them that they were hungry, and since early in the morning had been out in the open air.
HOME SCENE NEAR THE LAKE.
There are several varieties of fish in the fresh-water lakes of the Valley of Mexico, but in the salt or brackish Lake Tezcoco there is only one kind, and some people think he is not entitled to be called a fish. He is shaped like one, but has four legs and a long, eel-like tail. He belongs more properly to the lizard family than to that of the fishes, and is a disgusting object to contempl
ate. He grows to about ten inches in l
ength. Frank thought he should go hungry a long time rather than eat of this reptile, who is called axolotl in the Aztec tongue, and ajolote by the Spaniards.
"Does anybody venture to eat this creature?" Fred asked.
"Certainly," answered his informant; "the Indians eat its flesh, which resembles that of an eel. White men who have got over their prejudice say it is toothsome, and many a stranger has devoured axolotl under the name of fried eel, and enjoyed it too."
great deal in a name and in prejudice," was the youth's commentary as he changed the subject to something else.
That something was a peculiar article of food even stranger than axolotl. Its scientific name is Ahuatlea Mexicana, and it consists of the eggs of a peculiar fly, which are deposited on the reeds and rushes growing in the shallow places along the borders of the lake. A traveller who visited Mexico two and a half centuries ago wrote of this substance as follows:
"The Indians gathered much of this and kept
it in Heaps, and made thereof Cakes l
ike unto Brick-bats, and they did eat this with as good a Stomach as we eat Cheese; yea, and they hold Opinion that this Scum, or Fatness, of the Water is the Cause that such great number of Fowl cometh to the Lake, which in the winter Season is infinite."
Custom has not changed in two hundred and fifty years. They sell these "cakes like unto brick-bats" in the markets of Mexico to-day, and the Indians eat the stuff with good relish. It bears some resemblance to fine fish-roe;
and after all, prejudice again being removed, and one being hungry, it is not bad eating. The Indians gather these insects by myriads and pound them into paste, which is afterwards wrapped in corn-husks, and forms an article of food second only to the one just mentioned. The laying capacity of the insect, which is about the size of an ordinary fly, is something marvellous, surpassing the abilities of the choicest fowls that ever were reared.
A DEAD FLY.
"You may judge how abundant these insects are," said Frank,
I tell you they set
tle down so thickly on the water that we thought they were shoals, or mud-banks! Fortunately for us, they didn't sting, nor did they even settle on the boat."
In one of his letters to the King describing the country he had conquered Cortez gave a minute account of the lakes in the neighborhood of Tenochtitlan, and naturally mentioned the fact that they had no outlet. He solved the mystery of the disappearance of the waters by gravely declaring that there was a large hole in th
e bottom of Lake Tezcoco by which the lake was drained. A century later an engineer was sent from Spain to find the hole in the bottom of the lake. He made many surveys, but was unable to discover it, and finally concluded that the surplus water was carried off by evaporation.
COURTSHIP IN MEXICO.—"PLAYING THE BEAR."—LOVERS' TROUBLES.—A SHORT ROAD TO MATRIMONY.—PRESENTS TO THE EXPECTANT BRIDE.—THE MARRIAGE CEREMONY.—TEDIOUS PRELIMINARIES.—CIVIL AND RELIGIOUS MARRIAGES.—DIFFERENCES OF MARRIAGE
AMONG THE COMMON PEOPLE AND THE UPPER
CLASSES.—A HAND-BOOK FOR LOVERS.—FUNERALS; HOW THEY ARE MANAGED.—CARDS OF CONDOLENCE.—CEMETERIES.—MONUMENT TO AMERICAN SOLDIERS.—ANNUAL DEATH-RATE IN MEXICO CITY.—PREVALENT DISEASES.—DOMESTIC SERVANTS; THEIR NUMBER, WAGES, AND MODE OF LIFE.—A PECULIAR LAUNDRY SYSTEM.
One day while Frank and Fred were strolling along the streets, observing the people and their ways, studying the architecture, and making other observations, according to their custom, their attention wa