Our botanist, Mr. Hartman, drew my attention to an interesting cactus, which is beautifully shaped like a candelabra, and attains a height of three to five feet. As it grows old, the top joints of the branches become thick and heavy and are easily broken off by the wind. The joints, like all other parts of the plant, are beset with numerous inch-long spines, and many of them fasten in the loose, moist soil and strike root. In this way many new plants are formed, standing in a circle around the mother plant. On sloping ground the young plants form rows, some forty feet long. There was a fruit to be observed, but very scarce in comparison with that of other species of Cereus growing in the vicinity.
A Remarkable Antique Piece—A New Species of Century Plant—Arrival at Nacori, at the Foot of the Sierra Madre—Trincheras—A Mammoth Tusk Secured—Climbing the Sierra Madre—A New Squirrel Discovered—Solitude—Apache Monuments—Arrival at Upper Bavispe River.
From Granados we took an easterly course, being at last able to cross the Bavispe River, which, owing to heavy rains in the sierra, had for some time been overflowing. Starting from this point, the ground gradually rising, we arrived at Bacadehuachi, a small village remarkable for its church, a massive adobe structure, the grand style of which looked somewhat out of proportion in these mountains. It had been built by the Franciscans more than 100 years ago, on the site of an older Jesuit church, remains of which are still in existence, and which in turn had been erected on the ruins of an ancient temple.
While inspecting the church Professor Libbey discovered that one of the holy water fonts or stoups was a piece of great antiquity, and we were informed that it had been dug up from the debris of the ancient temple when the foundations for the present building were laid. Its aesthetic value appealed even to the unscientific builders of the church, who deemed the vessel worthy of a place in the new cathedral, where it served as a benitier. Unfortunately, it had been found necessary to engrave on the ancient carving some Roman letters dedicating the vessel to its new purpose. Though this somewhat mars its general character, the vase is a most valuable relic of prehistoric Mexico, not only as a masterpiece of ancient art, but still more as a way-mark or sign-post showing the trend of Aztec migrations.
It was not possible to obtain it right away, but a few days later I sent a messenger to a gentleman in Granados, whose wife had been relieved from illness by some remedy of mine, requesting him to use his influence with the priest, and in due course I had the satisfaction of possessing this valuable relic of history. The vase is made of a soft, unctuous stone resembling steatite (soapstone); it is true agalmatolite, a mineral popularly called pagoda stone. Through the mouth of the human head carved out in front passes a copper tube, which once no doubt pierced the thick wall of the vessel and penetrated into its interior. This tube had been stopped up to make the piece available for its new purpose.