Friday 8th – very cloudy weather all day with fog and drizzling rain. At 3 P.M. saw the light house on San Juan de Ulloa & at 5.15 P.M. came to anchor before Vera Cruz, when our Captain landed the Mail and our only passenger M.r Muir went on shore.
M.r Muir came on board at Tampico. He was a native of Glasgow (where his brother has a house) and has two of his maiden Aunts living at Dumbarton. His appearance was that of a stout little man with a face that but too faithfully revealed that he was fond of the drop. He served his apprenticeship & lived 8 years at Vera Cruz, and he is now settled in the City of Mexico. He was a free and easy fellow – with a pretty considerable deal of the brogue. Many long conversations we had together which were mutually delightful from recalling to each other associations with other places & times. Altogether therefore he was a pleasant addition to our mess & I should have been glad if he had been going home with us.
Alameda at Vera Cruz
Saturday 9th June – fine weather. Went on shore to learn the news – no intelligence has arrived from the Interior of the movements of the Belligerents since we were last here. Everything on shore as usual – except that I perceived that the City walls had been partly rebuilt and partly repaired & the whole white washed – a great improvement. Many of the houses were pierced by balls & the palace & several churches bore more numerous signs of the late siege than any of the other buildings – but I did not notice a single instance where the ball had penetrated through & through.
After walking for some time about the city and satisfied ourselves with it, we issued out at one of the gates & found ourselves in a large open space of ground with a road traced thro’ it. Not many yards from the barrier gate was the Alameda or public walk. This was nothing more or less than a pretty broad pavement of large flag stones, carried on for about 60 or 70 yards, and near the farther end was a small arch under which a burnie trickled its unambitious course, & many women enjoyed the double advantages of a shelter from the sun & the means of washing their dirty linen. On each side of the Alameda was a low parapet marking its boundaries. Such is the only place whither the refined ladies of V. Cruz can repair to enjoy the evening coolness in public & no doubt it is considered by them all that could be wished. Comparisons are odious or as some misname it odorous – & so they are. How different this from the lovely Alameda at Cadiz with its shady walks, its perfuming flowers, its marble seats & bubbling fountains. Here no tree casts a lengthening shade as the sun hastens to hide his splendour in the Western waves. Here no delightful seats entice you to rest yourself when weary & to prolong your stay. Fashion rules the world – & were it not that this imperious duty has ordained that this place should be visited on Sundays, it would be left to itself. As it is short is the stay which the dames of Vera Cruz make. All on common days is dull and dreary. Except when the pavement it trod by the wayfarer or by the market people, its appearance is exactly consonant to its situation. Rank weeds and noxious plants – which men have agreed to despise cover the neighbouring ground.
Close at hand (abut 20 yards off) is the general burying ground, where sculls, & thighs, & ribs are promiscuously scattered. There the noisome land crab, who riots on the bodies of the dead, threatens to trip you as you walk, while ever and anon you are started by the green lizard & the bloated [I]guana crossing from the grass beneath your feet. The rude emblems of mortality are visible from the Alameda, as broken crosses & dilapidated tombs – and altho’ I admit we ought to live always mindful of death, yet I do think that the melancholy objects which every where meet the eye, are very inappropriate, when placed near a public pleasure amusement & relaxation. To crown the whole immediately beyond this burial ground are here & there, in clusters of five or six, stone houses & huts, with the walls alone standing, a melancholy picture of ruin & desolation.
I know not how it was – but I felt quite dull during our walk & could not for my life throw off anxious feelings. Glad then I was when we returned to the City & met with our passenger M.r Muir and his friend D.r Glasgow, a native of Belfast, educated at Glasgow, and formerly in the Mexican navy. With these gentlemen we spent the evening very pleasantly, only that I felt once or twice a slight shivering, but so evanescent that I thought nothing more about it.
Sunday 10th June – felt pretty well to day – at least I could complain of no positive bad symptom. Stay on board all day & refused to go on shore in the afternoon with the Master, Mate & M.r Snell. Fine weather.