The Cited

: 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 revolu
ion 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!