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Iron cross
by sídio Ambrogi

On the highest peak , right by the road
in the empty landscape, in silent peace,
planted by worshipping hands
an iron cross , in majestic grace.

And tired from his long journey,
facing the lonesome and mysterious cross,
the wanderer halts his steps,
praying silently to heaven.

And the great iron cross,
black and silent, defying the tides of time,
impervious and serene,
always the same, watching the sea...

And ... wonder! - in April, so travelers say,
its arms are entwined by vermillion flowers,
like roses weeping their blood...

* * *

Here goes the whole poem by Cesídio Ambrogi as a title for our story.
We took it as an ethereous introduction that we could never make by ourselves.

It happened in the town of Cunha. Not so far away, in the direction of Campos Novos, lived Juca Mineiro, with his lovely wife, caring only about the development of his little piece of land. Meanwhile people were whispering about the beauty and grace of Mariazinha who, excempt from all the gossip, was firing up ever more the passion in the heart of that young fellow who brought her home in a moonlit night from her godmother's home in the neighbourhood of the town of Alfenas. Mariazinha was the first to notice the increasing frequency of Basílio de Campos's passing by her man's little ranch: if not for having a look at the coffee bushes, then for a cup of water; and many other stoppings without a reasonable motive. Then she felt the man's penetrating stare on her skin and unfathomable feelings suddenly became entrenched in her up to then chast and peaceful mind.
Basílio's ill repute was commented not only in Cunha but in the whole valley of the Paraíba river where many of his dreadful deeds marked his path.
This opressed the little faithful womans heart even more. Sometimes, hugging her little child Gregório, affectionately nicknamed Gorinho, she kissed his rosy cheeks seeing in that toddler the fruit of her love for Juca. And how many times Juca surprised her with a forlorn look in her eyes noticing the embarassment hidden in her answers to his questions.

One day, comimg back from his fields he searched for Mariazinha throughout the house. He seeked and spread helpers around the country looking for her. To no avail. Days later, a trouper coming from Guaratinguetá told the disconsolate Juca that Mariazinha was seen riding on Basílios dapple-grey horse.

Poor Juca! The only thing left over from those tender times when his loving soul quenched its thirsts in Mariazinha's ungrateful arms, was Gorinho, a dear and living memory for his embittered heart. With his son in his arms he cried, and then disguising his pain turned all his attention and efforts to the innocent and beloved child. Yes, innocent. For Juca did all he could so that Gorinho never came to know who was his mother and how she behaved.
In fact, at the age of twelve, about his mother Gorinho only knew that "she died" not knowing when or how. Since he never knew her, he didn't miss her, but blamed his father's profound melancholy to her death.

His father,while on a pilgrimage at the basilica of Aparecida, involuntarily stumbled over Basílio's despicable presence who defyingly bumped into him. He reached for the knife at his belt but halted his move. At his side stood his beloved son. If he plunged the knife into Basílio, Gorinho would from thereon be pointed at as the son of an adulteress as well as the son of a murderer. No! Gorinho shoud never become aware of all this!

He decided to move to Ubatuba. He came here and bought a small ranch,sold his place in Cunha and was traveling here with his son. By the shores, he thought, living would be more agreeable, without running the chance to meet Basílio or someone who could tell Gorinho what he should ignore through all his life.
Arriving at the highest point of the range, he said:
- Gorinho, can you see that big greenish blue down there? Its the sea. There, by the ocean, we will live. Look back for the last time to the lands we've known for all these years and swear that you'll never come back by this road. Do you swear?
- - But why, father?
- Don't ask son! Swear that you'll never cross this range again?
- I do, father!

Juca Mineiro nudged the horse and in silence they went down the range. Suddenly, stopping Gorinho's reverie a man jumped out from dense bushes and in anger shouted out:
- Juca, you miserable, you shall die!
And without demurring, shot Juca through the chest.
While an agonizing cry left Gorinhos throat, the stranger disappeared in the bushes. Juca, deadly wounded, fell from the horse. Gorinho, hugging his father in despair didn't understand what was happening.
- The dying man said: My son, you'll lose your father... don't cry... but before I go, let me tell you my... our... story: With weakening gasps he told his son all the misfortune that life had held over his head with Mariazinha's ingratitude.
And his last words were:
- My son ... one day... you'll avenge your father... God bless you...

Gorinho planted there a simple cross later substituted by the "Big Iron Cross, black and silent", thus marking forever the place where his vengeance would be accomplished.

Eleven years went by. Gorinho , a young tawny man of twenty three, black and curly hair ,strong and tall, but always under a spell of sadness .At any given moment his behaviour showed a deep melancholy.
One day, on a bright fresh April morning, seeing the hated figure of Basílio in a store at the Prainha beach, the remembrance of his vow of vengeance boiled up in his chest. He promptly departed quick on his feet along the Mato Dentro road with a smirk on his lips. He would avenge his fathers death. Avenge!

A little before the Cachoeira Grande waterfall at the beginning of the range , he rested a while . He had overheard Basílio at the store saying that he was in a hurry, so he should soon be around.
Gorinho, reacting to the smallest noise , hid in the dense bushes bordering the road until finally at the curve, some mules showed up. Right behind, Basílio on a palomino, smoking insouciantly without remembrance at all of the heinous crime he perpetrated eleven years ago almost at the same place.
Gorinho shuddered. With the knife in his hand he jumped on the road and shouted:
- Stop you scoundrel! Get down from that horse!
- What do you want? Ain't got no money! I'm taking only these animals!.. answered Basílio, slowly leaving the saddle, not recognizing in the "thief " the son of his victim.
- Do you remember my mother?
- Your mother? Don't have a clue! Who was your mother?
- You're right, I never had a mother... do you remember that slut you stole from my father?
- Ah! It is you, Gorinho? Mariazinha...
Basílio tried to speak,but a cold blade pierced his heart.

Gorinho, steadfast, looked up to the sky in a silent prayer, and bowing over the corpse violently teared the bloodsoaked shirt from Basílio. Mounting on the victims horse he rode up the sierra. When he finally saw the "lonesome and misterious cross" he jumped from the horse and with tear filled eyes went to the cross and draped the bloodstained cloth around its arms whispering : Father! You're revenged! Here's the still warm blood of the one who disgraced your life...

He kissed the cross and was about to leave when he noticed the travelers who came down the sierra, extasiated by the flabbergasting view. The boy trembled with fear of getting caught, they were almost too close, when turning his head to the cross he saw...... a miracle!

Now, entwined around the corroded arms of the cross, there were the green curled branches of a delicate plant swaying in the breeze adorned with vermillion flowers exhaling a lovely scent. * * *

That's why Cesídio Ambrogi said so well:

And ... wonder! - in April, so travelers say,
its arms are entwined by vermillion flowers,
like roses weeping their blood...

Abridged from the book "Ubatuba - Lendas & Outras Estórias" (Ubatuba-Legends & Other Stories)
written by Washington de Oliveira ("seo" Filhinho)
authorized by the writer


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