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with the hope of obtaining a sight of my companion or companions, but without success.
“A sickening feeling of loneliness came over me, on finding myself in that worst of all situations upon a prairie, - lost! The sun was still high in the heavens, and I could not tell which was, north or which south. I had my rifle and pistols with me, was well mounted, and had a sufficiency of ammunition ; but I was not well enough acquainted with a prairie life to steer a course, even if I had known what course to start upon. Neither was I hunter enough to feel confident that I could kill a sufficiency of meat, in case I should be unsuccessful in finding my companions. Another thing ; I had already found out, what every hunter knows, that the more hungry a man grows upon the prairies the more unlikely he is to find game, and the more difficult it is to shoot it
. There, then, I was, without a companion and without experience, starvation staring me in the face; or even if I was fortunate in obtaining meat, I still was almost certain to be killed and scalped by the Indians, or end my days in vain efforts to reach the settlements. I thought of home, and made up my mind firmly, that, if ever I was fortunate enough to reach it, I should be in no particular hurry to leave it again.
“I dashed off to what appeared a still higher prairie swell than the one I now stood upon ; nothing could I see, except a solitary wolf, trotting stealthily along in the hollow below me. I even envied this most contemptible of the brute creation, for he knew where he was. I strained my eyes as though to pene. trate beyond the limits of human vision ; but all was a waste, a blank. I leaped from my horse and sat upon the ground for a moment; it was only for a moment, for, in my uneasiness, I could not remain motionless. I tried to reflect, to reason ; but so fast did thoughts of starvation and of Indian perils crowd upon my mind, that I could come to no definite conclusion as to my present position with reference to that of my companions. I tried to follow my own trail back to the point where I had so foolishly left “ Old Paint”; but the ground was so hard, that my horse's hoofs had made little or no indentation, and I was too impatient to examine the face of the prairie with that searching scrutiny which might have resulted in success.
“But,' the reader will perchance inquire, why did you not give your horse the reins, and trust to his natural sagacity for regaining his or your companions ?' And again ; Why did you not wait until the sun was low in the western heavens, then re. flect, for one moment, in what direction the command was trav. elling, and the side on which you had left it? You knew that
the sun would set in the west, and that, as you had faced it, north was to the right and south to the left; surely you could then steer a course, even if you could not while the sun was vertical.'
“ Gentle reader, you have never been lost on a wide ocean of prairies, unskilled in border life, and little gifted with the power of first adopting a course to follow, and then not deviating from it. You must recollect, that, there, as on the wide ocean, you find no trees, no friendly landmarks to guide you, — all is a wide waste of eternal sameness. To be lost, as I and others have experienced, has a complex and fearful meaning. It is not merely to stray from your friends, your path, but from yourself. With your way, you lose your presence of mind. You attempt to reason ; but the rudder and compass of your reflective facul. ties are gone. Self-confidence, too, is lost; in a word, all is lost, except a maniacal impulse to despair, that is peculiar and indescribable.
“In my case, fate, fortune, good luck — call it by what name you may — stepped in to my assistance. While upon one of the highest rolls of the prairie, I resolved to proceed in a certain direction, and, if possible, to keep it without variation. Whether I did so, or not, I am unable to say ; I only know, that after travelling at a rapid pace, it may be some five miles, I suddenly found myself upon the brow of a high and steep declivity, overlooking a narrow but beautiful valley, through which a small creek was winding. I had examined the prairies in every direction during my short ride, until my eyes ached from over-straining, yet had not for a moment allowed my horse to slacken his pace. I now paused to examine the valley before me. The reader may judge my feelings, when, after a hasty glance, I dis. covered the white tops of the wagons, far off in the distance to the right, slowly winding their way down a gentle slope into the valley. Never was the sight of friendly sail more welcome to the eye of a shipwrecked mariner than was the appearance of those wagons to me, and I fairly laughed aloud at my good fortune." Vol. 1., pp. 155 – 159.
We doubt whether Mr. Kendall would have laughed aloud, even after an escape like this, if he could have anticipated that which was about to befall him. It is unneeessary to be particular in recapitulating circumstances which are familiar to most readers. " Mr. Kendall's passports, derived from the Mexican consul at New Orleans, did not protect him from the indignities and cruelty which were poured without measure on the heads of his fellow-prisoners. Armijo was at this time governor of New Mexico, — a personage who appears to belong to the worst class of Mexican officials. By his orders, the prisoners were to march to the city of Mexico, escorted by a body of Mexican soldiers, under the command of a brutal officer, named Salbezar. Fortunately, when they reached El Paso, this man was arrested by the military commandant there, General Elias, on the charge of having murdered several of the Texans ; the full details of his inhumanity having been made known by the prisoners on their arrival. Before this time, they had experienced a kindness from the Mexican women, which gives a favorable impression of their character ; and at El Paso, the hospitality and kindness which they received from all are acknowledged in the warmest terms. The inconvenience, and even suffering, attending the privations and hardships of a long winter journey, under circumstances so disheartening as those of a prisoner of war, totally uncertain what his destiny might be in the hands of those whose military usages savor strongly of the barbarous, might have furnished a sufficient apology for the author, if his power of observation had been less keen than usual ; but it seems to have been always vigilant ; and we doubt whether a traveller, proceeding through the country at his leisure, would have exercised it with greater benefit and entertainment to the reader. The following is the account he gives of the general condition of the less favored citizens of the republic.
" The constitution of Mexico guaranties to all classes and col. ors the greatest liberty and equality ; the poorest peasant is protected, by the glorious panoply of the law, from every infringement upon his personal liberty; and the most abject beggar in the land has rights and privileges which cannot be trampled upon by his neighbour, be he ever so powerful or wealthy. So much for the law and constitution in theory, — the practice is an entirely different matter.
“ The traveller, who visits one of the larger estates in Mexico, finds, in the centre of it, a village, or collection of houses, large or small, in proportion to the quantity of land owned by the proprietor. Occupying the most conspicuous situation is the church, generally a strong stone building, surmounted by a tower or cu. pola, with a clear, silvery-sounding bell. The interior is decorated, perhaps, with statues of our Saviour, the Apostles, the Virgin, and the patron saint of the hacienda, executed in wood, and frequently arrayed most fantastically; the walls are covered
Here the poor
with wretched copies of Scriptural paintings. Close by the church is the residence of the haciendero, or owner, a massive, strong, roomy, but comparatively unfurnished dwelling, in one of the front apartments of which is his store. peons purchase their liquor, their cigars, and the little cloth ihat furnishes their raiment, and at prices the most exorbitant. Adjoining this house are the trojes, or barns, where the produce of the estate is stored, — strong, substantial buildings. Then come the rude adobe hovels of the common laborers, frequently having but one room, in which the whole family, father and mother, brothers and sisters, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law, huddle together upon one common earthen floor.
“ And what relation do these people bear to the haciendero ? They are many of them slaves, slaves to all intents and pur. poses, although they may enjoy a nominal liberty. A large proportion of them, probably, are in some way indebted to the proprietor, the law giving him a lien upon their services until such debts are paid ; but most especial good care does he take, that they never pay him their obligations so long as their services are any way profitable. They are in his debt, and are kept so until age or infirmity renders their labor unproductive ; then the obligation is cancelled, and they are cast upon the world, to beg, steal, or starve, as best they may.
“Should some one of the peons, more active, ambitious, or enterprising than his fellows, chance to accumulate money enough to repay his debt and regain his liberty, - how then? He offers his master the price of his redemption ; but the latter, upon some flimsy pretext, refuses to take it; he has not yet done with the services of the vigorous servant. The latter flies to the alcalde for redress. The law is on his side, equity is on his side, but the functionary who administers them is very likely a creature of the proprietor, and will not listen to the case of the slave, be it ever so just. The latter attempts to purchase justice by a bribe, but he is outbid by the haciendero. The alcalde shuts his eyes upon justice, opens his heart to the longer purse of the proprietor, and the unfortunate serf is once more driven to bondage. Such, so far as I could see and learn, was the state of things at many of the haciendas we passed upon our journey. The immense wealth, which has fallen into the hands of the few in Mexico, has given them a power over the numerous and abjectly poor which amounts nearly to that of the English barons under the feudal system. Never will there be a change in favor of the lower orders until a thorough and radical revolution takes place in the very nature of the inhabitants, or until the coun. iry falls into other hands.” – Vol. 11., pp. 112 - 114.
This, as a general description, may be rather strongly stated; but there can be no doubt that it is substantially applicable, not only to Mexico, but to all the countries which have thrown off the yoke of Spain. The Spanish domination was no primary school, in which the principles of republicanism could be advantageously studied. Institutions resting on equality are not likely to be very stable where no equality exists; and a long period of discipline will undoubledly be requisite, in order to adapt the people to the institutions, or the institutions to the people. They have receded too far from monarchy to be able to endure it permanently now; but they have, as yet, found little tranquillity under a system nominally republican.
At Queretaro, Mr. Kendall became acquainted with a description of currency, which has not passed into extensive circulation elsewhere.
“We had scarcely been ten minutes in the convent when we were visited by the usual crowd of venders of oranges and other fruits, women with tortillas, frijoles, and guisado, all anxious to dispose of their little stock in trade. Mr. Falconer picked out some half dozen oranges and sweet limes from the basket of a fruit-girl, and in payment handed her a dollar. There was not small coin enough among them all to change the dollar, and Falconer sent it out by a corporal, telling him to get it changed. The fellow shortly returned with sixty-four cakes of soap, tied up in a handkerchief. Falconer told the corporal he wanted change, not soap. The corporal replied, that it was the currency of the place, - legal currency, - and that there was no other. Such proved to be the case : and, however singular it may appear, soap is really a lawful tender in the payment of all debis, and our companion was compelled to keep this singular substitute in the way of change for his dollar. He could not very well pocket it, as there was nearly a peck in bulk.
“The cakes are about the size of the common Windsor shav. ing-soap, and each is worth one cent and a half, - in fact, a fraction more, as eight of them pass for twelve and a half cents, or sixteen for a quarter of a dollar. Each cake is stamped with the name of the town where it is issued, and also with the name of the person who is authorized by law to manufacture it as a circulating medium; yet Celaya soap - for it also circulates in that city — will not pass at Queretaro. The reason I cannot divine, as the size and intrinsic value appear to be the same.”— Vol. 11., pp. 186, 187.