The International Literary Quarterly
Contributors

Shanta Acharya
Marjorie Agosín
Donald Adamson
Diran Adebayo
Nausheen Ahmad
Toheed Ahmad
Amanda Aizpuriete
Baba Akote
Elisa Albo
Daniel Albright
Meena Alexander
Rosetta Allan
María Teresa Andruetto
Innokenty Annensky
Claudia Apablaza
Robert Appelbaum
Michael Arditti
Jenny Argante
Sandra Arnold
C.J.K. Arkell
Agnar Artúvertin
Sarah Arvio
Rosemary Ashton
Mammed Aslan
Coral Atkinson
Rose Ausländer
Shushan Avagyan
Razif Bahari
Elizabeth Baines
Jo Baker
Ismail Bala
Evgeny Baratynsky
Saule Abdrakhman-kyzy Batay
Konstantin Nikolaevich Batyushkov
William Bedford
Gillian Beer
Richard Berengarten
Charles Bernstein
Ilya Bernstein
Mashey Bernstein
Christopher Betts
Sujata Bhatt
Sven Birkerts
Linda Black
Chana Bloch
Amy Bloom
Mary Blum Devor
Michael Blumenthal
Jean Boase-Beier
Jorge Luis Borges
Alison Brackenbury
Julia Brannigan
Theo Breuer
Iain Britton
Françoise Brodsky
Amy Brown
Bernard Brown
Diane Brown
Gay Buckingham
Carmen Bugan
Stephen Burt
Zarah Butcher McGunnigle
James Byrne
Kevin Cadwallander
Howard Camner
Mary Caponegro
Marisa Cappetta
Helena Cardoso
Adrian Castro
Luis Cernuda
Firat Cewerî
Pierre Chappuis
Neil Charleton
Janet Charman
Sampurna Chattarji
Amit Chaudhuri
Mèlissa Chiasson
Ronald Christ
Alex Cigale
Sally Cline
Marcelo Cohen
Lila Cona
Eugenio Conchez
Andrew Cowan
Mary Creswell
Christine Crow
Pedro Xavier Solís Cuadra
Majella Cullinane
P. Scott Cunningham
Emma Currie
Jeni Curtis
Stephen Cushman
David Dabydeen
Susan Daitch
Rubén Dario
Jean de la Fontaine
Denys Johnson Davies
Lydia Davis
Robert Davreu
David Dawnay
Jill Dawson
Rosalía de Castro
Joanne Rocky Delaplaine
Patricia Delmar
Christine De Luca
Tumusiime Kabwende Deo
Paul Scott Derrick
Josephine Dickinson
Belinda Diepenheim
Jenny Diski
Rita Dove
Arkadii Dragomoschenko
Paulette Dubé
Denise Duhamel
Jonathan Dunne
S. B. Easwaran
Jorge Edwards
David Eggleton
Mohamed El-Bisatie
Tsvetanka Elenkova
Johanna Emeney
Osama Esber
Fiona Farrell
Ernest Farrés
Elaine Feinstein
Gigi Fenster
Micah Timona Ferris
Vasil Filipov
Maria Filippakopoulou
Ruth Fogelman
Peter France
Alexandra Fraser
Bashabi Fraser
Janis Freegard
Robin Fry
Alice Fulton
Ulrich Gabriel
Manana Gelashvili
Laurice Gilbert
Paul Giles
Zulfikar Ghose
Corey Ginsberg
Chrissie Gittins
Sarah Glazer
Michael Glover
George Gömöri
Giles Goodland
Martin Goodman
Roberta Gordenstein
Mina Gorji
Maria Grech Ganado
David Gregory
Philip Gross
Carla Guelfenbein
Daniel Gunn
Charles Hadfield
Haidar Haidar
Ruth Halkon
Tomás Harris
Geoffrey Hartman
Siobhan Harvey
Beatriz Hausner
John Haynes
Jennifer Hearn
Helen Heath
Geoffrey Heptonstall
Felisberto Hernández
W.N. Herbert
William Hershaw
Michael Hettich
Allen Hibbard
Hassan Hilmi
Rhisiart Hincks
Kerry Hines
Amanda Hopkinson
Adam Horovitz
David Howard
Sue Hubbard
Aamer Hussein
Fahmida Hussain
Alexander Hutchison
Sabine Huynh
Juan Kruz Igerabide Sarasola
Neil Langdon Inglis
Jouni Inkala
Ofonime Inyang
Kevin Ireland
Michael Ives
Philippe Jacottet
Robert Alan Jamieson
Rebecca Jany
Andrea Jeftanovic
Ana Jelnikar
Miroslav Jindra
Stephanie Johnson
Bret Anthony Johnston
Marion Jones
Tim Jones
Gabriel Josipovici
Pierre-Albert Jourdan
Sophie Judah
Tomoko Kanda
Maarja Kangro
Jana Kantorová-Báliková
Fawzi Karim
Kapka Kassabova
Susan Kelly-DeWitt
Mimi Khalvati
Daniil Kharms
Velimir Khlebnikov
Akhmad hoji Khorazmiy
David Kinloch
John Kinsella
Yudit Kiss
Tomislav Kuzmanović
Andrea Labinger
Charles Lambert
Christopher Lane
Jan Lauwereyns
Fernando Lavandeira
Graeme Lay
Ilias Layios
Hiên-Minh Lê
Mikhail Lermontov
Miriam Levine
Suzanne Jill Levine
Micaela Lewitt
Zhimin Li
Joanne Limburg
Birgit Linder
Pippa Little
Parvin Loloi
Christopher Louvet
Helen Lowe
Ana Lucic
Aonghas MacNeacail
Kona Macphee
Kate Mahony
Sara Maitland
Channah Magori
Vasyl Makhno
Marcelo Maturana Montañez
Stephanie Mayne
Ben Mazer
Harvey Molloy
Osip Mandelstam
Alberto Manguel
Olga Markelova
Laura Marney
Geraldine Maxwell
John McAuliffe
Peter McCarey
John McCullough
Richard McKane
John MacKinven
Cilla McQueen
Edie Meidav
Ernst Meister
Lina Meruane
Jesse Millner
Deborah Moggach
Mawatle J. Mojalefa
Jonathan Morley
César Moro
Helen Mort
Laura Moser
Andrew Motion
Paola Musa
Robin Myers
André Naffis-Sahely
Vivek Narayanan
Bob Natifu
María Negroni
Hernán Neira
Barbra Nightingale
Paschalis Nikolaou
James Norcliffe
Carol Novack
Annakuly Nurmammedov
Joyce Carol Oates
Sunday Enessi Ododo
Obododimma Oha
Michael O'Leary
Antonio Diaz Oliva
Wilson Orhiunu
Maris O'Rourke
Sue Orr
Wendy O'Shea-Meddour
María Claudia Otsubo
Ruth Padel
Ron Padgett
Thalia Pandiri
Judith Dell Panny
Hom Paribag
Lawrence Patchett
Ian Patterson
Georges Perros
Pascale Petit
Aleksandar Petrov
Mario Petrucci
Geoffrey Philp
Toni Piccini
Henning Pieterse
Robert Pinsky
Mark Pirie
David Plante
Nicolás Poblete
Sara Poisson
Clare Pollard
Mori Ponsowy
Wena Poon
Orest Popovych
Jem Poster
Begonya Pozo
Pauline Prior-Pitt
Eugenia Prado Bassi
Ian Probstein
Sheenagh Pugh
Kate Pullinger
Zosimo Quibilan, Jr
Vera V. Radojević
Margaret Ranger
Tessa Ransford
Shruti Rao
Irina Ratushinskaya
Tanyo Ravicz
Richard Reeve
Sue Reidy
Joan Retallack
Laura Richardson
Harry Ricketts
Ron Riddell
Cynthia Rimsky
Loreto Riveiro Alvarez
James Robertson
Peter Robertson
Gonzalo Rojas
Dilys Rose
Gabriel Rosenstock
Jack Ross
Anthony Rudolf
Basant Rungta
Joseph Ryan
Sean Rys
Jostein Sæbøe
André Naffis Sahely
Eurig Salisbury
Fiona Sampson
Polly Samson
Priya Sarukkai Chabria
Maree Scarlett
John Schad
Michael Schmidt
L.E. Scott
Maureen Seaton
Alexis Sellas
Hadaa Sendoo
Chris Serio
Resul Shabani
Bina Shah
Yasir Shah
Daniel Shapiro
Ruth Sharman
Tina Shaw
David Shields
Ana María Shua
Christine Simon
Iain Sinclair
Katri Skala
Carole Smith
Ian C. Smith
Elizabeth Smither
John Stauffer
Jim Stewart
Susan Stewart
Jesper Svenbro
Virgil Suárez
Lars-Håkan Svensson
Sridala Swami
Rebecca Swift
George Szirtes
Chee-Lay Tan
Tugrul Tanyol
José-Flore Tappy
Alejandro Tarrab
Campbell Taylor
John Taylor
Judith Taylor
Petar Tchouhov
Miguel Teruel
John Thieme
Karen Thornber
Tim Tomlinson
Angela Topping
David Trinidad
Kola Tubosun
Nick Vagnoni
Joost Vandecasteele
Jan van Mersbergen
Latika Vasil
Yassen Vassilev
Lawrence Venuti
Lidia Vianu
Dev Virahsawmy
Anthony Vivis
Richard Von Sturmer
Răzvan Voncu
Nasos Vayenas
Mauricio Wacquez
Julie Marie Wade
Alan Wall
Marina Warner
Mia Watkins
Peter Wells
Stanley Wells
Laura Watkinson
Joe Wiinikka-Lydon
Hayden Williams
Edwin Williamson
Ronald V. Wilson
Stephen Wilson
Alison Wong
Leslie Woodard
Elzbieta Wójcik-Leese
Niel Wright
Manolis Xexakis
Xu Xi
Gao Xingjian
Sonja Yelich
Tamar Yoseloff
Augustus Young
Soltobay Zaripbekov
Karen Zelas
Alan Ziegler
Ariel Zinder

 

President, Publisher & Founding Editor:
Peter Robertson
Vice-President: Glenna Luschei
Vice-President: Sari Nusseibeh
Vice-President: Elena Poniatowska
U. S. General Editor: Neil Langdon Inglis
London Editor/Senior Editor-at-Large: Geraldine Maxwell
New York Editor/Senior Editor-at-Large: Meena Alexander
Washington D.C. Editor/Senior
Editor-at-Large:
Laura Moser
Argentine Editor: Yamila Musa
Deputy Editor: Allen Hibbard
Deputy Editor: Jerónimo Mohar Volkow
Deputy Editor: Bina Shah
Advisory Consultant: Jill Dawson
General Editor: Beatriz Hausner
General Editor: Malvina Segui
Art Editor: Lara Alcantara-Lansberg
Art Editor: Calum Colvin
Deputy General Editor: Jeff Barry

Consulting Editors
Shanta Acharya
Marjorie Agosín
Daniel Albright
Meena Alexander
Maria Teresa Andruetto
Frank Ankersmit
Rosemary Ashton
Reza Aslan
Leonard Barkan
Michael Barry
Shadi Bartsch
Thomas Bartscherer
Susan Bassnett
Gillian Beer
David Bellos
Richard Berengarten
Charles Bernstein
Sujata Bhatt
Mario Biagioli
Jean Boase-Beier
Elleke Boehmer
Eavan Boland
Stephen Booth
Alain de Botton
Carmen Boullossa
Rachel Bowlby
Svetlana Boym
Peter Brooks
Marina Brownlee
Roberto Brodsky
Carmen Bugan
Jenni Calder
Stanley Cavell
Hollis Clayson
Sarah Churchwell
Marcelo Cohen
Kristina Cordero
Drucilla Cornell
Junot Díaz
André Dombrowski
Denis Donoghue
Ariel Dorfman
Rita Dove
Denise Duhamel
Klaus Ebner
Robert Elsie
Stefano Evangelista
Orlando Figes
Tibor Fischer
Shelley Fisher Fishkin
Peter France
Nancy Fraser
Maureen Freely
Michael Fried
Marjorie Garber
Anne Garréta
Marilyn Gaull
Zulfikar Ghose
Paul Giles
Lydia Goehr
Vasco Graça Moura
A. C. Grayling
Stephen Greenblatt
Lavinia Greenlaw
Lawrence Grossberg
Edith Grossman
Elizabeth Grosz
Boris Groys
David Harsent
Benjamin Harshav
Geoffrey Hartman
François Hartog
Molly Haskell
Selina Hastings
Beatriz Hausner
Valerie Henitiuk
Kathryn Hughes
Aamer Hussein
Djelal Kadir
Kapka Kassabova
John Kelly
Martin Kern
Mimi Khalvati
Joseph Koerner
Annette Kolodny
Julia Kristeva
George Landow
Chang-Rae Lee
Mabel Lee
Linda Leith
Suzanne Jill Levine
Lydia Liu
Margot Livesey
Julia Lovell
Thomas Luschei
Willy Maley
Alberto Manguel
Ben Marcus
Paul Mariani
Marina Mayoral
Richard McCabe
Campbell McGrath
Jamie McKendrick
Edie Meidav
Jack Miles
Toril Moi
Susana Moore
Laura Mulvey
Azar Nafisi
Martha Nussbaum
Tim Parks
Clare Pettitt
Caryl Phillips
Robert Pinsky
Elizabeth Powers
Elizabeth Prettejohn
Martin Puchner
Kate Pullinger
Paula Rabinowitz
Rajeswari Sunder Rajan
James Richardson
François Rigolot
Geoffrey Robertson
Ritchie Robertson
Avital Ronell
Carla Sassi
Michael Scammell
Celeste Schenck
Daniel Shapiro
Sudeep Sen
Hadaa Sendoo
Miranda Seymour
Daniel Shapiro
Mimi Sheller
Elaine Showalter
Penelope Shuttle
Werner Sollors
Frances Spalding
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Julian Stallabrass
Susan Stewart
Rebecca Stott
Mark Strand
Kathryn Sutherland
John Whittier Treat
David Treuer
David Trinidad
Marjorie Trusted
Lidia Vianu
Victor Vitanza
Marina Warner
David Wellbery
Edwin Williamson
Michael Wood
Theodore Zeldin

Assistant Editor: Sara Besserman
Assistant Editor: Ana de Biase
Assistant Editor: Conor Bracken
Assistant Editor: Eugenio Conchez
Assistant Editor: Patricia Delmar
Assistant Editor: Lucila Gallino
Assistant Editor: Sophie Lewis
Assistant Editor: Krista Oehlke
Assistant Editor: Siska Rappé
Assistant Editor: Naomi Schub
Assistant Editor: Stephanie Smith
Assistant Editor: Emily Snyder
Assistant Editor: Robert Toperter
Assistant Editor: Laurence Webb
Art Consultant: Verónica Barbatano
Art Consultant: Angie Roytgolz

 

The Power of Prose:
The Wall
By: Vicente Blasco Ibáñez
Translated from the Spanish into the English by Peter Robertson
 

 

Every time old Mr. Rabosa’s grandsons crossed paths with the widowed Mrs. Casporra’s sons in Campanar’s orchard or streets, the whole neighborhood commented on the fact that they had exchanged obscene gestures or had tried to outstare each other, and predicted that any day another calamity was sure to befall the town.

Not only the mayor, but also the local worthies, urged the strapping youths, bent on enmity towards their counterparts, to show restraint, and the priest, that pious geezer, scurried from one house to the other, imploring the forgiveness of cherished grievances.

For thirty years, this charming town that faced the city of Valencia, lying just across the river and visible from the bell-tower’s large round windows, had set the scene for the long-standing feud played out between the Rabosas and the Casporras who, with visceral loathing, appeared to emulate vendettas waged by primitive dynasties. It was almost impossible to believe that these two families had once been the best of friends with their houses, albeit in different streets, abuttmg onto the same yard, separated only by a low wall.

One night, in the vegetable patch, following a squabble over irrigation, a member of the Casporra family dispatched one of old Mr. Rabosa’s sons with a single gunshot and, so that it would never be said that the family had been shorn of its manhood, after a year of lying in wait, the victim’s younger son took out the perpetrator, lodging a bullet between his eyes. From then on, the two families lived for one purpose only: to exterminate each other, thinking more about catching their neighbors unawares than the cultivation of their lands. Bullets flew in the middle of the street, gunfire rang out at dusk from the back of an irrigation ditch behind the reed-beds or steep slopes as the enemy, intent on returning home from the countryside, ended up instead in the local cemetery, weighed down with lead. And the thirst for revenge increased with each generation, with every new-born infant in both rival clans appearing to spring from their mothers’ wombs, stretching out their hands for weapons with which to settle ancestral scores.

After the endless years of attrition, the Casporra household consisted only of a widow and her three sons, each a brawny tower of strength, while in the other dwelling, eighty-year-old Mr. Rabosa held sway, his legs paralyzed as he sat immobile in his wicker chair, a shriveled shrine to vindictiveness, and before whom his two grandsons swore to uphold the family’s honor.

But these days, it was not possible to resort to firearms, as their fathers had done on leaving high mass, right in the middle of the square. The local police would not let either family out of their sight, and the locals too kept a beady eye on them if they so much as paused for a moment on a path or a corner, with onlookers beseeching them not to resort to violence. Weary of such vigilance that verged on persecution, and that came between them like an insurmountable wall, the Casporras and the Rabosas went out of their way not to happen upon one another, and would even run away when chance contrived to bring them together.

So imperative was their wish not even to glimpse each other that the wall that separated their yards seemed to all of them to be too low. The hens that belonged to one family or another managed to climb up the firewood piles, to cavort on the top of the barricade, as the women of each household, looking out from their respective windows, traded ungodly gestures. This one-upmanship of contempt was not to be endured, and Mrs. Casporra told her sons to raise the wall, her bidding serving as the cue for the Rabosas to add yet further inches. And so, in a mute, repetitive show of scorn, the wall grew ever higher, and so much so that by now the windows could not be seen, the rooftops became invisible, and even a portion of the sky itself was quite shut out, as stricken birds shuddered in the shadows, clucking despondently from the other side of the structure that must surely have been fed by the life-blood of its victims.

Meanwhile, the two families performed their daily tasks, neither attacking each other as they had in previous times, nor putting the past behind them to forge a lasting peace, but frozen instead in an unforgiving landscape.

One afternoon, the church bells sounded as an alarm. Old Mr. Rabosa’s house was on fire. His grandsons were in the vegetable patch, with one of their wives in the laundry room, as a dense smoke, redolent of dry straw, issued from every crevice. Inside that hell that roared without respite sat old Mr. Rabosa, a prisoner in his wicker chair, and accompanied by his grand-daughter, who blamed herself for the conflagration, throwing up her hands in despair. In the street, passers-by swarmed around, struck with terror by the intensity of the blaze, as a few valiant souls ventured to open the door, only to be thrown back by the spark-laden fumes that billowed onto the pavement.

“What about poor old grandad?”, the Rabosas shrieked, willing each other to go to his rescue.

In their astonishment, the petrified bystanders looked as if they were seeing the bell-tower walking towards them, as three sturdy youngsters, all of them Casporras, and having exchanged glances of complicity, ran into the burning house to throw themselves like salamanders into the infierno. The huddled mass cheered them as they reemerged, hoisting above their heads, as if he were a saint, old Mr. Rabosa in his wicker chair, before depositing him on the ground and, without further ado, entering the house once again.

“No,” the throng shouted.

But, smiling in the face of adversity, they shouldered on, running to the aid of their foes. If old Mr. Rabosa’s grandsons had come to the fore, Mrs. Casporra’s sons would never have left the safety of their hearth. But were they not men of valor, caught up in the anguish of a helpless old man, and did they not have a duty to save all that was dear to him? Diving once again into the smoke, and by now like frantic demons shaking off sparks, they threw off their jackets to cast out furniture, then immersing themselves once again in the flames.

On seeing the two older brothers carry out their younger sibling, one of his legs broken by fallen wood, the crowd clamored, “Quick, find a chair!”, before dislodging old Mr. Rabosa from his seat.

The boy, with his burnt face and singed hair, grimaced as he tried to hide the sharp pain that assailed him, and then pursed his lips. Later, he was conscious that tremulous hands, withered with age, had clutched his own.

Having crawled towards him, old Mr. Rabosa muttered, “My dear child” and, before the maimed hero could recoil, had bestowed, with his toothless mouth, innumerable kisses on each hand, bathing them with his tears.

The whole house burned down, and when the builders came to erect another edifice, old Mr. Rabosa´s grandsons did not let them commence work on cleaning the plot of land, blackened with debris. First, they had to embark on a more imperious task: to knock down the accursed wall. And taking hold of the pickaxe, both grandsons in turn delivered the first blows.



La Pared

Siempre que los nietos del tío Rabosa se encontraban con los hijos de la viuda de Casporra en las sendas de la huerta o en las calles de Campanar, todo el vecindario comentaba el suceso. ¡Se habían mirado!... ¡Se insultaban con el gesto!... Aquello acabaría mal, y el día menos pensado el pueblo sufriría un nuevo disgusto.

El alcalde con los vecinos más notables predicaban paz a los mocetones de las dos familias enemigas, y allá iba el cura, un vejete de Dios, de una casa a otra recomendando el olvido de las ofensas.

Treinta años que los odios de los Rabosas y Casporras traían alborotado a Campanar. Casi en las puertas de Valencia, en el risueño pueblecito que desde la orilla del río miraba a la ciudad con los redondos ventanales de su agudo campanario, repetían aquellos bárbaros, con un rencor africano, la historia de luchas y violencias de las grandes familias italianas en la Edad Media. Habían sido grandes amigos en otro tiempo; sus casas, aunque situadas en distinta calle, lindaban por los corrales, separados únicamente por una tapia baja. Una noche, por cuestiones de riego, un Casporra tendió en la huerta de un escopetazo a un hijo del tío Rabosa, y el hijo menor de éste, porque no se dijera que en la familia no quedaban hombres, consiguió, después de un mes de acecho, colocarle una bala entre las cejas al matador. Desde entonces las dos familias vivieron para exterminarse, pensando más en aprovechar los descuidos del vecino que en el cultivo de las tierras. Escopetazos en medio de la calle; tiros que al anochecer relampagueaban desde el fondo de una acequia o tras los cañares o ribazos cuando el odiado enemigo regresaba del campo; alguna vez un Rabosa o un Casporra camino del cementerio con una onza de plomo dentro del pellejo, y la sed de venganza sin extinguirse, antes bien, extremándose con las nuevas generaciones, pues parecía que en las dos casas los chiquitines salían ya del vientre de sus madres tendiendo las manos a la escopeta para matar a los vecinos.

Después de treinta años de lucha, en casa de los Casporras sólo quedaba una viuda con tres hijos mocetones que parecían torres de músculos. En la otra estaba el tío Rabosa, con sus ochenta años, inmóvil en un sillón de esparto, con las piernas muertas por la parálisis, como un arrugado ídolo de la venganza, ante el cual juraban sus dos nietos defender el prestigio de la familia.

Pero los tiempos eran otros. Ya no era posible ir a tiros como sus padres en plena plaza a la salida de misa mayor. La Guardia civil no les perdía de vista; los vecinos les vigilaban, y bastaba que uno de ellos se detuviera algunos minutos en una senda o en una esquina para verse al momento rodeado de gente que le aconsejaba la paz. Cansados de esta vigilancia que degeneraba en persecución y se interponía entre ellos como infranqueable obstáculo, Casporras y Rabosas acabaron por no buscarse, y hasta se huían cuando la casualidad les ponía frente a frente.

Tal fue su deseo de aislarse y no verse, que les pareció baja la pared que separaba sus corrales. Las gallinas de unos y otros, escalando los montones de leña, fraternizaban en lo alto de las bardas; las mujeres de las dos casas cambiaban desde las ventanas gestos de desprecio. Aquello no podía resistirse; era como vivir en familia, y la viuda de Casporra hizo que sus hijos levantaran la pared una vara. Los vecinos se apresuraron a manifestar su desprecio con piedra y argamasa, y añadieron algunos palmos más a la pared. Y así, en esta muda y repetida manifestación de odio, la pared fue subiendo y subiendo. Ya no se veían las ventanas; poco después no se veían los tejados; las pobres aves del corral estremecíanse en la lúgubre sombra de aquel paredón que las ocultaba parte del cielo, y sus cacareos sonaban tristes y apagados a través de aquel muro, monumento del odio, que parecía amasado con los huesos y la sangre de las víctimas.

Así transcurrió el tiempo para las dos familias, sin agredirse como en otra época, pero sin aproximarse: inmóviles y cristalizadas en su odio.

Una tarde sonaron a rebato las campanas del pueblo. Ardía la casa del tío Rabosa. Los nietos estaban en la huerta; la mujer de uno de éstos en el lavadero, y por las rendijas de puertas y ventanas salía un humo denso de paja quemada. Dentro, en aquel infierno que rugía buscando expansión, estaba el abuelo, el pobre tío Rabosa, inmóvil en su sillón. La nieta se mesaba los cabellos, acusándose como autora de todo por su descuido; la gente arremolinábase en la calle, asustada por la fuerza del incendio. Algunos, más valientes, abrieron la puerta, pero fue para retroceder ante la bocanada de denso humo cargada de chispas que se esparció por la calle.

—¡El agüelo! ¡El pobre agüelo!—gritaba la de los Rabosas volviendo en vano la mirada en busca de un salvador.

Los asustados vecinos experimentaron el mismo asombro que si hubieran visto el campanario marchando hacia ellos. Tres mocetones entraban corriendo en la casa incendiada. Eran los Casporras. Se habían mirado cambiando un guiño de inteligencia, y sin más palabras se arrojaron como salamandras en el enorme brasero. La multitud les aplaudió al verles reaparecer llevando en alto como a un santo en sus andas al tío Rabosa en su sillón de esparto. Abandonaron al viejo sin mirarle siquiera, y otra vez adentro.

—¡No, no!—gritaba la gente.

Pero ellos sonreían siguiendo adelante. Iban a salvar algo de los intereses de sus enemigos. Si los nietos del tío Rabosa estuvieran allí, ni se habrían movido ellos de casa. Pero sólo se trataba de un pobre viejo, al que debían proteger como hombres de corazón. Y la gente les veía tan pronto en la calle como dentro de la casa, buceando en el humo, sacudiéndose las chispas como inquietos demonios, arrojando muebles y sacos para volver a meterse entre las llamas.

Lanzó un grito la multitud al ver a los dos hermanos mayores sacando al menor en brazos. Un madero, al caer, le había roto una pierna.

—¡Pronto una silla!

La gente, en su precipitación, arrancó al viejo Rabosa de su sillón de esparto para sentar al herido.

El muchacho, con el pelo chamuscado y la cara ahumada, sonreía ocultando los agudos dolores que le hacían fruncir los labios. Sintió que unas manos trémulas, ásperas, con las escamas de la vejez, oprimían las suyas.

—¡Fill meu! ¡Fill meu!—gemía la voz del tío Rabosa, quien se arrastraba hacia él.

Y antes que el pobre muchacho pudiera evitarlo, el paralítico buscó con su boca desdentada y profunda las manos que tenía agarradas, y las besó, las besó un sin número de veces, bañándolas con lágrimas.

Ardió toda la casa. Y cuando los albañiles fueron llamados para construir otra, los nietos del tío Rabosa no les dejaron comenzar por la limpia del terreno, cubierto de negros escombros. Antes tenían que hacer un trabajo más urgente: derribar la pared maldita. Y empuñando el pico, ellos dieron los primeros golpes.



The Power of Prose