Six Months In Mexico/Chapter 37
people in need seek the painting to pour forth their prayers at its feet.
El Desierto and its old Carmelite convent occupy the most charming spot in Mexico. It is only fifteen miles from the capital, and the way is along the most romantic and picturesque road a Southern clime can produce. The forest that surrounds El Desierto is composed of the largest trees in the valley, hardly excepting those of Chapultepec. The convent was a group of massive buildings, domes and turrets, now crumbling into decay. In 1625 the monks retreated to this wilderness to mortify the flesh, and strange stories of their serio-jovial life, their sparkling wines and romance of their hermit-like existence come creeping down through centuries; the jolly monks are no more, and the winds sigh through the mighty forest that has ridden romance, love and tragedy from the world.
The conqueror, Cortez, not satisfied with robbing the grand old Aztec king, Montezuma, of his land and life, also robbed him of his daughter. The poor woman, after he deserted her deserted her, died in a convent, leaving a daughter, the child of Cortez', and granddaughter of Montezuma, was married very young, to a Spanish captain Quinteros. There are now Puebla descendants of that illegal love.
PRINCESS JOSEFA DE YTURBIDE.
I cannot close this little book without speaking of one of the most remarkable and brilliant women in Mexico, the only daughter of the emperor. After the execution of the emperor the family came to the States, and settled in Philadelphia. Josefa was sent to Georgetown to receive an English education, and she yet retains a love for America and its people. When Maximilian entered Mexico he restored the titles to the Yturbide family, and invited the cultured princess to become a member of his imperial household. Subsequently Emperor Emperor Maximilian adopted Augustin Yturbide, grandson of the late emperor, and appointed the Princess Josefa guardian of the "prince imperial." Maximilian soon recognized the wonderful executive abilities of the princess, and he consulted her on momentous occasions. Had he taken her advice, I doubt not but that Mexico would have had an empire to-day.
After the fall of Maximilian, Mrs. Yturbide (formerly Alice Green, of Washington, D. C.) claimed and recovered her son, who had been temporarily "heir presumptive" to the throne of Mexico. The Princess Josefa went to the court of Austria. Nine years ago she returned to Mexico, where she lives in seclusion. She is one of the loveliest women, in every respect, I ever met. Her rooms at the Hotel Humboldt are plain, but contain many little mementos of former glory. The pictures and busts of the unfortunate emperor and empress occupy prominent positions.
"Carlotta was only twenty-three years old when she came to Mexico," said the princess. "She was a beautiful girl, with a creamy complexion, dark eyes and hair. She worshiped her young husband, as he did her, and she was ambitious for his sake. What a sad fate was theirs!"
The princess then showed me five letters she had received from Carlotta, written in English, after the emperors death; they gave no evidence of her insanity. The princess has never received any recompense for the land which the government took from her father, and even a pension due her, which now amounts to some hundred thousands, has never been paid. She receives many promises from Diaz but never the money.
The worst things the Mexicans ever did for themselves was to shoot Maximilian. They have never had one quarter so good government since. They had sworn good faith to the emperor and said if he sent part of the French army back they would support him. He believed them, and when he found that they were dishonest he applied to Napoleon for aid. When he received no answer, the empress, eager to save her noble husband, started to beg Napoleon personally for help, much against the wish of Maximilian.
The republican powers getting too strong for the emperor, some advised him to seek refuge until things grew calmer. The refuge he sought was the prison they had prepared for him. He walked into it, and he never came forth until the day he was shot. His bosom friend, Lopez, whom the emperor had enriched, had made a general, and intrusted him with all his secrets, betrayed him to his enemies. On June, 19, 1867, Maximilian and his brave comrades, Miramon and Mejia, were led forth to a little hill near Queretaro and shot. Maximilian's last words were: "Poor Carlotta." Three little black crosses now mark the spot where those noble men died.