Page:The Rambler in Mexico.djvu/41

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PUEBLO VIEJO.

fully draped figures passing to and from, with their burdens poised on their heads, or a sturdy peasant, with his mule laden with two gigantic bottles of baked earth, waiting patiently for his turn in the deep cool shade, formed pictures of the most beautiful description. At the extreme termination of the little dell, a few ancient sibyls were ordinarily employed over a caldron supported by poles, and simmering from the wood fires kindled under it, and the light blue smoke hovered among the branches of the aged trees, which rose from the thicket beyond. The Fuenta was evidently the lounge and trysting place of the town, and many a youthful dark-eyed gallant might be seen at times lolling upon the stone wall which hemmed in the reservoir. Occasionally a mounted cavalier in all his bravery would dash up the little vista at full career, till within a foot of the enclosure, when a check from the powerful bit would bring his horse upon its haunches. He would pass a moment in the cool shade, quaff a gourd of the fresh water from the hand of one of the laughing group, perhaps get a plentiful sprinkle over his gay mantle in return for some saucy speech, and disappear as rapidly as he came.

In short, I shall never forget la Fuenta de Pueblo Viejo, though my enjoyment of its beauties was always qualified by the knowledge, that I never quitted it without carrying off a goodly colony of garapatos, besides sundry ants, with which the whole country about Tampico swarms. There is a species called the arriero or carrier, from its peculiar habits, and I have frequently been tempted to observe them minutely. Their nests are formed below the surface, and must be very extensive, judging from the immense length of the trains which may be observed proceeding to and from them upon the surface, and the quantity of vegetable matter introduced into them. The labourers are seen moving in two distinct columns, strictly adhering to the rule of the road, upon pathways of even breadth throughout, as nicely indicated and beaten from the incessant passage, as those of busy men. They lead frequently into the bushes, to some tree or shrub, which has been fixed upon by com-