THIS story is not a sad one, Señor, like the others. It is a joyful story of a gentleman and a lady who loved each other, and were married, and lived in happiness together until they died. And it was because of his happiness that the gentleman caused to be carved on the corner of his house, below the balcony on which he saw that day the sign which gave hope to him, this great green cross of stone that is there still.
The house with the green cross on it, Señor, stands at the corner of the Calle de la Cruz Verde--the street, you see, was named for it--and the Calle de Migueles. It was a fine house in the days when Doña María's father built it. Now it is old and shabby, and the saint that once stood in the niche above the cross is gone. But there is an excellent pulquería there, Señor--it is called La Heroina--where pulque of the best and the freshest is to be had every morning of every day the whole year round.
I do not know, Señor, when this matter happened; but I have heard it told that this gentleman, who was named Don Alvaro de Villadiego y Manrique, came to Mexico in the train of the Viceroy Don Gastón de Peralta--so it must have happened a very long while ago.
This Don Alvaro was a very handsome gentleman--tall, and slender, and fair; and he wore clothes of white velvet worked with gold, and a blue cap with a white feather; and he rode always a very beautiful Arabian horse. His hair and his little pointed beard were a golden brown, Señor; and he was a sight to behold!
It happened, on a day, that he was taking the air on his Arabian; and he was wearing--because a festival of some sort was in progress--all of his fine clothes. So he came prancing down the Calle de Migueles, and in the balcony of that corner house--the house on which the green cross now is--he saw a very beautiful young lady, who was most genteel in her appearance and as white as snow. He fell in love with her on that very instant; and she--although because of her virtue and good training she did not show it--on that very instant fell in love with him. Then he made inquiry and found that her name was Doña María de Aldarafuente y Segura. Therefore he resolved to marry her. And so, every day he rode past her balcony and looked up at her with eyes full of love. As for Doña María, she was so well brought up, and her parents watched her so narrowly, that it was a long while before she made any answering sign. And for that reason, Señor, she loved him all the more tenderly in her heart.
Then it happened, at the end of a long while, that Doña María's mother fell ill; and so, the watch upon her being less close, Don Alvaro was able to get to her hands a letter in which he begged that she would give to him her love. And he told her in his letter that--if she could not answer it with another letter--she should give him one of two signs by which he would know her will. If she did not love him, she was to hang upon the railing of her balcony a cross of dry palm-leaves--and when he saw that dry cross he would most certainly, he told her, that day die. But if she did love him, she was to hang a cross of green palm-leaves upon the railing of her balcony--and when he saw that green cross he would know, he told her, that she had given him her true promise of heaven-perfect happiness for all his life long.
Being a lady, Señor, Doña María let some days go by before she hung on the railing of her balcony any cross at all--and during those days Don Alvaro was within no more than a hair's breadth of going mad. And then--when madness was so close to him that with one single moment more of waiting his wits would have left him--on a day of days, when the spring-time sun was shining and all the birds were singing love-songs together, Don Alvaro saw hanging on the railing of Doña María's balcony a beautiful bright green cross!
Of course, after that, Señor, things went fast and well. By the respectable intervention of a cleric--who was the friend of Don Alvaro, and who also was the friend of Doña María's parents--all the difficulties were cleared away in a hurry; and only a fortnight after the green cross was hung on the railing of Doña María's balcony--that fortnight seemed an endless time to Don Alvaro, but for such a matter it really was the least that a lady could get ready in--they went together before the altar, and at the foot of it they vowed to each other their love. And what is best of all, Señor, is that they kept faithfully their vow.
Then it was, being gladly married, that Don Alvaro caused the green cross of stone--so big that it rises to the first floor from the pavement--to be carved on the corner of the house that thenceforward they lived in; and it was carved beneath the very balcony where had hung the green cross of palm-leaves that had given to him Doña María's true promise of heaven-perfect happiness for all his life long.
And there the green cross still is, Señor; and the name of the street, as I have told you, is the Calle de la Cruz Verde--which of course proves that this story is true.
Señor Arellano has documented the legend of the Green Cross by adding to his sympathetic version of it the following note: "Some years ago I saw in either the church of San Miguel or the church of San Pablo, set aside in a corner, a bronze tablet that once had rested upon a tomb. On it was the inscription, 'Doña María de Aldarafuente Lara y Segura de Manrique. Agosto 11 de 1573 años. R.I.P.'; and beneath the inscription was a large Latin cross. Probably the tablet was melted up. When I went to look for it, later, it was not to be found."
This record testifies to the truth of the pretty legend to the extent that it proves that the hero and the heroine of it were real people, and that their wedding really took place; and it also testifies to the melancholy fact--since Don Alvaro came to Mexico in the train of the Viceroy Don Gastón de Peralta, whose entry into the Capital was made on September 17, 1566--that their wedded life lasted less than seven years. The once stately but now shabby house whereon the cross is carved is in what anciently was a dignified quarter of the City; and the niche for a saint, vacant now, above the cross is one of the characteristics of the old houses in which people of condition lived. The cross is unique. No other house in the City is ornamented in this way.
Legend of the Calle de la Cruz Verde
Janvier, Thomas A.
Legends of the City of Mexico
Janvier, Thomas A.
Harper & Brothers
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