J. G. (Josiah Gilbert) Holland.

The Century illustrated monthly magazine (Volume v. 69) online

. (page 104 of 118)
Online LibraryJ. G. (Josiah Gilbert) HollandThe Century illustrated monthly magazine (Volume v. 69) → online text (page 104 of 118)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

about by jest sech a feller. Mothers hed n't
hardly ought to name their boy babies



Claude without they expect 'em to play
the dickens with the girls. 1 don' know
who the fust Claude was, but I bate ye he
hed a deceivin' tongue. If it hed n't be'n
for me, that Claude in (Gardiner would 'a'
run away with my brother's fust wife ; an'

I 'II tell ye jest how I contrived to put a
spoke in his wheel."

liut Mrs. Wiley, being already somewhat
familiar with the circumstances, had taken
her candle and retired to her virtuous

(To be continued)

'oftfoe SIERRA


: T I' R E S BY (^S r. E O N Ci O 1 I

T^pJJ^ journey from Barrios to Agua
Caliente is, at its best, a test of en-
durance. At its worst, which is at the
close of the rainy season, when the roads
are officially declared passable for the
mail-coach, it is a twelve hours' torture.
It was at the termination of the initial
trip of the diligencia that I staggered into
the " Inn of the Three Friends," utterly
worn out. I was battered and bruised
from head to foot ; my right arm was stif-
fening rapidly, partly the result of assisting
progress by throwing stones at the fore-
most pair of the six-mule team, partly from
the impetus with which I had struck terra
firma at our second spill. I was so tired
that I really did not care where the affable
proprietor bunked the high-born senor, or
what his intentions were with regard to
food ; though the thought of chile con came
and frijoles was distinctly distasteful, and
iguana steak only mildly alluring. The
posada was unusually clean. That was
heaven, and nothing else mattered.

Sefior Montojo, the host, conducted me
ceremoniously across the court, through a
vociferating crowd of Indians, Spaniards,
half-breeds, and Germans, up an elabo-

rately carved staircase to red-flagged gal-
leries, thence to the palatial apartments
assigned me. There I flung myself upon
a narrow cot, and, stupefied with weari-
ness, stared at the leoparded ceiling. In
my eyes there lingered a vision of the mar-
velous landscape through which we had
come, a panorama of awe-inspiring \-istas,
mammoth trees, plunging waterfalls, and
sheer crags. I shivered as I remembered
that the jolting, banging stage, caught
among ruts and washed-down boulders,
might at any moment have been part of the
distant scenery, thousands of feet below.

I was roused from my reverie by a tap
upon the door. It swung slowly wide,
revealing a charming picture — a girl of
seventeen, as pretty as Central American
girls can be in their very early youth, bear-
ing a tray with bottles and glasses. She
smiled shyly.

" From the Senor Montojo," she mur-
mured, setting down the tray on the bat-
tered table. " There is much excitement
to-night for the opening of communication
with the capital. There will be a fandango ;
but the senor is too weary — no ? If he -will
drink this, he will feel better ; and when he



has dined^ah, then — " She kissed her
fingers airily toward the window.

My weariness lessened as she talked,
and when I had swallowed the fiery Hquor
she handed me it changed to genial lassi-

" Senorita," I exclaimed, " my life is
saved ! I am revived as if I had partaken
of the miracle-waters of Santa Ana. Per-
mit me to extend ray everlasting gratitude."

She leaned, laughing, against the white-
washed wall. She was slim, yet rounded,
supple, and slow of movement. In repose
her attitudes were singularly picturesque.
Heavy wreaths of blue-black hair crowned
her head, in which a cheap Amapalan shell-
comb, studded with gilt stars, hung at a
precarious angle. Her eyes were long, full,
and dark, her " lips a thread of scarlet,"
her smooth skin a curious lavender color
from the quantities of rice powder with
which she had endeavored, Spanish fashion,
to hide its tawny bronze.

" I 'm very glad I came," said I, re-

" Good ! " She refilled my glass.

"To your eyes! " I bowed gallantly.

With a toss of her pretty head, she gath-
ered the bottles and glasses upon her gaudy
red-and-piu^ple tray, and turned to the

" Dinner soon," she said over her shoul-
der, with a flash of eyes and teeth. " Pierre
will be happy to have a foreign gentleman
to cook for. It will be an event."

With this enigmatic statement, she left
me to digest the aguardiente and listen to
the band in the square.

I was awakened from a gentle doze by
the coming of an Indian servant, who
spread the table with a red-and- white cloth
and set the cover for the promised meal.
He disappeared and, a moment later, re-
turned, bearing a steaming bowl. As a
distinguished guest, it was evidently ex-
pected that I would dine alone in my room.
I took my place, cast a questioning glance
at the creamy liquid set before me, and
tasted. It was a positive shock, and my
gastronomic angel made a large entry in
his book of events. Such savor! Such
perfume I Such delicate pampering of the
palate! What could it mean— that deli-
cious, appetizing after-taste that left the
excited esophagus clamoring for more ?
Could this be the culinary transport of a
Central American carne-stewing cook ?

Never ! I tasted again, and with half-closed
eyes sat back in my chair. A picture dis-
closed itself to my inner vision — a picture
of the little front room of the " Tour
d' Argent " on the quai in Paris, with that
magician Frederique bending above z.pres-
soir where the succulent carcasses of
freshly carved ducks exuded priceless juices
under his knowing hand. So vivid was the
impression that when I unclosed my eye-
lids I felt surprised at my surroundings.
Once more I addressed myself to the soup.
No, I was ;/tf/ mistaken ; there lingered the
true Frederique touch — the namelesssigna-
ture of the great artist. Chicken timbales
followed. Those astonished and grateful
Israelites of the wilderness, miraculously
fed upon manna from heaven, could not
have experienced greater wonder and de-
light than. I, or more truly given thanks.
Then came a roast — a roast in this land
of pans and pots! And a salad — a salad
in which the garlic was but a dreamy sus-
picion of that misused vegetable, and the
oil mixed just in the right proportion with
the gold and verdant meat of the alligator-
pear. To crown all, a souffle, — a souffle an
coiifitures, — a yellow flower as light as a
puff of swansdown, a delicate morsel of
exquisitely flavored sunset cloud !

" It will be an event," had said the
senorita. She was right. It had been an
event, and more. But how, in the name
of all that was marvelous, could such a
feast of the gods appear in Agua Caliente,
a little Central American town a hundred
miles from the coast, eight thousand feet
up in the Sierra, cut off, for six months of
the year, from all save difficult mule-back
communication with even the spavined,
one-horse, tumble-down, dictator-ridden
capital ? Little, sleepy Agua Caliente,
known only to coffee-merchants and tax-
gatherers — Agua Caliente, three hundred
years behind all the civilized world, and
sheltering a chef, a cordon bleu, a genius!

"I will investigate at once," I resolved,
and stepped out upon the gallery encircling
the court. I paused a moment. No one
with a sense of color, a single throb of
romance, or a corpuscle of adventurous
blood, can ever become quite oblivious to
the great variety of Central American life.
Below, in the lantern-lighted court, a laugh-
ing crowd of picturesquely dressed men
and women lounged and smoked. From
beneath the arcade on the left a stream of

Drawn by Leon Guipon. Half-tone plate engraved by H. C. Merrill



lamplight, a chatter of voices, and a tinkle
of glasses indicated the bar. On the right
opened the big sahi, from which the beat
and twang of music rang out with savage
emphasis. Overhead, ' in the square of
violet sky inclosed by the heavy tiled
roof, the great Southern stars burned with
a still glory of which the Northern world
only dreams.

I lighted my cigarette, and was content
for the moment to let my curiosity mellow.
The groups in the cotirt dispersed and re-
formed. The hollow thump of dancing
feet upon the inevitable wooden platform
added its note to the bell tones of the me-
7-iiiiba and the warm resonance of guitars.
What was that they were playing ? The
" Marseillaise." I laughed aloud. What a
transformation, with its martial fervor trans-
posed to a voluptuous dance movement,
through which the merimba thrilled and
warbled its graceful arabesques with the
rapidity and fire of the Hungarian czitn-
baloin ! It was both exasperating and
laughable — Bellona turned bayadere. " Ah,
but it must be a link in the chain of evi-
dence that will lead me to the inspired
and doubtless Gallic genius of whom I
am in search," thought I.

Gathering the folds of my ponc/io about
me, for at that altitude the nights are chill,
I made my way to the ground floor, and
taking a place on a worn bench by the sala
entrance, settled myself and looked within.
The room was vast and bare, with sepia
shadows crowding the corners. From the
ceiling a primitive chandelier depended —
a simple disk upon which a dozen candles
stood in their own grease. The musicians
were in the farther portion of the hall,
playing upon a double merimba, two gui-
tars, and an instrument that puzzled me
until I perceived it to be a common Italian
harp, laid flat upon its back, operated by
a musician, who played the strings, and
two Indians, who, crouching on their
haunches, beat time upon the wide, sonor-
ous base. The total effect was inspiriting.

On the elevated stage a man and woman
were performing a i/iih'/ia with solemn in-
tensity. The lady, whose grave, almost
mournful face was half clouded by a
black riboso, calmly smoked a large cigar,
while she waved a beckoning handkerchief
at her cavalier, who, in response, threw
himself into a frenzy of side steps and
snapping fingers.

The changeling "Marseillaise" con-
tinued. I chuckled and watched. Pres-
ently some one seated himself beside me
with an irritated sigh.

" Ah, Dieu de Dieu ! "

I turned. The light fell full upon my
companion's face — the dark, handsome
face of a man of forty, whose white skin
and stiff pompadour proclaimed him for-
eign among this people. I made my guess
and addressed him in French.

" Quelle Marseillaise extraordinaire ! "

" Ah," cried the man, excitedly —
"French! Monsieur speaks French! Your
hand! You are — you must be — the cele-
brated representative of the new Coffee
Association who arrived to-night. And
you speak French ! What happiness ! Tell
me — do not think me crazy — but have you
been in Paris, my beloved Paris, recently ?
Tell me — it is the same ? Not changed ? "
Tears gathered in his snapping black eyes.
" It is ten long, terrible, exiled years since
I left it — for this — mon JDieit, for this!"
He spread wide his hands in a gesture of

"You are," said I — "you must be — the
genius who prepared my dinner. Believe
me, I have been wondering ever since how
a cordon bleu, such as you are, should be
here. I should never have believed it pos-
sible. You are a master! Ah, to whom do
I say it ? Does not the artist realize his
excellence, feel his inspired power ? Never
shall I forget the surprise, the delight, of
that first spoonful of soup. I closed my
eyes and exclaimed, 'Am I not at the Tour
d' Argent ? Is this not the unsurpassed
touch of Frederique ? ' "

The man seized me by the shoulders,
and, turning me to the Hght, scrutinized
my face, his own contorted with excite-

" You guessed it yourself ? She did not
divulge it to you ? Ah, tell me the truth ! "

I was bewildered. " No one has told me
anything of you ; but — you are not Frede-
rique — how, then ? "

He interrupted me by clasping his hands
in an ecstasy of delight. " Ah, it is too
good, too much to hope, that my hand has
not lost its cunning, my talent has not
failed. Monsieur, you are sent to me by
my good angel to keep me from despair.
Oiii, 7ioyc-z voi/s, I had feared the worst.
And this — this rabble here, what do they
know, what can they understand ? To cast

> ¥

Drawn by Leon Guipon. Half-tone plate engraved hy F. H. Wellington

my pearls before swine — I will not! I am
buried alive— alive, and — ah, forgive me ! "
He turned aside to hide tears of real emo-
tion. With an effort he recovered his self-
control. " As you see me," he said," I — I —
was sfliis-f/irf a.t the Tour d' Argent. I was
the pupil of Frederique."

" Then I was not mistaken," I exclaimed,
quite as pleased with my own powers of
gastronomic discrimination as was he to
tell me of his high tutelage. " I should know
that savor had I met it in the moon. But
how — how come you here — lost, buried in
Agua Caliente — in this miserable posada,
among half-breeds, Spaniards, and sullen
Indians? "

He shrugged his shoulders. "That is
my story — a sad story enough, and a sad
example of a great sin. Pride — pride
brought me here. Pride keeps me prisoner
— iencz ! I will tell you. You have revived
me with your praise, encouraged a poor
artist who felt the world slipping from
under his feet. Ah, I feared this environ-
ment had made of me what they have
made of the ' Marseillaise ' I taught them
that I might ease my homesickness. Listen
to it! It breaks my heart. But you have

told me my art is not lost. Heaven bless
you! "

A sob caught his utterance, and he
paused, just as the music ceased and the
entire company, with a surprising coinci-
dence of movement, turned toward the
adjoining room and the bar.

"Ten years ago," he went on, his voice
dropping almost to a whisper, " if any one
had told me I should be — this — what I
am, I should have laughed, I should have



derided. After all, that is life, is it not,
monsieur, — to do that which we dcs[)ise,
to become what we scorn in our youth ?
It is the one history of all, whether he be
the statesman, the man of the world, or a
poor cook like me. It is to make a veil for
this that philosophy was invented. The
opiate of the heart! Alas! there are pains
which even that gentle medicine cannot
deaden; and homesickness and ambition
thwarted are both unsleeping."

Thoughtfully I rolled a cigarette. Let
him call the cause paltry, who does not
realize the effect ? The man's experience
had struck deep — to the root of things.
The great throes of human anguish have
a common stratum of spirit, whether the
agony rises from some Calvary of sacrilice,
or in the meanest, humblest, half-ridiculous
wreck of life. For the moment the man's
suffering appeared to me with the dignity
of genius denied expression, of exile, of
high hopes crushed to sordid acceptance
of daily bread.

For a moment we sat silent, staring at
the uneven flagging.

" I shall never forget," he began abruptly,
"the first night I saw them. My master
came for me, smiling in his peculiar
courtly manner. ' Pierre,' he said, ' we have
distinguished guests to-night — the presi-
dent of a Central American republic and
his wife. It was for them you made the
sole Marguery and the tortille panachee.
They are people of refinement and discern-
ment. They wish to see you, to thank you.
Come, my friend.'

" I was proud. It was with a dignified
step that I passed my confreres, and fol-
lowed Frederique to the dining-room. I
was aware that my cap and apron were
spotless, that I had myself well in hand.
Then I found myself bowing before a little
man, dark and thin, with shifty eyes and
a nervous contraction of the lids — the
President Cadriga. Beside him sat the
senora. Ah, could you have seen her then —
the eyes of a saint, the lips of a sinner,
the shoulders of a goddess! She was
dressed in black, and loaded with dia-
monds — necklaces and rings and brooches
and ear-rings — till she glistened like a liv-
ing prism. But even the diamonds could
not dull the brightness of her eyes.

" They smiled and complimented me,
and I bowed and thanked them in my best
manner, neither arrogant nor yet humble.

Then 1 found myself back in my labora-
tory, and it was the beginning of the end.
They came often, and on each occasion
sent for me to consult their tastes and my
aptitudes. And once, for her fete day, they
brought their little daughter — Annunciata.
In my vanity I lorded it over every one.
I s])oke familiarly of my connection with
the President (Jadriga, hissefiora, and their
beautiful child. I boasted of my success-
ful efforts. 1 invented dishes which I
named for them. The ' melon ice Cadriga,'
the ' peche favibee a la sefiora,' 'la glacee
rose'e A)niuiiciata.' (Jne night they sent for
rpe as usual, and as I stood before his Ex-
cellency, he addressed me thus: ' Pierre, I
return shortly to my country. In leaving
Paris, my greatest regret is the 'J'our d'Ar-
gent and you.' I bowed. ' I have a prop-
osition to make, about which I have
already consulted PVederique. He will
accept an indemnity for your loss, and to
you I offer the post of chef of the palace.
Your salary shall be princely. You shall
have as many under-servants as you see fit,
your own apartments, your special corps
of attendants, your private equipage. Fur-
thermore, I will confer upon you the order
of Santa Rosa.'

" I was bewildered and stammered my
thanks. ' My secretary will wait upon you
to-morrow,' he continued. ' Give him your
answer, and the formal papers may be
signed.' He nodded dismissal. The sefiora
smiled, and I went away, my imagination
on fire, my head awhirl.

"The following day I signed the con-
tract, my appointment was confirmed, the
order of Santa Rosa, glistening in gold and
red enamel, lay in its case upon my bureau,
and I dreamed Arabian Nights' dreams. I
could talk of nothing else. I told of my
future, my house, my private carriage, my
personal retinue. I wore the red-and-white
rosette of Santa Rosa in my buttonhole,
while my friends congratulated and en-
vied. All my savings I expended upon a
wardrobe befitting my new station and
such utensils as I feared I might not be
able to procure in the new land. I was in
the clouds.

" Six weeks later we were in Barrios. I
was installed in the palace — and I had
awakened. My attendants were Indians
and half-breeds, my apartments were — but
you know. Yet work I must. Cadriga was
dictator, and I soon learned by what des-



potic cruelty he held sway. I knew better
than to incur his displeasure. Of my
princely salary not a piaster was forth-
corning. But I dared not appeal to the
French minister. I saw others 'retired,'
and I knew myself watched and guarded.
Besides, I would not go back to France
and show myself — a fool, a dupe of my
greed and vanity. I could not face the
thought. I might assume another name,
and begin anew in some provincial city ;
but to be near Paris, and not in it, would
have been worse for me than my present

" My only solace in all this time was
Cadriga's little daughter, seven years old.
She was then a jewel of a child, a madcap,
a tease, a loving little heart. She would
steal from her Indian niu^se, and, sitting
by my carving-table, gravely watch me
work and ask me questions.

" ' Pierre,' she would say, ' I 'm afraid
of papa, and mama is always crying. I
like you better than any one in the whole
world. Now, are n't you glad that you came
with us from France ? ' And, though my
heart was breaking, I would tell her, ' Yes,
Nina, I am glad, if I am any comfort to
you.' Then she would put pepper in the
dessert and salt in my sugar-shaker, and
laugh at me."

"Just like a grown-up woman," I ob-

He shot a quick, questioning glance at
me. " Yes," he acquiesced ; " just like a
woman grown."

"And then?" I questioned.

" Then came the revolution. Ah, mon-
sieur, it was fearful, sudden, a bolt from
the clear heavens !

" We had a great dinner that night for
the cabinet and the chiefs of the army and
navy. So secretly had the plot matured
that no one dreamed of treachery till the
blow fell. I had just sent in the fish course
when I heard a cry from the sentry at the
rear entrance of the patio, then a detona-
tion and a crash. The revolutionists had
dynamited the gate. Then it was a matter
of minutes, the massacre in the palace. My
one thought was for Annunciata. I rushed
across the court and up the stone stairs to
the second story. I caught her from her
bed and held her fast. As I turned to flee, I
ran against a man at the door. P'ortunately,
I recognized his silhouette against the Hght.
It was Jose, the head coachman.

" ' You have her ! ' he gasped. ' Hurry !
There is an underground exit from the
stables, if we can reach it.'

"The palace was pandemonium — cries,
smashing of wood and glass, shots, the
sound of running feet on the marble
floors, the thud and rattle of heavy falls.
Smoke billowed along the corridors. We
made oiu way through it, running bent
double. Suddenly we came out upon the
head of the grand staircase, brilliantly
lighted by hundreds of candles. The fight-
ing below was at its height, and the noise
was deafening. I caught a glimpse of the
sefiora, dressed in black, as I had first seen
her, and blazing with diamonds. Her face
was as white as death, and blood darkened
her neck and cheek. She was on her knees
on the top step, crawling. ' Drop ! ' yelled
Jose in my ear. I fell forward, protecting
Annunciata with my body.

" A volley of shots went over our heads.
Jose rose to his knees, pushed open a door,
and we flung ourselves into the room.
Glancing over my shoulder for one last
look at the senora, I saw her lying still,
her face upturned. A soldier, one of the
president's own body-guard, was breaking
the necklace from her throat. I closed the
door and slipped the bolt. We fled along
passages, through deserted rooms and
cold, musty-smelling corridors. How Jose
found the way I do not know. At length
we reached the carriage-house, then the
stables. Jose pushed back a panel, we
passed through an opening, and fled on
through an underground passage till fui^-
ther progress was barred.

"Jose turned to me. 'The President
had this built in case of revolution, and
the masons were put to death ; but it is
just possible that the insurrectionists know.
In that case, when we open this door it is
the end.'

" We listened long, straining minutes.
Then, with a jerk, he flung the door wide
open. All was still. The moonlight lay
blinding white upon the gravestones. We
were in the cemetery back of the cathe-
dral, and the doorway through which we
had emerged was that of a vault — one of
the many in a row beneath the galleries of
the 'ovens.'

" We hurried on, our steps ringing loud
on the flags. Even now I can smell that
odor of stale and fading flowers and damp
mold ; even now I can see the moonlight



sparkle as with frost U[)on the countlt-ss
funeral wreaths of head-work.

" Jos6 opened another door in the farther
wall of what seemed a gardener's tool-
house. We were in the deserted street. In
the distance the sounds of fighting went
on. In the direction of the palace and
government buildings the sky glowed red
with flames. We turned toward the moun-
tains — and liberty."

"A terrible experience," said I, slowly.
" And Annunciata ? "

"We have brought her up, Jose and I.
He owns the 'Tres Amigos ' now."

"So! Montojo is — "

"Evidently," he smiled.

" And Annunciata ? " I repeated.

" You have seen her. She brought you
the aguardiente."

" Oh ! " I exclaimed.

"You see, monsieur, how it is. I am
too proud to go back — and — ah, well — it
is too late."

'I'he music in the sala struck up once
more the world-worn air of " La I'aloma."

Down the carved stair trippefl Annun-
ciata. 'i'he lantern-light fell full upon her
Madonna face and laughing mouth, and I
thought of Pierre's description of her mur-
dered mother : " The eyes of a saint, the
lips of a sinner, the shoulders of a god-
dess." She leaned over the balustrade
and called softly, " Pierre ! "

He sprang to his feet, his face trans-

" Pardon," he said quickly, " she is call-
ing me ; a bientut, monsieur."

I watched them as they crossed the

Online LibraryJ. G. (Josiah Gilbert) HollandThe Century illustrated monthly magazine (Volume v. 69) → online text (page 104 of 118)