Momo began to cry, and took refuge at the bottom of the court, and vented his anger in bastinadoing the poor dog who had not offended him. T HE grandma and the brother Gabriel took the best care of the invalid; but they could not agree upon the method which should be adopted to cure him. Maria, without having read Brown, recommended substantial soups, comforts, and tonics, because she conceived that Stein was debilitated and worn out. Brother Gabriel, without ever having heard the name of Broussais pronounced, pleaded for refreshments and emollients, because, in his opinion, Stein had a brain fever, the blood heated and the skin hot.
Both were right, and with this double system, which blended the soups of the grandma with the lemonade of brother Gabriel, it happened that Stein recovered his life and his health the same day that the good woman killed the last fowl, and the brother divested the lemon-trees of their last fruit.
Is he military? I found only a flute in his pocket.
Then he is not military. The brother rose, took his horn spectacles, placed them on his nose, and the package of books in his hands, and approached the window which looked out on the grand court. His inspection of the books lasted a long time. The old woman sprang with one bound to the middle of the chamber; brother Gabriel let fall the books, and remained petrified after opening his eyes as large as his spectacles.
This clique, who govern to-day in place of the king, wish that nothing should remain of what formerly existed; it is for that they no longer permit the Jews to wear tails on their backs, although they always before carried them, as does the devil. They called him the Moor Seylan. How handsome he was! But for me his beauty was nothing: he was not a Christian. After all, be he Jew or Moor let us relieve him. Stein had raised himself up in a sitting position, and regarded with astonishment all the objects by which he was surrounded.
In Spain, the common people believe that the best way to make themselves understood is to speak very loud.
The holy archangel and the holy Virgin, guardians of the sick and consolers of the afflicted, will recompense you for your good action. In her access of joy, she approached Stein, pressed him in her arms and bravely kissed his forehead.
I was in the war at Navarre. I came by Estremadura to seek a port whence I could embark for Cadiz, and then regain Germany, my country. I lost myself in my route: I made a thousand detours and finished by arriving here, worn out by fatigue and ready to give up the ghost. It is a body without a soul. There remain but the walls, the white cross, and brother Gabriel.
The others have taken away all the rest. When there was nothing more to take, some gentlemen whom they call the public credit searched for a good man to guard the convent—that is to say, its carcass. They heard my son spoken of, and we came and established ourselves here, where I live with my son, the only one who would remain. When we entered into the convent, the fathers went away. Some retired to America or rejoined the missions in China; some returned to their families; some demanded their subsistence or work, or had recourse to alms.
We have with us a monk, borne down by age and grief, who, seated on the steps of the white cross, weeps sometimes for the absent brethren, sometimes for the convent which they have abandoned. I know nobody in the world, and know nothing but how to take care of the garden of the convent. Where shall I go? What shall I do? I can live only here. The barbarians! They have proved this maxim: Destroy the nest, the birds will never come back again.
T HE end of October had been rainy, and November sheltered herself under her thick green mantle. Stein took a walk one day in front of the convent. A magnificent panorama presented itself to his sight: at the right, the limitless sea; at the left, solitude without end. Between them, on the horizon, was painted the black profile of the fort San Cristobal. Not far from thence was situated the village of Villamar, near a river as impetuous during winter, as calm and muddy during summer. The grounds around, well cultivated, presented the aspect of a chess-board, where each square revealed the thousand shades of green.
Here shone the warm tints of the vine, then covered with leaves; there, the ash-colored green of the olive-tree; the emerald green of the fig-trees, which the rains of autumn had imparted growth to; further off still, the bluish-green hedges of aloes. Near the convent, upon a light hillock, stood a chapel; in front, a cross based on a block of masonry whitened with lime; behind this cross, a retreat of verdure: it was the cemetery.
Stein went there to meditate upon the powerful magic of the works of nature, when he saw Momo leaving the farm and going towards the village. In perceiving Stein, Momo proposed to him to accompany him, and they both commenced their route. They arrived soon at the top of the hillock, near the cross and the chapel.
The front of the altar contracted itself towards the base in describing a curved line. Stein perceived there in the obscurity an object supported against the wall, and the form of which he could not distinguish. Fixing his earnest scrutiny on this object, he became assured it was a carbine. The size was such, and the weight must have been so great that it was incomprehensible how one single man could have the strength to place it in that position: it is but the reflection which is always inspired by the sight of the armor of the middle ages.
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The mouth of the carbine was so large that an orange could easily be introduced. The arm was broken, and the pieces were artistically put together by means of little cords.
In truth, it is not sense to arm Christ with a pair of pistols. The day on which this carbine was brought here, they called this Christ, the Christ of Good Help. One day two men of this village, two brothers, would undertake a journey. All their friends assembled to conduct them part of the way. There were abundance of good wishes that they might not encounter the bandit who gave quarter to no one, and who terrified everybody. But they, good children, commended themselves to Christ, and departed full of confidence in his protection.
At the entrance of a wood of olives, they found themselves face to face with the robber, who came before them, with carbine in hand, rested his gun and aimed. It was that of the robber: God caused the carbine to burst in the hands of the bandit. And you see now that, in memory of this miraculous assistance, they repaired the carbine with cords, and deposited it here, and it is the Christ who, since then, we implore help from.
You knew nothing about it, Don Frederico? Stein contemplated this little village, so tranquil, at once fishing, commercial, and laborious. It was not like the villages of Germany, an assemblage of houses scattered without order, with their roofs of straw, and their gardens; they resembled in no way those of England, sheltered by the shades of their large trees; nor those of Flanders, which retired to the borders of the roads. It was composed of large streets, although badly made, where the houses, without separate stories, were of various heights, and covered with old tiles; windows were rare, and still more rare, glass and every species of ornament.
But the village contained a grand square, which, in spring, was green as a prairie; on this square was situated a beautiful church: the general aspect was one of charming neatness. Fourteen crosses, of dimensions equal to that which was near to Stein, were placed equidistant from each other; the last, which was raised in the middle of the square, was opposite to the church: it was the Road of the Cross. Momo came back, but with a companion, who was old, tall, dry, thin, and stiff as a wax taper.
On each shoulder was a narrow strip of lace, probably destined to secure two much-used epaulets; and then an old sword, suspended from a belt of the same age, completed this ensemble , half military and half rural. Long years had exercised great ravages upon the front part of the long and narrow skull of this being. To supply the natural ornament, he had coaxed towards the forehead the sad remnant of his head of hair, and fixing them there by means of a cord of black silk on the top of his skull, he formed a tuft as gracious as that of a Chinese coxcomb.
The compliment of usage had an application so exact to him who made it, that Stein could not resist a smile in returning his military salute. My person and my house are entirely at your orders; I reside at the Plaza de la Iglesia , that is to say, Place of the Constitution, for that is the name at present.
If sometime you would favor it with a visit, the inscription will indicate to you the place. You should comprehend that in this little village it is not easy to procure a slab of marble with letters of gold, like those you can purchase in Cadiz or Seville. We must have recourse to the schoolmaster, who writes a good hand, and who, to paint the inscription on the walls of common houses, is obliged to place himself at a certain height. The schoolmaster prepared a black color with soot and vinegar mixed, mounted the ladder, and commenced the work by tracing the letters about a foot long.
Unfortunately, in wishing to make an elegant flourish, he gave such a violent shake to the ladder that it fell to the earth, carrying with it in its fall the schoolmaster with his pot of black, and all rolled together into the stream. Rosita, my hostess, who from the window had been a witness of this catastrophe, and having seen the unfortunate man come out black as coal, was frightened to that degree that she went into spasms, and continued thus for three days; and in truth I was myself not without some uneasiness.
The Alcalde, notwithstanding, gave orders to the poor bruised schoolmaster to complete his work, and saw that the inscription gave only the letters CONSTI. The unfortunate man was ill at ease, but this time he would not use the ladder; he would bring a cart, and place a table on it, and secure it with strong cords. Hoisted upon this improvised scaffolding, the poor devil was so astounded that, reflecting on his accident, he had but one thought, which was, to complete his work as speedily as possible. This is the reason why the last letters, in lieu of being a foot long like the first, are not longer than your thumb; and that is not the worst of it—in his eagerness he forgot one letter at the bottom of his pot of black; and the inscription thus appears:.
Thus has the inscription remained as it was: happily no one reads it.
He is sorry that the schoolmaster had not completed it, for it would have been very handsome and done great honor to Villamar. Momo, who carried on his shoulder some saddlebags, well filled, and who was in a hurry, asked the commandant if he was going to Fort San Cristobal. The Gaviota? All perished, crew and cargo, with the exception of Pedro and his daughter, whom he had with him; the desire to save her doubled his strength: he gained the shore, but his ruin was complete. His sadness and discouragement were so profound that he would not return to his country.
With the debris of his bark he constructed a little skiff among the rocks, and commenced as a fisherman. It was he who furnished the convent with fish: the brothers in exchange gave him bread, oil, and vinegar. It is now twelve years that he has lived here in peace with all the world. But, Don Frederico, the heavens scorch, the clouds rush as if they would pursue us—let us hasten our steps. B EFORE we continue our recital, it is well, we believe, to make the acquaintance of this new personage. Don Modesto Guerrero was the son of an honorable farmer, who, like many others, was possessed of excellent parchments of nobility.
During the war of independence, the French burned these parchments in burning his house, under the pretext that the children of a laborer are brigands,—that is to say, that they have committed the unpardonable crime of defending their country. Modesto was called to the military service, and, in default of a substitute, he entered a regiment of infantry as a cadet.