He was fifty years old that seemed seventy; a frock coat that did not look like one, the color of a public highway, the gray that is caught in the stream like a patina; thin, flowing beard, the color of a frock coat; three or four teeth; a shirt, and deeply ingrained political, sociological and even philosophical and theological convictions. He had learned to read there in Cuba, during the other war, as a volunteer in a provincial battalion; and now he read newspapers and more newspapers, leaning against the pillars on the porches of the Town Hall. He always read on loan, because he spent his little money on brandy and tobacco. He was a construction worker, but almost always resigned. He was not satisfied with the march of the world. When he was young, the blame for all evil was the gold of reaction; now it seemed that the enemy was “the infamous bourgeois.” Let it be, the Frog had said to himself; and, as before the dark ages and the budget- eaters, now he cursed the bourgeois, the frock-coat drone. And that he, out of invincible fondness, always wore a frock coat, it is true that due to the munificence of some hated bourgeois. He was the most popular drunkard in his town, and all social classes found the Rana funny, and saw him, perhaps, the last representative of a famous generation of popular perdis, who were, in a way, the pride of the city for the ingenuity of all of them, for the original and very comic features of their excited fantasy. El Rana, despite his dissolving ideas, his bare bulletAnarchist (pure alcohol), he had no enemy, not even among the clergy, whom he despised with Olympian serenity. However, his theological lucubrations more than once made him sleep in prevention, in form rather than in substance. When the local press stressed the need to pursue profanity, the Rana did not escape the rigors of white terror. But he came out of prisons without abdicating a single one of his principles; and that same night he appeared again as drunk as the day before, and so encased in his impious denials and in his scandalous imprecations.
A friend of marching with the century, he had renounced being a republican, since the young people on the corner of the Town Hall laughed at politics; And he was an anarchist, but a dissident, because those of this opinion had solemnly expelled him from their flock, on the frivolous pretext that he spliced drunkenness and was the laughingstock of the bourgeoisie, and admitted from these tips, clothing and other humiliations.
But the Frog, making eses, and looking at the sky, with whom he spent the day of conversation, since it was his custom to tell everything to the clouds, to such a God, disdaining to speak with the miserable mortals, the Frog, I mean, he forgave to his coreligionists because they did not know what they were doing, and he dedicated smiles of contempt in a whole equal to those that the high and low clergy deserved. Besides not being in agreement with the creed (as he said) of his party, regarding drink, he also protested against the boasts of cosmopolitanism, because he was a patriot for the life of the Chilindraina! and he had exposed his life in a hundred fights for the … that of the homeland: in short, “Long live Spanish Cuba!” shouted El Rana, who in this matter did not admit jokes or news. It was good that the republic was a … myth, that, a myth …, but in that … of the homeland, that the Carlos Más (Marx), nor Carlos minus, nor Carlos Chapa should not touch him. .., because the Rana, wherever he was seen … had been a volunteer of the heroic battalion of the Purísima(Praise her), added the Rana, who was only wrong with the masculine element of the Sacred Family; and that by mouth.
“A thousand of us were, he preached enthusiastically in the middle of the plaza, a thousand of us were when we were going up the Castilla highway: one hundred and four returned from Cuba … The rest all dead … some for one, others for another … all dead! Long live anarchy and debauchery! Fire and fire in the bourgeois …, but whoever touches me to … well, to Spanish Cuba, let him understand himself with this priest, speaking badly, with Rana, distinguished veteran of the provincial battalion of La Purísima, praise be she … me … case in this of the Tal . ”
And if a cop passed by, the Frog would go to warn him for being blasphemous.
One very cold morning in December, Rana left very early from the zaquizamí in which he was sleeping, and after the ordinary headdress of passing his hand over his eyes, he went to the northern railway station, stepping on the hard frost, blowing his fingers and mumbling to the putrid clouds. The words of what he wanted to say were not very clear, but the music was this: plagues against the cold, against hunger, against the infamous bourgeoisie and against the lack of patriotism of the bishop, the mayor, the governor and other obscurantists, I say bourgeois.
El Rana had read in a local newspaper the day before that that morning, on the first train, fifteen volunteers would leave by the North Railroad, embarking in La Coruña for Cuba. A week before, the city en masse had dismissed an entire battalion of infantry that had left for war with shouts of patriotic enthusiasm. The soldiers had been presented with cigars, cold cuts, wine, a distribution of pesetas, and large doses of brotherly affection, inspired by love for the country. It was good. The Frog was the first to applaud that demonstration. But now…
“What I feared!” He exclaimed as he stepped onto the platform, where they let him enter the fourth or fifth blasphemy.
“What I feared!” Not a soul! Let the bourgeois die! Down with what exists! … Not a soul! … Be you Daoices for this! … Sure! … Poor people are volunteers; like me, like the frog, there in my good old days … They are the Cheese , Piniella , the Marquis , Smallpox , Viruso , the Troncho … four cats, the dregs, that, the dregs of the sovereign people … A clean one, eh? Say it yourself, infamous bourgeois! … A clean one! … Say it clearly!
And the Frog, talking and walking, went to the solitary bar, where he ordered a glass of brandy, at the same time that he put a few small dogs on the counter, but without taking his hand from them. That gesture was a formula to which his scant credit required him. He meant that he had what to pay with; not that it would pay fixed.
As the bartender looked at him with a certain sneer and did not rush to serve him, El Rana, with a frown worthy of the Eumenides, faced the poor girl and overwhelmed her under the weight of a hundred blasphemies and imprecations.
“What was there in doubt? From his good faith as a payer or from his love for the … that of the country? ”
“Did he or did he not have decorum? Was he or was he not right? Neither the bishop, nor the mayor, nor a rat, came to ‘say goodbye to the fifteen Daoices ‘ who were going to die for Spain, like the most currutaco general or cadet … ”He drank two or three drinks; He left some coins on the counter, picked up others, and always talking to the clouds, he went to the group of volunteers, who also blowing their hands, gave tooth to tooth and kicked on the ground, forming a pineapple near the train, already prepared for the March.
“Hey, Frog, five cents left! …” the bartender yelled, not very uncomfortable.
The Frog shrugged his shoulders, and with a prodigal gesture exclaimed:
—For you — and he reached the group of volunteers, where he was not badly received. The Cheese shook his hand effusively, and said:
“Good for the Frog!” Long live the patriots of La Purísima .
“Praise her.” But the rotten bishop, why doesn’t he come today to give blessings? And the mayor, for when will he leave the cigars and live ones? …
“Because you are the dregs, Cheese!” This is a clean … Hunger sweeps you, it drives you to die, to the sewer, to the bush, the need … And, of course … the gentlemen, the bourgeois … they do not get out of bed at the time that the city sweepers sweep …
The truth was that there was no official element at the station , nor many curious people or patriots. Almost none. There were, yes, ragged women, poor children who cried or laughed, the pieces of the heart covered with rags, left behind in the village by those boys who went … did not know what … to die probably … to suffer for the … that , of the homeland.
The Rana did not explain himself well — because to blaspheme is not to argue; —but he saw the thing clearly: what was going through the spirit … of that famous drunkard’s wine, translated from the alcoholic mists of his conscience into the usual language, was this:
“They are not worth more than a thousand than fifteen. Those boys were not to blame for being so few. It was not worth saying that the town had just gotten excited a few days before. In these cases, fatigue is not worth it. That slight to the dregs of the population, who went out of their own will to die for Spain, was an ingratitude, a cruelty. The volunteer is no less than the soldier who serves the king because it is his turn. They are the same there; but at the start the volunteer has the most merit. And it was not worth thinking that the Cheese , the Marquis , Smallpox , were driven out by misery, by not fighting with hunger, by giving bread to their mother, or to his wife or to their children …
“Do not; He had seen something … but without the other , without … that of the homeland, they would not go. Why didn’t they go somewhere else, where there was twine , but there was no danger, bad life? Why did no one think of going to exchange the misery of his land for the sure bread of other distant adventures, by sea or by land? Anyway, inside, to CheeseWhat happened to him, to the Rana, had happened in his time. What was Spain? What was the homeland? I did not know, I did not know it. Music … Riego’s hymn, the passing troop, a speech that was half understood, shreds of patriotic phrases in the newspapers … Pelayo … El Cid … La francesada … El Dos de Mayo … The Rana, like other comrades, confused the times; I did not know if Pelayo and Covadonga had been shortly before Daoiz or at the same time … But, well, that was … long live Spain! and what comes from within comes from within … and, in short, that in a fit of … I did not know what, but happy, very wide , he had enlisted … and there he had gone, mixed with many honest people, being as much as them, inasmuch as he was voluntary; and he had fought well, and had forgiven, back in the war, the Spaniards here, the reactionaries (today the bourgeoisie) who had gone to dismiss the battalion of La Purísima up the road to Castilla, and who were saying, while accompanying the volunteers:
– “And also, how clean ! The battalion takes the Frog, it takes Grasshopper , it takes Tarucos … it takes it … Yes, it takes them; there were hardly any lost in the town; and most of them had left and had not returned … How clean! Among many very wise poor men, without blemish, the mischief of the city was true; drunks, gamblers, blasphemers, the scandal of the squares … But there all the same, all volunteers! And the Frog and TarucosThey didn’t just go to the ranch and to the one that jumped; no, sir … they were going because of a hunch, because of Riego’s hymn, about the Moors and the Mambises … and Pelayo and the French … and, well … like the others … Lightning on the bourgeois! What cleans, huh? Oh! Well , if you were to see die in the jungle to those of the sweepings ! … ”
The chief’s whistle sounded. Doors were closed, there were hugs, kisses, tears, nervous laughter, crazy screams. Suddenly sad silence. In that silence the voice of the Frog suddenly sounded, speaking, without anyone paying any attention to it:
“See, where is the town?” Where is the bourgeois, where is the bishop? And those pesetas, gentlemen of the Provincial Council? And those cigars, Mr. Mayor?
And enthusiastic about his own harangue, the Rana, when starting the train, had a generous inspiration.
From the inside pocket of his highway-colored frock coat, he took a pack of the cheapest ones, not yet measured, and with a gesture of sovereign arrogance, he began to throw cigarettes at the windows of cars that were already moving …
—Here, Cheese ; Take, Smallpox …, take you, Troncho … Long live Spanish Cuba!
“Long live the Frog!” shouted the volunteers who were already moving away … Long live the integrity of the homeland!
-That! That! “Shouted our man,” long live the ingratitude of the country! I case in such of the Tal … and blasphemed horribly, until a guard put her hand on his shoulder, saying:
“Hush, Frog, if you don’t want to sleep on Tuesday where you sleep on Sunday …
The Frog stared at the guard with great contempt and, without blaspheming, exclaimed:
“Hey, you, tell the bishop … that he’s a … fugitive … and long live Spanish Cuba!”