Page:The Rambler in Mexico.djvu/33

This page has been validated.

tlemen who could, unfortunately, not better themselves; those of a bar for the dispensation of aqua ardiente, (strong waters,) lemonade, and liqueurs; a table d'hote, morning and evening, furnished with a little fish, a little flesh, and a little fowl, and garnished with gizzard, tripe, ox cheek, yams, black beans, and bananas; and lastly, a gaming table in a retired piazza, over which he acted as presiding genius and banker.

Uncomfortable within, and environed with filth and garbage without, there was little in the Fonda to keep us willing prisoners; for we happened to be addicted neither to tippling nor gambling; and our first care after realizing our position, was to contrive the means of passing as much of our time as possible out of doors.

A few days gave us an insight into all the capabilities of the spot where we were cooped up. Society, I have said, was very confined. The young foreigners, when emancipated from their counting houses, passed their evenings in riding in the vicinity; playing at bowls, or worse, at monte; or made an attempt to get up a waltz by the aid of a poor pianoforte, a fife, and a pair of matrons. Books and literature, or the study of natural history, had no votaries among them. Now and then a tawdry masquerade, in which all classes mingled, was the amusement of the evening; but they were dull and stupid as might be, and only to be surpassed in stupidity by the fandangoes danced by the lower orders once or twice a week, under an open thatched shed, in the outskirts of the town.

By aid of sundry letters of credit, and the real kindness of the gentleman who acted as English and American consul, to whom we were all along greatly indebted, we soon achieved the purchase of horses. They may always be purchased—as to selling them, that, we found on divers occasions, to be quite another affair. We also hired an orderly to wait upon our donships: and set to work to make such preparations for our journey into the interior as were in our power, in the absence of all the accoutrements purchased at New-Orleans for the purpose; and moreover took occasion, as weather and temper in-