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Drawn by W. M. Berger
with a naked patio where stood the washtub of Marcellina Blanco de Betancourt. The aristocratic name was without warrant. She was a most ragged black washerwoman, without even a bar sinister.
Proximity means nothing in Camagüey. Unlike the Englishman's house, which is his castle only because he thinks so, the Spaniard's house is his castle in reality. His house exists within itself. Its front looks on the street only like a harem. Within, all the dark, cool rooms face upon the patio, or courtyard garden; or, if there is a wall around part of it, it is a wall as high as the house next door. Nothing except the birds can look in on its privacy.
So, though Camagüey's streets are solid. with house-fronts, revelry and sorcery could take place in any house as easily as in crowded Bagdad without a neighbor being the wiser.
The house-fronts, almost uniform in height, are all of the same type. To the street they present, row on row, the same fortress-like doors and the same cloisterlike, barred window-openings; but in fanciful ornamentation of grills and bars, and more than all in coloring, each house has an individuality. Dyed with a soft, thin color that lies on the smooth concrete or lime walls like a water-color wash, each house flames with the particular tint preferred by its dwellers. No color, no combination, is too daring for the joyful Camagüeyan painter, and no combination is out of place in the painted city.
Our own house was blue and yellow. The blue was the astonishing blue known as Cuban blue. In truth, it is Spanish
American blue. It shouts at the traveler throughout the American tropics. Cuba, however, is impregnated with it. A single house painted Cuban blue in a Northern city would make the whole city scream. It does not make Camagüey
On one side of our house was a salmon-pink one. The gua-gua-man's house was crimson. Just opposite, beyond the glaring plaza, was a purple house. There was a berylgreen house, a violet house, an ultramarine house; there was an orange house, a rose-red house. Always between them were blue ones. Each had overhanging, gallantly sloped roofs of big, fluted, warmly red Arabic tiles. In the middle of the plaza stood the old cathedral, gamboge and blue, with its highswung Moorish arches picked out in green. Its square steeple was of peeled colors, toned, like a bright cliff, with weathered pinks and greens and browns and yellows.
Over the painted city is a painted sky. It radiates blue. It throbs. The streets glare white in the sun and white in the moon. There are no twilight spots in Camagüey.
Night serves only to brighten its color. Camagüey stands eminent even in the tropics, where moonlight is like a vivid Northern day. There is something in the ether of the flat table-land of the province that makes its moon an incredible thing. It rises like a burning dragon. It swims up from the edge of endless savannas as level as sea. Immediately the land flashes. with enormous plumes. First, they are glittering indigo; a moment later they are frozen silver. They are the plume-heads of the royal palms, which stand in all the horizon-bound land like temple-shafts.
The sky is bare; the stars are drowned by light. Heaven is brightly blue. Camagüey is a city of the moon. It stands bewitched, ready to vanish. In the dead walls of the river-like little streets, any defiant doorway should open at any moment for Bobadilla himself to emerge with curved simitar. From any gaudy wasp's nest of balcony a veiled princess should beckon.
Though he meet no Moorish princesses, the stranger who prowls through Camagüey of nights will find himself bewitched the
Even the horses get lost there. I know, for I tried to ride a horse and lead two others to their stable. Freely acknowledging to the horses my worthlessness as a pathfinder, I gave them their heads. They disagreed at the first corner. The stable was fifteen minutes' canter from where we entered the town. We reached it after two hours, and then only by going in a direction precisely opposite to the one where the stable should have been. However, the horses and I found a
moment he leaves the lively, lighted plazas. Camagüey's streets, according to authentic legend, were planned with the intention of bewildering the bucaneers. Certainly he was a reckless, desperate bucaneer who dared to separate himself from his companions in them. I am a specialist on getting lost, but in Camagüey my art was wasted. Persons who do not know the first elements of the science can get lost there. Strangers have been known to wander around and around, always in sight of the high tower of the cathedral, or even within hearing of trolley-gongs, and never get nearer to them until rescued by one of Camagüey's prodigiously armed little policemen.
Drawn by W. M. Berger A PATIO IN CAMAGUEY
cloister of violet nuns that night. Not that the nuns were violet; but their costume was, and if one wishes to see something beautiful, he must see black Spanish eyes
under white and violet, with a Cuban moon shining. It was a violet nun, peering through a barred loophole in thick masonry, who pointed out the right way to the señor caballero. I never found that cloister of violet nuns again, but I found many other things.
I came on lovers clinging to windowbars, the señoritas just visible behind a slit of shutter or jalousie. I came upon half-ruined houses, and behind rusty gratings saw faces as Indian as Montezuma. One magic night I found a plaza empty
and white, like a snow-swept field, and in the middle a cathedral all sky-blue. I came upon cantinas in the outskirts under the shed-like portals of which hung long rows of poor travelers, not dead, but sleeping in their hammocks. I met woodcutters perched on wooden saddles, their horses' tails jerking in pain whenever the wood-laden donkeys that were tied to them failed to keep pace.
Always I met families coming in from the country in their two-wheeled carts of wood, without a nail in them, the shafts being whole trees. They were drawn majestically by two and three and sometimes four pairs of great oxen; and between the horns of the leading oxen were lighted candles. This was not a custom handed down from the Middle Ages.
highly modern, being in compliance with a municipal regulation that demands lights on vehicles.
Nearly every one of these in-coming people had the face mysteriously, menacingly muffled in a shawl or towel. It was not done for disguise, but in fear of the night air.
The townspeople are too modern for that fear. Only a few of the older generation go abroad with their mouths and noses wrapped up. Still, there is none too much confidence about this thing, and after nine o'clock at night Camagüey's streets are empty streets of tightly shuttered house-fronts, as if it were a city left untenanted, and surviving by sorcery.
In the plazas, however, there is life enough till about ten. Then all the city
goes to bed except those riotous spirits who stay in the cafés till midnight, or remain in the moving-picture theaters to see the last tanda. There are no ladies in the theater for that last tanda. ladies of Camagüey understand that they must not stay to see it.
All the clearly
The cafés in the plazas are exceedingly modern in the way of drinks, being proudly ready to produce anything from an American cocktail, very well made, to the very latest insidious appetizer from France. But though one may sit at a marble-topped little table with a dandy dressed too correctly for one's own vanity, one may also sit next to a dangerous caballero in high-peaked sombrero, whose smoldering black eyes promise sudden death. But the smoldering one will pray the señor stranger to pardon him as he removes his mighty, razor-keen machete from between the señor stranger's feet, or he may unbuckle a great, saw-handled revolver and lay it aside as a mark of courtesy.
Presently he will make the señor the favor to drink with him. The chances are that he will order not a fiery alcoholic drink beseeming his features and arsenal, but a tiny cup of intensely black coffee, half solidified with brown sugar. his voice and delivery will be strangely, charmingly soft and low; and he will tell the señor of his children, and invite the señor to visit his finca in the country and stay for a few months. And after meeting many smoldering ones in roadside cantinas and in their little fincas in the bush, one discovers that the brigand features are as deceptive as the weapons, that the wild riders will go miles out of their way to put a stranger on his, that the cruel machetes are worn only to cut trail or because the country Cuban carries a machete as the honest Northern citizen carries an um
brella, and that the revolvers-what are the revolvers for? Perhaps because there is a most stringent law against carrying them. Certainly it is not for killing anybody, for in Camagüey murders are so rare that when one is committed, the whole province tells the story over and
A kindly and soft-spoken and dignified race are the Camagüeyans, dignified in their homes, in their clubs, in theater, and in business. The ragged peon who rides to the door with the live chickens for the day's supply tied to his saddle, is so dignified that it occurs to one to doff the hat to him. He will accept the courtesy as a matter of course.
Only in one place is the Camagüeyan undignified, and that is in the cockpit. In Camagüey the cockpit is not a place that one visits surreptitiously. It is a municipal affair, supervised so well that there even are shower-baths for the crowing gladiators, and the birds are watched and tended by municipal experts.
We lived near the cockpit, and never were permitted to forget it. Roosters in the tropics crow all night.
On Sundays the easiest way to find the cockpit is to wait at the doors of the cathedral till the worshipers come out. The cathedral is near the cockpit, and the male part of the congregation moves
Drawn by W. M. Berger
Love, around by the nose-ring till the Love's eyes redden under the strain; he will harpoon La Preciosa with his goad till La Preciosa is riddled; with a report like a rifle-shot he will lay the lash across the flanks of Angelita, the little Angel; he will whack Hermosita, the little Beautiful, over the horns with a logwood stick till the little Beautiful falls to her knees; and he will twist the tail of Dulcita, the little Sweetness. It is all incomprehensible.
A STREET MERCHANT
altogether pleased, public sentiment. The Cuban still views the doctrine of kindness to animals with an innocent, puzzled curiosity. The dignified peon who brings the chickens will have half a hundred tied to his saddle by their legs, their heads hanging down and their beaks open as if in apoplexy. The rider breaks his horse to the obligatory and marvelous pasafina gait by spurring it deep with tremendous spurs and simultaneously jerking it back with tremendous Spanish bits, till the animal learns its steps, and drips with blood from mouth and flanks. The ox-driver calls his oxen by beautiful, poetic diminutive names, but he will jerk Amorosa, the
In the municipal slaughter-house, the
operators, each wearing a belt in which are stuck a dozen and more keen knives and sharpening steels, snatch a steer out of the herd by his tail, throw and drag him to the killingpen on his side or his back, according to the struggles of the animal. In the pen his head is lashed to a post, and crimson
armed matador drives a ridiculous, minute, three