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than attending to the performance, in conversation with ladies who would have graced any circle. One of them told me that there was to be a tertulia and a baglio at a country-house near the town in a few days, and to forego this was a harder trial than the loss of the bishop's dinner. Altogether, the evening at the theatre consummated the satisfaction of the only day we passed in Merida, so that it remains impressed on my mind in bright relief to months of dulness. The next morning at half past six we set out for Uxmal on horseback, escorted by a servant of Señor Peon, with Indians before us, one of whom carried a load not provided by us, in which a box of claret was conspicuous. Leaving the city, we entered upon a level stony road, which seemed one bed of limestone, cut through a forest of scrub trees. At the distance of a league we saw through a vista in the trees alarge hacienda belonging to the Peon family, the entrance to which was by a large gate into a cattle-yard. The house was built of stone, and had a front of about one hundred and fifty feet, with an arcade running the whole length. It was raised about twenty feet, and at the foot was a large water-trough extending the whole length, about ten feet wide and of the same depth, filled with water for cattle. On the left was a flight of stone steps, leading to a stone platform on which the hacienda stood. At the end of this structure was an artificial reservoir or tank, also built of stone and cemented, about one hundred and fifty feet square, and perhaps twenty feet deep. At the foot of the wall of the tank was a plantation of henniken, a species of aloe, from the fibres of which hemp is made. The style of the house, the strong and substantial character of the reservoir, and its apparent costliness, gave an imposing character to the hacienda.
At this place our Indian carriers left us, and we took others from the hacienda, with whom we continued three leagues farther to another hacienda of the family, of much the same character, where we stopped to breakfast. This over, we set out again, and by this time it had become desperately hot.
The road was very rough, over a bed of stone thinly covered, with barely soil enough for the growth of scrubtrees; our saddles were of a new fashion, and most painfully trying to those unused to them; the heat was very oppressive, and the leagues very long, till we reached another hacienda, a vast, irregular pile of buildings of dark gray stone, that might have been the castle of a German baron in feudal times. Each of these haciendas had an Indian name; this was called the hacienda of Vayalquex, and it was the only one of which Donna Joaquina, in speaking of our route, had made any particular mention. The entrance was by a large stone gateway, with a pyramidal top, into a long lane, on the right of which was a shed, built by Don Simon since his return from the United States as a ropewalk for manufacturing hemp raised on the hacienda; and there was one arrangement which added very much to the effect, and which I did not observe anywhere else: the cattleyard and water-tanks were on one side and out of sight. We dismounted under the shade of noble trees in front of the house, and ascended by a flight of broad stone steps to a corridor thirty feet wide, with large mattings, which could be rolled up, or dropped as an awning for . protection against the sun and rain. On one side the corridor was continued around the building, and on the other it conducted to the door of a church having a large cross over it, and within ornamented with figures .ike the churches in towns, for the tenants of the ha
cienda. The whole establishment was lordly in its appearance. It had fifteen hundred Indian tenants, bound to the master by a sort of feudal tenure, and, as the friends of the master, escorted by a household servant, the whole was ours. We had fallen unexpectedly upon a state of things new and peculiar. The peninsula of Yucatan, lying between the bays of Campeachy and Honduras, is a vast plain. Cape Catoche, the northeastern point of the peninsula, is but fifty-one leagues from San Antonio, the western extremity of the Island of Cuba, which is supposed at a remote period to have formed part of the American Continent. The soil and atmosphere are extremely dry; along the whole coast, from Campeachy to Cape Catoche, there is not a single stream or spring of fresh water. The interior is equally destitute; and water is the most valuable possession in the country. During the season of rains, from April to the end of October, there is a superabundant supply; but the scorching sun of the next six months dries up the earth, and unless water were preserved man and beast would perish, and the country be depopulated. All the enterprise and wealth of the landed proprietors, therefore, are exerted in procuring supplies of water, as without it the lands are worth nothing. For this purpose each hacienda has large tanks and reservoirs, constructed and kept up at great expense, to supply water for six months to all dependant upon it, and this creates a relation with the Indian population which places the proprietor somewhat in the position of a lord under the old feudal system. By the act of independence, the Indians of Mexico, as well as the white population, became free. No man can buy and sell another, whatever may be the colour
of his skin; but as the Indians are poor, thristless, and improvident, and never look beyond the immediate hour, they are obliged to attach themselves to some hacienda which can supply their wants; and, in return for the privilege of using the water, they come under certain obligations of service to the master, which place him in a lordly position; and this state of things, growing out of the natural condition of the country, exists, I believe, nowhere in Spanish America except in Yucatan. Each hacienda has its major-domo, who attends to all the details of the management of the estate, and in the absence of the master is his viceroy, and has the same powers over the tenants. At this hacienda the major-domo was a young Mestitzo, and had fallen into his place in an easy and natural way by marrying his predecessor's daughter, who had just enough white blood to elevate the dulness of the Indian face into one of softness and sweetness; and yet it struck me that he thought quite as much of the place he got with her as of herself. It would have been a great satisfaction to pass several days at this lordly hacienda; but, not expecting anything to interest us on the road, we had requested Donna Joaquina to hurry us through, and the servant told us that the señora's orders were to conduct us to another hacienda of the family, about two leagues beyond, to sleep. At the moment we were particularly loth to leave, on account of the fatigue of the previous ride. The servant suggested to the major-domo llamar un coché; in English, to “call a coach,” which the latter proposed to do if we wished it. We made a few inquiries, and said, unhesitatingly and peremptorily, in effect, “Go call a coach, and let a coach be called.” The major-domo ascended by a flight of stone steps
outside to the belfry of the church, whither we followed him; and, turning around with a movement and tone of voice that reminded us of a Mussulman in a minaret calling the faithful to prayers, he called for a coach. The roof of the church, and of the whole pile of buildings connected, was of stone cemented, firm and strong as a pavement. The sun beat intensely upon it, and for several minutes all was still. At length we saw a single Indian trotting through the woods toward the hacienda, then two together, and in a quarter of an hour there were twenty or thirty. These were the horses; the coaches were yet growing on the trees. Six Indians were selected for each coach, who, with a few minutes' use of the machete, cut a bundle of poles, which they brought up to the corridor to manufacture into coaches. This was done, first, by laying on the ground two poles about as thick as a man's wrist, ten feet long and three feet apart. These were fastened by cross-sticks tied with strings of unspun hemp, about two feet from each end ; grass hammocks were secured between the poles, bows bent over them and covered with light matting, and the coaches were made. We placed our ponchas at the head for pillows, crawled inside, and lay down. The Indians took off little cotton shirts covering the breast, and tied them around their petates as hatbands. Four of them raised up each coach, and placed the end of the poles on little cushions on their shoulders. We bade farewell to the major-domo and his wife, and, feet first, descended the steps and set off on a trot, while an Indian followed leading the horses. In the great relief we experienced we forgot our former scruples against making beasts of burden of men. They were not troubled with any sense of indignity or abasement, and the weight was not much.