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One More Martyr
by [?]

A little one-act play, sufficiently dramatic, is revived from time to time among the Latin races for long runs. The play is of simplified, classic construction. But the principal part is variously interpreted by different actors. The minor characters, a priest and an officer, have no great latitude for individuality, while the work of the chorus comes as near mathematics as anything human can. The play is a passion play. No actor has ever played the principal part more than once. And the play differs from other plays in this, also, that there are not even traditional lines for the principal character to speak. He may say whatever comes into his head. He may say nothing. He may play his part with reticence or melodramatically. It does not matter. His is what actors call a fat part; it cannot be spoiled. And at the climax and curtain he may sink slowly to the ground or fall upon his back or upon his face. It does not matter. Once, before falling, a man leaped so violently upward and forward as to break the ropes with which his legs and arms were bound. Those who saw this performance cannot speak of it to this day without a shudder.

Under the management of General Weyler in Cuba this little play enjoyed, perhaps, its longest continuous run. Curiously enough, there were absolutely no profits to be divided at the end. But, then, think of the expense of production! Why, to enable the General to stage that play for so many nights–I mean sunrises–required the employment of several hundred thousand men and actually bankrupted a nation. In this world one must pay like the devil for one’s fancies. Think what Weyler paid: all the money that his country could beg or borrow; then his own reputation as a soldier, as a statesman, and as a man; ending with a series of monstrous mortgages on his own soul. For which, when it is finally sold at auction, there will not be bid so much as one breath of garlic.

When Juan D’Acosta’s mother heard that her younger son Manual had been taken prisoner by the Spaniards and was to be shot the following morning at sunrise she sat for an hour motionless, staring at the floor. Juan, as is, or was, well known, had died gloriously, a cigarette between his lips, after inestimable, if secret, services to Cuba. Nor had his execution been entirely a martyrdom. He was shot for a spy. He was a spy, and a very daring, clever, and self-effacing one. He had been caught within the Spanish lines with incriminating papers upon his person. And before they could secure him he had had the eternal satisfaction of ripping open two Spaniards with his knife so that they died. He was executed without a trial. His mother went out with others of his relatives to see him die. The memory of his dying had remained with her to comfort her for the fact of it. She had seen him, calm, and in her eyes very beautiful, standing in strong relief with his back to a white wall, a cigarette between his lips. There had not been the slightest bravado in his perfect self-possession. It had been that of a gentleman, which he was not by birth, and a man of the world; quiet, retiring and attentive. He had looked so courteous, so kind-hearted, so pure! He had spoken–on either side of his cigarette–for some moments to the priest, apologizing through him to God for whatever spots there may have been upon his soul. Then his eyes had sought his mother’s among the spectators and remained steadfastly upon them, smiling, until the exactions of his part demanded that he face more to the front and look into the muzzles of the Mausers. The fire of his cigarette having burned too close to his lips for comfort, and his hands being tied, he spat the butt out of his mouth and allowed the last taste of smoke which he was to enjoy on earth to curl slowly off through his nostrils. Then, for it was evident that the edge of the sun would show presently above the rim of the world, he had drawn a breath or two of the fresh morning air and had spoken his last words in a clear, controlled voice.