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Anahuac by Edward Burnett Tylor

Part 4 out of 6

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was the title of the chief priest among the Aztecs, whose duty it was
to cut open the breasts of the human victims and tear out their hearts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHAPTER VIII.

COCOYOTLA. CACAHUAMILPAN. CHALMA. OCULAN. TENANCINGO. TOLUCA.

[Illustration: IXTCALCO CHURCH.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHAPTER IX.

ANTIQUITIES. PRISON. SPORTS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHAPTER X.

TEZCUCO. MIRAFLORES. POPOCATEPETL. CHOLULA.

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

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

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

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

Which may be translated into verse of equal quality,

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

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

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

We saw some good things in a small collection of antiquities, on this
second visit to Tezcuco. Among them was a nude female figure in
alabaster, four or five feet high, and--comparatively speaking--of high
artistic merit. Such figures are not common in Mexico, and they are

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