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HOME > Classical Novels > The Boy Travellers in Mexico > CHAPTER XXXII.
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At nine o'clock they reached the hacienda of Uxmal, where they were invited to breakfast. The invitation was accepted, and immediately after the conclusion of the meal the party continued to the ruins, which were about a mile farther on. The mayordomo invited them to make the place their home as long as they were in the neighborhood. Mr. Burbank gave an evasive answer to the invitation, at the same time earnestly thanking their host for his courtesy. To decline absolutely might seem a rudeness, and to accept would not accord with their arrangement to live at the ruins of the ancient city.
On reaching the ruins the party halted to consider what should first be investigated. Doctor Bronson asked the youths if they had any suggestions to make, whereupon Frank intimated that he desired above everything else to visit the Dwarf's House.
[Pg 499]
"Why so?" queried the Doctor.
"On account of the very pretty legend connected with it," replied Frank. "It is given by Stephens, Charnay, and others who have been here, but the best form of it is by Mrs. Le Plongeon."
Then he read the following from "New and Old in Yucatan:"
"'During the reign of a certain Maya king there lived a woman who was both feared and respected, for she was a wonderful sorceress. A son was born to her, and he became a great favorite, for he was good and clever, though very small—in fact, a dwarf. Finally he became so popular—probably the people fawned on him to please the formidable witch—that the King grew jealous, and sought his destruction by giving him difficult tasks, so that, failing, he might be accused of disobedience. But, thanks to his mother, the boy always succeeded.
"'One day the King, out of patience, ordered the boy to build in one
[Pg 500]
 night a high mound and a house on the top. The youth was at his wits' end, but went, as usual, to seek maternal aid. "Oh, mother, mother! I shall surely die, for the King has ordered me to do more than I can possibly accomplish;" and he told her his trouble.
"'"Never mind, my child, don't be alarmed. In the morning the house will be there."
"'It was, and from that day to this has been called the Dwarf's House. The King was enraged. He sent for the dwarf. "I am greatly pleased with the house. Now I want to break six cocoyoles" (small and very hard cocoanuts about the size of a walnut) "on your head, and then I will give you my daughter in marriage."
"'The dwarf declined to accept the offer on these conditions. The monarch insisted. "I want you to marry my daughter, and you must accept my conditions."
"'Again the poor dwarf sought his mother in despair. "There is no hope for me now."
"Oh yes, there is," replied the clever witch. "You go back to his Majesty and tell him that you accede to his request provided he afterwards allows you to break six cocoyoles on his own head."
"'And to this the King publicly agreed, because he was determined to kill the dwarf with the first cocoyol.
"'Then the sorceress rubbed her son's head with something that made it so hard nothing could possibly hurt it.
"'The King arrived, and the dwarf, in the presence of all the people, laid his head on a stone. With another the King broke the cocoyol on the head of his intended victim—broke all six of them—but the dwarf rose unhurt.
"'Then it was the turn of the monarch to lay his proud head down, and as his scalp was not prepared, the dwarf broke his skull, and thus got rid of his enemy. The agreement had been faithfully carried out, so the public had nothing to say. The dwarf then married the princess and became king.'"
Of course the marriage of the dwarf to the princess was the end of the story, and Frank so intimated. As the Dwarf's House was visible from where they stood—in fact it is the most prominent object as the ruins are approached—the party went to it at once.
"It stands on an artificial mound about 100 feet high," wrote Fred, in describing the visit, "and therefore was quite a task for the dwarf to accomplish in a single night. Do you doubt the truth of the story? Well, here is the mound with the house upon it, and anywhere around here you
[Pg 501]
 may gather cocoyoles in whatever number you like. Could there be any further proof needed than these facts?
"We climbed to the top by a broad staircase of stone, and it was by no means an easy climb. The steps are narrow and some of them have become displaced, so that we were all tired enough to sit down when we reached the house. The tradition is that when the priests threw the bodies of the victims of sacrifice from the altars they rolled to the bottom of the steps without stopping. The staircase is very wide, sixty or seventy feet; and this great width, combined with the narrow steps, makes it a dangerous one to ascend. A single misstep would send one rolling downward, like the sacrificial victims.
"The house was evidently a place of worship, and in this respect corresponds to the teocallis of the Mexicans, which we have already described. Although generally known as the Dwarf's House, it is frequently called the House of the Prophet; and there is a tradition that prophecies were issued from it, as from the temples of ancient Greece and Rome.
"It is seventy feet long and twelve wide, and is covered with sculpture, some of it greatly injured by time, while the rest is well preserved. There are many hieroglyphics that form an interesting study for the archæologist. Several travellers have given translations of them, and I believe
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 that each one is able to demonstrate that his predecessors were all wrong. We will not attempt to decipher them, as we do not wish to run the risk of our work being overturned by the next comer.
"The building has three rooms; Doctor Bronson says that some of the sculptures on the walls of these rooms are masonic symbols, and he wonders if the race that erected the building were acquainted with the mystic rite. Who can tell?
"Lower down is a sanctuary of two small but very high-ceiled rooms, and having some fine sculpture on the outside. Over the entrance of the sanctuary is the carved head of a mastodon, showing that the people were acquainted with that animal, or at all events had his correct likeness. There are masonic emblems on a cornice that extends around the sanctuary, and on the lower part of the cornice are rings cut in stone, from which curtains were suspended during the ceremonies that were performed inside the building.
"We spent an hour or more inspecting the building and its sculptures, and then gave quite a little time to the magnificent panorama that was revealed from the top of the mound; indeed we had considerable enjoyment of it while resting from the fatigue of the ascent.
"The pyramid rises from a plain, and at the elevation where we stood or sat we embraced with our eyes a wide area. All the principal buildings of Uxmal were at our feet, and we looked and listened attentively while Mr. Burbank pointed them out.
"Nearest and to the west is the Casa de las Monjas, or 'House of the Nuns,' but whether it was really a nunnery or is only called so for convenience we are unable to say. On a broad and high terrace to the south is the Casa del Gobernador, or 'House of the Governor,' and there is a building close by called the 'House of the Turtles.' Turtles did not live there, but figures of them are on the sculptures that adorn the building. There were several other heaps of ruins, of which I noted the names of only two, the 'House of the Old Woman,' and the 'House of the Pigeons.'
"When we had finished our inspection of the Dwarf's House we descended the steeply sloping pyramid, picking our way very carefully to avoid accidents. Except where the stones are so thick as to afford no clinging ground for vegetation, the sides of the mound are covered with bushes, which are occasionally cut away by the proprietor of Uxmal.
"We went first to the House of the Nuns, which is a building about 280 feet square, with a large court-yard in the centre. There is a high gate-way on the south side by which we entered the house; the house has
[Pg 503]
 eighty-eight rooms or apartments opening into the court-yard, but no doors opening to the outside. As we entered the court our attention was drawn to the sculptures on the interior façades of the building; on one side there is a representation of two enormous serpents, so immense in size that they run the whole length of the edifice, their exact measurement being 173 feet. Their bodies are twisted together, and in the spaces between the folds are many strange hieroglyphics. We seemed to be once more in India, or some other Eastern country, where serpent worship once prevailed and is by no means unknown at the present day.
"Mr. Burbank told us that the ruins have suffered a good deal in recent years, and at the rate they are being destroyed there will be little more than a few heaps of rubbish remaining here when the next century begins. Nearly every visitor to them thinks he must carry away something, and most people are not at all particular about defacing the hieroglyphics
[Pg 504]
 or other sculptures. A large quantity of stone has been taken from the ruins for building purposes at the Uxmal hacienda; and the Indians do not seem to have any reverence, or but very little, for the homes of their by-gone ancestors. There are the usual traditions about buried treasures in the buildings, and every little while somebody tries to find them. Nothing of value has ever been discovered, but the digging that forms a necessary part of every search is a serious injury to the sculptures and walls.
"The hand of man is ably aided in the work of destruction by the tropical vegetation; around the building it is so thick that all access would soon be cut off if the rapidly growing mass were not occasionally cut away in places where paths are desired. The roof is overgrown with yuccas and other plants, that convert it into a sort of hanging garden; their roots, swelling in the crevices between the stones, are rapidly breaking down the walls and converting the whole into a shapeless mass of ruins."
[Pg 505]
The next spot of interest was the Casa del Gobernador, which has been alluded to in Fred's account of the view from the top of the pyramid. Our friends went there and found not only an extensive ruin, but what was of practical importance, the servants that had been sent on in advance from Merida with the cart and camping equipments. They had already taken possession of the best rooms in the house, and were clearing them out for occupation.
One room served for kitchen and servants' quarters, and th............
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