A First Class Funeral Car

A First-Class Funeral Car.

A Second Class Funeral Car

A Second-Class Funeral Car.

One of the most interesting buildings in the city is the National Museum, which contains valuable relics of the Aztec race. The first of these to attract my notice was a circular monolith of porphyry, three feet thick, twelve feet in height, and weighing twenty-six tons. Inscriptions prove that this was brought from the quarry to the Aztec capital four hundred years ago. The block itself is remarkable, but more wonderful still is the clear proof which its elaborate carvings give of Aztec civilization and enlightenment. This was their Calendar Stone on which a figure, carved in the centre, indicated the sun, while those which encircle it symbolized the months and days of the Aztec year, which was divided into eighteen months of twenty days each, with five complementary days added so as to make three hundred and sixty-five; and once in fifty years they are said to have allowed for the loss of minutes in their reckoning.

The Entrance To The National Museum

The Entrance To The National Museum.

Nevertheless, the Aztecs were a curious combination of intelligence and barbarism. Close beside this intricate sun calendar, for example, stands a hideous idol nine feet high. It is the image of their God of War, and was the principal object pointed out to Cortez by Montezuma when he revealed to him the Aztec temple. It was then covered with gold ornaments and jewels, and on the ground before it was a pan of incense containing several human hearts, since to this horrible deity thousands of lives were annually offered. The number of these victims seems incredible. It is supposed that the yearly sacrifices throughout the Aztec empire numbered no less than twenty thousand; but' reduce that estimate even one-half, and the result is appalling.

Remembering these facts, we shuddered as we looked upon the Sacrificial Stone which is, perhaps, the most horrible souvenir of priestly power and human cruelty that the world contains. It once stood on the summit of the Aztec temple which was, as usual, in the form of a pyramid. There, in the presence of the God of War, and altars never left without their sacred fire, rose this mysterious block of sacrifice. It is a solid mass of polished porphyry, nine feet in diameter and three feet high, with top and sides profusely carved with likenesses of kings, and signs whose meaning is not clearly known; but one sad fact is plain enough. In the centre of the block is a skull-shaped cavity, from which extends a channel to the outer edge. Within that cavity the victim's head was placed as he lay outstretched upon the stone. Five priests then held his head and limbs, while a sixth, arrayed in scarlet robes, cut open the victim's breast with a sharp, razor-like instrument, and drew forth the still warm and quivering heart. This he at first held up in triumph, then laid it down before the statue of the god, while thousands in the square beneath bowed low in fear and adoration. Meantime, down the deep channel chiseled in the stone flowed a red stream of sacrificial blood, a terrible libation to the angry deity. It is said that twelve thousand prisoners were sacrificed upon this block, at its dedication, in 1510.

The Aztec Calendar

The Aztec Calendar.

On leaving the Museum, we made our way to a charitable institution called the Hospital of Jesus, - a building founded by Cortez on the very spot where Montezuma for the first time grasped the Spaniard's hand, and bade him welcome to his capital. It is worth remembering, in these days of will-breaking, that this old hospital is still maintained by the endowment bequeathed to it by the Conqueror, in spite of many attempts by governments and private individuals to annul the legacy. Reflecting on the sad events which quickly followed the meeting here of Cortez and the Aztec king, we climbed a stairway to the second story of the building, and gazed upon the only authentic painting of Hernando Cortez which exists in Mexico. It is not much to look at as a work of art, but it affords abundant food for thought, as one surveys those resolute features, in the very building founded by him centuries ago. With all his faults and cruelties, what energy and courage he possessed, what insight into human nature, and what a firm, indomitable will! The story of the Conquest reads like a romance. Though he had only a few hundred men, in two weeks after entering the Aztec capital Cortez had caused the sovereign, Montezuma, to be seized and held a prisoner, had captured the Aztec treasury, valued at six and a half million dollars, and had ordered many of Montezuma's ministers, who had counseled opposition to the invaders, to be burned to death. A few weeks later the brokenhearted Montezuma also died, despised by those who had formerly trembled at his glance.