A fictional polemic in the service of the Basque cause against the restrictive policies of Franco's Spain, in which the characters come in two outsizes -- mountain-crag noble, or gutter-vicious. Among the Basque patriots: old ""Eagle"" blinded by fascists in World War II, who found the daughter he never knew by the woman who had betrayed him; three young activists and their women; and a gentle priest. Fired by the self-immolating protest of one of Eagle's old friends, and the jailing of some of their number for the murder of a police official, the underground plans to liberate the local jail. One is killed and the others captured; and tortures, trials and crushing sentences follow. Throughout, the American student Paul, bound to the Basques by love and friendship, is observer and fringe participant -- at the close marrying one of the jailed women. The dialogue, based on the charred remains of a vaguely provincial idiom, sets the teeth on edge: ""Ay, Angeles, with Jon in the trough of pain, do you still find something to be merry about?"" But considering the worthiness of the intent, the reader may, like one character, simply indulge a ""wild benign laugh.