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The Cited






Category: IN THE CARIBBEAN

Source: Myths & Legends Of Our New Possessions & Protectorate

Did Alonzo Morelos begrudge liberty or happiness to Felipe
Guayos? Surely the life of a Havanese artisan could have mattered
little to a prosperous lawyer. Politics may have set the big man's
enmity against the little one, or it may possibly have been that more
advanced form of politics that is called patriotism. It was a good
time for a man to refrain from airing his opinions, unless they were
orthodox, for the revolution of 1829 had just been declared. If Guayos
was a party to this rising he was an indifferent and inactive one,
or else he kept his counsel wondrous well. His acquaintances testified
that he was industrious,--that is, he practised what in Havana passed
for industry,--was fond of his wife, cared little for cock-fighting
or the bull-ring, was of placid demeanor, and was altogether the sort
of man who could be relied on _not_ to attend secret meetings or lose
valued sleep by drilling in hot barns or chigger-infested clearings
in the woods. Yet it was on Morelos's oath that this obscure citizen
was arrested.

The tongues clacked up and down the by-ways: What was the rich
man's interest in the poor one? the professional man's in the
mechanic? the man of society in the man unknown? Then it was true,
eh? that the mulatto (for Guayos was a "yellow man") had spoken
to the lawyer familiarly in the street in presence of ladies and
officers? Maybe. The laundress at the second house down the street had
said so, but, fie! it was only on a matter of business. Tut! Business
was no excuse, considering that Don Alonzo was of Spanish parentage,
while the other had been nothing but a Cuban for two centuries. To
forget this breach or try to bridge it, to presume on the tolerance of
an occasional employer, unless one were a slave or a servant and used
to indulgence--that was not to be forgiven. A rumor that travelled
more quietly was that Morelos himself was a revolutionary and had
caused this arrest as a blind, or in order to silence a tongue that
might speak damage. A third rumor, that went in a whisper, and so went
farther than the others, said that the yellow man had a pretty wife,
and that the lawyer had been seen to call at the little house in the
master's absence. This tale seemed to be doubted, for the wife of the
butcher gave it as her opinion that the Senora Guayos was too rusty
of complexion to be pleasing, and the Senor Morelos was so faultless
in his appearance and his taste; the club steward's unmarried sister
declared the senora's manners to be rustic and her voice loud; the
woman in the carpenter's family would lend no ear to such a scandal
because the subject of it was dumpy, shapeless, and dressed absurdly,
even for the wife of a stonemason. Howbeit, the little woman was now in
grief, for her husband lay in jail awaiting trial on the gravest charge
that could be brought against a Cuban,--the charge of treason. In
that day, as on many sad days that were to follow, to be charged with
disaffection toward the crown was virtually to be sentenced to death.

Cuban law was at least as tardy and involved as any, but on the day
when they tried Guayos it was strangely brisk. The stifling, unclean
court-room was crowded, but of all the company none seemed to feel so
little concern in the proceedings as the accused man himself. Through
an open window he saw a couple of palms swinging softly against the sky
in the warm wind. The trees appeared to pacify, to fascinate him. They
were his realities, and the goggling throng, the judge, the officers,
were visions. Often when his name was spoken by a witness or examiner
he would look around with a start, then fall into his dreams again. His
case was traversed without waste of words. Evidence was adduced to
prove that he had once owned a gun, had attended a certain meeting,
had carried letters to such and such persons, had spoken equivocal
phrases, had been seen to lift his nose in passing certain men, had
admitted a suspect to his house at night. He was declared guilty. The
celerity in reaching this verdict led his friends to believe that it
had been agreed upon in advance.

During the last hour of the trial Guayos had aroused from his revery,
had turned from the window, and had fixed his eyes steadily on Morelos,
who was seated among the lawyers in the centre of the room. Morelos
returned the gaze calmly for a time; then he frowned and turned the
pages of a law-book. After a little he moistened his lips with his
tongue, took a studied attitude of listlessness, and showed signs of
weariness and boredom. He did not look at the prisoner again until
the verdict had been given.

When the chief judge put the usual question as to whether the convicted
man had anything to say why death-sentence should not be passed upon
him, Guayos arose, his face pale but fixed in a stony calm. Looking
at neither judge nor audience, but straight at his accuser, with eyes
that were no longer the eyes that had dreamed upon the palms, so great
and black they were and searching, he said, in a clear, tense voice,
"I go to my death. It is useless to speak, for you have condemned
me. But I cite you, Don Alonzo Morelos, to appear beside me at the bar
of God, one year from my death-day, and testify how I came to my end."

There was a moment of silence; then moans and murmurs in the crowd. The
lawyer was white, as with wrath. The judges gestured to the officers
and left the bench. The court was cleared. As he was led away,
Guayos looked once more at the palms, and half smiled as a breath of
freshened air came in at the window. Palms! Where had he been told of
them? What did they mean? Had they not somewhere, in some far land,
been waved in victory when One innocent was about to suffer? Were
not palms awarded in another world to the meek and the honest who
had been despitefully used in this?

Last to leave the room was Morelos. He had remained, seated at a
table, biting a pen, fingering some papers, gazing abstractedly at
the vacant bench. The whoop of a barefooted, black-faced urchin in
the corridor roused him. With a scowl and a shrug he slowly resumed
his hat and went to his home by a roundabout way.

Priests called daily at the prison. Guayos made no appeal, asked for
no delay. The loyalists were clamoring for an example that should
stay the revolution. In a week the condemned man was hanged. An
odd thing happened at the execution: the rope had slipped a little,
and the knot, working toward the front, had left an impress there
after the body was cut down, as of two crossed fingers. The friends
of Guayos held this to be a sign of grace.

Now, if there were any in the world to pray for the peace of a human
soul, it was not the soul of Guayos that asked it. He had affirmed his
innocence to the end, had been shrived, had gone to the gallows with
a dauntless tread, and there were palm branches on his coffin. But
the lawyer? In a month after the trial white hairs appeared among
his locks, hitherto as black as coal. He grew gray and dry in his
complexion, his shoulders began to stoop, his eyes lost their clearness
and boldness, his mouth was no longer firm. Often he wore a harried,
hunted look. Yet they said he was growing softer in his humor, that
he oftener went to church, that he gave more for charity than other
men of his means, and that if the widow Guayos did not know from whom
the five hundred pesetas came that a messenger left at her home one
night the neighbors pretended to. Don Morelos became an object of a
wider interest than he knew. Even the boys in the street would point
as he passed, with head bent and hands clasped behind his back, and
whisper, "There goes El Citado" (the cited), and among the commoners
he was known as well by that name as by the one his parents had given
to him. But he appeared less and less in public. He began to neglect
his practice; he resigned from his club; he avoided the company of
his former associates, taking his walks at night alone, even though
the sky was moonless, storms were threatening, and the cut-throat crew
were abroad that made life at some hours and in some quarters of the
city not of a pin's fee in value. His housekeeper told a neighbor
that on some nights he paced the floor till dawn, and that now and
again he would mutter to himself and appear to strike something. Was
he smiting his own heart?

Before long it was rumored, likewise, that the grave of Guayos was
haunted, or worse, for a black figure had been seen, on some of the
darkest nights, squatted or kneeling before his tomb. It was remarkable
that this revolutionist should have had a burial-place of his own,
when all his relatives and a majority of the people in his station
were interred in rented graves, and their bones thrown into the common
ditch if the rent were not paid at the end of the second year. Certain
old women affirmed that this watching, waiting figure in the dark had
horns and green eyes, like a cat's, while other people said that it
was merely the form of a man, taller, thinner, more bent than Guayos;
therefore not his ghost. But what man?

The anniversary of the hanging had come. The small hours of the
morning were tolling, heavily, slowly, over the roofs of the sleeping
city. Sleeping? There was one who had no rest that night. An upper
window of the house of Morelos looked out upon a court in which two
palm trees grew. They had been tall and flourishing. One might see
them from the court-room. But for a year they had been shedding their
leaflets and turning sere. Tonight their yellow stems had clashed and
whispered until the wind was down, leaving the night sullen, brooding,
thick, starless, with dashes of rain and a raw chill on the ground that
brought out all the malefic odors of the pavement. The window on the
side toward the court was closed and curtained. The one overlooking
the street was slightly open, and if the night-bird prowling toward
the den he called his home had looked up, or had listened, he would
have seen the glimmer of a candle and heard the eager scratching of
a pen and rustling of papers. For an hour in the first half of the
night Morelos had been walking about his chamber. At about three in
the morning the housekeeper, whose room was at the opposite end of a
corridor from her master's, found herself sitting upright in bed. She
did not know why. Nobody had called to her. Listening intently, as if
she knew that somebody was about to speak, she distinguished a faint
sound of crumpling paper. A chair was moved hastily, and there was a
cry in a strained voice, "No, no! My God!" Then the house shook. She
bolted her door and prayed. In the morning twilight Don Alonzo Morelos
lay very still on the floor of his chamber, with a mark on his throat
like that made by the pressure of two crossed fingers.

The citation had been obeyed!





Next: The Virgin's Diamond

Previous: The Justice Of Tacon



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