Page:Our Sister Republic - Mexico.djvu/217

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211
A SPEECHLESS AUCTIONEER.

of which they still retained some dim recollection, but which they were never to look upon again. In another chamber I saw women and children cooking food for their husbands and parents; they appeared to live here altogether, probably returning to the light of day only at long intervals. Utterly worn out, at last, we climbed our way back to the tunnel, emerging into daylight just as the sun was setting, swallowed a liberal allowance of brandy to protect ourselves against taking cold, mounted our horses and galloped back to the city.

The weekly sale of ores at the several mines is called the "rescata". One at the Serrano I attended. The ore is placed on the ground, each miner's work in a separate lot, and the buyers sample it before the sale. It is sold in the lump, by guess, not by weight, the buyer taking his chances on the amount. The auctioneer stands silent, under an umbrella, while the miners who have a small interest in the sales over and above their wages, volubly shout the praises of the lot in turn. As each lot is put up, the buyers, singly, whisper their bids in the ear of the auctioneer, and when all have bid, he announces who bid the highest; the other bids are not named. The chance for collusion seem to me to be very great. Some lots brought as high as five hundred dollars, and the aggregate sales exceeded six thousand five hundred dollars, at this rescata. This ended our sight-seeing in Guanajuato.