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stature. They were, nevertheless, held in high veneration and affection by the whole Iximayan community, probably as living specimens of an antique race nearly extinct. Their position as an order of priesthood, it is now known, had not been higher for many ages, if ever, than that of religious mimes and bacchanals, in a certain class of pagan ceremonies, highly popular with the multitude. This, indeed, is evident from their characteristics in the sculptures. Their ancient college, or hospital, otherwise vacant and forlorn, was now chiefly occupied by a much higher order of priests, called Mayaboons, who were their legal and sacerdotal guardians. With a Yachin, one of the junior brethren of this order, named Vaalpeor, a young man of superior intellect and attainments, Velasquez soon cultivated a friendly and confidential acquaintance, which proved reciprocal and faithful. And
respecting this unknown city and people, the ear of this young pagan priest was as eagerly imbibing, from the lips of Velasquez, a similar knowledge of the world at large, to him equally new and enchanting. If Huertis had toiled so severely, and hazarded
ledge of this one city and people, it soon became clear to the penetrating mind of Velasquez, that Vaalpeor possessed enough both of mental ambition and personal energy to incur equal toil and risk to learn the wonders of the cities and races of the greater nations of mankind. Indeed, this desire evidently glowed in his breast with a consuming fever; and when Velasquez, after due observation, proposed the liberation of the whole expedition, with Vaalpeor himself as its protected companion, the now consciously imprisoned pagan, horror-stricken at first, regarded the proposition complacently, and, finally, with a degree of delight, regardless of consequences. It was, however, mutually agreed that the design should be kept secret from Huertis, until ripe for success. A serious obstacle existed in his plighted guardianship of the Kaana children, whom he could abandon only with his life ; but even this was not deemed insurmountable.
In the mean time, Huertis, to facilitate his own objects, had prevailed upon his entire party to conform in dress and habits with the community in which they lived. The city was surrounded on all sides by a lofty colonnade, sustaining the upper esplanade of the city walls, and forming a broad, covered walk beneath, in which the population could promenade, sheltered from sun and shower. In these places of general resort, the new citizens appeared daily, until they had become familiarly known to the greater part of the many thousand inhabitants of the city. Huertis, moreover, had formed domestic and social connections; was the welcome guest of families of the highest rank, who were fascinated with the information he afforded them of the external world ; had made tacit converts to liberty of many influential persons; had visited each of the four grand temples which stood
in the centre of the several quadrangular divisions of the city, and externally conformed to their idolatrous worship. He had even been admitted into some of the most sacred mysteries of these temples, while Velasquez, more retired, and avowedly more scrupulous, was content to receive the knowledge thus acquired, in long conversations by the sick couch of poor Hammond, now rapidly declining to the grave.
Mr. Hammond's dreadful wound had but partially healed in the course of several months; his constitution was exhausted, and he was dying of remittent fever and debility. His chief regret was that he could not assist his friend Huertis in his researches and drawings, and determine the place of the city by astronomical observations, which his friends were unable to take. The day before he died, he was visited by some of the medical priesthood, who, on seeing numerous light spots upon his skin, where the preparation with which he had stained it had disappeared, they pronounced him a leper, and ordered that all intercourse with the building should be suspended. No explanation would convince them to the contrary, and his death confirmed them in their opinion. Availing himself of this opportunity, and under the plea that it was important to their safety, Vaalpeor removed the two orphan children in his charge to one of the country temples in the plain, and the idle mules of the strangers were employed to carry tents, couches, and other bulky requisites for an unprovided rural residence. It may be added, that he included among them much of the baggage of his new friends, with the greater part of their rifles and ammunition. In the mean time, Huertis, Velasquez, and about half of their party were closely confined to the part of the edifice assigned for their occupation. Their friend Hammond had been interred without the walls, in a field appropriated to lepers by the civic, authorities. Huertis was now informed of the plan of escape, but was not ready ; he had more drawings to make, and many curiosities to collect. The interdicted period of nine days having expired, the young priest, who had free access to the city at all times, again appeared at their abode, and urged an early retreat, as the return of the orphan children would soon be required. But Huertis was abroad in the city, and could not be consulted. He remained absent all the day, and did not return to his apartments at night. It was so all the next day and night, and Velasquez was deeply alarmed. On searching his rooms for his papers, drawings and instruments, for secret transmittal into the country, he found them all removed, including those of Mr. Hammond. which were among them. It was then vainly hoped that he had effected his escape with all his treasures, but his Indians knew nothing of the matter.
Shortly after this discovery, Vaalpcor arrived with this explanation. Huertis had made a confidant of his intended flight, whom he idly hoped would accompany it, and she betrayed him. His offense, under his voluntary vows, and his initiation in the
sacred mysteries, was unpardonable, and his fate could not be doubted. Indeed, the trembling priest at length admitted that he had been sacrificed in due form upon the high altar of the sun, and that he himself had beheld the fatal ceremony. Huertis, however, had implicated none of his associates, and there was yet à chance of escape. To pass the gates was impossible ; but the wall might be descended in the night by ropes, and to swim the moat was easy. This was effected by Velasquez and fifteen of his party the same night; the rest either did not make the attempt or failed, and the faithful Antonio was among them. The fugitives had scarcely reached the secluded retreat of Vaalpeor and mounted their mules, before the low yelp of bloodhounds was heard upon their trail, and soon burst into full cry. But the dogs were somewhat confused by the scent of so many footsteps on the spot at which the party mounted, and did not follow the mules until the horsemen led the way. This afforded time for the fugitives, racing their swift mules at full speed, to reach the opening of the valley, when Velasquez wheeled and halted, for the pursuers were close at hand. A conflict ensued, in which many of the horsemen were slain, and the young kaana received an accidental wound, of which he retains the scar. It must suffice to say, that the party eventually secured their retreat without loss of life; and by break of day they were on a mountainous ridge many leagues from Iximaya. In about fourteen days, they reached Ocosingo, after great suffering. Here Velasquez reluctantly parted with most of his faithful Indians, and here also died Vaalpeor, from the unaccustomed toil and deprivations of the journey. Velasquez, with the two Aztec Children, did not reach San Salvador until the middle of February, when they became objects of the highest interest to the most intellectual classes of that city. As the greatest ethnological curiosities in living form that ever appeared among civilized men, he was advised to send them to Europe for exhibition.
Such is the marvelous stery detailed by Velasquez. Containing all the elements which can well stimulate curiosity, it also lays claim to a credence which further inquiry must either substantiate or withdraw. The Aztec Children stand independently as the most wonderful members of the human race, whatever their origin and descent; yet, at the same time, all testimony professing to throw light on this is worthy of calm and considerate attention. To view these children is less to inquire whence they came, than to regard them as they are; to watch the progressive dawn of intelligence, and continually stronger development of individual characteristics. To see them is an event in the life of the beholder, which will never be forgotten. Were they deformities, without proper lineage or name, excrescences, or mere freaks of nature, their history would little merit the inquiry or examination now courted. They are here--the descendants of a people who probably passed over to the American continent at a period too remote to be ascertained, members of a race kept preserved in rocky fastnesses, and now discovered on the eve of physical decline and disappearance. The learned world—those interested in philosophical pursuits, and the countless crowd who would find entertaining and rational amusement, have the opportunity of witnessing what will afford material for information, reflection, and enjoyment; for, while a thousand new inventions, of a startling character, are annually brought before the public mind, and not only their existence admitted, but their practical utility demonstrated, and in an age when, with all its enlightenment, the credulity of mankind stretches even beyond the boundary of the material world, and seeks to make itself familiar with the unfathomable nature of spiritual existences, a phenomenon in ethnology, combining all the fact of the former with the singularity of the latter, must prove of intense and startling interest.
The discovery of the new world has been followed by a series of revelations in natural history, which have increased the earth's volume of wonders to a vast extent. The geographical features of the two Americas furnish a panorama of pictures which, for
From where the silver sea of Lake Superior opens its broad mirror of bright waters in a dark northern forest hard by the regions of snow, to where the mighty Mississippi creeps on from a shining thread or skein of water, until, in three thousand miles' journey, it swells the Gulf of Mexico, both continents, on to where the Amazon leaps from the Andes and sweeps through the equatorial valley four thousand miles to the sea, all is full of the most romantic interest.
That description which, elsewhere, would be mere grandiloquence and hyperbole, in this region runs no fear of being exaggerated into an overdrawn or widely-stretched picture. Within the tropics of this western world, the lands are rich in vestiges of a civilization which bears a parallel of comparison with the classic grounds of Memphis, Thebes, Baalbec, and Nineveh ; and could each monument, which now stands a moss-covered sphinx, be read through its hieroglyphics, we should have, doubtless, a history of empire as varied and remarkable as that which has made Greece and Rome the Mecca of all pilgrims of antiquarian lore. But, a las ! no patient inquirer has found a Rosetta Stone as a key to unlock their mysteries, and more sad than all are the ruthless acts by which blind and bigoted fanaticism has annihilated the written record and fractured history of mighty and wonderful nations, the evidence of whose greatness still exists in the marble monuments and wrecks of great cities, which even the iron hand of Time has not been able to obliterate. But the outrage of the Caliph Omar, who fired the Alexandrian library, or the Goths, Vandals, and Huns, who sacked, pillaged, and overran Rome, is palliated by the fact that their barbarity could not destroy all the historic lore and treasures of art in the realms which they devastated
But what shall be said of those who, professing to follow the precepts of our holy Christian religion, madly fell to work to exterminate not only the race of men who filled the western world, but forever sealed in oblivion the unoffending archives of their history? How must every scholar and liberal mind detest the deplorable madness which urged the insane zealot Zumarraga to gather the thousand glorious volumes and endless scrolls of illuminated maps which contained every portion of Aztec history, and make of them one huge funeral pyre, in the great square of Mexico, by the temple of Mexitli, as an offering to the blind spirit of superstition.
What shall we say of the destruction of the MSS. in 830 pages, gathered by that glorious, liberal-hearted Christian priest, Bartolomé Las Casas (first bishop of Chiapas), which Ramesal put in the library of the Dominicans at Valladolid ; and also “ À General History of America,” in three volumes, folio, in the library of the Count Villambrosa, in Madrid, where Sinelo saw it, as he affirms in his “ Bibliotheca Occidentali,” together with two volumes which he saw in the celebrated archives of Simaneas, which have been the sepulchre of so many precious manuscripts on America.
Or what can ever compensate for the injustice done to that elegant scholar, Lorenzo Loturini Bennæducci, of Milan, whose eight years of industry and diligent research gave him numerous select and invaluable MSS. of the Aztecs ; and whose museum of curiosities was only equaled by that of the learned Carlos de Siguenza y Gongora, and who, like him, through the excessive jealousy of the Spanish government, was stripped of all his literary estate, and sent to Spain, upon some pseudo religious charge, of which he was acquitted ; but, sad to say, the force of fanaticism had swallowed up all his lạbors in his absence, and his mass of MSS. was gone forever. Such a gap made in these national records caused the skeptical Abbé Raynal to say, afterwards : “Nothing are we permitted to affirm, except that the Mexican empire was governed by Montezuma, at the time that the Spaniards landed on the Mexican coast”-to which the celebrated native Mexican priest, Abbe de Francesco Saverio Clavigero well replies, “Why not doubt the existence of Montezuma ??? If we are permitted to affirm this as ascertained by the testimony of the Spaniards who saw that king, we feel the attestation of the same Spaniards to a vast many other things belonging to the ancient history of Mexico, which were seen by them and confirmed by the depositions of the Indians themselves. Such particulars, therefore, may be affirmed as positively as the existence of Montezuma, or ought we also to entertain a doubt of that? If there is reason, however, to doubt all the ancient history of Mexico, the antiquity of most other nations would come in question, for it is not easy to find another nation, the events of which have been confirmed by a greater number of historians than those of the Mexicans, nor do we know that any people ever published so severe a law against false historians as that of the Acolhuas.