"In the town they tell the story of the great pearl- how it was found and how it was lost again. They
tell of Kino, the fisherman, and of his wife, Juana, and of the baby, Coyotito. And because the story
has been told so often, it has taken root in every man's mind. And, as with all retold tales that are in
people's hearts, there are only good and bad things and black and white things and good and evil
things and no in-between anywhere.
"If this story is a parable, perhaps everyone takes his own meaning from it and reads his own life into
it. In any case, they say in the town that..."
Kino awakened in the near dark. The stars still shone and the day had drawn only a pale wash of
light in the lower sky to the east. The roosters had been crowing for some time, and the early pigs
were already beginning their ceaseless turning of twigs and bits of wood to see whether anything to
eat had been overlooked. Outside the brush house in the tuna clump, a covey of little birds chittered
and flurried with their wings.
Kino's eyes opened, and he looked first at the lightening square which was the door and
then he looked at the hanging box where Coyotito slept. And last he turned his head to Juana, his
wife, who lay beside him on the mat, her blue head shawl over her nose and over her breasts and
around the small of her back. Juana's eyes were open too. Kino could never remember seeing them
closed when he awakened. Her dark eyes made little reflected stars. She was looking at him as she
was always looking at him when he awakened.
Kino heard the little splash of morning waves on the beach. It was very good- Kino closed
his eyes again to listen to his music. Perhaps he alone did this and perhaps all of his people did it. His
people had once been great makers of songs so that everything they saw or thought or did or heard
became a song. That was very long ago. The songs remained; Kino knew them, but no new songs
were added. That does not mean that there were no personal songs. In Kino's head there was a
song now, clear and soft, and if he had been able to speak of it, he would have called it the Song of
His blanket was over his nose to protect him from the dank air. His eyes flicked to a rustle
beside him. It was Juana arising, almost soundlessly. On her hard bare feet she went to the hanging
box where Coyotito slept, and she leaned over and said a little reassuring word. Coyotito looked up
for a moment and closed his eyes and slept again.
Juana went to the fire pit and uncovered a coal and fanned it alive while she broke little
pieces of brush over it.
Now Kino got up and wrapped his blanket about his head and nose and shoulders. He
slipped his feet into his sandals and went outside to watch the dawn.
Outside the door he squatted down and gathered the blanket ends about his knees. He saw
the specks of Gulf clouds flame high in the air. And a goat came near and sniffed at him and stared
with its cold yellow eyes. Behind him Juana's fire leaped into flame and threw spears of light through
the chinks of the brush-house wall and threw a wavering square of light out the door. A late moth
blustered in to find the fire. The Song of the Family came now from behind Kino. And the rhythm of
the family song was the grinding stone where Juana worked the corn for the morning cakes.
The dawn came quickly now, a wash, a glow, a lightness, and then an explosion of fire as
the sun arose out of the Gulf. Kino looked down to cover his eyes from the glare. He could hear the
pat of the corncakes in the house and the rich smell of them on the cooking plate. The ants were
busy on the ground, big black ones with shiny bodies, and little dusty quick ants. Kino watched with
the detachment of God while a dusty ant frantically tried to escape the sand trap an ant lion had dug
for him. A thin, timid dog came close and, at a soft word from Kino, curled up, arranged its tail
neatly over its feet, and laid its chin delicately on the pile. It was a black dog with yellow-gold spots
where its eyebrows should have been. It was a morning like other mornings and yet perfect among
Kino heard the creak of the rope when Juana took Coyotito out of his hanging box and
cleaned him and hammocked him in her shawl in a loop that placed him close to her breast. Kino
could see these things without looking at them. Juana sang softly an ancient song that had only three
notes and yet endless variety of interval. And this was part of the family song too. It was all part.
Sometimes it rose to an aching chord that caught the throat, saying this is safety, this is warmth, this
is the Whole.
Across the brush fence were other brush houses, and the smoke camefrom them too, and
the sound of breakfast, but those were other songs,their pigs were other pigs, their wives were not
Juana. Kino was youngand strong and his black hair hung over his brown forehead. His eyeswere
warm and fierce and bright and his mustache was thin andcoarse. He lowered his blanket from his
nose now, for the darkpoisonous air was gone and the yellow sunlight fell on the house. Nearthe
brush fence two roosters bowed and feinted at each other withsquared wings and neck feathers
ruffed out. It would be a clumsyfight. They were not game chickens. Kino watched them for a
moment,and then his eyes went up to a flight of wild doves twinkling inlandto the hills. The world
was awake now, and Kino arose and went intohis brush house.
As he came through the door Juana stood up from the glowing firepit. She put Coyotito
back in his hanging box and then she combedher black hair and braided it in two braids and tied the
ends withthin green ribbon. Kino squatted by the fire pit and rolled a hotcorncake and dipped it in
sauce and ate it. And he drank a littlepulque and that was breakfast. That was the only breakfast he
had everknown outside of feast days and one incredible fiesta on cookiesthat had nearly killed him.
When Kino had finished, Juana came back tothe fire and ate her breakfast. They had spoken once,
but there is notneed for speech if it is only a habit anyway. Kino sighed withsatisfaction- and that
The sun was warming the brush house, breaking through its crevicesin long streaks. And one
of the streaks fell on the hanging boxwhere Coyotito lay, and on the ropes that held it.
It was a tiny movement that drew their eyes to the hanging box. Kinoand Juana froze in their
positions. Down the rope that hung the baby'sbox from the roof support a scorpion moved slowly.
His stinging tailwas straight out behind him, but he could whip it up in a flash oftime.
Kino's breath whistled in his nostrils and he opened his mouth tostop it. And then the startled
look was gone from him and the rigidityfrom his body. In his mind a new song had come, the Song
of Evil,the music of the enemy, of any foe of the family, a savage, secret,dangerous melody, and
underneath, the Song of the Family criedplaintively.
The scorpion moved delicately down the rope toward the box. Underher breath Juana
repeated an ancient magic to guard against such evil,and on top of that she muttered a Hail Mary
between clenched teeth.But Kino was in motion. His body glided quietly across the room,noiselessly
and smoothly. His hands were in front of him, palmsdown, and his eyes were on the scorpion.
Beneath it in the hanging boxCoyotito laughed and reached up his hand toward it. It sensed
dangerwhen Kino was almost within reach of it. It stopped, and its tail roseup over its back in little
jerks and the curved thorn on the tail'send glistened.
Kino stood perfectly still. He could hear Juana whispering the oldmagic again, and he could
hear the evil music of the enemy. He couldnot move until the scorpion moved, and it felt for the
source of thedeath that was coming to it. Kino's hand went forward very slowly,very smoothly. The
thorned tail jerked upright. And at that moment thelaughing Coyotito shook the rope and the
Kino's hand leaped to catch it, but it fell past his fingers, fellon the baby's shoulder, landed
and struck. Then, snarling, Kino hadit, had it in his fingers, rubbing it to a paste in his hands.
Hethrew it down and beat it into the earth floor with his fist, andCoyotito screamed with pain in his
box. But Kino beat and stampedthe enemy until it was only a fragment and a moist place in thedirt.
His teeth were bared and fury flared in his eyes and the Song ofthe Enemy roared in his ears.
But Juana had the baby in her arms now. She found the puncturewith redness starting from it
already. She put her lips down overthe puncture and sucked hard and spat and sucked again
Kino hovered; he was helpless, he was in the way.
The screams of the baby brought the neighbors. Out of their brushhouses they poured-
Kino's brother Juan Tomas and his fat wifeApolonia and their four children crowded in the door and
blocked theentrance, while behind them others tried to look in, and one small boycrawled among
legs to have a look. And those in front passed theword back to those behind- "Scorpion. The baby
has been stung."
Juana stopped sucking the puncture for a moment. The little hole wasslightly enlarged and its
edges whitened from the sucking, but the redswelling extended farther around it in a hard lymphatic
mound. And allof these people knew about the scorpion. An adult might be very illfrom the sting, but
a baby could easily die from the poison. First,they knew, would come swelling and fever and
tightened throat, andthen cramps in the stomach, and then Coyotito might die if enough ofthe poison
had gone in. But the stinging pain of the bite was goingaway. Coyotito's screams turned to moans.
Kino had wondered often at the iron in his patient, fragile wife.She, who was obedient and
respectful and cheerful and patient, shecould arch her back in child pain with hardly a cry. She could
standfatigue and hunger almost better than Kino himself. In the canoe shewas like a strong man. And
now she did a most surprising thing.
"The doctor," she said. "Go to get the doctor."
The word was passed out among the neighbors where they stood closepacked in the little
yard behind the brush fence. And they repeatedamong themselves, "Juana wants the doctor." A
wonderful thing, amemorable thing, to want the doctor. To get him would be aremarkable thing. The
doctor never came to the cluster of brushhouses. Why should he, when he had more than he could
do to takecare of the rich people who lived in the stone and plaster houses ofthe town.
"He would not come," the people in the yard said.
"He would not come," the people in the door said, and the thoughtgot into Kino.
"The doctor would not come," Kino said to Juana.
She looked up at him, her eyes as cold as the eyes of a lioness.This was Juana's first baby-
this was nearly everything there was inJuana's world. And Kino saw her determination and the music
of thefamily sounded in his head with a steely tone.
"Then we will go to him," Juana said, and with one hand she arrangedher dark blue shawl
over her head and made of one end of it a sling tohold the moaning baby and made of the other end
of it a shade over hiseyes to protect him from the light. The people in the door pushedagainst those
behind to let her through. Kino followed her. Theywent out of the gate to the rutted path and the
The thing had become a neighborhood affair. They made a quicksoft-footed procession into
the center of the town, first Juana andKino, and behind them Juan Tomas and Apolonia, her big
stomachjiggling with the strenuous pace, then all the neighbors with thechildren trotting on the flanks.
And the yellow sun threw theirblack shadows ahead of them so that they walked on their own
They came to the place where the brush houses stopped and the cityof stone and plaster
began, the city of harsh outer walls and innercool gardens where a little water played and the
bougainvillaeacrusted the walls with purple and brick-red and white. They heard fromthe secret
gardens the singing of caged birds and heard the splashof cooling water on hot flagstones. The
procession crossed theblinding plaza and passed in front of the church. It had grown now,and on the
outskirts the hurrying newcomers were being softly informedhow the baby had been stung by a
scorpion, how the father and motherwere taking it to the doctor.
And the newcomers, particularly the beggars from the front of thechurch who were great
experts in financial analysis, looked quickly atJuana's old blue skirt, saw the tears in her shawl,
appraised thegreen ribbon on her braids, read the age of Kino's blanket and thethousand washings
of his clothes, and set them down as povertypeople and went along to see what kind of drama might
develop. Thefour beggars in front of the church knew everything in the town.They were students of
the expressions of young women as they went into confession, and they saw them as they came out
and read thenature of the sin. They knew every little scandal and some very bigcrimes. They slept at
their posts in the shadow of the church sothat no one crept in for consolation without their
knowledge. And theyknew the doctor. They knew his ignorance, his cruelty, his avarice,his
appetites, his sins. They knew his clumsy abortions and the littlebrown pennies he gave sparingly for
alms. They had seen his corpses gointo the church. And, since early Mass was over and business
was slow,they followed the procession, these endless searchers after perfectknowledge of their
fellow men, to see what the fat lazy doctor woulddo about an indigent baby with a scorpion bite.
The scurrying procession came at last to the big gate in the wall ofthe doctor's house. They
could hear the splashing water and thesinging of caged birds and the sweep of the long brooms on
theflagstones. And they could smell the frying of good bacon from thedoctor's house.
Kino hesitated a moment. This doctor was not of his people. Thisdoctor was of a race
which for nearly four hundred years had beatenand starved and robbed and despised Kino's race,
and frightened ittoo, so that the indigene came humbly to the door. And as alwayswhen he came
near to one of this race, Kino felt weak and afraid andangry at the same time. Rage and terror went
together. He could killthe doctor more easily than he could talk to him, for all of thedoctor's race
spoke to all of Kino's race as though they were simpleanimals. And as Kino raised his right hand to
the iron ring knocker inthe gate, rage swelled in him, and the pounding music of the enemybeat in his
ears, and his lips drew tight against his teeth- butwith his left hand he reached to take off his hat. The
iron ringpounded against the gate. Kino took off his hat and stood waiting.Coyotito moaned a little in
Juana's arms, and she spoke softly to him.The procession crowded close the better to see and hear.
After a moment the big gate opened a few inches. Kino could seethe green coolness of the
garden and little splashing fountain throughthe opening. The man who looked out at him was one of
his own race.Kino spoke to him in the old language. "The little one- the firstborn- has been poisoned
by the scorpion," Kino said. "He requiresthe skill of the healer."
The gate closed a little, and the servant refused to speak in theold language. "A little
moment," he said. "I go to inform myself," andhe closed the gate and slid the bolt home. The glaring
sun threw thebunched shadows of the people blackly on the white wall.
In his chamber the doctor sat up in his high bed. He had on hisdressing gown of red watered
silk that had come from Paris, a littletight over the chest now if it was buttoned. On his lap was a
silvertray with a silver chocolate pot and a tiny cup of eggshell china,so delicate that it looked silly
when he lifted it with his bighand, lifted it with the tips of thumb and forefinger and spread theother
three fingers wide to get them out of the way. His eyes restedin puffy little hammocks of flesh and his
mouth drooped withdiscontent. He was growing very stout, and his voice was hoarse withthe fat that
pressed on his throat. Beside him on a table was asmall Oriental gong and a bowl of cigarettes. The
furnishings of theroom were heavy and dark and gloomy. The pictures were religious, eventhe large
tinted photograph of his dead wife, who, if Masses willedand paid for out of her own estate could
do it, was in Heaven. Thedoctor had once for a short time been a part of the great world andhis
whole subsequent life was memory and longing for France. "That,"he said, "was civilized living"- by
which he meant that on a smallincome he had been able to keep a mistress and eat in restaurants.He
poured his second cup of chocolate and crumbled a sweet biscuitin his fingers. The servant from the
gate came to the open door andstood waiting to be noticed.
"Yes?" the doctor asked.
"It is a little Indian with a baby. He says a scorpion stung it."
The doctor put his cup down gently before he let his anger rise.
"Have I nothing better to do than cure insect bites for 'littleIndians'? I am a doctor, not a
"Yes, Patron," said the servant.
"Has he any money?" the doctor demanded. "No, they never have anymoney. I, I alone in
the world am supposed to work for nothing- andI am tired of it. See if he has any money!"
At the gate the servant opened the door a trifle and looked out atthe waiting people. And
this time he spoke in the old language.
"Have you money to pay for the treatment?"
Now Kino reached into a secret place somewhere under his blanket. Hebrought out a paper
folded many times. Crease by crease he unfoldedit, until at last there came to view eight small
misshapen seedpearls, as ugly and gray as little ulcers, flattened and almostvalueless. The servant
took the paper and closed the gate again, butthis time he was not gone long. He opened the gate just
wide enough topass the paper back.
"The doctor has gone out," he said. "He was called to a seriouscase." And he shut the gate
quickly out of shame.
And now a wave of shame went over the whole procession. Theymelted away. The beggars
went back to the church steps, the stragglersmoved off, and the neighbors departed so that the
public shaming ofKino would not be in their eyes.
For a long time Kino stood in front of the gate with Juana besidehim. Slowly he put his
suppliant hat on his head. Then, withoutwarning, he struck the gate a crushing blow with his fist. He
lookeddown in wonder at his split knuckles and at the blood that flowed downbetween his fingers.
The town lay on a broad estuary, its old yellow plasteredbuildings hugging the beach. And
on the beach the white and bluecanoes that came from Nayarit were drawn up, canoes preserved
forgenerations by a hard shell-like waterproof plaster whose making was asecret of the fishing
people. They were high and graceful canoeswith curving bow and stern and a braced section
midships where amast could be stepped to carry a small lateen sail.
The beach was yellow sand, but at the water's edge a rubble of shelland algae took its
place. Fiddler crabs bubbled and sputtered in theirholes in the sand, and in the shallows little lobsters
popped in andout of their tiny homes in the rubble and sand. The sea bottom wasrich with crawling
and swimming and growing things. The brown algaewaved in the gentle currents and the green eel
grass swayed and littlesea horses clung to its stems. Spotted botete, the poison fish, lay onthe
bottom in the eel-grass beds, and the bright-colored swimmingcrabs scampered over them.
On the beach the hungry dogs and the hungry pigs of the townsearched endlessly for any
dead fish or sea bird that might havefloated in on a rising tide.
Although the morning was young, the hazy mirage was up. Theuncertain air that magnified
some things and blotted out others hungover the whole Gulf so that all sights were unreal and vision
couldnot be trusted; so that sea and land had the sharp clarities and thevagueness of a dream. Thus
it might be that the people of the Gulftrust things of the spirit and things of the imagination, but theydo
not trust their eyes to show them distance or clear outline orany optical exactness. Across the
estuary from the town one section ofmangroves stood clear and telescopically defined, while
anothermangrove clump was a hazy black-green blob. Part of the far shoredisappeared into a
shimmer that looked like water. There was nocertainty in seeing, no proof that what you saw was
there or was notthere. And the people of the Gulf expected all places were that way,and it was not
strange to them. A copper haze hung over the water, andthe hot morning sun beat on it and made it
The brush houses of the fishing people were back from the beach onthe right-hand side of
the town, and the canoes were drawn up in frontof this area.
Kino and Juana came slowly down to the beach and to Kino's canoe,which was the one
thing of value he owned in the world. It was veryold. Kino's grandfather had brought it from Nayarit,
and he hadgiven it to Kino's father, and so it had come to Kino. It was atonce property and source
of food, for a man with a boat canguarantee a woman that she will eat something. It is the
bulwarkagainst starvation. And every year Kino refinished his canoe withthe hard shell-like plaster
by the secret method that had also come tohim from his father. Now he came to the canoe and
touched the bowtenderly as he always did. He laid his diving rock and his basketand the two ropes
in the sand by the canoe. And he folded hisblanket and laid it in the bow.
Juana laid Coyotito on the blanket, and she placed her shawl overhim so that the hot sun
could not shine on him. He was quiet now,but the swelling on his shoulder had continued up his neck
and underhis ear and his face was puffed and feverish. Juana went to thewater and waded in. She
gathered some brown seaweed and made a flatdamp poultice of it, and this she applied to the
baby's swollenshoulder, which was as good a remedy as any and probably better thanthe doctor
could have done. But the remedy lacked his authoritybecause it was simple and didn't cost anything.
The stomach cramps hadnot come to Coyotito. Perhaps Juana had sucked out the poison in
time,but she had not sucked out her worry over her first-born. She hadnot prayed directly for the
recovery of the baby- she had prayedthat they might find a pearl with which to hire the doctor to
cure thebaby, for the minds of people are as unsubstantial as the mirage ofthe Gulf.
Now Kino and Juana slid the canoe down the beach to the water, andwhen the bow
floated, Juana climbed in, while Kino pushed the stern inand waded beside it until it floated lightly
and trembled on thelittle breaking waves. Then in coordination Juana and Kino drove
theirdouble-bladed paddles into the sea, and the canoe creased the waterand hissed with speed.
The other pearlers were gone out long since. Ina few moments Kino could see them clustered in the
haze, riding overthe oyster bed.
Light filtered down through the water to the bed where the frillypearl oysters lay fastened to
the rubbly bottom, a bottom strewnwith shells of broken, opened oysters. This was the bed that
hadraised the King of Spain to be a great power in Europe in pastyears, had helped to pay for his
wars, and had decorated thechurches for his soul's sake. The gray oysters with ruffles likeskirts on
the shells, the barnacle-crusted oysters with little bits ofweed clinging to the skirts and small crabs
climbing over them. Anaccident could happen to these oysters, a grain of sand could lie inthe folds
of muscle and irritate the flesh until in self-protectionthe flesh coated the grain with a layer of smooth
cement. But oncestarted, the flesh continued to coat the foreign body until it fellfree in some tidal
flurry or until the oyster was destroyed. Forcenturies men had dived down and torn the oysters from
the beds andripped them open, looking for the coated grains of sand. Swarms offish lived near the
bed to live near the oysters thrown back by thesearching men and to nibble at the shining inner
shells. But thepearls were accidents, and the finding of one was luck, a little paton the back by God
or the gods or both.
Kino had two ropes, one tied to a heavy stone and one to a basket.He stripped off his shirt
and trousers and laid his hat in thebottom of the canoe. The water was oily smooth. He took his
rock inone hand and his basket in the other, and he slipped feet first overthe side and the rock
carried him to the bottom. The bubbles rosebehind him until the water cleared and he could see.
Above, thesurface of the water was an undulating mirror of brightness, and hecould see the bottoms
of the canoes sticking through it.
Kino moved cautiously so that the water would not be obscured withmud or sand. He
hooked his foot in the loop on his rock and hishands worked quickly, tearing the oysters loose,
some singly, othersin clusters. He laid them in his basket. In some places the oystersclung to one
another so that they came free in lumps.
Now, Kino's people had sung of everything that happened orexisted. They had made songs
to the fishes, to the sea in anger and tothe sea in calm, to the light and the dark and the sun and the
moon,and the songs were all in Kino and in his people- every song thathad ever been made, even
the ones forgotten. And as he filled hisbasket the song was in Kino, and the beat of the song was his
poundingheart as it ate the oxygen from his held breath, and the melody of thesong was the
gray-green water and the little scuttling animals and theclouds of fish that flitted by and were gone.
But in the song therewas a secret little inner song, hardly perceptible, but alwaysthere, sweet and
secret and clinging, almost hiding in thecounter-melody, and this was the Song of the Pearl That
Might Be,for every shell thrown in the basket might contain a pearl. Chance wasagainst it, but luck
and the gods might be for it. And in the canoeabove him Kino knew that Juana was making the
magic of prayer, herface set rigid and her muscles hard to force the luck, to tear theluck out of the
gods' hands, for she needed the luck for the swollenshoulder of Coyotito. And because the need
was great and the desirewas great, the little secret melody of the pearl that might be wasstronger this
morning. Whole phrases of it came clearly and softlyinto the Song of the Undersea.
Kino, in his pride and youth and strength, could remain down overtwo minutes without
strain, so that he worked deliberately,selecting the largest shells. Because they were disturbed,
theoyster shells were tightly closed. A little to his right a hummockof rubbly rock stuck up, covered
with young oysters not ready to take.Kino moved next to the hummock, and then, beside it, under a
littleoverhang, he saw a very large oyster lying by itself, not covered withits clinging brothers. The
shell was partly open, for the overhangprotected this ancient oyster, and in the lip-like muscle Kino
saw aghostly gleam, and then the shell closed down. His heart beat out aheavy rhythm and the
melody of the maybe pearl shrilled in his ears.Slowly he forced the oyster loose and held it tightly
against hisbreast. He kicked his foot free from the rock loop, and his bodyrose to the surface and
his black hair gleamed in the sunlight. Hereached over the side of the canoe and laid the oyster in the
Then Juana steadied the boat while he climbed in. His eyes wereshining with excitement, but
in decency he pulled up his rock, andthen he pulled up his basket of oysters and lifted them in.
Juanasensed his excitement, and she pretended to look away. It is notgood to want a thing too
much. It sometimes drives the luck away.You must want it just enough, and you must be very tactful
with God orthe gods. But Juana stopped breathing. Very deliberately Kino openedhis short strong
knife. He looked speculatively at the basket. Perhapsit would be better to open the oyster last. He
took a small oysterfrom the basket, cut the muscle, searched the folds of flesh, andthrew it in the
water. Then he seemed to see the great oyster forthe first time. He squatted in the bottom of the
canoe, picked upthe shell and examined it. The flutes were shining black to brown, andonly a few
small barnacles adhered to the shell. Now Kino wasreluctant to open it. What he had seen, he
knew, might be areflection, a piece of flat shell accidently drifted in or acomplete illusion. In this Gulf
of uncertain light there were moreillusions than realities.
But Juana's eyes were on him and she could not wait. She put herhand on Coyotito's
covered head. "Open it," she said softly.
Kino deftly slipped his knife into the edge of the shell. Throughthe knife he could feel the
muscle tighten hard. He worked the bladelever-wise and the closing muscle parted and the shell fell
apart. Thelip-like flesh writhed up and then subsided. Kino lifted the flesh,and there it lay, the great
pearl, perfect as the moon. It capturedthe light and refined it and gave it back in silver
incandescence.It was as large as a sea-gull's egg. It was the greatest pearl inthe world.
Juana caught her breath and moaned a little. And to Kino thesecret melody of the maybe
pearl broke clear and beautiful, rich andwarm and lovely, glowing and gloating and triumphant. In
the surfaceof the great pearl he could see dream forms. He picked the pearlfrom the dying flesh and
held it in his palm, and he turned it overand saw that its curve was perfect. Juana came near to stare
at itin his hand, and it was the hand he had smashed against the doctor'sgate, and the torn flesh of
the knuckles was turned grayish white bythe sea water.
Instinctively Juana went to Coyotito where he lay on his father'sblanket. She lifted the
poultice of seaweed and looked at theshoulder. "Kino," she cried shrilly.
He looked past his pearl, and he saw that the swelling was going outof the baby's shoulder,
the poison was receding from its body. ThenKino's fist closed over the pearl and his emotion broke
over him. Heput back his head and howled. His eyes rolled up and he screamed andhis body was
rigid. The men in the other canoes looked up, startled,and then they dug their paddles into the sea
and raced toward Kino'scanoe.
A town is a thing like a colonial animal. A town has a nervoussystem and a head and
shoulders and feet. A town is a thing separatefrom all other towns, so that there are no two towns
alike. And a townhas a whole emotion. How news travels through a town is a mysterynot easily to
be solved. News seems to move faster than small boys canscramble and dart to tell it, faster than
women can call it over thefences.
Before Kino and Juana and the other fishers had come to Kino's brushhouse, the nerves of
the town were pulsing and vibrating with thenews- Kino had found the Pearl of the World. Before
panting littleboys could strangle out the words, their mothers knew it. The newsswept on past the
brush houses, and it washed in a foaming wave intothe town of stone and plaster. It came to the
priest walking in hisgarden, and it put a thoughtful look in his eyes and a memory ofcertain repairs
necessary to the church. He wondered what the pearlwould be worth. And he wondered whether
he had baptized Kino's baby,or married him for that matter. The news came to the shopkeepers,and
they looked at men's clothes that had not sold so well.
The news came to the doctor where he sat with a woman whoseillness was age, though
neither she nor the doctor would admit it. Andwhen it was made plain who Kino was, the doctor
grew stern andjudicious at the same time. "He is a client of mine," the doctor said."I am treating his
child for a scorpion sting." And the doctor'seyes rolled up a little in their fat hammocks and he
thought of Paris.He remembered the room he had lived in there as a great andluxurious place, and
he remembered the hard-faced woman who hadlived with him as a beautiful and kind girl, although
she had beennone of these three. The doctor looked past his aged patient and sawhimself sitting in a
restaurant in Paris and a waiter was just openinga bottle of wine.
The news came early to the beggars in front of the church, and itmade them giggle a little
with pleasure, for they knew that there isno almsgiver in the world like a poor man who is suddenly
Kino has found the Pearl of the World. In the town, in littleoffices, sat the men who bought
pearls from the fishers. They waitedin their chairs until the pearls came in, and then they cackled
andfought and shouted and threatened until they reached the lowestprice the fisherman would stand.
But there was a price below whichthey dared not go, for it had happened that a fisherman in despair
hadgiven his pearls to the church. And when the buying was over, thesebuyers sat alone and their
fingers played restlessly with thepearls, and they wished they owned the pearls. For there were not
manybuyers really- there was only one, and he kept these agents inseparate offices to give a
semblance of competition. The news cameto these men, and their eyes squinted and their fingertips
burned alittle, and each one thought how the patron could not live forever andsomeone had to take
his place. And each one thought how with somecapital he could get a new start.
All manner of people grew interested in Kino- people with thingsto sell and people with
favors to ask. Kino had found the Pearl of theWorld. The essence of pearl mixed with essence of
men and a curiousdark residue was precipitated. Every man suddenly became related toKino's
pearl, and Kino's pearl went into the dreams, the speculations,the schemes, the plans, the futures,
the wishes, the needs, the lusts,the hungers, of everyone, and only one person stood in the way
andthat was Kino, so that he became curiously every man's enemy. The newsstirred up something
infinitely black and evil in the town; theblack distillate was like the scorpion, or like hunger in the
smell offood, or like loneliness when love is withheld. The poison sacs of thetown began to
manufacture venom, and the town swelled and puffedwith the pressure of it.
But Kino and Juana did not know these things. Because they werehappy and excited they
thought everyone shared their joy. Juan Tomasand Apolonia did, and they were the world too. In
the afternoon,when the sun had gone over the mountains of the Peninsula to sink inthe outward sea,
Kino squatted in his house with Juana beside him. Andthe brush house was crowded with neighbors.
Kino held the greatpearl in his hand, and it was warm and alive in his hand. And themusic of the
pearl had merged with the music of the family so that onebeautified the other. The neighbors looked
at the pearl in Kino's handand they wondered how such luck could come to any man.
And Juan Tomas, who squatted on Kino's right hand because he was hisbrother, asked,
"What will you do now that you have become a richman?"
Kino looked into his pearl, and Juana cast her eyelashes down andarranged her shawl to
cover her face so that her excitement couldnot be seen. And in the incandescence of the pearl the
pictures formedof the things Kino's mind had considered in the past and had givenup as impossible.
In the pearl he saw Juana and Coyotito and himselfstanding and kneeling at the high altar, and they
were being marriednow that they could pay. He spoke softly, "We will be married- inthe church."
In the pearl he saw how they were dressed- Juana in a shawl stiffwith newness and a new
skirt, and from under the long skirt Kino couldsee that she wore shoes. It was in the pearl- the
picture glowingthere. He himself was dressed in new white clothes, and he carried anew hat- not of
straw but of fine black felt- and he too wore shoes-not sandals but shoes that laced. But Coyotito-
he was the one- hewore a blue sailor suit from the United States and a little yachtingcap such as
Kino had seen once when a pleasure boat put into theestuary. All of these things Kino saw in the
lucent pearl and he said,"We will have new clothes."
And the music of the pearl rose like a chorus of trumpets in hisears.
Then to the lovely gray surface of the pearl came the littlethings Kino wanted: a harpoon to
take the place of one lost a yearago, a new harpoon of iron with a ring in the end of the shaft;
and-his mind could hardly make the leap- a rifle- but why not, since hewas so rich. And Kino saw
Kino in the pearl, Kino holding a Winchestercarbine. It was the wildest daydreaming and very
pleasant. His lipsmoved hesitantly over this- "A rifle," he said. "Perhaps a rifle."
It was the rifle that broke down the barriers. This was animpossibility, and if he could think
of having a rifle wholehorizons were burst and he could rush on. For it is said that humansare never
satisfied, that you give them one thing and they wantsomething more. And this is said in
disparagement, whereas it is oneof the greatest talents the species has and one that has made
itsuperior to animals that are satisfied with what they have.
The neighbors, close pressed and silent in the house, nodded theirheads at his wild
imaginings. And a man in the rear murmured, "Arifle. He will have a rifle."
But the music of the pearl was shrilling with triumph in Kino. Juanalooked up, and her eyes
were wide at Kino's courage and at hisimagination. And electric strength had come to him now the
horizonswere kicked out. In the pearl he saw Coyotito sitting at a little deskin a school, just as Kino
had once seen it through an open door. AndCoyotito was dressed in a jacket, and he had on a
white collar, anda broad silken tie. Moreover, Coyotito was writing on a big piece ofpaper. Kino
looked at his neighbors fiercely. "My son will go toschool," he said, and the neighbors were hushed.
Juana caught herbreath sharply. Her eyes were bright as she watched him, and shelooked quickly
down at Coyotito in her arms to see whether thismight be possible.
But Kino's face shone with prophecy. "My son will read and openthe books, and my son
will write and will know writing. And my sonwill make numbers, and these things will make us free
because hewill know- he will know and through him we will know." And in thepearl Kino saw
himself and Juana squatting by the little fire in thebrush hut while Coyotito read from a great book.
"This is what thepearl will do," said Kino. And he had never said so many wordstogether in his life.
And suddenly he was afraid of his talking. Hishand closed down over the pearl and cut the light
away from it. Kinowas afraid as a man is afraid who says, "I will," without knowing.
Now the neighbors knew they had witnessed a great marvel. Theyknew that time would
now date from Kino's pearl, and that they woulddiscuss this moment for many years to come. If
these things came topass, they would recount how Kino looked and what he said and howhis eyes
shone, and they would say, "He was a man transfigured. Somepower was given to him, and there it
started. You see what a great manhe has become, starting from that moment. And I myself saw it."
And if Kino's planning came to nothing, those same neighbors wouldsay, "There it started. A
foolish madness came over him so that hespoke foolish words. God keep us from such things. Yes,
God punishedKino because he rebelled against the way things are. You see whathas become of him.
And I myself saw the moment when his reason lefthim."
Kino looked down at his closed hand and the knuckles were scabbedover and tight where
he had struck the gate.
Now the dusk was coming. And Juana looped her shawl under the babyso that he hung
against her hip, and she went to the fire hole and duga coal from the ashes and broke a few twigs
over it and fanned a flamealive. The little flames danced on the faces of the neighbors. Theyknew
they should go to their own dinners, but they were reluctant toleave.
The dark was almost in, and Juana's fire threw shadows on thebrush walls when the whisper
came in, passed from mouth to mouth. "TheFather is coming- the priest is coming." The men
uncovered their headsand stepped back from the door, and the women gathered their shawlsabout
their faces and cast down their eyes. Kino and Juan Tomas, hisbrother, stood up. The priest came
in- a graying, aging man with anold skin and a young sharp eye. Children, he considered
thesepeople, and he treated them like children.
"Kino," he said softly, "thou art named after a great man- and agreat Father of the Church."
He made it sound like a benediction. "Thynamesake tamed the desert and sweetened the minds of
thy people, didstthou know that? It is in the books."
Kino looked quickly down at Coyotito's head, where he hung onJuana's hip. Some day, his
mind said, that boy would know whatthings were in the books and what things were not. The music
hadgone out of Kino's head, but now, thinly, slowly, the melody of themorning, the music of evil, of
the enemy, sounded, but it was faintand weak. And Kino looked at his neighbors to see who might
havebrought this song in.
But the priest was speaking again. "It has come to me that thou hastfound a great fortune, a
Kino opened his hand and held it out, and the priest gasped a littleat the size and beauty of
the pearl. And then he said, "I hope thouwilt remember to give thanks, my son, to Him who has
given thee thistreasure, and to pray for guidance in the future."
Kino nodded dumbly, and it was Juana who spoke softly. "We will,Father. And we will be
married now. Kino has said so." She looked atthe neighbors for confirmation, and they nodded their
The priest said, "It is pleasant to see that your first thoughts aregood thoughts. God bless
you, my children." He turned and leftquietly, and the people let him through.
But Kino's hand had closed tightly on the pearl again, and he wasglancing about
suspiciously, for the evil song was in his ears,shrilling against the music of the pearl.
The neighbors slipped away to go to their houses, and Juana squattedby the fire and set her
clay pot of boiled beans over the littleflame. Kino stepped to the doorway and looked out. As
always, he couldsmell the smoke from many fires, and he could see the hazy stars andfeel the damp
of the night air so that he covered his nose from it.The thin dog came to him and threshed itself in
greeting like awindblown flag, and Kino looked down at it and didn't see it. He hadbroken through
the horizons into a cold and lonely outside. He feltalone and unprotected, and scraping crickets and
shrilling treefrogs and croaking toads seemed to be carrying the melody of evil.Kino shivered a little
and drew his blanket more tightly against hisnose. He carried the pearl still in his hand, tightly closed
in hispalm, and it was warm and smooth against his skin.
Behind him he heard Juana patting the cakes before she put them downon the clay cooking
sheet. Kino felt all the warmth and security ofhis family behind him, and the Song of the Family came
from behind himlike the purring of a kitten. But now, by saying what his future wasgoing to be like,
he had created it. A plan is a real thing, andthings projected are experienced. A plan once made and
visualizedbecomes a reality along with other realities- never to be destroyedbut easily to be
attacked. Thus Kino's future was real, but having setit up, other forces were set up to destroy it, and
this he knew, sothat he had to prepare to meet the attack. And this Kino knew also-that the gods do
not love men's plans, and the gods do not lovesuccess unless it comes by accident. He knew that the
gods taketheir revenge on a man if he be successful through his own efforts.Consequently Kino was
afraid of plans, but having made one, he couldnever destroy it. And to meet the attack, Kino was
already making ahard skin for himself against the world. His eyes and his mindprobed for danger
before it appeared.
Standing in the door, he saw two men approach; and one of themcarried a lantern which
lighted the ground and the legs of the men.They turned in through the opening of Kino's brush fence
and came tohis door. And Kino saw that one was the doctor and the other theservant who had
opened the gate in the morning. The split knuckleson Kino's right hand burned when he saw who
The doctor said, "I was not in when you came this morning. Butnow, at the first chance, I
have come to see the baby."
Kino stood in the door, filling it, and hatred raged and flamed inback of his eyes, and fear
too, for the hundreds of years ofsubjugation were cut deep in him.
"The baby is nearly well now," he said curtly.
The doctor smiled, but his eyes in their little lymph-lined hammocksdid not smile.
He said, "Sometimes, my friend, the scorpion sting has a curiouseffect. There will be
apparent improvement, and then withoutwarning- pouf!" He pursed his lips and made a little
explosion to showhow quick it could be, and he shifted his small black doctor's bagabout so that the
light of the lamp fell upon it, for he knew thatKino's race love the tools of any craft and trust them.
"Sometimes,"the doctor went on in a liquid tone, "sometimes there will be awithered leg or a blind
eye or a crumpled back. Oh, I know the stingof the scorpion, my friend, and I can cure it."
Kino felt the rage and hatred melting toward fear. He did notknow, and perhaps this doctor
did. And he could not take the chance ofputting his certain ignorance against this man's possible
knowledge.He was trapped as his people were always trapped, and would beuntil, as he had said,
they could be sure that the things in the bookswere really in the books. He could not take a chance-
not with thelife or with the straightness of Coyotito. He stood aside and letthe doctor and his man
enter the brush hut.
Juana stood up from the fire and backed away as he entered, andshe covered the baby's
face with the fringe of her shawl. And when thedoctor went to her and held out his hand, she
clutched the babytight and looked at Kino where he stood with the fire shadowsleaping on his face.
Kino nodded, and only then did she let the doctor take the baby.
"Hold the light," the doctor said, and when the servant held thelantern high, the doctor
looked for a moment at the wound on thebaby's shoulder. He was thoughtful for a moment and then
he rolledback the baby's eyelid and looked at the eyeball. He nodded his headwhile Coyotito
struggled against him.
"It is as I thought," he said. "The poison has gone inward and itwill strike soon. Come look!"
He held the eyelid down. "See- it isblue." And Kino, looking anxiously, saw that indeed it was a
littleblue. And he didn't know whether or not it was always a little blue.But the trap was set. He
couldn't take the chance.
The doctor's eyes watered in their little hammocks. "I will give himsomething to try to turn
the poison aside," he said. And he handed thebaby to Kino.
Then from his bag he took a little bottle of white powder and acapsule of gelatine. He filled
the capsule with the powder andclosed it, and then around the first capsule he fitted a secondcapsule
and closed it. Then he worked very deftly. He took the babyand pinched its lower lip until it opened
its mouth. His fat fingersplaced the capsule far back on the baby's tongue, back of the pointwhere he
could spit it out, and then from the floor he picked up thelittle pitcher of pulque and gave Coyotito a
drink, and it was done.He looked again at the baby's eyeball and he pursed his lips andseemed to
At last he handed the baby back to Juana, and he turned to Kino."I think the poison will
attack within the hour," he said. "Themedicine may save the baby from hurt, but I will come back in
an hour.Perhaps I am in time to save him." He took a deep breath and wentout of the hut, and his
servant followed him with the lantern.
Now Juana had the baby under her shawl, and she stared at it withanxiety and fear. Kino
came to her, and he lifted the shawl and staredat the baby. He moved his hand to look under the
eyelid, and only thensaw that the pearl was still in his hand. Then he went to a box by thewall, and
from it he brought a piece of rag. He wrapped the pearl inthe rag, then went to the corner of the
brush house and dug a littlehole with his fingers in the dirt floor, and he put the pearl in thehole and
covered it up and concealed the place. And then he went tothe fire where Juana was squatting,
watching the baby's face.
The doctor, back in his house, settled into his chair and lookedat his watch. His people
brought him a little supper of chocolateand sweet cakes and fruit, and he stared at the food
In the houses of the neighbors the subject that would lead allconversations for a long time to
come was aired for the first timeto see how it would go. The neighbors showed one another with
theirthumbs how big the pearl was, and they made little caressinggestures to show how lovely it was.
From now on they would watchKino and Juana very closely to see whether riches turned
theirheads, as riches turn all people's heads. Everyone knew why the doctorhad come. He was not
good at dissembling and he was very wellunderstood.
Out in the estuary a tight-woven school of small fishes glitteredand broke water to escape a
school of great fishes that drove in toeat them. And in the houses the people could hear the swish of
thesmall ones and the bouncing splash of the great ones as theslaughter went on. The dampness
arose out of the Gulf and wasdeposited on bushes and cacti and on little trees in salty drops.And the
night mice crept about on the ground and the little nighthawks hunted them silently.
The skinny black puppy with flame spots over his eyes came to Kino'sdoor and looked in.
He nearly shook his hind quarters loose whenKino glanced up at him, and he subsided when Kino
looked away. Thepuppy did not enter the house, but he watched with frantic interestwhile Kino ate
his beans from the little pottery dish and wiped itclean with a corncake and ate the cake and washed
the whole downwith a drink of pulque.
Kino was finished and was rolling a cigarette when Juana spokesharply. "Kino." He glanced
at her and then got up and went quickly toher for he saw fright in her eyes. He stood over her,
looking down,but the light was very dim. He kicked a pile of twigs into the firehole to make a blaze,
and then he could see the face of Coyotito.The baby's face was flushed and his throat was working
and a littlethick drool of saliva issued from his lips. The spasm of the stomachmuscles began, and the
baby was very sick.
Kino knelt beside his wife. "So the doctor knew," he said, but hesaid it for himself as well as
for his wife, for his mind was hard andsuspicious and he was remembering the white powder. Juana
rockedfrom side to side and moaned out the little Song of the Family asthough it could ward off the
danger, and the baby vomited andwrithed in her arms. Now uncertainty was in Kino, and the music
ofevil throbbed in his head and nearly drove out Juana's song.
The doctor finished his chocolate and nibbled the little fallenpieces of sweet cake. He
brushed his fingers on a napkin, looked athis watch, arose, and took up his little bag.
The news of the baby's illness traveled quickly among the brushhouses, for sickness is
second only to hunger as the enemy of poorpeople. And some said softly, "Luck, you see, brings
bitterfriends." And they nodded and got up to go to Kino's house. Theneighbors scuttled with
covered noses through the dark until theycrowded into Kino's house again. They stood and gazed,
and they madelittle comments on the sadness that this should happen at a time ofjoy, and they said,
"All things are in God's hands." The old womensquatted down beside Juana to try to give her aid if
they could andcomfort if they could not.
Then the doctor hurried in, followed by his man. He scattered theold women like chickens.
He took the baby and examined it and felt itshead. "The poison it has worked," he said. "I think I
can defeat it. Iwill try my best." He asked for water, and in the cup of it he putthree drops of
ammonia, and he pried open the baby's mouth andpoured it down. The baby spluttered and
screeched under the treatment,and Juana watched him with haunted eyes. The doctor spoke a
littleas he worked. "It is lucky that I know about the poison of thescorpion, otherwise-" and he
shrugged to show what could havehappened.
But Kino was suspicious, and he could not take his eyes from thedoctor's open bag, and
from the bottle of white powder there.Gradually the spasms subsided and the baby relaxed under
thedoctor's hands. And then Coyotito sighed deeply and went to sleep, forhe was very tired with
The doctor put the baby in Juana's arms. "He will get well now,"he said. "I have won the
fight." And Juana looked at him withadoration.
The doctor was closing his bag now. He said, "When do you thinkyou can pay this bill?" He
said it even kindly.
"When I have sold my pearl I will pay you," Kino said.
"You have a pearl? A good pearl?" the doctor asked with interest.
And then the chorus of the neighbors broke in. "He has found thePearl of the World," they
cried, and they joined forefinger with thumbto show how great the pearl was.
"Kino will be a rich man," they clamored. "It is a pearl such as onehas never seen."
The doctor looked surprised. "I had not heard of it. Do you keepthis pearl in a safe place?
Perhaps you would like me to put it inmy safe?"
Kino's eyes were hooded now, his cheeks were drawn taut. "I haveit secure," he said.
"Tomorrow I will sell it and then I will payyou."
The doctor shrugged, and his wet eyes never left Kino's eyes. Heknew the pearl would be
buried in the house, and he thought Kino mightlook toward the place where it was buried. "It would
be a shame tohave it stolen before you could sell it," the doctor said, and hesaw Kino's eyes flick
involuntarily to the floor near the side post ofthe brush house.
When the doctor had gone and all the neighbors had reluctantlyreturned to their houses,
Kino squatted beside the little glowingcoals in the fire hole and listened to the night sound, the soft
sweepof the little waves on the shore and the distant barking of dogs,the creeping of the breeze
through the brush house roof and the softspeech of his neighbors in their houses in the village. For
thesepeople do not sleep soundly all night; they awaken at intervals andtalk a little and then go to
sleep again. And after a while Kino gotup and went to the door of his house.
He smelled the breeze and he listened for any foreign sound ofsecrecy or creeping, and his
eyes searched the darkness, for the musicof evil was sounding in his head and he was fierce and
afraid. Afterhe had probed the night with his senses he went to the place by theside post where the
pearl was buried, and he dug it up and broughtit to his sleeping mat, and under his sleeping mat he
dug anotherlittle hole in the dirt floor and buried his pearl and covered it upagain.
And Juana, sitting by the fire hole, watched him with questioningeyes, and when he had
buried his pearl she asked, "Who do you fear?"
Kino searched for a true answer, and at last he said, "Everyone."And he could feel a shell of
hardness drawing over him.
After a while they lay down together on the sleeping mat, andJuana did not put the baby in
his box tonight, but cradled him onher arms and covered his face with her head shawl. And the
lastlight went out of the embers in the fire hole.
But Kino's brain burned, even during his sleep, and he dreamedthat Coyotito could read,
that one of his own people could tell himthe truth of things. And in his dream, Coyotito was reading
from abook as large as a house, with letters as big as dogs, and the wordsgalloped and played on
the book. And then darkness spread over thepage, and with the darkness came the music of evil
again, and Kinostirred in his sleep; and when he stirred, Juana's eyes opened inthe darkness. And
then Kino awakened, with the evil music pulsing inhim, and he lay in the darkness with his ears alert.
Then from the corner of the house came a sound so soft that it mighthave been simply a
thought, a little furtive movement, a touch of afoot on earth, the almost inaudible purr of controlled
breathing. Kinoheld his breath to listen, and he knew that whatever dark thing was inhis house was
holding its breath too, to listen. For a time no sound
at all came from the corner of the brush house. Then Kino might havethought he had imagined the
sound. But Juana's hand came creeping overto him in warning, and then the sound came again! the
whisper of afoot on dry earth and the scratch of fingers in the soil.
And now a wild fear surged in Kino's breast, and on the fear camerage, as it always did.
Kino's hand crept into his breast where hisknife hung on a string, and then he sprang like an angry
cat, leapedstriking and spitting for the dark thing he knew was in the cornerof the house. He felt
cloth, struck at it with his knife and missed,and struck again and felt his knife go through cloth, and
then hishead crashed with lightning and exploded with pain. There was a softscurry in the doorway,
and running steps for a moment, and thensilence.
Kino could feel warm blood running down from his forehead, and hecould hear Juana calling
to him. "Kino! Kino!" And there was terror inher voice. Then coldness came over him as quickly as
the rage had, andhe said, "I am all right. The thing has gone."
He groped his way back to the sleeping mat. Already Juana wasworking at the fire. She
uncovered an ember from the ashes andshredded little pieces of cornhusk over it and blew a little
flameinto the cornhusks so that a tiny light danced through the hut. Andthen from a secret place
Juana brought a little piece of consecratedcandle and lighted it at the flame and set it upright on a
fireplacestone. She worked quickly, crooning as she moved about. She dipped theend of her head
shawl in water and swabbed the blood from Kino'sbruised forehead. "It is nothing," Kino said, but
his eyes and hisvoice were hard and cold and a brooding hate was growing in him.
Now the tension which had been growing in Juana boiled up to thesurface and her lips were
thin. "This thing is evil," she criedharshly. "This pearl is like a sin! It will destroy us," and her
voicerose shrilly. "Throw it away, Kino. Let us break it between stones.Let us bury it and forget the
place. Let us throw it back into thesea. It has brought evil. Kino, my husband, it will destroy us."
Andin the firelight her lips and her eyes were alive with her fear.
But Kino's face was set, and his mind and his will were set. "Thisis our one chance," he said.
"Our son must go to school. He must breakout of the pot that holds us in."
"It will destroy us all," Juana cried. "Even our son."
"Hush," said Kino. "Do not speak any more. In the morning we willsell the pearl, and then
the evil will be gone, and only the goodremain. Now hush, my wife." His dark eyes scowled into the
littlefire, and for the first time he knew that his knife was still in hishands, and he raised the blade and
looked at it and saw a littleline of blood on the steel. For a moment he seemed about to wipe
theblade on his trousers but then he plunged the knife into the earth andso cleansed it.
The distant roosters began to crow and the air changed and thedawn was coming. The wind
of the morning ruffled the water of theestuary and whispered through the mangroves, and the little
waves beaton the rubbly beach with an increased tempo. Kino raised thesleeping mat and dug up his
pearl and put it in front of him andstared at it.
And the beauty of the pearl, winking and glimmering in the lightof the little candle, cozened
his brain with its beauty. So lovelyit was, so soft, and its own music came from it- its music
ofpromise and delight, its guarantee of the future, of comfort, ofsecurity. Its warm lucence promised
a poultice against illness and awall against insult. It closed a door on hunger. And as he stared atit
Kino's eyes softened and his face relaxed. He could see thelittle image of the consecrated candle
reflected in the soft surfaceof the pearl, and he heard again in his ears the lovely music of
theundersea, the tone of the diffused green light of the sea bottom.Juana, glancing secretly at him,
saw him smile. And because theywere in some way one thing and one purpose, she smiled with him.
And they began this day with hope.
It is wonderful the way a little town keeps track of itself and ofall its units. If every single
man and woman, child and baby, acts andconducts itself in a known pattern and breaks no walls
and differswith no one and experiments in no way and is not sick and does notendanger the ease
and peace of mind or steady unbroken flow of thetown, then that unit can disappear and never be
heard of. But letone man step out of the regular thought or the known and trustedpattern, and the
nerves of the townspeople ring with nervousness andcommunication travels over the nerve lines of
the town. Then everyunit communicates to the whole.
Thus, in La Paz, it was known in the early morning through the wholetown that Kino was
going to sell his pearl that day. It was knownamong the neighbors in the brush huts, among the pearl
fishermen; itwas known among the Chinese grocery-store owners; it was known inthe church, for
the altar boys whispered about it. Word of it crept inamong the nuns; the beggars in front of the
church spoke of it, forthey would be there to take the tithe of the first fruits of the luck.The little boys
knew about it with excitement, but most of all thepearl buyers knew about it, and when the day had
come, in theoffices of the pearl buyers, each man sat alone with his littleblack velvet tray, and each
man rolled the pearls about with hisfingertips and considered his part in the picture.
It was supposed that the pearl buyers were individuals acting alone,bidding against one
another for the pearls the fishermen brought in.And once it had been so. But this was a wasteful
method, for often, inthe excitement of bidding for a fine pearl, too great a price had beenpaid to the
fishermen. This was extravagant and not to becountenanced. Now there was only one pearl buyer
with many hands,and the men who sat in their offices and waited for Kino knew whatprice they
would offer, how high they would bid, and what methodeach one would use. And although these
men would not profit beyondtheir salaries, there was excitement among the pearl buyers, for
therewas excitement in the hunt, and if it be a man's function to breakdown a price, then he must
take joy and satisfaction in breaking it asfar down as possible. For every man in the world functions
to the bestof his ability, and no one does less than his best, no matter whathe may think about it.
Quite apart from any reward they might get,from any word of praise, from any promotion, a pearl
buyer was a pearlbuyer, and the best and happiest pearl buyer was he who bought for thelowest
The sun was hot yellow that morning, and it drew the moisture fromthe estuary and from the
Gulf and hung it in shimmering scarves in theair so that the air vibrated and vision was insubstantial.
A visionhung in the air to the north of the city- the vision of a mountainthat was over two hundred
miles away, and the high slopes of thismountain were swaddled with pines and a great stone peak
arose abovethe timber line.
And the morning of this day the canoes lay lined up on the beach;the fishermen did not go
out to dive for pearls, for there would betoo much happening, too many things to see, when Kino
went to sell thegreat pearl.
In the brush houses by the shore Kino's neighbors sat long overtheir breakfasts, and they
spoke of what they would do if they hadfound the pearl. And one man said that he would give it as a
presentto the Holy Father in Rome. Another said that he would buy Massesfor the souls of his family
for a thousand years. Another thought hemight take the money and distribute it among the poor of
La Paz; and afourth thought of all the good things one could do with the money fromthe pearl, of all
the charities, benefits, of all the rescues onecould perform if one had money. All of the neighbors
hoped that suddenwealth would not turn Kino's head, would not make a rich man of him,would not
graft onto him the evil limbs of greed and hatred andcoldness. For Kino was a well-liked man; it
would be a shame if thepearl destroyed him. "That good wife Juana," they said, "and thebeautiful
baby Coyotito, and the others to come. What a pity itwould be if the pearl should destroy them all."
For Kino and Juana this was the morning of mornings of theirlives, comparable only to the
day when the baby had been born. Thiswas to be the day from which all other days would take
theirarrangement. Thus they would say, "It was two years before we sold thepearl," or, "It was six
weeks after we sold the pearl." Juana,considering the matter, threw caution to the winds, and she
dressedCoyotito in the clothes she had prepared for his baptism, when therewould be money for his
baptism. And Juana combed and braided herhair and tied the ends with two little bows of red
ribbon, and she puton her marriage skirt and waist. The sun was quarter high when theywere ready.
Kino's ragged white clothes were clean at least, andthis was the last day of his raggedness. For
tomorrow, or even thisafternoon, he would have new clothes.
The neighbors, watching Kino's door through the crevices in theirbrush houses, were
dressed and ready too. There was noself-consciousness about their joining Kino and Juana to go
pearlselling. It was expected, it was an historic moment, they would becrazy if they didn't go. It
would be almost a sign of unfriendship.
Juana put on her head shawl carefully, and she draped one long endunder her right elbow
and gathered it with her right hand so that ahammock hung under her arm, and in this little hammock
she placedCoyotito, propped up against the head shawl so that he could seeeverything and perhaps
remember. Kino put on his large straw hat andfelt it with his hand to see that it was properly placed,
not on theback or side of his head, like a rash, unmarried, irresponsible man,and not flat as an elder
would wear it, but tilted a little forward toshow aggressiveness and seriousness and vigor. There is a
great dealto be seen in the tilt of a hat on a man. Kino slipped his feet intohis sandals and pulled the
thongs up over his heels. The great pearlwas wrapped in an old soft piece of deerskin and placed in
a littleleather bag, and the leather bag was in a pocket in Kino's shirt. Hefolded his blanket carefully
and draped it in a narrow strip overhis left shoulder, and now they were ready.
Kino stepped with dignity out of the house, and Juana followedhim, carrying Coyotito. And
as they marched up the freshet-washedalley toward the town, the neighbors joined them. The
houses belchedpeople; the doorways spewed out children. But because of theseriousness of the
occasion, only one man walked with Kino, and thatwas his brother, Juan Tomas.
Juan Tomas cautioned his brother. "You must be careful to see theydo not cheat you," he
And, "Very careful," Kino agreed.
"We do not know what prices are paid in other places," said JuanTomas. "How can we
know what is a fair price, if we do not know whatthe pearl buyer gets for the pearl in another place."
"That is true," said Kino, "but how can we know? We are here, we arenot there."
As they walked up toward the city the crowd grew behind them, andJuan Tomas, in pure
nervousness, went on speaking.
"Before you were born, Kino," he said, "the old ones thought of away to get more money
for their pearls. They thought it would bebetter if they had an agent who took all the pearls to the
capital andsold them there and kept only his share of the profit."
Kino nodded his head. "I know," he said. "It was a good thought."
"And so they got such a man," said Juan Tomas, "and they pooledthe pearls, and they
started him off. And he was never heard ofagain and the pearls were lost. Then they got another
man, and theystarted him off, and he was never heard of again. And so they gave thewhole thing up
and went back to the old way."
"I know," said Kino. "I have heard our father tell of it. It was agood idea, but it was against
religion, and the Father made thatvery clear. The loss of the pearl was a punishment visited on
thosewho tried to leave their station. And the Father made it clear thateach man and woman is like a
soldier sent by God to guard some part ofthe castle of the Universe. And some are in the ramparts
and somefar deep in the darkness of the walls. But each one must remainfaithful to his post and must
not go running about, else the castle isin danger from the assaults of Hell."
"I have heard him make that sermon," said Juan Tomas. "He makes itevery year."
The brothers, as they walked along, squinted their eyes a little, asthey and their grandfathers
and their great-grandfathers had donefor four hundred years, since first the strangers came with
argumentand authority and gunpowder to back up both. And in the four hundredyears Kino's people
had learned only one defense- a slight slitting ofthe eyes and a slight tightening of the lips and a
retirement. Nothingcould break down this wall, and they could remain whole within thewall.
The gathering procession was solemn, for they sensed theimportance of this day, and any
children who showed a tendency toscuffle, to scream, to cry out, to steal hats and rumple hair,
werehissed to silence by their elders. So important was this day that anold man came to see, riding
on the stalwart shoulders of his nephew.The procession left the brush huts and entered the stone and
plastercity where the streets were a little wider and there were narrowpavements beside the building.
And as before, the beggars joinedthem as they passed the church; the grocers looked out at them as
theywent by; the little saloons lost their customers and the owners closedup shop and went along.
And the sun beat down on the streets of thecity and even tiny stones threw shadows on the ground.
The news of the approach of the procession ran ahead of it, and intheir little dark offices the
pearl buyers stiffened and grew alert.They got out papers so that they could be at work when
Kinoappeared, and they put their pearls in the desks, for it is not goodto let an inferior pearl be seen
beside a beauty. And word of theloveliness of Kino's pearl had come to them. The pearl buyers'
officeswere clustered together in one narrow street, and they were barredat the windows, and
wooden slats cut out the light so that only a softgloom entered the offices.
A stout slow man sat in an office waiting. His face was fatherly andbenign, and his eyes
twinkled with friendship. He was a caller of goodmornings, a ceremonious shaker of hands, a jolly
man who knew alljokes and yet who hovered close to sadness, for in the midst of alaugh he could
remember the death of your aunt, and his eyes couldbecome wet with sorrow for your loss. This
morning he had placed aflower in a vase on his desk, a single scarlet hibiscus, and thevase sat beside
the black velvet-lined pearl tray in front of him.He was shaved close to the blue roots of his beard,
and his hands wereclean and his nails polished. His door stood open to the morning,and he hummed
under his breath while his right hand practicedlegerdemain. He rolled a coin back and forth over his
knuckles andmade it appear and disappear, made it spin and sparkle. The coinwinked into sight and
as quickly slipped out of sight, and the man didnot even watch his own performance. The fingers did
it allmechanically, precisely, while the man hummed to himself and peeredout the door. Then he
heard the tramp of feet of the approachingcrowd, and the fingers of his right hand worked faster and
fasteruntil, as the figure of Kino filled the doorway, the coin flashedand disappeared.
"Good morning, my friend," the stout man said. "What can I do foryou?"
Kino stared into the dimness of the little office, for his eyes weresqueezed from the outside
glare. But the buyer's eyes had become assteady and cruel and unwinking as a hawk's eyes, while
the rest of hisface smiled in greeting. And secretly, behind his desk, his right handpracticed with the
"I have a pearl," said Kino. And Juan Tomas stood beside him andsnorted a little at the
understatement. The neighbors peered aroundthe doorway, and a line of little boys clambered on the
window barsand looked through. Several little boys, on their hands and knees,watched the scene
around Kino's legs.
"You have a pearl," the dealer said. "Sometimes a man brings in adozen. Well, let us see
your pearl. We will value it and give youthe best price." And his fingers worked furiously with the
Now Kino instinctively knew his own dramatic effects. Slowly hebrought out the leather
bag, slowly took from it the soft and dirtypiece of deerskin, and then he let the great pearl roll into
the blackvelvet tray, and instantly his eyes went to the buyer's face. Butthere was no sign, no
movement, the face did not change, but thesecret hand behind the desk missed in its precision. The
coin stumbledover a knuckle and slipped silently into the dealer's lap. And thefingers behind the
desk curled into a fist. When the right hand cameout of hiding, the forefinger touched the great pearl,
rolled it onthe black velvet; thumb and forefinger picked it up and brought itnear to the dealer's eyes
and twirled it in the air.
Kino held his breath, and the neighbors held their breath, and thewhispering went back
through the crowd. "He is inspecting it- No pricehas been mentioned yet- They have not come to a
Now the dealer's hand had become a personality. The hand tossedthe great pearl back in
the tray, the forefinger poked and insultedit, and on the dealer's face there came a sad and
"I am sorry, my friend," he said, and his shoulders rose a little toindicate that the misfortune
was no fault of his.
"It is a pearl of great value," Kino said.
The dealer's fingers spurned the pearl so that it bounced andrebounded softly from the side
of the velvet tray.
"You have heard of fool's gold," the dealer said. "This pearl islike fool's gold. It is too large.
Who would buy it? There is nomarket for such things. It is a curiosity only. I am sorry. Youthought it
was a thing of value, and it is only a curiosity."
Now Kino's face was perplexed and worried. "It is the Pearl of theWorld," he cried. "No
one has ever seen such a pearl."
"On the contrary," said the dealer, "it is large and clumsy. As acuriosity it has interest; some
museum might perhaps take it toplace in a collection of seashells. I can give you, say, a
Kino's face grew dark and dangerous. "It is worth fifty thousand,"he said. "You know it.
You want to cheat me."
And the dealer heard a little grumble go through the crowd as theyheard his price. And the
dealer felt a little tremor of fear.
"Do not blame me," he said quickly. "I am only an appraiser. Ask theothers. Go to their
offices and show your pearl- or better, let themcome here, so that you can see there is no collusion.
Boy," he called.And when his servant looked through the rear door, "Boy, go to sucha one, and
such another one and such a third one. Ask them to stepin here and do not tell them why. Just say
that I will be pleased tosee them." And his right hand went behind the desk and pulledanother coin
from his pocket, and the coin rolled back and forthover the knuckles.
Kino's neighbors whispered together. They had been afraid ofsomething like this. The pearl
was large, but it had a strangecolor. They had been suspicious of it from the first. And after all,
athousand pesos was not to be thrown away. It was comparative wealth toa man who was not
wealthy. And suppose Kino took a thousand pesos.Only yesterday he had nothing.
But Kino had grown tight and hard. He felt the creeping of fate, thecircling of wolves, the
hover of vultures. He felt the evilcoagulating about him, and he was helpless to protect himself.
Heheard in his ears the evil music. And on the black velvet the greatpearl glistened, so that the
dealer could not keep his eyes from it.
The crowd in the doorway wavered and broke and let the three pearldealers through. The
crowd was silent now, fearing to miss a word,to fail to see a gesture or an expression. Kino was
silent andwatchful. He felt a little tugging at his back, and he turned andlooked in Juana's eyes, and
when he looked away he had renewedstrength.
The dealers did not glance at one another nor at the pearl. Theman behind the desk said, "I
have put a value on this pearl. The ownerhere does not think it fair. I will ask you to examine this-
thisthing and make an offer. Notice," he said to Kino, "I have notmentioned what I have offered."
The first dealer, dry and stringy, seemed now to see the pearl forthe first time. He took it up,
rolled it quickly between thumb andforefinger, and then cast it contemptuously back into the tray.
"Do not include me in the discussion," he said dryly. "I will makeno offer at all. I do not want
it. This is not a pearl- it is amonstrosity." His thin lips curled.
Now the second dealer, a little man with a shy soft voice, took upthe pearl, and he
examined it carefully. He took a glass from hispocket and inspected it under magnification. Then he
"Better pearl are made of paste," he said. "I know these things.This is soft and chalky, it will
lose its color and die in a fewmonths. Look-" He offered the glass to Kino, showed him how to use
it,and Kino, who had never seen a pearl's surface magnified, wasshocked at the strange-looking
The third dealer took the pearl from Kino's hands. "One of myclients likes such things," he
said. "I will offer five hundred pesos,and perhaps I can sell it to my client for six hundred."
Kino reached quickly and snatched the pearl from his hand. Hewrapped it in the deerskin
and thrust it inside his shirt.
The man behind the desk said, "I'm a fool, I know, but my firstoffer stands. I still offer one
thousand. What are you doing?" heasked, as Kino thrust the pearl out of sight.
"I am cheated," Kino cried fiercely. "My pearl is not for sale here.I will go, perhaps even to
Now the dealers glanced quickly at one another. They knew they hadplayed too hard; they
knew they would be disciplined for theirfailure, and the man at the desk said quickly, "I might go
But Kino was pushing his way through the crowd. The hum of talk cameto him dimly, his
rage blood pounded in his ears, and he burst throughand strode away. Juana followed, trotting after
When the evening came, the neighbors in the brush houses sateating their corncakes and
beans, and they discussed the great themeof the morning. They did not know, it seemed a fine pearl
to them, butthey had never seen such a pearl before, and surely the dealers knewmore about the
value of pearls than they. "And mark this," theysaid. "Those dealers did not discuss these things.
Each of the threeknew the pearl was valueless."
"But suppose they had arranged it before?"
"If that is so, then all of us have been cheated all of our lives."
Perhaps, some argued, perhaps it would have been better if Kino tookthe one thousand five
hundred pesos. That is a great deal of money,more than he has ever seen. Maybe Kino is being a
pigheaded fool.Suppose he should really go to the capital and find no buyer for hispearl. He would
never live that down.
And now, said other fearful ones, now that he had defied them, thosebuyers will not want to
deal with him at all. Maybe Kino has cut offhis own head and destroyed himself.
And others said, Kino is a brave man, and a fierce man; he is right.From his courage we
may all profit. These were proud of Kino.
In his house Kino squatted on his sleeping mat, brooding. He hadburied his pearl under a
stone of the fire hole in his house, and hestared at the woven tules of his sleeping mat until the
crossed designdanced in his head. He had lost one world and had not gainedanother. And Kino was
afraid. Never in his life had he been far fromhome. He was afraid of strangers and of strange places.
He wasterrified of that monster of strangeness they called the capital. Itlay over the water and
through the mountains, over a thousand miles,and every strange terrible mile was frightening. But
Kino had lost hisold world and he must clamber on to a new one. For his dream of thefuture was
real and never to be destroyed, and he had said "I willgo," and that made a real thing too. To
determine to go and to sayit was to be halfway there.
Juana watched him while he buried his pearl, and she watched himwhile she cleaned
Coyotito and nursed him, and Juana made thecorncakes for supper.
Juan Tomas came in and squatted down beside Kino and remained silentfor a long time,
until at last Kino demanded, "What else could I do?They are cheats."
Juan Tomas nodded gravely. He was the elder, and Kino looked tohim for wisdom. "It is
hard to know," he said. "We do know that we arecheated from birth to the overcharge on our
coffins. But we survive.You have defied not the pearl buyers, but the whole structure, thewhole way
of life, and I am afraid for you."
"What have I to fear but starvation?" Kino asked.
But Juan Tomas shook his head slowly. "That we must all fear. Butsuppose you are correct-
suppose your pearl is of great value- doyou think then the game is over?"
"What do you mean?"
"I don't know," said Juan Tomas, "but I am afraid for you. It is newground you are walking
on, you do not know the way."
"I will go. I will go soon," said Kino.
"Yes," Juan Tomas agreed. "That you must do. But I wonder if youwill find it any different in
the capital. Here, you have friendsand me, your brother. There, you will have no one."
"What can I do?" Kino cried. "Some deep outrage is here. My son musthave a chance. That
is what they are striking at. My friends willprotect me."
"Only so long as they are not in danger or discomfort from it," saidJuan Tomas. He arose,
saying, "Go with God."
And Kino said, "Go with God," and did not even look up, for thewords had a strange chill in
Long after Juan Tomas had gone Kino sat brooding on his sleepingmat. A lethargy had
settled on him, and a little gray hopelessness.Every road seemed blocked against him. In his head he
heard only thedark music of the enemy. His senses were burningly alive, but his mindwent back to
the deep participation with all things, the gift he hadfrom his people. He heard every little sound of
the gathering night,the sleepy complaint of settling birds, the love agony of cats, thestrike and
withdrawal of little waves on the beach, and the simplehiss of distance. And he could smell the sharp
odor of exposed kelpfrom the receding tide. The little flare of the twig fire made thedesign on his
sleeping mat jump before his entranced eyes.
Juana watched him with worry, but she knew him and she knew shecould help him best by
being silent and by being near. And as thoughshe too could hear the Song of Evil, she fought it,
singing softly themelody of the family, of the safety and warmth and wholeness of thefamily. She held
Coyotito in her arms and sang the song to him, tokeep the evil out, and her voice was brave against
the threat of thedark music.
Kino did not move nor ask for his supper. She knew he would ask whenhe wanted it. His
eyes were entranced, and he could sense the wary,watchful evil outside the brush house; he could
feel the dark creepingthings waiting for him to go out into the night. It was shadowy anddreadful, and
yet it called to him and threatened him and challengedhim. His right hand went into his shirt and felt
his knife; his eyeswere wide; he stood up and walked to the doorway.
Juana willed to stop him; she raised her hand to stop him, and hermouth opened with terror.
For a long moment Kino looked out into thedarkness and then he stepped outside. Juana heard the
little rush, thegrunting struggle, the blow. She froze with terror for a moment, andthen her lips drew
back from her teeth like a cat's lips. She setCoyotito down on the ground. She seized a stone from
the fireplace andrushed outside, but it was over by then. Kino lay on the ground,struggling to rise,
and there was no one near him. Only the shadowsand the strike and rush of waves and the hiss of
distance. But theevil was all about, hidden behind the brush fence, crouched beside thehouse in the
shadow, hovering in the air.
Juana dropped her stone, and she put her arms around Kino and helpedhim to his feet and
supported him into the house. Blood oozed downfrom his scalp and there was a long deep cut in his
cheek from earto chin, a deep, bleeding slash. And Kino was only half conscious.He shook his head
from side to side. His shirt was torn open and hisclothes half pulled off. Juana sat him down on his
sleeping mat andshe wiped the thickening blood from his face with her skirt. Shebrought him pulque
to drink in a little pitcher, and still he shookhis head to clear out the darkness.
"Who?" Juana asked.
"I don't know," Kino said. "I didn't see."
Now Juana brought her clay pot of water and she washed the cut onhis face while he stared
dazed ahead of him.
"Kino, my husband," she cried, and his eyes stared past her."Kino, can you hear me?"
"I hear you," he said dully.
"Kino, this pearl is evil. Let us destroy it before it destroysus. Let us crush it between two
stones. Let us- let us throw it backin the sea where it belongs. Kino, it is evil, it is evil!"
And as she spoke the light came back in Kino's eyes so that theyglowed fiercely and his
muscles hardened and his will hardened.
"No," he said. "I will fight this thing. I will win over it. We willhave our chance." His fist
pounded the sleeping mat. "No one shalltake our good fortune from us," he said. His eyes softened
then and heraised a gentle hand to Juana's shoulder. "Believe me," he said. "I ama man." And his
face grew crafty.
"In the morning we will take our canoe and we will go over the seaand over the mountains to
the capital, you and I. We will not becheated. I am a man."
"Kino," she said huskily, "I am afraid. A man can be killed. Letus throw the pearl back into
"Hush," he said fiercely. "I am a man. Hush." And she was silent,for his voice was command.
"Let us sleep a little," he said. "In thefirst light we will start. You are not afraid to go with me?"
"No, my husband."
His eyes were soft and warm on her then, his hand touched her cheek."Let us sleep a little,"
The late moon arose before the first rooster crowed. Kino opened hiseyes in the darkness,
for he sensed movement near him, but he didnot move. Only his eyes searched the darkness, and in
the pale lightof the moon that crept through the holes in the brush house Kino sawJuana arise silently
from beside him. He saw her move toward thefireplace. So carefully did she work that he heard
only the lightestsound when she moved the fireplace stone. And then like a shadow sheglided
toward the door. She paused for a moment beside the hanging boxwhere Coyotito lay, then for a
second she was black in the doorway,and then she was gone.
And rage surged in Kino. He rolled up to his feet and followed heras silently as she had
gone, and he could hear her quick footstepsgoing toward the shore. Quietly he tracked her, and his
brain wasred with anger. She burst clear out of the brush line and stumbledover the little boulders
toward the water, and then she heard himcoming and she broke into a run. Her arm was up to throw
when heleaped at her and caught her arm and wrenched the pearl from her. Hestruck her in the face
with his clenched fist and she fell among theboulders, and he kicked her in the side. In the pale light
he couldsee the little waves break over her, and her skirt floated about andclung to her legs as the
Kino looked down at her and his teeth were bared. He hissed at herlike a snake, and Juana
stared at him with wide unfrightened eyes,like a sheep before the butcher. She knew there was
murder in him, andit was all right; she had accepted it, and she would not resist oreven protest. And
then the rage left him and a sick disgust took itsplace. He turned away from her and walked up the
beach and through thebrush line. His senses were dulled by his emotion.
He heard the rush, got his knife out and lunged at one dark figureand felt his knife go home,
and then he was swept to his knees andswept again to the ground. Greedy fingers went through his
clothes,frantic fingers searched him, and the pearl, knocked from his hand,lay winking behind a little
stone in the pathway. It glinted in thesoft moonlight.
Juana dragged herself up from the rocks on the edge of the water.Her face was a dull pain
and her side ached. She steadied herself onher knees for a while and her wet skirt clung to her.
There was noanger in her for Kino. He had said, "I am a man," and that meantcertain things to
Juana. It meant that he was half insane and halfgod. It meant that Kino would drive his strength
against a mountainand plunge his strength against the sea. Juana, in her woman's soul,knew that the
mountain would stand while the man broke himself; thatthe sea would surge while the man drowned
in it. And yet it was thisthing that made him a man, half insane and half god, and Juana hadneed of a
man; she could not live without a man. Although she might bepuzzled by these differences between
man and woman, she knew themand accepted them and needed them. Of course she would follow
him,there was no question of that. Sometimes the quality of woman, thereason, the caution, the
sense of preservation, could cut throughKino's manness and save them all. She climbed painfully to
her feet,and she dipped her cupped palms in the little waves and washed herbruised face with the
stinging salt water, and then she wentcreeping up the beach after Kino.
A flight of herring clouds had moved over the sky from the south.The pale moon dipped in
and out of the strands of clouds so that Juanawalked in darkness for a moment and in light the next.
Her back wasbent with pain and her head was low. She went through the line ofbrush when the
moon was covered, and when it looked through she sawthe glimmer of the great pearl in the path
behind the rock. She sankto her knees and picked it up, and the moon went into the darknessof the
clouds again. Juana remained on her knees while sheconsidered whether to go back to the sea and
finish her job, and asshe considered, the light came again, and she saw two dark figureslying in the
path ahead of her. She leaped forward and saw that onewas Kino and the other a stranger with
dark shiny fluid leaking fromhis throat.
Kino moved sluggishly, arms and legs stirred like those of a crushedbug, and a thick
muttering came from his mouth. Now, in an instant,Juana knew that the old life was gone forever. A
dead man in thepath and Kino's knife, dark-bladed beside him, convinced her. All ofthe time Juana
had been trying to rescue something of the old peace,of the time before the pearl. But now it was
gone, and there was noretrieving it. And knowing this, she abandoned the past instantly.There was
nothing to do but to save themselves.
Her pain was gone now, her slowness. Quickly she dragged the deadman from the pathway
into the shelter of the brush. She went to Kinoand sponged his face with her wet skirt. His senses
were coming backand he moaned.
"They have taken the pearl. I have lost it. Now it is over," hesaid. "The pearl is gone."
Juana quieted him as she would quiet a sick child. "Hush," she said."Here is your pearl. I
found it in the path. Can you hear me now? Hereis your pearl. Can you understand? You have killed
a man. We must goaway. They will come for us, can you understand? We must be gonebefore the
"I was attacked," Kino said uneasily. "I struck to save my life."
"Do you remember yesterday?" Juana asked. "Do you think that willmatter? Do you
remember the men of the city? Do you think yourexplanation will help?"
Kino drew a great breath and fought off his weakness. "No," he said."You are right." And
his will hardened and he was a man again.
"Go to our house and bring Coyotito," he said, "and bring all thecorn we have. I will drag the
canoe into the water and we will go."
He took his knife and left her. He stumbled toward the beach andhe came to his canoe. And
when the light broke through again he sawthat a great hole had been knocked in the bottom. And a
searing ragecame to him and gave him strength. Now the darkness was closing inon his family; now
the evil music filled the night, hung over themangroves, skirled in the wave beat. The canoe of his
grandfather,plastered over and over, and a splintered hole broken in it. Thiswas an evil beyond
thinking. The killing of a man was not so evil asthe killing of a boat. For a boat does not have sons,
and a boatcannot protect itself, and a wounded boat does not heal. There wassorrow in Kino's
rage, but this last thing had tightened him beyondbreaking. He was an animal now, for hiding, for
attacking, and helived only to preserve himself and his family. He was not conscious ofthe pain in his
head. He leaped up the beach, through the brush linetoward his brush house, and it did not occur to
him to take one of thecanoes of his neighbors. Never once did the thought enter his head,any more
than he could have conceived breaking a boat.
The roosters were crowing and the dawn was not far off. Smoke of thefirst fires seeped out
through the walls of the brush houses, andthe first smell of cooking corncakes was in the air. Already
thedawn birds were scampering in the bushes. The weak moon was losing itslight and the clouds
thickened and curdled to the southward. Thewind blew freshly into the estuary, a nervous, restless
wind withthe smell of storm on its breath, and there was change anduneasiness in the air.
Kino, hurrying toward his house, felt a surge of exhilaration. Nowhe was not confused, for
there was only one thing to do, and Kino'shand went first to the great pearl in his shirt and then to
hisknife hanging under his shirt.
He saw a little glow ahead of him, and then without interval atall flame leaped up in the dark
with a crackling roar, and a talledifice of fire lighted the pathway. Kino broke into a run; it was
hisbrush house, he knew. And he knew that these houses could burn down ina very few moments.
And as he ran a scuttling figure ran toward him-Juana, with Coyotito in her arms and Kino's
shoulder blanketclutched in her hand. The baby moaned with fright, and Juana's eyeswere wide and
terrified. Kino could see the house was gone, and he didnot question Juana. He knew, but she said,
"It was torn up and thefloor dug- even the baby's box turned out, and as I looked they putthe fire to
The fierce light of the burning house lighted Kino's facestrongly. "Who?" he demanded.
"I don't know," she said. "The dark ones."
The neighbors were tumbling from their houses now, and theywatched the falling sparks and
stamped them out to save their ownhouses. Suddenly Kino was afraid. The light made him afraid.
Heremembered the man lying dead in the brush beside the path, and hetook Juana by the arm and
drew her into the shadow of a house awayfrom the light, for light was danger to him. For a moment
heconsidered and then he worked among the shadows until he came to thehouse of Juan Tomas, his
brother, and he slipped into the doorwayand drew Juana after him. Outside, he could hear the
squeal ofchildren and the shouts of the neighbors, for his friends thought hemight be inside the
The house of Juan Tomas was almost exactly like Kino's house; nearlyall the brush houses
were alike, and all leaked light and air, so thatJuana and Kino, sitting in the corner of the brother's
house, couldsee the leaping flames through the wall. They saw the flames talland furious, they saw
the roof fall and watched the fire die down asquickly as a twig fire dies. They heard the cries of
warning oftheir friends, and the shrill, keening cry of Apolonia, wife of JuanTomas. She, being the
nearest woman relative, raised a formal lamentfor the dead of the family.
Apolonia realized that she was wearing her second-best head shawland she rushed to her
house to get her fine new one. As she rummagedin a box by the wall, Kino's voice said quietly,
"Apolonia, do not cryout. We are not hurt."
"How do you come here?" she demanded.
"Do not question," he said. "Go now to Juan Tomas and bring him hereand tell no one else.
This is important to us, Apolonia."
She paused, her hands helpless in front of her, and then, "Yes, mybrother-in-law," she said.
In a few moments Juan Tomas came back with her. He lighted acandle and came to them
where they crouched in a corner and he said,"Apolonia, see to the door, and do not let anyone
enter." He wasolder, Juan Tomas, and he assumed the authority. "Now, my brother," hesaid.
"I was attacked in the dark," said Kino. "And in the fight I havekilled a man."
"Who?" asked Juan Tomas quickly.
"I do not know. It is all darkness- all darkness and shape ofdarkness."
"It is the pearl," said Juan Tomas. "There is a devil in this pearl.You should have sold it and
passed on the devil. Perhaps you can stillsell it and buy peace for yourself."
And Kino said, "Oh, my brother, an insult has been put on me that isdeeper than my life. For
on the beach my canoe is broken, my houseis burned, and in the brush a dead man lies. Every
escape is cutoff. You must hide us, my brother."
And Kino, looking closely, saw deep worry come into his brother'seyes and he forestalled
him in a possible refusal. "Not for long,"he said quickly. "Only until a day has passed and the new
night hascome. Then we will go."
"I will hide you," said Juan Tomas.
"I do not want to bring danger to you," Kino said. "I know I am likea leprosy. I will go
tonight and then you will be safe."
"I will protect you," said Juan Tomas, and he called, "Apolonia,close up the door. Do not
even whisper that Kino is here."
They sat silently all day in the darkness of the house, and theycould hear the neighbors
speaking of them. Through the walls of thehouse they could watch their neighbors raking through the
ashes tofind the bones. Crouching in the house of Juan Tomas, they heard theshock go into their
neighbors' minds at the news of the broken boat.Juan Tomas went out among the neighbors to divert
their suspicions,and he gave them theories and ideas of what had happened to Kino andto Juana and
to the baby. To one he said, "I think they have gonesouth along the coast to escape the evil that was
on them." And toanother, "Kino would never leave the sea. Perhaps he found anotherboat." And he
said, "Apolonia is ill with grief."
And in that day the wind rose up to beat the Gulf and tore the kelpsand weeds that lined the
shore, and the wind cried through the brushhouses and no boat was safe on the water. Then Juan
Tomas told amongthe neighbors, "Kino is gone. If he went to the sea, he is drownedby now." And
after each trip among the neighbors Juan Tomas cameback with something borrowed. He brought a
little woven straw bag ofred beans and a gourd full of rice. He borrowed a cup of dried peppersand
a block of salt, and he brought in a long working knife,eighteen inches long and heavy, as a small ax,
a tool and a weapon.And when Kino saw this knife his eyes lighted up, and he fondled theblade and
his thumb tested the edge.
The wind screamed over the Gulf and turned the water white, andthe mangroves plunged
like frightened cattle, and a fine sandy dustarose from the land and hung in a stifling cloud over the
sea. Thewind drove off the clouds and skimmed the sky clean and drifted thesand of the country like
Then Juan Tomas, when the evening approached, talked long with hisbrother. "Where will
"To the north," said Kino. "I have heard that there are cities inthe north."
"Avoid the shore," said Juan Tomas. "They are making a party tosearch the shore. The men
in the city will look for you. Do youstill have the pearl?"
"I have it," said Kino. "And I will keep it. I might have given itas a gift, but now it is my
misfortune and my life and I will keepit." His eyes were hard and cruel and bitter.
Coyotito whimpered and Juana muttered little magics over him to makehim silent.
"The wind is good," said Juan Tomas. "There will be no tracks."
They left quietly in the dark before the moon had risen. Thefamily stood formally in the
house of Juan Tomas. Juana carriedCoyotito on her back, covered and held in by her head shawl,
and thebaby slept, cheek turned sideways against her shoulder. The head shawlcovered the baby,
and one end of it came across Juana's nose toprotect her from the evil night air. Juan Tomas
embraced his brotherwith the double embrace and kissed him on both cheeks. "Go withGod," he
said, and it was like a death. "You will not give up thepearl?"
"This pearl has become my soul," said Kino. "If I give it up I shalllose my soul. Go thou also
The wind blew fierce and strong, and it pelted them with bits ofsticks, sand, and little rocks.
Juana and Kino gathered their clothingtighter about them and covered their noses and went out into
theworld. The sky was brushed clean by the wind and the stars were coldin a black sky. The two
walked carefully, and they avoided thecenter of the town where some sleeper in a doorway might
see thempass. For the town closed itself in against the night, and anyonewho moved about in the
darkness would be noticeable. Kino threaded hisway around the edge of the city and turned north,
north by thestars, and found the rutted sandy road that led through the brushycountry toward Loreto
where the miraculous Virgin has her station.
Kino could feel the blown sand against his ankles and he was glad,for he knew there would
be no tracks. The little light from thestars made out for him the narrow road through the brushy
country. AndKino could hear the pad of Juana's feet behind him. He went quicklyand quietly, and
Juana trotted behind him to keep up.
Some ancient thing stirred in Kino. Through his fear of dark and thedevils that haunt the
night, there came a rush of exhilaration; someanimal thing was moving in him so that he was cautious
and wary anddangerous; some ancient thing out of the past of his people wasalive in him. The wind
was at his back and the stars guided him. Thewind cried and whisked in the brush, and the family
went onmonotonously, hour after hour. They passed no one and saw no one. Atlast, to their right,
the waning moon arose, and when it came up thewind died down, and the land was still.
Now they could see the little road ahead of them, deep cut withsand-drifted wheel tracks.
With the wind gone there would befootprints, but they were a good distance from the town and
perhapstheir tracks might not be noticed. Kino walked carefully in a wheelrut, and Juana followed in
his path. One big cart, going to the townin the morning, could wipe out every trace of their passage.
All night they walked and never changed their pace. Once Coyotitoawakened, and Juana
shifted him in front of her and soothed himuntil he went to sleep again. And the evils of the night
were aboutthem. The coyotes cried and laughed in the brush, and the owlsscreeched and hissed
over their heads. And once some large animallumbered away, crackling the undergrowth as it went.
And Kinogripped the handle of the big working knife and took a sense ofprotection from it.
The music of the pearl was triumphant in Kino's head, and thequiet melody of the family
underlay it, and they wove themselvesinto the soft padding of sandaled feet in the dust. All night
theywalked, and in the first dawn Kino searched the roadside for acovert to lie in during the day. He
found his place near to theroad, a little clearing where deer might have lain, and it wascurtained
thickly with the dry brittle trees that lined the road.And when Juana had seated herself and had
settled to nurse the baby,Kino went back to the road. He broke a branch and carefully sweptthe
footprints where they had turned from the roadway. And then, inthe first light, he heard the creak of
a wagon, and he crouched besidethe road and watched a heavy two-wheeled cart go by, drawn
byslouching oxen. And when it had passed out of sight, he went back tothe roadway and looked at
the rut and found that the footprints weregone. And again he swept out his traces and went back to
She gave him the soft corncakes Apolonia had packed for them, andafter a while she slept a
little. But Kino sat on the ground andstared at the earth in front of him. He watched the ants moving,
alittle column of them near to his foot, and he put his foot in theirpath. Then the column climbed over
his instep and continued on itsway, and Kino left his foot there and watched them move over it.
The sun arose hotly. They were not near the Gulf now, and the airwas dry and hot so that
the brush cricked with heat and a goodresinous smell came from it. And when Juana awakened,
when the sun washigh, Kino told her things she knew already.
"Beware of that kind of tree there," he said, pointing. "Do nottouch it, for if you do and then
touch your eyes, it will blind you.And beware of the tree that bleeds. See, that one over there. For
ifyou break it the red blood will flow from it, and it is evil luck."And she nodded and smiled a little at
him, for she knew these things.
"Will they follow us?" she asked. "Do you think they will try tofind us?"
"They will try," said Kino. "Whoever finds us will take the pearl.Oh, they will try."
And Juana said, "Perhaps the dealers were right and the pearl has novalue. Perhaps this has
all been an illusion."
Kino reached into his clothes and brought out the pearl. He letthe sun play on it until it
burned in his eyes. "No," he said, "theywould not have tried to steal it if it had been valueless."
"Do you know who attacked you? Was it the dealers?"
"I do not know," he said. "I didn't see them."
He looked into his pearl to find his vision. "When we sell it atlast, I will have a rifle," he said,
and he looked into the shiningsurface for his rifle, but he saw only a huddled dark body on
theground with shining blood dripping from its throat. And he saidquickly, "We will be married in a
great church." And in the pearl hesaw Juana with her beaten face crawling home through the night.
"Ourson must learn to read," he said frantically. And there in the pearlCoyotito's face, thick and
feverish from the medicine.
And Kino thrust the pearl back into his clothing, and the music ofthe pearl had become
sinister in his ears, and it was interwovenwith the music of evil.
The hot sun beat on the earth so that Kino and Juana moved intothe lacy shade of the brush,
and small gray birds scampered on theground in the shade. In the heat of the day Kino relaxed and
coveredhis eyes with his hat and wrapped his blanket about his face to keepthe flies off, and he
But Juana did not sleep. She sat quiet as a stone and her face wasquiet. Her mouth was still
swollen where Kino had struck her, andbig flies buzzed around the cut on her chin. But she sat as
still as asentinel, and when Coyotito awakened she placed him on the ground infront of her and
watched him wave his arms and kick his feet, and hesmiled and gurgled at her until she smiled too.
She picked up a littletwig from the ground and tickled him, and she gave him water fromthe gourd
she carried in her bundle.
Kino stirred in a dream, and he cried out in a guttural voice, andhis hand moved in symbolic
fighting. And then he moaned and sat upsuddenly, his eyes wide and his nostrils flaring. He listened
andheard only the cricking heat and the hiss of distance.
"What is it?" Juana asked.
"Hush," he said.
"You were dreaming."
"Perhaps." But he was restless, and when she gave him a corncakefrom her store he paused
in his chewing to listen. He was uneasy and
nervous; he glanced over his shoulder; he lifted the big knife andfelt its edge. When Coyotito gurgled
on the ground Kino said, "Keephim quiet."
"What is the matter?" Juana asked.
"I don't know."
He listened again, an animal light in his eyes. He stood up then,silently; and crouched low, he
threaded his way through the brushtoward the road. But he did not step into the road; he crept
intothe cover of a thorny tree and peered out along the way he had come.
And then he saw them moving along. His body stiffened and he drewdown his head and
peeked out from under a fallen branch. In thedistance he could see three figures, two on foot and
one on horseback.But he knew what they were, and a chill of fear went through him. Evenin the
distance he could see the two on foot moving slowly along, bentlow to the ground. Here, one would
pause and look at the earth,while the other joined him. They were the trackers, they couldfollow the
trail of a big horn sheep in the stone mountains. They wereas sensitive as hounds. Here, he and
Juana might have stepped out ofthe wheel rut, and these people from the inland, these hunters,could
follow, could read a broken straw or a little tumbled pile ofdust. Behind them, on a horse, was a
dark man, his nose covered with ablanket, and across his saddle a rifle gleamed in the sun.
Kino lay as rigid as the tree limb. He barely breathed, and his eyeswent to the place where
he had swept out the track. Even thesweeping might be a message to the trackers. He knew these
inlandhunters. In a country where there was little game they managed to livebecause of their ability to
hunt, and they were hunting him. Theyscuttled over the ground like animals and found a sign and
crouchedover it while the horseman waited.
The trackers whined a little, like excited dogs on a warmingtrail. Kino slowly drew his big
knife to his hand and made it ready.He knew what he must do. If the trackers found the swept
place, hemust leap for the horseman, kill him quickly and take the rifle.That was his only chance in
the world. And as the three drew nearer onthe road, Kino dug little pits with his sandaled toes so
that he couldleap without warning, so that his feet would not slip. He had only alittle vision under the
Now Juana, back in her hidden place, heard the pad of the horse'shoofs, and Coyotito
gurgled. She took him up quickly and put him underher shawl and gave him her breast and he was
When the trackers came near, Kino could see only their legs and onlythe legs of the horse
from under the fallen branch. He saw the darkhorny feet of the men and their ragged white clothes,
and he heard thecreak of leather of the saddle and the clink of spurs. The trackersstopped at the
swept place and studied it, and the horseman stopped.The horse flung his head up against the bit
and the bit-roller clickedunder his tongue and the horse snorted. Then the dark trackersturned and
studied the horse and watched his ears.
Kino was not breathing, but his back arched a little and the musclesof his arms and legs
stood out with tension and a line of sweat formedon his upper lip. For a long moment the trackers
bent over the road,and then they moved on slowly, studying the ground ahead of them,and the
horseman moved after them. The trackers scuttled along,stopping, looking, and hurrying on. They
would be back, Kino knew.They would be circling and searching, peeping, stopping, and theywould
come back sooner or later to his covered track.
He slid backward and did not bother to cover his tracks. He couldnot; too many little signs
were there, too many broken twigs andscuffed places and displaced stones. And there was a panic
in Kinonow, a panic of flight. The trackers would find his trail, he knew it.There was no escape,
except in flight. He edged away from the road andwent quickly and silently to the hidden place
where Juana was. Shelooked up at him in question.
"Trackers," he said. "Come!"
And then a helplessness and a hopelessness swept over him, and hisface went black and his
eyes were sad. "Perhaps I should let them takeme."
Instantly Juana was on her feet and her hand lay on his arm. "Youhave the pearl," she cried
hoarsely. "Do you think they would take youback alive to say they had stolen it?"
His hand strayed limply to the place where the pearl was hiddenunder his clothes. "They will
find it," he said weakly.
"Come," she said. "Come!"
And when he did not respond. "Do you think they would let me live?Do you think they
would let the little one here live?"
Her goading struck into his brain; his lips snarled and his eyeswere fierce again. "Come," he
said. "We will go into the mountains.Maybe we can lose them in the mountains."
Frantically he gathered the gourds and the little bags that weretheir property. Kino carried a
bundle in his left hand, but the bigknife swung free in his right hand. He parted the brush for
Juanaand they hurried to the west, toward the high stone mountains. Theytrotted quickly through the
tangle of the undergrowth. This waspanic flight. Kino did not try to conceal his passage he
trotted,kicking the stones, knocking the telltale leaves from the littletrees. The high sun streamed
down on the dry creaking earth so thateven the vegetation ticked in protest. But ahead were the
nakedgranite mountains, rising out of erosion rubble and standingmonolithic against the sky. And
Kino ran for the high place, as nearlyall animals do when they are pursued.
This land was waterless, furred with the cacti which could storewater and with the
great-rooted brush which could reach deep intothe earth for a little moisture and get along on very
little. Andunderfoot was not soil but broken rock, split into small cubes,great slabs, but none of it
water-rounded. Little tufts of sad drygrass grew between the stones, grass that had sprouted with
one singlerain and headed, dropped its seed, and died. Horned toads watchedthe family go by and
turned their little pivoting dragon heads. Andnow and then a great jackrabbit, disturbed in his shade,
bumped awayand hid behind the nearest rock. The singing heat lay over this desertcountry, and
ahead the stone mountains looked cool and welcoming.
And Kino fled. He knew what would happen. A little way along theroad the trackers would
become aware that they had missed the path,and they would come back, searching and judging, and
in a little whilethey would find the place where Kino and Juana had rested. Fromthere it would be
easy for them- these little stones, the fallenleaves and the whipped branches, the scuffed places
where a foot hadslipped. Kino could see them in his mind, slipping along the track,whining a little
with eagerness, and behind them, dark and halfdisinterested, the horseman with the rifle. His work
would comelast, for he would not take them back. Oh, the music of evil sang loudin Kino's head
now, it sang with the whine of heat and with the dryringing of snake rattles. It was not large and
overwhelming now, butsecret and poisonous, and the pounding of his heart gave itundertone and
The way began to rise, and as it did the rocks grew larger. Butnow Kino had put a little
distance between his family and thetrackers. Now, on the first rise, he rested. He climbed a
greatboulder and looked back over the shimmering country, but he couldnot see his enemies, not
even the tall horseman riding through thebrush. Juana had squatted in the shade of the boulder. She
raisedher bottle of water to Coyotito's lips; his little dried tongue suckedgreedily at it. She looked up
at Kino when he came back; she saw himexamine her ankles, cut and scratched from the stones and
brush, andshe covered them quickly with her skirt. Then she handed the bottle tohim, but he shook
his head. Her eyes were bright in her tired face.Kino moistened his cracked lips with his tongue.
"Juana," he said, "I will go on and you will hide. I will leadthem into the mountains, and when
they have gone past, you will gonorth to Loreto or to Santa Rosalia. Then, if I can escape them, Iwill
come to you. It is the only safe way."
She looked full into his eyes for a moment. "No," she said. "We gowith you."
"I can go faster alone," he said harshly. "You will put the littleone in more danger if you go
"No," said Juana.
"You must. It is the wise thing and it is my wish," he said.
"No," said Juana.
He looked then for weakness in her face, for fear or irresolution,and there was none. Her
eyes were very bright. He shrugged hisshoulders helplessly then, but he had taken strength from her.
Whenthey moved on it was no longer panic flight.
The country, as it rose toward the mountains, changed rapidly. Nowthere were long
outcroppings of granite with deep crevices between,and Kino walked on bare unmarkable stone
when he could and leaped fromledge to ledge. He knew that wherever the trackers lost his paththey
must circle and lose time before they found it again. And so hedid not go straight for the mountains
any more; he moved in zigzags,and sometimes he cut back to the south and left a sign and then
wenttoward the mountains over bare stone again. And the path rosesteeply now, so that he panted a
little as he went.
The sun moved downward toward the bare stone teeth of the mountains,and Kino set his
direction for a dark and shadowy cleft in therange. If there were any water at all, it would be there
where hecould see, even in the distance, a hint of foliage. And if therewere any passage through the
smooth stone range, it would be by thissame deep cleft. It had its danger, for the trackers would
think of ittoo, but the empty water bottle did not let that considerationenter. And as the sun lowered,
Kino and Juana struggled wearily up thesteep slope toward the cleft.
High in the gray stone mountains, under a frowning peak, a littlespring bubbled out of a
rupture in the stone. It was fed byshade-preserved snow in the summer, and now and then it
diedcompletely and bare rocks and dry algae were on its bottom. But nearlyalways it gushed out,
cold and clean and lovely. In the times when thequick rains fell, it might become a freshet and send
its column ofwhite water crashing down the mountain cleft, but nearly always it wasa lean little
spring. It bubbled out into a pool and then fell ahundred feet to another pool, and this one,
overflowing, droppedagain, so that it continued, down and down, until it came to therubble of the
upland, and there it disappeared altogether. Therewasn't much left of it then anyway, for every time
it fell over anescarpment the thirsty air drank it, and it splashed from the pools tothe dry vegetation.
The animals from miles around came to drink fromthe little pools, and the wild sheep and the deer,
the pumas andraccoons, and the mice- all came to drink. And the birds which spentthe day in the
brushland came at night to the little pools that werelike steps in the mountain cleft. Beside this tiny
stream, whereverenough earth collected for root-hold, colonies of plants grew, wildgrape and little
palms, maidenhair fern, hibiscus, and tall pampasgrass with feathery rods raised above the spike
leaves. And in thepool lived frogs and water-skaters, and waterworms crawled on thebottom of the
pool. Everything that loved water came to these fewshallow places. The cats took their prey there,
and strewed feathersand lapped water through their bloody teeth. The little pools wereplaces of life
because of the water, and places of killing becauseof the water, too.
The lowest step, where the stream collected before it tumbled down ahundred feet and
disappeared into the rubbly desert, was a littleplatform of stone and sand. Only a pencil of water fell
into the pool,but it was enough to keep the pool full and to keep the ferns green inthe underhang of
the cliff, and wild grape climbed the stonemountain and all manner of little plants found comfort here.
Thefreshets had made a small sandy beach through which the pool flowed,and bright green
watercress grew in the damp sand. The beach was cutand scarred and padded by the feet of
animals that had come to drinkand to hunt.
The sun had passed over the stone mountains when Kino and Juanastruggled up the steep
broken slope and came at last to the water.From this step they could look out over the sunbeaten
desert to theblue Gulf in the distance. They came utterly weary to the pool, andJuana slumped to her
knees and first washed Coyotito's face and thenfilled her bottle and gave him a drink. And the baby
was weary andpetulant, and he cried softly until Juana gave him her breast, andthen he gurgled and
clucked against her. Kino drank long and thirstilyat the pool. For a moment, then, he stretched out
beside the water andrelaxed all his muscles and watched Juana feeding the baby, and thenhe got to
his feet and went to the edge of the step where the waterslipped over, and he searched the distance
carefully. His eyes seton a point and he became rigid. Far down the slope he could see thetwo
trackers; they were little more than dots or scurrying ants andbehind them a larger ant.
Juana had turned to look at him and she saw his back stiffen.
"How far?" she asked quietly.
"They will be here by evening," said Kino. He looked up the longsteep chimney of the cleft
where the water came down. "We must gowest," he said, and his eyes searched the stone shoulder
behind thecleft. And thirty feet up on the gray shoulder he saw a series oflittle erosion caves. He
slipped off his sandals and clambered up tothem, gripping the bare stone with his toes, and he
looked into theshallow caves. They were only a few feet deep, wind-hollowed scoops,but they
sloped slightly downward and back. Kino crawled into thelargest one and lay down and knew that
he could not be seen from theoutside. Quickly he went back to Juana.
"You must go up there. Perhaps they will not find us there," hesaid.
Without question she filled her water bottle to the top, and thenKino helped her up to the
shallow cave and brought up the packagesof food and passed them to her. And Juana sat in the
cave entrance andwatched him. She saw that he did not try to erase their tracks inthe sand. Instead,
he climbed up the brush cliff beside the water,clawing and tearing at the ferns and wild grape as he
went. And whenhe had climbed a hundred feet to the next bench, he came down again.He looked
carefully at the smooth rock shoulder toward the cave to seethat there was no trace of passage, and
last he climbed up and creptinto the cave beside Juana.
"When they go up," he said, "we will slip away, down to the lowlandsagain. I am afraid only
that the baby may cry. You must see that hedoes not cry."
"He will not cry," she said, and she raised the baby's face to herown and looked into his
eyes and he stared solemnly back at her.
"He knows," said Juana.
Now Kino lay in the cave entrance, his chin braced on his crossedarms, and he watched the
blue shadow of the mountain move out acrossthe brushy desert below until it reached the Gulf, and
the longtwilight of the shadow was over the land.
The trackers were long in coming, as though they had trouble withthe trail Kino had left. It
was dusk when they came at last to thelittle pool. And all three were on foot now, for a horse could
notclimb the last steep slope. From above they were thin figures in theevening. The two trackers
scurried about on the little beach, and theysaw Kino's progress up the cliff before they drank. The
man with therifle sat down and rested himself, and the trackers squatted near him,and in the evening
the points of their cigarettes glowed andreceded. And then Kino could see that they were eating,
and the softmurmur of their voices came to him.
Then darkness fell, deep and black in the mountain cleft. Theanimals that used the pool
came near and smelled men there and driftedaway again into the darkness.
He heard a murmur behind him. Juana was whispering, "Coyotito."She was begging him to
be quiet. Kino heard the baby whimper, and heknew from the muffled sounds that Juana had
covered his head withher shawl.
Down on the beach a match flared, and in its momentary light Kinosaw that two of the men
were sleeping, curled up like dogs, whilethe third watched, and he saw the glint of the rifle in the
matchlight. And then the match died, but it left a picture on Kino'seyes. He could see it, just how
each man was, two sleeping curled upand the third squatting in the sand with the rifle between his
Kino moved silently back into the cave. Juana's eyes were two sparksreflecting a low star.
Kino crawled quietly close to her and he puthis lips near to her cheek.
"There is a way," he said.
"But they will kill you."
"If I get first to the one with the rifle," Kino said, "I must getto him first, then I will be all right.
Two are sleeping."
Her hand crept out from under her shawl and gripped his arm. "Theywill see your white
clothes in the starlight."
"No," he said. "And I must go before moonrise."
He searched for a soft word and then gave it up. "If they killme," he said, "lie quietly. And
when they are gone away, go toLoreto."
Her hand shook a little, holding his wrist.
"There is no choice," he said. "It is the only way. They will findus in the morning."
Her voice trembled a little. "Go with God," she said.
He peered closely at her and he could see her large eyes. His handfumbled out and found
the baby, and for a moment his palm lay onCoyotito's head. And then Kino raised his hand and
touched Juana'scheek, and she held her breath.
Against the sky in the cave entrance Juana could see that Kino wastaking off his white
clothes, for dirty and ragged though they werethey would show up against the dark night. His own
brown skin was abetter protection for him. And then she saw how he hooked his amuletneck-string
about the horn handle of his great knife, so that ithung down in front of him and left both hands free.
He did not comeback to her. For a moment his body was black in the cave entrance,crouched and
silent, and then he was gone.
Juana moved to the entrance and looked out. She peered like an owlfrom the hole in the
mountain, and the baby slept under the blanket onher back, his face turned sideways against her
neck and shoulder.She could feel his warm breath against her skin, and Juana whisperedher
combination of prayer and magic, her Hail Marys and her ancientintercession, against the black
The night seemed a little less dark when she looked out, and tothe east there was a
lightening in the sky, down near the horizonwhere the moon would show. And, looking down, she
could see thecigarette of the man on watch.
Kino edged like a slow lizard down the smooth rock shoulder. Hehad turned his neck-string
so that the great knife hung down fromhis back and could not clash against the stone. His spread
fingersgripped the mountain, and his bare toes found support through contact,and even his chest lay
against the stone so that he would not slip.For any sound, a rolling pebble or a sigh, a little slip of
flesh onrock, would rouse the watchers below. Any sound that was not germaneto the night would
make them alert. But the night was not silent;the little tree frogs that lived near the stream twittered
like birds,and the high metallic ringing of the cicadas filled the mountaincleft. And Kino's own music
was in his head, the music of the enemy,low and pulsing, nearly asleep. But the Song of the Family
hadbecome as fierce and sharp and feline as the snarl of a female puma.The family song was alive
now and driving him down on the darkenemy. The harsh cicada seemed to take up its melody, and
thetwittering tree frogs called little phrases of it.
And Kino crept silently as a shadow down the smooth mountain face.One bare foot moved
a few inches and the toes touched the stone andgripped, and the other foot a few inches, and then
the palm of onehand a little downward, and then the other hand, until the whole body,without
seeming to move, had moved. Kino's mouth was open so that evenhis breath would make no sound,
for he knew that he was not invisible.If the watcher, sensing movement, looked at the dark place
against thestone which was his body, he could see him. Kino must move so slowlyhe would not
draw the watcher's eyes. It took him a long time to reachthe bottom and to crouch behind a little
dwarf palm. His heartthundered in his chest and his hands and face were wet with sweat.He
crouched and took great slow long breaths to calm himself.
Only twenty feet separated him from the enemy now, and he tried toremember the ground
between. Was there any stone which might triphim in his rush? He kneaded his legs against cramp
and found thathis muscles were jerking after their long tension. And then helooked apprehensively to
the east. The moon would rise in a fewmoments now, and he must attack before it rose. He could
see theoutline of the watcher, but the sleeping men were below his vision. Itwas the watcher Kino
must find- must find quickly and withouthesitation. Silently he drew the amulet string over his
shoulder andloosened the loop from the horn handle of his great knife.
He was too late, for as he rose from his crouch the silver edge ofthe moon slipped above the
eastern horizon, and Kino sank backbehind his bush.
It was an old and ragged moon, but it threw hard light and hardshadow into the mountain
cleft, and now Kino could see the seatedfigure of the watcher on the little beach beside the pool.
The watchergazed full at the moon, and then he lighted another cigarette, and thematch illumined his
dark face for a moment. There could be nowaiting now; when the watcher turned his head, Kino
must leap. Hislegs were as tight as wound springs.
And then from above came a little murmuring cry. The watcherturned his head to listen and
then he stood up, and one of thesleepers stirred on the ground and awakened and asked quietly,
"I don't know," said the watcher. "It sounded like a cry, almostlike a human- like a baby."
The man who had been sleeping said, "You can't tell. Some coyotebitch with a litter. I've
heard a coyote pup cry like a baby."
The sweat rolled in drops down Kino's forehead and fell into hiseyes and burned them. The
little cry came again and the watcher lookedup the side of the hill to the dark cave.
"Coyote maybe," he said, and Kino heard the harsh click as he cockedthe rifle.
"If it's a coyote, this will stop it," the watcher said as he raisedthe gun.
Kino was in mid-leap when the gun crashed and the barrel-flashmade a picture on his eyes.
The great knife swung and crunchedhollowly. It bit through neck and deep into chest, and Kino was
aterrible machine now. He grasped the rifle even as he wrenched freehis knife. His strength and his
movement and his speed were a machine.He whirled and struck the head of the seated man like a
melon. Thethird man scrabbled away like a crab, slipped into the pool, andthen he began to climb
frantically, to climb up the cliff where thewater penciled down. His hands and feet threshed in the
tangle ofthe wild grapevine, and he whimpered and gibbered as he tried to getup. But Kino had
become as cold and deadly as steel. Deliberately hethrew the lever of the rifle, and then he raised
the gun and aimeddeliberately and fired. He saw his enemy tumble backward into thepool, and Kino
strode to the water. In the moonlight he could seethe frantic eyes, and Kino aimed and fired
between the eyes.
And then Kino stood uncertainly. Something was wrong, some signalwas trying to get
through to his brain. Tree frogs and cicadas weresilent now. And then Kino's brain cleared from its
red concentrationand he knew the sound- the keening, moaning, rising hysterical cryfrom the little
cave in the side of the stone mountain, the cry ofdeath.-
Everyone in La Paz remembers the return of the family; there maybe some old ones who
saw it, but those whose fathers and whosegrandfathers told it to them remember it nevertheless. It is
anevent that happened to everyone.
It was late in the golden afternoon when the first little boys ranhysterically in the town and
spread the word that Kino and Juanawere coming back. And everyone hurried to see them. The sun
wassettling toward the western mountains and the shadows on the groundwere long. And perhaps
that was what left the deep impression on thosewho saw them.
The two came from the rutted country road into the city, and theywere not walking in single
file, Kino ahead and Juana behind, asusual, but side by side. The sun was behind them and their
longshadows stalked ahead, and they seemed to carry two towers of darknesswith them. Kino had
a rifle across his arm and Juana carried her shawllike a sack over her shoulder. And in it was a small
limp heavybundle. The shawl was crusted with dried blood, and the bundleswayed a little as she
walked. Her face was hard and lined andleathery with fatigue and with the tightness with which she
foughtfatigue. And her wide eyes stared inward on herself. She was as remoteand as removed as
Heaven. Kino's lips were thin and his jaws tight,and the people say that he carried fear with him, that
he was asdangerous as a rising storm. The people say that the two seemed tobe removed from
human experience; that they had gone through painand had come out on the other side; that there
was almost a magicalprotection about them. And those people who had rushed to see themcrowded
back and let them pass and did not speak to them.
Kino and Juana walked through the city as though it were notthere. Their eyes glanced
neither right nor left nor up nor down,but stared only straight ahead. Their legs moved a little
jerkily,like well-made wooden dolls, and they carried pillars of black fearabout them. And as they
walked through the stone and plaster citybrokers peered at them from barred windows and servants
put one eye toa slitted gate and mothers turned the faces of their youngest childreninward against
their skirts. Kino and Juana strode side by sidethrough the stone and plaster city and down among
the brush houses,and the neighbors stood back and let them pass. Juan Tomas raisedhis hand in
greeting and did not say the greeting and left his hand inthe air for a moment uncertainly.
In Kino's ears the Song of the Family was as fierce as a cry. He wasimmune and terrible,
and his song had become a battle cry. Theytrudged past the burned square where their house had
been without evenlooking at it. They cleared the brush that edged the beach andpicked their way
down the shore toward the water. And they did notlook toward Kino's broken canoe.
And when they came to the water's edge they stopped and stared outover the Gulf. And
then Kino laid the rifle down, and he dug among hisclothes, and then he held the great pearl in his
hand. He lookedinto its surface and it was gray and ulcerous. Evil faces peeredfrom it into his eyes,
and he saw the light of burning. And in thesurface of the pearl he saw the frantic eyes of the man in
the pool.And in the surface of the pearl he saw Coyotito lying in the littlecave with the top of his
head shot away. And the pearl was ugly; itwas gray, like a malignant growth. And Kino heard the
music of thepearl, distorted and insane. Kino's hand shook a little, and he turnedslowly to Juana and
held the pearl out to her. She stood beside him,still holding her dead bundle over her shoulder. She
looked at thepearl in his hand for a moment and then she looked into Kino's eyesand said softly,
And Kino drew back his arm and flung the pearl with all his might.Kino and Juana watched
it go, winking and glimmering under the settingsun. They saw the little splash in the distance, and they
stood sideby side watching the place for a long time.
And the pearl settled into the lovely green water and dropped towardthe bottom. The
waving branches of the algae called to it and beckonedto it. The lights on its surface were green and
lovely. It settleddown to the sand bottom among the fern-like plants. Above, the surfaceof the water
was a green mirror. And the pearl lay on the floor of thesea. A crab scampering over the bottom
raised a little cloud ofsand, and when it settled the pearl was gone.
And the music of the pearl drifted to a whisper and disappeared.--