Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/373

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rest. Indeed, it seemed inhuman to mount such dwarfed and blistered animals. Long years of servitude had worn the skin from their backbones, the pack-saddles had galled them until there were great spaces of raw and bloody flesh and running sores. They looked at us reproachfully as we got astride the pack-saddles,—for there were no others,—yet they offered no remonstrance in the shape of kicks or expostulatory brays. A silent and a saddened crowd, we wended our way up the hill, along the course of a swift-running stream that supplies the aqueduct that passes Chapultepec and San Cosme.

Soon we entered the wood that renders El Desierto one of the most enchanting resorts within a day's ride of Mexico. Pine, hemlock, cedar, and oak clothed the hillsides and darkened the deep and delightful vales. They are the largest trees found in a body in the valley, always excepting the cypresses of Chapultepec. In fact, there are no others left, except in isolated specimens in the various villages. The air here was cool and sweet, and the wind sighed through the pines with a subdued murmur, as though too heavily laden with sweetness to break into a gale. We found the convent on a central hill, entirely hidden from the world outside, a pile of massive buildings, with domes and turrets, surrounded by their dormitories, and enclosed within a high stone wall. Dilapidation and decay were written all over them. How many years have passed since they were occupied by the pious monks, no one seems to know, but antiquity's veil is over the place, since the oldest of the buildings was raised early in the seventeenth century,—in its first decade. Friar Gage, who was here about 1625, and whom the Abbé Clavigero calls a man of lies (though I believe he verily tells the truth), gives a caustic description of the lives of those holy monks who had mortified themselves by retreating to this wilderness. "It is wonderful to see the strange devices of fountains of water which are about the gardens, but much more strange and wonderful to see the resort of coaches and Gallants, and ladies and gentlemen, from Mexico, thither, to walk and make merry in those desert pleasures, and to see those hypocrites whom they look upon as living Saints,