Mare Nostrum (Our Sea)
Vicente Blasco Ibanez
Part 5 out of 9
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 ..."
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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 he 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 Sector, 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
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
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
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
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
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:
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:
"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
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
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
"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.
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
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
"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
"I cannot.... I cannot!"
He was anxious to say something more to round out his thought, and
"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
"And are you on the side of the English, Toni? You, a man of advanced
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
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:
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
"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
"_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
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
"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
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
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
She was embracing him, rubbing her mouth against his neck with a feline
purr. Before the captain could respond she continued with a childish
"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
"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
"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
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
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 cafe 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
Dona 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 Dona 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," Dona 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
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
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
"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
She was silent for some steps and then said as though disclosing a
"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
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
"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
"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
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
"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
She who generally listened to these inquiries with a distraught air,
not wishing to understand his timid insinuations, responded one
"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
"Are there no more?" Ferragut asked.
The count assured him that other men would come to reenforce 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
"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
"They love each other so much!... Something must be conceded to
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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 ueber 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
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
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 role had not been entirely false....
He had served as Naval Attache 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
"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
"What have you done!... What have you done!" clamored a voice in his
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
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.
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