Life in Mexico, by Frances Calderon de la Barca

Letter the Ninth

Visits from Spaniards — Visit from the President — Disquisition — Poblana Dress — Bernardo the Matador — Bull-fight extraordinary — Plaza de Toros — Fireworks — Portrait of C——n — Fancy Ball — Dress — Costume of the Patronesses — Beauty in Mexico — Doctor’s Visit — Cards of faire part — Marquesa de San Roman — Toilet in Morning Visits of Ceremony — Attempt at Robbery — Murder of a Consul — La Guera Rodriguez — Dr. Plan — M. de Humboldt — Anecdote — Former Customs.

Yesterday (Sunday), a great day here for visiting after mass is over. We had a concourse of Spaniards, all of whom seemed anxious to know whether or not I intended to wear a Poblana dress at the fancy ball, and seemed wonderfully interested about it. Two young ladies or women of Puebla, introduced by Señor ——— came to proffer their services in giving me all the necessary particulars, and dressed the hair of Joséfa, a little Mexican girl, to show me how it should be arranged; mentioned several things still wanting, and told me that every one was much pleased at the idea of my going in a Poblana dress. I was rather surprised that every one should trouble themselves about it. About twelve o’clock the president, in full uniform, attended by his aides-de-camp, paid me a visit, and sat about half an hour, very amiable as usual. Shortly after came more visits, and just as we had supposed they were all concluded, and we were going to dinner, we were told that the secretary of state, the Ministers of war and of the interior, and others, were in the drawing-room. And what do you think was the purport of their visit? To adjure me by all that was most alarming, to discard the idea of making my appearance in a Poblana dress! They assured us that Poblanas generally were femmes de rien, that they wore no stockings, and that the wife of the Spanish Minister should by no means assume, even for one evening, such a costume. I brought in my dresses, showed their length and their propriety, but in vain; and, in fact, as to their being in the right, there could be no doubt, and nothing but a kind motive could have induced them to take this trouble; so I yielded with a good grace, and thanked the cabinet council for their timely warning, though fearing, that in this land of procrastination, it would be difficult to procure another dress for the fancy ball; for you must know, that our luggage is still toiling its weary way, on the backs of mules, from Vera Cruz to the capital. They had scarcely gone, when Señor ——— brought a message from several of the principal ladies here, whom we do not even know, and who had requested, that as a stranger, I should be informed of the reasons which rendered the Poblana dress objectionable in this country, especially on any public occasion like this ball. I was really thankful for my escape.

Just as I was dressing for dinner, a note was brought, marked reservada (private), the contents of which appeared to me more odd than pleasant. I have since heard, however, that the writer, Don José Arnaiz, is an old man, and a sort of privileged character, who interferes in everything, whether it concerns him or not. I translate it for your benefit.

“The dress of a Poblana is that of a woman of no character. The lady of the Spanish Minister is a lady in every sense of the word. However much she may have compromised herself, she ought neither to go as a Poblana, nor in any other character but her own. So says to the Señor de C——n, José Arnaiz, who esteems him as much as possible.”

6th. — Early this morning, this being the day of the “bull-fight extraordinary,” placards were put up, as I understand, on all the corners of the streets, announcing it, accompanied by a portrait of C——n! Count C——a came soon after breakfast, accompanied by Bernardo, the first matador, whom he brought to present to us. I send you the white satin note of invitation, with its silver lace and tassels, to show you how beautifully they can get up such things here. The matador is a handsome but heavy-looking man, though said to be active and skilful. Tomorrow I shall write you an account of my first bull-fight.

7th. — Yesterday, towards the afternoon, there were great fears of rain, which would have caused a postponement of the combat; however, the day cleared up, the bulls little knowing how much their fate depended upon the clouds. A box in the centre, with a carpet and a silver lamp, had been prepared for us; but we went with our friends, the C—— as, into their box adjoining. The scene, to me especially, who have not seen the magnificence of the Madrid arena, was animating and brilliant in the highest degree. Fancy an immense amphitheatre, with four great tiers of boxes, and a range of uncovered seats in front, the whole crowded almost to suffocation; the boxes filled with ladies in full dress, and the seats below by gaily-dressed and most enthusiastic spectators; two military bands of music, playing beautiful airs from the operas; an extraordinary variety of brilliant costumes, all lighted up by the eternally deep-blue sky; ladies and peasants, and officers in full uniform, — and you may conceive that it must have been altogether a varied and curious spectacle.

About half-past six, a flourish of trumpets announced the president, who came in uniform with his staff, and took his seat to the music of “Guerra! Guerra! I bellici trombi.” Shortly after the matadors and picadors, the former on foot, the latter on horseback, made their entry, saluting all around the arena, and were received with loud cheering.

Bernardo’s dress of blue and silver was very superb, and cost him five hundred dollars. The signal was given — the gates were thrown open, and a bull sprang into the arena; not a great, fierce-looking animal, as they are in Spain, but a small, angry, wild-looking beast, with a troubled eye.

“Thrice sounds the clarion; lo! the signal falls,

  The den expands, and expectation mute

Gapes round the silent circle’s peopled walls.

  Bounds with one lashing spring the mighty brute,

And, wildly staring, spurns with sounding foot

  The sand, nor blindly rushes on his foe;

Here, there, he points his threatening front, to suit

  His first attack, wide waving to and fro

His angry tail; red rolls his eye’s dilated glow.”

A picture equally correct and poetical. That first pose of the bull is superb! Pasta, in her Medea, did not surpass it. Meanwhile the matadors and the banderilleros shook their coloured scarfs at him — the picadors poked at him with their lances. He rushed at the first, and tossed up the scarfs which they threw at him, while they sprung over the arena; galloped after the others, striking the horses, so that along with their riders they occasionally rolled in the dust; both, however, almost instantly recovering their equilibrium, in which there is no time to be lost. Then the matadors would throw fireworks, crackers adorned with streaming ribbons, which stuck on his horns, as he tossed his head, enveloped him in a blaze of fire. Occasionally the picador would catch hold of the bull’s tail, and passing it under his own right leg, wheel his horse round, force the bullock to gallop backwards, and throw him on his face.

Maddened with pain, streaming with blood, stuck full of darts, and covered with fireworks, the unfortunate beast went galloping round and round, plunging blindly at man and horse, and frequently trying to leap the barrier, but driven back by the waving hats and shouting of the crowd. At last, as he stood at bay, and nearly exhausted, the matador ran up and gave him the mortal blow, considered a peculiar proof of skill. The bull stopped, as if he felt that his hour were come, staggered, made a few plunges at nothing, and fell. A finishing stroke, and the bull expired.

The trumpets sounded, the music played. Four horses galloped in tied to a yoke, to which the bull was fastened, and swiftly dragged out of the arena. This last part had a fine effect, reminding one of the Roman sacrifice. In a similar manner, eight bulls were done to death. The scene is altogether fine, the address amusing, but the wounding and tormenting of the bull is sickening, and as here the tips of his horns are blunted, one has more sympathy with him than with his human adversaries. It cannot be good to accustom a people to such bloody sights.

Yet let me confess, that though at first I covered my face and could not look, little by little I grew so much interested in the scene, that I could not take my eyes off it, and I can easily understand the pleasure taken in these barbarous diversions by those accustomed to them from childhood.

The bull-fight having terminated amidst loud and prolonged cheering from the crowd, a tree of fireworks, erected in the midst of the arena, was lighted, and amidst a blaze of coloured light, appeared, first the Arms of the Republic, the Eagle and Nopal; and above, a full-length portrait of C——n! represented by a figure in a blue and silver uniform. Down fell the Mexican eagle with a crash at his feet, while he remained burning brightly, and lighted up by fireworks, in the midst of tremendous shouts and cheers. Thus terminated this “función extraordinaria;” and when all was over, we went to dine at Countess C——a’s; had some music in the evening, and afterwards returned home tolerably tired.

10th. — The fancy ball took place last evening in the theatre, and although, owing either to the change of climate, or to the dampness of the house, I have been obliged to keep my room since the day of the bull-fight, and to decline a pleasant dinner at the English Minister’s, I thought it advisable to make my appearance there. Having discarded the costume of the light-headed Poblamanas, I adopted that of a virtuous Roman Contadina, simple enough to be run up in one day; a white skirt, red bodice, with blue ribbons, and lace veil put on square behind; à propos to which head-dress, it is very common amongst the Indians to wear a piece of stuff folded square, and laid flat upon the head, in this Italian fashion; and as it is not fastened, I cannot imagine how they trot along, without letting it fall.

We went to the theatre about eleven, and found the entrée, though crowded with carriages, very quiet and orderly. The coup d’oeil on entering was extremely gay, and certainly very amusing. The ball, given for the benefit of the poor, was under the patronage of the ladies C——a, G——a, Guer —— a, and others, but such was the original dirtiness and bad condition of the theatre, that to make it decent, they had expended nearly all the proceeds. As it was, and considering the various drawbacks, the arrangements were very good. Handsome lustres had superseded the lanterns with their tallow candles, the boxes were hung with bright silk draperies, and a canopy of the same drawn up in the form of a tent, covered the whole ball-room. The orchestra also was tolerably good. The boxes were filled with ladies, presenting an endless succession of China crape shawls of every colour and variety, and a monotony of diamond earrings; while in the theatre itself, if ever a ball might be termed a fancy-ball, this was that ball. Of Swiss peasants, Scotch peasants, and all manner of peasants, there were a goodly assortment; as also of Turks, Highlanders, and men in plain clothes. But being public, it was not, of course, select, and amongst many well-dressed people, there were hundreds who, assuming no particular character, had exerted their imagination to appear merely fanciful, and had succeeded. One, for example, would have a scarlet satin petticoat, and over it a pink satin robe, with scarlet ribbons to match. Another, a short blue satin dress, beneath which appeared a handsome purple satin petticoat; the whole trimmed with yellow bows. They looked like the signs of the zodiac. All had diamonds and pearls; old and young, and middle-aged; including little children, of whom there were many.

The lady patronesses were very elegant. The Señora de Guer —— a, wore a head-dress in the form of a net, entirely composed of large pearls and diamonds; in itself a fortune. The Señora de C——a, as Madame de la Valliere, in black velvet and diamonds, looking pretty as usual, but the cold of the house obliged her to muffle up in furs and boas, and so to hide her dress. The Señora de G——a, as Mary, Queen of Scots, in black velvet and pearls, with a splendid diamond necklace, was extremely handsome; she wore a cap, introduced by the Albini, in the character of the Scottish Queen, but which, though pretty in itself, is a complete deviation from the beautiful simplicity of the real Queen–Mary cap. She certainly looked as if she had arrived at her prime without knowing Fotheringay.

Various ladies were introduced to me who are only waiting to receive our cards of faire part before they call. Amongst the girls, the best dresses that I observed were the Señoritas de F——d, the one handsome, with the figure and face of a Spanish peasant; the other much more graceful and intelligent-looking, though with less actual beauty. However, so many of the most fashionable people were in their boxes, that I am told this is not a good occasion on which to judge of the beauty or style of toilet of the Mexican women; besides which, these fancy balls being uncommon, they would probably look better in their usual costume. Upon the whole, I saw few striking beauties, little grace, and very little good dancing. There was too much velvet and satin, and the dresses were too much loaded. The diamonds, though superb, were frequently ill-set. The dresses, compared with the actual fashion, were absurdly short, and the feet, naturally small, were squeezed into shoes still smaller, which is destructive to grace, whether in walking or dancing.

I saw many superb pairs of eyes, and beautiful hands and arms, perfect models for a sculptor, the hands especially; and very few good complexions.

There was a young gentleman pointed out to me as being in the costume of a Highlander! How I wished that Sir William Cumming, Macleod of Macleod, or some veritable Highland chieftain could suddenly have appeared to annihilate him, and show the people here what the dress really is! There were various unfortunate children bundled up in long satin or velvet dresses, covered with blond and jewels, and with artificial flowers in their hair.

The room was excessively cold, nor was the ancient odour of the theatre entirely obliterated; nor indeed do I think that all the perfumes of Arabia would overpower it. Having walked about, and admired all the varieties of fancy costumes, I, being nearly frozen, went to the Countess C——a’s box on the pit tier, and enveloped myself in a cloak. They pointed out the most distinguished persons in the boxes, amongst others the family of the E——s, who seem very handsome, with brilliant colours and fine teeth. We remained until three in the morning, and declined all offers of refreshment, though, after all, a cup of hot chocolate would not have been amiss. There was supper somewhere, but I believe attended only by gentlemen. I had the satisfaction in passing out to see numerous ladies on their partners’ arms, and all bedizened as they were with finery, stop under the lamps, and light their cigars, — cool and pretty.

16th. — I have passed nearly a week in a slight fever; shivering and hot. I was attended by a doctor of the country, who seems the most harmless creature imaginable. Every day he felt my pulse, and gave me some little innocent mixture. But what he especially gave me was a lesson in polite conversation. Every day we had the following dialogue, as he rose to take leave:

“Madam!” (this by the bedside) “I am at your service.”

“Many thanks, sir.”

“Madam!” (this at the foot of the bed) “know me for your most humble servant.”

“Good morning, sir.”

“Madam!” (here he stopped beside a table) “I kiss your feet.”

“Sir, I kiss your hand.”

“Madam!” (this near the door) “my poor house, and all in it, myself though useless, all I have, is yours.”

“Many thanks, sir.”

He turns round and opens the door, again turning round as he does so.

“Adieu, madam! your servant.”

“Adieu, sir.”

He goes out, partly reopens the door, and puts in his head — “Good morning, madam!”

This civility so lengthened out, as if parting were such “sweet sorrow,” between doctor and patient, seems rather misplaced. It is here considered more polite to say Señorita than Señora, even to married women, and the lady of the house is generally called by her servants, “La Nina,” the little girl, even though she be over eighty. This last custom is still more common in Havana, where the old negresses, who have always lived in the family, and are accustomed to call their young mistress by this name, never change, whatever be her age.

I have received a packet of letters which have done me more good than the old doctor’s visits. The captain left us yesterday, and took charge of a box of chocolate stamped with various figures, and of some curious dulces for you. Our cards, giving the Mexicans the tardy information of our arrival, were sent out some days ago. I copy one, that you may have a specimen of the style, which looks for all the world like that of a shop-advertisement, purporting that Don ——— makes wigs, dresses hair, and so forth, while Doña ——— washes lace, and does up fine linen.

“Don A—— C—— de la B—— Enviado Extraordinario y Ministro Plenipotenciario de H. M. C. cerca de la Republica Mexicana; y su Esposa, Doña F—— E—— C—— de la B——; Participan a su Llegada a este Capital y se afrecen á su disposición, en la Plazuela de Buenavista, No. 2.”3

3 Don A—— C—— de la B—— Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary from H. C. M.; and his Lady, Doña F—— E—— C—— de la B——; Inform you of their arrival in this capital, and put themselves at your disposal, in the street of Buenavista, No. 2.]

18th. — For the last few days our rooms have been filled with visitors, and my eyes are scarcely yet accustomed to the display of diamonds, pearls, silks, satins, blondes, and velvets, in which the ladies have paid their first visits of etiquette. A few of the dresses I shall record for your benefit, not as being richer than the others, but that I happen to recollect them best. — The Marquesa de San Roman, an old lady who has travelled a great deal in Europe, and is very distinguished for talents and information. She has the Grand Cross of Maria Louisa of Spain, is of a noble Venetian family, and aunt to the Duke of Canizzaro. Her dress was a very rich black Genoa velvet, black blonde mantilla, and a very splendid parure of diamonds. She seems in exceedingly delicate health. She and her contemporaries are fast fading away, the last record of the days of Viceroyalty. In their place a new race have started up, whose manners and appearance have little of the vieille cour about them; chiefly. It is said, wives of military men, sprung from the hotbeds of the revolutions, ignorant and full of pretensions, as parvenus who have risen by chance and not by merit must be. I continue my list after the fashion of the Court Journal.

Countess de S——o. Under dress of rich violet satin, gown of black blonde, mantilla of black blonde, diamond earrings, five or six large diamond brooches fastening the mantilla, necklace of large pearls and diamond sevigne. The Señora S——. Dress of white satin, gown of white blonde, white blonde mantilla, pearls, diamonds, and white satin shoes. Madame S——r. Black velvet dress, white blonde mantilla, pearls, diamonds, short sleeves, and white satin shoes. The Señora de A——d. Fawn-coloured satin dress, black blonde mantilla, diamonds, and black satin shoes.

The Señora B——a, the wife of a General, extremely rich, and who has the handsomest house in Mexico. Dress of purple velvet, embroidered all over with flowers of white silk, short sleeves, and embroidered corsage; white satin shoes and has bas à jour; a deep flounce of Mechlin appearing below the velvet dress, which was short. A mantilla of black blonde, fastened by three diamond aigrettes. Diamond earrings of extraordinary size. A diamond necklace of immense value, and beautifully set. A necklace of pear pearls, valued at twenty thousand dollars. A diamond sévigné. A gold chain going three times round the neck, and touching the knees. On every finger two diamond rings, like little watches. As no other dress was equally magnificent, with her I conclude my description, only observing that no Mexican lady has yet paid me her first morning visit without diamonds. They have few opportunities for displaying their jewels, so that were it not on the occasion of some such morning visit of etiquette, the diamonds would lie in their cases, wasting their serene rays in darkness.

Last night an attempt was made to break into the house, but our fine little bull-dog Hercules, a present from Señor A——d, kept his ground so well, and barked so furiously, that the servants were awakened, even the porter, the soundest slumberer amongst them; and the robbers escaped without doing further mischief than inflicting a severe wound on the poor animal’s paw, which has made him for the present quite lame.

A propos to which matters, a most cruel murder, of which I have just been hearing the particulars, was committed not very long ago in this neighbourhood, upon Mr. M—— the Swiss consul. He was also a leather-merchant, and one morning having sent out his porter on some commission, a carriage drove up to the door, and three gentlemen presented themselves to Mr. M—— requesting to speak to him on business. He begged them to walk in, and there entered a general in uniform, a young officer, and a monk. Mr. M—— requested to be informed of their business, when suddenly the general, seizing hold of him, whilst the others went to secure the door, exclaimed, “We have not come to hear about your goods, we want your money.” The poor man, astounded at perceiving the nature of his customers, assured them he kept but little money in the house, but proceeded instantly to open his private drawers, and empty their contents, amounting, in fact, to a trifle of some few hundred dollars. Finding that he had indeed no more to give them they prepared to depart, when the monk said, “We must kill him, or he will recognise us.” “No,” said the officers, “leave him and come along. There is no danger.” “Go on,” said the monk, “I follow;” and, turning back, stabbed the consul to the heart. The three then re-entered the carriage, and drove off at full speed. A few minutes afterwards the porter returning found his master bathed in blood, and rushing out to a neighbouring gambling-house, gave the alarm. Several gentlemen ran to his assistance, but he died in an hour after, having given all the particulars of the dress and appearance of his murderers, and that of their carriage. By these tokens they were soon afterwards discovered, and by the energy of the Governor, then Count C——a, they were arrested and hanged upon the trees in front of our house, together with the real Mexican colonel, who had kindly lent the ruffians his carriage for the occasion. It is seldom that crime here meets with so prompt a punishment.

Our friend, Count C——a, when Governor of Mexico, was celebrated for his energy in “el persiguimiento de los ladrones,” (persecuting the robbers,) as it is called. It is said upon one occasion his zeal carried him rather far. Various robberies having been committed in the city, he had received a hint from the government, that the escape of the perpetrators was considered by them as a proof that he had grown lukewarm in the public service. A few days afterwards, riding in the streets, he perceived a notorious robber, who, the moment he observed himself recognised, darted down another street with the swiftness of an arrow. The governor pursued him on horseback; the robber made all speed towards the Square, and rushed into the sanctuary of the cathedral. The count galloped in after him, and dragged him from his place of refuge near the altar. This violation of the church’s sanctity was, of course, severely reprimanded, but, as the governor remarked, they could no longer accuse him of want of zeal in the discharge of his duty.

He took as his porter the captain of a gang of robbers, ordering him to stand at the door, and to seize any of his former acquaintances who might pass, his own pardon depending on his conduct in this respect. Riding out one day to his country place with his lady, this man accompanying them as a servant, they were overtaken by a messenger, who desired the return of the count to the city, upon some urgent and important business. It was already dusk, yet the count, trusting to the honour of the robber, ordered him to conduct his lady to the hacienda; and she alone, on horseback, with this alarming guide, performed her journey in safety.

Before I conclude this letter, I must tell you that I received a visit this morning from a very remarkable character, well known here by the name of La Guera (the fair) Rodriguez, said to have been many years ago celebrated by Humboldt as the most beautiful woman he had seen in the whole course of his travels. Considering the lapse of time which has passed since that distinguished traveller visited these parts, I was almost astonished when her card was sent up with a request for admission, and still more so to find that in spite of years and of the furrows which it pleases Time to plough in the loveliest faces, La Guera retains a profusion of fair curls without one gray hair, a set of beautiful white teeth, very fine eyes, and great vivacity.

Her sister, the Marquesa de Juluapa, lately dead, is said to have been also a woman of great talent and extraordinary conversational powers; she is another of the ancient noblesse who has dropped off. The physician who attended her in her last illness, a Frenchman of the name of Plan, in great repute here, has sent in a bill to her executors of ten thousand dollars, which, although it does not excite any great astonishment, the family refuse to pay, and there is a lawsuit in consequence. The extortions of medical men in Mexico, especially of foreign physicians, have arrived at such a height, that a person of moderate fortune must hesitate before putting himself into their hands.4 A rich old lady in delicate health, and with no particular complaint, is a surer fund for them than a silver-mine.

4 The Mexican Government has since taken this matter into consideration, and is making regulations which render it necessary for a medical man to possess a certain degree of knowledge, and to have resided a specified time in the city, before he is permitted to practise; they are also occupied in fixing a certain sum for medical attendance.]

I found La Guera very agreeable, and a perfect living chronicle. She is married to her third husband, and had three daughters, all celebrated beauties; the Countess de Regla, who died in New York, and was buried in the cathedral there; the Marquesa de Guadalupe, also dead, and the Marquesa de A——a, now a handsome widow. We spoke of Humboldt, and talking of herself as of a third person, she related to me all the particulars of his first visit, and his admiration of her; that she was then very young, though married, and the mother of two children, and that when he came to visit her mother, she was sitting sewing in a corner where the baron did not perceive her; until talking very earnestly on the subject of cochineal, he inquired if he could visit a certain district where there was a plantation of nopals. “To be sure,” said La Guera from her corner; “we can take M. de Humboldt there;” whereupon he first perceiving her, stood amazed, and at length exclaimed, “Valgame Dios! who is that girl?“ Afterwards he was constantly with her, and more captivated, it is said, by her wit than by her beauty, considering her a sort of western Madame de Stael; all which leads me to suspect that the grave traveller was considerably under the influence of her fascinations, and that neither mines nor mountains, geography nor geology, petrified shells nor alpenkalkstein, had occupied him to the exclusion of a slight stratum of flirtation. It is a comfort to think that “sometimes even the great Humboldt nods.”

One of La Guera’s stories is too original to be lost. A lady of high rank having died in Mexico, her relatives undertook to commit her to her last resting-place, habited according to the then prevailing fashion, in her most magnificent dress, that which she had worn at her wedding. This dress was a wonder of luxury, even in Mexico. It was entirely composed of the finest lace, and the flounces were made of a species of point which cost fifty dollars a vara (the Mexican yard). Its equal was unknown. It was also ornamented and looped up at certain intervals with bows of ribbon very richly embroidered in gold. In this dress, the Condesa de ——— was laid in her coffin, thousands of dear friends crowding to view her beautiful costume de mort, and at length she was placed in her tomb, the key of which was intrusted to the sacristan.

From the tomb to the opera is a very abrupt transition; nevertheless, both have a share in this story. A company of French dancers appeared in Mexico, a twentieth-rate ballet, and the chief danseuse was a little French damsel, remarkable for the shortness of her robes, her coquetry, and her astonishing pirouettes. On the night of a favourite ballet, Mademoiselle Pauline made her entrée in a succession of pirouettes, and poising on her toe, looked round for approbation, when a sudden thrill of horror, accompanied by a murmur of indignation, pervaded the assembly. Mademoiselle Pauline was equipped in the very dress in which the defunct countess had been buried!

Lace, point flounces, gold ribbons; impossible to mistake it. Hardly had the curtain dropped, when the little danseuse found herself surrounded by competent authorities, questioning her as to where and how she had obtained her dress. She replied that she had bought it at an extravagant price from a French modiste in the city. She had rifled no tomb, but honestly paid down golden ounces, in exchange for her lawful property. To the modiste’s went the officers of justice. She also pleaded innocent. She had bought it of a man who had brought it to her for sale, and had paid him much more than à poids d’or, as indeed it was worth. By dint of further investigation, the man was identified, and proved to be the sacristan of San ———. Short-sighted sacristan! He was arrested and thrown into prison, and one benefit resulted from his cupidity, since in order to avoid throwing temptation in the way of future sacristans, it became the custom, after the body had lain in state for some time in magnificent robes, to substitute a plain dress previous to placing the coffin in the vault. A poor vanity after all.

I was told by a lady here, that on the death of her grandchild, he was not only enveloped in rich lace, but the diamonds of three condesas and four marquesas were collected together and put on him, necklaces, bracelets, rings, brooches and tiaras, to the value of several hundred thousand dollars. The street was hung with draperies, and a band of music played, whilst he was visited by all the titled relatives of the family in his dead splendour, poor little baby! Yet his mother mourned for him as for all her blighted hopes, and the last scion of a noble house. Grief shows itself in different ways; yet one might think that when it seeks consolation in display, it must be less profound than when it shuns it.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 20:05