Part Three


One morning twin boys were discovered in the foundlings’ basket before the door of the Convent of Santa María Rosa de las Rosas. Names were found for them almost before the arrival of the wet-nurse, but the names were not as useful to them as our names are to most of us, for no one ever succeeded in telling the boys apart. There was no way of knowing who their parents were, but Limean gossips noticing as the boys grew older how straight they held themselves and how silent and sombre they were, declared them to be Castilian and laid them in turn at all sorts of crested doorways. The person in the world who came nearest to being their guardian was the Abbess of the Convent. Madre María del Pilar had come to hate all men, but she grew fond of Manuel and Esteban. In the late afternoon she would call them into her office, send for some cakes from the kitchen, and tell them stories about the Cid and Judas Maccabeus and the thirty-six misfortunes of Harlequin. She grew to love them so that she would catch herself gazing deep into their black and frowning eyes, looking for those traits that would appear when they grew to be men, all that ugliness, all that soullessness that made hideous the world she worked in. They grew up about the convent until they were a little past the age when their presence began to be a slight distraction to the dedicated sisters. From thence they became vaguely attached to all the sacristies in town: they trimmed all the cloister hedges; they polished every possible crucifix; they passed a damp cloth once a year over most of the ecclesiastical ceilings. All Lima knew them well. When the priest rushed through the streets carrying his precious burden into a sickroom, either Esteban or Manuel was to be seen striding behind him, swinging a censer. As they grew older, however, they showed no desire for the clerical life. They gradually assumed the profession of the scribe. There were few printing presses in the New World, and the boys soon made a fair living transcribing comedies for the theatre, ballads for the crowds, and advertisements for the merchants. Above all they were the copyists of the choirmasters and made endless parts of the motets of Morales and Vittoria.

Because they had no family, because they were twins, and because they were brought up by women, they were silent. There was in them a curious shame in regard to their resemblance. They had to live in a world where it was the subject of continual comment and joking. It was never funny to them and they suffered the eternal pleasantries with stolid patience. From the years when they first learned to speak they invented a secret language for themselves, one that was scarcely dependent on the Spanish for its vocabulary, or even for its syntax. They resorted to it only when they were alone, or at great intervals in moments of stress whispered it in the presence of others. The Archbishop of Lima was something of a philologist; he dabbled in dialects; he had even evolved quite a brilliant table for the vowel and consonant changes from Latin into Spanish and from Spanish into Indian-Spanish. He was storing up notebooks of quaint lore against an amusing old age he planned to offer himself back on his estates outside Segovia. So when he heard one day about the secret language of the twin brothers, he trimmed some quills and sent for them. The boys stood humiliated upon the rich carpets of his study while he tried to extract from them their bread and tree and their I see and I saw. They did not know why the experience was so horrible to them. They bled. Long shocked silences followed each of the Archbishop’s questions, until finally one or the other mumbled an answer. The priest thought for a while that they were merely in awe before his rank and before the luxury of his apartment, but at last, much perplexed, he divined the presence of some deeper reluctance and sadly let them go.

This language was the symbol of their profound identity with one another, for just as resignation was a word insufficient to describe the spiritual change that came over the Marquesa de Montemayor on that night in the inn at Cluxambuqua, so love is inadequate to describe the tacit, almost ashamed, oneness of these brothers. What relationship is it in which few words are exchanged, and those only about the details of food, clothing and occupation; in which the two persons have a curious reluctance even to glance at one another; and in which there is a tacit arrangement not to appear together in the city and to go on the same errand by different streets? And yet side by side with this there existed a need of one another so terrible that it produced miracles as naturally as the charged air of a sultry day produces lightning. The brothers were scarcely aware of it themselves, but telepathy was a common occurrence in their lives, and when one returned home the other was always aware of it while his brother was still several streets away.

Suddenly they discovered that they were tired of writing. They went down to the sea and found an occupation in loading and unloading vessels, not ashamed of working side by side with Indians. They drove teams across the provinces. They picked fruit. They were ferrymen. And always they were silent. Their sombre faces took on from these labors a male and gypsy cast. Their hair was seldom cut and under the dark mat their eyes looked up suddenly surprised and a little sullen. All the world was remote and strange and hostile except one’s brother.

But at last the first shadow fell across this unity and the shadow was cast by the love of women.

They had returned to the city and resumed the copying of parts for the theatre. One night the manager, foreseeing a thinning house, gave them a free admission. The boys did not like what they found there. Even speech was for them a debased form of silence, how much more futile is poetry which is a debased form of speech. All those allusions to honour, reputation, and the flame of love, all the metaphors about birds, Achilles and the jewels of Ceylon were fatiguing. In the presence of literature they had the same darkling intelligence that stirs for a time behind the eyes of a dog, but they sat on patiently, gazing at the bright candles and the rich clothes. Between the acts of the comedy the Perichole stepped out of her role, put on twelve petticoats and danced before the curtain. Esteban had some copying still to do, or pretended so, and went home early; but Manuel stayed on. The red stockings and shoes of the Perichole had made their impression.

Both brothers had fetched and carried their manuscripts up and down the dusty stairs behind the stage. There they had seen an irritable girl in a soiled bodice mending her stockings before a mirror while her stage director read aloud her lines for memorization. She had let fall upon the boys for a moment the detonation of her amazing eyes, immediately dissipated in her amused recognition that they were twins. Forthwith she had dragged them into the room and placed them side by side. Carefully, amusedly and remorselessly she had peered into every square inch of their faces, until finally laying one hand on Esteban’s shoulder she had cried out: “This one is the younger!” That had been several years before and neither brother had thought of the episode again.

Henceforth all Manuel’s errands seemed to lead him past the theatre. Late at night he would drift about among the trees beneath her dressing-room window. It was not the first time that Manuel had been fascinated by a woman (both brothers had possessed women, and often, especially during their years at the waterfront; simply, latinly), but it was the first time that his will and imagination had been thus overwhelmed. He had lost that privilege of simple natures, the dissociation of love and pleasure. Pleasure was no longer as simple as eating; it was being complicated by love. Now was beginning that crazy loss of one’s self, that neglect of everything but one’s dramatic thoughts about the beloved, that feverish inner life all turning upon the Perichole and which would so have astonished and disgusted her had she been permitted to divine it. This Manuel had not fallen in love through any imitation of literature. It was not of him, at all events, that the bitterest tongue in France had remarked only fifty years before: that many people would never have fallen in love if they had not heard about it. Manuel read little; he had only been once to the theatre (where above all there reigns the legend that love is a devotion) and the Peruvian tavern-songs that he might have heard, unlike those of Spain, reflected very little of the romantic cult of an idealized woman. When he said over to himself that she was beautiful and rich and fatiguingly witty and the Viceroy’s mistress, none of these attributes that made her less obtainable had the power to quench his curious and tender excitement. So he leaned against the trees in the dark, his knuckles between his teeth, and listened to his loud heartbeats.

But the life that Esteban was leading had been full enough for him. There was no room in his imagination for a new loyalty, not because his heart was less large than Manuel’s, but because it was of a simpler texture. Now he discovered that secret from which one never quite recovers, that even in the most perfect love one person loves less profoundly than the other. There may be two equally good, equally gifted, equally beautiful, but there may never be two that love one another equally well. So Esteban sat up in their room by a guttering candle, his knuckles between his teeth, and wondered why Manuel was so changed and why the whole meaning had gone out of their life.

One evening Manuel was stopped on the street by a small boy who announced to him that the Perichole wished him to call upon her at once. Manuel turned in his path and went to the theatre. Straight, sombre and impersonal, he entered the actress’s room and stood waiting. Camila had a service to ask of Manuel and she thought a few preliminary blandishments were necessary, but she scarcely paused in combing a blond wig that was dressed upon the table before her.

“You write letters for people, don’t you? I want you to write a letter for me, please. Please come in.”

He came forward two steps.

“You never pay me the least visit, either of you. That’s not Spanish of you.”⁠—meaning “courteous.” “Which are you⁠—Manuel or Esteban?”


“It doesn’t matter. You are both unfriendly. Neither of you ever comes to see me. Here I sit learning stupid lines all day and no one ever comes to see me but a lot of peddlers. It is because I am an actress, no?”

This was not very artful, but for Manuel it was unspeakably complicated. He merely stared at her from the shadows of his long hair and left her to improvise.

“I am going to engage you to write a letter for me, a very secret letter. But now I can see that you don’t like me and that to ask you to write a letter would be as good as reading it aloud in all the wine-shops. What does that look mean, Manuel? Are you my friend?”

“Yes, señora.”

“Go away. Send me Esteban. You do not even say Yes, señora as a friend would say it.”

Long pause. Presently she raised her head: “Are you still there, Unfriendly?”

“Yes, señora⁠ ⁠… you can trust me to do anything for you⁠ ⁠… you can trust⁠ ⁠…”

“If I ask you to write one letter for me, or two letters, you promise never to mention to a human being what is in them, or even that you wrote them?”

“Yes, señora.”

“What do you promise by?⁠—by the Virgin Mary?”

“Yes, señora.”

“And by the heart of Saint Rose of Lima?”

“Yes, señora.”

“Name of the Name, Manuel, anyone would think you were as stupid as an ox. Manuel, I am very angry with you. You are not stupid. You don’t look stupid. Please don’t say just Yes, señora again. Don’t be stupid or I’ll send for Esteban. Is anything the matter with you?”

Here Manuel cast himself upon the Spanish language and exclaimed with unnecessary vigor: “I swear by the Virgin Mary and the heart of Saint Rose of Lima that all that has to do with the letter will be secret.”

“Even from Esteban,” prompted the Perichole.

“Even from Esteban.”

“Well, that’s better.” She motioned him to sit down at a table where writing materials were already laid out. As she dictated she strode about the room, frowning, swinging her hips. With her arms akimbo she hugged her shawl about her shoulders defiantly.

“Camila Perichole kisses the hands of Your Excellency and says⁠—

No, take another piece of paper and begin again.

The señora Micaela Villegas, artist, kisses the hands of Your Excellency and says that, being the victim of the envious and lying friends that Y.E.’s goodness permits about Him, she can no longer endure Y.E.’s suspicions and jealousy. Y.E.’s servant has always valued Y.E.’s friendship and has never committed nor even thought an offense against it, but she can no longer fight against the calumnies that Y.E. believes so readily. Señora Villegas, artist, called the Perichole, therefore returns herewith such of Y.E.’s gifts as have not been placed beyond recall, since without Y.E.’s confidence Y.E.’s servant can take no pleasure in them.”

Camila continued walking about the room for several minutes, consumed by her thoughts. Presently without so much as glancing at her secretary, she commanded: “Take another leaf.

Have you gone mad? Do not ever think of dedicating another bull to me again. It has caused a frightful war. Heaven protect you, my colt. Friday night, the same place, the same time. I may be a little late, for the fox is wide-awake.

That will be all.”

Manuel rose.

“You swear that you have made no errors?”

“Yes, I swear.”

“There is your money.”

Manuel took the money.

“I shall want you to write me more letters from time to time. My uncle Pio generally writes my letters; these I do not wish him to know about. Good night. Go with God.”

“Go with God.”

Manuel descended the stairs and stood for a long time among the trees, not thinking, not moving.

Esteban knew that his brother was continually brooding over the Perichole, but he never suspected that he saw her. From time to time during the next two months a small boy would approach him in great haste and ask whether he were Manuel or Esteban, and being informed that he was only Esteban, the boy would add that Manuel was wanted at the theatre. Esteban assumed that the call was for copyist’s work and was therefore utterly unprepared for a visit that they received one night in their room.

It was almost midnight. Esteban had gone to bed, and lay gazing out from under the blanket at the candle beside which his brother was working. There was a light tap at the door and Manuel opened to admit a lady heavily veiled, out of breath and nervous. She threw back the scarf from her face and said hurriedly:

“Quick, ink and paper. You are Manuel, yes? You must do a letter for me at once.”

For a moment her glance fell on the two bright eyes that glared at her from the edge of the cot. She murmured: “You⁠ ⁠… you must excuse me. I know it is late. It was necessary.⁠ ⁠… I must come.” Then turning to Manuel, she whispered into his ear: “Write this: ‘I, the Perichole, am not accustomed to wait at a rendezvous.’ Have you finished that? ‘You are only a cholo, and there are better matadors than you, even in Lima. I am half Castilian and there are no better actresses in the world. You shall not have the opportunity’⁠—Have you got that?⁠—‘to keep me waiting again, cholo, and I shall laugh the last, for even an actress does not grow old as fast as a bullfighter.’ ”

To Esteban in the shadows the picture of Camila leaning over his brother’s hand and whispering into his ear was complete evidence that a new congeniality had formed such as he would never know. He seemed to shrink away into space, infinitely tiny, infinitely unwanted. He took one more glance at the tableau of Love, all the paradise from which he was shut out, and turned his face to the wall.

Camila seized the note the moment it was done, pushed a coin along the table, and in a last flurry of black lace, scarlet beads and excited whispers left the room. Manuel turned from the door with his candle. He sat down and leaned forward, his hand over his ears, his elbows on his knees. He worshipped her. He murmured to himself over and over again that he worshipped her, making of the sound a sort of incantation and an obstacle to thought.

He emptied his mind of everything but a singsong, and it was this vacancy that permitted him to become aware of Esteban’s mood. He seemed to hear a voice that proceeded from the shadows saying: “Go and follow her, Manuel. Don’t stay here. You’ll be happy. There’s room for us all in the world.” Then the realization became even more intense and he received a mental image of Esteban going a long way off and saying goodbye many times as he went. He was filled with terror; by the light of it he saw that all the other attachments in the world were shadows, or the illusions of fever, even Madre María del Pilar, even the Perichole. He could not understand why Esteban’s misery should present itself as demanding a choice between him and the Perichole, but he could understand Esteban’s misery as misery. And at once he sacrificed everything to it, if it can be said we ever sacrifice anything save what we know we can never attain, or what some secret wisdom tells us it would be uncomfortable or saddening to possess. To be sure, there was nothing on which Esteban could base a complaint. It was not jealousy, for in their earlier affairs it had never occurred to either of them that their loyalty to one another had been diminished. It was merely that in the heart of one of them there was left room for an elaborate imaginative attachment and in the heart of the other there was not. Manuel could not quite understand this and, as we shall see, he nourished a dim sense of being accused unjustly. But he did understand that Esteban was suffering. In his excitement he groped for a means of holding this brother who seemed to be receding into the distance. And at once, in one unhesitating stroke of the will, he removed the Perichole from his heart.

He blew out the candle and lay down on his bed. He was trembling. He said aloud with exaggerated casualness: “Well, that’s the last letter I write for that woman. She can go and find a pander somewhere else. If ever she calls here, or sends for me when I’m out, tell her so. Make it plain. That’s the last I have to do with her,” and with that he began reciting his evening psalm aloud. But he had hardly reached “a sagitta volante in die” when he became aware that Esteban had risen and was lighting the candle.

“What’s the matter?” he asked.

“I’m going out for a walk,” replied Esteban sombrely, fastening his belt. After a moment, he broke out with an assumption of anger: “You don’t have to say⁠ ⁠… what you just said, for me. I don’t care whether you write her letters or not. You don’t have to change for me. I haven’t anything to do with that.”

“Go to bed, you fool. God, you’re a fool, Esteban. What made you think I said that for you? Don’t you believe I mean it when I say I’m through with her? Do you think I want to write any more of her dirty letters and get paid for them like that?”

“It’s all right. You love her. You don’t have to change because of me.”

Love her? You’re crazy, Esteban. How could I love her? What chance would there be for me? Do you suppose she’d give me those letters to write if there were any chance? Do you suppose she’d push a piece of money across the table every time?⁠ ⁠… You’re crazy, Esteban, that’s all.”

There was a long pause. Esteban would not go to bed. He sat by the candle in the middle of the room, tapping with his hand on the edge of the table.

“Go to bed, you fool!” shouted Manuel, rising on one elbow under the blanket. He was talking in their secret language, and the new pain at his heart gave a greater ring of reality to his assumption of rage. “I’m all right.”

“I won’t. I’m going out for a walk,” replied Esteban, picking up his coat.

“You can’t go out for a walk. It’s two o’clock. It’s raining. You can’t go and walk about for hours like that. Look, Esteban, I swear to you there’s nothing left to all that. I don’t love her. I only did for a time.”

By now Esteban stood in the dark of the open door. In the unnatural voice with which we make the greatest declarations of our lives, he muttered: “I’m in your way,” and turned to go.

Manuel leapt out of his bed. His head seemed to be full of a great din, a voice crying out that Esteban was going away forever, was leaving him alone forever. “In the name of God, in the name of God, Esteban, come back here.”

Esteban came back and went to bed and the matter was not mentioned again for many weeks. The very next evening Manuel had an opportunity of declaring his position. A messenger arrived from the Perichole and was told harshly to inform the actress that Manuel would write no more letters for her.

One evening Manuel tore open the flesh on his knee against a piece of metal.

Neither brother had ever been ill for as much as a day in his life, and now Manuel, utterly bewildered, watched his leg swell and felt the waves of pain rise and fall in his body. Esteban sat by and stared at his face trying to imagine what great pain was. At last, one midnight, Manuel remembered that the signboard of a certain hairdresser in the city described the proprietor as an experienced barber and surgeon. Esteban ran through the streets to fetch him. He pounded on the door. Presently a woman leaned out of a window and announced that her husband would be back in the morning. During the fearful hours that followed, they told one another that when the doctor had seen the leg all would be well. He would do something about it, and Manuel would be out around the town in a day or two, even in a day perhaps, even less than a day.

The barber arrived and prescribed various draughts and ointments. Esteban was instructed to lay cold cloths on his brother’s leg every hour. The barber withdrew and the brothers sat down to wait for the pain to subside. But while they continued staring into one another’s faces waiting for the miracle of science, the pain grew worse. Hour after hour Esteban approached with his dripping towel and they discovered that the moment of its application was the worst of all. With all the fortitude in the world Manuel could not prevent himself from shouting and from flinging himself about upon the bed. Night came on and still Esteban stolidly waited and watched and worked. Nine, ten, eleven. Now when the time drew near to apply the cloths (the hour struck so musically from all those towers) Manuel would plead with Esteban not to do his work. He would resort to guile and declare that he scarcely felt it. But Esteban, his heart bursting with pain and his lips a line of iron, would roll back the blanket and bind the towel fiercely in its place. Manuel gradually became delirious and under this application all the thoughts he did not permit himself in his right mind would burst magnified from his mouth.

Finally at two o’clock, out of his mind with rage and pain, and flinging himself half out of the bed until his head struck the floor, Manuel cried: “God condemn your soul to the hottest hell there is. A thousand devils torture you forever, Esteban, God condemn your soul, do you hear?” At first, the air gone out of his body, Esteban went out into the hall and leaned against the door, his mouth and eyes wide open. Still he heard from within: “Yes, Esteban, may God damn your beastly soul forever, do you hear that? For coming between me and what was mine by right. She was mine, do you hear, and what right had you⁠ ⁠…” and he would go off into an elaborate description of the Perichole.

These outbursts recurred hourly. It was some time before Esteban was able to realize that his brother’s mind was not then clear. After some moments of horror, in which his being a devout believer had its part, he would return to the room and go about his duties with bent head.

Towards dawn his brother became serener. (For what human ill does not dawn seem to be an alleviation?) It was in one of these intervals that Manuel said quite calmly:

“God’s son! I feel better, Esteban. Those cloths must be good after all. You’ll see, I’ll be up and around tomorrow. You haven’t slept for days. You’ll see I won’t cause you any more trouble, Esteban.”

“It’s no trouble, you fool.”

“You mustn’t take me seriously when I try and stop you putting on the old cloths, Esteban.” A long pause. At last Esteban brought out, barely audible:

“I think⁠ ⁠… don’t you think it would be fine if I sent for the Perichole? She could just come and see you for a few minutes, I mean⁠ ⁠…”

“Her? You still thinking about her? I wouldn’t have her here for anything. No.”

But Esteban was not content yet. He dragged up a few more phrases from the very centre of his being:

“Manuel, you still feel, don’t you, that I came between you and the Perichole, and you don’t remember that I told you it was all right with me? I swear to you I’d have been glad if you’d gone away with her, or anything.”

“What are you bringing that up for, Esteban? I tell you, in God’s own name, I never think of that. She’s nothing to me. When are you going to forget that, Esteban? I tell you I’m glad things are as they are. Look, I got to get angry when you keep going back to that.”

“Manuel, I wouldn’t speak of it again, only when you get angry at me about the cloths⁠ ⁠… you, you get angry at me about that, too. And you talk about it and you⁠ ⁠…”

“Look, I’m not responsible what I say. My old leg hurts then, see.”

“Then you don’t damn me to hell because⁠ ⁠… it looks like I came between you and the Perichole?”

“Damn you to⁠ ⁠… ? What makes you say that? You’re going crazy, Esteban; you’re imagining things. You haven’t had any sleep, Esteban. I’ve been a curse to you and you’re losing your health because of me. But you’ll see, I won’t trouble you much more. How could I damn you to hell, Esteban, when you’re all I’ve got? Understand, see, that when the cold cloths go on, I just lose myself, see. You know. Don’t think about it twice. It’s time to put them on now. I won’t say a word.”

“No, Manuel, I’ll skip this time. It won’t do you any harm. I’ll just skip this time.”

“I’ve got to get well, Esteban. I’ve got to get up soon, you know. Put them on. But one minute, give me the crucifix. I swear by the blood and body of Christ that if I say anything against Esteban I don’t mean it, and it’s just the foolish words when I’m dreaming because of the pain in my leg. God make me well again soon, amen. Put it back. There. Now I’m ready.”

“Look, Manuel, it won’t hurt if I skip just this once, see. It’ll be good for you, sure, to not get it all stirred up just this once.”

“No, I’ve got to get well. The doctor said it had to be done. I won’t say a word, Esteban.”

And it would begin all over again.

During the second night a prostitute in the next room started beating on the wall, outraged at such language. A priest in the room on the other side would come out into the hall and beat on the door. The whole floor would gather before the room in exasperation. The innkeeper came up the stairs, loudly promising his guests that the brothers would be dumped into the street the very next morning. Esteban, holding his candle, would go into the hall and permit them to rage at him for as long as they pleased; but after that he took to pressing his hand firmly over his brother’s mouth during the moments of greatest stress. This increased Manuel’s personal rage at him and he would babble all through the night.

On the third night, Esteban sent for the priest and amidst the enormous shadows Manuel received the sacrament, and died.

Thereafter Esteban refused to come near the building. He would start off upon long walks, but presently drifting back, would hang about, staring at passersby, within two streets of where his brother lay. The innkeeper failing to make any impression upon him, and remembering that the boys were brought up at the Convent of Santa María Rosa de las Rosas, sent for the Abbess. Simply and soundly she directed all that was to be done. At last she went down to the street corner and spoke to Esteban. He watched her approach him, a glance mixed of longing and distrust. But when she stood near him he turned sideways and looked away.

“I want you to help me. Won’t you come in and see your brother? Won’t you come in and help me?”


“You won’t help me!” A long pause. Suddenly as she stood there full of her helplessness there flashed through her mind an incident of many years before: the twin brothers, about fifteen years old, were sitting at her knee and she was telling them the story of the crucifixion. Their large grave eyes were fixed upon her lips. Suddenly Manuel had cried out loudly: “If Esteban and I had been there we would have prevented it.”

“Well, then, if you won’t help me, will you tell me which you are?”

“Manuel,” said Esteban.

“Manuel, won’t you come and sit with me up there for just a short time?”

After a long pause: “No.”

“But Manuel, dear Manuel, can’t you remember as children how you did so many things for me? You were willing to go across the town on some little errand. When I was ill you made the cook let you bring me my soup.” (Another woman would have said: “Do you remember how much I did for you?”)


“I, too, Manuel have lost. I too⁠ ⁠… once. We know that God has taken them into His hands.⁠ ⁠…” But this did not do at all. Esteban turned vaguely and walked away from her. When he had gone about twenty paces he stopped and stared down a side-street, like a dog who wants to go away but is reluctant to offend the master who calls him back.

That was all they could get out of him. When the fearful procession passed through the city, with its black hoods and masks, its candles in broad daylight, its display of heaped-up skulls, its terrifying psalms, Esteban followed it in the parallel streets, catching glimpses of it from a distance, like a savage.

All Lima was interested in this separation of the brothers. Housewives whispered together sympathetically about it as they unfurled their carpets from the balconies. The men in the wineshops, alluding to it, shook their heads and smoked in silence for a while. Travellers from the interior told of seeing Esteban as he strayed with eyes like coals along the dried-up beds of rivers or through the great ruins of the old race. A herder of llamas had come upon him standing upon a hilltop, asleep or dazed, wet with dew under the stars. Some fishermen surprised him swimming far out from shore. From time to time he would find work to do, he would become a shepherd or a carter, but after a few months he would disappear and stride from province to province. But he always returned to Lima. One day he appeared at the door of the Perichole’s dressing-room; he made as though to speak, gazed earnestly at her and vanished. One day a sister came running into the office of Madre María del Pilar with the news that Esteban (whom the world called Manuel) was lingering about the door of the convent. The Abbess hurried out into the street. For months she had been asking herself what strategy could reconcile this half-demented boy to living among them again. She assembled as grave and calm a manner as she was able, and appearing at the street door, murmured “My friend,” and looked at him. He gazed back at her with the same glance of longing and distrust that he had shown her before, and stood trembling. Again she whispered “My friend,” and moved a step forward. Suddenly Esteban turned and, breaking into a run, disappeared. Madre María del Pilar rushed stumbling back to her desk and fell upon her knees, exclaiming angrily: “I have prayed for wisdom and You have given me none. You have not chosen to give me the least grace. I am a mere scrubber of floors.⁠ ⁠…” But during the penance she set herself for this impudence the thought came to her to send for Captain Alvarado. Three weeks later she had a ten-minute conversation with him. And the next day he started for Cuzco where, it was said, Esteban was doing some copying for the University.

There was this strange and noble figure in Peru during these years, the Captain Alvarado, the traveller. He was blackened and cured by all weathers. He stood in the square with feet apart as though they were planted on a shifting deck. His eyes were strange, unaccustomed to the shorter range, too used to seizing the appearances of a constellation between a cloud and a cloud, and the outline of a cape in rain. His reticence was sufficiently explained for most of us by his voyages, but the Marquesa de Montemayor had other light on the matter.

“Captain Alvarado is bringing you this letter in person,” she wrote to her daughter. “Introduce him to some of your geographers, my treasure, though it may make them a little uncomfortable, for he is the diamond of sincerity. They will never see anyone who has travelled so far. Last night he described to me some of his voyages. Imagine him pushing his prow through a sea of weeds, stirring up a cloud of fish like grasshoppers in June, or sailing between islands of ice. Oh, he has been to China and up the rivers of Africa. But he is not merely an adventurer, and he seems to take no pride in discovering new places; nor is he a mere merchant. One day I asked him narrowly why he lived so, and he avoided my question. I found out from my laundress what I think is the reason of his wandering: My child, he had a child; my daughter, he had a daughter. She was just old enough to cook a holiday meal, and do a little sewing for him. In those days he merely sailed between Mexico and Peru and hundreds of times she waved him farewell or welcome. We have no way of knowing whether she was more beautiful or intelligent than the thousands of other girls that lived about him, but she was his. I suppose it seems ignoble to you that a great oak of a man should go about the world like a blind man about an empty house merely because a chit of a girl has been withdrawn from it. No, no, you cannot understand this, my adored one, but I understand and grow pale. Last night he sat with me and talked of her. He laid his cheek against his hand and looking into the fire, he said: ‘It sometimes seems to me that she is away upon a voyage and that I shall see her again. It seems to me that she is in England.’ You will laugh at me, but I think he goes about the hemispheres to pass the time between now and his old age.”

The brothers had always entertained a great respect for Captain Alvarado. They had worked for him a short time and the silence of the three of them had made a little kernel of sense in a world of boasting, self-excuse and rhetoric. So now when the great traveller came into the dark kitchen where Esteban was eating, the boy drew his chair farther into the shadow, but at a distance he was glad. The Captain gave no sign of recognizing or even of seeing him until he had finished his meal. Esteban had finished long before, but not wishing to be spoken to, waited until the Captain should have left the cave. At last the Captain walked over to him and said:

“You are Esteban or Manuel. You helped me once with some unloading. I am Captain Alvarado.”

“Yes,” said Esteban.

“How are you?”

Esteban muttered something.

“I am looking for some strong fellows to go on my next trip with me.” Pause. “Would you like to come?” Longer pause. “England. And Russia.⁠ ⁠… Hard work. Good wages.⁠ ⁠… A long way from Peru. Well?”

Apparently Esteban had not been listening. He sat with his eyes on the table. At last the Captain raised his voice, as to a deaf person:

“I said: Do you want to go on my next trip with me?⁠ ⁠…”

“Yes, I’ll go,” answered Esteban suddenly.

“Fine. That’s fine. I want your brother, too, of course.”


“What’s the matter? Wouldn’t he want to come?”

Esteban mumbled something, looking away. Then half rising, he said: “I got to go now, I’ve got to see somebody about something.”

“Let me see your brother myself. Where is he?”

“Dead,” said Esteban.

“Oh, I didn’t know. I didn’t know. I’m sorry.”

“Yes,” said Esteban. “I got to go.”

“H’m. Which are you? What’s your name?”


“When did Manuel die?”

“Oh, just a⁠ ⁠… just a few weeks. He hit his knee against something and⁠ ⁠… just a few weeks ago.”

They both kept their eyes on the floor.

“How old are you, Esteban?”


“Well, that’s settled then, you’re coming with me?”


“You may not be used to the cold.”

“Yes, I’m used to it.⁠—I’ve got to go now. I got to go in the city and see somebody about something.”

“Well, Esteban. Come back here for supper and we’ll talk about the trip. Come back and have some wine with me, see. Will you?”

“Yes, I will.”

“Go with God.”

“Go with God.”

They had supper together and it was arranged that they were to start for Lima the next morning. The Captain got him very drunk. At first they poured and drank and poured and drank in silence. Then the Captain began to talk about ships and their courses. He asked Esteban questions about tackle and about the guide-stars. Then Esteban began to talk about other things, and to talk very loudly:

“On the ship you must give me something to do all the time. I’ll do anything, anything. I’ll climb up high and fix ropes; and I’ll watch all night⁠—because, you know, I don’t sleep well anyway. And, Captain Alvarado, on the ship you must pretend that you don’t know me. Pretend that you hate me the most, so that you’ll always give me things to do. I can’t sit still and write at a table any more. And don’t tell the other men about me⁠ ⁠… that is, about⁠ ⁠…”

“I hear you went into a burning house, Esteban, and pulled someone out.”

“Yes. I didn’t get burned or anything. You know,” cried Esteban, leaning across the table, “you’re not allowed to kill yourself; you know you’re not allowed. Everybody knows that. But if you jump into a burning house to save somebody, that wouldn’t be killing yourself. And if you became a matador and the bull caught you, that wouldn’t be killing yourself. Only you mustn’t put yourself in the bull’s way on purpose. Did you ever notice that animals never kill themselves, even when they’re sure to lose? They never jump into a river or anything, even when they’re sure to lose. Some people say that horses run into bonfires. Is that true?”

“No, I don’t think that’s true.”

“I don’t think it’s true. We had a dog once. Well, I mustn’t think of that. Captain Alvarado, do you know Madre María del Pilar?”


“I want to give her a present before I go away. Captain Alvarado, I want you to give me all my wages before I start⁠—I won’t need any money anywhere⁠—and I want to buy her a present now. The present isn’t from me only. She was⁠ ⁠… was⁠ ⁠…” Here Esteban wished to say his brother’s name, but was unable to. Instead he continued in a lower voice: “She had a kind of a⁠ ⁠… she had a serious loss, once. She said so. I don’t know who it was, and I want to give her a present. Women can’t bear that kind of a thing like we can.”

The Captain promised him that they would choose something in the morning. Esteban talked about it at great length. At last the Captain saw him slip under the table, and himself, rising up, went out into the square before the inn. He looked at the line of the Andes and at the streams of stars crowding forever across the sky. And there was that wraith hanging in midair and smiling at him, the wraith with the silvery voice that said for the thousandth time: “Don’t be gone long. But I’ll be a big girl when you get back.” Then he went within and carried Esteban to his room and sat looking at him for a long while.

The next morning he was waiting at the bottom of the stairs when Esteban appeared:

“We’re starting when you’re ready,” said the Captain.

The strange glitter had returned to the boy’s eyes. He blurted out: “No, I’m not coming. I’m not coming after all.”

“Aie! Esteban! But you have promised me that you would come.”

“It’s impossible. I can’t come with you,” and he turned back up the stairs.

“Come here a moment, Esteban, just a moment.”

“I can’t come with you. I can’t leave Peru.”

“I want to tell you something.”

Esteban came down to the foot of the stairs.

“How about that present for Madre María del Pilar?” asked the Captain in a low voice. Esteban was silent, looking over the mountains. “You aren’t going to take that present away from her? It might mean a lot to her⁠ ⁠… you know.”

“All right,” murmured Esteban, as though much impressed.

“Yes. Besides the ocean’s better than Peru. You know Lima and Cuzco and the road. You have nothing more to know about them. You see it’s the ocean you want. Besides on the boat you’ll have something to do every minute. I’ll see to that. Go and get your things and we’ll start.”

Esteban was trying to make a decision. It had always been Manuel who had made the decisions and even Manuel had never been forced to make as great a one as this. Esteban went slowly upstairs. The Captain waited for him and waited so long that presently he ventured half the way up the stairs and listened. At first there was silence; then a series of noises that his imagination was able to identify at once. Esteban had scraped away the plaster about a beam and was adjusting a rope about it. The Captain stood on the stairs trembling. “Perhaps it’s best,” he said to himself. “Perhaps I should leave him alone. Perhaps it’s the only thing possible for him.” Then on hearing another sound he flung himself against the door, fell into the room and caught the boy. “Go away,” cried Esteban. “Let me be. Don’t come in now.” Esteban fell face downward upon the floor. “I am alone, alone, alone,” he cried. The Captain stood above him, his great plain face ridged and gray with pain; it was his own old hours he was reliving. He was the awkwardest speaker in the world apart from the lore of the sea, but there are times when it requires a high courage to speak the banal. He could not be sure the figure on the floor was listening, but he said: “We do what we can. We push on, Esteban, as best we can. It isn’t for long, you know. Time keeps going by. You’ll be surprised at the way time passes.”

They started for Lima. When they reached the bridge of San Luis Rey the Captain descended to the stream below in order to supervise the passage of some merchandise, but Esteban crossed by the bridge and fell with it.