“It will be next time, sure!” he would say in order to console himself for having to part with his nephew’s son; and after a few months had passed by, he would reappear, each time larger, uglier, more tanned, with a silent smile which broke into words before Ulysses just as tempestuous clouds break forth in thunder claps.
Upon his return from a trip to the Black Sea, Dona Cristina announced to her son: “Your uncle has died.”
The pious senora lamented as a Christian the departure of her brother-in-law, dedicating a part of her prayers to him; but she insisted with a certain cruelty in giving an account of his sad end, for she had never been able to pardon his fatal intervention in the destiny of Ulysses. He had died as he had lived,—in the sea, a victim, of his own rashness, without confession, just like any pagan.
Another legacy thus fell to Ferragut.... His uncle had gone out swimming one sunny, winter morning and had never come back. The old folks on the shore had their way of explaining how the accident had happened,—a fainting spell probably, a clash against the rocks. The Dotor was still vigorous, but the years do not pass without leaving their footprints. Some believed that he must have had a struggle with a shark or some other of the carnivorous fish that abound in the Mediterranean waters. In vain the fishermen guided their skiffs through all the twisting entrances and exits of the waters around the promontory, exploring the gloomy caves and the lower depths of crystalline transparency. No one was ever able to find the Triton’s body.
Ferragut recalled the cortege of Aphrodite which the doctor had so often described to him on summer evenings, by the light of the far-away gleam of the lighthouse. Perhaps he had come upon that gay retinue of nereids, joining it forever!
This absurd supposition that Ulysses mentally formulated with a sad and incredulous smile, frequently recurred in the simple thoughts of many of the people of the Marina.
They refused to believe in his death. A wizard is never drowned. He must have found down below something very interesting and when he got tired of living in the green depths, he would probably some day come swimming back home.
No: the Dotor had not died.
And for many years afterwards the women who were going along the coast at nightfall would quicken their steps, crossing themselves upon distinguishing on the dark waters a bit of wood or a bunch of sea weed. They feared that suddenly would spring forth the Triton, bearded, dripping, spouting, returning from his excursion into the mysterious depths of the sea.