« FöregåendeFortsätt »
and affection, followed to the door, and continued farewell greetings and cautions to take good care of herself, which the lady answered as long as we were within hearing. We called at two or three other houses, and then all assembled at the place of rendezvous. The courtyard was full of horses, with every variety of fanciful mountings. Although we were going only nine miles, and to a large Indian village, it was necessary to carry beds, bedding, and provisions. A train of servants large enough to carry stores for a small military expedition was sent ahead, and we all started. Outside the gate all the anxieties and perils which slumbered in the city were forgotten. Our road lay over an extensive plain, seeming, as the sun went down behind the volcanoes of Agua and Fuego, a beautiful bowling-green, in which our party, preceded by a long file of Indians with loads on their backs, formed a picture. I was surprised to find that the ladies were not good horsewomen. They never ride for pleasure, and, on account of the want of accommodation on the road, seldom travel.
It was after dark when we reached the borders of a deep ravine separating the plain from Mixco. We descended, and, rising on the other side, emerged from the darkness of the ravine into an illuminated street, and, at two or three horses' lengths, into a plaza blazing with lights and crowded with people, nearly all Indians in holyday costume. In the centre of the plaza was a fine fountain, and at the head of it a gigantic church. We rode up to the house that had been provided for the ladies, and, leaving them there, the gentlemen scattered to find lodgings for themselves. The door of every house was open, and the only question asked was whether there was room. Some of the
A SCENE OF PLEASURE. 253
young men did not give themselves this trouble, as they were disposed to make a night of it; and Mr. P. and I, having secured a place, returned to the house occupied by the ladies. In one corner was a tienda about ten feet square, partitioned off and shelved, which served as a place for their hats and shawls. The rest of the room contained merely a long table and benches. In a few moments the ladies were ready, and we all sallied out for a walk. All the streets and passages were brilliantly illuminated, and across some were arches decorated with evergreens and lighted, and at the corners were altars under arbours of branches adorned with flowers. The spirit of frolic seemed to take possession of our fileleaders, who, as the humour prompted them, entered any house, and after a lively chat left it, contriving to come out just as the last of the party were going in. In one house they found a poncha rolled up very carefully, with the end of a guitar sticking out. The proprietor of the house only knew that it belonged to a young man from Guatimala, who had left it as an indication of his intention to pass the night there. One of the young men unrolled the poncha, and some loaves of bread fell out, which he distributed, and with half a loaf in his mouth struck up a waltz, which was followed by a quadrille; the good people of the house seemed pleased at this free use of their roof, and shaking hands all around, with many expressions of good-will on both sides, we left as unceremoniously as we had entered. We made the tour of all the principal streets, and as we returned to the plaza the procession was coming out of the church.
The village procession in honour of its patron saint is the great pride of the Indian, and the touchstone of his religious character. Every Indian contributes his labour and money toward getting it up, and he is most honoured who is allowed the most important part in it. This was a rich village, at which all the muleteers of Guatimala lived; and nowhere had I seen an Indian procession so imposing. The church stood on an elevation at the head of the plaza, its whole facade rich in ornaments illuminated by the light of torches; and the large platform and the steps were thronged with women in white. A space was cleared in the middle before the great door, and with a loud chant the procession passed out of the doorway. First came the alcalde and his alguazils, all Indians, with rods of office in one hand and lighted wax candles, six or eight feet long, in the other; then a set of devils, not as playful as the devils of Guatimala, but more hideous, and probably better likenesses, according to the notions of the Indians; then came, borne aloft by Indians, a large silver cross, richly chased and ornamented, and followed by the curate, with a silken canopy held over his head on the ends of long poles borne by Indians. As the cross advanced all fell on their knees, and a stranger would have been thought guilty of an insult upon their holy religion who omitted conforming to this ceremony. Then came figures of saints larger than life, borne on the shoulders of Indians; and then a figure of the Virgin, gorgeously dressed, her gown glittering with spangles. Then followed a long procession of Indian women dressed in costume, with a thick red cord twisted in the hair, so as to look like a turban, all carrying lighted candles. The procession passed through the illuminated streets, under the arches, and stopping from time to time before the altars, made the tour of the village, and in about an hour, with a loud chant, ascended the steps of the church. Its re-entry was announced by a discharge of
A BOMBARDMENT. 255
rockets, after which all gathered in the plaza for the exhibition of fireworks.
It was some time before these were ready, for those who had figured in the procession, particularly the devils, were to be the principal managers. Our party was well known in Mixco; and though the steps of the church were crowded, one of the best places was immediately vacated for us. From their nearness to Guatimala, the people of Mixco knew all the principal families of the former place, and were glad to see so distinguished a party at their festa; and the familiar but respectful way in which they were everywhere treated, manifested a simplicity of manners, and a kindliness of feeling between the rich and the poor, which to me was one of the most interesting parts of the whole fete.
The exhibition began with the Toros; the man who played the bull gave universal satisfaction; scattering and putting to flight the crowd in the plaza, he rushed up the steps of the church, and, amid laughing and screaming, went out. Flying pigeons and other pieces followed; and the whole concluded with the grand national piece of the Castle of San Felippe, which was a representation of the repulse of an English fleet. A tall structure represented the castle, and a little brig perched on the end of a stick, like a weathercock, the fleet. The brig fired a broadside, and then, by a sudden jerk, turned on a pivot and fired another; and long after, until she had riddled herself to pieces, the castle continued pouring on all sides a magnanimous stream of fire.
When all was over we returned to the posada. A cloth was spread over the long table, and in a few minutes, under the direction of the ladies, covered with the pic-nic materials brought from Guatimala. The benches were drawn up to the table, and as many as could find seats sat down. Before supper was over there was an irruption of young men from Guatimala, with glazed hats, ponchas, and swords, and presenting a rather disorderly appearance; but they were mostly juveniles, brothers and cousins of the ladies. "With their hats on, they seated themselves at the vacated tables, and, as soon as they had finished eating, hurried off the plates, piled the tables away in a corner, one on the top of the other, and the candles on the top of all, the violins struck up, and gentlemen and ladies, lighting cigars and cigarillos, commenced dancing. I am sorry to say that generally the ladies of Central America, not excepting Guatimala, smoke, married ladies puros, or all tobacco, and unmarried cigars, or tobacco wrapped in paper or straw. Every gentleman carries in his pocket a silver case, with a long string of cotton, steel and flint, taking up nearly as much space as a handkerchief, and one of the offices of gallantry is to strike a light; by doing it well, he may help to kindle a flame in a lady's heart; at all events, to do it bunglingly would be ill-bred. I will not express my sentiments on smoking as a custom for the sex. I have recollections of beauteous lips profaned. Nevertheless, even in this I have seen a lady show her prettiness and refinement, barely touching the straw to her lips, as it were kissing it gently and taking it away. When a gentleman asks a lady for a light, she always removes the cigar from her lips. Happily, the dangerous proximity which sometimes occurs between gentlemen in the street is not in vogue. The dancing continued till two o'clock, and the breaking up was like the separation of a gay