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guerrilleros, or highway robbers, are dandified, though ragged; and murderers march to the garrote in white-kid gloves. It is notorious that the country is nationally in a state of chronic bankruptcy; yet an astonishing amount of gold and silver is apparent in the shape of ornaments on the garments even of the common people. Cosas de Mejico. They are, in many cases, as curious and more incomprehensible than the cosas de España.
But why, it will be asked, was José Jamon de Ycarregua, that nattily-attired Mejicano— that most respectable of wax-chandlers, that most politic of men—incited to utter the profane exclamation of · Caramba'? What was the trouble with him ?
José Jamon's affliction amounted to this—that his business had been constantly declining for a very long time, and seemed to be approaching an entire standstill. As a seller of wax-candles, he had been accustomed to drive a very lively trade in tapers and cierges, which he supplied to the multitudinous churches, convents, and nunneries of Mexico. In Holy Week he was accustomed to reap a harvest of gold ounces; nor were his gains habitually less gratifying at Christmas-time, when the demand for his tapers, to be used at nascimientos, was ordinarily immense. José Jamon had thriven on wax for the better part of his life, and it had brought him abundant honey. He had been long a widower; but there remained to him one pledge of his deceased señora's love—he occasionally corrected her with a lasso or a stirrup-leather-in the shape of his daughter Pepita, now a sprightly brunette of some eighteen summers. José Jamon had acquired a very comfortable competence, when, in an evil hour, he was induced to invest his savings in the newlydiscovered adit of a silver-mine in the province of Leon. The silvermine turned out to be a swindle ; and when, at the conclusion of twelve months, the entire concern irremediably collapsed, José awoke a sadder and a wiser man, and the loser of sixty thousand dollars. The world lay before him to begin again; but, unfortunately, it was not the same world as when he first knew it and made wealth out of wax. Mexico had gone to the Devil many times since his youth, but she had always managed to come back again ; this time it seemed probable that she would never return. Benito Juarez 'El Indio'— a cowherd, they say, in his childhood, then a pettifogging lawyer, then judge of the Supreme Court—had become, by an extraordinary 'fluke,' President of Mexico. He was the Coryphæus of the · Puro,' or Radical-Liberal party; and the watchword of that party in 186– was · Death to the Church !' The enormous ecclesiastical property, which had hitherto been respected by every party however anarchical, which had been uppermost in Mexico, was confiscated; the monasteries were suppressed; and thousands of monks, who had not been of much service from a spiritual point of view, but were utterly useless in any secular employment, were turned loose on the
SECOND SERIES, VOL. II. F.S. VOL. XII.
streets of Mexico. This was shortly before the intervention of the European powers in the affairs of Mexico -an intervention which cost Napoleon III. many milliards of francs and all his prestige. It cost Maximilian of Hapsburg his life. With the ‘Indio' Juarez in supreme authority, patriotism and highway-robbery were at a premium, and piety and the wax-chandling business fell to a melancholy discount. 'Tis true that mass and vespers were said every day in the churches ; that the nuns had not been interfered with ; and that there still existed a permanent proportion of devout old ladies, lovesick maidens, and superstitious Indians, always ready to purchase tapers to burn before the shrines of their favourite saints; but these candles were of the cheapest-mere waxen dips. And moreover, José Jamon had rivals and competitors, who stole his trade away from him. Foremost among these rivals was an abhorrent German, by the name of Stöffelbaum : a fellow who had come out to Vera Cruz with a cargo of lucifer-matches, meerschaum-pipes, and Bavarian beer; who had worked his way up to Jalapa, where he had established an agency for the sale of antibilious pills—a bringing of coals to Newcastle it seemed in the outset; yet the speculation proved a very profitable one, for the Mexicans near the coast, in perpetual dread of the yellow fever, will buy any kind of quack medicines. Stöffelbaum subsequently had contracted to light the city of Puebla with kerosene oil; and finally had arrived in Mexico, and organised a vast candle-manufactory, the success of which almost broke the heart of José Jamon de la Ycarregua, besides nearly making him bankrupt into the bargain. Were not all these troubles, political and commercial, sufficient to make the wax-chandler (although the most politic of mankind in general, and wax-chandlers in particular) dissatisfied and ill-conditioned ?
Other causes of choler were working in José's mind. As though he had not enough chagrin to aggravate his already superabundant bile, that mischievous little minx of a daughter of bis, Pepita, must needs fall over head and ears in love with a ‘Moussou.'
A ‘Moussou’ in Mexico is a Frenchman, just as he is a “Mozzoo' with the Russian peasants, and in England a Mounseer' with our own vulgar mobile. The Gaul in Mexico is very cordially hated, and the dislike to him, general and individual, is of a date long anterior to the French intervention in '62-3. Un perro,' a dog, and 'un Frances,' a Frenchman, are convertible terms in New as in Old Spain. The Moussou of whom Pepita Jamon de la Ycarregua had become enamoured was a sprightly good-looking young fellow, as impudent as a cock-robin (the most impudent bird I know: the jackdaw is merely saucy; the raven rude; and the swallow impertinent), called Dubreuil ; and, confound his impudence! he was the leader of the orchestra at the Teatro Yturbide. A fiddler, forsooth, to dare to pay court to Doña Pepita Jamon de la Ycarregua,
keeping his tempe. Not a claquo,' repbement at the Ytur
daughter of a politic wax-chandler, who had had the honour to supply the private oratory of his Grandeur the Archbishop of Mexico with tapers before the never-to-be-sufficiently-anathematised Stöffelbaum had cozened him out of his Grandeur's custom by supplying his Grandeur with candles twenty-five per cent under the regular price'! 'Gavacho! hijo de verdugo !' José would mutter between his teeth, when he thought of Stöffelbaum. He was always thinking of this Teutonic miscreant.
Jules Dubreuil—that was his full appellation-had put a climax to his insolence by formally demanding the hand of Pepita in marriage. Have you any money?' asked the justly-incensed parent, keeping his temper outwardly, but trembling with suppressed nervous excitement. Not a claquo,' replied the unabashed Jules. I have nothing but my fiddle, my engagement at the Yturbide (it is true, the manager does not pay our salaries very regularly, mais, monsieur, j'ai ma jeunesse), and my liver is unimpaired.'
This was touching José Jamon on two very sore points : he was growing old, and the less said about his viscera the better. ‘Al Diablo!' he cried; you, your youth, and your liver ! You have no money; you are a bisoñoso—a beggar. Get out of my house ! This time I reply to your insolent request with my mouth; the next time I answer shall be with my boot.
The hardened Jules received this allocution with cheerful equanimity, and took his departure, humming the lively air of Mon ami Pierrot.' José Jamon found a very curious love-letter from him in his daughter's workbox (the old spy!) a few days afterwards. 'I shall send you no more billets, my charmer,' wrote the callous Moussou. “Were I to slip them into the hood of your mantilla, as you suggest, when you are kneeling at vespers in the sagrario of the cathedral, some friend of your family might be on the watch, and my imprudence might lead to my being stabbed some moonless night by a gentleman waiting for me in a dark entry as I returned from the theatre. I do not wish to be stabbed by a gentleman in a dark entry. The constant heart that beats for thee, my Pepita, entertains a strong objection to being transfixed by a navaja. Nor shall I serenade thee under thy balcony, ma petite. That kind of thing is all very well for the opera ; but I cannot racler on the guitar, and wouldst thou have me serenade thee on the fiddle ? Besides, some friend of thy family might be in waiting to kick me, or to pour cold water over thy admirer. I do not like being kicked ; there is an instinctive aversion in the human mind from being kicked, thus proving the immortality of the soul. Our aspirations are upwards ; water is a colourless liquid, which becomes black when the human hands are immersed in it: I will keep it to wash my hands, and do not care about having it poured down the small of my back late at night. Keep up thy courage ; I love thee, Pepita of mine. I will devise means for subduing the tigerish ferocity of thy worthy but atrabilious papa, and thou shalt be mine. Jules Dubreuil, fils de veure, électeur éligible, swears it. Thou shalt be mine; and thou shalt see Paris the Incomparable ; and I will lead the orchestra at the Ambigu Comique, and become famous and decorated. Thine for ever.'
•And so, serpent, thou advisedst this treacherous Moussou-a coward as well as a traitor, for he did not even dare to follow thy advice—to drop writings into thy riboso during the sacred office ? Impious cockatrice !'
Yes, José Jamon called his daughter an impious cockatrice. It was strong language to use to a young lady; but what was the infuriated father to do? He might have had recourse to the lasso or the stirrup-leather, by means of which he had maintained his authority over her defunct mamma ; but the girl plainly told him that if he struck her, she would forthwith go and drown herself in the Canal de la Vega. So José Jamon contented himself with the threat, that if she entertained any farther correspondence with Jules Dubreuil, she should be sent to the Convent of the Black Nuns of San Luis Potosi-a dreadfully grim sisterhood, who practised asceticism of the most excruciating nature, wearing girdles of tarred rope set with fishhooks round their waists, and stinging-nettles in their stockings. Finally, he consigned her to the custody of an old halfcaste Indian woman, who was to officiate as dueña, and was instructed to talk to her young charge about the saints. She talked to her instead about Jules Dubreuil, and fetched and carried messages between the Calle Santa Isidra and the Teatro Yturbide with great alacrity and blitheness. Depend upon it, the heathen god Mercury was an old woman.
Talking of Santa Isidra, there was a shrine of that saint-a Mexican one, and who, in the days of the Spanish dominion, had been in very high repute—at the corner of the street, and in the very wall of José Jamon's house. Both shrine and shop had drifted into a very shabby and tumble-down condition. There was a rusty grating before the niche which held the statue of the saint, and this had been useful in bygone days to protect from the mala gente, or evilly - disposed, the gold and jewels with which her person was adorned; but the trinkets had long since disappeared, the grating had been broken down, and its few remaining bars were as rusty and bent as the railings of Leicester-square, while some irreverent persons had even gone so far as to scrape off the paltry modicum of gold-leaf on the nimbus round the saint's head. Her spangled kirtle was gone, her embroidered farthingale was in rags, her nose was broken; no lamp was kindled before her. She was a disendowed and disestablished saint, and might have cried, paraphrasing the incensed goddess in Virgil,
a to talk to ht" Jules Dubfsidra and the
home, her embo: round the scrape of 'while som
• What nation now to Juno's power will pray,
Or off'rings on my slighted altars lay?' Nobody would. Don Benito Juarez and the Puros had played old Harry the Eighth with the Mexican hagiology.
It was on the morning that José Jamon de la Ycarregua had, with the expletive of Caramba, expressed his opinion as to the ultimate destination of the United States of Mexico, that, as he was moodily withdrawing into his shop, he descried the abhorred · Moussou,' Jules Dubreuil, coming at his usually quiet and jaunty pace up the Calle de las Santas Tripas, and towards the Isidra.
Scoundrel !' growled José Jamon, clenching his fist and biting the end of a cigarito (I should have told you that he had been smoking all the time) clean off in his rage,- Scoundrel ! how dare he come near my domicile ?'
The impenitent Dubreuil not only ventured to approach the Jamonian residence, but had the inconceivable hardihood to cross the threshold, enter the shop, accost the politic and outraged wax-chandler, and slap him on the back. A fiddler dare to slap anybody on the back! He deserves to be beaten to death with fiddlestrings for his effrontery.
‘Miscreant ! gasped José, at once physically and morally out of breath through this assault, what do you want? How dare you pollute with your noisome presence this home of virtue,
And the best wax-candles,' the depraved Frenchman interrupted with a loud strident laugh. Don't be savage, old compadre of mine. My watchword is gente de paz.* You ask what I want. Well, I have two objects in visiting you. The first is, to beg your acceptance of this remarkably fine Figaro regalia, one of a box sent me by an old friend who is managing the Tacon Theatre at Havana ; the second is, to talk to you on a matter of business—financial business, mi compadre—the wax-chandlery business, which, I understand, has for a long time been going muy mal with you.'
José Jamon groaned. He could not controvert the · Moussou’ as to the decay of his trade. Nor was he proof against the offer of a Figaro regalia ; so, merely making up his mind that, if the presumptuous fiddler dared to reopen the subject of his love for Pepita, he would seize him by the throat and strangle him, he accepted the cigar, and folding his arms, informed Dubreuil that he was ready to listen to him from a business point of view.
The conversation lasted a long, a very long time ; and, curious to relate, when at its conclusion the violinist lit another cigar, the politic wax-chandler shook him warmly by the hand and wished him luck.
o Compadre means chum, crony, foster-brother, pardner' as English working people say. In the south of Old Spain always, and in Mexico frequently, when you knock or ring at a door the porter within cries, •Quien esta aqui ? Who is there?' You answer, as a rule, . Gente de paz'-'people of peace;' meaning that your errand is of a pacific nature.