One day as I was strolling about the city, I noticed, on the upper story of a house, a bunch of newspapers tied with a string to the iron grating of a window. "What does that mean?" I asked.
"It is the recognized sign," was the reply, "that rooms are to rent there."
The Hotel Iturbide.
"What!" I exclaimed, "is it possible that, to avoid the expense of printing placards, it is the custom here to tie newspapers about a railing when one wishes to let rooms?"
"Precisely so," answered my informant, "and when a newspaper cannot be had, a bit of wrapping-paper answers the same purpose."
Not far from this, my companion pointed out to me another private residence, and said, "Beneath that corner window, for six months, regularly every night, I saw a faithful lover 'playing the bear."' "Playing the bear!" I echoed, "do you refer to the hugs which bears are wont to give their victims?"
"Oh, no!" was the reply, "the Mexican lover plays the part of Bruin in a cage. That is to say, at a fixed hour each day he saunters up and down the sidewalk near his loved one's house, gazes with rapture at her window, and puts his hand discreetly on his heart. Meantime he is being critically examined (no doubt through opera-glasses), not only by the young lady herself, but by all the other members of her family. After this dull business has dragged on for several weeks, the bear gets bold enough to write a note, and, holding it in his paw, allows his lady love to see it from a distance.
A Mexican House.
That night she intercepts the servant and obtains it. Most probably, however, the note is read to her mamma and answered, if at all, at her dictation. At length the father appears upon the scene and makes inquiries into the habits of the bear, asking particularly how large an amount of honey he extracts from some commercial beehive!
If a bear market prevails, the lover is accepted. If not, he is warned off the premises." Meanwhile, during the period of courtship, if the gratings which exclude the bear are on the lower story, the lovers are fortunate indeed; for, though the advances made by Bruin are not rapid, as an accepted suitor he is allowed to cross the street and talk with his inamorata through the bars. There he will offer her sweetmeats, and may sometimes hold her hand; occasionally, he will even press it to his lips; and, possibly, if the space be wide enough, - alas! what will not lovers do in such a case from the days of Pyramus and Thisbe, to our own? When the bars are on the second story, the wretched lover (forced by necessity to be inventive) induces some kind friend to lend his shoulders as a ladder, and even to play the guitar, so that the lady has the double pleasure of conversing with her ftance and listening to a serenade. Sometimes, however, the serenader's back suddenly gives way, and Romeo unceremoniously drops from heaven to earth. Even when formally admitted to the house, the lover sees the lady only before others, until at last the marriage ceremony takes place, and he secures an opportunity to test the value of the Russian proverb: "Before going to war, pray once; before going to sea, pray twice; before going to get married, pray three times." Excellent time is made on the tramways in the City of Mexico. Some of the cars are furnished with a sign requesting passengers not to cause delay by making their farewells too long! This is, however, a necessary rule, for these affectionate people kiss repeatedly, and pat each other caressingly on the back, as they meet and part. Frequently, too, they daintily gather into a group the finger-tips of the right hand, press them an instant to the lips, and then expand them, like the opening of a tiny umbrella, blowing meantime upon the unfolding fingers as if to waft five kisses to the loved one.
The House Of The Bear.
A Mexican Balcony.
Patio Of Private House.
Walking one day through the Mexican capital, I turned the corner of a street and stopped in astonishment at the sight before me. It was a tram-car drawn by four black horses, and adorned with wreaths of flowers and a tall black cross. Moreover, the sides were open, and on a platform in the centre a coffin was distinctly visible. This seemed to me the most extraordinary way in which to utilize a horse-car track that I had ever seen. I doubt if there is anything like it in the world, outside of Mexico; but here the tram-car companies are prepared to furnish hearses at all prices, from richly decorated vehicles drawn by horses to very plain cars drawn by mules. The great objection to these tram-car funerals is not, as might be supposed, their lack of privacy (for the blinds and doors of the cars can be tightly closed), but the rapidity with which the funeral trains are run in order to clear the tracks for regular traffic. In the cheaper grades of funerals the small black mules are driven wildly through the streets, and they rush around the corners at full gallop, presenting an astonishing combination of "the quick and the dead."