When the Triton occasionally appeared in Valencia, thrifty Dona Cristina was obliged to modify the dietary of her family. This man ate nothing but fish, and her soul of an economical housewife worried greatly at the thought of the extraordinarily high price that fish brings in a port of exportation.
Life in that house, where everything always jogged along so uniformly, was greatly upset by the presence of the doctor. A little after daybreak, just when its inhabitants were usually enjoying the dessert of their night’s sleep, hearing drowsily the rumble of the early morning carts and the bell-ringing of the first Masses, the house would reecho to the rude banging of doors and heavy footsteps making the stairway creak. It was the Triton rushing out on the street, incapable of remaining between four walls after the first streak of light. Following the currents of the early morning life, he would reach the market, stopping before the flower stands where were the most numerous gatherings of women.
The eyes of the women turned toward him instinctively with an expression of interest and fear. Some blushed as he passed by, imagining against their will what an embrace from this hideous and restless Colossus must be.
“He is capable of crushing a flea on his arm,” the sailors of his village used to boast when trying to emphasize the hardness of his biceps. His body lacked fat, and under his swarthy skin bulged great, rigid and protruding muscles—an Herculean texture from which had been eliminated every element incapable of producing strength. Labarta found in him a great resemblance to the marine divinities. He was Neptune before his head had silvered, or Poseidon as the primitive Greek poets had seen him with hair black and curly, features tanned by the salt air, and with a ringleted beard whose two spiral ends seemed formed by the dripping of the water of the sea. The nose somewhat flattened by a blow received in his youth, and the little eyes, oblique and tenacious, gave to his countenance an expression of Asiatic ferocity, but this impression melted away when his mouth parted in a smile, showing his even, glistening teeth, the teeth of a man of the sea accustomed to live upon salt food.
During the first few days of his visit he would wander through the streets wavering and bewildered. He was afraid of the carriages; the patter of the passers-by on the pavements annoyed him; he, who had seen the most important ports of both hemispheres, complained of the bustle in the capital of a province. Finally he would instinctively take the road from the harbor in search of the sea, his eternal friend, the first to salute him every morning upon opening the door of his own home down there on the Marina.
On these excursions he would oftentimes be accompanied by his little nephew. The bustle on the docks,—(the creaking of the cranes, the dull rumble of the carts, the deafening cries of the freighters),—always had for him a certain music reminiscent of his youth when he was traveling as a doctor on a transatlantic steamer.