Caesara- (pages 1-2)
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Caesara

*

It was a summer morning. The sea spread out its endless blue expanse, the sun rose slowly in the deep blue serenity of the sky, the flowers woke refreshed after the long nightís turning gray; here and there idling in the heat, they frittered into small sand and stone pieces.

Among stone crags, to the west, rose an old monastery enclosed by walls like a citadel; above the walls, in places you could see the green top of a poplar or chestnut tree. The steep roofs of moldy hollow tiles, the black dome of the church, the enclosing walls crumbling and overgrown by rich vegetation, by ants building tiny states, by long processions of red insects lazily idling in the sun, the century-old oak gate, the stone steps worn and corroded by walking, all these things together led you to the conclusion that here was a ruin kept up as an item of curiosity, rather than a place to live in.

On the tight hand side of the monastery rose wooded hills, vegetable gardens, tiny villages with white house strewn along the bottom of the valleys; on the left hand side there was a road threading like a white ribbon through vast green fields vanishing into the distance; in front of it was the sea, some rocky crags from under the water piercing its surface in places.

Along the surrounding walls, footpaths were climbing the hill-side, now and then impeded in their course by mole heaps. Along one of these paths, you could see an old monk making for the gate or the monastery, his hands behind his back. His cassock was of tough woolen fabric, he was girt with white braid, art of his wooden rosary beads were hanging out of his bosom, his wooden sandals dragged and clattered at every step. His white beard was somewhat thin, his eyes like whey, expressionless and rather imbecile; there was no resignation or asceticism.

Having reached the gate, he pulled the bell, a novice opened and he entered the seemingly abandoned monastery yard; it was paved with square stones among which tall grasses grew abundantly, a pond in the middle, banks, banks overgrown with all sorts of wild weeds: large-leafed burdock, mullein, sweet melilot and the vetchling that weaves layers of flowers on top of the greenery strangling it in the knotty net of its twigs. A long, shady, cobwebbed corridor led to a staircase, then into the yard. The old man opened the entrance door and disappeared within the building.

If you looked at it from the garden you could see, in the long high wall of the monastery precincts, black-barred windows; a single one was overgrown with ivy and behind those meshes of dark leaves stood earthen pots planted with white roses, their heads pining for the sun.

That window opened into a cell the walls of which were covered with all sorts of strange sketches in pencil; here the figure of a saint, there a dog romping on the grass, further on the well-drawn picture of a horned cockroach, flowers, bushes, womenís heads, nightcaps, slippers, in short a whole book of sketches spread out on the walls. A bookcase with canonical books, a high-backed chair, clerical clothes hanging from a nail, a wooden chest painted with all kinds of flowers, a simple bed with a pair of slippers underneath, plus a black tomcat, such was the complete outfit. The sunís rays pierced the living and trembling net a the window filling the semiobscurity with shafts of light within which thousands of moving specks were all dancing, actuated by a sunray and bound to vanish with it.

A young monk was sitting in the chair. He was there in those moments of pleasant idleness that a large dog experiences when he stretches his muscles in the sun, lazy, drowsy, free of all desires. A high and equally large forehead framed by shiny black hair rose over a pair of eyes sunken in their sockets and a delicate nose. A thin-lipped mouth, a well-rounded chin, eyes, so to speak, content with something like self-confidence which might easily become boldness; their expression was a strange mixture of dream and cold reason.

He went up to the window and looked down into the garden, at the tender grass growing in the virgin shade of the trees, at the oranges flashing yellow through the leaves, then took up a pencil and drew an orange on the wall. He picked up a slipper, placed it on the table and looked at it, then opened a clerical book and painted the slipper on the corner of a page. Such desecration of holy books! All the margins were full of womenís profiles, clergymen, knights, beggars, clowns, to put in shortly, it was the reality of life daubed on every available corner.

The old man entered suddenly.

'Bless me, father.'

'Bless you!'

'I say, Hyeronimo', the old man was cheerful and sounded a bit cracked-up, 'what are you working on now, you madcap?'

'Working, did you say? Have I ever been working? Such a supposition is an insult to my character, father. I never do any work. I just play, drawing nonsense, rubbish. As for work... I have more sense, though I may not show it.'

'Youíre wrong not to study painting.'

'I am neither wrong nor right, since I do nothing. Iím just playing.'

'Youíre burying the coin, son, youíre burying it.'

'Burying the devil I am, father.'

'Get thee behind me, Satan!' the old man said, hopping and falling into his arms.

Hyeronimo laughed.

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