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Dona Perecta

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confidential. As for what the engineer and Rosarito said in the garden
that afternoon, it is evident that it was not worthy of mention.

On the afternoon of the following day, however, events took place
which, being of the gravest importance, ought not to be passed over in
silence. Late in the afternoon the two cousins found themselves alone,
after rambling through different parts of the garden in friendly
companionship and having eyes and ears only for each other.

"Pepe," Rosario was saying, "all that you have been telling me is pure
fancy, one of those stories that you clever men know so well how to put
together. You think that because I am a country girl I believe every
thing I am told."

"If you understood me as well as I think I understand you, you would
know that I never say any thing I do not mean. But let us have done
with foolish subtleties and lovers' sophistries, that lead only to
misunderstandings. I will speak to you only in the language of truth.
Are you by chance a young lady whose acquaintance I have made on the
promenade or at a party, and with whom I propose to spend a pleasant
hour or two? No, you are my cousin. You are something more. Rosario,
let us at once put things on their proper footing. Let us drop
circumlocutions. I have come here to marry you."

Rosario felt her face burning, and her heart was beating violently.

"See, my dear cousin," continued the young man. "I swear to you that if
you had not pleased me I should be already far away from this place.
Although politeness and delicacy would have obliged me to make an
effort to conceal my disappointment, I should have found it hard to do
so. That is my character."

"Cousin, you have only just arrived," said Rosarito laconically, trying
to laugh.

"I have only just arrived, and I already know all that I wanted to
know; I know that I love you; that you are the woman whom my heart has
long been announcing to me, saying to me night and day, 'Now she is
coming, now she is near; now you are burning.' "

These words served Rosario as an excuse for breaking into the laugh
that had been dimpling her lips. Her soul swelled with happiness; she
breathed an atmosphere of joy.

"You persist in depreciating yourself," continued Pepe, "but for me you
possess every perfection. You have the admirable quality of radiating
on all around you the divine light of your soul. The moment one sees
you one feels instinctively the nobility of your mind and the purity of
your heart. To see you is to see a celestial being who, through the
forgetfulness of Heaven, remains upon the earth; you are an angel, and
I adore you."

When he had said this it seemed as if he had fulfilled an important
mission. Rosarito, overcome by the violence of her emotion, felt her
scant strength suddenly fail her; and, half-fainting, she sank on a
stone that in those pleasant solitudes served as a seat. Pepe bent over
her. Her eyes were closed, her forehead rested on the palm of her hand.
A few moments later the daughter of Dona Perfecta Polentinos gave her
cousin, amid happy tears, a tender glance followed by these words:

"I loved you before I had ever seen you."

Placing her hands in those of the young man she rose to her feet, and
their forms disappeared among the leafy branches of an oleander walk.
Night was falling and soft shadows enveloped the lower end of the
garden, while the last rays of the setting sun crowned the tree-tops
with fleeting splendors. The noisy republic of the birds kept up a
deafening clamor in the upper branches. It was the hour in which, after
flitting about in the joyous regions of the sky, they were all going to
rest, and they were disputing with one another the branches they had
selected for sleeping-places. Their chatter at times had a sound of
recrimination and controversy, at times of mockery and merriment. In
their voluble twitter the little rascals said the most insulting things
to each other, pecking at each other and flapping their wings, as
orators wave their arms when they want to make their hearers believe
the lies they are telling them. But words of love were to be heard
there too, for the peace of the hour and the beauty of the spot invited
to it. A sharp ear might have distinguished the following:

"I loved you before I had even seen you, and if you had not come I
should have died of grief. Mamma used to give me your father's letters
to read, and he praised you so much in them that I used to say, 'That
is the man who ought to be my husband.' For a long time your father
said nothing about our marrying, which seemed to me great negligence.
Uncle Cayetano, whenever he spoke of you, would say, 'There are not
many men like him in the world. The woman who gets him for a husband
may think herself fortunate.' At last your father said what he could
not avoid saying. Yes, he could not avoid saying it--I was expecting it
every day."

Shortly after these words the same voice added uneasily: "Some one is
following us."

Emerging from among the oleanders, Pepe, turning round, saw two men
approaching them, and touching the leaves of a young tree near by, he
said aloud to his companion:

"It is not proper to prune young trees like this for the first time
until they have taken firm root. Trees recently planted have not
sufficient strength to bear the operation. You know that the roots can
grow only by means of the leaves, so that if you take the leaves from a

"Ah, Senor Don Jose," cried the Penitentiary, with a frank laugh,
approaching the two young people and bowing to them, "are you giving
lessons in horticulture? /Insere nunc Meliboee piros; pone ordine
vites/, as the great singer of the labors of the field said. 'Graft the
pear-tree, dear Meliboeus, trim the vines.' And how are we now, Senor
Don Jose?"

The engineer and the canon shook hands. Then the latter turned round,
and indicating by a gesture a young man who was behind him, said,

"I have the pleasure of presenting to you my dear Jacintillo--a great
rogue, a feather-head, Senor Don Jose."



Close beside the black cassock was a fresh and rosy face, that seemed
fresher and rosier from the contrast. Jacinto saluted our hero, not
without some embarrassment.

He was one of those precocious youths whom the indulgent university
sends prematurely forth into the arena of life, making them fancy that
they are men because they have received their doctor's degree. Jacinto
had a round, handsome face with rosy cheeks, like a girl's, and without
any beard save the down which announced its coming. In person he was
plump and below the medium height. His age was a little over twenty. He
had been educated from childhood under the direction of his excellent
and learned uncle, which is the same as saying that the twig had not
become crooked in the growing. A severe moral training had kept him
always straight, and in the fulfilment of his scholastic duties he had
been almost above reproach. Having concluded his studies at the
university with astonishing success, for there was scarcely a class in
which he did not take the highest honors, he entered on the practice of
his profession, promising, by his application and his aptitude for the
law, to maintain fresh and green in the forum the laurels of the

At times he was as mischievous as a boy, at times as sedate as a man.
In very truth, if Jacinto had not had a little, and even a great deal
of liking for pretty girls, his uncle would have thought him perfect.
The worthy man preached to him unceasingly on this point, hastening to
clip the wings of every audacious fancy. But not even this mundane
inclination of the young man could cool the great affection which our
worthy canon bore the charming offspring of his dear niece, Maria
Remedios. Where the young lawyer was concerned, every thing else must
give way. Even the grave and methodical habits of the worthy
ecclesiastic were altered when they interfered with the affairs of his
precocious pupil. That order and regularity, apparently as fixed as the
laws of a planetary system, were interrupted whenever Jacinto was ill
or had to take a journey. Useless celibacy of the clergy! The Council
of Trent prohibits them from having children of their own, but God--and
not the Devil, as the proverb says--gives them nephews and nieces in
order that they may know the tender anxieties of paternity.

Examining impartially the qualities of this clever boy, it was
impossible not to recognize that he was not wanting in merit. His
character was in the main inclined to uprightness, and noble actions
awakened a frank admiration in his soul. With respect to his
intellectual endowments and his social knowledge, they were sufficient
to enable him to become in time one of those notabilities of whom there
are so many in Spain; he might be what we take delight in calling
hyperbolically a distinguished patrician, or an eminent public man;
species which, owing to their great abundance, are hardly appreciated
at their just value. In the tender age in which the university degree
serves as a sort of solder between boyhood and manhood, few young men--
especially if they have been spoiled by their masters--are free from an
offensive pedantry, which, if it gives them great importance beside
their mamma's arm-chair, makes them very ridiculous when they are among
grave and experienced men. Jacinto had this defect, which was excusable
in him, not only because of his youth, but also because his worthy
uncle stimulated his puerile vanity by injudicious praise.

When the introduction was over they resumed their walk. Jacinto was
silent. The canon, returning to the interrupted theme of the /pyros/
which were to be grafted and the /vites/ which were to be trimmed,

"I am already aware that Senor Don Jose is a great agriculturist."

"Not at all; I know nothing whatever about the subject," responded the
young man, observing with no little annoyance the canon's mania of
supposing him to be learned in all the sciences.

"Oh, yes! a great agriculturist," continued the Penitentiary; 'but on
agricultural subjects, don't quote the latest treatises to me. For me
the whole of that science, Senor de Rey, is condensed in what I call
the Bible of the Field, in the 'Georgics' of the immortal Roman. It is
all admirable, from that grand sentence, /Nec vero terroe ferre omnes
omnia possunt/--that is to say, that not every soil is suited to every
tree, Senor Don Jose--to the exhaustive treatise on bees, in which the
poet describes the habits of those wise little animals, defining the
drone in these words:

" 'Ille horridus alter
Desidia, latamque trahens inglorius alvum.'

'Of a horrible and slothful figure, dragging along the ignoble weight
of the belly,' Senor Don Jose."

"You do well to translate it for me," said Pepe, "for I know very
little Latin."

"Oh, why should the men of the present day spend their time in studying
things that are out of date?" said the canon ironically. "Besides, only
poor creatures like Virgil and Cicero and Livy wrote in Latin. I,
however, am of a different way of thinking; as witness my nephew, to
whom I have taught that sublime language. The rascal knows it better
than I do. The worst of it is, that with his modern reading he is
forgetting it; and some fine day, without ever having suspected it, he
will find out that he is an ignoramus. For, Senor Don Jose, my nephew
has taken to studying the newest books and the most extravagant
theories, and it is Flammarion here and Flammarion there, and nothing
will do him but that the stars are full of people. Come, I fancy that
you two are going to be very good friends. Jacinto, beg this gentleman
to teach you the higher mathematics, to instruct you concerning the
German philosophers, and then you will be a man."

The worthy ecclesiastic laughed at his own wit, while Jacinto,
delighted to see the conversation turn on a theme so greatly to his
taste, after excusing himself to Pepe Rey, suddenly hurled this
question at him:

"Tell me, Senor Don Jose, what do you think of Darwinism?"

Our hero smiled at this inopportune pedantry, and he felt almost
tempted to encourage the young man to continue in this path of childish
vanity; but, judging it more prudent to avoid intimacy, either with the
nephew or the uncle, he answered simply:

"I can think nothing at all about the doctrines of Darwin, for I know
scarcely any thing about him. My professional labors have not permitted
me to devote much of my time to those studies."

"Well," said the canon, laughing, "it all reduces itself to this, that
we are descended from monkeys. If he had said that only in the case of
certain people I know, he would have been right."

"The theory of natural selection," said Jacinto emphatically, "has,
they say, a great many partisans in Germany."

"I do not doubt it," said the ecclesiastic. "In Germany they would have
no reason to be sorry if that theory were true, as far as Bismarck is

Dona Perfecta and Senor Don Cayetano at this moment made their

"What a beautiful evening!" said the former. "Well, nephew, are you
getting terribly bored?"

"I am not bored in the least," responded the young man.

"Don't try to deny it. Cayetano and I were speaking of that as we came
along. You are bored, and you are trying to hide it. It is not every
young man of the present day who would have the self-denial to spend
his youth, like Jacinto, in a town where there are neither theatres,
nor opera bouffe, nor dancers, nor philosophers, nor athenaeums, nor
magazines, nor congresses, nor any other kind of diversions or

"I am quite contented here," responded Pepe. "I was just now saying to
Rosario that I find this city and this house so pleasant that I would
like to live and die here."

Rosario turned very red and the others were silent. They all sat down
in a summer-house, Jacinto hastening to take the seat on the left of
the young girl.

"See here, nephew, I have a piece of advice to give you," said Dona
Perfecta, smiling with that expression of kindness that seemed to
emanate from her soul, like the aroma from the flower. "But don't
imagine that I am either reproving you or giving you a lesson--you are
not a child, and you will easily understand what I mean."

"Scold me, dear aunt, for no doubt I deserve it," replied Pepe, who was
beginning to accustom himself to the kindnesses of his father's sister.

"No, it is only a piece of advice. These gentlemen, I am sure, will
agree that I am in the right."

Rosario was listening with her whole soul.

"It is only this," continued Dona Perfecta, "that when you visit our
beautiful cathedral again, you will endeavor to behave with a little
more decorum while you are in it."

"Why, what have I done?"

"It does not surprise me that you are not yourself aware of your
fault," said his aunt, with apparent good humor. "It is only natural;
accustomed as you are to enter athenaeums and clubs, and academies and
congresses without any ceremony, you think that you can enter a temple
in which the Divine Majesty is in the same manner."

"But excuse me, senora," said Pepe gravely, "I entered the cathedral
with the greatest decorum."

"But I am not scolding you, man; I am not scolding you. If you take it
in that way I shall have to remain silent. Excuse my nephew, gentlemen.
A little carelessness, a little heedlessness on his part is not to be
wondered at. How many years is it since you set foot in a sacred place

"Senora, I assure you---- But, in short, let my religious ideas be what
they may, I am in the habit of observing the utmost decorum in church."

"What I assure you is---- There, if you are going to be offended I
won't go on. What I assure you is that a great many people noticed it
this morning. The Senores de Gonzalez, Dona Robustiana, Serafinita--in
short, when I tell you that you attracted the attention of the
bishop---- His lordship complained to me about it this afternoon when
I was at my cousin's. He told me that he did not order you to be put
out of the church only because you were my nephew."

Rosario looked anxiously at her cousin, trying to read in his
countenance, before he uttered it, the answer he would make to these

"No doubt they mistook me for some one else."

"No, no! it was you. But there, don't get angry! We are talking here
among friends and in confidence. It was you. I saw you myself."

"You saw me!"

"Just so. Will you deny that you went to look at the pictures, passing
among a group of worshippers who were hearing mass? I assure you that
my attention was so distracted by your comings and goings that--well,
you must not do it again. Then you went into the chapel of San
Gregorio. At the elevation of the Host at the high altar you did not
even turn around to make a gesture of reverence. Afterward you
traversed the whole length of the church, you went up to the tomb of
the Adelantado, you touched the altar with your hands, then you passed
a second time among a group of worshippers, attracting the notice of
every one. All the girls looked at you, and you seemed pleased at
disturbing so finely the devotions of those good people."

"Good Heavens! How many things I have done!" exclaimed Pepe, half
angry, half amused. "I am a monster, it seems, without ever having
suspected it."

"No, I am very well aware that you are a good boy," said Dona Perfecta,
observing the canon's expression of unalterable gravity, which gave his
face the appearance of a pasteboard mask. "But, my dear boy, between
thinking things and showing them in that irreverent manner, there is a
distance which a man of good sense and good breeding should never
cross. I am well aware that your ideas are---- Now, don't get angry! If
you get angry, I will be silent. I say that it is one thing to have
certain ideas about religion and another thing to express them. I will
take good care not to reproach you because you believe that God did not
create us in his image and likeness, but that we are descended from the
monkeys; nor because you deny the existence of the soul, asserting that
it is a drug, like the little papers of rhubarb and magnesia that are
sold at the apothecary's--"

"Senora, for Heaven's sake!" exclaimed Pepe, with annoyance. "I see
that I have a very bad reputation in Orbajosa."

The others remained silent.

"As I said, I will not reproach you for entertaining those ideas. And,
besides, I have not the right to do so. If I should undertake to argue
with you, you, with your wonderful talents, would confute me a thousand
times over. No, I will not attempt any thing of that kind. What I say
is that these poor and humble inhabitants of Orbajosa are pious and
good Christians, although they know nothing about German philosophy,
and that, therefore, you ought not publicly to manifest your contempt
for their beliefs."

"My dear aunt," said the engineer gravely, "I have shown no contempt
for any one, nor do I entertain the ideas which you attribute to me.
Perhaps I may have been a little wanting in reverence in the church. I
am somewhat absent-minded. My thoughts and my attention were engaged
with the architecture of the building and, frankly speaking, I did not
observe---- But this was no reason for the bishop to think of putting
me out of the church, nor for you to suppose me capable of attributing
to a paper from the apothecary's the functions of the soul. I may
tolerate that as a jest, but only as a jest."

The agitation of Pepe Rey's mind was so great that, notwithstanding his
natural prudence and moderation, he was unable to conceal it.

"There! I see that you are angry," said Dona Perfecta, casting down her
eyes and clasping her hands. "I am very sorry. If I had known that you
would have taken it in that way, I should not have spoken to you. Pepe,
I ask your pardon."

Hearing these words and seeing his kind aunt's deprecating attitude,
Pepe felt ashamed of the sternness of his last words, and he made an
effort to recover his serenity. The venerable Penitentiary extricated
him from his embarrassing position, saying with his accustomed
benevolent smile:

"Senora Dona Perfecta, we must be tolerant with artists. Oh, I have
known a great many of them! Those gentlemen, when they have before them
a statue, a piece of rusty armor, a mouldy painting, or an old wall,
forget every thing else. Senor Don Jose is an artist, and he has
visited our cathedral as the English visit it, who would willingly
carry it away with them to their museums, to its last tile, if they
could. That the worshippers were praying, that the priest was elevating
the Sacred Host, that the moment of supreme piety and devotion had
come--what of that? What does all that matter to an artist? It is true
that I do not know what art is worth, apart from the sentiments which
it expresses, but, in fine, at the present day, it is the custom to
adore the form, not the idea. God preserve me from undertaking to
discuss this question with Senor Don Jose, who knows so much, and who,
reasoning with the admirable subtlety of the moderns, would instantly
confound my mind, in which there is only faith."

"The determination which you all have to regard me as the most learned
man on earth annoys me exceedingly," said Pepe, speaking in his former
hard tone. "Hold me for a fool; for I would rather be regarded as a
fool than as the possessor of that Satanic knowledge which is here
attributed to me."

Rosarito laughed, and Jacinto thought that a highly opportune moment
had now arrived to make a display of his own erudition.

"Pantheism or panentheism," he said, "is condemned by the Church, as
well as by the teachings of Schopenhauer and of the modern Hartmann."

"Ladies and gentlemen," said the canon gravely, "men who pay so fervent
a worship to art, though it be only to its form, deserve the greatest
respect. It is better to be an artist, and delight in the contemplation
of beauty, though this be only represented by nude nymphs, than to be
indifferent and incredulous in every thing. The mind that consecrates
itself to the contemplation of beauty, evil will not take complete
possession of. /Est Deus in nobis/. /Deus/, be it well understood. Let
Senor Don Jose, then, continue to admire the marvels of our church; I,
for one, will willingly forgive him his acts of irreverence, with all
due respect for the opinions of the bishop."

"Thanks, Senor Don Inocencio," said Pepe, feeling a bitter and
rebellious sentiment of hostility springing up within him toward the
canon, and unable to conquer his desire to mortify him. "But let none
of you imagine, either, that it was the beauties of art, of which you
suppose the temple to be full, that engaged my attention. Those
beauties, with the exception of the imposing architecture of a portion
of the edifice and of the three tombs that are in the chapel of the
apse, I do not see. What occupied my mind was the consideration of the
deplorable decadence of the religious arts; and the innumerable
monstrosities, of which the cathedral is full, caused me not
astonishment, but disgust."

The amazement of all present was profound.

"I cannot endure," continued Pepe, "those glazed and painted images
that resemble so much--God forgive me for the comparison--the dolls
that little girls pay with. And what am I to say of the theatrical
robes that cover them? I saw a St. Joseph with a mantle whose
appearance I will not describe, out of respect for the holy patriarch
and for the church of which he is the patron. On the altar are crowded
together images in the worst possible taste; and the innumerable
crowns, branches, stars, moons, and other ornaments of metal or gilt
paper have an air of an ironmongery that offends the religious
sentiment and depresses the soul. Far from lifting itself up to
religious contemplation, the soul sinks, and the idea of the ludicrous
distracts it. The great works of art which give sensible form to ideas,
to dogmas, to religious faith, to mystic exaltation, fulfil a noble
mission. The caricatures, the aberrations of taste, the grotesque works
with which a mistaken piety fills the church, also fulfil their object;
but this is a sad one enough: They encourage superstition, cool
enthusiasm, oblige the eyes of the believer to turn away from the
altar, and, with the eyes, the souls that have not a very profound and
a very firm faith turn away also."

"The doctrine of the iconoclasts, too," said Jacinto, "has, it seems,
spread widely in Germany."

"I am not an iconoclast, although I would prefer the destruction of all
the images to the exhibition of buffooneries of which I speak,"
continued the young man. "Seeing it, one may justly advocate a return
of religious worship to the august simplicity of olden times. But no;
let us not renounce the admirable aid which all the arts, beginning
with poetry and ending with music, lend to the relations between man
and God. Let the arts live; let the utmost pomp be displayed in
religious ceremonies. I am a partisan of pomp."

"An artist, an artist, and nothing more than an artist!" exclaimed the
canon, shaking his head with a sorrowful air. "Fine pictures, fine
statues, beautiful music; pleasure for the senses, and let the devil
take the soul!"

"Apropos of music," said Pepe Rey, without observing the deplorable
effect which his words produced on both mother and daughter, "imagine
how disposed my mind would be to religious contemplation on entering
the cathedral, when just at that moment, and precisely at the offertory
at high mass, the organist played a passage from 'Traviata.' "

"Senor de Rey is right in that," said the little lawyer emphatically.
"The organist played the other day the whole of the drinking song and
the waltz from the same opera, and afterward a rondeau from the 'Grande
Duchesse.' "

"But when I felt my heart sink," continued the engineer implacably,
"was when I saw an image of the Virgin, which seems to be held in great
veneration, judging from the crowd before it and the multitude of
tapers which lighted it. They have dressed her in a puffed-out garment
of velvet, embroidered with gold, of a shape so extraordinary that it
surpasses the most extravagant of the fashions of the day. Her face is
almost hidden under a voluminous frill, made of innumerable rows of
lace, crimped with a crimping-iron, and her crown, half a yard in
height, surrounded by golden rays, looks like a hideous catafalque
erected over her head. Of the same material, and embroidered in the
same manner, are the trousers of the Infant Jesus. I will not go on,
for to describe the Mother and the Child might perhaps lead me to
commit some irreverence. I will only say that it was impossible for me
to keep from smiling, and for a short time I contemplated the profaned
image, saying to myself: 'Mother and Lady mine, what a sight they have
made of you!' "

As he ended Pepe looked at his hearers, and although, owing to the
gathering darkness, he could not see their countenances distinctly, he
fancied that in some of them he perceived signs of angry consternation.

"Well, Senor Don Jose!" exclaimed the canon quickly, smiling with a
triumphant expression, "that image, which to your philosophy and
pantheism appears so ridiculous, is Our Lady of Help, patroness and
advocate of Orbajosa, whose inhabitants regard her with so much
veneration that they would be quite capable of dragging any one through
the streets who should speak ill of her. The chronicles and history,
Senor Don Jose, are full of the miracles which she has wrought, and
even at the present day we receive constantly incontrovertible proofs
of her protection. You must know also that your aunt, Dona Perfecta, is
chief lady in waiting to the Most Holy Virgin of Help, and that the
dress that to you appears so grotesque--went out from this house, and
that the trousers of the Infant are the work of the skilful needle and
the ardent piety combined of your cousin Rosarito, who is now listening
to us."

Pepe Rey was greatly disconcerted. At the same instant Dona Perfecta
rose abruptly from her seat, and, without saying a word, walked toward
the house, followed by the Penitentiary. The others rose also.
Recovering from his stupefaction, the young man was about to beg his
cousin's pardon for his irreverence, when he observed that Rosarito was
weeping. Fixing on her cousin a look of friendly and gentle reproof,
she said:

"What ideas you have!"

The voice of Dona Perfecta was heard crying in an altered accent:

"Rosario! Rosario!"

The latter ran toward the house.



Pepe Rey was disturbed and perplexed, enraged with himself and every
one else; he tried in vain to imagine what could be the conflict that
had arisen, in spite of himself, between his ideas and the ideas of his
aunt's friends. Thoughtful and sad, foreseeing future discord, he
remained for a short time sitting on the bench in the summer-house, his
chin resting on his breast, his forehead gathered in a frown, his hands
clasped. He thought himself alone.

Suddenly he heard a gay voice humming the refrain of a song from a
zarzuela. He looked up and saw Don Jacinto sitting in the opposite
corner of the summer-house.

"Ah, Senor de Rey!" said the youth abruptly, "one does not offend with
impunity the religious sentiments of the great majority of a nation. If
you doubt it, consider what happened in the first French revolution."

When Pepe heard the buzzing of this insect his irritation increased.
Nevertheless there was no anger in his soul toward the youthful doctor
of laws. The latter annoyed him, as a fly might annoy him, but nothing
more. Rey felt the irritation which every importunate being inspires,
and with the air of one who brushes away a buzzing drone, he answered:

"What has the French revolution to do with the robe of the Virgin?"

He got up and walked toward the house, but he had not taken half a
dozen steps before he heard again beside him the buzzing of the
mosquito, saying:

"Senor Don Jose, I wish to speak to you about an affair in which you
are greatly interested and which may cause you some trouble."

"An affair?" said the young man, drawing back. "Let us hear what affair
is that."

"You suspect what it is, perhaps," said Jacinto, approaching Pepe, and
smiling with the air of a man of business who has some unusually
important matter on hand; "I want to speak to you about the lawsuit."

"The lawsuit! My friend, I have no lawsuits. You, as a good lawyer,
dream of lawsuits and see stamped paper everywhere."

"What! You have not heard of your lawsuit?" exclaimed the youth, with

"Of my lawsuit! But I have no lawsuits, nor have I ever had any."

"Well, if you have not heard of it, I am all the better pleased to have
spoken to you about it, so that you may be on your guard. Yes, senor,
you are going to have a suit at law."

"And with whom?"

"With Uncle Licurgo and other land-owners whose property borders on the
estate called The Poplars."

Pepe Rey was astounded.

"Yes, senor," continued the little lawyer. "To-day Uncle Licurgo and I
had a long conference. As I am such a friend of the family, I wanted to
let you know about it, so that, if you think well of it, you may hasten
to arrange the matter."

"But what have I to arrange? What do those rascals claim from me?"

"It seems that a stream of water which rises in your property has
changed its course and flows over some tile-works of the aforesaid
Uncle Licurgo and the mill of another person, occasioning considerable
damage. My client--for he is determined that I shall get him out of
this difficulty--my client, as I said, demands that you shall restore
the water to its former channel, so as to avoid fresh injuries, and
that you shall indemnify him for the damage which his works have
already sustained through the neglect of the superior proprietor."

"And I am the superior proprietor! If I engage in a lawsuit, that will
be the first fruit that those famous Poplars, which were mine and which
now, as I understand, belong to everybody, will have ever produced me,
for Licurgo, as well as some of the other farmers of the district, have
been filching from me, little by little, year after year, pieces of
land, and it will be very difficult to re-establish the boundaries of
my property."

"That is a different question."

"That is not a different question. The real suit," exclaimed the
engineer, unable to control his anger, "will be the one that I will
bring against that rabble who no doubt propose to themselves to tire me
out and drive me to desperation--so that I may abandon every thing and
let them continue in possession of what they have stolen. We shall see
if there are lawyers and judges who will uphold the infamous conduct of
those village legists, who are forever at law, and who waste and
consume the property of others. I am obliged to you, young gentleman,
for having informed me of the villanous intentions of those boors, who
are more perverse than Satan himself. When I tell you that that very
tile-yard and that very mill on which Licurgo bases his claim are

"The title-deeds of the property ought to be examined, to see if
possession may not constitute a title in this case."

"Possession! Those scoundrels are not going to have the pleasure of
laughing at me in that way. I suppose that justice is honestly and
faithfully administered in the city of Orbajosa."

"Oh, as to that!" exclaimed the little lawyer, with an approving look,
"the judge is an excellent person! He comes here every evening. But it
is strange that you should have received no notice of Senor Licurgo's
claims. Have you not yet been summoned to appear before the tribunal of


"It will be to-morrow, then. Well, I am very sorry that Senor Licurgo's
precipitation has deprived me of the pleasure and honor of defending
you, but what is to be done? Licurgo was determined that I should take
him out of his troubles. I will study the matter with the greatest
care. This vile slavery is the great drawback of jurisprudence."

Pepe entered the dining-room in a deplorable state of mind. Dona
Perfecta was talking with the Penitentiary, as he entered, and Rosarito
was sitting alone, with her eyes fixed on the door. She was no doubt
waiting for her cousin.

"Come here, you rascal," said his aunt, smiling with very little
spontaneity. "You have insulted us, you great atheist! but we forgive
you. I am well aware that my daughter and myself are two rustics who
are incapable of soaring to the regions of mathematics where you dwell,
but for all that it is possible that you may one day get down on your
knees to us and beg us to teach you the Christian doctrine."

Pepe answered with vague phrases and formulas of politeness and

"For my part," said Don Inocencio, with an affected air of meekness and
amiability, "if in the course of these idle disputes I have said any
thing that could offend Senor Don Jose, I beg his pardon for it. We are
all friends here."

"Thanks. It is of no consequence."

"In spite of every thing," said Dona Perfecta, smiling with more
naturalness than before, "I shall always be the same for my dear
nephew; in spite of his extravagant and anti-religious ideas. In what
way do you suppose I am going to spend this evening? Well, in trying to
make Uncle Licurgo give up those obstinate notions which would
otherwise cause you annoyance. I sent for him, and he is waiting for me
now in the hall. Make yourself easy, I will arrange the matter; for
although I know that he is not altogether without right on his side--"

"Thanks, dear aunt," responded the young man, his whole being invaded
by a wave of the generous emotion which was so easily aroused in his

Pepe Rey looked in the direction of his cousin, intending to join her,
but some wily questions of the canon retained him at Dona Perfecta's
side. Rosario looked dejected, and was listening with an air of
melancholy indifference to the words of the little lawyer, who, having
installed himself at her side, kept up a continuous stream of fulsome
flatteries, seasoned with ill-timed jests and fatuous remarks in the
worst possible taste.

"The worst of it is," said Dona Perfecta to her nephew--surprising the
glance which he cast in the direction of the ill-assorted pair--"the
worst of it is, that you have offended poor Rosario. You must do all in
your power to make your peace with her. The poor child is so good!"

"Oh, yes! so good," added the canon, "that I have no doubt that she
will forgive her cousin."

"I think that Rosario has already forgiven me," affirmed Rey.

"And if not, angelic breasts do not harbor resentment long," said Don
Inocencio mellifluously. "I have a great deal of influence with the
child, and I will endeavor to dissipate in her generous soul whatever
prejudice may exist there against you. As soon as I say a word or two
to her----"

Pepe Rey felt a cloud darken his soul and he said with meaning:

"Perhaps it may not be necessary."

"I will not speak to her now," added the capitular, "because she is
listening entranced to Jacinto's nonsense. Ah, those children! When
they once begin there is no stopping them."

The judge of the lower court, the alcalde's lady, and the dean of the
cathedral now made their appearance. They all saluted the engineer,
manifesting in their words and manner, on seeing him, the satisfaction
of gratified curiosity. The judge was one of those clever and
intelligent young men who every day spring into notice in official
circles; aspiring, almost before they are out of the shell, to the
highest political and administrative positions. He gave himself airs of
great importance, and in speaking of himself and of his juvenile toga,
he seemed indirectly to manifest great offence because he had not been
all at once made president of the supreme court. In such inexpert
hands, in a brain thus swollen with vanity, in this incarnation of
conceit, had the state placed the most delicate and the most difficult
functions of human justice. His manners were those of a perfect
courtier, and revealed a scrupulous and minute attention to all that
concerned his own person. He had the insufferable habit of taking off
and putting on every moment his gold eye-glasses, and in his
conversation he manifested with frequency the strong desire which he
had to be transferred to Madrid, in order that he might give his
invaluable services to the Department of Grace and Justice.

The alcalde's lady was a good-natured woman, whose only weakness was to
fancy that she had a great many acquaintances at the court. She asked
Pepe Rey various questions about the fashions, mentioning
establishments in which she had had a mantle or a skirt made on her
last journey to the capital, contemporaneous with the visit of Muley-
Abbas, and she also mentioned the names of a dozen duchesses and
marchionesses; speaking of them with as much familiarity as if they had
been friends of her school-days. She said also that the Countess of M.
(famous for her parties) was a friend of hers and that in '60 she had
paid her a visit, when the countess had invited her to her box at the
Teatro Real, where she saw Muley-Abbas in Moorish dress and accompanied
by his retinue of Moors. The alcalde's wife talked incessantly and was
not wanting in humor.

The dean was a very old man, corpulent and red-faced, plethoric and
apoplectic looking, a man so obese that he seemed bursting out of his
skin. He had belonged to one of the suppressed religious orders; he
talked only of religious matters; and from the very first manifested
the most profound contempt for Pepe Rey. The latter appeared every
moment more unable to accommodate himself to a society so little to his
taste. His disposition--not at all malleable, hard, and very little
flexible--rejected the duplicities and the compromises of language to
simulate concord when it did not exist. He remained, then, very grave
during the whole of the tiresome evening, obliged as he was to endure
the oratorical vehemence of the alcalde's wife, who, without being
Fame, had the privilege of fatiguing with a hundred tongues the ears of
men. If, in some brief respite which this lady gave her hearers, Pepe
Rey made an attempt to approach his cousin, the Penitentiary attached
himself to him instantly, like the mollusk to the rock; taking him
apart with a mysterious air to propose to him an excursion with Senor
Don Cayetano to Mundogrande, or a fishing party on the clear waters of
the Nahara.

At last the evening came to an end, as every thing does in this world.
The dean retired, leaving the house, as it seemed, empty, and very soon
there remained of the alcalde's wife only an echo, like the buzz which
remains in the air after a storm has passed away. The judge also
deprived the company of his presence, and at last Don Inocencio gave
his nephew the signal for departure.

"Come, boy, come; for it is late," he said, smiling. "How you have
tormented poor Rosarito, has he not, child? Home, you rogue, home,
without delay."

"It is time to go to bed," said Dona Perfecta.

"Time to go to work," responded the little lawyer.

"I am always telling him that he ought to get through with his business
in the day-time, but he will not mind me."

"There is so much, so very much business to be got through."

"No, say rather, that confounded work which you have undertaken. He
does not wish to say it, Senor Don Jose, but the truth is that he is
writing a book on 'The Influence of Woman in Christian Society,' and,
in addition to that, 'A Glance at the Catholic Movement in'--somewhere
or other. What do you know about glances or influences? But these
youths of the present day have audacity enough for any thing. Oh, what
boys! Well, let us go home. Good-night, Senora Dona Perfecta--good-
night, Senor Don Jose--Rosarito."

"I will wait for Senor Don Cayetano," said Jacinto, "to ask him to give
me the Augusto Nicolas."

"Always carrying books. Why, sometimes you come into the house laden
like a donkey. Very well, then, let us wait."

"Senor Don Jacinto does not write hastily," said Pepe Rey; "he prepares
himself well for his work, so that his books may be treasures of

"But that boy will injure his brain," objected Dona Perfecta. "For
Heaven's sake be careful! I would set a limit to his reading."

"Since we are going to wait," said the little doctor, in a tone of
insufferable conceit, "I will take with me also the third volume of
Concilios. What do you think, uncle?"

"Take that, of course. It would never do to leave that behind you."

Fortunately Senor Don Cayetano (who generally spent his evenings at the
house of Don Lorenzo Ruiz) soon arrived, and the books being received,
uncle and nephew left the house.

Rey read in his cousin's sad countenance a keen desire to speak to him.
He approached her while Dona Perfecta and Don Cayetano were discussing
some domestic matter apart.

"You have offended mamma," said Rosarito.

Her features expressed something like terror.

"It is true," responded the young man; "I have offended your mamma--I
have offended you."

"No, not me. I already imagined that the Infant Jesus ought not to wear

"But I hope that you will both forgive me. Your mamma was so kind to me
a little while ago."

Dona Perfecta's voice suddenly vibrated through the dining-room, with
so discordant a tone that her nephew started as if he had heard a cry
of alarm. The voice said imperiously:

"Rosario, go to bed!"

Startled, her mind filled with anxious fears, the girl lingered in the
room, going here and there as if she was looking for something. As she
passed her cousin she whispered softly and cautiously these words:

"Mamma is angry."


"She is angry--be on your guard, be on your guard."

Then she left the room. Her mother, for whom Uncle Licurgo was waiting,
followed her, and for some time the voices of Dona Perfecta and the
countryman were heard mingled together in familiar conference. Pepe was
left with Don Cayetano, who, taking a light, said;

"Good-night, Pepe. But don't suppose that I am going to sleep, I am
going to work. But why are you so thoughtful? What is the matter with
you?--Just as I say, to work. I am making notes for a 'Memorial
Discourse on the Genealogies of Orbajosa.' I have already found data
and information of the utmost value. There can be no dispute about it.
In every period of our history the Orbajosans have been distinguished
for their delicate sense of honor, their chivalry, their valor, their
intellectuality. The conquest of Mexico, the wars of the Emperor, the
wars of Philip against the heretics, testify to this. But are you ill?
What is the matter with you? As I say, eminent theologians, valiant
warriors, conquerors, saints, bishops, statesmen--all sorts of
illustrious men--have flourished in this humble land of the garlic. No,
there is not in Christendom a more illustrious city than ours. Its
virtues and its glories are in themselves enough and more than enough
to fill all the pages of our country's history. Well, I see that it is
sleepy you are--good-night. As I say, I would not exchange the glory of
being a son of this noble city for all the gold in the world. Augusta,
the ancients called it; Augustissima, I call it now; for now, as then,
high-mindedness, generosity, valor, magnanimity, are the patrimony of
all. Well, good-night, dear Pepe. But I fancy you are not well. Has the
supper disagreed with you?--Alonzo Gonzalez de Bustamante was right
when he said in his 'Floresta Amena' that the people of Orbajosa
suffice in themselves to confer greatness and honor on a kingdom. Don't
you think so?"

"Oh, yes, senor; undoubtedly," responded Pepe Rey, going abruptly
toward his room.



During the following days Pepe Rey made the acquaintance of several of
the people of the place; he visited the Casino, and formed friendships
with some of the individuals who spend their lives in the rooms of that

But the youth of Orbajosa did not spend all their time in the Casino,
as evil-minded people might imagine. In the afternoons there were to be
seen at the corner of the cathedral, and in the little plaza formed by
the intersection of the Calle del Condestable and the Calle de la
Triperia, several gentlemen who, gracefully enveloped in their cloaks,
stood there like sentinels, watching the people as they passed by. If
the weather was fine, those shining lights of the Urbs Augustan culture
bent their steps, still enveloped in the indispensable cloak, toward
the promenade called the Paseo de las Descalzas, which was formed by a
double row of consumptive-looking elms and some withered bushes of
broom. There the brilliant Pleiad watched the daughters of this fellow-
townsman or that, who had also come there for a walk, and the afternoon
passed tolerably. In the evening, the Casino filled up again; and while
some of the members gave their lofty minds to the delights of monte,
others read the newspapers, while the majority discussed in the coffee-
room subjects of the various kinds, such as the politics, horses,
bulls, or the gossip of the place. The result of every discussion was
the renewed conviction of the supremacy of Orbajosa and its inhabitants
over all the other towns and peoples on the face of the earth.

These distinguished men were the cream of the illustrious city; some
rich landowners, others very poor, but all alike free from lofty
aspirations. They had the imperturbable tranquillity of the beggar who
desires nothing more so long as he has a crust of bread with which to
cheat hunger, and the sun to warm him. What chiefly distinguished the
Orbajosans of the Casino was a sentiment of bitter hostility toward all
strangers, and whenever any stranger of note appeared in its august
halls, they believed that he had come there to call in question the
superiority of the land of the garlic, or to dispute with it, through
envy, the incontestable advantages which nature had bestowed upon it.

When Pepe Rey presented himself in the Casino, they received him with
something of suspicion, and as facetious persons abounded in it, before
the new member had been there a quarter of an hour, all sorts of jokes
had been made about him. When in answer to the reiterated questions of
the members he said that he had come to Orbajosa with a commission to
explore the basin of the Nahara for coal, and to survey a road, they
all agreed that Senor Don Jose was a conceited fellow who wished to
give himself airs, discovering coalbeds and planning railroads. Some
one added:

"He has come to a bad place for that, then. Those gentlemen imagine
that here we are all fools, and that they can deceive us with fine
words. He has come to marry Dona Perfecta's daughter, and all that he
says about coalbeds is only for the sake of appearances."

"Well, this morning," said another, a merchant who had failed, "they
told me at the Dominguez' that the gentleman has not a peseta, and that
he has come here in order to be supported by his aunt and to see if he
can catch Rosarito."

"It seems that he is no engineer at all," added an olive-planter, whose
plantations were mortgaged for double their value. "But it is as you
say: those starvelings from Madrid think they are justified in
deceiving poor provincials, and as they believe that here we all wear

"It is plain to be seen that he is penniless--"

"Well, half-jest and the whole earnest, he told us last night that we
were lazy barbarians."

"That we spent our time sunning ourselves, like the Bedouins."

"That we lived with the imagination."

"That's it; that we lived with the imagination."

"And that this city was precisely like a city in Morocco."

"Well! one has no patience to listen to those things. Where else could
he see (unless it might be in Paris) a street like the Calle del
Condestable, that can show seven houses in a row, all of them
magnificent, from Dona Perfecta's house to that of Nicolasita
Hernandez? Does that fellow suppose that one has never seen any thing,
or has never been in Paris?"

"He also said, with a great deal of delicacy, that Orbajosa was a city
of beggars; and he gave us to understand that in his opinion we live in
the meanest way here without being ourselves aware of it."

"What insolence! If he ever says that to me, there will be a scene in
the Casino," exclaimed the collector of taxes. "Why didn't they tell
him how many arrobas of oil Orbajosa produced last year? Doesn't the
fool know that in good years Orbajosa produces wheat enough to supply
all Spain, and even all Europe, with bread? It is true that the crops
have been bad for several years past, but that is not the rule. And the
crop of garlic! I wager the gentleman doesn't know that the garlic of
Orbajosa made the gentleman of the jury in the Exposition of London

These and other conversations of a similar kind were to be heard in the
rooms of the Casino in those days. Notwithstanding this boastful talk,
so common in small towns, which, for the very reason that they are
small, are generally arrogant, Rey was not without finding sincere
friends among the members of the learned corporation, for they were not
all gossips, nor were there wanting among them persons of good sense.
But our hero had the misfortune--if misfortune it can be called--to be
unusually frank in the manifestation of his feelings, and this awakened
some antipathy toward him.

Days passed. In addition to the natural disgust which the social
customs of the episcopal city produced in him, various causes, all of
them disagreeable, began to develop in his mind a profound sadness,
chief among these causes being the crowd of litigants that swarmed
about him like voracious ants. Many others of the neighboring
landowners besides Uncle Licurgo claimed damages from him, or asked him
to render accounts for lands managed by his grandfather. A claim was
also brought against him because of a certain contract of partnership
entered into by his mother and which, as it appeared, had not been
fulfilled; and he was required in the same way to acknowledge a
mortgage on the estate of The Poplars executed in an irregular form by
his uncle. Claims swarmed around him, multiplying with ant-like
rapidity. He had come to the determination to renounce the ownership of
his lands, but meanwhile his dignity required that he should not yield
to the wily manoeuvres of the artful rustics; and as the town-council
brought a claim against him also on account of a pretended confusion of
the boundary lines of his estate with those of an adjoining wood
belonging to the town-lands, the unfortunate young man found himself at
every step obliged to prove his rights, which were being continually
called in question. His honor was engaged, and he had no alternative
but to defend his rights to the death.

Dona Perfecta had promised in her magnanimity to help him to free
himself from these disgraceful plots by means of an amicable
arrangement; but the days passed, and the good offices of the exemplary
lady had produced no result whatever. The claims multiplied with the
dangerous swiftness of a violent disease. Pepe Rey passed hour after
hour at court, making declarations and answering the same questions
over and over again, and when he returned home tired and angry, there
appeared before him the sharp features and grotesque face of the
notary, who had brought him a thick bundle of stamped papers full of
horrible formulas--that he might be studying the question.

It will be easily understood that Pepe Rey was not a man to endure such
annoyances when he might escape from them by leaving the town. His
mother's noble city appeared to his imagination like a horrible monster
which had fastened its ferocious claws in him and was drinking his
blood. To free himself from this monster nothing more was necessary, he
believed, than flight. But a weighty interest--an interest in which his
heart was concerned--kept him where he was; binding him to the rock of
his martyrdom with very strong bonds. Nevertheless, he had come to feel
so dissatisfied with his position; he had come to regard himself as so
utterly a stranger, so to say, in that gloomy city of lawsuits, of old-
fashioned customs and ideas, of envy and of slander, that he resolved
to leave it without further delay, without, however, abandoning the
project which had brought him to it. One morning, finding a favorable
occasion, he opened his mind to Dona Perfecta on this point.

"Nephew," responded that lady, with her accustomed gentleness, "don't
be rash. Why! you are like fire. Your father was just the same--what a
man he was! You are like a flash--I have already told you that I will
be very glad to call you my son. Even if you did not possess the good
qualities and the talents which distinguish you (in spite of some
little defects, for you have those, too); even if you were not as good
as you are; it is enough that this union has been proposed by your
father, to whom both my daughter and myself owe so much, for me to
accept it. And Rosarito will not oppose it since I wish it. What is
wanting, then? Nothing; there is nothing wanting but a little time. The
marriage cannot be concluded with the haste you desire and which might,
perhaps, give ground for interpretations discreditable to my dear
daughter's reputation. But as you think of nothing but machines, you
want every thing done by steam. Wait, man, wait; what hurry are you in?
This hatred that you have taken to our poor Orbajosa is nothing but a
caprice. But of course you can only live among counts and marquises and
orators and diplomats--all you want is to get married and separate me
forever from my daughter," she added, wiping away a tear. "Since that
is the case, inconsiderate boy, at least have the charity to delay for
a little this marriage, for which you are so eager. What impatience!
What ardent love! I did not suppose that a poor country girl like my
daughter could inspire so violent a passion."

The arguments of his aunt did not convince Pepe Rey, but he did not
wish to contradict her. A fresh cause of anxiety was soon added to
those which already embittered his existence. He had now been in
Orbajosa for two weeks, and during that time he had received no letter
from his father. This could not be attributed to carelessness on the
part of the officials of the post-office of Orbajosa, for the
functionary who had charge of that service being the friend and
/protg/ of Dona Perfecta, the latter every day recommended him to
take the greatest care that the letters addressed to her nephew did not
go astray. The letter-carrier, named Cristoval Ramos, and nicknamed
Caballuco--a personage whose acquaintance we have already made--also
visited the house, and to him Dona Perfecta was accustomed to address
warnings and reprimands as energetic as the following:

"A pretty mail service you have! How is it that my nephew has not
received a single letter since he has been in Orbajosa? When the
carrying of the mail is entrusted to such a giddy-pate, how can things
be expected to go well? I will speak to the governor of the province so
that he may be careful what kind of people he puts in the post-office."

Caballuco, shrugging his shoulders, looked at Rey with the most
complete indifference.

One day he entered the house with a letter in his hand.

"Thank Heaven!" said Dona Perfecta to her nephew. "Here are letters
from your father. Rejoice, man! A pretty fright we have had through my
brother's laziness about writing. What does he say? He is well, no
doubt," she added, seeing that Pepe Rey opened the letter with feverish

The engineer turned pale as he glanced over the first lines.

"Good Heavens! Pepe, what is the matter?" exclaimed Dona Perfecta,
rising in alarm. "Is your father ill?"

"This letter is not from my father," responded Pepe, revealing in his
countenance the greatest consternation.

"What is it, then?"

"An order from the Minister of Public Works, relieving me from the
charge which was confided to me."

"What! Can it be possible!"

"A dismissal pure and simple, expressed in terms very little flattering
to me."

"Was there ever any thing so unjust!" exclaimed Dona Perfecta, when she
had recovered from her amazement.

"What a humiliation!" exclaimed the young man. "It is the first time in
my life that I have received an affront like this."

"But the Government is unpardonable! To put such a slight upon you! Do
you wish me to write to Madrid? I have very good friends there, and I
may be able to obtain satisfaction for you from the Government and
reparation for this brutal affront."

"Thanks, senora, I desire no recommendations," said the young man, with

"But what a piece of injustice! what a high-handed proceeding! To
discharge in this way a young man of your merit, an eminent scientist.
Why, I cannot contain my anger!"

"I will find out," said Pepe, with energy, "who it is that occupies
himself in injuring me."

"That minister--but what is to be expected from those infamous

"In this there is the hand of some one who is determined to drive me to
desperation," declared the young man, visibly disturbed. "This is not
the act of the minister; this and other contrarieties that I am
experiencing are the result of a revengeful plot, of a secret and well-
laid plan of some implacable enemy, and this enemy is here in Orbajosa,
this plot has been hatched in Orbajosa, doubt it not, dear aunt."

"You are out of your mind," replied Dona Perfecta, with a look of
compassion. "You have enemies in Orbajosa, you say? Some one wishes to
revenge himself upon you? Come, Pepillo, you have lost your senses. The
reading of those books in which they say that we have for ancestors
monkeys or parrots has turned your brain."

She smiled sweetly as she uttered the last words, and taking a tone of
familiar and affectionate admonition, she added:

"My dear boy, the people of Orbajosa may be rude and boorish rustics,
without learning, or polish, or fine manners; but in loyalty and good
faith we yield to no one--to no one, I say, no one."

"Don't suppose," said the young man, "that I accuse any one in this
house. But that my implacable and cruel enemy is in this city, I am

"I wish you would show me that stage villain," responded Dona Perfecta,
smiling again. "I suppose you will not accuse Uncle Licurgo, nor any of
the others who have brought suits against you; for the poor people
believe they are only defending their rights. And between ourselves,
they are not altogether wanting in reason in this case. Besides, Uncle
Licurgo likes you greatly. He has told me so himself. From the moment
he saw you, you took his fancy, and the poor old man has conceived such
an affection for you--"

"Oh, yes--a profound affection!" murmured Pepe.

"Don't be foolish," continued his aunt, putting her hand on his
shoulder and looking at him closely. "Don't imagine absurdities;
convince yourself that your enemy, if you have one, is in Madrid, in
that centre of corruption, of envy and rivalry, not in this peaceful
and tranquil corner, where all is good-will and concord. Some one, no
doubt, who is envious of your merit---- There is one thing I wish to
say now--and that is, that if you desire to go there to learn the cause
of this affront and ask an explanation of it from the Government, you
must not neglect doing so on our account."

Pepe Rey fixed his eyes on his aunt's countenance, as if he wished to
penetrate with his glance the inmost depths of her soul.

"I say that if you wish to go, do so," repeated Dona Perfecta, with
admirable serenity, while her countenance expressed the most complete
and unaffected sincerity.

"No, senora: I do not wish to go."

"So much the better; I think you are right. You are more tranquil here,
notwithstanding the suspicions with which you are tormenting yourself.
Poor Pepillo! We poor rustics of Orbajosa live happy in our ignorance.
I am very sorry that you are not contented here. But is it my fault if
you vex and worry yourself without a cause? Do I not treat you like a
son? Have I not received you as the hope of my house? Can I do more for
you? If in spite of all this you do not like us, if you show so much
indifference toward us, if you ridicule our piety, if you insult our
friends, is it by chance because we do not treat you well?"

Dona Perfecta's eyes grew moist.

"My dear aunt," said Pepe, feeling his anger vanish, "I too have
committed some faults since I have been a guest in this house."

"Don't be foolish. Don't talk about committing faults. Among the
persons of the same family every thing is forgiven."

"But Rosarito--where is she?" asked the young man, rising. "Am I not to
see her to-day, either?"

"She is better. Do you know that she did not wish to come down stairs?"

"I will go up to her then."

"No, it would be of no use. That girl has some obstinate notions--
to-day she is determined not to leave her room. She has locked herself

"What a strange idea!"

"She will get over it. Undoubtedly she will get over it. We will see
to-night if we cannot put these melancholy thoughts out of her head. We
will get up a party to amuse her. Why don't you go to Don Inocencio's
and ask him to come here to-night and bring Jacintillo with him?"


"Yes, when Rosarito has these fits of melancholy, the only one who can
divert her is that young man."

"But I will go upstairs----"

"No, you must not."

"What etiquette there is in this house!"

"You are ridiculing us. Do as I ask you."

"But I wish to see her."

"But you cannot see her. How little you know the girl!"

"I thought I knew her well. I will stay here, then. But this solitude
is horrible."

"There comes the notary."

"Maledictions upon him!"

"And I think the attorney-general has just come in too--he is an
excellent person."

"He be hanged with his goodness!"

"But business affairs, when they are one's own, serve as a distraction.
Some one is coming. I think it is the agricultural expert. You will
have something to occupy you now for an hour or two."

"An hour or two of hell!"

"Ah, ha! if I am not mistaken Uncle Licurgo and Uncle Paso Largo have
just entered. Perhaps they have come to propose a compromise to you."

"I would throw myself into the pond first!"

"How unnatural you are! For they are all very fond of you. Well, so
that nothing may be wanting, there comes the constable too. He is
coming to serve a summons on you."

"To crucify me."

All the individuals named were now entering the parlor one by one.

"Good-by, Pepe; amuse yourself," said Dona Perfecta.

"Earth, open and swallow me!" exclaimed the young man desperately.

"Senor Don Jose."

"My dear Don Jose."

"Esteemed Don Jose."

"My dearest Don Jose."

"My respected friend, Don Jose."

Hearing these honeyed and insinuating preliminaries, Pepe Rey exhaled a
deep sigh and gave himself up. He gave himself up, soul and body, to
the executioners, who brandished horrible leaves of stamped paper while
the victim, raising his eyes to heaven with a look of Christian
meekness, murmured:

"Father, why hast thou forsaken me?"



Love, friendship, a wholesome moral atmosphere, spiritual light,
sympathy, an easy interchange of ideas and feelings, these were what
Pepe Rey's nature imperatively demanded. Deprived of them, the darkness
that shrouded his soul grew deeper, and his inward gloom imparted a
tinge of bitterness and discontent to his manner. On the day following
the scenes described in the last chapter, what vexed him more than any
thing was the already prolonged and mysterious seclusion of his cousin,
accounted for at first by a trifling indisposition and then by caprices
and nervous feelings difficult of explanation.

Rey was surprised by conduct so contrary to the idea which he had
formed of Rosarito. Four days had passed during which he had not seen
her; and certainly it was not because he did not desire to be at her
side; and his situation threatened soon to become humiliating and
ridiculous, if, by boldly taking the initiative, he did not at once put
an end to it.

"Shall I not see my cousin to-day, either?" he said to his aunt, with
manifest ill-humor, when they had finished dining.

"No, not to-day, either. Heaven knows how sorry I am for it. I gave her
a good talking to this morning. This afternoon we will see what can be

The suspicion that in this unreasonable seclusion his adorable cousin
was rather the helpless victim than the free and willing agent, induced
him to control himself and to wait. Had it not been for this suspicion
he would have left Orbajosa that very day. He had no doubt whatever
that Rosario loved him, but it was evident that some unknown influence
was at work to separate them, and it seemed to him to be the part of an
honorable man to discover whence that malign influence proceeded and to
oppose it, as far as it was in his power to do so.

"I hope that Rosarito's obstinacy will not continue long," he said to
Dona Perfecta, disguising his real sentiments.

On this day he received a letter from his father in which the latter
complained of having received none from Orbajosa, a circumstance which
increased the engineer's disquietude, perplexing him still further.
Finally, after wandering about alone in the garden for a long time, he
left the house and went to the Casino. He entered it with the desperate
air of a man about to throw himself into the sea.

In the principal rooms he found various people talking and discussing
different subjects. In one group they were solving with subtle logic
difficult problems relating to bulls; in another, they were discussing
the relative merits of different breeds of donkeys of Orbajosa and
Villahorrenda. Bored to the last degree, Pepe Rey turned away from
these discussions and directed his steps toward the reading-room, where
he looked through various reviews without finding any distraction in
the reading, and a little later, passing from room to room, he stopped,
without knowing why, at the gaming-table. For nearly two hours he
remained in the clutches of the horrible yellow demon, whose shining
eyes of gold at once torture and charm. But not even the excitement of
play had power to lighten the gloom of his soul, and the same tedium
which had impelled him toward the green cloth sent him away from it.
Shunning the noise, he found himself in an apartment used as an
assembly-room, in which at the time there was not a living soul, and
here he seated himself wearily at a window overlooking the street.

This was very narrow, with more corners and salient angles than houses,
and was overshaded throughout its whole extent by the imposing mass of
the cathedral that lifted its dark and time-corroded walls at one end
of it. Pepe Rey looked up and down and in every direction; no sign of
life--not a footstep, not a voice, not a glance, disturbed the
stillness, peaceful as that of a tomb, that reigned everywhere.
Suddenly strange sounds, like the whispering of feminine voices, fell
on his ear, and then the rustling of curtains that were being drawn, a
few words, and finally the humming of a song, the bark of a lap-dog,
and other signs of social life, which seemed very strange in such a
place. Observing attentively, Pepe Rey perceived that these noises
proceeded from an enormous balcony with blinds which displayed its
corpulent bulk in front of the window at which he was sitting. Before
he had concluded his observations, a member of the Casino suddenly
appeared beside him, and accosted him laughingly in this manner:

"Ah, Senor Don Pepe! what a rogue you are! So you have shut yourself in
here to ogle the girls, eh?"

The speaker was Don Juan Tafetan, a very amiable man, and one of the
few members of the Casino who had manifested for Pepe Rey cordial
friendship and genuine admiration. With his red cheeks, his little dyed
mustache, his restless laughing eyes, his insignificant figure, his
hair carefully combed to hide his baldness, Don Juan Tafetan was far
from being an Antinous in appearance, but he was very witty and very
agreeable and he had a happy gift for telling a good story. He was much
given to laughter, and when he laughed his face, from his forehead to
his chin, became one mass of grotesque wrinkles. In spite of these
qualities, and of the applause which might have stimulated his taste
for spicy jokes, he was not a scandal-monger. Every one liked him, and
Pepe Rey spent with him many pleasant hours. Poor Tafetan, formerly an
employe in the civil department of the government of the capital of the
province, now lived modestly on his salary as a clerk in the bureau of
charities; eking out his income by gallantly playing the clarionet in
the processions, in the solemnities of the cathedral, and in the
theatre, whenever some desperate company of players made their
appearance in those parts with the perfidious design of giving
representations in Orbajosa.

But the most curious thing about Don Juan Tafetan was his liking for
pretty girls. He himself, in the days when he did not hide his baldness
with half a dozen hairs plastered down with pomade, when he did not dye
his mustache, when, in the freedom from care of youthful years, he
walked with shoulders unstooped and head erect, had been a formidable
/Tenorio/. To hear him recount his conquests was something to make one
die laughing; for there are /Tenorios/ and Tenorios/, and he was one of
the most original.

"What girls? I don't see any girls," responded Pepe Rey.

"Yes, play the anchorite!"

One of the blinds of the balcony was opened, giving a glimpse of a
youthful face, lovely and smiling, that disappeared instantly, like a
light extinguished by the wind.

"Yes, I see now."

"Don't you know them?"

"On my life I do not."

"They are the Troyas--the Troya girls. Then you don't know something
good. Three lovely girls, the daughters of a colonel of staff, who died
in the streets of Madrid in '54."

The blind opened again, and two faces appeared.

"They are laughing at me," said Tafetan, making a friendly sign to the

"Do you know them?"

"Why, of course I know them. The poor things are in the greatest want.
I don't know how they manage to live. When Don Francisco Troya died a
subscription was raised for them, but that did not last very long."

"Poor girls! I imagine they are not models of virtue."

"And why not? I do not believe what they say in the town about them."

Once more the blinds opened.

"Good-afternoon, girls!" cried Don Juan Tafetan to the three girls, who
appeared, artistically grouped, at the window. "This gentleman says
that good things ought not to hide themselves, and that you should
throw open the blinds."

But the blind was closed and a joyous concert of laughter diffused a
strange gayety through the gloomy street. One might have fancied that a
flock of birds was passing.

"Shall we go there?" said Tafetan suddenly.

His eyes sparkled and a roguish smile played on his discolored lips.

"But what sort of people are they, then?"

"Don't be afraid, Senor de Rey. The poor things are honest. Bah! Why,
they live upon air, like the chameleons. Tell me, can any one who
doesn't eat sin? The poor girls are virtuous enough. And even if they
did sin, they fast enough to make up for it."

"Let us go, then."

A moment later Don Juan Tafetan and Pepe Rey were entering the parlor
of the Troyas. The poverty he saw, that struggled desperately to
disguise itself, afflicted the young man. The three girls were very
lovely, especially the two younger ones, who were pale and dark, with
large black eyes and slender figures. Well-dressed and well shod they
would have seemed the daughters of a duchess, and worthy to ally
themselves with princes.

When the visitors entered, the three girls were for a moment abashed:
but very soon their naturally gay and frivolous dispositions became
apparent. They lived in poverty, as birds live in confinement, singing
behind iron bars as they would sing in the midst of the abundance of
the forest. They spent the day sewing, which showed at least honorable
principles; but no one in Orbajosa, of their own station in life, held
any intercourse with them. They were, to a certain extent, proscribed,
looked down upon, avoided, which also showed that there existed some
cause for scandal. But, to be just, it must be said that the bad
reputation of the Troyas consisted, more than in any thing else, in the
name they had of being gossips and mischief-makers, fond of playing
practical jokes, and bold and free in their manners. They wrote
anonymous letters to grave personages; they gave nicknames to every
living being in Orbajosa, from the bishop down to the lowest vagabond;
they threw pebbles at the passers-by; they hissed behind the window
bars, in order to amuse themselves with the perplexity and annoyance of
the startled passer-by; they found out every thing that occurred in the
neighborhood; to which end they made constant use of every window and
aperture in the upper part of the house; they sang at night in the
balcony; they masked themselves during the Carnival, in order to obtain
entrance into the houses of the highest families; and they played many
other mischievous pranks peculiar to small towns. But whatever its
cause, the fact was that on the Troya triumvirate rested one of those
stigmas that, once affixed on any one by a susceptible community,
accompanies that person implacably even beyond the tomb.

"This is the gentleman they say has come to discover the gold-mines?"
said one of the girls.

"And to do away with the cultivation of garlic in Orbajosa to plant
cotton or cinnamon trees in its stead?"

Pepe could not help laughing at these absurdities.

"All he has come for is to make a collection of pretty girls to take
back with him to Madrid," said Tafetan.

"Ah! I'll be very glad to go!" cried one.

"I will take the three of you with me," said Pepe. "But I want to know
one thing; why were you laughing at me when I was at the window of the

These words were the signal for fresh bursts of laughter.

"These girls are silly things," said the eldest.

"It was because we said you deserved something better than Dona
Perfecta's daughter."

"It was because this one said that you are only losing your time, for
Rosarito cares only for people connected with the Church."

"How absurd you are! I said nothing of the kind! It was you who said
that the gentleman was a Lutheran atheist, and that he enters the
cathedral smoking and with his hat on."

"Well, I didn't invent it; that is what Suspiritos told me yesterday."

"And who is this Suspiritos who says such absurd things about me?"

"Suspiritos is--Suspiritos."

"Girls," said Tafetan, with smiling countenance, "there goes the
orange-vender. Call him; I want to invite you to eat oranges."

One of the girls called the orange-vender.

The conversation started by the Troyas displeased Pepe Rey not a
little, dispelling the slight feeling of contentment which he had
experienced at finding himself in such gay and communicative company.
He could not, however, refrain from smiling when he saw Don Juan
Tafetan take down a guitar and begin to play upon it with all the grace
and skill of his youthful years.

"I have been told that you sing beautifully," said Rey to the girls.

"Let Don Juan Tafetan sing."

"I don't sing."

"Nor I," said the second of the girls, offering the engineer some
pieces of the skin of the orange she had just peeled.

"Maria Juana, don't leave your sewing," said the eldest of the Troyas.
"It is late, and the cassock must be finished to-night."

"There is to be no work to-day. To the devil with the needles!"
exclaimed Tafetan.

And he began to sing a song.

"The people are stopping in the street," said the second of the girls,
going out on the balcony. "Don Juan Tafetan's shouts can be heard in
the Plaza--Juana, Juana!"


"Suspiritos is walking down the street."

"Throw a piece of orange-peel at her."

Pepe Rey looked out also; he saw a lady walking down the street at whom
the youngest of the Troyas, taking a skilful aim, threw a large piece
of orange-peel, which struck her straight on the back of the head. Then
they hastily closed the blinds, and the three girls tried to stifle
their laughter so that it might not be heard in the street.

"There is no work to-day," cried one, overturning the sewing-basket
with the tip of her shoe.

"That is the same as saying, to-morrow there is to be no eating," said
the eldest, gathering up the sewing implements.

Pepe Rey instinctively put his hand into his pocket. He would gladly
have given them an alms. The spectacle of these poor orphans, condemned
by the world because of their frivolity, saddened him beyond measure.
If the only sin of the Troyas, if the only pleasure which they had to
compensate them for solitude, poverty, and neglect, was to throw
orange-peels at the passers-by, they might well be excused for doing
it. The austere customs of the town in which they lived had perhaps
preserved them from vice, but the unfortunate girls lacked decorum and
good-breeding, the common and most visible signs of modesty, and it
might easily be supposed that they had thrown out of the window
something more than orange-peels. Pepe Rey felt profound pity for them.
He noted their shabby dresses, made over, mended, trimmed, and
retrimmed, to make them look like new; he noted their broken shoes--and
once more he put his hand in his pocket.

"Vice may reign here," he said to himself, "but the faces, the
furniture, all show that this is the wreck of a respectable family. If
these poor girls were as bad as it is said they are, they would not
live in such poverty and they would not work. In Orbajosa there are
rich men."

The three girls went back and forward between him and the window,
keeping up a gay and sprightly conversation, which indicated, it must
be said, a species of innocence in the midst of all their frivolity and

"Senor Don Jose, what an excellent lady Dona Perfecta is!"

"She is the only person in Orbajosa who has no nickname, the only
person in Orbajosa who is not spoken ill of."

"Every one respects her."

"Every one adores her."

To these utterances the young man responded by praises of his aunt, but
he had no longer any inclination to take money from his pocket and say,
"Maria Juana, take this for a pair of boots." "Pepa, take this to buy a
dress for yourself." "Florentina, take this to provide yourself with a
week's provisions," as he had been on the point of doing. At a moment
when the three girls had run out to the balcony to see who was passing,
Don Juan Tafetan approached Rey and whispered to him:

"How pretty they are! Are they not? Poor things! It seems impossible
that they should be so gay when it may be positively affirmed that they
have not dined to-day."

"Don Juan, Don Juan!" cried Pepilla. "Here comes a friend of yours,
Nicolasito Hernandez, in other words, Cirio Pascual, with this three-
story hat. He is praying to himself, no doubt, for the souls of those
whom he has sent to the grave with his extortion."

"I wager that neither of you will dare to call him by his nickname."

"It is a bet."

"Juana, shut the blinds, wait until he passes, and when he is turning
the corner, I will call out, 'Cirio, Cirio Pascual!' "

Don Juan Tafetan ran out to the balcony.

"Come here, Don Jose, so that you may know this type," he called.

Pepe Rey, availing himself of the moment in which the three girls and
Don Juan were making merry in the balcony, calling Nicolasito Hernandez
the nickname which so greatly enraged him, stepped cautiously to one of
the sewing baskets in the room and placed in it a half ounce which he
had left after his losses at play.

Then he hurried out to the balcony just as the two youngest cried in
the midst of wild bursts of laughter, "Cirio, Cirio Pascual!"



After this prank the Troyas commenced a conversation with their
visitors about the people and the affairs of the town. The engineer,
fearing that his exploit might be discovered while he was present,
wished to go, which displeased the Troyas greatly. One of them who had
left the room now returned, saying:

"Suspiritos is now in the yard; she is hanging out the clothes."

"Don Jose will wish to see her," said another of the girls.

"She is a fine-looking woman. And now she arranges her hair in the
Madrid fashion. Come, all of you."

They took their visitors to the dining-room--an apartment very little
used--which opened on a terrace, where there were a few flowers in pots
and many broken and disused articles of furniture. The terrace
overlooked the yard of an adjoining house, with a piazza full of green
vines and plants in pots carefully cultivated. Every thing about it
showed it to be the abode of neat and industrious people of modest

The Troyas, approaching the edge of the roof, looked attentively at the
neighboring house, and then, imposing silence by a gesture on their
cavaliers, retreated to a part of the terrace from which they could not
see into the yard, and where there was no danger of their being seen
from it.

"She is coming out of the kitchen now with a pan of peas," said Maria
Juana, stretching out her neck to look.

"There goes!" cried another, throwing a pebble into the yard.

The noise of the projectile striking against the glass of the piazza
was heard, and then an angry voice crying:

"Now they have broken another pane of glass!"

The girls, hidden, close beside the two men, in a corner of the
terrace, were suffocating with laughter.

"Senora Suspiritos is very angry," said Rey. "Why do they call her by
that name?"

"Because, when she is talking, she sighs after every word, and although
she has every thing she wants, she is always complaining."

There was a moment's silence in the house below. Pepita Troya looked
cautiously down.

"There she comes again," she whispered, once more imposing silence by a
gesture. "Maria, give me a pebble. Give it here--bang! there it goes!"

"You didn't hit her. It struck the ground."

"Let me see if I can. Let us wait until she comes out of the pantry

"Now, now she is coming out. Take care, Florentina."

"One, two, three! There it goes!"

A cry of pain was heard from below, a malediction, a masculine
exclamation, for it was a man who uttered it. Pepe Rey could
distinguish clearly these words:

"The devil! They have put a hole in my head, the---- Jacinto, Jacinto!
But what an abominable neighborhood this is!"

"Good Heavens! what have I done!" exclaimed Florentina, filled with
consternation. "I have struck Senor Don Inocencio on the head."

"The Penitentiary?" said Pepe Rey.


"Does he live in that house?"

"Why, where else should he live?"

"And the lady of the sighs----"

"Is his niece, his housekeeper, or whatever else she may be. We amuse
ourselves with her because she is very tiresome, but we are not
accustomed to play tricks on his reverence, the Penitentiary."

While this dialogue was being rapidly carried on, Pepe Rey saw, in
front of the terrace and very near him, a window belonging to the
bombarded house open; he saw a smiling face appear at it--a familiar
face--a face the sight of which stunned him, terrified him, made him
turn pale and tremble. It was that of Jacinto, who, interrupted in his
grave studies, appeared at it with his pen behind his ear. His modest,
fresh, and smiling countenance, appearing in this way, had an auroral

"Good-afternoon, Senor Don Jose," he said gayly.

"Jacinto, Jacinto, I say!"

"I am coming. I was saluting a friend."

"Come away, come away!" cried Florentina, in alarm. "The Penitentiary
is going up to Don Nominative's room and he will give us a blessing."

"Yes, come away; let us close the door of the dining-room."

They rushed pell-mell from the terrace.

"You might have guessed that Jacinto would see you from his temple of
learning," said Tafetan to the Troyas.

"Don Nominative is our friend," responded one of the girls. "From his
temple of science he says a great many sweet things to us on the sly,
and he blows us kisses besides."

"Jacinto?" asked the engineer. "What the deuce is that name you gave

"Don Nominative."

The three girls burst out laughing.

"We call him that because he is very learned."

"No, because when we were little he was little too. But, yes, now I
remember. We used to play on the terrace, and we could hear him
studying his lessons aloud."

"Yes, and the whole blessed day he used to spend singling."

"Declining, girl! That is what it was. He would go like this:
'Nominative, rosa, Genitive, Dative, Accusative.' "

"I suppose that I have my nickname too," said Pepe Rey.

"Let Maria Juana tell you what it is," said Florentina, hiding herself.

"I? Tell it to him you, Pepa."

"You haven't any name yet, Don Jose."

"But I shall have one. I promise you that I will come to hear what it
is and to receive confirmation," said the young man, making a movement
to go.

"What, are you going?"

"Yes. You have lost time enough already. To work, girls! Throwing
stones at the neighbors and the passers-by is not the most suitable
occupation for girls as pretty and as clever as you are. Well, good-

And without waiting for further remonstrances, or answering the
civilities of the girls, he left the house hastily, leaving Don Juan
Tafetan behind him.

The scene which he had just witnessed, the indignity suffered by the
canon, the unexpected appearance of the little doctor of laws, added
still further to the perplexities, the anxieties, and the disagreeable
presentiments that already disturbed the soul of the unlucky engineer.
He regretted with his whole soul having entered the house of the
Troyas, and, resolving to employ his time better while his
hypochondriasm lasted, he made a tour of inspection through the town.

He visited the market, the Calle de la Triperia, where the principal
stores were; he observed the various aspects presented by the industry
and commerce of the great city of Orbajosa, and, finding only new
motives of weariness, he bent his steps in the direction of the Paseo
de las Descalzas; but he saw there only a few stray dogs, for, owing to
the disagreeable wind which prevailed, the usual promenaders had
remained at home. He went to the apothecary's, where various species of
ruminant friends of progress, who chewed again and again the cud of the
same endless theme, were accustomed to meet, but there he was still
more bored. Finally, as he was passing the cathedral, he heard the
strains of the organ and the beautiful chanting of the choir. He
entered, knelt before the high altar, remembering the warnings which
his aunt had given him about behaving with decorum in church; then
visited a chapel, and was about to enter another when an acolyte,
warden, or beadle approached him, and with the rudest manner and in the
most discourteous tone said to him:

"His lordship says that you are to get out of the church."

The engineer felt the blood rush to his face. He obeyed without a word.
Turned out everywhere, either by superior authority or by his own
tedium, he had no resource but to return to his aunt's house, where he
found waiting for him:

First, Uncle Licurgo, to announce a second lawsuit to him; second,
Senor Don Cayetano, to read him another passage from his discourse on
the "Genealogies of Orbajosa"; third, Caballuco, on some business which
he had not disclosed; fourth, Dona Perfecta and her affectionate smile,
for what will appear in the following chapter.



A fresh attempt to see his cousin that evening failed, and Pepe Rey
shut himself up in his room to write several letters, his mind
preoccupied with one thought.

"To-night or to-morrow," he said to himself, "this will end one way or

When he was called to supper Dona Perfecta, who was already in the
dining-room, went up to him and said, without preface:

"Dear Pepe, don't distress yourself, I will pacify Senor Don Inocencio.
I know every thing already. Maria Remedios, who has just left the
house, has told me all about it."

Dona Perfecta's countenance radiated such satisfaction as an artist,
proud of his work, might feel.

"About what?"

"Set your mind at rest. I will make an excuse for you. You took a few
glasses too much in the Casino, that was it, was it not? There you have
the result of bad company. Don Juan Tafetan, the Troyas! This is
horrible, frightful. Did you consider well?"

"I considered every thing," responded Pepe, resolved not to enter into
discussions with his aunt.

"I shall take good care not to write to your father what you have

"You may write whatever you please to him."

"You will exculpate yourself by denying the truth of this story, then?"

"I deny nothing."

"You confess then that you were in the house of those----"

"I was."

"And that you gave them a half ounce; for, according to what Maria
Remedios has told me, Florentina went down to the shop of the
Extramaduran this afternoon to get a half ounce changed. They could not
have earned it with their sewing. You were in their house to-day;

"Consequently I gave it to her. You are perfectly right."

"You do not deny it?"

"Why should I deny it? I suppose I can do whatever I please with my

"But you will surely deny that you threw stones at the Penitentiary."

"I do not throw stones."

"I mean that those girls, in your presence--"

"That is another matter."

"And they insulted poor Maria Remedios, too."

"I do not deny that, either."

"And how do you excuse your conduct! Pepe in Heaven's name, have you
nothing to say? That you are sorry, that you deny--"

"Nothing, absolutely nothing, senora!"

"You don't even give me any satisfaction."

"I have done nothing to offend you."

"Come, the only thing there is left for you to do now is--there, take
that stick and beat me!"

"I don't beat people."

"What a want of respect! What, don't you intend to eat any supper?"

"I intend to take supper."

For more than a quarter of an hour no one spoke. Don Cayetano, Dona
Perfecta, and Pepe Rey ate in silence. This was interrupted when Don
Inocencio entered the dining-room.

"How sorry I was for it, my dear Don Jose! Believe me, I was truly
sorry for it," he said, pressing the young man's hand and regarding him
with a look of compassion.

The engineer was so perplexed for a moment that he did not know what to

"I refer to the occurrence of this afternoon."

"Ah, yes!"

"To your expulsion from the sacred precincts of the cathedral."

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