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HOUSE OF THE NUNS.
the victor as their new gobernador. The old woman then died; but at the Indian village of Mani, seventeen leagues distant, there is a deep well, from which opens a cave that leads under ground an immense distance to Merida. In this cave, on the bank of a stream, under the shade of a large tree, sits an old woman with a ser. pent by her side, who sells water in small quantities, not for money, but only for a criatura or baby to give the serpent to eat; and this old woman is the mother of the dwarf. Such is the fanciful legend connected with this edifice; but it hardly seemed more strange than the structure to which it referred.
The other building indicated in the plate is called by a name which may originally have had some reference to the vestals who in Mexico were employed to keep burning the sacred fire; but I believe in the mouths of the Indians of Uxmal it has no reference whatever to history, tradition, or legend, but is derived entirely from Spanish associations. It is called Casa de las Monjas, or House of the Nuns, or the Convent. It is situated on an artificial elevation about fifteen feet high. Its form is quadrangular, and one side, according to my measurement, is ninety-five paces in length. It was not possible to pace all around it, from the masses of fallen stones which encumber it in some places, but it may be safely stated at two hundred and fifty feet square. Like the house of the dwarf, it is built entirely of cut stone, and the whole exterior is filled with the same rich, elaborate, and incomprehensible sculptured ornaments.
The principal entrance is by a large doorway into a beautiful patio or courtyard, grass-grown, but clear of trees, and the whole of the inner façade is ornamented more richly and elaborately than the outside, and in a
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more perfect state of preservation. On one side the combination was in the form of diamonds, simple, chaste, and tasteful; and at the head of the courtyard two gigantic serpents, with their heads broken and fallen, were winding from opposite directions along the whole façade.
In front, and on a line with the door of the convent, is another building, on a lower foundation, of the same general character, called Casa de Tortugas, from sculptured turtles over the doorway. This building had in several places huge cracks, as if it had been shaken by an earthquake. It stands nearly in the centre of the ruins, and the top commands a view all round of singular but wrecked magnificence.
Beyond this, a little to the right, approached by passing over mounds of ruins, was another building, which at a great distance attracted our attention by its conspicuous ornaments. We reached it by ascending two high terraces. The main building was similar to the others, and along the top ran a high ornamented wall in this
form, from which it was called Casa de Palomos, or House of Pigeons, and at a distance it looked more like a row of pigeon-houses than anything else. · In front was a broad avenue, with a line of ruins on each side, leading beyond the wall of the convent to a great mound of ruins, which probably had once been a building with which it was connected ; and beyond this is a lofty building in the rear, to which this seemed but a vestibule or porter's lodge. Between the two was a large patio or courtyard, with corridors on each side,
ABSENCE OF WATER.
and the ground of the courtyard sounded hollow. In one place the surface was broken, and I descended into a large excavation, cemented, which had probably been intended as a granary. At the back of the courtyard, on a high, broken terrace, which it was difficult to climb, was another edifice more ruined than the others, but which, from the style of its remains and its commanding position, overlooking every other building except the house of the dwarf, and apparently having been connected with the distant mass of ruins in front, must have been one of the most important in the city, perhaps the principal temple. The Indians called it the quartel or guard-house. It commanded a view of other ruins not contained in the enumeration of those seen from the house of the dwarf; and the whole presented a scene of barbaric magnificence, utterly confounding all previous notions in regard to the aboriginal inhabitants of this country, and calling up emotions which had not been wakened to the same extent by anything we had yet seen.
There was one strange circumstance connected with these ruins. No water had ever been discovered ; and there was not a single stream, fountain, or well, known to the Indians, nearer than the hacienda, a mile and a half distant. The sources which supplied this element of life had disappeared; the cisterns were broken, or the streams dried up. This, as we afterward learned from Don Simon, was an object of great interest to him, and made him particularly anxious for a thorough ex. ploration of the ruins. He supposed that the face of the country had not changed, and that somewhere under ground must exist great wells, cisterns, or reservoirs, which supplied the former inhabitants of the city with water. The discovery of these wells or reservoirs would, in that region, be like finding a fountain in the desert, or, more poetically, like finding money. The supply of water would be boundless. Luneros without number might draw from it, and the old city be repeopled without any new expense for wells or tanks.
While I was making the circuit of these ruins, Mr. Catherwood proceeded to the Casa del Gobernador, which title, according to the naming of the Indians, indi. cates the principal building of the old city, the residence of the governor, or royal house. It is the grandest in position, the most stately in architecture and proportions, and the most perfect in preservation of all the structures remaining at Uxmal.
The plate opposite represents the ground-plan, with the three ranges of terraces on which it stands. The first terrace is six hundred feet long and five feet high. It is walled with cut stone, and on the top is a platform twenty feet broad, from which rises another terrace fif. teen feet high. At the corners this terrace is supported by cut stones, having the faces rounded so as to give a better finish than with sharp angles. The great platform above is flat and clear of trees, but abounding in green stumps of the forest but lately cleared away, and now planted, or, rather, from its irregularity, sown with corn, which as yet rose barely a foot from the ground. At the southeast corner of this platform is a row of round pillars eighteen inches in diameter and three or four feet high, extending about one hundred feet along the platform; and these were the nearest approach to pillars or columns that we saw in all our exploration of the ruins of that country. In the middle of the terrace, along an avenue leading to a range of steps, was a broken, round pillar, inclined and falling, with trees growing around it. It was part of our purpose to make an