Part 5 out of 5
"If you had not something to do--bah! I should be quite easy in my
"I have something to do," said the Centaur, rising from the table, "but
if you wish it----"
There was a pause. The Penitentiary had closed his eyes and was
"I wish it, Senor Ramos," he said at last.
"There is no more to be said then. Let us go, Senora Dona Maria."
"Now, my dear niece," said Don Inocencio, half seriously, half
jestingly, "since we have finished supper bring me the basin."
He gave his niece a penetrating glance, and accompanying it with the
corresponding action, pronounced these words:
"I wash my hands of the matter."
FROM PEPE REY TO DON JUAN REY
"ORBAJOSA, April 12.
"MY DEAR FATHER:
"Forgive me if for the first time in my life I disobey you in refusing
to leave this place or to renounce my project. Your advice and your
entreaty are what were to be expected from a kind, good father. My
obstinacy is natural in an insensate son; but something strange is
taking place within me; obstinacy and honor have become so blended and
confounded in my mind that the bare idea of desisting from my purpose
makes me ashamed. I have changed greatly. The fits of rage that agitate
me now were formerly unknown to me. I regarded the violent acts, the
exaggerated expressions of hot-tempered and impetuous men with the same
scorn as the brutal actions of the wicked. Nothing of this kind
surprises me any longer, for in myself I find at all times a certain
terrible capacity for wickedness. I can speak to you as I would speak
to God and to my conscience; I can tell you that I am a wretch, for he
is a wretch who is wanting in that powerful moral force which enables
him to chastise his passions and submit his life to the stern rule of
conscience. I have been wanting in the Christian fortitude which exalts
the spirit of the man who is offended above the offences which he
receives and the enemies from whom he receives them. I have had the
weakness to abandon myself to a mad fury, putting myself on a level
with my detractors, returning them blow for blow, and endeavoring to
confound them by methods learned in their own base school. How deeply I
regret that you were not at my side to turn me from this path! It is
now too late. The passions will not brook delay. They are impatient,
and demand their prey with cries and with the convulsive eagerness of a
fierce moral thirst. I have succumbed. I cannot forget what you so
often said to me, that anger may be called the worst of the passions,
since, suddenly transforming the character, it engenders all the
others, and lends to each its own infernal fire.
"But it is not anger alone that has brought me to the state of mind
which I have described. A more expansive and noble sentiment--the
profound and ardent love which I have for my cousin, has also
contributed to it, and this is the one thing that absolves me in my own
estimation. But if love had not done so, pity would have impelled me to
brave the fury and the intrigues of your terrible sister; for poor
Rosario, placed between an irresistible affection and her mother, is at
the present moment one of the most unhappy beings on the face of the
earth. The love which she has for me, and which responds to mine--does
it not give me the right to open, in whatever way I can, the doors of
her house and take her out of it; employing the law, as far as the law
reaches, and using force at the point where the law ceases to support
me? I think that your rigid moral scrupulosity will not give an
affirmative answer to this question; but I have ceased to be the
upright and methodical character whose conscience was in exact
conformity with the dictates of the moral law. I am no longer the man
whom an almost perfect education enabled to keep his emotions under
strict control. To-day I am a man like other men; at a single step I
have crossed the line which separates the just and the good from the
unjust and the wicked. Prepare yourself to hear of some dreadful act
committed by me. I will take care to notify you of all my misdeeds.
"But the confession of my faults will not relieve me from the
responsibility of the serious occurrences which have taken place and
which are taking place, nor will this responsibility, no matter how
much I may argue, fall altogether on your sister. Dona Perfecta's
responsibility is certainly very great. What will be the extent of
mine! Ah, dear father! believe nothing of what you hear about me;
believe only what I shall tell you. If they tell you that I have
committed a deliberate piece of villany, answer that it is a lie. It is
difficult, very difficult, for me to judge myself, in the state of
disquietude in which I am, but I dare assure you that I have not
deliberately given cause for scandal. You know well to what extremes
passion can lead when circumstances favor its fierce, its all-invading
"What is most bitter to me is the thought of having employed artifice,
deceit, and base concealments--I who was truth itself. I am humiliated
in my own estimation. But is this the greatest perversity into which
the soul can fall? Am I beginning now, or have I ended? I cannot tell.
If Rosario with her angelic hand does not take me out of this hell of
my conscience, I desire that you should come to take me out of it. My
cousin is an angel, and suffering, as she has done, for my sake, she
has taught me a great many things that I did not know before.
"Do not be surprised at the incoherence of what I write. Diverse
emotions inflame me; thoughts at times assail me truly worthy of my
immortal soul; but at times also I fall into a lamentable state of
dejection, and I am reminded of the weak and degenerate characters
whose baseness you have painted to me in such strong colors, in order
that I might abhor them. In the state in which I am to-day I am ready
for good or for evil. God have pity upon me! I already know what prayer
is--a solemn and reflexive supplication, so personal that it is not
compatible with formulas learned by heart; an expansion of the soul
which dares to reach out toward its source; the opposite of remorse, in
which the soul, at war with itself, seeks in vain to defend itself by
sophisms and concealments. You have taught me many good things, but now
I am practising; as we engineers say, I am studying on the ground; and
in this way my knowledge will become broadened and confirmed. I begin
to imagine now that I am not so wicked as I myself believe. Am I right?
"I end this letter in haste. I must send it with some soldiers who are
going in the direction of the station at Villahorrenda, for the post-
office of this place is not to be trusted."
"It would amuse you, dear father, if I could make you understand the
ideas of the people of this wretched town. You know already that almost
all the country is up in arms. It was a thing to be anticipated, and
the politicians are mistaken if they imagine that it will be over in a
couple of days. Hostility to us and to the Government is innate in the
Orbajosan's mind, and forms a part of it as much as his religious
faith. Confining myself to the particular question with my aunt, I will
tell you a singular thing--the poor lady, who is penetrated by the
spirit of feudalism to the marrow of her bones, has taken it into her
head that I am going to attack her house and carry off her daughter, as
the gentlemen of the Middle Ages attacked an enemy's castle to
consummate some outrage. Don't laugh, for it is the truth--such are the
ideas of these people. I need not tell you that she regards me as a
monster, as a sort of heretic Moorish king, and of the officers here
who are my friends she has no better opinion. In Dona Perfecta's house
it is a matter of firm belief that the army and I have formed a
diabolical and anti-religious coalition to rob Orbajosa of its
treasures, its faith, and its maidens. I am sure that your sister
firmly believes that I am going to take her house by assault, and there
is not a doubt but that behind the door some barricade has been
"But it could not be otherwise. Here they have the most antiquated
ideas respecting society, religion, the state, property. The religious
exaltation which impels them to employ force against the Government, to
defend a faith which no one has attacked, and which, besides, they do
not possess, revives in their mind the feudal sentiment; and as they
would settle every question by brute force, with the sword and with
fire, killing all who do not think as they do, they believe that no one
in the world employs other methods.
"Far from intending to perform quixotic deeds in this lady's house, I
have in reality saved her some annoyances from which the rest of the
town have not escaped. Owing to my friendship with the brigadier she
has not been obliged to present, as was ordered, a list of those of the
men in her service who have joined the insurgents; and if her house was
searched I have certain knowledge that it was only for form's sake; and
if the six men there were disarmed, they have been replaced by six
others, and nothing has been done to her. You see to what my hostility
to that lady is reduced.
"It is true that I have the support of the military chiefs, but I make
use of it solely to escape being insulted or ill-used by these
implacable people. The probabilities of my success consist in the fact
that the authorities recently appointed by the commander of the brigade
are all my friends. I derive from them the moral force which enables me
to intimidate these people. I don't know whether I shall find myself
compelled to commit some violent action; but don't be alarmed, for the
assault and the taking of the house is altogether a wild, feudal idea
of your sister. Chance has placed me in an advantageous position. Rage,
the passion that burns within me, will impel me to profit by it. I
don't know how far I may go."
"Your letter has given me great consolation. Yes; I can attain my
object, employing only the resources of the law, which will be
completely effectual for it. I have consulted the authorities of this
place, and they all approve of the course you indicate. I am very glad
of it. Since I have put into my cousin's mind the idea of disobedience,
let it at least be under the protection of the law. I will do what you
bid me, that is to say I will renounce the somewhat unworthy
collaboration of Pinzon; I will break up the terrorizing solidarity
which I established with the soldiers; I will cease to make a display
of the power I derived from them; I will have done with adventures, and
at the fitting moment I will act with calmness, prudence, and all the
benignity possible. It is better so. My coalition, half-serious, half-
jesting, with the army, had for its object to protect me against the
violence of the Orbajosans and of the servants and the relations of my
aunt. For the rest, I have always disapproved of the idea of what we
call armed intervention.
"The friend who aided me has been obliged to leave the house; but I am
not entirely cut off from communication with my cousin. The poor girl
shows heroic valor in the midst of her sufferings, and will obey me
"Set your mind at rest about my personal safety. For my part, I have no
fear and I am quite tranquil."
"To-day I can write only a few lines. I have a great deal to do. All
will be ended within two or three days. Don't write to me again to this
miserable town. I shall soon have the happiness of embracing you.
FROM PEPE REY TO ROSARITO POLENTINOS
"Give Estebanillo the key of the garden and charge him to take care
about the dog. The boy is mine, body and soul. Fear nothing! I shall be
very sorry if you cannot come down stairs as you did the other night.
Do all you can to manage it. I will be in the garden a little after
midnight. I will then tell you what course I have decided upon, and
what you are to do. Tranquillize your mind, my dear girl, for I have
abandoned all imprudent or violent expedients. I will tell you every
thing when I see you. There is much to tell; and it must be spoken, not
written. I can picture to myself your terror and anxiety at the thought
of my being so near you. But it is a week since I have seen you. I have
sworn that this separation from you shall soon be ended, and it will be
ended. My heart tells me that I shall see you. I swear that I will see
BEATING UP THE GAME
A man and a woman entered the hotel of the widow De Cuzco a little
after ten o'clock, and left it at half-past eleven.
"Now, Senora Dona Maria," said the man, "I will take you to your house,
for I have something to do."
"Wait, Senor Ramos, for the love of God!" she answered. "Why don't we
go to the Casino to see if he comes out? You heard just now that
Estebanillo, the boy that works in the garden, was talking with him
"But are you looking for Don Jose?" asked the Centaur, with ill-humor.
"What have we to do with him? The courtship with Dona Rosario ended as
it was bound to end, and now there is nothing for it but for my mother
to marry them. That is my opinion."
"You are a fool!" said Remedios angrily.
"Senora, I am going."
"Why, you rude man, are you going to leave me alone in the street?"
"Yes, senora, unless you go home at once."
"That's right--leave me alone, exposed to be insulted! Listen to me,
Senor Ramos. Don Jose will come out of the Casino in a moment, as
usual. I want to see whether he goes into his hotel or goes past it. It
is a fancy of mine, only a fancy."
"What I know is that I have something to do, and that it is near twelve
"Silence!" said Remedios. "Let us hide ourselves around the corner. A
man is coming down the Calle de la Triperia Alta. It is he!"
"Don Jose! I know him by his walk."
"Let us follow him," said Maria Remedios with anxiety. "Let us follow
him at a little distance, Ramos."
"Only a minute, then, Dona Remedios. After that I must go."
They walked on about thirty paces, keeping at a moderate distance
behind the man they were watching. The Penitentiary's niece stopped
then and said:
"He is not going into his hotel."
"He may be going to the brigadier's."
"The brigadier lives up the street, and Don Pepe is going down in the
direction of the senora's house."
"Of the senora's house!" exclaimed Caballuco, quickening his steps.
But they were mistaken. The man whom they were watching passed the
house of Polentinos and walked on.
"Do you see that you were wrong?"
"Senor Ramos, let us follow him!" said Remedios, pressing the Centaur's
hand convulsively. "I have a foreboding."
"We shall soon know, for we are near the end of the town."
"Don't go so fast--he may see us. It is as I thought, Senor Ramos; he
is going into the garden by the condemned door."
"Senora, you have lost your senses!"
"Come on, and we shall see."
The night was dark, and the watchers could not tell precisely at what
point Senor de Rey had entered; but a grating of rusty hinges which
they heard, and the circumstance of not meeting the young man in the
whole length of the garden wall, convinced them that he had entered the
garden. Caballuco looked at his companion with stupefaction. He seemed
"What are you thinking about? Do you still doubt?"
"What ought I to do?" asked the bravo, covered with confusion. "Shall
we give him a fright? I don't know what the senora would think about
it. I say that because I was at her house this evening, and it seemed
to me that the mother and daughter had become reconciled."
"Don't be a fool! Why don't you go in?"
"Now I remember that the armed men are not there; I told them to leave
"And this block of marble still doubts what he ought to do! Ramos, go
into the garden and don't be a coward."
"How can I go in if the door is closed?"
"Get over the wall. What a snail! If I were a man----"
"Well, then, up! There are some broken bricks here where the boys climb
over the wall to steal the fruit."
"Up quickly! I will go and knock at the front door to waken the senora,
if she should be asleep."
The Centaur climbed up, not without difficulty. He sat astride on the
wall for an instant, and then disappeared among the dark foliage of the
trees. Maria Remedios ran desperately toward the Calle del Condestable,
and, seizing the knocker of the front door, knocked--knocked three
times with all her heart and soul.
See with what tranquillity Senora Dona Perfecta pursues her occupation
of writing. Enter her room, and, notwithstanding the lateness of the
hour, you will surprise her busily engaged, her mind divided between
meditation and the writing of several long and carefully worded
epistles traced with a firm hand, every hair-stroke of every letter in
which is correctly formed. The light of the lamp falls full upon her
face and bust and hands, its shade leaving the rest of her person and
almost the whole of the room in a soft shadow. She seems like a
luminous figure evoked by the imagination from amid the vague shadows
It is strange that we should not have made before this a very important
statement, which is that Dona Perfecta was handsome, or rather that she
was still handsome, her face preserving the remains of former beauty.
The life of the country, her total lack of vanity, her disregard for
dress and personal adornment, her hatred of fashion, her contempt for
the vanities of the capital, were all causes why her native beauty did
not shine or shone very little. The intense shallowness of her
complexion, indicating a very bilious constitution, still further
impaired her beauty.
Her eyes black and well-opened, her nose finely and delicately shaped,
her forehead broad and smooth, she was considered by all who saw her as
a finished type of the human figure; but there rested on those features
a certain hard and proud expression which excited a feeling of
antipathy. As some persons, although ugly, attract; Dona Perfecta
repelled. Her glance, even when accompanied by amiable words, placed
between herself and those who were strangers to her the impassable
distance of a mistrustful respect; but for those of her house--that is
to say, for her relations, admirers, and allies--she possessed a
singular attraction. She was a mistress in governing, and no one could
equal her in the art of adapting her language to the person whom she
Her bilious temperament and an excessive association with devout
persons and things, which excited her imagination without object or
result, had aged her prematurely, and although she was still young she
did not seem so. It might be said of her that with her habits and
manner of life she had wrought a sort of rind, a stony, insensible
covering within which she shut herself, like the snail within his
portable house. Dona Perfecta rarely came out of her shell.
Her irreproachable habits, and that outward amiability which we have
observed in her from the moment of her appearance in our story, were
the causes of the great prestige which she enjoyed in Orbajosa. She
kept up relations, besides, with some excellent ladies in Madrid, and
it was through their means that she obtained the dismissal of her
nephew. At the moment which we have now arrived in our story, we find
her seated at her desk, which is the sole confidant of her plans and
the depository of her numerical accounts with the peasants, and of her
moral accounts with God and with society. There she wrote the letters
which her brother received every three months; there she composed the
notes that incited the judge and the notary to embroil Pepe Rey in
lawsuits; there she prepared the plot through which the latter lost the
confidence of the Government; there she held long conferences with Don
Inocencio. To become acquainted with the scene of others of her actions
whose effects we have observed, it would be necessary to follow her to
the episcopal palace and to the houses of various of her friends.
We do not know what Dona Perfecta would have been, loving. Hating, she
had the fiery vehemence of an angel of hatred and discord among men.
Such is the effect produced on a character naturally hard, and without
inborn goodness, by religious exaltation, when this, instead of drawing
its nourishment from conscience and from truth revealed in principles
as simple as they are beautiful, seeks its sap in narrow formulas
dictated solely by ecclesiastical interests. In order that religious
fanaticism should be inoffensive, the heart in which it exists must be
very pure. It is true that even in that case it is unproductive of
good. But the hearts that have been born without the seraphic purity
which establishes a premature Limbo on the earth, are careful not to
become greatly inflamed with what they see in retables, in choirs, in
locutories and sacristies, unless they have first erected in their own
consciences an altar, a pulpit, and a confessional.
Dona Perfecta left her writing from time to time, to go into the
adjoining room where her daughter was. Rosarito had been ordered to
sleep, but, already precipitated down the precipice of disobedience,
she was awake.
"Why don't you sleep?" her mother asked her. "I don't intend to go to
bed to-night. You know already that Caballuco has taken away with him
the men we had here. Something might happen, and I will keep watch. If
I did not watch what would become of us both?"
"What time is it?" asked the girl.
"It will soon be midnight. Perhaps you are not afraid, but I am."
Rosarito was trembling, and every thing about her denoted the keenest
anxiety. She lifted her eyes to heaven supplicatingly, and then turned
them on her mother with a look of the utmost terror.
"Why, what is the matter with you?"
"Did you not say it was midnight?"
"Then---- But is it already midnight?"
Rosario made an effort to speak, then shook her head, on which the
weight of a world was pressing.
"Something is the matter with you; you have something on your mind,"
said her mother, fixing on her daughter her penetrating eyes.
"Yes--I wanted to tell you," stammered the girl, "I wanted to say----
Nothing, nothing, I will go to sleep."
"Rosario, Rosario! your mother can read your heart like an open book,"
exclaimed Dona Perfecta with severity. "You are agitated. I have told
you already that I am willing to pardon you if you will repent; if you
are a good and sensible girl."
"Why, am I not good? Ah, mamma, mamma! I am dying!"
Rosario burst into a flood of bitter and disconsolate tears.
"What are these tears about?" said her mother, embracing her. "If they
are tears of repentance, blessed be they."
"I don't repent, I can't repent!" cried the girl, in a burst of sublime
She lifted her head and in her face was depicted a sudden inspired
strength. Her hair fell in disorder over her shoulders. Never was there
seen a more beautiful image of a rebellious angel.
"What is this? Have you lost your senses?" said Dona Perfecta, laying
both her hands on her daughter's shoulders.
"I am going away, I am going away!" said the girl, with the exaltation
And she sprang out of bed.
"Rosario, Rosario---- My daughter! For God's sake, what is this?"
"Ah, mamma, senora!" exclaimed the girl, embracing her mother; "bind me
"In truth you would deserve it. What madness is this?"
"Bind me fast! I am going away--I am going away with him!"
Dona Perfecta felt a flood of fire surging from her heart up to her
lips. She controlled herself, however, and answered her daughter only
with her eyes, blacker than the night.
"Mamma, mamma, I hate all that is not he!" exclaimed Rosario. "Hear my
confession, for I wish to confess it to every one, and to you first of
"You are going to kill me; you are killing me!"
"I want to confess it, so that you may pardon me. This weight, this
weight that is pressing me down, will not let me live."
"The weight of a sin! Add to it the malediction of God, and see if you
can carry that burden about with you, wretched girl! Only I can take it
"No, not you, not you!" cried Rosario, with desperation. "But hear me;
I want to confess it all, all! Afterward, turn me out of this house
where I was born."
"I turn you out!"
"I will go away, then."
"Still less. I will teach you a daughter's duty, which you have
"I will fly, then; he will take me with him!"
"Has he told you to do so? has he counselled you to do that? has he
commanded you to do that?" asked the mother, launching these words like
thunderbolts against her daughter.
"He has counselled me to do it. We have agreed to be married. We must
be married, mamma, dear mamma. I will love you--I know that I ought to
love you--I shall be forever lost if I do not love you."
She wrung her hands, and falling on her knees kissed her mother's feet.
"Rosario, Rosario!" cried Dona Perfecta, in a terrible voice, "rise!"
There was a short pause.
"This man--has he written to you?"
"And have you seen him again since that night?"
"And you have written to him!"
"I have written to him also. Oh, senora! why do you look at me in that
way? You are not my mother.
"Would to God that I were not! Rejoice in the harm you are doing me.
You are killing me; you have given me my death-blow!" cried Dona
Perfecta, with indescribable agitation. "You say that this man--"
"Is my husband--I will be his wife, protected by the law. You are not a
woman! Why do you look at me in that way? You make me tremble. Mother,
mother, do not condemn me!"
"You have already condemned yourself--that is enough. Obey me, and I
will forgive you. Answer me--when did you receive letters from that
"What treachery! What infamy!" cried her mother, roaring rather than
speaking. "Had you appointed a meeting?"
"Here, here! I will confess every thing, every thing! I know it is a
crime. I am a wretch; but you who are my mother will take me out of
this hell. Give your consent. Say one word to me, only one word!"
"That man here in my house!" cried Dona Perfecta, springing back
several paces from her daughter.
Rosario followed her on her knees. At the same instant three blows were
heard, three crashes, three reports. It was the heart of Maria Remedios
knocking at the door through the knocker. The house trembled with awful
dread. Mother and daughter stood motionless as statues.
A servant went down stairs to open the door, and shortly afterward
Maria Remedios, who was not now a woman but a basilisk enveloped in a
mantle, entered Dona Perfecta's room. Her face, flushed with anxiety,
"He is there, he is there!" she said, as she entered. "He got into the
garden through the condemned door."
She paused for breath at every syllable.
"I know already," returned Dona Perfecta, with a sort of bellow.
Rosario fell senseless on the floor.
"Let us go down stairs," said Dona Perfecta, without paying any
attention to her daughter's swoon.
The two women glided down stairs like two snakes. The maids and the
man-servant were in the hall, not knowing what to do. Dona Perfecta
passed through the dining-room into the garden, followed by Maria
"Fortunately we have Ca-Ca-Ca-balluco there," said the canon's niece.
"In the garden, also. He cli-cli-climbed over the wall."
Dona Perfecta explored the darkness with her wrathful eyes. Rage gave
them the singular power of seeing in the dark peculiar to the feline
"I see a figure there," she said. "It is going toward the oleanders."
"It is he!" cried Remedios. "But there comes Ramos--Ramos!"
The colossal figure of the Centaur was plainly distinguishable.
"Toward the oleanders, Ramos! Toward the oleanders!"
Dona Perfecta took a few steps forward. Her hoarse voice, vibrating
with a terrible accent, hissed forth these words:
"Cristobal, Cristobal--kill him!"
A shot was heard. Then another.
From Don Cayetano Polentinos to a friend in Madrid:
"ORBAJOSA, April 21.
"MY DEAR FRIEND:
"Send me without delay the edition of 1562 that you say you have picked
up at the executor's sale of the books of Corchuelo. I will pay any
price for that copy. I have been long searching for it in vain, and I
shall esteem myself the most enviable of virtuosos in possessing it.
You ought to find in the colophon a helmet with a motto over the word
'Tractado,' and the tail of the X of the date MDLXII ought to be
crooked. If your copy agrees with these signs send me a telegraphic
despatch at once, for I shall be very anxious until I receive it. But
now I remember that, on account of these vexatious and troublesome
wars, the telegraph is not working. I shall await your answer by return
"I shall soon go to Madrid for the purpose of having my long delayed
work, the 'Genealogies of Orbajosa,' printed. I appreciate your
kindness, my dear friend, but I cannot accept your too flattering
expressions. My work does not indeed deserve the high encomiums you
bestow upon it; it is a work of patience and study, a rude but solid
and massive monument which I shall have erected to the past glories of
my beloved country. Plain and humble in its form, it is noble in the
idea that inspired it, which was solely to direct the eyes of this
proud and unbelieving generation to the marvellous deeds and the pure
virtues of our forefathers. Would that the studious youth of our
country might take the step to which with all my strength I incite
them! Would that the abominable studies and methods of reasoning
introduced by philosophic license and erroneous doctrines might be
forever cast into oblivion! Would that our learned men might occupy
themselves exclusively in the contemplation of those glorious ages, in
order that, this generation being penetrated with their essence and
their beneficent sap, its insane eagerness for change, and its
ridiculous mania for appropriating to itself foreign ideas which
conflict with our beautiful national constitution, might disappear. I
fear greatly that among the crowd of mad youth who pursue vain Utopias
and heathenish novelties, my desires are not destined to be fulfilled,
and that the contemplation of the illustrious virtues of the past will
remain confined within the same narrow circle as to-day. What is to be
done, my friend? I am afraid that very soon our poor Spain is doomed to
be so disfigured that she will not be able to recognize herself, even
beholding herself in the bright mirror of her stainless history.
"I do not wish to close this letter without informing you of a
disagreeable event--the unfortunate death of an estimable young man,
well known in Madrid, the civil engineer Don Jose de Rey, a nephew of
my sister-in-law. This melancholy event occurred last night in the
garden of our house, and I have not yet been able to form a correct
judgment regarding the causes that may have impelled the unfortunate
Rey to this horrible and criminal act. According to what Perfecta told
me this morning, on my return from Mundo Grande, Pepe Rey at about
twelve o'clock last night entered the garden of the house and shot
himself in the right temple, expiring instantly. Imagine the
consternation and alarm which such an event would produce in this
peaceable and virtuous mansion. Poor Perfecta was so greatly affected
that we were for a time alarmed about her; but she is better now, and
this afternoon we succeeded in inducing her to take a little broth. We
employ every means of consoling her, and as she is a good Christian,
she knows how to support with edifying resignation even so great a
misfortune as this.
"Between you and me, my friend, I will say here that in young Rey's
fatal attempt upon his life, I believe the moving causes to have been
an unfortunate attachment, perhaps remorse for his conduct, and the
state of hypochondriasm into which he had fallen. I esteemed him
greatly; I think he was not lacking in excellent qualities; but he was
held in such disrepute here that never once have I heard any one speak
well of him. According to what they say, he made a boast of the most
extravagant ideas and opinions; he mocked at religion, entered the
church smoking and with his hat on; he respected nothing, and for him
there was neither modesty, nor virtue, nor soul, nor ideal, nor faith--
nothing but theodolites, squares, rules, engines, pick-axes, and
spades. What do you thing of that? To be just, I must say that in his
conversations with me he always concealed these ideas, doubtless
through fear of being utterly routed by the fire of my arguments; but
in public innumerable stories are told of his heretical ideas and his
"I cannot continue, my dear friend, for at this moment I hear firing.
As I have no love for fighting, and as I am not a soldier, my pulse
trembles a little. In due time I will give you further particulars of
"Yours affectionately, etc., etc."
"MY EVER-REMEMBERED FRIEND:
"To-day we have had a bloody skirmish on the outskirts of Orbajosa. The
large body of men raised in Villahorrenda were attacked by the troops
with great fury. There was great loss in killed and wounded on both
sides. After the combat the brave guerillas dispersed, but they are
greatly encouraged, and it is possible that you may hear of wonderful
things. Cristobal Caballuco, the son of the famous Caballuco whom you
will remember in the last war, though suffering from a wound in the
arm, how or when received is not known, commanded them. The present
leader has eminent qualifications for the command; and he is, besides,
an honest and simple-hearted man. As we must finally come to a friendly
arrangement, I presume that Caballuco will be made a general in the
Spanish army, whereby both sides will gain greatly.
"I deplore this war, which is beginning to assume alarming proportions;
but I recognize that our valiant peasants are not responsible for it,
since they have been provoked to the inhuman conflict by the audacity
of the Government, by the demoralization of its sacrilegious
delegates; by the systematic fury with which the representatives of the
state attack what is most venerated by the people--their religious
faith and the national spirit which fortunately still exists in those
places that are not yet contaminated by the desolating pestilence. When
it is attempted to take away the soul of a people to give it a
different one; when it is sought to denationalize a people, so to say,
perverting its sentiments, its customs, its ideas--it is natural that
this people should defend itself, like the man who is attacked by
highwaymen on a solitary road. Let the spirit and the pure and
salutiferous substance of my work on the 'Genealogies'--excuse the
apparent vanity--once reach the sphere of the Government and there will
no longer be wars.
"To-day we have had here a very disagreeable question. The clergy, my
friend, have refused to allow Rey to be buried in consecrated ground. I
interfered in the matter, entreating the bishop to remove this heavy
anathema, but without success. Finally, we buried the body of the young
man in a grave made in the field of Mundo Grande, where my patient
explorations have discovered the archaeological treasures of which you
know. I spent some very sad hours, and the painful impression which I
received has not yet altogether passed away. Don Juan Tafetan and
ourselves were the only persons who accompanied the funeral cortege. A
little later, strange to say, the girls whom they call here the Troyas
went to the field, and prayed for a long time beside the rustic tomb of
the mathematician. Although this seemed a ridiculous piece of
officiousness it touched me.
"With respect to the death of Rey, the rumor circulates throughout the
town that he was assassinated, but by whom is not known. It is asserted
that he declared this to be the case, for he lived for about an hour
and a half. According to what they say, he refused to reveal the name
of his murderer. I repeat this version, without either contradicting or
supporting it. Perfecta does not wish this matter to be spoken of, and
she becomes greatly distressed whenever I allude to it.
"Poor woman! no sooner had one misfortune occurred than she met with
another, which has grieved us all deeply. My friend, the fatal malady
that has been for so many generations connatural in our family has now
claimed another victim. Poor Rosario, who, thanks to our cares, was
improving gradually in her health, has entirely lost her reason. Her
incoherent words, her frenzy, her deadly pallor, bring my mother and my
sister forcibly to my mind. This is the most serious case that I have
witnessed in our family, for the question here is not one of mania but
of real insanity. It is sad, terribly sad that out of so many I should
be the only one to escape, preserving a sound mind with all my
faculties unimpaired and entirely free from any sign of that fatal
"I have not been able to give your remembrances to Don Inocencio, for
the poor man has suddenly fallen ill and refuses to see even his most
intimate friends. But I am sure that he would return your remembrances,
and I do not doubt that he could lay his hand instantly on the
translation of the collection of Latin epigrams which you recommend to
him. I hear firing again. They say that we shall have a skirmish this
afternoon. The troops have just been called out."
"BARCELONA, June 1.
"I have just arrived here after leaving my niece in San Baudilio de
Llobregat. The director of the establishment has assured me that the
case is incurable. She will, however, have the greatest care in that
cheerful and magnificent sanitarium. My dear friend, if I also should
ever succumb, let me be taken to San Baudilio. I hope to find the
proofs of my 'Genealogies' awaiting me on my return. I intend to add
six pages more, for it would be a great mistake not to publish my
reasons for maintaining that Mateo Diez Coronel, author of the 'Metrico
Encomio,' is descended, on the mother's side, from the Guevaras, and
not from the Burguillos, as the author of the 'Floresta Amena'
"I write this letter principally for the purpose of giving you a
caution. I have heard several persons here speaking of Pepe Rey's
death, and they describe it exactly as it occurred. The secret of the
manner of his death, which I learned some time after the event, I
revealed to you in confidence when we met in Madrid. It has appeared
strange to me that having told it to no one but yourself, it should be
known here in all its details--how he entered the garden; how he fired
on Caballuco when the latter attacked him with his dagger; how Ramos
then fired on him with so sure an aim that he fell to the ground
mortally wounded. In short, my dear friend, in case you should have
inadvertently spoken of this to any one, I will remind you that it is a
family secret, and that will be sufficient for a person as prudent and
discreet as yourself.
"Joy! joy! I have just read in one of the papers here that Caballuco
had defeated Brigadier Batalla."
"ORBAJOSA, December 12.
"I have a sad piece of news to give you. The Penitentiary has ceased to
exist for us; not precisely because he has passed to a better life, but
because the poor man has been, ever since last April, so grief-
stricken, so melancholy, so taciturn that you would not know him. There
is no longer in him even a trace of that Attic humor, that decorous and
classic joviality which made him so pleasing. He shuns every body; he
shuts himself up in his house and receives no one; he hardly eats any
thing, and he has broken off all intercourse with the world. If you
were to see him now you would not recognize him, for he is reduced to
skin and bone. The strangest part of the matter is that he has
quarreled with his niece and lives alone, entirely alone, in a
miserable cottage in the suburb of Baidejos. They say now that he will
resign his chair in the choir of the cathedral and go to Rome. Ah!
Orbajosa will lose much in losing her great Latinist. I imagine that
many a year will pass before we shall see such another. Our glorious
Spain is falling into decay, declining, dying."
"ORBAJOSA, December 23.
"The young man who will present to you a letter of introduction from me
is the nephew of our dear Penitentiary, a lawyer with some literary
ability. Carefully educated by his uncle, he has very sensible ideas.
How regrettable it would be if he should become corrupted in that sink
of philosophy and incredulity! He is upright, industrious, and a good
Catholic, for which reasons I believe that in an office like yours he
will rise to distinction in his profession. Perhaps his ambition may
lead him (for he has ambition, too) into the political arena, and I
think he would not be a bad acquisition to the cause of order and
tradition, now that the majority of our young men have become perverted
and have joined the ranks of the turbulent and the vicious. He is
accompanied by his mother, a commonplace woman without any social
polish, but who has an excellent heart, and who is truly pious.
Maternal affection takes in her the somewhat extravagant form of
worldly ambition, and she declares that her son will one day be
Minister. It is quite possible that he may.
"Perfecta desires to be remembered to you. I donít know precisely what
is the matter with her; but the fact is, she gives us great uneasiness.
She has lost her appetite to an alarming degree, and, unless I am
greatly mistaken in my opinion of her case, she shows the first
symptoms of jaundice. The house is very sad without Rosarito, who
brightened it with her smiles and her angelic goodness. A black cloud
seems to rest now over us all. Poor Perfecta speaks frequently of this
cloud, which is growing blacker and blacker, while she becomes every
day more yellow. The poor mother finds consolation for her grief in
religion and in devotional exercises, which each day she practises with
a more exemplary and edifying piety. She passes almost the whole of the
day in church, and she spends her large income in novenas and in
splendid religious ceremonies. Thanks to her, religious worship has
recovered in Orbajosa its former splendor. This is some consolation in
the midst of the decay and dissolution of our nationality.
"To-morrow I will send the proofs. I will add a few pages more, for I
have discovered another illustrious Orbajosan--Bernardo Amador de Sota,
who was footman to the Duke of Osuna, whom he served during the period
of the vice-royalty of Naples; and there is even good reason to believe
that he had no complicity whatever in the conspiracy against Venice."
Our story is ended. This is all we have to say for the present
concerning persons who seem, but are not good.