Part 1, Chapter 4 Summary
Mr. Tench has decided to write a letter to his wife, Sylvia. It has been many years since he has written to her. They exchanged letters once when their son died. He is sending it to his mother-in-law, even though she despises him. If his wife has remarried (without getting a divorce), it could cause complications, so he knows her mother will tear up the letter rather than forward it. As he tries to think of what to say, Mr. Tench melts some gold for fillings. He is interrupted by a knock on his door. He opens it and admits a patient.
Padre Jose wanders around the cemetery. Many of these people he buried when he was a priest and religious services were still legal. He sees an open grave with people standing before a child’s casket. The old man calls him by name and asks him to conduct the service. Padre Jose refuses, fearing for his safety. He knows that he cannot trust anyone, even a family in grief. They continue to beg, but Padre Jose still will not so much as offer a prayer. He walks away and leaves the family to their grief. He returns home and sinks into despair, which he feels is the unforgivable sin.
The mother continues to read to her two daughters and son out of the book of the martyr Juan. She tells of his acting in a play about the early Christians, much as he had when he was a small boy. The boy says that he does not believe a word of it. His mother sends him to his father, who sympathizes with his cynicism. He remembers when the Church was active. It gave him a sense of community, even though he was not so sure about God.
Mrs. Fellowes is teaching history to Coral, but she stops, pleading a headache. She has been homeschooling her daughter during their time in Mexico. Coral goes down to the banana warehouse and sees that her father is not there. Since the business is being neglected, Coral takes over and gets busy, but soon begins to feel ill.
The lieutenant finds the chief of police (“jefe”) shooting billiards, still bothered by his toothache. The chief tells the lieutenant that the governor has ordered that he use all means necessary to capture the renegade priest before the rains come. The lieutenant leaves and is almost hit by a bottle thrown by a small boy, who explains that he is playing a game. The lieutenant shows the boy his gun. The lieutenant wishes that he could eliminate everything from the boy’s life that makes him miserable—first the Church, then the foreigner, and finally, the politician.