Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

belonged. had beer lying in his hands for the sale of all land in the vici: Ex-g within certain limits; but there were no purchasers, and no sales were ever made. Upon inquiry I learned that this order, in its terms, embraced the ground occupied by the ruined city. No exception whatever was made in favour of it. He showed me the order, which was imperative; and he said that if any exception was intended, it would have been so expressed; wherefore he considered himself bound to receive an offer for any portion of the land. The sale was directed to be by appraisement, the applicant to name one man, the prefect another, and, if necessary, they two to name a third; and the application, with the price fixed and the boundaries, was to be sent to Ciudad Real for the approval of the governor and a deed. The tract containing the ruins consisted of about six thousand acres of good land, which, according to the usual appraisement, would cost about fifteen hundred dollars, and the prefect said that it would not be valued a cent higher on account of the ruins. I resolved inmediately to buy it. I would fit up the palace and repeople the old city of Palenque. But there was one difficulty: by the laws of Mexico no stranger can purchase lands unless married to a hija del pais, or daughter of the country. This, by-the-way, is a grand stroke of policy, holding up the most powerful attraction of the country to seduce men from their natural allegiance, and radicate them in the soil; and it is taking them where weak and vulnerable; for, when wandering in strange countries, alone and friendless, buffeted and battered, with no one to care for him, there are moments when a lovely woman might root the stranger to any spot on earth. On principle I always resisted

[ocr errors]

such tendencies, but I never before found it to my interest to give way. The ruined city of Palenque was a most desirable piece of property. The case was embarrassing and complicated. Society in Palenque was small; the oldest young lady was not more than fourteen, and the prettiest woman, who already had contributed most to our happiness (she made our cigars), was already married. The house containing the two tablets belonged to a widow lady and a single sister, good-looking, amiable, and both about forty. The house was one of the neatest in the place. I always liked to visit it, and had before thought that, if passing a year at the ruins, it would be delightful to have this house in the village for recreation and occasional visits. With either of these ladies would come possession of the house and the two stone tablets; but the difficulty was that there were two of them, both equally interesting and equally interested. I am particular in mentioning these little circumstances, to show the difficulties that attended every step of our enterprise in that country. There was an alternative, and that was to purchase in the name of some other person; but I did not know any one I could trust. At length, however, I hit upon Mr. Russell, the American consul at Laguna, who was married to a Spanish lady, and already had large possessions in the country; and I arranged with the prefect to make the purchase in his name. Pawling was to accompany me to the Laguna, for the purpose of procuring and carrying back evidence of Mr. Russell's co-operation and the necessary funds, and was to act as my agent in completing the purchase. The prefect was personally anxious to complete it. The buildings, he said, were fast going to decay, and in a few years more would be mounds of ruins. In that country they were not appreciated or understood, and he had the liberal wish that the tablets of hieroglyphics particularly might find their way to other countries, be inspected and studied by scientific men, and their origin and history be ascertained. Besides, he had an idea that immense discoveries were still to be made and treasures found, and he was anxious for a thorough exploration, in which he should himself co-operate. The two tablets which I had attempted to purchase were highly prized by the owners, but he thought they could be secured by purchasing the house, and I authorized him to buy it at a fixed price. In my many conversations with the prefect I had broached the subject of making casts from the tablets. Like every other official whom I met, he supposed that I was acting under a commission from my government, which idea was sustained by having in my employ a man of such character and appearance as Pawling, though every time I put my hand in my pocket I had a feeling sense that the case was far otherwise. In the matter of casts he offered every assistance, but there was no plaster of Paris nearer than the Laguna or Campeachy, and perhaps not there. We had made an experiment at the ruins by catching in the river a large quantity of snails and burning the shells, but it did not answer. He referred us to some limestone in the neighbourhood, but this would not do. Pawling knew nothing of casting. The idea had never entered his mind before, but he was willing to undertake this. Mr. Catherwood, who had been shut up in Athens during the Greek Revolution, when it was besieged by the Turks, and in pursuing his artistical studies had perforce made castings with his own hands, gave him written instructions, and it was agreed that when he returned with the creden

[ocr errors]

tials from Mr. Russell he should bring back plaster of Paris, and, while the proceedings for completing the purchase were pending, should occupy himself in this new branch of business. On the fourth of June we took our final departure from Palenque. Don Santiago sent me a farewell letter, enclosing, according to the custom of the country, a piece of silk, the meaning of which I did not understand, but learned that it was meant as a pledge of friendship, which I reciprocated with a penknife. The prefect was kind and courteous to the last; even the old alcalde, drawing a little daily revenue from us, was touched. Every male inhabitant came to the house to bid us farewell and wish us to return; and before starting we rode round and exchanged adios with all their wives: good, kind, and quiet people, free from ali agitating cares, and aiming only at an undisturbed existence in a place which I had been induced to believe the abode of savages and full of danger. In order to accompany us, the cura had postponed for two days a visit to his hacienda, which lay on our road. Pawling continued with us for the purpose before mentioned, and Juan according to contract. I had agreed to return him to Guatimala. Completely among strangers, he was absolutely in our power, and followed blindly, but with great misgivings asked the padre where we were taking him. His impression was that he was setting out for my country, and he had but little hope of ever seeing Guatimala again. From the village we entered immediately upon a beautiful plain, picturesque, ornamented with trees, and extending five or six days’ journey to the Gulf of Mexico. The road was very muddy, but, open to the sun in the morning, was not so bad as we feared. On the roots ai = niece of woodland were singular trees, vii; : iii. Fuli, in park very smooth, and the branch= islanner viii. hanging ords'-nests. The bird was --lier in: jagua and ful... it this tree, as the padre told is to n-e-en: so-Peils for se::ing at the young. The cari, novizistanding his stranse figure, and a life of incuen, and danger, was alriest a woman in voice, manner issues, and jeeirss. He had been educated a the rania, and sen; as a penance to this retired cuTaro. The visc of the paires had for the first time tooser the monotors of is lie. In the political convusants of the capital he had made himself obnoxious to the churst government is his liberal opinions; but untos. ss is sold in ind in to any tangible offence, his suno-urs had railed him up on a charge of polluting ust surnist, launded on the circumstance that, in the

time a the chale-i- when his is low-creatures were ly- .

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« FöregåendeFortsätt »