Travel Reference
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The rain seemed to increase in violence, and once it became dark everybody huddled
bandits, etc. The children snuggled up against the women, who were squatting on the mud
floor, and their dark eyes showed the fear they felt. The only light there was came from the
flickering fire. The horses were outside, the newly acquired tied to trees and Mancha loose.
He must have been looking for shelter from the wind behind the hut, for every now and again
I could hear him stamping. Every time he did this the children, whose imagination had been
worked up to terror pitch, would give a nervous twitch, and their little hands clutched tighter
on the women's skirts. The man told us we would have to cross a stream next day in which
there was a particularly big, fierce, and cunning crocodile, which had even attacked men on
mules whilst they were crossing a certain ford we would have to use. He said that the rep-
tile had done so much damage that the men of the neighbourhood had joined together in vain
attempts to kill it. By this time my guide was also beginning to feel nervous, and presently
he stood up and, raising his hands above his head, shouted in a high-pitched tremolo voice,
' Santisima Virgen Maria ' (Most Holy Virgin Mary), after which he bowed and made the sign
of the cross. The women did the same and, guiding the hands of the children, made them go
through the same motions.
My man asked me for two candles, articles I always carried in the saddlebags. He then
took down from the wall a dirty battered image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patron virgin
of Mexico, and, placing it between the two flickering candles on a box, began to go through
all manner of strange movements, at the same time imploring the Virgin to ask San Ignacio
to have mercy on us and to protect us against accidents whilst crossing rivers. A sudden gust
of wind that came in under the door blew out both candles. There was a shriek of horror, and
The guide turned to me and reproached me for not carrying an image of San Ignacio among
my requisites for a long journey. Confessing my barbarous ignorance in this line, I admitted
that I did not know the powers of this particular saint, although his name seemed familiar to
me. All the grownup people then began to tell me that he was the river charmer and protector
of travellers on lonely and dangerous trails.
When we had debated the situation and the possible causes that had made the candles go
out, my guide suggested that he might have omitted something in the preliminary ceremony,
before speaking to the Virgin. He lit the candles once more and, having gone through new ac-
tions that struck me as most comical, he told the Virgin of Guadalupe that he could not speak
give him for molesting her and to do him the favour to act as intermediary for him, and to ask
San Ignacio to assist him in his troubles and to protect him against accidents. All this he said
in most flowery and ornamental language, and when he had finished he again went through
some strange actions, then blew out the candles and replaced the image of the Virgin on the
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