The novel takes place in the twenties.
On the outskirts of Madrid, which is adjacent to several urban cemeteries, live Manuel Alcazar with the widowed sister Ignacia and settled with them Salvador with a young brother Enrique. Manuel works as a typewriter in the printing house, El Salvador works in the workshop of a ready-made children’s dress in the morning, and in the evening gives needlework lessons, Ignacia conducts the farm and concocts. On the first floor of the house there is a barber of the hunchback Rebolledo and the workshop of his son, the electromechanic Perico. Neighbors are friends and often come together to play cards. Usually they are joined by a friend of the Rebeledo father, old Canuto, a former veterinarian and a misanthrope. The life of these two families in both winter and summer proceeds quietly and peacefully, without special pleasures, but also without sorrows.
One day a slim, pale, long-haired young man in black with a dog comes to the house. This is Juan, the brother of Manuel, whom he has not seen for fifteen years. He talks about what fell to his lot. He quit the seminary and joined the troupe of stray comedians, then met the artist, and they restored the paintings in the church a couple. Starving starvation and studied painting in Barcelona, began to engage in modeling. Figures willingly bought, managed to save a little money. Then he went to Paris, where he continued his studies, worked
After a series of sessions and many searches, Juan finally manages to grab the right expression, the face of El Salvador seems at the same time both laughing and saddened. He advises his brother not to waste time and marry El Salvador, this is a rare and worthy girl. Perico holds the same opinion. However, Manuel is indecisive: it seems that he has nothing in his heart except a feeling of gratitude, for if it were not for El Salvador, he would have led the life of a tramp who is working where and what he will.
At the art exhibition, Juan provides a sculptural group “Bunters”, a statue of an old man and a bust of El Salvador. His work is lively, and orders are beginning to arrive. But the jury awards him only the third prize, they have everything in advance written. Huang is indignant and even intends to give up both the medal and the monetary reward, but the brother persuades him not to piss off the fever. He dreams of renting a printing press and needs money. Not in the spirit of Juan Manuel’s desire to become an owner, but he has a strong support in the face of both women. To open a business, there is not a solid amount, and Manuel takes the missing money from Robert, inviting him into his companions.
The device of the printing plant is a very troublesome business, from troubles and overwork Manuel falls ill. Salvador cares for him carefully, and increasingly he thinks about marriage. For the duration of the illness, Manuel instructs the typewriter of his old friend, the compositor Jesúsu, who settles in his house.
Somehow, Juan, along with the artist-decorator, whom he met at the exhibition, enters the tavern under the sign “Dawn”. His new friend works in an anarchist newspaper under the pseudonym Libertarius, and the young man finds in him a friend and like-minded person. The tavern seems to be both a very suitable place for gatherings, and on Sundays meetings of members of an anarchist circle called “Scarlet Dawn” begin here. His organizer and soul is Juan. Among the members of the group are Rebolledo, Jesús, Canuto, Libertarius, the student César Maldonado, the Basque Subimendi, the Madrid worker, the Frenchman Caruti, the Russian Jew Ofkin, the cobbler Sharik, the engraver Skopos. Curiosity comes from here and Manuel. The gathering here is arguing, discussing, exchanging literature of a general sociological and revolutionary nature. Differences are found, opinions collide. Anarchism, which professes Juan, has an elevated, humanitarian character. Juan almost did not read anything from anarchic books, his favorite writers were Tolstoy and Ibsen. The anarchism of Libertaria, which proclaims the rebellion of the individual against the state, is an expression of militant individualism. For Maldonado, the son of a footman, anarchism stems from wounded pride and appears as a way to avenge society, despising him for his low background. Anarchism unprincipled embodies the Madrid, Jesus and Canuto, preaching destruction for the sake of destruction. is an expression of militant individualism. For Maldonado, the son of a footman, anarchism stems from wounded pride and appears as a way to avenge society, despising him for his low background. Anarchism unprincipled embodies the Madrid, Jesus and Canuto, preaching destruction for the sake of destruction. is an expression of militant individualism. For Maldonado, the son of a footman, anarchism stems from wounded pride and appears as a way to avenge society, despising him for his low background. Anarchism unprincipled embodies the Madrid, Jesus and Canuto, preaching destruction for the sake of destruction.
Manuel has a lot of work in the printing house, he is forced to fire Jesús for drunkenness, but he remains to live in his house and, idle all day, surprisingly, forever with money.
Robert, delivering Manuel order, advises a friend to treat anarchist ideas as a sport and not too carried away. He regretfully states that Manuel could achieve a lot in life, but by nature he is not a fighter, weak-willed and weak-willed. Manuel hires Pepe Jorales, a socialist of conviction, and now they often argue about the advantages and disadvantages of socialist and anarchist doctrines.
Manuel is delaying the explanation with El Salvador, it seems to him that the girl is in love with her brother, and then there is nothing else than to leave and shoot a bullet in the forehead. Home find that Jesus at night is engaged in thefts in cemeteries. Together with the accomplices, among whom is the respectable lord Canuto, he pulls out marble slabs, iron chains, metal pens, crucifixes and candelabras, which is what happens to the junkies. However, when the police comes out on the trail of the gang, Jesús and Senor Canuto manage to leave for Tangier.
Juan for a long time does not appear in the house of Manuel, he learns that the brother is sick, he is not well with the lungs. Manuel searches for Juan in a run-down hotel and takes him to his room. Due to good care, Juan soon rises to his feet.
Manuel is increasingly critical of the anarchist doctrine, yet he is a bourgeois, he likes order and discipline. And to put bombs in general barbarism, he believes, and in no way agrees with the Libertarian, who claims that terror should be responded to only by terror. During the illness, Juan does not cease to carry out active work, he deals with propaganda issues, and maintains extensive correspondence. An excellent idealist, he visits slums, hopelessly trying to find “the gold of the human soul” amidst embittered, spoiled city scum. At an anarchist rally in the theater, he utters a fiery speech about human dignity, the liberation of the human person.
Juan and his comrades are invited to a rich house, whose owner intends to publish a journal of a radical direction and offers cooperation. However, the conversations of intellectuals gathered here are nothing but demagogic chatter, they strive to achieve selfish goals and at the same time are afraid of the raging folk element. A common language can not be found.
The day of the coronation of King Alfonso Thirteenth is approaching. In the circle “Scarlet Dawn” appears Silvio Fernandez Traskanejo with the proposal to take part in the conspiracy. The libertarian, who has become divorced from the group, warns Manuel: Juan is trusting, they want to involve him in a story, surely it’s the police intrigues, the disclosure of the conspiracy would be very welcome.
Juan brings in the house of the Passalakwa arriving from Paris. The guest behaves suspiciously, at night, secretly from Juan, Manuel and El Salvador inspect his belongings and find in a suitcase a bomb that Perico manages to disarm, drawings of explosive devices, illegal literature. All compromising hosts are thoroughly destroyed. When the police call for them in the morning, they can not find anything. Manuel is shocked: how could the infinitely kind, so humane Huang participate in such a villainous crime? Nothing can justify a mass murder. “All the ways, all the ways are good, if only they lead to a passionate revolution,” Juan objected. Traskanejo is exposed, he is a provocateur acting under the orders of the police.
The business in the printing house is not going as well as we would like, it still can not pay it off, reports Manuel to Robert, who came to England. But the companion decided to quit the business and leave the friend as the full owner of the printing house, he gives him a security entry. Robert advises Manuel to drop anarchist ideas, he himself is a supporter of enlightened despotism, does not believe in democracy, considering it only as a principle of building a society, but not his goal.
Manuel and El Salvador are finally getting married. On the eve of the coronation day, Juan disappears from the house. There are rumors that an attempt will be made along the route of the procession. Concerned Manuel bypasses the streets filled with people in search of his brother, but special incidents do not happen. Only Senor Canuto, showered with insults by soldiers and the national flag, falls under the saber blows. Manuel in his arms takes the weakened brother out of the crowd, which is crowded by policemen.
For several days, Juan is in a semi-conscious state, he flatly refuses to confess to the priest invited by Ignacy. The police are with a warrant for his arrest, but he is already dead. The law enforcers strongly recommend that a funeral should be held without demonstration. A large crowd gathers at the house, the coffin is covered with a red banner.