Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/444

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undertaking at first seemed insuperable, and they by no means diminished as the work progressed. The road was many months in penetrating the mountains between the city of Mexico and Toluca, and endured a great deal of ill-deserved abuse because it persisted so patiently in overcoming the most difficult obstacles at the outset. Its system of working in sections, at various isolated portions of the route, though at first discouraging, eventually proved the most rapid and satisfactory, especially as labor could be commanded that otherwise might not have been available. The road has long since passed the bounds of the valley of Mexico, and has pursued the same undeviating march of triumph as has been witnessed in the advance of the Central.

To illustrate the condition of the road during the first year of its existence, I introduce a description of the departure from the central office of the weekly pay train, which I accompanied.

First, there was a small cart, containing $10,000 in silver; this was loaded and placed in charge of a guard while the mules were laden. There were seven mules. Upon the back of each one was placed a coarse bag containing $2,000 in silver. This bag was about two feet long and one wide, and was lashed tightly to the pack-saddle. The sum of $6,000 was despatched to a point farther up the line by diligence. In all, $30,000 was sent out from the office to be distributed before night. As the cathedral clock struck six, the great doors were thrown open, and we sallied forth,—first a small guard, then the mules, then the cart, then ourselves. As we reached the Alameda the diligence passed us at speed, with its escort galloping behind; and here we were joined by our own escort of rural guards and employees of the company. The drivers kept the mules on the gallop all the way, past the aqueduct of San Cosme, to Tacuba, the cart with its silver burden betraying by its jingling the nature of its contents. We were there reduced to twenty-six men, including eight rural guards furnished by government, and twelve armed employees of the company. Each man of the escort was clad in leather jacket and pantaloons, and armed with carbine, sabre, and revolver, besides carrying coiled at the pommel of his saddle the inevitable lasso.