THIS Alleyway of the Armed One, Señor, got its name because long ago--before it had any name at all--there lived in it an old man who went always clad in armor, wearing also his sword and his dagger at his side; and all that was known about him was that his name was Don Lope de Armijo y Lara, and that--for all that he lived so meanly in so mean a street in so mean a quarter of the City--he was a rich merchant, and that he came from Spain.
Into his poor little house no one ever got so much as the tip of his nose, and he lived alone there in great mystery. In spite of his riches, he had not even one servant; and he himself bought his own victuals and cooked them with his own hands. Always he was seen armed to the teeth [armado hasta los dientes] when he went abroad. Under his mean robe was a full suit of armor, and in his belt was a long dagger and a broad and very long sword; also, when at night he went out on strange errands, he carried a great pike. Therefore, presently, people spoke of him not as Don Lope but as El Armado--and so he was called.
That he was a wicked person was known generally. He was very charitable to the poor. Every morning he went to pray in the church of San Francisco; and he remained praying there for hours at a time, kneeling upon his knees. Also, at the proper seasons, he partook of the Sacrament. Some said that through the shut windows of his house, in the night-time, they had heard the sound of his scourgings as he made penance for his sins.
In the darkness of the darkest of nights--when there was no moon, and especially when a dismal drizzling rain was falling--he would be seen to come out from his house in all his armor and go stealing away in the direction of the Plazuela de Mixcalco. He would disappear into the shadows, and not come back again until midnight had passed. Then he would be heard, in his shut house, counting his money. For a long while that would go on--counting, counting, counting--there was no end to the clinking of silver coin. Then, when all his money was counted, would be heard the sound of scourging, together with most lamentable and complaining groanings. And, at the end of all, would come a heavy clanking--as of a great iron cover falling heavily upon a chest of iron. After that there would be no sign of life about the house until the morning--when the Armed One would come forth from it and go to San Francisco to pray.
The life of that man was a bad mystery, Señor, that many wished to uncover by denouncing him to justice; but the uncovering came of its own accord, and was a greater mystery still! On a morning, all the neighbors saw the Armed One hanging dead--hanging dead from his own balcony by a cord! No one knew what to think; but most thought that he had hung himself there in fear that denouncement of his crimes would be made and that justice would have its hold upon him. When the Alcalde came, and made search in his house, a very great sum of money was found; and, also, were found many skulls of men who certainly must have perished at his hands.
It is a most curious matter, Señor. I cannot see my way through it. But the house is gone.