Six Months In Mexico/Chapter 28
spend the third and final night beneath the scaffolding. Dawn came, but it brought no hopeful man for the promised absolution. They found him hanging on the scaffolding dead. Some say the angels took him away because he had suffered sufficiently for his sins. Others say the devils hung him because he tried to escape the toil he had willingly accepted. But he was dead. His story was made known, and because of the strangeness of it, this street was named after him, and I never traversed it while in Mexico but that I felt sorrow for the poor insane wretch as he stood three nights beneath the scaffolding on Don Juan Manuel.
A MEXICAN PARLOR.
Most readers will probably be interested to know how custom rules that a parlor shall be furnished “in Spanish" as we quaintly say in Mexico. For the knowledge that all are of a different tongue makes a rather queer impression and it is quite common for foreigners to remark: “Oh, they can’t hear, they are Spanish. "We even get to think they cannot see and that people laugh and babies cry “in Spanish."
A parlor, or sala, is found in every private Mexican house, but until within the last two years there was not a hotel in the republic that had a parlor. Boarders entertained their friends in their bedrooms—and this is yet considered quite the proper thing to do. Some of the hotels now advertise as Americanos on the strength of having a little parlor. Calling or visiting is quite uncommon, as there is no society, and little sociability outside their home doors, yet occasionally relatives call o on one another; still I have been with cousins who accidentally met at church, and though they were the best of friends, living within a dozen squares of each other, they had not exchanged visits for three years; this is quite common. I know two sisters living within four squares of each other who have not been in each other’s house for a year. I hardly think the reason is a lack of sociability or hospitality, as, once within the massive walls of their casa, the Spanish courtesy is readily exhibited; they are your servants, and their house is yours for the time being, but the main causes are the gradual decrease of their once princely fortunes, and their laziness; the latter I regard, from close observation, as the chief fault.
Yet with all their retired habits they retain the "custom" of former generations as to how their parlor must be arranged and visits paid and received, as strictly as though they were in the midst of an ultra society circle; their customs, I have been informed, are thoroughly Spanish and are the only ones practiced both in Spain and Cuba.
The sala is always on the second floor, as none but servants occupy the ground or first floor, and it is generally the only room in the house which boasts of a carpet. In several cases I have seen the floors made of polished wood and marble tiling; the walls are beautifully frescoed in colors, and the ceiling, which is always very high, has a magnificent painting in the center, the subject invariably of angels or a group of scantily-clad females. In each corner there are round, brass-edged openings of about ten inches in circumference, which serve as ventilators and very often a double purpose by letting scorpions in on unwilling victims.
The windows are but glass doors opening out upon little iron-railed balconies shaded by awnings. Each window-shade is transparent, and as the light shines through, it not only fills the room with some beautiful delicate tints, but discloses a lovely Southern scene. Cobweby curtains of creamy white hang from brass poles, suspended at least a foot and a half from the window, forming in themselves little nooks which would be idolized by romantically inclined "spoons" and "spooners" of the States.
The Mexicans are all good judges of paintings and many are talented artists; they do not harrow up one's sensibilities with dollar daubs of blue-trees, lavender tinted skies and a mammoth animal with horns and tail, standing on a white streak in the foreground, which (the animal) placed cross-wise, could stand on all fours and never touch water. Nor does one's eyes have to long for the waters of Lethe because of tea prizes and Mikado ornaments. But a selection of good oil paintings and French-plate mirrors, all framed in brass, grace their rooms.
The piano is almost universal and occupies some nook by itself; the furniture for the sala is always cushioned and is composed mainly of easy chairs; the sofa—the seat of honor—is placed against the wall beneath some large painting or mirror and a large rug is laid in front. Starting from either end are the easy chairs which form an unbroken circle around the sofa, all thus being able to face it without turning their backs on any one. Directly at the back of the chairs, or facing the sofa, is a round table with a "crazy" patchwork cover—which craze has invaded even that country—or a knitted scarf. Then it is actually littered with ornaments of every description, leaving no empty space; as an Englishman rather tersely remarked to me, "They look like a counter in a crowded pawn shop."
All the chairs, and the sofa, have crocheted tidies on the backs, arms and seat, each separate, and enough to madden a Talmage convert. You may rise up slowly with an Andersonian grace and first one female politely begs permission to remove one of her tidies from your hat; then they will file into the next room, one by one, to see how La Americanos' sombrero becomes them, while another removes a white, delicately constructed thing from your "tournure" (what they dote on), which latter they have been dying to closely inspect, and to find how you manage to have it hang so prettily. And after you remove another tidy which has become fastened to your heel (although you can't imagine how), you detach yet another from the side trimmings of your dress. By that time you are flustered, forget the Andersonian grace, and utter some emphatic words about tidies and tidy matters in general, and sit down with a real Castletonian kick.
The sala is not complete without at least two cabinets to hold the overflow of the center table. In all the odd corners are pedestals on which are statuettes in marble, bronze, or plaster-of-Paris, just as the owner's purse permits. Tropical plants in quaint jars of Indian design and construction and rustic stands are grouped about, and parrots, mocking-birds, and gayly-colored birds of