Six Months In Mexico/Chapter 27

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foreigner and march him, with a regiment of soldiers at his heels, across the boundary line.

Professor Francis Wayland, of Brown University, together with the American Consul, Porch; and Dr. Parsons, visited the prison Belem to ascertain the conditions of the editors there. They were not granted any of the customary privileges, but one little paid sheet was afraid some truth would reach the public's eye, as Professor Wayland was soon to return to the States. In referring to the visit, this paper said: "It is to be noted that these men wanted to enter the very gallery where the newspaper men were confined, and that they took 'note in a memorandum book of all answers.'" To save trouble. Dr. Parsons, who resides in Mexico, said they merely exchanged the usual greeting with the prisoners. Some of the editors confined thought, that as they belonged to a press club, that they could appeal to the Associated Press of the United States for aid. Of course, such an appeal would be useless; the papers now published there take pride in copying and crediting them to other papers. No dependence can be put in any of them for a true statement of affairs. The Two Republics was started and run by a Texan, Major Clarke. He lived, in Mexico with his family and regularly every evening used to take a walk down the paseo with his two daughters, who always walked a couple of yards in advance. This was repeated every day until the Mexicans used to say, Republics. "There is Clarke and his Two Republics."

 

CHAPTER XXVII.

 

THE GHASTLY TALE OF DON JUAN MANUEL.

 

When able to translate Spanish, there is nothing that will amuse a tourist more in the City of Mexico than reading the street and store signs and names of the different squares. Streets are not named there as here. Every square is called a street and has a separate name; the same with all the stores and public buildings. No difference how small, they have some long, fantastic name painted above the doorway. We used to get lunch at a restaurant called "The Coffee House of the Little Hell," and our landlady always bought her groceries at "The Tail of the Devil." "Sara's," the "Paris Boot," and the "Boot of Gold," were all shoe stores of the very best order, where they will make lovely satin boots, embroidered in gold or silver bangles for $8 a pair, or of the finest leather for $3 to $5. They never have numbers to their shoes, and if none will fit, they make to order without extra charges. There is not a low-heeled, flat shoe in Mexico; they cannot be sold. One pair of American make, in a window on a prominent street, attracted a great deal of attention and ridicule. The Mexican women have lovely feet, and their shoes are very fancy—extremely high cut, French or opera heels and pointed toes. The shoemakers have a book in which they take orders for shoes. First they set the foot down on a clean page and mark out the exact size; then they write on it the measure and the thickness, and when the shoe arrives it is of perfect fit. Let it be added, as encouragement to La-Americana, that although the dark-eyed Senorita's foot is exquisite in size and shape, she walks with a decided stoop, caused by the extremely high heels she has worn from babyhood.

"The Surprise," the "God of Fashion," the "Way to Beauty is Through the Purse," the "Esmerelda" and the "Land of Love" are dry goods stores kept by Frenchmen, and filled, with the most expensive things ever exhibited to the public. While the "Red Sombrero" sells silk hats at three dollars to hundreds of dollars for sombreros covered with fifty pounds of silver and gold embroidery, the "Temptation," the "Reform," the "Flowers of April," the "Sun of May," the "Fifth of May," the "Christmas Night" and the "Dynamite" sell pulque at a laco a mug to the thirsty natives.

The names of the streets were such a source of unfailing interest to me that I cannot refrain from telling of some of the strangest and most peculiar ones. All the saints ever heard of or imagined are honored. The Mexicans do not say street after a name, in our fashion, but always say the street of—such as the Street of the Little Hand, of the Masons, of Montezuma, of the Magnolia Tree, of the Moon, of Grace, of Joy, of the Joint of God, of Jesus and Mother, of the Sad Indian, of Independence, of Providence, of Enjoyment, of the Hens, of the Steers, of the Slave, of Pain, of the Devil, of the Delicious, of the Dance, of the Green Cross, of the Crosses, of Cayote, of the Flowery field, of the Calvary, of the Chin, of the Heads, of a Good Sight, of a Good Death, of the Wood, of the Most Holly bench, of Christ's Mother's Prayer, of the Arts, of the Trees, of the Angles, Street of Mirth, Street of Bitterness, Street of Love of God, Street of Golden Eagle, of the Little Bird, of the Palm, of Progress, Street of Spring, Street of Papers, of the Lost Child, of Mosquitoes, of Paper Money, of Monstrosities, of Death, of the Wars, of Intense Misery, of the Mill, of the Barber Shop, of the Mice, of the Refuge, of the Clock, of the Kings, of the Rose, of the Queen, of the Seven Principals, of the Solitude of the Holly Cross, of the Soldiers, of the Hat, of the Vegetables, of Triumphs, of a Sot, of a Bull, of the Shutting up of Jesus, of the Shutting up of Money, of the Blind, of the Heart of Jesus, of the Body of Christ, Back of St. Andrews, Back of the Son of God, Back of St. John of God, Back of the Holly Ghost, Back of the Flowers, Back of the Flesh, Back of the Fruit; then there is the Bridge of the Little Cars, Bridge of the Raven, Bridge of the Holly Ghost, Bridge of Iron, Bridge of Firewood, Bridge of Mercy, Bridge of Jesus, and many other equally curious.

There are eleven streets named after Humboldt in the City of Mexico. Curious legends are attached to many of the streets, but many have been forgotten; the streets which faces the National Palace, called Don Juan Manuel, is very interesting from its story, which, they say, is every word true. As we have no power with which to test its veracity it must pass without questioning. Here it is:

When the Spaniards first settled in Mexico there was one man named Don Juan Manuel, who, although blessed with a handsome wife, was always discontented and complaining because his family did not increase; this melancholy affected his digestive organs, until he became a victim of dyspepsia, which we know leads to various whims and fancies. At any rate, he became possessed of the idea that his wife was unfaithful to his fitful and fretful devotion, and he sat up at night brooding over this, and writing down beautiful names he would hear and read of, that would be handy in case of any sudden and unexpected event whereby they could be utilized.

One night while thus occupied the devil appeared and told him to bring his nephew from Spain, and also to stand, wrapped in a long black cape, such as is yet worn by his countrymen, in front of his house at eleven o'clock that night (a very late hour for a Spaniard to be abroad in Mexico). The first man who passed would be the one who had stolen his wife's love, whispered the devil, and Don Juan Manuel must say to him: My friend, what is the hour?" and, on the man's replying, continue: "You are a happy man; you know the hour of your death," then stab him to the heart. This done, he was to immediately feel relieved. His wife's love would return, and he would ever after be supremely happy.

The don, much elated at the promised downfall of an imaginary rival, and the ease it would bring to his worried mind, hastened to do the devil's bidding; the very next night, wrapped in his long cloak, he stood in the shadow of his house; just as the watchman's whistle, calling the hour of eleven, had ceased to sound way off in the distance, a man, as the devil predicted, came walking by. "My friend, what is the hour?" cried Don Juan Manuel. True to the historic courtesy of his birth, the stranger politely stopped and replied: "With your permission, eleven o'clock, Senor Don." "You area happy man; you know the hour of your death," and the unsuspecting stranger fell, stabbed to the heart, while Manuel hastened into his casa.

But he found no relief. While he had no regret for the deed, his jealousy seemed to burn with increased fire: so the devil came again and told him he had killed the wrong man, but he must persevere—go out again, kill the man that he should see at that hour, and at last he would find the right one; the people began to talk about a man being found every morning dead at the same spot and in the same manner. But Don Juan was one of their highest by birth and rearing and was above suspicion. Their superstition made them attribute the deaths to an invisible power, and no investigation was made.

In the meantime Don Juan's dearly beloved nephew had arrived from Spain, and was not only warmly welcomed by him, but by his wife, who hoped the nephew might be the means of helping to bridge the chasm, which for months had steadily been increasing between herself and her husband. Night came on, and the don went out to perform his deadly business. A man clad like himself came along, and Don Juan approached with, "My friend, what is the hour?" "Eleven o'clock. Adois," briefly answered the one addressed. You are a happy man; you know the hour of your death," and the dark-clad stranger sank with a slight moan, while the don fled to his dreary chambers.

Morning dawned, and a dead man, as usual, was found. Don Manuel met them carrying the body into his casa, heard the screams of his wife, and saw the rigid face of his beloved nephew, dead, and by his hand! He rushed to his father confessor, whom he had not visited for so long, and begged absolution. "Thou must first repent," said the father. "Repent, repent!" cried the wretched man; "I am racked with misery. Grant me absolution." "Prove thy repentance first," answered the father; "go and stand beneath the scaffolding in front of the official building when the bell and watchman tolls the hour for midnight. Prove thy repentance by doing that thrice, then come to me."

After the first trial he returned to the father, begging that absolution be granted, for devils had wounded his flesh and tortured him as he had stood beneath the scaffolding. "No, twice more must thou stand there," was the unrelenting reply, and once again he went. Morning brought him more dead than alive to the good father's side. His face wore the hue of death, his form was trembling, his eyes were glassy and his words wild. "I cannot endure the third night. Angels and devils alike surround me. My victims ask me, with their cold hands about my throat and glassy eyes staring into mine, to name the hour I want to die. My flesh is bruised where they burn and prick me. My head is sore from the frequent pulling of my hair. Grant me absolution; they have showed me the bottomless pit of hell, and I cannot return!"

The good father prayed long and earnestly with him, that the Almighty power would deal leniently with his many crimes, but commanded the trembling wretch to

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