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bed by his servant, taken ill, had left the ruins, gone to Don Gregorio's, and was then on his journey to Guatimala. My messenger had passed through Copan, and gone on he did not know where. I was in great distress, and resolved, after a day's rest, to set off in search of him. I dressed myself and went to a party at Señor Zebadours, formerly minister to England, where I surprised the Guatimaltecos by the tour I had made, and particularly by having come alone from Istapa. Here I met Mr. Chatfield, her Britannic majesty's consul general, and Mr. Skinner, who had arrived during my absence. It was Christmas Eve, the night of El Nascimiento, or birth of Christ. At one end of the sala was a raised platform, with a green floor, and decorated with branches of pine and cypress, having birds sitting upon them, and looking-glass, and sandpaper, and figures of men and animals, representing a rural scene, with an arbour, and a wax doll in a cradle; in short, the grotto of Bethlehem and the infant Saviour. Always, at this season of the year, every house in Guatimala has its nascimiento, according to the wealth and taste of the proprietor, and in time of peace the figure of the Saviour is adorned with family jewels, pearls, and precious stones, and at night every house is open, and the citizens, without acquaintance or invitation, or distinction of rank or persons, go from house to house visiting; and the week of El Nascimiento is the gayest in the year; but, unfortunately, at this time it was observed only in form; the state of the city was too uncertain to permit general opening of houses and running in the streets at night. Carrera's soldiers might enter. The party was small, but consisted of the élite of Guatimala, and commenced with supper, after which Vol. I.-PP
followed dancing, and, I am obliged to add, smoking. The room was badly lighted, and the company, from the precarious state of the country, not gay; but the dancing was kept up till twelve o'clock, when the ladies put on their mantas, and we all went to the Cathedral, where were to be performed the imposing ceremonies of the Christmas Eve. The floor of the church was crowded with citizens, and a large concourse from the villages around. Mr. Savage accompanied me home, and we did not get to bed till three o'clock in the morning. The bells had done ringing, and Christmas mass had been said in all the churches before I awoke. In the afternoon was the first bullfight of the season. My friend Vidaury had called for me, and I was in the act of going to the Plaza de Toros, when there was a loud knock at the porte cochère, and in rode Mr. Catherwood, armed to the teeth, pale and thin, most happy at reaching Guatimala, but not half so happy as I was to see him. He was in advance of his luggage, but I dressed him up and carried him immediately to the Plaza de Toros. It stands near the church of El Calvario, at the end of the Calle Real, in shape and form like the Roman amphitheatre, about three hundred and fifty feet long and two hundred and fifty broad, capable of containing, as we supposed, about eight thousand people, at least one fourth of the population of Guatimala, and was then crowded with spectators of both sexes and all classes, the best and the vilest in the city, sitting together indiscriminately; and among them were conspicuous the broad-brimmed, turned-up, and sharp-pointed hat and black gown of the priest. The seats commenced about ten feet above the area, with a corridor and open wooden fence in front to pro
tect the spectators, astride which sat Carrera's disorderly soldiers to keep order. At one end, underneath the corridor, was a large door, through which the bull was to be let in. At the other end, separated by a partition from the part occupied by the rest of the spectators, was a large box, empty, formerly intended for the captain general and other principal officers of government, and now reserved for Carrera. Underneath was a military band, composed mostly of Indians. Notwithstanding the collection of people, and the expectation of an animating sport, there was no clapping or stamping, or other expression of impatience and anxiety for the performance to begin. At length Carrera entered the captain general's box, dressed in a badly-fitting blue military frock-coat, embroidered with gold, and attended by Monte Rosa and other officers, richly dressed, the alcalde and members of the municipality. All eyes were turned toward him, as when a king or emperor enters his box at the theatre in Europe. A year before he was hunted among the mountains, under a reward for his body, “dead or alive,” and nine tenths of those who now looked upon him would then have shut the city against him as a robber, murderer, and outcast. Soon after the matadores entered, eight in number, mounted, and each carrying a lance and a red poncha; they galloped round the area, and stopped with their lances opposite the door at which the bull was to enter. The door was pulled open by a padre, a great cattleproprietor, who owned the bulls of the day, and the animal rushed out into the area, kicking up his heels as if in play, but at sight of the line of horsemen and lances turned about and ran back quicker than he entered. The padre's bull was an ox, and, like a sensible beast, would rather run than fight; but the door was closed upon him, and perforce he ran round the area, looking up to the spectators for mercy, and below for an outlet of escape. The horsemen followed, “prodding” him with their lances; and all around the area, men and boys on the fence threw barbed darts with ignited fireworks attached, which, sticking in his flesh and exploding on every part of his body, irritated him, and sometimes made him turn on his pursuers. The matadores led him on by flaring ponchas before him, and as he pressed them, the skill of the matadore consisted in throwing the poncha over his horns so as to blind him, and then fixing in his neck, just behind his jaw, a sort of balloon of fireworks; when this was done successfully it created shouts of applause. The government, in an excess of humanity, had forbidden the killing of bulls, and restricted the fight to worrying and torturing. Consequently, it was entirely different from the bullfight in Spain, and wanted even the exciting interest of a fierce struggle for life, and the chance of the matadore being gored to death or tossed over among the spectators. But, watching the earnest gaze of thousands, it was easy to imagine the intense excitement in a martial age, when gladiators fought in the arena before the nobility and beauty of Rome. Our poor ox, after being tired out, was allowed to withdraw. Others followed, and went through the same round. All the padre's bulls were oxen. Sometimes a matador on foot was chased to the fence under a general laugh of the spectators. After the last ox had run his rounds, the matadores withdrew, and men and boys jumped over into the arena in such numbers that they fairly hustled the ox. The noise and confusion, the flaring of coloured ponchas, the running and tumbling, attacking and retreating, and clouds of dust, made this the most stirring
scene of any; but altogether it was a puerile exhibition, and the better classes, among whom was my fair countrywoman, regarded it merely as an occasion for meeting acquaintances. In the evening we went to the theatre, which opened for the first time. A large building had been commenced in the city, but in one of the revolutions it had been demolished, and the work was abandoned. The performance was in the courtyard of a house. The stage was erected across one of the corners; the patio was the pit, and the corridor was divided by temporary partitions into boxes; the audience sent beforehand, or servants brought with them, their own seats. We had invitations to the box of Señor Vidaury. Carrera was there, sitting on a bench a little elevated against the wall of the house, and at the right hand of Rivera Paz, the chief of the state. Some of his officers were with him in their showy uniforms, but he had laid his aside, and had on his black bombazet jacket and pantaloons, and was very unpretending in his deportment. I considered him the greatest man in Guatimala, and made it a point to shake hands with him in passing. The first piece was Saide, a tragedy. The company consisted entirely of Guatimaltecos, and their performance was very good. There was no change of scenery; when the curtain fell, all lighted cigars, ladies included, and, fortunately, there was an open courtyard for the escape of the smoke. When the performance was over, the boxes waited till the pit was emptied. Special care had been taken in placing sentinels, and all went home quietly. During the week there was an attempt at gayety, but all was more or less blended with religious solemnities.
One was that of the Novena, or term of nine days'