Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/157

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

of flowers, and the many birds in the thickets enlivened our journey, so that we arrived at our destination without fatigue.

I was in season to go the rounds with the Doctor among his patients of the village, and was pleased to find that he had lost but three during my absence, and had only two in a critical condition. One man, who had been expected to die of a protracted debauch, the Doctor had physicked in vain, and this morning he mixed up some powerful calomel pills, quietly remarking, "If these don't do the business, that Indian will pass in his checks before noon." They did not kill him, and my friend thereby added another laurel to his wreath, and had another convalescent to extend his fame as a medico. I could not refrain from reciting those classic lines of the poet:—

"They prepared some pills of hydrargyrum,
And their patient travelled to kingdom come."

The last day of my stay the doctor-naturalist arranged for a grand poo, or turkey hunt, and early in the morning, after giving his patients some quieting medicines, we galloped out to a rancho, ten miles distant. It was almost entirely abandoned, being solely in charge of Indians. The mayoral, or head man, had on, like all the rest, simply a breech-cloth, hat, and sandals, and carried a machete, or great knife. His skin was hard, brown, and polished. These poor people had nothing to eat except roots from the woods and what animals they could kill. The corn crop of this year had failed, and half the population of Eastern Yucatan were subsisting on roots, small game, lizards, and snakes. Speculators had got control of American corn, and many people were starving in consequence, though every steamer from the United States was bringing vast quantities to Progreso, and notwithstanding the fact that in many of the interior States of Mexico corn was selling at twenty cents per bushel.

We waited an hour under a big ceibo tree, while an Indian knocked down some coco nuts, and brought us pawpaw fruits as large as pumpkins, which tasted like muskmelons. Then we were taken across a large milpa, or cornfield, in the blazing sun,