As I write, Cuba is passing through a great crisis in her history. For this reason my experiences may prove more interesting than they might otherwise have done; nor do I think that they will be found less attractive, because it has been my choice to deal with the subject before me from the point of view rather of an artist than of a traveller or a statistician.
It is not the custom in this country for the ladies to retire after a meal, and leave their lords to their cups and conversation, but everybody remains seated until black coffee and big Havana cigars are handed, the cloth has been removed, and our host's baby--a girl ten months old attired in nature's vestments--has been placed for general inspection and approval in the centre of the festive board.
When everybody has sufficiently devoured with his or her eyes this kind of human dessert, Don Benigno's lady--Doña Mercedes--proposes to adjourn for music and dancing to the reception-room--an apartment which is little better than a continuation of the dining-hall; the boundary line between the two chambers being defined by a narrow slip of wall.
The musical entertainments begin with a performance on the piano by a sun-burnt young lady attired in a low-necked, short-sleeved dress, who accompanies another young lady who essays a patriotic song commencing:
Cuba, Cuba! mi patria querida