rimmed spectacles and very dusty clothes sat by the side of the road. There was
a pontoon bridge across the river and carts, trucks, and men, women and
children were crossing it. The mule- drawn carts staggered up the steep bank
from the bridge with soldiers helping push against the spokes of the wheels.
The trucks ground up and away heading out of it all and the peasants plodded
along in the ankle deep dust. But the old man sat there without moving. He was
too tired to go any farther.
cross the bridge, explore the bridgehead beyond and find out to what point the
enemy had advanced. I did this and returned over the bridge. There were not so
many carts now and very few people on foot, but the old man was still there.
come from?” I asked him.
Carlos,” he said, and smiled.
town and so it gave him pleasure to mention it and he smiled.
care of animals,” he explained.
said, not quite understanding.
said, “I stayed, you see, taking care of animals. I was the last one to
leave the town of San Carlos.”
a shepherd nor a herdsman and I looked at his black dusty clothes and his gray
dusty face and his steel rimmed spectacles and said, “What animals were
animals,” he said, and shook his head. “I had to leave them.”
bridge and the African looking country of the Ebro Delta and wondering how long
now it would be before we would see the enemy, and listening all the while for
the first noises that would signal that ever mysterious event called contact,
and the old man still sat there.
were they?” I asked.
three animals altogether,” he explained. “There were two goats and a
cat and then there were four pairs of pigeons.”
them?” I asked.
the artillery. The captain told me to go because of the artillery.”
family?” I asked, watching the far end of the bridge where a few last carts
were hurrying down the slope of the bank.
said, “only the animals I stated. The cat, of course, will be all right. A
cat can look out for itself, but I cannot think what will become of the
have you?” I asked.
politics,” he said. “I am seventy-six years old. I have come twelve
kilometers now and I think now I can go no further.”
good place to stop,” I said. “If you can make it, there are trucks up
the road where it forks for Tortosa.”
while,” he said, “and then I will go. Where do the trucks go?”
Barcelona,” I told him.
in that direction,” he said, “but thank you very much. Thank you
again very much.”
blankly and tiredly, and then said, having to share his worry with someone,
“The cat will be all right, I am sure. There is no need to be unquiet
about the cat. But the others. Now what do you think about the others?”
probably come through it all right.”
I said, watching the far bank where now there were no carts.
they do under the artillery when I was told to leave because of the
the dove cage unlocked?” I asked.
they’ll fly. But the others. It’s better not to think about the others,”
rested I would go,” I urged. “Get up and try to walk now.”
you,” he said and got to his feet, swayed from side to side and then sat
down backwards in the dust.
care of animals,” he said dully, but no longer to me. “I was only
taking care of animals.”
do about him. It was Easter Sunday and the Fascists were advancing toward the
Ebro. It was a gray overcast day with a low ceiling so their planes were not
up. That and the fact that cats know how to look after themselves was all the
good luck that old man would ever have.