by B. Perez Galdos
Translated from the Spanish by Mary J. Serrano
CHAPTER II. A
JOURNEY IN THE
HEART OF SPAIN
CHAPTER IV. THE
ARRIVAL OF THE
CHAPTER V. WILL
CHAPTER VI. IN
WHICH IT IS SEEN
ARISE WHEN LEAST
CHAPTER VII. THE
CHAPTER VIII. IN
CHAPTER IX. THE
CHAPTER X. THE
CHAPTER XI. THE
HERE WAS TROY
CHAPTER XIII. A
CHAPTER XIV. THE
GROW UNTIL WAR
LIGHT IN THE
CHAPTER XIX. A
CHAPTER XXI. "DESPERTA
CHAPTER XXII. "DESPERTA!"
CHAPTER XXVII. A
FROM PEPE REY TO
DON JUAN REY
FROM PEPE REY TO
BEATING UP THE
The very acute and lively Spanish critic who signs himself Clarin,
and is known personally as Don Leopoldo Alas, says the present Spanish
novel has no yesterday, but only a day-before-yesterday. It does not
derive from the romantic novel which immediately preceded that: the
novel, large or little, as it was with Cervantes, Hurtado de Mendoza,
Quevedo, and the masters of picaresque fiction.
Clarin dates its renascence from the political revolution of 1868,
which gave Spanish literature the freedom necessary to the fiction
that studies to reflect modern life, actual ideas, and current
aspirations; and though its authors were few at first, "they have
never been adventurous spirits, friends of Utopia, revolutionists, or
impatient progressists and reformers." He thinks that the most daring,
the most advanced, of the new Spanish novelists, and the best by far,
is Don Benito Perez Galdos.
I should myself have made my little exception in favor of Don
Armando Palacio Valdes, but Clarin speaks with infinitely more
authority, and I am certainly ready to submit when he goes on to say
that Galdos is not a social or literary insurgent; that he has no
political or religious prejudices; that he shuns extremes, and is
charmed with prudence; that his novels do not attack the Catholic
dogmas—though they deal so severely with Catholic bigotry—but the
customs and ideas cherished by secular fanaticism to the injury of the
Church. Because this is so evident, our critic holds, his novels are
"found in the bosom of families in every corner of Spain." Their
popularity among all classes in Catholic and prejudiced Spain, and not
among free- thinking students merely, bears testimony to the fact that
his aim and motive are understood and appreciated, although his
stories are apparently so often anti-Catholic.
Dona Perfecta is, first of all, a story, and a great story, but it
is certainly also a story that must appear at times potently, and even
bitterly, anti-Catholic. Yet it would be a pity and an error to read
it with the preoccupation that it was an anti-Catholic tract, for
really it is not that. If the persons were changed in name and place,
and modified in passion to fit a cooler air, it might equally seem an
anti-Presbyterian or anti-Baptist tract; for what it shows in the
light of their own hatefulness and cruelty are perversions of any
religion, any creed. It is not, however, a tract at all; it deals in
artistic largeness with the passion of bigotry, as it deals with the
passion of love, the passion of ambition, the passion of revenge. But
Galdos is Spanish and Catholic, and for him the bigotry wears a
Spanish and Catholic face. That is all.
Up to a certain time, I believe, Galdos wrote romantic or
idealistic novels, and one of these I have read, and it tired me very
much. It was called "Marianela," and it surprised me the more because
I was already acquainted with his later work, which is all realistic.
But one does not turn realist in a single night, and although the
change in Galdos was rapid it was not quite a lightning change;
perhaps because it was not merely an outward change, but artistically
a change of heart. His acceptance in his quality of realist was much
more instant than his conversion, and vastly wider; for we are told by
the critic whom I have been quoting that Galdos's earlier efforts,
which he called Episodios Nacionales, never had the vogue which
his realistic novels have enjoyed.
These were, indeed, tendencious, if I may Anglicize a very
necessary word from the Spanish tendencioso. That is, they
dealt with very obvious problems, and had very distinct and poignant
significations, at least in the case of "Dona Perfecta," "Leon Roch,"
and "Gloria." In still later novels, Emilia Pardo-Bazan thinks, he has
comprehended that "the novel of to-day must take note of the ambient
truth, and realize the beautiful with freedom and independence." This
valiant lady, in the campaign for realism which she made under the
title of "La Cuestion Palpitante"—one of the best and strongest books
on the subject—counts him first among Spanish realists, as Clarin
counts him first among Spanish novelists. "With a certain fundamental
humanity," she says, "a certain magisterial simplicity in his
creations, with the natural tendency of his clear intelligence toward
the truth, and with the frankness of his observation, the great
novelist was always disposed to pass over to realism with arms and
munitions; but his aesthetic inclinations were idealistic, and only in
his latest works has he adopted the method of the modern novel,
fathomed more and more the human heart, and broken once for all with
the picturesque and with the typical personages, to embrace the earth
For her, as I confess for me, "Dona Perfecta" is not realistic
enough —realistic as it is; for realism at its best is not
tendencious. It does not seek to grapple with human problems, but is
richly content with portraying human experiences; and I think Senora
Pardo-Bazan is right in regarding "Dona Perfecta" as transitional, and
of a period when the author had not yet assimilated in its fullest
meaning the faith he had imbibed.
Yet it is a great novel, as I said; and perhaps because it is
transitional it will please the greater number who never really arrive
anywhere, and who like to find themselves in good company en route
. It is so far like life that it is full of significations which pass
beyond the persons and actions involved, and envelop the reader, as if
he too were a character of the book, or rather as if its persons were
men and women of this thinking, feeling, and breathing world, and he
must recognize their experiences as veritable facts. From the first
moment to the last it is like some passage of actual events in which
you cannot withhold your compassion, your abhorrence, your admiration,
any more than if they took place within your personal knowledge. Where
they transcend all facts of your personal knowledge, you do not accuse
them of improbability, for you feel their potentiality in yourself,
and easily account for them in the alien circumstance. I am not saying
that the story has no faults; it has several. There are tags of
romanticism fluttering about it here and there; and at times the
author permits himself certain old-fashioned literary airs and poses
and artifices, which you simply wonder at. It is in spite of these,
and with all these defects, that it is so great and beautiful a book.
What seems to be so very admirable in the management of the story
is the author's success in keeping his own counsel. This may seem a
very easy thing; but, if the reader will think over the novelists of
his acquaintance, he will find that it is at least very uncommon. They
mostly give themselves away almost from the beginning, either by their
anxiety to hide what is coming, or their vanity in hinting what great
things they have in store for the reader. Galdos does neither the one
nor the other. He makes it his business to tell the story as it grows;
to let the characters unfold themselves in speech and action; to
permit the events to happen unheralded. He does not prophesy their
course, he does not forecast the weather even for twenty-four hours;
the atmosphere becomes slowly, slowly, but with occasional lifts and
reliefs, of such a brooding breathlessness, of such a deepening
density, that you feel the wild passion-storm nearer and nearer at
hand, till it bursts at last; and then you are astonished that you had
not foreseen it yourself from the first moment.
Next to this excellent method, which I count the supreme
characteristic of the book merely because it represents the whole, and
the other facts are in the nature of parts, is the masterly conception
of the characters. They are each typical of a certain side of human
nature, as most of our personal friends and enemies are; but not
exclusively of this side or that. They are each of mixed motives,
mixed qualities; none of them is quite a monster; though those who are
badly mixed do such monstrous things.
Pepe Rey, who is such a good fellow—so kind, and brave, and
upright, and generous, so fine a mind, and so high a soul—is tactless
and imprudent; he even condescends to the thought of intrigue; and
though he rejects his plots at last, his nature has once harbored
deceit. Don Inocencio, the priest, whose control of Dona Perfecta's
conscience has vitiated the very springs of goodness in her, is by no
means bad, aside from his purposes. He loves his sister and her son
tenderly, and wishes to provide for them by the marriage which Pepe's
presence threatens to prevent. The nephew, though selfish and little,
has moments of almost being a good fellow; the sister, though she is
really such a lamb of meekness, becomes a cat, and scratches Don
Inocencio dreadfully when he weakens in his design against Pepe.
Rosario, one of the sweetest and purest images of girlhood that I
know in fiction, abandons herself with equal passion to the love she
feels for her cousin Pepe, and to the love she feels for her mother,
Dona Perfecta. She is ready to fly with him, and yet she betrays him
to her mother's pitiless hate.
But it is Dona Perfecta herself who is the transcendent figure, the
most powerful creation of the book. In her, bigotry and its fellow-
vice, hypocrisy, have done their perfect work, until she comes near to
being a devil, and really does some devil's deeds. Yet even she is not
without some extenuating traits. Her bigotry springs from her
conscience, and she is truly devoted to her daughter's eternal
welfare; she is of such a native frankness that at a certain point she
tears aside her mask of dissimulation and lets Pepe see all the
ugliness of her perverted soul. She is wonderfully managed. At what
moment does she begin to hate him, and to wish to undo her own work in
making a match between him and her daughter? I could defy anyone to
say. All one knows is that at one moment she adores her brother's son,
and at another she abhors him, and has already subtly entered upon her
efforts to thwart the affection she has invited in him for her
Caballuco, what shall I say of Caballuco? He seems altogether bad,
but the author lets one imagine that this cruel, this ruthless brute
must have somewhere about him traits of lovableness, of leniency,
though he never lets one see them. His gratitude to Dona Perfecta,
even his murderous devotion, is not altogether bad; and he is
certainly worse than nature made him, when wrought upon by her fury
and the suggestion of Don Inocencio. The scene where they work him up
to rebellion and assassination is a compendium of the history of
intolerance; as the mean little conceited city of Orbajosas is the
microcosm of bigoted and reactionary Spain.
I have called, or half-called, this book tendencious; but in a
certain larger view it is not so. It is the eternal interest of
passion working upon passion, not the temporary interest of condition
antagonizing condition, which renders "Dona Perfecta" so poignantly
interesting, and which makes its tragedy immense. But there is hope as
well as despair in such a tragedy. There is the strange support of a
bereavement in it, the consolation of feeling that for those who have
suffered unto death, nothing can harm them more; that even for those
who have inflicted their suffering this peace will soon come.
"Is Perez Galdos a pessimist?" asks the critic Clarin. "No,
certainly; but if he is not, why does he paint us sorrows that seem
inconsolable? Is it from love of paradox? Is it to show that his
genius, which can do so much, can paint the shadow lovelier than the
light? Nothing of this. Nothing that is not serious, honest, and
noble, is to be found in this novelist. Are they pessimistic, those
ballads of the North, that always end with vague resonances of woe?
Are they pessimists, those singers of our own land, who surprise us
with tears in the midst of laughter? Is Nature pessimistic, who is so
sad at nightfall that it seems as if day were dying forever? . . . The
sadness of art, like that of nature, is a form of hope. Why is
Christianity so artistic? Because it is the religion of sadness."
W. D. HOWELLS.
CHAPTER I. VILLAHORRENDA! FIVE
When the down train No. 65—of what line it is unnecessary to say—
stopped at the little station between kilometres 171 and 172, almost
all the second-and third-class passengers remained in the cars,
yawning or asleep, for the penetrating cold of the early morning did
not invite to a walk on the unsheltered platform. The only first-class
passenger on the train alighted quickly, and addressing a group of
the employes asked them if this was the Villahorrenda station.
"We are in Villahorrenda," answered the conductor whose voice was
drowned by the cackling of the hens which were at that moment being
lifted into the freight car. "I forgot to call you, Senor de Rey. I
think they are waiting for you at the station with the beasts."
"Why, how terribly cold it is here!" said the traveller, drawing
his cloak more closely about him. "Is there no place in the station
where I could rest for a while, and get warm, before undertaking a
journey on horseback through this frozen country?"
Before he had finished speaking the conductor, called away by the
urgent duties of his position, went off, leaving our unknown
cavalier's question unanswered. The latter saw that another employe
was coming toward him, holding a lantern in his right hand, that swung
back and forth as he walked, casting the light on the platform of the
station in a series of zigzags, like those described by the shower
from a watering-pot.
"Is there a restaurant or a bedroom in the station of
Villahorrenda?" said the traveller to the man with the lantern.
"There is nothing here," answered the latter brusquely, running
toward the men who were putting the freight on board the cars, and
assuaging them with such a volley of oaths, blasphemies, and abusive
epithets that the very chickens, scandalized by his brutality,
protested against it from their baskets.
"The best thing I can do is to get away from this place as quickly
as possible," said the gentlemen to himself. "The conductor said that
the beasts were here."
Just as he had come to this conclusion he felt a thin hand pulling
him gently and respectfully by the cloak. He turned round and saw a
figure enveloped in a gray cloak, and out of whose voluminous folds
peeped the shrivelled and astute countenance of a Castilian peasant.
He looked at the ungainly figure, which reminded one of the black
poplar among trees; he observed the shrewd eyes that shone from
beneath the wide brim of the old velvet hat; the sinewy brown hand
that grasped a green switch, and the broad foot that, with every
movement, made the iron spur jingle.
"Are you Senor Don Jose de Rey?" asked the peasant, raising his
hand to his hat.
"Yes; and you, I take it," answered the traveller joyfully, "are
Dona Perfecta's servant, who have come to the station to meet me and
show me the way to Orbajosa?"
"The same. Whenever you are ready to start. The pony runs like the
wind. And Senor Don Jose, I am sure, is a good rider. For what comes
"Which is the way out?" asked the traveller, with impatience.
"Come, let us start, senor—What is your name?"
"My name is Pedro Lucas," answered the man of the gray cloak, again
making a motion to take off his hat; "but they call me Uncle Licurgo.
Where is the young gentleman's baggage?"
"There it is—there under the cloak. There are three pieces—two
portmanteaus and a box of books for Senor Don Cayetano. Here is the
A moment later cavalier and squire found themselves behind the
barracks called a depot, and facing a road which, starting at this
point, disappeared among the neighboring hills, on whose naked slopes
could be vaguely distinguished the miserable hamlet of Villahorrenda.
There were three animals to carry the men and the luggage. A not ill-
looking nag was destined for the cavalier; Uncle Licurgo was to ride a
venerable hack, somewhat loose in the joints, but sure-footed; and the
mule, which was to be led by a stout country boy of active limbs and
fiery blood, was to carry the luggage.
Before the caravan had put itself in motion the train had started,
and was now creeping along the road with the lazy deliberation of a
way train, awakening, as it receded in the distance, deep subterranean
echoes. As it entered the tunnel at kilometre 172, the steam issued
from the steam whistle with a shriek that resounded through the air.
From the dark mouth of the tunnel came volumes of whitish smoke, a
succession of shrill screams like the blasts of a trumpet followed,
and at the sound of its stentorian voice villages, towns, the whole
surrounding country awoke. Here a cock began to crow, further on
another. Day was beginning to dawn.
CHAPTER II. A JOURNEY IN THE HEART
When they had proceeded some distance on their way and had left
behind them the hovels of Villahorrenda, the traveller, who was young
and handsome spoke thus:
"Tell me, Senor Solon—"
"Licurgo, at your service."
"Senor Licurgo, I mean. But I was right in giving you the name of a
wise legislator of antiquity. Excuse the mistake. But to come to the
point. Tell me, how is my aunt?"
"As handsome as ever," answered the peasant, pushing his beast
forward a little. "Time seems to stand still with Senora Dona
Perfecta. They say that God gives long life to the good, and if that
is so that angel of the Lord ought to live a thousand years. If all
the blessings that are showered on her in this world were feathers,
the senora would need no other wings to go up to heaven with."
"And my cousin, Senorita Rosario?"
"The senora over again!" said the peasant. "What more can I tell
you of Dona Rosarito but that that she is the living image of her
mother? You will have a treasure, Senor Don Jose, if it is true, as I
hear, that you have come to be married to her. She will be a worthy
mate for you, and the young lady will have nothing to complain of,
either. Between Pedro and Pedro the difference is not very great."
"And Senor Don Cayetano?"
"Buried in his books as usual. He has a library bigger than the
cathedral; and he roots up the earth, besides, searching for stones
covered with fantastical scrawls, that were written, they say, by the
"How soon shall we reach Orbajosa?"
"By nine o'clock, God willing. How delighted the senora will be
when she sees her nephew! And yesterday, Senorita Rosario was putting
the room you are to have in order. As they have never seen you, both
mother and daughter think of nothing else but what Senor Don Jose is
like, or is not like. The time has now come for letters to be silent
and tongues to talk. The young lady will see her cousin and all will
be joy and merry-making. If God wills, all will end happily, as the
"As neither my aunt nor my cousin has yet seen me," said the
traveller smiling, "it is not wise to make plans."
"That's true; for that reason it was said that the bay horse is of
one mind and he who saddles him of another," answered the peasant.
"But the face does not lie. What a jewel you are getting! and she,
what a handsome man!"
The young man did not hear Uncle Licurgo's last words, for he was
preoccupied with his own thoughts. Arrived at a bend in the road, the
peasant turned his horse's head in another direction, saying:
"We must follow this path now. The bridge is broken, and the river
can only be forded at the Hill of the Lilies."
"The Hill of the Lilies," repeated the cavalier, emerging from his
revery. "How abundant beautiful names are in these unattractive
localities! Since I have been travelling in this part of the country
the terrible irony of the names is a constant surprise to me. Some
place that is remarkable for its barren aspect and the desolate
sadness of the landscape is called Valleameno (Pleasant Valley). Some
wretched mud-walled village stretched on a barren plain and
proclaiming its poverty in diverse ways has the insolence to call
itself Villarica (Rich Town); and some arid and stony ravine, where
not even the thistles can find nourishment, calls itself,
nevertheless, Valdeflores (Vale of Flowers). That hill in front of us
is the Hill of the Lilies? But where, in Heaven's name, are the
lilies? I see nothing but stones and withered grass. Call it Hill of
Desolation, and you will be right. With the exception of
Villahorrenda, whose appearance corresponds with its name, all is
irony here. Beautiful words, a prosaic and mean reality. The blind
would be happy in this country, which for the tongue is a Paradise and
for the eyes a hell."
Senor Licurgo either did not hear the young man's words, or,
hearing, he paid no attention to them. When they had forded the river,
which, turbid and impetuous, hurried on with impatient haste, as if
fleeing from its own hands, the peasant pointed with outstretched arm
to some barren and extensive fields that were to be seen on the left,
"Those are the Poplars of Bustamante."
"My lands!" exclaimed the traveller joyfully, gazing at the
melancholy fields illumined by the early morning light. "For the first
time, I see the patrimony which I inherited from my mother. The poor
woman used to praise this country so extravagantly, and tell me so
many marvellous things about it when I was a child, that I thought
that to be here was to be in heaven. Fruits, flowers, game, large and
small; mountains, lakes, rivers, romantic streams, pastoral hills, all
were to be found in the Poplars of Bustamante; in this favored land,
the best and most beautiful on the earth. But what is to be said? The
people of this place live in their imaginations. If I had been brought
here in my youth, when I shared the ideas and the enthusiasm of my
dear mother, I suppose that I, too, would have been enchanted with
these bare hills, these arid or marshy plains, these dilapidated
farmhouses, these rickety norias, whose buckets drip water enough to
sprinkle half a dozen cabbages, this wretched and barren desolation
that surrounds me."
"It is the best land in the country," said Senor Licurgo; "and for
the chick-pea, there is no other like it."
"I am delighted to hear it, for since they came into my possession
these famous lands have never brought me a penny."
The wise legislator of Sparta scratched his ear and gave a sigh.
"But I have been told," continued the young man, "that some of the
neighboring proprietors have put their ploughs in these estates of
mine, and that, little by little, they are filching them from me. Here
there are neither landmarks nor boundaries, nor real ownership, Senor
The peasant, after a pause, during which his subtle intellect
seemed to be occupied in profound disquisitions, expressed himself as
"Uncle Paso Largo, whom, for his great foresight, we call the
Philosopher, set his plough in the Poplars, above the hermitage, and
bit by bit, he has gobbled up six fanegas."
"What an incomparable school!" exclaimed the young man, smiling. "I
wager that he has not been the only—philosopher?"
"It is a true saying that one should talk only about what one
knows, and that if there is food in the dove-cote, doves won't be
wanting. But you, Senor Don Jose, can apply to your own cause the
saying that the eye of the master fattens the ox, and now that you are
here, try and recover your property."
"Perhaps that would not be so easy, Senor Licurgo," returned the
young man, just as they were entering a path bordered on either side
by wheat-fields, whose luxuriance and early ripeness gladdened the
eye. "This field appears to be better cultivated. I see that all is
not dreariness and misery in the Poplars."
The peasant assumed a melancholy look, and, affecting something of
disdain for the fields that had been praised by the traveller, said in
the humblest of tones:
"Senor, this is mine."
"I beg your pardon," replied the gentleman quickly; "now I was
going to put my sickle in your field. Apparently the philosophy of
this place is contagious."
They now descended into a canebrake, which formed the bed of a
shallow and stagnant brook, and, crossing it, they entered a field
full of stones and without the slightest trace of vegetation.
"This ground is very bad," said the young man, turning round to
look at his companion and guide, who had remained a little behind.
"You will hardly be able to derive any profit from it, for it is all
mud and sand."
Licurgo, full of humility, answered:
"This is yours."
"I see that all the poor land is mine," declared the young man,
As they were thus conversing, they turned again into the high-road.
The morning sunshine, pouring joyously through all the gates and
balconies of the Spanish horizon, had now inundated the fields with
brilliant light. The wide sky, undimmed by a single cloud, seemed to
grow wider and to recede further from the earth, in order to
contemplate it, and rejoice in the contemplation, from a greater
height. The desolate, treeless land, straw-colored at intervals, at
intervals of the color of chalk, and all cut up into triangles and
quadrilaterals, yellow or black, gray or pale green, bore a fanciful
resemblance to a beggar's cloak spread out in the sun. On that
miserable cloak Christianity and Islamism had fought with each other
epic battles. Glorious fields, in truth, but the combats of the past
had left them hideous!
"I think we shall have a scorching day, Senor Licurgo," said the
young man, loosening his cloak a little. "What a dreary road! Not a
single tree to be seen, as far as the eye can reach. Here everything
is in contradiction. The irony does not cease. Why, when there are no
poplars here, either large or small, should this be called The
Uncle Licurgo did not answer this question because he was listening
with his whole soul to certain sounds which were suddenly heard in the
distance, and with an uneasy air he stopped his beast, while he
explored the road and the distant hills with a gloomy look.
"What is the matter?" asked the traveller, stopping his horse also.
"Do you carry arms, Don Jose?"
"A revolver—ah! now I understand. Are there robbers about?"
"Perhaps," answered the peasant, with visible apprehension. "I
think I heard a shot."
"We shall soon see. Forward!" said the young man, putting spurs to
his nag. "They are not very terrible, I dare say."
"Keep quiet, Senor Don Jose," exclaimed the peasant, stopping him.
"Those people are worse than Satan himself. The other day they
murdered two gentlemen who were on their way to take the train. Let us
leave off jesting. Gasparon el Fuerte, Pepito Chispillas, Merengue,
and Ahorca Suegras shall not see my face while I live. Let us turn
into the path."
"Forward, Senor Licurgo!"
"Back, Senor Don Jose," replied the peasant, in distressed accents.
"You don't know what kind of people those are. They are the same men
who stole the chalice, the Virgin's crown, and two candlesticks from
the church of the Carmen last month; they are the men who robbed the
Madrid train two years ago."
Don Jose, hearing these alarming antecedents, felt his courage
begin to give way.
"Do you see that great high hill in the distance? Well, that is
where those rascals hide themselves; there in some caves which they
call the Retreat of the Cavaliers."
"Of the Cavaliers?"
"Yes, senor. They come down to the high-road when the Civil Guards
are not watching, and rob all they can. Do you see a cross beyond the
bend of the road? Well, that was erected in remembrance of the death
of the Alcalde of Villahorrenda, whom they murdered there at the time
of the elections."
"Yes, I see the cross."
"There is an old house there, in which they hide themselves to wait
for the carriers. They call that place The Pleasaunce."
"If all the people who have been murdered and robbed there were to
be restored they would form an army."
While they were thus talking shots were again heard, this time
nearer than before, which made the valiant hearts of the travellers
quake a little, but not that of the country lad, who, jumping about
for joy, asked Senor Licurgo's permission to go forward to watch the
conflict which was taking place so near them. Observing the courage of
the boy Don Jose felt a little ashamed of having been frightened, or
at least a little disturbed, by the proximity of the robbers, and
cried, putting spurs to his nag:
"We will go forward, then. Perhaps we may be able to lend
assistance to the unlucky travellers who find themselves in so
perilous a situation, and give a lesson besides to those cavaliers."
The peasant endeavored to convince the young man of the rashness of
his purpose, as well as of the profitlessness of his generous design,
since those who had been robbed were robbed and perhaps dead also, and
not in a condition to need the assistance of any one.
The gentleman insisted, in spite of these sage counsels; the
peasant reiterated his objections more strongly than before; when the
appearance of two or three carters, coming quietly down the road
driving a wagon, put an end to the controversy. The danger could not
be very great when these men were coming along so unconcernedly,
singing merry songs; and such was in fact the case, for the shots,
according to what the carters said, had not been fired by the robbers,
but by the Civil Guards, who desired in this way to prevent the escape
of half a dozen thieves whom they were taking, bound together, to the
"Yes, I know now what it was," said Licurgo, pointing to a light
cloud of smoke which was to be seen some distance off, to the right of
the road. "They have peppered them there. That happens every other
The young man did not understand.
"I assure you, Senor Don Jose," added the Lacedaemonian legislator,
with energy, "that it was very well done; for it is of no use to try
those rascals. The judge cross-questions them a little and then lets
them go. If at the end of a trial dragged out for half a dozen years
one of them is sent to jail, at the moment least expected he escapes,
and returns to the Retreat of the Cavaliers. That is the best thing to
do—shoot them! Take them to prison, and when you are passing a
suitable place—Ah, dog, so you want to escape, do you? pum! pum! The
indictment is drawn up, the witnesses summoned, the trial ended, the
sentence pronounced—all in a minute. It is a true saying that the fox
is very cunning, but he who catches him is more cunning still."
"Forward, then, and let us ride faster, for this road, besides
being a long one, is not at all a pleasant one," said Rey.
As they passed The Pleasaunce, they saw, a little in from the road,
the guards who a few minutes before had executed the strange sentence
with which the reader has been made acquainted. The country boy was
inconsolable because they rode on and he was not allowed to get a
nearer view of the palpitating bodies of the robbers, which could be
distinguished forming a horrible group in the distance. But they had
not proceeded twenty paces when they heard the sound of a horse
galloping after them at so rapid a pace that he gained upon them every
moment. Our traveller turned round and saw a man, or rather a Centaur,
for the most perfect harmony imaginable existed between horse and
rider. The latter was of a robust and plethoric constitution, with
large fiery eyes, rugged features, and a black mustache. He was of
middle age and had a general air of rudeness and aggressiveness, with
indications of strength in his whole person. He was mounted on a
superb horse with a muscular chest, like the horses of the Parthenon,
caparisoned in the picturesque fashion of the country, and carrying on
the crupper a great leather bag on the cover of which was to be seen,
in large letters, the word Mail.
"Hello! Good-day, Senor Caballuco," said Licurgo, saluting the
horseman when the latter had come up with them. "How is it that we got
so far ahead of you? But you will arrive before us, if you set your
mind to it."
"I will rest a little," answered Senor Caballuco, adapting his
horse's pace to that of our travellers' beasts, and attentively
observing the most distinguished of the three, "since there is such
"This gentleman," said Licurgo, smiling, "is the nephew of Dona
"Ah! At your service, senor."
The two men saluted each other, it being noticeable that Caballuco
performed his civilities with an expression of haughtiness and
superiority that revealed, at the very least, a consciousness of great
importance, and of a high standing in the district. When the arrogant
horseman rode aside to stop and talk for a moment with two Civil
Guards who passed them on the road, the traveller asked his guide:
"Who is that odd character?"
"Who should it be? Caballuco."
"And who is Caballuco?"
"What! Have you never heard of Caballuco?" said the countryman,
amazed at the crass ignorance of Dona Perfecta's nephew. "He is a very
brave man, a fine rider, and the best connoisseur of horses in all the
surrounding country. We think a great deal of him in Orbajosa; and he
is well worthy of it. Just as you see him, he is a power in the place,
and the governor of the province takes off his hat to him."
"When there is an election!"
"And the Governor of Madrid writes official letters to him with a
great many titles in the superscription. He throws the bar like a St.
Christopher, and he can manage every kind of weapon as easily as we
manage our fingers. When there was market inspection here, they could
never get the best of him, and shots were to be heard every night at
the city gates. He has a following that is worth any money, for they
are ready for anything. He is good to the poor, and any stranger who
should come here and attempt to touch so much as a hair of the head of
any native of Orbajosa would have him to settle with. It is very
seldom that soldiers come here from Madrid, but whenever they do come,
not a day passes without blood being shed, for Caballuco would pick a
quarrel with them, if not for one thing for another. At present it
seems that he is fallen into poverty and he is employed to carry the
mail. But he is trying hard to persuade the Town Council to have a
market- inspector's office here again and to put him in charge of it.
I don't know how it is that you have never heard him mentioned in
Madrid, for he is the son of a famous Caballuco who was in the last
rebellion, and who was himself the son of another Caballuco, who was
also in the rebellion of that day. And as there is a rumor now that
there is going to be another insurrection—for the whole country is in
a ferment—we are afraid that Caballuco will join that also, following
in the illustrious footsteps of his father and his grandfather, who,
to our glory be it said, were born in our city."
Our traveller was surprised to see the species of knight-errantry
that still existed in the regions which he had come to visit, but he
had no opportunity to put further questions, for the man who was the
object of them now joined them, saying with an expression of
"The Civil Guard despatched three. I have already told the
commander to be careful what he is about. To-morrow we will speak to
the governor of the province, and I——"
"Are you going to X.?"
"No; but the governor is coming here, Senor Licurgo; do you know
that they are going to send us a couple of regiments to Orbajosa?"
"Yes," said the traveller quickly, with a smile. "I heard it said
in Madrid that there was some fear of a rising in this place. It is
well to be prepared for what may happen."
"They talk nothing but nonsense in Madrid," exclaimed the Centaur
violently, accompanying his affirmation with a string of tongue-
blistering vocables. "In Madrid there is nothing but rascality. What
do they send us soldiers for? To squeeze more contributions out of us
and a couple of conscriptions afterward. By all that's holy! if there
isn't a rising there ought to be. So you"—he ended, looking
banteringly at the young man—"so you are Dona Perfecta's nephew?"
This abrupt question and the insolent glance of the bravo annoyed
the young man.
"Yes, senor, at your service."
"I am a friend of the senora's, and I love her as I do the apple of
my eye," said Caballuco. "As you are going to Orbajosa we shall see
each other there."
And without another word he put spurs to his horse, which, setting
off at a gallop, soon disappeared in a cloud of dust.
After half an hour's ride, during which neither Senor Don Jose nor
Senor Licurgo manifested much disposition to talk, the travellers came
in sight of an ancient-looking town seated on the slope of a hill,
from the midst of whose closely clustered houses arose many dark
towers, and, on a height above it, the ruins of a dilapidated castle.
Its base was formed by a mass of shapeless walls, of mud hovels, gray
and dusty looking as the soil, together with some fragments of
turreted walls, in whose shelter about a thousand humble huts raised
their miserable adobe fronts, like anaemic and hungry faces demanding
an alms from the passer-by. A shallow river surrounded the town, like
a girdle of tin, refreshing, in its course, several gardens, the only
vegetation that cheered the eye. People were going into and coming out
of the town, on horseback and on foot, and the human movement,
although not great, gave some appearance of life to that great
dwelling place whose architectural aspect was rather that of ruin and
death than of progress and life. The innumerable and repulsive-looking
beggars who dragged themselves on either side of the road, asking the
obolus from the passer-by, presented a pitiful spectacle. It would be
impossible to see beings more in harmony with, or better suited to the
fissures of that sepulchre in which a city was not only buried but
gone to decay. As our travellers approached the town, a discordant
peal of bells gave token, with their expressive sound, that that mummy
had still a soul.
It was called Orbajosa, a city that figures, not in the Chaldean or
Coptic geography, but in that of Spain, with 7324 inhabitants, a town-
hall, an episcopal seat, a court-house, a seminary, a stock farm, a
high school, and other official prerogatives.
"The bells are ringing for high mass in the cathedral," said Uncle
Licurgo. "We have arrived sooner than I expected."
"The appearance of your native city," said the young man, examining
the panorama spread out before him, "could not be more disagreeable.
The historic city of Orbajosa, whose name is no doubt a corruption of
Urbs Augusta, looks like a great dunghill."
"All that can be seen from here is the suburbs," said the guide, in
an offended tone. "When you enter the Calle Real and the Calle de
Condestable, you will see handsome buildings, like the cathedral."
"I don't want to speak ill of Orbajosa before seeing it," said the
young man. "And you must not take what I have said as a mark of
contempt, for whether humble and mean, or stately and handsome, that
city will always be very dear to me, not only is it my mother's native
place, but because there are persons living in it whom I love without
seeing them. Let us enter the august city, then."
They were now ascending a road on the outskirts of the town, and
passing close to the walls of the gardens.
"Do you see that great house at the end of this large garden whose
wall we are now passing?" said Uncle Licurgo, pointing to a massive,
whitewashed wall belonging to the only dwelling in view which had the
appearance of a cheerful and comfortable habitation.
"Yes; that is my aunt's house?"
"Exactly so! What we are looking at is the rear of the house. The
front faces the Calle del Condestable, and it has five iron balconies
that look like five castles. The fine garden behind the wall belongs
to the house, and if you rise up in your stirrups you will be able to
see it all from here."
"Why, we are at the house, then!" cried the young man. "Can we not
enter from here?"
"There is a little door, but the senora had it condemned."
The young man raised himself in his stirrups and, stretching his
neck as far as he could, looked over the wall.
"I can see the whole of the garden," he said. "There, under the
trees, there is a woman, a girl, a young lady."
"That is Senorita Rosario," answered Licurgo.
And at the same time he also raised himself in his stirrups to look
over the wall.
"Eh! Senorita Rosario!" he cried, making energetic signs with his
right hand. "Here we are; I have brought your cousin with me."
"She has seen us," said the young man, stretching out his neck as
far as was possible. "But if I am not mistaken, there is an
ecclesiastic with her—a priest."
"That is the Penitentiary," answered the countryman, with
"My cousin has seen us—she has left the priest, and is running
toward the house. She is beautiful."
"As the sun!"
"She has turned redder than a cherry. Come, come, Senor Licurgo."
CHAPTER III. PEPE REY
Before proceeding further, it will be well to tell who Pepe Rey
was, and what were the affairs which had brought him to Orbajosa.
When Brigadier Rey died in 1841, his two children, Juan and
Perfecta, had just married: the latter the richest land-owner of
Orbajosa, the former a young girl of the same city. The husband of
Perfecta was called Don Manuel Maria Jose de Polentinos, and the wife
of Juan, Maria Polentinos; but although they had the same surname,
their relationship was somewhat distant and not very easy to make out.
Juan Rey was a distinguished jurisconsult who had been graduated in
Seville and had practised law in that city for thirty years with no
less honor than profit. In 1845 he was left a widower with a son who
was old enough to play mischievous pranks; he would sometimes amuse
himself by constructing viaducts, mounds, ponds, dikes, and trenches
of earth, in the yard of the house, and then flooding those fragile
works with water. His father let him do so, saying, "You will be an
Perfecta and Juan had ceased to see each other from the time of
their marriage, because the sister had gone to Madrid with her
husband, the wealthy Polentinos, who was as rich as he was
extravagant. Play and women had so completely enslaved Manuel Maria
Jose that he would have dissipated all his fortune, if death had not
been beforehand with him and carried him off before he had had time to
squander it. In a night of orgy the life of the rich provincial, who
had been sucked so voraciously by the leeches of the capital and the
insatiable vampire of play, came to a sudden termination. His sole
heir was a daughter a few months old. With the death of Perfecta's
husband the terrors of the family were at an end, but the great
struggle began. The house of Polentinos was ruined; the estates were
in danger of being seized by the money-lenders; all was in confusion:
enormous debts, lamentable management in Orbajosa, discredit and ruin
Perfecta sent for her brother, who, coming to the distressed
widow's assistance, displayed so much diligence and skill that in a
short time the greater part of the dangers that threatened her had
disappeared. He began by obliging his sister to live in Orbajosa,
managing herself her vast estates, while he faced the formidable
pressure of the creditors in Madrid. Little by little the house freed
itself from the enormous burden of its debts, for the excellent Don
Juan Rey, who had the best way in the world for managing such matters,
pleaded in the court, made settlements with the principal creditors
and arranged to pay them by instalments, the result of this skilful
management being that the rich patrimony of Polentinos was saved from
ruin and might continue, for many years to come, to bestow splendor
and glory on that illustrious family.
Perfecta's gratitude was so profound that in writing to her brother
from Orbajosa, where she determined to reside until her daughter
should be grown up, she said to him, among other affectionate things:
"You have been more than a brother to me, more than a father to my
daughter. How can either of us ever repay you for services so great?
Ah, my dear brother? from the moment in which my daughter can reason
and pronounce a name I will teach her to bless yours. My gratitude
will end only with my life. Your unworthy sister regrets only that she
can find no opportunity of showing you how much she loves you and of
recompensing you in a manner suited to the greatness of your soul and
the boundless goodness of your heart."
At the same time when these words were written Rosarito was two
years old. Pepe Rey, shut up in a school in Seville, was making lines
on paper, occupied in proving that "the sum of all the interior angles
of any polygon is equal to twice as many right angles, wanting four,
as the figure has sides." These vexatious commonplaces of the school
kept him very busy. Year after year passed. The boy grew up, still
continuing to make lines. At last, he made one which is called "From
Tarragona to Montblanch." His first serious toy was the bridge, 120
metres in length, over the River Francoli.
During all this time Dona Perfecta continued to live in Orbajosa.
As her brother never left Seville, several years passed without their
seeing each other. A quarterly letter, as punctually written as it was
punctually answered, kept in communication these two hearts, whose
affection neither time nor distance could cool. In 1870, when Don Juan
Rey, satisfied with having fulfilled his mission in society, retired
from it and went to live in his fine house in Puerto Real, Pepe, who
had been employed for several years in the works of various rich
building companies, set out on a tour through Germany and England, for
the purpose of study. His father's fortune, (as large as it is
possible for a fortune which has only an honorable law-office for its
source to be in Spain), permitted him to free himself in a short time
from the yoke of material labor. A man of exalted ideas and with an
ardent love for science, he found his purest enjoyment in the
observation and study of the marvels by means of which the genius of
the age furthers at the same time the culture and material comfort and
the moral progress of man.
On returning from his tour his father informed him that he had an
important project to communicate to him. Pepe supposed that it
concerned some bridge, dockyard, or, at the least, the draining of
some marsh, but Don Juan soon dispelled his error, disclosing to him
his plan in the following words:
"This is March, and Perfecta's quarterly letter has not failed to
come. Read it, my dear boy, and if you can agree to what that holy and
exemplary woman, my dear sister, says in it, you will give me the
greatest happiness I could desire in my old age. If the plan does not
please you, reject it without hesitation, for, although your refusal
would grieve me, there is not in it the shadow of constraint on my
part. It would be unworthy of us both that it should be realized
through the coercion of an obstinate father. You are free either to
accept or to reject it, and if there is in your mind the slightest
repugnance to it, arising either from your inclinations or from any
other cause, I do not wish you to do violence to your feelings on my
Pepe laid the letter on the table after he had glanced through it,
and said quietly:
"My aunt wishes me to marry Rosario!"
"She writes accepting joyfully my idea," said his father, with
emotion. "For the idea was mine. Yes, it is a long time, a very long
time since it occurred to me; but I did not wish to say anything to
you until I knew what your sister might think about it. As you see,
Perfecta receives my plan with joy; she says that she too had thought
of it, but that she did not venture to mention it to me, because you
are—you have seen what she says—because you are a young man of very
exceptional merit and her daughter is a country girl, without either a
brilliant education or worldly attractions. Those are her words. My
poor sister! How good she is! I see that you are not displeased; I see
that this project of mine, resembling a little the officious prevision
of the fathers of former times who married their children without
consulting their wishes in the matter, and making generally
inconsiderate and unwise matches, does not seem absurd to you. God
grant that this may be, as it seems to promise, one of the happiest.
It is true that you have never seen your cousin, but we are both aware
of her virtue, of her discretion, of her modest and noble simplicity.
That nothing may be wanting, she is even beautiful. My opinion is," he
added gayly, "that you should at once start for that out-of-the-way
episcopal city, that Urbs Augusta, and there, in the presence of my
sister and her charming Rosarito, decide whether the latter is to be
something more to me or not, than my niece."
Pepe took up the letter again and read it through carefully. His
countenance expressed neither joy nor sorrow. He might have been
examining some plan for the junction of two railroads.
"In truth," said Don Juan, "in that remote Orbajosa, where, by the
way, you have some land that you might take a look at now, life passes
with the tranquillity and the sweetness of an idyl. What patriarchal
customs! What noble simplicity! What rural and Virgilian peace! If,
instead of being a mathematician, you were a Latinist, you would
repeat, as you enter it, the ergo tua rura manebunt. What an
admirable place in which to commune with one's own soul and to prepare
one's self for good works. There all is kindness and goodness; there
the deceit and hypocrisy of our great cities are unknown; there the
holy inclinations which the turmoil of modern life stifles spring into
being again; there dormant faith reawakens and one feels within the
breast an impulse, vague but keen, like the impatience of youth, that
from the depths of the soul cries out: 'I wish to live!' "
A few days after this conference Pepe left Puerto Real. He had
refused, some months before, a commission from the government to
survey, in its mineralogical aspects, the basin of the River Nahara,
in the valley of Orbajosa; but the plans to which the conference above
recorded gave rise, caused him to say to himself: "It will be as well
to make use of the time. Heaven only knows how long this courtship may
last, or what hours of weariness it may bring with it." He went, then,
to Madrid, solicited the commission to explore the basin of the
Nahara, which he obtained without difficulty, although he did not
belong officially to the mining corps, set out shortly afterward, and,
after a second change of trains, the mixed train No. 65 bore him, as
we have seen, to the loving arms of Uncle Licurgo.
The age of our hero was about thirty-four years. He was of a robust
constitution, of athletic build, and so admirably proportioned and of
so commanding an appearance that, if he had worn a uniform, he would
have presented the most martial air and figure that it is possible to
imagine. His hair and beard were blond in color, but in his
countenance there was none of the phlegmatic imperturbability of the
Saxon, but, on the contrary, so much animation that his eyes, although
they were not black, seemed to be so. His figure would have served as
a perfect and beautiful model for a statue, on the pedestal of which
the sculptor might engrave the words: "Intellect, strength." If not in
visible characters, he bore them vaguely expressed in the brilliancy
of his glance, in the potent attraction with which his person was
peculiarly endowed, and in the sympathy which his cordial manners
He was not very talkative—only persons of inconstant ideas and
unstable judgment are prone to verbosity. His profound moral sense
made him sparing of words in the disputes in which the men of the day
are prone to engage on any and every subject, but in polite
conversation he displayed an eloquence full of wit and intelligence,
emanating always from good sense and a temperate and just appreciation
of worldly matters. He had no toleration for those sophistries, and
mystifications, and quibbles of the understanding with which persons
of intelligence, imbued with affected culture, sometimes amuse
themselves; and in defence of the truth Pepe Rey employed at times,
and not always with moderation, the weapon of ridicule. This was
almost a defect in the eyes of many people who esteemed him, for our
hero thus appeared wanting in respect for a multitude of things
commonly accepted and believed. It must be acknowledged, although it
may lessen him in the opinion of many, that Rey did not share the mild
toleration of the compliant age which has invented strange disguises
of words and of acts to conceal what to the general eye might be
Such was the man, whatever slanderous tongues may say to the
contrary, whom Uncle Licurgo introduced into Orbajosa just as the
cathedral bells were ringing for high mass. When, looking over the
garden wall, they saw the young girl and the Penitentiary, and then
the flight of the former toward the house, they put spurs to their
beasts and entered the Calle Real, where a great many idlers stood
still to gaze at the traveller, as if he were a stranger and an
intruder in the patriarchal city. Turning presently to the right and
riding in the direction of the cathedral, whose massive bulk dominated
the town, they entered the Calle del Condestable, in which, being
narrow and paved, the hoofs of the animals clattered noisily, alarming
the people of the neighborhood, who came to the windows and to the
balconies to satisfy their curiosity. Shutters opened with a grating
sound and various faces, almost all feminine, appeared above and
below. By the time Pepe Rey had reached the threshold of the house of
Polentinos many and diverse comments had been already made on his
CHAPTER IV. THE ARRIVAL OF THE COUSIN
When Rosarito left him so abruptly the Penitentiary looked toward
the garden wall, and seeing the faces of Licurgo and his companion,
said to himself:
"So the prodigy is already here, then."
He remained thoughtful for some moments, his cloak, grasped with
both hands, folded over his abdomen, his eyes fixed on the ground, his
gold- rimmed spectacles slipping gently toward the point of his nose,
his under-lip moist and projecting, and his iron-gray eyebrows
gathered in a slight frown. He was a pious and holy man, of uncommon
learning and of irreproachable clerical habits, a little past his
sixtieth year, affable in his manners, courteous and kind, and greatly
addicted to giving advice and counsel to both men and women. For many
years past he had been master of Latin and rhetoric in the Institute,
which noble profession had supplied him with a large fund of
quotations from Horace and of florid metaphors, which he employed with
wit and opportuneness. Nothing more need be said regarding this
personage, but that, as soon as he heard the trot of the animals
approaching the Calle del Condestable, he arranged the folds of his
cloak, straightened his hat, which was not altogether correctly placed
upon his venerable head, and, walking toward the house, murmured:
"Let us go and see this paragon."
Meanwhile Pepe was alighting from his nag, and Dona Perfecta, her
face bathed in tears and barely able to utter a few trembling words,
the sincere expression of her affection, was receiving him at the gate
itself in her loving arms.
"Pepe—but how tall you are! And with a beard. Why, it seems only
yesterday that I held you in my lap. And now you are a man, a grown-up
man. Well, well! How the years pass! This is my daughter Rosario."
As she said this they reached the parlor on the ground floor, which
was generally used as a reception-room, and Dona Perfecta presented
her daughter to Pepe.
Rosario was a girl of delicate and fragile appearance, that
revealed a tendency to pensive melancholy. In her delicate and pure
countenance there was something of the soft, pearly pallor which most
novelists attribute to their heroines, and without which sentimental
varnish it appears that no Enriquieta or Julia can be interesting. But
what chiefly distinguished Rosario was that her face expressed so much
sweetness and modesty that the absence of the perfections it lacked
was not observed. This is not to say that she was plain; but, on the
other hand, it is true that it would be an exaggeration to call her
beautiful in the strictest meaning of the word. The real beauty of
Dona Perfecta's daughter consisted in a species of transparency,
different from that of pearl, alabaster, marble, or any of the other
substances used in descriptions of the human countenance; a species of
transparency through which the inmost depths of her soul were clearly
visible; depths not cavernous and gloomy, like those of the sea, but
like those of a clear and placid river. But the material was wanting
there for a complete personality. The channel was wanting, the banks
were wanting. The vast wealth of her spirit overflowed, threatening to
wash away the narrow borders. When her cousin saluted her she blushed
crimson, and uttered only a few unintelligible words.
"You must be fainting with hunger," said Dona Perfecta to her
nephew. "You shall have your breakfast at once."
"With your permission," responded the traveller, "I will first go
and get rid of the dust of the journey."
"That is a sensible idea," said the senora. "Rosario, take your
cousin to the room that we have prepared for him. Don't delay, nephew.
I am going to give the necessary orders."
Rosario took her cousin to a handsome apartment situated on the
ground floor. The moment he entered it Pepe recognized in all the
details of the room the diligent and loving hand of a woman. All was
arranged with perfect taste, and the purity and freshness of
everything in this charming nest invited to repose. The guest observed
minute details that made him smile.
"Here is the bell," said Rosario, taking in her hand the bell-rope,
the tassel of which hung over the head of the bed. "All you have to do
is to stretch out your hand. The writing-table is placed so that you
will have the light from the left. See, in this basket you can throw
the waste papers. Do you smoke?"
"Unfortunately, yes," responded Pepe Rey.
"Well, then, you can throw the ends of your cigars here," she said,
touching with the tip of her shoe a utensil of gilt-brass filled with
sand. "There is nothing uglier than to see the floor covered with
cigar-ends. Here is the washstand. For your clothes you have a
wardrobe and a bureau. I think this is a bad place for the watch-case;
it would be better beside the bed. If the light annoys you, all you
have to do is to lower the shade with this cord; see, this way."
The engineer was enchanted.
Rosarito opened one of the windows.
"Look," she said, "this window opens into the garden. The sun comes
in here in the afternoon. Here we have hung the cage of a canary that
sings as if he was crazy. If his singing disturbs you we will take it
She opened another window on the opposite side of the room.
"This other window," she continued, "looks out on the street. Look;
from here you can see the cathedral; it is very handsome, and full of
beautiful things. A great many English people come to see it. Don't
open both windows at the same time, because draughts are very bad."
"My dear cousin," said Pepe, his soul inundated with an
inexplicable joy; "in all that is before my eyes I see an angel's hand
that can be only yours. What a beautiful room this is! It seems to me
as if I had lived in it all my life. It invites to peace."
Rosarito made no answer to these affectionate expressions, and left
the room, smiling.
"Make no delay," she said from the door; "the dining-room too is
down stairs—in the centre of this hall."
Uncle Licurgo came in with the luggage. Pepe rewarded him with a
liberality to which the countryman was not accustomed, and the latter,
after humbly thanking the engineer, raised his hand to his head with a
hesitating movement, and in an embarrassed tone, and mumbling his
words, he said hesitatingly:
"When will it be most convenient for me to speak to Senor Don Jose
about a—a little matter of business?"
"A little matter of business? At once," responded Pepe, opening one
of his trunks.
"This is not a suitable time," said the countryman. "When Senor Don
Jose has rested it will be time enough. There are more days than
sausages, as the saying is; and after one day comes another. Rest now,
Senor Don Jose. Whenever you want to take a ride—the nag is not bad.
Well, good-day, Senor Don Jose. I am much obliged to you. Ah! I had
forgotten," he added, returning a few moments later. "If you have any
message for the municipal judge—I am going now to speak to him about
our little affair."
"Give him my compliments," said Pepe gayly, no better way of
getting rid of the Spartan legislator occurring to him.
"Good-by, then, Senor Don Jose."
The engineer had not yet taken his clothes out of the trunk when
for the third time the shrewd eyes and the crafty face of Uncle
Licurgo appeared in the door-way.
"I beg your pardon, Senor Don Jose," he said, displaying his
brilliantly white teeth in an affected smile, "but—I wanted to say
that if you wish to settle the matter by means of friendly
arbitrations—— Although, as the saying is, 'Ask other people's
opinion of something that concerns only yourself, and some will say it
is white and others black.' "
"Will you get away from here, man?"
"I say that, because I hate the law. I don't want to have anything
to do with the law. Well, good-by, again, Senor Don Jose. God give you
long life to help the poor!"
"Good-by, man, good-by."
Pepe turned the key in the lock of the door, saying to himself:
"The people of this town appear to be very litigious."
CHAPTER V. WILL THERE BE DISSENSION?
A little later Pepe made his appearance in the dining-room.
"If you eat a hearty breakfast," said Dona Perfecta to him, in
affectionate accents, "you will have no appetite for dinner. We dine
here at one. Perhaps you may not like the customs of the country."
"I am enchanted with them, aunt."
"Say, then, which you prefer—to eat a hearty breakfast now, or to
take something light, and keep your appetite for dinner."
"I prefer to take something light now, in order to have the
pleasure of dining with you. But not even if I had found anything to
eat in Villahorrenda, would I have eaten any thing at this early
"Of course, I need not tell you that you are to treat us with
perfect frankness. You may give your orders here as if you were in
your own house."
"But how like your father you are!" said the senora, regarding the
young man, as he ate, with real delight. "I can fancy I am looking now
at my dear brother Juan. He sat just as you are sitting and ate as you
are eating. In your expression, especially, you are as like as two
drops of water."
Pepe began his frugal breakfast. The words, as well as the manner
and the expression, of his aunt and cousin inspired him with so much
confidence that he already felt as if he were in his own house.
"Do you know what Rosario was saying to me this morning?" said Dona
Perfecta, looking at her nephew. "Well, she was saying that, as a man
accustomed to the luxuries and the etiquette of the capital and to
foreign ways, you would not be able to put up with the somewhat rustic
simplicity and the lack of ceremony of our manner of life; for here
every thing is very plain."
"What a mistake!" responded Pepe, looking at his cousin. "No one
abhors more than I do the falseness and the hypocrisy of what is
called high society. Believe me, I have long wished to give myself a
complete bath in nature, as some one has said; to live far from the
turmoil of existence in the solitude and quiet of the country. I long
for the tranquillity of a life without strife, without anxieties;
neither envying nor envied, as the poet has said. For a long time my
studies at first, and my work afterward, prevented me from taking the
rest which I need, and which my mind and my body both require; but
ever since I entered this house, my dear aunt, my dear cousin, I have
felt myself surrounded by the peaceful atmosphere which I have longed
for. You must not talk to me, then, of society, either high or low; or
of the world, either great or small, for I would willingly exchange
them all for this peaceful retreat."
While he was thus speaking, the glass door which led from the
dining- room into the garden was obscured by the interposition between
it and the light of a dark body. The glasses of a pair of spectacles,
catching a sunbeam, sent forth a fugitive gleam; the latch creaked,
the door opened, and the Penitentiary gravely entered the room. He
saluted those present, taking off his broad-brimmed hat and bowing
until its brim touched the floor.
"It is the Senor Penitentiary, of our holy cathedral," said Dona
Perfecta: "a person whom we all esteem greatly, and whose friend you
will, I hope, be. Take a seat, Senor Don Inocencio."
Pepe shook hands with the venerable canon, and both sat down.
"If you are accustomed to smoke after meals, pray do so," said Dona
Perfecta amiably; "and the Senor Penitentiary also."
The worthy Don Inocencio drew from under his cassock a large
leather cigar-case, which showed unmistakable signs of long use,
opened it, and took from it two long cigarettes, one of which he
offered to our friend. Rosario took a match from a little leaf-shaped
matchbox, which the Spaniards ironically call a wagon, and the
engineer and the canon were soon puffing their smoke over each other.
"And what does Senor Don Jose think of our dear city of Orbajosa?"
asked the canon, shutting his left eye tightly, according to his habit
when he smoked.
"I have not yet been able to form an idea of the town," said Pepe.
"From the little I have seen of it, however, I think that half a dozen
large capitalists disposed to invest their money here, a pair of
intelligent heads to direct the work of renovating the place, and a
couple of thousands of active hands to carry it out, would not be a
bad thing for Orbajosa. Coming from the entrance to the town to the
door of this house, I saw more than a hundred beggars. The greater
part of them are healthy, and even robust men. It is a pitiable army,
the sight of which oppresses the heart."
"That is what charity is for," declared Don Inocencio. "Apart from
that, Orbajosa is not a poor town. You are already aware that the best
garlic in all Spain is produced here. There are more than twenty rich
families living among us."
"It is true, said Dona Perfecta, "that the last few years have been
wretched, owing to the drought; but even so, the granaries are not
empty, and several thousands of strings of garlic were recently
carried to market."
"During the many years that I have lived in Orbajosa," said the
priest, with a frown, "I have seen innumerable persons come here from
the capital, some brought by the electoral hurly-burly, others to
visit some abandoned site, or to see the antiquities of the cathedral,
and they all talk to us about the English ploughs and
threshing-machines and water-power and banks, and I don't know how
many other absurdities. The burden of their song is that this place is
very backward, and that it could be improved. Let them keep away from
us, in the devil's name! We are well enough as we are, without the
gentlemen from the capital visiting us; a great deal better off
without hearing that continual clamor about our poverty and the
grandeurs and the wonders of other places. The fool in his own house
is wiser than the wise man in another's. Is it not so, Senor Don Jose?
Of course, you mustn't imagine, even remotely, that I say this on your
account. Not at all! Of course not! I know that we have before us one
of the most eminent young men of modern Spain, a man who would be able
to transform into fertile lands our arid wastes. And I am not at all
angry because you sing us the same old song about the English ploughs
and arboriculture and silviculture. Not in the least. Men of such
great, such very great merit, may be excused for the contempt which
they manifest for our littleness. No, no, my friend; no, no, Senor Don
Jose! you are entitled to say any thing you please, even to tell us
that we are not much better than Kaffirs."
This philippic, concluded in a marked tone of irony, and all of it
impertinent enough, did not please the young man; but he refrained
from manifesting the slightest annoyance and continued the
conversation, endeavoring to avoid as far as possible the subjects in
which the over- sensitive patriotism of the canon might find cause of
offence. The latter rose when Dona Perfecta began to speak to her
nephew about family matters, and took a few turns about the room.
This was a spacious and well-lighted apartment, the walls of which
were covered with an old-fashioned paper whose flowers and branches,
although faded, preserved their original pattern, thanks to the
cleanliness which reigned in each and every part of the dwelling. The
clock, from the case of which hung, uncovered, the apparently
motionless weights and the voluble pendulum, perpetually repeating No,
no, occupied, with its variegated dial, the most prominent place among
the solid pieces of furniture of the dining-room, the adornment of the
walls being completed by a series of French engravings representing
the exploits of the conqueror of Mexico, with prolix explanations at
the foot of each concerning a Ferdinand Cortez, and a Donna Marine, as
little true to nature as were the figures delineated by the ignorant
artist. In the space between the two glass doors which communicated
with the garden was an apparatus of brass, which it is not necessary
to describe further than to say that it served to support a parrot,
which maintained itself on it with the air of gravity and
circumspection peculiar to those animals, taking note of everything
that went on. The hard and ironical expression of the parrot tribe,
their green coats, their red caps, their yellow boots, and finally,
the hoarse, mocking words which they generally utter, give them a
strange and repulsive aspect, half serious, half-comic. There is in
their air an indescribable something of the stiffness of diplomats. At
times they remind one of buffoons, and they always resemble those
absurdly conceited people who, in their desire to appear very
superior, look like caricatures.
The Penitentiary was very fond of the parrot. When he left Dona
Perfecta and Rosario conversing with the traveller, he went over to
the bird, and, allowing it to bite his forefinger with the greatest
good humor, said to it:
"Rascal, knave, why don't you talk? You would be of little account
if you weren't a prater. The world of birds, as well as men, is full
Then, with his own venerable hand, he took some peas from the dish
beside him, and gave them to the bird to eat. The parrot began to call
to the maid, asking her for some chocolate, and its words diverted the
two ladies and the young man from a conversation which could not have
been very engrossing.
CHAPTER VI. IN WHICH IT IS SEEN THAT
DISAGREEMENT MAY ARISE WHEN LEAST EXPECTED
Suddenly Don Cayetano Polentinos, Dona Perfecta's brother-in-law,
appeared at the door, and entering the room with outstretched arms,
"Let me embrace you, my dear Don Jose."
They embraced each other cordially. Don Cayetano and Pepe were
already acquainted with each other, for the eminent scholar and
bibliophile was in the habit of making a trip to Madrid whenever an
executor's sale of the stock of some dealer in old books was
advertised. Don Cayetano was tall and thin, of middle age, although
constant study or ill-health had given him a worn appearance; he
expressed himself with a refined correctness which became him
admirably, and he was affectionate and amiable in his manners, at
times to excess. With respect to his vast learning, what can be said
but that he was a real prodigy? In Madrid his name was always
mentioned with respect, and if Don Cayetano had lived in the capital,
he could not have escaped becoming a member, in spite of his modesty,
of every academy in it, past, present, and to come. But he was fond of
quiet and retirement, and the place which vanity occupies in the souls
of others, a pure passion for books, a love of solitary and secluded
study, without any other aim or incentive than the books and the study
themselves, occupied in his.
He had formed in Orbajosa one of the finest libraries that is to be
found in all Spain, and among his books he passed long hours of the
day and of the night, compiling, classifying, taking notes, and
selecting various sorts of precious information, or composing,
perhaps, some hitherto unheard-of and undreamed-of work, worthy of so
great a mind. His habits were patriarchal; he ate little, drank less,
and his only dissipations consisted of a luncheon in the Alamillos on
very great occasions, and daily walks to a place called Mundogrande,
where were often disinterred from the accumulated dust of twenty
centuries, medals, bits of architecture, and occasionally an amphora
or cubicularia of inestimable value.
Don Cayetano and Dona Perfecta lived in such perfect harmony that
the peace of Paradise was not to be compared to it. They never
disagreed. It is true that Don Cayetano never interfered in the
affairs of the house nor Dona Perfecta in those of the library, except
to have it swept and dusted every Saturday, regarding with religious
respect the books and papers that were in use on the table or anywhere
else in the room.
After the questions and answers proper to the occasion had been
interchanged Don Cayetano said:
"I have already looked at the books. I am very sorry that you did
not bring me the edition of 1527. I shall have to make a journey to
Madrid myself. Are you going to remain with us long? The longer the
better, my dear Pepe. How glad I am to have you here! Between us both
we will arrange a part of my library and make an index of the writers
on the Art of Horsemanship. It is not always one has at hand a man of
your talents. You shall see my library. You can take your fill of
reading there—as often as you like. You will see marvels, real
marvels, inestimable treasures, rare works that no one but myself has
a copy of. But I think it must be time for dinner, is it not, Jose? Is
it not, Perfecta? Is it not, Rosarito? Is it not, Senor Don Inocencio?
To-day you are doubly a Penitentiary—I mean because you will
accompany us in doing penance."
The canon bowed and smiled, manifesting his pleased acquiescence.
The dinner was substantial, and in all the dishes there was noticeable
the excessive abundance of country banquets, realized at the expense
of variety. There was enough to surfeit twice as many persons as sat
down to table. The conversation turned on various subjects.
"You must visit our cathedral as soon as possible," said the canon.
"There are few cathedrals like ours, Senor Don Jose! But of course
you, who have seen so many wonders in foreign countries, will find
nothing remarkable in our old church. We poor provincials of Orbajosa,
however, think it divine. Master Lopez of Berganza, one of the
prebendaries of the cathedral, called it in the sixteenth century pulchra augustissima. But perhaps for a man of your learning it
would possess no merit, and some market constructed of iron would seem
The ironical remarks of the wily canon annoyed Pepe Rey more and
more every moment, but, determined to control himself and to conceal
his anger, he answered only with vague words. Dona Perfecta then took
up the theme and said playfully:
"Take care, Pepito; I warn you that if you speak ill of our holy
church we shall cease to be friends. You know a great deal, you are a
man eminent for your knowledge on every subject, but if you are going
to discover that that grand edifice is not the eighth wonder of the
world you will do well to keep your knowledge to yourself and leave us
in our ignorance."
"Far from thinking that the building is not handsome," responded
Pepe, "the little I have seen of its exterior has seemed to me of
imposing beauty. So there is no need for you to be alarmed, aunt. And
I am very far from being a savant."
"Softly; softly," said the canon, extending his hand and giving his
mouth a truce from eating in order to talk. "Stop there—don't come
now pretending modesty, Senor Don Jose; we are too well aware of your
great merit, of the high reputation you enjoy and the important part
you play wherever you are, for that. Men like you are not to be met
with every day. But now that I have extolled your merits in this
He stopped to eat a mouthful, and when his tongue was once more at
liberty he continued thus:
"Now that I have extolled your merits in this way, permit me to
express a different opinion with the frankness which belongs to my
character. Yes, Senor Don Jose, yes, Senor Don Cayetano; yes, senora
and senorita, science, as the moderns study and propagate it, is the
death of sentiment and of every sweet illusion. Under its influence
the life of the spirit declines, every thing is reduced to fixed
rules, and even the sublime charms of nature disappear. Science
destroys the marvellous in the arts, as well as faith in the soul.
Science says that every thing is a lie, and would reduce every thing
to figures and lines, not only maria ac terras, where we are,
but coelumque profundum, where God is. The wonderful visions of
the soul, its mystic raptures, even the inspiration of the poets, are
all a lie. The heart is a sponge; the brain, a place for breeding
Every one laughed, while the canon took a draught of wine.
"Come, now, will Senor Don Jose deny," continued the ecclesiastic,
"that science, as it is taught and propagated to-day, is fast making
of the world and of the human race a great machine?"
"That depends," said Don Cayetano. "Every thing has its
and its contra."
"Take some more salad, Senor Penitentiary," said Dona Perfecta; "it
is just as you like it—with a good deal of mustard."
Pepe Rey was not fond of engaging in useless discussions; he was
not a pedant, nor did he desire to make a display of his learning, and
still less did he wish to do so in the presence of women, and in a
private re-union; but the importunate and aggressive verbosity of the
canon required, in his opinion, a corrective. To flatter his vanity by
agreeing with his views would, he thought, be a bad way to give it to
him, and he determined therefore to express only such opinions as
should be most directly opposed to those of the sarcastic Penitentiary
and most offensive to him.
"So you wish to amuse yourself at my expense," he said to himself.
"Wait, and you will see what a fine dance I will lead you."
Then he said aloud:
"All that the Senor Penitentiary has said ironically is the truth.
But it is not our fault if science overturns day after day the vain
idols of the past: its superstitions, its sophisms, its innumerable
fables —beautiful, some of them, ridiculous others—for in the
vineyard of the Lord grow both good fruit and bad. The world of
illusions, which is, as we might say, a second world, is tumbling
about us in ruins. Mysticism in religion, routine in science,
mannerism in art, are falling, as the Pagan gods fell, amid jests.
Farewell, foolish dreams! the human race is awakening and its eyes
behold the light. Its vain sentimentalism, its mysticism, its fevers,
its hallucination, its delirium are passing away, and he who was
before sick is now well and takes an ineffable delight in the just
appreciation of things. Imagination, the terrible madwoman, who was
the mistress of the house, has become the servant. Look around you,
Senor Penitentiary, and you will see the admirable aggregation of
truths which has taken the place of fable. The sky is not a vault; the
stars are not little lamps; the moon is not a sportive huntress, but
an opaque mass of stone; the sun is not a gayly adorned and vagabond
charioteer but a fixed fire; Scylla and Charybdis are not nymphs but
sunken rocks; the sirens are seals; and in the order of personages,
Mercury is Manzanedo; Mars is a clean- shaven old man, the Count von
Moltke; Nestor may be a gentleman in an overcoat, who is called M.
Thiers; Orpheus is Verdi; Vulcan is Krupp; Apollo is any poet. Do you
wish more? Well, then, Jupiter, a god who, if he were living now,
would deserve to be put in jail, does not launch the thunderbolt, but
the thunderbolt falls when electricity wills it. There is no
Parnassus; there is no Olympus; there is no Stygian lake; nor are
there any other Elysian Fields than those of Paris. There is no other
descent to hell than the descents of Geology, and this traveller,
every time he returns from it, declares that there are no damned souls
in the centre of the earth. There are no other ascents to heaven than
those of Astronomy, and she, on her return, declares that she has not
seen the six or seven circles of which Dante and the mystical dreamers
of the Middle Ages speak. She finds only stars and distances, lines,
vast spaces, and nothing more. There are now no false computations of
the age of the earth, for paleontology and prehistoric research have
counted the teeth of this skull in which we live and discovered the
true age. Fable, whether it be called paganism or Christian idealism,
exists no longer, and imagination plays only a secondary part. All the
miracles possible are such as I work, whenever I desire to do so, in
my laboratory, with my Bunsen pile, a conducting wire, and a
magnetized needle. There are now no other multiplications of loaves
and fishes than those which Industry makes, with her moulds and her
machines, and those of the printing press, which imitates Nature,
taking from a single type millions of copies. In short, my dear canon,
orders have been given to put on the retired list all the absurdities,
lies, illusions, dreams, sentimentalities, and prejudices which darken
the understanding of man. Let us rejoice at the fact."
When Pepe finished speaking, a furtive smile played upon the
canon's lips and his eyes were extraordinarily animated. Don Cayetano
busied himself in giving various forms—now rhomboidal, now
prismatic—to a little ball of bread. But Dona Perfecta was pale and
kept her eyes fixed on the canon with observant insistence. Rosarito
looked with amazement at her cousin. The latter, bending toward her,
whispered under his breath:
"Don't mind me, little cousin; I am talking all this nonsense only
to enrage the canon."
CHAPTER VII. THE DISAGREEMENT
"Perhaps you think," said Dona Perfecta, with a tinge of conceit in
her tones, "that Senor Don Inocencio is going to remain silent and not
give you an answer to each and every one of those points."
"Oh, no!" exclaimed the canon, arching his eyebrows. "I will not
attempt to measure my poor abilities with a champion so valiant and at
the same time so well armed. Senor Don Jose knows every thing; that is
to say, he has at his command the whole arsenal of the exact sciences.
Of course I know that the doctrines he upholds are false; but I have
neither the talent nor the eloquence to combat them. I would employ
theological arguments, drawn from revelation, from faith, from the
Divine Word; but alas! Senor Don Jose, who is an eminent savant, would
laugh at theology, at faith, at revelation, at the holy prophets, at
the gospel. A poor ignorant priest, an unhappy man who knows neither
mathematics, nor German philosophy with its ego and its non
ego, a poor dominie, who knows only the science of God and
something of the Latin poets, cannot enter into combat with so valiant
Pepe Rey burst into a frank laugh.
"I see that Senor Don Inocencio," he said, "has taken seriously all
the nonsense I have been talking. Come, Senor Canon, regard the whole
matter as a jest, and let it end there. I am quite sure that my
opinions do not in reality differ greatly from yours. You are a pious
and learned man; it is I who am ignorant. If I have allowed myself to
speak in jest, pardon me, all of you—that is my way."
"Thanks!" responded the presbyter, visibly annoyed. "Is that the
way you want to get out of it now? I am well aware, we are all well
aware, that the views you have sustained are your own. It could not be
otherwise. You are the man of the age. It cannot be denied that you
have a wonderful, a truly wonderful intellect. While you were talking,
at the same time that I inwardly deplored errors so great, I could not
but admire, I will confess it frankly, the loftiness of expression,
the prodigious fluency, the surprising method of your reasoning, the
force of your arguments. What a head, Senora Dona Perfecta, what a
head your young nephew has! When I was in Madrid and they took me to
the Atheneum, I confess that I was amazed to see the wonderful talent
which God has bestowed on the atheists and the Protestants."
"Senor Don Inocencio," said Dona Perfecta, looking alternately at
her nephew and her friend, "I think that in judging this boy you are
more than benevolent. Don't get angry, Pepe, or mind what I say, for I
am neither a savante, nor a philosopher, nor a theologian; but it
seems to me that Senor Don Inocencio has just given a proof of his
great modesty and Christian charity in not crushing you as he could
have done if he had wished."
"Oh, senora!" said the ecclesiastic.
"That is the way with him," continued Dona Perfecta, "always
pretending to know nothing. And he knows more than the seven doctors
put together. Ah, Senor Don Inocencio, how well the name you have
suits you! But don't affect an unseasonable humility now. Why, my
nephew has no pretensions. All he knows is what he has been taught. If
he has been taught error, what more can he desire than that you should
enlighten him and take him out of the limbo of his false doctrines?"
"Just so; I desire nothing more than that the Senor Penitentiary
should take me out,"—murmured Pepe, comprehending that without
intending it, he had got himself into a labyrinth.
"I am a poor priest, whose only learning is some knowledge of the
ancients," responded Don Inocencio. "I recognize the immense value,
from a worldly point of view, of Senor Don Jose's scientific
knowledge, and before so brilliant an oracle I prostrate myself and am
So saying, the canon folded his hands across his breast and bent
his head. Pepe Rey was somewhat disturbed because of the turn which
his mind had chosen to give to an idle discussion jestingly followed
up, and in which he had engaged only to enliven the conversation a
little. He thought that the most prudent course to pursue would be to
end at once so dangerous a debate, and for this purpose he addressed a
question to Senor Don Cayetano when the latter, shaking off the
drowsiness which had overcome him after the dessert, offered the
guests the indispensable toothpicks stuck in a china peacock with
"Yesterday I discovered a hand grasping the handle of an amphora,
on which there are a number of hieratic characters. I will show it to
you," said Don Cayetano, delighted to introduce a favorite theme.
"I suppose that Senor de Rey is very expert in archaeological
matters also," said the canon, who, still implacable, pursued his
victim to his last retreat.
"Of course," said Dona Perfecta. "What is there that these clever
children of our day do not understand? They have all the sciences at
their fingers' ends. The universities and the academics teach them
every thing in a twinkling, giving them a patent of learning."
"Oh, that is unjust!" responded the canon, observing the pained
expression of the engineer's countenance.
"My aunt is right," declared Pepe. "At the present day we learn a
little of every thing, and leave school with the rudiments of various
"I was saying," continued the canon, "that you are no doubt a great
"I know absolutely nothing of that science," responded the young
man. "Ruins are ruins, and I have never cared to cover myself with
dust going among them."
Don Cayetano made an expressive grimace.
"That is not to say that I condemn archaeology," said Dona
Perfecta's nephew quickly, observing with pain that he could not utter
a word without wounding some one. "I know that from that dust issues
history. Those studies are delightful and very useful."
"You," said the Penitentiary, putting his toothpick into the last
of his back teeth, "are no doubt more inclined to controversial
studies. An excellent idea has just occurred to me, Senor Don Jose;
you ought to be a lawyer."
"Law is a profession which I abhor," replied Pepe Rey. "I know many
estimable lawyers, among them my father, who is the best of men; but,
in spite of so favorable a specimen, I could never had brought myself
to practise a profession which consists in defending with equal
readiness the pro and the contra of a question. I know
of no greater misjudgment, no greater prejudice, no greater blindness,
than parents show in their eagerness to dedicate their sons to the
law. The chief and the most terrible plague of Spain is the crowd of
our young lawyers, for whose existence a fabulous number of lawsuits
are necessary. Lawsuits multiply in proportion to the demand. And even
thus, numbers are left without employment, and, as a jurisconsult
cannot put his hand to the plough or seat himself at the loom, the
result is that brilliant squadron of idlers full of pretensions, who
clamor for places, embarrass the administration, agitate public
opinion, and breed revolutions. In some way they must make a living.
It would be a greater misfortune if there were lawsuits enough for all
"Pepe, for Heaven's sake, take care what you say," said Dona
Perfecta, in a tone of marked severity. "But excuse him, Senor Don
Inocencio, for he is not aware that you have a nephew who, although he
has only lately left the university, is a prodigy in the law."
"I speak in general terms," said Pepe, with firmness. "Being, as I
am, the son of a distinguished lawyer, I cannot be ignorant of the
fact that there are many men who practise that noble profession with
honor to themselves."
"No; my nephew is only a boy yet," said the canon, with affected
humility. "Far be it from me to assert that he is a prodigy of
learning, like Senor de Rey. In time, who can tell? His talents are
neither brilliant nor seductive. Of course, Jacinto's ideas are solid
and his judgment is sound. What he knows he knows thoroughly. He is
unacquainted with sophistries and hollow phrases."
Pepe Rey appeared every moment more and more disturbed. The idea
that, without desiring it, his opinions should be in opposition to
those of the friends of his aunt, vexed him, and he resolved to remain
silent lest he and Don Inocencio should end by throwing the plates at
each other's heads. Fortunately the cathedral bell, calling the canon
to the important duties of the choir, extricated him from his painful
position. The venerable ecclesiastic rose and took leave of every one,
treating Rey with as much amiability and kindness as if they had been
old and dear friends. The canon, after offering his services to Pepe
for all that he might require, promised to present his nephew to him
in order that the young man might accompany him to see the town,
speaking in the most affectionate terms and deigning, on leaving the
room, to pat him on the shoulder. Pepe Rey, accepting with pleasure
these formulas of concord, nevertheless felt indescribably relieved
when the priest had left the dining-room and the house.
CHAPTER VIII. IN ALL HASTE
A little later the scene had changed. Don Cayetano, finding rest
from his sublime labors in a gentle slumber that had overcome him
after dinner, reclined comfortably in an arm-chair in the dining-room.
Rosarito, seated at one of the windows that opened into the garden,
glanced at her cousin, saying to him with the mute eloquence of her
"Cousin, sit down here beside me and tell me every thing you have
to say to me."
Her cousin, mathematician though he was, understood.
"My dear cousin," said Pepe, "how you must have been bored this
afternoon by our disputes! Heaven knows that for my own pleasure I
would not have played the pedant as I did; the canon was to blame for
it. Do you know that that priest appears to me to be a singular
"He is an excellent person!" responded Rosarito, showing the
delight she felt at being able to give her cousin all the data and the
information that he might require.
"Oh, yes! An excellent person. That is very evident!"
"When you know him a little better, you will see that."
"That he is beyond all price! But it is enough for him to be your
friend and your mamma's to be my friend also," declared the young man.
"And does he come here often?"
"Every day. He spends a great deal of his time with us," responded
Rosarito ingenuously. "How good and kind he is! And how fond he is of
"Come! I begin to like this gentleman."
"He comes in the evening, besides, to play tresillo," continued the
young girl; "for every night some friends meet here—the judge of the
lower court, the attorney-general, the dean, the bishop's secretary,
the alcalde, the collector of taxes, Don Inocencio's nephew——"
"Ah! Jacintito, the lawyer."
"Yes; he is a simple-hearted boy, as good as gold. His uncle adores
him. Since he returned from the university with his doctor's tassel—
for he is a doctor in two sciences, and he took honors besides—what
do you think of that?—well, as I was saying, since his return, he has
come here very often with his uncle. Mamma too is very fond of him. He
is a very sensible boy. He goes home early with his uncle; he never
goes at night to the Casino, nor plays nor squanders money, and he is
employed in the office of Don Lorenzo Ruiz, who is the best lawyer in
Orbajosa. They say Jacinto will be a great lawyer, too."
"His uncle did not exaggerate when he praised him, then," said
Pepe. "I am very sorry that I talked all that nonsense I did about
lawyers. I was very perverse, was I not, my dear cousin?"
"Not at all; for my part, I think you were quite right."
"But, really, was I not a little—"
"Not in the least, not in the least!"
"What a weight you have taken off my mind! The truth is that I
found myself constantly, and without knowing why, in distressing
opposition to that venerable priest. I am very sorry for it."
"What I think," said Rosarito, looking at him with eyes full of
affection, "is that you will not find yourself at home among us."
"What do you mean by that?"
"I don't know whether I can make myself quite clear, cousin. I mean
that it will not be easy for you to accustom yourself to the society
and the ideas of the people of Orbajosa. I imagine so—it is a
"Oh, no! I think you are mistaken."
"You come from a different place, from another world, where the
people are very clever, and very learned, and have refined manners,
and a witty way of talking, and an air—perhaps I am not making myself
clear. I mean that you are accustomed to live among people of
refinement; you know a great deal. Here there is not what you need;
here the people are not learned or very polished. Every thing is
plain, Pepe. I imagine you will be bored, terribly bored, and that in
the end you will have to go away."
The expression of sadness which was natural in Rosarito's
countenance here became so profound that Pepe Rey was deeply moved.
"You are mistaken, my dear cousin. I did not come here with the
ideas you fancy, nor is there between my character and my opinions and
the character and opinions of the people here the want of harmony you
imagine. But let us suppose for a moment that there were."
"Let us suppose it."
"In that case I have the firm conviction that between you and me,
between us two, dear Rosarito, perfect harmony would still exist. On
this point I cannot be mistaken. My heart tells me that I am not
Rosarito blushed deeply, but making an effort to conceal her
embarrassment under smiles and fugitive glances, she said:
"Come, now, no pretences. But if you mean that I shall always
approve of what you say, you are right."
"Rosario," exclaimed the young man, "the moment I saw you my soul
was filled with gladness; I felt at the same time a regret that I had
not come before to Orbajosa."
"Now, that I am not going to believe," she said, affecting gayety
to conceal her emotion. "So soon? Don't begin to make protestations
already. See, Pepe, I am only a country girl, I can talk only about
common things; I don't know French; I don't dress with elegance; all I
know is how to play the piano; I——"
"Oh, Rosario!" cried the young man, with ardor; "I believed you to
be perfect before; now I am sure you are so."
Her mother at this moment entered the room. Rosarito, who did not
know what to say in answer to her cousin's last words, was conscious,
however, of the necessity of saying something, and, looking at her
mother, she cried:
"Ah! I forgot to give the parrot his dinner."
"Don't mind that now. But why do you stay in here? Take your cousin
for a walk in the garden."
Dona Perfecta smiled with maternal kindness at her nephew, as she
pointed toward the leafy avenue which was visible through the glass
"Let us go there," said Pepe, rising.
Rosarito darted, like a bird released from its cage, toward the
"Pepe, who knows so much and who must understand all about trees,"
said Dona Perfecta, "will teach you how to graft. Let us see what he
thinks of those young pear-trees that they are going to transplant."
"Come, come!" called Rosarito to her cousin impatiently from the
Both disappeared among the foliage. Dona Perfecta watched them
until they were out of sight and then busied herself with the parrot.
As she changed its food she said to herself with a contemplative air:
"How different he is! He has not even given a caress to the poor
Then, thinking it possible that she had been overheard by her
brother- in-law, she said aloud:
"Cayetano, what do you think of my nephew? Cayetano!"
A low grunt gave evidence that the antiquary was returning to the
consciousness of this miserable world.
"Just so, just so!" murmured the scientist in a sleepy voice. "That
young gentleman will maintain, as every one does, that the statues of
Mundogrande belong to the first Phoenician immigration. But I will
"But, Perfecta! There! Now you will insist upon it again that I
have been asleep."
"No, indeed; how could I insist upon any thing so absurd! But you
haven't told me what you think about that young man."
Don Cayetano placed the palm of his hand before his mouth to
conceal a yawn; then he and Dona Perfecta entered upon a long
conversation. Those who have transmitted to us the necessary data for
a compilation of this history omit this dialogue, no doubt because it
was entirely confidential. As for what the engineer and Rosarito said
in the garden that afternoon, it is evident that it was not worthy of
On the afternoon of the following day, however, events took place
which, being of the gravest importance, ought not to be passed over in
silence. Late in the afternoon the two cousins found themselves alone,
after rambling through different parts of the garden in friendly
companionship and having eyes and ears only for each other.
"Pepe," Rosario was saying, "all that you have been telling me is
pure fancy, one of those stories that you clever men know so well how
to put together. You think that because I am a country girl I believe
every thing I am told."
"If you understood me as well as I think I understand you, you
would know that I never say any thing I do not mean. But let us have
done with foolish subtleties and lovers' sophistries, that lead only
to misunderstandings. I will speak to you only in the language of
truth. Are you by chance a young lady whose acquaintance I have made
on the promenade or at a party, and with whom I propose to spend a
pleasant hour or two? No, you are my cousin. You are something more.
Rosario, let us at once put things on their proper footing. Let us
drop circumlocutions. I have come here to marry you."
Rosario felt her face burning, and her heart was beating violently.
"See, my dear cousin," continued the young man. "I swear to you
that if you had not pleased me I should be already far away from this
place. Although politeness and delicacy would have obliged me to make
an effort to conceal my disappointment, I should have found it hard to
do so. That is my character."
"Cousin, you have only just arrived," said Rosarito laconically,
trying to laugh.
"I have only just arrived, and I already know all that I wanted to
know; I know that I love you; that you are the woman whom my heart has
long been announcing to me, saying to me night and day, 'Now she is
coming, now she is near; now you are burning.' "
These words served Rosario as an excuse for breaking into the laugh
that had been dimpling her lips. Her soul swelled with happiness; she
breathed an atmosphere of joy.
"You persist in depreciating yourself," continued Pepe, "but for me
you possess every perfection. You have the admirable quality of
radiating on all around you the divine light of your soul. The moment
one sees you one feels instinctively the nobility of your mind and the
purity of your heart. To see you is to see a celestial being who,
through the forgetfulness of Heaven, remains upon the earth; you are
an angel, and I adore you."
When he had said this it seemed as if he had fulfilled an important
mission. Rosarito, overcome by the violence of her emotion, felt her
scant strength suddenly fail her; and, half-fainting, she sank on a
stone that in those pleasant solitudes served as a seat. Pepe bent
over her. Her eyes were closed, her forehead rested on the palm of her
hand. A few moments later the daughter of Dona Perfecta Polentinos
gave her cousin, amid happy tears, a tender glance followed by these
"I loved you before I had ever seen you."
Placing her hands in those of the young man she rose to her feet,
and their forms disappeared among the leafy branches of an oleander
walk. Night was falling and soft shadows enveloped the lower end of
the garden, while the last rays of the setting sun crowned the
tree-tops with fleeting splendors. The noisy republic of the birds
kept up a deafening clamor in the upper branches. It was the hour in
which, after flitting about in the joyous regions of the sky, they
were all going to rest, and they were disputing with one another the
branches they had selected for sleeping-places. Their chatter at times
had a sound of recrimination and controversy, at times of mockery and
merriment. In their voluble twitter the little rascals said the most
insulting things to each other, pecking at each other and flapping
their wings, as orators wave their arms when they want to make their
hearers believe the lies they are telling them. But words of love were
to be heard there too, for the peace of the hour and the beauty of the
spot invited to it. A sharp ear might have distinguished the
"I loved you before I had even seen you, and if you had not come I
should have died of grief. Mamma used to give me your father's letters
to read, and he praised you so much in them that I used to say, 'That
is the man who ought to be my husband.' For a long time your father
said nothing about our marrying, which seemed to me great negligence.
Uncle Cayetano, whenever he spoke of you, would say, 'There are not
many men like him in the world. The woman who gets him for a husband
may think herself fortunate.' At last your father said what he could
not avoid saying. Yes, he could not avoid saying it—I was expecting
it every day."
Shortly after these words the same voice added uneasily: "Some one
is following us."
Emerging from among the oleanders, Pepe, turning round, saw two men
approaching them, and touching the leaves of a young tree near by, he
said aloud to his companion:
"It is not proper to prune young trees like this for the first time
until they have taken firm root. Trees recently planted have not
sufficient strength to bear the operation. You know that the roots can
grow only by means of the leaves, so that if you take the leaves from
"Ah, Senor Don Jose," cried the Penitentiary, with a frank laugh,
approaching the two young people and bowing to them, "are you giving
lessons in horticulture? Insere nunc Meliboee piros; pone ordine
vites, as the great singer of the labors of the field said. 'Graft
the pear-tree, dear Meliboeus, trim the vines.' And how are we now,
Senor Don Jose?"
The engineer and the canon shook hands. Then the latter turned
round, and indicating by a gesture a young man who was behind him,
"I have the pleasure of presenting to you my dear Jacintillo—a
great rogue, a feather-head, Senor Don Jose."
CHAPTER IX. THE DISAGREEMENT
CONTINUES TO INCREASE, AND THEREAFTER TO BECOME DISCORD
Close beside the black cassock was a fresh and rosy face, that
seemed fresher and rosier from the contrast. Jacinto saluted our hero,
not without some embarrassment.
He was one of those precocious youths whom the indulgent university
sends prematurely forth into the arena of life, making them fancy that
they are men because they have received their doctor's degree. Jacinto
had a round, handsome face with rosy cheeks, like a girl's, and
without any beard save the down which announced its coming. In person
he was plump and below the medium height. His age was a little over
twenty. He had been educated from childhood under the direction of his
excellent and learned uncle, which is the same as saying that the twig
had not become crooked in the growing. A severe moral training had
kept him always straight, and in the fulfilment of his scholastic
duties he had been almost above reproach. Having concluded his studies
at the university with astonishing success, for there was scarcely a
class in which he did not take the highest honors, he entered on the
practice of his profession, promising, by his application and his
aptitude for the law, to maintain fresh and green in the forum the
laurels of the lecture-hall.
At times he was as mischievous as a boy, at times as sedate as a
man. In very truth, if Jacinto had not had a little, and even a great
deal of liking for pretty girls, his uncle would have thought him
perfect. The worthy man preached to him unceasingly on this point,
hastening to clip the wings of every audacious fancy. But not even
this mundane inclination of the young man could cool the great
affection which our worthy canon bore the charming offspring of his
dear niece, Maria Remedios. Where the young lawyer was concerned,
every thing else must give way. Even the grave and methodical habits
of the worthy ecclesiastic were altered when they interfered with the
affairs of his precocious pupil. That order and regularity, apparently
as fixed as the laws of a planetary system, were interrupted whenever
Jacinto was ill or had to take a journey. Useless celibacy of the
clergy! The Council of Trent prohibits them from having children of
their own, but God—and not the Devil, as the proverb says—gives them
nephews and nieces in order that they may know the tender anxieties of
Examining impartially the qualities of this clever boy, it was
impossible not to recognize that he was not wanting in merit. His
character was in the main inclined to uprightness, and noble actions
awakened a frank admiration in his soul. With respect to his
intellectual endowments and his social knowledge, they were sufficient
to enable him to become in time one of those notabilities of whom
there are so many in Spain; he might be what we take delight in
calling hyperbolically a distinguished patrician, or an eminent public
man; species which, owing to their great abundance, are hardly
appreciated at their just value. In the tender age in which the
university degree serves as a sort of solder between boyhood and
manhood, few young men— especially if they have been spoiled by their
masters—are free from an offensive pedantry, which, if it gives them
great importance beside their mamma's arm-chair, makes them very
ridiculous when they are among grave and experienced men. Jacinto had
this defect, which was excusable in him, not only because of his
youth, but also because his worthy uncle stimulated his puerile vanity
by injudicious praise.
When the introduction was over they resumed their walk. Jacinto was
silent. The canon, returning to the interrupted theme of the pyros
which were to be grafted and the vites which were to be
"I am already aware that Senor Don Jose is a great agriculturist."
"Not at all; I know nothing whatever about the subject," responded
the young man, observing with no little annoyance the canon's mania of
supposing him to be learned in all the sciences.
"Oh, yes! a great agriculturist," continued the Penitentiary; 'but
on agricultural subjects, don't quote the latest treatises to me. For
me the whole of that science, Senor de Rey, is condensed in what I
call the Bible of the Field, in the 'Georgics' of the immortal Roman.
It is all admirable, from that grand sentence, Nec vero terroe
ferre omnes omnia possunt/—that is to say, that not every soil is
suited to every tree, Senor Don Jose—to the exhaustive treatise on
bees, in which the poet describes the habits of those wise little
animals, defining the drone in these words:
" 'Ille horridus alter
Desidia, latamque trahens inglorius alvum.'
'Of a horrible and slothful figure, dragging along the ignoble
weight of the belly,' Senor Don Jose."
"You do well to translate it for me," said Pepe, "for I know very
"Oh, why should the men of the present day spend their time in
studying things that are out of date?" said the canon ironically.
"Besides, only poor creatures like Virgil and Cicero and Livy wrote in
Latin. I, however, am of a different way of thinking; as witness my
nephew, to whom I have taught that sublime language. The rascal knows
it better than I do. The worst of it is, that with his modern reading
he is forgetting it; and some fine day, without ever having suspected
it, he will find out that he is an ignoramus. For, Senor Don Jose, my
nephew has taken to studying the newest books and the most extravagant
theories, and it is Flammarion here and Flammarion there, and nothing
will do him but that the stars are full of people. Come, I fancy that
you two are going to be very good friends. Jacinto, beg this gentleman
to teach you the higher mathematics, to instruct you concerning the
German philosophers, and then you will be a man."
The worthy ecclesiastic laughed at his own wit, while Jacinto,
delighted to see the conversation turn on a theme so greatly to his
taste, after excusing himself to Pepe Rey, suddenly hurled this
question at him:
"Tell me, Senor Don Jose, what do you think of Darwinism?"
Our hero smiled at this inopportune pedantry, and he felt almost
tempted to encourage the young man to continue in this path of
childish vanity; but, judging it more prudent to avoid intimacy,
either with the nephew or the uncle, he answered simply:
"I can think nothing at all about the doctrines of Darwin, for I
know scarcely any thing about him. My professional labors have not
permitted me to devote much of my time to those studies."
"Well," said the canon, laughing, "it all reduces itself to this,
that we are descended from monkeys. If he had said that only in the
case of certain people I know, he would have been right."
"The theory of natural selection," said Jacinto emphatically, "has,
they say, a great many partisans in Germany."
"I do not doubt it," said the ecclesiastic. "In Germany they would
have no reason to be sorry if that theory were true, as far as
Bismarck is concerned."
Dona Perfecta and Senor Don Cayetano at this moment made their
"What a beautiful evening!" said the former. "Well, nephew, are you
getting terribly bored?"
"I am not bored in the least," responded the young man.
"Don't try to deny it. Cayetano and I were speaking of that as we
came along. You are bored, and you are trying to hide it. It is not
every young man of the present day who would have the self-denial to
spend his youth, like Jacinto, in a town where there are neither
theatres, nor opera bouffe, nor dancers, nor philosophers, nor
athenaeums, nor magazines, nor congresses, nor any other kind of
diversions or entertainments."
"I am quite contented here," responded Pepe. "I was just now saying
to Rosario that I find this city and this house so pleasant that I
would like to live and die here."
Rosario turned very red and the others were silent. They all sat
down in a summer-house, Jacinto hastening to take the seat on the left
of the young girl.
"See here, nephew, I have a piece of advice to give you," said Dona
Perfecta, smiling with that expression of kindness that seemed to
emanate from her soul, like the aroma from the flower. "But don't
imagine that I am either reproving you or giving you a lesson—you are
not a child, and you will easily understand what I mean."
"Scold me, dear aunt, for no doubt I deserve it," replied Pepe, who
was beginning to accustom himself to the kindnesses of his father's
"No, it is only a piece of advice. These gentlemen, I am sure, will
agree that I am in the right."
Rosario was listening with her whole soul.
"It is only this," continued Dona Perfecta, "that when you visit
our beautiful cathedral again, you will endeavor to behave with a
little more decorum while you are in it."
"Why, what have I done?"
"It does not surprise me that you are not yourself aware of your
fault," said his aunt, with apparent good humor. "It is only natural;
accustomed as you are to enter athenaeums and clubs, and academies and
congresses without any ceremony, you think that you can enter a temple
in which the Divine Majesty is in the same manner."
"But excuse me, senora," said Pepe gravely, "I entered the
cathedral with the greatest decorum."
"But I am not scolding you, man; I am not scolding you. If you take
it in that way I shall have to remain silent. Excuse my nephew,
gentlemen. A little carelessness, a little heedlessness on his part is
not to be wondered at. How many years is it since you set foot in a
sacred place before?"
"Senora, I assure you—— But, in short, let my religious ideas be
what they may, I am in the habit of observing the utmost decorum in
"What I assure you is—— There, if you are going to be offended I
won't go on. What I assure you is that a great many people noticed it
this morning. The Senores de Gonzalez, Dona Robustiana, Serafinita—in
short, when I tell you that you attracted the attention of the
bishop—— His lordship complained to me about it this afternoon when
I was at my cousin's. He told me that he did not order you to be put
out of the church only because you were my nephew."
Rosario looked anxiously at her cousin, trying to read in his
countenance, before he uttered it, the answer he would make to these
"No doubt they mistook me for some one else."
"No, no! it was you. But there, don't get angry! We are talking
here among friends and in confidence. It was you. I saw you myself."
"You saw me!"
"Just so. Will you deny that you went to look at the pictures,
passing among a group of worshippers who were hearing mass? I assure
you that my attention was so distracted by your comings and goings
that—well, you must not do it again. Then you went into the chapel of
San Gregorio. At the elevation of the Host at the high altar you did
not even turn around to make a gesture of reverence. Afterward you
traversed the whole length of the church, you went up to the tomb of
the Adelantado, you touched the altar with your hands, then you passed
a second time among a group of worshippers, attracting the notice of
every one. All the girls looked at you, and you seemed pleased at
disturbing so finely the devotions of those good people."
"Good Heavens! How many things I have done!" exclaimed Pepe, half
angry, half amused. "I am a monster, it seems, without ever having
"No, I am very well aware that you are a good boy," said Dona
Perfecta, observing the canon's expression of unalterable gravity,
which gave his face the appearance of a pasteboard mask. "But, my dear
boy, between thinking things and showing them in that irreverent
manner, there is a distance which a man of good sense and good
breeding should never cross. I am well aware that your ideas are——
Now, don't get angry! If you get angry, I will be silent. I say that
it is one thing to have certain ideas about religion and another thing
to express them. I will take good care not to reproach you because you
believe that God did not create us in his image and likeness, but that
we are descended from the monkeys; nor because you deny the existence
of the soul, asserting that it is a drug, like the little papers of
rhubarb and magnesia that are sold at the apothecary's—"
"Senora, for Heaven's sake!" exclaimed Pepe, with annoyance. "I see
that I have a very bad reputation in Orbajosa."
The others remained silent.
"As I said, I will not reproach you for entertaining those ideas.
And, besides, I have not the right to do so. If I should undertake to
argue with you, you, with your wonderful talents, would confute me a
thousand times over. No, I will not attempt any thing of that kind.
What I say is that these poor and humble inhabitants of Orbajosa are
pious and good Christians, although they know nothing about German
philosophy, and that, therefore, you ought not publicly to manifest
your contempt for their beliefs."
"My dear aunt," said the engineer gravely, "I have shown no
contempt for any one, nor do I entertain the ideas which you attribute
to me. Perhaps I may have been a little wanting in reverence in the
church. I am somewhat absent-minded. My thoughts and my attention were
engaged with the architecture of the building and, frankly speaking, I
did not observe—— But this was no reason for the bishop to think of
putting me out of the church, nor for you to suppose me capable of
attributing to a paper from the apothecary's the functions of the
soul. I may tolerate that as a jest, but only as a jest."
The agitation of Pepe Rey's mind was so great that, notwithstanding
his natural prudence and moderation, he was unable to conceal it.
"There! I see that you are angry," said Dona Perfecta, casting down
her eyes and clasping her hands. "I am very sorry. If I had known that
you would have taken it in that way, I should not have spoken to you.
Pepe, I ask your pardon."
Hearing these words and seeing his kind aunt's deprecating
attitude, Pepe felt ashamed of the sternness of his last words, and he
made an effort to recover his serenity. The venerable Penitentiary
extricated him from his embarrassing position, saying with his
accustomed benevolent smile:
"Senora Dona Perfecta, we must be tolerant with artists. Oh, I have
known a great many of them! Those gentlemen, when they have before
them a statue, a piece of rusty armor, a mouldy painting, or an old
wall, forget every thing else. Senor Don Jose is an artist, and he has
visited our cathedral as the English visit it, who would willingly
carry it away with them to their museums, to its last tile, if they
could. That the worshippers were praying, that the priest was
elevating the Sacred Host, that the moment of supreme piety and
devotion had come—what of that? What does all that matter to an
artist? It is true that I do not know what art is worth, apart from
the sentiments which it expresses, but, in fine, at the present day,
it is the custom to adore the form, not the idea. God preserve me from
undertaking to discuss this question with Senor Don Jose, who knows so
much, and who, reasoning with the admirable subtlety of the moderns,
would instantly confound my mind, in which there is only faith."
"The determination which you all have to regard me as the most
learned man on earth annoys me exceedingly," said Pepe, speaking in
his former hard tone. "Hold me for a fool; for I would rather be
regarded as a fool than as the possessor of that Satanic knowledge
which is here attributed to me."
Rosarito laughed, and Jacinto thought that a highly opportune
moment had now arrived to make a display of his own erudition.
"Pantheism or panentheism," he said, "is condemned by the Church,
as well as by the teachings of Schopenhauer and of the modern
"Ladies and gentlemen," said the canon gravely, "men who pay so
fervent a worship to art, though it be only to its form, deserve the
greatest respect. It is better to be an artist, and delight in the
contemplation of beauty, though this be only represented by nude
nymphs, than to be indifferent and incredulous in every thing. The
mind that consecrates itself to the contemplation of beauty, evil will
not take complete possession of. Est Deus in nobis. Deus
, be it well understood. Let Senor Don Jose, then, continue to admire
the marvels of our church; I, for one, will willingly forgive him his
acts of irreverence, with all due respect for the opinions of the
"Thanks, Senor Don Inocencio," said Pepe, feeling a bitter and
rebellious sentiment of hostility springing up within him toward the
canon, and unable to conquer his desire to mortify him. "But let none
of you imagine, either, that it was the beauties of art, of which you
suppose the temple to be full, that engaged my attention. Those
beauties, with the exception of the imposing architecture of a portion
of the edifice and of the three tombs that are in the chapel of the
apse, I do not see. What occupied my mind was the consideration of the
deplorable decadence of the religious arts; and the innumerable
monstrosities, of which the cathedral is full, caused me not
astonishment, but disgust."
The amazement of all present was profound.
"I cannot endure," continued Pepe, "those glazed and painted images
that resemble so much—God forgive me for the comparison—the dolls
that little girls pay with. And what am I to say of the theatrical
robes that cover them? I saw a St. Joseph with a mantle whose
appearance I will not describe, out of respect for the holy patriarch
and for the church of which he is the patron. On the altar are crowded
together images in the worst possible taste; and the innumerable
crowns, branches, stars, moons, and other ornaments of metal or gilt
paper have an air of an ironmongery that offends the religious
sentiment and depresses the soul. Far from lifting itself up to
religious contemplation, the soul sinks, and the idea of the ludicrous
distracts it. The great works of art which give sensible form to
ideas, to dogmas, to religious faith, to mystic exaltation, fulfil a
noble mission. The caricatures, the aberrations of taste, the
grotesque works with which a mistaken piety fills the church, also
fulfil their object; but this is a sad one enough: They encourage
superstition, cool enthusiasm, oblige the eyes of the believer to turn
away from the altar, and, with the eyes, the souls that have not a
very profound and a very firm faith turn away also."
"The doctrine of the iconoclasts, too," said Jacinto, "has, it
seems, spread widely in Germany."
"I am not an iconoclast, although I would prefer the destruction of
all the images to the exhibition of buffooneries of which I speak,"
continued the young man. "Seeing it, one may justly advocate a return
of religious worship to the august simplicity of olden times. But no;
let us not renounce the admirable aid which all the arts, beginning
with poetry and ending with music, lend to the relations between man
and God. Let the arts live; let the utmost pomp be displayed in
religious ceremonies. I am a partisan of pomp."
"An artist, an artist, and nothing more than an artist!" exclaimed
the canon, shaking his head with a sorrowful air. "Fine pictures, fine
statues, beautiful music; pleasure for the senses, and let the devil
take the soul!"
"Apropos of music," said Pepe Rey, without observing the deplorable
effect which his words produced on both mother and daughter, "imagine
how disposed my mind would be to religious contemplation on entering
the cathedral, when just at that moment, and precisely at the
offertory at high mass, the organist played a passage from 'Traviata.'
"Senor de Rey is right in that," said the little lawyer
emphatically. "The organist played the other day the whole of the
drinking song and the waltz from the same opera, and afterward a
rondeau from the 'Grande Duchesse.' "
"But when I felt my heart sink," continued the engineer implacably,
"was when I saw an image of the Virgin, which seems to be held in
great veneration, judging from the crowd before it and the multitude
of tapers which lighted it. They have dressed her in a puffed-out
garment of velvet, embroidered with gold, of a shape so extraordinary
that it surpasses the most extravagant of the fashions of the day. Her
face is almost hidden under a voluminous frill, made of innumerable
rows of lace, crimped with a crimping-iron, and her crown, half a yard
in height, surrounded by golden rays, looks like a hideous catafalque
erected over her head. Of the same material, and embroidered in the
same manner, are the trousers of the Infant Jesus. I will not go on,
for to describe the Mother and the Child might perhaps lead me to
commit some irreverence. I will only say that it was impossible for me
to keep from smiling, and for a short time I contemplated the profaned
image, saying to myself: 'Mother and Lady mine, what a sight they have
made of you!' "
As he ended Pepe looked at his hearers, and although, owing to the
gathering darkness, he could not see their countenances distinctly, he
fancied that in some of them he perceived signs of angry
"Well, Senor Don Jose!" exclaimed the canon quickly, smiling with a
triumphant expression, "that image, which to your philosophy and
pantheism appears so ridiculous, is Our Lady of Help, patroness and
advocate of Orbajosa, whose inhabitants regard her with so much
veneration that they would be quite capable of dragging any one
through the streets who should speak ill of her. The chronicles and
history, Senor Don Jose, are full of the miracles which she has
wrought, and even at the present day we receive constantly
incontrovertible proofs of her protection. You must know also that
your aunt, Dona Perfecta, is chief lady in waiting to the Most Holy
Virgin of Help, and that the dress that to you appears so
grotesque—went out from this house, and that the trousers of the
Infant are the work of the skilful needle and the ardent piety
combined of your cousin Rosarito, who is now listening to us."
Pepe Rey was greatly disconcerted. At the same instant Dona
Perfecta rose abruptly from her seat, and, without saying a word,
walked toward the house, followed by the Penitentiary. The others rose
also. Recovering from his stupefaction, the young man was about to beg
his cousin's pardon for his irreverence, when he observed that
Rosarito was weeping. Fixing on her cousin a look of friendly and
gentle reproof, she said:
"What ideas you have!"
The voice of Dona Perfecta was heard crying in an altered accent:
The latter ran toward the house.
CHAPTER X. THE EVIDENCE OF DISCORD
Pepe Rey was disturbed and perplexed, enraged with himself and
every one else; he tried in vain to imagine what could be the conflict
that had arisen, in spite of himself, between his ideas and the ideas
of his aunt's friends. Thoughtful and sad, foreseeing future discord,
he remained for a short time sitting on the bench in the summer-house,
his chin resting on his breast, his forehead gathered in a frown, his
hands clasped. He thought himself alone.
Suddenly he heard a gay voice humming the refrain of a song from a
zarzuela. He looked up and saw Don Jacinto sitting in the opposite
corner of the summer-house.
"Ah, Senor de Rey!" said the youth abruptly, "one does not offend
with impunity the religious sentiments of the great majority of a
nation. If you doubt it, consider what happened in the first French
When Pepe heard the buzzing of this insect his irritation
increased. Nevertheless there was no anger in his soul toward the
youthful doctor of laws. The latter annoyed him, as a fly might annoy
him, but nothing more. Rey felt the irritation which every importunate
being inspires, and with the air of one who brushes away a buzzing
drone, he answered:
"What has the French revolution to do with the robe of the Virgin?"
He got up and walked toward the house, but he had not taken half a
dozen steps before he heard again beside him the buzzing of the
"Senor Don Jose, I wish to speak to you about an affair in which
you are greatly interested and which may cause you some trouble."
"An affair?" said the young man, drawing back. "Let us hear what
affair is that."
"You suspect what it is, perhaps," said Jacinto, approaching Pepe,
and smiling with the air of a man of business who has some unusually
important matter on hand; "I want to speak to you about the lawsuit."
"The lawsuit! My friend, I have no lawsuits. You, as a good lawyer,
dream of lawsuits and see stamped paper everywhere."
"What! You have not heard of your lawsuit?" exclaimed the youth,
"Of my lawsuit! But I have no lawsuits, nor have I ever had any."
"Well, if you have not heard of it, I am all the better pleased to
have spoken to you about it, so that you may be on your guard. Yes,
senor, you are going to have a suit at law."
"And with whom?"
"With Uncle Licurgo and other land-owners whose property borders on
the estate called The Poplars."
Pepe Rey was astounded.
"Yes, senor," continued the little lawyer. "To-day Uncle Licurgo
and I had a long conference. As I am such a friend of the family, I
wanted to let you know about it, so that, if you think well of it, you
may hasten to arrange the matter."
"But what have I to arrange? What do those rascals claim from me?"
"It seems that a stream of water which rises in your property has
changed its course and flows over some tile-works of the aforesaid
Uncle Licurgo and the mill of another person, occasioning considerable
damage. My client—for he is determined that I shall get him out of
this difficulty—my client, as I said, demands that you shall restore
the water to its former channel, so as to avoid fresh injuries, and
that you shall indemnify him for the damage which his works have
already sustained through the neglect of the superior proprietor."
"And I am the superior proprietor! If I engage in a lawsuit, that
will be the first fruit that those famous Poplars, which were mine and
which now, as I understand, belong to everybody, will have ever
produced me, for Licurgo, as well as some of the other farmers of the
district, have been filching from me, little by little, year after
year, pieces of land, and it will be very difficult to re-establish
the boundaries of my property."
"That is a different question."
"That is not a different question. The real suit," exclaimed the
engineer, unable to control his anger, "will be the one that I will
bring against that rabble who no doubt propose to themselves to tire
me out and drive me to desperation—so that I may abandon every thing
and let them continue in possession of what they have stolen. We shall
see if there are lawyers and judges who will uphold the infamous
conduct of those village legists, who are forever at law, and who
waste and consume the property of others. I am obliged to you, young
gentleman, for having informed me of the villanous intentions of those
boors, who are more perverse than Satan himself. When I tell you that
that very tile-yard and that very mill on which Licurgo bases his
claim are mine—"
"The title-deeds of the property ought to be examined, to see if
possession may not constitute a title in this case."
"Possession! Those scoundrels are not going to have the pleasure of
laughing at me in that way. I suppose that justice is honestly and
faithfully administered in the city of Orbajosa."
"Oh, as to that!" exclaimed the little lawyer, with an approving
look, "the judge is an excellent person! He comes here every evening.
But it is strange that you should have received no notice of Senor
Licurgo's claims. Have you not yet been summoned to appear before the
tribunal of arbitration?"
"It will be to-morrow, then. Well, I am very sorry that Senor
Licurgo's precipitation has deprived me of the pleasure and honor of
defending you, but what is to be done? Licurgo was determined that I
should take him out of his troubles. I will study the matter with the
greatest care. This vile slavery is the great drawback of
Pepe entered the dining-room in a deplorable state of mind. Dona
Perfecta was talking with the Penitentiary, as he entered, and
Rosarito was sitting alone, with her eyes fixed on the door. She was
no doubt waiting for her cousin.
"Come here, you rascal," said his aunt, smiling with very little
spontaneity. "You have insulted us, you great atheist! but we forgive
you. I am well aware that my daughter and myself are two rustics who
are incapable of soaring to the regions of mathematics where you
dwell, but for all that it is possible that you may one day get down
on your knees to us and beg us to teach you the Christian doctrine."
Pepe answered with vague phrases and formulas of politeness and
"For my part," said Don Inocencio, with an affected air of meekness
and amiability, "if in the course of these idle disputes I have said
any thing that could offend Senor Don Jose, I beg his pardon for it.
We are all friends here."
"Thanks. It is of no consequence."
"In spite of every thing," said Dona Perfecta, smiling with more
naturalness than before, "I shall always be the same for my dear
nephew; in spite of his extravagant and anti-religious ideas. In what
way do you suppose I am going to spend this evening? Well, in trying
to make Uncle Licurgo give up those obstinate notions which would
otherwise cause you annoyance. I sent for him, and he is waiting for
me now in the hall. Make yourself easy, I will arrange the matter; for
although I know that he is not altogether without right on his side—"
"Thanks, dear aunt," responded the young man, his whole being
invaded by a wave of the generous emotion which was so easily aroused
in his soul.
Pepe Rey looked in the direction of his cousin, intending to join
her, but some wily questions of the canon retained him at Dona
Perfecta's side. Rosario looked dejected, and was listening with an
air of melancholy indifference to the words of the little lawyer, who,
having installed himself at her side, kept up a continuous stream of
fulsome flatteries, seasoned with ill-timed jests and fatuous remarks
in the worst possible taste.
"The worst of it is," said Dona Perfecta to her nephew—surprising
the glance which he cast in the direction of the ill-assorted
pair—"the worst of it is, that you have offended poor Rosario. You
must do all in your power to make your peace with her. The poor child
is so good!"
"Oh, yes! so good," added the canon, "that I have no doubt that she
will forgive her cousin."
"I think that Rosario has already forgiven me," affirmed Rey.
"And if not, angelic breasts do not harbor resentment long," said
Don Inocencio mellifluously. "I have a great deal of influence with
the child, and I will endeavor to dissipate in her generous soul
whatever prejudice may exist there against you. As soon as I say a
word or two to her——"
Pepe Rey felt a cloud darken his soul and he said with meaning:
"Perhaps it may not be necessary."
"I will not speak to her now," added the capitular, "because she is
listening entranced to Jacinto's nonsense. Ah, those children! When
they once begin there is no stopping them."
The judge of the lower court, the alcalde's lady, and the dean of
the cathedral now made their appearance. They all saluted the
engineer, manifesting in their words and manner, on seeing him, the
satisfaction of gratified curiosity. The judge was one of those clever
and intelligent young men who every day spring into notice in official
circles; aspiring, almost before they are out of the shell, to the
highest political and administrative positions. He gave himself airs
of great importance, and in speaking of himself and of his juvenile
toga, he seemed indirectly to manifest great offence because he had
not been all at once made president of the supreme court. In such
inexpert hands, in a brain thus swollen with vanity, in this
incarnation of conceit, had the state placed the most delicate and the
most difficult functions of human justice. His manners were those of a
perfect courtier, and revealed a scrupulous and minute attention to
all that concerned his own person. He had the insufferable habit of
taking off and putting on every moment his gold eye-glasses, and in
his conversation he manifested with frequency the strong desire which
he had to be transferred to Madrid, in order that he might give his
invaluable services to the Department of Grace and Justice.
The alcalde's lady was a good-natured woman, whose only weakness
was to fancy that she had a great many acquaintances at the court. She
asked Pepe Rey various questions about the fashions, mentioning
establishments in which she had had a mantle or a skirt made on her
last journey to the capital, contemporaneous with the visit of Muley-
Abbas, and she also mentioned the names of a dozen duchesses and
marchionesses; speaking of them with as much familiarity as if they
had been friends of her school-days. She said also that the Countess
of M. (famous for her parties) was a friend of hers and that in '60
she had paid her a visit, when the countess had invited her to her box
at the Teatro Real, where she saw Muley-Abbas in Moorish dress and
accompanied by his retinue of Moors. The alcalde's wife talked
incessantly and was not wanting in humor.
The dean was a very old man, corpulent and red-faced, plethoric and
apoplectic looking, a man so obese that he seemed bursting out of his
skin. He had belonged to one of the suppressed religious orders; he
talked only of religious matters; and from the very first manifested
the most profound contempt for Pepe Rey. The latter appeared every
moment more unable to accommodate himself to a society so little to
his taste. His disposition—not at all malleable, hard, and very
little flexible—rejected the duplicities and the compromises of
language to simulate concord when it did not exist. He remained, then,
very grave during the whole of the tiresome evening, obliged as he was
to endure the oratorical vehemence of the alcalde's wife, who, without
being Fame, had the privilege of fatiguing with a hundred tongues the
ears of men. If, in some brief respite which this lady gave her
hearers, Pepe Rey made an attempt to approach his cousin, the
Penitentiary attached himself to him instantly, like the mollusk to
the rock; taking him apart with a mysterious air to propose to him an
excursion with Senor Don Cayetano to Mundogrande, or a fishing party
on the clear waters of the Nahara.
At last the evening came to an end, as every thing does in this
world. The dean retired, leaving the house, as it seemed, empty, and
very soon there remained of the alcalde's wife only an echo, like the
buzz which remains in the air after a storm has passed away. The judge
also deprived the company of his presence, and at last Don Inocencio
gave his nephew the signal for departure.
"Come, boy, come; for it is late," he said, smiling. "How you have
tormented poor Rosarito, has he not, child? Home, you rogue, home,
"It is time to go to bed," said Dona Perfecta.
"Time to go to work," responded the little lawyer.
"I am always telling him that he ought to get through with his
business in the day-time, but he will not mind me."
"There is so much, so very much business to be got through."
"No, say rather, that confounded work which you have undertaken. He
does not wish to say it, Senor Don Jose, but the truth is that he is
writing a book on 'The Influence of Woman in Christian Society,' and,
in addition to that, 'A Glance at the Catholic Movement in'—somewhere
or other. What do you know about glances or influences? But these
youths of the present day have audacity enough for any thing. Oh, what
boys! Well, let us go home. Good-night, Senora Dona Perfecta—good-
night, Senor Don Jose—Rosarito."
"I will wait for Senor Don Cayetano," said Jacinto, "to ask him to
give me the Augusto Nicolas."
"Always carrying books. Why, sometimes you come into the house
laden like a donkey. Very well, then, let us wait."
"Senor Don Jacinto does not write hastily," said Pepe Rey; "he
prepares himself well for his work, so that his books may be treasures
"But that boy will injure his brain," objected Dona Perfecta. "For
Heaven's sake be careful! I would set a limit to his reading."
"Since we are going to wait," said the little doctor, in a tone of
insufferable conceit, "I will take with me also the third volume of
Concilios. What do you think, uncle?"
"Take that, of course. It would never do to leave that behind you."
Fortunately Senor Don Cayetano (who generally spent his evenings at
the house of Don Lorenzo Ruiz) soon arrived, and the books being
received, uncle and nephew left the house.
Rey read in his cousin's sad countenance a keen desire to speak to
him. He approached her while Dona Perfecta and Don Cayetano were
discussing some domestic matter apart.
"You have offended mamma," said Rosarito.
Her features expressed something like terror.
"It is true," responded the young man; "I have offended your
mamma—I have offended you."
"No, not me. I already imagined that the Infant Jesus ought not to
"But I hope that you will both forgive me. Your mamma was so kind
to me a little while ago."
Dona Perfecta's voice suddenly vibrated through the dining-room,
with so discordant a tone that her nephew started as if he had heard a
cry of alarm. The voice said imperiously:
"Rosario, go to bed!"
Startled, her mind filled with anxious fears, the girl lingered in
the room, going here and there as if she was looking for something. As
she passed her cousin she whispered softly and cautiously these words:
"Mamma is angry."
"She is angry—be on your guard, be on your guard."
Then she left the room. Her mother, for whom Uncle Licurgo was
waiting, followed her, and for some time the voices of Dona Perfecta
and the countryman were heard mingled together in familiar conference.
Pepe was left with Don Cayetano, who, taking a light, said;
"Good-night, Pepe. But don't suppose that I am going to sleep, I am
going to work. But why are you so thoughtful? What is the matter with
you?—Just as I say, to work. I am making notes for a 'Memorial
Discourse on the Genealogies of Orbajosa.' I have already found data
and information of the utmost value. There can be no dispute about it.
In every period of our history the Orbajosans have been distinguished
for their delicate sense of honor, their chivalry, their valor, their
intellectuality. The conquest of Mexico, the wars of the Emperor, the
wars of Philip against the heretics, testify to this. But are you ill?
What is the matter with you? As I say, eminent theologians, valiant
warriors, conquerors, saints, bishops, statesmen—all sorts of
illustrious men—have flourished in this humble land of the garlic.
No, there is not in Christendom a more illustrious city than ours. Its
virtues and its glories are in themselves enough and more than enough
to fill all the pages of our country's history. Well, I see that it is
sleepy you are—good-night. As I say, I would not exchange the glory
of being a son of this noble city for all the gold in the world.
Augusta, the ancients called it; Augustissima, I call it now; for now,
as then, high-mindedness, generosity, valor, magnanimity, are the
patrimony of all. Well, good-night, dear Pepe. But I fancy you are not
well. Has the supper disagreed with you?—Alonzo Gonzalez de
Bustamante was right when he said in his 'Floresta Amena' that the
people of Orbajosa suffice in themselves to confer greatness and honor
on a kingdom. Don't you think so?"
"Oh, yes, senor; undoubtedly," responded Pepe Rey, going abruptly
toward his room.
CHAPTER XI. THE DISCORD GROWS
During the following days Pepe Rey made the acquaintance of several
of the people of the place; he visited the Casino, and formed
friendships with some of the individuals who spend their lives in the
rooms of that corporation.
But the youth of Orbajosa did not spend all their time in the
Casino, as evil-minded people might imagine. In the afternoons there
were to be seen at the corner of the cathedral, and in the little
plaza formed by the intersection of the Calle del Condestable and the
Calle de la Triperia, several gentlemen who, gracefully enveloped in
their cloaks, stood there like sentinels, watching the people as they
passed by. If the weather was fine, those shining lights of the Urbs
Augustan culture bent their steps, still enveloped in the
indispensable cloak, toward the promenade called the Paseo de las
Descalzas, which was formed by a double row of consumptive-looking
elms and some withered bushes of broom. There the brilliant Pleiad
watched the daughters of this fellow- townsman or that, who had also
come there for a walk, and the afternoon passed tolerably. In the
evening, the Casino filled up again; and while some of the members
gave their lofty minds to the delights of monte, others read the
newspapers, while the majority discussed in the coffee- room subjects
of the various kinds, such as the politics, horses, bulls, or the
gossip of the place. The result of every discussion was the renewed
conviction of the supremacy of Orbajosa and its inhabitants over all
the other towns and peoples on the face of the earth.
These distinguished men were the cream of the illustrious city;
some rich landowners, others very poor, but all alike free from lofty
aspirations. They had the imperturbable tranquillity of the beggar who
desires nothing more so long as he has a crust of bread with which to
cheat hunger, and the sun to warm him. What chiefly distinguished the
Orbajosans of the Casino was a sentiment of bitter hostility toward
all strangers, and whenever any stranger of note appeared in its
august halls, they believed that he had come there to call in question
the superiority of the land of the garlic, or to dispute with it,
through envy, the incontestable advantages which nature had bestowed
When Pepe Rey presented himself in the Casino, they received him
with something of suspicion, and as facetious persons abounded in it,
before the new member had been there a quarter of an hour, all sorts
of jokes had been made about him. When in answer to the reiterated
questions of the members he said that he had come to Orbajosa with a
commission to explore the basin of the Nahara for coal, and to survey
a road, they all agreed that Senor Don Jose was a conceited fellow who
wished to give himself airs, discovering coalbeds and planning
railroads. Some one added:
"He has come to a bad place for that, then. Those gentlemen imagine
that here we are all fools, and that they can deceive us with fine
words. He has come to marry Dona Perfecta's daughter, and all that he
says about coalbeds is only for the sake of appearances."
"Well, this morning," said another, a merchant who had failed,
"they told me at the Dominguez' that the gentleman has not a peseta,
and that he has come here in order to be supported by his aunt and to
see if he can catch Rosarito."
"It seems that he is no engineer at all," added an olive-planter,
whose plantations were mortgaged for double their value. "But it is as
you say: those starvelings from Madrid think they are justified in
deceiving poor provincials, and as they believe that here we all wear
"It is plain to be seen that he is penniless—"
"Well, half-jest and the whole earnest, he told us last night that
we were lazy barbarians."
"That we spent our time sunning ourselves, like the Bedouins."
"That we lived with the imagination."
"That's it; that we lived with the imagination."
"And that this city was precisely like a city in Morocco."
"Well! one has no patience to listen to those things. Where else
could he see (unless it might be in Paris) a street like the Calle del
Condestable, that can show seven houses in a row, all of them
magnificent, from Dona Perfecta's house to that of Nicolasita
Hernandez? Does that fellow suppose that one has never seen any thing,
or has never been in Paris?"
"He also said, with a great deal of delicacy, that Orbajosa was a
city of beggars; and he gave us to understand that in his opinion we
live in the meanest way here without being ourselves aware of it."
"What insolence! If he ever says that to me, there will be a scene
in the Casino," exclaimed the collector of taxes. "Why didn't they
tell him how many arrobas of oil Orbajosa produced last year? Doesn't
the fool know that in good years Orbajosa produces wheat enough to
supply all Spain, and even all Europe, with bread? It is true that the
crops have been bad for several years past, but that is not the rule.
And the crop of garlic! I wager the gentleman doesn't know that the
garlic of Orbajosa made the gentleman of the jury in the Exposition of
These and other conversations of a similar kind were to be heard in
the rooms of the Casino in those days. Notwithstanding this boastful
talk, so common in small towns, which, for the very reason that they
are small, are generally arrogant, Rey was not without finding sincere
friends among the members of the learned corporation, for they were
not all gossips, nor were there wanting among them persons of good
sense. But our hero had the misfortune—if misfortune it can be
called—to be unusually frank in the manifestation of his feelings,
and this awakened some antipathy toward him.
Days passed. In addition to the natural disgust which the social
customs of the episcopal city produced in him, various causes, all of
them disagreeable, began to develop in his mind a profound sadness,
chief among these causes being the crowd of litigants that swarmed
about him like voracious ants. Many others of the neighboring
landowners besides Uncle Licurgo claimed damages from him, or asked
him to render accounts for lands managed by his grandfather. A claim
was also brought against him because of a certain contract of
partnership entered into by his mother and which, as it appeared, had
not been fulfilled; and he was required in the same way to acknowledge
a mortgage on the estate of The Poplars executed in an irregular form
by his uncle. Claims swarmed around him, multiplying with ant-like
rapidity. He had come to the determination to renounce the ownership
of his lands, but meanwhile his dignity required that he should not
yield to the wily manoeuvres of the artful rustics; and as the
town-council brought a claim against him also on account of a
pretended confusion of the boundary lines of his estate with those of
an adjoining wood belonging to the town-lands, the unfortunate young
man found himself at every step obliged to prove his rights, which
were being continually called in question. His honor was engaged, and
he had no alternative but to defend his rights to the death.
Dona Perfecta had promised in her magnanimity to help him to free
himself from these disgraceful plots by means of an amicable
arrangement; but the days passed, and the good offices of the
exemplary lady had produced no result whatever. The claims multiplied
with the dangerous swiftness of a violent disease. Pepe Rey passed
hour after hour at court, making declarations and answering the same
questions over and over again, and when he returned home tired and
angry, there appeared before him the sharp features and grotesque face
of the notary, who had brought him a thick bundle of stamped papers
full of horrible formulas—that he might be studying the question.
It will be easily understood that Pepe Rey was not a man to endure
such annoyances when he might escape from them by leaving the town.
His mother's noble city appeared to his imagination like a horrible
monster which had fastened its ferocious claws in him and was drinking
his blood. To free himself from this monster nothing more was
necessary, he believed, than flight. But a weighty interest—an
interest in which his heart was concerned—kept him where he was;
binding him to the rock of his martyrdom with very strong bonds.
Nevertheless, he had come to feel so dissatisfied with his position;
he had come to regard himself as so utterly a stranger, so to say, in
that gloomy city of lawsuits, of old- fashioned customs and ideas, of
envy and of slander, that he resolved to leave it without further
delay, without, however, abandoning the project which had brought him
to it. One morning, finding a favorable occasion, he opened his mind
to Dona Perfecta on this point.
"Nephew," responded that lady, with her accustomed gentleness,
"don't be rash. Why! you are like fire. Your father was just the
same—what a man he was! You are like a flash—I have already told you
that I will be very glad to call you my son. Even if you did not
possess the good qualities and the talents which distinguish you (in
spite of some little defects, for you have those, too); even if you
were not as good as you are; it is enough that this union has been
proposed by your father, to whom both my daughter and myself owe so
much, for me to accept it. And Rosarito will not oppose it since I
wish it. What is wanting, then? Nothing; there is nothing wanting but
a little time. The marriage cannot be concluded with the haste you
desire and which might, perhaps, give ground for interpretations
discreditable to my dear daughter's reputation. But as you think of
nothing but machines, you want every thing done by steam. Wait, man,
wait; what hurry are you in? This hatred that you have taken to our
poor Orbajosa is nothing but a caprice. But of course you can only
live among counts and marquises and orators and diplomats—all you
want is to get married and separate me forever from my daughter," she
added, wiping away a tear. "Since that is the case, inconsiderate boy,
at least have the charity to delay for a little this marriage, for
which you are so eager. What impatience! What ardent love! I did not
suppose that a poor country girl like my daughter could inspire so
violent a passion."
The arguments of his aunt did not convince Pepe Rey, but he did not
wish to contradict her. A fresh cause of anxiety was soon added to
those which already embittered his existence. He had now been in
Orbajosa for two weeks, and during that time he had received no letter
from his father. This could not be attributed to carelessness on the
part of the officials of the post-office of Orbajosa, for the
functionary who had charge of that service being the friend and protégé of Dona Perfecta, the latter every day recommended him to
take the greatest care that the letters addressed to her nephew did
not go astray. The letter-carrier, named Cristoval Ramos, and
nicknamed Caballuco—a personage whose acquaintance we have already
made—also visited the house, and to him Dona Perfecta was accustomed
to address warnings and reprimands as energetic as the following:
"A pretty mail service you have! How is it that my nephew has not
received a single letter since he has been in Orbajosa? When the
carrying of the mail is entrusted to such a giddy-pate, how can things
be expected to go well? I will speak to the governor of the province
so that he may be careful what kind of people he puts in the
Caballuco, shrugging his shoulders, looked at Rey with the most
One day he entered the house with a letter in his hand.
"Thank Heaven!" said Dona Perfecta to her nephew. "Here are letters
from your father. Rejoice, man! A pretty fright we have had through my
brother's laziness about writing. What does he say? He is well, no
doubt," she added, seeing that Pepe Rey opened the letter with
The engineer turned pale as he glanced over the first lines.
"Good Heavens! Pepe, what is the matter?" exclaimed Dona Perfecta,
rising in alarm. "Is your father ill?"
"This letter is not from my father," responded Pepe, revealing in
his countenance the greatest consternation.
"What is it, then?"
"An order from the Minister of Public Works, relieving me from the
charge which was confided to me."
"What! Can it be possible!"
"A dismissal pure and simple, expressed in terms very little
flattering to me."
"Was there ever any thing so unjust!" exclaimed Dona Perfecta, when
she had recovered from her amazement.
"What a humiliation!" exclaimed the young man. "It is the first
time in my life that I have received an affront like this."
"But the Government is unpardonable! To put such a slight upon you!
Do you wish me to write to Madrid? I have very good friends there, and
I may be able to obtain satisfaction for you from the Government and
reparation for this brutal affront."
"Thanks, senora, I desire no recommendations," said the young man,
"But what a piece of injustice! what a high-handed proceeding! To
discharge in this way a young man of your merit, an eminent scientist.
Why, I cannot contain my anger!"
"I will find out," said Pepe, with energy, "who it is that occupies
himself in injuring me."
"That minister—but what is to be expected from those infamous
"In this there is the hand of some one who is determined to drive
me to desperation," declared the young man, visibly disturbed. "This
is not the act of the minister; this and other contrarieties that I am
experiencing are the result of a revengeful plot, of a secret and
well- laid plan of some implacable enemy, and this enemy is here in
Orbajosa, this plot has been hatched in Orbajosa, doubt it not, dear
"You are out of your mind," replied Dona Perfecta, with a look of
compassion. "You have enemies in Orbajosa, you say? Some one wishes to
revenge himself upon you? Come, Pepillo, you have lost your senses.
The reading of those books in which they say that we have for
ancestors monkeys or parrots has turned your brain."
She smiled sweetly as she uttered the last words, and taking a tone
of familiar and affectionate admonition, she added:
"My dear boy, the people of Orbajosa may be rude and boorish
rustics, without learning, or polish, or fine manners; but in loyalty
and good faith we yield to no one—to no one, I say, no one."
"Don't suppose," said the young man, "that I accuse any one in this
house. But that my implacable and cruel enemy is in this city, I am
"I wish you would show me that stage villain," responded Dona
Perfecta, smiling again. "I suppose you will not accuse Uncle Licurgo,
nor any of the others who have brought suits against you; for the poor
people believe they are only defending their rights. And between
ourselves, they are not altogether wanting in reason in this case.
Besides, Uncle Licurgo likes you greatly. He has told me so himself.
From the moment he saw you, you took his fancy, and the poor old man
has conceived such an affection for you—"
"Oh, yes—a profound affection!" murmured Pepe.
"Don't be foolish," continued his aunt, putting her hand on his
shoulder and looking at him closely. "Don't imagine absurdities;
convince yourself that your enemy, if you have one, is in Madrid, in
that centre of corruption, of envy and rivalry, not in this peaceful
and tranquil corner, where all is good-will and concord. Some one, no
doubt, who is envious of your merit—— There is one thing I wish to
say now—and that is, that if you desire to go there to learn the
cause of this affront and ask an explanation of it from the
Government, you must not neglect doing so on our account."
Pepe Rey fixed his eyes on his aunt's countenance, as if he wished
to penetrate with his glance the inmost depths of her soul.
"I say that if you wish to go, do so," repeated Dona Perfecta, with
admirable serenity, while her countenance expressed the most complete
and unaffected sincerity.
"No, senora: I do not wish to go."
"So much the better; I think you are right. You are more tranquil
here, notwithstanding the suspicions with which you are tormenting
yourself. Poor Pepillo! We poor rustics of Orbajosa live happy in our
ignorance. I am very sorry that you are not contented here. But is it
my fault if you vex and worry yourself without a cause? Do I not treat
you like a son? Have I not received you as the hope of my house? Can I
do more for you? If in spite of all this you do not like us, if you
show so much indifference toward us, if you ridicule our piety, if you
insult our friends, is it by chance because we do not treat you well?"
Dona Perfecta's eyes grew moist.
"My dear aunt," said Pepe, feeling his anger vanish, "I too have
committed some faults since I have been a guest in this house."
"Don't be foolish. Don't talk about committing faults. Among the
persons of the same family every thing is forgiven."
"But Rosarito—where is she?" asked the young man, rising. "Am I
not to see her to-day, either?"
"She is better. Do you know that she did not wish to come down
"I will go up to her then."
"No, it would be of no use. That girl has some obstinate notions—
to-day she is determined not to leave her room. She has locked herself
"What a strange idea!"
"She will get over it. Undoubtedly she will get over it. We will
see to-night if we cannot put these melancholy thoughts out of her
head. We will get up a party to amuse her. Why don't you go to Don
Inocencio's and ask him to come here to-night and bring Jacintillo
"Yes, when Rosarito has these fits of melancholy, the only one who
can divert her is that young man."
"But I will go upstairs——"
"No, you must not."
"What etiquette there is in this house!"
"You are ridiculing us. Do as I ask you."
"But I wish to see her."
"But you cannot see her. How little you know the girl!"
"I thought I knew her well. I will stay here, then. But this
solitude is horrible."
"There comes the notary."
"Maledictions upon him!"
"And I think the attorney-general has just come in too—he is an
"He be hanged with his goodness!"
"But business affairs, when they are one's own, serve as a
distraction. Some one is coming. I think it is the agricultural
expert. You will have something to occupy you now for an hour or two."
"An hour or two of hell!"
"Ah, ha! if I am not mistaken Uncle Licurgo and Uncle Paso Largo
have just entered. Perhaps they have come to propose a compromise to
"I would throw myself into the pond first!"
"How unnatural you are! For they are all very fond of you. Well, so
that nothing may be wanting, there comes the constable too. He is
coming to serve a summons on you."
"To crucify me."
All the individuals named were now entering the parlor one by one.
"Good-by, Pepe; amuse yourself," said Dona Perfecta.
"Earth, open and swallow me!" exclaimed the young man desperately.
"Senor Don Jose."
"My dear Don Jose."
"Esteemed Don Jose."
"My dearest Don Jose."
"My respected friend, Don Jose."
Hearing these honeyed and insinuating preliminaries, Pepe Rey
exhaled a deep sigh and gave himself up. He gave himself up, soul and
body, to the executioners, who brandished horrible leaves of stamped
paper while the victim, raising his eyes to heaven with a look of
Christian meekness, murmured:
"Father, why hast thou forsaken me?"
CHAPTER XII. HERE WAS TROY
Love, friendship, a wholesome moral atmosphere, spiritual light,
sympathy, an easy interchange of ideas and feelings, these were what
Pepe Rey's nature imperatively demanded. Deprived of them, the
darkness that shrouded his soul grew deeper, and his inward gloom
imparted a tinge of bitterness and discontent to his manner. On the
day following the scenes described in the last chapter, what vexed him
more than any thing was the already prolonged and mysterious seclusion
of his cousin, accounted for at first by a trifling indisposition and
then by caprices and nervous feelings difficult of explanation.
Rey was surprised by conduct so contrary to the idea which he had
formed of Rosarito. Four days had passed during which he had not seen
her; and certainly it was not because he did not desire to be at her
side; and his situation threatened soon to become humiliating and
ridiculous, if, by boldly taking the initiative, he did not at once
put an end to it.
"Shall I not see my cousin to-day, either?" he said to his aunt,
with manifest ill-humor, when they had finished dining.
"No, not to-day, either. Heaven knows how sorry I am for it. I gave
her a good talking to this morning. This afternoon we will see what
can be done."
The suspicion that in this unreasonable seclusion his adorable
cousin was rather the helpless victim than the free and willing agent,
induced him to control himself and to wait. Had it not been for this
suspicion he would have left Orbajosa that very day. He had no doubt
whatever that Rosario loved him, but it was evident that some unknown
influence was at work to separate them, and it seemed to him to be the
part of an honorable man to discover whence that malign influence
proceeded and to oppose it, as far as it was in his power to do so.
"I hope that Rosarito's obstinacy will not continue long," he said
to Dona Perfecta, disguising his real sentiments.
On this day he received a letter from his father in which the
latter complained of having received none from Orbajosa, a
circumstance which increased the engineer's disquietude, perplexing
him still further. Finally, after wandering about alone in the garden
for a long time, he left the house and went to the Casino. He entered
it with the desperate air of a man about to throw himself into the
In the principal rooms he found various people talking and
discussing different subjects. In one group they were solving with
subtle logic difficult problems relating to bulls; in another, they
were discussing the relative merits of different breeds of donkeys of
Orbajosa and Villahorrenda. Bored to the last degree, Pepe Rey turned
away from these discussions and directed his steps toward the
reading-room, where he looked through various reviews without finding
any distraction in the reading, and a little later, passing from room
to room, he stopped, without knowing why, at the gaming-table. For
nearly two hours he remained in the clutches of the horrible yellow
demon, whose shining eyes of gold at once torture and charm. But not
even the excitement of play had power to lighten the gloom of his
soul, and the same tedium which had impelled him toward the green
cloth sent him away from it. Shunning the noise, he found himself in
an apartment used as an assembly-room, in which at the time there was
not a living soul, and here he seated himself wearily at a window
overlooking the street.
This was very narrow, with more corners and salient angles than
houses, and was overshaded throughout its whole extent by the imposing
mass of the cathedral that lifted its dark and time-corroded walls at
one end of it. Pepe Rey looked up and down and in every direction; no
sign of life—not a footstep, not a voice, not a glance, disturbed the
stillness, peaceful as that of a tomb, that reigned everywhere.
Suddenly strange sounds, like the whispering of feminine voices, fell
on his ear, and then the rustling of curtains that were being drawn, a
few words, and finally the humming of a song, the bark of a lap-dog,
and other signs of social life, which seemed very strange in such a
place. Observing attentively, Pepe Rey perceived that these noises
proceeded from an enormous balcony with blinds which displayed its
corpulent bulk in front of the window at which he was sitting. Before
he had concluded his observations, a member of the Casino suddenly
appeared beside him, and accosted him laughingly in this manner:
"Ah, Senor Don Pepe! what a rogue you are! So you have shut
yourself in here to ogle the girls, eh?"
The speaker was Don Juan Tafetan, a very amiable man, and one of
the few members of the Casino who had manifested for Pepe Rey cordial
friendship and genuine admiration. With his red cheeks, his little
dyed mustache, his restless laughing eyes, his insignificant figure,
his hair carefully combed to hide his baldness, Don Juan Tafetan was
far from being an Antinous in appearance, but he was very witty and
very agreeable and he had a happy gift for telling a good story. He
was much given to laughter, and when he laughed his face, from his
forehead to his chin, became one mass of grotesque wrinkles. In spite
of these qualities, and of the applause which might have stimulated
his taste for spicy jokes, he was not a scandal-monger. Every one
liked him, and Pepe Rey spent with him many pleasant hours. Poor
Tafetan, formerly an employe in the civil department of the government
of the capital of the province, now lived modestly on his salary as a
clerk in the bureau of charities; eking out his income by gallantly
playing the clarionet in the processions, in the solemnities of the
cathedral, and in the theatre, whenever some desperate company of
players made their appearance in those parts with the perfidious
design of giving representations in Orbajosa.
But the most curious thing about Don Juan Tafetan was his liking
for pretty girls. He himself, in the days when he did not hide his
baldness with half a dozen hairs plastered down with pomade, when he
did not dye his mustache, when, in the freedom from care of youthful
years, he walked with shoulders unstooped and head erect, had been a
formidable Tenorio. To hear him recount his conquests was
something to make one die laughing; for there are Tenorios and
Tenorios, and he was one of the most original.
"What girls? I don't see any girls," responded Pepe Rey.
"Yes, play the anchorite!"
One of the blinds of the balcony was opened, giving a glimpse of a
youthful face, lovely and smiling, that disappeared instantly, like a
light extinguished by the wind.
"Yes, I see now."
"Don't you know them?"
"On my life I do not."
"They are the Troyas—the Troya girls. Then you don't know
something good. Three lovely girls, the daughters of a colonel of
staff, who died in the streets of Madrid in '54."
The blind opened again, and two faces appeared.
"They are laughing at me," said Tafetan, making a friendly sign to
"Do you know them?"
"Why, of course I know them. The poor things are in the greatest
want. I don't know how they manage to live. When Don Francisco Troya
died a subscription was raised for them, but that did not last very
"Poor girls! I imagine they are not models of virtue."
"And why not? I do not believe what they say in the town about
Once more the blinds opened.
"Good-afternoon, girls!" cried Don Juan Tafetan to the three girls,
who appeared, artistically grouped, at the window. "This gentleman
says that good things ought not to hide themselves, and that you
should throw open the blinds."
But the blind was closed and a joyous concert of laughter diffused
a strange gayety through the gloomy street. One might have fancied
that a flock of birds was passing.
"Shall we go there?" said Tafetan suddenly.
His eyes sparkled and a roguish smile played on his discolored
"But what sort of people are they, then?"
"Don't be afraid, Senor de Rey. The poor things are honest. Bah!
Why, they live upon air, like the chameleons. Tell me, can any one who
doesn't eat sin? The poor girls are virtuous enough. And even if they
did sin, they fast enough to make up for it."
"Let us go, then."
A moment later Don Juan Tafetan and Pepe Rey were entering the
parlor of the Troyas. The poverty he saw, that struggled desperately
to disguise itself, afflicted the young man. The three girls were very
lovely, especially the two younger ones, who were pale and dark, with
large black eyes and slender figures. Well-dressed and well shod they
would have seemed the daughters of a duchess, and worthy to ally
themselves with princes.
When the visitors entered, the three girls were for a moment
abashed: but very soon their naturally gay and frivolous dispositions
became apparent. They lived in poverty, as birds live in confinement,
singing behind iron bars as they would sing in the midst of the
abundance of the forest. They spent the day sewing, which showed at
least honorable principles; but no one in Orbajosa, of their own
station in life, held any intercourse with them. They were, to a
certain extent, proscribed, looked down upon, avoided, which also
showed that there existed some cause for scandal. But, to be just, it
must be said that the bad reputation of the Troyas consisted, more
than in any thing else, in the name they had of being gossips and
mischief-makers, fond of playing practical jokes, and bold and free in
their manners. They wrote anonymous letters to grave personages; they
gave nicknames to every living being in Orbajosa, from the bishop down
to the lowest vagabond; they threw pebbles at the passers-by; they
hissed behind the window bars, in order to amuse themselves with the
perplexity and annoyance of the startled passer-by; they found out
every thing that occurred in the neighborhood; to which end they made
constant use of every window and aperture in the upper part of the
house; they sang at night in the balcony; they masked themselves
during the Carnival, in order to obtain entrance into the houses of
the highest families; and they played many other mischievous pranks
peculiar to small towns. But whatever its cause, the fact was that on
the Troya triumvirate rested one of those stigmas that, once affixed
on any one by a susceptible community, accompanies that person
implacably even beyond the tomb.
"This is the gentleman they say has come to discover the
gold-mines?" said one of the girls.
"And to do away with the cultivation of garlic in Orbajosa to plant
cotton or cinnamon trees in its stead?"
Pepe could not help laughing at these absurdities.
"All he has come for is to make a collection of pretty girls to
take back with him to Madrid," said Tafetan.
"Ah! I'll be very glad to go!" cried one.
"I will take the three of you with me," said Pepe. "But I want to
know one thing; why were you laughing at me when I was at the window
of the Casino?"
These words were the signal for fresh bursts of laughter.
"These girls are silly things," said the eldest.
"It was because we said you deserved something better than Dona
"It was because this one said that you are only losing your time,
for Rosarito cares only for people connected with the Church."
"How absurd you are! I said nothing of the kind! It was you who
said that the gentleman was a Lutheran atheist, and that he enters the
cathedral smoking and with his hat on."
"Well, I didn't invent it; that is what Suspiritos told me
"And who is this Suspiritos who says such absurd things about me?"
"Girls," said Tafetan, with smiling countenance, "there goes the
orange-vender. Call him; I want to invite you to eat oranges."
One of the girls called the orange-vender.
The conversation started by the Troyas displeased Pepe Rey not a
little, dispelling the slight feeling of contentment which he had
experienced at finding himself in such gay and communicative company.
He could not, however, refrain from smiling when he saw Don Juan
Tafetan take down a guitar and begin to play upon it with all the
grace and skill of his youthful years.
"I have been told that you sing beautifully," said Rey to the
"Let Don Juan Tafetan sing."
"I don't sing."
"Nor I," said the second of the girls, offering the engineer some
pieces of the skin of the orange she had just peeled.
"Maria Juana, don't leave your sewing," said the eldest of the
Troyas. "It is late, and the cassock must be finished to-night."
"There is to be no work to-day. To the devil with the needles!"
And he began to sing a song.
"The people are stopping in the street," said the second of the
girls, going out on the balcony. "Don Juan Tafetan's shouts can be
heard in the Plaza—Juana, Juana!"
"Suspiritos is walking down the street."
"Throw a piece of orange-peel at her."
Pepe Rey looked out also; he saw a lady walking down the street at
whom the youngest of the Troyas, taking a skilful aim, threw a large
piece of orange-peel, which struck her straight on the back of the
head. Then they hastily closed the blinds, and the three girls tried
to stifle their laughter so that it might not be heard in the street.
"There is no work to-day," cried one, overturning the sewing-basket
with the tip of her shoe.
"That is the same as saying, to-morrow there is to be no eating,"
said the eldest, gathering up the sewing implements.
Pepe Rey instinctively put his hand into his pocket. He would
gladly have given them an alms. The spectacle of these poor orphans,
condemned by the world because of their frivolity, saddened him beyond
measure. If the only sin of the Troyas, if the only pleasure which
they had to compensate them for solitude, poverty, and neglect, was to
throw orange-peels at the passers-by, they might well be excused for
doing it. The austere customs of the town in which they lived had
perhaps preserved them from vice, but the unfortunate girls lacked
decorum and good-breeding, the common and most visible signs of
modesty, and it might easily be supposed that they had thrown out of
the window something more than orange-peels. Pepe Rey felt profound
pity for them. He noted their shabby dresses, made over, mended,
trimmed, and retrimmed, to make them look like new; he noted their
broken shoes—and once more he put his hand in his pocket.
"Vice may reign here," he said to himself, "but the faces, the
furniture, all show that this is the wreck of a respectable family. If
these poor girls were as bad as it is said they are, they would not
live in such poverty and they would not work. In Orbajosa there are
The three girls went back and forward between him and the window,
keeping up a gay and sprightly conversation, which indicated, it must
be said, a species of innocence in the midst of all their frivolity
"Senor Don Jose, what an excellent lady Dona Perfecta is!"
"She is the only person in Orbajosa who has no nickname, the only
person in Orbajosa who is not spoken ill of."
"Every one respects her."
"Every one adores her."
To these utterances the young man responded by praises of his aunt,
but he had no longer any inclination to take money from his pocket and
say, "Maria Juana, take this for a pair of boots." "Pepa, take this to
buy a dress for yourself." "Florentina, take this to provide yourself
with a week's provisions," as he had been on the point of doing. At a
moment when the three girls had run out to the balcony to see who was
passing, Don Juan Tafetan approached Rey and whispered to him:
"How pretty they are! Are they not? Poor things! It seems
impossible that they should be so gay when it may be positively
affirmed that they have not dined to-day."
"Don Juan, Don Juan!" cried Pepilla. "Here comes a friend of yours,
Nicolasito Hernandez, in other words, Cirio Pascual, with this three-
story hat. He is praying to himself, no doubt, for the souls of those
whom he has sent to the grave with his extortion."
"I wager that neither of you will dare to call him by his
"It is a bet."
"Juana, shut the blinds, wait until he passes, and when he is
turning the corner, I will call out, 'Cirio, Cirio Pascual!' "
Don Juan Tafetan ran out to the balcony.
"Come here, Don Jose, so that you may know this type," he called.
Pepe Rey, availing himself of the moment in which the three girls
and Don Juan were making merry in the balcony, calling Nicolasito
Hernandez the nickname which so greatly enraged him, stepped
cautiously to one of the sewing baskets in the room and placed in it a
half ounce which he had left after his losses at play.
Then he hurried out to the balcony just as the two youngest cried
in the midst of wild bursts of laughter, "Cirio, Cirio Pascual!"
CHAPTER XIII. A CASUS BELLI
After this prank the Troyas commenced a conversation with their
visitors about the people and the affairs of the town. The engineer,
fearing that his exploit might be discovered while he was present,
wished to go, which displeased the Troyas greatly. One of them who had
left the room now returned, saying:
"Suspiritos is now in the yard; she is hanging out the clothes."
"Don Jose will wish to see her," said another of the girls.
"She is a fine-looking woman. And now she arranges her hair in the
Madrid fashion. Come, all of you."
They took their visitors to the dining-room—an apartment very
little used—which opened on a terrace, where there were a few flowers
in pots and many broken and disused articles of furniture. The terrace
overlooked the yard of an adjoining house, with a piazza full of green
vines and plants in pots carefully cultivated. Every thing about it
showed it to be the abode of neat and industrious people of modest
The Troyas, approaching the edge of the roof, looked attentively at
the neighboring house, and then, imposing silence by a gesture on
their cavaliers, retreated to a part of the terrace from which they
could not see into the yard, and where there was no danger of their
being seen from it.
"She is coming out of the kitchen now with a pan of peas," said
Maria Juana, stretching out her neck to look.
"There goes!" cried another, throwing a pebble into the yard.
The noise of the projectile striking against the glass of the
piazza was heard, and then an angry voice crying:
"Now they have broken another pane of glass!"
The girls, hidden, close beside the two men, in a corner of the
terrace, were suffocating with laughter.
"Senora Suspiritos is very angry," said Rey. "Why do they call her
by that name?"
"Because, when she is talking, she sighs after every word, and
although she has every thing she wants, she is always complaining."
There was a moment's silence in the house below. Pepita Troya
looked cautiously down.
"There she comes again," she whispered, once more imposing silence
by a gesture. "Maria, give me a pebble. Give it here—bang! there it
"You didn't hit her. It struck the ground."
"Let me see if I can. Let us wait until she comes out of the pantry
"Now, now she is coming out. Take care, Florentina."
"One, two, three! There it goes!"
A cry of pain was heard from below, a malediction, a masculine
exclamation, for it was a man who uttered it. Pepe Rey could
distinguish clearly these words:
"The devil! They have put a hole in my head, the—— Jacinto,
Jacinto! But what an abominable neighborhood this is!"
"Good Heavens! what have I done!" exclaimed Florentina, filled with
consternation. "I have struck Senor Don Inocencio on the head."
"The Penitentiary?" said Pepe Rey.
"Does he live in that house?"
"Why, where else should he live?"
"And the lady of the sighs——"
"Is his niece, his housekeeper, or whatever else she may be. We
amuse ourselves with her because she is very tiresome, but we are not
accustomed to play tricks on his reverence, the Penitentiary."
While this dialogue was being rapidly carried on, Pepe Rey saw, in
front of the terrace and very near him, a window belonging to the
bombarded house open; he saw a smiling face appear at it—a familiar
face—a face the sight of which stunned him, terrified him, made him
turn pale and tremble. It was that of Jacinto, who, interrupted in his
grave studies, appeared at it with his pen behind his ear. His modest,
fresh, and smiling countenance, appearing in this way, had an auroral
"Good-afternoon, Senor Don Jose," he said gayly.
"Jacinto, Jacinto, I say!"
"I am coming. I was saluting a friend."
"Come away, come away!" cried Florentina, in alarm. "The
Penitentiary is going up to Don Nominative's room and he will give us
"Yes, come away; let us close the door of the dining-room."
They rushed pell-mell from the terrace.
"You might have guessed that Jacinto would see you from his temple
of learning," said Tafetan to the Troyas.
"Don Nominative is our friend," responded one of the girls. "From
his temple of science he says a great many sweet things to us on the
sly, and he blows us kisses besides."
"Jacinto?" asked the engineer. "What the deuce is that name you
The three girls burst out laughing.
"We call him that because he is very learned."
"No, because when we were little he was little too. But, yes, now I
remember. We used to play on the terrace, and we could hear him
studying his lessons aloud."
"Yes, and the whole blessed day he used to spend singling."
"Declining, girl! That is what it was. He would go like this:
'Nominative, rosa, Genitive, Dative, Accusative.' "
"I suppose that I have my nickname too," said Pepe Rey.
"Let Maria Juana tell you what it is," said Florentina, hiding
"I? Tell it to him you, Pepa."
"You haven't any name yet, Don Jose."
"But I shall have one. I promise you that I will come to hear what
it is and to receive confirmation," said the young man, making a
movement to go.
"What, are you going?"
"Yes. You have lost time enough already. To work, girls! Throwing
stones at the neighbors and the passers-by is not the most suitable
occupation for girls as pretty and as clever as you are. Well, good-
And without waiting for further remonstrances, or answering the
civilities of the girls, he left the house hastily, leaving Don Juan
Tafetan behind him.
The scene which he had just witnessed, the indignity suffered by
the canon, the unexpected appearance of the little doctor of laws,
added still further to the perplexities, the anxieties, and the
disagreeable presentiments that already disturbed the soul of the
unlucky engineer. He regretted with his whole soul having entered the
house of the Troyas, and, resolving to employ his time better while
his hypochondriasm lasted, he made a tour of inspection through the
He visited the market, the Calle de la Triperia, where the
principal stores were; he observed the various aspects presented by
the industry and commerce of the great city of Orbajosa, and, finding
only new motives of weariness, he bent his steps in the direction of
the Paseo de las Descalzas; but he saw there only a few stray dogs,
for, owing to the disagreeable wind which prevailed, the usual
promenaders had remained at home. He went to the apothecary's, where
various species of ruminant friends of progress, who chewed again and
again the cud of the same endless theme, were accustomed to meet, but
there he was still more bored. Finally, as he was passing the
cathedral, he heard the strains of the organ and the beautiful
chanting of the choir. He entered, knelt before the high altar,
remembering the warnings which his aunt had given him about behaving
with decorum in church; then visited a chapel, and was about to enter
another when an acolyte, warden, or beadle approached him, and with
the rudest manner and in the most discourteous tone said to him:
"His lordship says that you are to get out of the church."
The engineer felt the blood rush to his face. He obeyed without a
word. Turned out everywhere, either by superior authority or by his
own tedium, he had no resource but to return to his aunt's house,
where he found waiting for him:
First, Uncle Licurgo, to announce a second lawsuit to him; second,
Senor Don Cayetano, to read him another passage from his discourse on
the "Genealogies of Orbajosa"; third, Caballuco, on some business
which he had not disclosed; fourth, Dona Perfecta and her affectionate
smile, for what will appear in the following chapter.
CHAPTER XIV. THE DISCORD CONTINUES
A fresh attempt to see his cousin that evening failed, and Pepe Rey
shut himself up in his room to write several letters, his mind
preoccupied with one thought.
"To-night or to-morrow," he said to himself, "this will end one way
When he was called to supper Dona Perfecta, who was already in the
dining-room, went up to him and said, without preface:
"Dear Pepe, don't distress yourself, I will pacify Senor Don
Inocencio. I know every thing already. Maria Remedios, who has just
left the house, has told me all about it."
Dona Perfecta's countenance radiated such satisfaction as an
artist, proud of his work, might feel.
"Set your mind at rest. I will make an excuse for you. You took a
few glasses too much in the Casino, that was it, was it not? There you
have the result of bad company. Don Juan Tafetan, the Troyas! This is
horrible, frightful. Did you consider well?"
"I considered every thing," responded Pepe, resolved not to enter
into discussions with his aunt.
"I shall take good care not to write to your father what you have
"You may write whatever you please to him."
"You will exculpate yourself by denying the truth of this story,
"I deny nothing."
"You confess then that you were in the house of those——"
"And that you gave them a half ounce; for, according to what Maria
Remedios has told me, Florentina went down to the shop of the
Extramaduran this afternoon to get a half ounce changed. They could
not have earned it with their sewing. You were in their house to-day;
"Consequently I gave it to her. You are perfectly right."
"You do not deny it?"
"Why should I deny it? I suppose I can do whatever I please with my
"But you will surely deny that you threw stones at the
"I do not throw stones."
"I mean that those girls, in your presence—"
"That is another matter."
"And they insulted poor Maria Remedios, too."
"I do not deny that, either."
"And how do you excuse your conduct! Pepe in Heaven's name, have
you nothing to say? That you are sorry, that you deny—"
"Nothing, absolutely nothing, senora!"
"You don't even give me any satisfaction."
"I have done nothing to offend you."
"Come, the only thing there is left for you to do now is—there,
take that stick and beat me!"
"I don't beat people."
"What a want of respect! What, don't you intend to eat any supper?"
"I intend to take supper."
For more than a quarter of an hour no one spoke. Don Cayetano, Dona
Perfecta, and Pepe Rey ate in silence. This was interrupted when Don
Inocencio entered the dining-room.
"How sorry I was for it, my dear Don Jose! Believe me, I was truly
sorry for it," he said, pressing the young man's hand and regarding
him with a look of compassion.
The engineer was so perplexed for a moment that he did not know
what to answer.
"I refer to the occurrence of this afternoon."
"To your expulsion from the sacred precincts of the cathedral."
"The bishop should consider well," said Pepe Rey, "before he turns
a Christian out of the church."
"That is very true. I don't know who can have put it into his
lordship's head that you are a man of very bad habits; I don't know
who has told him that you make a boast of your atheism everywhere;
that you ridicule sacred things and persons, and even that you are
planning to pull down the cathedral to build a large tar factory with
the stones. I tried my best to dissuade him, but his lordship is a
"Thanks for so much kindness."
"And it is not because the Penitentiary has any reason to show you
these considerations. A little more, and they would have left him
stretched on the ground this afternoon."
"Bah!" said the ecclesiastic, laughing. "But have you heard of that
little prank already? I wager Maria Remedios came with the story. And
I forbade her to do it—I forbade her positively. The thing in itself
is of no consequence, am I not right, Senor de Rey?"
"Since you think so——"
"That is what I think. Young people's pranks! Youth, let the
moderns say what they will, is inclined to vice and to vicious
actions. Senor de Rey, who is a person of great endowments, could not
be altogether perfect—why should it be wondered at that those pretty
girls should have captivated him, and, after getting his money out of
him, should have made him the accomplice of their shameless and
criminal insults to their neighbors? My dear friend, for the painful
part that I had in this afternoon's sport," he added, raising his hand
to the wounded spot, "I am not offended, nor will I distress you by
even referring to so disagreeable an incident. I am truly sorry to
hear that Maria Remedios came here to tell all about it. My niece is
so fond of gossiping! I wager she told too about the half ounce, and
your romping with the girls on the terrace, and your chasing one
another about, and the pinches and the capers of Don Juan Tafetan.
Bah! those things ought not to be told."
Pepe Rey did not know which annoyed him most—his aunt's severity
or the hypocritical condescension of the canon.
"Why should they not be told?" said Dona Perfecta. "He does not
seem ashamed of his conduct himself. I assure you all that I keep this
from my dear daughter only because, in her nervous condition, a fit of
anger might be dangerous to her."
"Come, it is not so serious as all that, senora," said the
Penitentiary. "I think the matter should not be again referred to, and
when the one who was stoned says that, the rest may surely be
satisfied. And the blow was no joke, Senor Don Jose. I thought they
had split my head open and that my brains were oozing out."
"I am truly sorry for the occurrence!" stammered Pepe Rey. "It
gives me real pain, although I had no part in it—"
"Your visit to those Senoras Troyas will be talked about all over
the town," said the canon. "We are not in Madrid, in that centre of
corruption, of scandal—"
"There you can visit the vilest places without any one knowing it,"
said Dona Perfecta.
"Here we are very observant of one another," continued Don
Inocencio. "We take notice of everything our neighbors do, and with
such a system of vigilance public morals are maintained at a proper
height. Believe me, my friend, believe me,—and I do not say this to
mortify you,—you are the first gentleman of your position who, in the
light of day—the first, yes, senor—Trojoe qui primus ab oris
And bursting into a laugh, he clapped the engineer on the back in
token of amity and good-will.
"How grateful I ought to be," said the young man, concealing his
anger under the sarcastic words which he thought the most suitable to
answer the covert irony of his interlocutors, "to meet with so much
generosity and tolerance, when my criminal conduct would deserve—"
"What! Is a person of one's own blood, one who bears one's name,"
said Dona Perfecta, "to be treated like a stranger? You are my nephew,
you are the son of the best and the most virtuous of men, of my dear
brother Juan, and that is sufficient. Yesterday afternoon the
secretary of the bishop came here to tell me that his lordship is
greatly displeased because I have you in my house."
"And that too?" murmured the canon.
"And that too. I said that in spite of the respect which I owe the
bishop, and the affection and reverence which I bear him, my nephew is
my nephew, and I cannot turn him out of my house."
"This is another singularity which I find in this place," said Pepe
Rey, pale with anger. "Here, apparently, the bishop governs other
"He is a saint. He is so fond of me that he imagines—he imagines
that you are going to contaminate us with your atheism, your disregard
for public opinion, your strange ideas. I have told him repeatedly
that, at bottom, you are an excellent young man."
"Some concession must always be made to superior talent," observed
"And this morning, when I was at the Cirujedas'—oh, you cannot
imagine in what a state they had my head! Was it true that you had
come to pull down the cathedral; that you were commissioned by the
English Protestants to go preaching heresy throughout Spain; that you
spent the whole night gambling in the Casino; that you were drunk in
the streets? 'But, senoras,' I said to them, 'would you have me send
my nephew to the hotel?' Besides, they are wrong about the
drunkenness, and as for gambling—I have never yet heard that you
Pepe Rey found himself in that state of mind in which the calmest
man is seized by a sudden rage, by a blind and brutal impulse to
strangle some one, to strike some one in the face, to break some one's
head, to crush some one's bones. But Dona Perfecta was a woman and
was, besides, his aunt; and Don Inocencio was an old man and an
ecclesiastic. In addition to this, physical violence is in bad taste
and unbecoming a person of education and a Christian. There remained
the resource of giving vent to his suppressed wrath in dignified and
polite language; but this last resource seemed to him premature, and
only to be employed at the moment of his final departure from the
house and from Orbajosa. Controlling his fury, then, he waited.
Jacinto entered as they were finishing supper.
"Good-evening, Senor Don Jose," he said, pressing the young man's
hand. "You and your friends kept me from working this afternoon. I was
not able to write a line. And I had so much to do!"
"I am very sorry for it, Jacinto. But according to what they tell
me, you accompany them sometimes in their frolics."
"I!" exclaimed the boy, turning scarlet. "Why, you know very well
that Tafetan never speaks a word of truth. But is it true, Senor de
Rey, that you are going away?"
"Is that the report in the town?"
"Yes. I heard it in the Casino and at Don Lorenzo Ruiz's."
Rey contemplated in silence for a few moments the fresh face of Don
Nominative. Then he said:
"Well, it is not true; my aunt is very well satisfied with me; she
despises the calumnies with which the Orbajosans are favoring me—and
she will not turn me out of her house, even though the bishop himself
should try to make her do so."
"As for turning you out of the house—never. What would your father
"Notwithstanding all your kindness, dearest aunt, notwithstanding
the cordial friendship of the reverend canon, it is possible that I
may myself decide to go away."
"To go away!"
"To go away—you!"
A strange light shone in Dona Perfecta's eyes. The canon,
experienced though he was in dissimulation, could not conceal his joy.
"Yes, and perhaps this very night."
"Why, man, how impetuous you are; Why don't you at least wait until
morning? Here—Juan, let some one go for Uncle Licurgo to get the nag
ready. I suppose you will take some luncheon with you. Nicolasa, that
piece of veal that is on the sideboard! Librada, the senorito's
"No, I cannot believe that you would take so rash a resolution,"
said Don Cayetano, thinking himself obliged to take some part in the
"But you will come back, will you not?" asked the canon.
"At what time does the morning train pass?" asked Dona Perfecta, in
whose eyes was clearly discernible the feverish impatience of her
"I am going away to-night."
"But there is no moon."
In the soul of Dona Perfecta, in the soul of the Penitentiary, in
the little doctor's youthful soul echoed like a celestial harmony the
"Of course, dear Pepe, you will come back. I wrote to-day to your
father, your excellent father," exclaimed Dona Perfecta, with all the
physiognomic signs that make their appearance when a tear is about to
"I will trouble you with a few commissions," said the savant.
"A good opportunity to order the volume that is wanting in my copy
of the Abbe Gaume's work," said the youthful lawyer.
"You take such sudden notions, Pepe; you are so full of caprices,"
murmured Dona Perfecta, smiling, with her eyes fixed on the door of
the dining-room. "But I forgot to tell you that Caballuco is waiting
to speak to you."
CHAPTER XV. DISCORD CONTINUES TO
GROW UNTIL WAR IS DECLARED
Every one looked toward the door, at which appeared the imposing
figure of the Centaur, serious-looking and frowning; embarrassed by
his anxiety to salute the company politely; savagely handsome, but
disfigured by the violence which he did himself in smiling civilly and
treading softly and holding his herculean arms in a correct posture.
"Come in, Senor Ramos," said Pepe Rey.
"No, no!" objected Dona Perfecta. "What he has to say to you is an
"Let him say it."
"I ought not to allow such ridiculous questions to be discussed in
"What is Senor Ramos' business with me?"
Caballuco uttered a few words.
"Enough, enough!" exclaimed Dona Perfecta. "Don't trouble my nephew
any more. Pepe, don't mind this simpleton. Do you wish me to tell you
the cause of the great Caballuco's anger?" she said, turning to the
"Anger? I think I can imagine," said the Penitentiary, leaning back
in his chair and laughing with boisterous hilarity.
"I wanted to say to Senor Don Jose—" growled the formidable
"Hold your tongue, man, for Heaven's sake! And don't tire us any
more with that nonsense."
"Senor Caballuco," said the canon, "it is not to be wondered at
that gentlemen from the capital should cut out the rough riders of
this savage country."
"In two words, Pepe, the question is this: Caballuco is—"
She could not go on for laughing.
"Is—I don't know just what," said Don Inocencio, "of one of the
Troya girls, of Mariquita Juana, if I am not mistaken."
"And he is jealous! After his horse, the first thing in creation
for him is Mariquilla Troya."
"A pretty insinuation that!" exclaimed Dona Perfecta. "Poor
Cristobal! Did you suppose that a person like my nephew—let us hear,
what were you going to say to him? Speak."
"Senor Don Jose and I will talk together presently," responded the
bravo of the town brusquely.
And without another word he left the room.
Shortly afterward Pepe Rey left the dining-room to retire to his
own room. In the hall he found himself face to face with his Trojan
antagonist, and he could not repress a smile at the sight of the
fierce and gloomy countenance of the offended lover.
"A word with you," said the latter, planting himself insolently in
front of the engineer. "Do you know who I am?"
As he spoke he laid his heavy hand on the young man's shoulder with
such insolent familiarity that the latter, incensed, flung him off
with violence, saying:
"It is not necessary to crush one to say that."
The bravo, somewhat disconcerted, recovered himself in a moment,
and looking at Rey with provoking boldness, repeated his refrain:
"Do you know who I am?"
"Yes; I know now that you are a brute."
He pushed the bully roughly aside and went into his room. As traced
on the excited brain of our unfortunate friend at this moment, his
plan of action might be summed up briefly and definitely as follows:
To break Caballuco's head without loss of time; then to take leave of
his aunt in severe but polite words which should reach her soul; to
bid a cold adieu to the canon and give an embrace to the inoffensive
Don Cayetano; to administer a thrashing to Uncle Licurgo, by way of
winding up the entertainment, and leave Orbajosa that very night,
shaking the dust from his shoes at the city gates.
But in the midst of all these mortifications and persecutions the
unfortunate young man had not ceased to think of another unhappy
being, whom he believed to be in a situation even more painful and
distressing than his own. One of the maid-servants followed the
engineer into his room.
"Did you give her my message?" he asked.
"Yes, senor, and she gave me this."
Rey took from the girl's hand a fragment of a newspaper, on the
margin of which he read these words:
"They say you are going away. I shall die if you do."
When he returned to the dining-room Uncle Licurgo looked in at the
door and asked:
"At what hour do you want the horse?"
"At no hour," answered Rey quickly.
"Then you are not going to-night?" said Dona Perfecta. "Well, it is
better to wait until to-morrow."
"I am not going to-morrow, either."
"When are you going, then?"
"We will see presently," said the young man coldly, looking at his
aunt with imperturbable calmness. "For the present I do not intend to
His eyes flashed forth a fierce challenge.
Dona Perfecta turned first red, then pale. She looked at the canon,
who had taken off his gold spectacles to wipe them, and then fixed her
eyes successively on each of the other persons in the room, including
Caballuco, who, entering shortly before, had seated himself on the
edge of a chair. Dona Perfecta looked at them as a general looks at
his trusty body-guard. Then she studied the thoughtful and serene
countenance of her nephew—of that enemy, who, by a strategic
movement, suddenly reappeared before her when she believed him to be
in shameful flight.
Alas! Bloodshed, ruin, and desolation! A great battle was about to
CHAPTER XVI. NIGHT
Orbajosa slept. The melancholy street-lamps were shedding their
last gleams at street-corners and in by-ways, like tired eyes
struggling in vain against sleep. By their dim light, wrapped in their
cloaks, glided past like shadows, vagabonds, watchmen, and gamblers.
Only the hoarse shout of the drunkard or the song of the serenader
broke the peaceful silence of the historic city. Suddenly the "Ave
Maria Purisima" of some drunken watchman would be heard, like a moan
uttered in its sleep by the town.
In Dona Perfecta's house also silence reigned, unbroken but for a
conversation which was taking place between Don Cayetano and Pepe Rey,
in the library of the former. The savant was seated comfortably in the
arm-chair beside his study table, which was covered with papers of
various kinds containing notes, annotations, and references, all
arranged in the most perfect order. Rey's eyes were fixed on the heap
of papers, but his thoughts were doubtless far away from this
"Perfecta," said the antiquary, "although she is an excellent
woman, has the defect of allowing herself to be shocked by any little
act of folly. In these provincial towns, my dear friend, the slightest
slip is dearly paid for. I see nothing particular in your having gone
to the Troyas' house. I fancy that Don Inocencio, under his cloak of
piety, is something of a mischief-maker. What has he to do with the
"We have reached a point, Senor Don Cayetano, in which it is
necessary to take a decisive resolution. I must see Rosario and speak
"See her, then!"
"But they will not let me," answered the engineer, striking the
table with his clenched hand. "Rosario is kept a prisoner."
"A prisoner!" repeated the savant incredulously. "The truth is that
I do not like her looks or her hair, and still less the vacant
expression in her beautiful eyes. She is melancholy, she talks little,
she weeps— friend Don Jose, I greatly fear that the girl may be
attacked by the terrible malady to which so many of the members of my
family have fallen victims."
"A terrible malady! What is it?"
"Madness—or rather mania. Not a single member of my family has
been free from it. I alone have escaped it."
"You! But leaving aside the question of madness," said Rey, with
impatience, "I wish to see Rosario."
"Nothing more natural. But the isolation in which her mother keeps
her is a hygienic measure, dear Pepe, and the only one that has been
successfully employed with the various members of my family. Consider
that the person whose presence and voice would make the strongest
impression on Rosarillo's delicate nervous system is the chosen of her
"In spite of all that," insisted Pepe, "I wish to see her."
"Perhaps Perfecta will not oppose your doing so," said the savant,
giving his attention to his notes and papers. "I don't want to take
any responsibility in the matter."
The engineer, seeing that he could obtain nothing from the good
Polentinos, rose to retire.
"You are going to work," he said, "and I will not trouble you any
"No, there is time enough. See the amount of precious information
that I collected to-day. Listen: 'In 1537 a native of Orbajosa, called
Bartolome del Hoyo, went to Civita-Vecchia in one of the galleys of
the Marquis of Castel Rodrigo.' Another: 'In the same year two
brothers named Juan and Rodrigo Gonzalez del Arco embarked in one of
the six ships which sailed from Maestricht on the 20th of February,
and which encountered in the latitude of Calais an English vessel and
the Flemish fleet commanded by Van Owen.' That was truly an important
exploit of our navy. I have discovered that it was an Orbajosan, one
Mateo Diaz Coronel, an ensign in the guards, who, in 1709, wrote and
published in Valencia the 'Metrical Encomium, Funeral Chant, Lyrical
Eulogy, Numerical Description, Glorious Sufferings, and Sorrowful
Glories of the Queen of the Angels.' I possess a most precious copy of
this work, which is worth the mines of Peru. Another Orbajosan was the
author of that famous 'Treatise on the Various Styles of Horsemanship'
which I showed you yesterday; and, in short, there is not a step I
take in the labyrinth of unpublished history that I do not stumble
against some illustrious compatriot. It is my purpose to draw all
these names out of the unjust obscurity and oblivion in which they
have so long lain. How pure a joy, dear Pepe, to restore all their
lustre to the glories, epic and literary, of one's native place! And
how could a man better employ the scant intellect with which Heaven
has endowed him, the fortune which he has inherited, and the brief
period of time on earth allowed to even the longest life. Thanks to me
it will be seen that Orbajosa is the illustrious cradle of Spanish
genius. But what do I say? Is not its illustrious ancestry evident in
the nobleness and high-mindedness of the present Urbs Augustan
generation? We know few places where all the virtues, unchoked by the
malefic weeds of vice, grow more luxuriantly. Here all is peace,
mutual respect, Christian humility. Charity is practised here as it
was in Biblical times; here envy is unknown; here the criminal
passions are unknown, and if you hear thieves and murderers spoken of,
you may be sure that they are not the children of this noble soil; or,
that if they are, they belong to the number of unhappy creatures
perverted by the teachings of demagogues. Here you will see the
national character in all its purity—upright, noble, incorruptible,
pure, simple, patriarchal, hospitable, generous. Therefore it is that
I live so happy in this solitude far from the turmoil of cities where,
alas! falsehood and vice reign. Therefore it is that the many friends
whom I have in Madrid have not been able to tempt me from this place;
therefore it is that I spend my life in the sweet companionship of my
faithful townspeople and my books, breathing the wholesome atmosphere
of integrity, which is gradually becoming circumscribed in our Spain
to the humble and Christian towns that have preserved it with the
emanations of their virtues. And believe me, my dear Pepe, this
peaceful isolation has greatly contributed to preserve me from the
terrible malady connatural in my family. In my youth I suffered, like
my brothers and my father, from a lamentable propensity to the most
absurd manias; but here you have me so miraculously cured that all I
know of the malady is what I see of it in others. And it is for that
reason that I am so uneasy about my little niece."
"I am rejoiced that the air of Orbajosa has proved so beneficial to
you," said Rey, unable to resist the jesting mood that, by a strange
contradiction, came over him in the midst of his sadness. "With me it
has agreed so badly that I think I shall soon become mad if I remain
in it. Well, good-night, and success to your labors."
Pepe went to his room, but feeling neither a desire for sleep or
the need of physical repose,—on the contrary, a violent excitation of
mind which impelled him to move, to act,—he walked up and down the
room, torturing himself with useless cavilling. After a time he opened
the window which overlooked the garden and, leaning his elbows on the
parapet, he gazed out on the limitless darkness of the night. Nothing
could be seen, but he who is absorbed in his own thoughts sees with
the mental vision, and Pepe Rey, his eyes fixed on the darkness, saw
the varied panorama of his misfortunes unroll itself upon it before
him. The obscurity did not permit him to see the flowers of the earth,
nor those of the heavens, which are the stars. The very absence of
light produced the effect of an illusory movement in the masses of
foliage, which seemed to stretch away, to recede slowly, and come
curling back like the waves of a shadowy sea. A vast flux and reflux,
a strife between forces vaguely comprehended, agitated the silent sky.
The mathematician, contemplating this strange projection of his soul
upon the night, said to himself:
"The battle will be terrible. Let us see who will come out of it
The nocturnal insects whispered in his ear mysterious words. Here a
shrill chirp; there a click, like the click made with the tongue;
further on, plaintive murmurs; in the distance a tinkle like that of
the bell on the neck of the wandering ox. Suddenly Rey heard a strange
sound, a rapid note, that could be produced only by the human tongue
and lips. This sibilant breathing passed through the young man's brain
like a flash of lightning. He felt that swift "s-s-s" dart snake-like
through him, repeated again and then again, with augmented intensity.
He looked all around, then he looked toward the upper part of the
house, and he fancied that in one of the windows he could distinguish
an object like a white bird flapping its wings. Through Pepe Rey's
excited mind flashed instantly the idea of the phoenix, of the dove,
of the regal heron, and yet the bird he saw was noting more than a
The engineer sprang from the balcony into the garden. Observing
attentively, he saw the hand and the face of his cousin. He thought he
could perceive the gesture commonly employed of imposing silence by
laying the finger on the lips. Then the dear shade pointed downward
and disappeared. Pepe Rey returned quickly to this room, entered the
hall noiselessly, and walked slowly forward. He felt his heart beat
with violence. He waited for a few moments, and at last he heard
distinctly light taps on the steps of the stairs. One, two, three—the
sounds were produced by a pair of little shoes.
He walked in the direction whence they proceeded, and stretched out
his hands in the obscurity to assist the person who was descending the
stairs. In his soul there reigned an exalted and profound tenderness,
but—why seek to deny it—mingling with this tender feeling, there
suddenly arose within him, like an infernal inspiration, another
sentiment, a fierce desire for revenge. The steps continued to
descend, coming nearer and nearer. Pepe Rey went forward, and a pair
of hands, groping in the darkness, came in contact with his own. The
two pairs of hands were united in a close clasp.
CHAPTER XVII. LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS
The hall was long and broad. At one end of it was the door of the
room occupied by the engineer, in the centre that of the dining-room,
and at the other end were the staircase and a large closed door
reached by a step. This door opened into a chapel in which the
Polentinos performed their domestic devotions. Occasionally the holy
sacrifice of the mass was celebrated in it.
Rosario led her cousin to the door of the chapel and then sank down
on the doorstep.
"Here?" murmured Pepe Rey.
From the movements of Rosarito's right hand he comprehended that
she was blessing herself.
"Rosario, dear cousin, thanks for allowing me to see you!" he
exclaimed, embracing her ardently.
He felt the girl's cold fingers on his lips, imposing silence. He
kissed them rapturously.
"You are frozen. Rosario, why do you tremble so?"
Her teeth were chattering, and her whole frame trembled
convulsively. Rey felt the burning heat of his cousin's face against
his own, and he cried in alarm:
"Your forehead is burning! You are feverish."
"Are you really ill?"
"And you have left your room——"
"To see you."
The engineer wrapped his arms around her to protect her from the
cold, but it was not enough.
"Wait," he said quickly, rising. "I am going to my room to bring my
"Put out the light, Pepe."
Rey had left the lamp burning in his room, through the door of
which issued a faint streak of light, illuminating the hall. He
returned in an instant. The darkness was now profound. Groping his way
along the wall he reached the spot where his cousin was sitting, and
wrapped the rug carefully around her.
"You are comfortable now, my child."
"Yes, so comfortable! With you!"
"With me—and forever!" exclaimed the young man, with exaltation.
But he observed that she was releasing herself from his arms and
"What are you doing?"
A metallic sound was heard. Rosario had put the key into the
invisible lock and was cautiously opening the door on the threshold of
which they had been sitting. The faint odor of dampness, peculiar to
rooms that have been long shut up, issued from the place, which was as
dark as a tomb. Pepe Rey felt himself being guided by the hand, and
his cousin's voice said faintly:
They took a few steps forward. He imagined himself being led to an
unknown Elysium by the angel of night. Rosario groped her way. At last
her sweet voice sounded again, murmuring:
They were beside a wooden bench. Both sat down. Pepe Rey embraced
Rosario again. As he did so, his head struck against a hard body.
"What is this?" he asked.
"Rosario—what are you saying?"
"The feet of the Divine Jesus, of the image of Christ crucified,
that we adore in my house."
Pepe Rey felt a cold chill strike through him.
"Kiss them," said the young girl imperiously.
The mathematician kissed the cold feet of the holy image.
"Pepe," then cried the young girl, pressing her cousin's hand
ardently between her own, "do you believe in God?"
"Rosario! What are you saying? What absurdities are you imagining?"
responded her cousin, perplexed.
Pepe Rey felt drops of moisture on his hands.
"Why are you crying?" he said, greatly disturbed. "Rosario, you are
killing me with your absurd doubts. Do I believe in God? Do you doubt
"I do not doubt it; but they all say that you are an atheist."
"You would suffer in my estimation, you would lose your aureole of
purity—your charm—if you gave credit to such nonsense."
"When I heard them accuse you of being an atheist, although I could
bring no proof to the contrary, I protested from the depths of my soul
against such a calumny. You cannot be an atheist. I have within me as
strong and deep a conviction of your faith as of my own."
"How wisely you speak! Why, then, do you ask me if I believe in
"Because I wanted to hear it from your own lips, and rejoice in
hearing you say it. It is so long since I have heard the sound of your
voice! What greater happiness than to hear it again, saying: 'I
believe in God?' "
"Rosario, even the wicked believe in him. If there be atheists,
which I doubt, they are the calumniators, the intriguers with whom the
world is infested. For my part, intrigues and calumnies matter little
to me; and if you rise superior to them and close your heart against
the discord which a perfidious hand would sow in it, nothing shall
interfere with our happiness."
"But what is going on around us? Pepe, dear Pepe, do you believe in
The engineer was silent. The darkness of the chapel prevented
Rosario from seeing the smile with which her cousin received this
"We must believe in him," he said at last.
"What is going on? Mamma forbids me to see you; but, except in
regard to the atheism, she does not say any thing against you. She
tells me to wait, that you will decide; that you are going away, that
you are coming back—— Speak to me with frankness—have you formed a
bad opinion of my mother?"
"Not at all," replied Rey, urged by a feeling of delicacy.
"Do you not believe, as I do, that she loves us both, that she
desires only our good, and that we shall in the end obtain her consent
to our wishes?"
"If you believe it, I do too. Your mama adores us both. But, dear
Rosario, it must be confessed that the devil has entered this house."
"Don't jest!" she said affectionately. "Ah! Mamma is very good. She
has not once said to me that you were unworthy to be my husband. All
she insists upon is the atheism. They say, besides, that I have
manias, and that I have the mania now of loving you with all my soul.
In our family it is a rule not to oppose directly the manias that are
hereditary in it, because to oppose them aggravates them."
"Well, I believe that there are skilful physicians at your side who
have determined to cure you, and who will, in the end, my adored girl,
succeed in doing so."
"No, no; a thousand times no!" exclaimed Rosario, leaning her
forehead on her lover's breast. "I am willing to be mad if I am with
you. For you I am suffering, for you I am ill; for you I despise life
and I risk death. I know it now—to-morrow I shall be worse, I shall
be dangerously ill, I shall die. What does it matter to me?"
"You are not ill," he responded, with energy; "there is nothing the
matter with you but an agitation of mind which naturally brings with
it some slight nervous disturbances; there is nothing the matter with
you but the suffering occasioned by the horrible coercion which they
are using with you. Your simple and generous soul does not comprehend
it. You yield; you forgive those who injure you; you torment yourself,
attributing your suffering to baleful, supernatural influences; you
suffer in silence; you give your innocent neck to the executioner, you
allow yourself to be slain, and the very knife which is plunged into
your breast seems to you the thorn of a flower that has pierced you in
passing. Rosario, cast those ideas from your mind; consider our real
situation, which is serious; seek its cause where it really is, and do
not give way to your fears; do not yield to the tortures which are
inflicted upon you, making yourself mentally and physically ill. The
courage which you lack would restore you to health, because you are
not really ill, my dear girl, you are—do you wish me to say it?—you
are frightened, terrified. You are under what the ancients, not
knowing how to express it, called an evil spell. Courage, Rosario,
trust in me! Rise and follow me. That is all I will say."
"Ah, Pepe—cousin! I believe that you are right," exclaimed
Rosario, drowned in tears. "Your words resound within my heart,
arousing in it new energy, new life. Here in this darkness, where we
cannot see each other's faces, an ineffable light emanates from you
and inundates my soul. What power have you to transform me in this
way? The moment I saw you I became another being. In the days when I
did not see you I returned to my former insignificance, my natural
cowardice. Without you, my Pepe, I live in Limbo. I will do as you
tell me, I will arise and follow you. We will go together wherever you
wish. Do you know that I feel well? Do you know that I have no fever:
that I have recovered my strength; that I want to run about and cry
out; that my whole being is renewed and enlarged, and multiplied a
hundred-fold in order to adore you? Pepe, you are right. I am not
sick, I am only afraid; or rather, bewitched."
"That is it, bewitched."
"Bewitched! Terrible eyes look at me, and I remain mute and
trembling. I am afraid, but of what? You alone have the strange power
of calling me back to life. Hearing you, I live again. I believe if I
were to die and you were to pass by my grave, that deep under the
ground I should feel your footsteps. Oh, if I could see you now! But
you are here beside me, and I cannot doubt that it is you. So many
days without seeing you! I was mad. Each day of solitude appeared to
me a century. They said to me, to-morrow and to-morrow, and always
to-morrow. I looked out of the window at night, and the light of the
lamp in your room served to console me. At times your shadow on the
window was for me a divine apparition. I stretched out my arms to you,
I shed tears and cried out inwardly, without daring to do so with my
voice. When I received the message you sent me with the maid, when I
received your letter telling me that you were going away, I grew very
sad, I thought my soul was leaving my body and that I was dying
slowly. I fell, like the bird wounded as it flies, that falls and,
falling, dies. To-night, when I saw that you were awake so late, I
could not resist the longing I had to speak to you; and I came down
stairs. I believe that all the courage of my life has been used up in
this single act, and that now I can never be any thing again but a
coward. But you will give me courage; you will give me strength; you
will help me, will you not? Pepe, my dear cousin, tell me that you
will; tell me that I am strong, and I will be strong; tell me that I
am not ill, and I will not be ill. I am not ill now. I feel so well
that I could laugh at my ridiculous maladies."
As she said this she felt herself clasped rapturously in her
cousin's arms. An "Oh!" was heard, but it came, not from her lips, but
from his, for in bending his head, he had struck it violently against
the feet of the crucifix. In the darkness it is that the stars are
In the exalted state of his mind, by a species of hallucination
natural in the darkness, it seemed to Pepe Rey not that his head had
struck against the sacred foot, but that this had moved, warning him
in the briefest and most eloquent manner. Raising his head he said,
half seriously, half gayly:
"Lord, do not strike me; I will do nothing wrong."
At the same moment Rosario took the young man's hand and pressed it
against her heart. A voice was heard, a pure, grave, angelic voice,
full of feeling, saying:
"Lord whom I adore, Lord God of the world, and guardian of my house
and of my family; Lord whom Pepe also adores; holy and blessed Christ
who died on the cross for our sins; before thee, before thy wounded
body, before thy forehead crowned with thorns, I say that this man is
my husband, and that, after thee, he is the being whom my heart loves
most; I say that I declare him to be my husband, and that I will die
before I belong to another. My heart and my soul are his. Let not the
world oppose our happiness, and grant me the favor of this union,
which I swear to be true and good before the world, as it is in my
"Rosario, you are mine!" exclaimed Pepe Rey, with exaltation.
"Neither your mother nor any one else shall prevent it."
Rosario sank powerless into her cousin's arms. She trembled in his
manly embrace, as the dove trembles in the talons of the eagle.
Through the engineer's mind the thought flashed that the devil
existed; but the devil then was he. Rosario made a slight movement of
fear; she felt the thrill of surprise, so to say, that gives warning
that danger is near.
"Swear to me that you will not yield to them," said Pepe Rey, with
confusion, observing the movement.
"I swear it to you by my father's ashes that are—"
"Under our feet."
The mathematician felt the stone rise under his feet—but no, it
was not rising; he only fancied, mathematician though he was, that he
felt it rise.
"I swear it to you," repeated Rosario, "by my father's ashes, and
by the God who is looking at us—— May our bodies, united as they
are, repose under those stones when God wills to take us out of this
"Yes," repeated the Pepe Rey, with profound emotion, feeling his
soul filled with an inexplicable trouble.
Both remained silent for a short time. Rosario had risen.
"Already?" he said.
She sat down again.
"You are trembling again," said Pepe. "Rosario, you are ill; your
forehead is burning."
"I think I am dying," murmured the young girl faintly. "I don't
know what is the matter with me."
She fell senseless into her cousin's arms. Caressing her, he
noticed that her face was covered with a cold perspiration.
"She is really ill," he said to himself. "It was a piece of great
imprudence to have come down stairs."
He lifted her up in his arms, endeavoring to restore her to
consciousness, but neither the trembling that had seized her nor her
insensibility passed away; and he resolved to carry her out of the
chapel, in the hope that the fresh air would revive her. And so it
was. When she recovered consciousness Rosario manifested great
disquietude at finding herself at such an hour out of her own room.
The clock of the cathedral struck four.
"How late it is!" exclaimed the young girl. "Release me, cousin. I
think I can walk. I am really very ill."
"I will go upstairs with you."
"Oh, no; on no account! I would rather drag myself to my room on my
hands and feet. Don't you hear a noise?"
Both were silent. The anxiety with which they listened made the
"Don't you hear any thing, Pepe?"
"Pay attention. There, there it is again. It is a noise that sounds
as if it might be either very, very distant, or very near. It might
either be my mother's breathing or the creaking of the vane on the
tower of the cathedral. Ah! I have a very fine ear."
"Too fine! Well, dear cousin, I will carry you upstairs in my
"Very well; carry me to the head of the stairs. Afterward I can go
alone. As soon as I rest a little I shall be as well as ever. But
don't you hear?"
They stopped on the first step.
"It is a metallic sound."
"Your mother's breathing?"
"No, it is not that. The noise comes from a great distance. Perhaps
it is the crowing of a cock?"
"It sounds like the words, 'I am going there, I am going there!' "
"Now, now I hear," murmured Pepe Rey.
"It is a cry."
"It is a cornet."
"Yes. Let us hurry. Orbajosa is going to wake up. Now I hear it
clearly. It is not a trumpet but a clarionet. The soldiers are
"I don't know why I imagine that this military invasion is going to
be advantageous to me. I feel glad. Up, quickly, Rosario!"
"I feel glad, too. Up, up!"
In an instant he had carried her upstairs, and the lovers took a
whispered leave of each other.
"I will stand at the window overlooking the garden, so that you may
know I have reached my room safely. Good-by."
"Good-by, Rosario. Take care not to stumble against the furniture."
"I can find my way here perfectly, cousin. We shall soon see each
other again. Stand at your window if you wish to receive my
Pepe Rey did as he was bade; but he waited a long time, and Rosario
did not appear at the window. The engineer fancied he heard agitated
voices on the floor above him.
CHAPTER XVIII. THE SOLDIERS
The inhabitants of Orbajosa heard in the twilight vagueness of
their morning slumbers the same sonorous clarionet, and they opened
their eyes, saying:
Some murmured to themselves between sleeping and waking:
"At last they have sent us that rabble."
Others got out of bed hastily, growling:
"Let us go take a look at those confounded soldiers."
Some soliloquized in this way:
"It will be necessary to hurry up matters. They say drafts and
contributions; we will say blows and more blows."
In another house were heard these words uttered joyfully:
"Perhaps my son is coming! Perhaps my brother is coming!"
Everywhere people were springing out of bed, dressing hastily,
opening the windows to see the regiment that caused all this
excitement entering the city in the early dawn. The city was gloom,
silence, age; the army gayety, boisterousness, youth. As the army
entered the city it seemed as if the mummy received by some magic art
the gift of life and sprang with noisy gayety from its damp
sarcophagus to dance around it. What movement, what shouting, what
laughter, what merriment! There is nothing so interesting as a
regiment. It is our country in its youthful and vigorous aspect. All
the ineptitude, the turbulence, the superstition at times, and at
times the impiety of the country as represented in the individual,
disappears under the iron rule of discipline, which of so many
insignificant figures makes an imposing whole. The soldier, or so to
say, the corpuscle, separating at the command "Break ranks!" from the
mass in which he has led a regular and at times a sublime life,
occasionally preserves some of the qualities peculiar to the army. But
this is not the general rule. The separation is most often accompanied
by a sudden deterioration, with the result that if an army is the
glory and honor of a nation, an assemblage of soldiers may be an
insupportable calamity; and the towns that shed tears of joy and
enthusiasm when they see a victorious battalion enter their precincts,
groan with terror and tremble with apprehension when they see the same
soldiers separate and off duty.
This last was what happened in Orbajosa, for in those days there
were no glorious deeds to celebrate, nor was there any motive for
weaving wreaths or tracing triumphal inscriptions, or even for making
mention of the exploits of our brave soldiers, for which reason all
was fear and suspicion in the episcopal city, which, although poor,
did not lack treasures in chickens, fruits, money, and maidenhood, all
of which ran great risk from the moment when the before-mentioned sons
of Mars entered it. In addition to this, the native town of
Polentinos, as a city remote from the movement and stir brought with
them by traffic, the newspapers, railroads, and other agents which it
is unnecessary now to specify, did not wish to be disturbed in its
Besides which, it manifested on every favorable occasion a strong
aversion to submitting to the central authority which, badly or well,
governs us; and calling to mind its former privileges and ruminating
upon them anew, as the camel chews the cud of the grass which it ate
yesterday, it would occasionally display a certain rebellious
independence, and vicious tendencies much to be deplored, which at
times gave no little anxiety to the governor of the province.
It must also be taken into account that Orbajosa had rebellious
antecedents, or rather ancestry. Doubtless it still retained some of
those energetic fibres which, in remote ages, according to the
enthusiastic opinion of Don Cayetano, impelled it to unexampled epic
deeds; and, even in its decadence, occasionally felt an eager desire
to do great things, although they might be only barbarities and
follies. As it had given to the world so many illustrious sons, it
desired, no doubt, that its actual scions, the Caballucos, Merengues,
and Pelosmalos, should renew the glorious Gesta of their
Whenever there was disaffection in Spain, Orbajosa gave proof that
it was not in vain that it existed on the face of the earth, although
it is true that it was never the theatre of a real war. The spirit of
the town, its situation, its history, all reduced it to the secondary
part of raising guerillas. It bestowed upon the country this national
product in 1827, at the time of the Apostolics, during the Seven
Years' War, in 1848, and at other epochs of less resonance in the
national history. The guerillas and their chiefs were always popular,
a fatal circumstance due to the War of Independence, one of those good
things which have been the origin of an infinite number of detestable
things. Corruptio optimi pessima. And with the popularity of
the guerillas and their chiefs coincided, in ever-increasing
proportion, the unpopularity of every one who entered Orbajosa in the
character of a delegate or instrument of the central power. The
soldiers were held in such disrepute there that, whenever the old
people told of any crime, any robbery, assassination, or the like
atrocity, they added: "This happened when the soldiers were here."
And now that these important observations have been made, it will
be well to add that the battalions sent there during the days in which
the events of our story took place did not go to parade through the
streets, but for another purpose which will be clearly and minutely
set forth later on. As a detail of no little interest, it may be noted
that the events here related took place at a period neither very
remote nor very recent. It may also be said that Orbajosa (called by
the Romans Urbs Augusta, although some learned moderns, enquiring into
the etymology of the termination ajosa[*] are of the opinion
that it comes by it from being the richest garlic-growing country in
the world) is neither very near Madrid nor very far from it; nor can
we say whether its glorious foundations are laid toward the north or
toward the south, toward the east or toward the west; but that it may
be supposed to be in any part of Spain where the pungent odor of its
garlic is to be perceived.
[*] Rich in garlic.
The billets of residence being distributed by the authorities, each
soldier went to seek his borrowed home. They were received by their
hosts with a very ill grace and assigned the most atrociously
uninhabitable parts of the houses. The girls of the city were not
indeed among those who were most dissatisfied, but a strict watch was
kept over them, and it was considered not decent to show pleasure at
the visit of such rabble. The few soldiers who were natives of the
district only were treated like kings. The others were regarded as
At eight in the morning a lieutenant-colonel of cavalry entered the
house of Dona Perfecta Polentinos with his billet. He was received by
the servants, by order of its mistress, who, being at the time in a
deplorable state of mind, did not wish to go down stairs to meet the
soldier, and by them he was shown to the only room in the house which,
it seemed, was disposable, the room occupied by Pepe Rey.
"Let them settle themselves as best they can," said Dona Perfecta,
with an expression of gall and vinegar. "And if they have not room
enough, let them go into the street."
Was it her intention to annoy in this way her detested nephew, or
was there really no other unoccupied room in the house? This we do not
know, nor do the chronicles from which this true history is taken say
a word on this important point. What we know positively is that, far
from displeasing the two guests to be thus boxed up together, it gave
them great pleasure, as they happened to be old friends. They were
greatly surprised and delighted when they met, and they were never
tired of asking each other questions and uttering exclamations,
dwelling on the strange chance that had brought them together in such
a place and on such an occasion.
"Pinzon—you here! Why, what is this? I had no suspicion that you
were in this neighborhood."
"I heard that you were in this part of the country, Pepe; but I had
no idea, either, that I should meet you in this horrible, this
"But what a fortunate chance! For this chance is most fortunate—
providential. Pinzon, between us both we are going to do a great thing
in this wretched town."
"And we shall have time enough to consult about it," answered the
other, seating himself on the bed in which the engineer was lying,
"for it appears that we are both to occupy this room. What the devil
sort of a house is this?"
"Why, man, it is my aunt's. Speak with more respect about it. Have
you not met my aunt? But I am going to get up."
"I am very glad of it, for then I can lie down and rest; and badly
I need it. What a road, friend Pepe, what a road, and what a town!"
"Tell me, have you come to set fire to Orbajosa?"
"I ask you because, in that case, I might help you."
"What a town! But what a town!" exclaimed the soldier, removing his
shako, and laying aside sword and shoulder-belt, travelling case and
cloak. "This is the second time they have sent us here. I swear to you
that the third time I will ask my discharge."
"Don't talk ill of these good people! But you have come in the nick
of time. It seems as if Providence has sent you to my aid, Pinzon. I
have a terrible project on hand, an adventure,—a plot, if you wish to
call it so, my friend,—and it would have been difficult for me to
carry it through without you. A moment ago I was in despair, wondering
how I should manage, and saying to myself anxiously, 'If I only had a
friend here, a good friend!' "
"A project, a plot, an adventure! One of two things, Senor
Mathematician: it is either the discovery of aerial navigation, or
else some love affair."
"It is serious, very serious. Go to bed, sleep a while, and
afterward we will talk about it."
"I will go to bed, but I will not sleep. You may say all you wish
to me. All that I ask is that you will say as little as possible about
"It is precisely about Orbajosa that I wish to speak to you. But
have you also an antipathy to this cradle of illustrious men?"
"These garlic-venders—we call them the garlic-venders—may be as
illustrious as you choose, but to me they are as irritating as the
product of the country. This is a town ruled by people who teach
distrust, superstition, and hatred of the whole human race. When we
have leisure I will relate to you an occurrence—an adventure, half-
comic, half-tragic—that happened to me here last year. When I tell it
to you, you will laugh and I shall be fuming. But, in fine, what is
past is past."
"In what is happening to me there is nothing comic."
"But I have various reasons for hating this wretched place. You
must know that my father was assassinated here in '48 by a party of
barbarous guerillas. He was a brigadier, and he had left the service.
The Government sent for him, and he was passing through Villahorrenda
on his way to Madrid, when he was captured by half a dozen ruffians.
Here there are several dynasties of guerilla chiefs—the Aceros, the
Caballucos, the Pelosmalos—a periodical eruption, as some one has
said who knew very well what he was talking about."
"I suppose that two infantry regiments and some cavalry have not
come here solely for the pleasure of visiting these delightful
"Certainly not! We have come to survey the country. There are many
deposits of arms here. The Government does not venture, as it desires,
to remove from office the greater number of the municipal councils
without first distributing a few companies of soldiers through these
towns. As there is so much disturbance in this part of the country, as
two of the neighboring provinces are already infested, and as this
municipal district of Orbajosa has, besides, so brilliant a record in
all the civil wars, there are fears that the bravos of the place may
take to the roads and rob all they can lay hands on."
"A good precaution! But I am firmly convinced that not until these
people die and are born over again, not until the very stones have
changed their form, will there be peace in Orbajosa."
"That is my opinion too," said the officer, lighting a cigarette.
"Don't you see that the guerilla chiefs are the pets of this place?
Those who desolated the district in 1848 and at other epochs, or, if
not they, their sons, are employed in the market inspector's office,
at the town gates, in the town-hall, in the post-office; among them
are constables, sacristans, bailiffs. Some have become powerful party
leaders and they are the ones who manage the elections, have influence
in Madrid, bestow places—in short, this is terrible."
"And tell me, is there no hope of the guerilla chiefs performing
some exploit in these days? If that should happen, you could destroy
the town, and I would help you."
"If it depended upon me—— They will play their usual pranks no
doubt," said Pinzon, "for the insurrection in the two neighboring
provinces is spreading like wildfire. And between ourselves, friend
Rey, I think this is going to last for a long time. Some people smile
and say that it would be impossible that there should be another
insurrection like the last one. They don't know the country; they
don't know Orbajosa and its inhabitants. I believe that the war that
is now beginning will have serious consequences, and that we shall
have another cruel and bloody struggle, that will last Heaven knows
how long. What is your opinion?"
"Well, in Madrid I laughed at any one who spoke of the possibility
of a civil war as long and as terrible as the Seven Years' War; but
since I have been here——"
"One must come to the heart of this enchanting country, see the
people at home, and hear them talk, to know what the real state of
"Just so. Without knowing precisely on what I base my opinion, the
fact is that here I see things in a different light, and I now believe
that it is possible that there may be a long and bloody war."
"But at present my thoughts are occupied less by the public war
than by a private war in which I am engaged and which I declared a
short time ago."
"You said this was your aunt's house. What is her name?"
"Dona Perfecta Rey de Polentinos."
"Ah! I know her by reputation. She is an excellent person, and the
only one of whom I have not heard the garlic-venders speak ill. When I
was here before I heard her goodness, her charity, her innumerable
virtues, everywhere extolled."
"Yes, my aunt is very kind, very amiable," said Rey.
Then he fell into a thoughtful silence.
"But now I remember!" exclaimed Pinzon suddenly. "How one thing
fits in with another! Yes, I heard in Madrid that you were going to be
married to a cousin of yours. All is clear now. Is it that beautiful
and heavenly Rosario?"
"Pinzon, we must have a long talk together."
"I imagine that there are difficulties."
"There is something more; there is violent opposition. I have need
of a determined friend—a friend who is prompt to act, fruitful in
resource, of great experience in emergencies, astute and courageous."
"Why, this is even more serious than a challenge."
"A great deal more serious. It would be easy to fight with another
man. With women, with unseen enemies who work in the dark, it is
"Come, I am all ears."
Lieutenant-colonel Pinzon lay stretched at full length upon the
bed. Pepe Rey drew a chair up to the bedside and, leaning his elbow on
the bed and his head on his hand, began his conference, consultation,
exposition of plan, or whatever else it might be called, and continued
talking for a long time. Pinzon listened to him with profound
attention and without interrupting him, except to ask an occasional
question for the purpose of obtaining further details or additional
light upon some obscure point. When Pepe Rey ended, Pinzon looked
grave. He stretched himself, yawning with the satisfaction of one who
has not slept for three nights, and then said:
"You plan is dangerous and difficult."
"But not impossible."
"Oh, no! for nothing is impossible. Reflect well about it."
"I have reflected."
"And you are resolved to carry it through? Consider that these
things are not now in fashion. They generally turn out badly and throw
discredit on those who undertake them."
"I am resolved."
"For my part, then, although the business is dangerous and
serious— very serious—I am ready to aid you in all things and for
"Can I rely upon you?"
"To the death."
CHAPTER XIX. A TERRIBLE
The opening of hostilities could not long be delayed. When the hour
of dinner arrived, after coming to an agreement with Pinzon regarding
the plan to be pursued, the first condition of which was that the
friends should pretend not to know each other, Pepe Rey went to the
dining- room. There he found his aunt, who had just returned from the
cathedral where she had spent the morning as was her habit. She was
alone, and appeared to be greatly preoccupied. The engineer observed
that on that pale and marble-like countenance, not without a certain
beauty, there rested a mysterious shadow. When she looked up it
recovered its sinister calmness, but she looked up seldom, and after a
rapid examination of her nephew's countenance, that of the amiable
lady would again take on its studied gloom.
They awaited dinner in silence. They did not wait for Don Cayetano,
for he had gone to Mundogrande. When they sat down to table Dona
"And that fine soldier whom the Government has sent us, is he not
coming to dinner?"
"He seems to be more sleepy than hungry," answered the engineer,
without looking at his aunt.
"Do you know him?"
"I have never seen him in all my life before."
"We are nicely off with the guests whom the Government sends us. We
have beds and provisions in order to keep them ready for those
vagabonds of Madrid, whenever they may choose to dispose of them."
"There are fears of an insurrection," said Pepe Rey, with sudden
heat, "and the Government is determined to crush the Orbajosans—to
crush them, to grind them to powder."
"Stop, man, stop, for Heaven's sake; don't crush us!" cried Dona
Perfecta sarcastically. "Poor we! Be merciful, man, and allow us
unhappy creatures to live. And would you, then, be one of those who
would aid the army in the grand work of crushing us?"
"I am not a soldier. I will do nothing but applaud when I see the
germs of civil war; of insubordination, of discord, of disorder, of
robbery, and of barbarism that exist here, to the shame of our times
and of our country, forever extirpated."
"All will be as God wills."
"Orbajosa, my dear aunt, has little else than garlic and bandits;
for those who in the name of some political or religious idea set out
in search of adventures every four or five years are nothing but
"Thanks, thanks, my dear nephew!" said Dona Perfecta, turning pale.
"So Orbajosa has nothing more than that? Yet there must be something
else here—something that you do not possess, since you have come to
look for it among us."
Rey felt the cut. His soul was on fire. He found it very difficult
to show his aunt the consideration to which her sex, her rank, and her
relation to himself entitled her. He was on the verge of a violent
outbreak, and a force that he could not resist was impelling him
against his interlocutor.
"I came to Orbajosa," he said, "because you sent for me; you
arranged with my father—"
"Yes, yes; it is true," she answered, interrupting him quickly and
making an effort to recover her habitual serenity. "I do not deny it.
I am the one who is really to blame. I am to blame for your ill-humor,
for the slights you put upon us, for every thing disagreeable that has
been happening in my house since you entered it."
"I am glad that you are conscious of it."
"In exchange, you are a saint. Must I also go down on my knees to
your grace and ask your pardon?"
"Senora," said Pepe Rey gravely, laying down his knife and fork, "I
entreat you not to mock me in so pitiless a manner. I cannot meet you
on equal ground. All I have said is that I came to Orbajosa at your
"And it is true. Your father and I arranged that you should marry
Rosario. You came in order to become acquainted with her. I accepted
you at once as a son. You pretended to love Rosario—"
"Pardon me," objected Pepe; "I loved and I love Rosario; you
pretended to accept me as a son; receiving me with deceitful
cordiality, you employed from the very beginning all the arts of
cunning to thwart me and to prevent the fulfilment of the proposals
made to my father; you determined from the first day to drive me to
desperation, to tire me out; and with smiles and affectionate words on
your lips you have been killing me, roasting me at the slow fire; you
have let loose upon me in the dark and from behind an ambush a swarm
of lawsuits; you have deprived me of the official commission which I
brought to Orbajosa; you have brought me into disrepute in the town;
you have had me turned out of the cathedral; you have kept me
constantly separated from the chosen of my heart; you have tortured
your daughter with an inquisitorial imprisonment which will cause her
death, unless God interposes to prevent it."
Dona Perfecta turned scarlet. But the flush of offended pride
passed away quickly, leaving her face of a greenish pallor. Her lips
trembled. Throwing down the knife and fork with which she had been
eating, she rose swiftly to her feet. Her nephew rose also.
"My God! Holy Virgin of Succor!" she cried, raising both her hands
to her head and pressing it between them with the gesture indicative
of desperation, "is it possible that I deserve such atrocious insults?
Pepe, my son, is it you who speak to me in this way? If I have done
what you say, I am indeed very wicked."
She sank on the sofa and covered her face with her hands. Pepe,
approaching her slowly, saw that his aunt was sobbing bitterly and
shedding abundant tears. In spite of his conviction he could not
altogether conquer the feeling of compassion which took possession of
him; and while he condemned himself for his cowardice he felt
something of remorse for the severity and the frankness with which he
"My dear aunt," he said, putting his hand on her shoulder, "if you
answer me with tears and sighs, you will not convince me. Proofs, not
emotions, are what I require. Speak to me, tell me that I am mistaken
in thinking what I think; then prove it to me, and I will acknowledge
"Leave me, you are not my brother's son! If you were, you would not
insult me as you have insulted me. So, then, I am an intriguer, an
actress, a hypocritical harpy, a domestic plotter?"
As she spoke, Dona Perfecta uncovered her face and looked at her
nephew with a martyr-like expression. Pepe was perplexed. The tears as
well as the gentle voice of his father's sister could not be
insignificant phenomena for the mathematician's soul. Words crowded to
his lips to ask her pardon. A man of great firmness generally, any
appeal to his emotions, any thing which touched his heart, converted
him at once into a child. Weaknesses of a mathematician! It is said
that Newton was the same.
"I will give you the proofs you ask," said Dona Perfecta, motioning
him to a seat beside her. "I will give you satisfaction. You shall see
whether I am kind, whether I am indulgent, whether I am humble. Do you
think that I am going to contradict you; to deny absolutely the acts
of which you have accused me? Well, then, no; I do not deny them."
The engineer was astounded.
"I do not deny them," continued Dona Perfecta. "What I deny is the
evil intention which you attribute to them. By what right do you
undertake to judge of what you know only from appearances and by
conjecture? Have you the supreme intelligence which is necessary to
judge justly the actions of others and pronounce sentence upon them?
Are you God, to know the intentions?"
Pepe was every moment more amazed.
"Is it not allowable at times to employ indirect means to attain a
good and honorable end? By what right do you judge actions of mine
that you do not clearly understand? I, my dear nephew, manifesting a
sincerity which you do not deserve, confess to you that I have indeed
employed subterfuges to attain a good end, to attain what was at the
same time beneficial to you and to my daughter. You do not comprehend?
You look bewildered. Ah! your great mathematician's and German
philosopher's intellect is not capable of comprehending these
artifices of a prudent mother."
"I am more and more astounded every moment," said the engineer.
"Be as astounded as you choose, but confess your barbarity," said
the lady, with increasing spirit; "acknowledge your hastiness and your
brutal conduct toward me in accusing me as you have done. You are a
young man without any experience or any other knowledge than that
which is derived from books, which teach nothing about the world or
the human heart. All you know is how to make roads and docks. Ah, my
young gentleman! one does not enter into the human heart through the
tunnel of a railroad, or descend into its depths through the shaft of
a mine. You cannot read in the conscience of another with the
microscope of a naturalist, nor decide the question of another's
culpability measuring ideas with a theodolite."
"For God's sake, dear aunt!"
"Why do you pronounce the name of God when you do not believe in
him?" said Dona Perfecta, in solemn accents. "If you believed in him,
if you were a good Christian, you would not dare to form evil
judgments about my conduct. I am a devout woman, do you understand? I
have a tranquil conscience, do you understand? I know what I am doing
and why I do it, do you understand?"
"I understand, I understand, I understand!"
"God in whom you do not believe, sees what you do not see and what
you cannot see—the intention. I will say no more; I do not wish to
enter into minute explanations, for I do not need to do so. Nor would
you understand me if I should tell you that I desired to attain my
object without scandal, without offending your father, without
offending you, without giving cause for people to talk by an explicit
refusal—I will say nothing of all this to you, for you would not
understand it, either, Pepe. You are a mathematician. You see what is
before your eyes, and nothing more; brute matter and nothing more. You
see the effect, and not the cause. God is the supreme intention of the
world. He who does not know this must necessarily judge things as you
judge them—foolishly. In the tempest, for instance, he sees only
destruction; in the conflagration, ruin; in the drought, famine; in
the earthquake, desolation; and yet, arrogant young man, in all those
apparent calamities we are to seek the good intentions—yes, senor,
the intention, always good, of Him who can do nothing evil."
This confused, subtle, and mystic logic did not convince Pepe Rey;
but he did not wish to follow his aunt in the tortuous path of such a
method of reasoning, and he said simply:
"Well, I respect intentions."
"Now that you seem to recognize your error," continued the pious
lady, with ever-increasing confidence, "I will make another confession
to you, and that is that I see now that I did wrong in adopting the
course I did, although my object was excellent. In view of your
impetuous disposition, in view of your incapacity to comprehend me, I
should have faced the situation boldly and said to you, 'Nephew, I do
not wish that you should be my daughter's husband.' "
"That is the language you should have used to me from the
beginning," said the engineer, drawing a deep breath, as if his mind
had been relieved from an enormous weight. "I am greatly obliged to
you for those words. After having been stabbed in the dark, this blow
on the face in the light of day is a great satisfaction to me."
"Well, I will repeat the blow, nephew," declared Dona Perfecta,
with as much energy as displeasure. "You know it now—I do not wish
you to marry Rosario!"
Pepe was silent. There was a long pause, during which the two
regarded each other attentively, as if the face of each was for the
other the most perfect work of art.
"Don't you understand what I have said to you?" she repeated. "That
every thing is at an end, that there is to be no marriage."
"Permit me, dear aunt," said the young man, with composure, "not to
be terrified by the intimation. In the state at which things have
arrived your refusal has little importance for me."
"What are you saying?" cried Dona Perfecta violently.
"What you hear. I will marry Rosario!"
Dona Perfecta rose to her feet, indignant, majestic, terrible. Her
attitude was that of anathema incarnated in a woman. Rey remained
seated, serene, courageous, with the passive courage of a profound
conviction and an immovable resolve. The whole weight of his aunt's
wrath, threatening to overwhelm him, did not make him move an eyelash.
This was his character.
"You are mad. Marry my daughter, you! Marry her against my will!"
Dona Perfecta's trembling lips articulated these words in a truly
"Against your will! She is of a different way of thinking."
"Against my will!" repeated Dona Perfecta. "Yes, and I repeat it
again and again. I do not wish it, I do not wish it!"
"She and I wish it."
"Fool! Is nothing else in the world to be considered but her and
you? Are there not parents; is there not society; is there not a
conscience; is there not a God?"
"Because there is society, because there is a conscience, because
there is a God," affirmed Rey gravely, rising to his feet, and
pointing with outstretched arm to the heavens, "I say and I repeat
that I will marry her."
"Wretch! arrogant man! And if you would dare to trample every thing
under your feet, do you think there are not laws to prevent your
"Because there are laws, I say and I repeat that I will marry her."
"You respect nothing!"
"Nothing that is unworthy of respect."
"And my authority, my will, I—am I nothing?"
"For me your daughter is every thing—the rest is nothing."
Pepe Rey's composure was, so to say, the arrogant display of
invincible and conscious strength. The blows he gave were hard and
crushing in their force, without any thing to mitigate their severity.
His words, if the comparison may be allowed, were like a pitiless
discharge of artillery.
Dona Perfecta sank again on the sofa; but she shed no tears, and a
convulsive tremor agitated her frame.
"So that for this infamous atheist," she exclaimed, with frank
rage, "there are no social conventionalities, there is nothing but
caprice. This is base avarice. My daughter is rich!"
"If you think to wound me with that treacherous weapon, evading the
question and giving a distorted meaning to my sentiments in order to
offend my dignity, you are mistaken, dear aunt. Call me mercenary, if
you choose. God knows what I am."
"You have no dignity!"
"That is an opinion, like any other. The world may hold you to be
infallible. I do not. I am far from believing that from your judgments
there is no appeal to God."
"But is what you say true? But do you persist in your purpose,
after my refusal? You respect nothing, you are a monster, a bandit."
"I am a man."
"A wretch! Let us end this at once. I refuse to give my daughter to
you; I refuse her to you!"
"I will take her then! I shall take only what is mine."
"Leave my presence!" exclaimed Dona Perfecta, rising suddenly to
her feet. "Coxcomb, do you suppose that my daughter thinks of you?"
"She loves me, as I love her."
"It is a lie! It is a lie!"
"She herself has told me so. Excuse me if, on this point, I put
more faith in her words than in her mother's."
"How could she have told you so, when you have not seen her for
"I saw her last night, and she swore to me before the crucifix in
the chapel that she would be my wife."
"Oh, scandal; oh, libertinism! But what is this? My God, what a
disgrace!" exclaimed Dona Perfecta, pressing her head again between
her hands and walking up and down the room. "Rosario left her room
"She left it to see me. It was time."
"What vile conduct is yours! You have acted like a thief; you have
acted like a vulgar seducer!"
"I have acted in accordance with the teachings of your school. My
intention was good."
"And she came down stairs! Ah, I suspected it! This morning at
daybreak I surprised her, dressed, in her room. She told me she had
gone out, I don't know for what. You were the real criminal, then.
This is a disgrace! Pepe, I expected any thing from you rather than an
outrage like this. Every thing is at an end! Go away! You are dead to
me. I forgive you, provided you go away. I will not say a word about
this to your father. What horrible selfishness! No, there is no love
in you. You do not love my daughter!"
"God knows that I love her, and that is sufficient for me."
"Be silent, blasphemer! and don't take the name of God upon your
lips!" exclaimed Dona Perfecta. "In the name of God, whom I can
invoke, for I believe in him, I tell you that my daughter will never
be your wife. My daughter will be saved, Pepe; my daughter shall not
be condemned to a living hell, for a union with you would be a hell!"
"Rosario will be my wife," repeated the mathematician, with
The pious lady was still more exasperated by her nephew's calm
energy. In a broken voice she said:
"Don't suppose that your threats terrify me. I know what I am
saying. What! are a home and a family to be outraged like this? Are
human and divine authority to be trampled under foot in this way?"
"I will trample every thing under foot," said the engineer,
beginning to lose his composure and speaking with some agitation.
"You will trample every thing under foot! Ah! it is easy to see
that you are a barbarian, a savage, a man who lives by violence."
"No, dear aunt; I am mild, upright, honorable, and an enemy to
violence; but between you and me—between you who are the law and I
who am to honor it—is a poor tormented creature, one of God's angels,
subjected to iniquitous tortures. The spectacle of this injustice,
this unheard-of violence, is what has converted my rectitude into
barbarity; my reason into brute force; my honor into violence, like an
assassin's or a thief's; this spectacle, senora, is what impels me to
disregard your law, what impels me to trample it under foot, braving
every thing. This which appears to you lawlessness is obedience to an
unescapable law. I do what society does when a brutal power, as
illogical as irritating, opposes its progress. It tramples it under
foot and destroys it in an outburst of frenzy. Such am I at this
moment—I do not recognize myself. I was reasonable, and now I am a
brute; I was respectful, and now I am insolent; I was civilized, and
now I am a savage. You have brought me to this horrible extremity;
infuriating me and driving me from the path of rectitude which I was
tranquilly pursuing. Who is to blame—I or you?"
"Neither you nor I can decide the question. I think we are both to
blame: you for your violence and injustice, I for my injustice and
violence. We have both become equally barbarous, and we struggle with
and wound each other without compassion. God has permitted that it
should be so; my blood will be upon your conscience, yours will be
upon mine. Enough now, senora. I do not wish to trouble you with
useless words. We will now proceed to acts."
"To acts, very well!" said Dona Perfecta, roaring rather than
speaking. "Don't suppose that in Orbajosa there is no civil guard!"
"Good-by, senora. I will now leave this house. I think we shall
"Go, go! go now!" she cried, pointing with an energetic gesture to
Pepe Rey left the room. Dona Perfecta, after pronouncing a few
incoherent words, which were the clearest expression of her anger,
sank into a chair, with indications of fatigue, or of a coming attack
of nerves. The maids came running in.
"Go for Senor Don Inocencio!" she cried. "Instantly—hurry! Ask him
to come here!"
Then she tore her handkerchief with her teeth.
CHAPTER XX. RUMORS—FEARS
On the day following that of this lamentable quarrel, various
rumors regarding Pepe Rey and his conduct spread through Orbajosa,
going from house to house, from club to club, from the Casino to the
apothecary's and from the Paseo de las Descalzes to the Puerta de
Baidejos. They were repeated by every body, and so many were the
comments made that, if Don Cayetano had collected and compiled them,
he might have formed with them a rich "Thesaurus" of Orbajosan
benevolence. In the midst of the diversity of the reports circulated,
there was agreement in regard to certain important particulars, one of
which was the following:
That the engineer, enraged at Dona Perfecta's refusal to marry
Rosario to an atheist, had raised his hand to his aunt.
The young man was living in the widow De Cusco's hotel, an
establishment mounted, as they say now, not at the height, but at the
depth of the superlative backwardness of the town. Lieutenant-colonel
Pinzon visited him with frequency, in order that they might discuss
together the plot which they had on hand, and for the successful
conduct of which the soldier showed the happiest dispositions. New
artifices and stratagems occurred to him at every instant, and he
hastened to put them into effect with excellent humor, although he
would often say to his friend:
"The role I am playing, dear Pepe, is not a very dignified one; but
to give an annoyance to the Orbajosans I would walk on my hands and
We do not know what cunning stratagems the artful soldier, skilled
in the wiles of the world, employed; but certain it is that before he
had been in the house three days he had succeeded in making himself
greatly liked by every body in it. His manners were very pleasing to
Dona Perfecta, who could not hear unmoved his flattering praises of
the elegance of the house, and of the nobility, piety, and august
magnificence of its mistress. With Don Inocencio he was hand and
glove. Neither her mother nor the Penitentiary placed any obstacle in
the way of his speaking with Rosario (who had been restored to liberty
on the departure of her ferocious cousin); and, with his delicate
compliments, his skilful flattery, and great address, he had acquired
in the house of Polentinos considerable ascendency, and he had even
succeeded in establishing himself in it on a footing of familiarity.
But the object of all his arts was a servant maid named Librada, whom
he had seduced (chastely speaking) that she might carry messages and
notes to Rosario, of whom he pretended to be enamored. The girl
allowed herself to be bribed with persuasive words and a good deal of
money, because she was ignorant of the source of the notes and of the
real meaning of the intrigue, for had she known that it was all a
diabolical plot of Don Jose, although she liked the latter greatly,
she would not have acted with treachery toward her mistress for all
the money in the world.
One day Dona Perfecta, Don Inocencio, Jacinto, and Pinzon were
conversing together in the garden. They were talking about the
soldiers and the purpose for which they had been sent to Orbajosa, in
which the Penitentiary found motive for condemning the tyrannical
conduct of the Government; and, without knowing how it came about,
Pepe Rey's name was mentioned.
"He is still at the hotel," said the little lawyer. "I saw him
yesterday, and he gave me remembrances for you, Dona Perfecta."
"Was there ever seen such insolence! Ah, Senor Pinzon! do not be
surprised at my using this language, speaking of my own nephew—that
young man, you remember, who had the room which you occupy."
"Yes, I know. I am not acquainted with him, but I know him by sight
and by reputation. He is an intimate friend of our brigadier."
"An intimate friend of the brigadier?"
"Yes, senor; of the commander of the brigade that has just arrived
in this district, and which is quartered in the neighboring villages."
"And where is he?" asked the lady.
"I think he is stopping at Polavieja's," observed Jacinto.
"Your nephew and Brigadier Batalla are intimate friends," continued
Pinzon; "they are always to be seen together in the streets."
"Well, my friend, that gives me a bad idea of your chief," said
"He is—he is very good-natured," said Pinzon, in the tone of one
who, through motives of respect, did not venture to use a harsher
"With your permission, Senor Pinzon, and making an honorable
exception in your favor, it must be said that in the Spanish army
there are some curious types——"
"Our brigadier was an excellent soldier before he gave himself up
"That sect that calls up ghosts and goblins by means of the legs of
a table!" said the canon, laughing.
"From curiosity, only from curiosity," said Jacintillo, with
emphasis, "I ordered Allan Kardec's book from Madrid. It is well to
know something about every thing."
"But is it possible that such follies—Heavens! Tell me, Pinzon,
does my nephew too belong to that sect of table-tippers?"
"I think it was he who indoctrinated our valiant Brigadier
"Yes; and whenever he chooses," said Don Inocencio, unable to
contain his laughter, "he can speak to Socrates, St. Paul, Cervantes,
or Descartes, as I speak to Librada to ask her for a match. Poor Senor
de Rey! I was not mistaken in saying that there was something wrong in
"Outside that," continued Pinzon, "our brigadier is a good soldier.
If he errs at all, it is on the side of severity. He takes the orders
of the Government so literally that, if he were to meet with much
opposition here, he would be capable of not leaving one stone upon
another in Orbajosa. Yes, I advise you all to be on your guard."
"But is that monster going to cut all our heads off, then? Ah,
Senor Don Inocencio! these visits of the army remind me of what I have
read in the lives of the martyrs about the visits of the Roman
proconsuls to a Christian town."
"The comparison is not wanting in exactness," said the
Penitentiary, looking at the soldier over his spectacles.
"It is not very agreeable, but if it is the truth, why should it
not be said?" observed Pinzon benevolently. "Now you all are at our
"The authorities of the place," objected Jacinto, "still exercise
their functions as usual."
"I think you are mistaken," responded the soldier, whose
countenance Dona Perfecta and the Penitentiary were studying with
profound interest. "The alcalde of Orbajosa was removed from office an
"By the governor of the province?"
"The governor of the province has been replaced by a delegate from
the Government, who was to arrive this morning. The municipal councils
will all be removed from office to-day. The minister has so ordered
because he suspected, I don't know on what grounds, that they were not
supporting the central authority."
"This is a pretty state of things!" murmured the canon, frowning
and pushing out his lower lip.
Dona Perfecta looked thoughtful.
"Some of the judges of the primary court, among them the judge of
Orbajosa, have been deprived of office."
"The judge! Periquito—Periquito is no longer judge!" exclaimed
Dona Perfecta, in a voice and with the manner of a person who has just
been stung by a snake.
"The person who was judge in Orbajosa is judge no longer," said
Pinzon. "To-morrow the new judge will arrive."
"A rascal, perhaps. The other was so honorable!" said Dona
Perfecta, with alarm. "I never asked any thing from him that he did
not grant it to me at once. Do you know who will be the new alcalde?"
"They say a corregidor is coming."
"There, say at once that the Deluge is coming, and let us be done
with it," said the canon, rising.
"So that we are at the brigadier's mercy!"
"For a few days only. Don't be angry with me. In spite of my
uniform I am an enemy of militarism; but we are ordered to strike—and
we strike. There could not be a viler trade than ours."
"That it is, that it is!" said Dona Perfecta, with difficulty
concealing her fury. "Now that you have confessed it—— So, then,
neither alcalde nor judge——"
"Nor governor of the province."
"Let them take the bishop from us also and send us a choir boy in
"That is all that is wanting—if the people here will allow them to
do it," murmured Don Inocencio, lowering his eyes. "They won't stop at
"And it is all because they are afraid of an insurrection in
Orbajosa," exclaimed Dona Perfecta, clasping her hands and waving them
up and down. "Frankly, Pinzon, I don't know why it is that even the
very stones don't rise up in rebellion. I wish you no harm; but it
would be a just judgment on you if the water you drink turned into
mud. You say that my nephew is the intimate friend of the brigadier?"
"So intimate that they are together all day long; they were school-
fellows. Batalla loves him like a brother, and would do anything to
please him. In your place, senora, I would be uneasy."
"Oh, my God! I fear there will be an attack on the house!"
"Senora," declared the canon, with energy, "before I would consent
that there should be an attack on this honorable house—before I would
consent that the slightest harm should be done to this noble
family—I, my nephew, all the people of Orbajosa——"
Don Inocencio did not finish. His anger was so great that the words
refused to come. He took a few steps forward with a martial air, then
returned to his seat.
"I think that your fears are not idle," said Pinzon. "If it should
be necessary, I——"
"And I——" said Jacinto.
Dona Perfecta had fixed her eyes on the glass door of the
dining-room, through which could be seen a graceful figure. As she
looked at it, it seemed as if the cloud of apprehension which rested
on her countenance grew darker.
"Rosario! come in here, Rosario!" she said, going to meet the young
girl. "I fancy you look better to-day, and that you are more cheerful.
Don't you think that Rosario looks better? She seems a different
They all agreed that the liveliest happiness was depicted on her
CHAPTER XXI. "DESPERTA FERRO"
About this time the following items of news appeared in the Madrid
"There is no truth whatever in the report that there has been an
insurrection in the neighborhood of Orbajosa. Our correspondent in
that place informs us that the country is so little disposed for
adventures that the further presence of the Batalla brigade in that
locality is considered unnecessary."
"It is said that the Batalla brigade will leave Orbajosa, as troops
are not required there, to go to Villajuan de Nahara, where guerillas
have made their appearance."
"The news has been confirmed that the Aceros, with a number of
mounted followers, are ranging the district of Villajuan, adjacent to
the judicial district of Orbajosa. The governor of the province of X.
has telegraphed to the Government that Francisco Acero entered Las
Roquetas, where he demanded provisions and money. Domingo Acero
(Faltriquera), was ranging the Jubileo mountains, actively pursued by
the Civil Guards, who killed one of his men and captured another.
Bartolome Acero is the man who burned the registry office of
Lugarnoble and carried away with him as hostages the alcalde and two
of the principal landowners."
"Complete tranquillity reigns in Orbajosa, according to a letter
which we have before us, and no one there thinks of anything but
cultivating the garlic fields, which promise to yield a magnificent
crop. The neighboring districts, however, are infested with guerillas,
but the Batalla brigade will make short work of these."
Orbajosa was, in fact, tranquil. The Aceros, that warlike dynasty,
worthy, in the opinion of some, of figuring in the "Romancero," had
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 correct.
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
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 any defenders."
"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 is it?"
"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 than enough."
"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
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
"But who, senora, who would dare to commit such outrages?" asked
one of the four countrymen. "Orbajosa would rise as one man to defend
"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
"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' own nephew."
"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
"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 best man."
"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
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,
"Pretend you don't understand! Don't you know that my nephew and
the brigadier who commands that accursed troop have been
"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
"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
"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 their villanies?"
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 you."
"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."
CHAPTER XXII. "DESPERTA!"
"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 mistress pleases!"
"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
"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 the shearing."
"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
"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 belts."
"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," observed Frasquito.
"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 it down!"
"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
"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 days."
"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 fervor.
"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 from him—"
"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
" '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 words:
"I say that there is nothing more to be said. Long live Orbajosa!
death to Madrid!"
And he brought his hand down on the table with such violence that
the floor shook.
"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
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.
CHAPTER XXIII. MYSTERY
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
"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
"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 of courage.
"Mine is immense," said Senora de Polentinos, in the midst of her
"Mine is very small," said the canon; "but we shall see, we shall
CHAPTER XXIV. THE CONFESSION
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
CHAPTER XXV. UNFORESEEN EVENTS—A
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 gayly.
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
"Maria Remedios," said Dona Perfecta haughtily, "don't talk
"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 fright.' "
"Maria Remedios, don't be a fool!" said Dona Perfecta with
"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
"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
"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
"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,
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
"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 once."
"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.
"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— those girls—"
"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
"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 more secure."
"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
"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 arrests.
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.
CHAPTER XXVI. MARIA REMEDIOS
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
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
"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
"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 them."
"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 another name."
"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 idiot?"
"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
"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.
CHAPTER XXVII. 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
"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
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
"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
"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
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 behaving—"
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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 the house."
"Why! don't you think they will be wanted there?" said Remedios,
"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 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 insulted."
"I have something to do to-night," answered Caballuco, laconically
"You hear what he says, Remedios. Leave your business for
"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."
"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."
CHAPTER XXVIII. 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
"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
"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 erected.
"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
"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.
CHAPTER XXIX. FROM PEPE REY TO
"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 you."
CHAPTER XXX. 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
"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 bewildered.
"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 this evening."
"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 of fear.
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 was addressing.
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
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
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
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 of delirium.
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 fast!"
"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
"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 from you."
"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
"Rosario, Rosario!" cried Dona Perfecta, in a terrible voice,
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
"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
"I see a figure there," she said. "It is going toward the
"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 of mail.
"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 this war.
"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
"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 malady.
"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' erroneously maintains.
"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 don't 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
Our story is ended. This is all we have to say for the present
concerning persons who seem, but are not good.