Water Venders


On one occasion we left our comfortable Pullman car to test the comforts of a genuine Mexican hotel. The halting-place selected for this doubtful experiment was Silao. It was midnight when we reached it. Leaving the train, a few steps brought us to a dimly lighted building, called "The Grand Hotel." A gray-haired man in neglige attire surveyed us, silently, as we approached.

"Buenas Tardes, Senor," we exclaimed, "have you received our telegram asking for five rooms?"

"I have," was the reply," and they are ready. When do you wish to go to them?"

"As soon as possible, Senor."

"Will you have a blanket?" asked the gray-haired man.

I looked at him in some alarm, and ventured, "Yes." "And sheets?" "Why, - yes." "And a pillowcase?"

"Ye - es." "Do your companions also want such luxuries?" I gazed at my companions. They were speechless with astonishment. Taking their silence for consent, the gray-haired man deliberately opened the door, not of the hotel-safe, but of a wardrobe. From this he took five scarlet blankets, ten sheets, five pillowcases, and as many towels. Then calling a half-naked Indian, he piled this bedding on his back, as if he were a donkey, and bade him lead us to our rooms. After one look at the Indian, we much preferred to carry our own bedclothes; but, being too tired to attempt it, we followed him up the staircase. This was no easy undertaking, for the hotel corridors were in total darkness, and as our Indian was of the color of a burnt ginger-snap, he shed no radiance through the gloom. Providentially, however, though he was lost to us by the sense of sight, another of our senses permitted no doubt of his locality.

Hotel At Silao

Hotel At Silao.

' The Staircase

' The Staircase.

We presently found him lighting five candles for as many rooms. There was no choice in these apartments. Each had two iron beds, a lilliputian wash-stand, two chairs, and a scanty piece of matting stuck like a postage-stamp upon a floor of stone. There were no windows, and doors in the form of blinds gave to these rooms their only light and air. The night that followed marked the greatest triumph of insomnia that my life has ever known. In the first place, my pillow was as flat and hard as an adobe brick; and, secondly, some choice Silao fleas had left the Indian bedclothes-bearer for a change of diet. Then, too, to make my misery complete, close by the Grand Hotel, a chorus of roosters was rehearsing in distracting unison. Aroused by these, a score of dogs kept barking till they gasped for breath; while, ever and anon, a melancholy donkey, worn with toil, would burst into a fit of asinine hysterics, and shared apparently my mournful vigil till the dawn.

The Bed Room

The Bed-Room.

Leaving Silao the next morning, a short and pleasant journey brought us to Guanajuato, a curious old city, famous for three hundred years. With its flat-roofed adobe houses, it is, like Zacatecas, Oriental in appearance, and is surrounded by a range of mountains which look as lifeless as the moon, and as devoid of value as a beggar's hand. But, in reality, these mountains are veritable treasure-houses. Their tawny frames are interlaced with countless veins of silver, whose life-blood stirs the pulse of the financial world. The mines of Guanajuato are ranked among the richest on our planet, and they have given to the world a very large amount of its existing stock of silver. The visitor does not, however, see much evidence of wealth in Guanajuato's streets. Most of the buildings are as plain as though the neighboring hills were merely heaps of sand, the pavements are hardly more comfortable to walk on than the beds of dried-up mountain brooks, and the poor natives seem in want not only of silver, but of clothing. Yet, Guanajuato is a picturesque old town. Built on two sides of a ravine, its houses hang upon the cliffs, as if they had been blown into the air by some reckless blast, and had alighted by good fortune on convenient ledges. A hasty traveler would probably consider Guanajuato very unattractive as a place of residence, and might suppose its only inhabitants were poverty-stricken Indians; but a Mexican gentleman assured me that he would rather live here than anywhere else in Mexico, except the capital. "Why so?" I asked. "Because," was the reply, "the society of the town is delightful. Nowhere have I more charming friends than in Guanajuato."