Page:Our Sister Republic - Mexico.djvu/213

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A horizontal tunnel penetrates the hill from a level with the hacienda, cutting the tiro or perpendicular shaft at four hundred feet from the surface. This tunnel may be about fifteen hundred feet in length. A railroad track runs through it, and lying down in the cars we were carried in to the edge of the tiro. This tiro is thirty feet in diameter, and six-sided, laid up in cement like that at the Valenciano. The necessity for this is seen in the fact that a rock, weighing many tons, was displaced from a station near the bottom of the shaft, a few days previous to our visit, and falling upon the miners beneath, killed and maimed a large number of them.

Standing here, four hundred feet below the surface of the earth, and six hundred feet above the bottom of the shaft, with a patch of pale blue sky far above us, and inky darkness almost palpable to the touch around us and filling all the depths below, we witnessed the most wonderful scene on which we gazed in Mexico, Men were sent up to the top of the tiro at the surface of the ground, and told to discharge rockets down it. This they did; and the hissing and explosions of the fiery messengers caused the most deafening echoes and re-echoes, while the sides of the shaft, dripping with ooze and slime, were revealed with startling distinctness by the momentary glare.

But this was nothing to what followed: balls of the fibre of the maguey or aloe plant, three feet in diameter and steeped in pine pitch, or resin, were swung out over the mouth of the shaft and set on fire. When the first was in full blaze it was detached and allowed to fall into the abyss. Like a great comet, with body of molten metal and long tail of flame, rushing on a doomed