It was all for chess. At first they played after supper at seven o'clock, with a reasonablehandicap for Jeremiah de Saint-Amour because of his notable superiority, but the handicap wasreduced until at last they played as equals. Later, when Don Galileo Daconte opened the firstoutdoor cinema, Jeremiah de Saint-Amour was one of his most dependable customers, and thegames of chess were limited to the nights when a new film was not being shown. By then he and the Doctor had become such good friends that they would go to see the films together, but neverwith the Doctor's wife, in part because she did not have the patience to follow the complicated plotlines, and in part because it always seemed to her, through sheer intuition, that Jeremiah de Saint-Amour was not a good companion for anyone.

His Sundays were different. He would attend High Mass at the Cathedral and then returnhome to rest and read on the terrace in the patio. He seldom visited a patient on a holy day ofobligation unless it was of extreme urgency, and for many years he had not accepted a socialengagement that was not obligatory. On this Pentecost, in a rare coincidence, two extraordinaryevents had occurred: the death of a friend and the silver anniversary of an eminent pupil. Yetinstead of going straight home as he had intended after certifying the death of Jeremiah de Saint-Amour, he allowed himself to be carried along by curiosity.

As soon as he was in his carriage, he again consulted the posthumous letter and told thecoachman to take him to an obscure location in the old slave quarter. That decision was so foreignto his usual habits that the coachman wanted to make certain there was no mistake. No, nomistake: the address was clear and the man who had written it had more than enough reason toknow it very well. Then Dr. Urbino returned to the first page of the letter and plunged once againinto the flood of unsavoury revelations that might have changed his life, even at his age, if hecould have convinced himself that they were not the ravings of a dying man.

The sky had begun to threaten very early in the day and the weather was cloudy and cool, butthere was no chance of rain before noon. In his effort to find a shorter route, the coachman bravedthe rough cobblestones of the colonial city and had to stop often to keep the horse from beingfrightened by the rowdiness of the religious societies and fraternities coming back from thePentecost liturgy. The streets were full of paper garlands, music, flowers, and girls with colouredparasols and muslin ruffles who watched the celebration from their balconies. In the Plaza of theCathedral, where the statue of The Liberator was almost hidden among the African palm trees andthe globes of the new streetlights, traffic was congested because Mass had ended, and not a seatwas empty in the venerable and noisy Parish Caf? Dr. Urbino's was the only horse-drawn carriage;it was distinguishable from the handful left in the city because the patent-leather roof was alwayskept polished, and it had fittings of bronze that would not be corroded by salt, and wheels andpoles painted red with gilt trimming like gala nights at the Vienna Opera. Furthermore, while themost demanding families were satisfied if their drivers had a clean shirt, he still required hiscoachman to wear livery of faded velvet and a top hat like a circus ringmaster's, which, more thanan anachronism, was thought to show a lack of compassion in the dog days of the Caribbeansummer.

Despite his almost maniacal love for the city and a knowledge of it superior to anyone's, Dr.

Juvenal Urbino had not often had reason as he did that Sunday to venture boldly into the tumult ofthe old slave quarter. The coachman had to make many turns and stop to ask directions severaltimes in order to find the house. As they passed by the marshes, Dr. Urbino recognised theiroppressive weight, their ominous silence, their suffocating gases, which on so many insomniacdawns had risen to his bedroom, blending with the fragrance of jasmine from the patio, and whichhe felt pass by him like a wind out of yesterday that had nothing to do with his life. But thatpestilence so frequently idealised by nostalgia became an unbearable reality when the carriagebegan to lurch through the quagmire of the streets where buzzards fought over the slaughterhouse offal as it was swept along by the receding tide. Unlike the city of the Viceroys where the houseswere made of masonry, here they were built of weathered boards and zinc roofs, and most of themrested on pilings to protect them from the flooding of the open sewers that had been inherited fromthe Spaniards. Everything looked wretched and desolate, but out of the sordid taverns came thethunder of riotous music, the godless drunken celebration of Pentecost by the poor. By the timethey found the house, gangs of ragged children were chasing the carriage and ridiculing thetheatrical finery of the coachman, who had to drive them away with his whip. Dr. Urbino,prepared for a confidential visit, realised too late that there was no innocence more dangerous thanthe innocence of age.

The exterior of the unnumbered house was in no way distinguishable from its less fortunateneighbours, except for the window with lace curtains and an imposing front door taken from someold church. The coachman pounded the door knocker, and only when he had made certain that itwas the right house did he help the Doctor out of the carriage. The door opened without a sound,and in the shadowy interior stood a mature woman dressed in black, with a red rose behind her ear.

Despite her age, which was no less than forty, she was still a haughty mulatta with cruel goldeneyes and hair tight to her skull like a helmet of steel wool. Dr. Urbino did not recognise her,although he had seen her several times in the gloom of the chess games in the photographer'sstudio, and he had once written her a prescription for tertian fever. He held out his hand and shetook it between hers, less in greeting than to help him into the house. The parlour had the climateand invisible murmur of a forest glade and was crammed with furniture and exquisite objects, eachin its natural place. Dr. Urbino recalled without bitterness an antiquarian's shop, No .26 rueMontmartre in Paris, on an autumn Monday in the last century. TheIt was all for chess. At first they played after supper at seven o'clock, with a reasonablehandicap for Jeremiah de Saint-Amour because of his notable superiority, but the handicap wasreduced until at last they played as equals. Later, when Don Galileo Daconte opened the firstoutdoor cinema, Jeremiah de Saint-Amour was one of his most dependable customers, and thegames of chess were limited to the nights when a new film was not being shown. By then he and the Doctor had become such good friends that they would go to see the films together, but neverwith the Doctor's wife, in part because she did not have the patience to follow the complicated plotlines, and in part because it always seemed to her, through sheer intuition, that Jeremiah de Saint-Amour was not a good companion for anyone.

His Sundays were different. He would attend High Mass at the Cathedral and then returnhome to rest and read on the terrace in the patio. He seldom visited a patient on a holy day ofobligation unless it was of extreme urgency, and for many years he had not accepted a socialengagement that was not obligatory. On this Pentecost, in a rare coincidence, two extraordinaryevents had occurred: the death of a friend and the silver anniversary of an eminent pupil. Yetinstead of going straight home as he had intended after certifying the death of Jeremiah de Saint-Amour, he allowed himself to be carried along by curiosity.

As soon as he was in his carriage, he again consulted the posthumous letter and told thecoachman to take him to an obscure location in the old slave quarter. That decision was so foreignto his usual habits that the coachman wanted to make certain there was no mistake. No, nomistake: the address was clear and the man who had written it had more than enough reason toknow it very well. Then Dr. Urbino returned to the first page of the letter and plunged once againinto the flood of unsavoury revelations that might have changed his life, even at his age, if hecould have convinced himself that they were not the ravings of a dying man.

The sky had begun to threaten very early in the day and the weather was cloudy and cool, butthere was no chance of rain before noon. In his effort to find a shorter route, the coachman bravedthe rough cobblestones of the colonial city and had to stop often to keep the horse from beingfrightened by the rowdiness of the religious societies and fraternities coming back from thePentecost liturgy. The streets were full of paper garlands, music, flowers, and girls with colouredparasols and muslin ruffles who watched the celebration from their balconies. In the Plaza of theCathedral, where the statue of The Liberator was almost hidden among the African palm trees andthe globes of the new streetlights, traffic was congested because Mass had ended, and not a seatwas empty in the venerable and noisy Parish Caf? Dr. Urbino's was the only horse-drawn carriage;it was distinguishable from the handful left in the city because the patent-leather roof was alwayskept polished, and it had fittings of bronze that would not be corroded by salt, and wheels andpoles painted red with gilt trimming like gala nights at the Vienna Opera. Furthermore, while themost demanding families were satisfied if their drivers had a clean shirt, he still required hiscoachman to wear livery of faded velvet and a top hat like a circus ringmaster's, which, more thanan anachronism, was thought to show a lack of compassion in the dog days of the Caribbeansummer.

Despite his almost maniacal love for the city and a knowledge of it superior to anyone's, Dr.

Juvenal Urbino had not often had reason as he did that Sunday to venture boldly into the tumult ofthe old slave quarter. The coachman had to make many turns and stop to ask directions severaltimes in order to find the house. As they passed by the marshes, Dr. Urbino recognised theiroppressive weight, their ominous silence, their suffocating gases, which on so many insomniacdawns had risen to his bedroom, blending with the fragrance of jasmine from the patio, and whichhe felt pass by him like a wind out of yesterday that had nothing to do with his life. But thatpestilence so frequently idealised by nostalgia became an unbearable reality when the carriagebegan to lurch through the quagmire of the streets where buzzards fought over the slaughterhouse offal as it was swept along by the receding tide. Unlike the city of the Viceroys where the houseswere made of masonry, here they were built of weathered boards and zinc roofs, and most of themrested on pilings to protect them from the flooding of the open sewers that had been inherited fromthe Spaniards. Everything looked wretched and desolate, but out of the sordid taverns came thethunder of riotous music, the godless drunken celebration of Pentecost by the poor. By the timethey found the house, gangs of ragged children were chasing the carriage and ridiculing thetheatrical finery of the coachman, who had to drive them away with his whip. Dr. Urbino,prepared for a confidential visit, realised too late that there was no innocence more dangerous thanthe innocence of age.

The exterior of the unnumbered house was in no way distinguishable from its less fortunateneighbours, except for the window with lace curtains and an imposing front door taken from someold church. The coachman pounded the door knocker, and only when he had made certain that itwas the right house did he help the Doctor out of the carriage. The door opened without a sound,and in the shadowy interior stood a mature woman dressed in black, with a red rose behind her ear.

Despite her age, which was no less than forty, she was still a haughty mulatta with cruel goldeneyes and hair tight to her skull like a helmet of steel wool. Dr. Urbino did not recognise her,although he had seen her several times in the gloom of the chess games in the photographer'sstudio, and he had once written her a prescription for tertian fever. He held out his hand and shetook it between hers, less in greeting than to help him into the house. The parlour had the climateand invisible murmur of a forest glade and was crammed with furniture and exquisite objects, eachin its natural place. Dr. Urbino recalled without bitterness an antiquarian's shop, No .26 rueMontmartre in Paris, on an autumn Monday in the last century. The woman sat down across fromhim and spoke in accented Spanish.