After answering various questions from the good woman and the little girl, I finally stated that I proposed to take Manuel with me to my country. He would stay with me there for six months, after which he would come back and accompany me for three months longer on a journey into southern Mexico. “If I have your consent,” I said, “we leave to-day.” Immediately the woman answered, “Sir, it is for you to say.” Just then, however, the little girl, Dolores, began to cry. “Tut, tut, Dolores,” said I, “I am sure you want Manuel to go away and visit a strange country and have a fine time; and think of the pictures that he can bring you to show what he has seen. And more than that, it is already half-past ten, and you shall go down tothe street-car to meet him, and tell him that he must come straight home, for fear that he will loiter on the way; but do not tell him I am here, nor say anything about his going away, for we wish to surprise him.” Drying her eyes, and smiling almost as the boy himself, Dolores started to run to the street-car line, and presently fetched Manuel home in triumph. As he entered and saw me, he said, “Que milagro, Senor” and kissed my hand. Having asked, as Mexican politeness requires, a variety of questions about his welfare, I finally said, “Well, Manuel, how would you like to go to Puebla with me for the day?” “Sir, it is for you to say.” “Very good,” said I. “And if I should conclude that it was best to take you to Mexico for a few days, what would you say to that?” “I am entirely in your hands, sir,” he replied, “to do your orders.” “Well,” said I, “suppose I took you to my own country and kept you there for six months?” and the boy replied, “Sir, you are my owner; it is for you to command.” “Very well,” said I, “get ready, and we will go on the street-car, at twelve o’clock, to Puebla.”
[Illustration: THE CROSS; SAN NICOLAS PANOTLA]
[Illustration: THE BOY WITH THE SMILE]
Telling his mother that she should put together the few articles of which there might be need, we started for the noonday car. As we left, I suggested that she and the little girl come to the city, during the afternoon or evening, to bid the boy good-bye, as we should leave on an early train the following morning. They came at nightfall. She had his small possessions tied up in a carrying cloth, and her mind was stored with bits of excellent advice and admonition as to his conduct and behaviour in his new surroundings. After Dolores and her brother had given each other a, farewell embrace, the mother said a few words to the boy, who knelt upon the floor of the room and crossed his hands upon his breast. The mother then gave him her parting blessing, and sent him forth into the outside world.