Heard the hoary Preacher,--El Pregonador,--preaching the ancient Word, the word "as a fire, and as a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces,"--the Elohim--Word of the Sea! ...
Unknowingly she came to know the immemorial sympathy of the mind with the Soul of the World,--the melancholy wrought by its moods of gray, the reverie responsive to its vagaries of mist, the exhilaration of its vast exultings--days of windy joy, hours of transfigured light.
She felt,--even without knowing it,--the weight of the Silences, the solemnities of sky and sea in these low regions where all things seem to dream--waters and grasses with their momentary wavings,--woods gray-webbed with mosses that drip and drool,--horizons with their delusions of vapor,--cranes meditating in their marshes,--kites floating in the high blue.... Even the children were singularly quiet; and their play less noisy--though she could not have learned the difference--than the play of city children. Hour after hour, the women sewed or wove in silence. And the brown men,--always barefooted, always wearing rough blue shirts,--seemed, when they lounged about the wharf on idle days, as if they had told each other long ago all they knew or could ever know, and had nothing more to say. They would stare at the flickering of the current, at the drifting of clouds and buzzard:--seldom looking at each other, and always turning their black eyes again, in a weary way, to sky or sea. Even thus one sees the horses and the cattle of the coast, seeking the beach to escape the whizzing flies;--all watch the long waves rolling in, and sometimes turn their heads a moment to look at one another, but always look back to the waves again, as if wondering at a mystery....
How often she herself had wondered--wondered at the multiform changes of each swell as it came in--transformations of tint, of shape, of motion, that seemed to betoken a life infinitely more subtle than the strange cold life of lizards and of fishes,--and sinister, and spectral. Then they all appeared to move in order,--according to one law or impulse;--each had its own voice, yet all sang one and the same everlasting song. Vaguely, as she watched them and listened to them, there came to her the idea of a unity of will in their motion, a unity of menace in their utterance--the idea of one monstrous and complex life! The sea lived: it could crawl backward and forward; it could speak!--it only feigned deafness and sightlessness for some malevolent end. Thenceforward she feared to find herself alone with it. Was it not at her that it strove to rush, muttering, and showing its white teeth, ... just because it knew that she was all by herself? ... Si quieres aprender a orar, entra en el mar! And Concha had well learned to pray. But the sea seemed to her the one Power which God could not make to obey Him as He pleased. Saying the creed one day, she repeated very slowly the opening words,--"Creo en un Dios, padre todopoderoso, Criador de cielo y de la tierra,"--and paused and thought. Creator of Heaven and Earth? "Madrecita Carmen," she asked,--"quien entonces hizo el mar?" (who then made the sea?).
--"Dios, mi querida," answered Carmen.--"God, my darling.... All things were made by Him" ( todas las cosas fueron hechas por El).
Even the wicked Sea! And He had said unto it: "Thus far, and no farther." ... Was that why it had not overtaken and devoured her when she ran back in fear from the sudden reaching out of its waves? Thus far....? But there were times when it disobeyed--when it rushed further, shaking the world! Was it because God was then asleep--could not hear, did not see, until too late?
And the tumultuous ocean terrified her more and more: it filled her sleep with enormous nightmare;--it came upon her in dreams, mountain-shadowing,--holding her with its spell, smothering her power of outcry, heaping itself to the stars.
Carmen became alarmed;--she feared that the nervous and delicate child might die in one of those moaning dreams out of which she had to arouse her, night after night. But Feliu, answering her anxiety with one of his favorite proverbs, suggested a heroic remedy:--