Cafe Das Exiles by George W. Cable
THAT which in 1835 I think he said thirty-five was a
reality in the Rue Burgundy I think he said Burgundy is
now but a reminiscence. Yet so vividly was its story told
me, that at this moment the old Café des Exilés appears
before my eye, floating in the clouds of revery, and I doubt
not I see it just as it was in the old times.
An antiquated story-and-a-half Creole cottage sitting
right down on the banquette, as do the Choctaw squaws who
sell bay and sassafras and life-everlasting, with a high,
close board-fence shutting out of view the diminutive garden
on the southern side. An ancient willow droops over the
roof of round tiles, and partly hides the discolored stucco,
which keeps dropping off into the garden as though the old
café was stripping for the plunge into oblivion disrobing
for its execution. I see, well up in the angle of the broad
side gable, shaded by its rude awning of clapboards, as the
eyes of an old dame are shaded by her wrinkled hand, the
window of Pauline. Oh for the image of the maiden, were it
but for one moment, leaning out of the casement to hang her
mocking-bird and looking
down into the garden, where, above
the barrier of old boards, I see the top of the fig-tree,
the pale green clump of bananas, the tall palmetto with its
jagged crown, Pauline's own two orange-trees holding up
their hands toward the window, heavy with the promises of
autumn; the broad, crimson mass of the many-stemmed
oleander, and the crisp boughs of the pomegranate loaded
with freckled apples, and with here and there a lingering
The Café des Exilés, to use a figure, flowered, bore
fruit, and dropped it long ago or rather Time and Fate,
like some uncursed Adam and Eve, came side by side and cut
away its clusters, as we sever the golden burden of the
banana from its stem; then, like a banana which has borne
its fruit, it was razed to the ground and made way for a
newer, brighter growth. I believe it would set every tooth
on edge should I go by there now, now that I have heard the
story, and see the old site covered by the "Shoo-fly
Coffee-house." Pleasanter far to close my eyes and call to
view the unpretentious portals of the old café, with her
children for such those exiles seem to me dragging their
rocking-chairs out, and sitting in their wonted group under
the long, out-reaching eaves which shaded the banquette of
the Rue Burgundy.
It was in 1835 that the Café des Exilés was, as one might
say, in full blossom. Old M. D'Hemecourt, father of Pauline
and host of the café, himself a refugee from San Domingo,
was the cause at least the human cause of its opening. As
glazed doors expanded, emitting a little
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
sirups, its lemonades, its orangeades, its orgeats, its
barley-waters, and its outlandish 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 Benigno, and Fernandez and Francisco,
and Benito. Benito was a tall, swarthy 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
Café des Exilés, of old M. D'Hemecourt and of Pauline, turns
as on a double centre. 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
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.
The second was "Major" Galahad Shaughnessy. I imagine I
can see him, in his white duck, brass-buttoned roundabout,
with his sabreless belt peeping out beneath, all his
boyishness in his sea-blue eyes, leaning lightly against the
door-post of the Café des Exilés 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 from Martinique
in his childhood, whence he had become a refugee to Cuba,
and thence to New Orleans in the flight of 1809.
It fell one day to Manuel Mazaro's lot to discover, by
sauntering within earshot, that to Galahad Shaughnessy only,
of all the children of the Café des Exilés, the good host
spoke long and confidentially concerning his daughter. The
words, half heard and magnified like objects seem 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-viewing world. It was while he was
telling this that 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 awkward moment, turned
away with such an inward feeling as one may guess would
arise in a heart full of Cuban blood, not unmixed with
As he moved off, M. D'Hemecourt resumed: that in a last
extremity he had opened, partly from dire want, partly for
very love to homeless souls, the Café des Exilés. He had
hoped that, as strong drink and high words were to be alike
unknown to it, it might not prejudice sensible people; but
it had. He had no doubt they said among themselves, "She is
an excellent and beautiful girl and deserving all respect;"
and respect they accorded, but their respects they never
came to pay.
"A café is a café," said the old gentleman. "It is nod
possib' to ezcape him, aldough de Café des Exilés is
differen' from de rez."
"It's different from the Café des Réfugiés," suggested the
"Differen' as possib'," replied M. D'Hemecourt. He looked
about upon the walls. The shelves were luscious with ranks
of cooling sirups which he alone knew how to make. The
expression of his face changed from sadness to a gentle
pride, which spoke without words, saying and let our story
pause a moment to hear it say:
"If any poor exile, from any island where guavas or
mangoes or plantains grow, wants a draught which will make
him see his home among the cocoa-palms, behold the Café des
Exilés ready to take the poor child up and give him the
breast! And if gold or silver he has them not, why Heaven
and Santa Maria, and Saint Christopher bless him! It makes
no difference. Here is a rocking-chair, here a cigarette,
and here a light from the host's own tinder. He will pay
when he can."
As this easily pardoned pride said, so it often occurred;
and if the newly come exile said his father was a
Spaniard Come!" old M. D'Hemecourt would cry; "another
glass; it is an innocent drink; my mother was a Castilian."
But, if the exile said his mother was a Frenchwoman, the
glasses would be forthcoming all the same, for "My father,"
the old man would say, "was a Frenchman of Martinique, with
blood as pure as that wine and a heart as sweet as this
honey; come, a glass of orgeat;" and he would bring it
himself in a quart tumbler.
Now, there are jealousies and jealousies. There are
people who rise up quickly and kill, and there are others
who turn their hot thoughts over silently in
their minds as
a brooding bird turns her eggs in the nest. Thus did Manuel
Mazaro, and took it ill that Galahad should see a vision in
the temple while he and all the brethren tarried without.
Pauline had been to the Café des Exilés in some degree what
the image of the Virgin was to their churches at home; and
for her father to whisper her name to one and not to another
was, it seemed to Mazaro, as if the old man, were he a
sacristan, should say to some single worshiper, "Here, you
may have this madonna; I make it a present to you." Or, if
such was not the handsome young Cuban's feeling, such, at
least, was the disguise his jealousy put on. If Pauline was
to be handed clown from her niche, why, then, farewell Café
des Exilés. 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.
And 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-chairs, 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
looked upon Pauline as she seemed to them held up half way
to heaven, they knew not how. Ah! 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. Oh, woman, beautifier of the earth! Stay till I
recall the face of my sister; stay yet a moment while I look
from 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 under the
eaves, and some old man would tell his tale of fire 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, "Comrade, your throat is dry, here are
fresh limes; let my dear child herself come and mix you a
lemonade." Then the neighbors over the way, sitting about
their doors, would by and by softly say, "See, see! there is
Pauline!" and all the exiles would rise from
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 café door, and stood
with waiter and glass, a new Rebecca with her pitcher,
before the swarthy wanderer.
What tales that would 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 ungratified hope that the goddess might come clown
with a draught of nectar for him, it profiteth not to
recount; but I should fail to show a family feature of the
Café des Exilés 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 company,
spite of themselves, would have smiled. Wherefore, it may
be doubted whether at any time the curly-haired young Cuban
had that playful affection for his Celtic comrade, which a
habit of giving little velvet taps to Galahad's cheek made a
Such was the Café des Exilés, such its inmates, such its
guests, when certain apparently trivial events began to fall
around it as germs of blight fall upon corn, and to bring
about that end which cometh to all things.
The little seed of jealousy, dropped into the heart of
Manuel Mazaro, we have already taken into account.
Galahad Shaughnessy began to be specially active in
organizing a society of Spanish Americans, the
which, as, set forth in its manuscript constitution, 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. , his name escapes me whom the Café
des Exilés sometimes took upon her lap that is to say
door-step but whose favorite resort was the old Café des
Réfugiés in the Rue Royale (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 various places, now here, now there;
but the most frequent rendezvous was the Café des Exilés; it
was quiet; those Spanish Creoles, however they may afterward
cackle, like to lay their plans noiselessly, like a hen in a
barn. There was a very general confidence in this old
institution, a kind of inward assurance that "mother
wouldn't tell;" though, after all, what great secrets could
there be connected with a mere burial society?
Before the hour of meeting, the Café des Exilés always
sent away her children and closed her door. Presently they
would commence returning, one by one, as a flock of wild
fowl will do, that has been startled up from its accustomed
haunt. Frequenters of the Café des Réfugiés also would
appear. A small gate in the close garden-fence let them
into a room behind the café proper, and by and by the
apartment would be full of dark-visaged men conversing in
courteous tone common to their race. The shutters
of doors and windows were closed and the chinks stopped with
cotton; some people are so jealous of observation.
On a certain night after one of these meetings had
dispersed in its peculiar way, the members retiring 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
precaution 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.' Señor, 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'
"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 Señor
D'Hemecourt, I fin'-a you some nigh' an' cut-a you' heart
ou'. An' I sayce to heem-a, 'Boat-a if Señor D'Hemecourt he
fin'-in' ou' frone Pauline'"
"Silence!" fiercely cried the old man. "My God!
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 emphatically nodding approval.
"Co-rect-a, co-rect-a, Señor," he replied. "Señor, you'
r-r-right-a; escuse-a me, Señor, escuse-a me. Señor
D'Hemecourt, Mayor Shaughness', when he talkin' wi' me he
usin' hore-a name o the t-thime-a!"
"My fren'," 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 investigade 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! not
to h-ever ritturn again ad de Café des Exilés."
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, and how the odor
of the night jasmine was filling the air with an almost
insupportable sweetness. The Cuban paused a moment, as if
to speak, but checked himself, lifted his girlish face, and
looked up to where the daggers of the palmetto-tree were
crossed upon the face of the moon, dropped his glance,
touched his Panama, and silently followed by the bare-headed
old man, drew open the little 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
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 immediately betrayed a new and deeper
"Pauline, my child," he said with tremulous 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 from her
father; she was quick-witted and discerning; yet now she
"Speak, my child," cried the alarmed old man; "speak! let
me live, and not die."
"Oh, papa," she cried, "I do not know!"
The old man groaned.
"Papa, papa," she cried again, "I felt it; I know not how;
something told me."
"Alas!" exclaimed the old man, "if it was your
"No, no, no, papa," cried Pauline, "but I was afraid of
Manuel Mazaro, and I think he hates him and I think he will
hurt him in any way he can
and I know he will even try to
kill him. Oh! my God!"
She struck her hands together above her head, and burst
into a flood of tears. Her father looked upon her with such
sad sternness 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
He was melted and convinced in one instant.
"Oh, my child, my child," he cried, trying to lift her.
"Oh, my poor little Pauline, your papa is not angry. Rise,
my little one; so; kiss me; Heaven bless thee! Pauline,
treasure, what shall I do with thee? Where shall I hide
"You have my counsel already, papa."
"Yes, my child, and you were right. The Café des Exilés
never should have been opened. It is no place for you; no
place at all."
"Let us leave it," said Pauline.
"Ah! Pauline, I would close it to-morrow if I could, but
now it is too late; I cannot."
"Why?" asked Pauline pleadingly.
She 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 garden is my fenced city, and my window my
watch-tower; do you see?"
"Ah! Pauline," responded the father, "but I have been
letting the enemy in and out at pleasure."
"Good-night," she answered, and kissed him three times on
either cheek; "the blessed Virgin will take care of us;
good-night; he never said those things; not he;
The next evening Galahad Shaughnessy and Manuel Mazaro met
at that "very different" place, the Café des Réfugiés.
There was much free talk going on about Texan annexation,
about chances of war with Mexico, about San Domingan
affairs, about Cuba and many et-ceteras. Galahad was in his
usual gay mood. He strode about among a mixed company of
Louisianais, Cubans, and Americains, keeping them in a great
laugh with his account of one of Ole Bull's concerts, and
how he had there extorted an invitation from M. and Mme.
Devoti to attend one of their famous children's fancy dress
"Halloo!" said he as Mazaro approached, "heer's the
etheerial Angelica herself. Look-ut heer, sissy, why ar'n't
ye in the maternal arms of the Café des Exilés?"
Mazaro smiled amiably and sat down. A moment
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 Café des Exilés, as there
were two men hanging about there, evidently watching for
"Wut's the use o' that?" asked Galahad; "I say, wut's the
use o' that?"
Major Shaughnessy's habit of repeating part of his words
arose from another, of interrupting any person who might be
"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
"Z-afrai'," said Mazaro; "d'they frai' to do an'teen een
"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?"
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 Café des
Exilés unless he should feel strongly impelled to go, it was
with the mental reservation that he did feel very much in
that humor, and, unknown 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'm go-un around the caurnur a bit; I
want ye to wait heer till I come back. I say I want ye to
wait heer till I come back; I'll be gone about
three-quarters of an hour."
Mazaro assented. He saw with satisfaction the Irishman
start in a direction opposite that in which lay the Café des
Exilés, tarried fifteen or twenty minutes, and then,
thinking he could step around to the Café des Exilés and
return before the expiration of the allotted time, hurried
Meanwhile that peaceful habitation sat in the moonlight
with her children about her feet. The company outside the
door was somewhat thinner than common. M. D'Hemecourt was
not among them, but was sitting in the room behind the café.
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'Hemecourt sat by the lamp. Opposite
him was a chair, which seemed awaiting an expected occupant.
Beside the old man sat Pauline. They were talking in
cautious undertones, 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 staid
away three nights together 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 suddenness, "why have you not sent word
to him by some other person?"
M. D'Hemecourt looked up at his daughter a moment, and
then smiled at his own simplicity.
"Ah!" he said. "Certainly; and that is what I will run
away, Pauline. There is Manuel, now, ahead of time!"
A step was heard inside the café. 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 Shaughnessy entered the apartment.
D'Hemecourt rose up, both surprised and confused.
"Good-evening, Munsher D'Himecourt," said the Irishman.
"Munsher D'Himecourt, l 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 wurd with ye. I say, I want to have
a private 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 close 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 the 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 the 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 'eavy 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. "Munsher
D'Himecourt," said he, "I'm nor afraid of any two men
living I say I'm nor afraid of any two men living, and
certainly not of the two that's bean a-watchin' me lately,
if they're the two I think they are."
M. D'Hemecourt flushed in a way quite incomprehensible to
the speaker, who nevertheless continued:
"It was the charges," he said, with some slyness in his
smile. "They are heavy, as ye say, and that's the very
reason I say that's the very reason why I staid away, ye
see, eh? I say that's the very reason I staid away."
Then, indeed, there was a dew for the maiden to wipe from
her brow, unconscious that every word that was being said
bore a different significance in the mind of each of the
three. The old man was agitated.
"Bud, sir," he began, shaking his head and lifting his
"Bless yer soul, Munsher D'Himecourt," interrupted the
Irishman. "Wut's the use o' grapplin' two cut-throats,
"Madjor Shaughnessy!" cried M. D'Hemecourt, losing all
self-control. "H-I am nod a cud-troad, Madjor Shaughnessy,
h-an I 'ave a r-r-righd to wadge you.
The Major rose from his chair.
"What d'ye mean?" he asked vacantly, and then: "Look-ut
here, Munsher D'Himecourt, one of uz is crazy. I say one"
"No, sar-r-r!" cried the other, rising and clenching his
trembling fist. "H-I am nod crezzy. I 'ave de righd to
wadge dad man wad mague rimark aboud me dotter."
"I never did no such a thing."
"I never did no such a thing."
"Bud you 'ave jus hacknowledge' "
"I never did no such a thing, I tell ye, and the man
that's told ye so is a liur."
"Ah-h-h-h!" said the old man, wagging his finger.
"Ah-h-h-h! You call Manuel Mazaro one liar?"
The Irishman laughed out.
"Well, I should say so!"
He motioned the old man into his chair, and both sat down
"Why, Munsher D'Himecourt, Mazaro's been keepin' me away
from heer with a yarn about two
Spaniards watchin' for me.
That's what I came in to ask ye about. My dear sur, do ye
s'pose I wud talk about the goddess I mean, yer
daughter to the likes o' Mazaro I say to the likes o'
To say the old man was at sea would be too feeble an
expression he was in the trough of the sea, with a
hurricane of doubts and fears whirling around him. Somebody
had told a lie, and he, having struck upon its sunken
surface, was dazed and stunned. He opened his lips to say
he knew not what, when his ear caught the voice of Manuel
Mazaro, replying to the greeting of some of his comrades
outside the front door.
"He is comin'!" cried the old man. "Mague you'sev hide,
Madjor; do not led 'im kedge you, Mon Dieu!"
The Irishman smiled.
"The little yellow wretch!" said he quietly, his blue eyes
dancing. "I'm goin' to catch him."
A certain hidden hearer instantly made up her mind to rush
out between the two young men and be a heroine.
"Non, non!" exclaimed M. D'Hemecourt excitedly. "Nod in
de Café des Exilés nod now, Madjor. Go in dad door, hif
you pliz, Madjor. You will heer 'im w'at he 'ave to say.
Mague you'sev de troub'. Nod dad door diz one."
The Major laughed again and started toward the door
indicated, but in an instant stopped.
"I can't go in theyre," he said. "That's yer daughter's
"Oui, oui, mais!" cried the other softly, but Mazaro's
step was near.
"I'll just slip in heer," and the amused Shaughnessy
tripped lightly to the closet door, drew it open in spite of
a momentary resistance from within which he had no time to
notice, stepped into a small recess full of shelves and
bottles, shut the door, and stood face to face the broad
moonlight shining upon her through a small, high-grated
opening on one side with Pauline. At the same instant the
voice of the young Cuban sounded in the room.
Pauline was in a great tremor. She made as if she would
have opened the door and fled, but the Irishman gave a
gesture of earnest protest and re-assurance. The re-opened
door might make the back parlor of the Café des Exilés a
scene of blood. Thinking of this, what could she do? She
"You goth a heap-a thro-vle, Señor," said Manuel Mazaro,
taking the seat so lately vacated. He had patted M.
D'Hemecourt tenderly on the back and the old gentleman had
flinched; hence the remark, to which there was no reply.
"Was a bee crowth a' the Café the Réfugiés," continued
the young man.
"Bud, w'ere dad Madjor Shaughnessy?" demanded M.
D'Hemecourt, with the little sternness he could command.
"Mayor Shaughness' yez-a; was there; boat-a," with a
disparaging smile and shake of the head, "he woon-a come-a
to you, Señor, oh! no."
The old man smiled bitterly.
"Non?" he asked.
"Oh, no, Señor!" Mazaro drew his chair closer. "Señor;"
he paused, "eez a-vary bath-a fore-a you thaughter, eh?"
"W'at?" asked the host, snapping like a tormented dog.
"D-theze talkin' 'bou'," answered the young man; "d-theze
coffee-howces noth a goo' plaze-a fore hore, eh?"
The Irishman and the maiden looked into each other's eyes
an instant, as people will do when listening; but Pauline's
immediately fell, and when Mazaro's words were understood,
her blushes became visible even by moonlight.
"He's r-right!" emphatically whispered Galahad.
She attempted to draw back a step, but found herself
against the shelves. M. D'Hemecourt had not answered.
Mazaro spoke again.
"Boat-a you canno' help-a, eh? I know, 'out-a she gettin'
Pauline trembled. Her father summoned all his force and
rose as if to ask his questioner to leave him; but the
handsome Cuban motioned him down with a gesture that seemed
to beg for only a moment more.
"Señor, if a-was one man whath lo-va you' thaughter, all
is possiblee to lo-va."
Pauline, nervously braiding some bits of wire which she
had unconsciously taken from a shelf, glanced up against
her will, into the eyes of Galahad. They were looking so
steadily down upon her that with a
great leap of the heart
for joy she closed her own and half turned away. But Mazaro
had not ceased.
"All is possiblee to lo-va, Señor, you shouth-a let marry
hore an' tak'n 'way frone d'these plaze, Señor."
"Manuel Mazaro," said M. D'Hemecourt, again rising, "you
'ave say enough."
"No, no, Señor; no, no; I want tell-a you is a-one
man whath lo-va you' thaughter; an' I knowee him!"
Was there no cause for quarrel, after all? Could it be
that Mazaro was about to speak for Galahad? The old man
asked in his simplicity:
Mazaro smiled mockingly.
"Mayor Shaughness'," he said; "oh, no; not Mayor
Pauline could stay no longer; escape she must, though it
be in Manuel Mazaro's very face. Turning again and looking
up into Galahad's face in a great fright, she opened her
lips to speak, but
"Mayor Shaughness'," continued the Cuban; "he nev'r-a
lo-va you' thaughter."
Galahad was putting the maiden back from the door with his
"Pauline," he said, "it's a lie!"
"An', Señor," pursued the Cuban, "if a was possiblee you'
thaughter to lo-va heem, a-wouth-a be worse-a kine in worlt;
but, Señor, I"
M. D'Hemecourt made a majestic sign for silence. He had
resumed his chair, but he rose up once more, took the
Cuban's hat from the table and tendered it to him.
"Manuel Mazaro, you 'ave"
"Señor, I goin' tell you"
"Manuel Mazaro, you"
"Bud, Manuel Maz"
"Señor, escuse-a me"
"Huzh!" cried the old man. "Manuel Mazaro, you 'ave
desceive' me! You 'ave mocque me, Manu"
"Señor," cried Mazaro, "I swear-a to you that all-a what I
He stopped aghast. Galahad and Pauline stood before him.
"Is what?" asked the blue-eyed man, with a look of quiet
delight on his face, such as Mazaro instantly remembered to
have seen on it one night when Galahad was being shot at in
the Sucking Calf Restaurant in St. Peter Street.
The table was between them, but Mazaro's hand went upward
toward the back of his coat-collar.
"Ah, ah!" cried the Irishman, shaking his head with a
broader smile and thrusting his hand threateningly into his
breast; "don't ye do that! just finish yer speech."
"Was-a notthin'," said the Cuban, trying to smile back.
"Yer a liur," said Galahad.
"No," said Mazaro, still endeavoring to smile through his
agony; "z-was on'y tellin' Señor D'Hemecourt someteen z-was
"And I tell ye," said Galahad, "ye'r a liur, and to be so
kind an' get yersel' to the front stoop, as I'm desiruz o'
kickin' ye before the crowd."
"Madjor!" cried D'Hemecourt
"Go," said Galahad, advancing a step toward the Cuban.
Had Manuel Mazaro wished to personate the prince of
darkness, his beautiful face had the correct expression for
it. He slowly turned, opened the door into the café, sent
one glowering look behind, and disappeared.
Pauline laid her hand upon her lover's arm
"Madjor," began her father.
"Oh, Madjor and Madjor," said the Irishman; "Munsher
D'Hemecourt, just say 'Madjor, heer's a gude wife fur ye,'
and I'll let the little serpent go."
Thereupon, sure enough, both M. D'Hemecourt and his
daughter, rushing together, did what I have been hoping all
along, for the reader's sake, they would have dispensed
with; they burst into tears; whereupon the Major, with his
Irish appreciation of the ludicrous, turned away to hide his
smirk and began good-humoredly to scratch himself first on
the temple and then on the thigh.
Mazaro passed silently through the group about the
door-steps, and not many minutes afterward, Galahad
Shaughnessy, having taken a place among the exiles, rose
with the remark that the old gentleman would doubtless be
willing to tell them good-night. Good-night was accordingly
said, the Café des Exilés closed her windows, then her
doors, winked a moment or two through the cracks in the
shutters and then went fast asleep.
The Mexican physician, at Galahad's request, told Mazaro
that at the next meeting of the burial society
he might and
must occupy his accustomed seat without fear of molestation;
and he did so.
The meeting took place some seven days after the affair in
the back parlor, and on the same ground. Business being
finished, Galahad, who presided, stood up, looking, in his
white duck suit among his darkly-clad companions, like a
white sheep among black ones, and begged leave to order
"dlasses" from the front room. I say among black sheep;
yet, I suppose, than that double row of languid, effeminate
faces, one would have been taxed to find a more
harmless-looking company. The glasses were brought and
"Gentlemen," said Galahad, "comrades, this may be the last
time we ever meet together an unbroken body."
Martinez of San Domingo, he of the horrible experience,
nodded with a lurking smile, curled a leg under him and
clasped his fingers behind his head.
"Who knows," continued the speaker, "but Señor Benito,
though strong and sound and har'ly thirty-seven" here all
smiled "may be taken ill to-morrow?"
Martinez smiled across to the tall, gray Benito on
Galahad's left, and he, in turn, smilingly showed to the
company a thin, white line of teeth between his moustachios
like distant reefs.
"Who knows," the young Irishman proceeded to inquire, "I
say, who knows but Pedro, theyre, may be struck wid a
Pedro, a short, compact man of thoroughly mixed
with an eyebrow cut away, whose surname no one knew, smiled
"Who knows?" resumed Galahad, when those who understood
English had explained in Spanish to those who did not, "but
they may soon need the services not only of our good doctor
heer, but of our society; and that Fernandez and Benigno,
and Gonzalez and Dominguez, may not be chosen to see, on
that very schooner lying at the Picayune Tier just now,
their beloved remains and so forth safely delivered into the
hands and lands of their people. I say, who knows bur it
may be so!"
The company bowed graciously as who should say,
"Well-turned phrases, Señor well-turned."
"And amigos, if so be that such is their approoching fate,
I will say:"
He lifted his glass, and the rest did the same.
"I say, I will say to them, Creoles, countrymen, and
lovers, boun voyadge an' good luck to ye's."
For several moments there was much translating, bowing,
and murmured acknowledgments; Mazaro said: "Bueno!" and all
around among the long double rank of moustachioed lips
amiable teeth were gleaming, some white, some brown, some
yellow, like bones in the grass.
"And now, gentlemen," Galahad recommenced, "fellow-exiles,
once more. Munsher D'Himecourt, it was yer practice, until
lately, to reward a good talker with a glass from the hands
o' yer daughter." (Si, si!) "I'm bur a poor speaker."
(Si, si, Señor, z-a-fine-a kin'-a can be; si!)
"However, I'll ask ye,
not knowun bur it may be the last time we all
meet together, if ye will not let the goddess of the Café
des Exilés grace our company with her presence for just
about one minute?" (Yez-a, Señor; si; yez-a; oui.)
Every head was turned toward the old man, nodding the
"Ye see, friends," said Galahad in a true Irish whisper,
as M. D'Hemecourt left the apartment, "her poseetion has
been a-growin' more and more embarrassin' daily, and the
operaytions of our society were likely to make it wurse in
the future; wherefore I have lately taken steps I say I
tuke steps this morn to relieve the old gentleman's
distresses and his daughter's"
He paused. M. D'Hemecourt entered with Pauline, and the
exiles all rose up. Ah! but why say again she was lovely?
Galahad stepped forward to meet her, took her hand, led
her to the head of the board, and turning to the company,
"Friends and fellow-patriots, Misthress Shaughnessy."
There was no outburst of astonishment only the same old
bowing, smiling, and murmuring of compliment. Galahad
turned with a puzzled look to M. D'Hemecourt, and guessed
the truth. In the joy of an old man's heart he had already
that afternoon told the truth to each and every man
separately, as a secret too deep for them to reveal, but too
sweet for him to keep. The Major and Pauline were man and
The last laugh that was ever heard in the Café des Exilés
sounded softly through the room.
"Lads," said the Irishman. "Fill yer dlasses. Here's to
the Café des Exilés, God bless her!"
And the meeting slowly adjourned.
Two days later, signs and rumors of sickness began to find
place about the Café des Réfugiés, and the Mexican physician
made three calls in one day. It was said by the people
around that the tall Cuban gentleman named Benito was very
sick in one of the back rooms. A similar frequency of the
same physician's calls was noticed about the Café des
"The man with one eyebrow," said the neighbors, "is sick.
Pauline left the house yesterday to make room for him."
"Ah! is it possible?"
"Yes, it is really true; she and her husband. She took
her mocking-bird with her; he carried it; he came back
On the next afternoon the children about the Café des
Réfugiés enjoyed the spectacle of the invalid Cuban moved on
a trestle to the Café des Exilés, although he did not look
so deathly sick as they could have liked to see him, and on
the fourth morning the doors of the Café des Exilés remained
closed. A black-bordered funeral notice, veiled with crape,
announced that the great Caller-home of exiles had served
his summons upon Don Pedro Hernandez (surname borrowed for
the occasion), and Don Carlos Mendez y Benito.
The hour for the funeral was fixed at four P.M. It
never took place. Down at the Picayune Tier on the river bank
there was, about two o'clock that same day, a slight
commotion, and those who stood aimlessly about a small, neat
schooner, said she was "seized." At four there suddenly
appeared before the Café des Exilés a squad of men with
silver crescents on their breasts police officers. The old
cottage sat silent with closed doors, the crape hanging
heavily over the funeral notice like a widow's veil, the
little unseen garden sending up odors from its hidden
censers, and the old weeping-willow bending over all.
"Nobody here?" asks the leader.
The crowd which has gathered stares without answering.
As quietly and peaceably as possible the officers pry open
the door. They enter, and the crowd pushes in after. There
are the two coffins, looking very heavy and solid, lying in
state but unguarded.
The crowd draws a breath of astonishment. "Are they going
to wrench the tops off with hatchet and chisel?"
Rap, rap, rap; wrench, rap, wrench. Ah! the cases come
"Well kept?" asks the leader flippantly.
"Oh, yes," is the reply. And then all laugh.
One of the lookers-on pushes up and gets a glimpse within.
"What is it?" ask the other idlers.
He tells one quietly.
"What did he say?" ask the rest, one of another.
"He says they are not dead men, but new muskets"
"Here, clear out!" cries an officer, and the loiterers
fall back and by and by straggle off.
The exiles? What became of them, do you ask? Why,
nothing; they were not troubled, but they never all came
together again. Said a chief-of-police to Major Shaughnessy
"Major, there was only one thing that kept your expedition
from succeeding you were too sly about it. Had you come
out flat and said what you were doing, we'd never a-said a
word to you. But that little fellow gave us the wink, and
then we had to stop you."
And was no one punished? Alas! one was. Poor, pretty,
curly-headed traitorous Mazaro! He was drawn out of
Carondelet Canal cold, dead! And when his wounds were
counted they were just the number of the Café des Exilés'
children, less Galahad. But the mother that is, the old
café did not see it; she had gone up the night before in a
chariot of fire.
In the files of the old "Picayune" and "Price-Current" of
1837 may be seen the mention of Galahad Shaughnessy among
the merchants "our enterprising and accomplished
fellow-townsman," and all that. But old M. D'Hemecourt's
name is cut in marble, and his citizenship is in "a city
whose maker and builder is God."
Only yesterday I dined with the Shaughnessys fine old
couple and handsome. Their children sat about them and
entertained me most pleasantly. But
there isn't one can
tell a tale as their father can 'twas he told me this one,
though here and there my enthusiasm may have taken
liberties. He knows the history of every old house in the
French Quarter; or, if he happens not to know a true one, he
can make one up as he goes along.