Summary and Analysis
This chapter opens with several pages of lush descriptive writing, offering a picture of the landscape and its ancient, timeless character. The viewpoint is panoramic, panning across mountain, valley, and village below. The omniscient narrator describes various kinds of wildlife: birds — including road runners, quail and hawks — then snakes are mentioned; wild mammals like foxes, bobcats, mountain lions, and wolves are enumerated; and golden eagles, frogs, and lizards are also included in the catalogue. The narrator regards these wild creatures as superior to the later, domestic animals brought by Europeans: horses, sheep, dogs, and cats. The indigenous peoples have ancient rights to the land, having occupied it for 25,000 years — and their gods before them. The people are conservative; change does not appeal to or interest them, and they have maintained their essential identity and ancient customs even through the centuries-long process of occupation by European/Christian newcomers.
After these descriptive and meditative paragraphs, the narrator follows Abel and his thoughts as he walks through the canyon above the plain. Abel reflects on his inability to reenter the life of the village; he is inarticulate in his native language and unable to communicate even with those closest to him. In the peaceful landscape of the canyon, he begins to feel more serene; he would like to compose a song honoring the creation of this extraordinary world. He passes abandoned settlements and the shaft of a copper mine and finds himself, early in the afternoon, approaching the Benevides house and the buildings belonging to the spa at the mineral springs.
The next few pages move to Angela Grace St. John's point of view as she hears Abel enter her gate and begin to work again at chopping her wood. She walks down to the spa and has a mineral bath; when she returns, she encounters Abel, who has completed his task. They go into the house, and Angela sets about completing a plan of seduction, but her plan is co-opted and she finds her emotions are very different from what she had predicted. After a brief conversation, she and Abel make love.
The remainder of the chapter moves to yet another point of view, a cornfield near the village where an old man is finishing an exhausting day of cultivating the plants. Not identified by name, the old man is apparently Francisco, as indicated by his lame leg. Underneath the rustling whispers of the corn leaves, he believes he hears a sound and realizes that some evil presence has been waiting in the field. Resigned to what life brings, the old man leaves the field after a brief prayer. As the irrigation water moves between the rows of plants, the narrator suggests that the alien, evil presence is the weak-eyed, eyelash-less albino.
metate a mortar for grinding corn, seeds, chili peppers, and the like.
Tanoan one of the language groups of the Southwest.
Valle Grande Great Valley.
Torreon a city in Mexico.
Alesia a city in Gaul defended by Vercingetorix and conquered after a long siege by Caesar.