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The Torrent Entre Naranjos

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"Your friends are waiting for you at the Club. They saw you for a moment only, this morning; they'll be wanting to hear all your stories about life in Madrid."

Doña Bernarda fixed upon the young deputy a pair of deep, scrutinizing, severely maternal eyes that recalled to Rafael all the roguish anxieties of his childhood.

"Are you going directly to the Club?..." she added. "Andrés will be starting too, right away."

Rafael, in reply, wished a blunt "good-afternoon" to his mother and don Andrés, who were still at table sipping their coffee, and strode out of the dining-room.

Finding himself on the broad, red-marble staircase in the silence of that ancient mansion, of such princely magnificence, he experienced the sudden sense of comfort and wellbeing that a traveler feels on plunging into a bath after a tedious journey.

Ever since he had arrived, with the noisy reception at the station, the hurrahs, the deafening music, handshakes here, crowding there, the pushing and elbowing of more than a thousand people who had thronged the streets of Alcira to get a close look at him, this was the first moment he had found himself alone, his own master, able to do exactly as he pleased, without needing to smile automatically in all directions and welcome with demonstrations of affection persons whose faces he could scarcely recall.

What a deep breath of relief he drew as he went down the deserted staircase, which echoed his every footstep! How large and beautiful the patio was! How broad and lustrous the leaves of the plantains flourishing in their green boxes! There he had spent the best years of his childhood. The little boys who in those days used to be hiding behind the wide portal, waiting for a chance to play with the son of the powerful don Ramón Brull, were now the grown men, the sinewy orchard workers, who had been parading from the station to his house, waving their arms, and shouting vivas for their deputy—Alcira's "favorite son."

This contrast between the past and present flattered Rafael's conceit, though, in the background of his thoughts, the suspicion lurked that his mother had been not a little instrumental in the preparation of his noisy reception, not to mention don Andrés, and numerous other friends, ever loyal to anyone connected with the greatness of the Brulls, caciques—political bosses—and leading citizens of the district.

To enjoy these recollections of childhood and the pleasure of finding himself once more at home, after several months in Madrid, he stood for some time motionless in the patio, looking up at the balconies of the first story, then at the attic windows—from which in mischievous years gone by he had many a time withdrawn his head at the sound of his mother's scolding voice—and lastly, at the veil of luminous blue above—a patch of sky drenched in that Spanish sunlight which ripens the oranges to clusters of flaming gold.

He thought he could still see his father—the imposing, solemn don Ramón—sauntering about the patio, his hands behind his back, answering in a few impressive words the questions flung at him by his party adherents, who followed him about with idolatrous eyes....