Tortilla Flat: Novel Summary: Chapter XI-XIII
The Pirate continues to do his rounds every day, and the quarter he collects he gives to Danny, who puts it in the canvas bag under his pillow. The friends are proud of this money they are collecting and no one ever thinks of tampering with it. The goal is to buy a candlestick which will be dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi.
One evening, Danny, Pablo, Pilon, Jesus Maria and the Pirate go to the beach after they hear that a Coast Guard cutter has gone aground near Carmel. All night they gather together useful flotsam, including a can of butter, canned goods, and even a machine gun. When they return, Danny goes to put the Pirate's quarter in the canvas bag, as he always does, but to his horror, he finds that the bag has gone. They all immediately know who the culprit is-Big Joe Portagee. They prepare for their revenge. When Joe returns, they beat him severely with sticks, covering his body with welts. Joe confesses that he buried the canvas bag by the front gate. He swears he only took four quarters and he promises to work and put them back. They beat him again, this time into unconsciousness. Then they cut his back and rub salt into his wounds.
The men count the money and find that they have collected enough to buy the candlestick. Big Joe comes round and starts moaning. Jesus Maria takes pity on him and gives him some wine. The others then soften, and they wash the salt from his wounds.
The following afternoon, the Pirate, who has just bought a silk handkerchief and a broad belt and borrowed some clothes from his friends, takes the treasure to Father Ramon. The priest listens to the Pirate's story and agrees to buy the gold candlestick for him.
On the way back home, all the men are happy. That night they have a party in the Pirate's honor. Jesus Maria asks him whether he saw any holy visions when he promised the candlestick to St. Francis and his sick dog started to get well. The Pirate convinces himself that he may have seen St. Francis, but it is clear that he did not really see the saint. He is just drunk with happiness from all the attention he is receiving. The men talk about holy visions and feel the saints looking down upon them.
On Sunday morning, the Pirate goes to church, all spruced up and wearing Danny's shirt, Big Joe's pants, and Pilon's father's hat. The men will not let him take his dogs, though, since they believe dogs should not be in church. The Pirate is disappointed at this, and says the dogs will not like it.
Once in the Church of San Carlos, the Pirate sees a beautiful golden candlestick, and in it a tall candle is burning. He is excited, and cannot stop looking at it. During the sermon, Father Ramon speaks about the golden candlestick and tells the Pirate's dog story. But before the sermon ends, there is a commotion as the Pirate's dogs burst into the church and head straight for him. The priest halts his sermon and looks stern, but then he relents and laughs. The Pirate takes his dogs outside as the priest requests. He tells them to wait outside while he returns to the church. When the service is over, he takes the dogs to the woods and makes them listen as he tells them everything about the sermon he has just heard. When he has finished he tells them that St. Francis is responsible for all of it. Suddenly there is a tiny sound behind the Pirate, and all the dogs look up. The Pirate convinces himself that the dogs have seen a vision of St. Francis.
Teresina Cortez lives with her mother Angelica in a cottage on Tortilla Flat. Teresina is about thirty years old with nine children. She was deserted by her husband Alfred shortly after her marriage at the age of sixteen. One day, one of her children, Alfredo, is questioned at school by a visiting nurse, since he appears to be thin. When Alfredo tells her that his diet consists of nothing but tortillas and beans, she is shocked. A doctor visits the family and examines the children, but finds that they are in excellent health. One year, however, the bean crop fails. Teresina and her family are terrified that they may all starve.
Jesus Maria visits her and learns of the situation. His compassion is aroused, and when he returns home, he inspires his friends to join together to help the unfortunate family. They go on a spree of petty larceny, stealing food wherever they can find it in order to serve a good cause. The Pirate raises the price of kindling to thirty cents. Food begins to accumulate in Teresina's house, and the back porch overflows with vegetables. Teresina is overjoyed at first, but then she finds that the sudden appearance of more varied food does not suit the children, and they start to come down with minor ailments. She explains to Danny and his friends that vegetables and fruit are not good for children. The best food for them is beans.
That night, the four friends steal sackloads of beans from a warehouse. Teresina and her mother are delighted, and Angelica gives thanks to the Virgin Mary.
Teresina soon discovers that she is pregnant once again. The father, the narrator implies, is Jesus Maria.
The bond of friendship between the paisanos transcends the considerable lure of the canvas bag full of the Pirate's money. A thousand quarters is a very large amount of money for these poor men. Petty rogues they may in some respects be, but they show their loyalty to one another and also their devotion to the Pirate, arranging a party for him and making sure that he has decent clothes to wear in church. The extent to which they take pride in not touching the money is also revealed by the severity with which they view Big Joe's attempt to steal it. But even Joe is quickly forgiven after the beating.
The attitude to the Pirate's money also shows the religious faith of the men. Since the money is to be used to buy a candlestick dedicated to St. Francis, they regard the treasure as in effect belonging to the saint. The money serves a spiritual rather than a material cause, and is a rough equivalent, in their world, of the instruction given by Jesus in the New Testament not to store up your treasure on earth, "where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal,?(Matthew ch. 6, verse 19) but to store up treasure in heaven, where no misfortune can befall it.
In Chapter XIII, like the good "knights?they are, the friends go to the aid of a damsel in distress. The story shows Jesus Maria, the humanitarian, in a good light, because he cannot bear to see anyone in pain or distress without trying to help. However, Jesus Maria appears to have learned a lesson from Pilon's playbook in the sense that his motives are not quite as pure as they seem. When the narrator comments, "How many times had he not come upon young ladies when they needed comforting,?the reader guesses that the form of comfort that Jesus Maria offers will likely include his sexual attentions, a guess that is confirmed at the end of the chapter when it is revealed that Teresina is pregnant once again.