In clearest summer weather, the water would sometimes run thick and yellow for days, the result of some landslip where the snow and ice were melting. Sometimes the Wolf would hurl down a mass of debris—a forest torn from the mountainside by avalanche, the dead bodies of a few stray sheep, or a fox or a wolf or the dun corpse of a mountain bear. Many in the valley had seen tables and chairs and the roof, perhaps, of a house caught in the timbers of the old bridge below the village. And the river, of course, had exacted its toll from more than one family. It was jocularly said at the Venta that the Wolf was Royalist; for in the first Carlist war it had fought for Queen Christina, doing to death a whole company of insurgents at that which is known as the False Ford, where it would seem that a child could pass while in reality no horseman might hope to get through.
The house of Torre Garda was not itself ancient though it undoubtedly stood on the site of some mediaeval watch-tower. It had been built in the days of Ferdinand VII at the period when French architecture was running rife over the world, and had the appearance of a Gascon chateau. It was a long low house of two stories. Every room on the ground floor opened with long French windows to a terrace built to the edge of the plateau, where a fountain splashed its clear spring water into a stone basin, where gray stone urns stood on lichen-covered pillars amid flower-beds.
Every room on the first floor had windows opening on a wide balcony which ran the length of the house and was protected from the rain and midday sun by the far-stretching eaves of the roof. The house was of gray stone, roofed with slabs of the same, such as peel off the slopes of the Pyrenees and slide one over the other to the valleys below. The pointed turrets at each corner were roofed with the small green tiles that the Moors loved. The winds and the snow and the rain had toned all Torre Garda down to a cool gray-green against which the four cypress trees on the terrace stood rigid like sentinels keeping eternal guard over the valley.
Above the house rose a pine-slope where the snow lingered late into the summer. Above this again were rocks and broken declivities of sliding stones; and, crowning all, the everlasting snow.
From the terrace of Torre Garda a strong voice could make itself heard in the valley where tobacco grew and ripened, or on the height where no vegetation lived at all. The house seemed to hang between sky and earth, and the air that moved the cypress trees was cool and thin—a very breath of heaven to make thinkers wonder why any who can help it should choose to live in towns.