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robbery of plate in the cathedral of During one of his long and solitary Guanajato. He suffered death by the rides, which had brought him into garrotte, and it was his hand M. Bel- the vicinity of Vera Cruz, M. Bellalamare had seen upon the wall in the mare fell in with a Jarocho, with great square of Guanajuato.
whom he narrowly escaped having One of the most curious and inte. to cross swords, and afterwards beresting sections of M. Bellamare's came the best of friends. There was book is that entitled the Jarochos. to be a fandango (dance and festival) This is the pame given to the peasants the next day at the little village of of the coast and country around Vera Manantial, and the crowd, said Calro Cruz. Io dress, dialect, and habits, (Jarocho for Carlos), would be as they differ from the other Mexicans. " thick as smoke." So M. BellaThe general opinion is, that they are mare agreed to remain a day and see descended from Andalusian gipsies, the fun. Manantial is a woodland and various circumstances connected village, situated in a glade of an exwith them seem to confirm the suppo- tensive forest, and consisting of a few sition. Their costume has some ana- bamboo cabins thatched with palm logy with that of Andalusia; they are leaves. It was nightfall wben the superstitious, inclined to cruelty, very French traveller and his new acquaintindependent in their habits and ideas, ance arrived there, and the former and fond of dwelling in woods and was struck by the pastoral and pretty lonely places. Addicted to fighting, scene. Women sat at the cottage and adventurous on the water, they doors rocking their children, susyet will never willingly subject them- pended in hammocks of aloe thread; selves to the discipline of a camp or men in picturesque costume, and of a man-of-war. Their favourite young girls dressed in white, their pursuits are those of the shepherd or raven tresses wreathed with the frathe horse-dealer. They are never seen grant flowers of the suchil, and without their machete, a straight, sharp, spangled with glow-worms,* danced scabbardless sword which they carry gracefully in the centre of an admiring at their side, suspended in a leather circle of spectators. Rice, milk, fried ring. The slightest pretext-a bet, a bananas, and the celebrated red beans futile point of honour-suffices to bring of the Tierra Caliente, proverbial in on a duel. This generally terminates Mexico for their excellence, composed with the first blood, but if a mortal the frugal supper set before M. Bellawound is given, a sort of vendetta often mare. In hot countries one sleeps ensues, and a long series of deadly little and late; mosquitos and the combats are the result. The Jarocho, lingering heat of the day are apt to however, has some good qualities to banish slumber until they are chased set against his quarrelsome disposition away by the cool breath of morning. and other defects. He is sober, frank, Stretched upon their blankets near loyal, and hospitable to the whites the open door of tbe cabin, Carlos (the name he gives to people of a and his guest discoursed for some higher class than himself); he holds time before seeking repose. The theft in horror, loves the land of his Jarocho was dejected. He was in birth, is a stranger to cupidity, and love with the most beautiful girl in lives contented with little in the midst the village ; be feared a rival, and yet of a fertile country, where he has but he was obliged to depart in quest of to scatter the seed on the earth to a man who, some months previously, gather in three crops a-year. His bad killed one of his relatives. The pleasures are play, music, dancing, duty of revenge had devolved upon poetry. He is generally more or less Carlos, and of itself had no terrors of an improvisatore, and able to cele- for him ; but the murderer had fled, brate in song the three objects of his and he knew not how long it might devotion-his horse, his sword, and be before he should discover him. his mistress
There was only one way of avoiding
* The suchil is a tree common in the hot parts of Mexico, and whose flowers are much prized for their perfume. Glow-worms in the hair are a common ornament with the Jarochos, whom the women of Mexico sometimes imitate in this respect.
the task, and that was by some water-lilies. Separated for a moment devoted friend undertaking it in his by the rapid furrow of the canoe, the stead. Carlos coolly proposed that green and fragrant arcades closed M. Bellamare should do this ; but the again behind us. Nothing in this latter modestly declined the honour, solitary region bore the trace of offering, however, to accompany him man's passage; not a sound was in his search. It was agreed that heard save the monotonous tap of the they should start the day after the woodpecker on the trunk of a dead fandango.
tree." Pleasant scraps of description The account of the village festival of this kind are not unfrequent in M. is curious and characteristic, but it Bellamare's pages, to which we must cannot be abridged, and is too long to refer the reader who is curious to extract. On the morrow Carlos and know something of his adventures on M. Bellamare set out for Boca del that seductive stream, upon whose Rio, a village on the coast, where flower-draped banks it soon was dwelt a pilot named Ventura, who, found that serious perils lurked. It they had been informed, could give is time we should conduct our traveller them news of the person they sought. out of the country he so agreeably They reached the sea just as a storm describes, and we cannot even wait came on. In the figurative local to tell of the sanguinary duel between phrase, the north-west wind advanced Carlos and his kinsman's murderer. “sword in hand." That night, at M, Bellamare at last made up his Boca del Rio, an American ship, mind to leave Mexico. Four days in deceived by a signal fire, lighted with one of the diligences, recently set up malicious intent, ran upon the rocks. by a Yankee company, would have The pilot Ventura was on board, and taken him to Vera Cruz, where he was saved, with the greater part of was to embark for Europe; but he was the crew. A party of marauders so accustomed to travel on horseback, soon came down, to profit by the and had become so vagabond in his disaster their wicked stratagem had predilections, that he could not resolve caused. Fired on from an ambush, to have recourse to the vehicles in they speedily fled. Ventura and the question, upon which, moreover, a villagers desired no interlopers to daring band of robbers regularly lessen their shares of the spoils that levied black mail. The fact was, that the waves soon washed ashore from by that time the roving Frenchman the shattered ship. Amongst the in- had become half Mexican, and had truders the man whom Carlos was in contracted a dislike to civilised “fixquest of was recognised, and the next ings," and to the ordinary modes of day the pilot undertook to conduct living and travelling. He was still the Jarocho and his foreign friend to uncertain in what way he should acthe village where he dwelt. To get complish his journey, when, one day, there they had to ascend a rapid in the court of the house in which he stream, shut in by forests and lofty lodged, he saw muleteers loading their overhanging rocks, and embowered beasts with specie. Mexico happened in a virgin vegetation which, to all to be tolerably tranquil at that moappearance, the hand of man had ment, and a number of merchants rarely disturbed. “The river, of so took advantage of the political lull to gloomy an aspect on the preceding send silver for shipment. Four hunevening, seemed to smile in its ver- dred bags, each containing a thousand dant bed at the rising sun. Thin dollars, and packed in a small wooden mists arose, soon dissipated by the box, were placed upon some eighty burning heat wbich abruptly replaced mules, to be escorted by a squadron the cool temperature of the night. of lancers. The sight of this convoy The flowers of the wild jessamine, of decided M. Bellamare, who deterthe sucbil trees, and of the rose-laurel, mined to accompany it to Vera Cruz. mingled their perfumes and their As it would make but very short colours amidst festoons of creepers, marches, he proposed to wait a couple whose tangled branches, covered with of days to take leave of his friends, blue and purple flowers, trailed down and ihen ride after it. The escort along both banks on crowded beds of was to be commanded by Don Blas,
a fanfaron officer of doubtful courage had received (both equally imaginary) and queer associates, but a pleasant when fighting for Santa Anna in the companion, and an old acquaintance streets of Mexico. The captain again of M. Bellamare's. On the way back showed an unaccountable anxiety to from the mines to Mexico, the French prevent his French friend from actraveller had again halted at the inn companying him. He spoke of the at Arroyo Zarco, and there he found dangers of the road, of the perilous Don Blas. To his astonishment, his pass of Amozoque, of the possibility military friend was on terms of famili- of their being attacked by forces that arity with the ill-looking ruffian whom even his gallant squadron might be he had last seen in company with Flo- unable to beat off. M. Bellamare rencio Planillas, and a dead mule, and was not to be intimidated. He adwho turned out to be in reality Don mitted to himself that the long string Thomas Verduzco. With matchless of silver-laden mules, each bearing effrontery the bravo greeted him as its five thousand dollars, was a prize an acquaintance, recommended him worth striking a blow for, but he was to the care of the hostess as a gentle- used to dangerous adventures, and man whom he particularly esteemed, would not part from the convoy. and would fain have made him par- The march was slow and wearisome take of a bottle of Catalan brandy. enough, but its tedium was in some With some difficulty he avoided the degree beguiled by the songs and unenviable companionship, and made stories of one of the chief muleteers. his escape from the inn, having pre- Of a night, at the bivouac fire, whilst viously ascertained that, if the bandit the soldiers slept, with their arms had sought him in Mexico, it was close beside them, and the mules because he mistook him for another munched their ration of maize, with person.
a horse-blanket for a manger, VictoTo M. Bellamare's surprise, Don riano was a great resource; and when Blas gave him little encouragement listening, under a cloudless and starto join his party. Perceiving, how- lit sky, to his wild narratives and ever, that he was determined to do characteristic songs, M. Bellamare so, he affected to rejoice at having congratulated himself on the mode him for a travelling companion. His of journeying he had selected, and departure was delayed by one of heartily pitied the travellers who were those political convulsions frequent in whirled past him in the diligence. Mexico. The convoy had marched The convoy had passed the town before the revolution broke out, but and fort of Perote, when Victoriano, was stopped on the road, and put in a who had travelled that road for many place of safety. On learning that it years, suggested to M. Bellamare had resumed its journey, M. Bella. that the fort was worth a visit. He mare commenced his, and on the offered to accompany him to the enthird day discerned in the distance trance and procure him admission, the red pennons of the lancers. In and said that he could afterwards rethe first horseman he overtook (a join them at Cruz Blanca, a little vilserjeant) he recognised a former ser- lage two leagues off, where they would vant of Don Blas, an ex-lepero, who, pass the night, and where he prolike his master, had recently been mised to tell him a singular story retransferred from infantry to cavalry, lating to the fortress. The proposal and whose great ambition ever since pleased M. Bellamare, who passed an had been to equip himself in complete hour at Perote, and again joined the dragoon uniform. He had succeeded convoy, soon after nightfall, at Cruz tolerably well. Excepting that he Blanca. To his surprise Victoriano had a shoe on one foot, a bottine on had not made his appearance. The the other, and no straps to his trou- muleteer was habitually exact and sers, his uniform was pretty complete. punctual, and his absence excited A little farther on, M. Bellamare some alarm. Presently a man, dressed came up with Don Blas himself, lately in the striped woollen frock and short promoted to the rank of captain of apron of a mule-driver, asked to speak cavalry, as a reward for the courage to the chief arriero, and told him that he had displayed and the wound he Victoriano had been badly hurt by his
horse falling with him, had been car- cessantly galloped up and down the ried to Perote, and had sent him to road, the sparks flying under the feet replace him until such time as he of his mule, counting his beasts with should be able to overtake the con- an anxiety painful to behold. At voy. The chief muleteer, who had nightfall Don Blas divided the escort but just the number of men he want into two parties. With one he rode ed, accepted the services of the new. at the head of the convoy, the other comer, a stout active fellow, whose brought up the rear. The march was sinister expression of countenance at gloomy and silent, the chief noise once set M. Bellamare against him. heard being the tinkle of the bell of The next day's march seemed more the leading mule, which the others wearisome than usual, since Victori- are trained to follow. Riding on the ano was no longer there to enliven it flank of the convoy, M. Bellamare with his guitar and his stories. The thought over the incidents of the halting-place was to be La Hoya, five morning—the disappearance of the leagues from Cruz Blanca. They had major-domo, the lost shoes, the lanmarched but a league when a mule guor of the mules. Just as he was cast a shoe. A little farther on the revolving his suspicions, his servant same thing happened to another, and rode up to bim. We will take a page then again to a third. Victoriano's or two from the book. substitute shod them with great dex. " Señor,' said Cecilio in a low terity, but much time was neverthe voice, if you take my advice, we less lost. The chief muleteer swore shall not stop here a moment longer. hideously ; M. Bellamare's suspicions Something is going to happen.' of the farrier increased, and be asked ". And where can we go to?' I Captain Blas if it were not possible replied. Amongst these rocks and that the knave who shod the mules so ravines, and when we cannot see two expertly might have had something yards before us? But what is the to do with unshoeing them. The cap- matter?'. tain laughed at his suspicions, and 66. The matter is, Senior, that Victhe convoy moved on – languidly, toriano has just joined us, although however, for the mules seemed to probably I alone have observed it. have lost their usual vigour, as if, His coming bodes no good. The thought M. Bellamare, some enervat- story of his accident was evidently ing drug had been administered to a lie.' them. At last they reached the "Are you sure of what you say?' mountain village of Las Vigas, on ap " Positive; but that is not all. proaching which they experienced the About a quarter of an hour ago I was sudden transition frequent in Mexico, in the rear, and concealed by a mass and that Sealsfield has so admirably of rock, when two horsemen passed described, from the bot to the cold me. One of them was too well regions. The warm breeze was no mounted to be a peaceable traveller. longer felt, chilly clouds concealed the The other was dressed as a muleteer, blue sky; the soil was arid, and its and rode a mule, and, if I rightly unconfiguration volcanic. The arriero derstood what they said, Victoriano would fain have passed the night at is their accomplice.' Las Vigas, but Don Blas was for "And what became of them ?' pushing on to the usual halting-place, " I have no doubt that, under and his opinion prevailed. The con- cover of the darkness, they mingled voy was soon enveloped in a thick with the escort. It is easy to guess fog. The travellers could hardly dis- their object, and probably they are tinguish each other, and the upper not alone. A wbole regiment might branches of the fir-trees were lost to lie concealed in these ravines. If view. Parallel to the road were ra- your lordship will be guided by me, vines, crossed by currents of cold lava, we shall let the convoy proceed withand there was danger of the mules out us.' deviating from the right path. Cap- " Not so, indeed,' I replied. 'I tain Blas took things very coolly, and will go and warn the captain.' seemed not the least concerned at the "And who knows, Señor, whether peril. Not so the arriero, whose the captain be not in league with responsibility was great, and who in- tbem ?
"I did not answer. Action, not whistled over my head and encircled words, was wanted. Without giving me; my horse made a bound; but, a thought to Cecilio's suspicions of instead of being dragged violently out Don Blas, I spurred my horse, in- of the saddle, and trampled under foot tending at least to warn the master by the convoy, I felt myself bound to of the mules. Whilst talking with my horse with terrible tightness. The Cecilio I had fallen into the rear. I noose, intended for me alone, had also soon caught up the rear-guard, passed encircled him. I could not extricate it and some of the mules; the others my right arm, which was bound to still formed a long line in front; in my body, to get at my knife and cut the midst of the fog I was guided by the lasso. I plunged my spurs into the sound of their steps. Some hun- my horse's flanks. The noble brute dred paces before me, I heard the neighed, and bore forward with irrebell of the leading mule. At that sistible vigour. I felt the lasso tighten, moment I thought I recognised, in till it almost cut into my flesh, then the horseman who rode beside me, suddenly slacken. There was a sound the unpleasant countenance of Victo- as of broken girths, a furious impreriano's substitute. A few seconds cation, and I found myself free, almost later the voice of a muleteer was up before I could appreciate the danger lifted in the darkness.
I had escaped. Another leap of my 66° Hallo!' he cried, is it you, horse almost unseated me; then he Victoriano ? By heavens it is! and galloped furiously on. There was a by what chance ?
report ; a bullet whistled close to my “No reply was made to the ques. ears; then were beard cries of alarm, tion, nor was it repeated. I shudder- replied to by several shots. The coned, for I fancied I heard a stifled cry, fusion that ensued is indescribable. followed by a heavy fall. I listened The mules, deceived by the bells that attentively, but the only sounds were rang in various directions, ran against the whistling of the wind and the noise each other, and straggled right and of the mules' feet. I had ridden but left. By the flashes of the firearms, a short distance further, when my one distinguished the red coats of the horse shied violently, as if he distin- lancers, who fired at random in the guished through the darkness some- darkness. Amidst the uproar, the thing that alarmed him. Desirous to report of carbines and pistols, and the clear up the terrible doubts that whistling of bullets, the voice of the crowded upon my mind, I took out arriero was heard, loud in despair. my tinder and steel, as if to light a "My terrified horse carried me to cigar. By the faint and momentary some distance from the scene of the gleams I thus obtained, I thought I contest, which was over before I could distinguished a number of strange pull him in and retrace my steps. men mingled with the escort and the The robbers had disappeared. I met muleteers. They were like the figures Don Blas, but, before I had time to one sees in a dream. Silent phan- question him, a man threw himself toms appeared to have emerged from between us, a torch in his hand, imthe darkness, some draped in the red ploring the captain's help. By the coats of the lancers, others in the light of the torch I recognised the striped frocks of the muleteers. Sud. chief muleteer. The poor fellow's face denly the bell of the leading mule expressed the utmost grief and conceased to sound ; in a few seconds it sternation. Some of the soldiers diswas again heard, but in quite an op- mounted, and cut branches from the posite direction, and a similar bell fir-trees, out of which they made began to ring in the ravines on the torches. A sad spectacle then preleft of the road. I had seen enough, sented itself to us. The muleteers, and too much ; treachery was evident- amongst whom Victoriano's substitute ly at work. But what could be done was no longer to be seen, watched to counteract it in that profound dark- their mules, which were grouped round ness, and on a road bordered by ra. the guide mule, whose bell had disapvines ? After a moment's hesitation, peared. Fortunately the animals' inand at the risk of my neck, I spurred stinct had suffered them to be deforward to gain the head of the co- ceived but for a moment by the stralumn. It was too late. A cord tagems of the robbers. Several mules