“Only one: my friend, that boy of whom I was just speaking. The explosion of the torpedo blew him into bits. I saw him....”
The captain felt his remorse constantly increasing. A compatriot, a poor young fellow, had perished through his fault!...
The salesman also seemed to be suffering a twinge of conscience. He was holding himself responsible for his companion’s death. He had only met him in Naples a few days before, but they were united by the close brotherhood of young compatriots who had run across each other far from their country.
They had both been born in Barcelona. The poor lad, almost a child, had wanted to return by land and he had carried him off with him at the last hour, urging upon him the advantages of a trip by sea. Whoever would have imagined that the German submarines were in the Mediterranean! The traveling man persisted in his remorse. He could not forget that half-grown lad who, in order to make the voyage in his company, had gone to meet his death.
“I met him in Naples, hunting everywhere for his father.”
Ulysses uttered this exclamation with his neck violently outstretched, as though he were trying to loosen his skull from the rest of his body. His eyes were protruding from their sockets.
“The father,” continued the youth, “commands a ship.... He is Captain Ulysses Ferragut.”
An outcry.... The people ran.... A man had just fallen heavily, his body rebounding on the deck.
THE ENCOUNTER AT MARSEILLES
Toni, who abominated railway journeys on account of his torpid immovability, now had to abandon the Mare Nostrum and suffer the torture of remaining twelve hours crowded in with strange persons.
Ferragut was sick in a hotel in the harbor of Marseilles. They had taken him off of a French boat coming from Naples, crushed with silent melancholia. He wished to die. During the trip they had to keep sharp watch so that he could not repeat his attempts at suicide. Several times he had tried to throw himself into the water.
Toni learned of it from the captain of a Spanish vessel that had just arrived from Marseilles exactly one day after the newspapers of Barcelona had announced the death of Esteban Ferragut in the torpedoing of the Californian. The commercial traveler was still relating everywhere his version of the event, concluding it now with his melodramatic meeting with the father, the latter’s fatal fall on receiving the news, and desperation upon recovering consciousness.
The first mate had hastened to present himself at his captain’s home. All the Blanes were there, surrounding Cinta and trying to console her.
“My son!... My son!...” the mother was groaning, writhing on the sofa.
And the family chorus drowned her laments, overwhelming her with a flood of fantastic consolations and recommendations of resignation. She ought to think of the father: she was not alone in the world as she was affirming: besides her own family, she had her husband.