ancient gates, you enter at once pleasant and winding lanes, grass-grown and with protruding limestone rocks, with trees thick on either side, and half-wild gardens; but in all this tropic shrubbery there are few birds save the mocking-bird, blackbird, and cardinal.
The few people you meet are unobtrusive, and you may wander on for hours among the peculiar oblong huts,—deeply thatched with grass, so picturesque and so vermin-suggestive,—with women in négligé garbs cooking in the yards, and children contentedly playing about them, without hearing a harsh or discordant voice. Here indeed the softness of the climate makes itself felt. Returning at perhaps nine or ten o'clock, you will experience great discomfort from the glare of the sun on the yellow, dust-covered streets. A wise ordinance of the city prohibits the painting of a house white, for this very reason, glare. If such a law were in force in other cities within the region of heat, as in Bermuda or Barbados, for instance, how beneficial it would prove to the people! In those islands everything is white, except the plants,—houses, streets, and sand-hills; and, as if the white stone they build of were not glaring enough, they whitewash the roofs, and wear blue spectacles to mitigate the intensity of the reflected rays of the sun.
Rarely does a visitor to Merida, or indeed to any portion of Mexico, obtain an inside view of life there; but, fortunately for me, while there, society was turned inside out by the occurrence of the carnival. It was near the middle of that memorable sixteenth century that witnessed the conquests of Cuba, of Mexico, and of Peru, that the Spanish invaders founded, upon the ruins of the Indian city of T'ho, this now ancient metropolis, the capital city of Yucatan. Probably no one of the old cities of Mexico has so faithfully preserved its old-time characteristics as this. Though Roman Catholic in their faith, many of its citizens yet cling to their ancient religious rites, practising them, however, only in secret. But there have been also deeply engrafted upon the minds of the people many customs of times more modern than that of the conquest. A city of fifty thousand inhabitants cannot exist in a Catholic country—even one in which