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Title: Mare Nostrum (Our Sea) - A Novel
Author: Blasco Ibáñez, Vicente, 1867-1928
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mare Nostrum (Our Sea) - A Novel" ***

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Mare Nostrum

(_OUR SEA_)



A Novel

By

Vicente Blasco Ibanez



AUTHOR OF

"The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,"
"The Shadow of the Cathedral,"
"Blood and Sand,"
"La Bodega," etc.



Authorized translation from the Spanish by Charlotte Brewster Jordan

Translator of "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse"



1919



CONTENTS


    CHAPTER I  CAPTAIN ULYSSES FERRAGUT

   CHAPTER II  MATER AMPHITRITE

  CHAPTER III  PATER OCEANUS

   CHAPTER IV  FREYA

    CHAPTER V  THE AQUARIUM OF NAPLES

   CHAPTER VI  THE WILES OF CIRCE

  CHAPTER VII  THE SIN OF ULYSSES

CHAPTER  VIII  THE YOUNG TELEMACHUS

   CHAPTER IX  THE ENCOUNTER AT MARSEILLES

    CHAPTER X  IN BARCELONA

   CHAPTER XI  "FAREWELL, I AM GOING TO DIE"

  CHAPTER XII  AHPHITRITE!... AMPHITRITE!



Mare Nostrum



CHAPTER I


CAPTAIN ULYSSES FERRAGUT

His first gallantries were with an empress. He was ten years old, and
the empress six hundred.

His father, Don Esteban Ferragut--third quota of the College of
Notaries--had always had a great admiration for the things of the past.
He lived near the cathedral, and on Sundays and holy days, instead of
following the faithful to witness the pompous ceremonials presided over
by the cardinal-archbishop, used to betake himself with his wife and
son to hear mass in _San Juan del Hospital_,--a little church sparsely
attended the rest of the week.

The notary, who had read Walter Scott in his youth, used to gaze on the
old and turreted walls surrounding the church, and feel something of
the bard's thrills about his own, his native land. The Middle Ages was
the period in which he would have liked to have lived. And as he trod
the flagging of the _Hospitolarios_, good Don Esteban, little, chubby,
and near-sighted, used to feel within him the soul of a hero born too
late. The other churches, huge and rich, appeared to him with their
blaze of gleaming gold, their alabaster convolutions and their jasper
columns, mere monuments of insipid vulgarity. This one had been erected
by the Knights of Saint John, who, united with the Templars, had aided
King James in the conquest of Valencia.

Upon crossing the covered passageway leading from the street to the
inner court, he was accustomed to salute the Virgin of the Conquest, an
image of rough stone in faded colors and dull gold, seated on a bench,
brought thither by the knights of the military order. Some sour orange
trees spread their branching verdure over the walls of the church,--a
blackened, rough stone edifice perforated with long, narrow,
window-like niches now closed with mud plaster. From the salient
buttresses of its reinforcements jutted forth, in the highest parts,
great fabled monsters of weather-beaten, crumbling stone.

In its only nave was now left very little of this romantic exterior.
The baroque taste of the seventeenth century had hidden the Gothic arch
under another semi-circular one, besides covering the walls with a coat
of whitewash. But the medieval reredos, the nobiliary coats of arms,
and the tombs of the Knights of Saint John with their Gothic
inscriptions still survived the profane restoration, and that in itself
was enough to keep up the notary's enthusiasm.

Moreover the quality of the faithful who attended its services had to
be taken into consideration. They were few but select, always the same.
Some of them would drop into their places, gouty and relaxed, supported
by an old servant wearing a shabby lace mantilla as though she were the
housekeeper. Others would remain standing during the service holding up
proudly their emaciated heads that presented the profile of a fighting
cock, and crossing upon the breast their gloved hands,--always in black
wool in the winter and in thread in the summer time. Ferragut knew all
their names, having read them in the _Trovas_ of Mosen Febrer, a
metrical composition in Provençal, about the warriors that came to the
neighborhood of Valencia from Aragon, Catalunia, the South of France,
England and remote Germany.

At the conclusion of the mass, the imposing personages would nod their
heads, saluting the faithful nearest them. "Good day!" To these, it was
as if the sun had just arisen: the hours before did not count. And the
notary with meek voice would enlarge his response: "Good day, Señor
Marquis!" "Good day, Señor Baron!" Although his relations never went
beyond this salutation, Ferragut used to feel toward these noble
personages the sympathy that the customers have for an establishment,
looking upon them with affectionate eyes for many years without
presuming to exchange more than a greeting with them.

His son Ulysses was exceedingly bored as he followed the monotonous
incidents of the chanted mass in the darkened, almost deserted, church.
The rays of the sun, oblique beams of gold that filtered in from above,
illuminating the spirals of dust, flies and moths, made him think in a
homesick way of the lush green of the orchard, the white spots of the
hamlets, the black smoke columns of the harbor filled with steamships,
and the triple file of bluish convexities crowned with froth that were
discharging their contents with a sonorous surge upon the
bronze-colored beach.

When the embroidered mantles of the three priests ceased to gleam
before the high altar, and another priest in black and white appeared
in the pulpit, Ulysses would turn his glance toward a side chapel. The
sermon always represented for him a half hour of somnolence, peopled
with his own lively imaginings. The first thing that his eyes used to
see in the chapel of Santa Barbara was a chest nailed to the wall high
above him, a sepulcher of painted wood with no other adornment than the
inscription: "_Aqui yace Doña Constansa Augusta, Emperatriz de
Grecia_,"--Here lies Constance Augusta, Empress of Greece.

The name of Greece always had the power of exciting the little fellow's
imagination. His godfather, the lawyer Labarta, poet-laureate, could
not repeat this name without a lively thrill passing across his
grizzled beard and a new light in his eyes. Sometimes the mysterious
power of such a name evoked a new mystery and a more intense
interest,--Byzantium. How could that august lady, sovereign of remote
countries of magnificence and vision, have come to leave her remains in
a murky chapel of Valencia within a great chest like those that
treasured the remnants of old trumpery in the garrets of the notary?...

One day after mass Don Esteban had rapidly recounted her history to his
little son. She was the daughter of Frederick the Second of Suabia, a
Hohenstaufen, an emperor of Germany who esteemed still more his crown
of Sicily. In the palaces of Palermo,--veritable enchanted bowers of
Oriental gardens,--he had led the life both of pagan and savant,
surrounded by poets and men of science (Jews, Mahometans and
Christians), by Oriental dancers, alchemists, and ferocious Saracen
Guards. He legislated as did the jurisconsults of ancient Rome, at the
same time writing the first verses in Italian. His life was one
continual combat with the Popes who hurled upon him excommunication
upon excommunication. For the sake of peace he had become a crusader
and set forth upon the conquest of Jerusalem. But Saladin, another
philosopher of the same class, had soon come to an agreement with his
Christian colleague. The position of a little city surrounded with
untilled land and an empty sepulcher was really not worth the trouble
of decapitating mankind through the centuries. The Saracen monarch,
therefore, graciously delivered Jerusalem over to him, and the Pope
again excommunicated Frederick for having conquered the Holy Land
without bloodshed.

"He was a great man," Don Esteban used to murmur. "It must be admitted
that he was a great man...."

He would say this timidly, regretting that his enthusiasm for that
remote epoch should oblige him to make this concession to an enemy of
the Church. He shuddered to think of those sacrilegious books that
nobody had seen, but whose paternity Rome was accustomed to attribute
to this Sicilian Emperor--especially _Los Tres Impostores_ (The Three
Imposters), in which Frederick measured Moses, Jesus and Mahomet, by
the same standard. This royal author was, moreover, the most ancient
journalist of history, the first that in the full thirteenth century
had dared to appeal to the judgment of public opinion in his
manifestoes against Rome.

His daughter had married an Emperor of Byzantium, Juan Dukas Vatatzés,
the famous "Vatacio," when he was fifty and she fourteen. She was a
natural daughter soon legitimized like almost all his progeny,--a
product of his free harem, in which were mingled Saracen beauties and
Italian marchionesses. And the poor young girl married to "Vatacio the
heretic," by a father in need of political alliances had lived long
years in the Orient as a _basilisa_ or empress, arrayed in garments of
stiff embroidery representing scenes from the holy books, shod with
buskins laced with purple which bore on their soles eagles of
gold,--the highest symbol of the majesty of Rome.

At first she had reigned in Nicaea, refuge of the Greek Emperors while
Constantinople was in the power of the Crusaders, founders of a Latin
dynasty; then, when Vatacio died, the audacious Miguel Paleólogo
reconquered Constantinople, and the imperial widow found herself
courted by this victorious adventurer. For many years she resisted his
pretensions, finally maneuvering that her brother Manfred should return
her to her own country, where she arrived just in time to receive news
of her brother's death in battle, and to follow the flight of her
sister-in-law and nephews. They all took refuge in a castle defended by
Saracens in the service of Frederick, the only ones faithful to his
memory.

The castle fell into the power of the warriors of the Church, and
Manfred's wife was conducted to a prison where her life was shortly
after extinguished. Obscurity swallowed up the last remnants of the
family accursed by Rome. Death was always hovering around the
_basilisa_. They all perished--her brother Manfred, her half-brother,
the poetic and lamented Encio, hero of so many songs, and her nephew,
the knightly Coradino, who was to die later on under the axe of the
executioner upon attempting the defense of his rights. As the Oriental
empress did not represent any danger for the dynasty of Anjou, the
conqueror let her follow out her destiny, as lonely and forsaken as a
Shakespearian Princess.

As the widow of the late Emperor she was supposed to have a rental of
three thousand _besantes_ of fine gold. But this remote rental never
arrived, and almost as a pauper she embarked with her niece, Constanza,
in a ship going toward the perfumed shores of the Gulf of Valencia,
where she entered the convent of Santa Barbara. In the poverty of this
recently founded convent, the poor Empress lived until the following
century, recalling the adventures of her melancholy destiny and seeing
in imagination the palace of golden mosaics on Lake Nicaea, the gardens
where "Vatacio" had wished to die under a purple tent, the gigantic
walls of Constantinople, and the arches of Saint Sophia, with its
hieratic galaxies of saints and crowned monarchs.

From all her journeys and glittering fortunes she had preserved but one
thing--a stone--the sole baggage that accompanied her upon disembarking
on the shore of Valencia. It was a fragment from Nicodemia that had
miraculously sent forth water for the baptism of Santa Barbara.

The notary used to point out this rough, sacred stone inlaid in a
baptismal font of Holy Water. Without ceasing to admire these historic
bits of knowledge, Ulysses, nevertheless, used to receive them with a
certain ingratitude.

"My godfather could explain things to me in a better way.... My
godfather knows more."

When surveying the chapel of Santa Barbara during the Mass, he used
always to turn his eyes away from the funeral chest. The thought of
those bones turned to dust filled him with repugnance. That Doña
Constanza did not exist for him. The one who was interesting to him was
the other one, a little further on who was painted in a small picture.
Doña Constanza had had leprosy--an infirmity that in those days was not
permitted to Empresses--so Santa Barbara had miraculously cured her
devotee. In order to perpetuate this event, Santa Barbara was depicted
on the canvas as a lady dressed in a full skirt and slashed sleeves,
and at her feet was the _basilisa_ in the dress of a Valencian peasant
arrayed in great jewels. In vain Don Esteban affirmed that this picture
had been painted centuries after the death of the Empress. The child's
imagination vaulted disdainfully over such difficulties. Just as she
appeared on the canvas, Doña Constanza must have been--flaxen-haired,
with great black eyes, exceedingly handsome and a little inclined to
stoutness, perhaps, as was becoming to a woman accustomed to trailing
robes of state and who had consented to disguise herself as a
country-woman, merely because of her piety.

The image of the Empress obsessed his childish thoughts. At night when
he felt afraid in bed, impressed by the enormousness of the room that
served as his sleeping chamber, it was enough for him to recall the
sovereign of Byzantium to make him forget immediately his disquietude
and the thousand queer noises in the old building. "Doña Constanza!"...
And he would go off to sleep cuddling the pillow, as though it were the
head of the _basilisa_, his closed eyes continuing to see the black
eyes of the regal Señora, maternal and affectionate.

All womankind, on coming near him, took on something of that other one
who had been sleeping for the past six centuries in the upper part of
the chapel wall. When his mother, sweet and pallid Doña Cristina, would
stop her fancy work for an instant to give him a kiss, he always saw in
her smile something of the Empress. When Visenteta, a maid from the
country--a brunette, with eyes like blackberries, rosy-cheeked and
soft-skinned--would help him to undress, or awaken him to take him to
school, Ulysses would always throw his arms around her as though
enchanted by the perfume of her vigorous and chaste vitality.
"Visenteta!... Oh, Visenteta!..." And he was thinking of Doña
Constanza; Empresses must be just that fragrant.... Just like that must
be the texture of their skin!... And mysterious and incomprehensible
thrills would pass over his body like light exhalations, bubbling up
from the slime that is sleeping in the depths of all infancy and coming
to the surface during adolescence.

His father guessed in part this imaginary life upon seeing his pet
plays and readings.

"Ah, comedian!... Ah, play-actor!... You are like your godfather."

He used to say this with an ambiguous smile in which were equally
mingled his contempt for useless idealism and his respect for the
artist--a respect similar to the veneration that the Arabs feel for the
demented, believing their insanity to be a gift from God.

Doña Cristina was very anxious that this only son, as spoiled and
coddled as though he were a Crown Prince, should become a priest. To
see him intone his first Mass!... Then a canon; then a prelate! Who
knew if perhaps when she was no longer living, other women might not
admire him when preceded by a cross of gold, trailing the red state
robe of a cardinal-archbishop, and surrounded by a robed staff--envying
the mother who had given birth to this ecclesiastical magnate!...

In order to guide the inclinations of her son she had installed a
chapel in one of the empty rooms of the great old house. Ulysses'
school companions on free afternoons would hasten thither, doubly
attracted by the enchantment, of "playing priest" and by the generous
refreshment that Doña Cristina used to prepare for all the parish
clergy.

This solemnity would begin with the furious pealing of some bells
hanging over the parlor door, causing the notary's clients, seated in
the vestibule waiting for the papers that the clerks were just
scribbling off at full speed, to raise their heads in astonishment. The
metallic uproar rocked the edifice whose corners had seemed so full of
silence, and even disturbed the calm of the street through which a
carriage only occasionally passed.

While some of his chums were lighting the candles on the shrines and
unfolding the sacred altar cloths of beautiful lace work made by Doña
Cristina, the son and his more intimate friends were arraying
themselves before the faithful, covering themselves with surplices and
gold-worked vestments and putting wonderful caps on their heads. The
mother, who was peeping from behind one of the doors, had to make a
great effort not to rush in and devour Ulysses with kisses. With what
grace he was imitating the mannerisms and genuflections of the chief
priest!...

Up to this point all went perfectly. The three officiating near the
pyramid of lights were singing at the top of their lungs, and the
chorus of the faithful were responding from the end of the room with
tremors of impatience. Suddenly surged forth Protest, Schism and
Heresy. Those at the altar had already done more than enough. They must
now give up their chasubles to those who were looking on in order that
they, in their turn, might exercise the sacred ministry. That was what
they had agreed upon. But the clergy resisted with the haughtiness and
majesty of acquired right, and impious hands began pulling off the garb
of the saints, profaning them and even tearing them. Yells, kicks,
images and wax candles on the floor!... Scandal and abominations as
though the Anti-Christ were already born!... The prudence of Ulysses
put an end to the struggle: "What if we should go up in the _pòrche_ to
play?..."

The _pòrche_ was the immense garret of the great old house, so all
accepted the plan with enthusiasm. Church was over! And like a flock of
birds they went flying up the stairs over the landings of multi-colored
tiles with their chipped glaze, disclosing the red brick underneath.
The Valencian potters of the eighteenth century had adorned these tiles
with Berber and Christian galleys, birds from nearby Albufera,
white-wigged hunters offering flowers to a peasant girl, fruits of all
kinds, and spirited horsemen on steeds that were half the size of their
bodies parading before houses and trees that scarcely reached to the
knees of their prancing coursers.

The noisy group spread themselves over the upper floor as in the most
terrible invasions of history. Cats and mice fled together to the
far-away corners. The terrified birds sped like arrows through the
skylights of the roof.

The poor notary!... He had never returned empty-handed when called
outside of the city by the confidence of the rich farmers, incapable of
believing in any other legal science than his. That was the time when
the antique dealers had not yet discovered rich Valencia, where the
common people dressed in silks for centuries, and furniture, clothing
and pottery seemed always to be impregnated with the light of steady
sunshine and with the blue of an always clear atmosphere.

Don Esteban, who believed himself obliged to be an antiquarian by
virtue of his membership in various local societies, was continually
filling up his house with mementoes of the past picked up in the
villages, or that his clients freely gave him. He was not able to find
wall space enough for the pictures, nor room in his salons for the
furniture. Therefore, the latest acquisitions were provisionally taking
their way to the _pòrche_ to await definite installation. Years
afterward, when he should retire from his profession, he might be able
to construct a medieval castle--the most medieval possible on the
coasts of the _Marina_; near to the village where he had been born, he
would put each object in a place appropriate to its importance.

Whatever the notary deposited in the rooms of the first floor would
soon make its appearance in the garret as mysteriously as though it had
acquired feet; for Doña Cristina and her servants, obliged to live in a
continual struggle with the dust and cobwebs of an edifice that was
slowly dropping to pieces, were beginning to feel a ferocious hatred of
everything old.

Up here on the top floor, discords and battles because of lack of
things to dress up in, were not possible among the boys. They had only
to sink their hands into any one of the great old chests, pulsing with
the dull gnawing of the wood-borers, whose iron fretwork, pierced like
lace, was dropping away from its supports. Some of the youngsters,
brandishing short, small swords with hilts of mother-of-pearl, or long
blades such as the Cid carried, would then wrap themselves in mantles
of crimson silk darkened by ages. Others would throw over their
shoulders damask counterpanes of priceless old brocade, peasant skirts
with great flowers of gold, farthingales of richly woven texture that
crackled like paper.

When they grew tired of imitating comedians with noisy clashing of
spades and death-blows, Ulysses and the other active lads would propose
the game of "Bandits and Bailiffs." But thieves could not go clad in
such rich cloths; their attire ought to be inconspicuous. And so they
overturned some mountains of dull-colored stuffs that appeared like
mere sacking in whose dull woven designs could be dimly discerned legs,
arms, heads, and branching sprays of metallic green.

Don Esteban had found these fragments already torn by the farmers into
covers for their large earthen jars of oil or into blankets for the
work-mules. They were bits of tapestry copied from cartoons of Titian
and Rubens which the notary was keeping only out of historic respect.
Tapestry then, like all things that are plentiful, had no special
merit. The old-clothes dealers of Valencia had in their storehouses
dozens of the same kind of remnants and when the festival of _Corpus
Christi_ approached they used them to cover the natural barricades
formed by the ground, instead of building new ones in the street
followed by the processions.

At other times, Ulysses repeated the same game under the name of
"Indians and Conquerors." He had found in the mountains of books stored
away by his father, a volume that related in double columns, with
abundant wood cuts, the navigations of Columbus, the wars of Hernando
Cortez, and the exploits of Pizarro.

This book cast a glamor over the rest of his existence. Many times
afterwards, when a man, he found this image latent in the background of
his likes and desires. He really had read few of its paragraphs, but
what interested him most were the engravings--in his estimation more
worthy of admiration than all the pictures in the garret.

With the point of his long sword he would trace on the ground, just as
Pizarro had done before his discouraged companions, ready on the Island
of Gallo to desist from the conquest: "Let every good Castilian pass
this line...." And the good Castilians--a dozen little scamps with long
capes and ancient swords whose hilts reached up to their mouths--would
hasten to group themselves around their chief, who was imitating the
heroic gestures of the conqueror. Then was heard the war-cry: "At them!
Down with the Indians!"

It was agreed that the Indians should flee and on that account they
were modestly clad in scraps of tapestry and cock feathers on their
head. But they fled treacherously, and upon finding themselves upon
_vargueños_, tables and pyramids of chairs, they began to shy books at
their persecutors. Venerable leather volumes decorated with dull gold,
and folios of white parchment fell face downward on the floor, their
fastenings breaking apart and spreading abroad a rain of printed or
manuscript pages and yellowing engravings--as though tired of living,
they were letting their life-blood flow from their bodies.

The uproar of these wars of conquest brought Doña Cristina to the
rescue. She no longer cared to harbor little imps who preferred the
adventurous whoops of the garret to the mystic delights of the
abandoned chapel. The Indians were most worthy of execration. In order
to make splendor of attire counterbalance the humility of their role,
they had slashed their sinful scissors into entire tapestries,
mutilating vestments so as to arrange upon their breasts the head of a
hero or goddess.

Finding himself without playfellows, Ulysses discovered a new
enchantment in the garret life. The silence haunted by the creaking of
wood and the scampering of invisible animals, the inexplicable fall of
a picture or of some piled-up books, used to make him thrill with a
sensation of fear and nocturnal mystery, despite the rays of sunlight
that came filtering in through the skylights; but he began to enjoy
this solitude when he found that he could people it to his fancy. Real
beings soon annoyed him like the inopportune sounds that sometimes
awoke him from beautiful dreams. The garret was a world several
centuries old that now belonged entirely to him and adjusted itself to
all his fancies.

Seated in a trunk without a lid, he made it balance itself, imitating
with his mouth the roarings of the tempest. It was a caravel, a
galleon, a ship such as he had seen in the old books, its sails painted
with lions and crucifixes, a castle on the poop and a figure-head
carved on the prow that dipped down into the waves, only to reappear
dripping with foam.

The trunk, by dint of vigorous pushing, could be made to reach the
rugged coast at the corner of the old chest, the triangular gulf made
of two chests of drawers, and the smooth beach formed by some bundles
of clothes. And the navigator, followed by a crew as numerous as it was
imaginary, would leap ashore, sword in hand, scaling some mountains of
books that were the Andes, and piercing various volumes with the tip of
an old lance in order to plant his standard there. Oh, why had he not
been one of the conquerors?...

Fragments of a conversation between his godfather and his father, who
believed everything was already known regarding the surface of the
earth, left him unconvinced. Something must still be left for him to
discover! He was the meeting point of two families of sailors. His
mother's brothers had ships on the coast of Catalunia. His father's
ancestors had been valorous and obscure navigators, and there in the
_Marina_ was his uncle, the doctor, a genuine man of the sea.

When he grew tired of these imaginative orgies, he used to examine the
portraits of different epochs stowed away in the garret. He preferred
those of the women--noble dames with short-cropped, curled hair bound
by a knot of ribbon on the temple, like those that Velazquez loved to
paint, and long faces of the century following, with cherry-colored
mouth, two patches on the cheeks, and a tower of white hair. The memory
of the Grecian _basilisa_ appeared to emanate from these paintings. All
the high-born dames seemed to have something in common with her.

Among the portraits of the men there was one of a bishop that irritated
him by its absurd childishness. He appeared almost his own age, an
adolescent bishop, with imperious and aggressive eyes. These eyes used
to inspire the sensitive lad with a certain terror, and he therefore
decided to have done with them. "Take that!" and he ran his sword
through the old chipped picture, making two gashes replace the
challenging eyes. Then he added a few gashes more for good measure....
That same evening, his godfather having been invited to supper, the
notary spoke of a certain portrait acquired a few months before in the
neighborhood of Játiva, a city that he had always regarded with
interest on account of the Borgias having been born in one of its
suburbs. The two men were of the same opinion. That almost infantile
prelate could have been no other than Caesar Borgia, made Archbishop of
Valencia when sixteen years old by his father, the Pope. On their first
free day they would examine the portrait with particular attention....
And Ulysses, hanging his head, felt every mouthful sticking in his
throat.

For the fanciful lad, a pleasure even more intense and substantial than
his lonely games in the garret was a visit to his godfather's home; to
his childish eyes, this godparent, the lawyer, Don Carmelo Labarta, was
the personification of the ideal life, of glory, of poesy. The notary
was wont to speak of him with enthusiasm, yet pitying him at the same
time.

"That poor Don Carmelo!... The leading authority of the age in civilian
matters! By applying himself he might earn some money, but verses
attracted him more than lawsuits."

Ulysses used to enter his office with keen emotion. Above rows of
multicolored and gilded books that covered the walls, he saw some great
plaster heads with towering foreheads and vacant eyes that seemed
always to be contemplating an immense nothingness.

The child could repeat their names like a fragment from a choir book,
from Homer to Victor Hugo. Then his glance would seek another head
equally glorious although less white, with blonde and grizzled beard,
rubicund nose and bilious cheeks that in certain moments scattered bits
of scale. The sweet eyes of his godfather--yellowish eyes spotted with
black dots--used to receive Ulysses with the doting affection of an
aging, old bachelor who needs to invent a family. He it was who had
given him at the baptismal font the name which had awakened so much
admiration and ridicule among his school companions; with the patience
of an old grand-sire narrating saintly stories to his descendants, he
would tell Ulysses over and over the adventures of the navigating King
of Ithaca for whom he had been named.

With no less devotion did the lad regard all the souvenirs of glory
that adorned his house--wreaths of golden leaves, silver cups, nude
marble statuettes, placques of different metals upon plush backgrounds
on which glistened imperishably the name of the poet Labarta. All this
booty the tireless Knight of Letters had conquered by means of his
verse.

When the Floral Games were announced, the competitors used to tremble
lest it might occur to the great Don Carmelo to hanker after some of
the premiums. With astonishing facility he used to carry off the
natural flower awarded for the heroic ode, the cup of gold for the
amorous romance, the pair of statues dedicated to the most complete
historical study, the marble bust for the best legend in prose, and
even the "art bronze" reward of philological study. The other aspirants
might try for the left-overs.

Fortunately he had confined himself to local literature, and his
inspiration would not admit any other drapery than that of Valencian
verse. Next to Valencia and its past glories, Greece claimed his
admiration. Once a year Ulysses beheld him arrayed in his frock coat,
his chest starred with decorations and in his lapel the golden cicada,
badge of the poets of Provence.

He it was who was going to be celebrated in the fiesta of Provençal
literature, in which he always played the principal role; he was the
prize bard, lecturer, or simple idol to whom other poets were
dedicating their eulogies--clerics given to rhyming, personifiers of
religious images, silk-weavers who felt the vulgarity of their
existence perturbed by the itchings of inspiration--all the brotherhood
of popular bards of the ingenuous and domestic brand who recalled the
_Meistersingers_ of the old German cities.

His godson always imagined him with a crown of laurel on his brows just
like those mysterious blind poets whose portraits and busts ornamented
the library. In real life he saw perfectly well that his head had no
such adornment, but reality lost its value before the firmness of his
conceptions. His godfather certainly must wear a wreath when he was not
present. Undoubtedly he was accustomed to wear it as a house cap when
by himself.

Another thing which he greatly admired about the grand man was his
extensive travels. He had lived in distant Madrid--the scene of almost
all the novels read by Ulysses--and once upon a time he had crossed the
frontier, going courageously into a remote country called the south of
France, in order to visit another poet whom he was accustomed to call
"My friend, Mistral." And the lad's imagination, hasty and illogical in
its decisions, used to envelop his godfather in a halo of historic
interest, similar to that of the conquerors.

At the stroke of the twelve o'clock chimes Labarta, who never permitted
any informality in table matters, would become very impatient, cutting
short the account of his journeys and triumphs.

"Doña Pepa!... We have a guest here."

Doña Pepa was the housekeeper, the great man's companion who for the
past fifteen years had been chained to the chariot of his glory. The
portières would part and through them would advance a huge bosom
protruding above an abdomen cruelly corseted. Afterwards, long
afterwards, would appear a white and radiant countenance, a face like a
full moon, and while her smile like a night star was greeting the
little Ulysses, the dorsal complement of her body kept on coming
in--forty carnal years, fresh, exuberant, tremendous.

The notary and his wife always spoke of Doña Pepa as of a familiar
person, but the child never had seen her in their home. Doña Cristina
used to eulogize her care of the poet--but distantly and with no desire
to make her acquaintance--while Don Esteban would make excuses for the
great man.

"What can you expect!... He is an artist, and artists are not able to
live as God commands. All of them, however dignified they may appear,
are rather carnal at heart. What a pity! such an eminent lawyer!... The
money that he could make...!"

His father's lamentations opened up new horizons to the little fellow's
suspicions. Suddenly he grasped the prime motive force of our
existence, hitherto only conjectured and enveloped in mystery. His
godfather had relations with a woman; he was enamored like the heroes
of the novels! And the boy recalled many of his Valencian poems, all
rhapsodizing a lady--sometimes singing of her great beauty with the
rapture and noble lassitude of a recent possession; at others
complaining of her coldness, begging of her that disposition of her
soul without which the gift of the body is as naught.

Ulysses imagined to himself a grand señora as beautiful as Doña
Constanza. At the very least, she must be a Marchioness. His godfather
certainly deserved that much! And he also imagined to himself that
their rendezvous must be in the morning, in one of the strawberry
gardens near the city, where his parents were accustomed to take him
for his breakfast chocolate after hearing the first dawn service on the
Sundays of April and May.

Much later, when seated at his godfather's table, he surprised the poet
exchanging glances over his head with the housekeeper, and began to
suspect that possibly Doña Pepa might be the inspiration of so much
lachrymose and enthusiastic verse. But his great loyalty rebelled
before such a supposition. No, no, it could not be possible; assuredly
there must be another!

The notary, who for long years had been friendly with Labarta, kept
trying to direct him with his practical spirit, like the boy who guides
a blind man. A modest income inherited from his parents was enough for
the poet to live upon. In vain his friend brought him cases that
represented enormous fees. The voluminous documents would become
covered with dust on his table and Don Esteban would have to saddle
himself with the dates in order that the end of the legal procedures
should not slip by.

His son, Ulysses would be a very different sort of man, thought the
notary. In his mind's eye he could see the lad as a great civilian
jurist like his godfather, but with a positive activity inherited from
his father. Fortune would enter through his doors on waves of stamped
paper.

Furthermore, he would also possess the notarial studio--the dusty
office with its ancient furniture and great wardrobes, with its screen
doors and green curtains, behind which reposed the volumes of the
protocol, covered with yellowing calfskin with initials and numbers on
their backs. Don Esteban realized fully all that his study represented.

"There is no orange grove," he would say in his expansive moments;
"there are no rice plantations that can produce what this estate does.
Here there are no frosts, nor strong sea winds, nor inundations."

The clientele was certain--people from the church, who had the devotees
back of them and considered Don Esteban as one of their class, and
farmers, many rich farmers. The families of the country folk, whenever
they heard any talk about smart men, always thought immediately of the
notary from Valencia. With religious veneration they saw him adjust his
spectacles in order to read as an expert the bill of sale or dowry
contract that his amanuenses had just drawn up. It was written in
Castilian and for the better understanding of his listeners he would
read it, without the slightest hesitation, in Valencian. What a man!...

Afterwards, while the contracting parties were signing it, the notary
raising the little glass window at the front, would entertain the
assembly with some local legends, always decent, without any illusions
to the sins of the flesh, but always those in which the digestive
organs figured with every degree of license. The clients would roar
with laughter, captivated by this funny eschatalogy, and would haggle
less in the matter of fees. Famous Don Esteban!... Just for the
pleasure of hearing his yarns they would have liked a legal paper drawn
up every month.

The future destiny of the notarial crown prince was the object of many
after-dinner conversations on the special days when the poet was an
invited guest.

"What do you want to be?" Labarta asked his godson.

His mother's supplicating glance seemed desperately to implore the
little fellow: "Say Archbishop, my king." For the good señora, her son
could not make his début in any other way than in a church career. The
notary always used to speak very positively from his own viewpoint,
without consulting the interested party. He would be an eminent
jurisconsult; thousands of dollars were going to roll toward him as
though they were pennies; he was going to figure in university
solemnities in a cloak of crimson satin and an academic cap announcing
from its multiple sides the tasseled glory of the doctorate. The
students in his lecture-room would listen to him most respectfully. Who
knew what the government of his country might not have in store for
him!...

Ulysses interrupted these images of future grandeur:

"I want to be a captain."

The poet approved. He felt the unreflective enthusiasm which all
pacific and sedentary beings have for the plume and the sword. At the
mere sight of a uniform his soul always thrilled with the amorous
tenderness of a child's nurse when she finds herself courted by a
soldier.

"Fine!" said Labarta. "Captain of what?... Of artillery?... Of the
staff?..."

A pause.

"No; captain of a ship."

Don Esteban looked up at the roof, raising his hands in horror. He well
knew who was guilty of this ridiculous idea, the one who had put such
absurd longings in his son's head!

And he was thinking of his brother, the retired doctor, who was living
in the paternal home over there in the _Marina:_--an excellent man, but
a little crazy, whom the people on the coast called the _Dotor_, and
the poet Labarta had nicknamed the _Triton_.



CHAPTER II


MATER AMPHITRITE

When the _Triton_ occasionally appeared in Valencia, thrifty Doña
Cristina was obliged to modify the dietary of her family. This man ate
nothing but fish, and her soul of an economical housewife worried
greatly at the thought of the extraordinarily high price that fish
brings in a port of exportation.

Life in that house, where everything always jogged along so uniformly,
was greatly upset by the presence of the doctor. A little after
daybreak, just when its inhabitants were usually enjoying the dessert
of their night's sleep, hearing drowsily the rumble of the early
morning carts and the bell-ringing of the first Masses, the house would
reëcho to the rude banging of doors and heavy footsteps making the
stairway creak. It was the _Triton_ rushing out on the street,
incapable of remaining between four walls after the first streak of
light. Following the currents of the early morning life, he would reach
the market, stopping before the flower stands where were the most
numerous gatherings of women.

The eyes of the women turned toward him instinctively with an
expression of interest and fear. Some blushed as he passed by,
imagining against their will what an embrace from this hideous and
restless Colossus must be.

"He is capable of crushing a flea on his arm," the sailors of his
village used to boast when trying to emphasize the hardness of his
biceps. His body lacked fat, and under his swarthy skin bulged great,
rigid and protruding muscles--an Herculean texture from which had been
eliminated every element incapable of producing strength. Labarta found
in him a great resemblance to the marine divinities. He was Neptune
before his head had silvered, or Poseidon as the primitive Greek poets
had seen him with hair black and curly, features tanned by the salt
air, and with a ringleted beard whose two spiral ends seemed formed by
the dripping of the water of the sea. The nose somewhat flattened by a
blow received in his youth, and the little eyes, oblique and tenacious,
gave to his countenance an expression of Asiatic ferocity, but this
impression melted away when his mouth parted in a smile, showing his
even, glistening teeth, the teeth of a man of the sea accustomed to
live upon salt food.

During the first few days of his visit he would wander through the
streets wavering and bewildered. He was afraid of the carriages; the
patter of the passers-by on the pavements annoyed him; he, who had seen
the most important ports of both hemispheres, complained of the bustle
in the capital of a province. Finally he would instinctively take the
road from the harbor in search of the sea, his eternal friend, the
first to salute him every morning upon opening the door of his own home
down there on the _Marina_.

On these excursions he would oftentimes be accompanied by his little
nephew. The bustle on the docks,--(the creaking of the cranes, the dull
rumble of the carts, the deafening cries of the freighters),--always
had for him a certain music reminiscent of his youth when he was
traveling as a doctor on a transatlantic steamer.

His eyes also received a caress from the past upon taking in the
panorama of the port--steamers smoking, sailboats with their canvas
spread out in the sunlight, bulwarks of orange crates, pyramids of
onions, walls of sacks of rice and compact rows of wine casks paunch to
paunch. And coming to meet the outgoing cargo were long lines of
unloaded goods being lined up as they arrived--hills of coal coming
from England, sacks of cereal from the Black Sea, dried codfish from
Newfoundland sounding like parchment skins as they thudded down on the
dock, impregnating the atmosphere with their salty dust, and yellow
lumber from Norway that still held a perfume of the pine woods.

Oranges and onions fallen from the crates were rotting in the sun,
scattering their sweet and acrid juices. The sparrows were hopping
around the mountains of wheat, flitting timidly away when hearing
approaching footsteps. Over the blue surface of the harbor waters the
sea gulls of the Mediterranean, small, fine and white as doves, twined
in and out in their interminable contra-dances.

The _Triton_ went on enumerating to his nephew the class and specialty
of every kind of vessel; and upon discovering that Ulysses was capable
of confusing a brigantine with a frigate, he would roar in scandalized
amazement.

"Heavens! Then what in the devil do they teach your in school?..."

Upon passing near the citizens of Valencia seated on the wharves,
fishing rod in hand, he would shoot a glance of commiseration toward
their empty baskets. Over there by his house on the coast, before the
sun would be up, he would already have covered the bottom of his boat
with enough to eat for a week. The misery of the cities!

Standing on the last points of the rocky ledge, his glance would sweep
the immense plain, describing to his nephew the mysteries hidden beyond
the horizon. At their left, beyond the blue mountains of Oropesa, which
bound the Valencian gulf, he could see in imagination Barcelona, where
he had numerous friends, Marseilles, that prolongation of the Orient
fastened on the European coast, and Genoa with its terraced palaces on
hills covered with gardens. Then his vision would lose itself on the
horizon stretching out in front of him. That was the road of his happy
youth.

Straight ahead in a direct line was Naples with its smoking mountain,
its music and its swarthy dancing girls with hoop earrings; further on,
the Isles of Greece; at the foot of an Aquatic Street, Constantinople;
and still beyond, bordering the great liquid court of the Black Sea, a
series of ports where the Argonauts--sunk in a seething mass of races,
fondled by the felinism of slaves, the voluptuosity of the Orientals,
and the avarice of the Jews--were fast forgetting their origin.

At their right was Africa; the Egyptian ports with their traditional
corruption that at sunset was beginning to tremble and steam like a
fetid morass; Alexandria in whose low coffee houses were imitation
Oriental dancers with no more clothes than a pocket handkerchief, every
woman of a different nation and shrieking in chorus all the languages
of the earth....

The doctor withdrew his eyes from the sea in order to observe his
flattened nose. He was recalling a night of Egyptian heat increased by
the fumes of whiskey; the familiarity of the half-clad public women,
the scuffle with some ruddy Northern sailors, the encounter in the dark
which obliged him to flee with bleeding face to the ship that,
fortunately, was weighing anchor at dawn. Like all Mediterranean men,
he never went ashore without wearing a dagger hidden on his person, and
he had to "sting" with it in order to make way for himself.

"What times those were!" said the _Triton_ with more regret and
homesickness than remorse; and then he would add by way of excuse, "Ay,
but then I was only twenty-four years old!"

These memories made him turn his eyes toward a huge bluish bulk
extending out into the sea and looking to the casual spectator like a
great barren island. It was the promontory crowned by the Mongó, the
great Ferrarian promontory of the ancient geographers, the
furthest-reaching point of the peninsula in the lower Mediterranean
that closes the Gulf of Valencia on the south.

It had the form of a hand whose digits were mountains, but lacked the
thumb. The other four fingers extended out into the waves, forming the
capes of San Antonio, San Martin, La Nao and Almoraira. In one of their
coves was the _Triton's_ native village, and the home of the
Ferraguts--hunters of black pirates in other days, contrabandists at
times in modern days, sailors in all ages, appearing originally,
perhaps, from those first wooden horses that came leaping over the foam
seething around the promontory.

In that home in the _Marina_ he wished to live and die, with no further
desire of seeing more lands, with that sudden immovability that attacks
the vagabonds of the waves and makes them fix themselves upon a ledge
of the coast like a mollusk or bunch of seaweed.

Soon the _Triton_ grew tired of these strolls to the harbor. The sea of
Valencia was not a real sea for him. The waters of the river and of the
irrigation canals disturbed him. When it rained in the mountains of
Aragon, an earthy liquid always discharged itself into the Gulf,
tinting the waves with flesh color and the foam with yellow. Besides,
it was impossible to indulge in his daily sport of swimming. One winter
morning, when he began to undress himself on the beach, the crowd
gathered around him as though attracted by a phenomenon. Even the fish
of the Gulf had to him an insufferable slimy taste.

"I'm going back home," he would finally say to the notary and his wife.
"I can't understand how in the world you are able to live here!"

In one of these retreats to the _Marina_ he insisted upon taking
Ulysses home with him. The summer season was beginning, the boy would
be free from school for three months, and the notary, who was not able
to go far away from the city, was going to pass the summer with his
family on the beach at Cabañal checkered by bad-smelling irrigation
canals near a forlorn sea. The little fellow was looking very pale and
weak on account of his studies and hectoring. His uncle would make him
as strong and agile as a dolphin. And in spite of some very lively
disputes, he succeeded in snatching the child away from Doña Cristina.

The first things that Ulysses admired upon entering the doctor's home
were the three frigates adorning the ceiling of the dining-room--three
marvelous vessels in which there was not lacking a single sail nor
pulley rope, nor anchor, and which might be made to sail over the sea
at a moment's notice.

They were the work of his grandfather Ferragut. Wishing to release his
two sons from the marine service which had weighed upon the family for
many centuries, he had sent them to the University of Valencia in order
that they might become inland gentlemen. The older, Esteban, had
scarcely terminated his career before he obtained a notaryship in
Catalunia. The younger one, Antonio, became a doctor so as not to
thwart the old man's wishes, but as soon as he acquired his degree he
offered his services to a transatlantic steamer. His father had closed
the door of the sea against him and he had entered by the window.

And so, as Ferragut Senior began to grow old, he lived completely
alone. He used to look after his property--a few vineyards scattered
along the coast in sight of his home--and was in frequent
correspondence with his son, the notary. From time to time there came a
letter from the younger one, his favorite, posted in remote countries
that the old Mediterranean seaman knew only by hearsay. And during his
long, dull hours in the shade of his arbor facing the blue and luminous
sea, he used to entertain himself constructing these little models of
boats. They were all frigates of great tonnage and fearless sail. Thus
the old skipper would console himself for having commanded during his
lifetime only heavy and clumsy merchant vessels like the ships of other
centuries, in which he used to carry wine from Cette or cargo
prohibited in Gibraltar and the coast of Africa.

Ulysses was not long in recognizing the rare popularity enjoyed by his
uncle, the doctor--a popularity composed of the most antagonistic
elements. The people used to smile in speaking of him as though he were
a little touched, yet they dared to indulge in these smiles only when
at a safe distance, for he inspired a certain terror in all of them. At
the same time they used to admire him as a local celebrity, for he had
traversed all seas, and possessed, besides, a violent and tempestuous
strength which was the terror and pride of his neighbors. The husky
youths when testing the vigor of their fists, boxing with crews of the
English vessels that came there for cargoes of raisins, used to evoke
the doctor's name as a consolation in case of defeat. "If only the
_Dotor_ could have been here!... Half a dozen Englishmen are nothing to
him!"

There was no vigorous undertaking, however absurd it might be, that
they would not believe him capable of. He used to inspire the faith of
the miracle-working saints and audacious highway captains. On calm,
sunshiny winter mornings the people would often go running down to the
beach, looking anxiously over the lonely sea. The veterans who were
toasting themselves in the sun near the overturned boats, on scanning
the broad horizon, would finally discern an almost imperceptible point,
a grain of sand dancing capriciously on the waves.

They would all break into shouts and conjectures. It was a buoy, a
piece of masthead, the drift from a distant shipwreck. For the women it
was somebody drowned, so bloated that it was floating like a leather
bottle, after having been many days in the water.

Suddenly the same supposition would arise in every perplexed mind. "I
wonder if it could be the _Dotor!_" A long silence.... The bit of wood
was taking the form of a head; the corpse was moving. Many could now
perceive the bubble of foam around his chest that was advancing like
the prow of a ship, and the vigorous strokes of his arms.... "Yes, it
surely was the _Dotor!_"... The old sea dogs loaned their telescopes to
one another in order to recognize his beard sunk in the water and his
face, contracted by his efforts or expanded by his snortings.

And the _Dotor_ was soon treading the dry beach, naked and as serenely
unashamed as a god, giving his hand to the men, while the women
shrieked, lifting their aprons in front of one eye--terrified, yet
admiring the dripping vision.

All the capes of the promontory challenged him to double them, swimming
like a dolphin; he felt impelled to measure all the bays and coves with
his arms, like a proprietor who distrusts another's measurements and
rectifies them in order to affirm his right of possession. He was a
human bark who, with the keel of his breast, cut the foam, whirling
through the sunken rocks and the pacific waters in whose depths
sparkled fishes among mother-of-pearl twigs and stars moving like
flowers.

He used to seat himself to rest on the black rocks with overskirts of
seaweed that raised or lowered their fringe at the caprice of the wave,
awaiting the night and the chance vessel that might come to dash
against them like a piece of bark. Like a marine reptile he had even
penetrated certain caves of the coast, drowsy and glacial lakes
illuminated by mysterious openings where the atmosphere is black and
the water transparent, where the swimmer has a bust of ebony and legs
of crystal. In the course of these swimming expeditions he ate all the
living beings he encountered fastened to the rocks by antennas and
arms. The friction of the great, terrified fish that fled, bumping
against him with the violence of a projectile, used to make him laugh.

In the night hours passed before his grandfather's little ships,
Ulysses used to hear the _Triton_ speak of the _Peje Nicolao_, a
man-fish of the Straits of Messina mentioned by Cervantes and other
authors, who lived in the water maintaining himself by the donations
from the ships. His uncle must be some relative of this _Peje Nicolao_.
At other times this uncle would mention a certain Greek who in order to
see his lady-love swam the Hellespont every night. And he, who used to
know the Dardanelles, was longing to return there as a simple passenger
merely that a poet named Lord Byron might not be the only one to
imitate the legendary crossing.

The books that he kept in his home, the nautical charts fastened to the
walls, the flasks and jars filled with the animal and vegetable life of
the sea, and more than all this, his tastes which were so at variance
with the customs of his neighbors, had given the _Triton_ the
reputation of a mysterious sage, the fame of a wizard.

All those who were well and strong considered him crazy, but the moment
that there was the slightest break in their health they would share the
same faith as the poor women who oftentimes passed long hours in the
home of the _Dotor_, seeing his bark afar off and patiently awaiting
his return from the sea, in order to show him the sick children they
carried in their arms. He had an advantage over all other doctors, as
he made no charge for his services; better still, many sick people came
away from his house with money in their hands.

The _Dotor_ was rich--the richest man in the countryside; a man who
really did not know what to do with his money. His maid-servant--an old
woman who had known his father and served his mother--used daily to
receive from his hands the fish provided for the two with a regal
generosity. The _Triton_, who had hoisted sail at daybreak, used to
disembark before eleven, and soon the purpling lobster was crackling on
the red coals, sending forth delicious odors; the stew pot was bubbling
away, thickening its broth with the succulent fat of the sea-scorpion;
the oil in the frying pan was singing, browning the flame-colored skin
of the salmonettes; and the sea urchins and the mussels opened hissing
under his knife, were emptying their still living pulp into the boiling
stew pan. Furthermore, a cow with full udders was mooing in the yard,
and dozens of chickens with innumerable broods were cackling
incessantly.

The flour kneaded and baked by his servant, and the coffee thick as
mud, was all that the _Triton_ purchased with his money. If he hunted
for a bottle of brandy on his return from a swim, it was only to use it
in rubbing himself down.

Money entered through his doors once a year, when the girls of the
vintage lined up among the trellises of his vineyards, cutting the
bunches of little, close fruit and spreading them out to dry in some
small sheds called _riurraus_. Thus was produced the small raisin
preferred by the English for the making of their puddings. The sale was
a sure thing, the boats always coming from the north to get the fruit.
And the _Triton_, upon finding five or six thousand pesetas in his
hand, would be greatly perplexed, inwardly asking himself what a man
was ever going to do with so much money.

"All this is yours," he said, showing the house to his nephew.

His also the boat, the books and the antique furniture in whose drawers
the money was so openly hid that it invited attention.

In spite of seeing himself lord of all that surrounded him, a rough and
affectionate despotism, kept nevertheless, weighing the child down. He
was very far from his mother, that good lady who was always closing the
windows near him and never letting him go out without tying his
neckscarf around him with an accompaniment of kisses.

Just when he was sleeping soundest, believing that the night would
still be many hours longer, he would feel himself awakened by a violent
tugging at his leg. His uncle could not touch him in any other way.
"Get up, cabin boy!" In vain he would protest with the profound
sleepiness of youth.... Was he, or was he not the "ship's cat" of the
bark of which his uncle was the captain and only crew?...

His uncle's paws bared him to the blasts of salt air that were entering
through the windows. The sea was dark and veiled by a light fog. The
last stars were sparkling with twinkles of surprise, ready to flee. A
crack began to appear on the leaden horizon, growing redder and redder
every minute, like a wound through which the blood is flowing. The
ship's cat was loaded up with various empty baskets, the skipper
marching before him like a warrior of the waves, carrying the oars on
his shoulders, his feet rapidly making hollows on the sand. Behind him
the village was beginning to awaken and, over the dark waters, the
sails of the fishermen, fleeing the inner sea, were slipping past like
ghostly shrouds.

Two vigorous strokes of the oar sent their boat out from the little
wharf of stones, and soon he was untying the sails from the gunwales
and preparing the ropes. The unfurled canvas whistled and swelled in
bellying whiteness. "There we are! Now for a run!"

The water was beginning to sing, slipping past both sides of the prow.
Between it and the edge of the sail could be seen a bit of black sea,
and coming little by little over its line, a great red streak. The
streak soon became a helmet, then a hemisphere, then an Arabian arch
confined at the bottom, until finally it shot up out of the liquid mass
as though it were a bomb sending forth flashes of flame. The
ash-colored clouds became stained with blood and the large rocks of the
coast began to sparkle like copper mirrors. As the last stars were
extinguished, a swarm of fire-colored fishes came trailing along before
the prow, forming a triangle with its point in the horizon. The mist on
the mountain tops was taking on a rose color as though its whiteness
were reflecting a submarine eruption. "_Bon dia!_" called the doctor to
Ulysses, who was occupied in warming his hands stiffened by the wind.

And, moved with childlike joy by the dawn of a new day, the _Triton_
sent his bass voice booming across the maritime silence, several times
intoning sentimental melodies that in his youth he had heard sung by a
vaudeville prima donna dressed as a ship's boy, at other times caroling
in Valencian the chanteys of the coast--fishermen's songs invented as
they drew in their nets, in which most shameless words were flung
together on the chance of making them rhyme. In certain windings of the
coast the sail would be lowered, leaving the boat with no other motion
than a gentle rocking around its anchor rope.

Upon seeing the space which had been obscured by the shadow of the
boat's hulk, Ulysses found the bottom of the sea so near that he almost
believed that he could touch it with the point of his oar. The rocks
were like glass. In their interstices and hollows the plants were
moving like living creatures, and the little animals had the
immovability of vegetables and stones. The boat appeared to be floating
in the air and athwart the liquid atmosphere that wraps this abysmal
world, the fish hooks were dangling, and a swarm of fishes was swimming
and wriggling toward its encounter with death.

It was a sparkling effervescence of yellowing flames, of bluish backs
and rosy fins. Some came out from the caves silvered and vibrant as
lightning flashes of mercury; others swam slowly, big-bellied, almost
circular, with a golden coat of mail. Along the slopes, the crustaceans
came scrambling along on their double row of claws attracted by this
novelty that was changing the mortal calm of the under-sea where all
follow and devour, only to be devoured in turn. Near the surface
floated the medusae, living parasols of an opaline whiteness with
circular borders of lilac or red bronze. Under their gelatinous domes
was the skein of filaments that served them for locomotion, nutrition
and reproduction.

The fishermen had only to pull in their lines and a new prisoner would
fall into their boat. Their baskets were filling up so fast that the
_Triton_ and his nephew grew tired of this easy fishing.... The sun was
now near the height of its curve, and every wavelet was carrying away a
bit of the golden band that divided the blue immensity. The wood of the
boat appeared to be on fire.

"We've earned our day's pay," said the _Triton_, looking at the sky and
then at the baskets. "Now let's clean up a little bit."

And stripping off his clothing, he threw himself into the sea. Ulysses
saw him descend from the center of the ring of foam opened by his body,
and could gauge by it the profundity of that fantastic world composed
of glassy rocks, animal plants and stone animals. As it went down, the
tawny body of the swimmer took on the transparency of porcelain. It
appeared of bluish crystal--a statue made of a Venetian mirror
composition that was going to break as soon as it touched the bottom.

Like a god he was passing through the deeps, snatching plants out by
the roots, pursuing with his hands the flashes of vermilion and gold
hidden in the cracks of the rocks. Minutes would pass by; he was going
to stay down forever; he would never come up again. And the boy was
beginning to think uneasily of the possibility of having to guide the
bark back to the coast all alone. Suddenly the body of white crystal
began taking on a greenish hue, growing larger and larger, becoming
dark and coppery, until above the surface appeared the head of the
swimmer, who, spouting and snorting, was holding up all his submarine
plunder to the little fellow.

"Now then, your turn!" he ordered in an imperious tone.

All attempts at resistance were useless. His uncle either insulted him
with the harshest kind of words or coaxed him with promises of safety.
He never knew certainly whether he threw himself into the water or
whether a tug from the doctor jerked him from the boat. The first
surprise having passed, he had the impression of remembering some long
forgotten thing. He was swimming instinctively, divining what he ought
to do before his master told him. Within him was awakening the
ancestral experience of a race of sailors who had struggled with the
sea and, sometimes, had remained forever in its bosom.

Recollection of what was existing beyond his feet suddenly made him
lose his serenity,--his lively imagination making him shriek,

"Uncle!... Uncle!"

And he clutched convulsively at the hard island of bearded and smiling
muscles. His uncle came up immovable, as though his feet of stone were
fastened to the bottom of the ocean. He was like the nearby promontory
that was darkening and chilling the water with its ebony shadow.

Thus would slip by the mornings devoted to fishing and swimming; then
in the afternoons there were tramps over the steep shores of the coast.

The _Dotor_ knew the heights of the promontory as well as its depths.
Up the pathways of the wild goat they clambered to its peaks in order
to get a view of the Island of Ibiza. At sunset the distant Balearic
Islands appeared like a rose-colored flame rising out of the waves. At
other times the cronies made trips along the water's edge, and the
_Triton_ would show his nephew hidden caves into which the
Mediterranean was working its way with slow undulations. These were
like maritime roadsteads where boats might anchor completely concealed
from view. There the galleys of the Berbers had often hidden, in order
to fall unexpectedly upon a nearby village.

In one of these caves, on a rocky pedestal, Ulysses often saw a heap of
bundles.

"Well, now, what of it!" expostulated the doctor. "Every man must gain
his living as best he can."

When they stumbled upon a solitary custom house officer resting upon
his gun and looking out toward the sea, the doctor would offer him a
cigar and give him medical advice if he were sick. "Poor men! so badly
paid!"... But his sympathies were always going out to the others--to
the enemies of the law. He was the son of his sea, and in the make-up
of all Mediterranean heroes and sailors there had always been something
of the pirate or smuggler. The Phoenicians, who by their navigation
spread abroad the first works of civilization, instituted this service,
reaping their reward by filling their barks with stolen women, rich
merchandise of easy transportation.

Piracy and smuggling had formed the historic past of all the villages
that Ulysses was visiting, some huddled in the shelter of the
promontory crowned with a lighthouse, others opening on the concavity
of a bay dotted with barren islands girdled with foam. The old churches
had turrets on their walls and loopholes in their doors for shooting
with culverins and blunderbusses. The entire neighborhood used to take
refuge in them when the smoke columns from their watchmen would warn
them of the landing of pirates from Algiers. Following the curvings of
the promontory there was a dotted line of reddish towers, each one
accompanied by a smaller pair for lookouts. This line extended along
the south toward the Straits of Gibraltar, and on its northern side
reached to France.

The doctor had seen their counterpart in all the islands of the western
Mediterranean, on the coasts of Naples and in Sicily. They were the
fortifications of a thousand-year war, of a struggle ten centuries long
between Moors and Christians for the domination of the blue sea, a
struggle of piracy in which the Mediterranean men--differentiated by
religion, but identical at heart--had prolonged the adventures of the
Odyssey down to the beginnings of the nineteenth century.

Ferragut gradually became acquainted with many old men of the village
who in their youth had been slaves in Algiers. On winter evenings the
oldest of them were still singing romances of captivity and speaking
with terror of the Berber brigantines. These thieves of the sea must
have had a pact with the devil, who notified them of opportune
occasions. If in a convent some beautiful novices had just made their
profession, the doors would give away at midnight under the
hatchet-blows of the bearded demons who were advancing inland from the
galleys prepared to receive their cargo of feminine freight. If a girl
of the coast, celebrated for her beauty, was going to be married, the
infidels, lying in wait, would surround the door of the church,
shooting their blunderbusses and knifing the unarmed men as they came
out, in order to carry away the women in their festal robes.

On all the coast, the pirates stood in awe only of the navigators from
the _Marina_, so fearless and warlike were they. If their villages were
ever attacked, it was because their seafaring defenders were on the
Mediterranean and, in their turn, had gone to sack and burn some
village on the coast of Africa.

The _Triton_ and his nephew used to eat their supper under the arbor in
the long summer twilights. After the cloth was removed Ulysses would
manipulate his grandfather's little frigates, learning the technical
parts and names of the different apparatus, and the management of the
sets of sails. Sometimes the two would stay out on the rustic porch
until a late hour gazing out over the luminous sea sparkling under the
splendor of the moon, or streaked with a slender wake of starry light
in the murky nights.

All that mankind had ever written or dreamed about the Mediterranean,
the doctor had in his library and could repeat to his eager little
listener. In Ferragut's estimation the _mare nostrum_ ["Mare Nostrum"
(Our Sea), the classic name for the Mediterranean.] was a species of
blue beast, powerful and of great intelligence--a sacred animal like
the dragons and serpents that certain religions adored, believing them
to be the source of life. The rivers that threw themselves impetuously
into its bosom in order to renew it were few and scanty. The Rhone and
the Nile appeared to be pitiful little rivulets compared with the river
courses of other continents that empty into the oceans.

Losing by evaporation three times more liquid than the rivers bring to
it, this sunburnt sea would soon have been converted into a great salt
desert were not the Atlantic sending it a rapid current of renewal that
was precipitated through the Straits of Gibraltar. Under this
superficial current existed still another, flowing in an opposite
direction, that returned a part of the Mediterranean to the ocean,
because the Mediterranean waters were more salt and dense than those of
the Atlantic. The tide scarcely made itself felt on its strands. Its
basin was mined by subterranean fires that were always seeking
extraordinary outlets through Vesuvius and Aetna and breathed
continually through the mouth of Stromboli. Sometimes these Plutonic
ebullitions would come to the surface, making new islands rise up upon
the waters like tumors of lava.

In its bosom exist still double the quantity of animal species that
abound in other seas, although less numerous. The tunny fish, playful
lambs of the blue pasture lands, were gamboling over its surface or
passing in schools under the furrows of the waves. Men were setting
netted traps for them along the coasts of Spain and France, in
Sardinia, the Straits of Messina and the waters of the Adriatic. But
this wholesale slaughter scarcely lessened the compact, fishy
squadrons. After wandering through the windings of the Grecian
Archipelago, they passed the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus, stirring
the two narrow passageways with the violence of their invisible
gallopade and making a turn at the bowl of the Black Sea, swimming
back, decimated but impetuous, to the depths of the Mediterranean.

Red coral was forming immovable groves on the substrata of the Balearic
Islands, and on the coasts of Naples and Africa. Ambergris was
constantly being found on the steep shores of Sicily. Sponges were
growing in the tranquil waters in the shadow of the great rocks of
Mallorca and the Isles of Greece. Naked men without any equipment
whatever, holding their breath, were still descending to the bottom as
in primitive times, in order to snatch these treasures away.

The doctor gave up his geographic descriptions to discourse on the
history of his sea, which had indeed been the history of civilization,
and was more fascinating to him. At first miserable and scanty tribes
had wandered along its coasts seeking their food from the crustaceans
drawn from the waves--a life similar to that of the rudimentary people
that Ferragut had seen in the islands of the Pacific. When stone saws
had hollowed out the trunks of trees and human arms had ventured to
spread the first rawhides to the forces of the atmosphere, the coasts
became rapidly populated.

Temples were constructed on the promontories, and maritime cities--the
first nuclei of modern civilization--came into existence. On this
landlocked sea mankind had learned the art of navigation. Every one
looked at the waves before looking at the sky. Over this blue highway
had arrived the miracles of life, and out of its depths the gods were
born. The Phoenicians--Jews, become navigators--abandoned their cities
in the depths of the Mediterranean sack, in order to spread the
mysterious knowledge of Egypt and the Asiatic monarchies all along the
shores of the interior sea. Afterwards the Greeks of the maritime
republics took their places.

In Ferragut's estimation the greatest honor to which Athens could lay
claim was that she had been a democracy of sailors, her freemen serving
their country as rowers and all her famous men as great marine
officials.

"Themistocles and Pericles," he added, "were admirals of fleets, and
after commanding ships, governed their country."

On that account Grecian civilization had spread itself everywhere and
had become immortal instead of lessening and disappearing without fruit
as in the interior lands. Then Rome, terrestrial Rome, in order to hold
its own against the superiority of the Semitic navigators of Carthage,
had to teach the management of the oar and marine combat to the
inhabitants of Latium, to their legionaries with faces hardened by the
chin straps of their helmets, who did not know how to adjust their
world-dominating iron-shod feet to the slippery planks of a vessel.

The divinities of _mare nostrum_ always inspired a most loving devotion
in the doctor. He knew that they had not existed, but he, nevertheless,
believed in them as poetic phantasms of natural forces.

The ancient world only knew the immense ocean in hypothesis, giving it
the form of an aquatic girdle around the earth. Oceanus was an old god
with a long beard and horned head who lived in a maritime cavern with
his wife, Tethys, and his three hundred daughters, the Oceanides. No
Argonaut had ever dared to come in contact with these mysterious
divinities. Only the grave Aeschylus had dared to portray the
Oceanides--virgins fresh and demure, weeping around the rock to which
Prometheus was bound.

Other more approachable deities were those of the eternal sea on whose
borders were founded the opulent cities of the Syrian coast; the
Egyptian cities that sent sparks of their ritual civilization to
Greece; the Hellenic cities, hearths of clear fire that had fused all
knowledge, giving it eternal form; Rome, mistress of the world;
Carthage, famed for her audacious geographical discoveries, and
Marseilles, which had made western Europe share in the civilization of
the Greeks, scattering it along the lower coast from settlement to
settlement, even to the Straits of Cadiz.

A brother of the Oceanides, the prudent Nereus, used to reign in the
depths of the Mediterranean. This son of Oceanus had a blue beard,
green eyes, and bunches of sea rushes on his eyebrows and breast. His
fifty daughters, the Nereids, bore his orders across the waves or
frolicked around the ships, splashing in the faces of the rowers the
foam tossed up by their arms. But the sons of Father Time, on
conquering the giant, had reapportioned the world, determining its
rulers by lot. Zeus remained lord of the land, the obscure Hades, lord
of the underworld, reigned in the Plutonic abysses, and Poseidon became
master of the blue surfaces.

Nereus, the dispossessed monarch, fled to a cavern of the Hellenic sea
in order to live the calm existence of the philosopher-counselor of
mankind, and Poseidon installed himself in the mother-of-pearl palaces
with his white steeds tossing helmets of bronze and manes of gold.

His amorous eyes were fixed on the fifty Mediterranean princesses, the
Nereids, who took their names from the aspect of the waves--the Blue,
the Green, the Swift, the Gentle.... "Nymphs of the green abysses with
faces fresh as a rosebud, fragrant virgins that took the forms of all
the monsters of the deep," sang the Orphic hymn on the Grecian shore.
And Poseidon singled out among them all the Nereid of the Foam, the
white Amphitrite who refused to accept his love.

She knew about this new god. The coasts were peopled with cyclops like
Polyphemus, with frightful monsters born of the union of Olympian
goddesses and simple mortals; but an obliging dolphin came and went,
carrying messages between Poseidon and the Nereid, until, overwhelmed
by the eloquence of this restless rover of the wave, Amphitrite agreed
to become the wife of the god, and the Mediterranean appeared to take
on still greater beauty.

She was the aurora that shows her rosy finger-tips through the immense
cleft between sky and sea, the warm hour of midday that makes the
waters drowsy under its robe of restless gold, the bifurcated tongue of
foam that laps the two faces of the hissing prow, the aroma-laden
breeze that like a virgin's breath swells the sail, the compassionate
kiss that lulls the drowned to rest, without wrath and without
resistance, before sinking forever into the fathomless abyss.

Her husband--Poseidon on the Greek coast and Neptune on the Latin--on
mounting his chariot, used to awaken the tempest. The brazen-hoofed
horses with their stamping would paw up the huge waves and swallow up
the ships. The tritons of his cortege would send forth from their white
shells the bellowing blasts that snap off the masts like reeds.

_O, mater Amphitrite_!... and Ferragut would describe her as though she
were just passing before his eyes. Sometimes when swimming around the
promontories, feeling himself enveloped like primitive man in the blind
forces of Nature, he used to believe that he saw the white goddess
issuing forth from the rocks with all her smiling train after a rest in
some marine cave.

A shell of pearl was her chariot and six dolphins harnessed with
purpling coral used to draw it along. The tritons, her sons, handled
the reins. The Naiads, their sisters, lashed the sea with their scaly
tails, lifting their mermaid bodies wrapped in the magnificence of
their sea-green tresses between whose ringlets might be seen their
heaving bosoms. White seagulls, cooing like the doves of Aphrodite,
fluttered around their nude sea-queen, serenely contemplating them from
her movable throne, crowned with pearls and phosphorescent stars drawn
from the depths of her dominion. White as the cloud, white as the sail,
white as the foam, entirely, dazzlingly white was her fair majesty
except where a rosy blush tinted the petal-like skin of her heels or
her bosom.

The entire history of European man--forty centuries of wars,
emigrations, and racial impact--was due, according to the doctor, to
the desire of possessing this harmoniously framed sea, of enjoying the
transparency of its atmosphere and the vivacity of its light.

The men from the North who needed the burning log and alcoholic drink
in order to defend their life from the clutches of the cold, were
always thinking of these Mediterranean shores. All their warlike or
pacific movements were with intent to descend from the coasts of the
glacial seas to the beaches of the warm _mare nostrum_. They were eager
to gain possession of the country where the sacred olive alternates its
stiff old age with the joyous vineyard; where the pine rears its cupola
and the cypress erects its minaret. They longed to dream under the
perfumed snow of the interminable orange groves; to be masters of the
sheltered valleys where the myrtle and the jasmine spice the salty air;
where the aloe and the cactus grow between the stones of extinct
volcanoes; where the mountains of marble extend their white veins down
even into the depths of the sea and refract the African heat emitted by
the opposite coast.

The South had replied to the invasion from the North with defensive
wars that had extended even into the center of Europe. And thus history
had gone on repeating itself with the same flux and reflux of human
waves--mankind struggling for thousands of years to gain or hold the
blue vault of Amphitrite.

The Mediterranean peoples were to Ferragut the aristocracy of humanity.
Its potent climate had tempered mankind as in no other part of the
planet, giving him a dry and resilient power. Tanned and bronzed by the
profound absorption of the sun and the energy of the atmosphere, its
navigators were transmuted into pure metal. The men from the North were
stronger, but less robust, less acclimitable than the Catalan sailor,
the Provençal, the Genoese or the Greek. The sailors of the
Mediterranean made themselves at home in all parts of the world. Upon
their sea man had developed his highest energies. Ancient Greece had
converted human flesh into spiritual steel.

Exactly the same landscapes and races bordered the two shores. The
mountains and the flowers on both shores were identical. The Catalan,
the Provençal and the South Italian were more like the inhabitants of
the African coast than their kindred who lived inland back of them.
This fraternity had shown itself instinctively in the thousand-year
war. The Berber pirates, the Genoese sailors, the Spaniards, and the
Knights of Malta used implacably to behead each other on the decks of
their galleys and, upon becoming conquerors, would respect the life of
their prisoners, treating them like gentlemen. The Admiral Barbarossa,
eighty-four years of age, used to call Doria, his eternal rival nearly
ninety years old, "my brother." The Grand Master of Malta clasped the
hand of the terrible Dragut upon finding him his captive.

The Mediterranean man, fixed on the shores that gave him birth, was
accustomed to accept all the changes of history, as the mollusks
fastened to the rocks endure the tempests. For him the only important
thing was not to lose sight of his blue sea. The Spaniard used to pull
an oar on the Liburnian felucca, the Christian would join the crews of
the Saracen ships of the Middle Ages; the subjects of Charles V would
pass through the fortunes of war from the galleys of the Cross to those
of the Crescent, and would end by becoming rulers of Algiers, rich
captains of the sea, or by making their names famous as renegades.

In the eighth century the inhabitants of the Valencian coast united
with the Andalusian Moors to carry the war to the ends of the
Mediterranean and to the island of Crete, taking possession of it and
giving it the name of Candia. This nest of pirates was the terror of
Byzantium, taking Salonica by assault and selling as slaves the
patricians and most important ladies of the realm. Years afterwards,
when dislodged from Candia, the Valencian adventurers returned to their
native shores and there established a town in a fertile valley, giving
it the name of the distant island which was changed to Gandia.

Every type of human vigor had sprung from the Mediterranean
race,--fine, sharp and dry as flint, doing good and evil on a large
scale with the exaggeration of an ardent character that discounts
halfway measures and leaps from duplicity to the greatest extremes of
generosity. Ulysses was the father of them all, a discreet and prudent
hero, yet at the same time complex and malicious. So was old Cadmus
with his Phoenician miter and curled beard, a great old sea-wolf,
scattering by means of his various adventures the art of writing and
the first notions of commerce.

In one of the Mediterranean islands Hannibal was born, and twenty
centuries after, in another of them, the son of a lawyer without briefs
embarked for France, with no other outfit than his cadet's uniform, in
order to make famous his name of Napoleon.

Over the Mediterranean waves had sailed Roger de Lauria, knight-errant
of vast tracts of sea, who wished to clothe even the fishes with the
colors of Aragon. A visionary of obscure origin named Columbus had
recognized as his country the republic of Genoa. A smuggler from the
coasts of Laguria came to be Messina, the marshal beloved by Victory,
and the last personage of this stock of Mediterranean heroes associated
with the heroes of fabulous times was a sailor from Nice, simple and
romantic, a warrior called Garibaldi, an heroic tenor of all seas and
lands who cast over his century the reflection of his red shirt,
repeating on the coast of Marseilles the remote epic of the Argonauts.

Then Ferragut summed up the various defects of his race. Some had been
bandits and others saints, but none mediocre. Their most audacious
undertakings had much about them that was prudent and practical. When
they devoted themselves to business they were at the same time serving
civilization. In them the hero and the trader were so intermingled that
it was impossible to discern where one ended and the other began. They
had been pirates and cruel men, but the navigators from the foggy seas
when imitating the Mediterranean discoveries in other continents had
not shown themselves any more gentle or loyal.

After these conversations, Ulysses felt greater esteem for the old
pottery and the shabby little figures that adorned his uncle's bedroom.

They were objects vomited up by the sea, Grecian amphoras wrested from
the shells of mollusks after a submarine interment centuries long. The
deep waters had embossed these petrified ornaments with strange
arabesques that made one think of the art of another planet, and,
twined in with the pottery that had held the wine and water of a
shipwrecked Liburnian felucca, were bits of rope hardened by limey
deposit and flukes of anchors whose metal was disintegrating into
reddish scales. Various little statues corroded by the salt sea
inspired in the boy as much admiration as his grandfather's frigates.
He laughed and trembled before these _Cabiri_ coming from the
Phoenician or Carthaginian biremes,--grotesque and terrible gods that
contracted their faces with grimaces of lust and ferocity.

Some of these muscular and bearded marine divinities bore a remote
resemblance to his uncle. Ulysses had overheard certain strange
conversations among the fishermen and had noticed, besides, the
precipitation of the women and their uneasy glances when they found the
doctor near them in a solitary part of the coast. Only the presence of
his nephew had made them recover tranquility and check their step.

At times the sea seemed to craze him with gusts of amorous fury. He was
Poseidon rising up unexpectedly on the banks in order to surprise
goddesses and mortals. The women of the _Marina_ ran away as terrified
as those Greek princesses on the painted vases when surprised, washing
their robes, by the apparition of a passionate triton.

Some nights at the hour when the lighthouses were beginning to pierce
the coming dusk with their fresh shafts of light, he would become
melancholy and, forgetting the difference in their age, would talk with
his nephew as though he were a sailor companion.

He regretted never having married.... He might have had a son by this
time. He had known many women of all colors--white, red, yellow, and
bronze--but only once had he really been in love, very far away on the
other side of the planet, in the port of Valparaiso.

He could still see in imagination a certain graceful Chilean maiden,
wrapped in her great black veil like the ladies of the Calderonian
theater, showing only one of her dark and liquid eyes, pale and
slender, speaking in a plaintive voice.

She enjoyed love-songs, always provided that they were sung "with great
sadness"; and Ferragut would devour her with his eyes while she plucked
the guitar, chanting the song of Malek-Adhel and other romances about
"Roses, sighs and Moors of Granada," that from childhood the doctor had
heard sung by the Berbers of his country. The simple attempt at taking
one of her hands always provoked her modest resistance.... "That,
then...." She was ready to marry him; she wished to see Spain.... And
the doctor might have fulfilled her wishes had not a good soul informed
him that in later hours of the night, others were accustomed to come in
turns to hear her romantic solos.... Ah, these women! and then, on
recalling the finale of his trans-oceanic idyl, Ferragut would become
reconciled to his celibacy.

Late in the Fall the notary had to go in person to the _Marina_ to make
his brother give Ulysses up. The boy held the same opinion as did his
uncle. The very idea of losing the winter fishing, the cold sunny
morning, the spectacle of the great tempests, just for the silly reason
that the Institute had commenced, and he must study for his bachelor's
degree!...

The following year Doña Cristina tried to prevent the _Triton's_
carrying off her son, since he could learn nothing but bad words and
boastful bullying in the old home of the Ferraguts. And trumping up the
necessity of seeing her own family, she left the notary alone in
Valencia, going with her boy to spend the summer on the coast of
Catalunia near the French frontier.

This was Ulysses' first important journey. In Barcelona he became
acquainted with his uncle, the rich and talented financier of the
Blanes family,--one of his mother's brothers, proprietor of a great
hardware shop situated in one of the damp, narrow and crowded streets
that ran into the Rambla. He soon came to know other maternal uncles in
a village near the Cape of Creus. This promontory with its wild coasts
reminded him of that other one where the _Triton_ lived. The first
Hellenic sailors had also founded a city here, and the sea had also
cast up amphoras, little statues and petrified bits of iron.

The Blanes family had gone much to sea. They loved it as intensely as
did the doctor, but with a cold and silent love, appreciating it less
for its beauty than for the profits which it offered to the fortunate.
Their trips had been to America, in their own sailing vessels,
importing sugar from Havana and corn from Buenos Ayres. The
Mediterranean was for them only a port that they crossed carelessly on
departure and arrival. None of them knew the white Amphitrite even by
name.

Moreover, they did not have the devil-may-care and romantic appearance
of the bachelor of the _Marina_, ready to live in the water like an
amphibian. They were gentlemen of the coast who, having retired from
the sea, were entrusting their barks to captains who had been their
pilots,--middle class citizens who never laid aside the cravat and silk
cap that were the symbols of their high position in their natal town.

The gathering-place of the rich was the Athenæum,--a society that in
spite of its title offered no other reading matter than two Catalunian
periodicals. A large telescope mounted on a tripod before the door used
to fill the club members with pride. For the uncles of Ulysses, it was
enough merely to put one eyebrow to the glass to be able to state
immediately the class and nationality of the ship that was slipping
along over the distant horizon line. These veterans of the sea were
accustomed to speak only of the freight cargoes, of the thousands and
thousands of dollars gained in other times with only one round trip,
and of the terrible rivalry of the steamship.

Ulysses kept hoping in vain that sometimes they would allude to the
Nereids and other poetic beings that the _Triton_ had conjured around
his promontory. The Blanes had never seen these extraordinary
creatures. Their seas contained fish only. They were cold, economical
men of few words, friends of order and social preferment. Their nephew
suspected that they had the courage of men of the sea but without
boasting or aggressiveness; their heroism was that of traders capable
of suffering all kinds of adventures provided their stock ran no risks,
but becoming wild beasts if any one attacked their riches.

The members of the Athenaeum were all old, the only masculine beings in
the village. Besides them there were only the carbineers installed in
the barracks and various calkers making their mallets resound on the
hull of a schooner ordered by the Blanes brothers.

All the active men were on the sea. Some were sailing to America as
crew of the brigs and barks of the Catalunian coast. The more timid and
unfortunate ones were always fishing. Others, more valiant and anxious
for ready money, had become smugglers on the French coast whose shores
began on the other side of the promontory.

In the village there were only women, women of all kinds:--women seated
before their doors, making lace on great cylindrical pillows on their
knees, along whose length their bobbins wove strips of beautiful
openwork, or grouped on the street corners in front of the lonely sea
where their men were, or speaking with an electric nervousness that
oftentimes would break out suddenly in noisy tempests.

Only the parish priest, whose fishing recreations and official
existence were embittered by their constant quarrels, understood the
feminine irritability which embroiled the village. Alone and having to
live incessantly in such close contact, the women had come to hate each
other as do passengers isolated on a boat for many months. Besides,
their husbands had accustomed them to the use of coffee, the seaman's
drink, and they tried to beguile their tedium with strong cups of the
thick liquid.

A common interest, nevertheless, united these women miraculously when
living alone. When the carbineers inspected the houses in search of
contraband goods smuggled in by the men, the Amazons worked off their
nervous energy in hiding the illegal merchandise, making it pass from
one place of concealment to another with the cunning of savages.

Whenever the government officers began to suspect that certain packages
had gone to hide themselves in the cemetery, they would find there only
some empty graves, and in the bottom of them a few cigars between
skulls that were mockingly stuck up in the ground. The chief of the
barracks did not dare to inspect the church, but he looked
contemptuously upon Mosen Jòrdi, the priest, as a simpleton quite
capable of permitting tobacco to be hidden behind the altars in
exchange for the privilege of fishing in peace.

The rich people lived with their backs turned on the village,
contemplating the blue expanse upon which were erected the wooden
houses that represented all their fortune. In the summer-time the sight
of the smooth and brilliant Mediterranean made them recall the dangers
of the winter. They spoke with religious terror of the land breeze, the
wind from the Pyrenees, the _Tramontana_ that oftentimes snatched
edifices from their bases and had overturned entire trains in the
nearby station. Furthermore, on the other side of the promontory began
the terrible Gulf of Lyons. Upon its surface, not more than ninety
yards in extent, the waters driven by the strong sea winds often became
so rough, and raised up waves so high and so solid that upon clashing
together and finding no intermediate space upon which to fall, they
piled one upon another, forming regular towers.

This gulf was the most terrible of the Mediterranean. The transatlantic
liners returning from a good voyage to the other hemisphere used here
to tremble with a pre-monition of danger and sometimes even turned
back. The captains who had just crossed the great Atlantic would here
furrow their brows with uneasiness.

From the door of the Athenaeum the experts used to point out the Latin
sailboats that were about to double the promontory. They were merchant
vessels such as that elder Ferragut had commanded, embarkations from
Valencia that were bringing wine to Cette and fruits to Marseilles.
Upon seeing the blue surface of the Gulf on the other side of the Cape
with no other roughness than that of a long and infinitely heavy swell,
the Valencians would exclaim happily:

"Let us cross quickly, while the lion sleeps."

Ulysses had one friend, the secretary of the city-hall, and the only
inhabitant that had any books in his house. Treated by the rich with a
certain contempt, the official used to seek the boy's company because
he was the only creature who would listen to him attentively.

He adored the _mare nostrum_ as much as Doctor Ferragut, but his
enthusiasm was not concerned with the Phoenician and Egyptian ships
whose keels had first plowed these waves. He was equally indifferent to
Grecian and Carthaginian Triremes, Roman warships, and the monstrous
galleys of the Sicilian tyrants,--palaces moved by oars, with statues,
fountains and gardens. That which most interested him was the
Mediterranean of the Middle Ages, that of the kings of Aragon, the
Catalunian Sea. And the poor secretary would give long daily
dissertations about them in order to pique the local pride of his
juvenile listener.

One day after dilating at length on Roger de Lauria and the Catalan
navy, he wound up his tedious history by telling the little fellow how
Alfonso V, his brother the King of Navarre, and all his cortege of
magnates, had remained prisoners of the Republic of Genoa, which,
terrified by the importance of its royal prey, had entrusted the
captives to the guard of the Duke of Milan.... But the monarchs easily
came to an understanding in order to deceive the democratic
governments, and the Milanese sovereign released the King of Aragon
with all his suite. Thereupon he immediately blockaded Genoa with an
enormous fleet. The Provençal navy came promptly to the relief of its
neighbors, and the Aragonese King forced the port of Marseilles,
bearing away as trophy the chains that closed its entrance.

Ulysses nodded affirmatively. The sailor king had deposited these
chains in the cathedral of Valencia. His godfather, the poet, had
pointed them out to him in a Gothic chapel, forming a garland of iron
over the black hewn stones.

The Catalan navy still continued to dominate the Mediterranean
commercially, adding to its ancient vessels great galleons, lighter
galleys, caravels, cattle boats, and other ships of the period.

"But Christopher Columbus," concluded the Catalan sadly, "discovered
the Indies, thereby giving a death blow to the maritime riches of the
Mediterranean. Besides, Aragon and Castile became united and their life
and power were then concentrated in the center of the Peninsula, far
from the sea."

Had Barcelona been the capital of Spain, Catalunia would have preserved
the Mediterranean domination. Had Lisbon been the capital, the Spanish
colonial realm would have developed into something organic and solid
with a robust life. But what could you expect of a nation which had
stuck its head into a pillow of yellow interior steppes, the furthest
possible from the world's highways, showing only its feet to the
waves!...

The Catalan would always end by speaking sadly of the decadence of the
Mediterranean marine. Everything that was pleasing to his tastes made
him hark back to the good old time of the domination of the
Mediterranean by the Catalan marine. One day he offered Ulysses a sweet
and perfumed wine.

"It is Malvasian, the first stock the Almogavars brought here from
Greece."

Then he said in order to flatter the boy:

"It was a citizen of Valencia, Ramon Muntaner, who wrote of the
expeditions of the Catalans and Aragonese against Constantinople."

The mere recollection of this novel-like adventure, the most unheard-of
in history, used to fill him with enthusiasm, and, in passing, he paid
highest tribute to the Almogavar chronicler, a rude Homer in song,
Ulysses and Nestor in council, and Achilles in hard action.

Doña Cristina's impatience to rejoin her husband and to return to the
comforts of her well-regulated household finally carried Ulysses away
from this life by the coast.

For many years thereafter he saw no other sea than the Gulf of
Valencia. The notary, under various pretexts, contrived to prevent the
doctor's again carrying off his nephew; and the _Triton_ made his trips
to Valencia less frequently, rebelling against all the inconveniences
and dangers of these terrestrial adventures.

And Labarta, when occupied with the future of Ulysses, used to take on
a certain air of a good-natured regent charged with the guardianship of
a little prince. The boy appeared to belong to them more than to his
own father; his studies and his future destiny filled completely their
after-dinner conversations when the doctor was in town.

Don Esteban felt a certain satisfaction in annoying his brother by
eulogizing the sedentary and prosperous life.

Over there on the coasts of Catalunia lived his brothers-in-law, the
Blanes, genuine wolves of the sea. The doctor would not be able to
contradict that. Very well, then,--their sons were in Barcelona, some
as business clerks, others making a name for themselves in the office
of their rich uncle. They were all sailors' sons and yet they had
completely freed themselves from the sea. Their business was entirely
on _terra firma_. Only crazyheads could think of ships and adventures.

The _Triton_ used to smile humbly before such pointed allusions, and
exchange glances with his nephew.

A secret existed between the two. Ulysses, who was finishing his
studies for a bachelor's degree, was at the same time taking the
courses of pilotage at the institute. Two years would be sufficient for
the completion of these latter studies. The uncle had provided the
matriculation fees and the books, besides recommending the boy to a
former sailor comrade.



CHAPTER III


PATER OCEANUS

When Don Esteban died very suddenly, his eighteen-year-old son was
still studying in the university.

In his latter days the notary had begun to suspect that Ulysses was not
going to be the celebrated jurist that he had dreamed. He had a way of
cutting classes in order to pass the morning in the harbor, exercising
with the oars. If he entered the university, the beadles were on their
guard fearing his long-reaching hands: for he already fancied himself a
sailor and liked to imitate the men of the sea who, accustomed to
contend with the elements, considered a quarrel with a man as a very
slight affair. Alternating violently between study and laziness, he was
laboriously approaching the end of his course when neuralgia of the
heart carried off the notary.

Upon coming out from the stupefaction of her grief, Doña Cristina
looked around her with aversion. Why should she linger on in Valencia?
Since she could no longer be with the man who had brought her to this
country, she wanted to return to her own people. The poet Labarta would
look after her properties that were not so valuable nor numerous as the
income of the notary had led them to suppose. Don Esteban had suffered
great losses in extravagant business speculations good-naturedly
accepted, but there was still left a fortune sufficient to enable his
wife to live as an independent widow among her relatives in Barcelona.

In arranging her new existence, the poor lady encountered no opposition
except the rebelliousness of Ulysses. He refused to continue his
college course and he wished to go to sea, saying that for that reason
he had studied to become a pilot. In vain Doña Cristina entreated the
aid of relatives and friends, excluding the _Triton_, whose response
she could easily guess. The rich brother from Barcelona was brief and
affirmative, "But wouldn't that bring him in the money?"... The Blanes
of the coast showed a gloomy fatalism. It would be useless to oppose
the lad if he felt that to be his vocation. The sea had a tight clutch
upon those who followed it, and there was no power on earth that could
dissuade him. On that account they who were already old were not
listening to their sons who were trying to tempt them with the
convenience of life in the capital. They needed to live near the coast
in agreeable contact with the dark and ponderous monster which had
rocked them so maternally when it might just as easily have dashed them
to pieces.

The only one who protested was Labarta. A sailor?... that might be a
very good thing, but a warlike sailor, an official of the Royal Armada.
And in his mind's eye the poet could see his godson clad in all the
splendors of naval elegance,--a blue jacket with gold buttons for every
day, and for holiday attire a coat trimmed with galloon and red
trappings, a pointed hat, a sword....

Ulysses shrugged his shoulders before such grandeur. He was too old now
to enter the naval school. Besides he wanted to sail over all oceans,
and the officers of the navy only had occasion to cruise from one port
to another like the people of the coast trade, or even passed years
seated in the cabinet of the naval executive. If he had to grow old in
an office, he would rather take up his father's profession of notary.

After seeing Doña Cristina well established in Barcelona, surrounded
with a cortège of nephews fawning upon the rich aunt from Valencia, her
son embarked as apprentice on a transatlantic boat which was making
regular trips to Cuba and the United States. Thus began the seafaring
life of Ulysses Ferragut, which terminated only with his death.

The pride of the family placed him on a luxurious steamer, a
mail-packet full of passengers, a floating hotel on which the officials
were something like the managers of the Palace Hotel, while the real
responsibility devolved upon the engineers, who were always going
below, and upon returning to the light, invariably remained modestly in
a second place, according to a hieratical law anterior to the progress
of mechanics.

He crossed the ocean several times, as do those making a land journey
at the full speed of an express train. The august calm of the sea was
lost in the throb of the screws and in the deafening roar of the
machinery. However blue the sky might be, it was always darkened by the
floating crepe band from the smokestacks. He envied the leisurely
sailboats that the liner was always leaving behind. They were like
reflective wayfarers who saturate themselves with the country
atmosphere and commune deeply with its soul. The people of the steamer
lived like terrestrial travelers who sleepily survey from the
car-windows a succession of indefinite and dizzying views streaked by
telegraph wires.

When his novitiate was ended he became second mate on a sailing vessel
bound for Argentina for a cargo of wheat. The slow day's run with
little wind and the long equatorial calms permitted him to penetrate a
little into the mysteries of the oceanic immensity, severe and dark,
that for ancient peoples had been "the night of the abyss," "the sea of
utter darkness," "the blue dragon that daily swallows the sun."

He no longer regarded Father Ocean as the capricious and tyrannical god
of the poets. Everything in his depths was working with a vital
regularity, subject to the general laws of existence. Even the tempests
roared within prescribed and charted quadrangles.

The fresh trade-winds pushed the bark toward the Southeast, maintaining
a heavenly serenity in sky and sea. Before the prow hissed the silken
wings of flying fish, spreading out in swarms, like little squadrons of
diminutive aeroplanes.

Over the masts and yards covered with canvas, the albatross, eagles of
the Atlantic desert, traced their long, sweeping circles, flashing
across the purest blue their great, sail-like wings. From time to time
the boat would meet floating prairies, great fields of seaweed
dislodged from the Sargasso Sea. Enormous tortoises drowsed in the
midst of these clumps of gulf-weed, serving as islands of repose to the
seagulls perched on their shells. Some of the seaweeds were green,
nourished by the luminous water of the surface; others had the reddish
color of the deep where enters only the deadly chill of the last rays
of the sun. Like fruits of the oceanic prairies, there floated past
close bunches of dark grapes, leathery capsules filled with brackish
water.

As they approached the equator, the breeze kept falling and falling,
and the atmosphere became suffocating in the extreme. It was the zone
of calms, the ocean of dark, oily waters, in which boats remained for
entire weeks with sails limp, without the slightest breath rippling the
atmosphere.

Clouds the color of pit coal reflected the ship's slow progress over
the sea; showers of rain like whipcord occasionally lashed the deck,
followed by a flaming sun that was soon blotted out by a new downpour.
These clouds, pregnant with cataracts, this night descending upon the
full daylight of the Atlantic, had been the terror of the ancients, and
yet, thanks to just such phenomena, the sailors could pass from one
hemisphere to another without the light wounding them to death, or the
sea scorching them like a burning glass. The heat of the equator,
raising up the water in steam, had formed a band of shade around the
earth. From other worlds it must appear like a girdle of clouds almost
similar to the sidereal rings.

In this gloomy, hot sea was the heart of the ocean, the center of the
circulatory life of the planet. The sky was a regulator that, absorbing
and returning, restored the evaporation to equilibrium. From this place
were sent forth the rains and dews to all the rest of the earth,
modifying its temperatures favorably for the development of animal and
vegetable life. There were exchanged the exhalations of the two worlds;
and, converted into clouds, the water of the southern hemisphere--the
hemisphere of the great seas with no other points of relief than the
triangular extremities of Africa and America, and the humps of the
oceanic archipelagoes--was always reinforcing the rills and rivers of
the northern hemisphere with its inhabited lands.

From this equatorial zone, the heart of the globe, come forth two
rivers of tepid water that heat the coasts of the north. They are the
two currents that issue from the Gulf of Mexico and the Java Sea. Their
enormous liquid masses, fleeing ceaselessly from the equator, govern a
vast assemblage of water from the poles that comes to occupy their
space, and these chilled and fresher currents are constantly
precipitating themselves on the electric hearth of the equator that
warms and salts them anew, renewing with its systole and diastole the
life of the world. The ocean struggles vainly to condense these two
warm currents without ever succeeding in mingling itself with them.
They are torrents of a deep blue, almost black, that flow across the
cold and green waters.

The Atlantic current, upon reaching Newfoundland, divides its arms,
sending one of them to the North Pole. With the other, weak and
exhausted by its long journey, it modifies the temperature of the
British Isles, tempering refreshingly the coasts of Norway. The Indian
current that the Japanese call, because of its color, "the black
river," circulates between the islands, maintaining for a longer time
than the other its prodigious powers of creation and agitation which
enable it to trail over the planet an enormous tail of life.

Its center is the apogee of terrestrial energy in the vegetable and
animal creations, in monsters and in fish. One of its arms, escaping
toward the south, goes on forming the mysterious world of the coral
sea. In a space as large as four continents, the polyps, strengthened
by the lukewarm water, are building up thousands of atolls, ring-shaped
islands, reefs and submarine pillars that, when united together by the
work of a thousand years, are going to create a new land, an exchange
continent in case the human species should lose its present base in
some cataclysm of Nature.

The pulse of the blue god is the tides. The earth turns towards the
moon and the stars with a sympathetic rotation like that of the flowers
that turn towards the sun. Its most movable part--the fluid mass of the
atmosphere--dilates twice daily, swelling its cavities; and this
atmospheric suction, the work of universal attraction, is reflected in
the tidal waters. Closed seas, like the Mediterranean, scarcely feel
its effects, the tides stopping at their door. But on the oceanic coast
the marine pulsation vexes the army of the waves, hurrying them daily
to their assault of the steep cliffs, making them roar with fury among
the islands, promontories and straits, and impelling them to swallow up
extensive lands which they return hours afterward.

This salty sea, like our body, that has a heart, a pulse and a
circulation of two different bloods incessantly renewed and
transformed, becomes as furious as an organic creature when the
horizontal currents of its interior come to unite themselves with the
vertical currents descending from the atmosphere. The violent passage
of the winds, the crises of evaporation, and the obscure electrical
forces produce the tempests.

These are no more than cutaneous shudderings. The storms, so deadly for
mankind, merely contract the marine epidermis while the profound mass
of its waters remains in murky calm, fulfilling its great function of
nourishing and renewing life. Father Ocean completely ignores the
existence of the human insects that dare to slip across his surface in
microscopic cockle-shells. He does not inform himself as to the
incidents that may be taking place upon the roof of his dwelling. His
life continues on,--balanced, calm, infinite, engendering millions upon
millions of beings in the thousandth part of a second.

The majesty of the Atlantic on tropical nights made Ulysses forget the
wrathful storms of its black days. In the moonlight it was an immense
plane of vivid silver streaked with serpentine shadows. Its soft
doughlike undulations, replete with microscopic life, illuminated the
nights. The infusoria, a-tremble with love, glowed with a bluish
phosphorescence. The sea was like luminous milk. The foam breaking
against the prow sparkled like broken fragments of electric globes.

When it was absolutely tranquil and the ship remained immovable with
drooping sail, the stars passing slowly from one side of the mast to
the other, the delicate medusae, that the slightest wave was able to
crush, would come to the surface floating on the waters, around the
island of wood. There were thousands of these umbrellas filing slowly
by, green, blue, rose, with a vague coloring similar to oil-lights,--a
Japanese procession seen from above, that on one side was lost in the
mystery of the black waters and incessantly reappeared on the other
side.

The young pilot loved navigation in a sailing ship,--the struggle with
the wind, the solitude of its calms. He was far nearer the ocean here
than on the bridge of a transatlantic liner. The bark did not beat the
sea into such rabid foam. It slipped discreetly along as in the
maritime silence of the first millennium of the new-born earth. The
oceanic inhabitants approached it confidently upon seeing it rolling
like a mute and inoffensive whale.

In six years Ulysses changed his boat many times. He had learned
English, the universal language of the blue dominions, and was
refreshing himself with a study of Maury's charts--the sailors'
Bible--the patient work of an obscure genius who first snatched from
ocean and atmosphere the secret of their laws.

Desirous of exploring new seas and new lands, he did not stop in the
usual travel zones or ports, and the British, Norwegian, and North
American captains received cordially this good-mannered official so
little exacting as to salary. So Ulysses wandered over the oceans as
had the king of Ithaca over the Mediterranean, guided by a fatality
which impelled him with a rude push far from his country every time
that he proposed to return to it. The sight of a boat anchored near by
and ready to set sail for some distant port was a temptation that
invariably made him forget to return to Spain.

He traveled in filthy, old, happy-go-lucky sea-tramps, in which the
crews used to spread all the sails to the tempest, get drunk and fall
asleep, confident that the devil, friend of the brave, would awaken
them on the following morning. He lived in white boats as silent and
scrupulously clean as a Dutch home, whose captains were taking wife and
children with them, and where white-aproned stewardesses took care of
the galley and the cleaning of the floating hearthside, sharing the
dangers of the ruddy and tranquil sailors exempt from the temptation
that contact with women provokes. On Sundays, under the tropic sun or
in the ash-colored light of the northern heavens, the boatswain would
read the Bible. The men would listen thoughtfully with uncovered heads.
The women had dressed themselves in black with lace headdress and
mittened hands.

He went to Newfoundland to load codfish. There is where the warm
current from the Gulf of Mexico meets that from the Poles. In the
meeting of these two marine rivers the infinitesimal little beings that
the gulf stream drags thither die, suddenly frozen to death, and a rain
of minute corpses descends across the waters. The cod gather there to
gorge themselves on this manna which is so abundant that a great part
of it, freed from their greedy jaws, drops to the bottom like a
snowstorm of lime.

In Iceland (the _Ultima Thule_ of the ancients), they showed Ulysses
bits of wood that the equatorial current had brought thither from the
Antilles. On the coasts of Norway, as he watched the herring during the
spawning season, he marveled at the formidable fertility of the sea.

From their refuge in the shadowy depths, these fish mount to the
surface moved by the message of the spring, desirous of taking their
part in the joy of the world. They swim one against another, close,
compact, forming strata that subdivide and float out to sea. They look
like an island just coming to the surface, or a continent beginning to
sink. In the narrow passages the shoals are so numerous that the waters
become solidified, making almost impossible the advance of a row boat.
Their number is beyond the possibilities of calculation, like the sands
and the stars.

Men and carnivorous fish fall upon them, opening great furrows of
destruction in their midst: but the breaches are closed instantly and
the living bank continues on its way, growing denser every moment, as
though defying death. The more their enemies destroy them, the more
numerous they become. The thick and close columns ceaselessly reproduce
themselves _en route_. At sunrise the waves are greasy and
viscous,--replete with life that is fermenting rapidly. For a space of
hundreds of leagues the salt ocean around them is like milk.

The fecundity of these fishy masses was placing the world in danger.
Each individual could produce up to seventy thousand eggs. In a few
generations there would be enough to fill the ocean, to make it solid,
to make it rot, extinguishing other beings, depopulating the globe....
But death was charged with saving universal life. The cetaceans bore
down upon this living density and with their insatiable mouths devoured
the nourishment by ton loads. Infinitely little fish seconded the
efforts of the marine giants, stuffing themselves with the eggs of the
herring. The most gluttonous fish, the cod and the hake, pursued these
prairies of meat, pushing them, toward the coasts and finally
dispersing them.

The cod increases its species most prodigiously, surfeiting itself upon
hake, until the world is again menaced. The ocean might be converted
into a mass of cod, for each one can produce as many as nine million
eggs.... Mankind might be overwhelmed under the onslaught of the more
fertile fishes, and the cod might maintain immense fleets, creating,
besides, colonies and cities. Human generations might become exhausted
without succeeding in conquering this monstrous reproduction. The great
marine devourers, therefore, are those that reëstablish equilibrium and
order. The sturgeon, insatiable stomach, intervenes in the oceanic
banquet, relishing in the cod the concentrated substance of armies of
herring. But this oviparous devourer of such great reproductive power
would, in turn, continue the world danger were it not that another
monster as avid in appetite as it is weak in procreation, intervenes
and cuts down with one blow the ever-increasing fecundity of the ocean.

The superior glutton is the shark,--that mouth with fins, that natatory
intestine which swallows with equal indifference the dead and the
living, flesh and wood, cleanses the waters of life and leaves a desert
behind its wriggling tail; but this destroyer brings forth only one
shark that is born armed and ferocious ready from the very first moment
to continue the paternal exploits, like a feudal heir.

Ferragut's wandering life as a pilot abounded in dramatic
adventures,--a few always standing out clearly from his many confused
recollections of exotic lands and interminable seas.

In Glasgow he embarked as second mate on an old sailing tramp that was
bound for Chile, to unload coal in Valparaiso and take on saltpeter in
Iquique. The crossing of the Atlantic was good, but upon leaving the
Malvina Islands the boat had to go out in the teeth of a torrid,
furious blast that closed the passage to the Pacific. The Straits of
Magellan are for ships that are able to avail themselves at will of a
propelling force. The sailboat needs a wide sea and a favorable wind in
order to double Cape Horn,--the utmost point of the earth, the place of
interminable and gigantic tempests.

While summer was burning in the other hemisphere, the terrible southern
winter came to meet the navigators. The boat had to turn its course to
the west, just as the winds were blowing from the west, barring its
route.

Eight weeks passed and it was still contending with sea and tempest.
The wind carried off a complete set of sails. The wooden ship, somewhat
strained by this interminable struggle, commenced to leak, and the crew
had to work the hand-pumps night and day. Nobody was able to sleep for
many hours running. All were sick from exhaustion. The rough voice and
the oaths of the captain could hardly maintain discipline. Some of the
seamen lay down wishing to die, and had to be roused by blows.

Ulysses knew for the first time what waves really were. He saw
mountains of water, literally mountains, pouring over the hull of the
boat, their very immensity making them form great slopes on both sides
of it. When the crest of one broke upon the vessel Ferragut was able to
realize the monstrous weight of salt water. Neither stone nor iron had
the brutal blow of this liquid force that, upon breaking, fled in
torrents or dashed up in spray. They had to make openings in the
bulwarks in order to provide a vent for the crushing mass.

The southern day was a livid and foggy eclipse, repeating itself for
weeks and weeks without the slightest streak of clearing, as though the
sun had departed from the earth forever. Not a glimmer of white existed
in this tempestuous outline; always gray,--the sky, the foam, the
seagulls, the snows.... From time to time the leaden veils of the
tempest were torn asunder, leaving visible a terrifying apparition.
Once it was black mountains with glacial winding sheets from the
Straits of Beagle. And the boat tacked, fleeing away from this narrow
aquatic passageway full of perilous ledges. Another time the peaks of
Diego Ramirez, the most extreme point of the cape, loomed up before the
prow, and the bark again tacked, fleeing from this cemetery of ships.
The wind shifting, then brought their first icebergs into view and at
the same time forced them to turn back on their course in order not to
be lost in the deserts of the South Pole.

Ferragut came to believe that they would never double the Cape,
remaining forever in full tempest, like the accursed ship of the legend
of the Flying Dutchman. The captain, a regular savage of the sea,
taciturn and superstitious, shook his fist at the promontory, cursing
it as an infernal divinity. He was convinced that they would never
succeed in doubling it until it should be propitiated with a human
offering. This Englishman appeared to Ulysses like one of those
Argonauts who used to placate the wrath of the marine deities with
sacrifices.

One night one of the crew was washed overboard and lost; the following
day a man fell from the topmast, that no one might think salvation
impossible. And as though the Southern Demon had only been awaiting
this tribute, the gale from the west ceased, the bark no longer had the
impassable barrier of a hostile sea before its prow, and was able to
enter the Pacific, anchoring twelve days later in Valparaiso.

Ulysses appreciated now the agreeable memory that this port always
leaves in the memory of sailors. It was a resting-place after the
struggle of doubling the cape; it was the joy of existence, after
having felt the blast of death; it was life again in the cafés and in
the pleasure houses, eating and drinking until surfeited, with the
stomach still suffering from the salty food and the skin still smarting
from boils due to the sea-life.

His admiring gaze followed the graceful step of the women veiled in
black who reminded him of his uncle, the doctor. In the nights of the
_remolienda_, [a popular gathering or festival in Chile] his glance
was many times distracted from the dark-hued and youthful beauties
dancing the _Zamacueca_ [the national dance of Chile.] in the middle of
the room, to the matrons swathed in black veils, who were playing the
harp and piano, accompanying the dance with languishing songs which
interested him greatly. Perhaps one of these sentimental, bearded
ladies might have been his aunt.

While his ship finished loading its cargo in Iquique, he
came in contact with the crowd of workers from the saltpeter
works,--"broken-down" [originally a term of contempt is now a
complimentary by-name] Chileans, laboring men from all countries, who
did not know how to spend their day's wages in the monotony of these
new settlements. Their intoxication diverted itself with most mistaken
magnificence. Some would let the wine run from an entire cask just to
fill a single glass. Others used the bottles of champagne lined up on
the shelves of the cafés as a target for their revolvers, paying cash
for all that they broke.

From this trip Ferragut gained a feeling of pride and confidence that
made him scornful of every danger. Afterwards he encountered the
tornadoes of the Asiatic seas, those horrible circular tempests that in
the northern hemisphere revolve from right to left, and in the south
from left to right--rapid incidents of a few hours or days at the most.
He had doubled Cape Horn in mid-winter after a struggle against the
elements that had lasted two months. He had been able to run all risks;
the ocean had exhausted for him all its surprises.... And yet,
nevertheless, the worst of his adventures occurred in a calm sea.

He had been at sea seven years and was thinking of returning once more
to Spain when, in Hamburg, he accepted the post of first mate of a
swift-sailing ship that was setting out for Cameroon and German East
Africa. A Norwegian sailor tried to dissuade him from this trip. It was
an old ship, and they had insured it for four times its value. The
captain was in league with the proprietor, who had been bankrupt many
times.... And just because this voyage was so irrational, Ulysses
hastened to embark. For him, prudence was merely a vulgarity, and
obstacles and dangers but tempted more irresistibly his reckless
daring.

One evening in the latitude of Portugal, when they were far from the
regular route of navigation, a column of smoke and flames suddenly
swept the deck, breaking through the hatchways and devouring the sails.
While Ferragut at the head of a band of negroes was trying to get
control of the fire, the captain and the German crew were escaping from
the ship in two prepared lifeboats. Ferragut felt sure that the
fugitives were laughing at seeing him run about the deck that was
beginning to warp and send up fire through all its cracks.

Without ever knowing exactly how, he found himself in a boat with some
negroes and different objects piled together with the precipitation of
flight,--a half-empty barrel of biscuits and another that contained
only water.

They rowed all one night, having behind them as their unlucky star the
burning boat that was sending its blood-red gleams across the water. At
daybreak they noted on the sun's disk some light, black, wavy lines. It
was land ... but so far away!

For two days they wandered over the moving crests and gloomy valleys of
the blue desert. Several times Ferragut collapsed in mortal lethargy,
with his feet in the water filling the bottom of the boat. The birds of
the sea were tracing spirals around this floating hearse, following it
with vigorous strokes of the wing, and uttering croakings of death. The
waves raised themselves slowly and sluggishly over the boat's edge as
though wishing to contemplate with their sea-green eyes this medley of
white and dark bodies. The ship-wrecked men rowed with nervous
desperation; then they lay down inert, recognizing the uselessness of
their efforts, lost in the great immensity.

The mate, drowsing on the hard stern, finally smiled with closed eyes.
It was all a bad dream. He was sure of awaking in his bed surrounded
with the familiar comforts of his stateroom. And when he opened his
eyes, the harsh reality made him break forth into desperate orders,
which the Africans obeyed as mechanically as though they were still
sleeping.

"I do not want to die!... I ought not to die!" asserted his inner
monitor in a brazen tone.

They shouted and made unavailing signals to distant boats that
disappeared from the great watery expanse without ever seeing them. Two
negroes died of the cold. Their corpses floated many hours near the
boat as if unable to separate themselves from it. Then they were drawn
under by an invisible tugging, and some triangular fins passed over the
water's surface, cutting it like knives at the same time that its
depths were darkened by swift, ebony shadows.

When at last they approached land, Ferragut realized that death was
nearer here than on the high sea. The coast rose up before them like an
immense wall. Seen from the boat it appeared to cover half the sky. The
long oceanic undulation became a ravenous wave upon encountering the
outer bulwarks of these barren islands, breaking in the depths of their
caves, and forming cascades of foam that rolled around them from top to
bottom, raising up furious columns of spray with the report of a
cannonade.

An irresistible hand grasped the keel, making the landing a vertical
one. Ferragut shot out like a projectile, falling in the foaming
whirlpools and having the impression, as he sank, that men and casks
together were rolling and raining into the sea.

He saw bubbling streaks of white and black hulks. He felt himself
impelled by contradictory forces. Some dragged at his head and others
at his feet in different directions, making him revolve like the hands
of a clock. Even his thoughts were working double. "It is useless to
resist," Discouragement was murmuring in his brain, while his other
half was affirming desperately, "I do not want to die!... I must not
die!"

Thus he lived through a few seconds that seemed to him like hours. He
felt the brute force of hidden friction, then a blow in the abdomen
that arrested his course between the two waters, and grasping at the
irregularities of a projecting rock, he raised his head and was able to
breathe. The wave was retreating, but another again overwhelmed him,
detaching him from the point with its foamy churning, making him leave
in the stony crevices bits of the skin of his hands, his breast, and
his knees.

The oceanic suction seemed dragging him down in spite of his desperate
strokes. "It's no use! I'm going to die," half of his mind was saying
and at the same time his other mental hemisphere was reviewing with
lightning synthesis his entire life. He saw the bearded face of the
_Triton_ in this supreme instant. He saw the poet Labarta just as when
he was recounting to his godson the adventures of the old Ulysses, and
his shipwrecked struggle with the rocky peaks and waves.

Again the marine dilatation tossed him against a rock, and again he
anchored himself to it with an instinctive clutch of his hands. But
before this wave retired it hurled him desperately upon another ledge,
the refluent water passing back below him. Thus he struggled a long
time, clinging to the rocks when the sea overwhelmed him, and crawling
along upon the jutting points whenever the retiring water permitted.

Finding himself upon a projecting point of the coast, free at last from
the suction of the waves, his energy suddenly disappeared. The water
that dripped from his body was red, each time more red, spreading
itself in rivulets over the greenish irregularities of the rock. He
felt intense pain as though all his organism had lost the protection of
its covering,--his raw flesh remaining exposed to the air.

He wished to get somewhere, but over his head the coast was rearing its
stark bulk,--a concave and inaccessible wall. It would be impossible to
get away from this spot. He had saved himself from the sea only to die
stationed in front of it. His corpse would never float to an inhabited
shore. The only ones that were going to know of his death were the
enormous crabs scrambling over the rocky points, seeking their
nourishment in the surge; the sea gulls were letting themselves drop
vertically with extended wings from the heights of the steep-sloped
shore. Even the smallest crustaceans had the advantage of him.

Suddenly he felt all his weakness, all his misery, while his blood
continued crimsoning the little lakes among the rocks. Closing his eyes
to die, he saw in the darkness a pale face, hands that were deftly
weaving delicate laces, and before night should descend forever upon
his eyelids, he moaned a childish cry:

"_Mamá_!... _Mamá_!..."

Three months afterward upon arriving at Barcelona, he found his mother
just as he had seen her during his death-agony on the Portuguese
coast.... Some fishermen had picked him up just as his life was ebbing
away. During his stay in the hospital he wrote many times in a light
and confident tone to Doña Cristina, pretending that he was detained by
important business in Lisbon.

Upon seeing him enter his home, the good lady dropped her eternal
lace-work, turned pale and greeted him with tremulous hands and
troubled eyes. She must have known the truth; and if she did not know
it, her motherly instinct told her when she saw Ulysses convalescent,
emaciated, hovering between courageous effort and physical breakdown,
just like the brave who come out of the torture chamber.

"Oh, my son!... How much longer!..."

It was time that he should bring to an end his madness for adventure,
his crazy desire for attempting the impossible, and encountering the
most absurd dangers. If he wished to follow the sea, very well. But let
it be in respectable vessels in the service of a great company,
following a career of regular promotion, and not wandering capriciously
over all seas, associated with the international lawlessness that the
ports offer for the reinforcement of crews. Remaining quietly at home
would be best of all. Oh, what happiness if he would but stay with his
mother!...

And Ulysses, to the astonishment of Doña Cristina, decided to do so.
The good señora was not alone. A niece was living with her as though
she were her daughter. The sailor had only to go down in the depths of
his memory to recall a little tot of a girl four years old, creeping
and frolicking on the shore while he, with the gravity of a man, had
been listening to the old secretary of the town, as he related the past
grandeurs of the Catalunian navy.

She was the daughter of a Blanes (the only poor one in the family) who
had commanded his relatives' ships, and had died of yellow fever in a
Central American port. Ferragut had difficulty in reconciling the
little creature crawling over the sand with this same slender,
olive-colored girl wearing her mass of hair like a helmet of ebony,
with two little spirals escaping over the ears. Her eyes appeared to
have the changing tints of the sea, sometimes black and others blue, or
green and deep where the light of the sun was reflected like a point of
gold.

He was attracted by her simplicity and by the timid grace of her words
and smile. She was an irresistible novelty for this world-rover who had
only known coppery maidens with bestial roars of laughter, yellowish
Asiatics with feline gestures, or Europeans from the great ports who,
at the first words, beg for drink, and sing upon the knees of the one
who is treating, wearing his cap as a testimony of love.

Cinta, that was her name, appeared to have known him all his life. He
had been the object of her conversations with Doña Cristina when they
spent monotonous hours together weaving lace, as was the village
custom. Passing her room, Ulysses noticed there some of his own
portraits at the time when he was a simple apprentice aboard a
transatlantic liner. Cinta had doubtless taken them from her aunt's
room, for she had been admiring this adventurous cousin long before
knowing him. One evening the sailor told the two women how he had been
rescued on the coast of Portugal. The mother listened with averted
glance, and with trembling hands moving the bobbins of her lace.
Suddenly there was an outcry. It was Cinta who could not listen any
longer, and Ulysses felt flattered by her tears, her convulsive
laments, her eyes widened with an expression of terror.

Ferragut's mother had been greatly concerned regarding the future of
this poor niece. Her only salvation was matrimony, and the good señora
had focused her glances upon a certain relative a little over forty who
needed this young girl to enliven his life of mature bachelorhood. He
was the wise one of the family. Doña Cristina used to admire him
because he was not able to read without the aid of glasses, and because
he interlarded his conversation with Latin, just like the clergy. He
was teaching Latin and rhetoric in the Institute of Manresa and spoke
of being transferred some day to Barcelona,--glorious end of an
illustrious career. Every week he escaped to the capital in order to
make long visits to the notary's widow.

"He doesn't come on my account," said the good señora, "who would
bother about an old woman like me?... I tell you that he is in love
with Cinta, and it will be good luck for the child to marry a man so
wise, so serious...."

As he listened to his mother's matrimonial schemes, Ulysses began to
wonder which of a professor of rhetoric's bones a sailor might break
without incurring too much responsibility.

One day Cinta was looking all over the house for a dark, worn-out
thimble that she had been using for many years. Suddenly she ceased her
search, blushed and dropped her eyes. Her glance had met an evasive
look on her cousin's face. He had it. In Ulysses' room might be seen
ribbons, skeins of silk, an old fan--all deposited in books and papers
by the same mysterious reflex that had drawn his portraits from his
mother's to his cousin's room.

The sailor now liked to remain at home passing long hours meditating
with his elbows on the table, but at the same time attentive to the
rustling of light steps that could be heard from time to time in the
near-by hallway. He knew about everything,--spherical and rectangular
trigonometry, cosmography, the laws of the winds and the tempest, the
latest oceanographic discoveries--but who could teach him the approved
form of addressing a maiden without frightening her?... Where the deuce
could a body learn the art of proposing to a shy girl?...

For him, doubts were never very long nor painful affairs. Forward
march! Let every one get out of such matters as best he could. And one
evening when Cinta was going from the parlor to her aunt's bedroom in
order to bring her a devotional book, she collided with Ulysses in the
passageway.

If she had not known him, she might have trembled for her existence.
She felt herself grasped by a pair of powerful hands that lifted her up
from the floor. Then an avid mouth stamped upon hers two aggressive
kisses. "Take that and that!"... Ferragut repented on seeing his cousin
trembling against the wall, as pale as death, her eyes filled with
tears.

"I have hurt you. I am a brute ... a brute!"

He almost fell on his knees, imploring her pardon; he clenched his
fists as if he were going to strike himself, punishing himself for his
audacity. But she would not let him continue.... "No, No!..." And while
she was moaning this protest, her arms were forming a ring around
Ulysses' neck. Her head drooped toward his, seeking the shelter of his
shoulder. A little mouth united itself modestly to that of the sailor,
and at the same time his beard was moistened with a shower of tears.

And they said no more about it.

When, weeks afterward, Doña Cristina heard her son's petition, her
first movement was one of protest. A mother listens with benevolent
appreciation to any request for the hand of her daughter, but she is
ambitious and exacting where her son is concerned. She had dreamed of
something so much more brilliant; but her indecision was short. That
timid girl was perhaps the best companion for Ulysses, after all.
Furthermore the child was well suited to be the wife of a man of the
sea, having seen its life from her infancy.... Good-by Professor!

They were married. Soon afterwards Ferragut, who was not able to lead
an inactive life, returned to the sea, but as first officer of a
transatlantic steamer that made regular trips to South America. To him
this seemed like being employed in a floating office, visiting the same
ports and invariably repeating the same duties. His mother was
extremely proud to see him in uniform. Cinta fixed her gaze on the
almanac as the wife of a clerk fixes it on the clock. She had the
certainty that when three months should have passed by she would see
him reappear, coming from the other side of the world laden down with
exotic gifts, just as a husband who returns from the office with a
bouquet bought in the street.

Upon his return from his first two voyages, she went to meet him on the
wharf, her eager glance searching for his blue coat and his cap with
its band of gold among the transatlantic passengers fluttering about
the decks, rejoicing at their arrival in Europe.

On the following trip, Doña Cristina obliged her to remain at home,
fearing that the excitement and the crowds at the harbor might affect
her approaching maternity. After that on each of his return trips
Ferragut saw a new son, although always the same one; first it was a
bundle of batiste and lace carried by a showily-uniformed nurse; then
by the time he was captain of the transatlantic liner, a little cherub
in short skirts, chubby-cheeked, with a round head covered with a silky
down, holding out its little arms to him; finally a boy who was
beginning to go to school and at sight of his father would grasp his
hard right hand, admiring him with his great eyes, as though he saw in
his person the concentrated perfection of all the forces of the
universe.

Don Pedro, the professor, continued visiting the house of Doña
Cristina, although with less assiduity. He had the resigned and coldly
wrathful attitude of the man who believes that he has arrived too late
and is convinced that his bad luck was merely the result of his
carelessness.... If he had only spoken before! His masculine
self-importance never permitted him to doubt that the young girl would
have accepted him jubilantly.

In spite of this conviction, he was not able to refrain at times from a
certain ironical aggressiveness which expressed itself by inventing
classic nicknames. The young wife of Ulysses, bending over her
lace-making, was Penelope awaiting the return of her wandering husband.

Doña Cristina accepted this nickname because she knew vaguely that
Penelope was a queen of good habits. But the day that the professor, by
logical deduction, called Cinta's son Telemachus, the grandmother
protested.

"He is named Esteban after his grandfather.... Telemachus is nothing
but a theatrical name."

On one of his voyages Ulysses took advantage of a four-hour stop in the
port of Valencia to see his godfather. From time to time he had been
receiving letters from the poet,--each one shorter and sadder,--written
in a trembling script that announced his age and increasing infirmity.

Upon entering the office Ferragut felt just like the legendary sleepers
who believe themselves awaking after a few hours of sleep when they
have really been dozing for dozens of years. Everything there was still
just as it was in his infancy:--the busts of the great poets on the top
of the book-cases, the wreaths in their glass cases, the jewels and
statuettes, prizes for successful poems--were still in their crystal
cabinets or resting on the same pedestals; the books in their
resplendent bindings formed their customary close battalions the length
of the bookcases. But the whiteness of the busts had taken on the color
of chocolate, the bronzes were reddened by oxidation, the gold had
turned greenish, and the wreaths were losing their leaves. It seemed as
though ashes might have rained down upon perpetuity.

The occupants of this spell-bound dwelling presented the same aspect of
neglect and deterioration. Ulysses found the poet thin and yellow, with
a long white beard, with one eye almost closed and the other very
widely opened. Upon seeing the young officer, broad-chested, vigorous
and bronzed, Labarta, who was huddled in a great arm chair, began to
cry with a childish hiccough as though he were weeping over the misery
of human illusions, over the brevity of a deceptive life that
necessitates continual renovation.

Ferragut found even greater difficulty in recognizing the little and
shrunken señora who was near the poet. Her flabby flesh was hanging
from her skeleton like the ragged fringe of past splendor; her head was
small; her face had the wrinkled surface of a winter apple or plum, or
of all the fruits that shrink and wither when they lose their juices.
"Doña Pepa!..." The two old people were thee-ing and thou-ing each
other with the tranquil non-morality of those that realize that they
are very near to death, and forget the tremors and scruples of a life
crumbling behind them.

The sailor shrewdly suspected that all this physical misery was the sad
finale of an absurd, happy-go-lucky and childish dietary,--sweets
serving as the basis of nutrition, great heavy rice dishes as a daily
course, watermelons and cantaloupes filling in the space between meals,
topped with ices served in enormous glasses and sending out a perfume
of honeyed snow.

The two told him, sighing, of their infirmities, which they thought
incomprehensible, attributing them to the ignorance of the doctors. It
was really the morbid wasting away that suddenly attacks people of the
abundant, food-yielding countries. Their life was one continual stream
of liquid sugar.... And yet Ferragut could easily guess the
disobedience of the two old folks to the discipline of diet, their
childish deceptions, their cunning in order to enjoy alone the fruits
and syrups which were the enchantment of their existence.

The interview was a short one. The captain had to return to the port of
Grao where his steamer was awaiting him, ready to weigh anchor for
South America.

The poet wept again, kissing his god-son. He never would see again this
Colossus who seemed to repel his weak embraces with the bellows of his
respiration.

"Ulysses, my son!... Always think of Valencia.... Do for her all that
you can.... Keep her ever in mind, always Valencia!"

He promised all that the poet wished without understanding exactly what
it was that Valencia might expect from him, a simple sailor, wandering
over all the seas. Labarta wished to accompany him to the door but he
sank down in his seat, obedient to the affectionate despotism of his
companion who was always fearing the greatest catastrophes for him.

Poor Doña Pepa!... Ferragut felt inclined to laugh and to weep at the
same time upon receiving a kiss from, her withered mouth whose down had
turned into pin points. It was the kiss of an old beauty who remembers
the gallantry of a youthful lover, the kiss of a childless woman
caressing the son she might have had.

"Poor unhappy Carmelo!... He no longer writes, he no longer reads....
Ay! what will ever become of me?..."

She always spoke of the poet's failing powers with the commiseration of
a strong and healthy person, and she became terrified when thinking of
the years in which she might survive her lord. Taken up with caring for
him, she never even glanced at herself.

A year afterward, on returning from the Philippines, the captain found
a letter from his god-father awaiting him at Port Said. Doña Pepa had
died, and Labarta, working off the tearful heaviness of his low
spirits, bade her farewell in a long canticle. Ulysses ran his eyes
over the enclosed newspaper clipping containing the last verses of the
poet. The stanzas were in Castilian. A bad sign!... After that there
could be no doubt that his end must be very near.

Ferragut never again had an opportunity to see his god-father, who died
while he was on one of his trips. Upon disembarking at Barcelona, Doña
Cristina handed him a letter written by the poet almost in his
death-agony. "Valencia, my son! Always Valencia!" And after repeating
this recommendation many times, he announced that he had made his
god-son his heir.

The books, the statues, all the glorious souvenirs of the
poet-laureate, came to Barcelona to adorn the sailor's home. The little
Telemachus amused himself pulling apart the old wreaths of the
troubador, and tearing out the old prints from his volumes with the
inconsequence of a lively child whose father is very far away and who
knows that he is idolized by two indulgent ladies. Besides his
trophies, the poet left Ulysses an old house in Valencia, some real
estate and a certain amount in negotiable securities,--total, thirty
thousand dollars.

The other guardian of his infancy, the vigorous _Triton_, seemed to be
unaffected by the passing of the years. Upon his return to Barcelona,
Ferragut frequently found him installed in his home, in mute hostility
to Doña Cristina, devoting to Cinta and her son a part of the affection
that he had formerly lavished upon Ulysses alone.

He was very desirous that the little Esteban should know the home of
his great grandparents.

"You will let me have him?... You know well enough," he coaxed, "that
down in the _Marina_ men become as strong as though made of bronze.
Surely you will let me have him?..."

But he quailed before the indignant gesture of the suave Doña Cristina.
Entrust her grandson to the _Triton_, and let him awaken in him the
love of maritime adventure, as he had done with Ulysses?... Behind me,
thou blue devil!

The doctor used to wander around bewildered by the port of
Barcelona.... Too much noisy bustle, too much movement! Walking proudly
along by the side of Ulysses, he loved to recount to him the adventures
of his life as a sailor and cosmopolitan vagabond. He considered his
nephew the greatest of the Ferraguts, a true man of the sea like his
ancestors but with the title of captain;--an adventurous rover over all
oceans, as he had been, but with a place on the bridge, invested with
the absolute command that responsibility and danger confer. When
Ulysses reëmbarked, the _Triton_ would take himself off to his own
dominions.

"It will be next time, sure!" he would say in order to console himself
for having to part with his nephew's son; and after a few months had
passed by, he would reappear, each time larger, uglier, more tanned,
with a silent smile which broke into words before Ulysses just as
tempestuous clouds break forth in thunder claps.

Upon his return from a trip to the Black Sea, Doña Cristina announced
to her son: "Your uncle has died."

The pious señora lamented as a Christian the departure of her
brother-in-law, dedicating a part of her prayers to him; but she
insisted with a certain cruelty in giving an account of his sad end,
for she had never been able to pardon his fatal intervention in the
destiny of Ulysses. He had died as he had lived,--in the sea, a victim,
of his own rashness, without confession, just like any pagan.

Another legacy thus fell to Ferragut.... His uncle had gone out
swimming one sunny, winter morning and had never come back. The old
folks on the shore had their way of explaining how the accident had
happened,--a fainting spell probably, a clash against the rocks. The
_Dotor_ was still vigorous, but the years do not pass without leaving
their footprints. Some believed that he must have had a struggle with a
shark or some other of the carnivorous fish that abound in the
Mediterranean waters. In vain the fishermen guided their skiffs through
all the twisting entrances and exits of the waters around the
promontory, exploring the gloomy caves and the lower depths of
crystalline transparency. No one was ever able to find the _Triton's_
body.

Ferragut recalled the cortege of Aphrodite which the doctor had so
often described to him on summer evenings, by the light of the far-away
gleam of the lighthouse. Perhaps he had come upon that gay retinue of
nereids, joining it forever!

This absurd supposition that Ulysses mentally formulated with a sad and
incredulous smile, frequently recurred in the simple thoughts of many
of the people of the _Marina_.

They refused to believe in his death. A wizard is never drowned. He
must have found down below something very interesting and when he got
tired of living in the green depths, he would probably some day come
swimming back home.

No: the _Dotor_ had not died.

And for many years afterwards the women who were going along the coast
at nightfall would quicken their steps, crossing themselves upon
distinguishing on the dark waters a bit of wood or a bunch of sea weed.
They feared that suddenly would spring forth the _Triton_, bearded,
dripping, spouting, returning from his excursion into the mysterious
depths of the sea.



CHAPTER IV


FREYA

The name of Ulysses Ferragut began to be famous among the captains of
the Spanish ports, although the nautical adventures of his early days
contributed very little to this popularity. The most of them had
encountered greater dangers, but they appreciated him because of the
instinctive respect that energetic and simple men have for an
intelligence which they consider superior to their own. Reading nothing
except what pertained to their career, they used to speak with
consternation of the numerous books that filled Ferragut's stateroom,
many of them upon matters which appeared to them most mysterious. Some
even made inexact statements in order to enlarge the prestige of their
comrade.

"He knows much.... He is a lawyer as well as a sailor."

Consideration of his fortune also contributed to the general
appreciation. He was an important share-holder of the company by which
he was employed. His companions loved to calculate with proud
exaggeration the riches of his mother, piling it up into millions.

He met friends on every ship carrying the Spanish flag, whatever might
be its home port or the nationality of its crews.

They all liked him:--the Basque captains, economical in words, rude and
sparing in affectionate discourse; the Asturian and Galician captains,
self-confident and spendthrift in strange contrast to their sobriety
and avaricious character when ashore; the Andalusian captains,
reflecting in their witty talk white Cadiz and its luminous wines; the
Valencian captains who talk of politics on the bridge, imagining that
they are going to become the navy of a future republic; and the
captains from Catalunia and Mallorca as thoroughly acquainted with
business affairs as are their ship-owners. Whenever necessity obliged
them to defend their rights, they immediately thought of Ulysses.
Nobody could write as he could.

The old mates who had worked their way up from the lower ranks, men of
the sea who had begun their career on coasting vessels and could only
with great difficulty adjust their practical knowledge to the handling
of books, used to speak of Ferragut with pride.

"They say that men of the sea are an uncultivated people.... Here they
have _Don Luis_ who is one of us. They may ask him whatever they
wish.... A real sage!"

The name of Ulysses always made them stammer. They believed it a
nickname, and not wishing to show any lack of respect, they had finally
transformed it into "Don Luis." For some of them, Ferragut's only
defect was his good luck. So far not a single boat of which he had had
command had been lost. And every sailor constantly on the sea ought to
have at least one of these misfortunes in his history in order to be a
real captain. Only landlubbers never lose their boats.

When his mother died, Ulysses was very undecided about the future, not
knowing whether to continue his sea life, or undertake something
entirely different. His relatives at Barcelona, merchants quick to
understand and appraise a fortune, added up what the notary and his
wife had left him and put with that what Labarta and the doctor had
contributed, until it amounted to a million pesetas.... And was a man
with as much money as that to go on living like a poor captain
dependent upon wages to maintain his family!...

His cousin, Joaquin Blanes, proprietor of a factory for knit goods,
urged him repeatedly to follow his example. He ought to remain on shore
and invest his capital in Catalan industry. Ulysses belonged to this
country both on his mother's side and because he was born in the
neighboring land of Valencia. There was great need of men of fortune
and energy to take part in the government. Blanes was entering local
politics with the enthusiasm of a middle-class man for novel adventure.

Cinta never said a word to influence her husband. She was the daughter
of a sailor and had accepted the life of a sailor's wife. Furthermore,
she looked upon matrimony in the light of the old familiar
traditions:--the woman absolute mistress of the interior of the home,
but trusting outside affairs to the will of the lord, the warrior, the
head of the hearth, without permitting herself opinions or objections
to their acts.

It was Ulysses, therefore, who decided to abandon the seafaring life.
Worked upon by the suggestions of his cousins, it needed only a little
dispute with one of the directors of the shipping firm to make him hand
in his resignation, and refuse to reconsider it, although urged by the
protests and entreaties of the other stockholders.

In the first months of his existence ashore, he was amazed at the
desperate immovability of everything. The world was made up of
revolting rigidity and solidity. He felt almost nauseated at seeing all
his possessions remain just where he left them, without the slightest
fluctuation, or the least bit of casual caprice.

In the mornings upon opening his eyes, he at first experienced the
sweet sensation of irresponsible liberty. Nothing affected the fate of
that house. The lives of those that were sleeping on the other floors
above and below him had not been entrusted to his vigilance.... But in
a few days he began to feel that there was something lacking, something
which had been one of the greatest satisfactions of his existence,--the
sensation of power, the enjoyment of command.

Two maids were now always hastening to him with a frightened air at the
sound of his voice, or the ringing of his bell. That was all that was
left to him who had commanded dozens of men of such ugliness of temper
that they struck terror to all beholders when they went ashore in the
ports. Nobody consulted him now, while on the sea everybody was seeking
his counsel and many times had to interrupt his sleep. The house could
go on without his making the rounds daily from the cellars to the roof,
overseeing even the slightest spigot. The women who cleaned it in the
mornings with their brooms were always obliging him to flee from his
office. He was not permitted to make any comment nor could he extend a
gold-striped arm as when he used to scold the barefooted, bare-breasted
deck-swabbers, insisting that the deck should be as clean as the
saloon. He felt himself belittled, laid to one side. He thought of
Hercules dressed as a woman and spinning wool. His love of family life
had made him renounce that of a powerful man.

Only the considerate treatment of his wife, who surrounded him with
assiduous care as though wishing to compensate for their long
separations, made the situation bearable. Furthermore, his conscience
was enjoying a certain satisfaction in being a land-father, taking much
interest in the life of his son who was beginning to prepare to enter
the institute, looking over his books, and aiding him in understanding
the notes.

But even these pleasures were not of long duration. The family
gatherings in his home or at his relatives' bored him unspeakably; so
did the conversations with his cousins and nephews about profits and
business deals, or about the defects of centralized tyranny. According
to them, all the calamities of heaven and earth were coming from
Madrid. The governor of the province was the "Consul of Spain."

These merchants interrupted their criticisms only to listen in
religious silence to Wagner's music banged out on the piano by the
girls of the family. A friend with a tenor voice used to sing
_Lohengrin_ in Catalan. Enthusiasm made the most excitable roar, "the
hymn ... the hymn!" It was not possible to misunderstand. For them
there was only one hymn in existence, and in a trilling undertone they
would accompany the liturgic music of _Los Segadores_ (The Reapers).
[The revolutionary song of Catalunia, originated by a band of reapers
in the seventeenth century.]

Ulysses used to recall with homesickness his life as commander of a
transatlantic liner,--a wide, universal life of incessant and varied
horizons, and cosmopolitan crowds. He could see himself detained on
deck by groups of elegant maidens who would beg him for new dances in
the coming week. His footsteps were surrounded with white fluttering
skirts, veils that waved like colored clouds, laughter and trills,
Spanish chatter that appeared set to music:--all the frolicsome jargon
of a cage of tropical birds.

Ex-presidents of the South American republics,--generals or doctors who
were going to Europe to rest,--used to relate to him on the bridge,
with Napoleonic gravity, the principal events in their history. The
business men starting out for America confided to him their stupendous
plans:--rivers turned from their courses, railroads built across the
virgin forests, monstrous electric forces extracted from huge
waterfalls varying in breadth, cities vomited from the desert in a few
weeks, all the marvels of an adolescent world that desires to realize
whatever its youthful imagination may conceive. He was the demi-urge of
this little floating world: he disposed of joy and love as the spirit
moved him.

In the scorching evenings around the equator, it was enough for him to
give an order to rouse things and beings from their brutish drowsiness.
"Let the music begin, and refreshments be served." And in a few moments
dancers would be revolving the whole length of the deck, and smiling
lips and eyes would become brilliantly alight with illusion and desire.
Behind him, his praises were always being sounded. The matrons found
him very distinguished. "It is plain to be seen that he is an
exceptional person." Stewards and crew circulated exaggerated accounts
of his riches and his studies. Some young girls sailing for Europe with
imaginations seething with romance were very much aghast to learn that
the hero was married and had a son. The solitary ladies stretched out
on a _chaise-longue,_ book in hand, upon seeing him would arrange the
corolla of their petticoats, hiding their legs with so much
precipitation that it always left them more uncovered; then fixing upon
him a languishing glance, they would begin a dialogue always in the
same way.

"How is it that any one so young as you has already become a
captain?..."

Ah, the misery of it!... He who had gallantly passed many years
cruising from one extreme of the Atlantic to the other with a rich,
gay, perfumed world, at times resisting feminine caprice through mere
prudence, yielding at others with the secrecy of a discreet sailor, now
found himself with no other admirers than the mediocre tribe of the
Blanes, with no other hallucinations than those which his cousin the
manufacturer might suggest, when waxing enthusiastic because the great
apostles of politics were taking a certain interest in the captain.

Every morning, on awaking, his taste now received a rude shock. The
first thing that he contemplated was a room "without personality," a
dwelling that was not characteristic of him in any way, arranged by the
maids with excessive cleanliness and a lack of logic that was
constantly changing the situation of his things.

He recalled with longing his compact and well-ordered stateroom where
there was not a piece of furniture that could escape his glance nor a
drawer whose contents he did not know down to the slightest detail. His
body was accustomed to slip without embarrassment through the spaces of
his cabin furnishings. He had adapted himself to all incoming and
outgoing angles just as the body of the mollusk adapts itself to the
winding curves of its shells. The cabin seemed formed by the secretions
of his being. It was a covering, a sheath, that went with him from one
extreme of the ocean to the other, heating itself with the high
temperature of the tropics, or becoming as cosy as an Esquimo hut on
approaching the polar seas.

His love for it was somewhat like that which the friar has for his
cell; but this cell was a secular one, and entering it after a
tempestuous night on the bridge, or a trip ashore in most curious and
foreign ports, he found it always the same, with his papers and books
untouched on the table, his clothes hanging from their hooks, his
photographs fixed on the walls. The daily spectacle of seas and lands
was always changing--the temperature, the course of the stars, and the
people that one week were bundled up in winter greatcoats, and were
clad in white the week after, hunting the heavens for the new stars of
another hemisphere.... Yet his cozy little stateroom was always the
same, as though it were the corner of a planet apart, unaffected by the
variations of this world.

Upon awaking in it, he found himself every morning enwrapped in a
greenish and bland atmosphere as though he might have been sleeping in
the bottom of an enchanted lake. The sun traced over the whiteness of
his ceiling and sheets a restless network of gold whose meshes
constantly succeeded each other. This was the reflection of the
invisible water. When his ship was immovable in the ports, there always
came in through his window the whirling noise of the cranes, the cries
of the stevedores and the voices of those who were in the neighboring
vessels. On the high sea the cool and murmuring silence of immensity
used to fill his sleeping room. A wind of infinite purity that came
perhaps from the other side of the planet--slipping past thousands of
leagues, over the salty deserts without touching a single bit of
corruption--would come stealing into Ferragut's throat like an
effervescent wine. His chest always expanded to the impulses of this
life-giving draught as his eyes roved over the sparkling, luminous blue
of the horizon.

Here in his home, the first thing that he saw through the window upon
awaking was a Catalunian edifice, rich and monstrous, like the palaces
that the hypnotist evolves in his dreams,--an amalgamation of Persian
flowers, Gothic columns, trunks of trees, with quadrupeds, reptiles and
snails among the cement foliage. The paving wafted up to him through
its drains the fetidity of sewers dry for lack of water; the balconies
shed the dust of shaken rugs; the absurd palace appropriated, with the
insolence of the new-rich, all the heaven and sun that used to belong
to Ferragut.

One night he surprised his relatives by informing them that he was
about to return to the sea. Cinta assented to this resolution in
painful silence, as though she had foreseen it long before. It was
something inevitable and fatal that she must accept. The manufacturer,
Blanes, stammered with astonishment. Return to his life of adventures,
when the great gentlemen of the district were becoming interested in
his personality!... Perhaps in the next elections they might have made
him a member of the municipal council!

Ferragut laughed at his cousin's simplicity. He wanted to command a
vessel again, but one of his own, without being obliged to consider the
restrictions of the ship owners. He could permit himself this luxury.
It would be like an enormous yacht, ready to set forth according to his
tastes and convenience, yet at the same time bringing him in untold
profits. Perhaps his son might in time become director of a maritime
company, this first ship laying the foundation of an enormous fleet in
the years to come.

He knew every port in the world, every highway of traffic, and he would
be able to find the places where, lacking transportation facilities,
they paid the highest freight rates. Until now he had been a salaried
man, brave and care-free. He was going to begin an absolutely
independent life as a speculator of the sea.

Two months afterwards he wrote from England saying that he had bought
the _Fingal_, a mail packet of three thousand tons that had made trips
twice a week between London and a port of Scotland.

Ulysses appeared highly delighted with the cheapness of his
acquisition. The _Fingal_ had been the property of a Scotch captain
who, in spite of his long illness, had never wished to give up command,
dying aboard his vessel. His heirs, inland men tired by their long
wait, were anxious to get rid of it at any price.

When the new proprietor entered the aft saloon surrounded with
staterooms,--the only habitable place in the ship,--memories of the
dead came forth to meet him. On the wall-panels were painted the heroes
of the Scotch Iliad,--the bard Ossian with his harp, Malvina with the
round arms and waving golden tresses, the undaunted warriors with their
winged helmets and protruding biceps, exchanging gashes on their
shields while awaking the echoes of the green lochs.

A deep and spongy arm chair opened its arms before a stove. There the
owner of the ship had passed his last years, sick at heart and with
swollen legs, directing from his seat a course that was repeated every
week across the foggy winter waves tossing bits of ice snatched from
the icebergs. Near the stove was a piano and upon its top an orderly
collection of musical scores yellowed by time,--_La Sonnambula, Lucia_,
Romances of Tosti, Neapolitan songs, breezy and graceful melodies that
the old chords of the instrument sent forth with the fragile and
crystalline tinkling of an old music box. The poor old captain with
sick heart and legs of stone had always turned to the sea of light for
distraction. It was music that made appear in the foggy heavens the
peaks of Sorrento covered with orange and lemon trees, and the coast of
Sicily, perfumed by its flaming flora.

Ferragut manned his boat with friendly people. His first mate was a
pilot who had begun his career in a fishing smack. He came from the
same village as Ulysses' ancestors, and he remembered the _Dotor_ with
respect and admiration. He had known this new captain when he was a
little fellow and used to go fishing with his uncle. In those days Toni
was already a sailor on a coast-trading vessel, and his superiority in
years had then justified his using the familiar thee and thou when
talking with the lad Ulysses.

Finding himself now under his orders, he wished to change his mode of
address, but the captain would not permit it. Perhaps he and Toni were
distant relatives,--all those living in that village of the _Marina_
had become related through long centuries of isolated existence and
common danger. The entire crew, from the first engineer to the lowest
seaman, showed an equal familiarity in this respect. Some were from the
same land as the captain, others had been sailing a long time under his
orders.

As shipowner, Ulysses now underwent numberless experiences whose
existence he had never before suspected. He went through the anguishing
transformation of the actor who becomes a theatrical manager, of the
author who branches out into publishing, of the engineer with a hobby
for odd inventions who becomes the proprietor of a factory. His
romantic love for the sea and its adventures was now overshadowed by
the price and consumption of coal, by the maddening competition that
lowered freight rates, and by the search for new ports with fast and
remunerative freight.

The _Fingal_ which had been rebaptized by its new proprietor with the
name of _Mare Nostrum_, in memory of his uncle, turned out to be a
dubious purchase in spite of its low price. As a navigator Ulysses had
been most enthusiastic upon beholding its high and sharp prow disposed
to confront the worst seas, the slenderness of the swift craft, its
machinery, excessively powerful for a freight steamer,--all the
conditions that had made it a mail packet for so many years. It
consumed too much fuel to be a profitable investment as a transport of
merchandise. The captain during his navigation could now think only of
the ravenous appetite of the boilers. It always seemed to him that the
_Mare Nostrum_ was speeding along with excess steam.

"Half speed!" he would shout down the tube to his first engineer.

But in spite of this and many other precautions, the expense for fuel
was enormously disproportioned to the tonnage of the vessel. The boat
was eating up all the profits. Its speed was insignificant compared
with that of a transatlantic steamer, though absurd compared with that
of the merchant vessels of great hulls and little machinery that were
going around soliciting cargo at any price, from all points.

A slave of the superiority of his vessel and in continual struggle with
it, Ferragut had to make great efforts in order to continue sailing
without actual heavy loss. All the waters of the planet now saw the
_Mare Nostrum_ specializing in the rarest kind of transportation.
Thanks to this expedient, the Spanish flag waved in ports that had
never seen it before.

Under this banner, he made trips through the solitary seas of Syria and
Asia Minor, skirting coasts where the novelty of a ship with a smoke
stack made the people of the Arabian villages run together in crowds.
He disembarked in Phoenician and Greek ports choked up with sand that
had left only a few huts at the foot of mountains of ruins, and where
columns of marble were still sticking up like trunks of lopped-off palm
trees. He anchored near to the terrible breakers of the western coast
of Africa under a sun which scorched the deck, in order to take on
board india-rubber, ostrich feathers, and elephants' tusks, brought out
in long pirogues by negro oarsmen, from a river filled with crocodiles
and hippopotamuses, and bordered by groups of huts with straw cones for
roofs.

When there were no more of these extraordinary voyages, the _Mare
Nostrum_ turned its course towards South America, resigning itself to
competition in rates with the English and Scandinavians who are the
muleteers of the ocean. His tonnage and draught permitted him to sail
up the great rivers of North America, even reaching the cities of the
remote interior where rows of factory chimneys smoked on the border of
a fresh-water lake converted into a port.

He sailed up the ruddy Paraná to Rosario and Colastiné, in order to
load Argentine wheat; he anchored in the amber waters of Uruguay
opposite Paysandú and Fray Ventos, taking on board hides destined to
Europe and salt for the Antilles. From the Pacific he sailed up the
Guayas bordered with an equatorial vegetation, in search of cocoa from
Guayaquil. His prow cut the infinite sheet of the Amazon,--dislodging
gigantic tree-trunks dragged down by the inundations of the virgin
forest--in order to anchor opposite Pará or Manaos, taking on cargoes
of tobacco and coffee. He even carried from Germany implements of war
for the revolutionists of a little republic.

These trips that in other times would have awakened Ferragut's
enthusiasm now resulted disastrously. After having paid all expenses
and lived with maddening economy, there was scarcely anything left for
the owner. Each time the freight boats were more numerous and the
transportation rates cheaper. Ulysses with his elegant _Mare Nostrum_
could not compete with the southern captains, drunken and taciturn,
eager to accept freight at any price in order to fill their miserable
transports crawling across the ocean at the speed of a tortoise.

"I can do no more," he said sadly to his mate. "I shall simply ruin my
son. If anybody will buy the _Mare Nostrum,_ I'm going to sell it."

On one of his fruitless expeditions, just when he was most discouraged,
some unexpected news changed the situation for him. They had just
arrived at Teneriffe with maize and bales of dry alfalfa from
Argentina.

When Toni returned aboard after having cleared the vessel, he shouted
in Valencian, the language of intimacy, "War, _Che_!"

Ulysses, who was pacing the bridge, received the news with
indifference. "War?... What war is that?..." But upon learning that
Germany and Austria had begun hostilities with France and Russia, and
that England was just intervening in behalf of Belgium, the captain
began quickly to calculate the political consequences of this
conflagration. He could see nothing else.

Toni, less disinterested, spoke of the future of the vessel.... Their
misery was at last at an end! Freightage at thirteen shillings a ton
was going to be henceforth but a disgraceful memory. They would no
longer have to plead for freight from port to port as though begging
alms. Now they were on the point of achieving importance, and were
going to find themselves solicited by consignors and disdainful
merchants. The _Mare Nostrum_ was going to be worth its weight in gold.

Such predictions, though Ferragut refused to accept them, began to be
fulfilled in a very short time. Ships on the ocean routes suddenly
became very scarce. Some of them were taking refuge in the nearest
neutral ports, fearing the enemy's cruisers. The greater part were
mobilized by their governments for the enormous transportation of
material that modern war exacts. The German corsairs, craftily taking
advantage of the situation, were increasing with their captures the
panic of the merchant marine.

The price of freight leaped from thirteen shillings a ton to fifty,
then to seventy, and a few days later to a hundred. It couldn't climb
any further, according to Captain Ferragut.

"It will climb higher yet," affirmed the first officer with cruel joy.
"We shall see tonnage at a hundred and fifty, at two hundred.... We are
going to become rich!..."

And Toni always used the plural in speaking of the future riches
without its ever occurring to him to ask his captain a penny more than
the forty-five dollars that he was receiving each month. Ferragut's
fortune and that of the ship, he invariably looked upon as his own,
considering himself lucky if he was not out of tobacco, and could send
his entire wages home to his wife and children living down there in the
_Marina_.

His ambition was that of all modest sailors--to buy a plot of land and
become an agriculturist in his old age. The Basque pilots used to dream
of prairies and apple orchards, a little cottage on a peak and many
cows. He pictured to himself a vineyard on the coast, a little white
dwelling with an arbor under whose shade he could smoke his pipe while
all his family, children and grandchildren, were spreading out the
harvest of raisins on the frame-hurdles.

A familiar admiration like that of an ancient squire for his paladin,
or of an old subaltern for a superior officer, bound him to Ferragut.
The books that filled the captain's stateroom recalled his agonies upon
being examined in Cartagena for his license as a pilot. The grave
gentlemen of the tribunal had made him turn pale and stutter like a
child before the logarithms and formulas of trigonometry. But just let
them consult _him_ on practical matters and his skill as master of a
bark habituated to all the dangers of the sea, and he would reply with
the self-possession of a sage!

In the most difficult perils,--days of storm and sinister shoals in the
neighborhood of the treacherous coasts, Ferragut could decide to rest
only when Toni replaced him on the bridge. With him, he had no fear
that, through carelessness, a wave would sweep across the deck and stop
the machinery, or that an invisible ledge would drive its stony point
into the vitals of the vessel. He held the helm to the course
indicated. Silent and immovable he stood, as though sleeping on his
feet; but at the right moment he always uttered the brief word of
command.

He was very skinny, with the dried up leanness of the bronzed
Mediterranean. The salt wind more than his years had tanned his face,
wrinkling it with deep crevices. A capricious coloring had darkened the
depths of these cracks while the part exposed to the sun appeared
washed several shades lighter. His short stiff beard extended over all
the furrows and crests of his skin. Furthermore, he had hair in his
ears, hair in the nasal passages, coarse and vibrating growths, ready
to tremble in moments of wrath or admiration.... But this ugliness
disappeared under the light of his little eyes with pupils between
green and olive color,--mild eyes with a canine expression of
resignation, when the captain made fun of his beliefs.

Toni was a "man of ideas." Ferragut only knew of his having four or
five, but they were hard, crystallized, tenacious, like the mollusks
that stick to the rocks and eventually become a part of the stony
excrescence. He had acquired them in twenty-five years of Mediterranean
coast service by reading all the periodicals of lyric radicalism that
were thrust upon him on entering the harbors. Furthermore, at the end
of every journey was Marseilles; and in one of its little side alleys
was a red room adorned with symbolic columns where sailors of all races
and tongues met together, fraternally understanding each other by means
of mysterious signs and ritual words.

Whenever Toni entered a South American port after a long absence, he
particularly admired the rapid progress of the new villages,--enormous
wharves constructed within the year, interminable streets that were not
in existence on his former voyage, shady and elegant parks, replacing
old, dried-up lakes.

"That's only natural," he would affirm roundly. "With good reason they
are republics!"

Upon entering the Spanish ports, the slightest deviation in the
docking, a discussion with the official employees, the lack of space
for a good anchorage would make him smile with bitterness. "Unfortunate
country!... Everything here is the work of the altar and the throne!"

In the Thames, and before the docks of Hamburg, Captain Ferragut would
chaff his subordinate.

"There's no republic here, Toni!... But, nevertheless this is rather
worth while."

But Toni never gave in. He would contract his hairy visage, making a
mental effort to formulate his vague ideas, clothing them with words.
In the very background of these grandeurs existed the confirmation of
the idea he was so vainly trying to express. Finally he admitted
himself checkmated, but not convinced.

"I don't know how to explain it; I haven't the words for it ... but ...
it's the _people_ who are doing all this."

Upon receiving in Teneriffe the news of war, he summed up all his
doctrines with the terseness of a victor.

"In Europe there are too many kings.... If all the nations could be
republics!... This calamity just had to come!"

And this time Ferragut did not venture to ridicule the
single-mindedness of his second.

All the people of the _Mare Nostrum_ showed great enthusiasm over the
new business aspect of things. The seamen who in former voyages were
taciturn, as though foreseeing the ruin or exhaustion of their captain,
were now working as eagerly as though they were going to participate in
the profits.

In the forward mess room many of them set themselves to work on
commercial calculations. The first trip of the war would be equal to
ten of their former ones; the second, perhaps, might bring in the
profit of twenty. And recalling their former bad business ventures,
they rejoiced for Ferragut, with the same disinterestedness as the
first officer. The engineers were no longer called to the captain's
cabin in order to contrive new economies in fuel. They had to take
advantage of the time and opportunity; and the _Mare Nostrum_ was now
going at full steam, making fourteen knots an hour, like a passenger
vessel, stopping only when its course was blocked at the entrance of
the Mediterranean by an English destroyer, sending out an officer to
make sure that they were not carrying on board enemy passengers.

Abundance reigned equally between bridge and forecastle where were the
sailors' quarters and the galley,--the space respected by every one on
the boat as the incontestable realm of Uncle Caragol.

This old man, nicknamed "Caracol" (snail), another old friend of
Ferragut's, was the ship's cook, and, although he did not dare to talk
as familiarly to the captain as in former times, the tone of his voice
made it understood that mentally he was continuing to use the old,
affectionate form. He had known Ulysses when he used to run away from
the classrooms to row in the harbor and, on account of the bad state of
his eyes, he had finally retired from the navigation of coast vessels,
descending to be a simple bargeman. His gravity and corpulence had
something almost priestly in character. He was the obese type of
Mediterranean with a little head, voluminous neck and triple chin,
seated on the stern of his fishing skiff like a Roman patrician on the
throne of his trireme.

His culinary talent suffered eclipse whenever rice did not figure as
the fundamental basis of his compositions. All that this food could
give of itself, he knew perfectly. In the tropical ports, the crews
surfeited with bananas, pineapples, and alligator-pears, would greet
with enthusiasm the apparition of a great frying pan of rice with cod
and potatoes, or a casserole of rice from the oven with its golden
crust perforated by the ruddy faces of garbanzos and points of black
sausage. At other times, under the leaden-colored sky of the northern
seas, the cook made them recall their distant native land by giving
them the monastic rice dish with beet roots, or buttery rice with
turnips and beans.

On Sundays and the fiestas of the Valencian saints who for Uncle
Caragol were the first in heaven,--_San Vicente Mártir, San Vicente
Ferrer, La Virgin de los Desamparados_ and the _Cristo del Grao_--would
appear the smoking _paella_, a vast, circular dish of rice upon whose
surface of white, swollen grains were lying bits of various fowls. The
cook loved to surprise his following by distributing rotund, raw
onions, with the whiteness of marble and an acrid surprise that brought
tears to the eyes. They were a princely gift maintained in secret. One
had only to break them with one blow and their sticky juices would gush
forth and lose themselves in the palate like crisp mouthfuls of a sweet
and spicy bread, alternating with knifefuls of rice. The boat was at
times near Brazil in sight of Fernando de Noroña,--yet even while
viewing the conical huts of the negroes installed on an island under an
equatorial sun, the crews could almost believe--thanks to Uncle
Caragol's magic--that they were eating in a cabin of the farmland of
Valencia, as they passed from hand to hand the long-spouted jug filled
with strong wine from Liria.

When they anchored in ports where fish was abundant, he achieved the
great work of cooking a rice _abanda_. The cabin boys would bring to
the captain's table the pot in which was boiled the rich sea food mixed
with lobsters, mussels, and every kind of shell-fish available, but the
_chef_ invariably reserved for himself the honor of offering the
accompanying great platter with its pyramid, of rice, every grain
golden and distinct.

Boiled apart (_abanda_) each grain was full of the succulent broth of
the stew-pot. It was a rice dish that contained within it the
concentration of all the sustenance of the sea. As though he were
performing a liturgical ceremony, the _chef_ would go around delivering
half a lemon to each one of those seated at the table. The rice should
only be eaten after moistening it with this perfumed dew which called
to mind the image of an oriental garden. Only the unfortunate beings
who lived inland were ignorant of this exquisite confection, calling
any mess of rice a Valencian rice dish.

Ulysses would humor the cook's notions, carrying the first spoonful to
his mouth with a questioning glance.... Then he would smile, giving
himself up to gastric intoxication. "Magnificent, Uncle Caragol!" His
good humor made him affirm that only the gods should be nourished with
rice _abanda_ in their abodes on Mount Olympus. He had read that in
books. And Caragol, divining great praise in all this, would gravely
reply, "That is so, my captain." Toni and the other officers by this
time would be chewing away with heads down, only interrupting their
feast to regret that the old Ganymede should have skimped them when
measuring the ambrosia.

In his estimation, oil was as precious as rice. In the time of their
money-losing navigation, when the captain was making special efforts at
economy, Caragol used to keep an especially sharp eye on the great oil
bottles in his galley, for he suspected that the cabin boys and the
young seamen appropriated it to dress their hair when they wanted to
play the dandy, using the oil as a pomade. Every head that put itself
within reach of his disturbed glance he grasped between his arms,
raising it to his nose. The slightest perfume of olive oil would arouse
his wrath. "Ah, you thief!"... And down would fall his enormous hand,
soft and heavy as a fencing gauntlet.

Ulysses believed him quite capable of climbing the bridge, and
declaring that navigation could not go on because of his having
exhausted the leathern bottles of amethyst-colored liquid proceeding
from the Sierra de Espadán.

In the ports, his short-sighted eyes recognized immediately the
nationality of the boats anchored on both sides of the _Mare Nostrum_.
His nose would sniff the air sadly. "Nothing!..." They were unsavory
barks, barks from the North that prepared their dinner with lard or
butter,--Protestant barks, perhaps.

Sometimes he would sneak along the gunwale, following an intoxicating
trail until he planted himself in front of the galley of the
neighboring boat, breathing in its rich perfume. "Hello, brothers!"
Impossible to fool him, they were probably Spaniards and, if not, they
were from Genoa or Naples,--in short, were compatriots accustomed to
live and eat in all latitudes just as though they were in their own
little inland sea. Soon they would begin a speech in the Mediterranean
idiom, a mixture of Spanish, Provençal and Italian, invented by the
hybrid peoples of the African coast from Egypt to Morocco. Sometimes
they would send each other presents, like those that are exchanged
between tribes,--fruits from distant countries. At other times,
suddenly inimical, without knowing why, they would shake their fists
over the railing, yelling insults at each other in which, between every
two or three words, would appear the names of the Virgin and her holy
Son.

This was the signal for Uncle Caragol, religious soul, to return in
haughty silence to his galley. Toni, the mate, used to make fun of his
devout enthusiasm. On the other hand, the foremast hands, materialistic
and gluttonous, used to listen to him with deference, because he was
the one who doled out the wine and the choicest tid-bits. The old man
used to speak to them of the _Cristo del Grao_, whose pictures occupied
the most prominent site in the kitchen, and they would all listen as to
a new tale, to the story of the arrival by sea of the sacred image,
mounted upon a ladder in a boat that had dissolved in smoke after
discharging its miraculous cargo.

This had been when the _Grao_ was no more than a group of huts far from
the walls of Valencia and threatened by the raids of the Moorish
pirates. For many years Caragol, barefooted, had carried this sacred
ladder on his shoulder on the day of the fiesta. Now other men of the
sea were enjoying such honor and he, old and half-blind, would be
waiting among the public for the procession to pass in order that he
might throw himself upon the enormous relic, touching his clothes to
the wood.

All his outer garments were sanctified by this contact. In reality they
weren't very many, since he usually strolled about the boat very
lightly clad, with the immodesty of a man who sees poorly and considers
himself above human preoccupations.

A shirt with the tail always floating, and a pair of pantaloons of
dirty cotton or yellow flannel, according to the season, constituted
his entire outfit. The bosom of the shirt was open on all occasions,
leaving visible a thatch of white hair. The pantaloons were fastened
together with a single button. A palm leaf hat always covered his head
even when he was working among his cooking pots.

The _Mare Nostrum_ could not be shipwrecked nor suffer any harm while
it carried him aboard. In the days of tempest, when waves were sweeping
the deck from prow to poop, and the sailors were treading warily,
fearing that a heavy sea might carry them overboard, Caragol would
stick his head out through the door of the galley, scorning a danger
which he could not see.

The great water-spouts would pass over him, even putting out his fires,
but only increasing his faith. "Courage, boys! Courage, lads!" The
_Cristo del Grao_ had special charge of them and nothing bad could
happen to the ship... Some of the seamen were silent, while others said
this and that about the image without arousing the indignation of the
old devotee. God, who sends dangers to the men of the sea, knows that
their bad words lack malice.

His religiosity extended to the very deeps. He did not wish to say
anything about the ocean fish, for they inspired him with the same
indifference as those cold and unperfumed boats that were ignorant of
olive oil, and all that was cooked with "pomade." They must be
heretics.

He was better acquainted with the fish of the Mediterranean and even
came to believe that they must be good Catholics, since in their own
way they proclaimed the glory of God. Standing near the taffrail on
torrid evenings in the tropics, he would recount, in honor of the
inhabitants of his distant sea, the portentous miracle which had taken
place in the glen of Alboraya.

A priest was one day fording on horseback the mouth of a river in order
to carry the eucharist to a dying person, when his beast stumbled and
the ciborium, falling open, the Hosts fell out and were carried off by
the current. From that time on, mysterious lights glowed every night on
the water, and at sunrise a swarm of little fishes would come to range
themselves opposite the glen, their heads emerging from the water, in
order to show the Host which each one of them was carrying in his
mouth. In vain the fishermen wished to take them away from them. They
fled to the inland sea with their treasures. Only when the clergy, with
cross erect and with the same priest, fell on their knees in the glen
did they decide to approach; and one after the other deposited his Host
in the ciborium, retiring then from wave to wave, gracefully waggling
their little tails.

In spite of the vague hope for a jug of choice wine that was animating
most of his hearers, a murmur of incredulity always arose at the end of
this tale. The devout Caragol then became as wrathful and foul-mouthed
as a prophet of old when he considered his faith in danger. "Who was
that son of a flea?... Who _was_ that son of a flea daring to doubt
what I myself have seen?..." And what he had seen was the fiesta of the
_Peixet_ that was celebrated every year, simply listening to most
learned men discoursing about the miracle in a commemorative chapel
built on the banks of the glen.

This prodigy of the little fishes was almost always followed with what
he called the miracle of the _Peixot_, endeavoring with the weight of
such a marvelous fish tale to crush the doubts of the impious.

The galley of Alphonso V of Aragon (the only sailor king of Spain),
upon coming out of the Gulf of Naples, once struck a hidden rock near
the island of Capri which took away a side of the ship without making
it leak; and the vessel continued on with all sails spread, carrying
the king, the ladies of his court, and the retinue of mail-clad barons.
Twenty days afterward they arrived at Valencia safe and sound like all
sailors who in moments of danger ask aid of the _Virgen del Puig_. Upon
inspecting the hull of the galley, the master calkers beheld a
monstrous fish detach itself from its bottom with the tranquility of an
upright person who has fulfilled his duty. It was a dolphin sent by the
most holy Señora in order that his side might stop up the open breach.
And thus, like a plug, it had sailed from Naples to Valencia without
allowing a drop of water to pass in.

The _chef_ would not admit any criticisms nor protests. This miracle
was undeniable. He had seen it with his own eyes, and they were good.
He had seen it in an ancient picture in the monastery of Puig,
everything appearing on the tablet with the realism of truth,--the
galley, the king, the _peixòt_ and the Virgin above giving the order.

At this juncture the breeze would flap the narrator's shirt tail,
disclosing his abdomen divided into hemispheres by the tyranny of its
only pantaloon button.

"Uncle Caragol, look out!" warned a teasing voice.

The holy man would smile with the seraphic calm of one who sees beyond
the pomps and vanities of existence, and would begin the relation of a
new miracle.

Ferragut used to attribute his cook's periods of exaltation to the
lightness of his clothing in all weathers. Within him was burning a
fire incessantly renewed. On foggy days he would climb to the bridge
with some glasses of a smoking drink that he used to call _calentets_.
Nothing better for men that had to pass long hours in the inclement
weather in motionless vigilance! It was coffee mixed with rum, but in
unequal proportions, having more alcohol than black liquid. Toni would
drink rapidly all the glasses offered. The captain would refuse them,
asking for clear coffee.

His sobriety was that of the ancient sailor,--the sobriety of Father
Ulysses who used to mix wine with water in all his libations. The
divinities of the old sea did not love alcoholic drinks. The white
_Amphitrite_ and the Nereids only accepted on their altars the fruits
of the earth, sacrifices of doves, libations of milk. Perhaps because
of this the seafaring men of the Mediterranean, following an hereditary
tendency, looked upon intoxication as the vilest of degradations. Even
those who were not temperate avoided getting frankly drunk like the
sailors of other seas, dissimulating the strength of their alcoholic
beverage with coffee and sugar.

Caragol was the understudy charged with drinking all which the captain
refused, together with certain others which he dedicated to himself in
the mystery of the galley. On warm days he manufactured _refresquets_,
and these refreshments were enormous glasses, half of water and half of
rum upon a great bed of sugar,--a mixture that made one pass like a
lightning flash, without any gradations, from vulgar serenity to most
angelic intoxication.

The captain would scold him upon seeing his inflamed and reddened eyes.
He was going to make himself blind.... But the guilty one was not moved
by this threat. He had to celebrate the prosperity of the vessel in his
own way. And of this prosperity the most interesting thing for him was
his ability to use oil and brandy lavishly without any fear of
recriminations when the accounts were settled. _Cristo del Grao_!...
would that the war would last forever!...

The _Mare Nostrum's_ third voyage from South America to Europe came
suddenly to an end in Naples, where they were unloading wheat and
hides. A collision at the entrance of the port, with an English
hospital ship that was going to the Dardanelles, injured her stern,
carrying away a part of the screw.

Toni roared with impatience upon learning that they would have to
remain nearly a month in enforced idleness. Italy had not yet
intervened in the war, but her defensive precautions were monopolizing
all naval industries. It was not possible to make the repairs sooner,
although Ferragut well knew what this loss of time would represent in
his business. Valuable freight was waiting for him in Marseilles and
Barcelona, but, wishing to tranquillize himself and to pacify his mate,
he would say repeatedly:

"England will indemnify us.... The English are just."

And in order to soothe his impatience he went ashore.

Compared with other celebrated Italian cities, Naples did not appear to
him of much importance. Its true beauty was its immense gulf between
hills of orange trees and pines, with a second frame of mountains one
of which outlined upon the azure heavens its eternal crest of volcanic
vapors.

The town did not abound in famous edifices. The monarchs of Naples had
generally been foreigners who had resided far away and had governed
through their delegates. The best streets, the palaces, the monumental
fountain, had come from the Spanish viceroys. A sovereign of mixed
origin, Charles the III, Castilian by birth and Neapolitan at heart,
had done the most for the city. His building enthusiasm had embellished
the ancient districts with works similar to those that he erected years
afterward, upon occupying the throne of Spain.

After admiring the Grecian statuary in the museum, and the excavated
objects that revealed the intimate life of the ancients, Ulysses
threaded the tortuous and often gloomy arteries of the popular
districts.

There were streets clinging to the slopes forming landings flanked with
narrow and very high houses. Every vacant space had its balconies, and
from every railing to its opposite were extended lines spread with
clothes of different colors, hung out to dry. Neapolitan fertility made
these little alleys seethe with people. Around the open-air kitchens
there crowded patrons, eating, while standing, their boiled macaroni or
bits of meat.

The hucksters were hawking their goods with melodious, song-like cries,
and cords to which little baskets were fastened were lowered down to
them from balconies. The bargaining and purchases reached from the
depth of the street gutters to the top of the seventh floor, but the
flocks of goats climbed the winding steps with their customary agility
in order to be milked at the various stair landings.

The wharves of the Marinela attracted the captain because of the local
color of this Mediterranean port. Italian unity had torn down and
reconstructed much of it, but there still remained standing various
rows of little low-roofed houses with white or pink facades, green
doors, and lower floors further forward than the upper ones, serving as
props for galleries with wooden balustrades. Everything there that was
not of brick was of clumsy carpentry resembling the work of ship
calkers. Iron did not exist in these terrestrial constructions
suggestive of the sailboat whose rooms were as dark as staterooms.
Through the windows could be seen great conch-shells upon the chests of
drawers, harsh and childish oil paintings representing frigates, and
multi-colored shells from distant seas.

These dwellings repeated themselves in all the ports of the
Mediterranean just as though they were the work of the same hand. As a
child, Ferragut had seen them in the _Grao_ of Valencia and continually
ran across them in Barcelona, in the suburbs of Marseilles, in old
Nice, in the ports of the western islands, and in the sections of the
African coast occupied by Maltese and Sicilians.

Over the town, lined up along the Marinela, the churches of Naples
reared their domes and towers with glazed roofs, green and yellow,
which appeared more like pinnacles of Oriental baths than the roofs of
Christian temples.

The barefooted _lazzarone_ with his red cap no longer existed, but the
crowd,--clad like the workmen of all ports--still gathered around the
daubed poster that represented a crime, a miracle or a prodigious
specific, listening in silence to the harangue of the narrator or
charlatan. The old popular comedians were declaiming with heroic
gesticulations the epic octavos of Tasso, and harps and violins were
sounding accompaniments to the latest melody that Naples had made
fashionable throughout the entire world. The stands of the oyster-men
constantly sent forth an organic perfume from the spent wave, and all
around them empty shells scattered their disks of pearly lime over the
mud.

Near to the ancient Captaincy of the port, the palace of Charles
III,--blue and white, with an image of the immaculate conception,--were
assembled the unloading trucks, whose teams still preserved their
ancient hybrid originality. In some instances the shafts were occupied
by a white ox, sleek with enormous and widely branching horns, an
animal similar to those that used to figure in the religious ceremonies
of the ancients. At his right would be hooked a horse, at his left, a
great raw-boned mule, and this triple and discordant team appeared in
all the carts, standing immovable before the ships the length of the
docks, or dragging their heavy wheels up the slopes leading to the
upper city.

In a few days the captain grew tired of Naples and its bustle. In the
cafés of the Street of Toledo and the Gallery of Humbert I, he had to
defend himself from some noisy youths with low-cut vests, butterfly
neckties and little felt hats perched upon their manes, who, in low
voices, proposed to him unheard-of spectacles organized for the
diversion of foreigners.

He had also seen enough of the paintings and domestic objects excavated
from the ancient cities. The lewdness of the secret cabinets finally
irritated him. It appeared to him the reverse of recreation to
contemplate so many childish fantasies of sculpture and painting having
the antique symbol of masculinity as its principal motif.

One morning he boarded a train and, after skirting the smoking mountain
of Vesuvius, passing between rose-colored villages surrounded with
vineyards, he stopped at the station of Pompeii.

From the funereal solitudes of hotels and restaurants, the guides came
forth like a suddenly awakened swarm of wasps, lamenting that the war
had cut off the tourist trade. Perhaps he would be the only one who
would come that day. "_Signor_, at your service, at any price
whatever!..." But the sailor continued on alone. Always, in recalling
Pompeii, he had wished to see it again alone, absolutely alone, so as
to get a more direct impression of the ancient life.

His first view of it had been seventeen years ago when, as a mate of a
Catalan sailing vessel anchored in the port of Naples, he had taken
advantage of the cheapness of Sunday rates and had seen everything as
one of a crowd that was pushing and treading on everybody's feet so as
to listen to the nearest guide.

At the head of the expedition had been a priest, young and elegant, a
Roman _Monsignor_, clad in silk, and with him two showy foreign women,
who were always climbing up in the highest places, raising their skirts
rather high for fear of the star lizards that were writhing in and out
of the ruins. Ferragut, in humble admiration, always remained below,
glimpsing the country from behind their legs. "Ay! Twenty-two
years!..." Afterwards when he heard Pompeii spoken of, it always evoked
in his memory several strata of images. "Very beautiful! Very
interesting!" And in his mind's eye he saw again the palaces and
temples, but as a secondary consideration, like a shrouded background,
while in the forefront were four magnificent legs standing forth,--a
human colonnade of slender shafts swathed in transparent black silk.

The solitude so long desired for his second visit was now aggressively
in evidence. In this deserted, dead city there were to-day no other
sounds than the whirring of insect wings over the plants beginning to
clothe themselves with springtime verdure, and the invisible scampering
of reptiles under the layers of ivy.

At the gate of Herculaneum, the guardian of the little museum left
Ferragut to examine in peace the excavations of the various corpses,
petrified Pompeiians of plaster still in the attitudes of terror in
which death had surprised them. He did not abandon his post in order to
trouble the captain with his explanations; he scarcely raised his eyes
from the newspaper that he had before him. The news from Rome,--the
intrigues of the German diplomats, the possibility that Italy might
enter the war,--were absorbing his entire attention.

Afterwards on the solitary streets the sailor found everywhere the same
preoccupation. His footsteps resounded in the sunlight as though
treading the depths of the hollow tombs. The moment he stopped, silence
again enveloped him,--"A silence of two thousand years," thought
Ferragut to himself, and in the midst of this primeval silence sounded
far-away voices in the violence of a sharp discussion. They were the
guardians and the employees of the excavations who, lacking work, were
gesticulating and insulting each other in these strongholds twenty
centuries old so profoundly isolated from patriotic enthusiasm or fear
of the horrors of war.

Ferragut, map in hand, passed among these groups without annoyance from
insistent guides. For two hours he fancied himself an inhabitant of
ancient Pompeii who had remained alone in the city on a holiday devoted
to the rural divinities. His glance could reach to the very end of the
straight streets without encountering persons or things recalling
modern times.

Pompeii appeared to him smaller than ever in this solitude,--an
intersection of narrow roads with high sidewalks paved with polygonal
blocks of blue lava. In its interstices Spring was forming green grass
plots dotted with flowers. Carriages,--of whose owners not even the
dust was left,--had with their deep wheels opened up ridges in the
pavement more than a thousand years ago. In every crossway was a public
fountain with a grotesque mask which had spouted water through its
mouth.

Certain red letters on the walls were announcements of elections to be
held in the beginning of that era,--candidates for aedile or duumvir
who were recommended to the Pompeiian voters. Some doors showed above,
the _phallus_ for conjuring the evil eyes; others, a pair of serpents
intertwined, emblem of family life. In the corners of the alleyways, a
Latin verse engraved on the walls asked the passerby to observe the
laws of sanitation, and there still could be seen on the stuccoed walls
caricatures and scribbling, handiwork of the little street gamins of
Caesar's day.

The houses were lightly constructed upon floors cracked by minor
earthquakes before the arrival of the final catastrophe. The lower
floors were of bricks or concrete and the others, of wood, had been
devoured by the volcanic fire, only the stairways remaining.

In this gracious city of amiable and easy-going life, more Greek than
Roman, all the lower floors of the plebeian houses had been occupied by
petty traders. They were shops with doors the same size as the
establishment, four-sided caves like the Arabian _zocos_ whose
furthermost corners were visible to the buyer stopping in the street.
Many still had their stone counters and their large earthen jars for
the sale of wine and oil. The private dwellings had no facades, and
their outer walls were smooth and unapproachable, but with an interior
court providing the surrounding chambers with light as in the palaces
of the Orient. The doors were merely half-doors of escape, parts of
larger ones. All life was concentrated around the interior, the central
patio, rich and magnificent, adorned with fish ponds, statues and
flower-bordered beds.

Marble was rare. The columns constructed of bricks were covered with a
stucco that offered a fine surface for painting. Pompeii had been a
polychrome city. All the columns, red or yellow, had capitals of divers
colors. The center of the walls was generally occupied with a little
picture, usually erotic, painted on black varnished walls varied with
red and amber hues. On the friezes were processions of cupids and
tritons, between rustic and maritime emblems.

Tired of his excursion through the dead city, Ferragut seated himself
on a stone bench among the ruins of the temple, and looked over the map
spread out on his knees, enjoying the titles with which the most
interesting constructions had been designated because of a mosaic or a
painting,--Villa of Diomedes, the House of Meleager, of the wounded
Adonis, of the Labryinth, of the Faun, of the Black Wall. The names of
the streets were not less interesting: The Road of the Hot Baths, the
Road of the Tombs, the Road of Abundance, the Road of the Theaters.

The sound of footsteps made the sailor raise his head. Two ladies were
passing, preceded by a guide. One was tall, with a firm tread. They
were wearing face-veils and still another larger veil crossing behind
and coming over the arms like a shawl. Ferragut surmised a great
difference in the ages of the two. The stout one was moving along with
an assumed gravity. Her step was quick, but with a certain authority
she planted on the ground her large feet, loosely shod and with low
heels. The younger one, taller and more slender, tripping onwards with
little steps like a bird that only knows how to fly, was teetering
along on high heels.

The two looked uneasily at this man appearing so unexpectedly among the
ruins. They had the preoccupied and timorous air of those going to a
forbidden place or meditating a bad action. Their first movement was an
impulse to go back, but the guide continued on his way so imperturbably
that they followed on.

Ferragut smiled. He knew where they were going. The little cross street
of the _Lupanares_ was near. The guard would open a door, remaining on
watch with dramatic anxiety as though he were endangering his job by
this favor in exchange for a tip. And the two ladies were about to see
some tarnished, clumsy paintings showing nothing new or original in the
world,--nude, yellowish figures, just alike at first glance with no
other novelty than an exaggerated emphasis on sex distinction.

Half an hour afterwards Ulysses abandoned his bench, for his eyes had
tired of the severe monotony of the ruins. In the street of the Hot
Baths (_Thermae_), he again visited the house of the tragic poet. Then
he admired that of Pansa, the largest and most luxurious in the city.
This Pansa had undoubtedly been the most pretentious citizen of
Pompeii. His dwelling occupied an entire block. The _xystus_, or
garden, adjoining the house had been laid out like a Grecian landscape
with cypresses and laurels between squares of roses and violets.

Following along the exterior wall of the garden, Ferragut again met the
two ladies. They were looking at the flowers across the bars of the
door. The younger one was expressing in English her admiration for some
roses that were flinging their royal color around the pedestal of an
old faun.

Ulysses felt an irresistible desire to show off in a gallant and
intrepid fashion. He wished to pay the two foreign ladies some
theatrical homage. He felt that necessity of attracting attention in
some gay and dashing way that characterizes Spaniards far from home.

With the agility of a mast-climber, he leaped the garden wall in one
bound. The two ladies gave a cry of surprise, as though they had
witnessed some impossible maneuver. This audacity appeared to upset the
ideas of the older one, accustomed to life in disciplined towns that
rigidly respect every established prohibition. Her first movement was
of flight, so as not to be mixed up in the escapade of this stranger.
But after a few steps she paused. The younger one was smiling, looking
at the wall, and as the captain reappeared upon it she almost clapped
with enthusiasm as though applauding a dangerous acrobatic feat.

Believing them to be English, the sailor spoke in that language when
presenting to them the two roses that he carried in his hand. They were
merely flowers, like all others, grown in a land like other lands, but
the frame of the thousand-year-old wall, the propinquity of the alcoves
and drinking shops of a house built by Pansa in the time of the first
Caesars, gave them the interest of roses two thousand years old,
miraculously preserved.

The largest and most luxuriant he gave to the young woman, and she
accepted it smilingly as her natural right. Her companion as soon as
she acknowledged the gift, appeared impatient to get away from the
stranger. "Thanks!... Thanks!" And she pushed along the other one, who
had not yet finished smiling,--the two going hurriedly away. A corner
adorned with a fountain soon hid their steps.

When Ulysses, after a light lunch in the restaurant of Diomedes, came
running to the station, the train was just about to start. He was
planning to see Salerno, celebrated in the Middle Ages for its
physicians and navigators, and then the ruined temples of Paestum. As
he climbed into the nearest coach, he fancied that he spied the veils
of the two ladies vanishing behind a little door that was just closing.

In the station of Salerno he again caught sight of them in a distant
hack disappearing in a neighboring street, and during the afternoon he
frequently ran across them as travelers will in a small city. They met
one another in the harbor, so fatally threatened with bars of moving
sand; they saw each other in the gardens bordering the sea, near the
monument of Carlo Pisacana, the romantic duke of San Juan, a precursor
of Garibaldi, who died in extreme youth for the liberty of Italy.

The young woman smiled whenever she met him. Her companion passed on
with a casual glance, trying to ignore his presence.

At night they saw more of each other, as they were stopping at the same
hotel, a lodging house like all those in the small ports with excellent
meals and dirty rooms. They had adjoining tables, and after a coldly
acknowledged greeting, Ferragut had a good look at the two ladies who
were speaking very little and in a low tone, fearing to be overheard by
their neighbor.

Upon looking at the older one without her veils, he found his original
impression confirmed. In other times, perhaps, she might have destroyed
the peace of male admirers, but she could now continue her hostile and
distant attitude with impunity. The captain was not at all affected by
it.

She must have been over forty. Her excessive flesh still had a certain
freshness, the result of hygienic care and gymnastic exercise. On the
other hand, her white complexion showed underneath it a yellowish
subcutaneous, granular condition that looked as though made up of
particles of bran. Upon her ancient switch, reddish in tone, were piled
artificial curls hiding bald spots and gray hairs. Her green pupils,
when freed from their near-sighted glasses, had the tranquil opacity of
ox-eyes; but the minute these gold-mounted crystals were placed between
her and the outer world, the two glaucous drops took on a sharpness
which fairly perforated persons and objects. At other times they
appeared a glacial and haughty void, like the circle that a sword
traces.

The young woman was less intractable. She appeared to be smiling out of
the corners of her eyes, while her back was half turned to Ferragut,
acknowledging his mute and scrutinizing admiration. She had her hair
loosely arranged like a woman who is not afraid of naturalness in her
coiffure, and lets her waving locks peep out under her hat in all their
original willfulness.

She was a dainty ash-blonde with a high color in striking contrast to
her general delicacy of tone. Her great, almond-shaped, black eyes
appeared like those of an Oriental dancer, and were yet further
prolonged by skillful retouching of shadows that augmented the
seductive contrast with her dull gold hair.

The whiteness of her skin became very evident when her arm showed
outside her sleeve and at the opening of her low-necked dress. But this
whiteness was now temporarily effaced by a ruddy mask. Her vigorous
beauty had been fearlessly exposed to the sun and the breath of the
sea, and a scarlet triangle emphasized the sweet curve of her bosom,
accentuating the low cut of her gown. Upon her sunburned throat a
necklace of pearls hung in moonlight drops. Further up, in a face
tanned by the inclemency of the weather, the mouth parted its two
scarlet, bow-shaped lips with an audacious and serene smile, showing
the reflection of her strong and handsome teeth.

Ferragut reviewed his past without finding a single woman that could be
exactly compared with her. The distant perfume of her person and her
genteel elegance reminded him of certain dubious ladies who were always
traveling alone when he was captain of the transatlantic liners. But
these acquaintances had been so rapid and were so far away!... Never in
his history as a world-rover had he had the good luck to chance upon a
woman just like this one.

Again exchanging glances with her, he felt that throb in the heart and
flash in the brain which accompany a lightning-like and unexpected
discovery... He had known that woman: he could not recall where he had
seen her, but he was sure that he must have known her.

Her face told his memory nothing, but those eyes had exchanged glances
with his on other occasions. In vain he reflected, concentrating his
thoughts.... And the queer thing about it all was that, by some
mysterious perception, he became absolutely certain that she was doing
the same thing at the very same moment. She also had recognized him,
and was evidently making great effort to give him a name and place in
her memory. He had only to notice the frequency with which she turned
her eyes toward him and her new smile, more confident and spontaneous,
such as she would give to an old friend.

Had her dragon not been present, they would have talked together
enthusiastically, instinctively, like two restless, curious beings
wishing to clear up the mystery; but the gold-rimmed glasses were
always gleaming authoritatively and inimically, coming between the two.
Several times the fat lady spoke in a language that reached Ferragut
confusedly and which was not English, and their dinner was hardly
finished before they disappeared just as they had done in the streets
of Pompeii,--the older one evidently influencing the other with her
iron will.

The following morning they all met again in a first-class coach in the
station of Salerno. Undoubtedly they had the same destination. As
Ferragut began to greet them, the hostile dame deigned to return his
salutation, looking then at her companion with a questioning
expression. The sailor guessed that during the night they had been
discussing him while he, under the same roof, had been struggling
uselessly, before falling asleep, to concentrate his recollections.

He never knew with certainty just how the conversation began. He found
himself suddenly talking in English with the younger one, just as on
the preceding morning. She, with the audacity that quickly makes the
best of a dubious situation, asked him if he was a sailor. And upon
receiving an affirmative response, she then asked if he was Spanish.

"Yes, Spanish."

Ferragut's answer was followed by a triumphant glance toward the
chaperone, who seemed to relax a little and lose her hostile attitude.
And for the first time she smiled upon the captain with her mouth of
bluish-rose color, her white skin sprinkled with yellow, and her
glasses of phosphorescent splendor.

Meanwhile, the young woman was talking on and on, verifying her
extraordinary powers of memory.

She had traveled all over the world without forgetting a single one of
the places which she had seen. She was able to repeat the titles of the
eighty great hotels in which those who make the world's circuit may
stay. Upon meeting with an old traveling companion, she always
recognized his face immediately, no matter how short a time she had
seen him, and oftentimes she could even recall his name. This last was
what she had been puzzling over, wrinkling her brows with the mental
effort.

"You are a captain?... Your name is?..."

And she smiled suddenly as her doubts came to an end.

"Your name is," she said positively, "Captain Ulysses Ferragut."

In long and agreeable silence she relished the sailor's astonishment.
Then, as though she pitied his stupefaction, she made further
explanations. She had made a trip from Buenos Ayres to Barcelona in a
steamship which he had commanded.

"That was six years ago," she added. "No; seven years ago."

Ferragut, who had been the first to suspect a former acquaintance,
could not recall this woman's name and place among the innumerable
passengers that filled his memory. He thought, nevertheless, that he
must lie for gallantry's sake, insisting that he remembered her well.

"No, Captain; you do not remember me. I was accompanied by my husband
and you never looked at me.... All your attentions on that trip were
devoted to a very handsome widow from Brazil."

She said this in Spanish, a smooth, sing-song Spanish learned in South
America, to which her foreign accent contributed a certain childish
charm. Then she added coquettishly:

"I know you, Captain. Always the same!... That affair of the rose at
Pompeii was very well done.... It was just like you."

The grave lady of the glasses, finding herself forgotten, and unable to
understand a word of the new language employed in the conversation, now
spoke aloud, rolling her eyes in her enthusiasm.

"Oh, Spain!..." she said in English. "The land of knightly
gentlemen.... Cervantes ... Lope!... The Cid!..."

She stopped hunting for more celebrities. Suddenly she seized the
sailor's arm, exclaiming as energetically as though she had just made a
discovery through the little door of the coach. "Calderon de la Barca!"
Ferragut saluted her. "Yes, Señora." After that the younger woman
thought that it was necessary to present her companion.

"Doctor Fedelmann.... A very wise woman distinguished in philology and
literature."

After clasping the doctor's hand, Ferragut indiscreetly set himself to
work to gather information.

"The Señora is German?" he said in Spanish to the younger one.

The gold-rimmed spectacles appeared to guess the question and shot a
restless gleam at her companion.

"No," she replied. "My friend is a Russian, or rather a Pole."

"And you, are you Polish, too?" continued the sailor.

"No, I am Italian."

In spite of the assurance with which she said this, Ferragut felt
tempted to exclaim, "You little liar!" Then, as he gazed upon the full,
black, audacious eyes fixed upon him, he began to doubt.... Perhaps she
was telling the truth.

Again he found himself interrupted by the wordiness of the doctor. She
was now speaking in French, repeating her eulogies on Ferragut's
country. She could read Castilian in the classic works, but she would
not venture to speak it. "Ah, Spain! Country of noble traditions...."
And then, seeking to relieve these eulogies by some strong contrast,
she twisted her face into a wrathful expression.

The train was running along the coast, having on one side the blue
desert of the Gulf of Salerno, and on the other the red and green
mountains dotted with white villages and hamlets. The doctor took it
all in with her gleaming glasses.

"A country of bandits," she said, clenching her fists. "Country of
mandolin-twangers, without honor and without gratitude!..."

The girl laughed at this outburst with that hilarity of
light-heartedness in which no impressions are durable, considering as
of no importance anything which does not bear directly upon its own
egoism.

From a few words that the two ladies let fall, Ulysses inferred that
they had been living in Rome and had only been in Naples a short time,
perhaps against their will. The younger one was well acquainted with
the country, and her companion was taking advantage of this enforced
journey in order to see what she had so many times admired in books.

The three alighted in the station of Battipaglia in order to take the
train for Paestum. It was a rather long wait, and the sailor invited
them to go into the restaurant, a little wooden shanty impregnated with
the double odor of resin and wine.

This shack reminded both Ferragut and the young woman of the houses
improvised on the South American deserts; and again they began to speak
of their oceanic voyage. She finally consented to satisfy the captain's
curiosity.

"My husband was a professor, a scholar like the doctor.... We were a
year in Patagonia, making scientific explorations."

She had made the dangerous journey through an ocean of desert plains
that had spread themselves out before them as the expedition advanced;
she had slept in ranch houses whose roofs shed bloodthirsty insects;
she had traveled on horseback through whirlwinds of sand that had
shaken her from the saddle; she had suffered the tortures of hunger and
thirst when losing the way, and she had passed nights in intemperate
weather with no other bed than her poncho and the trappings of the
horses. Thus they had explored those lakes of the Andes between
Argentina and Chile that guard in their pure and untouched desert
solitude the mystery of the earliest days of creation.

Rovers over these virgin lands, shepherds and bandits, used to talk of
glimpses of gigantic animals at nightfall on the shores of the lakes
devouring entire meadows with one gulp; and the doctor, like many other
sages, had believed in the possibility of finding a surviving
prehistoric animal, a beast of the monstrous herds anterior to the
coming of man, still dwelling in this unexplored section of the planet.

They saw skeletons dozens of yards long in the foot-hills of the
Cordilleras so frequently agitated by volcanic cataclysms. In the
neighborhood of the lakes the guides pointed out to them the hides of
devoured herds, and enormous mountains of dried material that appeared
to have been deposited by some monster. But no matter how far they
penetrated into the solitude, they were always unable to find any
living descendant of prehistoric fauna.

The sailor listened absent-mindedly, thinking of something else that
was quickening his curiosity.

"And you, what is your name?" he said suddenly.

The two women laughed at this question, amusing because so unexpected.

"Call me Freya. It is a Wagnerian name. It means the earth, and at the
same time liberty.... Do you like Wagner?"

And before he could reply she added in Spanish, with a Creole accent
and flashing eyes:

"Call me, if you wish, 'the merry widow.' The poor doctor died as soon
as we returned to Europe."

The three had to run to catch the train ready to start for Paestum. The
landscape was changing on both sides of the way, as now they were
crossing over marshy portions of land. On the soft meadows flocks of
buffaloes, rude animals that appeared carved out in hatchet strokes,
were wading and grazing.

The doctor spoke of Paestum, the ancient Poseidonia, the city of
Neptune, founded by the Greeks of Sybaris six centuries before Christ.

Commercial prosperity once dominated the entire coast. The gulf of
Salerno was called by the Romans the Gulf of Paestum. And this city
with mountains like those of Athens had suddenly become extinguished
without being swallowed up by the sea, and with no volcano to cover it
with ashes.

Fever, the miasma of the fens, had been the deadly lava for this
Pompeii. The poisonous air had caused the inhabitants to flee, and the
few who insisted upon living within the shadow of the ancient temples
had had to escape from the Saracen invasions, founding in the
neighboring mountains a new country--the humble town of Capaccio
Vecchio. Then the Norman kings, forerunners of Frederick II (the father
of Doña Constanza, the empress beloved by Ferragut), had plundered the
entire deserted city, carrying off with them its columns and sculpture.

All the medieval constructions of the kingdom of Naples were the spoils
of Paestum. The doctor recalled the cathedral of Salerno, seen the
afternoon before, where Hildebrand, the most tenacious and ambitious of
the popes, was buried. Its columns, its sarcophagi, its bas-reliefs had
come from this Grecian city, forgotten for centuries and centuries
and only in modern times--thanks to the antiquarians and
artists--recovering its fame.

In the station of Paestum, the wife of the only employee looked
curiously at this group arriving after the war had blocked off the
trail of tourists.

Freya spoke to her, interested in her malarial and resigned aspect.
They were yet in good time. The spring sun was warming up these
lowlands just as in midsummer, but she was still able to resist it.
Later, during the summer, the guards of the ruins and the workmen in
the excavations would have to flee to their homes in the mountains,
handing the country over to the reptiles and insects of the marshy
fields.

The lodging keeper and his wife in the little station were the only
evidences of humankind still able to exist in this solitude, trembling
with fever, trying to endure the corrupt air, the poisonous sting of
the mosquito, and the solar fire that was sucking from the mud the
vapors of death. Every two years this humble stopping place through
which passed the lucky ones of the earth,--the millionaires of two
hemispheres, beautiful and curious dames, rulers of nations, and great
artists,--was obliged to change its station-master.

The three tourists passed near the remains of an aqueduct and an
antique pavement. Then they went through the _Porta della Sirena_, an
entrance arch into a forgotten quarter of the city, and continued along
a road bordered on one side by marshy lands of exuberant vegetation and
on the other by the long mud wall of a grange, through whose mortar
were sticking out fragments of stones or columns. On turning the last
corner, the imposing spectacle of the dead city, still surviving in the
magnificent proportions of its temples, presented itself to view.

There were three of these temples, and their colonnades stood forth
like mast heads of ships becalmed in a sea of verdure. The doctor,
guide-book in hand, was pointing them out with masterly authority--that
was Neptune's, that Ceres', and that was called the Basilica without
any special reason.

Their grandeur, their solidity, their elegance made the edifices of
Rome sink into insignificance. Athens alone could compare the monuments
of her Acropolis with these temples of the most severe Doric style.
That of Neptune had well preserved its lofty and massive columns,--as
close together as the trees of a nursery,--enormous trunks of stone
that still sustained the high entablature, the jutting cornice and the
two triangular walls of its façades. The stone had taken on the mellow
color of the cloudless countries where the sun toasts readily and the
rain does not deposit a grimy coating.

The doctor recalled the departed beauties and the old covering of these
colossal skeletons,--the fine and compact coating of stucco which had
closed the pores of the stone, giving it a superficial smoothness like
marble,--the vivid colors of its flutings and walls making the antique
city a mass of polychrome monuments. This gay decoration had become
volatilized through the centuries and its colors, borne away by the
wind, had fallen like a rain of dust upon a land in ruins.

Following an old guard, they climbed the blue, tiled steps of the
temple of Neptune. Above, within four rows of columns, was the real
sanctuary, the _cella_. Their footsteps on the tiled flags, separated
by deep cracks filled with grass, awoke all the animal world that was
drowsing there in the sun.

These actual inhabitants of the city,--enormous lizards with green
backs covered with black warts,--ran in all directions. In their flight
they scurried blindly over the feet of the visitors. The doctor raised
her skirts in order to avoid them, at the same time breaking into
nervous laughter to hide her terror.

Suddenly Freya gave a cry, pointing to the base of the ancient altar.
An ebony-hued snake, his sides dotted with red spots, was slowly and
solemnly uncoiling his circles upon the stones. The sailor raised his
cane, but before he could strike he felt his arm grasped by two nervous
hands. Freya was throwing herself upon him with a pallid face and eyes
dilated with fear and entreaty.

"No, Captain!... Leave it alone!"

Ulysses thrilled upon feeling the contact of her firm, curving bosom
and noting her respiration, her warm breath charged with distant
perfume. It would have suited him if she had remained in this position
a long time, but Freya freed herself in order to advance toward the
reptile, coaxing it and holding out her hands to it as though she were
trying to caress a domestic animal. The black tail of the serpent was
just slipping away and disappearing between two square tiles. The
doctor who had fled down the steps at this apparition, by her repeated
calls, obliged Freya also to descend.

The captain's aggressive attitude awoke in his companion a nervous
animosity. She believed she knew this reptile. It was undoubtedly the
divinity of the dead temple that had changed its form in order to live
among the ruins. This serpent must be twenty centuries old. If it had
not been for Ferragut she would have been able to have taken it up in
her hands.... She would have spoken to it.... She was accustomed to
converse with others....

Ulysses was about to express his doubts rudely as to the mental
equilibrium of the exasperated widow when the doctor interrupted them.
She was contemplating the swampy plains of acanthus and ferns trembling
under the shrill chirping of the cicadas, and this spectacle of green
desolation made her recall the roses of Paestum of which the poets of
ancient Rome had sung. She even recited some Latin verses, translating
them to her hearers so as to make them understand that the rose bushes
of this land used to bloom twice a year. Freya smoothed out her brow
and began to smile again. She forgot her recent ill humor and expressed
a great longing for one of the marvelous rose bushes: and at this
caprice of childish vehemence, Ferragut spoke to the custodian with
authority. He had to have at once a rose bush from Paestum, cost what
it might.

The old fellow made a bored gesture. Everybody asked the same thing,
and he who belonged to that country had never seen a rose of
Paestum.... Sometimes, just in order to satisfy the whim of tourists,
he would bring rose bushes from Capaccio Vecchio and other mountain
villages,--rose bushes just like others with no difference except in
price.... But he didn't wish to take advantage of anybody. He was sad
and greatly troubled over the possibility of war.

"I have eight sons," he said to the doctor, because she seemed to be
the most suitable one to receive his confidences. "If they mobilize the
army, six of them will leave me."

And he added with resignation:

"That's the way it ought to be if we would end forever, in one blow,
our eternal enmity with the Goth. My sons will battle against them,
just as my father fought."

The doctor stalked haughtily away, and then said in a low voice to her
companions that the old guard was an imbecile.

They wandered for two hours through the ancient district of the
city,--exploring the network of its streets, the ruins of the
amphitheater and the _Porta Aurea_ which opened upon a road flanked
with tombs. By the _Porta di Mare_ they climbed to the walls, ramparts
of great limestone blocks, extending a distance of five kilometers. The
sea, which from the lowlands had looked like a narrow blue band, now
appeared immense and luminous,--a solitary sea with a feather-like
crest of smoke, without a sail, given completely over to the sea-gulls.

The doctor walked stiffly ahead of them, still ill-humored about the
guide's remark and consulting the pages of her guide book. Behind her
Ulysses came close up to Freya, recalling their former contact.

He thought that it would be an easy matter now to get possession of
this capricious and free-mannered woman. "Sure thing, Captain!" The
rapid triumphs that he had always had in his journeys assured him that
there was not the slightest doubt of success. It was enough for him to
see the widow's smile, her passionate eyes, and the little tricks of
malicious coquetry with which she responded to his gallant advances.
"Forward, sea-wolf!"... He took her hand while she was speaking of the
beauty of the solitary sea, and the hand yielded without protest to his
caressing fingers. The doctor was far away and, sighing hypocritically,
he encircled Freya's waist with his other arm while he inclined his
head upon her open throat as though he were going to kiss her pearls.

In spite of his strength, he found himself energetically repulsed and
saw Freya freed from his arms, two steps away, looking upon him with
hostile eyes that he had not noticed before.

"None of your child's play, Captain!... It is useless with me.... You
are just wasting time."

And she said no more. Her stiffness and her silence during the rest of
the walk made the sailor understand the enormity of his mistake. In
vain he tried to keep beside the widow. She always maneuvered that the
doctor should come between the two.

Upon returning to the station they took refuge from the heat in a
little waiting room with dusty velvet divans. In order to beguile the
time while waiting for the train, Freya took from her handbag a gold
cigarette-case and the light smoke of Egyptian tobacco charged with
opium whirled among the shafts of sunlight from the partly-opened
windows.

Ferragut, who had gone out in order to ascertain the exact hour of the
arrival of the train, on returning stopped near the door, amazed at the
animation with which the two ladies were speaking in a new language.
Recollections of Hamburg and Bremen came surging up in his memory. His
companions were talking German with the ease of a familiar idiom. At
sight of the sailor, they instantly continued their conversation in
English.

Wishing to take part in the dialogue, he asked Freya how many languages
she spoke.

"Very few,--no more than eight. The doctor, perhaps, knows twenty. She
knows the languages of people who passed away many centuries ago."

And the young woman said this with gravity, without looking at him, as
though she had lost forever that smile of a light woman which had so
deceived Ferragut.

In the train she became more like a human being, even losing her
offended manner. They were soon going to separate. The doctor grew less
and less approachable as the cars rolled towards Salerno. It was the
chilliness that appears among companions of a day, when the hour of
separation approaches and each one draws into himself, not to be seen
any more.

Words fell flat, like bits of ice, without finding any echo in their
fall. At each turn of the wheel, the imposing lady became more reserved
and silent. Everything had been said. They, too, were going to remain
in Salerno in order to take a carriage-trip along the gulf. They were
going to Amalfi and would pass the night on the Alpine peak of Ravello,
a medieval city where Wagner had passed the last months of his life,
before dying in Venice. Then, passing over to the Gulf of Naples, they
would rest in Sorrento and perhaps might go to the island of Capri.

Ulysses wished to say that his line of march was exactly the same, but
he was afraid of the doctor. Furthermore, their trip was to be in a
vehicle which they had already rented and they would not offer him a
seat.

Freya appeared to surmise his sadness and wished to console him.

"It is a short trip. No more than three days.... Soon we shall be in
Naples."

The farewell in Salerno was brief. The doctor was careful not to
mention their stopping-place. For her, the friendship was ending then
and there.

"It is probable that we shall run across each other again," she said
laconically. "It is only the mountains that never meet."

Her young companion was more explicit, mentioning the hotel on the
shores of S. Lucia in which she lodged.

Standing by the step of the carriage, he saw them take their departure,
just as he had seen them appear in a street of Pompeii. The doctor was
lost behind a screen of glass, talking with the coachman who had come
to meet them. Freya, before disappearing, turned to give him a faint
smile and then raised her gloved hand with a stiff forefinger,
threatening him just as though he were a mischievous and bold child.

Finding himself alone in the compartment that was carrying toward
Naples the traces and perfumes of the absent one, Ulysses felt as
downcast as though he were returning from a burial, as if he had just
lost one of the props of his life.

His appearance on board the _Mare Nostrum_ was regarded as a calamity.
He was capricious and intractable, complaining of Toni and the other
two officials because they were not hastening repairs on the vessel. In
the same breath he said it would be better not to hurry things too
much, so that the job would be better done. Even Caragol was the victim
of his bad humor which flamed forth in the form of cruel sermons
against those addicted to the poison of alcohol.

"When men need to be cheered up, they have to have something better
than wine. That which brings greater ecstasy than drink ... is woman,
Uncle Caragol. Don't forget this counsel!"

Through mere force of habit the cook replied, "That is so, my
captain...." But down in his heart he was pitying the ignorance of
those men who concentrate all their happiness on the whims and grimaces
of this most frivolous of toys.

Two days afterwards those on board drew a long breath when they saw the
captain taken ashore. The ship was moored in a very uncomfortable
place,--near some that were discharging coal,--with the stern shored up
so that the screw of the steamer might be repaired. The workmen were
replacing the damaged and broken plates with ceaseless hammering. Since
they would undoubtedly have to wait nearly a month, it would be much
more convenient for the owner to go to a hotel; so he sent his baggage
to the _Albergo Partenope_, on the ancient shore of S. Lucia,--the very
one that Freya had mentioned.

Upon installing himself in an upper room, with a view of the blue
circle of the gulf framed by the outlines of the balcony, Ferragut's
first move was to change a bill for five liras into coppers,
preparatory to asking various questions. The jaundiced and mustached
steward listened to him attentively with the complacency of a
go-between, and at last was able to formulate a complete personality
with all its data. The lady for whom he was inquiring was the _Signora_
Talberg. She was at present away on an excursion, but she might return
at any moment.

Ulysses passed an entire day with the tranquillity of one who awaits at
a sure place, gazing at the gulf from the balcony. Below him was the
_Castello dell' Ovo_ connected with the land by a bridge.

The _bersaglieri_ were occupying their ancient castle, work of the
viceroy, Pedro of Toledo. Many turrets of dark rose color were crowded
together upon this narrow, egg-shaped island, where, in other days, the
pusillanimous Spanish garrison was locked in the fortress for the
purpose of aiming bombards and culverins at the Neapolitans when they
no longer wished to pay taxes and imposts. Its walls had been raised
upon the ruins of another castle in which Frederick II had guarded his
treasures, and whose chapel Giotto had painted. And the medieval castle
of which only the memory now remained had, in its turn, been erected
upon the remnants of the Palace of Lucullus, who had located the center
of his celebrated gardens in this little island, then called _Megaris_.

The cornets of the _bersaglieri_ rejoiced the captain like the
announcement of a triumphal entry. "She's going to come! She's going to
come at any moment!..." And he would look across the double mountain of
the island of Capri, black in the distance, closing the gulf like a
promontory, and the coast of Sorrento as rectilinear as a wall. "There
she is...." Then he would lovingly follow the course of the little
steamboats plowing across the immense blue surface, opening a triangle
of foam. In some of these Freya must be coming.

The first day was golden and full of hope. The sun was sparkling in a
cloudless sky, and the gulf was foaming with bubbles of light under an
atmosphere so calm that not the slightest zephyr was rippling its
surface. The smoke plume of Vesuvius was upright and slender, expanding
upon the horizon like a pine tree of white vapor. At the foot of the
balcony the strolling musicians kept succeeding each other from time to
time, singing voluptuous barcarolles and love serenades.... And--she
did not come!

The second day was silvery and desperate. There was fog on the gulf;
the sun was no more than a reddish disk such as one sees in the
northern countries; the mountains were clothed with lead; the clouds
were hiding the cone of the volcano; the sea appeared to be made of
tin, and a chilly wind was distending sails, skirts, and overcoats,
making the people scurry along the promenade and the shore. The
musicians continued their singing but with melancholy sighs in the
shelter of a corner, to keep out of the furious blasts from the sea.
"To die.... To die for thee!" a baritone voice groaned between the
harps and violins. And--she came!

Upon learning from the waiter that the _signora_ Talberg was in her
room on the floor below, Ulysses thrilled with restlessness. What would
she say upon finding him installed in her hotel?...

The luncheon hour was at hand, and he impatiently awaited the usual
signals before going down to the dining room. First an explosion would
be heard behind the _albergo_ making the walls and roofs tremble,
swelling out into the immensity of the gulf. That was the midday
cannonade from the high castle of S. Elmo. Then cornets from the
_Castello dell' Ovo_ would respond with their joyous call to the
smoking _olio_, and up the stairway of the hotel would come the beating
of the Chinese gong, announcing that luncheon was served.

Ulysses went down to take his place at table, looking in vain at the
other guests who had preceded him. Freya perhaps was going to come in
with the delay of a traveler who has just arrived and has been occupied
in freshening her toilet.

He lunched badly, looking continually at a great glass doorway
decorated with pictures of boats, fishes, and sea gulls, and every time
its polychromatic leaves parted, his food seemed to stick in his
throat. Finally came the end of the lunch, and he slowly sipped his
coffee. She did not appear.

On returning to his room, he sent the whiskered steward in search of
news.... The _signora_ had not lunched in the hotel; the _signora_ had
gone out while he was in the dining-room. Surely she would show herself
in the evening.

At dinner time he had the same unpleasant experience, believing that
Freya was going to appear every time that an unknown hand or a vague
silhouette of a woman pushed the door open from the other side of the
opaque glass.

He strolled up and down the vestibule a long time, chewing rabidly on a
cigar, and finally decided to accost the porter, an astute brunette
whose blue lapels embroidered with keys of gold were peeping over the
edge of his writing desk, taking in everything, informing himself of
everything, while he appeared to be asleep.

The approach of Ulysses made him spring up as though he heard the
rustling of paper money. His information was very precise. The
_signora_ Talberg very seldom ate at the hotel. She had some friends
who were occupying a furnished flat in the district of Chiaja, with
whom she usually passed almost the entire day. Sometimes she did not
even return to sleep.... And he again sat down, his hand closing
tightly upon the bill which his imagination had foreseen.

After a bad night Ulysses arose, resolved to await the widow at the
entrance to the hotel. He took his breakfast at a little table in the
vestibule, read the newspaper, had to go to the door in order to avoid
the morning cleaning, pursued by the dust of brooms and shaken rugs.
And once there, he pretended to take great interest in the wandering
musicians, who dedicated their love songs and serenades to him, rolling
up the whites of their eyes upon presenting their hats for coins.

Some one came to keep him company. It was the porter who now appeared
very familiar and confidential, as though since the preceding night a
firm friendship, based upon their secret, had sprung up between the
two.

He spoke of the beauties of the country, counseling the Spaniard to
take divers excursions.... A smile, an encouraging word from Ferragut,
and he would have immediately proposed other recreations whose
announcement appeared to be fluttering around his lips. But the sailor
repelled all such amiability, glowering with displeasure. This vulgar
fellow was going to spoil with his presence the longed-for meeting.
Perhaps he was hanging around just to see and to know.... And taking
advantage of one of his brief absences, Ulysses went off down the long
_Via Partenope_, following the parapet that extends along the coast,
pretending to be interested in everything that he met, but without
losing sight of the door of the hotel.

He stopped before the oystermen's stands, examining the valves of
pearly shells piled up on the shelves, the baskets of oysters from
Fusaro and the enormous conch-shells in whose hollow throats, according
to the peddlers, the distant roll of the sea was echoing like a
haunting memory. One by one he looked at all the motor launches, the
little regatta skiffs, the fishing barks, and the coast schooners
anchored in the quiet harbor of the island _dell' Ova_. He stood a long
time quietly watching the gentle waves that were combing their foam on
the rocks of the dikes under the horizontal fishing rods of various
fishermen.

Suddenly he saw Freya following the avenue beside the houses. She
recognized him at once and this discovery made her stop near a
street-opening, hesitating whether to continue on or to flee toward the
interior of Naples. Then she came over to the seaside pavement,
approaching Ferragut with a placid smile, greeting him afar off, like a
friend whose presence is only to be expected.

Such assurance rather disconcerted the captain. They shook hands and
she asked him calmly what he was doing there looking at the waves, and
if the repairs of his boat were progressing satisfactorily.

"But admit that my presence has surprised you!" said Ulysses, rather
irritated by this tranquillity. "Confess that you were not expecting to
find me here."

Freya repeated her smiles with an expression of sweet compassion.

"It is natural that I should find you here. You are in your district,
within sight of a hotel.... We are neighbors."

In order more thoroughly to amuse herself with the captain's
astonishment, she made a long pause. Then she added:

"I saw your name on the list of arrivals yesterday, on my return to the
hotel. I always look them over. It pleases me to know who my neighbors
are."

"And for that reason you did not come down to the dining-room?..."

Ulysses asked this question hoping that she would respond negatively.
She could not answer it in any other way, if only for good manners'
sake.

"Yes, for that reason," Freya replied simply. "I guessed that you were
waiting to meet me and I did not wish to go into the dining-room.... I
give you fair warning that I shall always do the same."

Ulysses uttered an "Ah!" of amazement.... No woman had ever spoken to
him with such frankness.

"Neither has your presence here surprised me," she continued. "I was
expecting it. I know the innocent wiles of you men. 'Since he did not
find me in the hotel, he will wait for me to-day in the street,' I said
to myself, upon arising this morning.... Before coming out, I was
following your footsteps from the window of my room...."

Ferragut looked at her in surprise and dismay. What a woman!...

"I might have escaped through any cross street while your back was
turned. I saw you before you saw me.... But these false situations
stretching along indefinitely are distasteful to me. It is better to
speak the entire truth face to face.... And therefore I have come to
meet you...."

Instinct made him turn his head toward the hotel. The porter was
standing at the entrance looking out over the sea, but with his eyes
undoubtedly turned toward them.

"Let us go on," said Freya. "Accompany me a little ways. We shall talk
together and then you can leave me.... Perhaps we shall separate
greater friends than ever."

They strolled in silence all the length of the _Via Partenope_ until
they reached the gardens along the beach of Chiaja, losing sight of the
hotel. Ferragut wished to renew the conversation, but could not begin
it. He feared to appear ridiculous. This woman was making him timid.

Looking at her with admiring eyes, he noted the great changes that had
been made in the adornment of her person. She was no longer clad in the
dark tailor-made in which he had first seen her. She was wearing a blue
and white silk gown with a handsome fur over her shoulders and a
cluster of purple heron feathers on top of her wide hat.

The black hand-bag that had always accompanied her on her journeys had
been replaced by a gold-meshed one of showy richness,--Australian gold
of a greenish tone like an overlay of Florentine bronze. In her ears
were two great, thick emeralds, and on her fingers a half dozen
diamonds whose facets twinkled in the sunlight. The pearl necklace was
still on her neck peeping out through the V-shaped opening of her gown.
It was the magnificent toilet of a rich actress who puts everything on
herself,--of one so enamored with jewels that she is not able to live
without their contact, adorning herself with them the minute she is out
of bed, regardless of the hour and the rules of good taste.

But Ferragut did not take into consideration the unsuitableness of all
this luxury. Everything about her appeared to him admirable.

Without knowing just how, he began to talk. He was astonished at
hearing his own voice, saying always the same thing in different words.
His thoughts were incoherent, but they were all clustered around an
incessantly repeated statement,--his love, his immense love for Freya.

And Freya continued marching on in silence with a compassionate
expression in her eyes and in the corners of her mouth. It pleased her
pride as a woman to contemplate this strong man stuttering in childish
confusion. At the same time she grew impatient at the monotony of his
words.

"Don't say any more, Captain," she finally interrupted. "I can guess
all that you are going to say, and I've heard many times what you have
said,--You do not sleep--you do not eat--you do not live because of me.
Your existence is impossible if I do not love you. A little more
conversation and you will threaten me with shooting yourself, if I am
not yours.... Same old song! They all say the same thing. There are no
creatures with less originality than you men when you wish
something...."

They were in one of the avenues of the promenade. Through the palm
trees and glossy magnolias the luminous gulf could be seen on one side,
and on the other the handsome edifices of the beach of Chiaja. Some
ragged urchins kept running around them and following them, until they
took refuge in an ornamental little white temple at the end of the
avenue.

"Very well, then, enamored sea-wolf," continued Freya; "you need not
sleep, you need not eat, you may kill yourself if the fancy strikes
you; but I am not able to love you; I shall never love you. You may
give up all hope; life is not mere diversion and I have other more
serious occupations that absorb all my time."

In spite of the playful smile with which she accompanied these words,
Ferragut surmised a very firm will.

"Then," he said in despair, "it will all be useless?... Even though I
make the greatest sacrifices?... Even though I give proofs of love
greater than you have ever known?..."

"All useless," she replied roundly, without a sign of a smile.

They paused before the ornamental little temple-shaped building, with
its dome supported by white columns and a railing around it. The bust
of Virgil adorned the center,--an enormous head of somewhat feminine
beauty.

The poet had died in Naples in "Sweet Parthenope," on his return from
Greece and his body, turned to dust, was perhaps mingled with the soil
of this garden. The Neapolitan people of the Middle Ages had attributed
to him all kinds of wonderful things, even transforming the poet into a
powerful magician. The wizard Virgil in one night had constructed the
_Castello dell' Ovo_, placing it with his own hands upon a great egg
(_Ovo_) that was floating in the sea. He also had opened with his magic
blasts the tunnel of Posilipo near which are a vineyard and a tomb
visited for centuries as the last resting place of the poet. Little
scamps, playing around the railing, used to hurl papers and stones
inside the temple. The white head of the powerful sorcerer attracted
them and at the same time filled them with admiration and fear.

"Thus far and no further," ordered Freya. "You will continue on your
way. I am going to the high part of Chiaja.... But before separating as
good friends, you are going to give me your word not to follow me, not
to importune me with your amorous attentions, not to mix yourself in my
life."

Ulysses did not reply, hanging his head in genuine dismay. To his
disillusion was added the sting of wounded pride. He who had imagined
such very different things when they should see each other again
together, alone!...

Freya pitied his sadness.

"Don't be a Baby!... This will soon pass. Think of your business
affairs, and of your family waiting for you over there in Spain....
Besides, the world is full of women; I'm not the only one."

But Ferragut interrupted her. "Yes, she was the only one!... The only
one!..." And he said it with a conviction that awakened another one of
her compassionate smiles.

This man's tenacity was beginning to irritate her.

"Captain, I know your type very well. You are an egoist, like all other
men. Your boat is tied up in the harbor because of an accident; you've
got to remain ashore a month; you meet on one of your trips a woman who
is idiot enough to admit that she remembers meeting you at other times,
and you say to yourself, Magnificent occasion to while away agreeably a
tedious period of waiting!...' If I should yield to your desire, within
a few weeks, as soon as your boat was ready, the hero of my love, the
knight of my dreams, would betake himself to the sea, saying as a
parting salute: 'Adieu, simpleton!'"

Ulysses protested with energy. No: he wished that his boat might never
be repaired. He was computing with agony the days that remained. If it
were necessary, he would abandon it, remaining forever in Naples.

"And what have I to do in Naples?" interrupted Freya. "I am a mere bird
of passage here, just as you are. We knew each other on the seas of
another hemisphere, and we have just happened to run across each other
here in Italy. Next time, if we ever meet again, it will be in Japan or
Canada or the Cape.... Go on your way, you enamored old shark, and let
me go mine. Imagine to yourself that we are two boats that have met
when becalmed, have signaled each other, have exchanged greetings, have
wished each other good luck, and afterwards have continued on our way,
perhaps never to see each other again."

Ferragut shook his head negatively. Such a thing could not be, he could
not resign himself to losing sight of her forever.

"These men!" she continued, each time a little more irritated. "You all
imagine that things must be arranged entirely according to your
caprices. 'Because I desire thee, thou must be mine....' And what if I
don't want to?... And if I don't feel any necessity of being loved?...
If I wish only to live in liberty, with no other love than that which I
feel for myself?..."

She considered it a great misfortune to be a woman. She always envied
men for their independence. They could hold themselves aloof,
abstaining from the passions that waste life, without anybody's coming
to importune them in their retreat. They were at liberty to go wherever
they wanted to, to travel the wide world over, without leaving behind
their footsteps a wake of solicitors.

"You appear to me, Captain, a very charming man. The other day I was
delighted to meet you; it was an apparition from the past; I saw in you
the joy of my youth that is beginning to fade away, and the melancholy
of certain recollections.... And nevertheless, I am going to end by
hating you. Do you hear me, you tedious old Argonaut?... I shall loathe
you because you will not be a mere friend; because you know only how to
talk everlastingly about the same thing; because you are a person out
of a novel, a Latin, very interesting, perhaps, to other women,--but
insufferable to me."

Her face contracted with a gesture of scorn and pity. "Ah, those
Latins!..."

"They're all the same,--Spaniards, Italians, Frenchmen.... They were
born for the same thing. They hardly meet an attractive woman but they
believe that they are evading their obligations if they do not beg for
her love and what comes afterward.... Cannot a man and woman simply be
friends? Couldn't you be just a good comrade and treat me as a
companion?"

Ferragut protested energetically. No; no, he couldn't. He loved her
and, after being repelled with such cruelty, his love would simply go
on increasing. He was sure of that.

A nervous tremor made Freya's voice sharp and cutting, and her eyes
took on a dangerous gleam. She looked at her companion as though he
were an enemy whose death she longed for.

"Very well, then, if you must know it. I abominate all men; I abominate
them, because I know them so well. I would like the death of all of
them, of every one!... The evil that they have wrought in my life!... I
would like to be immensely beautiful, the handsomest woman on earth,
and to possess the intellect of all the sages concentrated in my brain,
to be rich and to be a queen, in order that all the men of the world,
crazy with desire, would come to prostrate themselves before me.... And
I would lift up my feet with their iron heels, and I would go trampling
over them, crushing their heads ... so ... and so ... and so!..."

She struck the sands of the garden with the soles of her little shoes.
An hysterical sneer distorted her mouth.

"Perhaps I might make an exception of you.... You who, with all your
braggart arrogance, are, after all, outright and simple-hearted. I
believe you capable of assuring a woman of all kinds of love-lies ...
believing them yourself most of all. But the others!... _Ay, the
others!_... How I hate them!..."

She looked over toward the palace of the Aquarium, glistening white
between the colonnade of trees.

"I would like to be," she continued pensively, "one of those animals of
the sea that can cut with their claws, that have arms like scissors,
saws, pincers ... that devour their own kind, and absorb everything
around them."

Then she looked at the branch of a tree from which were hanging several
silver threads, sustaining insects with active tentacles.

"I would like to be a spider, an enormous spider, that all men might be
drawn to my web as irresistibly as flies. With what satisfaction would
I crunch them between my claws! How I would fasten my mouth against
their hearts!... And I would suck them.... I would suck them until
there wasn't a drop of blood left, tossing away then their empty
carcasses!..."

Ulysses began to wonder if he had fallen in love with a crazy woman.
His disquietude, his surprise and questioning eyes gradually restored
Freya's serenity.

She passed one hand across her forehead, as though awakening from a
nightmare and wishing to banish remembrance with this gesture. Her
glance became calmer.

"Good-by, Ferragut; do not make me talk any more. You will soon doubt
my reason.... You are doing so already. We shall be friends, just
friends and nothing more. It is useless to think of anything else....
Do not follow me.... We shall see each other.... I shall hunt you
up.... Good-by!... Good-by!"

And although Ferragut felt tempted to follow her, he remained
motionless, seeing her hurry rapidly away, as though fleeing from the
words that she had just let fall before the little temple of the poet.



CHAPTER V


THE AQUARIUM OF NAPLES

In spite of her promise, Freya made no effort to meet the sailor. "We
shall see each other.... I shall hunt you up." But it was Ferragut who
did the hunting, stationing himself around the hotel.

"How crazy I was the other morning!... I wonder what you could have
thought of me!" she said the first time that she spoke to him again.

Not every day did Ulysses have the pleasure of a conversation which
invariably developed from the _Via Partenope_ to Virgil's monument. The
most of the mornings he used to wait in vain opposite the oyster
stands, listening to the musicians who were bombarding the closed
windows of the hotel with their sentimental romances and mandolins.
Freya would not appear.

His impatience usually dragged Ulysses back to the hotel in order to
beg information of the porter. Animated by the hope of a new bill, the
flunkey would go to the telephone and inquire of the servants on the
upper floor. And then with a sad and obsequious smile, as though
lamenting his own words: "The _signora_ is not in. The _signora_ has
passed the night outside of the _albergo_." And Ferragut would go away
furious.

Sometimes he would go to see how the repairs were getting on in his
boat,--an excellent pretext for venting his wrath on somebody. On other
mornings he would go to the garden of the beach of Chiaja,--to the very
same places through which he had strolled with Freya. He was always
looking for her to appear from one moment to another. Everything 'round
about suggested some reminder of her. Trees and benches, pavements and
electric lights knew her perfectly because of having formed a part of
her regular walk.

Becoming convinced that he was waiting in vain, a last hope made him
glance toward the white building of the Aquarium. Freya had frequently
mentioned it. She was accustomed to amuse herself, oftentimes passing
entire hours there, contemplating the life of the inhabitants of the
sea. And Ferragut blinked involuntarily as he passed rapidly from the
garden boiling under the sun into the shadow of the damp galleries with
no other illumination than that of the daylight which penetrated to the
interior of the Aquarium,--a light that, seen through the water and the
glass, took on a mysterious tone, the green and diffused tint of the
subsea depths.

This visit enabled him to kill time more placidly. There came to his
mind old readings confirmed now by direct vision. He was not the kind
of sailor that sails along regardless of what exists under his keel. He
wanted to know the mysteries of the immense blue palace over whose roof
he was usually navigating, devoting himself to the study of
oceanography, the most recent of sciences.

Upon taking his first steps in the Aquarium, he immediately pictured
the marine depths which exploration had divided and charted so
unequally. Near the shores, in the zone called "the littoral" where the
rivers empty, the materials of nourishment were accumulated by the
impulse of the tides and currents, and there flourished sub-aquatic
vegetation. This was the zone of the great fish and reached down to
within two hundred fathoms of the bottom,--a depth to which the sun's
rays never penetrate. Beyond that there was no light; plant life
disappeared and with it the herbivorous animals.

The submarine grade, a gentle one down to this point, now becomes very
steep, descending rapidly to the oceanic abysses,--that immense mass of
water (almost the entire ocean), without light, without waves, without
tides, without currents, without oscillations of temperature, which is
called the "abyssal" zone.

In the littoral, the waters, healthfully agitated, vary in saltiness
according to the proximity of the rivers. The rocks and deeps are
covered with a vegetation which is green near the surface, becoming
darker and darker, even turning to a dark red and brassy yellow as it
gets further from the light. In this oceanic paradise of nutritive and
luminous waters charged with bacteria and microscopic nourishment, life
is developed in exuberance. In spite of the continual traps of the
fishermen, the marine herds keep themselves intact because of their
infinite powers of reproduction.

The fauna of the abyssal depths where the lack of light makes all
vegetation impossible, is largely carnivorous, the weak inhabitants
usually devouring the residuum and dead animals that come down from the
surface. The strong ones, in their turn, nourish themselves on the
concentrated sustenance of the little cannibals.

The bottom of the ocean, a monotonous desert of mud and sand, the
accumulated sediment of hundreds of centuries, has occasional oases of
strange vegetation. These grove-like growths spring up like spots of
light just where the meeting of the surface currents rain down a manna
of diminutive dead bodies. The twisted limestone plants, hard as stone,
are really not plants at all, but animals. Their leaves are simply
inert and treacherous tentacles which contract very suddenly, and their
flowers, avid mouths, which bend over their prey, and suck it in
through their gluttonous openings.

A fantastic light streaks this world of darkness with multicolored
shafts, animal light produced by living organisms. In the lowest
abysses sightless creatures are very scarce, contrary to the common
opinion, which imagines that almost all of them lack eyes because of
their distance from the sun. The filaments of the carnivorous trees are
garlands of lamps; the eyes of the hunting animals, electric globes;
the insignificant bacteria, light-producing little glands all of which
open or close with phosphorescent switches according to the necessity
of the moment,--sometimes in order to persecute and devour, and at
others in order to keep themselves hidden in the shadows.

The animal-plants, motionless as stars, surround their ferocious mouths
with a circle of flashing lights, and immediately their diminutive prey
feel themselves as irresistibly drawn toward them as do the moths that
fly toward the lamp, and the birds of the sea that beat against the
lighthouse.

None of the lights of the earth can compare with those of this abyssal
world. All artificial fires pale before the varieties of its organic
brilliance.

The living branches of polyps, the eyes of the animals, even the mud
sown with brilliant points, emit phosphoric shafts like sparks whose
splendors incessantly vanish and reappear. And these lights pass
through many gradations of colors:--violet, purple, orange, blue, and
especially green. On perceiving a victim nearby, the gigantic
cuttle-fishes become illuminated like livid suns, moving their arms
with death-dealing strokes.

All the abyssal beings have their organs of sight enormously developed
in order to catch even the weakest rays of light. Many have enormous,
protruding eyes. Others have them detached from the body at the end of
two cylindrical tentacles like telescopes.

Those that are blind and do not throw out any radiance are compensated
for this inferiority by the development of the tactile organs. Their
antennae and swimming organs are immeasurably prolonged in the
darkness. The filaments of their body, long hairs rich in nerve
terminals, can distinguish instantaneously the appetizing prey, or the
enemy lying in wait.

The abyssal deeps have two floors or roofs. In the highest, is the
so-called neritic zone,--the oceanic surface, diaphanous and luminous,
far from any coast. Next is seen the pelagic zone, much deeper, in
which reside the fishes of incessant motion, capable of living without
reposing on the bottom.

The corpses of the neritic animals and of those that swim between the
two waters are the direct or indirect sustenance of the abyssal fauna.
These beings with weak dental equipment and sluggish speed, badly armed
for the conquest of living prey, nourish themselves with the dropping
of this rain of alimentary material. The great swimmers, supplied with
formidable mandibles and immense and elastic stomachs, prefer the
fortunes of war, the pursuit of living prey, and devour,--as the
carnivorous devour the herbivorous on land,--all the little feeders on
débris and _plancton_. This word of recent scientific invention
presented to Captain Ferragut's mind the most humble and interesting of
the oceanic inhabitants. The _plancton_ is the life that floats in
loose clusters or forming cloud-like groups across the neritic surface,
even descending to the abyssal depths.

Wherever the _plancton_ goes, there is living animation, grouping
itself in closely packed colonies. The purest and most translucent salt
water shows under certain luminous rays a multitude of little bodies as
restless as the dust motes that dance in shafts of sunlight. These
transparent beings mingled with microscopic algae and embryonic
mucosities are the _plancton_. In its dense mass, scarcely visible to
the human eye, float the _siphonoforas_, garlands of entities united by
a transparent thread as fragile, delicate and luminous as Bohemian
crystal. Other equally subtle organisms have the form of little glass
torpedoes. The sum of all the albuminous materials floating on the sea
are condensed in these nutrient clouds to which are added the
secretions of living animals, the remnants of cadavers, the bodies
brought down by the rivers, and the nourishing fragments from the
meadows of algae.

When the _plancton_, either by chance or following some mysterious
attraction, accumulates on some determined point of the shore, the
waters boil with fishes of an astonishing fertility. The seaside towns
increase in number, the sea is filled with sails, the tables are more
opulent, industries are established, factories are opened and money
circulates along the coast, attracted thither from the interior by the
commerce in fresh and dried fish.

If the _plancton_ capriciously withdraws itself, floating toward
another shore, the marine herds emigrate behind these living meadows,
and the blue plain remains as empty as a desert accursed. The fleets of
fishing boats are placed high and dry on the beach, the shops are
closed, the stewpot is no longer steaming, the horses of the
gendarmerie charge against protesting and famine stricken crowds, the
Opposition howls in the Chambers, and the newspapers make the
Government responsible for everything.

This animal and vegetable dust nourishes the most numerous species
which, in their turn, serve as pasture for the great swimmers armed
with teeth.

The whales, most bulky of all the oceanic inhabitants, close this
destructive cycle, since they devour each other in order to live. The
Pacific giant, without teeth, supplies his organism with _plancton_
alone, absorbing it by the ton; that imperceptible and crystalline
manna nourishes his body (looking like an overturned belfry), and makes
purple, fatty rivers of warm blood circulate under its oily skin.

The transparency of the beings in the _plancton_ recalled to Ferragut's
memory the marvelous colorings of the inhabitants of the sea, adjusted
exactly to their needs of preservation. The species that live on the
surface have, as a general rule, a blue back and silver belly. In this
way it is possible for them to escape the sight of their enemies; seen
from the shadows of the depths, they are confounded with the white and
luminous color of the surface. The sardines that swim in shoals are
able to pass unnoticed, thanks to their backs blue as the water, thus
escaping the fish and the birds which are hunting them.

Living in the abysses where the light never penetrates, the pelagic
animals are not obliged to be transparent or blue like the neritic
beings on the surface. Some are opaque and colorless, others, bronzed
and black; most of them are clad in somber hues, whose splendor is the
despair of the artist's brush, incapable of imitating them. A
magnificent red seems to be the base of this color scheme, fading
gradually to pale pink, violet, amber, even losing itself in the milky
iris of the pearls and in the opalescence of the mother-of-pearl of the
mollusks. The eyes of certain fish placed at the end of jaw bones
separated from the body, sparkle like diamonds in the ends of a double
pin. The protruding glands, the warts, the curving backs, take on the
colorings of jewelry.

But the precious stones of earth are dead minerals that need rays of
light in order to emit the slightest flash. The animated gems of the
ocean--fishes and corals--sparkle with their own colors that are a
reflex of their vitality. Their green, their rose color, their intense
yellow, their metallic iridescence, all their liquid tints are
eternally glazed by a moist varnish which cannot exist in the
atmospheric world.

Some of these beings are capable of a marvelous power of mimicry that
makes them identify themselves with inanimate objects, or in a few
moments run through every gamut of color. Some of great nervous
activity, make themselves absolutely immovable and contract, filling
themselves with wrinkles, taking on the dark tone of the rocks. Others
in moments of irritation or amorous fever, cover themselves with
streaks of light and tremulous spots, different colored clouds passing
over their epidermis with every thrill. The cuttlefish and ink fish,
upon perceiving that they are pursued, enwrap themselves in a cloud of
invisibility, just as did the enchanters of old in the books of
chivalry, darkening the water with the ink stored in their glands.

Ferragut continued to pass slowly along the Aquarium between the two
rows of vertical tanks,--stone cases with thick glass that permitted
full view of the interior. The clear and shining walls that received
the fire of the sun through their upper part, spread a green reflection
over the shadows of the corridors. As they made the rounds, the
visitors took on a livid paleness, as though they were marching through
a submarine defile.

The tranquil water within the tanks was scarcely visible. Behind the
thick glass there appeared to exist only a marvelous atmosphere, an air
of dreamland in which drifted up and down various floating beings of
many colors. The bubbles of their respiration was the only thing that
announced the presence of the liquid. In the upper part of these
aquatic cages, the luminous atmosphere vibrated under a continual spray
of transparent dust,--the sea water with air injected into it that was
renewing the conditions of existence for these guests of the Aquarium.

Seeing these revivifying streams, the captain admired the nourishing
force of the blue water upon which he had passed almost all his life.

Earth lost its pride when compared with the aquatic immensity. In the
ocean had appeared the first manifestations of life, continuing then
its evolutionary cycle over the mountains which had also come up from
its depths. If the earth was the mother of man, the sea was his
grandmother.

The number of terrestrial animals is most insignificant compared with
the maritime ones. Upon the earth's surface (much smaller than the
ocean) the beings occupy only the surface of the soil, and an
atmospheric canopy of a certain number of meters. The birds and insects
seldom go beyond this in their flights. In the sea, the animals are
dispersed over all its levels, through many miles of depth multiplied
by thousands and thousands of longitudinal leagues. Infinite quantities
of creatures, whose number it is impossible to calculate, swim
incessantly in all the strata of its waters. Land is a surface, a
plane; the sea is a volume.

The immense aquatic mass, three times more salty than at the beginning
of the planet, because of a millennarian evaporation that has
diminished the liquid without absorbing its components, retains mixed
with its chlorides, copper, nickel, iron, zinc, lead, and even gold,
from the metallic veins that planetary upheaval deposits upon the
oceanic bottom; compared with this mass, the veins of mountains with
their golden sands deposited by the rivers are but insignificant
tentacles.

Silver also is dissolved in its waters. Ferragut knew by certain
calculations that with the silver floating in the ocean could be
erected pyramids more enormous than those in Egypt.

The men who once had thought of exploiting these mineral riches had
given up the visionary idea because the minerals were too diluted and
it would be impossible to make use of them. The oceanic beings know
better how to recognize their presence, letting them filter through
their bodies for the renovation and coloration of their organs. The
copper accumulates in their blood; the gold and silver are discovered
in the texture of the animal-plants; the phosphorus is absorbed by the
sponges; the lead and the zinc by species of algae.

Every oceanic creature is able to extract from the water the residuum
from certain metals dissolved into particles so incalculably tiny that
no chemical process could ever capture them. The carbonates of lime
deposited by the rivers or dragged from the coast serve innumerable
species for the construction of their coverings, skeletons, and spiral
shells. The corals, filtering the water across their flabby and mucous
bodies, solidify their hard skeletons so that they may finally be
converted into habitable islands.

The beings of disconcerting diversity that were floating, diving, or
wiggling around Ferragut were no more than oceanic water. The fish were
water made into flesh; the slimy, mucilaginous animals were water in a
gelatinous state; the crustaceans and the polypi were water turned to
stone.

In one of the tanks he saw a landscape which appeared like that of
another planet, grandiose yet at the same time reduced, like a woods
seen in a diorama. It was a palm grove, surging up between the rocks,
but the rocks were only pebbles, and the palm trees,--annelides of the
sea,--were simply worms holding themselves in upright immovability.

They kept their ringed bodies within a leathern tube that formed their
protective case, and from this rectilinear, marble-colored trunk sent
forth, like a spout of branches, the constantly moving tentacles which
served them as organs for breathing and eating.

Endowed with rare sensitiveness, it was enough for a cloud to pass
before the sun to make them shrink quickly within these tubes, deprived
of their showy capitals, like beheaded palm trees. Then, slowly and
prudently the animated pincers would come protruding again through the
opening of their cylindrical scabbards, floating in the water with
anxious hope. All these trees and flower-animals developed a mechanical
voracity whenever a microscopic victim fell under the power of their
tentacles; then the soft clusters of branches would contract, close,
drawing in their prey, and the worm, withdrawing into the lowest part
of the slender tower secreted by himself, would digest his conquest.

The other tanks then attracted the attention of the sailor.

Slipping over the stones, introducing themselves into their caverns,
drowsing, half buried in the sand,--all the varied and tumultuous
species of crustaceans were moving their cutting and tentacular
grinders and making their Japanese armor gleam: some of their frames
were red--almost black--as though guarding the dry blood of a remote
combat; others were of a scarlet freshness as though reflecting the
first fires of the flaming dawn.

The largest of the lobsters (the _homard_, the sovereign of the tables
of the rich) was resting upon the scissors of its front claws, as
powerful as an arm, or a double battle-axe. The spiny lobster was
leaping with agility over the peaks, by means of the hooks on its
claws, its weapons of war and nutrition. Its nearest relative, the
cricket of the sea, a dull and heavy animal, was sulking in the corners
covered with mire and with sea weed, in an immovability that made it
easily confounded with the stones. Around these giants, like a
democracy accustomed to endure from time to time the attack of the
strong, crayfish and shrimps were swimming in shoals. Their movements
were free and graceful, and their sensitiveness so acute that the
slightest agitation made them start, taking tremendous springs.

Ulysses kept thinking of the slavery that Nature had imposed upon these
animals, giving them their beautiful, defensive envelopment.

They were born armored and their development obliged them repeatedly to
change their form of arms. They sloughed their skins like reptiles, but
on account of their cylindrical shape were able to perform this
operation with the facility of a leg that abandons its stocking. When
it begins to crack, the crustaceans have to withdraw from out their
cuirass the multiple mechanism of their members and appendages,--claws,
antennae and the great pincers,--a slow and dangerous operation in
which many perish, lacerated by their own efforts. Then, naked and
disarmed, they have to wait until a new skin forms that in time is also
converted into a coat of mail,--all this in the midst of a hostile
environment, surrounded with greedy beasts, large and small, attracted
by their rich flesh,--and with no other defense than that of keeping
themselves in hiding.

Among the swarm of small crustaceans moving around on the sandy bottom,
hunting, eating, or fighting with a ferocious entanglement of claws,
the onlookers always search for a bizarre and extravagant little
creature, the _paguro_, nicknamed "Bernard, the Hermit." It is a snail
that advances upright as a tower, upon crab claws, yet having as a
crown the long hair of a sea-anemone.

This comical apparition is composed of three distinct animals one upon
the other--or, rather, of two living beings carrying a bier between
them. The _paguro_ crab is born with the lower part of his case
unprotected,--a most excellent tid-bit, tender and savory for hungry
fishes. The necessity for defending himself makes him seek a snail
shell in order to protect the weak part of his organism. If he
encounters an empty dwelling of this class, he appropriates it. If not,
he eats the inhabitant, introducing his posterior armed with two hooked
claws into its mother-of-pearl refuge.

But these defensive precautions are not sufficient for the weak
_paguro_. In order to live he needs rather to put himself on the
offensive, to inspire respect in devouring monsters, especially in the
octopi that are seeking as prey his trunk and hairy claws, exposed to
locomotion outside his tower.

In course of time a sea-anemone comes along and attaches itself to the
calcareous peak, the number often amounting to five or six, although
there is no bodily relation between the _paguro_ and the organisms on
top. They are simply partners with a reciprocal interest. The
animal-plants sting like nettles; all the monsters without a shell flee
from the poison of their tingling organs, and the fragments of their
hair burn like pins of fire. In this manner the humble _paguro_,
carrying upon his back his tower crowned with formidable batteries,
inspires terror in the gigantic beasts of the deep. The anemones on
their part are grateful to him for being thus able to pass incessantly
from one side to the other, coming in contact with every class of
animals. In this way, they can eat with greater facility than their
sisters fixed on the rocks; for they do not have to wait, as the others
must, until food drifts casually to their tentacles. Besides this,
there is always floating on top some of the remains of the booty that
the crafty crab in his wandering impunity has gathered below.

Ferragut, on passing from one tank to the other, mentally established
the gradation of the fauna from the primitive protoplast to the perfect
organism.

The sponges of the Mediterranean swam as soon as they were born, when
they were like pin-heads, with vibratory movements. Then they remained
immovable, the water filtering through the cracks and crannies of their
texture, protecting their delicate flesh with a bristling of
spikes,--sharp limestone needles with which they pierced the passing
fishes and rendered them immovable, availing themselves of the
nourishment of their putrefying remains.

The nettles of the sea spread out their stinging threads by the
thousands, discharging a venom that stupefies the victim and makes him
fall into their corolla. With unlimited voracity, and fastened to the
rocks, they overpower fish much larger than they, and at the first hint
of danger shrink together in such a way that it is very difficult to
see them. The sea-plumes lie flabby and dark as dead animals, until
absorbing water, they suddenly rear themselves up, transparent and full
of leaves. Thus they go from one side to the other, with the lightness
of a feather, or, burrowing in the sand, send forth a phosphoric glow.
The belles of the sea, the elegant Medusae, open out the floating
circle of their fragile beauty. They are transparent fungi, open
umbrellas of glass that advance by means of their contractions. From
the inner center of their dome hangs a tube equally transparent and
gelatinous,--the mouth of the animal. Long filaments depend from the
edges of their circular forms, sensitive tentacles that at the same
time maintain their floating equilibrium.

These fragile beings, that appear to belong to an enchanted fauna,
white as rock crystal with soft borders of rose color or violet, sting
like nettles and defend themselves by their fiery touch. Some subtle
and colorless parasols were living here in the tank under the
protection of a second enclosure of crystal, and their mucous mistiness
scarcely showed itself within this bell-shaped glass except as a pale
line of blue vapor.

Below these transparent and ethereal forms that burn whatever they
touch, venturing to capture prey much larger than themselves, were
grouped as in gardens the so-called "flower of blood," the red coral,
and especially the star-fish, forming with their corolla an
orange-colored ring.

The captain had seen these stony vegetations, like submerged groves, in
the depths of the Dead Sea and also in the southern seas. He had sailed
over them under the illusion that through the bluish depths of the
ocean were circulating broad rivers of blood.

The _oseznos_ (bear-cubs) and the star-fish were slowly waving the
forms that had given rise to their names, secreting poisons in order to
paralyze their victims, contracting themselves until they formed a ball
of lances that grasped their prey in a deadly embrace or cut it with
the bony knives of their radiating body. The iris of the sea balanced
themselves on end, moving their members as though they were petals.

Upon the fine sandy depths or attached to the rocks, the mollusks lived
in the protection of their shells.

The necessity of giving themselves up to sleep with relative security,
without fear of the general rapacity which is the oceanic law, is a
matter of concern to all of these marine beings, making them
constructive and inventive. The crustaceans live within their shells or
take advantage of ready-made refuges of limestone, expelling their
former owners; the animal-plants exhale toxins; the _planctonic_
beings, transparent and gelatinous, burn like a crystal exposed to
fire; some organisms apparently weak and flabby, have in their tails
the force of a carpenter's bit, perforating the rock sufficiently to
create a cavern of refuge in its hard interior.... And the timid
mollusks, trembling and succulent pulp, have fabricated for their
protection the strong shields of their valves,--two concave walls that
on opening form their door, and on closing, their house.

A bit of flesh protrudes outside these shells, like a white tongue. In
some it takes the form of a sole, and serves as a foot, the mollusk
marching with his dwelling upon the back of this unique support. In
others it is a swimmer, and the shell, opening and shutting its valves
like a propelling mouth, ascends in a straight line to the surface,
falling afterwards with the two shields closed.

These herbivorous fresh-water animals live by drinking in the
light,--feeling the necessity of the surface waters or the shallow
depths with their limpid glades--and this light, spreading over the
white interior of their dwelling, decorates it with all the fleeting
colors of the iris, giving to the limestone the mysterious shimmer of
mother-of-pearl.

Ulysses admired the odd forms of their winding passageways. They were
like the palaces of the Orient, dark and forbidding on the outside,
glistening within like a lake of pearl. Some received their terrestrial
names because of the special form of their shell--the rabbit, the
helmet, triton's horn, the cask, the Mediterranean parasol.

They were grazing with bucolic tranquillity on the maritime pasture
lands, contemplated from afar by the mussels, the oysters, and other
bi-valves, attached to the rocks by a hard and horny hank of silk that
enwrapped their enclosures. Some of these shells, called hams,--clams
of great size, with valves in the form of a club,--had fixed themselves
upright in the mire, giving the appearance of a submerged Celtic camp,
with a succession of obelisks swallowed up by the depths of the sea.

The one called the date-shell can, assisted by its liquid acid, pierce
the hardest stone with its cylindrical gimlet. The columns of Hellenic
temples, submerged in the Gulf of Naples and brought to light by an
earthquake, are bored from one end to the other by this diminutive
perforator.

Cries of surprise and nervous laughter suddenly reached Ferragut. They
came from that part of the Aquarium where the fish tanks were. In the
corridor was a little trough of water and at the bottom a kind of rag,
flabby and gray, with black rings on the back. This animal always
attracted the immediate curiosity of the visitors. Everybody would ask
for it.

Groups of countrymen, city families preceded by their offspring, pairs
of soldiers, all might be seen consulting before it and experimenting,
advancing their hands over the trough with a certain hesitation.
Finally they would touch the living rag at the bottom,--the gelatinous
flesh of the fish-torpedo,--receiving a series of electric shocks which
quickly made them loosen their prey, laughing and raising the other
hand to their jerking arms.

Ulysses on reaching the fish tanks had the sensation of a traveler who,
after having lived among inferior humanity, encounters beings that are
almost of his own race.

There was the oceanic aristocracy, the fish free as the sea, swift,
undulating and slippery, like the waves. They all had accompanied him
for many years, appearing in the transparencies opened by the prow of
his vessel.

They were vigorous and therefore had no neck,--the most fragile and
delicate portion of terrestrial organism,--making them more like the
bull, the elephant and all the battering animals. They needed to be
light, and in order to be so had dispensed with the rigid and hard
shell of the crustacean that prevents motion, preferring the coat of
mail covered with scales, which expands and contracts, yields to the
blow but is not injured. They wished to be free, and their body, like
that of the ancient wrestlers, was covered with a slippery oil, the
oceanic mucus that becomes volatilized at the slightest pressure.

The freest animals on earth cannot be compared with them. The birds
need to perch and to rest during their sleep, but the fish continue
floating around and moving from place to place while asleep. The entire
world belongs to them. Wherever there is a mass of water,--ocean, river
or lake, in whatever altitude or latitude, a mountain peak lost in the
clouds, a valley boiling like a whirlpool, a sparkling and tropical sea
with a forest of colors in its bosoms, or a polar sea encrusted with
ice and people, with sea-lions and white bears,--there the fish always
appears.

The public of the Aquarium, seeing the flat heads of the swimming
animals near the glass, would scream and wave their arms as though they
could be seen by the fishy eyes of stupid fixity. Then they would
experience a certain dismay upon perceiving that the fish continued
their course with indifference.

Ferragut smiled before this deception. The crystal that separated the
water from the atmosphere had the density of millions of leagues,--an
insuperable obstacle interposed between two worlds that do not know
each other.

The sailor recalled the imperfect vision of the ocean inhabitants. In
spite of their bulging and movable eyes that enable them to see before
and behind them, their visual power extends but a short distance. The
splendors with which Nature clothes the butterfly cannot be appreciated
by them. Absolutely color-blind, they can appreciate only the
difference between light and darkness.

Complete silence accompanies their incomplete vision. All the aquatic
animals are deaf, or rather they completely lack the organs of hearing,
because they are unnecessary to them. Atmospheric agitations,
thunder-bolts and hurricanes do not penetrate the water. Only the
cracking shell of certain crabs and the dolorous moaning near the
surface of certain fishes, called snorers, alter this silence.

Since the ocean lacks acoustic waves, their inhabitants have never
needed to form the organs that transform them into sound. They feel
impetuously the primal necessities of animal life,--hunger and love.
They suffer madly the cruelty of sickness and pain; among themselves
they fight to the death for a meal or a mate. But all in absolute
silence, without the howl of triumph or agony with which terrestrial
animals accompany the same manifestations of their existence.

Their principal sense is that of smell, as is that of sight in the
bird. In the twilight world of the ocean, streaked with phosphorescent
and deceptive splendors, the big fish trust only to their sense of
smell and at times to that of touch.

Sometimes buried in the mud, they will ascend hundreds of yards,
attracted by the odor of the fish that are swimming on the surface.
This prodigious faculty renders useless, in part, the colors in which
the timid species clothe themselves in order to confound themselves
with lights or shadows. The greatest flesh-eaters see badly, but they
scrape the bottom with a divining touch and scent their prey at
astonishing distances.

Only the Mediterranean fishes, especially those of the Gulf of Naples,
were living in the tanks of this Aquarium. Some were lacking,--the
dolphin, of nervous movement, and the tunny, so impetuous in its
career. The captain smiled upon thinking of the mischievous pranks of
these ungovernable guests whose presence had been declined.

The voracious shark (_cabeza de olla_), the persecuting wolf of the
Mediterranean herds, was not here either. In his place were swimming
other animals of the same species, whitish and long, with great fins,
with eyes always open for lack of movable eyelids, and a mouth split
like a half-moon, under the head at the beginning of the stomach.

Ferragut sought on the bottom of the tanks the fishes of the
deep,--flattened animals that pass the greater part of their time sunk
in the sand under a coverlet of algae. The dark _uranoscopo_, with its
eyes almost united on the peak of its enormous head and its body in the
form of a club, leaves visible only a long thread coming from its lower
jaw, waving it in all directions in order to attract its prey.
Believing it a worm, the victims usually chase the moving bait until
pounced upon by the teeth of the hunter who then springs from his bed,
floats around for a few moments, and falls heavily to the bottom,
opening a new pit with his pectoral, shovel-shaped swimming bladders.

The toad fish, the most hideous animal of the Mediterranean, goes
hunting in the same way. Three-fourths of his flattened body is made up
of head, mostly mouth, armed with hooks and curved knives. Guided by
his yellowish eyes fixed on top, he waves his pointed little beard, cut
like leaves, and a pair of dorsal appendages like feathers. This false
bait attracts the unwary ones and soon the cavernous mandibles close
upon them.

The plane fishes swim quickly over these monsters of the mire, that are
always horizontally flat resting upon their bellies, whilst the
flatness of the soles and others of the same species is vertical. The
two sides of the bodies of the soles, compressed laterally, have
different colorings. In this way, when lying down, they are able to
merge themselves at the same time with the light of the surface and the
shadow of the bottom, thus getting rid of their persecutors.

All the infinite varieties of the Mediterranean fauna were moving in
the other tanks.

There passed by the greenish plates of glass the giltheads, the
cackerels, and the sea roaches, clad in vivid silver with bands of gold
on their sides. There also flashed past the purple of the salmonoids,
the brilliant majesty of the gold fish, the bluish belly of the sea
bream, the striped back of the sheep's head, the trumpet-mouthed marine
sun-fish, the immovable sneer of the so-called "joker," the dorsal
pinnacle of the peacock-fish which appears made of feathers, the
restless and deeply bifurcated tail of the horse mackerel, the
fluttering of the mullet with its triple wings, the grotesque rotundity
of the boar-fish and the pig-fish, the dark smoothness of the
sting-ray, floating like a fringe, the long snout of the woodcock-fish,
the slenderness of the haddock, agile and swift as a torpedo, the red
gurnard all thorns, the angel of the sea with its fleshy wings, the
gudgeon, bristling with swimming angularities, the notary, red and
white, with black bands similar to the flourishes on signatures, the
modest _esmarrido_, the little sand fish, the superb turbot almost
round with fan tail and a swimming fringe spotted with circles, and the
gloomy conger-eel whose skin is as bluish black as that of the ravens.

Hidden between two rocks like the hunting crustaceans was the
_rascaza_,--the scorpion of the Valencian sea that Ferragut had known
in his childhood, the animal beloved by his uncle, the _Triton_,
because of its substantial flesh which thickened the seamen's soup, the
precious component sought by Uncle Caragol for the broth of his
succulent rice dishes. The enormous head had a pair of eyes entirely
red. Its great swimming bladders stung venomously. The heavy body with
its dark bands and stripes was covered with singular appendages in the
form of leaves and could easily take the color of the deep where, in
the semi-obscurity, it looked like a stone covered with plants. With
this mimicry it was accustomed to escape its enemies and could better
detect its prey.

A gloomy creature, in Ferragut's opinion like a beadle of the Holy
Office, was parading through the upper part of the tanks, passing from
glass to glass, reflected like a double animal when it approached the
surface. It was the ray-fish with a flat head, ferocious eyes, and
thong-like tail, moving the black mantle of its fleshy wings with a
deliberation that rippled the edges.

From the sandy bottom was struggling forth a convex shield that, when
floating, showed its lower face smooth and yellow. The four wrinkled
paws and the serpent-like head of the turtle were emerging from its
cuirass of tortoise-shell. The little sea horses, slender and graceful
as chess-pieces, were rising and descending in the bluish environment,
wiggling their tails and twisting themselves in the form of
interrogation points.

When the captain approached the end of the four galleries of the
Aquarium without having seen more than the maritime animals behind the
glistening glasses and a few uninteresting people in the greenish
semi-light, he felt all the discouragement of a day lost.

"She won't come now!..."

In passing from this damp, cellar-like atmosphere to the sunlit garden,
the report of the midday gun struck him like an atmospheric blow. Lunch
hour!... And surely Freya was not going to lunch in the hotel!

During the afternoon his footsteps strayed instinctively toward the
hill streets of the district of Chiaja. All old buildings of manorial
aspect invariably attracted his attention. These were great, reddish
houses of the time of the Spanish viceroys, or palaces of the reign of
Charles III. Their broad staircases were adorned with polychrome busts
brought from the first excavations in Herculaneum and Pompeii.

Ulysses had faint hopes of running across the widow while passing in
front of one of these mansions, now rented in floors and displaying
little metal door-plates indicative of office and warehouse. In one of
these undoubtedly must be living the family that was so friendly to
Freya.

Then, noticing the whiteness of the showy constructions rising up
around the old districts, he became dubious. The doctor would dwell
only in a modern and hygienic edifice. But not daring to ask questions,
he passed on, fearing to be seen from a window.

Finally he gave it up. Chiaja had many streets and he was wandering
aimlessly, since the concierge of the hotel had not been able to give
him any precise directions. The _signora_ Talberg was evidently bent on
outwitting all his finesse, trying to keep from him the address of her
friends.

The following morning the captain took up his usual watch in the
promenade near the white Virgil. It was all in vain. After ten o'clock
he again wandered into the Aquarium, animated by a vague hope.

"Perhaps she may come to-day...."

With the superstition of the enamored and all those who wait, he kept
hunting certain places preferred by the widow, believing that in this
way he would attract her from her distant preoccupation, obliging her
to come to him.

The tanks of the molluscas had always been especially interesting to
her. He recalled that Freya had several times spoken to him of this
section.

Among its aquatic cases she always preferred the one marked number
fifteen, the exclusive dominion of the polypi (cuttlefish). A vague
presentiment warned him that something very important in his life was
going to be unrolled in that particular spot. Whenever Freya visited
the Aquarium, it was to see these repulsive and gluttonous animals eat.
There was nothing to do but to await her before this cavern of horrors.

And while she was making her way thither, the captain had to amuse
himself like any landlubber, contemplating the ferocious chase and
laborious digestion of these monsters.

He had seen them much larger in the deep-sea fishing grounds; but by
curtailing his imaginative powers he could pretend that the blue sheet
of the tank was the entire mass of the ocean--the rough bits of stone
on the bottom its submarine mountains, and by contracting his own
personality, he could reduce himself to the same scale as the little
victims that were falling under the devouring tentacles. In this manner
he could fancy of gigantic dimensions these cuttlefish of the Aquarium,
just as the monstrous oceanic octopi must be that, thousands of yards
down, were illuminating the gloom of the waters with the greenish star
of their phosphorescent nuclei.

From prehistoric times the men of the sea had known this great, ropy
beast of the abysses. The geographers of antiquity used to speak of it,
giving the measurement of its terrible arms.

Pliny used to recount the destruction accomplished by a gigantic
octopus in the vivarium of the Mediterranean. When some sailors
succeeded in killing it they carried it to the epicure, Lucullus,--the
head as big as a barrel, and some of its tentacles so huge that one
person could hardly reach around them. The chroniclers of the Middle
Ages had also spoken of the gigantic cuttlefish that on more than one
occasion had, with its serpentine arms, snatched men from the decks of
the ships.

The Scandinavian navigators, who had never encountered it in their
fjords, nicknamed it the _kraken_, exaggerating its proportions and
even converting it into a fabulous being. If it came to the surface,
they confounded it with an island; if it remained between the two
waters, the captains, on making their soundings, became confused in
their calculations, finding the depth less than that marked on their
charts. In such cases they had to escape before the _kraken_ should
awake and sink the vessel as though it were a fragile skiff among its
whirlpools of foam.

During many long years Science had laughed at the gigantic polypus and
at the sea serpent, another prehistoric animal many times encountered,
supposing them to be merely the inventions of an imaginative sailor,
stories of the forecastle made up to pass the night-watch. Wise men can
only believe what they can study directly and then catalogue in their
museums....

And Ferragut laughed in his turn at poor Science, ignorant and
defenseless before the mysterious immensity of the ocean, and having
scarcely achieved the measurement of its great depth. The apparatus of
the diver could go down but a few meters; their only instrument of
exploration was the metal diving-bell, less important than a spider-web
thread that might try to explore the earth by floating across its
atmosphere.

The great cuttlefish living in the tremendous depths do not deign to
come to the surface in order to become acquainted with mankind.
Sickness and oceanic war are the only agents that from time to time
announce their existence in a casual way, as they float over the waves
with members relaxed, snatched at by the iron jaws of the flesh-eating
fish. The great danger for them is that a chance current might place
this plunder of the immense marine desert before the prow of a
slow-going sailboat.

A corvette of the French navy once encountered near the Canary Isles a
complete specimen of one of these monsters floating upon the sea, sick
or wounded. The officials sketched its form and noted its
phosphorescence and changes of color, but after a two-hour struggle
with its indomitable force and its slippery mucosity constantly
escaping the pressure of blows and harpoons, they had to let it slip
back into the ocean.

It was the Prince of Monaco, supreme pontiff of oceanographic science,
who established forever the existence of the fabulous _kraken_. In one
of his intelligent excursions across oceanic solitudes he fished up an
arm of a cuttlefish eight yards long. Furthermore the stomachs of
sharks, upon being opened, had revealed to him the gigantic fragments
of the adversary.

Short and terrible battles used to agitate the black and phosphorescent
water, thousands of fathoms from the surface, with whirlwinds of death.

The shark would descend, attracted by the appetizing prospect of a
boneless animal,--all flesh and weighing several tons. He would make
his hostile invasion in all haste so as not to be obliged to endure for
a long time the formidable pressure of the abyss. The struggle between
the two ferocious warriors disputing oceanic dominion was usually brief
and deadly,--the mandible battling with the sucker; the solid and
cutting equipment of teeth with the phosphorescent mucosity incessantly
slipping by and opposing the blow of the demolishing head like a
battering ram, with the lashing blow of tentacles thicker and heavier
than an elephant's trunk. Sometimes the shark would remain down
forever, enmeshed in a skein of soft snakes absorbing it with
gluttonous deliberation; at other times it would come to the surface
with its skin bristling with black tumors,--open mouths and slashes big
as plates,--but with its stomach full of gelatinous meat.

These cuttlefish in the Aquarium were nothing more than the seaside
inhabitants of the Mediterranean coast,--poor relations of the gigantic
octopus that lighten the black gloom of the oceanic night with their
bluish gleam of burned-out planets. But in spite of their relative
smallness, they are animated by the same destructive iniquity as the
others. They are rabid stomachs that cleanse the waters of all animal
life, digesting it in a vacuum of death. Even the bacteria and
infusoria appear to flee from the liquid that envelops these ferocious
solitudes.

Ferragut passed many mornings contemplating their treacherous
immovability, followed by deadly unfoldings the moment that their prey
came down into the tank. He began to hate these monsters for no other
reason than because they were so interesting to Freya. Their stupid
cruelty appeared to him but a reflex of that incomprehensible woman's
character that was repulsing him by fleeing from him and yet, at the
same time, by her smiles and her signals, was sending out a wireless in
order to keep him prisoner.

Masculine wrath convulsed the sailor after each futile daily trip in
pursuit of her invisible personality.

"She's just doing it to lead me on!..." he exclaimed. "It's got to come
to an end! I won't stand any more bull-baiting.... I'll just show her
that I'm able to live without her!"

He swore not to seek her any more. It was an agreeable diversion for
the weeks that he had to spend in Naples, but why keep it up when she
was fatiguing him in such an insufferable way?...

"All is ended," he said again, clenching his hands.

And the following day he was waiting outside of the hotel just as on
other days. Then he would go for his customary stroll, afterwards
entering the Aquarium in the same, old hope of seeing her before the
tanks of the cuttlefish.

He finally met her there one morning, about midday. He had been over to
his boat and on returning entered, through force of habit, sure that at
this hour he would find nobody but the employees feeding the fishes.

His dazzled eyes were affected with almost instantaneous blindness
before becoming accustomed to the shadows of the greenish galleries....
And when the first images began to be vaguely outlined on his retina,
he stepped hastily backward, so great was his surprise.

He couldn't believe it and raised his hand to his eyes as though
wishing to clarify his vision with an energetic rubbing. Was that
really Freya?... Yes, it was she, dressed in white, leaning on the bar
of iron that separated the tanks from the public, looking fixedly at
the glass which covered the rocky cavern like a transparent door. She
had just opened her hand-bag, giving some coins to the guardian who was
disappearing at the end of the gallery.

"Oh, is that you?" she said, on seeing Ferragut, without any surprise,
as if she had left him but a short time before.

Then she explained her presence at this late hour. She had not visited
the Aquarium for a long time. The tank of cuttlefish was to her like a
cage of tropical birds, full of colors and cries that enlivened the
solitude of a melancholy matron.

She always adored the monsters living on the other side of these
crystals, and before going to lunch she had felt an irresistible desire
to see them. She feared that the guard had not been taking good care of
them during her absence.

"Just see how beautiful they are!..."

And she pointed to a tank that appeared empty. Neither in its quiet
still waters nor on the floor of the oily sand could be seen the
slightest animal motion. Ferragut followed the direction of her eyes
and after long contemplation discovered there three occupants. With the
amazing mimicry of their species, they had changed themselves to appear
like minerals. Only a pair of expert eyes would have been able to
discover them, heaped together, each one huddled in a crack of the
rocks, voluntarily raising his smooth skin into stone-like
protuberances and ridges. Their faculty of changing color permitted
them to take on that of their hard base and, disguised in this way like
three rocky excrescences, they were treacherously awaiting the passing
of their victim, just as though they were in the open sea.

"Soon we shall see them in all their majesty," continued Freya as
though she were speaking of something belonging to her. "The guardian
is going to feed them.... Poor things! Nobody pays any attention to
them; everybody detests them. To me they owe whatever they get between
meals."

As if scenting the proximity of food, one of the three stones suddenly
shuddered with a polychromatic chill. Its elastic covering began
swelling. There passed over its surface stripes of color, reddish
clouds changing from crimson to green, circular spots that became
inflated in the swelling, forming tremulous excrescences. Between two
cracks there appeared a yellowish eye of ferocious and stupid fixity; a
darkened and malignant globe like that of serpents, was now looking
toward the crystal as though seeing far beyond that diamond wall.

"They know me!" exclaimed Freya joyously. "I'm sure that they know
me!..."

And she enumerated the clever traits of these monsters to whom she
attributed great intelligence. They were the ones that, like astute
builders, had dappled the stones piled up on the bottom, forming
bulwarks in whose shelter they had disguised themselves in order to
pounce upon their victims. In the sea, when wishing to surprise a
meaty, toothsome oyster, they waited in hiding until the two valves
should open to feed upon the water and the light, and had often
introduced a pebble between the shells and then inserted their
tentacles in the crevice.

Their love of liberty was another thing which aroused Freya's
enthusiasm. If they should have to endure more than a year of enclosure
in the Aquarium, they would become sick with sadness and would gnaw
their claws until they killed themselves.

"Ah, the charming and vigorous bandits!" she continued in hysterical
enthusiasm. "I adore them. I should like to have them in my home, as
they have gold-fishes in a globe, to feed them every hour, to see how
they would devour...."

Ferragut felt a recurrence of the same uneasiness that he had
experienced one morning in the temple of Virgil.

"She's crazy!" he said to himself.

But in spite of her craziness, he greatly enjoyed the faint perfume
that exhaled through the opening at her throat.

He no longer saw the silent world that, sparkling with color, was
swimming or paddling behind the crystal. She was now the only creature
who existed for him. And he listened to her voice as though it were
distant music as it continued explaining briefly all the particulars
about those stones that were really animals, about those globes that,
on distending themselves, showed their organs and again hid themselves
under a gelatinous succession of waves.

They were a sac, a pocket, an elastic mask, in whose interior existed
only water or air. Between their armpits was their mouth, armed with
long jaw bones, like a parrot's beak. When breathing, a crack of their
skin would open and close alternately. From one of their sides came
forth a tube in the form of a tunnel that swallowed equally the
respirable water and drew it through both entrances into its branching
cavity. Their multiple arms, fitted out with cupping glasses,
functioned like high-pressure apparatus for grasping and holding prey,
for paddling and for running.

The glassy eye of one of the monsters appearing and disappearing among
its soft folds, stirred Freya's memories. She began speaking in a low
tone as if to herself, without paying any attention to Ferragut who was
perplexed at the incoherence of her words. The appearance of this
octopus brought to her mind "the eye of the morning."

The sailor asked: "What is the 'eye of the morning'?"... And he again
told himself that Freya was crazy when he learned that this was the
name of a tame serpent, a reptile of checkered sides that she wore as
necklace or bracelet over there in her home in the island of Java,--an
island where groves exhaled an irresistible perfume, covered in the
sunlight with trembling and monstrous flowers like animals, peopled at
night with phosphorescent stars that leaped from tree to tree.

"I used to dance naked, with a transparent veil tied around my hips and
another floating from my head ... I would dance for hours and hours,
just like a Brahman priestess before the image of the terrible Siva,
and the 'eye of the morning' would follow my dances with elegant
undulations ... I believe in the divine Siva. Don't you know who Siva
is?..."

Ferragut uttered an impatient aside to the gloomy god. What he wanted
to know was the reason that had taken her to Java, the paradisiacal and
mysterious island.

"My husband was a Dutch commandant," she said. "We were married in
Amsterdam and I followed him to Asia."

Ulysses protested at this piece of news. Had not her husband been a
great student?... Had he not taken her to the Andes in search of
prehistoric beasts?...

Freya hesitated a moment in order to be sure, but her doubts were
short.

"So he was," she said as a matter of course. "That professor was my
second husband. I have been married twice."

The captain had not time to express his surprise. Over the top of the
tank, on the crystalline surface silvered by the sun, passed a human
shadow. It was the silhouette of the keeper. Down below, the three
shapeless bags began to move. Freya was trembling with emotion like an
enthusiastic and impatient spectator.

Something fell into the water, descending little by little, a bit of
dead sardine that was scattering filaments of meat and yellow scales.
An odd community interest appeared to exist among these monsters: only
the one nearest the prey bestirred himself to eat. Perhaps they
voluntarily took turns; perhaps their glance only reached a little
beyond their tentacles.

The one nearest to the glass suddenly unfolded itself with the violence
of a spring escaping from an explosive projectile. He gave a bound,
remaining fastened to the ground by one of his radiants, and raised the
others like a bundle of reptiles. Suddenly he converted himself into a
monstrous star, filling almost the entire glassy tank, swollen with
rage, and coloring his outer covering with green, blue, and red.

His tentacles clutched the miserable prey, doubling it inward in order
to bear it to his mouth. The beast then contracted, and flattened
himself out so as to rest on the ground. His armed feet disappeared and
there only remained visible a trembling bag through which was passing
like a succession of waves, from one extreme to the other, the
digestive swollen mass which became a bubbling, mucous pulpiness in a
dye-pot that colored and discolored itself with contortions of
assimilative fury; from time to time the agglomeration showed its
stupid and ferocious eyes.

New victims continued falling down through the waters and other
monsters leaped in their turn, spreading out their stars, then
shrinking together in order to grind their prey in their entrails with
the assimilation of a tiger.

Freya gazed upon this horrifying digestive process with thrills of
rapture. Ulysses felt her resting instinctively upon him with a contact
growing more intimate every moment. From shoulder to ankle the captain
could see the sweet reliefs of her soft flesh whose warmth made itself
perceptible through her clothing and filled him with nervous tremors.

Frequently she turned her eyes away from the cruel spectacle, glancing
at him quickly with an odd expression. Her pupils appeared enlarged,
and the whites of her eyes had a wateriness of morbid reflection.
Ferragut felt that thus the insane must look in their great crises.

She was speaking between her teeth, with emotional pauses, admiring the
ferocity of the cuttlefish, grieving that she did not possess their
vigor and their cruelty.

"If I could only be like them!... To be able to go through the streets
 ... through the world, stretching out my talons!... To devour!... to
devour! They would struggle uselessly to free themselves from the
winding of my tentacles.... To absorb them!... To eat them!... To cause
them to disappear!..."

Ulysses beheld her as on that first day near the temple of the poet,
possessed with a fierce wrath against men, longing extravagantly for
their extermination.

Their digestion finished, the polypi had begun to swim around, and were
now horizontal skeins, fluting the tank with elegance. They appeared
like torpedo boats with a conical prow, dragging along the heavy, thick
and long hair of their tentacles. Their excited appetite made them
glide through the water in all directions, seeking new victims.

Freya protested. The guard had only brought them dead bodies. What she
wanted was the struggle, the sacrifice, the death. The bits of sardine
were a meal without substance for these bandits that had zest only for
food seasoned with assassination.

As though the pulps had understood her complaints, they had fallen on
the sandy bottom, flaccid, inert, breathing through their funnels.

A little crab began to descend at the end of a thread desperately
moving its claws.

Freya pressed still closer to Ulysses, excited at the thought of the
approaching spectacle. One of the bags, transformed into a star,
suddenly leaped forward. Its arms writhed like serpents seeking the
recent arrival. In vain the guard pulled the thread up, wishing to
prolong the chase. The tentacles clamped their irresistible openings
upon the body of the victim, pulling upon the line with such force that
it broke, the octopus falling on the bottom with his prey.

Freya clapped her hands in applause.

"Bravo!..." She was exceedingly pale, though a feverish heat was
coursing through her body.

She leaned toward the crystal in order to see better the devouring
activity of that pyramidal stomach which had on its sharp point a
diminutive parrot head with two ferocious eyes and around its base the
twisted skeins of its arms full of projecting disks. With these it
pressed the crab against its mouth, injecting under its shell the
venomous output of its salivary glands, paralyzing thus every movement
of existence. Then it swallowed its prey slowly with the deglutition of
a boa constrictor.

"How beautiful it is!" she said.

The other beasts also seized their live victims, paralyzed and devoured
them, moving their flabby bodies in order to permit the passage of
their swelling nutritive waves and clouds of various colors.

Then the guard tossed in a crab, but one without any string whatever.
Freya screamed with enthusiasm.

This was the kind of hunt that takes place in the ferocious mystery of
the sea, a race with death, a destruction preceded with emotional agony
and hazards. The poor crustacean, divining its danger, was swimming
towards the rocks hoping to take refuge in the nearest crevice. A
polypus came up behind it, whilst the others continued their digestion.

"It's escaping!... It's escaping!" cried Freya, palpitating with
interest.

The crab scrambled through the stones, sheltering itself in their
windings. The polypus was no longer swimming; it was running like a
terrestrial animal, climbing over the rocks by its armed extremities,
which were now serving as apparatus of locomotion. It was the struggle
of a tiger with a mouse. When the crab had half of its body already
hidden within the green lichens of a hole, one of the heavy serpents
fell upon its back clutching it with the irresistible suction of his
air-holes, and causing it to disappear within his skein of tentacles.

"Ah!" sighed Freya, throwing herself back as though she were going to
faint on Ulysses' breast.

He shuddered, feeling that a serpentine band of tremulous pressure had
encircled his body. The acts of that unbalanced creature were fraying
his nerves.

He felt as though a monster of the same class as those in the tank but
much larger--a gigantic octopus from the oceanic depths--must have
slipped treacherously behind him and was clutching him in one of its
tentacles. He could feel the pressure of its feelers around his waist,
growing closer and more ferocious.

Freya was holding him captive with one of her arms. She had wound
herself tightly around him and was clasping his waist with all her
force, as though trying to break his vigorous body in two.

Then he saw the head of this woman approaching him with an aggressive
swiftness as if she were going to bite him.... Her enlarged eyes,
tearful and misty, appeared to be far off, very far off. Perhaps she
was not even looking at him.... Her trembling mouth, bluish with
emotion, a round and protruding mouth like an absorbing duct, was
seeking the sailor's mouth, taking possession of it and devouring it
with her lips.

It was the kiss of a cupping-glass, long, dominating, painful. Ulysses
realized that he had never before been kissed in this way. The water
from that mouth surging across her row of teeth, discharged itself in
his like swift poison. A shudder unfamiliar until then ran the entire
length of his back, making him close his eyes.

He felt as if all his interior had turned to liquid. He had a
presentiment that his life was going to date from this kiss, that with
it was going to begin a new existence, that he never would be able to
free himself from these deadly and caressing lips with their faint
savor of cinnamon, of incense, of Asiatic forests haunted with
sensuousness and intrigue.

And he let himself be dragged down by the caress of this wild beast,
with thought lost and body inert and resigned, like a castaway who
descends and descends the infinite strata of the abyss without ever
reaching bottom.



CHAPTER VI


THE WILES OF CIRCE

After that kiss, the lover believed that all his desires were about to
be immediately realized. The most difficult part of the road was
already passed. But with Freya one always had to expect something
absurd and inconceivable.

The midday gun aroused them from a rapture that had lasted but a few
seconds as long as years. The steps of the guard, growing nearer all
the time, finally separated the two and unlocked their arms.

Freya was the first to calm herself. Only a slight haze flitted across
her pupils now, like the vapor from a recently extinguished fire.

"Good-by.... They are waiting for me."

And she went out from the Aquarium followed by Ferragut, still
stammering and tremulous. The questions and petitions with which he
pursued her while crossing the promenade were of no avail.

"So far and no further," she said at one of the cross streets of
Chiaja. "We shall see one another.... I formally promise you that....
Now leave me."

And she disappeared with the firm step of a handsome huntress, as
serene of countenance as though not recalling the slightest
recollection of her primitive, passional paroxysm.

This time she fulfilled her promise. Ferragut saw her every day.

They met in the mornings near the hotel, and sometimes she came down
into the dining-room, exchanging smiles and glances with the sailor,
who fortunately was sitting at a distant table. Then they took strolls
and chatted together, Freya laughing good-naturedly at the amorous vows
of the captain.... And that was all.

With a woman's skillfulness in sounding a man's depth and penetrating
into his secrets,--keeping fast-locked and unapproachable her own,--she
gradually informed herself of the incidents and adventures in the life
of Ulysses. Vainly he spoke, in a natural reciprocity, of the island of
Java, of the mysterious dances before Siva, of the journeys through the
lakes of the Andes. Freya had to make an effort to recall them. "Ah!...
Yes!" And after giving this distracted exclamation for every answer,
she would continue the process of delving eagerly into the former life
of her lover. Ulysses sometimes began to wonder if that embrace in the
Aquarium could have occurred in his dreams.

One morning the captain managed to bring about the realization of one
of his ambitions. He was jealous of the unknown friends that were
lunching with Freya. In vain she affirmed that the doctor was the only
companion of the hours that she passed outside of the hotel. In order
to tranquillize himself, the sailor insisted that the widow should
accept his invitations. They ought to extend their strolls; they ought
to visit the beautiful outskirts of Naples, lunching in their gay
little _trattorias_ or eating-houses.

They ascended together the funicular road of Monte Vomero to the
heights crowned by the castle of S. Elmo and the monastery of S.
Martino. After admiring in the museum of the abbey the artistic
souvenirs of the Bourbon domination and that of Murat, they entered
into a nearby _trattoria_ with tables placed on an esplanade from whose
balconies they could take in the unforgetable spectacle of the gulf,
seeing Vesuvius in the distance and the chain of mountains smoking on
the horizon like an immovable succession of dark rose-colored waves.

Naples was extended in horseshoe form on the bow-shaped border of the
sea tossing up from its enormous white mass, as though they were bits
of foam, the clusters of houses in the suburbs.

A swarthy oysterman, slender, with eyes like live coals, and enormous
mustaches, had his stand at the door of the restaurant, offering
cockles and shell fish of strong odor that had been half a week perhaps
in ascending from the city to the heights of Vomero. Freya jested about
the oysterman's typical good looks and the languishing glances that he
was forever casting toward all the ladies that entered the
establishment ... a prime discovery for a tourist anxious for
adventures in local color.

In the background a small orchestra was accompanying a tenor voice or
was playing alone, enlarging upon the melodies and amplifying the
measures with Neapolitan exaggeration.

Freya felt a childish hilarity upon seating herself at the table,
seeing over the cloth the luminous summit. Bisected in the foreground
by a crystal vase full of flowers, the distant panorama of the city,
the gulf, and its capes spread itself before her eager eyes. The air on
this peak enchanted her after two weeks passed without stirring outside
of Naples. The harps and violins gave the situation a pathetic thrill
and served as a background for conversation, just as the vague murmurs
of a hidden orchestra give the effect in the theater of psalmody or of
melancholy verses moving the listener to tears.

They ate with the nervousness which joy supplies. At some tables
further on a young man and woman were forgetting the courses in order
to clasp hands underneath the cloth and place knee against knee with
frenzied pressure. The two were smiling, looking at the landscape and
then at each other. Perhaps they were foreigners recently married,
perhaps fugitive lovers, realizing in this picturesque spot the billing
and cooing so many times anticipated in their distant courtship.

Two English doctors from a hospital ship, white haired and uniformed,
were disregarding their repast in order to paint directly in their
albums, with a childish painstaking crudeness, the same panorama that
was portrayed on the postal cards offered for sale at the door of the
restaurant.

A fat-bellied bottle with a petticoat of straw and a long neck
attracted Freya's hands to the table. She ridiculed the sobriety of
Ferragut, who was diluting with water the reddish blackness of the
Italian wine.

"Thus your ancestors, the Argonauts, must have drunk," she said gayly.
"Thus your grandfather, Ulysses, undoubtedly drank."

And herself filling the captain's glass with an exaggeratedly careful
division of the parts of water and wine, she added gayly:

"We are going to make a libation to the gods."

These libations were very frequent. Freya's peals of laughter made the
Englishmen, interrupted in their conscientious work, turn their glances
toward her. The sailor felt himself overcome by a warm feeling of
well-being, by a sensation of repose and confidence, as though this
woman were unquestionably his already.

Seeing that the two lovers, terminating their luncheon hastily, were
arising with blushing precipitation as though overpowered by some
sudden desire, his glance became tender and fraternal.... Adieu, adieu,
companions!

The voice of the widow recalled him to reality.

"Ulysses, make love to me.... You haven't yet told me this whole day
long that you love me."

In spite of the smiling and mocking tone of this order, he obeyed her,
repeating once more his promises and his desires. Wine was giving to
his words a thrill of emotion; the musical moaning of the orchestra was
exciting his sensibilities and he was so touched with his own eloquence
that his eyes slightly filled with tears.

The high voice of the tenor, as though it were an echo of Ferragut's
thought, was singing a romance of the fiesta of Piedigrotta, a
lamentation of melancholy love, a canticle of death, the final mother
of hopeless lovers.

"All a lie!" said Freya, laughing. "These Mediterraneans.... What
comedians they are for love!..."

Ulysses was uncertain as to whether she was referring to him or to the
singer. She continued talking, placid and disdainful at the same time,
because of their surroundings.

"Love,... love! In these countries they can't talk of anything else. It
is almost an industry, somewhat scrupulously prepared for the credulous
and simple people from the North. They all harp on love: this howling
singer, you ... even the oysterman...."

Then she added maliciously:

"I ought to warn you that you have a rival. Be very careful, Ferragut!"

She turned her head in order to look at the oysterman. He was occupied
in the contemplation of a fat lady with grisled hair and abundant
jewels, a lady escorted by her husband, who was looking with
astonishment at the vendor's killing glances without being able to
understand them.

The lady-killer was stroking his mustache affectedly, looking from time
to time at his cloth suit in order to smooth out the wrinkles and brush
off the specks of dust. He was a handsome pirate disguised as a
gentleman. Upon noticing Freya's interest, he changed the course of his
glances, poised his fine figure and replied to her questioning eyes
with the smile of a bad angel, making her understand his discretion and
skillfulness in ingratiating himself behind husbands and escorts.

"There he is!" cried Freya with peals of laughter. "I already have a
new admirer!..."

The swarthy charmer was restrained by the scandalous publicity with
which this lady was receiving his mysterious insinuations. Ferragut
spoke of knocking the scamp down on his oyster shells with a good pair
of blows.

"Now don't be ridiculous," she protested. "Poor man! Perhaps he has a
wife and many children.... He is the father of a family and wants to
take money home."

There was a long silence between the two. Ulysses appeared offended by
the lightness and cruelty of his companion.

"Now don't you be cross," she said. "See here, my shark! Smile a bit.
Show me your teeth.... The libations to the gods are to blame. Are you
offended because I wished to compare you with that clown?... What if
you are the only man that I appreciate at all!... Ulysses, I am
speaking to you seriously,--with all the frankness that wine gives. I
ought not to tell you so, but I admit it.... If I should ever love a
man, that man would be you."

Ferragut instantly forgot all his irritation in order to listen to her
and envelop her in the adoring light of his eyes. Freya averted her
glance while speaking, not wishing to meet his eye, as though she were
weighing what she was saying while her glance wandered over the
widespread landscape.

Ulysses' origin was what interested her most. She who had traveled over
almost the entire world, had trodden the soil of Spain only a few
hours, when disembarking in Barcelona from the transatlantic liner
which he had commanded. The Spaniards inspired her both with fear and
attraction. A noble gravity reposed in the depths of their ardent
hyperbole.

"You are an exaggerated being, a meridional who enlarges everything and
lies about everything, believing all his own lies. But I am sure that
if you should ever be really in love with me, without fine phrases or
passionate fictions, your affection would be more sane and deep than
that of other men.... My friend, the doctor, says that you are a crude
people and that you have only simulated the nervousness, unbalanced
behavior, and intrigues that accompany love in other civilized
countries even to refinement."

Freya looked at the sailor, making a long pause.

"Therefore you strike," she continued, "therefore you kill when you
feel love and jealousy. You are brutes but not mediocre. You do not
abandon a woman intentionally; you do not exploit her.... You are a new
species of man for me, who has known so many. If I were able to believe
in love, I would have you at my side all my life.... All my life long!"

A light, gentle music, like the vibration of fragile and delicate
crystal, spread itself over the terrace. Freya followed its rhythm with
a light motion of the head. She was accustomed to this cloying music,
this _Serenata_ of Toselli,--a passionate lament that always touches
the soul of the tourist in the halls of the grand hotels. She, who at
other times had ridiculed this artificial and refined little music, now
felt tears welling up in her eyes.

"Not to be able to love anybody!" she murmured. "To wander alone
through the world!... And love is such a beautiful thing!"

She guessed what Ferragut was going to say,--his protest of eternal
passion, his offer to unite his life to hers forever, and she cut his
words short with an energetic gesture.

"No, Ulysses, you do not know me; you do not know who I am.... Go far
from me. Some days ago it was a matter of indifference to me. I hate
men and do not mind injuring them, but now you inspire me with a
certain interest because I believe you are good and frank in spite of
your haughty exterior.... Go! Do not seek me. This is the best proof of
affection that I can give you."

She said this vehemently, as if she saw Ferragut running toward danger
and was crying out in order to ward him from it.

"On the stage," she continued, "there is a role that they call 'The
Fatal Woman,' and certain artists are not able to play any other part.
They were born to represent this personage.... I am a 'Fatal Woman,'
but really and truly.... If you could know my life!... It is better
that you do not know it; even I wish to ignore it. I am happy only when
I forget it.... Ferragut, my friend, bid me farewell, and do not cross
my path again."

But Ferragut protested as though she were proposing a cowardly thing to
him. Flee? Loving her so much? If she had enemies, she could rely upon
him for her defense; if she wanted wealth, he wasn't a millionaire,
but....

"Captain," interrupted Freya, "go back to your own people. I was not
meant for you. Think of your wife and son; follow your own life. I am
not the conquest that is cherished for a few weeks, no more. Nobody can
trust me with impunity. I have suckers just like the animals that we
saw the other day; I burn and sting just like those transparent
parasols in the Aquarium. Flee, Ferragut!.... Leave me alone....
Alone!"

And the image of the immense barrenness of her lonely future made the
tears gush from her eyes.

The music had ceased. A motionless waiter was pretending to look far
away, while really listening to their conversation. The two Englishmen
had interrupted their painting in order to glare at this _gentleman_
who was making a lady weep. The sailor began to feel the nervous
disquietude which a difficult situation creates.

"Ferragut, pay and let us go," she said, divining his state of mind.

While Ulysses was giving money to the waiters and musicians, she dried
her eyes and repaired the ravages to her complexion, drawing from her
gold-mesh bag a powder puff and little mirror in whose oval she
contemplated herself for a long time.

As they passed out, the oysterman turned his back, pretending to be
very much occupied in the arrangement of the lemons that were adorning
his stand. She could not see his face, but she guessed, nevertheless,
that he was muttering a bad word,--the most terrible that can be said
of a woman.

They went slowly toward the station of the funicular road, through
solitary streets and between garden walls one side of which was yellow
in the golden sunlight and the other blue in the shade. She it was who
sought Ulysses' arm, supporting herself on it with a childish abandon
as if fatigue had overcome her after the first few steps.

Ferragut pressed this arm close against his body, feeling at once the
stimulus of contact. Nobody could see them; their footsteps resounded
on the pavements with the echo of an abandoned place. The fermented
ardor of those libations to the gods was giving the captain a new
audacity.

"My poor little darling!... Dear little crazy-head!..." he murmured,
drawing closer to him Freya's head which was resting on one of his
shoulders.

He kissed her without her making any resistance. And she in turn kissed
him, but with a sad, light, faint-hearted kiss that in no way recalled
the hysterical caress of the Aquarium. Her voice, which appeared to be
coming from afar off, was repeating what she had counseled him in the
_trattoria_.

"Begone, Ulysses! Do not see me any more. I tell you this for your own
good.... I bring trouble. I should be sorry to have you curse the
moment in which you met me."

The sailor took advantage of all the windings of the streets in order
to cut these recommendations short with his kisses. She advanced limply
as though towed by him with no will power of her own, as though she
were walking in her sleep. A voice was singing with diabolic
satisfaction in the captain's brain:

"Now it is ripe!... Now it is ripe!..."

And he continued pulling her along always in a direct line, not knowing
whither he was going, but sure of his triumph.

Near the station an old man approached the pair,--a white-haired,
respectable gentleman with an old jacket and spectacles. He gave them
the card of a hotel which he owned in the neighborhood, boasting of the
good qualities of its rooms. "Every modern comfort.... Hot water."
Ferragut spoke to her familiarly:

"Would you like?... Would you like?..."

She appeared to wake up, dropping his arm brusquely.

"Don't be crazy, Ulysses.... That will never be.... Never!"

And drawing herself up magnificently, she entered the station with a
haughty step, without looking around, without noticing whether Ferragut
was following her or abandoning her.

During the long wait and the descent to the city Freya appeared as
ironical and frivolous as though she had no recollection of her recent
indignation. The sailor, under the weight of his failure and the
unusual libations, relapsed into sulky silence.

In the district of Chiaja they separated. Ferragut, finding himself
alone, felt more strongly than ever the effects of the intoxication
that was dominating him, the intoxication of a temperate man overcome
by the intense surprise of novelty.

For a moment he had a forlorn idea of going to his boat. He needed to
give orders, to contend with somebody; but the weakness of his knees
pushed him toward his hotel and he flung himself face downward on the
bed,--whilst his hat rolled on the floor,--content with the sobriety
with which he had reached his room without attracting the attention of
the servants.

He fell asleep immediately, but scarcely had night fallen before his
eyes opened again, or at least he believed that they opened, seeing
everything under a light which was not that of the sun.

Some one had entered the room, and was coming on tiptoe towards his
bed. Ulysses, who was not able to move, saw out of the tail of one eye
that what was approaching was a woman and that this woman appeared to
be Freya. Was it really she?...

She had the same countenance, the blonde hair, the black and oriental
eyes, the same oval face. It was Freya and it was not, just as twins
exactly alike physically, nevertheless have an indefinable something
which differentiates them.

The vague thoughts which for some time past had been slowly undermining
his subconsciousness with dull, subterranean labor, now cleared the air
with explosive force. Whenever he had seen the widow this
subconsciousness had asserted itself, forewarning him that he had known
her long before that transatlantic voyage. Now, under a light of
fantastic splendor, these vague thoughts assumed definite shape.

The sleeper thought he was looking at Freya clad in a bodice with
flowing sleeves adjusted to the arms with filagree buttons of gold;
some rather barbarous gems were adorning her bosom and ears, and a
flowered skirt was covering the rest of her person. It was the classic
costume of a farmer's wife or daughter of other centuries that he had
seen somewhere in a painting. Where?... Where?...

"Doña Constanza!..."

Freya was the counterpart of that august Byzantian queen. Perhaps she
was the very same, perpetuated across the centuries, through
extraordinary incarnations. In that moment Ulysses would have believed
anything possible.

Besides he was very little concerned with the reasonableness of things
just now; the important thing to him was that they should exist; and
Freya was at his side; Freya and that other one, welded into one and
the same woman, clad like the Grecian sovereign.

Again he repeated the sweet name that had illuminated his infancy with
romantic splendor. "Doña Constanza! Oh, Doña Constanza!..." And night
overwhelmed him, cuddling his pillow as when he was a child, and
falling asleep enraptured with thoughts of the young widow of "Vatacio
the Heretic."

When he met Freya again the next day, he felt attracted by a new
force,--the redoubled interest that people in dreams inspire. She might
really be the empress resuscitated in a new form as in the books of
chivalry, or she might simply be the wandering widow of a learned
sage,--for the sailor it was all the same thing. He desired her, and to
his carnal desire was added others less material,--the necessity of
seeing her for the mere pleasure of seeing her, of hearing her, of
suffering her negatives, of being repelled in all his advances.

She had pleasant memories of the expedition to the heights of S.
Martino.

"You must have thought me ridiculous because of my sensitiveness and my
tears. You, on the other hand, were as you always are, impetuous and
daring.... The next time we shall drink less."

The "next time" was an invitation that Ferragut repeated daily. He
wanted to take her to dine at one of the _trattorias_ on the road to
Posilipo where they could see spread at their feet the entire gulf,
colored with rose by the setting sun.

Freya had accepted his invitation with the enthusiasm of a school girl.
These strolls represented for her hours of joy and liberty, as though
her long sojourns with the doctor were filled with monotonous service.

One evening Ulysses was waiting for her far from the hotel so as to
avoid the porter's curious stares. As soon as they met and glanced
toward the neighboring cab-stand, four vehicles advanced at the same
time--like a row of Roman chariots anxious to win the prize in the
circus--with a noisy clattering of hoofs, cracking of whips, wrathful
gesticulations and threatening appeals to the Madonna. Listening to
their Neapolitan curses, Ferragut believed for an instant that they
were going to kill one another.... The two climbed into the nearest
vehicle, and immediately the tumult ceased. The empty coaches returned
to occupy their former place in the line, and the deadly rivals renewed
their placid and laughing conversation.

An enormous upright plume was waving on their horses' heads. The
cabman, in order not to be discourteous to his two clients, would
occasionally turn half-way around, giving them explanations.

"Over there," and he pointed with his whip, "is the road of
Piedigrotta. The gentleman ought to see it on a day of fiesta in
September. Few return from it with a firm step. _S. Maria di
Piedigrotta_ enabled Charles III to put the Austrians to flight in
Velletri.... _Aooo!_"

He moved his whip like a fishing rod over the upright plume, increasing
the steed's pace with a professional howl.... And as though his cry
were among the sweetest of melodies, he continued talking, by
association of ideas:

"At the fiesta of _Piedigrotta_, when I was a boy, were given out the
best songs of the year. There was proclaimed the latest fashionable
love song, and long after we had forgotten it foreigners would come
here repeating it as though it was a novelty."

He made a short pause.

"If the lady and gentleman wish," he continued, "I will take them, on
returning, to _Piedigrotta_. Then we'll see the little church of _S.
Vitale_. Many foreign ladies hunt for it in order to put flowers on the
sepulcher of a hunch-back who made verses,--Giacomo Leopardi."

The silence with which his two clients received these explanations made
him abandon his mechanical oratory in order to take a good look at
them. The gentleman was taking the lady's hand and was pressing it,
speaking in a very low tone. The lady was pretending not to listen to
him, looking at the villas and the gardens at the left of the road
sloping down toward the sea.

With noble magnanimity, however, the driver still wished to instruct
his indifferent clients, showing them with the point of his whip the
beauty and wonders of his repertoire.

"That church is _S. Maria del Parto_, sometimes called by others the
_Sannazaro._ _Sannazaro_ was also a noted poet who described the loves
of shepherdesses, and Frederick II of Aragon made him the gift of a
villa with gardens in order that he might write with greater comfort...
Those were other days, sir! His heirs converted it into a church
and----"

The voice of the coachman stopped short. Behind him the pair were
talking in an incomprehensible language, without paying the slightest
attention to him, without acknowledging his erudite explanations.
Ignorant foreigners!... And he said no more, wrapping himself in
offended silence, relieving his Neapolitan verbosity with a series of
shouts and grunts to his horse.

The new road from Posilipo, the work of Murat, skirted the gulf, rising
along the mountain edge and constantly emphasizing the declivity
between the covering of its feet and the border of the sea. On this
hanging slope may be seen villas with white or rosy facades midst the
splendor of a vegetation that is always green and glossy. Beyond the
colonnades of palm trees and parasol pines, appeared the gulf like a
blue curtain, its upper edge showing above the murmuring tops of the
trees.

An enormous edifice appeared facing the water. It was a palace in
ruins, or rather a roofless palace never finished, with thick walls and
huge windows. On the lower floor the waves entered gently through doors
and windows which served as rooms of refuge for the fishermen's skiffs.

The two travelers were undoubtedly talking about this ruin, and the
forgiving coachman forgot his snub in order to come to their aid.

"That is what many people call the Palace of Queen Joanna.... A
mistake, sir. Ignorance of the uneducated people! That is the _Palazzo
di Donn' Anna_, and _Donna Anna Carafa_ was a great Neapolitan
_signora_, wife of the Duke of Medina, the Spanish viceroy who
constructed the palace for her and was not able to finish it."...

He was about to say more but stopped himself. Ah, no! By the
Madonna!... Again they had begun to talk, without listening to him....
And he finally took refuge in offended silence, while they chattered
continually behind his back.

Ferragut felt an interest in the remote love-affairs of the Neapolitan
great lady with the prudent and aristocratic Spanish magnate. His
passion had made the grave viceroy commit the folly of constructing a
palace in the sea. The sailor was also in love with a woman of another
race and felt equal desires to do whimsical things for her.

"I have read the mandates of Nietzsche," he said to her, by way of
explaining his enthusiasm,--"'seek thy wife outside thy country.' That
is the best thing."

Freya smiled sadly.

"Who knows?... That would complicate love with the prejudices of
national antagonism. That would create children with a double country
who would end by belonging to none, who would wander through the world
like mendicants with no place of refuge.... I know something about
that."

And again she smiled with sadness and skepticism.

Ferragut was reading the signs of the _trattorias_ on both sides of the
highway: "The Ledge of the Siren," "The Joy of Parthenope," "The
Cluster of Flowers."... And meanwhile he was squeezing Freya's hand,
putting his fingers upon the inner side of her wrist and caressing her
skin that trembled at every touch.

The coachman let the horse slowly ascend the continuous ascent of
Posilipo. He was now concerned in not turning around and not being
troublesome. He knew well what they were talking about behind him.
"Lovers,--people who do not wish to arrive too soon!" And he forgot to
be offended, gloating over the probable generosity of a gentleman in
such good company.

Ulysses made him stop on the heights of Posilipo. It was there where he
had eaten a famous "sailor's soup," and where they sold the best
oysters from Fusaro. At the right of the road, there arose a
pretentious and modern edifice with the name of a restaurant in letters
of gold. On the opposite side was the annex, a terraced garden that
slipped away down to the sea, and on these terraces were tables in the
open air or little low roofed cottages whose walls were covered with
climbing vines. These latter constructions had discreet windows opening
upon the gulf at a great height thus forestalling any outside
curiosity.

Upon receiving Ferragut's generous tip, the coachman greeted him with a
sly smile, that confidential gesture of comradeship which passes down
through all the social strata, uniting them as simple men. He had
brought many folk to this discreet garden with its locked dining-rooms
overlooking the gulf. "A good appetite to you, _Signore_!"

The old waiter who came to meet them on the little sloping footpath
made the identical grimace as soon as he spied Ferragut. "I have
whatever the gentleman may need." And crossing a low, embowered terrace
with various unoccupied tables, he opened a door and bade them enter a
room having only one window.

Freya went instinctively toward it like an insect toward the light,
leaving behind her the damp and gloomy room whose paper was hanging
loose at intervals. "How beautiful!" The gulf pictured through the
window appeared like an unframed canvas,--the original, alive and
palpitating,--of the infinite copies throughout the world.

Meanwhile the captain, while informing himself of the available dishes,
was secretly following the discreet sign language of the waiter. With
one hand he was holding the door half open, his fingers fumbling with
an enormous archaic bolt on the under side which had belonged to a much
larger door and looked as though it were going to fall from the wood
because of its excessive size.... Ferragut surmised that this bolt was
going to count heavily, with all its weight, in the bill for dinner.

Freya interrupted her contemplation of the panorama on feeling
Ferragut's lips trying to caress her neck.

"None of that, Captain!... You know well enough what we have agreed.
Remember that I have accepted your invitation on the condition that you
leave me in peace."

She permitted his kiss to pass across her cheek, even reaching her
mouth. This caress was already an accepted thing. As it had the force
of custom, she did not resist it, remembering the preceding ones, but
fear of his abusing it made her withdraw from the window.

"Let us examine the enchanted palace which my true love has promised
me," she said gayly in order to distract Ulysses from his insistence.

In the center there was a table made of planks badly planed and with
rough legs. The covers and the dishes would hide this horror. Passing
her eyes scrutinizingly over the old seats, the walls with their loose
papering and the chromos in greenish frames, she spied something dark,
rectangular and deep occupying one corner of the room. She did not know
whether it was a divan, a bed or a funeral catafalque. The shabby
covers that were spread over it reminded one of the beds of the
barracks or of the prison.

"Ah, no!..." Freya made one bound toward the door. She would never be
able to eat beside that filthy piece of furniture which had come from
the scum of Naples. "Ah, no! How loathesome!"

Ulysses was standing near the door, fearing that Freya's discoveries
might go further, and hiding with his back that bolt which was the
waiter's pride. He stammered excuses but she mistook his insistence,
thinking that he was trying to lock her in.

"Captain, let me pass!" she said in an angry voice. "You do not know
me. That kind of thing is for others.... Back, if you do not wish me to
consider you the lowest kind of fellow...."

And she pushed him as she went out, in spite of the fact that Ulysses
was letting her pass freely, reiterating his excuses and laying all the
responsibility on the stupidity of the servant.

She stopped under the arbor, suddenly tranquillized upon finding
herself with her back to the room.

"What a den!"... she said. "Come over here, Ferragut. We shall be much
more comfortable in the open air looking at the gulf. Come, now, and
don't be babyish!... All is forgotten. You were not to blame."

The old waiter, who was returning with table-covers and dishes, did not
betray the slightest astonishment at seeing the pair installed on the
terrace. He was accustomed to these surprises and evaded the lady's eye
like a convicted criminal, looking at the gentleman with the forlorn
air which he always employed when announcing that there was no more of
some dish on the bill of fare. His gestures of quiet protection were
trying to console Ferragut for his failure. "Patience and tenacity!"...
He had seen much greater difficulties overcome by his clientele.

Before serving dinner he placed upon the table, in the guise of an
aperitive, a fat-bellied bottle of native wine, a nectar from the
slopes of Vesuvius with a slight taste of sulphur. Freya was thirsty
and was suspicious of the water of the _trattoria_. Ulysses must forget
his recent mortification.... And the two made their libations to the
gods, with an unmixed drink in which not a drop of water cut the
jeweled transparency of the precious wine.

A group of singers and dancers now invaded the terrace. A coppery-hued
girl, handsome and dirty, with wavy hair, great gold hoops in her ears
and an apron of many colored stripes, was dancing under the arbor,
waving on high a tambourine that was almost the size of a parasol. Two
bow-legged youngsters, dressed like ancient lazzarones in red caps,
were accompanying with shouts the agitated dance of the _tarantella_.

The gulf was taking on a pinkish light under the oblique rays of the
sun, as though there were growing within it immense groves of coral.
The blue of the sky had also turned rosy and the mountain seemed aflame
in the afterglow. The plume of Vesuvius was less white than in the
morning; its nebulous column, streaked with reddish flutings by the
dying light, appeared to be reflecting its interior fire.

Ulysses felt the friendly placidity that a landscape contemplated in
childhood always inspires. Many a time he had seen this same panorama
with its dancing girls and its volcano there in his old home at
Valencia; he had seen it on the fans called "Roman Style" that his
father used to collect.

Freya felt as moved as her companion. The blue of the gulf was of an
extreme intensity in the parts not reflected by the sun; the coast
appeared of ochre; although the houses had tawdry façades, all these
discordant elements were now blended and interfused in subdued and
exquisite harmony. The shrubbery was trembling rhythmically under the
breeze. The very air was musical, as though in its waves were vibrating
the strings of invisible harps.

This was for Freya the true Greece imagined by the poets, not the
island of burned-out rocks denuded of vegetation that she had seen and
heard spoken of in her excursions through the Hellenic archipelago.

"To live here the rest of my life!" she murmured with misty eyes. "To
die here, forgotten, alone, happy!..."

Ferragut also would like to die in Naples ... but with her!... And his
quick and exuberant imagination described the delights of life for the
two,--a life of love and mystery in some one of the little villas, with
a garden peeping out over the sea on the slopes of Posilipo.

The dancers had passed down to the lower terrace where the crowd was
greater. New customers were entering, almost all in pairs, as the day
was fading. The waiter had ushered some highly-painted women with
enormous hats, followed by some young men, into the locked dining-room.
Through the half-open door came the noise of pursuit, collision and
rebound with brutal roars of laughter.

Freya turned her back, as if the memory of her passage through that den
offended her.

The old waiter now devoted himself to them, beginning to serve dinner.
To the bottle of Vesuvian wine had succeeded another kind, gradually
losing its contents.

The two ate little but felt a nervous thirst which made them frequently
reach out their hands toward the glass. The wine was depressing to
Freya. The sweetness of the twilight seemed to make it ferment, giving
it the acrid perfume of sad memories.

The sailor felt arising within him the aggressive fever of temperate
men when becoming intoxicated. Had he been with a man he would have
started a violent discussion on any pretext whatever. He did not relish
the oysters, the sailor's soup, the lobster, everything that another
time, eaten alone or with a passing friend in the same site, would have
appeared to him as delicacies.

He was looking at Freya with enigmatical eyes while, in his thought,
wrath was beginning to bubble. He almost hated her on recalling the
arrogance with which she had treated him, fleeing from that room.
"Hypocrite!..." She was just amusing herself with him. She was a
playful and ferocious cat prolonging the death-agony of the mouse
caught in her claws. In his brain a brutal voice was saying, as though
counseling a murder: "This will be her last day!... I'll finish her
to-day!... No more after to-day!..." After several repetitions, he was
disposed to the greatest violence in order to extricate himself from a
situation which he thought ridiculous.

And she, ignorant of her companion's thought, deceived by the
impassiveness of his countenance, continued chatting with her glance
fixed on the horizon, talking in an undertone as though she were
recounting to herself her illusions.

The momentary suggestion of living in a cottage of Posilipo, completely
alone, an existence of monastic isolation with all the conveniences of
modern life, was dominating her like an obsession.

"And yet, after all," she continued, "this atmosphere is not favorable
to solitude; this landscape is for love. To grow old slowly, two who
love each other, before the eternal beauty of the gulf!... What a pity
that I have never been really loved!..."

This was an offense against Ulysses who expressed his annoyance with
all the aggressiveness that was seething beneath his bad humor. How
about him?... Was he not loving her and disposed to prove it to her by
all manner of sacrifices?...

Sacrifices as proof of love always left this woman cold, accepting them
with a skeptical gesture.

"All men have told me the same thing," she added; "they all promise to
kill themselves if I do not love them.... And with the most of them it
is nothing more than a phrase of passionate rhetoric. And what if they
did kill themselves really? What does that prove?... To leave life on
the spur of a moment that gives no opportunity for repentance;--a
simple nervous flash, a posture many times assumed simply for what
people will say, with the frivolous pride of an actor who likes to pose
in graceful attitudes. I know what all that means. A man once killed
himself for me...."

On hearing these last words Ferragut jerked himself out of his sullen
silence. A malicious voice was chanting in his brain, "Now there are
three!..."

"I saw him dying," she continued, "on a bed of the hotel. He had a red
spot like a star on the bandage of his forehead,--the hole of the
pistol shot. He died clutching my hands, swearing that he loved me and
that he had killed himself for me ... a tiresome, horrible scene....
And nevertheless I am sure that he was deceiving himself, that he did
not love me. He killed himself through wounded vanity on seeing that I
would have nothing to do with him,--just for stubbornness, for
theatrical effect, influenced by his readings.... He was a Roumanian
tenor. That was in Russia.... I have been an actress a part of my
life...."

The sailor wished to express the astonishment that the different
changes of this mysterious wandering existence, always showing a new
facet, were producing in him; but he contained himself in order to
listen better to the cruel counsels of the malignant voice speaking
within his thoughts.... He was not trying to kill himself for her.
Quite the contrary! His moody aggressiveness was considering her as the
next victim. There was in his eyes something of the dead _Triton_ when
in pursuit of a distant woman's skirt on the coast.

Freya continued speaking.

"To kill one's self is not a proof of love. They all promise me the
sacrifice of their existence from the very first words. Men don't know
any other song. Don't imitate them, Captain."

She remained pensive a long time. Twilight was rapidly falling; half
the sky was of amber and the other half of a midnight blue in which the
first stars were beginning to twinkle. The gulf was drowsing under the
leaden coverlet of its water, exhaling a mysterious freshness that was
spreading to the mountains and trees. All the landscape appeared to be
acquiring the fragility of crystal. The silent air was trembling with
exaggerated resonance, repeating the fall of an oar in the boats that,
small as flies, were slipping along under the sky arching above the
gulf, and prolonging the feminine and invisible voices passing through
the groves on the heights.

The waiter went from table to table, distributing candles enclosed in
paper shades. The mosquitoes and moths, revived by the twilight, were
buzzing around these red and yellow flowers of light.

Her voice was again sounding in the twilight air with the vagueness of
one speaking in a dream.

"There is a sacrifice greater than that of life,--the only one that can
convince a woman that she is beloved. What does life signify to a man
like you?... Your profession puts it in danger every day and I believe
you capable of risking your life, when tired of land, for the slightest
motive...."

She paused again and then continued.

"Honor is worth more than life for certain men,--respectability, the
preservation of the place that they occupy. Only the man that would
risk his honor and position for me, who would descend to the lowest
depths without losing his will to live, would ever be able to convince
me.... That indeed would be a sacrifice!"

Ferragut felt alarmed at such words. What kind of sacrifice was this
woman about to propose to him?... But he grew calmer as he listened to
her. It was all a fancy of her disordered imagination. "She is crazy,"
again affirmed the hidden counselor in his brain.

"I have dreamed many times," she continued, "of a man who would rob for
me, who would kill if it was necessary and might have to pass the rest
of his years in prison.... My poor thief!... I would live only for him,
spending night and day near the walls of his prison, looking through
the bars, working like a woman of the village in order to send a good
dinner to my outlaw.... That is genuine love and not the cold lies, the
theatrical vows of our world."

Ulysses repeated his mental comment, "She certainly is crazy"--and his
thought was so clearly reflected in his eyes that she guessed it.

"Don't be afraid, Ferragut," she said, smiling. "I have no thought of
exacting such a sacrifice of you. All this that I am talking about is
merely fancy, a whimsy invented to fill the vacancy of my soul. 'Tis
the fault of the wine, of our exaggerated libations,--that to-day have
been without water,--to the gods.... Just look!"

And she pointed with comical gravity to the two empty bottles that were
occupying the center of the table.

Night had fallen. In the dark sky twinkled infinite eyes of starry
light. The immense bowl of the gulf was reflecting their sparkles like
thousands of will o' the wisps. The candle shades in the restaurant
were throwing purplish spots upon the table covers, casting upon the
faces of those who were eating around them violent contrasts of light
and shade. From the locked rooms were escaping sounds of kisses,
pursuit and falling furniture.

"Let us go!" ordered Freya.

The noise of this vulgar orgy was annoying her as though it were
dishonoring the majesty of the night. She needed to move about, to walk
in the darkness, to breathe in the freshness of the mysterious shade.

At the garden gate they hesitated before the appeals of various
coachmen. Freya was the one who refused their offers. She wished to
return to Naples on foot, following the easy descent of the road of
Posilipo after their long inaction in the restaurant. Her face was warm
and flushed because of the excess of wine.

Ulysses gave her his arm and they began to move through the shadows,
insensibly impelled in their march by the ease of the downward slope.
Freya knew just what this trip would mean. At the very first step the
sailor advised her with a kiss on the neck. He was going to take
advantage of all the windings of the road, of the hills and terraces
cut through in certain places to show the phosphorescent gulf across
the foliage, and of the long shadowy stretch broken only now and then
by the public echoes or the lanterns of carriages and tramways....

But these liberties were already an accepted thing. She had taken the
first step in the Aquarium: besides, she was sure of her ability to
keep her lover at whatever distance she might choose to fix.... And
convinced of her power of checking herself in time, she gave herself up
like a lost woman.

Never had Ferragut had such a propitious occasion. It was a
trysting-place in the mystery of the night with plenty of time ahead of
them. The only trouble was the necessity of walking on, of accompanying
his embraces and protests of love with the incessant activity of
walking. She protested, coming out from her rapture every time that the
enamored man would propose that they sit down on the side of the road.

Hope made Ulysses very obedient to Freya, desirous of reaching Naples
as soon as possible. Down there in the curve of the light near the gulf
was the hotel, and the sailor looked upon it as a place of happiness.

"Say yes," he murmured in her ear, punctuating his words with kisses,
"say that it will be to-night!..."

She did not reply, leaning on the arm that the captain had passed
around her waist, letting herself be dragged along as if she were
half-fainting, rolling her eyes and offering her lips.

While Ulysses was repeating his pleadings and caresses the voice in his
brain was chanting victoriously, "Here it is!... It's settled now....
The thing now is to get her to the hotel."

They roamed on for nearly an hour, fancying that only a few minutes had
passed by.

Approaching the gardens of the _Villa Nazionale_, near the Aquarium,
they stopped an instant. There were fewer people and more life here
than in the road to Posilipo. They avoided the electric lights of the
_Via Caracciolo_ reflected in the sea,--the two instinctively
approaching a bench, and seeking the ebony shade of the trees.

Freya had suddenly become very composed. She appeared annoyed at
herself for her languor during the walk. Finding herself near the
hotel, she recovered her energy as though in the presence of danger.

"Good-by, Ulysses! We shall see each other again to-morrow.... I am
going to pass the night in the doctor's home."

The sailor withdrew a little in the shock of surprise. "Was it a
jest?..." But no, he could not think that. The very tone of her words
displayed firm resolution.

He entreated her humbly with a thick and threatening voice not to go
away. At the same time his mental counselor was rancorously chanting,
"She's making a fool of you!... It's time to put an end to all this....
Make her feel your masculine authority." And this voice had the same
ring as that of the dead _Triton_.

Suddenly occurred a violent, brutal, dishonorable thing. Ulysses threw
himself upon her as though he Were going to kill her, holding her
tightly in his arms, and the two fell upon the bench, panting and
struggling. But this only lasted an instant.

The vigorous Ferragut, trembling with emotion, was only using half of
his powers. He suddenly sprang back, raising his two hands to his
shoulders. He felt a sharp pain, as though one of his bones had just
broken. She had repelled him with a certain Japanese fencing trick that
employs the hands as irresistible weapons.

"Ah!... _Tal!_..." he roared, hurling upon her the worst of feminine
insults.

And he fell upon her again as though he were a man, uniting to his
original purpose the desire of maltreating her, of degrading her, of
making her his.

Freya awaited him firmly... Seeing the icy glitter of her eyes, Ulysses
without knowing why recalled the "eye of the morning," the
companionable reptile of her dances.

In this furious onslaught he was stopped by the simple contact on his
forehead of a diminutive metal circle, a kind of frozen thimble that
was resting on his skin.

He looked... It was a little revolver, a deadly toy of shining nickel.
It had appeared in Freya's hand, drawn secretly from her clothes, or
perhaps from that gold-mesh bag whose contents seemed inexhaustible.

She was looking at him fixedly with her finger on the trigger. He
surmised her familiarity with the weapon that she had in her hand. It
could not be the first time that she had had recourse to it.

The sailor's indecision was brief. With a man, he would have taken
possession of the threatening hand, twisting it until he broke it,
without the slightest fear of the revolver. But he had opposite him a
woman ... and this woman was entirely capable of wounding him, and at
the same time placing him in a ridiculous situation.

"Retire, sir!" ordered Freya with a ceremonious and threatening tone as
though she were speaking to an utter stranger.

But it was she who retired finally, seeing that Ulysses stepped back,
thoughtful and confused. She turned her back on him at the same time
that the revolver disappeared from her hand.

Before departing, she murmured some words that Ferragut was not able to
understand, looking at him for the last time with contemptuous eyes.
They must be terrible insults, and just because she was uttering them
in a mysterious language, he felt her scorn more deeply.

"It cannot be.... It is all ended. It is ended forever!..."

She said this repeatedly before returning to her hotel. And he thought
of it during all the wakeful night between agonizing attacks of
nightmare. When the morning was well advanced the bugles of the
_bersaglieri_ awakened him from a heavy sleep.

He paid his bill in the manager's office and gave a last tip to the
porter, telling him that a few hours later a man from the ship would
come for his baggage.

He was happy, with the forced happiness of one obliged to accommodate
himself to circumstances. He congratulated himself upon his liberty as
though he had gained this liberty of his own free will and it had not
been imposed upon him by her scorn. Since the memory of the preceding
day pained him, putting him in a ridiculous and gross light, it was
better not to recall the past.

He stopped in the street to take a last look at the hotel. "Adieu,
accursed _albergo_!... Never will I see you again. Would that you might
burn down with all your occupants!"

Upon treading the deck of the _Mare Nostrum_, his enforced satisfaction
became immeasurably increased. Here only could he live far from the
complications and illusions of terrestrial life.

All those aboard who in previous weeks had feared the arrival of the
ill-humored captain, now smiled as though they saw the sun coming out
after a tempest. He distributed kindly words and affectionate grasps of
the hand. The repairs were going to be finished the following day....
Very good! He was entirely content. Soon they would be on the sea
again.

In the galley he greeted Uncle Caragol.... That man _was_ a
philosopher. All the women in the world were not in his estimation
worth a good dish of rice. Ah, the great man!... He surely was going to
live to be a hundred! And the cook flattered by such praises, whose
origin he did not happen to comprehend, responded as always,--"That is
so, my captain."

Toni, silent, disciplined and familiar, inspired him with no less
admiration. His life was an upright life, firm and plain, as the road
of duty. When the young officials used to talk in his presence of
boisterous suppers on shore with women from distant countries, the
pilot had always shrugged his shoulders. "Money and pleasure ought to
be kept for the home," he would say sententiously.

Ferragut had laughed many times at the virtue of his mate who, timid
and torpid, used to pass over a great part of the planet without
permitting himself any distraction whatever, but would awake with an
overpowering tension whenever the chances of their voyage brought him
the opportunity of a few days' stay in his home in the _Marina_.

And with the tranquil grossness of the virtuous stay-at-home, he was
accustomed to calculate the dates of his voyages by the age of his
eight children. "This one was on returning from the Philippines....
This other one after I was in the coast trade in the Gulf of
California...."

His methodical serenity, incapable of being perturbed by frivolous
adventures, made him guess from the very first the secret of the
captain's enthusiasm and wrath. "It must be a woman," he said to
himself, upon seeing him installed in a hotel in Naples, and after
feeling the effects of his bad humor in the fleeting appearances that
he made on board.

Now, listening to Ferragut's jovial comments on his mate's tranquil
life and philosophic sagacity, Toni again ejaculated mentally, without
the captain's suspecting anything from his impassive countenance: "Now
he has quarreled with the woman. He has tired of her. But better so!"

He was more than ever confirmed in this belief on hearing Ferragut's
plans. As soon as the boat could be made ready, they were going to
anchor in the commercial port. He had been told of a certain cargo for
Barcelona,--some cheap freight,--but that was better than going
empty.... If the cargo should be delayed, they would set sail merely
with ballast. More than anything else, he wished to renew his trips.
Boats were scarcer and more in demand all the time. It was high time to
stop this enforced inertia.

"Yes, it's high time," responded Toni who, during the entire month, had
only gone ashore twice.

The _Mare Nostrum_ left the repair dock coming to anchor opposite the
commercial wharf, shining and rejuvenated, with no imperfections
recalling her recent injuries.

One morning when the captain and his second were in the saloon under
the poop undecided whether to start that night--or wait four days
longer, as the owners of the cargo were requesting,--the third officer,
a young Andalusian, presented himself greatly excited by the piece of
news of which he was the bearer. A most beautiful and elegant lady (the
young man emphasized his admiration with these details) had just
arrived in a launch and, without asking permission, had climbed the
ladder, entering the vessel as though it were her own dwelling.

Toni felt his heart thump. His swarthy countenance became ashy pale.
"_Cristo!_... The woman from Naples!" He did not really know whether
she was from Naples; he had never seen her, but he was certain that she
was coming as a fatal impediment, as an unexpected calamity.... Just
when things were going so well, too!...

The captain whirled around in his arm chair, jumped up from the table,
and in two bounds was out on deck.

Something extraordinary was perturbing the crew. They, too, were all on
deck as though some powerful attraction had drawn them from the orlop,
from the depths of the hold, from the metallic corridors of the engine
rooms. Even Uncle Caragol was sticking his episcopal face out through
the door of the kitchen, holding a hand closed in the form of a
telescope to one of his eyes, without being able to distinguish clearly
the announced marvel.

Freya was a few steps away in a blue suit somewhat like a sailor's, as
though this visit to the ship necessitated the imitative elegance and
bearing of the multi-millionaires who live on their yachts. The seamen,
cleaning brass or polishing wood, were pretending extraordinary
occupations in order to get near her. They felt the necessity of being
in her atmosphere, of living in the perfumed air that enveloped her,
following her steps.

Upon seeing the captain, she simply extended her hand, as though she
might have seen him the day before.

"Do not object, Ferragut!... As I did not find you in the hotel, I felt
obliged to visit you on your ship. I have always wanted to see your
floating home. Everything about you interests me."

She appeared an entirely different woman. Ulysses noted the great
change that had taken place in her person during the last days. Her
eyes were bold, challenging, of a calm seductiveness. She appeared to
be surrendering herself entirely. Her smiles, her words, her manner of
crossing the deck toward the staterooms of the vessel proclaimed her
determination to end her long resistance as quickly as possible,
yielding to the sailor's desires.

In spite of former failures, he felt anew the joy of triumph. "Now it
is going to be! My absence has conquered her...." And at the same time
that he was foretasting the sweet satisfaction of love and triumphant
pride, there arose in him a vague instinct of suspicion of this woman
so suddenly transformed, perhaps loving her less than in former days
when she resisted and advised him to be gone.

In the forward cabin he presented her to his mate. The crude Toni
experienced the same hallucination that had perturbed all the others on
the boat. What a woman!... At the very first glance he understood and
excused the captain's conduct. Then he fixed his eyes upon her with an
expression of alarm, as though her presence made him tremble for the
fate of the steamer: but finally he succumbed, dominated by this lady
who was examining the saloon as though she had come to remain in it
forever.

For a few moments Freya was interested in the hairy ugliness of Toni.
He was a true Mediterranean, just the kind she had imagined to
herself,--a faun pursuing nymphs. Ulysses laughed at the eulogies which
she passed on his mate.

"In his shoes," she continued, "he ought to have pretty little hoofs
like a goat's. He must know how to play the flute. Don't you think so,
Captain?..."

The faun, wrinkled and wrathful, took himself off, saluting her
stolidly as he went away. Ferragut felt greatly relieved at his
absence, since he was fearful of some rude speech from Toni.

Finding herself alone with Ulysses, she ran through the great room from
one side to the other.

"Is here where you live, my dear shark?... Let me see everything. Let
me poke around everywhere. Everything of yours interests me. You will
not say now that I do not love you. What a boast for Captain Ferragut!
The ladies come to seek him on his ship...."

She interrupted her ironic and affectionate chatter in order to defend
herself gently from the sailor. He, forgetting the past, and wishing to
take advantage of the happiness so suddenly presented to him, was
kissing the nape of her neck.

"There,... there!" she sighed. "Now let me look around. I feel the
curiosity of a child."

She opened the piano,--the poor piano of the Scotch captain--and some
thin and plaintive chords, showing many years' lack of tuning, filled
the saloon with the melancholy of resuscitated memories.

The melody was like that of the musical boxes that we find forgotten in
the depths of a wardrobe among the clothes of some deceased old lady.
Freya declared that it smelled of withered roses.

Then, leaving the piano, she opened one after the other, all the doors
of the staterooms surrounding the saloon. She stopped at the captain's
sleeping room without wishing to pass the threshold, without loosening
her hold on the brass doorknob in her right hand. Ferragut behind her,
was pushing her with treacherous gentleness, at the same time repeating
his caresses on her neck.

"No; here, no," she said. "Not for anything in the world!... I will be
yours, I promise you; I give you my word of honor. But where I will and
when it seems best to me.... Very soon, Ulysses!"

He felt complete gratification in all these affirmations made in a
caressing and submissive voice, all possible pride in such spontaneous,
affectionate address, equivalent to the first surrender.

The arrival of one of Uncle Caragol's acolytes made them recover their
composure. He was bringing two enormous glasses filled with a ruddy and
foamy cocktail,--an intoxicating and sweet mixture, a composite of all
the knowledge acquired by the _chef_ in his intercourse with the
drunkards of the principal ports of the world.

She tested the liquid, rolling up her eyes like a greedy tabby. Then
she broke forth into praises, lifting up the glass in a solemn manner.
She was offering her libation to Eros, the god of Love, the most
beautiful of the gods, and Ferragut who always had a certain terror of
the infernal and agreeable concoctions of his cook, gulped the glass in
one swallow, in order to join in the invocation.

All was arranged between the two. She was giving the orders. Ferragut
would return ashore, lodging in the same _albergo_. They would continue
their life as before, as though nothing had occurred.

"This evening you will await me in the gardens of the _Villa
Nazionale_.... Yes, there where you wished to kill me, you
highwayman!..."

Before he should clearly recall that night of violence, Freya continued
her recollections with feminine astuteness.... It was Ulysses who had
wanted to kill her; she reiterated it without admitting any reply.

"We shall visit the doctor," she continued. "The poor woman wants to
see you and has asked me to bring you. She is very much interested in
you because she knows that I love you, my pirate!"

After having arranged the hour of meeting, Freya wished to depart. But
before returning to her launch, she felt curious to inspect the boat,
just as she Had examined the saloon and the staterooms.

With the air of a reigning princess, preceded by the captain and
followed by the officials, she went over the two decks, entered the
galleries of the engine room and the four-sided abyss of the hatchways,
sniffing the musty odor of the hold. On the bridge she touched with
childish enthusiasm the large brass hood of the binnacle and other
steering instruments glistening as though made of gold.

She wished to see the galley and invaded Uncle Caragol's dominions,
putting his formal lines of casseroles into lamentable disorder, and
poking the tip of her rosy little nose into the steam arising from the
great stew in which was boiling the crew's mess.

The old man was able to see her close with his half-blind eyes. "Yes,
indeed, she was pretty!" The frou-frou of her skirts and the frequent
little clashes that he had with her in her comings and goings,
perturbed the apostle. His _chef_-like, sense of smell made him feel
annoyed by the perfume of this lady. "Pretty, but with the smell of
 ..." he repeated mentally. For him all feminine perfume merited this
scandalous title. Good women smelled of fish and kitchen pots; he was
sure of that.... In his faraway youth, the knowledge of poor Caragol
had never gone beyond that.

As soon as he was alone, he snatched up a rag, waving it violently
around, as though he were driving away flies. He wished to clear the
atmosphere of bad odors. He felt as scandalized as though she had let a
cake of soap fall into one of his delicious rice compounds.

The men of the crew crowded to the railings in order to follow the
course of the little launch that was making toward shore.

Toni, standing on the bridge, also contemplated her with enigmatic
eyes.

"You are handsome, but may the sea swallow you up before you come
back!"

A handkerchief was waving from the stern of the little boat. "Good-by,
Captain!" And the captain nodded his head, smiling and gratified by the
feminine greeting while the sailors were envying him his good luck.

Again one of the men of the crew carried Ferragut's baggage to the
_albergo_ on the shore of _S. Lucia_. The porter, as though foreseeing
the chance of getting an easy fee from his client, took it upon himself
to select a room for him, an apartment on a floor lower than on his
former stay, near that which the _signora_ Talberg was occupying.

They met in mid-afternoon in the _Villa Nazionale_, and began their
walk together through the streets of Chiaja. At last Ulysses was going
to know where the doctor was hiding her majestic personality. He
anticipated something extraordinary in this dwelling-place, but was
disposed to hide his impressions for fear of losing the affection and
support of the wise lady who seemed to be exercising so great a power
over Freya.

They entered into the vestibule of an ancient palace. Many times the
sailor had stopped before this door, but had gone on, misled by the
little metal door plates announcing the offices and counting-houses
installed on the different floors.

He beheld an arcaded court paved with great tiled slabs upon which
opened the curving balconies of the four interior sides of the palace.
They climbed up a stairway of resounding echoes, as large as one of the
hill-side streets, with broad turnings which in former time permitted
the passage of the litters and chairmen. As souvenirs of the
white-wigged personages and ladies of voluminous farthingales who had
passed through this palace, there were still some classic busts on the
landing places, a hand-wrought iron railing, and various huge lanterns
of dull gold and blurred glass.

They stopped on the first floor before a row of doors rather
weather-beaten by the years.

"Here it is," said Freya.

And thereupon she pointed to the only door that was covered with a
screen of green leather displaying a commercial sign,--enormous, gilded
and pretentious. The doctor was lodging in an office.... How could he
ever have found it!

The first room really was an office, a merchant's room with files for
papers, maps, a safe for stocks, and various tables. One employee only
was working here,--a man of uncertain age with a childish face and a
clipped beard. His obsequious and smiling attitude was in striking
contrast to his evasive glance,--a glance of alarm and distrust.

Upon seeing Freya he arose from his seat. She greeted him, calling him
Karl, and passed on as though he were a mere porter. Ulysses upon
following her, surmised that the suspicious glance of the writer was
fixed upon his back.

"Is he a Pole, too?" he asked.

"Yes, a Pole.... He is a protégé of the doctor's."

They entered a salon evidently furnished in great haste, with the
happy-go-lucky and individual knack of those accustomed to traveling
and improvising a dwelling place;--divans with cheap and showy
chintzes, skins of the American llama, glaring imitation-Oriental rugs,
and on the walls, prints from the periodicals between gilt moldings. On
a table were displayed their marble ornaments and silver things, a
great dressing-case with a cover of cut leather, and a few little
Neapolitan statuettes which had been bought at the last moment in order
to give a certain air of sedentary respectability to this room which
could be dismantled suddenly and whose most valuable adornments were
acquired _en route_.

Through a half-drawn portière they descried the doctor writing in the
nearby room. She was bending over an American desk, but she saw them
immediately in a mirror which she kept always in front of her in order
to spy on all that was passing behind her.

Ulysses surmised that the imposing dame had made certain additions to
her toilette in order to receive him. A gown as close as a sheath
molded the exuberance of her figure. The narrow skirt drawn tightly
over the edge of her knees appeared like the handle of an enormous
club. Over the green sea of her dress she was wearing a spangled white
tulle draped like a shawl. The captain, in spite of his respect for
this wise lady, could not help comparing her to a well-nourished
mother-mermaid in the oceanic pasture lands.

With outstretched hands and a joyous expression on her countenance
irradiating even her glasses, she advanced toward Ferragut. Her meeting
was almost an embrace.... "My dear Captain! Such a long time since I
have seen you!..." She had heard of him frequently through her young
friend, but even so, she could not but consider it a misfortune that
the sailor had never come to see her.

She appeared to have forgotten her coldness when bidding him farewell
in Salerno and the care which she had taken to hide from him her home
address.

Neither did Ferragut recall this fact now that he was so agreeably
touched by the doctor's amiability. She had seated herself between the
two as though wishing to protect them with all the majesty of her
person and the affection of her eyes. She was a real mother for her
young friend. While speaking, she was patting Freya's great locks of
hair, which had just escaped from underneath her hat, and Freya,
adapting herself to the tenderness of the situation, cuddled down
against the doctor, assuming the air of a timid and devoted child while
she fixed on Ulysses her eyes of sweet promise.

"You must love her very much, Captain," continued the matron. "Freya
speaks only of you. She has been so unfortunate!... Life has been so
cruel to her!..."

The sailor felt as though he were in the placid bosom of a family. That
lady was discreetly taking everything for granted, speaking to him as
to a son-in-law. Her kindly glance was somewhat melancholy. It was the
sweet sadness of mature people who find the present monotonous, the
future circumscribed, and taking refuge in memories of the past, envy
the young who enjoy the reality of what they can taste only in memory.

"Happy you!... You love each other so much!... Life is worth living
only because of love."

And Freya, as though irresistibly affected by these counsels, threw
one arm around the doctor's globular, corseted figure, while
convulsively clasping Ulysses' right hand.

The gold-rimmed spectacles, with their protecting gleam, appeared to
incite them to even greater intimacy. "You may kiss each other...." And
the imposing dame, trumping up an insignificant pretext, so as to
facilitate their love-making was about to go out when the drapery of
the door between the salon and office was raised.

There entered a man of Ferragut's age, but shorter, with a
weather-beaten face. He was dressed in the English style with
scrupulous correctness. It was plain to be seen that he was accustomed
to take the most excessive and childish interest in everything
referring to the adornment of his person. The suit of gray wool
appeared to have achieved its finishing touch in the harmony of cravat,
socks, and handkerchief sticking out of his pocket,--all in the same
tone. The three pieces were blue, without the slightest variation in
shade, chosen with the exactitude of a man who would undoubtedly suffer
cruel discomfort if obliged to go out into the street with his cravat
of one color and his socks of another. His gloves had the same dark tan
tone as his shoes.

Ferragut thought that this dandy, in order to be absolutely perfect,
ought to be clean shaved. And yet, he was wearing a beard, close
clipped on the cheeks and forming over the chin a short, sharp point.
The captain suspected that he was a sailor. In the German fleet, in the
Russian, in all the navies of the North where they are not shaved in
the English style, they use this traditional little beard.

The newcomer bowed, or, more properly speaking, doubled himself over at
right angles, with a brusque stiffness, upon kissing the hands of the
two ladies. Then he raised his impertinent monocle and fixed it in one
of his eyes while the doctor made the introduction.

"Count Kaledine ... Captain Ferragut."

The count gave the sailor his hand, a hard hand, well-cared for and
vigorous, which for a long time enclosed that of Ulysses, wishing to
dominate it with an ineffectual pressure.

The conversation continued in English which was the language employed
by the doctor in her relations with Ulysses.

"The gentleman is a sailor?" asked Ferragut in order to clarify his
doubts.

The monocle did not move from its orbit, but a light ripple of surprise
appeared to cross its luminous convexity. The doctor hastened to reply.

"The count is an illustrious diplomat who is now on leave, regaining
his health. He has traveled a great deal, but he is not a sailor."

And she continued her explanations.

The Kaledines were of a Russian family ennobled in the days of
Catherine the Great. The doctor, being a Polish woman, had been
connected with them for many years.... And she ceased speaking, giving
Kaledine his cue in the conversation.

At the beginning the count appeared cold and rather disdainful in his
words, as though he could not possibly lay aside his diplomatic
haughtiness. But this hauteur gradually melted away.

Through his "distinguished friend,--Madame Talberg," he had heard of
many of Ferragut's nautical adventures. Men of action, the heroes of
the ocean, were always exceedingly interesting to him.

Ulysses suddenly noticed in his noble interlocutor a warm affection, a
desire to make himself agreeable, just like the doctor's. What a lovely
home this was in which everybody was making an effort to be gracious to
Captain Ferragut!

The count, smiling amiably, ceased to avail himself of his English, and
soon began talking to him in Spanish, as though he had reserved this
final touch in order to captivate Ulysses' affection with this most
irresistible of flatteries.

"I have lived in Mexico," he said, in order to explain his knowledge of
the language. "I made a long trip through the Philippines when I was
living in Japan."

The seas of the extreme Far East were those least frequented by
Ulysses. Only twice had he entered the Chinese and Nipponese harbors,
but he knew them sufficiently to keep up his end of the conversation
with this traveler who was displaying in his tastes a certain artistic
refinement. For half an hour, there filed through the vulgar atmosphere
of this salon, images of enormous pagodas with superimposed roofs whose
strings of bells vibrated in the breeze like an Aeolian harp, monstrous
idols--carved in gold, in bronze, or in marble-houses made of paper,
thrones of bamboo, furniture with mother-of-pearl inlay, screens with
flocks of flying storks.

The doctor disappeared, bored by a dialogue of which she could only
understand a few words. Freya, motionless, with drowsy eyes, and a knee
between her crossed hands, held herself aloof, understanding the
conversation, but without taking any part in it, as though she were
offended at the forgetfulness in which the two men were leaving her.
Finally she slipped discreetly away, responding to the call of a hand
peeping through the portières. The doctor was preparing tea and needed
help.

The conversation continued on in no way affected by their absence.
Kaledine had abandoned the Asiatic waters in order to pass to the
Mediterranean, and there he anchored himself with admirable insistence.
Another sign of affection for Ferragut who was finding him more and
more charming in spite of his slightly glacial attitude.

He suddenly noticed that it was not as a Russian count that he was
speaking since, with brief and exact questions, he was making Ferragut
reply just as though he were undergoing an examination.

These signs of interest shown by the great traveler in the little _mare
nostrum_, and especially in the details of its western bowl which he
wished to know most minutely, pleased Ferragut greatly.

He might ask him whatever he wished. Ferragut knew mile for mile all
its shores,--Spanish, French, and Italian, the surface and also its
depths.

Perhaps because he was staying in Naples, Kaledine insisted upon
learning especially about that part of the Mediterranean enclosed
between Sardinia, southern Italy, and Sicily,--the part which the
ancients had called the Tyrrhenian Sea.... Did the captain happen to
know those little frequented and almost forgotten islands opposite
Sicily?

"I know all about all of them," replied the sailor boastfully. And
without realizing exactly whether it was curiosity on the part of the
listener, or whether he was being submitted to an interesting
examination, he talked on and on.

He was well acquainted with the archipelago of the Lipari Islands with
their mines of sulphur and pumice-stone,--a group of volcanic peaks
which rise up from the depths of the Mediterranean. In these the
ancients had placed Aeolus, lord of the winds; in these was Stromboli,
vomiting forth enormous balls of lava which exploded with the roar of
thunder. Its volcanic slag fell again into the chimneys of the crater
or rolled down the mountain slopes, falling into the waves.

More to the west, isolated and solitary in a sea free from shoals, was
Ustica,--an abrupt and volcanic island that the Phoenicians had
colonized and which had served as a refuge for Saracen pilots. Its
population was scant and poor. There was nothing to see on it, apart
from certain fossil shells interesting to men of science.

But the count showed himself wonderfully interested in this extinct and
lonely crater in the midst of a sea frequented only by fishing smacks.

Ferragut had also seen, although far off, at the entrance of the harbor
of Trapani, the archipelago of the Aegadian Islands where are the great
fishing grounds of the tunny. Once he had disembarked in the island of
Pantellaria, situated halfway between Sicily and Africa. It was a very
high, volcanic cone that came up in the midst of the strait and had at
its base alkaline lakes, sulphurous fumes, thermal waters, and
prehistoric constructions of great stone blocks similar to those in
Sardinia and the Balearic Islands. Boats bound for Tunis and Tripoli
used to carry cargoes of raisins, the only export from this ancient
Phoenician colony.

Between Pantellaria and Sicily the ocean floor was considerably
elevated, having on its back an aquatic layer that in some points was
only twelve yards thick. It was the great shoal called the Aventura, a
volcanic swelling, a double submerged island, the submarine pedestal of
Sicily.

The ledge of Aventura also appeared to interest the count greatly.

"You certainly know the sea well," he said in an approving tone.

Ferragut was about to go on talking when the two ladies entered with a
tray which contained the tea service and various plates of cakes. The
captain saw nothing strange in their lack of servants. The doctor and
her friend were to him a pair of women of extraordinary customs, and so
he thought all their acts were logical and natural. Freya served the
tea with modest grace as though she were the daughter of the house.

They passed the rest of the afternoon conversing on distant voyages.
Nobody alluded to the war, nor to Italy's problem at that moment as to
whether she should maintain or break her neutrality. They appeared to
be living in an inaccessible place thousands of leagues from all human
bustle.

The two women were treating the count with the well-bred familiarity of
persons in the same rank of life, but at times the sailor fancied that
he noted that they were afraid of him.

At the end of the afternoon this personage arose and Ferragut did the
same, understanding that he was expected to bring his visit to an end.
The count offered to accompany him. While he was bidding the doctor
good-by, thanking her with extreme courtesy for having introduced him
to the captain, Ferragut felt that Freya was clasping his hand in a
meaning way.

"Until to-night," she murmured lightly, hardly moving her lips. "I
shall see you later.... Expect me."

Oh, what happiness!... The eyes, the smile, the pressure of her hand
were telling him much more than that.

Never did he take such an agreeable stroll as when walking beside
Kaledine through the streets of Chiaja toward the shore. What was that
man saying?... Insignificant things in order to avoid silence, but to
him they appeared to be observations of most profound wisdom. His voice
sounded musical and affectionate. Everything about them seemed equally
agreeable,--the people who were passing through the streets, the
Neapolitan sounds at nightfall, the dark seas, the entire life.

They bade each other good-by before the door of the hotel. The count,
in spite of his offers of friendship, went away without mentioning his
address.

"It doesn't matter," thought Ferragut. "We shall meet again in the
doctor's house."

He passed the rest of his watch agitated alternately by hope and
impatience. He did not wish to eat; emotion had paralyzed his
appetite.... And yet, once seated at the table, he ate more than ever
with a mechanical and distraught avidity.

He needed to stroll around, to talk with somebody, in order that time
might fly by with greater rapidity, beguiling his uneasy wait. She
would not return to the hotel until very late.... And he therefore
retired to his room earlier than usual, believing with illogical
superstition that by so doing Freya might arrive earlier.

His first movement upon finding himself alone in his room, was one of
pride. He looked up at the ceiling, pitying the enamored sailor that a
week before had been dwelling on the floor above. Poor man! How they
must have made fun of him!... Ulysses admired himself as though he were
an entirely new personality, happy and triumphant, completely separated
from that other creature by dolorous periods of humiliations and
failures that he did not wish to recall.

The long, long hours in which he waited with such anxiety!... He
strolled about smoking, lighting one cigar with the remnant of the
preceding one. Then he opened the window, wishing to get rid of the
perfume of strong tobacco. She only liked Oriental cigarettes.... And
as the acrid odor of the strong, succulent Havana cigar persisted in
the room, he searched in his dressing-case and sprinkled around the
contents of various perfumed essences which he had long ago forgotten.

A sudden uneasiness disturbed his waiting. Perhaps she who was going to
come did not know which was his room. He was not sure that he had given
her the directions with sufficient clearness. It was possible that she
might make a mistake.... He began to believe that really she had made a
mistake.

Fear and impatience made him open his door, taking his stand in the
corridor in order to look down toward Freya's closed room. Every time
that footsteps sounded on the stairway or the grating of the elevator
creaked, the bearded sailor trembled with a childish uneasiness. He
wanted to hide himself and yet at the same time he wanted to look to
see if she was the one who was coming.

The guests occupying the same floor kept seeing him withdraw into his
room in the most inexplicable attitudes. Sometimes he would remain
firmly in the corridor as though, worn out with useless calling, he
were looking for the domestics; and at other times they surprised him
with his head poking out of the half-open door or hastily withdrawing
it. An old Italian count, passing by, gave him a smile of intelligence
and comradeship.... He was in the secret! The man was undoubtedly
waiting for one of the maids of the hotel.

He ended by settling himself in his room, but leaving his door ajar.
The rectangle of bright light that it marked on the floor and wall
opposite would guide Freya, showing her the way....

But he was not able to keep up this signal very long. Scantily clad
dames in kimonos and gentlemen in pyjamas were slipping discreetly down
the passage way in soft, slipper-clad silence, all going in the same
direction, and casting wrathful glances toward the lighted doorway.

Finally he had to close the door. He opened a book, but it was
impossible to read two paragraphs consecutively. His watch said twelve
o'clock.

"She will not come!... She will not come!" he cried in desperation.

A new idea revived his drooping spirits. It was ridiculous that so
discreet a person as Freya should venture to come to his room while
there was a light under the door. Love needed obscurity and mystery.
And besides, this visible hope might attract the notice of some curious
person.

He snapped off the electric light and in the darkness found his bed,
throwing himself down with an exaggerated noise, in order that nobody
might doubt that he had retired for the night. The darkness reanimated
his hope.

"She's going to come.... She will come at any moment."

Again he arose cautiously, noiselessly, going on tiptoe. He must
overcome any possible difficulty at the entrance. He put the door
slightly ajar so as to avoid the swinging noise of the door-fastening.
A chair in the frame of the doorway easily held it unlatched.

He got up several times more, arranging things to his satisfaction and
then threw himself upon the bed, disposed to keep his watch all night,
if it was necessary. He did not wish to sleep. No, he ought not to
drowse.... And half an hour later he was slumbering profoundly without
knowing at what moment he had slid down the soft slopes of sleep.

Suddenly he awoke as if some one had hit his head with a club. His ears
were buzzing.... It was the rude impression of one who sleeps without
wishing to and feels himself shaken by reviving restlessness. Some
moments passed without his taking in the situation. Then he suddenly
recalled it all.... Alone! She had not come!... He did not know whether
minutes or hours had passed by.

Something besides his uneasiness had brought him back to life. He
suspected that in the dark silence some real thing was approaching. A
little mouse appeared to be moving down the corridor. The shoes placed
outside one of the doors were moved with a slight creaking. Ferragut
had the vague impression of air that is displaced by the slow advance
of a body.

The door trembled. The chair was pushed back, little by little, very
gently pushed. In the darkness he descried a moving shadow, dark and
dense. He made a movement.

"Shhhh-h!" sighed a ghostly voice, a voice from the other world. "It is
I."

Instinctively he raised his right hand to the wall and turned on the
light.

Under the electric light it was she,--a different Freya from any that
he had ever seen, with her wealth of hair falling in golden serpents
over her shoulders covered with an Asiatic tunic that enveloped her
like a cloud.

It was not the Japanese kimono, vulgarized by commerce. It was made in
one piece of Hindustanic cloth, embroidered with fantastic flowers and
capriciously draped. Through its fine texture could be perceived the
flesh as though it were a wrapping of multicolored air.

She uttered a protest. Then, imitating Ulysses' gesture, she reached
her hand toward the wall ... and all was darkness.

       *       *       *       *       *

Upon awakening, he felt the sunlight on his face. The window, whose
curtains he had forgotten to draw, was blue,--blue sky above and the
blue of the sea in its lower panes.

He looked around him.... Nobody! For a moment he believed he must have
been dreaming, but the sweet perfume of her hair still scented the
pillow. The reality of awakening was as joyous for Ulysses, as sweet as
had been the night hours in the mystery of the darkness. He had never
felt so strong and so happy.

In the window sounded a baritone voice singing one of the songs of
Naples,--"Oh, sweet land, sweet gulf!..." That certainly was the most
beautiful spot in the world. Proud and satisfied with his fate, he
would have liked to embrace the waves, the islands, the city, Vesuvius.

A bell jangled impatiently in the corridor. Captain Ferragut was
hungry. He surveyed with the glance of an ogre the _café au lait_, the
abundant bread, and the small pat of butter that the waiter brought
him. A very small portion for him!... And while he was attacking all
this with avidity, the door opened and Freya, rosy and fresh from a
recent bath and clad like a man, entered the room.

The Hindu tunic had been replaced with masculine pyjamas of violet
silk. The pantaloons had the edges turned up over a pair of white
Turkish slippers into which were tucked her bare feet. Over her heart
there was embroidered a design whose letters Ulysses was not able to
decipher. Above this device the point of her handkerchief was sticking
out of the pocket. Her opulent hair, twisted on top of her head and the
voluptuous curves that the silk was taking in certain parts of her
masculine attire were the only things that announced the woman.

The captain forgot his breakfast, enthusiastic over this novelty. She
was a second Freya,--a page, an adorable, freakish novelty.... But she
repelled his caresses, obliging him to seat himself.

She had entered with a questioning expression in her eyes. She was
feeling the disquietude of every woman on her second amorous interview.
She was trying to guess his impressions, to convince herself of his
gratitude, to be certain that the fascinations of the first hours had
not been dissipated during her absence.

While the sailor was again attacking his breakfast with the familiarity
of a lover who has achieved his ends and no longer needs to hide and
poetize his grosser necessities, she seated herself on an old _chaise
longue_, lighting a cigarette.

She cuddled into this seat, her crossed legs forming an angle within
the circle of one of her arms. Then she leaned her head on her knees,
and in this position smoked a long time, with her glance fixed on the
sea. He guessed that she was about to say something interesting,
something that was puckering her mental interior, struggling to come
out.

Finally she spoke with deliberation, without taking her eyes off the
gulf. From time to time she would stop this contemplation in order to
fasten her eyes on Ulysses, measuring the effect of her words. He
stopped occupying himself definitely with the breakfast tray,
foreseeing that something very important was coming.

"You have sworn that you will do for me whatever I ask you to do....
You do not wish to lose me forever."

Ulysses protested. Lose her?... He could not live without her.

"I know your former life; you have told me all about it.... You know
nothing about me and you ought to know about me--now that I am really
yours."

The sailor nodded his head; nothing could be more just.

"I have deceived you, Ulysses. I am not Italian."

Ferragut smiled. If that was all the deception consisted of!... From
the day in which they had spoken together for the first time going to
Paestum, he had guessed that what she had told him about her
nationality was false.

"My mother was an Italian. I swear it.... But my father was not...."

She stopped a moment. The sailor listened to her with interest, with
his back turned to the table.

"I am a German woman and ..."



CHAPTER VII


THE SIN OF ULYSSES

Every morning on awaking at the first streak of dawn, Toni felt a
sensation of surprise and discouragement.

"Still in Naples!" he would say, looking through the port-hole of his
cabin.

Then he would count over the days. Ten had passed by since the _Mare
Nostrum_, entirely repaired, had anchored in the commercial harbor.

"Twenty-four hours more," the mate would add mentally.

And he would again take up his monotonous life, strolling over the
empty and silent deck of the vessel, without knowing what to do,
looking despondently at the other steamers which were moving their
freighting antennae, swallowing up boxes and bundles and beginning to
send out through their chimneys the smoke announcing departure.

He suffered great remorse in calculating what the boat might have
gained were it now under way. The advantage was all for the captain,
but he could not avoid despairing over the money lost.

The necessity of communicating his impressions to somebody, of
protesting in chorus against this lamentable inertia, used to impel him
toward Caragol's dominions. In spite of their difference in rank, the
first officer always treated the cook with affectionate familiarity.

"An abyss is separating us!" Toni would say gravely.

This "abyss" was a metaphor extracted from his reading of radical
papers and alluded to the old man's fervid and simple beliefs. But
their common affection for the captain, all being from the same land,
and the employment of the Valencian dialect as the language of
intimacy, made the two seek each other's company instinctively. For
Toni, Caragol was the most congenial spirit aboard ... after himself.

As soon as he stopped at the door of the galley, supporting his elbow
in the doorway and obstructing the sunlight with his body, the old cook
would reach out for his bottle of brandy, preparing a "refresco" or a
"caliente" in honor of his visitor.

They would drink slowly, interrupting their relish of the liquor to
lament together the immovability of the _Mare Nostrum_. They would
count up the cost as though the boat were theirs. While it was being
repaired, they had been able to tolerate the captain's conduct.

"The English always pay," Toni would say. "But now nobody is paying and
the ship isn't earning anything, and we are spending every day....
About how much are we spending?"

And he and the cook would again calculate in detail the cost of keeping
up the steamer, becoming terrified on reaching the total. One day
without moving was costing more than the two men could earn in a month.

"This can't go on!" Toni would protest.

His indignation took him ashore several times in search of the captain.
He was afraid to speak to him, considering it a lack of discipline to
meddle in the management of the boat, so he invented the most absurd
pretext in order to run afoul of Ferragut.

He looked with antipathy at the porter of the _albergo_ because he
always told him that the captain had just gone out. This individual
with the air of a procurer must be greatly to blame for the
immovability of the steamer; his heart told him so.

Because he couldn't come to blows with the man, and because he could
not stand seeing him laugh deceitfully while watching him wait hour
after hour in the vestibule, he took up his station in the street,
spying on Ferragut's entrances and exits.

The three times that he did succeed in speaking with the captain, the
result was always the same. The captain was as greatly delighted to see
him as if he were an apparition from the past with whom he could
communicate the joy of his overflowing happiness.

He would listen to his mate, congratulating himself that all was going
so well on the ship, and when Toni, in stuttering tones, would venture
to ask the date of departure, Ulysses would hide his uncertainty under
a tone of prudence. He was awaiting a most valuable cargo; the longer
they waited for it, the more money they were going to gain.... But his
words were not convincing to Toni. He remembered the captain's protests
fifteen days before over the lack of good cargo in Naples, and his
desire to leave without loss of time.

Upon returning aboard, the mate would at once hunt Caragol, and both
would comment on the changes in their chief. Toni had found him an
entirely different man, with beard shaved, wearing his best clothes,
and displaying in the arrangement of his person a most minute nicety, a
decided wish to please. The rude pilot had even come to believe that he
had detected, while talking to him, a certain feminine perfume like
that of their blonde visitor.

This news was the most unbelievable of all for Caragol.

"Captain Ferragut perfumed!... The captain scented!... The wretch!" And
he threw up his arms, his blind eyes seeking the brandy bottles and the
oil flasks, in order to make them witnesses of his indignation.

The two men were entirely agreed as to the cause of their despair. She
was to blame for it all; she who was going to hold the boat spellbound
in this port until she knew when, with the irresistible power of a
witch.

"Ah, these females!... The devil always follows after petticoats like a
lap-dog.... They are the ruination of our life."

And the wrathful chastity of the cook continued hurling against
womankind insults and curses equal to those of the first fathers of the
church.

One morning the men washing down the deck sent a cry passing from stem
to stern,--"The captain!" They saw him approaching in a launch, and the
word was passed along through staterooms and corridors, giving new
force to their arms, and lighting up their sluggish countenances. The
mate came up on deck and Caragol stuck his head out through the door of
his kitchen.

At the very first glance, Toni foresaw that something important was
about to happen. The captain had a lively, happy air. At the same time,
he saw in the exaggerated amiability of his smile a desire to
conciliate them, to bring sweetly before them something which he
considered of doubtful acceptation.

"Now you'll be satisfied," said Ferragut, giving his hand, "we are
going to weigh anchor soon."

They entered the saloon. Ulysses looked around his boat with a certain
strangeness as though returning to it after a long voyage. It looked
different to him; certain details rose up before his eyes that had
never attracted his attention before.

He recapitulated in a lightning cerebral flash all that had occurred in
less than two weeks. For the first time he realized the great change in
his life since Freya had come to the steamer in search of him.

He saw himself in his room in the hotel opposite her, dressed like a
man, and looking out over the gulf while smoking.

"I am a German woman, and ..."

Her mysterious life, even its most incomprehensible details, was soon
to be explained.

She was a German woman in the service of her country. Modern war had
aroused the nations _en masse_; it was not as in other centuries, a
clash of diminutive, professional minorities that have to fight as a
business. All vigorous men were now going to the battlefield, and the
others were working in industrial centers which had been converted into
workshops of war. And this general activity was also taking in the
women who were devoting their labor to factories and hospitals, or
their intelligence on the other side of the frontiers, to the service
of their country.

Ferragut, surprised by this outright revelation, remained silent, but
finally ventured to formulate his thought.

"According to that, you are a spy?"...

She heard the word with contempt. That was an antiquated term which had
lost its primitive significance. Spies were those who in other
times,--when only the professional soldiers took part in war,--had
mixed themselves in the operations voluntarily or for money, surprising
the preparations of the enemy. Nowadays, with the mobilization of the
nations _en masse_, the old official spy--a contemptible and villainous
creature, daring death for money--had practically disappeared. Nowadays
there only existed patriots--anxious to work for their country, some
with weapons in their hands, others availing themselves of their
astuteness, or exploiting the qualities of their sex.

Ulysses was greatly disconcerted by this theory.

"Then the doctor?..." he again questioned, guessing; what the imposing
dame must be.

Freya responded with an expression of enthusiasm and respect. Her
friend was an illustrious patriot, a very learned woman, who was
placing all her faculties at the service of her country. She adored
her. She was her protector; she had rescued her in the most difficult
moment of her existence.

"And the count?" Ferragut continued asking.

Here the woman made a gesture of reserve.

"He also is a great patriot, but do not let us talk about him."

In her words there were both respect and fear. He suspected that she
did not wish to have anything to do with this haughty personage.

A long silence. Freya, as if fearing the effects of the captain's
meditations, suddenly cut them short with her headlong chatter.

The doctor and she had come from Rome to take refuge in Naples, fleeing
from the intrigues and mutterings of the capital. The Italians were
squabbling among themselves; some were partisans of the war, others of
neutrality; none of them wished to aid Germany, their former ally.

"We, who have protected them so much!" she exclaimed. "False and
ungrateful race!..."

Her gestures and her words recalled to Ulysses' mind the image of the
doctor, execrating the Italian country from a little window of the
coach, the first day that they had talked together.

The two women were in Naples, whiling away their tedious waiting with
trips to neighboring places of interest, when they met the sailor.

"I have a very pleasant recollection of you," continued Freya. "I
guessed from the very first instant that our friendship was going to
terminate as it has terminated."

She read a question in his glance.

"I know what you are going to say to me. You wonder that I have made
you wait so long, that I should have made you suffer so with my
caprices.... It was because while I was loving you, at the same time I
wished to separate myself from you. You represented an attraction and a
hindrance. I feared to mix you up in my affairs.... Besides, I need to
be free in order to dedicate myself wholly to the fulfillment of my
mission."

There was another long pause. Freya's eyes were fixed on those of her
lover with scrutinizing tenacity. She wished to sound the depths of his
thoughts, to study the ripeness of her preparation--before risking the
decisive blow. Her examination was satisfactory.

"And now that you know me," she said with painful slowness, "begone!...
You cannot love me. I am a spy, just as you say,--a contemptible
being.... I know that you will not be able to continue loving me after
what I have revealed to you. Take yourself away in your boat, like the
heroes of the legends; we shall not see each other more. All our
intercourse will have been a beautiful dream.... Leave me alone. I am
ignorant of what my own fate may be, but what is more important to me
is your tranquillity."

Her eyes filled with tears. She threw herself face downward on the
divan, hiding her face in her arms, while a sobbing outburst set all
the adorable curves of her back a-tremble.

Touched by her grief, Ulysses at the same time admired Freya's
shrewdness in divining all his thoughts. The voice of good
counsel,--that prudent voice that always spoke in one-half of his brain
whenever the captain found himself in difficult situations,--had begun
to cry out, scandalized at the first revelations made by this woman:

"Flee, Ferragut!... Flee! You are in a bad fix. Do not agree to any
relations with such people. What have you to do with the country of
this adventuress? Why should you encounter dangers for a cause that is
of no importance to you? What you wanted of her, you already have
gotten. Be an egoist, my son!"

But the voice in his other mental hemisphere, that boasting and idiotic
voice which always impelled him to embark on vessels bound to be
shipwrecked, to be reckless of danger for the mere pleasure of putting
his vigor to the proof, also gave him counsel. It was a villainous
thing to abandon a woman. Only a coward would do such a thing.... And
this German woman appeared to love him so much!...

And with his ardent, meridional exuberance, he embraced her and lifted
her up, patting the loosened ringlets on her forehead, petting her like
a sick child, and drinking in her tears with interminable kisses.

No; he would not abandon her.... He was more disposed to defend her
from all her enemies. He did not know who her enemies were, but if she
needed a man,--there he was....

In vain his inner monitor reviled him while he was making such offers;
he was compromising himself blindly; perhaps this adventure was going
to be the most terrible in his history.... But in order to quiet his
scruples, the other voice kept crying, "You are a gentleman; and a
gentleman does not desert a lady, through fear, a few hours after
having won her affection. Forward, Captain!"

An excuse of cowardly selfishness arose in his thoughts, fabricated
from one single piece. He was a Spaniard, a neutral, in no way involved
in the conflict of the Central Powers. His second had often spoken to
him of solidarity of race, of Latin nations, of the necessity of
putting an end to militarism, of going to war in order that there might
be no more wars.... Mere vaporings of a credulous reader! He was
neither English nor French. Neither was he German; but the woman he
loved was, and he was not going to give her up for any antagonisms in
which he was not concerned.

Freya must not weep. Her lover affirmed repeatedly that he wished to
live forever at her side, that he was not thinking of abandoning her
because of what she had said: and he even pledged his word of honor
that he would aid her in everything that she might consider possible
and worthy of him.

Thus Captain Ulysses Ferragut impetuously decided his destiny.

When his beloved again took him to the doctor's home, he was received
by her just as though he really belonged to the family. She no longer
had to hide her nationality. Freya simply called her _Frau Doktor_ and
she, with the glib enthusiasm of the professor, finally succeeded in
converting the sailor, explaining to him the right and reason of her
country's entrance into war with half of Europe.

Poor Germany had to defend herself. The Kaiser was a man of peace in
spite of the fact that for many years he had been methodically
preparing a military force capable of crushing all humanity. All the
other nations had driven him to it; they had all been the first in
aggression. The insolent French, long before the war, had been sending
clouds of aeroplanes over German cities, bombarding them.

Ferragut blinked with surprise. This was news to him. It must have
occurred while he was on the high seas. The verbose positiveness of the
doctor did not permit any doubt whatever.... Besides, that lady ought
to know better than those who lived on the ocean.

Then had arisen the English provocation.... Like a traitor of
melodrama, the British government had been preparing the war for a long
time, not wishing to show its hand until the last moment; and Germany,
lover of peace, had had to defend herself from this enemy, the worst
one of all.

"God will punish England!" affirmed the doctor, looking at Ulysses.

And he not wishing to defraud her of her expectations, gallantly nodded
his head.... For all he cared, God might punish England.

But in expressing himself in such a way, he felt himself agitated by a
new duality. The English had been good comrades; he remembered
agreeably his voyages as an official aboard the British boats. At the
same time, their increasing power, invisible to the men on shore,
monstrous for those who were living on the sea, had been producing in
him a certain irritation. He was accustomed to find them either as
dominators of all the seas, or else solidly installed on all the
strategic and commercial coasts.

The Doctor, as though guessing the necessity of arousing his hatred of
the great enemy, appealed to his historical memories: Gibraltar, stolen
by the English; the piracies of Drake; the galleons of America seized
with methodical regularity by the British fleets; the landings on the
coast of Spain that in other centuries had perturbed the life of the
peninsula. England at the beginning of her greatness in the reign of
Elizabeth, was the size of Belgium; if she had made herself one of the
great powers, it was at the cost of the Spaniards and then of Holland,
even dominating the entire world. And the doctor spoke in English and
with so much vehemence about England's evil deeds against Spain that
the impressionable sailor ended by saying spontaneously:

"May God punish her!"

But just here reappeared the Mediterranean navigator, the complicated
and contradictory Ulysses. He suddenly remembered the repairs on his
vessel that must be paid for by England.

"May God punish them ... but may He wait a little bit!" he murmured in
his thoughts.

The imposing professor became greatly exasperated when speaking of the
land in which she was living.

"Mandolin players! Bandits!" she always cried when referring to the
Italians.

How much they owed to Germany! The Emperor Wilhelm had been a father to
them. All the world knew that!... And yet when the war was breaking
out, they were going to refuse to follow their old friends. Now German
diplomacy must busy itself, not to keep them at her side, but to
prevent their going with the adversary. Every day she was receiving
news from Rome. She had hoped that Italy might keep herself neutral,
but who could trust the word of such people?... And she repeated her
wrathful insults.

The sailor immediately adapted himself to this home, as though it were
his own. On the few occasions that Freya separated herself from him, he
used to go in search of her in the salon of the imposing dame who was
now assuming toward Ulysses the air of a good-natured mother-in-law.

In various visits he met the count. This taciturn personage would offer
his hand instinctively though keeping a certain distance between them.
Ulysses now knew his real nationality, and he knew that he knew it. But
the two kept up the fiction of Count Kaledine, Russian diplomat, and
this man exacted respect from every one in the doctor's dwelling.
Ferragut, devoted to his amorous selfishness, was not permitting
himself any investigation, adjusting himself to the hints dropped by
the two women.

He had never known such happiness. He was experiencing the great
sensuousness of one who finds himself seated at table in a well-warmed
dining-room and sees through the window the tempestuous sea tossing a
bark that is struggling against the waves.

The newsboys were crying through the streets terrible battles in the
center of Europe; cities were burning under bombardment; every
twenty-four hours thousands upon thousands of human beings were
dying.... And he was not reading anything, not wishing to know
anything. He was continuing his existence as though he were living in a
paradisiacal felicity. Sometimes, while waiting for Freya, his memory
would gloat over her wonderful physical charm, the refinements and
fresh sensations which his passion was enjoying; at other times, the
actual embrace with its ecstasy blotted out and suppressed all
unpleasant possibilities.

Something, nevertheless, suddenly jerked him from his amorous egoism,
something that was overshadowing his visage, furrowing his forehead
with wrinkles of preoccupation, and making him go aboard his vessel.

When seated in the large cabin of his ship opposite his mate, he leaned
his elbows on the table and commenced to chew on a great cigar that had
just gone out.

"We're going to start very soon," he repeated with visible abstraction.
"You will be glad, Toni; I believe that you will be delighted."

Toni remained impassive. He was waiting for something more. The captain
in starting on a voyage had always told him the port of destiny and the
special nature of the cargo. Therefore, noting that Ferragut did not
want to add anything more, he ventured to ask:

"Is it to Barcelona that we are going?"

Ulysses hesitated, looking toward the door, as though fearing to be
overheard. Then he leaned over toward Toni.

The voyage was going to be one without any danger, but one which must
be shrouded in mystery.

"I am counting on you, because you know all my affairs, because I
consider you as one of my family."

The pilot did not appear to be touched with this sample of confidence.
He still remained impassive, though within him all the uneasiness that
had been agitating him in former days was reawakening.

The captain continued talking. These were war times and it was
necessary to take advantage of them. For those two it would not be any
novelty to transport cargoes of military material. Once he had carried
from Europe arms and munitions for a revolution in South America. Toni
had recounted to him his adventures in the Gulf of California, in
command of a little schooner which had served as a transport to the
insurrectionists of the southern provinces in the revolt against the
Mexican government.

But the mate, while nodding his head affirmatively, was at the same
time looking at him with questioning eyes. What were they going to
transport on this trip?...

"Toni, it is not a matter of artillery nor of guns. Neither is it an
affair of munitions.... It is a short and well-paid job that will make
us go very little out of our way on our return to Barcelona."

He stopped himself in his confidences, feeling a curious hesitation and
finally he added, lowering his voice:

"The Germans are paying for it!... We are going to supply their
Mediterranean submarines with petrol."

Contrary to all Ferragut's expectations, his second did not make any
gesture of surprise. He remained as impassive as if this news were
actually incomprehensible to him. Then he smiled lightly, shrugging his
shoulders as though he had heard something absurd.... The Germans,
perhaps, had submarines in the Mediterranean? It was likely, was it,
that one of these navigating machines would be able to make the long
crossing from the North Sea to the Strait of Gibraltar?...

He knew all about the great atrocities that the submarines were causing
in the vicinity of England, but in a greatly reduced zone in the
limited radius of action of which they were capable. The Mediterranean,
fortunately for the merchant vessels, was quite beyond the range of
their treacherous lying-in-wait.

Ferragut interrupted with his meridional vehemence. Beside himself with
passion, he was already beginning to express himself as though the
doctor were speaking through his mouth.

"You are referring to the submarines, Toni, to the little submarines
that were in existence at the beginning of the war--little grasshoppers
of fragile steel that moved with great difficulty when on a level with
the water and might be overwhelmed at the slightest shock.... But
to-day there is something more: there is a submersible that is like a
submarine protected by a ship's hull which is able to go hidden between
the two waters and, at the same time, can navigate over the surface
better than a torpedo-boat.... You have no idea what these Germans are
capable of! They are a great nation, the finest in the world!..."

And with impulsive exaggeration, he insisted in proclaiming German
greatness and its inventive spirit as though he had some share in this
mechanical and destructive glory.

Then he added confidentially, placing his hand on Toni's arm:

"I'm going to tell it only to you: you are the only person who knows
the secret, aside from those who have told it to me.... The German
submersibles are going to enter the Mediterranean. We are going to meet
them in order to renew their supplies of oil and combustibles."

He became silent, looking fixedly at his subordinate, and smiling in
order to conquer his scruples.

For two seconds he did not know what to expect. Toni was remaining
pensive with downcast eyes. Then, little by little, he drew himself
erect, abandoned his seat, and said simply:

"No!"

Ulysses also left his revolving chair with the impulsiveness of
surprise. "No?... And why not?"

He was the captain and they all ought to obey him. For that reason he
was responsible for the boat, for the life of its crew, for the fate of
the cargo. Besides, he was the proprietor; no one exceeded him in
command; his power was unlimited. Through friendly affection and
custom, he had consulted his mate, making him share in his secrets and
here Toni, with an ingratitude never seen before, was daring to
rebel.... What did this mean?...

But the mate, instead of giving any explanation, merely confined
himself to answering, each time more obstinately and wrathfully:

"No!... No!"

"But why not?" insisted Ferragut, waxing impatient and in a voice
trembling with anger.

Toni, without losing energy in his negatives, was
hesitating,--confused, bewildered, scratching his beard, and lowering
his eyes in order to reflect better.

He did not know just how to explain himself. He envied his captain's
facility in finding just the right word. The simplest of his ideas
suffered terribly before coming anxiously from his mouth.... But,
finally, little by little, between his stutterings, he managed to
express his hatred of those monsters of modern industry which were
dishonoring the sea with their crimes.

Each time that he had read in the newspapers of their exploits in the
North Sea a wave had passed over the conscience of this simple, frank
and upright man. They were accustomed to attack treacherously hidden in
the water, disguising their long and murderous eyes like the visual
antennae of the monsters of the deep. This aggression without danger
appeared to revive in his soul the outraged souls of a hundred
Mediterranean ancestors, cruel and piratical perhaps, but who,
nevertheless, had sought the enemy face to face with naked breast,
battle-axe in hand, and the barbed harpoon for boarding ship as their
only means of struggle.

"If they would torpedo only the armed vessels!" he added. "War is a
form of savagery, and it is necessary to shut the eyes to its
treacherous blows, accepting them as glorious achievements.... But
there is something more than that: you know it well. They sink merchant
vessels, and passenger ships carrying women, carrying little
children...."

His weather-beaten cheeks assumed the color of a baked brick. His eyes
flashed with a bluish splendor. He was feeling the same wrath that he
had experienced when reading the accounts of the first torpedoing of
the great transatlantic steamer on the coast of England.

He was seeing the defenseless and peaceable throng crowding to the
boats that were capsizing; the women throwing themselves into the sea
with children in their arms; all the deadly confusion of a
catastrophe.... Then the submarine arising to contemplate its work; the
Germans grouped on the decks of dripping steel, laughing and joking,
satisfied with the rapid result of their labors; and for a distance of
many miles the sea was filled with black bulks dragged slowly along by
the waves--men floating on their backs, immovable, with their glassy
eyes fixed on the sky; children with their fair hair clinging like
masks to their livid face; corpses of mothers pressing to their bosom
with cold rigidity little corpses of babies, assassinated before they
could even know what life might mean.

When reading the account of these crimes, Toni had naturally thought of
his own wife and children, imagining what their condition might have
been on that steamer, experiencing the same fate as its innocent
passengers. This imagination had made him feel so intense a wrath that
he even mistrusted his own self-control on the day that he should again
encounter German sailors in any port.... And Ferragut, an honorable
man, a good captain whose praises every one was sounding, could he
possibly aid in transplanting such horrors as these to the
Mediterranean?...

Poor Toni!... He did not know how to express himself properly, but the
very possibility that his beloved sea might witness such crimes gave
new vehemence to his indignation. The soul of Doctor Ferragut appeared
to be reviving in this rude Mediterranean sailor. He had never seen the
white Amphitrite, but he trembled for her with a religious fervor,
without even knowing her. Was the luminous blue from which had arisen
the early gods to be dishonored by the oily spot that would disclose
assassination _en masse_!... Were the rosy strands from whose foam
Venus had sprung to receive clusters of corpses, impelled by the
waves!... Were the sea-gull wings of the fishing-boats to flee
panic-stricken before those gray sharks of steel!... Were his family
and neighbors to be terrified, on awakening, by this floating cemetery
washed to their doors during the night!...

He was thinking all this, he was seeing it; but not succeeding in
expressing it, so he limited himself to insisting upon his protest:

"No!... I won't tolerate it in our sea!"

Ferragut, in spite of his impetuous character, now adopted a
conciliatory tone like that of a father who wishes to convince his
scowling and stubborn son.

The German submersibles would confine themselves, in the Mediterranean,
to military actions only. There was no danger of their attacking
defenseless barks as in the northern seas. Their drastic exploits there
had been imposed by circumstances, by the sincere desire of terminating
the war as quickly as possible, by giving terrifying and unheard-of
blows.

"I assure you that in our sea there will be nothing of that sort.
People who ought to know have told me so.... If that had not been the
case, I should not have promised to give them aid."

He affirmed this several times in good faith, with absolute confidence
in the people who had given him their promise.

"They will sink, if they can, the ships of the Allies that are in the
Dardanelles. But what does that matter to us?... That is war! When we
were carrying cannons and guns to the revolutionists in South America
we did not trouble ourselves about the use which they might make of
them, did we?"

Toni persisted in his negative.

"It is not the same thing.... I don't know how to express myself, but
it is not the same. There, cannon can be answered by cannon. He who
strikes also receives blows.... But to aid the submarines is a very
different thing. They attack, hidden, without danger.... And I, for my
part, do not like treachery."

Finally his mate's insistence exasperated Ferragut, exhausting his
enforced good nature.

"We will say no more about it," he said haughtily. "I am the captain
and I command as I see fit.... I have given my promise, and I am not
going to break it just to please you.... We have finished."

Toni staggered as though he had just received a blow on the breast. His
eyes shone again, becoming moist. After a long period of reflection, he
held out his shaggy right hand to the captain.

"Good-by, Ulysses!..."

He could not obey, and a sailor who takes disrespectful exception to
the orders of his chief must leave the ship. In no other boat could he
ever live as in the _Mare Nostrum_. Perhaps he might not get another
job, perhaps the other captains might not like him, considering him to
have grown too habituated to excessive familiarity. But, if it should
be necessary, he would again become the skipper of a little
coast-trader.... Good-by! He would not sleep on board that night.

Ferragut was very indignant, even yelling angrily:

"But, don't be such a barbarian!... What a stubborn fool you are!...
What do these exaggerated scruples amount to?..."

Then he smiled malignly and said in a low tone, "You know already what
we know, and I know very well that in your youth you carried
contraband."

Toni drew himself up haughtily. Now it was he who was indignant.

"I have carried contraband, yes. And what is there astonishing about
that?... Your grandparents did the same thing. There is not a single
honorable sailor on our sea who has not committed this little
offense.... Who is the worse for that?..."

The only one who could complain was the State, a vague personality
whose whereabouts and place nobody knew and who daily experienced a
million of similar violations. In the custom-houses Toni had seen the
richest tourists eluding the vigilance of the employees in order to
evade an insignificant payment. Every one down in his heart was a
smuggler.... Besides, thanks to these fraudulent navigators, the poor
were able to smoke better and more cheaply. Whom were they
assassinating with their business?... How did Ferragut dare to compare
these evasions of the law which never did anybody any harm with the job
of aiding submarine pirates in continuing their crimes?...

The captain, disarmed by this simple logic, now appealed to his powers
of persuasion.

"Toni, at least you will do it for me. Do it for my sake. We shall
continue friends as we have always been. On some other occasion I'll
sacrifice myself. Think.... I have given my word of honor."

And the mate, although much touched by his pleadings, replied
dolefully:

"I cannot.... I cannot!"

He was anxious to say something more to round out his thought, and
added:

"I'm a _Republican_...."

This profession of faith he brought forward as an insurmountable
barrier, striking himself at the same time on the breast, in order to
prove the hardness of the obstacle.

Ulysses felt tempted to laugh, as he had always done, at Toni's
political affirmations. But the situation was not one for joking, and
he continued talking in the hope of convincing him.

He had always loved liberty and been on the side opposed to
despotism!... England was the great tyrant of the sea; she had provoked
the war in order to strengthen her jurisdiction and if she should
achieve the victory, her haughtiness would have no limit. Poor Germany
had done nothing more than defend herself.... Ferragut repeated all
that he had heard in the doctor's home, winding up in a tone of
reproach:

"And are you on the side of the English, Toni? You, a man of advanced
ideas?..."

The pilot scratched his beard with an expression of perplexity,
searching for the elusive words. He knew what he ought to say. He had
read it in the writings of gentlemen who knew quite as much as his
captain; besides, he had thought a great deal about this matter in his
solitary pacing on the bridge.

"I am where I ought to be. I am with France...."

He expressed this thought sluggishly, with stutterings and half-formed
words. France was the country of the great Revolution, and for that
reason he considered it as something to which he belonged, uniting its
faith with that of his own person.

"And I do not need to say more. As to England...."

Here he made a pause like one who rests and gathers all his forces
together for a difficult leap.

"There always has to be one nation on top," he continued. "We hardly
amount to anything at present and, according to what I have read, Spain
was once mistress of the entire world for a century and a half. Once we
were everywhere; now we are in the soup. Then came France's turn. Now
it is England's.... It doesn't bother me that one nation places itself
above the rest. The thing that interests me is what that nation
represents,--the fashion it, will set."

Ferragut was concentrating his attention in order to comprehend what
Toni wished to say.

"If England triumphs," the pilot continued, "_Liberty_ will be the
fashion. What does their haughtiness amount to with me, if there always
has to be one dominating Nation?... The nations will surely copy the
victor.... England, so they say, is really a republic that prefers to
pay for the luxury of a king for its grand ceremonials. With her, peace
would be inevitable, the government managed by the people, the
disappearance of the great armies, the true civilization. If Germany
triumphs, we shall live as though we were in barracks. Militarism will
govern everything. We shall bring up our children, not that they may
enjoy life, but that they may become soldiers and go forth to kill from
their very youth. Might as the only Right, that is the German
method,--a return to barbarous times under the mask of civilization."

He was silent an instant, as though mentally recapitulating all that he
had said in order to convince himself that he had not left any
forgotten idea in the corners of his cranium. Again he struck himself
on the breast. Yes, he was where he ought to be, and it was impossible
for him to obey his captain.

"I am a Republican!... I am a _Republican_!" he repeated energetically,
as though having said that, there was nothing more to add.

Ferragut, not knowing how to answer this simple and solid enthusiasm,
gave way to his temper.

"Get out, you brute!... I don't want to see you again, ungrateful
wretch! I shall do the thing alone; I don't need you. It is enough for
me to take my boat where it pleases me and to follow out my own
pleasure. Be off with all the old lies with which you have crammed your
cranium.... You blockhead!"

His wrath made him fall into his armchair, swinging his back toward the
mate, hiding his head in his hands, in order to make him understand
that with this scornful silence everything between them had come to an
end.

Toni's eyes, growing constantly more distended and glassy, finally
released a tear.... To separate thus, after a fraternal life in which
the months were like years!...

He advanced timidly in order to take possession of one of Ferragut's
soft, inert, inexpressive hands. Its cold contact made him hesitate. He
felt inclined to yield.... But immediately he blotted out this weakness
with a firm, crisp tone:

"Good-by, Ulysses!..."

The captain did not answer, letting him go away without the slightest
word of farewell. The mate was already near the door when he stopped to
say to him with a sad and affectionate expression:

"Do not fear that I shall say anything about this to anybody....
Everything remains between us two. I will make up some excuse in order
that those aboard will not be surprised at my going."

He hesitated as though he were afraid to appear importunate, but he
added:

"I advise you not to undertake that trip. I know how our men feel about
these matters; you can't rely upon them. Even Uncle Caragol, who only
concerns himself with his galley, will criticize you.... Perhaps they
will obey you because you are the captain, but when they go ashore, you
will not be the master of their silence.... Believe me; do not attempt
it. You are going to disgrace yourself. You well know for what
cause.... Good-by, Ulysses!"

When the captain raised his head the pilot had already disappeared and
solitude, with its deadly burden, soon weighed upon his thoughts. He
felt afraid to carry out his plans without Toni's aid. It appeared to
him that the chain of authority which united him to his men had been
broken. The mate was carrying away a part of the prestige that Ferragut
exercised over the crew. How could he explain his disappearance on the
eve of an illegal voyage which exacted such great secrecy? How could he
rely upon the silence of everybody?... He remained pensive a long time,
then suddenly leaping up from his armchair, he went out on deck,
shouting to the seamen:

"Where is Don Antonio? Go find him. Call him for me."

"_Don Antoni!... Don Antoni!_..." replied a string of voices from poop
to prow, while Uncle Caragol's head poked itself out of the door of his
dominions.

"_Don Antoni_" appeared through the hatchway. He had been going all
over the boat, after taking leave of his captain. Ferragut received him
with averted face, avoiding his glance, and with a complex and
contradictory gesture. He felt angry at being vanquished and the shame
of weakness yet, allied to these sensations, was the instinctive
gratitude which one experiences upon being freed from an unwise step by
a violent hand which mistreats and saves.

"You are to remain, Toni!" he said in a dull voice. "There is nothing
to say. I will redeem my word as best I can.... To-morrow you shall
know certainly what we are going to do."

The solar face of Caragol was beaming beatifically without seeing
anything, without hearing anything. He had suspected something serious
in the captain's arrival, his long interview alone with the mate, and
the departure of the latter passing silent and scowling before the door
of his galley. Now the same presentiment advised him that a
reconciliation between the two men whose figures he could only
distinguish confusedly, must have taken place. Blessed be the Christ of
the Grao!... And upon learning that the captain would remain aboard
until afternoon, he set himself to the confection of one of his
masterly rice-dishes in order to solemnize the return of peace.

A little before sunset Ulysses again found himself with his mistress in
the hotel. He had returned to land, nervous and uneasy. His uneasiness
made him fear this interview while at the same time he wished it.

"Out with it! I am not a child to feel such fears," he said to himself
upon entering his room and finding Freya awaiting him.

He spoke to her with the brusqueness of one who wishes to conclude
everything quickly.... "I could not undertake the service that the
doctor asked. I take back my word. The mate on board would not consent
to it."

Her wrath burst forth without any finesse, with the frankness of
intimacy. She always hated Toni. "Hideous old faun!..." From the very
first moment she had suspected that he would prove an enemy.

"But you are master of your own boat," she continued. "You can do what
you want to, and you don't need his permission to sail."

When Ulysses furthermore said that he was not sure of his crew either,
and that the voyage was impossible, the woman again became furious at
him. She appeared to have grown suddenly ten years older. To the sailor
she seemed to have another face, of an ashy pallor, with furrowed
brows, eyes filled with angry tears, and a light foam in the corners of
her mouth.

"Braggart.... Fraud.... Southerner! Meridional!"

Ulysses tried to calm her. It might be possible to find another boat.
He would try to help them find another. He was going to send the _Mare
Nostrum_ to await him in Barcelona, and he himself would stay in
Naples, just as long as she wished him to.

"Buffoon!... And I believed in you! And I yielded myself to you,
believing you to be a hero, believing your offer of sacrifice to be the
truth!..."

She marched off, furious, giving the door a spiteful slam.

"She is going to see the doctor," thought Ferragut. "It is all over."

He regretted the loss of this woman, even after having seen her in her
tragic and fleeting ugliness. At the same time, the injurious word, the
cutting insults with which she had accompanied her departure caused
sharp pain. He already was tired and sick of hearing himself called
"meridional," as though it were a stigma.

Yet he rather relished his enforced happiness, the sensation of false
liberty which every enamored person feels after a quarrelsome break.
"Now to live again!..." He wished to return at once to the ship, but
feared a revival of the memories evoked by silence. It would be better
to remain in Naples, to go to the theater, to trust to the luck of some
chance encounter just as when he used to come ashore for a few hours.
The next morning he would leave the hotel, with all his baggage, and
before sunset he would be sailing the open sea.

He ate outside of the _albergo_, and he passed the night elbowing women
in cabarets where an insipid variety show served as a pretext to
disguise the baser object. The recollection of Freya, fresh-looking and
gay, kept rising between him and those painted mouths every time that
they smiled upon him, trying to attract his attention.

At one o'clock in the morning he went up the hotel stairway, surprised
at seeing a ray of light underneath the door of his room. He
entered.... She was awaiting him--reading, tranquil and smiling. Her
face, refreshed and retouched with juvenile color, did not show the
slightest trace of the morning's spasmodic outbreak. She was clad in
pyjamas.

Seeing Ulysses enter, she arose with outstretched arms.

"Tell me that you are not still angry with me!... Tell me that you will
forgive me!... I was very naughty toward you this afternoon, I admit
it."

She was embracing him, rubbing her mouth against his neck with a feline
purr. Before the captain could respond she continued with a childish
voice:

"My shark! My sea-wolf!--who has made me wait all these hours!... Swear
to me that you have not been unfaithful!... I can perceive at once the
trace of another woman."

Sniffing his beard and face, her mouth approached the sailor's.

"No, you have not been unfaithful.... I still find my own perfume....
Oh, Ulysses! My hero!..."

She kissed him with that absorbing kiss, which appeared to take all the
life from him, obscuring his thoughts and annulling his will-power,
making him tremble from head to foot. All was forgotten,--offenses,
slights, plans of departure.... And, as usual, he fell, conquered by
that vampire caress.

In the darkness he heard Freya's gentle voice. She was recapitulating
what they had not said, but what the two were thinking of at the same
time.

"The doctor believes that you ought to remain. Let your boat go with
its hideous old faun, who is nothing but a drawback. You are to remain
here, on land.... You will be able to do us a great favor.... You know
you will; you will remain?... What happiness!"

Ferragut's destiny was to obey this idolized and dominating voice....
And the following morning Toni saw him approaching the vessel with an
air of command which admitted no opposition. The _Mare Nostrum_ must
set forth at once for Barcelona. He would entrust the command to his
mate. He would join it just as soon as he could finish certain affairs
that were detaining him in Naples.

Toni opened his eyes with a gesture of surprise. He wished to respond,
but stood with his mouth open, not venturing to speak a single word....
This was his captain, and he was not going to permit any objections to
his orders.

"Very well," he said finally. "I only ask you that you return as soon
as possible to take up your command.... Do not forget what we are
losing while the boat is tied up."

A few days after the departure of the steamer Ulysses radically changed
his method of living.

Freya no longer wished to continue lodging in the hotel. Attacked by a
sudden modesty, the curiosity and smiles of the tourists and servants
were annoying her. Besides, she wished to enjoy complete liberty in her
love affairs. Her friend, who was like a mother to her, would
facilitate her desire. The two would live in her house.

Ferragut was greatly surprised to discover the extreme size of the
apartment occupied by the doctor. Beyond her salon there was an endless
number of rooms, somewhat dismantled and without furniture, a labyrinth
of partitioned walls and passageways, in which the captain was always
getting lost, and having to appeal to Freya for aid; all the doors of
the stair-landings that appeared unrelated to the green screen of the
office were so many other exits from the same dwelling.

The lovers were lodged in the extreme end, as though living in a
separate house. One of the doors was for them only. They occupied a
grand salon, rich in moldings and gildings and poor in furniture. Three
armchairs, an old divan, a table littered with papers, toilet articles
and eatables, and a rather narrow couch in one of the corners, were all
the conveniences of this new establishment.

In the street it was hot, and yet they were shivering with cold in this
magnificent room into which the sun's rays had never penetrated.
Ulysses attempted to make a fire on a hearth of colored marble, big as
a monument, but he had to desist half-suffocated by the smoke. In order
to reach the doctor's apartment they had to pass through a row of
numberless connecting rooms, long since abandoned.

They lived as newly-wed people, in an amorous solitude, commenting with
childish hilarity on the defects of their quarters and the thousand
little inconveniences of material existence. Freya would prepare
breakfast on a small alcohol stove, defending herself from her lover,
who believed himself more skilled than she in culinary affairs. A
sailor knows something of everything.

The mere suggestion of hunting a servant for their most common needs
irritated the German maiden.

"Never!... Perhaps she might be a spy!"

And the word "spy" on her lips took on an expression of immense scorn.

The doctor was absent on frequent trips and Karl the employee in the
study, was the one who received visitors. Sometimes he would pass
through the row of deserted rooms in order to ask some information of
Freya, and she would follow him out, deserting her lover for a few
moments.

Left to himself, Ulysses would suddenly realize the dual nature of his
personality. Then the man he was before that meeting in Pompeii would
assert himself, and he would see his vessel and his home in Barcelona.

"What have you got yourself into?" he would ask himself remorsefully.
"How is all this affair ever going to turn out?..."

But at the sound of her footsteps in the next room, on perceiving the
atmospheric wave produced by the displacement of her adorable body,
this second person would fold itself back and a dark curtain would fall
over his memory, leaving visible only the actual reality.

With the beatific smile of an opium-smoker, he would accept the
impetuous caress of her lips, the entwining of her arms, strangling him
like marble boas.

"Ulysses, my master!... The moments that separate me from you weigh
upon me like centuries!"

He, on the other hand, had lost all notion of time. The days were all
confused in his mind, and he had to keep asking in order to realize
their passing. After a week passed in the doctor's home, he would
sometimes suppose that the sweet sequestration had been but forty-eight
hours long, at others that nearly a month had flitted by.

They went out very little. The mornings slipped away insensibly between
the late awakening and preparations for a breakfast made by themselves.
If it was necessary to go after some eatable forgotten the day before,
it was she who took charge of the expedition, wishing to keep him from
all contact with outside life.

The afternoons were afternoons of the harem, passed upon the divan or
stretched on the floor. In a low voice she would croon Oriental songs,
incomprehensible and mysterious. Suddenly she would spring up
impetuously like a spring that is unwound, like a serpent that uncoils
itself, and would begin to dance, almost without moving her feet,
waving her lithe limbs.... And he would smile with stupefied
infatuation, extending a right hand toward an Arabian tabaret, covered
with bottles.

Freya took even greater care of the supply of liquor than of things to
eat. The sailor was half-drunk, but with a drunkenness wisely tempered
that never went beyond the rose-colored period. But he was so happy!...

They dined outside the house. Sometimes their excursions were at midday
and they would go to the restaurants of Posilipo or Vomero, the very
places that he had known when he was a hopeless suppliant, and which
saw him now with her hanging on his arm, with a proud air of
possession. If nightfall surprised them, they would hastily betake
themselves to a café in the interior of the city, a beer-garden whose
proprietor always spoke to Freya in German in a low voice.

Whenever the doctor was in Naples she would seat herself at their
table, with the air of a good mother who is receiving her daughter and
son-in-law. Her scrutinizing glasses appeared to be searching
Ferragut's very soul, as though doubtful of his fidelity. Then she
would become more affectionate in the course of these banquets,
composed of cold meats with a great abundance of drinks, in the German
style. For her, love was the most beautiful thing in existence, and she
could not look upon these two enamored ones without a mist of emotion
blurring the crystals of her second eyes.

"Ah, Captain!... How much she loves you!... Do not disappoint her; obey
her in every respect.... She adores you."

Frequently she returned from her trips in evident bad humor. Ulysses
surmised that she had been in Rome. At other times she would appear
very gay, with an ironic and tedious gayety. "The mandolin-strummers
appear to be coming to their senses. Germany is constantly receiving
more support from their ranks. In Rome the 'German propaganda' is
distributed among millions."

One night emotion overcame her rugged sensibilities. She had brought
back from her trip a portrait which she pressed lovingly against her
vast bosom before showing it.

"Look at it," she said to the two. "It is the hero whose name brings
tears of enthusiasm to all Germans.... What an honor for our family!"

Pride made her hasty, snatching the photograph from Freya's hand in
order to pass it on to Ulysses. He saw a naval official rather mature,
surrounded by a numerous family. Two children with long blonde hair
were seated on his knees. Five youngsters, chubby and tow-headed,
appeared at his feet with crossed legs, lined up in the order of their
ages. Near his shoulder extended a double line of brawny young girls
with coronal braids imitating the coiffures of empresses and grand
duchesses.... Behind these, proudly erect, was his virtuous and
prolific companion, aged by too continuous maternity.

Ferragut contemplated this patriotic warrior very deliberately. He had
the face of a kindly person with clear eyes and grayish, pointed beard.
He almost inspired a tender compassion by his overwhelming duties as a
father.

Meanwhile the doctor's voice was chanting the glories of her relative.

"A hero!... Our gracious Kaiser has decorated him with the Iron Cross.
They have given him honorary citizenship in various capitals.... May
God punish England!"

And she extolled this patriarch's unheard-of exploit. He was the
commandant of the submarine that had torpedoed one of the greatest
English transatlantic steamers. Out of the twelve hundred passengers
from New York more than eight hundred were drowned.... Women and
children had gone down in the general destruction.

Freya, more quick-witted than the doctor, read Ulysses' thoughts in his
eyes.... He was now surveying with astonishment the photograph of this
official surrounded with his biblical progeny, like a good-natured
burgher. And a man who appeared so complacent had committed such
butchery without encountering any danger whatever!--hidden in the water
with his eye glued to the periscope, he had coldly ordered the sending
of a torpedo against this floating and defenseless city?...

"Such is war," said Freya.

"Of course it is war!" retorted the doctor as if offended at the
propitiatory tone of her friend. "And it is our right also. They
blockade us, and they wish our women and children to die of hunger, and
so we kill theirs."

The captain felt obliged to protest, in spite of the hidden nudges and
gestures of his mistress. The doctor had many times told him that,
thanks to her organization, Germany could never know hunger, and that
she could exist years and years on the consumption of her own product.

"That is so," replied the dame, "but war has to make itself ferocious,
implacable, in order that it may not last so long. It is our human duty
to terrify the enemy with a cruelty beyond what they are able to
imagine."

The sailor slept badly that night, evidently greatly troubled. Freya
guessed the presence of something beyond the influence of her caresses.
The following day his pensive reserve continued and she, well knowing
the cause, tried to dissipate it with her words....

The torpedoing of defenseless steamers was only made on the coast of
England. They had to cut short, cost what it might, the source of
supplies for that hated island.

"In the Mediterranean nothing of that kind will ever occur. I can
assure you of that.... The submarines will attack battleships only."

And, as if fearing a reappearance of Ulysses' scruples, she redoubled
her seductions on their afternoons of voluptuous imprisonment. She was
constantly devising new fascinations, that her lover might never be
surfeited. He, on his part, came to believe that he was living with
several women at the same time, like an Oriental personage. Freya upon
multiplying her charms, had to do no more than to swing around on
herself, showing a new facet of her past existence.

The sentiment of jealousy, the bitterness of not having been the first
and only one, rejuvenated the sailor's passion, alleviating the tedium
of satiety, yet at the same time giving to her caresses an acrid,
desperate and attractive relish due to his enforced fraternity with
unknown predecessors.

Desisting from her enchantments, she came and went through the salon,
sure of her beauty, proud of her firm and superb physique, which had
not yielded in the slightest degree to the passing of the years. A
couple of colored shawls served as her transparent clothing. Waving
them as rainbow shafts around her marble-white body, she used to
interpret the priestess dances to the terrible Siva that she had
learned in Java.

Suddenly the chill of the room would begin biting in awaking her from
her tropical dream. With a final bound, she sought refuge in his arms.

"Oh, my beloved Argonaut!... My shark!"

She threw herself on the sailor's breast, stroking his beard, and
pushing him so as to edge in on the divan which was too narrow for the
two.

She guessed at once the cause of his furrowed brow, the listlessness
with which he responded to her caresses, the gloomy fire that was
smouldering in his eyes. The exotic dance had made him recall her past
and in order to regain her sway over him, subjecting him in sweet
passivity, she sprang up from the divan, running about the room.

"What shall I give to my bad little man, in order to make him smile a
bit?... What shall I do in order to make him forget his wrong
ideas?..."

Perfumes were her pet fad. As she herself used to say, it was possible
for her to do without eating but never without the richest and most
expensive essences. In that scantily furnished room, like the interior
of an army and navy supply store, the cut glass flasks with gold and
nickel stoppers, protruded among the clothing and papers, and stood up
in the corners denouncing the forgetfulness of their enchanting breath.

"Take it! Take it!"

And she sprinkled the precious perfumes as though they were water on
Ferragut's hair, over his curled beard, advising the sailor to close
his eyes in order not to be blinded by this crazy baptism.

Anointed and fragrant as an Asiatic despot, the strong Ulysses would
sometimes revolt against this effeminateness. At others, he would
accept it with the delight of a new pleasure.

Suddenly a window-shutter would seem to swing open in his imagination,
and, passing by this luminous square, he would see the melancholy
Cinta, his son Esteban, the bridge of his vessel and Toni at the helm.

"Forget!" cried the voice of his evil counselor, blotting out the
vision. "Enjoy the present!... There is plenty of time to go in search
of them."

And again he would sink himself in his refined and artificial luxurious
state with the selfishness of the satrap who, after ordering various
cruelties, locks himself in his harem.

The very finest linens, scattered by chance, enveloped his body or
served as cushions. They were her lingerie, stray petals of her beauty,
that still kept the warmth and perfume of her body. If Ferragut needed
any object belonging to him, he had to hunt for it through sheaves of
skirts, silk petticoats, white negligees, perfumes and portraits, all
scattered over the furniture or tossed in the corners. When Freya,
tired of dancing in the center of the salon, was not curling herself up
in his arms she took delight in opening a box of sandalwood. In this
she used to keep all her jewels, taking them out again and again with a
nervous restlessness, as though she feared they might have evaporated
in their enclosure. Her lover had to listen to the gravest explanations
accompanying the display of her treasures.

"Kiss it," she said, offering him the string of pearls almost always on
her neck.

These grains of moonlight splendor were to her little living beings,
little creatures that she needed in contact with her skin. She was
impregnated with the essence of all that she wore; she drank their
life.

"They have slept upon me so many nights," she would murmur,
contemplating them amorously. "This light amber tone I have given them
with the warmth of my body."

They were no longer a piece of jewelry, they formed a part of her
organism. They might grow pale and die if they were to pass many days
forgotten in the depths of her casket.

After that she kept on ransacking the perfumed jewel-box for all the
gems that were her great pride,--earrings and finger-rings of great
price, mixed with other exotic jewels of bizarre form and slight value,
picked up on her voyages.

"Look carefully at this," she said gravely to Ferragut, while she
rubbed against her bare arm an enormous diamond in one of her rings.

Warmed by the friction, the precious stone became converted into a
magnet. A bit of paper placed a few inches away was attracted to it
with an irresistible fluttering.

She then rubbed one of the barbaric imitation-jewels of thick cut
glass, and the scrap of paper remained motionless without the slightest
evidence of attraction.

Satisfied with these experiments, she replaced her treasures in the
casket and set herself to beguiling the passing monotony, again
devoting herself to Ulysses.

These long imprisonments in an atmosphere charged with perfumes,
Oriental tobaccos, and feminine seduction were gradually disordering
Ferragut's mind. Besides this, he was drinking heavily in order to give
new vigor to his organism which was beginning to break down under the
excesses of his voluptuous seclusion. At the slightest sign of
weariness, Freya would fall upon him with her dominating lips. If she
freed herself from his embraces, it was to offer him a glass full of
the strongest liquor.

When the spell of intoxication overcame him, weighing down his eyes, he
always recalled the same dream. In his maudlin siestas, satiated and
happy, there would always reappear another Freya who was not Freya, but
Doña Constanza, the Empress of Byzantium. He could see her dressed as a
peasant girl, just as she was portrayed in the picture in the church of
Valencia, and at the same time completely undressed, like the other
houri, who was dancing in the salon.

This double image, which disappeared and reappeared capriciously with
the arbitrariness of dreams, was always telling him the same thing.
Freya was Doña Constanza perpetuated across the centuries, taking on a
new form. She was born of the union of a German and an Italian, just
like this other one.... But the chaste empress was now smiling in her
nudeness, satisfied with being simply Freya. Marital infidelity,
persecution and poverty had been the result of her first existence when
she was tranquil and virtuous.

"Now I know the truth," Doña Constanza would say with a sweetly
immodest smile. "Only love exists; all the rest is illusion. Kiss me,
Ferragut!... I have returned to life in order to recompense you. You
gave me the first of your childish affection; you longed for me before
you became a man."

And her kiss was like that of the spy--an absorbing kiss throughout his
entire person, making him awake.... Upon opening his eyes he saw Freya
with her mouth close to his.

"Arise, my sea-wolf!... It is already night. We are going to dine."

Outside the house, Ulysses would breathe in the twilight breeze and
look at the first stars that were beginning to sparkle above the roofs.
He felt the fresh delight and trembling limbs of the odalisque coming
out of retreat.

The dinner finished, they would stroll through the darkest street or
the promenades along the shore, avoiding the people. One night they
stopped in the gardens of the _Villa Nazionale_, near the bench that
had witnessed their struggle when returning from Posilipo.

"You wished to kill me, you little rascal!... You threatened me with
your revolver, my bandit!..."

Ulysses protested. What a way to remember things! But she refuted his
correction with a bold and lying authority.

"It was you!... It way you! I say so, and that is enough. You must
become accustomed to accepting whatever I may affirm."

In the beer garden, where they used to dine almost every night--an
imitation medieval saloon, with paneled beams made by machinery,
plaster walls imitating oak, and neo-Gothic crystals--the proprietor
used to exhibit as a great curiosity a jar of grotesque little figures
among the porcelain steins that adorned the brackets of the pedestals.

Ferragut recognized it immediately; it was an ancient Peruvian jar.

"Yes, it is a _huaca_," she said. "I have been in that, too.... We were
engaged in manufacturing antiques."

Freya misunderstood the gesture that her lover made. She thought that
he was astonished at the audacity of this manufacture of souvenirs.
"Germany is great; nothing can resist the adaptive powers of her
industries...."

And her eyes burned with a proud light as she enumerated these exploits
of false historical resurrection. They had filled museums and private
collections with Egyptian and Phoenician statuettes recently
reproduced. Then, on German soil, they had manufactured Peruvian
antiquities in order to sell them to the tourists who visit the ancient
realm of the Incas. Some of the inhabitants received wages for
disinterring these things opportunely with a great deal of publicity.
Now the fad of the moment was the black art, and collectors were
hunting horrible wooden idols carved by tribes in the interior of
Africa.

But what had really impressed Ferragut was the plural which she had
employed in speaking of such industries. Who had fabricated these
Peruvian antiquities?... Was it her husband, the sage?...

"No," replied Freya tranquilly. "It was another one--an artist from
Munich. He had hardly any talent for painting, but great intelligence
in business matters. We returned from Peru with the mummy of an Inca
which we exhibited in almost all the museums of Europe without finding
a purchaser. Bad business! We had to keep the Inca in our room in the
hotel, and ..."

Ferragut was not interested in the wanderings of the poor Indian
monarch, snatched from the repose of his tomb.... One more! Each of
Freya's confidences evoked a new predecessor from the haze of her past.

Coming out of the beer-garden, the captain stalked along with a gloomy
aspect. She, on the other hand, was laughing at her memories surveying
across the years, with a flattering optimism, this far-away adventure
of her Bohemian days, and growing very merry on recalling the remains
of the Inca on his passage from hotel to hotel.

Suddenly Ulysses' wrath blazed forth.... The Dutch, officer, the
natural history sage, the singer who killed himself in one shot and now
the fabricator of antiquities.... How many more men had there been in
her existence? How many were there still to be told of? Why had she not
brought them all out at once?...

Freya was astounded at his abrupt violence. The sailor's wrath was
terrifying. Then she laughed, leaning heavily on his arm, and putting
her face close to his.

"You are jealous!... My shark is jealous! Go on talking. You don't know
how much I like to hear you. Complain away!... Beat me!... It's the
first time that I've seen a jealous man. Ah, you Southerners!...
Meridionals!... With good reason the women adore you."

And she was telling the truth. She was experiencing a new sensation
before this manly wrath, provoked by amorous indignation. Ulysses
appeared to her a very different man from all the others she had known
in her former life,--cold, compliant and selfish.

"My Ferragut!... My Mediterranean hero! How I love you! Come ...
come.... I must reward you!"

They were in a central street, near the corner of a sloping little
alley with stairs. She pushed him toward it, and at the first step in
the narrow and dark passageway embraced him, turning her back on the
movement and light in the great street, in order to kiss him with that
kiss which always made the captain's knees tremble.

Although his temper was soothed, he continued complaining during the
rest of the stroll. How many had preceded him?... He must know. He
wished to know, no matter how horrible the knowledge might be. It was
the delight of the jealous who persist in scratching open the wound.

"I want to know you," he repeated. "I ought to know you, since you
belong to me. I have the right!..."

This right recalled with childish obstinacy made Freya smile
dolorously. Long centuries of experience appeared to peep out from the
melancholy curl of her lips. In her gleamed the wisdom of the woman,
more cautious and foresighted than that of the man, since love was her
only preoccupation.

"Why do you wish to know?" she asked discouragingly. "How much further
could you go on that?... Would you perchance be any happier when you
did know?..."

She was silent for some steps and then said as though disclosing a
secret:

"In order to love, it is not necessary for us to know one another.
Quite the contrary. A little bit of mystery keeps up the illusion and
dispells monotony.... He who wishes to know is never happy."

She continued talking. Truth perhaps was a good thing in other phases
of existence, but it was fatal to love. It was too strong, too crude.
Love was like certain women, beautiful as goddesses under a discreet
and artificial light, but horrible as monsters under the burning
splendors of the sun.

"Believe me; put away these bugbears of the past. Is not the present
enough for you?... Are you not happy?"

And, trying to convince him that he was, she redoubled her exertions,
chaining Ulysses in bonds which were sweet yet weighed heavily upon
him. Strongly convinced of his vileness, he nevertheless adored and
detested this woman, with her tireless sensuality.... And it was
impossible to separate himself from her!...

Anxious to find some excuse, he recalled the image of his cook
philosophizing in his culinary dominion. Whenever he had wished to call
down the greatest of evils upon an enemy, the astute fellow had always
uttered this anathema:

"May God send you a female to your taste!..."

Ferragut had found the "female to his taste" and was forever slave of
his destiny. It would follow him through every form of debasement which
she might desire, and each time would leave him with less energy to
protest, accepting the most disgraceful situations in exchange for
love.... And it would always be so! And he who but a few months before
used to consider himself a hard and overbearing man, would end by
pleading and weeping if she should go away!... Ah, misery!...

In hours of tranquillity, when satiety made them converse placidly like
two friends of the same sex, Ulysses would avoid allusions to the past,
questioning her only about her actual life. These questions were
chiefly concerned with the doctor's mysterious work; he wished to know
with the interest that the slightest actions of a beloved person always
inspire, the part that Freya was playing in them. Did he not belong now
to the same association since he was obeying its orders?...

The responses were very incomplete. She had limited herself to obeying
the doctor, who knew everything.... Then she hesitated and corrected
herself. No, her friend could not know everything, because above her
were the count and other personages who used to come from time to time
to visit her like passing tourists. And the chain of agents, from the
lowest to the highest, were lost in mysterious heights that made Freya
turn pale, imposing on her eyes and voice an expression of
superstitious respect.

She was free to speak only of her work, and she did this very
cautiously, relating the measures she had employed, but without
mentioning her co-workers nor stating what her final aim was to be. The
most of the time she had been moved about without knowing toward what
her efforts were converging, like a whirling wheel which knows only its
immediate environments and is ignorant of the machinery as a whole and
the class of production to which it contributes.

Ulysses marveled at the grotesque and dubious proceedings employed by
the agents of the spy system.

"But that is like the paper novels! They are ridiculous and worn-out
measures that any one can learn from books and melodramas."

Freya assented. For that very reason they were employing them. The
surest way of bewildering the enemy was to avail themselves of obvious
methods; thus the modern world, so intelligent and subtle, would refuse
to believe in them. By simply telling the truth, Bismarck had deceived
all European diplomacy, for the very reason that nobody was expecting
the truth from his lips.

German espionage was comporting itself like the personages in a
political novel, and people consequently could not seem to believe in
it,--although it was taking place right under their eyes,--just because
its methods appeared too exaggerated and antiquated.

"Therefore," she continued, "every time that France uncovers a part of
our maneuvers, the opinion of the world which believes only in
ingenious and difficult things ridicules it, considering it attacked
with a delirium of persecution."

Women for some time past had been deeply involved in the service of
espionage. There were many as wise as the doctor, as elegant as Freya,
and many venerable ones with famous names, winning the confidence that
illustrious dowagers inspire. They were very numerous, but they did not
know each other. Sometimes they met out in the world and were
suspicious of each other, but each continued on her special mission,
pushed in different directions by an omnipotent and hidden force.

She showed him some portraits that were taken a few years before.
Ulysses was slow to recognize her as a slim Japanese young girl, clad
in a dark kimono.

"It is I when I was over there. It was to our interest to know the real
force of that nation of little men with rat-like eyes."

In another portrait she appeared in short skirt, riding boots, a man's
shirt, and a felt cowboy hat.

"That was from the Transvaal."

She had gone to South Africa in company with other German women of the
"service" in order to sound the state of mind of the Boers under
English domination.

"I've been everywhere," she affirmed proudly.

"In Paris, too?" questioned the sailor.

She hesitated before answering, but finally nodded her head.... She had
been in Paris many times. The outbreak of the war had found her living
in the Grand Hotel. Fortunately, two days before the rupture of
hostilities, she had received news enabling her to avoid being made
prisoner in a concentration camp.... And she did not wish to say more.
She was verbose and frank in the relation of her far-distant
experiences, but the memory of the more recent ones enshrouded her in a
restless and frightened reserve.

To change the course of conversation, she spoke of the dangers that had
threatened her on her journeys.

"We have to be very courageous.... The doctor, just as you see her, is
a heroine.... You laugh, but if you should know her arsenal, perhaps it
might strike fear to your heart. She is a scientist."

The grave lady had an invincible repugnance for vulgar weapons, and
Freya referred freely to a portable medicine case full of anesthetics
and poisons.

"Besides this she carries on her person a little bag full of certain
powders of her own invention,--tobacco, red pepper.... Perfect little
devils! Whoever gets them in the eyes is blinded for life. It is as
though she were throwing flames."

She herself was less complicated in her measures of defense. She had
her revolver, a species of firearms which she managed to keep hidden
just as certain insects hide their sting, without knowing certainly
when it might be necessary to draw it forth. And if she could not avail
herself of that, she always relied on her hatpin.

"Just look at it!... With what gusto I could pierce the heart of many a
person!..."

And she showed him a kind of hidden poniard, a keen, triangular
stiletto of genuine steel, capped by a large glass pearl that served as
its hilt.

"Among what kind of people are you living!" murmured the practical
voice in Ferragut's interior. "What have you mixed yourself up with, my
son!" But his tendency to discount danger, not to live like other
people, made him find a deep enchantment in this novel-like existence.

The doctor no longer went on excursions, but her visitors were
increasing in number. Sometimes, when Ulysses was starting toward her
room, Freya would stop him.

"Don't go.... They're having a consultation."

Upon opening the door of the landing that corresponded to his quarters
he saw, on various occasions, the green screened door of the office
closing behind many men, all of them of Teutonic aspect, travelers who
had just disembarked in Naples with a certain precipitation, neighbors
from the city who used to receive orders from the doctor.

She appeared much more preoccupied than usual. Her eyes would pass over
Freya and the sailor as though she did not see them.

"Bad news from Rome," Ferragut's companion told him. "Those accursed
mandolin-strummers are getting away from us."

Ulysses began to feel a certain boredom in these monotonously
voluptuous days. His senses were becoming blunted with so many
indulgences mechanically repeated. Besides, a monstrous debilitation
was making him think in self-defense of the tranquil life of the
hearth. He timidly began calculating the time of his seclusion. How
long had he been living with her?... His confused and crowded memory
besought her aid.

"Fifteen days," replied Freya.

Again he persisted in his calculations, and she affirmed that only
three weeks had passed by since his steamer had left Naples.

"I shall have to go," said Ulysses hesitatingly. "They will be
expecting me in Barcelona; I have no news.... What will become of my
vessel?..."

She who generally listened to these inquiries with a distraught air,
not wishing to understand his timid insinuations, responded one
afternoon unequivocally:

"The time is approaching when you are going to fulfill your word of
honor in regard to sacrificing yourself for me. Soon you will be able
to go to Barcelona, and I--I shall join you there. If I am not able to
go, we shall meet again.... The world is very small."

Her thought did not go beyond this sacrifice exacted of Ferragut. After
that, who could tell where she would stop?...

Two afternoons later, the doctor and the count summoned the sailor. The
lady's voice, always so good-natured and protecting, now assumed a
slight accent of command.

"Everything is all ready, Captain." As she had not been able to avail
herself of his steamer, she had prepared another boat for him. He was
merely to follow the instructions of the count who would show him the
bark of which he was going to take command.

The two men went away together. It was the first time that Ulysses had
gone out in the street without Freya, and in spite of his enamored
enthusiasm, he felt an agreeable sensation of freedom.

They went down to the shore and in the little harbor of the _Castello
dell' Ovo_ passed over the plank that served as a bridge between the
dock and a little schooner with a greenish hull. Ferragut, who had
taken in its exterior with a single glance, ran his eye over its
deck.... "Eighty tons." Then he examined the apparatus and the
auxiliary machinery,--a petroleum motor which permitted it to make
seven miles an hour whenever the sails did not find a breeze.

He had seen on the poop the name of the boat and its destination,
guessing at once the class of navigation to which it was dedicated. It
was a Sicilian schooner from Trapani, built for fishing. An artistic
calker had sculptured a wooden cray-fish climbing over the rudder. From
the two sides of the prow dangled a double row of cray-fish carved with
the innocent prolixity of medieval imagination.

Coming out of the hatchway, Ferragut saw half of the hold full of
boxes. He recognized this cargo; each one of these boxes contained two
cans of gasoline.

"Very well," he said to the count, who had remained silent behind him,
following him in all his evolutions. "Where is the crew?..."

Kaledine pointed out to him three old sailors huddled on the prow and a
ragged boy. They were veterans of the Mediterranean, silent and
self-centered, accustomed to obey orders mechanically, without
troubling themselves as to where they were going, nor who was
commanding them.

"Are there no more?" Ferragut asked.

The count assured him that other men would come to reënforce the crew
at the moment of its departure. This would be just as soon as the
loading was finished. They had to take certain precautions in order not
to attract attention.

"In any case, you will be ready to embark quickly, Captain. Perhaps you
may be advised with only a couple of hours' notice."

Talking it over with Freya at night, Ulysses was astonished at the
promptness with which the doctor had found a boat, the discretion with
which she had had it loaded,--with all the details of this business
that had been developing so easily and mysteriously right in the very
mouth of a great harbor without any one's taking any notice of it.

His companion affirmed proudly that Germany well understood how to
conduct such affairs. It was not the doctor only who was working such
miracles. All the German merchants of Naples and Sicily had been giving
aid.... And convinced that the captain might be sent for at any moment,
she arranged his baggage, packing the little suit-case that always
accompanied him on short trips.

The next day at twilight the count came in search of him. All was
ready; the boat was awaiting its captain.

The doctor bade Ulysses farewell with a certain solemnity. They were in
the salon, and in a low voice she gave an order to Freya, who went out,
returning immediately with a tall, thin bottle. It was mellow Rhine
wine, the gift of a merchant of Naples, that the doctor was saving for
an extraordinary occasion. She filled four glasses, and, raising hers,
looked around her uncertainly.

"Where is the North?..."

The count pointed it out silently. Then the lady continued raising her
glass, with solemn slowness, as though offering a religious libation to
the mysterious power hidden in the North, far, far away. Kaledine
imitated her with the same fervid manner.

Ulysses was going to raise the glass to his lips, wishing to hide a
ripple of laughter provoked by the imposing lady's gravity.

"Do like the others," murmured Freya in his ear.

And the two quietly drank to his health with their eyes turned toward
the North.

"Good luck to you, Captain!" said the doctor. "You will return promptly
and with all happiness, since you are working for such a just cause. We
shall never forget your services."

Freya wished to accompany him, even to the boat. The count began a
protest, but stopped on seeing the good-natured gesture of the
sentimental lady.

"They love each other so much!... Something must be conceded to
love...."

The three went down the sloping streets of Chiaja to the shore of S.
Lucia. In spite of his preoccupation, Ferragut could not but look
attentively at the count's appearance. He was now dressed in blue, with
a yachts-man's black cap, as though prepared to take part in a regatta.
He had undoubtedly adopted this attire in order to make the farewell
more solemn.

In the gardens of the _Villa Nazionale_ Kaledine stopped, giving an
order to Freya. He could not permit her to go any further. She would
attract attention in the little harbor _dell' Ovo_ frequented only by
fishermen. As the tone of his order was sharp and imperious, she obeyed
without protest, as though accustomed to such superiority.

"Good-bye!... Good-bye."

Forgetting the presence of the haughty witness, she embraced Ulysses
ardently; then she burst out weeping with a nervous sobbing. It seemed
to him that she had never been so sincere as in that moment. And he had
to make a great effort to disentangle himself from her embrace.

"Good-bye!... Good-bye!..."

Then he followed the count without daring to turn his head, suspecting
that her eyes were still upon him.

On the shores of S. Lucia, he saw in the distance his old hotel with
its illuminated windows. The porter was preceding a young man who was
just descending from a carriage, carrying a suit-case. Ferragut was
instantly reminded of his son Esteban. The young tourist bore a certain
resemblance to him.... And Ferragut continued on, smiling rather
bitterly at this inopportune recollection.

On entering the schooner he encountered Karl, the doctor's factotum,
who had brought his little baggage and had just installed it in his
cabin. "He could retire."... Then he looked over the crew. In addition
to the three old Sicilians he now saw seven husky young fellows, blonde
and stout, with rolled-up sleeves. They were talking Italian, but the
captain had no doubt as, to their real nationality.

As some of them were already beginning to weigh anchor, Ferragut looked
at the count as though inviting him to depart. The boat was gradually
detaching itself from the dock. They were going to draw in the
gangplank which had served as a bridge.

"I'm going, too," said Kaledine. This trip interests Ulysses, who was
disposed not to be surprised at anything in this extraordinary voyage,
merely exclaimed courteously, "So much the better!" He was no longer
concerned with him, and devoted all his efforts to conducting the boat
out of the little harbor, directing its course through the gulf. The
glass windows on the shore of S. Lucia trembled with the vibration of
the motor of the decrepit steamer--an old and scandalous piece of
machinery imitating the paddling of a tired dog. Meanwhile the sails
were unfurled and swelling under the first gusts of the wind.

The trip lasted three days. The first night, the captain enjoyed the
selfish delights of resting alone. He was living among men.... And he
appreciated the satisfaction chastity offered with all the enchantments
of novelty.

The second night, in the narrow and noisome cabin of the skipper, he
felt wakeful because of the memories that were again springing up. Oh,
Freya!... When would he ever see her again?

The count and he conversed little, but passed long hours together,
seated at the side of the wheel looking out on the sea. They were more
friendly than on land, although they exchanged very few words. The
common life lessened the haughtiness of the pretended diplomat and
enabled the captain to discover new merits in his personality. The
freedom with which he was going through the boat, and certain technical
words employed against his will, left no doubt in Ferragut's mind
regarding his true profession.

"You are in the navy," he said suddenly.

And the count assented, judging dissimulation useless.

Yes, he was a naval officer.

"Then what am I doing here? Why have you given the command to me?..."
So Ferragut was thinking without discovering why this man should seek
his assistance when he could direct a boat himself, without any outside
aid.

Undoubtedly he was a naval officer, and all the blonde sailors that
were working like automatons must also have come from some fleet.
Discipline was making them respect Ferragut's orders, but the captain
suspected that for them he was merely a proxy, the true chief on board
being the count.

The schooner passed within sight of the Liparian archipelago; then,
twisting its course toward the west, followed the coast of Sicily, from
Cape Gallo to the Cape of Vito. From there it turned its prow to the
southeast, heading toward the Aegadian Islands.

It had to wait in the waters where the Mediterranean was beginning to
narrow between Tunis and Sicily, where the volcanic peak of the
Pantellarian Island rises up in the middle of the immense strait.

Brief indications from the count were sufficient to make the course
followed by Ferragut in accordance with his desire. He finally could
not hide his admiration for the Spaniard's mastery of navigation.

"You know your sea well," said the count.

The captain shrugged his shoulders, smiling. It truly was his. He could
call it "_mare nostrum_" just as the Romans and their former rulers had
done.

As though divining the subsea depths by a simple glance, he kept his
boat within the limits of the extensive ledge of the Aventura. He was
navigating slowly with only a few sails, crossing and recrossing the
same water.

Kaledine, after two days had passed by, began to grow uneasy. Several
times it sounded to Ferragut as though he were muttering the name of
Gibraltar. The passage from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean was the
greatest danger for those that he was expecting.

From the deck of the schooner he was able to see only a short distance,
and the count clambered up the rigging in order that his eyes might
take in a more extensive sweep.

One morning up aloft he called something to the captain, pointing out a
speck on the horizon. He must steer in that very direction. What he was
seeking was over there.

Ferragut obeyed him, and half an hour later there appeared, one after
the other, two long, low boats, moving with great velocity. They were
like destroyers, but without mastheads, without smokestacks, skimming
along almost on a level with the water, painted in a gray that made
them seem a short distance away of the same color as the sea. They came
around on both sides of the sailboat as though they were going to crush
it with the meeting of their hulls. Various metallic cables came up
from their decks and were thrown over the bitts of the schooner,
fastening it to them, and forming the three vessels into a solid mass
that, united, followed the slow undulation of the sea.

Ulysses examined curiously his two companions in this improvised float.
Were these the famous submarines?... He saw on their steel decks round
and protruding hatchways like chimneys through which groups of heads
were sticking out. The officers and crews were dressed like fishermen
from the northern coast with waterproof suits of one piece and oilskin
hats. Many of them were swinging their tarpaulins over their heads, and
the count replied to them by waving his cap. The blonde sailors of the
schooner shouted in reply to the acclamations of their comrades on the
submersibles, "_Deutchsland über alles_!..."

But this enthusiasm, equivalent to a song of triumph in the midst of
the solitude of the sea, lasted but a very short time. Whistles
sounded, men ran over the steel decks and Ferragut saw his vessel
invaded by two files of seamen. In a moment the hatchways were opened;
there sounded the crash of breaking pieces of wood, and the cases of
petrol began to be carried off on both sides. The water all around the
sailboat was filled with broken cases that were gently floating away.

The count on the poop deck was listening to an officer dressed in
waterproof garments.

He was recounting their passage through the Strait of Gibraltar,
completely submerged, seeing through the periscope the English
torpedo-chasers on patrol.

"Nothing, Commandant," continued the officer. "Not even the slightest
incident.... A magnificent voyage!"

"May God punish England!" said the count now called Commandant.

"May God punish her!" replied the official as though he were saying
"Amen."

Ferragut saw himself forgotten, ignored, by all the men aboard the
schooner. Some of the sailors even pushed him to one side in the haste
of their work. He was the mere master of a sailing vessel who counted
for nothing in this hierarchy of warlike men.

He now began to understand why they had given him the command of the
little vessel. The count was in possession of the situation. Ferragut
saw him approaching as though he had suddenly recollected him,
stretching out his right hand with the affability of a comrade.

"Many thanks, Captain. This service is of the kind that is not easily
forgotten. Perhaps we shall never see each other again.... But if at
any time you need me, you may know who I am."

And, as though presenting him to another person, he gave his name and
titles ceremoniously:--Archibald von Kramer, Naval Lieutenant of the
Imperial Navy.... His diplomatic rôle had not been entirely false....
He had served as Naval Attaché in various embassies.

He then gave instructions for the return trip. Ferragut was to wait
opposite Palermo where a boat would come out after him and take him
ashore. Everything had been foreseen.... He must deliver the command to
the true owner of the schooner, a timorous man who had made them pay
very high for the hire of the boat without venturing to jeopardize his
own person. In the cabin were the customary papers for clearing the
vessel.

"Salute the ladies in my name. Tell them that they will soon have news
of us. We are going to make ourselves lords of the Mediterranean."

The unloading of combustibles still continued. Ferragut saw von Kramer
slipping through the openings of one of the submarines. Then he thought
he recognized on the submersible two of the sailors of the crew of the
schooner who, after being received with shouts and embraces by their
comrades, disappeared through a tubular hatchway.

The unloading lasted until mid-afternoon. Ulysses had not imagined that
the little boat could carry so many cases. When the hold was empty, the
last German sailors disappeared and with them the cables that had
lashed them to the sailboat. An officer shouted to him that he could
get under way.

The two submersibles with their cargo of oil and gasoline were nearer
the level of the sea than on their arrival and now began to disappear
in the distance.

Finding himself alone in the stern of the schooner, the Spaniard felt a
sudden disquietude.

"What have you done!... What have you done!" clamored a voice in his
brain.

But contemplating the three old men and the boy who had remained as the
only crew, he forgot his remorse. He would have to bestir himself
greatly in order to supply the lack of men. For two nights and a day he
scarcely rested, managing almost at the same time both helm and motor,
since he did not dare to let out all his sails with this scarcity of
sailors.

When he found himself opposite the port of Palermo, just as it was
beginning to extinguish its night lights, Ferragut was able to sleep
for the first time, leaving the watch of the boat in charge of one of
the seamen, who maintained it with sails furled. In the middle of the
morning he was awakened by some voices shouting from the sea:

"Where is the captain?"

He saw a skiff and various men leaping aboard the schooner. It was the
owner who had come to claim, his boat in order to bring it into port in
the customary legal form. The skiff was commissioned to take Ulysses
ashore with his little suitcase. He was accompanied by a red-faced, fat
gentleman who appeared to have great authority over the skipper.

"I suppose you are already informed of what is happening," he said to
Ferragut while the two oarsmen made the skiff glide over the waves.
"Those bandits!... Those mandolin-players!..."

Ulysses, without knowing why, made an affirmative gesture. This
indignant burgher was a German, one of those that were useful to the
doctor.... It was enough just to listen to him.

A half hour later Ferragut leaped on the dock without any one's
opposing his disembarking, as though the protection of his obese
companion had made all the guards drowsy. The good gentleman showed,
notwithstanding, a fervent desire to separate himself from his
charge--to hurry away, attending to his own affairs.

He smiled upon learning that Ulysses wished to go immediately to
Naples. "You do well.... The train leaves in two hours." And putting
him in a vacant hack, he disappeared with precipitation.

Finding himself alone, the captain almost believed that he had dreamed
of those two preceding days.

He was again seeing Palermo after an absence of long years: and he
experienced the joy of an exiled Sicilian on meeting the various carts
of the countryside, drawn by broken-down horses with plumes, whose
badly-painted wagon bodies represented scenes from "Jerusalem
Delivered." He recalled the names of the principal roads,--the roads of
the old Spanish viceroys. In one square he saw the statue of four kings
of Spain.... But all these souvenirs only inspired in him a fleeting
interest. What he particularly noticed was the extraordinary movement
in the streets, the people grouping themselves together in order to
listen to the reading of the daily papers. Many windows displayed the
national flag, interlaced with those of France, England, and Belgium.

Upon arriving at the station he learned the truth,--was informed of the
event to which the merchant had alluded while they were in the skiff.
It was war!... Italy had broken her relations the day before with the
Central Powers.

Ulysses felt very uneasy on remembering what he had done out on the
Mediterranean. He feared that the popular groups, thronging past him
and giving cheers behind their flags, were going to guess his exploit
and fall upon him. It was necessary to get away from this patriotic
enthusiasm, and he breathed more freely when he found himself in one of
the coaches of a train.... Besides, he was going to see Freya. And it
was enough for him merely to evoke her image to make all his remorse
vanish.

The short journey proved long and difficult. The necessities of war had
made themselves felt from the very first moment, absorbing all means of
communication. The train would remain immovable for hours together in
order to give the right of way to other trains loaded with men and
military materials.... In all the stations were soldiers in campaign
uniform, banners and cheering crowds.

When Ferragut arrived at Naples, fatigued by a journey of forty-eight
hours, it seemed to him that the coachman was going too slowly toward
the old palace of Chiaja.

Upon crossing the vestibule with his little suit-case, the portress,--a
fat old crone with dusty, frizzled hair whom he had sometimes caught a
glimpse of in the depths of her hall cavern,--stopped his passage.

"The ladies are no longer living in the house.... The ladies have
suddenly left with Karl, their employee." And she explained the rest of
their flight with a hostile and malignant smile.

Ferragut saw that he must not insist. The slovenly old wife was furious
over the flight of the German ladies, and was examining the sailor as a
probable spy fit for patriotic denunciation. Nevertheless, through
professional honor, she told him that the blonde _signora_, the younger
and more attractive one, had thought of him on going away, leaving his
baggage in the porter's room.

Ulysses hastened to disappear. He would soon send some one to collect
those valises. And taking another carriage, he betook himself to the
_albergo_ of S. Lucia.... What an unexpected blow!

The porter made a gesture of surprise and astonishment upon seeing him
enter. Before Ferragut could inquire for Freya, with the vague hope
that she might have taken refuge in the hotel, this man gave him some
news.

"Captain, your son has been here waiting for you."

The captain stuttered in dismay, "What son?..."

The man with the embroidered keys brought the register, showing him one
line, "Esteban Ferragut, Barcelona." Ulysses recognized his son's
handwriting, and at the same time his heart was oppressed with
indefinable anguish.

Surprise made him speechless, and the porter took advantage of his
silence to continue speaking. He was such a charming and intelligent
lad!... Some mornings he had accompanied him in order to point out to
him the best things in the city. He had inquired among the consignees
of the _Mare Nostrum_, hunting everywhere for news of his father.
Finally convinced that the captain must already be returning to
Barcelona, he also had gone the day before.

"If you had only come twelve hours sooner, you would have found him
still here."

The porter knew nothing more. Occupied in doing errands for some South
American ladies, he had been unable to say good-bye to the young man
when he left the hotel, undecided whether to make the trip in an
English steamer to Marseilles or to go by railroad to Genoa, where he
would find boats direct to Barcelona.

Ferragut wished to know when he had arrived. And the porter, rolling
his eyes, gave himself up to long mental calculation.... Finally he
reached a date and the sailor, in his turn, concentrated his powers of
recollection.

He struck himself on the forehead with his clenched hand. It must have
been his son then, that youth whom he had seen entering the _albergo_
the very day that he was going to take charge of the schooner, to carry
combustibles to the German submarines!



CHAPTER VIII


THE YOUNG TELEMACHUS

Whenever the _Mare Nostrum_ returned to Barcelona, Esteban Ferragut had
always felt as dazzled as though a gorgeous stained glass window had
opened upon his obscure and monotonous life as the son of the family.

He now no longer wandered along the harbor admiring from afar the great
transatlantic liners in front of the monument of Christopher Columbus,
nor the cargo steamers that were lined up along the commercial docks.
An important boat was going to be his absolute property for some weeks,
while its captain and officers were passing the time on land with their
families. Toni, the mate, was the only one who slept aboard. Many of
the seamen had begged permission to live in the city, and so the
steamer had been entrusted to the guardianship of Uncle Caragol with
half a dozen men for the daily cleaning. The little Ferragut used to
play that he was the captain of the _Mare Nostrum_ and would pace the
bridge, pretending that a great tempest was coming up, and examine the
nautical instrument with the gravity of an expert. Sometimes he used to
race through all the habitable parts of the boat, climbing down to the
holds that, wide open, were being ventilated, waiting for their cargo;
and finally he would clamber into the ship's gig, untying it from the
landing in order to row in it for a few hours, with even more
satisfaction than in the light skiffs of the Regatta Club.

His visits always ended in the kitchen, invited there by Uncle Caragol,
who was accustomed to treat him with fraternal familiarity. If the
youthful oarsman was perspiring greatly.... "A refresquet?" And the
_chef_ would prepare his sweet mixture that made men, after one gulp,
fall into the haziness of intoxication.

Esteban esteemed highly the "refrescos" of the cook. His imagination,
excited by the frequent reading of novels of travel, had made him
conceive a type of heroic, gallant, dashing sailor--a regular
swash-buckler capable of swallowing by the pitcherful the most rousing
drinks without moving an eyelid. He wanted to be that kind; every good
sailor ought to drink.

Although on land he was not acquainted with other liquors than those
innocent and over-sweet ones kept by his mother for family fiestas,
once he trod the deck of a vessel he felt the necessity for alcoholic
liquids so as to make it evident that he was entirely a man. "There
wasn't in the whole world a drink that could do _him_ any harm...." And
after a second "refresco" from Uncle Caragol, he became submersed in a
placid nirvana, seeing everything rose-colored and considerably
enlarged,--the sea, the nearby boats, the docks, and Montjuich in the
background.

The cook, looking at him affectionately with his bleared eyes, believed
that he must have bounded back a dozen years and be still in Valencia,
talking with that other Ferragut boy who was running away from the
university in order to row in the harbor. He almost came to believe
that he had lived twice.

He always listened patiently to the lad's complaints, interrupting him
with solemn counsels. This fifteen-year-old Ferragut appeared
discontented with life. He was a man and he had to live with women--his
mother and two nieces, who were always making laces,--just as in other
times his mother had been the lace-making companion of her
mother-in-law, Doña Cristina. He wanted to be a seaman and they were
obliging him to study the uninteresting courses leading to a bachelor's
degree. It was scarcely likely, was it, that a captain would have to
know Latin?... He wanted to bring his student life to an end so as to
become a pilot and continue practicing on the bridge, beside his
father. Perhaps at thirty years of age, he might achieve the command of
the _Mare Nostrum_ or some similar boat.

Meanwhile the lure of the sea dragged him far from the classroom,
prompting him to visit Uncle Caragol at the very hour that his
professors were calling the roll and noting the students' absence.

The old man and his protégé used to betake themselves in the galley
with the uneasy conscience of the guilty. Steps and voices on deck
always changed their topic of conversation. "Hide yourself!" and
Esteban would dodge under the table or hide in the provision-closet
while the cook sallied forth with a seraphic countenance to meet the
recent arrival.

Sometimes it was Toni, and the boy would then dare to come out, relying
on his silence; for Toni liked him, too, and approved of his aversion
to books.

If it was the captain who was coming to the boat for a few moments,
Caragol would talk with him, obstructing the door with his bulk at the
same time that he was smiling maliciously.

For Esteban the two most wonderful things in all the world were the sea
and his father. All those romantic heroes that had come from the pages
of novels to take their place in his imagination had the face and ways
of Captain Ferragut.

From babyhood he had seen his mother weeping occasionally in resigned
sadness. Years later, recognizing with the precocity of a
little-watched boy the relations that exist between men and women, he
suspected that all these tears must be caused by the flirtations and
infidelities of the distant sailor.

He adored his mother with the passion of an only and spoiled child, but
he admired the captain no less, excusing every fault that he might
commit. His father was the bravest and handsomest man in all the world.

And when rummaging one day through the drawers in his father's
stateroom, he chanced upon various photographs having the names of
women from foreign countries, the lad's admiration was greater still.
Everybody must have been madly in love with the captain of the _Mare
Nostrum. Ay_! No matter what he might do when he became a man, he could
never hope to equal this triumphant creature who had given him
existence....

When the boat, on its return from Naples, arrived at Barcelona without
its owner, Ferragut's son did not feel any surprise.

Toni, who was always a man of few words, was very lavish with them on
the present occasion. Captain Ferragut had remained behind because of
important business, but he would not be long in returning. His second
was looking for him at any moment. Perhaps he would make the trip by
land, in order to arrive sooner.

Esteban was astounded to see that his mother did not accept this
absence as an insignificant event. The good lady appeared greatly
troubled and her eyes filled with tears. Her feminine instinct made her
suspect something ominous in her husband's delay.

In the afternoon, when her old lover, the professor, visited her as
usual, the two talked slowly with guarded words but with eyes of
understanding and long intervals of silence.

When Don Pedro reached the height of his glorious career, the
possession of a professorship in the institute of Barcelona, he used to
visit Cinta every afternoon, passing an hour and a half in her parlor
with chronometric exactitude. Never did the slightest impure thought
agitate the professor. The past had fallen into oblivion.... But he
needed to see daily the captain's wife weaving laces with her two
little nieces, as he had seen Ferragut's widow years before.

He informed them of the most important events in Barcelona and in the
entire world; they would comment together on the future of Esteban, and
the former suitor used to listen rapturously to her sweet voice,
conceding great importance to the details of domestic economy or
descriptions of religious fiestas, solely because it was she who was
recounting them.

Many times they would remain in a long silence. Don Pedro represented
patience, even temper, and silent respect, in that tranquil and
immaculate house which lost its monastic calm only when its head
presented himself there for a few days between voyages.

Cinta had accustomed herself to the professor's visits. At half-past
three by the clock his footsteps could always be heard in the
passageway.

If any afternoon he did not come, the sweet Penelope was greatly
disappointed.

"I wonder what can be the matter with Don Pedro?" she would ask her
nieces uneasily.

She oftentimes asked this question of her son; but Esteban, without
exactly hating the visitor, appreciated him very slightly.

Don Pedro belonged to that group of gentlemen at the Institute whom the
government paid to annoy youth with their explanations and their
examinations. He still remembered the two years that he had passed in
his course, as in the torture chamber, enduring the torments of Latin.
Besides that, the professor was a timid man who was always afraid of
catching cold, and who never dared to venture into the street on cloudy
days without an umbrella. Let people talk to him about courageous men!

"I don't know," he would reply to his mother. "Perhaps he's gone to bed
with seven kerchiefs on his head."

When Don Pedro returned, the house recovered its normality of a quiet
and well-regulated clock. Doña Cinta, after many consultations, had
come to believe his collaboration indispensable. The professor mildly
supplemented the authority of the traveling husband, and took it upon
himself to represent the head of the family in all outside matters....
Many times Ferragut's wife would be awaiting him with impatience in
order to ask his mature counsel, and he would emit his opinion in a
slow voice after long reflection.

Esteban found it intolerable that this gentleman, who was no more than
a distant relative of his grandmother, should meddle in the affairs of
the house, pretending to oversee him as though he were his father. But
it irritated him still more to see him in a good humor and trying to be
funny. It made him furious to hear his mother called "Penelope" and
himself "the young Telemachus."... "Stupid, tedious old bore!"

The young Telemachus was not slow to wrath nor vengeance. From babyhood
he had interrupted his play in order to "work" in the reception room
near to the hatrack by the door. And the poor professor on his
departure would find his hat crown dented in or its nap roughened up,
or he would sally home innocently carrying spitballs on the skirts of
his overcoat.

Now the boy contented himself with simply ignoring the existence of the
family friend, passing in front of him without recognizing him and only
greeting him when his mother ordered him to do so.

The day in which he brought the news of the return of the ship without
its captain, Don Pedro made a longer visit than usual. Cinto shed two
tears upon the lace, but had to stop weeping, vanquished by the good
sense of her counselor.

"Why weep and get your mind overwrought with so many suppositions
without foundation?... What you ought to do, my daughter, is to call in
this Toni who is mate of the vessel; he must know all about it....
Perhaps he may tell you the truth."

Esteban was told to hunt him up the following day, and he quickly
noticed Toni's extreme disquietude upon learning that Doña Cinta wished
to talk with him. The mate left the boat in lugubrious silence as
though he were being taken away to mortal torment: then he began to hum
loudly, an indication that he was in deep thought.

The young Telemachus was not able to be present at the interview but he
hung around the closed door and succeeded in hearing a few loud words
which slipped through the cracks. His mother was speaking with greater
frequency. Toni was reiterating in a dull voice the same excuse:--"I
don't know. The captain will come at any moment...." But when the mate
found himself outside the house, his wrath broke out against himself,
against his cursed character that did not know how to lie, against all
women bad and good. He believed he had said too much. That lady had the
skill of a judge in getting words out of him.

That night, at the supper hour, the mother scarcely opened her mouth.
Her fingers communicated a nervous trembling to the plates and forks,
and she looked at her son with tragic commiseration as though she
foresaw terrible troubles about to burst upon his head. She opposed a
desperate silence to Esteban's questions and finally exclaimed:

"Your father is deserting us!... Your father has forgotten us!..."

And she left the dining-room to hide her overflowing tears.

The boy slept rather restlessly, but he slept. The admiration which he
always felt for his father and a certain solidarity with the strong
examples of his sex made him take little account of these complaints.
Matters for women! His mother just didn't know how to be the wife of an
extraordinary man like Captain Ferragut. He who was really a man, in
spite of his few years, was going to intervene in this affair in order
to show up the truth.

When Toni, from the deck of the vessel, saw the lad coming along the
wharf the following morning, he was greatly tempted to hide himself....
"If Doña Cinta should call me again in order to question me!..." But he
calmed himself with the thought that the boy was probably coming of his
own free will to pass a few hours on the _Mare Nostrum_. Even so, he
wished to avoid his presence as though he feared some slip in talking
with him, and so pretended that he had work in the hold. Then he left
the boat going to visit a friend on a steamer some distance off.

Esteban entered the galley, calling gayly to Uncle Caragol. He wasn't
the same, either. His humid and reddish eyes were looking at the child
with an extraordinary tenderness. Suddenly he stopped his talk with an
expression of uneasiness on his face. He looked uncertainly around him,
as though fearing that a precipice might open at his feet.

Never forgetful of the respect due to every visitor in his dominion, he
prepared two "refrescos." He was going to treat Esteban for the first
time on this return trip. On former days, incredible as it may seem, he
had not thought of making even one of his delicious beverages. The
return from Naples to Barcelona had been a sad one: the vessel had a
funereal air without its master.

For all these reasons, Caragol's hand lavishly measured out the rum
until the liquid took on a tobacco tone.

They drank.... The young Telemachus began to talk about his father when
the glasses were only half empty, and the cook waved both hands in the
air, giving a grunt which signified that he had no wish to bother about
the captain's absence.

"Your father will return, Esteban," he added. "He will return but I
don't know when. Certainly later than Toni says."

And not wishing to say more, he gulped down the rest of the glass,
devoting himself hastily to the confection of the second "refresco" in
order to make up for lost time.

Little by little he slipped away from the prudent barrier that was
hedging in his verbosity and spoke with his old time abandon; but his
flow of words did not exactly convey news.

Caragol preached morality to Ferragut's son,--morality from his
standpoint, interrupted by frequent caresses of the glass.

"Esteban, my son, respect your father greatly. Imitate him as a seaman.
Be good and just toward the men that you command.... But avoid the
females!"

The women!... There was no better theme for his piously drunken
eloquence. The world inspired his pity. It was all governed by the
infernal attraction exercised by the female of the species. The men
were working, struggling, and trying to grow rich and celebrated, all
in order to possess one of these creatures.

"Believe me, my son, and do not imitate your father in this respect."

The old man had said too much to back out now and he had to go on,
letting out the rest of it, bit by bit. Thus Esteban learned that the
captain was enamored with a lady in Naples and that he had remained
there pretending business matters, but in reality dominated by this
woman's influence.

"Is she pretty?" asked the boy eagerly.

"Very pretty," replied Caragol. "And such odors!... And such a swishing
of fine clothes!..."

Telemachus thrilled with contradictory sensations of pride and envy. He
admired his father once more, but this admiration only lasted a few
seconds. A new idea was taking possession of him while the cook
continued:

"He will not come now. I know what these elegant females are, reeking
with perfume. They are true demons that dig their nails in when they
clutch, and it is necessary to cut off their hands in order to loosen
them.... And the boat as useless now as though it were aground, while
the others are filling themselves with gold!... Believe me, my son,
this is the only truth in the world."

And he concluded by gulping in one draft all that was left in the
second glass.

Meanwhile the boy was forming in his mind an idea prompted by his
pleasant intoxication. What if he should go to Naples in order to bring
his father back!...

At this moment everything seemed possible to him. The world was
rose-colored as it always was when he looked at it, glass in hand, near
to Uncle Caragol. All obstacles would turn out to be trifling:
everything would arrange itself with wonderful facility. Men were able
to progress by bounds.

But hours afterward when his thoughts were cleared of their beatific
visions, he felt a little fearful when recollecting his absent parent.
How would he receive him upon his arrival?... What excuses could he
give his father for his presence in Naples?... He trembled, recalling
the image of his scowling brow and angry eyes.

On the following day a sudden self-confidence replaced this uneasiness.
He recalled the captain as he had seen him many times on the deck of
his vessel, telling of his escapades when rowing in the harbor of
Barcelona, or commenting to friends on his son's strength and
intelligence. The image of the paternal hero now came to his mind with
good-humored eyes and a smile passing like a fresh breeze over his
face.

He would tell him the whole truth. He would make him understand that he
had come to Naples just to take him away with him, like a good comrade
who comes to another's rescue in time of danger. Perhaps he might be
irritated and give him a blow, but he would eventually accede to his
proposition.

Ferragut's character was reborn in him with all the force of decisive
argument. And if the voyage should prove absurd and dangerous?... All
the better! So much the better! That was enough to make him undertake
it. He was a man and should know no fear.

During the next two weeks he prepared his flight. He had never taken a
long journey. Only once he had accompanied his father on a flying
business trip to Marseilles. It was high time that he should go out in
the world like the man that he was, acquainted with almost all the
cities of the earth,--through his readings.

The money question did not worry him any. Doña Cinta had it in
abundance and it was easy to find her bunch of keys. An old and
slow-going steamer, commanded by one of his father's friends, had just
entered port and the following day would weigh anchor for Italy.

This sailor accepted the son of his old comrade without any traveling
papers. He would arrange all irregularities with his friends in Genoa.
Between captains they ought to exchange such services, and Ulysses
Ferragut, who was awaiting his son in Naples (so Esteban told him),
would not wish to waste time just because of some ridiculous, red tape
formality.

Telemachus with a thousand pesetas in his pocket, extracted from a work
box which his mother used as a cash box, embarked the following day. A
little suit-case, taken from his home with deliberate and skillful
precaution, formed his entire baggage.

From Genoa he went to Rome, and from there to Naples, with the
foolhardiness of the innocent, employing Spanish and Catalan words to
reinforce his scanty Italian vocabulary acquired at the opera. The only
positive information that guided him on his quest of adventure was the
name of the _albergo_ on the shore of S. Lucia which Caragol had given
him as his father's residence.

He sought him vainly for many days and visited in Naples the consignees
who thought that the captain had returned to his country some time ago.

Not finding him, he began to be afraid. He ought to be back in
Barcelona by this time and what he had begun as an heroic voyage was
going to turn into a runaway, a boyish escapade. He thought of his
mother who was perhaps weeping hours at a time, reading and rereading
the letter that he had left for her explaining the object of his
flight. Besides, Italy's intervention in the war,--an event which every
one had been expecting but had supposed to be still a long way
off,--had suddenly become an actual fact. What was there left for him
to do in this country?... And one morning he had disappeared.

Since the hotel porter could not tell him anything more, the father,
after his first impression of surprise had passed, thought it would be
a good plan to visit the firm of consignees. Perhaps there they might
give him some news.

The war was the only thing of interest in that office. But Ferragut,
owner of a ship and a former client, was guided by the director to the
employees who had received Esteban.

They did not know much about it. They recalled vaguely a young Spaniard
who said that he was the captain's son and was making inquiries about
him. His last visit had been two days before. He was then hesitating
between returning to his country by rail or embarking in one of the
three steamers that were in port ready to sail for Marseilles.

"I believe that he has gone by railroad," said one of the clerks.

Another of the office force supported his companion's supposition with
a positive affirmation in order to attract the attention of his chief.
He was sure of his departure by land. He himself had helped him to
calculate what the trip to Barcelona would cost him.

Ferragut did not wish to know more. He must get away as soon as
possible. This inexplicable voyage of his son filled him with remorse
and immeasurable alarm. He wondered what could have occurred in his
home....

The director of the offices pointed out to him a French steamer from
Suez that was sailing that very afternoon to Marseilles, and took upon
himself all the arrangements concerning his passage and recommendation
to the captain. There only remained four hours before the boat's
departure, and Ulysses, after collecting his valises and sending them
aboard, took a last stroll through all the places where he had lived
with Freya. Adieu, gardens of the _Villa Nazionale_ and white
Aquarium!... Farewell, _albergo_!...

His son's mysterious presence in Naples had intensified his disgust at
the German girl's flight. He thought sadly of lost love, but at the
same time he thought with dolorous suspense of what might greet him
when reentering his home.

A little before sunset the French steamer weighed anchor. It had been
many years since Ulysses had sailed as a simple passenger. Entirely out
of his element, he wandered over the decks and among the crowds of
tourists. Force of habit drew him to the bridge, talking with the
captain and the officers, who from his very first words recognized his
professional genius.

Realizing that he was no more than an intruder in this place, and
annoyed at finding himself on a bridge from which he could not give a
single order, he descended to the lower decks, examining the groups of
passengers. They were mostly French, coming from Indo-China. On prow
and poop there were quartered four companies of Asiatic
sharpshooters,--little, yellowish, with oblique eyes and voices like
the miauling of cats. They were going to the war. Their officers lived
in the staterooms in the center of the ship, taking with them their
families who had aquired a foreign aspect during their long residence
in the colonies.

Ulysses saw ladies clad in white stretched out on their steamer chairs,
having themselves fanned by their little Chinese pages; he saw bronzed
and weather-beaten soldiers who appeared disgusted yet galvanized by
the war that was snatching them from their Asiatic siesta, and
children,--many children--delighted to go to France, the country of
their dreams, forgetting in their happiness that their fathers were
probably going to their death.

The passage could not have been smoother. The Mediterranean was like a
silver plain in the moonlight. From the invisible coast came warm puffs
of garden perfumes. The groups on deck reminded one another, with
selfish satisfaction, of the great dangers that threatened the people
embarking in the North Sea, harassed by German submarines. Fortunately
the Mediterranean was free from such calamity. The English had so well
guarded the port of Gibraltar that it was all a tranquil lake dominated
by the Allies.

Before going to bed, the captain entered a room on the upper deck where
was installed the wireless telegraph outfit. The hissing as of frying
oil that the apparatus was sending out attracted him. The operator, a
young Englishman, took off his nickel band with two earphones. Greatly
bored by his isolation, he was trying to distract himself by conversing
with the operators on the other vessels that came within the radius of
his apparatus. They kept in constant communication like a group of
comrades making the same trip and conversing placidly together.

From time to time the operator, advised by the sparking of his
induction coils, would put on the diadem with ear pieces in order to
listen to his far-away comrades.

"It is the man on the _Californian_ bidding me goodnight," he said
after one of these calls. "He is going to bed. There's no news."

And the young man eulogized Mediterranean navigation. At the outbreak
of the war, he had been on another vessel going from London to New York
and he recalled the unquiet nights, the days of anxious vigilance,
searching the sea and the atmosphere, fearing from one moment to
another the appearance of a periscope upon the waters, or the electric
warning of a steamer torpedoed by the submarine. On this sea, one could
live as tranquilly as in times of peace.

Ferragut suspected that the poor operator was very anxious to enjoy the
delights of such tranquillity. His companion in service was snoring in
a nearby cabin and he was anxious to imitate him, putting his head down
on the table of the apparatus.... "Until to-morrow!"

The captain also fell asleep as soon as he had stretched himself out on
the narrow ledge in his stateroom. His sleep was all in one piece,
gloomy and complete, without sudden surprises or visions. Just as he
was feeling that only a few moments had passed by, he was violently
awakened as though some one had given him a shove. In the dim light he
could make out only the round glass of the port hole, tenuously blue
and veiled by the humidity of the maritime dew, like a tearful eye.

Day was breaking and something extraordinary had just occurred on the
boat. Ferragut was accustomed to sleep with the lightness of a captain
who needs to awaken opportunely. A mysterious perception of danger had
cut short his repose. He distinguished over his head the patter of
quick runnings the whole length of the deck; he heard voices. While
dressing as quickly as possible he realized that the rudder was working
violently, and that the vessel was changing its course.

Coming up on deck, one glance was sufficient to convince him that the
ship was not running any danger. Everything about it presented a normal
aspect. The sea, still dark, was gently lapping the sides of the vessel
which continued going forward with regular motion. The decks were
cleared of passengers. They were all sleeping in their staterooms. Only
on the bridge he saw a group of persons:--the captain and all the
officers, some of them dressed very lightly as though they had been
roused from slumber.

Passing by the wireless office, he obtained an explanation of the
matter. The youth of the night before was near the door and his
companion was now wearing the head phone and tapping the keys of the
apparatus, listening and replying to invisible boats.

An half hour before, just as the English operator was going off guard
and giving place to his just awakened companion, a signal had kept him
in his seat. The _Californian_ was sending out by wireless the danger
call, the S.O.S., that is only employed when a ship needs help. Then in
the space of a few seconds a mysterious voice had spread its tragic
story over hundreds of miles. A submersible had just appeared a short
distance from the _Californian_ and had fired several shells at it. The
English boat was trying to escape, relying on its superior speed. Then
the submarine had fired a torpedo....

All this had occurred in twenty minutes. Suddenly the echoes of the
distant tragedy were extinguished as the communication was cut off. A
prolonged, intense, sibilant buzzing in the apparatus, and--nothing!...
Absolute silence.

The operator now on duty responded with negative movements to his
companion's inquiring glances. He could hear nothing but the dialogue
between the boats that had received the same warning. They too were
alarmed by the sudden silence, and were changing their course going,
like the French steamer, toward the place where the _Californian_ had
met the submersible.

"Can it be that they are already in the Mediterranean!" the operator
exclaimed with astonishment on finishing his report. "How could the
submarines possibly get 'way down here?..."

Ferragut did not dare to go up on the bridge. He was afraid that the
glances of those men of the sea might fasten themselves accusingly upon
him. He believed that they could read his thoughts.

A passenger ship had just been sunk at a relatively short distance from
the boat on which he was traveling. Perhaps von Kramer was the author
of the crime. With good reason he had charged Ulysses to tell his
compatriots that they would soon hear of his exploits. And Ferragut had
aided in the preparation of this maritime barbarity!...

"What have you done? What have you done?" wrathfully demanded his
mental voice of good counsel.

An hour afterward he felt ashamed to remain on deck. In spite of the
captain's orders, the news had got out and was circulating among the
staterooms. Entire families were rushing up on deck, frightened out of
the calmness usually reigning on the boat, arranging their clothes with
precipitation, and struggling to adjust to their bodies the
life-preservers which they were trying on for the first time. The
children were howling, terrified by the alarm of their parents. Some
nervous women were shedding tears without any apparent cause. The boat
was going toward the place where the other one had been torpedoed, and
that was enough to make the alarmists imagine that the enemy would
remain absolutely motionless in the same place, awaiting their arrival
in order to repeat their attack.

Hundreds of eyes were fixed on the sea, scrutinizing the surface of the
waves, believing every object which they saw,--bits of wood, seaweed or
crates floating on the surface of the water,--to be the top of a
periscope.

The officials of the battalion of snipers had gone to prow and poop in
order to maintain discipline among their men. But the Asiatics,
scornful of death, had not abandoned their serene apathy. Some merely
looked out over the sea with a childish curiosity, anxious to become
acquainted with this new diabolical toy, invented by the superior
races. On the decks reserved for first class passengers astonishment
was as great as the uneasiness.

"Submarines in the Mediterranean!... But is it possible?..."

Those last to awake appeared very incredulous and could only be
convinced of what had occurred when they heard the news from the boat's
crew.

Ferragut wandered around like a soul in torment. Remorse made him hide
himself in his stateroom. These people with their complaints and their
comments were causing him great annoyance. Soon he found that he could
not remain in this isolation. He needed to see and to know,--like a
criminal who returns to the place where he has committed his crime.

At midday they began to see on the horizon various little clouds. They
were the ships hastening from all sides, attracted by this unexpected
attack.

The French boat that was sailing ahead of them suddenly moderated its
speed. They had come into the zone of the shipwreck. In the lookouts
were sailors exploring the sea and shouting the orders that guided the
steamer's course. During these evolutions, there began to slip past the
vessel's sides the remains of the tragic event.

The two rows of heads lined up on the different decks saw life
preservers floating by empty, a boat with its keel in the air, and bits
of wood belonging to a raft evidently constructed in great haste and
never finished.

Suddenly a howl from a thousand voices, followed by a funereal
silence.... The body of a woman lying on some planks passed by. One of
her legs was thrust into a gray silk stocking, her head was hanging on
the opposite side, spreading its blonde locks over the water like a
bunch of gilded seaweed.

Her firm and juvenile bust was visible through the opening of a
drenched nightgown which was outlining her body with unavoidable
immodesty. She had been surprised by the shipwreck at the very moment
that she had been trying to dress; perhaps terror had made her throw
herself into the sea. Death had twisted her face with a horrible
contraction, exposing the teeth. One side of her face was swollen from
some blow.

Looking over the shoulders of two ladies who were trembling and leaning
against the deck-railing, Ferragut caught a glimpse of this corpse. In
his turn the vigorous sailor trembled like a woman, and his eyes filmed
with mistiness. He simply could not look at it!... And again he went
down into his stateroom to hide himself.

An Italian torpedo-destroyer was maneuvering among the remains of the
shipwreck, as though seeking the footprints of the author of the crime.
The steamers stopped their circular course of exploration to lower the
lifeboats into the water and collect the corpses and bodies of the
living near to death.

The captain in his desperate imprisonment heard new shrieks announcing
an extraordinary event. Again the cruel necessity of knowing what it
could be dragged him from his stateroom!

A boat full of people had been found by the steamer. The other ships
were also meeting little by little the rest of the life boats occupied
by the survivors of the catastrophe. The general rescue was going to be
a very short piece of work.

The most agile of the shipwrecked people, on reaching the deck, found
themselves surrounded by sympathetic groups lamenting their misfortune
and at the same time offering them hot drinks. Others, after staggering
a few steps as though intoxicated, collapsed on the benches. Some had
to be hoisted from the bottom of the boat and carried in a chair to the
ship's hospital.

Various British soldiers, serene and phlegmatic, upon climbing on deck
asked for a pipe and began to smoke vigorously. Other shipwrecked
people, lightly clad, simply rolled themselves up in shawls, beginning
the account of the catastrophe as minutely and serenely as though they
were in a parlor. A period of ten hours in the crowded narrowness of
the boat, drifting at random in the hope of aid, had not broken down
their energy.

The women showed greater desperation. Ferragut saw in the center of a
group of ladies a young English girl, blond, slender, elegant, who was
sobbing and stammering explanations. She had found herself in a launch,
separated from her parents, without knowing how. Perhaps they were dead
by this time. Her slight hope was that they might have sought refuge in
some other boat and been picked up by any one of the steamers that had
happened to see them.

A desperate grief, noisy, meridional, silenced with its meanings the
noise of conversation. There had just climbed aboard a poor Italian
woman carrying a baby in her arms.

"_Figlia mia_!... _Mia figlia_!..." she was wailing with disheveled
hair and eyes swollen by weeping.

In the moment of the shipwreck she had lost a little girl, eight years
old, and upon finding herself in the French steamer, she went
instinctively toward the prow in search of the same spot which she had
occupied on the other ship, as though expecting to find her daughter
there. Her agonized voice penetrated down the stairway: "_Figlia
mia_!... _Mia figlia!_"

Ulysses could not stand it. That voice hurt him, as though its piercing
cry were clawing at his brain.

He approached a group in the center of which was a young barefooted lad
in trousers and shirt open at the breast who was talking and talking,
wrapping himself from time to time in a shawl that some one had placed
upon his shoulders.

He was describing in a mixture of French and Italian the loss of the
_Californian_.

He had been awakened by hearing the first shot fired by the submersible
against his steamer. The chase had lasted half an hour.

The most audacious and curious were on the decks and believed their
salvation already sure as they saw their ship leaving its enemy behind.
Suddenly a black line had cut the sea, something like a long thorn with
splinters of foam which was advancing at a dizzying speed, in bold
relief against the water.... Then came a blow on the hull of the vessel
which had made it shudder from stem to stern, not a single plate nor
screw escaping tremendous dislocation.... Then a volcanic explosion, a
gigantic hatchet of smoke and flames, a yellowish cloud in which were
flying dark objects:--fragments of metal and of wood, human bodies
blown to bits.... The eyes of the narrator gleamed with an insane light
as he recalled the tragic sight.

"A friend of mine, a boy from my own country," he continued, sighing,
"had just left me in order to see the submersible better and he put
himself exactly in the path of the explosion.... He disappeared as
suddenly as if he had been blotted out. I saw him and I did not see
him.... He exploded in a thousand bits, as though he had had a bomb
within his body."

And the shipwrecked man, obsessed by this recollection, could hardly
attach any importance to the scenes following,--the struggle of the
crowds to gain the boats, the efforts of the officers to maintain
order, the death of many that, crazy with desperation, had thrown
themselves into the sea, the tragic waiting huddled in barks that were
with great difficulty lowered to the water, fearing a second shipwreck
as soon as they touched the waves.

The steamer had disappeared in a few moments,--its prow sinking in the
waters and then its smokestacks taking on a vertical position almost
like the leaning tower of Pisa, and its rudders turning crazily as the
shuddering ship went down.

The narrator began to be left alone. Other shipwrecked folk, telling
their doleful tales at the same time, were now attracting the curious.

Ferragut looked at this young man. His physical type and his accent
made him surmise that he was a compatriot.

"You are Spanish?"

The shipwrecked man replied affirmatively.

"A Catalan?" continued Ulysses in the Catalan idiom.

A fresh oratorical vehemence galvanized the shipwrecked boy. "The
gentleman is a Catalan also?"... And smiling upon Ferragut as though he
were a celestial apparition, he again began the story of his
misfortunes.

He was a commercial traveler from Barcelona, and in Naples he had taken
the sea route because it had seemed to him the more rapid one, avoiding
the railroads congested by Italian mobilization.

"Were there other Spaniards traveling on your boat?" Ulysses continued
inquiring.

"Only one: my friend, that boy of whom I was just speaking. The
explosion of the torpedo blew him into bits. I saw him...."

The captain felt his remorse constantly increasing. A compatriot, a
poor young fellow, had perished through his fault!...

The salesman also seemed to be suffering a twinge of conscience. He was
holding himself responsible for his companion's death. He had only met
him in Naples a few days before, but they were united by the close
brotherhood of young compatriots who had run across each other far from
their country.

They had both been born in Barcelona. The poor lad, almost a child, had
wanted to return by land and he had carried him off with him at the
last hour, urging upon him the advantages of a trip by sea. Whoever
would have imagined that the German submarines were in the
Mediterranean! The traveling man persisted in his remorse. He could not
forget that half-grown lad who, in order to make the voyage in his
company, had gone to meet his death.

"I met him in Naples, hunting everywhere for his father."

"Ah!..."

Ulysses uttered this exclamation with his neck violently outstretched,
as though he were trying to loosen his skull from the rest of his body.
His eyes were protruding from their sockets.

"The father," continued the youth, "commands a ship.... He is Captain
Ulysses Ferragut."

An outcry.... The people ran.... A man had just fallen heavily, his
body rebounding on the deck.



CHAPTER IX


THE ENCOUNTER AT MARSEILLES

Toni, who abominated railway journeys on account of his torpid
immovability, now had to abandon the _Mare Nostrum_ and suffer the
torture of remaining twelve hours crowded in with strange persons.

Ferragut was sick in a hotel in the harbor of Marseilles. They had
taken him off of a French boat coming from Naples, crushed with silent
melancholia. He wished to die. During the trip they had to keep sharp
watch so that he could not repeat his attempts at suicide. Several
times he had tried to throw himself into the water.

Toni learned of it from the captain of a Spanish vessel that had just
arrived from Marseilles exactly one day after the newspapers of
Barcelona had announced the death of Esteban Ferragut in the torpedoing
of the _Californian_. The commercial traveler was still relating
everywhere his version of the event, concluding it now with his
melodramatic meeting with the father, the latter's fatal fall on
receiving the news, and desperation upon recovering consciousness.

The first mate had hastened to present himself at his captain's home.
All the Blanes were there, surrounding Cinta and trying to console her.

"My son!... My son!..." the mother was groaning, writhing on the sofa.

And the family chorus drowned her laments, overwhelming her with a
flood of fantastic consolations and recommendations of resignation. She
ought to think of the father: she was not alone in the world as she was
affirming: besides her own family, she had her husband.

Toni entered just at that moment.

"His father!" she cried in desperation. "His father!..."

And she fastened her eyes on the mate as though trying to speak to him
with them. Toni knew better than anyone what that father was, and for
what reason he had remained in Naples. It was his fault that the boy
had undertaken the crazy journey at whose end death was awaiting
him..... The devout Cinta looked upon this misfortune as a chastisement
from God, always complicated and mysterious in His designs. Divinity,
in order to make the father expiate his crimes, had killed the son
without thinking of the mother upon whom the blow rebounded.

Toni went away. He could not endure the glances and the allusions made
by Doña Cinta. And as though this emotion were not enough, he received
the news a few hours later of his captain's wretched condition,--news
which obliged him to make the trip to Marseilles immediately.

On entering the quarters of the hotel frequented by the officials of
merchant vessels, he found Ferragut seated near a balcony from which
could be seen the entire harbor.

He was limp and flabby, with eyes sunken and faded, beard unkempt, and
a manifest disregard of his personal appearance.

"Toni!... Toni!"

He embraced his mate, moistening his neck with tears. For the first
time he began to weep and this appeared to give him a certain relief.
The presence of his faithful officer brought him back to life.
Forgotten memories of business journeys crowded in his mind. Toni
resuscitated all his past energies. It was as though the _Mare Nostrum_
had come in search of him.

He felt shame and remorse. This man knew his secret: he was the only
one to whom he had spoken of supplying the German submarines.

"My poor Esteban!... My son!"

He did not hesitate to admit the fatal relationship between the death
of his son and that illegal trip whose memory was weighing him down
like a monstrous crime. But Toni was discreet. He lamented the death of
Esteban like a misfortune in which the father had not had any part.

"I also have lost sons.... And I know that nothing is gained by giving
up to despair.... Cheer up!"

He never said a word of all that had happened before the tragic event.
Had not Ferragut known his mate so well, he might have believed that he
had entirely forgotten it. Not the slightest gesture, not a gleam in
his eyes, revealed the awakening of that malign recollection. His only
anxiety was that the captain should soon regain his health....

Reanimated by the presence and words of this prudent companion, Ulysses
recovered his strength and a few days after, abandoned the room in
which he had believed he was going to die, turning his steps toward
Barcelona.

He entered his home with a foreboding that almost made him tremble. The
sweet Cinta, considered until then with the protecting superiority of
the Orientals who do not recognize a soul in woman, now inspired him
with a certain fear. What would she say on seeing him?...

She said nothing of what he had feared. She permitted herself to be
embraced, and drooping her head, burst into desperate weeping, as
though the presence of her husband brought into higher relief the image
of her son whom she would never see again. Then she dried her tears,
and paler and sadder than ever, continued her habitual life.

Ferragut saw her as serene as a school-mistress, with her two little
nieces seated at her feet, keeping on with her eternal lace-work. She
forgot it only in order to attend to the care of her husband, occupying
herself with the very slightest details of his existence. That was her
duty. From childhood, she had known what are the obligations of the
wife of the captain of a ship when he stops at home for a few days,
like a bird of passage. But back of such attentions, Ulysses divined
the presence of an immovable obstacle. It was something enormous and
transparent that had interposed itself between the two. They saw each
other but without being able to touch each other. They were separated
by a distance, as hard and luminous as a diamond, that made every
attempt at drawing nearer together useless.

Cinta never smiled. Her eyes were dry, trying not to weep while her
husband was near her, but giving herself up freely to grief when she
was alone. Her duty was to make his existence bearable, hiding her
thoughts.

But this prudence of a good house-mistress was trampling under foot
their conjugal life of former times. One day Ferragut, with a return of
his old affection, and desiring to illuminate Cinta's twilight
existence with a pale ray of sunlight, ventured to caress her as in the
early days of their marriage. She drew herself up, modest and offended,
as though she had just received an insult. She escaped from his arms
with the energy of one who is repelling an outrage.

Ulysses looked upon a new woman, intensely pale, of an almost olive
countenance, the nose curved with wrath and a flash of madness in her
eyes. All that she was guarding in the depths of her thoughts came
forth, boiling over, expelled in a hoarse voice charged with tears.

"No, no!... We shall live together, because you are my husband and God
commands that it shall be so; but I no longer love you: I cannot love
you.... The wrong that you have done me!... I who loved you so much!...
However much you may hunt in your voyages and in your wicked
adventures, you will never find a woman that loves you as your wife has
loved you."

Her past of modest and submissive affection, of supine and tolerant
fidelity, now issued from her mouth in one interminable complaint.

"From our home my thoughts have followed you in all your voyages,
although I knew your forgetfulness and your infidelity. All the papers
found in your pockets, and photographs lost among your books, the
allusions of your comrades, your smiles of pride, the satisfied air
with which you many times returned, the series of new manners and
additional care of your person that you did not have when you left,
told me all.... I also suspected in your bold caresses the hidden
presence of other women who lived far away on the other side of the
world."

She stopped her turbulent language for a few moments, letting the blush
which her memories evoked fade away.

"I loathed it all," she continued. "I know the men of the sea; I am a
sailor's daughter. Many times I saw my mother weeping and pitied her
simplicity. There is no use weeping for what men do in distant lands.
It is always bitter enough for a woman who loves her husband, but it
has no bad consequences and must be pardoned.... But now.... _Now_!..."

The wife became irritated on recalling his recent infidelities.... Her
rivals were not the public women of the great ports, nor the tourists
who could give only a few days of love, like an alms which they tossed
without stopping their progress. Now he had become enamored with the
enthusiasm of a husky boy with an elegant and handsome dame, with a
foreign woman who had made him forget his business, abandon his ship,
and remain away, as though renouncing his family forever.... And poor
Esteban, orphaned by his father's forgetfulness, had gone in search of
him, with the adventurous impetuosity inherited from his ancestors: and
death, a horrible death, had come to meet him on the road.

Something more than the grief of the outraged wife vibrated in Cinta's
laments. It was the rivalry with that woman of Naples, whom she
believed a great lady with all the attractions of wealth and high
birth. She envied her superior weapons of seduction; she raged at her
own modesty and humility as a home-keeping woman.

"I was resolved to ignore it all," she continued. "I had one
consolation,--my son. What did it matter to me what you did?... You
were far off, and my son was living at my side.... And now I shall
never see him again!... My fate is to live eternally alone. You know
very well that I shall not be a mother again,--that I cannot give you
another son.... And it was you, you! who have robbed me of the only
thing that I had!..."

Her imagination invented the most improbable reasons for explaining to
herself this unjust loss.

"God wished to punish you for your bad life and has therefore killed
Esteban, and is slowly killing me.... When I learned of his death I
wished to throw myself off the balcony. I am still living because I am
a Christian, but what an existence awaits me! What a life for you if
you are really a father!... Think that your son might still be existing
if you had not remained in Naples."

Ferragut was a pitiful object. He hung his head without strength to
repeat the confused and lying protests with which he had received his
wife's first words.

"If she knew all the truth!" the voice of remorse kept saying in his
brain.

He was thinking with horror of what Cinta could say if she knew the
magnitude of his sin. Fortunately she was ignorant of the fact that he
had been of assistance to the assassins of their son.... And the
conviction that she never would know it made him admit her words with
silent humility,--the humility of the criminal who hears himself
accused of an offense by a judge ignorant of a still greater offense.

Cinta finished speaking in a discouraged and gloomy tone. She was
exhausted. Her wrath faded out, consumed by its own violence. Her sobs
cut short her words. Her husband would never again be the same man to
her; the body of their son was always interposing between the two.

"I shall never be able to love you.... What have you done, Ulysses?
What have you done that I should have such a horror of you?... When I
am alone I weep: my sadness is great, but I admit my sorrow with
resignation, as a thing inevitable.... As soon as I hear your
footsteps, the truth springs forth. I realize that my son has died
because of you, that he would still be living had he not gone in search
of you, trying to make you realize that you were a father and what you
owe to us.... And when I think of that I hate you, I _hate you_!... You
have murdered my son! My only consolation is in the belief that if you
have any conscience you will suffer even more than I."

Ferragut came out from this horrible scene with the conviction that he
would have to go away. That home was no longer his, neither was his
wife his. The reminder of death filled everything, intervening between
him and Cinta, pushing him away, forcing him again on the sea. His
vessel was the only refuge for the rest of his life, and he must resort
to it like the great criminals of other centuries who had taken refuge
in the isolation of monasteries.

He needed to vent his wrath on somebody, to find some responsible
person whom he might blame for his misfortunes. Cinta had revealed
herself to him as an entirely new being. He would never have suspected
such energy of character, such passionate vehemence, in his sweet,
obedient, little wife. She must have some counselor who was encouraging
her complaints and making her speak badly of her husband.

And he fixed upon Don Pedro, the professor, because there was still
deep within him a certain dislike of the man since the days of his
courtship. Besides, it offended him to see him in his home with a
certain air of a noble personage whose virtue served as foil for the
sins and shortcomings of the master of the house.

The professor evidently considered Ferragut on a level with all the
famous Don Juans,--liberal and care-free when in far-away homes,
punctilious and suspiciously correct in his own.

"That old blatherskite!" said Ulysses to himself, "is in love with
Cinta. It is a platonic passion: with him, it couldn't be anything
else. But it annoys me greatly.... I'm going to say a few things to
him."

Don Pedro, who was continuing his daily visits in order to console the
mother, speaking of poor Esteban as though he were his own son, and
casting servile smiles upon the captain, found himself intercepted by
him one afternoon, on the landing of the stairway.

The sailor aged suddenly while talking, and his features were accented
with a vigorous ugliness. At that moment he looked exactly like his
uncle, the _Triton_.

With a threatening voice, he recalled a classic passage well known to
the professor. His namesake, old Ulysses, upon returning to his palace,
had found Penelope surrounded with suitors and had ended by hanging
them on tenterhooks.

"Wasn't that the way of it, Professor?... I do not find here more than
one suitor, but this Ulysses swears to you that he will hang him in the
same way if he finds him again in his home."

Don Pedro fled. He had always found the rude heroes of the Odyssey very
interesting, but in verse and on paper. In reality they now seemed to
him most dangerous brutes, and he wrote a letter to Cinta telling her
that he would suspend his visits until her husband should have returned
to sea.

This insult increased the wife's distant bearing. She resented it as an
offense against herself. After having made her lose her son, Ulysses
was terrifying her only friend.

The captain felt obliged to go. By staying in that hostile atmosphere,
which was only sharpening his remorse, he would pile one error upon
another. Nothing but action could make him forget.

One day he announced to Toni that in a few hours he was going to weigh
anchor. He had offered his services to the allied navies in order to
carry food to the fleet in the Dardanelles. The _Mare Nostrum_ would
transport eatables, arms, munitions, aeroplanes.

Toni attempted objection. It would be easy to find trips equally
productive and much less dangerous; they might go to America....

"And my revenge?" interrupted Ferragut. "I am going to dedicate the
rest of my life to doing all the evil that I can to the assassins of my
son. The Allies need boats, I'm going to give them mine and my person."

Knowing what was troubling his mate, he added, "Besides, they pay well.
These trips are very remunerative.... They will give me whatever I
ask."

For the first time in his existence on board the _Mare Nostrum_, the
mate made a scornful gesture regarding the value of the cargo.

"I almost forgot," continued Ulysses, smiling in spite of his sadness.
"This trip flatters your ideals.... We are going to work for the
Republic."

They went to England and, taking on their cargo, set forth for the
Dardanelles. Ferragut wished to sail alone without the protection of
the destroyers that were escorting the convoys.

He knew the Mediterranean well. Besides, he was from a neutral country
and the Spanish flag was flying from the poop of his vessel. This abuse
of his flag did not produce the slightest remorse, nor did it appear as
disloyal to him. The German corsairs were coming closer to their prey,
displaying neutral flags, in order to deceive. The submarines were
remaining hidden behind pacific sailing ships in order to rise up
suddenly near defenseless vessels. The most felonious proceedings of
the ancient pirates had been resuscitated by the German fleet.

He was not afraid of the submarines. He trusted in the speed of the
_Mare Nostrum_ and in his lucky star.

"And if any of them should cross our path," he said to his second,
"just let them go before the prow!"

He wished this so that he could send his vessel upon the submersible at
full speed, daring it to come on.

The Mediterranean was no longer the same sea that it had been months
before when the captains knew all its secrets; he could no longer live
on it as confidently as in the house of a friend.

He stayed in his stateroom only to sleep. He and Toni spent long hours
on the bridge talking without seeing each other, with their eyes turned
on the sea, scanning the heaving blue surface. All the crew, excepting
those that were resting, felt the necessity of keeping the same watch.

In the daytime the slightest discovery would send the alarm from prow
to poop. All the refuse of the sea, that weeks before had splashed
unnoticed near the sides of the vessel, now provoked cries of
attention, and many arms were outstretched, pointing it out. Bits of
sticks, empty preserve cans sparkling in the sunlight, bunches of
seaweed, a sea gull with outspread wings letting itself rock on the
waves; everything made them think of the periscopes of the submarine
coming up to the water's level.

At night time the vigilance was even greater. To the danger of
submersibles must also be added that of collision. The warships and the
allied transports were traveling with few lights or completely dark.
The sentinels on the bridge were no longer scanning the surface of the
sea with its pale phosphorescence. Their gaze explored the horizon,
fearing that before the prow there might suddenly surge up an enormous,
swift, black form, vomited forth by the darkness.

If at any time the captain tarried in his stateroom, instantly that
fatal memory came to his mind.

"Esteban!... My son!..."

And his eyes were full of tears.

Remorse and wrath made him plan tremendous vengeance. He was convinced
that it would be impossible to carry it through, but it was a momentary
consolation to his meridional character predisposed to the most bloody
revenge.

One day, running over some forgotten papers in a suit-case, he came
across Freya's portrait. Upon seeing her audacious smile and her calm
eyes fixed upon him, he felt within him a shameful reversion. He
admired the beauty of this apparition, a thrill passing over his body
as their past intercourse recurred to him.... And at the same time that
other Ferragut existing within him thrilled with the murderous violence
of the Oriental who considers death as the only means of vengeance. She
was to blame for it all. "Ah!... _Tal_"

He tore up the photograph, but then he put the fragments together again
and finally placed them among his papers.

His wrath was changing its objective. Freya really was not the
principal person guilty of Esteban's death. He was thinking of that
other one, of the pretended diplomat, of that von Kramer who perhaps
had directed the torpedo which had blown his son to atoms.... Would he
not raise the devil if he could meet him sometime?... What happiness if
these two should find themselves face to face!

Finally he avoided the solitude of a stateroom that tormented him with
desires of impotent revenge. Near Toni on deck or on the bridge he felt
better.... And with a humble condescension, such as his mate had never
known before, he would talk and talk, enjoying the attention of his
simple-hearted listener, just as though he were telling marvelous
stories to a circle of children.

In the Strait of Gibraltar he explained to him the great currents sent
by the ocean into the Mediterranean, at certain times aiding the
screw-propeller in the propulsion of the vessel.

Without this Atlantic current the _mare nostrum_, which lost through
atmospheric evaporation much more water than the rains and rivers could
bring to it, would become dry in a few centuries. It had been
calculated that it might disappear in about four hundred and seventy
years, leaving as evidence of its former existence a stratum, of salt
fifty-two meters thick.

In its deep bosom were born great and numerous springs of fresh water,
on the coast of Asia Minor, in Morea, Dalmatia and southern Italy; it
received besides a considerable contribution from the Black Sea, which
on returning to the Mediterranean accumulated from the rains and the
discharge of its rivers, more water than it lost by evaporation,
sending it across the Bosporous and the Dardenelles in the form of a
superficial current. But all these tributaries, enormous as they were,
sank into insignificance when compared with the renovation of the
oceanic currents.

The waters of the Atlantic poured into the Mediterranean so riotously
that neither contrary winds nor reflex motion could stop them.
Sailboats sometimes had to wait entire months for a strong breeze that
would enable them to conquer the impetuous mouth of the strait.

"I know that very well," said Toni. "Once going to Cuba we were in
sight of Gibraltar more than fifty days, going backwards and forwards
until a favorable wind enabled us to overcome the current and go out
into the great sea."

"Just such a current," added Ferragut, "was one of the causes that
hastened the decadence of the Mediterranean navies in the sixteenth
century. They had to go to the recently discovered Indies, and the
Catalan or the Genoese ships would remain here in the strait weeks and
weeks, struggling with the wind and the contrary current while the
Galicians, the Basques, the French and the English who had left their
ports at the same time were already nearing America.... Fortunately,
navigation by steam has now equalized all that."

Toni was silently admiring his captain. What he must have learned in
those books that filled the stateroom!...

It was in the Mediterranean that men had first entrusted themselves to
the waves. Civilization emanated from India, but the Asiatic peoples
were not able to master the art of navigation in their few seas whose
coasts were very far apart and where the monsoons of the Indian Ocean
blew six months together in one direction and six months in another.

Not until he reached the Mediterranean by overland emigration did the
white man wish to become a sailor. This sea that, compared with others,
is a simple lake sown with archipelagoes, offered a good school. To
whatever wind he might set his sails, he would be sure to reach some
hospitable shore. The fresh and irregular breezes revolved with the sun
at certain times of the year. The hurricane whirled across its bowl,
but never stopped. There were no tides. Its harbors and water-ways were
never dry. Its coasts and islands were often so close together that you
could see from one to the other; its lands, beloved of heaven, were
recipients of the sun's sweetest smiles.

Ferragut recalled the men who had plowed this sea in centuries so
remote that history makes no mention of them. The only traces of their
existence now extant were the _nuraghs_ of Sardinia and the _talayots_
of the Balearic Islands,--gigantic tables formed with blocks, barbaric
altars of enormous rocks which recalled the Celtic obelisks and
sepulchral monuments of the Breton coast. These obscure people had
passed from isle to isle, from the extreme of the Mediterranean to the
strait which is its door.

The captain could imagine their rude craft made from trunks of trees
roughly planed, propelled by one oar, or rather by the stroke of a
stick, with no other aid than a single rudimentary sail spread to the
fresh breeze. The navy of the first Europeans had been like that of the
savages of the oceanic islands whose flotillas of tree trunks are still
actually going from archipelago to archipelago.

Thus they had dared to sally forth from the coast, to lose sight of
land, to venture forth into the blue desert, advised of the existence
of islands by the vaporous knobs of the mountains which were outlined
on the horizon at sunset. Every advance of this hesitating marine over
the Mediterranean had represented greater expenditure of audacity and
energy than the discovery of America or the first voyage around the
world.... These primitive sailors did not go forth alone to their
adventures on the sea; they were nations _en masse_, they carried with
them families and animals. Once installed on an island, the tribes sent
forth fragments of their own life, going to colonize other nearby lands
across the waves.

Ulysses and his mate thought much about the great catastrophes ignored
by history--the tempest surprising the sailing exodus, entire fleets of
rough rafts swallowed up by the abyss in a few moments, families dying
clinging to their domestic animals,--whenever they attempted a new
advance of their rudimentary civilization.

In order to form some idea of what these little embarkations were,
Ferragut would recall the fleets of Homeric form, created many
centuries afterwards. The winds used to impose a religious terror on
those warriors of the sea, reunited in order to fall upon Troy. Their
ships remained chained an entire year in the harbor of Aulis and,
through fear of the hostility of the wind and in order to placate the
divinity of the Mediterranean, they sacrificed the life of a virgin.

All was danger and mystery in the kingdom of the waves. The abysses
roared, the rocks moaned; on the ledges were singing sirens who, with
their music, attracted ships in order to dash them to pieces. There was
not an island without its particular god, without its monster and
cyclops, or its magician contriving artifices.

Before domesticating the elements, mankind had attributed to them their
most superstitious fears.

A material factor had powerfully influenced the dangers of
Mediterranean life. The sand, moved by the caprice of the current, was
constantly ruining the villages or raising them to peaks of unexpected
prosperity. Cities celebrated in history were to-day no more than
streets of ruins at the foot of a hillock crowned with the remains of a
Phoenician, Roman, Byzantine or Saracen castle, or with a fortress
contemporary with the Crusades. In other centuries these had been
famous ports; before their walls had taken place naval battles; now
from their ruined acropolis one could scarcely see the Mediterranean
except as a light blue belt at the end of a low and marshy plain. The
accumulating sand had driven the sea back miles.... On the other hand,
inland cities had come to be places of embarkation because of the
continual perforation of the waves that were forcing their way in.

The wickedness of mankind had imitated the destructive work of nature.
When a maritime republic conquered a rival republic, the first thing
that it thought of was to obstruct its harbor with sand and stones in
order to divert the course of its waters so as to convert it into an
inland city, thereby ruining its fleets and its traffic. The Genoese,
triumphant over Pisa, stopped up its harbor with the sands of the Arno;
and the city of the first conquerors of Mallorca, of the navigators to
the Holy Land, of the Knights of St. Stephen, guardians of the
Mediterranean, came to be Pisa the Dead,--a settlement that knew the
sea only by hearsay.

"Sand," continued Ferragut, "has changed the commercial routes and
historic destinies of the Mediterranean."

Of the many deeds which had stretched along the scenes of the _mare
nostrum_, the most famous in the captain's opinion was the unheard-of
epic of Roger de Flor which he had known from childhood through the
stories told him by the poet Labarta, by the _Triton_, and by that poor
secretary who was always dreaming of the great past of the Catalan
marine.

All the world was now talking about the blockade of the Dardanelles.
The boats that furrowed the Mediterranean, merchant vessels as well as
battleships, were furthering the great military operation that was
developing opposite Gallipoli. The name of the long, narrow maritime
pass which separates Europe and Asia was in every mouth. To-day the
eyes of mankind were converged on this point just as, in remote
centuries, they had been fixed on the war of Troy.

"We also have been there," said Ferragut with pride. "The Dardanelles
have been frequented for many years by the Catalans and the Aragonese.
Gallipoli was one of our cities governed by the Valencian, Ramon
Muntaner."

And he began the story of the Almogavars in the Orient, that romantic
Odyssey across the ancient Asiatic provinces of the Roman Empire that
ended only with the founding of the Spanish duchy of Athens and
Neopatria in the city of Pericles and Minerva. The chronicles of the
Oriental Middle Ages, the books of Byzantine chivalry, the fantastic
tales of the Arab do not contain more improbable and dramatic
adventures than the warlike enterprises of these Argonauts coming from
the valleys of the Pyrenees, from the banks of the Ebro, and from the
Moorish gardens of Valencia.

"Eighty years," said Ferragut, terminating his account of the glorious
adventures of Roger de Flor around Gallipoli, "the Spanish duchy of
Athens and Neopatria flourished. Eighty years the Catalans governed
these lands."

And he pointed out on the horizon the place where the red haze of
distant promontories and mountains outlined the Grecian land.

Such a duchy was in reality a republic. Athens and Thebes were
administered in accordance with the laws of Aragon and its code was
"The book of Usages and Customs of the City of Barcelona." The Catalan
tongue ruled as the official language in the country of Demosthenes,
and the rude Almogavars married with the highest ladies of the country.

The Parthenon was still intact as in the glorious times of ancient
Athens. The august monument of Minerva converted into a Christian
church, had not undergone any other modification than that of seeing a
new goddess on its altars, _La Virgen Santisima_.

And in this thousand-year-old temple of sovereign beauty the _Te Deum_
was sung for eighty years in honor of the Aragonese dukes, and the
clergy preached in the Catalan tongue.

The republic of adventurers did not bother with constructing nor
creating. There does not remain on the Grecian land any trace of their
dominion,--edifices, seals, nor coins. Only a few noble families,
especially in the islands, took the Catalan patronym.

"Although they yet remember us confusedly, they do remember us," said
Ferragut. "'May the vengeance of the Catalans overtake you' was for
many centuries the worst of curses in Greece."

Thus terminated the most glorious and bloody of the Mediterranean
adventures of the Middle Ages,--the clash of western crudeness, almost
savage but frank and noble, against the refined malice and decadent
civilization of the Greeks,--childish and old at the same time,--which
survived in Byzantium.

Ferragut felt a pleasure in these relations of imperial splendor,
palaces of gold, epic encounters and furious frays, while his ship was
navigating through the black night and bounding over the dark sea
accompanied by the throbbing of machinery and the noisy thrum of the
screw, at times out of the water during the furious rocking from prow
to poop.

They were in the worst place in the Mediterranean where the winds
coming from the narrow passage of the Adriatic, from the steppes of
Asia Minor, from the African deserts and from the gap of Gibraltar
tempestuously mingled their atmospheric currents. The waters boxed in
among the numerous islands of the Grecian archipelago were writhing in
opposite directions, enraged and clashing against the ledges on the
coast with a retrograding violence that converted them into a furious
surge.

The captain, hooded like a friar and bowed before the wind that was
striving to snatch him from the bridge, kept talking and talking to his
mate, standing immovable near him and also covered with a waterproof
coat that was spouting moisture from every fold. The rain was streaking
with light, cobwebby lines the slaty darkness, of the night. The two
sailors felt as though icy nettles were falling upon face and hands
across the darkness.

Twice they anchored near the island of Tenedos, seeing the movable
archipelago of ironclads enveloped in floating veils of smoke. There
came to their ears, like incessant thunderings, the echo of the cannons
that were roaring at the entrance of the Dardanelles.

From afar off they perceived the sensation caused by the loss of some
English and French ships. The current of the Black Sea was the best
armor for the defenders of this aquatic defile against the attacks of
the fleets. They had only to throw into the strait a quantity of
floating mines and the blue river which slipped by the Dardanelles
would drag these toward the boats, destroying them with an infernal
explosion. On the coast of Tenedos the Hellenic women with their
floating hair were tossing flowers into the sea in memory of the
victims, with a theatrical grief similar to that of the heroines of
ancient Troy whose ramparts were buried in the hills opposite.

The third trip in mid-winter was a very hard one, and at the end of a
rainy night, when the faint streaks of dawn were beginning to dissipate
the sluggish shadows, the _Mare Nostrum_ arrived at the roadstead of
Salonica.

Only once had Ferragut been in this port, many years before, when it
still belonged to the Turks. At first he saw only some lowlands on
which twinkled the last gleams from the lighthouses. Then he recognized
the roadstead, a vast aquatic extension with a frame of sandy bars and
pools reflecting the uncertain life of daybreak. The recently awakened
sea-gulls were flying in groups over the immense marine bowl. At the
mouth of the Vardar the fresh-water fowls were starting up with noisy
cries, or standing on the edge of the bank immovable upon their long
legs.

Opposite the prow, a city was rising up out of the albuminous waves of
fog. In a bit of the clear, blue sky appeared various minarets, their
peaks sparkling with the fires of Aurora. As the vessel advanced, the
morning clouds vanished, and Salonica became entirely visible from the
cluster of huts at her wharves to the ancient castle topping the
heights, a fortress of ruddy towers, low and strong.

Near the water's edge, the entire length of the harbor, were the
European constructions, commercial houses with gold-lettered signs,
hotels, banks, moving-picture shows, concert halls, and a massive tower
with another smaller one upon it,--the so-called White Tower, a remnant
of the Byzantine fortifications.

In this European conglomerate were dark gaps, open passageways, the
mouths of sloping streets climbing to the hillock above, crossing the
Grecian, Mohammedan and Jewish quarters until they reached a table-land
covered with lofty edifices between dark points of cypress.

The religious diversity of the Oriental Mediterranean made Salonica
bristle with cupolas and towers. The Greek temple threw into prominence
the gilded bulbs of its roof; the Catholic church made the cross
glisten from the peak of its bell-tower; the synagogue of geometrical
forms overflowed in a succession of terraces; the Mohammedan minaret
formed a colonnade, white, sharp and slender. Modern life had added
factory chimneys and the arms of steam-cranes which gave an
anachronistic effect to this decoration of an Oriental harbor. Around
the city and its acropolis was the plain which lost itself in the
horizon,--a plain that Ferragut, on a former voyage, had seen desolate
and monotonous, with few houses and sparsely cultivated, with no other
Vegetation except that in the little oases of the Mohammedan cemetery.
This desert extended to Greece and Servia or to the borders of Bulgaria
and Turkey.

Now the brownish-gray steppes coming out from the fleecy fog of
daybreak were palpitating with new life. Thousands and thousands of men
were encamped around the city, occupying new villages made of canvas,
rectangular streets of tents, cities of wooden cabins, and
constructions as big as churches whose canvas walls were trembling
under the violent squalls of wind.

Through his glasses, Ulysses could see warlike hosts occupied with the
business of caring for strings of riderless horses that were going to
watering places, parks of artillery with their cannon upraised like the
tubes of a telescope, enormous birds with yellow wings that were trying
to skip along the earth's surface with a noisy bumping, gradually
reappearing in space with their waxy wings glistening in the first
shafts of sunlight.

All the allied army of the Orient returning from the bloody and
mistaken adventure of the Dardanelles or proceeding from Marseilles and
Gibraltar were massing themselves around Salonica.

The _Mare Nostrum_ anchored at the wharves filled with boxes and bales.
War had given a much greater activity to this port than in times of
peace. Steamers of all the allied and neutral flags were unloading
eatables and military materials.

They were coming from every continent, from every ocean, drawn thither
by the tremendous necessities of a modern army. They were unloading
harvests from entire provinces, unending herds of oxen and horses, tons
upon tons of steel, prepared for deadly work, and human crowds lacking
only a tail of women and children to be like the great martial exoduses
of history. Then taking on board the residuum of war, arms needing
repair, wounded men, they would begin their return trip.

These cargoes quietly transported through the darkness in spite of bad
times and the submarine threats, were preparing the ultimate victory.
Many of these steamers were formerly luxurious vessels, but now
commandeered by military necessity, were dirty and greasy and used as
cargo boats. Lined up, drowsing along the docks, ready to begin their
work, were new hospital ships, the more fortunate transatlantic liners
that still retained a certain trace of their former condition, quite
clean with a red cross painted on their sides and another on their
smokestacks.

Some of the transports had reached Salonica most miraculously. Their
crews would relate with the fatalistic serenity of men of the sea how
the torpedo had passed at a short distance from their hulls. A damaged
steamer lay on its side, with only the keel submerged, all its red
exterior exposed to the air; on its water-line there had opened a
breach, angular in outline. Upon looking from the deck into the depths
of its hold filled with water, there might be seen a great gash in its
side like the mouth of a luminous cavern.

Ferragut, while his boat was discharging its cargo under Toni's
supervision, passed his days ashore, visiting the city.

From the very first moment he was attracted by the narrow lanes of the
Turkish quarters--their white houses with protruding balconies covered
with latticed blinds like cages painted red; the little mosques with
their patios of cypresses and fountains of melancholy tinkling; the
tombs of Mohammedan dervishes in kiosks which block the streets under
the pale reflection of a lamp; the women veiled with their black
_firadjes_; and the old men who, silent and thoughtful under their
scarlet caps, pass along swaying to the staggering of the ass on which
they are mounted.

The great Roman way between Rome and Byzantium, the ancient road of the
blue flagstones, passed through a street of modern Salonica. Still a
part of its pavement remained and appeared gloriously obstructed by an
arch of triumph near whose weatherbeaten stone base were working
barefooted bootblacks wearing the scarlet fez.

An endless variety of uniforms filed through the streets, and this
diversity in attire as well as the ethnical difference in the men who
wore it was very noticeable. The soldiers of France and the British
Isles touched elbows with the foreign troops. The allied governments
had sent out a call to the professional combatants and volunteers of
their colonies. The black sharpshooters from the center of Africa
showed their smiling teeth of marble to the bronze giants with huge
white turbans who had come from India. The hunters from the glacial
plains of Canada were fraternizing with the volunteers from Australia
and New Zealand.

The cataclysm of the world war had dragged mankind from the antipodes
to this drowsy little corner of Greece where were again repeated the
invasions of remote centuries which had made ancient Thessalonica bow
to the conquest of Bulgarians, Byzantians, Saracens, and Turks.

The crews of the battleships in the roadstead had just added to this
medley of uniforms the monotonous note of their midnight blue, almost
like that of all the navies of the world.... And to the military
amalgamation was also added the picturesque variety of civil
dress,--the hybrid character of the neighborhood of Salonica, composed
of various races and religions that were mingled together without
confusing their individuality. Files of black tunics and hats with
brimless crowns passed through the streets, near the Catholic priests
or the rabbis with their long, loose gowns. In the outskirts might be
seen men almost naked, with no other clothing than a sheep-skin tunic,
guiding flocks of pigs, just like the shepherds in the Odyssey.
Dervishes, with their aspect of dementia, chanted motionless in a
crossway, enveloped in clouds of flies, awaiting the aid of the good
believers.

A great part of the population was composed of Israelitish descendants
of the Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal. The oldest and most
conservative were clad just like their remote ancestors with large
kaftans striped with striking colors. The women, when not imitating the
European fashions, usually wore a picturesque garment that recalled the
Spanish apparel of the Middle Ages. Here they were not mere brokers or
traders as in the rest of the world. The necessities of the city
dominated by them had made them pick up all the professions, becoming
artisans, fishermen, boatmen, porters and stevedores of the harbor.
They still kept the Castilian tongue as the language of the hearth like
an original flag whose waving reunited their scattered souls,--a
Castilian in the making, soft and without consistency like one
newly-born.

"Are you a Spaniard?" they said brokenly to Captain Ferragut. "My
ancestors were born there. It is a beautiful land."

But they did not wish to return to it. The country of their grandsires
inspired a certain amount of terror in them, and they feared that upon
seeing them return, the present-day Spaniards would banish the
bullfights and reëstablish the Inquisition, organizing an _auto de fé_
every Sunday.

Hearing them speak his language, the captain recalled a certain
date--1492. In the very year that Christopher Columbus had made his
first voyage, discovering the Indies, the Jews were expelled from the
Spanish peninsula, and Nebrija brought out the first Castilian grammar.
These Spaniards had left their native land months before their idiom
had been codified for the first time.

A sailor of Genoa, an old friend of Ulysses, took him to one of the
harbor cafés, where the merchant captains used to gather together.
These were the only ones wearing civilian clothes among the crowds of
land and sea officers who crowded the divans, obstructed the tables,
and grouped themselves before the doorway.

These Mediterranean vagabonds who oftentimes could not converse
together because of the diversity of their native idiom, instinctively
sought each other out, keeping near together in a fraternal silence.
Their passive heroism was in many instances more admirable than that of
the men of war, who were able to return blow for blow. All the officers
of the different fleets, seated near them, had at their disposition
cannon, ram, torpedo, great speed and aerial telegraphy. These valorous
muleteers of the sea defied the enemy in defenseless boats without
wireless and without cannons. Sometimes when searching all the men of
the crew, not a single revolver would be found among them, and yet
these brave fellows were daring the greatest adventures with
professional fatalism, and trusting to luck.

In the social groups of the cafe the captains would sometimes relate
their encounters on the sea, the unexpected appearance of a submarine,
the torpedo missing aim a few yards away, the flight at full speed
while being shelled by their pursuers. They would flame up for an
instant upon recalling their danger, and then relapse into indifference
and fatalism.

"If I've got to die by drowning," they would always conclude, "it would
be useless for me to try to avoid it."

And they would hasten their departure in order to return a month later
transporting a regular fortune in their vessel, completely alone,
preferring free and wary navigation to the journey in convoy, slipping
along from island to island and from coast to coast in order to outwit
the submersibles.

They were far more concerned about the state of their ships, that for
more than a year had not been cleaned, than about the dangers of
navigation. The captains of the great liners lamented their luxurious
staterooms converted into dormitories for the troops, their polished
decks that had been turned into stables, their dining-room where they
used to sit among people in dress suits and low-neck gowns, which had
now to be sprayed with every class of disinfectant in order to repel
the invasion of vermin, and the animal odors of so many men and beasts
crowded together.

The decline of the ships appeared to be reflected in the bearing of
their captains, more careless than before, worse dressed, with the
military slovenliness of the trench-fighter, and with calloused hands
as badly cared for as those of a stevedore.

Among the naval men also there were some who had completely neglected
their appearance. These were the commanders of "chaluteros," little
ocean fishing steamers armed with a quickfirer, which had come into the
Mediterranean to pursue the submersible. They wore oilskins and
tarpaulins, just like the North Sea fishermen, smacking of fuel and
tempestuous water. They would pass weeks and weeks on the sea whatever
the weather, sleeping in the bottom of the hold that smelled
offensively of rancid fish, keeping on patrol no matter how the tempest
might roar, bounding from wave to wave like a cork from a bottle, in
order to repeat the exploits of the ancient corsairs.

Ferragut had a relative in the army which was assembling at Salonica
making ready for the inland march. As he did not wish to go away
without seeing the lad he passed several mornings making investigations
in the offices of the general staff.

This relative was his nephew, a son of Blanes, the manufacturer of knit
goods, who had fled from Barcelona at the outbreak of the war with
other boys devoted to singing _Los Segadores_ and perturbing the
tranquillity of the "Consul of Spain" sent by Madrid. The son of the
pacific Catalan citizen had enlisted in the battalion of the Foreign
Legion made up to a great extent of Spaniards and Spanish-Americans.

Blanes had asked the captain to see his son. He was sad yet at the same
time proud of this romantic adventure blossoming out so unexpectedly in
the utilitarian and monotonous existence of the family. A boy that had
such a great future in his father's factory!... And then he had related
to Ulysses with shaking voice and moist eyes the achievements of his
son,--wounded in Champagne, two citations and the _Croix de Guerre_.
Who would ever have imagined that he could be such a hero!... Now his
battalion was in Salonica after having fought in the Dardanelles.

"See if you can't bring him back with you," repeated Blanes. "Tell him
that his mother is going to die of grief.... You can do so much!"

But all that Captain Ferragut could do was to obtain a permit and an
old automobile with which to visit the encampment of the legionaries.

The arid plain around Salonica was crossed by numerous roads. The
trains of artillery, the rosaries of automobiles, were rolling over
recently opened roads that the rain had converted into mire. The mud
was the worst calamity that could befall this plain, so extremely dusty
in dry weather.

Ferragut passed two long hours, going from encampment to encampment,
before reaching his destination. His vehicle frequently had to stop in
order to make way for interminable files of trucks. At other times
machine-guns, big guns dragged by tractors, and provision cars with
pyramids of sacks and boxes, blocked their road.

On all sides were thousands and thousands of soldiers of different
colors and races. The captain recalled the great invasions of
history--Xerxes, Alexander, Genghis-Khan, all the leaders of men who
had made their advance carrying villages _en masse_ behind their
horses, transforming the servants of the earth into fighters. There
lacked only the soldierly women, the swarms of children, to complete
exactly the resemblance to the martial exoduses of the past.

In half an hour more he was able to embrace his nephew, who was with
two other volunteers, an Andulasian and a South American,--the three
united by brotherhood of birth and by their continual familiarity with
death.

Ferragut took them to the canteen of a trader established near the
cantonment. The customers were seated under a sail-cloth awning before
boxes that had contained munitions and were converted into office
tables. This discomfort was surpassed by the prices. In no Palace Hotel
would drink have cost such an extraordinary sum.

In a few moments the sailor felt a fraternal affection for these three
youths to whom he gave the nickname of the "Three Musketeers," He
wished to treat them to the very best which the canteen afforded, so
the proprietor produced a bottle of champagne or rather ptisan from
Rheims, presenting it as though it were an elixir fabricated of gold.

The amber liquid, bubbling in the glasses, seemed to bring the three
youths back to their former existence. Boiled by the sun and the
inclemency of the weather, habituated to the hard life of war, they had
almost forgotten the softness and luxuriant conveniences of former
years.

Ulysses examined them attentively. In the course of the campaign they
had grown with youth's last rapid growth. Their arms were sticking out
to an ungainly degree from the sleeves of their coats, already too
short for them. The rude gymnastic exercise of the marches, with the
management of the shovel, had broadened their wrists and calloused
their hands.

The memory of his own son surged up in his memory. If only he could see
him thus, made into a soldier like his cousin! See him enduring all the
hardships of military existence ... but living!

In order not to be too greatly moved, he drank and paid close attention
to what the three youths were saying. Blanes, the legionary, as
romantic as the son of a merchant bent upon adventure should be, was
talking of the daring deeds of the troops of the Orient with all the
enthusiasm of his twenty-two years. There wasn't time to throw
themselves upon the Bulgarians with bayonets and arrive at
Adrianopolis. As a Catalan, this war in Macedonia was touching him very
close.

"We are going to avenge Roger de Flor," he said gravely.

And his uncle wanted to weep and to laugh before this simple faith
comparable only to the retrospective memory of the poet Labarta and
that village secretary who was always lamenting the remote defeat of
Ponza.

Blanes explained like a knight-errant the impulse that had called him
to the war. He wanted to fight for the liberty of all oppressed
nations, for the resurrection of all forgotten nationalities,--Poles,
Czechs, Jugo-Slavs.... And very simply, as though he were saying
something indisputable, he included Catalunia among the people who were
weeping tears of blood under the lashes of the tyrant. Thereupon his
companion, the Andalusian, burst forth indignantly. They passed their
time arguing furiously, exchanging insults and continually seeking each
other's company as though they couldn't live apart.

The Andalusian was not battling for the liberty of this or that people.
He had a longer range of vision. He was not near-sighted and egoistic
like his friend, "the Catalan." He was giving his blood in order that
the whole world might be free and that all monarchies should disappear.

"I am battling for France because it is the country of the great
Revolution. Its former history makes no difference to me, for we still
have kings of our own, but dating from the 14th of July, whatever
France is, I consider mine and the property of all mankind."

He stopped a few seconds, searching for a more concrete affirmation.

"I am fighting, Captain, because of Danton and Hoche."

Ferragut in his imagination saw the white, disheveled hair of Michelet
and the romantic foretop of Lamartine upon a double pedestal of volumes
which used to contain the story-poem of the Revolution.

"And I am also fighting for France," concluded the lad triumphantly,
"because it is the country of Victor Hugo."

Ulysses suspected that this twenty-year-old Republican was probably
hiding in his knapsack a blank book full of original verses written in
lead pencil.

The South American, accustomed to the disputes of his two companions,
looked at his black fingernails with the melancholy desperation of a
prophet contemplating his country in ruins. Blanes, the son of a
middle-class citizen, used to admire him for his more distinguished
family. The day of the mobilization he had gone to Paris in an
automobile of fifty horse-power to enroll as a volunteer; he and his
chauffeur had enlisted together. Then he had donated his luxurious
vehicle to the cause.

He had wished to be a soldier because all the young fellows in his club
were leaving for the war. Furthermore, he felt greatly flattered that
his latest sweetheart, seeing him in uniform, should devote a few tears
of admiration and astonishment to him. He had felt the necessity of
producing a touching effect upon all the ladies that had danced the
tango with him up to the week before. Besides that, the millions of his
grandfather, "the Galician," held rather tight by his father, the
Creole, were slipping through his hands.

"This experience is lasting too long, Captain."

In the beginning he had believed in a six months' war. The shells
didn't trouble him much; for him the terrible things were the vermin,
the impossibility of changing his clothing, and being deprived of his
daily bath. If he could ever have supposed!...

And he summed up his enthusiasm with this affirmation:

"I am fighting for France because it is a _chic_ country. Only in Paris
do the women know how to dress. Those Germans, no matter how much they
try, will always be very ordinary."

It was not necessary to add anything to this. All had been said.

The three recalled the hellish months suffered recently in the
Dardanelles, in a space of three miles conquered by the bayonet. A rain
of projectiles had fallen incessantly upon them. They had had to live
underground like moles and, even so, the explosion of the great shells
sometimes reached them.

In this tongue of land opposite Troy through which had slipped the
remote history of humanity, their shovels, on opening the trenches, had
stumbled upon the rarest finds. One day Blanes and his companions had
excavated pitchers, statuettes, and plates centuries old. At other
times, when opening trenches that had served as cemeteries for Turks,
they had hacked into repulsive bits of pulp exhaling an insufferable
odor. Self-defense had obliged the legionaries to live with their faces
on a level with the corpses that were piled up in the vertical yard of
removed earth.

"The dead are like the truffles in a pie," said the South American. "An
entire day I had to remain with my nose touching the intestines of a
Turk who had died two weeks before.... No, war is not _chic_, Captain,
no matter how much they talk of heroism and sublime things in the
newspapers and books."

Ulysses wished to see the three musketeers again before leaving
Salonica, but the battalion had broken camp and was now situated
several kilometers further inland, opposite the first Bulgarian lines.
The enthusiastic Blanes had already fired his gun against the assassins
of Roger de Flor.

In the middle of November the _Mare Nostrum_ arrived at Marseilles. Its
captain always felt a certain admiration upon doubling Cape Croisette,
and noting the vast maritime curves opening out before the prow. In the
center of it was an abrupt and bare hill, jutting into the sea,
sustaining on its peak the basilica and square-sided tower of
_Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde._

Marseilles was the metropolis of the Mediterranean, the terminal for
all the navigators of the _mare nostrum_. In its bay with choppy waves
were various yellowish islands fringed with foam and upon one of these
the strong towers of the romantic _Château d'If_.

All the crew, from Ferragut down to the lowest seaman, used to look
upon this city somewhat as their own when they saw, appearing in the
background of the bay, its forests of masts and its conglomeration of
gray edifices upon which sparkled the Byzantian domes of the new
cathedral. Around Marseilles there opened out a semi-circle of dry and
barren heights brightly colored by the sun of Provence and spotted by
white cottages and hamlets, and the pleasure villas of the merchants of
the city. On beyond this semi-circle the horizon was bounded by an
amphitheater of rugged and gloomy mountains.

On former trips the sight of the gigantic gilded Virgin which glistened
like a shaft of fire on the top of _Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde_ shed an
atmosphere of joy over the bridge of the vessel.

"Marseilles, Toni," the captain used to say gayly. "I invite you to a
_bouillabaisse_ at Pascal's."

And Toni's hairy countenance would break into a greedy smile, seeing in
anticipation the famous restaurant of the port, its twilight shadows
smelling of shell-fish and spicy sauces, and upon the table the deep
dish of fish with its succulent broth tinged with saffron.

But now Ulysses had lost his vigorous joy in living. He looked at the
city with kindly but sad eyes. He could see himself disembarking there
that last time, sick, without will-power, overwhelmed by the tragic
disappearance of his son.

The _Mare Nostrum_ approached the mouth of the old harbor having at its
right the batteries of the _Phare_. This old port was the most
interesting souvenir of ancient Marseilles, penetrating like an aquatic
knife into the heart of its clustered homes. The city extended along
the wharves. It was an enormous stretch of water into which all the
streets flowed; but its area was now so insufficient for the maritime
traffic that eight new harbors were gradually covering the north shore
of the bay.

An interminable jetty, a breakwater longer than the city itself, was
parallel to the coast, and in the space between the shore and this
obstacle which made the waves foam and roar were eight roomy
communicating harbors stretching from Joliette at the entrance to the
one which, farthest away, is connected inland by the great subterranean
canal, putting the city in communication with the Rhone.

Ferragut had seen anchored in this succession of harbors the navies of
every land and even of every epoch. Near to the enormous transatlantic
liners were some very ancient tartans and some Greek boats, heavy and
of archaic form, which recalled the fleets described in the Iliad.

On the wharves swarmed all kinds of Mediterranean men,--Greeks from the
continent and from the islands, Levantines from the coast of Asia,
Spaniards, Italians, Algerians, Moroccans, Egyptians. Many had kept
their original costume and to this varied picturesque garb was united a
diversity of tongues, some of them mysterious and well-nigh extinct. As
though infected by the oral confusion, the French themselves began to
forget their native language, speaking the dialect of Marseilles, which
preserves indelible traces of its Greek origin.

The _Mare Nostrum_ crossed the outer port, the inner harbor of
Joliette, and slipped slowly along past groups of pedestrians and carts
that were waiting the closing of the steel drawbridge now opening
before their prow. Then they cast anchor in the basin of Arenc near the
docks.

When Ferragut could go ashore he noticed the great transformation which
this port had undergone in war times.

The traffic of the times of peace with its infinite variety of wares no
longer existed. On the wharves there were piled up only the monotonous
and uniform loads of provisions and war material.

The legions of longshoremen had also disappeared. They were all in the
trenches. The sidewalks were now swept by women, and squads of
Senegalese sharpshooters were unloading the cargoes,--shivering with
cold in the sunny winter days, and bent double as though dying under
the rain or the breeze of the Mistral. They were working with red caps
pulled down over their ears, and at the slightest suspension of their
labor would hasten to put their hands in the pockets of their coats.
Sometimes when formed in vociferating groups around a case that four
men could have moved in ordinary times, the passing of a woman or a
vehicle would make them neglect their work, their diabolical faces
filled with childish curiosity.

The unloaded cargoes piled up the same articles on the principal
docks,--wheat, much wheat, sulphur and saltpeter for the composition of
explosive material. On other piers were lined up, by the thousands,
pairs of gray wheels, the support of cannons and trucks; boxes as big
as dwellings that contained aeroplanes; huge pieces of steel that
served as scaffolding for heavy artillery; great boxes of guns and
cartridges; huge cases of preserved food and sanitary supplies,--all
the provisioning of the army struggling in the extreme end of the
Mediterranean.

Various squads of men, preceded and followed by bayonets, were marching
with rhythmic tread from one port to another. They were German
prisoners,--rosy and happy, in spite of their captivity, still wearing
their uniforms of green cabbage color, with round caps on their shaved
heads. They were going to work on the vessels, loading and unloading
the material that was to serve for the extermination of their
compatriots and friends.

The ships at the docks seemed to be increasing in size, for on arrival
they had extended only a few yards above the wharf; but now that their
cargo was piled up on land, they appeared like towering fortresses.
Two-thirds of the hull, usually hidden in the water, were now in
evidence, showing the bright red of their curved shell. Only the keel
kept itself in the water. The upper third, that which remained visible
above the line of flotation in ordinary times, was now a simple black
cornice that capped the long purple walls. The masts and smokestacks
diminished by this transformation appeared to belong to other smaller
boats.

Each of these merchant and peaceful steamers carried a quickfirer at
the stern in order to protect itself from the submarine corsairs.
England and France had mobilized their tramp ships and were beginning
to supply them with means of defense. Some of them had not been able to
mount their cannon upon a fixed gun carriage, and so carried a field
gun with its mouth sticking out between the wheels bolted to the deck.

The captain in all his strolls invariably felt attracted by the famous
Cannebiere, that engulfing roadway which sucks in the entire activity
of Marseilles.

Some days a fresh and violent wind would eddy through, littering it
with dust and papers, and the waiters of the cafes would have to furl
the great awnings as though they were the sails of a vessel. The
Mistral was approaching and every owner of an establishment was
ordering this maneuver in order to withstand the icy hurricane that
overturns tables, snatches away chairs, and carries off everything
which is not secured with marine cables.

To Ferragut this famous avenue of Marseilles was a reminder of the
antechamber of Salonica. The same types from the army of the East
crowded its sidewalks,--English dressed in khaki, Canadians and
Australians in hats with up-turned brims, tall, slender Hindoos with
coppery complexion and thick fan-shaped beards, Senegalese
sharpshooters of a glistening black, and Anammite marksmen with round
yellow countenance and eyes forming a triangle. There was a continual
procession of dark trucks driven by soldiers, automobiles full of
officers, droves of mules coming from Spain that were going to be
shipped to the Orient, leaving behind their quick-trotting hoofs a
pungent and penetrating smell of the stable.

The old harbor attracted Ferragut because of its antiquity which was
almost as remote as that of the first Mediterranean navigations. On
passing before the Palace of the Bourse he shot a glance at the statue
of the two great Marseillaise navigators,--Eutymenes and Pytas,--the
most remote ancestors of Mediterranean navigators. One had explored the
coast of Senegambia, the other had gone further up to Ireland and the
Orkney Islands.

The ancient Greek colony had been, during long centuries, supplanted by
others,--Venice, Genoa and Barcelona having held it in humble
subjection. But when those had fallen and its hour of prosperity
returned, that prosperity was accompanied by all the advantages of the
present day. Steam machinery had been invented and boats were easily
able to overcome the obstacles of the Strait of Cadiz without being
obliged to wait weeks until the violence of the current sent by the
Atlantic should abate. Industrialism was born and inland factories sent
forward, over the recently-installed railroads, a downpour of products
that the fleets were transporting to all the Mediterranean towns.
Finally, upon the opening of the Isthmus of Suez, the city unfolded in
a prodigious way, becoming a world port, putting itself in touch with
the entire earth, multiplying its harbors, which became gigantic marine
sheepfolds where vessels of every flag were gathered together in herds.

The old port, boxed in the city, changed its aspect according to the
time and state of the atmosphere. On calm mornings it was a yellowish
green and smelled slightly of stale water,--organic water, animal
water. The oyster stands established on its wharfs appeared sprinkled
with this water impregnated by shell fish.

On the days of a strong wind the waters turned a terrible dark green,
forming choppy and continuous waves with a light yellowish foam. The
boats would begin to dance, creaking and tugging at their hawsers.
Between their hulls and the vertical surface of the wharfs would be
formed mountains of restless rubbish eaten underneath by the fish and
pecked above by the sea-gulls.

Ferragut saw the swift torpedo destroyers dancing at the slightest
undulation upon their cables of twisted steel, and examined the
improvised submarine-chasers, robust and short little steamers,
constructed for fishing, that carried quickfirers on their prows. All
these vessels were painted a metallic gray to make them
indistinguishable from the color of the water, and were going in and
out of the harbor like sentinels changing watch.

They mounted guard out on the high sea beyond the rocky and desert
islands that closed the bay of Marseilles, accosting the incoming ships
in order to recognize their nationality or running at full speed, with
their wisps of horizontal smoke toward the point where they expected to
surprise the periscope of the enemy hidden between two waters. There
was no weather bad enough to terrify them or make them drowsy. In the
wildest storms they kept the coast in view, leaping from wave to wave,
and only when others came to relieve them would they return to the old
port to rest a few hours at the entrance of the Cannebière.

The narrow passageways of the right bank attracted Ferragut. This was
ancient Marseilles in which may still be seen some ruined palaces of
the merchants and privateers of other centuries. On these narrow and
filthy slopes lived the bedizened and dismal prostitutes of the entire
maritime city.

In this district were huddled together the warriors of the
French-African colonies, impelled by their ardor of race and by their
desire to free themselves gluttonously from the restrictions of their
Mahommedan country where the women live in jealous seclusion. On every
corner were groups of Moroccan infantry, recently disembarked or
convalescing from wounds, young soldiers with red caps and long cloaks
of mustard yellow. The Zouaves of Algiers conversed with them in a
Spanish spattered with Arabian and French. Negro youths who worked as
stokers in the vessels, came up the steep, narrow streets with eyes
sparkling restlessly as though contemplating wholesale rapine. Under
the doorways disappeared grave Moorish horsemen, trailing long garments
fastened at the head in a ball of whiteness, or garbed in purplish
mantles, with sharp pointed hoods that gave them the aspect of bearded,
crimson-clad monks.

The captain went through the upper end of these streets, stopping
appreciatively to note the rude contrast which they made with their
terminal vista. Almost all descended to the old harbor with a ditch of
dirty water in the middle of the gutter that dribbled from stone to
stone. They were dark as the tubes of a telescope, and at the end of
these evil smelling ditches occupied by abandoned womanhood, there
opened out a great space of light and blue color where could be seen
little white sailboats, anchored at the foot of the hill, a sheet of
sparkling water and the houses of the opposite wharf diminished
by the distance. Through other gaps appeared the mountain of
_Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde_ with its sharp pointed Basilica topped by its
gleaming statue, like an immovable, twisted tongue of flame. Sometimes
a torpedo destroyer entering the old harbor could be seen slipping by
the mouth of one of these passageways as shadowy as though passing
before the glass of a telescope.

Feeling fatigued by the bad smells and vicious misery of the old
district, the sailor returned to the center of the city, strolling
among the trees and flower stands of the avenues....

One evening while awaiting with others a street car in the Cannebiere,
he turned his head with a presentiment that some one was looking at his
back.

Sure enough! He saw behind him on the edge of the sidewalk an
elegantly-dressed, clean-shaven gentleman whose aspect was that of an
Englishman careful of his personal appearance. The dapper man had
stopped in surprise as though he might have just recognized Ferragut.

The two exchanged glances without awakening the slightest echo in the
captain's memory.... He could not recall this man. He was almost sure
of never having seen him before. His shaven face, his eyes of a
metallic gray, his elegant pomposity did not enlighten the Spaniard's
memory. Perhaps the unknown had made a mistake.

This must have been the case, judging by the rapidity with which he
withdrew his glance from Ferragut and went hastily away.

The captain attached no importance to this encounter. He had already
forgotten it when, taking the car but a few minutes later, it recurred
to him in a new light. The face of the Englishman presented itself to
his imagination with the distinct relief of reality. He could see it
more clearly than in the dying splendor of the Cannebière.... He passed
with indifference over his features; in reality he had seen them for
the first time. But the eyes!... He knew those eyes perfectly. They had
often exchanged glances with him. Where?... When?...

The memory of this man accompanied him as an obsession even to his ship
without giving the slightest answer to his questioning. Then, finding
himself on board with Toni and the third officer, he again forgot it.

Upon going ashore on the following days, his memory invariably
experienced the same phenomena. The captain would be going through the
city without any thought of that individual, but on entering the
Cannebière the same remembrance, followed by an inexplicable anxiety,
would again surge up in his mind.

"I wonder where my Englishman is now," he would think. "Where have I
seen him before?... Because there is no doubt that we are acquainted
with each other."

From that time on, he would look curiously at all the passersby and
sometimes would hasten his step in order to examine more closely some
one whose back resembled the haunting unknown. One afternoon he felt
sure that he recognized him in a hired carriage whose horse was going
at a lively trot through one of the avenues, but when he tried to
follow it the vehicle had disappeared into a nearby street.

Some days passed by and the captain completely forgot the meeting.
Other affairs more real and immediate were demanding his attention. His
boat was ready; they were going to send it to England in order to load
it with munitions destined for the army of the Orient.

The morning of its departure he went ashore without any thought of
going to the center of the city.

In one of the wharf streets there was a barber shop frequented by
Spanish captains. The picturesque chatter of the barber, born in
Cartagena, the gay, brilliant chromos on the walls representing
bullfights, the newspapers from Madrid, forgotten on the divans, and a
guitar in one corner made this shop a little bit of Spain for the
rovers of the Mediterranean.

Before sailing, Ferragut wished to have his beard clipped by this
verbose master. When, an hour later, he left the barber-shop, tearing
himself away from the interminable farewells of the proprietor, he
passed down a broad street, lonely and silent, between two rows of
docks.

The steel-barred gates were closed and locked. The warehouses, empty
and resounding as the naves of a cathedral, still exhaled the strong
odors of the wares which they had kept in times of peace,--vanilla,
cinnamon, rolls of leather, nitrates and phosphates for chemical
fertilizers.

In all the long street he saw only one man, coming toward him with his
back to the inner harbor. Between the two long walls of brick appeared
in the background the wharf with its mountains of merchandise, its
squadrons of black stevedores, wagons and carts. On beyond were the
hulls of the ships sustaining their grove of masts and smokestacks and,
at the extreme end, the yellow breakwater and the sky recently washed
by the rain, with flocks of little clouds as white and placid as silky
sheep.

The man who was returning from the dock and walking along with his eyes
fixed on Ferragut suddenly stopped and, turning upon his tracks,
returned again to the quay.... This movement awakened the captain's
curiosity, sharpening his senses. Suddenly he had a presentiment that
this pedestrian was his Englishman, though dressed differently and with
less elegance. He could only see his rapidly disappearing back, but his
instinct in this moment was superior to his eyes.... He did not need to
look further.... It was the Englishman.

And without knowing why, he hastened his steps in order to catch up
with him. Then he broke into a run, finding that he was alone in the
street, and that the other one had disappeared around the corner.

When Ferragut reached the harbor he could see him hastening away with
an elastic step which amounted almost to flight. Before him was a ridge
of bundles piled up in uneven rows. He was going to lose sight of him;
a minute later it would be impossible to find him.

The captain hesitated. "What motive have I for pursuing this unknown
person?..." And just as he was formulating this question, the other one
slowed down a little in order to turn his head and see if he were still
being followed.

Suddenly a rapid phenomenal transformation took place in Ferragut. He
had not recognized this man's glance when he had almost run into him on
the sidewalk of the Cannebiere, and now that there was between the two
a distance of some fifty yards, now that the other was fleeing and
showing only a fugitive profile, the captain identified him despite the
fact that he could not distinguish him clearly at such a distance.

With a sharp click a curtain of his memory seemed to be dashed aside,
letting in torrents of light.... It was the counterfeit Russian count,
he was sure of that,--shaven and disguised, who undoubtedly was
"operating" in Marseilles, directing new services, months after having
prepared the entrance of the submersibles into the Mediterranean.

Surprise held Ferragut spellbound. With the same imaginative rapidity
with which a drowning person giddily recalls all the scenes of his
former life, the captain now beheld his infamous existence in Naples,
his expedition in the schooner carrying supplies to the submarines and
then the torpedo which had opened a breach in the _Californian_.... And
this man, perhaps, was the one who had made his poor son fly through
the air in countless pieces!...

He also saw his uncle, the _Triton_, just as when a little chap he used
to listen to him in the harbor of Valencia. He recalled his story of a
certain night of Egyptian orgy in a low café in Alexandria where he had
had to "sting" a man with his dagger in order to force his way.

Instinct made him carry his hand to his belt. Nothing!... He cursed
modern life and its uncertain securities, which permit men to go from
one side of the world to the other confident, disarmed, without means
of attack. In other ports he would have come ashore with a revolver in
the pocket of his trousers.... But in Marseilles! He was not even
carrying a penknife; he had only his fists.... At that moment he would
have given his entire vessel, his life even, for an instrument that
would enable him to kill ... kill with one blow!...

The bloodthirsty vehemence of the Mediterranean was overwhelming him.
To kill!... He did not know how he was going to do it, but he must
kill.

The first thing was to prevent the escape of his enemy. He was going to
fall upon him with his fists, with his teeth, staging a prehistoric
struggle,--the animal fight before mankind had invented the club.
Perhaps that other man was hiding firearms and might kill him; but he,
in his superb vengeance, could see only the death of the enemy,
repelling all fear.

In order that his victim might not get out of his sight, he ran toward
him without any dissimulation whatever, as though he might have been in
the desert, at full speed. The instinct of attack made him stoop, grasp
a piece of wood lying on the ground,--a kind of rustic handspike,--and
armed in this primitive fashion he continued his race.

All this had lasted but a few seconds. The other one, perceiving the
hostile pursuit, was also running frankly, disappearing among the hills
of packages.

The captain saw confusedly that some shadows were leaping around him,
preventing his progress. His eyes that were seeing everything red
finally managed to distinguish a few black faces and some white
ones.... They were the soldiers and civilian stevedores, alarmed by the
aspect of this man who was running like a lunatic.

He uttered a curse upon finding himself stopped. With the instinct of
the multitude, these people were only concerned with the aggressor,
letting the one who was fleeing go free. Ferragut could not keep his
wrath bottled up on that account. He had to reveal his secret.

"He is a spy!... A _Boche_ spy!..."

He said this in a dull, disjointed voice and never did his word of
command obtain such a noisy echo.

"A spy!..."

The cry made men rise up as though vomited forth by the earth; from
mouth to mouth it leaped, repeating itself incessantly, penetrating
through the docks and the boats, vibrating even beyond the reach of the
eye, permeating everywhere with the confusion and rapidity of sound
waves. "A spy!..." Men came running with redoubled agility; the
stevedores were abandoning their loads in order to join the pursuit;
people were leaping from the steamers in order to unite in the human
hunt.

The author of the noisy alarm, he who had given the cry, saw himself
outdistanced and ignored by the pursuing streams of people which he had
just called forth. Ferragut, always running, remained behind the negro
sharpshooters, the stevedores, the harbor guard, the seamen that were
hastening from all sides crowding in the alleyways between the boxes
and bundles.... They were like the greyhounds that follow the windings
of the forest, making the stag come out in the open field, like the
ferrets that slip along through the subterranean valleys, obliging the
hare to return to the light of day. The fugitive, surrounded in a
labyrinth of passageways, colliding with enemies at every turn, came
running out through the opposite end and continued his race the whole
length of the wharf. The chase lasted but a few instants after coming
out on ground free of obstacles. "A spy!..." The voice, more rapid than
the legs, out distanced him. The cries of the pursuers warned the
people who were working afar off, without understanding the alarm.

Suddenly the fugitive was within a concave semi-circle of men who were
awaiting him firmly, and a convex semi-circle following his footsteps
in irregular pursuit. The two multitudes, closing their extremes,
united and the spy was a prisoner.

Ferragut saw that he was intensely pale, panting, casting his eyes
around him with the expression of an animal at bay, but still thinking
of the possibility of defending himself.

His right hand was feeling around one of his pockets. Perhaps he was
going to draw out a revolver in order to die, defending himself. A
negro nearby raised a beam of wood which he was grasping as a club. The
spy's hand, displaying a bit of paper between the fingers, was hastily
raised toward his mouth; but the negro's blow, suspended in the air,
fell upon his arm, making it hang inert. The spy bit his lips in order
to keep back a roar of pain.

The paper had rolled upon the ground and several hands at once tried to
pick it up. A petty officer smoothed it out before examining it. It was
a piece of thin paper sketched with the outline of the Mediterranean.
The entire sea was laid out in squares like a chess board and in the
center of each of these squares there was a number. These squares were
charted sections whose numbers made the submarines know, by wireless,
where they were to lie in wait for the allied vessels and torpedo them.

Another officer explained rapidly to the people crowding close, the
importance of the discovery. "Indeed he was a spy!" This affirmation
awakened the joy of capture and that impulsive desire for vengeance
that at certain times crazes a crowd.

The men from the boats were the most furious, for the very reason that
they were constantly encountering the treacherous submarine traps. "Ah,
the bandit!..." Many cudgelings fell upon him, making him stagger under
their blows.

When the prisoner was protected by the breasts of various sub-officers,
Ferragut could see him close by, with one temple spotted with blood and
a cold and haughty expression in his eye. Then he realized that the
prisoner had dyed his hair.

He had fled in order to save himself; he had shown himself humble and
timorous upon being approached, believing that it would still be
possible to lie out of it. But the paper that he had tried to hide in
his mouth was now in the hands of the enemy.... It was useless to
pretend longer!...

And he drew himself up proudly like every army man who considers his
death certain. The officer of the military caste reappeared, looking
haughtily at his unknown pursuers, imploring protection only from the
kepis with its band of gold.

Upon discovering Ferragut, he surveyed him fixedly with a glacial and
disdainful insolence. His lips also curled with an expression of
contempt.

They said nothing, but the captain surmised his soundless words. They
were insults. It was the insult of the man of the superior hierarchy to
his faithless servant; the pride of the noble official who accuses
himself for having trusted in the loyalty of a simple merchant marine.

"Traitor!... Traitor!" his insolent eyes and murmuring, voiceless lips
seemed to be saying.

Ulysses became furious before this haughtiness, but his wrath was cold
and self-contained on seeing the enemy deprived of defense.

He advanced toward the prisoner, like one of the many who were
insulting him, shaking his fist at him. His glance sustained that of
the German and he spoke to him in Spanish with a dull voice.

"My son.... My only son was blown to a thousand atoms by the torpedoing
of the _Californian_!"

These words made the spy change expression. His lips separated,
emitting a slight exclamation of surprise.

"Ah!..."

The arrogant light in his pupils faded away. Then he lowered his eyes
and soon after hung his head. The vociferating crowd was shoving and
carrying him along without taking into consideration the man who had
given the alarm and begun the chase.

That very afternoon the _Mare Nostrum_ sailed from Marseilles.



CHAPTER X


IN BARCELONA

Four months later Captain Ferragut was in Barcelona.

During the interval he had made three trips to Salonica, and on the
second had to appear before a naval captain of the army of the Orient.
The French officer was informed of his former expeditions for the
victualing of the allied troops. He knew his name and looked upon him
as does a judge interested in the accused. He had received from
Marseilles a long telegram with reference to Ferragut. A spy submitted
to military justice was accusing him of having carried supplies to the
German submarines.

"How about that, Captain?..."

Ulysses hesitated, looking at the official's grave face, framed by a
grey beard. This man inspired his confidence. He could respond
negatively to such questions; it would be difficult for the German to
prove his affirmation; but he preferred to tell the truth, with the
simplicity of one who does not try to hide his faults, describing
himself just as he had been,--blind with lust, dragged down by the
amorous artifices of an adventuress.

"The women!... Ah, the women!" murmured the French chief with the
melancholy smile of a magistrate who does not lose sight of human
weaknesses and has participated in them.

Nevertheless Ferragut's transgression was of gravest importance. He had
aided in staging the submarine attack in the Mediterranean.... But when
the Spanish captain related how he had been one of the first victims,
how his son had died in the torpedoing of the _Californian_, the judge
appeared touched, looking at him less severely.

Then Ferragut related his encounter with the spy in the harbor of
Marseilles.

"I have sworn," he said finally, "to devote my ship and my life to
causing all the harm possible to the murderers of my son.... That man
is denouncing me in order to avenge himself. I realize that my headlong
blindness dragged me to a crime that I shall never forget. I am
sufficiently punished in the death of my son.... But that does not
matter; let them sentence me, too."

The chief remained sunk in deep reflection, forehead in hand and elbow
on the table. Ferragut recognized here military justice, expeditious,
intuitive, passional, attentive to the sentiments that have scarcely
any weight in other tribunals, judging by the action of conscience more
than by the letter of the law, and capable of shooting a man with the
same dispatch that he would employ in setting him at liberty.

When the eyes of the judge again fixed themselves upon him, they had an
indulgent light. He had been guilty, not on account of money nor
treason, but crazed by a woman. Who has not something like this in his
own history?... "Ah, the women!" repeated the Frenchman, as though
lamenting the most terrible form of enslavement.... But the victim had
already suffered enough in the loss of his son. Besides, they owed to
him the discovery and arrest of an important spy.

"Your hand, Captain," he concluded, holding out his own. "All that we
have said will be just between ourselves. It is a sacred, confessional
secret. I will arrange it with the Council of War.... You may continue
lending your services to our cause."

And Ferragut was not annoyed further about the affair of Marseilles.
Perhaps they were watching him discreetly and keeping sight of him in
order to convince themselves of his entire innocence; but this
suspected vigilance never made itself felt nor occasioned him any
trouble.

On the third trip to Salonica the French captain saw him once at a
distance, greeting him with a grave smile which showed that he no
longer was thinking of him as a possible spy.

Upon its return, the _Mare Nostrum_ anchored at Barcelona to take on
cloth for the army service, and other industrial articles of which the
troops of the Orient stood in need. Ferragut did not make this trip for
mercantile reasons. An affectionate interest was drawing him there....
He needed to see Cinta, feeling that in his soul the past was again
coming to life.

The image of his wife, vivacious and attractive, as in the early years
of their marriage, kept rising before him. It was not a resurrection of
the old love; that would have been impossible.... But his remorse made
him see her, idealized by distance, with all her qualities of a sweet
and modest woman.

He wished to reëstablish the cordial relations of other times, to have
all the past pardoned, so that she would no longer look at him with
hatred, believing him responsible for the death of her son.

In reality she was the only woman who had loved him sincerely, as she
was able to love, without violence or passional exaggeration, and with
the tranquillity of a comrade. The other women no longer existed. They
were a troop of shadows that passed through his memory like specters of
visible shape but without color. As for that last one, that Freya whom
bad luck had put in his way--... How the captain hated her! How he
wished to meet her and return a part of the harm she had done him!...

Upon seeing his wife, Ulysses imagined that no time had passed by. He
found her just as at parting, with her two nieces seated at her feet,
making interminable, complicated blonde lace upon the cylindrical
pillows supported on their knees.

The only novelty of the captain's stay in this dwelling of monastic
calm was that Don Pedro abstained from his visits. Cinta received her
husband with a pallid smile. In that smile he suspected the work of
time. She had continued thinking of her son every hour, but with a
resignation that was drying her tears and permitting her to continue
the deliberate mechanicalness of existence. Furthermore, she wished to
remove the impression of the angry words, inspired by grief,--the
remembrance of that scene of rebellion in which she had arisen like a
wrathful accuser against the father. And Ferragut for some days
believed that he was living just as in past years when he had not yet
bought the _Mare Nostrum_ and was planning to remain always ashore.
Cinta was attentive to his wishes and obedient as a Christian wife
ought to be. Her words and acts revealed a desire to forget, to make
herself agreeable.

But something was lacking that had made the past so sweet. The
cordiality of youth could not be resuscitated. The remembrance of the
son was always intervening between the two, hardly ever leaving their
thoughts. And so it would always be!

Since that house could no longer be a real home to him, he again began
to await impatiently the hour of sailing. His destiny was to live
henceforth on the ship, to pass the rest of his days upon the waves
like the accursed captain of the Dutch legend, until the pallid virgin
wrapped in black veils--Death--should come to rescue him.

While the steamer finished loading he strolled through the city
visiting his cousins, the manufacturers, or remaining idly in the
cafés. He looked with interest on the human current passing through the
Ramblas in which were mingled the natives of the country and the
picturesque and absurd medley brought in by the war.

The first thing that Ferragut noticed was the visible diminution of
German refugees.

Months before he had met them everywhere, filling the hotels and
monopolizing the cafés,--their green hats and open-neck shirts making
them recognized immediately. The German women in showy and extravagant
gowns, were everywhere kissing each other when meeting, and talking in
shrieks. The German tongue, confounded with the Catalan and the
Castilian, seemed to have become naturalized. On the roads and
mountains could be seen rows of bare-throated boys with heads
uncovered, staff in hand, and Alpine knapsack on the back, occupying
their leisure with pleasure excursions that were at the same time,
perhaps, a foresighted study.

These Germans had all come from South America,--especially from Brazil,
Argentina, and Chile. From Barcelona they had, at the beginning of the
war, tried to return to their own country but were now interned, unable
to continue their voyage for fear of the French and English cruisers
patrolling the Mediterranean.

At first no one had wished to take the trouble to settle down in this
land, and they had all clustered together in sight of the sea with the
hope of being the first to embark at the very moment that the road of
navigation might open for them.

The war was going to be very short.... Exceedingly short! The Kaiser
and his irresistible army would require but six months to impose their
rule upon all Europe. The Germans enriched by commerce were lodged in
the hotels. The poor who had been working in the new world as farmers
or shop clerks were quartered in a slaughter house on the outskirts.
Some, who were musicians, had acquired old instruments and, forming
strolling street bands, were imploring alms for their roarings from
village to village.

But the months were passing by, the war was being prolonged, and nobody
could now discern the end. The number of those taking arms against the
medieval imperialism of Berlin was constantly growing greater, and the
German refugees, finally convinced that their wait was going to be a
very long one, were scattering themselves through the interior of the
state, hunting a more satisfying and less expensive existence. Those
who had been living in luxurious hotels were establishing themselves in
villas and chalets of the suburbs; the poor, tired of the rations of
the slaughter-house, were exerting themselves to find jobs in the
public works of the interior.

Many were still remaining in Barcelona, meeting together in certain
beer gardens to read the home periodicals and talk mysteriously of the
works of war.

Ferragut recognized them at once upon passing them in the Rambla. Some
were dealers, traders established for a long time in the country,
bragging of their Catalan connections with that lying facility of
adaptability peculiar to their race. Others came from South America and
were associated with those in Barcelona by the free-masonry of
comradeship and patriotic interest. But they were all Germans, and that
was enough to make the captain immediately recall his son, planning
bloody vengeance. He sometimes wished to have in his arm all the blind
forces of Nature in order to blot out his enemies with one blow. It
annoyed him to see them established in his country, to have to pass
them daily without protest and without aggression, respecting them
because the laws demanded it.

He used to like to stroll among the flower stands of the Rambla,
between the two walls of recently-cut flowers that were still guarding
in their corollas the dews of daybreak. Each iron table was a pyramid
formed of all the hues of the rainbow and all the fragrance that the
earth can bring forth.

The fine weather was beginning. The trees of the Ramblas were covering
themselves with leaves and in their shady branches were twittering
thousands of birds with the deafening tenacity of the crickets.

The captain found special enjoyment in surveying the ladies in lace
mantillas who were selecting bouquets in the refreshing atmosphere. No
situation, however anguished it might be, ever left him insensible to
feminine attractions.

One morning, passing slowly through the crowds, he noticed that a woman
was following him. Several times she crossed his path, smiling at him,
hunting a pretext for beginning conversation. Such insistence was not
particularly gratifying to his pride; for she was a female of
protruding bust and swaying hips, a cook with a basket on her arm, like
many others who were passing through the Rambla in order to add a bunch
of flowers to the daily purchase of eatables.

Finding that the sailor was not moved by her smiles nor the glances
from her sharp eyes, she planted herself before him, speaking to him in
Catalan.

"Excuse me, sir, but are you not a ship captain named Don Ulysses?..."

This started the conversation. The cook, convinced that it was he,
continued talking with a mysterious smile. A most beautiful lady was
desirous of seeing him.... And she gave him the address of a towered
villa situated at the foot of Tibidabo in a recently constructed
district. He could make his visit at three in the afternoon.

"Come, sir," she added with a look of sweet promise. "You will never
regret the trip."

All questions were useless. The woman would say no more. The only thing
that could be gathered from her evasive answers was that the person
sending her had left her upon seeing the captain.

When the messenger had gone away he wished to follow her. But the fat
old wife shook her head repeatedly. Her astuteness was quite accustomed
to eluding pursuit, and without Ferragut's knowing exactly how, she
slipped away, mingling with the groups near the Plaza of Catalunia.

"I shall not go," was the first thing that Ferragut said on finding
himself alone.

He knew just what that invitation signified. He recalled an infinite
number of former unconfessable friendships that he had had in
Barcelona,--women that he had met in other times, between voyages,
without any passion whatever, but through his vagabond curiosity,
anxious for novelty. Perhaps some one of these had seen him in the
Rambla, sending this intermediary in order to renew the old relations.
The captain probably enjoyed the fame of a rich man now that everybody
was commenting upon the amazingly good business transacted by the
proprietors of ships.

"I shall not go," he again told himself energetically. He considered it
useless to bother about this interview, to encounter the mercenary
smile of a familiar but forgotten acquaintance.

But the insistence of the recollection and the very tenacity with which
he kept repeating to himself his promise not to keep the tryst, made
Ferragut begin to suspect that it might be just as well to go after
all.

After luncheon his will-power weakened. He didn't know what to do with
himself during the afternoon. His only distraction was to visit his
cousins in their counting-houses, or to meander through the Rambla. Why
not go?... Perhaps he might be mistaken, and the interview might prove
an interesting one. At all events, he would have the chance of retiring
after a brief conversation about the past.... His curiosity was
becoming excited by the mystery.

And at three in the afternoon he took a street car that conducted him
to the new districts springing up around the base of Tibidabo.

The commercial bourgeoisie had covered these lands with an
architectural efflorescence, legitimate daughter of their dreams.
Shopkeepers and manufacturers had wished to have here a pleasure house,
traditionally called a _torre_, in order to rest on Sundays and at the
same time make a show of their wealth with these Gothic, Arabic, Greek,
and Persian creations. The most patriotic were relying on the
inspiration of native architects who had invented a Catalan art with
pointed arches, battlements, and ducal coronets. These medieval
coronets, which were repeated even on the peaks of the chimney pots,
were the everlasting decorative motif of an industrial city little
given to dreams and lusting for lucre.

Ferragut advanced through the solitary street between two rows of
freshly transplanted trees that were just sending forth their first
growth. He looked at the façades of the _torres_ made of blocks of
cement imitating the stone of the old fortresses, or with tiles which
represented fantastic landscapes, absurd flowers, bluish, glazed
nymphs.

Upon getting out of the street car he made a resolution. He would look
at the outside only of the house. Perhaps that would aid him in
discovering the woman! Then he would just continue on his way.

But on reaching the _torre_, whose number he still kept in mind, and
pausing a few seconds before its architecture of a feudal castle whose
interior was probably like that of the beer gardens, he saw the door
opening, and appearing in it the same woman that had talked with him in
the flower Rambla.

"Come in, Captain."

And the captain was not able to resist the suggestive smile of the
cook.

He found himself in a kind of hall similar to the façade with a Gothic
fireplace of alabaster imitating oak, great jars of porcelain, pipes
the size of walking-sticks, and old armor adorning the walls. Various
wood-cuts reproducing modern pictures of Munich alternated with these
decorations. Opposite the fireplace William II was displaying one of
his innumerable uniforms, resplendent in gold and a gaudy frame.

The house appeared uninhabited. Heavy soft curtains deadened every
sound. The corpulent go-between had disappeared with the lightness of
an immaterial being, as though swallowed up by the wall. While scowling
at the portrait of the Kaiser, the sailor began to feel disquieted in
this silence which appeared to him almost hostile.... And he was not
carrying arms.

The smiling woman again presented herself with the same slippery
smoothness.

"Come in, Don Ulysses."

She had opened a door, and Ferragut on advancing felt that this door
was locked behind him.

The first thing that he could see was a window, broader than it was
high, of colored glass. A Valkyrie was galloping across it, with lance
in rest and floating locks, upon a black steed that was expelling fire
through its nostrils. In the diffused light of the stained glass he
could distinguish tapestries on the walls and a deep divan with
flowered cushions.

A woman arose from the soft depths of this couch, rushing towards
Ferragut with outstretched arms. Her impulse was so violent that it
made her collide with the captain. Before the feminine embrace could
close around him he saw a panting mouth, with avid teeth, eyes tearful
with emotion, a smile that was a mixture of love and painful
disquietude.

"You!... You!" he stuttered, springing back.

His legs trembled with a shudder of surprise. A cold wave ran down his
back.

"Ulysses!" sighed the woman, trying again to fold him in her arms.

"You!... _You_!" again repeated the sailor in a dull voice.

It was Freya.

He did not know positively what mysterious force dictated his action.
It was perhaps the voice of his good counselor, accustomed to speak in
his brain in critical instants, which now asserted itself.... He saw
instantaneously a ship that was exploding and his son blown to pieces.

"Ah ... _tal_"

He raised his robust arm with his fist clenched like a mace. The voice
of prudence kept on giving him orders. "Hard!... No consideration!...
This female is shifty." And he struck as though his enemy were a man,
without hesitation, without pity, concentrating all his soul in his
fist.

The hatred that he was feeling and the recollection of the aggressive
resources of the German woman made him begin a second blow, fearing an
attack from her and wishing to repel it before it could be made.... But
he stopped with his arm raised.

"_Ay de mí_!..."

The woman had uttered a child-like wail, staggering, swaying upon her
feet, with arms drooping, without any attempt at defense whatever....
She reeled from side to side as though she were drunk. Her knees
doubled under her, and she fell with the limpness of a bundle of
clothes, her head first striking against the cushions of the divan. The
rest of her body remained like a rag on the rug.

There was a long silence, interrupted from time to time by groans of
pain. Freya was moaning with closed eyes, without coming out of her
inertia.

The sailor, scowling with a tragic ugliness, and transported with rage,
remained immovable, looking grimly at the fallen creature. He was
satisfied with his brutality; it had been an opportune relief; he could
breathe better. At the same time he was beginning to feel ashamed of
himself. "What have you done, you coward?..." For the first time in his
existence he had struck a woman.

He raised his aching right hand to his eyes. One of his fingers was
bleeding. Perhaps it had become hooked in her earrings, perhaps a pin
at her breast had scratched it. He sucked the blood from the deep
scratch, and then forgot the wound in order to gaze again at the body
outstretched at his feet.

Little by little he was becoming accustomed to the diffused light of
the room. He was already beginning to see objects clearly. His glance
rested upon Freya with a look of mingled hatred and remorse.

Her head, sunk in the cushions, presented a pitiful profile. She
appeared much older, as though her age had been doubled by her tears.
The brutal blow had made her freshness and her marvelous youth flit
away with doleful suddenness. Her half-opened eyes were encircled with
temporary wrinkles. Her nose had taken on the livid sharpness of the
dead; her great mass of hair, reddening under the blow, was disheveled
in golden, undulating tangles. Something black was winding through it
making streaks upon the silk of the cushion. It was the blood that was
dribbling between the heraldic flowers of the embroidery,--blood
flowing from the hidden forehead, being absorbed by the dryness of the
soft material.

Upon making this discovery, Ferragut felt his shame increasing. He took
one step over the extended body, seeking the door. Why was he staying
there?... All that he had to do was already done; all that he could say
was already said.

"Do not go, Ulysses," sighed a plaintive voice. "Listen to me!... It
concerns your life."

The fear that he might get away made her pull herself together with
dolorous groans and this movement accelerated the flow of blood.... The
pillow continued drinking it in like a thirsty meadow.

An irresistible compassion like that which he might feel for any
stranger abandoned in the midst of the street, made the sailor draw
back, his eyes fixed on a tall crystal vase which stood upon the floor
filled with flowers. With a bang he scattered over the carpet all the
springtime bouquet, arranged a little while before by feminine hands
with the feverishness of one who counts the minutes and lives on hope.

He moistened his handkerchief in the water of the vase and knelt down
beside Freya, raising her head upon the cushion. She let the wound be
washed with the abandon of a sick creature, fixing upon her aggressor a
pair of imploring eyes, opening now for the first time.

When the blood ceased to flow, forming on the temple a red, coagulated
spot, Ferragut tried to raise her up.

"No; leave me so," she murmured. "I prefer to be at your feet. I am
your bondslave ... your plaything. Beat me more if it will appease your
wrath."

She wished to insist upon her humility, offering her lips with the
timid kiss of a grateful slave.

"Ah, no!... No!"

To avoid this caress Ulysses stood up suddenly. He again felt intense
hatred toward this woman, who little by little was appealing to his
senses. Upon stopping the flow of blood his compassion had become
extinguished.

She, guessing his thoughts, felt obliged to speak.

"Do with me what you will.... I shall not complain. You are the first
man who has ever struck me.... And I have not defended myself! I shall
not defend myself though you strike me again.... Had it been any one
else, I would have replied blow for blow; but you!... I have done you
so much wrong!..."

She was silent for a few moments, kneeling before him in a supplicating
attitude with her body resting upon her heels. She reached out her arms
while speaking with a monotonous and sorrowful voice, like the specters
in the apparitions of the theater.

"I have hesitated a long time before seeing you," she continued. "I
feared your wrath; I was sure that in the first moment you would let
yourself be overpowered by your anger and I was terrified at the
thought of the interview.... I have spied upon you ever since I knew
that you were in Barcelona; I have waited near your home; many times I
have seen you through the doorway of a café, and I have taken my pen to
write to you. But I feared that you would not come, upon recognizing my
handwriting, or that you would pay no attention to a letter in another
hand.... This morning in the Rambla I could no longer contain myself.
And so I sent that woman to you and I have passed some cruel hours
fearing that you would not come.... At last I see you and your violence
makes no difference to me. Thank you, thank you many times for having
come!"

Ferragut remained motionless with distracted glance, as though he did
not hear her voice.

"It was necessary to see you," she continued. "It concerns your very
existence. You have set yourself in opposition to a tremendous power
that can crush you. Your ruin is decided upon. You are one lone man and
you have awakened the suspicion, without knowing it, of a world-wide
organization.... The blow has not yet fallen upon you, but it is going
to fall at any moment, perhaps this very day; I cannot find out all
about it.... For this reason it was necessary to see you in order that
you should put yourself on the defensive, in order that you should
flee, if necessary."

The captain, smiling scornfully, shrugged his shoulders as he always
did when people spoke to him of danger, and counseled prudence.
Besides, he couldn't believe a single thing that woman said.

"It's a lie!" he said dully. "It's all a lie!...

"No, Ulysses: listen to me. You do not know the interest that you
inspire in me. You are the only man that I have ever loved... Do not
smile at me in that way: your incredulity terrifies me.... Remorse is
now united to my poor love. I have done you so much wrong!... I hate
all men. I long to cause them all the harm that I can; but there exists
one exception: you!... All my desires of happiness are for you. My
dreams of the future always have you as the central personage.... Do
you want me to remain indifferent upon seeing you in danger?... No, I
am not lying.... Everything that I tell you this afternoon is the
truth: I shall never be able to lie to you. It distresses me so that my
artifices and my falsity should have brought trouble upon you....
Strike me again, treat me as the worst of women, but believe what I
tell you; follow my counsel."

The sailor persisted disdainfully in his indifferent attitude. His
hands were trembling impatiently. He was going away. He did not wish to
hear any more.... Had she hunted him out just to frighten him with
imaginary dangers?...

"What have you done, Ulysses?... What have you done?" Freya kept saying
desperately.

She knew all that had occurred in the port of Marseilles, and she also
knew well the infinite number of agents that were working for the
greater glory of Germany. Von Kramer, from his prison, had made known
the name of his informant. She lamented the captain's vehement
frankness.

"I understand your hatred; you cannot forget the torpedoing of the
_Californian_.... But you should have denounced von Kramer without
letting him suspect from whom the accusation came.... You have acted
like a madman; yours is an impulsive character that does not fear the
morrow."

Ulysses made a scornful gesture. He did not like subterfuges and
treachery. His way of doing was the better one. The only thing that he
lamented was that that assassin of the sea might still be living, not
having been able to kill him with his own hands.

"Perhaps he may not be living still," she continued. "The French
Council of War has condemned him to death. We do not know whether the
sentence has been carried out; but they are going to shoot him any
moment, and every one in our circle knows that you are the true author
of his misfortune."

She became terrified upon thinking of the accumulated hatred brought
about by this deed, and upon the approaching vengeance. In Berlin the
name of Ferragut was the object of special attention; in every nation
of the earth, the civilian battalions of men and women engaged in
working for Germany's triumph were repeating his name at this moment.
The commanders of the submarines were passing along information
regarding his ship and his person. He had dared to attack the greatest
empire in the world. He, one lone man, a simple merchant captain,
depriving the kaiser of one of his most valiant, valuable servants!

"What have you done, Ulysses?... What have you done?" she wailed again.

And Ferragut began to recognize in her voice a genuine interest in his
person, a terrible fear of the dangers which she believed were
threatening him.

"Here, in your very own country, their vengeance will overtake you.
Flee! I don't know where you can go to get rid of them, but believe
me.... Flee!"

The sailor came out of his scornful indifference. Anger was lending a
hostile gleam to his glance. He was furious to think that those
foreigners could pursue him in his own country; it was as though they
were attacking him beside his own hearth. National pride augmented his
wrath.

"Let them come," he said. "I'd like to see them this very day."

And he looked around, clenching his fists as though these innumerable
and unknown enemies were about to come out from the walls.

"They are also beginning to consider me as an enemy," continued the
woman. "They do not say so, because it is a common thing with us to
hide our thoughts; but I suspect the coldness that is surrounding
me.... The doctor knows that I love you the same as before, in spite of
the wrath that she feels against you. The others are talking of your
'treason' and I protest because I cannot stand such a lie.... Why are
you a traitor?... You are not one of our clan. You are a father who
longs to avenge himself. We are the real traitors:--I, who entangled
you in the fatal adventure,--they, who pushed me toward you, in order
to take advantage of your services."

Their life in Naples surged up in her memory and she felt it necessary
to explain her acts.

"You have not been able to understand me. You are ignorant of the
truth.... When I met you on the road to Paestum, you were a souvenir of
my past, a fragment of my youth, of the time in which I knew the doctor
only vaguely, and was not yet compromised in the service of
'information.'... From the very beginning your love and enthusiasm made
an impression upon me. You represented an interesting diversion with
your Spanish gallantry, waiting for me outside the hotel in order to
besiege me with your promises and vows. I was greatly bored during the
enforced waiting at Naples. You also found yourself obliged to wait,
and sought in me an agreeable recreation.... One day I came to
understand that you truly were interesting me greatly, as no other man
had ever interested me.... I suspected that I was going to fall in love
with you."

"It's a lie!... It's a lie," murmured Ferragut spitefully.

"Say what you will, but that was the way of it. We love according to
the place and the moment. If we had met on some other occasion, we
might have seen each other for a few hours, no more, each following his
own road without further consideration. We belong to different
worlds.... But we were mobilized in the same country, oppressed by the
tedium of waiting, and what had to be ... was. I am telling you the
entire truth: if you could know what it has cost me to avoid you!...

"In the mornings, on arising in the room in my hotel, my first motion
was to look through the curtains in order to convince myself that you
were waiting for me in the street. 'There is my devoted: there is my
sweetheart!' Perhaps you had slept badly thinking about me, while I was
feeling my soul reborn within me, the soul of a girl of twenty,
enthusiastic and artless.... My first impulse was to come down and join
you, going with you along the gulf shores like two lovers out of a
novel. Then reflection would come to my rescue. My past would come
tumbling into my mind like an old bell fallen from its tower. I had
forgotten that past, and its recurrence deafened me with its
overwhelming jangle vibrating with memories. 'Poor man!... Into what a
world of compromises and entanglements I am going to involve him!...
No! No!' And I fled from you with the cunning of a mischievous
schoolgirl, coming out from the hotel when you had gone off for a few
moments, at other times doubling a corner at the very instant that you
turned your eyes away.... I only permitted myself to approach coldly
and ironically when it was impossible to avoid meeting you.... And
afterwards, in the doctor's house, I used to talk about you, every
instant, laughing with her over these romantic gallantries."

Ferragut was listening gloomily, but with growing concentration. He
foresaw the explanation of many hitherto incomprehensible acts. A
curtain was going to be withdrawn from the past showing everything
behind it in a new light.

"The doctor would laugh, but in spite of my jesting she would assure me
just the same: 'You are in love with this man; this Don José interests
you. Be careful, Carmen!' And the queer thing was that she did not take
amiss my infatuation, especially when you consider that she was the
enemy of every passion that could not be made directly subservient to
our work.... She told the truth; I was in love. I recognized it the
morning the overwhelming desire to go to the Aquarium took possession
of me. I had passed many days without seeing you: I was living outside
of the hotel in the doctor's house in order not to encounter my
inamorato. And that morning I got up very sad, with one fixed thought:
'Poor captain!... Let us give him a little happiness.' I was sick that
day.... Sick because of you! Now I understood it all. We saw each other
in the Aquarium and it was I who kissed you at the same time that I was
longing for the extermination of all men.... Of all men except you!"

She made a brief pause, raising her eyes toward him, in order to take
in the effect of her words.

"You remember our luncheon in the restaurant of Vomero; you remember
how I begged you to go away, leaving me to my fate. I had a foreboding
of the future. I foresaw that it was going to be fatal for you. How
could I join a direct and frank life like yours to my existence as an
adventuress, mixed up in so many unconfessable compromises?... But I
was in love with you. I wished to save you by leaving you, and at the
same time I was afraid of not seeing you again. The night that you
irritated me with the fury of your desires and I stupidly defended
myself, as though it were an outrage, concentrating on your person the
hatred which all men inspire in me,--that night, alone in my bed, I
wept. I wept at the thought that I had lost you forever and at the same
time I felt satisfied with myself because thus I was freeing you from
my baleful influence.... Then von Kramer came. We were in need of a
boat and a man. The doctor spoke, proud of her penetration which had
made her suspect in you an available asset. They gave me orders to go
in search of you, to regain the mastery over your self-control. My
first impulse was to refuse, thinking of your future. But the sacrifice
was sweet; selfishness directs our actions ... and I sought you! You
know the rest."

She became silent, remaining in a pensive attitude, as though relishing
this period of her recollection, the most pleasing of her existence.

"Upon going over to the steamer for you," she continued a few moments
afterward, "I understood just what you represented in my life. What
need I had of you!... The doctor was preoccupied with the Italian
events. I was only counting the days, finding that they were passing by
with more slowness than the others. One ... two ... three ... 'My
adored sailor, my amorous shark, is going to come.... He is going to
come!' And what came suddenly, while we were still believing it far
away, was the blow of the war, rudely separating us. The doctor was
cursing the Italians, thinking of Germany; I was cursing them, thinking
of you, finding myself obliged to follow my friend, preparing for
flight in two hours, through fear of the mob.... My only satisfaction
was in learning that we were coming to Spain. The doctor was promising
herself to do great things here.... I was thinking that in no place
would it be easier for me to find you again."

She had gained a little more bodily strength. Her hands were touching
Ferragut's knees, longing to embrace them, yet not daring to do so,
fearing that he might repel her and overcome that tragic inertia which
permitted him to listen to her.

"When in Bilboa I learned of the torpedoing of the _Californian_ and of
the death of your son.... I shall not talk about that; I wept, I wept
bitterly, hiding myself from the doctor. From that time on I hated her.
She rejoiced in the event, passing indifferently over your name. You no
longer existed for her, because she was no longer able to make use of
you.... I wept for you, for your son whom I did not know, and also for
myself, remembering my blame in the matter. Since that day I have been
another woman.... Then we came to Barcelona and I have passed months
and months awaiting this moment."

Her former passion was reflected in her eyes. A flicker of humble love
lit up her bruised countenance.

"We established ourselves in this house which belongs to a German
electrician, a friend of the doctor's. Whenever she went away on a trip
leaving me free, my steps would invariably turn to the harbor. I was
waiting to see your ship. My eyes followed the seamen sympathetically,
thinking that I could see in all of them something of your person....
'Some day he will come,' I would say to myself. You know how selfish
love is! I gradually forgot the death of your son.... Besides, I am not
the one who is really guilty: there are others. I have been deceived
just as you have been. 'He is going to come, and we shall be happy
again!'... _Ay_! If this room could speak ... if this divan on which I
have dreamed so many times could talk!... I was always arranging some
flowers in a vase, making believe that you were going to come. I was
always fixing myself up a little bit, imagining it was for you.... I
was living in your country, and it was natural that you should come.
Suddenly the paradise that I was imagining vanished into smoke. We
received the news, I don't know how, of the imprisonment of von Kramer,
and that you had been his accuser. The doctor anathematized me, making
me responsible for everything. Through me she had known you, and that
was enough to make her include me in her indignation. All our band
began to plan for your death, longing to have it accompanied with the
most atrocious tortures...."

Ferragut interrupted her. His brow was furrowed as though dominated by
a tenacious idea.... Perhaps he was not listening to her.

"Where is the doctor?"...

The tone of the question was disquieting. He clenched his fists,
looking around him as though awaiting the appearance of the imposing
dame. His attitude was just like that which had accompanied his attack
on Freya.

"I don't know where she's traveling," said his companion. "She is
probably in Madrid, in San Sebastian, or in Cadiz. She goes off very
frequently. She has friends everywhere.... And I have ventured to ask
you here simply because I am alone."

And she described the life that she was leading in this retreat. For
the time being her former protector was letting her remain in inaction,
abstaining from giving her any work whatever. She was doing everything
herself, avoiding all intermediaries. What had happened to von Kramer
had made her so jealous and suspicious that when she needed aids, she
admitted only her compatriots living in Barcelona.

A ferocious and determined band, made up of refugees from the South
American republics, parasites from the coast cities or vagabonds from
the inland forests, had grouped itself around her. At their head, as
message-bearer for the doctor, was Karl, the secretary that Ferragut
had seen in the great old house of the district of Chiaja.

This man, in spite of his oily aspect, had several bloody crimes in his
life history. He was a worthy superintendent of the group of
adventurers inflamed by patriotic enthusiasm who were forwarding
supplies to the submarines in the Spanish Mediterranean. They all knew
Captain Ferragut, because of the affair at Marseilles, and they were
talking about his person with gloomy reticence.

"Through them I learned of your arrival," she continued. "They are
spying upon you, waiting for a favorable moment. Who knows if they have
not already followed you here?... Ulysses, flee; your life is seriously
threatened."

The captain again shrugged his shoulders with an expression of disgust.

"Flee, I repeat it!... And if you can, if I arouse in you a little
compassion, if you are not completely indifferent to me ... take me
with you!..."

Ferragut began to wonder if all this preamble was merely a prelude to
this final request. The unexpected demand produced an impression of
scandalized amazement. Was he to flee with her, with the one who had
done him so much harm?... Again unite his life to hers, knowing her as
he now knew her!...

The proposition was so absurd that the captain smiled sardonically.

"I am just as much in danger as you are," continued Freya with a
despairing accent. "I do not know exactly what the danger is that
threatens me, nor whence it may come. But I suspect it, I foresee it
hanging over my head.... I am of absolutely no use to them now; I no
longer have their confidence, and I know too many things. Since I
possess too many secrets for them to give me up, leaving me in peace,
they have agreed to suppress me; I am sure of that. I can read it in
the eyes of the one who was my friend and protector.... You cannot
abandon me, Ulysses. You will not desire my death."

Ferragut waxed indignant before these supplications, finally breaking
his disdainful silence.

"Comedienne!... All a lie!... Inventions to entangle yourself with me,
making me intervene again in the network of your life, compromising me
again in your work of detestable surveillance!..."

He was now taking the right path. His desire for vengeance had placed
him among Germany's adversaries. He was lamenting his former blindness
and was satisfied with his new interests. He was making no secret of
his conduct. He was serving the Allies.

"And that is the reason you are hunting me up; that is the reason that
you have arranged this interview, probably at the instigation of your
friend, the doctor. You wish to employ me for a second time as the
secret instrument of your espionage. 'Captain Ferragut is such an
enamored simpleton,' you have said to one another. 'We have nothing to
do but to make an appeal to his chivalry....' And you wish to live with
me, perhaps to accompany me on my voyages, to follow my existence in
order to reveal my secrets to your compatriots that I may again appear
as a traitor. Ah, you hussy!..."

This supposed treason again aroused his homicidal wrath. He raised his
arm and foot, and was about to strike and crush the kneeling woman. But
her passive humiliation, her complete lack of resistance, stopped him.

"No, Ulysses ... listen to me!"

She tried her utmost to prove her sincerity. She was afraid of her own
people; she could see them now in a new light, and they filled her with
horror. Her manner of looking at things had changed radically. Her
remorse, on thinking of what she had done, was making her a martyr. Her
conscience was beginning to feel the wholesome transformation of
repentant women who were formerly great sinners. How could she wash her
soul of her past crimes?... She had not even the consolation of that
patriotic faith, bloody and ferocious though it was, which inflamed the
doctor and her assistants.

She had been reflecting a great deal. For her there were no longer
Germans, English, nor French; there only existed men; men with mothers,
with wives, with daughters. And her woman's soul was horrified at the
thought of the combats and the killings. She hated war. She had
experienced her first remorse upon learning of the death of Ferragut's
son.

"Take me with you," she urged. "If you do not take me out of my world I
shall not know how to get away from it.... I am poor. In these last
years, the doctor has supported me; I do not know any way of earning my
living and I am accustomed to living well. Poverty inspires me with
greater fear than death. You will be able to maintain me; I will accept
of you whatever you wish to give me; I will be your handmaiden. On a
boat they must need the care and well-ordered supervision of a
woman.... Life locks its doors against me; I am alone."

The captain smiled with cruel irony.

"I divine what your smile means. I know what you wish to say to me....
I can see myself; you believe without doubt that such has been my
former life. No,... _no_! You are mistaken. I have not been _that_.
There has to be a special predisposition, a certain talent for feigning
what I do not feel.... I have tried to sell myself, and I cannot, I
cannot avail myself of that. I embitter the life of men when they do
not interest me; I am their adversary. I hate them and they flee from
me."

But the sailor prolonged his atrociously sinister smile.

"It's a lie," he said again, "all a lie. Make no further effort.... You
will not convince me."

As though suddenly reanimated with new force, she rose to her
feet:--her face on a level with Ferragut's eyes. He saw her left temple
with the torn skin; the spot caused by the blow extended around one
eye, reddened and swollen. On contemplating his barbarous handiwork,
remorse again tormented him.

"Listen, Ulysses; you do not know my true existence. I have always lied
to you; I have eluded all your investigations in our happy days. I
wished to keep my former life a secret ... to forget it. Now I must
tell you the truth, the actual truth, just as though I were going to
die. When you know it, you will be less cruel."

But her listener did not wish to hear it. He protested in advance with
a ferocious incredulity.

"Lies!... new lies! I wonder when you will ever stop your inventions!"

"I am not a German woman," she continued without listening to him.
"Neither is my name Freya Talberg.... It is my _nombre de guerre_, my
name as an adventuress. Talberg was the professor who accompanied me to
the Andes, and who was not my husband, either.... My true name is
Beatrice.... My mother was an Italian, a Florentine; my father was from
Trieste."

This revelation did not interest Ferragut.

"One fraud more!" he said. "Another novel!... Keep on making them up."

The woman was in despair. She raised her hands above her head, twisting
the interlaced fingers. Fresh tears welled up in her eyes.

"_Ay!_ How can I succeed in making you believe me?... What oath can I
take to convince you that I am telling you the truth?..."

The captain's impassive air gave her to understand that all such
extremes would be unavailing. There was no oath that could possibly
convince him. Even though she should tell the truth, he would not
believe her.

She went on with her story, not wishing to protest against this
impassable wall.

"My father also was of Italian origin but was Austrian because of the
place of his birth.... Furthermore, the Germanic empires always
inspired him with a blind enthusiasm. He was among those who detest
their native land, and see all the virtues in the northern people.

"Inventor of marvelous business schemes, financial promoter of colossal
enterprises, he had passed his existence besieging the directors of the
great banking establishments and having interviews in the lobbies of
the government departments. Eternally on the eve of surprising
combinations that were bound to bring him dozens of millions, he had
always lived in luxurious poverty, going from hotel to hotel--always
the best--with his wife and his only daughter.

"You know nothing about such a life, Ulysses; you come from a tranquil
and well-to-do family. Your people have never known existence in the
Palace Hotels, nor have you known difficulties in meeting the monthly
account, managing to have it included with those of the former months
with an unlimited credit."

As a child she had seen her mother weeping in their extravagant hotel
apartment while the father was talking with the aspect of an inspired
person, announcing that the next week he was going to clear a million
dollars. The wife, convinced by the eloquence of her remarkable
husband, would finally dry her tears, powder her face, and adorn
herself with her pearls and her blonde laces of problematic value. Then
she would descend to the magnificent hall, filled with perfumes, with
the hum of conversation and the discreet wailings of the violins, in
order to take tea with her friends in the hotel,--formidable
millionaires from the two hemispheres who vaguely suspected the
existence of an infirmity known as poverty, but incapable of imagining
that it might attack persons of their own world.

Meanwhile the little girl used to play in the hotel garden of the
Palace Hotel with other children dressed up and adorned like luxurious
and fragile dolls, each one worth many millions.

"From my childhood," continued Freya, "I had been a companion of women
who are now celebrated for their riches in New York, Paris, and in
London. I have been on familiar terms with great heiresses that are
to-day, through their marriages, duchesses and even princesses of the
blood royal. Many of them have since passed by me, without recognizing
me, and I have said nothing, knowing that the equality of childhood is
no more than a vague recollection...."

Thus she had grown into womanhood. A few of her father's casual
bargains had permitted them to continue this existence of brilliant and
expensive poverty. The promoter had considered such environment
indispensable for his future negotiations. Life in the most expensive
hotels, an automobile by the month, gowns designed by the greatest
modistes for his wife and daughter, summers at the most fashionable
resorts, winter-skating in Switzerland,--all these luxuries were for
him but a kind of uniform of respectability that kept him in the world
of the powerful, permitting him to enter everywhere.

"This existence molded me forever, and has influenced the rest of my
life. Dishonor, death, anything is to me preferable to poverty.... I,
who have no fear of danger, become a coward at the mere thought of
that!"

The mother died, credulous and sensuous, worn out with expecting a
solid fortune that never arrived. The daughter continued with her
father, becoming the type of young woman who lives among men from hotel
to hotel, always somewhat masculine in her attitude;--a half-way virgin
who knows everything, is not frightened at anything, guards ferociously
the integrity of her sex, calculating just what it may be worth, and
adoring wealth as the most powerful divinity on earth.

Finding herself upon her father's death with no other fortune than her
gowns and a few artistic gems of scant value, she had coldly decided
upon her destiny.

"In our world there is no other virtue than that of money. The girls of
the people surrender themselves less easily than a young woman
accustomed to luxury having as her only fortune some knowledge of the
piano, of dancing, and a few languages.... We yield our body as though
fulfilling a material function, without shame and without regret. It is
a simple matter of business. The only thing that matters is to preserve
the former life with all its conveniences ... not to come down."

She passed hastily over her recollection of this period of her
existence. An old acquaintance of her father, an old trader of Vienna,
had been the first. Then she felt romantic flutterings which even the
coldest and most positive women do not escape. She believed that she
had fallen in love with a Dutch officer, a blonde Apollo who used to
skate with her in Saint Moritz. This had been her only husband. Finally
she had become bored with the colonial drowsiness of Batavia and had
returned to Europe, breaking off her marriage in order to renew her
life in the great hotels, passing the winter season at the most
luxurious resorts.

"_Ay_, money!... In no social plane was its power so evident as that in
which she was accustomed to dwell. In the Palace Hotels she had met
women of soldierly aspect and common hands, smoking at all hours, with
their feet up and the white triangle of their petticoats stretched over
the seat. They were like the prostitutes waiting at the doors of their
huts. How were they ever permitted to live there!... Nevertheless, the
men bowed before them like slaves, or followed as suppliants these
creatures who talked with unction of the millions inherited from their
fathers, of their formidable wealth of industrial origin which had
enabled them to buy noble husbands and then give themselves up to their
natural tastes as fast, coarse women.

"I never had any luck.... I am too haughty for that kind of thing. Men
find me ill-humored, argumentative, and nervous. Perhaps I was born to
be the mother of a family.... Who knows but what I might have been
otherwise if I had lived in your country?"

Her announcement of her religious veneration for money took on an
accent of hate. Poor and well-educated girls, if afraid of the misery
of poverty, had no other recourse than prostitution. They lacked a
dowry,--that indispensable requisite in many civilized families for
honorable marriage and home-making.

Accursed poverty!... It had weighed upon her life like a fatality. The
men who had appeared good at first afterwards became poisoned, turning
into egoists and wretches. Doctor Talberg, on returning from America,
had abandoned her in order to marry a young and rich woman, the
daughter of a trader, a senator from Hamburg. Others had equally
exploited her youth, taking their share of her gayety and beauty only
to marry, later, women who had merely the attractiveness of a great
fortune.

She had finally come to hate them all, desiring their extermination,
exasperated at the very thought that she needed them to live and could
never free herself from this slavery. Trying to be independent, she had
taken up the stage.

"I have danced. I have sung; but my successes were always because I was
a woman. Men followed after me, desiring the female, and ridiculing the
actress. Besides--the life behind the scenes!... A white-slave market
with a name on the play-bills.... What exploitation!..."

The desire of freeing herself from all this had led her to make friends
with the doctor, accepting her propositions. It seemed to her more
honorable to serve a great nation, to be a secret functionary, laboring
in the shadow for its grandeur. Besides, at the beginning she was
fascinated by the novelty of the work, the adventures on risky
missions, the proud consideration that with her espionage she was
weaving the web of the future, preparing the history of time to come.

Here also she had, from the very first, stumbled upon sexual slavery.
Her beauty was an instrument for sounding the depths of consciences, a
key for opening secrets; and this servitude had turned out worse than
the former ones, on account of its being irremediable,--she had tried
to divorce herself from her life of tantalizing tourist and theatrical
woman; but whoever enters into the secret service can nevermore go from
it. She learns too many things; slowly she gains a comprehension of
important mysteries. The agent becomes a slave of her functions; she is
confined within them as a prisoner, and with every new act adds a new
stone to the wall that is separating her from liberty.

"You know the rest of my life," she continued. "The obligation of
obeying the doctor, of seducing men in order to snatch their secrets
from them, made me hate them with a deadly aggressiveness.... But you
came. You, who are so good and generous! You who sought me with the
enthusiastic simplicity of a growing boy, making me turn back a page in
my life, as though I were still only in my teens and being courted for
the first time!... Besides, you are not a selfish person. You gave with
noble enthusiasm. I believe that if we had known each other in our
early youth you would never have deserted me in order to make yourself
rich by marrying some one else. I resisted you at first, because I
loved you and did not wish to do you harm.... Afterwards, the mandates
of my superiors and my passion made me forget these scruples.... I gave
myself up. I was the 'fatal woman,' as always; I brought you
misfortune.... Ulysses! My love!... Let us forget; there is no use in
remembering the past. I know your heart so well, and finding myself in
danger, I appeal to it. Save me! Take me with you!..."

As she was standing opposite him, she had only to raise her hands in
order to put them on his shoulders, starting the beginning of an
embrace.

Ferragut remained insensible to the caress. His immobility repelled
these pleadings. Freya had traveled much through the world, had gone
through shameful adventures, and would know how to free herself by her
own efforts without the necessity of complicating him again in her net.
The story that she had just told was nothing to him but a web of
misrepresentations.

"It is all false," he said in a heavy voice. "I do not believe you. I
never shall believe you.... Each time that we meet you tell me a new
tale.... Who are you?... When do you tell the truth,--all the truth at
once?... You fraud!"

Insensible to his insults, she continued speaking anxiously of her
future, as though perceiving the mysterious dangers which were
surrounding her.

"Where shall I go if you abandon me?... If I remain in Spain, I
continue under the doctor's domination. I cannot return to the empires
where my life has been passed; all the roads are closed and in those
lands my slavery would be reborn.... Neither can I go to France or to
England; I am afraid of my past. Any one of my former achievements
would be enough to make them shoot me: I deserve nothing less. Besides,
the vengeance of my own people fills me with terror. I know the methods
of the 'service,' when they find it necessary to rid themselves of an
inconvenient agent who is in the enemy's territory. The 'service'
itself denounces him, voluntarily making a stupid move in order that
some documents may go astray, sending a compromising card with a false
address in order that it may fall into the hands of the authorities of
the country. What shall I do if you do not aid me?... Where can I
flee?..."

Ulysses decided to reply, moved to pity by her desperation. The world
was large. She could go and live in the republics of America.

She did not accept the advice. She had had the same thought, but the
uncertain future made her afraid.

"I am poor: I have scarcely enough to pay my traveling expenses.... The
'service' recompenses well at the start. Afterwards when it has us
surely in its clutches because of our past, it gives us only what is
necessary in order to live with a certain freedom. What can I ever do
in those lands?... Must I pass the rest of my existence selling myself
for bread?... I will not do it. I would rather die first!"

This desperate affirmation of her poverty made Ferragut smile
sarcastically. He looked at the necklace of pearls everlastingly
reposing on the admirable cushion of her bosom, the great emeralds in
her ears, the diamonds that were sparkling coldly on her hands. She
guessed his thoughts and the idea of selling these jewels gave her even
greater apprehension than the terrors that the future involved.

"You do not know what all this represents to me," she added. "It is my
uniform, my coat-of-arms, the safe-conduct that enables me to sustain
myself in the world of my youth. The women who pass alone through this
world need jewels in order to free their pathway of obstructions. The
managers of a hotel become human and smile before their brilliancy. She
who possesses them does not arouse suspicion however late she may be in
paying the weekly account.... The employees at the frontier become
exceedingly gallant: there is no passport more powerful. The haughty
ladies become more cordial before their sparkle, at the tea hour in the
halls where one knows nobody.... What I have suffered in order to
acquire them!... I would be reduced to hunger before I would sell them.
With them, I am somebody. A person may not have a coin in her pocket
and yet, with these glittering vouchers, may enter where the richest
assemble, living as one of them."

She would take no advice. She was like a hungry warrior in an enemy's
country asked to surrender arms in exchange for gold. Once the
necessity was satisfied, he would become a prisoner,--would be vilified
and on a par with the miserable creatures who a few hours before were
receiving his blows. She would meet courageously all dangers and
sufferings rather than lay aside her helmet and shield, the symbols of
her superior caste. The gown more than a year old, shabby, patched
shoes, negligee with badly mended rents, did not distress her in the
most trying moments. The important thing was to possess a stylish hat
and to preserve a fur coat, a necklace of pearls, emeralds,
diamonds,--all the honorable and glorious coat-of-mail in which she
wished to die.

Her glance appeared to pity the ignorance of the sailor in venturing to
propose such absurdities to her.

"It is impossible, Ulysses.... Take me with you! On the sea is where I
shall be safest. I am not afraid of the submarines. People imagine them
as numerous and close together as the flagstones of a pavement, but
only one vessel in a thousand is the victim of their attacks....
Besides, with you I fear nothing; if it is our destiny to perish on the
sea, we shall die together."

She became insinuating and enticing, passing her hands over his
shoulders, pulling down his neck with a passion that was equal to an
embrace. While speaking, her mouth came near to that of the sailor, the
lips arched, beginning the rounding of a caressing kiss.

"Would you live so badly with Freya?... Do you no longer remember our
past?... Am I now another being?"

Ulysses was remembering only too well that past, and began to recognize
that this memory was becoming too vivid. She, who was following with
astute eyes the seductive memories whirling through his brain, guessed
what they were by the contraction of his face. And smiling
triumphantly, she placed her mouth against his. She was sure of her
power.... And she reproduced the kiss of the Aquarium, that kiss which
had so thrilled the sailor, making his whole body tremble.

But when she gave herself up with more abandon to this dominating
ascendancy, she felt herself repelled, shot back by a brutal
hand-thrust similar to the blow that had hurled her upon the cushions
at the beginning of the interview.

Some one had interposed between the two, in spite of their close
embrace.

The captain, who was beginning to lose consciousness of his acts, like
a castaway, descending and descending through the enchanting domains of
limitless pleasure, suddenly beheld the face of the dead Esteban with
his glassy eyes fixed upon him. Further on he saw another image, sad
and shadowy,--Cinta, who was weeping as though her tears were the only
ones that should fall upon the mutilated body of their son.

"Ah, no!... _No!_"

He himself was surprised at his voice. It was the roar of a wounded
beast, the dry howling of a desperate creature, writhing in torment.

Freya, staggering under the rude push, again tried to draw near to him,
enlacing him again in her arms, in order to repeat her imperious kiss.

"My love!... My love!..."

She could not go on. That tremendous hand again repelled her, but so
violently that her head struck against the cushions of the divan.

The door trembled with a rude shove that made its two leaves open at
the same time, dragging out the bolt of the lock.

The woman, tenacious in her desires, rose up quickly without noticing
the pain of her fall. Nimbleness only could serve her now that Ferragut
was escaping after mechanically picking up his hat.

"Ulysses!... Ulysses!..."

Ulysses was already in the street,--and in the little hallway various
objects of bric-a-brac that had obtruded themselves and confused the
fugitive in his blind flight were still trembling and then falling and
breaking on the floor with a crash.

Feeling on his forehead the sensation of the free air, the dangers to
which Freya had referred now surged up in his mind. He surveyed the
street with a hostile glance.... Nobody! He longed to meet the enemy of
whom that woman had been speaking, to find vent for that wrath which he
was feeling even against himself. He was ashamed and furious at his
passing weakness which had almost made him renew their former
existence.

In the days following, he repeatedly recalled the band of refugees
under the doctor's control. When meeting German-looking people on the
street, he would glare at them menacingly. Was he perhaps one of those
charged with killing him?... Then he would pass on, regretting his
irritation, sure that they were tradesmen from South America,
apothecaries or bank employees undecided whether to return to their
home on the other side of the ocean, or to await in Barcelona the
always-near triumph of their Emperor.

Finally the captain began to ridicule Freya's recommendations.

"Just her lies!... Inventions in order to engage my interest again and
make me take her with me! Ah, the old fraud!"

One morning, as he was stepping out on the deck of his steamer, Toni
approached him with a mysterious air, his face assuming an ashy pallor.

When they reached the saloon at the stern, the mate spoke in a low
voice, looking around him.

The night before he had gone ashore in order to visit the theater. All
of Toni's literary tastes and his emotions were concentrated in
vaudeville. Men of talent had never invented anything better. From it
he used to bring back the humming songs with which he beguiled his long
watches on the bridge. Besides, it had a feminine chorus brilliantly
clad and bare-legged, a prima donna rich in flesh and poor in clothes,
a row of rosy and voluptuous ninepins that delighted the seamen's
imagination without making him forget the obligations of fidelity.

At one o'clock in the morning, when returning to the boat along the
solitary entrance pier, some one had tried to assassinate him. Hearing
footsteps, he fancied that he had seen forms hiding behind a mountain
of merchandise. Then there had sounded three reports, three revolver
shots. A ball had whistled by one of his ears.

"And as I was not carrying any arms, I ran. Fortunately, I was near the
ship, almost to the prow. I had only to take a few leaps to put myself
aboard the vessel.... And they did not shoot any more."

Ferragut remained silent. He, too, had grown pale, but with surprise
and anger. Then they were true, those reports of Freya's!... He could
not pretend incredulity, nor show himself bold and indifferent to
danger while Toni continued talking.

"Take care, Ulysses!... I have been thinking a great deal about this
thing. Those shots were not meant for me. What enemies have I? Who
would want to harm a poor mate who never sees anybody?... Look out for
yourself! You know perhaps where they came from; you have dealings with
many people."

The captain suspected that he was recalling the adventure of Naples and
that disgraceful proposition guarded as a secret, relating it to this
nocturnal attack. But neither his voice nor his eyes justified such
suspicions. And Ferragut preferred not to seem to suspect what he was
thinking about.

"Does any one else know what occurred?..."

Toni shrugged his shoulders. "Nobody...." He had leaped on the steamer,
pacifying the dog on board, that was howling furiously. The man on
guard had heard the shots, imagining that it was some sailors' fight.

"You have not reported this to the authorities?"

The mate became indignant on hearing this question, with the
independence of the Mediterranean who never remembers authority in
moments of danger and whose only defense is his manual dexterity.--"You
take me, perhaps, for a police-informer?..."

He had wanted to do the manly thing, but henceforth he would always go
armed while he happened to be in Barcelona. _Ay_, with this he might
shoot if he were not wounded!... And winking an eye, he showed his
captain what he called his "instrument."

The mate disliked firearms, crazy and noisy toys of doubtful result.
With an ancestral affection which appeared to evoke the flashing
battle-axes used by his ancestors, he loved the blow in silence, the
gleaming weapon which was a prolongation of the hand.

With gentle stealthiness he drew from his belt an English knife,
acquired at the time that he was skipper of a small boat,--a shining
blade which reproduced the faces of those looking at it, with the sharp
point of a stiletto and the edge of a _razor_.

Perhaps he would not be long in making use of his "instrument." He
recalled various individuals who a few days ago were strolling slowly
along the wharf examining the vessel, and spying upon those going on
and off. If he could manage to see them again he would go off the
steamer just to say a couple of words to them.

"You are to do nothing at all," ordered Ferragut. "I'll take charge of
this little matter."

All day long he was troubled over this news. Strolling about Barcelona,
he looked with challenging eyes at all passersby who appeared to be
Germans. To the aggressiveness of his character was now added the
indignation of a proprietor who finds himself assaulted within his
home. Those three shots were for him; and he was a Spaniard: and the
_boches_ were daring to attack him on his own ground! What audacity!...

Several times he put his hand in the back part of his trousers,
touching a long, metallic bulk. He was only awaiting the nightfall to
carry out a certain idea that had clamped itself between his two
eyebrows like a painful nail. Whilst he was not carrying it forward he
could not be tranquil.

The voice of his good counselor protested: "Don't do anything idiotic,
Ferragut; don't hunt the enemy, don't provoke him. Simply defend
yourself, nothing more."

But that reckless courage which in times gone by had made him embark on
vessels destined to shipwreck, and had pushed him toward danger for the
mere pleasure of conquering it, was now crying louder than prudence.

"In my own country!" he kept saying continually. "To try to assassinate
me when I am on my own land!... I'll just show them that I am a
Spaniard...."

He knew well that waterfront saloon mentioned by Freya. Two men in his
crew had given him some fresh information. The customers of the bar
were poor Germans accustomed to endless drinking. Some one was paying
for them, and on certain days even permitted them to invite the
skippers of the fishing boats and tramp vessels. A gramophone was
continually playing there, grinding out shrill songs to which the
guests responded in roaring chorus. When war news favorable to the
German Empire was received, the songs and drinking would redouble until
midnight and the shrill music-box would never stop for an instant. On
the walls were portraits of William II and various chromos of his
generals. The proprietor of the bar, a fat-legged German with square
head, stiff hair and drooping mustache, used to answer to the nickname
of _Hindenburg_.

The sailor grinned at the mere thought of putting that _Hindenburg_
underneath his own counter.... He'd just like to see this establishment
where his name had been uttered so many times!

At nightfall, his feet took him toward the bar with an irresistible
impulse which disdained all counsels of prudence.

The glass door resisted his nervous hands, perhaps because he handled
the latch with too much force. And the captain finally opened it by
giving a kick to its lower part, made of wood.

The panes almost flew out from the shock of this brutal blow. A
magnificent entrance!... He saw much smoke, perforated by the red stars
of three electric bulbs which had just been lit, and men around the
various tables, facing him or with their backs turned. The gramophone
was shrilling in a nasal tone like an old woman without teeth. Back of
the counter appeared _Hindenburg_, his throat open, sleeves rolled up
over arms as fat as legs.

"I am Captain Ulysses Ferragut."

The voice that said this had a power similar to that of the magic words
of Oriental tales which held the life of an entire city in suspense,
leaving persons and objects immovable in the very attitude in which the
powerful conjurer surprised them.

There was the silence of astonishment. Those were beginning to turn
their heads, attracted by the noise of the door, did not go on with the
movement. Those in front remained with their eyes fixed on the one who
was entering, eyes widened with surprise as if they could not believe
what they saw. The gramophone was suddenly hushed. _Hindenburg_, who
was washing out a glass, remained with motionless hands, without even
taking the napkin from its crystal cavity.

Ferragut seated himself near an empty table with his back against the
wall. A waiter, the only one in the establishment, hastened to find out
what the gentleman wished. He was an Andalusian, small and sprightly,
whose escapades had brought him to Barcelona. He usually served his
customers with indifference, without taking any interest in their words
and their hymns. He "didn't mix himself up in politics." Accustomed to
the ways of gay and hot-blooded people, he suspected that this man had
come to pick a quarrel, and hoped to soften him with his smiling and
obsequious manner.

The sailor spoke to him aloud. He knew that in that low cafe his name
was frequently used and that there were many there who desired to see
him. He could give them the message that Captain Ferragut was there at
their disposition.

"I shall do so," said the Andalusian.

And he went away to the counter, bringing him, in a little while, a
bottle and a glass.

In vain Ulysses fixed his glance on those who were occupying the nearby
tables. Some, turning their backs upon him, were absolutely rigid;
others had their eyes cast down and were talking quietly with
mysterious whispering.

Finally two or three exchanged glances with the captain. In their
pupils was the snap of budding wrath. The first surprise having
vanished, they seemed disposed to rise up and fall upon the recent
arrival. But some one behind him appeared to be controlling them with
murmured orders, and they finally obeyed him, lowering their eyes in
submissive restraint.

Ulysses soon tired of this silence. He was beginning to find his
attitude of animal-tamer rather ridiculous. He did not know whom to
assail in a place where they avoided his glance and all contact with
him. On the nearest table there was an illustrated newspaper, and he
took possession of it, turning its leaves. It was printed in German,
but he pretended to read it with great interest.

He had seated himself at the side, leaving free the hip on which his
revolver was resting. His hand, feigning distraction, passed near the
opening of his pocket, ready to take up arms in case of attack. In a
little while he regretted this excessively swaggering posture. They
were going to fall upon him, taking advantage of his reading. But pride
made him remain motionless, that they might not suspect his uneasiness.

Then he laughed in an insolent way as though he were reading in the
German illustration something that was provoking his jibes. As though
this were not enough, he raised his eyes with aggressive curiosity in
order to study the portraits adorning the wall.

Then he realized the great transformation which had just taken place in
the bar. Almost all the customers had filed silently out during his
reading. There remained only four blear-eyed drunkards who were
guzzling with satisfaction, occupied with the contents of their
glasses. _Hindenburg_, turning his mighty back upon his clientele, was
reading an evening newspaper on the counter. The Andalusian, seated in
the background, was looking at the captain, smiling. "There's an old
sport for you!..." He was mentally chuckling over the fact that one of
his countrymen had put to flight the brawling and brutal drinkers who
gave him so much trouble on other evenings.

Ulysses consulted his watch: half-past seven. Already he had driven
away all those people that Freya was so afraid of. What was left to do
here?... He paid and went out.

Night had fallen. Under the light of the electric lamp posts street
cars and automobiles were passing toward the interior of the city.
Following the arcades of the old edifices near the harbor, groups of
workers from the maritime establishments were filing by. Barcelona,
dazzling with splendor, was attracting the crowds. The inner harbor,
black and solitary, was filled with weak little lights twinkling from
the heights of the masts.

Ferragut stood undecided whether to go home to eat, or to a restaurant
in the Rambla. Then he suspected that some of the fugitives from that
dirty cafe were near, intending to follow him. In vain he glanced
searchingly around: he could not recognize anybody in the groups that
were reading the papers or conversing while waiting for the street car.

Suddenly he felt a desire to see Toni. Uncle Caragol would improvise
something to eat while the captain was telling his mate all about his
adventure at the bar. Besides, it seemed to him a fitting finale to his
escapade to offer to any enemies that might be following him a
favorable occasion for attacking him on the deserted wharf. The demon
of false pride was whispering in his ears: "Thus they will see that you
are not afraid of them."

And he marched resolutely toward the harbor, passing over railroad
tracks outlining the walls of long storehouses and winding in and out
among mountains of merchandise. At first he met little groups going
toward the city, then pairs, then single individuals, finally
nobody--absolute solitude.

Further on, the darkness was cut by silhouettes of ebony that sometimes
were boats and at others, alleyways of packages or hills of coal. The
black water reflected the red and green serpents from the lights on the
boats. A transatlantic liner was prolonging its loading operations by
the light of its electric reflectors, standing forth out of the
darkness with the gayety of a Venetian fiesta.

From time to time a man of slow step would come within the circle of
the street lamp, the muzzle of his gun gleaming. Others were lying in
ambush among the mountains of cargo. They were custom-house men and
guardians of the port.

Suddenly the captain felt an instinctive warning. They were following
him.... He stopped in the shadows, close to a pile of crates and saw
some men advancing in his direction, passing rapidly over the edge of
the red spot made by the electric bulbs, so as not to be under the rain
of light.

Although it was impossible for him to recognize them, he was positive,
nevertheless, that they were the enemy seen at the bar.

His ship was far away, near the end of the dock most deserted at that
hour. "You've done an idiotic thing," he said mentally.

He began to repent of his rashness, but it was now far too late to turn
back. The city was further away than the steamer, and his enemies would
fall upon him just as soon as they saw him going back. How many were
there?... That was the only thing that troubled him.

"Go on!... _Go on_!" cried his pride.

He had drawn out his revolver and was carrying it in his right hand
with the barrel to the front. In this solitude he could not count upon
the conventions of civilized life. Night was swallowing him up with all
the ambushed traps of a virgin forest while before his eyes was
sparkling a great city, crowned with electric diamonds, throwing a halo
of flame into the blackness of space.

Three times the Carabineers passed near him, but he did not wish to
speak to them. "Forward! Only women had to ask assistance...." Besides,
perhaps he was under an hallucination: he really could not swear that
they were in pursuit of him.

After a few steps, this doubt vanished. His senses, sharpened by
danger, had the same perception as has the wild boar who scents the
pack of hounds trying to cross his tracks. At his right, was the water.
At his left, men were prowling behind the mountains of freight, wishing
to cut him off; behind were coming still others to prevent his retreat.

He might run, advancing toward those who were trying to hem him in. But
ought a man to run with a revolver in his hand?... Those who were
coming behind would join in the pursuit. A human hunt was going to take
place in the night, and he, Ferragut, would be the deer pursued by the
low crowds from the bar. "Ah, no!..." The captain recalled von Kramer
galloping miserably in full daylight along the wharves of
Marseilles.... If they must kill him, let it not be in flight.

He continued his advance with a rapid step, seeing through his enemies'
plans. They did not wish to show themselves in that part of the harbor
obstructed by mountains of cases, fearing that he might hide himself
there. They would await him near his ship in a safe, hidden spot by
which he would undoubtedly have to pass.

"Forward!" he kept repeating to himself. "If I have to die, let it be
within sight of the _Mare Nostrum!_" The steamer was near. He could
recognize now its black silhouette fast to the wharf. At that moment
the dog on board began to bark furiously, announcing the captain's
presence and danger at the same time.

He abandoned the shelter of a hillock of coal, advancing over an open
space. He concentrated all his will power upon gaining his vessel as
quickly as possible.

A swift flame flashed out, followed by a report. They were already
shooting at him. Other little lights began to twinkle from different
sides of the dock, followed by reports of a gun. It was a sharp
cross-fire; behind him, they were firing, too. He felt various
whistlings near his ears, and received a blow on the shoulder,--a
sensation like that from a hot stone.

They were going to kill him. His enemies were too many for him. And,
without knowing exactly what he was doing, yielding to instinct, he
threw himself on the ground like a dying person.

Some few shots were still sounding. Then all was silent. Only on the
nearby ship the dog was continuing its howling.

He saw a shadow advancing slowly toward him. It was a man, one of his
enemies, coming out from the group in order to examine him at close
range. He let him come close up to him, with his right hand grasping
his revolver still intact.

Suddenly he raised his arm, striking the head that was bending over
him. Two lightning streaks flashed from his hand, separated by a brief
interval. The first flitting blaze of fire made him see a familiar
face.... Was it really Karl, the doctor's factotum?... The second
explosion aided his memory. Yes, it was Karl, with his features
disfigured by a black gash in the temple.... The German pulled himself
up with an agonizing shudder, then fell on his back, with his arms
relaxed.

This vision was instantaneous. The captain must think only of himself
now, and springing up with a bound, he ran and ran, bending himself
double, in order to offer the enemy the least possible mark.

He dreaded a general discharge, a hail of bullets; but his pursuers
hesitated a few moments, confused in the darkness and not knowing
surely whether it was the captain who had fallen a second time.

Only upon seeing a man running toward the ship did they recognize their
error, and renew their shots. Ferragut passed between the balls along
the edge of the wharf, the whole length of the _Mare Nostrum_. His
salvation was now but a matter of seconds provided that the crew had
not drawn in the gangplank between the steamer and the shore.

Suddenly he found himself on the gangplank, at the same time seeing a
man advancing toward him with something gleaming in one hand. It was
the mate who had just come out with his knife drawn.

The captain feared that he might make a mistake.

"Toni, it is I," he said in a voice almost breathless because of the
effort of his running.

Upon treading the deck of his vessel, he instantly recovered his
tranquillity.

Already the shots had ceased and the silence was ominous. In the
distance could be heard whistlings, cries of alarm, the noise of
running. The Carabineers and guards were called and grouped together in
order to charge in the dark, marching toward the spot where the
shooting had sounded.

"Haul in the gangplank!" ordered Ferragut.

The mate aided three of the hands who had just come up to retire the
gangplank hastily. Then he threatened the dog, to make it cease
howling.

Ferragut, near the railing, scanned carefully the darkness of the quay.
It seemed to him that he could see some men carrying another in their
arms. A remnant of his wrath made him raise his right hand, still
armed, aiming at the group. Then he lowered it again.... He remembered
that officers would be coming to investigate the occurrence. It was
better that they should find the boat absolutely silent.

Still panting, he entered the saloon under the poop and sat down.

As soon as he was within the circle of pale light that a hanging lamp
spread upon the table Toni fixed his glance on his left shoulder.

"Blood!..."

"It's nothing.... Merely a scratch. The proof of it is that I can move
my arm."

And he moved it, although with a certain difficulty, feeling the weight
of an increasing swelling.

"By-and-by I'll tell you how it happened.... I don't believe they'll be
anxious to repeat it."

Then he remained thoughtful for an instant.

"At any rate, it's best for us to get away from this port quickly....
Go and see our men. Not one of them is to speak about it!... Call
Caragol."

Before Toni could go out, the shining countenance of the cook surged up
out of the obscurity. He was on his way to the saloon, without being
called, anxious to know what had occurred, and fearing to find Ferragut
dying. Seeing the blood, his consternation expressed itself with
maternal vehemence.

"_Cristo del Grao!_... My captain's going to die!..."

He wanted to run to the galley in search of cotton and bandages. He was
something of a quack doctor and always kept things necessary for such
cases.

Ulysses stopped him. He would accept his services, but he wished
something more.

"I want to eat, Uncle Caragol," he said gayly. "I shall be content with
whatever you have.... Fright has given me an appetite."



CHAPTER XI


"FAREWELL, I AM GOING TO DIE"

When Ferragut left Barcelona the wound in his shoulder was already
nearly healed. The rotund negative given by the captain and his pilot
to the questions of the Carabineers freed them from further annoyance.
They "knew nothing,--had seen nothing." The captain received with
feigned indifference the news that the dead body of a man had been
found that very night,--a man who appeared to be a German, but without
papers, without anything that assured his identification,--on a dock
some distance from the berth occupied by the _Mare Nostrum_. The
authorities had not considered it worth while to investigate further,
classifying it as a simple struggle among refugees.

Provisioning the troops of the Orient obliged Ferragut, in the months
following, to sail as part of a convoy. A cipher dispatch would
sometimes summon him to Marseilles, at others to an Atlantic
port,--Saint-Nazaire, Quiberon, or Brest.

Every few days ships of different class and nationality were arriving.
There were those that displayed their aristocratic origin by the fine
line of the prow, the slenderness of the smokestacks and the still
white color of their upper decks: they were like the high-priced steeds
that war had transformed into simple beasts of battle. Former
mail-packets, swift racers of the waves, had descended to the humble
service of transport boats. Others, black and dirty, with the pitchy
plaster of hasty reparation and a consumptive smokestack on an enormous
hull, plowed along, coughing smoke, spitting ashes, panting with the
jangle of old iron. The flags of the Allies and those of the neutral
navies waved on the different ships. Reuniting, they formed a convoy in
the broad bay. There were fifteen or twenty steamers, sometimes thirty,
which had to navigate together, adjusting their different speeds to a
common pace. The cargo boats, merchant steamers that made only a few
knots an hour, exacted a desperate slowness of the rest of the convoy.

The _Mare Nostrum_ had to sail at half speed, making its captain very
impatient with these monotonous and dangerous peregrinations, extending
over weeks and weeks.

Before setting out, Ferragut, like all the other captains, would
receive sealed and stamped orders. These were from the Commodore of the
convoy,--the commander of a torpedo destroyer, or a simple officer of
the Naval Reserve in charge of a motor trawler armed with a quickfiring
gun.

The steamers would begin belching smoke and hoisting anchors without
knowing whither they were going. The official document was opened only
at the moment of departure. Ulysses would break the seals and examine
the paper, understanding with facility its formal language, written in
a common cipher. The first thing that he would look out for was the
port of destination, then, the order of formation. They were to sail in
single file or in a double row, according to the number of vessels. The
_Mare Nostrum_, represented by a certain number, was to navigate
between two other numbers which were those of the nearest steamers.
They were to keep between them a distance of about five hundred yards;
it was important that they should not come any nearer in a moment of
carelessness, nor prolong the line so that they would be out of sight
of the watchful guardians.

At the end, the general instructions for all the voyages were repeated
with a laconic brevity that would have made other men, not accustomed
to look death in the face, turn pale. In case of a submarine attack,
the transports that carried guns were to come out from the line and aid
the patrol of armed vessels, attacking the enemy. The others were to
continue their course tranquilly, without paying any attention to the
attack. If the boat in front of them or the one following was
torpedoed, they were not to stop to give it aid. The torpedo boats and
"chaluteros" were charged with saving the wrecked ship if it were
possible. The duty of the transport was always to go forward, blind and
deaf, without getting out of line, without stopping, until it had
delivered at the terminal port the fortune stowed in its holds.

This march in convoy imposed by the submarine war represented a leap
backward in the life of the sea. It recalled to Ferragut's mind the
sailing fleets of other centuries, escorted by navies in line,
punctuating their course by incessant battles, and the remote voyages
of the galleons of the Indies, setting forth from Seville in fleets
when bound for the coast of the New World.

The double file of black hulks with plumes of smoke advanced very
placidly in fair weather. When the day was gray, the sea choppy, the
sky and the atmosphere foggy, they would scatter and leap about like a
troop of dark and frightened lambs. The guardians of the convoy, three
little boats that were going at full speed, were the vigilant mastiffs
of this marine herd, preceding it in order to explore the horizon,
remaining behind it, or marching beside it in order to keep the
formation intact. Their lightness and their swiftness enabled them to
make prodigious bounds over the waves. A girdle of smoke curled itself
around their double smokestacks. Their prows when not hidden were
expelling cascades of foam, sometimes even showing the dripping
forefoot of the keel.

At night time they would all travel with few lights, simple lanterns at
the prow, as warning to the one just ahead, and another one at the
stern, to point out the route to the ship following. These faint lights
could scarcely be seen. Oftentimes the helmsman would suddenly have to
turn his course and demand slackened speed behind, seeing the
silhouette of the boat ahead looming up in the darkness. A few moments
of carelessness and it would come in on the prow with a deadly ram.
Upon slowing down, the captain always looked behind uneasily, fearing
in turn to collide with his following ship.

They were all thinking about the invisible submarines. From time to
time would sound the report of the guns; the convoy's escort was
shooting and shooting, going from one side to the other with agile
evolutions. The enemy had fled like wolves before the barking of
watch-dogs. On other occasions it would prove a false alarm, and the
shells would wound the desert water with a lashing of steel.

There was an enemy more troublesome than the tempest, more terrible
than the torpedoes, that disorganized the convoys. It was the fog,
thick and pale as the white of an egg, enshrouding the vessels, making
them navigate blindly in full daylight, filling space with the useless
moaning of their sirens, not letting them see the water which sustained
them nor the nearby boats that might emerge at any moment from the
blank atmosphere, announcing their apparition with a collision and a
tremendous, deadly crash. In this way the merchant fleets had to
proceed entire days together and when, at the end, they found
themselves free from this wet blanket, breathing with satisfaction as
though awaking from a nightmare, another ashy and nebulous wall would
come advancing over the waters enveloping them anew in its night. The
most valorous and calm men would swear upon seeing the endless bar of
mist closing off the horizon.

Such voyages were not at all to Ferragut's taste. Marching in line like
a soldier, and having to conform to the speed of these miserable little
boats irritated him greatly, and it made him still more wrathful to
find himself obliged to obey the Commodore of a convoy who frequently
was nobody but an old sailor of masterful character.

Because of all this he announced to the maritime authorities, on one of
his arrivals at Marseilles, his firm intention of not sailing any more
in this fashion. He had had enough with four such expeditions which
were all well enough for timid captains incapable of leaving a port
unless they always had in sight an escort of torpedo-boats, and whose
crews at the slightest occurrence would try to lower the lifeboats and
take refuge on the coast. He believed that he would be more secure
going alone, trusting to his skill, with no other aid than his profound
knowledge of the routes of the Mediterranean.

His petition was granted. He was the owner of a vessel and they were
afraid of losing his coöperation when means of transportation were
growing so very scarce. Besides, the _Mare Nostrum_, on account of its
high speed, deserved individual employment in extraordinary and rapid
service.

He remained in Marseilles some weeks waiting for a cargo of howitzers,
and meandered as usual around the Mediterranean capital. He passed the
evenings on the terrace of a cafe of the _Cannebière_. The recollection
of von Kramer always loomed up in his mind at such times. "I wonder if
they have shot him!..." He wished to know, but his investigations did
not meet with much success. War Councils avoid publicity regarding
their acts of justice. A Marseilles merchant, a friend of Ferragut,
seemed to recall that some months before a German spy, surprised in the
harbor, had been executed. Three lines, no more, in the newspapers,
gave an account of his death. They said that he was an officer.... And
his friend went on talking about the war news while Ulysses was
thinking that the executed man could not have been any one else but von
Kramer.

On that same afternoon he had an encounter. While passing through the
street of _Saint-Ferreol_, looking at the show windows, the cries of
several conductors of cabs and automobiles who could not manage to
drive their vehicles through the narrow and crowded streets, attracted
his attention. In one carriage he saw a blonde lady with her back to
him, accompanied by two officers of the English navy. Immediately he
thought of Freya.... Her hat, her gown, everything about her
personality, was so very distinctive. And yet, when the coach had
passed on without his being able to get a glimpse of the face of the
stranger, the image of the adventuress persisted in his mind.

Finally he became very much irritated with himself, because of this
absurd resemblance suspected without any reason whatever. How could
that English-woman with the two officers be Freya?... How could a
German refugee in Barcelona manage to slip into France where she was
undoubtedly known by the military police?... And still more
exasperating was his suspicion that this resemblance might have
awakened a remnant of the old love which made him see Freya in every
blonde woman.

At nine o'clock the following morning, while the captain was in his
stateroom dressing to go ashore, Toni opened the door.

His face was scowling and timid at the same time, as though he had some
bad news to give.

"That creature is here," he said laconically.

Ferragut looked at him with a questioning expression: "_What_
creature?..."

"Who else could it be?... The one from Naples! That blonde devil that
brought us all so much trouble!... We'll see now if this witch is going
to keep us immovable for I don't know how many weeks just as she did
the other time."

He excused himself as though he had just failed in discipline. The boat
was fastened to the wharf by a bridgeway and anybody could come aboard.
The pilot was opposed to these dockings which left the passage free to
the curious and the importunate. By the time he had finished announcing
her arrival, the lady was already on deck near the staterooms. She
remembered well the way to the saloon. She had wished to go straight
in, but it had been Caragol who had stopped her, while Toni went to
advise the captain.

"_Cristo_!" murmured Ulysses. "_Cristo!_..."

And his astonishment, his surprise, did not permit him to utter any
other exclamation.

Then he burst out furiously. "Throw her overboard!... Let two men lay
hold of her and put her back on the wharf, by main force, if
necessary."

But Toni hesitated, not daring to comply with such commands. And the
impetuous Ferragut rushed outside of his cabin to do himself what had
been ordered.

When he reached the saloon some one entered at the same time from the
deck. It was Caragol, who was trying to block the passage of a woman;
but she, laughing and taking advantage of his purblind eyes, was
slipping little by little in between his body and the wooden partition.

On seeing the captain, Freya ran toward him, throwing out her arms.

"You!" she cried in a merry voice. "I knew well enough that you were
here, in spite of the fact that these men were assuring me to the
contrary.... My heart told me so.... How do you do, Ulysses!"

Caragol turned his eyes toward the place where he supposed the mate
must be, as though imploring his pardon. With females he never could
carry out any order.... Toni, on his part, appeared in an agony of
shame before this woman who was looking at him defiantly.

The two disappeared. Ferragut was not able to say exactly how they got
away, but he was glad of it. He feared that the recent arrival might
allude in their presence to the things of the past.

He remained contemplating her a long time. He had believed the day
before that he had recognized her back, and now he was sure that he
might have passed on with indifference had he seen her face. Was this
really the same woman that the two English officials were
accompanying?... She appeared much taller than the other one, with a
slenderness that made her skin appear more clear, giving it a delicate
transparency. The nose was finer and more prominent. The eyes were
sparkling, hidden in bluish black circles.

These eyes began to look at the captain, humbly and pleadingly.

"You!" exclaimed Ulysses in wonder. "You!... What are you coming here
for?"...

Freya replied with the timidity of a bondslave. Yes, it was she who had
recognized him the day before, long before he had seen her, and at once
had formed the plan of coming in search of him. He could beat her just
as at their last meeting: she was ready to suffer everything ... but
with him!

"Save me, Ulysses! Take me with you!... I implore you even more
anxiously than in Barcelona."

"What are you doing here?..."

She understood the captain's amazement on meeting her in a belligerent
country, the disquietude he must naturally feel upon finding a spy on
his vessel. She looked around in order to make sure that they were
entirely alone and spoke in a low voice. The doctor had sent her to
France in order that she should "operate" in its ports. Only to him
could she reveal the secret.

Ulysses was more indignant than ever at this confidence.

"Clear out!" he said in a wrathful voice. "I don't want to know
anything about you.... Your affairs do not interest me at all. I do not
wish to know them.... Get out of here! What are you plaguing me for?"

But she did not appear disposed to comply with his orders. Instead of
departing, she dropped wearily down on one of the divans of the
stateroom.

"I have come," she said, "to beg you to save me. I ask it for the last
time.... I'm going to die; I suspect that my end is very near if you
will not hold out a helping hand; I foresee the vengeance of my own
people.... Guard me, Ulysses! Do not make me go back ashore; I am
afraid.... So safe I shall feel here at your side!..."

Fear, sure enough, was reflected in her eyes as she recalled the last
months of her life in Barcelona.

"The doctor is my enemy.... She who protected me so in other times
abandons me now like an old shoe that it is necessary to get rid of. I
am positive that her superior officers have condemned me...."

She shuddered on remembering the doctor's wrath when on her return from
one of her trips she learned of the death of her faithful Karl. To her,
Captain Ferragut was a species of invulnerable and victorious demon who
was escaping all dangers and murdering the servants of a good cause.
First von Kramer; now Karl.... As it was necessary for her to vent her
wrath on somebody, she had made Freya responsible for all her
misfortunes. Through her she had known the captain, and had mixed him
up in the affairs of the "service."

Thirst for vengeance made the imposing dame smile with a ferocious
expression. The Spanish sailor was doomed by the Highest Command.
Precise orders had been given out against him. "As to his
accomplices!..." Freya was figuring undoubtedly among these accomplices
for having dared to defend Ferragut, for remembering the tragic event
of his son, for having refused to join the chorus desiring his
extermination.

Weeks afterwards the doctor again became as smiling and as amiable as
in other times. "My dear girl, it is agreed that you should take a trip
to France. We need there an agent who will keep us informed of the
traffic of the ports, of the goings and comings of the vessels in order
that our submersibles may know where to await them. The naval officials
are very gallant, and a beautiful woman will be able to gain their
affection."

She had tried to disobey. To go to France!... where her pre-war work
was already known!... To go back to danger when she had already become
accustomed to the safe life of a neutral country!... But her attempts
at resistance were ineffectual. She lacked sufficient will-power; the
"service" had converted her into an automaton.

"And here I am, suspecting that probably I am going to my death, but
fulfilling the commissions given to me, struggling to be accommodating
and retard in this way the fulfillment of their vengeance.... I am like
a condemned criminal who knows that he is going to die, and tries to
make himself so necessary that his sentence will be delayed for a few
months."

"How did you get into France?" he demanded, paying no attention to her
doleful tones.

"Freya shrugged her shoulders. In her business a change of nationality
was easily accomplished. At present she was passing for a citizen of a
South American republic. The doctor had arranged all the papers
necessary to enable her to cross the frontier.

"But here," she continued, "my accomplices have me more securely than
as though I were in prison. They have given me the means of coming here
and they only can arrange my departure. I am absolutely in their power.
I wonder what they are going to do with me!..."

At certain times terror had suggested most desperate expedients to her.
She had thought of denouncing herself, of appearing before the French
authorities, telling them her story and acquainting them with the
secrets which she possessed. But her past filled her with terror, so
many were the evils which she had brought against this country. Perhaps
they might pardon her life, taking into account her voluntary action in
giving herself up. But the prison, the seclusion with shaved head,
dressed in some coarse serge frock, condemned to silence, perhaps
suffering hunger and cold, filled her with invincible repulsion.... No,
death before that!

And so she was continuing her life as a spy, shutting her eyes to the
future, living only in the present, trying to keep from thinking,
considering herself happy if she could see before her even a few days
of security.

The meeting with Ferragut in the street of Marseilles had revived her
drooping spirits, arousing new hope.

"Get me out of here; keep me with you. On your ship I could live as
forgotten by the world as though I were dead.... And if my presence
annoys you, take me far away from France, leave me in some distant
country!"

She was anxious to evade isolation in the enemy's territory, obliged to
obey her superiors like a caged beast who has to take jabs through the
iron grating. Presentiment of her approaching death was making her
tremble.

"I do not want to die, Ulysses!... I am not old enough yet to die. I
adore my physical charm. I am my own best lover and I am terrified at
the thought that I might be shot."

A phosphorescent light gleamed from her eyes and her teeth struck
together with a chattering of terror.

"I do not want to die!" she repeated. "There are moments in which I
suspect that they are following me and closing me in.... Perhaps they
have recognized me and at this moment are waiting to surprise me in the
very act.... Do help me; get me away from here; my death is certain. I
have done so much harm!..."

She was silent a moment, as though calculating all the crimes of her
former life.

"The doctor," she continued, "depends upon her consuming patriotic
enthusiasm as the impetus to her work. I lack her faith. I am not a
German woman, and being a spy is very repugnant to me.... I feel
ashamed when I think of my actual life; every night I think over the
result of my abominable work; I calculate the use to which they will
put my warnings and my information; I can see the torpedoed boats.... I
wonder how many human beings have perished through my fault!... I have
visions; my conscience torments me. Save me!... I can do no more. I
feel a horrible fear. I have so much to expiate!..."

Little by little she had raised herself from the divan, and, while
begging Ferragut's protection, was going toward him with outstretched
arms; abject, and yet at the same time caressing, through that desire
of seduction that always predominated over all her acts.

"Leave me!" shouted the sailor. "Do not come near me.... Do not touch
me!"

He felt that same wrath that had made him so brutal in their interview
in Barcelona. He was greatly exasperated at the tenacity of this
adventuress who, in addition to the tragic influence she had already
exercised upon his life, was now trying to compromise him still
further.

But a sentiment of cold compassion made him check his anger and speak
with a certain kindness.

If she needed money in order to make her escape, he would give it to
her without any haggling whatever. She could name the sum. The captain
was disposed to satisfy all her desires except that of living with her.
He would give her a substantial amount in order to make her fortune
assured and never see her again.

Freya made a gesture of protest at the same time that the sailor began
repenting of his generosity.... Why should he do such a favor to a
woman who reminded him of the death of his son?... What was there in
common between the two?... Their vile love-affair in Naples had been
sufficiently paid for with his bereavement.... Let each one follow his
own destiny; they belonged to different worlds.... Was he going to have
to defend himself all his life long from this insistent charmer?...

Moreover, he was not at all sure that even now she was telling the
truth.... Everything about her was false. He did not even know with
certainty her true name and her past existence....

"Clear out!" he roared in a threatening tone. "Leave me in peace."

He raised his powerful hand against her, seeing that she was going to
refuse to obey. He was going to pick her up roughly, carry her like a
light bundle outside the room, outside the boat, flinging her away as
though she were remorse.

But her physique, so opulent in its seductions, now inspired him with
an unconquerable repugnance; he was afraid of its contact and wished to
avoid its electric surprises.... Besides, he wasn't going to maltreat
her at every meeting like a professional Apache who mixes love and
blows. He recalled with disgust his violence in Barcelona.

And as Freya instead of going away sank back on the divan, with a
faintness that seemed to challenge his wrath, it was he who fled in
order to bring the interview to an end.

He rushed into his stateroom, locking the door with a bang. This flight
brought her out of her inertia. She wished to follow him with the leap
of a young panther, but her hands collided with an obstacle that became
impassable, while from within sounded the noise of keys and bolts.

She pounded the door desperately, injuring her fists with her fruitless
efforts.

"Ulysses, open it!... Listen to me."

In vain she shrieked as though she were giving an order, exasperated at
finding that she was not obeyed. Her fury spent itself unavailingly
against the solid immovability of the wood. Suddenly she began to cry,
modifying her purpose upon finding herself as weak and defenseless as
an abandoned creature. All her life appeared concentrated in her tears
and in her pleading voice.

She passed her fingers over the door, groping over the moldings,
slipping them over the varnished surface as though seeking at random a
crevice, a hole, something that would permit her to get to the man that
was on the other side.

Instinctively she fell upon her knees, putting her mouth to the
keyhole.

"My lord, my master!" she murmured in the voice of a beggar. "Open the
door.... Do not abandon me. Remember that I am going to my death if you
do not save me."

Ferragut heard her, and, in order to evade her moaning, was getting as
near as possible to the end of his stateroom. Then he unfastened the
round window that opened on the deck, ordering a seaman to go after the
mate.

"_Don Antoni! Don Antoni!_" various voices cried the whole length of
the ship.

Toni appeared, putting his face in the circular opening only to receive
the furious vituperation of his captain.

Why had they left him alone with that woman?... They must take her off
the boat at once, even if it had to be done by main force.... He
commanded it.

The mate went off with a confounded air, scratching his beard as though
he had received an order very difficult to execute.

"Save me, my love!" the imploring whisper kept moaning. "Forget who I
am.... Think only of the one of Naples.... Of the one whom you knew at
Pompeii.... Remember our happiness alone together in the days when you
swore never to abandon me.... You are a gentleman!..."

Her voice ceased for a moment. Ferragut heard footsteps on the other
side of the door. Toni was carrying out his orders.

But in a few seconds the pleading again burst forth, reconcentrated,
tenacious, bent only upon carrying its point, scorning the new
obstacles about to interpose between her and the captain.

"Do you hate me so?... Remember the bliss that I gave you. You yourself
swore to me that you had never been so happy. I can revive that past.
You do not know of what things I am capable in order to make your
existence sweet.... And you wish to lose and to ruin me!..."

A clash against the door was heard, a struggle of bodies that were
pushing each other, the friction of a scuffle against the wood.

Toni had entered followed by Caragol.

"Enough of that now, Señora," said the mate in a grim voice in order to
hide his emotion. "Can't you see that the captain doesn't want to see
you?... Don't you understand that you are disturbing him?... Come,
now.... Get up!"

He tried to help her to stand up, separating her mouth from the
keyhole. But Freya repelled the vigorous sailor with facility. He
appeared to be lacking in force, without the courage to repeat his
rough action. The beauty of this woman made him afraid. He was still
thrilled by the contact of her firm body which he had just torched
during their short struggle. His drowsing virtue had suffered the
torments of a fruitless resurrection. "Ah, no!... Let somebody else
take charge of putting her off."

"Ulysses, they're taking me away!" she cried, again putting her mouth
to the keyhole. "And you, my love, will you permit it?... You who used
to love me so?..."

After this desperate call, she remained silent for a few instants. The
door maintained its immobility; behind it there seemed to be no living
being.

"Farewell!" she continued in a low voice, her throat choked with sobs,
"you will see me no more.... I am soon going to die; my heart tells me
so.... To die because of you!... Perhaps some day you will weep on
recalling that you might have saved me."

Some one had intervened to force Freya from her rebellious standstill.
It was Caragol, solicited by the mate's imploring eyes.

His great hairy hands helped her to arise, without making her repeat
the protest that had repelled Toni. Conquered and bursting into tears,
she appeared to yield to the paternal aid and counsel of the cook.

"Up now, my good lady!" said Caragol. "A little more courage and don't
cry any more.... There is some consolation for everything in this
world."

In his bulky right hand he imprisoned her two, and, passing his other
arm around her waist, he was guiding her little by little toward the
exit from the salon.

"Trust in God," he added. "Why do you seek the captain who has his own
wife ashore?... Other men who are free are still in existence, and you
could make some arrangement with them without falling into mortal sin."

Freya was not listening to him. Near the door she again turned her
head, beginning her return toward the captain's stateroom.

"Ulysses!... Ulysses!" she cried.

"Trust in God, Señora," said Caragol again, while he was pushing her
along with his flabby abdomen and shaggy breast.

A charitable idea was taking possession of his thoughts. He had the
remedy for the grief of this handsome woman whose desperation but made
her more interesting.

"Come along, Señora.... Leave it to me, my child."

Upon reaching the deck he continued driving her towards his dominions.
Freya found herself seated in the galley, without knowing just exactly
where she was. Through her tears she saw this obese old man of
sacerdotal benevolence, going from side to side gathering bottles
together and mixing liquids, stirring the spoon around in a glass with
a joyous tinkling.

"Drink without fear.... There is no trouble that resists this
medicine."

The cook offered her a glass and she, vanquished, drank and drank,
making a wry face because of the alcoholic intensity of the liquid. She
continued weeping at the same time that her mouth was relishing the
heavy sweetness. Her tears were mingled with the beverage that was
slipping between her lips.

A comfortable warmth began making itself felt in her stomach, drying up
the moisture in her eyes and giving new color to her cheeks. Caragol
was keeping up his chat, satisfied with the outcome of his handiwork,
making signs to the glowering Toni,--who was passing and repassing
before the door, with the vehement desire of seeing the intruder march
away, and disappear forever.

"Don't cry any more, my daughter.... _Cristo del Grao!_ The very idea!
A lady as pretty as you, who can find sweethearts by the dozen,
crying!... Believe me; find somebody else. This world is just full of
men with nothing to do.... And always for every disappointment that you
suffer, have recourse to my cordial.... I am going to give you the
recipe."

He was about to note down on a bit of paper the proportions of brandy
and sugar, when she arose, suddenly invigorated, looking around her in
wonder.... But where was she? What had she to do with this good, kind,
half-dressed man, who was talking to her as though he were her
father?...

"Thanks! Many thanks!" she said on leaving the kitchen.

Then on deck she stopped, opening her gold-mesh bag, in order to take
out the little glass and powder box. In the beveled edge of the oval
glass she saw the faun-like countenance of Toni hovering behind her
with glances of impatience.

"Tell Captain Ferragut that I shall never trouble him again.... All has
ended.... Perhaps he may hear me spoken of some time, but he will never
see me again."

And she left the boat without turning her head, with quickened step as
though, fired by a sudden suggestion, she were hastening to put it into
effect.

Toni ran also, but toward Ulysses' stateroom window.

"Has she gone yet?" asked the captain impatiently.

The mate nodded his head. She had promised not to return.

"Be it so!" said Ferragut.

Toni experienced the same desire. Would to God they might never again
see this blonde who always brought them misfortune!...

In the days following, the captain rarely left his ship. He did not
wish to run the risk of meeting her in the city streets for he was a
little doubtful of the hardness of his character. He feared that upon
seeing her again, weeping and pleading, he might yield to her
beseeching.

Ulysses' uneasiness vanished as soon as the loading of the vessel was
finished. This trip was going to be shorter than the others. The _Mare
Nostrum_ went to Corfu with war material for the Serbs who were
reorganizing their battalions destined for Salonica.

On the return trip Ferragut was attacked by the enemy. One day at dawn
just as he mounted the bridge to relieve Toni, the two spied at the
same time the tangible form that they were always seeing in
imagination. Within the circle of their glasses there framed itself the
end of a stick, black and upright, that was cutting the waters rosy in
the sunrise, leaving a wake of foam.

"Submarine!" shouted the captain.

Toni said nothing, but shoving aside the helmsman with a stroke of his
paw, he grasped the wheel, making the boat swerve in another direction.
The movement was opportune. Only a few seconds had passed by when there
began to be seen upon the water a black back of dizzying speed headed
directly for the steamer.

"Torpedo!" shouted the captain.

The anxious waiting lasted but a few seconds. The projectile, hidden in
the water, passed some six yards from the stern, losing itself in
space. Had it not been for Toni's rapid tacking, the boat would have
been hit squarely in the side.

Through the speaking tube connecting with the engine-room the captain
shouted energetic orders to put on full speed. Meanwhile the mate,
clamped to the wheel, ready to die rather than leave it, was directing
the boat in zigzags so as not to offer a fixed point to the submarine.

All the crew were watching from the rail the distant and insignificant
upright periscope. The third officer had rushed out of his stateroom,
almost naked, rubbing his sleepy eyes. Caragol was in the stern, his
loose shirt-tail flapping away as he held one hand to his eyebrows like
a visor.

"I see it!... I see it perfectly.... Ah, the bandit, the heretic!"

And he extended his threatening fist toward a point in the horizon
exactly opposite to the one upon which the periscope was appearing.

Through the blue circle of the glasses Ferragut saw this tube climbing
up and up, growing larger and larger. It was no longer a stick, it was
a tower; and from beneath this tower was coming up on the sea a base of
steel spouting cascades of smoke,--a gray whale-back that appeared
little by little to be taking the form of a sailing vessel, long and
sharp-pointed.

A flag was suddenly run up upon the submarine. Ulysses recognized it.

"They are going to shell us!" he yelled to Toni. "It's useless to keep
up the zigzagging. The thing to do now is to outspeed them, to go
forward in a straight line."

The mate, skillful helmsman that he was, obeyed the captain. The hull
vibrated under the force of the engines taxed to their utmost. Their
prow was cutting the waters with increasing noise. The submersible upon
augmenting its volume by emersion appeared, nevertheless, to be falling
behind on the horizon. Two streaks of foam began to spring up on both
sides of its prow. It was running with all its possible surface speed;
but the _Mare Nostrum_ was also going at the utmost limit of its
engines and the distance was widening between the two boats.

"They are shooting!" said Ferragut with the glasses to his eyes.

A column of water spouted near the prow. That was the only thing that
Caragol was able to see clearly and he burst into applause with a
childish joy. Then he waved on high his palm-leaf hat. "_Viva el Santo
Cristo del Grao!_..."

Other projectiles were falling around the _Mare Nostrum_, spattering it
with jets of foam. Suddenly it trembled from poop to prow. Its plates
trembled with the vibration of an explosion.

"That's nothing!" yelled the captain, bending himself double over the
bridge in order to see better the hull of his ship. "A shell in the
stern. Steady, Toni!..."

The mate, always grasping the wheel, kept turning his head from time to
time to measure the distance separating them from the submarine. Every
time that he saw an aquatic column of spray, forced up by a projectile,
he would repeat the same counsel.

"Lie down, Ulysses!... They are going to fire at the bridge!"

This was a recollection of his far-away youth when, as a contrabandist,
he used to stretch himself flat on the deck of his bark, manipulating
the wheel and the sail under the fire of the custom-house officers on
watch. He feared for the life of his captain while he was standing,
constantly offering himself to the shots of the enemy.

Ferragut was storming from side to side, cursing his lack of means for
returning the aggression. "This will never happen another time!... They
won't get another chance to amuse themselves chasing me!"

A second projectile opened another breach in the poop. "If it only
won't hit the engines!" the captain was thinking. After that the _Mare
Nostrum_ received no more damage, the following shots merely raising up
columns of water in the steamer's wake. Every time now, these white
phantasms leaped up further and further away. Although out of the range
of the enemy's gun, it continued shooting and shooting uselessly.
Finally the firing ceased and the submarine disappeared from the view
of the glasses and completely submerged, tired of vain pursuit.

"That'll never happen again!" the captain kept repeating. "They'll
never attack me another time with impunity!"

Then it occurred to him that this submarine had attack him knowing just
who he was. On the side of his vessel were painted the colors of Spain.
At the first shot from the gun, the third officer had hoisted the flag,
but the shots did not cease on that account. They had wished to sink it
"without leaving any trace." He believed that Freya, in her relations
with the directors of the submarine campaign, must have advised them of
his trip.

"Ah,... _tal!_ If I meet her another time!..."

He had to remain several weeks in Marseilles while the damage to his
steamer was being repaired.

As Toni lacked occupation during this enforced idleness, he accompanied
him many times on his strolls. They liked to seat themselves on the
terrace of a café in order to comment upon the picturesque differences
in the cosmopolitan crowd.

"Look; people from our own country!" said the captain one evening.

And he pointed to three seamen drawn into the current of different
uniforms and types of various races flowing familiarly around the
tables of the café.

He had recognized them by their silk caps with visors, their blue
jackets and their heavy obesity of Mediterranean sailors enjoying a
certain prosperity. They must be skippers of small boats.

As though Ferragut's looks and gestures had mysteriously notified them,
the three turned, fixing their eyes on the captain. Then they began to
discuss among themselves with a vehemence which made it easy to guess
their words.

"It is he!..." "No, it isn't!..."

Those men knew him but couldn't believe that they were really seeing
him.

They went a little way off with marked indecision, turning repeatedly
to look at him once more. In a few moments one of them, the oldest,
returned, approaching the table timidly.

"Excuse me, but aren't you Captain Ferragut?..." He asked this question
in Valencian, with his right hand at his cap, ready to take it off.

Ulysses stopped his salutation and offered him a seat. Yes, he was
Ferragut. What did he want?...

The man refused to sit down. He wished to tell him privately two
special things. When the captain presented to him his mate as a man in
whom they could have complete confidence, he then sat down. The two
companions, breaking through the human current, were standing on the
edge of the sidewalk, turning their backs to the café.

He was skipper of a small craft; Ferragut had not been mistaken. He was
speaking slowly, as though taken up with his final revelation to which
all that he was saying was merely an introduction.

"The times are not so bad.... Money is to be gained in the sea; more
than ever. I am from Valencia.... We have brought three boats from
there with wine and rice. A good trip, but it was necessary to navigate
close to the coast, following the curve of the gulf, without venturing
to pass from cape to cape for fear of the submarine.... I have met a
submarine."

Ulysses suspected that these last words contained the real motive which
had made the man, overcoming his timidity, venture to address him.

"It was not on this trip nor on the one before," continued the man of
the sea. "I met it two days before last Christmas. In the winter I
devote myself to fishing. I am the owner of a pair of fishing
smacks.... We were near the island Columbretas when suddenly we saw a
submarine appear near us. The Germans did not do us any harm; the only
vexatious thing was that we had to give them a part of our fish for
what they wished to give us. Then they ordered me to come aboard the
deck of a submarine in order to meet the commander. He was a young
fellow who could talk Castilian as I have heard it spoken over there in
the Americas when I was a youngster sailing on a brigantine."

The man stopped, rather reserved, as though doubtful whether to
continue his story.

"And what did the German say?" asked Ferragut, in order to encourage
him to continue.

"Upon learning that I was a Valencian, he asked me if I was acquainted
with you. He asked me about your steamer, wanting to know if it
generally sailed along the Spanish coast. I replied that I knew you by
name, no more, and then he ..."

The captain encouraged him with a smile on seeing that he was beginning
to hesitate again.

"He spoke badly about me. Isn't that so?..."

"Yes, sir; very badly. He used ugly words. He said that he had an
account to adjust with you and that he wished to be the first one to
meet you. According to what he gave me to understand, the other
submarines are hunting for you, too.... It is an order without doubt."

Ferragut and his mate exchanged a long look. Meanwhile the captain
continued his explanations.

The two friends who were waiting a few steps off had seen the captain
in Valencia and Barcelona many times. One of them had recognized him
immediately; but the other was doubtful whether it might be he, and, as
a matter of conscience, the old skipper had come back to give him this
warning.

"We countrymen must help one another.... These are bad times!"

Seeing him standing, his two comrades now came up to Ferragut. "What
would you like to drink?" He invited them to seat themselves at the
table, but they were in a hurry. They were on their way to see the
consignees of their boats.

"Now you know it, Captain," said the skipper on bidding him farewell.
"These demons are after you in order to pay you up for something in the
past. You know what for.... Be very careful!"

The rest of the evening Ferragut and Toni talked very little together.
The two had exactly the same thought in their brain, but avoided
putting it in shape because, as energetic men, they feared that some
cowardly construction might be put upon such thoughts.

At nightfall when they returned to the steamer the pilot ventured to
break the silence.

"Why do you not quit the sea?... You are rich. Besides, they'll give
you whatever you ask for your ship. To-day boats are worth their weight
in gold."

Ulysses shrugged his shoulders. He wasn't thinking of money. What good
would that do him?... He wanted to pass the rest of his life on the
sea, giving aid to the enemies of his enemies. He had a vengeance to
fulfill.... Living on land, he would be abandoning this vengeance,
though remembering his son with even greater intensity.

The mate was silent for a few moments.

"The enemies are so many," he then said in dismay. "We are so
insignificant!... We only escaped by a few yards being sent to the
bottom on our last trip. What has not happened yet will surely happen
some day.... _They_ have sworn to do away with you; and they are many
... and they are at war. What could we do, we poor peaceable
sailors?..."

Toni did not add anything further but his silent thoughts were divined
by Ulysses.

He was thinking about his family over there in the _Marina_, enduring
an existence of continual anxiety while he was aboard a vessel for
which irresistible menace was lying in wait. He was thinking also of
the wives and mothers of all the men of the crew who were suffering the
same anguish. And Toni was asking himself for the first time whether
Captain Ferragut had the right to drag them all to a sure death just
because of his vengeful and crazy stubbornness.

"No; I have not the right," Ulysses told himself mentally.

But at the same time his mate, repentant of his former reflection, was
affirming in a loud voice with heroic simplicity:

"If I counsel you to retire, it is for your own good; don't think it is
because I am afraid.... I will follow you wherever you sail. I've got
to die some time and it would be far better that it should be in the
sea. The only thing that troubles me is worrying about my wife and
children."

The captain continued walking in silence and, upon reaching his ship,
spoke with brevity. "I was thinking of doing something that perhaps you
would all like. Before next week your future will have been decided."

He passed the following day on land. Twice he returned with some
gentlemen who examined the steamer minutely, going down into the engine
room and the holds. Some of these visitors appeared to be experts in
matters pertaining to the sea.

"He wants to sell the boat," said Toni to himself.

And the mate began to repent of his counsels. Abandon the _Mare
Nostrum_, the best of all the ships on which he had ever sailed!... He
accused himself of cowardice, believing that it was he who had impelled
the captain to reach this decision. What were the two going to do on
land when the steamer was the property of others?... Would he not have
to sail on an inferior boat, running the same risks?... He decided to
undo his work, and was about to counsel Ferragut again, declaring that
his ideas were mere conjecture and that he must continue living as he
was at present, when the captain gave the order for departure. The
repairs were not yet entirely completed.

"We are going to Brest," said Ferragut laconically, "It's the last
trip."

And the steamer put to sea without cargo as though going to fulfill a
special mission.

"The last trip!" Toni admired his ship as though seeing it under a new
light, discovering beauties hitherto unsuspected, lamenting like a
lover the days that were running by so swiftly and the sad moment of
separation that was approaching.

Never had the mate been so active in his vigilance. His seaman's
superstition filled him with a certain terror. Just because it was the
last voyage something horrible might occur to them. He paced the bridge
for entire days, examining the sea, fearing the apparition of a
periscope, varying the course in agreement with the captain, who was
seeking less-frequented waters where the submarines could not expect to
find any prey.

He breathed more freely upon entering one of the three semi-circular
sea-ledges which enclose the roadstead of Brest. When they were
anchored in this bit of sea, foggy and insecure, surrounded with black
mountains, Toni awaited with anxiety the result of the captain's
excursions ashore.

During the entire course of the trip Ferragut had not been inclined to
be confidential. The mate only knew that this voyage to Brest was the
last. Who was going to be the new owner of the _Mare Nostrum_?...

One rainy evening, upon returning to the boat, Ulysses gave orders that
they should hunt up the mate while he was shaking out his waterproof in
the entry to the stateroom.

The roadstead was dark with its foamy waves, choppy and thick, leaping
like sheep. The men-of-war were sending out smoke from their triple
chimneys ready to confront the bad weather with their steam engines.

The ship, anchored in the commercial port, was dancing restlessly,
tugging at its hawsers, with a mournful croaking. All the nearby boats
were tossing in the same way, just as though they were out on the high
seas.

Toni entered the saloon, and one look at the captain's face made him
suspect that the moment for knowing the truth had arrived. Avoiding his
glance, Ulysses told him curtly, trying to evade by the conciseness of
his language all signs of emotion.

He had sold the ship to the French:--a rapid and magnificent piece of
business.... Whoever would have said when he bought the _Mare Nostrum_
that some day they would give him such an enormous sum for it?... In no
country could they find any vessels for sale. The invalids of the sea,
rusting in the harbors as old iron, were now bringing fabulous prices.
Boats, aground and forgotten on remote coasts, were placed afloat for
enterprises that were gaining millions by this resurrection. Others,
submerged in tropical seas, had been brought up to the surface after a
ten years' stay under the water, renewing their voyages. Every month a
new shipyard sprang into existence, but the world war could never find
enough vessels for the transportation of food and instruments of death.

Without any bargaining whatever, they had given Ferragut the price that
he had exacted; fifteen hundred francs per ton,--four million and a
half for the boat. And to this must be added the nearly two millions
that it had gained in its voyages since the beginning of the war.

"I am rotten with money," concluded the captain.

And he said it sadly, remembering with a homesick longing the days of
peace when he was wrestling with the problems of a badly paying
business. But then his son was living. Of what avail was all this
wealth that was assaulting him on all sides as though it were going to
crush him with its weight?... His wife would be able to lavish money
with full hands on works of charity; she would be able to give her
nieces the dowry suitable for daughters of high-born personages....
Nothing more! Neither he nor she could for one moment resuscitate their
past. These useless riches could only bring him a certain tranquillity
in thinking of the future of his wife, who was his entire family. She
was at liberty henceforth to dispose freely of her existence. Cinta, on
his death, would fall heir to millions.

In order to evade the emotions of farewell, he spoke to Toni very
authoritatively. A chart of the Atlantic was lying on the table and
with his index finger he marked out the mate's course; this course was
not across the sea, but far from it, following an inland route.

"To-morrow," he said, "the French are coming to take possession. You
may leave whenever you please, but it will be convenient to have you go
as soon as possible...."

He explained his return trip to Toni, just as though he were giving him
a lesson in geography. This sea-rover became timid and downhearted when
they talked to him about railroad time-tables and changing trains.

"Here is Brest.... Follow this line to Bordeaux; from Bordeaux to the
frontier. And once there, turn to Barcelona or go to Madrid, and from
Madrid to Valencia."

The mate contemplated the map silently, scratching his beard. Then he
raised his canine eyes slowly until he fixed them upon Ulysses.

"And you?" he asked.

"I remain here. The captain of the _Mare Nostrum_, has sold himself
with his vessel."

Toni made a distressed gesture. For a moment he almost believed that
Ferragut wanted to get rid of him and was discontented with his
services. But the captain hastened to explain further.

Because the _Mare Nostrum_ belonged to a neutral country, it could not
be sold to one of the belligerent nations while hostilities lasted.
Because of this, he had transferred it in a way that would not make it
necessary to change the flag. Although no longer its owner, he would
stay on board as its captain, and the ship would continue to be Spanish
the same as before.

"And why must I go away?" asked Toni in a tremulous tone, believing
himself overlooked.

"We are going to sail armed," replied Ulysses energetically. "I have
made the sale on that account more than for the money. We are going to
carry a quickfirer at the stern, wireless installation, a crew of men
from the naval reserves,--everything necessary to defend ourselves. We
shall make our voyages without hunting for the enemy, carrying freight
as before; but if the enemy comes out to attack us, it will find some
one who will answer."

He was ready to die, if that was to be his fate, but attacking whoever
attacked him.

"And may I not go, too?" persisted the pilot.

"No; back of you there is a family that needs you. You do not belong to
a nation at war, nor have you anything to avenge.... I am the only one
of the former crew that remains on board. All the rest of you are to
go. The captain has a reason for exposing his life, and he does not
wish to assume the responsibility of dragging all of you into his last
adventure."

Toni understood that it would be useless to insist. His eyes became
moist.... Was it possible that within a few hours they would be bidding
each other a last good-by?... Should he never again see Ulysses and the
ship on which he had spent the greater part of his past?...

In order to maintain his serenity, the captain tried to bring this
interview promptly to an end.

"The first thing to-morrow morning," he said, "you will call the crew
together. Adjust all the accounts. Each one must receive as an extra
bonus a year's pay. I wish them to have pleasant memories of Captain
Ferragut."

The mate attempted to oppose this generosity by a remnant of the keen
interest that the business affairs of the boat had always inspired in
him. But his superior officer would not let him continue.

"I am rotten with money, I tell you," he repeated as though uttering a
complaint. "I have more than I need.... I can do foolish things with it
if I wish to."

Then for the first time he looked his mate square in the face.

"As for you," he continued, "I have thought what you must do.... Here,
take this!"

He gave him a sealed envelope and the pilot mechanically tried to open
it.

"No, don't open it at present. You will find out what it contains when
you are in Spain. Within it is enclosed the future of your own folks."

Toni looked with astonished eyes at the light scrap of paper which he
held between his fingers.

"I know you," continued Ferragut. "You are going to protest at the
quantity. What to me is insignificant, to you will appear excessive....
Do not open the envelope until you are in our country. In it you will
find the name of the bank to which you must go. I wish you to be the
richest man in your village that your sons may remember Captain
Ferragut when he is dead."

The mate made a gesture of protest before this possible death, and at
the same time rubbed his eyes as though he felt in them an intolerable
itching.

Ulysses continued his instructions. He had rashly sold the home of his
ancestors there in the _Marina_, the vineyards,--all his legacy from
the _Triton_, when he had acquired the _Mare Nostrum_. It was his wish
that Toni should redeem the property, installing himself in the ancient
domicile of the Ferraguts.

He had money to spare for that and much more.

"I have no children and I like to feel that yours are occupying the
house that was mine.... Perhaps when I get to be an old man--if they do
not kill me, I will come to spend the summers with you. Courage now,
Toni!... We shall yet go fishing together, as I used to go fishing with
my uncle, the doctor."

But the mate did not regain his spirits on hearing these optimistic
affirmations. His eyes were swollen with tears that sparkled in the
corners of his eyes. He was swearing between his teeth, protesting
against the coming separation.... Never to see him again, after so many
years of brotherly companionship!... _Cristo!_...

The captain was afraid that he, too, might burst into tears and again
ordered his mate to present the accounts of the crew.

An hour later Toni reëntered the saloon, carrying in his hand the
opened letter. He had not been able to resist the temptation of forcing
the secret, fearing that Ferragut's generosity might prove excessive,
and impossible to consider. He protested, handing to Ulysses the check
taken from the envelope.

"I could not accept it!... It's a crazy idea!..."

He had read with terror the amount made out to him in the letter of
credit, first in figures then in long hand. Two hundred and fifty
thousand pesetas!... fifty thousand dollars!

"That is not for me," he said again. "I do not deserve it.... What
could I ever do with so much money?"

The captain pretended to be irritated by his disobedience.

"You take that paper, you brute!... I was just afraid that you were
going to protest.... It's for your children, and so that you can take a
rest. Now we won't talk any more about it or I shall get angry."

Then, in order to conquer Toni's scruples, he abandoned his violent
tone, and said sadly:

"I have no heirs.... I don't know what to do with my useless fortune."

And he repeated once more like a complaint against destiny: "I am
rotten with money!..."

The following morning, while Toni was in his cabin adjusting the
accounts of the crew, astonished by the munificence of their
paying-off, Uncle Caragol came into the saloon, asking to speak to
Ferragut.

He had placed an old cape over his flapping and scanty clothing, more
as a decoration for the visit than because the cold of Brittany was
really making him suffer.

He removed from his shaved head his everlasting palm-leaf hat, fixing
his bloodshot eyes on the captain who continued writing after replying
to his greeting.

"What does this mean, this order that I've just received to prepare to
leave the boat within a few hours?... It must be some kind of a joke of
Toni's; he's an excellent fellow but an enemy to holy things and likes
to tease me because of my piety...."

Ferragut laid aside his pen, swinging around toward the cook whose fate
had troubled him as much as the first mate's.

"Uncle Caragol, we are growing old and we must think about retiring....
I am going to give you a paper; you will guard it just as though it
were a sacred picture, and when you present it in Valencia they will
give you ten thousand dollars. Do you know how much ten thousand
dollars are?..."

Bringing his mentality down to the level of this simple-minded man, he
enjoyed tracing out for him a plan of living. He could invest his
capital in whatever modest enterprise in the port of Valencia might
appeal to his fancy; he could establish a restaurant which would soon
become famous for its Olympian rice dishes. His nephews who were
fishermen would receive him like a god. He could also be partner in a
couple of barks, dedicated to fishing for the _bou_. There was awaiting
him a happy and honorable old age; his former sailing companions were
going to look upon him with envy. He could get up late in the morning;
he could go to the cafés; as a rich devotee he could figure in all the
religious processions of the Grau and of the Cabanal; he could have a
place of honor in the holy processions....

Heretofore, when Ferragut was talking, Uncle Caragol had always
mechanically interrupted him, saying: "That is so, my captain." For the
first time he was not nodding his head nor smiling with his sun-like
face. He was pale and gloomy. He shook his round head energetically and
said laconically:

"No, my captain."

Before the glance of astonishment which Ulysses flashed upon him, he
found it necessary to explain himself.

"What am I ever going to do ashore?... Who is expecting me there?... Or
what business with my family would have any interest for me?..."

Ferragut seemed to be hearing an echo of his own thoughts. He, like the
cook, would have nothing to do on land.... He was mortally bored when
far from the sea, just as in those months when, still young, he had
believed that he could create for himself a new profession in
Barcelona. Besides, it was impossible to return to his home, taking up
life again with his wife; it would be simply losing his last illusions.
It would be better to view from afar all that remained of his former
existence.

Caragol, meanwhile, was going on talking. His nephews would not
remember the poor old cook and he had no reason to trouble himself
about their fate, making them rich. He would prefer to remain just
where he was, without money but happy.

"Let the others go!" he said with childish selfishness. "Let Toni
go!... I'm going to stay.... I've got to stay. When the captain goes,
then Uncle Caragol will go."

Ulysses enumerated the great dangers that the boat was about to face.
The German submarines were lying in wait for it with deadly
determination; there would be combats ... they would be torpedoed....

The old man's smile showed contempt of all such dangers. He was certain
that nothing bad could possibly happen to the _Mare Nostrum_. The
furies of the sea were unavailing against it and still less could the
wickedness of man injure it.

"I know what I'm talking about, Captain.... I am sure that we shall
come out safe and sound from all dangers."

He thought of his miracle-working amulets, of his sacred pictures, of
the supernatural protection that his pious prayers were bringing him.
Furthermore, he was taking into consideration the Latin name of the
ship which had always inspired him with religious respect. It belonged
to the language used by the Church, to the idiom which brought about
miracles and expelled the devil, making him run away aghast.

"The _Mare Nostrum_ will not suffer any misfortune. If it should change
its title ... perhaps. But while it is called _Mare Nostrum_,--how
_could_ anything happen to it?..."

Smiling before this faith, Ferragut brought forth his last argument.
The entire crew was going to be made up of Frenchmen; how could they
ever understand each other if he were ignorant of their language?...

"I know it all," affirmed the old man superbly.

He had made himself understood with men in all the different ports of
the world. He was counting on something more than mere language,--on
his eyes, his hands, the expressive cunning of an exuberant and
gesticulating meridional.

"I am just like _San Vicente Ferrer_," he added with pride.

His saint had spoken only the Valencian dialect, and yet had traveled
throughout half Europe preaching to throngs of different tongues,
making them weep with mystic emotion and repent of their sins.

While Ferragut retained the command, he was going to stay. If he didn't
want him for a cook, he would be the cabin boy, washing up the pots and
pans. The important thing for him was to continue treading the deck of
the vessel.

The captain had to give in. This old fellow represented a remnant of
his past. He could betake himself from time to time to the galley to
talk over the far-away days in which they first met.

And Caragol retired, content with his success.

"As for those Frenchmen," he said before departing, "just leave them to
me. They must be good people.... We'll just see what they say about my
rice dishes."

In the course of the week the _Mare Nostrum_ was de-organized and
re-manned. Its former crew went marching away in groups. Toni was the
last to leave, and Ulysses did not wish to see him, fearing to show his
emotion. They'd surely write to each other.

A sympathetic curiosity impelled the cook toward the new marine force.
He saluted the officers affably, regretting not to know their language
sufficiently to begin a friendly conversation with them. The captain
had accustomed him to such familiarity.

There were two mates that the mobilization had converted into auxiliary
lieutenants of the navy. The first day they presented themselves on
board arrayed in their uniform; then they returned in civilian clothes
in order to habituate themselves to being simply merchant officers on a
neutral steamer. The two knew by hearsay, of Ferragut's former voyages
and his services to the Allies, and they understood each other
sympathetically without the slightest national prejudice. Caragol
achieved equal success with the forty-five men who had taken possession
of the machinery and the messrooms in the forecastle. They were dressed
like seamen of the fleet, with a broad blue collar and a cap topped by
a red pompom. Some displayed on the breast military medals and the
recent _Croix de Guerre_. From their canvas bags which served them for
valises, they unpacked their regulation suits, worn when they were
working on the freight steamers, on the schooners plying to
Newfoundland, or on the simple coasting smacks.

The galley at certain hours was full of men listening to the old cook.
Some knew the Spanish tongue on account of having sailed in brigs from
Saint-Malo and Saint-Nazaire, going to the ports of the Argentine,
Chili and Peru. Those who could not understand the old fellow's words,
could guess at them from his gesticulations. They were all laughing,
finding him bizarre and interesting. And this general gayety induced
Caragol to bring forth liquid treasures that had been piling up in
former voyages under Ferragut's careless and generous administration.

The strong alcoholic wine of the coast of the Levant began falling into
the glasses like ink crowned with a circle of rubies. The old man
poured it forth with a prodigal hand. "Drink away, boys; in your land
you don't have anything like this...." At other times he would concoct
his famous "refrescoes," smiling with the satisfaction of an artist at
seeing the sensuous grin that began flashing across their countenances.

"When did you ever drink anything like that? What would ever become of
you all without your Uncle Caragol?..."

These Bretons, accustomed to the discipline and sobriety of other
vessels, admired greatly the extraordinary privileges of a cook who
could display as much generosity as the captain himself. He frequently
communicated to Ferragut his opinion regarding his new comrades. With
good reason he had said that they would understand each other!... They
were serious and religious men, and he preferred them to the former
Mediterranean crews, blasphemers and incapable of resignation, who at
the slightest vexation would rip out God's name, trying to affront him
with their curses.

They were all muscular and well set-up with blue eyes and blonde
mustaches, and were wearing hidden medallions. One of them had
presented to the cook one of his religious charms which he had bought
on a pilgrimage to _Ste. Anne d'Auray_. Caragol was wearing it upon his
hairy chest, and experiencing a new-born faith in the miracles of this
foreign image.

"To her sanctuary, Captain, the pilgrims go in thousands. Every day she
performs a miracle.... There's a holy staircase there which the devout
climb on their knees and many of these lads have mounted it. I should
like ..."

On some of their voyages to Brest he was hoping that Ferragut would
permit him to go to Auray long enough to climb that same stairway on
his knees, to see _Ste. Anne_ and return aboard ship.

The vessel was no longer in a commercial harbor. It had gone to a
military harbor,--a narrow river winding through the interior of the
city, dividing it in two. A great drawbridge put in communication the
two shores bordered with vast constructions and high chimneys, naval
shops, warehouses, arsenals, and dry-docks for cleaning up the boats.
Tug-boats were continually stirring up its green and miry waters.
Steamers undergoing repairs were lined up the length of the
break-waters undergoing a continual pounding that made their plates
resound. Lighters topped with hills of pit coal were going slowly to
take their position along the flanks of the ships. Under the drawbridge
launches were coming and going from the warships, leaving on the
floating piers the crews celebrating their shore-leave with scandalous
uproar.

The _Mare Nostrum_ remained isolated while the workmen from the arsenal
were installing on the poop rapid-fire guns and the wireless telegraph
apparatus. No one could come aboard that did not belong to the crew.

The sailors' families were waiting for them on the wharf, and Caragol
had occasion to become acquainted with many Breton women,--mothers,
sisters, or fiancées of his new friends. He liked these women: they
were dressed in black with full skirts, and white, stiff caps which
brought to his mind the wimples of the nuns.... Some tall, stout girls
with blue and candid eyes laughed at the Spaniard without understanding
a single word. The old women with faces as dark and wrinkled as winter
apples touched glasses with Caragol in the low cafes near the port.
They all could do honor to a goblet in an opportune moment, and had
great faith in the saints. The cook did not require anything more....
Most excellent and charming people!

Certain lads decorated with the _Croix de Guerre_ used to relate their
experiences to him. They were survivors of the battalion of marines who
defended Dixmude. After the battle of the Marne they had been sent to
intercept the enemy on the side of Flanders. There were not more than
six thousand of them and, aided by a Belgian division, they had
sustained the onrush of an entire army. Their resistance had lasted for
weeks:--a combat of barricades in the street, of struggles the length
of the canal with the bloodiness of the ancient piratical forays. The
officers had shouted their orders with broken swords and bandaged
heads. The men had fought on without thinking of their wounds, covered
with blood, until they fell down dead.

Caragol, hitherto little interested in military affairs, became most
enthusiastic when relating this heroic struggle to Ferragut, simply
because his new friends had taken part in it.

"Many died, Captain.... Almost half of them. But the Germans couldn't
make any headway.... Then, on learning that the marines had been no
more than six thousand, the generals tore their hair. So great was
their wrath! They had supposed that they were confronted by dozens of
thousands.... It was just great to hear the lads relate what they did
there."

Among these "lads" wounded in the war, who had passed to the naval
reserve and were manning the _Mare Nostrum_, one was especially
distinguished by the old man's partiality. He could talk to him in
Spanish, because of his transatlantic voyages, and besides he had been
born in Vannes.

If the youth ever approached the cook's dominions he was invariably met
with a smile of invitation. "A refresco, Vicente?" The best seat was
for him. Caragol had forgotten his name as not worth while. Since he
came from Vannes, he could not have any other name but Vicente.

The first day that they chatted together, the marine, in love with his
country, described to the cook the beauties of Morbihan,--a great
interior sea surrounded with groves and with islands covered with
pines. Among the venerable antiquities of the city was the Gothic
cathedral with its many tombs, among them that of a Spanish saint,--St.
Vicente Ferrer.

This gave a tug at Caragol's heart-strings. He had never before
bothered to find out where the famous apostle of Valencia was
entombed.... He recalled suddenly a strophe of the songs of praise that
the devotees of his land used to sing before the altars of this saint.
Sure enough he had gone to die in "Vannes, in Brittainy,"--a mere
geographical name which until then had lacked any significance for
him.... And so this lad was from Vannes? Nothing more was needed to
make Caragol regard him with the respect due to one born in a
miraculous country.

He made him describe many times the tomb of the saint, the only one in
the transept of the cathedral, the moth-eaten tapestries that
perpetuated his miracles, the silver bust which guarded his heart....
Furthermore, the principal portal of Vannes was called the gate of St.
Vicente and recollections of the saint were still alive in their
chronicles.

Caragol proposed to visit this city also when the ship should return to
Brest. Brittainy must be very holy ground, the holiest in the world,
since the miracle-working Valencian, after traversing so many nations,
had wished to die there.

It, therefore, did not produce the slightest astonishment that this
slip of a boy who had been picked up at Dixmude covered with wounds,
was now showing himself sane and vigorous.... On board the _Mare
Nostrum_ he was the head gunner. He and two comrades had charge of the
quickfirers. For Caragol there was not the slightest doubt as to the
fate of every submarine that should venture to attack them; the "lad
from Vannes" would send them to smithereens at the first shot. A
picture post-card, a gift of the lad from Brittany, showing the tomb of
the saint, occupied the position of honor in the galley. The old man
used to pray before it as though it were a miracle-working print, and
the _Cristo del Grao_ was relegated to second place.

One morning Caragol went in search of the captain and found him writing
in his stateroom. He had just come from making purchases in the shore
market. While passing through the _rue de Siam_, the most important
road in Brest, where the theaters are, the moving-picture shows, and
the cafes, he had had an encounter. "An unexpected meeting," he
continued with a mysterious smile. "Who do you suppose it was with?..."
Ferragut shrugged his shoulders. And, noting his indifference, the old
man could not keep the secret any longer.

"The lady-bird!" he added. "That handsome, perfumed lady-bird that used
to come to see you.... The one from Naples.... The one from
Barcelona...." The captain turned pale, first with surprise and then
with anger. Freya in Brest!... Her spy work was reaching even here?...

Caragol went on with his story. He was returning to the ship, and she,
who was walking through the _rue de Siam,_ had recognized him, speaking
to him affectionately.

"She asked to be remembered to you.... She has been informed that no
foreigner can come aboard. She told me that she had tried to come to
see you."

The cook began a search through his pockets, extricating a bit of
wrinkled paper, a white sheet snatched from an old letter.

"She also gave me this paper, written right there in the street with a
lead pencil. You will know what it says. I did not wish to look at it."

Ferragut, on taking the paper, recognized immediately her handwriting,
although uneven, nervous and scribbled with great precipitation. Six
words, no more:--"Farewell, I am going to die."

"Lies! Always lies!" said the voice of prudence in his brain.

He tore up the paper and passed the rest of the morning very much
preoccupied.... It was his duty to defend himself against this
espionage that had even established its base in a port of war.... Every
boat anchored near the _Mare Nostrum_ was menaced by Freya's power to
give information. Who knew but what her mysterious communications would
bring about their attack by a submarine on going out from the roadstead
of Brest!...

His first impulse was to denounce her. Then he repented because of his
absurd scruples of chivalry.... Besides, he would have to explain his
past to the head officers at Brest who knew him very slightly. He was
far from that naval captain at Salonica who had so well understood his
passional errors.

He wished to watch her for himself, and in the evening he went ashore.
He detested Brest as one of the dullest cities of the Atlantic. It was
always raining there, and there was no diversion except the eternal
promenade through the _rue de Siam_, or a bored stay in the cafés full
of seamen and English and Portuguese land-officers.

He went through the public establishments night and day; he made
investigations in the hotels; he hired carriages in order to visit the
more picturesque suburbs. For four days he persisted in his inquiries
without any result.

He began to doubt Uncle Caragol's veracity. Perhaps he had been drunk
on returning to the ship, and had made up such an encounter. But the
recollection of that paper written by her discounted such a
supposition.... Freya was in Brest.

The cook explained it all simply enough when the captain besieged him
with fresh questions.

"The lady-bird must just be passing through. Perhaps she flitted away
that same evening.... That meeting was just a chance encounter."

Ferragut had to give up his investigations. The defensive work on the
ship was about terminated and the holds contained their cargo of
projectiles for the army of the Orient and various unmounted guns. He
received his sailing orders, and one gray and rainy morning they lifted
anchor and steamed out of the bay of Brest. The fog made even more
difficult the passage between the reefs that obstruct this port. They
passed before the lugubrious Bay of the Dead, ancient cemetery of
sailboats, and continued their navigation toward the south in search of
the strait in order to enter the Mediterranean.

Ferragut felt increased pride in examining the new aspect of the _Mare
Nostrum_. The wireless telegraph was going to keep him in contact with
the world. He was no longer a merchant captain, slave of destiny,
trusting to good luck, and incapable of repelling an attack. The
radiographic stations were watching for him the entire length of the
coast, advising him of changes in his course that he might avoid the
ambushed enemy. The apparatus was constantly hissing and sustaining
invisible dialogues. Besides, mounted on the stern was a cannon covered
with a canvas hood, ready to begin work.

The dreams of his childhood when he used to devour stories of corsairs
and novels of maritime adventures seemed about to be realized. He was
now entitled to call himself "Captain of Sea and War" like the ancient
navigators. If a submarine should pass before him, he would attack it
from the prow; if it should try to pursue him, he would respond with
the cannon.

His adventurous humor actually made him anxious for one of these
encounters. A maritime combat had not yet occurred in his life, and he
wished to see how these modest and silent men who had made war on land
and contemplated death at close range, would demean themselves.

It was not long before his desire was realized. One morning on the high
seas near Lisbon, when he had just fallen asleep after a night on the
bridge, the shouts and runnings of the crew awakened him.

A submarine had broken the surface about fifteen hundred yards astern
and was coming toward the _Mare Nostrum_, evidently fearing that the
merchant-boat would try to escape; but in order to oblige it to stop,
its gun fired two shells which fell into the water.

The steamer moderated its pace but only to place itself in a more
favorable position and to maneuver with more sea room, with its arms at
the stern. At the first shot the submarine began to recede, keeping a
more prudent distance, surprised to receive an answer to its
aggression.

The combat lasted half an hour. The shots repeated themselves on both
sides with the speed of rapid fire artillery. Ferragut was near the
gun, admiring the calm coolness with which its servants manipulated it.
One always had a projectile in his arms ready to give it to his
companion who rapidly introduced it into the smoking chamber. The
gunner was concentrating all his life in his eyes, and bending over the
cannon, moved it carefully, seeking the sensitive part of that gray and
prolonged body that was rising to the surface of the water as though it
were a whale.

Suddenly a cloud of kindling wood flew near the steamer's prow. An
enemy's projectile had just hit the edge of the roofs that covered the
galley and mess rooms. Caragol, who was standing in the door of his
dominions, raised his hands to his hat. When the yellowish and
evil-smelling cloud dissolved, they saw him still standing there,
scratching the top of his head, bare and red.

"It's nothing!" he cried. "Just a bit of wood that drew a little of my
blood. Fire away!... Fire!"

He was yelling directions, inflamed by the shooting. The drug-like
smell of the smokeless powder, the dull thud of the detonations
appeared to intoxicate him. He was leaping and wringing his hands with
the ardor of a war-dancer.

The gunners redoubled their activity; the shots became continuous.

"There it is!" yelled Caragol. "They have hit it.... They have hit it!"

Of all those aboard, he was the one who could least appreciate the
effects of the shots for he could scarcely discern the silhouette of
the submersible. But in spite of that he continued bellowing with all
the force of his faith.

"Now you've hit it!... Hurrah! Hurrah!"

And the strange thing was that the enemy instantly disappeared from the
blue surface. The gunners still sent some shots against their
periscope. Then there was left in the place which they had occupied
only a white and glistening expanse.

The steamer went toward this enormous spot of oil whose undulations
were twinkling with sunflower-like reflections.

The marines uttered shouts of enthusiasm. They were sure of having sent
the submersible to the bottom. The officers were less optimistic. They
had never seen one raise itself up vertically, tilting its stern high
in the air before sinking. Perhaps it simply had been damaged and
obliged to hide.

The loss of the submarine was a sure thing in Caragol's estimation, and
he considered it entirely unnecessary to ask the name of the one who
had blown it to smithereens.

"It must have been that lad from Vannes.... He's the only one who could
have done it."

For him the other gunners simply did not exist. And, inflamed by his
enthusiasm, he wriggled out of the hands of the two seamen who had
begun to bandage his head with a deftness learned in land combats.

Ferragut was entirely satisfied with this encounter. Although he could
not be absolutely certain of the destruction of the enemy, the fact
that his boat had saved itself would spread abroad the fact that the
_Mare Nostrum_ was entirely capable of self-defense.

His joy took him to Caragol's domains.

"Well done, old man! We're going to write to the Ministry of Marine to
give you the _Croix de Guerre_."

The cook, taking his words in all seriousness, declined the honor. If
such recompense were to be given to any one, let it be handed to "that
lad from Vannes." Then he added as though reflecting the captain's
thoughts:

"I like to sail in this fashion.... Our steamer has gotten its teeth,
and now it will not have to run like a frightened rabbit.... They'll
have to let it go on its way in peace because now it can bite."

The rest of the journey toward Salonica was without incident.
Telegraphy kept it in contact with the instructions arriving from the
shore. Gibraltar advised it to sail close to the African coast; Malta
and Bizerta pointed out that it could continue forward since the
passage between Tunis and Sicily was clear of enemies. From distant
Egypt tranquillizing messages came to meet them while they were sailing
among the Grecian Islands with the prow toward Salonica.

On their return, they were to take freight to the harbor of Marseilles.

Ferragut did not have to bother about the boat while it was at anchor.
The French officials were the ones who made arrangements with the
harbor authorities. He merely had to be the justification for the flag,
a captain of a neutral country, whose presence certified to the
nationality of the vessel. Only on the sea did he recover command,
every one becoming obedient to those on the bridge.

He wandered through Marseilles as at other times, passing the first
hours of the evening on the terraces of the _Cannebière_.

An old Marseillaise, captain of a merchant steamer, used to chat with
him before returning to his office. One afternoon, while Ferragut was
absent-mindedly glancing at a certain Paris daily that his friend was
carrying, his attention was suddenly attracted by a name printed at the
head of a short article. Surprise made him turn pale while at the same
time something contracted within his breast. Again he spelled out the
name, fearing that he had been under an hallucination. Doubt was
impossible: it was very clear,--_Freya Talberg_. He took the paper from
his comrade's hand, disguising his impatience by an assumption of
curiosity.

"What is the war news to-day?..."

And while the old sailor was giving him the news, he read feverishly
the few lines grouped beneath that name.

He was bewildered. The heading told little to one ignorant of the
preceding facts to which the periodical alluded. These lines were
simply voicing a protest against the government for not having made the
famous Freya Talberg pay the penalty to which she had been sentenced.
The paragraph terminated with mention of the beauty and elegance of the
delinquent as though to these qualities might be attributed the delay
in punishment.

Ferragut put forth all his efforts to give his voice a tone of
indifference.

"Who is this individual?" he said, pointing to the heading of the
article.

His companion had some difficulty in recalling her. So many things were
happening because of the war....

"She is a _boche_, a spy, sentenced to death.... It appears that she
did a great deal of work here and in other ports, sending word to the
German submarines about the departure of our transports.... They
arrested her in Paris two months ago when she was returning from
Brest."

His friend said this with a certain indifference. These spies were so
numerous!... The newspapers were constantly publishing notices of their
shooting:--two lines, no more, as though treating of an ordinary
casualty.

"This Freya Talberg," he continued, "has had enough said about her
personality. It seems that she is a _chic_ woman,--a species of lady
from a novel. Many are protesting because she has not yet been
executed. It is sad to have to kill one of her sex,--to kill a woman
and especially a beautiful woman!... But nevertheless it is very
necessary.... I believe that she is to be shot at any moment."



CHAPTER XII


AMPHITRITE!... AMPHITRITE!

The _Mare Nostrum_ made another trip from Marseilles to Salonica.

Before sailing, Ferragut hunted vainly through the Paris periodicals
for fresh news of Freya. For some days past, the attention of the
public had been so distracted by various other events that for the time
being the spy was forgotten.

On arriving at Salonica, he made discreet inquiries among his military
and marine friends in the harbor cafés. Hardly any one had ever heard
the name of Freya Talberg. Those who had read it in the newspapers
merely replied with indifference.

"I know who she is: she is a spy who was an actress,--a woman with a
certain _chic_. I think that they've shot her.... I don't know
certainly, but they ought to have shot her."

They had more important things to think about. A spy!... On all sides
they were discovering the intrigues of German espionage. They had to
shoot a great many.... And immediately they forgot this affair in order
to speak of the difficulties of the war that were threatening them and
their comrades-at-arms.

When Ferragut returned to Marseilles two months afterwards, he was
still ignorant as to whether his former mistress was yet among the
living.

The first evening that he met his old comrade, the captain, in the café
of the _Cannebière_, he skillfully guided the conversation around until
he could bring out naturally the question in the back of his mind:
"What was the fate of that Freya Talberg that there was so much talk
about in the newspapers before I went to Salonica?..."

The Marseillaise had to make an effort to recall her.

"Ah, yes!... The _boche_ spy," he said after a long pause. "They shot
her some weeks ago. The papers said little of her death,--just a few
lines. Such people don't deserve any more...."

Ferragut's friend had two sons in the army; a nephew had died in the
trenches, another, a mate aboard a transport, had just perished in a
torpedo attack. The old man was passing many nights without sleeping
thinking of his sons battling at the front. And this uneasiness gave a
hard and ferocious tone to his patriotic enthusiasm.

"It's a good thing she is dead.... She was a woman, and shooting a
woman is a painful thing. It is always repugnant to be obliged to treat
them like men.... But according to what they tell me, this individual
with her spy-information brought about the torpedoing of sixteen
vessels.... Ah, the wicked beast!..."

And he said no more, changing the subject. Every one evinced the same
revulsion on recalling the spy.

Ferragut eventually shared the same sentiments, his brain having
divested itself of the contradictory duality which had attended all the
critical moments of his existence. Remembering only her crimes, he
hated Freya. As a man of the sea, he recalled his nameless
fellow-sailors killed by torpedoes. This woman had indirectly prepared
the ground for many assassinations.... And at the same time he recalled
another image of her as the mistress who knew so well how to keep him
spellbound by her artifices in the old palace of Naples, making that
voluptuous prison her best souvenir.

"Let's think no more about her," he said to himself energetically. "She
has died.... She does not exist."

But not even after her death did she leave him in peace. Remembrance of
her soon came surging back, binding her to him with a tragic interest.

The very evening that he was talking with his friend in the café of the
_Cannebière_, he went to the post office to get the mail which had been
forwarded to him at Marseilles. They gave him a great package of
letters and newspapers. By the handwriting on the envelopes, and the
postmarks on the postals, he tried to make out who was writing to
him:--one letter only from his wife, evidently but a single sheet,
judging from its slender flexibility, three very bulky ones from
Toni,--a species of diary in which he continued relating his purchases,
his crops, his hope of seeing the captain,--all this mixed in with
abundant news about the war, and the wretched condition of the people.
There were, besides, various sheets from the banking establishments at
Barcelona, rendering Ferragut an account of the investment of his
capital.

At the foot of the staircase he completed his examination of the
outside of his correspondence. It was just what was always awaiting him
on his return from his voyages.

He was about to put the package in his pocket and continue on his way
when his attention was attracted by a voluminous envelope in an unknown
handwriting, registered in Paris....

Curiosity made him open it immediately and he found in his hand a
regular sheaf of loose leaves, a long account that far exceeded the
limits of a letter. He looked at the engraved letter-head and then at
the signature. The writer was a lawyer in Paris, and Ferragut suspected
by the luxurious paper and address that he must be a celebrated
_maître_. He even recalled having run across his name somewhere in the
newspapers.

Then and there he began reading the first page, anxious to know why
this distinguished personage had written to him. But he had scarcely
run his eyes over some of the sheets before he stopped his reading. He
had come across the name of Freya Talberg. This lawyer had been her
defender before the Council of War.

Ferragut hastened to put the letter in a safe place, and curb his
impatience. He felt that necessity for silent isolation and absolute
solitude which a reader, anxious to delve into a new book, experiences.
This bundle of papers doubtless contained for him the most interesting
of stories.

Returning to his ship, the road seemed to him far longer than at other
times. He longed to lock himself in his stateroom, away from all
curiosity as though he were about to perform some mysterious rite.

Freya was not in existence. She had disappeared from the world in the
infamous manner in which criminals disappear,--doubly condemned since
even her memory was hateful to the people; and Ferragut within a few
moments was going to resurrect her like a ghost, in the floating house
that she had visited on two occasions. He now might know the last hours
of her existence wrapped in disreputable mystery; he could violate the
will of her judges who had condemned her to lose her life and after
death to perish from every one's memory. With eager avidity he seated
himself before his cabin table, arranging the contents of the envelope
in order;--more than twelve sheets, written on both sides, and several
newspaper clippings. In these clippings he saw portraits of Freya, a
hard and blurred likeness which he could recognize only by her name
underneath. He also beheld the portrait of her defender,--an old lawyer
of fastidious aspect with white locks carefully combed, and sharp eyes.

From the very first lines, Ferragut suspected that the _maître_ could
neither write nor speak except in the most approved literary form. His
letter was a moderated and correct account in which all emotion,
however keen it might have been, was discreetly controlled so as not to
disorganize the sweep of a majestic style.

He began by explaining that his professional duty had made him decide
to defend this spy. She was in need of a lawyer; she was a foreigner;
public opinion, influenced by the exaggerated accounts given by the
newspapers of her beauty and her jewels, was ferociously inimical,
demanding her immediate punishment. Nobody had wished to take charge of
her defense. And for this very reason he had accepted it without fear
of unpopularity.

Ferragut believed that this sacrifice might be attributed to the
impulse of a gallant old beau, attracted to Freya because of her
beauty. Besides, this criminal process represented a typical Parisian
incident and might give a certain romantic notoriety to the one
intervening in its developments.

A few paragraphs further on the sailor became convinced that the
_maître_ had fallen in love with his client. This woman even in her
dying moments shed around her most amazing powers of seduction. The
professional success anticipated by the lawyer disappeared on his first
questioning. Defense of Freya would be impossible. When he questioned
her regarding the events of her former life, she either wept for every
answer, or else remained silent, immovable, with as unconcerned a
glance as though the fate of some other woman were at stake.

The military judges did not need her confessions: they knew, detail for
detail, all her existence during the war and in the last years of
peace. Never had the police agents abroad worked with such rapidity and
success. Mysterious and omnipotent good fortune had crowned every
investigation. They knew all of Freya's doings. They had even received
from a secret agent exact data regarding her personality, the number by
which she was represented in the director's office at Berlin, the
salary that she was paid, as well as her reports during the past month.
Documents written by her personally, of an irrefutable culpability, had
poured in without any one's knowing from what point they were sent or
by whom.

Every time that the judge had placed before Freya's eyes one of these
proofs, she looked at her lawyer in desperation.

"It is _they_!" she moaned. "They who desire my death!"

Her defender was of the same opinion. The police had learned of her
presence in France by a letter that her superiors in Barcelona had
sent, stupidly disguised, written with regard to a code whose mystery
had been discovered some time before by the French counter-spies. To
the _maître_ it was only too evident that some mysterious power had
wished to rid itself of this woman, dispatching her to an enemy's
country, intending to send her to death.

Ulysses suspected in the defender a state of mind similar to his
own,--the same duality that had tormented him in all his relations with
Freya.

"I, sir," wrote the lawyer, "have suffered much. One of my sons, an
officer, died in the battle of the Aisne. Others very close to me,
nephews and pupils, died in Verdun and with the expeditionary army of
the Orient...."

As a Frenchman, he had felt an irresistible aversion upon becoming
convinced that Freya was a spy who had done great harm to his
country.... Then as a man, he had commiserated her inconsequence, her
contradictory and frivolous character, amounting almost to a crime, and
her egoism as a beautiful woman and lover of luxury that had made her
willing to suffer moral vileness in exchange for creature comfort.

Her story had attracted the lawyer with the palpitating interest of a
novel of adventure. Commiseration had finally developed the vehemence
of a love affair. Besides, the knowledge that the exploiters of this
woman were the ones that had denounced her, had aroused his knightly
enthusiasm in the defense of her indefensible cause.

Appearance before the Council of War had proved painful and dramatic.
Freya, who until then, had seemed brutalized by the regime of the
prison, roused herself upon being confronted by a dozen grave and
uniformed men.

Her first moves were those of every handsome and coquettish female. She
knew perfectly well her physical influence. These soldiers transformed
into judges were recalling those other flirts that she had seen at the
teas and grand balls at the hotels.... What Frenchman can resist
feminine attraction?...

She had smiled, she had replied to the first questions with graceful
modesty, fixing her wickedly guileless eyes upon the officials seated
behind the presidential table, and on those other men in blue uniform,
charged with accusing her or reading the documents of her prosecution.

But something cold and hostile existed in the atmosphere and paralyzed
her smiles, leaving her words without echo and making ineffectual the
splendors of her eyes. All foreheads were bowed under the weight of
severe thought: all the men in that instant appeared thirty years
older. They simply would not see such a one as she was, however much
effort she might make. They had left their admiration and their desires
on the other side of the door.

Freya perceived that she had ceased to be a woman and was no more than
one accused. Another of her sex, an irresistible rival, was now
engrossing everything, binding these men with a profound and austere
love. Instinct made her regard fixedly the white matron of grave
countenance whose vigorous bust appeared over the head of the
president. She was Patriotism, Justice, the Republic, contemplating
with her vague and hollow eyes this female of flesh and blood who was
beginning to tremble upon realizing her situation.

"I do not want to die!" cried Freya, suddenly abandoning her seductions
and becoming a poor, wretched creature crazed by fear. "I am innocent."

She lied with the absurd and barefaced illogicalness of one finding
herself in danger of death. It was necessary to re-read her first
declarations, which she was now denying, of presenting afresh the
material proofs whose existence she did not wish to admit, of making
her entire past file by supported by that irrefutable data of anonymous
origin.

"It is _they_ who have done it all!... They have mis-represented me!...
Since they have brought about my ruin, I am going to tell what I know."

In his account the lawyer passed lightly over what had occurred in the
Council of War. Professional secrecy and patriotic interest prevented
greater explicitness. The session had lasted from morning till night,
Freya revealing to her judges all that she knew.... Then her defender
had spoken for five hours, trying to establish a species of interchange
in the application of the penalty. The guilt of this woman was
undeniable and the wickedness that she had carried through was very
great, but they should spare her life in exchange for her important
confessions.... Besides, the inconsequence of her character should be
taken into consideration ... also, that vengeance of which the enemy
had made her the victim....

With Freya he had waited, until well on into the night, the decision of
the tribunal. The defendant appeared animated by hope. She had become a
woman again: she was talking placidly with him and smiling at the
gendarmes and eulogizing the army.... "Frenchmen, gentlemen, were
incapable of killing a woman...."

The _maître_ was not surprised at the sad and furrowed brows of the
officers as they came out from their deliberations. They appeared
discontented with their recent vote, and yet at the same time showed
the serenity of a tranquil countenance. They were soldiers who had just
fulfilled their full duty, suppressing every purely masculine instinct.
The one deputed to read the sentence swelled his voice with a
fictitious energy.... "_Death!_..." After a long enumeration of crimes
Freya was condemned to be shot:--she had given information to the enemy
that represented the loss of thousands of men and boats, torpedoed
because of her reports, on which had perished defenseless families.

The spy nodded her head upon listening to her own acts, for the first
time appreciating their enormity and recognizing the justice of their
tremendous punishment. But at the same time she was relying upon a
good-natured reprieve in exchange for all which she had revealed, upon
a gallant clemency ... because she was she.

As the fatal word sounded, she uttered a cry, became ashy pale, and
leaned upon the lawyer for support.

"I do not want to die!... I ought not to die!... I am innocent."

She continued shrieking her innocence, without giving any other proof
of it than the desperate instinct of self-preservation. With the
credulity of one who wishes to save herself, she accepted all the
problematical consolations of her defender. There remained the last
recourse of appealing to the mercy of the President of the Republic:
perhaps he might pardon her.... And she signed this appeal with sudden
hope.

The lawyer managed to delay the fulfillment of the sentence for two
months, visiting many of his colleagues who were political personages.
The desire of saving the life of his client was tormenting him as an
obsession. He had devoted all his activity and his personal influence
to this affair.

"In love!... In love, as you were!" said, with scornful accent, the
voice of Ferragut's prudent counselor.

The periodicals were protesting against this delay in the execution of
the sentence. The name of Freya Talberg was beginning to be heard in
conversation as an argument against the weakness of the government. The
women were the most implacable.

One day, in the Palace of Justice, the _maître_ Became convinced of
this general animosity that was pushing the defendant toward the day of
execution. The woman who had charge of the gowns, a verbose old wife,
on a familiar footing with the illustrious lawyers, had rudely made
known their opinions.

"I wonder when they're going to execute that spy!... If she were a poor
woman with children and needed to earn their bread, they would have
shot her long ago.... But she is an elegant _cocotte_ and with jewels.
Perhaps she has bewitched some of the cabinet ministers. We are going
to see her on the street now almost any day.... And my son who died at
Verdun!..."

The prisoner, as though divining this public indignation, began to
consider her death very near losing, little by little, that love of
existence which had made her burst forth into lies and delirious
protests. In vain the _maître_ held out hopes of pardon.

"It is useless: I must die.... I ought to be shot.... I have done so
much mischief.... It horrifies even me to remember all the crimes named
in that sentence.... And there are still others that they don't
know!... Solitude has made me see myself just as I am. What shame!... I
ought to perish; I have ruined everything.... What is there left for me
to do in the world?..."

"And it was then, my dear sir," continued the attorney, in his letter,
"that she spoke to me of you, of the way in which you had known each
other, of the harm which she had done you unconsciously."

Convinced of the uselessness of his efforts to save her life, the
_maître_ had solicited one last favor of the tribunal. Freya was very
desirous that he should accompany her at the moment of her execution,
as this would maintain her serenity. Those in the government had
promised their colleague in the forum, to send opportune notice that he
might be present at the fulfillment of the sentence.

It was at three o'clock in the morning and while he was in the deepest
sleep that some messengers, sent by the prefecture of police, awakened
him. The execution was to take place at daybreak: this was a decision
reached at the last moment in order that the reporters might learn too
late of the event.

An automobile took him with the messengers to the prison of St. Lazare,
across silent and shadowy Paris. Only a few hooded street lamps were
cutting with their sickly light the darkness of the streets. In the
prison they were joined by other functionaries and many chiefs and
officers who represented military justice. The condemned woman was
still sleeping in her cell, ignorant of what was about to occur.

Those charged with awakening her, gloomy and timid, were marching in
line through the corridors of the jail, bumping into one another in
their nervous precipitation.

The door was opened. Under the regulation light Freya was on her bed,
with closed eyes. Upon opening them and finding herself surrounded by
men, her face was convulsed with terror.

"Courage, Freya!" said the prison warden. "The appeal for pardon has
been denied."

"Courage, my daughter," added the priest of the establishment, starting
the beginning of a discourse.

Her terror, due to the rude surprise of awakening with the brain still
paralyzed, lasted but a few seconds. Upon collecting her thoughts,
serenity returned to her face.

"I must die?" she asked. "The hour has already come?... Very well,
then: let them shoot me. Here I am."

Some of the men turned their heads, and so averted their glance.... She
had to get out of the bed in the presence of the two watchmen. This
precaution was so that she might not attempt to take her life. She even
asked the lawyer to remain in the cell as though in this way she wished
to lessen the annoyance of dressing herself before strangers.

Upon reaching this passage in his letter, Ferragut realized the pity
and admiration of the _maître_ who had seen her preparing the last
toilet of her life.

"Adorable creature! So beautiful!... She was born for love and luxury,
yet was going to die, torn by bullets like a rude soldier...."

The precautions adopted by her coquetry appeared to him admirable. She
wanted to die as she had lived, placing on her person the best that she
possessed. Therefore, suspecting the nearness of her execution, she had
a few days before reclaimed the jewels and the gown that she was
wearing when arrest prevented her returning to Brest.

Her defender described her "with a dress of pearl gray silk, bronze
stockings and low shoes, a great-coat of furs, and a large hat with
plumes. Besides, the necklace of pearls was on her bosom, emeralds in
her ears and all her diamonds on her fingers."

A sad smile curled her lips upon trying to look at herself in the
window panes, still black with the darkness of night, which served her
as a mirror.

"I die in my uniform like a soldier," she said to her lawyer.

Then in the ante-chamber of the prison, under the crude artificial
light, this plumed woman, covered with jewels, her clothing exhaling a
subtle perfume, memory of happier days, turned without any
embarrassment toward the men clad in black and in blue uniforms.

Two religious sisters who accompanied her appeared more moved than she.
They were trying to exhort her and at the same time were struggling to
keep back the tears.... The priest was no less touched. He had attended
other criminals, but they were men.... To assist to a decent death a
beautiful perfumed woman scintillating with precious stones, as though
she were going to ride in an automobile to a fashionable tea!...

The week before she had been in doubt as to whether to receive a
Calvinist pastor or a Catholic priest. In her cosmopolitan life of
uncertain nationality she had never taken the time to decide about any
religion for herself. Finally she had selected the latter on account of
its being more simple intellectually, more liberal and approachable....

Several times when the priest was trying to console her, she
interrupted him as though she were the one charged with inspiring
courage.

"To die is not so terrible as it appears when seen afar off!... I feel
ashamed when I think of the fears that I have passed through, of the
tears that I have shed.... It turns out to be much more simple than I
had believed.... We all have to die!"

They read to her the sentence refusing the appeal for pardon. Then they
offered her a pen that she might sign it.

A colonel told her that there were still a few moments at her
disposition in which to write to her family, her friends, or to make
her last will....

"To whom shall I write?" said Freya. "I haven't a single friend in the
world...."

"Then it was," continued the lawyer, "that she took the pen as if a
recollection had occurred to her, and traced some few lines.... Then
she tore up the paper and came toward me. She was thinking of you,
Captain: her last letter was for you and she left it unfinished,
fearing that it might never reach your hands. Besides, she wasn't equal
to writing; her pulse was nervous: she preferred to talk.... She asked
me to send you a long, very long letter, telling about her last
moments, and I had to swear to her that I would carry out her request."

From that time on the _maître_ had seen things badly. Emotion was
perturbing his sensibilities, but there yet lived in his mind Freya's
last words on coming out of the jail.

"I am not a German," she said repeatedly to the men in uniform. "I am
not German!"

For her the least important thing was to die. She was only worried for
fear they might believe her of that odious nationality.

The attorney found himself in an automobile with many men whom he
scarcely knew. Other vehicles were before and behind theirs. In one of
them was Freya with the nuns and the priest.

A faint streak was whitening the sky, marking the points of the roofs.
Below, in the deep blackness of the streets, the renewed life of
daybreak was slowly beginning. The first laborers going to their work
with their hands in their pockets, and the market women returning from
market pushing their carts, turned their heads, following with interest
this procession of swift vehicles almost all of them with men in the
box seat beside the conductor. To the working-folk, this was perhaps a
morning wedding.... Perhaps these were gay people coming from a
nocturnal fiesta.... Several times the cortege slackened its speed,
blocked by a row of heavy carts with mountains of garden-stuff.

The _maître_, in spite of his emotions, recognized the road that the
automobile was following. In the _place de la Nation_ he caught
glimpses of the sculptured group, _le Triomphe de la Republique_,
piercing the dripping mistiness of dawn; then the grating of the
enclosure; then the long _cours de Vincennes_ and its historic
fortress.

They went still further on until they reached the field of execution.

Upon getting down from the automobile, he saw an extensive plain
covered with grass on which were drawn up two companies of soldiers.
Other vehicles had arrived before them. Freya detached herself from the
group of persons descending from the automobile, leaving behind the
nuns and the officers who were escorting her.

The light of daybreak, blue and cold as the reflection of steel, threw
into relief the two masses of armed men who formed a narrow passageway.
At the end of this impromptu lane there was a post planted in the
ground and beyond that, a dark van drawn by two horses, and various men
clad in black.

The woman's approach was signalized by a voice of command, and
immediately sounded the drums and trumpets at the head of the two
formations. There was a rattle of guns; the soldiers were presenting
arms. The martial instruments delivered the triumphal salute due to the
presence of the head of a state, a general, a flag-raising.... It was
an homage to Justice, majestic and severe,--a hymn to Patriotism,
implacable in defense.

Recalling the white woman with deep bosom and hollow eyes that she had
seen over the head of the President of the Council, the spy for a
moment recognized that all this was in her honor; but afterwards, she
wished to believe that the triumphal reception was for herself.... She
was marching between guns, accompanied by bugle-call and drum-beat,
like a queen.

To her defender, she appeared taller than ever. She seemed to have
grown a palm higher because of her intense, emotional uplift. Her
theatrical soul was moved just as when she used to present herself on
the boards to receive applause. All these men had arisen in the middle
of the night and were there on her account: the horns and the drums
were sounding in order to greet her. Discipline was keeping their
countenances grave and cold but she had the certain consciousness that
they were finding her beautiful, and that back of many immovable eyes,
desire was asserting itself.

If there remained a shred of fear of losing her life, it disappeared
under the caress of this false glory.... To die contemplated by so many
valiant men who were rendering her the greatest of honors! She felt the
necessity of being adorable, of falling into an artistic pose as though
she were on a stage.

She was passing between the two masses of men, head erect, stepping
firmly with the high-spirited tread of a goddess-huntress, sometimes
casting a glance on some of the hundreds of eyes fixed upon her. The
illusion of her triumph made her advance as upright and serene as
though passing the troops in review.

"Good heavens!... What poise!" exclaimed a young officer behind the
lawyer, admiring Freya's serenity.

Upon approaching the post, some one read a brief document, a summary of
the sentence,--three lines to apprise her that justice was about to be
fulfilled.

The only thing about this rapid notification that annoyed her was the
fear that the trumpets and drums would cease. But they continued
sounding and their martial music was as comforting to her ears as a
very intoxicating wine slipping through her lips.

A platoon of corporals and soldiers (twelve rifles) detached themselves
from the double military mass. A sub-officer with a blond beard, small,
delicate, was commanding it with an unsheathed sword. Freya
contemplated him a moment, finding him interesting, while the young man
avoided her glance.

With the gesture of a tragedy queen, she repelled the white
handkerchief that they were offering her to bandage her eyes. She did
not need it. The nuns took leave of her forever. As soon as she was
alone, two gendarmes commenced to tie her with the back supported
against the post.

"They say," her defender continued writing, "that one of her hands
waved to me for the last time just before it was fastened down by the
rope.... I saw nothing. I could not see!... It was too much for me!..."

The rest of the execution he knew only by hearsay. The trumpets and
drums continued sounding. Freya, bound and intensely pale, smiled as
though she were drunk. The early morning breeze waved the plumes of her
hat.

When the twelve fusileers advanced placing themselves in a horizontal
line eight yards distant, all of them aiming toward her heart, she
appeared to wake up. She shrieked, her eyes abnormally dilated by the
horror of the reality that so soon was to take place. Her cheeks were
covered with tears. She tugged at the ligatures with the vigor of an
epileptic.

"Pardon!... Pardon! I do not want to die!"

The sub-lieutenant raised his sword, and lowered it again rapidly.... A
shot.

Freya collapsed, her body slipping the entire length of the post until
it fell forward on the ground. The bullets had cut the cords that bound
her.

As though it had acquired sudden life, her hat leaped from her head,
flying off to fall about four yards further on. A corporal with a
revolver in his right hand came forward from the shooting picket:--"the
death-blow." He checked his step before the puddle of blood that was
forming around the victim, pressing his lips together and averting his
eyes. He then bent over her, raising with the end of the barrel the
ringlets which had fallen over one of her ears. She was still
breathing.... A shot in the temple. Her body contracted with a final
shudder, then remained immovable with the rigidity of a corpse.

Voices were heard. The firing-squad re-formed in line, and to the
rhythm of their instruments went filing past the body of the dead. From
the funeral wagon two black-robed men drew out a bier of white wood.

Turning their backs upon their work, the double military mass marched
toward the encampment. The ends of Justice had been served. Trumpets
and drums were lost on the horizon but their sounds were still
magnified by the fresh echoes of the coming morn. The corpse was
despoiled of its jewels and then deposited in that poor coffin which
looked so like a packing-box. The two nuns took with timidity the gems
which the dead woman had given them for their works of charity. Then
the lid was fastened down, shutting away forever the one who a few
moments before was a woman of sumptuous charm upon whom men could not
look unmoved. The four planks now guarded merely bloody rags, mutilated
flesh, broken bones.

The vehicle went to the cemetery of Vincennes, to the corner in which
the executed were buried.... Not a flower, not an inscription, not a
cross. The lawyer himself could not be sure of finding her burial place
if at any time it was necessary to seek it.... Such was the last scene
in the career of this luxurious and pleasure-loving creature!... Thus
had that body gone to dissolution in an unknown hole in the ground like
any abandoned beast of burden!...

"She was good," said her defender, "and yet at the same time, she was a
criminal. Her education was to blame. Poor woman!... They had brought
her up to live in riches, and riches had always fled before her."

Then in his last lines the old _maître_ said with melancholy, "She died
thinking of you and a little of me.... We have been the last men of her
existence."

This reading left Ulysses in a mournful state of stupefaction. Freya
was no longer living!... He was no longer running the danger of seeing
her appear on his ship at whatever port he might touch!...

The duality of his sentiments again surged up with violent
contradiction.

"It was a good thing!" said the sailor, "how many men have died through
her fault!... Her execution was inevitable. The sea must be cleared of
such bandits."

And at the same time the remembrance of the delights of Naples, of that
long imprisonment in a harem pervaded with unlimited sensuousness was
reborn in his mind. He saw her in all the majesty of her marvelous
body, just as when she was dancing or leaping from side to side of the
old salon. And now this form, molded by nature in a moment of
enthusiasm, was no longer in existence.... It was nothing but a mass of
liquid flesh and pestilent pulp!...

He recalled her kiss, that kiss that had so electrified him, making him
sink down and down through an ocean of ecstasy, like a castaway,
content with his fate.... And he would never know her more!... And her
mouth, with its perfume of cinnamon and incense, of Asiatic forests
haunted with sensuousness and intrigue, was now ...! Ah, misery!

Suddenly he saw the profile of the dead woman with one eye turned
toward him, graciously and malignly, just as the "eye of the morning"
must have looked at its mistress while uncoiling her mysterious dances
in her Asiatic dwelling.

Ulysses concentrated his attention on the Phantasm's pallid brow
touched by the silky caress of her curls. There he had placed his best
kisses, kisses of tenderness and gratitude.... But the smooth skin that
had appeared made of petals of the camellia was growing dark before his
eyes. It became a dark green and was oozing with blood.... Thus he had
seen her that other time.... And he recalled with remorse his blow in
Barcelona.... Then it opened, forming a deep hole, angular in shape
like a star. Now it was the mark of the gunshot wound, the _coup de
grâce_ that brought the death-agony of the executed girl to its end.

Poor Freya, implacable warrior, unnerved by the battle of the sexes!...
She had passed her existence hating men yet needing them in order to
live,--doing them all the harm possible and receiving it from them in
sad reciprocity until finally she had perished at their hands.

It could not end in any other way. A masculine hand had opened the
orifice through which was escaping the last bubble of her existence....
And the horrified captain, poring over her sad profile with its
purpling temple, thought that he never would be able to blot that
ghastly vision from his memory. The phantasm would diminish, becoming
invisible in order to deceive him, but would surely come forth again in
all his hours of pensive solitude; it was going to embitter his nights
on watch, to follow him through the years like remorse.

Fortunately the exactions of real life kept repelling these sad
memories.

"It was a good thing she was shot!" affirmed authoritatively within him
the energetic official accustomed to command men. "What would you have
done in forming a part of the tribunal that condemned her?... Just what
the others did. Think of those who have died through her deviltry!...
Remember what Toni said!"

A letter from his former mate, received in the same mail with the one
from Freya's defender, spoke of the abominations that submarine
aggression was committing in the Mediterranean.

News of some of the crimes was beginning to be received from
shipwrecked sailors who had succeeded in reaching the coast after long
hours of struggle, or when picked up by other boats. The most of the
victims, however, would remain forever unknown in the mystery of the
waves. Torpedoed boats had gone to the bottom with their crews and
passengers, "without leaving any trace," and only months afterwards a
part of the tragedy had become evident when the surge flung up on the
coast numberless bodies impossible of identification, without even a
recognizable human face.

Almost every week Toni contemplated some of these funereal gifts of the
sea. At daybreak the fishermen used to find corpses tossed on the beach
where the water swept the sand, resting there a few moments on the
moist ground, only to be snatched back again by another and stronger
wave. Finally their backs had become imbedded on land, holding them
motionless--while, from their clothing and their flesh, swarms of
little fishes came forth fleeing back to the sea in search of new
pastures. The revenue guards had discovered among the rocks mutilated
bodies in tragic positions, with glassy eyes protruding from their
sockets.

Many of them were recognized as soldiers by the tatters that revealed
an old uniform, or the metal identification tags on their wrists. The
shore folks were always talking of a transport that had been torpedoed
coming from Algiers.... And mixed with the men, they were constantly
finding bodies of women so disfigured that it was almost impossible to
judge of their age: mothers who had their arms arched as though putting
forth their utmost efforts to guard the babe that had disappeared. Many
whose virginal modesty had been violated by the sea, showed naked limbs
swollen and greenish, with deep bites from flesh-eating fishes. The
tide had even tossed ashore the headless body of a child a few years
old.

It was more horrible, according to Toni, to contemplate this spectacle
from land than when in a boat. Those on ships are not able to see the
ultimate consequences of the torpedoings as vividly as do those who
live on the shore, receiving as a gift of the waves this continual
consignment of victims.

The pilot had ended his letter with his usual supplications:--"Why do
you persist in following the sea?... You want a vengeance that is
impossible. You are one man, and your enemies are millions.... You are
going to die if you persist in disregarding them. You already know that
they have been hunting you for a long time. And you will not always
succeed in eluding their clutches. Remember what the people say, 'He
who courts danger--!' Give up the sea; return to your wife or come to
us. Such a rich life as you might lead ashore!..."

For a few hours Ferragut was of Toni's opinion. His reckless
undertaking was bound to come to a bad end. His enemies knew him, were
lying in wait for him, and were many arrayed against one who was living
alone on his ship with a crew of men of a different nationality. Aside
from the few who had always loved him, nobody would lament his death.
He did not belong to any of the nations at war; he was a species of
privateer bound not to begin an attack. He was even less,--an officer
carrying supplies under the protection of a neutral flag. This flag was
not deceiving anybody. His enemies knew the ship, seeking for it with
more determination than if he were with the Allied fleets. Even in his
own country, there were many people in sympathy with the German Empire
who would celebrate joyously the disappearance of the _Mare Nostrum_
and its captain.

Freya's death had depressed his spirits more than he had imagined
possible. He had gloomy presentiments; perhaps his next journey might
be his last.

"You are going to die!" cried an anguished voice in his brain. "You'll
die very soon if you do not retire from the sea."

And to Ferragut the queerest thing about the warning was that this
counselor had the voice of the one who had always egged him on to
foolish adventures,--the one that had hurled him into danger for the
mere pleasure of discounting it, the one that had made him follow Freya
even after knowing her vile profession.

On the other hand the voice of prudence, always cautious and temperate,
was now showing an heroic tranquillity, speaking like a man of peace
who considers his obligations superior to his life.

"Be calm, Ferragut; you have sold your person with your boat, and they
have given you millions for it. You must carry through what you have
promised even though it may send you out of existence.... The _Mare
Nostrum_ cannot sail without a Spanish captain. If you abandon it, you
will have to find another captain. You will run away through fear and
put in your place a man who has to face death in order to maintain his
family. Glorious achievement, that! ... while you would be on land,
rich and safe!... And what are you going to do on land, you coward?"

His egoism hardly knew how to reply to such a question. He recalled
with antipathy his bourgeois existence over there in Barcelona, before
buying the steamer. He was a man of action and could live only when
occupied in risky enterprises.

He would be bored to death on land and at the same time would be
considered belittled, degraded, like one who comes down to an inferior
grade in a country of hierarchies. The captain of a romantic,
adventurous life would be converted into a real estate proprietor,
knowing no other struggles than those which he might sustain with his
tenants. Perhaps, in order to avoid a commonplace existence, he might
invest his capital in navigation, the only business that he knew well.
He might become a ship-owner acquiring new vessels and, little by
little, because of the necessity of keeping a sharp watch over them,
would eventually renew his voyages.... Well, then, why should he
abandon the _Mare Nostrum?_

Upon asking himself anxiously what his life had so far amounted to, he
underwent a profound moral revolution.

All his former existence appeared to him like a desert. He had lived
without knowing why nor wherefore, challenging countless dangers and
adventures for the mere pleasure of coming out victorious. Neither did
he know with certainty what he had wanted until then. If it was money,
it had flowed into his hands in the last months with overwhelming
abundance.... He had it to-spare and it had not made him happy. As to
professional glory, he could not desire anything greater than he
already had. His name was celebrated all over the Spanish
Mediterranean. Even the rudest and most ungovernable of sailors would
admit his exceptional ability.

"Love remained!..." But Ferragut made a wry face when thinking of that.
He had known it and did not wish to meet it again. The gentle love of a
good companion, capable of surrounding the latter part of his existence
with congenial comfort, he had just lost forever. The other,
impassioned, fantastic, voluptuous, giving to life the crude interest
of conflicts and contrasts, had left him with no desire of recommencing
it.

Paternity, stronger and more enduring than love, might have filled the
rest of his days had his son not died.... There only remained
vengeance, the savage task of returning evil to those who had done him
so much evil. But he was so powerless to struggle against all of
them!... This final act appeared to be turning out so small and selfish
in comparison with that other patriotic enthusiasm which was now
dragging to sacrifice such great masses of men!...

While he was thinking it all over, a phrase which he had somewhere
heard--formed perhaps from the residuum of old readings--began to chant
in his brain: "A life without ideals is not worth the trouble of
living."

Ferragut mutely assented. It was true: in order to live, an ideal is
necessary. But where could he find it?...

Suddenly, in his mind's eye, he saw Toni,--just as when he used to try
to express his confused thoughts. With all his credulity and
simplicity, his captain now considered his humble mate his superior. In
his own way Toni had his ideal: he was concerned with something besides
his own selfishness. He wished for other men what he considered good
for himself, and he defended his convictions with the mystical
enthusiasm of all those historic personages who have tried to impose a
belief;--with the faith of the warriors of the Cross and those of the
Prophet, with the tenacity of the Inquisition and of the Jacobins.

He, a man of reason, had only known how to ridicule the generous and
disinterested enthusiasms of other men, detecting at once their weak
points and lack of adaptation to the reality of the moment.... What
right had he to laugh at his mate who was a believer, dreaming, with
the pure-mindedness of a child, of a free and happy humanity?... Aside
from his stupid jeers, what could he oppose to that faith?...

Life began to appear to him under a new light, as something serious and
mysterious that was exacting a bridge toll, a tribute of courage from
all the beings who pass over it, leaving the cradle behind them and
having the grave as a final resting-place.

It did not matter at all that their ideals might appear false. Where is
the truth, the only and genuine truth?... Who is there that can
demonstrate that he exists, and is not an illusion?...

The necessary thing was to believe in something, to have hope. The
multitudes had never been touched by impulses of argument and
criticism. They had only gone forward when some one had caused hopes
and hallucinations to be born in their souls. Philosophers might vainly
seek the truth by the light of logic, but the rest of mankind would
always prefer the chimerical ideals that become transformed into
powerful motives of action.

All religions were becoming beautifully less upon being subjected to
cold examination. Yet, nevertheless, they were producing saints and
martyrs, true super-men of morality. All revolutions had proved
imperfect and ineffectual when submitted to scientific revision. Yet,
nothwithstanding, they had brought forth the greatest individual
heroes, the most astonishing collective movements of history.

"To believe!... To dream!" a mysterious voice kept chanting in his
brain. "To have an ideal!..."

He did not fancy living, like the mummies of the great Pharaohs, in a
luxurious tomb, anointed with perfume and surrounded with everything
necessary for nourishment and sleep. To be born, to grow up, to
reproduce oneself was not enough to form a history:--all the animals do
the same. Man ought to add something more which he alone
possesses,--the faculty of framing a future.... To dream! To the
heritage of idealism left by our forebears should be added a new ideal,
or the power of bringing it about.

Ferragut realized that in normal times, he would have gone to his death
just as he had lived, continuing a monotonous and uniform existence.
Now the violent changes around him were resuscitating the dormant
personalities which we all carry within us as souvenirs of our
ancestors, revolving around a central and keen personality the only one
that has existed until then.

The world was in a state of war. The men of Middle Europe were clashing
with the other half on the battlefields. Both sides had a mystic ideal,
affirming it with violence and slaughter just as the multitudes have
always done when moved by religious or revolutionary certainty accepted
as the only truth....

But the sailor recognized a profound difference in the two masses
struggling at the present day. One was placing its ideal in the past,
wishing to rejuvenate the sovereignty of Force, the divinity of war,
and adapt it to actual life. The other throng was preparing for the
future, dreaming of a world of free democracy, of nations at peace,
tolerant and without jealousy.

Upon adjusting himself to this new atmosphere, Ferragut began to feel
within him ideas and aspirations that were, perhaps, an ancestral
legacy. He fancied he could hear his uncle, the _Triton_, describing
the impact of the men of the North upon the men of the South when
trying to make themselves masters of the blue mantle of Amphitrite. He
was a Mediterranean, but just because the country in which he had been
born happened to be uninterested in the fate of the world, he was not
going to remain indifferent.

He ought to continue just where he was. Whatever Toni had told him of
Latinism and Mediterranean civilization, he now accepted as great
truths. Perhaps they might not be exact when examined in the light of
pure reason, but they were worth as much as the assurances of the
others.

He was going to continue his life of navigation with new enthusiasm. He
had faith, the ideals, the illusions that heroes are made of. While the
war lasted he would assist in his own way, acting as an auxiliary to
those who were fighting, transporting all that was necessary to the
struggle. He began to look with greater respect upon the sailors
obedient to his orders, simple folk who had given their blood without
fine phrases and without arguments.

When peace should come he would not, therefore, retire from the sea.
There would still be much to be done. Then would begin the commercial
war, the sharp rivalry to conquer the markets of the younger nations of
America. Audacious and enormous plans were outlining themselves in his
brain. In this war he might perhaps become a leader. He dreamed of the
creation of a fleet of steamers that might reach even to the coast of
the Pacific; he wished to contribute his means to the victorious
re-birth of the race which had discovered the greater part of the
planet.

His new faith made him more friendly with the ship's cook, feeling the
attraction of his invincible illusions. From time to time he would
amuse himself consulting the old fellow as to the future fate of the
steamer; he wished to know if the submarines were causing him any fear.

"There's nothing to worry about," affirmed Caragol. "We have good
protectors. Whoever presents himself before us is lost."

And he showed his captain the religious engravings and postal cards
which he had tacked on the walls of the galley.

One morning Ferragut received his sailing orders. For the moment they
were going to Gibraltar, to pick up the cargo of a steamer that had not
been able to continue its voyage. From the strait they might turn their
course to Salonica once more.

The captain of the _Mare Nostrum_ had never undertaken a journey with
so much joy. He believed that he was going to leave on land forever the
recollection of that executed woman whose corpse he was seeing so many
nights in his dreams. From all the past, the only thing that he wished
to transplant to his new existence was the image of his son. Henceforth
he was going to live, concentrating all his enthusiasm and ideals on
the mission which he had imposed on himself.

He took the boat directly from Marseilles to the Cape of San Antonio
far from the coast, keeping to the mid-Mediterranean, without passing
the Gulf of Lyons. One twilight evening the crew saw some bluish
mountains in the hazy distance,--the island of Mallorca. During the
night the lighthouses of Ibiza and Formentera slipped past the dark
horizon. When the sun arose a vertical spot of rose color like a tongue
of flame, appeared above the sea line. It was the high mountain of
Mongó, the Ferrarian promontory of the ancients. At the foot of its
abrupt steeps was the village of Ulysses' grandparents, the house in
which he had passed the best part of his childhood. Thus it must have
looked in the distance to the Greeks of Massalia, exploring the desert
Mediterranean in ships which were leaping the foam like wooden horses.

All the rest of the day, the _Mare Nostrum_ sailed very close to the
shore. The captain knew this sea as though it were a lake on his own
property. He took the steamer through shallow depths, seeing the reefs
so near to the surface that it appeared almost a miracle that the boat
did not crash upon them. Sometimes the space between the keel and the
sunken rocks was hardly two yards wide. Then the gilded water would
take on a dark tone and the steamer would continue its advance over the
greater depths.

Along the shore, the autumn sun was reddening the yellowing mountains,
now dry and fragrant, covered with pasturage of strong odor which could
be smelt at great distances. In all the windings of the coast,--little
coves, beds of dry torrents or gorges between two peaks--were visible
white groups of hamlets.

Ferragut contemplated carefully the native land of his grandparents.
Toni must be there now: perhaps from the door of his dwelling he was
seeing them pass by; perhaps he was recognizing the ship with surprise
and emotion.

A French official, motionless near Ulysses on the bridge, was admiring
the beauty of the day and the sea. Not a single cloud was in the sky.
All was blue above and below, with no variation except where the bands
of foam were combing themselves on the jutting points of the coast, and
the restless gold of the sunlight was forming a broad roadway over the
waters. A flock of dolphins frisked around the boat like a cortege of
oceanic divinities.

"If the sea were always like this!" exclaimed the captain, "what
delight to be a sailor!"

The crew could see the people on land running together and forming
groups, attracted by the novelty of a steamer that was passing within
reach of their voice. On each of the jutting points of the shore was a
low and ruddy tower,--last vestige of the thousand-year war of the
Mediterranean. Accustomed to the rugged shores of the ocean and its
eternal surf, the Breton sailors were marveling at this easy
navigation, almost touching the coast whose inhabitants looked like a
swarm of bees. Had the boat been directed by another captain, so close
a journey would have resulted most disastrously: but Ferragut was
laughing, throwing out gloomy hints to the officers who were on the
bridge, merely to accentuate his professional confidence. He pointed
out the rocks hidden in the deeps. Here an Italian liner that was going
to Buenos Ayres had been lost.... A little further on, a swift
four-masted sailboat had run aground, losing its cargo.... He could
tell by the fraction of an inch the amount of water permissible between
the treacherous rocks and the keel of his boat.

He usually sought the roughest waters by preference, but they were in
the danger-zone of the Mediterranean where the German submarines were
lying in wait for the French and English convoys navigating in the
shelter of the Spanish coast. The obstacles of the submerged coast were
for him now the best defense against invisible attacks.

Behind him, the Ferrarian promontory was growing more and more shadowy,
becoming a mere blur on the horizon. By nightfall the _Mare Nostrum_
was in front of Cape Palos and he had to sail in the outer waters in
order to double it, leaving Cartagena in the distance. From there, he
turned his course to the southwest, to the cape where the Mediterranean
was beginning to grow narrow, forming the funnel of the strait. Soon
they would pass before Almeria and Malaga, reaching Gibraltar the
following day.

"Here is where the enemy is oftentimes waiting," said Ferragut to one
of the officers. "If we have no bad luck before night, we shall have
safely concluded our voyage."

The boat had withdrawn from the shore route, and it was no longer
possible to distinguish the lower coast. Only from the prow could be
seen the jutting hump of the cape, rising up like an island.

Caragol appeared with a tray on which were smoking two cups of coffee.
He would not yield to any cabinboy the honor of serving the captain
when on the bridge.

"Well, what do you think of the trip?" asked Ferragut gayly, before
drinking. "Shall we arrive in good condition?..."

The cook made as scornful a gesture as though the Germans could see
him.

"Nothing will befall us; I am sure of that.... We have One who is
watching over us, and ..."

He was suddenly interrupted in his affirmations. The tray leaped from
his hands and he went staggering about like a drunken man, even banging
his abdomen against the balustrade of the bridge. "_Cristo del
Grao!_..."

The cup that Ferragut was carrying to his mouth fell with a crash, and
the French officer, seated on a bench, was almost thrown on his knees.
The helmsman had to clutch the wheel with a jerk of surprise and
terror.

The entire ship trembled from keel to masthead, from quarter-deck to
forecastle, with a deadly shuddering as though invisible claws had just
checked it at full speed.

The captain tried to account for this accident. "We must be aground,"
he said to himself, "a reef that I did not know, a shoal not marked on
the charts...."

But a second had not passed before something else was added to the
first shock, refuting Ferragut's suppositions. The blue and luminous
air was rent with the thud of a thunderclap. Near the prow, appeared a
column of smoke, of expanding gases of yellowish and fulminating steam
and, coming up through its center in the form of a fan, a spout of
black objects, broken wood, bits of metallic plates and flaming ropes
turning to ashes.

Ulysses was no longer in doubt. They must have just been struck by a
torpedo. His anxious look scanned the waters.

"There!... There!" he said, pointing with his hand.

His keen seaman's eyes had just discovered the light outline of a
periscope that nobody else was able to see.

He ran down from the bridge or rather he slid down the midship ladder,
running toward the stern.

"There!... There!"

The three gunners were near the cannon, calm and phlegmatic, putting a
hand to their eyes, in order to see better the almost invisible speck
which the captain was pointing out.

None of them noticed the slant that the deck was slowly beginning to
take. They thrust the first projectile into the breech of the cannon
while the gunner made an effort to distinguish that small black cane
hardly perceptible among the tossing waves.

Another shock as rude as the first one! Everything groaned with a dying
shudder. The plates were trembling and falling apart, losing the
cohesion that had made of them one single piece. The screws and rivets
sprang out, moved by the general shaking-up. A second crater had opened
in the middle of the ship, this time bearing in its fan-shaped
explosion the limbs of human beings.

The captain saw that further resistance was useless. His feet warned
him of the cataclysm that was developing beneath them--the liquid
water-spout invading with a foamy bellowing the space between keel and
deck, destroying the metal screens, knocking down the bulk-heads,
upsetting every object, dragging them forth with all the violence of an
inundation, with the ramming force of a breaking dyke. The hold was
rapidly becoming converted into a watery and leaden coffin fast going
to the bottom.

The aft gun hurled its first shot. To Ferragut its report seemed mere
irony. No one knew as he did the ship's desperate condition.

"To the life boats!" he shouted. "Every one to the boats!"

The steamer was tipping up in an alarming way as the men calmly obeyed
his orders without losing their self-control.

A desperate vibration was jarring the deck. It was the engines that
were sending out death-rattles at the same time that a torrent of steam
as thick as ink was pouring from the smokestack. The firemen were
coming up to the light with eyes swollen with the terror stamping their
blackened faces. The inundation had begun to invade their dominions,
breaking their steel compartments.

"To the boats!... Lower the life boats!"

The captain repeated his shouts of command, anxious to see the crew
embark, without thinking for one moment of his own safety.

It never even occurred to him that his fate might be different from
that of his ship. Besides, hidden in the sea, was the enemy who would
soon break the surface to survey its handiwork.... Perhaps they might
hunt for Captain Ferragut among the boatloads of survivors, wishing to
bear him off as their triumphant booty.... No, he would far rather give
up his life!...

The seamen had unfastened the life boats and were beginning to lower
them, when something brutal suddenly occurred with the annihilating
rapidity of a cataclysm of Nature.

There sounded a great explosion as though the world had gone to pieces,
and Ferragut felt the floor vanishing from beneath his feet. He looked
around him. The prow no longer existed; it had disappeared under the
water, and a bellowing wave was rolling over the deck crushing
everything beneath its roller of foam. On the other hand, the poop was
climbing higher and higher, becoming almost vertical. It was soon a
cliff, a mountain steep, on whose peak the white flagstaff was sticking
up like a weather-vane.

In order not to fall he had to grasp a rope, a bit of wood, any fixed
object. But the effort was useless. He felt himself dragged down,
overturned, lashed about in a moaning and whirling darkness. A deadly
chill paralyzed his limbs. His closed eyes saw a red heaven, a sky of
blood with black stars. His ear drums were buzzing with a roaring
_glu-glu_, while his body was turning somersaults through the darkness.
His confused brain imagined that an infinitely deep hole had opened in
the depths of the sea, that all the waters of the ocean were passing
through it, forming a gigantic vortex, and that he was swirling in the
center of this revolving tempest.

"I am going to die!... I am already dead!" said his thoughts.

And in spite of the fact that he was resigned to death, he moved his
legs desperately, wishing to bring himself up to the yielding,
treacherous surface. Instead of continuing to descend, he noticed that
he was going up, and in a little while he was able to open his eyes and
to breathe, judging from the atmospheric contact that he had reached
the top.

He was not sure of the length of time he had passed in the
abyss,--surely not more than a few minutes, since his breathing
capacity as a swimmer could not exceed that limit.... He, therefore,
experienced great astonishment upon discovering the tremendous changes
which had taken place in so short a parenthesis.

He thought it was already night. Perhaps in the upper strata of the
atmosphere were still shining the last rays of the sun, but at the
water's level, there was no more than a twilight gray, like the dim
glimmer of a cellar.

The almost even surface seen a few minutes before from the height of
the bridge was now moved by broad swells that plunged him in momentary
darkness. Each one of these appeared a hillock interposed before his
eyes, leaving free only a few yards of space. When he was raised upon
their crests he could take in with rapid vision the solitary sea that
lacked the gallant mass of the ship, astir with dark objects. These
objects were slipping inertly by or moving along, waving pairs of black
antennae. Perhaps they were imploring help, but the wet desert was
absorbing the most furious cries, converting them into distant
bleating.

Of the _Mare Nostrum_ there was no longer visible either the mouth of
the smokestack nor the point of a mast; the abyss had swallowed it
all.... Ferragut began to doubt if his ship had ever really existed.

He swam toward a plank that came floating near, resting his arms upon
it. He used to be able to remain entire hours in the sea, when naked
and within sight of the coast, with the assurance of returning to
_terra firma_ whenever he might wish.... But now he had to keep himself
up, completely dressed; his shoes were tugging at him with a constantly
increasing force as though made of iron ... and water on all sides! Not
a boat on the horizon that could come to his aid!... The wireless
operator, surprised by the swiftness of the catastrophe, had not been
able to send out the S.O.S.

He also had to defend himself from the débris of the shipwreck. After
having grasped the raft as his last means of salvation, he had to avoid
the floating casks, rolling toward him on the swelling billows, which
might send him to the bottom with one of their blows.

Suddenly there loomed up between two waves a species of blind monster
that was agitating the waters furiously with the strokes of its
swimming. Upon coming close to it, he saw that it was a man; as it
drifted away, he recognized Uncle Caragol.

He was swimming like a drunken man with a super-human force which made
half of his body come out of the water at each stroke. He was looking
before him as though he could see, as if he had a fixed destination,
without hesitating a moment, yet going further out to sea when he
imagined that he was heading toward the coast.

"_Padre San Vicente!_" he moaned. "_Cristo del Grao!_..."

In vain the captain shouted. The cook could not hear him, and continued
swimming on with all the force of his faith, repeating his pious
invocations between his noisy snortings.

A cask climbed the crest of a wave, rolling down on the opposite side.
The head of the blind swimmer came in its way.... A thudding crash.
_Padre San Vicente!_... And Caragol disappeared with bleeding head and
a mouth full of salt.

Ferragut did not wish to imitate that kind of swimming. The land was
very far off for a man's arms; it would be impossible to reach it. Not
a single one of the ship's boats had remained afloat.... His only hope,
a remote and whimsical one, was that some vessel might discover the
shipwrecked men and save them.

In a little while this hope was almost realized. From the crest of a
wave he could see a black bark, long and low, without smokestack or
mast, that was nosing slowly among the débris. He recognized a
submarine. The dark silhouettes of several men were so plainly visible
that he believed he heard them shouting.----

"Ferragut!... Where is Captain Ferragut?..."

"Ah, no!... Better to die!"

And he clung to his raft, hanging his head as though drowning. Then as
night closed down upon him he heard still other shouts, but these were
cries of help, cries of anguish, cries of death. The rescuers were
searching for him only, leaving the others to their fate.

He lost all notion of time. An agonizing cold was paralyzing his entire
frame. His stiffened and swollen hands were loosening from the raft and
grasping it again only by a supreme effort of his will.

The other shipwrecked men had taken the precaution to put on their life
preservers when the ship began to sink. Thanks to this apparatus, their
death agony was going to be prolonged a few hours more. Perhaps if they
could hold out until daybreak, they might be discovered by some boat!
But he!...

Suddenly he remembered the _Triton_.... His uncle also had died in the
sea; all the most vigorous members of the family had finally perished
in its bosom. For centuries and centuries it had been the tomb of the
Ferraguts; with good reason they had called it "_mare nostrum_."

He fancied that the currents might possibly have dragged his uncle's
dead body from the other promontory to the place over which he was
floating. Perhaps he might be now beneath his feet.... An irresistible
force was pulling at them; his paralyzed hands loosened their hold on
the wood.

"Uncle!... Uncle!"

In his thoughts he was shrieking to his relative with the timorous
plaint of the little fellow taking his first swimming lesson. But his
agonized hands again encountered the cold and weak support of the raft
instead of that island of hard muscles crowned with a hairy and smiling
face.

He continued his tenacious floating, struggling against the drowsiness
that was urging him to relax from his drifting support and let himself
go to the bottom, to sleep ... to sleep forever! His shoes and clothing
were continuing to pull and tug with even greater force. They became an
undulating shroud, growing heavier and heavier, surging and dragging
down and down to the uttermost depths. His desperation made him raise
his eyes and look at the stars.... So high!... Only to be able to grasp
one of them, as his hands were now clutching the wood!...

At the same time he made instinctively a movement of repulsion. His
head had sunk in the water without his being conscious of it. A bitter
liquid was beginning to filter through his mouth....

He made a mighty effort to keep himself in a vertical position, looking
again at the sky, still black as ink, and all the stars as red as drops
of blood.

Suddenly he felt a certain consciousness that he was not alone, and he
closed his eyes.... Yes, somebody was near him. It was a woman!...

It was a woman white as the clouds, white as the sail, white as the
foam. Her sea-green tresses were adorned with pearls and phosphorescent
corals; her proud smile was that of a goddess, in keeping with the
majesty of her diadem.

She stretched her pearly arms around him, pressing him close against
her life-giving and eternally virginal bosom. A dense and greenish
atmosphere was giving her whiteness a reflection like that of the light
of the caves of the sea....

Her pale mouth then pressed against the sailor's, making him feel as
though all the light of this white apparition had liquefied and was
passing into his body by means of her impelling kiss.

He could no longer see, he could no longer speak.

His eyes had closed, never to open again; a bitter river of salt was
flowing down his throat.

Nevertheless he continued looking at her,--more luminous, pressed
closer and closer,--with a sad expression of love in his glassy
eyes.... And thus he went down and down the infinite levels of the
abyss, inert, and without volition, while a voice within him was
crying, as though just recognizing her:

"_Amphitrite!_... _Amphitrite!_"



THE END





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