Part 4 out of 5
taken possession of the neighboring province; but the insurrection was
not spreading within the limits of the episcopal city. It might be
supposed that modern culture had at last triumphed in its struggle with
the turbulent habits of the great city of disorder, and that the latter
was tasting the delights of a lasting peace. So true is this that
Caballuco himself, one of the most important figures of the historic
rebellion of Orbajosa, said frankly to every one that he did not wish
to quarrel with the Government nor involve himself in a business which
might cost him dear.
Whatever may be said to the contrary, the impetuous nature of Ramos had
quieted down with years, and the fiery temper which he had received
with life from the ancestral Caballucos, the most valiant race of
warriors that had ever desolated the earth, had grown cooler. It is
also related that in those days the new governor of the province held a
conference with this important personage, and received from his lips
the most solemn assurances that he would contribute as far as in him
lay to the tranquillity of the country, and would avoid doing any thing
that might give rise to disturbances. Reliable witnesses declare that
he was to be seen in friendly companionship with the soldiers,
hobnobbing with this sergeant or the other in the tavern, and it was
even said that an important position in the town-hall of the capital of
the province was to be given him. How difficult it is for the historian
who tries to be impartial to arrive at the exact truth in regard to the
sentiments and opinions of the illustrious personages who have filled
the world with their fame! He does not know what to hold by, and the
absence of authentic records often gives rise to lamentable mistakes.
Considering events of such transcendent importance as that of the 18th
Brumaire, the sack of Rome by Bourbon, or the destruction of Jerusalem
--where is the psychologist or the historian who would be able to
determine what were the thoughts which preceded or followed them in the
minds of Bonaparte, of Charles V., and of Titus? Ours is an immense
responsibility. To discharge it in part we will report words, phrases,
and even discourses of the Orbajosan emperor himself; and in this way
every one will be able to form the opinion which may seem to him most
It is beyond a doubt that Cristobal Ramos left his house just after
dark, crossed the Calle del Condestable, and, seeing three countrymen
mounted on powerful mules coming toward him, asked them where they were
going, to which they answered that they were going to Senora Dona
Perfecta's house to take her some of the first fruits of their gardens
and a part of the rent that had fallen due. They were Senor Paso Largo,
a young man named Frasquito Gonzales, and a third, a man of medium
stature and robust make, who was called Vejarruco, although his real
name was Jose Esteban Romero. Caballuco turned back, tempted by the
agreeable society of these persons, who were old and intimate friends
of his, and accompanied them to Dona Perfecta's house. This took place,
according to the most reliable accounts, at nightfall, and two days
after the day on which Dona Perfecta and Pinzon held the conversation
which those who have read the preceding chapter will have seen recorded
there. The great Ramos stopped for a moment to give Librada certain
messages of trifling importance, which a neighbor had confided to his
good memory, and when he entered the dining-room he found the three
before-mentioned countrymen and Senor Licurgo, who by a singular
coincidence was also there, conversing about domestic matters and the
crops. The Senora was in a detestable humor; she found fault with every
thing, and scolded them harshly for the drought of the heavens and the
barrenness of the earth, phenomena for which they, poor men! were in no
wise to blame. The Penitentiary was also present. When Caballuco
entered, the good canon saluted him affectionately and motioned him to
a seat beside himself.
"Here is the individual," said the mistress of the house disdainfully.
"It seems impossible that a man of such little account should be so
much talked about. Tell me, Caballuco, is it true that one of the
soldiers slapped you on the face this morning?"
"Me! me!" said the Centaur, rising indignantly, as if he had received
the grossest insult.
"That is what they say," said Dona Perfecta. "Is it not true? I
believed it; for any one who thinks so little of himself--they might
spit in your face and you would think yourself honored with the saliva
of the soldiers."
"Senora!" vociferated Ramos with energy, "saving the respect which I
owe you, who are my mother, my mistress, my queen--saving the respect,
I say, which I owe to the person who has given me all that I possess--
saving the respect--"
"Well? One would think you were going to say something."
"I say then, that saving the respect, that about the slap is a
slander," he ended, expressing himself with extraordinary difficulty.
"My affairs are in every one's mouth--whether I come in or whether I go
out, where I am going and where I have come from--and why? All because
they want to make me a tool to raise the country. Pedro is contented in
his own house, ladies and gentlemen. The troops have come? Bad! but
what are we going to do about it? The alcalde and the secretary and the
judge have been removed from office? Very bad! I wish the very stones
of Orbajosa might rise up against them; but I have given my word to the
governor, and up to the present---"
He scratched his head, gathered his gloomy brows in a frown, and with
ever-increasing difficulty of speech continued:
"I may be brutal, disagreeable, ignorant, quarrelsome, obstinate, and
every thing else you choose, but in honor I yield to no one."
"What a pity of the Cid Campeador!" said Dona Perfecta contemptuously.
"Don't you agree with me, Senor Penitentiary, that there is not a
single man left in Orbajosa who has any shame in him?"
"That is a serious view to take of the case," responded the capitular,
without looking at his friend, or removing from his chin the hand on
which he rested his thoughtful face; "but I think this neighborhood has
accepted with excessive submission the heavy yoke of militarism."
Licurgo and the three countrymen laughed boisterously.
"When the soldiers and the new authorities," said Dona Perfecta, "have
taken from us our last real, when the town has been disgraced, we will
send all the valiant men of Orbajosa in a glass case to Madrid to be
put in the museum there or exhibited in the streets."
"Long life to the mistress!" cried the man called Vejarruco
demonstratively. "What she says is like gold. It won't be said on my
account that there are no brave men here, for if I am not with the
Aceros it is only because I have a wife and three children, and if any
thing was to happen--if it wasn't for that--"
"But haven't you given your word to the governor, too?" said Dona
"To the governor?" cried the man named Frasquito Gonzalez. "There is
not in the whole country a scoundrel who better deserves a bullet.
Governor and Government, they are all of a piece. Last Sunday the
priest said so many rousing things in his sermon about the heresies and
the profanities of the people of Madrid--oh! it was worth while hearing
him! Finally, he shouted out in the pulpit that religion had no longer
"Here is the great Cristobal Ramos!" said Dona Perfecta, clapping the
Centaur on the back. "He mounts his horse and rides about in the Plaza
and up and down the high-road to attract the attention of the soldiers;
when they see him they are terrified at the fierce appearance of the
hero, and they all run away, half-dead with fright."
Dona Perfecta ended with an exaggerated laugh, which the profound
silence of her hearers made still more irritating. Caballuco was pale.
"Senor Paso Largo," continued the lady, becoming serious, "when you go
home to-night, send me your son Bartolome to stay here. I need to have
brave people in the house; and even with that it may very well happen
that, some fine morning, my daughter and myself will be found murdered
in our beds."
"Senora!" exclaimed every one.
"Senora!" cried Caballuco, rising to his feet, "is that a jest, or what
"Senor Vejarruco, Senor Paso Largo," continued Dona Perfecta, without
looking at the bravo of the place, "I am not safe in my own house. No
one in Orbajosa is, and least of all, I. I live with my heart in my
mouth. I cannot close my eyes in the whole night."
"But who, who would dare----"
"Come," exclaimed Licurgo with fire, "I, old and sick as I am, would be
capable of fighting the whole Spanish army if a hair of the mistress'
head should be touched!"
"Senor Caballuco," said Frasquito Gonzalez, "will be enough and more
"Oh, no," responded Dona Perfecta, with cruel sarcasm, "don't you see
that Ramos has given his word to the governor?"
Caballuco sat down again, and, crossing one leg over the other, clasped
his hands on them.
"A coward will be enough for me," continued the mistress of the house
implacably, "provided he has not given his word to any one. Perhaps I
may come to see my house assaulted, my darling daughter torn from my
arms, myself trampled under foot and insulted in the vilest manner----"
She was unable to continue. Her voice died away in her throat, and she
burst into tears.
"Senora, for Heaven's sake calm yourself! Come, there is no cause yet!"
said Don Inocencio hastily, and manifesting the greatest distress in
his voice and his countenance. "Besides, we must have a little
resignation and bear patiently the calamities which God sends us."
"But who, senora, who would dare to commit such outrages?" asked one of
the four countrymen. "Orbajosa would rise as one man to defend the
"But who, who would do it?" they all repeated.
"There, don't trouble yourselves asking useless questions," said the
Penitentiary officiously. "You may go."
"No, no, let them stay," said Dona Perfecta quickly, drying her tears.
"The company of my loyal servants is a great consolation to me."
"May my race be accursed!" said Uncle Licurgo, striking his knee with
his clenched hand, "if all this mess is not the work of the mistress'
"Of Don Juan Rey's son?"
"From the moment I first set eyes on him at the station at
Villahorrenda, and he spoke to me with his honeyed voice and his
mincing manners," declared Licurgo, "I thought him a great--I will not
say what, through respect for the mistress. But I knew him--I put my
mark upon him from that moment, and I make no mistakes. A thread shows
what the ball is, as the saying goes; a sample tells what the cloth is,
and a claw what the lion is."
"Let no one speak ill of that unhappy young man in my presence," said
Senora de Polentinos severely. "No matter how great his faults may be,
charity forbids our speaking of them and giving them publicity."
"But charity," said Don Inocencio, with some energy, "does not forbid
us protecting ourselves against the wicked, and that is what the
question is. Since character and courage have sunk so low in unhappy
Orbajosa; since our town appears disposed to hold up its face to be
spat upon by half a dozen soldiers and a corporal, let us find
protection in union among ourselves."
"I will protect myself in whatever way I can," said Dona Perfecta
resignedly, clasping her hands. "God's will be done!"
"Such a stir about nothing! By the Lord! In this house they are all
afraid of their shadows," exclaimed Caballuco, half seriously, half
jestingly. "One would think this Don Pepito was a legion of devils.
Don't be frightened, senora. My little nephew Juan, who is thirteen,
will guard the house, and we shall see, nephew for nephew, which is the
"We all know already what your boasting and bragging signify," replied
Dona Perfecta. "Poor Ramos! You want to pretend to be very brave when
we have already had proof that you are not worth any thing."
Ramos turned slightly pale, while he fixed on Dona Perfecta a strange
look in which terror and respect were blended.
"Yes, man; don't look at me in that way. You know already that I am not
afraid of bugaboos. Do you want me to speak plainly to you now? Well,
you are a coward."
Ramos, moving about restlessly in his chair, like one who is troubled
with the itch, seemed greatly disturbed. His nostrils expelled and drew
in the air, like those of a horse. Within that massive frame a storm of
rage and fury, roaring and destroying, struggled to escape. After
stammering a few words and muttering others under his breath, he rose
to his feet and bellowed:
"I will cut off the head of Senor Rey!"
"What folly! You are as brutal as you are cowardly," said Dona
Perfecta, turning pale. "Why do you talk about killing? I want no one
killed, much less my nephew--a person whom I love, in spite of his
"A homicide! What an atrocity!" exclaimed Don Inocencio, scandalized.
"The man is mad!"
"To kill! The very idea of killing a man horrifies me, Caballuco," said
Dona Perfecta, closing her mild eyes. "Poor man! Ever since you have
been wanting to show your bravery, you have been howling like a
ravening wolf. Go away, Ramos; you terrify me."
"Doesn't the mistress say she is afraid? Doesn't she say that they will
attack the house; that they will carry off the young lady?"
"Yes, I fear so."
"And one man is going to do that," said Ramos contemptuously, sitting
down again, "Don Pepe Poquita Cosa, with his mathematics, is going to
do that. I did wrong in saying I would slit his throat. A doll of that
kind one takes by the ear and ducks in the river."
"Yes, laugh now, you fool! It is not my nephew alone who is going to
commit the outrages you have mentioned and which I fear; if it were he
alone I should not fear him. I would tell Librada to stand at the door
with a broom--and that would be sufficient. It is not he alone, no!"
"Pretend you don't understand! Don't you know that my nephew and the
brigadier who commands that accursed troop have been confabulating?"
"Confabulating!" repeated Caballuco, as if puzzled by the word.
"That they are bosom friends," said Licurgo. "Confabulate means to be
like bosom friends. I had my suspicions already of what the mistress
"It all amounts to this--that the brigadier and the officers are hand
and glove with Don Jose, and what he wants those brave soldiers want;
and those brave soldiers will commit all kinds of outrages and
atrocities, because that is their trade."
"And we have no alcalde to protect us."
"Nor governor. That is to say that we are at the mercy of that infamous
"Yesterday," said Vejarruco, "some soldiers enticed away Uncle Julian's
youngest daughter, and the poor thing was afraid to go back home; they
found her standing barefooted beside the old fountain, crying and
picking up the pieces of her broken jar."
"Poor Don Gregorio Palomeque, the notary of Naharilla Alta!" said
Frasquito. "Those rascals robbed him of all the money he had in his
house. And all the brigadier said, when he was told about it, was it
was a lie."
"Tyrants! greater tyrants were never born," said the other. "When I say
that it is through punctilio that I am not with the Aceros!"
"And what news is there of Francisco Acero?" asked Dona Perfecta
gently. "I should be sorry if any mischance were to happen to him. Tell
me, Don Inocencio, was not Francisco Acero born in Orbajosa?"
"No; he and his brother are from Villajuan."
"I am sorry for it, for Orbajosa's sake," said Dona Perfecta. "This
poor city has fallen into misfortune. Do you know if Francisco Acero
gave his word to the governor not to trouble the poor soldiers in their
abductions, in their impious deeds, in their sacrilegious acts, in
Caballuco sprang from his chair. He felt himself now not stung, but cut
to the quick by a cruel stroke, like that of a sabre. With his face
burning and his eyes flashing fire he cried:
"I gave my word to the governor because the governor told me that they
had come for a good purpose."
"Barbarian, don't shout! Speak like other people, and we will listen to
"I promised that neither I nor any of my friends would raise guerillas
in the neighborhood of Orbajosa. To those who wanted to take up arms
because they were itching to fight I said: 'Go to the Aceros, for here
we won't stir.' But I have a good many honest men, yes, senora; and
true men, yes, senora; and valiant men, yes, senora; scattered about in
the hamlets and villages and in the suburbs and the mountains, each in
his own house, eh? And so soon as I say a quarter of a word to them,
eh? they will be taking down their guns, eh? and setting out on
horseback or on foot, for whatever place I tell them. And don't keep
harping on words, for if I gave my word it was because I don't wish to
fight; and if I want guerillas there will be guerillas; and if I don't
there won't, for I am who I am, the same man that I always was, as
every one knows very well. And I say again don't keep harping on words,
eh? and don't let people say one thing to me when they mean another,
eh? and if people want me to fight, let them say so plainly, eh? for
that is what God has given us tongues for, to say this thing or that.
The mistress knows very well who I am, as I know that I owe to her the
shirt on my back, and the bread I eat to-day, and the first pea I
sucked after I was weaned, and the coffin in which my father was buried
when he died, and the medicines and the doctor that cured me when I was
sick; and the mistress knows very well that if she says to me,
'Caballuco, break your head,' I will go there to the corner and dash it
against the wall; the mistress knows very well that if she tells me now
that it is day, although I see that it is night, I will believe that I
am mistaken, and that it is broad day; the mistress knows very well
that she and her interests are for me before my own life, and that if a
mosquito stings her in my presence, I pardon it, because it is a
mosquito; the mistress knows very well that she is dearer to me than
all there is besides under the sun. To a man of heart like me one says,
'Caballuco, you stupid fellow, do this or do that.' And let there be an
end to sarcasms, and beating about the bush, and preaching one thing
and meaning another, and a stab here and a pinch there."
"There, man, calm yourself," said Dona Perfecta kindly. "You have
worked yourself into a heat like those republican orators who came here
to preach free religion, free love, and I don't know how many other
free things. Let them bring you a glass of water."
Caballuco, twisting his handkerchief into a ball, wiped with it his
broad forehead and his neck, which were bathed in perspiration. A glass
of water was brought to him and the worthy canon, with a humility that
was in perfect keeping with his sacerdotal character, took it from the
servant's hand to give it to him himself, and held the plate while he
drank. Caballuco gulped down the water noisily.
"Now bring another glass for me, Senora Librada," said Don Inocencio.
"I have a little fire inside me too."
"With regard to the guerillas," said Dona Perfecta, when they had
finished drinking, "all I will say is--do as your conscience dictates
"I know nothing about dictations," cried Ramos. "I will do whatever the
"I can give you no advice on so important a matter," answered Dona
Perfecta with the cautiousness and moderation which so well became her.
"This is a very serious business, and I can give you no advice about
"But your opinion----"
"My opinion is that you should open your eyes and see, that you should
open your ears and hear. Consult your own heart--I will grant that you
have a great heart. Consult that judge, that wise counsellor, and do as
it bids you."
Caballuco reflected; he meditated as much as a sword can meditate.
"We counted ourselves yesterday in Naharilla Alta," said Vejarruco,
"and we were thirteen--ready for any little undertaking. But as we were
afraid the mistress might be vexed, we did nothing. It is time now for
"Don't mind about the shearing," said Dona Perfecta. "There will be
time enough for it. It won't be left undone for that."
"My two boys quarrelled with each other yesterday," said Licurgo,
"because one of them wanted to join Francisco Acero and the other
didn't. 'Easy, boys, easy,' I said to them; 'all in good time. Wait; we
know how to fight here as well as they do anywhere else.' "
"Last night," said Uncle Paso Largo, "Roque Pelosmalos told me that the
moment Senor Ramos said half a word they would all be ready, with their
arms in their hands. What a pity that the two Burguillos brothers went
to work in the fields in Lugarnoble!"
"Go for them you," said the mistress quickly. "Senor Lucas, do you
provide Uncle Paso Largo with a horse."
"And if the mistress tells me to do so, and Senor Ramos agrees," said
Frasquito Gonzalez, "I will go to Villahorrenda to see if Robustiano,
the forester, and his brother Pedro will also--"
"I think that is a good idea. Robustiano will not venture to come to
Orbajosa, because he owes me a trifle. You can tell him that I forgive
him the six dollars and a half. These poor people who sacrifice
themselves with so little. Is it not so, Senor Don Inocencio?"
"Our good Ramos here tells me," answered the canon, "that his friends
are displeased with him for his lukewarmness; but that, as soon as they
see that he has decided, they will all put the cartridge-box in their
"What, have you decided to take to the roads?" said the mistress. "I
have not advised you to do any such thing, and if you do it, it is of
your own free-will. Neither has Senor Don Inocencio said a word to you
to that effect. But if that is your decision, you have no doubt strong
reasons for coming to it. Tell me, Cristobal, will you have some
supper? Will you take something--speak frankly."
"As far as my advising Senor Ramos to take the field is concerned,"
said Don Inocencio, looking over his spectacles, "Dona Perfecta is
quite right. I, as an ecclesiastic, could advise nothing of the kind. I
know that some priests do so, and even themselves take up arms; but
that seems to me improper, very improper, and I for one will not follow
their example. I carry my scrupulosity so far as not to say a word to
Senor Ramos about the delicate question of his taking up arms. I know
that Orbajosa desires it; I know that all the inhabitants of this noble
city would bless him for it; I know that deeds are going to be done
here worthy of being recorded in history; but notwithstanding, let me
be allowed to maintain a discreet silence."
"Very well said," said Dona Perfecta. "I don't approve of ecclesiastics
taking any part in such matters. That is the way an enlightened priest
ought to act. Of course we know that on serious and solemn occasions,
as when our country and our faith are in danger, for instance, it is
within the province of an ecclesiastic to incite men to the conflict
and even to take a part in it. Since God himself has taken part in
celebrated battles, under the form of angels and saints, his ministers
may very well do so also. During the wars against the infidels how many
bishops headed the Castilian troops!"
"A great many, and some of them were illustrious warriors. But these
times are not like those senora. It is true that, if we examine the
matter closely, the faith is in greater danger now than it was then.
For what do the troops that occupy our city and the surrounding
villages represent? What do they represent? Are they any thing else but
the vile instruments of which the atheists and Protestants who infest
Madrid make use for their perfidious conquests and the extermination of
the faith? In that centre of corruption, of scandal, of irreligion and
unbelief, a few malignant men, bought by foreign gold, occupy
themselves in destroying in our Spain the deeds of faith. Why, what do
you suppose? They allow us to say mass and you to hear it through the
remnant of consideration, for shame's sake--but, the day least
expected-- For my part, I am tranquil. I am not a man to disturb myself
about any worldly and temporal interest. Dona Perfecta is well aware of
that; all who know me are aware of it. My mind is at rest, and the
triumph of the wicked does not terrify me. I know well that terrible
days are in store for us; that all of us who wear the sacerdotal garb
have our lives hanging by a hair, for Spain, doubt it not, will witness
scenes like those of the French Revolution, in which thousands of pious
ecclesiastics perished in a single day. But I am not troubled. When the
hour to kill strikes, I will present my neck. I have lived long enough.
Of what use am I? None, none!"
"May I be devoured by dogs," exclaimed Vejarruco, shaking his fist,
which had all the hardness and the strength of a hammer, "if we do not
soon make an end of that thievish rabble!"
"They say that next week they will begin to pull down the cathedral,"
"I suppose they will pull it down with pickaxes and hammers," said the
canon, smiling. "There are artificers who, without those implements,
can build more rapidly than they can pull down. You all know that,
according to holy tradition, our beautiful chapel of the Sagrario was
pulled down by the Moors in a month, and immediately afterward rebuilt
by the angels in a single night. Let them pull it down; let them pull
"In Madrid, as the curate of Naharilla told us the other night," said
Vejarruco, "there are so few churches left standing that some of the
priests say mass in the middle of the street, and as they are beaten
and insulted and spat upon, there are many who don't wish to say it."
"Fortunately here, my children," observed Don Inocencio, "we have not
yet had scenes of that nature. Why? Because they know what kind of
people you are; because they have heard of your ardent piety and your
valor. I don't envy the first ones who lay hands on our priests and our
religion. Of course it is not necessary to say that, if they are not
stopped in time, they will commit atrocities. Poor Spain, so holy and
so meek and so good! Who would have believed she would ever arrive at
such extremities! But I maintain that impiety will not triumph, no.
There are courageous people still; there are people still like those of
old. Am I not right, Senor Ramos?"
"Yes, senor, that there are," answered the latter.
"I have a blind faith in the triumph of the law of God. Some one must
stand up in defence of it. If not one, it will be another. The palm of
victory, and with it eternal glory, some one must bear. The wicked will
perish, if not to-day, to-morrow. That which goes against the law of
God will fall irremediably. Let it be in this manner or in that, fall
it must. Neither its sophistries, nor its evasions, nor its artifices
will save it. The hand of God is raised against it and will infallibly
strike it. Let us pity them and desire their repentance. As for you, my
children, do not expect that I shall say a word to you about the step
which you are no doubt going to take. I know that you are good; I know
that your generous determination and the noble end which you have in
view will wash away from you all the stain of the sin of shedding
blood. I know that God will bless you; that your victory, the same as
your death, will exalt you in the eyes of men and in the eyes of God. I
know that you deserve palms and glory and all sorts of honors; but in
spite of this, my children, my lips will not incite you to the combat.
They have never done it, and they will not do it now. Act according to
the impulse of your own noble hearts. If they bid you to remain in your
houses, remain in them; if they bid you to leave them--why, then, leave
them. I will resign myself to be a martyr and to bow my neck to the
executioner, if that vile army remains here. But if a noble and ardent
and pious impulse of the sons of Orbajosa contributes to the great work
of the extirpation of our country's ills, I shall hold myself the
happiest of men, solely in being your fellow-townsman; and all my life
of study, of penitence, of resignation, will seem to me less
meritorious, less deserving of heaven, than a single one of your heroic
"Impossible to say more or to say it better!" exclaimed Dona Perfecta,
in a burst of enthusiasm.
Caballuco had leaned forward in his chair and was resting his elbows on
his knees; when the canon ended he took his hand and kissed it with
"A better man was never born," said Uncle Licurgo, wiping, or
pretending to wipe away a tear.
"Long life to the Senor Penitentiary!" cried Frasquito Gonzalez, rising
to his feet and throwing his cap up to the ceiling.
"Silence!" said Dona Perfecta. "Sit down, Frasquito! You are one of
those with whom it is always much cry and little wool."
"Blessed be God who gave you that eloquent tongue!" exclaimed
Cristobal, inflamed with admiration. "What a pair I have before me!
While these two live what need is there of any one else? All the people
in Spain ought to be like them. But how could that be, when there is
nothing in it but roguery! In Madrid, which is the capital where the
law and the mandarins come from, every thing is robbery and cheating.
Poor religion, what a state they have brought it to! There is nothing
to be seen but crimes. Senor Don Inocencio, Senora Dona Perfecta, by my
father's soul, by the soul of my grandfather, by the salvation of my
own soul, I swear that I wish to die!"
"That I wish those rascally dogs may kill me, and I say that I wish
they may kill me, because I cannot cut them in quarters. I am very
"Ramos, you are great," said Dona Perfecta solemnly.
"Great? Great? Very great, as far as my courage is concerned; but have
I fortresses, have I cavalry, have I artillery?"
"That is a thing, Ramos," said Dona Perfecta, smiling, "about which I
would not concern myself. Has not the enemy what you lack?"
"Take it from him, then."
"We will take it from him, yes, senora. When I say that we will take it
"My dear Ramos," exclaimed Don Inocencio, "yours is an enviable
position. To distinguish yourself, to raise yourself above the base
multitude, to put yourself on an equality with the greatest heroes of
the earth, to be able to say that the hand of God guides your hand--oh,
what grandeur and honor! My friend, this is not flattery. What dignity,
what nobleness, what magnanimity! No; men of such a temper cannot die.
The Lord goes with them, and the bullet and the steel of the enemy are
arrested in their course; they do not dare--how should they dare--to
touch them, coming from the musket and the hand of heretics? Dear
Caballuco, seeing you, seeing your bravery and your nobility, there
come to my mind involuntarily the verses of that ballad on the conquest
of the Empire of Trebizond:
" 'Came the valiant Roland
Armed at every point,
On his war-horse mounted,
The gallant Briador;
His good sword Durlindana
Girded to his side,
Couched for the attack his lance,
On his arm his buckler stout,
Through his helmet's visor
Flashing fire he came;
Quivering like a slender reed
Shaken by the wind his lance,
And all the host united
Defying haughtily.' "
"Very good," exclaimed Licurgo, clapping his hands. "And I say like Don
" 'Let none the wrath of Don Renialdos
Dare brave and hope to escape unscathed;
For he who seeks with him a quarrel,
Shall pay so dearly for his rashness
That he, and all his cause who champion,
Shall at my hand or meet destruction
Or chastisement severe shall suffer.' "
"Ramos, you will take some supper, you will eat something; won't you?"
said the mistress of the house.
"Nothing, nothing;" answered the Centaur. "Or if you give me any thing,
let it be a plate of gunpowder."
And bursting into a boisterous laugh, he walked up and down the room
several times, attentively observed by every one; then, stopping beside
the group, he looked fixedly at Dona Perfecta and thundered forth these
"I say that there is nothing more to be said. Long live Orbajosa! death
And he brought his hand down on the table with such violence that the
"What a valiant spirit!" said Don Inocencio.
"What a fist you have!"
Every one was looking at the table, which had been split in two by the
Then they looked at the never-enough-to-be-admired Renialdos or
Caballuco. Undoubtedly there was in his handsome countenance, in his
green eyes animated by a strange, feline glow, in his black hair, in
his herculean frame, a certain expression and air of grandeur--a trace,
or rather a memory, of the grand races that dominated the world. But
his general aspect was one of pitiable degeneration, and it was
difficult to discover the noble and heroic filiation in the brutality
of the present. He resembled Don Cayetano's great men as the mule
resembles the horse.
The conference lasted for some time longer, but we omit what followed
as not being necessary to a clear understanding of our story. At last
they separated, Senor Don Inocencio remaining to the last, as usual.
Before the canon and Dona Perfecta had had time to exchange a word, an
elderly woman, Dona Perfecta's confidential servant and her right hand,
entered the dining-room, and her mistress, seeing that she looked
disturbed and anxious, was at once filled with disquietude, suspecting
that something wrong was going on in the house.
"I can't find the senorita anywhere," said the servant, in answer to
her mistress' questions.
"Good Heavens--Rosario! Where is my daughter?"
"Virgin of Succor protect us!" cried the Penitentiary, taking up his
hat and preparing to hurry out with Dona Perfecta.
"Search for her well. But was she not with you in her room?"
"Yes, senora," answered the old woman, trembling, "but the devil
tempted me, and I fell asleep."
"A curse upon your sleep! What is this? Rosario, Rosario! Librada!"
They went upstairs and came down again, they went up a second time and
came down again; carrying a light and looking carefully in all the
rooms. At last the voice of the Penitentiary was heard saying joyfully
from the stairs:
"Here she is, here she is! She has been found."
A moment later mother and daughter were standing face to face in the
"Where were you?" asked Dona Perfecta, in a severe voice, scrutinizing
her daughter's face closely.
"In the garden," answered the girl, more dead than alive.
"In the garden at this hour? Rosario!"
"I was warm, I went to the window, my handkerchief dropped out, and I
came down stairs for it!"
"Why didn't you ask Librada to get it for you? Librada! Where is that
girl? Has she fallen asleep too?"
Librada at last made her appearance. Her pale face revealed the
consternation and the apprehension of the delinquent.
"What is this? Where were you?" asked her mistress, with terrible
"Why, senora, I came down stairs to get the clothes out of the front
room--and I fell asleep."
"Every one here seems to have fallen asleep to-night. Some of you, I
fancy, will not sleep in my house to-morrow night. Rosario, you may
Comprehending that it was necessary to act with promptness and energy,
Dona Perfecta and the canon began their investigations without delay.
Questions, threats, entreaties, promises, were skilfully employed to
discover the truth regarding what had happened. Not even the shadow of
guilt was found to attach to the old servant; but Librada confessed
frankly between tears and sighs all her delinquencies, which we will
sum up as follows:
Shortly after his arrival in the house Senor Pinzon had begun to cast
loving glances at Senorita Rosario. He had given money to Librada,
according to what the latter said, to carry messages and love-letters
to her. The young lady had not seemed angry, but, on the contrary,
pleased, and several days had passed in this manner. Finally, the
servant declared that Rosario and Senor Pinzon had agreed to meet and
talk with each other on this night at the window of the room of the
latter, which opened on the garden. They had confided their design to
the maid, who promised to favor it, in consideration of a sum which was
at once given her. It had been agreed that Senor Pinzon was to leave
the house at his usual hour and return to it secretly at nine o'clock,
go to his room, and leave it and the house again, clandestinely also, a
little later, to return, without concealment, at his usual late hour.
In this way no suspicion would fall upon him. Librada had waited for
Pinzon, who had entered the house closely enveloped in his cloak,
without speaking a word. He had gone to his room at the same moment in
which the young lady descended to the garden. During the interview, at
which she was not present, Librada had remained on guard in the hall to
warn Pinzon, if any danger should threaten; and at the end of an hour
the latter had left the house enveloped in his cloak, as before, and
without speaking a word. When the confession was ended Don Inocencio
said to the wretched girl:
"Are you sure that the person who came into and went out of the house
was Senor Pinzon?"
The culprit answered nothing, but her features expressed the utmost
Her mistress turned green with anger.
"Did you see his face?"
"But who else could it be but he?" answered the maid. "I am certain
that it was he. He went straight to his room--he knew the way to it
"It is strange," said the canon. "Living in the house there was no need
for him to use such mystery. He might have pretended illness and
remained in the house. Does it not seem so to you, senora?"
"Librada," exclaimed the latter, in a paroxysm of anger, "I vow that
you shall go to prison."
And clasping her hands, she dug the nails of the one into the other
with such force as almost to draw blood.
"Senor Don Inocencio," she exclaimed, "let us die--there is no remedy
but to die."
Then she burst into a fit of inconsolable weeping.
"Courage, senora," said the priest, in a moved voice. "Courage--now it
is necessary to be very brave. This requires calmness and a great deal
"Mine is immense," said Senora de Polentinos, in the midst of her sobs.
"Mine is very small," said the canon; "but we shall see, we shall see."
Meanwhile Rosario--with her heart torn and bleeding, unable to shed
tears, unable to be at peace or rest, transpierced by grief as by a
sharp sword, with her thoughts passing swiftly from the world to God
and from God to the world, bewildered and half-crazed, her hands
clasped, her bare feet resting on the floor--was kneeling, late in the
evening, in her own room, beside her bed, on the edge of which she
rested her burning forehead, in darkness, in solitude, and in silence.
She was careful not to make the slightest noise, in order not to
attract the attention of her mother, who was asleep, or seemed to be
asleep, in the adjoining room. She lifted up her distracted thoughts to
Heaven in this form:
"Lord, my God, why is it that before I did not know how to lie, and now
I know? Why did I not know before how to deceive, and now I deceive? Am
I a vile woman? Is this that I feel, is this that is happening to me, a
fall from which there can be no arising? Have I ceased to be virtuous
and good? I do not recognize myself. Is it I or is it some one else who
is in this place? How many terrible things in a few days! How many
different sensations! My heart is consumed with all it has felt. Lord,
my God, dost thou hear my voice, or am I condemned to pray eternally
without being heard? I am good, nothing will convince me that I am not
good. To love, to love boundlessly, is that wickedness? But no--it is
no illusion, no error--I am worse than the worst woman on earth. A
great serpent is within me, and has fastened his poisonous fangs in my
heart. What is this that I feel? My God, why dost thou not kill me? Why
dost thou not plunge me forever into the depths of hell? It is
frightful, but I confess it to the priest--I hate my mother. Why is
this? I cannot explain it to myself. He has not said a word to me
against my mother. I do not know how this is come to pass. How wicked I
am! The demons have taken possession of me. Lord, come to my help, for
with my own strength alone I cannot vanquish myself. A terrible impulse
urges me to leave this house. I wish to escape, to fly from it. If he
does not take me, I will drag myself after him through the streets.
What divine joy is this that mingles in my breast with so cruel a
grief? Lord God, my father, illumine me. I desire only to love. I was
not born for this hatred that is consuming me. I was not born to
deceive, to lie, to cheat. To-morrow I will go out into the streets and
cry aloud to all the passers-by: 'I love! I hate!' My heart will
relieve itself in this way. What happiness it would be to be able to
reconcile every thing, to love and respect every one! May the Most Holy
Virgin protect me. Again that terrible idea! I don't wish to think it,
and I think it. Ah! I cannot deceive myself in regard to this. I can
neither destroy it nor diminish it--but I can confess it; and I confess
it, saying to thee: 'Lord, I hate my mother!' "
At last she fell into a doze. In her uneasy sleep her imagination
reproduced in her mind all she had done that night, distorting it,
without altering it in substance. She heard again the clock of the
cathedral striking nine; she saw with joy the old servant fall into a
peaceful sleep; and she left the room very slowly, in order to make no
noise; she descended the stairs softly, step by step and on tiptoe, in
order to avoid making the slightest sound. She went into the garden,
going around through the servants' quarters and the kitchen; in the
garden she paused for a moment to look up at the sky, which was dark
and studded with stars. The wind was hushed. Not a breath disturbed the
profound stillness of the night. It seemed to maintain a fixed and
silent attention--the attention of eyes that look without winking and
ears that listen attentively, awaiting a great event. The night was
She then approached the glass door of the dining-room and looked
cautiously through it, from a little distance, fearing that those
within might perceive her. By the light of the dining-room lamp she saw
her mother sitting with her back toward her. The Penitentiary was on
her right, and his profile seemed to undergo a strange transformation,
his nose grew larger and larger, seeming like the beak of some fabulous
bird; and his whole face became a black silhouette with angles here and
there, sharp derisive, irritating. In front of him sat Caballuco, who
resembled a dragon rather than a man. Rosario could see his green eyes,
like two lanterns of convex glass. This glow, and the imposing figure
of the animal, inspired her with fear. Uncle Licurgo and the other
three men appeared to her imagination like grotesque little figures.
She had seen somewhere, doubtless in some of the clay figures at the
fairs, that foolish smile, those coarse faces, that stupid look. The
dragon moved his arms which, instead of gesticulating, turned round,
like the arms of a windmill, and the green globes, like the lights of a
pharmacy, moved from side to side. His glance was blinding. The
conversation appeared to be interesting. The Penitentiary was flapping
his wings. He was a presumptuous bird, who tried to fly and could not.
His beak lengthened itself, twisting round and round. His feathers
stood out, as if with rage; and then, collecting himself and becoming
pacified, he hid his bald head under his wings. Then the little clay
figures began to move, wishing to be persons, and Frasquito Gonzalez
was trying to pass for a man.
Rosario felt an inexplicable terror, witnessing this friendly
conference. She went away from the door and advanced, step by step,
looking around her to see if she was observed. Although she saw no one,
she fancied that a million eyes were fastened upon her. But suddenly
her fears and her shame were dispelled. At the window of the room
occupied by Senor Pinzon appeared a man, dressed in blue; the buttons
on his coat shone like rows of little lights. She approached. At the
same instant she felt a pair of arms with galloons lift her up as if
she were a feather and with a swift movement place her in the room. All
was changed. Suddenly a crash was heard, a violent blow that shook the
house to its foundations. Neither knew the cause of the noise. They
trembled and were silent.
It was the moment in which the dragon had broken the table in the
UNFORESEEN EVENTS--A PASSING DISAGREEMENT
The scene changes. We see before us a handsome room, bright, modest,
gay, comfortable, and surprisingly clean. A fine matting covers the
floor, and the white walls are covered with good prints of saints and
some sculptures of doubtful artistic value. The old mahogany of the
furniture shines with the polish of many Saturday rubbings, and the
altar, on which a magnificent Virgin, dressed in blue and silver,
receives domestic worship, is covered with innumerable pretty trifles,
half sacred, half profane. There are on it, besides, little pictures in
beads, holy-water fonts, a watch-case with an Agnes Dei, a Palm Sunday
palm-branch, and not a few odorless artificial flowers. A number of
oaken bookshelves contain a rich and choice library, in which Horace,
the Epicurean and Sybarite, stands side by side with the tender Virgil,
in whose verses we see the heart of the enamored Dido throbbing and
melting; Ovid the large-nosed, as sublime as he is obscene and
sycophantic, side by side with Martial, the eloquent and witty
vagabond; Tibullus the impassioned, with Cicero the grand; the severe
Titus Livius with the terrible Tacitus, the scourge of the Caesars;
Lucretius the pantheist; Juvenal, who flayed with his pen; Plautus, who
composed the best comedies of antiquity while turning a mill-wheel;
Seneca the philosopher, of whom it is said that the noblest act of his
life was his death; Quintilian the rhetorician; the immoral Sallust,
who speaks so eloquently of virtue; the two Plinys; Suetonius and
Varro--in a word, all the Latin letters from the time when they
stammered their first word with Livius Andronicus until they exhaled
their last sigh with Rutilius.
But while making this unnecessary though rapid enumeration, we have not
observed that two women have entered the room. It is very early, but
the Orbajosans are early risers. The birds are singing to burst their
throats in their cages; the church-bells are ringing for mass, and the
goats, going from house to house to be milked, are tinkling their bells
The two ladies whom we see in the room that we have described have just
come back from hearing mass. They are dressed in black, and each of
them carries in her right hand her little prayer-book, and the rosary
twined around her fingers.
"Your uncle cannot delay long now," said one of them. "We left him
beginning mass; but he gets through quickly, and by this time he will
be in the sacristy, taking off his chasuble. I would have stayed to
hear him say mass, but to-day is a very busy day for me."
"I heard only the prebendary's mass to-day," said the other, "and he
says mass in a twinkling; and I don't think it has done me any good,
for I was greatly preoccupied. I could not get the thought of the
terrible things that are happening to us out of my head."
"What is to be done? We must only have patience. Let us see what advice
your uncle will give us."
"Ah!" exclaimed the other, heaving a deep and pathetic sigh; "I feel my
blood on fire."
"God will protect us."
"To think that a person like you should be threatened by a ---- And he
persists in his designs! Last night Senora Dona Perfecta, I went back
to the widow De Cuzco's hotel, as you told me, and asked her for later
news. Don Pepito and the brigadier Batalla are always consulting
together--ah, my God! consulting about their infernal plans, and
emptying bottle after bottle of wine. They are a pair of rakes, a pair
of drunkards. No doubt they are plotting some fine piece of villany
together. As I take such an interest in you, last night, seeing Don
Pepito having the hotel while I was there, I followed him----"
"And where did you go?"
"To the Casino; yes, senora, to the Casino," responded the other, with
some confusion. "Afterward he went back to his hotel. And how my uncle
scolded me because I remained out so late, playing the spy in that way!
But I can't help it, and to see a person like you threatened by such
dangers makes me wild. For there is no use in talking; I foresee that
the day we least expect it those villains will attack the house and
carry off Rosarito."
Dona Perfecta, for she it was, bending her eyes on the floor, remained
for a long time wrapped in thought. She was pale, and her brows were
gathered in a frown. At last she exclaimed:
"Well, I see no way of preventing it!"
"But I see a way," quickly said the other woman, who was the niece of
the Penitentiary and Jacinto's mother; "I see a very simple way, that I
explained to you, and that you do not like. Ah, senora! you are too
good. On occasions like this it is better to be a little less perfect--
to lay scruples aside. Why, would that be an offence to God?"
"Maria Remedios," said Dona Perfecta haughtily, "don't talk nonsense."
"Nonsense! You, with all your wisdom, cannot make your nephew do as you
wish. What could be simpler than what I propose? Since there is no
justice now to protect us, let us do a great act of justice ourselves.
Are there not men in your house who are ready for any thing? Well, call
them and say to them: 'Look, Caballuco, Paso Largo,' or whoever it may
be, 'to-night disguise yourself well, so that you may not be
recognized; take with you a friend in whom you have confidence, and
station yourself at the corner of the Calle de Santa Faz. Wait a while,
and when Don Jose Rey passes through the Calle de la Triperia on his
way to the Casino,--for he will certainly go to the Casino, understand
me well,--when he is passing you will spring out on him and give him a
"Maria Remedios, don't be a fool!" said Dona Perfecta with magisterial
"Nothing more than a fright, senora; attend well to what I say, a
fright. Why! Do you suppose I would advise a crime? Good God! the very
idea fills me with horror, and I fancy I can see before my eyes blood
and fire! Nothing of the sort, senora. A fright--nothing but a fright,
which will make that ruffian understand that we are well protected. He
goes alone to the Casino, senora, entirely alone; and there he meets
his valiant friends, those of the sabre and the helmet. Imagine that he
gets the fright and that he has a few bones broken, in addition--
without any serious wounds, of course. Well, in that case, either his
courage will fail him and he will leave Orbajosa, or he will be obliged
to keep his bed for a fortnight. But they must be told to make the
fright a good one. No killing, of course; they must take care of that,
but just a good beating."
"Maria," said Dona Perfecta haughtily, "you are incapable of a lofty
thought, of a great and saving resolve. What you advise me is an
unworthy piece of cowardice."
"Very well, I will be silent. Poor me! what a fool I am!" exclaimed the
Penitentiary's niece with humility. "I will keep my follies to console
you after you have lost your daughter."
"My daughter! Lose my daughter!" exclaimed Dona Perfecta, with a sudden
access of rage. "Only to hear you puts me out of my senses. No, they
shall not take her from me! If Rosario does not abhor that ruffian as I
wish her to do, she shall abhor him. For a mother's authority must have
some weight. We will tear this passion, or rather this caprice, from
her heart, as a tender plant is torn out of the ground before it has
had time to cast roots. No, this cannot be, Remedios. Come what may, it
shall not be! Not even the most infamous means he could employ will
avail that madman. Rather than see her my nephew's wife, I would accept
any evil that might happen to her, even death!"
"Better dead, better buried and food for worms," affirmed Remedios,
clasping her hands as if she were saying a prayer--"than see her in the
power of--ah, senora, do not be offended if I say something to you, and
that is, that it would be a great weakness to yield merely because
Rosarito has had a few secret interviews with that audacious man. The
affair of the night before last, as my uncle related it to me, seems to
me a vile trick on Don Jose to obtain his object by means of a scandal.
A great many men do that. Ah, Divine Saviour, I don't know how there
are women who can look any man in the face unless it be a priest."
"Be silent, be silent!" said Dona Perfecta, with vehemence. "Don't
mention the occurrence of the night before last to me. What a horrible
affair! Maria Remedios, I understand now how anger can imperil the
salvation of a soul. I am burning with rage--unhappy that I am, to see
such things and not to be a man! But to speak the truth in regard to
the occurrence of the night before last--I still have my doubts.
Librada vows and declares that Pinzon was the man who came into the
house. My daughter denies every thing; my daughter has never told me a
lie! I persist in my suspicions. I think that Pinzon is a hypocritical
go-between, but nothing more."
"We come back to the same thing--that the author of all the trouble is
the blessed mathematician. Ah! my heart did not deceive me when I first
saw him. Well, then senora! resign yourself to see something still more
terrible, unless you make up your mind to call Caballuco and say to
him, 'Caballuco, I hope that--' "
"The same thing again; what a simpleton you are!"
"Oh yes! I know I am a great simpleton; but how can I help it if I am
not any wiser? I say what comes into my head, without any art."
"What you think of--that silly and vulgar idea of the beating and the
fright--is what would occur to any one. You have not an ounce of
brains, Remedios; to solve a serious question you can think of nothing
better than a piece of folly like that. I have thought of a means more
worthy of noble-minded and well-bred persons. A beating! What
stupidity! Besides, I would not on any account have my nephew receive
even so much as a scratch by an order of mine. God will send him his
punishment through some one of the wonderful ways which he knows how to
choose. All we have to do is to work in order that the designs of God
may find no obstacle. Maria Remedios, it is necessary in matters of
this kind to go directly to the causes of things. But you know nothing
about causes--you can see only trifles."
"That may be so," said the priest's niece, with humility. "I wonder why
God made me so foolish that I can understand nothing of those sublime
"It is necessary to go to the bottom--to the bottom, Remedios. Don't
you understand yet?"
"My nephew is not my nephew, woman; he is blasphemy, sacrilege,
atheism, demagogy. Do you know what demagogy is?"
"Something relating to those people who burned Paris with petroleum;
and those who pull down the churches and fire on the images. So far I
understand very well."
"Well, my nephew is all that! Ah! if he were alone in Orbajosa--but no,
child. My nephew, through a series of fatalities, which are trials, the
transitory evils that God permits for our chastisement, is equivalent
to an army; is equivalent to the authority of the government;
equivalent to the alcalde; equivalent to the judge. My nephew is not my
nephew; he is the official nation, Remedios--that second nation
composed of the scoundrels who govern in Madrid, and who have made
themselves masters of its material strength; of that apparent nation--
for the real nation is the one that is silent, that pays and suffers;
of that fictitious nation that signs decrees and pronounces discourses
and makes a farce of government, and a farce of authority, and a farce
of every thing. That is what my nephew is to-day; you must accustom
yourself to look under the surface of things. My nephew is the
government, the brigadier, the new alcalde, the new judge--for they all
protect him, because of the unanimity of their ideas; because they are
chips of the same block, birds of a feather. Understand it well; we
must defend ourselves against them all, for they are all one, and one
is all; we must attack them all together; and not by beating a man as
he turns a corner, but as our forefathers attacked the Moors--the
Moors, Remedios. Understand this well, child; open your understanding
and allow an idea that is not vulgar to enter it--rise above yourself;
think lofty thoughts, Remedios!"
Don Inocencio's niece was struck dumb by so much loftiness of soul. She
opened her mouth to say something that should be in consonance with so
sublime an idea, but she only breathed a sigh.
"Like the Moors," repeated Dona Perfecta. "It is a question of Moors
and Christians. And did you suppose that by giving a fright to my
nephew all would be ended? How foolish you are! Don't you see that his
friends support him? Don't you see that you are at the mercy of that
rabble? Don't you see that any little lieutenant can set fire to my
house, if he takes it into his head to do so? But don't you know this?
Don't you comprehend that it is necessary to go to the bottom of
things? Don't you comprehend how vast, how tremendous is the power of
my enemy, who is not a man, but a sect? Don't you comprehend that my
nephew, as he confronts me to-day, is not a calamity, but a plague?
Against this plague, dear Remedios, we shall have here a battalion sent
by God that will annihilate the infernal militia from Madrid. I tell
you that this is going to be great and glorious."
"If it were at last so!"
"But do you doubt it? To-day we shall see terrible things here," said
Dona Perfecta, with great impatience. "To-day, to-day! What o'clock is
it? Seven? So late, and nothing has happened!"
"Perhaps my uncle has heard something; he is here now, I hear him
"Thank God!" said Dona Perfecta, rising to receive the Penitentiary.
"He will have good news for us."
Don Inocencio entered hastily. His altered countenance showed that his
soul, consecrated to religion and to the study of the classics, was not
as tranquil as usual.
"Bad news!" he said, laying his hat on a chair and loosening the cords
of his cloak.
Dona Perfecta turned pale.
"They are arresting people," added Don Inocencio, lowering his voice,
as if there was a soldier hidden under every chair. "They suspect, no
doubt, that the people here would not put up with their high-handed
measures, and they have gone from house to house, arresting all who
have a reputation for bravery."
Dona Perfecta threw herself into an easy chair and clutched its arms
"It remains to be seen whether they have allowed themselves to be
arrested," observed Remedios.
"Many of them have--a great many of them," said Don Inocencio, with an
approving look, addressing Dona Perfecta, "have had time to escape, and
have gone with arms and horses to Villahorrenda."
"They told me in the cathedral that he is the one they are looking for
most eagerly. Oh, my God! to arrest innocent people in that way, who
have done nothing yet. Well, I don't know how good Spaniards can have
patience under such treatment. Senora Dona Perfecta, when I was telling
you about the arrests, I forgot to say that you ought to go home at
"Yes, I will go at once. Have those bandits searched my house?"
"It is possible. Senora, we have fallen upon evil days," said Don
Inocencio, in solemn and feeling accents. "May God have pity upon us!"
"There are half a dozen well-armed men in my house," responded the
lady, greatly agitated. "What iniquity! Would they be capable of
wanting to carry them off too?"
"Assuredly Senor Pinzon will not have neglected to denounce them.
Senora, I repeat that we have fallen upon evil days. But God will
protect the innocent."
"I am going now. Don't fail to stop in at the house."
"Senora, as soon as the lesson is over--though I imagine that with the
excitement that there is in the town, all the boys will play truant
to-day---- But in any case I will go to the house after class hours. I
don't wish you to go out alone, senora. Those vagabond soldiers are
strutting about the streets with such insolent airs. Jacinto, Jacinto!"
"It is not necessary. I will go alone."
"Let Jacinto go with you," said the young man's mother. "He must be up
by this time."
They heard the hurried footsteps of the little doctor, who was coming
down the stairs in the greatest haste. He entered the room with flushed
face and panting for breath.
"What is the matter?" asked his uncle.
"In the Troyas' house," said the young man, "in the house of those--
"Finish at once!"
"Caballuco is there!"
"Up there? In the house of the Troyas?"
"Yes, senor. He spoke to me from the terrace, and he told me he was
afraid they were coming there to arrest him."
"Oh, what a fool! That idiot is going to allow himself to be arrested!"
exclaimed Dona Perfecta, tapping the floor impatiently with her foot.
"He wants to come down and let us hide him in the house."
The canon and his niece exchanged a glance.
"Let him come down!" said Dona Perfecta vehemently.
"Here?" repeated Don Inocencio, with a look of ill-humor.
"Here," answered the lady. "I don't know of any house where he would be
"He can let himself down easily from the window of my room," said
"Well, if it is necessary----"
"Maria Remedios," said Dona Perfecta, "if they take that man, all is
"I am a fool and a simpleton," answered the canon's niece, laying her
hand on her breast and stifling the sigh that was doubtless about to
escape from it; "but they shall not take him."
Dona Perfecta went out quickly, and shortly afterward the Centaur was
making himself comfortable in the arm-chair in which Don Inocencio was
accustomed to sit when he was writing his sermons.
We do not know how it reached the ears of Brigadier Batalla, but
certain it is that this active soldier had had notice that the
Orbajosans had changed their intentions; and on the morning of this day
he had ordered the arrest of those whom in our rich insurrectional
language we are accustomed to call marked. The great Caballuco escaped
by a miracle, taking refuge in the house of the Troyas, but not
thinking himself safe there he descended, as we have seen, to the holy
and unsuspected mansion of the good canon.
At night the soldiers, established at various points of the town, kept
a strict watch on all who came in and went out, but Ramos succeeded in
making his escape, cheating or perhaps without cheating the vigilance
of the military. This filled the measure of the rage of the Orbajosans,
and numbers of people were conspiring in the hamlets near
Villahorrenda; meeting at night to disperse in the morning and prepare
in this way the arduous business of the insurrection. Ramos scoured the
surrounding country, collecting men and arms; and as the flying columns
followed the Aceros into the district of Villajuan de Nahara, our
chivalrous hero made great progress in a very short time.
At night he ventured boldly into Orbajosa, employing stratagems and
perhaps bribery. His popularity and the protection which he received in
the town served him, to a certain extent, as a safeguard; and it would
not be rash to affirm that the soldiers did not manifest toward this
daring leader of the insurrection the same rigor as toward the
insignificant men of the place. In Spain, and especially in time of
war, which is here always demoralizing, these unworthy considerations
toward the great are often seen, while the little are persecuted
pitilessly. Favored then by his boldness, by bribery, or by we know not
what, Caballuco entered Orbajosa, gained new recruits, and collected
arms and money. Either for the great security of his person or in order
to save appearances, he did not set foot in his own house; he entered
Dona Perfecta's only for the purpose of treating of important affairs,
and he usually supped in the house of some friend, preferring always
the respected domicile of some priest, and especially that of Don
Inocencio, where he had taken refuge on the fateful morning of the
Meanwhile Batalla had telegraphed to the Government the information
that a plot of the rebels having been discovered its authors had been
imprisoned, and the few who had succeeded in escaping had fled in
various directions and were being actively pursued by the military.
There is nothing more entertaining than to search for the cause of some
interesting event which surprises or agitates us, and nothing more
satisfactory than to discover it. When, seeing violent passions in open
or concealed conflict, and led by the natural intuitive impulse which
always accompanies human observation we succeed in discovering the
hidden source from which that turbulent river had derived its waters,
we experience a sensation very similar to the delight of the explorer
or the discoverer of an unknown land.
This delight Providence has now bestowed upon us; for, exploring the
hidden recesses of the hearts which beat in this story, we have
discovered an event that is assuredly the source of the most important
events that we have narrated; a passion which is the first drop of
water of the impetuous current whose course we are observing.
Let us go on with our story, then. To do so, let us leave Senora de
Polentinos, without concerning ourselves in regard to what may have
happened to her on the morning of her conversation with Maria Remedios.
Returning to her house, full of anxiety, she found herself obliged to
endure the apologies and the civilities of Senor Pinzon, who assured
her that while he lived her house should not be searched. Dona Perfecta
responded haughtily, without deigning to look at him, for which reason
he asked her politely for an explanation of her coldness, to which she
replied requesting Senor Pinzon to leave her house, deferring to a
future occasion the explanation which she would require from him of his
perfidious conduct while in it. Don Cayetano arriving at this moment,
words were exchanged between the two gentlemen, as between man and man;
but as we are more interested at present in another matter, we will
leave the Polentinos and the lieutenant-colonel to settle matters
between them as best they can, and proceed to examine the question of
the sources above mentioned.
Let us fix our attention on Maria Remedios, an estimable woman, to whom
it is indispensably necessary to devote a few words. She was a lady, a
real lady--for, notwithstanding her humble origin, the virtues of her
uncle, Senor Don Inocencio, also of low origin, but elevated by his
learning and his estimable qualities, had shed extraordinary lustre
over the whole family.
The love of Remedios for Jacinto was one of the strongest passions of
which the maternal heart is capable. She loved him with delirium; her
son's welfare was her first earthly consideration; she regarded him as
the most perfect type of beauty and talent ever created by God, and to
see him happy and great and powerful she would have given her whole
life and even a part of the life to come. The maternal sentiment is the
only one which, because of its nobility and its sanctity, will admit of
exaggeration; the only one which the delirium of passion does not
debase. Nevertheless it is a singular phenomenon, frequently observed,
that this exaltation of maternal affection, if not accompanied with
absolute purity of heart and with perfect uprightness is apt to become
perverted and transformed into a lamentable frenzy, which may lead,
like any other ungoverned passion, to great errors and catastrophies.
In Orbajosa Maria Remedios passed for a model of virtue and a model
niece--perhaps she was so in reality. She served with affection all who
needed her services; she never gave occasion for gossip or for scandal;
she never mixed herself up in intrigues. She carried her religion to
the extreme of an offensive fanaticism; she practised charity; she
managed her uncle's house with the utmost ability; she was well
received, admired and kindly treated everywhere, in spite of the almost
intolerable annoyance produced by her persistent habit of sighing and
speaking always in a complaining voice.
But in Dona Perfecta's house this excellent lady suffered a species of
/capitis diminutio/. In times far distant and very bitter for the
family of the good Penitentiary, Maria Remedios (since it is the truth,
why should it not be told?) had been a laundress in the house of
Polentinos. And let it not be supposed that Dona Perfecta looked down
upon her on this account--nothing of the kind. She behaved to her
without any haughtiness; she felt a real sisterly affection for her;
they ate together; they prayed together; they confided their troubles
to each other; they aided each other in their charities and in their
devotions as well as in domestic matters; but, truth to say, there was
always a something, there was always a line, invisible but which could
not be crossed between the improvised lady and the lady by birth and
ancestry. Dona Perfecta addressed Maria as "thou," while the latter
could never lay aside certain ceremonial forms. Maria Remedios always
felt herself so insignificant in the presence of her uncle's friend
that her natural humility had acquired through this feeling a strange
tinge of sadness. She saw that the good canon was a species of
perpetual Aulic councillor in the house; she saw her idolized
Jacintillo mingling on terms of almost lover-like familiarity with the
young lady, and nevertheless the poor mother and niece visited the
house as little as possible. It is to be observed that Maria Remedios'
dignity as a lady suffered not a little in Dona Perfecta's house, and
this was disagreeable to her; for in this sighing spirit, too, there
was, as there is in every living thing, a little pride. To see her son
married to Rosarito, to see him rich and powerful; to see him related
to Dona Perfecta, to the senora--ah! this was for Maria Remedios earth
and heaven, this life and the next, the present and the future, the
supreme totality of existence. For years her mind and her heart had
been filled by the light of this sweet hope. Because of this hope she
was good and she was bad; because of it she was religious and humble,
or fierce and daring; because of it she was whatever she was--for
without this idea Maria, who was the incarnation of her project, would
In person, Maria Remedios could not be more insignificant than she was.
She was remarkable for a surprising freshness and robustness which made
her look much younger than she really was, and she always dressed in
mourning, although her widowhood was now of long standing.
Five days had passed since the entrance of Caballuco into the
Penitentiary's house. It was evening. Remedios entered her uncle's room
with the lighted lamp, which she placed on the table. She then seated
herself in front of the old man, who, for a great part of the
afternoon, had been sitting motionless and thoughtful in his easy
chair. His fingers supported his chin, wrinkling up the brown skin,
unshaven for the past three days.
"Did Caballuco say he would come here to supper to-night?" he asked his
"Yes, senor, he will come. It is in a respectable house like this that
the poor fellow is most secure."
"Well, I am not altogether easy in my mind, in spite of the
respectability of the house," answered the Penitentiary. "How the brave
Ramos exposes himself! And I am told that in Villahorrenda and the
surrounding country there are a great many men. I don't know how many
men---- What have you heard?"
"That the soldiers are committing atrocities."
"It is a miracle that those Hottentots have not searched the house! I
declare that if I see one of the red-trousered gentry enter the house,
I shall fall down speechless."
"This is a nice condition of things!" said Remedios, exhaling half her
soul in a sigh. "I cannot get out of my head the idea of the
tribulation in which Senora Dona Perfecta finds herself. Uncle, you
ought to go there."
"Go there to-night? The military are parading the streets! Imagine that
some insolent soldier should take it into his head to---- The senora is
well protected. The other day they searched the house and they carried
off the six armed men she had there; but afterward they sent them back
to her. We have no one to protect us in case of an attack."
"I sent Jacinto to the senora's, to keep her company for a while. If
Caballuco comes, we will tell him to stop in there, too. No one can put
it out of my head but that those rascals are plotting some piece of
villany against our friend. Poor senora, poor Rosarito! When one thinks
that this might have been avoided by what I proposed to Dona Perfecta
two days ago----"
"My dear niece," said the Penitentiary phlegmatically, "we have done
all that it was in human power to do to carry out our virtuous purpose.
More we cannot do. Convince yourself of this, and do not be obstinate.
Rosarito cannot be the wife of our idolized Jacintillo. Your golden
dream, your ideal of happiness, that at one time seemed attainable, and
to which like a good uncle, I devoted all the powers of my
understanding, has become chimerical, has vanished into smoke. Serious
obstructions, the wickedness of a man, the indubitable love of the
girl, and other things, regarding which I am silent, have altered
altogether the condition of affairs. We were in a fair way to conquer,
and suddenly we are conquered. Ah, niece! convince yourself of one
thing. As matters are now, Jacinto deserves something a great deal
better than that crazy girl."
"Caprices and obstinate notions!" responded Maria, with an ill-humor
that was far from respectful. "That's a pretty thing to say now, uncle!
The great minds are outshining themselves, now. Dona Perfecta with her
lofty ideas, and you with your doubts and fears--of much use either of
you is. It is a pity that God made me such a fool and gave me an
understanding of brick and mortar, as the senora says, for if that
wasn't the case I would soon settle the question."
"If she and you had allowed me, it would be settled already."
"By the beating?"
"There's no occasion for you to be frightened or to open your eyes like
that. There is no question of killing any body. What an idea!"
"Beating," said the canon, smiling, "is like scratching--when one
begins one doesn't know when to leave off."
"Bah! say too that I am cruel and blood-thirsty. I wouldn't have the
courage to kill a fly; it's not very likely that I should desire the
death of a man."
"In fine, child, no matter what objections you may make, Senor Don Pepe
Rey will carry off the girl. It is not possible now to prevent it. He
is ready to employ every means, including dishonor. If Rosarito--how
she deceived us with that demure little face and those heavenly eyes,
eh!--if Rosarito, I say, did not herself wish it, then all might be
arranged, but alas! she loves him as the sinner loves Satan; she is
consumed with a criminal passion; she has fallen, niece, into the
snares of the Evil One. Let us be virtuous and upright; let us turn our
eyes away from the ignoble pair, and think no more about either of
"You know nothing about women, uncle," said Remedios, with flattering
hypocrisy; "you are a holy man; you do not understand that Rosario's
feeling is only a passing caprice, one of those caprices that are cured
by a sound whipping."
"Niece," said Don Inocencio gravely and sententiously, "when serious
things have taken place, caprices are not called caprices, but by
"Uncle, you don't know what you are talking about," responded Maria
Remedios, her face flushing suddenly. "What! would you be capable of
supposing that Rosarito--what an atrocity! I will defend her; yes, I
will defend her. She is as pure as an angel. Why, uncle, those things
bring a blush to my cheek, and make me indignant with you."
As she spoke the good priest's face was darkened by a cloud of sadness
that made him look ten years older.
"My dear Remedios," he said, "we have done all that is humanly
possible, and all that in conscience we can or ought to do. Nothing
could be more natural than our desire to see Jacintillo connected with
that great family, the first in Orbajosa; nothing more natural than our
desire to see him master of the seven houses in the town, the meadow of
Mundogrande, the three gardens of the upper farm, La Encomienda, and
the other lands and houses which that girl owns. Your son has great
merit, every one knows it well. Rosarito liked him, and he liked
Rosarito. The matter seemed settled. Dona Perfecta herself, without
being very enthusiastic, doubtless on account of our origin, seemed
favorably disposed toward it, because of her great esteem and
veneration for me, as her confessor and friend. But suddenly this
unlucky young man presents himself. The senora tells me that she has
given her word to her brother, and that she cannot reject the proposal
made by him. A difficult situation! But what do I do in view of all
this? Ah, you don't know every thing! I will be frank with you. If I
had found Senor de Rey to be a man of good principles, calculated to
make Rosario happy, I would not have interfered in the matter; but the
young man appeared to me to be a wretch, and, as the spiritual director
of the house, it was my duty to take a hand in the business, and I took
it. You know already that I determined to unmask him. I exposed his
vices; I made manifest his atheism; I laid bare to the view of all the
rottenness of that materialistic heart, and the senora was convinced
that in giving her daughter to him, she would be delivering her up to
vice. Ah, what anxieties I endured! The senora vacillated; I
strengthened her wavering mind; I advised her concerning the means she
might lawfully employ to send her nephew away without scandal. I
suggested ingenious ideas to her; and as she often spoke to me of the
scruples that troubled her tender conscience, I tranquillized her,
pointing out to her how far it was allowable for us to go in our fight
against that lawless enemy. Never did I counsel violent or sanguinary
measures or base outrages, but always subtle artifices, in which there
was no sin. My mind is tranquil, my dear niece. But you know that I
struggled hard, that I worked like a negro. Ah! when I used to come
home every night and say, 'Mariquilla, we are getting on well, we are
getting on very well,' you used to be wild with delight, and you would
kiss my hands again and again, and say I was the best man on earth. Why
do you fly into a passion now, disfiguring your noble character and
peaceable disposition? Why do you scold me? Why do you say that you are
indignant, and tell me in plain terms that I am nothing better than an
"Because," said the woman, without any diminution of her rage, "because
you have grown faint-hearted all of a sudden."
"The thing is that every thing is going against us, woman. That
confounded engineer, protected as he is by the army, is resolved to
dare every thing. The girl loves him, the girl--I will say no more. It
cannot be; I tell you that it cannot be."
"The army! But do you believe, like Dona Perfecta, that there is going
to be a war, and that to drive Don Pepe from the town it will be
necessary for one half of the nation to rise up against the other half?
The senora has lost her senses, and you are in a fair way to lose
"I believe as she does. In view of the intimate connection of Rey with
the soldiers the personal question assumes larger proportions. But, ah,
niece! if two days ago I entertained the hope that our valiant townsmen
would kick the soldiers out of the town, since I have seen the turn
things have taken, since I have seen that most of them have been
surprised before fighting, and that Caballuco is in hiding and that the
insurrection is going to the devil, I have lost confidence in every
thing. The good doctrines have not yet acquired sufficient material
force to tear in pieces the ministers and the emissaries of error. Ah,
niece! resignation, resignation!"
And Don Inocencio, employing the method of expression which
characterized his niece, heaved two or three profound sighs. Maria,
contrary to what might have been expected, maintained absolute silence.
She showed now neither anger nor the superficial sentimentality of her
ordinary life; but only a profound and humble grief. Shortly after the
good canon had ended his peroration two tears rolled down his niece's
rosy cheeks; before long were heard a few half-suppressed sighs, and
gradually, as the swell and tumult of a sea that is beginning to be
stormy rise higher and higher and become louder and louder, so the
surge of Maria Remedios' grief rose and swelled, until it at last broke
forth in a flood of tears.
A CANON'S TORTURE
"Resignation, resignation!" repeated Don Inocencio.
"Resignation, resignation!" repeated his niece, drying her tears. "If
my dear son is doomed to be always a beggar, well, then, be it so.
Lawsuits are becoming scarce; the day will soon come when the practice
of the law will be the same as nothing. What is the use of all his
talent? What is the use of his tiring his brain with so much study? Ah!
We are poor. A day will come, Senor Don Inocencio, when my poor boy
will not have a pillow on which to lay his head."
"Man! can you deny it? Tell me, then, what inheritance are you going to
leave him when you close your eyes on this world? A couple of rooms,
half a dozen big books, poverty, and nothing more. What times are
before us, uncle; what times! My poor boy is growing very delicate in
his health, and he won't be able to work--it makes him dizzy now to
read a book; he gets a headache and nausea whenever he works at night!
He will have to beg a paltry situation; I shall have to take in sewing,
and who knows, who knows but we may have to beg our bread!"
"Oh, I know very well what I am talking about! Fine times before us!"
added the excellent woman, forcing still more the lachrymose note in
her diatribe. "My God! What is going to become of us? Ah, it is only a
mother's heart that can feel these things! Only a mother is capable of
suffering so much anxiety about a son's welfare. How should you
understand it? No; it is one thing to have children and to suffer
anxiety on their account and another to sing the /gori gori/ in the
cathedral and to teach Latin in the institute. Of great use is it for
my son to be your nephew and to have taken so many honors and to be the
pride and ornament of Orbajosa. He will die of starvation, for we
already know what law brings; or else he will have to ask the deputies
for a situation in Havana, where the yellow fever will kill him."
"No, I am not grieving, I am silent now; I won't annoy you any more. I
am very troublesome, always crying and sighing; and I am not to be
endured because I am a fond mother and I will look out for the good of
my beloved son. I will die, yes, I will die in silence, and stifle my
grief. I will swallow my tears, in order not to annoy his reverence the
canon. But my idolized son will comprehend me and he won't put his
hands to his ears as you are doing now. Woe is me! Poor Jacinto knows
that I would die for him, and that I would purchase his happiness at
the sacrifice of my life. Darling child of my soul! To be so deserving
and to be forever doomed to mediocrity, to a humble station, for--don't
get indignant, uncle--no matter what airs we put on, you will always be
the son of Uncle Tinieblas, the sacristan of San Bernardo, and I shall
never be any thing more than the daughter of Ildefonso Tinieblas, your
brother, who used to sell crockery, and my son will be the grandson of
the Tinieblas--for obscure we were born, and we shall never emerge from
our obscurity, nor own a piece of land of which we can say, 'This is
mine'; nor shall I ever plunge my arms up to the elbows in a sack of
wheat threshed and winnowed on our own threshing-floor--all because of
your cowardice, your folly, your soft-heartedness."
The canon's voice rose higher every time he repeated this phrase, and,
with his hands to his ears, he shook his head from side to side with a
look of mingled grief and desperation. The shrill complaint of Maria
Remedios grew constantly shriller, and pierced the brain of the unhappy
and now dazed priest like an arrow. But all at once the woman's face
became transformed; her plaintive wail was changed to a hard, shrill
scream; she turned pale, her lips trembled, she clenched her hands, a
few locks of her disordered hair fell over her forehead, her eyes
glittered, dried by the heat of the anger that glowed in her breast;
she rose from her seat and, not like a woman, but like a harpy, cried:
"I am going away from here! I am going away from here with my son! We
will go to Madrid; I don't want my son to fret himself to death in this
miserable town! I am tired now of seeing that my son, under the
protection of the cassock, neither is nor ever will be any thing. Do
you hear, my reverend uncle? My son and I are going away! You will
never see us again--never!"
Don Inocencio had clasped his hands and was receiving the thunderbolts
of his niece's wrath with the consternation of a criminal whom the
presence of the executioner has deprived of his last hope.
"In Heaven's name, Remedios," he murmured, in a pained voice; "in the
name of the Holy Virgin----"
These fits of range of his niece, who was usually so meek, were as
violent as they were rare, and five or six years would sometimes pass
without Don Inocencio seeing Remedios transformed into a fury.
"I am a mother! I am a mother! and since no one else will look out for
my son, I will look out for him myself!" roared the improvised lioness.
"In the name of the Virgin, niece, don't let your passion get the best
of you! Remember that you are committing a sin. Let us say the Lord's
Prayer and an Ave Maria, and you will see that this will pass away."
As he said this the Penitentiary trembled, and the perspiration stood
on his forehead. Poor dove in the talons of the vulture! The furious
woman completed his discomfiture with these words:
"You are good for nothing; you are a poltroon! My son and I will go
away from this place forever, forever! I will get a position for my
son, I will find him a good position, do you understand? Just as I
would be willing to sweep the streets with my tongue if I could gain a
living for him in no other way, so I will move heaven and earth to find
a position for my boy in order that he may rise in the world and be
rich, and a person of consequence, and a gentleman, and a lord and
great, and all that there is to be--all, all!"
"Heaven protect me!" cried Don Inocencio, sinking into a chair and
letting his head fall on his breast.
There was a pause during which the agitated breathing of the furious
woman could be heard.
"Niece," said Don Inocencio at last, "you have shortened my life by ten
years; you have set my blood on fire; you have put me beside myself.
God give me the calmness that I need to bear with you! Lord, patience--
patience is what I ask. And you, niece, do me the favor to sigh and cry
to your heart's content for the next ten years; for your confounded
mania of sniveling, greatly as it annoys me, is preferable to these mad
fits of rage. If I did not know that you are good at heart---- Well,
for one who confessed and received communion this morning you are
"Yes, but you are the cause of it--you!"
"Because in the matter of Rosario and Jacinto I say to you,
"Because when every thing is going on well you turn back and allow
Senor de Rey to get possession of Rosario."
"And how am I going to prevent it? Dona Perfecta is right in saying
that you have an understanding of brick. Do you want me to go about the
town with a sword, and in the twinkling of an eye to make mincemeat of
the whole regiment, and then confront Rey and say to him, 'Leave the
girl in peace or I will cut your throat'?"
"No, but when I advised the senora to give her nephew a fright, you
opposed my advice, instead of supporting it."
"You are crazy with your talk about a fright."
"Because when the dog is dead the madness is at an end."
"I cannot advise what you call a fright, and what might be a terrible
"Yes; because I am a cut-throat, am I not, uncle?"
"You know that practical jokes are vulgar. Besides, do you suppose that
man would allow himself to be insulted? And his friends?"
"At night he goes out alone."
"How do you know that?"
"I know every thing; he does not take a step that I am not aware of; do
you understand? The widow De Cuzco keeps me informed of every thing."
"There, don't set me crazy. And who is going to give him that fright?
Let us hear."
"So that he is disposed--"
"No, but he will be if you command him."
"Come, niece, leave me in peace. I cannot command such an atrocity. A
fright! And what is that? Have you spoken to him already?"
"Yes, senor; but he paid no attention to me, or rather he refused.
There are only two people in Orbajosa who can make him do what they
wish by a simple order--you and Dona Perfecta."
"Let Dona Perfecta order him to do it if she wishes, then. I will never
advise the employment of violent and brutal measures. Will you believe
that when Caballuco and some of his followers were talking of rising up
in arms they could not draw a single word from me inciting them to
bloodshed. No, not that. If Dona Perfecta wishes to do it--"
"She will not do it, either. I talked with her for two hours this
afternoon and she said that she would preach war, and help it by every
means in her power; but that she would not bid one man stab another in
the back. She would be right in opposing it if anything serious were
intended, but I don't want any wounds; all I want is to give him a
"Well, if Dona Perfecta doesn't want to order a fright to be given to
the engineer, I don't either, do you understand? My conscience is
before every thing."
"Very well," returned his niece. "Tell Caballuco to come with me
to-night--that is all you need say to him."
"Are you going out to-night?"
"Yes, senor, I am going out. Why, didn't I go out last night too?"
"Last night? I didn't know it; if I had known it I should have been
angry; yes, senora."
"All you have to say to Caballuco is this: 'My dear Ramos, I will be
greatly obliged to you if you will accompany my niece on an errand
which she has to do to-night, and if you will protect her, if she
should chance to be in any danger.' "
"I can do that. To accompany you, to protect you. Ah, rogue! you want
to deceive me and make me your accomplice in some piece of villany."
"Of course--what do you suppose?" said Maria Remedios ironically.
"Between Ramos and me we are going to slaughter a great many people
"Don't jest! I tell you again that I will not advise Ramos to do any
thing that has the appearance of evil--I think he is outside."
A noise at the street-door was heard, then the voice of Caballuco
speaking to the servant, and a little later the hero of Orbajosa
entered the room.
"What is the news? Give us the news, Senor Ramos," said the priest.
"Come! If you don't give us some hope in exchange for your supper and
our hospitality---- What is going on in Villahorrenda?"
"Something," answered the bravo, seating himself with signs of fatigue.
"You shall soon see whether we are good for anything or not."
Like all persons who wish to make themselves appear important,
Caballuco made a show of great reserve.
"To-night, my friend, you shall take with you, if you wish, the money
they have given me for--"
"There is good need of it. If the soldiers should get scent of it,
however, they won't let me pass," said Ramos, with a brutal laugh.
"Hold your tongue, man. We know already that you pass whenever you
please. Why, that would be a pretty thing! The soldiers are not strait-
laced gentry, and if they should become troublesome, with a couple of
dollars, eh? Come, I see that you are not badly armed. All you want now
is an eight-pounder. Pistols, eh? And a dagger too."
"For any thing that might happen," said Caballuco, taking the weapon
from his belt and displaying its horrible blade.
"In the name of God and of the Virgin!" exclaimed Maria Remedios,
closing her eyes and turning her face in terror, "put away that thing.
The very sight of it terrifies me."
"If you won't take it ill of me," said Ramos, shutting the weapon, "let
us have supper."
Maria Remedios prepared every thing quickly, in order that the hero
might not become impatient.
"Listen to me a moment, Senor Ramos," said Don Inocencio to his guest,
when they had sat down to supper. "Have you a great deal to do
"Something there is to be done," responded the bravo. "This is the last
night I shall come to Orbajosa--the last. I have to look up some boys
who remained in the town, and we are going to see how we can get
possession of the saltpetre and the sulphur that are in the house of
"I asked you," said the curate amiably, filling his friend's plate,
"because my niece wishes you to accompany her a short distance. She has
some business or other to attend to, and it is a little late to be out
"Is she going to Dona Perfecta's?" asked Ramos. "I was there a few
moments ago, but I did not want to make any delay."
"How is the senora?"
"A little frightened. To-night I took away the six young men I had in
"Why! don't you think they will be wanted there?" said Remedios, with
"They are wanted more in Villahorrenda. Brave men chafe at being kept
in the house; is it not so, Senor Canon?"
"Senor Ramos, that house ought not to be left unprotected," said the
"The servants are enough, and more than enough. But do you suppose,
Senor Don Inocencio, that the brigadier employs himself in attacking
the people's houses?"
"Yes, but you know very well that that diabolical engineer----"
"For that--there are not wanting brooms in the house," said Cristobal
jovially. "For in the end, there will be no help for it but to marry
them. After what has passed----"
"Senor Ramos," said Remedios, with sudden anger, "I imagine that all
you know about marrying people is very little."
"I say that because a little while ago, when I was at the house, the
mother and daughter seemed to be having a sort of reconciliation. Dona
Perfecta was kissing Rosarito over and over again, and there was no end
to their caresses and endearments."
"Reconciliation! With all these preparations for the war you have lost
your senses. But, finally, are you coming with me or not?"
"It is not to Dona Perfecta's she wants to go," said the priest, "but
to the hotel of the widow De Cuzco. She was saying that she does not
dare to go alone, because she is afraid of being insulted."
"It is easily understood. By that infernal engineer. Last night my
niece met him there, and she gave him some plain talk; and for that
reason she is not altogether easy in her mind to-night. The young
fellow is revengeful and insolent."
"I don't know whether I can go," said Caballuco. "As I am in hiding now
I cannot measure my strength against Don Jose Poquita Cosa. If I were
not as I am--with half my face hidden, and the other half uncovered--I
would have broken his back for him already twenty times over. But what
happens if I attack him? He discovers who I am, he falls upon me with
the soldiers, and good-bye to Caballuco. As for giving him a
treacherous blow, that is something I couldn't do; nor would Dona
Perfecta consent to it, either. For a stab in the dark Cristobal Ramos
is not the man."
"But are you crazy, man? What are you thinking about?" said the
Penitentiary, with unmistakable signs of astonishment. "Not even in
thought would I advise you to do an injury to that gentleman. I would
cut my tongue out before I would advise such a piece of villany. The
wicked will fall, it is true; but it is God who will fix the moment,
not I. And the question is not to give a beating, either. I would
rather receive a hundred blows myself than advise the administration of
such a medicine to any Christian. One thing only will I say to you," he
ended, looking at the bravo over his spectacles, "and that is, that as
my niece is going there; and as it is probable, very probable, is it
not, Remedios? that she may have to say a few plain words to that man,
I recommend you not to leave her unprotected, in case she should be
"I have something to do to-night," answered Caballuco, laconically and
"You hear what he says, Remedios. Leave your business for to-morrow."
"I can't do that. I will go alone."
"No, you shall not go alone, niece. Now let us hear no more about the
matter. Senor Ramos has something to do, and he cannot accompany you.
Fancy if you were to be insulted by that rude man!"
"Insulted! A lady insulted by that fellow!" exclaimed Caballuco. "Come
that must not be."