Forum" in Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd, and in The

A BAD beginning did not make a good ending of the Senora Moreno's sheep-shearing this year. One as superstitiously prejudiced against Roman Catholic rule as she was in favor of it, would have found, in the way things fell out, ample reason for a belief that the Senora was being punished for having let all the affairs of her place come to a standstill, to await the coming of an old monk. But the pious Senora, looking at the other side of the shield, was filled with gratitude that, since all this ill luck was to befall her, she had the good Father Salvierderra at her side to give her comfort and counsel.


It was not yet quite noon of the first day, when Felipe fainted and fell in the wool; and it was only a little past noon of the third, when Juan Canito, who, not without some secret exultation, had taken Senor Felipe's place at the packing, fell from the cross-beam to the ground, and broke his right leg,-- a bad break near the knee; and Juan Canito's bones were much too old for fresh knitting. He would never again be able to do more than hobble about on crutches, dragging along the useless leg. It was a cruel blow to the old man. He could not be resigned to it. He lost faith in his saints, and privately indulged in blasphemous beratings and reproaches of them, which would have filled the Senora with terror, had she known that such blasphemies were being committed under her roof.


"As many times as I have crossed that plank, in my day!" cried Juan; "only the fiends themselves could have made me trip; and there was that whole box of candles I paid for with my own money last month, and burned to Saint Francis in the chapel for this very sheep-shearing! He may sit in the dark, for all me, to the end of time! He is no saint at all! What are they for, if not to keep us from harm when we pray to them? I'll pray no more. I believe the Americans are right, who laugh at us." From morning till night, and nearly from night till morning, for the leg ached so he slept little, poor Juan groaned and grumbled and swore, and swore and grumbled and groaned. Taking care of him was enough, Margarita said, to wear out the patience of the Madonna herself. There was no pleasing him, whatever you did, and his tongue was never still a minute. For her part, she believed that it must be as he said, that the fiends had pushed him off the plank, and that the saints had had their reasons for leaving him to his fate. A coldness and suspicion gradually grew up in the minds of all the servants towards him. His own reckless language, combined with Margarita's reports, gave the superstitious fair ground for believing that something had gone mysteriously wrong, and that the Devil was in a fair way to get his soul, which was very hard for the old man, in addition to all the rest he had to bear. The only alleviation he had for his torments, was in having his fellow-servants, men and women, drop in, sit by his pallet, and chat with him, telling him all that was going on; and when by degrees they dropped off, coming more and more seldom, and one by one leaving off coming altogether, it was the one drop that overflowed his cup of misery; and he turned his face to the wall, left off grumbling, and spoke only when he must.


This phase frightened Margarita even more than the first. Now, she thought, surely the dumb terror and remorse of one who belongs to the Devil had seized him, and her hands trembled as she went through the needful ministrations for him each day. Three months, at least, the doctor, who had come from Ventura to set the leg, had said he must lie still in bed and be thus tended. "Three months!" sighed Margarita. "If I be not dead or gone crazy myself before the end of that be come!"

The Senora was too busy with Felipe to pay attention or to give thought to Juan. Felipe's fainting had been the symptom and beginning of a fierce relapse of the fever, and he was lying in his bed, tossing and raving in delirium, always about the wool.

"Throw them faster, faster! That's a good fleece; five pounds more; a round ton in those bales. Juan! Alessandro! Captain! -- Jesus, how this sun burns my head!"

Several times he had called "Alessandro" so earnestly, that Father Salvierderra advised bringing Alessandro into the room, to see if by any chance there might have been something in his mind that he wished to say to him. But when Alessandro stood by the bedside, Felipe gazed at him vacantly, as he did at all the others, still repeating, however, "Alessandro! Alessandro!"

"I think perhaps he wants Alessandro to play on his violin," sobbed out Ramona. "He was telling me how beautifully Alessandro played, and said he would have him up on the veranda in the evening to play to us."

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