Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/576

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TRAVELS IN MEXICO.

sent to the fortress at Vera Cruz. This, I believe, was done, though it was after I left. They have a way in Mexico of inflicting the extreme penalty, without having the law on the statute-books, which is quite simple and effective. The judge remands a prisoner guilty of murder in the first degree to another court, or orders him transferred from one jail to another. It so falls out that the misguided wretch sees, or is led to believe that he sees, a way to escape, and attempts to run. Now no true Mexican would seek to establish a precedent so contrary to all the traditions of the country as to indulge in rapid locomotion, except in a case of life and death, and where his own was the life at stake. Thus it happens that the soldiers save their dignity, and their prisoner at the same time, by a volley from muskets ready charged in anticipation.

Mexican justice was not likely to prove tardy in this case, as the alcalde was even then smarting under an indignity offered to his own town. But a few days previously a telegraph operator had shot a Mexican "accidentally." Being a man of parts, and perhaps having already had a taste of Mexican law, he at once "lit out" in that expeditious manner designated in the Southwest as "between two days." The authorities immediately wired those below in Monterey to stop the culprit as he passed through; but the operator there, being an American, thought best not to deliver the message until his confrère was well over the Border. Then, being a prudent man, he also made hurried preparations to depart from a land where the atmosphere was not favorable to the transmission of electric currents. But the jefe politico, with an alacrity truly wonderful in one of his race, promptly clapped the delinquent into the calaboose,—el calabozo. It being represented to him, however, that the business of the line, as well as that of the municipality, would suffer, unless he were released, he was forthwith muleted to the tune of twenty five dollars and set at liberty; and the first train northward carried him likewise across the Rio Grande.

The third man concerned in the murder of the Swede escaped, and it was rumored, and afterwards confirmed, that he was hiding in the very house in which I was stopping. Our landlady was