Our Friend Manso

By Benito Pérez Galdós; Robert Russell | Go to book overview

IX
MY BROTHER WISHES TO DEVOTE HIS LIFE TO THE SERVICE OF THE NATION

THEY SETTLED INTO their rented house at mid-October and lit fires in the fireplaces the first day, for they were all dying from the cold. Lica had the catarrh, her sister Chita (short for Merceditas) something nearly as bad, and Niña Chucha, in a sudden attack of nostalgia, begged in plaintive elegiacs to be taken back to her beloved Sagua, for in Madrid she was dying of grief and cold. The house, cramped and not well-lit, was a tedious confinement to her, and ceaselessly she recalled the spacious, bright, open houses of the warm country where she was born. Falling victim to the same malady, the expatriate mockingbird died during the first rainy spell, and his sorrowing mistress uttered such sighs of grief that we thought she might follow after him. One of the tropical birds got out of the cage and was never seen again. No one could get the good lady to believe anything but that the poor bird had flown off like a shot to the perfumed forests of his native land. If only she could do the same! Poor Doña Jesusa! How pitiable she seemed to me! Her only amusement was to tell me things about her blessed homeland, to explain how chili sauce is made. She would describe for me the dances of the black people, the rhythm of the maracas and the gourds, and she came close to teaching me to play the mouth-harp. She never went out in the street for fear of catching pneumonia; she didn't stir from her armchair even to eat her meals. Rupertico served them to her and on his way back to the kitchen he would gobble up whatever she'd left on the plate for him.

By contrast, my brother and his wife and sister-in-law were making an astonishingly good adjustment to the new fife, to the harsher climate, and to the bustle and tumult of our way of doing things. José María, especially, was without nostalgia for anything he had left behind in Cuba. It was very obvious that he took pleasure in being so well treated, so much the object of flattery and attention, all of which made clear that he was a moneybags of the

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