Page images
PDF
EPUB

1

enough among us to remunerate our landlord for the board and lodging which he had afforded us.

Our horses, which we had brought from San Luis, were caught, and put into the corral the evening before we left the town, and they had consequently nothing to eat all that night.

The following day, I have stated, we rode them sixty miles, and as it was then too late to turn them out, they were kept by the peon in the yard all that night.

The third day, while we were inspecting the mines, they were turned out for four or five hours to graze among stones and rocks, where there was apparently nothing for them to eat, and they were then brought into the yard, where they remained fasting all night. The next morning, before daybreak, we mounted them, and rode sixty miles back to San Luis; and as some of the party came in very late, I rather believe the postmaster kept them starving in his corral all night, and that the following morning they were driven to the plain.

The poor creatures must of course have suffered very much, but I did not know that at Carolina there would have been nothing for them to eat; and when we were there, I believe it was merciful to them not to stay; however, the truth is, that the business I was on was of such importance, that I really had not time to think about them.

Mendoza.

THE town of Mendoza is situated at the foot of the Andes, and the country around it is irrigated by cuts from the Rio de Mendoza. This river bounds the west side of the town, and from it, on the east side, there is a cut or canal about six feet wide, containing as much water as would turn a large mill. This stream supplies the town with water, and at the same time adorns and refreshes the Alameda or public walk. It waters the streets which descend with it to the river, and it can also be conducted into those which are at right angles.

Mendoza is a neat small town, built upon the usual South American plan. The streets are all at right angles : there is a plaza or square, on one side of which there is a church, and several other churches and convents are scattered over the town. The houses are only one story high, and all the principal ones have a porte-cochere, which enters a small court, round the four sides of which the building extends.

The houses are built of mud, and are roofed with the same. The walls are white-washed, which gives them a neat appearance, but the insides of the houses, until they are white-washed, look like an English barn. The walls are of course very soft ; occasionally a large piece of them comes off, and they are of that consistency, that, in a very few moments, a person, either with a spade or a pickaxe, could cut his way through any wall in the town. Some of the principal houses have glass in the window-sashes, but the greatest number have not. The houses are almost all little shops, and the goods displayed are principally English cottons.

The inhabitants are apparently a very quiet, respectable set of people. The governor, who is an old man, has the appearance and manners of a gentleman ; he has a large family of daughters, who are very pleasing-looking girls. The men are dressed in blue or white jackets, without skirts. The women in the day are only seen sitting at their windows, in complete dishabille, but in the evening they come upon the Alameda, dressed with much taste, in evening dresses and low gowns, and completely in the costume of London or Paris. The manner in which all the people seem to associate together, shows a great deal of good feeling and fellowship, and I certainly never saw less apparent jealousy in any place.

The people, however, are sadly indolent. A little after eleven o'clock in the morning, the shop-keepers make preparations for the siesta; they begin to yawn a little, and slowly to put back the articles which they have, during the morning, displayed on

[ocr errors]

their tables. About a quarter before twelve they shut up the shops, the window-shutters throughout the town are closed, or nearly so, and no individual is to be seen until five, and sometimes until six o'clock, in the evening.

During this time I used generally to walk about the town to make a few observations. It was really singular to stand at the corner of the right-angle streets, and in every direction to find such perfect solitude in the middle of the capital of a province. The noise occasioned by walking, was like the echo which is heard in pacing by oneself up the long aisle of a church or cathedral, and the scene reminded me of the deserted streets of Pompeii.

In passing some of the houses I often heard people snoring, and when the siesta was over, I was often much amused at seeing the people awaken; for there is infinitely more truth and pleasure in thus looking behind the scenes of private life, than in making formal observations on man when dressed and disguised for his public performance. The people generally lie on the ground or floor of the room, and the group is often amusing.

I saw, one day, an old man (one of the principal people in the town) fast asleep and happy. The old woman, his wife, was awake, and sitting up in easy dishabille, scratching herself, while her daughter, a very pretty-looking girl of about seventeen, was also awake, but lying on her side kissing a cat.

In the evening the scene begins to revive. The shops are opened ; a number of loads of grass are seen walking about the streets, for the horse that is carrying them is completely hid. Behind the load a boy stands on the extremity of the back; and to mount and dismount he climbs up by the animal's tail. A few Gauchos are riding about selling fruit ; and a beggar on horseback is occasionally seen, with his hat in his hand, singing a psalm in a melancholy tone,

As soon as the sun has set, the Alameda is crowded with people, and the scene is very singular and interesting. The men are sitting at tables, either smoking segars or eating ices, and the ladies are on the mud benches, which are on both sides of the Alameda. This Alameda is a walk nearly a mile long, between two rows of tall poplars : on one side of it are the garden-walls of the town, concealed by roses and shrubs, and on the other the stream of water, which supplies the town.

The walk is often illuminated in a very simple manner by paper lamps, which are cut into the shapes of stars, and are lighted by a single candle. There is generally a band of music playing, and at the end of the walk is a temple built of mud, which is very elegant in its form, and of which it may truly be said, “ meteriem superabat opus."

The few evenings I was at Mendoza, I always went as a complete stranger to this Alameda to eat

« PreviousContinue »