Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/80

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Every large penitentiary in Anglo-Saxondom has inmates who might pose for any saint in the Roman almanac, while an honest village-priest of Southern Bavaria may combine in his face the deformities of Breughel's seven devils by indulging in salted pork, lager-bier, and sauerkraut. Some years ago I passed a few days at Brownsville, Texas, during the session of the United States District Court. The cause célèbre of the season was the case of Francisco Hernandez, a Mexican bandit, who had infested the Rio Grande frontier for more than three years before he was caught in his favorite trick of robbing the poor farm-houses of his countrymen, whenever the absence of the able bodied males gave him a chance of executing his designs with a minimum risk to his own skin. Though he assured the court that he had no hard feelings against any of his victims, he had been obliged, in the line of his business, to kill eight different persons—all females and minors. His last enterprise had involved a hand-to-hand fight with a stout old woman, who broke his left arm before he dispatched her. He was tracked to the Rio Grande, and, trying to swim the river in his crippled condition, saw himself obliged to turn back into pistol range of his pursuers, was captured, and arraigned for five murders in the second and three in the first degree. I strolled into the court-house while his trial was going on, expecting to see one of those bull-necked old cut-throats of the negroid type, who abound in this region of murder and mixed races. He proved to be a pale-faced creole, of some eighteen or twenty years, slender-built, modest-spoken, and resigned looking to a pathetic degree. His profile was absolutely perfect, and the same might have been said of his eyes, if their look had not been too ghost-like spiritual to leave an agreeable impression. Cæsar Borgia, the natural son of Pope Alexander VI, was at once the wickedest and handsomest man of his time. The fiend who aggravated the guilt of the most unheard-of crimes by perpetrating them in the name of a sentimental religion wore a face which, in the words of Delia Porta, might inspire a saint to live up to every sublime precept of that creed. The mere sound of his voice succeeded where the arguments of others failed; his eye could beam with the inspiration of a prophet while he meditated those fatti assassini to which the records of the most barbarous nations furnish scarcely a parallel. It is a pity that his skull has not been preserved, though we need not doubt that it did exhibit all those fine "developments" that were necessary to harmonize with such a face.

Cæsar Borgia had hostile biographers, who may have exaggerated his faults, and artist-friends who, perhaps, flattered him in portraits; but the same can not be said of Mohammed II, the conqueror of Constantinople, whose crimes were palliated by his abject courtiers, and to whose majestic beauty his enemies bear witness. The historian Phranza, who lost his fortune and his country in the downfall of the Byzantine Empire, and whose only son was stabbed by the hand