The Squash of
the Esvidos by
Mary E. Bamford
Black dog slipped through a swinging gate and Miss Elizabeth
followed him into an olive, orchard of small dimensions. The family
to whom the black dog belonged was there. The father, Bernardo
Esvido, stood on a step-ladder, picking black olives into a bucket
half filled with water, the bucket being fastened to Mr. Esvido's
waist so that he might use both hands, while the water in the bucket
prevented the ripe olives from being bruised. He who picks ripe
olives into a hard bucket knows not his business.
Beneath another olive tree sat the mother, the daughter, and the
son, washing olives in a water-trough. The small black dog raised his
voice, and did his best to inform the Esvidos that a stranger eyed
"You read Portuguese?" asked Miss Elizabeth, smiling on the busy
group. Miss Elizabeth was not a book-agent, but, moved by the
religious destitution of the Portuguese, she had devised the plan of
buying at some city book-store Bibles or Testaments in Portuguese,
and then going into the surrounding country and hunting for
Portuguese who could read. To such, on account of their poverty, Miss
Elizabeth often sold for ten cents a Bible she had bought for forty or
sixty cents. She would gladly have given the Bibles free, but from
observation she had become persuaded that those Portuguese who paid a
few cents for a Bile were much more likely to read it than were those
to whom one was given for nothing.
At Miss Elizabeth's question the united Esvido family looked at the
mother. She was the one reader of the group. Many Portuguese do not
read, either in English or in their own language. If a Portuguese
woman reads Portuguese, her neighbors perhaps know of her
accomplishment. Mr. Esvido was proud that his wife knew how to read
Portuguese even if he was ignorant. None of the family could read
"You like buy Biblia Sagrada?" (Holy Bible) questioned Miss
Elizabeth. "It is all Portuguese."
The red book was passed to the mother, who shook olive-leaves and
dust from her hands, and took up the Bible. She had dimly known that
there was such a book. She remembered hearing of the Biblia Sagrada
years ago, when she was a girl in Lisbon, long before she came to
California; but none of her acquaintances had such a book, and she
had never before to-day seen a Portuguese Bible.
But at last the book was handed back to Miss Elizabeth.
"No money," carelessly explained Mr. Esvido.
The oil-maker who bought the crops of the local olive-growers had
not yet paid for the olives. Even ten cents was not in Mr. Esvido's
pocket, just now.
Miss Elizabeth looked around. Neither Mr. nor Mrs. Esvido seemed
very anxious about the Bible, but Miss Elizabeth felt anxious for
them. A woman who could read Portuguese ought to have a Bible, and
she ought to pay something for it in order to interest her in it
thoroughly. Miss Elizabeth's eyes spied a yellow squash. She did not
want it, but it would be payment.
"You give me squash, I give you Biblia Sagrada," she proposed.
"How you take it?" asked Mr. Esvido, smiling.
Miss Elizabeth opened her hands with a gesture that showed she
meant to carry the squash, hidden as much as possible under her short
"We make trade," agreed Mr. Esvido; and Miss Elizabeth, leaving the
Bible, bore the big squash away.
But Miss Elizabeth's yellow burden became very heavy before she had
gone far on the long country road. She found at last a wandering
piece of newspaper, which she wrapped over as much of the vegetable
as possible. The rest her cape covered, and then she marched on
toward the far wires of the electric car-line that had brought her
into the country. So vanished the squash of the Esvidos from their
Meantime the Portuguese mother read aloud from the Bible. The
daughter, Delpha, listened, while gently rubbing the black olives in
the water-trough. She knew of Christ, yet the words of the Biblia
Sagrada were unknown.
After this, Mrs. Esvido read the book much in the evenings. Delpha
and Mr. Esvido listened, the father listening more because just now
he had not his pipe for company. The American who bought the olives
declared that no one who picked olives for him must smoke during
olive harvest! All his workmen, even when off duty, must refrain from
smoking, for the tobacco odor clung to clothing. The olives would
absorb tobacco smoke. The oil would be spoiled. Mr. Esvido grumbled
much, but obeyed. There was a warning in the fate of the neighbor,
Antone Ramos, who in last year's olive season had thought one evening
to smoke a pipeful of tobacco secretly, and lo! the American, ever
watchful, came to Antone Ramos' house that very night, and the tobacco
smoke was perceptible! Antone Ramos was discharged!
Therefore, during this year's olive harvest, Mr. Esvido, with a
cautious respect for the American's preternaturally, acute perception
concerning tobacco, refrained from smoking, and found solace in
listening with Delpha to Mrs. Esvido's evening readings from the
Biblia Sagrada. It seemed marvelous to Mr. Esvido that his wife could
read. The marvel of it had never lessened for him, and one night he
said proudly, "We make good bargain when we give squash for Biblia
Sagrada! Biblia Sagrada ver' good book."
One day Mrs. Esvido read something that startled Delpha. Site could
hardly believe it possible that her mother hid read aright.
The words in the Portuguese language were these: "Amai a vossos
inimigos, fazei bem aos que vos tem odio." (Love your enemies; do
good to them that hate you.)
Alas! Delpha knew whom that meant.
There had long been a deep-seated quarrel between her and Sara
Frates. Thinking of this bitter animosity, Delpha felt keenly the
command, "Fazei bem aos que vos tem odio."
Olive harvest went on. The Esvido olives were gathered. Then Delpha
and Sara and others went to work in the American's costly olive-oil
mill, scalding the mill-stones and the crushing troughs daily,
sweeping the scraps of olive skins from the floors, and scalding the
floors to keep every odor away from the precious olive oil. Before
beginning this season, the walls of the building had been given a
coat of whitewash, and now a wood fire must not be lit anywhere near
the premises, for the precious olive oil might take a smoky taste.
It was therefore with great wrath that Delpha, who was careful to
obey rules, found one day, in a crushing trough under her
supervision, some scattered little pieces of iron. Now iron must
never be allowed to come in contact with olive juice. The tannic acid
in the olive juice acts very rapidly on the iron, producing a kind of
ink, that turns the oil black and almost ruins it. The American's
crushing troughs and weights were of granite. Delpha was sure Sara had
scattered the pieces of iron in the crushing trough on purpose to
bring Delpha into trouble.
"I do something to her!" resolved Delpha fiercely. "I pay her for
Then she remembered, "Fazei bem aos que vos tem odio." (Do good to
them that hate you.) To Sara's amazement, Delpha did not retaliate.
Sara could not understand why.
Toward the end of the olive season, the American went away for a
day. During the noon rest, Delpha, sitting in a side door, thought
she caught the odor of smoke. No wood fire was allowed around the
oil-mill! Delpha went out to investigate.
She saw a film of smoke rising from a gulch. Delpha discovered that
some of the young mill-workers' friends had caught some fish in the
bay sparkling in the distance, and had brought them this way going
home. The American being absent, the young mill-workers and their
friends had made a fire in the gulch, and were merrily broiling fish.
Sara was there, disobeying rules with the others.
Delpha ran back to the oil-mill. She hoped the fire's smoke would
not injure the oil. She was troubled as she dropped in the door. But
she could do nothing.
By and by she heard screams. She sprang up. Sara came running
around the mill. Her dress was on fire!
"Delpha! Delpha!" she screamed, "Delpha, help me!" She seemed
crazed with fright.
Did a voice say it to Delpha? She snatched a great canvas bag used
for olive-picking, and a shawl. She ran to Sara. She breathlessly
tore at the blazing garments, rolling Sara in the shawl and canvas
bag. Blackened, sobbing, Sara lay at length safe on the ground.
Delpha ran for water and olive oil.
As Delpha gently spread some olive oil on the burns, Sara flung her
arms about Delpha's neck.
"Amiga!" (friend) she sobbed, and the enmity between the girls was
Miles away, Miss Elizabeth one day said to herself, "I don't
believe we can ever use that squash I brought home from those
Portuguese! But anyhow the squash made that Portuguese woman feel that
she paid for the Bible! I hope she reads it, poor soul!"
But Miss Elizabeth did not know the whole story of the squash of
the Esvidos, or of the message that the Biblia had brought to Delpha's