She the door in the kitchen:–Kind lady…–Mariana
She could not take it anymore. She was convinced that she could no longer endure the presence of that hateful vagabond. She was determined to end it, end everything, no matter how bad it might be, rather than bear his tyranny.It had nearly been fifteen days with that struggle. What she didn’t understand was the tolerance that Antonio had with that vagabond.
No, truthfully, it was strange.The vagabond begged for hospitality for one night: the night of Ash Wednesday exactly, when the wind dragged along a blackish dust, whirling, and whipped the glass windows with a dry crackle. Afterwards, the wind ceased, and there befell a strange calm to the earth, and she pondered, while closing and adjusting the window blinds.–I don’t like this calm–She hadn’t even locked the back door when that man arrived.
She heard his call ringing from behind the door in the kitchen:–Kind lady…–Mariana felt sudden fear. The man, old and raggedy, was there; a hat in one hand, with a begging manner.
–Shall God protect you…–he started to say.
But the vagabond’s eyes looked upon her in a strange way. A way that robbed her of words.Many men like him begged for the grace of heaven on winter nights. But something about that man frightened her without motive.
The vagabond began to recite his ballad: For one night, if they would kindly let him sleep in a stable; a piece of bread and a stable; he doesn’t ask for more. The storm announced its coming…Outside, Mariana heard the drumming of the rain against the door. A deaf rain, thick, a warning of the approaching storm.
I’m alone–she said dryly–. I mean…when my husband is away, I do not want unknown people in my house.
Go, and may God protect you.But the vagabond remained still, looking at her. Slowly, he put his hat on and said: –I’m a poor man, kind lady. I never did any wrong to anyone. I ask very little: a piece of bread…
In that moment, two maids, Marcelina and Salome, came running in. They came from the vegetable garden, with their aprons over their heads, screaming and laughing. Mariana felt a strange relief after seeing them.Well–she said–. Fine..
. but only for this night. For tomorrow when I awake, I do not find you here….The old man knelt, smiling, and said a strange poem of thanks.
Mariana ascended the stairs and went to go to bed. During the night, the storm shook the windows in the bedroom and she could not sleep.The next morning, the clock struck eight. Upon entering the kitchen did Mariana feel surprised and irritated.
Sitting at the table, quiet and relaxed, the vagabond ate wonderfully: eggs, a loaf of bread, wine… Mariana felt such a blow of anger, probably mixed with fear, she confronted Salome who calmly hurried in the kitchen:–Salome!–she said, and her voice sounded bitter, hard– Who ordered you to give this man.
..how is it that he has not left at dawn?Her words would stop, get tangled from the rage that was dominating her. Salome remained shocked, with a spoon in hand, which was dripping foam onto the floor. But I…
she said. He told me..
.The vagabond had gotten up from his seat and slowly cleaned his lips with his sleeve.–Lady –he said,– lady, don’t you remember?.
..You said last night: “That they give the porr old man a bed to sleep in, and that they give him to eat when he asks”.
Didn’t you say that last night kind lady? I heard it very clearly… Or do you regret it now?Mariana wanted to say something but her voice became like ice. The old man looked at her intensely, with his black, penetrating eyes. She half turned, disturbed, and went out the door of the kitchen to the vegetable garden. The day dawned gray, but the rain had ceased.
Mariana shivered from the cold. The grass was soaked, and farther away the road drifted into a mist. She heard the voice of the old man behind her, and without noticing, squeezed her hands together.–I would like to talk to you about something, kind lady… Something without importance.
Mariana remained still, looking down the road.–I am an old vagabond…
but sometimes, old vagabonds find out about things. Yes: I was there. I saw it, kind lady. I saw it with these eyes..
.Mariana opened her mouth, but for a moment, could not say anything.–What are you talking about you dog? –she said–.
I warn you that my husband will arrive with the car at ten o’clock, and he does not like jokes from anyone!–I know, I already know that he does not like jokes from anyone! –said the vagabond–.That’s why you would not want him to know anything..anything of what I saw that day. Isnt’ it true?Mariana turned quickly. Her anger had disappeared. Her heart beat, confused.
“What did you say? What is it that you know…
? What is it that you saw?” But he held his tongue. He limited himself to only look at her, she who was full of hate and fear. The old man smiled with his gums, dirty and peeled.–I shall stay here for a while, kind lady: yes, for a while, to regain strength, until the sun returns. Because I’m already old and my legs are very tired. Very tired.
..Mariana started to run. The wind hit her face. When she came to the edge of a well, she stopped. Her heart felt like it wanted to explode out of her chest.
That was the first day. Then Antonio arrived with the car. Antonio brought merchandise from Palomar every week. He had the only business in the village. His house, huge and wide, encompassing the vegetable garden, was at the entrance of the village. They lived peacefully, and in the village, Antonio had the reputation of being wealthy.
“Fame of wealth”, thought Mariana uncomfortably. Since the arrival of the hateful vagabond, she was pale, lacking strength. “And if he wasn’t, would I have married him in that case?” No. It wasn’t difficult to understand why she had gotten married with that brutal man who was fourteen years her elder. A solitary man, arrogant and timid. She was beautiful. Yes: the entire village knew it and said that she was beautiful.
Constantino also said it, who was in love with her. But Constantino was a simple farm helper, like her. And she was tired of having to suffer hunger, work, and sadness. Yes: She was tired of that. That is why she got married with Antonio.
Mariana felt a strange chill. It had been nearly fifteen days since that old man entered her house. He slept, are, and cleaned himself of lice shamelessly iin the sun, the few times he actually glowed next to the door of the vegetable garden. The first day Antonio asked:–And that old man, why is he here? — I pitied him–she said, squeezing the fringes of her vest in between her fingers. He’s so old.
.. and there’s such bad weather…
Antonio said nothing. It looked as if he was going towards the old man to throw him out. She ran up the stairs, for she was scared.
Yes: she was very scared. “If the old man saw Constantino climb the balcony under the window…If the old man saw Constantino climb into the house the nights when Antonio would leave with the car..
. What could he mean, if not that, then with his saying that he saw it all, he saw it all with his own two eyes?She couldn’t take it anymore. No: she just couldn’t stand it any longer. The old man didn’t limit himself to just live in the house.
He was asking for money. He now started to ask for money too. And the strange thing is that Antonio didn’t speak abou the old man again. Antonio limited himself to ignore the vagabond. Only once in a while did Antonio stare at here. And Mariana would feel his gaze on her with his big, black bright eyes, and she would shudder.