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A Visit to Cuba
(From an interview with the late Phoebe-Lou Adams, The Atlantic's longest running staff writer and wife of the magazine's ninth editor, Edward Weeks.)
The Atlantic had been the first American magazine to publish Hemingway. So Weeks thought it was fairly proper that there should be a Hemingway in our centennial issue. We were sent word that Hemingway would receive a representative of The Atlantic. So I went down [to Cuba]. This was just at the start of Castro's campaign. I stayed in a very fine, comfortable, elegant, old-fashioned hotel—tile floors and splendid plumbing, with a great cage of beautiful birds in the lounge, and a good pianist who played in the restaurant every evening. I realized that I was going to have to wait around for a while because Hemingway was out fishing. I wandered around Havana and that area for almost three weeks with a very charming elderly professor who had been produced as my guide.
Eventually Hemingway turned up, and I was driven up to his farm (his finca) for tea. It was an absolutely lovely place, set up high, with a beautiful view. Outside of the house you could see Hemingway's writing tower. It had a number of windows, each of which contained a cat. Hemingway and I sat down and carried on a sweet little tea-party conversation. I had expected him to have a Middle Western accent but he sounded just like a New Englander. He had a very soft voice and a way of speaking that warned you not always to take what he said literally.
[His wife, Mary,] was absolutely charming. While Hemingway went off to take a nap she walked me around the yard explaining where they had found the various orchids that ornamented their trees and told me about their countless acquisition of cats. I hardly knew how many cats they had, they just took in anything that turned up. The cats were not allowed in the house, so during dinner they all gathered on the doorstep outside the screen door, a nice breezy place, and they climbed it, they took turns - "plink, plink, plink, plink, plink, plop"—and then they'd repeat it. It was quite musical.
He sent us two stories about blindness for the centennial issue, but we made the mistake of thinking they were submitted as a unit. They weren't, and he got quite cross because he wanted to be paid for both of them. Which of course we happily did and published both.