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whole stock of merchandise was worth perhaps twenty or thirty dollars; but Don Santiago was entirely a different style of man from one in such small business in this country or Europe; courteous in manners, and intelligent for that country; he was dressed in white pantaloons and red slippers, a clean shirt with an embroidered bosom, and suspenders, which probably cost more than all the rest of his habiliments, and were not to be hidden under coat and waistcoat. In this place, which had before seemed to me so much out of the world, I was brought more directly in contact with home than at any other I visited. The chair on which I sat came from New-York; also a small looking-glass, two pieces of American "cottons," and the remnant of a box of vermicelli, of the existence of which in the place I was not before advised. The most intimate foreign relations of the inhabitants were with New-York, through the port of Tobasco. They knew a man related to a family in the village who had actually been at New-York, and a barrel of New-York flour, the bare mention of which created a yearning, had once reached the place. In fact, New-York was more familiar to them than any other part of the world except the capital. Don Santiago had a copy of Zavala's tour in the United States, which, except a few volumes of the lives of saints, was his library, and which he knew almost by heart; and they had kept up with our political history so well as to know that General Washington was not president, but General Jackson.
The padre of Tumbala, he of two hundred and forty pounds' weight, was somewhat of an exquisite in dress for that country, and had brought with him his violin. He was curious to know the state of musical science in my country, and whether the government supported
A DINNER PARTY. 331
good opera companies; regretted that I could not play some national airs, and entertained himself and the company with several of their own.
In the mean time the padre of Palenque was still missing, but, after being sent for twice, made his appearance. The dinner was in fact his; but, on account of want of conveniences in the convent from his careless housekeeping, was given by his friend Don Santiago on his behalf, and the answer of the boy sent to call him was that he had forgotten all about it. He was absent and eccentric enough for a genius, though he made no pretensions to that character. Don Santiago told us that he once went to the padre's house, where he found inside a cow and a calf; the cura, in great perplexity, apologized, saying that he could not help himself, they would come in; and considered it a capital idea when Don Santiago suggested to him the plan of driving them out.
As soon as he appeared the other padres rallied him upon his forgetfulness, which they insisted was all feigned; they had won sixteen dollars of him the night before, and said that he was afraid to come. He answered in the same strain that he was a ruined man. They offered him his revenge, and forthwith the table was brought out, cards and grains of corn were spread upon it as before, and while the padre of Tumbala played the violin, the other three played Monte. Being Sunday, in some places this would be considered rather irregular; at least, to do so with open doors would be considered setting a bad example to children and servants; and, in fact, considering myself on a pretty sociable footing, I could not help telling them that in my country they would all be read out of Church. The padre Congressman had met an Englishman in Mexico
who told him the same thing, and also the manner of observing the Sunday in England, which they all thought must be very stupid.
Perhaps upon less ground than this the whole Spanish American priesthood has at times been denounced as a set of unprincipled gamblers, but I have too warm a recollection of their many kindnesses to hold them up in this light. They were all intelligent and good men, who would rather do benefits than an injury; in matters connected with religion they were most reverential, laboured diligently in their vocations, and were without reproach among their people. By custom and education they did not consider that they were doing wrong. From my agreeable intercourse with them, and my regard for their many good qualities, I would fain save them from denunciations of utter unworthiness which might be cast upon them. Nevertheless, it is true that dinner was delayed, and all the company kept waiting until they had finished their game of cards.
The table was set in an unoccupied house adjoining. Every white man in the village, except the prefect and alcalde, was present; the former being away at his hacienda, and the latter, from the sneering references he made to it, I suspected was not invited. In all there were fifteen or sixteen, and I was led to the seat of honour at the head of the table. I objected, but the padres seated me perforce. After the gentlemen were seated, it was found that, by sitting close, there was room for some ladies, and after the arrangements for the table were completed, they were invited to take seats. Unluckily, there was only room for three, who sat all together on my left. In a few minutes I felt very much as if the dinner was got up expressly for me. It was long since I had seen such a table, and I mourned
in spirit that I had not sent notice for Mr. Catherwood to come to the village accidentally in time to get an invitation. But it was too late now; there was no time for reflection; every moment the dinner was going. In some places my position would have required me to devote myself to those on each side of me; but at Palenque they devoted themselves to me. If I stopped a moment my plate was whipped away, and another brought, loaded with something else. It may seem unmannerly, but I watched the fate of certain dishes, particularly some dolces or sweetmeats, hoping they would not be entirely consumed, as I purposed to secure all that should be left to take with me to the ruins. Wine was on the table, which was recommended to me as coming from New-York, but this was not enough to induce me to taste it. There was no water, and, bythe-way, water is never put on the table, and never drunk until after the dolces, which come on as the last course, when it is served in a large tumbler, which passes round for each one to sip from. It is entirely irregular and ill bred to ask for water during the meal. Each guest, as he rose from the table, bowed to Don Santiago, and said "muchas gratias," which I considered in bad taste, and not in keeping with the delicacy of Spanish courtesy, as the host ought rather to thank his guests for their society than they to thank him for his dinner. Nevertheless, as I had more reason to be thankful than any of them, I conformed to the example set me. After dinner my friends became drowsy and retired to siesta. I found my way back to Don Santiago's house, where, in a conversation with the ladies, I secured the remains of the dolces, and bought out his stock of vermicelli.
In the morning, my foot being sufficiently lecovered, I rode up to the house of the padres to escort them to the ruins. They had passed the evening sociably at cards, and again the padre of Palenque was wanting. We rode over to his house, and waited while he secured carefully on the back of a tall horse a little boy, who looked so wonderfully like him, that, out of respect to his obligation of celibacy, people felt delicate in asking whose son he was. This done, he tied an extra pair of shoes behind his own saddle, and we set off with the adios of all the village. The padres intended to pass the night at the ruins, and had a train of fifty or sixty Indians loaded with beds, bedding, provisions, sacate for mules, and multifarious articles, down to a white earthen washbowl; besides which, more favoured than we, they had four or five women.
Entering the forest, we found the branches of the trees, which had been trimmed on my return to the village, again weighed down by the rains; the streams were very bad; the padres were well mounted, but no horsemen, dismounted very often, and under my escort we got lost, but at eleven o'clock, very much to the satisfaction of all, our long, strange-looking, straggling party reached the ruins. The old palace was once more alive with inhabitants.
There was a marked change in it since I left; the walls were damp, the corridors wet; the continued rains were working through cracks and crevices, and opening leaks in the roof; saddles, bridles, boots, shoes, &c, were green and mildewed, and the guns and pistols covered with a coat of rust. Mr. Catherwood's appearance startled me. He was wan and gaunt; lame, like me, from the bites of insects; his face was swollen, and his left arm hung with rheumatism as if paralyzed.
We sent the Indians across the courtyard to the op