Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/70

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
62
TRAVELS IN MEXICO.

round the house, and a broad alameda, or shaded walk, extends out to the gardens, passing above the stables. Here a score or more of women were drawing water from two deep wells, reaching a cenote by an endless chain of bark buckets running over a large wheel. They were going and coming in endless procession, with large cantaros, or jars, upon their hips. This water serves to irrigate the garden, full of orange trees, coffee, and coco palms. Without it, the plain about would be a waste; with it, it blossomed like an oasis, as it was. The lime-rock crops up everywhere, and about the orange trees brick walls have been built to retain the water. Everywhere are high stone and arched gateways, and away on every side stretch broad fields of hemp. Everybody seemed cheerful, busy, and modest. After we were made welcome the head servants came up and saluted each of us, "Buenos dias, señor!" and about twenty savage-looking fellows, who came in with huge bales of grass strapped to their heads, and with long machetes hanging at their sides, left their loads and bade us good morning, bowing to us gracefully. There was a clock-tower here, and a chapel with figures in stone over the door; a fountain stood in the centre of the yard, and orange trees in bloom, full of doves and warblers, shaded the corridor. Outside the hacienda walls lay scattered curious elliptical huts, with stone walls and thatched roofs, the homes of the laborers.

An hour after leaving this hacienda we reached that of Mucuyché, famous for its cenote, or water-cave. There are no rivers in Yucatan that flow above ground, and the people are wholly dependent upon the clouds for their supply of water, and upon the rivers that run beneath the surface. The whole province is one vast table of coral rock, beneath which flow large streams, and even rivers. These break out at intervals into caves and caverns, formed by earthquake and the pressure of the water, though sometimes the supply is due to the infiltration of surface water into natural grottos in the coral rock. The Indians, centuries ago, marked the courses of these subterranean streams by heaps of stones, and their cities were always built near or about the water-caves, as is now shown by