(Essentials of European Literature)

Batiste Borrull brought his family to a district near Valencia to take up a small truck farm that had lain idle for more than ten years. None of the Borrulls knew that other farmers in the district had vowed that the owners of the farm should never reap any profit from its rich soil. When Batiste and his family arrived, they knew only that the stares and lack of greeting meant that they were not welcome.

The former tenant of the farm had been a very meek old man named Barret, a farmer who would do anything to keep his land, which meant more to him than did his family. The owner of the farm, Don Salvador, lived in the nearby city of Valencia. He took advantage of Barret’s meekness and his love of the land and raised the rent year after year, always knowing that the old farmer would somehow find a way to get the money. Charging a large amount of interest, he even lent Barret money to buy a horse when the old one died of overwork. At last, the rent for the rich acres exceeded the income from the crops; Barret and his family sold all of their bits of finery and used up all of their savings to pay the rent, but such actions only postponed their inevitable ruin. At last, the time came when they could not pay the rent.

When that fateful day arrived, Barret was forcibly put off his farm by officers of the law. The old man went berserk that night and crept off into the canebrakes. The next day, he found Don Salvador alone on the road and killed him with a scythe. He also destroyed all the crops so that the heirs of Don Salvador would not gain anything by his labors. Old Barret was imprisoned for his deed, and his daughters became prostitutes in Valencia. The neighbors collectively vowed that no one should farm the place and thus make it profitable for the heirs of the hateful Don Salvador. Several people before Batiste Borrull had come to take over the place, but the farmers had rapidly driven off each newcomer.

Batiste and his family stayed on the farm and worked as busily as ants for many days. While they were on their own land, not even Pimento, the neighborhood bully, dared bother them, for the home was sacred to those simple peasants. In addition, Batiste was a very large and strong man. When he and his family ended their initial labors, the house was repaired and half of the land was under cultivation. Once again, the place looked prosperous, even more so than the fields around it. To the neighbors’ original prejudice was added envy.

Roseta, Batiste’s daughter, went to work in the silk mills of Valencia, returning to her home each night from the city. Many of the girls from the district worked in the factory, and Roseta quickly learned that she was not wanted in their company any more than her family was wanted in the district.

The three little boys of Batiste fared no better in school. The other boys picked on them and thrashed them at every opportunity, even though the young Borrulls gave no...

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