lurgic establishment. According to job. M. Bellamare thought it advisMexican usage, the works thus aban- able to convince Verduzco of his idendoned would become the property of tity, and rode on to the foot of the the person who should denounce the Giant's Peak, which was close at owner's inability to carry them on. band. A servant, who was grooming The fear of this denunciation robbed a fine horse at the door of a sycamoreFlorencio of rest. He had been in- shaded dwelling, informed him that formed, the day before, that a stranger his master had scarcely reached home had arrived at Guanajato, with the on the preceding evening when he had express intention of having tbe pro- been summoned to Guanajato on busiperty adjudged to him. The descrip- ness of importance, which might detion given to him of this person coin- tain him three or four days, and percided more or less with the appearance haps on his return he might have to of M. Bellamare, to whom the resem- leave again immediately. So M. blance had nearly proved fatal. “I Bellamare rode back to Guanajato, bear you no malice for having missed whence he proposed visiting the you,” concluded Florencio, with great neighbouring mines. One of the most simplicity, “but in future I will use interesting sections of his book is that my knife. El cuchillo no suena ni entitled “The Miners of Rayas." Betruena (the knife makes no noise), as fore, however, descending into the my friend Thomas Verduzco says." bowels of the earth, and studying the

" You mean Verdugo," interrupted peculiar customs and characteristics M. Bellamare.

of the silver-diggers of Mexican sier“ You know him?” cried Florencio, ras, he had the grief to learn the langhing. “The joke is good ; but death of the Spanish gentleman to you do not repeat it before him, I whom he had been of service at the presume."

hacienda of Arroyo Zarco. The young “What joke?”

man had reached Guanajato in safety “ Hombre! do you not know that with his mistress, had found a priest his real name is Verduzco, and that to marry them, and had then placed they call him Verdugo* merely because her in a convent until he could make he sometimes takes justice into his arrangements for their departure from own hands in what he calls his cases Mexico. His bride was safe ; noof conscience?"

thing, be thought, could sunder them These particulars concerning the nothing, indeed, but death. Recharacter of the man he bad so long turning one day from the convent, at and pertinaciously pursued were ex- the grating of whose parlour he had tremely disagreeable to M, Bellamare, frequent interviews with his wife, a and the further information his ques. man picked a quarrel with him in the tions drew from the miner confirmed street, and the unfortunate Spaniard him in his regret that he had ever un- was carried to his inn, mortally stabbed. dertaken his wild-goose chase. Don The assassin was employed by the Thomas Verduzco, he ascertained, vindictive father of the murdered was not only ready with his knife on man's newly-wedded wife. His name, his own account, but put it at the as M. Bellamare learned from Flodisposal of any one who paid well. rencio—whom he found half-intoxiHe was a desperado who stuck at cated in a pulqueria-was Thomas pothing, and a hired bravo upon occa- Verduzco. The pressing business sion. Nevertheless, on reflection, M. that had called him into Guanajato Bellamare determined to continue his was thus explained. Of course, there pursuit, and for this reason : he was was little chance of falling in with quite sure that Don Thomas could him there immediately after the comhave no cause to assassinate him, but mission of his crime. Even Mexican he feared some mistake. Mexican justice conforms so far to decency as bravi, it appears, are not always very to require an assassin to purchase imcareful in selecting the right man. panity by a brief absence. Our Paid beforeband, if they make a mis- French adventurer left Guanajato with take, they have the benefit of a double a heavy heart, after closing the eyes

* Verdugo is an executioner, and also a long sharp poniard.

of his friend, whose death, at a later his bare legs, he lazily goads the oxen period, he was destined to see avenged. of his plough ; and such is the fertility

Less than a century and a half ago, of this soil that splendid crops quickly Gnapajato was an insignificant village. cover the ground that the share has The rich veins of gold and silver that scarcely furrowed.” surround it were as yet undiscovered. But the agricultural riches of this It was long unknown that the cordil- fruitful region must yield the palm to lera on whose slope it is built con- its metallic treasures. Above the tained the Veta dladre, the Mother teeming fields adjacent to Guanajato, Vein, the richest vein of silver in the the cordillera rears its silver-swollen world. Guanajato enjoys the double crest, and the blows of the miner's advantage of being situated in the pick resound loud above tbe bucolic most opulent mining district of Mexi- murmurs of the plain. The difference co, and close to the best cultivated is remarkable between the character part of the fertile plains of the Bajéo, and qualities of the men employed in à vast basin, eighty leagues in cir- these two very opposite pursuits. The cumference, bounded on that side by Indian husbandman is bumble and the cordillera. M. Bellamare gives submissive; the miner of the sierra a vivid description of the district. is proud and dauntless-not unfre

"Alternately parched and inun- quently reckless and lawless. Nodated, the Bajéo presents at all sea- where is the contrast more marked sons a singularly picturesque aspect. than in the neighbourhood of GuanaAt the time of the rains (the winter of jato, and M. Bellamare was glad to those favoured climes), the sky, wbich bave so favourable an opportunity of loses its blue without losing its soft. studying the character of the miners. ness, bathes the plains with fertilising He was so fortunate as to fall in with torrents. For some hours a day the an excellent guide, in the person of Bajéo is a vast lake, studded with one of them who was holiday-maktufts of verdure, with blue hills, with ing. These men work well only when groups of white houses and enamelled they are interested in the success of cupolas. On this sheet of water, the the enterprise. Their employers supgreen summits of the trees alone reveal ply them with implements, candles, to the traveller the capricious mean- and other necessaries, but their payderings of the inundated roads. Soon, ment depends on the value of what however, the thirsty soil has imbibed they extract. They love the risk of the moisture through the innumerable this sort of gambling. Sometimes, cracks that eight months' drought has after toiling for a month, during which left in its surface. A layer of slime, he has hardly earned enough to live deposited by the rains and by the upon, the miner, in a week, or even torrents from the cordillera, has im- in a day, finds himself wealthy. Then pregnated the impoverished earth; comes his transformation. The dingy the heavens are limpid and cloudless gnome who has been toiling naked in as before. At the foot of the ahue- the bowels of the earth, ties himself huelt,* the springs, freed from the crust to a rope, and is hoisted-a perilous that obstructed them, gush more ascent-a thousand feet or more, to abundantly. The Peruvian tree, the the surface. Then he attires bim. gum tree, the golden-flowered hui- self gaily, mounts, a fine horse, scatsache, amidst whose blossoms the ters his gold with a lavish hand, scarlet-plumed parrots scream, shade and returns to labour only when and perfume the firm roads. The driven by direst necessity. Alone, songs of muleteers and the bells of but on. horseback and well armed, mules resound from afar, mingled with M. Bellamare was about to start for the shrill creaking of the cart-wheels. the mines, when his attention was It is also the moment when the In arrested, whilst crossing the great dian labourer returns to his toils. Like square of Guanajato, by an unusual the shepherd of the Georgics, with his sight. Nailed against the wall of a leathern buskins, bis short tunic, and house, and sheltered by a small pent

* The name of a species of cedar whose presence almost always indicates the vicinity of a spring. In the Indian tongue ahuehuelt signifies the Lord of the Waters.

bouse that jutted out from the stone, calculated to inspire confidence, but was a human hand, wbich evidently had Fuentes was likely to be a good guide once been strong and muscular, al- in the mines, and moreover he had though now wbitened and dried by wind taken a fancy to his foreigo friend, and sun. Under the penthouse, a few and would not relinquish his company; half-burned candles told that pious so, after one or two vain attempts to souls had been touched by this strange shake him off, M. Bellamare abandonexhibition, which seemed to tell of a ed the contest, and they jogged on bloody deed. M. Bellamare sought in amicably together. Soon long strings vain an explanatory inscription, and of mules laden with ore, the chimneys turned away to continue his route, of the furnaces, the noise of hammers, when be found a horseman by his and the sound of the falling water that side. The stranger, who was sump- moved the machinery, warned them tuously attired, and wore a velvet that they approached the mines. M. cloak trimmed with gold lace, recog. Bellamare had stopped his horse to nised M. Bellamare as a foreigner contemplate the animated scene, when by the curiosity with which he gazed his attention was attracted by two at the dead hand, introduced himself to men, half hidden in a hollow of the him as Desiderio Fuentes, a miner, who ground, and who were dragging along had just made a lucky bit, and had left with ropes the carcass of a mule. off work until such time as he had got Having reached a place where they through his heap of dollars. He ap- were concealed from all eyes save peared greatly at a loss what to do those of the Frenchman and his comwith his leisure, seemed determined panion, one of the men stooped down, to attach himself to his new acquaint- seemed to examine the dead mule, ance, and, finding him bent on visit- and cast a suspicious glance around ing the mines, agreed to serve as him. Perceiving the two horsemen, his guide rather than relinquish his he sat down upon the carcass, whilst society. There are four mines in his companion disappeared in a thicket that neighbourhood, the Valenciena, close at hand. The man sitting on the Cata, the Mellado, the Rayas, the mule proved to be no other than which were discovered by the French M. Bellamare's old acquaintance, miner Laborde, and which yielded, Florencio Planillas. He sat with his between 1829 and 1837, about six elbows on his knees and his head in millions sterling in silver. Fuentes his hands, seemingly overwhelmed desired M. Bellamare to name the one with grief. Knowing him to be an he preferred to visit ; only he pre- intimate of Verduzco's, M. Bellamare mised that he would rather not go to hoped to obtain from him some parthe Valenciena, on account of a quar- ticulars concerning the share the bravo rel he had had with one of the ad. had had in the death of his young ministrators. He did not wish to Spanish friend. So he rode up to him. show himself at the Mellado, because The scene that follows is a curious he owed money to a person employed picture of Mexican character. there ; and he strongly objected to ". Ah! Señores,' cried Florencio visiting the Cata, on account of cer- as we approached, 'in me you behold tain desarenencias(misunderstandings) the most miserable man in all New of recent date; so that M. Bellamare's Spain.' freedom of choice was limited to the "6. You are doubtless thinking' Rayas. He began to entertain but I replied of the young cavalier whom an indifferent opinion of his volunteer Don Thomas assassinated two days escort, who was evidently quarrel- ago, and whose blood is on your head, some, averse to paying his debts, and since you might have saved his life whose knife-M. Bellamare had rea- by stopping the hand of your friend son to suspect, had figured in the of that Don Thomas who was paid "misunderstandings" at La Cata. to kill him, you told me.' This opinion was confirmed by a con- "Did I say that?' cried Florencio. fession that escaped the miner. “My “Then, by the life of my motber, I lied. first impulse is always very good," he I am a horrible liar when in drink ; said, “but I own that the second is and you know, my lord cavalier, I generally detestable." This was not bad drunk a great deal that day.'


“Florencio paused, visibly embar- as that of a bird of prey, belied the rassed. Without heeding this, Fuentes feigned gaiety. For a few moments asked him why he was in such grief we were silent. The new-comer was when we came up, and why he per- the first to speak. sisted in taking the carcass of a mule ".You were talking just now,' he for a seat.

said, with a soft and silky manner " " This mule is the cause of my that contrasted strangely with his sorrow,' replied Planillas. Although evil look, if my ears did not deceive I was tenderly attached to her, misery me, of one Don Thomas? Was it by compelled me to sell her to yonder chance of Don Thomas Verduzco ?? hacienda de platas.* In order to see This simple question, proceeding from her every day, I took employment a man who had at once inspired me there. Alas! the poor brute died this with the strongest repugnance, soundmorning, and I have dragged her to ed to me like an insult. this lonely place in order to mourn ". Precisely,' I replied, exerting over her undisturbed.'

myself to keep cool. “I accused “And again Planillas plunged his Thomas Verduzco of a murder comhead violently between his hands, mitted two days ago at Guanajato.' with the air of a man who will not be " Are you sure of it?' said the consoled. Then, doubtless to turn man, with a sinister glance. the conversation :

"Ask this wretch,'I replied, point"Ah! my lord cavalier,' he said, ing to Planillas. 'this is not my only misfortune! Yes. On hearing this reference, Planillas terday a fight occurred between the sprang up as if moved by springs. miners of Rayas and those of Mellado, He had recovered all his assurance. and I was not there.

" I never said anything of the “I replied that I saw nothing very sort,' he cried. But your lordship,' unfortunate in that.

he added in an ironical tone, ‘is surely "1Not unfortunate!' Planillo ex- not acquainted with the respectable claimed. "Ah! it was not one of cavalier Verduzco, since you speak those vulgar encounters that one may thus in his presence.' see any day; and you would never “I gazed at the man thus denounced guess how it terminated. To prove to me, and whom I beheld for the first the superiority of their mine, the Mel- time. Imagination placed before my lado men pelted their adversaries with eyes the bleeding body of Don Jaime, hard dollars—fine eagle dollars !' he his agony, his last moments. I thought added, with an air of profound grief, of his young life and happy prospects, and I was too late in the field.' cut off in an instant by the knife of

“I could better understand Flo- this ruffian. rencio's grief at the loss of the dollars "Ah! you are Don Thomas Verthan at the death of the mule. But I duzco should have doubted the arrogant "I could not finish. My head swam, prodigality of the Mellado miners, if and, without accounting to myself for Fuentes had not confirmed, with what I was about to do, I cocked one proud satisfaction, the truth of the of my pistols. At the click of the tale. He would then again have lock the stranger's face became livid; questioned Planillas, whose lamenta for Mexicans of the lower classes, tions appeared to excite his suspicions, who will not wince from the glitter of but a sudden cracking of branches in a knife-blade, tremble at the sight of the thicket behind us drew his atten- a firearm in a European hand. He tion. I thought I saw Planillas turn did not stir, however. Fuentes threw pale, notwithstanding his matchless himself between us. impudence. A little thickset man, a ««Gently ! señor, gently !' cried he. sort of dwarf Hercules, stood before "Cascaras / how ill you take the cusus. He saluted us courteously, and toms of the country!'. sat down upon the ground near Pla ". The deuce take that Planillas !' nillas. His mouth strove to smile, said the stranger with a forced laugh, but his glance, sinister and piercing he can never resist a joke. But the

* Establishment where the silver is extracted from the ore.

idea of introducing me as Don Thomas the dead mule—which he had never is rather too good a one. Your lord- seen until that day—arose from the ship, then, is greatly exasperated fact that the carcass contained a conagainst this Don Thomas ?'.

siderable number of silver ingots, " My passion appeared to me ridi- stolen and concealed by him. Verculous, and passed away as by en- duzco was his accomplice. They afterchantment.

wards quarrelled about the division of " I do not know him,' I replied, a the spoils, and Planillas finally got little confused. I know not how he nothing, except a couple of stabs from has become mixed up in my affairs, but the ready knife of Don Thomas. The I think I owe it to my safety to show hand nailed to the wall was that of a no mercy to such assassins, when great criminal. On the road from chance throws them in my way.' San Miguel el Grande (a small town

" The stranger muttered some un- near Guanajato, celebrated for its intelligible words. I thought the manufacture of sarapes, or woollen opportunity a good one to get rid of coverings) to Dolores, the cradle of my new friend Desiderio, of whose Mexican independence, the traveller society I had had enough; so I saluted has to cross the river Atotonilco. In the group, and rode off. But I had the rainy season it is impassable, exforgotten to take into account the cept by persons acquainted with the idleness of Fuentes. Before I had fords. At the spot where it crosses ridden a hundred yards, he was again the San Miguel road it is about sixty at my side.

yards wide, and its yellow waves flow " I was perhaps wrong to inter- with alarming impetuosity. On the fere,' he said, and to prevent you opposite side, a few huts made of from sending a bullet into the brain of branches shelter some wretched famithat ill-looking knave, for, judging lies, whose chief support is the money from the revengeful look he cast at they earn, when the river is swollen, you, I presume the first stab you re- by piloting travellers across-leading ceive will be from his hand.'

their horses by the bridle, or mount4. Do you think so?' I replied, ing behind them. One stormy night, rather startled by this unpleasant pre- a miner from Zacatecas-who, having diction.

rendered himself obnoxious to justice, 'I yielded too readily to my first had fled from the mine, and established impulse,' continued Fuentes, who himself as a passer on the banks of seemed reflecting Presently, What the Atotonilco-crossed the river to if we went back?' he said. "You bring over a horseman. Towards the might resume the affair at the point middle of the stream he got up behind at which you left it, and in case of him, and, a moment afterwards, anneed I would help you.'

other passer, who was watching on "It was plain that Fuentes repented the shore, heard a heavy plash. The having missed an opportunity of quar- horse reached land with only one rel. I drily refused his proffered as- rider; its owner, a priest, remained sistance, and thought to myself that in the river, but was rescued by the decidedly his second impulse was worse witness of the crime. The murderer than his first.

rode away, and worked for some time 16. You will not?' he said. “So in the mines of Rayas. Wounded be it then! After all, what matters one day-mortally, as it was thought a knife-thrust more or less? I have in one of the quarrels so frequent received three, and am none the worse amongst the miners, a priest, who for them !! "

chanced to pass, was called in to hear M. Bellamare deemed it unneces- his confession. On beholding the sary to reply to this revelation, which wounded man, the priest uttered a did not improve his opinion of his cry of horror; he had recognised the guide, and turned the conversation to passer of the Atotonilco, who on his the subject of the mine they were part gazed with terror and astonishabout to visit. Before leaving it, he ment on the man he thought he had obtained an explanation of two things drowned. Justice being thus put on he had not understood at the time. the scent, the miner was convicted of The tender solicitude of Planillas for several crimes, amongst others, of a

« VorigeDoorgaan »