Not only was the padre an archaeologist: he also gathered plants, birds, and insects. When he was leaving Germany, his nephew, the ten-year-old child of his sister, wished to accompany him. The parents refused their permission, but the uncle gave the boy some money, and they met each other in Frankfort and started on their journey. They have been together ever since. The padre depends completely on the younger man, whom he has fashioned to his mind. The plants, birdskins, and insects have supplied a steady income. The plants cost labor; insects were easier to get. All the indian boys in the parish were supplied with poison-bottles and set to work; a stock of prints of saints, beads, medals, and crucifixes was doled out to the little collectors, according to the value of their trophies. To allay the suspicions of his parishioners, the padre announced that he used the insects in making medicines. One Sunday a pious old indian woman brought to church a great beetle, which she had caught in her corn field four days before; during that time it had been tied by a string to her bed’s leg; she received a medal. One day a man brought a bag containing some five hundred living insects; on opening it, they all escaped into the house, causing a lively time for their recapture.
The nephew, Ernst, had made a collection of eleven hundred skins of Guatemalan birds. The padre and he have supplied specimens to many of the great museums of the world, but the choicest things have never been permitted to leave their hands.
The padre is a great success at getting into trouble. He fled from Ecuador on account of political difficulties; his stay in Guatemala is the longest he has ever made in one place. During his eight years there he was successful; but he finally antagonized the government, was arrested, and thrown into jail. He succeeded in escaping, fled to Salvador, and from there made his way to the United States, where, for a little time, he worked, unhappily, at San Antonio, Texas. A short time since, the Archbishop of Oaxaca was in Texas, met the padre, and promised him an appointment in his diocese. The padre was now on his way to Oaxaca to see the prelate and receive his charge.
He was full of hope for a happy future. When he learned that we were bound for the ruins of Mitla, he was fired with a desire to accompany us. At Oaxaca we separated, going to different hotels. My party was counting upon the company of Mr. Lucius Smith, as interpreter and companion, to the ruins, but we were behind our appointment and he had gone upon another expedition. This delighted the padre, who saw a new light upon the path of duty. The archbishop had received him cordially, and had given him a parish, although less than a day had passed since his arrival. When the padre knew of our disappointment, he hastened to his prelate, told him that an eminent American archaeologist, with a party of four, wished to visit Mitla, but had no interpreter; might he not accompany these worthy gentlemen, in some way serving mother church by doing so? So strong was his appeal, that he was deputed to say mass at Mitla Sunday, starting for his new parish of Chila on the Monday following.