ETL.  ities of pottery have been unearth "The the construction of the railway; BRADLEY
SEPTEMBER 6th, 2013
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les away, and as we looked to [Pg 305] the eastward our guide told us that the streak of silver bordering the horizon was the Gulf of Mexico. Mountain, valley, table-land, lakes, plain, forest, all were spread before us, and in the range of vision from the top of Popocatepetl an area of twenty thousand square miles is said to be included. On one side of the mountain you can look down into the tierra caliente of the coast region, while on the other the eye is lost among the mountains and table-lands that stretch away until lost in the limitless distance." So ends Frank's account of their visit to the great mountain of Mexico. A DANGEROUS PLACE. The party returned to Amecameca, and determined to remain there a day or two to make some explorations in the vicinity, and also to rest from their fatigues. During their stay Fred found the following description of a visit to the crater of Popocatepetl by an artist, Mr. Frank Kellott, which he carefully copied into his note-book. We have obtained the youth's permission to copy the account, and it is certain to interest our


readers. "We followed a narrow foot-path," said Mr. Kellott, "until we reached a shelf, where we were seated in a skid and let down by a windlass 500 feet or so to a landing-place. From this we clambered down to a [Pg 306] second windlass and a second skid, which was the most fearful of all, because we were dangling about, without anything to steady ourselves, as we descended before the mouth of one of those yawning caverns which are called respiraderos, or 'breathing-holes' of the crater. They are so called from the fresh air and horrid sounds that continually issue from them. But we shut our eyes and clung to the rope as we whirled round and round in mid-air until we reached another landing-place about 500 feet lower. From this point we clambered down as best we could until we came among the men digging up cinders from which sulphur, in the form of brimstone, is made. "We took no measurements while in the crater, and heights and distances can only be given approximately. We only know that all things are on a scale so vast tha


t Old Pluto might here have forged new thunder-bolts, and Milton's Satan might have here found the material for his sulphurous bed. All was strange and wild and frightful. "We crawled into several of the breathing-holes, but nothing was there except darkness visible. The sides and bottom were for the most part polished by the molten mass which had passed through them, and if it had not been for the ropes around our waists, we should have slipped and fallen we knew not whither. The stones we threw in were lost to sound unless they hit upon a projecting rock and fell from shelf to shelf. The deep darkness was fearful to contemplate. What must have been the effect when each one of these breathing-holes was vomiting up liquid fire and sulphur into the basin where we stood? How immeasurable must be the lake whose overflowings fill such a cavity as this


!" The region around the base of Popocatepetl seems to have been densely peopled at some remote period, if we may judge by the ruins that lie scattered about, by the numerous tombs on the hills and in the valleys, and by the great quantity of pottery brought to light by excavations. Some antiquarians who have made researches here think that the cradle of the human race is to be found in Mexico, and that the people of this region gave the arts and sciences to Egypt and the rest of the Old World. This conundrum was a perplexing one for our young friends. They did not try to solve it, but contented themselves with investigations on their own account. The first object of their attention was Monte Sacro, which is in the town of Amecameca. It is a volcanic hill about 300 feet high, and contains a grotto that was turned into a hermita



ge at the time of the Conquest. A church was built there and a cemetery laid out, and as the traditions of the old time became mingled with those of later days, the [Pg 307] place acquired great sanctity. It abounds in tombs, some of them very old, and there were strange figures upon many of these resting-places of the dead, which none of the party could decipher. RUINS OF TLALMANALCO. At Tlalmanalco, a few miles from Amecameca, there are the ruins of a convent which was begun in the time


of Cortez, but was never finished. There are the fragments of walls, with a portico formed by five arches; these arches are supported by slender columns, which are covered with delicate carvings and suggest an Oriental character; they reminded our friends of what they had seen in temples in India, and Fred was so interested in them that he made a sketch of the ruins. According to M. Charnay, the carvings were executed by Indian artists, after designs furnished by the Spaniards. That the arches have stood so long is proof of the excellence of their const



ruction. [Pg 308] BURIAL-GROUND OF TENENEPANCO. All around this place great quant


ed. The story goes that thousands of vases and other precious things were found during



they were divided among the contractors and are widely scattered, few, if any, of them ever having reached the National Museum. VASES FOUND AT TENENEPANCO. Quantities of so-called antiquities were offered to our friends, but they had been warned long before and did not purchase any. The "antiquities" are modern, and so great is the demand for them that a considerable number of people is employed in their manufacture. The dealers heighten the imposition by enjoining great caution on the part of the purchaser, lest the Government shall ascertain that he is in possession of the precious relic, and despoil him of it. A few years ago an enterprising antiquarian spent several days in [Pg 309] the neighborhood of Tlamacas, on the very foot of Popocatepetl. Among other places, he examined the cemetery of Tenenepanco, which seems to have been of considerable extent; he opened a great many tombs, and found that the bodies had mostly been buried in a sitting posture, after the manner of many ancient people. A curious circumstance which he discovered was that while the bones were so decayed that they crumbled to dust on being touched, the brain was very often intact and well preserved. He attributed this condition to the high elevatio


n and the peculiar salts in the soil; one brain in particular was in perfect condition, while all the skull was mouldered away. He was in some doubt at first, but an examination showed that there was no mistake; the two lobes were there, and the lines of the blood-vessels were distinctly traceable. The same chemical combination that destroyed the bones preserved the soft tissues of the body. He took out a great number of vases, cups, marbles, necklaces, toy chariots, kitchen utensils, beads, caricatures of warriors, and many other things illustrating the life of the people who made them. Some of the cups were beautifully decorated, but unfortunately their exposure to the air caused the colors to fade. Ordinary utensils of earthen-ware were very soft when brought to light, and had to be handled with the greatest care, but they hardened by exposure and were solid enough after a few hours. [Pg 310] CARICATURE OF AN AZTEC WARRIOR. The youths learned that one tribe of Indians was accustomed to worship the great volcano as a deity at the time of the Conquest, and the practice is still



maintained. They have caves in the forest on the easterly side of the mountain, and once a year they go there to perform their worship; no stranger is allowed to accompany them, and any one who persists in following them runs the risk of his life. Some years ago, so the story runs, an inquisitive white man followed a party of these Indians into the forest, and was never seen again. What became of him is a mystery; the Indians claimed that they knew nothing of his fate, and there is no positive proof to the contrary. Frank had an ex


perience of the skill of the Mexican thief during his stay at Amecameca. He had dismounted from his horse in front of the Hotel Ferrocarril, and while he was busy arranging the stirrup on one side of the saddle, a thief crept up and stole the other one. He not only stole the stirrup but the strap that held it, and the youth was obliged to invest in another. [Pg 311] "I'm surprised you've had nothing of the kind before," said the proprietor of the hotel when he heard of the occurrence. "That was the work of a ratero." "What is a ratero?" Frank asked. "He's a thief peculiar to this part of Mexico," was the reply, "or rather, I should say he belongs to the whole country, and the finest qu

ality of him is produced around here. He will open and rob a trunk while carrying it on his back between the hotel and the railway-station; he will cut off the lining of a railway-carriage in less than two minutes, steal railway-ties, and anything else that he can lift; and as for ordinary thefts, his superior cannot be found anywhere. Several years ago the authorities of this town decided to light it with petroleum lamps, but the very first night they did so the lamps were stolen by the rateros, an

d the town was in darkness as it had been before." Frank was able to add a few notes to what he and Fred had already ascertained about Mexican thieves. The youths discussed the subject, and came to the conclusion that the tropics produced more adroit pilferers than the temperate zones, at least such had been their experience. "It is no wonder," said Fred, "that these people have become experts i

n stealing. Think how they have been despoiled by the Spaniards, who stole their country and all it contained, and reduced the people to the condition of a subject race. No wonder they have sought to revenge themselves on their conquerors, and their mildness of conduct is to be greatly admired, in view of what they have suffered. The condition of a Mexican peon is such that, if I may be permitted the paradoxical statement, he is obliged to steal in order to make an honest living." Thus musing, they returned to the city with the Doctor and their late companions in the ascent of Popocatepetl. CHAPTER XX. RAPACIOUS CARGADORES.—OLD BOOK-STORES IN THE PORTALES.—PUB




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