Table of Contents
The chapter introduces the protagonist in the form of a stranger, which is very appropriate since nowhere in the book is his name revealed. His appearance is not very priestly; he wears a suit and is unshaven and unclean. Little else is learned about this stranger in the opening chapter, but there are a few hints that allow the reader to surmise that the stranger is a Priest: 1) when Mr. Tench tells him that one of his children is dead, the Priest asks him whether he died in a Christian country; 2) when asked about his occupation, the stranger quite unwillingly admits that he is some sort of doctor (perhaps a healer of souls); 3) the book that he leaves behind, The Eternal Martyr, is in Latin (and is really just a cover for the religious book he hides inside); and 4) he ends the chapter in prayer. This closing prayer, however, raises the question of what this man is trying to escape and why does he want to be caught.
Mr. Tench is developed in more detail. He is forgetful, not remembering the ether cylinder that seems important to him. He lies without hesitation, telling the custom official he will have his false teeth ready by evening. He does not appear well, for he constantly clears his throat and spits into the street. He is preoccupied with money, especially since his dental practice does not do well. Tench feels trapped in a futile existence in Mexico, and he is unable to save enough money to escape.
There are several Themes that this chapter foreshadows. To begin with, Tench thinks about the sham of government prohibition in the province. The reader clearly sees cases of beer being unloaded from the General Obregon (named after a past Mexican President); but it is a government ship, and the government has produced the beer, which is very expensive. There is, therefore, smuggling of hard liquor. Later on in the book, the protagonist is accused of smuggling and is punished. The next theme that the chapter touches upon is the loneliness of Tench, who has lived by himself for fifteen years. He is, therefore, pleased to see the pretty girl on the ship. Later in the book, it is loneliness that leads the priest to the sin of adultery. The third theme is Tench's inability to help his children, for he lives too far from them. The protagonist will be in a similar predicament later in the book.