Stories by English Authors in Africa HTML version

The Cafe Paradiso was full of people, for the inhabitants of Alexandria had dined,
and the opera season was over. The seats at every table were occupied, and the
fumes of smoke from a hundred cigars partly hid the ladies of the orchestra. As
the waiters pushed aside the swing-doors of the buffet and staggered into the
salon with whisky, absinthe, and coffee, the click of billiard-balls was heard. The
windows facing the sea were wide open, for the heat was intense, and the
murmur of the waves mingled with the plaintive voices of the violins.
Seated by a table at the far end of the hall, Gregorio Livadas hummed softly an
accompaniment to Suppe's "Poete et Paysan," puffing from time to time a
cloudlet of blue smoke from his mouth. When the music ceased he joined in the
applause, leaning back happily in his chair as the musicians prepared to repeat
the last movement. Meanwhile his eyes wandered idly over the faces of his
When the last chord was struck he saw the women hurry down from the platform
and rush toward the tables where their acquaintances sat. He heard them
demand beer and coffee, and they drank eagerly, for fiddling in that heat was
thirsty work. He watched the weary waiters hastening from table to table, and he
heard the voices around him grow more animated and the laughter more
frequent. One man was fastening a spray of flowers on the ample bosom of the
flautiste, while another sipped the brown lager from the glass of the big drum,
and the old wife of the conductor left her triangle and cymbals to beg some roses
from an Arab flower-girl. Truly the world was enjoying itself, and Gregorio smiled
dreamily, for the sight of so much gaiety pleased him. He wished one of the
women would come and talk to him; he would have liked to chat with the fair-
haired girl who played the first violin so well. He began to wonder why she
preferred that ugly Englishman with his red face and bald head. He caught
snatches of their conversation. Bah! how uninteresting it was! for they could
barely understand each other. What pleasure did she find in listening to his bad
French? and in her native Hungarian he could not even say, "I love." Why had
she not come to him, Gregorio Livadas, who could talk to her well and would not
mumble like an idiot and look red and uncomfortable! Then he saw she was
drinking champagne, and he sighed. Ah, yes, these English were rich, and
women only cared for money; they were unable to give up their luxuries for the
sake of a man.
But at this thought Gregorio blushed a little. After all, there was one woman--the
only woman he ought to think of--who was not afraid of hardship for the sake of
her husband. He tried to excuse himself by arguing that the music had excited