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A VOICE FROM THE RUINS. 325
A Voice from the Ruins.—Buying Bread.—Arrival of Padres.—Cura of Palenque. —Card Playing.—Sunday.—Mass.—A Dinner Party.—Mementoes of Home.— Dinner Customs.—Return to the Ruins.—A marked Change.—Terrific Thun der.—A Whirlwind.—A Scene of the Sublime and Terrible.
The third day I heard from the ruins a voice of wailing. Juan had upset the lard, and every drop was gone. The imploring letter I received roused all my sensibilities; and, forgetting everything in the emergency, I hurried to the alcalde's, and told him a hog must die. The alcalde made difficulties, and to this day I cannot account for his concealing from me a fact of which he must have been aware, to wit, that on that very night a porker had been killed. Very early the next morning I saw a boy passing with some strings of fresh pork, hailed him, and he guided me to a hut in the suburbs, but yesterday the dwelling of the unfortunate quadruped. I procured the portion of some honest Palenquian, and returned, happy in the consciousness of making others so. That day was memorable, too, for another piece of good fortune; for a courier arrived from Ciudad Real with despatches for Tobasco, and a back-load of bread on private account. As soon as the intelligence reached me, I despatched a messenger to negotiate for the whole stock. Unfortunately, it was sweetened, made up into diamonds, circles, and other fanciful forms, about two inches long and an inch thick, to be eaten with chocolate, and that detestable lard was oozing out of the crust. Nevertheless, it was bread; and placing it carefully on a table, with a fresh cheese, the product of our cow, I lay down at night full of the joy that morning would diffuse over the ruins of Palenque; but, alas! all human calculations are vain. In my first sleep I was roused by a severe clap of thunder, and detected an enormous cat on the table. While my boot was sailing toward her, with one bound she reached the wall and disappeared under the eaves of the roof. I fell asleep again; she returned, and the consequences were fatal.
The padres were slow in movement, and after keeping the village in a state of excitement for three days, this morning they made a triumphal entry, escorted by citizens, and with a train of more than a hundred Indians, carrying hammocks, chairs, and luggage. The villages of Tumbala and San Pedro had turned out two or three hundred strong, and carried them on their backs and shoulders to Nopa, where they were met by a deputation from Palenque, and transferred to the village. It is a glorious thing in that country to be a padre, and next to being a padre one's self is the position of being a padre's friend. In the afternoon I visited them, but after the fatigues of the journey they were all asleep, and the Indians around the door were talking in low tones so as not to disturb them. Inside were enormous piles of luggage, which showed the prudent care the good ecclesiastics took of themselves. The siesta over, very soon they appeared, one after the other, in dresses, or rather undresses, difficult to describe, but certainly by no means clerical; neither of them had coat or jacket. Two of them were the curas of Tumbala and Ayalon, whom we had seen on our journey. The third was a Franciscan friar from Ciudad Real, and they had come expressly to visit the ruins. All had suffered severely
A BUSY PRIEST. 327
from the journey. The cura of Ayalon was a deputy to Congress, and in Mexico many inquiries had been made of him about the ruins, on the supposition that they were in his neighbourhood, which erroneous supposition he mentioned with a feeling reference to the intervening mountains. The padre of Tumbala was a promising young man of twenty-eight, and weighed at that time about twelve stone, or two hundred and forty pounds: a heavy load to carry about with him over such roads as they had traversed; but the Dominican friar suffered most, and he sat sideways in a hammock, with his vest open, wiping the perspiration from his breast. They were all intelligent men, and, in fact, the circumstance of their making the journey for no other purpose than to visit the ruins was alone an indication of their superior character. The Congressman we had seen on our way through his village, and then were struck with his general knowledge, and particularly with his force of character. He had borne an active part in all the convulsions of the country from the time of the revolution against Spain, of which he had been an instigator, and ever since, to the scandal of the Church party, stood forth as a Liberal; he had played the soldier as well as priest, laying down his bloodstained sword after a battle to confess the wounded and dying; twice wounded, once chronicled among the killed, an exile in Guatimala, and with the gradual recovery of the Liberal party restored to his place and sent as a deputy to Congress, where very soon he was to take part in new convulsions. They were all startled by the stories of moschetoes, insects, and reptiles at the ruins, and particularly by what they had heard of the condition of my foot.
While we were taking chocolate the cura of Palcnque entered. At the time of our first arrival he was absent at another village under his charge, and I had not seen him before. He was more original in his appearance than either of the others, being very tall, with long black hair, an Indian face and complexion, and certainly four fifths Indian blood. Indeed, if I had seen him in In dian costume, and what that is the reader by this time understands, I should have taken him for a "puro," 01 Indian of unmixed descent. His dress was as uncler- ical as his appearance, consisting of an old straw hat, with the rim turned up before, behind, and at the sides, so as to make four regular corners, with a broad blue velvet riband for a hatband, both soiled by long exposure to wind and rain. Beneath this were a check shirt, an old blue silk neckcloth with yellow stripes, a striped roundabout jacket, black waistcoat, and pantaloons made of bedticking, not meeting the waistcoat by two inches, the whole tall figure ending below in yellow buckskin shoes. But under this outre appearance existed a charming simplicity and courtesy of manner, and when he spoke his face beamed with kindness. The reception given him showed the good feeling existing among the padres; and after some general conversation, the chocolate cups were removed, and one of the padres went to his chest, whence he produced a pack of cards, which he placed upon the table. He said that he always carried them with him, and it was very pleasant to travel with companions, as, wherever they stopped, they could have a game at night. The cards had evidently done much service, and there was something orderly and systematic in the preliminary arrangements, that showed the effect of regular habits and a well-trained household. An old Indian servant laid on the table a handful of grains of corn and a new bundle of
CARD PLAYING. 329
paper cigars. The grains of corn were valued at a medio. I declined joining in the game, whereupon one of the reverend fathers kept aloof to entertain me, and the other three sat down to Mont6, still taking part in the conversation. Very soon they became abstracted, and I left them playing as earnestly as if the souls of unconverted Indians were at stake. I had often heard the ill-natured remark of foreigners, that two padres cannot meet in that country without playing cards, but it was the first time I had seen its verification; perhaps (I feel guilty in saying so) because, except on public occasions, it was the first time I had ever seen two padres together. Before I left them the padres invited me to dine with them the next day, and on returning to my own quarters I found that Don Santiago, the gentleman who gave them the dinner, and, next to the prefect, the principal inhabitant, had called upon me with a like invitation, which I need not say I accepted.
The next day was Sunday; the storm of the night had rolled away, the air was soft and balmy, the grass was green, and, not being obliged to travel, I felt what the natives aver, that the mornings of the rainy season were the finest in the year. It was a great day for the little church at Palenque. The four padres were there, all in their gowns and surplices, all assisted in the ceremonies, and the Indians from every hut in the village went to mass. This over, all retired, and in a few minutes the village was as quiet as ewer.
At' twelve o'clock I went to the house of Don Santiago to dine. The three stranger padres were there, and most of the guests were assembled. Don Santiago, the richest man in Palenque, and the most extensive merchant, re ceived us in his tienda or store, which was merely a few shelves with a counter before them in one corner, and his
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