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The Century, Volume 11 online

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cause— of its opening. As its white-cur-
tained, glazed doors expanded, emitting a
litde puff of his own cigarette smoke, it was
like the bursting of catalpa blossoms, and
the exiles came like bees, pushing into the
tiny room to sip its rich variety of tropical
syrups, its lemonades, its orangeades, its
orgeats, its barley-waters and its oudandish
wines, while they talked of dear home — that
is to say, of Barbadoes, of Martinique, of
San Domingo, and of Cuba.

There were Pedro and Benigro, and Fer-
nandez and Francisco, and Benito. Benito
was a tall, swardiy man, with immense gray
moustachios, and hair as harsh as tropical
grass and gray as ashes. When he could
spare his cigarette from his lips, he would tell
you in a cavernous voice, and with a wrinkled
smile, that he was " a-t-thorty-seveng."

There was Martinez of San Domingo,
yellow as a canary, always sitting with one
leg curled under him, and holding the back
of his head in his knitted fingers against the
back of his rocking-chair. Father, mother,
brother, sisters, all, had been massacred in
the struggle of '21 and '22 ; he alone was left
to tell the tale, and told it often, with that
strange, infantile insensibility to the solemnity
of his bereavement so peculiar to Latin
people.

But, besides these, and many who need
no mention, there were two in particular,
around whom all the story of the Caf(6 des
ExiMs, of old M. D'Hemecourt and of
Pauline, turns as on a double center. First,
Manuel Mazaro, whose small, restless eyes
were as black and bright as those of a
mouse; whose light talk became his dark
girlish face, and whose redundant locks
curled so prettily and so wonderfully black
under the fine white brim of his jaunty
Panama. He had the hands of a woman,
save that the nails were stained with the
smoke of cigarettes. He could play the
guitar delightfully, and wore his knife down
behind his coat collar.



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The second was "Major" Galahad
Shaughnessy. I imagine I can see him, in
his white duck, brass-buttoned roundabout,
with his saberless belt peeping out beneath,
all his boyishness in his sea-blue eyes, lean-
ing lightly against the door-post of the Caf<6
des Exiles as a child leans against his
mother, running his fingers over a basketful
of fragrant limes, and watching his chance
to strike some solemn Creole under the fifth
rib with a good old Irish joke.

Old D'Hemecourt drew him close to his
bosom. The Spanish Creoles were, as the
old man termed it, both cold and hot, but
never warm. Major Shaughnessy was warm,
and it was no uncommon thing to find those
two apart from the others, talking in an
undertone, and playing at confidantes like
two school girls. The kind old man was
at this time drifting close up to his sixtieth
year. There was much he could tell of
San Domingo, whither he had been carried
fi'om Martinique in his childhood, whence
he had become a refiigee to Cuba, and
thence to New Orleans in the flight of
1809.

It fell one day to Manuel Mazaro's lot to
discover that to Galahad Shaughnessy onlv,
of all the children of the Caf? des Exiles,
the good host spoke long and confidentially
concerning his daughter. The words, halif
heard and magnifi^ like objects seen in a
fog, meaning Manuel Mazaro knew not
what, but made portentous by his suspicious
nature, were but the old man's recital of the
grinding he had got between the millstones
of his poverty and his pride, in trying so
long to sustain, for little Pauline's sake, that
attitude before society which earns respect
from a surface-viewmg world. While he
was telling this, Manuel Mazaro drew near;
the old man paused in an embarrassed way ;
the major, sitting sidewise in his chair, lifted
his cheek from its resting place on his
elbow ; and Mazaro, after standing an awk-
ward moment, turned away with such an
inward feeling as one may guess would arise
in a heart full of Cuban blood, not unmixed
with Indian.

As he moved off, M. D'Hemecourt re-
sumed: that in a last extremity he had
opened, partly from dire want, partly for
very love to homeless souls, the Caf6 des
Exiles. He had hoped that, as strong
drink and high words were to be alike
unknown to it, it might not prejudice sensi-
ble people; but it had. He had no doubt
they said among themselves, "she is an
excellent and beautiful girl and deserving



all respect," but their respects they fine
came to pay.

"A caf6 is a caf^," said the old genb
man. " It is nod possib' to ezcape Ita,
aldough de Caf6 des Exil^ b difiiaen'te
de rez."

" It's different from the Cafe des Sia>
gi^s," suggested the Irishman.

" Differen' as possib'," replied M. DHor-
court. He looked about upon the vik
The shelves were luscious with nmbof
cooling syrups which he alpne knew liovia
make. The expression of his £mx chinyi'
from sadness to a gentle pride, which sfob
without words, saying — and let ow skit
pause a moment to hear it say :

" If any poor exile, from any idod
where guavas or mangoes or plantains giov,
wants a draught which wiD make bin sec
his home among the cocoa-pahns, bdiold
the Qzii des Exiles ready to take the poor
child up and give him the breast! Aadif
gold or silver he has them not, vlij
Heaven and Santa Maria, and Sunt Oder
topher bless him ! It makes no difacsKt.
Here is a rocking-chair, here a dgsefit,
and here a light from the host's own tindo.
He will pay when he can."

As this easily pardoned pride said, so :t
often occurred ; and if the newly come odk
said his father was a Spaniard — ''Cooe!*
old M. D'Hemecourt would cry; "aoodcr
glass; it is an innocent drink; myiBote
was a Castilian." But, if the exile said \m
mother was a Frenchwoman, the g}»»
would be forthcoming all the same, far
" My father," the old man would say. *»»
a Frenchman of Martinique, with blood s
pure as that wine and a heart as sweet s
this honey; come, a glass of orgeat;** aad
he would briiig it himself in a quart tanUec.

Now, there are jealousies and jodowL
There are people who rise up quiddy JB^
kill, and there are others who turn tiieir faot
thoughts over silently in their minds » a
brooding bird turns her eggs in the otfL
Thus did Manuel Mazaro, and took k 2
that Galahad should see a vision in the les-
ple while he and all die breduen tviied
without. Pauline had been to the Cale dei
Exil^ in some degree what the image tf
the Virgin was to their churches at hooe.
and for her father to whisper her name to
one and not to another was, it s ee me d Is
Mazaro, as if the old man, were te a sat-
ristan, should say to some single '
." Here, you may have this madonna ; 1 1
it a present to you." Or, if such wis not ik
handsome young Cuban's feeling, smik, tt



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least, was the disguise his jealousy put on.
If Paulipe was to be handed down from her
niche, why, then, farewell Caf6 des Exiles.
She was its preserving influence, she made
the place holy ; she was the burning candles
on the altar. Surely the reader will pardon
the pen that lingers in the mention of her.

Aiid yet I know not how to describe the
forbearing, unspoken tenderness with which
all these exiles regarded the maiden. In
the balmy afternoons, as I have said, they
gathered about their mother's knee, that is
to say, upon the banquette outside the door.
There, lolling back in their rocking-chair^
they would pass the evening hours with oft-
repeated tales of home ; and the moon would
come out and glide among the clouds like a
silver barge among islands wrapped in mist,
and they loved the silently gliding orb with
a sort of worship, because from her soaring
height she looked down at the same moment
upon them and upon their homes in the far
Antilles. It was somewhat thus that they
looked upon Pauline as she seemed to them
held up half way to heaven, they knew not
how. Ah 1 those who have been pilgrims ;
who have wandered out beyond harbor and
light ; whom fate hath led in lonely paths
strewn with thorns and briers not of their
own sowing; who, homeless in a land of
homes, see windows gleaming and doors
ajar, but not for them^ — ^it is they who well
understand what the worship is that cries to
any daughter of our dear mother Eve whose
footsteps chance may draw across the path,
the silent, beseeching cry, "Stay a little
instant that I may look upon you. O,
woman, beautifler of the earth ! Stay till I
recall the face of my sister ; stay yet a mo-
ment while I look n-om afar, with helpless-
hanging hands, upon the softness of thy
cheek, upon the folded coils of thy shining
hair; and my spirit shall fall down and say
those prayers which I may never again—
God knoweth — say at home."

She was seldom seen; but sometimes,
when the lounging exiles would be sitting
in their afternoon circle uqder the eaves,
and some old man ^ould tell his tale of Are
and blood and capture and escape, and the
heads would lean forward from the chair-
backs and a great stillness would follow the
ending of the story, old M. D'Hemecourt
would all at once speak up and say, laying
his hands upon the narrator's knee, ** Com-
rade, your throat is dry, here are fresh limes ;
let my dear child herself come and mix you
a lemonade." Then. the neighbors, sitting
about their doors, would by and by softly
Vol. XI.— 47.



say, "See, seel there is Pauline 1" and all
thp exiles would rise from their rocking-
chairs, take off their hats and stand as men
stand in church, while Pauline came out
like the moon from a cloud, descended the
three steps of the cafe door, and stood with
waiter and glass, like Rebecca with her
pitcher, before the swarthv wanderer.

What tales that woula have been tear-
compelling, nay, heart-rending, had they
not been palpable inventions, the pretty,
womanish Mazaro from time to time poured
forth, in the ever ungratifled hope that the
goddess might come down with a draught
of nectar for him, it profiteth not to recount ;
but I should fail to show a family feature of
the Caf6 des Exil^ did I omit to say that
these make-believe adventures were heard
with every mark of respect and credence;
while, on the other hand, they were never
attempted in the presence of the Irishman.
He would have moved an eyebrow, or made
some barely audible sound, or dropped some
seemingly innocent word, and the whole com-
pany, spite of themselves, would have smiled.
Wherefore, it may be doubted whether at any
time the curly-haired youn^ Cuban had that
playful affection for his Celtic comrade, which
a habit of giving little velvet taps to Galahad's
cheek made a show o£

Such was the Caf6 des Exil6s, such its
inmates, such its guests, when certain appar-
ently trivial events began to &11 around it
like germs of blight upon com, and to bring
about that end which comedi to all things.

The little seed of jealousy dropped into
the heart of Manuel Mazaro we have already
taken into accounts Galahad Shaughnessy
be^n to be specially active in organizing a
society of Spanish Americans, the design of
which, as set forth in its manuscript consti-
tution, was to provide proper funeral honors
to such of their membership as might be
overtaken by death ; and, whenever it was
practicable, to send their ashes to their native
land. Next to Galahad in this movement
was an elegant old Mexican physician.

Dr. , — 3iis name escapes me — whom

the Caf(6 des Exiles sometimes took upon her
lap — that is to say door-step— but whose
favorite resort was the old Caf<^ des R6fugi^
in the rue Royale f Royal street, as it was
beginning to be called). Manuel Mazaro
was made secretary.

It was for some reason thought judicious
for the society to hold its meetings in vari-
ous places, now here, now there; but the
most frequent rendezvous was the Caf(6 des
Exil^ ; it was quiet; those Spanish Creoles,



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however they may afterward cackle, like to
lay their plans noiselessly, like a hen in a
bam. There was a very general confidence
in this old institution, a kind of inward
assurance that "mother wouldn't tell;"
though, after all, there could not be any
great secrets connected with a mere burial
society.

Before the hour of meeting, the Cafe des
Exilf s always sent away her children and
closed her door. Presently they would com-
mence returning, one by one, as a flock of
wild fowl will do, that has been startled up
firom its accustomed haunt. Frequenters of
the Caf6 des R^fugi^s also would appear.
A small gate in the close garden fence let
them into a room behind the caf(§ proper,
and by and by the apartment would be full
of dark-visaged men conversing in the low,
courteous tone common to their race. The
shutters of doors and windows were closed
and the chinks stopped with cotton ; those
people are so jealous of observation.

On a certain night after one of these meet-
ings had dispersed in its peculiar way, the
members retuing two by two at intervals,
Manuel Mazaro and M. D'Hemecourt were
left alone, sitting close together in the dimly
lighted room, the former speaking, the other,
with no pleasant countenance, attending.
It seemed to the young Cuban a proper pre-
caution — ^he was made of precautions— to
speak in English. His voice was barely
audible.

" sayce to me, * Manuel, she t-theeng

I want-n to marry hore.' Senor, you shouth
'ave see* him laugh ! "

M. D'Hemecourt lifted up his head, and
laid his hand upon the young man's arm.

" Manuel Mazaro," he began, " iv dad
w'ad you say is nod "

The Cuban interrupted.

" If is no' t-thrue you will keel Manuel
Mazaro ? — a' r-r-right-a 1 "

" No," said the tender old man, " no,
bud h-I am positeef dad de Madjor will
shood you."

Mazaro nodded, and lifted one finger for
attention.

" sayce to me, * Manuel, you goin'

tell-a Senor D'Hemecourt I fin'-a you some
nigh' an' cut- a you' heart ou'.' An I sayce
to heem-a, * boat-a if Senor D'Hemecourt he
fin'-in' ou' firone Pauline "

^^ Silence /^^ fiercely cried the old man.
" My God ! 'Sieur Mazaro, neider you,
neider somebody helse s'all h-use de nem
of me daughter. It is nod possib' dad you
s'all spick him ! I cannot pearmid thad."



While the old man was speaking these
vehement words, the Cuban was emphatic-
ally nodding approval.

" Co-rect-a, co-rect-a, Senor," he replied^
" Senbr, you* r-r-right-a ; escuse-a me, &nor,
escuse-a me. Senor D'Hemecourt, Mayor
Shaughness*, when he talkin* wi* me he usin*
hore-a name o the t-thime-a!"

" My fi"en*,** said M. D*Hemecourt, rising
and speaking with labored control, " I muz
tell you good nighd. You *ave sooprise me
a verry gred deal. I s'all iVrvestigade doze
ting; an', Manuel Mazaro, h-I am a hole
man; bud I will requez you, iv dad wad
you say is nod de true, my God ! n6t to h-ever
rittum again ad de Caf6 des Exil6s."

Mazaro smiled and nodded. His host
opened the door into the garden, and, as the
young man stepped out, noticed even then
how handsome was his face and figure. The
odor of the night jessamine filled the air
with an almost insupportable sweetness. The
Cuban paused a moment, as if to speak, but
checked himself, lifted his girlish &ce, and
looked up to where the daggers of the pal-
metto tree were crossed upon the face of the
moon, dropped his glance, touched his Pan-
ama, and silendy followed by the bare-headed
old man, drew open the htde garden gate,
looked cautiously out, said good-night, and
stepped into the street

As M. D'Hemecourt returned to the door
through which he had come, he uttered an
ejaculation of astonishment. Pauline stood
before him. She spoke hurriedly in French.

" Papa, papa, it is not true."

" No, my child," he responded, " I am sure
it is not true ; I am sure it is all false ; but
why do I find you out of bed so late, little
bird ? The night is nearly gone."

He laid his hand upon her cheek.

"Ah, papa, I cannot deceive you. I
thought Manuel would tell you something
of this kind, and I listened.*'

The father's face imn^ediately betrayed a
new and deeper distress.

" Pauline, my child," he said with tremu-
lous voice, " if Manuel's story is all false, in
the name of Heaven how could you think
he was going to tell it ? "

He unconsciously clasped his hands. The
good child had one trait which she could
not have inherited firom her father ; she was
quick-witted and discerning; yet now she
stood confounded.

" Speak, my child," cried the alarmed old
man ; " speak I let me Hve, and not die."

" Oh, papa," she cried, " I do not know I '*

The old man groaned.



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" Papa, papa," she cried again, *• I felt it;
I know not how ; something told me."

" Alas !" exclaimed the old man, " it was
your conscience ! "

" No, no, no, papa," cried Pauline, " but I
was afraid of Manuel Mazaro, and I think he
hates him — and I think he will hint him in
any way he can — and I know he will even
try to kill him. Oh! my GodI"

She struck her hands together above her
head, and burst into a flood of tears. Her
^Oher looked upon her with such sad stern-
ness as his tender nature was capable of.
He laid hold of one of her arms to draw
a hand from the face whither both hands
had gone.

" You know something else," he said ; " you
know that the Major loves you, or you think
so; is it not true?"

She dropped both hands, and, lifting her
streaming eyes that had nothing to hide
straight to his, suddenly said :

** I would give worlds to think so !" and
sunk upon the floor.

He was melted and convinced in one
instant

** O, my child, my child,'* he cried, trying
to lift her. " O, my poor littie Pauline, your
papa is not angry. Rise, my little one ; so ;
kiss me ; Heaven bless thee ! Pauline, treas-
ure, what shall I do with thee ? Where shall
I hide thee?"

" You have my counsel alreadyt papa."

" Yes, my child, and you were right The
Cal^ des Exil^ never should have been
opened. It is no place for you ; no place
at an."

** Let us leave it," said Pauline.

" Ah ! Pauline, I would close it to-morrow
if I could, but now it is too late ; I can-
not"

" Why ?" asked Pauline pleadingly.

^e had cast an arm about his neck. Her
tears sparkled with a smile.

" My daughter, I cannot tell you ; you
must go now to bed ; good-night— or good-
morning; God keep you !"

" Well, then, papa," she said, " have no
fear; you need not hide me; I have my
prayer-book, and my altar, and my garden,
and my window ; my gaiden is my fenced
city, and my window my watch-tower; do
you see?"

"Ah I Pauline," responded the father, " I
have been letting the enemy in and out at
pleasitfe."

" Good-night," she answered, and kissed
him three times on either cheek ; " the
blessed Virgin will take care of us ; good-



night; h^ never said those things; not he;
good-night"

The next evening Galahad Shaughnessy
and Manuel Mazaro met at that " very dif-
ferent" place, the Caf6 des R6fugi6s. There
was much free talk going on about Texan
annexation, about chances of war with
Mexico, about San Domingan af&irs, about
Cuba and many et-caeteras. Galahad was
in his usual gay mood. He strode about
among a mixed company of Louisianais,
Cubans, and Am6ricains, keeping them in a
great laugh with his account of one of Ole
Bull's concerts, and how he had there ex-
torted an invitation from M. and Mme. Devoti
to attend one of their famous children's
fancy dress balls.

" Halloo! " said he as Mazaro approached,
" beer's the etheerial Angelica herself. Look
out heer, sissy, why ar'n't ye in the maternal
arms of the Caf6 des Exiles ?"

Mazaro smiled amiably and sat down. A
moment after, the Irishman, stepping away
from his companions, stood before the young
Cuban, and asked, with a quiet business air :

" D'ye want to see me, Mazaro ?"

The Cuban nodded, and they went aside.
Mazaro, in a few quick words, looking at his
pretty foot the while, told the other on no
account to go near the Caf<§ des Exiles, as
there were two men hanging about there,
evidently watching for him, and

" Wuf s the use o* that ? " asked Galahad ;
" I say, wuf s the use o' that ?"

Major Shaughnessy's habit of repeating
part of his words arose from another, of
mterrupting any person who might be
speaking.

" They must know — I say they must know
that whenever I'm nowhurs else I'm heer.
What do they want?"

Mazaro made a gesture, signifying caution
and secrecy, and smiled, as if to say " you
ought to know."

"Aha!" said the Irishman softly. "Why
don't they come here ?"

" Z-afrai'," said Mazaro ; " d'they frai' to
do an'teen een d-these-a crowth."

" That's so," said the Irishman ; " I say,
that's so. If I don't feel very much like
go-un, I'll not go ; I say, I'll not go. We've
no business to-night, eh, Mazaro ?"

" No, Senor."

A second evening was much the same,
Mazaro repeating his warning. But when,
on the third evening, the Irishman again
repeated his willingness to stay away from
the Caf6 des Exiles unless he should feel
strongly impelled to go, it was with the



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mental reservation that he did feel very
much in that humor, and, imknown to
Mazaro, should thither repair, if only to see
whether some of those deep old fellows were
not contriving a practical joke.

" Mazaro," said he, " I want ye to wait
heer till I come back. I say I want ye to
wait he^r tiQ I come back; 1*11 be gone
about three-quarters of an hour."

Mazaro assented. He saw with satisfac-
tion the Irishman start in a direction oppo-
site that in which lay the Caf6 des Exil^,
tarried fifteen or twenty minutes, and then,
thinking he could step around to the Caf6
des ExU6s and return before the expiration
of the allotted time, hurried out

Meanwhile the Caf6 des Exiles sat in the
moonlight with her children about her feet
The company outside the door was some-
what thinner than common. M. D'Heme-
court was not among them, but was sitting
in the room behind the caSi. The long
table which the burial society used at their
meetings extended across the apartment,
and a lamp had been placed upon it M.
D'Hemecoiut sat by the lamp. Opposite
hihi was a chair, which seemed awaiting an
expected occupant Beside the old man
sat Pauline. They were talking in cautious
imdertones, and in French.

" No," she seemed to insist ; *' we do not
know that he refuses to come. We only
know that Manuel says so."

The father shook his head sadly. *' When
has he ever stayed away three nights to-
gether before ? " he asked. " No, my child ;
it is intentional. Manuel urges him to come,
but he only sends poor excuses."

"But," said the girl, shading her face
from the lamp and speaking with some sud-
denness, " why have you not sent word to
him by some other person ?"

M. D'Hemecourt looked up at his daugh-
ter a moment, and then smiled at his own
simplicity.

"Ah ! " he said. " Certainly ; and that is
what I will — ^run, Pauline. There is Manuel,
now, ahead of time I "

A step was heard inside the caSL The
maiden, though she knew the step was not
Mazaro's, rose hastily, opened the nearest
door, and disappeared. She had barely
closed it behind her when Galahad Shaugh-
nessy entered the apartment.

M. D'Hemecourt rose up, both surprised
and confused.

" Good-evening, Munsher D'Himecourt,"
said the Irishman. "Munsher D'Hime-
court, I know it's against rules — I say I



know it's against rules to come in here,
but — ^" smiling, " I want to have a private
wiurd with ye. I say, I want to have a pri-
vate wurd with ye."

In the closet of bottles the maiden smiled
triumphantly. She also wiped the dew from
her forehead, for the place was very dose
and warm.

With her father was no triumph. In him
sadness and doubt were so mingled with
anger that he dared not lift his eyes, but
gazed at a knot in the wood of the table,
which looked like a caterpillar curled up.
Mazaro, he concluded, had really asked the
Major to come.

" Mazaro tol' you ?" he asked.

" Yes," answered die Irishman. " Mazaro
told me I was watched, and asked — ^"

" Madjor," unluckily interrupted the old
man, suddenly looking up and speaking
with subdued fervor. " For w'y — iv Mazaro
tol' you — ^for w'y you din come more
sooner? Dad is one 'eavv charge again' you."

"Didn't Mazaro tell ye why I didn't
come?" asked the other, beginning to be
puzzled at' his host's meaning.

"Yez," replied M. D'Hemecourt, "bud
one brev zhenteman should not be afraid
of—"

The young man stopped him with a
quiet laugh.



Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 128 of 163)