Mayflower - Vicente Blasco Ibáñez - ebook

The morning of that day—it was a Tuesday of the Lenten season—could not have dawned more promisingly. The sea, off the Cabañal, was in flat calm, as smooth as a polished mirror. Not the slightest ripple broke the shimmering triangular wake that the sun sent shoreward over the lifeless surface of the water.The fishing fleet had headed, bright and early, for the grounds off the Cabo de San Antonio; and all the seines were out to take full advantage of the perfect weather. Prices on the market of Valencia were running high; and every skipper was trying to make a quick catch and get back first to the beach of the Cabañal, where the fisherwomen were waiting impatiently.

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THE WIDOW'S TAVERNThe morning of that day—it was a Tuesday of the Lenten season—could not have dawned more promisingly. The sea, off the Cabañal, was in flat calm, as smooth as a polished mirror. Not the slightest ripple broke the shimmering triangular wake that the sun sent shoreward over the lifeless surface of the water.The fishing fleet had headed, bright and early, for the grounds off the Cabo de San Antonio; and all the seines were out to take full advantage of the perfect weather. Prices on the market of Valencia were running high; and every skipper was trying to make a quick catch and get back first to the beach of the Cabañal, where the fisherwomen were waiting impatiently.Toward noon the weather changed. An easterly wind came up, the dread levante, that can blow so wickedly in the gulf of Valencia. The sea at first was lightly wrinkled; but as the hurricane advanced the placid looking-glass gave way to a livid menacing chop, and piles of cloud came racing up from the horizon and blotted out the sun.Great was the alarm along shore. In the eyes of those poor people, familiar with all the tragedies of the sea, wind from that quarter always meant one of those storms that bring sorrow and mourning to the homes of fishermen. In dismay, their skirts whipping in the blow, the women ran back and forth along the water's edge, wailing and praying to all the saints they trusted. The men at home, pale and frowning, bit nervously at the ends of their cigars, and, from the lee of the boats drawn up on the sand, studied the lowering horizon with the tense penetrating gaze of sailormen, or nervously watched the harbor entrance beyond the Breakwater on whose red rocks the first storm waves were breaking. What was happening to so many husbands and fathers caught with their nets down off shore? Each succeeding squall, as it sent the terrified watchers staggering along the beach, called up the thought of strong masts snapping at the level of the deck and triangular sails torn to shreds, perhaps at that very moment!About three o'clock on the black horizon a line of sails appeared, driving before the gale like puffs of foam that vanished suddenly in the troughs of the waves to dart back into view again on the crests succeeding. The fleet was returning like a frightened herd in stampede, each boat plunging in the combers with the bellow of the tempest upon its heels. Would they make the lee of the Breakwater? The wind in devilish playfulness would here tear off a shred of canvas, there a yard, and there a mast or a tiller, till a rudderless craft, caught abeam by a mountain of greenish water, would seem surely to be swallowed up. Some of the boats got in. The sailors, drenched to the skin, accepted the embraces of their wives and children impassively, with vacant and expressionless eyes, like corpses suddenly resurrected from the tomb.That night was long remembered in the Cabañal.Frenzied women, with their hair down and lashing in the hurricane, their voices hoarse from the prayers they shouted above the howling gale, spent the whole night on the Breakwater, in danger of being swept off by the towering surf, soaked with the brine from the biting spray, and peering out into the blackness as though bent on witnessing the lingering agony of the last stragglers.Many boats did not appear. Where could they be ... ay Diós, Diós! Happy the women who had their sons and husbands safe in their arms! Other boys were out in that tumbling hell, driving through the night in a floating coffin, tossing from white cap to white cap, dizzily plunging into the yawning trough, while decks groaned beneath their feet, and gray hills of water curled above to break down upon them in a destroying surge!It rained all night long. Many women waited out till sunrise, drawing their soaked cloaks about their shivering bodies, kneeling in the black mud and coal-dust on the Breakwater, shrieking their prayers to be sure that God would hear, or, again, in desperate rage, stopping to tear their hair and hurl the most frightful blasphemies of the Fishmarket up toward heaven.And when dawn came, what a glorious dawn it was! As if nothing at all had happened, the sun lifted a smiling hypocritical face above the line of a clean horizon, and spread a broad uneasy glitter of golden beauty over waters that peacefully carried long streaks of foam from the night's turmoil. The first thing that the rays of morning gilded was the battered hulk of a Norwegian barkentine ashore off the Beach of Nazaret, its nose buried in the sand, its midships awash, its bilges agape and in splinters, while strips of canvas floated from the rigging tangled about the broken masts.The ship had carried a cargo of Northern lumber. Pushed gently along by the lapping waves, timbers and boards were slowly drifting ashore, where they were dragged out by swarms of black ants and disappeared as though sunk in the sand. And they worked hard, those ants. The storm was just what they had been waiting for. Beach-pirates were whipping up their horses gayly along all the roads leading to the huerta of Ruzafa. Boards like that would make such fine houses! And the booty was all theirs by rights! What did it matter if a girder were stained, perhaps, with the blood of one of those poor foreigners lying dead back there upon the shore?Groups of idlers were gathered, with a few policemen, around some corpses that were stretched out on the beach some distance from the water. Strong, handsome fellows they had been, light-haired all; and bits of white skin, soft and smooth, though muscular, could be seen through the rents in their garments, while their blue eyes, glassy and staring in death, looked up at the sky with a mysterious fixity.The Norwegian had been the most sizeable wreck of the blow, and the newspapers in town gave columns to it. The population of Valencia turned out as on a pilgrimage to look at the hulk, half sunken in the shifting sands. No one gave a thought to the lost fishing boats, and people seemed not to understand the wailing and lamentations of the poor women whose men had not come home.The disaster to the fleet was not, however, so great as they had thought. The morning wore on and several boats came in that had been given up for lost. Some had made Denia or Gandia. Others had taken refuge in Cullera Harbor. And each craft that appeared roused cheers of rejoicing and thanksgiving throughout the village, which joyfully made vows to all the saints who look after men of the sea.In the end only one was not accounted for—the boat of tio Pascualo, the most thrifty saver of all the savers in the Cabañal, a man, decidedly, with an eye for money, a fisherman in winter and a smuggler in summer, a great skipper, and a frequent visitor to the coasts of Algiers and Oran, which he spoke of always as "across the way," as though Africa were on the sidewalk across the street.Pascualo's wife, Tona, spent more than a week on the Breakwater, a suckling baby in her arms and another child, a chubby little lad, clinging to her skirts. She was sure Pascualo would come home; and every time a fresh detail of the storm was given her, she would tear her hair and renew her screams for the Holy Virgin's help. The fishermen never talked right out to her, but always stopped at the significant shrug of the shoulders. They had seen Pascualo last off the Cabo, drifting before the gale, dismasted. He could not have gotten in. One man had even seen a huge green wave break over him, taking the boat abeam, though he could not swear the craft had foundered.In alternate spells of desperation and strange exhilarated hope, the miserable woman waited and waited with her two children. On the twelfth day, a revenue cutter came into the port of the Cabañal, towing tio Pascualo's boat behind, bottom-up, blackened, slimy and sticky, floating weirdly like a big coffin and surrounded by schools of fish, unknown to local waters, that seemed bent on getting at a bait they scented through the seams of the wrecked hull.The craft was righted and grounded on the sand. The masts were off even with the deck. The hold was full of water. When the fishermen went down inside to bail her out with pails, their bare feet, entangled in the mess of line and baskets and cordage, stepped finally on something soft. After a first instinctive cry of horrified revulsion, the men reached down under water with their hands and drew out—a corpse.Tio Pascualo was hardly recognizable. His body was swollen, green, the belly inflated to the point of bursting. The decaying flesh was gnawed away in places by hungry little fishes, some of which, loath to let go their prey, were still clinging to it by their teeth, wriggling their tails and giving an appearance of disgusting life to the horrible mass. The bold sailor's fate was clear. He had been hurled through the hatchway by a lunge of the deck before the boat had been lost. Inside there he had lain with his skull crushed. That boat—the dream of his life, the achievement of thirty years of penny-saving—had proved to be his coffin!Tio Pascualo's widow, in her hysterical weeping, shrank from the repugnant body. The women of the Cabañal raised their voices in weird lamentation and trooped in company behind the wooden box that was carried at once to the cemetery. For a week tio Pascualo was the subject of every conversation. Then people forgot about him, save that the appearance of his mourning widow, with one child in her arms and another at her side, chanced to remind them of his grewsome end.Tona, indeed, had lost not her husband only. Dire poverty was upon her, not the poverty that is hard but tolerable, but the poverty that is terrifying even to the poor, the want of the homeless and the bread-less, the want that holds out a mendicant hand from the street corner to beg a penny and give thanks for a crust of mildewed bread.Help came readily while her misfortune was fresh in the minds of the villagers. A subscription was taken up among the fisherfolk, and on the proceeds, with other gifts that came in, she was able to get along for three or four months. Then people forgot. Tona was no longer the widow of a man lost at sea. She was a pauper ever on hand with the wail for alms. Many doors were at last shut in her face, and old friends of her girlhood, who had always welcomed her with a smile, now looked the other way when she went by.But Tona was not the woman to be crushed by general ostracism. Eah! Enough of this bawling! We've got to get out of the dumps! She was a woman with two arms like any other, and two brats that could eat and eat and eat!She had nothing left in the world but the wreck of her husband's boat, in which he had died. It lay rotting out there on the beach, high and dry, now soaked by the rains, now oozing tar under the flaming sun, the mosquitos breeding in the muck inside.Tona suddenly had an idea. That boat might be good for something. It had killed the father of those tots of hers. Why should it not help to feed them? Tio Mariano, a tight-fisted bachelor, first cousin to the late Pascualo, and supposed to be quite well off, had taken a liking to the widow's children; and however much it pained him, he went down into his pocket and gave her the money to make her start.In one side of the boat a hole was sawed to make a door and a small counter. Against the wall inside some barrels of wine, gin and brandy were ranged in line. The deck was taken off and replaced with a roof of tarred boards, to give head-room, at least, in the dingy hovel. At the bow and at the stern two portholes were cut, and two partitions were set up with the boards remaining—one "stateroom" for the widow, the other for the boys. A shelter with a thatched roof was raised in front of the door; under it a couple of rickety tables, and as many as half a dozen bamboo tabourets. The whole outfit made quite a show. The hulk of death became a beach café within easy reach of the casa del bòus, the barn where the oxen for beaching and launching the boats were kept, and at the very place where the fish was brought ashore and where some one was always around.The women folks of the Cabañal began to rub their eyes. That Tona was the Devil himself! See what an eye she had for business! Her gin and brandy went by the barrelful. The men who used to go to the taverns in town now got their drinks right there of her. They were always playing truque y flor on the shaky tables under the shelter while waiting for the boats to put to sea, brightening up the games with glass after glass of caña, which Tona averred was genuine imported Cuban rum.Tio Pascualo's stranded craft went sailing, wind astern, on a new voyage toward prosperity. Out there on the rocking sea with the old skipper's seines, the boat had never earned so much as now under the widow's charge, though its seams were open and its timbers were rotting away. Evidence of profit could have been found in the successive transformations the old hulk kept undergoing. First curtains went up on the stateroom windows, and if you looked inside, you saw new coverlets of down, and white sheets. A coffee percolator began to shine like polished gold on the counter. The shelter outside the door grew longer and longer, with more tables and better ones. A dozen hens or more began to cluck about over the white sand, bossed by a wicked rooster with a tenor voice who was more than a match for any stray dog that came along looking for trouble. From a pen nearby echoed the grunts of a hog too fat to breathe without disturbing the neighborhood. And in front of the counter, outside the hull, were two stoves with rice and fish sputtering fragrantly in oil in their respective frying-pans. A going concern, no doubt of that! Not a question of getting rich, you understand, but a bite to eat for the boys! And Tona would smile and rub her hands gloatingly. Not a cent did she owe in the world. The ceiling of the boat was festooned with dry morcillas and shiny sobreasadas—her favorite sausages; and there were strips of smoked tunny, and a ham or two sprinkled with red pepper. The barrels were full of drink. Along the shelves stretched an array of bottles with liqueurs of every color. And the pots and pans hanging on the walls could be set sizzling in an instant with all kinds of good nourishing victuals. Just think of it! A widow starving a short time since, and now already on Easy Street! Say all you want—but God looks after decent people!With plenty to eat and nothing to worry about, Tona seemed to grow young again. Inside her boat there she took on a glowing well-fed buxomness, and her skin, protected from the sun and brine, lost that harsh baked bronze of the women who worked along shore. When serving at the counter her ample breast sported inevitably one of an endless assortment of colored handkerchiefs, tomate y huevo, complicated arabesques of tomato red and egg yellow worked into thick well woven silk.She could even afford purely decorative luxuries. Above the wine casks at the back of the "shop" the whitewashed timbers screamed aloud with cheap high colored chromos that reduced Tona's neck-wear to silence, quite. The fishermen drinking outside under the shelter would look up over the counter and feast their eyes on "The Lion Hunt," "The Death of the Good Man and the Sinner," "The Ladder of Life," not to mention a half dozen miracle-workers with Saint Anthony in the place of honor; and a cartoon showing the lean merchant who trusts, and the fat one who sells for cash, with the customary legend: "If you want credit, come back to-morrow!"Tona could be quite properly satisfied at the relative comfort in which her young ones were growing up. Business was getting better and better, and an old stocking which she kept hidden between the foot board of her bunk and the big mattress there, was gradually filling with the silver douros she had saved.Sometimes she could contain her happiness no longer; and to view her good fortune in perspective, as it were, she would walk down to the fringe of the surf, and look back with welling eyes at the hen coop, the open-air kitchen, the sonorous pig-pen, and finally the boat itself, its bow and stern projecting from a maze of fences, cane-work and thatch, and painted a clean dazzling white like some bark of dream-land tossed by a hurricane into a barnyard.Not that life did not still have its hardships for her. She got little sleep. To begin with, she had to be up at sunrise every morning, and oftentimes, after midnight, when boats would make shore late or be leaving before dawn, the fishermen would start banging on her door and she would have to get up and serve them. These early morning sprees were the ones that made most money, though they caused her most uneasiness on the whole. She knew whom she was dealing with. Ashore for a few hours after a week at sea, those men wanted all the pleasures of land crowded into minutes of pure joy. They lighted on wine like flies on honey. If the older men soon fell asleep with their pipes dead between their teeth, not so the sturdier boys, aflame from the privations and abstinence of life at sea. They would look at siñá Tona in ways that would bring gestures of annoyance from her and make her wonder how she could fight off the brutal caresses of those Tritons in striped shirts.She had never been a beauty; but her trace of fleshiness, her big black eyes that seemed to brighten a clean brownish countenance, and especially the light wrapper she would hurriedly throw on to attend to her nocturnal patronage, lent her charm in the eyes of those healthy youths who laid their courses toward the Valencian shore with joyous anticipation of a sight of siñá Tona.But Tona was a woman of brain and brawn, and she knew how to handle those fellows. She bestowed no favors. When their words were over-bold she would answer with disdain. To nudges she replied with cuffs, and once when a sailor seized her suddenly from behind, she laid him flat with a well placed kick, tough as iron and sturdy as a main-mast though he was.She would have no love affairs, even if other women did! A man would never touch the end of her little finger, no siree! The idea, besides! A mother of two children, little angels, sleeping there behind one thickness of boards—you could hear them breathe, even—and she alone in the world to support them!The future of the boys was beginning to cause the mother hours of thought They had been growing up there, on the beach, like two baby gulls, nesting in the shade of the grounded boats when the sun burned hotly, or hunting conchas and periwinkles on the shore uncovered at low tide, their brown chubby legs sinking deep into the masses of seaweed. The older child, Pascualet, was the living likeness of his father, stocky, full-bellied, moon-faced. He looked like a seminary student specializing on the Refectory, and already the fishermen had dubbed him "the Rector," a nickname that was to stick to him for life. He was eight years older than Antonio, a lean, nervous, domineering little fellow who had Tona's eyes.Pascualet became a real mother to his younger brother. While siñá Tona was busy with the tavern, during the earliest days which had been the hard ones, the good-natured boy had carried the baby around with the tenderness of a nurse and had played with the young torments of the water front with that snarling squirming brat in his arms, who would bite and scratch when anything did not suit him. At night, in the cramped "stateroom" of the tavern-boat, "Tonet" would stretch out full length in the most comfortable place, letting his fat brother curl up in a corner where he might, provided he did not disturb the little devil, who in spite of his smallness ruled his elder brother like a tyrant.The two boys would fall asleep to the lullaby of the waves which on days of spring-tide reached almost to the tavern; and in winter, when the cold wind would try to make its way through the seams in the old boat's walls, they would snuggle close together under the same coverlet. Some nights they would be wakened by the uproar from the drunken sailors in the tavern, and hear the angry words of their mother, or the slaps she would rain on impudent cheeks. More than once the frail partition of their bedroom had threatened to give way as some staggering body fell against it. But then they would go to sleep again, with the carefree innocence of children, with no suspicions, and without alarm.Siñá Tona had an unjust weakness for her younger son. In the first days of her widowhood, when she saw the two little heads sleeping side by side in the narrow cabin, resting perhaps on the very timbers that had crushed their father's skull, she had felt an equal tenderness for them both, as though the deadly bark were to destroy them as it had killed Pascualo. But when prosperity came, and the memory of the tragedy grew dim with the years, siñá Tona showed unmistakable fondness for Tonet, a child of feline shrewdness, who treated everybody with imperious petulance, but for his mother always had the speculative fondness of a sly cat.What a joy Tonet was for her, a beach vagabond at seven, spending the whole day away from home with one gang or another, and coming back at night with his clothes soaked and torn, and his pockets full of sand! The older boy, meanwhile, now that his brother had been weaned from him, would be in the tavern, washing dishes, waiting on customers, feeding the hens, or watching, with grave responsibility written on his features, the two frying-pans that were crackling on the stoves.The mother, sometimes, on suddenly waking from a doze behind the counter and finding Pascualet in front of her, would start with violent surprise. Pascualo, for all the world! Just as she had known him as a boy, before their marriage, when he was "cat" on a fishing vessel! The same round jolly face, the same stout square-shouldered body, the same stubby sturdy legs, the same expression of an honest simpleton with a gift for plodding work that stamped him in advance as a steady reliable chap, an hombre de bien. And the same inside, as well! Good-natured, too good-natured if anything, and bashful! But a bull-dog when it came to hanging on to money; and a mad fondness for the sea, prolific mother of men of courage, strong enough and brave enough to earn their living from her bosom!By the time he was thirteen, the tavern had become quite uncongenial to "the Rector," as he gave to understand with a word dropped here and there, or with one of those occasional half-finished and incoherent sentences, which were all that ever came out of that hard head of his. He had not been born to the tavern business! Something altogether too tame for him! That might do for Tonet, who didn't like real work overwell. As for himself, he was a man of muscle, and he loved the sea. No, he must be a fisherman like his father!When siñá Tona heard such remarks the terrifying thought of the catastrophe of that Lenten Tuesday would come back to her mind. But the boy held his ground. Things like that didn't happen every day. And since he felt a hankering for it, the profession of his father and his grandfather was good enough for him; and tio Borrasca, an old skipper who had been a great friend of tio Pascualo, thought so too.One year when the drag-net season came around, the pesca del bòu, as the Valencians say, where two boats worked in team, Pascualet shipped with tio Borrasca as "cat," gato de barca, for his keep, and all he might make, in addition, from the cabets, the small fry, shrimp, sea-horses and so on, that came up in the nets from the bottom along with the big fish.His apprenticeship started auspiciously. Up to that time Pascualet had gotten along on the old clothes his father had left. But siñá Tona wanted him to begin his new trade with real dignity; so she closed the tavern, one afternoon, and went off to a ship chandler's bazaar at the Grao. The boy remembered the excitement of that visit to the stores for years and years. What gorgeous things, those blue coats, those yellow oilskins, those big rubber boots—only captains could afford them, surely! But he was proud, withal, of his own helper's outfit—two shirts of mallorquin, as stiff and prickly and rough as so much sand-paper, a sash of black wool, a set of glaring yellow overalls, a red cap to pull down over the back of his head in bad weather, and another of black silk to go ashore in. For once in his life he had on clothes that fitted him. He was through struggling with those old coats of his father that on blowy days filled like mainsails and made him trot down the wind in spite of himself. Shoes had been out of the question. Those nimble feet of his had never known the torment of a leather casing.And a real calling it was that the boy felt for the sea. The boat of tio Borrasca was more to his taste than the grounded hulk on shore there with its grunting hogs and cackling hens. He worked hard; and to supplement his wages he got a few kicks from the old skipper, who could be gentle enough on land, but once with a deck under him would have made Saint Anthony himself toe the mark. He could run up the mast to set the lantern or clear a line as spryly as a cat. When the time came to chorrar, to haul the nets, he would take his hand at the ropes. He scrubbed the decks, stowed the baskets of fish in the hold, and kept the fires going in the galley, so that the men of the crew never had a chance to complain. And what luxuries in reward for all that enthusiasm! When the captain and the men were through eating, the leavings were for Pascualet and the other "cat," who had been standing by motionless and respectful during the meal. The two boys would sit down on the bow with black pots between their legs and loaves of bread under their arms. They would eat almost everything with their spoons, but when scooping became too slow, they would begin to mop the bottoms of the pots with crusts of bread till the metal was polished and shining. Then they would carefully collect the few drops of wine that the men had left in their tin cups. Finally, if there was no work to do, the "cats" would lie down like princes in the forecastle, their shirt-tails hanging out, their bellies toward the stars, their faces pleasantly tickled by the breeze, till they were rocked to sleep by the swaying of the vessel. There was tobacco a-plenty. Tio Borrasca was always raising a rumpus because he couldn't understand how his pockets ran empty so soon, now of the alguilla of Algiers, now of the Havana fine cut—according to the stock of the latest smuggler to make the Cabañal.That was real life in Pascualet's eyes. Every time he came in, his mother could see that he had grown, was stronger, tanned a darker brown, but as good-natured as ever in spite of his fights with other "cats," husky little hectors who would stop at nothing, and who always puffed smoke in your face, when you talked to them, from pipes as big as they were.These rapid visits home were all there was to remind siñá Tona that she had an elder son at all. The mistress of the tavern had something else on her mind. She was now spending entire days alone in her hulk there. "The Rector" was offshore, earning his share of cabets, returning only Sundays to hand over, with a show of pride, the three or four pesetas that represented his week's wage. The other boy, that lost soul Tonet, had turned out a regular waster—that was the very word for him. And he never came home unless he was hungry. He had joined the ragamuffins along shore, a swarm of wharf rats that knew no more about their fathers than the homeless dogs who went with them on their raids. He could swim like a fish, and all through the summer days he loafed around the liners in the harbor, without a stitch on his lean sunburned body, diving for the silver coins the passengers threw overboard. At night he would come home, his trousers in rags, his face scratched and bleeding. His mother had caught him several times fondly caressing the brandy keg; and one evening she had had to put on her shawl and go to harbor-police headquarters, where her tears and lamentations finally got him loose on the promise that she would cure him of his ugly weakness for scraping the bottoms of the sugar boxes stored on the piers.That Tonet was a limb of the Devil! And, diós mio, where did he get it, where did he get it! How could two decent honest parents, such as she and Pascualo had been, ever get to have a boy like that? With a perfectly good dinner waiting for him at home, why did he insist on sneaking around the steamers from Scotland, waiting for the watchman to turn his back so as to be off with a dried codfish under his arm? No, that boy was to be the death of her! Twelve years old, no inclination to work, and not the slightest fear or respect for her, in spite of all the broomsticks she had broken over his back.Siñá Tona usually confided her troubles to a certain Martinez, a young policeman who patrolled that part of the shore, spending the noon hours under the café shelter, his rifle across his knees, his eyes vaguely fixed on the horizon of the sea, and his ears filled with the running plaint of the tavernkeeper. A handsome chap Martinez was, an Andalusian from Huelva, slender and trim of person, natty as could be in the old service uniform which he sported with a truly martial swagger, twirling the corner of his blond mustache with an air that people called "distinguished." Siñá Tona admired the man. After all, breeding will come out! You can tell it a mile away. How Martinez talked, for instance! You could see from his choice of words that he was a man of schooling. For that matter he had studied years and years in the Seminary up his way; and if now he was only a patrolman, it was because he hadn't wanted to be a priest—he had quarreled with his family on the subject—preferring to see a bit of the world by enlisting in the army. The mistress of the tavern listened open-mouthed to the tales he told about himself in a heavy Andalusian dialect where every "s" was like "th" in "thing." In deference to his learning, she answered in kind, floundering about in an absurd and unintelligible Castillian which made people in the village laugh."See, siñor Martines, that jacknape of mine is driving me mad with all his carrying on. I say to him, I say: 'Anything wrong in this house, jail-bird? Well, then, why go tearing around with that gang of good-for-nothings, who will die at the end of a rope, every one of them!' now osté siñor Martines, you know how to talk in good grammar. You just tell him what is what. You tell him they'll put him in the lock-up at Valencia if he isn't a good boy."And siñor Martines promised to take the little rogue in hand, and he did, in fact, give him a lecture, which reduced Tonet, for a moment at least, to cowering in terror in the presence of that uniform and that heavy gun, which the soldier would never let go of for an instant. These slight favors gradually brought Martinez into the family, making his relations with siñá Tona more and more intimate. He got his meals now at the tavern, and spent most of his time there; and the mistress finally had the pleasure of darning his stockings and sewing the buttons on his underwear. Poor siñor Martines! What would happen to a fine young man like him without a woman around? He would get to be as shabby and disreputable as a stray cat. And, frankly, no decent lady could allow that to happen!Summer afternoons when the sun was beating full upon the deserted beach, turning the baked sand into a fiery furnace, one scene would always be enacted in the shade of the thatched roof of the tavern shelter. Martinez would be seated on a reed stool with one elbow on the counter, reading Perez Escrich, his favorite author, in bulging grimy volumes with the corners worn down from having passed from patrol to patrol along the coast. Siñá Tona was convinced at last. That was where he got all those big words and that moral philosophy which stirred the bottom of her soul; and she looked at the books with the superstitious awe of an illiterate. Across the counter, mechanically sewing, without thinking of what she was doing, she would sit looking at Martinez fixedly, studying his thin blond mustache for half an hour at a time, then the elegant lines of his nose for just as long, and finally the exquisite skill with which he parted his hair, making two absolutely even plasters of golden locks on either side.Sometimes, on looking up at the bottom of a page, Martinez would find the two black eyes of siñá Tona nailed upon him; and he would blush and go on reading. Then afterwards the tavern keeper would be ashamed of herself. The idea! When Pascualo was alive, she had looked at the fellow casually once or twice, because she thought his face was interesting. But now she sat there looking and looking and looking, like a fool! What would people say if they ever caught her at it! Of course! She liked him! And why not? So handsome, and such fine manners! And how well he could talk! But after all, that was absurd. She was well on toward forty, thirty-six or so, she couldn't just remember. And he, well, twenty-four at the outside! But then again, and then again! What difference did a few years make? She was not so bad looking. She carried her age well. To settle that question, just listen to the men off the boats who were always pestering her! And if it was all so absurd, why were people gossiping about it? The other patrolmen, friends of Martinez, and the fish-women on the beach, were always teasing them with indirect allusions which, if anything, were too direct.And the expected happened. To silence her own misgivings, siñá Tona argued that her boys needed a father, and Martinez was just the man. The courageous Amazon, who would cudgel the roughest sailor at the slightest flippancy, herself took the initiative, overcoming the bashfulness of that timid overgrown boy; and he, submissive rather than seeking, allowed things to take their course, like a superior being with thoughts absorbed in higher things, and responding to affairs of earth like an automaton.