Page:Our Sister Republic - Mexico.djvu/495

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479
ZAPILOTES.

Nobody knows where they breed, and although inquiry has been made on the subject for almost three centuries and a half, the matter is still a mystery. One day we bought three large sea-shells, each with the original inhabitant in it. To get the monster sea-snails to come out, it was necessary to suspend them on cords, with a good, stout, fish-hook through the head of each. Little by little the creature loses his grip, and in about forty-eight hours he lets go his hold entirely, and gives up the struggle.

The three lines with the three great pulpy sea-snails on the three hooks, got tied together, and fell into the street, by accident of course—it is unlawful to kill or injure the Zapilotes, and a heavy fine is inflicted for doing so—and soon the Zapilotes had a turn at them. Perhaps it was not fun to see three of the great, black, awkward fellows fast at once, each going it on his own hook as it were! They have very strong stomachs—and well they might considering what they feed upon—but the strain was more than even they could stand, and I am of the opinion, that in every case, at least two out of the three contestants got turned wrong side outwards in the struggle. But it did not seem to discourage the rest for a moment; and for aught I know, they are at it yet, each taking a turn at the tempting morsels, and getting swindled. They seem almost wholly lost to the force of example, and like men, must learn, each for himself, by personal experience.

Even our hotel—and it was far the best in the city—was interesting as a subject for study. The charges were moderate, three dollars and fifty cents per day in coin, with wine and early coffee extra—say about five dollars