Saturday, June 9, 2012
I heard this story while travelling through Patagonia, and I felt it was worth retelling, in my words, instead of hand-me-down legends. It was in the late 1940s this took place, let us call this fellow—for lack of an official name—Wyler; he and his wife, Gabriela, both lived in the city of Ushuaia, a small settlement, by the Beagle Channel, and the southernmost town-ship, or city, in the world. To prove a point, and in the process, another point was proven, Mr. Wyler left his wife, and moved to Punta Arenas, some 155-miles west of Ushuaia, in Chile, leaving for ten-years, his Argentina address and wife, and for all concerned, he was long dead. Whereupon, on the eve of the tenth year he showed up on the doorsteps of his aging wife’s home, his home; perhaps not completely uncommon in yesterday’s world, but surely odd in any generation now.
Unquestionably the story has some truth to it, as it has been repeated and remembered for over seventy-years. In today’s world, I’d find it hard for any wife to take her husband back after such a long absence, but Gabriela, gladly took him back (as if she had some perception, sixth sense he’d be back), and had been pure, faithful all those ten-years, never once looking at another man in any lustful way, so she claimed, and Mr. Wyler, could prove no different, even asking around town, at the local inns and all. Thus, if the reader chooses not to believe people lived with such honour and devotion, and not run the next day to folly, they need only to have lived in those far-off days at the end of the earth in Ushuaia, and perhaps known Gabriela, I myself have know such people.
Who was this strange man, named Wyler? People have asked, he was many things to many people I had learned, eccentric for the most part, imaginative, I understand a perplexed idealist so some have said, but had you asked his wife, I know what she would have said, without a doubt—because I have asked folks who said they knew of her through relatives: “A strange person he was with an over active mind, sedate, selfish, very vane, unrevealing,” and lastly, and the most peculiar of all, “a man with a high quality of goodness—” indefinable for the most part, non-existent in most people, and I expect with such rigid people as he, expected in other people: that is to say, if you have high expectations for yourself, you have them for others, especially those closest to you, it would be hard not to.
But what did he wait for from all this? Was my next question; in this person’s musing at me she simply said, with a quiet and crafty smile, “It was a strange and awful way for him to have her prove her devotion, her love, a convulsive effort to wait for him: perhaps a little morbid, vanity on his part. But his end was accomplished. You see, now he could rest in her arms assured of her virtue, his dilemma was resolved.”
“Well,” I asked, “How did she survive?” and she said a most awakening thing, “The Devil provides!” Unmercifully my eyes opened up wide, was she going to tell me a secret of Gabriela’s immorality as she had claimed not to have been—as legend would have it, not that her husband had not been long dead—save, she had her rights and liberties to do as she pleased—and surly no one would have condemned her after a decade of purity: perhaps she was going to expose Gabriela now, of those fearful sins she had kept secret from the hearsay legends, but what she told me was this, “Moment by moment, portion by portion, men came to and fro, wanting her to marry them, brought gifts, and one tried to outdo the other: by and by, each in turn losing his place to the other, while competing, and accordingly, she left it develop and shape itself, and lived very handsomely, until her husband’s return. You see, even the Devil works for God, unknowingly.”
No: 688/October, -2010 (the author visited Ushuaia, in September, 2010. (reedited 6-2012)