Mr. Blair-Duncan's Third Letter
To the Editor of the CRIMSON:
Yesterday our excavators made rapid progress toward what appears to be the centre of the University. What promises to be the most interesting discovery to date was made in uncovering a small, well-preserved building on the edge of the area, which had the appearance of an office. Inside, stacked in huge piles along the walls and hanging from the ceiling were bunches of broad leaves of a tropical plant popularly known as elephant's ear. These leaves were tied together by the stems in uniform bunches. They had dried smoothly and lay close together like sheets of paper.
We have been having difficulty in finding feed for our pack-mules recently, because the tropical vegetation was too rich for their constitutions, and dried grass was not available. Therefore one of the natives ingeniously suggested that the bunches of leaves be used for feed. He proceeded to pick up a bunch and give it to a mule hitched nearby. The animal sniffed at it, bit off one leaf and drew it into his mouth, then ejected it in evident distaste.
The leaf which he had wet in his mouth now had an entirely different appearance. Senor Alvarotez went up to it out of curiosity, looked at it closely, then uttered a startled ejaculation. There were plainly visible on the wet leaf the characters of the Inca alphabet.
This discovery confirmed the reports of several of the old Spanish historians, from one of whom I had occasion to quote in my first letter, but whose theories had been taken sceptically by the Bingham expedition. One of these theories was that the Incas wrote on leaves. It was not long before we had dipped a number of the leaves in water and translated the writing. This process revealed that the office we had unearthed was that of the university daily newspaper, and the bunches of leaves corresponded to the bound volumes of the sheet. I have chosen a selection at random, an editorial which explains itself:
"In truth to the scribes of this journal it is a matter of great debate and discouragement to answer the question which doth appear to us when we reflect upon how many there be among us who have not learned to relish the fruits of knowledge. 'How dull,' saith the uncultured as, yawning and stretching they emerge from the halls of learning. Wherefore must we abide these stupid dispensers of insipid facts. They interest us not with their long dissertations upon the doings of kings.
"We, who are not without some discernment of the untold blessedness of learning, deplore that there should be in this, the most deeply learned of institutions, those for whom not the joy of much travelling in the realms of books is the greatest good, but rather the vanities of the world as found in the neighborhood of Machu Picchu. But it availeth us naught. They are here and their number, is legion, these youths who would make of this great university a limbo of varieties.
"But, indeed, even as it availeth not to rail at the unseeing, so it bespeaketh a mind of little spaciousness in him who will not bestir himself in the task of enlightenment. If the discourse of the learned professor interesteth not the common student it is not the latter who is alogether at fault. Perchance the lecture is indeed stupid, or perchance the student has not ever been awakened to the significance of learning.
"Wherefore, we commend unto the Circle of the Elders who forever labor that their charges may gather to the full the harvest of their studies without undue unpleasantness to the latter in the process thereof--we commend unto them the example of Doctor Choqqueguiran, our inspired instructor of logical disputation. It having occurred to him that his pupils were not entirely absorbed in the devolutions of his lectures he struck upon the happy thought of having his pupils demonstrate the workings of the principle of the syllogism by the acting of charades. Thereafter he discovered that the pupils waited upon the occurrence of his lectures with impatience.
"Indeed, does there not lie here the solution to the puzzle? For is there a subject so abstruse that it may not be made more attractive to even the most uninspired by means such as these? For example, could not a minstrel of talent be employed to enliven the teaching of history by representing the famous characters of the past?
"Providence will bear us out that their presence is to be lamented--these who come here for what they term social training, and for naught else. But we cannot be rid of them. If we desire a universal interest in the halls of learning, there must be made an effort to entice the blunter spirits away from the lures of Machu-Picchu". Cordially yours. J. BLAIR-DUNCAN
With the University of Nueva Barcelona Peruvian Expedition, near Machu-Pleehu, Peru, October 29, 1921.