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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
An Easter Story
By André Theuriet (1833–1907)
 
From ‘Stories of Every-day Life’

THERE was at Seville, in the faubourg of Triana, a boy of fifteen years named Juanito el Morenito. He was an orphan; had grown by good luck, like a weed, on the pavement of Triana: sleeping now out of doors, now in the stable of a lodging-house; living on a handful of sweet acorns, or a fried fish bought at a discount, and earning his living in a hundred little occupations, of which the most lucrative was selling programmes at the doors of the theatres. In spite of his rags, he was a pretty boy; with luminous eyes, smiling mouth, and curly hair, and so deeply tanned that he had been surnamed Morenito. He had, moreover, a little gipsy blood in his veins; and like the gipsies, he was of an independent disposition, loving vagrancy, and passionately fond of bull-fights.  1
  Upon Good Friday he awoke in a morose spirit. Throughout Holy Week the theatres had been closed; and not having been able to pursue his business of selling programmes, he had not a cuarto in his pocket. His poverty was the more irksome that upon Easter Day there was to be a magnificent bull-baiting, with Mazzantini and Frascuelo as spadas, and that his empty purse would deprive him of his favorite spectacle.  2
  Nevertheless he resolved to go and seek his luck in the streets of Seville; and after addressing a prayer to the Virgin de la Esperanza, to whom he was very devoted, he shook off the bits of straw which clung to his hair, and hurried out of the stable where he had slept.  3
  The morning was magnificent. The slender rose-tower of the Giralda stood out clearly against the deep-blue sky. The streets were already full of people from the country, who had come to Seville to see the processions of the Confradias. In passing before the Plaza de Toros, Morenito saw a long line of eager people already besieging the ticket-office; and this augmented the bitterness of his regrets. For four hours he rambled about Rue Sierpes, sniffing the fried fish and the cinnamon cakes browning in boiling oil, and following the toreadors as they strutted slowly before the cafés in their short coats and narrow breeches. He racked his brain for an honest means of gaining a few pesetas. He attempted in vain to join those who were crying programmes of the procession with the names of the different fraternities: all the places were taken, and he was repulsed on all sides. At last, having tried everything he could think of,—his stomach empty, and his back baked by the sun,—he came out on the Plaza de la Constitucion, where the processions must stop; and finding a shady corner under one of the portals of the Audiencia, he decided to rest there while waiting for the Confradias to pass.  4
  “Who sleeps, dines;” and in place of a breakfast, Morenito gave himself a good slice of slumber. He soon slept profoundly; and upon my word he looked very handsome, stretched his full length upon the white pavement, one arm folded under his curly black head,—his eyelids shut tight with their long lashes, and his red lips half open in a vague smile which partly uncovered his little white teeth.  5
  While he was slumbering, a couple of tourists passed; young people, husband and wife probably,—certainly a pair of lovers, as was evident by the way they held each other’s arms.  6
  “See what a pretty fellow he is,” said the young man, stopping to contemplate the sleeper; “and what a charming picture that would make! What a delightful attitude! It’s all there; even the significant gesture of this open hand, which looks as if it were expecting some windfall to drop into it during sleep.”  7
  “Do you know,” answered the young wife, “how to give this sleeper a fine surprise? Put a piece of silver in his hand for him to find when he wakes!”  8
  Lovers are generous. The young man took a five-franc piece from his purse, and placed it gently on the open hand; which by a mechanical movement half closed at the cool contact of the metal. Then the couple went away laughing.  9
  Morenito continued to sleep; and while sleeping, he dreamed. He dreamed that the pure Virgin of the Esperanza was descending to him on a ladder the color of a rainbow. She had a crown of lilies in her hair, and was carrying white roses in her hands. And she said to him in a voice sweet as honey: “Juanito, thou hast never forgotten to pray to me morning and evening. In honor of the resurrection of my son, I wish to recompense thee. Thou shalt go to see the bulls on Sunday!” At the same time, the Virgin shook the petals from her white roses into Morenito’s hand; and in falling, each rose leaf changed into a piece of silver: and Morenito experienced such joy that it awoke him. He stretched himself, and from one of his hands—oh, miracle!—a white coin slipped and fell with a silvery sound upon the flagging. He could not believe either his eyes or his ears. He picked up the coin. It was a beautiful bright piece of five pesetas. The Virgin had not mocked him, and he could go to the bull-fight! With a bound he was on his feet, and running toward the Plaza de Toros.  10
  As he was turning the corner of the Calle San Pablo, he almost rushed against a slip of a girl of the faubourg of Triana, whom he had known since childhood, and who was named Chata. She was very pale, and her great black eyes were full of tears.  11
  “What is the matter, Chata?” he asked her.  12
  “My mother is sick,” she answered, “and I have not been to bed for two nights. The doctor came this morning and ordered remedies. I went to the druggist’s, but he would not give me anything on credit. What shall I do? If the bells toll for her, they will toll for me too: I will not outlive her!”  13
  Morenito remained thoughtful a moment, his gaze plunged into Chata’s tearful black eyes; then suddenly, taking the miraculous coin, he put it into the hand of his little friend.  14
  “Here, nina mia,” he said, “take this money: it came from the Virgin of the Esperanza, and the bonita Madre will not be vexed if I use it to cure your mother.”  15
  Chata was so excited that she did not take time even to thank him, but ran to the druggist’s without once looking back.  16
  It was written that Morenito was surely not to go to the prime bull-fight. But as there are compensations in the world, he passed a gay Sunday nevertheless. That day Chata’s mother was better, and the little girl came to the lodging-house court to thank Juanito. She had made something of a toilet; and with the remainder of Morenito’s money she had bought two red roses, which she had thrust into her black hair. The two went for a walk along the Guadalquivir, under the orange-trees in blossom.  17
  The springtide had kindled an indescribable light in Chata’s eyes, and perhaps a more tender sentiment contributed to this illumination. When they found themselves in a corner shaded by high bushes of myrtle, she suddenly threw her two arms around Morenito’s neck, and said without the least false shame, “Te quiero, companero!” (I love you, comrade!) And while the bells rang for the Easter festival, these two children tasted their first kiss of love.  18
 
 
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