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Title: Pepita Ximenez
Author: Valera, Juan, 1824-1905
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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PEPITA XIMENEZ

FROM THE SPANISH OF
JUAN VALERA

_WITH AN INTRODUCTION_
BY THE AUTHOR
WRITTEN SPECIALLY FOR THIS EDITION

NEW YORK
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY 1886

COPYRIGHT, 1886,
BY D. APPLETON AND COMPANY.



AUTHOR'S PREFACE TO THE AMERICAN EDITION.


_To the Messrs. Appleton._

GENTLEMEN: It was my intention to write a preface for the purpose of
authorizing the edition you are about to publish in English of "Pepita
Ximenez"; but, on thinking the matter over, I was deterred by the
recollection of an anecdote that I heard in my young days.

A certain gallant, wishing to be presented at the house of a rich man
who was about to give a magnificent ball, availed himself for that
purpose of the services of a friend, who boasted of his familiarity with
the great man, and of the favor he enjoyed with him. They proceeded to
the great man's house, and the gallant got his introduction; but the
great man said to him who had introduced the other, "And you, who is to
introduce you, for I am not acquainted with you?" As I entertain a
profound respect and affection for this country, and have not, besides,
the assurance that such an occasion would require, it would not do for
me to say what the _introducer_ of my story is said to have answered,
"I need no one to introduce or to recommend me, for I am just now going
away."

I infer from my story, as its evident moral, that I ought to refrain
from addressing the public of the United States, to which I am entirely
unknown as an author, notwithstanding the fact of my having maintained
pleasant and friendly relations with its Government as the
representative of my own.

The most judicious and prudent course I can adopt, then, is to limit
myself to returning you earnest thanks for asking from me an
authorization of which you did not stand in need, either by law or by
treaty, for wishing to make known to your countrymen the least insipid
of the products of my unfruitful genius, and for your generous purpose
of conceding to me author's rights.

This, however, does not preclude the fact that, in thus expressing my
thanks to you publicly, I incur a responsibility which I did not assume
on any other occasion, either in Germany, Italy, or any other country
where my works have been translated; for then, if they failed to please
the public, although the fact might pain me, I could still shrug my
shoulders, and throw the blame of failure on the translator, or the
publisher; but in this case I make myself your accomplice, and share, or
rather receive, all the disgrace of failure, if failure there should be.

"Pepita Ximenez" has enjoyed a wide celebrity, not only in Spain, but in
every other Spanish-speaking country. I am very far from thinking that
we Spaniards of the present day are either more easily satisfied, less
cultured than, or possessed of an inferior literary taste to, the
inhabitants of any other region of the globe; but this does not suffice
to dispel my misgivings that my novel may be received with indifference
or with censure by a public somewhat prejudiced against Spain by
fanciful and injurious preconceptions.

My novel, both in essence and form, is distinctively national and
classic. Its merit--supposing it to have such--consists in the language
and the style, and not in the incidents, which are of the most
commonplace, or in the plot, which, if it can be said to have any, is of
the simplest.

The characters are not wanting, as I think, in individuality, or in such
truth to human nature as makes them seem like living beings; but, the
action being so slight, this is brought out and made manifest by means
of a subtile analysis, and by the language chosen to express the
emotions, both which may in the translation be lost. There is, besides,
in my novel a certain irony, good-humored and frank, and a certain
humor, resembling rather the humor of the English than the _esprit_ of
the French, which qualities, although happily they do not depend upon
puns, or a play upon words, but are in the subject itself, require, in
order that they may appear in the translation, that this should be made
with extreme care.

In conclusion, the chief cause of the extraordinary favor with which
"Pepita Ximenez" was received in Spain is something that may fail to be
noticed here by careless readers.

I am an advocate of art for art's sake. I think it in very bad taste,
always impertinent, and often pedantic, to attempt to prove theses by
writing stories. For such a purpose dissertations or books purely and
severely didactic should be written. The object of a novel should be to
charm, through a faithful representation of human actions and human
passions, and to create by this fidelity to nature a beautiful work. The
object of art is the creation of the beautiful, and whoever applies it
to any other end, of however great utility this end may be, debases it.
But it may chance, through a conjunction of favorable circumstances, by
a happy inspiration, because in a given moment everything is, disposed
as by enchantment, or by supernatural influences, that an author's soul
may become like a clear and magic mirror wherein are reflected all the
ideas and all the sentiments that animate the eclectic spirit of his
country, and in which these ideas and these sentiments lose their
discordance, and group and combine themselves in pleasing agreement and
harmony.

Herein is the explanation of the interest of "Pepita Ximenez." It was
written when Spain was agitated to its center, and everything was thrown
out of its regular course by a radical revolution that at the same time
shook to their foundations the throne and religions unity. It was
written when everything in fusion, like molten metal, might readily
amalgamate, and be molded into new forms. It was written when the strife
raged fiercest between ancient and modern ideals; and, finally, it was
written in all the plenitude of my powers, when my soul was sanest and
most joyful in the possession of an enviable optimism and an
all-embracing love and sympathy for humanity that, to my misfortune, can
never again find place within my breast.

If I had endeavored by dialectics and by reasoning to conciliate
opinions and beliefs, the disapprobation would have been general; but,
as the conciliating and syncretic spirit manifested itself naturally in
a diverting story, every one accepted and approved it, each one drawing
from my book the conclusions that best suited himself. Thus it was that,
from the most orthodox Jesuit father down to the most rabid
revolutionist, and from the ultra-Catholic who cherishes the dream of
restoring the Inquisition, to the rationalist who is the irreconcilable
enemy of every religion, all were pleased with "Pepita Ximenez."

It would be curious, and not inopportune, to explain here how it came
about that I succeeded in pleasing every one without intending it,
without knowing it, and, as it were, by chance.

There was in Spain, some years ago, a conservative minister who had sent
a godson of his to study philosophy in Germany. By rare good fortune
this godson, who was called Julián Sanz del Río, was a man of clear and
profound intelligence, of unwearied application, and endowed with all
the qualities necessary to make of him a sort of apostle. He studied, he
formulated his system, he obtained the chair of metaphysics in the
University of Madrid, and he founded a school, from which has since
issued a brilliant pleiad of philosophers and statesmen, and of men
illustrious for their learning, their eloquence, and their virtues.
Chief among them are Nicolás Salmerón, Francisco Giner, Gumersindo
Azcárate, Federico de Castro, and Urbano González Serrano.

The clerical party soon began to stir up strife against the master, the
scholars, and the doctrines taught by them. They accused them of
mystical pantheism.

I, who had ridiculed, at times, the confused terms, the pomp of words,
and the method which the new philosophers made use of, regarded these
philosophers, nevertheless, with admiration, and took up their
defense--an almost solitary champion--in periodicals and reviews.

I had already maintained, before this, that our great dogmatic
theologians, and especially the celebrated Domingo de Soto, were more
liberal than the liberal rationalists of the present day, affirming, as
they do, the sovereignty of the people by divine right; for if, as St.
Paul declares, all authority proceeds from God, it does so through the
medium of the people whom God inspires to found it; and because the only
authority that proceeds directly from God is that of the Church.

I then set myself to demonstrate that, if Sanz del Río and his followers
were pantheists, our mystical theologians of the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries were pantheists also; and that, if the former had
for predecessors Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, and Krause, St. Theresa, St.
John de la Cruz, and the inspired and ecstatic Father Miguel de la
Fuente followed, as their model, Tauler and others of the Germans. In
saying this, however, it was not my intention to deny the claims of any
of these mystical writers as founders of their school in Spain, but only
to recognize, in this unbroken transmission of doctrine, the progressive
continuity of European civilization.

For the purpose of carrying forward my undertaking, I read and studied
with ardor every Spanish book on devotion, asceticism, and mysticism
that fell into my hands, growing every day more charmed with the
richness of our literature in such works; with the treasures of poetry
contained in them; with the boldness and independence of their authors;
with the profound and delicate observation, in which they excel the
Scotch school, that they display in examining the faculties of the soul;
and with their power of entering into themselves, of penetrating to the
very center of the mind, in order there to behold God, and to unite
themselves with God, not therefore losing their own personality, or
their capacity for an active life, but issuing from the ecstasies and
ravishments of divine love more apt than before for every work that can
benefit the human species, as the steel is more finely tempered,
polished, and bright after it has burned in the fires of the forge.

Of all this, on its most poetic and easily understood side, I wished to
give a specimen to the Spanish public of to-day, who had forgotten it;
but, as I was a man of my epoch, a layman, not very exemplary as regards
penitential practices, and had the reputation of a freethinker, I did
not venture to undertake doing this in my own name, and I created a
theological student who should do it in his. I then fancied that I could
paint with more vividness the ideas and the feelings of this student by
contrasting them with an earthly love; and this was the origin of
"Pepita Ximenez." Thus, when it was farthest from my thoughts, did I
become a novelist. My novel had, therefore, the freshness and the
spontaneity of the unpremeditated.

The novels I wrote afterward, with premeditation, are inferior to this
one.

"Pepita Ximenez" pleased the public also, as I have said, by its
transcendentalism.

The rationalists supposed that I had rejected the old ideals, as my hero
casts off the clerical garb. And the believers, with greater unanimity
and truth, compared me to the false prophet who went forth to curse the
people of Israel, and without intending it exalted and blessed them.
What is certain is that, if it be allowable to draw any conclusion from
a story, the inference that may be deduced from mine is, that faith in
an all-seeing and personal God, and in the lore of this God, who is
present in the depths of the soul, even when we refuse to follow the
higher vocation to which he would persuade and solicit us--even were we
carried away by the violence of mundane passions to commit, like Don
Luis, almost all the capital sins in a single day--elevates the soul,
purifies the other emotions, sustains human dignity, and lends poetry,
nobility, and holiness to the commonest state, condition, and manner of
life.

Such is, in my opinion, the novel you are now about to present to the
American public; for I repeat that I have not the right to make the
presentation.

Perhaps, independent of its transcendentalism, my novel may serve to
interest and amuse your public for a couple of hours, and may obtain
some favor with it; for it is a public that reads a great deal, that is
indulgent, and that differs from the English public--which is eminently
exclusive in its tastes--by its generous and cosmopolitan spirit.

I have always regarded as a delusion of national vanity the belief that
there is, or the hope that there ever will be, anything that, with
legitimate and candid independence, may be called American literature.
Greece diffused herself throughout the world in nourishing colonies,
and, after the conquests of Alexander, founded powerful states in Egypt,
in Syria, and even in Bactriana, among peoples who, unlike the American
Indians, possessed a high civilization of their own. But,
notwithstanding this dispersion, and this political severance from the
mother-country, the literature of Syracuse, of Antioch, and of
Alexandria was as much Greek literature as was the literature of Athens.
In my opinion, then, and for the same reason, the literature of New York
and Boston will continue to be as much English literature as the
literature of London and Edinburgh; the literature of Mexico and Buenos
Ayres will continue to be as much Spanish literature as the literature
of Madrid; the literature of Rio Janeiro will be as much Portuguese
literature as the literature of Lisbon. Political union may be severed,
but, between peoples of the same tongue and the same race, the ties of
spiritual fraternity are indissoluble, so long as their common
civilization lasts. There are immortal kings or emperors who reign and
rule in America by true divine right, and against whom no Washington or
Bolivar shall prevail--no Franklin succeed in plucking from them their
scepter. These tyrants are called Miguel de Cervantes, William
Shakespeare, and Luiz de Camoëns.

All this does not prevent the new nation from bringing to the common
fund, and _pro indiviso_, of the culture of their race, rich elements,
fine traits of character, and perhaps even higher qualities. Thus it is
that I observe, in this American literature, of English origin and
language, a certain largeness of views, a certain cosmopolitanism and
affectionate comprehension of what is foreign, broad as the continent
itself which the Americans inhabit, and which forms a contrast to the
narrow exclusivism of the insular English. It is because of these
qualities that I venture to hope now for a favorable reception of my
little book; and it is in these qualities that I found my hope that the
fruits of Spanish genius in general will, in future, be better known and
more highly esteemed here than in Great Britain.

Already, to some extent, Irving, Prescott, Ticknor, Longfellow, Howells,
and others have contributed, with judgment and discretion, translating,
criticising, and eulogizing our authors, to the realization of this
hope.

Forgive my wearying you with this long letter, and believe me to be
sincerely yours,

JUAN VALERA.

NEW YORK, _April 18, 1886._



CONTENTS



                                                PAGE

LETTER OF THE AUTHOR                             iii

PEPITA XIMENEZ                                     1

I--LETTERS OF MY NEPHEW                            4

II.--PARALIPOMENA                                129

III.--EPILOGUE.   (LETTERS OF MY BROTHER)        263



PEPITA XIMENEZ

"_Nescit labi virtus._"


The reverend Dean of the Cathedral of ------, deceased a few years since,
left among his papers a bundle of manuscript, tied together, which,
passing from hand to hand, finally fell into mine, without, by some
strange chance, having lost a single one of the documents contained in
it. Inscribed on this manuscript were the Latin words I use above as a
motto, but without the addition of the woman's name I now prefix to it
as its title; and this inscription has probably contributed to the
preservation of the papers, since, thinking them, no doubt, to be
sermons, or other theological matter, no one before me had made any
attempt to untie the string of the package, or to read a single page of
it.

The manuscript is in three parts. The first is entitled "Letters from my
Nephew"; the second, "Paralipomena"; and the third, "Epilogue--Letters
from my Brother."

All three are in the same handwriting, which, it may be inferred, is
that of the reverend dean; and, as taken together they form something
like a novel, I at first thought that perhaps the reverend dean wished
to exercise his genius in composing one in his leisure hours; but,
looking at the matter more closely, and observing the natural simplicity
of the style, I am inclined to think now that it is no novel at all, but
that the letters are copies of genuine epistles which the reverend dean
tore up, burned, or returned to their owners, and that the narrative
part only, designated by the biblical title of "Paralipomena," is the
work of the reverend dean, added for the purpose of completing the story
with incidents not related in the letters.

However this may be, I confess that I did not find the reading of these
papers tiresome; I found them, indeed, rather interesting than
otherwise; and as nowadays everything is published, I have decided to
publish them too, without further investigation, changing only the
proper names, so that if those who bear them be still living they may
not find themselves figuring in a book without desiring or consenting to
it.

The letters contained in the first part seem to have been written by a
very young man, with some theoretical but no practical knowledge of the
world, whose life was passed in the house of the reverend dean, his
uncle, and in the seminary, and who was imbued with an exalted religious
fervor and an earnest desire to be a priest.

We shall call this young man Don Luis de Vargas.

The aforesaid manuscript, faithfully transferred to print, is as
follows.



I.

LETTERS FROM MY NEPHEW.


_March 22d._

DEAR UNCLE AND VENERABLE MASTER:

Four days ago I arrived in safety at this my native village, where I
found my father, the reverend vicar, our friends and relations all in
good health. The happiness of seeing them and conversing with them has
so completely occupied my time and thoughts, that I have not been able
to write to you until now.

You will pardon me for this.

Having left this place a mere child, and coming back a man, the
impression produced upon me by all those objects that I had treasured up
in my memory is a singular one. Everything appears to me more
diminutive, much more diminutive, but also more pleasing to the eye,
than my recollection of it. My father's house, which in my imagination
was immense, is, indeed, the large house of a rich husbandman, but still
much smaller than the seminary. What I now understand and appreciate
better than formerly is the country around here. The orchards, above
all, are delightful. What charming paths there are through them! On one
side, and sometimes on both, crystal waters flow with a pleasant murmur.
The banks of these streams are covered with odorous herbs and flowers of
a thousand different hues. In a few minutes one may gather a large bunch
of violets. The paths are shaded by majestic trees, chiefly walnut and
fig trees; and the hedges are formed of blackberry-bushes, roses,
pomegranates, and honeysuckle.

The multitude of birds that enliven grove and field is marvelous.

I am enchanted with the orchards, and I spend a couple of hours walking
in them every afternoon.

My father wishes to take me to see his olive-plantations, his vineyards,
his farm-houses; but of all this we have as yet seen nothing. I have not
been outside of the village and the charming orchards that surround it.

It is true, indeed, that the numerous visits I receive do not leave me a
moment to myself.

Five different women have come to see me, all of whom were my nurses,
and have embraced and kissed me.

Every one calls me Luisito, or Don Pedro's boy, although I have passed
my twenty-second birthday; and every one inquires of my father for _the
boy_, when I am not present.

I imagine I shall make but little use of the books I have brought with
me to read, as I am not left alone for a single instant.

The dignity of squire, which I supposed to be a matter for jest, is, on
the contrary, a serious matter. My father is the squire of the village.

There is hardly any one here who can understand what they call my
caprice of entering the priesthood, and these good people tell me, with
rustic candor, that I ought to throw aside the clerical garb; that to be
a priest is very well for a poor young man, but that I, who am to be a
rich man's heir, should marry, and console the old age of my father by
giving him half a dozen handsome and robust grandchildren.

In order to flatter my father and myself, both men and women declare
that I am a splendid fellow, that I am of an angelic disposition, that I
have a very roguish pair of eyes, and other stupid things of a like kind
that annoy, disgust, and humiliate me, although I am not very modest,
and am too well acquainted with the meanness and folly of the world to
be shocked or frightened at anything.

The only defect they find in me is that I am too thin through
over-study. In order to have me grow fat they propose not to allow me
either to study or even to look at a book while I remain here; and,
besides this, to make me eat of as many choice dishes of meats and
confectionery as they know how to concoct in the village.

It is quite clear--I am to be stall-fed. There is not a single family of
our acquaintance that has not sent me some token of regard. Now it is a
sponge-cake, now a meat-salad, now a pyramid of sweetmeats, now a jug of
sirup.

And these presents which they send to the house are not the only
attentions they show me. I have also been invited to dinner by three or
four of the principal persons of the village.

To-morrow I am to dine at the house of the famous Pepita Ximenez, of
whom you have doubtless heard. No one here is ignorant of the fact that
my father is paying her his addresses.

My father, notwithstanding his fifty-five years, is so well preserved
that the finest young men of the village might feel envious of him. He
possesses, besides, the powerful attraction, irresistible to some women,
of his past conquests, of his celebrity, of having been a sort of Don
Juan Tenorio.

I have not yet made the acquaintance of Pepita Ximenez. Every one says
she is very beautiful. I suspect she will turn out to be a village
beauty, and somewhat rustic. From what I have heard of her I can not
quite decide whether, ethically speaking, she is good or bad; but I am
quite certain that she is possessed of great natural intelligence.
Pepita is about twenty years old and a widow; her married life lasted
only three years. She was the daughter of Doña Francisca Galvez, the
widow, as you know, of a retired captain

    "Who left her at his death,
     As sole inheritance, his honorable sword,"

as the poet says. Until her sixteenth year Pepita lived with her mother
in very straitened circumstances--bordering, indeed, upon absolute want.

She had an uncle called Don Gumersindo, the possessor of a small
entailed estate, one of those petty estates that, in olden times, owed
their foundation to a foolish vanity. Any ordinary person, with the
income derived from this estate, would have lived in continual
difficulties, burdened by debts, and altogether cut off from the display
and ceremony proper to his rank. But Don Gumersindo was an extraordinary
person--the very genius of economy. It could not be said of him that he
created wealth himself, but he was endowed with a wonderful faculty of
absorption with respect to the wealth of others; and, in regard to
dispensing, it would be difficult to find any one on the face of the
globe with whose maintenance, preservation, and comfort, Mother Nature
and human industry ever had less reason to trouble themselves. No one
knows how he lived; but the fact is that he reached the age of eighty
years, saving his entire income, and adding to his capital by lending
money on unquestionable security. No one here speaks of him as a usurer;
on the contrary, he is considered to have been of a charitable
disposition, because, being moderate in all things, he was so even in
usury; and would ask only ten per cent a year, while throughout the
district they ask twenty and even thirty per cent, and still think it
little.

In the practice of this species of industry and economy, and with
thoughts dwelling constantly on increasing instead of diminishing his
capital, indulging neither in the luxury of matrimony and of having a
family, nor even of smoking, Don Gumersindo arrived at the age I have
mentioned, the possessor of a fortune considerable anywhere, and here
regarded as enormous, thanks to the poverty of these villagers, and to
the habit of exaggeration natural to the Andalusians.

Don Gumersindo, always extremely neat and clean in his person, was an
old man who did not inspire repugnance.

The articles of his modest wardrobe were somewhat worn, but carefully
brushed, and without a stain; although from time immemorial he had
always been seen with the same cloak, the same jacket, and the same
trousers and waistcoat. People sometimes asked each other in vain if
any one had ever seen, him wear a new garment.

With all these defects, which here and elsewhere many regard as virtues,
though virtues in excess, Don Gumersindo possessed excellent qualities;
he was affable, obliging, compassionate, and did his utmost to please
and to be of service to everybody, no matter what trouble, anxiety, or
fatigue it might cost him, provided only it did not cost him money. Of a
cheerful disposition, and fond of fun and joking, he was to be found at
every feast and merry-making around, that was not got up by
contribution, which he enlivened by the amenity of his manners, and by
his discreet although not very Attic conversation. He had never had any
tender inclination for any one woman in particular, but, innocently and
without malice, he loved them all; and was the most given to
complimenting the girls, and making them laugh, of any old man for ten
leagues around.

I have already said that he was the uncle of Pepita. When he was nearing
his eightieth year, she was about to complete her sixteenth. He was
rich; she, poor and friendless.

Her mother was a vulgar woman of limited intelligence and coarse
instincts. She worshiped her daughter, yet lamented continually and with
bitterness the sacrifices she made for her, the privations she
suffered, and the disconsolate old age and melancholy end that awaited
her in the midst of her poverty. She had, besides, a son, older than
Pepita, who had a well-deserved reputation in the village as a gambler
and a quarrelsome fellow, and for whom, after many difficulties, she had
succeeded in obtaining an insignificant employment in Havana; thus
finding herself rid of him, and with the sea between them. After he had
been a few years in Havana, however, he lost his situation on account of
his bad conduct, and thereupon began to shower letters upon his mother,
containing demands for money. The latter, who had scarcely enough for
herself and for Pepita, grew desperate at this, broke out into abuse,
cursed herself and her destiny with a perseverance but little resembling
the evangelical virtue, and ended by fixing all her hopes upon settling
her daughter well, as the only way of getting out of her difficulties.

In this distressing situation Don Gumersindo began to frequent the house
of Pepita and her mother, and to pay attentions to the former with more
ardor and persistence than he had shown in his attentions to other
girls. Nevertheless, to suppose that a man who had passed his eightieth
year without wishing to marry, should think of committing such a folly,
with one foot already in the grave, was so wild and improbable a
notion, that Pepita's mother, still less Pepita herself, never for a
moment suspected the audacious intentions of Don Gumersindo. Thus it was
that both were struck, one day, with amazement, when, after a good many
compliments between jest and earnest, Don Gumersindo, with the greatest
seriousness and without the least hesitation, proposed the following
categorical question:

"Pepita, will you marry me?"

Although the question came at the end of a great deal of joking, and
might itself be taken for a joke, Pepita, who, inexperienced though she
was in worldly matters, yet knew by a certain instinct of divination
that is in all women, and especially in young girls, no matter how
innocent they may be, that this was said in earnest, grew as red as a
cherry and said nothing. Her mother answered in her stead:

"Child, don't be ill-bred; answer your uncle as you should: 'With much
pleasure, uncle; whenever you wish.'"

This "with much pleasure, uncle--whenever you wish," came then, it is
said, and many times afterward, almost mechanically from the trembling
lips of Pepita, in obedience to the admonitions, the sermons, the
complaints, and even the imperious mandate of her mother.

I see, however, that I am enlarging too much on this matter of Pepita
Ximenez and her history; but she interests me, as I suppose she should
interest you too, since, if what they affirm here be true, she is to be
your sister-in-law and my step-mother. I shall endeavor,
notwithstanding, to avoid dwelling on details, and to relate briefly
what perhaps you already know, though you have been away from here so
long.

Pepita Ximenez was married to Don Gumersindo. The tongue of slander was
let loose against her, both in the days preceding the wedding and for
some months afterward.

In point of fact, ethically considered, this marriage was a matter that
will admit of discussion; but, so far as the girl herself is concerned,
if we remember her mother's prayers, her complaints, and even her
commands--if we take into consideration the fact that Pepita thought by
this means to procure for her mother a comfortable old age, and to save
her brother from dishonor and infamy, constituting herself his guardian
angel and his earthly providence, we must confess that our condemnation
will admit of some abatement. Besides, who shall penetrate into the
recesses of the heart, into the hidden secrets of the immature mind of a
young girl brought up, probably, in the most absolute seclusion and
ignorance of the world, in order to know what idea she might have formed
to herself of marriage? Perhaps she thought that to marry this old man
meant to devote her life to his service, to be his nurse, to soothe his
old age; to save him from a solitude and abandonment embittered by his
infirmities, and in which only mercenary hands should minister to him;
in a word, to cheer and illumine his declining years with the glowing
beams of her beauty and her youth, like an angel who has taken human
form. If something of this, or all of this, was what the girl thought,
and if she failed to perceive the full significance of her act, then its
morality is placed beyond question.

However this may be, leaving aside psychological investigations that I
have no authority for making, since I am not acquainted with Pepita
Ximenez, it is quite certain that she lived in edifying harmony with the
old man during three years, that she nursed him and waited upon him with
admirable devotion, and that in his last painful and fatal sickness she
ministered to him and watched over him with tender and unwearying
affection, until he expired in her arms, leaving her heiress to a large
fortune.

Although more than two years have passed since she lost her mother, and
more than a year and a half since she was left a widow, Pepita still
wears the deepest mourning. Her sedateness, her retired manner of
living, and her melancholy, are such that one might suppose she lamented
the death of her husband as much as though he had been a handsome young
man. Perhaps there are some who imagine or suspect that Pepita's pride,
and the certain knowledge she now has of the not very poetical means by
which she has become rich, trouble her conscience with something more
than doubt; and that, humiliated in her own eyes and in those of the
world, she seeks, in austerity and retirement, consolation for the
vexations of her mind, and balm for her wounded heart.

People here, as everywhere, have a great love of money. Perhaps I am
wrong in saying, _as everywhere_; in populous cities, in the great
centers of civilization, there are other distinctions which are prized
as much as or even more than money, because they smooth the way to
fortune, and give credit and consideration in the eyes of the world; but
in smaller places, where neither literary nor scientific fame, nor, as a
rule, distinction of manners, nor elegance, nor discretion and amenity
in intercourse, are apt to be either valued or understood, there is no
other way by which to grade the social hierarchy than the possession of
more or less money, or of something worth money. Pepita, then, in the
possession of money, and beauty besides, and making a good use, as every
one says, of her riches, is to-day respected and esteemed in an
extraordinary degree. From this and the surrounding villages, the most
eligible suitors, the wealthiest young men, have crowded to pay their
court to her. But, so far as can be seen, she rejects them all, though
with the utmost sweetness, for she wishes to make no one her enemy; and
it is commonly supposed that her soul is filled with the most ardent
devotion, and that it is her fixed intention to dedicate her life to
practices of charity and religious piety.

My father, according to the general opinion, has not succeeded better
than her other suitors; but Pepita, to fulfill the adage that "courtesy
and candor are consistent with each other," takes the greatest pains to
give him proofs of a frank, affectionate, and disinterested friendship.
She is unremitting in her attentions to him, and, when he tries to speak
to her of love, she brings him to a stop with a sermon delivered with
the most winning sweetness, recalling to his memory his past faults, and
endeavoring to undeceive him in regard to the world and its vain pomps.

I confess that I begin to have some curiosity to know this woman, so
much do I hear her spoken of; nor do I think my curiosity is without
foundation, or that there is anything in it either vain or sinful. I
myself feel the truth of what Pepita says; I myself desire that my
father, in his advanced years, should enter upon a better life, should
forget, and not seek to renew the agitations and passions of his youth,
and should attain to the enjoyment of a tranquil, happy, and honorable
old age. I differ from Pepita's way of thinking in one thing only; I
believe my father would succeed in this rather by marrying a good and
worthy woman who loved him, than by remaining single. For this very
reason I desire to become acquainted with Pepita, in order to know if
she be this woman; for I am to a certain extent troubled--and perhaps
there is in this feeling something of family pride, which, if it be
wrong, I desire to divest myself of--by the disdain, however honeyed and
gracious, of the young widow.

If my situation were other than it is, I should prefer my father to
remain unmarried. Then, being the only child, I should inherit all his
wealth, and, as one might say, nothing less than the position of squire
of the village. But you already know how firm is the resolution I have
taken. Humble and unworthy though I be, I feel myself called to the
priesthood, and the possessions of this world have but little power over
my mind. If there is anything in me of the ardor of youth, and the
vehemence of the passions proper to that age, it shall all be employed
in nourishing an active and fecund charity. Even the many books you have
given me to read, and my knowledge of the history of the ancient
civilizations of the peoples of Asia, contribute to unite within me
scientific curiosity with the desire of propagating the faith, and
invite and animate me to go forth as a missionary to the far East. As
soon as I leave this village, where you, my dear uncle, have sent me to
pass some time with my father, and am raised to the dignity of the
priesthood, and, ignorant and sinner as I am, feel myself invested, by
free and supernatural gift through the sovereign goodness of the Most
High, with the power to absolve from sin, and with the mission to teach
the peoples, as soon as I receive the perpetual and miraculous grace of
handling with impure hands the very God made man, it is my purpose to
leave Spain, and go forth to distant lands to preach the gospel.

I am not actuated in this by any species of vanity. I do not desire to
believe myself superior to other men. The power of my faith, the
constancy of which I feel myself capable, everything after the favor and
grace of God, I owe to the judicious education, to the holy teaching,
and to the good example I have received from you, my dear uncle.

There is something I hardly dare confess to myself, but which, against
my will, presents itself with frequency to my mind; and, since it
presents itself to my mind, it is my desire, it is my duty to confess it
to you: it would be wrong for me to hide from you even my most secret
and involuntary thoughts. You have taught me to analyze the feelings of
the soul; to search for their origin, if it be good or evil; to make, in
short, a scrupulous examination of conscience.

I have often reflected on two different methods of education: that of
those who endeavor to keep the mind in innocence, confounding innocence
with ignorance, and believing evil that is unknown to be avoided more
easily than evil that is known; and that of those, on the other hand,
who courageously, and as soon as the pupil has arrived at the age of
reason, show him, with due regard for modesty, evil in all its hideous
ugliness and repulsive nakedness, to the end that he may abhor and avoid
it. According to my way of thinking, it is necessary to know evil in
order the better to comprehend the infinite divine goodness, the ideal
and unattainable end of every virtuously born desire. I am grateful to
you that you have made me to know, with the honey and the oil of your
teaching, as the Scripture says, both good and evil, to the end that I
should aspire to the one and condemn the other, knowingly and with
discreet ardor. I rejoice that I am no longer in a state of mere
innocence, and that I shall go forward in the progress toward virtue,
and, in so far as is permitted to humanity, toward perfection, with a
knowledge of all the tribulations, all the asperities that there are in
the pilgrimage we are called upon to make through this valley of tears;
as I am not ignorant, on the other hand, of how smooth, how easy, how
pleasant, how flowery, the road is, in appearance, that leads to
perdition and eternal death.

Another thing for which I feel bound to be grateful to you is the
indulgence, the toleration, not condescending nor lax, but, on the
contrary, grave and severe, with which you have been able to inspire me
for the errors and the sins of my fellow-men.

I say all this to you because I wish to speak to you on a subject of so
delicate a nature that I hardly find words in which to express myself
concerning it. In short, I often ask myself whether the resolution I
have adopted had not its origin, in part at least, in the character of
my relations with my father. In the bottom of my heart have I been able
to pardon him his conduct toward my poor mother, the victim of his
errors?

I consider this matter carefully, and I can not find an atom of hatred
in my breast. On the contrary, gratitude fills it entirely. My father
has brought me up affectionately. He has tried to honor in me the memory
of my mother, and one would have said that in my bringing up, in the
care he took of me, in the indulgence with which he treated me, in his
devotion to me as a child, he sought to appease her angry shade--if the
shade, if the spirit of her who was on earth an angel of goodness and
gentleness, could be capable of anger. I repeat, then, that I am full of
gratitude toward my father; he has acknowledged me, and, besides, he
sent me at the age of ten years to you, to whom I owe all that I am.

If there is in my heart any germ of virtue, if there is in my mind any
element of knowledge, if there is in my will any honorable and good
purpose, to you it is I owe it.

My father's affection for me is extraordinary; the estimation in which
he holds me is far superior to my merits. Perhaps, vanity may have
something to do with this. In paternal love there is something selfish;
it is, as it were, a prolongation of selfishness. If I were possessed of
any merit, my father would regard it all as a creation of his own, as if
I were an emanation of his personality, as much in spirit as in body. Be
this as it will, however, I believe that my father loves me, and that
there is in his affection something self-sustaining, and superior to all
this pardonable selfishness of which I have spoken.

I experience a great consolation, a profound tranquillity of
conscience--and for this I return most fervent thanks to God--when I
take cognizance of the fact that the power of blood, the tie of nature,
that mysterious bond that unites us, leads me, without any
consideration of duty, to love my father and to reverence him. It would
be horrible not to love him thus--to be compelled to force myself to
love in order to obey a divine command. Nevertheless--and here comes
back my doubt--does my purpose of becoming a priest or a friar, of not
accepting, or of accepting only a very small part of the immense fortune
that will be mine by inheritance, and which I might enjoy even during my
father's lifetime, does this proceed solely from my contempt of the
things of this world, from a true vocation for a religious life, or does
it not also proceed from pride, from hidden rancor, from resentment,
from something in me that refuses to forgive what my mother herself,
with sublime generosity, forgave? This doubt assails and torments me at
times, but almost always I resolve it in my favor, and come to the
conclusion that I have no feeling of pride toward my father: I think I
would accept from him all he has, if I were to need it, and I rejoice to
be as grateful to him for little as for much.

Farewell, uncle; in future I will write to you often, and as much at
length as you recommend me, if not quite so much so as to-day, lest I
should appear prolix.

_March 28th._

I begin to be tired of my stay in this place, and every day the desire
grows stronger within me to return to you and to receive my ordination;
but my father wishes to accompany me, he wishes to be present at that
solemn ceremony, and desires that I should remain here with him at least
two months longer. He is so amiable, so affectionate with me, that it
would be impossible for me not to gratify him in all his wishes. I shall
remain here, therefore, for the time he desires. In order to give him
pleasure I do violence to my feelings, and make an effort to seem
interested in the amusements of the village, the country sports, and
even shooting, in all of which I am his companion. I try to appear gayer
and more animated than I am by nature. As, in the village, half in jest,
half by way of eulogy, I am called the saint, I endeavor, through
modesty, to avoid the appearance of sanctity, or to soften and humanize
its manifestations with the virtue of moderation, displaying a serene
and decent cheerfulness which was never yet opposed to holiness nor to
the saints. I confess, nevertheless, that the merry-making and the
sports of these people, with their coarse jokes and boisterous mirth,
weary me. I do not want to fall into the sin of scandal, nor to speak
ill of any one, though it be only to you and in confidence, but I often
think that it would be a more difficult enterprise, as well as a more
rational and meritorious one, to preach the gospel to these people, and
try to elevate their moral nature, than to go to India, Persia, or
China, leaving so many of my country-people behind, who are, if not
perverted, at least to some extent gone astray. Many, indeed, are of the
opinion that modern ideas, that materialism and infidelity, are to blame
for this; but if that be the case, if they it be that produce such evil
effects, then it must be in some strange, diabolical, and miraculous
manner, and not by natural means; since the fact is that here the people
read no books, either good or bad, so that I do not well see how they
can be perverted by any evil doctrines the books in fashion may contain.
Can these evil doctrines be in the air, like a miasma or an epidemic?
Perhaps--and I am sorry this thought, which I mention to you only,
should occur to me--perhaps the clergy themselves are in fault. Are
they, in Spain, equal to their mission? Do they go among the people,
teaching and preaching to them? Are they all capable of this? Have those
who consecrate themselves to a religious life and to the salvation of
souls a true vocation for their calling? Or is it only a means of
living, like any other, with this difference, that in our day only the
poorest, only those who are without expectations and without means,
devote themselves to it, for the very reason that this calling offers a
less brilliant prospect than any other? Be that as it may, the very
scarcity of virtuous and learned priests arouses all the more within me
the desire to be a priest. I would not willingly let self-love deceive
me. I recognize all my defects, but I feel within me a true vocation,
and many of those defects it may still be possible, with the divine
help, to correct.

The dinner at the house of Pepita Ximenez, which I mentioned to you,
took place three days ago. As she leads so retired a life, I had not met
her before; she seemed to me, in truth, as beautiful as she is said to
be; and I noticed that her amiability with my father was such as to give
him reason to hope, at least judging superficially, that she will yield
to his wishes in the end, and accept his hand.

As there is a possibility of her becoming my step-mother, I have
observed her with attention; she seems to me to be a remarkable woman,
whose moral qualities I am not able to determine with exactitude. There
is about her an air of calmness and serenity that may come either from
coldness of heart and spirit, with great self-control and power of
calculating effects, accompanied by little or no sensibility, or that
may, on the other hand, proceed from the tranquillity of her conscience
and the purity of her aspirations, united to the purpose of fulfilling
in this life the duties imposed upon her by society, while her hopes are
fixed meantime upon loftier things, as their proper goal. What is
certain is that, either because with this woman everything is the result
of calculation, without any effort to elevate her mind to a higher
sphere, or, it may be, because she blends in perfect harmony the prose
of daily life with the poetry of her illusions, there is nothing
discernible in her out of tone with her surroundings, although she
possesses a natural distinction of manner that elevates her above and
separates her from them all. She does not affect the dress of a
provincial, nor does she, on the other hand, follow blindly the fashions
of the city; she unites both these styles in her mode of dress in such a
manner as to appear like a lady, but still a lady country-born and
country-bred. She disguises to a great extent, as I think, the care she
takes of her person. There is nothing about her to betray the use of
cosmetics or the arts of the toilet. But the whiteness of her hands, the
color and polish of her nails, and the grace and neatness of her attire
denote a greater regard for such matters than might be looked for in one
who lives in a village, and who is said, besides, to despise the
vanities of this world, and to think only of heavenly things.

Her house is exquisitely clean, and everything in it reveals the most
perfect order. The furniture is neither artistic nor elegant, nor is it,
on the other hand, either pretentious or in bad taste. To give a poetic
air to her surroundings, she keeps in the saloons and galleries, as well
as in the garden, a multitude of plants and flowers. There is not,
indeed, among them any rare plant or exotic, but her plants and flowers,
of the commonest species here, are tended with extraordinary care.

Canaries in gilded cages enliven the whole house with their songs. Its
mistress, it is obvious, has need of living creatures on which to bestow
some of her affection; and besides several maid-servants that one would
suppose she had selected with care, since it can not be by mere chance
that they are all pretty, she has, after the fashion of old maids,
various animals to keep her company--a parrot, a little dog whose coat
is of the whitest, and two or three cats, so tame and sociable that they
jump up on one in the most friendly manner.

At one end of the principal saloon is a species of oratory, whose chief
ornament is an _Infant Jesus_, carved in wood, with red and white cheeks
and blue eyes, and altogether quite handsome. The dress is of white
satin, with a blue cloak full of little golden stars; and the image is
completely covered with jewels and trinkets. The little altar on which
the figure is placed is adorned with flowers, and around it are set pots
of broom and laurel; and on the altar itself, which is furnished with
steps, a great many wax tapers are kept burning. When I behold all this
I know not what to think, but for the most part I am inclined to believe
that the widow loves herself above all things, and that it is for her
recreation, and for the purpose of furnishing her with occasions for the
effusion of this love, that she keeps the cats, the canaries, the
flowers, and even the _Infant Jesus_ itself, which, in her secret soul,
perhaps, does not occupy a place very much higher than the canaries and
the cats.

It can not be denied that Pepita Ximenez is possessed of discretion. No
silly jest, no impertinent question in regard to my vocation, and, above
all, in regard to my approaching ordination, has crossed her lips. She
conversed with me on matters relating to the village, about agriculture,
the last crop of grapes and olives, and the means of improving the
methods of making wine, expressing herself always with modesty and
naturalness, and without manifesting any desire of appearing to know
more than others.

There were present at dinner the doctor, the notary, and the reverend
vicar, who is a great friend of the house, and the spiritual father of
Pepita.

The reverend vicar must have a very high opinion of the latter, for on
several occasions he spoke to me apart of her charity, of the many alms
she bestows, of her compassion and goodness toward every one. In a word,
he declared her to be a saint.

In view of what the vicar has told me, and relying on his judgment, I
can do no less than wish that my father may marry Pepita. As my father
is not fitted for a life of penance, in this way only could he hope to
change his mode of life, that up to the present has been so dissipated,
and settle down to a well-ordered and quiet, if not exemplary, old age.

When we reached our house, after leaving that of Pepita Ximenez, my
father spoke to me seriously of his projects. He told me that in his
time he had been very wild, that he had led a very bad life, and that he
saw no way of reforming, notwithstanding his years, unless Pepita were
to fall in love with and marry him.

Taking for granted, of course, that she would do so, my father then
spoke to me of business. He told me that he was very rich, and would
leave me amply provided for in his will, even though he should have
other children. I answered him that for my plans and purposes in life I
needed very little money, and that my greatest satisfaction would always
consist in knowing him to be happy with wife and children, his former
evil ways forgotten. My father then spoke to me of his tender hopes with
a candor and vivacity that might make one suppose me to be the father
and the old man, and he a youth of my age, or younger. In order to
enhance the merit of his mistress, and the difficulties of his conquest,
he recounted to me the accomplishments and the excellences of the
fifteen or twenty suitors who had already presented themselves to
Pepita, and who had all been rejected. As for himself, as he explained
to me, the same lot, to a certain extent, had been his also; but he
flattered himself that this want of success was not final, since Pepita
showed him so many kindnesses, and an affection so great that, if it
were not love, it might easily, with time, and the persistent homage he
dedicated to her, be converted into love. There was, besides, in my
father's opinion, a something fantastic and fallacious in the cause of
Pepita's coldness, that must in the end wear away. Pepita did not wish
to retire to a convent, nor did she incline to a penitential life.
Notwithstanding her seclusion and her piety, it was easy to see that she
took delight in pleasing. Her neatness and the exquisite care she took
of her person had in them little of the cenobite. The cause of her
coldness, then, my father declared to be, without a doubt, her pride--a
pride, to a certain extent, well founded. She is naturally elegant and
distinguished in appearance; both by her force of character and by her
intelligence she is superior to those who surround her, no matter how
she may seek, through modesty, to disguise it. How, then, should she
bestow her hand upon any of the rustics who, up to the present time,
have been her suitors? She imagines that her soul is filled with a
mystic love of God, and that God only can satisfy it, because thus far
no mortal has crossed her path intelligent enough and agreeable enough
to make her forget even her image of the _Infant Jesus_. "Although it
may seem to indicate a want of modesty on my part," added my father, "I
flatter myself with being such a one."

Such, dear uncle, are the occupations and the projects of my father
here, and such the matters, so foreign to my nature, and to my aims and
thoughts, of which he speaks to me with frequency, and on which he
requires me to give an opinion.

It would almost seem as if your too indulgent opinion of my judgment had
extended itself to the people here, for they all tell me their troubles,
and ask my advice as to the course they should adopt. Even the reverend
vicar, exposing himself to the risk of betraying what might be called
secrets of confession, has already come to consult me in regard to
several cases of conscience that have presented themselves to him in the
confessional.

One of these cases, related, like all the others, with much mystery, and
without revealing the name of the person concerned, has greatly
interested me.

The reverend vicar tells me that a certain penitent of his is troubled
by scruples of conscience, because, while she feels herself irresistibly
attracted toward a solitary and contemplative life, she yet fears at
times that this devout fervor is not accompanied by a true humility, but
that it is in part excited by, and has its source in, the demon of pride
himself.

To love God in all things, to seek him in the inmost recesses of the
soul wherein he dwells, to purify ourselves from all earthly passions
and affections, in order to unite ourselves to him--these are, in truth,
pious aspirations and virtuous inclinations; but the doubt arises in
determining whether the source of these aspirations and inclinations be
not an exaggerated self-love. "Have they their origin," the penitent it
seems asks herself, "in the thought that I, although unworthy and a
sinner, presume my soul to be of more value than the souls of my
fellow-mortals?--that the interior beauty of my mind and of my will
would be dimmed by harboring affection for the human beings by whom I am
surrounded, and whom I deem unworthy of me? Do I love God above all
things, infinitely, or only more than the little things that I know,
and that I scorn and despise, that can not satisfy my heart? If my piety
is founded upon this feeling, then there are in it two great defects:
the first, that it is not based upon a pure love of God, full of
humility and charity, but on pride; and the second, that this piety,
because it is thus without foundation, is unstable and inefficacious.
For who can be certain that the soul will not forget the love of its
Creator, when it does not love him infinitely, but only because there is
no other being whom it deems worthy of endowing with its love?"

It is concerning this case of conscience, refined and subtle enough thus
to exercise the mind of a simple rustic, that the reverend vicar has
come to consult me. I would have excused myself from saying anything in
the matter, alleging, as a reason for doing so, my youth and
inexperience; but the reverend vicar has shown himself so persistent in
the matter that I could do no less than discuss the question with him. I
said--and it would rejoice me greatly should you concur in my
opinion--that what this troubled penitent requires is to regard those
who surround her with greater benevolence; to try to throw over their
faults--instead of analyzing and dissecting them with the scalpel of
criticism--the mantle of charity, bringing into relief and dwelling upon
their good qualities, to the end that she may esteem and love them; to
endeavor, in fine, to behold in every human being an object worthy of
her love, a true fellow-creature, her equal, a soul wherein there is a
treasure of good qualities and virtues--a being made, in short, in the
image and likeness of God. Entertaining this exalted view of our
surroundings, loving and esteeming others for what they are, and as more
than they are, striving not to hold ourselves superior to them in
anything, but, on the contrary, searching courageously in the depths of
our own conscience for the purpose of discovering all our faults and
sins, and thus acquiring a devout humility and contempt of self, the
heart will feel itself full of human affection, and, instead of
despising, will value highly the worth of things and of persons, so that
if afterward divine love should, with irresistible power, erect itself
upon and tower above this foundation, there can then be no fear but that
such a love has its origin, not in an exaggerated self-esteem, in pride,
or in an unjust contempt for our neighbor, but in a pure and holy
contemplation of the Infinite Beauty and Goodness.

If, as I suspect, it be Pepita Ximenez who has consulted the reverend
vicar in regard to these doubts and tribulations, I think my father can
not yet flatter himself with being very dear to her; but, if the vicar
should resolve on giving her my advice, and she accepts it and acts upon
it, then she will either become a sort of Maria de Agreda, a
self-conscious recluse, or, what is more probable, she will cast away
mysticism and coldness altogether, and will consent to accept, without
further caviling, the hand and heart of my father who is in no respect
her inferior.

_April 4th._

My life in this place begins, from its monotony, to be wearisome; and
not because it is, physically, less active here than it was elsewhere,
for I walk and ride a great deal, and make excursions into the country,
and, to please my father, visit the club-house and go to parties, and
live, in short, in a state of dissatisfaction with myself and with my
surroundings. But my intellectual life is a blank; I read nothing, and
there is hardly a moment left me in which to reflect and meditate with
tranquillity; and, as reflection and meditation were what constituted
the chief charm of my existence, my life without them seems to me
monotonous. Thanks to the patience which you have recommended to me for
every occasion, I am able to endure it.

Another thing that prevents my spirit from being completely at rest is
the longing, that becomes every day more ardent within me, to embrace
that life to which, without a moment's vacillation, I have been for
years inclined. It seems to me that, in those moments when I feel
myself so near to the realization of the constant dream of my life, it
is something like a profanation to allow my mind to be distracted by
other objects. So much does this idea torment me, and to so many doubts
does it give rise within me, that my admiration for the beauty of things
created--of the heavens so full of stars, in these serene nights of
spring, and in this favored region of Andalusia; of these smiling
fields, now covered with verdure, and of these cool and pleasant
gardens, abounding in shady and delightful walks, in gently flowing
streams and rivulets, in sequestered nooks, in birds that enliven them
with song, and in flowers and odorous herbs--this admiration and
enthusiasm, I repeat, which formerly seemed to me in perfect harmony
with the religious feeling that filled my soul, animating and exalting
it, instead of weakening it, seems to me now almost a sinful
distraction, and an unpardonable forgetfulness of the eternal for the
temporal, of the uncreated and the spiritual for the material and
created. Although I have made but little progress in virtue, although my
mind is never free from the phantasms of the imagination, although the
interior man is never exempt in me from the influence of external
impressions, and from the need of employing in meditation the fatiguing
argumentative method; although I can not, by an effort of love, withdraw
myself to the very center of pure intelligence, to the loftiest sphere
of thought, in order to behold there goodness and truth divested of
images and forms, yet I confess to you that the method of mental prayer,
unrestricted by set forms, makes me afraid. Even rational meditation
inspires me with distrust. I do not want to employ a process of
reasoning in order to know God, nor to adduce arguments for loving, in
order to love him. I desire, by a single effort of the will, to elevate
myself to and be absorbed in the divine contemplation. Oh, that I had
the wings of a dove, to fly to the bosom of him whom my soul loveth! But
what and where are my merits? Where the mortifications, the extended
prayers, and the fasting? What have I done, O my God, that thou shouldst
favor me?

I know that the ungodly of the present day accuse--though without any
foundation whatever--our holy religion of inciting souls to abhor the
things of this world, to despise or to contemn nature, perhaps to fear
it also, as if there were in it something diabolical, placing all their
affections on what these ungodly call the monstrous egotism of divine
love, for it is herself, they say, the soul loves in loving God; I know,
too, that this is not the case; that the divine love is charity, and
that to love God is to love all things, for all things are in God, in a
supreme and ineffable manner. I know that I commit no sin in loving
material things for the love of God, which is to love them for
themselves, righteously; for what are material things but the
manifestation, the creation of the love of God? And, notwithstanding, I
know not what undefinable fear, what unwonted scruple, what vague and
scarcely perceptible remorse torments me now, when, as formerly, as in
other days of my youth, as in childhood itself, I feel an effusion of
tenderness, a sort of ecstasy of enthusiasm, on penetrating into some
leafy grove, on hearing the song of the nightingale, or the twittering
of the swallows, or the tender cooing of the dove; on looking at the
flowers, on beholding the stars. I imagine, at times, that there is in
all this something of sensual pleasure, a something that makes me
forget, for the moment at least, more lofty aspirations. I do not desire
that in me the spirit should sin against the flesh; but neither do I
desire, on the other hand, that the beauty of the material world--that
its delights, even those most delicate, subtle, and ethereal ones that
are perceived rather by the spirit than by the senses, such as the soft
sigh of the zephyr, laden with rural scents, the song of the birds, the
peaceful and majestic silence of the night in these gardens and
orchards--should distract me from the contemplation of higher beauty, or
weaken, even for a moment, my love toward Him who has created this
harmonious fabric of the world.

I know that all these material things are like the letters of a book,
the signs and characters in which the soul, eager for knowledge, may
find a hidden meaning, and decipher and discover the beauty of God that,
though but dimly, is shadowed forth in them, and of which they are the
pictures or rather emblems, because they do not represent, but only
symbolize it. On this distinction I dwell at times to strengthen my
scruples and mortify the flesh. For, I consider, if I love the beauty of
earthly things as they are, it is idolatry; I ought to love this beauty
as a sign, as the symbol of a beauty occult and divine, and infinitely
superior to it in all things.

A few days ago I completed my twenty-second year. Heretofore, my
religious fervor has been such that I have felt no other love than the
immaculate love of God himself and of his holy religion, which I desire
to diffuse and see triumphant in all the regions of the earth. I confess
that something of a profane sentiment has mingled itself with this
purity of affection. You are aware of this; I have told it to you many
times, and you, regarding me with your accustomed indulgence, have
answered me that man is not an angel, and that even to aspire to so
great a degree of perfection is pride; that I should endeavor to
moderate these sentiments rather than seek to eradicate them entirely.
Love of knowledge, a desire for the reputation which is founded on the
possession of knowledge, even a not unfavorable opinion of one's own
merits, these, even when kept within just bounds, though guarded and
moderated by Christian humility, and directed toward a good end, have in
them, doubtless, something of selfishness, but they may serve as a
stimulus and a support to the noblest and most constant resolutions. The
scruples that trouble my conscience now, therefore, have not their
source in pride, in an overweening self-confidence, in a desire for
worldly fame, or in a too great love of knowledge. Nothing of this
nature it is that troubles me; nothing bearing any relation to
self-conceit, but, in a certain sense, something entirely opposed to it.
I feel a lassitude, a debility and abandonment of the will so great--I
am so ready to weep for tenderness when I see a little flower, when I
contemplate the ray, mysterious, tenuous, and swift, of a remote
star--that it almost makes me afraid.

Tell me what you think of these things; and if there be not something
morbid in this disposition of my mind.

_April 8th._

The amusements of the country, in which, very much against my will, I am
compelled to take part, still go on.

My father has taken me to see almost all his plantations, and he and his
friends are astonished to find me not altogether ignorant in matters
pertaining to the country. It would seem as if, in their eyes, the study
of theology, to which I have dedicated myself, were incompatible with a
familiarity with Nature. How much have they not wondered at my
knowledge, on seeing me discriminate, among the vines that have only
just begun to sprout, the common from the choice varieties! How much
have they not wondered, too, at my being able to distinguish, among the
young plants in the fields, the shoots of the barley from those of the
bean; at my being familiar with many fruit and shade trees; at my
knowing the names of many plants, even, that grow spontaneously in the
woods, as well as something of their properties and virtues!

Pepita Ximenez, who has heard through my father of the delight I take in
the gardens here, has invited me to visit one that she owns at a short
distance from the village, and eat the early strawberries that grow
there. This caprice of Pepita's to show so many little attentions to my
father, while at the same time she declines his addresses, seems to me
at times to partake somewhat of coquetry, and to be worthy of
reprobation. But when next I see her, and find her so natural, so frank
and so simple, this bad opinion is dispelled, and I can not believe her
to have any other end in view than to maintain the friendly relations
that exist between her and our family.

Be this as it may, yesterday afternoon we went to Pepita's garden. It is
charmingly situated, and as delightful and picturesque a place as one
can imagine. The river, that by means of innumerable drains waters
almost all these gardens, falls into a deep ravine, bordered on both
sides by white and black poplars, osiers, flowering oleanders, and other
leafy trees. The waterfall, clear and transparent, precipitates itself
into this ravine, sending up a cloud of spray, and then follows its
tortuous course by a channel formed for it by Nature herself, enameling
its banks with a thousand plants and flowers, and just now covering them
with a multitude of violets. The declivity at the end of the garden is
full of walnut, hazel, fig, and other fruit trees; and in the level
portion are beds planted with strawberries and vegetables, tomatoes,
potatoes, beans, and peppers. There is also a little flower-garden, with
a great abundance of flowers, of the kinds most commonly cultivated
here. Roses especially abound, and of these there are innumerable
varieties. The house of the gardener is prettier and cleaner than the
houses of its class that one is accustomed to see in this part of the
country; and near it there is another smaller building, dedicated to the
use of the mistress of the place, where Pepita regaled us with a
sumptuous collation. The pretext for this collation was the
strawberries, to eat which was the chief purpose of our visit. The
quantity of strawberries, considering the earliness of the season, was
astonishing. They were served with the milk of goats belonging also to
Pepita.

There were present at this banquet the doctor, the notary, my aunt
Casilda, my father, and myself, and of course the indispensable vicar,
spiritual father, and, more than spiritual father, admirer and perpetual
eulogist of Pepita.

By a sort of sybaritic refinement, it was not by the gardener, nor his
wife, nor the son of the gardener, nor by any other rustic, that we were
served at this banquet, but by two lovely girls, confidential servants,
in a manner, of Pepita's, dressed like peasants, but with the greatest
neatness and even elegance. They wore gowns of gay-colored percale,
short, and confined at the waist, and around their shoulders silk
handkerchiefs. Their lustrous and abundant black hair, without covering,
was braided and arranged in a knot behind; and in front they wore curls
confined to the head by large hair-pins, here called _caracols_. Above
the knot or _chignon_ they each displayed a bunch of fresh roses.

Pepita's attire, except that it was black and of rich material, was
equally unpretending. Her merino gown, made in the same style as those
of her maids, without being short, was yet not long enough to catch the
dust of the ground. A modest handkerchief of black silk covered also,
according to the usage of the country, her shoulders and bosom; and on
her head she wore no other ornament, either flower or jewel, than that
of her own blonde tresses.

The only particular, with respect to Pepita, in which I observed a
certain fastidiousness, and in which she departed from the customs of
the country-people, was in wearing gloves. It is evident that she takes
great care of her hands, and is, perhaps, to a certain extent, vain of
their beauty and whiteness, as well as of her rose-colored and polished
nails; but if this be so, it is to be pardoned to the weakness of the
flesh; and indeed, if I remember aright, I think that St. Theresa, in
her youth, had this same species of vanity, which did not prevent her,
however, from becoming a great saint.

In truth, I can understand, even though I do not excuse, this little
piece of vanity. It is so distinguished, so aristocratic to possess a
beautiful hand! I even think, at times, that there is something
symbolic in it. The hand is the instrument by which we execute our
works, the sign of our nobility, the means by which the intellect gives
form and shape to its artistic conceptions, by which it gives reality to
the mandates of its will, by which it exercises the dominion that God
conceded to man over all other creatures. The rough, strong, sinewy,
horny hand, it may be, of a laborer, a workman, testifies nobly to this
dominion, but on its rudest and least intellectual side. The hands of
Pepita, on the contrary, transparent almost, like alabaster, but
rosy-hued, and in which one can almost see the pure and subtle blood
circulate that gives to the veins their faint, bluish tinge--these
hands, I say, with their tapering fingers, and unrivaled purity of
outline, seem the symbol of the magic power, the mysterious dominion,
that the human spirit holds and exercises, without the intervention of
material force, over all those visible things that are the creation of
God by a direct act of his will, and which man, as the instrument of
God, improves and completes. It would be impossible to suppose that any
one with hands like Pepita's should have an impure thought, a gross
desire, an unworthy purpose at variance with the purity of the hands
that would be called upon to put them into effect.

It is unnecessary to say that my father appeared as much charmed with
Pepita, and she as attentive and affectionate toward him, as always;
though her affection seemed, perhaps, of a character more filial than he
could have wished. The fact is, that my father, notwithstanding the
reputation he has of being in general but little respectful or reverent
toward women, treats this one woman with such respect and consideration
that not even Amadis, in the most devoted period of his wooing, showed
greater toward Oriana. Not a single word that might shock the ear, no
indelicate or inopportune compliment, no coarse jest, of the kind the
Andalusians permit themselves so frequently to employ, does he ever
indulge in. Hardly does he dare say to Pepita, "What beautiful eyes you
have!" and, indeed, should he say so, he would only speak the truth, for
Pepita's eyes are large, green as those of Circe, expressive, and well
shaped. And what enhances their beauty is that she seems unaware of all
this, for there is not to be detected in her the slightest wish to
please or attract any one by the sweetness of her glances. One would say
she thought eyes were only made to see with, and for no other purpose;
the contrary of what I suppose to be the opinion, according to what I
have heard, of the greater number of young and pretty women, who use
their eyes as a weapon of offense, or as a sort of electric battery, by
means of which to subdue hearts and captivate them. Not like those,
indeed, are Pepita's eyes, wherein dwell a peace and a serenity as of
heaven. And yet it can not be said that there is anything of coldness in
their glance. Her eyes are full of charity and sweetness. They rest with
tenderness on a ray of light, on a flower, on the commonest object in
nature; but with greater tenderness still, with signs of a softer
feeling, more human and benign, do they rest on her fellow-man, without
his daring to imagine in that tranquil and serene glance, however young
or handsome or conceited he may be, anything more than charity and love
toward a fellow-man, or, at most, a friendly preference.

I sometimes wonder if all this can be studied, and if Pepita be, in
truth, an accomplished actress; but the acting would be so perfect, and
so purposeless the play, that it seems to me, after all, impossible that
this should be the case. Nature herself it is, then, who serves as
teacher and as type for that glance and for those eyes. First, Pepita
loved her mother; then circumstances led her to love Don Gumersindo
through duty, as the companion of her existence; and then, doubtless,
all passion that any earthly object could inspire was extinguished in
her breast, and she loved God, and loved material objects for the love
of God; and so arrived at last at a peaceful and even enviable
condition of spirit, in which, if there be anything to censure, it is
perhaps a certain vanity of which she is herself unconscious. It is very
convenient to love in this mild fashion, without allowing ourselves to
be disturbed by our feelings, to have no passion to combat, to make of
our love and affection for others an addition to, and, as it were, the
complement of self-love.

I ask myself at times if, when I censure this state of mind in Pepita,
it be not myself I censure. How do I know what passes in the soul of
this woman that I should censure her? Perhaps, in thinking I behold her
soul, it is my own soul that I behold. I never had nor have I now any
passion to conquer. All my virtuous inclinations, all my instincts, good
or bad, tend, thanks to your wise teachings, without obstacle or
impediment, to the furtherance of the one purpose. In the fulfillment of
this purpose, I should find not only my noble and disinterested desires,
but my selfish ones also, satisfied--my love of glory, my desire for
knowledge, my curiosity to see distant lands, my longing for name and
fame. All these are centered in the completing of the career upon which
I have entered. I fancy at times that, in this respect, I am more worthy
of censure than Pepita, supposing her even to be worthy of censure at
all.

For, as regards myself, I have been invested with the lesser orders; I
have cast out from my soul the vanities of the world; I have received
the tonsure; I have consecrated myself to the service of the altar. Yet
I have a future full of ambition before me, and I dwell with pleasure on
the thought that this future is within my reach. I please myself in
thinking that the conditions I possess for it are real and efficacious;
though I call humility to my aid, at times, to save me from an
overweening self-confidence.

To what, on the other hand, does this woman aspire, and what are her
hopes? I censure her for the care she takes of her hands, for regarding
her beauty, perhaps, with complacency; I almost censure her for her
neatness, for the attention she bestows on her dress; for a certain
indefinable coquetry there is in the very modesty and simplicity of her
attire. But what! must virtue be slovenly? Must holiness be unclean? Can
not a pure and clean soul rejoice in the cleanliness and purity of the
body also? Is there not something reprehensible in the displeasure with
which I regard the neatness and purity of Pepita? Is this displeasure,
perchance, because she is to be my step-mother? But, perhaps, she does
not wish to be my step-mother! Perhaps she does not love my father! It
is true, indeed, that women are incomprehensible. It may be that in her
secret heart she already feels inclined to return my father's
affection, and marry him, though, in accordance with the saying that
"what is worth much, costs much," she chooses first to torment him with
her affected coldness, to reduce him to unquestioning submission, to put
his constancy to the proof, and then means to end by quietly saying Yes.
We shall see.

What there is no question about is, that our garden-party was decorously
merry. We talked of flowers, of fruit, of grafts, of planting, and of
innumerable other things relating to husbandry, Pepita displaying her
knowledge of agriculture in rivalry with my father, with myself, and
with the reverend vicar, who listens with open mouth to every word she
utters, and declares that in the seventy-odd years of his life, and
during his many wanderings, in the course of which he has traversed
almost the whole of Andalusia, he has never known a woman more discreet
or more judicious in all she thinks and says than she.

On returning home from any of these excursions, I renew my entreaties to
my father to allow me to go back to you, in order that the wished-for
moment may at last arrive in which I shall see myself elevated to the
priesthood. But my father is so pleased to have me with him, he is so
happy here in the village, taking care of his plantations, exercising
the judicial and executive authority of squire, paying homage to Pepita,
and consulting her in everything as his Egeria, that he always finds,
and will find perhaps for months to come, some plausible pretext to keep
me here. Now he has to clarify the wine of I know not how many casks;
now he has to decant more wine still; now it is necessary to hoe around
the vines; now to plow the olive-groves and dig around the roots of the
olives; in fine, he keeps me here against my wishes--though I should not
say "against my wishes," for it gives me great pleasure to be with my
father, who is so good to me.

The evil is, that, with this way of life, I fear I shall grow too
material. I am conscious in my devotions of a certain aridity of spirit.
My religious fervor diminishes; common life begins to penetrate, to
infiltrate itself into my nature; when I pray, I suffer distractions; in
my solitary meditations, when the soul should raise itself up to God, I
can no longer concentrate my thought as formerly. My sensibility of
heart, on the other hand, that refuses to occupy itself with any worthy
object, that does not employ and consume itself on its legitimate ends,
wells forth and, as it were, overflows, at times, for objects and under
circumstances that have something in them of puerile, that seem to me
ridiculous, of which I am ashamed. If I awaken in the silence of the
night and hear by chance some love-lorn rustic singing, to the sound of
his badly played guitar, a verse of a _fandango_ or a _rondeña_, neither
very discreet, nor very poetical, nor very delicate, I am wont to be
affected as if I were listening to some celestial melody; a feeling of
pity, childish and insensate, comes over me at times. The other day the
children of my father's overseer stole a nest full of young sparrows,
and on seeing the little birds, not yet fledged, torn thus violently
from their tender mother, I felt a sudden pang of anguish, and I confess
I could not restrain my tears. A few days before this, a peasant had
brought in from the fields a calf that had broken its leg; he was about
to carry it to the slaughter-house, and came to ask my father what part
of it he wished for his table. My father answered, the head and the
feet, and a few pounds of the flesh. I was touched by compassion on
seeing the calf, and, but that shame prevented me, would have bought it
from the man, in the hope of curing and keeping it alive. In fine, my
dear uncle, nothing less than the confidence I have with you would make
me recount to you these signs of an extravagant and restless emotion, so
that you may judge by them how necessary it is that I should return to
my former way of life, to my studies, to my lofty speculations, and be
at last elevated to the priesthood, in order to provide with its fit and
proper aliment the fire that consumes my soul.

_April 14th._

I continue to lead the same life as usual, and am detained here still by
my father's entreaties.

The greatest pleasure I enjoy, after that of being with him, is my
intercourse and conversation with the reverend vicar, with whom I am in
the habit of taking long walks. It seems incredible that a man of his
age--for he must be near eighty--should be so strong and active, and so
good a walker. I grow tired sooner than he; and there is no rough road,
no wild place, no rugged hill-top, in the neighborhood, where we have
not been.

The reverend vicar is reconciling me, in a great degree, with the
Spanish clergy, whom I have stigmatized, at times, in speaking with you,
as but little enlightened. How much more to be admired, I often say to
myself, is this man, so full of candor and benevolence, so simple and
affectionate, than one who may have read many books, but in whose soul
the flame of charity burns less brightly than, fed by the purest and
sincerest faith, it does in his! Do not suppose from this that the
understanding of the reverend vicar is a limited one; his is a spirit
uncultured, indeed, but clear and sagacious. At times I fancy that the
good opinion I entertain of him may be due to the attention with which
he listens to me; but, if this be not the case, it seems to me that he
reasons on every subject with remarkable perspicacity, and that he knows
how to unite an ardent love of our holy religion with an appreciation of
all the good things that modern civilization has brought us. I am
charmed, above all, by the simplicity, the sobriety of sentiment, the
naturalness, in short, with which the reverend vicar performs the most
disagreeable works of charity. There is no misfortune he does not seek
to alleviate, no suffering he does not strive to console, no error he
does not endeavor to repair, no necessity which he does not hasten
solicitously to relieve.

In all this, it must be confessed, he has a powerful auxiliary in
Pepita, whose piety and compassionate disposition he is always
extolling.

This species of homage which the vicar pays to Pepita is founded upon,
and goes side by side with, the practice of a thousand good works--the
giving of alms, prayer, public worship, and the care of the poor. Pepita
not only gives alms for the poor, but also gives money for _novenas_,
sermons, and other observances of the Church. If the altars of the
parish are gay, at times, with beautiful flowers, these flowers are due
to the bounty of Pepita who has sent them from her garden. If Our Lady
of Sorrows, instead of her old worn cloak, wears to-day a resplendent
and magnificent mantle of black velvet, embroidered with silver, Pepita
it is who has paid for it.

These, and other similar acts of beneficence, the vicar is always
extolling and magnifying. Thus it is, when I am not speaking of my own
aims, of my vocation, of my studies, to hear about which gives the
reverend vicar great delight, and keeps him hanging upon my words, when
it is he who speaks and I who listen, that, after a thousand turns, he
always ends by speaking of Pepita Ximenez. And of whom, indeed, should
the reverend vicar speak to me? His intercourse with the doctor, with
the apothecary, with the rich husbandmen of the place, hardly gives
motive for three words of conversation. As the reverend vicar possesses
the very rare quality, in one bred in the country, of not being fond of
scandal, or of meddling in other people's affairs, he has no one to
speak of but Pepita, whom he visits frequently, and with whom, as may be
gathered from what he says, he is in the habit of holding the most
familiar colloquies.

I know not what books Pepita Ximenez has read, nor what education she
may have received; but, from what the reverend vicar says, it may be
deduced that she possesses a restless soul and an inquiring spirit, to
which a multiplicity of questions and problems present themselves that
she longs to elucidate and resolve, bringing them for that purpose
before the reverend vicar, whom she thus puts into a state of agreeable
perplexity.

This man, educated in country fashion, a priest whose breviary is, as
one may say, his library, possesses an understanding open to the light
of truth, but is wanting in original power, and thus the problems and
questions Pepita presents to him open before him new horizons and new
paths, nebulous and vague indeed, and which he did not even imagine to
exist, which he is not able to follow with exactitude, but whose
vagueness, novelty, and mystery enchant him.

The vicar is not ignorant of the danger of all this, and that he and
Pepita expose themselves to fall, without knowing it, into some heresy;
but he tranquillizes his conscience with the thought that, although very
far from being a great theologian, he has his catechism at his fingers'
ends, he has confidence in God that he will illuminate his spirit, and
he hopes not to be led into error, and takes it for granted that Pepita
will follow his counsels, and never deviate from the right path.

Thus do both form to themselves a thousand poetical conceptions, full of
charm, although vague, of all the mysteries of our religion and the
articles of our faith. Great is the devotion they profess to the most
holy Virgin, and I am astonished to see how they are able to blend the
popular idea or conception of the Virgin with some of the sublimest
theological thoughts.

From what the vicar relates, I can perceive that Pepita Ximenez's soul,
in the midst of its apparent calmness and serenity, is transfixed by the
sharp arrow of suffering; there is in it a love of purity in
contradiction with her past life. Pepita loved Don Gumersindo as her
companion, as her benefactor, as the man to whom she owed everything;
but she is tortured, she is humiliated by the recollection that Don
Gumersindo was her husband.

In her devotion to the Virgin there may be detected a feeling of painful
humiliation, of suffering, of sadness, produced by the recollection of
her ignoble and childless marriage.

Even in her adoration of the _Infant Jesus_, in the beautiful carved
image she has in her house, there is something of maternal love that
lacks an object on which to expend its tenderness, of maternal love that
seeks this object in a being not born of sin and impurity.

The vicar says that Pepita worships the _Infant Jesus_ as her God, but
that she also loves him with the maternal tenderness she would feel for
a son, if she had one, and whom she had no cause to regard with any
other feeling than affection. The vicar sees that Pepita, in her prayers
to the Holy Virgin, and in her care of her beautiful image of the Child
Jesus, has in her thoughts the ideal Mother and the ideal Son, both
alike immaculate.

I confess that I know not what to think of all these singularities. I
know so little of women! What the vicar tells me of Pepita surprises me;
and yet, though on the whole I believe her to be good, rather than the
contrary, she inspires me at times with a certain fear on my father's
account. Notwithstanding his fifty-five years, I believe that he is in
love; and Pepita, although virtuous through conviction, may, without
premeditating or intending it, be an instrument of the spirit of evil,
may practice a species of coquetry, involuntary and instinctive, more
irresistible, efficacious, and fatal, than that which proceeds from
premeditation, calculation, and reasoning.

Who knows, I say to myself at times, notwithstanding her prayers, her
secluded and devout life, her alms and her gifts to the churches, on all
which is based the affection that the vicar entertains for her, if there
be not also an earthly spell, if there be not something of diabolical
magic in the arts she practices, and with which she deludes and beguiles
this simple vicar, so that he thinks and speaks only of her on all
occasions?

The very influence that Pepita exercises over a man so incredulous as my
father, a man whose nature is so vigorous and so little sentimental,
has in it, in truth, something extraordinary.

Nor do the good works of Pepita suffice to explain the respect and
affection with which she inspires these country-people in general. On
the rare occasions on which she leaves her house, the little children
run to meet her and kiss her hand; the young girls smile, and salute her
with affection; and the men take off their hats, as she passes, and
incline themselves before her with the most spontaneous reverence and
the most natural good-feeling.

Pepita Ximenez, whom many of the villagers have known since she was
born, and who, to the knowledge of every one here, lived in poverty with
her mother, until her marriage to the decrepid and avaricious Don
Gumersindo, has caused all this to be forgotten, and is now looked upon
as a wondrous being, a visitant, pure and radiant, from some distant
land, from some higher sphere, and is regarded by her fellow-townspeople
with affectionate esteem, and something like loving admiration.

I see that I am inadvertently falling into the same fault that I censure
in the reverend vicar, and that I speak to you of nothing but Pepita.
But this is natural. Here no one speaks of anything else. One would
suppose the whole place to be full of the spirit, of the thought, of
the image, of this singular woman, in regard to whom I have not been
able to determine if she be an angel or an accomplished coquette, full
of _instinctive astuteness_, although the words may seem to involve a
contradiction. For I am fully convicted in my own mind that this woman
does not play the coquette, nor seek to gain the good-will of others, in
order to gratify her vanity.

Pepita's soul is full of candor and sincerity. One has only to see her,
to be convinced of this. Her dignified and graceful bearing, her slender
figure, the smoothness and clearness of her forehead head, the soft and
pure light of her eyes, all blend into a fitting harmony, in which there
is not a single discordant note.

How deeply I regret having come to this place, and having remained here
so long! I had passed my life in your house, and in the seminary; I had
seen and known no one but my companions and my teachers; I knew nothing
of the world but through speculation and through theory; and suddenly I
find myself thrown into the midst of this world, though it be only that
of a village; and distracted from my studies, meditations, and prayers
by a thousand profane objects.

_April 20th._

Your last letters, dearest uncle, have been a welcome consolation to my
soul. Benevolent, as always, you admonish and enlighten me with prudent
and useful reflections.

It is true, my impetuosity is worthy of reprobation. I wish to attain my
aims, without making use of the means requisite to their attainment; I
wish to reach the journey's end, without first treading, step by step,
the rough and thorny path.

I complain of an aridity of spirit in prayer, of inability to fix my
thoughts, of a proneness to dissipate my tenderness on childish objects;
I desire to elevate myself to and be absorbed in God, to attain at once
to the contemplation of essential being, and yet I disdain mental prayer
and rational and discursive meditation. How, without attaining to its
purity, how, without beholding its light, can I hope to enjoy the
delights of divine love?

I am by nature arrogant, and I shall therefore endeavor to humiliate
myself in my own eyes, in order that God may not suffer the spirit of
evil, in punishment of my pride and presumption, to cover me with
humiliation.

I do not believe that it would be easy for me to fall into a lapse from
virtue so shameful and unexpected as the one you fear. I do not confide
in myself; I confide in the mercy of God and in his grace; and I trust
they will not fail me.

Nevertheless, you are altogether right in advising me to abstain from
forming ties of friendship with Pepita Ximenez; I am far enough from
being bound to her by any tie.

I am not ignorant that, when those holy men and saints, who should serve
us as models and examples, were bound in close intimacy and affection
with women, it was in their old age, or when they were already proved
and disciplined by penitence, or when there existed a noticeable
disproportion in years between them and the pious women they elected to
be their friends; as is related of St. Jerome and St. Paulina, and of
St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa. And even thus, even with a purely
spiritual affection, I know it is possible to sin through excess. For
God only should occupy the soul as Lord and Spouse, and any other being
who dwells in it should do so but as the friend, the servant, the
creation of the Spouse, and as one in whom the Spouse delights.

Do not think, however, that I vaunt myself on being invincible, that I
despise danger, and defy and seek it. He who loves danger shall perish
therein. And if the prophet-king, though so agreeable in the sight of
God and so favored of him, and Solomon, notwithstanding his supernatural
and God-given wisdom, were troubled and fell into sin because God turned
his face away from them, what have not I to fear, miserable sinner that
I am, so young, so inexperienced in the wiles of the devil, and so
wavering and unpracticed in the combats of virtue!

Filled with a salutary fear of God, and imbued with a fitting distrust
of my own weakness, I shall not be forgetful of your counsels and your
prudent admonitions; and I shall pray, meantime, with fervor, and
meditate on holy things, in order to abhor the things of the world, in
so far as they deserve abhorrence; but of this I may assure you: that,
however deeply I penetrate into the depths of my conscience, however
carefully I search its inmost recesses, I have thus far discovered
nothing to make me share your fears.

If my former letters are full of encomiums on the virtue of Pepita, it
is the fault of my father and of the reverend vicar, and not mine; for,
at first, far from being friendly to this woman, I was unjustly
prejudiced against her.

As for the beauty and physical grace of Pepita, be assured that I have
contemplated them with entire purity of thought, and, though it cost me
something to say it, and may cost you a little to hear it, I confess
that, if any cloud has arisen to dim the clear and serene image of
Pepita in the mirror of my soul, it has been owing to your harsh
suspicions, which, for an instant, have almost made me suspect myself.

But no; what thought have I ever entertained with regard to Pepita, what
have I seen or praised in her that should lead any one to suppose me to
have any other feeling for her than friendship, and the admiration, pure
and innocent, that a work of art may inspire, the more especially if it
be the work of the Supreme Artist, and nothing less than the temple
wherein he dwells?

Besides, dear uncle, I shall have to live in the world, to hold
intercourse with my fellow-beings, to see them, and I can not, for that
reason, pluck out my eyes. You have told me many times that you wish me
to devote myself to a life of action, preaching the divine law, and
making it known in the world, rather than to a contemplative life in the
midst of solitude and isolation. Well, then, this being so, how would
you have me act, in order to avoid seeing Pepita Ximenez? Unless I made
myself ridiculous by closing my own eyes in her presence, how could I
fail to notice the beauty of hers; the clearness, the roseate hue, and
the purity of her complexion, the evenness and pearly whiteness of her
teeth, which she discloses with frequency when she smiles, the fresh
carmin of her lips, the serenity and smoothness of her forehead, and a
thousand other attractions with which Heaven has endowed her? It is true
that for one who bears within his soul the germ of evil thoughts, the
leaven of vice, any one of the impressions that Pepita produces might be
the shock of the steel against the flint, kindling the spark that would
set fire to and consume all around it; but, prepared for this danger,
watching against it, and guarded with the shield of Christian prudence,
I do not think I have anything to fear. Besides, if it be rash to seek
danger, it is cowardly not to be able to face it, or to shun it when it
presents itself.

Have no fear; I see in Pepita only a beautiful creation of God; and in
God I love her as a sister. If I feel any predilection for her, it is
because of the praises I hear spoken of her by my father, by the
reverend vicar, and by almost every one here.

For my father's sake it would please me were Pepita to relinquish her
inclination for a life of seclusion, and her purpose to lead it, and to
marry him. But were it not for this--were I to see that my father had
only a caprice and not a genuine passion for her--then I should be glad
that Pepita would remain resolute in her chaste widowhood; and when I
should be far away from here, in India or Japan or some other yet more
dangerous mission, I might find a consolation in writing to her of my
wanderings and labors; and, when I returned here in my old age, it
would be a great pleasure for me to be on friendly terms with her, who
would also then be aged, and to hold spiritual colloquies with her, and
chats of the same sort as those the father vicar now holds with her. At
present, however, as I am but a young man, I see but little of Pepita; I
hardly speak to her. I prefer to be thought bashful, shy, ill-bred, and
rude, rather than give the least occasion--not that I should be thought
to feel for her in reality what I ought not to feel--but even for
suspicion or for scandal.

As for Pepita herself, not even in the most remote degree do I share the
apprehension that, as a vague suspicion, you allow me to perceive. What
projects could she form with respect to a man who, in two or three
months more, is to be a priest! She--who has treated so many others with
disdain--why should she be attracted by me? I know myself well, and I
know that, fortunately, I am not capable of inspiring a passion. They
say I am not ill-looking; but I am awkward, dull, shy, wanting in
amiability; I bear the stamp of what I am, a humble student. What am I,
compared with the gallant if somewhat rustic youths who have paid court
to Pepita--agile horsemen, discreet and agreeable in conversation,
Nimrods in the chase, skilled in all bodily exercises, singers of renown
in all the fairs of Andalusia, and graceful and accomplished in the
dance? If Pepita has scorned all these, how should she now think of me,
and conceive the diabolical desire, and the more than diabolical
project, of troubling the peace of my soul, of making me abandon my
vocation, perhaps of plunging me into perdition? No, it is not possible.
Pepita I believe to be good, and myself--and I say it in all
sincerity--insignificant; insignificant, be it understood, so far as
inspiring her with love is concerned, but not too insignificant to be
her friend, to merit her esteem, to be the object, one day, in a certain
sense, of her preference, when I shall have succeeded in making myself
worthy of this preference by a holy and laborious life.

I ask you to forgive me if I have vindicated myself too warmly from
certain half-expressed suspicions in your letter--suspicions that sound
like accusations, or like prophetic warnings.

I do not complain of these suspicions: you have given me judicious
advice, the greater part of which I accept, and intend to follow; if you
have gone a little beyond what is just, in your suspicions, it is owing,
without doubt, to the interest you take in me, and for which I am
grateful to you with all my heart.

_May 4th._

It is strange that in so many days I should not have had time to write
to you, but such is the fact. My father does not let me rest a moment,
and I am besieged by visitors.

In large cities it is easy to avoid seeing visitors, to isolate one's
self, to create for one's self a solitude, a Thebaid in the midst of the
tumult; in an Andalusian village, and, above all, when one has the honor
of being the son of the squire, it is necessary to live in public. Not
only now to my study, but even to my bedroom, do the reverend vicar, the
notary, my cousin Currito, the son of Doña Casilda, and a hundred
others, penetrate without any one daring to oppose them, waken me if I
am asleep, and carry me off with them wherever they wish.

The club-house here is not a place of amusement for the evening only,
but for all the hours of the day. From eleven o'clock in the morning it
is full of people, who chat, glance over a paper to learn the news, and
play at _hombra._ There are persons here who spend ten or twelve hours a
day at this game. In short, there is as much enjoyment here as one could
well desire. In order that this enjoyment may be uninterrupted, there
are a great many amusements. Besides _hombra,_ there are many other
games at cards. Checkers, chess, and dominoes are not neglected. And,
finally, there is a decided passion for cock-fighting.

All this, together with making calls, going to the fields to inspect the
work, settling accounts every night with the overseer, visiting the
wine-vaults and cask-stores, superintending the clarifying, decanting,
and perfecting of the wines, treating with gypsies and horse-dealers for
the purchase, sale, or barter of horses, mules, and donkeys, or with
dealers from Jeres who come to buy our wine in order to convert it into
sherry, are here the daily occupation of the gentry, squirearchy, or
whatever else they may choose to call themselves. On extraordinary
occasions there are other tasks and amusements that give a greater
appearance of animation to everything: as in harvest-time, at the
vintage, and the gathering in of the olives; or when there is a fair or
a bull-fight, either here or in the neighboring village; or when there
is a pilgrimage to the sanctuary of some miraculous image of the Holy
Virgin, where, if it be true that many go through curiosity, or to amuse
themselves, and give to their sweethearts a fairing of a Cupid or a
scapula, many more go through devotion, or in fulfillment of a vow or
promise. One of these sanctuaries is situated at the top of a very high
mountain, yet there are delicate women who, to reach it, will climb,
with bare feet, wounded by the stones and brambles, the steep and
rugged path that leads to it.

There is, in the life here, a certain charm. For one who has no desire
for fame, no ambition, I can understand that it might be a very easy and
agreeable life. Even solitude may be obtained by an effort. As I am here
only for a short time, I can neither make this effort, nor ought I to do
so; but if I were settled here, I should find no difficulty in secluding
myself--and that, too, without offending any one--for several hours, or
for the whole day, if it were necessary, in order to devote myself to my
studies and meditations.

Your last letter has troubled me a little. I see that you persist in
your suspicions, and I know not what answer to make, in order to justify
myself, but the answer I have already made you.

You say that the victory, in a certain kind of warfare, consists in
flight; that to fly is to conquer. Why should I seek to deny what the
apostle and so many holy fathers and doctors of the Church have said?
But you well know that, in this case, flight does not depend upon me. My
father is resolved that I shall not go; he keeps me here against my
will, and I must obey him. The victory must be gained by other means,
then, than by flight.

To set your mind at rest, I repeat that matters have not gone so far as
you think; that you see them in a much more advanced stage than they
really are.

There is not the slightest sign that Pepita Ximenez loves me. And even
did she love me, it would be in a different way from that in which those
women loved whom you cite as a salutary warning to me. A lady of our
times, virtuous and well brought up, is neither so susceptible nor so
wanting in decorum as those matrons of whose adventures ancient history
is full.

The passage you cite from St. John Chrysostom is indeed worthy of
consideration; but it is not altogether applicable to the circumstances.
The great lady that in Of, Thebes, or Diospolis Magna, fell in love with
the favorite son of Jacob, was in all probability extremely handsome. By
such a supposition only can one comprehend the words of the saint, that
it was a greater miracle that Joseph should have passed through this
ordeal unscathed, than that the three young men whom Nebuchadnezzar
caused to be placed in the fiery furnace were not reduced to ashes!

As far as beauty is concerned, I confess frankly that I can not think
that the wife of the Egyptian prince, chamberlain of the palace of the
Pharaohs, or whatever else may have been his title, was in any degree
superior to Pepita Ximenez. But neither am I endowed with as many gifts
and excellences as was Joseph, nor is Pepita a woman without religion
and without decorum. And even were the circumstances such as he relates,
were all those horrors true, I can only account for the exaggerated
language of St. John Chrysostom by the fact that he lived in the corrupt
capital, half Gentile still, of the Lower Empire, in the midst of that
court whose vices he so harshly censures, and where even the Empress
Eudoxia herself gave an example of scandal and corruption.

But in our day, when the morality taught in the gospel has penetrated
more deeply into the strata of society, it seems to me an exaggeration
to think the chaste scorn of the son of Jacob any more miraculous than
the material incombustibility of the three young men of Babylon.

There is one point on which you touch in your letter that encourages and
pleases me greatly. You condemn, as is right, the exaggerated
sentimentality, and the tendency to be easily moved and to weep from
childish motives, from which I told you that I suffered at times; but,
since this disposition of soul, so necessary to combat, exists in me,
you rejoice that it does not affect my prayers and meditations, and
contaminate them. You recognize and praise in me the virile energy that
should animate the passions and the mind that seek to elevate themselves
to God.

The intelligence that strives to comprehend him must be a vigorous one;
the will that submits itself entirely to him must first have triumphed,
fighting bravely against every appetite, and defeating and putting to
flight every temptation over self. The very passion that, purified and
ardent, has power, even in weak and miserable mortals, to exalt itself,
by an ecstasy of love, to God himself, attaining by a supernatural
illumination to the knowledge of him, is the offspring of a steadfast
and upright character, as well as of the divine grace. This languor,
this debility of the will, this morbid tenderness have nothing in them
in common with charity, with piety, or with divine love. The former are
the attributes of a nature less than feminine; the latter are passions,
if passions they can be called, of angels rather than of men. God will
be my surety, and with his help I will fight for my own salvation. But,
should I sink into perdition, not in disguise nor by capitulation shall
the enemies of the soul and the sins of the flesh enter into the
fortress of my conscience, but with banners flying, laying waste
everything before them by fire and sword, and after a desperate
conflict.

In the past few days I have had occasion to practice patience in an
extreme degree, and to mortify my self-love in the most cruel manner. My
father, wishing to reciprocate Pepita's compliment of the garden-party,
invited her to visit his villa of the _Pozo de la Solana_. The excursion
took place on the 22d of April. I shall not soon forget that date.

The _Pozo de la Solana_ is about two leagues distant from the village,
and the only road to it is a bridle-path. We all had to go on horseback.
As I never learned to ride, I had on former occasions accompanied my
father mounted on a pacing mule, gentle and, according to the expression
of Dientes the muleteer, as good as gold, and of easier motion than a
carriage. On the journey to the _Pozo de la Solana_ I went in the same
manner.

My father, the notary, the apothecary, and my cousin Currito, were
mounted on good horses. My aunt, Doña Casilda, who weighs more than two
hundred and fifty pounds, rode on a large and powerful donkey, seated in
a commodious side-saddle. The reverend vicar rode a gentle and easy mule
like mine.

As for Pepita Ximenez, who, I supposed, would go also mounted on a
donkey, in the same sort of easy saddle as my aunt--for I was ignorant
that she knew how to ride--she surprised me by making her appearance on
a black and white horse full of fire and spirit. She wore a
riding-habit, and managed her horse with admirable grace and skill.

I was pleased to see Pepita look so charming on horseback, but I soon
began to foresee and to be mortified by the sorry part I would play,
jogging on in the rear beside my corpulent aunt Casilda and the vicar,
all three as quiet and tranquil as if we were seated in a carriage,
while the gay cavalcade in front would caracole, gallop, trot, and make
a thousand other displays of their horsemanship.

I fancied on the instant that there was something of compassion in
Pepita's glance as she noted the pitiable appearance I no doubt
presented, seated on my mule. My cousin Currito looked at me with a
mocking smile, and immediately began to make fun of me and to tease me.

Confess that I deserve credit for my resignation and courage. I
submitted to everything with a good grace, and Currito's jests soon
ceased when he saw that I was invulnerable to them. But what did I not
suffer in secret! The others, now trotting, now galloping, rode in
advance of us, both in going and returning. The vicar and I, with Doña
Casilda between us, rode on, tranquil as the mules we were seated upon,
without hastening or retarding our pace.

I had not even the consolation of chatting with the vicar, in whose
conversation I find so much pleasure, nor of wrapping myself up in my
own thoughts and giving the reign to my fancy, nor of silently admiring
the beauty of the scenery around us. Doña Casilda is gifted with an
abominable loquacity, and we were obliged to listen to her. She told us
all there is to be told of the gossip of the village; she recounted to
us all her accomplishments; she told us how to make sausages,
brain-puddings, pastry, and innumerable other dishes and delicacies.
There is no one, according to herself, who can rival her in matters
pertaining to the kitchen, or to the dressing of hogs, but Antoñona, the
nurse of Pepita, and now her housekeeper and general manager. I am
already acquainted with this Antoñona, for she goes back and forth
between her mistress's house and ours with messages, and is in truth
extremely handy; as loquacious as Aunt Casilda, but a great deal more
discreet.

The scenery on the road to the _Pozo de la Solana_ is charming, but my
mind was so disturbed during our journey that I could not enjoy it. When
we arrived at the villa and dismounted, I was relieved of a great load,
as if it had been I who carried the mule, and not the mule who carried
me.

We then proceeded on foot through the estate, which is magnificent, of
varied character, and extensive. There are vines, old and newly planted,
all on the same boundary-line, that produce more than a hundred and
twenty bushels of grapes; olive-trees that yield to the same amount;
and, finally, a grove of the most majestic oaks that are to be found in
all Andalusia. The water of the _Pozo de la Solana_ forms a clear and
deep brook at which all the birds of the neighborhood come to drink, and
on whose borders they are caught by hundreds, by means of reeds smeared
with bird-lime, or of nets, in the center of which are fastened a cord
and a decoy. All this carried my thoughts back to the sports of my
childhood, and to the many times that I too had gone to catch birds in
the same manner.

Following the course of the brook, and especially in the ravines, are
many poplars and other tall trees, that, together with the bushes and
the shrubs, form a dark and labyrinthine wood. A thousand fragrant wild
flowers grow there spontaneously, and it would, in truth, be difficult
to imagine anything more secluded and sylvan, more solitary, peaceful,
and silent than this spot. The mind is invaded here, during all the
fervor of noonday, when the sun pours down his light in torrents from a
heaven without a cloud, by the same mysterious terror that visits it at
times in the silent hours of the night. One can understand here the
manner of life of the patriarchs of old, and of the primitive shepherds
and heroes; and the visions and apparitions that appeared to them of
nymphs, of gods, and of angels, in the midst of the noonday brightness.

As we walked through this thicket, there arrived a moment in which, I
know not how, Pepita and I found ourselves alone together. The others
had remained behind.

I felt a sudden thrill pass through me. For the first time, and in a
place so solitary, I found myself alone with this woman, while my
thoughts were still dwelling on the noontide apparitions, now sinister,
now gracious, but always supernatural, vouchsafed to the men of remote
ages.

Pepita had left the long skirt of her riding-habit in the house, and now
wore a short dress that did not interfere with the graceful ease of her
movements. She had on her head a little Andalusian hat, which became her
extremely. She carried in her hand her riding-whip, which I fancied to
myself to be a magic wand by means of which this enchantress might cast
her spells over me.

I am not afraid to transcribe here these eulogies of her beauty. In this
sylvan scene she appeared to me more beautiful than ever. The precaution
recommended in similar cases by ascetics, to think of her beauty
defaced by sickness and old age, to picture her to myself dead, the prey
of corruption and of the worm, presented itself, against my will, to my
imagination; and I say _against my will_, for I do not concur in the
necessity for such a precaution. No thought of the material, no
suggestion of the evil spirit, troubled my reason, or infected my will
or my senses.

What did occur to me was an argument, at least to my mind, in disproof
of the efficacy of this precaution. Beauty, the creation of a Sovereign
and Divine Power, may, indeed, be frail and ephemeral, may vanish in an
instant; but the idea of beauty is eternal, and, once perceived by the
mind, it lives there an immortal life. The beauty of this woman, such as
it manifests itself to-day, will disappear in a few short years; the
graceful form, those charming contours, the noble head that raises
itself so proudly above her shoulders, all will be food for loathsome
worms; but though the material must of necessity be transformed, its
idea, the thought through which it was created, abstract beauty, in a
word, who shall destroy this? Does it not exist in the Divine Mind? Once
perceived and known by me, shall it not continue to live in my soul,
triumphing over age and even over death?

I was meditating thus, striving to tranquillize my spirit and to
dissipate the doubts which you have succeeded in infusing into my mind,
when Pepita and I encountered each other. I was pleased and at the same
time troubled to find myself alone with her--hoping and yet fearing that
the others would join us.

The silvery voice of Pepita broke the silence, and drew me from my
meditations, saying:

"How silent you are, Don Luis, and how sad! I am pained to think that it
is, perhaps, through my fault, or partly so at least, that your father
has caused you to spend a disagreeable day in these solitudes, taking
you away from a solitude more congenial, where there would be nothing to
distract your attention from your prayers and pious books."

I know not what answer I made to this. It must have been something
nonsensical, for my mind was troubled. I did not wish to flatter Pepita
by paying her profane compliments, nor, on the other hand, did I wish to
answer her rudely.

She continued:

"You must forgive me if I am wrong, but I fancy that, in addition to the
annoyance of seeing yourself deprived to-day of your favorite
occupation, there is something else that powerfully contributes to your
ill-humor."

"And what is this something else?" I said; "since you have discovered
it, or fancy you have done so."

"This something else," responded Pepita, "is a feeling not altogether
becoming in one who is going to be a priest so soon, but very natural in
a young man of twenty-two."

On hearing this I felt the blood mount to my face, and my face burn. I
imagined a thousand absurdities; I thought myself beset by evil spirits;
I fancied myself tempted by Pepita, who was doubtless about to let me
understand that she knew I loved her. Then my timidity gave place to
haughtiness, and I looked her steadily in the face. There must have been
something laughable in my look, but either Pepita did not observe it,
or, if she did, she concealed the fact with amiable discretion; for she
exclaimed, in the most natural manner:

"Do not be offended because I find you are not without fault. This that
I have observed seems to me a slight one. You are hurt by the jests of
Currito, and by being compelled to play--speaking profanely--a not very
dignified _rôle_, mounted, like the reverend vicar with his eighty
years, on a placid mule, and not, as a youth of your age and condition
should be, on a spirited horse. The fault is the reverend dean's, to
whom it did not occur that you should learn to ride. To know how to
manage a horse is not opposed to the career you intend to follow, and I
think, now that you are here, that your father might in a few days give
you the necessary instruction to enable you to do so. If you should go
to Persia or to China, where there are no railroads yet, you will make
but a sorry figure in those countries as a bad horseman. It is possible,
even, that, through this want of foresight of the dean's, the missionary
himself may come to lose prestige in the eyes of those barbarians, which
will make it all the more difficult for him to reap the fruits of his
labors."

This and other arguments Pepita adduced in order to persuade me to learn
to ride on horseback; and I was so convinced of the necessity of a
missionary's being a good horseman, that I promised her to learn at
once, taking my father for a teacher.

"On the very next expedition we make," I said, "I shall ride the most
spirited horse my father has, instead of the mule I am riding to-day."

"I shall be very glad of it," responded Pepita, with a smile of
indescribable sweetness.

At this moment we were joined by the rest of the party, at which I was
secretly rejoiced, though for no other reason than the fear of not being
able to sustain the conversation, and of saying a great many foolish
things, on account of the little experience I have had in conversing
with women.

After our walk my father's servants spread before us on the fresh grass,
in the most charming spot beside the brook, a rural and abundant
collation.

The conversation was very animated, and Pepita sustained her part in it
with much discretion and intelligence. My cousin Currito returned to his
jests about my manner of riding and the meekness of my mule. He called
me a theologian, and said that, seated on mule-back, I looked as if I
were dispensing blessings. This time, however, being now firmly resolved
to learn to ride, I answered his jests with sarcastic indifference. I
was silent, nevertheless, with respect to the promise I had just made
Pepita. The latter, doubtless thinking as I did--although we had come to
no understanding in the matter--that silence for the present was
necessary to insure the complete success of the surprise that I would
create afterward by my knowledge of horsemanship, said nothing of our
conversation. Thus it happened, naturally and in the simplest manner,
that a secret existed between us; and it produced in my mind a singular
effect.

Nothing else worth telling occurred during the day.

In the afternoon we returned to the village in the same manner in which
we had left it. Yet, seated on my easy-going mule and at the side of my
aunt Casilda, I did not experience the same fatigue or sadness as
before.

During the whole journey I listened without weariness to my aunt's
stories, amusing myself at times in conjuring up idle fancies. Nothing
of what passes in my soul shall be concealed from you. I confess, then,
that the figure of Pepita was, as it were, the center, or rather the
nucleus and focus of these idle fancies.--

The noonday vision in which she had appeared to me in the shadiest and
most sequestered part of the grove, brought to my memory all the
visions, holy and unholy, of wondrous beings, of a condition superior to
ours, that I had read of in sacred authors and in the profane classics.
Pepita appeared to the eyes and on the stage of my fancy in foe, leafy
seclusion of the grove not as she rode before us on horseback but in an
ideal and ethereal fashion, as to Æneas his mother, as Minerva to
Callimachus, as the sylph who, afterward became the mother of Libusa to
the Bohemian Kroco, as Diana to the son of Aristæus, as the angels in
the valley of Mamre to the patriarch, as the hippocentaur to St. Anthony
in the solitude of the wilderness.

That the vision of Pepita should assume in my mind something of a
supernatural character, seems to me no more to be wondered at than any
of these. For an instant, seeing the consistency of the illusion, I
thought myself tempted by evil spirits; but I reflected that in the few
moments, during which I had been alone with Pepita near the brook of the
Solana, nothing had occurred that was not natural and commonplace; that
it was afterward, as I rode along quietly on my mule, that some demon,
hovering invisible around me, had suggested these extravagant fancies.

That night I told my father of my desire to learn to ride. I did not
wish to conceal from him that it was Pepita who had suggested this
desire. My father was greatly rejoiced; he embraced me, he kissed me, he
said that now not you only would be my teacher, but that he also would
have the pleasure of teaching me something. He ended by assuring me that
in two or three weeks he would make of me the best horseman of all
Andalusia; able to go to Gibraltar for contraband goods and come back
laden with tobacco and cotton, after eluding the vigilance of the
custom-house officers; fit, in a word, to astonish the riders who show
off their horsemanship in the fairs of Seville and Mairena, and worthy
to press the flanks of Babrecá, Bucephalus, or even of the horses of the
sun themselves, if they should by chance descend to earth, and I could
catch them by the bridle.

I don't know what you will think of this notion of my learning to ride,
but I take it for granted you will see nothing wrong in it.

If you could but see how happy my father is, and how he delights in
teaching me! Since the day after the excursion I told you of, I take two
lessons daily. There are days on which the lesson is continuous, for we
spend from morning till night on horseback. During the first week the
lessons took place in the court-yard of the house, which is unpaved, and
which served us as a riding-school.

We now ride out into the country, but manage so that no one shall see
us. My father does not want me to show myself on horseback in public
until I am able to astonish every one by my fine appearance in the
saddle, as he says. If the vanity natural to a father does not deceive
him, this, it seems, will be very soon, for I have a wonderful aptitude
for riding.

"It is easy to see that you are my son!" my father exclaims with joy, as
he watches my progress.

My father is so good that I hope you will pardon him the profane
language and irreverent jests in which he indulges at times. I grieve
for this at the bottom of my soul, but I endure it with patience. These
constant and long-continued lessons have reduced me to a pitiable
condition with blisters. My father enjoins me to write to you that they
are caused by my flagellations.

As he declares that within a few weeks I shall be an accomplished
horseman, and he does not desire to be superannuated as a master, he
proposes to teach me other accomplishments of a somewhat irregular
character, and sufficiently unsuited to a future priest. At times he
proposes to train me in throwing the bull in order that he may take me
afterward to Seville, where, with lance in hand, on the plains of
Tablada, I shall make the braggarts and the bullies stare. Then he
recalls his own youthful days, when he belonged to the body-guard, and
declares that he will look up his foils, gloves, and masks, and teach me
to fence. And, finally, as my father flatters himself that he can wield
the Sevillian knife better than any one else, he has offered to teach me
even this accomplishment also.

You can already imagine the answer I make to all this nonsense. My
father replies that, in the good old times, not only the priests but
even the bishops themselves rode about the country on horseback, putting
infidels to the sword. I rejoin that this might happen in the dark ages,
but that in our days the ministers of the Most High should know how to
wield no other weapons than those of persuasion. "And what if persuasion
be not enough?" rejoins my father. "Do you think it would be amiss to
re-enforce argument with a few good blows of a cudgel?" The complete
missionary, according to my father's opinion, should know how, on
occasion, to have recourse to these heroic measures, and, as my father
has read a great many tales and romances, he cites various examples in
support of his opinion. He cites in the first place St. James, who, on
his white horse, without ceasing to be an apostle, puts the Moors to the
sword more frequently than he convinces or preaches to them; he cites a
certain Señor de la Vega who, being sent on an embassy to Boabdil by
Ferdinand and Isabella, became entangled in a theological discussion
with the Moors in the court-yard of the Lions, and, being at the end of
his arguments, drew his sword and fell upon them with fury in order to
complete their conversion; and he finally cites the Biscayan hidalgo,
Don Inigo de Loyola, who, in a controversy he had with a Moor, regarding
the purity of the Holy Virgin, growing weary at last of the impious and
horrible blasphemies with which the aforesaid Moor contradicted him,
fell upon him, sword in hand, and, if he had not taken to his heels,
would have enforced conviction upon his soul in a terrible fashion. In
regard to the incident relating to St. Ignatius, I answer my father that
this was before the saint became a priest; and in regard to the other
examples, I answer that historians are not agreed in the matter.

In short, I defend myself as best I can against my father's jests, and I
content myself with being a good horseman, without learning other
accomplishments unsuited to the clergy; although my father assures me
that not a few of the Spanish clergy understand and practice them with
frequency in Spain, even in our own day, with a view to contributing to
the triumph of the faith, and to the preservation or the restoration of
the unity of the Church.

I am grieved to the soul by this levity of my father's, and that he
should speak with irreverence and jestingly about the most serious
things; but a respectful son is not called upon to go further than I do
in repressing his somewhat Voltairean freedom of speech. I say
_Voltairean,_ because I am not able to describe it by any other word. At
heart my father is a good Catholic, and this thought consoles me.

Tuesday was the Feast of the Cross, and the village presented a very
animated appearance. In each street were six or seven May-crosses,
covered with flowers, but none of them was so beautiful as that placed
by Pepita at the door of her house. It was adorned by a perfect cascade
of flowers.

In the evening we went to an entertainment at the house of Pepita. The
cross which had stood at the door was now placed in a large saloon on
the ground-floor, in which there is a piano, and Pepita presented us
with a simple and poetic spectacle, one that I had seen when a child,
but had since forgotten.

From the upper part of the cross hung down seven bands or broad ribbons,
two white, two green, and three red, the symbolic colors of the
theological virtues. Eight children of five or six years old,
representing the seven sacraments, and holding the seven ribbons that
hung from the cross, performed with great skill a species of
contra-dance. The sacrament of baptism was represented by a child
wearing the white robe of a catechumen; ordination, by another child as
a priest; confirmation, by a little bishop; extreme unction, by a
pilgrim with staff and scrip, the latter filled with shells; marriage,
by a bride and bridegroom, and penance, by a Nazarene with cross and
crown of thorns.

The dance was a series of reverences, steps, evolutions, and
genuflections, rather than a dance, performed to the sound of very
tolerable music, something like a march, which the organist played, not
without skill, on the piano.

The little dancers, children of the servants or retainers of Pepita,
after playing their parts, went away to bed amid compliments and
caresses.

The entertainment, in the course of which we were served with
refreshments, continued till twelve; the refreshments were sirup served
in little cups, and afterward chocolate with sponge-cake, and meringues
and water.

Since the return of spring, Pepita's seclusion and retirement are being
gradually abandoned, at which my father is greatly rejoiced. In future,
Pepita will receive every night, and my father desires that I shall be
one of the guests.

Pepita has left off mourning, and now appears more lovely and attractive
than ever, in the lighter fabrics appropriate to the season, which is
almost summer. She still dresses, however, with extreme simplicity.

I cherish the hope that my father will not now detain me here beyond the
end of this month at farthest. In June we shall both join you in the
city, and you shall then see how, far from Pepita, to whom I am
indifferent, and who will remember me neither kindly nor unkindly, I
shall have the pleasure of embracing you, and attaining at last to the
happiness of being ordained.

_May 7th._

Pepita, as I mentioned to you before, receives every evening, from nine
to twelve.

Four or five married ladies of the village, and as many more unmarried
ones, including Aunt Casilda, are frequent visitors; as well as six or
seven young men, who play at forfeits with the girls. Three or four
engagements are the natural result.

The sedate portion of the company are the same as usual. These are, as
one may say, the high functionaries of the village--my father, who is
the squire, the apothecary, the doctor, and the reverend vicar.

I am at a loss to know in which division to place myself. If I join the
young people, my gravity proves a hindrance to their games and
flirtations; if I stay with the elders, I must play the _rôle_ of a
looker-on in things I have no knowledge of. The only games of cards I
know are the _burro ciego_, the _burro con vista_, and a little _tute_
or _brisca cruzada_.

The best course for me to pursue would be to absent myself from the
house altogether, but my father will not hear of this. By doing so,
according to him, I should make myself ridiculous.

My father shows many signs of wonder when he sees my ignorance in
certain things. That I should not know how to play even ombre fills him
with astonishment.

"Your uncle has brought you up quite out of the world," he says to me,
"cramming you with theology, and leaving you in the dark about
everything else you ought to know. For the very reason that you are to
be a priest, and can neither dance nor make love in society, it is
necessary that you should know how to play ombre. Otherwise how are you
going to spend your time, unhappy boy?"

To these and other arguments of a like land I have been obliged to
yield, and my father is teaching me at home to play ombre, so that, as
soon as I have learned it, I may play it at Pepita's. He wanted also, as
I already told you, to teach me to fence, and afterward to smoke and
shoot and throw the bar; but I have consented to nothing of all this.

"What a difference," my father exclaims, "between your youth and mine!"

And then he adds, laughing:

"In substance it is the same thing. I, too, had my canonical hours, in
the quarters of the life-guard: a cigar was the censer; a pack of cards,
the hymn-book; and there were never wanting other devotions and
exercises of a more or less spiritual character."

Although you had warned me of this levity of disposition of my father,
and on account of it I have spent with you twelve years of my life--from
the age of ten to that of twenty-two--yet the sayings of his, altogether
too free at times, perturb and mortify me. But what is to be done?
Although I can not reprove him for making use of them, I do not, on the
other hand, applaud or laugh at them. The strangest part of it is that
my father is altogether another person when he is in the house of
Pepita. Not even by chance does a single phrase, a single jest of the
kind he is so prodigal of at other times escape from him then. At
Pepita's my father is politeness itself. He seems, too, to become every
day more attached to her, and to cherish greater hopes of success.

My father continues greatly pleased with me as his pupil in
horsemanship. He declares that in four or five days I shall have
mastered the art, and that I shall then mount Lucero, a black horse bred
from an Arab horse and a mare of the race of Guadalcazar, full of fire
and spirit, and trained to all manner of curvetings.

"Whoever succeeds in getting on the back of Lucero," my father says to
me, "may venture to compete in horsemanship with the centaurs
themselves; and that you shall do very soon."

Although I spend the whole day out of doors on horseback, in the
club-house, or at Pepita's, I yet steal a few hours from slumber,
sometimes voluntarily, sometimes because I can not sleep, to meditate on
my situation and to examine my conscience. The image of Pepita is always
present to my mind. "Can this be love?" I ask myself.

The moral obligation I am under, the vow I have made to consecrate
myself to the service of the altar, although not confirmed, is
nevertheless, in my eyes, full and binding. If anything opposed to the
fulfillment of this vow has entered into my soul, it must be combated.

I note, too, and do not accuse me of arrogance because I mention this to
you, that the empire of my will, which you have taught me to exercise,
is complete over my senses. While Moses on the top of Mount Sinai
conversed with God, the people on the plain below adored, rebellious,
the golden calf. Notwithstanding my youth, my spirit has no fears of
incurring a like rebelliousness. I might converse with God in full
security, if the enemy did not come to attack me in the sanctuary
itself. But the image of Pepita presents itself to my soul. It is a
spirit that makes war against my spirit. It is the idea of her beauty in
all its spiritual purity, that stands before the sanctuary of the souls
where God resides, and prevents me from reaching him.

I do not shut my eyes to the truth, however; I can see clearly; I can
reason; I do not deceive myself. Above and beyond this spiritual
inclination that draws me to Pepita, is the love of the Infinite and of
the Eternal. Although I represent Pepita to myself as an idea, as a
poem, it is still the idea, the poetry of something finite, limited,
concrete; while the love of God and the conception of God embrace
everything. But, notwithstanding all my efforts, I am unable to give
form in my mind to this supreme conception--this object of the highest
love--in order that it may combat the image, the memory of the frail and
ephemeral reality that continually besets me. Fervently do I implore
Heaven to awaken within me the power of the imagination, that it may
create a likeness, a symbol of this conception, that shall be
all-embracing, and absorb and efface the image of Pepita. This highest
conception, on which I desire to center my love, is vague, shadowy,
indescribable, like the blackness of darkness; while Pepita's image
presents itself to me in clearly defined outlines, bright, palpable,
luminous with the subdued light that may be borne by the eyes of the
spirit, not bright with the intense light that for the eyes of the
spirit is as darkness.

Every other consideration, every other object is of no avail to destroy
her image. Between the crucifix and me it places itself; between the
most sacred image of the Virgin and me it places itself; on the page of
the spiritual book I am reading it also comes to place itself.

Yet I do not believe that my soul is invaded by what in the world is
called love. And even if this were the case, I should do battle against
this love, and conquer in the end.

The daily sight of Pepita, the hearing her praises sounded continually,
even by the reverend vicar, preoccupy me; they turn my spirit toward
profane things, and withdraw it from its proper meditations. But, no--I
do not yet love Pepita; I will go away from here and forget her.

While I remain here, I shall do battle with valor. I shall wrestle with
the Lord in order to prevail with him by love and submission. My cries
shall reach him like burning arrows, and shall cast down the buckler
wherewith he defends himself from the eyes of my soul. I shall fight
like Israel in the silence of the night; and the Lord shall wound me in
the thigh, and shall humble me in the conflict in order that, being
vanquished, I may become the victor.

_May 12th._

Before I had any intention of doing so, my dear uncle, my father
persuaded me to ride Lucero. Yesterday, at six in the morning, I mounted
the beautiful wild creature, as my father calls Lucero, and we set out
for the country.

I rode so well, I kept so firm a seat, and looked to such advantage on
the superb animal, that my father could not resist the temptation of
showing off his pupil; and, about eleven in the morning, after resting
at a grange he owns, half a league distant from here, he insisted on our
returning to the village and entering it by the most frequented street,
which we did, our horses' hoofs clattering loudly against the
paving-stones. It is needless to say that we rode by the house of
Pepita, who for some time past is to be seen occasionally in her window,
and who was then seated at the grating of a lower window, behind the
green blind.

Hardly had Pepita heard the noise we made than, lifting up her eyes and
seeing us, she rose, laid down the sewing she had in her hands, and set
herself to observe us. Lucero, who has the habit, as I learned
afterward, of prancing and curveting when he passes the house of Pepita,
began to show off, and to rear and plunge. I tried to quiet him, but, as
there was something unfamiliar to him in the ways of his present rider,
as well as in the rider himself, whom, perhaps, he regarded with
contempt, he grew more and more unmanageable, and began to neigh and
prance, and even to kick; but I remained firm and serene, showing him
that I was his master, chastising him with the spur, touching his breast
with the whip, and holding him in by the bridle. Lucero, who had almost
stood up on his hind-legs, now humbled himself so far as to bend his
knees gently and make a reverence.

The crowd of idlers who had gathered around us broke into boisterous
applause. My father called out to them:

"A good lesson that for our braggarts and blusterers!"

And, observing afterward that Currito--who has no other occupation than
to amuse himself--was among the crowd, he addressed him in these words:

"Look at that, you rascal! Look at the theologian now, and see if you
don't stare with wonder, instead of laughing at him."

And, in fact, there Currito stood stock-still with amazement, and unable
to utter a word.

My triumph was great and assured, although unsuited to my character. The
unfitness of the triumph covered me with confusion. Shame brought the
blood to my cheeks. I must have turned as red as scarlet, or redder,
when I saw that Pepita was applauding and saluting me graciously, while
she smiled and clapped her beautiful hands.

In short, I have been adjudged a man of nerve, and a horseman of the
first rank.

My father could not be prouder or more happy than he is; he declares
that he is completing my education, that in me you have sent him a book
full of wisdom, but unconnected and unbound, which he is now making a
fair copy, and putting it between covers.

On two occasions I played _hombre_ with Pepita. Learning _hombre_, if
that be a part of the binding and the correcting, is already done with.

The night after my equestrian feat Pepita received me with enthusiasm,
and--what she had never ventured nor perhaps desired to do before--she
gave me her hand.

Do not suppose that I did not call to mind what so many moralists and
ascetics recommend in like cases, but in my inmost thoughts I believed
they exaggerated the danger. Those words of the Holy Spirit, that it is
as dangerous to touch a woman as a scorpion, seem to me to have been
said in another sense. In pious books, no doubt, many phrases and
sentences of the Scriptures are, with the best intentions, interpreted
harshly. How are we to understand otherwise the saying that the beauty
of woman, this perfect work of God, is always the cause of perdition? Or
how are we to understand, in a universal and invariable sense, that
woman is more bitter than death? How are we to understand that he who
touches a woman, on whatever occasion or with whatsoever thought, shall
not be without stain?

In fine, I made answer rapidly within my mind to these and other similar
counsels, and took the hand that Pepita kindly extended to me and
pressed it in mine. Its softness made me comprehend all the better the
delicacy and beauty of the hand that until now I had known only by
sight.

According to the usages of the world, the hand, once given, should be
given always thereafter on entering a room and on taking leave. I hope
that in this ceremony, in this evidence of friendship, in this
manifestation of kindness, given and accepted in purity of heart, and
without any mixture of levity, you will see nothing either evil or
dangerous.

As my father is often obliged of an evening to see the overseer and
others of the country-people, and is seldom free until half-past ten or
eleven, I take his place beside Pepita at the ombre-table. The reverend
vicar and the notary are generally the other partners. We each stake a
penny a point, so that not more than a dollar or two changes hands in
the game.

As the game possesses thus but little interest, we interrupt it
constantly with pleasant conversation, and even with discussions on
matters foreign to the game itself, in all which Pepita displays such
clearness of understanding, such liveliness of imagination, and a grace
of expression so extraordinary, as to astonish me.

I find no sufficient motive to change my opinion with respect to what I
have already said in answer to your suspicions that Pepita perhaps feels
a certain liking for me. She manifests toward me the affection she would
naturally entertain for the son of her suitor, Don Pedro de Vargas, and
the timidity and shyness that would be inspired by a man in my position,
who, though not yet a priest, is soon to become one.

Nevertheless, as I always speak to you in my letters as if I were
kneeling before you in the confessional, I desire, as is my duty, to
communicate to you a passing impression I have received on two or three
occasions. This impression may be but a hallucination or a delusion, but
I have none the less received it.

I have already told you in my former letters that the eyes of Pepita,
green as those of Circe, are calm and tranquil in their gaze; she does
not seem to be conscious of their power, or to know that they serve for
any other purpose than to see with. When she looks at one, the soft
light of her glance is so clear, so frank, and so untroubled that,
instead of giving rise to any evil thoughts, it seems to give birth to
pure thoughts, and leaves innocent and chaste souls in untroubled
repose, while it destroys every incitement to evil in souls that are not
chaste. There is no trace of ardent passion, no fire to be discovered in
Pepita's eyes. Their light is like the mild ray of the moon.

Well, then, notwithstanding all this, I fancied I detected, on two or
three occasions, a sudden brightness, a gleam as of lightning, a swift,
devouring flame in her eyes as they rested on me. Can this be the result
of a ridiculous vanity, inspired by the arch-fiend himself?

I think so. I believe it is, and I wish to believe it.

The swiftness, the fugitive nature of the impression make me conjecture
that it had no external reality, that it was only an illusion.

The serenity of heaven, the coldness of indifference, tempered, indeed,
with sweetness and charity--this is what I always discern in Pepita's
eyes.

Nevertheless, this illusion, this vision of a strange and ardent glance,
torments me.

My father affirms that in affairs of the heart it is the woman, not the
man, who takes the first step; and that she takes it without thereby
incurring any responsibility, and with the power to disavow or retract
it whenever she desires to do so. According to my father, it is the
woman who first declares her passion through the medium of furtive
glances that, later, she disavows to her own conscience if necessary,
and of which he to whom they are directed divines, rather than reads,
the significance. In this manner, by a species of electric shock, by
means of a subtle and inexplicable intuition, he who is loved perceives
that he is loved; and when at last he makes up his mind to declare
himself, he can do so confidently, and in the full security that his
passion is returned.

Perhaps it is these theories of my father, to which I have listened
because I could not help it, that have heated my fancy and made me
imagine what has no existence in reality.

Yet, after all, I say to myself at times, Is the thought so absurd, so
incredible, that this illusion should have an existence in reality? And
if it had, if I were pleasing in Pepita's eyes otherwise than as a
friend, if the woman to whom my father is paying his addresses should
fall in love with me, would not my position then be terrible?

But let us cast away these fears, the creation, no doubt, of vanity. Let
us not make of Pepita a Phædra, or of me a Hippolytus.

What in reality begins to surprise me is my father's carelessness and
complete consciousness of security. Pardon my pride, ask Heaven to
pardon it; for at times this consciousness of security piques and
offends me. What! I say to myself, is there something so absurd in the
thought that it should not even occur to my father that, notwithstanding
my supposed sanctity, or perhaps because of my supposed sanctity, I
should, without wishing it, inspire Pepita with love?

There is an ingenious method of reasoning by which I explain to myself,
without wounding my vanity, my father's carelessness in this important
particular. My father, although he has no reason for doing so, begins to
regard himself already in the light of Pepita's husband, and to share in
that fatal blindness with which Asmodeus, or some other yet more
malicious demon, afflicts husbands. Profane and ecclesiastical history
is fall of instances of this blindness, which God permits, no doubt, for
providential purposes. The most remarkable example of it, perhaps, is
that of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who had for wife a woman so vile as
Faustina, and yet so wise a man and so great a philosopher remained in
ignorance to the end of his days of what was known to every one else in
the Roman Empire; so that in the meditations or memoirs of himself that
he composed he gives infinite thanks to the immortal gods for having
bestowed upon him so faithful and so good a wife; thus provoking the
smiles of his contemporaries and of future generations.

Every day since then we see examples of great men and men of exalted
rank who make those who enjoy the favor of their wives their private
secretaries, and bestow honors on them. Thus do I explain to myself my
father's indifference and his failure to suspect that, even against my
own will, it would be possible for him to find a rival in me.

Would it be a want of respect on my part, should I fall into the fault
of presumption or insolence, if I were to warn my father of the danger
which he himself does not see? But he gives me no opportunity to say
anything to him. Besides, what could I say to him? That once or twice I
fancy Pepita has looked at me in a way different from that in which she
usually does? May not this be an illusion of mine? No; I have not the
least proof that Pepita desires to play the coquette with me.

What, then, could I tell my father? Shall I say to him that it is I who
am in love with Pepita; that I covet the treasure he already regards as
his own? This is not the truth; and, above all, how could I tell this to
my father, even if, to my misfortune and through my fault, it were the
truth?

The best course I can adopt is to say nothing; to combat the temptation
in silence, if it should indeed assail me, and to endeavor, as soon as
possible, to leave this place and return to you.

_May 19th._

I return thanks to Heaven and to you for the letters and the counsels
you have lately sent me. To-day I need them more than ever.

The mystical and learned St. Theresa is right in dwelling upon the
suffering of timid souls that allow themselves to be disturbed by
temptation; but a thousand times worse than that suffering is the
awakening from error of those who, like me, have permitted themselves to
indulge in arrogance and self-confidence.

Our bodies are the temples wherein dwells the Holy Spirit; but when
fire is set to the walls of the temple, though they do not burn, yet
they are blackened.

The first evil thought is the head of the serpent; if we do not crush it
with firm and courageous foot, then will the venomous reptile climb up
and hide himself in our bosom.

The nectar of earthly joys, however innocent they be, is sweet indeed to
the taste; but afterward it is converted into gall, and into the venom
of the serpent.

It is true--I can no longer deny it to you--I ought not to have allowed
my eyes to rest with so much complacency on this dangerous woman.

I do not deem myself lost; but I feel my soul troubled.

Even as the thirsty hart desires and seeks the water-brooks, so does my
soul still seek God. To God does it turn that he may give it rest; it
longs to drink at the torrent of his delights the gushing forth of which
rejoices paradise, and whose clear waves make whiter than snow but deep
calleth unto deep, and my feet have stuck fast in the mire that is
hidden in their abysses.

Yet have I still breath and voice to cry out with the psalmist: "Arise,
my joy! if thou dost take my part, who shall prevail against me?"

I say unto my sinful soul, full of the chimerical imaginations and
sinful desires engendered by unlawful thoughts: "O miserable daughter
of Babylon! happy shall he be who shall give thee thy reward! Happy
shall he be that dasheth thy little ones against the rock!"

Works of penance, fasting, prayer, and penitence, are the weapons
wherewith I shall arm myself to combat, and, with the Divine help, to
vanquish.

It was not a dream; it was not madness; it was the truth: she lets her
eyes rest upon me at times with the ardent glance of which I have told
you. There is in her glance an unexplainable magnetic attraction. It
draws me on, it seduces me, and I can not withdraw my gaze from her. On
such occasions my eyes must burn, like hers, with a fatal flame, as did
those of Amnon when he turned them upon Tamar; as did those of the
prince of Shechem when they were fixed upon Dinah.

When our glances encounter each other thus, I forget even God. Her image
rises up within my soul, the conqueror of everything. Her beauty
outshines all other beauty; the joys of heaven seem to me less desirable
than her affection. An eternity of suffering would be little in exchange
for one moment of the infinite bliss with which one of those glances
that pass like lightning inundates my soul.

When I return home, when I am alone in my room, in the silence of the
night, I realize all the horror of my position, and I form good
resolutions, only to break them again.

I resolve to feign sickness, to make use of any pretext so as not to go
to Pepita's on the following night, and yet I go.

My father, confiding to the last degree, says to me when the hour
arrives, without any suspicion of what is passing in my soul:

"Go you to Pepita's; I will go later, when I have finished with the
overseer."

No excuse occurs to me; I can find no pretext for not going, and,
instead of answering, "I can not go," I take my hat and depart.

On entering the room I shake hands with Pepita, and, as our hands touch,
she casts a spell over me; my whole being is changed; a devouring fire
penetrates my heart, and I think only of her. Moved by an irresistible
impulse, I gaze at her with insane ardor, and at every instant I think I
discover in her new perfections. Now it is the dimples in her cheeks
when she smiles, now the roseate whiteness of her skin, now the straight
outlines of her nose, now the smallness of her ear, now the softness of
contour and the admirable modeling of her throat.

I enter her house against my will, as though summoned there by a
conjurer, and no sooner am I there than I fall under the spell of her
enchantment. I see clearly that I am in the power of an enchantress,
whose fascination is irresistible.

Not only is she pleasing to my sight, but her words sound in my ears
like the music of the spheres, revealing to my soul the harmony of the
universe; and I even fancy that a subtle fragrance emanates from her,
sweeter than the perfume of the mint that grows by the brook-side, or
the wood-like odor of the thyme that is found among the hills.

I know not how, in this state of exaltation, I am able to play _hombre,_
or to converse rationally, or even to speak, so completely am I absorbed
in her.

When our glances encounter each other, our souls rush forth in them, and
seem to join and interpenetrate each other. In that meeting a thousand
feelings are communicated that in no other way could be made known;
poems are recited that could be uttered in no human tongue, and songs
are sung that no human voice could sing, no according zither accompany.

Since the day I met Pepita in the _Pozo de la Solana_, I have not seen
her alone. Although no word has passed between us, yet we have told each
other everything.

When I withdraw myself from this fascination, when I am again alone at
night in my chamber, I set myself to examine coolly the situation in
which I am placed; I see the abyss that is about to ingulf me, yawning
before me, and I feel my feet slip from under me, and that I am sinking
into it.

You counsel me to reflect upon death--not on the death of this woman,
but on my own. You counsel me to reflect on the instability, on the
insecurity of our existence, and on what there is beyond it. But these
considerations, these reflections neither terrify nor daunt me. Why
should I, who desire to die, fear death? Love and death are brothers. A
sentiment of self-abnegation springs to life within me, and tells me
that my whole being should be consecrated to and annihilated in the
beloved object. I long to merge myself in one of her glances; to diffuse
and exhale my whole being in the ray of light shot forth from her eyes;
to die while gazing on her, even though I should be eternally lost.

What is still to some extent efficacious with me against this love is
not fear, but love itself. Superior to this deep-rooted love with which
I now have the evidence that Pepita inspires me, Divine love exalts
itself in my spirit in mighty uprising. Then everything is changed
within me, and I feel that I may yet obtain the victory. The object of
my higher love presents itself to my mental vision, as the sun that
kindles and illuminates all things, and fills all space with light; and
the object of my inferior love appears but as an atom of dust floating
in the sunbeam. All its beauty, all its splendor, all its attraction are
nothing but the reflection of this uncreated sun, the brilliant,
transitory, fleeting spark that is cast off from that infinite and
inexhaustible fire.

My soul, burning with love, would fain take to herself wings and rise to
that flame, in order that all that is impure within her might be
consumed therein.

My life, for some days past, is a constant struggle. I know not how it
is that the malady from which I suffer does not betray itself in my
countenance. I scarcely eat; I scarcely sleep. And if by chance sleep
closes my eyelids, I awake in terror as from a dream in which rebel
angels are arrayed against good angels, and in which I am one of the
combatants. In this conflict of light against darkness, I do battle for
the right, but I sometimes imagine that I have gone over to the enemy,
that I am a vile deserter; and I hear a voice from Patmos saying, "And
men preferred darkness rather than light"; and then I am filled with
terror and I look upon myself as lost. No resource is left me but
flight. If, before the end of the month, my father does not go with me,
or consent to my going alone, I shall steal away like a thief, without a
word to any one.

_May 23d._

I am a vile worm, not a man; I am the opprobrium and disgrace of
humanity. I am a hypocrite.

I have been encompassed by the pangs of death, and the waters of
iniquity have passed over me.

I am ashamed to write to you, and yet I write. I desire to confess
everything to you.

I can not turn away from evil. Far from abstaining from going to
Pepita's, I go there each night earlier than the last. It would seem as
if devils took me by the feet and carried me there against my will!

Happily, I never find Pepita alone; I do not desire to find her alone. I
almost always find there before me the excellent vicar, who attributes
our friendship to similarity of feeling in religious matters, and bases
it on piety, like the pure and innocent friendship he himself entertains
for her.

The progress of my malady is rapid. Like the stone that is loosened from
the mountain-top and gathers force as it falls, so is it with my spirit
now.

When Pepita and I shake hands, it is not now as before. Each one of us,
by an effort of the will, transmits to the other, through the handclasp,
every throb of the heart. It is as if, by some diabolical art, we had
effected a transfusion and a blending together of the most subtle
elements our blood. She must feel my life circulate through her veins,
as I feel hers in mine.

When I am near her, I love her; when I am away from her, I hate her.
When I am in her presence she inspires me with love; she draws me to
her; she subjugates me with gentleness; she lays upon me a very easy
yoke.

But the recollection of her undoes me. When I dream of her, I dream that
she is severing my head from my body, as Judith slew the captain of the
Assyrians; or that she is driving a nail into my temple, as Jael did to
Sisera. But when I am near her, she appears to me the Spouse of the Song
of Songs, and a voice within me calls to her, and I bless her, and I
regard her as a sealed fountain, as an inclosed garden, as the flower of
the valley, as the lily of the fields, my dove and my sister.

I desire to free myself from her, and I can not. I abhor, yet I almost
worship her. Her spirit enters into and takes possession of me as soon
as I behold her; it subjugates me, it abases me.

I leave her house each night, saying, "This is the last night I shall
return here"; and I return there on the following night!

When she speaks, and I am near, my soul hangs, as it were, upon her
words. When she smiles, I imagine that a ray of spiritual light enters
into my heart and rejoices it.

It has happened, when playing _hombre_, that our knees have touched by
chance, and then I have felt a thrill run through me impossible to
describe.

Get me away from this place. Write to my father and ask him to let me
return to you. If it be necessary, tell him everything. Help me! Be you
my refuge!

_May 30th._

God has given me strength to resist, and I have resisted.

It is now many days since I have been in the house of Pepita, many days
since I have seen her.

It is scarcely necessary that I should feign sickness, for I am in
reality sick. I have lost my color, and dark circles begin to show
themselves under my eyes; and my father asks me, full of affectionate
anxiety, what the cause of my suffering is, and manifests the deepest
concern in my regard.

The kingdom of heaven is said to yield to violence, and I am resolved to
conquer it. With violence I call at its gates that they may open to me.

With wormwood am I fed by the Lord, in order to prove me; and in vain do
I supplicate him to let this cup of bitterness pass away from me. But,
as I have passed and still pass many nights in vigil, delivered up to
prayer, a loving inspiration from the Supreme Consoler has come to
sweeten the bitterness of my cup.

I have beheld with the eyes of the soul the new country; and the new
song of the heavenly Jerusalem has resounded within the depths of my
heart.

If in the end I should conquer, glorious will be the victory; but I
shall owe it to the Queen of Angels, under whose protection I place
myself. She is my refuge and my defense; the tower and the house of
David, on whose walls hang innumerable shields and the armor of many
valiant champions; the cedar of Lebanon, that puts to flight the
serpent.

The woman who inspires me with an earthly love, on the contrary, I
endeavor to despise and abase in my thoughts, remembering the words of
the sage, and applying them to her.

"Thou art the snare of the hunter," I say to her; "thy heart is a net of
deceit, and thy hands are bands that imprison; he who fears God will
flee from thee, and the sinner shall be taken captive by thee."

In my meditations on love, I find a thousand reasons for loving God, and
against loving her.

I feel, in the depths of my heart, an indescribable enthusiasm that
convinces me that for the love of God I would sacrifice all
things--fame, honor, power, dominion. I feel myself capable of imitating
Christ, and if the tempter should carry me off to the mountain-top, and
should there offer me all the kingdoms of the earth if I consented to
bow the knee before him, yet would I not bend it. But were he to offer
me this woman if I should do so, I feel that I should waver, that I
should not reject his offer. Is this woman, then, worth more in my eyes
than all the kingdoms of the earth? More than fame, honor, power, and
dominion?

Is the virtue of love, I ask myself at times, always the same, even when
applied to diverse objects; or are there two species and qualities of
love? To love God seems to me to be the giving up of self and of selfish
interest. Loving him, I desire to love, and I can love all things
through him, and I am not troubled or jealous because of his love toward
all things. I am not jealous of the saints, or of the martyrs, or of the
blessed, or even of the seraphim. The greater I picture to myself to be
the love of God for his creatures, and the graces and gifts he bestows
upon them, the less am I troubled by jealousy; the more I love him, the
nearer to me do I feel him to be, and the more loving and gracious does
he seem toward me. My brotherhood, my more than brotherhood with all
creatures, stands forth then in a most pleasing light. It seems to me
that I am one with all things, and that all things are bound together in
the bonds of love, through God and in God.

Very different is it when my thoughts dwell upon Pepita, and on the love
with which she inspires me. This love is a love full of hatred, that
separates me from everything but myself. I desire her for myself,
altogether for myself, and myself altogether for her. Even devotion to
her, even sacrifices made for her sake, partake of the nature of
selfishness. To die for her would be to die of despair at not being able
to possess her in any other manner--from the fear of not enjoying her
love completely, except by dying and commingling with her in an eternal
embrace.

By these reflections I endeavor to render the love of Pepita hateful to
me. I invest my love in my imagination with something diabolical and
fatal; but, as if I possessed a double soul, a double understanding, a
double will, and a double imagination, in contradiction to this thought,
other feelings rise up within me in its train, and I then deny what I
have just affirmed, and insanely endeavor to reconcile the two loves.
Would it not be possible, I ask myself, to fly from Pepita, and yet
continue to love her, without ceasing therefore to consecrate myself
with fervor to the love of God? For, as the love of God does not
exclude love of country, love of humanity, love of learning, love of
beauty in nature and in art, neither should it exclude another love, if
it be spiritual and immaculate. I will make of her, I say to myself, a
symbol, an allegory, an image of all that is good, of all that is
beautiful. She shall be to me, as Beatrice was to Dante, the image and
the symbol of country, of knowledge, and of beauty.

This intention suggests to me a horrible fancy, a monstrous thought. In
order to make of Pepita this symbol, this vaporous and ethereal image,
this sign and epitome of all that I can love under God, in God, and
subordinate to God, I picture her to myself dead, as Beatrice was dead
when Dante made her the subject of his song.

If I picture her to myself among the living, then I am unable to convert
her into a pure idea, and if I convert her into a pure idea, I kill her
in my thoughts.

Then I weep; I am filled with horror at my crime, and I draw near to her
in spirit, and with the warmth of my heart I bring her back to life
again; and I behold her, not errant, diaphanous, floating in shadowy
outline among roseate clouds and celestial flowers, as the stern
Ghibelline beheld his beloved in the upper sphere of purgatory, but
coherent, solid, clearly defined in the pure and serene air like the
masterpieces of Greek art, like Galatea already animated by the love of
Pygmalion, and descending--full of fire, exhaling love, rich in youth
and beauty--from her pedestal of marble.

Then I exclaim in the depths of my perturbed heart: "My virtue faints!
My God, do not thou forsake me! Hasten to my help; show thy countenance,
and I shall be saved."

Thus do I recover strength to resist temptation. Thus again does the
hope spring to life within me, that I shall regain my former
tranquillity when I shall have left this place.

The devil longs with ardor to swallow up the pure waters of Jordan, by
which are symbolized the persons who are consecrated to God. Hell
conspires against them, and lets loose all her monsters, upon them. St.
Bonaventure says, "We should not wonder that these persons have sinned,
but rather that they have not sinned."

Notwithstanding, I shall be able to resist and not sin. The Lord will
protect me.

_June 6th._

Pepita's nurse--now her housekeeper--is, as my father says, a good bag
of wrinkles; she is talkative, gay, and skillful, as few are. She
married the son of Master Cencias, and has inherited from the father
what the son did not inherit--a wonderful facility for the mechanical
arts, with this difference; that while Master Cencias could set the
screw of a wine-press, or repair the wheels of a wagon, or make a plow,
this daughter-in-law of his knows how to make sweetmeats, conserves of
honey, and other dainties. The father-in-law practiced the useful arts,
the daughter-in-law those that have for their object pleasure, though
only innocent, or at least lawful pleasure.

Antoñona--for such is her name--is permitted, or assumes, the greatest
familiarity with all the gentry here. She goes in and out of every house
as if it were her own. She says _thou_ to all the young people of
Pepita's age, or four or five years older; she calls them _niño_ and
_niña,_ and treats them as if she had nursed them at her breast.

She behaves toward me with the same familiarity; she comes to visit me,
enters my room unannounced, and has asked me several times already why I
no longer go to see her mistress, and has told me that I am wrong in not
going.

My father, who has no suspicion of the truth, accuses me of
eccentricity; he calls me an owl, and he, too, is determined that I
shall resume my visits to Pepita. Last night I could no longer resist
his repeated importunities, and I went to her house very early, as my
father was about to settle his accounts with the overseer.

Would God I had not gone!

Pepita was alone. When our glances met, when we saluted each other, we
both turned red. We shook hands with timidity and in silence.

I did not press her hand, nor did she press mine, but for a moment we
held them clasped together.

In Pepita's glance, as she looked at me, there was nothing of love;
there was only friendship, sympathy, and a profound sadness.

She had divined the whole of my inward struggle; she was persuaded that
divine love had triumphed in my soul; that my resolution not to love her
was firm and invincible.

She did not venture to complain of me; she had no reason to complain of
me; she knew that right was on my side. A sigh, scarcely perceptible,
that escaped from her dewy, parted lips, revealed to me the depth of her
sorrow.

Her hand still lay in mine; we were both silent. How say to her that she
was not destined for me, nor I for her; that we must part forever?

But, though my lips refused to tell her this in words, I told it to her
with my eyes; my severe glance confirmed her fears; it convinced her of
the irrevocableness of my decision.

All at once her gaze was troubled; her lovely countenance, pale with a
translucent pallor, was contracted with a touching expression of
melancholy. She looked like Our Lady of Sorrows. Two tears rose slowly
to her eyes, and began to steal down her cheeks.

I know not what passed within me--and how describe it, even if I knew?

I bent toward her to kiss away her tears, and our lips met in a kiss.

A rapture unspeakable, a faintness full of peril, invaded our whole
being. She would have fallen, but that I supported her in my arms.

Heaven willed that we should at this moment hear the step and the cough
of the reverend vicar, who was approaching, and we instantly drew apart.

Recovering myself, and summoning all the strength of my will, I brought
to an end this terrible scene, that had been enacted in silence, with
these words, which I pronounced in low and intense accents:

"The first and the last!"

I made allusion to our profane kiss, but, as if my words had been an
invocation, there rose before me the vision of the Apocalypse in all its
terrible majesty. I beheld Him who is indeed the First and the Last,
and, with the two-edged sword that proceeded from his mouth, he pierced
my soul, full of evil, of wickedness, and of sin.

All that evening I passed in a species of frenzy, an inward delirium,
that I know not how I was able to conceal.

I withdrew from Pepita's house very early.

The anguish of my soul was yet more poignant in solitude.

When I recalled that kiss, and those words of farewell, I compared
myself with the traitor Judas, who made use of a kiss to betray; and
with the sanguinary and treacherous assassin Joab, who plunged the sharp
steel into the bowels of Amasa while in the act of kissing him.

I had committed a double treason; I had been guilty of a double perfidy.
I had sinned against God and against her.

I am an execrable wretch.

_June 11th._

Everything may still be remedied.

Pepita will, in time, forget her love and the weakness of which we were
guilty.

Since that night I have not returned to her house. Antoñona has not made
her appearance in ours.

By dint of entreaties I have obtained a formal promise from my father
that we shall leave here on the 25th, the day after St. John's day,
which is here celebrated with splendid feasts, and on the eve of which
there is a famous vigil.

Absent from Pepita, I begin to recover my serenity, and to think that
this first appearance of love was a trial of my virtue.

All these nights I have prayed, I have watched, I have performed many
works of penance.

The persistence of my prayers, the deep contrition of my soul, have
found favor with the Lord, who has manifested to me his great mercy.

The Lord, in the words of the prophet, has sent fire to the stronghold
of my spirit, he has illuminated my understanding, he has kindled my
resolution, and he has given me instruction. The working of the Divine
love which animates the Supreme Will has had power, at times, without my
deserving it, to lead me to that condition of prayerful contemplation in
which all the faculties of the soul are in repose. I have cast out from
the lower faculties of my soul every species of image--even her image;
and I am persuaded, if vanity does not deceive me, that, mind and heart
in reconciliation, I have known and enjoyed the Supreme Good that dwells
within the depths of the soul.

Compared with this good, all else is worthless; compared with this
beauty, all else is deformity. Who would not forget and scorn every
other love for the love of God?

Yes, the profane image of this woman shall depart, finally and forever,
from my soul. I shall make of my prayers and of my penance a sharp
scourge, and with it I will expel her therefrom, as Christ expelled the
money-lenders from the temple.

_June 18th._

This is the last letter I shall write to you. On the 25th I shall leave
this place without fail.

I shall soon have the happiness of embracing you. Near you I shall be
stronger; you will infuse courage into me, and lend me the energy in
which I am wanting.

A tempest of conflicting emotions is raging now in my soul. The disorder
of my ideas may be known by the disorder of what I write.

Twice I returned to the house of Pepita. I was cold and stern. I was as
I ought to have been, but how much did it not cost me!

My father told me yesterday that Pepita was indisposed, and would not
receive.

The thought at once assailed me that the cause of her indisposition
might be her ill-requited love.

Why did I return her glances of fire? Why did I basely deceive her? Why
did I make her believe I loved her? Why did my vile lips seek hers with
ardor, and communicate the ardor of an unholy love to hers?

But no; my sin shall not be followed, as its unavoidable consequence, by
another sin!

What has been, has been, and can not be undone; but a repetition of it
may be avoided, shall be avoided in future.

On the 25th, I repeat, I shall depart from here without fail.

The impudent Antoñona has just come to see me. I hid this letter from
her, as if it were a crime to write to you.

Antoñona remained here only for a moment.

I arose, and remained standing while I spoke to her, that the visit
might be a short one.

During this short visit she gave utterance to a thousand absurdities
that afflict me profoundly. Finally, as she was going away, she
exclaimed, in her half-gypsy jargon:

"Get away, you deceiver! you villain! my curse upon you! You have made
the child sick, and now you are killing her with your subterfuges. May
witches fly away with you, body and bones!"

Having said this, the fiendish woman gave me, in a coarse plebeian
fashion, six or seven ferocious pinches below the shoulders, as if she
would like to tear the skin from my back in strips; and then went away,
looking daggers at me.

I do not complain. I deserve this brutal jest, granting it to be a jest.
I deserve that fiends should tear my flesh with red-hot pincers.

Grant, my God, that Pepita may forget me; let her, if it be necessary,
love another, and be happy with him!

Can I do more than ask thee this, O my God?

My father knows nothing, suspects nothing; it is better thus.

Farewell for a few days, till we see and embrace each other again.

How changed will you find me! How full of bitterness my heart! How lost
my innocence! How bruised and wounded my soul!



II.

PARALIPOMENA.


Here end the letters of Don Luis de Vargas. We should therefore be left
in ignorance of the subsequent fortunes of these lovers, and this simple
and ardent love-story would have remained without an ending, if one
familiar with all the circumstances had not left us the following
narrative:

No one in the village found anything strange in the fact of Pepita's
being indisposed, or thought, still less, of attributing her
indisposition to a cause of which only we, Pepita herself, Don Luis, the
reverend dean, and the discreet Antoñona, are thus far cognizant.

They might rather have wondered at the life, of gayety that Pepita had
been leading for some time past, at the daily gatherings at her house,
and the excursions into the country in which she had joined. That Pepita
should return to her habitual seclusion was quite natural.

Her secret and deeply rooted love for Don Luis was hidden from the
searching glances of Doña Casilda, of Currito, and of all the other
personages of the village of whom mention is made in the letters of Don
Luis. Still less could the public know of it. It never entered into the
head, of any one--no one imagined for a moment that the theologian, the
_saint,_ as they called Don Luis, could become the rival of his father,
or could have succeeded where the redoubtable and powerful Don Pedro de
Vargas had failed--in winning the heart of the lovely, graceful, coy,
and reserved young widow.

Notwithstanding the familiarity of the ladies of the village with their
servants, Pepita had allowed none of hers to suspect anything. Only the
lynx-eyed Antoñona, whom nothing could escape, and more especially
nothing that concerned her young mistress, had penetrated the mystery.

Antoñona did not conceal her discovery from Pepita, nor could Pepita
deny the truth to the woman who had nursed her, who idolized her, and
who, if she delighted in finding out and gossiping about all that took
place in the village, being, as she was, a model scandal-monger, was
yet, in all that related to her mistress, reticent and loyal as but few
are.

In this manner Antoñona made herself the confidante of Pepita; and
Pepita found great consolation in unburdening her heart to one who,
though she might be cross and vulgar in the frankness with which she
expressed her sentiments, was not so either in the sentiments or the
ideas that she expressed.

In this may be found the explanation of Antoñona's visits to Don Luis,
as well as of her words, and even of the ferocious and disrespectful
pinches, given in so ill-chosen a spot, with which she bruised his flesh
and wounded his dignity, on the occasion of her last visit to him.

Not only had Pepita not desired Antoñona to carry messages to Don Luis,
but she did not even know that she had gone to see him. Antoñona had
taken the initiative, and had interfered in the matter simply because
she herself had wanted to do so.

As we have already said, she had, with wonderful perspicacity, made
herself acquainted with the state of affairs between her mistress and
Don Luis.

While Pepita herself was still scarcely conscious of the fact that she
loved Don Luis, Antoñona already knew it. Scarcely had Pepita begun to
cast on him those furtive glances, ardent and involuntary, that had
wrought such havoc--glances which had been intercepted by none of those
present when they were given--than Antoñona, who was not present, had
already spoken of them to Pepita. And no sooner had those glances been
returned in kind, than Antoñona also knew it.

There was but little left, then, for the mistress to confide to a
servant of so much penetration, and who was so skilled in divination of
what passed in the inmost recesses of her breast.

       *       *       *       *       *

Five days after the date of Don Luis's last letter, our narrative
begins.

It was eleven o'clock in the morning. Pepita was in an apartment on an
upper floor, contiguous to her bedroom and dressing-room, where no one
ever entered without being summoned, save Antoñona.

The furniture of this apartment was simple, but comfortable and in good
taste. The curtains and the covering of the easy-chairs, the sofas and
the arm-chairs, were of a flowered cotton fabric. On a mahogany table
were writing materials and papers, and in a book-case, also of mahogany,
were many books of devotion and history. The walls were adorned with
pictures--engravings on religious subjects, but with this particularity
in their selection, unheard-of, extraordinary, almost incredible in an
Andalusian village, that, instead of being bad French lithographs, they
were engravings in the best style of Spanish art, as the _Spasimo di
Sicilia_, of Rafael; the _St. Ildefonso and the Virgin_, the
_Conception_, the _St. Bernard_, and the two _Lunettes_ of Murillo.

On an antique oak table, supported by fluted columns, was a small
writing-desk, or escritoire, inlaid with shell, mother-of-pearl, ivory,
and brass, and containing a great many little drawers, in which Pepita
kept bills and other papers. On this table were also two porcelain vases
filled with flowers; and, finally, hanging against the walls, were
several flower-pots of Seville Carthusian ware, containing ivy,
geranium, and other plants, and three gilded cages, in which were
canaries and larks.

This apartment was the retreat of Pepita, where no one entered during
the daytime except the doctor and the reverend vicar, and, in the
evening, only the overseer to settle accounts. This apartment was called
the library, and served the purpose of one.

Pepita was seated, half reclining, on a sofa, before which stood a small
table with some books upon it.

She had just risen, and was attired in a light summer wrapper. Her
blonde hair, not yet arranged, looked even more beautiful in its
disorder. Her countenance, somewhat pale, and, although it still
preserved its fresh and youthful aspect, showing dark circles under the
eyes, looked more beautiful than ever under the influence of the malady,
that robbed it of color.

Pepita showed signs of impatience; she was waiting for some one.

At last the person she was awaiting, who proved to be the reverend
vicar, arrived, and entered without announcement.

After the usual salutations the reverend vicar settled himself
comfortably in an easy-chair, and the conversation thus began:

"I am very glad, my child, that you sent for me; but, even without your
doing so, I was just coming to see you. How pale you are! What is it
that ails you? Have you something of importance to tell me?"

Pepita began her answer to this series of affectionate inquiries with a
deep sigh; she then said:

"Do you not divine my malady? Have you not discovered the cause of my
suffering?"

The vicar made a gesture of denial, and looked at Pepita with something
like terror in his gaze; for he knew nothing of all that had taken
place, and was struck by the vehemence with which she spoke.

Pepita continued:

"I ought not to have sent for you, father. I should have gone to the
church myself instead, to speak with you in the confessional, and there
confess my sins. But, unhappily, far from repenting of them my heart has
hardened itself in wickedness. I have neither the courage nor the
desire to speak to the confessor, but only to the friend."

"What are you saying about sins and hardness of heart? Have you taken
leave of your senses? What sins can you have committed, you who are so
good?"

"No, father, I am not good. I have been deceiving you; I have been
deceiving myself; I have tried to deceive God."

"Come, come, calm yourself; speak with moderation and common sense, and
don't talk foolishly."

"And how shall I avoid talking foolishly when the spirit of evil
possesses me?"

"Holy Virgin! Don't talk nonsense, child; the demons most to be feared
that take possession of the soul are three, and none of them, I am
certain, can have dared to enter into yours. One is Leviathan, or the
spirit of Pride; the other is Mammon, or the spirit of Avarice; and the
other is Asmodeus or the spirit of Unholy Love."

"Well, I am the victim of all three; all three hold dominion over me."

"This is dreadful! Calm yourself, I repeat. The real trouble with you is
that you are out of your head."

"Would to God it were so! The contrary, unhappily for me, is the case. I
am avaricious, because I possess riches, and do not perform the works
of charity I ought to perform; I am proud, because I scorn the addresses
of my many suitors, not through virtue, not through modesty, but because
I thought them unworthy of my love. God has punished me; God has
permitted the third enemy you have named to take possession of me."

"How is this, child? What diabolical notion has entered into your mind?
Have you by chance fallen in love? And, if you have, what harm is there
in that? Are you not free? Get married, then, and stop talking nonsense.
I am certain it is my friend Don Pedro de Vargas who has wrought the
miracle. That same Don Pedro is the very devil! I confess I am
surprised, though. I did not think matters had gone quite so far as that
already."

"But it is not Don Pedro de Vargas I am in love with."

"And with whom, then?"

Pepita rose from her seat, went to the door, opened it, looked to see if
any one was listening outside, drew near to the reverend vicar, and,
with signs of the deepest distress, in a trembling voice, and with tears
in her eyes, said, almost in the ear of the good old man:

"I am hopelessly in love with his son."

"With whose son?" cried the reverend vicar, who could not yet bring
himself to believe what he had heard.

"With whose son should it be? I am hopelessly, desperately in love with
Don Luis."

Consternation and dolorous surprise were depicted on the countenance of
the kind and simple priest. There was a moment's pause; the vicar then
said:

"But this is a love without hope; a love not to be thought of. Don Luis
will not love you in return."

In the midst of the tears that clouded the beautiful eyes of Pepita
gleamed a joyful light; her rosy, dewy lips, contracted by sorrow,
parted in a smile, disclosing to view her pearly teeth.

"He loves me," said Pepita, with a faint and ill-concealed accent of
satisfaction and triumph that rose exultant over her sorrow and her
scruples of conscience.

The consternation and the astonishment of the reverend vicar here
reached their highest pitch. If the saint to whom he paid his most
fervent devotions had been suddenly cast down from the altar before him,
and had fallen, broken into a thousand fragments at his feet, the
reverend vicar could not have felt greater consternation than he did. He
still looked at Pepita with incredulity, as if doubting whether what she
had said were true, or only a delusion of feminine vanity, so firmly
did he believe in the holiness of Don Luis, and in his
spiritual-mindedness.

"He loves me," Pepita repeated, in answer to his incredulous glance.

"Women are worse than the very devil!" said the vicar. "You would set a
snare for the old boy himself."

"Did I not tell you already that I was very wicked?"

"Come, come! calm yourself. The mercy of God is infinite. Tell me all
that has happened."

"What should have happened? That he is dear to me; that I love him; that
I adore him; that he loves me, too, although he strives to conquer his
love, and, in the end, may succeed in doing so; and that you, without
knowing it, are very much to blame for it all!"

"Well, this caps the climax! What do you mean by saying I am very much
to blame?"

"With the extreme goodness that is characteristic of you, you have done
nothing but praise Don Luis to me; and I am sure that you have
pronounced still greater eulogies on me to him, although very much less
deserved. What is the natural consequence? Am I of bronze? Have I not
the passions of youth?"

"You are more than right; I am a dolt: I have contributed, in great
part, to this work of Lucifer."

The reverend vicar was so truly good, and so full of humility, that,
while pronouncing the preceding words, he showed as much confusion and
remorse as if he were the culprit and Pepita the judge.

Pepita, conscious of her injustice and want of generosity in thus making
the reverend vicar the accomplice, and scarcely less than the chief
author of her fault, spoke to him thus:

"Don't torment yourself, father; for God's sake, don't torment yourself!
You see now how perverse I am. I commit the greatest sins, and I want to
throw the responsibility of them on the best and the most virtuous of
men. It is not the praises you have recited to me of Don Luis that have
been my ruin, but my own eyes, and my want of circumspection. Even
though you had never spoken to me of the good qualities of Don Luis, I
should still have discovered them all by hearing him speak; for, after
all, I am not so ignorant, nor so great a fool. And, in any case, I
myself have seen the grace of his person, the natural and untaught
elegance of his manners, his eyes full of fire and intelligence, his
whole self, in a word, which seems to me altogether amiable and
desirable. Your eulogies of him have indeed pleased my vanity, but they
did not awaken my inclinations. Your praises charmed me because they
coincided with my own opinion, and were like the flattering
echo--deadened, indeed, and faint--of my thoughts. The most eloquent
encomium you have pronounced, in my hearing, on Don Luis, was far from
being equal to the encomiums that I, at each moment, at each instant,
silently pronounced upon him in my own soul."

"Don't excite yourself, child," interrupted the reverend vicar.

Pepita continued, with still greater exaltation:

"But what a difference between your encomiums and my thoughts! For you
Don Luis was the exemplary model of the priest, the missionary, the
apostle, now preaching the gospel in distant lands, now endeavoring in
Spain to elevate Christianity, so degraded in our day through the
impiety of some, and the want of virtue, of charity, and of knowledge,
of others. I, on the contrary, pictured him to myself handsome, loving,
forgetting God for me, consecrating his life to me, giving me his soul,
becoming my stay, my support, my sweet companion. I longed to commit a
sacrilegious theft: I dreamed of stealing him from God and from his
temple, like the thief who, proclaiming himself the enemy of Heaven,
robs the sacred monstrance of its most precious jewel. To commit this
theft I have put off the mourning garments of the widow and orphan, and
have decked myself with profane adornments; I have abandoned my
seclusion, and I have sought and gathered around me society. I have
tried to make myself look beautiful; I have cared for every part of this
miserable body--that must one day be lowered into the grave, and be
converted into dust--with an unholy devotion; and, finally, I have
looked at Don Luis with provoking glances, and on shaking hands with him
I have sought to transmit from my veins to his, the inextinguishable
fire that is consuming me."

"Alas! my child, what grief it gives me to hear this! Who could have
imagined it?" said the vicar.

"But there is still more," resumed Pepita; "I succeeded in making Don
Luis love me. He declared it to me with his eyes. Yes, his love is as
profound, as ardent as mine. His virtues, his aspirations toward
heavenly things, his manly energy, have all urged him to conquer this
insensate passion. I sought to prevent this. One day, at the end of many
days during which he had stayed away, he came to see me, and found me
alone. When he gave me his hand, I wept; I could not speak, but hell
inspired me with an accursed, mute eloquence that told him of my grief
that he had scorned me, that he did not return my love, that he
preferred another love--a love without stain--to mine. Then he was
unable to resist the temptation, and he approached his lips to my face
to kiss away my tears. Our lips met. If God had not willed that you
should approach at that moment, what would have become of me?"

"How shameful! my child, how shameful!" said the reverend vicar.

Pepita covered her face with both hands and began to sob like a
Magdalen. Her hands were, in truth, beautiful, more beautiful even than
Don Luis had described them to be in his letters. Their whiteness, their
pure transparency, the tapering form of the fingers, the roseate hue,
the polish and the brilliancy of the pearl-like nails, all were such as
might turn the head of any man.

The virtuous vicar could understand, notwithstanding his eighty years,
the fall, or rather the slip, of Don Luis.

"Child!" he exclaimed, "don't cry so! It breaks my heart to see you.
Calm yourself; Don Luis has no doubt repented of his sin; do you repent
likewise, and nothing more need be said. God will pardon you both, and
make a couple of saints of you. Since Don Luis is going away the day
after to-morrow, it is a sure sign that virtue has triumphed in him, and
that he flies from you, as he should, that he may do penance for his
sin, fulfill his vow, and return to his vocation."

"That is all very well," replied Pepita; "fulfill his vow, return to his
vocation, after giving me my death-wound! Why did he love me, why did he
encourage me, why did he deceive me? His kiss was a brand, it was as a
hot iron with which he marked me and stamped me as his slave. Now that I
am marked and enslaved, he abandons and betrays and destroys me. A good
beginning to give to his missions, his preachings, and gospel triumphs!
It shall not be! By Heaven, it shall not be!"

This outbreak of anger and scorned love confounded the reverend vicar.

Pepita had risen. Her attitude, her gesture, had something in them of
tragic animation. Her eyes gleamed like daggers; they shone like two
suns. The vicar was silent, and regarded her almost with terror. She
paced with hasty steps up and down the apartment. She did not now seem
like a timid gazelle, but like an angry lioness.

"What!" she said, once more facing the vicar, "has he nothing to do but
laugh at me, tear my heart to pieces, humiliate it, trample it under
foot, after having cheated me out of it? He shall remember me! He shall
pay me for this! If he is so holy, if he is so virtuous, why did he,
with his glance, promise me everything? If he loves God so much, why
does he seek to hurt one of God's poor creatures? Is this charity? Is
this religion? No; it is pitiless selfishness."

Pepita's anger could not last long. After she had spoken the last words,
it turned to dejection. She sank into a chair, weeping bitterly, and
abandoning herself to an anguish heart-breaking to witness.

The vicar's heart was touched with pity; but he recovered himself on
seeing that the enemy gave signs of yielding.

"Pepita, child," he said, "be reasonable; don't torment yourself in this
way. Console yourself with the thought that it was not without a hard
struggle he was able to conquer himself; that he has not deceived you;
that he loves you with his whole soul, but that God and his duty come
first. This life is short, and soon passes. In heaven you will be
reunited, and will love each other, as the angels love. God will accept
your sacrifice; he will reward you, and repay you with interest. Even
your self-love ought to be satisfied. How great must be your merit, when
you have caused a man like Don Luis to waver in his resolution, and even
to sin! How deep must be the wound you have made in his heart! Let this
suffice you. Be generous! be courageous! Be his rival in firmness. Let
him depart; cast out from your heart the fire of impure love; love him
as your neighbor, for the love of God. Guard his image in your memory,
but as that of the creature, reserving to the Creator the noblest part
of your soul. I know not what I am saying to you, my child, for I am
very much troubled; but you have a great deal of intelligence and a
great deal of common sense, and you will understand what I mean.
Besides, there are powerful worldly reasons against this absurd love,
even if the vocation and the vow of Don Luis were not opposed to it. His
father is your suitor. He aspires to your hand, even though you do not
love him. Does it look well that the son should turn out now to be the
rival of his father? Will not the father be displeased with the son for
loving you? See how dreadful all this is, and control yourself for the
sake of Jesus and his blessed Mother."

"How easy it is to give advice!" returned Pepita, becoming a little
calmer. "How hard for me to follow it, when there is a fierce and
unchained tempest, as it were, raging in my soul! I am afraid I shall go
mad."

"The advice I give you is for your own good. Let Don Luis depart.
Absence is a great remedy for the malady of love. In giving himself up
to his studies, and consecrating himself to the service of the altar, he
will be cured of his passion. When he is far away, you will recover your
serenity by degrees, and will preserve in your memory only a grateful
and melancholy recollection of him that will do you no harm. It will be
like a beautiful poem whose music will harmonize your existence. Even if
all your desires could be fulfilled--earthly love lasts, after all, but
a short time. The delight the imagination anticipates in its
enjoyment--what is it in comparison with the bitter dregs that remain
behind, when the cup has been drained to the bottom? How much better is
it that your love, hardly yet contaminated, hardly despoiled of its
purity, should be dissipated, and exhale itself now, rising up to heaven
like a cloud of incense, than that, after it is once satisfied, it
should perish through satiety! Have the courage to put away from your
lips the cup while you have hardly tasted of its contents. Make of them
a libation and an offering to the Divine Redeemer. He will give you, in
exchange, the draught he offered to the Samaritan--a draught that does
not satiate, that quenches the thirst, and that produces eternal life."

"How good you are, father! Your holy words lend me courage. I will
control myself; I will conquer myself. It would be shameful--would it
not?--that Don Luis should be able to control and conquer himself, and
that I should not be able to do so? Let him depart. He is going away the
day after to-morrow; let him go with God's blessing. See his card. He
was here with his father to take leave of me, and I would not receive
him. I do not even want to preserve the poetical remembrance of him of
which you speak. This love has been a nightmare; I will cast it away
from me."

"Good! very good! It is thus that I want to see you--energetic,
courageous."

"Ah, father, God has cast down my pride with this blow. I was insolent
in my arrogance, and the scorn of this man was necessary to my
self-abasement. Could I be more humbled or more resigned than I am now?
Don Luis is right: I am not worthy of him. However great the efforts I
might make, I could not succeed in elevating myself to him and
comprehending him, in putting my spirit into perfect communication with
his. I am a rude country girl, unlearned, uncultured; and he--there is
no science he does not understand, no secret of which he is ignorant, no
region of the intellectual world, however exalted, to which he may not
soar. Thither on the wings of his genius does he mount; and me he leaves
behind in this lower sphere, poor, ignorant woman that I am, incapable
of following him even in my hopes or with my aspirations."

"But, Pepita, for Heaven's sake don't say such things, or think them!
Don Luis does not scorn you because you are ignorant, or because you are
incapable of comprehending him, or for any other of those absurd reasons
that you are stringing together. He goes away because he must fulfill
his obligation toward God; and you should rejoice that he is going away,
for you will then forget your love for him, and God will reward you for
the sacrifice you make."

       *       *       *       *       *

Pepita, who had left off crying, and had dried her tears with her
handkerchief, answered quietly:

"Very well, father; I shall be very glad of it; I am almost glad now
that he is going away. I long for to-morrow to pass, and for the time to
come when Antoñona shall say to me on wakening, 'Don Luis is gone.' You
shall see then how peace and serenity will spring up again in my heart."

"God grant it may be so!" said the reverend vicar; and, convinced that
he had wrought a miracle and almost cured Pepita's malady, he took leave
of her and went home, unable to repress a certain feeling of vanity at
the thought of the influence he had exercised over the noble spirit of
this charming woman.

Pepita, who had risen as the reverend vicar was about to take his leave,
after she had closed the door, stood for a moment immovable in the
middle of the room, her gaze fixed on space, her eyes tearless. A poet
or an artist, seeing her thus, would have been reminded of Ariadne, as
Catullus describes her, after Theseus has abandoned her on the island
of Naxos. All at once, as if she had but just succeeded in untying the
knot of a cord that was strangling her, Pepita broke into heart-rending
sobs, let loose a torrent of tears, and threw herself down on the tiled
floor of her apartment. There, her face buried in her hands, her hair
unbound, her dress disordered, she continued to sigh and moan.

She might have remained thus for an indefinite time if Antoñona had not
come to her. Antoñona had heard her sobs from without and hurried to her
apartment. When she saw her mistress extended on the floor, Antoñona
gave way to a thousand extravagant expressions of fury.

"Here's a pretty sight!" she cried; "that sneak, that blackguard, that
old fool, what a way he has to console his friends! I shouldn't wonder
if he has committed some piece of barbarity--given a couple of kicks to
this poor child, perhaps; and now I suppose he has gone back to the
church to get everything ready to sing the funeral chant, and sprinkle
her with hyssop, and bury her out of sight without more ado."

Antoñona was about forty, and a hard worker--energetic, and stronger
than many a laborer. She often lifted up, with scarcely more than the
strength of her hand, a skin of oil or of wine, weighing nearly ninety
pounds, and placed it on the back of a mule, or carried a bag of wheat
up to the garret where the grain was kept. Although Pepita was not a
feather, Antoñona now lifted her up in her arms from the floor as if she
had been one, and placed her carefully on the sofa, as though she were
some delicate and precious piece of porcelain that she feared to break.

"What is the meaning of all this?" asked Antoñona. "I wager anything
that drone of a vicar has been preaching you a sermon as bitter as
aloes, and has left you now with your heart torn to pieces with grief."

Pepita continued to weep and sob without answering.

"Come, leave off crying, and tell me what is the matter. What has the
vicar said to you?"

"He said nothing that could offend me," finally answered Pepita.

Then, seeing that Antoñona was waiting anxiously to hear her speak, and
feeling the need of unburdening herself to some one who could sympathize
more fully with her, and, humanly speaking, could better comprehend her
than the vicar, Pepita spoke as follows:

"The reverend vicar has admonished me gently to repent of my sins; to
allow Don Luis to go away; to rejoice at his departure; to forget him. I
have said yes to everything; I have promised him to rejoice at Don
Luis's departure; I have tried to forget him, and even to hate him. But
look you, Antoñona, I can not; it is an undertaking superior to my
strength. While the vicar was here, I thought I had strength for
everything; but no sooner had he gone than, as if God had let go his
hold of me, I lost my courage, and fell, crushed with sorrow, on the
floor. I had dreamed of a happy life at the side of the man I love; I
already saw myself elevated to him by the miraculous power of love; my
poor mind in perfect communion with his sublime intellect; my will one
with his; both thinking the same thought; our hearts beating in unison.
And now God has taken him away from me, and I am left alone, without
hope or consolation. Is not this frightful? The arguments of the
reverend vicar are just and full of wisdom; for the time, they convinced
me. But he has gone away, and all those arguments now seem to me
worthless--a tissue of words, lies, entanglements, and sophistries. I
love Don Luis, and this argument is more powerful than all other
arguments put together. And if he loves me in return, why does he not
leave everything and come to me, break the vows he has taken, and
renounce the obligations he has contracted? I did not know what love
was; now I know; there is nothing stronger on earth or in heaven. What
would I not do for Don Luis? And he--he does nothing for me! Perhaps he
does not love me. No; Don Luis does not love me. I have deceived
myself; I was blinded by vanity. If Don Luis loved me, he would
sacrifice his plans, his vows, his fame, his aspirations to be a saint
and a light of the Church, he would sacrifice all to me. God forgive me,
what I am about to say is horrible, but I feel it here in the depths of
my heart, it burns here in my fevered brow: for him I would give even
the salvation of my soul!"

"Holy Virgin!" exclaimed Antoñona.

"It is true; may our blessed Lady of Sorrows pardon me--I am mad--I know
not what I say. I blaspheme!"

"Yes, child; you are talking indeed a little naughtily. Heaven help us!
To think how this cox-comb of a theologian has turned your head! Well,
if I were in your place, I would not take Heaven to task, which is in no
wise to blame, but this jackanapes of a collegian, and I would have it
out with him, or never again call myself Pepita Ximenez. I should like
to go hunt him up, and bring him here to you by the ear, and make him go
down on his knees before you, and beg your pardon."

"No, Antoñona; I see that my madness is contagious, and that you are
raving, too. There is, in fact, nothing left for me to do but what the
reverend vicar advises. And I will do it, even though it should cost me
my life. If I die for him, he will then love me; he will cherish my
image in his memory, my love in his heart; and God, who is so good, will
permit me to see him again in heaven with the eyes of the soul, and will
let our spirits mingle together and love each other there."

Antoñona, although of a rugged nature, and not at all sentimental, on
hearing these words felt the tears start to her eyes.

"Good gracious, child!" she said; "do you want to make me take out my
handkerchief and begin to bellow like a calf? Calm yourself, and don't
talk about dying, even in jest. I can see that your nerves are very much
excited. Shan't I bring you a cup of linden tea?"

"No, thanks; leave me; you see how calm I am now."

"I shall close the window, then, to see if you can sleep. How should you
feel well, when you have not slept for days? The devil take that same
Don Luis, with his fancy for making himself a priest! A nice price you
are paying for it!"

Pepita had closed her eyes; she was calm and silent, weary now of her
colloquy with Antoñona.

The latter, either thinking she was asleep, or hoping her to be so, bent
over Pepita, imprinted a kiss softly and slowly on her white forehead,
smoothed oat the folds of her dress, arranged the windows so as to leave
the room in semi-obscurity, and went out on tiptoe, closing the door
behind her without making the slightest noise.

       *       *       *       *       *

While these things were taking place at the house of Pepita, Don Luis de
Vargas in his was neither happier nor more tranquil than was she
herself.

His father, who scarcely let a day pass without riding out into the
country, had to-day wished to take Don Luis with him; but, with the
pretext of a headache, he had excused himself, and Don Pedro had gone
without him. Don Luis had spent the whole morning alone, delivered up to
his melancholy thoughts, and continuing firm as a rock in his resolution
of blotting from his soul the image of Pepita, and of consecrating
himself wholly to God.

Let it not be supposed, however, that he did not love the young widow.
We have already, in his letters, seen the proof of the vehemence of his
passion for her, but he continued his efforts to curb it by means of the
devout sentiments and elevated reflections of which he has given us in
his letters so extended a specimen, and of which we may here omit a
repetition, in order not to appear prolix.

Perhaps, if we examine into this matter closely, we shall find that the
reasons which militated in the breast of Don Luis against his love for
Pepita were not only his vow to himself, which, though unconfirmed, was
binding in his eyes, or the love of God, or respect for his father,
whose rival he did not wish to be, or, finally, the vocation which he
felt himself to have for the priesthood. There were other reasons of a
more doubtful character than these.

Don Luis was stubborn; he was obstinate; he had that quality of soul
which, well directed, constitutes what is called firmness of character,
and there was nothing that lowered him more in his own eyes than to feel
himself obliged to change his opinions or his conduct. The purpose of
his life, a purpose which he had declared and maintained on all
occasions, his moral ideal, in a word, was that of an aspirant to
holiness, of a man consecrated to God, of one imbued with the sublimest
religious teachings. All this could not fall to earth, as it would fall,
if he allowed himself to be carried away by his love for Pepita, without
great discredit. Although the price, indeed, was in this case
incomparably higher, yet Don Luis felt that, should he yield to his
passion, he would be following the example of Esau, selling his
birthright and bringing opprobrium on his name.

Men, as a rule, allow themselves to be the plaything of circumstances;
they let themselves be carried along by the current of events, instead
of devoting all their energies to one single aim. We do not choose our
part in life, but accept and play the part allotted us, that which blind
fortune assigns to us. The profession, the political faith, the entire
life of many men depend on chance circumstances, on what is fortuitous,
on the caprice and the unexpected turns of fate.

Against all this the pride of Don Luis rebelled with titanic power. What
would be thought of him, and above all, what would he think of himself
if the ideal of his life, the new man that he had created in his soul,
if all his plans of virtue, of honor, and even of holy ambition, should
vanish in an instant, should melt away in the warmth of a glance, at the
fugitive flame of a pair of beautiful eyes, as the hoar-frost melts in
the yet mild ray of the morning sun?

These and other reasons of a like egotistic nature also militated, in
the breast of Don Luis, side by side with more weighty and legitimate
ones, against the widow; but every argument clothed itself in the same
religious garb, so that Don Luis himself was unable to recognize and
distinguish between them, believing to be the love of God not only what
was in truth the love of God, but also self-love. He recalled to mind,
for instance, the examples of many saints who had resisted greater
temptations than his, and he did not wish to be less than they. And he
recalled to mind, above all, the notable firmness of St. Chrysostom, who
was able to disregard the caresses of a tender and good mother, and her
tears and gentle entreaties, and all the eloquent and touching words she
spoke to him, in the very room where he was born, to the end that he
might not abandon her and become a priest. And, after reflecting on
this, Don Luis could not tolerate in himself the weakness of being
unable to scorn the entreaties of a woman who was a stranger to him,
whom he had known for so short a time, and of still wavering between his
duty and the attractions of one who was, perhaps, after all, rather than
enamored of him, merely a coquette.

Don Luis then reflected on the supreme elevation of the sacerdotal
dignity to which he was called, regarding it in his thoughts as superior
to all the dignities and unsatisfying honors of the world; since it was
founded, neither by any mortal man, nor by the caprice of the variable
and servile populace, nor by the irruption or invasion of barbarians,
nor by the violence of rebellious armies urged on by greed, nor by angel
nor archangel, nor by any created power, but by the Paraclete himself.
How, for a motive so unworthy, for a mere woman, for a tear or two,
feigned, perhaps, scorn that august dignity, that authority that was not
conceded by God even to the archangels nearest to his throne? How
should he descend to be confounded among the obscure people, and become
one of the flock--he who had dreamed of being the shepherd, tying and
untying on earth what God should tie and untie in heaven, pardoning
sins, regenerating the people by water and by the spirit, teaching them
in the name of an infallible authority, pronouncing judgments that
should be ratified and confirmed by the Lord of the heavens--he, the
instructor and the minister in tremendous mysteries inscrutable by human
reason, calling down from heaven, not, like Elias, the flame that
consumes the victim, but the Holy Spirit, the Word made flesh, the river
of grace that purifies hearts and makes them clean like unalloyed gold?

When Don Luis let his mind dwell on these thoughts, his spirit took
wings and soared up above the clouds into the empyrean, and poor Pepita
Ximenez remained below, far away, and hardly within sight.

But the wings of his imagination soon drooped, and the spirit of Don
Luis touched earth again. Again he saw Pepita, so graceful, so young, so
ingenuous, and so enamored. Pepita combated in his soul his firmest and
most deep-seated resolutions, and Don Luis feared that in the end she
would put them all to flight.

In this way was Don Luis allowing himself to be tormented by opposing
thoughts, that made war on each other, when Currito, without asking
leave or license, entered his room.

Currito, who had held his cousin in very slight esteem so long as he was
only a student of theology, now regarded him with wonder and veneration,
looking upon him, from the moment when he had seen him manage Lucero so
skillfully, as something more than human.

To know theology, and to be ignorant of horsemanship, was something
unflattering to Don Luis in the eyes of Currito; but when Currito saw
that, in addition to his learning, and to all those other matters of
which he himself knew nothing, although he supposed them to be difficult
and perplexing, Don Luis knew, besides, how to keep his seat so
admirably on the back of a fiery horse, his veneration and his affection
for his cousin knew no bounds. Currito was an idler, a good-for-nothing,
a very block of wood, but he had an affectionate and loyal heart.

To Don Luis, who was the idol of Currito, happened what happens to all
superior natures when inferior persons take a liking to them. Don Luis
permitted himself to be loved, that is to say, he was governed
despotically by Currito in matters of little importance. And, as for men
like Don Luis there are hardly any matters of importance in common
daily life, the result was that Don Luis was led about by Currito like a
little dog.

"I have come for you," the latter said, "to take you with me to the
club-house, which is full of people to-day, and presents a very animated
appearance. What is the use of sitting here longer, gazing into vacancy,
as if you were waiting to catch flies?"

Don Luis, without offering any resistance, and as if these words were a
command, took his hat and cane, and saying, "Let us go wherever you
wish," followed Currito, who led the way, very well pleased with the
influence he exercised over his cousin.

The club-house was full of people, owing to the festivities of the
morrow, which was St. John's day. Besides the gentry of the village,
many strangers were there, who had come in from the neighboring villages
to be present at the fair and the vigil in the evening.

The principal point of reunion was the court-yard, which was paved with
marble. In its center played a fountain, which was adorned with
flower-pots containing roses, pinks, sweet-basil, and other flowers.
Around this court-yard ran a corridor or gallery, supported by marble
columns, in which, as well as in the various saloons that opened into
it, were tables for _ombre_, others with newspapers lying on them,
others where coffee and other refreshments were served, and finally,
lounges, benches, and several easy-chairs. The walls were like snow,
from frequent whitening; nor were pictures wanting for their adornment.
There were French colored lithographs, a minute explanation of the
subject of each being written, both in French and in Spanish below. Some
of them represented scenes to The life of Napoleon, from Toulon to St.
Helena; others, the adventures of Matilda and Malek-Adel; others.
Incidents in love and war, in the lives of the Templar, Rebecca, Lady
Rowena, and Ivanhoe; and others, the gallantries, the intrigues, the
lapses and the conversions of Louis XIV. and Mademoiselle de la
Vallière.

Currito took Don Luis, and Don Luis allowed himself to be taken, to the
saloon where were gathered the cream of the fashion, the dandies and
_cocodés_ of the village and of the surrounding district. Prominent
among these was the Count of Genazahar, of the neighboring city of--.
The Count was an illustrious and much admired personage. He had made
visits of great length to Madrid and Seville, and, whether as a country
dandy or as a young nobleman, was always attired by the most fashionable
tailors.

The Count of Genazahar was a little past thirty. He was good-looking,
and he knew it; and could boast of his prowess in peace and in war, in
duels and in love-making. The Count, however--and this notwithstanding
the fact that he had been one of the most persistent suitors of
Pepita--had received the sugar-coated pill of refusal that she was
accustomed to bestow on those who paid their addresses to her and
aspired to her hand.

He had not yet recovered from the irritation produced in his proud heart
by this rejection. Love had turned into hatred, and the count lost no
occasion of giving utterance to his feelings, holding Pepita up, on such
occasions, to the most merciless ridicule.

The count was engaged in this agreeable exercise, when, by an evil
chance, Don Luis and Currito approached, and joined the crowd that was
listening to the odd species of panegyric, which opened to receive them.
Don Luis, as if the devil himself had had the arrangement of the matter,
found himself face to face with the count, who was speaking as follows:

"She's a cunning one, this same Pepita Ximenez, with more fancies and
whims than the Princess Micomicona. She wants to make us forget that she
was born in poverty, and lived in poverty until she married that
accursed usurer, Don Gumersindo, and took possession of his dollars. The
only good action this same widow has performed in her life was to
conspire with Satan to send the rogue quickly to hell, and free the
earth from such a contamination and plague. Pepita now has a hobby for
virtue and for chastity. All that may be very well; but how do we know
that she has not a secret intrigue with some plowboy, and is not
deceiving the world as if she were Queen Artemisia herself?"

People of quiet tastes, who seldom take part in reunions of men only,
may perhaps be scandalized by this language; it may appear to them
indecent and brutal, even to the point of incredibility; but those who
know the world will confess that language like this is very generally
employed in it, and that the most amiable and agreeable women, the most
honorable matrons, if they chance to have an enemy, or even without
having one, are often made the subjects of accusations no less infamous
and vile than those made by the count against Pepita; for scandal is
often indulged in, or, to speak more accurately, dishonor and insult are
disseminated, for the purpose of showing wit and the power to entertain.

Don Luis--who, from a child, had been accustomed to the consideration
and respect of those around him, first, of the servants and dependents
of his father, who gratified him in all his wishes, and then, of every
one in the seminary, where, as well because he was a nephew of the dean,
as on account of his own merits, he had never been contradicted in
anything, but, on the contrary, always pleased and flattered--stood,
when he heard the insolent count thus drag in the dust the name of the
woman he loved, as if a thunderbolt had fallen at his feet.

But how undertake her defense? He knew, indeed, that although he was
neither husband, brother, nor other relative of Pepita's, he might yet
come forward in her defense, as a man of honor; but he saw well the
scandal this would give rise to, since, far from saying a word in her
favor, all the other persons present joined in applauding the wit of the
count. He, already the minister, almost, of a God of peace, could not be
the one to give the lie to this ruffian, and thus expose himself to the
risk of a quarrel.

Don Luis was on the point of departing in silence. But his heart would
not consent to this, and, striving to clothe himself with an authority
which was justified neither by his years nor by his countenance, where
the beard had scarcely begun to make its appearance, nor by his presence
in that place, he began to speak with earnest eloquence in denunciation
of all slanderers, and to reproach the count, with the freedom of a
Christian and in severe accents, with the vileness of his conduct.

This was to preach in the desert, or worse. The count answered his
homily with gibes and jests; the by-standers, among whom were many
strangers, took the part of the jester, notwithstanding the fact that
Don Luis was the son of the squire. Even Currito, who was of no account
whatever, and who was, besides, a coward, although he did not laugh, yet
made no effort to take the part of his friend, and the latter was
obliged to withdraw, disturbed and humiliated by the ridicule he had
drawn on himself.

       *       *       *       *       *

"This flower only was wanting to complete the nosegay," muttered poor
Don Luis between his teeth when he had reached his house and shut
himself up in his room, vexed and ill at ease because of the jeers of
which he had been the butt. He exaggerated them to himself; they seemed
to him unendurable. He threw himself into a chair, depressed and
disheartened, and a thousand contradictory ideas assailed his mind at
once.

The blood of his father, which boiled in his veins, incited him to
anger, and urged him to throw aside the clerical garb, as he had in the
beginning been advised to do in the village, and then give the count his
deserts; but the whole future he had planned for himself would be thus,
at a blow, destroyed. He pictured to himself the dean disowning him; and
even the Pope, who had already sent the pontifical dispensation
permitting him to be ordained before the required age, and the bishop
of the diocese, who had based the petition for the dispensation on his
approved virtue and learning and on the firmness of his vocation, all
appeared before him now to reproach him.

Then the humorous theory of his father in regard to those other
arguments, in addition to those of persuasion, of which the apostle St.
James, the bishops of the middle ages, and St. Ignatius Loyola had made
use, occurred to his mind, and it seemed to him now not so preposterous
as before, and he almost repented not having put them into practice.

He then recalled to mind the custom of an orthodox doctor, a
distinguished philosopher of Persia, of our own day, mentioned in a book
recently written on that country--a custom which consisted in punishing
with harsh words his hearers and pupils when they laughed at his
teachings or could not understand them, and, if this did not suffice, in
descending from his chair, saber in hand, and giving them all a beating.
This method, as it appears, had proved efficacious, especially in
controversy; although it had chanced that the said philosopher, coming
across an opponent of the same way of thinking as himself, had received
from him a severe wound in the face.

Don Luis, in the midst of his mortification and ill-humor, could not
help laughing at the absurdity of this recollection. He thought there
were not wanting in Spain philosophers who would willingly adopt the
Persian method; and, if he himself did not put it into practice, it was
certainly not through fear of the wounds he might receive, but through
considerations of greater weight.

"I did very wrong in preaching there," he said to himself. "I should
have remained silent. Our Lord Jesus Christ has said, 'Give not that
which is holy to dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest
they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.'

"But, no; why should I complain? Why should I return insult for insult?
Why should I allow myself to be vanquished by anger! Many holy fathers
have said, 'Anger in a priest is even worse than lasciviousness.' The
anger of priests has caused many tears to be shed, and has been the
cause of terrible evils.

"Anger perhaps it was--this terrible counselor--that at times persuaded
them that it was necessary for the people to shed blood at the Divine
command, and that brought before their sanguinary eyes the vision of
Isaiah; they have then seen, and caused their fanatic followers to see,
the meek Lamb converted into an inexorable avenger, descending from the
summit of Edom, proud in the multitude of his strength, trampling the
nations under foot, as the treader tramples the grapes in the
wine-press, their garments raised, and covered with blood to the thighs.
Ah, no; my God! I am about to become thy minister. Thou art a God of
peace, and my first duty should be meekness. Thou makest the sun to
shine on the just and the unjust, and pourest down upon all alike the
fertilizing rain of thy inexhaustible goodness. Thou art our Father who
dwellest in the heavens, and we should be perfect, even as thou art
perfect, pardoning those who have offended us, and asking thee to pardon
them, because they know not what they do. I should recall to mind the
beatitudes of the Scripture: Blessed are ye when they revile you and
persecute you, and say all manner of evil things against you. The
minister of God, or he who is about to become his minister, must be
humble, peaceable, meek of heart; not like the oak that lifts itself up
proudly, until the thunderbolt strike it, but like the fragrant herbs of
the woods, and the modest flowers of the fields, that give sweeter and
more grateful perfume after the rustic has trodden them under foot."

In these and other meditations of a like nature the hours passed until
three o'clock, when Don Pedro, who had just returned from the country,
entered his son's room to call him to dinner. The gay joviality of his
father, his jest, his affectionate attentions daring the meal, were all
of no avail to draw Don Luis from his melancholy, or to give him an
appetite; he ate little, and scarcely spoke while they were at table.

Although much troubled by the silent melancholy of his son, whose
health, though indeed robust, was yet not beyond risk of being affected,
Don Pedro, who rose with the dawn and had a busy time of it during the
day, when he had finished his after-dinner cigar and taken his cup of
coffee and his glass of anisette, felt fatigued, and went, according to
his custom, to take his two or three hours of _siesta_.

Don Luis had taken good care not to draw the attention of his father to
the offense done him by the Count of Genazahar. His father, who, for his
part, had no intention of fitting himself to celebrate mass, and who,
besides, was not of a very meek disposition, would have rushed
instantly, had he done so, to take the vengeance Don Luis had failed to
take.

When his father had retired, Don Luis also left the dining-room, that he
might, in the seclusion of his own apartment, give himself up
undisturbed to his thoughts.

       *       *       *       *       *

He had been sunk in them for a long time, seated before his desk, with
his elbows resting upon it, when he heard a noise close by. He raised
his eyes, and saw standing beside him the meddlesome Antoñona, who,
although of such massive proportions, had entered like a shadow, and was
now watching him attentively with a mixture of pity and of anger in her
glance.

Antoñona, taking advantage of the hour in which the servants dined and
Don Pedro slept, had penetrated thus far without being observed, and had
opened the door of the room and closed it behind her so gently that Don
Luis, even if he had been less absorbed in meditation than he was, would
not have noticed it.

She had come resolved to hold a very serious conference with Don Luis,
but she did not quite know what she was going to say to him.
Nevertheless, she had asked heaven or hell, whichever of the two it may
have been, to loosen her tongue and bestow upon her the gift of speech;
not such grotesque and vulgar speech as she generally used, but correct,
elegant, and adapted to the noble reflections and beautiful things she
thought it necessary for the carrying out of her purpose to say.

When Don Luis saw Antoñona, he frowned, and showed by his manner how
much this visit displeased him, at the same time saying roughly:

"What do you want here? Go away!"

"I have come to call you to account about my young mistress," returned
Antoñona, quietly, "and I shall not go away until you have answered
me."

She then drew a chair toward the table and sat down in it, facing Don
Luis with coolness and effrontery.

Don Luis, seeing there was no help for it, restrained his anger, armed
himself with patience, and, in accents less harsh than before,
exclaimed:

"Say what you have to say!"

"I have to say," resumed Antoñona, "that what you are plotting against
my mistress is a piece of wickedness. You are behaving like a villain.
You have bewitched her; you have given her some malignant potion. The
poor angel is going to die; she neither eats nor sleeps, nor has a
moment's peace, on account of you. To-day she has had two or three
hysterical attacks at the bare thought of your going away. A good deed
you have done before becoming a priest! Tell me, wretch, why did you not
stay where you were, with your uncle, instead of coming here? She, who
was so free, so completely mistress of her own will, enslaving that of
others, and allowing her own to be taken captive by none, has fallen
into your treacherous snares. Your hypocritical sanctity was, doubtless,
the lure you employed. With your theologies and your pious humbugs you
have acted like the wily and cruel sportsman, who attracts to him by his
whistle the silly thrushes, only to strangle them in the net."

"Antoñona," returned Don Luis, "leave me in peace. For God's sake,
cease to torture me! I am a villain; I confess it. I ought not to have
looked at your mistress; I ought not to have allowed her to believe that
I loved her; but I loved her, and I love her still, with my whole heart;
and I have given her no other potion or philter than the love I have for
her. It is my duty, nevertheless, to cast away, to forget this love. God
commands me to do so. Do you imagine that the sacrifice I make will not
be--is not already--a tremendous one? Pepita ought to arm herself with
fortitude and make a similar sacrifice."

"You do not give even that consolation to the unhappy creature," replied
Antoñona. "You sacrifice voluntarily, on the altar, this woman who loves
you, who is already yours--your victim. But she--what claim has she on
you that she should offer you up as a sacrifice? What is the precious
jewel she is going to renounce, what the beautiful ornament she is going
to cast into the flames, but an ill-requited love? How is she going to
give to God what she does not possess? Is she going to try to cheat God,
and say to him: 'My God, since he does not love me, here he is; I offer
him up to you; I will not love him either.' God never laughs--if he did,
he would laugh at such a present as that!"

Don Luis, confounded, did not know what answer to return to these
arguments of Antoñona, more atrocious than her former pinches. Besides,
it was repugnant to him to discuss the metaphysics of love with a
servant.

"Let us leave aside," he said, "these idle discussions. I can not cure
the malady of your mistress. What would you have me do?"

"What would I have you do?" replied Antoñona, more gently, and with
insinuating accents; "I will tell you what I would have you do. If you
can not cure the malady of my mistress, you should, at least, alleviate
it a little. Are you not saintly? Well, the saints are compassionate,
and courageous besides. Don't run away like an ill-mannered coward,
without saying good-by. Come to see my mistress, who is sick. Do this
work of mercy."

"And what would be gained by such a visit? It would aggravate her
malady, instead of curing it."

"It will not do so; you don't see the matter in its proper light. You
shall go to see her, and, with your honeyed tongue and the gift of the
gab that nature has bestowed upon you, you will put some resignation
into her soul, and leave her consoled for your departure; and if you
tell her, in addition to this, that you love her, and that it is only
for the sake of God you are leaving her, her woman's vanity, at least,
will not be wounded."

"What you propose to me is to tempt God; it is dangerous both for her
and for me."

"And why should it be to tempt God? Since God can see the rectitude and
the purity of your intentions, will he not grant you his favor and his
grace that you may not yield to temptation during the visit to her,
which it is but justice you should make? Ought you not to fly to her to
deliver her from despair, and bring her back to the right path? If she
should die of grief at seeing herself scorned; or if, in a frenzy, she
should seize a rope and hang herself to a beam, I tell you, your remorse
would be harder to bear than the flames of pitch and sulphur that
surround the caldrons of Lucifer."

"This is horrible! I would not have her grow desperate. I shall arm
myself with courage--I will go to see her."

"May Heaven bless you! But my heart told me you would go. How good you
are!"

"When do you wish me to go?"

"To-night, at ten o'clock precisely. I will be at the street-door
waiting for you, and will take you to her."

"Does she know you have come to see me?"

"She does not--it was all my own idea; but I will prepare her
cautiously, so that the surprise, the unexpected joy of your visit, may
not be too much for her. You promise me to come?"

"I will go."

"Good-by. Don't fail to come. At ten o'clock precisely. I shall be at
the door."

And Antoñona hurried away, descended the steps two at a time, and so
gained the street.

       *       *       *       *       *

It can not be denied that Antoñona displayed great prudence on this
occasion, and that her language was so dignified and proper that some
may think it apocryphal, if there were not the very best authority for
all that is related here, and if we did not know, besides, the wonders
the natural cleverness of a woman may work when she is spurred on by
interest or by some strong passion.

Great, indeed, was the affection Antoñona entertained for her mistress,
and, seeing her so much in love and in such desperate case, she could do
no less than seek a remedy for her ills. The consent she had succeeded
in obtaining from Don Luis to her request that he should pay a visit to
Pepita was an unexpected triumph; and, in order to derive the greatest
possible advantage from this triumph, she was obliged to make the most
of her time, and to use all her worldly wisdom in preparing for the
occasion.

Antoñona had suggested ten as the hour of Don Luis's visit, because this
was the hour in which Don Luis and Pepita had been accustomed to see
each other in the now abolished or suspended gatherings at the house of
the later. She had suggested this hour also in order to avoid giving
rise to scandal or slander; for she had once heard a preacher say that,
according to the gospel, there is nothing so wicked as scandal, and that
the scandal-monger ought to be flung into the sea with a mill-stone hung
round his neck.

Antoñona, then, returned to the house of her mistress, very well
satisfied with herself and with the firm determination so to arrange
matters that the remedy she had sought should not prove useless, or
aggravate instead of curing Pepita's malady. She resolved to say nothing
of the matter to Pepita herself until the last moment, when she would
tell her that Don Luis had asked her of his own accord at what hour he
might make a farewell visit, and that she had said ten.

In order to avoid giving rise to talk, she determined that Don Luis
should not be seen to enter the house, and for this the hour and the
internal arrangement of the house itself were alike propitious. At ten
the street would be full of people, on account of the vigil, which would
make it easier for Don Luis to reach the house without being observed.
To enter the hall would be the work of a moment, and Antoñona, who would
be waiting for him, could then take him to the library without any one
seeing him.

All, or at least the greater part, of the handsome country-houses of
Andalusia are in construction double rather than single houses. Each
house, of these double houses, has its own door. The principal door
leads to the court-yard, which is pared and surrounded by columns, to
the parlors and the other apartments of the family; the other to the
inner yards, the stable and coach-house, the kitchens, the mill, the
wine-press, the granaries, the buildings where are kept the oil, the
must, the alcohol, the brandy and the vinegar, in large jars; and the
cask stores, or cellars, where the newly made wine, and that which has
been long kept, is stored in pipes or barrels. This second house, or
portion of a house, although it may be situated in the heart of a town
of twenty or twenty-five thousand inhabitants, is called _farm-house_.
The overseer, the foreman, the muleteer, the principal workmen, and the
domestics who have been longest in the service of the master, are
accustomed to gather here in the evenings, during the winter, around the
enormous fireplace of a spacious kitchen, and in summer in the open air,
or in some cool and well-ventilated apartment, and there chat or take
their ease until the master's family are about to retire.

Antoñona was of opinion that the colloquy or explanation, which she
desired should take place between her mistress and Don Luis required
tranquillity, and should be interrupted by no one; and she therefore
determined that, as it was St. John's eve, the maid-servants of Pepita
should be to-night released from all their occupations, and should go to
amuse themselves at the farm-house, where, in union with the rustic
laborers, they might get up impromptu amusements, to consist of
fandangos, the recitation of pretty verses, playing the castanets, jigs,
and country-dances.

In this manner the dwelling-house--without other occupants than Pepita
and herself--would be silent and almost deserted, and suited to the
solemnity and undisturbed quiet desirable in the interview she had
planned, and on which perhaps--or rather to a certainty--depended the
fate of two persons of such distinguished merit.

       *       *       *       *       *

While Antoñona went about turning over and arranging in her mind all
these things, Don Luis had no sooner been left alone than he regretted
having proceeded with so much haste, and weakly consenting to the
interview Antoñona had asked of him. As he reflected upon it, it seemed
to him more full of peril than those of Oenone or Celestina. He saw
before him all the danger to which he voluntarily exposed himself, and
he could see no advantage whatever in thus making in secret, and by
stealth, a visit to the beautiful widow.

To go and see her in order to succumb to her attractions and fall into
her snares, making a mockery of his vows, and placing not only the
bishop, who had indorsed his petition for a dispensation, but even the
holy Pontiff, who had conceded it, in a false position, by relinquishing
his purpose of becoming a priest, seemed to him very dishonorable. It
was, besides, a treason against his father, who loved Pepita and desired
to marry her; and to visit her in order to undeceive her in regard to
his love for her, seemed to him a greater refinement of cruelty than to
depart without saying anything.

Influenced by these considerations, the first thought of Don Luis was to
fail, without excuse or warning, to keep his appointment, and leave
Antoñona to wait in vain for him in the hall; but then, as Antoñona had,
in all probability, already announced his visit to her mistress, he
would, by failing to go, unpardonably offend, not only Antoñona, but
Pepita herself.

He then resolved on writing Pepita a very affectionate and discreet
letter, excusing himself from going to see her, justifying his conduct,
consoling her, manifesting his tender sentiments toward her, while
letting her see that duty and Heaven were before everything, and
endeavoring to inspire her with the courage to make the same sacrifice
as he himself was making.

He made four or five different attempts to write this letter. He blotted
a great deal of paper which he afterward tore up, and could not, in the
end, succeed in getting the letter to his taste. Now it was dry, cold,
pedantic, like a poor sermon or a school-master's discourse; now its
contents betrayed a childish apprehension, as if Pepita were a monster
lying in wait to devour him; now it had other faults not less serious.
In fine, after wasting many sheets of paper in the attempt, the letter
remained unwritten.

"There is no help for it," said Don Luis to himself; "the die is cast. I
must only summon courage and go."

He comforted his spirit with the hope that his self-control would not
forsake him during the coming interview; and that God would endow his
lips with eloquence to persuade Pepita, who was so good, that it was she
herself who, sacrificing her earthly love, urged him to fulfill his
vocation, resembling in this those holy women of whom there are not
wanting examples, who not only renounced the society of a bridegroom or
a lover, but even the companionship of a husband, as is narrated, for
instance, in the life of St. Edward, of England, whose queen lived with
him as a sister.

Don Luis felt himself consoled and encouraged by this thought, and he
already pictured himself as St. Edward, and Pepita as Queen Edith. And
under the form and in the character of this virgin queen, Pepita
appeared to him, if possible, more graceful, charming, and romantic
than ever.

Don Luis was not, however, altogether so secure of himself, or so
tranquil, as he should have been, after forming the resolution of
following the example of St. Edward. There seemed to him something
almost criminal, which he could not well define, in the visit he was
about to make to Pepita without his father's knowledge. He felt tempted
to awaken him from his _siesta_, and to reveal everything to him; two or
three times he rose from his chair with this purpose; then he stopped,
feeling that such a revelation would be dishonoring, and a disgraceful
exhibition of childishness. He might betray his own secrets, but to
betray those of Pepita in order to set himself right with his father,
seemed to him contemptible enough. The baseness and the ridiculous
meanness of the action were still further increased in his eyes by the
reflection that what prompted him to it was the fear of not being strong
enough to resist temptation.

Don Luis kept silence, therefore, and revealed nothing to his father.

More than this, he did not even feel that he had the confidence and
composure necessary to present himself before his father, with the
consciousness of this secret interview interposing itself as a barrier
between them. He was indeed so excited and so beside himself, under the
influence of the contending emotions that disputed the possession of his
soul, that he felt as if the room, though a large one, was too small to
contain him. Starting to his feet, he paced with rapid strides up and
down the floor, like some wild animal in his cage, impatient of
confinement. At last, although--being summer--the window was open, he
felt as if he could remain here no longer, lest he should suffocate for
want of air; as if the roof pressed down upon his head; as if, to
breathe, he needed the whole atmosphere; to walk, he required space
without limits; to lift up his brow, and exhale his sighs, and elevate
his thoughts, to have nothing less than the immeasurable vault of heaven
above him.

Impelled by this necessity, he took his hat and cane and went out into
the street. Thence, avoiding every one he knew, he passed on into the
country, plunging into the leafiest and most sequestered recesses of the
gardens and walks that encompass the village, and make, for a radius of
more than half a league, a paradise of its surroundings.

We have said but little, thus far, concerning the personal appearance of
Don Luis. Be it known, then, that he was in every sense of the word a
handsome fellow--tall, well formed, with black hair, and eyes also black
and full of fire and sweetness. His complexion was dark, his teeth were
white, his lips delicate and curling slightly, which gave to his
countenance an appearance of disdain; his bearing was manly and bold,
notwithstanding the reserve and meekness proper to his sacred character.
The whole mien of Don Luis bore, in a word, that indescribable stamp of
distinction and nobility that seems to be--though this is not always the
case--the peculiar quality and exclusive privilege of aristocratic
families.

On beholding Don Luis one could not but confess that Pepita Ximenez was
aesthetic by instinct.

Don Luis hurried on with precipitate steps in the course he had taken,
jumping across brooks and hardly glancing at surrounding objects, almost
as a bull stung by a hornet might do. The countrymen he met, the
market-gardeners who saw him pass, very possibly took him for a madman.

Tired at last of walking on aimlessly, he sat down at the foot of a
stone cross near the ruins of an ancient convent of St. Francis de Paul,
almost two miles from the village, and there plunged anew into
meditation, but of so confused a character that he himself was scarcely
conscious of what was passing in his mind.

The sound of the distant bells, calling the faithful to prayer and
reminding them of the salutation of the angel to the Most Holy Virgin,
reaching these solitudes through the rarefied atmosphere, drew Don Luis
at last from his meditations, and made him once more conscious of the
world of reality.

The sun had just sunk behind the gigantic peaks of the neighboring
mountains, making their summits--in the shape of pyramids, needles, and
broken obelisks--stand out in bold relief against a background of topaz
and amethyst--for such was the appearance of the heavens, gilded by the
beams of the setting sun. The shadows began to deepen over the plain,
and, on the mountains opposite to those behind which the sun was
sinking, the more elevated peaks shone like flaming gold or crystal.

The windows and the white walls of the distant sanctuary of the Virgin,
patroness of the village, which is situated on the summit of a distant
hill, as well as those of another small temple or hermitage, situated on
a nearer hill called Calvary, still shone like two beacon-lights,
touched by the oblique rays of the setting sun.

Nature exhaled a poetic melancholy, and all things seemed to intone a
hymn to the Creator, with that silent music heard only by the spirit.
The low sound of the bells, softened and almost lost in the distance,
hardly disturbed the repose of the earth, and invited to prayer, without
distracting the senses by their noise. Don Luis uncovered his head,
knelt down at the foot of the cross, the pedestal of which had served
him as a seat, and repeated with profound devotion the _Angelus Domini_.

The shades of evening were gathering fast; but when Night unfolds her
mantle, and spreads it over those favored regions, she delights to adorn
it with the most luminous stars, and with a still brighter moon. The
vault of heaven did not exchange its cerulean hue for the blackness of
night; it still retained it, though it had assumed a deeper shade. The
atmosphere was so clear and pure that myriads of stars could be descried
shining far into the limitless depths of space. The moon silvered the
tops of the trees, and touched with its splendor the waters of the
brooks that gleamed, luminous and transparent, with colors as changeful
and iridescent as the opal. In the leafy groves the nightingales were
singing. Herbs and flowers shed a rich perfume. Countless multitudes of
glow-worms shone like diamonds or carbuncles among the grass and wild
flowers along the banks of the brooks. In this region the winged
glow-worm is not found, but another and smaller species abounds, and
sheds a most brilliant light. Fruit-trees still in blossom, acacias and
roses without number, perfumed the air with their rich fragrance.

Don Luis felt himself swayed, seduced, vanquished, by this
voluptuousness of nature, and began to doubt himself. It was necessary,
however, to fulfill his promise and keep his appointment.

Deviating often from the straight path, hesitating at times whether he
should not rather push forward to the source of the river, where, at the
foot of a mountain and in the midst of the most enchanting surroundings,
the crystal torrent that waters the neighboring gardens and orchards
bursts from the living rock, he turned back, with slow and lingering
step, in the direction of the village.

In proportion as he approached the village, the terror inspired by the
thought of what he was about to do increased. He plunged into the
thickest of the wood, hoping there to behold some wonder, some sign,
some warning, that should draw him back. He thought often of the student
Lisardo, and wished that, like him, he might behold his own burial. But
heaven smiled with her thousand lights, and invited to love; the stars
looked at each other with love; the nightingales sang of love; even the
crickets amorously vibrated their sonorous elytra, as troubadours the
plectrum, in a serenade; all the earth on this tranquil and beautiful
night seemed given up to love. There was no warning; there was no sign;
there was no funeral pomp; all was life, peace, joy.

Where was now his guardian angel? Had he abandoned Don Luis as already
lost, or, deeming that he ran no risk, did he make no effort to turn him
from his purpose? Who can say? Perhaps from the danger that menaced him
would, in the end, result a triumph. St. Edward and Queen Edith
presented themselves again to the imagination of Don Luis, and
strengthened his resolution.

Engrossed in these meditations, he delayed his return, and was still
some distance from the village when ten, the hour appointed for his
interview with Pepita, struck from the parish clock. The ten strokes of
the bell were ten blows that, falling on his heart, wounded it as with a
physical pain--a pain in which dread and treacherous disquiet were
blended with a ravishing sweetness.

Don Luis hastened his steps that he might reach Pepita's house as soon
after the appointed hour as was now possible, and shortly found himself
in the village.

The village presented a most animated scene. Young girls flocked to wash
their faces at the fountain on the common--those who had sweethearts,
that their sweethearts might remain faithful to them; and those who had
not, that they might obtain sweethearts. Here and there women and
children were returning from the fields, with verbena, branches of
rosemary, and other plants, which they had been gathering, to burn as a
charm. Guitars tinkled on every side, words of love were to be
overheard, and everywhere happy and tender couples were to be seen
walking together. The vigil and the early morning of St. John's day,
although a Christian festival, still retain a certain savor of paganism
and primitive naturalism. This may be because of the approximate
concurrence of this festival and the summer solstice. In any case, the
scene to-night was of a purely mundane character, without any religious
mixture whatever. All was love and gallantry. In our old romances and
legends the Moor always carries off the beautiful Christian princess,
and the Christian knight receives the reward of his devotion to the
Moorish princess, on the eve or in the early morning of St. John's day;
and the traditionary custom of the old romances had been, to all
appearances, preserved in the village.

The streets were full of people. The whole village was out of doors, in
addition to the strangers from the surrounding country. Progress, thus
rendered extremely difficult, was still further impeded by the multitude
of little tables laden with _nougat_, honey-cakes, and toast,
fruit-stalls, booths for the sale of dolls and toys, and cake-shops,
where gypsies, young and old, by turns fried the dough, tainting the air
with the odor of oil, weighed and served the cakes, responded with
ready wit to the compliments of the gallants who passed by, and told
fortunes.

Don Luis sought to avoid meeting any of his acquaintances, and, when he
caught sight by chance of any one he knew, he turned his steps in
another direction. Thus, by degrees, he reached the entrance to Pepita's
house without having been stopped or spoken to by any one. His heart now
began to beat with violence, and he paused a moment to recover his
serenity. He looked at his watch; it was almost half-past ten.

"Good heavens!" he exclaimed; "she has been waiting for me nearly half
an hour."

He then hurried his pace and entered the hall. The lamp by which it was
always lighted was burning dimly on this particular evening.

No sooner had Don Luis entered the hall than a hand, or rather a talon,
seized him by the right arm. It belonged to Antoñona, who said to him
under her breath:

"A pretty fellow you are, for a collegian! Ingrate! good-for-nothing!
vagabond! I began to think you were not coming. Where have you been,
imbecile? How dare you delay, as if you had no interest in the matter,
when the salt of the earth is melting for you, and the sum of beauty
awaits you?"

While Antoñona was giving utterance to these complaints, she did not
stand still, but continued to go forward, dragging after her by the arm
the now cowed and silent collegian. They passed the grated door, which
Antoñona closed carefully and noiselessly behind them. They crossed the
court-yard, ascended the stairs, passed through some corridors and two
interjacent apartments, and arrived at last at the door of the library,
which was closed.

Profound silence reigned throughout the house. The library was situated
in its interior, and was thus inaccessible to the noises of the street.
The only sounds that reached it, confused and vague, were the shaking of
the castanets, the tinkle of the guitar, and the murmur of the voices of
Pepita's servants, who were holding their impromptu dance in the
farm-house.

Antoñona opened the door of the library and pushed Don Luis toward it,
at the same time announcing him in these words:

"Here is Don Luis, who has come to take leave of you."

This announcement being made with due ceremony, the discreet Antoñona
withdrew, leaving the visitor and her mistress at their ease, and
closing behind her the door of the outer saloon.

       *       *       *       *       *

At this point in our narrative we can not refrain from calling attention
to the character of authenticity that stamps the present history, and
paying a tribute of admiration to the scrupulous exactness of the person
who composed it. For, were the incidents related in these _paralipomena_
fictitious, as in a novel, there is nor the least doubt but that an
interview so important and of such transcendent interest as that of
Pepita and Don Luis would have been brought about by less vulgar means
than those here employed. Perhaps our hero and heroine, in the course of
some new excursion into the country, might have been surprised by a
sudden and frightful tempest, thus finding themselves obliged to take
refuge in the ruins of some ancient castle or Moorish tower, with the
reputation, of course, of being haunted by ghosts or other supernatural
visitants. Perhaps our hero and heroine might have fallen into the power
of a party of bandits, from whom they would have escaped, thanks to the
presence of mind and courage of Don Luis; taking shelter afterward for
the night--they two alone, and without the possibility of avoiding
it--in a cavern or grotto. Or, finally, perhaps the author would have
arranged the matter in such a way as that Pepita and her vacillating
admirer would have been obliged to make a journey by sea, and, although
at the present day there are neither pirates nor Algerine corsairs, it
is not difficult to invent a good shipwreck, during which Don Luis
could have saved Pepita's life, taking refuge with her afterward on a
desert island, or some other equally romantic and solitary place. Any
one of these devices would more artfully prepare the way for the tender
colloquy of the lovers, and would better serve to exculpate Don Luis. We
are of the opinion, nevertheless, that, instead of censuring the author
for not having had recourse to such complications as those we have
mentioned, we ought rather to thank him for his conscientiousness in
sacrificing to the truth of his relation the marvelous effect he might
have produced, had he ventured to ornament and adorn it with incidents
and episodes drawn from his own fancy.

If the means by which this interview was brought about were, in reality,
only the officiousness and the skill of Antoñona, and the weakness with
which Don Luis acceded to her request that he should grant it, why forge
lies, and cause the two lovers to be impelled, as it were, by Fate, to
see and speak with each other alone, to the great danger of the virtue
and honor of both? There was nothing of this. Whether Don Luis did well
or ill in keeping his appointment, and whether Pepita Ximenez, whom
Antoñona had already told that Don Luis was coming of his own accord to
see her, did well or ill in rejoicing over that somewhat mysterious and
inopportune visit, let us not throw the blame on Fate, but on the
personages themselves who figure in this history, and on the passions
by which they are actuated. We confess to a great affection for Pepita;
but the truth is before everything, and must be declared, even should it
be to the prejudice of our heroine.

At eight o'clock, then, Antoñona had told her that Don Luis was coming,
and Pepita, who had been talking of dying, whose eyes were red, whose
eyelids were slightly inflamed with weeping, and whose hair was in some
disorder, thought of nothing, thereafter, but of adorning and arranging
herself for the purpose of receiving Don Luis. She bathed her face with
warm water, so that the ravages her tears had made might be effaced to
the exact point of leaving her beauty unimpaired, while still allowing
it to be seen that she had wept. She arranged her hair, so as to
display, rather than a studied care in its arrangement, a certain
graceful and artistic carelessness, that fell short of disorder,
however, which would have been indecorous; she polished her nails, and,
as it was not fit that she should receive Don Luis in a wrapper, she put
on a simple house-dress. In fine, she managed instinctively that all the
details of her toilet should concur in heightening her beauty and grace,
but without allowing any trace to be perceived of the art, the labor,
and the time employed in the details. She would have it appear, on the
contrary, as if all this beauty and grace were the free gift of nature,
something inherent in her person, no matter how she might, owing to the
vehemence of her passions, neglect it on occasion.

Pepita, so far as we have been able to discover, spent more than an hour
in these labors of the toilet, which were to be perceived only by their
results. She then, with ill-concealed satisfaction, gave herself the
final touch before the looking-glass. At last, at about half-past nine,
taking a candle in her hand, she descended to the apartment, in which
was the _Infant Jesus_. She first lighted the altar-candles which had
been extinguished; she saw with something of sorrow that the flowers
were drooping; she asked pardon of the sacred Image for neglecting it so
long, and, throwing herself on her knees before it, prayed in her
solitude with her whole heart, and with that frankness and confidence
that a guest inspires who has been so long an inmate of the house. Of a
_Jesus of Nazareth_ bearing the cross upon his shoulders, and crowned
with thorns; of an _Ecce Homo_, insulted and scourged, with a reed for
derisive scepter, and his hands bound with a rough cord; of a _Christ
crucified_, bleeding and moribund, Pepita would not have dared to ask
what she now asked of a Saviour, still a child, smiling, beautiful,
untouched by suffering, and pleasing to the eye. Pepita asked him to
leave her Don Luis; not to take him away from her, since he, who was so
rich and so well provided with everything, might, without any great
sacrifice, deny himself this one of his servants, and give him up to
her.

Having completed these preparations, which we may classify as cosmetic,
indumentary, and religious, Pepita installed herself in the library, and
there awaited the arrival of Don Luis with feverish impatience.

Antoñona had acted with prudence in not telling her mistress that Don
Luis was coming to see her until a short time before the appointed hour.
Even as it was, thanks to the delay of the gallant, poor Pepita, from
the moment in which she had finished her prayers and supplications to
the _Infant Jesus_, to that in which she beheld Don Luis standing in the
library, was a prey to anguish and disquietude.

The visit began in the most grave and ceremonious manner. The customary
salutations were mechanically interchanged, and Don Luis, at the
invitation of Pepita, seated himself in an easy-chair, without laying
aside his hat or cane, and at a short distance from her. Pepita was
seated on the sofa; beside her was a little table on which were some
books, and a candle, the light from which illuminated her countenance.
On the desk also burned a lamp. Notwithstanding these two lights,
however, the apartment, which was large, remained for the greater part
in obscurity. A large window, which looked out on an inner garden, was
open on account of the heat; and although the grating of the window was
covered with climbing roses and jasmine, the clear beams of the moon
penetrated through the interlaced leaves and flowers, and struggled with
the light of the lamp and candle. Through the open window came, too, the
distant and confused sounds of the dance at the farm-house, which was at
the other extremity of the garden, the monotonous murmur of the fountain
below, and the fragrance of the jasmine and roses that curtained the
window, mingled with that of the mignonette, sweet-basil, and other
plants that adorned the borders beneath.

There was a long pause--a silence as difficult to maintain as it was to
break. Neither of the two interlocutors ventured to speak. The situation
was, in truth, embarrassing. They found it as difficult to express
themselves then, as we find it now to reproduce their words; but there
is nothing else for it than to make the effort. Let us allow them to
speak for themselves, transcribing their words with exactitude.

       *       *       *       *       *

"So you have finally condescended to come and take leave of me before
your departure," said Pepita; "I had already given up the hope that you
would do so."

The part Don Luis had to perform was a serious one; and, besides this,
in this kind of dialogue, the man, not only if he be a novice, but even
when he is old in the business and an expert, is apt to begin with some
piece of folly. Let us not condemn Don Luis, therefore, because he also
began unwisely.

"Your complaint is unjust," he said. "I came here with my father to take
leave of you, and, as we had not the pleasure of being received by you,
we left cards. We were told that your health was somewhat delicate, and
we have sent every day since to inquire for you. We were greatly pleased
to learn that you were improving. I hope you are now much better."

"I am almost tempted to say I am no better," answered Pepita, "but, as I
see that you have come as the embassador of your father, and I do not
want to distress so excellent a friend, it is but right that I should
tell you, that you may repeat it to him, that I am much better now. But
it is strange that you have come alone. Don Pedro must be very much
occupied indeed, not to accompany you."

"My father did not accompany me, madam, because he does not know that I
have come to see you. I have chosen to come without him because my
farewell must be a serious, a solemn, perhaps a final one, and his will
naturally be of a very different character. My father will return to
the village in a few weeks; it is possible that I may never return to
it, and, if I do, it will be in a very different character from my
present one."

Pepita could not restrain herself. The happy future of which she had
dreamed vanished, at the words of Don Luis, into air. Her unalterable
resolution to vanquish, at whatever cost, this man, the only one she had
loved in her life, the only one she felt herself capable of loving,
seemed to have been made in vain. She felt herself condemned at twenty
years of age, with all her beauty, to perpetual widowhood, to solitude,
to an unrequited love--for any other love was impossible for her. The
character of Pepita, in whom obstacles only strengthened and kindled
afresh her desires, with whom a determination, once taken, carried
everything before it until it was fulfilled, showed itself now in all
its violence and without restraint. She must conquer, or die in the
attempt. Social considerations, the fixed habit of guarding and
concealing the feelings, acquired in the great world, which serve as a
restraint to the paroxysms of passion, and which veil in ambiguous
phrases, and dilute in circumlocutions, the most violent explosion of
undisciplined emotion, had no power with Pepita. She had had but little
intercourse with the world, she knew no middle way; her only rule of
conduct hitherto had been to obey blindly her mother and her husband
while they lived, and afterward to command despotically every other
human being. Thus it was that Pepita spoke her own thoughts on this
occasion, and showed herself such as she really was. Her soul, with all
the passion it contained, took sensible form in her words; and her
words, instead of serving to conceal her thoughts and her feelings, gave
them substance. She did not speak as a lady of our _salons_ would have
spoken, with circumlocutions and attenuations of expression, but with
that idyllic frankness with which Chloe spoke to Daphnis, and with the
humility and the complete self-abandonment with which the
daughter-in-law of Naomi offered herself to Boaz.

"Do you then persist in your purpose?" she asked. "Are you sure of your
vocation? Are you not afraid of being a bad priest? Don Luis, I am going
to make a supreme effort. I am going to forget that I am an uncultured
girl; I am going to dispense with all sentiment, and to reason as coldly
as if it were concerning the matter most indifferent to me. Things have
taken place that may be explained in two ways; both explanations do you
discredit. I will show you what my thoughts are. If the woman who, with
her coquetries--not very daring ones, in truth--almost without a word,
and but a few days after seeing and speaking to you for the first time,
has been able to provoke you, to move you to look at her with glances
that betokened a profane love, and has even obtained from you a proof of
that love that would be a fault, a sin, in any one, but is so especially
in a priest--if this woman be, as she indeed is, a simple country-girl,
without education, without talent, and without elegance, what is not to
be feared of you when in great cities you see and converse with other
women a thousand times more dangerous? Your head will be turned when you
are thrown into the society of the great ladies who dwell in palaces,
who tread on soft carpets, who dazzle the eye with their diamonds and
pearls, who are clad in silks and laces instead of muslin and percale,
who leave bare the white and well-formed throat instead of covering it
with a plebeian and modest handkerchief, who are adepts in all the arts
of coquetry, and who, by reason of the very ostentation, luxury, and
pomp that surround them, are all the more desirable for being apparently
more inaccessible; who discuss politics, philosophy, religion, and
literature; who sing like canaries, who are enveloped, as it were, in
clouds of incense, adoration and homage, set upon a pedestal of triumphs
and of victories, glorified by the prestige of an illustrious name,
enthroned in gilded saloons, or secluded in voluptuous boudoirs, where
enter only the blest ones of the earth, its titled ones, perhaps, who
only to their most intimate friends are "Pepita," "Antoñita," or
"Angelita," and to the rest of the world, "Her Grace the Duchess," or
"the Marchioness." If you have yielded to the arts of an uncultured
peasant when you were on the eve of being ordained, and in spite of all
the enthusiasm for your calling that you may naturally be supposed to
entertain--if you have thus yielded, urged by a passing impulse, am I
not right in foreseeing that you will make an abominable priest, impure,
worldly, and of evil influence, and that you will yield to temptation at
every step? On such a supposition as this, believe me, Don Luis--and do
not be offended with me for saying so--you are not even worthy to be the
husband of an honest woman. If, with all the ardor and tenderness of the
most passionate lover, you have pressed the hand of a woman, if you have
looked at one, with glances that foretold a heaven, an eternity of love,
if you have kissed a woman that inspired you with no other feeling than
one that for me has no name, then go, in God's name, and do not marry
her! If she is virtuous, she will not desire you for a husband, nor even
for a lover; but, for God's sake, do not become a priest either! The
Church needs men more serious, more capable of resisting temptation, as
ministers of the Most High.

"If, on the other hand, you have felt a noble passion for the woman of
whom we are speaking, although she be of little worth, why abandon and
deceive her with so much cruelty? However unworthy she may be, if she
has inspired this great passion, do you not suppose that she will share
it, and be the victim of it? For, when a love is great, elevated, and
passionate, does it ever fail to make its power felt? Does it not
tyrannize over and subjugate the beloved object irresistibly? By the
extent of your love for her you may measure that of her you love. And
how can you avoid fearing for her, if you abandon her? Has she the
masculine energy, the firmness of character produced by the wisdom
learned from books, the attraction of fame, the multitude of splendid
projects, and all the resources of your cultured and exalted intellect,
to distract her mind, and turn her away, without destructive violence,
from every other earthly affection? Can you not see that she will die of
grief, and that you, called by your destiny to offer up bloodless
sacrifices, will begin by pitilessly sacrificing her who most loves
you?"

"I too, madam," returned Don Luis, endeavoring to conquer his emotion,
and to speak with firmness--"I too, madam, am obliged to make a great
effort in order to answer you with the calmness necessary to one who
opposes argument to argument, as in a controversy; but your accusation
is supported by so many reasons, and you have invested those
reasons--pardon me for saying so--with so specious an appearance of
truth, that I have no choice left me but to disprove them by other
reasons. I had no thought of being placed in the necessity of
maintaining a discussion here, and of sharpening my poor wits for that
purpose; but you compel me to do so, unless I wish to pass for a
monster. I am going to reply to the two extremes of the cruel dilemma in
which you have placed me. Though it is true that my youth was passed in
my uncle's house and in the seminary, where I saw nothing of women, do
not therefore think me so ignorant, or possessed of so little
imagination, that I can not picture to myself how lovely, how seductive
they may be. My imagination, on the contrary, went far beyond the
reality. Excited by the reading of the sacred writers and of profane
poets, it pictured women more charming, more graceful, more intelligent,
than they are commonly to be found in real life. I knew then, and I even
exaggerated to myself, the cost of the sacrifice I was making, when I
renounced the love of those women for the purpose of elevating myself to
the dignity of the priesthood. I know well how much the charms of a
beautiful woman are enhanced by rich attire, by splendid jewels, by
being surrounded with all the arts of refined civilization, all the
objects of luxury produced by the indefatigable labor and the skill of
man. I knew well, too, how much the natural cleverness of a woman is
increased, how much her natural intelligence is sharpened, quickened,
and brightened by intercourse with scientific men, by the reading of
good books, even by the familiar spectacle of the wealth and splendor of
great cities, and of the monuments of the past that they contain. All
this I pictured to myself with so much vividness, my fancy painted it in
such glowing colors, that you need have no doubt that, should I be
thrown into the society of those women of whom you speak, far from
feeling the adoration and the transports you prophesy, I shall rather
experience a disenchantment on seeing how great a distance there is
between what I dreamed of and the truth, between the living reality and
the picture of it that my fancy drew."

"This is indeed specious reasoning," exclaimed Pepita. "How can I deny
that what you have pictured in your imagination is, in truth, more
beautiful than what exists in reality? but who will deny, either, that
the real possesses a more seductive charm than that which exists only in
the imagination? The vagueness and etherealness of a phantasm, however
beautiful it may be, can not compete with what is palpable and visible
to the senses. I can understand that holy images might exercise a more
powerful influence over your spirit than the pictures of mundane beauty
created by your fancy, but I fear that those holy images will not prove
equally powerful where mundane realities are concerned."

"Have no such fear, madam," returned Don Luis. "My fancy possesses, by
its own creations, more power over my spirit than does the whole
universe--only excepting yourself--by what it transmits to it through
the senses."

"And why except me? Such an exception gives room to the suspicion that
the idea you have of me, the idea which you love, may be but the
creation of this potent fancy of yours, and an illusion that resembles
me in nothing."

"No, this is not the case. You may be assured that this idea resembles
you in everything. It may be that it is innate in my soul, that it has
existed in it since it was created by God, that it is a part of its
essence, the best and purest part of its being, as the perfume is of the
flower."

"This is what I had feared, and now you confess it to me. You do not
love me. What you love is the essence, the fragrance, the purest part of
your own soul, that has assumed a form resembling mine."

"No, Pepita; do not seek to amuse yourself in tormenting me. What I love
is you--and you such as you really are; but what I love is also so
beautiful, so pure, so delicate that I can not understand how it should
have reached my mind, in a material manner, through the senses. I take
it for granted, then, and it is my firm belief, that it must have had an
innate existence there. It is like the idea of God that is inborn in my
soul, that has unfolded and developed itself within my soul, and that
has, nevertheless, its counterpart in reality, superior, infinitely
superior to the idea. As I believe that God exists, so do I believe that
you exist, and that you are a thousand times superior to the idea that I
have formed of you."

"Still, I have a doubt left. May it not be woman in general, and not I,
solely and exclusively, that has awakened this idea?"

"No, Pepita; before I saw you, I had felt in imagination what might be
the magic power, the fascination of a woman, beautiful of soul and
graceful in person. There is no duchess or marchioness in Madrid, no
empress in all the world, no queen or princess on the face of the globe,
to be compared to the ideals and fantastic creations with whom I have
lived. These were inhabitants of the castles and boudoirs, marvels of
luxury and taste, that I pleased myself in boyhood by erecting in my
fancy, and that I afterward gave as dwelling-places to my Lauras,
Beatrices, Juliets, Marguerites, and Leonoras; to my Cynthias, Glyceras,
and Lesbias. Them I crowned in my imagination with coronets and Oriental
diadems; I clothed them in mantles of purple and gold, and surrounded
them with regal pomp like Esther and Vashti; I endowed them, like
Rebekah and the Shulamite, with the bucolic simplicity of the
patriarchal age; I bestowed on them the sweet humility and the devotion
of Ruth; I listened to them discoursing like Aspasia, or Hypatia,
mistresses of eloquence; I enthroned them in luxurious drawing-rooms,
and cast over them the splendor of noble blood and illustrious lineage,
as if they had been the proudest and noblest of patrician maidens of
ancient Rome; I beheld them graceful, coquettish, gay, full of
aristocratic ease and manner, like the ladies of the time of Louis XIV,
in Versailles; and I adorned them, now with the modest _stola_, that
inspired veneration and respect; now with diaphanous tunics and
_peplums_, through whose airy folds were revealed all the plastic
perfections of their graceful forms; now with the transparent _coa_, of
the beautiful courtesans of Athens and Corinth, showing the white and
roseate hues of the finely molded forms that glowed beneath their
vaporous covering. But what are the joys of the senses, what the glory
and magnificence of the world, to a soul that burns with and consumes
itself in Divine love, as I believed mine, perhaps with too much
arrogance, to burn and consume itself? As volcanic fires, when they
burst into flame, send flying into air, shattered in a thousand
fragments, the solid rocks, the mountain-side itself, that obstruct
their passage, so, or with even greater force, did my spirit cast from
itself the whole weight of the universe and of created beauty that lay
upon it and imprisoned it, preventing it from soaring up to God, as the
center of its aspirations. No; I have rejected no delight, no sweetness,
no glory, through ignorance. I knew them all, and valued them all at
more than their worth, when I rejected them all for a greater delight, a
greater sweetness, a greater glory. The profane love of woman presented
itself to my fancy, clothed, not only with all its own charms, but with
the sovereign and almost irresistible charms of the most dangerous of
all temptations--of that which the moralists call virginal
temptation--when the mind, not yet undeceived by experience and by sin,
pictures to itself in the transports of love a supreme and ineffable
delight immeasurably superior to all reality. Ever since I reached
manhood--that is to say, for many years past, for my youth was short--I
have scorned those delights and that beauty that were but the shadow and
the reflex of the archetypal beauty of which I was enamored, of the
supreme delight for which I longed. I have sought to die to myself, in
order to live in the beloved object, to free, not only my senses, but
even my soul itself, from every earthly affection, from illusions and
imaginings, in order to be able to say with truth that it is not I who
live, but Christ who lives in me. It may be, nay, it must be, that in
this I sinned through arrogance and self-confidence, and that God has
therefore wished to chastise me; and you came across my path, and
tempted me, and led me astray. Now you upbraid me, you deride me, you
accuse me of levity and of yielding easily to temptation; but in
upbraiding me and deriding me you insult yourself, for you thus imply
that any other woman might have had equal power over me. I do not wish,
when I ought to be humble, to fall into the sin of pride, by trying to
justify my fault. If God, in chastisement of my pride, has let me fall
from his grace, it is possible that any temptation, however slight,
might have made me waver and fall. Yet I confess that I do not think so.
It may be that I err in my judgment that this is but the consequence of
my undisciplined pride, but, I repeat, I do not think so. I can not
succeed in persuading myself that the cause of my fall had in it
anything either mean or base. Above all the dreams of my youthful
imagination, the reality, such as I beheld it in you, enthroned itself.
Above all the nymphs, queens, and goddesses of my fancy, you towered.
Above the ruins of my ideal creations, overthrown and shattered by
Divine love, there arose in my soul the faithful image, the exact
reproduction of the living beauty that adorns, that is the essence of
that body and of that soul. There may be even something mysterious,
something supernatural in this; for I loved you from the moment I first
saw you--almost before I saw you. Long before I was conscious of loving
you, I loved you. It would seem as if there were some fatality in
this--that it was decreed, that it was a predestination."

"And if it were predestined, if it be decreed," said Pepita, "why not
submit to Fate, why still resist? Sacrifice your purpose to our love.
Have not I sacrificed much? Am I not now sacrificing my pride, my
decorum, my reserve, in supplicating you thus, in making this effort to
overcome your scorn? I too believe that I loved you before I saw you.
Now I love you with my whole heart, and without you there is no
happiness for me. It is true indeed that in my humble intelligence you
can find no rival so powerful as that which I have in yours. Neither
with the understanding, nor the will, nor the affections, can I raise
myself all at once up to God. Neither by nature nor by grace do I mount
or desire to mount up to such exalted spheres. My soul, nevertheless, is
full of religious devotion, and I know and love and adore God; but I
only behold his omnipotence and admire his goodness in the works that
have proceeded from his hands. Nor can I, with the imagination, weave
those visions that you tell me of. Yet I too dreamed of some one nobler,
more intelligent, more poetic, and more enamored, than the men who have
thus far sought my hand; of a lover more distinguished and accomplished
than any of my adorers of this and the neighboring villages, who should
love me, and whom I should love, and to whose will I should blindly
surrender mine. This some one was you. I had a presentiment of it when
they told me that you had arrived at the village. When I saw you for the
first time, I knew it. But, as my imagination is so sterile, the picture
I had formed of you in my mind was not to be compared, even in the most
remote degree, to the reality. I too have read something of romances and
poetry. But from all that my memory retained of them, I was unable to
form a picture that was not far inferior in merit to what I see and
divine in you since I have known you. Thus it is that from the moment I
saw you I was vanquished and undone. If love is, as you say, to die to
self, in order to live in the beloved object, then is my love genuine
and legitimate, for I have died to myself, and live only in you and for
you. I have tried to cast this love away from me, deeming it
ill-requited, and I have not been able to succeed in doing so. I have
prayed to God with fervor to take away from me this love, or else to
kill me, and God has not deigned to hear me. I have prayed to the
Virgin Mary to blot your image from my soul, and my prayer has been in
vain. I have made vows to my patron saint to the end that he would
enable me to think of you only as he thought of his blessed spouse, and
my patron saint has not succored me. Seeing all this, I have had the
audacity to ask of Heaven that you would allow yourself to be
vanquished, that you would cease to desire to be a priest, that there
might spring up in your soul a love as profound as that which is in my
heart. Don Luis, tell me frankly, has Heaven been deaf to this last
prayer also? Or is it, perchance, that to subjugate a soul as weak, as
wretched, and as petty as mine, a petty love is sufficient, while to
master yours, protected and guarded as it is by vigorous and lofty
thoughts, a more powerful love than mine is necessary, a love that I am
neither worthy of inspiring, nor capable of sharing, nor even able to
understand?"

"Pepita," returned Don Luis, "it is not that your soul is less than
mine, but that it is free from obligations, and mine is not. The love
you have inspired me with is profound, but my obligations, my vows, the
purpose of my whole life so near to its realization, contend against it.
Why should I not say it without fearing to offend you? If you succeed in
making me love you, you do not humiliate yourself. If I succumb to your
love, I humiliate and abase myself. I leave the Creator for the
creature. I renounce the unwavering purpose of my life, I break the
image of Christ that was in my soul; and the new man, that I had created
in myself at such cost, disappears, that the old man may come to life
again. Instead of my lowering myself to the earth, to the impurity of
the world that I have hitherto despised, why do not you rather elevate
yourself to me by virtue of that very love you entertain for me, freeing
it from every earthly alloy? Why should we not love each other then
without shame, and without sin, and without dishonor? God penetrates
holy souls with the pure and refulgent fire of his love, and fills them
with it, so that, like a metal fresh from the forge, that, without
ceasing to be a metal, shines and glitters and is all fire, these souls
fill themselves with joy, and are in all things God, penetrated by God
in every part, through the grace of the Divine love. These souls then
love and enjoy each other, as if they loved and enjoyed God, loving and
enjoying him in truth, because they are God. Let us mount together in
spirit this steep and mystical ladder. Let our souls ascend, side by
side, to this bliss, which even in this mortal life is possible; but to
do this we must separate in the body; it is essential that I should go
whither I am called by my duty, my vow, and the voice of the Most High,
who disposes of his servant, and has destined him to the service of his
altar."

"Ah, Don Luis," replied Pepita, full of sorrow and contrition, "now
indeed I see how vile is the metal I am made of, and how unworthy I am
that the Divine fire should penetrate and transform me. I will confess
everything, casting away even shame: I am a vile sinner; my rude and
uncultured understanding can not grasp these subtleties, these
distinctions, these refinements of love. My rebellious will refuses what
you propose. I can not even conceive of you but as yourself. For me you
are your mouth, your eyes, your dark locks that I desire to caress with
my hands, your sweet voice, the pleasing sound of your words that fall
upon my ears, and charm them through the senses; your whole bodily form,
in a word that charms and seduces me, and through which, and only
through which, I perceive the invisible spirit, vague and full of
mystery. My soul, stubborn, and incapable of these mysterious raptures,
will never be able to follow you to those regions whither you would take
it. If you soar up to them, I shall remain alone, abandoned, plunged in
the deepest affliction. I prefer to die; I deserve death; I desire it.
It may be that after death my soul, loosening or breaking the vile bonds
that chain it here, will be able to understand the love with which you
desire we should be united. Kill me, then, in order that we may thus
love each other; kill me, and then my spirit, set free, will follow you
whithersoever you may go, and will journey invisible by your side,
watching over your steps, contemplating you with ravishment, penetrating
your most secret thoughts, beholding your soul as it is, without the
intervention of the senses. But in this life it can not be. I love in
you, not only the soul, but the body, and the shadow cast by the body,
and the reflection of the body in the mirror and in the water, and the
Christian name, and the surname, and the blood, and all that goes to
make you such as you are, Don Luis de Vargas; the sound of your voice,
your gesture, your gait, and I know not what else besides. I repeat that
you must kill me. Kill me without compassion. No, I am not a Christian;
I am a material idolater."

Here Pepita made a long pause. Don Luis knew not what to say, and was
silent. Tears bathed the cheeks of Pepita, who continued, sobbing:

"I know it; you despise me, and you are right to despise me. With this
just contempt you will kill me more surely than with a dagger, and
without staining either your hands or your conscience with blood.
Farewell! I am about to free you from my odious presence. Farewell
forever!"

Having said this, Pepita rose from her seat, and, without looking at Don
Luis, her face bathed with tears, beside herself, rushed toward the door
that led to the inner apartment. An unconquerable tenderness, a fatal
pity, took possession of Don Luis. He feared Pepita would die. He
started forward to detain her, but it was too late. Pepita had crossed
the threshold. Her form disappeared in the obscurity within. Don Luis,
impelled by a superhuman power, drawn as by an invisible hand, followed
her into the darkened chamber.

       *       *       *       *       *

The library remained deserted.

The servants' dance must have already terminated, for the only sound to
be heard was the murmur of the fountain in the garden below.

Not even a breath of wind troubled the stillness of the night and the
serenity of the air.

The perfume of the flowers and the light of the moon entered softly
through the open window. After a long interval, Don Luis made his
appearance, emerging from the darkness. Terror was depicted on his
countenance, mingled with despair--such despair as Judas may have felt
after he had betrayed his master.

He dropped into a chair and, burying his face in his hands, with his
elbows resting on his knees, he remained for more than half an hour
plunged in a sea of bitter reflections.

To see him thus, one might have supposed that he had just assassinated
Pepita.

Pepita, nevertheless, at last made her appearance. With slow step, with
an air of the deepest melancholy, with bent head, and glance directed to
the floor, she approached Don Luis and spoke.

"Now, indeed," said she, "though, alas! too late, I know all the
vileness of my heart and the iniquity of my conduct. I have nothing to
say in my own defense, but I would not have you think me more perverse
than I am. You must not think I have used any arts--that I have laid any
plans for your destruction. Yes; it is true that I have been guilty of
an atrocious crime, but an unpremeditated one; a crime inspired,
perhaps, by the spirit of evil that possesses me. Do not abandon
yourself to despair, do not torture yourself, for God's sake! You are
responsible for nothing. It was a frenzy, a madness that took possession
of your noble spirit. Your sin is a light one; mine is flagrant,
shameful, horrible. Now I am less worthy of you than ever. It is I who
ask you now to leave this place. Go; do penance. God will pardon you.
Go; a priest will give you absolution. Once cleansed from sin, carry out
your purpose, and become a minister of the Most High. Then, through the
holiness of your life, through your ceaseless labors, not only will you
efface from your soul the last traces of this fall, but you will obtain
for me, when you have pardoned me the evil I have done you, the pardon
of Heaven also. You are bound to me by no tie, and even if you were I
should loosen or break it. You are free. Let it suffice me that I have
taken captive by surprise the star of the morning. It is not my
desire--I neither can nor ought to seek to keep him in my power. I
divine it, I read it in your gesture, I am convinced of it--you despise
me more than before; and you are right in despising me. There is neither
honor, nor virtue, nor shame in me."

When she had thus spoken, Pepita, throwing herself on her knees, bowed
her face till her forehead touched the floor. Don Luis continued in the
same attitude as before. Thus, for some moments, they remained both
silent with the silence of despair.

In a stifled voice, and without raising her face from the floor, Pepita
after a time continued:

"Go now, Don Luis, and do not, through an insulting pity, remain any
longer at the side of so despicable a wretch as I. I shall have courage
to bear your indifference, your forgetfulness, your contempt, for I have
deserved them all. I shall always be your slave--but far from you, very
far from you, in order that nothing may recall to your memory the
infamy of this night."

Pepita's voice, as she ended, was choked with sobs.

Don Luis could restrain himself no longer. He arose, approached Pepita,
and, raising her in his arms from the floor, pressed her to his heart;
then, putting aside from her face the blond tresses that fell in
disorder over it, he covered it with passionate kisses.

"Soul of my soul," he said at last, "life of my life, treasure of my
heart, light of my eyes, raise up your dejected brow, and do not
prostrate yourself any longer before me. The sinner, the vile wretch, he
who has shown himself weak of purpose, who has made himself the butt of
scorn and ridicule, is I, not you. Angels and devils alike must laugh at
me and mock me. I have clothed myself with a false sanctity. I was not
able to resist temptation, and to undeceive you in the beginning, as
would have been just, and now I am equally unable to show myself a
gentleman, a man of honor, or a tender lover who knows how to value the
favors of his mistress. I can not understand what it was you saw in me
to attract you. There never was in me any solid virtue--nothing but vain
show and the pedantry of a student who has read pious books as one reads
a novel, and on this foundation has based his foolish romance of a
future devoted to converting the heathen, and to pious meditations. If
there had been in me any solid virtue, I should have undeceived you in
time, and neither you nor I would have sinned. True virtue is not so
easily vanquished. Notwithstanding your beauty, notwithstanding your
intelligence, notwithstanding your love for me, I should not have fallen
if I had been in reality virtuous, if I had had a true vocation. God, to
whom all things are possible, would have bestowed his grace upon me. It
would have needed nothing less than a miracle, or some other
supernatural event, to have enabled me to resist your love, but God
would have wrought the miracle, and I should have been worthy of it, and
a motive sufficient for its being wrought. You are wrong to counsel me
to become a priest. I know my own unworthiness. It was only pride that
actuated me in my desire to be one. It was a worldly ambition, like any
other. What do I say--like any other? It was worse than any other; it
was a hypocritical, a sacrilegious, a simoniacal ambition."

"Do not judge yourself so harshly," said Pepita, now more tranquil, and
smiling through her tears. "I do not want you to judge yourself thus,
not even for the purpose of making me appear less unworthy to be your
companion. No; I would have you choose me through love--freely; not to
repair a fault, not because you have fallen into the snares you perhaps
think I have perfidiously spread for you. If you do not love me, if you
distrust me, if you do not esteem me, then go. My lips shall not breathe
a single complaint, if you should abandon me forever, and never think of
me again."

To answer this fittingly, our poor and beggarly human speech was
insufficient for Don Luis. He cut short Pepita's words by pressing his
lips to hers, and again clasping her to his heart.

       *       *       *       *       *

Some time afterward, with much previous coughing and shuffling of the
feet, Antoñona entered the library with the words:

"What a long talk you must have had! The sermon our student has been
preaching this time can not have been that of the _seven words_--it came
very near being that of the _forty hours_. It is time you should go now,
Don Luis; it is almost two o'clock in the morning."

"Very well," answered Pepita, "he will go directly."

Antoñona left the library again, and waited outside.

Pepita was like one transformed. One might suppose that the joys she had
missed in her childhood, the happiness and contentment she had failed to
taste in her early youth, the gay activity and sprightliness that a
harsh mother and an old husband had repressed, and, as it were, crushed
within her, had suddenly burst into life in her soul, like the green
leaves of the trees, whose germination has been retarded by the snows
and frosts of a long and severe winter.

A city-bred lady, familiar with what we call social conventionalities,
may find something strange, and even worthy of censure, in what I am
about to relate of Pepita. But Pepita, although refined by instinct, was
a being in whom every feeling was spontaneous, and in whose nature there
was no room for the affected sedateness and circumspection that are
customary in the great world. Thus it was that, seeing the obstacles
removed that had stood in the way of her happiness, and Don Luis
conquered, holding his voluntary promise that he would make her his
wife, and believing herself, with justice, to be loved, nay, worshiped
by him whom she too loved and worshiped, she danced and laughed, and
gave way to other manifestations of joy that had in them, after all,
something childlike and innocent.

But it was necessary that Don Luis should now depart. Pepita took a comb
and smoothed his hair lovingly, and kissed him. She then rearranged his
neck-tie.

"Farewell, lord of my life," she said, "dear sovereign of my soul. I
will tell your father everything if you fear to do. He is good, and he
will forgive us."

At last the lovers separated.

When Pepita found herself alone, her restless gayety disappeared, and
her countenance assumed a grave and thoughtful expression.

Two thoughts now presented themselves to her mind, both equally serious;
the one possessing a merely mundane interest, the other an interest of a
higher nature. The first thought was that her conduct to-night--the
delirium of passion once past--might prejudice her in the opinion of Don
Luis; but, finding, after a severe examination of her conscience, that
neither premeditation nor artifice had had any part in her actions,
which were the offspring of an irresistible love, and of impulses noble
in themselves, she came to the conclusion that Don Luis could not
despise her for it, and she therefore made her mind easy on that point.
Nevertheless, although her frank confession that she was unable to
comprehend a love that was purely spiritual, and her taking refuge
afterward in the obscurity of her chamber--without foreseeing
consequences--were both the result of an impulse innocent enough in
itself, Pepita did not seek to deny in her own mind that she had sinned
against God, and on this point she could find for herself no excuse.

She commended herself with all her heart, therefore, to the Virgin,
entreating her forgiveness. She vowed to the image of Our Lady of
Solitude, in the convent of the nuns, seven beautiful golden swords of
the finest and most elaborate workmanship, to adorn her breast, and
determined to go to confess herself on the following day to the vicar,
and to submit herself to the harshest penance he should choose to impose
upon her, in order to merit the absolution of those sins by means of
which she had vanquished the obstinacy of Don Luis, who, but for them,
would without a doubt have become a priest.

While Pepita was engaged in these reflections, and while she was
arranging with so much discretion the affairs of her soul, Don Luis had
descended to the hall below, accompanied by Antoñona.

Before taking his leave, Don Luis, without preface or circumlocution,
spoke thus:

"Antoñona, tell me, you who are acquainted with everything, who is the
Count of Genazahar, and what has he had to do with your mistress?

"You begin to be jealous very soon."

"It is not jealousy that makes me ask this, it is simply curiosity."

"So much the better. There is nothing more tiresome than jealousy. Well,
I will try to satisfy your curiosity. This same count has given room
enough for talk. He is a dissipated fellow, a gambler, and a man of no
principle whatever, but he has more vanity than Don Roderick on the
gallows. He made up his mind that my mistress should fall in love with
him and marry him, and, as she has refused him a thousand times, he is
mad enough to be tied. This does not prevent him, however, from keeping
in his money-chest more than a thousand dollars that Don Gumersindo lent
him years ago, without any more security than a bit of paper, through
the fault and at the entreaty of Pepita, who is better than bread. The
fool of a count thought, no doubt, that Pepita, who was so good to him
as a wife that she persuaded her husband to lend him money, would be so
much better to him as a widow that she would consent to marry him. He
was soon undeceived, however, and then he became furious."

"Good-by, Antoñona," said Don Luis, as, now grave and thoughtful, he
left the house.

The lights of the shops and of the booths in the fair were now
extinguished, and everybody was going home to bed, with the exception of
the owners of the toy-shops, and other poor hucksters, who slept beside
their wares in the open air.

In some of the grated windows were still to be seen lovers, wrapped in
their cloaks, and chatting with their sweethearts. Almost every one else
had disappeared.

Don Luis, once out of sight of Antoñona, gave a loose rein to his
thoughts. His resolution was taken, and all his reflections tended to
confirm this resolution. The sincerity and ardor of the passion with
which he had inspired Pepita; her beauty; the youthful grace of her
person, and the fresh exuberance of her soul, presented themselves to
his imagination, and rendered him happy.

Notwithstanding this, however, he could not but reflect with mortified
vanity on the change that had been wrought in himself. What would the
dean think? How great would be the horror the bishop! And, above all,
how serious were the grounds for complaint he had given his father! The
displeasure of the latter, his anger when he should know of the bond
that bound his son to Pepita, caused him infinite disquietude.

As for what--before he fell--he had called his fall it must be confessed
that, after he had fallen, it did not seem to him either so very serious
or so very reprehensible. His spiritual-mindedness, viewed in the light
that had just dawned upon him, he fancied to have had neither reality
nor consistency; to have been but the vain and artificial product of his
reading, of his boyish arrogance, of his aimless tenderness in the
innocent days of his college life. When he remembered that he had at
times thought himself the recipient of supernatural gifts and graces,
that he heard mystic whisperings, that his spirit held communion with
superior beings; when he remembered that he had fancied himself almost
beginning to tread the path that leads to spiritual unity, through
contemplation of the Divine, penetrating into the recesses of the soul,
and mounting up to the region of pure intelligence, he smiled to
himself, and began to suspect that during the period in question he had
not been altogether in his right mind. It had all been simply the result
of his own arrogance. He had neither done penance, nor passed long years
in meditation; he did not possess, nor had he ever possessed, sufficient
merits for God to favor him with privileges like these. The greatest
proof he could give himself of the truth of this, the greatest certainty
he could possess that the supernatural favors he had enjoyed were
spurious; mere recollections of the authors he had read, was that not
one of them had ever given him the rapture of Pepita's "I love you," or
of the soft touch of her hand caressing his dark locks.

Don Luis had recourse to another species of Christian humility to
justify in his eyes what he now no longer called his fall, but his
change of purpose. He confessed himself unworthy to be a priest; he
reconciled himself to being a commonplace married man, a good sort of
country gentleman, like any other, taking care of his vines and olives,
and bringing up his children--for he now desired to have children--and
to being a model husband at the side of his Pepita.

       *       *       *       *       *

Here I think myself again in the necessity--responsible as I am for the
publication and divulgation of this history--of interpolating various
reflections and explanations of my own.

I said at the beginning of the story that I was inclined to think that
the narrative part, or _paralipomena_, was composed by the reverend dean
for the purpose of completing the story, and supplying incidents not
related in the letters; but I had not at that time read the manuscript
with attention. Now, on observing the freedom with which certain matters
are treated, and the indulgence with which certain frailties are
regarded by the author, I am compelled to ask whether the reverend dean,
with the severity of whose morals I am well acquainted, would have spent
his time in writing what we have just read.

There are not sufficient grounds, however, for denying positively that
the reverend dean was the author of these _paralipomena_. The question,
therefore, may still be left in doubt, as in substance they contain
nothing opposed to Catholic doctrine or to Christian morality. On the
contrary, if we examine them carefully, we shall see that they contain a
lesson to pride and arrogance, in the person of Don Luis. This history
might easily serve as an appendix to the "Spiritual Disillusions" of
Father Arbiol.

As for the opinion entertained by two or three ingenious friends of mine
that the reverend dean, if he were the author, would have used a
different style in his narration, saying "my nephew" in speaking of Don
Luis, and interposing, from time to time, moral reflections of his own,
I do not think it an argument of any great weight. The reverend dean
proposed to himself to tell what had taken place, without seeking to
prove any thesis, and he acted with judgment in narrating things as they
were, without analyzing motives or moralizing. He did not do ill,
either, in my opinion, in concealing his personality, and in avoiding
the use of the word _I_, which is a proof, not only of his humility and
modesty, but of his literary taste also, for the epic poets and
historians who should serve us as models, do not say _I_, even when
speaking of themselves, and are themselves the heroes of the events they
relate. The Athenian Xenophon, to cite an instance, does not say _I_ in
his "Anabasis" but speaks of himself in the third person, when
necessary, as if the historian of those exploits were one person, and
the hero of them another. And there are whole chapters in which no
mention at all is made of Xenophon. Only a little before the famous
battle in which the youthful Cyrus met his death, while this prince was
reviewing the Greeks and barbarians who formed his army, and when that
of his brother Artaxerxes was already near, having been descried on the
broad, treeless plain afar off, first as a little white cloud, then as a
black spot, and, finally, clearly and distinctly--the neighing of the
horses, the creaking of the war-chariots armed with formidable scythes,
the cries of the elephants and the sound of warlike instruments reaching
the ears of the spectators, and the glitter of the brass and gold of the
weapons, irradiated by the sun, striking their eyes--only at that
moment, I repeat, and not before, does Xenophon appear in his own
person; then he emerges from the ranks to speak with Cyrus, and explains
to him the cry that ran from Greek to Greek; it was no other than what
in our day we call the watchword; and on that occasion it was "_Jupiter
the Savior, and victory!_"

The reverend dean, who was a man of taste, and very well versed in the
classics, would not be likely to fall into the error of introducing
himself into the narrative, and mixing himself up with it, under pretext
of being the uncle or tutor of the hero; and of vexing the reader by
coming out at every step a little difficult or slippery, with a "Stop
there!" or "What are you about to do?" or, "Take care you do not fall,
unhappy boy!" or other warnings of a like sort. Not to open his lips,
on the other hand, or manifest disapprobation in any way whatever, he
being present at least in spirit, would, in the case of some of the
incidents related, have been but little becoming. In view of these
facts, the reverend dean, with the discretion which was characteristic
of him, may possibly have composed the _paralipomena_, without
disclosing his identity to the reader. This much is certain, however--he
added notes and comments of an edifying and profitable character, where
such or such a passage seemed to require them. But these I have
suppressed, for the reason that notes and comments are now out of
fashion, and because this little book would be beyond measure voluminous
if it were printed with these additions.

I shall insert here, however, in the body of the text, the comment of
the reverend dean on the rapid transformation of Don Luis from
spiritual-mindedness to the reverse, as it is curious and throws much
light on the whole matter.

"This change of purpose of my nephew," he says, "does not disappoint me.
I foresaw it from the time he wrote me his first letters. I was deceived
in regard to Luisito in the beginning. I believed him to have a true
religious vocation; but I soon recognized the fact that his was a vain
poetic spirit. Mysticism was the form his poetic imaginings took, only
until a more adequate form presented itself.

"Praised be God, who has willed that Luisito should be undeceived in
time! A bad priest he would have made, if Pepita Ximenez had not so
opportunely presented herself. His very impatience to attain to
perfection at a single bound would have caused me to suspect something
if I had not been blinded by the affection of an uncle. What! are the
favors of Heaven thus obtained all at once? Is it only necessary to
present one's self in order to triumph? A friend of mine, a naval
officer, used to relate that, when he was in certain cities of America,
being then very young, he sought to gain favor with the ladies with too
much precipitation, and that they would say to him in their languid
American accent: 'You have but just presented yourself, and you already
want to be loved. Do something to deserve it, if you are able.' If these
ladies answered thus, what answer will not Heaven give to those who hope
to gain it without merit, and in the twinkling of an eye? Many efforts
must be made, much purification is needed, much penance must be done, in
order to begin to stand well in the sight of God, and to enjoy his
favors. Even in those vain and false philosophies that have in them
anything of mysticism, no supernatural gift or grace is received without
a powerful effort and a costly sacrifice. Iamblichus was not given
power to evoke the genii, and cause them to emerge from the fountain of
Gadara, without first spending days and nights in study, and mortifying
the body with privations and abstinences. Apollonius of Tyana is thought
to have mortified himself finely before performing his false miracles.
And in our own day the Krausists, who behold God, as they affirm, with
corporeal vision, are forced to read and learn beforehand the whole
"Analytics" of Sanz del Río, which is a much harder task and a greater
proof of patience and endurance than to flagellate the body until it
looks like a ripe fig. My nephew desired, without effort or merit, to be
a perfect man, and--see how it has ended! The important thing now is
that he shall make a good husband, and that, since he is unsuited for
great things, he may be fit for smaller ones--for domestic life, and to
make Pepita happy, whose only fault, after all, is to have fallen madly
in love with him, with all the ingenuousness and violence of an untamed
creature."

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus far the comments of the reverend dean, written with easy
familiarity, as if for himself alone; for the good man was far from
suspecting that I would play him the trick of giving them to the public.

       *       *       *       *       *

Don Luis, in the middle of the street, at two o'clock in the morning,
was occupied with the thought, as we have said, that his life, that
until now he had dreamed might be worthy of the "Golden Legend," was
about to be converted into a sweet and perpetual idyl. He had not been
able to resist the lures of earthly passion. He had failed to imitate
the example set by so many saints, among others by St. Vincent Ferrer
with regard, to a certain dissolute lady of Valencia; though, indeed,
the cases were dissimilar. For if to flee from the diabolical courtesan
in question was an act of heroic virtue in St. Vincent, to flee from the
self-abandonment, the ingenuousness, and the humility of Pepita would,
in him, have been something as monstrous and cruel as if, when Ruth lay
down at the feet of Boaz, saying to him, "I am thy handmaid; spread
therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid," Boaz had given her a blow and
sent her about her business! Don Luis, then, when Pepita surrendered
herself to him, was obliged to follow the example of Boaz, and exclaim:
"Daughter, blessed be thou of the Lord; thou hast shewed more kindness
in the latter end than at the beginning." Thus did Don Luis justify
himself in not following the example of St. Vincent, and other saints no
less churlish. As for the ill success of the design he had entertained
of imitating St. Edward, he tried also to justify and excuse it. St.
Edward married for reasons of state, and without entertaining any
affection for Queen Edith; but in his case and in that of Pepita
Ximenez there were no reasons of state, but only a tender love on both
sides.

Don Luis, however, did not deny to himself--and this imparted to his
present happiness a slight tinge of melancholy--that he had proved false
to his ideal; that he had been vanquished in the conflict. Those who
have no ideal, who have never had an ideal, would not distress
themselves on this account. Don Luis did distress himself; but he
presently came to the conclusion that he would substitute a more humble
and easily attained ideal for his former exalted one. And although the
recollection of Don Quixote's resolution to turn shepherd, on being
vanquished by the Knight of the White Moon, here crossed his mind with
ludicrous appositeness, he was in no way daunted by it. He thought, in
union with Pepita Ximenez, to renew, in our prosaic and unbelieving
time, the golden age, and to repeat the pious example of Philemon and
Baucis, creating: a model of patriarchal life in these pleasant fields,
founding in the place where he was born a home presided over by
religion, that should be at once the asylum of the needy, the center of
culture and friendly conviviality, and the clear mirror in which the
domestic virtues should be reflected; joining in one, finally, conjugal
love and the love of God, in order that God might sanctify and be
present in their dwelling, making it the temple in which both should be
his ministers, until, by the will of Heaven, they should be called to a
better life.

Two obstacles must first be removed, however, before all this could be
realized, and Don Luis began to consider with himself how he might best
remove them.

The one was the displeasure, perhaps the anger, of his father, whom he
had defrauded of his dearest hopes. The other was of a very different
and, in a certain sense, of a much more serious character. Don Luis,
while he entertained the purpose of becoming a priest, was right in
defending Pepita from the gross insults of the Count of Genazahar by the
weapons of argument only, and in taking no vengeance for the scorn and
contempt with which those arguments were listened to. But, having now
determined to lay aside the cassock, and obliged, as he was, to declare
immediately that he was betrothed to Pepita and was going to marry her,
Don Luis, notwithstanding his peaceable disposition, his dreams of human
brotherhood, and his religious belief, all of which remained intact in
his soul, and all of which were alike opposed to violent measures, could
not succeed in reconciling it with his dignity to refrain from breaking
the head of the insolent count. He knew well that dueling is a barbarous
practice; that Pepita had no need of the blood of the count to wash
from her name the stain of calumny; and even that the count himself had
uttered the insults he had uttered, not because he believed them, nor
perhaps through an excess of hatred, but through stupidity and want of
breeding. Notwithstanding all these reflections, however, Don Luis was
conscious that he would never again be able to respect himself, and, as
a consequence, would never be able to perform to his taste the _rôle_ of
Philemon, if he did not begin with that of Furabras, by giving the count
his deserts; asking God, meantime, never again to place him in a similar
position.

This matter, then, being decided upon, he resolved to bring it to an end
as soon as possible. And as it appeared to him that it would be
inexpedient, as well as in bad taste, to arrange the affair through
seconds, and thus make the honor of Pepita a subject of common talk, he
determined to provoke a quarrel with the count under some other pretext.

Thinking that the count, being a stranger in the village and a confirmed
gambler, might possibly be still engaged at play in the club-house,
notwithstanding the lateness of the hour, Don Luis went straight there.

The club-house was still open, but, both in the court-yard and the
parlors, the lights were nearly all extinguished. In one apartment only
was there still a light. Thither Don Luis directed his steps, and, on
reaching it, he saw through the open door the Count of Genazahar engaged
in playing _monte_, in which he acted as banker. Only five other persons
were playing; two were strangers like the count; the others were the
captain of cavalry in charge of the remount, Currito, and the doctor.
Things could not have been better arranged to suit the purpose of Don
Luis. So engrossed were the players in their game that they did not
observe him, who, as soon as he saw the count, left the club-house and
went rapidly homeward.

On reaching his house the door was opened for him by a servant. Don Luis
inquired for his father, and, finding that he was asleep, procured a
light and went up to his own room, taking care to make no noise lest he
should disturb him. There he took some three thousand reals in gold that
he had laid by, and put them in his pocket. He then called the servant
to open the door for him again, and returned to the club-house.

Arrived there, Don Luis entered the parlor in which the players were,
walking noisily, and giving himself the airs of a fop. The players were
struck with amazement at seeing him.

"You here, at this hour!" said Currito.

"Where do you come from, little priest?" said the doctor.

"Have you come to preach me another sermon?" cried the count.

"I have done with sermons," returned Don Luis, calmly. "The bad success
of the last one I preached has clearly convinced me that God does not
call me to that path in life, and I have chosen another. You, count,
have wrought my conversion. I have thrown aside the cassock. I wish to
amuse myself; I am in the flower of my youth, and I want to enjoy it."

"Come, I am glad of that," returned the count; "but take care, my lad,
for, if the flower be a delicate one, it may wither and drop its leaves
before their time."

"I shall take care of that," returned Don Luis. "I see you are playing;
I feel inspired. You are dealing. Do you know, count, that it would be
amusing if I should break your bank?"

"You think it would be amusing, eh? You have been dining liberally!"

"I have dined as I choose to dine."

"The youngster is learning to answer back."

"I learn what it is my pleasure to learn."

"Damnation!" cried the count, and the storm was about to burst, when the
captain, interposing, succeeded in re-establishing the peace.

"Come," said the count, when he had recovered his temper, "out with your
cash, and try your luck."

Don Luis seated himself at the table, and took out all his gold. At
sight of it the count regained his serenity completely, for it must have
exceeded in amount the sum he had in the bank, and he already pleased
himself in anticipation with the thought of winning it.

"There is no need to cudgel one's brains much in this game," said Don
Luis to the count; "I think I understand it already. I put money on a
card, and if the card turns up, I win; and if the card opposed to it
turns up, you win."

"Just so, my young friend; you have a strong understanding."

"And the best of it is that I have not only a strong understanding, but
a strong will as well. But, though I may have the stubbornness of the
donkey, I am not the complete donkey that many a one I know of is."

"What a witty mood you are in to-night, and how anxious you are to
display your wit!"

Don Luis was silent. He played a few times, and was so lucky as to win
each time.

The count began to be annoyed.

"What if the youngster should pluck me?" he said to himself. "Fortune
favors the innocent."

While the count was troubling himself with this reflection, Don Luis,
feeling fatigued, and weary now of the part he was playing, determined
to end the matter at once.

"The object of all this," he said, "is to see if I can win all your
gold, or if you can win mine. Is it not so, count?"

"Just so."

"Well, then, why should we remain here all night? It is getting late,
and, according to your advice, I ought to retire early, so that the
flower of my youth may not wither before its time."

"How is this? Do you want to go away already? Do you want to back out?"

"I have not the slightest desire to back out. Quite the
contrary.--Currito, tell me, in this heap of gold here, is there not
already more than there is in the bank?"

Currito looked at the gold and answered:

"Without a doubt."

"How shall I explain," asked Don Luis, "that I wish to stake on one card
all that I have here, against what there is in the bank?"

"You do that," responded Currito, "by saying, 'I play _banco!_'"

"Well, then, I play _banco_," said Don Luis, addressing himself to the
count; "I play _banco_ on this king of spades, whose companion will to a
certainty turn up before his opponent the three does."

The count, whose whole cash capital was in the bank, began to be alarmed
at the risk he ran; but there was nothing for it but to accept.

It is a common saying that those who are fortunate in love are
unfortunate at play but the reverse of this is often more nearly the
truth. He who is fortunate in one thing is apt to be fortunate in
everything; it is the same when one is unfortunate.

The count continued to draw cards, but no _three_ turned up. His
emotion, notwithstanding his efforts to conceal it, was great. Finally,
he came to a card which he knew by the lines at the top to be the king
of hearts, and paused.

"Draw," said the captain.

"It is no use! The king of hearts! Curses on it! The little priest has
plucked me. Take up your money."

The count threw the cards angrily on the table.

Don Luis took up the money calmly, and with apparent indifference.

After a short silence the count said:

"My little priest, you must give me my revenge."

"I see no such necessity."

"It seems to me that between gentlemen--"

"According to that rule the game would have no end," said Don Luis, "and
it would be better to save one's self the trouble of playing
altogether."

"Give me my revenge," replied the count, without paying any attention to
this argument.

"Be it so," returned Don Luis; "I wish to be generous."

The count took up the cards again, and proceeded to deal.

"Stop a moment," said Don Luis; "let us understand each other. Where is
the money for your new bank?"

The count showed signs of confusion and disturbance.

"I have no money here," he returned, "but it seems to me that my word is
more than enough."

Don Luis answered, with grave and measured accent:

"Count, I should be quite willing to trust the word of a gentleman, and
allow him to remain in my debt, if it were not that in doing so I should
fear to lose your friendship, which I am now in a fair way to gain; but,
as I was a witness this morning to the cruelty with which you treated
certain friends of mine, to whom you are indebted, I do not wish to run
the risk of becoming culpable in your eyes by means of the same fault.
How ridiculous to suppose that I should voluntarily incur your enmity by
lending you money which you would not repay me, as you have not repaid,
except with insults, that which you owe Pepita Ximenez!"

From the fact that this accusation was true, the offense was all the
greater. The count became livid with anger, and, by this time on his
feet, ready to come to blows with the collegian.

"You lie, slanderer!" he exclaimed. "I shall tear you limb from limb,
you----"

This last insult, which concerned the honor of her whose memory was most
sacred to him, was never finished; its end never reached his ears. For,
with marvelous quickness, dexterity, and force, he reached across the
table which was between himself and the count, and, with the light,
flexible bamboo cane with which he had armed himself, struck his
antagonist on the face, raising on it instantly a dark purple welt.

There was neither retort, outcry, nor uproar after this. When the hands
come into play, the tongue is apt to be silent. The count was about to
throw himself on Don Luis, for the purpose of tearing him to pieces, if
it were in his power. But opinion had changed greatly since yesterday
morning, and was now on the side of Don Luis. The captain, the doctor,
and even Currito, who now showed more courage than he had done on that
occasion, all held back the count, who struggled and fought ferociously
to release himself.

"Let me go!" he cried; "let me get at him and kill him!"

"I do not seek to prevent a duel," said the captain; "a duel is
inevitable. I only seek to prevent your fighting here, like two porters.
I should be wanting in self-respect if I consented to be present at
such a combat."

"Let weapons be brought!" said the count; "I do not wish to defer the
affair for a single moment. At once--and here!"

"Will you fight with sabers?" said the captain.

"Yes," responded Don Luis.

"Sabers be it," said the count.

All this was said in a low voice, so that nothing might be heard in the
street. Even the servants of the club-house, who slept on chairs in the
kitchen and in the yard, were not awakened by the noise.

Don Luis chose as his seconds the captain and Currito; the count chose
the two strangers. The doctor made ready to practice his art, and show
the signal of the Red Cross.

It was not yet daylight. It was agreed that the apartment in which they
were, should be the field of combat, the door being first closed. The
captain went to his house for the sabers, and returned soon afterward,
carrying them under the cloak which he had put on for the purpose of
concealing them from view.

We already know that Don Luis had never wielded a weapon in his life.
Fortunately the count, although he had never studied theology, or
entertained the purpose of becoming a priest, was not much more skilled
than he in the art of handling the broadsword.

The only roles laid down for the duel were that, their sabers once in
hand, each of the combatants should use his weapon as Heaven might best
direct him.

The door of the apartment was closed. The tables and chairs were placed
in a corner, to leave a free field for the combatants, and the lights
were suitably disposed.

Don Luis and the count divested themselves of their coats and
waistcoats, remaining in their shirt-sleeves, and selected, each one,
his weapon. The seconds stood on one side. At a signal from the captain,
the combat began. Between two persons who know neither how to parry a
stroke nor how to put themselves on guard, a combat must of necessity be
brief; and such this one was.

The fury of the count, restrained for some time past, now burst forth
and blinded his reason. He was strong, and he had wrists of steel; and
he showered down on Don Luis, with his saber, a rain of blows without
order or sequence. Four times he succeeded in touching Don Luis--each
time, fortunately, with the flat of his weapon. He bruised his
shoulders, but did not wound him. The young theologian had need of all
his strength to keep from falling to the floor, overcome by the force of
the blows and the pain of his bruises. A fifth time the count struck
Don Luis, and this time with the edge of his weapon, although sidewise.
The blood of Don Luis began to flow abundantly. Far from stopping, the
count resumed the attack with renewed fury, in the hope of again
wounding his antagonist. He almost placed himself under the weapon of
Don Luis. The latter, instead of putting himself in position to parry,
brought his sword down vigorously on his adversary, and succeeded in
wounding the count in the head. The blood gushed forth, and ran down his
forehead and into his eyes. Stunned by the blow, the count fell heavily
to the floor.

The whole combat was a matter of a few seconds. Don Luis had remained
tranquil throughout, like a Stoic philosopher, who is obliged by the
hard law of necessity to take part in a conflict opposed alike to his
habits and his ways of thought. But no sooner did he see his antagonist
extended on the floor, bathed in blood and looking as though he were
dead, than he experienced the most poignant anguish, and feared for a
moment that he should faint. He who, until within the last five or six
hours, had held unwaveringly to his resolution of being a priest, a
missionary, a minister and a messenger of the gospel, had committed, or
accused himself of having committed, during those few hours, every
crime, and of breaking all the commandments of God. There was now no
mortal sin by which he was not contaminated. First, his purpose of
leading a life of perfect and heroic holiness had been put to flight;
then followed his purpose of leading a life of holiness of a more easy,
comfortable, and _bourgeois_ sort. The devil seemed to please himself in
over-throwing his plans. He reflected that he could now no longer be
even a Christian Philemon, for to lay his neighbor's head open with a
stroke of a saber was not a very good beginning of his idyl.

Don Luis, after the agitations of the day, was now in a condition
resembling that of a man who has brain-fever. Currito and the captain,
one at each side, took hold of him and led him home.

       *       *       *       *       *

Don Pedro de Vargas got out of bed in terror when he was told that his
son had come home wounded. He ran to see him, examined his bruises and
the wound in his arm, and saw that they were none of them attended with
danger; but he broke out into threats of vengeance, and would not be
pacified until he was made acquainted with the particulars of the
affair, and learned that Don Luis had known how to avenge himself in
spite of his theology.

The doctor came soon after to examine the wound, and was of opinion that
in three or four days' time Don Luis would be able to go out again, as
if nothing had happened. With the count, on the other hand, it would be
a matter of months. His life, however, was in no danger. He had returned
to consciousness, and had asked to be taken to his own village, which
was distant only a league from the village which these events took
place. A hired coach had been procured, and he had been taken thither,
accompanied by his servant, and the two strangers who had acted as his
seconds.

Four days after the affair the doctor's opinion was justified by the
result, and Don Luis, although sore from his bruises, and with his wound
still open, was in a condition to go out, and promised a complete
recovery within a short time.

The first duty which Don Luis thought himself obliged to fulfill, as
soon as he was off the sick-list, was to confess to his father his love
for Pepita, and his intention of marrying her.

Don Pedro had not gone to the country, nor had he occupied himself in
any other way than in taking care of his son during the sickness of the
latter. He was constantly at his side, waiting on him and petting him
with tender affection.

On the morning of the 27th of June, after the doctor had gone, Don Pedro
being alone with his son, the confession, so difficult for Don Luis to
make, took place in the following manner:

"Father," said Don Luis, "I ought not to deceive you any longer. To-day
I am going to confess my faults to you, and cast away hypocrisy."

"If it is a confession you are about to make, my boy, it would be better
for you to send for the reverend vicar. My standard of morality is an
indulgent one, and I shall give you absolution for everything, without
my absolution being of much value to you, however. But if you wish to
confide to me some weighty secret, as to your best friend, begin by all
means; I am ready to listen to you."

"What I am about to confess to you is a very serious fault of which I
have been guilty; and I am ashamed to--"

"You have no need to be ashamed before your father; speak frankly."

Here Don Luis, growing very red, and with visible confusion, said:

"My secret is, that I am in love with--Pepita Ximenez--and that she--"

Don Pedro interrupted his son with a burst of laughter, and finished the
sentence for him:

"And that she is in love with you, and that on the night of St. John's
eve you were with her in tender conference until two o'clock in the
morning, and that, for her sake, you sought a quarrel with the Count of
Genazahar, whose head you have broken. A pretty secret you confide to
me, truly! There isn't a cat or a dog in the village that is not fully
acquainted with every detail of the business. The only thing there
seemed a possibility of being able to conceal was, that your interview
lasted until just two o'clock in the morning; but some gypsy cake-women
chanced to see you leave Pepita's house, and did not stop until they had
told every living creature in the place of it. Pepita, besides, makes no
great effort to conceal the truth, and in this she does well, for that
would be only the concealment of Antequera. Since you have been wounded,
Pepita comes here twice a day, and sends Antoñona two or three times
more to inquire after you; and if they have not come in to see you, it
is because I would not consent to their doing so, lest it should excite
you."

The confusion and the distress of Don Luis reached their climax when he
heard his father thus compendiously tell the whole story.

"How surprised," he said, "how astounded you must have been!"

"No, my boy, I was neither surprised nor astounded. The matter has been
known in the village only for four days, and indeed, to tell the truth,
your transformation did create some surprise. 'Oh, the sly-boots! the
wolf in sheep's clothing! the hypocrite!' every one exclaimed, 'how we
have been deceived in him!' The reverend vicar, above all, is quite
bewildered. He is still crossing himself to think how you toiled in the
vineyard of the Lord on the night of the 23d and the morning of the
24th, and of how diverse a character were your labors. But there was
nothing in these occurrences to surprise me, except your wound. We old
people can feel the grass grow. It is not easy for the chickens to
deceive the huckster."

"It is true, I sought to deceive you! I have been a hypocrite!"

"Don't be a fool; I do not say this to blame you. I say it in order to
give myself an air of perspicacity. But let us speak with frankness. My
boasting is, after all, without foundation. I knew, step by step, for
more than two months past, the progress of your love-affair with Pepita;
but I know it because your uncle the dean, to whom you were writing all
that passed within your mind, has communicated it to me. Listen to your
uncle's letter of accusation, and to the answer I gave him, a very
important document, of which I have kept the copy."

Don Pedro took some papers from his pocket, and read as follows:

       *       *       *       *       *

    _The Dean's Letter._

"MY DEAR BROTHER: It grieves me to the heart to be obliged to give you a
piece of bad news; but I trust that God will grant you patience and
endurance to enable you to hear it without feeling too much anger or
bitterness. Luisito has been writing me strange letters for some days
past, in which he reveals, in the midst of his mystical exaltation, an
inclination, earthly and sinful enough, toward a certain widow,
charming, mischievous, and coquettish, who lives in your village. Up to
the present I had deceived myself, believing Luisito's vocation to be a
true one; and I flattered myself with giving to the Church of God, in
him, a wise, virtuous, and exemplary priest. But his letters have
dispelled my illusions. Luisito shows himself, in them, to have more of
poetry than of true piety in his nature; and the widow, who must be a
limb of Satan, will be able to vanquish him with but a very slight
effort. Although I write to Luisito admonishing him to flee from
temptation, I am already certain that he will fall into it. This ought
not to grieve me; for, if he is to be false to his vocation, to indulge
in gallantries, and to make love, it is better that this evil
disposition should reveal itself in time, and that he should not become
a priest. I should not, therefore, see any serious objection to
Luisito's remaining with you, for the purpose of being tested by the
touchstone and analyzed in the crucible of such a love, making the
little widow the agent by whose means might be discovered how great is
the quantity of the pure gold of his clerical virtues, and how much
alloy is mixed with that gold, were it not that we are met by the
difficulty that the widow whom we would thus convert into a faithful
assayer, is the object of your own addresses, and, it may be, your
sweetheart. That your son should turn out to be your rival would be too
serious a matter. This would be a monstrous scandal, and, to avoid it in
time, I write to you to-day to the end that, under whatever pretext, you
may send or bring Luisito here--the sooner the better."

Don Luis listened in silence, and with his eyes cast down. His father
continued:

"To this letter of the dean I answered as follows:

       *       *       *       *       *

    _Don Pedro's Answer._

"DEAR BROTHER AND VENERABLE SPIRITUAL FATHER: I return you a thousand
thanks for the news you send me, and for your counsel and advice.
Although I flatter myself with not being wanting in shrewdness, I
confess my stupidity on this occasion; I was blinded by vanity. Pepita
Ximenez, from the time that my son arrived here, manifested toward me so
much amiability and affection that I began to indulge in pleasing hopes
on my own account. Your letter was necessary to undeceive me. I now
understand that in making herself so sociable, in showing me so many
attentions, and in dancing attendance on me, as she did, this cunning
Pepita had in her mind only the father of the smooth-faced theologian. I
shall not attempt to conceal from you that, for the moment, this
disappointment mortified and distressed me a little; but, when I
reflected over it with due consideration, my mortification and my
distress were converted into joy. Luis is an excellent boy. Since he has
been with me, I have learned to regard him with much greater affection
than formerly. I parted from him, and gave him up to you to educate,
because my own life was not very exemplary, and, for this and other
reasons, he would have grown up here a savage. You went beyond my hopes
and even my desires, and almost made of Luisito a father of the Church.
To have a holy son would have flattered my vanity; but I should have
been very sorry to remain without an heir to my house and name, who
would give me handsome grandchildren, and who, after my death, would
enjoy my wealth, which is my glory, for I acquired it by skill and
industry, and not by artifices and tricks. Perhaps the conviction I had
that there was no remedy, and that Luis would inevitably go to convert
the Chinese, the Indians, and the blacks of Monicongo made me resolve on
marrying, so as to provide myself with an heir. Naturally enough, I cast
my eyes on Pepita Ximenez, who is not, as you imagine, a limb of Satan,
but a lovely creature, as innocent as an angel, and ardent in her
nature, rather than coquettish. I have so good an opinion of Pepita
that, if she were again sixteen, with a domineering mother who
tyrannized over her, and if I were eighty, like Don Gumersindo, that is
to say, if death were already knocking at the door, I would marry
Pepita, that her smile might cheer me on my death-bed, as if my guardian
angel had taken human shape in her; and for the purpose of leaving her
my position, my fortune, and my name. But Pepita is not sixteen, but
twenty, nor is she now in the power of that serpent, her mother; nor am
I eighty, but fifty-five. I am at the very worst age, because I begin to
feel myself considerably the worse for wear, with something of asthma, a
good deal of cough, rheumatic pains, and other chronic ailments; yet the
devil a wish have I to die, notwithstanding! I believe I shall not die
for twenty years to come, and, as I am thirty-five years older than
Pepita, you may calculate the miserable future that would await her,
tied to an old man who would live forever. At the end of a few years of
marriage she would be compelled to hate me, notwithstanding her
goodness. Doubtless it is because she is good and wise, that she has not
chosen to accept me for a husband, notwithstanding the perseverance and
the obstinacy with which I have proposed it to her. How much do I not
thank her for this now! Even my self-love, wounded by her scorn, is
soothed by the reflection that, if she does not love me, at least she
loves one of my blood; she is captivated by a son of mine. If this fresh
and luxuriant ivy, I say to myself, refuses to twine around the old
trunk, worm-eaten already, it climbs by it to reach the new sprout it
has put forth--a green and flourishing offshoot. May God bless them
both, and make their love prosper! Far from taking the boy to you again,
I shall keep him here--by force, if it be necessary. I have determined
to conspire against his vocation. I dream already of seeing him married.
I shall grow young again, contemplating the handsome pair, joined
together by love. And how will it be when they shall have given me a
couple of grandchildren? Instead of going as a missionary, and bringing
back to me from Australia, or Madagascar, or India, neophytes black as
soot, with lips the size of your hand, or yellow as deer-skin, and with
eyes like owls, would it not be better for Luisito to preach the gospel
in his own house, and to give me a series of little catechumens, fair,
rosy, with eyes like those of Pepita, who will resemble cherubim without
wings? The catechumens he would bring me from those foreign lands I
should have to keep at a respectful distance, in order not to be
overpowered by their odor; while those I speak of would seem to me like
roses of paradise, and would come to climb up on my knees, and would
call me grand-papa, and pat with their little hands the bald spot I am
beginning to get. What would you have? When I was in all my vigor, I did
not think of domestic joys; but now, that I am approaching old age, if I
have not already entered on it, as I have no intention of turning monk,
I please myself in thinking that I shall play the _rôle_ of patriarch.
And do not imagine, either, that I am going to leave it to time to bring
to a happy close this incipient engagement. No! I shall myself set to
work to do this. Continuing your comparison, since you transform Pepita
into a crucible, and Luis into a metal, I shall find, or rather I have
found already, a bellows, or blow-pipe, very well adapted to kindle up
the fire, so that the metal may melt in it the more quickly. Antoñona
has an understanding with me already, and through her I know that Pepita
is over head and ears in love. We have agreed that I shall continue to
seem blind to everything, and to know nothing of what passes. The
reverend vicar, who is a simple soul, always in the clouds, helps me as
much as Antoñona does, or more, and without knowing it, because he
repeats to Pepita everything Luis says to him, and everything Pepita
says to him to Luis; so that this excellent man, with the weight of
half a century in each foot, has been converted--O miracle of love and
of innocence!--into a carrier-dove by which the two lovers send each
other their flatteries and endearments, while they are as ignorant as he
is of the fact. So powerful a combination of natural and artificial
methods ought to give an infallible result. You will be made acquainted
with this result when I give you notice of the wedding, so that you may
come to perform the ceremony, or else send the lovers your blessing and
a handsome present."

       *       *       *       *       *

With these words Don Pedro finished the reading of his letter; and, on
looking again at Don Luis, he saw that he had been listening to him with
his eyes full of tears.

Father and son gave each other a long and close embrace.

       *       *       *       *       *

Just a month from the date of this interview, the wedding of Don Luis de
Vargas and Pepita Ximenez took place.

The reverend dean--fearing the ridicule of his brother at the
spiritual-mindedness of Don Luis having thus come to naught, and
recognizing also that he would not play a very dignified _rôle_ in the
village, where every one would say he had a poor knack at turning out
saints--declined to be present, giving his occupations as an excuse;
although he sent his blessing, and a magnificent pair of ear-rings as a
present for Pepita.

The reverend vicar, therefore, had the pleasure of marrying her to Don
Luis.

The bride, elegantly attired, was thought lovely by every one, and was
looked upon as a good exchange for the hair shirt and the scourge.

That night Don Pedro gave a magnificent ball in the court-yard of his
house and the contiguous apartments. Servants and gentlemen, nobles and
laborers, ladies and country-girls were present, and mingled together,
as if it were the ideal golden age--though why called golden I know not.
Four skillful, or if not skillful at least indefatigable guitar-players
played a _fandango_. Two gypsies, a man and a woman, both famous
singers, sang verses of a tender character and appropriate to the
occasion; and the school-master read epithalamium in heroic verse.

There were tarts, fritters, jumbles, ginger-bread, sponge-cake, and wine
in abundance for the common people. The gentry regaled themselves selves
with liquors, chocolate, orange cordial, honey, and various kinds of
aromatic and delicate punches.

Don Pedro was like a boy--sprightly, gallant, and full of jests. It did
not look as if there were much truth in what he had said in his letter
to the dean in regard to his rheumatism and other ailments. He danced
the _fandango_ with Pepita, as also with the most attractive among her
maids and with six or seven of the village girls. He gave each of them,
on reconducting her, tired out, to her seat, the prescribed embrace, and
to the least serious of them a couple of pinches, though this latter
forms no part of the ceremonial. He carried his gallantry to the extreme
of dancing with Doña Casilda, who could not refuse him; who, with her
two hundred and fifty pounds of humanity, and the heat of July,
perspired at every pore. Finally, Don Pedro stuffed Currito so full, and
made him drink so often to the health of the newly married pair, that
the muleteer Dientes was obliged to carry him home to sleep off the
effect of his excesses, slung like a skin of wine across the back of an
ass!

The ball lasted until three in the morning; but the young couple
discreetly disappeared before eleven, and retired to the house of
Pepita. There Don Luis re-entered, with light, pomp, and majesty, and as
adored lord and master, the room which, little more than a month before,
he had entered in darkness, and filled with terror and confusion.

Although it is the unfailing use and custom of the village to treat
every widow or widower who marries again to a terrible _charivari_,
leaving them not a moment's rest from the cow-bells during the first
night after marriage, Pepita was such a favorite, Don Pedro was so much
respected, and Don Luis was so beloved, that there were no bells on this
occasion, nor was there the least attempt made at ringing them--a
singular circumstance, which is recorded as such in the annals of the
village.



EPILOGUE.

LETTERS OF MY BROTHER


The history of Pepita and Luisito should, properly speaking, end here.
This epilogue is not necessary to the story; but, as it formed part of
the bundle of papers left at his death by the reverend dean, although we
refrain from publishing it entire, we shall at least give a sample of
it.

No one can entertain the least doubt that Don Luis and Pepita, united by
an irresistible love, almost of the same age, she beautiful, he brave
and handsome, both intelligent and full of goodness, would enjoy during
a long life as much peace and happiness as falls to the lot of mortals.
And this supposition, which, for those who have read the preceding
narrative, is a logically drawn deduction from it, is converted into a
certainty for him who reads the epilogue.

The epilogue gives, besides, some information respecting the secondary
personages of the narrative, in whose fate the reader may possibly be
interested. It consists of a collection of letters addressed by Don
Pedro de Vargas to his brother the dean, dating from the day of his
son's marriage to four years later.

Without prefixing to them the dates, although following their
chronological order, we shall transcribe here a few short extracts from
these letters, and thus bring our task to an end:

       *       *       *       *       *

Luis manifests the most lively gratitude toward Antoñona, without whose
services he would not now possess Pepita. But this woman, the accomplice
of the sole fault of which either he or Pepita had been guilty in their
lives, living as she did on the most familiar footing in the house, and
fully acquainted with all that had taken place, could not but be in the
way. To get rid of her, then, and at the same time to do her a service,
Luis set to work to bring about a reconciliation between her and her
husband, whose daily fits of drunkenness she had refused to put up with.
The son of Master Cencias gave his promise that he would get drunk
_hardly ever_; but he would not venture on an absolute and
uncompromising _never_. Confiding in this half-promise, however,
Antoñona consented to return to the conjugal roof. Husband and wife
being thus reunited, it occurred to Luis that a homeopathic principle of
treatment might prove efficacious with the son of Master Cencias, in
curing him radically of his vice; for, having heard it affirmed that
confectioners detest sweets, he concluded that, on the same principle,
tavern-keepers ought to detest whisky; and he sent Antoñona and her
husband to the capital of the province, where, at his own cost, he set
them up in a fine tavern. Both live there together happily; they have
succeeded in obtaining many patrons, and will probably become rich. He
still gets drunk occasionally; but Antoñona, who is the stronger of the
two, is accustomed at such times to give him a good trouncing, to help
on his cure.

       *       *       *       *       *

Currito, anxious to imitate his cousin, whom he admires more and more
every day, and seeing and enjoying the domestic felicity of Pepita and
Luis, has looked up a sweetheart in haste, and married the daughter of a
rich farmer of the place, health, fresh, red as a poppy, and who
promises soon to acquire proportions as ample as those of her
mother-in-law Casilda.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Count of Genazahar, after being confined to his bed for five months,
is now cured of his wound, and, according to what they say, is very much
improved in respect to his manners. He paid Pepita, a short time ago,
more than half of his debt to her, and asks for a respite in the payment
of the remainder.

       *       *       *       *       *

We have had a very great grief, although one that we had foreseen for
some time past. The father vicar, yielding to the advance of years, has
passed to a better life. Pepita remained to the last at his bedside, and
closed his eyes with her own beautiful hands. The father vicar died the
death of a blessed servant of the Lord. Rather than death, it seemed a
happy transit to serener regions. Nevertheless, Pepita and all of us
have mourned him sincerely. He has left behind him only a few dollars
and his furniture, for he gave all he had in alms. His death would have
made orphans of the poor of the village, if it were not that Pepita
still lives.

       *       *       *       *       *

Every one in the village laments the death of the reverend vicar; and
there are many who regard him as a real saint, worthy of religious
honors, and who attribute miracles to him. I know not how that may be,
but I do know that he was an excellent man, and that he must have gone
straight to heaven, where we may hope to have in him an intercessor.
With all this, his humility, his modesty, and his fear of God were such
that he spoke of his sins in the hour of death, as if he had in reality
committed any, and he besought our prayers to the Lord and to the Virgin
Mary for their forgiveness.

A strong impression has been produced on the mind of Luis by the
exemplary life and death of this man. He was simple, it must be
confessed, and of limited intelligence, but of upright will, ardent,
faith, and fervent charity. When Luis compares himself with the vicar,
he feels humiliated. This has infused into his soul a certain bitter
melancholy; but Pepita, who has a great deal of tact, dissipates it with
smiles and caresses.

       *       *       *       *       *

Everything prospers with us. Luis and I have some wine-vaults than which
there are no better in Spain, if we except those of Xeres. The
olive-crop of this year has been superb. We can afford to allow
ourselves every species of luxury; and I counsel Luis and Pepita to make
the tour of Germany, France, and Italy, as soon as Pepita is over her
trouble, and once more in her usual health. The children may, without
improvidence or folly, throw away a few thousands of dollars on the
expedition, and bring back many fine books, pieces of furniture, and
objects of art, to adorn their dwelling.

We have deferred the baptism for two weeks, in order that it may take
place on the first anniversary of the wedding. The child is a marvel of
beauty, and is very healthy. I am the godfather, and he has been named
after me. I am already dreaming of the time when Periquito shall begin
to talk, and amuse us with his prattle.

In order that nothing may be wanting to the prosperity of this tender
pair, it turns out now, according to letters received from Havana, that
the brother of Pepita, whose evil ways we feared might disgrace the
family, is almost--and indeed without an _almost_--about to honor and
elevate it by becoming a person of eminence. During all the time in
which we heard nothing from him, he has been profiting by his
opportunities, and fortune has sent him favoring gales. He obtained
another employment in the custom-house; then he trafficked in negroes;
then he failed--an occurrence which for certain business men is like a
good pruning for trees, making them sprout again with fresh vigor--and
now he is so prosperous that he has formed the resolution of entering
the highest circles of the aristocracy, under the title of marquis or
duke. Pepita is frightened and troubled at this unexpected turn of
fortune, but I tell her not to be foolish: if her brother is, and must
in any case be, a rascal, is it not better that he should at least be a
fortunate one?

       *       *       *       *       *

We might thus go on making extracts did we not fear to weary the reader.
We shall end, then, by copying a few passages from one of the latest
letters:

       *       *       *       *       *

My children have returned from their travels in good health. Periquito
is very mischievous and very charming. Luis and Pepita come back
resolved never again to leave the village, though their lives should be
longer than were those of Philemon and Baucis. They are more in love
with each other than ever.

They have brought back with them articles of furniture, a great many
books, some pictures, and I know not how many other elegant trifles,
purchased in the countries through which they have traveled, and
principally in Paris, Rome, Florence, and Vienna.

The affection they entertain for each other, and the tenderness and
cordiality with which they treat each other and every one else, have
exercised a beneficent influence on manners here; and the elegance and
good taste with which they are now completing the furnishing of their
house will go far to make exterior culture take root and spread.

The people in Madrid say that in the country we are stupid and uncouth;
but they remain where they are, and never take the trouble to come and
reform our manners. On the contrary, no sooner does any one make his
appearance in the country who knows or is worth anything, or who thinks
he knows or is worth anything, than he makes every possible effort to
get away from it, and leaves the fields and provincial towns behind him.
Pepita and Luis pursue the opposite course, and I commend them for it
with my whole heart. They are gradually improving and beautifying their
surroundings, so as to make out of this secluded spot a paradise.

Do not imagine, however, that the inclination of Pepita and Luis for
material well-being has cooled in the slightest degree their religious
feelings. The piety of both grows deeper every day; and in each new
pleasure or satisfaction which they enjoy, or which they can procure for
their fellow-beings, they see a new benefaction of Heaven, in which they
recognize fresh cause for gratitude. More than this, no pleasure or
satisfaction would be such, none would be of any worth, or substance, or
value in their eyes, were it not for the thought of higher things, and
for the firm belief they have in them.

Luis, in the midst of his present happiness, never forgets the
dethronement of the ideal he had set up for himself. There are times
when his present life seems to him vulgar, selfish, and prosaic,
compared with the life of sacrifice, with the spiritual existence to
which he believed himself called in the first years of his youth. But
Pepita hastens, solicitous, to dispel his melancholy on such occasions;
and then Luis comprehends and acknowledges that it is possible for man
to serve God in every state and condition, and succeeds in reconciling
the lively faith and the love of God that fill his soul, with this
legitimate love of the earthly and perishable. But in the earthly and
perishable he beholds the divine principle, as it were, without which,
neither in the stars that stud the heavens, nor in the flowers and
fruits that beautify the fields, nor in the eyes of Pepita, nor in the
innocence and beauty of Periquito, would he behold anything lovely. The
greater world, all this magnificent fabric of the universe, he declares,
would without its all-seeing God seem to him sublime indeed, but without
order, or beauty, or purpose. And as for the lesser world, as we are
accustomed to call man, neither would he love it were it not for God;
and this, not because God commands him to love it, but because the
dignity of man, and his title to be loved, have their foundation in God
himself, who not only made the soul of man in his own likeness, but
ennobled also his body, making it the living temple of the Spirit,
holding communion with it by means of the sacrament, and exalting it to
the extreme of uniting with it his uncreate Word. In these and other
arguments, which I am unable to set forth here, Luis finds consolation.
He reconciles himself to having relinquished his purpose of leading a
life devoted to pious meditations, ecstatic contemplation, and apostolic
works, and ceases to feel the sort of generous envy with which the
father vicar inspired him on the day of his death; but both he and
Pepita continue to give thanks, with great Christian devoutness, for
the benefits they enjoy, comprehending that not to their own merit do
they owe these benefits, but only to the goodness of God.

And so my children have in their house a couple of apartments resembling
beautiful little Catholic chapels or oratories: but I must confess that
these chapels have, too, their trace of paganism--an
amorous-pastoral-poetic and Arcadian air, which is to be seen only
beyond city walls.

The orchard of Pepita is no longer an orchard, but a most enchanting
garden, with its _araucarias_, its Indian fig-trees, that grow here in
the open air, and its well-arranged though small hot-house, full of rare
plants.

The dining-room in which we ate the strawberries on the afternoon on
which Pepita and Luis saw and spoke with each other for the second time
has been transformed into a graceful temple, with portico and columns of
white marble. Within is a spacious apartment, comfortably furnished, and
adorned by two beautiful pictures. One represents Psyche, discovering,
by the light of her lamp, Cupid asleep on his couch; the other
represents Chloe, when the fugitive grasshopper has taken refuge in her
bosom, where, believing itself secure, it begins to chirp in the
pleasant hiding-place from which Daphne tries, meanwhile, to take it
forth.

A very good copy, in Carrara marble, of the Venus de' Medici occupies
the most prominent place in the apartment, and, as it were, presides
over it. On the pedestal are engraved, in letters of gold, these words
of Lucretius:

    "_Nec sine te quidquam dias in luminis oras
     Exoritur, neque fit lætum, neque amabile quidquam._"


THE END.


PEPITA XIMENEZ.

From the Spanish of JUAN VALERA,

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY THE AUTHOR WRITTEN SPECIALLY FOR THIS EDITION.


"Pepita Ximenez," by Señor Don Juan Valera, recently Spanish Minister to
the Government of the United States, is the most successful of recent
novels in Spain, having attained a large number of editions in that
country, and been translated into German, French, Italian, and Bohemian.
Señor Valera is recognized as the most prominent literary man of the
time in Spain. A large number of volumes have come from his pen, all of
which enjoy a great popularity in the author's native land. The present
translation is authorized by Señor Valera, who is admitted by the
publishers to all the rights of a native author.

=12mo, paper cover. Price, 50 cents.=


ALIETTE

(La Morte).

From the French of OCTAVE FEUILLET,

Author of "The Romance of a Poor Young Man," etc., etc.

_From the London Athenæum._

"Not often has a representative of the past in literature obtained a
more decided success over his younger rivals than M. Octave Feuillet has
obtained with 'La Morte.' Of the popularity of the book it is enough to
say that the fiftieth edition was advertised in Paris within two or
three weeks of publication. The important thing is not that 'La Morte'
has commanded so much success, but that it has deserved it. The story is
that of a hero who has two wives--the first an angel, and the second
something quite different from an angel. The first has been brought up
in the straitest sect of Catholics, the second has been educated to
science, and nothing but science. Of course, in this mere contrast there
is nothing very striking or original. But in the way in which M.
Feuillet has linked the fortunes of Bernard de Vaudricourt to the two,
in the gradual increase of the interest and of the tragic force of the
situation, and, lastly, in the writing itself, there is merit of a most
unusual kind."

=12mo, paper cover, 50 cents; half bound, 75 cents.=

New York: D. APPLETON & CO., 3, and 6 Bond Street.


_A BRILLIANT NEW AMERICAN NOVEL_

A CONVENTIONAL BOHEMIAN.

A NOVEL. By EDMUND PENDLETON. 12mo. Cloth, $1,25.


"A Conventional Bohemian" is a society novel, the greater part of the
action taking place at summer cottages on the shores of New England. The
plot of the story is simple, the action direct, the movement often
dramatic. Although a society novel, it reaches at times the heights of
passion, and reveals a remarkable knowledge of the motives and conflicts
of the human heart. The style is noticeable for epigrammatic wit and
wisdom in the lighter scene, and for dramatic power in the serious ones.
There are a number of well-drawn characters, the heroine being a
peculiarly felicitous study, and the hero a virile and striking
portrait. It is a novel sure of many admirers among those who delight in
intellectual subtlety and artistic execution.


_"A POWERFUL, WELL-CONSTRUCTED STORY."_

THE ALIENS.

A NOVEL. By HENRY F. KEENAN, author of "Trajan," etc. 12mo. Cloth,
$1.25.

"The Aliens" is a stirring, picturesque romance, depicting life and
character in strong contrasts, and marked by an affluent and vivid
style. The scene of the story is laid in the western part of the State
of New York, about fifty years ago--the events coming down to the time
of the Mexican War.

"He colors richly, warmly, and with the dash of an artist; ... and his
characters grow, and are not manufactured; ... the freshest and most
readable American novel of the season."--_Philadelphia Bulletin_.

"The prevailing merit of the story is the vivid sense of reality which
the writer gives to scenes and characters; ... above all things,
interesting."--_Rochester Post-Express._

"Not second to 'Trajan' in character-painting, felicity of diction,
well-managed conversations, pathos, and humor."--_Journal of Commerce._

"Thoroughly interesting in plot, and told with equal skill and
animation."--_Boston Gazette_.

THE NEW TWENTY-FIVE CENT SERIES.


THE SECRET OF HER LIFE. By EDWARD JENKINS, author
of "Ginx's Baby," etc.

FOR MAIMIE'S SAKE. By GRANT ALLEN, author of "Babylon,"
etc.

THE MASTER OF THE MINE. A Novel. By ROBERT
BUCHANAN.

THE RABBI'S SPELL. A Russo-Jewish Romance. By STUART
C. CUMBERLAND.

A DARK HOUSE. A Knot Unravelled. By G. MANVILLE FENN.

A VAGRANT WIFE. A Novel. By FLORENCE WARDEN, author
of "The House on the Marsh," "A Prince of Darkness," etc., etc.

A PRINCE OF DARKNESS. A Novel. By FLORENCE WARDEN,
author of "The House on the Marsh," etc.

STRUCK DOWN. A Novel. By HAWLEY SMART, author of "A Race
for a Wife," etc.

THE MAURICE MYSTERY. A Novel. By J. ESTEN COOKE,
author of "The Virginia Comedians," etc.

A NEMESIS; or, Tinted Vapors. A Novel. By J. MACLAREN
COBBAN, author of "The Cure of Souls."

THE TINTED VENUS. A Farcical Romance. By F. ANSTEY,
author of "Vice Versa," "The Giant's Robe," etc.

THE WITCH'S HEAD. A Novel. By H. R. HAGGARD.

MATT: A Tale of a Caravan. By ROBERT BUCHANAN.

ADDIE'S HUSBAND. A Novel.

THE CRIME OF CHRISTMAS-DAY. A Tale of the
Latin Quarter. By the author of "My Ducats and my Daughter."

DELDEE; or, The Iron Hand. A Novel. By the author of "The
House on the Marsh" and "At the World's Mercy."

AT THE WORLD'S MERCY. A Novel. By the author of
"The House on the Marsh."

THE HOUSE ON THE MARSH. A Romance.

_12mo, paper covers.     Price, 25 cents each,_





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