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By Umberto Eco

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Cried Iván, lifting his arms and striking his thighs. ‘Why, all I had to do was just to snatch it out from under the eaves and trample on it! …’ he kept repeating. He wished to shout, but his breath failed him; his voice was gone. He wanted to run, but his legs would not obey him, and got in each other’s way. He moved slowly, but again staggered and again his breath failed. He stood still till he had regained breath, and then went on. Before he had got round the back shed to reach the fire, the side shed was also all ablaze; and the corner of the hut and the covered gateway had caught fire as well.

Said he, and again he turned his eyes towards his son. ‘Iván! ’ Iván was weeping. ’ he said. The old man closed his eyes, moved his lips as if to gather strength, and opening his eyes again, said: ‘You’ll manage. ’ He paused, then smiled, and said: ‘Mind, Iván! Don’t tell who started the fire! ’ And the old man took the candle in both hands and, folding them on his breast, sighed, stretched out, and died. Iván did not say anything against Gabriel, and no one knew what had caused the fire. And Iván’s anger against Gabriel passed away, and Gabriel wondered that Iván did not tell anybody.

I struggled on alone for a while,’ said the old woman, ‘but at last I broke down too for want of food, and grew quite weak. The girl also grew weak and timid. I told her to go to the neighbours – she would not leave the hut, but crept into a corner and sat there. The day before yesterday a neighbour looked in, but seeing that we were ill and hungry she turned away and left us. Her husband has had to go away, and she has nothing for her own little ones to eat. ’ Having heard their story, Elisha gave up the thought of overtaking his comrade that day, and remained with them all night.

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