(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

There is much excitement in the home of Esteban, a wealthy peasant living in an outlying section of a small town in Castile, Spain. The engagement of his stepdaughter Acacia to Faustino, son of Tio Eusebio, a friend of Esteban, has just been announced, and friends of Raimunda, Acacia’s mother, are coming by to talk about the event. Acacia, after turning down several suitors, has finally consented to Faustino’s suit. The women are wondering whether Acacia still thinks about Norbert, who some time before had broken off his engagement to her without explanation.

Fidelia, one of the callers, says that she saw Norbert leaving angrily with his gun after the engagement was announced that afternoon. Another, Engracia, shrewdly suspects that the young woman has accepted Faustino to get away from Esteban, against whom she has borne a grudge for marrying Raimunda so soon after the death of her first husband. Raimunda assures her friends that she has seen no signs of ill feeling toward Esteban from Acacia except in her unwillingness to call him “father.” Certainly Esteban has been most generous to both of them.

Night is coming on. Faustino and his father, who live in the next village, will have no moonlight for their journey, and hungry husbands will soon be demanding suppers, so the party ends. Esteban offers to accompany his friends to the edge of the village.

Raimunda, still not certain how her daughter feels about the coming marriage, begins questioning her, and she is reassured by her daughter’s replies. Only Juliana, a servant, strikes a sour note as she begins to tidy the house after the party, declaring that she wishes that Acacia’s real father had lived to see this day. Milagros, a friend who has stayed to see Acacia’s hope chest, also asks the young woman how she feels toward Norbert. When Milagros suggests that Acacia is still in love with him, Acacia’s answer is to tear his last letter to her into bits and throw the pieces out the window into the darkness.

At that moment, a gunshot is heard outside, and Raimunda sends Juliana to investigate. The servant returns with villagers who are carrying the body of Faustino. No one saw the shot fired, but the women are sure Norbert was the assassin. When a trial is held, however, unbiased...

(The entire section is 936 words.)