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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
Ultima fits into the routine of the family. She helps María with breakfast and other housework. María is very happy to have someone to talk to. Usually, María has to wait until Sunday when her women friends from town come to visit. Deborah and Theresa are also happy because Ultima helps with the household chores. They have more time to cut out paper dolls and make them act out scenes. Gabriel is pleased because he can tell Ultima his dream of moving west to California. His dream had been thwarted by the war which took his sons. On Saturday nights he drinks and rages against age, the town "on the opposite side of the river which drained a man of his freedom," and then he cries about the war that had ruined his dream. Antonio is sad to see his father cry, but he knows that even men must sometimes cry.
Antonio is also happy to have Ultima living in his house. He walks with her on the llano and along the river to gather herbs and roots. She teaches him the names of plants and flowers, trees and bushes, birds and animals. He learns about the beauty in the time of day and the time of night. He learns about the peace in the river and in the hills. She teaches Antonio to "listen to the mystery of the groaning earth and to feel complete in the fulfillment of its time." He feels his soul grow under her guidance. Before Ultima, he had felt afraid of the presence he feels in the river, which is the soul of the river. Ultima teaches him that his spirit shares in the spirit of all things. Nevertheless, the innocence of this time is short-lived. The town's affairs begin to encroach upon them. Ultima's owl warns them that their peace is almost over.
On Saturday night, everyone has gone to bed, when Antonio hears the owl's warning. A man bangs on the door and calls Gabriel. It is Chávez calling out urgently that his brother has been killed. María mistakenly believes it is news of her sons' deaths. Chávez repeats over and over that a man has killed his brother. Antonio knows that Chávez's brother was the sheriff of the town. Chávez says it was Lupito. Gabriel sighs about Lupito who returned from the war insane. Chávez tells Gabriel to get his rifle and come down to the bridge where Lupito has gone. Gabriel loads his rifle while Chávez tells him the story. His brother had finished his rounds and was having a cup of coffee in a cafe when Lupito came up to him and shot him in the head without warning. The two men leave.
Antonio sneaks out to follow the men to the bridge. His mother is in the sala (parlor) praying before her altar. Antonio cuts off to the right when they near the bridge. He hides in the brush beside the river. He pushes through the thick woods until he comes to the river where he can see the floodlights of the men on the bridge. He catches sight of Lupito nearby crouched in the reeds of the river. He sees that Lupito holds a pistol. He makes a sound and Lupito looks directly at him, but just then the floodlight blinds him.
Lupito cries out in rage and pain. Antonio knows that the presence of the river watches Lupito. Lupito calls out "Japanese sol'jer!" several times. He says he is wounded and needs help. Suddenly, Lupito leaps up and runs through the water toward Antonio. Then he returns to the reeds. The lights lose him. He screams again. Antonio feels that Lupito has become a wild animal.
Vigil, a state policeman, drives onto the bridge. The men tell him of Chávez's murder. Jasón's father says they should kill Lupito. Chávez says Lupito is an animal and must be shot. The men agree. Gabriel Márez, however, urges caution. Antonio can see Lupito forty feet away from him. Antonio feels paralyzed and unable to move, "like a chained spectator." Antonio hears Narciso say that Márez is right. Narciso is from Las Pasturas and drinks with Gabriel. He tells the men to act like men. He says Lupito is a man, not an animal. The men dismiss what Narciso says because his is an alcoholic. Narciso begs them to try to talk to Lupito. Chávez shoots into the river. Narciso says he will talk to Lupito.
Narciso calls down to Lupito that he is a friend and he wants to help. He reminds him of times before the war. Antonio sees Lupito crying, torn between surrendering and fleeing. Then Lupito jumps up and shoots into the air. The men on the bridge think he fired at them. Only Antonio knows Lupito is not shooting at them, but is only trying to draw their fire. The men on the bridge shoot. Lupito is shot many times. He gets up and runs to the bank of the river close to Antonio. Antonio thinks he hears Lupito say "Bless me-" Antonio hears the men on the bridge running toward Lupito.
He turns and runs. He feels horrified by the darkness as he runs. He prays over and over the Act of Contrition. His mother had taught him the words to be said after a person made confession to a priest and as the last prayer before death. He wonders if God will hear him. He wonders where Lupito's soul is going, if it is rising or "if it was washing down the river to the fertile valley of my uncles' farms." He knows a priest would have saved Lupito. He wishes his mother did not want him to be a priest. He does not know how he will ever "wash the stain of blood from the sweet waters of my river!" He sobs.