Part 1 out of 5
Etext prepared by Dagny, email@example.com
and John Bickers, firstname.lastname@example.org
by B. PEREZ GALDOS
Translated from the Spanish
Mary J. Serrano
The very acute and lively Spanish critic who signs himself Clarin, and
is known personally as Don Leopoldo Alas, says the present Spanish
novel has no yesterday, but only a day-before-yesterday. It does not
derive from the romantic novel which immediately preceded that: the
novel, large or little, as it was with Cervantes, Hurtado de Mendoza,
Quevedo, and the masters of picaresque fiction.
Clarin dates its renascence from the political revolution of 1868,
which gave Spanish literature the freedom necessary to the fiction
that studies to reflect modern life, actual ideas, and current
aspirations; and though its authors were few at first, "they have
never been adventurous spirits, friends of Utopia, revolutionists, or
impatient progressists and reformers." He thinks that the most daring,
the most advanced, of the new Spanish novelists, and the best by far,
is Don Benito Perez Galdos.
I should myself have made my little exception in favor of Don Armando
Palacio Valdes, but Clarin speaks with infinitely more authority, and
I am certainly ready to submit when he goes on to say that Galdos is
not a social or literary insurgent; that he has no political or
religious prejudices; that he shuns extremes, and is charmed with
prudence; that his novels do not attack the Catholic dogmas--though
they deal so severely with Catholic bigotry--but the customs and ideas
cherished by secular fanaticism to the injury of the Church. Because
this is so evident, our critic holds, his novels are "found in the
bosom of families in every corner of Spain." Their popularity among
all classes in Catholic and prejudiced Spain, and not among free-
thinking students merely, bears testimony to the fact that his aim and
motive are understood and appreciated, although his stories are
apparently so often anti-Catholic.
Dona Perfecta is, first of all, a story, and a great story, but it is
certainly also a story that must appear at times potently, and even
bitterly, anti-Catholic. Yet it would be a pity and an error to read
it with the preoccupation that it was an anti-Catholic tract, for
really it is not that. If the persons were changed in name and place,
and modified in passion to fit a cooler air, it might equally seem an
anti-Presbyterian or anti-Baptist tract; for what it shows in the
light of their own hatefulness and cruelty are perversions of any
religion, any creed. It is not, however, a tract at all; it deals in
artistic largeness with the passion of bigotry, as it deals with the
passion of love, the passion of ambition, the passion of revenge. But
Galdos is Spanish and Catholic, and for him the bigotry wears a
Spanish and Catholic face. That is all.
Up to a certain time, I believe, Galdos wrote romantic or idealistic
novels, and one of these I have read, and it tired me very much. It
was called "Marianela," and it surprised me the more because I was
already acquainted with his later work, which is all realistic. But
one does not turn realist in a single night, and although the change
in Galdos was rapid it was not quite a lightning change; perhaps
because it was not merely an outward change, but artistically a change
of heart. His acceptance in his quality of realist was much more
instant than his conversion, and vastly wider; for we are told by the
critic whom I have been quoting that Galdos's earlier efforts, which
he called /Episodios Nacionales/, never had the vogue which his
realistic novels have enjoyed.
These were, indeed, tendencious, if I may Anglicize a very necessary
word from the Spanish /tendencioso/. That is, they dealt with very
obvious problems, and had very distinct and poignant significations,
at least in the case of "Dona Perfecta," "Leon Roch," and "Gloria." In
still later novels, Emilia Pardo-Bazan thinks, he has comprehended
that "the novel of to-day must take note of the ambient truth, and
realize the beautiful with freedom and independence." This valiant
lady, in the campaign for realism which she made under the title of
"La Cuestion Palpitante"--one of the best and strongest books on the
subject--counts him first among Spanish realists, as Clarin counts him
first among Spanish novelists. "With a certain fundamental humanity,"
she says, "a certain magisterial simplicity in his creations, with the
natural tendency of his clear intelligence toward the truth, and with
the frankness of his observation, the great novelist was always
disposed to pass over to realism with arms and munitions; but his
aesthetic inclinations were idealistic, and only in his latest works
has he adopted the method of the modern novel, fathomed more and more
the human heart, and broken once for all with the picturesque and with
the typical personages, to embrace the earth we tread."
For her, as I confess for me, "Dona Perfecta" is not realistic enough
--realistic as it is; for realism at its best is not tendencious. It
does not seek to grapple with human problems, but is richly content
with portraying human experiences; and I think Senora Pardo-Bazan is
right in regarding "Dona Perfecta" as transitional, and of a period
when the author had not yet assimilated in its fullest meaning the
faith he had imbibed.
Yet it is a great novel, as I said; and perhaps because it is
transitional it will please the greater number who never really arrive
anywhere, and who like to find themselves in good company /en route/.
It is so far like life that it is full of significations which pass
beyond the persons and actions involved, and envelop the reader, as if
he too were a character of the book, or rather as if its persons were
men and women of this thinking, feeling, and breathing world, and he
must recognize their experiences as veritable facts. From the first
moment to the last it is like some passage of actual events in which
you cannot withhold your compassion, your abhorrence, your admiration,
any more than if they took place within your personal knowledge. Where
they transcend all facts of your personal knowledge, you do not accuse
them of improbability, for you feel their potentiality in yourself,
and easily account for them in the alien circumstance. I am not saying
that the story has no faults; it has several. There are tags of
romanticism fluttering about it here and there; and at times the
author permits himself certain old-fashioned literary airs and poses
and artifices, which you simply wonder at. It is in spite of these,
and with all these defects, that it is so great and beautiful a book.
What seems to be so very admirable in the management of the story is
the author's success in keeping his own counsel. This may seem a very
easy thing; but, if the reader will think over the novelists of his
acquaintance, he will find that it is at least very uncommon. They
mostly give themselves away almost from the beginning, either by their
anxiety to hide what is coming, or their vanity in hinting what great
things they have in store for the reader. Galdos does neither the one
nor the other. He makes it his business to tell the story as it grows;
to let the characters unfold themselves in speech and action; to
permit the events to happen unheralded. He does not prophesy their
course, he does not forecast the weather even for twenty-four hours;
the atmosphere becomes slowly, slowly, but with occasional lifts and
reliefs, of such a brooding breathlessness, of such a deepening
density, that you feel the wild passion-storm nearer and nearer at
hand, till it bursts at last; and then you are astonished that you had
not foreseen it yourself from the first moment.
Next to this excellent method, which I count the supreme
characteristic of the book merely because it represents the whole, and
the other facts are in the nature of parts, is the masterly conception
of the characters. They are each typical of a certain side of human
nature, as most of our personal friends and enemies are; but not
exclusively of this side or that. They are each of mixed motives,
mixed qualities; none of them is quite a monster; though those who are
badly mixed do such monstrous things.
Pepe Rey, who is such a good fellow--so kind, and brave, and upright,
and generous, so fine a mind, and so high a soul--is tactless and
imprudent; he even condescends to the thought of intrigue; and though
he rejects his plots at last, his nature has once harbored deceit. Don
Inocencio, the priest, whose control of Dona Perfecta's conscience has
vitiated the very springs of goodness in her, is by no means bad,
aside from his purposes. He loves his sister and her son tenderly, and
wishes to provide for them by the marriage which Pepe's presence
threatens to prevent. The nephew, though selfish and little, has
moments of almost being a good fellow; the sister, though she is
really such a lamb of meekness, becomes a cat, and scratches Don
Inocencio dreadfully when he weakens in his design against Pepe.
Rosario, one of the sweetest and purest images of girlhood that I know
in fiction, abandons herself with equal passion to the love she feels
for her cousin Pepe, and to the love she feels for her mother, Dona
Perfecta. She is ready to fly with him, and yet she betrays him to her
mother's pitiless hate.
But it is Dona Perfecta herself who is the transcendent figure, the
most powerful creation of the book. In her, bigotry and its fellow-
vice, hypocrisy, have done their perfect work, until she comes near to
being a devil, and really does some devil's deeds. Yet even she is not
without some extenuating traits. Her bigotry springs from her
conscience, and she is truly devoted to her daughter's eternal
welfare; she is of such a native frankness that at a certain point she
tears aside her mask of dissimulation and lets Pepe see all the
ugliness of her perverted soul. She is wonderfully managed. At what
moment does she begin to hate him, and to wish to undo her own work in
making a match between him and her daughter? I could defy anyone to
say. All one knows is that at one moment she adores her brother's son,
and at another she abhors him, and has already subtly entered upon her
efforts to thwart the affection she has invited in him for her
Caballuco, what shall I say of Caballuco? He seems altogether bad, but
the author lets one imagine that this cruel, this ruthless brute must
have somewhere about him traits of lovableness, of leniency, though he
never lets one see them. His gratitude to Dona Perfecta, even his
murderous devotion, is not altogether bad; and he is certainly worse
than nature made him, when wrought upon by her fury and the suggestion
of Don Inocencio. The scene where they work him up to rebellion and
assassination is a compendium of the history of intolerance; as the
mean little conceited city of Orbajosas is the microcosm of bigoted
and reactionary Spain.
I have called, or half-called, this book tendencious; but in a certain
larger view it is not so. It is the eternal interest of passion
working upon passion, not the temporary interest of condition
antagonizing condition, which renders "Dona Perfecta" so poignantly
interesting, and which makes its tragedy immense. But there is hope as
well as despair in such a tragedy. There is the strange support of a
bereavement in it, the consolation of feeling that for those who have
suffered unto death, nothing can harm them more; that even for those
who have inflicted their suffering this peace will soon come.
"Is Perez Galdos a pessimist?" asks the critic Clarin. "No, certainly;
but if he is not, why does he paint us sorrows that seem inconsolable?
Is it from love of paradox? Is it to show that his genius, which can
do so much, can paint the shadow lovelier than the light? Nothing of
this. Nothing that is not serious, honest, and noble, is to be found
in this novelist. Are they pessimistic, those ballads of the North,
that always end with vague resonances of woe? Are they pessimists,
those singers of our own land, who surprise us with tears in the midst
of laughter? Is Nature pessimistic, who is so sad at nightfall that it
seems as if day were dying forever? . . . The sadness of art, like
that of nature, is a form of hope. Why is Christianity so artistic?
Because it is the religion of sadness."
W. D. HOWELLS.
VILLAHORRENDA! FIVE MINUTES!
When the down train No. 65--of what line it is unnecessary to say--
stopped at the little station between kilometres 171 and 172, almost
all the second-and third-class passengers remained in the cars,
yawning or asleep, for the penetrating cold of the early morning did
not invite to a walk on the unsheltered platform. The only first-class
passenger on the train alighted quickly, and addressing a group of
the employes asked them if this was the Villahorrenda station.
"We are in Villahorrenda," answered the conductor whose voice was
drowned by the cackling of the hens which were at that moment being
lifted into the freight car. "I forgot to call you, Senor de Rey. I
think they are waiting for you at the station with the beasts."
"Why, how terribly cold it is here!" said the traveller, drawing his
cloak more closely about him. "Is there no place in the station where
I could rest for a while, and get warm, before undertaking a journey
on horseback through this frozen country?"
Before he had finished speaking the conductor, called away by the
urgent duties of his position, went off, leaving our unknown
cavalier's question unanswered. The latter saw that another employe
was coming toward him, holding a lantern in his right hand, that swung
back and forth as he walked, casting the light on the platform of the
station in a series of zigzags, like those described by the shower
from a watering-pot.
"Is there a restaurant or a bedroom in the station of Villahorrenda?"
said the traveller to the man with the lantern.
"There is nothing here," answered the latter brusquely, running toward
the men who were putting the freight on board the cars, and assuaging
them with such a volley of oaths, blasphemies, and abusive epithets
that the very chickens, scandalized by his brutality, protested
against it from their baskets.
"The best thing I can do is to get away from this place as quickly as
possible," said the gentlemen to himself. "The conductor said that the
beasts were here."
Just as he had come to this conclusion he felt a thin hand pulling him
gently and respectfully by the cloak. He turned round and saw a figure
enveloped in a gray cloak, and out of whose voluminous folds peeped
the shrivelled and astute countenance of a Castilian peasant. He
looked at the ungainly figure, which reminded one of the black poplar
among trees; he observed the shrewd eyes that shone from beneath the
wide brim of the old velvet hat; the sinewy brown hand that grasped a
green switch, and the broad foot that, with every movement, made the
iron spur jingle.
"Are you Senor Don Jose de Rey?" asked the peasant, raising his hand
to his hat.
"Yes; and you, I take it," answered the traveller joyfully, "are Dona
Perfecta's servant, who have come to the station to meet me and show
me the way to Orbajosa?"
"The same. Whenever you are ready to start. The pony runs like the
wind. And Senor Don Jose, I am sure, is a good rider. For what comes
"Which is the way out?" asked the traveller, with impatience. "Come,
let us start, senor—-What is your name?"
"My name is Pedro Lucas," answered the man of the gray cloak, again
making a motion to take off his hat; "but they call me Uncle Licurgo.
Where is the young gentleman's baggage?"
"There it is—-there under the cloak. There are three pieces—-two
portmanteaus and a box of books for Senor Don Cayetano. Here is the
A moment later cavalier and squire found themselves behind the
barracks called a depot, and facing a road which, starting at this
point, disappeared among the neighboring hills, on whose naked slopes
could be vaguely distinguished the miserable hamlet of Villahorrenda.
There were three animals to carry the men and the luggage. A not ill-
looking nag was destined for the cavalier; Uncle Licurgo was to ride a
venerable hack, somewhat loose in the joints, but sure-footed; and the
mule, which was to be led by a stout country boy of active limbs and
fiery blood, was to carry the luggage.
Before the caravan had put itself in motion the train had started, and
was now creeping along the road with the lazy deliberation of a way
train, awakening, as it receded in the distance, deep subterranean
echoes. As it entered the tunnel at kilometre 172, the steam issued
from the steam whistle with a shriek that resounded through the air.
From the dark mouth of the tunnel came volumes of whitish smoke, a
succession of shrill screams like the blasts of a trumpet followed,
and at the sound of its stentorian voice villages, towns, the whole
surrounding country awoke. Here a cock began to crow, further on
another. Day was beginning to dawn.
A JOURNEY IN THE HEART OF SPAIN
When they had proceeded some distance on their way and had left behind
them the hovels of Villahorrenda, the traveller, who was young and
handsome spoke thus:
"Tell me, Senor Solon-—"
"Licurgo, at your service."
"Senor Licurgo, I mean. But I was right in giving you the name of a
wise legislator of antiquity. Excuse the mistake. But to come to the
point. Tell me, how is my aunt?"
"As handsome as ever," answered the peasant, pushing his beast forward
a little. "Time seems to stand still with Senora Dona Perfecta. They
say that God gives long life to the good, and if that is so that angel
of the Lord ought to live a thousand years. If all the blessings that
are showered on her in this world were feathers, the senora would need
no other wings to go up to heaven with."
"And my cousin, Senorita Rosario?"
"The senora over again!" said the peasant. "What more can I tell you of
Dona Rosarito but that that she is the living image of her mother? You
will have a treasure, Senor Don Jose, if it is true, as I hear, that
you have come to be married to her. She will be a worthy mate for you,
and the young lady will have nothing to complain of, either. Between
Pedro and Pedro the difference is not very great."
"And Senor Don Cayetano?"
"Buried in his books as usual. He has a library bigger than the
cathedral; and he roots up the earth, besides, searching for stones
covered with fantastical scrawls, that were written, they say, by the
"How soon shall we reach Orbajosa?"
"By nine o'clock, God willing. How delighted the senora will be when
she sees her nephew! And yesterday, Senorita Rosario was putting the
room you are to have in order. As they have never seen you, both mother
and daughter think of nothing else but what Senor Don Jose is like, or
is not like. The time has now come for letters to be silent and tongues
to talk. The young lady will see her cousin and all will be joy and
merry-making. If God wills, all will end happily, as the saying is."
"As neither my aunt nor my cousin has yet seen me," said the traveller
smiling, "it is not wise to make plans."
"That's true; for that reason it was said that the bay horse is of one
mind and he who saddles him of another," answered the peasant. "But the
face does not lie. What a jewel you are getting! and she, what a
The young man did not hear Uncle Licurgo's last words, for he was
preoccupied with his own thoughts. Arrived at a bend in the road, the
peasant turned his horse's head in another direction, saying:
"We must follow this path now. The bridge is broken, and the river can
only be forded at the Hill of the Lilies."
"The Hill of the Lilies," repeated the cavalier, emerging from his
revery. "How abundant beautiful names are in these unattractive
localities! Since I have been travelling in this part of the country
the terrible irony of the names is a constant surprise to me. Some
place that is remarkable for its barren aspect and the desolate sadness
of the landscape is called Valleameno (Pleasant Valley). Some wretched
mud-walled village stretched on a barren plain and proclaiming its
poverty in diverse ways has the insolence to call itself Villarica
(Rich Town); and some arid and stony ravine, where not even the
thistles can find nourishment, calls itself, nevertheless, Valdeflores
(Vale of Flowers). That hill in front of us is the Hill of the Lilies?
But where, in Heaven's name, are the lilies? I see nothing but stones
and withered grass. Call it Hill of Desolation, and you will be right.
With the exception of Villahorrenda, whose appearance corresponds with
its name, all is irony here. Beautiful words, a prosaic and mean
reality. The blind would be happy in this country, which for the tongue
is a Paradise and for the eyes a hell."
Senor Licurgo either did not hear the young man's words, or, hearing,
he paid no attention to them. When they had forded the river, which,
turbid and impetuous, hurried on with impatient haste, as if fleeing
from its own hands, the peasant pointed with outstretched arm to some
barren and extensive fields that were to be seen on the left, and said:
"Those are the Poplars of Bustamante."
"My lands!" exclaimed the traveller joyfully, gazing at the melancholy
fields illumined by the early morning light. "For the first time, I see
the patrimony which I inherited from my mother. The poor woman used to
praise this country so extravagantly, and tell me so many marvellous
things about it when I was a child, that I thought that to be here was
to be in heaven. Fruits, flowers, game, large and small; mountains,
lakes, rivers, romantic streams, pastoral hills, all were to be found
in the Poplars of Bustamante; in this favored land, the best and most
beautiful on the earth. But what is to be said? The people of this
place live in their imaginations. If I had been brought here in my
youth, when I shared the ideas and the enthusiasm of my dear mother, I
suppose that I, too, would have been enchanted with these bare hills,
these arid or marshy plains, these dilapidated farmhouses, these
rickety norias, whose buckets drip water enough to sprinkle half a
dozen cabbages, this wretched and barren desolation that surrounds me."
"It is the best land in the country," said Senor Licurgo; "and for the
chick-pea, there is no other like it."
"I am delighted to hear it, for since they came into my possession
these famous lands have never brought me a penny."
The wise legislator of Sparta scratched his ear and gave a sigh.
"But I have been told," continued the young man, "that some of the
neighboring proprietors have put their ploughs in these estates of
mine, and that, little by little, they are filching them from me. Here
there are neither landmarks nor boundaries, nor real ownership, Senor
The peasant, after a pause, during which his subtle intellect seemed to
be occupied in profound disquisitions, expressed himself as follows:
"Uncle Paso Largo, whom, for his great foresight, we call the
Philosopher, set his plough in the Poplars, above the hermitage, and
bit by bit, he has gobbled up six fanegas."
"What an incomparable school!" exclaimed the young man, smiling. "I
wager that he has not been the only--philosopher?"
"It is a true saying that one should talk only about what one knows,
and that if there is food in the dove-cote, doves won't be wanting. But
you, Senor Don Jose, can apply to your own cause the saying that the
eye of the master fattens the ox, and now that you are here, try and
recover your property."
"Perhaps that would not be so easy, Senor Licurgo," returned the young
man, just as they were entering a path bordered on either side by
wheat-fields, whose luxuriance and early ripeness gladdened the eye.
"This field appears to be better cultivated. I see that all is not
dreariness and misery in the Poplars."
The peasant assumed a melancholy look, and, affecting something of
disdain for the fields that had been praised by the traveller, said in
the humblest of tones:
"Senor, this is mine."
"I beg your pardon," replied the gentleman quickly; "now I was going to
put my sickle in your field. Apparently the philosophy of this place is
They now descended into a canebrake, which formed the bed of a shallow
and stagnant brook, and, crossing it, they entered a field full of
stones and without the slightest trace of vegetation.
"This ground is very bad," said the young man, turning round to look at
his companion and guide, who had remained a little behind. "You will
hardly be able to derive any profit from it, for it is all mud and
Licurgo, full of humility, answered:
"This is yours."
"I see that all the poor land is mine," declared the young man,
As they were thus conversing, they turned again into the high-road. The
morning sunshine, pouring joyously through all the gates and balconies
of the Spanish horizon, had now inundated the fields with brilliant
light. The wide sky, undimmed by a single cloud, seemed to grow wider
and to recede further from the earth, in order to contemplate it, and
rejoice in the contemplation, from a greater height. The desolate,
treeless land, straw-colored at intervals, at intervals of the color of
chalk, and all cut up into triangles and quadrilaterals, yellow or
black, gray or pale green, bore a fanciful resemblance to a beggar's
cloak spread out in the sun. On that miserable cloak Christianity and
Islamism had fought with each other epic battles. Glorious fields, in
truth, but the combats of the past had left them hideous!
"I think we shall have a scorching day, Senor Licurgo," said the young
man, loosening his cloak a little. "What a dreary road! Not a single
tree to be seen, as far as the eye can reach. Here everything is in
contradiction. The irony does not cease. Why, when there are no poplars
here, either large or small, should this be called The Poplars?"
Uncle Licurgo did not answer this question because he was listening
with his whole soul to certain sounds which were suddenly heard in the
distance, and with an uneasy air he stopped his beast, while he
explored the road and the distant hills with a gloomy look.
"What is the matter?" asked the traveller, stopping his horse also.
"Do you carry arms, Don Jose?"
"A revolver--ah! now I understand. Are there robbers about?"
"Perhaps," answered the peasant, with visible apprehension. "I think I
heard a shot."
"We shall soon see. Forward!" said the young man, putting spurs to his
nag. "They are not very terrible, I dare say."
"Keep quiet, Senor Don Jose," exclaimed the peasant, stopping him.
"Those people are worse than Satan himself. The other day they murdered
two gentlemen who were on their way to take the train. Let us leave off
jesting. Gasparon el Fuerte, Pepito Chispillas, Merengue, and Ahorca
Suegras shall not see my face while I live. Let us turn into the path."
"Forward, Senor Licurgo!"
"Back, Senor Don Jose," replied the peasant, in distressed accents.
"You don't know what kind of people those are. They are the same men
who stole the chalice, the Virgin's crown, and two candlesticks from
the church of the Carmen last month; they are the men who robbed the
Madrid train two years ago."
Don Jose, hearing these alarming antecedents, felt his courage begin to
"Do you see that great high hill in the distance? Well, that is where
those rascals hide themselves; there in some caves which they call the
Retreat of the Cavaliers."
"Of the Cavaliers?"
"Yes, senor. They come down to the high-road when the Civil Guards are
not watching, and rob all they can. Do you see a cross beyond the bend
of the road? Well, that was erected in remembrance of the death of the
Alcalde of Villahorrenda, whom they murdered there at the time of the
"Yes, I see the cross."
"There is an old house there, in which they hide themselves to wait for
the carriers. They call that place The Pleasaunce."
"If all the people who have been murdered and robbed there were to be
restored they would form an army."
While they were thus talking shots were again heard, this time nearer
than before, which made the valiant hearts of the travellers quake a
little, but not that of the country lad, who, jumping about for joy,
asked Senor Licurgo's permission to go forward to watch the conflict
which was taking place so near them. Observing the courage of the boy
Don Jose felt a little ashamed of having been frightened, or at least a
little disturbed, by the proximity of the robbers, and cried, putting
spurs to his nag:
"We will go forward, then. Perhaps we may be able to lend assistance to
the unlucky travellers who find themselves in so perilous a situation,
and give a lesson besides to those cavaliers."
The peasant endeavored to convince the young man of the rashness of his
purpose, as well as of the profitlessness of his generous design, since
those who had been robbed were robbed and perhaps dead also, and not in
a condition to need the assistance of any one.
The gentleman insisted, in spite of these sage counsels; the peasant
reiterated his objections more strongly than before; when the
appearance of two or three carters, coming quietly down the road
driving a wagon, put an end to the controversy. The danger could not be
very great when these men were coming along so unconcernedly, singing
merry songs; and such was in fact the case, for the shots, according
to what the carters said, had not been fired by the robbers, but by
the Civil Guards, who desired in this way to prevent the escape of
half a dozen thieves whom they were taking, bound together, to the
"Yes, I know now what it was," said Licurgo, pointing to a light cloud
of smoke which was to be seen some distance off, to the right of the
road. "They have peppered them there. That happens every other day."
The young man did not understand.
"I assure you, Senor Don Jose," added the Lacedaemonian legislator,
with energy, "that it was very well done; for it is of no use to try
those rascals. The judge cross-questions them a little and then lets
them go. If at the end of a trial dragged out for half a dozen years
one of them is sent to jail, at the moment least expected he escapes,
and returns to the Retreat of the Cavaliers. That is the best thing to
do--shoot them! Take them to prison, and when you are passing a
suitable place--Ah, dog, so you want to escape, do you? pum! pum! The
indictment is drawn up, the witnesses summoned, the trial ended, the
sentence pronounced--all in a minute. It is a true saying that the fox
is very cunning, but he who catches him is more cunning still."
"Forward, then, and let us ride faster, for this road, besides being a
long one, is not at all a pleasant one," said Rey.
As they passed The Pleasaunce, they saw, a little in from the road, the
guards who a few minutes before had executed the strange sentence with
which the reader has been made acquainted. The country boy was
inconsolable because they rode on and he was not allowed to get a
nearer view of the palpitating bodies of the robbers, which could be
distinguished forming a horrible group in the distance. But they had
not proceeded twenty paces when they heard the sound of a horse
galloping after them at so rapid a pace that he gained upon them every
moment. Our traveller turned round and saw a man, or rather a Centaur,
for the most perfect harmony imaginable existed between horse and
rider. The latter was of a robust and plethoric constitution, with
large fiery eyes, rugged features, and a black mustache. He was of
middle age and had a general air of rudeness and aggressiveness, with
indications of strength in his whole person. He was mounted on a superb
horse with a muscular chest, like the horses of the Parthenon,
caparisoned in the picturesque fashion of the country, and carrying on
the crupper a great leather bag on the cover of which was to be seen,
in large letters, the word Mail.
"Hello! Good-day, Senor Caballuco," said Licurgo, saluting the horseman
when the latter had come up with them. "How is it that we got so far
ahead of you? But you will arrive before us, if you set your mind to
"I will rest a little," answered Senor Caballuco, adapting his horse's
pace to that of our travellers' beasts, and attentively observing the
most distinguished of the three, "since there is such good company."
"This gentleman," said Licurgo, smiling, "is the nephew of Dona
"Ah! At your service, senor."
The two men saluted each other, it being noticeable that Caballuco
performed his civilities with an expression of haughtiness and
superiority that revealed, at the very least, a consciousness of great
importance, and of a high standing in the district. When the arrogant
horseman rode aside to stop and talk for a moment with two Civil Guards
who passed them on the road, the traveller asked his guide:
"Who is that odd character?"
"Who should it be? Caballuco."
"And who is Caballuco?"
"What! Have you never heard of Caballuco?" said the countryman, amazed
at the crass ignorance of Dona Perfecta's nephew. "He is a very brave
man, a fine rider, and the best connoisseur of horses in all the
surrounding country. We think a great deal of him in Orbajosa; and he
is well worthy of it. Just as you see him, he is a power in the place,
and the governor of the province takes off his hat to him."
"When there is an election!"
"And the Governor of Madrid writes official letters to him with a great
many titles in the superscription. He throws the bar like a St.
Christopher, and he can manage every kind of weapon as easily as we
manage our fingers. When there was market inspection here, they could
never get the best of him, and shots were to be heard every night at
the city gates. He has a following that is worth any money, for they
are ready for anything. He is good to the poor, and any stranger who
should come here and attempt to touch so much as a hair of the head of
any native of Orbajosa would have him to settle with. It is very seldom
that soldiers come here from Madrid, but whenever they do come, not a
day passes without blood being shed, for Caballuco would pick a quarrel
with them, if not for one thing for another. At present it seems that
he is fallen into poverty and he is employed to carry the mail. But he
is trying hard to persuade the Town Council to have a market-
inspector's office here again and to put him in charge of it. I don't
know how it is that you have never heard him mentioned in Madrid, for
he is the son of a famous Caballuco who was in the last rebellion, and
who was himself the son of another Caballuco, who was also in the
rebellion of that day. And as there is a rumor now that there is going
to be another insurrection--for the whole country is in a ferment--we
are afraid that Caballuco will join that also, following in the
illustrious footsteps of his father and his grandfather, who, to our
glory be it said, were born in our city."
Our traveller was surprised to see the species of knight-errantry that
still existed in the regions which he had come to visit, but he had no
opportunity to put further questions, for the man who was the object of
them now joined them, saying with an expression of ill-humor:
"The Civil Guard despatched three. I have already told the commander to
be careful what he is about. To-morrow we will speak to the governor of
the province, and I----"
"Are you going to X.?"
"No; but the governor is coming here, Senor Licurgo; do you know that
they are going to send us a couple of regiments to Orbajosa?"
"Yes," said the traveller quickly, with a smile. "I heard it said in
Madrid that there was some fear of a rising in this place. It is well
to be prepared for what may happen."
"They talk nothing but nonsense in Madrid," exclaimed the Centaur
violently, accompanying his affirmation with a string of tongue-
blistering vocables. "In Madrid there is nothing but rascality. What do
they send us soldiers for? To squeeze more contributions out of us and
a couple of conscriptions afterward. By all that's holy! if there isn't
a rising there ought to be. So you"--he ended, looking banteringly at
the young man--"so you are Dona Perfecta's nephew?"
This abrupt question and the insolent glance of the bravo annoyed the
"Yes, senor, at your service."
"I am a friend of the senora's, and I love her as I do the apple of my
eye," said Caballuco. "As you are going to Orbajosa we shall see each
And without another word he put spurs to his horse, which, setting off
at a gallop, soon disappeared in a cloud of dust.
After half an hour's ride, during which neither Senor Don Jose nor
Senor Licurgo manifested much disposition to talk, the travellers came
in sight of an ancient-looking town seated on the slope of a hill, from
the midst of whose closely clustered houses arose many dark towers,
and, on a height above it, the ruins of a dilapidated castle. Its base
was formed by a mass of shapeless walls, of mud hovels, gray and dusty
looking as the soil, together with some fragments of turreted walls, in
whose shelter about a thousand humble huts raised their miserable adobe
fronts, like anaemic and hungry faces demanding an alms from the
passer-by. A shallow river surrounded the town, like a girdle of tin,
refreshing, in its course, several gardens, the only vegetation that
cheered the eye. People were going into and coming out of the town, on
horseback and on foot, and the human movement, although not great, gave
some appearance of life to that great dwelling place whose
architectural aspect was rather that of ruin and death than of progress
and life. The innumerable and repulsive-looking beggars who dragged
themselves on either side of the road, asking the obolus from the
passer-by, presented a pitiful spectacle. It would be impossible to see
beings more in harmony with, or better suited to the fissures of that
sepulchre in which a city was not only buried but gone to decay. As our
travellers approached the town, a discordant peal of bells gave token,
with their expressive sound, that that mummy had still a soul.
It was called Orbajosa, a city that figures, not in the Chaldean or
Coptic geography, but in that of Spain, with 7324 inhabitants, a town-
hall, an episcopal seat, a court-house, a seminary, a stock farm, a
high school, and other official prerogatives.
"The bells are ringing for high mass in the cathedral," said Uncle
Licurgo. "We have arrived sooner than I expected."
"The appearance of your native city," said the young man, examining the
panorama spread out before him, "could not be more disagreeable. The
historic city of Orbajosa, whose name is no doubt a corruption of Urbs
Augusta, looks like a great dunghill."
"All that can be seen from here is the suburbs," said the guide, in an
offended tone. "When you enter the Calle Real and the Calle de
Condestable, you will see handsome buildings, like the cathedral."
"I don't want to speak ill of Orbajosa before seeing it," said the
young man. "And you must not take what I have said as a mark of
contempt, for whether humble and mean, or stately and handsome, that
city will always be very dear to me, not only is it my mother's native
place, but because there are persons living in it whom I love without
seeing them. Let us enter the august city, then."
They were now ascending a road on the outskirts of the town, and
passing close to the walls of the gardens.
"Do you see that great house at the end of this large garden whose wall
we are now passing?" said Uncle Licurgo, pointing to a massive,
whitewashed wall belonging to the only dwelling in view which had the
appearance of a cheerful and comfortable habitation.
"Yes; that is my aunt's house?"
"Exactly so! What we are looking at is the rear of the house. The front
faces the Calle del Condestable, and it has five iron balconies that
look like five castles. The fine garden behind the wall belongs to the
house, and if you rise up in your stirrups you will be able to see it
all from here."
"Why, we are at the house, then!" cried the young man. "Can we not
enter from here?"
"There is a little door, but the senora had it condemned."
The young man raised himself in his stirrups and, stretching his neck
as far as he could, looked over the wall.
"I can see the whole of the garden," he said. "There, under the trees,
there is a woman, a girl, a young lady."
"That is Senorita Rosario," answered Licurgo.
And at the same time he also raised himself in his stirrups to look
over the wall.
"Eh! Senorita Rosario!" he cried, making energetic signs with his right
hand. "Here we are; I have brought your cousin with me."
"She has seen us," said the young man, stretching out his neck as far
as was possible. "But if I am not mistaken, there is an ecclesiastic
with her--a priest."
"That is the Penitentiary," answered the countryman, with naturalness.
"My cousin has seen us--she has left the priest, and is running toward
the house. She is beautiful."
"As the sun!"
"She has turned redder than a cherry. Come, come, Senor Licurgo."
Before proceeding further, it will be well to tell who Pepe Rey was,
and what were the affairs which had brought him to Orbajosa.
When Brigadier Rey died in 1841, his two children, Juan and Perfecta,
had just married: the latter the richest land-owner of Orbajosa, the
former a young girl of the same city. The husband of Perfecta was
called Don Manuel Maria Jose de Polentinos, and the wife of Juan, Maria
Polentinos; but although they had the same surname, their relationship
was somewhat distant and not very easy to make out. Juan Rey was a
distinguished jurisconsult who had been graduated in Seville and had
practised law in that city for thirty years with no less honor than
profit. In 1845 he was left a widower with a son who was old enough to
play mischievous pranks; he would sometimes amuse himself by
constructing viaducts, mounds, ponds, dikes, and trenches of earth, in
the yard of the house, and then flooding those fragile works with
water. His father let him do so, saying, "You will be an engineer."
Perfecta and Juan had ceased to see each other from the time of their
marriage, because the sister had gone to Madrid with her husband, the
wealthy Polentinos, who was as rich as he was extravagant. Play and
women had so completely enslaved Manuel Maria Jose that he would have
dissipated all his fortune, if death had not been beforehand with him
and carried him off before he had had time to squander it. In a night
of orgy the life of the rich provincial, who had been sucked so
voraciously by the leeches of the capital and the insatiable vampire of
play, came to a sudden termination. His sole heir was a daughter a few
months old. With the death of Perfecta's husband the terrors of the
family were at an end, but the great struggle began. The house of
Polentinos was ruined; the estates were in danger of being seized by
the money-lenders; all was in confusion: enormous debts, lamentable
management in Orbajosa, discredit and ruin in Madrid.
Perfecta sent for her brother, who, coming to the distressed widow's
assistance, displayed so much diligence and skill that in a short time
the greater part of the dangers that threatened her had disappeared. He
began by obliging his sister to live in Orbajosa, managing herself her
vast estates, while he faced the formidable pressure of the creditors
in Madrid. Little by little the house freed itself from the enormous
burden of its debts, for the excellent Don Juan Rey, who had the best
way in the world for managing such matters, pleaded in the court, made
settlements with the principal creditors and arranged to pay them by
instalments, the result of this skilful management being that the rich
patrimony of Polentinos was saved from ruin and might continue, for
many years to come, to bestow splendor and glory on that illustrious
Perfecta's gratitude was so profound that in writing to her brother
from Orbajosa, where she determined to reside until her daughter should
be grown up, she said to him, among other affectionate things: "You
have been more than a brother to me, more than a father to my daughter.
How can either of us ever repay you for services so great? Ah, my dear
brother? from the moment in which my daughter can reason and pronounce
a name I will teach her to bless yours. My gratitude will end only with
my life. Your unworthy sister regrets only that she can find no
opportunity of showing you how much she loves you and of recompensing
you in a manner suited to the greatness of your soul and the boundless
goodness of your heart."
At the same time when these words were written Rosarito was two years
old. Pepe Rey, shut up in a school in Seville, was making lines on
paper, occupied in proving that "the sum of all the interior angles of
any polygon is equal to twice as many right angles, wanting four, as
the figure has sides." These vexatious commonplaces of the school kept
him very busy. Year after year passed. The boy grew up, still
continuing to make lines. At last, he made one which is called "From
Tarragona to Montblanch." His first serious toy was the bridge, 120
metres in length, over the River Francoli.
During all this time Dona Perfecta continued to live in Orbajosa. As
her brother never left Seville, several years passed without their
seeing each other. A quarterly letter, as punctually written as it was
punctually answered, kept in communication these two hearts, whose
affection neither time nor distance could cool. In 1870, when Don Juan
Rey, satisfied with having fulfilled his mission in society, retired
from it and went to live in his fine house in Puerto Real, Pepe, who
had been employed for several years in the works of various rich
building companies, set out on a tour through Germany and England, for
the purpose of study. His father's fortune, (as large as it is possible
for a fortune which has only an honorable law-office for its source to
be in Spain), permitted him to free himself in a short time from the
yoke of material labor. A man of exalted ideas and with an ardent love
for science, he found his purest enjoyment in the observation and study
of the marvels by means of which the genius of the age furthers at the
same time the culture and material comfort and the moral progress of
On returning from his tour his father informed him that he had an
important project to communicate to him. Pepe supposed that it
concerned some bridge, dockyard, or, at the least, the draining of some
marsh, but Don Juan soon dispelled his error, disclosing to him his
plan in the following words:
"This is March, and Perfecta's quarterly letter has not failed to come.
Read it, my dear boy, and if you can agree to what that holy and
exemplary woman, my dear sister, says in it, you will give me the
greatest happiness I could desire in my old age. If the plan does not
please you, reject it without hesitation, for, although your refusal
would grieve me, there is not in it the shadow of constraint on my
part. It would be unworthy of us both that it should be realized
through the coercion of an obstinate father. You are free either to
accept or to reject it, and if there is in your mind the slightest
repugnance to it, arising either from your inclinations or from any
other cause, I do not wish you to do violence to your feelings on my
Pepe laid the letter on the table after he had glanced through it, and
"My aunt wishes me to marry Rosario!"
"She writes accepting joyfully my idea," said his father, with emotion.
"For the idea was mine. Yes, it is a long time, a very long time since
it occurred to me; but I did not wish to say anything to you until I
knew what your sister might think about it. As you see, Perfecta
receives my plan with joy; she says that she too had thought of it, but
that she did not venture to mention it to me, because you are--you have
seen what she says--because you are a young man of very exceptional
merit and her daughter is a country girl, without either a brilliant
education or worldly attractions. Those are her words. My poor sister!
How good she is! I see that you are not displeased; I see that this
project of mine, resembling a little the officious prevision of the
fathers of former times who married their children without consulting
their wishes in the matter, and making generally inconsiderate and
unwise matches, does not seem absurd to you. God grant that this may
be, as it seems to promise, one of the happiest. It is true that you
have never seen your cousin, but we are both aware of her virtue, of
her discretion, of her modest and noble simplicity. That nothing may be
wanting, she is even beautiful. My opinion is," he added gayly, "that
you should at once start for that out-of-the-way episcopal city, that
Urbs Augusta, and there, in the presence of my sister and her charming
Rosarito, decide whether the latter is to be something more to me or
not, than my niece."
Pepe took up the letter again and read it through carefully. His
countenance expressed neither joy nor sorrow. He might have been
examining some plan for the junction of two railroads.
"In truth," said Don Juan, "in that remote Orbajosa, where, by the way,
you have some land that you might take a look at now, life passes with
the tranquillity and the sweetness of an idyl. What patriarchal
customs! What noble simplicity! What rural and Virgilian peace! If,
instead of being a mathematician, you were a Latinist, you would
repeat, as you enter it, the /ergo tua rura manebunt/. What an
admirable place in which to commune with one's own soul and to prepare
one's self for good works. There all is kindness and goodness; there
the deceit and hypocrisy of our great cities are unknown; there the
holy inclinations which the turmoil of modern life stifles spring into
being again; there dormant faith reawakens and one feels within the
breast an impulse, vague but keen, like the impatience of youth, that
from the depths of the soul cries out: 'I wish to live!' "
A few days after this conference Pepe left Puerto Real. He had refused,
some months before, a commission from the government to survey, in its
mineralogical aspects, the basin of the River Nahara, in the valley of
Orbajosa; but the plans to which the conference above recorded gave
rise, caused him to say to himself: "It will be as well to make use of
the time. Heaven only knows how long this courtship may last, or what
hours of weariness it may bring with it." He went, then, to Madrid,
solicited the commission to explore the basin of the Nahara, which he
obtained without difficulty, although he did not belong officially to
the mining corps, set out shortly afterward, and, after a second change
of trains, the mixed train No. 65 bore him, as we have seen, to the
loving arms of Uncle Licurgo.
The age of our hero was about thirty-four years. He was of a robust
constitution, of athletic build, and so admirably proportioned and of
so commanding an appearance that, if he had worn a uniform, he would
have presented the most martial air and figure that it is possible to
imagine. His hair and beard were blond in color, but in his countenance
there was none of the phlegmatic imperturbability of the Saxon, but, on
the contrary, so much animation that his eyes, although they were not
black, seemed to be so. His figure would have served as a perfect and
beautiful model for a statue, on the pedestal of which the sculptor
might engrave the words: "Intellect, strength." If not in visible
characters, he bore them vaguely expressed in the brilliancy of his
glance, in the potent attraction with which his person was peculiarly
endowed, and in the sympathy which his cordial manners inspired.
He was not very talkative--only persons of inconstant ideas and
unstable judgment are prone to verbosity. His profound moral sense made
him sparing of words in the disputes in which the men of the day are
prone to engage on any and every subject, but in polite conversation he
displayed an eloquence full of wit and intelligence, emanating always
from good sense and a temperate and just appreciation of worldly
matters. He had no toleration for those sophistries, and
mystifications, and quibbles of the understanding with which persons of
intelligence, imbued with affected culture, sometimes amuse themselves;
and in defence of the truth Pepe Rey employed at times, and not always
with moderation, the weapon of ridicule. This was almost a defect in
the eyes of many people who esteemed him, for our hero thus appeared
wanting in respect for a multitude of things commonly accepted and
believed. It must be acknowledged, although it may lessen him in the
opinion of many, that Rey did not share the mild toleration of the
compliant age which has invented strange disguises of words and of acts
to conceal what to the general eye might be disagreeable.
Such was the man, whatever slanderous tongues may say to the contrary,
whom Uncle Licurgo introduced into Orbajosa just as the cathedral bells
were ringing for high mass. When, looking over the garden wall, they
saw the young girl and the Penitentiary, and then the flight of the
former toward the house, they put spurs to their beasts and entered the
Calle Real, where a great many idlers stood still to gaze at the
traveller, as if he were a stranger and an intruder in the patriarchal
city. Turning presently to the right and riding in the direction of the
cathedral, whose massive bulk dominated the town, they entered the
Calle del Condestable, in which, being narrow and paved, the hoofs of
the animals clattered noisily, alarming the people of the neighborhood,
who came to the windows and to the balconies to satisfy their
curiosity. Shutters opened with a grating sound and various faces,
almost all feminine, appeared above and below. By the time Pepe Rey had
reached the threshold of the house of Polentinos many and diverse
comments had been already made on his person.
THE ARRIVAL OF THE COUSIN
When Rosarito left him so abruptly the Penitentiary looked toward the
garden wall, and seeing the faces of Licurgo and his companion, said to
"So the prodigy is already here, then."
He remained thoughtful for some moments, his cloak, grasped with both
hands, folded over his abdomen, his eyes fixed on the ground, his gold-
rimmed spectacles slipping gently toward the point of his nose, his
under-lip moist and projecting, and his iron-gray eyebrows gathered in
a slight frown. He was a pious and holy man, of uncommon learning and
of irreproachable clerical habits, a little past his sixtieth year,
affable in his manners, courteous and kind, and greatly addicted to
giving advice and counsel to both men and women. For many years past he
had been master of Latin and rhetoric in the Institute, which noble
profession had supplied him with a large fund of quotations from Horace
and of florid metaphors, which he employed with wit and opportuneness.
Nothing more need be said regarding this personage, but that, as soon
as he heard the trot of the animals approaching the Calle del
Condestable, he arranged the folds of his cloak, straightened his hat,
which was not altogether correctly placed upon his venerable head, and,
walking toward the house, murmured:
"Let us go and see this paragon."
Meanwhile Pepe was alighting from his nag, and Dona Perfecta, her face
bathed in tears and barely able to utter a few trembling words, the
sincere expression of her affection, was receiving him at the gate
itself in her loving arms.
"Pepe--but how tall you are! And with a beard. Why, it seems only
yesterday that I held you in my lap. And now you are a man, a grown-up
man. Well, well! How the years pass! This is my daughter Rosario."
As she said this they reached the parlor on the ground floor, which was
generally used as a reception-room, and Dona Perfecta presented her
daughter to Pepe.
Rosario was a girl of delicate and fragile appearance, that revealed a
tendency to pensive melancholy. In her delicate and pure countenance
there was something of the soft, pearly pallor which most novelists
attribute to their heroines, and without which sentimental varnish it
appears that no Enriquieta or Julia can be interesting. But what
chiefly distinguished Rosario was that her face expressed so much
sweetness and modesty that the absence of the perfections it lacked was
not observed. This is not to say that she was plain; but, on the other
hand, it is true that it would be an exaggeration to call her beautiful
in the strictest meaning of the word. The real beauty of Dona
Perfecta's daughter consisted in a species of transparency, different
from that of pearl, alabaster, marble, or any of the other substances
used in descriptions of the human countenance; a species of
transparency through which the inmost depths of her soul were clearly
visible; depths not cavernous and gloomy, like those of the sea, but
like those of a clear and placid river. But the material was wanting
there for a complete personality. The channel was wanting, the banks
were wanting. The vast wealth of her spirit overflowed, threatening to
wash away the narrow borders. When her cousin saluted her she blushed
crimson, and uttered only a few unintelligible words.
"You must be fainting with hunger," said Dona Perfecta to her nephew.
"You shall have your breakfast at once."
"With your permission," responded the traveller, "I will first go and
get rid of the dust of the journey."
"That is a sensible idea," said the senora. "Rosario, take your cousin
to the room that we have prepared for him. Don't delay, nephew. I am
going to give the necessary orders."
Rosario took her cousin to a handsome apartment situated on the ground
floor. The moment he entered it Pepe recognized in all the details of
the room the diligent and loving hand of a woman. All was arranged with
perfect taste, and the purity and freshness of everything in this
charming nest invited to repose. The guest observed minute details that
made him smile.
"Here is the bell," said Rosario, taking in her hand the bell-rope, the
tassel of which hung over the head of the bed. "All you have to do is
to stretch out your hand. The writing-table is placed so that you will
have the light from the left. See, in this basket you can throw the
waste papers. Do you smoke?"
"Unfortunately, yes," responded Pepe Rey.
"Well, then, you can throw the ends of your cigars here," she said,
touching with the tip of her shoe a utensil of gilt-brass filled with
sand. "There is nothing uglier than to see the floor covered with
cigar-ends. Here is the washstand. For your clothes you have a wardrobe
and a bureau. I think this is a bad place for the watch-case; it would
be better beside the bed. If the light annoys you, all you have to do
is to lower the shade with this cord; see, this way."
The engineer was enchanted.
Rosarito opened one of the windows.
"Look," she said, "this window opens into the garden. The sun comes in
here in the afternoon. Here we have hung the cage of a canary that
sings as if he was crazy. If his singing disturbs you we will take it
She opened another window on the opposite side of the room.
"This other window," she continued, "looks out on the street. Look;
from here you can see the cathedral; it is very handsome, and full of
beautiful things. A great many English people come to see it. Don't
open both windows at the same time, because draughts are very bad."
"My dear cousin," said Pepe, his soul inundated with an inexplicable
joy; "in all that is before my eyes I see an angel's hand that can be
only yours. What a beautiful room this is! It seems to me as if I had
lived in it all my life. It invites to peace."
Rosarito made no answer to these affectionate expressions, and left the
"Make no delay," she said from the door; "the dining-room too is down
stairs--in the centre of this hall."
Uncle Licurgo came in with the luggage. Pepe rewarded him with a
liberality to which the countryman was not accustomed, and the latter,
after humbly thanking the engineer, raised his hand to his head with a
hesitating movement, and in an embarrassed tone, and mumbling his
words, he said hesitatingly:
"When will it be most convenient for me to speak to Senor Don Jose
about a--a little matter of business?"
"A little matter of business? At once," responded Pepe, opening one of
"This is not a suitable time," said the countryman. "When Senor Don
Jose has rested it will be time enough. There are more days than
sausages, as the saying is; and after one day comes another. Rest now,
Senor Don Jose. Whenever you want to take a ride--the nag is not bad.
Well, good-day, Senor Don Jose. I am much obliged to you. Ah! I had
forgotten," he added, returning a few moments later. "If you have any
message for the municipal judge--I am going now to speak to him about
our little affair."
"Give him my compliments," said Pepe gayly, no better way of getting
rid of the Spartan legislator occurring to him.
"Good-by, then, Senor Don Jose."
The engineer had not yet taken his clothes out of the trunk when for
the third time the shrewd eyes and the crafty face of Uncle Licurgo
appeared in the door-way.
"I beg your pardon, Senor Don Jose," he said, displaying his
brilliantly white teeth in an affected smile, "but--I wanted to say
that if you wish to settle the matter by means of friendly
arbitrations---- Although, as the saying is, 'Ask other people's
opinion of something that concerns only yourself, and some will say it
is white and others black.' "
"Will you get away from here, man?"
"I say that, because I hate the law. I don't want to have anything to
do with the law. Well, good-by, again, Senor Don Jose. God give you
long life to help the poor!"
"Good-by, man, good-by."
Pepe turned the key in the lock of the door, saying to himself:
"The people of this town appear to be very litigious."
WILL THERE BE DISSENSION?
A little later Pepe made his appearance in the dining-room.
"If you eat a hearty breakfast," said Dona Perfecta to him, in
affectionate accents, "you will have no appetite for dinner. We dine
here at one. Perhaps you may not like the customs of the country."
"I am enchanted with them, aunt."
"Say, then, which you prefer--to eat a hearty breakfast now, or to take
something light, and keep your appetite for dinner."
"I prefer to take something light now, in order to have the pleasure of
dining with you. But not even if I had found anything to eat in
Villahorrenda, would I have eaten any thing at this early hour."
"Of course, I need not tell you that you are to treat us with perfect
frankness. You may give your orders here as if you were in your own
"But how like your father you are!" said the senora, regarding the
young man, as he ate, with real delight. "I can fancy I am looking now
at my dear brother Juan. He sat just as you are sitting and ate as you
are eating. In your expression, especially, you are as like as two
drops of water."
Pepe began his frugal breakfast. The words, as well as the manner and
the expression, of his aunt and cousin inspired him with so much
confidence that he already felt as if he were in his own house.
"Do you know what Rosario was saying to me this morning?" said Dona
Perfecta, looking at her nephew. "Well, she was saying that, as a man
accustomed to the luxuries and the etiquette of the capital and to
foreign ways, you would not be able to put up with the somewhat rustic
simplicity and the lack of ceremony of our manner of life; for here
every thing is very plain."
"What a mistake!" responded Pepe, looking at his cousin. "No one abhors
more than I do the falseness and the hypocrisy of what is called high
society. Believe me, I have long wished to give myself a complete bath
in nature, as some one has said; to live far from the turmoil of
existence in the solitude and quiet of the country. I long for the
tranquillity of a life without strife, without anxieties; neither
envying nor envied, as the poet has said. For a long time my studies at
first, and my work afterward, prevented me from taking the rest which I
need, and which my mind and my body both require; but ever since I
entered this house, my dear aunt, my dear cousin, I have felt myself
surrounded by the peaceful atmosphere which I have longed for. You must
not talk to me, then, of society, either high or low; or of the world,
either great or small, for I would willingly exchange them all for this
While he was thus speaking, the glass door which led from the dining-
room into the garden was obscured by the interposition between it and
the light of a dark body. The glasses of a pair of spectacles, catching
a sunbeam, sent forth a fugitive gleam; the latch creaked, the door
opened, and the Penitentiary gravely entered the room. He saluted those
present, taking off his broad-brimmed hat and bowing until its brim
touched the floor.
"It is the Senor Penitentiary, of our holy cathedral," said Dona
Perfecta: "a person whom we all esteem greatly, and whose friend you
will, I hope, be. Take a seat, Senor Don Inocencio."
Pepe shook hands with the venerable canon, and both sat down.
"If you are accustomed to smoke after meals, pray do so," said Dona
Perfecta amiably; "and the Senor Penitentiary also."
The worthy Don Inocencio drew from under his cassock a large leather
cigar-case, which showed unmistakable signs of long use, opened it, and
took from it two long cigarettes, one of which he offered to our
friend. Rosario took a match from a little leaf-shaped matchbox, which
the Spaniards ironically call a wagon, and the engineer and the canon
were soon puffing their smoke over each other.
"And what does Senor Don Jose think of our dear city of Orbajosa?"
asked the canon, shutting his left eye tightly, according to his habit
when he smoked.
"I have not yet been able to form an idea of the town," said Pepe.
"From the little I have seen of it, however, I think that half a dozen
large capitalists disposed to invest their money here, a pair of
intelligent heads to direct the work of renovating the place, and a
couple of thousands of active hands to carry it out, would not be a bad
thing for Orbajosa. Coming from the entrance to the town to the door of
this house, I saw more than a hundred beggars. The greater part of them
are healthy, and even robust men. It is a pitiable army, the sight of
which oppresses the heart."
"That is what charity is for," declared Don Inocencio. "Apart from
that, Orbajosa is not a poor town. You are already aware that the best
garlic in all Spain is produced here. There are more than twenty rich
families living among us."
"It is true, said Dona Perfecta, "that the last few years have been
wretched, owing to the drought; but even so, the granaries are not
empty, and several thousands of strings of garlic were recently carried
"During the many years that I have lived in Orbajosa," said the priest,
with a frown, "I have seen innumerable persons come here from the
capital, some brought by the electoral hurly-burly, others to visit
some abandoned site, or to see the antiquities of the cathedral, and
they all talk to us about the English ploughs and threshing-machines
and water-power and banks, and I don't know how many other absurdities.
The burden of their song is that this place is very backward, and that
it could be improved. Let them keep away from us, in the devil's name!
We are well enough as we are, without the gentlemen from the capital
visiting us; a great deal better off without hearing that continual
clamor about our poverty and the grandeurs and the wonders of other
places. The fool in his own house is wiser than the wise man in
another's. Is it not so, Senor Don Jose? Of course, you mustn't imagine,
even remotely, that I say this on your account. Not at all! Of course
not! I know that we have before us one of the most eminent young men of
modern Spain, a man who would be able to transform into fertile lands
our arid wastes. And I am not at all angry because you sing us the same
old song about the English ploughs and arboriculture and silviculture.
Not in the least. Men of such great, such very great merit, may be
excused for the contempt which they manifest for our littleness. No,
no, my friend; no, no, Senor Don Jose! you are entitled to say any
thing you please, even to tell us that we are not much better than
This philippic, concluded in a marked tone of irony, and all of it
impertinent enough, did not please the young man; but he refrained from
manifesting the slightest annoyance and continued the conversation,
endeavoring to avoid as far as possible the subjects in which the over-
sensitive patriotism of the canon might find cause of offence. The
latter rose when Dona Perfecta began to speak to her nephew about
family matters, and took a few turns about the room.
This was a spacious and well-lighted apartment, the walls of which were
covered with an old-fashioned paper whose flowers and branches,
although faded, preserved their original pattern, thanks to the
cleanliness which reigned in each and every part of the dwelling. The
clock, from the case of which hung, uncovered, the apparently
motionless weights and the voluble pendulum, perpetually repeating No,
no, occupied, with its variegated dial, the most prominent place among
the solid pieces of furniture of the dining-room, the adornment of the
walls being completed by a series of French engravings representing the
exploits of the conqueror of Mexico, with prolix explanations at the
foot of each concerning a Ferdinand Cortez, and a Donna Marine, as
little true to nature as were the figures delineated by the ignorant
artist. In the space between the two glass doors which communicated
with the garden was an apparatus of brass, which it is not necessary to
describe further than to say that it served to support a parrot, which
maintained itself on it with the air of gravity and circumspection
peculiar to those animals, taking note of everything that went on. The
hard and ironical expression of the parrot tribe, their green coats,
their red caps, their yellow boots, and finally, the hoarse, mocking
words which they generally utter, give them a strange and repulsive
aspect, half serious, half-comic. There is in their air an
indescribable something of the stiffness of diplomats. At times they
remind one of buffoons, and they always resemble those absurdly
conceited people who, in their desire to appear very superior, look
The Penitentiary was very fond of the parrot. When he left Dona
Perfecta and Rosario conversing with the traveller, he went over to the
bird, and, allowing it to bite his forefinger with the greatest good
humor, said to it:
"Rascal, knave, why don't you talk? You would be of little account if
you weren't a prater. The world of birds, as well as men, is full of
Then, with his own venerable hand, he took some peas from the dish
beside him, and gave them to the bird to eat. The parrot began to call
to the maid, asking her for some chocolate, and its words diverted the
two ladies and the young man from a conversation which could not have
been very engrossing.
IN WHICH IT IS SEEN THAT DISAGREEMENT MAY ARISE WHEN LEAST EXPECTED
Suddenly Don Cayetano Polentinos, Dona Perfecta's brother-in-law,
appeared at the door, and entering the room with outstretched arms,
"Let me embrace you, my dear Don Jose."
They embraced each other cordially. Don Cayetano and Pepe were already
acquainted with each other, for the eminent scholar and bibliophile was
in the habit of making a trip to Madrid whenever an executor's sale of
the stock of some dealer in old books was advertised. Don Cayetano was
tall and thin, of middle age, although constant study or ill-health had
given him a worn appearance; he expressed himself with a refined
correctness which became him admirably, and he was affectionate and
amiable in his manners, at times to excess. With respect to his vast
learning, what can be said but that he was a real prodigy? In Madrid
his name was always mentioned with respect, and if Don Cayetano had
lived in the capital, he could not have escaped becoming a member, in
spite of his modesty, of every academy in it, past, present, and to
come. But he was fond of quiet and retirement, and the place which
vanity occupies in the souls of others, a pure passion for books, a
love of solitary and secluded study, without any other aim or incentive
than the books and the study themselves, occupied in his.
He had formed in Orbajosa one of the finest libraries that is to be
found in all Spain, and among his books he passed long hours of the day
and of the night, compiling, classifying, taking notes, and selecting
various sorts of precious information, or composing, perhaps, some
hitherto unheard-of and undreamed-of work, worthy of so great a mind.
His habits were patriarchal; he ate little, drank less, and his only
dissipations consisted of a luncheon in the Alamillos on very great
occasions, and daily walks to a place called Mundogrande, where were
often disinterred from the accumulated dust of twenty centuries,
medals, bits of architecture, and occasionally an amphora or
cubicularia of inestimable value.
Don Cayetano and Dona Perfecta lived in such perfect harmony that the
peace of Paradise was not to be compared to it. They never disagreed.
It is true that Don Cayetano never interfered in the affairs of the
house nor Dona Perfecta in those of the library, except to have it
swept and dusted every Saturday, regarding with religious respect the
books and papers that were in use on the table or anywhere else in the
After the questions and answers proper to the occasion had been
interchanged Don Cayetano said:
"I have already looked at the books. I am very sorry that you did not
bring me the edition of 1527. I shall have to make a journey to Madrid
myself. Are you going to remain with us long? The longer the better, my
dear Pepe. How glad I am to have you here! Between us both we will
arrange a part of my library and make an index of the writers on the
Art of Horsemanship. It is not always one has at hand a man of your
talents. You shall see my library. You can take your fill of reading
there--as often as you like. You will see marvels, real marvels,
inestimable treasures, rare works that no one but myself has a copy of.
But I think it must be time for dinner, is it not, Jose? Is it not,
Perfecta? Is it not, Rosarito? Is it not, Senor Don Inocencio? To-day
you are doubly a Penitentiary--I mean because you will accompany us in
The canon bowed and smiled, manifesting his pleased acquiescence. The
dinner was substantial, and in all the dishes there was noticeable the
excessive abundance of country banquets, realized at the expense of
variety. There was enough to surfeit twice as many persons as sat down
to table. The conversation turned on various subjects.
"You must visit our cathedral as soon as possible," said the canon.
"There are few cathedrals like ours, Senor Don Jose! But of course you,
who have seen so many wonders in foreign countries, will find nothing
remarkable in our old church. We poor provincials of Orbajosa, however,
think it divine. Master Lopez of Berganza, one of the prebendaries of
the cathedral, called it in the sixteenth century /pulchra
augustissima/. But perhaps for a man of your learning it would possess
no merit, and some market constructed of iron would seem more
The ironical remarks of the wily canon annoyed Pepe Rey more and more
every moment, but, determined to control himself and to conceal his
anger, he answered only with vague words. Dona Perfecta then took up
the theme and said playfully:
"Take care, Pepito; I warn you that if you speak ill of our holy church
we shall cease to be friends. You know a great deal, you are a man
eminent for your knowledge on every subject, but if you are going to
discover that that grand edifice is not the eighth wonder of the world
you will do well to keep your knowledge to yourself and leave us in our
"Far from thinking that the building is not handsome," responded Pepe,
"the little I have seen of its exterior has seemed to me of imposing
beauty. So there is no need for you to be alarmed, aunt. And I am very
far from being a savant."
"Softly; softly," said the canon, extending his hand and giving his
mouth a truce from eating in order to talk. "Stop there--don't come now
pretending modesty, Senor Don Jose; we are too well aware of your great
merit, of the high reputation you enjoy and the important part you play
wherever you are, for that. Men like you are not to be met with every
day. But now that I have extolled your merits in this way----"
He stopped to eat a mouthful, and when his tongue was once more at
liberty he continued thus:
"Now that I have extolled your merits in this way, permit me to express
a different opinion with the frankness which belongs to my character.
Yes, Senor Don Jose, yes, Senor Don Cayetano; yes, senora and senorita,
science, as the moderns study and propagate it, is the death of
sentiment and of every sweet illusion. Under its influence the life of
the spirit declines, every thing is reduced to fixed rules, and even
the sublime charms of nature disappear. Science destroys the marvellous
in the arts, as well as faith in the soul. Science says that every
thing is a lie, and would reduce every thing to figures and lines, not
only /maria ac terras/, where we are, but /coelumque profundum/, where
God is. The wonderful visions of the soul, its mystic raptures, even
the inspiration of the poets, are all a lie. The heart is a sponge; the
brain, a place for breeding maggots."
Every one laughed, while the canon took a draught of wine.
"Come, now, will Senor Don Jose deny," continued the ecclesiastic,
"that science, as it is taught and propagated to-day, is fast making of
the world and of the human race a great machine?"
"That depends," said Don Cayetano. "Every thing has its /pro/ and its
"Take some more salad, Senor Penitentiary," said Dona Perfecta; "it is
just as you like it--with a good deal of mustard."
Pepe Rey was not fond of engaging in useless discussions; he was not a
pedant, nor did he desire to make a display of his learning, and still
less did he wish to do so in the presence of women, and in a private
re-union; but the importunate and aggressive verbosity of the canon
required, in his opinion, a corrective. To flatter his vanity by
agreeing with his views would, he thought, be a bad way to give it to
him, and he determined therefore to express only such opinions as
should be most directly opposed to those of the sarcastic Penitentiary
and most offensive to him.
"So you wish to amuse yourself at my expense," he said to himself.
"Wait, and you will see what a fine dance I will lead you."
Then he said aloud:
"All that the Senor Penitentiary has said ironically is the truth. But
it is not our fault if science overturns day after day the vain idols
of the past: its superstitions, its sophisms, its innumerable fables
--beautiful, some of them, ridiculous others--for in the vineyard of
the Lord grow both good fruit and bad. The world of illusions, which
is, as we might say, a second world, is tumbling about us in ruins.
Mysticism in religion, routine in science, mannerism in art, are
falling, as the Pagan gods fell, amid jests. Farewell, foolish dreams!
the human race is awakening and its eyes behold the light. Its vain
sentimentalism, its mysticism, its fevers, its hallucination, its
delirium are passing away, and he who was before sick is now well and
takes an ineffable delight in the just appreciation of things.
Imagination, the terrible madwoman, who was the mistress of the house,
has become the servant. Look around you, Senor Penitentiary, and you
will see the admirable aggregation of truths which has taken the place
of fable. The sky is not a vault; the stars are not little lamps; the
moon is not a sportive huntress, but an opaque mass of stone; the sun
is not a gayly adorned and vagabond charioteer but a fixed fire; Scylla
and Charybdis are not nymphs but sunken rocks; the sirens are seals;
and in the order of personages, Mercury is Manzanedo; Mars is a clean-
shaven old man, the Count von Moltke; Nestor may be a gentleman in an
overcoat, who is called M. Thiers; Orpheus is Verdi; Vulcan is Krupp;
Apollo is any poet. Do you wish more? Well, then, Jupiter, a god who,
if he were living now, would deserve to be put in jail, does not launch
the thunderbolt, but the thunderbolt falls when electricity wills it.
There is no Parnassus; there is no Olympus; there is no Stygian lake;
nor are there any other Elysian Fields than those of Paris. There is no
other descent to hell than the descents of Geology, and this traveller,
every time he returns from it, declares that there are no damned souls
in the centre of the earth. There are no other ascents to heaven than
those of Astronomy, and she, on her return, declares that she has not
seen the six or seven circles of which Dante and the mystical dreamers
of the Middle Ages speak. She finds only stars and distances, lines,
vast spaces, and nothing more. There are now no false computations of
the age of the earth, for paleontology and prehistoric research have
counted the teeth of this skull in which we live and discovered the
true age. Fable, whether it be called paganism or Christian idealism,
exists no longer, and imagination plays only a secondary part. All the
miracles possible are such as I work, whenever I desire to do so, in my
laboratory, with my Bunsen pile, a conducting wire, and a magnetized
needle. There are now no other multiplications of loaves and fishes
than those which Industry makes, with her moulds and her machines, and
those of the printing press, which imitates Nature, taking from a
single type millions of copies. In short, my dear canon, orders have
been given to put on the retired list all the absurdities, lies,
illusions, dreams, sentimentalities, and prejudices which darken the
understanding of man. Let us rejoice at the fact."
When Pepe finished speaking, a furtive smile played upon the canon's
lips and his eyes were extraordinarily animated. Don Cayetano busied
himself in giving various forms--now rhomboidal, now prismatic--to a
little ball of bread. But Dona Perfecta was pale and kept her eyes
fixed on the canon with observant insistence. Rosarito looked with
amazement at her cousin. The latter, bending toward her, whispered
under his breath:
"Don't mind me, little cousin; I am talking all this nonsense only to
enrage the canon."
THE DISAGREEMENT INCREASES
"Perhaps you think," said Dona Perfecta, with a tinge of conceit in her
tones, "that Senor Don Inocencio is going to remain silent and not give
you an answer to each and every one of those points."
"Oh, no!" exclaimed the canon, arching his eyebrows. "I will not
attempt to measure my poor abilities with a champion so valiant and at
the same time so well armed. Senor Don Jose knows every thing; that is
to say, he has at his command the whole arsenal of the exact sciences.
Of course I know that the doctrines he upholds are false; but I have
neither the talent nor the eloquence to combat them. I would employ
theological arguments, drawn from revelation, from faith, from the
Divine Word; but alas! Senor Don Jose, who is an eminent savant, would
laugh at theology, at faith, at revelation, at the holy prophets, at
the gospel. A poor ignorant priest, an unhappy man who knows neither
mathematics, nor German philosophy with its /ego/ and its /non ego/, a
poor dominie, who knows only the science of God and something of the
Latin poets, cannot enter into combat with so valiant a champion."
Pepe Rey burst into a frank laugh.
"I see that Senor Don Inocencio," he said, "has taken seriously all the
nonsense I have been talking. Come, Senor Canon, regard the whole
matter as a jest, and let it end there. I am quite sure that my
opinions do not in reality differ greatly from yours. You are a pious
and learned man; it is I who am ignorant. If I have allowed myself to
speak in jest, pardon me, all of you--that is my way."
"Thanks!" responded the presbyter, visibly annoyed. "Is that the way
you want to get out of it now? I am well aware, we are all well aware,
that the views you have sustained are your own. It could not be
otherwise. You are the man of the age. It cannot be denied that you
have a wonderful, a truly wonderful intellect. While you were talking,
at the same time that I inwardly deplored errors so great, I could not
but admire, I will confess it frankly, the loftiness of expression, the
prodigious fluency, the surprising method of your reasoning, the force
of your arguments. What a head, Senora Dona Perfecta, what a head your
young nephew has! When I was in Madrid and they took me to the
Atheneum, I confess that I was amazed to see the wonderful talent which
God has bestowed on the atheists and the Protestants."
"Senor Don Inocencio," said Dona Perfecta, looking alternately at her
nephew and her friend, "I think that in judging this boy you are more
than benevolent. Don't get angry, Pepe, or mind what I say, for I am
neither a savante, nor a philosopher, nor a theologian; but it seems to
me that Senor Don Inocencio has just given a proof of his great modesty
and Christian charity in not crushing you as he could have done if he
"Oh, senora!" said the ecclesiastic.
"That is the way with him," continued Dona Perfecta, "always pretending
to know nothing. And he knows more than the seven doctors put together.
Ah, Senor Don Inocencio, how well the name you have suits you! But
don't affect an unseasonable humility now. Why, my nephew has no
pretensions. All he knows is what he has been taught. If he has been
taught error, what more can he desire than that you should enlighten
him and take him out of the limbo of his false doctrines?"
"Just so; I desire nothing more than that the Senor Penitentiary should
take me out,"--murmured Pepe, comprehending that without intending it,
he had got himself into a labyrinth.
"I am a poor priest, whose only learning is some knowledge of the
ancients," responded Don Inocencio. "I recognize the immense value,
from a worldly point of view, of Senor Don Jose's scientific knowledge,
and before so brilliant an oracle I prostrate myself and am silent."
So saying, the canon folded his hands across his breast and bent his
head. Pepe Rey was somewhat disturbed because of the turn which his
mind had chosen to give to an idle discussion jestingly followed up,
and in which he had engaged only to enliven the conversation a little.
He thought that the most prudent course to pursue would be to end at
once so dangerous a debate, and for this purpose he addressed a
question to Senor Don Cayetano when the latter, shaking off the
drowsiness which had overcome him after the dessert, offered the guests
the indispensable toothpicks stuck in a china peacock with outspread
"Yesterday I discovered a hand grasping the handle of an amphora, on
which there are a number of hieratic characters. I will show it to
you," said Don Cayetano, delighted to introduce a favorite theme.
"I suppose that Senor de Rey is very expert in archaeological matters
also," said the canon, who, still implacable, pursued his victim to his
"Of course," said Dona Perfecta. "What is there that these clever
children of our day do not understand? They have all the sciences at
their fingers' ends. The universities and the academics teach them
every thing in a twinkling, giving them a patent of learning."
"Oh, that is unjust!" responded the canon, observing the pained
expression of the engineer's countenance.
"My aunt is right," declared Pepe. "At the present day we learn a
little of every thing, and leave school with the rudiments of various
"I was saying," continued the canon, "that you are no doubt a great
"I know absolutely nothing of that science," responded the young man.
"Ruins are ruins, and I have never cared to cover myself with dust
going among them."
Don Cayetano made an expressive grimace.
"That is not to say that I condemn archaeology," said Dona Perfecta's
nephew quickly, observing with pain that he could not utter a word
without wounding some one. "I know that from that dust issues history.
Those studies are delightful and very useful."
"You," said the Penitentiary, putting his toothpick into the last of
his back teeth, "are no doubt more inclined to controversial studies.
An excellent idea has just occurred to me, Senor Don Jose; you ought to
be a lawyer."
"Law is a profession which I abhor," replied Pepe Rey. "I know many
estimable lawyers, among them my father, who is the best of men; but,
in spite of so favorable a specimen, I could never had brought myself
to practise a profession which consists in defending with equal
readiness the /pro/ and the /contra/ of a question. I know of no
greater misjudgment, no greater prejudice, no greater blindness, than
parents show in their eagerness to dedicate their sons to the law. The
chief and the most terrible plague of Spain is the crowd of our young
lawyers, for whose existence a fabulous number of lawsuits are
necessary. Lawsuits multiply in proportion to the demand. And even
thus, numbers are left without employment, and, as a jurisconsult
cannot put his hand to the plough or seat himself at the loom, the
result is that brilliant squadron of idlers full of pretensions, who
clamor for places, embarrass the administration, agitate public
opinion, and breed revolutions. In some way they must make a living. It
would be a greater misfortune if there were lawsuits enough for all of
"Pepe, for Heaven's sake, take care what you say," said Dona Perfecta,
in a tone of marked severity. "But excuse him, Senor Don Inocencio, for
he is not aware that you have a nephew who, although he has only lately
left the university, is a prodigy in the law."
"I speak in general terms," said Pepe, with firmness. "Being, as I am,
the son of a distinguished lawyer, I cannot be ignorant of the fact
that there are many men who practise that noble profession with honor
"No; my nephew is only a boy yet," said the canon, with affected
humility. "Far be it from me to assert that he is a prodigy of
learning, like Senor de Rey. In time, who can tell? His talents are
neither brilliant nor seductive. Of course, Jacinto's ideas are solid
and his judgment is sound. What he knows he knows thoroughly. He is
unacquainted with sophistries and hollow phrases."
Pepe Rey appeared every moment more and more disturbed. The idea that,
without desiring it, his opinions should be in opposition to those of
the friends of his aunt, vexed him, and he resolved to remain silent
lest he and Don Inocencio should end by throwing the plates at each
other's heads. Fortunately the cathedral bell, calling the canon to the
important duties of the choir, extricated him from his painful
position. The venerable ecclesiastic rose and took leave of every one,
treating Rey with as much amiability and kindness as if they had been
old and dear friends. The canon, after offering his services to Pepe
for all that he might require, promised to present his nephew to him in
order that the young man might accompany him to see the town, speaking
in the most affectionate terms and deigning, on leaving the room, to
pat him on the shoulder. Pepe Rey, accepting with pleasure these
formulas of concord, nevertheless felt indescribably relieved when the
priest had left the dining-room and the house.
IN ALL HASTE
A little later the scene had changed. Don Cayetano, finding rest from
his sublime labors in a gentle slumber that had overcome him after
dinner, reclined comfortably in an arm-chair in the dining-room.
Rosarito, seated at one of the windows that opened into the garden,
glanced at her cousin, saying to him with the mute eloquence of her
"Cousin, sit down here beside me and tell me every thing you have to
say to me."
Her cousin, mathematician though he was, understood.
"My dear cousin," said Pepe, "how you must have been bored this
afternoon by our disputes! Heaven knows that for my own pleasure I
would not have played the pedant as I did; the canon was to blame for
it. Do you know that that priest appears to me to be a singular
"He is an excellent person!" responded Rosarito, showing the delight
she felt at being able to give her cousin all the data and the
information that he might require.
"Oh, yes! An excellent person. That is very evident!"
"When you know him a little better, you will see that."
"That he is beyond all price! But it is enough for him to be your
friend and your mamma's to be my friend also," declared the young man.
"And does he come here often?"
"Every day. He spends a great deal of his time with us," responded
Rosarito ingenuously. "How good and kind he is! And how fond he is of
"Come! I begin to like this gentleman."
"He comes in the evening, besides, to play tresillo," continued the
young girl; "for every night some friends meet here--the judge of the
lower court, the attorney-general, the dean, the bishop's secretary,
the alcalde, the collector of taxes, Don Inocencio's nephew----"
"Ah! Jacintito, the lawyer."
"Yes; he is a simple-hearted boy, as good as gold. His uncle adores
him. Since he returned from the university with his doctor's tassel--
for he is a doctor in two sciences, and he took honors besides--what do
you think of that?--well, as I was saying, since his return, he has
come here very often with his uncle. Mamma too is very fond of him. He
is a very sensible boy. He goes home early with his uncle; he never
goes at night to the Casino, nor plays nor squanders money, and he is
employed in the office of Don Lorenzo Ruiz, who is the best lawyer in
Orbajosa. They say Jacinto will be a great lawyer, too."
"His uncle did not exaggerate when he praised him, then," said Pepe. "I
am very sorry that I talked all that nonsense I did about lawyers. I
was very perverse, was I not, my dear cousin?"
"Not at all; for my part, I think you were quite right."
"But, really, was I not a little--"
"Not in the least, not in the least!"
"What a weight you have taken off my mind! The truth is that I found
myself constantly, and without knowing why, in distressing opposition
to that venerable priest. I am very sorry for it."
"What I think," said Rosarito, looking at him with eyes full of
affection, "is that you will not find yourself at home among us."
"What do you mean by that?"
"I don't know whether I can make myself quite clear, cousin. I mean
that it will not be easy for you to accustom yourself to the society
and the ideas of the people of Orbajosa. I imagine so--it is a
"Oh, no! I think you are mistaken."
"You come from a different place, from another world, where the people
are very clever, and very learned, and have refined manners, and a
witty way of talking, and an air--perhaps I am not making myself clear.
I mean that you are accustomed to live among people of refinement; you
know a great deal. Here there is not what you need; here the people are
not learned or very polished. Every thing is plain, Pepe. I imagine you
will be bored, terribly bored, and that in the end you will have to go
The expression of sadness which was natural in Rosarito's countenance
here became so profound that Pepe Rey was deeply moved.
"You are mistaken, my dear cousin. I did not come here with the ideas
you fancy, nor is there between my character and my opinions and the
character and opinions of the people here the want of harmony you
imagine. But let us suppose for a moment that there were."
"Let us suppose it."
"In that case I have the firm conviction that between you and me,
between us two, dear Rosarito, perfect harmony would still exist. On
this point I cannot be mistaken. My heart tells me that I am not
Rosarito blushed deeply, but making an effort to conceal her
embarrassment under smiles and fugitive glances, she said:
"Come, now, no pretences. But if you mean that I shall always approve
of what you say, you are right."
"Rosario," exclaimed the young man, "the moment I saw you my soul was
filled with gladness; I felt at the same time a regret that I had not
come before to Orbajosa."
"Now, that I am not going to believe," she said, affecting gayety to
conceal her emotion. "So soon? Don't begin to make protestations
already. See, Pepe, I am only a country girl, I can talk only about
common things; I don't know French; I don't dress with elegance; all I
know is how to play the piano; I----"
"Oh, Rosario!" cried the young man, with ardor; "I believed you to be
perfect before; now I am sure you are so."
Her mother at this moment entered the room. Rosarito, who did not know
what to say in answer to her cousin's last words, was conscious,
however, of the necessity of saying something, and, looking at her
mother, she cried:
"Ah! I forgot to give the parrot his dinner."
"Don't mind that now. But why do you stay in here? Take your cousin for
a walk in the garden."
Dona Perfecta smiled with maternal kindness at her nephew, as she
pointed toward the leafy avenue which was visible through the glass
"Let us go there," said Pepe, rising.
Rosarito darted, like a bird released from its cage, toward the glass
"Pepe, who knows so much and who must understand all about trees," said
Dona Perfecta, "will teach you how to graft. Let us see what he thinks
of those young pear-trees that they are going to transplant."
"Come, come!" called Rosarito to her cousin impatiently from the
Both disappeared among the foliage. Dona Perfecta watched them until
they were out of sight and then busied herself with the parrot. As she
changed its food she said to herself with a contemplative air:
"How different he is! He has not even given a caress to the poor bird."
Then, thinking it possible that she had been overheard by her brother-
in-law, she said aloud:
"Cayetano, what do you think of my nephew? Cayetano!"
A low grunt gave evidence that the antiquary was returning to the
consciousness of this miserable world.
"Just so, just so!" murmured the scientist in a sleepy voice. "That
young gentleman will maintain, as every one does, that the statues of
Mundogrande belong to the first Phoenician immigration. But I will
"But, Perfecta! There! Now you will insist upon it again that I have
"No, indeed; how could I insist upon any thing so absurd! But you
haven't told me what you think about that young man."
Don Cayetano placed the palm of his hand before his mouth to conceal a
yawn; then he and Dona Perfecta entered upon a long conversation. Those
who have transmitted to us the necessary data for a compilation of this
history omit this dialogue, no doubt because it was entirely