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VAGABOND LIFE IN MEXICO.
The imagination prevails over the mercial affairs. Whatever faults may real, at least in appearance, in most be found in his books, he cannot be French narratives of travelling ad- set down as one of those confident and ventnres. We refer not, of course, superficial gentlemen who gallop to the grave works of professional or through a country, and then write of scientific travellers, but to volumes of it with as much assurance as if they the class of that before us, the literary bad passed their lives within its offspring of a casual rambler. The limits. He somewhere incidentally French are a gay, a fanciful, and a mentions that he was upwards of decorative people, and these qualities seven years in Mexico. A taste for are seldom better exhibited than when adventure, and for the study of pathey take up the pen to tell of the tional peculiarities, induced bim to perils they have run and the strange extend his wanderings farther than sights they have seen in lands not yet his business rendered necessary. The known to the million. Without ex first results of his observations apceeding the limits of the probable-or peared, some years ago, in a wellat least of the possible—they lay on known French review; and although a romantic varnish, and fill up, from their literary merit was not great, the stores of their imagination, gaps they pleased by their freshness and which, if left, might unpleasantly originality. The sketches before us strike the eye. We could adduce, have the appearance of having also from memory, the titles of a score of been published, wholly or in part, in books- some of which have been the pages of a periodical. They are noticed in these pages that are now first collected in a volume, which exact specimens of the class we speak consists of studies and ramblesof. We may not accept such works studies of life in Mexico's capital, as guide-books, but we gladly resort rambles in its forests, ravines, mining to them as a pastime. Nor can we districts, adventures on its coasts and deny that we reap profit as well as high-roads. The nine sketches of amusement from their perusal, when which the book is composed are long residence in the country has en- slightly connected by the reappearabled their authors to interweave with ance at intervals of some of the perfiction, or with embellished facts, sonages. The author was indefatigcurious and instructive details of dis able in his pursuit of the characteristic tant lands, and of nations of which and the picturesque. And it is to his little is known.
credit that he does not abuse the For observant and intelligent tra- latter. The wonderful scenery and vellers, Mexico is still a land of pro- gorgeous climate of Mexico tempt mise, an inexhaustible theme. Nume- him occasionally to a page of descriprous as are the books that have been tion, but he deals more with man than written concerning it, its stores of with inanimate nature, and presents interest are yet evidently far from us with many portraits, evidently exhausted. Able pens, both in Eng- taken from life. We may venture a land and Germany, have busied them- doubt whether he himself was present selves with that wild and magnificent at all the fights, fandangos, bloody country, and its strange semi-Spanish, encounters, and narrow escapes he semi-Iodian population. France has writes of, but we feel convinced he been less forward in the field, but has seen and known the characters he still makes a good appearance. Mon- depicts. It is impossible to congratusieur Bellamare, better known under late him on his associates. He seems his literary pseudonyme of Gabriel to have made acquaintance with half Ferry,was long a resident in Mexico— the miscreants in Mexico, and it must detained there, we believe, by com have been by a miracle that be escaped
Scènes de la Vie Mexicaine. Par LOUIS DE BELLAMARE. Paris : 1855.
death from a rifle bullet or machete bim alike indifferent. Superstitious, stab. The country that Montezuma but without true religion, sure of abruled and Cortes conquered is now, solution from his priest, who stands according to M. Bellamare, the para- scarcely a step higher than himself in dise of robbers. From the petty- the scale of civilisation and intellect, larceny rogue to the daring bighway, he scruples little to barter his ready man, who makes a swoop at a convoy steel for the gold that will enable him of dollars, and shrinks not from a to wallow for a short time in sensual combat with its escort, every variety gratifications, and to court fortune at of the craft thrives in Mexico. On the monté table. For he is the most the great square of the capital, when, inveterate of gamesters. M. Bellaat the last stroke of the angelus, the mare was taken by an acquaintance crowd begins to disperse, the robber of his, a sort of thieves' lawyer, to a issues forth with knife, sword, or Mexican hell of the lower sort, frelasso. His bour and his turn have quented by robbers, assassins, and come; and honest men, who have evil-doers of all kinds-a den worthy anything to lose, are cautious how to figure in the Mysteries of Mexico, they walk the streets when darkness were such a novel to be written. covers the earth. Daylight even is There they encountered a malefactor, not always protection. M. Bella- whose release from prison had just mare mentions instances of robbery been obtained by the lawyer's savoirand murder in open day, and in public faire, aided by the judge's venality. places. A Mexican newspaper, of The rescuer bestowed a dollar upon November 1845, published a com the rescued, to get him a supper, plaint, addressed to the Corporation, “ Pshaw!” replied the ruffian, “I on the subject of the robbers, who never hungry but when my carried on their trade at broad noon. pockets are empty. When I have a In Mexico, crimes, which in Euro- dollar, I play it." And he darted off pean countries would be talked of to the green table, where the banker for weeks, and furnish chapters for sat with a Catalan knife before him, the modern Causes Célèbres, occur pointed as a needle and keen as a almost unnoticed, and, most fre- razor, and warned the eager crowd quently, wholly unpunished. With that if any cavalier pretended to misthat disregard of human life which take the bank for his stake, he would seems inherent in Spanish races, the pin bis hand to the board. But the Mexican robber slays his victim that lawyer who led M. Bellamare to this he may plunder him more at his ease. reputable haunt is a character, and And private vengeance finds cheap worthy of observation. gratification. A stab is a small mat When in Mexico city, M. Bellater, and a few dollars are a fortune to mare had a debt to recover from a certhe Mexican lazzarone. Observe yon- tain Don Dionisio Peralta. The re-, der lepero, draped in a tattered cloak, covery was rendered particularly diffistretched upon the pavement, or slum- cult, by his being able to find no trace bering on a door-step, or strumming of his debtor, and by the repugnance his guitar in a shady nook. He has, of the Mexican lawyers to busy themperhaps, to use M. Bellamare's ex selves with the affair. He applied to pression, breakfasted on a sunbeam several, who all were willing enough and dined off a paper cigar, and still until they heard the name of the dehe is resigned, although he may not fendant, when they immediately found be exactly thankful. But although an excuse to decline. At last one of capable of philosophy, and needing them, more candid than his colleagues, little to support life, he has a taste confessed the true cause of their refor quarrelling and a passion for luctance. The Dionysius in question gambling, and from time to time he was as unscrupulous, and almost as loves to vary his habitual temperance dreaded, as his namesake the tyrant. by a furious bout of intoxication. He was in the habit of killing his creThe tempting sight of the spirit-shop, ditors instead of paying them. The where credit there is none for him, only man of law at all likely to underand the fragrant exhalations of al- take the business was the licentiate fresco frying-pans, do not always find Tadeo Cristobal, who, in the figurative
language of M. Bellamare's informant, researches is a long story, and not the had a hand of iron and a heart of rock. most interesting or agreeable part of But the licentiate was almost as hard the volume before us; but in the course to find as the debtor. He dwelt not of them he became initiated in the in snug chambers, with his name secrets of various bands of criminals; neatly painted on the door, but fre- and the services which his knowledge quented the queer resorts of those of the laws enabled him to render amongst whom he found his clients. them, gave him great influence amongst Atlast M.Bellamare bunted him up and those desperadoes. Some of the defrom him he derived much curious in- tails he furnished to M. Bellamare are formation concerning the dangerous highly curious, amongst others those classes of the Mexican population. concerning a band of robbers, known Don Tadeo was not at all the sort of as the ensebados (from sebo, tallow), man a thieves' lawyer usually is in who, during a whole year, kept the more civilised cities. Far from aim- inhabitants of Mexico's capital in a ing at respectability in his appearance, state of constant terror. The ensebahe was a wild-looking blade, from dos were men who at night stripped under whose ample cloak a long ra- themselves naked, rubbed themselves pier projected, and whose mane of with tallow or oil, and waylaid perhair was surmounted hy a tawny sons who passed late through the Spanish hat, bound with gold lace, streets, robbing and frequently stabHe was just such a lawyer, in short, bing them. Their anointed limbs and as might probably have been encoun- bodies could not be grasped ; slippery tered in Alsatia, in the days when as eels, they invariably escaped, and Nigel sought shelter there. He was long set at defiance all the efforts of of Seville, had studied at Salamanca, the police. and having killed a man in a duel, had The licentiate of Salamanca undercome to seek his fortune in the New took M. Bellamare's case, and after World, where his skill in fence was making him transfer the debt to himnot less useful to him than his know- self, managed so well, without recourse ledge of the law. He had been more to the tribunals, but by employing than ten years in Mexico, and a tra- certain dangerous agents of his own, gical event, that nearly concerned that, within a short time, he not only him, had first brought him into con- discovered the whereabouts of the tact with the banditti, thieves, and dreaded Dionysius, but intimidated gamblers, into whose haunts and habits him into giving up a house and some he gave M. Bellamare an insight. A land nearly equal in value to the creole lady, to whom he was to be amount due. The property was situmarried, was decoyed by a forged ated at the little village of Tacuba, letter to a lovely spot, and there stab- about a league from Mexico, and the bed for the sake of the jewels she wore. Frenchman and the licentiate rode Mexican justice is indolent and blun- out together to take possession. In dering. Don Tadeo was himself ar- presence of a number of ragged witrested on suspicion, and detained for nesses, with cut-throat physiognomies, months in prison ; but the real crimi- whom the prospect of largesses from nal was not discovered, and the judges the new proprietor quickly assembled declared it was impossible he ever in the weed-choked garden of Dionyshould be. The Spaniard, however, sias's country villa (a dilapidated was not to be discouraged. He ob- den with a rickety staircase), M. tained possession of the letter which had Bellamare was formally installed in led his intended wife into the snare, his new estate. "My lords cavaand, with this for bis only guide, he liers," quoth Pepito Rechifla (a sort devoted himself to the search for her of brigand, who had volunteered his assassin. Whilst practising his pro- escort to his friend the lawyer) to fession, he applied himself particularly the tawny tatterdemalions who stood to that branch of it which gave him gaping around, “ you are witnesses opportunities of interrogating robbers that, in the name of the law, his lordand murderers, and of visiting their ship bere present"-and Pepito point. lurking-places, and the taverns they ed to M. Bellamare-"takes regular frequented. How he succeeded in his possession of this estate. Dios y Libertad /” Instructed by the lawyer, whilst Cecilio, like a prudent man, M. Bellamare then plucked up a strapped his master's cloak to his sadhandful of herbs, which he threw over dle, put pistols in the holsters, brought his head, and tossed a stone over the out the lance M. Bellamare was wont garden wall. In the terms of the to carry when travelling, and provided Mexican law, that was taking posses, himself with a sabre and a well-filled sion.
valise. On being asked the motive of Although there are some striking such preparations for so short a ride, incidents and episodes in the first Cecilio, whose instinct did not deceive three sections of M. Bellamare's book, bim, replied that the environs of the scene of which is laid in or close Mexico were infested with robbers. to the city of Mexico, some of the It is six leagues to Cuantitlan. M. subsequent chapters, when he gets Bellamare hoped to overtake the traaway from the capital, are more at- vellers before they reached that place, tractive. The first that arrests atten- but his servant's horse was not so tion is an account of a singular ride, good as his own. On the road he met which he intended to terminate in au some muleteers, who had seen the afternoon, and which extended to up- iron-grey and the peach-blossom, and, wards of two hundred leagues, involv- on reaching Cuantitlan he had no ing him in a variety of hazardous ad difficulty in discovering at which inn ventures. One night, on going home the object of his pursuit had stopped. to his house in Mexico, he was in- Hurrying thither, he questioned the formed that a stranger had called for host. “Are your horses tired ?" was him, had said that he desired to see the Mexican's interrogative reply. him on a matter of life and death, but "No." “ All the better for you. The had refused to leave his name. He travellers you inquire for did but rehad happened to mention, however, fresh themselves, and you will need that he was stopping at an inn, known good horses to overtake them.” Half as the Meson de Regina, and had de- an hour, more or less, thought M. Belparted, expressing great annoyance at lamare, is no great matter. And he not finding him he sought, and pro- remounted and rode on. The aftermising to return the next day. Some- noon wore away, night came; he had thing strange in the man's manner, been six hours in the saddle, and still the many questions he asked, the care there were no signs of the stranger. with which he concealed his face with He would long before have given up his cloak, combined to give to this the pursuit, but obstinacy, and a disvisit a mysterious character that like to be baffled, had come to the aid acted strongly on M. Bellamare's ima- of curiosity. It was time, however, to gination. Expecting his nameless halt somewhere, for twelve leagues at visitor to return, he remained in-doors a brisk pace had rendered repose aball the next morning, and at last, solutely necessary for the horses. A tired of waiting, betook himself to light guided M. Bellamare to a solitary Regina's inn. In most countries there cottage. Two travellers, said the would have been little difficulty in owner, had passed half an hour before, discovering the stranger's name, but but the darkness had prevented his Mexican hosts are not of an inquiring distinguishing the colour of their turn of mind, and all that he could horses. It was impossible they could learn was, that the person he describ- go much farther without pausing to ed had set out, half an hour before, rest; by starting at day break he for Cuantitlan, and might easily be must certainly overtake them. Thus overtaken, that he rode an iron-grey reasoning, their pursuer determined to horse, and his servant a peach-blos- put up at the cottage. Unfortunately som. The colours were sufficiently Cecilio overslept himself, and the sun remarkable to serve as a sure guide; was up before they were again on the a ride before dinner could but be salu- trail. This was broad and plain tary and agreeable; M. Bellamare enough. At every rancho and cushurried home, and ordered his servant tomary halting-place the people had Cecilio to saddle his horses. Accord- seen the two horsemen, and everying to his custom, when going out of where the pursuers were told that the the city, he put on a Mexican costume, pursued could be but a little ahead. Cecilio, a sleek-faced youth, half hy. During the night passed at the hapocrite, half simpleton, who reminded cienda, M. Bellamare contrived, as his master of Ambrose de Lamela in usual, to get himself involved in an Gil Blas, was of an indolent turn, and adventure. He met with a young now completely lost heart. “The Spaniard, who was following the trace devil must possess them," he mourn- of a beautiful Mexican girl. The fully exclaimed, " or they must be two lady had arrived at the inn soon after great criminals, who dare not stop the Frenchman, in a carriage drawn anywhere!" Deaf to his servant's by eight mules, and escorted by armed lamentations, M. Bellamare pushed on. servants. Her father was wealthy, The sun had set on the second day, her lover poor ; hence the difficulty and master and man had been for usual in such cases. M. Bellamare twenty hours in the saddle since leay- aided an elopement, which took place ing Mexico, when they discovered, by that night, and set out for Celaya, the last glimmer of light, the red walls which he reached after two days' hard of the hacienda of Arroyo Zarco. It riding. Seventy leagues from Mexico, was the only inn or possible halting- and Don Thomas was again missed place for six leagues around, and M. by half an hour! He had gone on to Bellamare made sure of there catching Irapuato. At the only inn at that his man. Entering the stable, he al- place none bad seen him; but he was most leaped for joy on beholding, side known there, and his pursuer was by side, like two faithful travelling- advised to seek him at his residence, companions, the iron-grey and the at the foot of the Cerro del Gigante peach-blossom. He still had something or Giant's Peak. This is the loftiest to do to complete his discovery, for, mountain of the ridge that shelters judging from the number of horses, Guanajato. It was another long day's there were at least sixty travellers march, and would complete ninety stopping at the hacienda. Sure, how- leagues from Mexico. M. Bellamare ever, of having at last attained his hesitated. But he remembered that object, he was in no haste to make in- it was to Guanajato that his Spanish quiries. Whilst supping in the vast friend had taken his bride, and this kitchen of the establishment, which circumstance, combining with his obwas crowded with merchants, mili- stinate desire to make acquaintance tary men, muleteers, and servants, he with that will-o'-the-wisp, Don Thoquestioned the hostess as to the two mas Verdugo, determined him to protravellers whose horses he had re- ceed, in spite of Cecilio's remonstrances. marked in the stable. The horses, he On the road, wben passing through a was told, belonged to Don Thomas ravine, a shot was fired at him, but Verdugo, who had arrived about an missed him. He soon afterwards fell hour before him, and who, being in in with the assassin, a miner named haste, had waited but to get fresh Florencio Planillas, wbo, it appeared, cattle, leaving his own behind. He had taken him for another person, and was to stop two days at Celaya, and who seemed to think that, having would put up at the Meson de Guada- fired at him by mistake and not hit lupe. Celaya was forty leagues from him, he had no cause for complaint. the hacienda.
Half angry and half amused, M. BellaTo a desultory man, disposed for mare ended by acquiescing in this adventure, and wandering in a wild curious reasoning, abstained from the country amidst half-civilised people, revenge it was in his power to take, adventures are pretty sure to come and passed the night in the crazy There is little difficulty, therefore, in dwelling of his new acquaintance, who believing that many of those related entered into long details concerning by M. Bellamare really occurred to his own affairs. The case of Florencio him, and are not borrowed goods, was that of many Mexican miners. fixed here and there along the thread Once chief owner of a rich silver of his narrative, the effect being mine, then of a hacienda de beneficio heightened by the French varnish be- (the workshop where the silver underfore alluded to. Moreover, the pre- goes the last process), the rich vein sent book is, in the way of incident, had become sterile, and want of capithe cream of many years' residence. tal had forced him to close his metal