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Coffee in the Gourd, ed. J. Frank Dobie [1923], at



    The two sketches which follow were, in Mrs. Sutherland's words, contributed "more for reference than for publication." But they illustrate so appropriately some of the superstitious characteristics of the border Mexicans treated of in the article preceding, that they are here printed. Their own charm, however, is sufficient warrant for their inclusion.--Editor.


    Pedro was my man of all work. I liked Pedro and he said that he liked "Madama Americana mucho." Anyway, he was a daily fixture in my house, keeping it neat, as he kept the lawn. Any work pointed out was grist to his busy hands until one fateful day I put him to dig a deep pit in the garden. At noon I called him to dinner. And what a changed man! His hands shook as with palsy, sweat stood out in great beads on his brow, and he refused to meet my glance; fear was written over him from his bare toes up. In answer to my question, "Are you sick, Pedro?" he humbly replied, "No, madama," and he left the table without having touched food. I knew the race too well to press the question. Later he came to tell me that his work was done. I paid him his daily wage, and gave him, as usual, a package of food for his children. Later I found that he had left the package on the gallery.

    I then stepped out to inspect Pedro's work. On the brink of the pit I found the cause of the trouble: a neat pile of human bones, bones that were old when Columbus was preparing to discover America, only the larger ones being present. And Pedro had piled them up in plain view that I might know that he had discovered my crime. He did not return on the next or any other day, but a week later I saw him passing, on the opposite side of the street. I called to him, but he pulled his hat to shade his face and mended his pace. The unkindest cut of all, though, was from his little son who trotted at his heels. The cute little Aztec who ate my cookies, and who loved to come to see Madama, he also shaded his face and fled in terror, bawling as he ran.

    Then I understood. Poor, ignorant Pedro had listened to the gruesome tales of his race (and they can and do tell them), tales of travelers decoyed by women and murdered for their wealth. Had he not seen proof of my nefarious deeds, and placed them to confront me, that I might know that he knew me for what I was, and that he would have no more of me? I never saw Pedro again, but I feel that his children know that their father had a narrow escape from sudden death, and that the story is told in the jacales, on dark nights, to eager listening ears, and that my reputation with them is on a par with that of Lucrezia Borgia, yet safe as to my own race-for the Mexicans seem to feel a delicacy in discussing affairs of their white neighbors. Perhaps, and more than perhaps, there is a reason.


    My next servant answered to the name of Francisco, but we called him Frank. He was the Beau Brummell of his section of Mexican town, a leader of the younger set, yet a willing worker at anything that came his way. He was a real find, and, best oX all, he loved his job. Why not? The Captain's cast-off clothes fitted him to the dot, shoes, hat, and all, and he was in clover, as it were. But conditions were too good to last.

    One day while we were working in the Captain's room and Frank was growing rich in raiment, he asked me if I knew anything of "Masuro." "Masuro--I think that's what you call heem, bad, ver bad mans; always got room upstairs. Nobody see heem. My father, he tell me that ol Devil always there. He sit on throne with his tail wrap around the altar, and sometime he eat baby for supper."

    "Frank," I asked, "are you talking of the Masons?"

    "Yes, ma'am, that's heem, bad, ver bad."

    "But," said I, "you are in the room of a Mason. These clothes were worn by a member of the order, and some night when you are coming from the baite, suppose you should meet the Devil and he should say: 'That man's clothes smell of the order. Come on, sir, to the lodge so that I can try you out; I think you belong'."

    But Frank was off with a yell. Two bounds and he was down stairs and on his way, sans clothes or pay for the day's work, and again I was short of help, for they never come back if once offended. Once excite suspicion, and even under the greatest stress they are off you forever.

Next: Weather Wisdom of the Texas-Mexican Border, by J. Frank Dobie