HAVE you ever heard of Petropolis? It is where the president and the leading Brazilian officials spend their summers, and where the foreign diplomats live all the year round. It is in the mountains, just back of Rio, about half a mile above the level of the sea. The scenery about it is more like Switzerland than the tropics, and its climate is such that yellow fever is a stranger to it. Suppose you could put a range of hills 3,000 feet high just back of New York or Philadelphia, and away up on their tops build a beautiful city of say 20,000 inhabitants. Suppose you could reach this by a short ride across the most beautiful bay in the world, and climb the hills by a cog-road like that which goes up Mount Washington. If you can imagine this, you have Petropolis.
To get to it you ride twelve miles on a steamer. Next there are cars that whisk you over the swamps to the foot of the mountains, where a little Baldwin locomotive waits to pull you up an inclined plane so steep that you have to keep your feet on your valise to prevent it rolling down to the end of the car. The ride is wonderfully beautiful. Great trees loaded with orchids stand high above the jungle of matted green bushes. There are fern trees waving their myriad arms at the train, and tall feathery bamboos rustle in the breeze as the little engine puffs by. Now you are on the side of a green mountain hanging over a ravine 500 feet deep and under a great green spotted wall 4,000 feet high. Now you round a curve and the rocks rise above you like a great fort. They are brown and grim. Massive blocks of stone weighing thousands of tons, each 1,000 feet thick, hang over you, and a mighty wall 2,000 feet high seems about to drop down upon you. I have seen some of the rock-wonders of the world. The Andes, the Himalayas, and the Alps all have their features of picturesque grandeur. The Garden of the Gods and the Yellowstone are each unique in their way, as is this coast range of Brazil. It is different from any other, is picturesque in the extreme, and gorgeous in its clothing of luxuriant verdure.
The views of Rio and its bay are magnificent, and the cloud effects vary with every ride. I have been living at Petropolis during my stay in this part of Brazil, and I go to and come from Rio daily. The other morning, when we left the tops of the mountains, Rio and the harbour were covered with billowy clouds. Not a tree or blade of grass could be seen, save on the mountains, and we looked down, as it seemed, upon a snow- scene in the Arctic Ocean. At other times the clouds sailed in and out among these massive hills in streams of silver, which emptied out upon the plain into a great cloud-lake. You ride often through such clouds on your way to the bay, and if the clouds lift and the sun come out, you sail over that wonderful sapphire sheet of water to the red-roofed, white-walled city of Rio.
Petropolis is a combination of Switzerland and Japan-of the tropical and the temperate zones. The hills surrounding it are covered with verdure, for the pure air is moist and all things grow luxuriantly. A stream of water flows through the city, being crossed by red bridges that fit in well with the pleasing surroundings. Petropolis is a rich town, and its houses are very picturesque. One of the best homes is that of the American Legation, which is now presided over by Colonel Charles Page Bryan, our Minister to Brazil. The Legation building is a typical Brazilian villa of stone and stucco, with a large portico up-held by gray Doric columns. It is of one story, but it has many rooms; the ceilings are high and the rooms are large- and airy. The house is lighted by electricity, which is furnished by the waterfalls near by. The house is situated just opposite the summer palace in which Dom Pedro lived. It has a beautiful gar-den, which is separated from the street by a stone fence, on one of whose gate-posts is the coat of arms of the United States. Behind it the green hills rise precipitously, forming a green wall 500 feet high.
Entering the Legation grounds you walk among its rare plants and trees on a wide pathway to the front door. The camelia is with us a hothouse plant; it is here a tree, and those of the Legation gardens are masses of red, pink, and white blossoms. Then there are bushes of rhododendrons as big as good-sized haycocks, and azaleas the like of which you have never seen. There are a dozen different varieties of palms on the lawn, and at one side of the house there is a little orange grove, loaded with evergreen leaves, out of which show golden balls of fruit. During a breakfast at the Legation the Minister often eats oranges from his own trees, and his cook goes out just before the meal and gathers the bananas from the back-yard.
Another American institution in Petropolis is the college for girls, which is supported by the women of our Methodist Church, who pay ten cents apiece towards it. The college has American teachers; its students come from good Brazilian families, and its educational reputation among the natives is high. The college building is on the top of a hill above Petropolis; it was formerly the home of a rich Brazilian, and in its exterior it looks more like a palace than a school. Its rooms have ceilings about eighteen feet high; its bathroom is as big as the average American parlour; and it has a shower-bath attached and a swimming-pool. The school-rooms are equipped with American desks and all the latest appliances in the way of education, such as models, maps, and mathematical instruments.
Schools of this kind cannot but do great good in Brazil, for female education has an indifferent place among the people. The women are not as far advanced as they are in Chili, in Argentina, or in Uruguay. They have not yet made their way into the telegraph offices, and girl bookkeepers are unknown. In Rio and in Sao Paulo there are telephone girls, but outside these cities about the only respectable occupations for women are school-teaching and going out as governesses. The “new woman ” has not yet appeared south of the equator, and the chief end of woman is marriage. Marriage, however, is more a matter of love than is generally thought. The Brazilians make good husbands and fathers, and the women are good mothers. The parents love their children, and the children show great affection for their parents. A child here always kisses the hands of its elderly relatives, and men often kiss the hands of the women as a mark of respect.
The daily life of a Brazilian woman is different from that of her American sister. She does not spend much time on her dress before afternoon; indeed, she is rather slouchy and likes to take things easy. She often wears a “mother hubbard” wrapper until noon or goes about in a dressing-sack and a black skirt. She has a cup of coffee and a roll on rising and does not eat again until the noon breakfast. She frequently appears at breakfast with her hair down, and it is not until after the siesta which follows that she dresses herself up for her pose at the window.
You may see women looking out of the windows in any Brazilian town. They have cushions made to fit the window sills, upon which they rest their arms, and they often have padded stools or benches upon which they kneel while looking out. The Brazilian women spend more time on their knees than do any other women in the world; but, alas! it is not in prayer. The houses usually face the streets and are flush with the sidewalk. Each house has two or more windows on the first floor front, and each window has one or more Brazilian girls lolling on its sills, looking out. They are bareheaded, with flowers in their hair; they are, moreover, of all ages, from six to sixty, and many are in their teens. They watch the street-cars as they pass. If they see anyone whom they know, they crook their fingers at him as though beckoning him to come in. They do this also with their female friends. When I first saw the motion it seemed to me as though every maiden was after some one, but I soon learned that the beckoning was merely a form of salutation, meaning “good-day!” “hello!” or “how-do-you-do ? ”
The women of Brazil are very fond of candy, each has thirty-two teeth or less, and all of them sweet. They are fond of rich desserts, one of their favourite dishes being a light sponge-cake saturated with melted sugar as a sauce. Quince marmalade is another favourite dish, as is also an exceedingly sweet guava cheese.
Brazilian women seldom go shopping. There is not bargain-counter in any Brazilian store. Most of the purchases are made at home, all kinds of goods being carried through the streets by peddlers, who walk along slapping their yard-sticks as a sign of their trade. This custom, however, is dropping off now, but until lately almost all dry-goods were sold in this way.