(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Boaz Negro, a blind Portuguese immigrant cobbler living in a small New England fishing village, has faced his disability and other hardships, such as the death of his wife, unflinchingly and with a cheerful equanimity that flows from his ineradicable joy in life. He loves his fellow townspeople, whom he recognizes by their footsteps, but he especially dotes on his son, Manuel. He is always ready to supply the young man with pocket money, unable to see that his spoiling has made Manuel too lazy to set on a definite career path. Manuel contrasts sharply with Campbell Walker, Boaz’s lodger, who has moved to the town to take an important position at the local bank, and who gives every sign of being destined for prominence.

The story’s pivotal events occur one evening when Campbell tries to make Boaz aware of his son’s slothfulness. Their conversation is inconclusive because Boaz resolutely maintains that his son is too sickly to hold a steady job. In the course of the talk, Campbell drops a concealed money bag. Taking the cobbler into his confidence, he explains he must hide some bank gold in his room overnight. Campbell does not realize that Manuel is eavesdropping from the other room. Later, Boaz hears Campbell invite Manuel to a game of cards and then hears one man leave the building. Boaz broods over these occurrences, finding out almost too late that his house is on fire.

Once the fire is doused, a charred body, apparently that of the...

(The entire section is 562 words.)