Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Sunday, October 30, 2022


 The Devil's Carbuncle:

RICARDO PALMA, the Lima correspondent of La Raza Latina, has been collecting some curious South American traditions which date back to the Spanish Conquest.  The following legend, entitled "El Carbunclo del Diablo," is one of these: -- 

When Juan de la Torre, one of the celebrated Conquistadores, discovered and seized an immense treasure in one of the huacas near the city of Lima, the Spanish soldiers became seized with a veritable mania for treasure-seeking among the old forts and cemeteries of the Indians.  Now there were ballesteros belonging to the company of Captain Diego Gumiel, who had formed a partnership for the purpose of seeking fortunes among the huacas of Minaflores, and who had already spent weeks upon weeks in digging for treasure without finding the smallest article of value.

On Good Friday, in the year 1547, without any respect for the sancity of the day, -- for to human covetousness nthing is scared -- the three ballesteros, after vainly sweating and panting all morning and afternoon, had not found anything except a mummy -- not even a trinket or bit of pottery worth three pesatas.  Thereupon they gave themselves over to the Father of Evil -- cursing all the Powers of Heaven, and blastheming so horribly that the Devil himself was obliged to stop his ears with cotton.

By this time the sun had set; and the adventurers were preparing to return to Lima, cursing the niggardly Indians for the unpardonable stupidity of not having been emtombed in state on beds of solid gold or silver, when one of the Spaniards gave the mummy so ferocious a kick that it rolled a considerable distance.  A glimmering jewel dropped from the skeleton, and rolled slowly after the mummy.

"Canario!" cried one of the soldiers, "what kind of a taper is that?  Santa Maria! what a glorius carbuncle!"

And he was abut to walk toward the jewel, when the one who kicked the corpse, and who was a great bully, held him back with the words: --

"Halt, comrade!  May I never be sad if that carbuncle does not belong to me; for it was I who found the mummy!"

"May the devil carry thee away!  I first saw it shine, and may I die before any other shall possess it!"

"Cepos quedos!" thundered the third, unsheathing his sword, and making it whistle ariund his head.  "So I am nobody?"

And a tremendous fight began around the three comrades.

The follwing day some Milayos found the dead body of one of the combatants, and the other two riddled with wounds, begging for a confessor.  Before they died they related the story of the carbuncle, and how it illuminated the combat with a sinister and lurid light.  But the carbuncle was never found after.  Traditin describes its rigin to the Devil; and it is said that each Good Friday night travelers may perceive the baleful rays twinkling from the huaca Juliana, rendered famus by this legend.

-- Lafcadio Hearn, from the Daily Item (New Orleans), November 2, 1889; reprinted in Hearn, Fantastics, and Other Fancies, edited by Charles Wdward Hutson, 1914

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