train of pack mules. While breakfasting at the hamlet of Chaletla, an alcalde, with four or five armed men as an escort, rode up, and presently began to inspect my gray, as he ate his corn and sacate in the shade; sacate are the blades of corn which are sold in small bundles, two or three for a reale. Now the appearance of Rosinante was not so magnificent as to attract any special admiration; far from it; having come to work fresh from a scanty pasture, for round Acapulco there is little feed, he was "flaco, mucho flaco," very thin, though free to eat as much as he liked; so this scrutiny could not be flattering, nor was it contemptuous, but in truth detective. Presently his worship (in Spanish countries every one is "your worship") beckoned me to come to him; half way was as much as was consistent with the dignity of the British lion, "Your horse," said he, "has the brand of this village; it is stolen, and you must give it up." To this I answered, with AngloSaxon brevity, that I knew nothing about
the brands; that I had paid for the horse; it belonged to me, and I meant to keep it; if he wanted to know more he could see my passport, at the same time handing him that document; he read it, but persisted till I had blustered a little about "el consul Britannico." Then, said he-for an old shepherd's plaid shooting-jacket and a woolen shirt leaves a man's status a
little in doubt" what is your trade or profession ?" "That's none of your business," I thought, but answered indirectly; to wit, that I was traveling to Méjico and Vera Cruz, and afterward to the Estados Unidos and Inglaterra, if it should seem good to me. A man must take what he can get, and the alcalde could get no more; I was turning to go away, when he continued, "Tiene aguardiente la ?" pointing to the cottage, where my saddle, etc., were deposited. "No, Señor," I answered, very truly, though rather doubtful whether he thought me a smuggler or merely wanted a drink himself: "No, Señor, y V. tiene V. aguardiente?" not from any wish to insult him, but to discover the object of his question. The answer, however, was a shot through the body, for all his attendants burst into a roar of laughter at the notion, while I politely bowed, and he, muttering what in English would sound very like a strong oath, ordered a start at once, and rebuking his fellows, rode away. As he possessed a superfluity of official self-consequence, no pity whatever was needed for his mortification.
welcome "Sì, Señor, aquì si quiere V.”— You can stay here if you like. Thereupon the front folding-doors of the house were thrown open, and I rode through the principal apartment, the long room in all Mexican town houses, into a court-yard behind; under the verandah were seated three señoras, one of them painting some flowers. She was a handsome, dark-eyed girl, and rather handsomely dressed; the peculiarity consisted in letting her rich black hair fall to her waist wholly unconfined by comb or ribbon; most girls wear it bound up, and with a pin of gold, if they possess as much wealth, passing through and holding it. But the señora had not judged ill: and the grace with which she flung back the dark tresses from her forehead and from the saffron kerchief around her throat, such as dark-haired gipsies love to use, was a charming individuality that harmonized with her rare archness and laughing yet eager curiosity. "Sientese V.," said she, offering me a chair as I entered the verandah after unsaddling my horse. We soon fell into conversation upon my day's journey and the terribly unpronounceable name of the last village, and the flowers she was painting, freshly plucked from among a myriad of blossoms in the courtthe Portugal or flore di Felfa, (as she called it,) and the rose, the flore di Castilla. Some dull visitors then came in and broke up our tête-à-tête; but after chocolate, the delicious chocolate, served up in the tiniest mugs of porcelain, as if any more of such deliciousness would be overpowering, we sat and talked and talked. The Señora must know more about me; was I really Yngles and not Frances? Certainly I was. And had I ever been at London? O yes, I lived there all my life. And the Palacio di Cristallo, was it
The sun was still high when, after a long ride over broad plains and slopes of dry grass-land, I crossed the Sierra, and descended into the valley; one very like those of Utah, and treeless but for the large dark grove concealing all of Eguala except the white dome of its church. Egu-“mucho grande,” and at Hyde Park, was ala is a large village with a small town at its core, and the place beyond which they of Chilpansingo and Mescala assured me there were" muchos ladrones," and traveling alone" sin compañero,” one would certainly be robbed. No people like disrepute at their own door, so Eguala declares the road safe twelve leagues further, but then an abundance of robbers, for in the existence of these somewhere all agree. The Meson di San Francisco was enough for an experience of posadas, and I looked out for some private house to pass the night at after a few refusals came the
it not? and who could have thought it would be moved elsewhere and made “mucho mas grande." And England was not a republic, we had a Reina, and what was her name, and was she "hermosa" (beautiful)? To all this I answered very loyally, and the señora expressed her admiration of a country governed by a beautiful queen who could not oppress you if she would, and would not if she could. Then France, that was not a republic now, it had an emperor; was he not related to "el grande Napoleon?" Yes, I said, he had been president, and behaved like a
scoundrel, and made himself absolute; but such things take place so often in Mexico, that my little bit of political morality was quite thrown away on the fair señora. And there was an empress, was there not, a Castilian lady, and was she, too, beautiful, and had I seen her? Yes, she was "mucho, mucho hermosa;" I had seen her myself, so there was no mistake. The señora looked proud of her country woman. And were the English Christians? Yes, said I. Ah, that was better than the Americanos, they were not Christians, they were anything; and how many brothers and sisters had I, and how many of them were married, and was I married myself? No, señora, I never was at Eguala before. And how old was I, and what was my birthday, and who was my patron saint? The last was more than I could say. O, she must know; there was an almanac somewhere; so after due examination it turned out San Herculano was my patron, at which the señora laughed a good deal, so I take it he is a saint of small account, and the señora herself could not have told me much about him. However, I promised, in memory of her, to build him a chapel-in Spain, of course. Then she gave me a brilliant description of Méjico, with its "muchas yglesias" and convents, in one of which she had been educated; and very well educated too, except perhaps in point of geography, on which her knowledge was a good deal like that of Katinka or Dudu. 66 Spain's an island near Morocco, between Egypt and Tangiers."
Beyond Eguala the route passes through one or two fine mountain valleys, and from time to time comes upon pieces of wide road. Wherever cutting on a mountain side has been necessary, it has been done well, and as a commencement of a carriage road to Acapulco, which has long been talked of, and ought long since to have been made. At one village I had to dismount, pay a reale as toll, and write my name in a book; a ticket being given me in exchange, and asked for a few leagues further on. Presently I reached the Rio d'Amacusac, apparently a sluggish stream, except where I forded it, for by this time the country again consists of plains and low hills; there is a little town and church on the river side, and of the same name. A league beyond passed by the Sienda di S. Gabriel, a fine monastery and church,
surrounded by beautiful gardens, with cocoa-trees and other tropical productions that are exotics here; bright streams of water pass through and along the walls, and the plain all around is irrigated by means of little channels. Another league brought me to Ixtla, a town known as Puente d'Ixtla, or the Bridge of Ixtla, the first of any kind from the Pacific coast. My host here was a troublesome fellow. Unluckily I had let out the name California, a magic spell wherever you go. Growing sleepy, I put my haversack down as a pillow; but I was from California; of course it had "oro" in it; my host, no doubt, sat watching it the whole time I slept. At the first opportunity, he lifted it: Heavens! what a weight! it was oro, then; his eyes glistened; alas! nothing but some bullets and a heavy bullet-mold. He felt my saddle; evidently would have liked to have felt me; and though finding no trace of oro, retained to the last an undiminished belief that I had quantities of it somewhere. He tried hard to stick a horse, or saddle, or spurs into me at a long price; and failing that, his own company, the least acceptable of all, and as a protection against ladrones. The last offer had a dishonest look; yet, sooth to say, I do believe the man had no idea of robbing me, or he could have knocked me on the head when asleep, but California and the idea of" oro" had fascinated him. The good people of Ixtla, like those of Eguala, assured me there was no danger of robbers for another twelve leagues beyond Cuernavaca and so all through the country the terrible "muchos ladrones" have always been thirty miles or more ahead, and I could never manage to make up the distance. However, Cuernavaca was the end of my solitary ride; a quaint old town, and a stern, gloomy-looking old town, with its gray cathedral church and frowning towers; but high as it is, all the tropical vegetation seems to flourish there, clinging like a young wife around a grim old husband. I sold my horse and saddle for what they would fetch off-hand, and at three in the morning rattled away in the diligencia for that bourne of my expectations, the far-famous Méjico.
CLEVERNESS, says Margaret Percival, is like good-nature, a point always brought forward when there are others which it is desirable to keep in the back ground.