Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/105

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names of candidates for admission into their body to be approved by the Government before the first are delivered or the second elected. The French savants are, it is true, ennobled and decorated by orders, which the wiser among them, in common with true philosophers of any country, regard with indifference."



THERE are few more puzzling characters to be found in the pages of history than Quetzatcoatl, the wandering stranger whom the early Mexicans adopted as the air-god of their mythology. That he was a real personage—that he was a white man from this side of the Atlantic, who lived and taught in Mexico centuries before Columbus was born—that what he taught was Christianity and Christian manners and morals—all these are plausible inferences from facts and circumstances so peculiar as to render other conclusion well-nigh impossible.

When, in 1519, Cortes and his companions landed in Mexico, they were astonished at being hailed as the realization of an ancient native tradition, which ran in this wise: Many centuries previously a white man had come across the Atlantic from the northeast, in a boat with "wings" (sails), like those of the Spanish vessels. He stayed several years in the country, and taught the Mexicans (Toltecs) a new and humane system of religion, instructed them in the principles of good government, and imparted to them a knowledge of many useful industrial arts. He loved peace, and had a horror of war. By his great wisdom and knowledge of divine things, his piety and his many personal and god-like virtues, he won the esteem and veneration of all the people, and exercised great control over them. His sojourn in Mexico was a kind of golden age. Peace, plenty, and happiness prevailed throughout the land. The Mexicans knew him as Quetzatcoatl, or the Green Serpent, the word "green" in their language being a term for a rare and precious thing. Through some malign influence Quetzatcoatl was obliged or induced to quit the country. On his way to the coast he stayed for a time at the city of Cholula, where, subsequently, a great pyramidical mound, surmounted by a temple, was erected in his honor. On the shores of the Gulf of Mexico he took leave of his followers, soothing their sorrow at his departure with the assurance that he would not forget them, and that he himself, or some one sent by him, would return at some future time to visit them. He had made for himself a vessel of serpents' skins, and in this strange contrivance he sailed